“Being Henry David”—A Book Review

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Being Henry David by Cal Armistead is a remarkable tale, to say the least! This coming-of-age novel asks the difficult question most of us have trouble answering:  Who am I?

“Hank” is a teenage boy that wakes up at Penn Station with no recollection of who he is or how he got there. He has absolutely no memories from his past—his mind a completely blank slate. Hanks only possessions are the clothes he is wearing, a crumpled up ten dollar bill in his pocket, and a beat up copy of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden.

“Absolutely nothing in my life is familiar, and it’s like standing on the edge of a cliff every damn minute, rocks crumbling under my feet.”

With the worn out paperback as his only lead, Hank heads out for the most sensible destination, Walden Pond in Concord Massachusetts. Hopefully the serenity and simplicity of “going back to the basics” will help jog his memory of who he is and where he comes from. But the question is, does he really want to know about his past demons?   

“There’s a black beast inside me that doesn’t want me to know stuff. It guards my memory, clawing at my insides and going for my throat if I get too close.”

Finding friends and a sense of safety in the most unlikely places and faces, Henry must learn to face his past and unlock his memories without shattering himself in the process.

All I can say about Being Henry David is “wow”.  I literally could not put this book down. Though provoking and insightful, this novel challenges you to look inside yourself and challenge yourself to face your own demons.

Five out of five stars! I look forward to any future novels from Cal Armistead

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“This is W.A.R.”—A Book Review

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This is W.A.R. by Lisa Roecker and Laura Roecker was an intriguing tale about murder and retaliation.

The novel starts off from the prospective a young girl drowning— fighting for her life, but failing.

“Willa Ames-Rowan never gave up and welcomed death. Willa Ames-Rowan simply died.”

All of the members of the Hawthorne Lake Country Club witness the police pulling the lifeless, blue-lipped, body of teenage Will Ames-Rowan from the moonlit waters of the club. Many individuals are interviewed by the police. And even though several people saw club heir, James Gregory, ride off in a motorboat with Willa and return alone, no dare says anything. Because when nothing else will, money speaks volumes.

 “Esteemed members of the Hawthorne Lake Country Club handled the tragedy much like they handled rare bone cancers and childhood diseases with no cure: they threw money at it.”

Four teenage girls are completely outraged that the Captain (the owner of the Hawthorne Lakes Country Club) thinks he can help his grandson get away with murder by paying off everyone involved. Thus, they decided to take matters into their own hands. For these four girls, a safety deposit box containing $75,000 in cash, an overwhelming since of guilt, and a striving need for vengeance translates to three little words. This is war.

Told in alternating narratives, this book gives insight into the lives of the rich, the not-so-rich, and the burden overbearing parents can cause. Though you think you can know someone by their social status, their grades, or their appearance, this definitely isn’t so.

Overall, I would give this book three out of five stars. It wasn’t amazing, but it wasn’t horrible either. It kept me intrigued enough to keep reading to see if the girls’ plans would work and if justice would finally be served.

“Pushing the Limits”—A Book Review

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Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry is deceptively deep and raw. From the somewhat raunchy cover and generic summary on the back of the book, I thought this novel would be some cheesy, but entertaining, love story. I was SO wrong. So here’s what the book is really about:

Echo used to be popular. She had all the right friends, impressive extracurricular activities, the perfect sports star boyfriend. But her entire high school status was changed by the tragic events on one life-shattering night. It wasn’t bad enough that she lost her brother due to the war in Afghanistan, but on top of that she now has hideous scars claiming the skin of her arms and has no idea how they got there. Her body has repressed the memories of what took place that night to keep her fragile mind safe.  All she knows is that rumors fly fast in furious in the high school social world and that there is a restraining order in place against her bipolar mother.

Like Echo, Noah used to have it all, the right friends, a fierce and promising future in basketball, and a loving family. But after a fire claimed the lives of his parents and the system took his little brothers away, life doesn’t look so hopeful to Noah. Being unjustly bounced from three different foster homes has caused Noah to feel downtrodden and hopeless. To cope, he smokes copious amounts of weed, hangs out with corrupt foster siblings, and screws any girl willing to ride that train for a night.

With some manipulation on the part of their new guidance counselor/social worker, Echo gets conned into tutoring Noah. The result? Maybe they aren’t so different after all. Both carry scars (physically and emotionally) and both have lost their families (Noah by a jacked up system, Echo due to an unstable mother and a controlling father who thinks a new wife and baby-on-the-way is the way to accomplish normalcy).

 

“My parents died. I got screwed by a system supposedly in place to protect me. Echo…Echo was betrayed by the person who should have laid down her life to protect her.”

 

Told in alternating points of view, this novel shows you that sometimes love means making the choice to do what’s best for someone else instead being selfish and choosing what’s best for you. We all have problems we must face throughout life (some people have problems that prove more difficult than others, but sometimes that’s just the hand that life deals out). This story helped me to remember that sometimes it’s hard to not get so wrapped up in your own head and problems and that unwittingly this can often blind you to the point that you don’t even realize how selfish you are being.

“I missed knowing that someone loved me, I realized I missed loving someone in return.”

I give this surprisingly insightful tale five out of five stars. I will definitely be reading more of Katie McGarry’s books.

“My Secret Ingredient”—A Book Review

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“When you’re a kid everything is a fairy tale, or they lead you to believe that by the books they give you…Then you realize life is, well, screwed up beyond belief.”

 

The Secret Ingredient by Stewart Lewis is a tender coming-of-age tale amidst a very contemporary lifestyle setting.

Olivia has always been a shy, careful teenager. Her mother gave her up for adoption when she was two days old, resulting in her being raised by two amazing dads. Bell owns a restaurant and is like a pal to Olivia, Enrique has always been a very nurturing soul, and her older (also adopted) brother, Jeremy, is always getting himself into crazy messes by following very impractical dreams.

But this is a summer for taking chances and transformations. Olivia meets a psychic on an elevator, who tells her that this is a summer for change. Normally not superstitious at all, Olivia begins to take chances and make changes in her life, finding bits and pieces of herself along the way.

For some reason Olivia suddenly feels an overwhelming lack of a mother in her life and decides to seek out her birth mother at long last. She also begins to see her screwed up, unconventional, mess of a family in a brand new light, causing her appreciation for them grow exponentially. Out of nowhere, a long lost (potential) boyfriend suddenly reappears from out of nowhere, seeking Olivia’s forgiveness and attention. A dear friend is blindsided heart breaking news. And by complete happenstance, Olivia stumbles across an old cookbook from the 1960’s in which a woman co-used as a journal. While following recipes, she also catches glimpses into this woman’s life, making up the rest to fill in the gaps, leading her to make her own bold decisions.

Throughout this soul searching novel, in Olivia’s attempt to find the secret ingredient for her life (for all good cooks’ recipes contain a secret ingredient) she might just discover that it’s been there all along.

I give this heartfelt book four out of five stars.