Today I’m featuring just five of the many, many books I have read and then just . . . completely forgot about.
Have you read any of these? Did you find them memorable?
The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
Antony and Cleopatra. Helen of Troy and Paris. Romeo and Juliet. And now… Henry and Flora.
For centuries Love and Death have chosen their players. They have set the rules, rolled the dice, and kept close, ready to influence, angling for supremacy. And Death has always won. Always.
Could there ever be one time, one place, one pair whose love would truly tip the balance?
Meet Flora Saudade, an African-American girl who dreams of becoming the next Amelia Earhart by day and sings in the smoky jazz clubs of Seattle by night. Meet Henry Bishop, born a few blocks and a million worlds away, a white boy with his future assured—a wealthy adoptive family in the midst of the Great Depression, a college scholarship, and all the opportunities in the world seemingly available to him.
The players have been chosen. The dice have been rolled. But when human beings make moves of their own, what happens next is anyone’s guess.
Achingly romantic and brilliantly imagined, The Game of Love and Death is a love story you will never forget.
the book does have an interesting cast of characters and the messiness of the novel accurately reflects the messiness of real life and of everyone’s feelings. The backdrop of the Great Depression, with its racism and financial difficulties, make the character’s dire circumstances stand out in stark relief. I simply wish I felt more for the characters, that I felt as if the book really were a great love story on par with the great couples of literature and history (Romeo and Juliet, Helen and Paris) and not as if it were spending a bit too much energy trying to show its own cleverness in revealing out the game works.
Beta by Rachel Cohn
Elysia is created in a laboratory, born as a sixteen-year-old girl, an empty vessel with no life experience to draw from. She is a Beta, an experimental model of a teenage clone. She was replicated from another teenage girl, who had to die in order for Elysia to exist.
Elysia’s purpose is to serve the inhabitants of Demesne, an island paradise for the wealthiest people on earth. Everything about Demesne is bioengineered for perfection. Even the air induces a strange, euphoric high, which only the island’s workers—soulless clones like Elysia—are immune to.
At first, Elysia’s life is idyllic and pampered. But she soon sees that Demesne’s human residents, who should want for nothing, yearn. But for what, exactly? She also comes to realize that beneath the island’s flawless exterior, there is an undercurrent of discontent among Demesne’s worker clones. She knows she is soulless and cannot feel and should not care—so why are overpowering sensations clouding Elysia’s mind?
If anyone discovers that Elysia isn’t the unfeeling clone she must pretend to be, she will suffer a fate too terrible to imagine. When her one chance at happiness is ripped away with breathtaking cruelty, emotions she’s always had but never understood are unleashed. As rage, terror, and desire threaten to overwhelm her, Elysia must find the will to survive.
Beta is sci-fi light with a contemporary feel that will appeal to fans of Eve and Adam and What’s Left of Me. It has a unique concept which is moderately well but not excellently executed. I recommend it to readers already invested in the science fiction genre or the cloning concept.
The Different Girl by Gordon Dahlquist
Four nearly identical girls on a desert island. An unexpected new arrival. A gently warped near future where nothing is quite as it seems.
Veronika. Caroline. Isobel. Eleanor. One blond, one brunette, one redhead, one with hair black as tar. Four otherwise identical girls who spend their days in sync, tasked to learn. But when May, a very different kind of girl—the lone survivor of a recent shipwreck—suddenly and mysteriously arrives on the island, an unsettling mirror is about to be held up to the life the girls have never before questioned.
This book was just about as interesting as I expected it to be, but it left me a little unsatisfied and slightly confused. The officially summary seems intentionally vague; all readers know is that there are four nearly identical girls on an island. What are they? Robots? How did they come to be? What is their purpose? It is all rather mysterious, which is half of what drew me to the book. Unfortunately, some of these questions are still unanswered for me.
Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts
Being a bastard blows. Tilla would know. Her father, Lord Kent of the Western Province, loved her as a child, but cast her aside as soon as he had trueborn children.
At sixteen, Tilla spends her days exploring long-forgotten tunnels beneath the castle with her stablehand half brother, Jax, and her nights drinking with the servants, passing out on Jax’s floor while her castle bedroom collects dust. Tilla secretly longs to sit by her father’s side, resplendent in a sparkling gown, enjoying feasts with the rest of the family. Instead, she sits with the other bastards, like Miles of House Hampstedt, an awkward scholar who’s been in love with Tilla since they were children.
Then, at a feast honoring the visiting princess Lyriana, the royal shocks everyone by choosing to sit at the Bastards’ Table. Before she knows it, Tilla is leading the sheltered princess on a late-night escapade. Along with Jax, Miles, and fellow bastard Zell, a Zitochi warrior from the north, they stumble upon a crime they were never meant to witness.
Rebellion is brewing in the west, and a brutal coup leaves Lyriana’s uncle, the Royal Archmagus, dead—with Lyriana next on the list. The group flees for their lives, relentlessly pursued by murderous mercenaries; their own parents have put a price on their heads to prevent the king and his powerful Royal Mages from discovering their treachery.
The bastards band together, realizing they alone have the power to prevent a civil war that will tear their kingdom apart—if they can warn the king in time. And if they can survive the journey . . .
I wanted to like this, and I did for a decent portion of the story. Then it all fell apart. I can’t express how disappointed I ended up. I was confused by some of the lower Goodreads ratings when I began reading the book; now I understand. I am not interested in reading the sequel, which will be a hard pass for me.
Fire Color One by Jenny Valentine
A father and daughter reconnect after a life spent apart to find their mutual love of art isn’t the only thing they share.
Sixteen-year-old Iris itches constantly for the strike of a match. But when she’s caught setting one too many fires, she’s whisked away to London before she can get arrested—at least that’s the story her mother tells. Mounting debt actually drove them out of LA, and it’s greed that brings them to a home Iris doesn’t recognize, where her millionaire father—a man she’s never met—lives. Though not for much longer.
Iris’s father is dying, and her mother is determined to claim his life’s fortune, including his priceless art collection. Forced to live with him as part of an exploitive scheme, Iris soon realizes her father is far different than the man she’s been schooled to hate, and everything she thought she knew—about her father and herself—is suddenly unclear. There may be hidden beauty in Iris’s uncertain past, and future, if only she can see beyond the flames.
Everyone in the book is larger-than-life with a wild backstory and personality. It’s fun. Iris’s friend, a mysterious performance artist who spouts wisdom about the world, is particularly compelling. But even Iris’s father, who self-describes himself as a boring homebody, has had some interesting adventures in life. So this book isn’t about average people. But it’s about interesting people, and that’s a good feature of a story any day.
Bottom line: I liked it. It’s unique. The story combines several unusual elements–art, arson, family secrets–into one and becomes utterly engrossing.