Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor

The Lost LetterThe Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book. It was bittersweet yet the ending left me feeling quite satisfied. The ways stamps were used to communicate was new to me and I kept guessing what happened to the main characters in current day. I didn't guess right until nearly the end. It was a perfect ending and a perfect book.

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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn HugoThe Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thanks Netgalley for a digital ARC.

I did not love this book. I understood why the story had to be the way it was because of the underlying drive of Evelyn Hugo. The writing is, as usual, amazing. The author is masterful at communicating emotion and circumstance. I didn't like any of the characters except, perhaps, Harry. I felt dirty after reading it. A lot of the subject matter was uncomfortable for me. The basic premise is that Evelyn Hugo, an American born Cuban girl, is driven to be successful in Hollywood. Her success is often attached to who she is married to. Each marriage outlines a different relationship. They are all complex yet very, very different.

This book is slightly graphic in parts and may include sexual scenes both hetero and homosexual in nature.

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How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

How to Stop TimeHow to Stop Time by Matt Haig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I forgot how well this author understands human nature and the wonderful way he has of describing people. I loved THE HUMAN but I forgot I did. Since reading HOW TO STOP TIME, I reread my review of the previous book and realized how much I enjoy this author. Great concept, amazing insights, humorous yet deep.

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A Beautiful, Terrible Thing by Jen White

A Beautiful, Terrible Thing: A Memoir of Marriage and BetrayalA Beautiful, Terrible Thing: A Memoir of Marriage and Betrayal by Jen Waite
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Spoiler alert! The author wins.

Anybody that can write such a raw, honest, and relatively objective narrative of their own marriage deserves a standing ovation. The story itself is not unique if you know about Chump Lady. What is unique is that the author lets the reader in on the journey, the events, and the emotions. She doesn't try to pretty her own story up to make it more horrible, she simply narrates the relationship.

It's a storybook fairytale which might be a spoiler in and of itself. Marco is too perfect. He does show some of his colors by sharing a little of his past stories, but it was not authentic even then. He had something to gain by telling her. Then one day it all changed. He changed. In retrospection she realizes there were things she missed because she was unaware he was Axis II, Cluster B.

Personality disorders do not experience emotions like normal people. Relationships are utilitarian and not personal. A perfect summary of this is given by her therapist as "Idealize, Devalue, Discard." Perfect. The subject of a narcissist can't wrap her mind around being devalued and discarded after feeling so loved and believing she was in a perfect marriage. A person with a normal range of emotions would feel empathy. This is why the betrayal is so shocking and sudden. There was no personal connection for the Narc.

Jen writes an excellent narrative. For someone so new out of a NPD relationship, Jen is startlingly insightful. It's a painful read. There are times the reader wants to stop her from going back or forgiving him or believing him. Yet it's so human. That's why it's so good.

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Hello, Sunshine by Laura Dave

Hello, SunshineHello, Sunshine by Laura Dave
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I like Laura Dave's writing. This novel explores how we exploit ourselves on social media and how we often lose our authentic selves. It's also the story of how it can backfire. Well written with nice symbolism. I didn't particularly like any of the characters except Sammy. I also felt like the perpetrator was the biggest hypocrite of all. That cost a star. Perhaps I'm too harsh but I certainly didn't buy the reasoning. Although it added to the story.

Sons and Soldier by Bruce Henderson

Sons and Soldiers: The Untold Story of the Jews Who Escaped the Nazis and Returned with the U.S. Army to Fight HitlerSons and Soldiers: The Untold Story of the Jews Who Escaped the Nazis and Returned with the U.S. Army to Fight Hitler by Bruce Henderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Okay, wow. There are so many points of view and facets to WWII and this one had me riveted. Admittedly, I mixed up the men until I drew pictures in my head, but it didn’t matter as much as the overall picture. Essentially, there were quite a number of German Jews that immigrated to the US, joined the military, then were trained as interrogators. Nobody knew the nuances, the culture, the psychology better than a former German rejected by his own country?

The author tells each story in different sections. All of the boys highlighted in this book arrive at Camp Ritchie with different experiences. Many were the only members of their family to leave Nazi Germany. One had already spent 2 years in Dachau which broke my heart early on. Some escaped before war broke out. Regardless of how they got there, they were each unique and more than willing to get in the war. They knew better than others what they were fighting for.

Even though I sometimes mixed up the boys, some were crystal clear in my mind. The book is told in chunks of time and somehow makes a readable book of facts while using great novelistic strategies. I really enjoyed this book and could not put it down.

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Little Fires Wverywhere by Celeste Ng

Little Fires EverywhereLittle Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great prose and insight into human nature, preconceived ideas, and those that tend question status quo.

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A Short History of the Girl Next Door by Jared Reck

A Short History of the Girl Next DoorA Short History of the Girl Next Door by Jared Reck
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think this book came in a timely fashion for me because of events in my own life. Unfortunately, I can’t reveal those events in relationship to this book which is very challenging. The story is the same as others before. Best friends and one secretly loves the other. Enter new person or people. Unrequited Love has to share. But that is the crux of the story. Loving does not equate to owning. Many people love the same person, in different and similar ways.

That’s all I can say about this book without giving away the struggle. But it’s a doozie.

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The Rukes of Magic by Alice Hoffman

The Rules of MagicThe Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Prequel to later book, the story stands on its own. Each character develops over the course of the story and often in response to their own experiences, perspectives, and personalities. Two sisters and a brother begin their journey as they understand their own powers and gifts. The pivotal beginning is the invitation to the aunt's house for the summer where the children are taught rather loosely their own history and the rules of magic. It is their coming of age summer even though they are 18, 17, and 14. Their beginnings as who they will become happen then.

The story is told over a generation of time. The girls of this story become the aged aunts of a more familiar Alice Hoffman novel. Lovely book that simply couldn't have evolved any other way. Really enjoyed it.

Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West

Love, Life, and the ListLove, Life, and the List by Kasie West
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just like Kasie West. Every story is quirky and different but the dialogue is always clever and clean. I do so enjoy an author I can count on that will entertain me, strike my happy bone, and I can pass it on to anybody without concern.

The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn

The Woman in the WindowThe Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked this book and I liked the concept. The writing was solid as was character development of the main character. I guess I just felt like it was too similar to some old movies I’d seen and were referenced in the book. I did like the perspective of an agoraphobic. I liked the way the flashback she’d light on the trauma she survived but scarred her. I also liked that she pushed herself to do right even when her panic attacks flared. I also liked the realistic way an anxiety attack is painted. Treatment being a process rather than a sudden realization that all she has to do is go outside. So kudos to Finn on that one!

It’s a solid book, well written, surprise conclusion, and realistic perspective.

This book was provided in exchange for an honest review from publisher.

Girl, Unbroken by Regina Calcaterra

Girl UnbrokenGirl Unbroken by Regina Calcaterra
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read ETCHED IN SAND and knew I had to work myself up to read this book. Anxious as I was to know Rosie’s story, I knew it would be a difficult book. It was. While Regina suffered through her mother’s neglect then horrific abuse, her story also highlights the foster care system then continues as she works with her sisters to try to rescue Rosie from their abusive mother.

Rosie’s story is different, although her time in foster care is appalling. Rosie and her brother, Norm, are returned to their mother and the buffer Rosie enjoyed with her sisters has been removed. I can’t even begin to describe Rosie’s childhood. My imagination isn’t even that vivid.

Instead I will wander a little off the path and share a small story. I grew up in a small Utah town. So small that it was not on any maps until about 25 years ago. My life consisted of school in another town on a school bus, playing, fighting, and working with my three sisters, brother, and parents, and attending every church activity because that was so much of my social life. I grew up with the same group of girls, played competitive church sports with them, worshipped with them, and had long, deep, teenage philosophical talks for hours at sleepovers or just in our long, hot, summer days.

The years have passed and I’ve learned snippets about the lives of these girls that I thought I knew so well. Recently, we got together for dinner. One friend turned to the one I was closest with as a child and began asking her the taboo questions that we had finally pieced together as we matured after we had grown and moved away.

This woman, who I will call Jane, answered all of the questions honestly and frankly. Right up the street from me, where I had spent many hours with Jane and her sister, listening to her soft spoken but sad mother, watching her charismatic and larger than life father, Jane and her 4 siblings had endured the kind of abuse that Rosie endured. Jane stated the facts without emotion and admitted it had taken years and years of therapy in order to face the horrors of her childhood. She admitted she had probably disassociated in order to endure but she survived with the three oldest children, and left as quickly as she could. The younger two children were then left with their father’s rage and perversion and their mother who quietly slipped out the back door.

There is a much deeper and complicated story under this synopsis but the point of revisiting this friendship is that, although both of the older sisters hinted at the violence to which they were subjected, until Jane clearly stated the specifics (and I suspect she sanitized it a bit for our own sakes), I had no reference point to comprehend what they endured. All I knew was that, as a counselor, I had become accustomed to hearing about abuse yet it never ceased it surprise me. This time, however, it was much more personal. This was my dear friend that I knew so well. Or so I thought.

I never felt threatened by her father. He was always so happy to see me and said the nicest things. Jane and her siblings faithfully attended every church activity, every school day, and participated in extracurricular activities. Now I know why.

I cried every day for 3 weeks after that dinner with my friends. There was so much shame, blame, and grief heaped onto their little shoulders. I cried for the children they were. They suffered at the hands of the ones that were supposed to protect them. But there were few who knew and none who knew how bad.

Rosie’s story reminds me, in painful detail, that sometimes adults are good actors and the children who are threatened are terrified to tell. It also reminds me that, with a lot support, love, and therapy, these children, like my friends, will thrive and emerge from the chaos of their childhood, amazing, empathetic, and strong adults; scarred yet unbroken.

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