That's What She Read
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BOTTOM LINE: SO difficult but so beautifully written and well-done.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: 7 August 2018
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Synopsis from the Publisher:
“Camden, NJ, 1948. When 11-year-old Sally Horner steals a notebook from the local Woolworth’s, she has no way of knowing that 52-year-old Frank LaSalle, fresh out of prison, is watching her, preparing to make his move. Accosting her outside the store, Frank convinces Sally that he’s an FBI agent who can have her arrested in a minute—unless she does as he says.
This chilling novel traces the next two harrowing years as Frank mentally and physically assaults Sally while the two of them travel westward from Camden to San Jose, forever altering not only her life, but the lives of her family, friends, and those she meets along the way.
Based on the experiences of real-life kidnapping victim Sally Horner and her captor, whose story shocked the nation and inspired Vladimir Nabokov to write his controversial and iconic Lolita, this heart-pounding story by award-winning author T. Greenwood at last gives a voice to Sally herself.”
My Thoughts: There is a nonfiction account of Sally Horner’s story that is garnering a lot of media press lately, which is unfortunate because from what I have been hearing, it is not the greatest reading experience. It is also unfortunate that the nonfiction version is getting all of the publicity because T. Greenwood’s fictionalized version is so very, very good. With the freedom of fiction, Ms. Greenwood places us into the mind of Sally and that of her mother and sister so that they are once again alive and vibrant and telling their collective story so that all may know what happened during those lost years at the end of the 1940s.
Rust & Stardust is not an easy novel to read. While Ms. Greenwood does not get explicit in the forms of abuse Sally experiences, she provides enough contextual clues to understand just what is happening to Sally at any given time. This understanding is enough to turn your stomach and is most definitely a trigger for readers sensitive to pedophilia and other forms of child abuse. While it would be easy to say that such knowledge is not necessary to Sally’s story, Ms. Greenwood presents it in such a way to understand not only her experiences but also her frame of mind during and after her abduction. In turn, this helps frame her state of mind that leads to her ultimate fate. It may be some of the most difficult reading you might do, but it is vital reading if only to recognize the mental trauma such sustained abuse causes Sally and the strains placed on her relationships with her sister and mother as a result of her trauma.
Because of the sensitive nature of her subject, Ms. Greenwood tiptoes delicately through the grimier aspects of Sally’s story. She provides Sally with a modicum of privacy within her most horrific scenes. Some of this privacy is out of necessity if only because we truly have no idea what Sally thought or felt throughout her ordeal. However, even among those aspects of the story in which Ms. Greenwood had to utilize her imagination, her speculations are so realistic that you forget you are reading fiction. In point of fact, Ms. Greenwood’s diligent and very thorough research shines among the pages of Rust & Stardust so that you do not have to do any further research on your own. Adding to that is Ms. Greenwood’s ability to paint a picture, which is so good that you have no need to Google Sally and find the images to which Ms. Greenwood refers throughout the story.
To that end, Rust & Stardust is an excellent historical fiction novel specifically because Ms. Greenwood not only did her homework on her chosen subject but also presents it in such a way that blurs the line between fiction and reality. It is easy to forget that Sally’s story is real, that Sally herself was real, and that she did endure years of sexual, physical, and mental abuse at the hands of her abductor. That her story inspired Vladimir Nabokov only serves to make his classic story even more disturbing – because it forces us to realize that for all his rationalizations, Humbert Humbert really is a disgusting and depraved character, something not so easy to realize while reading it.
Sally’s story is a tough one, and there will be times you will set it aside thinking you cannot possibly get through it, but there is something so beautiful about Rust & Stardust that it bears continuing with it. Sally may have undergone horrific situations, but her family never gave up on her. They continued to search and pushed the police to continue their searches. They offered rewards, even though money was tight. They physically searched areas themselves. They fought, and Sally fought. That is the story worth telling and worth experiencing. That we should never succumb to what is happening to us but continue to fight to achieve our goals – whether they are to lose weight, travel more, or escape your abductor. For the many instances of a roiling stomach her story causes, Ms. Greenwood’s Rust & Stardust is a beautiful, sensitive novel that provides you more insight into the Horner family than a certain other nonfiction publication out on the shelves right now.
The post The better real Lolita story appeared first on That's What She Read.
BOTTOM LINE: I love any novel that shows women realizing their potential and setting about righting the wrongs of patriarchal societies!
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publication Date: 31 July 2018
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Synopsis from the Publisher:
“Serina Tessaro has been groomed her whole life to become a Grace–someone to stand by the heir to the throne as a shining, subjugated example of the perfect woman. It’s her chance to secure a better life for her family, and to keep her headstrong and rebellious younger sister, Nomi, out of trouble. But when Nomi catches the Heir’s eye instead, Serina is the one who takes the fall for the dangerous secret her sister has been hiding.
Trapped in a life she never wanted, Nomi has only one option: surrender to her role as a Grace until she can use her position to save Serina. But this is easier said than done…. A traitor walks the halls of the palazzo, and deception lurks in every corner.
Meanwhile Serina is running out of time. Imprisoned on an island where she must fight to the death to survive, surrounded by women stronger than she is, one wrong move could cost her everything. There is no room for weakness on Mount Ruin, especially weaknesses of the heart.
Thrilling and captivating, Grace and Fury is a story of fierce sisterhood, and of survival in a world that’s determined to break you.”
My Thoughts: In young adult fiction, strong young heroines who help save the world have been a mainstay of such stories for a decade or more. However, this does not mean that authors are overusing this character type. If anything, given the headlines these days, women of all ages need these heroines to remind us to keep fighting no matter how exhausting or painful it is. They remind us that all revolutions start small, and all it takes to grow is that one person to stand up for what is right. In this regard, Nomi and Serina are two more great examples of women fighting the good fight.
What makes Grace and Fury stand out from a crowded field of similar novels is the anger simmering beneath the surface of the story. While Nomi’s anger is upfront, it is the anger underneath that fuels the narrative. As both girls gain more exposure to their new homes, they begin to understand just how angry women are at their enforced situations. They also begin to recognize the machinations that exist solely to keep women submissive. As their awareness grows, so does the antagonistic energy that surrounds each woman with whom the girls interact, until eventually, neither girl can ignore the suppressed truth.
In many ways, one can relate what happens to the sisters to current headlines. Just as the girls become more aware of the undercurrents of tension in their fictional world, there is an anger among women in the real world which is only beginning to surface. Serina and Nomi gain greater understanding and knowledge of their lack of rights, but women everywhere are fighting to maintain theirs. Both groups face a firmly entrenched patriarchy that has generations of traditions, social mores, and other insidious forms of subjugation of which so many of us have never been consciously aware. The worlds may be different, but the enemy we face remains the same.
Grace and Fury is not perfect. In fact, the story is highly predictable, and the big plot twist is so obvious that there is no surprise. However, it remains an excellent story if only because it is inspiring. In the real world, women are angry and have been since November 2016. If it takes a fictional pair of sisters to create the spark needed for women to move beyond anger and into action, then I welcome it with open arms.
The post There were never such devoted sisters appeared first on That's What She Read.
BOTTOM LINE: Not the best book ever read but still scary enough to cause some weird dreams
Genre: Young Adult; Science Fiction; Thrillers and Suspense
Publication Date: 24 July 2018
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Synopsis from the Publisher:
“After receiving a distress call from a drill team on a distant planet, a skeleton crew is sent into deep space to perform a standard search-and-rescue mission.
When they arrive, they find the planet littered with the remains of the project—including its members’ dead bodies. As they try to piece together what could have possibly decimated an entire project, they discover that some things are best left buried—and some monsters are only too ready to awaken.”
My Thoughts: Contagion by Erin Bowman is a satisfying mashup of science fiction, horror, and fantasy. The story draws upon such popular fears as space and space travel, the unknown, disease, and isolation, as well as more mundane young adult concerns like failing and being viewed as different. Adding to the mix are corporate greed and political power. You might be able to say that there is even an aspect of a coming-of-age story as a young woman must step up and grow in her role from high school intern into a scientist and leader.
Even though it is somewhat predictable, Contagion entertains as it shifts from an exploration novel to a monster story and then into a political dystopian one. This hodge-podge of story types works well together as each genre shift involves new information that sheds light on the situation at hand and the universe at large. In this regard, the genres flow from one to the other without damaging the story arc. The characters help this shift as well, as each situation, and therefore genre, requires them to adapt or face the potentially fatal consequences. Readers become immune to the shifts in story types from scene to scene because it is a natural progression of not just the story itself but also of character development.
Granted, there is not much in the way of character development. We learn characters’ secrets which help flesh out their backstories a bit. Their reactions to the situations they face also helps fill out their character profile. There is really only one character that essentially grows – the intern – but whether that continues into the future novels is something only time will reveal. The rest of the characters remain fairly static, foils for our main character and the fodder for our monsters.
While not a truly great novel, there is enough within Contagion to satisfy any desire to read a scary story, and it is a scary science fiction story. Chances are that there is at least one aspect of the story that will scare you, and if that doesn’t work, Ms. Bowman keeps the gore factor high as well. Plus, the tension ratchets quickly in the opening chapters and never falls. There are very few pauses in the action that would allow you to rest from the stress such suspense may cause you. For a book that hits all the sweet spots for fall, as thoughts naturally turn towards the spookiness and macabre of Halloween, you cannot go wrong with Contagion.
The post Need a scary book that pretty much covers everything? appeared first on That's What She Read.
Hosted by Kathryn from Book Date
, this is a weekly event to share what we’ve read in the past week and what we hope to read, plus whatever else comes to mind. Here is what I read the week ending 17 September 2018. To learn more about each book, just click on the book cover!
With football in earnest now, my weekend reading will come to a virtual halt – which is okay but it is the time of year I make major progress on my cross-stitch projects. Still, not a bad week for making progress on my review copies.
FINISHED SINCE THE LAST UPDATE:
Zach Hines’ debut novel is an intense story that kept me on my toes and had me guessing through the entire novel. The world building though was a bit weak, and I finished the book wanting more answers than those I received. Some of the reasoning behind the evil deeds and corporate shadiness remains nebulous. I do not believe that this novel is part of a series, but I would certainly welcome future novels within this world if there is more explanation behind the Lakes and the changes occurring within them that is wreaking havoc on the ecosystem.
Sara Raasch’s fantasy about religion versus science, immigration, and governance starts out slowly, probably too slowly for most people. However, once the world-building is complete, the story takes off into a world of intrigue, secrets, and excitement with a cliffhanger ending that is about as cruel as anything Suzanne Collins wrote. I was not certain about the story at first but fell in love with everything about it by the end. Plus, that ending! There are way too many months before the sequel.
The final Parasol Protectorate novel was everything I could hope it would be. We get answers to some long-held secrets. We see characters come into their own. We get the resolutions to some long-standing issues. Plus, we get the future direction of Alexia Maccon’s story. It has a bit more excitement than normal, plenty of drama and etiquette lessons, as well as a fantastic sense of family and love. I have always been a fan of Lord and Lady Maccon, but somehow, this last novel in the series served to solidify my love for the entire cast of characters with which Alexia surrounds herself. Emily Gray, as the narrator of the entire series, does an excellent job with all of the various voices, a daunting task indeed since she must tackle not just male and female roles, but also those of children as well as Scottish, English, Italian, French, and Egyptian dialects. She must traverse the wide swath of English dialects, from royal to lower class. She does all seemingly with ease. More importantly, her pronunciations and voices never waver from novel to novel so that without hearing a name, one knows immediately which character she is voicing. Her voice is pleasant to the ear with just the right amount of irony to it to highlight the satirical nature of the stories. I am going to miss the Parasol Protectorate, as I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with them, but I am glad to say that this is one series I finally finished.
Dathan Auerbach’s novel is creepy but slow. It was one of those that I wanted to finish to find out what happened, but it dragged so much that I ended up skimming a two-thirds of it. The story needs to be cut by a good 100 pages or more to tighten up the narrative and make it a truly impressive novel.
DID NOT FINISH:
Nothing so far, and I don’t see that changing any time soon given what I have pending.
The post It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? – 17 September 2018 appeared first on That's What She Read.
- It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? – 10 September 2018
- A glimpse into the family dynamic of a child sociopath, or is she?
- Fabulous Friday – 14 September 2018
- Wherein Sarah Knight teaches me how to not give a f*ck
Genre: Parody; Humor; Self Help
Publication Date: 29 December 2015
Source: Mine. All mine.
Synopsis from the Publisher:
“Are you stressed out, overbooked, and underwhelmed by life? Fed up with pleasing everyone else before you please yourself? It’s time to stop giving a f*ck.
This brilliant, hilarious, and practical parody of Marie Kondo’s bestseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up explains how to rid yourself of unwanted obligations, shame, and guilt–and give your f*cks instead to people and things that make you happy.
The easy-to-use, two-step NotSorry Method for mental decluttering will help you unleash the power of not giving a f*ck about:
- Family drama
- Having a ‘bikini body’
- Co-workers’ opinions, pets, and children
- And other bullsh*t!
And it will free you to spend your time, energy, and money on the things that really matter. So what are you waiting for? Stop giving a f*ck and start living your best life today!”
My Thoughts: I am sure most people who decide to read Sarah Knight’s parody of Marie Kondo’s über-popular minimalist self-help novel are doing so to get a few laughs out of the cuss-filled parody. After all, even the publisher lists The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck among its humor offerings. However, when you set aside the humor and the language and pays attention to Ms. Knight’s message, you may be pleasantly surprised at how much you actually learn about not worrying about those things that are not worth your time, energy, or money about which to spend worrying.
I went into this short bundle of laughs wondering what about its continued popularity and hoping that Ms. Knight might indeed teach me a few things. The book’s structure lends itself easily to reading in one sitting, but I wanted to stop stressing about ALL THE THINGS/PEOPLE/EVENTS so I took my time, stopping after each section to let its message sink into my brain. I worked through all her suggested exercises and probably gave each idea of hers more thought than is necessary. What I found, though, as I worked through the exercises is that for all her bluntness, Ms. Knight is definitely on to something.
Even if you are not in need of reducing your stress over things/people/events you may or may not be able to control, The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck is a speedy and fun read that not just pokes fun at Ms. Kondo’s method but also provides a rational look at stress and how to minimalize it. Ms. Knight’s breezy narrative style makes it an easy read, and her SorryNotSorry method gives you the freedom to take what you want from her advice and stuff the rest without worry. I am proud of the lists I made working through her exercises, and I do look at them at least once a week to remind myself what of what is truly important to me. When I can barely read headlines without feeling the acid in my stomach start to churn, taking back control by not giving a f*ck is a welcome change to 2018.
The post Wherein Sarah Knight teaches me how to not give a f*ck appeared first on That's What She Read.
We should always find ways to celebrate the little things in life. What better day to celebrate these little things than the best day of the week? So, here are the things that make this a Fabulous Friday for me this week ending 14 September 2018.
- WE’VE GOT MORE SPIRIT – Tonight is Holly’s second poms performance. Her first performance was amazing compared to previous years. It helps when you add a freshman class of actual dancers to the team. The weather is warmer today too, so the need for extra layers is not as great as it was last week. I am really looking forward to seeing her out on the field again. Plus, she is so darn cute in her uniform!
What makes this a Fabulous Friday for you?
The post Fabulous Friday – 14 September 2018 appeared first on That's What She Read.
BOTTOM LINE: Disturbing AF – which means I loved every minute of it!
Genre: Suspense; Thriller;
Publication Date: 17 July 2018
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Synopsis from the Publisher:
“Afflicted with a chronic debilitating condition, Suzette Jensen knew having children would wreak havoc on her already fragile body. Nevertheless, she brought Hanna into the world, pleased and proud to start a family with her husband Alex. Estranged from her own mother, Suzette is determined to raise her beautiful daughter with the love, care, and support she was denied.
But Hanna proves to be a difficult child. Now seven-years-old, she has yet to utter a word, despite being able to read and write. Defiant and anti-social, she refuses to behave in kindergarten classes, forcing Suzette to homeschool her. Resentful of her mother’s rules and attentions, Hanna lashes out in anger, becoming more aggressive every day. The only time Hanna is truly happy is when she’s with her father. To Alex, she’s willful and precocious but otherwise the perfect little girl, doing what she’s told.
Suzette knows her clever and manipulative daughter doesn’t love her. She can see the hatred and jealousy in her eyes. And as Hanna’s subtle acts of cruelty threaten to tear her and Alex apart, Suzette fears her very life may be in grave danger…”
My Thoughts: Believe every reaction you have seen because Baby Teeth is one effed-up story. Hanna’s thoughts about her mother are just plain disturbing and seemingly justify the fear Suzette feels when alone with her daughter. Plus, Hanna’s manipulation of her father is sickening. It would be easy to describe Baby Teeth as the story of a child sociopath. However, to do so leaves out key elements of the story which not only add depth but make you realize that not all is black and white in the Jensen household.
It is as if Ms. Stage took Oprah’s long-ago advice of putting yourself and your relationship with your significant other ahead of that of your children and started conjuring various scenarios of how that might work. What she put to paper is inventive if disturbing with no clear right or wrong answer to any situation. Therein lies all of the tension and drama of the story, for it is not just about Hanna’s proclivity for manipulation and violence but also the family dynamics wherein the primary caregiver is extremely sick most of the time. I envision book clubs having a field day with the Jensens’ marriage.
There is so much within Baby Teeth to discuss and no easy answers that would allow all readers to come to the same conclusions. In fact, I suspect Ms. Stage leaves certain parts deliberately vague specifically to prod discussions. There are some very difficult scenes within the story that may be a trigger for some readers, so one should not open the novel unless prepared to be thoroughly shocked at everyone’s behavior at some point in time. For all that though, I was mesmerized by Hanna and Suzette as they battled for Alex’s affection. My sympathies varied depending on the scene, and just when I thought I was committed to one particular character, something would happen that would make me question my choice. It is a fascinating study of relationships, sociopathy, and psychology that is akin to watching the train wreck through your fingertips. You cannot look away from the horror before you no matter how much you think you desire it until you resign yourself to having a macabre curiosity and sit back to enjoy the ride.
The post A glimpse into the family dynamic of a child sociopath, or is she? appeared first on That's What She Read.
Hosted by Kathryn from Book Date
, this is a weekly event to share what we’ve read in the past week and what we hope to read, plus whatever else comes to mind. Here is what I read the week ending 10 September 2018. To learn more about each book, just click on the book cover!
FINISHED SINCE THE LAST UPDATE:
I was not certain how I was going to feel about Tracy Banghart’s latest novel and series opener. I found it a bit predictable in some major plot points and sluggish at times. I enjoyed myself while reading it but was not enamored with it as I thought I might be given the buzz surrounding it. I found the ending to be suspenseful and rather intense, and Ms. Banghart managed to throw in one or two twists that helped offset the predictability. It ends with a decent cliffhanger that does make me want to continue with the series. Whether the story will linger enough in my mind to remember once the sequel is available is anyone’s guess.
Book four in The Parasol Protectorate series is another one that all my files say I read but one in which I have no memory of reading, let alone the plot. It does not matter in the end because I enjoyed this one as much as the first three, if not more so because I do think Alexia is getting feistier with each book. Her no-nonsense approach to life remains hilarious. It is her antics while nine months pregnant though that really had me laughing. Just the name of her unborn child, the Infant Inconvenience, is right on the nose because let’s face it – being pregnant is an inconvenience at times. There is never any malice to her words. She is pragmatic to a fault, and I love that. No drama. No angst. I loved this series when I first discovered it, and I am thoroughly enjoying reacquainting myself to it. On to book five!
Oh, my heart! The T. Greenwood historical fiction novel about the “real-life Lolita” is absolutely horrifying. There are not enough adverbs or adjectives to describe how disturbing Sally Horner’s story is. Ms. Greenwood does an excellent job balancing the terrible with the beautiful, but it is a story I finished with many shaky breaths and a pit in my stomach. I finished it because I did not know her story and because Ms. Greenwood makes us care so much about Sally. At the same time, there is no way I would recommend this to very many people. The cover should just have one big trigger warning label across it because child rape is probably the biggest trigger that exists. Beautiful. Terrible. It is both, and it is going to haunt me for a long time.
The post It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? – 10 September 2018 appeared first on That's What She Read.
- The world needs more women like Maria Feodorovna
- This is no Eden
- Megan Abbott is my hero
- It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? – 3 September 2018
People are forever asking how I manage everything with such a busy schedule. I love to cook, but I don’t always have time to do so in the manner I would like. This weekly journal beginning the week of 1 September 2018 is a way to keep it real and show that while my intentions are good, sometimes life and all of its activities get in the way of serving a delicious, home-cooked meal and that it is perfectly okay.
- Saturday: It was a quiet, lazy day in the house. Football and Back to Hogwarts Day kept me on the couch, while Holly spent the day in her room. Jim flitted between helping a friend with some construction and relaxing at home with me. Somehow, dinner became an afterthought, so we all ended up cleaning out the fridge a bit more with grilled cheese sandwiches and leftovers.
- Sunday: My father stopped by for a short visit around the time we were all considering a late lunch. So we ended up going to a local pub and enjoyed some really good live music and delicious food while sitting outside in a lovely breeze. Say what you will about Wisconsin and beer, but most pubs around here have excellent food in addition to great beer.
- Monday: The last unofficial day of summer calls for a summer cookout. Burgers, corn on the cob, fruit salad, chips, dips, brownies. We had it all, and it was all delicious.
- Tuesday: I was planning on making a dinner for Jim and me since we don’t see Holly until after her final dance class that ends at 9 PM, but he was more interested in the leftovers from yesterday. I was really looking forward to what I was going to make, but I can appreciate not having to cook. Plus, the leftovers were just as yummy.
- Wednesday: Since this is the first week of the new school year schedule, I wanted to make dinners as easy as possible. Tonight’s dinner of Caesar salad with pasta and chicken certainly was easy. Jim went back for thirds so he must have also decided it was delicious. Holly was not a fan, as she does not believe pasta should ever be served cold.
- Thursday: I was hoping to make tacos for dinner because Taco Thursday should be as much of a thing as Taco Tuesday, except events were not conducive to me cooking tonight. Between a teenager who could not tell me what time to pick her up from poms practice because they were doing something for the senior football players to a husband who got home later than usual, I had no idea whether I could start cooking let alone what time everyone would be able to eat. So I had to settle for the unsatisfactory leftovers in the fridge.
- Friday: Game time was not until 7 PM, but tonight is Parents’ Night for the Poms squad. This means Jim and I had to be at the high school at 6:15 PM. By the time Jim came home with the dogs and we got them fed and watered, it was time to leave. We ended up picking up something to eat while out. Not ideal but such is the life of the parents of an active teenager on Friday nights in the fall.
What was for dinner at your house this week?
The post What’s for Dinner? – Week Starting 1 September 2018 appeared first on That's What She Read.
We should always find ways to celebrate the little things in life. What better day to celebrate these little things than the best day of the week? So, here are the things that make this a Fabulous Friday for me this week ending 7 September 2018.
- WE’VE GOT SPIRIT – Tonight is Holly’s first poms performance, so it will be our first high school football game in over a year. It is also parents’ night for the poms team, so I believe there is something we have to do with her as well. I always look forward to seeing her dance. Seeing her dance on the football field is going to be odd/fun/surreal.
What makes this a Fabulous Friday for you?
The post Fabulous Friday – 7 September 2018 appeared first on That's What She Read.
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