Fruit of the Drunken Tree

Fruit of the Drunken Tree

Expected publication date July 31, 2018

Advanced copy provided by publisher in return for an honest review.

Fruit of the Drunken Tree is a story told in alternating points of view, between the privileged Chula and her family’s housemaid Petrona. They are growing up in Columbia during the time of guerrillas, Pablo Escobar, and political upheaval. Chula is able to escape to America with her mother and sister, while Petrona is left behind to make her way with her boyfriend and newborn baby.

The story is mostly about the events that led up to Chula and her family fleeing the country. It includes some pretty blatant socio-economic discrimination that I wasn’t real wild about. I got about halfway through and realized that I’m basically watching this story happen in real life in the news. I wasn’t feeling any suspense or urgency. I hate to say it, but I read for fun. I’m okay with a little angst or bad things happening, but I’m all full up on babies in cages with deported parents that were originally seeking asylum and now they have no way to reunite them and when they can, sometimes the kids don’t remember the parents…I don’t know man, I get enough of these stories in real life, I don’t think I want them in my fun times. Self-care, angels.

If you like international stories and understanding historical events through fiction, the writing is very good and the story was good too. I only put it down because of the subject matter. You should give it a try and see what you think.

Angry Angel Novel: 48 Days

The book project I started this summer has been coming alone nicely. There have been days where I haven’t written and days when I’ve written my ass off, but for the most part I’ve been trying to write about 1,000 words every day. Thanks to the #1000wordsofsummer event on Twitter I discovered that this was a habit I could keep up with, and it yielded fast results.

The event that got me thinking that I had a novel series in me, National Novel Writing Month, holds a summer event in July called Camp NaNoWriMo. It’s mostly for people to make progress on a manuscript or some work that is unfinished, as opposed to literally writing an entire novel in one month’s time. I put in what I had written so far in June as my starting point, made 75,000 words my goal for the end of July, and then I was off to the races. Their website keeps track of my progress and gave me these stats as of my writing today.

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I am aiming for 100K words total on my first draft, but if I keep writing like I have been (and not the 2250 words per day as suggested by NaNoWriMo), I’ll be sitting at between 65K and 70K (at least!) by the time I go back to school on August 6th for teacher planning week.

Guys, I am really proud of myself. I am enjoying writing this story and I hope that someday people will enjoy reading it. I have never written this much in this short of a time span, even when I was writing parts of my dissertation during my doctoral work. My manuscript is sitting at 93 Microsoft Word pages, and I make that distinction because I have learned that Microsoft Word pages and book pages aren’t the same thing (e.g. 100K words = 400 book pages). The point I am making here though, is over the past 48 days I have written 93 pages of something. NINETY-THREE.

I can’t wait to finish this draft and then go to Staples to have them print and spiral-bind it so I can start revising and re-writing. I want to read about outlining and editing and take time to read books I think would be comparable titles to get inspiration. I’ve already started rereading Six of Crows because I couldn’t wait. I’ve ordered some writing how-to books that will help me strengthen my characters and enhance my storytelling. I’m so excited that I’m already thinking about the next step. I’m acting like this first draft is already finished, because I know that it will be, because I will finish it.

I hope you are enjoying seeing these updates. I am excited to share just a little of my progress with you, my readers, because without you I wouldn’t have this blog, and without this blog I wouldn’t be reading nearly as much as I do, and without all this reading I may never have become inspired to write my own book. Thank you for being here. Thank you for supporting me. Have a great weekend.

Give Me Your Hand

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Expected publication date July 17, 2018

Advanced copy provided by publish in exchange for an honest review.

Have you ever wondered if the past will come back to haunt you? Whether it is an ex or a family member or an old friend, I’m sure we can all think of someone who, if they showed up in our lives today, would give us that tv moment of shock and slow-mo (cut to commercial). In Megan Abbott’s GIVE ME YOUR HAND, two women who were high school classmates have grown into scientific powerhouses who have been chosen to be a part of an important PMDD study. The only problem is that Diane told Kit her deepest, darkest secret in high school, she knows who Diane truly is, and she thought that was all left in the past. She is scared to work with her again, and afraid of what Diane might do to make sure her secret stays a secret.

The turning point of the novel happens about halfway through. Having Diane return to her world makes Kit panic. She goes on a date with her coworker Alex that she’s been crushing on for awhile, and after a few too many Long Island Iced Teas she divulges that Diane is dangerous, Kit knows her, and that she’s a killer. The next day Alex has left the apartment for the lab early, saying he’s going to handle it for her.

Problem is that Alex isn’t just her crush, he’s also one of the most irresponsible scientists in their lab. Notorious for leaving things dirty, using the wrong materials, breaking things, and taking rats to use without permission, it’s no surprise that when Kit confronts him in the lab while he is working, they argue, and then the cracked pipette he was heating explodes spilling chloroform everywhere and shredding his throat for good measure. He dies, and wouldn’t you know it, Diane is in the next room. Oh no Kit, what have you done? I heard you arguing, he was violent you had no choice! And then suddenly they are cleaning up the scene and sneaking Kit out in Diane’s lab coat, leaving the clumsy Alex to be discovered by someone else.

Even though Kit did nothing wrong, and calling 911 would have made more sense and been easier, her senses were muddled by the chloroform and she let Diane guide her. Now Diane has something over Kit like Kit does over her. They are even. They are equals and must be friends. And honestly, this is when I stopped reading.

I highly dislike books where misunderstandings like this happen, or when someone has too much power over another. By telling Kit her secret when they were in high school, Diane freed herself because she knew Kit would never tell, and when they reconnect she finds a way to ensure that it never does, almost by accident. The rest of the book would be an anxiety-filled will she or won’t she as Kit decides if putting herself in jeopardy is worth the truth being told. Personally I have enough anxiety in my life right now to kill a bull elephant, and while I enjoy a good thriller this novel is just not to my taste.

It was well written and enjoyable, I’m just not into that kind of a plot device. Want to find out what happens once both girls have blackmail material on each other? Go get you some! And then let me know what happens.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation

Expected publication July 10, 2018

Copy provided by publisher in advance in exchange for an honest review.

This book was genuinely confusing to me. One second it was making me feel one way, and the next another, to the point that I wasn’t sure if I loved it or if I hated it. I think that this is the beauty of this book as it lands in the midst of our socio-economically imbalanced society. You can resent the fact that this woman has the freedom to explore sleep as a valid therapy option while still feeling sympathy for what is obviously a very deep depression that she is struggling with after the deaths of her parents.

She decides to hibernate for a year in an attempt to reset her brain and have a new, emotional approach to her reality. She finds a “therapist” (finger quotes intended) in the yellow pages who is 100% a quack and is willing to help her jump through the insurance hoops to prescribe her every combination of sleep drugs under the sun. The first six months are full of adjustment to the medications – sleep-walking, sleep-talking, sleep-shopping – and she tries to put the pieces together after her blackout events while dealing with an abusive ex, a flighty “best friend,” and managing the resources that her parents have left to her.

About halfway through her year she realizes that she can’t be fully rested and restored if she hangs onto anything from her old life. She partners with an artist she was connected with in her old job and apparently connected with during a sleepwalking episode, to cleanse her space, lock her in, and let the true transformation begin.

This entire concept was so dangerous. The combinations of medications she is allowed to take by a person that so obviously does not have her best interests at heart as a member of the therapy profession. Her only close friend, Reva, is so selfish and self-deprecating herself that you wonder if she is able to keep an eye out for our unnamed narrator. The amount of money that she (the narrator) seems to have at her disposal is constantly the deus ex machina that allows her to continue forward.

As I was reading I did branch out to read some reviews to see how others reacted to this novel. Some said it was an interesting theory that the brain could be reset through extended hibernation and how it might be used in a safer environment with proper nutrition and monitored vitals. Others asked why we should feel bad for someone so rich that their problems are solved by drugs and money. One reviewer said that we should feel compassion for the rich, because so often the riches that we envy them for are the very things that prevent them from learning to struggle and survive, so they lack a very important set of skills that other members of society are forced to curate over time.

I agree with all these takes, although I do not feel as much empathy towards the wealthy as some reviewers seemed ready to have. What was so compelling to me about this book was the familiarity of the depression and the need to sleep. I love sleeping and being alone. I was able to ignore this woman’s wealth enough to live vicariously through her hibernation, especially the times when it really worked for her.

This seems as though it would be a very divisive book, one that would make for a good book group read. How do we give credence to all cases of mental illness while still understanding the real privilege at play in this tale? How can we be empathetic and disdainful at the same time? I love that this book presented me with this challenge. You should let it present it to you as well. Go get you some.

Nothing Good Can Come From This

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Due for publication August 7, 2018

This book was provided to me by the publisher in advance of publication in return for an honest review.

I am not the biggest fan of memoir, specifically the kind of memoir that seems to trod out the idea that we are in a suffering Olympics. That someone’s story isn’t worth reading unless they have enough trauma and hurt in their lives to kill a bull elephant. Those kinds of memoir just weren’t for me.

So when this ARC came across my desk I decided to read it immediately to get it out of the way. It was only 220 pages and wouldn’t take me very long. Once I started, however, I ended up not wanting it to stop. Kristi Coulter has written a memoir about addiction and freedom that will make you feel free and empowered no matter what your personal struggles might be.

She describes the slow slip into alcoholism as one glass of wine a night turns into two, and then three. We watch her as she attempts to live a normal life in a high powered job in the midst of a society that seems to drink to relax, celebrate, cope, socialize, really you name it and booze is there to hold your hand. The beauty in this book is seeing Coulter come to recognize that she is an alcoholic, make the decision to become sober, and then navigate the road to rediscovering who she is without alcohol.

It is that rediscovering that spoke to me the most. Her questions seemed to always start with “What would I like to…” as she discovered what she enjoyed and who she wanted to be now that she was sober. The constructive struggle mixed with the hope and freedom that these kinds of choices bring makes this a memoir that sees past the struggle to a bright, limitless future full of possibility. Maybe the closest comparable would be breaking up with a long-time partner. Who am I without this person? It’s a bigger discovery than some people realize.

What would I like to eat now that I don’t drink? Will food taste different? Will I be able to taste new things out of the haze? All these questions are so interesting and wonderful that I would have read an entire book of her talking to me about the things she discovered about herself while sober. It was like she had emerged from the cocoon and stumbled around for a bit before realizing she had wings. “What do these do?” she mused, and then she took flight.

I love that her husband quit drinking with her. That is love and support. He may not have been an alcoholic but she describes him as different and a bit angry when he drank, so that decision was probably good for them both.

She changed her goals and team at work too. Once she wasn’t drinking she discovered that the project and team she was working with was too fast-paced and, as she described it: “this isn’t me.” Not only was she discovering how things she wanted to keep around were, she gained the clarity to be able to determine those things that had to go. The aspects of her reality that just weren’t tenable anymore.

The luxury of space to breathe and the freedom to make choices concerning your own reality and well-being are front and center in Coulter’s journey, and while that is couched in the struggle of alcoholism, her tale is only ever reaching forward, only looking back in an effort to fuel progress. The only thing you can do is cheer her on, because you will be so proud of her perseverance.

I have placed this book on my Christmas list. I plan to place it alongside Megan Stielstra’s The Wrong Way to Save Your Life and Samantha Irby’s We Are Never Meeting In Real Life¬†on my shelf. Very slowly I am making a small library of stories that make me feel inspired and, more importantly, less alone. No matter your struggles, Coulter’s journey will inspire you to ask about what you like in your own life so that you can surround yourself with joy and not miss out on a single experience. Go get you some.