abuse · book review · Family · reading · secrets

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie {Review}

Blurb:

Fifteen-year-old Kambili and her older brother Jaja lead a privileged life in Enugu, Nigeria. They live in a beautiful house, with a caring family, and attend an exclusive missionary school. They’re completely shielded from the troubles of the world. Yet, as Kambili reveals in her tender-voiced account, things are less perfect than they appear. Although her Papa is generous and well respected, he is fanatically religious and tyrannical at home—a home that is silent and suffocating.

As the country begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili and Jaja are sent to their aunt, a university professor outside the city, where they discover a life beyond the confines of their father’s authority. Books cram the shelves, curry and nutmeg permeate the air, and their cousins’ laughter rings throughout the house. When they return home, tensions within the family escalate, and Kambili must find the strength to keep her loved ones together.

Review:

This is the second novel I have read by Adichie and because I enjoyed Americanah so much, I had very high hopes for this story. I was not disappointed. In fact, I was even more blown away with her beautiful prose and style of writing.

This story is told from the perspective of a fifteen year old girl named Kambili. She is the daughter of a well to do businessman and a religious fanatic. From the outside, the world believes that Kambili, her older brother Jaja, and her mother live the perfect life of happiness. In reality, their home life is everything but that. Kambili’s father has horrifying standards for his family and they often pay in pain when they disappoint him.

Although I did like the story being told by Kambili, there were moments when I wanted to get Jaja’s perspective on what they were going thru especially when they went to visit their aunt, Ifeoma.

Adichie draws you in and forces you to connect to her characters in such a way that you don’t even realize it’s happening. The story flows at a remarkable pace. The dynamic nature between the characters is astounding. I admit when I first started reading this story, I didn’t think I would connect with Kambili and I thought her character wouldn’t develop like it did.

Reading this story and seeing what Kambili and her family went thru, broke my heart in many ways. This story makes you think about how an outside perspective can often cause disillusionment when it comes to someone’s life and what they may be dealing with or going through. You also think about how much you are willing to take or deal with when it comes to your loved ones. How much you are willing to sacrifice. Does being a religious figure or devout believer really separate you from those you believe to beneath you for being non believers when you aren’t living as perfectly as you think?

I highly recommend this book if you are a fan of Adichie. I still can’t believe that this was her debut novel.

This book was the first of my backlist buddy read that I’m hosting on Instagram this year.

Rating:

4.5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audio.

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book review · reading

The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib {ARC Review}

Blurb:

The chocolate went first, then the cheese, the fries, the ice cream. The bread was more difficult, but if she could just lose a little more weight, perhaps she would make the soloists’ list.  Perhaps if she were lighter, danced better, tried harder, she would be good enough. Perhaps if she just ran for one more mile, lost just one more pound.  Anna Roux was a professional dancer who followed the man of her dreams from Paris to Missouri. There, alone with her biggest fears-imperfection, failure, loneliness-she spirals down anorexia and depression till she weighs a mere eighty-eight pounds. Forced to seek treatment, she is admitted as a patient at 17 Swann Street, a peach pink house where pale, fragile women with life-threatening eating disorders live. Women like Emm, the veteran; quiet Julia, always hungry. Together they must fight their diseases and face six meals a day.

Review:

This book was everything I was told it was going to be. I started reading it on Saturday and finished it Sunday. I was so engrossed in the story. The way the story is structured, with vignettes of her life building up to her admittance to the house is just remarkable.  Yara Zgheib tells this story in such a beautiful fashion that connects you with the characters, especially Anna. You get an inside look at someone suffering from a disease but doesn’t fully understand the impact that it is causing on her life. Not only do you see how life can be with someone who has a support system, you also see from some of the other girls how life can be without a support system.  The denial, the pain, the suffering, and the victories(yes, there are some joyous moments). The way this story is written would make you think that it is actually a memoir instead of a fictional story.

If you are looking for a read that is going to pull at every emotion while also making you think, this is the story for you. I am a big fan of realistic fiction. I love reading a story that hits close to home and reality. Mental illness and eating disorders are not subjects that are easily discussed and are often times overlooked.

This is a phenomenal debut novel and I look forward to reading what Yara writes next.

This story does come with trigger warnings so if eating disorders and depression are subjects that you are sensitive about I would strongly suggest taking that into consideration before reading this story.

Rating:

4.5 Stars

Availability:

February 5, 2019

*I received this advanced copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

abuse · book review · books · Family · secrets · suspense

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owen

Blurb:

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

Review:

I bought this book during one of my impulse book buying sprees back in August and had been itching to read it because the storyline caught my attention. Needless to say I was pretty excited that my local book club decided to read it for our October book.

 The first thing that caught my attention with this novel was the style of writing. I loved the prose and how the story just flowed on the pages. Delia’s style of writing is lovely on its own, but the added poetry throughout made it even better. This is one of those stories that you just can’t help but fall in love with because you can feel what the characters are going thru and you want everything to work out for them.

 Kya experiences so much heartache at a young age. She witnesses and experiences the abuse of her father and she is slowly abandoned by each of her family members. When she tries to go to school she is bullied by the children and in town she is treated unfairly by the adults who assume she is nothing more than swamp trash instead of trying to help her. Kya has to learn how to fend for herself. She has to cook, clean, shop, and grow into her womanhood.

 As Kya grows older, she develops a fascination with nature that is hard to describe. She starts a collection of items that eventually helps her survive. Kya seems to be alone but she isn’t. She develops a friendship with Jumpin’ and his wife Mabel. She also develops a beautiful friendship with Tate. I loved the relationship that Kya and Tate have even though things don’t play out the way that they would have if Kya wasn’t considered swamp trash.

 After Kya learns to open up and trust, she is hurt again. Unfortunately this hurt makes her a vulnerable target for local heartthrob, football star Chase Andrews. I did not like anything about Chase from the beginning and hate to say that he deserved what became of him. He was a pretentious jerk.

 This is a story about abandonment, abuse, racial and class prejudice, and love. All of these tie together as a child grows up and a murder has to be solved.

 Rating:

4.5 Stars

Availability:

Available in hardcover, ebook and audiobook

book review · Family · reading

The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle {Review}

Blurb:

When Sabrina Nielsen arrives at her thirtieth birthday dinner she finds at the table not just her best friend, but also her favorite professor from college, her father, her ex-fiance, Tobias, and Audrey Hepburn.

At one point or another, we’ve all been asked to name five people, living or dead, with whom we’d like to have dinner. Why do we choose the people we do? And what if that dinner was to actually happen? These are the questions Sabrina contends with in Rebecca Serle’s utterly captivating novel, The Dinner List, a story imbued with the same delightful magical realism as Sliding Doors, and The Rosie Project.

As the appetizers are served, wine poured, and dinner table conversation begins, it becomes clear that there’s a reason these six people have been gathered together, and as Rebecca Serle masterfully traces Sabrina’s love affair with Tobias and her coming of age in New York City, The Dinner List grapples with the definition of romance, the expectations of love, and how we navigate our way through it to happiness. Oh, and of course, wisdom from Audrey Hepburn.

Delicious but never indulgent, sweet with just the right amount of bitter, The Dinner List is a modern romance for our times. Bon appetit.

Review:

When I first started hearing about and seeing The Dinner List I will admit I was not immediately drawn to the story. It was almost close to publication date before I was finally convinced that it would be a novel that I could read and possibly find myself enjoying.

I am a mood reader so I was happy and pleasantly surprised when a copy of this novel showed up in the mail one day. I was in the mood for a “light” read. Within the first few chapters I quickly found out that this was going to be a much deeper read that what I was expecting. I should have known that when one of the blurbs I saw contained a comparison to Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. I was still not prepared for the emotional journey that I was about to endure.

This novel makes you think, it makes you feel. Several times I found myself stopping to think about who I would invite to a dinner if I had the opportunity. I made several revisions to my own personal dinner list while reading.

I don’t ever recall reading a contemporary novel with a plot twist. I was more blown away with the plot twist in this novel than I have ever been with a thriller, which always contains a plot twist. It gave my heart a serious jolt. I felt it in my soul.

There were so many quotes in this novel that stood out to me, but there was one that stayed with me and I had to put the book down for several days before picking it back up.

“When someone leaves, remembering the joy is far more

painful than thinking about the misery.” (page 37)

This book has the potential to be a “one sitting” read but I highly recommend taking your time to ingest and enjoy it.

I received this book from the publisher in promise of an honest review. I also won a copy from Booksparks along with a very cute tote bag.

Rating:

4 stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook and audiobook

book review · books · dedication · Family · hockey · reading

Us Against You by Fredrik Backman {Review}

Blurb:

After everything that the citizens of Beartown have gone through, they are struck yet another blow when they hear that their beloved local hockey team will soon be disbanded. What makes it worse is the obvious satisfaction that all the former Beartown players, who now play for a rival team in Hed, take in that fact. Amidst the mounting tension between the two rivals, a surprising newcomer is handpicked to be Beartown’s new hockey coach.

Soon a new team starts to take shape around Amat, the fastest player you’ll ever see; Benji, the intense lone wolf; and Vidar, a born-to-be-bad troublemaker. But bringing this team together proves to be a challenge as old bonds are broken, new ones are formed, and the enmity with Hed grows more and more acute.

As the big match approaches, the not-so-innocent pranks and incidents between the communities pile up and their mutual contempt grows deeper. By the time the last game is finally played, a resident of Beartown will be dead, and the people of both towns will be forced to wonder if, after all they’ve been through, the game they love can ever return to something simple and innocent.

Review:

Once again Backman strings your emotions along as we return to the beloved Beartown and hockey. Okay, if you haven’t read Beartown, I suggest that you add it to your TBR soon. I did a review of it earlier this year and even if sports stories aren’t your thing, you can still enjoy the story. Okay back to the book at hand, I didn’t think that Beartown needed a sequel but none the less, I was excited to learn that there was going to be one. I didn’t know where Backman could take the story considering the first book looked into the future of some of the characters, but he managed to pull it off. I didn’t enjoy this novel quite as much as I enjoyed Beartown, but it was still a good story. I felt that the style of writing changed some with this novel, but I could be alone with that opinion. It is still a well written story. I have to say that even though this is a sequel, it could be read by itself.

Although I appreciated a look into some of the minor characters from Beartown, there were moments I felt the story was too drawn out. Once again, I fell in love with Benji and Amat and wanted to protect them as best as I could. With this story we are given more information on “The Pack” and given another character to fall in love with, Vidir. Who doesn’t love the outcast or the underdog? Alongside with characters that you fall in love with, you seem to always have those who make you want to shake them. Mostly it was the adults who made me want to shake them.

The story moves along at a decent pace but there were some parts I wanted to move a bit faster, especially toward the end of the book. Once I got to the end however, I could see that the rest of the story was just a build up for the climax. Let me tell you, I could hardly make it thru because my emotions were going all over the place. The end of the novel is probably my least favorite out of all Backman’s novels.

With that being said, am I disappointed that I read it? No, I am not and yes, I would still recommend it to those who enjoyed Beartown.

This is the type of story that makes you think about growing up, the difficulties that children face, and the moments of doubt that parents may have, and sacrifice. In the end, we see how important family is and how loyalty plays a role in life on and off the ice.

Rating:

3 stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook.

abuse · book review · books · Family · secrets

Praise Song for the Butterflies by Bernice L. McFadden {Review}

Goodreads Blurb:

Abeo Kata lives a comfortable, happy life in West Africa as the privileged nine-year-old daughter of a government employee and stay-at-home mother. But when the Katas’ idyllic lifestyle takes a turn for the worse, Abeo’s father, following his mother’s advice, places her in a religious shrine, hoping that the sacrifice of his daughter will serve as religious atonement for the crimes of his ancestors. Unspeakable acts befall Abeo for the fifteen years she is enslaved within the shrine. When she is finally rescued, broken and battered, she must struggle to overcome her past, endure the revelation of family secrets, and learn to trust and love again.

In the tradition of Chris Cleave’s Little Bee, Praise Song for the Butterflies is a contemporary story that offers an educational, eye-opening account of the practice of ritual servitude in West Africa. Spanning decades and two continents, Praise Song for the Butterflies will break and heal your heart.

Review:

I requested this novel after reading about it in an article on Facebook mentioning books to look forward to. Once I read the plot, I knew I would like it. I didn’t know how much it would intrigue me and keep me glued to its pages. This was a one sitting read for myself and I’m glad that I picked a long weekend to read it even if it only took me 2 hours to read it.

The opening of the story is so intense, but it does not prepare you for what is to come for the rest of the story. This is a story about love, abuse, sacrifice, and pain, and the path to healing.

Abeo is a young happy girl in Africa living what seems to be the perfect life with her family. They are wealthy, and they don’t need for much. Abeo’s family is visited by her Aunt Serafine who lives in the United States. Abeo’s life is easy even when her father is suspended from work. When Abeo’s grandfather dies and her grandmother comes to live with them, Abeo’s life begins to change in a way she does not see coming. Abeo’s grandmother believes and convinces her son to believe that Abeo is the reason for all their misfortune. She convinces him to basically give his daughter up to slavery to make his life better. This is not something he discusses with his wife. He just takes his child and leaves her in the hands of the devil himself and never looks back. Abeo was 9 years old.

At first Abeo’s mother is overcome with rage but she eventually comes around because she believes that it is her duty to follow behind the decision of her husband. For a while, life without Abeo starts to get better and her parents are convinced that the right decision was made. Soon enough, the luck runs out. Abeo’s mother dies. She dies before she ever sees her daughter again.

While the Kata’s are living their newly enhanced life, Abeo is living a life of hell. A life that she was thrown into without ever knowing why. She is a slave along with other young girls whose families have thrown them into the life of being a trokosi. They are beaten, fed enough to keep them alive and raped. Abeo must endure this for much of her childhood and the early part of her adult life. She doesn’t know anything about her family or their whereabouts. She just knows that this is the life her father has left her to. Abeo does try to escape but fails to no end. She takes beatings and soon must endure a constant stream of rape.

Finally, a woman name Taylor moves to Africa and opens a sanctuary and begins rescuing girls from the life of being a trokosi. Abeo is one of the women who is rescued but not after enduring the death of her son.

After Abeo is rescued, she must learn to love again and to function again in the real world. She is also reunited with who is left of her family. She learns of her mother’s death and she also learn her family’s other secret which will have a significant impact on her life.

Although this is a story of fiction, it is a story that needs to be told and put out into the world because this is happening everyday just like human trafficking. This story had me feeling so many emotions all at one time. I could not even keep up. I was angry, sad, happy, hurt, devastated. All of those within the two-hour time it took me to read it. I am still feeling those emotions even the next day. This story is going to stick with me for quite some time and I would actually want to look further into this heinous practice and see what it is I may be able to do to become more educated about it and lend my help.

I really loved the significance of the butterflies. You will have to read the book to see what I am talking about.

There are definitely some trigger warnings that come with this novel. It is not for the faint of heart.

I received this book in exchange of an honest review.

Rating:

5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in paperback, hardcover, ebook and audiobook

addiction · book review · dedication · Family

Off the Rails: One Family’s Journey Through Teen Addiction by Susan Burrowes {Review}

Goodreads Blurb:

Fifteen-year-old Hannah was a privileged young girl with a promising future, but that didn’t stop her from sliding into an abyss of sex, drugs, alcohol, and other high-risk behaviors. Off the Rails narrates Hannah’s sudden decline and subsequent treatment through the raw, honest, compelling voices of Hannah and her shocked and desperate mother—each one telling her side of the story.

Fearing that they couldn’t keep their teen safe, Hannah’s parents made the agonizing decision to send her to a wilderness program, and then to residential treatment. Off the Rails tells the story of the two tough years Hannah spent in three separate programs—and ponders the factors that contributed to her ultimate recovery.

Written for parents of teens experimenting with high-risk behaviors, as well as those trying to navigate the controversial world of teen treatment programs, Off the Rails is an inspiring story of family love, determination, and the last-resort intervention that helped one troubled young woman find sobriety after a terrifying and harrowing journey.

My Review:

As a parent of a pre-teen, this was a much needed but intense and frightening read. I never think about the possibility of something like addiction happening to one of my children but reading this story made me realize that the possibility is there. I didn’t know if I would like the format in which the story was written but I gave more validation to how Hannah and her mom were feeling and what they were going thru. You see how fast Hannah’s addiction and behavior begin to affect their family. This story shows how difficult it is to make decisions for your child and family that may not be necessarily ideal but are needed. I don’t imagine that Susan ever thought she would have to send Hannah away for the length of time that she did. Having the story told from Hannah’s point of view allowed a look into how addiction affects the mind and feelings of the person addicted. Not only did Hannah have to go thru a healing process to get better, her family had to go thru one of their own in order to understand what they were going thru and why. For parents, I can say that would not be an easy task. To have to see where your faults are in possibly helping your child turn to a life of addiction. But at the same time, the addicted teen also has to take responsibility for their actions.  I highly recommend this story if someone has any questions of concerns about teen addiction and the affects that it has on a family. Although this story is heart wrenching it can provide hope that a change can be made for the better, but you have to be willing to set aside your personal feelings for it to happen.

I received this book from Booksparks in exchange for my honest review.

Rating:

4.5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in paperback and ebook