Book Review – Poughkeepsie by Debra Anastasia

by Maryse on December 11, 2011 · 7 comments

in Miscellaneous

Poughkeepsie (The Poughkeepsie Brotherhood Series Book 1)
Okay so I loved it. I really did. Umm… okay maybe liked it a lot? Ohhhhh I dunno. I’m on the fence between really really liked it and loved it. And it’s because I’m a bit disappointed in the direction the story took. Not that it wasn’t exciting, or nervewrackingly good. ‘Cause it was. I almost couldn’t put it down, and all I did was think about it when I had to. BUT. And this is a BIG BUT. This book, had it continued in the mode I thought it was going in, was going to be a 5 star, for me. But because it basically went all-out crazy in the middle, I’m sticking with 4 stars.

You see, here’s the thing. When I started the book, my first impressions (the first 25 to 30% or maybe even  a bit more)… I was absolutely, completely, under it’s spell. Enthralled. It was magical, gentle, serene, and a bit melancholy. I was nervous for them. On the edge of my seat every time they met. Their relationship was so unconventional, so unlikely and yet, it was perfectly pure and sweet. So absolutely understandable, despite my own reservations. You forget “what he is” (homeless) because “who” he is… becomes the only thing that matters.

I mean, what an original take on love. I was SO on board!! It’s essentially about some that see further than what is socially acceptable, go in deeper than appearances and forgive mistakes (no matter what they might be). This book delves deeper into humanity. I’ll admit, on some levels, some of the choices made were more than I could probably handle in real life. At times, there was just too much outrageous commotion for me to consider this book one of my favorites. Too much covert/mercenary shoot-em-up movie-style action for me to have connected perfectly to the entire story. A few of the characters had some outrageously dirty mouths and thoughts. And I’ll admit, they certainly made me chuckle many times (I mean, you can’t help but laugh at some of the stuff that comes out of Bennett’s and Kyle’s mouths). But I still felt that these obnoxiously crude moments somewhat marred the beauty of the essential story. Took away from where I was hoping it would go (or where I was wishing it would have stayed). I found myself longing for that dreamy feeling, those moments, from the first half of the book. I was in the mood for that.

Luckily for me, despite those moments, the author does slow it down and take the reader a bit deeper. Gives us a look into every character’s mind, memories and personal struggles, and by doing so, allowed me to keep my connection to most of it.

What’s it about?

University student, Livie is from a fairly conventional family (divorced parents, living with her police officer father, and her slightly younger, more outrageous, sister). They are close, and lead a typical twenty-something life. Livie smiles at everyone, everyday at her train station to and from school. Even the young handsome yet homeless man that sits alone, each day on the platform. In fact, he counts every single smile she has ever given him.

It was a simple human action she provided like clockwork, even to the homeless man always slumped under the overhang in the shade.

His green eyes seemed to wait for her without fail, but as soon as the smile reached her lips, his gaze scurried away like a frightened mouse. He hardly looked at anyone, and never asked for money.

Nobody “sees” him, or at least, they seem to be innately trained not to. But Livie is different. She sees him, and has no qualms in letting him know it. She even courageously defends him when a group of teenage boys attempt to harass him.

“You’ll leave right now.” She tried to infuse as much venom she could into the words.

“Lady, we’re just having some fun with our friend here.”

Standing close to the tallest one, she could see he would make a handsome man one day. With a heart as black as hell.

And while Blake is touched by her concern, he tries to give her the impression that he’s okay with it all, and that she doesn’t have to debase herself for him.

Blake looked fretful. “Livia, you’re not invisible to them. There’s a stigma for talking to me.”

“They mean nothing to me.”

But she doesn’t see him that way, and once they begin talking, she catches glimpses of his beautiful soul.

Blake bit his lip as she discovered the sweet secret in every leaf. The stones came next – some had unusual colors and some had a miraculous little stream of crystals dividing them in half. The last two were plain gray.

Livia looked puzzled and whispered, “I have no idea why these are special.”

Blake dared to touch her face. “They’re the exact color of your eyes.”

And so every day they talk more and more (she arrives earlier and earlier to her train station) and they sit together, as friends. They mean a lot to each other. He lives for her smiles, and they begin connecting on a deeper level.

But the seemingly normal Blake has issues, and she becomes aware of them, the closer they get.

I’m an idiot – of course he’s broken. He must be so very broken.

A few issues even alarm her. But she pushes past those alarms, as she learns of his tumultuous childhood and wants him to know that he is more than what he thinks…

“Livia, I have problems – things that make me undesirable, not viable, dangerous, unlovable.”

“Who told you those ugly words? I can’t… you can’t believe that.” She reached for his hand. Who would say those things to a child?

“If you hear it enough, and people’s actions support those words…” Blake shrugged.

And with the trust that is painstakingly forged between them, he allows her into his world to meet his “brothers”. Two equally troubled men that were once abused, as he was, in their foster home. They bonded together and became stronger as one against their terrible struggles. And once they became adults and were “freed” into the real world, they had to make their own way. Despite being essentially “homeless”, Blake has people who love him, and look out for him as much as he will allow. His pride, and his need to earn what he receives, keeps many (even his “brothers”) at arms length.

Bennett (the toughest “alpha” brother) took the criminal route, and is pretty much king of his criminal empire, wealthy yet extremely dangerous. Heart of gold, willing to do anything (and I mean anything) to keep his brothers safe.

“Beckett’s probably the hardest man there is to love,” Blake said. “He does life wrong for all the right reasons.”

Cole found solace in the Church, lives there, and trains there to possibly become a priest one day. The priests, and the sweet elderly group that attend the church have become his second family. Despite the support he has found, he still finds it hard to trust, and struggles with accepting and being loved.

Cole looked at her with troubled brown eyes. “Livia, if I may be so bold, he’s going to take your kindness very seriously. If you’re playing a game, or trying to get even with a boyfriend by dating the worse thing you could find – ”

Livia held up one hand to stop him. “With all due respect, never, ever refer to Blake as ‘the worst thing’”

To Livia’s surprise, Cole almost smiled.

And they watch over (and try to provide for) Blake, who has found nothing but the train station as his cover, and the beautiful smiles of the sweet stranger that feed his soul each day.

I knew that there would be MUCH to explore in their union as friends, and possibly more, and I knew that they would struggle with social prejudices, her family’s acceptance, friend issues and most importantly, his terribly past that has molded his present into such a desperate state. There was SO much potential in this loving story. So many opportunities to continue the soft, tentative yet on the edge (potentially disastrous) “mood” of the book. So many options to extend and complete their story. So many avenues that we could have been lead down, to feel their strife, struggles and successes with them.

But the book took a crazy turn. It fit, sure. But it veered off so much from where I expected to go, that I was somewhat disheartened. I wanted more of Blake and Livia. I wanted mostly Blake and Livia. I wanted only Blake and Livia.

And what I got of them, was plenty awesome. Blake’s past (sad and so good) and Blake’s present (sad and so good because there was a sense of hope). Blake’s angelic, beautiful soul. Livia’s compassion. Excellent. One of the best intros into a story ever. But then we began living the lives of his entourage, which in my opinion, stole precious time away from the two characters that I had become. I know that sounds weird, but this author did a magical job of bringing me in, with them, at first. Unfortunately, the author often ripped me away from my cozy soulmate bubble, and threw me into a dangerous multi-enemied fray.

But despite what I expected, and where I thought the the book would go, there’s no denying the book was still interesting and almost impossible to put down. I say “almost” because sometimes, I did need a serious breather. There is a point in the book where the danger and plotting, and death (yes… it gets that dark) became relentless, and I needed a break. Don’t get me wrong. The action-style gangster “stuff” that happened had it’s reasons… and it’s consequences. Lots of important lessons learned by a few that really needed to learn them, and perhaps many more lessons to uncover.

So while everything “fit” and all of their stories were interesting, what I was hoping for… what I was in the mood for, was a quieter, gentler exploration of untraditional love that couldn’t be denied despite all of the social and mental obstacles. In my opinion, there was PLENTY there to explore that. I think it would have been even more fulfilling. Deeper. More meaningful, to me in the end. And those moments were SO perfect that I feel like re-reading ‘em. Luckily, I highlighted every one of those chapters. ;)

“Have you ever seen a shooting star, Livia?”

She nodded, perplexed at the change in conversation.

“It’s very beautiful, right?” He nodded with her this time. “It makes you wonder – is that shooting star just a happy accident, or has the universe had it planned for years?” He tilted his face to the sky, his eyes tracking an imaginary star as it screamed to earth. He looked back at her. “Either way, you can’t stop it. You can beg it to slow down, or you can just enjoy the show.”

“Am I the star in this story, or you?”

Blake wrinkled his nose and chuckled. “Was that a bad analogy? I meant we’re the star, Livia. Us. This.” He shrugged his shoulders like it was the most obvious thing in the world. “Us being in the same atmosphere is either a great cosmic catastrophe or the most serendipitous rendezvous.”


So many beautiful, beautiful moments.

4 stars!

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Tina December 11, 2011 at 9:17 PM

The sister and ex-boyfriend tended to be too much for me at times; their individual behaviors seemed to have no restraint nor awareness of the consequences their actions would bring. I enjoyed this novel a lot and highly recommend it but I know what you mean about the opening tempo compared to the craziness that followed.

Maryse December 11, 2011 at 11:52 PM

Agreed. I had some cringe moments with the sister for sure!!

And that weirdo ex – what a nightmare!

Carrie December 12, 2011 at 3:38 AM

I think I’m still suffering from whiplash. Loved the beginning of the story. Was also totally jazzed about the unique premise. When I finished… I was dumbfounded. Somehow Beckett ended up my favorite character. WTF? Blake and Livia whatever. It was like I started out on the It’s a Small World ride and ended up on the Pulp Fiction Roller Coaster sitting between Lara Croft and Vincent Vega. My driving force at the end was to find out what happened to Beckett and Eve. Which totally surprised me considering how hard I fell for Blake and Livia in the 1st part.

Maryse December 12, 2011 at 10:15 AM

LOL! Yep, Bennett and Eve were my second favorites… I liked Cole but struggled with Kyle, so i didn’t care as much for that part of the story. That was quite a twist though. Twice! LOL!

But my favorites remained Livie and Blake. I adored him. And that little heart she traced on his back with her finger to let him know not to listen to what her father was saying… while her father was in panic-mode about him… so sad.

Rachel Firasek December 12, 2011 at 4:35 PM

Oh, and see I loved them all. Because, to me they were all real. I have family members that could fit any number of these people and it’s scary how many times I related to this book. :) Loved it. Great review, btw.

Danielle August 30, 2012 at 7:38 PM

I fell in exactly the same place… somewhere between really like and love. I focused mostly on Livia and Blake… even through the Chaos. Not sure I would of read this book normally, based on the description, but I picked it up because it was set where I live (LOVE the Hudson Valley!) :-D I’m glad I had the motivation to read it now!

Patty November 13, 2012 at 10:45 AM

OK, I loved LIvia and Blake..they pulled me in from the jump…
Kyle, what an appropriate name, usually for a man , since she spoke like a drunken sailor…BUT I loved her as 2 of my sisters speak the same way and it brings me laughter through the pages and in real life. The love her and Cole had was so real to life.
Beckett… What an amazing, stong, loyal bad boy, I wanted so much for Eve to be able to save him from his demons and open him up to a “normal” life….that disappointed me a bit, but then again you can’t have it all…!!

Yet again another awesome book recommeded through your reviews..My life has changed so much since I discovered this!!!

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