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oblue

Obsidian Blue

Government drone by day and book lover and geek girl by night!

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Can You Feel this?

Can You Feel This? - Julie Orringer

I don't have much to say, I didn't like this short story. We focus on a woman about to have a c-section because of a condition she has. We have her thinking back on her mother and her childhood while obsessing over the imminent birth. I don't know, the whole thing just didn't work for me. I also think a few times the author wrote this as if some bad fate was about to befall all and then the ending leaves things on a hopeful note. Or maybe not hopeful, just not precarious anymore.

 

"Can You Feel This?" follows a woman (she stays unnamed I think through this whole thing) who suffers from placenta previa. I actually know about this a little bit cause my work wife had this and was on bed rest during the last two months of her pregnancy. So maybe I am just comparing how she handled things and this unnamed character and finding the fictional character lacking.

 

I also don't know if the book had been written in the first person if I would have felt more connected to the story. I wonder if Orringer wrote this in second person to put a distance between the main character and reader since the main character feels distant from her husband and child. And I think I just got fed up with it since the whole story is mostly going because of what happened to her mother when she was young this is why she is the way she is now. Which is only part of the story/things. You can choose to be different. And I think the ending was trying to telegraph that (badly). 

 

I was initially going to read all of the short stories but decided not to. This one didn't work for me and I didn't feel like forcing myself to continue to read the rest of the collection. 

Everything My Mother Taught Me

Everything My Mother Taught Me - Alice Hoffman

Honestly, Alice Hoffman writes short stories like no one's business. She is the first short story in Amazon's "Inheritance Collection" which looks at five fiction masters reveal that what is past is passed—inside households, across generations, and within the families of our own making. I honestly am not in the mood to read all of the short stories though. I read Hoffman's and loved it and went ehh on the second story and decided to cut my losses at this point. Hoffman's story hits high notes and makes you feel as if you are standing alone with the main character (pre-teen Adeline) in the 1900s in Massachusetts. 

 

"Everything My Mother Taught Me" follows young Adeline who is grieving her father. Her mother she understands does not love her and did not love her father while he was alive. Because of the times, the two are forced to go off so her mother can find work as a housekeeper to a set of lighthouse keepers off the tip of Cape Ann. Hoffman describes a desolate place that slowly becomes beautiful to Adeline. Adeline has not spoken since her father has died, but she can see what is happening all around her. And once again she realizes that her mother is only showing one side of herself to others. 

 

I loved this story from beginning to end. Hoffman makes short work of packing punches in her stories. There's a reason why I have read most of her anthology work at this point. She makes you feel as if you are in the middle of nowhere along with Adeline watching how her mother is slowly wrecking another person's life. 

 

I loved the ending and wanted to read more which is all you can ask for as a reader when you get to the end of a very good book, or in this case, short story. 

Girl Gone Viral

Girl Gone Viral - Alisha Rai

Please note that I received this book for free via NetGalley. This did not affect my rating or review.

 

Look I don't know how many romance readers out there are familiar with that whole Plane Bae mess that went down last year. Short recap, a couple grossly violated two strangers privacy. A woman decided to spy on the people sitting together on a plane and decided that it would be great to tweet about them. During this whole thing a ridiculous amount of people followed her on Twitter and were cheering this mess on. The whole thing went viral. Buzzfeed and others picked up the story and the woman who originally tweeted (who was a writer) used this to parlay herself into fame. Of course people rightfully said this was gross, why would you be taking pictures, implying that they had sex in a bathroom (they didn't) and use this to push yourself forward. It was awful and I think people on both sides of this mess were yelling at each other. The poor woman in question who was spied on had to delete her social media. The main in question was all, heh, this is good for my brand (I think he may have been an Instagram model. No I don't understand how that's a thing). I think within 7 days the whole thing had boomeranged with people who initially thought this was cute realizing it wasn't and the whole thing was messed up.

 

So the above is what Rai sets up as her big plot. The heroine (Katrina King) goes to a cafe where she let's a stranger sit at her table. She's polite, but not interested cause she has a crush on her bodyguard (Jas Singh). The main at the table asks her out, she turns him down. She notes that a woman next to her is typing furiously and thinks nothing of it. The next day she finds out a twitter hashtag called #cafebae has taken off and a woman had taken a picture of the side of her face and talked about how it was true love between her and the stranger at the table. This causes issues due to Katrina's past (she suffers from panic attacks) and she is scared that her anonymity which she treasures is about to blown to bits. Jas takes her to his family's farm where they grow peaches and then romance romance romance. Honestly the book did not work for me at all.


I think Katrina was just too nice. I really hated the outcome of the whole plane bae thing. I was hoping that Rai would tackle that more in the story. Instead if was talked about here, talked about somewhat here, and then just dealt with in a way that I doubt would have resolved itself in real life. Katrina also had another thing happen to her in this book and it was just too much after a while. I think I was supposed to go all girl power, but it started to read a bit too Lifetime for me.

 

Jas was an interesting hero, but once again there was a lot going on with him too. I think the plane bae thing should have been dropped since the story could have just focused on how similar these to are (both dealing with past trauma) though Jas had a loving family though his grandfather is ticked at him somewhat. I just started to feel like I was getting four stories worth of information in this book and it was too much.

 

We get previous characters we were introduced to returns in this one, but once again they felt apart from the main story at times.

 

The writing was okay, the flow was hit or miss for me after a while though.

 

The ending had a nice Happily Ever After (HEA) I thought, but once again we have another hero that is dealing with some really serious stuff that I don't think gets fully addressed by the end of the book. 

Love in the Afternoon

Love in the Afternoon - Karen Hawkins

This was a great novella that should be read before the longer novel taking place in Dove Pond "The Book Charmer". The main reason why I gave it four stars is once again Hawkins seems to do this weird gaps between the last chapter and her epilogue. We jump ahead to an event, but it's implied something else has gone on that was a trial. Since this wasn't followed up on in the longer novel that I just read, it's weird. I don't know if it will be followed up on or referenced in the next book in the series, "A Cup of Silver Linings" but if that is how long Hawkins is going to wait to follow up on things, it's going to be an issue for readers of this series. 

 

"Love in the Afternoon" has Ava Dove on the periphery of the story, while the novella follows widower Sofia Rodriguez and her son Noah who have recently moved to Dove Pond. Sofia has an affinity for plants and working for Ava to help her out with her tea making business is perfect for her. Ava is also allowing her to rent a home and be mindful of trying to accommodate her son Noah who has Asperger's. Ava's next door neighbor Jake though is not what she is expecting. A computer programmer who seems to live in a home swallowed up by roses, she is worried when her son starts to spend time with him. However, Jake and Sofia both start to feel something more is possible between them and they get a little assistance from a ghost. Yep you read that right.

 

So I loved all of the characters, even Jake's ghost (no spoilers). It was a heart-warming story and I loved how Jake slowly came out of his shell and realized that he wanted to pursue something with Sofia. And I liked how Sofia was upfront about her former marriage and what she was willing to put up with in the future. I maybe teared up a bit at a game that Jake created that gave Sofia something she talks to him about in a separate conversation. 

 

The ending was kind of a leap in my mind and I have to say that though this is called the Dove Pond series, we don't seem to be focusing too much on the sisters. I hope the next book does. 

Reading progress update: I've read 100%.

Girl Gone Viral - Alisha Rai

This dragged in parts and I got really tired of people not explaining themselves. I don't know. I think I just hated how paying off blackmail is how we just fix things. Also Rai took the whole Plane Bae thing and made that the basis of the story, but just ignored it for the most part and I wish that the book had actually focused on how harmful it is when we do this meet-cute BS. It's not real life and you are harming people when you invade their privacy in quests for good a good story. 

Oak Avenue

Oak Avenue - Brandi Reeds

Well after that downer of a story this was better. And yes, it's actually horror. I think Reeds did a good job with a haunted house story with some teeth to it. It made me think a little bit of Shirley Jackson's "The Haunting of Hill House". The ending was a nice surprise (in a bad way) so I liked that too.

 

Newcomer Ana moves back to her husband's hometown into a ramshackle Victorian home. Ana loves to restore homes, but the old house seems dark and something seems to be taking over her husband. With her toddler daughter to care for, Ana tries to find help with the local populace, but it seems as if deaf ears and eyes are turned away.

 

I liked Ana and felt for her. You get how increasingly alone she feels with no job and nothing to do but focus on her daughter and the home. Her husband changes slightly as soon as they move in and then you get to see the bigger ways. And you get the vibe the in-laws don't like her at all. 

 

I could picture the home and the little town that wanted nothing to do with her. A solid ending to this collection which was honestly 90 percent a miss with me. 

SPOILER ALERT!

The Remedy

The Remedy - Adam Haslett

I don't like this short story's portrayal of mental illness and how apparently people afflicted with mental illness secretly want to just kill themselves and or shot to be put out of their misery. I wouldn't usually do a spoiler review, but this is a legitimately harmful narrative to put out there. I suffered from severe depression and had to see not only a therapist but a psychiatrist in order to be treated. I had a little voice that got louder and told me that I was nothing and no one would miss me if I were gone. I am happy to be here and wasn't secretly hoping for an organization to come along and murder me. And I don't think that the best things in my life have already occurred so screw living now. 

Image result for i hate this gif

 

So, "The Remedy" follows a young man named Derrick who has heard great things about a new clinic that has opened up. His cousin tells him that it sounds like this place will help him with his chronic pain condition. It costs $20,000. Derrick who has nothing left to lose decides to pay this and meets the other worldly Dr. Lang. In Dr. Lang's eyes Derrick feels seen for the first time. And readers quickly realize that what is going on with Derrick is not physical pain, but something else. And we have Derrick then flashbacking on his past and an older girlfriend and I guess when he gets the surprise of seeing people dead and knowing he's about to get murdered, it's cool cause his best life was before him and now nothing is left but pain. Derrick also gets to see joyous expressions on people's faces so yeah, murder/suicide is the answer. I hated this story with a passion. 

 

So let's go through this. This story had huge plot holes. How the hell does Derrick have $20,000 just sitting around? 

 

Also is no one in Derrick's life (his mom calls a freaking lot) going to notice he's gone? Was Derrick's cousin secretly setting him up to be killed cause who is running around raving about this place if all the clients end up dead? 

Also why are people being murdered and then thrown into a cargo hold? You just shipping dead bodies around for something else Dr. Lang?

 

This was stupid. So very stupid. 

The Tangled Woods

The Tangled Woods - Emily Raboteau

Oh man. No. I don't even know what to say here. This after the last story in the collection had me pulling my hair. There was too much going on and I loathed the main character, Reginald. I think Raboteau was dunking on hoteps with this short story, but it just didn't grip me at all. Also if you want to know about hoteps, please go Google that. I am not energetic enough today to talk about the never ending messiness in the African American community. Let's just say that Raboteau did a great job with it and Reginald sucked. 

 

"The Tangled Woods" follows college professor Reginald Wright (eyeballs last name) who is angry at his life, his wife, and young son. Apparently he was attracted to his wife when she was "woke" but now questions who she is, what they are doing together, etc. on their way to a family vacation to the Poconos. We are quickly given insights into the real Reginald and then the ending comes along with a thunk that did not work at all. 

 

So there's not much there I have to say with this. Raboteau starts to pull the layers away from Reginald and you realize he's crap. And you wonder how much his wife knows/gets. And there are some hints there even with his son. But then things swerve into some thing about Make America Great Again or something (I started to roll my eyes so hard I couldn't focus) and it just didn't land where I think she wanted this to. And though I gave the one story a pass on not really being horror (since it's told via a young boy and how his and his friends imaginations work) I can't on this one. It's not really horror. It's just Reginald doing dumb things repeatedly and I don't think catching a clue about them and someone someone gets beaten up. I don't know. I was glad to move on after completing this one. 

Miao Dao

Miao Dao - Joyce Carol Oates

This one dragged badly. And I guessed at what was going on and just felt letdown by it. The ending was a surprise though with Mia and her mother. I just think this should have been more tightly edited. I don't know if it was the writing style or flow (okay it was) but I didn't care for this one much cause it just dragged at times the writing was too vague and other times too detailed. Yes, I know I sound like a jerk. 

 

"Miao Dao" follows Mia. Mia is dealing with a lot of changes in her home and body. Her father has left their family. Mia is also getting harassed at school due to her body which has caused her to become increasingly isolated and alone. Her one thing she has though is that she lives near a colony of feral cats. She is constantly trying to get them to see her as a friend, but you know, feral cats. Eventually one cat ends up meaning more to Mia and you get to see the results of that.

 

Yeah I still don't know. I didn't like this one. The writing style really tripped me up. I also think the time period at times was unclear. I think we maybe went through at least a 2 year time period in this short story. 

 

I think Oates was trying to say something higher level about how girls and women are treated and maybe they are similar to feral cats. Yeah....I don't know. Did not like this one. Moving on. 

There's a Giant Trapdoor Spider Under My Bed

There’s a Giant Trapdoor Spider Under Your Bed - Edgar Cantero

Okay, this is not a horror story. Even a little bit. It is funny as heck though when we follow along with a sleepover that starts to get weirder and weirder and scarier for the kids involved. This book reminded me of how my mind worked as a kid though. I was convinced one night a witch was in my room and if I took the blanket off my head, she would be able to attack me. I swear at one point I felt her long dagger like nose poking at the top of my head. I kept convincing myself it had to be that my poster had fallen over and that was jabbing me in the head. I woke up the next day (when the sun rose all monsters and witches could not come into my bedroom) I found out that the poster was still up on the wall. So what poked me in the head? Yeah I was a mess as a kid. 

 

I thank Cantero for the nostalgia this story brought and the Harry Potter references. I maybe died at the whole, so you're what? A woke Slytherin? 

The Sleep Tight Motel

The Sleep Tight Motel - Lisa Unger

So this was a really good atmospheric scary short story. I loved the location of the motel. I loved the main character. And I loved the slightly eerie motel owner. The only reason that I gave this four stars is that I did see the ending coming. Also this story left me with so many questions. I could have read even more after I got done.

 

"The Sleep Tight Motel" follows a young woman named Eve. Eve is on the run. We don't know what from at first, but then readers quickly find out from her boyfriend. We don't know what happened, but then clues drift in and out of the story. Eve eventually stops at a country motel and stays the night. Eve is so tired and scared and reflects on her relationship. The hotel owner, Drew, seems very nice, maybe a bit too nice.

 

So no spoilers, but I thought this was a great pick me-up after "Hannah Beast." Unger plays all the notes in this short story perfectly. Things slowly get revealed to you as you read and I kept thinking I knew what was coming next and was wrong. I was right about one big thing though which is why I sit here now smugly writing my review. Seriously though, this had a wonderful atmosphere. I could see readers snuggling down to this story in the fall or around Halloween. Or heck on a rainy day with lots of fog rolling in. 

 

I felt for Eve since this story is honestly about regrets and the things that you wish you can change, but cannot. And as I said above, I had so many questions after I finished!

Hannah-Beast

Hannah-Beast - Jennifer McMahon

So this short story to me is reflective of McMahon's longer novels. Starts off with a good idea and just falls apart in the middle and ending. Also the way this was written was confusing. We were jumping back in time getting Hannah's point of view and then sometimes Amanda (I think at one point) and then the present with us just being with Amanda. It would have made better sense to have it focus on Amanda with her past thoughts on Hannah and present thoughts on her today. 

"Hannah-Beast" follows a thirty something (I guess) year old woman named Amanda who is reflecting on Halloween and her town's macabre past. We find out that back in 1982 something terrible happened and a lot of kids run around to this day wearing so-called Hannah-Beast costumes. We don't know what the so-called Hannah did, but apparently it was awful and Amanda feels guilt and angry about it for some unknown reason. Amanda is now divorced and dealing with her young daughter Erin's resentment over her father leaving and how her mother treats her. The short story then flashes back to the past with a young lonely girl named Hannah. Hannah has a terrible child-hood and wants so bad to be friends with a group of three girls, one of which is Amanda in the present. The story jumps back and forth until the ending.


I was intrigued by McMahon shining a light on what real beasts pre-teen and teenage girls are though. I did feel for Hannah in the past. I just think that the story would have been better served if McMahon had stayed on either Hannah or Amanda. I had so many questions about the ending though, but just left it alone. It didn't make a lot of sense and I think that it read as rushed to me. 

No Place I'd Rather Be

No Place I'd Rather Be - Cathy Lamb

Nah you guys. This was from beginning to end a hodge podge of other of Lamb's works.

 

A character who is overweight (check) a mysterious family secret that really isn't secret if you have any critical thinking skills (check) a family that has names for all of their food (check) a family that somehow is making the best food or cake ever (check) a woman who is in love with a 6 plus foot man with barely any personality (check) a comment on CPS (check) children who have been abused (check). I liked Lamb's "My Very Best Friend" because she at least moved all parties to Scotland which made things interesting. This was written in 2017 and it just reads so poorly I didn't know what to do with it besides feel aggravated and relieved when I finished. 

 

I also did not like Olivia, she seems to be a victim of her own worst self at times and I had zero sympathy for her when she had her family and estranged husband ready to help but she was all, my pride, my pride. Don't keep going on about having $8 in your bank account and dealing with a terrible boss when you don't have to! I just...I am pulling my hair right now.

 

I can't say much about other characters because they are not developed at all. And I swear Olivia's nephew issues reminded me of another book of hers but I was too tired to look it up. 

 

I also shuddered at the HEA we get cause I have so many comments on it, but will wait until below to discuss in spoilers.

 

 

I don't know how familiar the readers are with the recent murder suicide of the Hart family and the many red flags there. I just felt uncomfortable at the thought of Olivia and Jace adopting 7 freaking kids. How are they supposedly giving 7 kids their full attention? Full love? Full care? 

 

(show spoiler)

The Book Charmer

The Book Charmer - Karen Hawkins

Wow. This was so good. I am so happy that Hawkins has turned this into a series because I fell in love with all of the residents of Dove Pond, especially Sarah Dove.

 

The book starts off being about her and then we switch gears to follow a new resident of Dove Pond, Grace Wheeler and her family. We don't know what it is about Grace, but apparently one of the books that talks to Sarah Dove tells her that Grace is going to be important to Dove Pond and needs to stay forever. Too bad that Grace has plans to move back to Asheville, North Carolina, when she finishes her year stint working for the mayor's office. 

 

I hope the next book gets more into Sarah and what causes her to run away from the local sheriff. We hear bits and pieces here and there, but I want more. I loved how Sarah is happy and is able to talk to books. That she always knows the book that has to go to people in town. Her sister Ava can grow anything and seems to have an affinity for gardens. It seems all of the Doves have special abilities that I can't wait to read more about.


Grace though had the opposite growing up that Sarah did though. Grace and her sister Hannah were raised in the foster care system until they finally gotten taken in by a woman called Mama G. What is weird though is that Mama G is able to sense something about children and even adults and realizes that there is something about Hannah, but she's going to take them both in. We fast forward to present times and Grace is moving to Dove Pond with Mama G and her sister's child. Grace has a lot of anger built up in her that she thought she put behind her, but now it's front and center again. All she wants to do is put her time in for a year and get out of Dove Pond. Too bad that Sarah is focused on making her, her friend and having her stay.

 

I thought the other characters like Trav, Ava, Blake, (I am forgetting scores) gave this book so much heart. I loved Trav's backstory and how it tied neatly into something that Grace was going through too.

 

The setting of Dove Pond sounds magical. A small southern town that is in danger of becoming a ghost town soon if something doesn't help pull things around. I loved that everyone knew each other's names and stories and no one thought they were odd. I loved the fact that the mayor was super useless and only wanted the position so he could go fishing.


The flow worked nicely going back and forth between Sarah, Grace, and Trav. I think though next time it should just be two people instead of three. Not that it didn't work here, but I found myself wanting to get back to Sarah's sections more and then I wanted to be back in Grace's more and then wanting to get back to Trav. Too much was happening (in a good way).

 

The ending was lovely though a bit abrupt. I think it could have been a bit smoother. Other than that, what a wonderful book! 

Simply Irresistible

Simply Irresistible - Jill Shalvis

So this was a great book from beginning to end. I loved Maddie and Jax. I also loved how Maddie and her two half sisters, Chloe and Tara get closer despite of how they were raised (or not raised) by their hippie mother who has recently passed. I plan on reading the rest of the series this year, so definitely looking forward to see how Tara and Chloe's stories end up.

 

"Simply Irresistible" follows Maddie Moore. Maddie has been fired from her job and is trying to figure out what to do next. When her mother passes and leaves her and her half sister's her resort in the town of Lucky Harbor, Maddie decides to pack up and head there. Maddie also has left her long-term boyfriend and is hesitant to trust another men again after that. She literally runs into Jax Cullen (on his motorcycle) and starts to contemplate that not trusting or getting involved with another man again. The book follows Maddie becoming more decisive and forceful about what she wants and doesn't want. She wants to try to make her mother's resort a success and is determined to do it even though her sisters want to sell and move on. And she wants to get to know them more and goes about making sure that she doesn't do what she used to do which was flee the first time they raised their voices. I loved the lead up to Maddie and Jax finally having sex and both of them realizing that there is something more between them. I loved Jax's backstory, but wanted even more of it. I don't want to reveal too much in my review, but I wanted to know where the heck was Jax's mother in all of this (was she mentioned?) and I love his friendships too. And I loved Jax not revealing a secret that wasn't his to tell.

 

 

I don't have much else to say except yeah for a solid romance book that has me wanting to read more!

SPOILER ALERT!

A Stranger in the House

A Stranger in the House - Shari Lapena

 

SPOILERS DUE TO ME BEING ANNOYED

 

Not too much to say here. No one was developed. The plot was paper thin. And then we have a twist, and a twist and I think there was a third twist that I saw coming from space. This book didn't offer up anything really new in the thriller genre. I am starting to call most of the books written like this, bad facsimiles of "Gone Girl." Heck, I didn't like "The Girl on the Train" but some of it, was at least trying I think. This book was just a mess after the initial intriguing beginning.

 

"A Stranger in the House" follows couple Tom and Karen Krupp. Tom comes home one day and is scared to find Karen's belongings at the house with her nowhere to be found. We then flash to another scene where some kids come across a dead body and steal the wallet (charming). Then we flash to Tom being worried and calling Karen's friends and finally the police. We then flash to an accident scene where a woman is being pulled out of the wreck and then we flash. Sigh. The book should have been called flash. Long story short, Karen is the one pulled out of the wreck. The police are charging her with reckless driving which somehow can get you sent to federal prison in New York. Karen can't remember what she was doing and what she was driving away from which caused her to run a red light and crash head first into a pole. The police think she's lying and her best friend Brigid has her own suspicions. The book just jumps back and forth between Tom, Karen, Brigid, and the police investigating the accident and then Karen herself. 

 

None of the characters are developed very well and oh surprise, everyone is lying about something. The police seem to be terrible at their jobs (seriously) and there's a lot of yelling here and there and somehow we got to the end with the twists. I officially am saying I am done reading this author. I gave "The Couple Next Door" one star and after this I am going to put Lapena on my do not read again even if there's nothing interesting at the library list. 

 

 

Speaking of "The Couple Next Door" I have to roll my eyes at Lapena again having the supposed friend and neighbor not being who she seems. I think at one point I got worried I somehow had blundered into reading "The Couple Next Door" again, but nope, different book, just same lying friend/neighbor with secrets of their own. These books could make you paranoid about getting to know women in your neighborhood. 

 

(show spoiler)