Wednesday, November 25, 2015

ARC Review: Mailbox

Title: Mailbox: A Scattershot Novel of Racing, Dares and Danger, Occasional Nakedness, and Faith by Nancy Freund
Publisher: Gobreau Press
Format: advanced ebook received from publisher through in exchange for an honest review
Pages: 232 pages
Genre: Fiction, coming of age

This title was release May 10, 2015

Synopsis: The Drue family moved from New York to Small Town, USA in the '70s, and they may never fully fit in. Thirteen-year-old Sandy's parents encourage her curiosity, her imagination, and her challenge of social conventions - but not without cost. Sandy and her brother are now learning about horses, cows, swimming pools, and guns. An artist and intellectual, their mother feels like she's hosting foreign exchange students who never leave. Sandy loves the idea of this - both hosting foreign students and traveling the world. As a start, she begins writing letters to distant friends and to the universe, seeking answers to the biggest question she faces...whether there's anyone bigger in charge.

Review: Each chapter is different and the book wanders around from topic to topic but it all fits together, sort of like reading someone's diary.  This diary is of Sandy Drue, who wants to be Nancy Drew and has all sorts of delightful insights into life and adults.  Maybe it's due to the fact that I grew up in this time period but it was wonderful to read about so many of my childhood staples, the metal roller skates, the politics of the time, and all sorts of things.  Sandy's parents are artistic and unconventional and allow their children to figure things out on their own.  Her parents often state that they feel like they are raising foreign exchange students, they don't always understand their kids but they are always supportive.

This is a great coming of age novel. I loved the style of the writing and the insights into childhood in the 1970's USA.  Very well done, but don't expect a fluid story.

Monday, November 23, 2015

ARC Review: A Beautiful Blue Death (Charles Lenox Mystery Book 1)

Title: A Beautiful Blue Death (Charles Lenox Mysteries) by Charles Finch
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Format: e-book received from the publisher from in exchange for an honest review
Pages: 324 Pages
Genre: Mystery
This title was released on June 26, 2007

Synopsis: Charles Lenox, Victorian gentleman and armchair explorer, likes nothing more than to relax in his private study with a cup of tea, a roaring fire and a good book. But when his lifelong friend Lady Jane asks for his help, Lenox cannot resist the chance to unravel a mystery.

Prudence Smith, one of Jane's former servants, is dead of an apparent suicide. But Lenox suspects something far more sinister: murder, by a rare and deadly poison. The grand house where the girl worked is full of suspects, and though Prue had dabbled with the hearts of more than a few men, Lenox is baffled by the motive for the girl's death.

When another body turns up during the London season's most fashionable ball, Lenox must untangle a web of loyalties and animosities. Was it jealousy that killed Prudence Smith? Or was it something else entirely? And can Lenox find the answer before the killer strikes again―this time, disturbingly close to home?

(78)Review: Set in Victorian England this mystery has many twists and turns and well developed characters.  Charles Lenox is a bachelor in the upper levels of society who spends his free time trying to solve the mysteries of the Ton.

Charles Lenox would be happy if he could find a good pair of warm waterproof boots, have a nice fire, tea a good book and the company of his neighbor Lady Jane. However he always seems to get sucked in by a good mystery as an amateur detective. In this book Lennox with the help of his brother, footman, and a host of other colorful individuals Lennox struggles to find the killer of a maid whose murder looks like a suicide but could hold the key to a much larger deception.

Excellent read, I may be picking up more of these charming books.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Book Review: Anything for Amelia

Title: Anything For Amelia: A true story of the challenges endured by two gay men who had the desire to adopt a child. by Andrew C. Branham
Publisher: First Edition Design Publishing
Format: Kindle
Pages: 209 pages
Genre: Adoption, memoir, lgbt

Synopsis: A true story of the challenges endured by two gay men who had the desire to adopt a child.

When Andrew and DJ decided to adopt and bring a child into their lives, little did they know what they were about to endure; yet never did the thought cross their minds to give up. The horrific, pitilessly, and beyond comprehensible hoops one woman would make them jump through demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt that little Amelia was going to be much better off in the loving home that Drew and DJ could provide her. Just when you think, how can two people survive such a nightmare and the journey is just about over when little Amelia is born and will be safely in the arms of her loving dads, Sandi decides to pull one more shenanigan that could change their lives forever.

Review: This book really drives home to me how using an agency instead of an adoption facilitator can help shelter families from women who try to take advantage of prospective adoptive parents. Andrew and his partner DJ used an adoption facilitator who matched them with a birth mother (Sandi) but most of the work was done by themselves with calls to their attorney.  They got paperwork signed, they set up meetings with their birth mother and her family and they didn't have anyone really looking out or protecting them from this demanding woman. In addition further along in the book you realize that their facilitator knew more about this woman than she told Andrew and DJ, there had already been an agency that had tried to put information out there about her manipulations and illegal actions with another family.

We can all look at Sandi with disdain for her manipulations and actions but this woman was smart and knew how to work the system.  She was manipulative, she lied, and she blackmailed, she was abusive to her children, to her boyfriend, and to pretty much everyone around her yet she survived and usually got her way.  I'm not saying she was a wonderful person but you have to give credit to her survival skills.

I think that there were many unrealistic expectations on the part of Andrew and DJ as well as Sandi on what to expect during the whole process and the facilitator didn't do enough to help them navigate this new relationship.  Throughout this book I was struck that Andrew and DJ considered this child theirs before termination even happened.  This is not a surrogate relationship, this was an adoption, and Sandi had rights, and the child she was carrying was hers until she signed her surrenders.  The fact that Andrew and DJ were posting on facebook that they were going to have a boy or a girl was disrespectful to Sandi and manipulative in its own way.  I understand that Andrew was worn down and angry with Sandi at the time he wrote this book but I feel the anger and disrespect he writes about her, his child's mother is inconsiderate of Amelia.  Even with all her faults this is the woman who carried and gave life to their daughter and that in itself should be enough to think about how this tale will effect his daughter when she is older, and I wonder how they speak of her to their daughter.

Even in divorce situations you are always cautioned against badmouthing the other parent. Andrew didn't just tell his story, he told Sandi's and he also told Amelia's.  If he was that concerned about Sandi's children he would have called Child Protective Services, or better yet why didn't the Adoption Facilitator? She should be a mandated reporter, so knowing everything that was going on she should have been obligated to make a call.  Andrew has stated in comments that he didn't call anyone because it may have jeopardized the adoption, that Amelia may have wound up with Sandi and while I appreciate that he wanted to save a child from her wrath, he and all the other adults in this situation allowed 4 children to suffer for months, which seems a little self serving and selfish.

I think that anyone reading this book would feel compassion for Andrew and DJ but I really wonder how will this book impact Amelia in the future? This negative, degrading description of her birth mother? This is a good cautionary tale and a good reason why using an agency to facilitate the adoption process and navigate the relationship between prospective adoptive parents and birth parents is a good idea, but I still feel that there were expectations and feelings on both sides that led this adoption down a dark path that could have been nipped in the bud early on.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Book Review: Half a World Away

Title: Half a World Away by Cynthia Kadohata
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Format: Kindle
Pages: 256 pages
Genre: Adoption

Synopsis: Eleven-year-old Jaden is adopted, and he knows he’s an “epic fail.” That’s why his family is traveling to Kazakhstan to adopt a new baby—to replace him, he’s sure. And he gets it. He is incapable of stopping his stealing, hoarding, lighting fires, aggressive running, and obsession with electricity. He knows his parents love him, but he feels...nothing.

When they get to Kazakhstan, it turns out the infant they’ve traveled for has already been adopted, and literally within minutes are faced with having to choose from six other babies. While his parents agonize, Jaden is more interested in the toddlers. One, a little guy named Dimash, spies Jaden and barrels over to him every time he sees him. Jaden finds himself increasingly intrigued by and worried about Dimash. Already three years old and barely able to speak, Dimash will soon age out of the orphanage, and then his life will be as hopeless as Jaden feels now. For the first time in his life, Jaden actually feels something that isn’t pure blinding fury, and there’s no way to control it, or its power.

(76)Review: This was a great book that really got into the head of a 12 year old boy who was adopted at the age of 8 from Romania.  Jaden is having a hard time adjusting to his new home, he is angry with his birth mother, wants to love his adoptive parents but struggles with it.  He is sad he had to leave Romania and is angry with his adoptive parents for taking him away but also knows that they love and care for him.  He struggles with attaching and loving them expecting them to betray him.

Ms. Kadohata was able to really get inside the head of a boy struggling with attachment, the different emotions building up inside him and allows you to see things from his perspective.  When the family travels to Kazakhstan to adopt another child Jaden's feelings really rise to the surface as he believes he is not good enough and that is why his adoptive parents want another child.  His insights into the orphanage children and baby they are adopting is poignant and touching.  He relates to them, he knows what it is like to live in an orphanage.  He knows what it is like to feel hopeless.

Beautifully written Ms. Kadohata has really strongly developed characters and a great story that has you really living in Jaden's skin.  You want him to feel, you want his wall to crack, and you feel his pain as he struggles with it.  This would be a great book for anyone adopting an older child either through the foster care system or internationally as Jaden's character is very easy to relate to.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Book Review: How Open Should My Adoption Be?

Title:How Open Should My Adoption Be?: Levels of Openness In Adoption (Guide to a Healthy Adoptive Family, Adoption Parenting, and Open Relationships Book 3) by Russell Elkins
Publisher: Inky's Nest Publishing
Format: Kindle
Pages: 50
Genre: Adoption,

Synopsis: This book is part of a four book series that can be purchased together as an ebook set.

An open adoption relationship can be scary! Open adoption means that an adopted child has a relationship with his or her biological family. But just how “open” should that relationship be?
There is nothing in this world like an open adoption. Because of that, it’s hard to foresee the many different scenarios that will come. You do your best to plan ahead, but you’ll still find yourself in situations you hadn’t fully considered. Should you connect with your child’s birthparents on social media? Should you allow face-to-face visits? How often should you share photos and letters?

This book cannot answer these types of questions for you. What it will do, is help you envision how these intimate interactions can positively or negatively affect your relationship so that you can answer them for yourself. It will walk you through many of these situations to help you plan for what could be one of the most rewarding relationships in your life.

(75)Review: This short 50 page book is packed with a lot of really important information.  Russell Elkins adopted two children and has a very open adoption with both of his birth parents.  How these relationships developed is different and you can learn through their mistakes how to navigate these difficult and emotional relationships.  The only shortcoming of this book was the continuous references to his other books and how you should read them.  Which I admit are all great books I just wish he didn't feel the need to advertise in each of them for the others.

The gems in this book touch on social media, extended family, and the importance of communication.  Another really important piece to be aware of is how the 1st year after adopting is often much more stressful than you expect, becoming new parents, establishing that new relationship with the birth parents and with each other, lack of sleep, fear of disruption, and the invasion of social workers who have to check up on you until finalization can all put a lot of strain on what is already a very emotional time.  So maybe lower your expectations of what this year will look like and take it moment by moment.  Also very important is his section on the time in the hospital.  Respecting the birth parents time with the child in the hospital and remembering that this time belongs to them and isn't your time to start parenting. You may have a lifetime to do that and they have the very short period of time spent in the hospital, respect that.

This book can be read in an hour but it is one you may want to keep around to reference when things come up.  He has some really great ideas and some really profound insight.  I appreciate the short length of this book because it wasn't overwhelming amounts of information and gave lots of food for thought.

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