Linda78

My Magical Palace - DNF @ 30%

My Magical Palace - Mugdha Sadhwani, Samaresh, Kunal Mukherjee

This wasn't badly written. It just wasn't holding my attention. 

 

The storytelling device used just didn't work for me, for starters. The bulk of this book is Rahul telling his partner about growing up in India and how homophobic and traditional his family and everyone else around him was. The thing is I would have expected this conversation to have already happened since the characters had already been together for awhile at the start of the book. The trigger event for Rahul finally telling his story was ... overly dramatic, or at least it felt that way since we don't know this couple, and it was the first time this situation - Rahul's parents wanting him to meet a daughter of a friend to a possible arranged marriage - has come up, I thought Rahul's partner kind of flew off the handle. Especially since it's hardly like India has the monopoly on treating gays terribly, especially for the time period the flashback story is based in, which is the early 1970s.

 

As for the flashback story - can it be a flashback when it's the bulk of the story? - was very rambling and while it was nice to read about different customs and such, I just finally wanted Rahul to get to the point already. The writing is also very simple, which wasn't helping it any. It just wasn't hooking me in, to the point that I could put it down for several days and not think of it once. I was already skimming by around 25%, and I finally just skipped all the way to end to find out what the moral of the story was, and it was ... be true to yourself! Awwww!

 

There are good bones here, but it needs editing to tighten it up, and something to make me care about the present day stuff.

Page of Tricks (Inheritance #5)

Page of Tricks (Inheritance Book 5) - Amelia Faulkner

Heed the warnings for this one because this gets dark:

Mental torture, forced drug use, drug addiction, detailed description of past child sexual abuse, violation of autonomy 

(show spoiler)

 

I was worried after the last couple of books that this series would end with a whimper instead of a bang, but thankfully I had nothing to worry about. And I can reiterate, definitively, that book 4 can be skipped as everything that's revealed there is brought up here - not in every detail but enough to know what you missed. I was also worried I'd have to endure more of Freddy and Mikey's POV, but thankfully that didn't happen. Sadly

Freddy and Mikey are still alive at the end of the book, so I might have to put up with them again later,

(show spoiler)

but I can deal with that when I get there. I was hoping to see 

the ever-elusive Nicky but he was again MIA. I'm getting mighty curious about him and what powers or abilities he may or may not possess.

(show spoiler)

 

The big showdown with the Duke has come at last and it's just as messed up as I'd thought it'd be. I got so angry at Freddy and Mikey multiple times, and I still can't really buy their relationship - and thus Freddy's motivation. I'd more easily believe that Freddy's pride was insulted by his dad presuming to take a plaything away from him than I do that he actually cares about Mikey but whatever, it was a smallish part of the plot and not lingered over too much.

 

It was neat to see Windsor take a more active role in the story, now that he's a little older and learning new words. :D Lawrence and Quentin are put through the ringer in this one though and it's often difficult to read because all their weaknesses are used against them.  Both of them have grown and changed so much since the first book and their adventure here tests all of that growth to its limits. I really had no idea how this was all going to be resolved, which just added to the angst and intrigue. 

 

This was a wild ride and once the action gets going it doesn't really let up until the end. It was hard to put down at times and it went quickly. We get a nice little epilogue that hints at what the next arc is going to be dealing with, and I for one will be eagerly awaiting that release.

Masc (Femme #2)

Masc - Marshall Thornton

This was a cute read! Lionel gets it in his head that he and Dog need to have more in common or their relationship is doomed, so they join a bowling league. That's not as boring as it sounds though, because Lionel ends up being stupid good at bowling.

 

Lionel annoyed me at times here - he's very impulsive, as we all know, but he goes a little overboard at one point - but he makes up for it in the end. Dog also goes through a bit of a horror situation at work that wasn't fun to read about. Warnings:

He's sexually harassed and has trouble coming to terms with it and then figuring out how to resolve it.

(show spoiler)

But overall, the characters were as delightful as the first book, though I do wish I'd waited for the narration, assuming Joel Leslie comes back for it. He was a huge part of what made the first book such a fun experience.

 

Also, families that overshare are a little creepy. Just a smidgeon. :D And who celebrates Flag Day? That's being way too patriotic. 

 

I want to see Carlos get his own story. He deserves one. He's such a delight. Tim and Fetch were a hoot too, and Dog's father is ... he's trying? LOL. 

The Ninth Man (A Dick Hardesty Mystery #2)

The Ninth Man (A Dick Hardesty Mystery Book 2) - Dorien Grey

I had mixed feelings about the first book in this series, The Butcher's Son, and some doubts that Hardesty had what it took to be a detective. This was a tighter story, and it shows that Hardesty really is a dog with a bone when he gets a mystery to figure out. The whodunit was pretty obvious from the start

though I had no trouble buying the reasons why Hardesty didn't seriously consider the perp right away, and I even started hoping that I was wrong after awhile.

(show spoiler)

It looks like he put the years between the first book and this one learning his craft pretty well. He can be awkward at the interviews at times, which is a nice personality quirk for a P.I. since you expect them to be smooth all the time. 

 

The reason behind the murders is a bit on the far-fetched side. 

I could buy a few of the tenants being terrible assholes, but all of them? Not so much.

(show spoiler)

I think it would've been better if there had been less people involved, just for believability. 

 

I was uncomfortable about Dick's and Tim's casual bigotry against femme gays. It happens, I know, but I'm hoping there's a character in later books who'll make him reconsider that stance.

Death By Silver (Lynes & Mathey #1)

Death by Silver - Amy Griswold, Melissa Scott

This was a good solid mystery set in a fantasy historical setting with a slightly steampunkish vibe. Julian Lynes is a private investigator and Ned Mathey is a metaphysician (kind of like a wizard, only magic in this world can be learned by anyone with the inclination). They're old school chums - and occasionally something more - who are called in to work a case by another old schoolmate. 

 

There are plenty of suspects and twists in the case, and while I suspected the perp early on, I couldn't figure out the how and why of it until much later. There were also plenty of other possible motivations for the other suspects, so this wasn't one of those mysteries where the perp was so obvious that it made the MCs look like idiots for not figuring it out earlier. They had to follow the clues and eliminate suspects.

 

What I liked even more than the mystery was how the author weaved in flashbacks to their school days and their bullying at the hands of the prefects to show why Julian and Ned bonded so early on. This is an author who knows how to show and not just tell. The pain of those years are still there, and it adds an extra layer of complication to the case as they have to face on of their former bullies.

 

This wasn't at all what I was expecting from this book, but that made it that much more fulfilling to read. I do wish the world-building were a little less subtle, since I felt things that made up this world could have been explained or described better, but the social aspects of the world are closer to our own in that time period.

A Tale of Two Cities - DNF @ 40%.

A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

"You have been the last dream of my soul."

 

And this has been the end of my tether. I've run out of can for this book. Third time was not a charm.

 

When Dickens actually bothers to write characters living a story, the writing is tolerable. But then he goes into these long allegorical chapters that are pompous and overblown and I lose all track of what's going on or why I should care about any of this.

The Ruin of a Rake (The Turner Series #3)

The Ruin of a Rake - Cat Sebastian

This one started off kind of slow and I wasn't sure I would be able to like Julien or Courtenay much. Their brief appearances in The Lawrence Browne Affair were too small to really get a fix on Julien, and Courtenay came off a little slimy. 

 

He starts this book in not much of a better light. His reputation has been tarnished, much by his own means, and he's finding himself a social leper after a salacious book written by an unknown author comes out with him cast as the main villain. Courtenay does everything he can to live down to everyone's bad opinions of him. Julien, on the other hand, designs his outward person to ingratiate himself into high society, despite being the son of a merchant and being "cursed" with having to earn a living. He's so preoccupied with appearing proper and perfect at all times that doing anything even remotely scandalous is unthinkable. So what happens when these two buffoons get together?

 

At first, a lot of frustration. Julien's wrangled into helping Courtenay repair his reputation and Courtenay does not cooperate. Of course, they're both secretly lusting for each other and so of course have to act like they hate each other. The hijinks they get into early on just had be eye rolling because I don't consider that kind of behavior remotely appealing or sexy. I really was worried I wouldn't like this one.

 

And then the characters got over themselves and started opening up, and secrets started being revealed that explained their motivations, and the story and relationship got a lot better. There's even an interesting subplot involving Julien's sister and her estranged husband that was very well done and didn't feel shoe-horned in. The second half really helped pull the rating back up. I also really appreciated that this ended with Julien and Courtenay in a much more realistic point of their relationship giving the times and their social standings.

 

Once again, Gary Furlong does a fantastic job narrating. If it wasn't for him, I'm not sure I would've finished this. He's become a favorite over the course of this series.

Balefire (Whyborne & Griffin #10)

Balefire - Jordan L. Hawk

This was another fun adventure with Ival and Griffin and the whole gang. The Endicotts are back, and there's trouble afoot across the pond. 

 

Our first encounter with the Endicott family was less than ideal, and the rivalry lends great tension to the story even before we get to Balefire. Ms. Hawk keeps expanding the universe she's created and it always feels authentic. She clearly planned this out from the start, instead of winging it like many authors do. We get more hints about the purpose of the maelstrom and Ival's and Persephone's connection to it.

 

It was a little predictable in some places, and since this took place outside Widdershins, we don't get to spend much time with some of the side characters. We get to see some Endicotts who aren't awful. 

Bringing the few who are left back to Widdershins should make for interesting times in the next book.

(show spoiler)

 

I'm saddened to see that this is the penultimate book in the series. I'm going to have to do a reread of the whole series before the next one comes out.

The Lawrence Browne Affair (The Turner Series #2) (Audiobook)

The Lawrence Browne Affair - Cat Sebastian

Story: 4

Narration: 5

Overall: 4.5

 

This was even better than the first. I loved Lawrence, and Georgie is surprisingly more likable than I found him in the first book. Not that I found him unlikable. He was just sort of there.

 

So what happens when a career conman has to hide away from his old gang and is sent off to a remote country estate that's depilated from years of neglect and is home of an eccentric, mad earl? Well, you get Belle poking around the Beast's castle, of course. ;) I seriously wouldn't have been surprised if the candlesticks started talking to Georgie in that scene. :D

 

This is the farthest thing from Beauty & the Beast though. Radner suffers what we today would call social anxiety, something I'm very familiar with. Georgie had an unprecedented whim to let a mark off the hook and actually do something nice for a change, and now much find a way to make amends with the grifter boss or face the consequences. He initially considers Radner an easy mark, but of course that all changes.

 

There's even a bit of a mystery involved with Radner's staff, and why exactly rumors of Radner's implausible mad acts are floating over the countryside. Radner himself is recluse and a scientist, obsessed with trying to get his telegraph machine to work and has little care for anything or anyone else. 

 

I really enjoyed seeing how these two brought out the best in each other and accepted each other for what they were. There were no big misunderstandings or drama llamas here. The story unfolded authentically and while the MCs may learn to let go some of their own self-imposed preconceptions about themselves, they're still the same at their core, and this is what drives the story more than anything else. 

 

Gary Furlong agains does a marvelous job with the story. He brings the characters and scenes to life with his voice, and it's just such a pleasant voice to listen to. I even slowed down the playback speed a little so I could listen to him longer. :D

On the Other Hand, Death (Donald Strachey #2)

On the Other Hand, Death - Richard Stevenson

Don Strachey uses his powers of snark and observation to help a pair of old women being targeted for hate crimes. Wrapped up in the mystery are some eccentric neighbors, a shopping mall tycoon, one of Don's old lovers and a gay advocate trying to put together a national gay strike. Part-time helper/part-time foil Detective Bowman, who drops homophobic slurs like they're going out of style (hey, it's the 80s and it's New York) but somehow still manages to do his job and take Don seriously.

 

I thought I had this figured out at one point, but I was so wrong, lol. There are plenty of potential suspects to go around. The snark was off the charts, the characters were fun and well-written, and even Bowman got some ironic chuckles out of me. 

 

Timmy and Don are, well... Don's not the best boyfriend in the world. (These books are NOT romance.) Timmy finally puts his foot down but the conclusion of that was kind of confusing to me. It was left somewhat up in the air. 

 

The formatting is again terrible. There are no page breaks between chapters. It goes into italics for pages or chapters at a time for absolutely no reason, and at one point even switched to a smaller font size. I'm not sure if that's because I got these first few books at Kobo and so they're not Kindle-formated, or if that's just how the books are no matter where you get them from. But it was annoying.

 

Oh, and the author does that thing where he constantly shoehorned the title into the dialogued and text, which is a pet peeve of mine.

The Soldier's Scoundrel (The Turner Series #1) (Audiobook)

The Soldier's Scoundrel - Cat Sebastian

Story: 3.5 stars

Narration: 5 stars

Overall rating: 4.25 stars, rounded down

 

That cover looks like it belongs in a gay Halloween magazine, and it's the main reason I avoided this book for so long, despite everyone telling me that the story hiding beneath that hideously cheesy cover is actually good. And now I can join their number and say that the story is actually really quite good. Brilliant even, and if it were for a couple of my pet peeves that appear here, it would have gotten a higher rating.

 

So let's get the pet peeves out of the way first:

 

~Smexy times after an injury. *sigh* I just went through this with the last book. At least it was more realistic here, being "just" a flesh wound. 

~Gay-okay history. Like many an M/M historical romance, they want all the modern conventions like HEAs but don't want to put up with things like taboos. There is some consideration given to the fact that sodomy was a crime in these days, but that sure didn't stop Jack and Oliver from being reckless at times. But more than that, I would expect more of the side characters to have a more negative reaction to their relationship than they do. Look, people have a hard enough time finding that kind of positive reception in today's world, much less the 1800s. Is it too much to ask for more realistic reactions, even if they would be depressing as hell?

~The term "dating" wasn't coined until 1898 in America. Pretty sure a noblewoman of the early 1800s in London wouldn't be using the term. She would say courting. That one little word really threw me out of the book.

 

Those matters aside, I really enjoyed how Sherlockian this was. Nearly 99% of the mysteries out there involve murder from the get-go - even all those Sherlock knockoffs. But there are just way more mysteries to solve out there than that, and this story has a classic case of stolen letters kept by a married lady from her one-time suitor. 

Why would she have her own letters though? If she mentioned why or how she got them back from her former suitor at some point in the story, I missed it.

(show spoiler)

 

Jack Turner is a rogue, street tough and no-nonsense. He helps women who have no one else to help them (so long as they can afford to pay), and he'll do so by any means necessary, though he does have his limits. He has no time for stuffy aristocrats. Oliver Riverton is the youngest son of an earl just returned from war and desperate for the ordered life of society after the chaos and destruction he witnessed during the war. When he finds out his sister had paid Jack for a job, he's determined to make sure his sister hadn't been taken in by a charlatan. Instead, he gets entangled in Jack's world, in more ways than one.

 

Jack and Oliver are perfectly matched and I enjoyed watching them circle each other as they got to know one another. Lust was pretty immediate, but they don't fall into each other's arms right away. Trust needs to be built, and they need to start seeing each other as people instead of just assumptions based on class, or lack thereof. Jack's determination to keep the upper hand and constantly failing to do so was amusing, and Oliver is just naive enough to be charming but savvy enough to not be annoying, which is not an easy combination to achieve. They've grown up in different worlds that have different laws that govern them, and they actually learn from each other how to see the world in different ways.

 

Gary Furlong, who does the narration, did a fabulous job. He managed to convey the POV switches with ease and kept the MCs voices distinct from each other. I could visualize the story just as easily listening to him as I could have if I'd read it myself. He even managed to make some of the sex scenes fun - though I still thought there were a few too many of those. 

The Last Thing He Needs (Audiobook)

The Last Thing He Needs - J.H. Knight

I wasn't sure what to expect from this one, but it was really good. I admit, if this had been from Bobby's POV, I probably would've had less patience with it and wondered more why he'd risk his job getting involved with a guy like Tommy. Not that I didn't still wonder that, but since this was from Tommy's POV (though it's in the third person) I didn't spend much time mulling over it. 

 

Tommy and Bobby have a great friendship and relationship, and I like that actual months - instead of merely weeks or even just days - pass before they get to the ILUs. Tommy's got a lot on his plate, and grew up in poverty with parents who were addicts. He's responsible for his seven younger brother and sisters, and sometimes that means taking shortcuts to make sure they have necessities like toilet paper and food. But he does have morals and he has lines that he won't cross, and he does his best to make sure his siblings are growing up in as safe an environment as he can provide for them. Bobby coming into his life requires Bobby to open up to someone else, and then rely on and trust him. 

 

I really liked Bobby and his mom Judy, and there was good time spent with the older siblings so I could actually tell them apart from each other. There were some dropped subplots that I expected to see more of but didn't, or at least get a line or two about in the epilogue but didn't. 

 

I do have deduct points for the ridiculous sex scene that takes place after one of the MCs has been pretty seriously injured. Please, authors, stop doing this! I would find it much more romantic if the uninjured MC takes care of the injured MC than if they just go at it like there aren't stitches and pulled muscles and slings to consider. I'm just saying.

 

The narrator for this one is Michael Stellman. He does an adequate job with the text and he's easy to listen to and follow along with. He does a good job emoting too. But, he didn't really differentiate between voices for the various characters enough and it was sometimes difficult to tell who was speaking. I probably would've enjoyed this more if I'd read it on my own.

Brief Cases (The Dresden Files #15.1) (Audiobook)

Brief Cases (Dresden Files) - Jim Butcher

Another fun compilation of short stories and novellas set in the Dresden universe. I finished my read of the currently available books almost three years ago and have been waiting impatiently for Peace Talks ever since, along with everyone else. So I was happy to see this come out to break the dry spell a bit - and also impress upon me the need to do a relisten at some point in the near future. :D

 

A Fistful of Warlocks - 3 stars

 

I spent the first half of this trying to remember who Luccio was. Whoops. She never made much of an impression as a character, so it took me awhile to place her, especially since I heard19th century and got excited that maybe we were getting a story about Ancient Mai. Alas, no. Still, Wild West, Wyatt Earp and Warlocks - what's not to love?

 

Cassandra Campbell narrates this one.

 

B Is For Bigfoot - 4 stars

 

Harry must deal with bullies targeting Bigfoot's kid. Irwin is pathologically pacifist, and Harry's intent on making him understand that he can still stand up for himself. As ever, Butcher takes what should be a fairly straightforward issue and complicates the hell out of it. Plus, it's about time Sasquatch makes an appearance in this world.

 

AAAA Wizardry - 4 stars

 

Harry's again playing mentor, this time to young wizards. Harry shines when he's taking care of kids and teaching others how to be better. The classroom setting is intertwined with a case that Harry worked where things ... wait for it ... went wrong. I know! That never happens to him, right?

 

I Was a Teenage Bigfoot - 3 stars 

 

Irwin's again in trouble, and Harry's sent to help out. This one is fairly straightforward, on the Dresden scale, and we don't get as much interaction with Irwin this time around. And you will NEVER guess the motive for this one. :D

 

Curses - 5 stars

 

I actually never heard of the Billy Goat curse, and the way Butcher comes up to explain it is classic Dresden, whimsical and offers some of the most hilarious moments in this collection. 

 

Even Hand - 3 stars

 

Oh, Gentleman Johnny Marcone. I don't care for him, but he's hardly the worst villain out there. He reminds me a lot of Xanatos from Gargoyles, actually. Unrepentantly evil, but with his own moral code and rules. The best rule being "no kids." So when Justine come to him asking for help protecting a child, well...what's a cold-blooded mafia-type man supposed to do?

 

Jim Butcher narrates this one. And...well...Hermoine would approve his narrative style. His pronunciation is always very proper and precise - and as a result a little on the stilted side. 

 

Bigfoot on Campus - 4 stars

 

Bigfoot Irwin's all grown up and in college and has a girlfriend whose not what she seems. What could go wrong? Harry's got a condition on this one though: Papa Bigfoot has to meet his son, who is more than a little ticked off for being kept on the sidelines his whole life.

 

Bombshells - 4 stars

 

Molly's trying to fill the shoes of Harry after the event in Changes, and she's finding it to be quite an overwhelming task. I've always liked Molly, so was happy to see her POV and get inside her head. She's made some questionable decisions, and seeing how she navigates the world of wizardry as a result of those decisions and what she's learned since was fascinating. Plus, she gets company of Justine and Andi while she tries to figure out how to save Thomas. (I forgot Andi was dating Butters.)

 

Cold Case - 5 stars

 

Two Molly POVs in a row! And this one hurt. Molly's first assignment as the new Winter Maiden pairs her up with Carlos as they go up against monsters Alaska, and it doesn't go anything like she thought it would. Her new "mom" Mab is as cold and vicious as always, and a stark contrast to Charity. Mab's not here for sentimentality. She's here to fight a war. She does offer Molly the opportunity to find a better way to fight that war though, so hopefully that means Molly will be able to do that someday.

 

Julia Whelan narrates both of Molly's stories, and she does a great job.

 

Jury Duty - 4 stars

 

Harry Dresden has been found - by the government! Dun dun DUUUUNNNN! Jury duty happens. Wackiness ensues. Good fun.

 

Day One - 4 stars

 

BUTTERS! I love Butters - and totally forgot he was a Knight now. Whoops. He's called to his first mission as a Knight of the Cross and he does an excellent job of it. Oliver Wylan does the narration on this one and he captures Butters perfectly. 

 

Zoo Day - 5 stars

 

Harry spends his first full day with his 10-year old daughter Maggie and it's adorable. Of course, this is Dresden Files, so it can't just be a nice family outing. There's a lot going on here, and we get to see not just Harry's POV, but Maggie's and Mouse's too. Yes, you saw that right. Mouse gets his own POV here. Maggie's an amazing little kid, and Mouse's POV was charming as hell - in between all the horror, lol. 

Red Dirt Heart 4

Red Dirt Heart 4 - N.R. Walker

Charlie's come a long way in self-acceptance over the last two years and three books. Now we get to see him from Travis's POV and follow their journey into the future as they become a family.

 

There's little conflict here, and really not much a plot beyond will they/won't they actually get married and there's some talk about what Charlie will do with the ranch in the event he can no longer run it. 

 

I would have liked if Travis's POV had actually sounded different from Charlie's, but other than that, it was nice to spend a little more time at Sutton Station and seeing more of Trav's family and see the next stage(s) in their lives. But if I hadn't already invested three books in this series and cared about these characters, I probably would've found this a bit on the boring side. I did find the epilogue cute but not really necessary. I would've been happy for the book to end right before that.

 

So this was fun, cute, very aww-worthy and good for a light read. 

Reeve of Veils (Inheritance #4)

Reeve of Veils (Inheritance) (Volume 4) - Amelia Faulkner

Hmmm, not sure what to make of this one. 

 

First, this goes back to Knight of Flames timeline and gives us Freddy's POV, so there's a lot that's repeated. Pretty much the first and last quarter of the book, in fact, and I ended up skimming the bulk of those parts, looking only for new details. About the only new thing we learn during those parts is that Freddy's a bigger jerk than I originally thought he was. We get confirmation of his powers, which are more extensive than hinted at prior to this.

 

As for the new stuff in the middle, well... Freddy's a jerk and I prefer not to read POVs of jerks. Mikey's somewhat better, but he's been a victim for so long that he (and Freddy) actually deludes himself into believing he's left that behind even as he willingly becomes Freddy's literal plaything. Which brings me to the second thing.

 

Second, there's just no way to see Freddy and Mikey's relationship as anything other than D/s, which is a dynamic I don't enjoy. Just because Freddy thinks he's doing good by Mikey and Mikey's getting out of the ghetto doesn't erase that. Freddy might want to see themselves as equals for whatever reasons he needs to, but they're really not.

 

Plus, Freddy's just not that good of a guy. He's not a complete bastard, but he's barely one sidestep away from Kane - and even that's only until he succeeds in his plan to off dear old daddy, which I assume is the next book, and then he will be exactly like Kane. (Actually, I'd argue that he's worse than Kane, since at least Kane's victims know they're victims. Freddy's don't.) Morals and ethics mean nothing to this guy. Or to Mikey. So I guess they are perfect for each other in that respect, but they're certainly not a couple I'm rooting for or care about, and the insta-love here is just completely unbelievable given that Freddy's practically a sociopath.

 

Ok, I give Freddy credit for not violating Mikey's sexual consent (or so he claims). But since he violates consent in every single other respect with everyone around him, that credit doesn't get him very far. It gets him a crumb. A crumb ground into dust.

 

The good news is you don't actually have to read this book. The last two books made it perfectly plain that Freddy's manipulating Laurence and how, and that he's trying to line up Quentin to kill their dad. So this book ends at pretty much the same point as the previous book, just with a bit more info than we had before. 

 

Two more little nitpicks:

 

Mikey's a drug dealer and a high school dropout who's never been outside San Diego. He's not going to measure distances by kilometers. This same thing happened with Laurence in the last book. We use feet and miles in the USA. There are various conversion charts and calculators available online. This sort of error shouldn't happen, and it pulled me out of the story both times.

 

And lastly, mailbox flags work the exact opposite of how they're used here. When you have outgoing mail, you raise the flag. When the mailman comes, he lowers the flag and leaves the incoming mail. If the flag is up, that means the mail hasn't been delivered yet, not that it has been.

The Valley of Amazement

The Valley of Amazement - Amy Tan

I did something while reading this book that I have never done before: I flipped to the last page to see if it had a happy ending. Because good lord does Violet get put through the ringer.

 

This is often a difficult read, so I'll say upfront: if sexual exploitation makes you squeamish, you may want to skip this book. I'm usually one who wouldn't touch this with a ten-foot pole, but while the tone was unflinching, the details when divulged were detached enough to not affect me too much. Everyone has different tolerance levels and triggers, though, so it's something to consider.

 

This is set in the first half of the 1900s in China in the culture of the courtesan houses. It resembles Memoirs of a Geisha in that respect and it doesn't shy away from how young girls were sold and stolen into this life, but beyond the inner workings of the courtesan houses, this is a much different story with a different focus. 

 

As with all of Tan's work, this story is about the relationship between mothers and daughters, but unlike her other stories, this one is told primarily through Violet's POV. We follow her from a young, conceited girl growing up in her mother's courtesan house - not as a courtesan though, just to be clear on that point. She can only see how things effect her, how her mother is distant and aloof, and how she doesn't feel like she's loved enough. After they're separated by a ne'er-do-well and Violet is sold to another house, she must use her fierceness and determination to survive her new life and come to terms with the many twists and turns that her life makes. 

 

It's not all dire. She has a friend in the courtesan house to help her and protect her as much as possible, and she knows how to navigate this world better than most, though she makes many foolish decisions along the way. There are good moments as well, and Violet learns how to appreciate others, the depths of love and sacrifices that we make for each other along the way, all of which helps her to better understand the choices her own mother had made. But every time she takes a step forward, she's knocked twenty steps back. It's a long hard road, but there is a hopeful ending.

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