Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Review: The Girl in the Red Coat

The Girl in the Red Coat The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Actual Rating: 4.5
Absolutely loved this book. Wasn't sure before I got started. Wasn't sure which way it might go. Will it be ugly? Will it be too religious? Will it be too much like too many other "missing child" books, done to death with nothing fresh to say? But this book caught me by surprise.

A unique story but the true draw is getting to know Carmel and Beth. Getting to know them through their fears, their memories, their emotions, their strengths. Kate Hamer has a unique voice that draws you in slowly, deeply until you are immersed in their world and you don't even recognize when it happened. Many other similar novels focus on the hunt, trying to find the child, the reasons behind the disappearance, or the trauma of what might happen to the child. This book, in some odd respects, reminds me a bit of The Lovely Bones only in the respect that you get to know Carmel through how she views the world. Her thoughts more than her actions. You wish you could reach in and tell her the one truth she doesn't know that would change her whole world. By the conclusion, you know she has the strength to change her fate even if things had been different on that last day if only she had known.

A treasure of a book. Not a boisterous, action-packed, edge-of-your-seat suspense, but a quiet urging to move forward.

Highly recommend it if you are looking for a good solid read with a small handful of characters you won't easily forget.

Looking forward to reading more of her work!

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Monday, March 5, 2018

Review: Mudbound

Mudbound Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Just finished. I'm not sure I can muster any words of elegance as I sit with the emotions that are overwhelming me but I will try.

If you haven't yet read this book and are up to it, get a copy. Get a physical copy. Move it to the top of your TBR pile. When it comes time to read it, open the cover and feel the pages. You will want to feel their texture underneath your fingertips. This read won't be one of soaring imagination, lyrical beauty, lifted spirits. As you will see, the deeper you wade, you will feel yourself becoming bogged down in the mud along with them. The darkness and the duty that drives each of them. But underlying it all is an ugliness and an evil that consumes the very oxygen they breathe.

I warn you, this is a TOUGH read. It is dark and heavy and the words weigh heavy on your soul. There is an underlying anger that wells up and you feel helpless to find somewhere to put it. You see, early on, where things are headed, though you can't picture exactly how it will play out. But you know...yet you are helpless to derail it...to change things. To warn them. But, as you see them headed down their path, you are compelled to hold tight and stay with them and pray there will eventually be a real end to this evil once and for all one day.

When it is over, you will be thankful to have held this book in your hands. To feel a physical part of it. To have held onto something to remind you that this is fiction. Words on a page. Not truth. Laura and Henry, Jamie, Florence, Hap, Ronsel, Resl, Franz aren't real. They don't live...and breathe...although at times you can almost feel them taking a breath beside you. We can breathe because we know this is just a story...and they didn't live...but how many thousands of named and nameless faces who did have the same stories to tell?

I grew up surrounded by it. Surrounded by people on the wrong side of it. I will never begin to understand it...and I hope none of us ever does.

Hillary Jordan has created a simple but tangible world in Mudbound. We know it so well by the end of the book, we can almost pick it out on a map, complete with the characters that inhabit its land. Its story is riveting and immersive...dark and powerful. If you are looking for a light read, pass this by. But if you are willing to allow yourself to dig deep and really feel...even the darker side of humanity... If you are looking for a read that will impact you and stay with you long after it is done and has an impact on how you interact with the real world around you, then this is a book for you. ...and when it's over, close the cover and hold it quietly and let it settle into your soul.

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Review: Don't Let Go

Don't Let Go Don't Let Go by Harlan Coben
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

My 2nd Harlan Coben. Loved it. Different than the books I usually read but I'm really enjoying his books. Mostly, I love his characters. Flamboyant, colorful, lively, and witty, these are characters you'll remember long after you finish the book...maybe even more than the story itself. An enjoyable read. Can't wait to read more of his work. I needed something much lighter than my normal fare and this fits the bill perfectly.

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Monday, December 4, 2017

Review: Shattered Silence: The Untold Story of a Serial Killer's Daughter

Shattered Silence: The Untold Story of a Serial Killer's Daughter Shattered Silence: The Untold Story of a Serial Killer's Daughter by Melissa G. Moore
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

Very intriguing book. For those who may be planning the read, be aware of a couple of things.

1) The story is about Melissa's life. It is not a telling of her father's. Although she obviously covers that ground, those portions are superficial in detail (with regard to his activities) and focused more on the reflection of what kind of a man he is and either her relationship or perceived relationship with him as she learned more over the course of her lifetime. If you are looking for a book that discusses details of his crimes, that is not covered in any depth here.

2) As you may expect, there ARE references to animal torture/killings that she witnessed or experienced during her childhood at the hands of her father. I include that notation for those who, like me, wish there were trigger warnings/rating systems to identify cases where animals are harmed before stumbling across them unknowingly. While these episodes in the book (there are just about a half dozen or less), she is careful to tell you enough to understand its impact on her as a child but not detailed enough to make you throw the book against the wall screaming and sobbing. For this, I am appreciative. Those limited details, as she relays them, give you the vision of the monster she saw with little understanding where it came from or what they foreshadowed, but she skirts through it swiftly enough to allow you to move forward without severe trauma to yourself as a reader. If the limited description is still too much, skipping ahead a mere couple of sentences (as I did a few times) is enough to continue without taking the images too deeply to heart (long term).

For those who are interested in this memoir, it is well written and you get a rare glimpse of what it was like for her as a child, living in an impoverished environment, surrounded by dysfunction, much of which she didn't understand or even know until later years. You will feel her discomfort, her questions, her fears just as you will see her strength, her confidence, and her self begin to develop as she matures.

As someone who spent many years studying criminal pathology from high school age through and past my college years, leading me to obtain a degree in Psychology, I considered (for a long time) pursuing a career as in forensic psychology. Despite a change in career path, the field has and will continue to fascinate me. That intrigue is what drew me to this book and I am glad I picked it up.

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Thursday, October 19, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: The German Girl

The German Girl The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

Finally finished this book. Life kept getting in the way. I have to say this is one beautiful, thought-provoking book. As an avid reader of books (non-fiction and fiction) based during or surrounding the Holocaust, this book brought new information to me. I am grateful for the historical lessons, the beautiful narrative, and especially the addendum documentation of the ship's manifest and photographs, bringing it home in a truly palpable way, much like the ending of the film Schindler's List. I am so thankful to have yet a broader understanding of the times and the reality of what so many faced. Thank you, Armando Luca Correa, for this beautiful work.

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Friday, April 7, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: And After the Fire by Lauren Belfer

I'm not sure what to say. This book was simply beautiful. It isn't filled with a lot of action. There isn't a riveting, page-turning, can't-put-it-down storyline. What you get is a beautiful story following an uncovered treasure, an unknown manuscript of music written by JS Bach and passed through several generations until it reaches the hands of the main character in present day. It is a simple, quiet journey full of beauty and splendor. I simply loved every moment of this quiet masterpiece. If you are a lover of classical music, you will find this book to be a treasure. I simply hated it to end and to return it to the library. I have already made a space on my shelf for the copy I will buy and re-read in the future. I will always remember the quiet beauty of this book.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

BOOK REVIEW - My Sister Live on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher

STARS: 5 out of 5

ok, let me see how to say this. When I started this book, I had high expectations. I try not to do that but I do sometimes. As I got going, I was loving the characters but I wasn't sure where the story was going to go. I knew part of how the character relationships would likely play out but one particular dynamic had me concerned that I wasn't going to enjoy the book. I was feeling a touch disappointed. I even put it down for a couple of busy days. But I picked it up again and continued.

Today, I finished the book. What I can tell you is that I am so very glad I continued. Aside from positively adoring 3 of the characters in the book, I truly fell in love with the book as a whole. While there are dynamics of a few of the characters that leave you feeling bothered, keeping my focus on the 3 I adored kept me going. Actually, that's not true. There is a 4th who also stole my heart.

But what I need to tell you is this. This book is light and jovial while heavy and intense all at the same time. But as you reach the climax, it becomes one of the single most beautiful books I've ever read. Nothing epic or world shattering. Just a deeply personal experience that changes how the main character views the world, his life, his family. A moment of clarity when he grows up. A single moment that was one of the hardest I have ever had to read but, as you get through it, you witness a level of growth and healing among several of the characters that changes the way they will face the world from that day forward...and it is simply beautiful.

I am so glad I continued as this book is going to my FAVES shelf. I will re-read it again (and probably again) now that I can (hopefully) make it through that section without putting the book down repeatedly to get through it. Because, as painful as it was, the beauty on the other side is worth every teary-eyed blur of the words on the page. And I feel stronger for having read it.

Read it. Take a deep breath before you hit chapter 20 (or before) but push to the other side. Your heart will feel fuller on the other side.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

BOOK REVIEW - The Wonder of All Things by Jason Mott

I seem to be in the minority here but I have to say that I am absolutely in love with this book. I read and enjoyed The Return but it didn't stick with me like this one. When I started The Wonder of All Things, I was hopeful I would connect with it more deeply but was worried it wouldn't measure up to the last couple of books I'd just read (The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash, both of which I loved).

All I can say is I am so glad I picked this to read when I did. I am going through some difficult times and I needed to connect with a story...with characters...and that's exactly what happened with this wonderful book.

I am enamored with Ava and with Wash and am in awe and wonder at the beauty, depth, and simplicity of their deeply connected souls. The beauty of their relationship is at the very core of the story and it continues to unfold and blossom the deeper the story goes.

I finished the book with honest, flowing tears and clutched the book as I let the enormity of the beauty of it wash over me. I know not everyone will be affected the way I was...I suspect so many saw it from a different perspective...but I know I will never forget this book, this story, or these children. I thank you, Jason Mott, for one of the most beautiful stories I've read in a long long time. I am moving this directly to my fave books collection. I can't wait to re-read it...and yes, I'm still crying...

REVIEW - 5 stars (out of 5)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The journey begins with the first step...

For Christmas, my husband bought me an art set. We are bound by several things, including a passion for all forms of art -- music, film, sculpture, paintings, literature -- but we had been discussing our long lost impassioned hobbies. For me, it was drawing. A passion I gave up around the age of 17.

I had spent my life reading, painting, and drawing up until that point. I never was considered good and never had a "proper" art class in school. I resigned myself to the fact that I just didn't know how to draw well. I knew, through some art tests, that I had SOME talent but my assessment was that grade school level was all I could achieve. Our general art classes in school (not the ones the "real" art students enrolled in) were just project busy work (collages, etc.) but no real, true instruction. That was reserved for the classes with the "real" art students. So, I begrudgingly came to accept  that my skill would halt where it had hung for years and being a "real" artist was never in my scope. So, one day I finally put down the pencil and focused on my other artistic loves -- writing, photography, film, and literature.

Now, 30+ years later, I am suffering from a lifetime of "what if". What if I had never put it down. What if I had had "proper" lessons. What if I had an understanding then of how to improve my skill. What if YouTube had been around a lifetime ago.

Thanks to my husband, I dove back in. It didnt' happen immediately. He bought me the art kit but it sat, untouched for months and months and months, collecting dust and me wondering if I would ever be brave enough to give it another go.

Flash forward to June 2015. On June 8, we lost my mom. After years of suffering from congestive heart failure, it and age finally took their final toll and she left us to be with my dad. We buried them together, her cradling his urn in her arms, in a military service (he was a veteran). It was simple, small, and beautiful. In the aftermath, as often happens following the loss of parents, we begin to reassess our lives.

My hubby and I had already begun to simplify and downsize our lives and our home. We are looking to fill our days as simply as possible with those things we love. Turning off the TV, immersing ourselves in music, and tackling our passions and hobbies. As a result, I finally pulled out that Christmas gift - that art set - and decided the time has come.

That day was 10/17/2015. Since that day, I have begun my journey back to find myself. I've begun singing along to music (even though no one wants to hear THAT). I've been reading more. We've kept the TV off. We've delved into music artist catalogs we've only skimmed before. We've shared time with each other and with our fur-babies. We've simplified our lives and are reveling in how much more deeply fueled our souls feel.

I've spent days watching art videos on YouTube, trying to learn the things I never did so many years ago. I have found myself drawn to a handful of "teachers" through these videos and am mesmerized by their skills and talent. I have begun to absorb little things and am seeing improvements in my own work, I am certain is a result of what they are teaching me.

Heather LeBas has been the greatest influence on my journey so far. Her videos have inspired and excited me. I admire her skill and talent and strive to learn as much from her as I possibly can. She has reached out and we're talking and I hope to tap her brain as much as possible to learn what I can to further enhance my work and, more importantly, my enjoyment. I hope to expand to other areas (painting, etc.) one day but I am enjoying the journey, wherever it takes me. ...and I hope my mom and dad are seeing their not-so-little girl, so many years later, diving back into the deep end and swimming with a smile on my face.

(p.s. Ironic that I stopped drawing at the same age I quit competitive swimming, my other childhood love.) Hmmmmmm... now, if only I could find a pool to swim in regularly.... :)

Now to the art work...


Friday, September 11, 2015

9/11...Never Forget

A moment of contemplation. Searching deeply within myself. Yes, I feel it again. Exactly how I felt that morning, that day, the days following. Do you feel it? It's still in there.
If you lived through it, you felt it. The unity. The embracing of others. Loving everyone EQUALLY regardless of race, orientation, creed, etc. JUST as we are supposed to.
Do you remember what that felt like? NONE of it mattered except we were alive...and healthy...and hurting...and determined. Take one minute to really feel that again today. Then promise yourself not to let that go going forward
Carry 9/11 with you EVERY SINGLE DAY. Let it be a part of you.‪#‎NeverForget‬ ‪#‎tears‬