Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum

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Anna is an American ex-pat in her late 30’s who is living in Switzerland with her husband and three young children. Outwardly she leads a pretty idyllic life in a beautiful suburb of Zurich. She is morose, without purpose and is joyless. She has struggled by with learning little German, which makes communication and interaction difficult. She just floats along in life. She has a string of affairs, which are just as empty as she is. She has become a consummate liar and can compartmentalize her affairs from the rest of her life. She feels that the lack of attention and love she receives from her husband is justification for her affairs. She has run away from things her entire life and even lies to herself about it. She is an empty shell of a person.

This woman is struggling through her life; she is depressed and clearly mentally ill. She tries to fill a never ending hole in her life but the more she can’t fill it the more she spirals out of control. After 9 years of living in Switzerland she finally attends German classes. As she learns more of the language she starts to interact more but even this is too little too late. When she finally decided to change her life, thinking things will get better, things get more out of control.

In some ways I can relate to Anna, as far as moving to a different country and struggling to fit in. It’s hard to make friends in a country where you speak the language, never mind in one where you don’t. When she did have moments of intense joy she let it consume her and wash over her. She would be unable to contain herself and thought she would burst from the sheer wonder of it all. Then it would all come crashing down on her as she feels she doesn’t deserve to be happy. She would question her psychoanalysis about God, morals and the after life. God was brought into the story but even then if Anna didn’t or couldn’t find the answers she wanted then she would despair more.

I found it hard going in some parts of this book. The sections where Anna is speaking to her annalist were just thrown into the middle of a paragraph. One story line would be going on while there would be a flashback within a flashback thrown in at the same time and you would struggle to figure out just what was going on. This book has a lot of internal monolog from Anna, which makes the story, but the randomness of things makes me wonder if the author is trying to let you into the workings of Anna’s mind, if that’s the case she did an amazing job of it. This isn’t an easy book, it’s a dark read in some ways.

ARC received from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

4/5 stars

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The Shell Collector by Hugh Howey

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Oil drilling in the oceans has devastated fish and shellfish to the point of extinction for most species. Beaches have disappeared, parts of the country have been flooded due to rising sea levels and one man’s family are the ones who brought about this global change.

Maya Walsh is a journalist who loves shelling, looking for rare and beautiful shells that have been slowly disappearing during her lifetime. She has been running a story about Ness Wilde and his family who own Ocean Oil. Ness has the larges collection of shells in the world; something that she, and the FBI think is dabbling in the illegal. She wants to bring him and his family’s past into the light with a hard hitting expose on how they have brought about the change to cause rising sea levels and hates what they have done to the planet. She is asked by the FBI, who want to know about his shelling, to inform them of what is said during a series of interviews set up with Ness.

Ness Wilde has been a recluse for the past 4 years. He is passionate about the ocean and the dwindling life in it. He is also a passionate sheller and is always looking for new shell life. He has set up a series of interviews with Maya to set the record straight about what he is doing and about his family’s past.

What happens along the way isn’t what either of them expects and what starts off as a news story morphs into something completely different. Will their shared love of the ocean and the truth bring them together or….?

I have to say that Hugh really wrote a passionate love story of the ocean and the life it contains. He has brought to the forefront the possibility / probability of what would or could happen with the way global warming is going, the constant oil drilling in the seas and mans disregard for the planet. It’s not a preachy green book by any stretch of the imagination but it is thought provoking and that is something that Hugh does best. He makes you think about the things that could happen in our own lifetime and the consequences that could occur.

This book really touched me in the way it was written, the love of the ocean and it brought back memories of my own summers spent looking for shells in the summers I used to spend by the ocean. I swear I could almost smell the salt in the air when I was reading this. My love of the sea is strong and this book is a warning of things to come if we don’t change our ways.

ARC was provided by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

5/5 stars

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The Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley

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Matt was two years old when he first held Elle. They grew up together, sat out under the night sky and looked up at the stars when Elle said she wanted to be up there with them. But Elle also watched her mother slowly die of cancer and suffer needlessly; she swore she never wanted to be kept alive by machines or to suffer a slow death no matter what.

Matt became a neurosurgeon and Elle became an astronaut and lived her dream of going to the stars. They wanted to start a family but Elle suffered from an autoimmune condition that prevented her from carrying a baby to term and suffered a few miscarriages. A tragic accident leaves Elle brain dead and on life support, something she didn’t want, leaving a grieving Matt to disconnect her when he finds out she is pregnant.

What happens next is a legal battle which pits Matt, who wants to keep Elle on life support to bring the baby to term knowing that she would do anything to have a baby, against his mother Linnie a midwife, who knows of Elle’s desire to not be kept alive under such circumstances. It puts family member against family member and starts a long legal debate as to what Elle would want knowing she is pregnant.

This is a heartbreaking book but told with delicacy that the subject deserves. It is a case of what would you do for your loved one and family. This book brought out many emotions in me as my grandfather was found on the floor after suffering a massive heart attack, which with help from the EMT’s, left him alive but brain dead. My grandmother believed that he would come out of it, but the rest of us knew better. It took 6 long and painful weeks before she decided to let him go and be at peace. It is a hard subject to write about and do it with dignity as well. It is about love, hope, faith and trust.

This is a remarkable first book that was very well researched regarding the laws surrounding pregnant women who are brain dead, which vary from state to state. I cried in parts. It’s a thought provoking book that is also, in it’s own way, life affirming. I highly recommend this book

5/5 stars

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Book Review: Vintage by Susan Gloss

18090110 I read a pretty wide variety of books but one area I don’t read much in anymore is Women’s fiction or “Chick Lit” because when there was a huge amount out – around the time that Jennifer Weiner was huge – I worked at a Waldenbooks store. Which as a reader was so not a good idea, I pretty much wanted everything in the store and bought pretty much everything too. Anyways, Women’s Fiction was big then and I read a ton of it until the point that I could pretty much predict a plot twist and ending so I had to cease and desist before I started really hating the genre for being so formulaic. I’ve just now been able to get back into reading in the area.

This book definitely didn’t give me flashbacks to those older books in the genre that I remember reading so that was a good thing for me. Violet runs a vintage store that is a lifelong dream come true for her and something that she truly loves doing. She believes that every piece of old clothing has a story, and when she sells those old pieces she also sells those stories with them. She finds herself with lease issues threatening her livelihood and has no idea what to do. We are also introduced to a few of her patrons, April, Elizabeth and Amithi. All of their stories intertwine with the stories of the clothes to present a cohesive story of the vintage shop.

What really worked for me here was the different voices and different chapters being told from varying points of views. Sometimes that can be really jarring in a book but here it was interesting because while it was individual it was also relevant to the main story and wound together with the clothing as well. I liked how the clothing could really help the story come alive in a way that didn’t seem possible.

However, I wasn’t so sure about each chapter starting with a piece of clothing and who it was donated by. At first I liked this touch until it didn’t relate to the chapter and who was narrating at that time. It confused me after a while when I couldn’t connect the two. The other part that was confusing to me was the use of flashbacks. Between the different points of views we already got, the pieces of clothing and the various characters I thought the flashbacks were over the top and only served to jar me out of the scene. It seemed to me that the few that were included were not necessary.

I would say this was a sweet story and a quick read overall.

I received this ARC via Edelweiss in return for an honest review.

3 Stars

~Melinda

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