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review 2017-02-26 09:34
The Nearness of You
The Nearness of You: A Novel - Amanda Eyre Ward

By:  Amanda Eyre Ward

ISBN:  9781101887158

Publisher: Random House 

Publication Date: 2/21/2017 

Format: Hardcover  

My Rating: 4 Stars

 
Storyteller, Amanda Eyre Ward returns following (2015) The Same Sky with another thought-provoking and gripping tale of four wounded characters in THE NEARNESS OF YOU. (Beautiful cover ).

What does it take to be a real mother? With highly charged topics, Ward delves deeply into the emotions of the human psyche and what it takes to be a family. A surrogate young girl goes missing, disrupting the lives of all that are near and dear to the unborn child.

Set in Houston, Texas –Hyland and Suzette Kendell are married and celebrating their anniversary. It is the year, 2000 and the couple have been married for fifteen years and approaching forty years of age.

Suzette is a successful heart surgeon and Hyland an architect. He came from a horrific childhood and he would love to have children and a family. His parents had been killed in a car accident when he was eleven and grew up in the foster care system. He now works from home and desperately wants a family.

However, workaholic Suzette had been upfront from the beginning, she did not want children. Her mom was mentally ill and in an institution. She most likely would always remain there until she died.

Her father had died years earlier and her mom went a little crazy- erratic and paranoid, causing serious trauma for Suzette during her childhood. She too was sick in college; however, controls it with her meds. They continue to keep her mother in a nice facility and sometimes she tells herself her mom is really dead.

Suzette does not want to pass this sickness to children. She wants it to end here. She could not be the easy, breezy, fertile wife Hyland might have wanted; however, she would not be made to feel that she was lacking.

They are now ready for surrogacy. Hyland would sire a child. He was delighted with the opportunity of becoming a father. He would medically impregnate someone younger who would carry the baby to term. Suzette could keep working without interruption. It was a win-win. Or so she thought.

Suzette panicked and was scared, similar to PTSD, due to her own childhood dramas. They find what they think is the perfect candidate and was going to pay her $35,000 to cover the cost. However, the gal backs out due to Suzette being busy with work. She was not going to apologize for doing her job.

In the meantime, Suzette deals with life and death daily. Giving life after ending life with tragedy at the hospital. She cared deeply for her patients and she connected better with the babies than the adults. Each was a reminder.

Months pass and there is another candidate. This girl was much younger and inexperienced. She had never been married and never had a child, like the first candidate.

As a last resort, they decide on Dorrie (age 21). She gets pregnant quickly. We hear from different POVs. She worked at Sea-o-Rama feeding penguins. She wanted to escape her life and get off Galveston Island. She could finally move away from her mother and her dull disappointment—away from the stories about her deadbeat dad. It meant a bigger life: college, and a chance to succeed. When she had seen the ad, she knew this was the only way to attain money for college. A way out.

However, could she lease her body, and then hand over her child? She would trade nine months of her life. She earned less than $10.00 hour at her current job. The gift of life. It was love versus money. Which would win out in the end? Could she go through with it? Or escape?

She could drive away from Texas and make a life on Grand Isle, Louisiana. She needed to escape her own sad mom’s depression and alcoholism. However, without money, how would she live and support herself and her unborn child? How will Suzette and Hyland go on knowing their child was out there somewhere?

Dorrie is a dreamer and wants to wrap herself around books and living in a seaside cottage. She dreams of a life with her baby. She is immature and not thinking of how. She cannot live in a motel with no money, especially when this couple had money and would have the cops or PIs after her.

On the run, she meets another lonely girl, Jayne taking care of her own disturbed junkie prostitute mom. Another young girl, trying to escape her surroundings for a better life. Will they find solace in one another? Jayne is intrigued by the girl in room 29. They hit the road together.
 


Later when an illness arrives, and more problems, things change. However, there are still some secrets which are not revealed until the end.

The author takes us on a hauntingly beautiful emotional heartfelt journey. Told with compassion - from tragedy, pain, loss, and love. What it means to be a mother. A family. When matters of the heart are conflicted. From “The Nearness of You" an old Ella Fitzgerald song, to a desperate search for a mother.

Can a woman who fixes hearts mend one close to her own? Fast forward fifteen years later.

Every character is searching for a mother’s love and acceptance. Guilt. A yearning for atonement. Courage. Your heart goes out to all the flawed characters (they do make some poor choices); a situation when there seems there is no easy way out. Someone will be hurt. What it takes to be a family. They are not always the traditional ones.

I loved the quote: “The mother is the one who stays in the room.” (no matter how difficult, when she wants to run and hide).

I read two moving and beautiful books in a row about motherhood. They come in all shapes and sizes each with their own set of struggles. Highly recommend both: Amanda Eyre Ward’s THE NEARNESS OF YOU and Sally Hepworth’s The Mother's Promise.

A special thank you to Random House and NetGalley for a complimentary reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

JDCMustReadBooks
 
 

 

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2016/10/05/The-Nearness-of-You
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review 2017-02-26 01:00
Blink
Blink - K. Slater

By:  K.L. Slater

ASIN: B01NBF30MU
​Publisher: Bookouture 
Publication Date: 2/16/2017 
Format: Other
My Rating:  4 Stars

 

K. L. Slater returns following her gripping debut, SAFE WITH ME with another twisty psychological suspense BLINK, with plenty of red herrings to keep you guessing.

Meet Toni, a woman in Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham. Trapped by silence within her own body. Terrified. Screaming to be let out. She is alive- she wants to escape this nightmare. A defibrillator is keeping her alive. This cannot be happening, but yet it is very real.

No one knows she can hear what they are saying. She desperately is crying out for help. She is blinking and no one seems to notice. She needs "help" for her daughter. She is haunted, desperate, and tormented. What happened to her beautiful girl?

Had everyone given up on Evie? They only talked as they had personal knowledge about their family. Evie's terrible, neglectful mother and her unhappy home. She must think back to before it even happened.

" . . . For one day very soon, you will wake up to the realization that the horror has only just begun."

Flashing back and forth from three years earlier to the present, readers slowly learn the backstory and it unravels.

Toni Cotter’s husband Andrew was killed in a freak accident in Afghanistan. As a single mom, taking care of her daughter she is stressed, with money problems and her grief of being left alone. She takes comfort in the little pills left over from her husband’s accident to help her get through.

With the bills mounting she is forced to move, look for a job, and change Evie’s school. These life changing moments created more havoc. She had to move closer to her mom for help- for a fresh start.

As they say, when you are desperate, trouble has a way of seeking you out and sticking to you. The new neighborhood is not so safe, nor the school. Especially the teacher’s assistant. She feels guilty.

She had dragged her daughter from a respectable neighborhood to live next to a convicted criminal. She did not have very many friends or a support group to turn to. Even her own mom appears critical of her actions. She needs to keep her job to help them survive.

Between the malicious wasps, and the crazy teacher’s assistant, Harriet Watson from St. Saviour's Primary School, with her own psycho-problems — bullying Evie, Toni, and Toni’s mom, Evie’s constant whining about not wanting to go back to the school, and afraid— as well Toni trying to balance work and home life, and a new job— she begins relying more and more on the little pills. She is in a sleepy haze most of the time.

Others are watching her every move.

We slowly learn why Toni is hospitalized. Her daughter has been missing for three years. Everyone has given up on her. Toni must set things right. She must protect and find her daughter.

How will she do this when they could take her off life support. No one knows she is trying to be heard, trapped in her own body. Someone is out to get her. Are the police even still looking for her?

The question. Who, and why? There may be more than one person on her trail and now she must delve deep to solve this mystery and rescue her daughter. Take back the life which was brutally ripped from her.

In the blink of an eye, one day she receives a phone call regarding her mom. She had an accident and cannot pick up Evie from school on time. Toni must leave work to tend to her mom at the hospital and is late picking up Evie. She tried calling and no one answered. Evie is gone. No trace. How could she vanish? She had let down her own daughter.

At the time, she has no idea someone is controlling everything around her. Nothing is by accident. It is carefully planned, orchestrated, and manipulated.

A ruthless psychopath wants revenge.

Slater delivers a strong second novel, keeping the tension high; however, some parts were slow and dragging a bit--and the ending felt rushed; however, overall a solid thriller with a nice twist you are not expecting. An author to follow. Highly recommend both books.

In our day of social media where everyone’s life is on display, when in the wrong hands, of a psychopath, this could mean danger for the person in question and all those close and dear to them. Some people will go to great lengths for revenge. They can destroy. Guard you lives. A cautionary tale. Be careful of routines. They may kill you.

In addition to the reading copy, also purchased the audiobook, narrated by Lucy Price-Lewis delivering an entertaining performance especially for the characters of Toni, Harriet, and Evie.

I enjoyed reading the author's inspiration behind the book. It is true how the public and press are interested in how parental error may have contributed to events, rather than in debating the actual issue of —by whom the child has been taken.

So easy for someone to take advantage of a parent, child, teen, or anyone when they are in a bad place. Their defenses are down. Gullible. They trust, to easily when they are not thinking correctly. When someone is struggling or grieving. Someone they trust with their lives, their children. How do you cope with a tragedy and the crippling guilt? In today's world when everyone expects a parent to be perfect.

For fans of Clare Mackintosh's I See You. Someone may be watching.

A special thank you to Bookouture and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

JDCMustReadBooks

 

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2016/12/01/Blink
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review 2017-02-22 00:29
The Mother's Promise
The Mother's Promise - Sally Hepworth

By: Sally Hepworth 

ISBN: 9781250077752

Publisher: St. Martin's Press 

Publication Date:  2/21/2017 

Format: Other 

My Rating:  5 Stars 

 

Master storyteller, Sally Hepworth returns following The Things We Keep (2016) landing on my Top Books of 2016 and Secrets of Midwives (2015) all 5 stars, with an unforgettable story of courage, THE MOTHER'S PROMISE.

Richly told. Memorable and poignant. An emotionally-charged portrayal of motherhood friendship, and love — in the midst of tragedy. Hepworth digs deeply into the ties of love, between both family and strangers. Mixed with humor, the author knows how to grab you by the heartstrings and never let's go.

“With what price we pay for the glory of motherhood.” – Isadora Duncan

Set in Atherton, CA, a twenty-minute drive from Silicon Valley, Alice Stanhope is a giving and caring single mom. Barely forty. Her her job has been taking care of others.

Alice has her own business, taking care of elders. She is not a nurse; however, she offers in-home help to the elderly. She keeps them company, cleans and runs errands. Her daughter Zoe is now fifteen. They are extremely close. The dad is not in the picture and we later learn the details. Let me say, the twist surprise at 90% was an added bonus surprise, a shocker.

As the book opens, Alice receives some devastating news. She has ovarian cancer. She seemed to have a knack for attracting illnesses and ailments that required just enough investigation to be financially and emotionally draining. It was happening again. She exercises and eats well. How could she have cancer?

Both her parents have passed away. Her brother, Paul is an alcoholic. Her mother died of ovarian cancer. She has no one, except for Zoe. She has lived her life alone. Just mother and daughter. Zoe is not a normal teenager, so she has to protect her. She needs to keep the surgery, and cancer news to herself. Zoe cannot be a support person for her. Alice wasn’t going to need someone. Zoe was.

How would she get to her appointments, chemo, the surgery? How can she die? What will happen to Zoe? She could not turn to her brother since he was drunk most of the time. She did not have a single person she felt she could nominate to walk beside her in what was going to be the hardest journey of her life.

Now she has met her nurse, Kate. Kate knew there was one thing that a patient needed more than a doctor, more than a nurse, even more than medicine, and that was a mother. Someone had to fight for them. Kate had a mother only when she was a toddler, and she recalled her mom’s nurse. Now she had to be a mother to her patients.

Kate in her mid-thirties, has her own issues. From one miscarriage after another. Her husband, David, and his two children her stepchildren—of his own (Jake and Scarlett). She longed for a baby. She fantasized about the day she would have a child of her own. She currently is pregnant again; however, will she be able to carry it to term?

Zoe, age fifteen has the normal teenage issues; however, her situation is magnified. She has Social Anxiety Disorder. No one understands. Like being anchored to damp sand. Like waiting for the next wave. You want to turn and look, to see what’s coming, but you can’t move. You don’t know. You wait helplessly, envisioning the worst. She yearns to be invisible. Everyone thought she was weird. Every day is a struggle to deal with her anxiety.

Currently, due to her circumstances, the hospital is bringing in a social worker, Sonja. Sonja is not the normal social worker. She gets Botox, she is married to a wealthy man. He is abusive. However, she stays with him. She should know better. After all, she works with women in this same situation. Happiness was something you shared, chatted about, asked after. "Suffering was something that you had to do behind closed doors, in silence, all alone."

How will Zoe survive without Alice? Alice is Zoe’s safe place. How will all these characters connect? What will they learn from one another? Will Alice’s past catch up with her during the worst possible time?

An entertaining tale of parental love, motherhood, friendship, loss. Piercing and uplifting at the same time. Well-researched, suspenseful, thought-provoking and character-driven, this cast of resilient heroines will inspire readers and renew their faith in humanity.

Even though I had to re-live some of the painful and loving times with my mom and her three- year battle with cancer (she passed away in Aug 2016), her bravery reminded me a lot of Alice. What great characters: Kate, Alice, Zoe and even Sonja. A beautifully written story –the unbreakable bonds, and characters which remain with you long after the book ends. A beautiful book for Mother’s Day and an ideal choice for books clubs and further discussions.

The author has a rare talent of taking wounded souls and pairing them with just the right person. Fans of Catherine Ryan Hyde, Diane Chamberlain, Lisa Genova and Jodi Picoult will find a lot to love here.

Highly recommend the author and all her books. Loved the inspiration behind the book. Sally is "tops" when it comes to writing about Mothers. A rare gift. She has a special way of making you fall in love with her characters.

I also listened to the audiobook, narrated by Barrie Kreinik for an outstanding performance.

A special thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for a complimentary reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

JDCMustReadBooks

 

 

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2016/10/04/The-Mothers-Promise
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review 2017-02-20 15:57
Invisible Planets
Invisible Planets: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation - Ken Liu

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

An interesting collection of science-fiction stories by Chinese authors—I didn't like all of them, but none was particularly bad either, and the themes and places they dealt with offered different perspectives on what I'm used to see throug a more "westernised" prism. I found both similarities and differences gathered here, making those stories familiar in parts, and a journey in unknown territories in others.

"The Year of the Rat": 3/5
Quite creepy in its theme (students without much of a job prospect are enlisted to fight mutant rats whose intelligence and abilities may be more than meet the eye), and in its conclusion, although I would've appreciated a bit more insight in the exact reasons why the whole situation turned like that.

"The Fish of Lijiang": 3/5
By the same author, and another take on a society where freedom is only an illusion, where everybody and everything is at their designed place.

"The Flower of Shazui:" 2/5
An ex-engineer who fled his designated area tries to help a prostitute whose desires aren't necessarily in check with her partner's. Still interesting, but less exciting?

"A Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight": 4/5
The author later mentioned a few inspirations for this story, and I agree, for I could feel them (especially the Miyazaki-like tones of a district/street full of "ghosts", souls in robot bodies gradually getting discarded). I really liked the atmosphere in this one, and the sad ending was pretty fitting.

"Tongtong's Summer": 4/5
I read this one in another anthology already, but I liked it the second time round as well. Caretakers operate robots remotely in order to help elder people, and their increased role in society gives birth to other issues, but also to great hopes for a generation that, all in all, has still a lot to bring to the world. The characters were also attaching.

"Night Journey of the Dragon Horse": 2/5
A mechanical dragon and a bat go on a journey to bring back light to a dead world. Beautiful, but unfortunately a little boring.

"The City of Silence": 5/5
In a world become one State, what happens when so many words are forbidden that communicating becomes impossible?
Very chilling, because the way this State evolved is, in fact, extremely logical and cunning.

"Invisible Planets": 3/5
Glimpses into little worlds. I wouldn't mind seeing some of them explored more in depth... and at the same time, I feel they wouldn't have the same impact anymore if this was done? Very strange.

"Folding Beijing": 2/5
A city living in three different spaces, each alloted its own time of the day, and with inhabitants forbidden to cross from one space to the other. Which the main character wants to do, of course. Also interesting, however I felt the ending didn't have much of an impact on me. I kept expecting something more... dramatic?

"Call Girl": 3/5
The call girl's wares are fairly interesting here. I would've liked some more background about them, how she came to be able to provide such services.

"Grave of the Fireflies": 2/5
Loved the atmosphere, this rush through the stars to escape a dying universe, guided by the last queen of mankind... However the story itself felt too short and rushed.

"The Circle": 4/5
I could see where this one was going from the moment the gates were introduced, and I wasn't disappointed. I definitely liked how it was all brought.

"Taking care of God": 4/5
Depressing in a way, but dealing with a theme that I'd deem definitely different from my own 'western' vision, with taking care of one's parents and elders being part of culture in a way it isn't in my own corner of the world.

Conclusion: 3.5 stars

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review 2017-02-18 22:14
Class
Class - Lucinda Rosenfeld
ISBN: 9780316265416
Publisher: Little Brown & Co. 
Publication Date: 1/10/2017 
Format: Hardcover
My Rating: 4 Stars

 

Lucinda Rosenfeld's CLASS features New York, Karen Kipple as she struggles to balance the demands of motherhood and career, always convinced that she was shortchanging one or the other.

Married for ten years and for the last five Karen had been the director of development for a small non-profit devoted to tackling childhood hunger in the US. For the past two years, she had been trying to write an oped which she hoped one day to publish in a major newspaper, about the relationship between nutrition and school readiness.

Matt, her husband is also a career activist in the nonprofit sector and she is always worried about Ruby, her eight-year-old daughter’s education. She encourages her former lawyer husband to quit his job and work with low-income people to assist their housing needs.

Karen had enrolled her daughter at Betts, aware that it lacked the reputation for academic excellence of other schools nearby, but Ruby would be exposed to children who were less privileged than herself. Even though the white population of the school hovered around 25%. Being in the minority in what she had chosen. However, was he sacrificing her education? Diversity or inferior education?

She had always aspired to a life of making a difference and helping those less fortunate than herself. She tried to live in accordance with the politics and principals, which of course included the notion that public education was a force for good and that without racially and economically integrated school, an equal opportunity couldn’t exist.

Ruby was smart and a voracious reading and life should be good. Karen, an advocate for non-food additives and chemicals as well as diversity. She has a nice condo, hubby, and daughter, Karen’s life seemed to be good in New York; however, she is unhappy.

“Karen’s complex and contradictory relationship to eating had also grown more in the last few years, along with weight, teeth, and marriage—somehow become a dividing line between the social classes with the Earth Day — esque ideals of the 1960s having acquired snob appeal, and the well-off and well-educated increasingly buying “natural” and “fresh” and casting aspersions on those who didn’t.”

Then when a classmate of Ruby’s transfers out of Betts to a more privileged school of white students, all of Karen’s earlier thoughts and commitments, quickly vanished. Her husband wants a divorce because she enrolled Ruby in a new school without telling him.

Following the lead, she moves Ruby and then begins an affair with a rich guy, Clay, among other things. More lies. Her emotions are all over the board. Karen is torn between social classes, seeing the poor living in shelters and the rich and their superficial ways. Hypocrisy. Guilt.

She was capable of paying hundreds of dollars for an espresso machine from Italy, Karen had a deeply ingrained cheap streak as well, which caused her to do things like go to the library and photocopy the crossword puzzle from the Sunday paper rather than pay for a subscription.

Rosenfeld kicks butt and puts it all out there. With keen insights, raw honesty, a brutal portrayal ---the truth of our unequal society in urban America. With humor and highly-charged topics, the author hits the bull's eye, with CLASS.

I especially enjoyed the wide range of topics from privilege, class, identity, entitlement, education, politics, domestic, marriage, social economics, philanthropy—to ethical dilemmas, the author does not miss a beat in this delightful satire.

A tale of one woman’s struggle between the madness of liberal and reality. The lesson liberals need to learn is that despite their arrogance, they do not have the power to alter reality. From liberals to progressive—is equality among human race the exception, and inequality the norm?

Much to like here whether you are a modern-day urban parent, grandparent, or single. Smart, witty, engaging, absorbing, and thought-provoking! The hardcover was stunning with a perfect fitting cover. An ideal choice for book clubs and further discussions.

A special thank you to Little Brown & Co., Goodreads Giveaway, and NetGalley for a complimentary reading copy, in exchange for an honest review.

JDCMustReadBooks

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2016/12/01/Class
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