Monday, June 16, 2014

Breathe: A Memoir of Motherhood, Grief, and Family Conflict, by Kelly Kittel

Kelly and Andy had a good life, living on the west coast near Andy's family, and making frequent trips to the east coast to visit Kelly's family.  They have beautiful children.  Then, in an instant, their life trajectory takes a turn, and a life is lost.  Less than a year later, the family suffers another loss, and this time, they want answers.  Sadly, in their search for truth about their loss, the find heart breaking other truths as well, about family, loyalty, and trust.

How does one talk about liking or disliking a book dealing with such raw subject matter as infant loss.  I struggle to put this review into words.  I simply cannot imagine having gone through all that Kelly and Andy experienced in such a short course of time.  This book deals with so many different kinds of loss- loss of children, loss of faith in medical practitioners, loss of familial support.  Just so much loss.  Yet there is such an air of positivity to it.  Kelly seems like such an incredibly strong person.  And her faith is evident throughout the book.

I found myself consumed with this story, and could not stop reading.  I wanted justice for this family.  I wanted healing for this family.  I wanted a happy ending.  But, this is not just a story, this is not fiction.  This family will forever feel the loss of their children.  And that is so hard for me to imagine.  What a brave, wonderful book this is.  I highly recommend it to anyone having gone through child loss or familial estrangement.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Moving Day, by Jonathan Stone

Peke and his wife are in their 70s, preparing to move from their home of 40 years, drive cross country, and set up a quieter, simple life in California.  Suddenly, all their plans are shattered when they are swindled out of all their worldly possessions by thieves posing as moving men. Most men would submit an insurance claim and buy new things, but not Peke.  Peke fights back, with a fire in his belly.  You see, Peke is a survivor, in more ways than one.

This book was unlike any thriller I have ever read.  When I realized what had happened to Peke and his wife, my heart sunk like a stone, as if they were real people.  I was that captured by the writing, from the very beginning.  The author took this very mundane thing, moving, and turned it on its end.  I simply could not read fast enough to suit me.  The characters of Peke and Nick, one of the thieves, are well written, and play well off of each other.  It almost feels like each is what the other might have been, had life taken different turns.

I love the strong emphasis on survival in this book, and coming to terms with what one is willing to do to secure that survival.  There were quite a few twists I never anticipated, and I was riveted the entire time I was reading.  If you are looking for a book full of action, and a plot unlike any thriller you have ever read before, then this is the perfect summer read for you.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sweet Tooth: A Memoir, by Tim Anderson

As a teenager, Tim started to realize that he was different, that he was attracted to other boys.  He knew he needed to keep this a secret, so he started daydreaming; just when he thinks he is beginning to deal with his sexuality, life throws him another curveball, when he discovers he has Type I diabetes.  Tim struggles to learn how to deal with this life altering disease, and along the way he suffers severe reactions when his blood sugar drops dangerously low.  People in his life learn how to spot the signs and take care of him, but between his disease and his sexuality, he spends quite a few years as a big, sloppy mess.  Eventually, however, he learns to manage life, as well as any of us do.

I am a sucker for a great memoir; real, personal stories are the ones I find most interesting. Which is exactly why I loved this book so much.  I felt like this book can really speak to people.  A reader needs to look past the specifics- one does not need to be a Type I diabetic, or gay, or a boy with curly swoopy bangs, to relate to this book.  One needs only to have struggled with something, anything, that made them feel different, defective, outcast.  And who among us has not, at some point, had such a struggle?

I found the book to be incredibly well written, a perfect balance of wit, self deprecation, and seriousness. The chapters are interspersed with vignettes of Tim suffering severe reactions, and I found those to be highly educational.  I never realized, despite the fact that I too have seen Steel Magnolias, the drastic shifts in personality and behavior that can occur when a diabetic person's blood sugar bottoms out.  I wonder how many times we think someone is drunk or high or crazy, when really, they are just a diabetic in need of some juice.

I found this book to be brave, and honest, and raw.  I wish more people had the courage to tell their stories the way Tim has.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours, in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Under a Silent Moon, by Elizabeth Haynes

Two women are found dead on the same night, one a clear homicide, the other what seems to be a suicide.   DNA evidence also seems to suggest the cases are linked, beyond the fact that they occurred in close proximity to each other.  As the investigative team gathers evidence, it would seem that the cases are not as open and shut as they initially appeared.  And as the investigation continues, it becomes clear that most everyone has some dirty little secrets that will come to light.

I have been a fan of this author for a couple of years now, ever since I read her very first book.  So it came as no surprise that I really loved this book as well.  What did come as a surprise was how different this was from her previous works.  While the crime and thriller aspects were just as on point as always, this book was rooted in a much darker, sexual place.

One of the dead women, Polly, is very open with her sexuality, almost pansexual in nature.  The message here is clear: a sexually open woman deserves to die.  And this is not the author's message; this is society's message.  In a world where rape culture influences so many daily interactions women endure, this message is always looming on the surface.  One need only to read the daily news to confirm this fact.

I thought the writing was on point, as it always is with this author.  I also liked the unusual format of weaving police paperwork, text messages, and other forms of communication into the story. It kept me on my toes.

Yet another winner by Elizabeth Haynes.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Outside In, by Doug Cooper

When a student dies in his classroom, Brad is ready to leave teaching forever.  At the very least, he is leaving St. Louis.  He travels to Put-in-Bay, Ohio, to spend the summer partying with friends.  Brad thinks he is running away from his problems, but perhaps he is just running toward his future.  But suddenly, the party spins out of control, and the future is forever changed.

I was completely sucked into this book, and I cannot fully explain why.  I mean, when a book opens with death, you know you are in for one heck of a ride.  I cannot help but feel sorry for Brad, he seems so lost.  And he seems a little to old for the party scene.  They all do really.  It seems like a bit of a modern tragedy really, and I pitied them.  I was also completely fascinated by them.

I was never into the party scene, mostly because I lived at home until I was in my 20s.  I worked my way through college and focused on my studies, even after I had moved out for graduate school.  So, you might say I was able to live vicariously through these characters.  But even living the party lifestyle vicariously was too much for me.  This book made me eternally thankful I never got involved in the party scene, but it also helped me understand how young people get sucked into drug and alcohol addictions.  Like Brad, we all find ourselves running.

I think this would make a good summer read, since it is set in the summer , and has sort of a resort-like feel to it.  But be forewarned, it is also pretty dark.  All in all, a very engaging book.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the review here.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Lemonade Revealed, by Will Chluho

A boy is rescued in the waters off of a Pacific Island, and now suffers from amnesia.  He encounters a priest, a warrior, and the governor, each of whom instruct him in different areas, and each of whom has some underlying reason for befriending him.  The three men warn him to avoid a mysterious man on the island, yet that man is the one person who can help the boy learn his true identity.

It is very rare that I leave a book feeling like I did not understand it, but this book left me feeling just that; confused.  The story itself is not unpleasant; the reading was actually quite relaxing.  The story is gentle, like a lazy flowing river.  It was the perfect kind of book to read in the summer sun.  But I felt like I was just missing something.

The book is highly philosophical, and I suspect it contains some religious allegory, what with the theme of searching for Father, and different people coming together to make up that Father role.  But that almost seems too simple, so I was left feeling like there was a deeper meaning that I was missing.  So, I was left feeling a little naive and stupid, not a good feeling to have after reading a book.

The writing was quite beautiful, and sweet, but for some reason this book is slightly off the mark for me.  I suspect I will need to re-read it a few times, to really flesh out my full opinion of it.  

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours, in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Serpent of Venice, by Christopher Moore

The envoy of the Queen has been invited to dinner, but not all is as it seems.  The invitation is a trap, set by three dastardly plotters- a merchant, a senator, and a naval military officer.  You see, the envoy is in the way of these men; he blocks their quest for wealth and power.  They simply must get rid of him.  But rest assured, he will not go quietly.

I have had many books by this author on my "to read" lists over the years, but this is the first one I have actually gotten to read, and I must say, I was pleasantly surprised.  I consider myself to be a great fan of classic literature, and while I do hold it in some reverence, I am also a fan of a good satire or parody.  So I was quite happy to see that the author does a great job of parodying some classic literary tropes and mechanisms in a humorous way.  The book left me chuckling numerous times.

From what I gather, the character of Pocket is one that has been previously introduced in the author's writing.  However, I did not feel like I had was out of the loop, having not read any of the previous books.  Perhaps if I were to read them now, this book would become even more enjoyable to me, but nevertheless, I feel like the characters and the writing stood on their own.

While a good understanding or familiarity with Shakespeare is helpful for the full enjoyment of the book, it is not entirely necessary.  Most importantly, one should go into it with an open mind and a sense of humor.  If you do that, you will find yourself in the middle of a highly entertaining book.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.