4/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2019, X-Y-Z

Review: The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib

The Girls at 17 Swann Street
by Yara Zgheib

The Girls at 17 Swann Street

 

Copyright: 2019

Pages: 384

Read: July 13 – July 15, 2019

Rating: 4/5

Source: Library

 

Blurb: The chocolate went first, then the cheese, the fries, the ice cream. The bread was more difficult, but if she could just lose a little more weight, perhaps she would make the soloists list. Perhaps if she were lighter, danced better, tried harder, she would be good enough. Perhaps if she just ran for one more mile, lost just one more pound. 

Anna Roux was a professional dancer who followed the man of her dreams from Paris to Missouri. There, alone with her biggest fears – imperfection, failure, loneliness – she spirals down into anorexia and depression till she weighs a mere eighty-eight pounds. Forced to seek treatment, she is admitted as a patient at 17 Swann Street, a peach-pink house where pale, fragile women with life-threatening eating disorders live. Women like Emm, the veteran; quiet Valerie; Julia, who is always hungry. Together, they must fight their diseases and face six meals a day.

Every bite causes anxiety. Every flavor induces guilt. And every step Anna takes toward recovery will require strength, endurance, and the support of the girls at 17 Swann Street.


Review: I picked this one up on a whim at my library. I was just browsing the shelf and this one caught my eye. I had seen it mentioned before online, but I was really drawn in by that cover (and the “Z” author certainly helped for my Goodreads challenges 🙂 )

This book is a heartbreaking tale. My stomach was just in knots most of the time. I suffered the same anxiety as the ladies did when it was their meal times. I was terrified for them and how they would make it through. It brought out such an emotional response from me that I was not prepared for.

This is not an easy read, but I feel like it’s an important read. I knew a girl in high school who sought treatment for anorexia. I don’t remember that she ever got that thin – I think her family caught it before it got too serious. But I remember not really understanding it at the time. This book really helped me to understand it better. I wish I had had a book like this all those years ago. It would have helped all of us understand what she was dealing with a little bit better.

Overall I highly recommend this book. It’s a tough read about a tough subject, but one that I think is necessary for us to better understand eating disorders and those suffering from them.

 

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4/5, AUTHOR, Author Debut, Book Review, Fiction, MMD Book Club, RATING, Read in 2019, X-Y-Z

Review: Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson

Meet Me at the Museum
by Anne Youngson

Meet Me at the Museum

 

Copyright: 2018

Pages: 272

Read: Jan 28 – Feb. 3, 2019

Rating: 4/5

Source: Library

 

Blurb: In Denmark, Professor Anders Larsen, an urbane man of facts, has lost his wife and his hopes for the future. On an isolated English farm, Tina Hopgood is trapped in a life she doesn’t remember choosing. Both believe their love stories are over.

Brought together by a shared fascination with the Tollund Man, the subject of Seamus Heaney’s famous poem, they begin writing letters to each other. And from their vastly different worlds, they find they have more in common than they could have imagined. As they open up to each other about their lives, an unexpected friendship blooms. But then Tina’s letters stop coming, and Anders is thrown into despair. How far are they willing to go to write a new story for themselves?


Review: This book is the February selection for the Modern Mrs. Darcy book club. It is an epistolary novel, a little romance, and WAY outside of my comfort zone. But I was definitely looking forward to giving it a shot!

First, it took me a little bit to get into the book. The first few letters are a little cumbersome feeling with the two main characters, Tina and Anders, not knowing what to expect out of the correspondence. But I found that once they got deeper into knowing each other their letters became a lot easier to read. On the other hand, I struggled with how things progressed for both characters. Anders was still grieving his dead wife; I felt like he was taking the correspondence as something tangible that he could hold onto and I could definitely see him falling for Tina. Then there was Tina, who was in a lukewarm marriage and obviously unsure of her life in general. I felt like she became so engrossed in these letters with Anders that she may have ignored her real life in some ways. It’s really difficult for me to properly say my opinion on how both characters handled themselves in their letters (ok – mainly just Tina…) because it hits a very personal nerve on something that I’m not comfortable sharing on my blog. Plus it also enters into spoiler territory to fully explain it.

Well, I’m sure that was clear as mud!

Overall I enjoyed the book quite a bit more than I had anticipated. I’m not a huge fan of the epistolary format in general, however I truly feel like this particular one was done “right.” I know that “right” is subjective and quite personal, but I don’t think that this story could have been as effectively told without the use of letters. I suppose it’s easier to just say that this format worked for me in this particular book. I also felt that the way the correspondence began felt totally believable to me, in addition to how the correspondence naturally continued. It just felt “right.”

I can definitely see how this little gem of a book has garnered attention. I unfortunately had never heard of this one prior to it being announced as a book club selection and I most likely would never have picked it up on my own, but I thoroughly enjoyed stepping outside of my comfort zone for this one.

4.5/5, AUTHOR, Author Debut, Book Review, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2013, X-Y-Z

2013.36 REVIEW – The Never List by Koethi Zan

The Never List
by Koethi Zan

Copyright: 2013
Pages: 303
Rating: 4.5/5
Read: Aug.13-17, 2013
Challenge: No challenge
Yearly count: 36
Format: Print
Source: Library

The Never ListBlurb: For years, best friends Sarah and Jennifer kept what they called the Never List: a list of actions to be avoided, for safety’s sake, at all costs. But one night, against their best instincts, they accept a cab ride with grave, everlasting consequences. For the next three years, they are held captive with two other girls in a dungeon-like cellar by a connoisseur of sadism.

Ten years later, at thirty-one, Sarah is still struggling to resume a normal life, unable to come to grips with the fact that Jennifer didn’t make it out of that cellar. Now, her abductor is up for parole and Sarah can no longer ignore the twisted letters he sends from jail.

Finally, Sarah decides to confront her phobias – and the other survivors, who hold their own deep grudges against her. When she goes on a cross-country chase that takes her into the perverse world of BDSM, secret cults, and the arcane study of torture, Sarah begins unraveling a mystery more horrifying than even she could have imagined.


Review: When I first saw this book mentioned somewhere (darn it, why can I never remember to jot that down?!), I was immediately intrigued. You can imagine my delight when I saw that my library had two copies on order and that there were only two people on the waiting list!

When I began reading it, I was immediately hooked. I took to Sarah’s character right away. I couldn’t help but pity her and Jennifer after surviving that horrific car crash that claimed the life of Jennifer’s mother. You really couldn’t blame them for starting the “Never List.” They took every precaution … even going so far as to hiring a car service while they were in college so that they would never have to get into a cab with a strange driver. Unfortunately, one night they did indeed let their guard down. And that was the night they were abducted.

I must state that this book coming out so close to the time of those women in Ohio being rescued from that man’s house … just, wow. Just the parallels between the two stories, especially since Sarah and Jennifer were at Ohio State! Very strange, indeed.

I have to give big props to the author, though. This book could have been extremely gruesome based on the abduction and the characters’ time in that cellar. Somehow, Ms. Zan managed to keep the descriptions of their time in the cellar to a minimum, and when it was mentioned, it was done tastefully in my opinion. I know that sounds hard to believe, but it really is how I felt about it. And the language is actually rather clean, with just a few F-bombs scattered throughout. Nothing gratuitous, in my opinion.

I do have one slight issue with this book, though. Sarah’s character bothered me a little bit. First of all, I want to know how you can have someone so afraid of just going outside, manage to leave her apartment, fly across the country, drive at night and investigate something that has haunted her for years? It seemed very much at odds with everything I as a reader knew about Sarah. I mean, she wouldn’t even shake the hand of the FBI agent in charge of her case! How was she able to overcome all of that and go on that journey? It just didn’t really seem plausible that she would be able to cope with so much so quickly.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I felt like it was a roller-coaster, thrill-a-minute ride from page one. I prefer to keep my comments here relatively clean, but I can’t help but tell you that when I finished this book, the first thing that came to my mind was “what a total mind-f*ck.” It’s the best psychological thriller I’ve read in some time.

Highly recommended.