Monthly Archives: July 2018

Review of Stray City, by Chelsey Johnson

I won a copy of Chelsey Johnson‘s Stray City through Goodreads.

Twenty-four-year-old artist Andrea Morales escaped her Midwestern Catholic childhood—and the closet—to create a home and life for herself within the thriving but insular lesbian underground of Portland, Oregon. But one drunken night, reeling from a bad breakup and a friend’s betrayal, she recklessly crosses enemy lines and hooks up with a man. To her utter shock, Andrea soon discovers she’s pregnant—and despite the concerns of her astonished circle of gay friends, she decides to have the baby.

A decade later, when her precocious daughter Lucia starts asking questions about the father she’s never known, Andrea is forced to reconcile the past she hoped to leave behind with the life she’s worked so hard to build.

A thoroughly modern and original anti-romantic comedy, Stray City is an unabashedly entertaining literary debut about the families we’re born into and the families we choose, about finding yourself by breaking the rules, and making bad decisions for all the right reasons.

I really wanted to love this, but I simply didn’t. The writing is lovely and I adored how strongly you could feel the late 90s, Portland lesbian scene. I liked that Andrea had a strong female friend base and that there was quite a lot of diversity in the book.

However, for a book about a lesbian, half the book is dedicated to her single heterosexual relationship; and I didn’t even understand why she had that. Sleeping together the once, sure, in the context of the book I could see that. But she didn’t particularly like it, so I don’t understand why she kept going back to him.

Then, between one chapter and the next a decade passed and we went from a fetus-in-utero to a ten-year-old child. The POV broke from Andrea for the first time, introducing the POV of two other characters. And Andrea was given a lesbian happily-ever-after that felt like an after thought.

Add to all this the fact that I didn’t feel Andreas parents payed their dues and that Ryan got some sort of free pass on his behavior, and I just ended the book on a solid, “MEH.”

Review of Winter of the Gods (Olympus Bound #2), by Jordanna Max Brodsky

I won a copy of Jordanna Max Brodsky‘s Winter of the Gods through Goodreads. I reviewed book one, The Immortals, last year (almost exactly a year ago, actually).

Manhattan has many secrets. Some are older than the city itself.

Winter in New York: snow falls, lights twinkle, and a very disgruntled Selene DiSilva prowls the streets looking for prey.

But when a dead body is discovered sprawled atop Wall Street’s iconic Charging Bull statue, it’s clear the NYPD can’t solve the murder without help. The murder isn’t just the work of another homicidal cult — this time, someone’s sacrificing the gods themselves.

While raising fundamental questions about the very existence of the gods, Selene must hunt down the perpetrators, tracking a conspiracy that will test the bonds of loyalty and love.

I liked this one better than the first one, though I still wouldn’t say I loved it. I liked Selene and her brothers, as well as Theo. But it grated on me that goddesses other that Artemis were always spoken of dismissively (as so and so’s wife or mother, etc) and none were in the book. Why do even books with heroines as the main characters still never have women in them?

As in the first book, I didn’t feel the romance fit. I couldn’t see what Theo was attracted to in a woman who was so consistently rude to him. Plus, I disliked how fast he always was to leap on her if she was at all acceptive to sex. I don’t mean to strip her of her agency and suggest he should refuse to have sex with her just because she’s been a virgin for 3,000 years. But this is something she’s maintained because it’s been important to her, so, I thought a little more gravitas and a little less jumping on a bitch in heat would have been nice Because of this, I actually really appreciated the ending, as sad as it was. I hope Brodsky doesn’t pull back on it in the next book.

The mystery is fairly obvious. I figured out who the villain was quite early, the first time they saw page time, as a matter of fact. But it’s still interesting to see how it all plays out. All in all, not bad, but not my bag either.

Review of Happy Hour at Casa Dracula, by Marta Acosta

I picked up a copy of Marta Acosta‘s Happy Hour at Casa Dracula when it was free on Amazon (mostly because I’d earlier bought paperback of the third book in the series, The Bride of Casa Dracula, not realizing it was part of a series.)

Description from Goodreads:
Latina Ivy League grad Milagro de Los Santos can’t find her place in the world or a man to go with it. Then one night, at a book party for her pretentious ex-boyfriend, she meets an oddly attractive man. After she is bitten while kissing him, she falls ill and is squirreled away to his family’s estate to recover. Vampires don’t exist in this day and age — or do they? As Milagro falls for a fabulously inappropriate man, she finds herself caught between a family who has accepted her as one of their own and a shady organization that refuses to let the undead live and love in peace.

There were several things to appreciate about this book. There was a decent amount of humor. There was a heroine with a backbone. There was diversity; the main character is Mexican-American for example. There was appreciation for voluptuous bodies, without shaming people who are thin. But there were also things that annoyed me. It’s written in first person, which I hate. Names are dropped into almost every line of dialogue, and it makes the writing feel more amateurish than it deserved. The attraction between the heroine and hero is instant and feels unexplained, as I didn’t at all feel any spark. Previous relationships are unintentionally ambiguous. There’s cheating, more than once on a partner. The book calls out Latina stereotypes and then turns around and uses them. Nothing of note happened for most of the middle (a lot of shopping) and then the whole last quarter felt contrived and too convenient. And, despite her Ivy League education, when a solution is needed, it’s her sex appeal, not her brains she falls back on to resolve the problem. I have the rest of the series and I liked this one enough read it. But I didn’t love it enough to jump right into book two. I’ll step away for a while first.