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Original Essays | July 24, 2014

Jessica Valenti: IMG Full Frontal Feminism Revisited

It is arguably the worst and best time to be a feminist. In the years since I first wrote Full Frontal Feminism, we've seen a huge cultural shift in... Continue »
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The Lost Entwife has commented on (162) products.

Decompression by Juli Zeh

The Lost Entwife, July 26, 2014

This is not going to be a long review. To be honest, it's been two months since I read DECOMPRESSION by Juli Zeh and the most excitement I can gather when I think of it is a mild, distracted, "meh." That sounds really bad, but I was so taken in by the interesting cover and the synopsis and setting (The Canary Islands!) that I couldn't help but imagine something exciting and thrilling. What I got, instead, was something that made me feel slightly dirty and more than a little frustrated that I spent so much of my valuable free time trying to muddle through the whole thing.

Honestly, this should have been a DNF (did not finish) book for me. I kept hoping that the story would get better, that it would be revealed that there actually was a good person in all of this, and other than a brief glimpse at the end of a character who was really kept in the background, I didn't really get that. Instead, I got a story about some self-centered, rich people who live in seclusion in paradise and who have been hired out to cater to some more self-centered rich people.

The suspense was all built around sexual tension. That's not to say there can't be suspense there, but it never actually felt dangerous. Instead, it felt like Zeh was trying too hard to put suspense and tension into the book and was way overshooting the mark. I didn't believe it, I didn't believe that the characters actually had passion and drive and desire. Instead, what I felt like was that I was reading a mediocre play that involved a mediocre cast trying to put some life into it.

I was deeply disappointed by DECOMPRESSION, but I'm more disappointed in myself that I got sucked in by yet another pretty cover and the idea of a story that really wasn't delivered.
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The Home Place by Carrie La Seur
The Home Place

The Lost Entwife, July 25, 2014

Unless you have been out west (Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, etc) it's impossible to describe the sheer beauty and enormous space there is there. I spent a few years living in Wyoming, in Laramie where I went to school at the Univ. of Wyoming, and as much as I hated the brutal winters that would rip my face open it felt like with the wind and the snow and the ice, I also admired on a near-daily basis the beauty of the mountains and the majesty of the land surrounding me. In THE HOME PLACE by Carrie La Seur, some of that is captured and I was impressed in the reverence with which La Seur approached her subject.

THE HOME PLACE is first a story of a broken family and the death of one of its members. Vicky, the youngest in a family torn apart by an accident years before, has been found dead, supposedly of the elements. It's January and her older sister, Alma, has less than a week to get everything squared away, including figuring out where to settle Vicky's daughter, Tiffany, before she has to be back in Seattle for her work.

The problem is the land and the people on it - they are hard to get out and away from and if you go back, they attach right back to you, as Alma learns. Immersed in memories and family and the love/hate relationship that goes along with all of that, Alma has to struggle to figure out what it is she really wants. What made this book so irresistible to being put down, however, is the depth and breadth that Carrie La Suer went to in order to give a diverse and interesting look at life in modern-day Billings, Montana.

From the Native American factions and descriptions, to a brother who lives a lifestyle that, to this day, required strength of character and bravery in order to live every day life, to the sweeping descriptions of both the land, as well as a home that made me want to curl up next to the fire and read, the true beauty of THE HOME PLACE is the story that isn't being told. It's the background and the secondary characters and the feelings those evoke in the reader. Like the sweeping vastness of Montana, it seems unattainable yet feels like home all at the same time.
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Lucky Us by Amy Bloom
Lucky Us

The Lost Entwife, July 25, 2014

LUCKY US by Amy Bloom starts with the following line: ""My father's wife died. My mother said we should drive down to his place and see what might be in it for us." Unfortunately, things did not stay with that same level of awesomeness. What I was pitched by the synopsis was a story that involved two sisters stumbling through life together. What I got was two sisters thrown together until something happened that tears them apart and the rest of the story we only really get to see the life of the one sister - Eva - the sister who, in spite of Bloom's best efforts, was somewhat of a wet-rag type of character.

Am I being too harsh? I don't think so. I really tried to get on Eva's side. I wanted to be able to root for her, but she just kind of floundered around in this story. She never takes a stand for anything, never speaks up for herself, and instead, she seems to constantly be apologizing for being just ... there. Some very interesting characters enjoy Eva, so I'm sure that there was an intention there for her to be interesting and worth following, but instead I felt just a bit gypped because I wanted to follow Iris through her life and, through an interesting turn of events, all I got were letters and a wrapped up ending.

Bloom touches on some heavy subjects in LUCKY US - from Japanese internment camps, Nazi sympathizers, deportation, and gay and lesbian issues during the WW2 era. But she only touches on them, leaving the exploration out of the picture and using only parts of those issues in order to make her story seem more.. legitimate perhaps? I'm not really sure how to put it other than that way, because what I got out of LUCKY US was a that it was an historical novel that saved face as an historical novel because it included some pretty big issues from the WW2 era. Strip those issues away and all that would be left is a mediocre relationship between two girls - only one of whom flirted at being something more than a two-dimensional character.
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Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

The Lost Entwife, July 24, 2014

Liane Moriarty snagged me with her smash hit, THE HUSBAND'S SECRET. I read it last year and my jaw dropped at how hard of a punch it packed. So when I saw that BIG LITTLE LIES was coming out, I knew this would be one I couldn't pass up. I was a bit worried, I'll admit, that it wouldn't live up to what its predecessor did for me, but almost immediately that worry was put to rest as I started in, immediately fascinated by the names floating on the page and the gossip they were revealing.

Let me give you a piece of advice before you pick up BIG LITTLE LIES. Don't worry about the names or keeping them all straight. The book is separated into segments and the traditionally written parts deal with the main characters (three women, really). You will get to know them very well. The rest of the book is in interview bites and the names will become familiar but in a less personal way. You may see them in passing in the stories of Jane, Celeste, and Madeleine, but they aren't super vital to the story right away. So, don't be like me and anxiously flip back and forth trying to figure out who is who.

With that said, now you can dive into the meat of the book. BIG LITTLE LIES takes on all sorts of issues facing couples, parents, and families today. It talks about big issues that face the world and more intimate issues that only surface in the bedroom. It talks about issues of seeming lack of importance in a Kindergarten classroom and it talks about issues that can bring about death in a fierce, unexpected, and hard way.

BIG LITTLE LIES talks about all of this and still managed to make me laugh in the midst of my tears.

Also, it made me shout out loud. I'm not even joking. I was reading in bed, my sister was outside of my door, and I shouted NO so loudly she wondered what the heck was going on (she knew I was alone and I'm really not a crazy person who normally talks out loud when I'm alone). I can remember the last time I read a book that had me exclaim out loud - it was a book by Jeffrey Archer (A PRISONER OF BIRTH), and I still think of that book fondly. Now it has another book to join it on that lonely shelf.

If you haven't read Moriarty's books then I envy you. They are not really re-readable, due to the fact that the surprise is half the fun, but they are indeed fun, interesting, heart-wrenching, and filled with character. I recommend you pick up BIG LITTLE LIES as soon as you can, and if you are one of the few people who hasn't read THE HUSBAND'S SECRET, pick that one up too.
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Life Drawing by Robin Black
Life Drawing

The Lost Entwife, July 22, 2014

I made a mistake in reading LIFE DRAWING by Robin Black. The mistake was not in the reading of the book, but the reading of the book after a piece of fluff that had my mind going 100mph. The first half of LIFE DRAWING had me groaning out of boredom and struggling to calm my racing thoughts, but then.. once I was able to calm down, I began to see just how beautiful the scenery was.

Here's the thing about LIFE DRAWING. It's actually a word-painting of life and the struggles that come, inherent, with any close relationships. Who do you trust outside of your partner? What do you trust your partner with? Can your partner handle if it you decide to go ahead and spill? If not, what do you do from there? These are just a few of the questions being addressed in Black's story about a husband and wife and their neighbor next door.

August, or Gus, is an artist in her 40's and she and her husband, Owen (a writer), came into some money that, by their standards, is a fortune. This money enabled them to move away from the city and all of the issues that plagued them there and try to start over in a quaint home that has excellent light for Gus and a perfect barn for Owen to write in. Their life is not idyllic, but it's comfortable for them.

Then everything is disrupted when a woman moves in next door. The woman, Alison, is also a painter, and with that bit in common with Gus, a friendship is formed. Gus, who has never had a close friendship with a woman, is left to navigate some tricky waters and trouble starts to brew.

August also comes with her own special set of baggage. I thought I knew where the story was going to take me, but to be honest, I should have known better. The weaving of the stories becomes so complex that LIFE DRAWING really becomes quite the masterpiece by the end. Black is extremely patient in her storytelling and paints a very intricate, very detailed picture of the lives of Owen and Gus. The result was surprising and had me completely floored. And here I thought the book was going to be boring.
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