Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Redemption: A Story of Sisterhood, Survival, and Finding Freedom Behind Bars by Stacey Lannert and Kristen Kemp
On July 4, 1990, eighteen-year-old Stacey Lannert shot and killed her father, who had been sexually abusing her since she was eight. Missouri state law, a disbelieving prosecutor, and Stacey's own fragile psyche conspired against her: she was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole.
Redemption is Stacey's candid memoir of her harrowing childhood and the pain and protective love of her sister that led her to that horrifying night. It is also an extraordinary portrait of what happened after she found herself in prison and how she grew determined to live positively, even triumphantly, despite her circumstances. Ultimately, and most profoundly, she learned the healing power of forgiveness.
Simply put, this book broke my heart. Then again, how could it not? Reading about the sexual and physical abuse that Stacey Lannert endured as a little girl just brought me to tears. I found myself sickened as I read the details of the abuse and about this little girl who was so filled with despair that she tried to commit suicide. Its inconceivable to me that a man who refers to himself as a "father" could do such things to his daughter. And it is completely maddening to me that Stacey's mother who was sexually abused as a child, could be so heartless when it came to ensuring the safety of her own two daughters. The fact that she knew Stacey was being abused and chose to ignore it, just made me want to scream. Her only concern was herself - she was tired of being bullied by her husband and wanted her independence and so she sought refuge for herself (only herself). And so we read about two little girls being shuttled around from one family member to the next
and how their lives became riddled with pain, loneliness and loss.
This book details Stacey's family's history and how her mother and father met and married. We learn about her father's violent temper and his preference for Stacey (he always made it clear she was his favorite daughter). She describes the late night tv watching and how hanging out with her father was her favorite thing to do. She also mentions incidents where her father would have violent outbursts aimed at her mother or her sister - like the time he killed one of their pets right in front of them or the many times he would come home drunk and curse out Stacey's mom. At times Stacey blamed her mother for her father's behavior and found herself disliking her mother as a result. Things were up and down in the Lannert household, but that was just the way the family had always been - at least in Stacey's eyes. However, things were about to go from unhappy to unbearable in just a matter of minutes. Life for Stacey would never be the same the moment her father became her abuser. Her childhood would end and her life of hell would begin.
We read about Stacey's teen-aged years and how she hated her father and somehow always wound up staying with him, while her little sister went from their aunt's to their grandparents'. Their mom was long gone with her new husband and rarely ever seemed to check in with them. Life was not good. In fact, Stacey's biggest fear was that her father would harm her sister - he always threatened he would if Stacey ever left him. And so, Stacey's main goal was to keep her little sister safe. Of course, life can't be controlled and as Stacey's worst nightmare comes true, things go from worse to whatever is beyond worse. One minute Stacey is staring at her sleeping father and the next minute she is pulling the trigger and shooting him dead.
Placed in a holding prison for two years, Stacey is left alone to deal with the aftermath of what she has done. With no one to help her navigate the murky waters of the legal system, Stacey is found guilty and sentenced to life without parole. And so we read about her time in prison and the friends she makes and how she struggles to find a way to reconcile with her mother - a woman who was never there for her when she needed her most. We also read about how well her sister is doing and how she's had a baby. We learn about Stacey going on Oprah and Nancy Grace to tell her story. And we learn that after ten years of life in prison, she will finally be set free. Talk about finally experiencing redemption! After everything that Stacey has been through, she finally finds a way to accept what she has done and move past it so that she can move forward with her life and finally start experiencing love, family and happiness.
Redemption is a book that will leave you reeling with emotions and haunt you for days, even weeks afterward. It is a book that shares a personal story so tragic, you can't help but weep. Its a book about a brave little girl who wound up turning into a strong and capable woman. This is a book that you must read for yourself, so that you can get the full picture of what happened to Stacey Lannert and how she was able to come to terms with the life she was dealt and how she handled it all. Just be warned that you will cry and you will get angry, but in the end you will smile at the peace that Stacey was finally able to experience.
Thanks to Broadway Books, an imprint of Crown Publishing for providing me with a copy of this unputdownable book!
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Free-spirited Annie Quintana and sophisticated Julia St. Clair come from two different worlds. Yet, as the daughter of the St. Clair's housekeeper, Annie grew up in Julia's San Francisco mansion and they forged a bond that only two little girls oblivious to class differences could - until a life-altering betrayal destroyed their friendship.
A decade later, Annie bakes to fill the void left in her heart by her mother's death, and a painful secret jeopardizes Julia's engagement to the man she loves. A chance reunion prompts the unlikely duo to open a cupcakery, but when a mysterious saboteur opens up old wounds, they must finally face the truth about their past or risk losing everything.
I like cupcakes and I like chick lit, so I figured this would be the perfect read. Well, it wasn't. In fact, this book turned out to be a rather disappointing read. The writing was okay, but it didn't grab me and keep me interested as I had hoped it would. As for the characters, they were pretty stereotypical in description and lacked any kind of depth. And the story lines were all over the place - there were just too many of them crammed into one book.
Of course, it could just be me. All of the other bloggers on this tour have written glowing reviews of this book. Maybe I missed something. Then again, I'm thinking that this book just wasn't for me. Now, don't get me wrong, I love the idea of two friends opening a cupcakery - that sounds like an adventure in itself. However, these two ex-best friends in particular do not seem like they should be going into business together. Annie clearly can't stand Julia, so why she decides to open up a cupcakery with her is beyond me. I understand that Annie has dreamed of opening up her own bakery, but is this really her only option to make that dream come to fruition? Seriously?
Anyhow, the women work together to open Treat and wind up involved in a series of mini-dramas that never seem to end. We have a mystery man who lurks around outside the cupcakery late at night. An ex-boyfriend who ruffles some feathers. Vandalism and break-ins at Treat. Pilfering at casa St. Clair (Julia's parents' home). Secrets being kept from loved ones. A secret cookbook filled with revelations. And so much more.
Yes, I admit that some of the story lines are somewhat interesting, however they were all so predictable, that there really wasn't much of a story to get immersed in. At the end of the day, this book just wasn't for me. I think I'll stick to Kinsella or Green when I want to get my chick lit/women's fiction fix. However, for those who want to give Donohue a try, here is a link to her website. And just so you can get a different perspective on How to Eat a Cupcake, here is the link to the TLC Book tour site where the rest of the bloggers on this tour can be found.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Set in the turbulent 1970s when Patty Hearst became Tanya the Revolutionary, Hystera is a timeless story of madness, yearning, and identity. After a fatal accident takes her father away, Lillian Weill blames herself for the family tragedy. Tripping through failed love affairs with men and doomed friendships, all Lilly wants is to be sheltered from reality. She retreats from the outside world into a world of delusion and the private terrors of a New York City Psychiatric Hospital.
How do we know who we really are? How do we find our true selves under the heavy burden of family and our pasts? In an unpredictable portrait of mental illness, Hystera penetrates to the pulsing heart of the questions.
Memories of her life overwhelm Lillian to the point that she is trapped by them and can no longer function properly on a day to day basis. She is struggling to come to grips with the fact that she is suffering from mental issues and instead finds herself focusing on a "bulb" that has suddenly sprouted between her legs. She tells the doctor about how much pain the "bulb" is causing, but she refuses to let anyone touch her and instead has physical outbursts when the nurses attempt to examine her. She is sad and heartbroken and unable to deal with how she is feeling, and following a failed suicide attempt, agrees to a voluntary stay at a mental hospital.
Once admitted, we learn more about Lillian's relationships. We learn about the guilt she feels over her father's stroke - she was in the bath tub and heard a noise downstairs, but decided to ignore it. Turns out that noise was her father collapsing in the kitchen. Lillian is racked with guilt over the fact that she heard the 'thump', but ignored it. Plus, it doesn't help that her mother blames Lillian for her father's fall. Gee, what a nice mom, eh?
Speaking of Lillian's mother, Helen, well, lets just say that their relationship is complicated. Like in the sense that Helen is always making Lillian feel guilty for anything and everything. You see, Helen is unhappy in her life and marriage. She had plans to leave her husband and head back to Israel, her home country. And then David suffered a stroke, which resulted in brain damage and well, her plans to leave were put on hold. Oh, and Lillian entering a mental hospital, well that is Lillian's fault, and how could she be so selfish as not to consider how it would make her mother feel. Yep, they have their issues.
And we also learn about Mitchell, Lillian's ex-boyfriend. They were seemingly a happy couple for some time, but bit by bit, Lillian began to push Mitchell away. She no longer wanted him touching her and instead found herself feeling "emptied and used. Mitchell touching her body only diminished Lilly, painfully."
As we learn more about Lillian and her hallucinations and dreams, we find out more and more about her issues with sexuality and intimacy. We begin to see how much pain Lillian is dealing with and how she is slowly unraveling. Its captivating and heartbreaking to read. You can't help but be taken in with Lillian's story. I don't want to reveal too much, because I do believe that this a book you must experience for yourself. You need to read it to truly grasp the suffering that Lillian has experienced, along with the sense of normalcy she finally felt once she began to open up to the people around her.
This is a book that will leave you thinking about Lillian for days after. You will not be disappointed!
In case you are interested in learning more about Leora Skolkin-Smith and her books, here is a link to her site . And, here is a link to the TLC Book Tour page in case you want to visit the other bloggers on the Hystera book tour.
Friday, March 9, 2012
Did you know that March is Maisie Month? Well, if you didn't, now you do. In anticipation of Jacqueline Winspear's latest release, Elegy for Eddie, Harper Books is sponsoring the first annual March is Maisie Month this year. How exciting! And thanks to TLC Book Tours, I was able to get on their Maisie Dobbs tour and partake in the celebrations. Yay!
Of course, this meant that I had to find out who Maisie Dobbs was, since I had never read any of Winspear's works before. So, I grabbed my copy of Among the Mad and dove right in. It is the sixth book in an on-going series about a Psychologist and Investigator named Maisie Dobbs living in London post World War I. Unsure of what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading all about Maisie and her hunt for a man gone mad. The writing was superb and the characters were so fully developed that you couldn't help but fall in deep like with them and find yourself rooting for some and cringing for others.
Here's a synopsis of the book:
Christmas Eve, 1931. On the way to see a client, Maisie Dobbs witnesses a man commit suicide on a busy London street. The following day, the Prime Minister's office receives a letter threatening a massive loss of life if certain demands are not met - and the writer mentions Maisie by name. Tapped by Scotland Yard's elite Special Branch to be a special adviser on the case, Maisie is soon involved in a race against time to find a man who proves he has the knowledge and will to inflict destruction on thousands of innocent people. In Among the Mad, Jacqueline Winspear combines a heart-stopping story with a rich evocation of a fascinating period to create her most compelling and satisfying novel yet.
Talk about exciting, right? I swear it really is rather exciting. In fact, you can't help but get caught up in all the action and find yourself biting your nails in anticipation of what will happen next. Or at least that is how I was the entire time I read this book. It was just so good! You will not be disappointed!
My only question was, "Where has Maisie Dobbs been all of my life?". I seriously can't believe that I have never read any of Winspears books until now! It is pure madness, to think about what I have been missing all of these years - pure and utter madness!! Because, let me tell you - Maisie Dobbs is the cat's pajamas! I absolutely loved reading all about Dobbs' and her knack for solving crimes. I will most definitely be looking forward to reading all of Winspear's works involving the wonderful Maisie Dobbs. And I urge all of you readers out there who haven't experienced Winspear's works to go out and pick up a copy of any of her Maisie Dobbs books and find out for yourself just how excellent they really are!
Here is the link to the all of the bloggers joining in on the Maisie Month fun - check them out! And enjoy!!
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
It's an old story. You've heard it before, any number of times. But I wanted to tell it again, as it happened in a time and a place where something existed which nowadays, it seems to me, is in short supply: innocence. Innocence, of course, can lead to error, and error led to the expulsion from Eden.
Or so it is generally considered...
The time: 1941, at the cusp of America's entry into WWII. The place: southwest Missouri, on the edge of the Ozark Mountains. A young, single woman named Allen Liles has taken a teaching job at a junior college, where she strikes up an after-school friendship with two young men from her seminar: George, lanky and carefree, and Toby, a dark-haired, searching soul with a wary look in his eyes. Together, they banter and debate over letters, ethics, and philosophy - innocently at first, but soon in a giddy flirtation, until the moment when things go too far and Allen's world is sent spinning into a state of wrenching pain and dire jeopardy.
I have literally just put down Clair de Lune and so the story is still fresh in my mind. Truthfully, I'm not quite sure what to make of the story. I do know that I enjoyed it quite a bit. The story captivated me from the beginning. I found myself identifying with Allen for a number of reasons and that is the main reason that I found myself immersed in this story until well after 1am this morning. There was just something about her voice - young, naive, and innocent mixed with uncertainty and topped with a smidgen of idealism.
This was the story of a young woman named Allen who found herself in a rather undesirable position. Faced with a large amount of debt and an overbearing mother, Allen takes a position teaching English at a junior college. There she finds herself enjoying the freedom of having her own place and romanticizing her dreams of heading to New York to become a writer. Unsure of how to fit in at first, Allen goes about her business - work, church and home. After she settles in a bit more, she befriends the faculty members, has lunch with the ladies and debates literature with Dr. Ansel, the only faculty member with a PhD. She even goes to the dean and asks if she can organize a seminar on literature. Life is moving along nicely for Allen. She enjoys her job and the friends she has made. Her seminar is a success and she soon finds herself spending time with two of the students from the seminar: George and Toby. The trio drink, dance and debate most nights - enjoying carefree and innocent moments with each other. In fact, they become so familiar with one another that Allen leaves her door unlocked for them. She sees these boys as her friends and not just as her students - until the night that Toby kisses her and she kisses him back. Soon, Allen's life begins to change in ways that she should have seen coming, but didn't.
I won't go into detail as to what happens next, although I'm pretty sure you can guess. Suffice it to say, Allen grows up. She finally begins to understand that her idealistic version of the world was just that, idealized. She also accepts the truth surrounding certain relationships and situations. Allen faces the consequences to her actions and realizes that her options are not as limited as she believes. In fact, Allen sees that the future may just be as bright and shiny as she had envisaged.
Clair de Lune is a book that I will not soon forget. The writing was great and the character of Allen is one I will hold dear to my heart. Her frustrations about her limited options for her future is something that I can relate to. Until you realize that it is how you view your options that limits them, you will never see beyond those limits. Definitely a good book that explores the ups and downs of becoming an adult when you already are one. Pick up a copy and enjoy - you will not be disappointed!
Here is a link to the tour schedule page.