Note: I received an ARC of PINS by Jessica McHugh in exchange for an honest review.
In PINS, McHugh introduces the reader to the gritty, not-so-glamorNote: I received an ARC of PINS by Jessica McHugh in exchange for an honest review.
In PINS, McHugh introduces the reader to the gritty, not-so-glamorous world of working as a stripper. Small things, such as how toilet paper residue can be seen under black lights onstage, give this manuscript the sensation that McHugh not only wrote it, but has lived this very life (or at least did some extremely thorough research).
The majority of the characters are well-drawn individuals who come together at Pins, a bowling/strip club. As far as characterization goes, the positives are Honey, Birdie, Josh, James, Scott, Cecil, and Ginger. Each of these people has his or her personal strengths and weaknesses, and struggles with both, which lends to a unique combination of reality and fiction.
Other characters, such as Diamond and numerous other strippers, however, felt a little flat. Near the middle, I lumped their names together as “The Other Strippers,” which lasted only until one of them died. Then, I saw them in an entirely new light. Each character who was murdered bloomed and developed as Birdie, the main character, mulled over their deaths. Through her mourning, I came to know them and understand that their similarities were not to be taken at face-value.
The setting was quite well-rounded as well, though I always am a fan of adding a little more description. McHugh’s witty scene-building allowed no room for clichés. Each bit of scenery or how a character looked was given its own unique spin, which made the novel enjoyable as more than just eye candy. I found myself bursting into laughter at three in the morning over the way Birdie described something.
Overall, the story was interesting and enticing enough to keep me reading, and the narration is strong without being casual. A few too many Indie authors tend to lean toward causal narration (even some professionally published are a little too conversational with their work; think Janet Evanovitch’s One for the Money. PINS is One for the Money, but classier, more thought-out, less repetitive, and with more stunning, realistic characters), and McHugh wonderfully balances good writing with humor and an easy-to-read rhythm that keeps her audience turning digital pages until the sun is up.
After all, by reading only one more page, a relationship might collapse, a stripper might be gruesomely murdered, and someone’s snatch might itch for all the wrong reasons. Kudos to Jessica McHugh on this brilliant novel! ...more
The second novel in the Farsighted series has quite a bit to live up to. After reading a coming-of-age tale from the point-of-view of a blind psychic,The second novel in the Farsighted series has quite a bit to live up to. After reading a coming-of-age tale from the point-of-view of a blind psychic, Emlyn Chand’s Open Heart’s point-of-view character, Simran “Simmi” Kaur Shergill, had to maintain the steady flow of the Farsighted plot and action. This is not always easy to accomplish when the point-of-view is from a young woman struggling to love her image and herself. Because of her clairsentience, Simmi is able to make others feel better, but cannot use her powers to ease her personal demons.
The reader learns early in the novel that Simmi constantly compares herself to other women and what society deems beautiful. She comments about being a size fourteen in U.S. manufacturing standards, which is huge, because as she says, “everybody knows America is the fattest country in the world.” Things take a turn for the worse when she meets Veronica “Ronnie” Franklin, a beautiful blonde high school girl, who comments on Simmi’s weight and uses any and every excuse to exploit the weakness. Ronnie is cruel for no apparent reason, which is true in many cases today. Bullying, racism, and social cliques still occur in schools today, and Chand seizes the opportunity to reveal that even the most beautiful of people can have ugly insides.
Open Heart takes a darker turn when Simmi discovers bulimia as a method of controlling her weight. Right before auditions for the school’s presentation of West Side Story, she confronts her fears in the girl’s restroom. From there, Simmi spirals into a character the reader sympathizes with and, at some points, hates. The exploration of bulimia transforms the YA Paranormal genre from being about schoolwork, boys, and mastering powers, to focusing on the reality many young women in America face. As American media emphasizes thinness as a model for beauty, the standard of self confidence among teenage girls and young women drops significantly. Chand breaks the mold by delving into the personal, and sometimes heartbreaking, obstacles the average teenage girl faces.
Other than bulimia, Simmi fights with her feelings of affection toward Alex. He saved her life the previous year, and she has become convinced that she is indebted to him. In order to fulfill her debt, Simmi tries her best to love Alex and maintain her relationship with him. At the same token, Alex becomes increasingly attached to her, which drives her away. The realization that she does not actually love Alex as a boyfriend reflects the unpleasant thoughts of a high school girl trying to find her place in the world, and in some cases, even results in Simmi going so far as to admit that she stole Alex away from her best friend the year before because she was jealous. Chand does a brilliant job of giving Simmi multiple layers. Where Alex was blunt and honest most of the time, Simmi is envious, self-focused, and pitiful. This mixture of characteristics is what makes her such a powerful, round person.
Overall, Open Heart’s pacing, themes, and characters expand the world of Farsighted and the sequel exceeds expectations. While Simmi is not the sweet, loving young woman readers saw in Farsighted, she does have a caring side. Like everyone, though, she has a private, darker side, which she tries desperately to eliminate or hide. One minute the reader hates her, and the next, Simmi is a sympathetic, real person who the reader cannot imagine being any other way. ...more
John Paul Jaramillo introduces his readers to a series of short stories set in real-life situations with a brush of Latino culture. In Rabbit Story, tJohn Paul Jaramillo introduces his readers to a series of short stories set in real-life situations with a brush of Latino culture. In Rabbit Story, the first of sixteen tales, Manito speaks with his Tio Neto about family—this discussion, however, is not a traditional one. Manito recalls how Neto has talked about his Jefe and his sexual encounters with women in the area.
Manito asks if the story Neto is going to tell is about one of the women and Neto’s Jefe, and as it turns out, it both is and it’s not. Rabbit Story describes how Neto had to crawl under the house and catch his Jefe’s escaped hares. While Neto does not go into much detail, based on the context of the story, there is a great deal of similarity between the hiding rabbits and the women Neto’s Jefe slept with, and though the rabbits belong to Neto’s Jefe, it is Neto who must capture them.
On page nine, Neto “expected to find one of his Jefe’s girlfriends” when he spied on his Jefe after dark. Instead, one night, he commanded to wake up and go into the crawl space to find the missing animals. Neto’s Jefe snaps, “Goddamn it, boy. I’m telling you to do it. Do you want to be a man, Neto? Do you?” (page 11). He admits that he did not want to be a man, but that he also did not want to wake his Jefita, and so he went into the crawl space under his Jefe’s direction (page 11).
Entering the crawlspace is an allegory for Neto beginning the transition into manhood. The crawlspace is described as “a 16” wide black hole,” on page eleven, and Neto finds the courage to go inside, representing his first entry into a woman. Still, Neto had to find the rabbits within the tight space, and Neto recalls that as he went inside, he had never been so terrified or “wanted to scream so loudly,” and that his “legs trembled and his pajama top was soaked through and dripping” (page 11). The imagery here enhances the sexual nature of Neto passing through the crawl space in his search for the rabbits, mimicking the fear of a young boy’s first time and the physical stuggle to complete his task.
While going through the dirty space, Neto recalls giant rats scurrying through the darkness, and how his Jefe said not to let the rats take the rabbits because “them rabbits are sold” (page 12). The sold animals suggest that they are similar to women who have already been claimed sexually and that they are not allowed to be let free. To lose the rabbits is to lose money and sexual prowess. So, Neto grabs hold of them, and despite being bit, he maintains his grip. When Manito asks what happened after that, Neto says, “‘And then there was nothing’” (page 12), and he talks about how he did what he did to protect his mother, his Jefita. In that moment, Neto became a man through the act of retrieving the rabbits his Jefe had lost—meaning he took charge of the women his Jefe slept with, had one himself, and emerged a man in the end.
I give The House of Order by John Paul Jaramillo four out of five stars. The writing is clean, clear, and the stories are gritty, realistic, and draw the reader in. My only concern as a reader is the lack of explanation. If one is not familiar with Latino culture or terms, a few passes might be needed to clarify each of the characters, words, and their meanings—however, a diligent reader can work past it and will be rewarded with the rich tales in The House of Order.
Honey is a parakeet in the Australian Outback who wants to become a superhero, and boy does she try! She makes a disguise and flies around, seeking otHoney is a parakeet in the Australian Outback who wants to become a superhero, and boy does she try! She makes a disguise and flies around, seeking other animals in need of help. Unfortunately, all the help she gives goes awry.
The quality of this product is great—the illustrations are colorful and lively, and Honey is well-drawn and cuddly to boot! I imagine this would be a book I would have adored as a child, because I love it today! The writing is easy to follow, which makes it perfect for an early reader to tag along and learn new words, and the story is unique. There aren’t many bird books out there like this one!
Keep an eye out for the next two coming in the series, Davey the Detective and Poppy the Proud. I sure will! ...more