“Girl in Pieces” Book Review


Cutting is a fence you build upon your own body to keep people out but then you cry to be touched. But the fence is barbed.” Girl in Pieces

Author: Kathleen Glasgow

Publisher: Random House US

Type: Young Adult, Mental Health, Advanced Readers Copy

Rating: 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸 out of 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

Synopsis:

Kathleen Glasgow’s début novel Girl in Pieces is a first person narrative which tells of teen Charlotte “Charlie” Davis whose life is in shambles. At the age of seventeen Charlie is: homeless, a cutter, has a best friend who will spend the rest of her life in a vegetative state, a mother who doesn’t want her, a father who is dead and currently residing in a mental institution. Charlie is a seventeen year old who is broken in more ways than one can count; yet, despite being broken, the reader can’t help but root for her to find a way through her pain and to come out a stronger person on the other end.

When the book opens, Charlie is lying on a hospital lawn reflecting upon the stars shining down upon her: I remember the stars that night. They were like salt against the sky, like someone spilled the shaker against very dark cloth. As the blood seeps out of her veins, Charlie’s story is only just beginning. Over the next first third of the book, the reader is taken within the walls of the mental hospital Charlie finds herself in following a cutting experience which was in fact a suicide attempt. Here, amongst other teenage girls who are dealing with their own forms of addictions, from alcohol and drug abuse to self-mutilation, Charlie begins to take her first steps towards acknowledgment of who she is, where she has been, her experiences and finally to begins to see a way to move forward.

Following Charlie’s stint in the hospital where she meets others who are similar to her, she is discharged and finds herself leaving the cold and pain of Michigan for the warmth and sunny sky of Tucson, Arizona. Arriving in Tucson, Charlie finds work as a dishwasher in a restaurant  along with an apartment. As Charlie fights to remain sober and not to give in to the need to cut, she enters into what evolves into a toxic relationship with one of her coworkers,  Riley, a once famous musician who lost his way to drug abuse. Although the reader can argue that Charlie and Riley love one another and want to save each other, ultimately their relationship fails and they find that they are unable to save the other without first saving themselves.

The final part of the book, can be viewed as a rebirth for Charlie. Like the phoenix rising from its own ashes, Charlie falls and yet is able to climb her way out of the inferno. With the help of her friends and her art, Charlie finally comes to understand what she needs in order to survive and have fulfilling relationships.

Thoughts:

I was extremely fortunate enough to receive and advance readers copy of this book from Random House Children’s Books and I can’t begin to thank them for giving me the opportunity to read this emotionally charged book. From the description of the book and comparisons to 13 Reasons Why and Girl, Interrupted (both of which are stories that I thoroughly enjoyed), I couldn’t help but be intrigued and slightly skeptical about this new young adult story by a début author. Luckily, I need not have been so skeptical as the book was everything I could have hoped for and so much more.

This was a book that I found hard to put down as I recognized that the story was not only tragic and heartbreaking, but beautifully written and one that needed to be told. Although Charlie is a very flawed character and there were times that I wanted to reach out and shake her while yelling “What the hell do you think you’re doing?!?”; I couldn’t help but feel empathy for Charlie, a young woman who had been without any kind of affection for so long that it was the physical pain she brought on herself that allowed her a way to cope with her feelings of worthlessness.

Girl in Pieces is a human story that tells of the darker side of humanity, the story that many in society do not want to acknowledge exists or is even possible. It serves as a harsh reminder that there are teens in this world who are dealing with very real pain who believe that they have nowhere to turn other than to harm themselves in some physical way. In the publisher’s letter to me, they said that Girl in Pieces is “a haunting, beautiful, and necessary book that will stay with you long after you’ve read the last page.” I have to say that I agree with the publisher, I have already recommended it to my book club (a group of women where ages range from 22-80s) as well as other friends. It’s a book that I have yet to stop thinking about, despite having finished it five days ago. The story is raw and emotional and will definitely remain with me for a long time to come.

Girl in Pieces will be published in the United States on August 30, 2016.

 

“Girl Against the Universe” Book Review


Author: Paula Stokes

Type: Young Adult

Rating: 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸 out of 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

Synopsis:

Some people seem to have all the luck. They’re the ones who win sporting competitions with what looks to be no effort, always ace the test, receive two items out of the vending machine for the price of one, and find money lying on the side of the street. The average person has neither a high amount of good or bad luck, rather life that goes along as it’s going to. Then there’s Maguire, the protagonist of Paula Stokes’ newest young adult novel, Girl Against the Universe. Maguire is the poster child for bad luck for bad luck seems to follow her everywhere she goes like a faithful dog, despite all the good luck charms she buys and rituals she follows.

Maguire traces the start of her bad luck back to when she was a young girl and the sole survivor of a car crash that took the lives of her father, brother and uncle; a car accident which she walked away from with barely a scratch. Since the car crash, Maguire has managed to escape: food poisoning at a slumber party, a roller coaster going off its tracks and injuring the other riders and her neighbors house catching on fire. Having escaped all of these events with little to no damage to herself, Maguire has come to the conclusion that she is bad luck and needs to do all she can to limit other people’s exposure to herself.

With the start of the new school year, at a new school, Maguire finds herself trying to overcome her fears and experience more in life with the help of newfound friends, especially the ever stubborn Jordy who is convinced that he can help Maguire break her unlucky streak.

Thoughts:

From the moment I receive an email with tracking information for the shipment of my Uppercase Box, it’s all I can do not to check the tracking of the box every hour. Having seen that my book subscription had been delivered to the mailbox one afternoon in May, I immediately jumped up and headed out the door to retrieve my package so as to discover what that month’s book would be. Having torn open the package and retrieved the book, I proceeded to read the description before even looking at the other items included with the book. As I read the book jacket, I was immediately intrigued and excited to read this book for I recognized that it was not only a unique story but that it would make one think about the different ways humans find to cope after tragedy.

Unlike Maguire, I have never been the sole survivor of a car accident, been in a roller coaster crash, attended a slumber party where everyone but me got food poisoning and I’ve never had my neighbors house catch on fire. I have however been in a restaurant eating lunch when there was a gas leak and the building exploded with myself and others still inside. Like Maguire, I walked out of the building physically unharmed, while others who had been in the restaurant did experience injuries and have to be taken to the hospital. Reading of Maguire’s experiences and the resulting survivor’s guilt and anxiety in public places which resulted, I found that I was able to empathize and even relate to many of the feelings Maguire was dealing with. It was because of similar shared feelings following a tragedy that I enjoyed the book as much as I did, even going so far as to read the book cover to cover in one sitting.

Just like attending therapy for myself following my own experience helped me to learn to cope with and deal with what I lived through, Paula Stokes’ book also helped with my ever continuing healing process. It helped to remind me that I will never forget what it was like to be in that situation and to think back on the what ifs; to have moments of anxiety when I experience something that reminds me of the sights, sounds or smells of the explosion; and that to still dream about and occasionally have flashbacks to that day are normal and part of the healing process. Girl Against the Universe reinforced that despite the horrific memories that with the help of family and friends, I can continue to not only move forward, but that I don’t have to fear that anytime I leave the house I’m going to have a similar experience. It’s okay for me to eat in restaurants, it’s okay for me to be in public places, and not every work crew I see is going to mistakenly cut the gas line and cause an explosion.

 

“Scarlett (A Creepy Hollow Story)” Review


Author: Rachel Morgan

Type: Young Adult, Fantasy, Short Story

Rating: 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸 out of 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

Synopsis:

Scarlett tells the story of sixteen-year-old Beth, a young girl who is living a rather ordinary and somewhat mundane life. Beth finds herself exhilarated to celebrate her one year anniversary with her boyfriend Jack, with a new dress and feeling more beautiful than she ever has before, Beth knows that tonight will be the perfect night spent with her boyfriend whom she loves. Unfortunately for Beth, things do not go as she had planned. After almost killing her boyfriend, Beth flees to the fae realm to track down her siren mother in hopes that her mother will be able to help her control her newly awakened siren powers.

Sadly, Beth finds herself cast out by her mother as it turns out her powers are different from a true siren’s power and as a result uncontrollable. Afraid of her new powers and of having harmed her boyfriend, Beth finds herself in the Dark North where she takes up residence with a group of witches who claim to be able to help her not only gain control of her powers, but to also learn the full extent of the power within her and how to wield the.

Assuming the name of Scarlett, Beth learns that not only is she powerful and deadly beyond anyone’s imaginings, but of a world that she never knew existed and of her place within that realm.

Thoughts:

When Rachel Morgan announced at the beginning of the month that she had written a companion story about her beautiful and unique siren character, Scarlett, I immediately bought and downloaded it as soon as it was available. The Creepy Hollow Series quickly became a favorite series for me from the moment I read The Faerie Guardian, and I was beyond happy to finally get to learn more about Scarlett, a character who was first introduced in the first book and makes appearances throughout the series in different contexts.

I have always found Scarlett to be a complex and hard to crack character, whom I never believed to be truly evil. It was nice to read of Scarlett and to have an insight into who she really is, as she is definitely one of the more mysterious characters within the books. Reading this makes me want to go back and read the series all over again from the beginning as I believe I would view Scarlett with new eyes now that I know more of where she came from.

Rachel Morgan has done a wonderful job of continuing the expansion of her storyline with books that are not only beautifully written, but that are fully engrossing and hard to set down until the last page has been read. This was definitely a welcome read to help tide me over until A Faerie’s Curse, the sixth book in the series is released next month.

 

“The Care and Feeding of an Independent Bookstore: Three Instructive Essays” Review

“Consumers control the marketplace by deciding where to spend their money. If what a bookstore offers matters to you, then shop at a bookstore. If you feel that the experience of reading a book is valuable, then read the book. This is how we change the world: we grab hold of it. We change ourselves.”

― Ann Patchett, bestselling author and co-owner of Parnassus Books

Author: Ann Patchett

Publisher: California Bookstore Day Publishing

Type: Essay, Non-Fiction

Rating: 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸 out of 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

This past Saturday, April 30, 2016 was one of my favorite days of the year, Independent Bookstore Day. For those who don’t know, Independent Bookstore Day is a day where those who love books and bookstores, are able to show their love and appreciation by celebrating and supporting their local Independent Bookstore, and in turn supporting their community by shopping local. This year marked the second year of what will undoubtedly become a yearly event, and dare I say it, a holiday within the book community. As with last years event, a variety of limited edition items were available on this day as long as supplies lasted. Among these items were literary tea towels, posters and even books, including the one I am showcasing in this post.

The Care and Feeding of an Independent Bookstore: Three Instructive Essays by Ann Patchett was a cute little autographed book that was available for $6. I went into this day knowing that aside from the Neil Gaiman Coloring Book, that I wanted this book despite not knowing what it was about. Why did I want this little $6 book of essays when I knew nothing of its contents? One simple reason, the dachshund on the front. It had to be a must read for any dachshund lover and dachshund Mom such as myself.

After a successful shopping trip at my favorite Denver independent bookstore, The Tattered Cover, I returned home and proceeded to home with my haul. Curling up on the couch with my dog, Ripley, I set aside my other book so as to delve into this little read and find out why there was a dachshund on the cover of a book about independent bookstores. What I found within the pages was a rather interesting and engrossing story of how author Ann Patchett found herself co-owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee, and the bits of information she has picked up along the way since becoming and independent bookstore owner.

In the first essay, The Bookstore Strikes Back, which first appeared in The Atlantic, tells of how after the last remaining bookstores in Nashville closed in 2010 and 2011, the city found itself without a local bookstore in the town. Although community forums were held to discuss what could be done to fill this void, none of the suggestions caught on with the community and this led to Ann Patchett considering opening a bookstore of her own. It was with an introduction to Karen Hayes, Ann Patchett’s future co-owner and business partner, that the ball began rolling. Despite constant feedback from the media that bookstores were dying and in another decade would cease to exist all together, Patchett and Hayes persevered and before they knew it, Parnassus Books had opened and was a success, Nashville once again had a bookstore in its town.

The second essay, Things No One Told Me About Owning a Bookstore, is where I finally received the answer to my question in regards to the dachshund on the cover. In this essay, Patchett discusses the little intricacies she had never thought of when it came to actually owning a bookstore: such as the group of employees who would come to be like a family that celebrated one another’s highs, lows, successes and set-backs; the customers who shop at and support the bookstore and become such regulars that the staff is comes to know their reading preferences and are better able to make recommendations; the fellow authors and friends of Patchett who visit her store while either on book tours or in town visiting; and the dogs which have come to be a staple and mascots of the bookstore, including a dachshund named Mary Todd Lincoln who even has her own Instagram account. It was this second essay which solidified in my mind that my next trip to Nashville needs to include a visit to Parnassus Books in order to meet the dogs, specifically the dachshund Mary Todd Lincoln.

The final essay, Booksellers Love to Recommend Books (It’s Who We Are), is nothing more than a list of Ann Patchett’s 52 favorite books from the year she turned 52. Of these 52 books, I myself have read only 4; I did however find an additional 9 books on the list that have peaked my interest and I now plan on reading at some point in time.

All three essays combined, made the perfect little read to cap off the success of my shopping trip on Independent Bookstore Day. It is my hope that future Independent Bookstore Days will feature more little books of essays and musings from authors who are involved in the support of the Indie Bookstore.

 

“Solstice” Book Review

Author: Jane Redd

Publisher: Kindle Press

Type: Young Adult, Dystopia, Science Fiction

Rating: 🌸  🌸  🌸  🌸 . 5 out  of  🌸  🌸  🌸  🌸  🌸 

Synopsis:

Beginning in the mid- 21st century, Earth began to experience non-stop rainfall throughout the planet. As the world became flooded, civil unrest broke out throughout the world and a new form of government rose to power, the Legislature. Instilling new rules, citizens were implanted with Harmony chips to suppress their emotions in the hope that society would create expert scientists who could figure out a way to stop the rain and save humanity.

Fast-forward to the time our story takes place, approximately 40 years after the start of the rains, and we are introduced to Jezebel “Jez”  James. Jez is unique in that her Harmony implant has never worked, resulting her having to learn at an early age how to control and hide her emotions in order to complete her mission in life. Jez has been tasked with doing all she can to make it to University, become a scientist and to implement the secret plan, as given to her by her by her caretakers, to stop the rain and flooding before it destroys the last remnants of the plant and to restart civilization.

With entrance into the University within her grasp, Jez finds her world breaking down around her as she falls under the scrutiny of the Legislature. Unsure of what’s real or whom to trust, Jez must walk a fine line if she has any hope of learning the truth and completing her mission.

Thoughts:

The book started off a bit slow for me, hence the rating, and I even thought that Solstice was going to end up being either a low rating for me, or a did not finish. I am so glad I pushed through the slow start because once Jez got into trouble and sent to prison, I found that the story finally began to take off. The more I read, the harder it became for me to put the book down. I just had to know what happened next.

The cliffhanger ending has left me shouting “What?! That’s the end?! But what happens next and more importantly what is going on?!” This is all in reaction to the two male leads in Jez’s life: her friend, and secret crush, from high school; and Rueben, the boy she met in prison, who like her is immune to the Harmony Chip. Sol has always looked out for Jez, even getting sent to detention in hopes of keeping her safe; he can also be seen as being just as much to blame for the trouble Jez finds herself in due to his constant sharing of “forbidden” information about the time before. Even at the end of the book, I still find myself questioning if Sol is immune to the Harmony Chip and who’s side is he really on. While Rueben is presented as a more honest and open character, I find him and his motives questionable.

The story is to be continued in Book Two, Lake Town. At the moment there is no release date for the second book, but I’m hoping by the end of this year. My hopes for the second book is: to find out more about the events in the Before time that led to the current state of the government and society and of course to find out what is going on with Sol and Rueben and for their secrets to fully come to light, for I know they’re each hiding things from Jez; and, on a lesser level to see if what I see as a potential love triangle is going to manifest or just remain a desire of my bookworm heart.

I received a free ebook copy from Inspired Kathy page on Goodreads in exchange for an honest review.

Check out this book on Goodreads: Solstice http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20387343-solstice

“Green Island” Book Review

Author: Shawna Yang Ryan

Publisher: Knopf

Type: Historical Fiction

Rating: 🌸🌸🌸. 5 out of 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸  

Synopsis and Thoughts:

Green Island opens with the events leading up to the February 28, 1947 uprising in Taipei which led to decades of martial law in Taiwan. As the streets of Taipei erupt into riots and murder, Dr. Tsai finds himself having to deliver his youngest daughter with the aid of his oldest daughter. Over the course of the next few weeks following the unnamed narrator’s birth, Dr. Tsai is taken from his home and imprisoned for more than a decade. With no memory of her father and her only true knowledge of him coming from family stories and a picture in a frame, it is more than a decade before Dr. Tsai finally manages to make his way home to his family.

Haunted by what he experienced while in prison, and the knowledge that he is still being watched by members of the government, the narrator comes to understand that her father not only is her father not crazy and imagining things, but that her father’s troubles follow her through adolescence and eventually to the United States where she has married another Taiwanese and begun a family. As the world moves into the decades of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States and the Vietnam War, the citizens of Taiwan continue to live under martial law and the underground organization fights to turn Taiwan into a democracy. With her husband placing their family’s lives in danger, the narrator is faced with the difficult decision of whether it’s better to aid her husband and his cause, or to help the government in order to curry favors for her family both in the United States and at home in Taiwan. As she ponders what to do, knowing full well her every move is being watched, she reflects on the fact that:

The loss of freedom isn’t a restriction of movement; it’s the unending feeling of being watched.

I received an ARC of this from the publisher as part of Penguin’s First to Read Program, after reading the synopsis I decided to give it a try as it covers a rather large and pivotal span in world history that I knew nothing about. As I read of the events leading up to the 228 Massacre, an event which I knew nothing about, I was reminded, yet again, that my knowledge of Asian history is seriously lacking and I need to work on rectifying that. It was heartbreaking to read of all the families that were torn apart by the government, all in hopes of ridding itself of those who opposed it and its policies:

Thousands of husbands disappeared in those weeks. Sons as young as twelve. Brothers. Friends. What better way to remake society, my mother thought, than to eliminate the teachers and principals, the students, the lawyers and doctors-truly, anybody who had an opinion and a voice? Beyond the river, execution grounds, field after field irrigated with blood, waited to be discovered. Buildings would crush the bones.

 

Although this was an insightful and interesting read, I found that at times the book became weighed down and I was plodding my way through it. It really wasn’t until more than halfway through the book, when the narrator is living in the United States and she is first approached by Mr. Liu to provide information to the Taiwanese government about any plans those who wish to overthrow the current structure, such as her husband, that I finally found myself at that point where I didn’t want to put the book down because I had to know what happened next. Not that I wasn’t interested in the events which took place earlier in the book, but I found myself absorbed and appealed by the fact that the Taiwanese government followed it’s former citizens to the United States and continued to spy on and threaten them with no recourse from the United States government.

I came to not only love these characters but to fear for them and what would happen if any of them were to step out of line. Shawna Yang Ryan has written a beautifully descriptive story in which the reader feels the humidity, fear, love and loss of the characters within it’s pages. I look forward to reading other books by this author, as well as to conducting some of my own research into the events discussed in the book.

“House of Leaves” Book Review

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Author: Mark Z. Danielewski

Publisher: Random House

Type: Horror, Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery

Rating: 🌸 🌸 🌸 🌸 out of 🌸 🌸 🌸 🌸 🌸

Synopsis and Thoughts:

A few months ago I got together with some of my sorority sisters for brunch. Over our plates of eggs, pancakes and salads; as almost always happens, our conversation turned to that of books. The discussion started out with talk about our book club and what books we were looking forward to reading, to book recommendations to one another. It was my friend Shannon who suggested I read House of Leaves as she knows that not only am I an avid bookworm, but a lover of the horror genre in both literature and film. Agreeing that Danielewski’s story of a house that is bigger on the inside with unknown monsters in its dark depths was something right up my alley, I immediately placed it only to be read list on Goodreads.

About a month later, I found myself at the Tattered Cover Bookstore when I came across a copy of the book on the shelf. Squealing with delight, my mother came over to find what I had found that had made me so excited. As I showed her the book and some of the pages IMG_1024 to better display the unique way in which Danielewski crafted his story, I told her that the book had been recommended to me over brunch. I immediately purchased the book with a plan to take it with me on my upcoming trip to Hawaii, as it would be perfect to read on a long flight and while relaxing on the beach.

I did in fact take this book with me on my vacation and began to delve into it, a reading venture which would end up taking me a little over two months to read as it is a rather hefty tome to make one’s way through. IMG_1022

Having finally completed House of Leaves two days into the New Year, I have to say that I my sorority sister Shannon was right that this was a book I would enjoy. I loved both the story of the family and the events which unfold while they are living in a unique and horrific house, as well as the truly creative way in which Danielewski wrote this story. Once I got into the flow of the book and used to having to read the footnotes, go forwards and backwards in the book and turn the book every which way in order to continue reading the story, for there were times when I thought I would never finish it; I persevered and am so happy that I did for I feel as though I really accomplished something. House of Leaves is a book that not every reader would be able to get through nor is it something that would appeal to every bookworm.

The only reason why I didn’t give this a full five out of five rating is because of the very end of the book. I found that the poems at the very end didn’t fit into the flow of the rest of the story. I also felt that the letters from Johnny’s mom to him would’ve been better placed throughout the story to coincide with when the reader first read about Johnny’s childhood, rather than have them all at the end one after the other; granted the inclusion of the letters and all of them coming one after another did help to better illustrate just how fractured her mind was and the delusions she suffered from.

Despite these few items which failed to fully satisfy me, I was pleasantly surprised by just how much I enjoyed reading this and I am even entertaining reading Danielewski’s One Rainy Day in May (The Familiar, #1), another book which is just as hefty and intricately written of a story.