Author: Lola Smirnova
2014 – Adult Fiction – Realistic Fiction
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.
Author: Brett Garcia Rose
2014 – Adult Fiction – Realistic Fiction/Crime
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.