Thursday, May 21, 2015

Quick Reviews

Here are a few quick reviews of books I've read lately but haven't had time to review in detail - I'm heading on vacation later this week so I won't be posting for a week or two but I should get lots of reading done so look for lots of reviews coming up in early June!

The Bluest EyeThe Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

OK, I get it now. This was my first foray into Toni Morrison's work and now I get it. She's amazing. Her ability to paint a picture with words is just stellar. The themes that she explores in this novel are so important - as important today as it was when she published this novel. If you've been intimidated by Toni Morrison (as I have been after trying to read Beloved in high school), this is a great place to start. This was a wonderful exploration of beauty, womanhood, love and the internalization of hate. I highly recommend this one! I can't wait to work my way through all of her novels!

The Walls Around UsThe Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very well written YA novel - dark, twisty and engaging! So glad I'm not a teenager any more! Very disturbing novel but disturbing in the best way! Didn't want to put this one down! Very well conceived and delivered! I am looking forward to reading more of Nova Ren Suma's work! Very smart and nuanced YA! Definitely recommend this one (and the cover is so beautiful, right??)!

View all my reviews The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy LeagueThe Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League by Jeff Hobbs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a really engaging read that explores some really important things. I think it's a book that most people will enjoy - it's very well written narrative non-fiction. Such a tragic story that I highly recommend!

Where Women Are KingsWhere Women Are Kings by Christie Watson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although this isn't a perfect book, I really think it was a really engaging read that I truly didn't want to put down. I'll try to do a more robust review some time but I did want to recommend it. There is a lot of thoughtful exploration of themes here - faith, child abuse, foster care, adoption, mental illness and more. Really glad that I read this one.

The Mistake (Off-Campus, #2)The Mistake by Elle Kennedy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really enjoying this new adult romance series.

Overruled (The Legal Briefs, #1)Overruled by Emma Chase
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first in a new series - I really enjoyed this romance. I enjoyed that part of it took place in DC which is close to home for me!

Chase Me (Broke and Beautiful, #1)Chase Me by Tessa Bailey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another new to me series that I'm really enjoying.

Need Me (Broke and Beautiful, #2)Need Me by Tessa Bailey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second in Tessa Bailey's Broke and Beautiful series. Really liking these!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Review: Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College TownMissoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I will pretty much read anything Jon Krakauer publishes, regardless of the topic he explores. He writes non-fiction that reads like really great fiction. This book is no exception. What an important exploration of rape and the justice system, using Missoula as a case study! After working with sexual assault victims for many years, this book really resonated with the experiences that I saw with my own clients (and a few friends who experienced rape & didn't have great experiences with the justice system).

This book covers a difficult topic, but one that we all have a responsibility to understand. The trauma of rape is bad enough but the fact that most victims are traumatized even more by the justice system's inability to effectively help them and society's lack of understanding about the impact of rape is something that should make us sick. I am so glad that Krakauer has taken the time to write this book which I hope will help those with little to no knowledge of the impact of rape to women, families and communities, will come out of reading this with more understanding and EMPATHY for the victims of these atrocious crimes.

This isn't an issue that impacts only women - it's one that affects all of us. I appreciate what Krakauer has done with this book to bring focus to an issue that really needs better understanding. I highly recommend this one to everyone!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Review: Sweetland by Michael Crummey

SweetlandSweetland by Michael Crummey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although the description of this one didn't do much for me, I kept hearing such good things that my curiosity got the best of me. And I'm so glad that I read this one. Such a beautiful story ... so beautifully written.

I didn't understand much of the history of resettlement in Newfoundland but this novel made that very history come alive with the amazing people in this novel. This novel is rather quiet (for the most part) ... it's focus on a small community and the many personalities within that community can make it feel like a small story. It has such strength and beauty. The people, the landscape, the sense of solitude that the writing brings. It's certainly not a loud, fast paced book so if you're looking for that, this isn't the book for you. But, if you want something lyrical, beautiful and full of meaning ... pick this one up.

The themes of memory, solitude, community and home are so well done with this novel. Michael Crummey's ability to weave these themes into such beautiful writing is just astounding. I found the story to be a meditation on solitude and change. Such a beautiful story that I'm so glad I gave a chance! Quietly impactful is a good description of this one for me!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Review: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

A Little LifeA Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wish I could give 10 stars on Goodreads. This book deserves far more than just 5 stars! This book has flown up to the top of my ALL TIME FAVORITE BOOKS list! This one is definitely worthy of all of the hype it's received.

This is an amazing, searing, emotional, and devastating book. It's the kind of book that makes you sob. That tears at your heart and soul. That will stay with you. I read this over a month ago and I'm still thinking about it. The characters in this novel will stay with me for some time.

The story centers around a man, Jude, and his friends in NY. It's about the relationships between these people and how they love and hurt one another over time. It's about friendship, survival, tragedy and healing. Jude is a man who has been hurt in unimaginable ways and how that hurt impacts his life, his friendships and his work. If you are uncomfortable reading about child abuse or the impact of that abuse on adults, this is not the book for you. It's very raw and dark and difficult. It's not for everyone. I don't find it to be gratuitous as it really helps you to better understand the characters and their journeys. But, I would only read this one if you think you can read difficult material. The content can be, at times, very brutal. Be forewarned.

This was particularly impactful to me because I spent almost 10 years counseling domestic violence and sexual abuse survivors and this story is VERY close to the abuse one of the women that I counseled for years endured over her lifetime. This book did an amazing job of capturing what it's like to live through something so horrible as well as to care about someone who is trying to live with the lifelong affects of such abuse. I've heard folks complain that its not realistic to have endured what the character in this story does but if my work with abuse victims is any indication, I can tell you that some people do horrible things to other people - unimaginable things. And you'd be surprised how often and how much abuse victims are victimized in their lifetimes.

The characters in this novel will stay with me for some time. They are beautifully written, extremely real and just jump off the page. I came to care (and sometimes hate) them so much more than I would have expected. There were passages in this novel that literally took my breath away, made me think about things in new ways and just simply impacted me deeply. I kept re-reading some of them over and over again because they just perfectly stated something in a way that just overwhelmed me. This is one that I will re-read regularly. It's such a beautiful piece of writing and a story that just tore me up. In the way that the best novels tear you up.

I can't recommend this one highly enough. It's a truly amazing novel that just killed me ... I feel almost sad that I've finished it and will never read it again for the first time. It's difficult, heartbreaking, touching, beautiful and evocative! So worth reading ...

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Review: Lawless In Leather by Melanie Scott

Lawless In Leather (New York Saints, #3)Lawless In Leather by Melanie Scott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this novel, the 3rd book in the New York Saints series. It gave me exactly what I've come to expect from Melanie Scott's work - a great story, interesting characters, and witty dialogue! I was eager to read this particular installment as it centers around Malachi who has been a bit more evasive than the others throughout the series. I was eager to learn more about him and better understand his character. I found the romance between him and Raina to be very believable and interesting. They are not my favorite New York Saints couple (I think that has to be Maggie and Alex) but I really did enjoy their story.

I truly love the world that Melanie Scott creates in this series and highly recommend it regardless of whether or not you're a baseball fan. These stories are so fantastic - full of great chemistry and interesting characters. Really great modern romances! Can't wait to see what's coming next ...

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book from Net Galley for an honest review.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Tusk That Did the Damage by Tania James

The Tusk That Did the DamageThe Tusk That Did the Damage by Tania James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this novel which gave me an entirely new insight into the ivory trade. I was concerned that having part of the story narrated by an elephant but I think that was a really great way to give a new perspective to the story. Really great story which gave a well rounded look at the impact of the ivory trade on elephants, poachers and those trying to protect the elephants. Definitely recommend this novel, especially if you're interested in elephants or the ivory trade.

Another novel that gives great insight into elephants is Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult which I really loved. These two novels could be great companions to one another.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Review: All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

All My Puny SorrowsAll My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had such big expectations for this novel but I really struggled with it. The themes are right down my alley but something about the execution just didn't quite work for me. I did like how the themes of depression, sisterhood and suicide were explored throughout the novel but I found the novel's voice to be less fluid than I would have liked. I'm having a hard time really capturing what my issues were with this novel other than to say it just didn't work for me. It felt like work to read this one and that ultimately took away from the overall impact of the novel. Where it should have made me feel sad, I just didn't feel much of anything. I never felt that I connected with the story, the characters or anything else. In the end, this one just didn't work for me. I've heard such great things about Miriam Toews and I am eager to pick up something else from her work despite the fact that this one just wasn't what I'd hoped it would be.