Review – Difficult Women

Difficult WomenDifficult Women by Roxane Gay

Expected publication: January 3, 2017

Grove Press

 

 

My rating: 4.5  out of 5 Stars!

Roxane Gay is one talented writer. I’m not usually one for short-stories but I really enjoyed this collection. Many of the stories first appeared in publications such as Best American Mystery Stories, American Short Fiction, The Minnesota Review, Best American Short Stories and many others.

“a collection of stories of rare force and beauty, of hardscrabble lives, passionate loves, and quirky and vexed human connection.”

The stories feature women from many different backgrounds. Lives of privilege, poverty, and everywhere in between. Young and old. Married, in a relationship, or single. These women are all haunted by something or someone. Many have suffered severe and traumatic experiences and all of the stories are told with a raw and brutal honesty. These are not your “typical” love stories but there is still love in its many different forms.

I definitely preferred some stories more than others but found something in many of them that I could relate to or sympathize with. Many of the stories had similar themes ( violence, love, hate, sex, guilt, trauma, loss, motherhood, race, relationships, and abuse) but all of the women had their own distinct voice. I found myself becoming quite emotional while reading these stories, and more than a few brought me to tears.

There are many more stories that I’ll not soon forget. However, the following are the ones that will definitely remain with me for a very long time:

I Will Follow You – This is the very first story and it broke my heart into about a million pieces. A story about two sisters who are now adults but who were both abducted as children.

The Mark of Cain – About a woman married to a man with an identical twin. The twins like to switch places sometimes, they think she doesn’t know….they are wrong.

Difficult Women – The story from which the title stems. A story about loose women, frigid women, crazy women, mothers, and dead girls.

Break All the Way Down – I was in tears throughout this entire story.

“Every time that man sank his fists into my body, I could breathe a little. I used one hurt to cover another”

Open Marriage – Can yogurt expire?

Best Features – Oh my did this one make me angry.

“I don’t normally go for girls like you but big girls try harder”

Overall, this was such a great collection of stories about women whose lives are truly difficult. However, many of these “Difficult Women” also have a tremendous amount of strength, endurance, and even hope.

Thank you to NetGalley, Grove Press and Roxane Gay for an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

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Review – Small Great Things

Small Great ThingsSmall Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Published October 11, 2016

Ballantine Books

 

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I could probably write a twelve page review on everything I want to talk about from this book, everything I learned from this book. However, my reviews are long as it is so I will try my best to keep it short (well…shorter than twelve pages).

I have read every book by Jodi Picoult and they all make me think. As I’ve said before I always learn something too. But I feel like this book is the one that hit me hardest. I learned so much and from the moment I started reading it, it has been on my mind.

Ruth Jefferson is the widowed mother of one teenage son, Edison. Her husband died during his second tour of duty in Afghanistan. She is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital. A highly skilled nurse with more than twenty years experience.

While doing a regular check-up on a newborn baby, Ruth notices the mother and father glaring at her. She also notices a tattoo on the father’s arm. It’s a tattoo of a Confederate flag. Only a few minutes later, Ruth is told by her supervisor that she’s been reassigned and she’s not to touch the Bauer baby. She finds out that the parents are white supremacists and they don’t want, Ruth, who is African-American, anywhere near their baby.

The next day at the hospital Ruth happens to be alone in the hospital nursery when the Bauer baby goes into cardiac distress. Ruth has not idea what to do. Does she obey the orders she’s been given? Or should she intervene to help the baby who’s clearly in need of help?

The story is told from three points of view. The nurse (Ruth), the public defender (Kennedy), and the white supremacist father (Turk).

What Ruth does and doesn’t do ends up with her being brought up on serious charges. Kennedy McQuarrie is the white public defender that takes her case. But Ruth doesn’t know if she can trust her. Can Kennedy possibly ever understand what life is like for Ruth? They will need to work together. Can Ruth let go of some of the control she’s held tightly to all of her life but still say what she really feels? Will Kennedy be able to face the things she learns not only about others but also about herself?

As the trial also plays out in the media it starts to affect Ruth’s son. Edison struggles with comments made to him in regards to the color of his skin. Some of these comments hurt even more because they are coming from life-long friends. Ruth’s son is an honours student that has always stayed out of trouble. But will what’s happening with his mother derail all of his plans?

When I read the first sentence from Turk’s point of view, I instantly hated him. I thought there was no way I would find anything redeeming in this character. We read a lot about Turk’s upbringing. How he got involved with “The Movement” and the horrible things he had done. We also learn how him and his wife, Brittany met and the life they lived.

This book took me about a week to read. Not because I didn’t have time but because I just found it very hard to read at times. The time spent reading Turk’s point of view were anxiety inducing. I just couldn’t understand such an extreme hatred. It made me angry, sad, and uncomfortable. But maybe that’s a good thing?

A quote from the author’s note…

“I wrote it because I believed it was the right thing to do, and because the things that make us most uncomfortable are the things that teach us what we all need to know”

I had many conversations with my daughter, mother and friends about racism and racism awareness while reading this book. So many things I didn’t even realize that still go on. Not all white supremacists walk around with shaved heads and tattoos letting us know what they stand for. Now they have the internet to network and have learned to hide in plain sight and that is beyond terrifying.

I thought this book was very well written. It was easy to follow the alternating points of view and the characters were so well-developed. As usual I can tell how much research went into this book. Jodi Picoult never ceases to amaze me with how she can both entertain and teach me with her books.

There’s so much more I want to say but I will stop here. Although “Small Great Things” is tough to read at times, I think it’s an important read and I highly recommend it.

Thank you to NetGalley, Ballantine Books, and Jodi Picoult for an advanced copy of this novel that I received in exchange for my honest review.

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Review – I Let You Go

I Let You GoI Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

First Published November 9, 2014

Sphere

 

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Published (re-released) May 3, 2016
Berkley

5 out of 5 stars!!

WOW!

I just finished this book about 10 minutes ago and I’m very impressed. I’m also very tired as it’s now after 5am! I will be so very tired today but it is totally worth it!!

I have so many good books that I want to read right now. I keep adding to my collection faster than I’m reading. I’ve gotten into a bad habit of reading a couple of pages of new books and forgetting which one I wanted to read next. Because of that this novel had been forgotten about until today. When I picked it up again today I did find it a little bit hard to get into at first but once I was a little ways in I was hooked!

Jenna the main character is desperate to escape from her past after a tragic hit-and-run accident destroys her life. Feeling lost she finds her way to a small Welsh community where she attempts to pick up the pieces and start anew. She is haunted by her fear and grief. Memories pulling her back and forcing her to face things that cannot be ignored. Investigator Ray Stevens and his team work hard to seek justice for a mother who is living every parent’s worst nightmare.

This psychological thriller had me captivated and I really was unable to put it down until I finished it. An emotional plot with a huge twist that snuck right up on me making my heart jump into my throat. Completely changed the dynamic of the story and then another twist that I never expected. Many great characters that are very well-developed. Jenna is haunting and felt very authentic as did many of the characters. This novel clearly shows how in one moment an unexpected tragedy can occur leaving many people devastated.

I think I’ll stop there as I don’t want to give anything away. This was such a great debut novel and I’m excited to read more from Clare Mackintosh!!

Highly recommended!!!

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Review – Give it Back

Give It BackGive It Back by Danielle Esplin

Published April 7, 2016

 

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I was contacted by Danielle Esplin, who generously offered to send me a copy of her debut novel in exchange for an honest review, I was quite happy. I already had the book on my “to be read” shelf and was really looking forward to reading it.

“Give it Back” follows the lives of three characters. Lorraine, Lexy, and Ella are all connected in some way and all of them have secrets.

The story begins as Lorraine’s sister, Ella is getting ready to go see her. Lorraine is dealing with some serious medical issues and Ella knows she should be there for her sister and her two nephews.

Lorraine is divorced. She was devastated after her husband, Craig left her for Martha, his mistress. Now Martha lives with Craig in the beautiful home that Lorraine designed for HER family. Lorraine and Craig share custody of their sixteen year old son, Logan. Lorraine also has another child, a son with ex-boyfriend, Robert. However, Robert is not involved in his son’s life at all. So life definitely hasn’t been easy for Lorraine lately, and unfortunately things are about to get a whole lot worse.

Due to her health issues, and the fact that Sam is still a baby, Lorraine hires an Au pair from London named Lexy to help take care of Sam. At first, Lorraine thinks Lexy is a godsend. She helps out with the baby, Sam and even helps out with Lorraine’s other son, Logan. However, becoming an Au pair isn’t the only reason she came to Seattle. Lexy has secrets…many secrets.

Ella arrives in Seattle and has many questions for her sister. But Lorraine doesn’t seem to be able to give Ella the answers she needs. When she does tell Ella something, she often changes her story later.

Now two people have gone missing, and the investigation is sure to bring some if not all of these secrets to light. Some of the people involved will stop at nothing to keep that from happening. Everyone has a lot to lose if their secrets come out.

I thought that “Give It Back” was quite an interesting book. The plot was compelling and I enjoyed the many twists and turns throughout the book. The point of view alternated between the three main characters. The dated chapters helped with keeping track. However, I did have to pay close attention to the time-frames. I found that I had to flip back and forth a bit as I wasn’t always sure who was speaking and if it was the past or present. But for the most part it didn’t interfere with my overall enjoyment of the book.

Now I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the ending. I’m not sure if I completely understand it….and maybe the author wanted it that way. Or maybe there is a book two that will answer some of the questions I have? I guess I will just have to wait and see!

“Give it Back” is a very good psychological suspense novel. A debut novel with a strong plot line and well-developed characters. I look forward to reading more from this author.

Thank you, Danielle Esplin for sending me this book in exchange for my honest review.

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