“The Opposite of Everyone”–Review

51SYNXP9TRL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_The Opposite of Everyone, by Joshilyn Jackson, is a story of love, betrayal, and family.

Paula Vauss is an independent divorce lawyer, in a successful practice in Atlanta, whose life revolves around shattered relationships.  Born in Alabama, she lived half of her life on the road with her free-spirited, hippie mother, Kai.  While constantly on the road, Kai told stories of Hindu mythology to reinvent her history with Paula.  It all changed, however, along with Paula’s birth name, Kali Jai, when Paula tells a story of her own—a story which lands her mother in jail and Paula in foster care.

Fifteen years have passed and the only contact Paula has with her mother involves her mother cashing Paula’s checks every month, checks which pay off the karmic debt Paula owes.  But that changes when Paula’s most recent check is returned, along with a note: “I am going on a journey, Kali.  I am going back to my beginning; death is not the end.  You will be the end.  We will meet again, and there will be new stories.  You know how Karma works.”

Just when she least expects it, Paula is surprised with one of her mother’s most treasured secrets, transforming Paula’s life from only child to big sister.  Desperate for more answers, Paula sets off on a journey to find her estranged mother and a journey that leads her back into her past.  With the help of her ex-lover, Birdwine, an emotionally unstable private detective, Paula must go from being an expert on shattering families to putting one back together again.

Even though I wasn’t too crazy about this story, I liked the narration.  Paula is definitely a fierce person, almost like a character you’d love to hate, in my opinion.  She’s emotionally unavailable, distant, yet she knows how to go after what she wants.  I also liked that the relationship with Paula and Birdwine wasn’t so predictable.  I was hoping for more toward the end of the story, however.  Honestly, I didn’t really care for the story’s constantly going back and forth with the past to present.  Aside from that, though, the idea of the story was good, so I encourage you to check it out.  I’d give it, at least, three stars.

The Opposite of Everyone will be available on February 16, 2016.

For more info on the author, click here.

Happy reading!

*I received this Advance Reader’s Edition from William Morrow, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, for an honest review.

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“The Portable Veblen”–Review

41jgJbfo7eL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_An exuberant, one-of-a-kind novel about love and family, war and nature, new money and old values by a brilliant New Yorker contributor.

Set in Palo Alto, California, The Portable Veblen is the story of family, career, and values.  Veblen—who was named after the iconoclastic economist Thorstein Veblen, who coined “conspicuous consumption”—is engaged to Paul, a doctor who specializes in brain trauma for military veterans.

While their engagement is in danger of collapse, Veblen is dealing with the burdens of her narcissistic mother, as well as her institutionalized father.  Meanwhile, Veblen is taking on temp work, including her being a freelance Norwegian translator.  Paul, too, has to maintain his sanity while dealing with his inattentive parents and disabled brother, at the same time, while working toward a device which is supposed to minimize brain trauma.  The invention lands him a deal with the Department of Defense.  Because of the deal, Paul’s ambitions are soaring, as he is promised fame and fortune.

As the wedding day is approaching, Veblen and Paul have to deal with their dysfunctional families, career paths, and a charismatic squirrel.  At the same time, they both have to ask: How do we stay true to our ideals?

Although I liked the idea of the story, it didn’t work for me.  I didn’t dislike it; however, it could have been better, in my opinion.  I feel there were too many conflicts and flashbacks.  Veblen has her quirks, especially her obsession with communicating with squirrels, but it didn’t really catch my attention.  However, I did like that there was a bit of Norwegian in some parts of the story.  I’m fascinated with the language and I’m studying it, little-by-little.  In the meantime, I’ll give this book three stars.  Perhaps you’ll feel differently about the book than I, so feel free to check it out.

The Portable Veblen will be on sale, on January 19, 2016.

*I received this Advance Reading Copy from Penguin Random House and Shelf Awareness for an honest review.

About the author: Elizabeth McKenzie is the author of That Girl and MacGregor Tells the World.  Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Best American Nonrequired Reading, and the Pushcart Prize anthology.  She received her MA from Stanford, was an assistant fiction editor at The Atlantic, and currently teaches creative writing at Stanford’s school of continuing studies.

“Son of a Preacherman”–Review

51IAbPo4KtL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_It is Summer in the Greenwood District in 1920s Tulsa, Oklahoma. Small businesses in African American neighborhoods are doing quite well.  Segregation policies aren’t strong enough to run out the developments of the Greenwood district.

Benjamina “Benny” Freeman and her family are a part of the developing businesses in Tulsa.  While they own a wealthy ranch, Benny helps her mother run a dress shop in Greenwood.

Billy Ray Matthias, the son of the new pastor in Tulsa, eventually meets Benny and is convinced Benny is the woman God planned for him.  While Billy Ray carries on his work at the local pharmacy with his brother, he wants to maintain a friendship with Benny—and hopefully more.  However, Benny is emotionally unavailable.  No matter her past or current struggles, Billy Ray continues to hold a place in his heart for her.

Meanwhile, the eruption of racial tensions in Tulsa is getting stronger.  In the end, when Billy Ray and Benny are caught in the dangers of the chaos in their hometown, Billy Ray vows to keep her safe.  But will she let him?  And will she have enough faith to trust and to allow him into her heart?

I must say this is a great book I’ve read for this year.  Son of a Preacherman is based on the infamous Tulsa Race Riot in the 1920s.  I enjoyed getting to know the characters.  The dialogue is excellent, which provided plenty of tension to keep me turning the pages.  It all got to the point.  There were many scenes I didn’t expect, yet I liked it all.  This is actually my first book by this author and I look forward to reading more.  As always, feel free to leave any comments.

Happy reading!

FTC Disclosure: I received this book in exchange for an honest review from Moody Publishers.

About the author: Marlene Banks resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  She has an associate degree in theology from Rhema Bible Institute in Keysville, VA.  Her previous work was in the medical fields and the business world; however, she considers it her goal to bridge the gap between faith-based and secular literature.  To learn more about the author, click here.