The Bracelet by C.A. Deslauriers

The_Bracelet_Print (1) Paperback Cover PhotoThe Bracelet by C.A. Deslauriers is a romance novel with an emphasis on the life and emotional journey of the woman in the pair, Christine. Christine has recently written a memoir of her life with her true love, Jay, and spends the bulk of the novel recalling the path her life has taken to the present moment. The arrival of a mysterious, yet all-too-familiar box sends Christine into a tailspin of memories as she revisits the pain of her childhood, the joy and sting of first love, passionate encounters, loss, and self-discovery.

The cover of the novel sets up the tone of the piece rather well. It is a simple, black background with a focus on the bracelet and its single charm. The word “lukewarm” becomes almost a mantra to Christine throughout her life, something she has achieved and yet wishes to exceed. The cover is as elegant as the prose by Deslauriers. The story is told in a simple manner that is easy to follow and allows the emotion to shine through.

The formatting and editing were acceptable; however, there were a few places with missed periods and grammar mistakes. At the beginning of every chapter is a quote from another piece of writing titled The Prophet. These quotes were interesting, but pull the reader out of the story somewhat, as they are bolded and italicized, making it easy to lose the flow of the narration. Especially since, sometimes, the first paragraph of the chapter was also bolded and italicized. In addition, the entire book is written in third person, except for one chapter, which switches to first person.

The Bracelet is a fast, simple, enjoyable read. Traveling back through Christine’s memories is like a whirlwind of emotion and discovery. It is a very poignant look at what passion is and how it can affect a person’s life, as well as the absence of passion and the harm that can do to relationships and a person’s state of mind.

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Effed Up by Russ Woody

EFFED UP CoverEffed Up by Russ Woody is a first-person narrative starring Robert and his dysfunctional family. The reader enters Robert’s life as he is getting up-close-and-personal with a woman named Becky, who is apparently turned on by trauma scenes. While Robert is trying to block out the juxtaposition of pleasure and disgust and enjoy the moment, he receives a phone call that his mother is in the hospital. From Robert’s reaction and subsequent actions, it is clear that he despises his mother and is not close with his siblings or his father.

Through present moments and past recollections, Robert paints a clear picture of his effed up family. His mother is a manipulative, psychopath, his brother is a loser stoner, and his sister is a raging alcoholic. The only sane one, he thinks, is his father, who he doesn’t even know well because his mother never allowed the spotlight to be shown on anyone but herself. In the wake of tragedy, Robert must piece together the kind of man his father was, thus learning more about himself.

Effed Up is so humorous, it will make the reader laugh out loud. The characters are so absurd, so flawed, and yet so real, that the story is both completely fantastical and chillingly realistic.  As much as the reader will laugh, she will also cry—tears of outrage, sorrow, frustration (at how dense Robert’s family is about their ridiculousness), and finally, joy. There are aspects of the characters and moments in the family dynamic that are guaranteed to ring true to everyone at one point or another.

While situations may be drastically different, the emotions Woody invokes about love, family, and friends will resonate with readers from all walks of life. In the end, the story is about one man’s journey to finding himself and learning what true family means.

True Feel by Ted Bernal Guevara

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True Feel by Ted Bernal Guevara is a crime novel staring a reporter, Marion Rafino, who is confined to a wheelchair. While he is investigating a string of murders across several states, he comes across a young stripper, Credence, who seems to be the prime suspect. There is a picture of her at the most recent crime scene, and Marion must balance his love/lust for the girl with his suspicion of her involvement.

Guevara spins an intricate mystery for the reader. Every person involved in this investigation has a rich backstory and connections that are unforeseen. Credence has numerous stripper friends, who all have a story to tell. Moreover, Marion interviews several witnesses, relatives, acquaintances, etc. Guevara definitely does not skimp on the details. In addition to the murder case, the romance between Marion and Credence is an interesting one, with the age-difference, social gap, and physical limitations.

However, the format of the novel makes it hard to appreciate the depth of the storyline. There are so many narrators that the reader may find herself confused and frustrated at times. Every friend of Cadence has a real name and a stage name, and they are sometimes used interchangeably with no explanation. Some chapters, it is obvious who is talking, and in others, it does not become clear until halfway through, and the reader must return to the beginning to understand what is being said.

True Feel is a novel with an interesting concept and an intricate plot idea, but it could have been executed better. The reader may find it difficult to become immersed in the story, as she will be trying to decipher whether it is past or present and who is narrating. This confusion makes it hard to appreciate the “aha!” moment when the perpetrator is finally revealed.

Many Many Many Gods of Hinduism by Swami Achutananda

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Many many many Gods of Hinduism by Swami Achutananda is a comprehensive guide about Indian culture, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Achuthananda begins his text with a note to the reader about the importance of asking questions about who we are and why we are here on the planet. He posits that Hinduism is key to addressing these issues as the literature is vast and represents thousands of years of spiritual experiences.

First, Achuthananda addresses key aspects of Indian culture, such as the idea of karma, the life of Buddha, and the relationship between India and Pakistan. For Achuthananda, to understand Hinduism, one must understand the cultural and linguistic background of the religion.

Next, Achuthananda discusses key concepts of the religion itself. He points out the many different scriptures and talks about important symbolism. Mostly, he compares Hinduism with most Western religions to show the differences between the two and to highlight the essence of Hinduism.

Finally, he addresses some controversies in the religion itself. A big one being that some Hindu scripture hints that man created God. While this seems blasphemous to a Westerner, Achuthananda explains that the Hindu concept of God is so hard to wrap one’s head around, that people needed some concrete form of reference—thus the many Gods, which are actually multiple facets of one God.

This text is all-inclusive, interesting, and educational. Anyone who wants to learn about Hinduism should pick up this book, as it is informative about the religion and the culture from which it stems. The one thing that would make this book easier to read would be more concrete examples from the culture and the scriptures. Some of the concepts are hard to understand and examples would help illuminate the ideas.

 

Shangai Love by Layne Wong

Shanghai Love Book CoverShanghai Love by Layne Wong is a masterfully crafted love story. It begins with a young, Chinese girl being prepared for her wedding day, a day that has been arranged since she was a mere child. The scene is beautiful, yet sad, and the reader soon discovers that Peilin’s husband-to-be is dead—he died fighting in the war. Peilin, just seventeen, is to be married to a ghost, forced to leave her family, and become a dutiful daughter-in-law to a tyrannical, self-important woman.

The story soon switches to Henri. The year is 1938, and he is a Jew living in Nazi Germany. Henri is a doctor, like his uncle, running an illegal practice for fellow Jews out of his basement. Foolishly, he tells his lover his secret and is chased out of the country to Shanghai.

Their two stories intertwine when Peilin, who has been taught Chinese medicine, is asked to run the herbal shop owned by her new family in Shanghai. It is here that the Western doctor and the Eastern herbalist meet by chance, and their lives change forever. The road is not an easy one, as Peilin is bound to her familial duty and Henri battles prejudice and guilt.

Wong weaves an intricate tale of two people—so different in many ways and yet so similar in others—overcoming numerous obstacles, both internal and external, to find peace with themselves and each other. The characters are extremely well developed; the culture explored in-depth. The amount of detail to both people and beliefs is staggering. The work discusses important themes such as love (both familial and romantic), culture, prejudice, and self-awareness.

Shanghai Love is both entertaining and informative. The reader will come away with a sense of satisfaction with the resolution of the story as well as an appreciation for the culture and time period of the piece. 

Split at the Root by Catana Tully

Book Cover (3)Split at the Root by Catana Tully is an intricate study of self-identity, social influences, and familial ties. The first story Catana can remember is one Mutti, her German mother, tells about her “birth.” Mutti tells Catana that she floated down the river on a leaf, and that, in that moment, Mutti knew Catana was hers to keep. This is just one of many “fairytales” that Mutti tells Catana about her life (and her history).

Catana was born to Rosa, a Black woman, in Livingston. However, she was raised by a White, German woman, who called her “Mohrle,” or “little Moor.” Catana grows up in a White household, treated as a privileged White. As such, she is uncomfortable around people of color and even begins to hate her birth mother. Throughout her life, she struggles with issues of race, identity, and prejudice. Mutti refuses to acknowledge the deeper issues, preferring to mold Catana into a likable, competent woman, who has “the right frame.”

Catana decides to flout her education and become an actress. Along the way, she meets Fred, and they fall in love and marry. All her life, Catana has been surrounded by White people. She knows next to nothing about her birth mother and even less about her father and the rest of her biological family. On a trip back to her birth village, she begins to get hints that Mutti may not have been telling her the whole truth—words like “stolen child” are thrown around in context to Mutti and Catana’s relationship. As Catana digs deeper, she uncovers secrets about her heritage and her upbringing. Along the way, she must confront her racial identity and all that goes with it.

Tully’s memoir is extremely detailed. She begins with her first memories and continues to the present day. By the end of the tale, it is as if the reader is a part of the family that Catana is trying to piece together. Her story is emotional—full of love, laughter, and even fear. The reader will watch Catana grow up and find her own identity. The story is impossible to put down as Catana attempts to unravel the complicated mystery that surrounds her biological family. It takes many years for her to learn the truth and just as long, maybe longer, for her to know herself. It may be a memoir, but at points, it reads like a detective novel. Even though it is one woman’s life and history, it touches on important racial, societal, and personal identity issues.

The House of Tomorrow by Adair Arlen

The House of Tomorrow coverThe House of Tomorrow by Adair Arlen is a tale of intrigue and romance that keeps the reader guessing until the very end. First, we meet Paul Gregory as he is closing his bar for the night. There is an elegance to this scene as Arlen describes Paul’s interactions with two different women and the ambiance surrounding them. Paul is painted as a suave heartbreaker type.  That night, he dreams of a third woman, who he saw in passing the evening before.

That woman is Lillian Greening. Arlen describes Lily as genuine and pure; she strives to see the good in people and is uncomfortable with deception. She does not know the allure she possesses for men nor the extent of her beauty. That is why she cannot believe it when Sam Meredith, one of the richest and most influential men in town, asks her to meet his family and, later on, become his wife.

Sam Meredith seems to be every woman’s dream—attractive, charming, attentive, and wealthy. And he seems genuinely to love Lily, even though his family disapproves of the match. However, things take an unexpected turn when Paul begins to insert himself into Lily’s life and Sam starts acting sketchy. Paul begins to show an interest in all things to do with Lily (and Sam), but he will not tell her why. And Sam, after proposing, becomes twitchy and distant. What is it about the Meredith family that has everyone speaking in riddles? And why is Lily suddenly of interest to two of the most attractive and mysterious men she’s ever met?

Arlen spins an interesting tale about secrets and how our past effects our present and future. Concentrating less of the details of the mystery, he focuses on the characters involved, giving them elaborate backstories and delving into their emotions. The beginning of the novel is beautifully written as the reader is introduced to the cast and the situation. Some readers may find the middle a tad on the slow side, as the action slows down and it’s mostly internal thought and introspection. But the end is fast-paced and action-packed. The reader will enjoy this story of relationships, both romantic and familial.