Monday, April 28, 2014

How Not to Calm a Child on a Plane

How Not to Calm a Child on a Plane by Johanna Stein
Da Capo Press: 4/29/2014
ebook, 256 pages
ISBN-13: 9780738217345


Looking for the perfect book to help you survive childbirth and parenting with your sanity intact?
Look elsewhere.
For Johanna Stein (writer/comedian/forward/slash/abuser and occasionally neurotic/immature/way-too-candid mom), parenting is an extreme sport. Her stories from the trenches may not always be shared experiences—Have you ever wondered if your baby's "soft spot" is like a delete key? Trained your preschooler for a zombie invasion? Accused a nearly nude stranger of being pregnant? Made sweet, bimonthly love to your spouse while your toddler serenaded you through the adjoining wall? Attempted to calm your screaming baby on an airplane with a hand puppet, only to have it lead to one of the most disgusting experiences of your life?—but they will always make you laugh.
So, no, this book won't teach you how to deal with nipple blisters or Oedipal complexes. But if you want to learn why you should never attempt to play a practical joke in the hospital delivery room, then you're in the right place.

My Thoughts:

How Not to Calm a Child on a Plane by Johanna Stein is a highly recommended and hilarious look at parenting young children.

Through 25 chapters and two appendices Stein will have you rolling with laughter and occasionally groaning with disgust in How Not to Calm a Child on a Plane. This is a look at having that first child and then parenting through the first few years. I firmly believe that you need to have had a child before reading this book. At that point you are going to fully appreciate most of the humor which is geared especially toward parents of young children.
 

For example:
"They call the first three months of a baby’s life 'the fourth trimester.' I call it the apocalypse. There is so much sleeplessness and tears and vomit and random bodily fluids projecting themselves skyward—it’s the third circle of hell, and it smells like the inside of a Lollapalooza porta-potty." Location 176
"Look, I understand that it’s 'illegal' to duct tape a pacifier to a baby’s face. Fine. But we can’t even glue it to her hand? Since when are we living in a fascist state?!" Location 1769
"You just don’t realize the absolute power of your baby’s cry until you willfully ignore it. Nature knew what it was doing when it picked that particular combination of sounds (pathetic, indignant, and loud) that tug at something deep within me, somewhere between my cervix and my spleen." Location 759

There are other humorous comments that everyone can appreciate. "Who am I to judge? If somebody filmed all of my questionable life moments and then edited them together, the resulting movie would be about three hours shorter than my actual life span." Location 946  

I loved the chapter "Operation Fight the Pink" where Stein decrees that her daughter will not be defined by the color pink, never be allowed to dress like a Disney princess, and will be exposed to gender neutral activities. I especially loved:
"4. My child will be a survivor—I don’t just mean metaphorically; she must be able to handle herself in an apocalypse (zombie or otherwise). This means that when fully grown, she must be strong enough to carry me (anywhere between 130–200 pounds; I will do my best to keep it on the low end, but you know . . . metabolism) and demonstrate a basic understanding of electricity, chemistry, several martial arts, weapons handling, and some emergency medical training. She must also know how to use a chain saw." Location 1187
The conclusion is that despite her best attempts her daughter is a Barbie-playing, jewelry-loving pretty pink princess so she has to abandon the Operation Fight the Pink campaign.

Another great chapter was the list of "29 Things I Have Lost since Becoming a Parent," (Location 1413) which includes things like:
2. Bladder control when I sneeze, laugh, do jumping jacks, or stand up from a seated position.
6. The ability to stay awake in a movie theater. Or while watching a TV show after six o’clock. Or while reading an e-mail. Or right now . . .
13. Patience for the sound of adults whining, after twenty seconds.
22. My belief that children can be “molded” into anything other than who they intrinsically are.
23. An argument with another new mom—a close friend—over the use of baby leashes.
24. My friendship with that mom.
27. The illusion that anything in life is guaranteed.

How about Ways in Which My Preschooler Has Insulted Me:
Location 2217
Mommy, your tummy looks like a bagel
Don't sing anymore, mommy. It makes my ears hurt.
Mommy, are you going to make yourself pretty today, or are you going to look like you always do?
You have a lot of hairs on your face. Is that a mustache or a beard?
Which one is oldest: Grandma, Grandpa, or you?

I enjoyed this book, but with a note of caution: it does contain some colorful language and some adult situations are discussed.


Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Da Capo Press via Netgalley for review purposes.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Unraveling of Reverend G

The Unraveling of Reverend G by RJ Thesman
Crossriver Media Group; 6/23/2012
Trade Paperback,  206 pages
ISBN13: 9781936501106
rjthesman.net

When Reverend G hears the devastating diagnosis - dementia with the possibility of early-onset Alzheimer's - she struggles with the pain of forgetting those she loves and the fear of losing her connection with God. With the help of her friends at the assisted living facility, Bert, a farmer from Oklahoma, Roxie, the stressed-out activities director and Gabriel, a cat with the gift of forecasting death, she soon discovers there's humor to be found in forgetting part of the Lord's Prayer, finding her iron in the freezer and losing a half-gallon of ice cream. And she discovers that while the question she wants to ask is, 'Why, ' the answer really is, 'Who.'

My Thoughts:

The Unraveling of Reverend G by RJ Thesman follows sixty two year old Reverend G (short for Gertrude) as she retires from the ministry and enters an assisted living facility. Reverend G has noticed she is forgetting more and more words and events but her doctor has confirmed her suspicions. She is in the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer's.  With help from her son, Jacob, and daughter-in-law she is selling all her household goods and moving into Cove Creek, an assisted living facility.

Reverend G. is struggling with trusting the Lord in all things and finding significance in her new life while allowing Jacob to handle the details of her physical transition. She asks the Lord "Show me, Lord. As long as some of my brain cells operate, please let me be an example of your love. Do not let me waste away into oblivion or forget who you are. Do not let me lose your voice." (Page 35)

As she struggles to find a place in her new life, she continues her conversation with God and suddenly comes to a realization that "Perhaps God sent me to Cove Creek to share his love. How many other residents lay awake tonight, wondering about their children or dreading those last moments before death? Perhaps my purpose here was to listen, to be a friend, a confidante." (Page 63) It also is clear that she needs to grieve the loss of her old life and the changes her diagnosis has inflicted upon her.

But mostly, as Reverend G makes her way through her new life meeting her cat, Gabriel, and embracing the new ministry opportunities before her, she realizes that she needs to continue to give thanks to God in all things.

This is a inspirational celebration of this difficult time in her life as Reverend G. talks to God and truly has to rely on her years of faith and Bible memorization to make her way through her new life and home with grace and dignity. Her ability to rely on her faith and what she does remember from her years of memorizing the Bible proves that she can still minister to others, that God can still use her, even while she is in a crisis of her own and forgetting more and more. She discovers that God is not through with her yet and that she still has a ministry even during this season of her life.

The Unraveling of Reverend G is a highly recommended Christian book that guarantees a great appeal to many woman of faith. Although it has a simplistic writing style and plot, this makes it readily accessible to minister and give encouragement to a large number of women. This is not a difficult book to read so Reverend G's journey is easy to follow. Reverend G is the very definition of an optimist in many ways. I found The Unraveling of Reverend G a bit overly sweet and perhaps not completely realistic, especially the ending.  I do think many women will find it uplifting and inspirational because she relies heavily on her faith throughout the whole book and never descends into self-pity or bitterness.

This Intermission for Reverend G, released April 21, 2014, is the second book in the proposed three book series featuring Reverend G.  The Unraveling of Reverend G was a finalist for the Grace Awards 2012 Women's Fiction.


Disclosure: My paperback edition was courtesy of the author for review purposes.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

What Remains

What Remains by Kay Holland
Indie Inked; 9/21/13
Kindle Edition, 141 pages
ASIN-B00FCOE7X0
Dead World #1
Project Fed. It was supposed to be the answer to hunger, but instead, it was the destruction of the world as we knew it. The growth of chemically enhanced "super" fruits and vegetables began in unmarked farms across the Nations, as well as their distribution in small towns. Within hours of Project Fed's first delivery and primary consumption, something far beyond expectancy was unleashed. Something far beyond what anyone could help.
Four months later, Seventeen year old Max Cade is trying to survive amongst what remains of her old life. In an effort to escort an awry "Doctor" from one camp to the next, she will have to reintroduce her two young friends to the horrors beyond their shelter that she so badly wanted to shield them from. Getting there was supposed to be the easy part, but when travelling through a world of ruin, sometimes the undead have other plans.
My Thoughts:

What Remains by Kay Holland is a teen zombie novel. If you crave yet another teen zombie novel you might like it. I don't and didn't.

Max is a 17 year old young woman who is babysitting 13 year old Peter when:
"What looked to be an emergency broadcasting began to flicker away and the screen turned into static. Max raised an eyebrow, 'Peter?'
The dark haired boy turned his head and grinned at her, 'Have you watched the news lately? There’s this weird sickness spreading. It’s making people act all crazy.'”

Peter continues: “My dad’s been trying to train me for this since I was nine; he said it was the apocalypse. He has a binder full of newspaper clippings that he showed me. They are signs of the virus, happening in small places but going unnoticed. My dad told me we had to be ready, but my mom told me not to listen to him.” Suddenly, Max recalled Peter mentioning this once before.

The sickness is a disease that makes people insane and cannibalistic. Peter's father told him that the apocalypse was coming and he told him what to do when it happened, and Peter is prepared, so Max and Peter are ready to escape when the crazy old lady from next door goes zombie and tries to kill them.  They evade her hunger, save another teenage girl, and luckily Peter has a map telling them where to go -  the LTA Hangar in Tustin. Then the novel jumps 4 months ahead.

The writing is so-so. The plot is so-so. About a third of the way through I had to abandon What Remains. It simply wasn't worth my time. I think that a good zombie novel can still be written even with the glut in the market but this one isn't it. Sorry but I can't recommend this one.


Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of the author via Netgalley for review purposes.

Death Below Zero

Death Below Zero by Richard Anderson
BearCat Press: 12/1/2013
ebook, 334 pages
ISBN-13: 9781937356347


Nick Rezkel lost his PI license in a case that went sideways. Turned out catching the killer wasn't enough. Now he's on the Alaska Pipeline, working seven tens out in the minus 70 wind chill. Yet, there are compensations. Nick finds a new girlfriend with a quick tongue and a killer body. Life feels sweet despite his boss' threats to fire him. Then, everything gets serious. He finds a dead man, a heap of cocaine dissolving in his pooled blood. State troopers are convinced Nick stabbed the guy. Now, it's up to him to escape and clear his name.

My Thoughts:

Death Below Zero by Richard Anderson is a recommended detective novel for those who don't mind the drugs and moral lassitude.

Nick Rezkel is a washed-up PI who is currently working on the pipeline in Prudhoe, Alaska in the 1970's. The construction camps "had constant cocaine with plenty more down along the pipeline. The construction camps were hard and strange places, with a lot of cash floating around and Arctic bozos going nuts in the corners." (Location 114) Nick has a smart mouth, but as the rookie on his crew he worked hard in the subzero temperatures. Then Nick manages to almost get killed, meet a girl, suspect defective materials, find a dead body, get accused of murder, get fired, and that is just the start of Nick's problems. He needs to find a way to clear his name or he's going to be the one to take the fall.

Anderson does a nice job sending Nick through several accusations, twists and turns as he's trying to save his own skin while solving the case. He also does a great job with descriptions. For example: "The North Slope stretched across a flat plain from the polar icecap eighty miles south to the Brooks Range. We were getting a dozen hours of daylight, only at that latitude the sun barely got above the horizon, shining no brighter than a full moon through the thick white haze of ice fog. Cold, dense air supported the zillions of tiny ice crystals stripped off the ground by the wind. When you looked at the sun the ice crystals blowing by glinted like sparks thrown off a huge grinder into the whiteness. The ice fog thickness cut visibility down to fifty yards. Beyond that, the ice fog merged with the ground into an obscure, impenetrable white." (Location 233)

My problem with Death Below Zero is with Nick, the main character. This is problematic in a novel written in the first person. I didn't like Nick from the start when he was all about the cocaine and being a smart alec. It just went downhill from there and I grew to like him less and less with each page. It made rating this book difficult. It's not a bad who-done-it, but my dislike of Nick made me almost hope he would fail. And... I can honestly say there wasn't one character I liked in the book.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of BearCat Press via Netgalley for review purposes


Excerpt

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Intervention: The Pandora Virus

Intervention: The Pandora Virus by WRR Munro
WRR Monro; 11/3/13
ebook, 340 pages
ASIN: B0081M5F90
wrrmunro.com
The pay’s meagre and job security’s a joke, not good in the comatose economy of 2033.
But he could never have known it'd be life threatening.
Ayden Walker turned his back on a fast tracked academic career to follow in his parents’ footsteps. As a field researcher, he does what he can to protect wilderness areas from the pressures of climate change and 8.5 billion people, and he keeps an eye on the big Pharmas gaming the system to squeeze ever more profits from their latest GM cure-alls.
Then he meets the enigmatic and strangely familiar William Hanford. William tells Ayden the truth about his parents’ genetic research all those years ago, about what they did to William… and to Ayden. And all his life, his parents kept it from him, lied to him.
Struggling to understand and forgive, Ayden digs into the past, but the trail points back to the present, to William and to his biotech company, Genenco. Could Genenco be attempting a breathtakingly bold solution to problems the world has failed to address for decades? Or is it a wildly dangerous experiment, a threat to all of humanity? Should Ayden even try to stop them? Or is the risk justified?
As he peels back the layers of deception, Ayden realises that he’s under surveillance and putting his family at risk. He’s forced into an uneasy alliance with Major Henri Soulandt of Army Military Intelligence, and together they try to discover just how far the forces behind Genenco are prepared to go. Then things get complicated. And deadly.

My Thoughts:


Intervention: The Pandora Virus by WRR Munro is a technothriller sci-fi page turner that is highly recommended for all adrenaline junkies.

In June 2011 Marc and Cate knew they were in trouble if they stayed with Gardener and his biotech company. Cate was the one who realized what was happening: "It is that bad. It’s worse. It’s not chimp, Marc. I can tell you exactly what species we have been experimenting with, and believe me, we’re in the deepest trouble imaginable.” (Location 71)
 

Marc was sure she was over reacting: “C’mon, Cate. We’re not in physical danger. Gardner may be a bit of a megalomaniac but he’s also a scientist. He’s dedicated himself to medical advancement, to helping people. He’s not a thug. He’s not going to—”
“You’ve no idea what he will or won’t do, nor do I. We had no idea how far he’d take our work.” (Location 231)
 

It soon became clear that Gardner would go to pretty drastic measures to keep his research secret.

Jumping up to 2033, Ayden Walker is a researcher trying to get data on why bees are not pollinating trees. He is head of field research for the EPA’s Bee Anomaly investigation. His team has just announced that their research is releasing "a preliminary finding, blaming an unidentified bacterium for leaving a waxy deposit on the leg hairs of the bees, which affects the ability of the hairs to collect pollen."

Ayden is anti-GMO. As he explains to a young colleague, he is against commercializing new  genetically modified organisms before they are understood. The EPA only gives them a cursory one-dimensional look at the risks, but not the complexity of interaction. He's frustrated and upset about his discoveries and an attempt by  William Hanford at Genenco, a huge biotech company,  to keep him quiet: “ Someone has released a genetically modified organism into the environment. That organism is causing—has already caused—substantial damage to the ecosystem and many millions of dollars of crop losses, soon to be billions. If your organization is involved, surely you need to think about damage control. Surely, the faster you cooperate, the better it will be for your organization, as well as for agriculture and the environment.” (Location 746)

Then Ayden is told the whole truth of his parents background - and thus his background. The question is really how much will the truth influence him, as well as how far will he go to find out who is releasing the GMO into the environment before life as we know it completely ends. And how far will William at Genenco go to keep Ayden quiet?

This is a thriller with a timely message about GMO and ecological consequences of our current practices. Whether you agree with Monro or not about his conclusions/beliefs, he has written a good thriller that is highly entertaining. I can't say the writing or character development was outstanding, but, with the exception of a few little slowdowns in the plot, Intervention starts out at a fast pace and certainly races along to the end. A perfect airplane book: lots of action and intrigue, with the added bonus that you won't be sobbing aloud during any part of it.


Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of
WRR Monro via Netgalley for review purposes.




Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Ruin Falls

Ruin Falls by Jenny Milchman
Random House: 4/22/2014
Hardcover, 352 pages
ISBN-13: 9780345549075
www.jennymilchman.com/


Liz Daniels has every reason to be happy about setting off on a rare family vacation, leaving behind her remote home in the Adirondack Mountains for a while. Instead, she feels uneasy. Her children, eight-year-old Reid and six-year-old Ally, have met their paternal grandparents only a handful of times. But Liz’s husband, Paul, has decided that, despite a strained relationship with his mother and father, they should visit the farm in western New York where he spent his childhood.
 
On their way to the farm, the family stops at a hotel for the night. In the morning, when Liz goes to check on her sleeping children, all her anxiety comes roaring back: Ally and Reed are nowhere to be found. Blind panic slides into ice-cold terror as the hours tick by without anyone finding a trace of the kids. Soon, Paul and Liz are being interviewed by police, an Amber Alert is issued, and detectives are called in.
 
Frantic worry and helplessness threaten to overtake Liz’s mind—but in a sudden, gut-wrenching instant she realizes that it was no stranger who slipped into the hotel room that night. Someone she trusted completely has betrayed her. Though she knows that Ally and Reid are safe, Liz will stop at nothing to find them and get them back. From her guarded in-laws’ unwelcoming farmhouse to the deep woods of her own hometown, Liz follows the threads of a terrible secret to uncover a hidden world created from dreams and haunted by nightmares.

My Thoughts:


Ruin Falls by Jenny Milchman is a recommended novel of suspense that explores one woman's nightmare.

In Ruin Falls Liz Daniels is heading off on a rare vacation with her family to visit her in-laws farm in western New York. Liz, her husband, Paul, and their two children, Reid and Ally, live in a remote area of the Adirondack Mountains. Paul keeps a tight rein on his family as far as where they go and what they eat so a trip away is almost an unheard of experience. The trip turns into a nightmare after they decide to stop and spend the night in a motel. When Liz wakes up the next morning her children are gone - vanished. It soon becomes clear when Paul later vanishes that rather than a stranger abduction this is a domestic custody situation and Paul is the abductor.

She returns to her home to try and find the cues that Paul must have left that will indicate where he took the children - and why he took them. Liz is racing against time. Not only must she use all her wits to try to uncover the reasons for Paul's behavior and hopefully the answers to where he has taken her children, she also needs to muster up her own strength and belief in herself in order to find the answers.

The tension created at the beginning of Ruin Falls was so thick it had me biting my nails. Having your children abducted, or bothered in any way, is right up there near the top of the list of a mother's worst fears. I could totally understand Liz Daniels fears and how having a nightmare occur in real life would shake you up. To then have your husband be the likely culprit is unthinkable. Then, unknown to Liz, there are several other stories playing out that will all connect together.

While Ruin Falls is a novel of psychological suspense and it does create an atmosphere of tension and dread, I must also admit that after all the tension in the first part of the book, it then seemed to slow down for me and the ending was anticlimactic. I was totally in and engrossed at the beginning but once the reason was sort of revealed it seemed nonsensical and wasn't as well developed or explained as it could have been. Or perhaps I just wasn't buying the explanation which lessened the element of suspense for me. I think better development of the character of Paul could have helped.

Milchman is a good writer, however, so I expect she'll have plenty of opportunities to totally impress all of us even more in the future.



Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of
Random House for review purposes.




Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Thunderstruck & Other Stories

Thunderstruck & Other Stories by Elizabeth McCracken
Random House: 4/22/2014
Hardcover, 240 pages
ISBN-13: 9780385335775
elizabethmccracken.com/books/


From the author of the beloved novel The Giant’s House—finalist for the National Book Award—comes a beautiful new story collection, her first in twenty years. Laced through with the humor, the empathy, and the rare and magical descriptive powers that have led Elizabeth McCracken’s fiction to be hailed as “exquisite” (The New York Times Book Review), “funny and heartbreaking” (The Boston Globe), and “a true marvel” (San Francisco Chronicle), these nine vibrant stories navigate the fragile space between love and loneliness. In “Property,” selected by Geraldine Brooks for The Best American Short Stories, a young scholar, grieving the sudden death of his wife, decides to refurbish the Maine rental house they were to share together by removing his landlord’s possessions. In “Peter Elroy: A Documentary by Ian Casey,” the household of a successful filmmaker is visited years later by his famous first subject, whose trust he betrayed. In “The Lost & Found Department of Greater Boston,” the manager of a grocery store becomes fixated on the famous case of a missing local woman, and on the fate of the teenage son she left behind. And in the unforgettable title story, a family makes a quixotic decision to flee to Paris for a summer, only to find their lives altered in an unimaginable way by their teenage daughter’s risky behavior.
 
In Elizabeth McCracken’s universe, heartache is always interwoven with strange, charmed moments of joy—an unexpected conversation with small children, the gift of a parrot with a bad French accent—that remind us of the wonder and mystery of being alive. Thunderstruck & Other Stories shows this inimitable writer working at the full height of her powers.

My Thoughts:

Thunderstruck & Other Stories by Elizabeth McCracken is a very highly recommended collection of nine short stories. Oh my goodness - read this exquisitely crafted collection!

McCracken’s short stories in this collection include:


Something Amazing - one mother grieves the loss of her daughter years before while another has two delinquent sons
Property - a man moves into a rented house thinking it was furnished with the owner's discarded possessions.
Some Terpsichore -  an abusive former lover is recalled with nostalgia and pain.
Juliet - librarians react to the murder of one of their patrons
The House of Two Three-Legged Dogs - a man learns his son has broken his trust
Hungry - a woman cares for her granddaughter while her son lies in the hospital
The Lost & Found Department of Greater Boston - deals with how a memory can be viewed differently by different people
Peter Elroy: A Documentary by Ian Casey - a dying man visits a former friend
Thunderstruck - a father and mother struggle to be good parents for their daughter only to then have to deal with the brain injury resulting from her actions

All of the stories feature a slightly oblique point-of-view, as if the normal world is just ever-so-subtly tilted but enough to change perceptions into a reality that seems far removed from the ordinary. McCracken's extraordinary writing ability helps propel the stories forward even as they seem off kilter with life's ironies. She manages to capture despair, tenderness, outrage, and hopefulness, with her keen insight into human behavior and emotions. Everyone is coping with something with various degrees of success, while memory plays tricks on more than one character in this volume.

Some of these short stories were previously published in Granta, Ploughshares, Esquire, Zoetrope: All-Story, The Pushcart Prize, and The Best American Stories.



Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of
Random House for review purposes.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Tell Me One Thing

Tell Me One Thing by Deena Goldstone
Knopf Doubleday: 4/22/2014
Hardcover, 272 pages
ISBN-13: 9780385538756

A collection of unforgettable short stories that explores the wondrous transformation between grief and hope, a journey often marked by moments of unexpected grace.
Set in California, Tell Me One Thing is an uplifting and poignant book about people finding their way toward happiness. In "Get Your Dead Man's Clothes," "Irish Twins," and "Aftermath," Jamie O'Connor finally reckons with his tumultuous childhood, which propels him to an unexpected awakening. In "Tell Me One Thing," Lucia's decision to leave her loveless marriage has unintended consequences for her young daughter. In "Sweet Peas," "What We Give," and "The Neighbor," the sudden death of librarian Trudy Dugan's beloved husband forces her out of isolation and prompts her to become more engaged with her community. And in "Wishing," Anna finds an unusual kind of love. Tell Me One Thing is about the life we can create despite the grief we carry and, sometimes, even because of the grief we have experienced.
My Thoughts:

Tell Me One Thing by Deena Goldstone is a very highly recommended collection of eight stories. I loved this collection.

Several of the short stories are interconnected through the characters in Tell Me One Thing. All eight of the stories focus on interpersonal relationships and how people struggle to connect with each other while overcoming their own issues and burdens. Goldstone show how people bear the burdens of their past and how that load becomes heavier over time, crushing them until they can find a way to deal with the burdensome past. Though the characters all face a loss of some kind and are grieving, they manage to transcend their pasts and pain to eventually find peace, contentment, and even love. 
 
Contents: Get Your Dead Man’s Clothes
Irish Twins
Aftermath
Tell Me One Thing
Sweet Peas
What We Give
The Neighbor
Wishing


Jamie O'Connor is the main character in "Get Your Dead Man's Clothes," "Irish Twins," and "Aftermath." He is dealing with the death of his abusive father, his haunting past in his family, his mother's failure to even try to protect him. A year after the funeral his sister Ellen visits with a plan to force Jamie to confront his feelings but causes a catastrophic event of her own making. Then Jaime is left to continue to deal with his past as well as the damage Ellen has caused. 
The titular story concerns a woman who has left her husband and how that is affecting her daughter.
Librarian Trudy Dugan must teach herself how to continue living and connecting with the world after the death of her husband Brian in "Sweet Peas," "What We Give," and "The Neighbor."
Anna finds love in "Wishing."

The quality of the writing in Tell Me One Thing is exquisite. Goldstone manages to capture the complex psychological state of her characters as they struggle with their emotions and overcoming the visceral burdens of grief, hope, despair, and anger. Sometimes family, friends, and acquaintances have imposed the burden on a character but often it is of their own making or simply a result of living.

I can't recommend this collection enough.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Knopf Doubleday for review purposes.


Quotes:
Sitting in St. Timothy’s Cathedral during his father’s funeral Mass, Jamie has no idea how the rest of his brothers and sisters feel about their father’s death, but he knows what he is feeling—nothing. Of that he is sure. Over the forty-two years of his life he has cultivated nothingness when it comes to his father, assiduously. Location 51

When do you stop loving a parent? Jamie wonders. How much can a child take before that stubborn flame of necessary love sputters and dies? Location 119
 
...as an adult now, starting his forties, he’s come to realize that it is his mother who never, not once, stepped in to protect him against his father’s assaults. He’s certain now that Carrie O’Connor’s crime was the greater one. Location 319

So all eight of the O’Connor siblings have their own version of what life was like growing up in that narrow brick house in Buffalo, but no one has compared notes. Until now. Ellen has come halfway around the world for just that purpose. Location 325   

Aftermath Having spent most of his forty-three years intimately acquainted with the notion that the sins of the father are visited upon the son, Jamie O’Connor now contemplates the sins of the sister. Deep in the middle of the night, as he drives from his home to University Hospital, he tries to determine what his responsibility is to carry those. Location 906

They were an oddly matched pair, Trudy short and round, Brian resembling a whooping crane with all the angles and odd posturing that those birds employ. They never saw the mismatch. Trudy found in Brian an unusual grace, and Brian was always reassured that Trudy fit so easily into his embrace. They were the sort of couple that most people didn’t understand—the attraction, the connection, the longevity. She’s so caustic, it was often said, such a brusque sort of person. He was so quiet, that’s the first thing people noticed. Location 2230
 
Peggy Coopersmith, walking her chocolate Lab before work, found Brian sprawled across Madia Lane. Dead before the paramedics could get there and ascertain that his aorta had ruptured. Dead before Trudy could tell him she loved him one last time. Dead, alone. That last part—that he died without her there to comfort him—never stopped tormenting her. Location 2433 

On that March afternoon, as Armando helped Trudy plant her tomato seedling, kneeling by her side, he felt something shift within her, something tiny to be sure, but he heard a small sigh escape from her body, and with it, he was certain, came some measure of the sadness that seemed to weigh her down so. For all that he was grateful and very pleased with himself that he had thought to bring the tomatoes. Location 2464

Excerpt

Saturday, April 19, 2014

When We Fall

When We Fall by Peter Giglio
DarkFuse: 4/15/14
ebook, 220 pages
ISBN 13: 9781940544311
In the summer of 1985, thirteen-year-old Ben Brendel, still grieving the loss of his best friend, forms an unlikely friendship with the seventeen-year-old girl across the street. Aubrey Rose shares his love for film and soon helps him rekindle his passion for filmmaking.

But shortly after their first film is sent to the developing lab, Ben finds himself haunted by bizarre visions and nightmares. And when he brings the film home, nothing can prepare him for the dark secret it will reveal, bending the fragile bonds of family and friendship past the breaking point, and testing the courage and strength of a boy on the cusp of manhood.

WHEN WE FALL is a dark coming-of-age tale you won’t soon forget.

My Thoughts:

When We Fall by Peter Giglio is a highly recommended dark coming-of-age novella.

Ben Brendel is sure Billy Joel got it wrong. "The bad die, too. Young, old, and all points in between. Everyone dies." He knows this because a year after his best friend, Johnny, dies, thirteen year old Ben finds himself going to another funeral, this time for his worst enemy. Ben still misses Johnny and the Super 8 movies they made together. When seventeen year old Aubrey Rose, the girl across the street who babysat him buys film for him and offers to make a movie with him, Ben is thrilled. Aubrey is the only other person he knows who is nice to him and doesn't treat him like an outcast.

Ben plans to do part 4 of the series he and Johnny were filming and lets Audrey know about the plot: “But I don’t think you’ll have too much trouble figuring it out. It’s not like we really followed a story for any of them. We just set up weird ways for evil spirits to get loose and attack people. A reel of Super 8 film is about three minutes long with no sound, so there’s not a lot of room for a story.”

After the two make their film, Ben makes a frightening discovery. Unknown to him Audrey is fighting some demons of her own.

This isn't really a terrifying novella, but it is dark. Actually it is the coming-of-age story that works better than the creepy paranormal elements of the plot. Ben was a believable thirteen year old boy and Giglio does an excellent job developing his character. Although When We Fall is listed as 220 pages it did seem much shorter thus my calling it a novella. Perhaps that perception could be due to the intensity of the story too. The ending was a shocking surprise for me.


Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of DarkFuse via Netgalley for review purposes.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Casebook

Casebook by Mona Simpson
Knopf Doubleday: 4/15/2014
Hardcover, 336 pages
ISBN-13: 9780385351416
monasimpson.com/

From the acclaimed and award-winning author of Anywhere But Here and My Hollywood, a powerful new novel about a young boy’s quest to uncover the mysteries of his unraveling family. What he discovers turns out to be what he least wants to know: the inner workings of his parents’ lives. And even then he can’t stop searching.
Miles Adler-Hart starts eavesdropping to find out what his mother is planning for his life. When he learns instead that his parents are separating, his investigation deepens, and he enlists his best friend, Hector, to help. Both boys are in thrall to Miles’s unsuspecting mother, Irene, who is “pretty for a mathematician.” They rifle through her dresser drawers, bug her telephone lines, and strip-mine her computer, only to find that all clues lead them to her bedroom, and put them on the trail of a mysterious stranger from Washington, D.C.
Their amateur detective work starts innocently but quickly takes them to the far reaches of adult privacy as they acquire knowledge that will affect the family’s well-being, prosperity, and sanity. Burdened with this powerful information, the boys struggle to deal with the existence of evil and concoct modes of revenge on their villains that are both hilarious and na├»ve. Eventually, haltingly, they learn to offer animal comfort to those harmed and to create an imaginative path to their own salvation.
Casebook brilliantly reveals an American family both coming apart at the seams and,  simultaneously, miraculously reconstituting itself to sustain its members through their ultimate trial. Mona Simpson, once again, demonstrates her stunning mastery, giving us a boy hero for our times whose story remains with us long after the novel is over.
My Thoughts:

In Casebook by Mona Simpson a young amateur sleuth hears more than he bargained for which eventually leads to an expanded investigation and results in some hard earned lessons and maturity. Highly Recommended


When Miles Adler-Hart was 12 he originally began eavesdropping on his parents in a vain attempt to discover any plans they might have for his futures. Instead of talking about him, Miles discovers that their relationship is in trouble and they are getting divorced. After the divorce Miles' mother, Irene, introduces him to her boyfriend, Eli. With the help of his friend, Hector, Miles increases his surveillance on his mom and this questionable new man. Miles and Hector eventually befriend a PI to help in their investigation.

Miles says of Eli: "It was odd story. Like the brother. A lot of Eli’s life seemed weird. Sad, too. I felt that even then. But sad in a way that had no poignancy. More like a disease I hoped wasn’t contagious."
 
Simpson follows her teenage protagonist Miles from age 12 to post high school, with most of the novel centered around Miles to about age 15. This novel manages to transcend the usual teenage novel full of angst associated with a broken family and the ensuing financial stress it causes by focusing on the mysterious relationship between Irene and Eli as seen through the eyes and ears of a sometimes clueless, sometimes insightful Miles and Hector. There is also a dose of humor in Miles story through some of his schemes and antics, along with the poignancy of an alienated teen during a tragic time in his life.
 
The novel is set up as an account after the fact, with a present day Miles and Hector as successful comic book authors, with footnotes added later with comments on what is written. This is a coming-of -age novel with a mystery entwined in the story. Simpson does a wonderful job capturing Miles thoughts for his age while allowing Irene's personal struggles to remain somewhat aloof and beyond Miles' ability to comprehend.

In many ways Simpson's account is a somewhat sanitized picture of what divorce means to many women and children. While there is definitely emotional strain, the devastating blow that many experience emotionally and financially isn't pictured quite as insidious here as the reality is for many.

The quality of Simpson's writing and her ability to really allow us to connect with her teenage protagonist help to elevate Casebook up from just-another-coming-of-age-story to a novel with a mystery to unravel while we gain insight into all of the characters.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of
Knopf Doubleday for review purposes.
 

 
 

 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Chop Chop

Chop Chop by Simon Wroe
Penguin Group: 4/17/2014
Hardcover, 288 pages
ISBN-13: 9781594205798  

An outrageously funny and original debut set in the fast-paced and treacherous world of a restaurant kitchen
Fresh out of the university with big dreams, our narrator is determined to escape his past and lead the literary life in London. But soon he is two months behind on rent for his depressing Camden Town bed-sit and forced to take a job doing grunt work in the kitchen of The Swan, a formerly grand restaurant that has lost its luster.
Mockingly called “Monocle” by his boisterous co-workers for a useless English lit degree, he is suddenly thrust into the unbelievably brutal, chaotic world of professional cooking and surrounded by a motley cast of co-workers for which no fancy education could have prepared him. There’s the lovably dim pastry chef Dibden, who takes all kinds of grief for his “girly” specialty; combative Ramilov, who spends a fair bit of time locked in the walk-in freezer for pissing people off; Racist Dave, about whom the less said the better; Camp Charles, the officious head waiter; and Harmony, the only woman in a world of raunchy, immature, drug- and rage-fueled men. But worst of all, there’s Bob, the sadistic head chef, who runs the kitchen with an iron fist and a taste for cruelty that surprises and terrifies even these most hardened of characters.
Once initiated and begrudgingly accepted, Monocle enters into a strange camaraderie with his fellow chefs, one based largely on the speed and ingenuity of their insults. In an atmosphere that is more akin to a zoo—or a maximum security prison—than a kitchen he feels oddly at home. But soon an altogether darker tale unfolds as Monocle and his co-workers devise a plot to overthrow Bob and Monocle’s dead-beat father (who has been kicked out of the family home) shows up at his door. Not only does his dad insist on sleeping on the floor of Monocle’s apartment; he starts hanging out at The Swan’s dissolute bar in the evenings. As the plan to oust Bob clicks into motion and the presence of his father causes Monocle to revisit lingering questions from his unhappy childhood, Chop Chop accelerates toward its blackly hilarious, thrilling, and ruthless conclusion.
My Thoughts:


Chop Chop by Simon Wroe is highly recommended for those who can appreciate a humorous (and realistic) look at the inside workings of the food industry.

Monocle, whose nickname is bestowed upon him based on his English Lit degree, is a recent graduate who is in desperate need of a job. He applies at The Swan, a London restaurant that is past its glory days, and is thrust into the world of professional chefs and the inner workings of a professional kitchen. Monocle learns to become a chef under very adverse conditions while also coming to terms with his past and his relationship with his father.

Anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant kitchen (or a large-scale professional kitchen anywhere) is going to understand the cast of odd characters that populate this world and know that Wroe knows about which he writes.

I had to laugh about chopping up one onion and then reading:
“I don’t want one onion chopped,” he said. “What am I going to do with one f***ing onion? Do the whole bag.” The whole bag? It was the size of a turkey. I struggled to lift it. No one in their right mind needed so many onions. That day I realized I knew nothing about food or cooking. Also, more worryingly, nothing about people or communication. Months of fiction in that armchair, and years of studying it before that, had left me dealing with life at reading speed. Conversations passed me by while I was still formulating a response. People here dealt with one another so firmly, with no concerns for the nuances of situation.


Boy is that is the truth. You need to work fast and efficiently with little chance to finesse any situation. It is go-go-go until hours have passed and you don't have a clue where the time went.
 

There are so many great examples but I picked out a few more:
“Smoke?” He held out a cigarette. “You will,” he said when I refused. (Location 355)
"That was the first rule I learned at The Swan: Never challenge the person in charge. They could make your life more hellish than you could imagine. This, incidentally, is true of families as well as kitchens."  (Location 436)

I also had to say "Isn't that the truth" when Monocle realizes that his hands are going to be permanently stained from his job, but even more so that it is your feet and legs that take the brunt of the abuse. After standing for hours there is no amount of rest that can make up for the pain.

But the truisms of working in a restaurant are just a part of the story. The cast of characters is an even more enticing component of this novel. They are weird and wonderful, including: "Racist Dave," chef Ramilov,  Dibden the pastry chef, and a girl named Harmony, and the cruel head chef Bob. The story takes a dark turn and, although it is humorous, it is also gritty and not for the faint of heart.


Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of HarperCollins for review purposes.

Under a Silent Moon

Under a Silent Moon by Elizabeth Haynes
HarperCollins : 4/15/2014
Hardcover, 368 pages
ISBN-13: 9780062276025
www.elizabeth-haynes.com
 
This first novel in an exciting British crime series from suspense talent Elizabeth Haynes, is a blend of literary suspense and page-turning thriller that introduces formidable Detective Chief Inspector Louisa Smith.

In the crisp, early hours of an autumn morning, the police are called to investigate two deaths. The first is a suspected murder at a farm on the outskirts of a small village. A beautiful young woman has been found dead, her cottage drenched with blood. The second is a reported suicide at a nearby quarry. A car with a woman’s body inside was found at the bottom of the pit.

As DI Louisa Smith and her team gather evidence, they discover a shocking link between the two cases and the two deaths—a bond that sealed their terrible fates one cold night, under a silent moon.

In Under a Silent Moon, Elizabeth Haynes interweaves fictional primary source materials—police reports, phone messages, interviews—and multiple character viewpoints to create a sexy, edgy, and compulsively readable tale of murder, mystery, and unsettling suspense.
My Thoughts:


Under a Silent Moon by Elizabeth Haynes is a highly recommended British police procedural that marks the start of a new series.

The day after Halloween two different women are found dead in a small village.  Polly Leuchars, who was working as a stable hand for Felicity Maitland, is found bludgeoned to death in her cottage. Clearly she was murdered. A second woman, Barbara Fletcher-Norman, is found in  a car that went into quarry. Once he hears of her death, her husband collapses and is sent to the hospital. Things are not quite as simple as they originally seem for Detective Chief Inspector Louisa (Lou) Smith of the major crimes unit, who takes the lead in the investigation.  Andy Hamiltion is also on the case to assist Lou. Matters are even further complicated because Barbara is a neighbor to the Maitlands. It seems that Polly may have been having an affair with Barbara's husband - as well as many others - but there is also some suspicious illegal business going on that could tie into the cases. 

For those who really love their police procedurals Under a Silent Moon  includes official reports, interviews, emails, and documents from the case. These documents help to propel the story forward while uncovering clues to solve the crime, which results in an authenticity to the novel. It's one thing to tell us what the police heard from a witness. It's another thing to read the report or interview of the witness. I think the inclusion of the "official" documents is clearly an addition that you will either like or dislike - I happened to be on the like side. I also rather enjoyed the case diagrams provided in the appendix. Haynes is a police intelligence analyst so the materials she includes look like the real deal. 

While the plot of the novel is well thought out and carefully devised, some of the characters are less well developed. I wasn't too bothered by this because clearly some characters will be better developed over time in the new series. For those who like closure, the ending is clearly written with a sequel in mind so every issue in the story isn't completely resolved.


Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of HarperCollins for review purposes.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Until You're Mine

Until You're Mine by Samantha Hayes
Crown Publishing: 4/15/2014

Hardcover, 368 pages
ISBN-13: 9780804136891
www.samanthahayes.co.uk


You're alone. You're vulnerable. And you have something that someone else wants. At any cost.
 
Claudia Morgan-Brown finally has it all. Pregnant with a much-wanted first baby of her own, she has a happily established family of two small step-sons and a loving husband with a great career. But she is also committed to her full-time job as a social worker, and her husband travels often. So when Claudia hires Zoe to help her around the house in anticipation of the baby’s arrival, it seems like the answer to her prayers. But despite Zoe's glowing recommendations and instant rapport with the children, there's something about her that Claudia cannot trust.
 
Moreover, there has been a series of violent attacks on pregnant women in the area, and Claudia becomes acutely aware of her vulnerability. With her husband out of town for work and her family far away, who will be there to protect her? And why does she feel unsettled about Zoe? Realizing appearances can be deceiving even in her seemingly perfect world, Claudia digs deeper into Zoe’s blurry past and begins to wonder – how far would someone go to have a child of her own?
 
Riveting from its very first pages, Until You’re Mine is a multilayered masterwork of twisted, psychological suspense. Readers of Before I Go to Sleep and Turn of Mind will be enthralled by this multilayered novel, featuring a twisted plot that ends in a breathtaking and shocking finale.

My Thoughts:


Until You're Mine by Samantha Hayes is a highly recommended novel of suspense, terror, and some surprising twists and turns.

A very pregnant Claudia Morgan-Brown is married to James, a Royal Navy officer and is mother to his two twin sons by his first wife. Because he is gone for long periods of time they decide to hire a nanny, Zoe, to help Claudia care for the twins and the soon-to-arrive new baby. At the same time Lorraine, a police detective, is investigating along with Adam, her cheating police detective husband, recent attacks on pregnant woman.

Set in Birmingham, England, the narrative in Until You're Mine is told through the viewpoints of the three women in alternating chapters. We know right from the start that Zoe, the nanny, is suspicious and that everything may not be as she says it is as she takes the job of nanny for social worker, Claudia. Zoe has some kind of relationship with a mentally unbalanced woman who longs to have a baby. Claudia is somewhat suspicious of Zoe but also needs her help with James gone. The twins are a handful and Claudia is still working until her baby is born. Lorraine's marriage is going through a tough time and investigating the brutal attacks against pregnant women is adding to her stress.

I'd have to say that while the writing was adequate, the twists at the end improved my rating of the book. The ending came as a total surprise which redeemed Until You're Mine for me. Up to the ending I was finding the way the voices of Zoe and Claudia were written to be almost indistinguishable from each other - with the only difference simply what they were thinking about. It might have been nice to imbibe them with their own personalities and make the difference between the two a bit more obvious. Lorraine's chapters were easily distinguished from the other two, although some of the side story with Lorraine and her family didn't add to the novel. I did like how the sense of foreboding and dread grew as the novel progressed.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Crown Publishing via Netgalley for review purposes.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

All the Birds, Singing

All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld
Knopf Doubleday: 4/15/2014
Hardcover, 240 pages
ISBN-13: 9780307907769
www.eviewyld.com


From one of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists, a stunningly insightful, emotionally powerful new novel about an outsider haunted by an inescapable past: a story of loneliness and survival, guilt and loss, and the power of forgiveness.
 
Jake Whyte is living on her own in an old farmhouse on a craggy British island, a place of ceaseless rain and battering wind. Her disobedient collie, Dog, and a flock of sheep are her sole companions, which is how she wants it to be. But every few nights something—or someone—picks off one of the sheep and sounds a new deep pulse of terror. There are foxes in the woods, a strange boy and a strange man, and rumors of an obscure, formidable beast. And there is also Jake’s past, hidden thousands of miles away and years ago, held in the silences about her family and the scars that stripe her back—a past that threatens to break into the present. With exceptional artistry and empathy, All the Birds, Singing reveals an isolated life in all its struggles and stubborn hopes, unexpected beauty, and hard-won redemption.

My Thoughts:


All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld is a highly recommended darkly atmospheric character study.

Jake Whyte is a taciturn young woman who is currently living as a sheep farmer on an island off the coast of England. She wants nothing more than to live a quiet life away from everyone else but she is also haunted by a unacknowledged past in Australia from which she is actively hiding. Her current troubles ate much more real. Something or someone is killing her sheep and she's hearing unsettling noises at night that may be related to the slaughter. She thinks it might be that starnge man she's seen around or perhaps some local teens looking for a dark thrill. The violent attacks on her sheep may force her to meet some neighbors, make some allies, and find some answers.

The chapters alternate between present day Jake in England and her problems and the story of what happened in her past in Australia that has made her so secretive. Wyld manages to keep the tension high as Jake's story slowly unfolds. As events churn into an inescapable storm cloud of woe and despair, this is an unrelentingly dark novel. The quality of the prose and the emotional angst Wyld so skillfully captures is what kept me riveted to the story even when the gloom seemed too heavy.

Wlyd also managed to artfully include in her novel the reality of how woman can even today be treated as hysterical when something is wrong, as if our sex somehow determines our intelligence or ability to see that something is intrinsically wrong or evil. And perhaps how women still need to struggle to be viewed as equals - or perhaps we never will.

Beyond that, though, Wyld has given us a wonderfully bleak, somber tale full of shadowy despondency as we explore Jake's character while Jake struggles to overcome what is haunting her past and present. (The only downside, for me, is the ending...)


Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Knopf Doubleday for review purposes.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Saucer: Savage Planet

Saucer: Savage Planet by Stephen Coonts
St. Martin's Press: 4/1/2014
Trade Paperback, 352 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1250042002
www.coonts.com
Saucer Series #3


Aliens are coming! 
A year after young engineering student Rip Cantrell discovered the first flying saucer buried deep in the sands of the Sahara, another saucer is brought up from the bottom of the Atlantic.  The recovery is funded by a pharmaceutical executive who believes that the saucer holds the key to an anti-aging drug formula that space travelers would need to voyage between galaxies.  But one of his technicians, Adam Solo, an alien marooned on Earth for a thousand years, steals the saucer, hoping to summon a starship to rescue him.  Unfortunately, the stolen saucer has damaged communications gear.
Solo goes to Rip Cantrell and his partner, ex-Air Force test pilot Charlotte “Charley” Pine, and Rip's uncle Egg, for help in summoning a starship.  Meanwhile, as a terrified world fearful of space invaders approaches meltdown, big pharma moguls and their thugs are hot on the trail of the foursome.
In a world turned upside down, it may be the arriving aliens who offer limitless possibilities.  Rip and Charley face an incredible decision: Do they dare leave the safety of earth to travel into the great wilderness of the universe?  Full of UFO’s, futuristic technology, edge-of-your-seat flying scenes and unforgettable characters, human and otherwise, Stephen Coonts' Savage Planet is classic storytelling at its best . . . and pure, unadulterated fun.

My Thoughts:

Saucer: Savage Planet by Stephen Coonts concludes the series originally began with Saucer (2003) and Saucer: The Conquest (2006) and is recommended for those who need closure.


Rip Cantrell,  discovers a flying saucer buried in the Sahara desert with help from Charlotte Pine and his uncle Arthur “Egg” Cantrell. Only a year later a second saucer is discovered buried in the Great Barrier Reef. Pharmaceutical baron Harrison Douglas is behind the funding for the recovery efforts because he believes he can reap financial gain from products made based on the alien science. Douglas gets a hold of the Roswell saucer which was originally at Area 51. Then Adam Solo, a technician who is actually an alien-in hiding and working for Douglas, steals the saucer.
 

Solo hopes to find a way to call for help but with the communications device damaged, he connects with Rip and the gang hoping the saucer he found can help him get home. In the meantime everyone is after them.

Those who read and enjoyed the previous two books may want to pick up this third installment just for the conclusion of the series.  It's an easy read and the pace is fast enough to keep you entertained. While this final book was the weakest of the three, it is fun escapism. For me this is an airplane book - certainly worth reading but I wouldn't pull my hair out in grief if I misplaced my copy in my travels. I do like the closure, though it was a long time coming...


Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of
St. Martin's Press via Netgalley for review purposes.

A Letter for My Mother


A Letter for My Mother by Nina Foxx (Editor)
Strebor Books: 4/8/2014
Trade Paperback, 240 pages
ISBN-13: 9781593095321

Thirty-three female writers share their essays and letters—hilarious, heart wrenching, and everything in between—in this wise and poignant collection about mother-daughter relationships.
Whether they’re from the US, Caribbean, India, or the UK, all of the contributors to A Letter for My Mother share one thing in common: thoughts that have been left unsaid to their mothers and mother figures—until now. In this moving book, thirty-three women reveal the stories, reflections, confessions, and revelations they’ve kept to themselves for years and have finally put into words. Written through tears and pain, as well as joy and laughter, each offering presents the mother-daughter bond in a different light.
Heartfelt and deeply meaningful, A Letter for My Mother will inspire you to admire and cherish that special relationship that shapes every woman.

My Thoughts:

A Letter for My Mother by Nina Foxx (Editor) is a very highly recommended collection of letters women have written to their mothers. I simply can't recommend this amazing collection enough.

In A Letter for My Mother Nina Foxx has collected letters from 33 daughters to their mothers. While the letters differ as vastly as the individuals who wrote them, they all have the common thread of things daughters have left unsaid to their mothers (or stepmother, or mother-in-law, or mother-like mentor)  The mother-daughter relationship is always complicated. It can be fraught with tension and difficulties or exuberant with love and support - and cover the gamut of every emotion in-between.

Foxx writes:
"I invited other women to write a letter to a mother in their lives, someone who guided them when they didn’t want to be guided and perhaps someone they’d never thanked. In the letter, they were to tell them what they wanted them to know. The recipient of the letter needn’t be alive or biologically related, just someone to whom they had things to say to but lacked courage or foresight to be able to say those things, a thank you."


Some of the authors invited to write a letter were unable to do so because their relationships to their mothers were still full of complications or unresolved issues.  Some of those who participated found that "Writing these letters, love letters to our mothers, forced us to let go of the anger that had hung around our necks for years and let it float away from us. We had to give the bad memories to the universe and embrace the good and how that had shaped us into adulthood." Before each letter the author explains some of the background regarding her relationship with her mother.

Some of the letters are heart-warming, loving tributes to mothers who sacrificed all they had to give to help their children. Some mothers died young, leaving their daughters to face different kinds of trials. Some mothers are neglectful, or hurtful, or cruel. Some lived their life as a testimony and in service to God as well as their family. Some are beautiful. Some are strong while others are weak. Some left their daughters knowing with absolute certainty that they are loved by their mother. Some forced their daughters into an early adulthood and responsibilities beyond their years. Some gave their daughter a strong set of values and self-confidence. Some loved and accepted their daughters just as they are, while others set their expectations so high no one could hope to reach them. Some are heart breaking and some are humorous. They are all unique.


The contents include:

Introduction Nina Foxx
A Letter to My Once Mother-in-Law Nina Foxx
Missing Mom Carmen Green
Mamaji Elisheba Haaq-Stevens
Marian of Memphis Pamela Walker-Williams
Family Matters Most Berta Platas
Taming The Beast Shia Shabazz Smith
There is a Time Gabrielle Cox
Gloria Gillian Hubbard
Just Enough Arlene L. Walker
Mother Envy Pamela Samuels Young
You’ll Never Be Doris Day Jelen Hunter
Dear Mable Lori Bryant-Woolridge
A Saint in Everyday Clothes Joanne C. Hillhouse
I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You Lynda Sandoval
A Mother Sent by Providence Pat G’Orge Walker
The Collector Sheila J. Williams
Playing Favorites Sofia Quintero
Once I Had a Mother Deepa Agarwal
Get Your Own Dungeon! And Other Francesisms That Used to Work My Last Nerve Tracy Price-Thompson
Mama Carol Taylor 151 Battling Love Dominique Jackson
What I Thank You For Pat Tucker
Naomi to Your Ruth Victoria Christopher Murray
The Epitome of a Woman ReShonda Tate Billingsley
Thank You Letter Trisha R. Thomas
Disappointing You Denise Nguyen
Let it Start with the Mothers Heather Rae
Reflections of You Donna Hill
No Mama Drama Danita Carter
My Mother’s Daughter Valerie Wilson Wesley
My First Heroine Tananarive Due
Couldn’t Have Asked for More Zane
A Golden Heart Charmaine R. Parker
Beyond the Corner of My Eye Nina Foxx



Excerpt

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Strebor Books via Netgalley for review purposes.