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Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Tag: family (page 1 of 2)

DOCTOR by Andrew Bomback

A 3-year-old asks her physician father about his job, and his inability to provide a succinct and accurate answer inspires a critical look at the profession of modern medicine.

In sorting through how patients, insurance companies, advertising agencies, filmmakers, and comedians misconstrue a doctor’s role, Andrew Bomback, M.D., realizes that even doctors struggle to define their profession. As the author attempts to unravel how much of doctoring is role-playing, artifice, and bluffing, he examines the career of his father, a legendary pediatrician on the verge of retirement, and the health of his infant son, who is suffering from a vague assortment of gastrointestinal symptoms.
At turns serious, comedic, analytical, and confessional, Doctor offers an unflinching look at what it means to be a physician today.

 

Many thanks to NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for a review!

DOCTOR is a book where I expected more than it delivered. Yes, I got insights on a doctor’s fears, and learned what they may think of “doctor” jokes, but all in all I felt that there was too much about his family to truly make it a book about a physician. I got the impression that he didn’t enjoy being a doctor at all, and that he was living in the shadow of his father, who was extremely well respected in the field.

The Spanglish conversations with his daughter detracted from the pace of the book, and I can imagine those unable to understand the words becoming frustrated. (Spoiler: don’t worry, you didn’t miss anything integral to the plot.) I also felt disconcerted as the author jumped from story to story; sometimes they tied in with one another, sometimes the transition was harsh.

The plot seemed to be about the personal life of a man who happened to be a doctor, not truly all about what a doctor does. If the author could make up his mind and concentrate on one or the other, I feel the book could have been more meaningful. Perhaps a different title would have steered a potential reader in the right direction as well. In any case, it wasn’t the worst book I ever read in this genre – but far from the best. I think if it was any lengthier it would have been a rare DNF for me.

Interested in checking it out for yourself? You can pick up it on Amazon.

 

 

 

THE PARTY by Robyn Harding

In this stunning and provocative domestic drama about a sweet sixteen birthday party that goes horribly awry, a wealthy family in San Francisco finds their picture-perfect life unraveling, their darkest secrets revealed, and their friends turned to enemies.
One invitation. A lifetime of regrets.
Sweet sixteen. It’s an exciting coming of age, a milestone, and a rite of passage. Jeff and Kim Sanders plan on throwing a party for their daughter, Hannah—a sweet girl with good grades and nice friends. Rather than an extravagant, indulgent affair, they invite four girls over for pizza, cake, movies, and a sleepover. What could possibly go wrong?
But things do go wrong, horrifically so. After a tragic accident occurs, Jeff and Kim’s flawless life in a wealthy San Francisco suburb suddenly begins to come apart. In the ugly aftermath, friends become enemies, dark secrets are revealed in the Sanders’ marriage, and the truth about their perfect daughter, Hannah, is exposed.
Harkening to Herman Koch’s The Dinner, Christos Tsiolkas’s The Slap, and Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, The Party takes us behind the façade of the picture-perfect family, exposing the lies, betrayals, and moral lapses that neighbors don’t see—and the secrets that children and parents keep from themselves and each other.

Many thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

 

THE PARTY is a roller coaster, unputdownable book where all the characters are despicable. It’s the story of a sweet 16 birthday party gone horribly wrong, with consequences that will last a lifetime. Hannah, the daughter, is just trying to be more popular. Kim and Jeff are her parents, with the trope of “strict goody two shoes mom” plus “emasculated father trying to be cool”. The events of the fateful night are told over flashbacks, over the course of the story; which kept me interested and hungry for more detail.

The complex and turbulent relationships between the characters are drawn well and evoke a great deal of emotion. Everyone is manipulating – or manipulated by- someone else. There are multi layered agendas. There are mean girls. There is isolation, greed, and shallowness.

I literally could not wait to get back to the book, and thought about it while I wasn’t able to read; I just had to see what was happening next. It’s the kind of book you read with incredulity, wondering if there is going to be a happily ever after despite knowing another crash is coming.

The author exposes the ugly side of relationships with adeptness, even glee (if you read between the lines). Just when you almost start feeling sorry for someone, they expose their seamy side and you go right back to sneering at them. Delicious!

Do people really behave this way now, or is it just something that takes place in fiction? I am glad I don’t have to navigate the treachery of high school, where Facebook posts are created to hurt, and cliques do a lot more than name calling.

No one escapes unscathed from THE PARTY – it’s the kind of story that you will think about for days after you finish the book, considering all the wrong choices every character made and how it affected their lives.

Want our own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”1501161245″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

Breaking Faith by E. Graziani

 

Breaking Faith high rez coverFaith Emily Hansen is the eighteen-year-old narrator with a lot of life to talk about in this gritty novel about family, mental illness, and addiction. All Faith wants is to be loved, to have a stable home, and to live without the need to “chase the dragon” – the heroin addiction that seemed to keep the Darkness at bay but ultimately led to her life on the street. As the story begins Faith appeals to other kids battling their own inner darknesses. Ultimately Faith wants to tell her story to show that there is hope and that she herself was pulled back from her ledge by an unlikely champion – the sister who she blamed for many of her problems.

 

 

Many thanks to the author for this review copy!

BREAKING FAITH is the hard hitting, roller coaster story of a girl from a dysfunctional family that just wants to be loved. Her mother is on drugs, her grandmother is frigid, and her two sisters are normal. As the middle child, Faith takes things a lot harder than the others, due to a murder she witnessed when she was just a child. She has the Darkness (what I feel to be depression and anxiety) inside her, and she turns to drugs to escape life.

The plot goes into stark detail about how easy it is to get hooked, especially when you feel like an outsider in your own skin. We see Faith as she struggles through school, experiences letdowns, and finally runs away. It is not a book for the faint of heart. Just as I thought things would finally go right for her, she falls back down the rabbit hole into the Darkness.

Graziani is known for her strong female leads, but this is the first time she has explored a plot like this. Faith is indeed strong, but as those who have battled depression or addiction, sometimes intentions are not enough to save you.

My heart ached for the girl as she existed, homeless, during a freezing Canadian winter. It seemed the world conspired against her until she was ready to give up. The author is adept at investing the reader into Faith’s story so as you read, her struggles become real, almost larger than life. One cannot help feeling devastated at how Faith gets so close to being loved, only to have it ripped away again. The plot turns are done realistically in the author’s capable hands – nothing is too removed from reality.

I yearned to be able to put my arm around this sad girl and tell her that everything was going to be all right. Sometimes it’s easy to take the path of least resistance; even though Faith showed early signs of strength, her circumstances made it easy to turn to drugs again.

This was an excellent read, with just the right touch of despair and joy. Graziani knows exactly what details to include so the reader never has that “suspension of belief” moment. As I read, I felt connected to Faith and her battles throughout the entire book. I can only hope that a girl who is struggling as Faith did, will read this and understand that there is love in the world for her. I also believe that there will be those who read this and gain strength from it.

Perhaps Graziani will be able to change lives with this book. I certainly hope so.

You can pick up your own copy [easyazon_link identifier=”1772600245″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

Call Me Daddy by Kelly Stone Gamble

call-me

Cass Adams comes from a long line of crazy, and she fears passing that on to her unborn child. Also, she’s run over Roland and Clay’s surprise half brother Britt, landing him in the hospital. With her inner demons coming out to haunt her, she doesn’t know if she should keep the baby.
Clay Adams has his own decisions to make. His half brother shows up to tell him their father, Freddy, is still alive but needs a liver transplant. When Freddy blew out of town thirty-five years ago, secrets were buried. But it’s time for them to be dug up, because only then can Clay hope to lay the past to rest.

Call Me Daddy is a story of family, the secrets they keep, and to what lengths someone would go to protect them.
This sequel to They Call Me Crazy can be read as a standalone novel.

Thanks to the author for gifting me this book for review!

Cass Adams has run over a man in the street while driving home one night.  Little does she know that the accident will set things into motion that could destroy her family and everything she knows to be true about them.

Cass is still crazy, but a bit more grounded. Clay still turns to his worms for comfort, and Cass’ sister Lola is surprisingly big-hearted. Lots of great character exposition here; this is one of my favorite aspects of the book. We read about Roland’s family, learn about new additions to it (both welcome and unwelcome), and find out Cass is pregnant. Her ruminations on whether she would be a good mom or not are very touching and down to earth. She wants to do the right thing but she’s not sure if she has it in her. As a matter of fact, most of the characters want to do the same – there’s a theme here in CALL ME DADDY.

Each person has something that they need to do, and they all struggle with the decision. Events from the past are explained, and we get to learn more about evil dead husband Roland. Clay’s father, Freddie, is evil also – I hated him from the beginning. Fantastic work on the author’s part to create such a heinous and dislikable man! I was truly on the edge of my seat towards the end of the book to see what Lola and Clay were going to do about his “need”. Plus, I was prepared to start yelling at these fictional characters if they made the “wrong” decision.

Kelly Stone Gamble is an accomplished writer, blending dark humor, family drama, and oddball situations together in a way that is smooth and fascinating. It’s quite easy to become invested in the plot from the first few pages, and you will remain hooked until the end. It’s always a pleasure to spend time with Cass Adams, and I hope to see more of her soon.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”B01LWJGQ37″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

The Conversations We Never Had by Jeffrey H Konis

Conversations cover

The Conversations We Never Had is a new memoir/historical fiction novel by Jeffrey H. Konis. It tells the tale of a grandson who had taken his grandmother for granted, but didn’t realize it until it was too late.

“My father remembers nothing about his real parents. They were dead by the time he was nine. Olga, his mother’s younger sister, not only survived the Holocaust, but was able to find my father at his hiding place – a farm in Poland – and later brought him to America to raise as her own. In all that time, he never asked her any questions about his parents,” says Jeffrey. “Years later, I moved in with Olga for a period of time, but I allowed history to repeat itself – a classic mistake – and failed to ask her the same questions my father avoided. Olga has been gone for more than twenty years, along with everything she could have told me. I am left with a sense of guilt and profound regret, wishing so badly that I could go back and have a second chance to get to know her better and learn more about my family from the only person in the world who knew them and remembered them.”

The Conversations We Never Had is a chronicle of Jeffrey’s time spent with his Grandma “Ola” and an imagining of the stories she might have shared had he only took the time to ask the questions. It is a heartwarming story that will leave you eager to spend time with your family and learn more about them before it’s too late.

Many thanks to Book Publicity Services for introducing me to this touching story. Many of us have regrets that we didn’t spend time with our family when we had the chance – myself included. Reading this story should encourage you to rectify that situation sooner rather than later.

Conversations Jeffrey H. Konis


Excerpt from Chapter 2 – Grandma Ola and Me

Over the following days, I found myself picking up the old routine of going to classes, hitting the library, getting a slice or two for dinner, going home and hibernating in my room. Grandma would occasionally check on me, I think more than anything to make sure it was indeed me and not some wayward stranger. I felt bad not spending more time with Grandma the way I had that night when we talked about her dad, but I guess I was too tired after my long days or unsure how to restart the conversation. I knew Grandma was lonely, lonelier with me around than she would have been alone. Then there was something of a break in my schedule. It was the weekend after Thanksgiving and, caught up with all my work, I decided to spend some time with Grandma and talk. Late Saturday afternoon, after the caregiver had left, I approached her.

” I know it’s been awhile but I was wondering whether we could talk some more, if you’re up for it, that is.”

“Up for it? I’ve been ‘up for it’ for the last two weeks. What do you think, that I’ll remember these things forever? You think my memory will get better as I get older?”

“I know, I’m sorry. I’ve been busy with school and…”
”Jeffrey, you barely say hello to me. How many grandmothers do you have anyways? Well?”

Interesting question but, of course, she was right. My maternal grandmother died when my mother was a young girl; I never knew her father, Grandpa Eugene, who died when I was two.

But Grandma Ola said something else that made me stop to think for a second: her memory would surely deteriorate, and in the not-too-distant future. Once that went, so did any chance of learning about my paternal grandparents. There was now a sense of urgency to my mission. Indeed, there were increasing signs that her mind was starting to slip.

The phone had rung, a few nights previously, and I gave Grandma first dibs to pick up the phone to see who it was, as this was pre-caller i.d. The phone kept ringing and I looked in on Grandma, who I knew was lying on the couch in her room. The scene upon which I stumbled was humorous, though it should not have been: there was Grandma, holding a pillow to her ear and talking into it, “Hol-low? Hol-low?” I quickly picked up the phone just as my dad was about to hang up. He often called to check on both of us, to make sure that we hadn’t yet killed each other, that we were still alive.

As willing as Grandma was to have me and as eager and grateful I was to live with her, we each had our own trepidations about this new living arrangement, this uncharted territory in which we were to find ourselves. Grandma Ola had taken in her first new roommate in over forty years. Grandma, I suspect, felt responsible for my well-being. For all she knew, I could be entertaining all sorts of guests and be a constant source of noise and irritation that she had been mercifully spared for so long. I, on the other hand, was moving in with an elderly woman whose mind was on the decline, someone for whose well-being I would be responsible. Not that Grandma expected this of me; then again maybe she did.

She had employed caregivers seven days a week from nine to seven, who would look after her needs, meals, laundry, baths, doctors’ visits, grocery shopping – everything. Grandma, who was a proud, independent woman, and did not wish to argue or appear unreasonable with these good- hearted people, particularly Anna, seemed to accept their help with graciousness and gratitude. Anna may well have a different story to share but this is what I had observed. Above all, Grandma was a realist; she was aware of her own limitations.

What did I add to this equation? Not a whole lot. I did provide Grandma with some psychological comfort in the evenings when I was home. Should some life-threatening event occur, a bad fall for example, I was there to help. My services had been called upon once in this regard, though the fall in question was more humorous than harmful.

I woke up to a yell from Grandma in the middle of one night. My first thought was that she was having a nightmare and ran to her room to check on her, only she wasn’t there. Puzzled, I was on my way to the kitchen but noticed the light was on in the bathroom. I knocked and opened the door a crack. “Grandma, are you in there? Are you okay?” I asked.

She cried that she wasn’t and asked for help. I walked in to find my grandmother stuck in the bathtub on her back from which she was unable to extricate herself. She explained that she had been about to sit on what she thought was the toilet, not realizing her error until it was too late. I scooped her up and carried her back to her bed. I made sure she was indeed okay and wished her goodnight.

I suppose I shouldn’t have found any of this humorous, that this was a sad result of aging, a dreaded process, and that I should have been more compassionate and understanding. True, I suppose, but my understanding under the circumstances consisted of making sure Grandma was all right, carrying her to bed and keeping a straight face through it all. But it was funny. The only thing that wasn’t so funny was that I would be exhausted in my classes the next day owing to my lack of sleep.

As her new roommate, I was also expected to provide Grandma with some company, particularly since she had recently lost her husband. My father, I knew, expected at least this much from me; I didn’t know, on the other hand, what she expected. She likely considered my presence a mixed blessing; I might be nice to have around but also something of an intrusion.


Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”1478767294″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

About the Author

After practicing law for many years, Jeffrey H. Konis left the profession to embark on a career as a high school social studies teacher. His first book, From Courtroom to Classroom: Making a Case for Good Teaching, offers a unique perspective for teachers who seek to inspire their students to learn for the sake of learning. His latest work, The Conversations We Never Had, was released in May 2016. Jeffrey loves reading, collecting fine art photography, soccer – especially Liverpool F.C. – travel, and his family most of all. He currently resides in Goshen, New York with his wife, Pamela, and sons, Alexander and Marc.

Readers can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

The Doctor’s Daughter by Vanessa Matthews

 

The Doctors Daughter

A prominent psychiatrist’s daughter realises insanity can be found much closer to home when she unlocks secrets from the past that threaten to destroy her future.

It’s 1927, women have the right to vote and morals are slackening, but 23 year old Marta Rosenblit is not a typical woman of her time. She has little connection with her elder sisters, her mother has been detained in an asylum since Marta was born and she has spent her life being shaped as her father Arnold’s protégé. She is lost, unsure of who she is and who she wants to be. Primarily set in Vienna, this dark tale follows her journey of self-discovery as she tries to step out of her father’s shadow and find her identity in a man’s world. Her father’s friend Dr Leopold Kaposi is keen to help her make her name, but his interest is not purely professional and his motivations pose greater risks than she could possibly know. Marta’s chance encounter in a café leads to a new friendship with young medical graduate Elise Saloman, but it soon turns out that Elise has some secrets of her own. When Marta’s shock discovery about her family story coincides with her mother’s apparent suicide, Marta can’t take any more. None of the people she has grown to love and trust are who they seem. Her professional plans unravel, her relationships are in tatters and her sanity is on the line – and one person is behind it all.

Thanks to the author for offering me this book for review!

Prepare to be immersed in a dark world of offbeat people, misogyny and emotion. Marta is a tortured soul struggling to become her own woman and out from under her father’s thumb. Matthews paints an eerie image of a sheltered and awkward heroine, someone the reader can cheer for and support.

As she hesitantly takes steps toward independence, Marta must learn about love, sex, trust, and the truth, no matter how much this knowledge hurts her. Her circumstances seem to sweep her along, regardless of her wishes, as Leopold initiates her in the way of the world — that world being 1920’s Vienna, where most women have yet to find their own voice. Marta’s confusion and vulnerability is described flawlessly, as well as her demons lurking within.

As her relationship with Leopold mutates into a joyless union, Marta finds a way to visit her mother (who has been locked away in an asylum since Marta’s birth). The scenes with her mother are heartrending and melancholic, yet full of love. Marta’s confusion about the woman she has thought about all her life looms large as she confronts the allegations made by Leopold, and there, her questions begin. Soon after, the plot twists start and the action picks up a great deal. The “secrets from the past” alluded to in the book’s blurb are grim and shocking–Marta has decisions to make and we see her maturing and taking control of her life.

Despite the book’s dreary countenance, THE DOCTOR’S DAUGHTER was riveting. The attitudes of the times were described perfectly, and the characters were believably evil and self centered. The character of Marta personifies someone who has inner demons, borne all her life on her own. Her sisters shun her and she is motherless, hence she finds solitude in the dark places of her mind, and with physical solutions that enhance her somber nature.

I found this book evocative and captivating. Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”B00Y165LRQ” locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

 

The Nearly Calamitous Taming of PZ by Martha Ritter

 

PZ

A charming, classic adventure tale about the scary, crazy, and heart-thumpingly joyful plunge into connecting with others.

A mute, nameless foxhound has spent her life in a laboratory cage. She has never seen the sun. When she gets rescued, Dottie, a diva ladybug with a heart as big as her hat, helps the dog understand the world and find a home with Olivia, a restless, solitary girl seeking comfort that her new pet cannot supply.

The isolated dog and the hesitant girl must face their fear of connecting. They learn to tame each other, let go, survive adventures, and find the courage to trust as they search for their place in the sun.

The Nearly Calamitous Taming of PZ— lyrical and approachable, with resonant details–has both humor and heart. Although intended for children eight through twelve, its classic unfolding and off-beat characters tickle the fancy of adults as well. It is both an adventure story and a tale with many layers–about overcoming obstacles, mining experience for what matters, and doing what is necessary, though not always desirable, for friendship. Ultimately, it is about the joy of a hard-won connection.

The classic illustrations–with a contemporary edge–reflect this fresh, poignant, wise, and sometimes downright wacky book.

Thanks to author Martha Ritter for gifting me this book for review! I had the pleasure of meeting her at BookCon 2015, and we had a wonderful conversation about many different things.  We discussed a book called Nest by Esther Ehrlich that I had previously reviewed, and wondered if PZ could be comparable to it.

Happily, I can state that yes, PZ is just as wonderful, touching, funny, poignant, and full of good feels as NEST. The plot is simple: lab dog ends its usefulness, goes to shelter, gets adopted, and learns about the world.  It’s the telling of the story: sometimes from the dog’s point of view, sometimes from the adopter’s, that makes it so beautiful and a joy to read.

Your emotions will range from tears to glee as PZ navigates through a world she’s never even known existed. Dotty, the ladybug that lives in her ear (just under the flap) encourages the former lab dog to be strong and learn how to be true to herself. There are moments where you can completely understand what the dog is thinking, as a situation arises and PZ reacts.  I could see her trying to go through a doorway and finding it terrifying, so much so that I was able to transfer her fictional emotions to living canines I’ve encountered. (I’m a vet tech by trade and felt that reading this book gave me better tools to cope with scared dogs at my clinic.)

The family that adopts PZ is a broken one. The father has passed away a year ago, and the 11 year old Olivia is getting skinny due to lack of appetite, and often breaks into tears. She and PZ circle each other warily at first, each doubting each other’s ability to be a good companion. There are disappointments and triumphs, and you can see how the girl and the dog truly help each other to grow and learn.

Towards the end of the book, there is an event that affects the relationship between the shelter dog and grieving girl. I can’t say I saw it coming, but it is fitting and well written. The author has created suspense and it is easy for the reader to want a happy ending, to hope that Olivia and PZ can work together as a team.  (No spoilers–you must read the book yourself!)

I felt I would be able to read this story without tearing up or laughing out loud. I was wrong! There is pathos and humor that fits perfectly together, and the plot advances seamlessly. What a perfect way to convey so many ideas: love, trust, uncertainty, and growth.  The illustrations complement the story, and add that other dimension of having a perfect picture of what the characters look like. The drawings are alternately moving and comic, without being too complicated.

Want your own copy? Yes, you do. Everyone should read this book.

You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”0986381713″ 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].

 

 

 

 

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

Unlikely Event

 

In 1987, Miri Ammerman returns to her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, to attend a commemoration of the worst year of her life.

Thirty-five years earlier, when Miri was fifteen, and in love for the first time, a succession of airplanes fell from the sky, leaving a community reeling. Against this backdrop of actual events that Blume experienced in the early 1950s, when airline travel was new and exciting and everyone dreamed of going somewhere, she paints a vivid portrait of a particular time and place—Nat King Cole singing “Unforgettable,” Elizabeth Taylor haircuts, young (and not-so-young) love, explosive friendships, A-bomb hysteria, rumors of Communist threat. And a young journalist who makes his name reporting tragedy. Through it all, one generation reminds another that life goes on.

In the Unlikely Event is vintage Judy Blume, with all the hallmarks of Judy Blume’s unparalleled storytelling, and full of memorable characters who cope with loss, remember the good times and, finally, wonder at the joy that keeps them going.

 

Thanks to Penguin Random House for the ARC!

Judy Blume is such a beloved author that I’m almost reluctant to write this review. Let me just get it over with: I didn’t like this book.

There, I said it.

It wasn’t the anticipation that made the book such a letdown–it was the style and way the plot unfolded. Many other reviews will note the large cast of characters and the fact that each chapter is written about one character at at a time. For me, this didn’t work. (I’ve recently read other books constructed that way and once I got into the flow, enjoyed everything just fine. None of these characters actually grabbed me.)

The writing style wasn’t as Blume-esque as I recall, and the plot seemed to zig and zag, even though it was fairly linear. I read on and on, hoping I would get to that sweet spot where everything clicks and it becomes unputdownable.

It just never happened for me, and I grew annoyed. Yes, the work is epic. Yes, she winds the characters’ lives around and eventually it all makes sense. Yes, the hopes and dreams of everyone looms large as the plot unwinds, and the maturation of the characters, especially Miri Ammerman, provides a backdrop to keep the average reader turning the pages. I could say it’s like going to Disney World in the rain; the idea of it should be magical, but the weather just doesn’t cooperate.

One thing that was agreeable: the exact perfection in which Blume describes the 50’s. Little details like products, clothing, attitudes, home decor—this is done wonderfully and provided the only bright spots for me. Sad when you spend time reading a book just to pick out the background details.

Ms Blume will sell a lot of copies of IN THE UNLIKELY EVENT based on her status as a literature goddess. I’m still going to worship at her altar, but this book won’t have a place there.

 

Matronly Duties by Melissa Kendall PLUS GIVEAWAY!

matronly duties

Hundreds of years after an asteroid slammed into Earth and sent it into a new ice age, what remains of the human race lives on in underground sanctuaries. Now, as the bicentennial anniversary of the impact approaches, a new leader prepares to take her place at the head of the government. At least, that’s what she thinks.
Bethanie Greene’s life has been planned out for her since the age of thirteen. Beautiful and intelligent, she’s spent the last twelve years training to become the next Matron of the underground nation of Oceania. But when Bethanie is kidnapped by rogue extremists just six weeks shy of taking office, her world is turned upside down by the handsome stranger who rescues her.
Howard James’ life has been the polar opposite of Bethanie’s. Struggling to survive in a world where those in power wished he didn’t exist, he harbors a deep-seated resentment of the government and all its representatives. Together with his unconventional family, he shows Bethanie a life she never knew was possible, while at the same time, opening her eyes to the injustices of the government she is meant to lead. But can she trust a stranger? And can a few days change everything she believes and desires? Against all odds, Bethanie must decide if her heart and her duties can coexist.

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The office of Matron is the highest a girl can aspire to—but Bethanie learns that she is just a puppet of the government. Darkly manipulative and suspenseful, MATRONLY DUTIES is a book about learning to trust and learning to love.

Parts of this book reminded me of BREEDER by KB Hoyle. However, the government in this book is more threatening and controlling, and the romance aspect is detailed thoroughly, with quite a bit of love scenes. At times these scenes slowed down the action, but I can understand why the author created the plot this way; to develop Bethanie’s growing feelings and to show the reader how she is growing as a person who thinks for herself.

There are close calls as the renegades are hunted by the government, and moments when we are unsure if Howard will come back alive. The world that Kendall creates is bleak and delightfully dystopian, with rules in place that control childbirth and love. Sex is viewed as “fornication” and taboo, and we see how Bethanie goes from prim and proper Matron, to a girl who falls in love, the old fashioned way. I found myself cheering for the family of Traditionalists who help Bethanie learn what life really means.  They were truly an oasis for the struggling girl, losing sight of everything she believed in for so many years.

I felt that there could have been a bit more character development when it came to Bethanie’s office mates–her bodyguard and secretary. She seemed to trust them without question, and I waited for them to double cross her as she shared all her thoughts and hopes with them. No spoilers here–read the book to see how it all ends!

A fairly solid outing from Melissa Kendall, MATRONLY DUTIES is a quick read, one that will make you think about figureheads and the sacrifices they may have made to be where they are.

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2 TWCS-Blog-Tour-Banner Thanks to The Writer’s Coffee Shop for offering this book to me!

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

You can also visit the author’s page here.

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