gimmethatbook

Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Category: Women’s Fiction (page 1 of 2)

Glimmerglass Girl by Holly Walrath

 

Glimmerglass Girl is a collection of poetry and images about womanhood and femininity. This debut collection from author Holly Lyn Walrath explores life, love, marriage, abuse, self-harm, the body, death, and alcoholism through the lens of a woman’s heart. It takes readers through a speculative and fantastical world of fairy tales and unicorns where femininity is as powerful and delicate as a glass-winged butterfly.

 

 

 

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

This thin chapbook of poems seems at once light and dark, brilliant yet incomprehensible. I read through each offering twice and came away no wiser, despite preparing myself to find meaning in the words. A poem that begins “I am night and a thousand stars hurtle through/my skin, punching through the ether” sets the reader up for a powerful experience. It’s over a few short paragraphs later, a story not tied up neatly, only words and a mental picture that creates an unsatisfactory feeling. Not unsatisfactory in a bad way – just a longing for something more to grasp, a clearer picture of sorts.

The author does have a way with words, stringing them together like a delicate necklace that has its own beauty, yet doesn’t match with anything in the closet. That is not to say it is a wasted purchase -understand that these poems may not meet with your expectations. They are an acquired taste, revealing more each time they are read. Two particular poems became my favorites: I Swallowed the Moon and Blue Cadillac. I feel that Cadillac is the most mainstream work, easily understood, with fondness for the title character (?) shining through easily. I too, remember the classic cars with wistful nostalgia, as the poem notes:

And somehow in this memory of you/your massive lines like some primordial behemoth/long since dead and buried/in ice, the very blueness of you, I may have/remembered myself, another classic beauty.

It was so easy to conjure up big fins in the Texas heat as I absorbed this poem. Images formed freely in my head, unlike some of the author’s other writings in this book. Sometimes the final lines give off a hint of sarcasm, of impropriety or dismissal; other times the end is so far away from the beginning you don’t know what to think. There is a strong undercurrent of feminism and heartbreak in the words, and at times I wondered what experiences the author had, to describe in such a way.

All and all, not the worst way to spend time reading. Poetry is more resonant with people; either you love it or hate it. This little book was pleasant to read, despite the fact that I came away from most of it confused. Read it and let me know what you think.

You can get your own copy here.

The Girls of 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib

The chocolate went first, then the cheese, the fries, the ice cream. The bread was more difficult, but if she could just lose a little more weight, perhaps she would make the soloists’ list. Perhaps if she were lighter, danced better, tried harder, she would be good enough. Perhaps if she just ran for one more mile, lost just one more pound.
Anna Roux was a professional dancer who followed the man of her dreams from Paris to Missouri. There, alone with her biggest fears – imperfection, failure, loneliness – she spirals down anorexia and depression till she weighs a mere eighty-eight pounds. Forced to seek treatment, she is admitted as a patient at 17 Swann Street, a peach pink house where pale, fragile women with life-threatening eating disorders live. Women like Emm, the veteran; quiet Valerie; Julia, always hungry. Together, they must fight their diseases and face six meals a day.
Yara Zgheib’s poetic and poignant debut novel is a haunting, intimate journey of a young woman’s struggle to reclaim her life. Every bite causes anxiety. Every flavor induces guilt. And every step Anna takes toward recovery will require strength, endurance, and the support of the girls at 17 Swann Street.

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

THE GIRLS OF 17 SWANN STREET is a poignant and haunting story of a girl who is battling anorexia only because those around her want her to “get better”. Her demons and self-loathing have caused her to deny herself foods that she used to love. Her marriage is slipping away, full of unspoken words as Anna becomes thinner and thinner. Finally, her husband brings her to 17 Swann Street, where she will undergo treatment.

The author’s way of demonstrating the character’s struggle is intense – the reader is thrown into Anna’s mind through internal rumination and flashbacks, which serve to illuminate the deepest thoughts of an anorexic. Anna is not sure if she wants to live or die, even as those around her suffer with the same affliction and vanish. Throughout the course of the story Anna’s fate remains uncertain, as she takes one step forward and two steps back. Her struggle to consume enough calories under the watchful eyes of the clinic staff (who go un-named in an effort to dehumanize them, an excellent tactic by the author) is laid bare as she is shamed publicly for hiding a small bit of cream cheese in her napkin and then throwing it out.

As I read I wondered when Anna was just going to give up – her character is severely depressed and tragic. She does everything in her power to drive her husband away, despite his constant visits. She battles the staff over each mouthful of food she is forced to eat. In fact, she is such a morose person that at times I wished she would make a choice, rather than simply give up. However, it sounds like the author either did excellent research or she has personal experience with the disorder, because Anna’s behavior is exactly what you would expect from someone with depression and concurrent anorexia.

The book is an easy read – I got through it in one day because I was driven to know what would happen to Anna. As I mentioned before, at times I wasn’t sure if I was on her side or not. It was heartbreaking to see her shunning her husband, who clearly adored her. It was frustrating to see her work really hard, then seemingly change her mind and give in to her old habits. Self-care is not easy when you hate yourself, and Anna’s character is proof that the mind can be an evil, overpowering entity that robs one of the ability to control their life. I felt the cold fingers of depression reaching for me once I finished the book – it’s so real that it gets into your own head and makes you wonder if you are ok, if you will be ok.

Want your own copy of this haunting book? You can pick it up here.

The Closer by Shaz Kahng

The decision was irreversible. . .Vivien would become either the most remarkable female executive in the sports industry, or the biggest failure.
Vivien Lee has spent her entire consulting career helping CEO’s look good, so when she finally has the chance to go after her dream of running a business, she grabs it. A lifelong athlete, Vivien arrives at the Smart Sports campus in Portland, Oregon and is introduced as the first female president. It’s one of the highest-profile jobs in an industry inhospitable to women. Principled but slightly naive, Vivien believes her male peers will give her a fair shot.


Stumbling early, Vivien makes a series of rookie mistakes. With guidance from the Ceiling Smashers, a secret society of successful professional women, Vivien learns to navigate the treacherous business terrain. A tight-knit group of male sports executives is determined to show that an industry outsider cannot prevail. The challenge is all too clear: will Vivien triumph in the sports industry against impossible odds?
You’ll want to stay up all night to find out what happens to Vivien and share her inspiring story with your friends. This is a fresh, riveting tale about a strong woman endeavoring to succeed with smarts, scruples, and style.

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

This book caught my eye because it was advertised in a runner’s blog. The plot is not mainly about athletic ability; it’s about a businesswoman trying to break through the glass ceiling at a fictional Nike rival. It began with the main character, Vivien, being lauded at her job for solving crises and rescuing sales accounts in danger of being lost. This part sets the stage to show Vivien as an overachieving Type A that succeeds at everything she does. All her friends are equally perfect, having MBA’s from the Wharton School, shiny hair, and stunning wardrobes. It began to be too much for me, and the book was almost a DNF. There was a lot of girl conversation and wine; then the plot twist saved the day – Vivien quits her job as a consultant to move across the country to work for Smart Sports in Portland.

Things improved a great deal with the change of venue. There was less perfection and more struggle, with the glass ceiling in full effect. Misogynistic coworkers lay traps for Vivien, which she occasionally falls into. I had a hard time believing someone so savvy could be tricked like that. She was way too trusting – I kept thinking about how obviously the men were plotting against her and she was just trying to be “friends” with them.

The best part of the book for me was reading about the clothing and shoes, and how they were designed and marketed. Second best was seeing Vivien out-think the men, despite treachery  and politics everywhere. It’s too bad that this book is designed to appeal to women; more men should be reading about the struggles that we face in the business and sports world. None of these things seemed over the top or impossible; I’m sure that the author is writing from personal experience, with names changed to protect the guilty.

There is satisfaction as Vivien lives to fight another day against the evil male empire, but I may not be picking up the second book in the series. It’s enough that I live it, I don’t want to read about it.

Having said that – this book is recommended for its erudite and resilient main character. Chick lit fans should grab this to experience a different kind of strong woman. You can pick up your copy [easyazon_link identifier=”0998656607″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

Heart Conditions by Phoebe Fox

heart condtions

Running a massively successful relationship counseling practice should guarantee smooth sailing in a girl’s own love life…

Breakup Doctor Brook Ogden has spent the last year sifting through the fallout from the disastrous decision that led to her unconscious uncoupling with boyfriend Ben Garrett. Despite advising her clients you can’t be friends with an ex, she and Ben have somehow begun to stitch together a friendship—one Brook hopes is slowly turning into more. That is, until Ben introduces his new girlfriend, Perfect Pamela, a paragon of womanly virtues who is everything Brook is not.

While Brook navigates her newly volatile emotional life, an unwelcome surprise shows up on her doorstep: the ex-fiancé who broke her heart two years ago—one month before their wedding. Between her ex’s desire to rekindle their attachment, her best friend Sasha’s unexpected crisis, and her own unsquelchable feelings for Ben, Brook finds herself questioning the personal progress she’s made in the last two years—and threatened with the highest-stakes Breakup Doctor failures she’s ever faced.

Thanks to the author, Henery Press and NetGalley for offering me this review copy!

HEART CONDITIONS is the 3rd book in the Breakup Doctor series. Each book can be read as a standalone or in order, so I had no trepidation about reading this one as a single.

The Breakup Doctor is a relationship therapist who is having a hard time taking her own advice when it comes to her ex boyfriends. She still has feelings for one, and the other, who broke her heart, still has feelings for her. So there is a very tame triangle going on here, which should delight chick lit lovers everywhere.

In fact, this book is like a “how to” of chick lit: there is a strong yet vulnerable heroine, plus darkly handsome (and sometimes reticent) ex boyfriends, a best friend with a personal crisis, and drama on the job front. So many things to resolve before the book ends, plus gorgeous descriptions of clothing, clubs, and restaurants!

Brook is a likeable character, quick to solve other’s problems but totally unsure what to do with her personal life. She learns a startling truth about herself in the latter half of the book, thereby creating an explanation for some of her strange antics, such as bringing her pregnant friend to a BDSM club simply to get the pregnant one “more comfortable” dealing with babies. (The club caters to all sorts of BDSM situations, and there were people whose fetish was dressing up as a baby – diaper and all.) There is no explicit sex in the book, which was enjoyable. Some writers feel they have to insert a sex scene here and there to offset the saccharine romance, but if the romance is done right, as in HEART CONDITIONS, you don’t need sweaty gropes and moans.

The romantic tension was spot on, as Brook struggled to cope with her ex and his new girlfriend, who has looks, brains, and poise. Her internal monologues described exactly what every woman has gone through when encountering a still-fresh wound. Brook’s problems are real and eminently solvable, yet the answers don’t come easy. She must do some soul searching to discover what she wants, and most importantly, why.

This book was a pleasant and sometimes funny read. The chemistry between Brook and Sasha was authentic, even if Brook was occasionally not on the same page as her BFF. Almost all the problems were solved by the end of the book, plus new things are on the horizon for our Breakup Doctor that should prove to be interesting. Fans of author Phoebe Fox will be anxiously awaiting the next book in the series.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”B017WNIUI6″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

Q&A with Lisa Becker, author of Clutch

clutch cover final

 

Clutch is the laugh-out-loud, chick lit story that chronicles the dating misadventures of Caroline Johnson, a single purse designer, who goes through a series of unsuccessful romantic relationships she compares to various styles of handbags – the “Hobo” starving artist, the “Diaper Bag” single dad, the “Briefcase” intense businessman, etc.  With her best friend, bar owner Mike by her side, the overly-accommodating Caroline drinks Chardonnay, puts her heart on the line, endures her share of unworthy suitors and finds the courage to stand up for the handbag style that embodies what she ultimately wants – the “Clutch” or someone to hold onto.

 

We are proud to present this Q&A with author Lisa Becker. The idea of “men as handbags” is a really funny and unique one, and I’m sure we can all identify with it one way or another! Enjoy this post, then go out and buy her book – click [easyazon_link identifier=”0692489894″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link] to purchase it.

 

1) Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m fortunate to have had a series of wonderful careers outside of writing including being a wife, mom, PR professional, college professor and community volunteer.   CLUTCH: A NOVEL is my 4th book.  The book actually started out as a screenplay that was optioned by a production company housed at one of the major movie studios summer 2014.  Unfortunately, it fell out of development.  I was eager to have this fun story with some of my favorite characters told, so I turned it into a short novel earlier this year.

 

2) What inspired you to write CLUTCH?

When I was writing the Click Trilogy, (Click: An Online Love StoryDouble ClickRight Click) I was obsessed with NCIS reruns and would have the show on in the background as I wrote.  There was an episode when one of the characters mentioned that men were like purses – something useless to hang on a woman’s arm.  I started thinking about how men are like handbags and the idea grew from there.

3) What advice do you have for women in search of their clutch?

In the modern classic film, “The Shawshank Redemption,” Tim Robbins’ character, Andy Dufresne, says to Morgan Freeman’s Red, “Get busy living or get busy dying.”  That quote comes to mind when I think about searching for the clutch.  If you feel like it’s not going to happen, then just give up.  You heard me.  GIVE UP!   Just surrender to that notion that you’ll end up alone.  If that is truly the case, do you want to spend the next 30, 40 or even 50+ years wallowing in misery?  Sitting around and lamenting your singleness?  Or are you going to get busy living?  Buy your own home!  Travel to all of the places you want to visit!  Adopt a child!  Write that novel!  Engage in hobbies and activities that bring you joy!

Chances are, when you start focusing on what will make you happy – not who will make you happy – you WILL be happy.  Happiness is evident and infectious.  Happiness makes you more interesting and more attractive to someone else.  And when that happens, you are more likely to meet the right person who is going to complement the amazing life you’ve created for yourself.

 

4) What are your plans for the future?

In addition to promoting the new book, I’m looking into making connections within the motion picture industry to try and get a movie version made.  I’m eager to see if there’s interest from someone else on bringing this fun and quirky story to the big screen.  So if you happen to be a well-to-do movie producer looking to make a new romantic comedy, please get in touch!

 

5) How can readers connect with you?

lisa becker

 

Lisa’s Books: Click: An Online Love StoryDouble ClickRight Click and clutch: a novel

Find Lisa: Facebook | Twitter  | Pinterest  | Web  | YouTube

 

 

 

 

 

The Poet’s Secret – Q&A with author Kenneth Zak

Book Cover_High Res

Elia Aloundra, a young lit student, sees a reclusive poet, Cameron Beck, recite a poem at a campus pub before he vanishes. Ten years earlier, Beck had published a popular collection of ninety-nine odes to one anonymous muse before dropping from the public eye, leaving behind a decade of speculation over his disappearance and the identity of the muse. Elia always found sanctuary within the pages of great books and raised Beck’s work into that pantheon, memorizing every verse by heart.

But her love life pales in comparison to the great romances of literature, and she sets off in search of Beck hoping to finally leap from the page and unveil the secret to love incarnate. What she doesn’t know is that as her quest begins, Beck is perched atop a cliff on a remote Caribbean island and about to attempt suicide. Decades earlier a Spanish shipwreck entombing mystical Aztec relics was found off that same island.  Elia must win her way through Beck’s protective circle: Isabella, a robust island matriarch with heavy voodoo juju, Paco, a local fisherman and cantina owner, and Fatty, a burnt out, transplanted New Orleans crawdad of a doc. What Elia cannot fathom is that Beck’s secret will change both their lives forever.

This fascinating Q&A was brought to you by Kenneth Zak and PR By The Book!

Watch the book trailer here:

What inspired you to write The Poet’s Secret?

At the time I wrote The Poet’s Secret, I was on a personal pilgrimage. I essentially took a three­year sabbatical, sort of an adult “time out,” and embarked on a new path. I dedicated myself to explore the meaning of life and love and particularly the arc of passion. I became consumed by the idea of living in the present, honoring the “now” as the only real moment in time, the only authentic eternity, which allowed me to both disconnect and connect like never before and let go of the constructs of past and future as fictions created by the mind. I gained a new appreciation for relatively brief moments and encounters as having potentially profound effects. I was living abroad, reading, writing, surfing and slowing down my existence.

The tale that became The Poet’s Secret was conceived in a hovel perched atop a one­table taverna in the hillside village of Avdou, just a scooter ride from the blue waters of the Aegean Sea on the island of Crete. I was sequestered alone, halfway around the world from my home, and recovering from a life, and a relationship, that had left me hollow, or at least I thought at the time. But it turned out words kept flowing out of me, first in raw, chunky verse that faintly resembled poetry and then in images and scenes that bore an even fainter resemblance to a novel. For months I wrote, swam in healing waters and disappeared into this remote, antiquated Greek village. I had never done anything like that before, but at the time it was the only existence that made any sense.

So many miracles happened during those months. I experienced a cleansing, a healing and an awakening, and I began to perceive light and water and imagery and words and the souls around me like never before. I eventually returned to California, and then traveled to Bali, Mexico, Costa Rica, Thailand, Cambodia and South America, following the sea and surf with laptop in hand and continuing to write. The backstory to writing The Poet’s Secret is a story in itself.

How did you select the locations for the novel?

It was tempting to set the bulk of the novel in Greece, a country I adore. However, as the story evolved the compass for the island setting spun toward the West Indies, and the story’s life raft washed ashore on the fictional island of Mataki. I was fortunate to spend a good part of my sabbatical on tropical islands and coastal villages that certainly informed the setting. As for the early campus setting, I based it on a fictionalized version of my beloved alma mater, The Ohio State University.

What was your particular process in terms of plot, outlining and character?

I essentially began the novel with two scenes that were haunting me. First, I had a reclusive poet on a remote island cliff about to attempt suicide. Second, I had a bookish young woman captured within the confines of the great romances of literature. I really had no idea about their connection, if any, but those two images would not let go of me. As I began to write, the concept of the woman yearning for what nearly kills the poet began to take hold.

The process was fairly organic. I let the characters breathe and lead me into the story. I wasn’t even sure whose story it was until shortly after the first draft. Once the closing scene appeared to me I realized that it was really Elia’s story. I then just had to navigate getting there. While I did not develop any formal outline, I downloaded scenes as they appeared, stockpiled them and later wove them in when they seemed to make sense. It was a bit like swimming across a sea, not sure which direction land might be but hoping that if I kept going I would eventually find my way.

Stumbling, a bit blindly, through this creative process was both exasperating and exhilarating. As I was working on revisions, I attended several writers’ conferences that stressed the necessity of thorough plotting, which made me feel a tad vulnerable. I later read an interview about Michael Ondaatje’s process in writing The English Patient and realized I was in good company.

The novel is filled with excerpts of poetry, which came first, the poetry or the narrative arc?

Most of the poetry was written before any narrative took form. The poetry came in often painful and soul­ searching flourishes, and then was revised over time. There is a line in The Poet’s Secret where Dean Baltutis refers to the poet’s inspiration being “survival.” That is precisely how it felt at times. I also wanted to combine both poetry and prose into one novel and attempt to slow down the reader a bit at the beginning of each chapter to contemplate and absorb the poetry, to be in that moment so to speak, before continuing on the narrative journey.

What in particular surprised you about the process of writing The Poet’s Secret?

I didn’t want to force plot twists or preconceived outcomes. I let the characters find the story. I let go of expectations and trusted the story to evolve. Tapping into this creative process was freeing, exhilarating and challenging, sort of like jumping off a cliff into the sea for the first time. I had never done anything quite like it, but this particular process for me felt authentic. I certainly was surprised how well the early drafts of the poetry and manuscript were received, which bolstered my confidence to pursue the project through publication.

Water imagery is abundant throughout the novel, what is the particular connection for you with water and particularly with respect to this novel?

I was thrown onto a swim team at age 8 even before I passed beginners swim lessons (I was terrible at the back float). But water soon became my life and in many ways my salvation. Throughout my youth I swam, played water polo, lifeguarded and hung around Lake Erie in northeastern Ohio. Somehow, I didn’t even see an ocean until I was 18. But I recall climbing out of the backseat of a Datsun 210 hatchback (or what they claimed to be a backseat) after driving for 22 hours to Ft. Lauderdale for spring break and telling my college buddies to just pick me up in a few hours. I was mesmerized. I sprinted into the Atlantic Ocean and swam and bodysurfed until dark. Today, I surf or swim almost every day. I feel like I am about eighty percent water, the remaining twenty percent made up mostly of curiosity and mischief.

Much of the water in the universe is said to be a byproduct of star formation. I’m no scientist, but I like the way that sounds. Because when I look up at the night stars it feels a lot like gazing west an hour before the sun dips into the sea, at least at my secret little spot by the water. Flickering diamonds scatter everywhere along the surface, and if I squint just right, I forget the sea is even there. Instead, it looks like a galaxy of stars shimmering right into me, washing across my heart, reflecting off my smile and filling me with the belief that I can just float away into the universe. So I often do.

Spiritually, water often represents purification and healing. To me, water represents so many things, perhaps most importantly love and life and the sacred feminine. I once nearly died underwater while surfing in Uluwatu, a place few have ever heard of and even fewer have visited. But I know on so many occasions water has saved me, water has healed me, and water has reset my compass when I have been spinning in some uncontrollable vortex. So for me, my life and my love seem to be tied to returning to the great aquatic source, again and again, maybe just to fill the chasm that still exists in me, and maybe to some degree still exists in all of us.

I have been fortunate to swim with sea turtles and dolphins in the wild on many occasions. When I stare into the eyes of a sea turtle or a dolphin I cannot help but believe that they understand this great aquatic connection, a connection beyond humanity, beyond species, beyond even the stars. So when I am writing about passion, heartbreak, healing, life and love, it is only natural for me to write in a particularly aquatic language and style.

Where is your favorite place to write?

My favorite place to write is on that squeaky metal spring cot in that hovel above Mihalis’ taverna in Avdou, Crete. After that, any place as long as I have my noise cancellation headphones. I’ve written and revised all over from kitchen tables to airplanes.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing over thirty years now in one form or another. I wrote a bit of poetry in high school and then did a bunch of required writing in my legal profession. It was sometime after law school that I penned my first novel (unpublished), and then about ten years ago when the idea for The Poet’s Secret first took flight. I also have some published short fiction and poetry.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Pablo Neruda, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Haruki Murakami, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Paulo Coehlo, Milan Kundera, John Steinbeck, Michael Ondaatje, Jorge Luis Borges, Rumi, A.S. Byatt, Carl Safina, Tom Spanbauer and so many more.

How did those authors influence your work?

My favorite authors inspire, entertain, challenge and provoke me. I don’t try to write or emulate any particular style. But when I read the opening of Cannery Row time stops.

How did you become affiliated with the Romance Writers of America?

Someone recommended I send an early draft of The Poet’s Secret to the RWA. While The Poet’s Secret is by no means a traditional genre romance, it was selected an RWA Golden Heart Finalist in romantic suspense. I was the only male nominated that year (attending the national conference and award ceremony is another story altogether). When my face went up on the Jumbotron in front of thousands of mostly female authors at the award ceremony it was a bit unnerving. Writing anything can be fraught with self­doubt. The RWA could not have been more welcoming and supportive and certainly gave me a bolt of confidence to continue writing and revising, as did the nominee class from that year, the appropriately named Unsinkables.

How did your professional career as an attorney influence your writing and how do you balance the two careers?

I think practicing law actually spurred my interest in creative writing. While I was in private practice, I felt constrained by the form restrictions requisite within the legal profession. I also felt a lot of legal writing often served more to obfuscate than illuminate and writing poetry and fiction allowed me the freedom to explore and express myself in a different medium. The Poet’s Secret is not “another lawyer’s courtroom thriller” in any respect, nor am I particularly drawn to that genre since I’ve lived it. Nonetheless, my legal career (now as General Counsel for a large private brokerage company) is both fascinating and challenging. I draw some inspiration from the poet Wallace Stevens who for years continued his vibrant writing career while an executive for an insurance company. As far as balance goes, my evenings and weekends are spent around the keyboard as much as possible.

Tell us about your involvement with 1% for the Planet and The Surfrider Foundation.

Perhaps only a poet would give away money before it is even earned, but that is what I felt compelled to do given my love of the ocean and conservation causes. In addition to ocean swimming, free diving and water polo, I have been an avid surfer for nearly two decades and have surfed around the world. Subtle conservation themes are laced through The Poet’s Secret, but my love of the ocean and our planet is anything but subtle. I hope to leave this world and particularly our oceans better than I found them. Penju Publishing’s membership with 1% For the Planet and my pledged donations to The Surfrider Foundation are an effort to spread awareness, give back and pay it forward.

Little Texas Sweetheart by Julia Chadwell

little texas

 

 

Little Texas Sweetheart is the gripping story of one woman’s spiritual, mental, and physical journey across America. The book takes you through the terror of domestic violence and abuse. The story of how she and their eight children escape to a free and healthy life is a hair-raising page-turner. The book is a chronicle of the advance of women’s rights in America.

 

 

 

 

I had the pleasure of meeting the author at BookCon 2015. Her story was so compelling I asked for a review copy, and she was gracious enough to give one to me. Thanks, Julia!

EXCERPT:

On a cold morning in Northern Florida, I am sent into a pancake house to ask if they could give us some food.  The manager looks at me as if I am a cur dog.  He looks out the window and sees three little cold, hungry waifs standing by an old jalopy.  Then he sees Ronald in his Army field jacket, stocking cap, and long red beard.  He winces and turns to me sighing.

     He says, “Bring the children in.  I will feed them, but not you.  I won’t even let him come in here.”
     I bring the children into the fragrant warmth and seat them on high stools at the counter.  I watch their eyes light up as the waitress brings them plates stacked high with golden pancakes.
     As they begin to eat, a gentleman customer steps up to the counter and says, “I’d like to buy breakfast for the lady.”
 Written in an unassuming style and full of raw emotion, LITTLE TEXAS SWEETHEART is an eye opening account of domestic violence and despair. I could not read this book more than a few chapters at a time, as the events described depressed and angered me. Hearing of precious possessions broken and thrown away, slaps and punches doled out, and Ronald’s viselike grip on the freedom of the family was just too much to take in large doses.
I actually had to re-read the passage when the police came to the house to see if everyone was all right, and left without doing anything. One of the officers even admonished one of the author’s children, saying “Daddies do that sometimes”–explaining that sometimes women have to get slapped to keep them in line. The times were so different then, and women truly had no rights.
Picture a woman with 3, 4, then 5 children in tow, living in a car or on a dirty campground, begging for food and clothing, washing that clothing by hand and trying to maintain a brave front. Now imagine that same woman being told that things were “her fault for being a bad mother and wife”.
Victims of domestic abuse are often people with no self confidence and a history of abuse during childhood. They may think that things truly are their fault and they are powerless to make a change. My heart went out to Chadwell time and time again, as Ronald would sweet talk her after a beating, or promise that “this time” they would stop moving from city to city, in search of the perfect job and living arrangements.
Make no mistake–this woman was no dummy. She got multiple degrees and became a teacher, and was always on the lookout for simple ways to educate and entertain her own children. Who knows where she would have made her way in the world if things were different?
Imprisoned by her own shame at the failure of her marriage, she stayed with her husband and endured years of abuse. This story matter of factly tells us how she prayed for help; sometimes her God helped her, sometimes not.
Particularly enlightening to me was the emphasis on how different things were in the 50’s and 60’s: domestic disturbances were the norm, almost expected, and were treated as minor things. Women were considered secondary citizens and sometimes “needed” to be kept in line, and the manly policeman apologized to the Man of the House for bothering him with a silly thing like an unexpected visit.
Chadwell makes no apologies for what she endured; at the end of the book she realizes that she is a battered woman with no self esteem, and that there are many others like her. She finally builds a support system and finds her backbone.  What a relief to be rid of the evil Ronald!
I guarantee you will feel outrage, disgust, and pity for this poor woman who wasted so many years of her life being miserable and downtrodden. Her goal in writing this book and exposing her shame was to help others in her position. When I spoke to her at BookCon, she was a lovely, well spoken, and kind individual, who gives no outward scars of her ordeal.  She has a strong faith in God and just wants to move forward and be happy.
This is a story I’ll not soon forget, nor will I ever forget Ms. Chadwell.
Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”0615410731″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

Jess Under Pressure by E. Graziani

JessREV_June_2015

 

You didn’t know? You seem like a perceptive, aware woman. You’re a doctor of psychology and sociology. You have a book on the bestseller list about women and coping – and you didn’t know?”

Dr. Jessica Britton’s life sparkles with the sheen of success and happiness. Her bestselling book, “Give More, Do More, Be Better!”, modelled after her own life experiences, inspires readers all over the world to achieve a perfectly balanced lifestyle that includes career, family, and happiness.

This happiness is shattered when Jess’s husband is killed in a fatal car accident, leaving Jess with the shocking truth that her perfect life was nothing more than a carefully veiled wall of illusion.

Consumed by grief for more than her dead husband, Jess unexpectedly leaves Toronto after a particularly grueling interview and finds herself in the small town of Gananoque.

Broken, impaired, and in desperate need of healing, Jess is rescued by Susie, who takes her home, and helps her deal with her situation by letting her know that no one has the perfect life, but everyone can work through their issues and come out stronger on the other side with the right kind of support.

Thanks to Jennifer at Morning Rain Publishing for offering me this book for review. You can visit the author’s page here.

Sometimes women spend their time tearing each other down, rather than building each other up. This book is delightful in that it shows strong women, bonding and spending quality time together,  in a real environment. Sure, there are those that delight in the character Jess’ fall from grace, but her new found friends give her the strength to ignore them and discover who she really is.

The first part of the book shows us Jess spending her time in the spotlight, talking about her book and the success it has been. Suddenly, her life spins into a tragic abyss: her husband dies and her children are angry and distant. Jess goes from the top of the world to the bottom, battling depression and self doubt. This could happen to anyone, and the author makes Jess a sympathetic character, someone who is able to help others easily but does not have the answers when it comes to her own problems.

I was quite touched by the love Susie’s friends showed Jess. There was a bit of shock, as Susie introduced the fallen idol to the group, but after a few false starts she was welcomed in and cared for. The scene where all the women shared their personal struggle was quite poignant–I could feel the love!

Graziani has composed a sort of self help book: by reading about the goodness of others and seeing how fictional Jess was able to heal herself, I was cheered up and had more faith in the human race. I know there have been many circumstances where strangers have been kind enough to care for someone struggling through a hard time, but this is such a good feeling way to read about it. The style is a bit different from Graziani’s other book, [easyazon_link identifier=”B00NMNQNOO” locale=”US” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]ALICE OF THE ROCKS[/easyazon_link], but just as readable. The plot is not too complicated, so the message and the intent shines clearly through.

I hope others are able to feel hope and positivity after they finish JESS UNDER PRESSURE. It starts out sad and bleak, but finishes strong. The message is perfect, without being too heavy handed.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”B00WN3NEK0″ locale=”US” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

 

 

 

Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum

519tk7pjUxL

Thanks to Net Galley for providing me with this ARC for review purposes.

Anna was a good wife, mostly.

Anna Benz, an American in her late thirties, lives with her Swiss husband, Bruno—a banker—and their three young children in a postcard-perfect suburb of Zürich. Though she leads a comfortable, well-appointed life, Anna is falling apart inside. Adrift and increasingly unable to connect with the emotionally unavailable Bruno or even with her own thoughts and feelings, Anna tries to rouse herself with new experiences: German language classes, Jungian analysis, and a series of sexual affairs she enters with an ease that surprises even her.

But Anna can’t easily extract herself from these affairs. When she wants to end them, she finds it’s difficult. Tensions escalate, and her lies start to spin out of control. Having crossed a moral threshold, Anna will discover where a woman goes when there is no going back.

Intimate, intense, and written with the precision of a Swiss Army knife, Jill Alexander Essbaum’s debut novel is an unforgettable story of marriage, fidelity, sex, morality, and most especially self. Navigating the lines between lust and love, guilt and shame, excuses and reasons, Anna Benz is an electrifying heroine whose passions and choices readers will debate with recognition and fury. Her story reveals, with honesty and great beauty, how we create ourselves and how we lose ourselves and the sometimes disastrous choices we make to find ourselves.

Many of the reviews I’ve seen of HAUSFRAU say that it’s a hard book to review. I agree. As I read it, I wanted to slam it shut and toss it away, multiple times. The only reason I kept going was curiosity–how would things end? Anna Benz is a hard character to like: she’s weak, passive, oversexed, bland, and annoying. For the most part, she spends her time wishing she weren’t in Switzerland with her husband, attending German classes, seeing her psychologist, and having meaningless sex with men. I’m no prude, but her attitude towards these dalliances were repugnant. Anna seems to have no emotions other than depression, ennui, and lust. I know that’s a strange combination, and perhaps that is what disturbed me the most. For all her time spent in bed, it didn’t really seem to help her enjoy life.

The writing is technically correct; and any other plot/ characters in Essbaum’s hands would be wonderful. She has the ability to create wonderful sentences and beautiful mental images; and certainly can get inside the mind of a disturbed person. Some of Anna’s internal dialogue was right on the mark.

I think the more time I’ve spent between finishing this book and recalling it for this review has mellowed my dislike. Perhaps that is too strong, as my loathing of Anna’s character has possibly overshadowed other things about HAUSFRAU that are very good. The plot does have some interesting turns and developments, outside of Anna’s sex addiction and self loathing, and this is what drives the denoument. The last part of the book is the most satisfying, the most shocking, and the most emotionally disturbing part. As I mentioned, I was on the verge of putting HAUSFRAU on my did-not-finish list, but I’ll admit grudgingly that I’m glad I didn’t.

It will be interesting to see if this book is a best seller and will get a lot of hype. You will either love it or hate it–but I guarantee you will spend time thinking about it: Anna’s choices, her mental state, if things really were as tragic as they seemed, and the chilling way the book ended. The last few sentences will be etched in my mind for a while.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link asin=”0812997530″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”yes” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]here[/easyazon_link].

Gemini by Carol Cassella (plus INTERVIEW)

[easyazon_image add_to_cart=”yes” align=”left” asin=”B00DPM809I” cloaking=”default” height=”500″ localization=”yes” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51uxAQZUbAL.jpg” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ width=”331″]

Many thanks to author Carol Cassella for gifting me this book in exchange for an honest review.  At the bottom of the page there will be a link to a Q&A I did with the author–enjoy!

An unidentified woman is hit by a car and abandoned along a rural highway in western Washington. She is life-flighted to a Seattle trauma center, where she’s admitted to the intensive care unit overseen by Dr. Charlotte Reese, who battles to keep her “Jane Doe” patient alive while a police investigation tries to discover who is responsible for this hit and run—a charge that could turn into murder if this gravely injured woman dies. Charlotte also senses a more covert battle brewing with the hospital’s legal department when they assign a professional guardian to stand in lieu of Jane’s unknown family and make critical decisions about her care. In frustration, Charlotte and her boyfriend Eric, a science journalist, begin their own efforts to find Jane’s family, veering across the professional boundary between physician and patient. As their lives become more entangled, the truths Charlotte learns will radically alter her own life more profoundly than they alter her patient’s.

 

This book made my heart ache with sorrow and joy so much, that I had to put it down at times to let my feelings ebb away, in order to absorb what was happening next. Cassella strikes a chord as she writes about young love, loss, and coming to terms that your life could be so much more, but isn’t. The separate plot of Raney and Bo, who meet as children and move in and out of each other’s lives,  is told as flashbacks, interspersed with the present tale of the nurse Charlotte as she navigates her relationship with Eric while she  is trying  to find out the identity of Jane Doe.  Eric has a health issue that prevents him from being able to commit fully to Charlotte, and she is becoming discouraged. As she learns more about Jane and who she is, she becomes forced to make decisions that will affect the rest of her life, while putting Eric at a crossroads he never wanted to reach. Cassella’s writing allowed me to empathize with Charlotte, and captured the stress and wariness of both partners as they face things that could tear them apart.

However, the story of Raney, a young artist from the poor side of Quentin, Washington, and Bo, who spends a few summers in Quentin with his aunt, is where the story really shines. They grow older and develop feelings for each other that never really fade away, no matter how many times life causes them to part. Each emotion is told with heartbreaking texture, first from Raney’s perspective, then from Bo’s. Life gets in their way, as Raney must care for her ailing grandfather while Bo, from a well to do family, attends college and travels the world.

Each of the four characters must make sacrifices and learn how to make the best out of every situation.  Raney, by far, is the one that shines brightly throughout, as a girl who guards her heart and nurtures her feelings for Bo over the years. I was overcome with emotion time and time again, turning pages as quickly as I could to see what would happen to Raney next. I was affected by her story so much I still think about her to this day and feel as if I could cry. Not many fictional characters get under my skin, but Raney did.

Cassella is adroit at mixing medical situations with real life problems, and the story comes to a resolution that is plausible and bittersweet. If you can get to the last page and not be affected, perhaps you had better check to see if your heart still beats within you. These characters will stay with you for a long time. GEMINI is a must read. You can pick up your copy [easyazon_link asin=”1451627939″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”yes” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]here[/easyazon_link].

 

Click here to be taken to the page with the EXCLUSIVE interview I did with Carol!

 

Older posts

© 2019 gimmethatbook

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑