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Friday, June 29, 2012

#BookReview: Imperfect Bliss - Susan Fales-Hill

In what's a clear departure from 2010's One Flight Up, Imperfect Bliss falls short of what I expected from someone that once wrote for The Cosby Show, A Different World and Linc's.  Today's television networks rely heavily on reality TV and that's the world that Fales-Hill plunges us into with her latest.

The overly dramatic Forsythia and mild mannered Harold have successfully raised four daughters.  Well, successfully may be a bit of a stretch.  Oldest daughter Victoria is just this side of becoming an old maid.  Second eldest daughter Bliss, a recent divorcee, has returned home with her four year old daughter, Bella, in tow.  Third daughter Charlotte desperately seeks attention in all of the wrong places.  And youngest daughter Diana is about to turn everyone's world upside down.

Diana undoubtedly grew up watching reality TV shows like The Bachelor, so it shouldn't have come as a shock to anyone in the family when she announces that she's been picked to star in her own reality show called The Virgin.  Always ready to claim the spotlight that is rightfully hers, Forsythia is on board from day one, but the rest of the family, especially Bliss, isn't so sure they want their everyday lives broadcast across the country for eight months.  It doesn't matter.  Eventually all of the Harcourts are swept up in the madness of The Virgin, whether they want to be or not.

There are a lot of story lines going on throughout the book and, honestly, it was hard to muster up a care about any of them.  I found Forsythia to be highly annoying with her obsession with skin color and her perceived idea of perfection.  Watching her reject her grandchild and anyone else didn't meet her standards of perfection was painful.  Charlotte as the promiscuous bad girl seeking her family's attention seemed very stereotypical.  Interestingly, the daughter upon whom the reality show is based, almost gets the smallest story line.  It's interesting that Fales-Hill would choose to build the book around Bliss, given that Diana's appearing on The Virgin is the basis for so much of the family drama and interaction.

Imperfect Bliss really could have been a much more enjoyable story  had it taken away several of the distractions in the forms of Forsythia and The Virgin and spent more time focusing on Bliss' relationship with her father, daughter and the men in her life.  I would have also loved to see more attention paid to Victoria.  In my opinion, her story line was the most interesting of all.

Published: July 2012
Disclosure: Copy received from publisher, opinions are my own.


Theme: We Are Family by Sister Sledge

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

#BookReview: Dark Places - Gillian Flynn

With the following elements, Gillian Flynn continuously creates works of such intensity that you couldn't put them down if you tried: a small Midwest town; a scarred woman (mentally and/or physically); and mommy/daddy issues.  Anyone reading her books should be warned that once you start, you just can't stop.  I read Gone Girl and immediately requested Sharp Objects and Dark Places.  Her writing is that damn good.

Dark Places is no exception to Flynn's writing recipe.  Libby Day is a screw up.  Had it not been for the murders of her mother and sisters, she might not have been, but 25 years ago, someone took a gun and an ax to them.  The sweet little girl that could have been Libby Day is now a 32 year old loser, and she's not very likeable.

Libby has never worked a day in her life, living off of the money that poured in from around the country when the story of her family's murders were first told.  But the well has run dry and without a job or a source of income, Libby has gotten pretty desperate.  In fact, she's desperate enough to take a group called The Kill Club up on their offer.

The Kill Club is a group obsessed with famous crimes.  Members of the group truly believe that Libby's brother, Ben, is not guilty of killing the rest of their family.  For 25 years, Libby has never  thought otherwise.  Believing in Ben's guilt has served her well, in her own twisted way.  It's allowed her to play the eternal victim.  On the other hand, if Ben is innocent, why has he accepted his imprisonment without any appeals?  As Libby begins to do research for money, interviewing people from Ben's past, she finds herself asking this question.

This is the first character from Flynn that I've not liked at all, and that's okay.  What I've come to appreciate most about the author's writing is that her female characters do not always get the guy, they're not necessarily beauty queens, and they're just as screwed up as most people.  In other words, they're human.

Judging by the amount of time between each of her novels, I'd say it'll be 2015 before we see another novel from Flynn.  I do believe it'll be well worth the wait.

Published: May 2009


Theme: Bad to the Bone by George Thorogood & the Destroyers

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Monday, June 25, 2012

#BookReview: Sharp Objects - Gillian Flynn

To say Camille Preaker has mommy issues would be putting it mildly.  As a matter of fact, it would be the understatement of the year.  Problems with her mother have kept Camille away from her small Missouri town for 12 years. But when her job at a Chicago newspaper calls for her to return Wind Gap, Camille is forced to confront her demons head on.

Two young girls have gone missing and turned up dead in the small town of Wind Gap, Mo., a city of 2,000 where hog butchering is the biggest industry.  Growing up as the daughter of the richest family in town, Camille was the original mean girl.  So imagine, if you will, coming home to your crazy mama, your creepy stepfather and your neurotic 13 year old sister that you don't really know; and then add uncomfortable interactions with all of the girls you looked down on when you were growing up.

Camille's mother may be the richest woman in town, but she's also bat shit crazy.  I'm talking Flowers in the Attic grandmother kind of crazy.  It's the kind of crazy that killed Camille's sister, Marian, as a kid and is threatening to take out her Jekyll/Hyde sister, Amma, now. And why does her stepfather sit idly by and watch the craziness happen?

Gillian Flynn gives so much attention to Camille's personal problems, that it's easy to forget that she came home to write a story, not deal with her personal issues.  But as you read, you'll come to understand that her personal issues are as much a part of the story she's writing as the murders of the two little girls.  As I've come to learn with her writing, Flynn has a way of drawing readers in, getting them deeply invested in her characters and then turning you against them when you least expect it.  At times I loved Camille, others I hated Camille.  The same goes for Amma.  With Sharp Objects, Flynn takes readers on a roller coaster ride that doesn't stop until the very last page.

Published: September 2006

Theme: Cleaning Out My Closet by Eminem

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Friday, June 22, 2012

#BookReview: Secret Daughter - Shilpa Somaya Gowda

Kavita and Jasu live in a rural Indian village and are pregnant with their second child. The first, a daughter, was brutally murdered by a family member of Jasu at birth because the girl child was thought to be more of a burden than benefit to the family.  The second child is a girl as well, but Kavita refuses to let Jasu handle her like he did their first. Instead, she and her sister travel to an orphanage in Mumbai with the baby, Usha, and place her up for adoption.

Somer and Krishnan are a young married couple living in California. Despite being busy medical professionals, Somer desperately wants a child. After a couple of miscarriages, Krishnan tries to convince Somer to travel back to his home country to adopt. His mother has ties to an orphanage in Mumbai. Somer finally relents and they travel to India to adopt…yep, you’ve guessed it—Kavita’s baby girl, Usha.

Renamed Asha (thanks to some illegible penmanship), Somer and Krishnan's daughter has grown up knowing she was adopted from India her entire life. In the back of her mind, she always wondered about her biological parents and why they put her up for adoption. Offered a chance to travel back to India for a year on a journalism fellowship, Asha learns more about herself, her adoptive parents, and biological parents in that short time span. Narrated by nearly every character mentioned above at some point, Secret Daughter is a novel that spans decades and continents while exploring the family dynamic.

Gowda's debut work was a smash, in my opinion. Her writing is very reminscent of one of my favorite authors, Jhumpa Lahiri. Not only because of the superficial connection of them both being Indian, but in the way they let a story unfold. This story was carefully layered so that the we could get a feel for each character, their motivation for behavior as well as interactions with other characters. The tenuous relationships between characters in the book lead to some tense moments, but overall it's a pleasurable read. It's part coming-of-age, part cultural enlightenment.


This has been fun this week, so BIG THANKS to Miss Reads4Pleasure for allowing me to take care of her e-home. Guess I'd better blow the dust of ye olde blog of mine (www.readingwhileriding.net) and continue to write about literature that I love and loathe. Come on over and check me out sometime! : )
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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

#BookReview: Skipping a Beat - Sarah Pekkanen

@litfangrl here once again ^_^ 

What do you do when all of a sudden the rules of your relationship change? Julia and Michael are high school sweethearts from an eeny meeny town in West Virginia. Growing up in near poverty, both Julia and Michael vow to “make it” and leave their little town in the dust. Armed with a beat up car and a little over $600 in savings, they head up to Washington, D.C. with dreams larger than the sun. The stars align and within a few years of arrival they’re both in high powered careers—Michael being the bigger breadwinner having created a $70 million dollar flavored water empire.

Julia has become accustomed to living the high life, despite the marriage to her husband being in shambles. While all appearances from the outside point to bliss, inside both of these people are just roommates at the point where we make their acquaintance. This all changes in a matter of minutes, though. Four minutes and eight seconds to be exact. In the middle of a board meeting, Michael collapses and is legally dead for four minutes and eight seconds. Julia rushes to be by his side at the hospital and is taken aback when she gets to him.

After his brief brush with death, Michael awakens to renounce all of his worldly possessions. His multi-million dollar empire? He’s putting it up for sale and donating the profit to various charities. The beautiful mansion? Gone…on the market. Julia’s flabbergasted and reacts in a way that is reprehensible, yet wholly understandable. She rejects Michael’s new lease on life and demands that he comes to his senses. In response, he asks for three weeks to prove that he’s a changed man and to get her to see things his way. After far too much protest, Julia finally relents. The reader is then taken on an emotional rollercoaster that will leave you wiping tears from your face, if you're the crying kind, heh.

Admittedly I am an emotional gal. I get worked up over the simplest things from commercials to plots on insipid television shows. So when I tell you that I was crying about a book, you can usually take it with a grain of salt. I mean, I weeped for 15 minutes after finishing Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper. Like full on, mouth gaping, chest heaving sobs. The tears evoked from Pekkanen’s Skipping a Beat were a bit different. I didn’t even realize I was crying until I saw the tears on Kindisha. I kind of expected the ending, but it didn't make it less emotional for me.

Pekkanen’s writing style is engaging. I’ve been following her on Twitter for a while now and have been meaning to get around to reading her works. I am SO glad I did. She writes characters who are rich and well rounded, even the secondary characters manage to draw you in and make you care about them. In fact, a secondary character was my favorite from this book. I would love to know more about her life and her journey at some point. As far as the main characters, I loved Michael all the way through, despite his shortcomings when his business first began taking off. I went back and forth with Julia, though. In the end, though, I felt deeply for her and wanted to know how her journey would progress beyond that last page. Brava, Sarah Pekkanen. I'ma fan. : ) I look forward to reading more from this author!

Unlike the great, Reads4Pleasure--I have no audio post script for my post. From reading about the plot (or if you've read the novel), what would you suggest?

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Monday, June 18, 2012

#BookReview: Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn

Guest post from @Litfangrl

The synopsis of this novel will be brief, namely because I cannot write too much about what happens over the course of this novel or I will certainly ruin it for you. At the opening of Gone Girl, we meet Nick Dunne (and wife, Amy) on the morning of their 5th wedding anniversary. A brief history of their relationship is given as we get to know these characters in their current setting of North Carthage, Missouri. Amy and Nick were both writers who were laid off within months of one another from jobs in New York City. Faced with one parent on the brink of a death and another slowly making his way there, Nick makes the decision for them to move back to his hometown.

Like any other marriage, Amy and Nick have their fair share of ups and down. When we meet them, however, there are more downs than ups. On the morning of their anniversary Nick leaves the house, presumably to buy his wife a gift. When he returns, however, the house is in disarray and Amy is missing. It is at this point that you need to suspend any and all beliefs that whatever you think happened, actually happened. Because you're almost nearly ever right. I pride myself on figuring out the mystery before the author fully reveals all pieces and Flynn does an excellent job of making you feel as if you've figured it out, but then sends you further down the rabbit hole with twists and turns.

A while back on Twitter I becan describing certain books as #facepunchlit. They’re the type of books that are so surprisingly good that it feels like you’ve been punched in the face after reading them. You're in sort of a punch drunk haze where nothing seems clear and everything you previously understood to be right about the world is a bit askew. After reading Flynn’s Gone Girl, I had a similar feeling. I swiped to read the last page on Kindisha (yes, I’ve named my Kindle) and felt winded.

There were a few points in the novel where I was certain about what was going to happen next (and in some cases right), but Flynn takes whatever I expected and flips it on its ear. I went back and forth believing one character to be the root of all of the troubles then the other. I found myself sympathizing with everyone at different junctures, which is odd for me. I normally see a clear "bad guy" and/or "good guy" and hop on whichever bandwagon I see fit from the beginning. Reading Gone Girl I switched loyalties a smooth 3.75 times and found myself not knowing whose back I really should have had all along.

I also found myself downloading Flynn's previous novels no sooner than 10 minutes after finishing Gone Girl. If you're looking for a book (and author) that will not only entertain, but make you use your brain while reading, I highly recommend that you check out Gone Girl. You will not regret it.

Published: June 2012
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher, opinions are my own.


Theme: Amy, Amy, Amy by Amy Winehouse

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Friday, June 15, 2012

#BookReview: Colored Sugar Water - Venise Berry

I remember thinking a few months ago that I missed the writing of authors like Venise Berry.  Then I re-read Colored Sugar Water during a read-a-thon and wondered what exactly it was that I was missing.  The book was okay, but I think I oversold myself on the story line before.  Maybe I liked her other books, So Good and All of Me, but this one? I found myself giving it the ultimate side eye on several occasions.

Colored Sugar Water is Lucy Merriweather's story.  The granddaughter of a Louisiana healer, Lucy believes in a little of everything, from fortune telling to voodoo to God.  Lucy, the regional manager of a successful chain of fitness centers, is stuck in a stable, but boring, relationship with Spencer, a McDonald's franchise owner.  Spencer is dependable, but far too predictable for Lucy.

Adel Kelly has been Lucy's best friend since their college days.  Married to Thad, who's always on the brink of the next great idea, Adel is tired of carrying the weight of their household on her shoulders.  At her age, she should be thinking about having babies, but if Thad doesn't get it together, she'll be raising any future kids as a single mother.

When the two happen across a late night commercial for psychics, Lucy dares to call the number, even as Adel warns her not to.  Before she knows it, Lucy is caught up in a whirlwind romance with Kuba, the man that answered the phone, and Spencer and Adel are both losing the Lucy they used to know.

This book started off fairly decent and then it evolved into Christianity versus voodoo versus the supernatural.  It just didn't work for me.  I prefer to keep my genres separate.  I know that when I pick up a Tananarive Due book, I'm going to get vampires and what not.  When I picked up this book, there was no indication that Venise Berry was going to try to take me there.  If I had realized that before I started reading, I probably wouldn't have picked it up.

Published: December 2001


Theme: Nightmares by Dana Dane

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

#BookReview: Hand Me Down - Melanie Thorne

For those that have read Bastard Out of Carolina, Roseflower Creek or Ellen Foster, Hand Me Down will be a familiar read..  Unlike the previous titles, Hand Me Down is set in the present.  That doesn't make the story any easier to stomach.

Liz has never had the best home life.  Her mother stayed with her abusive, alcoholic father longer than she should have.  When she finally got the courage to leave, she entered into a relationship with a younger man that she met at a church function.  It turns out that her new boyfriend, Terrance, has a record of sexual abuse and one of the terms of his parole is that he can't live in the same house as any minor females.  Any mother with common sense and concern for her children would have put Terrance out immediately, but Liz's mother does no such thing and at the age of 15, Liz has to figure out where to live.

As she bounces from house to house, I found myself getting more and more disgusted with her mother.  What kind of woman puts her own child out so that she can maintain her relationship with her bed warmer? Ironically, her mother works at an abuse victims' organization, but fails to see the advances Terrance makes toward Liz.

It's not until Liz moves to Utah with her Aunt Tammy does she realize what family is supposed to look like and how they're supposed to act.  Perhaps jealous of Liz's happiness, her mother plots to get her back to California, though not to live with her, but just close enough to keep an eye on her when she feels like being bothered.

Thorne did a good job of getting the reader on Liz's side and keeping them there.  I wanted to slap some sense into both of Liz's parents.  Her father only wanted her around for the child support he thought he could collect if she lived with him and her mother only wanted her around to babysit.  It was really difficult to watch Liz's interactions with her mother because I could never quite figure out her angle.  She said she loved Liz, but did nothing that would lead you to believe she really did.  And if there was no room for her in her life, why not let her go live with someone that wanted her?  Even the adults that were supposed to have themselves together were screwballs.  This is one of those reads where the kids were definitely the smartest people in the room.

Published: April 2012
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher, opinions are my own.

Theme: Welcome to the Jungle by Guns N Roses

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Monday, June 11, 2012

#BookReview: Tell A Thousand Lies - Rasana Atreya

In 1986 India, four of the most important determinants of a woman's future were the tone of her skin, her caste, her home village and her family's wealth.  Based on these things, Pullamma, at the age of 16,  has resigned herself to living with her grandmother forever.  As one of three orphaned sisters, Pullamma is the darkest and most unattractive.

 With her oldest granddaughter married off, Ammamma begins to worry about the fate of Pullamma.  While it should be easy enough to marry off Lata, Pullamma's beautiful, light skin twin, it won't be easy to find a match for Pullamma.  The only hitch in Ammamma's plan is Lata has no desire to get married.  In a time and village that placed little emphasis on girls beyond the 12th class, and actually frowned upon girls doing well in school, Lata not only passes the 12th class, but does so with distinction.  A smart girl, she dreams of becoming a doctor, but as Ammamma asks, "With such good marks, how am I to find her a suitable groom..."  Pullamma, on the other hand, only dreams of getting married.

Just as Lata is about to wed into a family that respects her dreams and will allow her to continue her studies to become a doctor, a local politician intervenes and changes the fate of both Lata and Pullamma.  Suddenly, Pullamma has the life Lata always wanted and the beautiful Lata becomes a shrewd and bitter woman out for revenge at any cost, even if it means destroying her twin.

I can't remember how this book came across my radar.  I think it was recommended by Amazon based on other books I've read, but I can't be sure.  Regardless of how I stumbled across it, I'm glad I did.  Tell A Thousand Lies is a brilliant effort from Rasana Atreya.  As she tells the story of Pullamma and her family, she also gives glimpses into the Telugu community and Hindu beliefs ad practices

I loved this book because Atreya kept me on my toes while reading it.  At no point did I ever really know how the story was going to end.  And a sure sign that a book has pulled me in, I found myself talking out loud to the characters, knowing good and well they couldn't hear me.  If you love learning about new cultures and love a good story, do yourself a favor and give Tell A Thousand Lies a read.

Published: March 2012


Theme: Everything She Wants by Wham

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Friday, June 8, 2012

#BookReview: I Couldn't Love You More - Jillian Medoff

When I started this book, I didn't give much thought to the title, or rather where the emphasis on certain words should be placed.  As I continued to read, 'I couldn't love YOU more' versus 'I couldn't love you MORE' begin to dance around in my head.  The reason I struggled with how it should be said is because of the main character, Eliot.

Eliot, mother of Hailey, longtime live-in girlfriend of Grant and stepmother of Charlotte and Gail, is the glue that holds her family together.  Eliot also plays a central role in the lives of her overly dramatic older sister, Sylvia; her beautiful sister, Maggie; and her instigating mother.  With all that she does for everyone else, you have to wonder when Eliot does anything for herself.  And that's exactly why her old college flame is able to breeze in and reclaim her heart.

Growing up, Eliot was never the smartest (that was Sylvia) or the prettiest (that was Maggie), she was just Eliot.  So when Finn Montgomery noticed her freshman year in college, she fell head over heels because she was not the kind of girl that typically gets chosen by guys like Finn. Finn, however, didn't fall for her.  He was charming enough that Eliot settled for being his friend until the night Finn confesses to her, "You're my person, Eliot."  Sidebar: If you watch Grey's Anatomy, you know that Meredith and Christina are each others person (well, they were until recently).  So when Medoff had Finn tell Eliot that, I knew exactly what she meant and how it was supposed to make Eliot feel.  The problem was, Finn didn't tell Eliot that until the end of their senior year, right before they graduated and he moved to New York without her.

Fast forward 15 years later and Eliot is in a happy, loving relationship with Grant, a divorced father of two.  Even though Grant has full custody of Charlotte and Gail, he still supports his ex-wife financially, which puts a strain on the household account.  Grant seems like a good guy, but the parenting of all of the kids, and everything that goes with parenting, seems to fall on Eliot's shoulders.  To top it off, she has to deal with teen angst and resentment in the form of Charlotte.  Is it any wonder that when Finn reappears in her life, she readily entertains the thoughts of the carefree life she could have with him?

Eliot's revisionist history has her believing that Finn was the great love of her life, but if she was being honest with herself, he was pretty crappy and self-centered from day one.  Yet, this is a man she spent ten years mooning over until Grant came into her life.  (Seriously ma'am. Y'all had a few months together, he moved on and you spent ten years longing for a man that didn't give you a second thought?) In a typical case of the grass looking greener on the other side, she begins to give more of her time to him and less to her family, which ultimately leads to tragedy.  It also lead to me screaming at the book, "Just walk away from all of them!" but um, she couldn't hear me so...yeah.

'I couldn't love YOU more' versus 'I couldn't love you MORE' seemed to be the underlying theme in Eliot's relationships with the men in her life, the children in her life and her mother and sisters.  Her life wore me out and I was just reading about it!  Jillian Medoff does an excellent job of bringing all of the characters, even the ones on the peripheral, to life.  It's my first read from her, but it definitely won't be my last.

Published: May 2012
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher, opinions are my own.


Theme: Couldn't Love You More by Sade

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

#BookReview: Spring Fever - Mary Kay Andrews

Let me start off by saying if there's a southern tourism bureau, they would do well to hire Mary Kay Andrews to promote visiting their small towns.  Whether they're real or imagined towns, Andrews' words have readers falling in love with places like Tybee Island; Guthrie, Georgia; and Passcoe, North Carolina.  And don't let me forget Savannah, Georgia.  It's obvious that Andrews is a southern girl through and through and she adores her corner of the world.

Prior to Spring Fever, I would have said without a doubt that Bebe Loudermilk and Weezie Foley were my favorite Andrews' characters, second and third only to Dempsey Jo Killibrew.  Now I'd have to say that with Spring Fever she's combined the gumption of Dempsey with Bebe and Weezie's antics and given readers the delightful Annajane Hudgens and her fearless sidekick, Pokey Bayless Riggs.

Best friends since they were five, Annajane and Pokey are also ex-sisters in law.  Annajane married Pokey's oldest brother, Mason, and even though that didn't work out, the women have remained friends.  In fact, Annajane and Mason still work together at Quixie, the family's cherry cola soft drink company that's been around for years.  While it hasn't always been the most comfortable situation, Annajane has stayed because she loves Quixie, Pokey and Sophie, Mason's daughter from another relationship.  But with Mason and Celia, the company's new consultant, getting married, Annajane figures it's about time she hightails it out of Passcoe and gets on with her life.

But Mary Kay Andrews heroines never get off that easily, now do they?  Before Annajane can leave town, quite a few complications pop up.  An emergency appendectomy pauses Celia and Mason's nuptials and Pokey and Annajane uncover a plot by Celia to sell off Quixie.  It's Annajane, Pokey and even Sophie to the rescue!

I have to admit that I was worried about whether or not I'd love this book as much I did Andrews' previous works.  I wasn't sold on last year's Summer Rental, so I wasn't too optimistic when I picked this up.  I was pleasantly surprised though, as it seems Andrews has returned to the lighthearted, small town formula that seems to work so well for her.

Published: June 2012
Disclosure: Copy received from publisher, opinions are my own.


Theme: Heartbreak Town by The Dixie Chicks

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Monday, June 4, 2012

#BookReview: My Name is Butterfly - Bernice McFadden

Never one to shy away from sensitive topics, Bernice McFadden takes readers into the world of the Trokosi.  In simple terms, Trokosi are girls given by their family to a deity as a sacrifice in exchange for better luck, fortune or things along those terms.  Adebe Tsikata is such a girl, but she's also a survivor.

Growing up in Accra, Ghana, Adebe leads a charmed life.  Her father, Kwasi, with a degree from an English university, works as a government accountant.  Her mother, Lemusi, a former model, is a teacher.  They lead an extremely comfortable life and Adebe is the apple of their eye.

Adebe is just as fortunate to have an aunt that adores her.  Aunt Serwa spoils Adebe whenever she visits from the United States.  The two share an unbreakable bond and Serwa promises that one day she'll send for Adebe to visit her in the states.

With so many people that love her, how does Adebe become Trokosi?  Superstition, lack of faith and jealousy on the parts of her grandmother and father are probably the easiest explanations, but it goes farther than that.  The end result, though, is that Adebe is forced from the only home she's known into an existence that bares great resemblance to hell on earth.

My Name is Butterfly is a remarkable story of surviving some of the worst circumstances known to men, rebuilding yourself and learning to survive again and again.  McFadden is indeed a master storyteller.

Available in Nook & Kindle format only
Published: April 2012

Theme: Black Butterfly by Deniece Williams

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Friday, June 1, 2012

#BookReview: The Warmest December - Bernice L. McFadden

What would it take for you to go sit at the deathbed of the person that brought you the most unhappiness?  As a child, Kenzie Lowe watched her father abuse her mother physically and emotionally, all the while losing his battle with alcoholism.  But Kenzie's father wasn't just abusive when drinking, he was down right mean.  So why does she catch buses and trudge through the snow daily  to sit at his bedside as he dies?

I've said it before, but it bears repeating.  Bernice McFadden sure can tell a tale.  Sitting at her father, Hy-Lo's, bedside, Kenzie reminisces on her childhood and once she starts, there's no way you can put the book down until she finishes.  Through her flashbacks you learn that the mother that used to protect her and her brother became an alcoholic and that Kenzie, herself, is a recovering alcoholic, continuing the cycle that started with her paternal grandmother.  Hy-Lo gets his nasty spirit honestly from his mother, a woman that would turn her back on her fleeing daughter-in-law and grandchildren in their time of need.

The bright spot in Kenzie's world is her maternal grandmother.  Escaping to Mable's house is a welcome respite from the verbal and emotional abuse Kenzie deals with at home, but her mother, Delia, is never strong enough to keep Hy-Lo at bay.  In a way, it reminded me of people that commit suicide, but feel the need to take someone else with them.  Instead of Delia recognizing and putting her children's happiness ahead of Hy-Lo's and allowing them to stay with Mable, she took them back each and every time, as if to say, "If I'm going to suffer, you're going to suffer too."  It's Mable who eventually gives Kenzie the tools to escape her parents, but with an already shattered foundation, Kenzie is set up to fail and repeat the cycle herself.

One of the things I found quite interesting was that Kenzie was angry with her father, but not her mother.  Her father was the abuser, but her mother was the enabler.  Perhaps Kenzie had already made peace with her mother, but their conversations as adults seemed stunted, so it was difficult to tell.  Of all things, The Warmest December is a story of forgiveness, not necessarily out of love, but out of a need to close a bad chapter in life so that one can move on to other things.

Published: February 2001


Theme: Too Late by Rachelle Ferrell

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