Thursday, March 14, 2019

The Perfume Burned His Eyes by Michael Imperioli

The Perfume Burned His Eyes
Michael Imperioli
Akashic Books
256 Pages

What does the music of Lou Reed of the Velvet Underground, The 1970s, Suicide, Sex, drugs,  & alcohol, a  Young Boy from Queens coming of age in Manhatten, and mass hysteria have in common??? They are the elements of a Historical Fiction debut novel by Sopranos actor, Michael Imperioli.

The gist of the story is this: Matthew’s father split on his mother when he was a baby. Matthew’s mother inherited the family fortune and moves Matthew to a world so foreign from his Queens upbringing even though they only move across the East River to Manhatten.  Matthew meets Veronica his spirit animal who teaches him to think differently than he might have to live in his lonely shell. Then, Matthew delivers food to an apartment a few floors above his own which houses, none other than the musician Lou Reed.

My Review:

Author Michael Imperioli's debut novel is stunningly vivid. His characters, especially Matthew, are well fleshed out, they are easy to get to know, easy to understand why they have the personalities they have and easy to be compassionate towards. I wanted to adopt Matthew's friend Veronica and take her away from her traumatic life and show her what a good family looks like. How she can be loved for being herself. That she doesn't have to sell herself just to exist. The Climatic twist between Matthew and Veronica is heartbreaking. I cried in realistic horror. As the unlikely father figure musician Lou Reed teaches Matthew confidence, self-respect, and appreciation for the life that Matthew has with this mother.

The Vibe of Manhatten flows in the background like a hidden character. The noises, the smells, and people add to the setting of The Perfume Burned His Eyes.

This book has some elements of teen prostitution, alcohol and drug abuse as part of a coming of age novel.

I gave this book 4 stars for keeping me emotionally involved, the historical fiction story about Lou Reed and amazing writing for a new author

I thank Akashic Books via Edelweiss+ for the opportunity to read The Perfume Burned His Eyes for my honest opinion.

Just for fun -- 
here is an interview of author Michael Imperioli on The Build and his new show Alex Inc. 

When Charley Met Emma

Publisher: Beaming Books 
32 Pages
up to age 7 (although I really enjoyed it as an adult)
release date: March 12, 2019

Congrats to author, Amy Webb on the release yesterday of your book When Charley met Emma. Such a compassionate, thoughtful, must read book. Beautifully illustrated by Merrilee Liddiard. Suggested for ages 3-7.

I thought I would do a vlog review today. Let me know if you like it. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Womanish by Kim McLarin

"Womanish: (Opp. of "girlish," ie. frivolous, irresponsible, not serious.) A black feminist or feminist of color. From the black folk expression of mothers to female children, "you acting womanish," i.e., like a woman. Usually referring to outrageous, audacious, courageous or willful behavior... Acting grown up. Being grown up..." - From Alice Walker's Definition of a "Womanist"  from In Search of Our Mother's Gardens: Womanist Prose.

Author Kim McLarin offers a wide view of her life and the aspect of trying to find love through honesty and no holds bar use of words. I gathered so many amazing quotes from throughout the book. I grew to understand a life that in no way would I have experienced growing up in Utah. Do I understand being teased, picked on and being different than my peers? Absolutely.  However, I did not live in a world where there was a systematic generational struggle to just been seen as an equal. I can't imagine having to deal with being a woman and being a minority at the same time. That is where this book helped me to understand the struggle that Black Women encountered as being a double minority. 

I have been told by friends that my review might not be accepted by some people because I am White. This is absurd. I can still enjoy a book no matter the color of an author's skin or the color of my skin (which by the way is a light caramel color as I have a natural tan pigment thanks to my German ancestry.)  As a reader, I can relate to what the author writes about on the whole because I am an empathetic, compassionate and educated people watcher.  My skin color in no way negates my being able to review this book.

Ms. McLarin takes up a case in point in her book to prove my view of being able to understand. One of her friends, a Black Women gave an example at the workplace, 

"My distrust of white women at work has escalated. It wasn't something that I thought about a whole lot previously, but recently I've become aware of one who smiles in my face but whom I've learned has done some serious backstabbing behind my, well, back..." 
I tend to find this, for me, to be more of a gender experience, not a racial experience as many women are caustic to other women. So I relate to what Ms. McLarin's friend is saying as I too have had that happen to me throughout my life. 

Womanish is a handbook for rising out of the ashes and being who you are, not how people see you...

There are so many humanistic truths in this book that I had to keep re-reading to make sure I didn't miss any of the realities this book talks about. There are also so many ugly things that Ms. McLarin has gone through with her experiences of dating and "online dating" and which by reading this book has shown me to have made her stronger, and yet a tad cynical about love. I think that one of my sons would agree with her that "online dating" just sucks all the way around.

Using key quotes from other authors, motivational speakers and real-life people to reinforce her experiences are a gold mine. I especially liked Page 101 where she talks about the lies we believe about ourselves being the center of the universe from babyhood on to whenever either our parents or the world teaches us the opposite. If only all people would learn this lesson.  And still, at various times in our lives, we go back to that "lie" that we are "better than", more "special than" someone else.  This is something I agree with -- it is pure bunk no one is better than anyone else! These are things she has taught her daughter trying to break the "wrong messaging" in her head about being inferior to a majority race. It's what I taught my daughter also that she is fierce, level-headed and can make decisions based on her "truths" not what others see or think of her and still capable of understanding that others are her equals and deserve her respect.

Ms. McLarin talks about gender equality. Her discussion about the physical acts of sex and the way men and women differ in their thoughts about it was refreshing. It was to the point, hilariously ironic and overall factual. No matter what a man thinks about how sex for a woman it's all about "emotions" that is neither the sole desire or the actual truth. Give me a break women don't feel desire just for the sake of wanting sex? Right...

To be honest, did I agree with all of what was written in Womanish? No. That my friends are the joys of reading and opening up your heart to understanding. It's like communicating with a friend, you don't always agree with their views but you can still be accepting of their views as they see it and apply those things you hadn't thought about and agree with into your heart and mind which will help make your life better and your dealings with your fellow humans more meaningful.

I wish that my copy wasn't an ARC so that I could quote so many of the truths that she gives. It was an uplifting read from me although, I know that some non-Black readers will take offense to capitalization of B in black and not capitalizing W for white, which is just too bad because they will be missing the bigger story, and prove Ms. McLarin's point.

Womanish is filled with love, wisdom, truth and a residual of the ugliness that is racism and the strength of people who are trying to raise themselves up from a past filled with blockades of raising up to the equality of everyone else in the country at the same time inspiring her child to be the best of who she is and see life as it should be, not as it has been. 

Thanks to IG Publishing for the opportunity to read Womanish by Kim McLarin in lieu of my honest review. 

You can read this book now as it was released on January 22, 2019. Help the "moms and pops" of the industry to stay open... buy the book at your favorite Indie Bookseller, or if you really must buy from your local big box bookstore to keep your taxes low by supporting your local community. 

For writing quality and honest life lessons.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Once upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Published by Atria Books
Publication Date: December 4, 2018
480 pages
Genre: Gothic Fiction, Mystery, Historical Fiction, Fantasy

You guys, Once Upon a River is one dreamy Fantasy Mystery! This a book for your book club or just for the fact that you want to disappear into a world unlike your own.  

Diane Setterfield is a brilliant writer. The intertwining of story, the life experiences that cross over into other realms. The confusion that one little baby can create. Is so well told that you just can't put this book down.

Descriptions in this book, especially of the river, are like describing someone you love with all the emotions and senses that you hold for that person: anger, admiration, sensuality, cold-heartedness, the tinkle of laughter, the observation of movement when your child, spouse or lover walks away from you.  For example, 
"The River was quieter like this than when it dawdled. There was no idle splashing on the way, only the purposeful surge forwards, and behind the high-pitched ringing of the water on shingle at the river's edge was a kind of hum, the sort you would expect to hear inside your ears after a bell has been struck by a hammer and the audible ringing has died away. It had the shape of noise but lacked the sound, a sketch without color."
 Can you see it? Can you hear it? Dang, that is some lyrical writing!

I am not going to give any of this plot away, I fear that the joy from reading this book by me talking about the plotline will be taken away. It's just had that kind of impact on me.

If you love a good fantasy like Inkheart; Lord of the Rings; The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe I can see you falling in love with this book.

By the way, If you haven't read Ms. Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale yet you should read that also. ๐Ÿ˜‰

It's Just that good!!

*Thanks to Atria Books (an Imprint of Simon and Schuster) via Netgalley and for allowing me to read and review Once Upon a River in lieu of my honest review.

Monday, February 11, 2019

"Regrets, I've had a few..."

๐ŸŽถ "Regrets, I've had a few..." ๐ŸŽถ  

I've done myself a disservice lately on the blog by only focusing on reviewing books and not writing about things that I am interested in that is book related and otherwise. Things that you might also enjoy reading.

 ๐ŸŽถ"Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew. When I bit off more than I could chew..." ๐ŸŽถ

One of the things that I did a disservice to is writing like someone else that I admired who also reviews books. I thought that if I formatted my book reviews like this other Book Reviewer it might make my reviews more interesting. Nope. It's not me. I'm not that kind of reviewer. It wasn't snazzy enough for me.

The other thing I did was create a formulated review. 
I thought to do a review this way it would make it easier for me to just fill my thoughts in faster. That my friends is not even close to what is happening. I am not enjoying writing my reviews, I am struggling with the format, and I am pretty sure that shows through on the page itself. Does it?

You might ask me, "Sandi, why would you want to do what someone else is doing?" My honest response is, I was trying to grow, to expand my reading, to expand my writing skills. To lay it out in a review for you that you might like better.

๐ŸŽถ "For what is a man, what has he got? If not himself, then he has naught. To say the things he truly feels;"๐ŸŽถ

However, how can I truly say the things I feel without holding true to My writing, to My words, My judgment on what you might want to know about a book?

There are certain general guidelines suggested to reviewers when reviewing a book, one of them is not to give a rating like a movie gets: PG, PG-13, M, R, X, NR, and also to not totally bash on an author's writing. The latter guideline I agree on. It's easy to review a book negatively without bashing on the writer personally. Can I say the writing style is juvenile? Sure. 
Will I pointedly call out someone's name and say they are juvenile writers? Heck no! Not in a review. Now, between you and me if we were close friends, in private? Maybe. I mean, there are books, that were written for adults then the majority of their audience ended up being Tweens because the writing wasn't great. I might happen to give you those author's names. But, not online, and not in writing. It's just not kosher.

The first guideline I would like to abolish. I don't believe in banning books because someone doesn't like the style of writing or the content is not to your values or morals. I don't read that way. I am an equal book opportunity reader, except for Harlequin Romance types of books and X- rated books. Those are not in my wheelhouse and never will be... they just don't interest me in the slightest. So, maybe I'm not a complete "equal book opportunity" reader... you get what I am saying though, right?

I do believe, nevertheless, that certain reviewers have particular readers. Readers who want to know if something is smutty, something is full of swear words those readers who look at covers to decide what to read and don't read the blurb, those who wouldn't want to even open the book if let's say, the book is full of the F-word. Some readers want to know if there are relationships that they might not agree with and definitely don't want to read about in a book. 

Again, my personal feeling is that I despise banning or labeling books, however, I also know my friends and readers and what they are looking for in the books they read. So, in the future, I will be giving a general heads up if a book is of
a graphic nature, only because it might be a book you want to read with your kids

As I have said numerous times, I am an openminded reader, you might not be and so in the vein of non-discriminating, any one book by a "no don't read if you are not into blah, blah, blah..." comment if the book is of a certain genre I will be listing it: Non-Fiction, Fiction, LGBTQ, Romance, Western, what have you. I think this is fair, in as much as, I get these books from the publishers, they have the genre in categories for the reviewers. 

 ๐ŸŽถthrough it all, when there was doubt, I ate it up and spit it out. I faced it all and I stood tall; And did it my way." ๐ŸŽถ

In the future, my way of eating "it up and spit[ing] it out" might change the way I do things again. You never know. I am that type of person.

I hope that you will enjoy what I have coming down the pipeline. I know that it will be more personable and definitely will be an honest review and/or post. 

So here's to writing, as Mr. Frank Sinatra sings so passionately, "my way".

Sunday, February 03, 2019

White Stag by Kara Barbieri

White Stag
Kara Barberi
Publisher: Wednesday's Books
Publication Date: January 8, 2019
Pages: 368
Grade Level: 7 and up

About the Author:
"Kara Barbieri is a writer living in the tiny town of Hayward, Wisconsin. An avid fantasy fan, she began writing White Stag at eighteen and posting it to Wattpad soon after under the name of ‘Pandean’. When she’s not writing, you can find her marathoning Buffy the Vampire Slayer, reviving gothic fashion, and jamming to synthpop."

Publisher's Summary:

"White Stag, the first book in a brutally stunning series by Kara Barbieri, involves a young girl who finds herself becoming more monster than human and must uncover dangerous truths about who she is and the place that has become her home. 

A Wattpad break out star with over a million reads! Now expanded, revised and available in print and eBook.
As the last child in a family of daughters, seventeen-year-old Janneke was raised to be the male heir. While her sisters were becoming wives and mothers, she was taught to hunt, track, and fight. On the day her village was burned to the ground, Janneke―as the only survivor―was taken captive by the malicious Lydian and eventually sent to work for his nephew Soren.
Janneke’s survival in the court of merciless monsters has come at the cost of her connection to the human world. And when the Goblin King’s death ignites an ancient hunt for the next king, Soren senses an opportunity for her to finally fully accept the ways of the brutal Permafrost. But every action he takes to bring her deeper into his world only shows him that a little humanity isn’t bad―especially when it comes to those you care about.
Through every battle they survive, Janneke’s loyalty to Soren deepens. After dangerous truths are revealed, Janneke must choose between holding on or letting go of her last connections to a world she no longer belongs to. She must make the right choice to save the only thing keeping both worlds from crumbling."

My Review:

As a reader who didn't read Kara Barbieri's Wattpad chapters, I got to read this novel fresh without being guided by what I had read before the story was revised. So, I am not sure what has changed and what hasn't. If you read Ms. Barbieri's Wattpad chapters and what I say doesn't go with what you read, I apologize. This is my error, not Ms. Barbieri's.

I wasn't sure what to expect from White Stag, except that it was going to be Scifi/Fantasy. I was fascinated with Janneke's character after reading the publisher's blurb about the book, so I requested an advanced read. I was pleasantly surprised that this book wasn't like so many other fantasies where the premise of the story is the same. Yes, there is the " strong heroine ends up in a mythical land where there are beasts and she wants to go home" premise, however, there is so much more to the story than that. It goes deeper, where segregation between humans and creatures of more depth than we think can live without tearing each other apart. It, to me, was a message of how life can be lived when everyone is different. Did good over evil prevail? You will have to read the book to find out. Did Jenneke's humanity reign over the Goblin's power? Read the book to find out. Can we live together in harmony if we don't find a common thread of value or traits?  Read the book to find out.

Just a warning (although I didn't keep my kids from reading at their reading level or believe in banning books from them. However, I know that some of my followers are looking for clean reads,) Ms. Barbieri's book is dark, super dark as there are flashbacks to sexual abuse and death. 

Although the recommended reading age is 12 to 18 years old. I am not sure if you really want your twelve-year-old to read it as it holds a clear sexual tension through many chapters and then literary prose & allusion to a sexual relationship in the following chapter lasting about a paragraph long. I would recommend this for an older teen. It truly is no different than say, Divergent or Twilight, although I believe the writing skills level for White Stag is much higher than the previously mentioned books. 

I enjoyed this book because Ms. Barbieri's writing painted a picture of the world that Jenneke was living in enough that you could feel the burning of an iron nail, the power stemming for the Permafrost and so many other wonderful sensory filled emotions. I like reading where it's not all telling and it doesn't truly feel like showing but feeling what is happening as if you were in the book.

I give White Stag a 4 out of 5 based on the age level, reading enjoyment and storytelling.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Weight Of A Piano by Chris Cander

* Wow, it has been months since last I did a post and I want to apologize for that!  Life has been filled with finishing our house, having our daughter and her husband live with us for a month, and taking care of their two adorable puppies while moving. This hasn't stopped me from reading, but it has stopped me from reviewing and I am very far behind on that avenue. *

The Weight Of A Piano
Author: Chris Cander
336 Pages
Penguin Randomhouse Publishing
Release Date: January 22, 2019

About The Author: 
"CHRIS CANDER graduated from the Honors College at the University of Houston, in the city where she was raised and still lives, with her husband, daughter, and son. For seven years she has been a writer-in-residence for Writers in the Schools there. She serves on the Inprint advisory board and stewards several Little Free Libraries in her community. Her first novel,11 Stories, won the Independent Publisher Gold Medal for Popular Fiction, and her most recent, Whisper Hollow, was long-listed for the Great Santini Fiction Prize by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance. She is also the author of The Word Burglar, which won the 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award (silver)." - Penguin Randomhouse

My Review:
The Weight Of A Piano has great settings based in Bakersfield and Death Valley which for someone who lived in California loved visiting so it was a treat to read a visual description of the Valley itself and makes me miss it's vast beauty since I have moved away. 

This story runs over the decades of two women- Katya a Soviet Union Immigrant whom we meet in 1962, and 2012's 26-year-old Clara both of whom don't know the strength that they hold in themselves. The unique Bluthner Piano was like having an extra, extraordinary, living character that carried its musical lines throughout the women's lives. 

Music, especially Piano music, is an intricate thread in my life so the chance to read a story with the piano as one of the main characters was a treat for me. I suggest you Youtube the music that both Katya and Clara talk about in the story. It will add a richness to your reading.
Although the story was a visual and musical adventure, I was annoyed with Clara's personality and maybe it was only because she and I are similar in that we are headstrong, make impulsive moves and can't let anyone in so we can protect our hearts from breaking. 
Katya is someone that you will feel heartbreak for, you will want to wrap your arms around her and hold her close. The other characters are three dimensional and real while rotating around Katya and Clara's stories. 
The Author, Chris Cander, has a way of writing that has tempted me to read more of her books as I thoroughly enjoyed the premise of this story. 
Thanks, Penguin Randomhouse Publishing for letting me get a crack at the story before it hit the shelves in lieu of my honest opinion.

I give this book a 4 out of 5 stars for originality and excellent visual writing.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Hippie by Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho
Translated by Eric M.B. Becker
Publishing House: Alfred A. Knopf
Release Date: September 25, 2018

About the Author:

Paulo Coelho’s life remains the primary source of inspiration for his books. He has flirted with death, escaped madness, dallied with drugs, withstood torture, experimented with magic and alchemy, studied philosophy and religion, read voraciously, lost and recovered his faith, and experienced the pain and pleasure of love. In searching for his own place in the world, he has discovered answers for the challenges that everyone faces. He believes that within ourselves we have the necessary strength to find our own destiny.

Paulo Coelho’s books have been translated into 80 languages and have sold more than 225 million copies in more than 170 countries. His 1988 novel, The Alchemist, has sold more than 65 million copies and has been cited as an inspiration by people as diverse as Malala Yousafzai and Pharrell Williams.

He is a member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters and has received the Chevalier de l’Ordre National de la Lรฉgion d’Honneur. In 2007, he was named a United Nations Messenger of Peace.

Publisher's Book Review:
Drawing on the rich experience of his own life, best-selling author Paulo Coelho takes us back in time to relive the dreams of a generation that longed for peace and dared to challenge the established social order. In Hippie, he tells the story of Paulo, a young, skinny Brazilian man with a goatee and long, flowing hair, who wants to become a writer and sets off on a journey in search of a deeper meaning for his life.

My Review: 
Paulo Coelho's autobiography gives the perfect 60's vibe to my themed 60's month of reading. Hippie rounds out what I considered to be a growing, adventurous era, one which I was blessed to be born in the middle of its last year. 

Author, Paulo Coelho tells a tale of travel, love and growing from experiencing other people's lifestyles. The Hippie movement as told in Hippie is not what my parents told me about Hippie's or what my husband was raised to believe about those people outside of his own little world living in Utah. It is what I knew it to be: People who wanted an existential answer to why war happens and hoping that love, freedom, and exploration can ease the stress of living in a world where we can't control everything but the life we give to ourselves. 

This story is not without its heartache, frustration, stress, and more adventure than expected as Paulo circumnavigates the world, which makes this book the perfect travel companion to those readers who want to grow AND imagine a place they have never been able to visit.

I really enjoyed reading Hippie. Paulo's life is intriguing to me. I appreciated being able to read his story as I enjoyed The Alchemist so much when it came out. 

Thank you to First To Read for the chance to read Hippie in lieu of my honest review. :)