Happy September cats and kittens! Can you believe how quickly the summer flew by?
We are “working” on a WIP novel, the details of which we may share at a later date. In the meantime, however: Have a book review. In fact, have five.
What follows is five “short” (by 0wlmachine standards) book reviews, and a few problems I have with a few things. It’s hard to type when one of your foster cats is licking your hands, but I’ll do my best.
Stay With Me Forever
So here’s how I ended up with this book:
I was in the mood for a romance, but the last few romances I’d read had been borderline at best when it came to consent. I don’t mind reading explicit content – unless, of course, innuendo is used, in which case I get really upset – but I do mind reading rape. So I went hunting for a historical romance that wouldn’t have rape in it.
First of all, many of the ones I opened up on Kobo actually mentioned rape in the synopsis. What is this.
Many others implied a forceful love interest, an “alpha male” if you will. I got fed up.
So I ditched my historical romance idea and took to Twitter. I follow Farrah Rochon, and she’s always got interesting things to say about women of colour in romance. I thought I’d check her out on Kobo. Lo and behold, when I opened this particular book, it mentioned that the main female character, Paxton, was a “career woman”.
That is how you get me to click “buy”.
So I read the book, and it was quite a palate cleanser. Paxton was a likeable, intelligent, hardworking woman who struggled with her priorities and felt guilty about fitting love into her life, since she had enough going on as it was. Sawyer was a successful guy who wasn’t a rapist. Yay!
I find the idea of women who want to “have it all” endlessly interesting, and I love it when I read a book (or watch a rom com) in which a woman doesn’t get cured of her career ambitions via pregnancy. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that pregnancy makes you less – it just isn’t the only way to be fulfilled in life. And certainly, not all of us with uteruses and ovaries are into that kind of thing. In fact, some of us think the idea of 9 months without coffee or wine is not worth anything. Anything.
Anyway, my point was, Paxton doesn’t get cured. She gets to reconcile her high school crush, a very non-career-woman thing to have, with her successful lifestyle. Both Paxton and Sawyer give up some things for each other, like all of us in relationships do, but she doesn’t change lanes completely – and for that, Rochon deserves full credit.
Also – Rochon creates settings, and communities, that feel real. There are other books of hers in the same setting, and I’ll definitely be reading them in the future.
No One Else Can Have You
This book was one of the strangest reading experiences of my life.
The writing style is erratic, and raw, and interesting. I had a hard time putting this book down once I got into it.
The book is narrated by Kippy, a girl whose best friend was found murdered, and is trying to solve the crime using clues from Ruth’s diary. It’s your basic teen-investigates-better-than-local-cops story, and I’m on board with that.
The narrator was revealed to have some violent tendencies in the past. She also seemed to be completely detached from everyone else’s version of reality. And eventually, as I read, it dawned on me that the narrative voice was totally unhinged.
Was Kippy the murderer?
I took this theory and ran with it. When the narrative voice said something off-colour, I thought, wow – this is smart writing. Look at this sociopath, misinterpreting life and her surroundings. Everyone else in Goodreads reviews says the reveal was obvious, but I was so caught up in my Kippy Did It theory that I didn’t notice who the murderer was until the reveal, and then I felt kind of… deflated.
Why was Kippy so unhinged if she wasn’t the murderer? Did the author not do this on purpose?
Once I realized that this wasn’t done on purpose, everything else seemed to fall into place (as mysteries do). Those uncomfortable comments about mental health that I’d brushed off, on the assumption that we weren’t supposed to trust our narrator – that was actually just bad writing. Sigh.
Anyway, I was disappointed by this, and then I went to Goodreads and discovered that the author had stalked a reviewer and then wrote an article about it as if this was a perfectly acceptable thing to do.
Also, my foster kittens peed on this book so I had to throw it out after.
Best Kept Secrets
Here’s another romance! Since I was talking about rape-free romance before, I should disclose that this one does have some rape and some consent issues, but it’s not apologetically written, so I didn’t mind (readers sensitive to rape content should probably avoid this one though).
Anyway, that aside, this book was decadent. I enjoyed the ride, between Leila (our likeable female lead), Evan (our likeable male lead), and Paulette (poor Paulette. Everything seemed to happen to her.)
Best Kept Secrets was exactly what it advertised itself to be – a story that wraps you up in scandal and romantic intrigue. While I enjoyed the plot for the entire book, the one thing I have to give Ellis special credit for was the ending. I won’t spoil it, but she seriously outdid herself in ending this book on an intense note. I am always so impressed when authors make big decisions that change everything (like, if Kippy had been a murderer. OK sorry)
Ellis crafted some great characters here, which is of course a necessary step to creating scandal people care about. Their stakes were high and it didn’t seem like the situations they got themselves into were unrealistic – which is a complaint I often make about these types of stories (especially TV dramas).
All in all, here’s another author I’ll revisit in the future!
Disclaimer: I am not qualified to talk about slavery and its depiction in fiction, so I’m not going to. This is a book about a slave, and the only complaints I’ve seen have been from tone deaf white people such as myself. I will keep an eye out and update this post if I find anything.
Anyway, one thing I find particularly interesting about this book is that we really have to take what Lizzie says with a grain of salt. Some guy on Goodreads accused Perkins-Valdez, in his one star review, of “telling, not showing”. Maybe it’s a little mean spirited of me to pick on him, but that critique is laughable to me. Lizzie told the reader what she told herself. She told the reader what she needed to tell herself in order to survive the unthinkable situation she found herself in, simply because she was young and black and female. She comes off as simple and naive sometimes, but shit. Can you blame her? If she acknowledges what her life is, how can she go on? THIS IS SHOWN. Not told. Shown.
Another Goodreads review complains that the book just ended. Lizzie admits to herself, without much to do about it, that she kind of wants to kill her master. Then she just goes with him and the book ends. I mean. I was so excited about this.
I often complain that people think that the Fault in Our Stars was a good book because it was sad. Maybe I think a book is good just because it has an exciting twist. Whatever. I had fun and I’m glad Perkins-Valdez left it open ended. A bold and unexpected move, and, I suspect, highly calculated.
Down the Halloween River
I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Here are my thoughts:
This is another great addition to CM Blackwood’s works!
This is a quick read, but very entertaining. CM’s narrative voice is fun, age-appropriate and witty, and the heroes of this story, Branbury and Todd, are just as charming as their names would suggest. Coupled with an interesting setting, entertaining side characters and a grander-scale plot with high stakes, Down the Halloween River would be a great read for any middle grader this fall, although adult readers will enjoy it as well. Happy Halloween!