Something to mull over...

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

No such thing as "No strings attached" - White Lies by Susan Barrett

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

This is my first time to read a Susan Barrett book, but I enjoy psychological thrillers and dramas, so I accepted the review request.  It is a relatively short book as far as number of words.  However, the acceleration of emotional tension is immediate, and it turned out to be an intense and fully immersive reading experience, that it really did not feel like a short read.

The story revolves around a central complicated character – Beth.  She has had a hard, sad and depressing life, which she narrates via her thoughts, as she sits and waits as a guest at a wedding. She’s had two kids given up for adoption.  The circumstances of each adoption are individually heart-wrenching, so I do feel the depth of her emotions.  The wedding she is attending is that of her second child, Tess.  Beth had the chance to know Tess, so there is some level of relationship there.  However, as with all dark paths of life would have it, Beth has an ominous feeling that the groom-to-be, Michael, is actually her first child.  The thought of this possibility, and the convoluted mix of ugly relationships and events in her life, is what eats up Beth’s thoughts in anticipation of the actual wedding ceremony.  Should she speak up her fears and concerns?  What is the best thing to do in this situation?  

Beth’s life is just sad, and because of the way she recounted her past, I couldn’t help as a reader but be depressed.  I hated the abusers and co-dependents in her life.  I felt indignant about the disconnected parenting that she received.  Note that the story also expounded on the life and emotions of Liz, the adoptive mom of Tess, as well as the journey of Tess herself.  I “understood” their own life dramas and line of thinking, but I felt deeper for Beth.  The author, Barrett, is an excellent psychological writer.  She surely had a way of keeping me engaged with each character.

So basically, this story paints a fuller picture of the emotional intricacies of adoption.  I have an adopted brother, but he isn’t much of an emo kind of person.  However, this book makes me think outside of the obvious, and I wonder how much of his own knowledge of his adoption has affected his own life decisions.  I wonder how he really feels about everything and everyone involved.  I don’t necessarily want to go down the path of unearthing his deep-seated emotions, but should we cross that bridge, I hope I can navigate the interaction with compassion, empathy and a whole lot of sensitivity.

This is a life story, so there is no neat conclusion with every loose end tied up.  There is still a lot to think about.  Kudos to the author for creating a good, thought-provoking and book-club-material book.

My main takeaway:  Sometimes we feel like we can sweep things under the rug, accept and forget, and move on with life.  Sometimes we feel like partial versions of the truth are more considerate of people and situations, and that “all’s well and that ends well” is a good compromise.  However, truths about human relationships and interactions are never just one time events with a definite cut-off point.  “No strings attached” when it comes to relationships are never quite true.

This is definitely not airplane reading material.  This is good for a rainy day, when one just wants to soak in a bathtub of emotions.  You do get to “experience” the power of emotions, and your heart feels alive.  Passion and anger aren’t distant as you read this book.  It is not an easy read.  But the impact on me is more on gratefulness, and a resolve to be a connected parent to my kids.  

I personally will not recommend it to just anyone.  But I will recommend it to those that I know will grow from this reading experience, as I think I did.

Friday, March 31, 2017

James Clyde - a fantasy involving other worlds, kingdoms, forests, betrayals and magic diamonds!

My kids (grades 5 and 7) and I had the privilege of receiving a review copy of this book.  Our first impression was that this would be a typical grade school fantasy book - the cover seemed to indicate that this was a story for young children, since the illustrated boy looked like a 9-yr old in his pajama robe.  However, the positive reviews seemed to imply otherwise.  Upon reading it in full, we conclude that it is an age appropriate middle school book for 10-12 year old kids.  It had a few violent scenes (think of knight battles vs. forces of evil) but there were none of the tricky romantic innuendos.

This is a well narrated fantasy story which involves other worlds, kingdoms, forests, betrayals and magic diamonds.  The story moves quite fast, and there are questions that popped up in our minds as we read along.  Some of these questions are addressed later on due to the way the story timeline is structured.  However, there are a few that almost seem to refer to a basic understanding of the history behind the other worlds.  These are mentioned as myths or stories passed on through time, but we are unfamiliar with them.  The questions didn’t really impede the flow and excitement of the story, so we were able to read at a fairly fast pace.  There are elements of wonder and delight which are rare in most books nowadays.  The courage and bravado of James is impressive and believable.  We cannot disclose much since it may spoil the plot, but for those fond of comparisons, we felt a little bit of LOTR here, escape to witch mountain, knights of the round table and peter pan.  He he he - did I confuse you with this mash up - well, you will understand when you read it yourself.

Be advised beforehand that this is meant to be a series, given the open-ended conclusion.  There is an initial victory won, but it is far from being the end of the war between James and his family’s enemies.  Given the excellent writing style and clean content, we look forward to the rest of the story unfold.

Recommended for parents and kids who enjoy reading books together as part of family time.  

Available in Amazon.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Insane in the membrane witty antihero - Harley Quinn Vol. I: Die Laughing

I never really paid much attention to Harley Quinn in the past.  I just know that a close friend of mine dressed up as her character last Halloween.  Well, in this graphic novel, she is absolutely nuts, unpredictable, impulsive, brave, smart and outrageous.  I loved the back story, but I enjoyed even more the story of the alien-minced meat that transformed everyone into flesh-hungry entities aka zombies.  Great art work, witty banter, and cohesive storyline.  Highly recommended.

Graphic novel provided for review purposes.