Drumila, four-armed king of the daityas, seeks to take them above ground to escape their enemy the naagas, giant flame-breathing serpents. Meanwhile, Krishna (the highest-ranking god) sends his daughter, Nandini, to Earth in human form to weaken Drumila and keep him from crossing the barrier from Earth into the higher plains. Unfortunately, Nandini ends up liking Drumila a bit more than they bargained for.
I was excited to have a fantasy based in a non-European mythology submitted to me, and wow is this different from the typical European-based fantasy. In a good way. This is a dense, different fantasy with a strong learning curve unless the reader is already very familiar with Hinduism.
The basic story reads just like mythology. This has pros and cons. On the plus side, it feels quite fantastical. On the minus side, some of the plot points can be cringe-worthy (such as an unwanted kiss that could have turned into a rape if the female character hadn’t suddenly 180ed from zero interest to desire) and the characters can be a bit two-dimensional. This will bother some readers, but those who enjoy mythology, in spite of its shortcomings, will appreciate this read. Personally, I generally prefer if authors update and modernize their mythological rewritings a bit more, but not all readers feel that way.
The author is well-aware that Hindu mythology won’t be familiar to many Western readers, so he offers an extensive footnotes that are well hyperlinked in the ebook that explain both definitions of words and various aspects of Hindu mythology. This means that the reader learns a lot but it does also slow down the reading of the book and breaks up the immersion in the world. The footnotes are a good idea but perhaps if some of the words and concepts were better incorporated and explained within the writing itself then there could be fewer footnotes that offered greater explanations of more value.
The ending is a bit abrupt. It’s clear this is intended to be the first book in a series, but an extremely abrupt ending like this one makes it difficult to feel like the reader got a full book out of the deal. It feels more like the pilot of a tv show than the first book in a series.
I would give this book a more full review, but it has been pulled from publication since the review copy was sent to me. I really wish when authors and/or publishers choose to do this that they would notify those of us with review copies. While I enjoyed the read enough to not regret reading it, it feels rather silly for me to bother reviewing a book no one else can get their hands on anymore.
Overall, this is a fantasy book set firmly in the tradition of Hindu mythology that will best appeal to readers who enjoy the traditional features of mythology and don’t mind an abrupt ending.
3 out of 5 stars
Source: Kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review
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Book Review: The Alkaline Cure: Lose Weight, Gain Energy, Feel Young and Stay Healthy for the Rest of Your Life by Stephan Domenig
The introduction to the Alkaline Diet in the first half of the book is wonderfully written and easy to understand. The 14 day meal plan and lifestyle guide falters, however, with dull, complex to make meals and a shortage of exercise tips.
For those who don’t know, the Alkaline Diet basically is the idea that our bodies function best with a pH balance between 7.3 and 7.5, but modern lifestyles wreak havoc with this balance, making us too acidic. What impacts our pH balance is our food and lifestyle. Each food can be either acidic or alkaline. Stress is acidic. Meditation is alkaline. Etc… Whether or not this idea that the body should be at a certain pH balance is valid is rather irrelevant, honestly. The tips offered for creating this balance are all good, healthy ones. The book never veers into extremism, indeed cautioning that acidic foods, such as meat and processed items, do not need to be cut out of the diet entirely in order for the reader to be healthy. It encourages a 2:1 ratio. Two parts alkaline food and activities for every one part acidic food and activities. Essentially, the idea that health is not all or nothing. It is a balancing act. Indeed, balance is a theme of the book.
Your body doesn’t want extremes–it wants balance. (loc 480)
The two parts alkaline it encourages are basically fresh produce, time for self-care, and low-stress exercise. So basically, eat whole foods, stress less, and move more. Fairly common fitness and health advice. The acidic parts include processed food, meat, dairy, stress, and high-stress exercise. Again, the reader is not told to stop enjoying any of these things, but simply to find a balance. The only thing I really disagree with is I think the book underemphasizes the importance of exercise for health. In fact, the book seems a bit concerned with not doing too much “high-stress” cardio or weight lifting. It seems to be more inclined toward the lower-impact, more moderate exercises. I don’t think this is an idea that could claim to have much science behind it. Indeed, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is written about in over 200 articles on PubMed (a free biomedical database), and most of these articles are talking about the positive effects of HIIT on abilities and cardiovascular health. (List of articles) So essentially the food and lifestyle advice is mostly good but take the exercise advice with a grain of salt. Advising moderate walking and stretching every other day or so is really only appropriate for the most beginner levels of fitness.
After introducing these ideas, the book next offers a 14 day meal plan and lifestyle plan for the person new to Alkaline. The first week is basically a cleanse, and the second week is supposed to be a model of what the non-cleanse Alkaline lifestyle is like. This is the part where I became disappointed. The recipes, including the ones for the non-cleanse week, come across as bland, dull, and labor-intensive, and this is coming from a person who does an awful lot of cooking to minimize the amount of processed foods in her diet. I usually spend at least two hours prepping food for the workweek and cook a minimum of 4 meals at home a week. This plan seemed like an overwhelming amount of work to me. I can only imagine how it might seem to a reader who normally cooks processed meals or picks up fast food most days of the week. Many of the recipes were also not particularly simple. For both of these reasons, I feel the meal plan isn’t particularly appropriate for a beginner, which is odd given that the rest of the book is toned as for a beginner. I would expect an easier, more approachable meal plan from this book.
Each day also has beauty, exercise, and lifestyle suggestions. I particularly enjoyed the beauty suggestions, as they were mostly things that are easy to do at home and seemed enjoyable, such as an alkalizing foot bath or a hair mask. The lifestyle suggestions were good for beginners who maybe are new to the ideas of meditation and stress relief. The exercise sections suffered from the same issue I went into in-depth earlier.
What the book lacks is a clear idea of who its audience is. Is it a person completely new to fitness and healthy eating who is currently a beginner in every way? Is it meant for every person wherever they are on their journey to health? Is it meant for intermediates, looking to amp up their fitness and health regime? Because it lacks a focus, the content veers around between these three options, suggesting extremely beginner level exercises but rather advanced cooking and preparation ideas. For this reason, it would probably frustrate a beginner who finds the first half of the book do-able and understandable but then finds an overwhelming amount to do for an introductory 14 day plan. It would also frustrate someone who is not new to fitness and health who wants more details on how to amp up their regime and who may be a bit insulted at the idea that they will be fine if they just go for walks every few days. Recommended to those interested in a quick introduction to the ideas behind the Alkaline Diet to tweak their diet on their own but who is not so invested in using a 14 day introductory plan.
3 out of 5 stars
Logan finds himself a single dad after his young son’s mother abandons him on his doorstep, so he moves back to his hometown of Salem, Massachusetts, looking to provide his young son with some stability. He has a bad rep from his teen years in Salem to get over, though, and he hopes his new job as a television producer at the local tv station will help. He wasn’t expecting his downstairs neighbor Melody Seabright, however.
Melody, who seems incapable of holding onto a job for any length of time, gets him to get her a meeting with the owner of the tv station and somehow convinces him to give her her own tv show, The Kitchen Witch. The only problem is she can’t cook, and whether or not she’s really a witch is up for debate.
Can Melody learn how to cook and hold onto the job? Or are both of their jobs now in jeopardy? And why does Logan keep thinking about such an unpredictable woman when he knows he needs to provide stability for his son?
I picked this up on a free book cart at a local library because the cover and title were cute, and I definitely am periodically in the mood for some lighthearted paranormal romance. I was a bit disappointed to find this isn’t really a paranormal romance, but I still enjoyed the contemporary tale it told, primarily due to its featuring a good-hearted single dad.
Logan is a contemporary romance character who will make many readers’ hearts beat a bit faster. He’s cute, young, has a high-powered job, lives in the quirky town of Salem and enjoys it, and is an awesome single dad to his young son. Having him be a bad boy who overcame it for his son is the perfect last touch for a contemporary romance. I can see many readers enjoying fantasizing about him.
Melody may be a bit more hit and miss with readers. The delightfully clumsy bit has been used a lot in romance recently and may feel a bit been there done that. Her apartment is divinely adorable, though, and she has some curves that are always looked upon as a good thing. Her difficult relationship with her own father adds some depth to the character, but some readers might have trouble sympathizing with a poor little rich girl, although I do think that Blair handled this particular aspect well.
Blair also writes children characters beautifully. The son sounds like a child, and yet still has the proper astuteness and vocabulary for his age. The only negative I can say about him is that I honestly already forgot his name. However, I enjoyed his presence every time he popped up into the story.
The plot is where things get a bit shaky. The book is definitely marketed as a paranormal romance, and there are hints at the beginning of the book that Melody might be a witch, but that never comes to fruition. The best I can tell is that she’s learned how to act and sound like a witch by virtue of living and working in Salem. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it was disappointing given that I thought I was getting a paranormal story. I also thought that if the book is going to have Logan suspicious Melody is a witch, at some point he should definitely find out once and for all whether she is one. I think perhaps the book was trying to say she’s just a regular girl with some knowledge of Wicca (which isn’t the same thing as being a paranormal romance witch, since Wicca is a religion and doesn’t actually involve paranormal romance style magic but it’s still a reveal I would have been happier with). However, that also is never firmly revealed. Just what type of witch, if any, Melody is is just a plot idea that is dropped and never fully dealt with, which is a bit frustrating.
A bigger plot issue to me though is that this book falls into the romance trope of everyone can see the couple should be together but the couple makes up fake obstacles to stand in their way and they just have to come to their senses and deal with their own stupidity to get over it. (I really wish there was a shorter way to describe that particular trope…..) It is just a trope that really bugs me. I don’t mind real obstacles in the way of a couple, but the couple just being idiotic and making up their own obstacles feels to me like the author stirring up fake drama to make the book longer. Also, I am 100% a-ok with a couple meeting, working out some realistic difficulties, and then being together. Things that are overly dramatic for the sake of drama just rub me the wrong way. Some readers may be ok with this trope, but for those who aren’t, be aware that this is where the plot eventually goes.
Having been to Salem multiple times, I can say that the author clearly did her research, as she depicts the culture and feel of Salem quite well. She also understands the layout of the town and even gives a realistic vague-ish location for Logan and Melody’s house. (In the few blocks nearish the House of the Seven Gables, in case you’re wondering).
The sex scenes were good, not ridiculous. They weren’t mind-blowingly hot, but they were fun to read and well-written.
Overall, this is a good contemporary romance featuring a lovable single dad love interest that is mismarketed as a paranormal romance. Those looking for paranormal romance should be aware that this fits in much better with the contemporary romance crowd. Additionally, those who are frustrated by couples keeping themselves apart for no reason should be aware that this is the romance trope found in this particular book. Recommended to those looking for a steamy contemporary read featuring a heartthrob single dad and a realistically quirky New England town.
3 out of 5 stars
Source: Library free book cart
Jake Wood plans to visit his cousin, Jana, in Los Angeles. He hasn’t seen her in over 10 years, and he’s hoping the visit will help snap him out of the guilt he’s feeling after being the sole survivor of a workplace shooting. But when he arrives in LA, Jana fails to meet him or return his phone calls. He’s not worried at first, since he knows that she just got an exciting job working for the renowned scientific researcher Dr. Gregory Mirek. When he drops by Jana’s house and finds her best friend, Laurie, who hasn’t heard from her in days either, he starts suspecting she’s missing, and it might have something to do with Dr. Mirek.
I like a good mystery, and the description and cover of this book gave it a bit of a noir feel, so I was excited to see what twists on the noir mystery genre the book could bring. Unfortunately, a potentially interesting plot was held back by both some awkward writing and portions of the book that just left a bad taste in my mouth.
The plot is interesting and different enough from other mysteries to keep the reader engaged and intrigued. I personally have not seen a modern mystery revolving around a missing cousin, and I liked how different this felt. The inclusion of a mystery about Dr. Mirek and just what he’s researching into what happened to Jana, who is working for him, gave it another level of interesting information and twists that keeps the reader reading. On the other hand, the inclusion of Jake’s past trauma being the sole survivor of a work-place shooting felt tacked on and did not add much to the plot. If anything, at the beginning of the book, I was wondering if this book was the second in the series, since it felt like I was supposed to already know what had happened to Jake.
The writing really doesn’t support the plot very well, however. There is quite a bit of showing instead of telling as well as passages that just read awkwardly, instead of building the suspense they were supposed to. The quote below is an example of this.
After a long pause she said, “Yes, sacrifices,” in a faraway voice. At the time, I didn’t realize that she was referring to issues much more meaningful than gridlock. (loc 673)
There were also passages that just felt out of touch with modern life, particularly for the age of Jake, the main character, who sometimes reads like an old man. For instance, when Jana first doesn’t show up he googles her for the first time ever and looks at her Facebook page for the first time ever. There is no way cousins that got back in touch after a decade of low contact would wait that long to google each other or look at each other’s Facebook pages. Even people in this age-range who don’t use Facebook themselves will still google a new contact. Jake’s lack of technological and social media savvy just felt really wrong for his demographic.
As far as the characterizations of the main characters goes, Jake is moderately well-rounded but he also isn’t much of a noir hero. He’s clumsy, bad at appearing bad-ass, and hesitant, and yet simultaneously he’s good at fist-fighting (thanks to wrestling moves from high school), and he keeps being asked to be in porn by random people on the street (or if he is in porn). When his character isn’t thrust into noir-style encounters, it is well-rounded and interesting. When his character is, however, it feels awkward and unnatural. Laurie is relatively well-rounded and interesting, as is her boyfriend. We don’t see anybody else enough for them to be more than a passing two-dimensional character, and these are handled well.
The book does, however, put a bad taste into my mouth both in how it deals with fatness and how it deals with bisexuality. The book comes across as fatphobic. Any overweight character is also bad, and Jake judges them for being fat. I’m not saying an overweight person can’t be bad, but when every single overweight character is bad and the “good guy” main character judges them for it, it comes across as fatphobic.
Dr. Mirek is revealed to be bisexual, and the reveal is in the most insensitive way possible. Jake is pretending to be a journalist who had a tough interview with Dr. Mirek. He’s talking to an undergrad journalist student who previously interviewed Dr. Mirekto under the guise of getting more information on him from her than he could himself. She states that he was really creepy toward her in her interview and then reveals that she thinks he might be bisexual in a tone that implies that this is just as bad as creeping on her during her interview. To this Jake responds,
I don’t think my editor wants me writing that Dr. Mirek is a bi-sexual creep with a gambling problem. (loc 1594)
First, bisexual is spelled wrong, and it is never spelled correctly in the book. Second, this entire conversation implies that bisexuality is just as bad as being addicted to gambling or engaging in inappropriate come-ons. Just as with the fatphobia, there is nothing wrong with a bad guy character being bisexual, but equating his bisexuality with his badness, implying that it is part of what makes him bad, is a problem, and it is biphobic.
At the end of the book, it is revealed that Dr. Mirek had a relationship with Laurie’s boyfriend (implying the boyfriend is also bisexual, I might add), and that the boyfriend only participated in kidnapping Laurie and covering up the illegal animal experiments because of this relationship. The implication from the tone of the book is that getting into a same-sex relationship with Dr. Mirek is what brought the boyfriend down into crime. Even in the trial, the defense lawyer
conceded that Dr. Mirek and Danny Clarke had a consensual homosexual relationship. (loc 3694)
I would like to note that since this was a review copy submitted to me last November/December for review this year, I was extra offended at the biphobic content, as my review policies explicitly state that I do not wish to review anything with biphobic content. I am offended that an author who read my review policies well enough to submit properly and get accepted, who also knew one of his characters was bisexual, did not take a moment to check and see if this representation could possibly be biphobic. It is offensive to me as a person, and I feel that the author owes me an apology for putting me through reading something I very clearly stated I did not want to read. It is often impossible to know from a blurb if a book will be biphobic/homophobic/transphobic, and it is really up to the author to self-censor and not submit for review something like that to a reviewer who explicitly stated they do not wish to read that content. In all honesty, though, rather than an apology from the author, I would prefer he take some time to read up on bisexuality and biphobia to correct this biphobia in future writing.
Overall, the plot is interesting but the writing at the sentence level struggles. Additionally, the tone of the book is fatphobic and biphobic, which will both offend some readers and shows a lack of writing three-dimensional characters, since people are bad based on their bodies and sexualities and not their character. I recommend readers looking for a modern LA noir look elsewhere.
2 out of 5 stars
Source: Kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review
On Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary, Nick comes home from working at the bar he co-owns with his sister to find his wife gone. The door is wide open, furniture is overturned, and the police say there is evidence that blood was cleaned up from the floor of the kitchen. Eyes slowly start to turn toward Nick as the cause of her disappearance, while Nick slowly starts to wonder just how well he really knows his wife.
I’d been wanting to read this since it first came out, but when the previews for the movie came out, I knew I also wanted to see the movie, and I just had to read the book first. Because one should always read the book first. A friend head me talking about it and offered to loan me her copy, and I flew through the book in just a couple of days. Even though I had guessed whodunit before I even started to read it, I was still swept up in a heart-racing read.
There have been many reviews of Gone Girl, so I am going to try to focus my review in on why I personally loved it, and also address a couple of the controversies about the book. Any spoilers will be marked and covered toward the end of the review. Please note that this review is entirely about the book and does not address the movie at all.
The tone of the book sucked me in from the beginning. How the book alternates between Nick’s current life and Amy’s diary of the early years of their relationship clearly showed that the relationship started out strong and fell apart, and I wanted to see how something so romantic could have gone so awry. Amy’s diary entries simultaneously sound feminine and realistic. She swears to the same extent that my friends and I do, and I loved seeing that in romantic, feminine diary entries. Nick’s portions, in contrast, perfectly demonstrated the measured response to a disappearance that could easily happen if a relationship was on the rocks a bit at the time. Nick’s reactions felt very realistic to me, and I appreciated it.
Even though I predicted the whodunit, I still found the end of the book to be thrilling, as exactly how it happened was not something I was able to predict.
If you don’t want any spoilers and just want to know why you should read the book, let me just say that anyone who has been in a long-term relationship will find the complex relationship between Nick and Amy frightening and chilling and will be left giving their partner side-eye periodically throughout the book. If you like the idea of a book that makes you freaked out at the thought of how truly awry a relationship can go, then you will enjoy this thriller.
On to the spoilers.
This book has been accused of misogyny for three reasons. Nick’s internal dialogue, the character of Amy, and the fact that Amy falsely accuses an ex-boyfriend of rape. I did not find this book to be misogynistic at all, and I will now address each of these points.
Nick clearly struggles with how he relates to women due to the fact that his dad is a misogynistic bastard. It is realistic for a good person to struggle with bad internal dialogue due to hearing such dialogue from a parent. This is a very real thing that happens, and that people go to therapy for. The very fact that Nick fights against this internal dialogue shows that he knows that it’s wrong and is trying to win out over it. Just because one character has misogynistic internal dialogue does not make an entire book misogynistic nor does it make that character misogynistic. It just makes the book realistic. In fact, I find the fact that Nick ultimately defeats his internal misogynistic dialogue by realizing that it’s ok to hate women who are actually horrible but not all women to be really progressive. Some women are horrible people. Nick learns to turn his internal “women are bitches” dialogue into “Amy is a bitch,” and I think that’s awesome. Now, this point is related to the next point, the character of Amy.
There is at least one strain of feminism that thinks that it’s anti-woman to ever portray any women as bad or evil. There is also the strain of feminism that just says men and women are equal and should be treated equally. I am a member of the latter portion. It is equally harmful to never want to admit to women’s capability for evil as it is to say all women are bad or all women are childlike or etc… There are bad women in the world. There are evil women in the world. Women are not automatically nurturing, women are not automatically good at mothering, women are not automatically goddesses. Women are capable of the entire spectrum of evil to good, just like men are. It is unrealistic to act like women are incapable of evil, when we in fact are. This is why I find the portrayal of Amy as a narcissistic sociopath to be awesome. Because there are women just like her out there in the world. I was continually reminded of one I have known personally while I was reading the depiction of Amy. The patriarchy hurts men and women, and one way that it does so is with the assumption that women are incapable of evil. Nick and Amy’s other victims are unable to get people to believe them about Amy because Amy is able to externally project the virginal good girl image that the patriarchy expects of her. They don’t expect her to be evil. She appears to be a card-carrying, patriarchy-approved cool girl, therefore she is not evil and Nick and the others are delusional. It’s an eloquent depiction of how the patriarchy can hurt men, and I think that a lot of people are misinterpreting that a misogynistic slant.
Finally, the false rape accusation. Yes, it is extremely unlikely to happen. (An analysis in 2010 of 10 years of rape allegations found that 5.9% were able to proven to be false and 35.3% were proven to be true. The remaining 58.8% fell into a gray area of not being proven either way. Source) However, this means that false allegations of rape do indeed happen. 5.9% is not zero, and this isn’t even taking into account the gray cases that couldn’t be proven either way. Just because we have a problem with rape in this country and with rape culture does not mean that every accusation of rape is actually true. Just as not all men are rapists, not all women are truth-tellers. And let’s not forget that men can be raped, and women can be falsely accused of rape as well. Amy’s false rape accusation also fits well within her character development. As a teenager, she falsely accused a friend of stalking her. Then she accuses this man she dated in her 20s of raping her. Then she frames her husband for her murder. It’s a clear downward spiral, and the false rape accusation, complete with faking restraint marks on her arm, is a realistic warm-up to her insane attempt at framing her husband for her own murder. It fits within the character. It is not a malicious, useless, throwaway plot point. It fits who Amy is, and real life statistics support that it could indeed happen.
All of these aspects of Amy and Nick and Amy’s relationship are part of what made me love the book. I am tired in thrillers of so often seeing only men as the sociopathic evil. I have known women to be sociopaths in real life and in the news, and I like seeing that represented in a thriller. I also appreciate the fact that Nick is by no stretch of the imagination an innocent golden boy. He has some nasty internal thoughts, and he was cheating on Amy. And yet I was still able to feel sympathy for the cheating bastard because he gets so twisted up in Amy’s web. It takes some really talented writing to get me to sympathize with a cheater at all, so well done, Gillian Flynn.
Finally, some people really don’t like the end of the book. They wanted Amy to get caught or someone to die or something. I thought the ending of the book was the most chilling of all. Nick is unable to find out a way to escape Amy, so he rationalizes out their relationship to himself (she makes me try harder to be a better person or face her wrath), and ultimately chooses to stay in the incredibly abusive relationship for the sake of their child when he finds out she was pregnant. It is realistic that Nick is concerned that if he divorces her he won’t be able to prove anything, she may falsely accuse him of things, and he won’t end up able to see his child. This is something people on both ends of divorced worry about, and Nick has proof that Amy is unafraid to fake major crimes just to get even with him. It is so much more chilling to think of Nick being trapped in this toxic relationship, justifying it to himself along the way, in an attempt to protect their child. Bone. Chilling. Because it could, can, and does happen.
Overall, the book is an excellent depiction of how the patriarchy hurts men as well as women, depicts a chilling female sociopath, and manages to be thrilling even if you are able to predict the twist.
Recommended to thriller fans looking for something different but don’t be surprised if you end up giving your significant other funny looks or asking them reassurance seeking questions for a few days.
5 out of 5 stars