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8.25.2015

A Review: Again and Again by Ellen Bravo




Summary (from the book jacket):
If sexual shenanigans disqualified candidates for Congress, the U.S. would have no goverment. But what if the candidate was a pro-choice Republican support by feminist groups-- and a college rapist whose secret could be exposed by a leading women's rights advocate?

Again and Again tells the story of Deborah Borenstein-- as an established women's rights leader in 2010 Washington, DC, and as a college student, thirty years earlier, whose roommate is raped by a fellow student. The perpetrator is now a Senate candidate who has the backing of the major feminist groups...which puts Deborah in a difficult position. Torn between her past and present, as the race goes on, Deborah finds herself tested as a wife, a mother, a feminist, and a friend.
Thoughts: Despite the disturbing content, I was interested in the concept of this book as I've actually never read a fiction title that explored sexual assault in the political realm. I found it informative, in the sense that there's much to research after reading, and enjoyed getting into something that was focused on women's issues in such a direct way. It definitely stirred emotions as the reader realizes its meant to emphasize how far society still has to go on this issue. Is it true that women face the same scrutiny and disbelief when reporting date rape now that they did in the 1970s?

This was very much a first novel for the author, but could still be a great learning tool for young men and women. I was impressed with Bravo's representation of Deborah and Liddie's relationship, but less so with Deborah and her daughter, and even less so with Deborah and her husband as they felt one dimensional and relied on the snotty teenager/inattentive husband stereotypes. The storyline had much to offer, but was somewhat dulled down by the technical language of Deborah's daily life and the tidbits clumsily added to modernize the story. I don't want to share too much as the summary has already provided enough, but I would recommend the novel based on the importance of the content and can definitely say I can't wait to see more from Bravo in  the future.

*Please note that those who have suffered from similar encounters may want to refrain from reading as the defining scene is graphic.

I received a copy of this novel from TLC Book Tours and She Writes Press in exchange for an honest review.

*Ellen Bravo is the head of Family Values @ Work, a network of state coalitions advocating family-friendly policies, and an award-winning writer. Her award-winning nonfiction books include Taking on the Big Boys, or Why Feminism Is Good for Families, Business and the Nation. A Cleveland native, she makes her home in Wisconsin.

Take a look at what other bloggers are saying on the tour here.


8.10.2015

7.27.2015

A Review: The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows


"That was when I first heard about Layla Beck, when I began to wonder about my father, and when I noticed I was being lied to and decided to leave my childhood behind."

For the first time ever I believe I might actually meet my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal for the year. This is exciting for so many reasons. Maybe it's because I actually made it more realistic, setting it at 40 rather than 50, like in the past, where I've never even gotten close. It just didn't happen... but maybe it could now?! The Truth According to Us was my 20th and was completed just a day before the half-way point in the year! I can see victory on my horizon. These are exciting times, people! It also happened to be my favorite read thus far and has helped propel me into my next book, another ARC, This is Your Life, Harriet Chance!, which I'm also really enjoying. Ahhh... the book life.

I digress.

When I first started I was unable to overcome my desire to see what fellow book bloggers and enthusiasts were thinking about this one. It really is such a detrimental action but yet I still succumb. And I came across several reviews of respected fellow bloggers who just didn't feel like this delivered, and let me be the first to admit that it was far from perfect, but there was just something there that I loved so much. I was so happy that for once my impatience and curiosity hadn't spoiled something. What's more... I purposely paced myself in order to keep that world alive for just a bit longer and that's really what you want a book to do. It was just what I needed to start the summer and the next half of the year. For fans of the epistolary style found in the other title Barrows is so famous for, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, I promise you won't be disappointed. While the novel isn't told exclusively through letters from each of the participating characters, there are many that move the story along and add extra entertainment.

The novel centers on the small town of Macedonia, West Virginia during the depression. A small town much like any small town in the US of A at this period in time, everyone knows everyone, and they've all got a story to tell. Layla Beck is sent to Macedonia to record the history of town and its people for the Works Progress Administration after she refuses to marry a man her father, a wealthy senator, has chosen for her. Entitled and certainly naive, Layla learns Macedonia's history through the colorful townspeople, and her host family, the Romeyns. Little does she know she'll quickly fall head over heels for the patriarch, Felix Romeyn, and unearth some skeletons in the family's closet. With narration from the perspectives of Willa, Felix's eldest daughter, Jottie, Felix's eldest sister, and Layla herself, the reader is lost in Macedonia and an era that defined the nation.

Guys, I LOVED THIS NOVEL. All caps love. It's that serious. The story, tbh, was predictable and has been done before... BUT the characters! Oh my god. Jottie?! I loved her. I loved the family and the small town atmosphere and the southern dialogue. It offered a glimpse of how my grandparents' families were when they all got together. The phrase "hush up" took me back to family reunions from my childhood. I wanted to spend forever in those pages, conjuring up visions of my Nana sitting amongst my Papa's many sisters and their husbands. And if I'm being fair, that's probably why I connected to it like I did. On a deeper level, though, it also reminds readers what it's like to start seeing things as an adult as one comes of age.

Read it if you love historical fiction. Read it if you love epistolary tales. Read it if you're wanting something you could get lost in.



*I received an advanced reader's copy of this title from Random House through Netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review. 






7.14.2015

A Post: Readathon Wrap-Up

I did it! I participated in my first readathon and I'm already looking forward to the next one! Sometimes, and I'm ashamed to admit this, I feel really guilty if I read instead of doing other things, like focusing on my photography business, for example. Since I spend pretty much every night after my 8-to-5 editing, talking and/or meeting with new clients, marketing, and blogging for bethpriddy.com, reading has fallen by the wayside. The readathon gave me an excuse to dedicate every hour that I wasn't working to relax and READ to my heart's content. It was just what I needed.

I didn't finish the entire 24 hours because I did have to photograph an event and my sister-in-law was visiting, but I did complete 9 hours, one book, and a little over three quarters of another. I should note that I finished the second about 30 minutes after my 48 was up, so maybe I can count it? Anyway..

Thoughts


I mentioned that I loved Jane Harris's Gillespie and I (like top 10 books in my life love) and had tried reading this one before without success. Nope, not this time around. Summary: Poor Bessy is wandering the countryside of Edinburgh looking for work when's she suddenly hired on as a house maid to a Mrs. Arabella Reid, an English lady, she takes to be rather eccentric and out of place. Arabella, however, is quite brilliant, but suffers from secrets she keeps closely guarded. In an attempt to understand her mistress, Bessy begins snooping and ultimately uncovers information that leads her to play tricks that don't quite go to plan.

First, I should note that the rough dialogue is a little hard to get past in the beginning, but the authentic voice of a mostly uneducated woman working in the world of service in the 1860s is pretty incredible. Also, Bessy, the lead, is hilarious! I laughed out loud more times than I can count. A lot of reviewers expressed disappointment with the ending, and while it does lack the bang the reader expects, I still gave it five stars on Goodreads because I just really enjoyed being apart of the story. The rural atmosphere and townspeople came alive in the pages, and Bessy entertained me to no end. I recommend this to anyone, but especially those who love historical fiction or Jane Harris. Do it!!


Ranjit Singh is an ex-military Captain trying to make it in his new home in Martha's Vineyard after leaving India disgraced. Working multiple jobs to keep his wife and young daughter fed and housed, Ranjit is offered a position as caretaker to a well-loved senator's summer home on the island. When the Singh family loses heat during the winter, they decide to set up temporary camp in the Senator's home, a decision that will ultimately change their lives forever. Uncovering secrets about the Senator's shady international dealings and his tumultuous relationship with his wife, Ranjit is on a race around the city to save his family and the world.

Let me first say that I read this because NPR said the second in this series was a must-read this summer. I thought that I'd need to read the first in order to read the second and here we are. It was a fast one. Typical thriller material. Would I call it a literary thriller like every review I read before? Absolutely not. It's basically cheesy romance-part- thriller. And then there's the fact that Ranjit's whole family winds up in a detention center with the risk of being deported and all the while he's having sexy time with the Senator's wife. He blabs on and on and on about how he misses his daughter and his wife, but then as the date for deportation looms, he's literally banging this other lady while mentioning his guilt. And when the book concludes... he's flabbergasted that his wife doesn't want to return to America and doesn't want him back (btw, she doesn't even know about the banging activities). So yeah. It just didn't fit the character. At all. It was like forced, uncomfortable sex scenes to mix it up a bit. These issues aside, I did think it was awesome to see a cast of non-white leads in a new thriller. Ranjit is a Punjabi Sikh, the senator and his wife African Americans, with a Caucasian rounding out the cast as a corrupt secretary to the Senator. All and all, I'd say that if you've read other reviews and think you might like it, go for it. It's a quick read and won't break the bank. I gave this a 2.5 on Goodreads.


So.. what are you reading?? 

7.08.2015

My First Readathon!



It feels like it's been a million years since I've had any time to sit down and read. What better way to commit to giving myself a little downtime than signing up for a readathon?! I've always wanted to join in but the timing has never worked out, and while I do actually have to photograph an event for several hours on Saturday, I still have most of the weekend to kick back and get lost in a good one. Ahhhhhh! It's my first readathon and I'M SO EXCITED!!!! I've really missed reading and blogging and all you blogging buddies and just want to jump in on the action.

I went to the library this evening in anticipation and picked up a few titles I'd been eyeing on Goodreads. I'm sure there will be some changes (and technically Dangerous Liaisons doesn't count because I've already started it), but I'm pretty happy with what I've got so far.

Readathon TBR:

Icelander by Dustin Long

I know nothing about this one. I found it while looking for another book and thought it would be appropriate since I'll be visiting Iceland in September. *Shrugs shoulders*

Broken Glass Park by Alina Bronsky

I found this one in a used bookstore in Chicago but couldn't commit to buying it at the time. I'll admit I'm not familiar with her work, but do know she has an extensive library, so fingers crossed.

The Observations by Jane Harris

I tried this one a couple of years ago and couldn't finish. But then Harris went and wrote one of my all-time favorites, Gillespie and Iso I figured I'd give it another go.

What We've Lost is Nothing by Rachel Louise Snyder

This title is my library's summer reading choice (One Book, One Oak Park). You  know, the whole community chooses a book for the season and then a huge event is held for people to participate and discuss. It's pretty awesome. It also happens to be based in my current home base, Oak Park, IL, so it'll be doubly interesting.

Second Life by S.J. Watson

I enjoyed Before I Go to Sleep (I really liked the movie), so it was added to the list because thrillers are always fast reads. Online sex circles? Ha. Doesn't sound like my cup of tea but I'm giving it a go. The book, not the circles...

The Caretaker by A.X. Ahmad

The second novel in this series made a recent must-read thriller list on NPR, and who am I to argue with that?! So I picked up the first. We'll see.


So... friends, what are you planning on reading?!? Anyone have any must-read historical fiction recommendations that I should add ASAP?!

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