A well-written source

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Mindfulness for Insomnia: A Four-Week Guided Program to Relax your Body, Calm Your Mind and Get the Sleep You Need by Catherine Polan Orzech and William H. Moorcroft

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

This is a four-week program to help those who suffer from insomnia.  Insomnia can be such a vicious cycle – the less you sleep, the more anxious and stressed you become about not sleeping and therefore the less you sleep.  Mindfulness can help break that cycle.  I personally have been battling insomnia for many years and since I’ve started being more mindful during my days, my nights have been much better.

This is a daily program with a different meditation practice each week.  Unfortunately, although the book gave the website where the recorded meditation practice could be downloaded, the page given was not correct and I could not find the recorded practice.  I was at a disadvantage being able to only read the meditation practice each day and not listening to a recording as I meditated and I’ll be unable to review that portion of the program.  The meditation practices that I read each week were mostly standard practices.

The program used in this book is called GMATI – Guided Mindfulness with Acceptance Treatment for Insomnia.  The book is written in easy-to-understand language.  Any practice that helps to calm the mind and focus on the present would be helpful in improving your sleep and this one is a well-written source.  It will help you understand why you don’t sleep and how to work with your mind and your body to help overcome that unwanted thought process.

Recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

 

Enchanting love story

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Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

In 1937 when Joe Reynolds first meets Nora Lansing in Grand Central Station, he’s not sure what to make of her. She’s dressed as a flapper and her clothing is looking quite shabby. She has no coat nor does she have any baggage. As he’s walking her home, Nora disappears but Joe will meet Nora again – time after time – for many years to come. Nora tells Joe that the last thing she can remember is returning from Paris in 1925 and being in a subway accident. They soon learn that Nora’s appearance in Grand Central Station and hold on life is a tenuous one. Joe and Nora’s life together will be quite a unique one but always full of love.

This is a beautifully told and enchanting love story. I loved being a part of Joe and Nora’s magical world. I would have liked it to have ended differently and felt that the author’s ending just didn’t feel believable although I could certainly understand the pressures this love affair was under. I most loved all of the historical references the author weaved into her story. Living just an hour away from Grand Central Station, I’m amazed that I never heard of Manhattanhenge. I immediately looked up some videos but I’m sure none of them did the sight justice. I’ll just have to go see it for myself one day.

Recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

Dark, chilling tale of race violence and the KKK

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Gone Too Long by Lori Roy

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Beth is 10 years old and lives with her alcoholic mother in Georgia.  She’s been told to stay in the house and not go to the door when she’s home alone.   But she’s not alone one fateful day.  Her babysitter is there and that babysitter does go to the door and opens it.  That’s the day Beth disappears and thus begins a horrendous journey for her.

Imogene Coulter’s family is known for its connections to the Ku Klux Klan.  Edison Coulter, the man she calls Daddy, is one of its local leaders.  He’s being buried now but his legacy with the Klan continues with his son, Eddie, his daughter, Jo Lynne, and her husband, Garland.  Imogene tries to distance herself from this part of her family but when she’s asked by her mother to get rid of a wire that leads to her grandfather’s house, she’s tragically pulled into the family’s past and history.

This is a dark, chilling tale of violence against race.  This isn’t a typical thriller but rather an in depth character study of people whose oppose all that the KKK stand for but whose family members are involved in it.  Their lives and families are torn between these opposing forces.  My heart broke for Beth and the life she led after being taken from her home.  And Imogene, who is no stranger to tragedy herself, is so courageous and broken, she’d melt anyone’s heart.

What makes this book even more disturbing are the true life historical references the author places between chapters telling the history of the KKK.  The most chilling historical fact of all is the most recent one – the 2017 United the Right rally in Charlottesville.

Recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

 

Obsession in Hollywood

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The Paper Wasp by Lauren Acampora

Book Review:  3 out of 5 star review

Abby has high hopes for a career making movies but she’s still living at home with her parents and working at a local supermarket.  She keeps all magazine and newspaper articles about her friend, Elise, who has gone on to become a movie actress.  She meets Elise again at a school reunion and is thrilled that Elise not only remembers how close they were but wants them to become close again.  Elise gives Abby her phone number, swearing her to secrecy, and tells her to give her a call if she’s ever in LA.  Abby steals her parents’ credit card and surprises Elise in LA where she finds an Elise more vulnerable than Abby imagined.  Abby is pulled more and more into Elise’s world.  When things begin to shift in their relationship, Abby’s desires and ambitions take a strange turn.

I’ve always been attracted to books about obsession.  This one satisfies in that regard.  Abby’s obsessions with Elise makes for an absorbing read.  Abby is a character who at first I felt sympathy for but she soon becomes a much darker character.  The end gave me chills as unbelievable as it was and played out as obsessions so often do.

On the negative side, a large part of this book is about dreams and their meanings.  Abby believes she has dreams that foretell the future and that when she dreams of people, they are actually there and that they are dreaming the same dream.  I had a hard time staying focused during these forays into fantasy.  Abby actually becomes a member of the Rhizome, an organization who interviews its members about their dreams.  It was very strange and I can’t say I enjoyed these sections of the book much.

While parts of this book were well worth the time spent, as a whole it didn’t leave much of an impression on me and is not one that I would recommend.  It felt a bit too much like a Young Adult or Chick Lit, although on the dark side, for me.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

 

Poetical masterpiece

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Tell Me Who We Were: Stories – Kate McQuade

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

Mr. Arcilla, a language teacher at an all-girls boarding school, has drowned and it has sent his young students spinning.  Lilith, Claire, Romy, Grace, Evie and Nellie struggle to find understanding of this loss as Mr. Arcilla was their first true love.  They learn that Mr. Arcilla was nude when he was found and that leads them to believe he had been with his lover that evening and they try to work out who that would have been.  This defining moment in their young lives will have an effect on them their entire lives.

This is a series of interconnected short stories following the lives of these young girls.  The stories are inspired by myths about women.  This author is a fearless one and she has her finger on the pulse of what being a woman is all about.  Although these women may have led different lives from mine, I recognized each of them in a deep way.  She covers all areas of women’s lives – their young girlhoods, their loves, their marriages, their desire and fear of having children, their losses and even a bit of their afterlife.

There is such beauty and magic in this book that I don’t even want to start another book for a few days.  I just want this one to sit simmering in my heart for awhile.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

 

 

Witty satire on the power of the imagination

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The Ditch by Herman Koch

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Robert Walker (though that’s not his real name) is the Mayor of Amsterdam.  He’s been happily married for many years to Sylvia (thought that’s not her real name).  At a New Year’s Eve party, Robert sees his wife talking to one of his aldermen, laughing at a joke, and despite the fact that he has absolutely no grounds for his suspicions, he’s sure they’re having an affair.  And off he goes on a paranoid journey that may cost him more than he thinks.  Or maybe not.

What a fun, thought provoking book this was!  I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Koch’s wit and humor in this one, even more so than in his previous books which I also enjoyed.  I thought it was all very clever and engaging.  Despite its humor, it also touches on some serious issues, including what is apparently the Netherlands’ loose idea on euthanasia of the elderly.  That part of the book gave me chills rather than tickling my funny bone.  But even how that all ended up left me chuckling.  Herman Koch’s words expertly crawl into your mind to mess with it.  And oh that ending!  It left me with more questions than I started out with but I thought it was perfect for such a mind altering experience as this book was.  I’m not normally a fan of satire but I do like the way that Herman Koch serves it up.

Recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

 

When babies become a commodity

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The Farm by Joanne Ramos

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Golden Oaks seems to offer a wonderful opportunity to young, healthy women who need money.  The review process is extensive but if you’re lucky enough to be chosen to enter its gates, you’ll have great health care, organic food, massages every day and wonderful fitness equipment.  Plus regular pay checks and a huge bonus at the end of your stay.  And all you have to do is deliver a healthy baby for someone else.

Jane is from the Philippines.  She has a little girl she is willing to do anything for and wants to give her a better life.  Jane is one of the lucky ladies accepted into Golden Oaks.  But she soon learns that there is a heavy price to pay in return for the promises made to her.

I enjoyed this story of these women and their stay at Golden Oaks.  Some of the women, like Jane, were looking for a better life for their loved ones.  Some were hoping to give women unable to bear children of their own what they so longed for – a healthy baby.  Some were just looking to make what they thought would be an easy buck.  However, as with anything involving money, greed pokes its head into their plans.  This is a slow book.  This is not a thriller as some reviewers have mentioned though there are suspenseful moments.  It’s more of a look into the hearts of these women who are being used to produce what wealthier people want.  I did not care for the ending at all but I can understand how it was plausible.  This is a well-written, thought-provoking novel about women and class.

Recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

 

Well-written book about a lesser known Nazi

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The Hollow Bones by Leah Kaminsky

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Ernst Schafer was a German zoologist, hunter and explorer with a beautiful wife, Herta.  In the 1930’s, Heinrich Heimler became interested in Schafer and his work.  The SS funded an expedition of scientists to Tibet in a quest to find the origins of the Aryan race in the Himalayans with Schafer in the lead.  But soon the horrors of the Nazi regime began and Schafer is pulled into the manipulative world of Hitler.

When Ernst was a young boy, he and Herta were best friends.  When they met again as adults, they fell in love and were so happy together.  When they decided to marry, they were told that Herta would have to go to a German bridal school to learn how to be a good German wife.  As much as I’ve read about that period in time, I was shocked at how extensive and rigid this schooling was.  But Herta wanted to be Ernst’s wife so she went along with all they threw at her.  But after their marriage, Ernst begins to change.  It’s fascinating to watch the corruption of Ernst by the Nazi regime and sad to see how that corruption begins to eat at Ernst and Herta’s marriage.

The Nazis’ intolerance of imperfection is well known.  Herta had a sister with some disabilities and there was quite a bit included in the book about her, the secrecy the family felt they had to keep and her ultimate disappearance.

One of the narrators of this book is a Panda that Ernst shot and stuffed and placed in a museum.  This was a very unique way to let Ernst’s animal victims have a voice in this book.  I do warn fellow animal lovers that there is a lot of killing of animals, mostly birds, in this book, along with hunting and taxidermy.  It made the book a difficult topic for me to read but it was a fascinating story of a Nazi that I had not read anything about before.

Recommended.

This book was given to me by the author in return for an honest review.

 

A mind-bending tale of memory and time

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Recursion by Blake Crouch

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

A new phenomenon has started throughout the world – False Memory Syndrome.  Victims have memories of a whole other life they’ve led and it’s driving many of them completely mad. One of those victims is Ann Voss Peters and she’s sitting on the edge of a high rise building ready to jump.  Detective Barry Sutton tries to talk her off of the edge but he isn’t able to save her.  Barry understands despair as he lost his 15-year-old daughter, Meghan, in a hit and run accident.  Barry begins to look into this False Memory Syndrome and is unwillingly pulled into a life-altering experience.

Eleven years before, neuroscientist Helena Smith is working on a memory chair that she hopes will help her mother who has Alzheimer’s as well as others with this disease.  When she’s approached by Marcus Slade with an irresistible offer of full funding for her research, she readily accepts.  She lives to regret this decision when Slade’s concept of her memory chair differs greatly from hers and she may have to destroy her dream to save the world.

You always know that when you pick up a book by Blake Crouch, you’ll be in for a unique experience.  This is his best work yet.  My fascination with this thrilling story never lagged at any time.  This book has a beauty to it that I didn’t expect.  This is an in depth study of grief and time and memory and is so much more than a thriller.  The love story is an emotional one.  Crouch never fails to make his readers look at the world in a whole new way.

Most highly recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.