Wednesday, April 29, 2020

ORIGANIMO Foldable Fun with Insects & Cats - Inkyeoung & Sunkyung (IK&SK)

Schiffer Publishing sent me a package of books to keep my kiddos busy during the April 2020 quarantine.  Pretty awesome, right?  They should be nominated for sainthood.  I don't know if that's a thing, but that should be a thing. Anyway, it came on my 40th birthday, and in it, among other things, were these two cute little intro-to-origami (origanimo) books:


Insects: Fold & Play 

More than twenty multicolored insects are ready to crawl in just a few folds!  Have fun recognizing and playing with them all.  Pop out the pieces on each page and follow the instructions to create your perfect little paper friend.  Each page features the name of the bug to help you identify them on your outdoor adventures.

(Summary from back of book - Image from Schifferbooks.com - Book given free in exchange for an honest review)

Available for purchase here (This is NOT an affiliate link)



Cats: Fold & Play

A merry band of black cats in multiple positions are easily made in a few folds!  Are you ready for some fun?  Pop out the pieces on each page and follow the instructions to create your perfect little paper friend.  The back page features yellow balls of yarn to assemble for each kitty to have their own fun.

(Summary from back of book - Image from Schifferbooks.com - Book given free in exchange for an honest review)

Available for purchase here (This is NOT an affiliate link)



My Review:  I have always been fascinated by origami.  The precision required to make paper creations appeals to my perfectionism, but also makes me extremely hesitant to do it with my children. Obviously, precision can be tricky for little hands and then comes the waaaaailing.  I'd do just about anything to avoid the wailing right now.

When I saw these Fold & Play books, I thought they might be a perfect intro to origami for my little ones, ages 7 and 9.  I was pleased to find that the folding activities were much simpler than standard origami. While the book doesn't do everything for you, kids are able to pop the basic pre-cut shape out of the page and follow the solid and dotted lines that tell you which ways to fold the paper.

After all the 'distance learning' my kids have been doing lately (SO MUCH un-fun screen time on their school computers), it was nice to give them something tactile, colorful, and creative to do.  Once my kids understood that lines were folded like "tents" and dotted lines were folded like "tacos" they needed very little help.  The fact that I didn't need to be there every second was just a big. freaking. bonus.

Do you hear that sound? That kind of desperate gasping?  Don't worry. It's just me, crying tears of joy.

While the suggested age for these books is 5-8 years old, I'd say that's more of a jumping off point.  My seven-year-old definitely was the most interested, but her nine-year-old sister came in a close second, and one of my teens even got in on the action.  When I asked my youngest what she thought about the book she said:

I really like it.  It's fun! ...and later... I want to do this every day.  I'm going to do ALL of these! 

Thankfully, I convinced her to save some for her older sister who had taken a break from folding to do piano lesson via Zoom in another room.


Both of these books would be great gifts for someone who has a bunch of stir-crazy little kiddos at home right now. Grandmas and Grandpas out there -- I'm talking to you!  If forced to choose, I would definitely recommend the Insects Fold & Play for the 5-8 age group over the Cats Fold & Play, for two reasons.  First, the Insects pop out of a page that is covered in flora and they come in a variety of colors that are simply are more attractive to little ones.  Second, it is slightly easier to see the solid and dotted lines on the colored paper.  However, I would recommend the Cats Fold & Play for slightly older kids, teens, and even adults who want to just enjoy some relatively effortless paper play.  Here are just some of the foldable figures my children made today ------------------------------------> (many more were made after I took this picture).

Not interested in Cats or Insects? Never fear. Dinosaur Fold & Play and Baby Animals Fold & Play and Dinosaurs coming in October 2020!

My Rating: 4 Stars for Insects -   3.75 for Cats

For the sensitive reader:  All the cats are black.  Don't let them cross your path! ;)

Monday, April 27, 2020

The Tenth Muse - Catherine Chung

Summary: The first thing I remember being said of me with any consistency was that I was intelligent—and I recognized even then that it was a comment leveled at me with as much disapproval as admiration. Still, I never tried to hide or suppress my mind as some girls do, and thank God, because that would have been the beginning of the end.

From childhood, Katherine knows she is different, and that her parents are not who they seem to be. But in becoming a mathematician, she must face the most human of problems—who is she? What is the cost of love, and what is the cost of ambition?

On her quest to conquer the Riemann Hypothesis, the greatest unsolved mathematical problem of her time, she turns to a theorem with a mysterious history that holds both the lock and key to her identity, and to secrets long buried during World War II in Germany. Forced to confront some of the most consequential events of the twentieth century and rethink everything she knows of herself, she strives to take her place in the world of higher mathematics and finds kinship in the stories of the women who came before her—their love of the language of numbers connecting them across generations.

In The Tenth Muse, Catherine Chung offers a gorgeous, sweeping tale about legacy, identity, and the beautiful ways the mind can make us free.
 (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)


My Review: This is the second book I’ve read within a few months that discussed a race between different brilliant mathematicians to find a solution to an unanswered mathematical problem. I reviewed Rachel Barenbaum’s A Bend in the Stars a few weeks ago, which took place during WWI while in the midst of the search for the Theory of Relativity. The Tenth Muse was recommended to me by a lovely lady in my book club who thought I would really like it. Imagine my surprise when the recommendation happened to be another book about mathematicians trying to find an answer to a mathematical question! It was a fun topic to revisit, especially since I enjoyed Barenbaum’s book.

There was a lot going on in this book, and a lot to discuss. There are lots and lots of issues addressed. First of all, there is the issue of the protagonist in the book, Katherine, being a woman in the field of mathematics. I think this was at the foremost of all the discussions and happenings although, believe me, there were many other issues addressed as well. Katherine is put in a situation where people don’t take her seriously because she is a woman in mathematics. Or when they do take her seriously, they feel threatened and realize they can do something about it and therefore either do things to hinder her directly, sometimes hinder her unknowingly, or try to do what they think would be best for her without asking her permission first. This was a hard read in this way—it is hard enough now to be a woman with ambitions and ideas. Things are getting bette­r­—­of course they are—and we have come a long way, but to read about such a brilliant woman who was basically denied opportunities in the past because she is a woman was really difficult. The friend who recommended the book to me said, "It’s how life is—in ways much more complex than we realize.  It’s a special connector when we open ourselves to another who has addressed or handled challenges and then shares the outcomes with us.  We get to feel our own sense of disgust and pain as we read that other’s experience; in this case, Katherine does not beat it to death—we feel it for her."  

The Tenth Muse didn’t take place that long ago, and so the fight for women’s equality in science is still a fledgling pursuit, albeit one that is hopefully gaining momentum and credibility as time goes on. I really appreciated reading about the female mathematicians that Katherine looked up to, and there were a few in particular (trying not to give spoilers here) who were seriously impressive in that they just didn’t care and did what they could to further mathematics on their terms. Women like this in all fields of study are impressive and brave, and I appreciate their efforts, not just for the obvious reason that women should have the same opportunities of men, but because if we don’t take women’s study and research and findings into considerations, we’re basically ignoring half the population and therefore limiting our own abilities to find out the answers to questions and problems of all sorts.

Another major issue addressed in the book is one of race. Katherine is of Chinese descent, and this is made more complicated by the fact that she isn’t sure of her exact lineage. This mystery unfolds more and becomes more complex as the book goes on, but being of a different race and female during this time in history would have been difficult for one who had aspirations such as Katherine did. I found this part of the story to be really complex and interesting and yet another heartbreaking thing that this woman had to address and learn to face in her life. It added more depth to the ongoing issues she faced, and therefore added a layer of complexity to each situation that went beyond her just being female.

I am no mathematician, so if you have been reading this review and are worried about whether you would be able to understand what is going on or not, I assure you that you will. There were mathematical terms I was unfamiliar with, of course, but this did not confuse me or make me unable to understand what was going on in the story. The math aspect of this book is simply the vehicle that is used to address so many other topics.

If you are into historical fiction with strong female characters, especially ones who are facing career choices in careers that are not “traditionally” female, I recommend this book. I think it would be a good book club read as well. I wish that I had had the opportunity to discuss it with my lovely book club ladies. Alas, there weren’t enough copies for all of us so we read another book (that we also enjoyed). However, I hope you get the chance to read it with your book club and have a great discussion!

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There is some mild language and mild sexual content.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Freeform Friday: The 100 Series (including The 100, The 100: Day 21, The 100: Homecoming) - Kass Morgan

I thought I'd shake things up today by reviewing THREE books instead of our usual one.  
I'm wild like that.  Watch out!

Here are my reviews  of the first three books of 
The 100 series by Kass Morgan: 

The 100, The 100: Day 21, and The 100: Homecoming
They are reviewed individually, so go ahead 
and scroll down to the one you'd like to read.
____________________________________________________________________


Summary:  No one has set foot on earth in centuries -- until now.  Ever since a devastating nuclear war, humanity has lived on spaceships far above Earth's radioactive surface.  Now, one hundred juvenile delinquents are being sent on a dangerous mission: to recolonize the planet.  It could be their second chance at life...or it could be a suicide mission.

CLARKE was arrested for treason, though she's haunted by the memory of what she really did.  WELLS came to Earth for the girl he loves -- but will she ever forgive him?  BELLAMY fough his way onto the transport pod to protect his sister, and GLASS managed to escape, only to find that life on the ship is just as dangerous as she feared it would be on Earth.

In a savage land, the hundred must fight to survive.  They were never meant to be heroes, but they may be mankind's last hope. (Summary from back of book - Image from amazon.com)

My Review:  I'm in a bit of an odd position with this review as I actually watched several seasons of The 100 CW TV series before reading the book it was based on.  The two formats are now inextricably tied together in my mind and so some of my review will be about how they compare and some will be about the book itself.  I can't figure out how to untangle them.

I started watching the television show because the premise sounded exciting and original (see summary above) and I quickly fell in love with the characters.  Eventually, the show took on some more adult themes and I decided to move on, but when I realized the show was actually based on a book series, I decided to see if the written version was a bit more suited to my palate.  I mean, the book is always better, right?  In this case, yes...and no.

Kass Morgan's The 100 is certainly cleaner than the show version, but the two formats have differences that would render them nearly unrecognizable if it weren't for their shared premise.  The show uses the book's basic plot as a springboard, rather than a guideline to follow. Thankfully, Clarke, Bellamy, Wells, and Octavia are still featured characters in both formats, but there a few characters and an entire narrative arc missing from the show and a boatload of characters 'missing' from the book (Finn, Raven, Murphy, Jasper, Monty, Abigail, Kane, etc.).  I kept waiting for some of them to appear and was sad when they never materialized.  It's not the book or the author's fault, of course, that the show took creative liberties, but my experience with the book feels tainted because of that disappointment.  I don't know that I would recommend this book to someone who has already seen the series, because I think their disappointment would mirror my own.  However, I do think that taken on its own, the book has promise.

The novel itself is an effortless, escapist read that I finished in less than a day.  I was fascinated by the idea of a bunch of rebel kids set down in a post-apocalyptic earth, trying to 'set up shop' and survive.  The whole thing had a futuristic Lord of the Flies vibe and some interesting potential that might still play out in the series.  There is also a love triangle that provides some romantic tension and a twist at the end that will have readers (who haven't seen the show already) exclaiming, "WOAH! WHAAAAAAT!?!?" and reaching for the next book in the series, The 100: Day 21.  (psst...reviewed below)

I feel like giving this book an official rating based on my experience is slightly unfair but I think that taken on its own merits, the book version of The 100 would probably have rated somewhere between 3 and 4 Stars. So...

My Rating: 3.5 Stars.

For the sensitive reader:  A handful of swear words (mostly of the S or BS variety), some making out, and implied (but not 'seen' or described) sex.
______________________________________________________________________________

The 100: Day 21 is the sequel to Kass Morgan's The 100 (reviewed above).  We recommend you read that review/book first, if you haven't already.

Summary: It's been 21 days since the hundred landed on Earth.  They're the only humans to set foot on the planet in centuries...or so they thought.

Facing an unknown enemy, WELLS attempts to keep the group safe after a tragic attack.  CLARKE strikes out in search of other colonists, while BELLAMY is determined to rescue his sister, no matter the cost.  And back on the ship, GLASS faces an unthinkable choice between the love of her life and life itself.

In this pulse-pounding sequel, the hundred will struggle to survive the only way they can -- together.  (Summary from back of book - Image from amazon.com)

My Review:  The 100: Day 21 pick up where its predecessor left off, the hundred having just discovered they are not the only human inhabitants on planet Earth. Much of the book centers around that issue and the 100 coming to terms with this new reality and the subsequent rising tensions.  Another arc takes place on the failing space colony as two characters fight to stay alive as oxygen supplies run low.  As with the first book, this one only resembles the TV series by the same name in that some of the same central characters have landed on earth, are continuing to fight among themselves, and have found out they aren't alone on the planet.  From there, great license is taken by the TV studio, which is not to say that the book is better or worse than the series -- just very different.

The 100: Day 21 is a fast, fun read.  I blew through it in a day with very little effort and loved that it didn't make me think too hard (which is exactly what I needed at the time).  It is a little soapy, though.  There was a lot of high drama between characters with several situations that could have been solved with a little basic human communication or a chill-pill, but instead end up coming across rather I-can't-believe-you-lied-to-me-I-never-want-to-see-you-again-oh-but-wait-I-love-and-forgive-you.  It was enough back and forth to give a girl whiplash.  That having been said, if you are looking for an quick read and don't mind a little 'soap',  you'll probably like this one.  Just like its predecessor, this one has some surprise revelations and a cliffhanger ending, so, I've already put the next book (The 100: Homecoming) on hold at the library.  Right now, Mama needs some easy reads.  (Scroll down a wee bit and you can read that review)

My Rating: 3.25 Stars

For the Sensitive Reader:  A handful of swearing, some making out, implied sex (happens off-page, not described), mention of a homosexual relationship between secondary characters.
_______________________________________________________________________________

The 100: Homecoming is the third book in The 100 book series by Kass Morgan.  We recommend reading the first two (reviewed above) if you haven't already.

Summary:  Humanity is coming home.  Weeks after landing on earth, the 100 have managed to create a sense of order amid their wild, chaotic surroundings.  But their delicate balance comes crashing down with the arrival of new dropships from space.

These new arrivals are the lucky ones -- back on the Colony, the oxygen is almost gone -- but after making it safely to Earth, GLASS's luck seems to be running out.  CLARKE leads a rescue party to the crash site, ready to treat the wounded, but she can't stop thinking about her parents, who may still be alive.  Meanwhile, WELLS struggles to maintain his authority despire the presence of the Vice Chancellor and his armed guards, and BELLAMY must decide whether to flee or face the crimes he thought he'd left behind.

It's time for the hundred to come together and fight for the freedom they've found on Earth, or risk losing everything -- and everyone -- they love.  (Summary from back of book - Image from amazon.com)

My Review: Okay, party people, I have good news and bad news.

The Good News: I blazed through the first two books in this series because, at the time, I really needed some mindless, soapy post-apocalyptic fiction to get me through break (and they filled that need).  The 100: Homecoming is still mindless, soapy post-apocalyptic fiction.

The Bad News:  I'm officially over it.  The characters and story line have never been particularly deep, but this book felt utterly one-dimensional.  The story moved so quickly that characters would, for example, decide to go to war, plan an attack, and then be in the midst of battle all on the same page.  Most dilemmas the core group encountered were surmounted quickly and with very little fuss, so there was never time to build any real sense of urgency.  Add to that my annoyance that several different couples (for whom I never really felt any chemistry or relationship-development) kept professing their undying love, and I wasn't buying any of it.  When tragedy struck, I couldn't care less.  You see where I'm going with this.  It all just seemed kind of contrived and pointless.

Long story short, I'm done with this series.  There is another book (The 100: Rebellion) but I have no plans to read it.  I suppose it's possible that a younger reader might be happy with this series, but I was not.  It's time for me to move on to other things.

My Rating:  2 Stars.  Just barely.

For the Sensitive Reader:  Some kissing.  Any sexual intimacy that may have occurred was only eluded to and never described.  Some innuendo.  A handful of swear words, of the A, S, GD, and F variety.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

What Alice Forgot - Liane Moriarty

Summary:  Alice Love is twenty-nine years old, and her life is soft, slow, and sweet.  She's unfailingly optimistic, and keen on sleeping in and eating anything with chocolate in it, and above all, she adores her husband, Nick.  They're expecting their first baby, who at the moment is the size of a raisin (they call her the Sultana) and to whom Nick speaks nightly through an empty toilet paper roll held right up against Alice's belly. Alice and Nick plan to spend the rest of their lives working on the ramshackle house they just bought, with the goal of completing the list of projects (they call it The Impossible Dream) sometime shortly before they die.

So imagine Alice's surprise when she comes to on the floor of a gym (a gym! she HATES the gym!) and is whisked off to the hospital.  Her first concern is her baby, and she's desperate to see Nick, who she knows will be worried about her.  But Alice isn't pregnant and Nick isn't worried.

Turns out, Alice is, in fact, thirty-nine, has three children, and the honeymoon is well and truly over for her and Nick.  Her ramshackle home is instead picture-perfect from top to bottom, and it's clear that she inhabits a body that doesn't indulge in chocolate often (or ever).  The knock on the head has misplaced ten years of her life, and Alice isn't sure she likes life ten years later.  With a decade of memories gone for the time being, she has to piece together what has happened and who she has become.  In the end, it turns out that forgetting may be the most memorable thing that has ever happened to her.  (Summary from book flap - Image from amazon.com)

My Review:  A little over a year ago, Ashley reviewed this book.  You can read her review here.  Her review is the reason I picked up this book in the first place, and now that I've finished reading it, I can say we seem to be on the same page about it. Still, I've committed to reviewing every book I read, so I'm going to share my thoughts.  Briefly.

What Alice Forgot had such an engaging premise that I was pulled into Alice's shoes right away.  What would I do if I woke up without my memories for the last ten years?!  What might that be like?!  The book switches between the perspectives of three different women:  Alice the amnesiac, her sister Elizabeth's therapy journals, and their honorary grandmother Frannie's letters to a paramour.  Each woman had their own story that bled into and enriched the others: Alice, trying to piece together the past ten years; Elizabeth, struggling with infertility and the stress on her marriage; and Frannie, being pestered by a fellow resident at her retirement community.  It all flowed together quite nicely and made for an interesting, easy read -- definitely beach worthy, ski-lodge worthy, or wherever your happy place might happen to be.

Aside from the creative story lines, my favorite thing about this book was that it can be read one of two ways: a) casually, skimming the surface and enjoying the ride or b) pulled apart and mulled over in a book club.  I read it casually (I don't belong to a book club) but I bet this book would cause quite the stir, as it actually manages to have surprising depth.  Be it motherhood, divorce, infertility, marriage, family dynamics, friendship, etc. there is plenty for a reading group to chew on.  I will say that, in regards to some of these issues, the different perspectives voice some painful personal truths that women may often think but not say out loud.  Some might be horrified by that kind of honestly, but I found it refreshing and the book felt all the more real for it.  I know that I related to some aspects of the book more than others, but have friends that would relate to the book on an entirely different level in a different way.  It would be interesting to hash it out.

Overall, I enjoyed this book.  I flat out needed to read a book I could engage with and finish quickly and this fit the bill quite nicely.  I'd recommend it to anyone looking for something satisfying that is not bothered by the stuff in our "for the sensitive reader" section.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader:  Occasional swearing. Some brief, vague discussion of sex,nothing graphic.  Elizabeth's story line could be a trigger for those struggling with (or who have struggled with) infertility.  This isn't an issue I am personally familiar with, so I can't say.  It's also possible they might find relief in a character who has similar struggles.  I am not sure.  Proceed with caution. 

Monday, April 20, 2020

This Much Country - Kristin Knight Pace

Summary: A memoir of heartbreak, thousand-mile races, the endless Alaskan wilderness and many, many dogs from one of only a handful of women to have completed both the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod.

In 2009, after a crippling divorce that left her heartbroken and directionless, Kristin decided to accept an offer to live at a friend's cabin outside of Denali National Park in Alaska for a few months. In exchange for housing, she would take care of her friend's eight sled dogs.

That winter, she learned that she was tougher than she ever knew. She learned how to survive in one of the most remote places on earth and she learned she was strong enough to be alone. She fell in love twice: first with running sled dogs, and then with Andy, a gentle man who had himself moved to Alaska to heal a broken heart.

Kristin and Andy married and started a sled dog kennel. While this work was enormously satisfying, Kristin became determined to complete the Iditarod -- the 1,000-mile dogsled race from Anchorage, in south central Alaska, to Nome on the western Bering Sea coast.

THIS MUCH COUNTRY is the story of renewal and transformation. It's about journeying across a wild and unpredictable landscape and finding inner peace, courage and a true home. It's about pushing boundaries and overcoming paralyzing fears. (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)

My Review:  In my review of How Quickly She Disappears a few weeks ago, I mentioned how I’m on an Alaska kick. Well, this is following in that same pattern, only this time it written by a female dog musher in Alaska, which is just awesome on so many levels.

My mom is big into reading true stories—true crime, adventure, history, etc. She always tells us that there is nothing better than a story that’s true. While I don’t necessarily agree that there is nothing better, I certainly do enjoy a good true story. My mom was visiting me recently and was here for a week, and during that time she read this entire book. She was just riveted by the story and how cool Kristin Knight Pace is. She basically couldn’t put it down! My mom reads a lot, but I knew that she especially liked this book so I thought I’d check it out.

First of all, as I’ve said before, I’m really on an Alaska kick. I’ve been there once, but it’s been many years. Decades, actually. Even though I was only 14 when I went, it made a huge impression on me. As a 14-year-old I wouldn’t say that I was particularly aware of my surroundings. Maybe this is how all 14-year-olds are, but I feel like I just kind of moved along, doing my thing, living my life. Alaska, however, made a huge impression on me. I remember just looking around at how different everything looked, how interesting the wildlife and outdoors were, how different the plant life was to what I was used to, and even how unique it was that it would stay light well into the middle of the night. One thing I loved about this book was that it brought me right back to that wonder and awe and made Alaska a huge main character. The cold, the darkness (and the light), the wilderness of it…it was all there. If you’ve read anything about Alaska, you know that they talk about the remoteness of the lifestyle there. There is no running out of something minor and running down to Wal-Mart. There are some cities, of course, where this would be more the norm, but most of Alaska is rural and isolated and the people like it that way. I love how Kristin Knight Pace described this—and the fact that she lived alone for a lot of the book and did most things by herself was just so impressive. I was just blown away by her bravery and sense of adventure. She writes about Alaska with such fondness and yet such reality you can’t help but appreciate it for what it is. Although I can’t see myself every moving to the Yukon and taking up homesteading, I love that there are people out there who crave and embark on this kind of adventure. This wasn’t even really the start of her adventure, though. She’d been adventuring ever since she graduated from high school. She came from a background that would not naturally lead to this at all, and I loved reading about her free spirit and how supportive her parents were in all of her adventures and cool things she had done.

Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t know a ton about dog sledding. I’ve heard of the Iditarod, of course, but I had no idea of all the other dog sled races nor did I know much of anything other than just that there were dog mushers out there. Did you know that men and women compete as equals in dog sledding? A dog musher is just a dog musher, and I love that men and women compete head to head in this event. Kristin Knight Pace does an exceptional job of talking about taking care of the the dogs, and what it takes to be a professional dog musher. Her lifestyle was just so foreign to me and yet she describes it so well and in such descriptive terms that I felt like I was right there with her. This is definitely one of the biggest strengths of the book—she is a great writer. She tells it how it is and keeps you hooked from page one until the end. Not only is she a great writer, but she has so many interesting stories to tell as well. Her experience is so varied and deep that there is just a lot to explore there. This is a young woman who has lived a full life and knows how to embrace life and live out their dreams.  Obviously I’m not the only person who thinks this because she has done a ton of interviews with various news agencies, including National Geographic. I spent quite a bit of time looking up YouTube interviews with her, and she’s just as engaging in real life as she is in her book. Here are just a few things I learned from this book to help you whet your palate:

·         Because the dogs she breeds and uses to dogsled are so close to wolves, there will often be packs of wolves that run adjacent to her sled in the forest while she's dog sledding.
·         Some of the most decorated dog mushers are women.
·         Some parts of the long dog races are actually run on dirt as the snow is gone.
·         An ideal temperature to run the dogs is about -40 F.
·         Every time the dog mushers stop for a rest during the race, they have to put out straw for all the dogs, take off their booties, heat up snow to turn to water to heat up their food, feed the dogs. Then the musher will lay down for a couple hour nap with the dogs before they all get up and take off again.

If you are looking for a fun true adventure book, especially one with a very cool female protagonist, I highly recommend this book. It was engaging, interesting, well-written, eye-opening, and a seriously good read.

My Rating: 5 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There is lots of language and some discussion of sex, as well as some threatening sexual advances made by men towards women.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Freeform Friday: Guest Review by Cristina Bray; Circe - Madeline Miller

Summary: In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love. (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)

My Review:  I was super skeptical of this book when I began reading. Mostly because my knowledge of Greek Mythology is seriously lacking. I’m embarrassed to admit I had to Google how to pronounce her name (Sur-See—BTdubs). I was probably reading a Harry Potter book in 8th grade instead of listening to my English teacher (sorry Mrs. Ross) when she taught us about Greek Mythology. My knowledge of the Greeks was all from the movie Troy *eye roll* up until this point. I’ve never read Homer’s Iliad or The Odyssey *gasp*. Some of you may be face palming so hard, but all of this is just to say you don’t need a degree in classical literature to understand and appreciate this book. Not only do I appreciate it, I’m completely enamored with Madeline Miller’s interpretation of Circe. While Circe is the center of the book, I came to learn about several different characters in Greek Mythology. I’m currently ruined for other books for the moment. If you need me, I’ll be in a rabbit hole of everything mythology.

The life of Circe spans centuries. Her story arc is brilliant. She goes from a young, weak girl to a great and powerful woman! She starts as a lowly nymph, with an awful human voice, born from the Titan sun god Helios and nymph mother Perce. Whilst her family members bask in their talents and glory, Circe is an embarrassment and certainly at the bottom of the totem pole. She is at the mercy of all the Gods (who, by the way, are all horrible). She has compassion (which others prey on and see as a weakness). This leads her to act in secret defiance and rebellion against the Gods (Prometheus cameo). Using plants and herbs and sheer force of will, she finds witchcraft. She is ultimately banished from her family and home to an island, by Zeus and her father.

On Aeaea, her island, Circe can really hone in on her witchy skills, without the oppression and judgement of her family. She grows and matures. Becomes total tough chick. Ms. Independent. Ms. Self Sufficient. In true Beyonce fashion of course. She walks amongst lions and wolves she has tamed. Outside influences come and go from her island. When harmed, she gets her revenge, turning mortal sailors into pigs.

She’s had her fair share of lovers by this point, none of whom cause her to stay up crying at night over, with the exception of her first love (Glaucos). First loves make everyone ridiculous though, am I right?! Circe is no exception—she ends up turning his new girlfriend into a sea monster (Scylla). Oh well, it happens. Most men are passing ships in the sea after that. Odysseus is no different. She loves him but knows their time together is fleeting. He’s got a devoted wife (Penelope) and child (Telemachus), and she’s stuck on an island. He is gone by the spring, and she is pregnant without his knowledge. Just like that another phase of Circe’s life begins.

Madeline Miller describes the pregnancy and motherhood journey in a way that nearly tore me apart. It’s messy and exhausting, even for this immortal bad ass witch woman! Just when you think she could not get any tougher, she walks into the depths of the ocean, willing to endure the pain of all the universe (something which no one else had ever dared to endure), for the safety of her beloved child. ***Spoiler Alert*** After all of that, he (Telegonus) leaves the nest! WTF! Come on. I’m pretty far away from that with my child (7 years old), do they really do that?! Alas, I guess they must.

By this point, girlfriend is beyond wise. Powerful. Patient. Clever. Is it enough to face off with the Gods who still torment her? Athena Goddess of War? Or Helios, her sun god father? Scylla, the water monster of her own creation?

This book is all about the journey of growth for Circe. I’ve always been drawn to books with a powerful female lead. She has insecurities about herself, yes. She’s certainly not immune to pain or trials. She has regrets. Nevertheless, she still chooses to take on the universe—quite literally holding up the weight of the sky to protect those she loves. She is master of her own destiny. Who doesn’t love that?

My Rating: 5 Stars

For the sensitive reader: 
-Violence and sex, of course—it’s Greek mythology.
-PersephaĆ« (Circe’s sister) gives birth to the Minotaur—it’s graphic and crazy. His conception is even worse, which might be common knowledge, but it was a surprise to me.
-Circe is abused by sailors she tried to help. It doesn’t go into detail. And henceforth all shipwrecked sailors are turned into swine.
-In Greek mythos fashion, family trees are an interwoven tangled mess. I can’t say much more without spoiling the ending. But if you’ve made it to the ending, it doesn’t really matter.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

After You - Jojo Moyes (Me Before You Series, #2)

After You is the second book in the Me Before You trilogy.  I suggest you start with the first book, Me Before You, if you haven't already read it.  I certainly wouldn't read any further in this review until you do, though you can read Lara's review, if you are interested.

Summary:  After the transformative six months she spent with Will Traynor, Louisa Clark is struggling without him.  Following an extraordinary accident, she is no longer the girl she once was.  Her body heals, but Lou knows that she needs to be kick-started back to life.  Reluctantly, she joins a support group and meets Sam Fielding -- a paramedic whose business is life and death -- and the one man who might be able to understand her.  Then a figure from Will's past appears and hijacks all of Lou's plans, propelling her into a very different future... 

Funny, poignant, romantic, After You is quintessential Jojo Moyes -- a deeply emotional, surprising novel that asks, How do you move on after losing the person you loved?  How do you build a life worth living?

(Summary from book - Image from npr.org)

My Review:  After You is a follow-up book to Me Before You, a book that I love in a dysfunctional kind of way.  Even after MBY ran me through an intense emotional wringer, delved into sensitive and complex societal issues, and smacked me down with an insane book hangover, I still have two copies sitting on my favorite's shelf.  When After You came out, I was still in mourning for certain characters and just didn't know if I could go on without them in the story.  I'd also heard from other reviewers that another character seemed like a totally different person in the second book and wasn't as likable.  I was hesitant to press forward if that was the case and so I just let the series hang for several years.  However, I have been missing Louisa of late and, since the release of the third book, Still Me, getting a little curious about the rest of her story, so I decided it was finally time to see how she was getting on. 

(SPOILERS for ME BEFORE YOU beyond this point)

It turns out, Lou's not doing too well. 

After You is the complicated tale of a grieving young woman, who is struggling to piece herself back together and move on with her life after a devastating loss. After spending some time traveling and buying a flat with the money Will Traynor left her, Louisa is living alone in London, stuck in a dead-end job she hates, in a flat she can't bring herself to decorate, and drowning in her own heartache.  She's already having a hard time coping after Will's death, especially given the manner of his passing, and then she (accidentally) falls off a building and things get even worse.  Eventually, a few new people enter her life in ways that both enrich and complicate things, but Lou's grief is always looming and often paralyzing -- a black hole she can't seem to escape. 

I think some people described Lou's character as different from the previous book is because she is different.  Once spunky and optimistic, Lou is now thoroughly depressed, confused, occasionally angry, and that makes her kind of unlikable on the surface.  Those emotions are almost palpable, eminently transferable, and easy to internalize, especially the way Moyes writes them.  It's why I was lamenting the loss a fictional character, for Pete's sake.  I'm not going to pretend that following Lou's grieving process was pleasant; it was not.  There was no quick fix or easy answer to her pain, and things went sideways a lot.  Though we all process our sorrow differently, After You felt like an incredibly authentic portrayal of someone going through the grieving process. 

Lou's grief almost feels like its own character in the story, but there were also plenty of other side stories that kept me interested.  Along with two new characters and their story lines, Lou's mother has embraced some more progressive ideas, much to her father's chagrin (and my amusement).  Treena is her usual, opinionated self.  Lou's employer is an absolute nightmare.  And in their own quest for healing, Will's parents have taken paths that diverge sharply.  Even the members of Lou's grief support group have their own contributions to make.  After You may not have been 'entertaining' in the 'beach-read' sense, but the different characters and plot threads were certainly well crafted.

That having been said,  I still feel like After You pales in comparison to its predecessor.  I liked checking up on Lou...but I didn't love the book.  Eventually Lou finds her footing on the path to healing, but it was hard to vicariously experience her grief for such a long time.  I have heard that the third book, Still Me, is actually the best of the series so I will probably keep reading in the series just to see how things end for Lou.  I'll let you know what I think.

My Rating: 3.25 Stars

For the Sensitive Reader:  Entirely too many F-words for my taste most coming from one particular character. Some innuendo.  Two intimate situations, though neither are terribly graphic.  Two incidences of sextortion (one mildly descriptive and another just plain creepy).  One brief incidence of gun violence.

Monday, April 13, 2020

The Winter Sisters - Tim Westover

Summary: Dr. Waycross knows bleeding and blistering, the best scientific medicine of 1822. He arrives in the Georgia mountains to bring his modern methods to the superstitious masses. But the local healers, the Winter Sisters, claim to treat yellow fever, consumption, and the hell-roarin' trots just as well as he can. Some folks call the sisters herb women; some call them witches. Waycross calls them quacks.

But when the threat of rabies--incurable and fatal--comes to town, Dr. Waycross and the Winter sisters must combine their science and superstition in a desperate search for a remedy. Can they find a miracle cure, or has the age of miracles passed? (Pic from goodreads.com)

My Review: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


This book was a trip! First of all, I don’t know if you’re squeamish about medical things, but this book is essentially about medicine and medical practices in the mid 1800’s. And, ya’ll, it’s intense. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the podcast “Sawbones” (and I actually haven’t listened to it for awhile, although I enjoyed it when I did), this book is like that in that it talks a lot about old-timey medical treatments—bloodletting, balancing the humors, amputation, etc. Eesh. Sometimes this was hard to read just because I know that, unfortunately, these things are not made up. Medical practice back then was…scary. If the ailment didn’t kill you, the treatment might.

Despite the horror of medical treatments in the past, there was actually quite a bit of humor in this book, and I loved that Westover didn’t take himself too seriously. There were serious things happening, but there were also a lot of tongue in cheek things that happened, and some things that were just really funny. I mean, you can’t have an isolated town back in the 1800’s without some funny characters and some funny happenings. There were definitely some good characters in this town and they were a nice reprieve from the sometimes disturbing medical treatments.

The heart of this book is of course, the Winter sisters. Although the preacher thought they were witches (and maybe a few of his strictest followers agreed with him), most everybody else agreed that they were just women who were well-versed in medicinal treatments of the more natural variety. The three sisters were all different and had different strengths (some more mysterious and witchy-feeling than others), and that made for some interesting reading about how they all addressed medical issues and who would see which sister depending on what ailed them. The collaboration of the new doctor and the Winter sisters, especially Rebecca, was a great addition to the story and brought up a lot of interesting questions regarding “modern” medicine versus the practices with herbs and tinctures from the “witches.” There is definitely some magical realism going on, and I would have liked to hear more about that and I wished the book had taken a deeper turn down that road.

As it was the heart of the book, one of the things that I wish this book would have addressed more is the Winter sisters themselves. We see almost everything through the eyes of Dr. Waycross, and he obviously has his own beliefs about medicine and how people with various ailments should be treated. The Winter sisters were a deep well of stories, and I think that there could have been a prequel to this book discussing them and their ways and back story. In fact, I think they were more interesting than the doctor. I would have liked to hear more about them. That is my main complaint about the book, actually. At the crux of it the story is about who we trust—do we judge people based on rumors, or the fact that they are maybe on the outskirts of society or do we trust what they do?  In this case it was couched as what is better—“modern” medicine, or folk medicine? However, some of Rebecca’s treatments were, ahem, ahead of their time (trying not to give anything away), and so I’m not sure that this was a discussion that was actually successful. I think it would have been a better focus of the book on why the town didn’t trust the Winter sisters, because it wasn’t really discussed much. Sure, there’s always the old trope of weird unmarried women living off by themselves in the woods together doing who knows what (said with judgey eyes), but I’m not sure that led to all of the hate. And, in fact, it turns out that the hate was mostly projected by the preacher. Everybody else seemed to be fine with the Winter Sisters. In the end, I think the author tried to create a situation where there were people who weren’t trusted because of their station, but it didn’t really pan out as planned. The doctor was not a super interesting character and was rather one-dimensional. Hearing more and directly from the Winter sisters (I would have loved a rotating point of view from each of them) would have been much more compelling, IMHO.

Although it is not deeply discussed, there is the issue of addiction addressed in this book. I think it’s pretty obvious what that is once you start reading that book, but for now I don’t want to give it away. Be sure to read the author’s notes at the end of the book in regards to this, because it was interesting.

If you enjoy reading about female characters who are on the fringes, or even historical fiction about medical practices (whether “modern” or folk) I think you would enjoy this book.

My Rating: 3 Stars


For the sensitive reader: This book is pretty clean, if you can handle some scary medical treatments. Eesh. These are not so deeply discussed that they’re seriously gory or anything, but they are definitely not for the faint of heart.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Freeform Friday: Two Authors' Perspectives on Autism and Increasing Awareness Through Literature

In honor of Autism Awareness Month, I want to introduce you to two amazing authors; Austin and Aaron Jepson are a set of youthful, intelligent, and resilient brothers who also happen have autism.  In this spotlight, I hope to show others that although people with autism may struggle with certain limitations, they have so much to offer the global community.
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Austin Jepson was removed from a dysfunctional home at the age of five, and placed into the foster care system for two years before being adopted at age seven.  Although Austin found his forever family, he had no effective way to express himself and struggled with anger and anxiety.  His parents tried countless therapies to help their son find his voice, but it wasn't until the age of eleven, when Austin entered a special program, that he learned to communicate his thoughts with the use of a stencil board and, eventually, a computer or tablet.  As Austin began to converse with his family, it became clear that he was intelligent, creative, and most definitely had something contribute.  Now, when Austin gets an idea for a poem or story, his Dad helps him get a draft down on the iPad and assists with editing. At the age of sixteen, Austin's first book, Passing by the Moon, was born.

Passing by the Moon is a collection of poems and short stories that offer insight into the life and mind of a young man living with non-verbal autism.  One of the poems (Silence is Silenced) was even published in a national literary magazine, the Louisville Review.

I tend to judge poems by how they make me feel rather than such notions as rhyme scheme and iambic pentameter.  If a poem can make me laugh, cry, wax nostalgic, or contemplate the universe, then in my mind it is a good poem.  I was thoroughly impressed by Austin's creative and thoughtful poems. I can tell that a lot of time and effort went into them.  I loved how each poem was accompanied by an author's note that lent perspective and explained his thought process or what inspired that particular piece.

It was too hard for me to pick a favorite poem...so instead I picked five. 

Because I make my own rules, gosh!

  • The Mask, Austin's first poem, conveys how he sometimes felt trapped by his disorder, and talks about the various ways autism presents, but ends with the determined phrase "Autism won't define me."  Austin's conviction to be more than his diagnosis, is quite apparent in many of his poems.
  •  The poem Waves of Change offered sage wisdom that stuck with me:
Be wary of the crashing waves
That erode beaches,
Not the gentle ones
That inspire change. 
  • Silence is Silenced is Austin's first published work, and rightfully so, as it tells his own story.  One section asks the question, what is the worth of a word?  That question gave me pause and helped me be more grateful for the ability to communicate.
  • Walk With Me is a comforting, poignant, and faith-filled poem about a conversation between a struggling soul and the Savior.  In this poem and others, Austin let's his hard-earned faith show and I just love it.
  • Finally, the poem, Mothers, is an exquisitely heartfelt tribute to mothers everywhere, but especially to his own.  It was so touching (and spot-on) I can imagine that it is one of his mother's most prized possessions.  If I had to pick a favorite, Mothers would be it.
I could see Austin's heart all over this book.  I gravitated mostly toward the poems, but the book does have some short stories as well and they each taught an important lesson.  Overall, I enjoyed my time with this book and I am excited to see what Austin does next. 

If interested, you can purchase Austin's book of poems, Passing by the Moon, here.
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At the age of three, Aaron Jepson was diagnosed with autism.  Although he possessed normal intelligence, understood everything going on around him, he was unable to communicate with others and struggled with crippling anxiety.  He felt trapped and fought to maintain his faith in the face of overwhelming despair.  Aaron is now in his 20s and, with the love and support of his amazing parents, is able to communicate with others and has become a gifted writer.  He loves being outdoors, has run several marathons, maintains a YouTube channel called Inside Autism with Aaron Jepson (where he posts short videos that give personal insight into the effects of autism), and has written Running with Faith: The Inspiring Journey of Faith of a Young Man with Autism.  

Running with Faith is truly remarkable. It is Aaron's own account of his struggles with autism, of overcoming challenges, and of a faith lost and found.  It offers inspiration and encouragement to those who face their own challenges and helped me realize the ways I can be more compassionate, understanding, and patient with, well, everyone, but especially those who are on the autism spectrum.  I appreciated Aaron's openness about those times when he felt alone, despairing, and without faith, and I think his journey into and out of the darkness will resonate with many, regardless of their individual beliefs.  I especially loved the parallels that Aaron drew between his own physical trials and the guidance he receives from his parents compared to the spiritual trials we face and the guidance of a loving God.

Aaron's story is extremely motivational and although I could feel his frustration as he strained against his limitations, I also teared up (read: bawled my eyes out) at his many successes, like when he ran and won his first marathon and when he spoke in church for the first time.  Overall, Running with Faith stands a poignant testimony of God's love and the power of perseverance.  I look forward to watching Aaron's progress and am excited to see what his bright future holds.

If interested, you can purchasing Aaron's book, Running with Faithhere.
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After I finished reading, I had the opportunity to interview Aaron Jepson, author of Running with Faith, via email.  Here's our Q&A:

First off, I am super impressed with your running abilities.  I stink at it and am constantly listening to the negative voices in my head that tell me to quit.  Any tips?

I still have those thoughts almost every time I run.  I am lucky because I have a running partner (my dad) who won't let me quit.  So that's my advice.  Find someone to run with that will motivate you.  Signing up for a race helps too.  It gives you a goal

If you could give one piece of advice to someone whose loved one has been diagnosed with autism, what would it be?

Don't think that your life is going to be terrible now.  It's just going to be different.  Your kids can feel your negative energy.  Realize that this will bring out hidden talents and you will find out that you have strength that you didn't think you had.

I have seen your YouTube channel video where you talk about your experiences with autism, and specifically the video that talks about how looking for positives in the pandemic can help anxiety. In these crazy times, what other strategies have you learned to help combat anxiety?

I spend time outside.  Sunlight and fresh air really help me.  I am also writing every day.  I'm working on a novel and having that to think about helps distract me from scarier things  

I really appreciated with your honesty about your struggles with faith and feeling God's love.  Do you have a favorite quote or scripture that has helped you make it through?

My favorite scripture is in Ether 12:27:

"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness.  I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith inme, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

I love that scripture because I have seen it come true in my own life.  I hate having autism.  It holds me back from things I want to do.  But, at the same  time, it has given me opportunities to share my testimony that I would not have had otherwise.  Because it is hard for me to speak, people want to listen more to my thoughts when I can express them. 

Here at Reading for Sanity, we love books.  Outside of the scriptures, do you have any book recommendations for me?

My parents read books to me every night.  That is how I have learned to write and it has expanded my vocabulary well beyond what I ever learned in school.  I love listening to stories.  I have some favorites.  One is called Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool.  It's about a strange kid (actually he was autistic before they were diagnosing it as much) who takes his friend on an amazing adventure.  He shows how real life and fantasy often mirror each other.  Anyway, it's a good one.  I also like classics like Oliver Twist, Of Mice and Men, and Huckleberry Finn.  I'll think of others and send you a list.
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I want to thank Aaron for his willingness to answer my questions and 
I look forward to receiving more of his book recommendations.  
On that same vein, I thought I'd throw in a few books of my own.  

Although everyone experiences autism differently, I've found that through the main characters these books helped me understand at least some of the difficulties people on the autism spectrum may face on a daily basis.  I've linked our reviews below:

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: Haddon, Mark ...

Counting by 7s - Holly Goldberg Sloan

Mockingbird  - Katherine Erskine


Chester & Gus - Cammie McGovern



Out of My Mind - Sharon Draper



To read more about the Austin & Aaron Jepson and their family, you can visit their family blog -- The Jepson Files.

Pssssstttt...... It's also come to my attention since writing this review that Austin and Aaron's father, Bryan Jepson, who is a board certified emergency medicine physician, is also the published author of a particularly relevant title: Changing the Course of Autism: A Scientific Approach for Parents and Physicians. I haven't read it yet, so take a look.  Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

A Woman is No Man - Etaf Rum

Summary:  Where I come from, we keep these stories to ourselves.  To tell them to the outside world is unheard of, dangerous, the ultimate shame.

Palestine, 1990: Seventeen-year-old Isra prefers reading books to entertaining suitors her father has chosen for her.  Her desires are irrelevant, however over the course of a week, the naive and dreamy girl finds herself betrothed then married, and soon living in Brooklyn.  There Isra struggles to adapt to the expectations of her oppressive mother-in-law, Fareeda, and her strange new husband, Adam: a pressure that intensifies as she begins to have children -- four daughters instead of the sons Isra is expected to bear.

Brooklyn, 2008: At her grandmother's insistence, eighteen-year-old Deya must meet with potential husbands and prepare herself for marriage, though her only desire is to go to college.  Her grandmother is firm on the matter, however: the only way to secure a worthy future for Deya is through marriage to the right man.  But fate has a will of its own, and soon Dey will find herself on an unexpected path that leads her to shocking truths that will force her to questions everything she thought she knew about her family, the past, and her own future.

Set in an America at once foreign to many and staggeringly close at hand, A Woman is No Man is a story of culture and honor, secrets and betrayals, love and violence.  It is an intimate glimpse into a controlling and closed cultural world and a universal tale bout a family and the ways silence and shame can destroy those we have sword to protect. (Summary from book sleeve - Image from amazon.com)

My Review:  I finished this book about five minutes ago and am sitting here, fingers hovering over the keyboard, trying to tame the whirlwind of thoughts and feelings swirling around inside me just enough so that I can put it all into words.  I'm afraid this won't be very polished and probably a little emotional, but I need to get some of this out, so bear with me.

A Woman is No Man is a novel about a family of women who, through the course of their lives, ache for more than the hand they've been dealt.  Threatened with marriage and motherhood at a young age, they dream of college, travel, respect, love, and options, but are confined in a rigid culture of humiliation, silence, and startling inequality where fear and brutality enforce the belief that they have no worth, voice, or purpose outside the home. In bittersweet ways, this book is also a tale of women who seize the right to choose, taking those first steps to freedom, with varying results. 

One of my favorite aspects of the story was how the love of books and reading had the power to offer several of the characters hope, inspiration, comfort, and courage in the the bleakest of times. The written word offered them painful glimpses into lives that may have felt unreachable, where a woman's right to define her own worth was exponentially more attainable, but it gave them something to reach for and was instrumental, for some, in finding their own voice.

A Woman is No Man would undoubtedly generate an animated conversation on any number of topics (e.g. the plight of the female immigrant, the importance of education, the concept of gender roles, harmful cultural traditions, and the perpetuation of domestic violence as well as those who enable it, and many more).  I could discuss each topic at length here, but it'd be way TLDR, so instead I'll just leave the in depth discussion to your next book club, but I would like to share a few of the quotes that hit me hardest (in good and bad ways):  

  • ...the shame of her gender was engraved in her bones.
  • ...to want what you can't have in life is the greatest pain of all.
  • ...this was the way of life, she told herself.  There was nothing she could do about it.  Her powerlessness even comforted her somehow.  Knowing that she couldn't change things -- that she didn't have a choice -- made living it more bearable.  She realized she was a coward but she also knew a person could only do so much.  She couldn't change centuries of culture on her own ...
  • ...[she] had grown enough to know that the world hurt less when you weren't hoping"
  • "So you want me to just accept my life for what they tell me it should be?  What kind of life is that?""
  • Courage will get you everywhere, so long as you believe in yourself and what you stand for....You don't know what your life will be like, and neither do I.  The only thing I know for sure is that you alone are in control of your destiny.  No one else.  You have the power to make your life whatever you want it to be, and in order to do that, you have to find the courage to stand up for yourself, even if you're standing alone.
A Woman is No Man is an empowering and courageous tale, breathtakingly written, and unfathomably infuriating. As much as I value marriage and family in my own life, I bristle at the idea of someone forced into the role against their will. I have a hard time not internalizing the books I read and it was agonizing to watch these women slide into a well of despair, helplessness, fear, and shame.  Over and over, as my heart raced and my fists clenched and my blood boiled, I kept having to remind myself: This is fiction. This is fiction.  This is fiction.  

Except it's not fiction.  Not really.  

While these particular characters were created for the purpose of telling a fictional story, I have no doubt their woes are someone's reality and knowing that tore my heart out.  It evoked feelings of, well, rage, but also compassion and concern for those who feel so trapped, despairing, and alone in their own relationships.  Pardon me while I digress a bit, but this needs to be said: If you or someone you know are trapped in an abusive relationship, please know that there are people who want to help and who are willing to listen.  You can drop a private message to us via email, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline website, or call 1-800-799-7233.   Please reach out.  

In case I haven't made myself clear by now -- this book is unbelievably powerful but in no way pleasant.  If you are looking for happy-go-lucky chick lit, look elsewhere (but set this one aside for later).  This is not a book filled with fluffy bunnies and romance.  It just isn't.  It's frustrating and raw and ten kinds of awful, but so utterly compelling that I could barely breathe while reading it.  I was incredibly moved and forever changed by the experience. 

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

For the Sensitive Reader: Several instances of marital rape (one graphic) and domestic violence, one forced abortion (non-graphic).  

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