My Absolute Darling

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My Absolute Darling (by Gabriel Tallent) is heavy and dark. But as a HUGE fan of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, I am not afraid of heavy and dark. In fact, I tend to gravitate to these kinds of stories.

I agree whole-heartedly with a tweet put out by All the Ugly and Wonderful Things‘ author, Bryn Greenwood, “If you only read books that make you feel safe and comfortable, what’s the point of reading?” Books, in my opinion, are meant to challenge us. To either affirm our beliefs, or better yet, to flip our world’s of thought upside down and inside out. To challenge our ways of thinking and to help us see a new perspective. Maybe, after reading a book that is opposite of our thinking, we change our point of view, but even more realistically, at the absolute very least, maybe it will instill just a little bit of empathy and compassion for certain people and/or situations. We can’t all have the same experiences in life, but we can all read about challenges and events that can, in turn, challenge us and our ways of thinking.

My Absolute Darling did challenge my thinking. From the very first pages, I was cringing at the lifestyle of Turtle and her father, Martin. In fact, one scene was so particularly disturbing that I had tears in my eyes (I NEVER do that!) and I literally had to read it one sentence at a time. I’d read a sentence, have to set the book down for a few minutes, and then, when I was brave enough to tackle another sentence, I’d pick it back up and read one more. It may have been the hardest reading I’ve ever read. When I finished the scene, my heart felt shattered. I know that sounds dramatic, but it was that intense.

There’s so much to say about this book and I don’t know where to start. In short, I’m really not sure if I liked it or not. Am I glad I read it? Yes, absolutely! The reasons I didn’t like it gravitate more towards the author’s choices than the actual story itself. I found Tallent’s writing style confusing and difficult to follow. It took a long time to find a rhythm with how he writes; in fact, that was probably the main reason it took me awhile to get through the book and almost made me mark it as “DNF” (Did Not Finish).

Another thing I didn’t really like about the book is all the unresolved issues. We never fully understand what happened to Turtle’s mother and why she isn’t around. Martin complains that his father is a terrible person and that he despises him, yet the grandfather presented to the readers seems like a very reasonable, even lovable, man. Turtle adores him and spends hours with him playing cribbage. This confused me and felt like a sloppy disconnect on the author’s part. The timeline of the book was hard to follow. At one point, Martin just ups and disappears but I couldn’t tell if he was gone for a week or several months. It isn’t made clear until further on in the story – almost past the point of caring. Lastly, when Martin reappears, he has another person with him and it’s never fully explained how that relationship came about either.

So what did I like about the book? Mainly, the characters. Tallent does a beautiful job developing characters with depth. Turtle is multi-faceted – on one hand, she’s very independent and strong. She can handle a gun better than her father and is an excellent markswoman. She knows how to fend for herself, living off the vegetation of the land around her when her father abandons her for months at time. She is smart and has the ability to think clearly when her life and a friend’s life is in danger. On another hand, she is very childlike and fearful. Due to years of child abuse (emotional, verbal, physical, and sexual) at the hands of Martin, she has very low self-esteem. She wavers in her love and her relationship with Martin – mostly because she has no idea that her situation isn’t appropriate or normal in any way. She lacks decisiveness when it comes to Martin – and that was frustrating (although realistic) as a reader when you can see how strong of a character she really is!

While Martin is a despicable character, Tallent does an excellent job on his development as well. I think it could be easy to fall into a trap of making a character like Martin very one-dimensional – he’s a creep – but Tallent forces us to see more than just that side of him. He shows us that Martin is incredibly selfish and suffers from extremely low self-esteem. He’s scared and insecure so he overcompensates that by being abusive in every way. He’s manipulative and untrustworthy. In short, Tallent does an excellent job of making the readers hate him.

While reading the book, all I could think about was how much I disliked it. But as I continued to read, and eventually find a rhythm with the story, it did grab my attention and forced me to become attached to the outcome. Ultimately, I was too invested in Turtle and had to see how her story played out. As she gained her confidence, her redeeming qualities captured my heart. Since finishing the book, I’ve found that my overall attitude towards it has softened more from “a book you love to hate” to a “book you hate to love”. It’s definitely got the All the Ugly and Wonderful Things vibe (although, admittedly, if forced to chose, AtUaWT would still be my recommendation over this one). It will make you cringe, it will make you cry, it will make you smile, and ultimately, it will make you so happy you read it!

 

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The Good Daughter

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This story had me so engrossed that I had to stay up super late just to finish it.

I had to know what happened!

Parts of the story were predictable, but it didn’t take away from the story in any way.

I love Slaughter’s description writing; however, some of her analogies were a little ridiculous and it almost seemed like she was trying too hard.

By the end of the book, I was attached to each of the characters, and I was genuinely interested in their stories. Also, this plot gives you two mysteries in one – there is the initial mystery into what happened almost thirty years prior, and the mystery of what happened during a school shooting that happened in the present day.

The two plots weave themselves in and out of each other’s boundaries, and the ending is an explosive conclusion that devastates you at the past – but leaves you with so much hope for the future.

Warning: Gun violence, school shooting, rape, graphic imagery!

The End We Start From

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Thank you to the publisher for a free digital copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. (Also, I won a finished copy of this book from a giveaway on Instagram.)

Talk about a beautiful book! The cover is stunning – gold foil that shimmers in the light?!!? Yes, please!

A few days after giving birth to her son, Z, a woman and her husband are forced to evacuate London as it floods. They are forced to become refugees as they go from shelter to shelter. As if new motherhood isn’t terrifying enough, this novel forces us to look at the bond and love between a mother and her child. While you’d expect it to be very dark and gloomy, the book is filled with love and hope. The mother’s spirit is strong and resilient as she raises a baby – that continues to grow despite the odds.

I didn’t expect to be captivated by this book. I misjudged its size (only 160 pages) as being puny. I wasn’t sure how good it could be with such little content. BUT, I WAS SOOOO WRONG! This {small} book packs a punch! I read it in one sitting because I could not walk away. I had to know what happened to this family!

As we as a global family face the uncertainties related to global warming and catastrophic weather events, this one is definitely worth adding to your list of must-reads!

 

Mental: Lithium, Love, and Losing My Mind

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Thank you to Net Galley for the free copy for review. All opinions are my own. 

Mental is an autobiographical look into Jaime Lowe’s experience living with a bipolar diagnosis. Like many stories that deal with mental illness, one of the biggest struggles always seems to be getting the medication regulated (see my post: Imagine Me Gone).

It’s heartbreaking to read how difficult this regulation can be for the patient. I have sympathy for the doctor’s that are trying to help, yet frustrated that we continue to push drugs on the patients. I don’t know what the right answer is because I do believe the drugs help regulate the symptoms; however, there does seem to be a limit to the amount of these drugs that should be prescribed.

Somehow, Lowe was able to get through college and establish her writing career. Her book is an intense, honest, and raw look into her struggle. It was difficult to read at times because i just felt so badly for everything she was going through. However, I was filled with hope that she was able to still experience a successful writing career.

 

The Power

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It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that makes me feel so dumb. I literally had the hardest time following what the heck was going on with this book. I kept persevering because I figured it would eventually come around, but it never did. I didn’t enjoy this book and I am seriously confused on what I missed because I’ve mostly seen rave reviews about this one on #bookstagram.

The basic premise of the book is interesting to me: women realize they have a secret power that basically flips our patriarchal society upside down. With this power, women no longer fear being harassed by men; in fact, men are now the ones who are scared to walk along the streets at night. Various countries even rise up where women have all the power – men must have a woman guardian, they are stripped of all their rights, and they answer to women for all their needs.

The concept is there and very intriguing to me, but the story just never fully developed for me. Because I found myself continually struggling to follow the story, it was hard for me to get engaged. I felt confused the entire time. I didn’t feel an overwhelming connection to the characters; ironically, I probably felt the most connected to the lone (major) male character, Tunde.

I believe there was so much potential for this storyline, but for me, it just wasn’t well-executed. I love the dystopian genre, so it goes without saying that I was excited for this one. As more people read it, I’m going to keep an eye on the reviews to see if I can find the missing piece for me…and who knows? After a reread, I may feel differently! Even though I’m not giving this a stellar review, I can tell it will be a book that sticks with me – and would provide lots and lots of book club discussion material.

Have you read Alderman’s The Power yet? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!

Refugee

“A calm came over Lito, as though he’d come to some sort of understanding, some decision. “I see it now, Chabela. All of it. The past, the present, the future. All my life, I kept waiting for things to get better. For the promise of mañana. But a funny thing happened while I was waiting for the world to change, Chabela: it didn’t. Because I didn’t change it. I’m not going to make the same mistake twice.”

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Wow! This is a powerful read geared towards upper middle school kids, but it should be required reading for all of humanity. The story follows three children and their families as they seek refuge somewhere outside of their home countries. I wanted to cry as I imagined myself in the same scenarios and how difficult and scary it must be. My mama heart hurts for all the other mama’s out there that are not raising their babies in a safe, secure home. 

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All of the stories are inspired by true events. Somewhere, at some point in time, families are living this. Hopefully, through stories such as this one, empathy and compassion are planted in our hearts. May we do better as we navigate a world that seems to live in perpetual chaos. 

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Thank you to the Diverse Books Club for suggesting this incredible book! I borrowed a copy from the library, but I will be buying a copy for my own personal library so I can introduce it to both of my children. I believe we can learn from the past and that history will repeat itself if we decide to bury our heads in the sand instead of being a voice of reason. 

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May we begin to lead with love – first and foremost. 

Turtles All the Way Down

Let’s not get in a fight or have a break up…let’s respectfully agree to disagree if we have to, but…Turtles All the Way Down? 😔 It just didn’t work for me. I didn’t find the plot, the characters, or the relationships believable in any sort of way. I know I’m in the minority here – and I’m trusting you won’t hold my opinion against me forever – but I’m just not sure John Green’s writing is for me. I felt similar feelings when I read The Fault in Our Stars. I don’t know…I haven’t read other books by him and I’m not overly motivated after having two very similar experiences. 

The storyline was so ridiculously unbelievable that I had a hard time getting past it in order to appreciate the characters. But even they fell flat for me. I mean, I understand that Aza has anxiety and it was interesting to “get inside the head” of a person who struggles with the thoughts she had, but her relationships were unrealistic. It’s just not the way high school kids interact or talk to each other, in my experience. 

While it was refreshing to read a story where the character actually gets along with her mother, there were still so many times where I had a hard time believing a mother would behave the way she did. I can’t say too much because I don’t want to give anything away, but many times it felt like Aza’s mother was more concerned with being a friend than being a mother. 

While I didn’t love the book, I will say there are lots and lots of worthy quotable quotes. Some of his statements are so profound that I found myself having to stop reading entirely so I could mull over what he’d written. I love that, and I can greatly appreciate that about his writing. 

I want to love John Green as much as the rest of you, but I’m thinking this time around, the breakup will be permanent. Even though I may be alone in this opinion, can we still be friends??