Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Secrets She Keeps

The Secrets She KeepsThe Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Excellent character development of every major character and a few minor ones. The reader knows at the outset that Agatha is a little off. Just how off is yet to be determined. Additionally, the perfect couple has a few secrets to be uncovered and processed. The pace of the story is well timed as are the revelations. I really liked the book and most of the characters.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Orphan Keeper

The Orphan KeeperThe Orphan Keeper by Camron Wright
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The real reason I wanted to read this book so badly is that I stumbled upon LION, a movie based on the true story of a boy in India who finds himself far from home then further from home via adoption, and his quest to find his Indian family. I was fascinated and memorized by his account.

The truth about children in India who become homeless or sold is horrific and not for the faint of heart. In fact, I just finished another book (I forgot which one) of a girl raised to be a prostitute and her experiences in the sex trade, held hostage for years. The boy in ORPHAN KEEPER has a unique story in that he is kidnapped from a loving home and sold to an orphanage to be adopted out. He is treated well and ends up in a loving home in Utah where his new parents have no idea he is not an orphan. Because of the language barrier, the newly named Taj is incapable of communicating this until much later.

What I learned from the previous books I read about children in India, particularly when they don't even know the town they are from, is that most children die in the streets or in the sex trade. Which is why I am befuddled why he was targeted to be kidnapped with so many homeless children. The true story of how he was kidnapped is probably not well remembered and the recounting is postulated. But finding his way back home would take nothing short of many miracles to reunite himself with the family he forgets for a time in order to focus on going on in this new culture. In fact, I watched a short review of his story with the author of the book so I know some events were postulated, some were skipped, while others were simplified.

The story of Taj's memories returning was simplified for the sake of the flow of the book. In fact, Taj serves a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in England and is reintroduced to the foods and smells he knew so well as a child which stimulates brief snippets of memory. This is introduced differently but with a great deal of clever artistic license.

Great story. Recommend book for book clubs.

The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor

The Lost Letter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book. It was bittersweet yet the ending left me feeling quite satisfied. The ways stamps were used to communicate was new to me and I kept guessing what happened to the main characters in current day. I didn't guess right until nearly the end. It was a perfect ending and a perfect book.

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining WomenThe Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women by Kate Moore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm not going to sugar coat this. It is a heart breaking book. It is also incredibly inspiring. The author personalizes the girls that worked as dial painters beginning in the 1920s where radium was the new magic chemical. It healed, made your cheeks rosy, and was completely harmless. The girls were mostly very young, loved life, and had an optimistic future ahead of them. They were paid well to paint the dials with preciseness using their lips to point their brushes.

Naturally, we know how very dangerous radium is. One fact I found extremely fascinating is that radium consists of three known radioactive rays; alpha, beta, and gamma. Alpha rays do not do much damage as they can be stopped by something as thin as a piece of paper or skin. The other rays are the ones that burn the skin and cause damage from the inside out. Yet alpha rays are the most damaging if they get past the epidermis. Like if you lick your paintbrush into a point in order to paint a dial.

The book follows the women personally through their deteriorating health and then efforts to find medical help, compel the companies to pay for the medical help, and change practices. The corruption in the companies is appalling. The women use every bit of their waning energy to make changes in policy and be reimbursed for medical bills which have devastated them particularly in the wake of the Depression. They are pioneers in changing the policies of safety in the workplace and holding companies accountable for injury.

I feel like I got to know so many of the women personally through the narrative provided. It was historical and biographical yet almost written as a novel.

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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Wait for Me by Caroline Leech

Wait for MeWait for Me by Caroline Leech
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Excellent historical fiction for YA. Based on real events, the author tells the story of Lorna, a Scottish young woman at the end of WWII living near a prisoner of war camp. With men off fighting and labor left wanting, German and Italian prisoners were leased out for day work. Here Lorna meets Paul, a former German soldier from Dresden, badly scarred from Normandy. They strike up a close friendship in a village far too small to tolerate the humanity of the enemy.

Well written, rich with heart and history.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Review: The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland

The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland by Rebekah Crane
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The premise of this book is the coming together of 4 teenagers suffering from some form of mental instability at a summer camp for mentally ill teens. Loosely referencing the Breakfast Club, the themes of the 80's movies were loudly echoed; teens in pain, grown ups are bumbling idiots and completely clueless to what teens are really doing, teens can facilitate their own therapy and have a happy ending on one Saturday detention or one summer camp. Because mental illness can be resolved with peer acceptance, candy, crackers, and perhaps a daily Prozac.

I realize I am being exceptionally hard on this book but the author took on a lot of heavy issues yet did so without fully addressing any of them. My psychology background had so many issues with the above mentioned holes and stereotypes. The death knell was Cassie's story and resolution. That resolution wouldn't fix her. Or even give her hope. Clearly suffering from Reactive Attachment Disorder, it is highly improbable she would respond so well to acceptance, let alone cure her of anorexia. Hers and the other's issues would be much, much more complex than as was presented.

Disclaimer: On the day I read this book, I had been to lunch with a friend who had recently made the heartbreaking decision to rescind parental rights on her 14 year old daughter that she had adopted 11 years ago after being removed from her mother's custody. She tearfully recounted how she arrived at this decision and shared the feelings of utter failure of not being up to the task to heal this child of all her hurt, her RAD, and feeling bled dry. Sacrifice, acceptance, and parental love were not enough. My friend cried and hugged her close, told her she loved her. Her daughter felt no connection to this family. She simply left.

Meanwhile, in my professional realm, I see the complicated mental health issues teenagers are facing daily. One girl is pre-schizophrenic. There are available treatments and early interventions but her parents have paranoia issues and don't want any services. Yes, there is a genetic component to it but it's not as cut and dried as presented in the book. Schizophrenia is not the same as Huntington's Disease. It can manifest itself very differently yet be managed in many cases. It is not an automatic assumption that one will spend every day in a state of psychosis and believing himself to be Jesus.

So my big issues were the oversimplification, the stereotypes and cliche's, and biting off more material than could be adequately covered in an easy read, YA genre.

But clearly I have issues.

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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Review: The Girl Before

The Girl Before The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This psychological thriller began as I expected, already certain I knew the plot and ending while wondering why, then, was a wasting my time. The presentation of the story definitely hooked me as there were two narrators and two timelines. That said, both women bore striking resemblances to one another in appearances and experiences. This strengthened my belief that it was a plot I'd already read. Then things started to change shape.

None of the characters are particularly likeable but the narrators also turn out to be somewhat unreliable which I found intriguing as I looked at the way information was cleverly presented to the reader to lead the thought process off direction without the narrator changing the story within her own head.

The sex is a little too salacious for my taste yet details were sparse, innuendo doing the most work. Besides the sex, the book offered a compelling thriller with story twists I didn't see coming, red herrings planted just so, then discredited, then questioned, then new possibilities arise...

Solid thriller.

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