RATING: 3.5 STARS
She’s Not Herself: A Psychotherapist’s Journey Into and Beyond Her Mother’s Mental Illness is Linda A. Shapiro’s memoir of growing up with a mother who suffered from severe depression or bipolar disorder. Growing up in a wealthy family, as a first generation Jew in New York, her father is oblivious of the emotional damage Linda and her brother suffers on a daily basis. Her father’s explanation for her mother’s erratic behavior is that “She’s having one of those days.” She delves into the devastating effects her mother’s illness had upon her own self-image and self-worth. Over time, Linda overcame her problems and marries, has children and becomes a successful Psychologist.
Occasionally the writing is dense, yet it’s an insightful, heart-wrenching memoir of growing up with a mentally ill mother.
I received a copy of the book from Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review.
RATING: 5 STARS
Jonathan Evison drew me into his bittersweet novel, This is Your Life, Harriet Chance, right away with his unusual protagonist, Harriet Chance, who reflects about the trivial and highlights of her life which didn’t turn out according to her plans. As a widow of two years , still exhausted after caring for Bernard, her Alzheimer’s afflicted husband, she discovers he entered a drawing for an Alaskan cruise – and won. She uses this opportunity to scatter his ashes, with dreams of moving on into her twilight years. Harriet believes Bernard visits her frequently and speaks with him, as if he were still alive. These conversations reflect the highs and lows of her life, alternating between sweet and sad. During the cruise, a lifetime of deception is revealed to her.
The narration jumps from Harriet at age nineteen, then to Harriet at age sixty. The out-of-order narration style often distracts in most stories, but Evison’s choice of this narration complements the ups and downs of Harriet’s life. Harriet is endearing, but not without faults of her own. Sometimes she is the victim and other times the perpetrator of wrongs done to others. Above all, Harriet is human, and Evison captures the joys and regrets of a twentieth century woman’s life.
This is a charming novel about soldiering on through disappointment, when your dreams don’t work out as you had hoped, and how love can both surprise and injure us. .Highly recommend.
FASHION IS SPINACH By Elizabeth Hawes
RATING: 3.5 STARS
Elizabeth Hawes gives the reader an insider’s look at the fashion industry from the 1920’s through 1970’s. After graduating from Vassar College and Parsons School of Design, she worked in a Paris fashion copy house, and wrote about fashion for The New Yorker. In 1928, the public’s interest in French fashion began to fade, so she opened her design house, Hawes Inc., which originally made expensive custom designs for affluent women. The outspoken and independent Hawes criticized the New York Fashion industry for creating poorly made, expensive clothing and marketing them as trendy. Designers couldn’t complain about the Fashion industry, for fear of losing business. Yet, Hawes had the luxury to be outspoken, as she came from a wealthy family. She worked with retailers to produce and sell well made, affordable clothes. Hawes believed in designing classic, well made clothes, instead of caving into designing the latest fashion trends. Although the book was written seventy years ago, the fashion industry operates the same way today, by continuing to lure the public with the latest “must have” fashions every season.
A copy of the book was provided to me by Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review.
THE GOOD SHUFU By TRACY SLATER
RATING: 3.5 STARS
The Good Shufu is Tracy Slater’s memoir about the early years of her relationship and marriage to a Japanese man. Slater is a highly educated Feminist scholar from Boston who traveled to Japan to teach ESL to Japanese businessmen, and finds herself falling in love with one of her students. The Good Shufu was advertised as how an American writer and academic adapted to the male dominated Japanese culture. However, it focused more on Slater’s relationship challenges, her role as a “shufu’ (housewife), and dealing with her infertility. Although it was interesting in parts, I expected to learn more about her adaptation to Japanese culture rather than her relationship struggles.
An advance copy of the book was provided to me by Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review.
LET ME TELL YOU by SHIRLEY JACKSON
RATING: 4 STARS
Shirley Jackson is best known for her classic short story, The Lottery and The Haunting of Hill House. Let Me Tell You is a collection of Jackson’s unpublished short stories and essays on writing gathered by her family. Twenty-two short stories involve the sinister, secret underside of suburban life, which she experienced herself. Along with being a successful writer, she was also a housewife.
Many of her short stories were semi-auto biographical. Shirley Jackson was an accomplished writer married to Stanley Edgar Hyman, a professor and book critic.”A Garland of Garlands” is about a woman complaining about her difficulty being married to an unappreciative book critic. In other stories, we can feel her resentment of the housewife role in “Here I Am, Washing Dishes Again”, “Still Life With Teapot and Students” and “Company For Dinner.” I especially enjoyed “Mrs. Spencer and The Oberons”, Root of Evil” and her personal essays at the end.
Let Me Tell You is an entertaining selection of her writing. If you’ve never read any of her novels, I’d suggest reading her novels first, which show her mastery of psychological horror. Highly recommended for those who enjoy psychological horror or Twilight Zone – like stories.
An ARC of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.
The Write Crowd: Literary Citizenship & the Writing Life by Lori A. May
Published December 18th 2014 by Bloomsbury Academic
RATING: 5 STARS
The Write Crowd is a useful resource for those looking for a place in the writing community, whether at the local or national level. May suggests many tips on how to contribute and connect to the writing community locally, as well as building an online presence. The appendix is especially helpful as it offers a list of literary organizations. I highly recommend this book for writers as a resource to connect to their work to their community.
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.
TAKE A LOAD OFF, MONA JAMBORSKI By Joanna Franklin Bell
RATING: 5 STARS
It’s pure serendipity I stumbled across this genuine, heart-felt book. Mona is a depressed, morbidly obese recluse until she becomes friends with her food delivery boy, Moises, who recognizes her fears and helps transform her life. Bell’s character driven story draws the reader in right away, with her relatable characters. Written from a first person’s POV, Bell gives you a look behind the emotional dynamics of an obese recluse which may give some insight as to why some people choose this lifestyle.
I became so absorbed in the book, I read it in one sitting. Highly recommended for anyone, especially for those interested how agoraphobia can take over a person’s life.
Eeny Meeny by M.J. Arlidge is a British suspense/thriller novel. It is the first book in DI Helen Grace Thriller series. DI Helen Grace is youngest female to be promoted to Detective Inspector in her department. She is a submissive in a paid S&M arrangement, which adds vulnerability to her uptight personality. This aspect of her personality was difficult to reconcile until you learn more about her rough childhood.
Detective Inspector Helen Grace is faced with solving a series of kidnapping/abduction murders. Amy Anderson and Sam Fisher were kidnapped then held hostage. Their kidnappers drop them into a remote area and their chances of escape are dim. The kidnappers only give them a cell phone and a gun. Their only option for survival is if one of them dies. DI Helen Grace isn’t convinced this is a plausible story until two other people are kidnapped in a similar way.
Eeny Meeny keeps you riveted until the end. There is violence, sex, and foul language and the book will keep you guessing with all of the twists and turns. I’m looking forward to the next book in this series. Highly recommended for fans of Brit thrillers and suspense novels.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
GONZO GIRL By Cheryl Della Pietra
Rating: 3 Stars
Inspired by her time as Hunter S. Thompson’s assistant, Gonzo Girl is a fast paced fictional story about Alley, a recent Ivy League graduate with no publishing connections, who jumps at the opportunity to work as the assistant to the famous Walker Reade. After applying for the job, she received a 3 A.M. call from Reade, who asked her to fly out to Colorado for a three-day trial period.
Her unpredictable trial period, includes a .44 magnum, purple-pyramid acid, massive cocaine use and violent outbursts. Reade invites her to stay for several months at his compound. Month after month, Alley tries to coax another novel out of Walker Reade, but becomes emotionally exhausted and realizes the danger of staying alone in the Colorado Rockies, at the mercy of a drug-addicted writer who may never produce another novel.
Gonzo Girl is a fast paced, soft-hearted fictional portrait of the literary icon. I’d recommend it for anyone interested in Hunter S. Thompson, gonzo journalism or crazy lifestyles.
**The publisher provided me with an ARC in exchange for an unbiased review. **