Tag Archives: domestic violence

Review: Shake Down the Stars by Renee Swindle

8th August 2013

pg1*This book was sent to me by the author Renee Swindle in exchange for an honest review.

It’s been five years since Piper Nelson’s daughter died, but she’s coping worse than ever. Her mother and sister are so absorbed in the sister’s celebrity wedding, they don’t have time to notice Piper’s pain. Her ex husband has moved on, and the loss seems to sever her last connection to her daughter, adding to her sorrow.

Her job as a high school teacher suffers as Piper begins drinking more and more to stave off the pain. And like many addicts, she’s hurt too many people by the time she reaches the end of her descent to know where to turn. Help comes in the unlikely form of Selwyn, whom Piper meets at a disastrous engagement party for her sister and her sister’s pro football fiance. Not put off by Piper’s anger and addiction, he instead offers her support and friendship.

She knows she needs to change, but how do you move on from such a loss? How do you shut it away when others are ready to pass over it?

Though Shake Down the Stars could easily have been a depressing or morbid book, Renee Swindle writes a book that feels incredibly realistic and respectful. Addiction is never demonized but written about with understanding and empathy. Swindle also respects that loss looks different to different people and that the reactions to death can range as widely as the people that death affects. But Piper can’t see that in her grief, and the family dynamics and her eventual recognition of them is just as pivotal to her story.

Piper learns to find joy and laughter again through unexpected relationships, including other addicts who walk the same road she does. Yet never does Swindle brush over Piper’s pain, making for a book that can cause laughter and tears sometimes on the same page.

ZZ Packer, author of Drinking Coffee Elsewhere says it best, calling Shake Down the Stars “a rich, savvy exploration of the many kinds of love, loss, and dysfunction that can unearth us or save us, bedevil us or deliver us.”

Add this to your Goodreads shelf.

Review: The Look of Love by Bella Andre

18th June 2013

pg1

 *I received this unsolicited from Harlequin Mira.

So by now, I think we all know about my hesitation when it comes to romance novels. But when the temps get warmer, and I’ve graded essays and had to email people about plagiarism, I typically want some light fare in terms of my reading.

This book came unsolicited in all its pink and lush scenic glory, and it was perfect timing. But as is typical, I had mixed reactions to this book. In the words of my best friend, “I think you think too hard when you read romance.” Guilty as charged.

What It’s About: Chloe Peterson has left a bad (and possibly abusive) relationship when she finds herself on the side of the road in a wrecked car. Chase Sullivan is a professional photographer with his pick of women, and he hasn’t yet tired of the selection. When he comes across Chloe on the side of the road, however, something tells him this one’s different.

What Irked Me: First of all, can we just talk about the name Chase Sullivan. It’s soooo romance novel-y. Or soap opera. Chase. Sloan. Slade. These names, I swear. But that’s superficial. So Chase is pretty sure that Chloe has been abused, and recently. Does this stop him from making a move pretty much as soon as they meet? No. Also, I’m not quite sure why Chase gets so aroused as Chloe tells him about her black eye, even as he’s boiling mad about it. It’s just…weird. On top of that, Chase’s brothers and sisters (because this is book one in the Sullivan series, and there are a LOT of Sullivans) are – I’m not making this up – a famous Hollywood actor, a professional baseball player, a race car driver, and a Napa winemaker. Of course, you also have the lowly choreographer, librarian, and firefighter. I kid. Those are some damn good genes, if you ask me.

What I Liked: This is one sexy book. When I could forget long enough about how absolutely horrifying it is that Chase wouldn’t even bother to hide his arousal from a woman he knows has been abused or that he enters the bathroom she’s in without even knocking, I figured out the reason Bella Andre is such a success story. Her writing is super steamy and full of the sexytimes.

Plus, even as boneheaded (forgive the pun) as Chase is in the beginning when he meets Chloe, he’s super sensitive and accommodating, giving her time to tell him what has happened and what she needs instead of forcing her to explain herself. And after finding out who has harmed Chloe, he doesn’t charge ahead without waiting to hear what she wants to do, and this is ultimately what saved this romance for me. I’d also say that if there had been a bit more awareness on Chase’s part as to his behavior, his actions in the beginning wouldn’t have bothered me so much.

Is the bff right? Maybe. Romance novels set themselves up to be criticized. Sexual politics are so complicated that any novel that has sex in it is bound to make missteps. Do I wish I could turn off that part of my brain? No. Does it inhibit my enjoyment of a romance novel? Maybe, but I still enjoyed The Look of Love. I’d even consider reading more about the genetically unbelievable Sullivans.

I guess ultimately, breaking down a book like this helps me justify why I like it but also may clue you in as to whether or not the aspects that caused me pause would make or break the book for you. What do you think?

Add this to your Goodreads shelf.

Review: Blue-Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas

2nd October 2010

*Trigger warning: this post contains a story line which deals with domestic and sexual abuse.*


On the tail end of yesterday’s post, I had to write this morning about Blue-Eyed Devil. As promised, I went to the library last night and on my friend Sommer’s suggestion picked up the two sequels to Sugar Daddy, a book she passed on to me several years ago. Now, let me just say – my intentions last night were to eat dinner in my pjs, crawl into bed, and sleep blissfully until morning. Lisa Kleypas had other plans, and no, I’m not being dirty.

I stayed up until almost 3 a.m. reading this book. A romance novel? Sure, I guess. But it wasn’t just a romance novel: I CRIED.

There, I said it. The last book that made me well up was The Book Thief, ok. I’m a quality crier. No sappy ending brings tears to my eyes. In fact, sometimes I laugh at that sort of thing, but lying in bed, reading Blue-Eyed Devil, I couldn’t control my tears.

Haven Travis (I know, such a soap opera name) comes from Texas oil money and is from ritzy River Oaks Houston. She comes from a pretty strict background, although her best friend Todd, the son of two artists, is extremely liberal. He’s Buddhist and explains to Haven that Buddhists “spend a lot of time contemplating the nature of reality.” As a child when she asks to attend a Buddhist temple with Todd, her mother tells her she is a Baptist, and “Baptists didn’t spend their time thinking about reality.”

As an adult, though, Haven has got a conscience, which sometimes blinds her to people’s true natures. She is constantly trying to make up for having quite a lot of what most people have so little. The book opens at her brother’s wedding (culmination of Sugar Daddy), her boyfriend Nick by her side. But Daddy Travis, Haven’s impossible-to-impress father can’t stand Nick. In fact, no one seems impressed with him. However, Haven knows Nick came from nothing and loves his character and liberal nature. During the wedding, Haven sees who she thinks is Nick slip into the wine cellar and follows him in. Only it’s not Nick; it’s Hardy Cates, a business competitor of the Travis family. Cates, ahem, weakens Haven’s knees, but she leaves in search of Nick, who has spoken with her father, asking for Haven’s hand in marriage.

After she marries Nick and is cut off from Daddy’s money, she realizes Nick harbors great resentment toward her background. He blames Haven for her family’s money, even though it’s not something Haven thinks about. He wants to have children to manipulate money from Daddy Travis. The marriage becomes increasingly unstable as Nick’s personality deteriorates before Haven’s eyes. Haven must iron his shirts – just so – or she’s a bad wife. If she doesn’t have dinner made when they both get off work, she’s a bad wife. You see where this is going, and it’s not a comfortable place.

Nick becomes progressively more dangerous, and I think my tears started here, in the midst of the first slap:

Screaming. I’d never had someone scream into my face like that before, certainly not a man, and it was a kind of death.

Growing up, I remember my dad as a fairly laidback dad. He worked a lot as a grocery store manager, but it’s not his absences I remember. What has always, always stuck with me are the times when we would be watching television or a movie when my dad would abruptly get up and change the channel or turn the television off. I didn’t understand what was going on, having not even noticed what had happened on screen – a man hitting a woman, and I’m not sure if he ever explained; it may have been my mom who told me, “Your dad doesn’t ever want you or your sister to think that sort of violence is ok.”

Small – but it left an indelible impression on me. I won’t quote the violent scenes or the incident that pushes Haven to leave, but she does leave – after Nick throws her, bodily, onto the front stoop. Her older brother Gage sends someone to collect her in Dallas, and after a trip to the Medical Center, begins to heal. She’s skittish and sad, but slowly the old Haven comes around, except in social situations. One night after having drinks with her brother at a downtown bar, an incoming crowd shoves her, terrifying her with the body contact, into who else but the blue-eyed devil Hardy Cates, and Haven must come to terms with what has happened to her and learn to trust again.

It sounds so cliche, but honestly, if you could see my bleary eyes and mussed hair, having slept in until 9:20 a.m. (so so late for me), you would understand. It’s much less a romance novel than a story of hurt and healing. The only aspect of this novel that bothered me (other than the obvious) was the thought that most domestic violence victims don’t have a family with access to private jets and loads of money and influence to keep an abusive partner away. Of course, it’s fiction, but the book made it seem as though leaving the abuser is simple, when in actuality it’s not. I will say there are moments in the book that subtly address that, but it was just an observation.

I also hope you will not not pick up this book because of the abuse although I would certainly understand. I really enjoyed it and was interested in the narcissistic-personality disorder the book discusses.

And, as to my bout of crying, let’s just not mention that. Has a book ever caught you off guard like that? Especially a book you never thought would have that sort of effect on you? Please say yes.