Monday, August 7, 2017

Book Review: There Is No Good Card for This by Kelsey Crowe and Emily McDowell

There Is No Good Card for This: What To Say and Do When Life Is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People You Love

From Goodreads:

The creator of the viral hit "Empathy Cards" teams up with a compassion expert to produce a visually stunning and groundbreaking illustrated guide to help you increase your emotional intelligence and learn how to offer comfort and support when someone you know is in pain.
I loved the combination of illustration and writing in this one.  They blend perfectly to create a manual for empathy that is easy to read and digest.  I learned so much about empathy from the very simple presentation and the conversational tone presented here.  The most important thing I learned was the importance of saying something, not just disappearing from fear of saying the wrong thing.  Thankfully, Crowe and McDowell present the reader with many great options for things to say to those who are suffering.

Entertainment Value
Of course it's a difficult subject to read about, the suffering of people we love, but the topic is handled so compassionately and with humor and heart that it is easy to read.  I thoroughly enjoyed my read of this, and, with some friends going through some particularly difficult moments in their lives, I may make it a point to reread it again sooner rather than later.

I can't recommend this one enough.  If you've ever struggled with what to say with a friend or loved one who is suffering, this is a must read.  The authors give specific and detailed help on words of empathy and how to treat loved ones who are struggling with scary, life-changing moments in a way that is easy to read and understand.  

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Book Review: My Sister's Bones by Nuala Ellwood

My Sister's Bones
Kate has spent fifteen years bringing global injustice home: as a decorated war reporter, she’s always in a place of conflict, writing about ordinary people in unimaginable situations. When her mother dies, Kate returns home from Syria for the funeral. But an incident with a young Syrian boy haunts her dreams, and when Kate sees a boy in the garden of the house next door—a house inhabited by an Iraqi refugee who claims her husband is away and she has no children—Kate becomes convinced that something is very wrong.

As she struggles to separate her memories of Syria from the quiet town in which she grew up—and also to reconcile her memories of a traumatic childhood with her sister’s insistence that all was not as Kate remembers—she begins to wonder what is actually true…and what is just in her mind.
Ellwood is a debut novelist, but you wouldn't know it from the quality of writing found here.  I was really impressed with how well she drew me into Kate's story and how well written her characters are.  I was pulled into the story from the very beginning and, while the characters aren't necessarily likable, I wanted to know their outcomes.  In a book like this, I think you can say that the author achieved her purposes.

Entertainment Value
Again, I was captured from the beginning and found it an easy book to breeze through in just a day or two.  The plot is detailed, but straightforward and easy to follow and the the pacing is perfect for carrying the suspense.  I wouldn't consider this a thriller in the traditional sense, but it is certainly one that will keep you guessing about the outcome.

It's a good addition to the collection of psychological/domestic suspense books that are popular at the moment, and is particularly admirable as a debut novel.  It avoids many of the pitfalls of other books in the genre and kept my interest throughout without revealing any surprises too early.  I'd recommend it for fans of the genre.

Thanks to Harper Collins and to TLC for having me on the tour for this one.  Click here to see the other stops on the tour!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

What I Read in July

This summer is flying by and can we all just take a moment to be thrilled by that?  I know I'm pretty much alone in this, but summer is my least favorite.  I hate the heat, especially here in Georgia.  It makes being outside just miserable at all times except in the early mornings and late in the evening and, let's face it, those are prime times for being in bed.  I have found some very cool (pun intended) spots in my area by the creek where I can stand the heat for an hour or two and enjoy a book with my feet in the water and some shade.  I've done a trip to the Hiawassee to float with some friends and hope to do at least one more before the summer ends.  And I've got some pool plans in my near future.  

Thankfully, to beat the heat, I've been spending lots of time with books.  I'm finally getting back into my reading groove after almost a year long slump.  I'm finding great solace in books again, both in terms of escape and in terms of healing.  My mother and I have bonded over some very good Christian non-fiction and I'm currently wading through the beauty that is the words of Brene Brown.  All of it is wonderful, and I'm pleased to report July as my best reading month in over a year.  Here's what I read.

The Secret Lives of Men and Women
The Secret Art of Being a Grownup
The Breakdown
The Spill Zone
If I Was Your Girl
Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History
PostSecret: Confessions of Life, Death, and God
A Beautiful, Terrible Thing
The Realist
When God Doesn't Fix It
The Most Dangerous Place on Earth
The Anglican Way
Information Now
Rabbit Cake
The Little Book of Life Hacks
Random Illustrated Facts
Two Gentlemen of Verona

What did you read in July?

Monday, July 17, 2017

Book Review: A Beautiful, Terrible Thing by

A Beautiful, Terrible Thing: A Memoir of Marriage and Betrayal
What do you do when you discover that the person you've built your life around never existed? When "it could never happen to me" does happen to you? 

These are the questions facing Jen Waite when she begins to realize that her loving husband--the father of her infant daughter, her best friend, the love of her life--fits the textbook definition of psychopath. In a raw, first-person account, Waite recounts each heartbreaking discovery, every life-destroying lie, and reveals what happens once the dust finally settles on her demolished marriage.

After a disturbing email sparks Waite's suspicion that her husband is having an affair, she tries to uncover the truth and rebuild trust in her marriage. Instead, she finds more lies, infidelity, and betrayal than she could have imagined. Waite obsessively analyzes her relationship, trying to find a single moment from the last five years that isn't part of the long-con of lies and manipulation. With a dual-timeline narrative structure, we see Waite's romance bud, bloom, and wither simultaneously, making the heartbreak and disbelief even more affecting.
Just beautifully done.  It helps that I identified so much with the subject matter of the book.  Not that I was married to a psychopath, but I was in a marriage to a person who had a life I didn't know anything about.  I could greatly identify with a lot of what Waite goes through in the book and having recently been through my own difficult divorce made it a very emotional read for me.  In terms of the writing, I do wish that rather than flipping back and forth between before and after Waite learns of her husband's affair, the book had been divided into two distinct sections.  I found the constant switching between timelines to be a bit of a distraction.  Other than that, I had absolutely nothing but raves for the quality of the author's writing.

Entertainment Value
Again, identifying with so much of what the author was going through really made this book a winner for me.  I devoured it over the course of a weekend and just couldn't make myself put it down.  Waite's story is both heart-wrenching and hopeful, which is exactly what I was looking for and really spoke to me and my own situation.  I think I would have enjoyed it even had I not identified so closely with the author, but having recent commonalities with her made the book even more real for me.

I highly recommend reading this one.  It's beautifully done, but you'll want to read it with a box of tissues handy.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a copy to review.

Monday, July 10, 2017

My Summer Reading Syllabus

I've always been obsessed with summer reading and the idea of having a checklist of books to read in the summer while school was out.  I loved having assigned reading, but I also wasn't afraid to give myself assignments if I didn't feel like we were being given sufficient reading material to last us the summer.  I recently found this self-created summer reading list from my high school days, complete with commentary from my friends, who thought I was nuts for making my own checklist.

Things haven't changed much since high school.  One of the things I miss the most about high school and college is having a list of things to read in the summer.  I first tried out the idea of creating my own summer syllabus last year, but the implosion of my marriage meant that things went off track pretty quickly.  So this year I'm trying again, this time with the help of my bullet journal, which I've recently become obsessed with.  Here's what I've got:

What do you think?  Am I crazy?  What would you put on your summer syllabus?

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Book Review: The Breakdown by B.A. Paris

The Breakdown

If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?
Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside―the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped. 
But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby. 
The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt. 
Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…
Wow.  Um, this was bad.  Really bad.  I hate to just say it that way, but there's no other way to put it.  I knew immediately what was going on and who was responsible.  I hoped for the entire book that it was a red herring, but it wasn't.  It was exactly what I thought it was from the very first page.  I was so disappointed.  In addition to being absolutely, straightforwardly predictable, the details of the book just don't make sense.  It ventures into spoiler territory to say more, but suffice it to say that Paris's characters are dumb as rocks.

Entertainment Value
Knowing the whodunnit from the first page kind of ruined the suspense, but even if there was a question of who was behind the threat, the threat itself was so mild that there was no real sense of suspense or terror through most of the book.  Cass's fear largely revolves around silent phone calls.  We don't get a good explanation for why she doesn't stop answering the phone, call the police to have the calls traced, or just unplug the phone.  But when the most threatening thing happening is answering the phone to silence, it's hard to feel like anyone is in any real danger.  I was expecting a lot more tension than I ever got.  A lot of the book consists of Cass crying and falling to pieces over and over and over.  

I absolutely don't recommend it.  I appreciate NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with review copies, but I was really let down by the reading experience and glad that it at least read quickly and didn't take up a large amount of time.  If it hadn't been a fast read, it would have been a DNF.   

Monday, July 3, 2017

What I Read in June

June was such a beautiful month for my family.  My youngest brother, the baby of the family, married his college sweetheart in a beautiful ceremony in east Tennessee.  We got to see all of our extended family and some Arkansas friends that we haven't seen in years.  It such a special trip and such a blessing to add another sister to our family.  A lot of people asked me if, given my recent divorce, it was hard on me, but the truth is that Andrew is kind of my pet sibling and I was so happy to see him happy that it wasn't difficult at all.  My older brother and his wife and children came and it is always a treat to see them.

June was also a very good month for me in terms of reading.  I got a lot accomplished and I'm feeling like I'm finally getting my feet back under me when it comes to reading and enjoying books.  Here's what I read:

Clean My Space by Melissa Maker
The Fireman by Joe Hill
Brave New Girl: How to Be Fearless by Lou Hamilton
Snow Blind by Ollie Masters
Best Enemies by Jane Heller
Roses and Rot by Kat Howard
Hello Tokyo by Ebony Bizys
The Blessing of Humility by Jeff Bridges
The Only Child by Andrew Pyper
Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren (for the second time this year)
Drawing Calm by Susan Evenson
My Secret by Frank Warren
A Lifetime of Secrets by Frank Warren
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
Penance by Kanae Minato
The Dark Net by Jamie Bartlett
Sex Object by Jessica Valente
Relish by Lucy Knisley

What did you read in June?