March 2020: "Ambrosia" by Madison Wheatley

Summary (Caution Mild Spoilers):

Crystal lived through hell and emotionally, she’s still there. She views herself as overweight, worthless, and unloved. She blames herself for everything that happened in her past. She fantasizes about an exercise addiction to take her mind off of everything she wants to forget and she’s been trying to do that with her inexpensive gym membership.

On the anniversary of one of the worst things that happened, she loses it with a customer. On a forced one-week vacation, she gets the opportunity to try the hottest new gym in Little Rock, Arkansas: Mount Olympus.

Mount Olympus isn’t the same as other gyms. The members never leave. Is this the addiction that Crystal wants to forget her problems, or will she discover that there’s a more healing path than selling her soul to a gym membership?

Overall Response:

“Ambrosia” is the best Modern Southern Gothic novel I’ve read this year. It took me a long time to decide if I would call “Ambrosia” Modern Southern Gothic because I recognize the level of controversy associated with that genre. By Study.com’s definitionSouthern Gothic literature is a genre of Southern writing. The stories often focus on grotesque themes. While it may include supernatural elements, it mainly focuses on damaged, even delusional, characters.” Based on this definition, and my own understanding of the genre, “Ambrosia” qualifies in the most flattering ways possible.

If you like elements of Gillian Flynn’s stories or if you enjoy the writing style of “Bonfire” by Krysten Ritter, you will like this book. Wheatley brings a little more dark humor thrown at gym culture and if you need the catharsis of a good reason to not be at the gym during a global pandemic, then you need to buy this book now.

Crystal’s story is captivating for anyone that has had a gym membership and blends dark humor with serious topics such as drug addiction, trauma, miscarriage, emotional abuse, physical abuse, and family disownment. Easy to connect with, the reader resides inside of Crystal’s head seeing her epiphanies and delusions as they happen.

The pacing of the book is fantastic as well. While being a fulfilling read, it is paced very well to be finished in a single evening or two. This is perfect for those looking for a great read without lengthy commitment.

There are elements of the story that are culturally relevant beyond the locker room and emotional gym baggage. The author references drug abuse that was happening in the fitness culture of the United States. I give a lot of praise to the author for putting enough research into her story to make sure everything checked out before the supernatural elements are introduced.

As a fun aside, there is a passage that has been quoted saying that the author predicted the current pandemic. I’ll leave that as a fun Easter Egg for y’all to find (seasonally appropriate, right?).

LGBTQA:

This book does not contain overtly LGBTQA+ characters, but I think this book is valuable to the LGBTQA+ community (and every other community) because of the content discussed.

Grammar+:

This book is extremely close to meeting the 1 error per 10,000-word editorial standard. The few errors I found did not interrupt the reading experience.

Learn More About The Author:

Madison Wheatley is a poet and fiction author. You can visit her Twitter here or her author website here. This book was published through Authors 4 Authors Publishing and based on this book I would encourage others to look into their services. To purchase a copy of this book, you can do so via Amazon here.

Upcoming Reviews: April 2020

April 2020’s Books

I am so far behind. Between the death of a family member, chronic migraine issues, pneumonia, trying to plan a move right before a global pandemic, all rolled up heading down hill…

This page is going to be a placeholder for now. They are there. I will be reading them. I will update this page when I get closer.

April 2020’s Books

“The Secret In The Breeze” by Sean Haughton (Live Tweet Review Coming Soon; Full Review Coming Soon)

“Once Upon A Lane” by Duncan Wilson (Live Tweet Review Coming Soon; Full Review Coming Soon)

“How To Make Sure Your Life Doesn’t Suck” by Dr. Maggie Gilewicz (Live Tweet Review Coming Soon; Full Review Coming Soon)

“The Frost Eater” by Carol Beth Anderson (Live Tweet Review Coming Soon; Full Review Coming Soon)

Thank you for reading! Without you these are shouts into the void.

February 2020: "Wanting Peace: Book 2 of the Reclaiming Life Series" by Alaine Greyson

Summary:

“Wanting Peace” welcomes readers back to Bracken Point with a new romance novel! This sequel in the “Reclaiming Life” series by Alaine Greyson returns us to this small community set in a small-ish town near the Chesapeake Bay. Cassie Roberts and her sister Bex must first deal with the loss of their mother to cancer. Cassie has her own inner demons she must face, but the problems of those around her provide ample distraction. Even better, she’s an accomplished professional finishing the requirements necessary for independent practice in the local rehabilitation clinic, so who better qualified to be giving said life advice?

But when her mother’s dying wish was for Cassie and her sister to reconnect with their estranged father, what is someone in her position to do? Can they confront and heal from that abandonment? Bex begins acting out as she is unable to regulate her own emotions. All this while Cassie and Michael realize that there’s something more than friendship between them. But can Cassie keep herself from meddling and prying into everyone’s secrets?

Overlapping with the end of “Chasing Peace,” this book brings whole new light to the unique characters of Bracken Point.

Overall Response:

First off – this is the sequel to the book that inspired me to start writing reviews. Bracken Point is a fictional place that feels like home to me because it’s along the Chesapeake Bay. The premise of these books captured my attention with book one. These books are so much more than romance novels. I again want to commend the author for the incredible job she does writing these books in a compassionate and understanding way that does not judge characters. She chooses instead to focus on the complexities of mental health, recovery, and the role of the family in recovery. These books push for healthy relationships through communication, boundaries, and conflict resolution. Sometimes it’s cheesy, sometimes it’s steamy – “Wanting Peace” is everything I hoped for.

Book 2 is more graphic than the first book in the best possible ways. Greyson does not dance around the details of drug use, providing more imagery for the reader. As an example, “A waft of ammonia, smoke, and cat urine filled the air. Michael pinched his nose, wondering why he had never noticed the putrescent smell before tonight.” That snippet is one of many contained within the book that demonstrates an understanding critical for reaching an audience that needs the hope offered in this book. I recently purchased both books 1 and 2 of the series for a couple I love to read and review because they’re involved as leaders in the addiction recovery community. 

I have one discussion point that remains from the previous reviewWhat are the roles of a psychiatrist versus a therapist (aka psychologist) in drug rehabilitation, and what is the difference in their level of education? Can someone be both? (discussion relevant to the US only)

First off, I am not a mental health professional, but I do work in the health professions. This doesn’t make me an expert on something that isn’t my field. Psychiatrists and psychologists work together. People can be both. I had not done enough research in that first book review. I recommend checking out RehabCenter.net’s answer. Having never been in a rehab center and spending more time researching this question, I have learned that there are psychiatrists that specialize in dual-diagnosis. Additionally, I learned about the holistic treatment of addiction in specialized centers like the one discussed in Bracken Point. These psychiatrists call themselves “addictionologists,” according to Clearview Treatment Programs. And they are trained as therapists. Thank you to the very tolerant patient care coordinator that chatted with me. I appreciate your help explaining all of this, knowing I was reviewing a book and not seeking treatment.

LGBTQA+:

There is a recurring character in this book that is a member of the LGBTQA community. There is a scene I personally appreciated where the author presents a situation regarding disclosure and invasion of privacy. It was well done.

Grammar +:

This book is very close to meeting the 1/10,000 error standard. They did not interrupt the reading experience at all and mostly consisted of missing words.

Twilight Zone Moment:

This is a different kind of twilight zone. This is a twilight zone RESOLUTION. Remember how I got a little scared because I had no idea who lit the candles in book one? It all adds up now. I’m not freaked out any more.

About The Author And The Series:

Alaine Greyson is the author of many short stories, the Reclaiming Life series (Buy Chasing Peace here, Wanting Peace here, Preorder Finding Peace here), and will be soon releasing the Trapped Soul Series – preorder the first book here. Her publisher is Creative James Media.

Thank you to everyone that reads these. Without you I’m shouting into a void. I hope they help the indie writing community in some way.

February 2020: “But I Am Here” by Pamela Bettencourt

This review is going to be a little bit different for a couple of reasons. First, I received this book from the author after receiving an email asking if I would read it and consider reviewing it on my website and in my LiveTweet format. Upon reviewing a summary and the website my answer was a resounding yes. This was my answer because the author is not alone. It was good to know that I’m not alone.

Summary (Caution – Mild Spoilers):

In her memoir “But I Am Here” Bettencourt uses prose poems and free verse poetry to tell the story of her abuse, how it impacted her life, still impacts her life, her attempts to get help, and when she had to make the choice to tell her husband and the world.

The book begins with reflection as an adult, then transports the reader into the mind of a child. In each section the reader lives through Bettencourt’s eyes as she tells these stories without ever using names. Each section concludes with a reflection on the experience from the adult perspective based new insight gained through healing.

Overall Reaction:

In this powerful, moving memoir I ache for the author and her experiences. I feel very passionate about protecting children and helping those that are survivors of sexual abuse. The author does not use complex language, nor does she need to. She hides information appropriately to ensure that the reader experiences each moment the way she experienced it. This amplifies the experience of the book.

I found I had to take several breaks due to the intensity of the material. The book does not hide its content warning. It’s on the front cover. There are resources in the back for those that read it and need help processing any emotions or past trauma that may come up while reading the book. All of this is extremely well thought out.

The amount of vulnerability involved in this writing and the amount of information shared by the author is incomparable to books like “Helping Her Get Free” or “Perfect Daughters” due to the accessibility of the information. Both of these books discuss forms of abuse experienced in childhood and how that shapes adult behaviors with heavy analysis. In contrast, Bettencourt brings the reader inside her own head. We are guided through her thoughts and experiences overtime to see how she got into each head space without going into the academic view point beyond helpful information any reader can understand. This makes the book accessible to a very broad audience.

I am sad that more was not mentioned about the experience of disclosure to loved ones. I believe that part of the purpose of the book was the disclosure. This is both painful and makes complete sense.

In terms of my own personal experiences and what the book brought up for me, I will be brief. For survivors of childhood sexual assault/abuse it is a hard read, but I felt a deep connection. The book takes great care in the reflections shared to connect with the reader’s experiences and own journey, whether these realizations be new or old. It does not try to explain the realizations – they can all be explained to the reader on their own journey by the resources in the back or through therapy.

“But I Am Here” is a painful, beautiful read. Reality is stranger than fiction and child sexual abusers are a great example.

LGBTQA+

I believe this book is absolutely relevant to anyone, including members of the LGBTQA+ community, who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse. There is no mention of LGBTQA+ individuals in the book, but this does not impact my opinion on this matter.

Grammar & Punctuation

There are a few spelling errors that can easily be corrected in future printings of the book. These errors do not interrupt the overall reading experience.

For More Information On Getting Help

You can visit online.rainn.org or call 1-800-856-4673 (US) – these are mentioned in the back of the book.

Additional organizations that provide information, work to assist in reporting, and help victims and survivors:
https://www.d2l.org/
https://www.nctsn.org/what-is-child-trauma/trauma-types/sexual-abuse
https://thercc.org/get-support/supporting-loved-one/supporting-child-sexually-assaulted/
https://www.dvrcv.org.au/help-advice/sexual-abuse-in-childhood

I would love to expand this list – please feel free to submit additional websites to lopotterwrites@gmail.com

Want To Read More About The Author?
You can visit the book’s website here. For each copy of the book sold through the publisher’s website the publisher will donate $1 to the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline. You can follow the author on Twitter here.