BOOK REVIEW: Three Flames, by Alan Lightman

BOOK REVIEW: Three Flames, by Alan LightmanTitle: Three Flames by Alan Lightman
Published by Counterpoint LLC
Published: September 3rd 2019
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 205
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads

From the international bestselling author of Einstein’s Dreams comes a deeply compelling story about the lives of a Cambodian family—set between 1973, just before the Cambodian Genocide by the Khmer Rouge—to 2015.

The stories of one Cambodian family are intricately braided together in Alan Lightman’s haunting Three Flames, his first work of fiction in six years.

Three Flames portrays the struggles of a Cambodian farming family against the extreme patriarchal attitudes of their society and the cruel and dictatorial father, set against a rural community that is slowly being exposed to the modern world and its values. A mother must fight against memories of her father’s death at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, and her powerful desire for revenge. A daughter is married off at sixteen to a wandering husband and his domineering aunt; another daughter is sent to the city to work in the factories to settle her father’s gambling debt. A son dreams of marrying the most beautiful girl of the village and escaping the life of a farmer. And the youngest daughter bravely challenges her father so she can stay in school and strive for a better future.

A vivid story of revenge and forgiveness, of a culture smothering the dreams of freedom, and of tradition against courage, Three Flames grows directly from Lightman’s work as the founder of the Harpswell Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to advance a new generation of female leaders in Cambodia and all of Southeast Asia.

Alan Lightman’s Three Flames follows the story of a Cambodian family throughout the years told through interwoven chapters from each family member’s point of view. I love family stories that are told throughout the decades, illuminating the secret pains and joys each member of the family harbors. Even though it’s a short book, I found myself thoroughly engaged and involved with the story, and I couldn’t put it down. It’s easy to read in a single sitting or two, and the lives of the characters and the struggles they faced will stick with you and make you think as they did for me.

Three Flames explores the costs and consequences of living in a deeply patriarchal society and the affects that has on both men and women and the roles each are expected to perform. It’s difficult sometimes to reconcile that some of this story is set in the last decade because I, as a white woman living in America, am incredibly privileged and have many more freedoms than the women have in Cambodia today. Lightman’s work and passion with his foundation to assist women in Cambodia shines in this novel, giving a voice to people that many may not have heard about or thought of without having read this. It’s a reminder to us all that oppression against women and others thought of as “lesser” still exists to such extremes (and what we might call outdated ways) today.

Lightman’s use of language and theme is precise, rich, compassionate, and fitting for a novel that delves into difficult realities. It’s well worth looking into, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I finished it.

Many thanks to Counterpoint LLC for sending me a complimentary copy to review! All opinions are my own.

BOOK REVIEW: Meet Me in the Future, by Kameron Hurley

BOOK REVIEW: Meet Me in the Future, by Kameron HurleyTitle: Meet Me in the Future: Stories by Kameron Hurley
Published by Tachyon Publications
Published: August 20th 2019
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 288
Format: ARC
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads

“One of the best story collections of the past few years.” —Booklist, starred review“16 hard-edged pieces that gleam like gems in a mosaic.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review“Kameron Hurley is a badass.” —Annalee Newitz, author of Autonomous

When renegade author Kameron Hurley (The Light Brigade; The Stars Are Legion) takes you to the future, be prepared for the unexpected. Yes, it will be dangerous, frequently brutal, and often devastating. But it’s also savagely funny, deliriously strange, and absolutely brimming with adventure.

In these edgy, unexpected tales, a body-hopping mercenary avenges his pet elephant, and an orphan falls in love with a sentient starship. Fighters ally to power a reality-bending engine, and a swamp-dwelling introvert tries to save the world—from her plague-casting former wife.

So come meet Kameron Hurley in the future. The version she's created here is weirder—and far more hopeful—than you could ever imagine.

Any time I can get my hands on new Kameron Hurley, I’m all over it. Ever since I read The Stars are Legion, Hurley has quickly become one of my favorite authors. Her view of the world in which we live is calculating, messy, and true, and the stories she writes hit me right in the feels and make me want to help lead the revolution.

What I’ve liked most about Hurley’s writing is that her women are allowed to be messy, morally grey, and emotional without feeling like these women are losing their “worth” or “humanity” for being any of those things. The themes of war and resistance she explores in her stories are heavy, unrelenting, and often gruesome, but there always manages to be some threads of hope winding their ways through the stories. War is central to the story in the sense that it informs the trajectory of the characters. War has either happened, is happening, or will happen, but it’s the individual themselves who really tend to make a difference in the grand scheme of war’s grandiose effects.

The stories that I enjoyed the most were “Elephants and Corpses,” “When We Fall,” and “The Corpse Archives;” but all of them were so good, and I couldn’t wait to read the next one. Her introduction is sublime in exploring what drives her to write the stories she writes as well, so don’t skip that. Sometimes I feel as if it’s very rare for a single author’s collection of stories to be so cohesive and yet so diverse, but Kameron Hurley knocks it out of the park with this one.

Whether or not you’ve read Hurley before, if you’re a sci-fi reader and want to read something that will leave you thinking about the what-ifs, definitely check this out.

Thank you to Tachyon Pub for a digital review copy! All opinions are my own.

BOOK REVIEW: Rogue Most Wanted, by Janna MacGregor

BOOK REVIEW: Rogue Most Wanted, by Janna MacGregorTitle: Rogue Most Wanted by Janna MacGregor
Series: The Cavensham Heiresses #5
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks
Published: June 25th 2019
Genres: Romance
Pages: 371
Format: ARC
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads

There’s one creed all Cavensham men subscribe to: they fall in love completely and decidedly. But what happens when the woman you fall in love with swears she'll only marry you as a last resort? Rogue Most Wanted is the next book in the sparkling, romantic Cavensham Heiress series by Janna MacGregor.

SHE NEEDS TO MARRY SOMEONE

Lady Theodora Worth needs to marry fast in order to keep her estate. It’s been her heart and home for years, and she’ll not lose it to anyone. There’s just one problem—as a woman who was raised in isolation by her grandfather, she’s completely incapable of pouring a cup of tea, never mind wooing a man. She’ll need a little matchmaking help from her sprightly next-door neighbor in order to find a convenient husband…

IT’S JUST NOT GOING TO BE HIM

Lord William Cavensham’s heart was broken years ago, and since that day he vowed to never love again. But his spirited Great Aunt Stella is determined he’ll marry or not inherit a single penny from her. And she’s got just the woman in mind—her beautiful and completely hapless next-door neighbor, Thea…

Thea and Will agree there’s no sense in marrying each other. Will wholeheartedly believes he’s incapable of love, and Thea refuses to marry the first man she’s practically met. But Will may be the rogue Thea wants the most after all…

When I started reading Rogue Most Wanted, I hadn’t realized it was the fifth in the series, but I ultimately think that it didn’t detract too much from the story. Once I got near the end, I realized that a lot of the other characters and couples mentioned in the book were probably from previous works in the series and my Goodreads perusal proved me right. Anyway, MacGregor’s Rogue Most Wanted continues my adventure in historical romance, and this one fell a little more flat for me than the others. I didn’t feel as if Will was much of a rogue. That little bit of his history in the frame chapter that may have proved otherwise didn’t seem to carry to the present. He was a total romantic through and through, even as much as he fought it.

The second half dragged a bit more for me than the first, and it felt as if some of the plot devices were being forced to work rather than them feeling effortless in the course of the narrative, like the extended family member who tried to lay claim to the title. He just seemed to show up when it was convenient for the storyline rather than to actually cause some mischief. The consistent misuse of the word “jilted” bothered me. I know the standard meaning of the word is to abruptly leave someone, but for all I’ve been familiar with the word, it’s been associated with someone literally in the act of getting married being suddenly left at the altar with no explanation necessary. Will’s previous lover that scorned him has a better feeling in the context of the story. But that’s just me being picky over semantics.

What I did love about this book was that all of the women were strong, independent, and real. They had depth to them, even the side characters, which was palpable and believable. It showcased the struggle of women having a place in a man’s world, possessing land and title, and what it meant to be a woman who possessed such things. I also liked that it showed the deeply personal struggle one undertakes when caring for someone with dementia. It’s never easy watching someone you love fall into disarray and no longer know themselves or anyone else around them.

Many thanks to St. Martin’s Paperbacks and Netgalley for a complimentary e-ARC to read and review!

BOOK REVIEW: To Kill a Kingdom, by Alexandra Christo

BOOK REVIEW: To Kill a Kingdom, by Alexandra ChristoTitle: To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Published: March 6th 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 344
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Goodreads

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?

Alexandra Christo’s To Kill a Kingdom scratched the itch I had for sea stories focusing on mermaids and sirens and pirates and ships, and I loved it! Sometimes the banter felt a little cheesy, but in the scope of the novel, the dialogue helped maintain a balance with the murderous aspect of the sirens because without the banter, this would be a pretty gruesome book!

I love mermaid/siren stories, and I especially love when the familiar stories are reinvented and reinvented well. Each of the places explored seemed incredibly real and memorable, and Lira’s adjustment from living in the cold sea waters as the Princes’ Bane to living above the sea in the care of the prince known to kill sirens was masterfully explored. The worldbuilding felt believable, and I never once felt overwhelmed or underwhelmed by the level of detail. If anything, I found myself wanting to read more of the characters, especially Lila and Elian. They were vicious and violent with soft sides that came out as they got to know each other.

Lila and Elian’s rivalry that turns into something more by the end kept me turning pages. The barbs they threw at each other that eventually developed into something deeper is part of the enemies-to-lovers slow burn trope I live for. Sometimes a physical transformation can lead to emotional realizations that you don’t consider in your previous form. Especially when it comes to your past life, your past self, and the ideals you held before circumstances showed you a different way of life. And Elian’s compass of truth? I want to see more of that.

All in all, this was a fantastic YA fantasy that fulfilled all of my expectations and then some.


After a week of spotty internet and moving house with my mom, I’m finally in a place where I can update my blog more regularly! Woohoo! All summer, I’ve been wanting to focus more on my blog, but between my move and all of the stress and busy-ness associated with it, it’s been difficult to find time to sit down and write. Reading is easy when you’re in bed at night and in the morning, but for me, writing requires a little more “me” time. Now that everything is out of the old house and into the new, I’m ready to get back on track and work out a posting schedule that works for me! What would you like to see more of?

BOOK REVIEW: The Duke is But a Dream, by Anna Bennett

BOOK REVIEW: The Duke is But a Dream, by Anna BennettTitle: The Duke Is But a Dream by Anna Bennett
Series: Debutante Diaries #2
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks
Published: July 30th 2019
Genres: Romance
Pages: 311
Format: ARC
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads

Once upon a time three young ladies vowed to record their first London seasons…and to fill in the gaps of their finishing school educations. Thus began The Debutante Diaries—and London will never be the same…

HE’S COME TO HER RESCUE

Miss Lily Hartley is the anonymous mastermind behind the ton’s latest obsession: The Debutante’s Revenge, a titillating advice column for ladies on the marriage mart. To keep her identity secret, Lily delivers her columns disguised as a chimney sweep—which is all well and good, until she unwittingly lands in the middle of an ugly tavern brawl. Fortunately, the devastatingly handsome Duke of Stonebridge sweeps in to rescue her.Unfortunately, Lily’s dressed as a boy—and holding rather incriminating evidence linking her to the scandalous column. Drat.

SHE’S LOST HER MEMORY

When Eric Nash, Duke of Stonebridge, sees a helpless lad receive a nasty blow to the head, he’s outraged. But when he discovers there’s a beautiful woman hiding beneath the chimney sweep’s cap, he’s positively stunned. Nash would happily escort her home, but she’s forgotten her name—leaving him little choice but to take her in himself until he can locate her family. But the closer he gets to finding them, the more he doesn’t want to let her go.

WILL THEY FIND LOVE?

Lily’s trying to figure out exactly who she is…in more ways than one. With so much at stake—her column, her reputation, and even her heart—she needs a plan, and she needs it fast. Before Nash finds her family. Before he learns who she is. Before they fall totally, completely, and utterly inconveniently in love.

Me? Reading and reviewing more romance? If you asked me a year ago that I’d be where I am now with regards to reading more of what’s often categorized as “romance,” I probably wouldn’t believe you. But there’s a lot of things that have happened in the last year that I have trouble believing, so here we are. I requested a few romance titles that sounded interesting to me on Netgalley, and The Duke is But a Dream caught my eye because the protagonist, Lily, writes a regular advice column called “The Debutante Diaries” that has captivated all of London. When she gets into a scuffle dressed as a boy, Lily is hurt and has amnesia, and a duke comes to her rescue.

For the most part, I enjoyed this! It was well-paced and kept me wanting to find out what happened at the end, but ultimately it felt timeless in the sense that I couldn’t tell you in what era in the past this book was set. I read historical romance for those details, but this seemed to gloss a lot of those historical placement markers and favored a more modern approach to language and behavior. I hadn’t realized this was the second in a series either, and I might check out the first one from the library to see if the first sets up that historical placement a little more because I know series in general rely on that first book to set up everything while the rest follow on the hopes that the reader recalls the setting of the first!

It’s enjoyable enough for me to look out for the next book in the series once it’s released and to check out the first one! Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press and Netgalley for an e-ARC to review. All opinions are my own.