Review: Still Alice by Lisa Genova

8138845Title: Still Alice

Author: Lisa Genova

Publisher: originally self-published, later acquired by Simon & Schuster

Publication Date: 2007

ISBN: 9780595440092

Still Alice

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. At fifty years old, she’s a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world-renowned expert in linguistics with a successful husband and three grown children. When she becomes increasingly disoriented and forgetful, a tragic diagnosis changes her life–and her relationship with her family and the world–forever.

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I’ve read a few stories about Alzheimer’s Disease, but the perspective has always been the same: the family watching their loved one slowly lose their memories and selves to the disease. Still Alice was different and it was shocking and often frightening to read. Genova’s story gets you right into Alice Howland’s head as her mind begins to slip away from her, slowly at first, but increasingly quicker. I felt like this perspective was eye opening and really honest. Although a work of fiction, Genova’s novel made me feels Alice’s fear, her despair, and her confusion at the loss of those precious memories that make up a life. When Alice is lost or disoriented, I did too. When she was devastated, I was too. I couldn’t help but connect with the family as their mother slipped away from them only little bit at a time.

I know many others have called this book “clinical” or felt like it was “professor telling you the story” rather than the patient telling the story. I however, must completely disagree. Alice’s whole world is about knowledge and teaching. As a Harvard professor, she is driven to understand the disease as a whole. Learning about the disease in a more “clinical” fashion only serves to strengthen the story. It makes Alice real and it makes her suffering even greater. A wonderfully told story.

Review: Awakening by Rebel Miller

25796475*Thank you to the author for sending me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Title: Awakening

Author: Rebel Miller

Publisher: Rebel Miller Books

Publication Date: June 15, 2015

ISBN: 9780994770202

Awakening: Book One of Kira's Story

Synopsis from Goodreads:
*Book is for mature audiences.* Kira Metallurgist has always felt she was meant for more. Hoping to strike out on her own, she sets out on a new career at a time when world goes through unprecedented change. In a system that is based on castes and predetermined position, Kira embarks on a tumultuous journey that leads her toward a destiny that involves two men who call to her heart in different, yet powerful ways.
Tai Corporal was born to a family of warriors. Like his father, he aspires to take on the highest military position in the Realm. A man of his word and with a stubborn sense of duty, he is surprised to find that all in the Realm is not as black and white as he thought. He’s even more surprised to realize that the woman he’s loved for years is the one who reveals it to him.
Gannon Consul knows the meaning of power. As next in line for leadership in his caste, he is well acquainted with the lengths to which the Realm will go to stop someone from reaching above their station. Gannon senses that change is coming. He just never expected that it would come in the form of the one woman who calls to him like no other.

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I always appreciate the effort, dedication, and talent it takes to write and produce a novel. Self-publishing especially calls for hard work and commitment on the part of the author. Rebel Miller has created a world hundreds of years in the future. A complicated political caste system is in place, ruling how citizens interact and where they end up in their careers. At the time we enter the story, the universe is in a turbulent state as the Realm expels one of it’s planets for illegal exploration. The government’s decision hits close to home for the protagonist, Kira Metallurgist, as her uncle’s family is forced to return to their planet. In tandem to this, Kira begins to make her way in the world. Her career gains steam and she quickly gains the confidence of her team and coworkers. At the centre of this story is the love triangle between Kira, her brother’s friend Tai, and the consul, Gannon.

I have to say, I was so intrigued by the political system that Miller has created. Setting up this community in a caste system creates strict dynamics between the characters which I would have loved to explore more in depth. Kira finds herself in a position of power in this system, close to someone influential on the inside, and able to affect change. Miller shows us Kira as she grows, gaining confidence in her work life and striving to improve. Other characters recognize her ability and urge her to push to try her hardest.

However, after reading Awakening, I’ve decided that the New Adult genre is not for me. I’m grateful to Rebel for sharing her story with me and giving me the chance to try out this foreign genre. I’ve been so tempted in the past to jump in and try New Adult fiction and I’m glad I did. But the overall style, not just what I’ve read in Awakening, but also what I’ve discovered in investigating other titles, is not really up my alley. My interest and expertise is in literary fiction. It’s what I’ve studied, worked in, and reviewed and it’s what I know. It’s what I’ll continue to stick with, but I’m happy that I’ve had the chance to branch out and try something new.

Blog Tour: These Good Hands by Carol Bruneau

23094222*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: These Good Hands

Author: Carol Bruneau

Publisher: Cormorant Books

Publication Date: April 1, 2015

ISBN: 9781770864276

These Good Hands

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Set in the early autumn of 1943, These Good Hands interweaves the biography of French sculptor Camille Claudel and the story of the nurse who cares for her during the final days of her thirty-year incarceration in France’s Montdevergues Asylum. Biographers have suggested that Claudel survived her long internment by writing letters, few of which left the asylum because of her strict sequestration; in Bruneau’s novel, these letters are reimagined in a series, penned to her younger self, the sculptor, popularly known as Rodin’s tragic mistress. They trace the trajectory of her career in Belle Époque Paris and her descent into the stigmatizing illness that destroyed it. The nurse’s story is revealed in her journal, which describes her labours and the ethical dilemma she eventually confronts. Through her letters, Camille relives the limits of her perseverance; through Camille’s journal, Nurse confronts limits of hers own: in the faith these women have in themselves, in the then-current advances in psychiatric medicine, and in a God whose existence is challenged by the war raging outside the enclosed world of the asylum.

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These Good Hands tells the story of Camille Claudel, a young woman in WWII France, a lover, and an artist. Camille is everything a woman ought not to be in this era and she finds herself convicted into a mental institution, living out her final 30 years in the company of nurses, patients, and her own memories. Was Camille committed because she dared to chase her passions instead of submitting to the misogyny of her patriarchal society? Or was she a woman driven to madness by the rejection of everyone she’d ever loved and her struggle to succeed in a world where her art was admired, but not coveted because of its female creator?

Bruneau’s biographical, epistolary novel brings to light the life of a woman in war-era Europe, women who worked hard, but ultimately whose lives were not their own. Two characters’ stories compliment each other, taking turns in a kind of dialogue to tell their experiences as women, often at the mercy of others. Camille is the artist who never fit the mould of what a woman should be. Solange Poitier, Camille’s nurse at Montdevergues Asylum, meets the former artist as a patient in need of care and near the end of her life. Solange has been forced to make sacrifices of her own, giving up so much–sometimes not of her own choosing–to have her career and to be successful. Her choice to live her life as a single mother was taken from her, and so she redirects her path to nursing and caring for the mentally ill. Her life is ruled by the institution, her mannerism directed by the lessons she learned from the nuns who taught her. In forming a bond with the artist, she fights against the system to help Camille find the voice that’s been taken from her.

These women compliment each other and their stories are told in their own thoughts and by their own pens: Camille through letters and Solange in her own diary. They are both women who made/are making attempts to be independent and to pursue their passions. Even in “captivity,” Camille strains against her diagnosis to tell her story. She refuses to be silent. Solange, likewise, finds power in her words. Bruneau allows these characters to give themselves a voice, speaking out against the institution and those running it who wish for them to just do as their told. Though both remain in place, they are able to find freedom in their words. Camille inspires Solange to action, appealing to her compassionate nature. Solange, perhaps, helps Camille find some peace and resolution of a sorts.

4 out of 5 stars. A definite recommended read. I really came to connect, sympathize, and understand these characters. Camille in particular felt extraordinarily real. I connected with her passion and her desire to get more out of life. Bruneau has woven a powerful story that takes place along side WWII, with characters who spring to life off of the page.