One Character's Lucky Break
Book Reviews

One Character’s Lucky Break

Well, that was lucky.

One Character's Lucky Break

Photo by Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash

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Okay, I have a confession. I don’t know how to play poker. And I’ve only played the lottery once. Even then, I only did it to give back to the student scholarship it funded. So, gambling isn’t really in my wheelhouse.

But this character could play poker in her sleep. And win.

She is one lucky ducky. Or is she?

 

One Character's Lucky Break

Ella Hote is a graduate student on the verge of earning her master’s degree in quantum physics. And her final project, a quantum computer, is nearly complete when the story opens. But she unwittingly stumbles upon more than she was bargaining for. After a series of lucky coincidences and terrible accidents, Ella realizes that some things don’t add up.

Does luck really exist? And if so, will anybody believe her?

Conservation of Luck, by Lesley L. Smith, is a first-person sci-fi novel that touches on quantum physics, relationships, personal responsibility, and addiction. Though not always likable, Ella is a compelling character. She wrestles with the implications of her discovery rather than choose a side (selfish or altruistic) right away. And she’s often oblivious to the lies she tells herself, both about love and addiction. It’s an incredibly realistic portrayal of an all too common problem.

Rating: 4.6 out of 5

Paperback: 335 pages

PS: Want to read another book by the same author? Read this review.

A Sci-Fi Read That is More Than it Seems
Book Reviews

A Sci-Fi Read That Is More Than it Seems

This Sci-Fi novel had me on the verge of tears.

A Sci-Fi Read That is More Than it Seems

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Not many books will make me cry. Maybe that’s because I subconsciously avoid depressing books. At any rate, this week’s sci-fi novel tore at my core like Edward Scissorhands in a fistfight.

And it was 100% worth it.

A Sci-Fi Read That is More Than it Seems

A Sci-Fi Read That is More Than it Seems

Sabrina Sabriya knows a few things. She’s an orphan, most of humanity died in a nuclear fallout, and religion is evil. And her best friend, Lindsey Mehdina, is her opposite in every way. Whereas Sabrina prefers practicality and usability, Lindsey is a colorful and visionary artist. Literally. And Lindsey’s visions can see into the past, present, and future.

This is a book of dualities. Religion versus science, flamboyancy versus minimalism, humanity versus machines, man versus woman.


City on a Hill, by Ted Neill, is a post-apocalyptic dystopian novel that delves into the human condition. And holy crow does it ever dig deep!

Since Sabrina was raised by the head of the city, a man she calls “uncle,” she has certain views of the world. Because of that, she enlists in law enforcement. And in the process of furthering her career, she slams up against several difficult truths. While she struggles with these difficult new truths, she is forced to make an impossible choice.

Rating: 4.8 out of 5

Paperback: 402 pages

 

PS: Want more dystopian fiction? Read this review.

 

 

 

Book Reviews

Read About Romance on a Greek Island

The main characters may not be Greek gods, but they are every bit as dramatic.

Ancient Greek statue fountain.
Today’s book is one to add to your Valentine’s Day reading list. Especially if you like your romance novels ultra steamy. If sex scenes are not your thing, you should probably pass on this one. (But if they are your thing, this book has a lot of well-written ones.)

Some More Warnings:

Since the story is set in the 1970s, there are some slurs against the Romani people, mentally ill people, and disabled people which were common use at the time. And if kidnapping, descriptions of food, swimming accidents, and ambiguous consent issues are difficult for you to read, you may wish to choose another book. Also, there are birds. Lots of birds.

Still with me?

Great. Let’s dive in.

Romance on a Greek Island: A Book ReviewIf you buy something through these links, I get paid. I never recommend anything that I don’t believe is an interesting and high-quality product. See my Disclosure Page for more information.

Aphrodite’s Tears, by Hannah Fielding, centers around the fictional island of Helios. Oriel, the heroine, is a British archeologist who is contracted to work there by the island’s leader— Damian Lekkas. But the island is rife with gossip, secrets, superstition, and danger. With so many varying accounts, it’s difficult for her to uncover the truth, especially when Damian is so distracting.

The narration is replete with visual descriptions of the island, buildings, artifacts, food, and clothing. In my opinion, this slowed the pace down, but that may also be due to my borderline aphantasia. If you enjoy detailed narration to give you a visual sense of location, the pace may flow much quicker for you.

Dialogue throughout the book is sprinkled with Greek, and the plot works in some of the finer points of old Greek customs and traditions. Also, the romantic conflict between Oriel and Damian is incredibly well-structured. But will Oriel survive the island’s many dangers long enough for a happily ever after? Does she even want a happily ever after? You’ll have to read the book to find out. 😉

PS: Add this book to your Valentine’s Day reading list!

Buy it here, and I’ll get some money.

Buy it here, and I get nothing. 

Women holding hands.
Book Reviews

A Novel Featuring Queer Romance in Post-WWII America

All you need is love.

Women holding hands.Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

This is the first queer historical fiction I’ve ever read, and I absolutely adore it. Because of the time period in which the story is set, the book has some homomisia (explanation of that word here), transmisia, sexism, and racism (without praising or glorifying any of it, mind you). Some of this has been internalized and expressed by the characters about themselves. If this is something which may be difficult for you to read, thank you for stopping by, and I hope you pop in tomorrow. 🙂

For everyone else: OH MY GOODNESS THIS BOOK BLEW MY MIND!

*ahem*

If you buy something through these links, I get paid. I never recommend anything that I don’t believe is an interesting and high-quality product. See my Disclosure Page for more information.

Written by Vanta, this novel is the second in the Juliana series. Olympus Nights on the Square follows Alice “Al” Huffman from May of 1945 through September of 1955. And she is desperately in love with a cabaret singer named Juliana— a very married Juliana. As the war comes to an end and society returns to the way things were (think “women giving back their jobs to the returning men”), Al finds it difficult to give up the freedom she’d felt. Through the narrative, she wrestles with her own identity, her financial future, and her undying love for Juliana.

One aspect of this book I really appreciate is how casually historical trends and figures are worked into the plot. The birth of television, the Red Scare, McCarthyism, purported scientific “cures” for homosexuality, and famous music icons like Liberace. And it’s also particularly poignant that finding accurate information about the female body was so difficult at that time, let alone books about queer people and their relationships.

More than anything, this story highlights the confusion and sheer terror associated with being queer during this tumultuous and conservative time in America. But it also brings forth the beautiful and deep bonds that only love can build.

PS: Don’t forget to buy this book!

Buy it here and I’ll get some money to pay bills and keep this site running.

Buy it here and I get nothing. (I won’t judge. You do you.)

Broken pieces of a ceramic plate are scattered on a smooth concrete floor.
Book Reviews

This Book Explores #MeToo Issues Before the Movement Even Began

Broken pieces of a ceramic plate are scattered on a smooth concrete floor.

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

If you are opposed to strong verbal language, sex scenes and/or might be triggered by depictions of sexual assault and bullying, this book is not for you. And I’m not going to waste your time today.

But if you’re still with me, we’re about to dive into a New Adult (NA) novel that does some pretty extraordinary things. Ready? Grab your hat because we’re going to cover a lot of ground pretty fast.

If you buy something through these links, I get paid. I never recommend anything that I don’t believe is an interesting and high-quality product. See my Disclosure Page for more information.

Published in January of 2017, Let Me Fall, by Lily Foster is a heartbreaking yet satisfying coming-of-age read. The narrative follows two characters, Carolyn and Jeremy, as they navigate their messy world from middle school through their early twenties. But this book doesn’t get bogged down in flashbacks, info dumps, or any of the other literary sins that can make novels unappealing. In fact, it flows along at a nice pace without any lulls. And the angst and pain the characters experience is palpable.

But what I love about this book more than anything else is how seamlessly it addresses a variety of difficult issues without ever glorifying or romanticizing them:

  • Differences in socioeconomic class
  • Sexual abuse
  • Child abuse
  • Mental illness
  • Harassment
  • Bullying
  • Dyslexia
  • Consent
  • Alcoholism
  • Suicide

Each of these issues is subtly woven into the fabric of the story without ever seeming forced or preachy. Instead, Foster paints scenarios in a realistic light that all too many of us understand, firsthand.

As an older Millennial who grew up before smartphones and taught younger Millenials as well as part of Generation Z, I was especially affected by the online bullying scenes. It is something I never had to experience at that emotionally and mentally vulnerable stage of life yet is a very real threat to today’s youth. And this novel does an excellent job describing both the subtlety and the absolute horror that can be unleashed.

Graffiti heart on a wooden park bench.

Photo by Jamez Picard on Unsplash

However, at its heart, this book is a love story. Will Jeremey and Carolyn overcome their hurdles and finally get together? I’m not giving away any spoilers. But whether or not they actually become a couple in the book, I totally ship it. And you will, too.

PS: Don’t forget to buy this book!

Buy it here and I’ll get some money to pay bills and keep this site running.

Buy it here and I get nothing. (I won’t judge. You do you.)

A 19th Century British Detective That Isn't Sherlock Holmes
Book Reviews

A 19th Century British Detective That Isn’t Sherlock Holmes

This book is so delightfully British.

A 19th Century British Detective That Isn't Sherlock Holmes

A 19th Century British Detective That Isn't Sherlock Holmes

A 19th Century British Detective That Isn't Sherlock Holmes

This post contains affiliate links. That means I earn a commission from clicks or purchases made through these links at no cost to you. See my Disclosure Page for more information.

This week’s book is the fourth in a series. (I know, I know. I never read things in order.) It features an exquisitely researched setting and rounded characters with distinctive voices. And this particular book is set over 40 years before Sherlock Holmes would have been born (had he been a real person, of course). So which mystery book is this? I won’t keep it a mystery much longer. 😉


Plague Pits & River Bones, by Karen Charlton, is a wonderful murder mystery full of clues and thrilling adventure. The main character, Detective Lavender, is a relatable and slightly rebellious man with an excellent gut instinct. His wife, Lady Magdalena, is a spitfire and it’s obvious they’ve had a history of getting out of sticky situations together. In this book, work keeps Lavender away from home chasing down one criminal after the next, all while trying to solve a few side-project mysteries of his own. When he starts connecting the dots, he suddenly realizes that these crimes are more personal to him than he first believed. And he may be too late to save himself.

The narrative does a beautiful job of pacing, switching between Constable Ned Woods and his family, Magdalena and her life as a lady, and Lavender’s packed schedule. It also highlights many sociopolitical issues of the time like unlawful slavery, rape, domestic abuse, and prejudices against Catholics and Jewish people without rewarding or supporting these views. This, in my opinion, makes Lavender even more likable.

Though I wouldn’t describe most of the book as a pageturner, per se, this book was well-crafted and a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Rating: 4.7 out of 5

Get It Now:

P.S.: Be sure to check out this review of a more modern indie British crime novella.

An Inspiring Book for Conservative Christian Women
Book Reviews

An Inspiring Book for Conservative Christian Women

Some may consider this book empowering and inspiring.

An Inspiring Book for Conservative Christian Women

This post contains affiliate links. That means I earn a commission from clicks or purchases made through these links at no cost to you. See my Disclosure Page for more information.

Before we dig into the meat of this review, I need to confess something. I am not the ideal demographic for this book. When I chose this book, it held the promise of an inter-religious (including atheists and agnostics) inspirational book. And, honestly, men and women from most major monotheistic religions will probably get a great deal from this book. Keeping that in mind, I will tread lightly and attempt to make this review as respectful as possible. So what is this book?

Permanent Happiness, by Iyabo Ojikutu, M.D., is a conversational exploration of what it means to live a balanced and healthy life. She outlines a three-step plan to acquire peace. There is only one Bible quote in the entire text, but it builds the basis of the first and most crucial step. Though the opening of the book takes great care to include all of humanity, there is a God-centered focus to the text and several conservative views on dating and apparel which some may find less appealing. And there are instances where the text speaks to teenagers and men, but most of the book is squarely aimed at women, especially mothers. Part of this is because the author is a Christian mother, herself. She converted to Christianity from Islam, which her parents in Nigeria practiced. But she is also a pediatrician, so she has a keen focus on children’s needs and childrearing.

It is clear that the author wishes to impart her wisdom and advice in good faith to improve as many people’s lives as possible. She described the process of creating the book as an urge, a supernatural need to spread peace. And she shares many stories from her own life, both the struggles she has endured and the successes she has gained. This is a deeply personal work, and that is something I can definitely appreciate.

At times she can take on a judgmental and critical tone when discussing various topics, which some readers may appreciate. Religious women with more moderate views may glean something from this book but disagree with parts of the author’s advice.

Personally, as a non-religious, non-mother, queer woman of the Puerto Rican diaspora, there was very little in this text for me to relate to. And this book would have been greatly improved by honing in on its ideal audience: religious conservatives. However, I appreciate the body/soul balancing metaphor the author created, and it was interesting to get a glimpse into her life story.

Rating: 3.3 out of 5

Get It Now:

P.S.: Want to explore other cultures? Check out this review.

10 Books Under 100 Pages For Adults
Book Reviews

10 Books Under 100 Pages For Adults

For when you need a quick read.

10 Books Under 100 Pages For Adults

 

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Did you read the 10 Books That Are 150 Pages or Less post and think to yourself, “Hm. That still seems kinda long.”? If so, you’re in luck.

Today’s post features novellas, essays, and short stories that are all under 100 pages. Some are less than 30 pages!

Number 9 is by one of my favorite authors. I first came across her work via this TED talk on society and storytelling. (That video’s around 19 minutes, so you may want to bookmark it for later. It’s definitely worth a watch!) And speaking of TED talks, book number 6 is a TED Conferences publication, which is a nice tie-in.

This list has a balanced mix of old and new reads. Enjoy!

1. Three Men in a Boat by Jerome Klapka Jerome


2. Second Variety by Philip K. Dick


3. The Heart of Haiku by Jane Hirshfield


4. Safety Tips For Living Alone by Jim Shepard


5. The Death of Ivan Ilych by L. N. Tolstoy


6. Radical Openness by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams


7. Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx


8. The Dead by James Joyce


9. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


10. Lady Susan by Jane Austen


This YA Book Will Give You the Feels
Book Reviews

This YA Book Will Give You the Feels

This is one of the most heartwarming YA books I’ve ever read.

This YA Book Will Give You the Feels

This YA Book Will Give You the Feels
This YA Book Will Give You the Feels

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I absolutely cannot stop raving to my husband about how wonderful this book is. (And believe it or not, this is a rare occurrence for me.) The main character is a 9-year-old boy, but the issues he faces are firmly in the YA genre (although precocious MG readers may enjoy this book, too). Set in April 1970, the storyline develops alongside real-world events such as the Apollo 13 launch and the dissolution of The Beatles. The real history is interwoven into the plot so well, that it feels like you’re actually there. So what is this fantastic book?

Apollo Dreams, by Syd Gilmore, is a delightful coming of age novel that’s filled with all the wonder of childhood— and all the pains of growing up. The main character, Billy, has an overactive imagination and an interest in space and other geeky things. This leaves him ostracized from the other children in his Catholic school and even leads to him getting bullied and picked on. As a former Catholic, all of the descriptions of Catholic culture and practice were spot on. And I appreciate how nobody in this book is ever black and white, good or bad. (Well, almost nobody. I’m dying to explain more, but no spoilers here. I’ve genuinely never had to struggle this hard to refrain from revealing an entire book’s plot. That’s how good this story is!)

The sections told by Billy are in first person, but the sections that outline his imaginary storylines are in third person. And there are also multiple sections that focus on other characters in close third person. The transitions are expertly handled, and the latter sections really provide a level of depth and insight into the plot that is impossible to get otherwise.

And this book also addresses many hot-button issues of the time: hippy culture, Vietnam war vets, post-segregation racism, and more. This is a beautiful tale, and I cannot recommend it enough. Please, please, please go read it now. You will be so glad you did.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Get It Now

P.S.: There really isn’t another book in my review list that compares to this one. But if you’re looking for some YA that’s more futuristic and dystopian, read this review.

10 Books That Are 150 Pages or Less
Book Reviews

10 Books That Are 150 Pages or Less

In a world full of 600+ page tomes, 150 pages can seem like a walk in the park. Especially when you’re short on time.

10 Books That Are 150 Pages or Less

This post contains affiliate links. That means I earn a commission from clicks or purchases made through these links at no cost to you. See my Disclosure Page for more information.

You’re crafty and always on the go. Whether you’re a parent, a student, a businessperson, or some combination of the three, odds are you don’t have much spare time. I know my reading habits dropped significantly when I taught full-time while studying for my master’s degree. Pretty much all I had time for were textbooks!

But never fear. At 150 pages or less, you can easily squeeze these books into your stolen free moments. And number 8 is one of my all-time favorites; it has such a captivating first line. “It was a pleasure to burn.” Did that get your attention? Because it sure got mine the first time I picked it up!

Though most of these fall into the “oldies but goodies” category, there are some newer titles in the mix, as well. Enjoy!

1. Animal Farm by George Orwell


2. The Stranger by Albert Camus


3. At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom by Amy Hempel


4. Chess Story by Stefan Zweig


5. All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman


6. The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchen


7. The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain


8. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury


9. Night by Elie Wiesel


10. The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing