Monthly Archives: November 2014

Mini Reviews – Twisted and Noise

Twisted by Lola Smirnova

Title: Twisted

Author: Lola Smirnova

2014 – Adult Fiction – Realistic Fiction

Rating: 3.5/5

The Story: Julia wants to make a better life for herself, so when her sisters head to Luxembourg to find work, she tags along. She quickly finds herself working for a cabaret. Her job is seemingly simple – entice men to pay for champagne. The amount and quality of champagne they purchase translates directly to how much personal attention will be lavished on them by one of the girls. The money is good, but Julia finds herself disgusted, endangered, and shockingly numb to the acts she performs as she simply tries to survive.

The Opening Line: “Sag es!” he screams at me.

What I Loved: This almost read like one of the industry tell-alls that I love so much. And with good reason too – the book is based on Smirnova’s experiences working in the sex trade. While extremely graphic, Smirnova never shied away from the details, good and bad. It was an enlightening look at a trade so cloaked in secrecy and shame.

What I Didn’t Love: Sometimes the writing felt a little bit stilted and broken instead of flowing easily. And while the sparseness of the language fit the tone, I just wanted a little more in the way of writing.

Noise by Brett Garcia Rose

Title: Noise

Author: Brett Garcia Rose

2014 – Adult Fiction – Realistic Fiction/Crime

Rating: 4/5

The Story: Ten years after Leon’s sister disappears, he tracks her to New York City. Eager to recover and rescue her, he starts with his best clue – a postcard featuring a picture of the Stardust diner. Clue after clue yields information that he uses to piece together a bigger puzzle, one of organized crime, human trafficking, and more. As his vigilante action begins to attract police attention, Leon must decide what exactly he’s fighting for.

The Opening Line: The world is an ugly place, and I can tell you now, I fit in just fine.

What I Loved: This novel was well-written and easy to read. Even when I disliked Leon and his methods, I still felt for him and rooted for him in the end. It was also refreshing to see a deaf main character who isn’t coddled or helpless or any of that nonsense. Leon is fully functional, independent, and able to make his own way in the world. And his quest for justice and revenge, while really violent and questionable, is understandable in a way.

What I Didn’t Love: I felt like I was reading an action movie. Or a script for a violent video game. There wasn’t too much world building or subplot. As a reader, I was whisked from scene to scene as Leon tracked leads, tussled with police, and smashed his truck through the lobby of an apartment building. Not usually my type of thing.

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Mini Reviews – The Dead Man’s Deal and You Are Mine

The Dead Man's Deal by Jax Daniels

Title: The Dead Man’s Deal (The Witherspoon Mansion Adventures #1)

Author: Jax Daniels

2014 – Adult Fiction – Fantasy

Rating: 3/5

The Story: After Winki’s husband Will dies, she receives a surprise inheritance – a mansion tucked away in the middle of New Orleans, fully staffed by an entourage of eccentric characters. She also learns that magic exists and that as master of the house, she will be pitted against other competitors in an annual tournament. On top of all this, she discovers that Will was betrayed, leaving her and the house in danger.

The Opening Line: It happened again last night.

What I Loved: The bulk of the story revolved around preparing for the tournament. I loved this section because it reminded me so much of playing an RPG, which is my favorite type of game. Winki has to learn different weapons and attacks before going up against different competitors, almost like boss battles. If she wins, she levels up and gains loot. So this section was fun and I could easily understand everything that was going on.

What I Didn’t Love: Maybe this is just because I’m a bit of a stickler for grammar, but I did notice the mistakes and misspellings and that sort of thing. While not inherently bad, they did sometimes detract from the book and make me lose concentration.

You Are Mine by Janeal Falor

Title: You Are Mine (Mine #1)

Author: Janeal Falor

2013 – Adult Fiction – Fantasy

Rating: 3.5/5

The Story: In Serena’s world, a woman’s worth is based on the amount of magic running through her blood. Sold to the highest bidder, women are little more than slaves and possessions. But after Serena’s owner and intended husband is killed in a duel, she begins to realize that her new owner is not like everyone else. He wants change.

The Opening Line: My blood will entice warlocks to ask for my hand in marriage, so of course Father wants it spilled.

What I Loved: This novel had a really fresh perspective for me. So many times we see novels of oppression or dystopia, and it’s the downtrodden female that changes everything, that becomes the kick-butt hero everyone needs. In You Are Mine, Serena is literally helpless. Living under the fear of being punished, she must do as she’s told simply to survive. In my opinion, it was a more realistic look at extremely dystopian, patriarchal societies.

What I Didn’t Love: I raged at all the men who perpetuated this type of society. I think my inner feminist came out just a bit with this one.

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Review – Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty

 Title: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematory

 Author: Caitlin Doughty

 2014 – Nonfiction – Memoir

 Rating: 5/5

The Premise: Caitlin Doughty is your typical twenty-something. Or is she? A Bachelor’s Degree in Medieval History and a fascination with death led Caitlin to working in the trenches…in a crematory. Everything she thought she knew about the industry of death was turned upside down as she learned the ins and outs of the trade. Now a licensed mortician with a look reminiscent of Wednesday Addams, Caitlin is sharing what she knows in her new and fascinating memoir about the reality of death.

The Opening Line: According to a journalist’s eyewitness account, Mata Hari, the famous exotic dancer turned World War I spy, refused to wear a blindfold when she was executed by a French firing squad in 1917.

What I Loved: So even though I’m a scaredy-cat of the highest degree, I have a small fascination with death. Not to Caitlin’s degree of course – no mortician school for me. Luckily, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes wasn’t at all scary – but it was funny, thoughtful, educational, and sincere. Her almost irreverent tone wasn’t disrespectful at any time, but approached the subject of death head-on without the usual American denial. The book made me think a lot about the current state of the death industry in America today and what I would want come my time to die.

What I Didn’t Love: The only thing I disliked was that the book was too short. More, please!

Final Thoughts: I think this may be one of my favorite books of the year. I love the types of industry memoirs that explain all the secrets of different career fields, but this one is top-notch. Not only did she achieve her objective of writing about the funeral industry, but she did it well. I learned so many things that hadn’t even crossed my mind before. This is a book I’ll be talking about and recommending for a long time.

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