Book Review: Twenty-One Trees by Linda Cousine

30331041I honestly can’t remember how I acquired Twenty-One Trees by Linda Cousine, but I do remember devouring it pretty quickly! I think it was another I “bought for free” on Amazon after seeing it advertised on Twitter. I have a book-hoarding problem, and I know it. At least e-books don’t take up space in my house…the books are getting displaced by children!

In any case, it’s a story of a husband and wife, Birdy (James) and Savannah Johnson and the path their lives and the lives of their four children take after Savannah ends up with dissociative amnesia; her memory of the past seven years–their entire marriage–is completely gone, and the last she remembers is being a rich beauty-pageant star engaged to her high-school boyfriend. She has no recollection of marrying Birdy, of having had their four children, or that they were quite poor.

I have to be honest and say that I didn’t particularly care for Savannah. I found her spoiled and selfish and sometimes just downright mean. As the story unfolds, however, I gained a respect for her efforts to embrace motherhood and a greater empathy as more is revealed about her past; I certainly can understand her battles with post-partum depression. Birdy is an admirable character and so often I thought that Savannah didn’t deserve his love and devotion.

It becomes clear, however, that they are both broken people (who isn’t, really?), doing their best to live life while accounting for the burdens of their pasts. Ultimately the book is a story of love and life; of how adulthood brings unforeseen challenges in life; of how important personal growth and emotional well-being are for the health and strength of a marital relationship. It’s not a “light” romance by any means, but I would definitely call it a realistic love story.

The story is well-crafted and I was very invested in the outcome, despite my dislike for Savannah. Overall, I’d say I liked it, not loved it, but it’s worth a read if you’re up for something that’s often emotionally heavy but speaks to the power of enduring love. I’d also be up for reading another of Linda’s books in the future!

4 stars!

Book Review: Spaghetti Head by Sarah Tyley

I’ve probably said a million times that one of the things I love about being a book-blogger is the opportunity to read new and interesting books by indie authors. Spaghetti Head by Sarah Tyley is a perfect example of why!   
Spaghetti Head

I received an ARC of the book from Sarah after weighing in on her book blurb via Twitter and I’m SO GLAD I volunteered to take the few minutes to comment on her blurb and get to “meet” Sarah, and through her, Nell and Sid/Cyd.

This book truly defies classification. There are sci-fi elements, as it’s set in the future with all sorts of new technology and gadgets — some of it scares me, to be honest. I’ve read and blogged a bit about AI before – freaks me out. No doubt it takes a lot of creativity to come up with the future world and all it’s accompanying technological advances (which, truthfully, seem mostly plausible).

Beyond sci-fi, there’s the whole post-apocalyptic thing – which really is two-fold. First, there’s the new world order and governance structure (The System) that comes about. Tyley creates an entirely new system of world government, taking gender, technology, and–she seems to argue–inevitable power struggles into account. Along with this, she adeptly brings to life the societal structures and shows us how people actually live in this new world order. The second and equally important part of the post-apocalyptic story: what was The Disaster? This Tyley does equally well. It’s introduced very creatively, weaving the backstory seamlessly into the action of the story. It’s also very believable — I think most readers are at least vaguely familiar with the natural phenomenon (no spoilers!) that Tyley employs to bring about the destruction of the Earth as we know it. It was one of my favorite parts, a super important and fully-fleshed out history for what could easily have been treated as an afterthought to the story.

Sci-fi, apocalypse… what else? Romance! Motherhood! Relationships! These are central themes without being so overpowering that the book would only appeal to women. The book has so many angles to it that I think it could be universally enjoyed.

The parts of the book that are most memorable and with which I identify the most involve mental health and mental health treatment. Nell attends a multi-week mental health “retreat” of sorts to help her deal with her inner voice and unravel the “spaghetti” in her head. The mental imaging techniques used in the treatment would be AMAZING if they truly existed – I couldn’t help but wonder what my own treatment would look like with such techniques available. Having experienced a significant amount of intensive mental health treatment, I also felt that Tyley’s portrayal of therapy techniques, as well as the characters’ varying paths to recovery–including how much effort they must expend, even when treatment is “over”–were spot-on just like so much of the rest of the book. It’s believable and really realistic.

Overall, there are so many complicated aspects to the novel that Sarah Tyley weaves together flawlessly. I am impressed by the creativity and depth of knowledge she demonstrates in writing such a complicated and yet utterly relatable story, not to mention the incredible amount of effort it must have taken to put that story into words and edit it to a point where it reads so smoothly!

Five stars!

** Thank you to Sarah Tyley for a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review!

Book Review: The House of the Soul by Annie Dawson

The House of the Soul: A Novel

Ok, friends, this book was SO GOOD that I’m seriously embarrassed it took me so long to review. I read this book almost all in one night, while I held my newborn on the couch because it’s the only way she’d sleep…I would have finished it all that night but my Kindle died around 3am and I was forced to watch TV instead. That child is now 18 months old… so, it’s been a LONG TIME. But anyway – the book!

This book was EXCELLENT. Part of the book synopsis says, “THE HOUSE OF THE SOUL is a journey of love, loss, and friendship, and a treasure map for anyone brave enough to embark on the precarious voyage of self-discovery.” And it’s true — but it spoke to me most because the central character is a mother. The book follows Ella as she struggles to figure out if there’s “more” to her than “Mom,” and how to reconcile her past (educated, photographer, Peace Corps volunteer) with her current life (stay-at-home-mom of two). I think any woman who has struggled with motherhood and personal identity will identify with Ella’s struggle.

We follow Ella as she struggles with friendships, her marriage, and herself and ultimately see that it’s only Ella who has lost her ability to see all the varied parts of herself. Her true friends and her husband know and recognize Ella for the woman she was, is, and will continue to be.

I identified David (her husband) with my husband for the care and love he shows Ella both in allowing her to explore her own insecurities and struggles and in the support he shows for her as a person.

Beyond the sort of heavy life themes, the book appears to be semi-autobiographical and gives us some insights into life as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ghana, which is super interesting!

Overall, fantastic book – well-worth a read, particularly for women in the throes of the self-evolution that comes with parenting!

Five stars!

(Sorry, I forgot to mention: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest–though very belated–review. Thank you!)