Ben Stanley is about to leave for college on a full scholarship. It should be a time forThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Ben Stanley is about to leave for college on a full scholarship. It should be a time for celebration. But it’s hard to celebrate when the mine that keeps your town running is shutting down and the rest of your friends and family are facing a much less secure future. He spends his days torn between excitement and guilt.
But than he meets Lala and something unexpected happens. Lala is like no one he’s ever met before. She’s mysterious, beautiful and has a very particular, formal way of speaking. And she’s a fortune telling daughter of a Romani rom baro. Lala has spent her entire life knowing her place. Her culture has strict rules for women and she has always followed them. Choices are almost always made for her – responsibility, location, and now her fiancé. Like Ben her future is secured. But unlike Ben she’s not sure it’s the future she wants. When Ben comes stumbling into her tent one day for a reading she begins to realize there may be other options she wishes to pursue. That maybe all she wants for her future is the freedom to make her own choices.
Though the romance between Lala and Ben is at the center of the story, I actually found it was the part that held my attention the least. It was actually their relationships with other people, rather than with each other, that made this story so compelling. Lala maintains a close relationship with her mother and sister’s throughout the book and before meeting Ben she never truly considers another life than the one she’s always lived. It was interesting to see how the dynamics between her and her family shifted and changed as she continued to grow as a character.
There is also the relationship between Ben and his younger brother, James. James is gay, and in a small town, in the middle-of-nowhere America, that’s not always easy. I liked the way Elana K. Arnold depicted Ben’s struggles with the revelation that his brother is gay. At first he doesn’t want to believe that it’s true. He loves his brother no matter what, but he’s worried about some of the difficulties James will face and that he won’t be there to protect him when he leaves for university. I think Ben’s reaction is very honest and the conversations between the two brothers were my favourite moments throughout the whole novel.
Burning was not the read I expected it to be. I thought it would be an easy, breezy romance but it was actually a beautiful exploration into familial relationships, the pressure of other’s expectations and the importance of following your own dreams....more
I am generally not drawn to books like The Supreme Macaroni Company. As readers of this blog mayThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
I am generally not drawn to books like The Supreme Macaroni Company. As readers of this blog may have noticed I tend to dabble the most in speculative and historical fiction. And when I do venture into contemporary I either expect it to make me cry all the tears, or laugh (until I also cry all the tears). But I had heard so many great things about Trigiani’s books that I decided to give this more straight forward contemporary romance a shot.
This is technically the third book in Trigiani’s Valentine series but you don’t need to read the first two books to enjoy The Supreme Macaroni Company. The first two books may give you more insight into Valentine’s character but the actual plot itself is completely self contained. It begins with Gianluca proposing to Valentine and follows them throughout their time together. I found The Supreme Macaroni Company to be a really interesting portrait of married life, with all its ups and downs. Valentine and Gianluca clearly love each other very much but they come from very different lifestyles and have some conflicting values and ideas. They have a lot of really adorable scenes but a lot of really tense ones too and through them all Trigiani provides a very balanced look at married life.
In addition to marriage The Supreme Macaroni Company also explores the complicated beast that is large families. Valentine and Gianluca are both Italian and have the giant, close families that come along with it. But I don’t think you need to be Italian to understand what Valentine and Gianluca go through. If you have a large, close knit family you’ll be able to relate to so many scenarios that come up in this book – marriages, births, deaths. The whole nine yards.
The reader see’s the events of the novel through Valentine’s eyes, which was an interesting experience. She was an extremely complicated character. As the head of the family shoe business, as well as their primary designer, I admired her a lot – both for her business sense, her stubbornness and her artistic nature. I also loved that she always stood up to Gianluca, even when it felt like he was bullying her into accepting his way. But at other times I found her incredibly frustrating for some of these same qualities. Occasionally she would take her stubbornness a bit too far and refuse to comprise. Or she would blow small fights out of proportion and take them to the extreme. I suppose this was just another way for Trigiani to make this book as realistic as possible – we are all complicated creatures capable of extreme and varied emotions – but it was a bit of a double edged sword. At times it would push me away from Valentine, and since she was the sole narrator this made me feel disconnected from the story at large.
In what felt like a very short amount of time Trigiani paints a very large and detailed picture of family and married life in The Supreme Macaroni Company. It is very focused on those themes, however, so I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. If you prefer more plot heavy or action packed novels, you may struggle here. But if you enjoy family sagas and realistic romance I would definitely suggest it....more
A very funny comedy of mishaps. This is only my second Kinsella novel but it is my favourite out of the two I've read.
The audiobook was very wellA very funny comedy of mishaps. This is only my second Kinsella novel but it is my favourite out of the two I've read.
The audiobook was very well done. Both the narrators for Lottie and Fliss captured their characters personalities perfectly. I have to admit my favourite of the two was Fliss but Lottie still managed to get quite a few laughs from me as well.
If you're looking for something light, fun and similar to your favourite romantic comedies (films) I would recommend this book. ...more
Callie’s mother, convinced that her father would sue for full custody, kidnapped Callie at aThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Callie’s mother, convinced that her father would sue for full custody, kidnapped Callie at a young age and they became fugitives. This lifestyle lead to some very dangerous situations and at one point allowed for one of her mother’s boyfriends to take advantage and sexually abuse her when she was still a child.
These events happen before the novel starts. The reader doesn’t see the assault take place, we’re only aware of it through Callie’s memories. It’s something that she always carries with her, no matter how her situation changes, even when it improves. I think this is an important thing to take note of – one does not simply “get over” sexual assault, no matter how much time has passed, no matter how good their life becomes.
I also thought Where the Stars Still Shine did an excellent job showcasing how the assault affects her relationships with other people. Calllie is always ready to run and take off. She’s often afraid things are too good to be true. A big part of this stems from the fact that she loves her mother and she trusted her to keep her safe, but living with her mother ended up being incredibly damaging – How can she trust her situation with her father won’t turn out the same way?
It also affects her romantic relationships. Early on a friend sets her up on a date. She’s never been on a date and the only time men or boys have shown an interest in her it has involved sex. So right away she assumes that they’re going to have sex on this date because that’s what all boys want. And then there’s Alex – the love interest of this story. Callie has a hard time opening up to him. The book chronicles the stages of their relationship. From some rocky encounters (including nightmares), to her telling him the truth, to them pushing each other to face things they may not want to, and so on. It’s a slow building love story and at times extremely complicated. But it feels so authentic, which is why it was one of my favourite things about this novel.
Where the Stars Still Shine is an emotional novel that doesn’t shy away from some intense issues. It examines the after effects of sexual abuse and how they affect relationships throughout the course of a victim’s life. I found it to be an honest and realistic read that I highly recommend to contemporary YA fans....more
You want to convince someone to never do heroine? Give them this book.
It’ll be effective for two reasons. The first is when you find out how crappy the character’s lives were before they were abducted and brought to the island. The things they did for drugs or the living conditions they were in were cringe worthy. No. They were beyond cringe worthy. But that wasn’t even the worst part. The worst part was the withdrawal. Messum’s descriptions were just so vivid and frightening. They made me physically squirm more then once.
The story itself fell a little flat for me. It was a little predictable and the characters were exactly what you expected them to be. Static archetypes, not a lot of development. It’s a very quick story so there isn’t a lot of time for that anyway but I did miss it. Especially since I had a hard time rooting for any of them to survive.
Messum is clearly a talented writer. This may not be the best novel but I would definitely be interested to see what he writes next....more