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Weekly Top Posts: 2021-09-19
2021-09-19 04:00 UTC

  4. Novel Nuggets – Overdue Reviews – Summer 2021 Part 8

Novel Nuggets – Overdue Reviews – Summer 2021 Part 8
2021-09-13 15:00 UTC by Michelle

When you have twenty-nine books to review, you cry uncle and resort to short reviews. Plus, after all this time, I’m not certain I remember enough about any of them to write a full-length review. We will be breaking these into five parts. This is part eight. Thankfully, the end is in sight. There may be some spoilers within these short reviews; readers, consider this your warning.

The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton

I don’t know why it took me so long to get around to reading Kate Morton’s The Clockmaker’s Daughter. After all, I always enjoy her writing and appreciate how finely layered her stories are. Plus, I particularly love the mix of Gothic and historical fiction she brings to each story.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter is a slow burn of a story, one in which the pace exponentially speeds up the further into the story you go. Told between different time periods and differing points of view, the mystery at the heart of the story comes into focus piece by piece. As is often the case in a Kate Morton novel, you will probably be able to predict one plot mystery, but the other will confound you until the very end. Ms. Morton seems to excel at keeping all her cards close to her chest so that you have no choice but to go along for the full ride if you want to see the full answer to the mystery.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter is another strong novel by someone who seems to do nothing but write good, atmospheric historical fiction mysteries. Ms. Morton’s consistently strong characters, her attention to detail, her delicate balancing act between story-telling and story-showing, and the added Gothic touches always appeal to a wide audience, and this one is no different.

Broken Things by Lauren Oliver

Broken Things by Lauren Oliver is not at all what I expected when I finally delved into it. I did expect a murder mystery, but I did not plan for the social commentary aspect of the story. I actually like the story more because it included the latter. The fact that Ms. Oliver is not afraid to tackle difficult topics like bullying, abusive relationships, and mental health adds not only complexity but also a layer of gravitas on top of something that would simply be another teenage murder mystery.

In fact, you might argue that Broken Things is more social commentary than a murder mystery. As we dive into each girl’s life since the murder and discover how messed up they are five years after, the story becomes less a whodunit and more a closer look at the dangers of false accusations and unhealthy relationships with yourself and with others.

What ultimately dooms Broken Things is the rather neat ending that seemingly ignores or glosses over all the messy details that make up the heart of the story. The happy ending is nice because the girls are so damaged. At the same time, the ending is too clean and too neat. The characters have too many rough edges and cracks for them to heal so suddenly, yet there is no doubt that Ms. Oliver leaves each character well on the path to a glowing future. For such an edgy novel, it deserves an edgier, more realistic end.

For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten

With For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten, the cover gives off such a Red Riding Hood vibe, that I knew I had to read it. Thankfully, I was not disappointed in the slightest. Red is every bit as strong as you would expect, and the Wolf is, well, pretty damn intimidating and frustrating and tragic and good and complex and…

For the Wolf isn’t just Red’s story, however. We also get to meet her twin sister, who is the exact opposite of Red in almost every way. This means that her portions of the story, while important for building the main conflict of the series, are less…impressive…than Red’s. Neve is insipid and uninspiring, and you want to just roll your eyes and groan at the ease with which others manipulate her.

Thankfully, Neve’s scenes are small interludes from Red’s adventures. Red has such a passion for life and for duty that it is infectious. Plus, she can differentiate between the few versus the many, something Neve is wholly incapable of doing, which means she fights for what is right for all and not just for her. She is willing to sacrifice her own happiness if it means that her country will be better for it. Better yet, she does not back down from fear or intimidation. In other words, she is my kind of girl.

With a supporting cast of memorable characters, lots of action, and plenty of romance, For the Wolf exceeded my expectations in every way. So much so that I am now going to be stalking Ms. Whitten for information about the sequel because, as is always the case in series, the wait is going to be a long one!

Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa is one that caught my eye because of its elements of fantasy and that cover. Plus, I am making a concerted effort to read more by authors of color and from other cultures, so this ticked off a lot of boxes in books I like to read.

It’s not that Son of the Storm is a bad story. On the whole, I did enjoy a lot of it. In particular, the caste system that exists in Bassa, with its focus on darker skin tones being better, is fascinating because it is such an opposite thought process to the caste system that exists in the United States. Another part I enjoyed was the idea that the general populace of Bassa wanted an emperor as their leader versus the committee rule that exists at the opening of the novel. Again, this is a shocking idea to Americans, as we learn from an early age that democracy or a democratic republic is the only method of government worth having (right or wrong).

Unfortunately, the characters are not quite as compelling, and the story has a tendency to drag on and on. There is so much exposition, which is understandable. After all, Mr. Okungbowa is creating an unfamiliar world for an audience who most likely is not familiar with African cultures. There is a lot to explain. Yet, I’ve read much more complex and foreign stories with little to no exposition where the author essentially throws readers into the deep end and lets them figure out things like setting and culture as the story progresses. As frustrating as that can be, I much prefer to sink or swim than to have an author hold my hand the entire time.

While I enjoyed Son of the Storm, I don’t think I enjoyed it enough to want to continue the series. I loved the cultural aspect of the story. Unfortunately, I didn’t care for any of the characters in a way that makes me want to learn their fate.

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson is an utterly fascinating look at race relations in the United States. The arguments Ms. Wilkerson has to make about racism not being a result of skin color but rather from a caste system are more than compelling. Her comparisons between the US and India and Nazi Germany are as chilling as they are interesting.

She presents her findings not just as a journalist but also as someone well experienced as one of the lower caste members. In fact, every one of her arguments comes with real-life stories proving her point, and she tells these stories in a way that makes you feel as if you are there, watching the scenes unfold before your eyes. As such, some of these stories are more than a little disturbing. There were several points within the book that I had to stop and let the book sit for a while if only to let my stomach and mind settle after the intimate look at mankind’s cruelty to each other. She also includes many anecdotes taken from her own life, which serve to drive home this idea that we live in a caste society, of which Blacks and indigenous peoples are America’s Untouchables.

I don’t normally talk with others about books I am reading, mostly because what I read would not interest most of the people I know. However, I could not stop talking about Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent with others. Its ideas are so profound and so interesting that I want others to read the book and learn as much as I did. Ms. Wilkerson opened my eyes to the idea that the turmoil our country is in is not an increase in racism but rather a power struggle among castes, wherein the upper caste is doing everything possible to maintain the status quo in spite of changing demographics that will eventually put the upper caste among the minority population. I cannot recommend Caste enough.

The post Novel Nuggets – Overdue Reviews – Summer 2021 Part 8 appeared first on That's What She Read.

Weekly Top Posts: 2021-09-12
2021-09-12 04:00 UTC

  5. Novel Nuggets – Overdue Reviews – Summer 2021 Part 6

Novel Nuggets – Overdue Reviews – Summer 2021 Part 7
2021-09-11 02:50 UTC by Michelle

When you have twenty-nine books to review, you cry uncle and resort to short reviews. Plus, after all this time, I’m not certain I remember enough about any of them to write a full-length review. We will be breaking these into five parts. This is part seven. Only a few more of these to go. There may be some spoilers within these short reviews; readers, consider this your warning.

Dark Roads by Chevy Stevens
As a huge Chevy Stevens fan, I can safely say that Dark Roads is one of her best novels to date. Its basis in the real-life murder mysteries within a section of highway in British Columbia gives the story an added layer of legitimacy. Dark, disturbing, and more visceral than her previous novels, Ms. Stevens keeps you guessing until the very end. The characters’ pain is all too real, as is their frustration regarding those who are abusing their power. In part an ode to those who lost their lives on that deadly highway and in part a timely #metoo story, I believe Dark Roads solidifies Ms. Stevens’ ability to write stellar thrillers.

The Endless Skies by Shannon Price
The Endless Skies by Shannon Price has a slow and predictable start that eventually improves to create a decent story. Ms. Price uses too many YA tropes for the story to be unique or refreshing. Plus, I find it very odd that this is the second book released in two months that has a floating island above a greater landmass that used to be part of that same landmass. I will say that I did find myself invested in Rowan’s plight even while the magic made me roll my eyes. Overall, I can’t say I’m too impressed.

Four Hundred Souls by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Baine
Four Hundred Souls by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Baine is one of those books that is so difficult to describe. On the surface, it is nothing more than a collection of short stories and poems that tell the tale of Black Americans since the first enslaved African was brought to our shores. However, there is nothing superficial about this collection. Some essays provide new-to-me information about certain points in history, but all provide history from a very different point of view than the one commonly taught in history classes. Haunting and yet utterly fascinating, the pain of the last four hundred years permeates every essay and poem. Yet, all of them include a fierce pride at everything they have collectively overcome as well as an unbreakable will that shows how Blacks continue to thrive no matter what white people do to them.

The Last Legacy by Adrienne Young
The Last Legacy by Adrienne Young is a fun addition to the world Ms. Young first brought to us in Fable and Namesake. I personally enjoyed the chance to see a different aspect of Fable’s larger world. Bryn is not as fierce as Fable, which is a bit disappointing. I’m pretty sure Fable could have given any of the Roths a run for their money in attitude and danger. Her insta-love with Ezra is a bit odd given its intensity and their willingness to risk their lives for each other after only two days. Still, it’s a fun story that brings us back into the dark and shady world of gems and trade and gives us greater insight into Bastian’s ruling families.

Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer
Defy the Night is Brigid Kemmerer is definitely a highlight of the September releases. I truly loved this exploration of what a government owes its citizens when it comes to healthcare. While Ms. Kemmerer insists it is not a book about the pandemic, it definitely has relevancy as it talks about government-issued cures and the costs associated with it. I adored Emma’s compassion and commitment; when the world feels like it is collapsing, it does a person good to read about someone who isn’t willing to back down when things get tough. Emma’s and Corrick’s emotions are utterly real, making them highly sympathetic, blurring that line between fiction and reality. Plus, they make the cutest couple, earnest in their desires to help those less fortunate. I particularly love the fact that their relationship has its basis in a long friendship and not the insta-love that so many other YA novels contain. I cannot wait to get more of them!

The post Novel Nuggets – Overdue Reviews – Summer 2021 Part 7 appeared first on That's What She Read.

Weekly Top Posts: 2021-09-05
2021-09-05 04:00 UTC

  1. Novel Nuggets – Overdue Reviews – Summer 2021 Part 6
  2. Novel Nuggets – Overdue Reviews – Spring 2021 Part 5
  3. Novel Nuggets – Overdue Reviews – Spring 2021 Part 4
  4. A Mother’s Heartbreak
  5. Just how big is that damn tree?

Novel Nuggets – Overdue Reviews – Summer 2021 Part 6
2021-09-02 02:40 UTC by Michelle

When you have twenty-nine books to review, you cry uncle and resort to short reviews. Plus, after all this time, I’m not certain I remember enough about any of them to write a full-length review. We will be breaking these into five parts. This is part six. There may be some spoilers within these short reviews; readers, consider this your warning.

The Betrayed by Kiera Cass
With The Betrayed, I had no idea where Kiera Cass was going to take this story of a princess in the making who leaves it all for love, only to have that love cruelly taken from her in what has to be one of the most shocking and brutal twists ever written. As Hollis adjusts to her new life in a foreign country, there are the typical gaffes. I found the sequel a bit squirmy at times, only because it seems that everyone falls in love with Hollis immediately upon meeting her. The adoration Hollis receives from Silas’ family is a bit much, as are some of the more predictable plot “twists”. Still, Ms. Cass did manage to surprise me again with the ending. I was not expecting Hollis to make certain choices given what we know of her character. I particularly like the character growth Hollis displays throughout the two novels. As such, I do believe I enjoyed this duology much more than I did The Selection trilogy!

Capture the Crown by Jennifer Estep
As a huge fan of the Crown of Shards trilogy, when I saw that Jennifer Estep started another trilogy set in the same world, I requested that review copy as quickly as I could. I regret nothing. Capture the Crown has everything I loved about the Crown of Shards trilogy. It’s sexy, clever, and violent. Best of all, it never follows the easy path. Ms. Estep is not afraid to do terrible things to her characters or put them in impossible situations, and I love the frisson of fear you get while reading it knowing that there is the potential for much violence. Gemma is not the spoiled princess she appears to be, but neither is she the greatest at spycraft. There are so many mysteries and hidden agendas at play throughout the story that the future stories should be just as stellar.

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix
The Final Girl Support Group is another strong novel by Grady Hendrix. While not quite as terrifying as some of his earlier novels, the premise is refreshingly different. After all, horror fans know who a final girl is, but we never find out what happens to final girls once the cops arrive on the scenes. So, Mr. Hendrix shows us what happens to them as they struggle to put the gory events behind them. As expected, some final girls have a better time adjusting to their lives post-horror events, while others find those events dictating their every waking moment. As is true in every Hendrix novel, the characters are deliciously messy and complex. You find your sympathies waxing and waning in each scene depending on the actions. Add in someone who seems to be stalking the remaining final girls, and you have something that is equal parts mystery, thriller, and horror story.

The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig
I wanted to love The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig after he wrote one of my favorite novels from last year. Unfortunately, in my opinion, lightning did not strike twice, and the entire story fell flat. The jagged storytelling – different points of view and different timelines without any indication of who or what is telling the story – makes The Book of Accidents a difficult story to follow. The characters are mediocre at best. There is the inclusion of one particular minor character who becomes another baddie, which bogs down the story and doesn’t add anything to it other than another layer of complexity to a story that is already so complicated that it requires a chart to keep track of who, what, and when. Sadly, I was more confused than scared at any point in time. Hopefully, this is simply a one-off, and future books show the same brilliance I know Mr. Wendig is capable of producing.

The Turnout by Megan Abbott
Folks, I finished reading The Turnout by Megan Abbott at the end of July, and there is not a day that goes by that I do not think about it in some way. It is one of the most haunting novels I have read. On the one hand, I could say that it haunts me because of my familiarity with the dance world, and yet, the dance world she depicts is not really like the one I know. Anyone who is familiar with dance, especially ballet, knows that there is most definitely a dark side to the art form. The blood, sweat, and tears that go into dance are no joke. Yet, what Ms. Abbott depicts in almost lyrical fashion is almost disturbing in its intensity. And this is only the dance aspect of the novel. The Durant family is all sorts of messed up, which you sort of know at the start but don’t realize the extent of it until the end. By then, Ms. Abbott has you almost hypnotized with her writing style that is one step shy of being unintelligible. The overall effect is a story that is disturbing but ethereal, painful but somehow beautiful. When I finished the novel, I didn’t think I liked it at all. After a month of reflection, I realize that it is a masterpiece.

The post Novel Nuggets – Overdue Reviews – Summer 2021 Part 6 appeared first on That's What She Read.

Novel Nuggets – Overdue Reviews – Spring 2021 Part 5
2021-09-01 02:32 UTC by Michelle

When you have twenty-nine books to review, you cry uncle and resort to short reviews. Plus, after all this time, I’m not certain I remember enough about any of them to write a full-length review. We will be breaking these into five parts. This is part five. There may be some spoilers within these short reviews; readers, consider this your warning.

Star Eater by Kerstin Hall
I was not expecting Kerstin Hall’s Star Eater to be as dark as it is, but I did nothing more than glance at the cover image. Had I actually looked at it, I might have been better prepared for the more disturbing parts of the story. This is yet another story in which the heroine is as much a pawn as she is the great big hope for society, but I didn’t mind that. I also found the idea of a floating city, one torn from a greater landmass and raised through magic, to be particularly intriguing. Plus, there is something about the moral ambiguity of the Sisters that draws you into the heart of the novel. While they do have society’s best interest at heart, it comes at such a cost – and there will be some readers who will not be able to move past that cost. Star Eater is one story that should come with all sorts of trigger warnings given its contents, but I enjoyed it all the same, taboos and all.

A Season of Sinister Dreams by Tracy Banghart
A Season of Sinister Dreams by Tracy Banghart is a decent fantasy but the story is a bit unwieldy and lacking in a clear path. Emotions rule the plot, to the detriment of said plot. Anneliese is clearly the villain but perhaps shouldn’t be, while Evra is the wide-eyed innocent who just happens to know better than everyone else in the country. Cue eye roll. With its tired and over-used storyline, the one good thing is that it is a standalone novel.

Daughters of Sparta by Claire Heywood
I love Greek mythology, but I did not love Daughters of Sparta by Claire Heywood. Presented as a reimaging or rather a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the story of Clytemnestra and Helen of Troy, it loses all the feel of the original myth. Clytemnestra is fangless, lacking the anger her story normally holds. She’s too concerned with being a good girl/wife/daughter/queen/woman, which is not her if you are familiar with her story. As for Helen, she is a complete bore. There is no complexity to her character, nor does she have any common sense. She is as shallow as the myths hint. By Part III, I had no interest in continuing this tedious story, so I didn’t.

Nice Werewolves Don't Bite Vampires by Molly Harper
We are into double digits now with the number of Half Moon Hollow books Molly Harper has under her belt. Some of them are truly great. The latest, Nice Werewolves Don’t Bite Vampires, is one of her weaker stories. Tylene is too full of self-doubt and too submissive towards her biological parents for how she acts and thinks when away from them. Plus, a meek and submissive heroine is not normal for Ms. Harper. It was disturbing to see. To make matters worse, Tylene spends way too long lamenting her family, and the story’s baddie is not very threatening at all. The only highlights of the story are when Tylene enters Jane’s family’s presence. Plus, Amanda Ronconi, as much as I adore her, struggles with a French accent, something I am not used to hearing from her. Thankfully, it is a quick listen.

Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline
Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline is exactly what I would expect from the sequel to Ready Player One. Filled with all sorts of 1980s nostalgia, another epic puzzle to solve, and a surprise nefarious villain threatening Wade and everyone he loves. While much of the novel feels exactly like the first novel, I still found myself loving every second of it. I suspect a lot of that has to do with the fact that the worlds Wade visits this time around, meaning all of the geeky, historic references, were about subjects I actually know. What kid who grew up in the 80s and 90s wouldn’t love a world made up of John Hughes’ characters? Or an entire world dedicated to Prince? I was in geeky love at every turn. Outside of the nostalgia factor, the story does hold a few surprises I didn’t see coming. Mr. Cline’s view of humanity and the future of the human race is not very positive, but he manages to create hope where none should rightly exist given everything Wade and his friends experience. As always, Wil Wheaton’s narration is perfection, lending Wade the right amount of geekiness to his voice that perfectly fits the character. Any fan of the first novel should not miss this fantastic sequel.

The post Novel Nuggets – Overdue Reviews – Spring 2021 Part 5 appeared first on That's What She Read.

Novel Nuggets – Overdue Reviews – Spring 2021 Part 4
2021-08-31 02:22 UTC by Michelle

When you have twenty-nine books to review, you cry uncle and resort to short reviews. Plus, after all this time, I’m not certain I remember enough about any of them to write a full-length review. We will be breaking these into five parts. This is part four. There may be some spoilers within these short reviews; readers, consider this your warning.

Grace and Glory by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Goddess, I love this series! Grace and Glory by Jennifer L. Armentrout is exactly how I want all series to end. Plus, Zayne and Trinity are so damn cute together. I adore the fact that their love is so pure, especially because their scenes together never get schmaltzy. Ms. Armentrout adds more depth by finally delving into Trin’s past and completely blurs the lines of good and evil by forcing Zayne and Trin to rely on the help of their unconventional group of friends. Plus, all the mentions of God, Lucifer, angels, demons, Heaven, and Hell don’t bother me because there are no religious connections to any of them. I am definitely adding other novels by Ms. Armentrout to my lengthy TBR list!

The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid
The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid is a very detailed but rich story that involves Slavic and Jewish mythology. Pagan, non-magic Evike finds herself teaming with her worst enemy, only to discover the enemy is someone else. Enter intrigue, danger, torn desires, obligations, found family, and one woman who has to discover who she is to protect the ones she loves.

Daughter of Sparta by Claire Andrews
I LOVE any story that gives a face to the Greek gods, and Daughter of Sparta by Claire Andrews more than fits that bill. Daphne is a fabulous heroine, determined to prove herself. Fierce, strong, intelligent, and headstrong, she’s everything I love. Her adventures are a fantastic feminist reimagining of the Daphne and Apollo story. I can’t wait to learn more about Daphne’s past or what happens next!

The Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson
The Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson is a great return to Stevie’s world as it allows us to see her branch outside of her boarding school. While Ms. Johnson has fun with Stevie’s love of murder, in this novel she is careful to show Stevie’s growth through her realization that the very same murders she finds so fascinating affect real people and have serious emotional, mental, and even physical consequences on others. Even though it serves as a growth lesson for Stevie, I find it a neat nod to all of those fans of true crime podcasts and stories as it is so easy to lose the human aspect. As for the mystery, I personally never saw the ending coming, but I know others thought it predictable and obvious. Still, I enjoyed the chance to see the friends together again. Plus, I am thoroughly grateful to Ms. Johnson for making The Box in the Woods a true stand-alone novel, mentioning the previous three novels without spoiling a single thing, and providing enough context for newbies to be able to enjoy the story without any previous knowledge of Stevie and her crew. Well done!

My Contrary Mary by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
My Contrary Mary by Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand, and Jodi Meadows is a cute and fabulously fun way to explain the Protestant versus Catholic monarchies and subsequent power struggles. Plus, it is a much happier reimagining of a historical figure who really could be nothing but a pawn in a greater struggle. I don’t know what it says about me, but I particularly enjoyed Francis as a frog, delighting in the obvious ode to the generic French nickname. The entire book is an absolute blast to read, which only reminds me I need to go back and read the two Jane books I missed.

The post Novel Nuggets – Overdue Reviews – Spring 2021 Part 4 appeared first on That's What She Read.

Weekly Top Posts: 2021-08-29
2021-08-29 04:00 UTC


Weekly Top Posts: 2021-08-22
2021-08-22 04:00 UTC


Weekly Top Posts: 2021-08-15
2021-08-15 04:00 UTC

  1. A Mother’s Heartbreak
  2. Just how big is that damn tree?
  3. Sunday Reflections – 4 July 2021 – Holiday Nonhappenings
  4. Pandemic Ennui and other thoughts
  5. Novel Nuggets – Overdue Reviews – Spring 2021 Part 1

Weekly Top Posts: 2021-08-08
2021-08-08 04:00 UTC

  1. A Mother’s Heartbreak
  2. Just how big is that damn tree?
  3. After the End is brutal
  4. Loggers be crazy
  5. The Infinity Courts suffers from infinite questioning

Weekly Top Posts: 2021-08-01
2021-08-01 04:00 UTC


A Mother’s Heartbreak
2021-07-26 15:00 UTC by Michelle

People have every right to exclude family members from their lives for whatever reason. I am not one of those who subscribes to the idea that blood is thicker than water, as much as Jim does not agree with me. I still believe this even though we are currently in such a situation with Connor.

It all started when Connor went off to college. While his high school years were tough for him and us – not doing homework, staying up until the wee hours to game, struggling with cross country his last two years, some rough grades his first two years, not ever being able to get out of bed, and all of the scream matches and fights that occurred as a result of all of this, we thought he ended high school well and prepared to go away to school. He seemed happy and ready.

During that first year, we found that Connor rarely responded to our phone calls or texts. When we did talk to him, we discovered that he was struggling to go to class and even failed one of his classes. He LOVED marching and pep band though, so he kept going to enough classes to maintain his eligibility for both. He continued to struggle his second semester, not going to classes and dropping at least one class because he couldn’t handle it or didn’t like it.

He came home for the summer, working at Jim’s company. Out of work, he did nothing but sit in his room gaming and sleeping. He hung out with friends while he could, but he was fairly antisocial the entire summer. Unfortunately, he didn’t make the greatest impression among Jim’s coworkers either. We tried to talk to Connor about his issues with school. It seems most of his problems about going to class all came down to crippling anxiety and not liking the undergrad courses he had to take before he could get to the good stuff. Once we found this out, we recommended he take the year off so that he could get some help with his anxiety and growing depression. He refused.

We took him back to Ames for his second year with heavy hearts and more than a little anxiety ourselves. We met what would become his current significant other and some of his other friends on that trip. We felt better once we understood that he had a good circle of friends that would keep an eye on him. Or so we thought. Once school started, we were on radio silence again. He didn’t respond to texts or calls very often, and what little information we did get seemed that he was doing okay. As his first year, the highlight of his sophomore year was marching band and being able to go to a second bowl game.

When he did come home, we found out the truth. Unbeknown to us, Connor stopped going to most of his classes after the first week of school. He did the bare minimum to maintain marching and pep band eligibility and that’s it. Because we never saw him over winter break thanks to another bowl game, we again didn’t know how bad things had gotten.

His second semester went about as well as you would expect. He faced the same issue with attending classes and ended up dropping all but the minimum. What made it worse was a phone call in the middle of the night in late winter wherein we found out that he had been admitted for a psych eval and put on suicide watch. He was released with 24 hours, but that is not a phone call you ever want to receive. To make it worse, he didn’t want us to visit, didn’t want to come home, and really didn’t want to have anything to do with us. We talked, and he reassured us he was okay, that his friends jumped the gun in calling officials for a health check, and that he was never in danger of committing suicide. We couldn’t do anything but listen and hope he was telling us the truth.

He stayed in Ames that summer after assuring us he had a job and that he was co-letting an apartment in town. We don’t think he had a job and he was basically living on someone’s couch for the summer. That fall, he continued to ignore our plea of not going back to school. Instead, he moved into an off-campus apartment with his significant other and again struggled to go to class. We went to visit him, and things seemed okay. He looked happy and content, and we didn’t discuss school or grades at all. A few weeks later, we found out he dropped out of school altogether.

All this time, we were encouraging Connor to visit campus therapists. We offered to pay for all of his medical costs to get psychiatric help. After his suicide scare, he told us he was seeing someone and that they were working on finding the right combination of medications for him. Unfortunately, we don’t know if he really was getting help or just telling us that to keep us quiet. Since he ended up dropping out of his third year of school after not attending ANY classes that semester, we don’t think he was.

Unfortunately, things didn’t get any better once he dropped out. During one short visit home with his significant other and their kitten, he dropped the bomb that he blamed us for ALL of his problems. In his rant, he told us that our high expectations set him up for failure, that we should have known he had anxiety issues and that we failed him. He also told us that we owe him the money he spent towards his failed college attempts (he took out at least one student loan and borrowed money from his grandmother), even though we already paid for his freshman year and were willing to pay for additional schooling if he had taken some time off after that first year. He went on to tell us that we should have known all that time in his room was a sign he needed help and again reiterated how much we failed him as parents.

And this is how the last eighteen months have gone. He blamed us for all of his problems, even going so far as to say we gaslighted him regarding his anxiety (except we didn’t since we took him to therapy as early as second grade because we recognized he was having problems) and accused us of increasing his anxiety by not financially supporting him while we attempted to mend fences without conceding anything. As before, our communication with him was sporadic, and not for lack of our attempts. We visited them, and they visited us once or twice. Things seemed better the last time we saw them.

Unfortunately, once Connor dropped out of school, he was no longer eligible to be part of my health insurance. Then, I lost my job, and we moved to Jim’s insurance, where we couldn’t even add him as a beneficiary. In November, I was asking Connor for Christmas ideas, knowing that since neither Jim nor I had a job, we had to be creative in Christmas spending. For some reason, the fact that I was asking him for wish lists infuriated him, and he went off on me. Again, it came back to this idea that we OWED him money because he shouldn’t be in debt at his age. He ended the conversation, which only happened via text, by telling me to f*ck off. So I did. Those are the last words he spoke to me.

Because that wasn’t enough, Connor reached out to Jim in December, asking him to pay for his meds, which supposedly cost $600. I don’t know if he gave a reason for wanting Jim to do so. I know that Jim told him we couldn’t afford that because he was out of work but told him to check out Good Rx or another prescription coupon app like it, explaining that we were using it to pay for the meds we had no insurance.  As before, Connor became irate at this, and that was the last time Jim heard from him.

We keep trying. Jim even called him around my birthday trying to mend fences because that was the only thing I wanted for my birthday. Connor won’t answer phone calls or texts from my parents or Jim’s mom. I’ve sent him a few texts and a penned note with his new insurance cards because Jim’s new company will cover him. Unfortunately, he ignores everyone but his sister. Everyone tried desperately to get him to attend my dad’s surprise seventieth birthday party, but he refused – apparently because he is not ready to face us.

Through Holly, we know they are getting ready to move to Denver. That he doesn’t have a job yet but does have an apartment. We don’t know what his plans are. We know that we are not a part of his life right now and that Holly assures us we did nothing wrong.

We’ve kept this a closely-held secret partly to respect Connor’s privacy and partly out of embarrassment and shame that our son would decide to stop speaking to us. After all, we don’t think we did anything wrong and to have someone as intelligent as Connor drop out of school and seemingly settle for a low-paying, no-future job with no plans to do anything else is not exactly what you want to share with others.

Except, I know this is why I continue to struggle with ennui. This is why I spend so much time worrying about Black Lives Matter, women’s rights, climate change, and pretty much every other hot topic out there right now. It’s why I spend so much time playing on my phone rather than doing something/anything. It’s why I can’t find pleasure in anything, why I haven’t been blogging. I was able to ignore everything when I was busy unpacking and setting up the house, but now? I can’t hide it anymore.

It breaks my heart that my little boy, the one who always had a hug and a kiss for me, who was MY boy thanks to all the time we spent together when Jim was in the Army, doesn’t feel comfortable enough to talk to me anymore. I miss him so much. I try not to let it affect my relationship with Holly, but I already warned her that his ongoing silence is only going to make her last year of high school that much worse for me – because there will be that fear that she will move and do the same thing.

I have only ever wanted my children to be happy and healthy, and I can’t say that my boy is either. I can only hope that he comes back to us one day. Our home is his home and always will be. While I still expect an apology for what he texted me, we won’t stop trying to mend fences because that is what we do as parents. But let me tell you if you think parenting young kids is difficult, parenting adult children is ten times more so.

The post A Mother’s Heartbreak appeared first on That's What She Read.

Weekly Top Posts: 2021-07-25
2021-07-25 04:00 UTC


Weekly Top Posts: 2021-07-18
2021-07-18 04:00 UTC

  5. Novel Nuggets – Overdue Reviews – Spring 2021 Part 3

Novel Nuggets – Overdue Reviews – Spring 2021 Part 3
2021-07-13 00:29 UTC by Michelle

When you have twenty-five books to review, you cry uncle and resort to short reviews. Plus, after all this time, I’m not certain I remember enough about any of them to write a full-length review. We will be breaking these into five parts. This is part three. There may be some spoilers within these short reviews; readers, consider this your warning.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
The first thing you realize about Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir is that it does everything possible to remind you that this is not The Martian. Ryland Grace is the anti-Mark Watney. The most obvious differing characteristics which separate the two are the fact that Ryland is a microbiologist and a teacher, as well as a coward, and he doesn’t swear. At all. Whereas Mark used curse words to perfectly indicate his emotions, Ryland sounds exactly like what he is – a teacher who won’t say anything that might harm a child’s innocence. While he provides some semblance of entertainment, once Rocky enters the picture, Ryland becomes the sidekick. Rocky is hands-down the best part of the story, and their friendship makes you believe humanity is pretty damn good. As is true of most of Mr. Weir’s novels, there is more scientific discussion than plot, and it can get pretty esoteric and theoretical. Still, not understanding astrophysics won’t prevent anyone from enjoying this survival story.

The Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis
The Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis is nothing more than a mediocre story regarding vampires and vampire hunters. And just like almost every other vampire story, not all vampires and other baddies are all that bad just as not all of the perceived good guys are good. The story contains the typical red herrings and false clues to distract and drag the story forward. The main character is a bit too naive and too damn good to be an interesting character. In fact, all of the characters are one-dimensional. This is one vampire story that has no bite to it.

Legacy by Nora Roberts
All hail, Queen Nora! Legacy is a fantastic story of family and strength. As always, she captures complicated family relationships so well. She is even better at portraying friends as family. Adding to that, she layers loss, the idea of blended families, and the importance of roots. I simply love Nora’s mind and the families she creates for us.

The Ninth Metal by Benjamin Percy
I really wanted to love The Ninth Metal by Benjamin Percy but just could not settle into it. The familial relationships are so convoluted and dysfunctional that they make for uncomfortable reading. To make matters worse, the story cannot decide whether it is a science fiction adventure, a mob story, political intrigue, a statement against capitalism, or something else. Because of this lack of clear identity, nothing is cohesive, and the story is simply too confusing to enjoy.

One Great Lie by Deb Caletti
Deb Caletti does it again. In One Great Lie, Charlotte’s story comes with all the purposeful heartbreak one expects from Ms. Caletti. She excels at captures those sticky situations in which young women find themselves because they don’t have the life experiences to avoid them. In fact, this is one story I would make required reading for teens if only to show them just how easy it is for someone in a position of power to take advantage of someone else and silence their voice after the fact. At the same time, Ms. Caletti stresses the importance of the #metoo movement and its importance in reducing rape culture and the ongoing silence of victims. While watching all of this unfold through Charlotte’s eyes is as painful as you can imagine, One Great Lie is a must-read for anyone looking to be an ally for abuse victims.

The post Novel Nuggets – Overdue Reviews – Spring 2021 Part 3 appeared first on That's What She Read.

Weekly Top Posts: 2021-07-11
2021-07-11 04:00 UTC

  5. Sunday Reflections – 4 July 2021 – Holiday Nonhappenings

Novel Nuggets – Overdue Reviews – Spring 2021 Part 2
2021-07-10 01:29 UTC by Michelle

When you have twenty-five books to review, you cry uncle and resort to short reviews. Plus, after all this time, I’m not certain I remember enough about any of them to write a full-length review. We will be breaking these into five parts. This is part two. Only fifteen more left to write!

Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is an excellent writer. His dedication to research shows in his meticulously detailed stories. Unfortunately, Hour of the Witch is not what I would consider one of his better novels. I appreciate the use of “original” court documents to pique interest and throw a reader’s suspicion off the main plot. Unfortunately, the story itself is yet one more about a strong, independent woman stuck in an abusive relationship and out of sync with the society in which she lives. There are some fascinating historical details, but I feel the ending is a bit too pat for the reality of the times. That being said, I do love the term “devil’s tines” and try to incorporate it into everyday conversation.

The Last Watch by J. S. Dewes

I love a good science fiction novel, and J. S. Dewes’ The Last Watch does not disappoint. It is a fabulous story about a group on the very edge of the universe faced with a surprise enemy. There is a great balance between action, science, humor, and adventure with a hint of romance and fantastic conspiracy the crew must discover. The Last Watch hits all the right notes, and the charismatic cast of characters left me wanting more.

Blade of Secrets by Tricia Levenseller

Blade of Secrets by Tricia Levenseller is the type of novel I wish existed when I was an actual young adult. Not only does Ziva have cool powers, but she also has severe social anxiety. It is so refreshing to have a heroine who doesn’t doubt herself so much as she understands that her fears while irrational are still very real for her. Even better, we see her succumbing to those fears time and again, making it one of the few novels to show that it is okay for our heroes to fail. As if that isn’t amazing enough, we also get to see how her sister and friends accept her neurodivergence, protect her where possible, and accommodate her at all times. Plus, it is just a really good story.

Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard

Goddess knows I wanted to like Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard. After all, there are few fantasy novels I don’t like. Maybe because it came on the heels of two outstanding SFF novels, but I could not get into it. While I know that its similarities to The Lord of the Rings trilogy are intentional – because Ms. Aveyard tells us so in her author’s notes – I found it difficult to not compare the two. Of course, Realm Breaker can not compare. Not only does it take too long to build the merry band of adventurers, but there is also no real enemy to unite them. Plus, they don’t have nearly the same charm and magic as the Fellowship. To make things worse, I find the worldbuilding lacking and struggled in general with the fact that the Frodo of the group just so happens to instinctively know what to do when it comes time for her to do her thing, especially after she spends most of the novel before that point worrying about the fact that she had no clue about any of it. While I came around as the story drew to a close, I can’t say that I am vested enough in the story or the characters to want to continue with the sequel.

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave is an outstanding missing person story that has an ending I did not expect but which I love. Because the suspense element is not enough, it is a bittersweet story about family, love, and sacrifice. Hannah’s attempts to befriend Bailey are perfect, as are Bailey’s snubs. Ms. Dave must have a sixteen-year-old at home because I found Bailey way too similar to my own daughter at times. Their tentative bond is poignant, as is Hannah’s protection of Bailey at all costs. I was already a huge fan of Ms. Dave, but The Last Thing He Told Me convinced me I need to go back and read everything of hers I missed.

The post Novel Nuggets – Overdue Reviews – Spring 2021 Part 2 appeared first on That's What She Read.

Novel Nuggets – Overdue Reviews – Spring 2021 Part 1
2021-07-08 23:19 UTC by Michelle

When you have twenty-five books to review, you cry uncle and resort to short reviews. Plus, after all this time, I’m not certain I remember enough about any of them to write a full-length review. We will be breaking these into five parts. Have fun!

The Absolutist by John Boyne

The Absolutist is another gorgeous story by John Boyne. Not only does he tackle post-war survivors’ guilt as well as the idea of objecting to a popular, patriotic war, he showcases the difficulties of finding and accepting your sexuality during a time when anything but heterosexuality was illegal. He tells this complicated tale with his usual delicacy to create a heartbreaking, horrifying, and yet poignant reading experience.

You Love Me by Caroline Kepnes

You Love Me by Caroline Kepnes is the continuation of a story I’m not certain needs to continue. It is slow, slow, slow. One good thing is that Ms. Kepnes changes things up this time by having Joe try to be a productive member of society without caving to his baser urges. Ironically, bad things still happen around him. While he remains a fairly unreliable narrator, his problems center on the blindspots he puts up and his complete underestimation of his acquaintances. While I liked this new Joe to some extent, I do think this new Joe is boring. Plus, I am not a fan of how this part of his story ends.

These Feathered Flames by Alexandra Overy

While I love mythological retellings and pretty much any fantasy story, I did not like These Feathered Flames by Alexandra Overy. Not only was it an extremely slow-paced story, but I also could not garner enough sympathy for one of the two main characters to move beyond the fact that she is a terrible person. Plus, the other main character takes way too long to accept her new normal in spite of the fact that she prepared her whole life for it. The whole story is nothing but a nature versus nurture argument with trauma at its core. Between the lackluster characters and a story that builds too slowly, this retelling of the Firebird myth is not something I want to revisit anytime soon.

Dustborn by Erin Bowman

Erin Bowman’s Dustborn is a decent post-apocalyptic story about limited resources and the fight to control them. There is a fabulous twist in the middle of the story that you don’t see coming and that drastically changes the narrative in a fun way. Meanwhile, Delta is a fantastic survivalist, reluctant to lead but knows the importance of loyalty and teamwork when it comes to survival. With good pacing, fun action, and a satisfactory ending, Dustborn is a solid story that is as entertaining as it is timely.

Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart

Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart is everything I love about fantasy novels. Simply, it is a fabulous story, rich in backstory and culture with its basis in Caribbean folklore. The two main characters play off each other to perfection with their opposing desires for revenge versus better leadership. I never knew what was coming, and I definitely didn’t know how it was going to end. While I find myself more sympathetic to one of the main characters, the entire story has me vested in both their stories, so much so that the sequel will be one of my more anticipated stories for 2022.

The post Novel Nuggets – Overdue Reviews – Spring 2021 Part 1 appeared first on That's What She Read.

Sunday Reflections – 4 July 2021 – Holiday Nonhappenings
2021-07-04 13:00 UTC by Michelle

Sunday Reflections Button

I don’t know about you but my desire to celebrate the founding of this country is at an all-time low. Which is a good thing when you have absolutely zero plans to do anything this holiday weekend. Holly has to work again tonight. Meanwhile, Jim is currently in bed felled by the very same cold that had me flat on my back for two days last weekend. (This is what he gets for laughing at me when he found out I had a cold after spending the previous weekend facing masses of humanity without masks at the last dance competition of the year.) Plus, the temperatures are back up into the 90s again. We don’t have a grill yet, so there will be no cookout regardless of whether Jim felt up to the task or even wanted to eat. All of this is enough to make me do nothing but camp inside with the dogs, doing whatever I want and determining which takeout I want to order for myself.

I am slowly but surely coming out from under the rock under which I unknowingly buried myself. As I was telling Jim the other day, I don’t know which is scarier – the type of depressive episode which keeps you in bed unable to face the world or the type of depressive episode which keeps you functional and completely unaware that something is wrong. I can’t go to the doctor until September, but I will be adding this spring to my list of notes to discuss with her at my appointment.

We bought Holly’s car when she was fourteen. With no need to keep a third car at that time, we sold my car and I had been using hers with the intention that I would get something new once she got her license. Then the pandemic hit, and I lost my job. I definitely didn’t need a car then either. Except, a funny thing happened. It turns out that when you have a child as busy as mine and a husband who travels almost constantly for work, you do need your own car after all. It was a frustrating fall and spring as we juggled vehicles and did late night dropoffs and pickups from bus stations to make sure everyone got to where they needed to be. Thankfully, and much to my surprise, Jim presented me with a new car for my birthday. Well, he presented me with a picture of my car, which had yet to be manufactured. After another frustrating six weeks of juggling vehicles, I finally picked up my shiny new Tesla Model Y last Saturday. She is SO pretty and fast. It will take some adjusting to the autosteer feature, but I love her so much. She makes me want to make sure I am always put together before I go anywhere so that I can match her. Which isn’t a bad thing when trying to find yourself again.

Holly’s one week of vacation comes to an end today, and she picks right back up with her dance schedule of nine hours of dance classes on top of rehearsals as well as work. There is also talk of her trying out for a local version of The Nutcracker, auditions for which are this Wednesday. I don’t know where she will find the time to add that to her schedule this fall, but I have no doubt she will make it work. Somehow, she always does.

On a fun note, my fifteen-year-old nephew pitched his first no-hitter this past Thursday. To say we are all a little excited is an understatement. He was born with a glove on his hand, as my brother played baseball through college and is the head coach for the high school where he teaches, so it comes as no surprise that he excels at the sport. Yet, he continues to surpass our expectations for his age, having pitched at the varsity level this past year while still a freshman. He has his eye on one of the schools that always has a place in the College World Series, Vanderbilt. If he keeps showing improved speed and that deadly accuracy he showed on Thursday, when he struck out 16 of 21 batters, that is one very realistic dream. It is just so much fun to watch unfold.

As I told Holly before she left for work last night, this holiday is one of the worst for drunk drivers, and this year is going to be particularly bad as everyone tries to shake off the past year. I saw it a little bit two weeks ago when the dance competition took away its mask mandate. People are ready to party, and this weekend is the perfect excuse for them to do so. I hope everyone is staying cool and safe this holiday weekend. I may not have been interacting with anyone for the past few months, but I have been watching all social media from afar and I don’t want anyone I know to get hurt this weekend!

The post Sunday Reflections – 4 July 2021 – Holiday Nonhappenings appeared first on That's What She Read.

Weekly Top Posts: 2021-07-04
2021-07-04 04:00 UTC

  5. Pandemic Ennui and other thoughts


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