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ALICE IN BED: A Novel ~Judith Hooper

April 27th, 2016

Interesting title for this book and it captured my attention and made me want to read it even before I knew much about the story!   When I learned it was about Alice James the sister of psychologist William James and writer Henry James, I did not hesitate to pick the book up and read.

I liked everything about this book – everything.  The writing was just perfect for the 1870s and captured the full image I had of Cambridge, Massachusetts I had tucked in my head.  The family is now living in Cambridge after being “hotel” children all over Europe.  Their Father being a lecturer and an interpreter of the “Divine Philosophy”.  There is little formal education for the children and lots of chaos in the family’s style.   Mary and Henry James are the parents of 5 children.  Bob, Wilki, William, Henry, and Alice.   Aunt Kate also lives with the family and they are surrounded with the elite of society.  Their home is located right across the road from Harvard Square.

Alice may prove over time to be the most intelligent of the family, but she is stuck with being a WOMAN and so no privilege is extended her way.  At about age 13, she begins fainting daily in the late mornings and is taken to numerous doctors about the “falls” and gets a number of bazaar diagnoses.  The medications make it worse; probably the corsets and crinolines and heavy-duty tight, restrictive women’s clothing also contributed to her ailment.   Women with hysteria diagnosis abounded.

Alice adored her brothers especially William who was thought to be a hypochondriac.  William was a talented painter but Father made him go into science and he became highly interested in the mind; studying very intently.  Henry abandoned his Father’s rules and took up writing and spent many years living in Europe.   On a trip to England at age 38, Alice fell and lost the use of her legs. She   was established in an apartment in England in a Spa City and could not travel again.  She began writing a diary which after her death was published and people were amazed how she understood politics and society and was so keenly aware of what was happening all around her and her caustic and keen sense of humor.

I kept wondering if I would describe this story as a biography, historic fiction, or a well-researched expose’.  I think I will use all three.  I enjoyed the detail and the feisty pro-woman stance, and how they fit evenly into the culture and the expectations for the traditional woman of that era.   There were several mentions of Emerson in the story but nothing about Margaret Fuller who would have been a kindred spirit to Alice.

History comes alive and I am very happy that TLC Book Tours sent me an advance PDF file to review this story.  I am sure I will read this book again in the future -Paperback.    I say that because my copy did not translate properly onto my Kindle. The print was so small, I had to keep stretching the page to be able to read it and the page then floated and would not move forward properly to turn the pages.  In the 390 page read I am sure I used up over an hour keeping the page in front of me.  This proved to be disconcerting.  (Hard copy it is 325 pages)

“Alice in Bed is an absorbing, poignant, sometimes hilarious journey through the Gilded Age with one of literature’s most unusual and captivating heroines.”

Judith Hooper writes a fine story and this is her premier novel – a very good work.  I know that many people will love this story and this history lesson.

“Judith Hooper was an editor at Omni magazine and is the author of Of Moths and Men and co-author of The Three-Pound Universe and Would the Buddha Wear a Walkman?: A Catalogue of Revolutionary Tools for Higher Consciousness. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.”(TLC page)

Related:
Margaret Fuller
Hannah Coulter
Daughter of Sand and Stone


GONE TO SOLDIERS: A Fiction Novel about WWII ~ Marge Piercy

April 25th, 2016

I discovered Marge Piercy the writer in the early 1990s.  GONE TO SOLDIERS was published in 1987 and I had already read GOING DOWN FAST, SMALL CHANGES, WOMAN ON THE EDGE OF TIME,  FLY AWAY HOME, and HE, SHE, IT. The women I was in a support group with in New York City were praising Piercy’s work and we were sharing copies.  I enjoy her writing very much and her outlook.

After posting the review for HE, SHE, IT, an email* came in asking me if I would like to read GONE TO SOLDIERS for review.   I said yes I would like to read it, forgetting that I had read it first 30 years ago.  I just was so happy to read more of Piercy’s words.   The Kindle told me that at my reading speed it would take 32 hours and 30 minutes to get to the end.   I dove right into each chapter and hardly came up for air.  I am not incredibly fond of books about war.  This one is quite exceptional.  It took 7 years to write and perfect before it was published and winning so many awards.  I was so happy to read it once again.

The book has an interesting shape as 10 characters and their stories are highlighted throughout the book. Some have 14 chapters to their stories.  We begin before the start of the war in France and before the USA became involved.  WWII is over and recovery is beginning at the end of the story.  The primary theme is about being Jewish and how the Jewish experience of the war overlaps and touches so many lives.  I was amazed at how badly the USA Jews were treated and particularly by the Marine corp.  Some American Generals had no trouble with killing Jews in Europe and participated in the process. Each character was well defined and the connecting characters gave continuity to the story and kept the thread of the themes moving forward.

Extraordinary writing. So revealing about the hate we are seeing displayed even now in the USA, so much fear, and how working from that fear keeps us holding on and not moving forward.

Whenever the control is too great, there are scapegoats and then they are vilified and verbally derogated.  It was important for me to read this novel once again. I feel it with mature eyes.  There is more and more to the story; I become a witness.

I not only humbly give this book top stars and I feel as though it should be required reading in our schools today.   I highly recommend this story.

“Marge Piercy has written 17 novels including The New York Times Bestseller Gone To Soldiers; the National Bestsellers Braided Lives and The Longings of Women, and the classic Woman on the Edge of Time and He, She and It and most recently Sex Wars; ; 19 volumes of poetry including The Hunger Moon: New & Selected Poems 1980-2010, The Crooked Inheritance and in spring 2015, Made in Detroit; and a critically acclaimed memoir Sleeping with Cats. Born in center city Detroit, educated at the University of Michigan and Northwestern, the recipient of four honorary doctorates, she is active in antiwar, feminist and environmental causes.“ (Header at website)

Marge Piercy’s Website and Bio

*Kindle book was sent by Greta Shull, Marketing Coordinator, Open Road Integrated Media, 180 Maiden Lane, suite 8A  New York, NY 10038

Related:
He, She, It
When Women Were Birds
The Sowing


WHERE WE FALL: A Novel ~Rochelle B. Weinstein

April 21st, 2016

TLC Book Tours sent me a copy of WHERE WE FALL for review and I enjoyed reading this book.  Very nice Southern Romance with a good premise.  I lived for several years in North Carolina and YES, the countryside is amazingly beautiful and written about with style in this story.

The story line is good and interesting and the descriptions just right to encourage a visit to the beauty of North Carolina.  It is a Southern Romance within the tradition of Southern Romance and providing   a creative story concept making it quite interesting.  We have 2 women friends who are looking to be connected to a man who is the perfect Southern Gentleman.  We all want to be loved and to love.   We have the perfect gentleman character, who is a prize catch and also a high school football coach.

Abby and Lauren are college roommates and best friends.  Ryan falls in love with Lauren and the three become great friends.  Lauren and Ryan share that kind of perfect love and are probably “soul mates”  – a nice touch.  Abby has problems with social anxiety and enjoys being the “fifth wheel” in their amazing friendship.

Lauren shows some spunk and determination to photograph and see some amazing waterfalls.  She takes a graduate program and then takes off to photograph the world’s waterfalls.  Ryan is being patient with her travels and endeavors until his Father dies and he is devastated.  No one can get a hold of Lauren, in time.

Abby takes over the role of caregiver and Ryan and she marry and have a daughter.

The novel is full of missed communications and omitted discussions.  Friends do not share with each other, mother and daughter do not have real conversations and Abby’s anxiety begins to control her life and she ends up with a full deep mental illness.  It takes all of Abby’s ability and control to enter a mental health facility and within six weeks the lives are changed and a loving resolution is possible.

As I was introducing myself at a new class, we all shared our favorite reads, I noticed that 6 women stated that this was their favorite kind of read and how they liked the escape.  This book should find some good readers.

I found the writing elementary in style and found several sentences that just seemed random within their paragraphs.  I did receive an uncorrected e- copy, but these slips just stopped the flow.  Dialogue was quite good and moved the story well.  I felt sad that the daughter was repeating the “perfect man” scenario of her parents even though she was so young.    Lauren and Abby both seemed rather boring and Ryan was just too perfect and responsible.  The characters could not change; they were just stuck in the behaviors they had chosen – locked in.  It took pills and a therapist to get them to resolution and to move into their best interest.

“Rochelle B. Weinstein is the author of THE MOURNING AFTER and WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND.  A former entertainment industry executive, she lives in south Florida with her husband, twin boys and two dogs.“

www.rochelleweinstein.com

As I write this review the Kindle edition of WHERE WE FALL is free on Amazon.

Related:
Becalmed
Trail of Broken Wings
Our Love Could Light The World


THE ART OF CALM: Photographs and Wisdom to Balance Your Life ~ Rebecca Ascher-Walsh

April 20th, 2016

Just in time for Mother’s Day TLC Book Tours  and National Geographic Society Books sent me THE ART OF CALM for review.  It is absolutely beautiful and would make a lovely gift for the women in your life, and how about just for you?

Rebecca Ascher-Walsh has chosen stunning photographs to accompany each page of her writing wisdoms.  There are lovely quotes from famous women about finding the calm in one’s life, and there are even recipes for special treats and delightful bath soakers.    My absolute favorite parts of the book are the wee exercises that change the mind in a matter of moments and truly bring on the calm and the centering that pulls one back from an unpleasant trajectory.

I learned later in life to start each day with a poem, which allowed me to set my pace in a more thoughtful, positive direction.  This little gem would do that too.  Small enough to keep in the car, a little read before car pool, a deep breath and a picture study when the kids are fighting, or just the right touch before falling asleep THE ART OF CALM is a delight and 5 minutes of peace.

I highly recommend THE ART OF CALM as a lovely gift, for busy women even for one’s self.  A fabulous thank – you gift for someone who did something special.

“Rebecca Ascher-Walsh is a New York-based journalist who has written for outlets including Entertainment Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Huffington Post.  The author of Devoted and founder of the Deja Foundation, she lives with her husband, twin daughters, and beloved rescue dog, Buddy.” (Cover)

Rebecca Ascher-Walsh Facebook

Related:
Glimpsing Heaven
Life From Scratch
Wild