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Benz1966 has commented on (4) products.

The Precious One by Marisa de Los Santos
The Precious One

Benz1966, March 28, 2015

I've been a fan of Marisa de los Santos since reading Love Walked In. It was that book that introduced me to a world outside of the cheap, paperback, grocery-store romances and, as such, Marisa's books will always hold a special place in my heart. I was excited to see that she was releasing a new one so I requested The Precious One to review and put it on my bedside table as a treat - something to read outside of all of the graduate studies and required reading that has been bogging me down this semester.

The Precious One is a story of family: messy, broken, beautiful, heart-breaking family. Two sisters, Taisy and Willow, take turns narrating and introducing us to various members of the family. There's stories of lost love, of first crushes, of mysterious backgrounds and long-lost family members who are just emerging into the picture. It's almost too much, to be honest - I felt as if I needed to stop and just catch my breath a few times because of the amount of drama and craziness surrounding these two women.

Still, in spite of the high levels of unbelievable occurrences, Marisa de los Santos taps in well to the complicated, messy way in which sisters come to love one another. I have five sisters and while my relationship with each of them is wildly different from one another, the few that are good are so good that it feels as if my heart squeezes to protect itself from the sheer emotion I feel when I think of those sisters.

The Precious One is a great beach/summer read. This is the book that will give you something thrilling every time you pick it up, even if it's just for a chapter at a time, and yet will not have you so disturbed or distracted that you can't enjoy life around you or beautiful weather or gorgeous views.
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Sea Creatures by Susanna Daniel
Sea Creatures

Benz1966, August 2, 2013

So, I enjoyed Susanna Daniel's Stiltsville, so much so that I was surprised because, from the cover, I had thought it would be just another chick-lit book (meaning pleasant, but unforgettable). However, it stuck with me, and so, when I saw that Sea Creatures was available for review, I snatched it up, anticipating another interesting, thoughtful read.

What I appreciated about Sea Creatures was the re-introduction, albeit from another viewpoint, into the world where Stiltsville was held. I love the setting in Florida, could feel the humid, balmy wind, a remnant of a memory when I lived in Florida for eight long/short months (depending on what memory I am thinking of). I enjoyed the idea of a couple moving to Florida and, rather than finding a home like most people would do, purchasing a houseboat and I looked forward to seeing life from that angle.

What I struggled with was just how much was going on with the story. Between the sleep disorders of the parents, the selective mutism of the toddler son, the divorce of the father (and subsequent remarriage), the hermit living on the water, and all of the tragedy (think natural disaster), there just was so much happening it was difficult to keep my attention on the book. I don't want to be cruel, because I do think Susanna Daniel can write extremely well, but Sea Creatures just could not hold my attention. I felt overwhelmed and because of that, I just did not want to pick up the page to escape into the pages. And that, for me, is a death sentence. At least with bad books I can put them down and not give them a second thought before moving on, but Sea Creatures wasn't bad - I couldn't justify putting it in the did-not-finish pile because, well, because I loved Stiltsville and I desperately wanted to give this book a full chance. Instead, I breathed a sigh of relief when I got to the last page.

I wish I could say more positive things about Sea Creatures. Can you see how guilty I feel? This one just did not work for me.
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The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara
The People in the Trees

Benz1966, July 30, 2013

I feel duped. I mean, I have a degree in literature, I should be able to identify an unreliable narrator from miles away, right? But the way Yanaghira began The People in the Trees, with those press releases... I mean, it was like I was predestined to take the side of Norton Perina. And you will know what I mean when you begin the book and also deal with the same, overwhelming evidence that is presented.

So The People in the Trees is a multi-layered novel. One layer is beautiful, beautiful scientific detailing of a tribe culture, complete with origin story and mythology. And the best part? It's backed up by some science. There's mystery and intrigue, pain and anguish, heartbreak and strange customs, it's all contained in the first person narrative of Norton Perina, the doctor-turned-anthropologist who is introduced to the "lost" culture along with two other scientists. One of my favorite moments in this book is when Norton describes the "lost" culture (quoted from ARC - may be subject to changes:

And if one looks at that population, one sees that most of those "lost" tribes are actually lost only to the white man: just because civilized society stumbles upon a group of Amazonian people does not mean that those people are unknown to dozens of other, better-documented, neighboring tribes.

Talk about an ego-check. The post-colonial researcher in me ached to read more about this tribe (and, thankfully I can read and research something similar as this is based on a true story).

The other thing I really liked about this book was that it was a fictional book that read like a memoir, complete with editors footnotes. Normally, footnotes annoy the bejeebus out of me but not this time. I found myself caught in pages of footnotes, learning more background information and, in one specific case, angry because I was being denied information. It's such an intricate, beautiful way of writing a book and it made it feel so real that I'm sure it didn't help with my whole issue of not spotting the unreliable narrator.

Finally, the subject matter. I've seen at least one review that treats some of the more sensitive topics in this book with condemnation. I think it's important to understand, going into this book where right off the bat, the researcher is up on some pretty nasty charges, that there are moments that will make you feel uncomfortable. It's also important to understand that, in the field of anthropology, it's important to watch and learn. We are so quick to place our own morals and manner of living on other cultures that sometimes we forget that we do some pretty strange things too. So I'll stop off my soapbox there with that reminder and just restate that this was a very powerful book about a very interesting progression of events. It had me thinking not only of how we tend to trample all over other lesser-known religions and rituals instead of understand and respect the fact that those very things were the essence of life for those people for centuries.

So yeah, this would make a powerful, powerful book club read - but I will also say that it will probably offend most book clubs. It's a mature topic, a mature book, and it really requires a mind set on acquiring knowledge rather than one looking to sensationalize small portions of the book at the expense of the rest of it.
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(11 of 12 readers found this comment helpful)

Garden Spells
Garden Spells

Benz1966, August 14, 2010

I picked up GARDEN SPELLS because, after reading THE SUGAR QUEEN and THE GIRL WHO CHASED THE MOON by Sarah Addison Allen ... how could I not read the book that started it all?

This is a book about a town with people of tradition. There's the Waverly's who have special gifts; gifts that are.. extraordinary in nature. There's a family known for its men marrying older women and another family known for its women being.. well... being able to fully please their men in bed.

And then there's my favorite character - Evanelle. Evanelle's gift makes me feel so warm and fuzzy inside, imagining the possibilities of the gift and envying the brilliant thought process that brought this gift to live on the page. It was like Sarah Allen looked deep into the mind of a gal like me and found that magical spot ... that place where she could press and, in the pages of a book, give me exactly what I was looking for.

On the surface this is a love story; it deals with heavier issues such as abuse and abandonment - but with such a light and gentle touch that I never felt as if the book used those issues as a crutch to keep the reader reading. It's a story of family and friendship, of forgiveness - of each other and yourself, and a story of coming home that was completely and totally delightful and a pleasure to read.
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