Thursday, May 15, 2014

Review: Going Over

Going Over
Beth Kephart
Young Adult/1983
Chronicle Books/April 1, 2014

It is February 1983, and Berlin is a divided city - a miles-long barricade separating east from west.  But the city isn't the only thing that is divided.  Ada, almost 16, lives with her mother and grandmother among the revels, punkers, and immigrants of Kreuzberg, just west of the wall.  Stefan, 18, lives east with his brooding grandmother in a faceless apartment bunker of Friedrichshain, his telescope points toward freedom.  Bound by love and separated by circumstance, their only chance lies in a high-risk escape.  But will Stefan find the courage to leap?  Will Ada keep waiting for the boy she has only seen four times a year for a long as she can remember?  Or will forces beyond their control stand in their way?  

Told in the alternating voices of the pink-haired graffiti artist and the boy she loves, Going Over is a story of daring and sacrifice, choices and consequences, and love that will not wait.

For those not very familiar with the Berlin Wall or maybe you only know what you learned in history class, Going Over gives a fascinating look at what life was like for those living within sight of the famous wall.

Ada and Stefan have known each other for years, ever since Ada was two years old.  They are able to meet four times a year when Ada travels to East Berlin.  This doesn't stop them from falling in love.  It is that love that keeps them going, keeps Ada hoping and gives Stefan a reason to try for freedom.

Ada is a gifted story teller.  During the day she tells stories to the children at the daycare where she works.  At night, she tells stories with her graffiti, sprayed across the wall for Stefan to see.  With her stories she tells the children not to be afraid and encourages Stefan to escape.  Ada never gives up.  It's what makes her such an endearing character.

Stefan is left with a legacy of sorrow but a life still filled with hope thanks to Ada.  He is practical, he's had to be, living as he does.   He sees the logistics in the plans Ada proposes.  His point of view comes from someone who has already lived his life in the prison of East Berlin and wants to start a new life of freedom but must wait until the time is right.

The writing is filled with vivid descriptions and strong emotions.  Kephart does well in bringing the reality of life in both the East and West Berlin of the early eighties.  The plot moved a long quickly but I would have liked greater development of the secondary characters.   Going Over is a story for both young adults and us older adults who may have forgotten what it was like when there was a Berlin Wall.

Rating:  A-

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Review: Blindfolded Innocence

Blindfolded Innocence
Alessandra Torre
Contemporary Erotic
Innocence Series/Book 1
Harlequin HQN/January 28, 2014
(First Published July 19, 2012)

Brad De Luca is incorrigible. The premier divorce attorney in town, he is a forty-year old walking hunk of sex, bedding half the town, including his own clients. Brad is used to getting whatever, and whomever, he wants, and when the newest intern arrives - Julia Campbell, a pre-law student fresh off a failed engagement - he embraces the challenge. Only, happy in her new independence, the last thing Julia wants, or needs, is an older man who could destroy her job prospects, and possibly her innocence.

Julia is confident in her sexuality, and her effect on men. But she is far out of her league. Before she knows it, Brad is stretching her boundaries and opening up a forbidden world of sensual and sexual exploration.

This isn't a romance so much as an exploration of a young woman's boundaries and how an older man's experience pushes her into wanting to explore past those boundaries.  It wasn't an easy story for me to get into, but instead took some time before I felt that need to know what happens to these two characters.  Still, it was more about what was physically happening between them than their emotional changes.  Part of the problem was, I just didn't care much about Julia and didn't like Brad.  She should have stayed away from him.

The only good thing I can say about Brad in regards to his sex life is he never makes promises or leads women on.  He is very blunt with what he is willing to give to women.  He tells Julia he is not boyfriend material and if that's what she is looking for, he's not it.  But he also sends her mixed signals by giving the impression that if he can't have her, no one else can either.  I never warmed up to him and if Julia had been my friend I would have told her to stay clear of him unless all she wanted was sex, no strings attached.  The problem was, Julia was getting attached, quickly.

Julia is working as an intern at the law office where Brad is one of the partners.  She isn't his intern but he is still one of the partners and in a position of power.  I'm not in favor of office romances when there is such an inequality of power.  But this isn't exactly a romance so there is some gray area there.  Julia tries not let Brad dominate her and does a pretty good job but eventually gives in to his assertiveness.  She goes back and forth between thinking he's an ass and wanting to jump into bed with him.  This is why it was difficult to sympathise with her situation.

The word man-whore is a good fit for Brad De Luca.  He has a well earned reputation and has been warned by the other partners to keep his dick in his pants when it comes to the interns.  Does Brad listen?  Not when it comes to Julia.  I didn't like Brad for the simple reason is that he thinks he knows what Julia wants and is determined to give it to her.  Which was annoying because Brad didn't really know what he wanted.  He thought he wanted to continue his man-whoring ways but not all of his actions reflected that.

The story is explicit and goes way beyond vanilla so if you're not into that, walk away.  I found it interesting how Julia reacted to what Brad exposed her to.  The alcohol consumed definitely influence Julia's reactions and when she got away from him, she saw things in a different light at least for a little while.

The point when I knew I wouldn't continue with this series was when Brad revealed his dark sexual secret.  Not a fan of his particular fetish.  I think it's the romantic in me.  

Rating: C+

Innocence Series ~

Blindfolded Innocence
The Diary of Brad De Luca novella
Masked Innocence
End of the Innocence