[Mini Reviews] The Vegetarian by Han Kang & Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

The Vegetarian Rating:

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This was pretty unsettling to read. Hard to really summarize the essence of what this was about. On the surface it was about a woman with severe mental health issues, but dig deeper (well, more like scratch the surface a bit..) and it is about renunciation – of societal expectations to get in touch with your most primitive reflections. This story is told in three POVs and interestingly, none of them is Yeong-hye’s. The story progresses with her turning vegetarian to finally giving up on food altogether because of certain recurring dreams and her finally interpreting what they really meant. We get glimpses into Yeong-hye and her sister In-hye’s childhood as they grew up in a patriarchal family system with an abusive father. In-hye later muses whether that was one reason for her sister’s current state. As her “dream” triggers her “madness”, we see the men in Yeong-hye’s life unable to understand her decision to go vegetarian. Instead, they literally try to force-feed her in one scene. Throughout the book, Yeong-hye keeps retreating further away from everyone else and well.. into herself as she resists everyone else’s attempt to tell her what to do to her own body.

I considered quitting this book mid-way quite a few times because I couldn’t connect to a lot of devices used in this story, be it the characters chosen for the three POVs, the three-part narration itself which felt disjointed or the depiction of vegetarianism. I mean, I understand that this book wasn’t really about “vegetarianism” as such, but since so much of the book was about her giving up meat, I really can’t look past it. I didn’t get the people’s reactions around her, and I am not talking about husband and father (both were A-Grade MCPs who were upset for reasons that had nothing to do with her well-being) but I couldn’t understand why the general reaction was one of shock and distaste rather than being supportive or well, checking out more healthy, wholesome vegetarian food options. There were also some other things about the book that I didn’t understand – like the triggering circumstances that caused Yeong-hye’s psychiatric condition. It felt like some sort of half-baked attempt by giving her the background of childhood abuse (like some sort of afterthought, because hey, I need to give a reason, so let me throw in some random reminiscences of childhood). Another aspect of this book that I found irritating is that it isn’t just Yeong-hye plagued by dreams; we also have two of the three narrators getting abstract, creepy dreams and being tortured by it as they are trying to decipher it. Honestly, it was overkill, and well, just way too many people for a less-than-180 pages book that I, as a reader am trying to make some sense of.

This is just one of those books that I can’t rave about, but I am glad I read it, and would definitely not shy away from recommending.

Holding Up the UniverseRating:

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Synopsis2Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for every possibility life has to offer. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything. 

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone.

Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game—which lands them in group counseling and community service—Libby and Jack are both pissed, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel.

Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world, theirs and yours.

My reviewI was a bit skeptical after reading the synopsis and wondered whether this will be one of those stories about an overweight girl transforming herself into a svelte figure by the end of the book and shocking everyone. Then there is also this male protagonist who suffers from face-blindness (known as Prosopagnosia) . But body-image and self-esteem issues are addressed so well in this book that the love story stands on its own rather than not having any relevance beyond Jack’s neurological disorder and Libby’s struggle with weight.

I think what worked for this book is that by the time we meet Libby, she has already gone through some of the darkest phases in her life. We meet her when she is re-entering the “mainstream” life (high-school after months of isolation and counseling. So, when Libby makes friends, meets Jack, faces bullies, you know it is all on her own terms.

So, what about Jack? Well, he has had a different kind of struggle. While Libby’s lowest phase was telecast across electronic media and her struggle with weight is under glaring spotlight of bullies, Jack has somehow managed to hide his condition from everyone (so that people don’t make his life further difficult in school) until an incident forces him to reveal his secret to Libby. What follows after that is definitely one of the cutest YA love stories I have read so far.

There were few things I found a bit unreal – like the fact that Jack could hide his condition from everyone and that no one, not even his parents noticed anything amiss. This felt like one of those classic “clueless YA parents” tropes. I also felt some of the quotes, though mushy and cute, felt unrealistic when thought by or mouthed as dialogues by teenage narrators (especially some super-cheesy lines.. I couldn’t really imagine anyone talking like that)

I also thought the book had a pretty abrupt and quiet ending? I mean, it felt like the book started with a bang and ending with a whimper because the author didn’t know how else to finish it.

I really liked the book though and some of Libby and Jack’s inner monologues were pure gold. I think my 2017 TBR will now comprise of Niven’s previous works.

Shepherd & the Professor – By Dan Klefstad

Rating:

*Note : I received a digital copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*

Buy Links:

Paperback         Kindle

Synopsis2

Most people take comfort knowing their family and friends will remember them after they die. For Susan Shepherd, “remembering” is bullshit. She wants an eternal shrine to her sacrifice: a book that never goes out of print.

Shepherd served her country in the Gulf War, got shot while serving her community as a cop, raised an ungrateful daughter by herself — and for what? A diagnosis of terminal cancer and she isn’t even fifty. If you were in her shoes, you might agree that nothing short of national perpetual acknowledgement will do.

She’s glad you feel that way; she just wrote a memoir and sent a flurry of query letters, hoping a publisher will memorialize her with a best-seller. After hitting Send, she waits not-at-all patiently for an editor to decide if her story will sell enough copies — that is, if her life really mattered.

My review

The writingUnconventional and refreshing. Slightly acerbic at times, Klefstad isn’t afraid to let his characters indulge in highly-charged conversations at the risk of not sounding PC. The format of the book does lend itself to being categorized as an epistolary (but it is one long query letter, and not a series of short ones) and it did take some time for me to get used to the changing narrators (as different people take over at from Susan at different times) and the initial time-leaps in the reminiscences. But once the book hit its stride – I got more comfortable reading it after 35-40% – I appreciated the atmospheric detailing that made the small university town of Charters come alive.

(Check out some of my favorite quotes from the book here.)

The charactersThis is Susan’s story and I found it interesting that Klefstad completely skips addressing the details about the big cancer-related chapter of her life – and I think it is a gutsy decision! I mean, kudos to the author for not making this entire book and Susan’s life about cancer.  Instead, we are given brief glimpses of a couple of early incidents in her life, including her only significant but brief relationship with a guy (who is the father of her child). All these experiences left indelible marks but I would like to think they only made her stronger and more equipped to deal with everything that came with single-parenting.  But from what we see of Susan’s twenty-something daughter Emma, and by Susan’s own admission, she has a lot of regrets with how things have turned out for her daughter. Although as a reader, Emma is absolutely infuriating to read about, an ungrateful brat who is hell-bent on throwing away whatever her mom is working very hard to provide.

Though this is Susan’s story on the query letter, the plot itself doesn’t move by the precipitating actions of any one single character. It is an ensemble plot in the truest sense as every character’s actions have a ripple effect though each one thinks they are doing what is required for them to survive and move up in Charters. So, there is a student, who is at loggerheads with his devout lecturer by arguing the under-representation of atheism in literature. Then there is a campus law enforcement chief vying for the position of the new President of the University. There is a also a radio jockey fighting to keep the seven-minute interview hosting slots amid reports of falling ratings. Finally, there is a woman identifying herself as Judy Peterson who is a bit of an enigma, a loose cannon willing to do what it takes to become the president.

Through all this radio station, university and law enforcement politics, there is a shady drug dealing business that Susan keeps trying to shoo away from Emma and herself, but her efforts prove futile as Emma is bullish about sticking to her drug-peddling boyfriend.

The plottingI felt that the book could have used one single high-stakes plot point centering all the characters instead of many – such as the president nomination, funds misappropriation, drugs consumption, investigative journalism and so on. The only thing holding these characters together in one book is the university and I just found the whole plot surrounding the president post a bit weak and unconvincing. Maybe it is because I could never get a sense of how “evil” Judy is. I mean, she is described as someone who has gotten away with scheming for years and yet, she makes so many mistakes – so many basic ones – that I just couldn’t believe she has never got caught. She came across as too vulnerable.

Then there was this drug peddling business that the Sheriff’s department has been looking for an opportunity to bust. I was a bit confused about how the entire thing went down. The department apparently was “successful” by the end of it, but the result of the entire operation seemed to be a heap of mess, so I am not sure what happened there.

Overall impressionsWould definitely recommend the book if you want to read something that just – well – reads differently! It tested my patience at times (especially the first half), but I began enjoying the leisurely vibe later on.

[Blog Tour: Review+Giveaway] – Loreena’s Gift by Colleen M. Story

Rating:

Buy Links:

Amazon –  ( Kindle      Paperback)     ~   Barnes & Noble  ~  Book Depository  ~  Chapters Indigo

*Note: I received a print copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review for iRead book tour*

Synopsis:

A BLIND GIRL’S TERRIFYING “GIFT” ALLOWS HER TO REGAIN HER EYESIGHT–BUT ONLY AS SHE FERRIES THE RECENTLY DECEASED INTO THE AFTERLIFE.

Loreena Picket thinks she knows herself. A blind young woman who lives with her uncle, a reverend at a small-town church, she’s a dutiful niece and talented pianist for the congregation.

But they’re both hiding a terrible secret. Loreena can kill people with the touch of her hand.

While her uncle sees her as an angel of mercy, helping usher the terminally ill members of his flock into the afterlife, Loreena has her doubts.

Torn between doing her uncle’s bidding and the allure of the fleeting moments when her eyesight returns on the journey to the other side, Loreena cooperates with her uncle until her troubled older brother returns to town. When she reveals her power by saving him from a local drug dealer, she is drawn into a sinister and dangerous world that will test the true nature of her talent and force her to consider how far she is willing to go to survive.

An exciting debut that crosses fantasy and literary fiction,Loreena’s Gift is a thought-provoking meditation on life and death and what ultimately lies beyond this world.

My Review:

When we first meet Loreena, she is walking back from the Church to her uncle’s home. The opening scene does establish a lot of things about her. With the best of intentions, her uncle has provided her with quite a sheltered life revolving around playing the piano at the church. We soon learn that this is just partly him being protective about her. Well, maybe he would have been more open about her exploring the world a lot more once she became an adult if not for the fact that along with reaching adulthood,  she also ends up with “poisonous hands”. When she accidentally kills the gardener, her uncle decides that he can take her help to relieve the terminally ill people of his congregation out of their misery. Maybe, this can be Loreena making amends for her sin of killing a perfectly healthy, innocent man.

The author’s idea of the afterlife is pretty interesting. To be honest, I didn’t know that there would be so many references about the Church and the almighty. I don’t read Christian fiction so I was wondering whether the whole book was going to be filled with religious references. Thankfully, that didn’t happen and the concepts of heaven and hell are discussed in a way that is probably relatable irrespective of whatever faith you subscribe to. In a weird, morbid way, it was actually kind of fun to see what kind of fate is waiting for the different people Loreena ends up killing.

The story is told in third-person but mostly from Loreena’s POV. So, the author does a really good job of walking us through her shoes by not making us see but “feel” and “hear” what’s happening – there is a lot of description about the footsteps and flooring and weather.

The drive was long, but the air still smelled of rain, and it came in fresh through the front vents.

-Pg. 192

The ground was soft, her flat shoes sinking into the dirt with each step.

-Pg. 194

A series of events leads Loreena right amidst a gang war between two groups trying to wrest control of a small town. She is captured by one group and blackmailed into killing their rivals in exchange for her brother’s safety. It was interesting to see her introspecting after she causes each death and whether the person deserved the scenario of heaven/hell that waited for them.

I just couldn’t get into the whole cloak-and-dagger and crime aspect of this book though. It was way too predictable and none of the deaths surprised me either. I could see what went down in the final few pages even before I finished 1/4th of the book.  As stated by the synopsis, the book is about life, death and what lies beyond; told by metaphorically using the fantasy element of a girl “literally” walking people into their afterlives. I think that was a really cool idea and one of the book’s stronger suits. But the book also has quite a lot of “crime fiction” as the backdrop. I found this aspect of the book a bit half-baked and just very… linear.

I liked the book though. It had a different concept and well, if you want to read the book more for its transcendental ideas, then you would probably enjoy it a lot more than I did.

Book Trailer:

About the author: 

Colleen M. Story
Colleen M. Story writes imaginative fiction and is also a freelance writer, instructor, and motivational speaker specializing in creativity, productivity, and personal wellness. Her latest novel, “Loreena’s Gift,” was released with Dzanc Books April 12 2016. Her fantasy novel, “Rise of the Sidenah,” is a North American Book Awards winner, and New Apple Book Awards Official Selection (Young Adult). She is the founder of Writing and Wellness (writingandwellness.com) a motivational site for writers and other creatives.

Connect with the author:

Website  ~ Twitter

Check out all the tour stops! : 

July 18 – Cheryl’s Book Nook – review / author interview / giveaway
July 18 – Bound 4 Escape – review
July 19 – Writing Pearls – review
July 19 – Jayne’s Books – review
July 20 – Young In Rome – review
July 20 – And the Buck Starts Here – review
July 21 – Writers and Authors – book spotlight / guest post
July 22 – Corinne Rodrigues – review
July 22 – 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, & Sissy, Too! – review / giveaway
July 25 – A Bookaholic Blog – review
July 25 – Nighttime Reading Center – review / author interview / giveaway
July 26 – JBronder Book Reviews – review / guest post
July 27 – T’s Stuff – review / guest post / giveaway
July 27 – Book reviews nature photos and everything in between – review
July 28 – Sahar’s Blog – review
July 29 – Life as Leels – review
July 29 – The Autistic Gamer – review
Aug 1 –    Bookishly Devoted – review
Aug 1 –    Olio By Marilyn – review / author interview
Aug 2 –    Heidi’s Wanderings – review / giveaway
Aug 2 –    Bookaholic Banter  – review / author interview / giveaway
Aug 3 –    Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers – review
Aug 4 –    The Travelogue of a Book Addict – The Book Drealms – review / giveaway
Aug 4 –    bookmyopia – review / giveaway
Aug 5 –    Svetlana’s Reads and Views – review
Aug 5 –    Jessica Cassidy – review / author interview / giveaway

Giveaway!

Win a signed copy of Loreena’s Gift. One winner will also get a $15 Amazon GC (Open int’l). Click on the link below to enter the giveaway:

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Love Is – By Tia Kelly

Rating:

*Note : I won a signed paperback of this book in a blog tour giveaway*

Buy Links:

Amazon            Barnes & Noble

Summary (Goodreads):

It took a once-in-a-lifetime bond to teach her what love is, and a once-in-a-lifetime betrayal to show her what love is not… Love Is. A different kind of love story.

Diane Collins had big plans for her life, and hoops star Warren Scott was not among them. He doesn’t want to be the face of the NBA, and she doesn’t care that he is. His reluctance to be part of the limelight disarms her and the two embark on an unlikely friendship that becomes an even unlikelier romance.

Soon, his life is her life – filled with VIP treatment, parties and luxuries beyond Diane’s wildest imagination. But Warren is harboring a secret, and once it’s revealed Diane’s decision to stay or go could change the very fabric of who she thought she was.

My Review:

Set in the 80’s and spanning over a decade, Love Is is the story of Diane Collins, a girl with big dreams and ambitions for her career – a burning desire to earn her spot in the NASA space mission. But an airport encounter with the famous NBA athlete Warren Scott changes everything that she had planned for herself. They become close friends and soon she is travelling all over the country to his matches and attending parties. A year later, Diane is fed up playing friends and asks for something more – commitment and acknowledgement that their relationship isn’t platonic anymore. Does Warren step up?

Despite its languid pace in the first 100-150 pages, you do get a sense that Diane’s story is worth sticking around for. There is something very “slice-of-life” about this book, made up of everyday conversations, travels and occasions and not moments of high melodrama. Even during the times when Warren and Diane had huge fights and meltdowns, there was something understated in the way they were written. Warren turns from someone who is shown conflicted and flawed into someone who is an absolute jerk by the end of the book. I guess the only redeemable thing about him was he did his bit to support Diane financially.

Diane did a lot of things which I hate about the “strong female protagonist” in books and which I equate to stupidity, because I feel that the onus is on the author to make us empathize with their decisions and provide a clear insight into their “emotional rationale” when they do make those decisions. A lot of times that doesn’t happen and I get the feeling that we readers are somehow just expected to feel sorry for them because hey, WOMEN and SITUATIONS and PROBLEMS and LIFE.

But, that didn’t happen here. The author wrote Diane in a way that I could understand her, feel for her. Yea sure, there were times I wanted jump into the book and shake her into her senses, but I could fathom where she was coming from. I could see the long distance one has to travel between resolving to get back your life on track and actually getting there. Especially when you have had so many setbacks and lost so much time over a guy who just wasn’t worth it. And when you don’t have a strong family support system. (Gosh, her parents were a piece of work!  But I am guessing such parents are not that far removed from reality, considering the timeframe the book was set in, and her upbringing)

Life finally showed Diane what love is and what isn’t but she lost quite a bit in the process. But, she also rediscovers herself, a part of who she had lost waiting for a mirage. I had mixed feelings about some of the events in the end – it goes from a pointless tragedy to a bittersweet realization on Diane’s part about her defunct association with Warren.

“Now knowing what love was, how could she ever accept anything less?”

There were some socio-economic and religious beliefs and gender and race issues that were referred to, and I liked that they were not addressed in a heavy-handed or preachy way. As the book was set in the U.S. of the 80’s, a lot of the cultural references were lost on me and all the NBA talk went over my head. I honestly found it a bit difficult to get past at least 1/3rd of the pages because of all the info-dump related to NBA games, frequent travels, and weather research and space missions. I guess people who are more clued into the 80’s sports and entertainment scene in U.S. will enjoy and appreciate some aspects of this book a lot more. Do watch out for all the chapter titles! (I just reckoned they had to mean something so I googled them after I finished the book)

Surviving Valencia – By Holly Tierney-Bedord

Rating:

Buy Links:

Kindle

*Note: I received this book from the author through Aimee’s blogiversary giveaways.*

Synopsis:

A car accident robs the Loden Family of twins Van and Valencia shortly after they start college. Charmed, bright, and beautiful, they held their family together and elevated the Lodens to greatness. In their loss, a shadow is cast upon the family, particularly on the remaining child, who lacks the easy grace and popularity her older siblings took for granted. 

As an adult, her life begins to turn from mediocre to amazing when she is saved by cool, artistic Adrian. The kind of happiness once reserved only for others is finally hers, until pieces of the past begin ruining what seems to be a perfect life.

My Review:

I don’t remember ever learning the narrator’s name. I realized it while I was typing this out and trying to recollect her name. So I am just going to call her HER or SHE.

With so many books using the past/present – in –alternate chapters narrative these days, it suddenly started getting boring and like some new fad just to be all different and edgy, regardless of whether it is actually needed or not. This is one of the books where it works, and works really well.

This is the second book in a row (the first being Speak)  I have read dealing with pressures faced by high school girls, such as being bullied, or worse, ignored . Here, it is further compounded by the fact that SHE is the youngest of the three siblings, with the older two, Van and Valencia being twins and well-liked among their peers.  What’s worse, is HER parents ignore her (unintentionally or not), don’t celebrate her achievements or special occasions with the same gusto as the twins’.  Gosh, it was all-round terrible to read how she was, well.. pretty much emotionally abandoned by her parents, especially her mom. What was heartbreaking to see is that SHE never really stops trying – After her mom gives up on trying to mould her like Valencia – by putting her into dance classes and goading her to show “feminine grace”, she takes it upon herself to “change” and start afresh every time a new school year starts. But she never catches a break. Her siblings’ death makes everything worse, as unlike before, she cannot even be an outside spectator to the “Happy Loden gang”. Valencia’s death hits her especially hard, as she was someone who SHE always aspired to be, something which felt as unattainable as reaching out to the stars.

So, yes, it always felt like she was stuck in a hopeless situation. When they were alive, she was torn between trying to shrug them off or enjoy the reflected glory. When they are dead, she is even worse off as she is seen as some specimen of curiosity, to be pitied or seen as a psych guinea pig by the school counselors and teachers from afar, but never befriended or shown consideration.

I don’t know what more to say without giving anything away further, but I am so glad I discovered this book. On the surface it is about HER moving on. Dig deeper and it is about HER trying to shake off the disappointments of her childhood, and trying to make herself happy by living (or rather play-acting) the ‘IT’ life as seen in glossy magazines and TV shows. One of my favorite moments, was Adrian gifting her gold necklace and helping her putting it on, while both of them coyly speak to each through their reflections as they stand in front of the mirror.  The entire scene was a caustic nod to every happy-couple-in-TV-commercials ever. But as we find out in the end, she wasn’t the only one living vicariously.

If there is one criticism, it is probably that some of the additions to the mystery arc, such as the soothsayer and detective didn’t end being spoken about or explained again and some things felt more like loose ends than red herrings.  Some of final passages were slightly ambiguous too. I read them twice and there are still a couple of things that I am still not too sure about.

The ending was bittersweet and I liked how SHE followed up on her conviction that sometimes you just instinctively know when something is broken and can’t be mended. I was also left wondering whether SHE loved Valencia for what she effortlessly projected to the outside world, and would SHE have loved her just the same if she didn’t meet those lofty standards.

[Blog Tour: Review+Giveaway]In the Context of Love – By Linda K. Sienkiewicz

Rating:

Buy Links:

Amazon – Paperback          Kindle              Barnes & Noble

*Note: I received a print copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review for iRead book tour*

Synopsis:

What makes us step back to examine the events and people that have shaped our lives? And what happens when what we discover leads to more questions?

Angelica Schirrick wonders how her life could have gotten so far off-track. With two children in tow, she begins a journey of self-discovery that leads her back home to Ohio. It pains her to remember the promise her future once held and the shattering revelations that derailed her life.

Can she face the failures and secrets of her past and move forward? Somehow she must learn to accept the violence of her beginning before she can be open to life, and a second chance at love.

My Review:

Reading this book was like watching a portrait taking shape, with each messy stroke of misplaced teenage angst and every jagged line of anxious parenting decisions. And the canvas – a secret about Angelica’s past that she mistakenly uses as a yardstick to determine her self-worth. However, the final picture that emerges is of a life lived in a way that mattered, was relevant and also strived to make a change in lives of other women.

This is my second women’s/literary fiction novel told in a second-person narrative (after Hesitation Wounds), and I think I have really developed a liking to this genre and style. Here, Angelica tells us of her journey by “narrating” it to Joe, her first boyfriend. The book starts from her present life with her kids but we are soon taken back to the mid-1970’s, the year when everything changed for her. We are introduced to her overbearing and overprotective mother, her snarky grandma, and soft-spoken dad. She has always found her mom’s anxiety-ridden nature stifling but reasoned it as motherly concern. But it finally gets to her once she is at the end of her high school years, and when she meets Joe, she falls in love with him and starts rebelling at home. She starts sneaking out, breaking curfew and dreaming of a future with him. But one day, Joe disappears. She is heartbroken and to add to her volatile state, she finds out something about her past that further distances her from her parents. It splits her family apart, and starts her on a downward spiral. She turns self-destructive, walks out of her home, refuses to go to college despite her dad’s best efforts to convince her, and takes up low-paying jobs to sustain herself. She deliberately chooses the wrong men and discards them. Well, one of them sticks around longer and that is Gavin, who she ends up marrying.

The way I saw this book is one of how relationships evolve over time – and Angelica has four main ones – as a daughter, as a teenage girlfriend, as a wife and as a mother. My favorite one was how Angelica’s relationship changed for the better with her parents over the years. It was just so organic and real. There was no big scene or confrontation where everyone is shouting or apologizing. But her parents were there for her always, even after years of strained ties and I just liked how it was gestures of help and just “being there” that was respected from both sides. It is a far cry from Angelica’s teenage years when she refuses to see reason even after everything her dad tries doing for her, right from buying a car to pushing her to join college. I loveeddd her dad, he is such a gem.  Angelica shared a more tumultuous relationship with her mum. Over time, they communicate better and all the past hurt fades into something that both can deal with studied nonchalance. There is also a lovely moment in the book when Angelica helps her mom speak out about her past and unburden herself.

If there is one thing I couldn’t really connect with is her love for Joe. More specifically, I didn’t understand how she could carry a torch for him all these years. I mean, I did get it when she was in high school and there is obviously this whole thrill of your first boyfriend and sexual experience when you think you have found your one true love.. but I was just surprised she never outgrew it. Not even after all the years and even through a marriage. And well, to be honest, I just felt she fell in love with the “idea” of being love.  Of her travelling with Joe everywhere and him singing songs and poetry to her. They hardly had any real, long conversations or anything, and more of sneaking around and having sex.

Speaking of the sexual content, there is quite a bit of it in this book. The way it was described was .. well, it was a mix of flowery-cheese, crude and matter-of-fact. And I think that’s why I liked it. Because, multiple experiences were described, with her boyfriend, husband and other partners. I liked that the author was mindful of the fact that sex is not just physical and it would have been so unrealistic if it was written the same way every time. I mean, Angelica with Joe in her teens is not the same Angelica with her husband in her 30’s.

Overall, I loved the book and I am so glad I signed up to review this for the tour. It is such a well-written book and paced so well. It is a little over 250 pages, but so many years of a person’s life is covered; and I never felt like the transitions in timelines was jerky or confusing.  Do check this out, it is a wonderful addition to women’s fiction.

Book Trailer:

In the Context of Love | Book Trailer from Linda Sienkiewicz on Vimeo.

About the author:

LindaKSienkiewicz-2Linda K. Sienkiewicz is a published poet and fiction writer, cynical optimist, fan of corgis, tea drinker, and wine lover from Michigan. Her poetry, short stories, and art have been published in more than fifty literary journals, including Prairie Schooner, Clackamas Literary Review, Spoon River, and Permafrost.

She received a poetry chapbook award from Bottom Dog Press, and an MFA from the University of Southern Maine. Linda lives with her husband in southeast Michigan, where they spoil their grandchildren and then send them back home.

Connect with the Author:

 Website   Twitter   Facebook

Giveaway (Click on the link below to enter for a chance to win 10$ Amazon Gift Card):

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Do check out all the tour stops! –

March 28 – Corinne Rodrigues – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
March 28 –  Olio by Marilyn – review / author interview / giveaway
March 29 – The Cheshire Cat’s Looking Glass – book spotlight / giveaway
March 29 – Writing Pearls – review
March 30 – Book Reviews Nature Photos – review / author interview
March 30 – Amie’s Book Reviews – review / giveaway
March 31 – Sahar’s Blog – review
March 31 – #redhead.with.book – review / giveaway
April 1 –   A Splendid Messy Life – review / author interview / giveaway
April 1 –   The World As I See It – review / giveaway
April 4 –   A Blue Million Books – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
April 4 –   The Autistic Gamer – review
April 5 –   Working Mommy Journal – review / giveaway
April 5 –   The Phantom Paragrapher – review
April 6 –   A Bookaholic Blog – review
April 6 –   Deal Sharing Aunt – review / author interview / giveaway
April 7 –   I’d Rather Be At the Beach – review / giveaway
April 8 –   Ali – The Dragon Slayer – review / guest post / giveaway
April 11 – Bound 4 Escape – review / giveaway
April 11 – T’s Stuff – review / author interview / giveaway
April 12 – Readers’ Muse – review / guest post
April 12 – Library of Clean Reads – review / giveaway
April 13 – Allthingsbookie – review / giveaway
April 14 – bookmyopia – review / giveaway
April 14 – Svetlana’s Reads and Views – book spotlight / author interview
April 15 – Novel Escapes – review

iRead Book Tour Logo Medium

Hesitation Wounds – By Amy Koppelman

Rating:

How does it feel to be constantly burdened with grief, loss and guilt? When familial ties are not unfettered by your choice but all the “what ifs” are always going to haunt you?

In Hesitation Wounds, Amy Koppelman provides a searing glimpse into just what it is to live with clinical depression. To finally give up on life because of the inability to feel happiness. And what about the people who they leave behind, left to wonder whether they did all that they could to help? Whether they could have done more? Why didn’t they notice the signs that something just wasn’t right?  Ask Dr. Susanna Seliger, who has grappled with these questions for nearly thirty years. Her profession, as a psychiatrist specializing in treatment resistant depression is both her penance and salvation. Her encounter and conversations with Jim, her patient, forces her to face what has been the albatross in the cesspool of her life, and has practically repelled anything that could have constituted a semblance of normalcy and fulfillment.

The book’s 180- page length is pretty misleading. Literally every paragraph is so beautifully constructed that it forces you to pause, re-read and think. It is a second person narrative by Susanna, each thought screaming out as a silent lament and a melancholic plea. To understand and be understood in return. To forgive and be forgiven.  There is something so unflinching and no-holds-barred in the way Koppelman has shown us how it feels to go through so many emotions where you mind and heart is always a gooey mess because of the baggage of all the past that you cannot shed, and that in turn keeps nipping away at your present thus preventing you from creating and experiencing any new, happy memories worth recollecting in the future. So it is a disturbing, vicious cycle. And to be honest, around 50 pages into the book, I wondered whether it is going to be worth it sticking with Susanna till the last page. Because I have had reading experiences in the past where I felt short-changed in the end because the protagonists showed no growth or initiative to effect change.

Thankfully, Hesitation Wounds is worth it. The arc of the whole emotional narrative comes together in the final pages. And I love seeing things come to a full circle! (Without revealing much, I will just say that the book sort of starts and ends with Susanna in the airport).  As the reels from Susanna’s past memories roll towards the final images, she lets it go. But will the happiness she finds make up for the three lost decades? Well, when I took leave of her in the last page, she seemed atleast in my opinion, the happiest version of herself after a very long time. So, maybe there is hope.

If there is one thing I felt could have been better, it is the clarity in the timelines. Susanna’s reminiscences keep going back and forth in a way that felt too jerky and vague. I am guessing it was deliberate to an extent, to probably show how recollections can be jumpy, colored and all over the place, but it just got a bit frustrating to keep track of it sometimes. And while I loved all the metaphors, symbolism and “quotable quotes”, it felt a bit excessive making the book a laborious read at times.

Now, this is perhaps one of my favorite quotes, which I have Tumblr’ed and tweeted, but imagine reading pages and pages of this:

HWquote

(Speaking of quotes, check out some of my favorite ones here.)

Keeping these quibbles aside, I would definitely recommend the book for a stark insight into what clinical depression is all about. It is a monumental labor of love by Amy Koppelman, a tribute to a cause she feels so strongly about.

Buy links:

Kindle
Hardcover