literary fiction

Marriage of a Thousand Lies – audiobook review

Marriage of a Thousand Lies Audiobook

Narrator Emily Woo Zeller guides Lakshmi “Lucky”, a first generation Sri Lankan-American, through a myriad of tangled decisions. After Lucky’s mother disowns her in college after finding text messages that Lucky exchanged with a former girlfriend, the distraught student makes a deal with a gay college friend, Krishna, to get married. The couple pays a steep price in order to retain family ties and approval. Marriage of a Thousand Lies grapples with a myriad of complex topics, weaving them into a compelling narrative. Cultural and generational divides, the needs of family and self, and race and sexuality, are the realities that Lucky navigates in SJ Sindu’s recent novel. Ultimately, Lucky must decide if a life built on lies is one she can live with…

Woo Zeller invokes the potent mix of emotions roiling through Lucky after she moves in with her mother to care for her ailing grandmother and reconnects with her best friend on the eve of an arranged marriage. Lucky’s family and friends are equally vibrant in their characterizations; Woo Zeller’s intuitive use of tone, pacing, accents, and energy, infuses the story with additional depth and nuance. All around her, Lucky sees different ways of being. Whether it’s her mother, who fled Sri Lanka in the early 1970s as civil war erupted, and retains strong cultural ties to her homeland; or Lucky’s sisters, who also struggle with reconciling their multicultural identities; or Nisha’s agony over choosing between her family and the woman she loves. As a listener, you feel all of these conflicting paths and emotions, and the richness of their lives and relationships all the more keenly. 

Marriage of a Thousand Lies by SJ Sindu
Narrated by Emily Woo Zeller
Produced by HighBridge, a Division of Recorded Books
Length: 7 hours, 45 minutes
June 2017

Available from Amazon/AudibleBooks-a-Million, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers.  Join the discussion on Goodreads!

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Categories: audiobooks, family relationships, fiction, lgbt, literary fiction | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

LGBT Audiobooks 2016 Listen List

I’m just a tad late in posting all of the glorious audiobooks that I listened to in 2016 (though they did make it into my year-end-stravaganza posting). Compared with 2015, there was an aural explosion! I think this in part because I had more options as far as buying and borrowing audiobooks (Overdrive, OneClick Digital, Audible). I’ve also spent more time perusing audiobook reviews on sites such as AudioFile Magazine and participating in a fantastic Facebook group, Lesbian Audiobooks

Now when I find an interesting book, I ask myself “is there an audiobook version?” Publishers seem to produce more and more audiobook versions these days, as opposed to limiting the production to “big” names and blockbuster series. What a time to be a listener!

My taste in listening varies from one day to the next. Below you’ll find my moods and interests reflected in the covers below. I enjoy literary fiction, modern-day retellings of Shakespeare plays, memoirs, YA, fantasy adventure, contemporary romance, far-flung settings, and historical fiction.

However, if I don’t enjoy the narrator, no matter how good the storytelling, I stop listening. And that’s just me; other listeners might find the narrator is a great fit for their ears. Some new-to-me narrators that I really enjoyed in 2016 include Laural Merlington and Kate Rudd (The Language of Hoofbeats); Amielynn Abellera (As I Descended); Sarah Grace Wright (Fallen Elements); and Bahni Turpin (Here Comes the Sun). These narrators deliver immersive experiences with wonderful pacing, tone, and excellent characterization.

As for 2017? Well, I’ve already listened to a contemporary romance and a fantasy-adventure! My Audible wishlist is long and getting longer. What LGBT+ fiction and/or non-fiction audiobooks did you listen to last year?  

The book covers are linked to either a review I posted or to a related external site (like Overdrive, AudioFile, publishers, etc.).

Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully LoadedSaving Montgomery SoleAs I DescendedHere Comes the Sun by Nicole Y. Dennis-BennYou Know Me Well by David LevithanThe Rainbow Comes and Goes by Anderson CooperHit by a Farm by Catherine FriendThe Warrior's Path (When Women Were Warriors, #1)Being Jazz Audiobook2497445115726317327959Image result for if i was your girl audiobook207637391582434313587076937547633163705232513262325817288219421892292974125893681

Categories: audiobooks, family relationships, fantasy, fiction, friendship, historical fiction, lgbt, librarians, literary fiction, Memoirs & Autobiographies, mystery, nonfiction, paranormal, romance, suspense, young adult | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Year of Needy Girls

Image result for the year of needy girls

The Year of Needy Girls by Patricia A. Smith is an uncomfortable and compelling look at residents of a small New England town. When ten year-old Leo Rivera is abducted by his neighbor, Mickey Gilberto, from his front yard in the East-side of town and later discovered dead, the people of Brandywine, Massachusetts become frenzied with fear, sorrow, and anger. Soon after his discovery, Dierdre, a French teacher at Brandywine Academy, located on the West-end of town, a private all-girls school, is accused of molesting one of her students. 

The townsfolk, already divided as the East-end and West-end, struggles to process the heinous crime and reconcile it with their differences. A snowball effect sweeps up everyone in its path as tensions rise during the investigations. Most residents of the West-end are affluent caucasians. Their children attend prestigious private schools, such as Brandywine Academy and rarely visit the East-end of town, even if they have a chaperone present. The residents of the East-end are more diverse. Many folks come from primarily working class backgrounds, speak a language other than English in the home, and have family members who immigrated to the United States within a generation or two.

The charges brought against the teacher add pressure to Dierdre’s and Sara Jane’s (SJ) five-year relationship. As the accusations fly, the tenuous threads binding the two women together stretch taut. The fall-out forces both women to confront long-held grievances and desires in their relationship. They also become subject to an attack reminiscent of Anita Bryant’s “Save Our Children” campaign; a challenge they both handle in different ways.

The novel is divided between the perspectives of Dierdre; SJ, a librarian at Brandywine’s East-end branch with a connection to Mickey Gilberto; interludes that focus on the female students of Brandywine Academy; and letters to the editor of the town newspaper. There are marginalized community voices that also surface intermittently. Despite the victim’s home in a Brazilian East-end neighborhood, however, readers are confined to the lens’ of the “needy girls”. “Needy girls”, how Dierdre frequently refers to her students, is applicable to the adults, as well.

The novel deals in perceptions, muddled motives, and doubt.  There are plenty of uncomfortable moments when readers dance up to the edge with Dierdre as she makes observations about students’ lives beyond the classroom and as she examines her own role in the drama. Despite discomfort expressed by characters at the teacher’s devotion to her students’ lives, both in and out of the classroom, Smith does not make it easy for readers to define Dierdre. Smith also brings into play comparisons between the teacher and Mickey Gilberto. On the other side, SJ is isolated in their relationship. Her struggle to find satisfaction and need in her work, to find a place where she isn’t second or third, drives her narrative. However, her part in this tale is not as cut and dry, either.

The Year of Needy Girls revels in ambiguity. At every turn I felt compelled to question my own assumptions, as I judged the protagonists and secondary cast. I’m still mulling over motives and ethical questions raised in the story. Readers who enjoy moral dilemmas and the drama of small town New England life, filled with wonderful detail and told at a snowballing pace, will relish Smith’s debut novel. 

***Also, does anyone else think that the woman on the cover looks like Krysten Ritter à la Jessica Jones?***

The Year of Needy Girls by Patricia A. Smith
Published by Akashic Books
Released: January 2017

ISBN-10: 1617754870
ISBN-13: 978-1617754876

Available from Akashic Books, AmazonBarnes & Noble, and other retailers. Be sure to check your local public library for availability.

Join the discussion on Goodreads! Bonus discussion guide available on Akashic Books’ website.

Categories: fiction, lgbt, literary fiction | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Reading Resolutions for 2017

 Oh, reading challenges. I love them, and yet, I fare better with the types of reading challenges that quantify, rather than qualify, my choices. For example, Goodreads only asks how many books I plan on finishing between January and December. That’s pretty straightforward, simple, and, in some ways, not that much of a challenge. I can set the bar at 5 books, if I wanted (I would wither away if I was only able to read five books in a year).

My excuses/reasons for failing to cross the finish line of the 2016 PopSugar challenge are many. I’m like that dog in the Pixar movie “Up”; I get distracted by every book that crosses my path. There are certainly not enough hours in the day for work, commuting, and my myriad of interests. I am also unable to read less than ten trillion books at a time. There is currently one book in my glove compartment of my car; an audiobook in my car’s disc drive and on my smartphone; Analog magazine on my phone for endless lines at the grocery store; eBooks on my Nook; and on and on.

I don’t give myself a hard time for not living up to my own reading standards. It’s supposed to be so many other things above and beyond a mere assignment. I will, however, craft mini challenges for myself that highlight voices and genres I haven’t spent much (if any) time with. And then there is the news… So long 2016!

How about you?

Categories: anthology, audiobooks, erotica, essay, family relationships, fantasy, fiction, friendship, historical fiction, history, Holiday, horror, lgbt, librarians, literary fiction, Memoirs & Autobiographies, nonfiction, novella, paranormal, poetry, primary sources, retellings, romance, romantic friendships, short stories, Uncategorized, young adult | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Here Comes the Sun – audiobook review

here-comes-the-sun

 

In Nicole Dennis-Benn’s novel Here Comes the Sun, Jamaica is not a paradise for everyone. Those with money fly in and stay at expensive resorts, like the Palm Star Resort. The men, women, and children who call the island home live in another world. Margot and her younger sister Thandi, along with their mother Delores, live in the financially impoverished community of Montego Bay. Margot works at Palm Star Resort and offers its customers a sanitized pleasure-scape. She trades her body for money to provide a better life for her sister and for her own deferred dreams. On stolen nights, she steals a piece of love for herself at Verdene’s home. After years in London, Verdene returns to Jamaica and finds herself on the outside. Thandi struggles to live up to the high expectations of her family and her own self-image. 

When a new resort threatens to destroy Montego Bay and its residents, long-held secrets and desires spill over. Here Comes the Sun illuminates a world of compromises, lost innocence, and love in hard places. How far would you go for the people you love? How much of yourself would you push below the surface? Each woman will make difficult choices and discover for themselves where to draw the line in the sand. 

~~~

Bahni Turpin delivers stunning, immersive performances as Margot, Thandi, Dolores, and the rest of the Islanders. Her characterizations of the people who inhabit Jamaica are so vivid that I feel like I’m leaving a conversation midway when I turn my car off. The accents she uses convey what parts of the island, socioeconomic, and life experiences the people inhabit. The rhythms of the community flow from the region’s patois, which Nicole Dennis-Benn uses for the novel’s dialogue. Turpin brings the language to life in a way that as a reader I would not do justice.

The way in which the women speak to each other changes depending on the person they are talking to and the role they assume. Thandi consciously moves between her two worlds – the expensive private high school she attends and the economically disadvantaged Montego Bay – by switching back and forth from the studied tones of her wealthier peers to the dialect of her home neighborhood. Verdene, a woman who has returned to Jamaica after living in London for several years, has a complex accent. Her voice is a blend of her homeland, the high level of education she received, and the British English she steeped in during her life abroad. Her neighbors treat her like an outcast, a witch with sexual appetites to avoid. The elderly woman next door leaves dead animals and noisy, high-pitched Biblical condemnations. 

The sun never sets on this listening experience.

—-

You can learn more about the authors, narrators, and where to purchase a copy of this audiobook via the links below.

Here Comes the Sun
Author: Nicole Dennis-Benn
Narrator: Bahni Turpin 
Produced by HighBridge Audio
Length: 11.75 hours
Release date: July 19, 2016
Audio CD ISBN: 9781681682709
Digital Audio ISBN: 9781681682716

Available as an audiobook from Audible, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Overdrive (check your local public library for availability in both eAudio and CD), as well as many other retailers.

Join the discussion on Goodreads!

Categories: lgbt, literary fiction | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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