Hopeless blew me away. (See my review here). Colleen Hoover has amazed me by turning Sky and Holder's trauma into...moreI Live to Read Colleen Hoover Novels
Hopeless blew me away. (See my review here). Colleen Hoover has amazed me by turning Sky and Holder's trauma into triumph, and she has made Holder my favorite book boyfriend. He is so smart, loving, and kind. So it was such a treat to read Sky's journey of discovery from Holder's perspective in Losing Hope.
I'm impressed this story didn't feel rehashed. The addition of Holder's interactions with his sister's boyfriend, along with heart-wrenching letters to and from Les, pack a powerful emotional punch in this story.
There are two issues I have with this series:
1. Les's therapist. The trauma Les sustained is horrific. And, people can heal from that. If Les wasn't getting better after years of therapy, TIME FOR A NEW THERAPIST. Did the therapist even ask if Les was thinking about suicide? Sometimes even the best therapists can't help clients, especially if clients are hell-bent on killing themselves, but I thought this potential malpractice was glossed over in the story.
2. The cover model is cute and all, but he just doesn't look like Dean Holder to me. I picture Holder as taller and lankier, with less of a preppy look. What do you think?
These are minor complaints I have for a masterpiece of a story. The sadness, the humor, the depth of characterization, and most of all, the hope…I can't wait to read what Colleen Hoover writes next.(less)
Intricate Plot, Well-Drawn Characters, Yet Lacking in Heart
One fortunate aspect of book club is exposure to books I might not normally read, and thoug...moreIntricate Plot, Well-Drawn Characters, Yet Lacking in Heart
One fortunate aspect of book club is exposure to books I might not normally read, and though I had some problems with this novel, I'm glad I read it.
The story bounces from coastal Italy in 1962 to present day Hollywood, and documents the interweaving lives of a washed out film producer (Michael Deane), his assistant (Claire), a young starlet (Dee Moray), a small town Italian hotelier (Pasquale), a WWII vet/wannabe writer (Alvis), a loser writer/wannabe wealthy screenwriter (Shane), and a ne'er-do-well drug addict (Pat). Oh, and Richard Burton (and by extension Liz Taylor) play key roles too.
How the HECK do these disparate characters weave together? So begins Jess Walter's tapestry of a plot.
The story starts in Portovergogna, Italy (translating to "Port of Shame"), a tiny coastal town next to Cinqueterre, in 1962.
I thank Pinterest for introducing me to the gorgeous area of Cinqueterre. I hope some day to visit this explosive color vista:
Pasquale (my favorite character) has left the university to return home and run the crumbling hotel after his father's death. He is quite excited when a gorgeous blonde comes to stay at his hotel after being dumped by a movie producer in the remote location. Sadly, she's been diagnosed with cancer. But is she really sick?
Pasquale speaks English with his guest, actress Dee Moray, and I loved what he said about learning a language:
It was curious what trying to speak English had done lately to his mind; it reminded him of studying poetry in college, words gaining and losing their meaning, overlapping with images, the curious echo of ideas behind the words people used.
Fast forward to present day Hollywood. The famous Michael Deane's assistant Claire dreams of a more glamorous life but is stuck listening to inane movie pitches like:
Title: SECOND PERIOD: DEATH Genre: YOUNG ADULT HORROR Logline: The Breakfast Club meets Nightmare on Elm Street in SECOND PERIOD: DEATH, the story of a group of students who must battle a deranged substitute teacher who may in fact be a vampire...
Failed writer Shane Wheeler hopes to pitch his own idea: Donner!: a cannibal epic about the Wild West. *laughs* Shane's parents taught him the ACT philosophy: have faith in yourself and you can do ANYTHING. It worked for a while (even Shane believed his own shit) but it's not working so well lately. This cracked me up:
But recently, fissures have appeared in this philosophy -- faith proving to be not nearly enough -- and it was in the run-up to his divorce that his soon-to-be ex-wife (So tired of your shit, Shane . . .) dropped a bombshell: the Bible phrase he and his father endlessly quoted, "Act as if ye have faith . . ." never actually APPEARS in the Bible. Rather, as far as she could tell, it came from the closing argument given by the Paul Newman character in the film The Verdict.
I enjoyed learning the motivations behind the characters. For example, a starvation story about the Donner party fascinates Shane because he has an older sister who almost died from an eating disorder. Also, alcoholic Richard Burton is an entertaining ASS in this story. It's clear the author put a lot of effort into plot and characterization.
Unfortunately, I didn't find myself emotionally involved in their intricate stories. This is a longer book, and it didn't have a gripping quality to make me fly through the pages. But I am psyched I finished it before book club!(less)
Carol Oates, you have officially horrified me with this taut, suspenseful novella.
Lincoln (Link) Downing is a young...moreThe Link Between Science and Horror
Carol Oates, you have officially horrified me with this taut, suspenseful novella.
Lincoln (Link) Downing is a young man who becomes intimate for the first time with his girlfriend Nancy, after senior prom, only to crash his car and suffer a near-fatal head injury. Luckily neurosurgeon Matthew saves Lincoln with his revolutionary brain treatment.
Dr. Matthew still pines for Lincoln's mother Kathleen, who married another man when Matthew left town to study medicine. Here, Matthew observes Kathleen:
She'd twisted her rich, caramel hair into a knot at the back of her head, highlighting the gentle sweeping curve of her long throat. She wore a black, form-fitting shift dress that stopped just below her knees, displaying her shapely calves and slim ankles. Matthew couldn't deny she'd aged well, showing only a few fine lines around her eyes--eyes that seemed sad and tired now.
I love Carol's descriptions.
While grateful to Matthew for saving his life, Lincoln doesn't feel quite himself. Are the brain treatments working like they should? He starts to have vicious nightmares of a monster killing its prey aka Lincoln's friends.
Are those nightmares merely dreams? Or REALITY? Mwa ha ha!
Every book will have a typo or two no matter how polished, but my ebook is rife with errors. The beginning dragged for me, so the pacing needs work. I also thought the exposition needs tightening.
Kayden's in residential psychiatric treatment at the beginning of the story. The introduction of his therapist certainly didn't impress me.
"Tell me how you feel," the therapist says. He says it every God damn time. And every God damn time I give him the same response. "I feel fine."
Really? This nincompoop therapist supposedly has a Ph.D. from Berkley? Thankfully he gets a little better, but this inept portrayal ticked me off at first.
When Callie says 10% into the book "Maybe it's time to quit being so scared," I thought AMEN. Too bad it takes her so long to follow through with action. It seems like weeks that she's apart from Kayden, with no real purpose for their separation (other than to keep him with the ninny psychologist).
Here's an example of my struggle with the writing style:
Seth starts thrusting his hips wildly as he flicks the end of his lighter and puts it up to the tip of the cigarette. The paper curls in and turns black as he takes a long drag.
I'm not an editor but I think this could be stated more economically, something like Seth thrusts his hips as he lights his cigarette. He takes a long drag." or something like that. The extra verbiage distracted me.
I did love moments like these:
I start to shove my finger down my throat, when suddenly I see Kayden lying on the floor. Helpless. He needs help...I might not be able to take away Kayden's past pain but maybe I can help with his future pain. I move my finger from my mouth and it's one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.
Callie really knows how to help Kayden. And Seth is a wonderful character.
"No, but I've never been one for wise ideas," Seth says. "I believe in irrational, fleeting decisions that keep life interesting."
Callie makes great progress in securing her redemption. But Kayden's story feels unfinished. Instead of feeling buoyed from these characters triumphing over pain, I felt "meh".
Ms. Sorenson does an excellent job evoking emotion with her characters. She tackles tough issues like self-mutilation and eating disorders with rawness and accuracy. That's why the poor editing bugs me, because this story has so much potential. (less)
Though I loved the movie LA Confidential, written by this author, I couldn't get into this novel. Not when there are so many great romance novels (my...moreThough I loved the movie LA Confidential, written by this author, I couldn't get into this novel. Not when there are so many great romance novels (my preferred genre) to read!
If you love crime novels set in the 1940's/1950's Los Angeles, this will be more up your alley.(less)
I love the New Adult genre, representing a time of life that features growth and development. Lacey and Drew, th...moreInterracial Couple Overcomes Obstacles
I love the New Adult genre, representing a time of life that features growth and development. Lacey and Drew, the heroine and hero of this story, definitely mature as they stumble into adulthood.
Lacey is a Biracial 18 year old who dreams of becoming an opera star, but cares for her dying mother instead.
Drew is an Asian 19 year old adopted son of a wealthy Illinois senator. Much to Mommy and Daddy's dismay, he has a penchant for hijinks.
They meet when Drew sneaks away from his father's fundraiser to find an illegal poker game. He happens to witness Lacey sing in a performance, and he's immediately enthralled.
She's not too impressed by this playboy from the North Shore "slumming' it in her neighborhood, and she promptly sets him up to get arrested! The girl's got spunk, that's for sure.
It's not looking too good for this unlikely pair until an interesting situation throws them together. For them to have a chance at love, Lacey needs to learn how to trust, and Drew needs to leave his "douchebaggery" behind. Are their differences insurmountable?
I enjoyed the character development, not only for Lacey and Drew, but also for Drew's sister, and even the "evil" Ashley.
The space between rich and poor, refined and ghetto, black and white...it might not be such a big space after all.
“Sometimes things are more complicated than they seem. Sometimes what you see isn’t so black and white.”(less)
Holy Weird, Batman. My colleague chose this collection of short stories for book club, and it's rather unique! I've never rea...moreBizarre, Clever, and Dark
Holy Weird, Batman. My colleague chose this collection of short stories for book club, and it's rather unique! I've never read George Saunders before, but it seems he has a twisted, complex world view. His characters are not likable at all, and I felt frustrated trying to figure out what was happening in some of his kooky stories.
One of my favorite stories was Escape from Spiderhead--a lab where prisoners were subjected to injections of various chemicals to test their scientific effectiveness. Verbaluce makes you eloquent, Vivistif is a version of Viagra (ha ha), Darkenfloxx makes you feel so horribly depressed that you want to kill yourself, and an unnamed chemical makes you horny. It was creative world-building with despicable characters.
In Exhortation, a manager writes a letter to his employees performing some ghastly duty (are they working at a morgue?). The parody of psychobabble cracked me up:
If we spend the hour before the shelf-cleaning talking down the process of cleaning the shelf, complaining about it, dreading it, investigating the moral niceties of cleaning the shelf, whatever, then what happens is, we make the process of cleaning the shelf MORE DIFFICULT THAN IT REALLY IS. We all know very well that that "shelf" is going to be cleaned, given the current climate, either by you or by the guy who replaces you and gets your paycheck, so the question boils down to: Do I want to clean it happy or do I want to clean it sad? Which would be more effective?
But most of the stories left me confused, frustrated, or icked out. Did I really need to take that stuff in my consciousness?
The colleague who chose this has very different reading tastes than me, and I bet he loved it. If you enjoy creative, dark literary short stories, you may love this! I tend to enjoy romance novels and this wasn't for me. (less)
I adored Katie McGarry's first novel in this series (Pushing the Limits), so naturally I was eager to read book two....moreDare to Break Free of Family Cages
I adored Katie McGarry's first novel in this series (Pushing the Limits), so naturally I was eager to read book two. And Dare To You did not disappoint. The gripping elements of secrets, poverty, family dysfunction, and brilliant characterization of mismatched lovers weave a common thread through both books.
Beth Risk doesn't take risks with her heart. She's been burned too many times. Beth points to the past boyfriend who used her for sex as the source of her mistrust, but more likely it's her parents' abandonment, neglect, and abuse that have molded her dark view of the world. Beth's mother is a drug addict who keeps returning to her asshat boyfriend Trent despite his penchant for beating Beth and her mother. When Beth takes the fall for her mother and gets arrested, her long lost uncle Scott shows up to yank her out of the mess.
But Beth is far from grateful for living with her wealthy ex-pro-baseball-player uncle because now she can't make sure her mother stays alive. To add to her heartache, Uncle Scott wrenches her away from her friends Isaiah and Noah. Beth is miserable at her new school. Even the handsome star baseball pitcher Ryan Stone can't bring her out of her funk. Beth thinks his life is perfect, so why the hell would he be interested in her?
In reality, Ryan's life is far from the perfect image his parents project to the small town Kentucky community. When Ryan's older brother came out to his parents, his father disowned him. Now there's hidden conflict between Ryan's parents. Ryan has to decide whether to try to go pro or go to college on a baseball scholarship. His father doesn't care what Ryan wants to do--he cares only about appearances.
Beth's mother is some piece of work. I HATE her. Listen to what she tells Beth:
Mom throws her head back as she drinks. "You're right. I do blame you. Your father would never have left it it wasn't for you."
Wow. She gets my vote for worst mother of the year. Yet Beth keeps returning to her, which is frustrating but realistic. Beth continues to search for the love she never received.
Beth intrigues Ryan because she's so different from him. He follows all the rules. She breaks them. He strives to please authority figures. She couldn't care less. He can't get her out of his mind. How can she be so hostile? Why does she dye her beautiful blond hair black? (The reason is devastating). Is there any sense of vulnerability hidden deep down beneath that frosty exterior? As he describes it:
Like other predators, Beth can smell fear.
Ha ha! Ryan is a great mixture of strength and softness. As a sports fan, I loved the element of baseball in the story.
It's hard to pinpoint but there seemed to be a little lag in the pacing toward the end of the story, which was the story's only negative for me.
Katie McGarry opens the novel with this Chinese proverb:
"It is the beautiful bird which gets caged."
What a deft metaphor for this heartbreaking couple busting free of their respective families. (less)
A pretty girl leaves her parents' house to live with her aunt, and to attend a different high school for her senior year. She wears thi...moreBeautiful Story
A pretty girl leaves her parents' house to live with her aunt, and to attend a different high school for her senior year. She wears thick, black eyeliner and hooker clothing, and she calls herself Nastya yet has no Russian heritage. Although she doesn't speak, she radiates rage.
Why does she do this?
So begins the mystery of The Sea of Tranquility. This book sucks you in and doesn't let you go.
When I read:
My eyes are drawn to the old-school metal hand-crank pencil sharpener on the principal's desk. I focus on the ring of adjustable pencil holes and wonder idly if my pinky finger would fit into any of them. I'm contemplating how much it would hurt to sharpen it, and how much blood there might be...
...I knew Nastya had experienced something horribly nasty in her life.
At the "highly unsupervised hell dimension" otherwise known as lunch, Nastya notices a boy who everyone avoids, like he has a force field around him. His name is Josh, and he loves woodworking. Josh has pain of his own, having suffered the deaths of his parents, sister, and grandparents.
Nastya jogs at a punishing pace in the Florida heat in order to calm her agitated mind. On one run, she stumbles upon Josh doing carpentry in his garage. He doesn't say much, and she doesn't talk at all. But a few nights later Nastya returns to watch him work. She's constantly observing, taking in every movement.
The sob-fest started for me when Josh makes her a chair. I had the great fortune to win cookies for this book (see the cover cookie above). Check out this gorgeous quote about this momentous event in their relationship:
Josh is friends with man-whore Drew, and by extension, Nastya becomes Drew's friend too. I loved the complex characterization. To say Nastya doesn't trust easily is the understatement of the year, yet somehow she allows both Josh and Drew into her circle of trust. These teens are smarter and wiser than their years. Listen to this astute observation Nastya makes:
I stayed in therapy long enough to know that nothing that happened to me was my fault. I didn't do anything to invite it or deserve it. But that just makes it worse. Maybe I don't blame myself for what happened, but when they tell you that something was completely and utterly random, they're also telling you something else. That nothing you do matters. It doesn't matter if you do everything right, if you dress the right way and act the right way and follow all the rules, because evil will find you anyway. Evil's resourceful that way.
Chilling yet true. We have trouble accepting that bad things aren't all fault because when we do, we give up all control for preventing the bad stuff from happening again.
I also loved the snarky voice of the author, like:
Immoral people debating the existence of God is always a crowd pleaser.
Josh refers to Nastya as "Sunshine", LOL.
But when Nastya and Josh share a moment of connection, her face does shine like the sun:
Thank God there's not a cliffhanger after all the pain these characters endure. Thank God for resolution and healing -- realistic healing, like:
I'm trying to see the magic in everyday miracles now: the fact that my heart still beats, that I can lift my feet off the earth to walk, and that there is something in me worthy of love.
Amen, Nastya and Josh. You're both quite lovable.
I implore you to pick up this book and fall in love with these characters just like I have.(less)
I fell in love with Pamela Clare's writing with her modern-day romantic suspense I-Team series, but I had no idea ho...moreMy Favorite Pamela Clare Novel Yet
I fell in love with Pamela Clare's writing with her modern-day romantic suspense I-Team series, but I had no idea how much I would enjoy her historical romance series MacKinnon's Rangers. The MacKinnon brothers -- Iain, Morgan, and Connor -- are Scots living in the wilds of 1750's New York. I loved Iain's and Morgan's stories (Surrender and Untamed). This is Connor's story.
British Lord William Wentworth has pressed The MacKinnon brothers into service to fight the French by holding a death sentence over their heads for a crime they didn't commit. Not surprisingly, the brothers hate their commander -- especially Connor. Now it's Connor's turn to lead the highly dangerous and effective MacKinnon's Rangers. Don't underestimate him just because he's the youngest brother. His stature and skills demand respect.
When the Shawnee capture Wentworth's niece, Lady Sarah Woodville, Wentworth orders Connor to save her. Connor takes his trusted friend Joseph on the rescue mission. When Connor tracks down Sarah, his low expectations of Wentworth's kin get blown to pieces. Sarah is exquisitely beautiful, innocent yet brave.
Unfortunately the Shawnee's best warrior has decided to take Sarah as his bride in order to avenge the English killing his wife. The only way for Connor to get her back is to fight to the death for her hand in marriage. But oops! How will Uncle Wentworth feel about his royal niece marrying a lowly Scot? NOT HAPPY.
Like his brothers, Connor is swoon-worthy -- tall, tanned, with long brown hair and deep blue eyes. He's funny, honorable, and competent. Connor's unique burden is the rage and guilt he carries for hurting innocents in this unending war. He believes he's damned and undeserving of good things in life.
I knew I would love Connor but I had no idea how fond I'd grow of Sarah. Her strict parents had tried to squelch her passion for music, which is her most endearing quality. When Sarah gets embroiled in a scandal in England, her parents send her away to America without bothering to allow her to defend her innocence. A fine-bred lass such as she is clearly not ready for the uncivilized land of colonial America, but she doesn't complain once. She has strength beyond measure.
Connor treats her virgin status with the utmost respect, showing his unwavering integrity. Their first encounters are thrilling and sexy:
"If my touch doesna sicken you, then why do you draw away from me?" Trapped by her own undeniable response, she looked into his eyes, saw his anger and, beneath it, anguish..."I do not feel repulsed by your touch. I feel..." Oh, how could she speak of this with him? "I feel...confused." Heat rose to her cheeks. "They way you look at me...I feel...naked. I struggle to breathe. And when you touch me...I feel warm, even when it is cold, and still I shiver." Ashamed, she started to look away, but he caught her chin between his fingers, forcing her to meet his gaze. He seemed to study her for a moment, the anguish slowly leaving his eyes, his voice deep and warm. "There's a name for what you're feelin', Sarah. Do you ken what it is?" Sarah shook her head. She was not sure she wanted to know. "Connor, I--" "'Tis desire." She shook her head, took a step backward. "Nay, I--" "Shall we put my supposition to test?" He pursued her in slow, easy steps, drew her into his arms. And then he kissed her.
My favorite parts of the story--the parts that made me cry--were when Sarah played music for Connor. She has no idea how gifted she is as a musician since her parents stomped on her ability instead of fostering it. Here she hungrily takes Dougie's fiddle and plays for the Rangers:
Only when she had finished the entire sonata, the last notes lingering in the cool evening air, did she realize what she'd done. She opened her eyes. Every Ranger in camp was staring at her, even Connor, a look of stunned surprise on his handsome face. Was he angry? Reluctantly, she lowered the fiddle, feeling uncertain. She hadn't meant to play so long. The music had simply rushed out of her, almost beyond her control. She was about to hand the violin back to Dougie, when the Rangers burst into wild shouts. It took her a moment to realize their shouts were cheers and meant as praise. When the cheers had begun to quieten, Connor spoke, his voice strangely soft. "I've ne'er heard such beautiful music afore, my lady."
What a fabulous couple!
I'm so grateful to the author for sending me a signed copy of Defiant, which I won in a giveaway. And I hear this series may have another novel featuring Joseph. Until then, I have more Pamela Clare novels awaiting me. Yahoo!(less)
In No Justice, Darcia Helle creates a gritty world reminiscent of the movie Leaving Las Vegas. Instead of alcoholic Nich...moreLeaving Las Vegas Meets Dexter
In No Justice, Darcia Helle creates a gritty world reminiscent of the movie Leaving Las Vegas. Instead of alcoholic Nicholas Cage turning to prostitute Elizabeth Shue for solace, this time it’s hit man Michael Sykora falling for prostitute Nicki. Similar to the TV show Dexter, Michael kills bad men — like the one who murdered his wife.
From the first line…
Let him laugh. One more hour and he’d be dead.
…it’s clear a dark ride awaits. Somehow Darcia manages to show Michael’s integrity despite his sinister side vocation as hit man.
Although Michael first met Nicki when she serviced him as a prostitute, both developed genuine feelings for each other. He felt guilty for his attraction to her due to his allegiance to his dead wife, so he cut off all ties with her. But when Nicki later calls him, scared and on the run from her friend’s thuggish boyfriend, Michael can’t help but jump into the fray to help her. And when Michael goes in, he goes all in, encountering true danger from creepy Anthony Lott and his gang.
Michael’s day job is computer programming, and his office assistant Ruby is one of my favorite characters.
Ruby tapped on the side door, then, without waiting for Michael’s response, pushed it open and stepped inside. She said, “You’ve been locked up in here brooding all morning.” Michael clicked out of the window he’d had open on his computer screen. He said, “I’m not brooding.” “You prefer I call it pouting?” Frowning, Michael looked up. Ruby had taken her non-nonsense stance, with both feet planted firmly about a foot apart and her hands spread out over her fleshy hips. “I do not pout,” he said. “Really now? You look in the mirror yet today?” “You come in here solely for the pleasure of giving me a hard time?” “Course not,” Ruby replied. “It just comes so easy, sometimes I can’t help myself.” “Lucky me.”
Other well-drawn supporting characters include Michael’s two friends: Ruby’s son Isaac, a police officer, and Sean, a fellow hit man who Michael originally hired to take out his wife’s killer. I love the complexity of both of these characters. Lawman Isaac just might know about Michael’s secret penchant for murder but keeps it quiet. Sean is a ruthless killer who demonstrates admirable loyalty toward Michael.
I look forward to reading Michael’s future exploits in Beyond Salvation -- it appears Nicki will still be hanging around, worming her way into his cold, shattered heart. It’s wonderful to hear Darcia is writing book three in the series!(less)
The writing and the plot are wonderful in this series, but I wish to focus on the characterization in my review. It's u...moreEnraptured by Gabriel and Julia
The writing and the plot are wonderful in this series, but I wish to focus on the characterization in my review. It's uncommon when both the hero and the heroine are strong characters, but this is the case in the Gabriel's Inferno series. I love Gabriel and Julia equally, which is quite a feat for the author.
(For my review of Gabriel's Inferno and interview with author Sylvain Reynard, go here).
University professor and Dante specialist Gabriel Emerson can be an insensitive jerk until he meets the sweet, self-effacing grad student Julia Mitchell. Their romance and effect on each other have progressed since book one. Gabriel has become softer, and Julia more confident. I loved when Gabriel is patient with Julia's past romantic trauma, and when Julia stands up to Dean Aras.
Gabriel is brilliant, classy, and layered. There's a lot of vulnerability hiding beneath his pompous exterior, and nobody brings out that depth like Julia. He's eloquent; he's caring. Gabriel's fashion choices are...interesting. Like a bow tie and a beret. Only a man with such a great body and beautiful blue eyes can pull it off.
The story begins in Italy, where Gabriel delivers an invited lecture.
He removed his glasses for dramatic effect and fixed Julia with an unblinking eye. "Many people fail to see how modesty and sweetness of temper compound erotic appeal."
Gabriel nails Julia's appeal with this statement. She is so kind and thoughtful, like when she tells Gabriel how his baby Maia is safe and loved in Paradise, which brings rare tears to his eyes.
Julia's wisdom continues to impress me, especially the time she tells Gabriel she doesn't want to become his new drug of choice. She has some clever thoughts of her own, like this pillow talk with Professor Emerson:
"For me, your name is synonymous with orgasm. I'm going to start calling them Emgasms."
I loved their conversation about "sticky little leaves" that form on spring trees--the true blessings of life; signs of hope. Julia explains:
"Everyone wants to know where evil comes from and why the world is riddled with it. Why doesn't anyone ask where goodness comes from? Human beings have a tremendous capacity for cruelty. Why is there any goodness at all? Because there's a God, and he hasn't allowed the earth to be entirely corrupted. There are sticky little leaves, if you look for them. And when you recognized them, you can feel his presence.
That is very much how I feel God as well. My sticky little leaves include my sisters, the sport of swimming, and the pleasure of helping others as a psychologist.
I also enjoyed the exploration of a balanced love. Gabriel says "...no human being can every make another human being completely happy. Human beings are far too imperfect for that." Amen! Too bad he quickly denies that statement has anything to do with him and Julia, ha ha.
I'm a big fan of any book with therapy scenes, and I found Julia's work to be interesting with her therapist Nicole. (It's unfortunate Gabriel doesn't buy in). Nicole's explanation of "wounded duck attachment" interested me:
"Of course, some women have the feminine equivalent of chivalry syndrome--wounded duck attachment. They seek out men who are bad boys or broken and afflicted and attempt to fix them."
Hmm, Julia--should you be looking in the mirror? I know quite a few women like this.
Credible threats to their relationship occur, and I wanted to bop the professor over the head for causing a misunderstanding between them. But I couldn't stay angry with him for long. The writing is stunning, and I can't wait until book three!(less)
What a clever title! And the cover is fun and catchy as well.
Seventeen year-old Chuck Taylor has some intrusive and unwanted thoughts, like "The stove...moreWhat a clever title! And the cover is fun and catchy as well.
Seventeen year-old Chuck Taylor has some intrusive and unwanted thoughts, like "The stove burners might have been left on...and they could burn the house down." These obsessive thoughts nag and nag at Chuck, skyrocketing his anxiety, until he executes a compulsive behavior to try to neutralize that anxiety. For example, he checks the burners to make sure they're turned off. He doesn't double-check or triple-check, he quadruple-gazillion-checks, which can last HOURS.
It's obvious Chuck suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and these rituals make it hard to live a normal teenage life. Somehow Chuck manages to do well in school and has a great friend named Steve, but when new-girl-at-school Amy asks him to tutor her in Calculus, he faces imminent disaster. He's totally crushing on her, but how can he act normal around her? If she finds out he has OCD, will she reject him?
Afraid of losing Amy, Chuck finally relents to starting therapy and the antidepressant Lexapro. He soon discovers that kicking this OCD thing is a lot harder than it looks.
This is definitely a book for the older YA crowd. Though author Aaron Karo tackles a serious subject matter, he is a comedian, and I giggled throughout the book. The first page discusses Chuck's compulsive count of his masturbation episodes.
I just began my masturbation tally again on January 1st. I don't know why I'm compelled to keep track of it. And to make matters worse, I'm already beating (no pun intended) last year's pace.
Chuck's friend Steve, who apparently looks like a pale Milhouse from The Simpsons, has the unfortunate last name of Sludgelacker. Naturally the school bully immediately nicknames him "Fudgepacker". *shakes head*
My opinion on the authenticity of therapy in this story is a mixed review. The author gets it right when Chuck's therapist uses a version of cognitive behavioral therapy (exposure and response prevention) to try to extinguish the compulsive behaviors. But it's highly unlikely that Chuck sees a psychiatrist for talk therapy--he'd more commonly see a psychologist or a master's level therapist for the talk therapy and a psychiatrist (medical doctor) for the medication. But perhaps that would've been cumbersome to the plot. I'm a bit disappointed that the therapist isn't very likable, though Chuck's description of her as a "pear...a tiny little head and the rest of her body just expands from there" did crack me up.
Dr. S. has been in a much better mood in the past few weeks since I started taking the Lexapro.
Hmm, Chuck. Is it your psychiatrist Dr. S who's changed, or is it YOU? I love books where characters go through significant transformation, and ultimately this book offers a lot of hope for change.
This is a quick, enjoyable read and I encourage you to give it a try!(less)
Thank you to Smash for recommending this series! While I really liked If I Stay, I LOVED Where She Went. Adam is one of the bes...moreAdam is a Shooting Star
Thank you to Smash for recommending this series! While I really liked If I Stay, I LOVED Where She Went. Adam is one of the best male characters I've read, and the author made an excellent decision to write the story from his point of view.
*This review is spoilerish so if you haven't read If I Stay, you should stop now.*
Adam Wilde is a 21 year-old rock star sensation, living out his dream of becoming a wildly successful musician. However, he's jaded and morose. His fame and money mean nothing to him because he's missing the most important part of his life: Mia.
Three years ago, Mia let their relationship end without a word why. Granted, she was messed up after losing her family in a horrible car crash, but I was angry with her for never providing an explanation to Adam. He was gutted after losing her family AND her. After holing up in his parents' basement for months, he wrote a heartbreaking CD for his band, which elevated Shooting Star to the stratosphere (think Britney Spears fame).
What's your favorite breakup CD? I'm partial to Chris Isaak's Forever Blue, Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill, and of course Adele's 21. Adam's lyrics were my favorite part of the story. Gorgeous and devastating all at once:
I'll be your mess, you be mine That was the deal that we had signed I bought a hazmat suit to clean up your waste Gas masks, gloves, to keep us safe But now I'm alone in an empty room Staring down immaculate doom
There's a piece of lead where my heart should be Doctor said too dangerous to take out You'd better just leave it be Body grew back around it, a miracle, praise be, Now, if only I could get through airport security
I want to buy this CD Collateral Damage!
Some of my favorite psychotherapy clients are young adult/new adult men because they try so damn hard to be tough and strong but they have vulnerabilities just like the rest of us. It can be immensely cathartic for them to express those feelings, and this novel is like one big therapy session for Adam. Adam is so sweet--I just want to hug him--especially when he thinks things like this:
Mia's grandfather just looked at me in that quiet sad way that made me inexplicably want to kneel at the foot of his chair and put my head in his lap.
*sobs* You'll make it Adam, hang in there!
This book is a tearjerker but in a touching, satisfying way. Highly recommended!(less)
Matt Gratton is fourteen. He has two buddies Sean and Coop, and a wry sense of humor -- b...moreOur Summer Goal: To See a Girl Naked
This book cracked me up!
Matt Gratton is fourteen. He has two buddies Sean and Coop, and a wry sense of humor -- blessings that more than make up for his lack of muscles. Every summer Matt, Sean, and Coop swim on a summer club team and set a goal like riding their bikes to a far-away lake and going skinny dipping. Given that they're girl-crazy, this summer's goal is to see a real-life naked girl. Matt's wondering if the cute new swim teammate Kelly might be the one they catch nude.
Will the boys succeed?
Matt not only worries about this goal, but he also gets himself in deep when he volunteers to swim the one-hundred butterfly in a desperate move to impress Kelly. If you don't know, butterfly is THE most difficult stroke. It requires superior upper body strength, flexibility, and timing -- of which Matt has none. These boys are nowhere near the fastest swimmers on the team. As Matt states, "In case you don't know, eighteen minutes is not a great time for a hundred yards of butterfly." Um, yeah. It's not such a great time.
The author's voice is fun and real. Here Matt attends a funeral for an elderly neighbor:
The first thing I do is scan the room for cute girls. You'd think that being in a room with a dead body might push those feelings down deep inside you. But no. It's like trying to force a kickboard to stay underwater; unless you give it your full, constant attention, it eventually explodes to the surface.
Matt's family is also realistically dysfunctional. His father left his mother long ago, and his single mother struggles to make a living by selling nutritional supplements (leading to an embarrassing mix-up between protein powder and laxative powder). His grandfather almost steals the show, enlisting Matt to help him woo the widowed neighbor.
Matt tries some extreme training methods to train for the fly, which leave him incredibly sore:
"Whatever." I try to wave Coop off, but since I can't lift my arm, I just look like a girlie T. rex.
I love the friendship among the three boys. Their humor may be juvenile but their caring for each other is genuine.
I pick a few shirts off my bedroom floor and give them the sniff test. The only one that seems relatively clean is my bright yellow BIG BONE LICK STATE PARK, KENTUCKY T-shirt that Cooper got me for my birthday last year. He thought it was the funniest thing ever.
The swimming details lack authenticity but I enjoyed the story so much that I didn't care. And the romance is sweet, original, and unexpected. Maybe there's more to girls than stealing a peep at their naughty parts?(less)
*Sigh* Alexander Barrington is my favorite book boyfriend. He's tall, dark, and brooding, with an intense love for his Russian bride Ta...moreAMAZING Series!
*Sigh* Alexander Barrington is my favorite book boyfriend. He's tall, dark, and brooding, with an intense love for his Russian bride Tatiana. He's just so real, with all of his flaws (chain smoking, jealousy, and difficulty learning from the past). This book--the third installment in The Bronze Horseman series--shows Alexander at his worst, but I still love him.
After Tatiana moved mountains in Tatiana and Alexander (book two in the series), she and Alexander are finally ready to start a life together. No more Dasha, no more Dmitri, no more war...
Sadly, the war isn't behind them. Alexander is a shell of a man after years of serving in a penal battalion and enduring beastly treatment in prisons, and he takes out his traumatic stress on his young wife and son. But if anyone can heal a man, Nurse Tania is the one.
There's a part of this story that's horrifying, testing the foundation of their marriage. I wanted to slap Alexander for his stupidity. But Tatiana has her own penchant for stubbornness that doesn't smooth out the conflict either.
This was a series re-read so I skipped the scenes of a young Tatiana at Lazarevo. I don't believe they add much to the story. I also found the family gathering at the end of the story rather cheesy. I love Paullina Simons's writing when she focuses on her hero and heroine. But the family interactions at the beginning and end of the series seem corny to me.
If you're looking for a gripping, emotional read, then check out this series! It stays with you for some time.(less)