Monday, September 27, 2010

Reviews Cruise - Join Me! / Denial ~ Asta in the Wings ~ Knowing Jesse

Reviews stockpiled?  Bored with the same 'ol same 'ol?  Love reading but not too keen on writing reviews? Yeah, me too. So I thought I'd go on a Reviews Cruise to liven things up, relieve the pressure, and make more time for reading.  Short but sweet and a few at a time.  Sounds like a vacation, doesn't it? 

(Want to cruise with me?  See details at end of post.)

Jessica Stern is the author of this memoir published in June 2010 It's about the author's rape at age 15 by a stranger at gunpoint in her own home.  Her 14-year-old sister was also raped. The police were skeptical of their story and the rapist was never caught. Interestingly, the author now works as an expert on terrorists and terrorism.  Overall I thought the book was okay.  I liked the psychological and PTSD aspect of the story, as well as the how, when, where and what happened. I liked how she related her father's trauma and after-effects of his being a Holocaust survivor to hers. PTSD is real, and I'm intrigued by the way people process trauma and how it shapes their lives forever. It was interesting that the author became a terrorist expert because, as she says, she was "fascinated by the secret motivations of violent men, and I'm good at ferreting them out." After the violent rape at age 15, she experienced an unusual reaction to fear; situations that most people would find terrifying caused her to retain her composure, become curious and empathetic. This "ability" created a perfect environment for making terrorists feel comfortable and getting them to talk. What I didn't like was how the author came across. I know it has much to do with the rape and subsequent PTSD - but her resentment, mostly towards her father, made her come across as unlikeable and emotionless. I felt bad for her father against whom she obviously still holds a grudge for not coming home from overseas immediately after the incident. He admits he didn't know what to do or how to help, but it happened 30 years ago. There's nothing he can do to change that. I also didn't like that she dragged him into the book so much at the end, detailing their "interview", when he obviously wasn't happy she wrote the book in the first place. I do hope she found healing from writing this book.

I won this book from NerdGirl in a contest, which I entered because I had seen the title around, heard good things about it and was interested in the topic.  I don't know if I'd recommend this book to my friends.  For me it was just okay and I rated it 3.5 / 5


Knowing Jesse:  A Mother's Story of Grief, Grace, and Everyday Bliss

Marianne Leone is the author of this memoir published in September 2010.  It's about a woman and her husband and life with their son who was born with severe cerebral palsy and quadriplegia, was unable to speak and had severe seizures.  He died suddenly at age 17.  Overall I loved it.  I liked her writing style and the emotional, honest story she told. She admitted her shortcomings and came across as real but likeable. The love she had for her son was overwhelming, protective and beautiful.  She fought courageously for him to receive the best medical care, the best support system and caretakers, and the best education available.  There wasn't anything about this book I didn't like

I got this book from the library and chose it because of the synopsis and because I love memoirs.  I'm a sucker for stories about mothers and their children and how they are able to see the blessings in a situation others may see as a burden.  I would definitely recommend this book to friends and I rated it 5/5.

Asta in the Wings

Jan Elizabeth Watson is the author of this novel published in February 2009It's about a 7-year-old girl and her 9-year-old brother who are kept in their boarded-up home by their mentally ill mother, who tells them she is protecting them from germs and "the plague." The story is told from 7-year-old Asta's point of view.  Overall I really liked it.  I liked how the mother encouraged her children to have a rich and creative imagination. She was cool in a weird way. Or weird in a cool way. Her children were "home-schooled" by watching and reciting line after line of old movies on TV, stemming from the mother's desire - and fueled by her delusions - to become an actress. She was quite a character :)  I loved Asta's spunk and determination, her willingness to overcome obstacles, her love for her brother, Orion, and her unconditional love for her mother, who did the best she could for her children despite her mental illness.  At first I wasn't sure I'd like this book. It was quirky and a little bizarre at the beginning. But once I got to know the children better and fell in love with the writing - the author paid great attention to detail but kept everything so on track - I didn't want it to end.  The only thing I didn't like and what kept it from being 5 stars was the ending, which was too abrupt for my taste.

I got this book from the library and chose it because Rebecca from ccq designs, a friend on Goodreads, gave it 5 stars, something she rarely does.  I had to check it out.  I also chose it because I'm intrigued by all things related to mental illness, child abuse and social issues.  I would recommend this to any of my friends, especially if they like quirky little books that normally they wouldn't pick up.  I rated it
4.5 / 5.

I don't have a button, but feel free to "take" your own Reviews Cruise and link up if you'd like.  Just mention my blog at  (copy and paste that there url). You can use my review format (provided below) or your own.  Remember, this is a stress-free, no pressure cruise, so make it simple and easy.   I'm button-challenged so this cruise is button-free :)

____________ is the author of this _______(genre) published in _____________.  It's about _______.  Overall I _______.  I liked ____________.  I didn't like __________.  I got this book from _______ and chose it because ___________ I would/wouldn't recommend this book.  I rated it ___________.

No cruise?  That's okay.  Would love to hear comments about the books I reviewed.


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