• Book Reviews,  mental health,  Personal,  Writing

    Wednesday Words & More: Untamed

     

     My therapist’s memo. I wouldn’t burn this one…

     

    What if we had missed The Memo?

    Or if the first person who got it, looked at it and realized it was a terrible idea and burned the memo?

    I burned the memo that defined selflessness as the pinnacle of womanhood, but first I forgave myself for believing that lie for so long…Selfless women make for an efficient society but not a beautiful, true, or just one. When women lose themselves, the world loses its way. We do not need more selfless women. (p. 75)

    I did a short review of Untamed here but I have a lot more to say. Specifically around anxiety and Glennon’s thoughts on the subject.

    Real talk: my anxiety is often all-consuming. Some of it comes from the belief that I must be selfless and available at all times. The rest of it is that I have lots to worry about.

    Some of it is real. Some of it is imagined. Some of it is planned – it is my worst case so I plan. Not because I want it to happen but because several of my worst case scenarios are no longer scenarios. They happened, I survived, but I must be on guard so they do not happen again to my family members or myself.

    I put on a good face and I try and stay busy. I love to read and I love to write. But the second life begins to flirt with the almost worst case scenario, I am not OK. I don’t read. I don’t write. And if it’s bad enough it can take me time to recover. I have always felt bad about this downtime.

    Maybe I shouldn’t.

    One of my favorite words is selah.

    Selah is found in the Hebrew Bible seventy-four times. Scholars believe that when it appears in the text, it is a direction to the reader to stop reading and be still for a moment, because the previous idea is important enough to consider deeply. (p.136)

    What are my reflections?

    What can I learn from the almost?

    What boundaries need to be set?

    What do I need to do to take care of myself?

    I live with two people who take up a lot of space. I love them and love the space that they inhabit. But with those large spaces come a huge desire to control on my part. It comes from a place a love for sure but it isn’t healthy for anyone.

    My answer? Selah. Be still.

    If I ever got a tattoo, that’s what it would be. A constant reminder that the text, the email, the phone call – they all can wait. Because if I’m not healthy I’m not going to be any good for the person on the other end.

    This book came along at the perfect time for me but I hesitate to call this book self-help. It’s far closer to a memoir or a collection of short stories. Whatever it is, her openness around addiction, anxiety and mental health are worth their weight in gold.

    Untamed is a book I will continue to revisit because there is so much good information in this book. From white privilege, to racism, to raising confident kids, to creativity – it’s all there. No, I don’t agree with everything but I don’t believe it’s the job of the author to put something out there that everyone loves and agrees with.

    But that’s another post for another day.

     

     

     

     

  • Book Reviews,  Recommendations,  Writing

    Resistance Women: a book review

    About:

    • Paperback: 640 pages
    • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (February 4, 2020)

    One of BookBub’s best historical novels of the year and Oprah magazine’s buzziest books of the month.

    From the New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, an enthralling historical saga that recreates the danger, romance, and sacrifice of an era and brings to life one courageous, passionate American—Mildred Fish Harnack—and her circle of women friends who waged a clandestine battle against Hitler in Nazi Berlin.

    Purchase Links

    HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

    Synopsis:

    After Wisconsin graduate student Mildred Fish marries brilliant German economist Arvid Harnack, she accompanies him to his German homeland, where a promising future awaits. In the thriving intellectual culture of 1930s Berlin, the newlyweds create a rich new life filled with love, friendships, and rewarding work—but the rise of a malevolent new political faction inexorably changes their fate.

    As Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party wield violence and lies to seize power, Mildred, Arvid, and their friends resolve to resist. Mildred gathers intelligence for her American contacts, including Martha Dodd, the vivacious and very modern daughter of the US ambassador. Her German friends, aspiring author Greta Kuckoff and literature student Sara Weitz, risk their lives to collect information from journalists, military officers, and officials within the highest levels of the Nazi regime.

    For years, Mildred’s network stealthily fights to bring down the Third Reich from within. But when Nazi radio operatives detect an errant Russian signal, the Harnack resistance cell is exposed, with fatal consequences.

    Inspired by actual events, Resistance Women is an enthralling, unforgettable story of ordinary people determined to resist the rise of evil, sacrificing their own lives and liberty to fight injustice and defend the oppressed.

    Review:

    Just when I thought that WWII historical fiction had been exhausted, a book like this comes along.Going into this book knowing that it was based on actual events and people kept me on the edge of my seat.

    Expertly researched, the author did a wonderful job highlighting the importance of not just military operations but also the resistance efforts of everyday civilians. The attention to detail and descriptions of 1930’s & 40’s Berlin captured my attention and the heroic actions of the characters – 3 real life people and 1 composite person – held my attention.

    This is a long book but never felt like it to me. Granted, I love thick books but I never felt that there were parts unnecessary to the plot. My one drawback, it takes awhile to get a good grasp of all the characters and their roles. But once you do, the book flies by. This is one I would recommend taking a few notes on as you go.

    Lastly, please don’t close this book until you read the Author’s Note – it is what made this book a five star read for me. Jennifer Chiaverini went above and beyond in her research and it should not go unnoticed.

    If you enjoyed The Alice Network, you will love Resistance Women.

    About the author:

    Jennifer Chiaverini is the New York Times bestselling author of several acclaimed historical novels and the beloved Elm Creek Quilts series. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago, she lives with her husband and two sons in Madison, Wisconsin.

    Find out more about Jennifer at her website, and connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

    Thanks to TLC Book Tours and William Morrow Books for a copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

  • Writing

    28 Day Challenge

    𝐷𝑒𝑎𝑟 𝑅𝑒𝑎𝑑𝑒𝑟,

    𝐻𝑜𝑤 𝑑𝑖𝑑 𝑦𝑜𝑢 𝑓𝑒𝑒𝑙 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑓𝑖𝑟𝑠𝑡 𝑡𝑖𝑚𝑒 𝑦𝑜𝑢 𝑠𝑎𝑤 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑡𝑖𝑡𝑙𝑒 𝑜𝑓 𝑡ℎ𝑖𝑠 𝑏𝑜𝑜𝑘? 𝑊𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑦𝑜𝑢 𝑠𝑢𝑟𝑝𝑟𝑖𝑠𝑒𝑑? 𝑈𝑛𝑐𝑜𝑚𝑓𝑜𝑟𝑡𝑎𝑏𝑙𝑒? 𝑀𝑎𝑦𝑏𝑒 𝑎𝑙𝑙 𝑜𝑓 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑎𝑏𝑜𝑣𝑒. 𝐼 𝑤𝑎𝑛𝑡 𝑡𝑜 𝑏𝑒𝑔𝑖𝑛 𝑏𝑦 𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑠𝑠𝑢𝑟𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑦𝑜𝑢 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑎𝑙𝑙 𝑡ℎ𝑜𝑠𝑒 𝑓𝑒𝑒𝑙𝑖𝑛𝑔𝑠 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑚𝑜𝑟𝑒 𝑎𝑟𝑒 𝑐𝑜𝑚𝑝𝑙𝑒𝑡𝑒𝑙𝑦 𝑛𝑜𝑟𝑚𝑎𝑙. 𝑇ℎ𝑖𝑠 𝑖𝑠 𝑎 𝑠𝑖𝑚𝑝𝑙𝑒 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑠𝑡𝑟𝑎𝑖𝑔ℎ𝑡𝑓𝑜𝑟𝑤𝑎𝑟𝑑 𝑏𝑜𝑜𝑘, 𝑏𝑢𝑡 𝑛𝑜𝑡 𝑎𝑛 𝑒𝑎𝑠𝑦 𝑜𝑛𝑒. 𝑊𝑒𝑙𝑐𝑜𝑚𝑒 𝑡𝑜 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑤𝑜𝑟𝑘.

    -𝐋𝐚𝐲𝐥𝐚 𝐅. 𝐒𝐚𝐚𝐝

    𝐒𝐲𝐧𝐨𝐩𝐬𝐢𝐬: Based on the viral Instagram challenge that captivated participants worldwide, 𝑴𝒆 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝑾𝒉𝒊𝒕𝒆 𝑺𝒖𝒑𝒓𝒆𝒎𝒂𝒄𝒚 takes readers on a 28-day journey of how to dismantle the privilege within themselves so that they can stop (often unconsciously) inflicting damage on people of color, and in turn, help other white people do better, too.

    ✂️

    Equal parts excited, nervous, and intrigued summed up my feelings when I opened up the envelope from Booksparks containing this book. But I’m thrilled that it’s part of their winter reading challenge lineup because I believe we all have blindspots and I’m ready and willing to look for and examine my own.

    This is 28 day challenge includes writing prompts, readings, and lots of self-reflection. I write so I’m going to blog about my experience and include some of the my answers to the writing prompts in those posts. It should be interesting.

    This won’t be an every day post but I will share my full 28 days over a period of time.

    If you plan on reading this book and would like to discuss as we go, let me know here or via email.

    Thank you to Booksparks, Sourcebooks and Layla F. Saad for a gifted copy of this book.

  • ARC's,  Book Reviews,  Writing

    The Hollows: a book review

    Jess Montgomery showcases her skills as a storyteller in The Hollows: a powerful, big-hearted and exquisitely written follow-up to her highly acclaimed debut The Widows.

    Synopsis – Ohio, 1926: For many years, the railroad track in Moonvale Tunnel has been used as a shortcut through the Appalachian hills. When an elderly woman is killed walking along the tracks, the brakeman tells tales of seeing a ghostly female figure dressed all in white.

    Newly elected Sheriff Lily Ross is called on to the case to dispel the myths. With the help of her friends Marvena Whitcomb and Hildy Cooper, Lily follows the woman’s trail to The Hollows―a notorious asylum―and they begin to expose dark secrets long-hidden by time and the mountains.

    Review – Strong female characters are my favorite and weaving the history of Ohio’s first elected sheriff into the story showcases a piece of history many may not know. But with that comes the uphill battle of sexism against Sheriff Lily Ross that she and her friends handle quite well.

    The other piece of history is much more troubling and dark, the WKKK – the female counterpart of the KKK. With that comes the mystery of who killed Thea, race relations, the Underground Railroad, the treatment of the mentally ill in asylums, and more issues around women’s rights.

    The author expertly navigates these tough topics with both balance and depth. She is never pulled into using the language of the times in her own writing – a pet peeve of mine in historical fiction.

    The characters are well-written but I do recommend reading the first book, The Widows, first. This could be a stand alone but you will lose a lot of background which only makes the women in this book more interesting.

    Drawbacks: I found the first quarter of the book to be a bit slow. But once the book got going, I could not put it down. The only other issue is that some readers could find some of the secrets discovered to be disturbing.

    If you enjoyed The Woman of Troublesome Creek, This Tender Land, and of course The Widows, add The Hollows to your list ASAP. This book is available in stores now!

    Purchase Links

    Amazon Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

    About Jess Montgomery

    JESS MONTGOMERY is the Literary Life columnist for the Dayton Daily News and Executive Director of the renowned Antioch Writers’ Workshop in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Based on early chapters of The Widows, Jess was awarded an Ohio Arts Council individual artist’s grant for literary arts and the John E. Nance Writer-in-Residence at Thurber House in Columbus. She lives in her native state of Ohio.

    Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Minotaur Books for a free copy of this book to read and review. All opinions are my own.

  • Book Reviews,  Bookish,  mental health,  Writing

    Wednesday Words: trigger warnings

    Can we all take a moment to agree that saying “I am triggered” as a joke is actually not something that is funny?

    We don’t do this with physical illness and if you do well…. that’s not funny either.

    Because this is something I am intimately familiar with, let me explain what it’s like as someone who can be triggered; as well as a caregiver of someone of the like.

    You are going about your day. Maybe you are in Anthropologie, your favorite store. Or maybe you’re in the library. 

    A person walks past and you catch a whiff of their cologne that most love.

    You break out into a cold sweat. Tunnel vision sets in and the exits disappear. You are transported back to “that place” where the worst thing happened to you. Your heart is racing and you can’t breathe. 

    Now you’re making a self-perceived spectacle of yourself in one of your favorite stores or places. 

    If you are lucky you have someone with you who can remind you to breathe. They see what is happening. There’s the five-finger trick where you have something associated with each finger that grounds you. You use your hands to feel the floor, the chair, the person you are with and you are slowly transported out of your worst nightmare and back to current reality.

    But you still feel like shit and the public embarrassment isn’t even part of that. A surge of adrenaline does incredible and also devastating things to your entire body. An occurrence like this can render one worthless for the rest of the day.

    But what happens when you are alone, reading a book at home that everyone has raved about – or even worse, a public place?

    The same thing.

    There are movies and TV shows my family and I avoid because they have content warnings. We know the triggers and take the warnings seriously. Some rated R movies are fine while others are not because the details for the rating are listed below the “R”.

    Ninth House is a wildly popular book that is shown all over Instagram. I saw it in countless top lists of 2019 – which is fine – but I never saw a single mention of a warning about the content that quite frankly, would have upset people who don’t even have PTSD. Instagram is huge so it is always possible I missed a mention of this but it’s not just this book.

    I don’t know why books don’t carry warnings. It would take up so little space to include: child r@pe, extreme hazing, violence against women including drugging and assault… you get the point. And all of these and a few more should have been included in a blurb for Ninth House. Not to mention, the author of Ninth House is a popular young adult author. She has made it clear that this book does not fit that genre but I have seen this very book in the young adult section at multiple bookstores.

    Back to ratings: it’s not that difficult. But that may mean that a group of people don’t buy a particular book. I would hope the publishing industry isn’t as calculating as this seems but one has to wonder when all other forms of media carry warnings.

    With a warning, some may skip the book entirely. However, I would argue that a simple trigger warning would allow a reader to chose to buy the book and then come back to it when they are in a good mental place. Everyone wins – the reader is respected and the author is read.

    The last thing I will mention is context. Because as a writer that is something to be considered. Does the graphic description do something to advance the plot? Is it integral to the character and their personality? Is it being used as a message to be shared? I will still argue that graphic content may not be necessary – we leave readers to their own imaginations all the time with far more innocent plot lines.

    I don’t know what the answer is and I don’t know how this changes unless more readers speak up. But until then, my reviews will include trigger warnings. Because I know from personal experience that a praised book can take me to a dark place fast and that is certainly not the point of reading and I never want to be responsible for transporting a fellow book lover back to their worst moment.

    The world is scary enough already.

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