Sunday, November 13, 2011

Turkey Monster Thanksgiving - Anne Warren Smith

Turkey Monster Thanksgiving Turkey Monster Thanksgiving
Turkey Monster Thanksgiving by Anne Warren Smith
Paperback112 pages
Whitman, Albert & Company 



* This is a Net Galley review. I received no compensation for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.*

This year, instead of celebrating Thanksgiving in the family's traditional way by eating pizza in their pajamas, nine-year-old Katie wants to create the perfect holiday and be just like a "real" family. But by Thanksgiving Day, Katie has invited guests Dad didn't expect, festooned the house with what may be poison oak, and set the sweet potatoes on fire. Ultimately everyone sits down to a most unusual dinner—one that succeeds because it comes from the heart.

My Opinion:
This was a fun book to read. I love the message that every family is a "real family" regardless of who is missing from the "traditional" family structure. The fact that it is a single dad who is in the home while the mother is not is a very welcome part of it. I know many men who are single dads. It is refreshing to see them get a nod. I think it is also reaffirming to the children who are being raised by single dads to see one portrayed in a holiday book. I loved how both the fathers who were in the book were written of in a positive way. I fell in love with Katie, not so much with Claire , (who I think I was friends with). I could picture all the scenes in the book. This is an absolutely delightful Thanksgiving book. I shared it with some children who ranged in ages from 4 to 10. They had a good time with it and we had a lively discussion of all the different ways families can celebrate. We all agreed it is a 5 star book. 

Comments Always Welcome!

The Value of Rain by Brandon Shire

The Value Of Rain

The Value of Rain by Brandon Shire
ebook Published  by The Practical Group  ISBN: 9781465826

*I received this book with a request to review. I received no compensation for my review. My review is based upon my honest opinions and feelings.*
Good Reads:
The Value of Rain is an emotionally rich but corrosive tale of hate and revenge told by a most extraordinary narrator. 
Charles is 14 when he is dumped into a mental hospital to cure his gayness, after being found with his first love. For the next ten years he endures mental and physical torture as part of that cure. When he is finally free, he begins a relentless quest for revenge against the woman who abetted his commitment into that hospital, his mother Charlotte. Charlotte, an extraordinary woman in her own right, cruelly uses her family in her quest to maintain her secrets and exact her own revenge. The Value of Rain chronicles this profane and profound journey through hate to the unexpected beginning of redemption.

My view:
I found this to be an emotional read. It is a story filled with 'rip the band aid off' emotion.  When the author asked me to review his book he let me know in advance it was about a gay man. He shouldn't have. It wasn't needed, (*this is a personal opinion - some people may have a hard time with some of the scenes). Yes the main character is gay and his being gay is a huge part of the story. But honestly, I could see the family dynamics and emotions played out in gay and straight families.  
Before I continue with the review I want to share something that most likely played a part in why Brandon did not need to let me know his character was gay.  One of my sons is gay. I remember the day he told me. He thought it was going to be huge and I could see his fear in his face. I thought he was going to tell me he was dying. When he finally got out he was gay, I was still waiting for the bad news.  This reaction confused him. So we were both sitting there confused and waiting for some horror to pop out. He finally asked me if I was mad at him. That question really threw me. I really did not think of his being gay as anything different than the color of his hair or eyes. It was just a part of him. I had not really been aware that people could turn from their children for that reason. As I came to know his friends and more young people from the LBGT community, I had my eyes opened. There was so many kids in so much pain. I was really shocked. It never occurred to me to turn away from my son. He was still my child. I still do not truly understand how families turn away. I am "mom" now to many more kids than just my own. These kids mean so much to me. They have enriched my life and I still feel sorrow for their families. Those families have lost so much.  While reading The Value of Rain I kept thinking of all these young adults I know and what it must have been like for some of them.
The book tells a disturbing story of how far the need for revenge can go. It tells the destructive nature of unforgiveness, ( I have no other I would choose to use). It is a testament to the pain we endure as children that can last a lifetime, coloring every choice we make. It is to this pain and destruction that I say to you that this story is one that can be found in many lives, both gay and straight.  Charles made many choices from that point that hurt him and others. It was his legacy from his mother who made her choices and path of destruction from that same point.  It also tells of the bond between parent and child that is strong  whether it is in love or hate. I have long believed you  cannot hate someone unless you have loved them first. People may say they hate you and it may hurt but the pain and memory usually fade. That fading memory does not usually happen when we loved the person.  Unless we choose to conscientiously move on this memory will taint every relationship we have. I chose to forgive. This does not mean I forget. It means that I chose to move on and not let the pain someone caused me continue to harm me. I do not chose to forgive to help the other person. I do  it to help me.  Charlotte was straight, Charles gay, yet they both were governed by the pain of a memory they let rule them. This happens in life. It is up to each of us to chose which path we take.
The book also address a very graphic look at mental health issues. Charles was placed in a mental hospital.  He underwent therapies that were popular at one time. They are horrific. I would like to say they no longer happen but I am not so certain.  Most hospitals now take a more humane approach to therapy.  However mental health carries its own stigma. People do not wish to be associated with mental hospitals. Most people who choose to work in them, I believe, do so with real intent to help. But as with all institutions that we don't wish to be associated with the world inside is a world apart. As much as we would like for there to be no need for these places there is a need. With that need there is a responsibility to both the people who reside there for a time and to the people who work in them. I believe so many of the cruelties that went on in mental hospitals happened because they were a world on their own filled with throw away people. We have made a lot of progress, those who are gay , those who have autism, those who have severe depression are not warehoused in them any more, (I am speaking of the USA). Yet with all the progress we still have the stigmas attached. Some people are still frightened of gays, autism, depression, different religions and cultures as well as mental issues. This still leads to an alarming amount of animosity and to hate crimes. As this book shows this can be committed by those who should love us most.
It has taken me some time to write this up. If you think this rant is bad, you should have seen the first few. 
I believe this book is an eye opener into how much we can hurt someone we love. A sad part of this is that I believe Charlotte loved Charles and he loved her. The things that haunted Charlotte destroyed her ability to give that love to Charles. Instead she gave him a haunting for him to carry. Brandon wrote fiercely but also with beauty. It is an intense and vivid book that  will have you examining what pain you hold on to and what true value it brings to you. It is one that I would recommend to book clubs that choose books that examine life and its impact on us. 

Brandon has a website at http://brandonshire.com/

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The Value of Rain can be found at: Amazon  Barnes&Noble  Smashwords

Comments Always Welcome!