[758]: Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Taylor Jenkins Reid’s latest novel is an avant-garde in its own right: ambitious, hardly pretentious, and a larger than life endeavor that realistically portrays the hard and fast life of rock and roll. Choosing the autobiographical format of a fictional band in the 70s, she successfully allowed her readers to immerse in the life of her characters. 

By choice, I am one of those readers who can’t stand destructive characters, and Daisy Jones was simply destruction, defined.  On the other side of the coin was Billy Dunne. A reformed drug and alcohol addict who nearly ruined his life and marriage if not for fatherhood. 

Reading this novel wasn’t easy.  Often times, it angered me. Not because the writing was comically bad, because, hell, this is TJR, after all. But it was the story itself that bothered me.  I’m an unforgiving reader when it comes to drug use in books. Call me prude, but I just can’t sit here and watch it unfold before my eyes. I get so bothered by characters that use drugs to escape, and use drugs as a means to explain the person they’ve become, their source of weakness and strength, their hell and oblivion. I just can’t.

My encounter with her novels has never been the stuff of legends. In fact, out of all her books (that I mostly own), I’ve only read two. And it’s because I found I have to psych myself up to reading them.  I know her novels are as real as it gets. Difficult relationships and equally difficult characters littered the pages of her books. Why I never bought a clue that Daisy Jones would be just as hard a character to decode escapes me.  

This novel reads like an episode of VH1 Behind the Music; an oral history of their lives, their music, their heartbreaks, successes, and failures. I could readily admit that throughout my life, I’ve never read something like Daisy Jones. It was ingenious and at times, I could easily ignore the stuff that bothered me. But since drugs are as regular as breathing for Daisy, it was a challenge. 

So Billy Dunne and Daisy Jones cross paths largely in part because of a mutual friend that saw the potential of what their combined talents could bring.  The dynamic was tenuous at best. Both are hardheaded and dedicated to their craft. Neither wanted to give in without drawing blood first, but underneath – a mutual respect. One of the story arcs that I also could not forgive is cheating. But in this instance, how I wish one of the characters in this book actually gave in and damned the consequences. 

In the end, I wish I could’ve loved Daisy as much as Daisy loved her drugs. Unfortunately, and as much this novel was amazingly written, I couldn’t forgive it for not giving me what I want. And it really sucks. 

Continue Reading

[752]: The Golden House by Salman Rushdie

The Golden House
by Salman Rushdie


The day after the November 2016 election, the entire world was left grappling with the unlikely victory of the Orange One. To this day, it’s an event too painful to reminisce to some (including me).

Whenever we feel a certain disappointment or heartbreak, we are known to have an automatic response, a knee jerk reaction. We’re either overcome – so much so that we can’t function, or we get up. Fight like we’ve never fought before.

For Salman Rushdie, this book was his response.  Some of his critics expressed their disappointment as his 13thnovel came off as a string of ramblings and rants about the state of America as we speak. To him, however, this was a novel set in a world gone insane. So everything was grandiose, over exaggerated, but wholly apropos.

The synopsis defies the entirety of the novel. In fact, I can’t begin to start giving you a little rundown if only to hook you in so you may traverse the novel the way I reluctantly did at first.  For me, Rushdie is a road not travelled.  I have no idea what was in store for me, so I approached this book with great trepidation. It didn’t take long until I’m in its grip, however.  All I could think about while the story was unfolding was how Shakespearean or Greek-ly tragic it was.  When you have all the riches in the world, but the world spits you out lifeless and bloodied in response.

The Golden House was a novelty to me. The writing, the structure, the characters, and the way the present America was juxtaposed to the story of this fabulously wealthy family is something I’ve never experienced before. The barebones is really all about the Golden’s. On the run from his past, Nero Golden decided to reinvent his family’s identity.  Nobody is allowed to know from which country they came, or the past that acts as a darkness that was always looming in the periphery of the story.

Flushed with millions, the sons were free to do as they pleased to some extent. Regardless of the freedom that was available to them, the patriarch still has the last word.  For years, life was as it seemed – that is, until a much younger Russian beauty captured Nero’s attention and changed the dynamics of the family.

My foray into Rushdie’s writing was generally refreshing, though rocky at times. Still, I found myself completely immersed in his writing, his flawed characters, and the events unfolding before me. I think it’s time to start building my personal Rushdie library.

Continue Reading

[749]: The Widow’s Watcher by Eliza Maxwell

A stunning portrayal of grief and loss, of friendships and family; The Widow’s Watcher is a gem full of hope that life exists even after an irreparable loss.


The Widow’s Watcher
by Eliza Maxwell

Jenna Shaw has no reasons left to live. It is how she found herself in a small town somewhere in Minnesota to end her life.  Fortunately for her, Lars Jorgensen simply would not let her accomplish what she’d set out to do. There’d been too many people that had gone from his life. Jenna Shaw is not going to be one of them even if she was a stranger. So when she set out to end her life in this frozen town, she was not at all prepared for what awaited her.

Escaping the heartache of losing her family in one fell swoop was what she’s after – a quick way to end the burden of guilt of having survived. In this Minnesota town is an unresolved mystery involving the disappearance Jorgensen’s children. It has haunted Lars all through his life and had broken his heart.  Hardened by time and the guilt, Lars saw through and even sympathized with Jenna. After all, the guilt of having survived such tragedies was what he had in common with Jenna.

Thrusts into the heart of my mystery, she finds a new purpose by trying to avoid her own loss.  But what if she finds more loss and grief than a way to heal?

I wanted to be immersed in a story full of mysteries but I never expected to find it here. There are heartbreaking stories left and right. From the tragic death of Jenna’s entire family, to Lars’ missing children, my heart was on a vise grip the whole time.  There is also a question of Lars’ wife whose story is equally, if not more so, heartbreaking.

But this book is beautiful, too. It was in the way everybody found solace in the most unexpected way. It was in the redemption of a nearly forfeited life. I mean Lars did not give up even after losing his children and the mental illness that had plagued his wife all her life. He remained staunch in his belief that his children were alive and that his wife will remember what had happened that night.

All I wanted was someone to find happiness no matter how there was very little to be had.

This is a very character-driven novel. Jenna and Lars grew up – so to speak – as the novel progressed. Friendships were formed, however reluctantly at first.  Jenna and Lars found purpose in each other, and solace when they both didn’t even want it.

Continue Reading

[732]: American War by Omar El Akkad

 A bleak reimagining of American Civil War set to the tune of modern terrorism.


American War
by Omar El Akkad

American War features one of those characters that will make you choose sides; or at the very least, will make you examine, with some introspection, if you would arrive at the same choices Sarat Chestnut had. The author established one goal in his book from the get-go. He aims to highlight the difficult, and often, deadly life of those displaced by war and strife. There are countries in the world that have only ever known this type of everyday struggle all their lives. And that is what was in my mind long after I finished this book. The inconceivable reality of not having a home and living with fear day in and day out. Literally fleeing from sure death.

The novel tells the story of an America divided by Civil War once more. The year is 2075. Climate change has obliterated practically all coastal states. Florida was but a  distant memory, and the Federal seat of the government now resides in Ohio. Due to environmental catastrophe, fossil fuel was outlawed. Bringing forth the beginning of the end of the United States we once knew. Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia secede to become the Free Southern State; and South Carolina, which spearheaded the rebellion, is now walled – quarantined due to a disease that the federal government unleashed in an effort to stomp the revolt. I can barely comprehend outlawing the use of fuel could be the beginning of the demise of America. Afterall, they are faced with even more disparaging problems that push either side in their corners. But I digress. This is not my story to tell. I’m only along for the ride.

The story begins as we meet our narrator. A scholar who has a second-hand knowledge of the war from a series of journals left in his capable hands. We would know that he is an old man, dying of cancer and was using the opportunity to confess his ‘sins’, as it were. Here, we meet the Chestnuts, we find the head of the family on his way to the North to find a better life for them but finds his demise when he was killed in a terrorist blast. With the war advancing, the mother had no choice but to pack up what’s left of her family and flee to a refugee city where they would live most of their lives. As was in the first Civil War, the Blues are from the North and the Reds, from the South. A testament, if you will, to the growing divisiveness of the political climate in the States.

Sarat’s story unfolds while she was at the refugee camp. Bolstered by the consecutive tragedies that happened in her life, and coerced, rather easily by the powers that be, Sarat became a tool for the rebellion. The war was Sarat’s vengeful playground. Here, you’ll see an account of how insurgents are created. Their motivations, triumphs and downfall. As well, torture, in explicit detail. So if you’ve a weak stomach for that line of reading, you might find yourself skipping those parts – which is exactly what I did.

Though I have rated this book four stars, I feel it failed on a few aspects. The novel is set in the future but hardly conveys the passage of time. Besides the changes to the American landscape and political climate, this dystopian world is a definite take-off from your usual reads. I sympathized with Sarat’s plight deeply. I understood her whys and hows. I felt for her even more when she was incarcerated and tortured in the hands of her jailers. But she did not break. She was a fiercely determined creature whos very own person was shaped by a war that’s seemingly endless.

Continue Reading

[724]: No Good Deed by Kara Connolly

No Good Deed
by Kara Connolly


Ellie Hudson is the front-runner on the road to gold for the U.S. Olympic archery team. All she has to do is qualify at the trials in jolly old England. When Ellie makes some kind of crazy wrong turn in the caverns under Nottingham Castle—yes, that Nottingham—she ends up in medieval England.

Ellie doesn’t care how she got to the Middle Ages; she just wants to go home before she gets the plague. But people are suffering in Nottingham, and Ellie has the skills to make it better. What’s an ace archer to do while she’s stuck in Sherwood Forest but make like Robin Hood?

Pulled into a past life as an outlaw, Ellie feels her present fading away next to daring do-gooding and a devilishly handsome knight. Only, Ellie is on the brink of rewriting history, and when she picks up her bow and arrow, her next shot could save her past—or doom civilization’s future.


This was a chockful of fun.

I was immediately drawn to this book because I’m a huge fan of the Robin Hood legend and when I saw that Ms. Connolly’s take would feature a gender twist of sorts, I knew I had to read it.

Present-time Ellie was an archer who was dealing with the recent loss of her brother. She also lived in his shadow for he was an Olympian as well. On her way back to her hotel, she followed a man dressed in a friar’s frock with whom she thought was the same one who distracted her during her during the competition. One topsy-turvy turn, however, brought her all the way back to the 12th century; specifically, at a time when most of Nottingham was suffering in the hands of the Sheriff.

It was not long ago that I read a time travel such as this one where the character was pulled all the way back to Medieval times. Both characters went through the initial shock of finding themselves stuck and unable to come home at will. In Ellie’s case, it wasn’t just a matter of retracing back her steps to see if she can somehow find her way home. This girl finds trouble at every step of the way, and no matter what she does to lay low, the trouble finds her regardless.

I love the characters she meets and the parallelization with the characters of the original legend. And because she’s an American set in her ways, she brings about shock with the way she acts and speaks at every turn. I love seeing the reaction of those around her. She’s full of spunk; courage when there’s none to be found and kindness towards the people with whom she only just met. There might be a romance brewing on the horizon but honestly, that’s just cake. The story is great the way it is. I adore the friendships she developed amongst the people of Nottingham; the thieves and the bandits; the nuns and the outlaws.

I’m not sure if this is going to be a series, but damn. I need more. No Good Deed is a great adventure set in Medieval England. If you’re a fan of the Robin Hood legend, Connolly’s take is sure to keep you entertained from page one to the last.

Continue Reading

[723]: Into The Water by Paula Hawkins

Into the Water
by Paula Hawkins


If you like unraveling twisted knots and threads, Into the Water is a must read for you. However, if you’re one of those impatient readers like me, you would probably have a hard time resisting the urge to DNF.

One of the things I typically don’t enjoy when I’m reading a book is when it has an overpopulation problem. Meaning, it’s laden with so many points of view that it had become difficult to discern whichever way the author wanted to take the story.

Paula Hawkins became an instant household name after her successful debut, The Girl on the Train. Many have waited upon bated breath for her follow up novel. While I can see the painstaking method to her mad talent, I just can’t see past all the POVs to consider myself a fan.

I’ve just about given up on this one. I grew impatient many a times while reading. It was like trudging through a jungle and having to whack my way past the overgrown vines just to clear a pathway. Eventually, I decided I couldn’t waste the time I’ve already invested in the story. And with due patience, I learned to ignore the white noise and focus on what was going on within the story.

The novel opens with a character casually telling the readers how she was about to die. Some hostile men, it seemed, were set on drowning her. When she came up for air, the man in charged told them to dunk her again until she drew her last breath. After, we’re introduced to Jules Abbott. The sister of the drowned woman that we’ll later know was a water creature all her life. That’s why Jules could not believe that she would kill herself by throwing herself off the river. Even mysterious still, was the number of women who have drowned in the same river.

Despite the 11 narratives featured in this book, the author would have you believe that Nel’s is the focal point of the novel. Let’s say that her story would drudge up some ugly truths, painful past, and mysterious deaths. But because the author withheld a lot of information as a way to build up the mystery, impatience leads the way to boredom and loss of interest.

It was a good story, all told. I just didn’t get it.

Continue Reading

[720]: Ruby by Cynthia Bond

Ruby
by Cynthia Bond


This was such a difficult book to read and even harder to decipher. On the surface, it’s the story of a woman scorned for being a daughter of a black woman and a white man. Her beauty became the scourge that she carried most of her life; the source of her strength and frailties. The torment that had brought her insanity in her later life.

From the very young age, she’s known indescribable abuse. Her mother left her to escape the same abuse Ruby would be subjected to growing up. At 10, she was sold to a madam who would sell her every night to men of despicable character. At 13, she would lose her child who would torment her for the rest of her life. In 1950, she would escape to New York only to do the same thing over again.

This book is ripe with the kind of African American history that I never knew existed. In the South where satanism and sexual abuse seemed to go hand-in-hand in the darkest, depraved way possible. It was suffused in magical realism of the religious kind. Where the “power of the Lord” compels men to “train” girls of such young age to “hone their craft”. Is it any wonder Ruby lost her mind? A screeching, half-naked woman who carries with her the souls of dead children; forever haunted by a being who would never let her rest.

 In the midst of the overall depressing history was a slight ray of hope in the person of Ephram Jennings. He ignored ridicule and the scorn of everyone in town, including that of his sister whom he called, “mama”. They, too, came from a home who’ve seen the worst abuses from the hands of their father. In this effect, you can say that it’s love story. A love story in the simplest of form; one that had the ability to save a person from oneself.

Ruby is a heavy read – heavier than I’ve anticipated. I read it at a time when I was feeling a little lost myself so my initial rating was a little low. I remember being furious at the townspeople who have judged Ruby and the men who took advantage of someone who was not in their full mental capacity. Filthy or not, they came to her for sex regardless if she’s covered in weeks’ worth of grime. I was mad at Ruby for pushing Ephram away and I was mad at Ephram for not standing up to Ruby. This book was a real story of survival, of madness and of love. It was more often difficult but with a clearer mind, you’ll find the beauty of Ms. Bond’s words.

Continue Reading

[714]: Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop

An action-packed ending featuring an unpredictable enemy.


Etched in Bone
by Anne Bishop

 After each painful wait for consecutive installments, we sadly come to the end of this perennial favorite. We’ve come to know everything about this world; the valuable and vulnerable blood prophets, The Others who reign all that is natural and supernatural; the humans who hate them, and the humans who are smart to enough to know what it will cost to make enemies of them.

Anne Bishop has always been a household name in the annals of the Fantasy genre. But it’s only through The Others that she broke through mainstream Urban Fantasy. I, for one, would’ve never known about her books had I not read Written in Red years ago, and that’s all thanks to the prodding of my reader friends. It’s always tough to say goodbye to a well-loved series. Especially if it had become an annual event religiously marked on your calendar.

*** SPOILERS AHEAD ***

So after five books of waiting for the Meg/Simon thing to happen, I’m a little disappointed with what we’ve gotten. I don’t know much about how Ms. Bishop handles romances in her books, but I’m not a fan of the spic and span cleanliness of the bedroom antics (or lack thereof) here. To some extent, I understood. I get that Meg is virtually a child when it comes to matters of the heart. I also understand that Simon wouldn’t know the first thing about having a relationship with a human. However, I wish we saw more of their struggle to figure shit out. But, I digress. Perhaps I’m focusing on the wrong thing here. Perhaps this is paranormal first among everything else. Even before romance. I can at least agree that Anne Bishop gave me something even better than everything I’ve come to expect from this genre. Something worthwhile. The world itself is a gift. And the characters, equally amazing.

But besides the fact that the romance left me unsatisfied, I also felt like the antagonist in this final book was anti-climactic. Don’t get me wrong, the bad guy featured here was thoroughly convincing. He was one without scruples, conscience, and basic human decency. However, I firmly believed that it would’ve served the series better if the HFL were defeated here instead of in the fourth book. In all honesty, I felt like this was nothing but an addendum or a means to unnecessarily extend a series. Because the bad guy here seemed to have come from nowhere. Throughout the series, I thought he was only a hazard to his family and would not pose a grave danger to Meg, least of all The Others. So to see him play a major role in the series-ender was on the wrong side of unexpected surprise. After all, how could the ever powerful Others be defeated by a selfish, insipid idiot who took advantage of his family’s terror-induced generosity? The HFL at least had a movement and had the support of the minority of the human population.

Despite those two misgivings, The Others will remain one of my favorite Paranormal/Urban Fantasy series. Each installment provided mystery and suspense; dark humor and fantastical elements; action and heart-warming moments. There was never a dull moment all thanks to the even pacing, interesting cast of characters, and plot lines that never fail to incite curiosity and anticipation.

 If you were to ask me a question in which fictional world I’d choose to live, I’d readily pick this one.  Where the supernatural beings have the power to rid Earth of evil humans in one fell swoop. Where the balance of power greatly rests on the beings that know more about what’s good for the environment than the big corporations. Because now more than ever, we could use some lessons about greed, power-hungry politicians, gluttony, and excess.

Continue Reading

[711]: Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley

A lovely, funny story about a woman’s courage to go out into the world where human contact could mean her own death sentence.


Close Enough to Touch
by Colleen Oakley

Jubilee Jenkins hasn’t left her house in 9 years. After a kiss from the popular boy in high school nearly killed her, she decided it’s not worth venturing out to the world. She’s been living alone since her mother left her when she turned 18. Through her mother’s monthly stipend and her resourcefulness, she’s managed to hold off the universe from encroaching on her life.

But the death of her mother would leave her penniless as her stepfather decided to cut off her allowance. Leaving her no choice but to find employment, Jubilee would have to leave the house and risk her life every day.  Her unusual allergies to skin contact confined her to her house with no interaction with another human being. She’s lived a lonely life; barely speaking to another soul. She finished high school at home and took free Harvard courses online. Everything she needed got delivered to her house. She even managed to work the system in her favor. But she will have to leave her fortress for the first time in her life.

What a lovely read, you guys. I felt Jubilee’s fear every time she’s confronted by another human, and because she didn’t have much experience with human interaction, she was an adorable bundle of awkwardness. In a matter of days, her lonely existence was suddenly full of people who would care and understand her plight in the most unexpected ways. I especially love the way the father and son would make her even entertain the possibility of a romantic relationship. It’s so impossible, though. When a single touch could put her in anaphylactic shock.

Eric Keegan’s life is a mess. He has an adopted son whom he can’t seem to find a kinship and a daughter from a failed marriage who’s not speaking to him. He can’t figure out how to right the ship. It’s hard not to feel sorry for Eric; a father who’s only doing what he can to save his relationship with his teen daughter, whom, by the by way, was well on her way to being a juvenile delinquent. She’s so angry and rebellious. He sends her numerous unanswered text messages and keeps fervent hope for forgiveness. He saw the path to reconciliation by way of a book report journal. In there was a collection of opinions on books that she’s read. This book would bridge their relationship somehow, and inadvertently connect him to Jubilee.

Close Enough to Touch is a lovely story about finding the courage to confront your fears. It doesn’t matter what the motivation is – may it be out of desperation or survival, the fear is still real. Jubilee is a woman who was lonely and in need of human interaction. But the same interaction could mean her death. At the end of the day, she needed to find it in her to want it enough to do something about her malady.

Continue Reading

[710]: The Girl Before by JP Delaney


A modern suspense that echoes the gothic secrets of Jane Eyre.


The Girl Before
by J.P. Delaney

Last year, I’ve developed an affinity for the minimalism movement. I’m not a pack-rat by any means, but it was still hard to get rid of stuff. I am infinitely in awe of the people who practice this lifestyle. Not only do they live the uncluttered life in physical terms, but their way of thinking is streamlined as well. They’re focused, determined and disciplined.

In this book, you’ll meet a person whose practice of minimalism goes to extreme – borderline insanity, to tell you the truth. Initially, I was like, yes, a man who speaks my language! But that slowly dissolved into horrified reaction as the novel progressed. His ability to distance himself from thoughts and feelings with which he felt bore no significance made him cold and calculated. He’s a controlling man who hates a deviation from schedules and plans. Everything in his life has a place and a meaning. You’re discarded if he considers you an excess. And yet, for all the clean lines and openness of the house he built, there was no place in which he could keep his secrets.

Edward Monkford is a genius; a much-sought-after architect notoriously known for combining minimalist and technologically smart construction. One of those builds is the house on One Folgate Street. The house has been empty since the death of his wife and son and has become a revolving door for renters, whom in one way or the other, found the house’s oddities just too strange for their liking. The story unfolds in alternating chapters between Emma and Jane. Emma, the former tenant, and Jane, the present. The first sign of trouble was their uncanny physical resemblance. Weirder even, that they looked like Edward’s dead wife.

Edward has an irresistible magnetism; he’s attractive, filthy rich, and mysterious. As you get to know him further, you’ll find that Edward shares the same need to control his women with one popular control freak, Mr. Christian Grey. They got the same “I don’t do regular relationships” speech; they were given pages-long rules and regulations. Then pearl chokers to complete the look. Both women knew what they were getting into when they entered the relationship but with one glaring difference: one pushes her boundaries, and the other pushes his. Arguably, Christian Grey was redeemed by love – as cheesy as that may sound. Edward, on the other hand, wasn’t dictated by any romantic notions and was as realistic a character as one can be. There was not a cuddly bone in his body even if some of his actions proved otherwise.

But if you think the novel is cut and dry, you’ll be wrong. The mysteries that unravel is nothing short of surprising. It’s easy to consider Monkford as the guilty party here much like we immediately wrote off Rochester in Jane Eyre. This book is just as mysterious as the owner of One Folgate Street and the crumbs we were given were the perfect follies for the amateur sleuths trying to solve all its mysteries. Overall, this is one of the best mysteries I’ve read this year. It’s morbidly sexy, frustrating at times, but holy hell, I could not put this down.

 

Continue Reading
1 2 3 13