Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar is a book you may not be terribly familiar with. So far, only released as an Australian title, it's hard to find a copy in the US. I first heard about the book from Linds at Bibliophile Brouhaha. She talks about this book all the time, both on Twitter and her blog. I'm really passionate about the books that I absolutely love, so I'm a bit of a sucker for people who are intensely passionate about favorite books, and it automatically makes me more excited to read them. So, when Linds asked if I wanted to borrow her copy of this book, I was thrilled.
Carly is suffering. She's dropped out of University to spend her mornings surfing and her evenings working in a kitchen so she can afford to surf. She's shy and skittish and you know something has happened to her that's left her scarred. While surfing, she meets Ryan, a guy a bit older than her with some murky pieces in his past, but somehow, Carly finds herself drawn to him anyway. And as she spends more time with Ryan, more time facing her own demons and more time being herself, she slowly starts to heal, and wow is this powerful.
I am going to admit that there are two things holding me back from being as enamored of this book as Linds and many of the other bloggers I've seen mention it. The first is something that I cannot blame on anything except myself, and that is my expectations. I fully expected to love this book, because Linds and I agree on a lot of other books, and because everyone seems to love it. It's a tough, hard-hitting contemporary, something I'm very drawn to, and all the parts and pieces were there for me to just be blown away by this book (and, umm, the author is Australian. And dude, there must be something in the water over there, because these authors rock!) But, I had heard the book compared to Melina Marchetta* (something that is dangerous, as we see, because it makes my expectations impossible to meet) and while Eagar's writing is very emotional and very powerful, it didn't hit me the same way as Marchetta's writing does, so I was initially disappointed, waiting for the magic of Melina to kick in. When that didn't happen I was disappointed, and it wasn't until I gave myself a mental kick that I started to read it as an Eagar book, not the next Marchetta, which immediately increased my enjoyment of the book. I really want to reread this one, both so that I can revisit the story, but also because I think the book deserves a fair chance from me from the beginning.
The other complaint I had with this story is slightly spoilery. So, I'm warning you right now. Honestly, it's something that I had figured out from the back cover, and then again within the first 50 pages or so. But still, you've been warned. From the way Carly acts, you know she's been sexually assaulted at some point. And, it's scarred her, because that's what something like that does. And it hurts, it really and truly hurts. You can feel Carly's scars and it so broke my heart over and over again. I understand that being able to accept sex as a positive and loving thing is important to the healing process after an attack that like. But in my opinion, it wasn't handled here as well as it could have been. Especially with Ryan (which means I'm skipping the almosts from before). When she's with Ryan, after they start sleeping together, I thought things progressed beautifully. They were a great couple and Ryan was amazing with and for her, and he really helped her heal. But, they slept together on the first date, and this first date came after they'd only talked to each other a few times on the beach. I have a hard time believing that someone who has been through what Carly has would welcome sex on a first date and be healed by it. It just didn't feel right to me. It felt like the insta-love thing that so much of the paranormal fiction is guilty of. I know that some people are going to disagree with me here. I get that. I understand it. But I kinda also don't care. You are coming from it where you are, and I'm coming from it where I am. Everyone has had different experiences that allow them to view the world differently, and this is mine. I don't think you can have meaningful sex when you barely know someone, and I didn't feel like Carly and Ryan were given the chance to know each other before making that choice.
I'm cringing here now, because it feels like that's a whole lot of negativity above. But that's not the case! Not the case at all. Those were the only two things I didn't love about this book, and although it's a long section, that's mostly because I talk to much and sometimes over-explain things. But really, this book is pretty much brilliant. Eagar's characterization is spot on. Carly is suffering, and the suffering from her assault is compounded by this idea that she is now unclean or unworthy. And that is made worse again because she doesn't have a strong or supportive family to turn to, which also breaks my heart. But she finds surrogates in surfing and the friends she makes there. It's not perfect, but she starts to recognize truths about the world and herself, and she slowly starts to heal.
I love that overall, Eagar made Ryan's part in Carly's healing authentic and realistic. He wasn't a cure all, didn't come with a magic wand and he wasn't able to take away all of Carly's pain. Most of that she had to deal with on her own. Ryan is there for her, at all times, and he extends his support to her in anyway she needs, anyway she's willing and really, that right there just made my heart fill for this guy. He's seriously great. It kinda makes me wish for more older guys in YA. :)
So here's the thing. I know that there were those two things I marked as complaints about this book. But I don't think you should let that deter you in any way from finding any possibility of grabbing yourself a copy of this book, or in helping us to give some of these US publishers a little nudge, asking them to bring Ms. Eagar over to the states. Because this is a book worth reading. Go read some of the posts Linds has up on her blog. Her passion and commitment to this book is truly impressive and it's obvious that she loves it and believes in it. And you know what? She's absolutely right. There is so much that this book has to offer. So much that we can learn from these characters that it's a shame more people aren't familiar with it. It's a book I'm going to do my darndest to get the chance to read again, and it's one that I don't think is going to leave me for a long time. It makes you think, makes you wonder, makes your insides bleed, and then, somehow helps you up, washes your face and makes you stronger and better able to face the world.
*Footnote- One of my pet peeves is actually reviews that use other books or authors as comparisons in their review, especially when they end up making that comparison write their review for them. So, my apologies that I'm doing it here, but it's the only way I could accurately describe why I was disappointed in what would otherwise have been phenomenal writing. ...more
Bitter End by Jennifer Brown is one of those stories that I think needs to be read by teenage girls. If you look up statistics for teen dating violence, your heart just breaks. There are so many sites with statistics gathered from surveys and studies and all of them are tragic. Books like Bitter End are important, because it gives young people a 'safe' place to learn about dating violence. Knowing the warning signs is an incredibly important part of keeping yourself out of a bad situation.
Alex doesn't have the perfect life, but she is, for the most part, happy. Her mother died when she was young, during a seemingly mindless attempt to leave for Colorado. Her father has almost completely shut down and refuses to talk about any of the 'tough' stuff. He mostly leaves Alex and her sisters alone, focusing on his own issues. This is really hard on Alex. She feels the hole her mother left deeply and desperately needs to understand why her mom would walk away, but doesn't have anywhere to turn to for answers. So, she decided a long time ago that she was going to go to Colorado after graduation and her two best friends decided they would go with her. Alex, Beth and Zach have been best friends for years and years. Referred to by parents as the three headed monster, they've been pretty much inseparable for years.
These three just click. They understand each other, love each other and would do anything for each other. They are the very best kind of friends to have. But there's nothing romantic between any of them, and they are at that stage when romantic relationships are wonderful and good and desirable. When Cole transfers to their school and is assigned to Alex for tutoring, it's like fate. He's super good looking, into sports, smart, funny, such a gentleman, but best of all? He's really into Alex. He makes her feel beautiful, loved and amazing and she soon finds herself caught up in the magic that Cole spins for her.
But it doesn't take long for that magical feeling to go a little sour. It's small things at first, things that in moderation might seem cute or romantic, but quickly become creepy and stalkerish. Like sitting at a booth in the cafe where Alex works until her shift ends. When it's only the last 30 or 40 minutes, that's kind of cute. But when he sits there, watching you for your whole entire shift? Not cute. Not cute at all. Cole also really dislikes Zach, and he especially hates it when Alex spends time with him. He's convinced Zach is in love with Alex and that she is going to cheat on him with Zach and he does everything he can to make that relationship uncomfortable, which severely strains her relationship with Beth also, until he finally gets to the point where he has pulled Alex almost completely away from the rock solid support system Zach and Beth have to offer.
There are so many moments to this story where your cringe for Alex. Where you just want to cry out and tell her to get herself out of there. But Brown wrote this story incredibly well. Cole is Mr. Perfect in the beginning of the story. He knows all the right things to say, has all sorts of romantic gestures down pat and he just seems to be amazing. In fact, if I hadn't known going into this book that it was about an abusive relationship, I think I might have been taken in by his charm. But pretty quickly the thinly veiled insults start piling up on top of his jealous and controlling demands and his monopolizing all her time. It becomes clear to us that there is something seriously wrong much sooner than it does to Alex.
Alex does start to realize that things are not as they should be, but by then, she feels like she's gone too far. She has two things against her at this point. One is that she has never thought she would become 'that girl', the one who let her boyfriend beat her, but stayed with him anyway. She didn't want people to know that she had let things get to that point, so she stays, because she's embarrassed to leave. And the other thing? Cole loves her. He is the first person in her memories to tell her that she is loved and she desperately needs to feel that right now. That declaration of love went straight through to Alex and tied her to Cole completely. He loves her, she loves him and the rest can be worked out in time. She makes excuses for him- He just needs to work out his anger. I just need to stop being around Zach, since it makes him angry. His dad beats his mom, so it's all that he knows. Etc and etc.
But, as is always the case with relationships like this, things continue to escalate and they really never get better on their own.
I meant it when I said that this book, and the others on the market like it are so important for everyone to read, but especially young girls. They teach us what the warning signs of an abuser are so that we can protect ourselves before it gets to the point of violence, it lets people in an abusive relationship know that it is not their fault, that nothing they do is going to change their abuser and they need to leave, and that there is always hope, that getting help is not a weakness but a strength, and it also teaches compassion to those who have not been in this situation. It is too easy to look and judge and say, Well why didn't you just leave him?! But unless we try to understand the situation from the inside, we do no help to those struggling to free themselves. It's so easy to say just leave, but the actual leaving is an entirely different matter. And it's hard.
Read this book. Read the other books out there on the same subject. Learn all you can to protect yourself, to protect others, and to learn compassion, love and understanding so that you really can be there if you are needed. Books like this are so important to our teenagers and I'm so glad that there are more of them being written....more
The False Princess by Ellis O'Neal is the story of Nalia, a 16 year old princess who finds out shortly after her birthday that she is not the princess after all. After a prophecy that stated the princess could die before her 16th birthday, the king and queen and their trusted magical advisors secretly switched the true princess with a peasant to keep her safe. Now that they have reached 16, the princess will live, and it is now safe to bring the princess, who has no idea who she is out of hiding. This means that Nalia, or rather, Sinda must leave. She is sent with no training or preparation to live in a small village with an aunt who believed her dead, and was happy to keep it that way. But it would be too easy to end our story there. There is far more in store for Sinda. She just has to wait.
The False Princess is a strong story. It has all the elements necessary to a great book- The writing is engaging, clear and vivid. The characters are unique and individuals. There are no stock characters here. Each has their own personality, their own tastes, their own motivations. And the story itself, Oh the story! Everyone likes the idea that we are more than we first imagine ourselves to be. That there is something within each of us that is destined for greatness. Sometimes, the circumstances of our birth give us the opportunity to cultivate that, to let it out. Sometimes, they conspire against us to keep us down. And others times, as with Sinda, things get so twisted up that you barely know up from sideways anymore. But no matter what our circumstances would dictate our lives to be, we make of them what we will, and we grow into who we would be.
While this story isn't a fairy tale retelling, it does have the elements important to a fairy tale, and it leaves a reader with a feeling of Once Upon a Time. It has a princess, heroes in unlikely places, a dashing love interest, magic, evil, surprises, and hope. It is a story that will speak to everyone who has ever wished to be a princess, to everyone who has ever wanted a little bit of magic in their life, and to everyone who has wanted to make a difference in the lives of those around them.
The world and character building of O'Neal here is spot on. She has brilliantly captured what it would be like to go from royalty to peasant in the space of an afternoon. When she gets to her aunt's house, she has no idea what to do, or how to work. She has never had to do any of these things on her own before. She doesn't make friends easily, doesn't understand the people around her, and doesn't feel like she is ever going to fit in. She also begins to see the world from an entirely new perspective. She begins to understand the casual cruelty that comes from never having wanted for anything, from being given everything you have ever wanted or needed. The king and queen took her from her family as an infant with no thoughts beyond saving their daughter. If a peasant girl had to die in the process, so be it. They don't think much about their people because they don't understand their life. So what if they are a little poor. They should just work harder. The gift they gave to her aunt for taking Sinda into her home is useless. In theory or thought, it's a lovely gift, but one with absolutely no use in her life. Sinda never noticed things like this as a princess, and as she begins to realize these things, she changes. She grows as a person.
No review of this book would be complete without some mention of Keirnan, who has been Nalia Sinda's best friend for as long as they can remember. He is the perfect friend for Sinda, carefree where she is more serious, and always there for her. You don't see a lot of him in the beginning section of the book, after Sinda leaves the castle, but the few times we do get to meet him, it is very clear how much he cares for her, how much he wants her to be happy, and yes, how much he cares for her. He's exactly the kind of best friend (male or female) that everyone needs.
Overall, this is a book worth reading again and again. This is O'Neal's debut novel and I find myself eagerly awaiting announcements of her future releases. She is an author to watch, and this is a book to be read. So go do it. Now. And then come back and tell me that you loved it as much as I did. Go ahead. I'll still be here when you get back. :)...more
It's the story of Vera, a teenage girl who just wants to make it through high school and out of her town as far off the radar as she can. But things don't always work out, and when her best friend Charlie starts acting like a total pr*ck and then has the nerve to up and die on her, she's left totally conflicted about what she's supposed to feel, what she wants to feel, and what she wonders if she's allowed to feel.
First, let me just say that I absolutely love the way this book was written! Like, seriously. Vera is the main character and the main narrator, but every few chapters we get A word from the dead kid (aka dead ex-best friend Charlie), advice and discussion from the dad (complete with flow charts) and a few thoughts from the Pagoda (yup. An inanimate architectural eyesore gives us a commentary). And each of them are given their own distinct voice, their own attitudes, their own way of speaking that I didn't need the headers announcing which narrator was being given voice, because it was just so surely theirs that it couldn't have been anyone else talking.
The story itself is also so well told. This is again why I love Contemporary YA. Seriously. It's a raw and emotional story of trying to deal with all the crap life throws at you in high school, and Vera has definitely had her share of the major crap. As the story progresses and you learn more and more of what Vera has gone through, more and more of what happened with her and Charlie, or to Charlie, the more your heart breaks and the more you just sit there and hope that there is going to be a way to happily settle the story. But when several of the chapters are narrated by the dead kid, it's not like he's going to be coming back. :(
But even with that, Vera is such a strong character. She is the type of person that I would love to know in real life. She's got just enough attitude and sarcasm to be funny and witty without being obnoxious or a total b*tch. One of my favorite lines from the book, one that I feel illustrates the large angst of the novel as well as both Vera and Charlie as characters perfectly is- "Let me tell you- if you think your best friend dying is a bitch, try your best friend dying after he screws you over. It's a bitch like no other."-pg. 7 And that right there my friends, is Vera.
I honestly and truly cannot think of one single thing that I didn't love about this book. Everything about it feel authentic and believable and it's just so incredibly real. This is a book that I could read over and over again and never tire of. There is just so much to this story and I absolutely loved it. Honestly and truly, Please Ignore Vera Dietz has been one of my favorite recent reads. This is the type of book that makes me love reading award lists. Because without the Printz Honor, I might have missed this one. It wasn't really one I'd seen around a lot. But it would have been a shame to have missed this one, and it's one that I highly recommend you go out and read. Now. (But no, seriously... Make this one a priority. If you haven't read it, go. Get it. Read it.)...more
Daughter of Xanadu by Dori Jones Yang is the story of young Emmajin, the eldest grandchild of the Great Khan. Her closest friend is her cousin, Suren, the eldest grandson of the Khan. Strength and fighting skills are valued in their culture, and Emmajin desperately wants to be allowed to serve in her grandfather's military. She would be the first.
Her grandfather gives her an important assignment. She is to become the companion and guide to the young traveler Marco Polo, and his father and uncle, who are traveling with them. She is basically a spy- sent to extract secrets that will make it easier for her grandfather to conquer their lands, and fulfill the prophecy from the Gods that their empire would unite the world.
Predictably, as Emmajin gets to know Marco better, she stops thinking of him as a stranger, or enemy and begins to consider him a friend, and then- more.
Although I found several parts of this story to be fairly predictable, I still really enjoyed the book. I thought that Emmajin was a great character, and we see a lot of growth in her over the course of the story. She really comes into her own. In the beginning, she is enthralled by the stories told in the courts about the mighty battles their warriors fought, and the grand acts of heroism and valor in battle. She can't imagine anything more rewarding or wonderful than being involved in something like that. But, as the story progresses, and she begins to learn more about Marco Polo's European ideals, and his desire for peace, she starts to question her belief systems, and view their culture from the eyes of an outsider. Eventually, Emmajin learns the hard way that battle is not all glory. The enemies have faces, lives, and stories of their own.
I loved watching her learn about differing points of view, and realizing that there isn't only one way of doing things. I thought Emmajin was a very well drafted and carefully thought out character. Unfortunately, she was about the only character I thought was fully imagined. Suren is Emmajin's best friend. They've been inseparable since they were tiny, and continue to be close as they grow. But, Suren is only ever fleshed out in relation to Emmajin. It's almost like he is only fully a person when sitting next to Emmajin. I felt like that about most of the other characters, including Marco Polo. To toss in a bit of philosophy, it reminded me of Idealism, which is the idea that there is no real reality. Everything we know/see only exists in relation to us. Sort of like The Matrix, except we aren't really plugged into any machines.
I wished that there had been more character development outside of Emmajin, but my biggest problem with the story was the ending. I thought that the ending was unrealistic. I don't want to go into details, because that really ruins the story, but I didn't believe it at all. I stopped believing what was happening as soon as Emmajin was sitting around the fire at the camp with Marco Polo, her grandfather and other members of the court and hunting party. It just would not have happened like that, and I feel like the author just needed a quick and happy resolution.
I do think this is a book worth reading. I wish the author had stayed a little truer to her characters when writing the ending. I think it was a disservice to both the characters and the reader to end it as she did. That being said, overall, I still enjoyed Emmajin's character and her discoveries about her world, and I enjoyed following her interactions with people....more
This is a book with a lot of emotion, and a lot of heart. Calle is a young teen whose entire life is completely lacking in stability. Her dad left when she was very little, and her mom has bounced from relationship to relationship ever since. And with each new relationship (and often without them) they move to a new town. The mom drops a penny onto a map of California, and that's where they go next. That type of lifestyle is hard on anyone, but especially a teenager. Calle wants to fit in, to belong, but it's never a good idea to make new friends or get comfortable in an area when you know your mom could decide to pack up and move again at any time.
My heart hurt for Calle. Her mom tried to be a good parent, but it's fairly clear that she doesn't know how to be herself, which makes it awfully hard to take care of a teenager. The mom is always reinventing herself, and Calle desperately needs stability. Her mom is also very tight-lipped. She won't tell Calle anything about her absentee father, other than he left them a long time ago. Calle keeps asking questions, trying to understand where she comes from, but her mom refuses to answer her questions, even when the lies and contradictions are staring her in the face. Like the letter Calle finds from her dad in her mom's drawers, that make is obvious he's been trying to write to her for a long time, but her mom always hides the letters. When Calle confronts her about this, her mom focuses on the snooping, and refuses to address the letter itself. It really bothered me. There comes a time when you can't 'protect' your child anymore, and keeping the truth from them hurts them far more than any truth can.
Calle herself also bothered me a little bit, especially in her 'relationship' with Sam. I understand why she is initially attracted, interested and drawn to Sam. I really do. But after the third or fourth time he ignores her or treats her like trash, I started to wonder why on earth Calle bothered talking to him again. I understand that he has his own demons to wrestle, but that doesn't excuse his behavior, especially since he never really apologizes, or tries to make it right. Calle let herself be pushed around and stepped on by this kid over and over again and it really bothered me. I wanted her to be happy and I just didn't think this kid was the way to make that happen.
There was also a lot of drama surrounding the father. I know a large portion of the plot was Calle's mom keeping information from her, but I really wished we had been given more information about Calle's dad, both past and present. And, I won't spoil anything, but the resolution with dad was also rather unsatisfactory to me.
However, those two grievances aside, I really enjoyed this book, and especially appreciated Calle as a narrator. I don't blame her for being a little bit... soft. She's a teenager who has had no stability in her life, desperately looking for it. She speaks to that lonely teenager everyone has living inside them, that just wants/wanted to be accepted and be loved. For all the drama and tough stuff life has handed to her, she's remarkably strong and adaptable. She deals with a lot more than I've ever had to, and I was impressed by Calle many times. Although, I do have to say, she's a bit of an over-discloser. She shares an awful lot of personal and private information with an lot of people. I can't decide if she's just open about her life, or if she hasn't quite gotten the hang of who should hear what information, and when.
I also loved the idea of Calle's song journal. She strongly links music to memories, and writes down the memories and the songs associated with them, so she can hold on to them and keep them a part of herself. I smiled a lot reading this book, because I really like a lot of old music, and I recognized a lot of the songs that are associated with Calle's memories. I spent the next couple of days humming Mr. Tambourine Man which has a lot of significance to Calle.
I'd definitely recommend this book. Calle is a great character, and I think there is a lot to be learned from her and her story....more
Star Crossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce is a beautifully written book. I mean, really- the writing is beautiful. Bunce has this gift with words. She has this was of picking exactly the right word or phrase to make the passage come alive. Several other words would have sufficed, but what she picks out is perfect. (I have some of the same feelings when I read Jennifer Donnelly.)
Anyway... Digger is our main character and one of my new favorite heroines. She's a believable character with believable motivations, and she's rather atypical of the current YA novels. She can take care of herself, but not in a I'm so Bad-A way, more like- If I don't, I die way. She's more concerned with her own survival than the greater good, although she does have people that she cares for, and if she lets you into that place, she cares for you deeply. She finds herself in an unexpected situation, and she begins to realize that her life is no longer just about herself. There are bigger things out there that have touched her life and she cannot simply run from them, she must stay an accept what is to come. I loved watching Digger learn and grown but even more, I loved watching her learn about herself.
Bunce's world building is brilliant. She introduces the concepts and elements of what makes her world different slowly, allowing us to acclimate to what makes this world unique while feeling the whole time as if we belong there. I loved her idea of the 7 moons with their corresponding Gods and how each God/Moon has come to represent different things to the people.
Part of world building is crafting great characters, and as I already mentioned, I loved Digger, but I loved many of the other characters too. Meri was such a bright spot of the story. She's a bit naive, but that's understandable because she's been sheltered her whole life. She is full of life and love and just learning about what it means to be on your own and able to take control of your life. She's a pretty major character in the story, but every character in this story was well developed, even the very minor characters we only get to meet every once in a while. This is a series, so it's possible these characters will return later with greater importance, but at this point, to give so much depth and life to characters with such a small role to play was wonderful. We weren't overburdened with details and facts that show a desperate author trying to convince us they write great characters, but rather an author sharing with us the lives of the people she's created. This is a book full of great characterization.
As I mentioned, this is going to be a series, and I for one and very excited about that. This book is self contained, and has a satisfying resolution, but what Digger has stumbled across is much bigger than any one book and it is obvious that there is much more that will happen to Digger and those around her before her story in complete. I can't wait to see what's waiting for us in Liar's Moon....more
I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman is a creepy story. Not creepy where you're afraid of the things that go bump in the night, but the type of creepy that makes you look over your shoulder when you're walking alone, and the creepy that makes you look twice at everyone you pass, because you really have no idea what they're hiding.
Elizabeth was kidnapped when she was 15 years old and held captive for 39 days by Walter. All of his other victims were killed within hours of being taken, and no one knows why he lets her live, not even Elizabeth. 22 years later, Elizabeth- now Eliza- is happily married with two young children. While the events of that summer have changed her, she refuses to let them define her.
Then, she opens a letter one day from Walter, writing via a third party from death row and her world shifts again. The letter brings back all the painful memories Eliza has pushed away and threatens to disrupt the foundations of her life. Eliza decides to write a letter in return, and as a result, a shaky channel of communication opens up between the two, and each participant has their own motivation for doing so.
The idea behind this novel is brilliant. Having a death row inmate, right around the corner from his execution date seek out his only surviving victim is wonderfully scary. Even though the idea behind this novel is fabulous, the really shining point of this story are the characters. Each character is so well crafted, and so well voiced that I really feel like they could be real people. When Eliza would speak, especially in the beginning of the novel, I got the sense that although the words were clear, they were somehow stifled- On the surface, everything is fine but underneath, there are currents we can't even begin to guess at.
Barbara, Walter's anti-death penalty advocate was a character who elicited strong reactions from me. Every time her name appeared on the page, my skin would crawl. I did not like her, at all. I though she was sneaky, underhanded, pretentious, self-serving and a little bit malicious. Case in point- Barbara locates Eliza's address for Walter, mails that first letter. Next, she calls Eliza's home to speak to her and then she actually shows up at her house, without any kind of warning. She has to understand, even the tiniest bit, how hard it is for Eliza to have been contacted by Walter. But, she doesn't care. She has something that she wants, and she will approach Eliza until she gets it. Perhaps I'm being overly harsh toward her, and I do understand some of what she's doing. But, if I were Eliza, I would have called the prison and lodged a formal complaint about Walter contacting me, and then told Barbara if she came near me again I'd contact the police and take out a restraining order. But, that would make for a pretty dull book...
The other characters were also wonderfully written with their good traits, bad traits and those quirks that make them real. Any of these characters could be people that you know, which are the best kind of characters, especially when reading a thriller. There were also a few unanswered questions, and pieces left hanging. Nothing major was left unanswered, but just like in real life, not all the pieces always fit into the box, waiting to be neatly tied and wrapped with a bow.
Lippman's writing is wonderful. Spot on. I will definitely be picking up more books by Lippman in the near future. This book reminded me why I loved reading murder mysteries and thrillers all through high school, and makes me want to go back and read more....more
Hope in Patience by Beth Fehlbaum was not an easy book to read, but it was definitely powerful. It's about Ashley, who spent the years from 9-15 suffering sexual abuse from her stepfather and neglect from her mother. After a particularly horrific night, she moves to Patience, Texas to life with the father she's never known and his family.
One of the things I most appreciated about this book is that Ashley isn't magically fixed because she's now in a loving environment with people who care about her, and has an understanding therapist who is helping her move on. Ashley is still a bit of an emotional wreck. She has good days, better moments and really bad times. There are still times when she crawls into her wardrobe to sleep, she sleeps much better with her door locked at night, she has trouble talking about what happened, and anything related to family, and she doesn't like to be touched.
I get really annoyed by books where problems are solved too easily, and there is no real conflict. Anyone who went through what Ashley did is going to experience side effects, some of which will likely never go away. Ashley is not one of those characters. Her pain is very real, still fresh and it's always close to the surface. With the help of her dad and her step-mom, both of whom are incredibly loving and supportive, she is starting to heal. Her rather unconventional therapist, Dr. "Matt" is also helpful. His moments surprised me. I've never heard of any of the techniques he used in therapy (drop kicking teddy bears) but it seems like he understands what is needed to connect to Ashley, and he uses that to reach her. And it helps. He helps break the 'spinning' where her mind rushes and rushes, immobilizing and terrifying her, he helps her learn to acknowledge her emotions instead of carving them out onto her skin, and he helps her begin to accept her past so that she can embrace her future.
The only complaint I have with this novel, is that I feel too many big 'issues' were tackled at once, and many of the characters used to illustrate that issue were just a little too one-dimensional. We saw people dealing with homosexuality and homophobia, religious zealots, racial prejudice, many small minds, chauvinists, and etc. I understand the point of these characters. It's more on the theme that you are not alone, and not the only with suffering. But, I felt that most of these characters had little, if any depth and it was almost too much. There were a few characters that I didn't think helped the story along, but most of the characters (even some of the 'flat' ones) helped Ashley in some way or another. So, overall even that's still positive.
I'm interested to see where else Ashley's story will take us. I didn't realize this until after I had finished the book, but this is actually the second book in Fehlbaum's Patience Trilogy. The first, Courage in Patience is, I believe, out of print and the third (still tentatively titled Living in Patience) will not be released until next year at the earlies. When I started Hope, I didn't feel like I had entered into the middle of the story, and the author gives us enough background that we aren't lost. As I said, I didn't even realize this was the second in a trilogy until I was searching the book on Goodreads. Whether you start at the beginning first, or just pick up this one, it's definitely a book I think is worth reading. I plan to look for the first in the series soon, and I'll be anxiously awaiting Ashley's conclusion.
I also feel like I need to mention that I think Ms. Fehlbaum is incredibly brave to have put this type of emotion and personal experience on paper, and let strangers read it. Congratulations. This is an amazing story. The pain is very real, but so is the hope. This is a story to say that you are not alone, that there is always hope....more