The 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.
Effed 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.
Shanghai 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.
The Publicist by Christina George follows the life and career of Katharine Mitchell. The reader meets Kate for the first time as she receives a call from the police—a woman is threatening to jump off a building and is asking for her. Kate is able to talk Haley off the ledge and everyone is curious as to the relationship between the two. Kate answers, “I’m the publicist.”
This scene sets the tone for the whole novel. As a publicist, Kate must deal with arrogant authors who think they have written the great American novel and bosses who care more about the bottom line than good writing. In her personal life, she deals with an unwanted attraction to a married co-worker. Mac has a Don Juan reputation, but he’s also one of the only people left in the publishing business who seems to care about quality books and genuine people.
The Publicist is full of realistic characters, poignant interactions, and tons of humorous situations. From the crises Kate has to deal with, one would think she is a psychologist or a social worker, but she is simply a publicist who is thrown some undesirable authors and frivolous projects. The reader will thoroughly enjoy commiserating with Kate as she tries to sort out her career and her love life. When this book ends, the reader will be counting down the days until the next one.
Mostly Madly by Patrick Fealey is a stream-of-consciousness novel about life, self, and relationships. It begins with Tommy Risk sitting on the beach grieving over a lost love, drinking scotch, and admiring a pretty girl. This sets the tone for the whole story as Tommy spends the course of the book bouncing between multiple women, jobs, and emotional states. He is a journalist who aspires to be a novelist, a man who enjoys having no responsibilities, longing for love, but settling for sex. This is his journey of self as he attempts to repair it in the freedom after a long-term relationship.
Fealey writes an interesting story with many twists and turns. Just when it seems as if Tommy is finally settling down, something else changes his mind. The reader will enjoy learning about the intricacies of the male’s perspective in relationships. The stream-of-consciousness allows the reader to live the story as Tommy, to know exactly what he is thinking at all times. Fealey’s prose is simply beautiful at times—the way he describes landscapes and intimate scenes is lovely.
Though the format of the novel allows the reader to be in the moment, it also has one drawback. There are times when the timeline makes little sense. One second, Tommy is thinking about a date with Felicia or Justine, and the next, the reader is back in time or forward in the future. There are points in the narrative where the reader may be unsure whether Tommy is talking about his past or his present. Moreover, as internal thought, the prose has a tendency to ramble on and the reader may find their mind wandering off as well.
There are benefits as well as drawbacks to the stream-of-consciousness format. In the end, however, Fealey spins a tale of love, loss, and self-awareness that is poignant and relevant.
Building Long-Term Relationships by John W Leoff is like a textbook for marriage; there is a chapter for almost any topic that can affect your relationship with your spouse, complete with cited research and multiple examples. Leoff tells the reader from the very beginning that this is not a book that you can read cover-to-cover easily; it is better used as a learning tool—working chapter by chapter with your partner and answering the questions provided to better learn about the self and the relationship.
Leoff’s chapters cover almost every aspect of life. He discusses topics that directly affect a marriage, such as communication and problem solving. In addition to the common sense issues, he also deals with aspects that the average person wouldn’t think to associate with their marital problems—family dynamics earlier in life, stages of childhood development, and dealing with change not only in the private sector but the public one as well. Every chapter introduces the topic before explaining in immense detail each aspect and how it relates to a person’s relationships. Leoff cites numerous professionals and follows everything up with examples from society as well as from personal sessions.
Referring to Building Long-Term Relationships as a textbook is the closest analogy the reader can make. This book is packed with information. So much information that at times it can be extremely dense and the reader may find their eyes glazing over. If the reader is looking for a book to provide answers for a “quick-fix” to their marital problems, they will be disappointed. Leoff cautions that there is no quick fix, and he does not waver. When addressing a topic, he exhausts all avenues and sometimes doesn’t even tie in to marriage until the very end of the chapter. This book is for the reader who wishes to fix or sustain their relationship, but who also wishes to know how the self operates, how society operates, and how he or she can reconcile differences that cause tension in marriage as well as internally in the self.