Flat Broke with Two Goats by Jennifer McGaha #BookReview #Memoir

flatbrokeTitle: Flat Broke with Two Goats
Author: Jennifer McGaha
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 368 pages
Publication Details: January 23rd 2018 by Sourcebooks
Genre(s): Memoir
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads 

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A charming memoir of one woman’s unexpected journey from country chic to backwoods barnyard

Just as the Great Recession was easing in some parts of the country, Jennifer McGaha experienced an economic crisis of epic proportions. Her home was in foreclosure; she had $4.57 in the bank; and worst of all, she had recently discovered that she and her accountant husband owed four years of back taxes to the state of North Carolina and the IRS. And then things got really bad…

Flat Broke with Two Goats takes readers on a wild adventure from a Cape Cod-style home in the country to a hundred-year-old, mice-infested, snake-ridden cabin in a North Carolina holler. With self-effacing humor and unflinching honesty, Jennifer chronicles the joys and difficulties of living close to nature, and in the process she comes to discover the true meaning of home.

Review

This book was not at all what I was expecting and I think that hindered my enjoyment of it. I had read the synopsis but for some reason I had it in my mind that it would be more about becoming self-sufficient in the wilderness than about a family’s fall from grace.

I don’t read that many memoirs (but I’m trying to branch out more this year), and I feel quite awkward about reviewing this one truthfully because it seems akin to slagging off someone’s life and actions. It’s much easier to slag off a made up story.

So, I really hope I don’t cause any offence with my opinion, but this book made me quite angry! I found Jennifer infuriating. How could she be so clueless about her family’s finances? I understand that her husband was an accountant so she left the money side to him, but when she listed all the ‘signs’ that they were in difficulties, the list didn’t read as signs so much as glaringly obvious incidents (such as their power and water being frequently turned off and having bailiffs at the door on more than one occasion). I mean really?

There were lots of other things I didn’t understand too. Such as how a family whose main breadwinner was on ‘six figures a year’ can get into such a terrible financial situation. The decision he made to stop paying taxes (without telling his wife, I should add), but to carry on paying for a very expensive private school for their children. I was also confused as to why they thought it was OK to break into their old house to collect their things, instead of calling the police…

Jennifer details how the house was legally still theirs during the foreclosure but that the owners, previously thought of as life-long friends, had boxed up all their belongings, stored them in the garage, and changed all the locks. The options as Jennifer believes were 1. to contact their now ex-friends 2. contact the police or 3. break in. And they broke in. Why? It was at points like this in the story in which I lost all faith in the narrator. I realise you don’t know how you would react in any given situation until it happens to you, but I simply could not fathom Jennifer’s behaviour and attitude.

The main thing that annoyed me however, was that Jennifer was never able to look on the bright side. They are offered a run-down cabin to rent for peanuts. Sure, it needs a LOT of work, but it comes with land, and is in a beautiful location surrounded by waterfalls; so beautiful that tourists travel there from all around the world. No matter how run-down the cabin is, you’d think just a little part of them would be thrilled to be in such a beautiful place, I know I would. I couldn’t help thinking that they didn’t deserve it.

I did appreciate Jennifer’s ability to keep calm and carry on though, and I guess I was a little inspired by that, and the fact that she stuck with her husband despite all of his misdemeanors, but essentially this wasn’t the book I wanted to read.

The one thing I couldn’t fault about Flat Broke however, was the writing. It was written so well I wanted to keep reading even though I wasn’t enjoying the story, and that is as high a praise I can muster I’m afraid.

unicorn rating 2

 

 

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Kids in Orange: Voices from Juvenile Detention by Mindy Hardwick #BookReview #NonFiction

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kidsinorange

Title: Kids in Orange: Voices from Juvenile Detention
Author: Mindy Hardwick
Series: n/a
Format: Kindle Edition, 220 pages
Publication Details: February 23rd 2017 by Eagle Bay Press
Genre(s): Non-Fiction; Crime; Writing
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads 

Purchase

The gang leader doesn’t like poetry, but will a detention center workshop show her how to express love for her newborn daughter? A teen boy dies of a drug overdose. Will his final poem speak what he cannot say? 

In the middle of a career change from teacher to writer, Mindy Hardwick volunteered to facilitate a weekly poetry workshop at a juvenile detention center. By helping the teens write poetry about their lives, Mindy discovered strength and courage to grieve the loss of her father, find forgiveness and release the past. 

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book will be used as a grant for writers to work with teens at Denney Juvenile Justice Center. The youth’s poetry anthologies can be downloaded at: http://www.denneypoetry.org 


Review

 

I’m sure this book won’t appeal to everybody, but I enjoyed it. It’s part memoir, part poetry, and part inspiration.

Teacher Mindy Hardwick runs poetry workshops in an American juvenile detention centre. She is met by an interesting group of teenagers with various pasts, crimes, and issues. Most of the group appear uninterested in the workshop, greet it with trepidation, or sometimes even with defiance.

As Mindy tries to get a handle on the group, and encourage them to participate she reflects on her own past and struggles.

I don’t know what I was expecting from this book, but I just knew that it would be an interesting comparison to what I do at work. I work in two prisons as a library assistant and run creative writing groups in both of them. A lot of what Mindy described rang so true. The bizarre nature of the workplace, but how it quickly becomes the norm. Having people in your group that don’t want to be there despite having signed up, and how nothing ever goes to plan!

I enjoyed reading about the dynamic of Mindy’s group, and how it changed over time. It was also nice to see the work that they produced. The part of the book I wasn’t expecting, and also wasn’t overly keen on was Mindy’s segues into her past. Some of it was enjoyable as it gave an insight into what has shaped her as a person, but I felt like it was too much at times.

Overall, I’m pleased I discovered this book, and it certainly gave me lots to think about.

unicorn rating 3

Book Promo & Giveaway: Manipulated Lives by H.A Leuschel

Welcome to another book promo on Lipsyy Lost & Found where I’m always thrilled to support indie authors & publishers. This time the promo is for a collection of five stories exploring the theme of psychological manipulation from five different perspectives.

Manipulated Lives ~ H.A Leuschel

image001Publication date:  8th June 2016 by H.A Leuschel
Genres: Literary & General Fiction, Novellas, Suspense

Five stories – Five Lives. 

Have you ever felt confused or at a loss for words in front of a spouse, colleague or parent, to the extent that you have felt inadequate or, worse, a failure? Do you ever wonder why someone close to you seems to endure humiliation without resistance?


Manipulators are everywhere. At first these devious and calculating people can be hard to spot, because that is their way. They are often masters of disguise: witty, disarming, even charming in public – tricks to snare their prey – but then they revert to their true self of being controlling and angry in private. Their main aim: to dominate and use others to satisfy their needs, with a complete lack of compassion and empathy for their victim. 


In this collection of short novellas, you meet people like you and me, intent on living happy lives, yet each of them, in one way or another, is caught up and damaged by a manipulative individual.

First you meet Tess, whose past is haunted by a wrong decision, then young, successful and well balanced Sophie, who is drawn into the life of a little boy and his troubled father. Next, there is teenage Holly, who is intent on making a better life for herself, followed by a manipulator himself, trying to make sense of his irreversible incarceration. Lastly, there is Lisa, who has to face a parent’s biggest regret.

All stories highlight to what extent abusive manipulation can distort lives and threaten our very feeling of self-worth.

Goodreads // Amazon // Facebook

*GIVEAWAY*

The author, Helene is giving away copies of one of the stories from the collection entitled Tess and Tattoos. Simply head to her website, enter your email and tadaaaa!

Meet the Author

H.A. Leuschel

Helene grew up in Belgium where she gained a Licentiate in Journalism & Communication, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. 

She now lives with her husband and two children in Portugal and recently acquired a Master of Philosophy with the OU, deepening her passion for the study of the mind. When she is not writing, Helene works as a freelance journalist and teaches Yoga.

 

If you’d like me to promote your book, please get in touch via the email on my contacts page 🙂 Thanks to Helene for getting in touch!

Lazy Saturday Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

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I started doing ‘lazy Saturday reviews’ as a way of getting reviews done in just 30 mins, and they proved to be quite popular. They are quick and snappy, and concentrate less on the plot (or content) and writing and more on my overall feelings about said book. They generally end up being a bit of a rant. My fave!

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Title: And I Darken
Author: Kiersten White
Series: The Conquerors Series #1
Format: Digital ARC, 484 pages
Publication Details: July 7th 2016 by Corgi Childrens
Genre(s): YA; Fanstasy; Historical
Disclosure? Yep! I received an advanced copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

bookdepo

No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwyla likes it that way.

Ever since she and her brother were abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman sultan’s courts, Lada has known that ruthlessness is the key to survival. For the lineage that makes her and her brother special also makes them targets.

Lada hones her skills as a warrior as she nurtures plans to wreak revenge on the empire that holds her captive. Then she and Radu meet the sultan’s son, Mehmed, and everything changes. Now Mehmed unwittingly stands between Lada and Radu as they transform from siblings to rivals, and the ties of love and loyalty that bind them together are stretched to breaking point.

Review

I LOVED the idea of this book. I loved that the protagonist is female and based on Vlad the Impaler. I loved that she is a brutal princess who falls in love and has the possibility of thawing throughout the story.

I assumed I would be rooting for her the whole way through. I assumed I would eat this novel up. But.I.Just.Couldn’t.Get.Into.It. I tried, I really tried, and I can’t even pin-point what I didn’t like about it but I kept putting it down and had no motivation to pick it up again. 

I enjoyed the complex relationship between Lada and her brother Radu and how she tried her best to protect him in her own feral way, even if she didn’t understand him and his weaknesses.

I also liked that Lada herself was so unique; she’s certainly not a character you’d come across much in YA so And I Darken definitely stood out for that reason but the pace was just way too slow for my liking. It felt like nothing happened for the first half of the book which frustrated me no end.

Overall, I think this book left me a bit cold due to the deadly mixture of the hype-monster and a slow pace/beginning.

I seem to be in the minority as far as opinions on this go though, so I’d urge you to try it for yourself if you like the premise.

unicorn rating 2 

 

Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill #BookReview #YA #Dystopian

onlyeveryoursTitle: Only Ever Yours
Author: Louise O’Neill
Series: N/A
Format: paperback, 400 pages
Publication Details: July 3rd 2014 by Quercus
Genre(s): YA; Sci-Fi/Dystopian
Disclosure? Nope, I bought it.

Goodreads // Purchase

In a world in which baby girls are no longer born naturally, women are bred in schools, trained in the arts of pleasing men until they are ready for the outside world. At graduation, the most highly rated girls become “companions”, permitted to live with their husbands and breed sons until they are no longer useful.

For the girls left behind, the future – as a concubine or a teacher – is grim.Best friends Freida and Isabel are sure they’ll be chosen as companions – they are among the most highly rated girls in their year.

But as the intensity of final year takes hold, Isabel does the unthinkable and starts to put on weight. ..And then, into this sealed female environment, the boys arrive, eager to choose a bride. Freida must fight for her future – even if it means betraying the only friend, the only love, she has ever known. . .

Review

I’d heard so much about this book last year – nearly all of it good – so I was eager to make it a priority in 2016. But quite honestly, I’m not sure what I thought about it. 

Only Ever Yours is a novel that throws out A LOT of questions. I imagine that its aim is to make you question the world O’Neill has built and compare it to our own; to make you wonder if this horrifying vision of the future could ever come true… but for me, it was too unbelievable to get me asking these questions.

In O’Neill’s portrayal of the future, girls are bred rather than born, where they grow up in schools run by ‘chastities’ and are ‘trained’ how to be the perfect woman. They are all beautifully designed, they have a target weight they mustn’t lose sight of, and emotions or outbursts are seen as unattractive and are punishable.

Freida and her so-called friends are in their last year at school which means their whole manufactured lives have been building up to this moment. The Inheritants (the boys) have come to meet them and they will decide the girls’ futures. The three possible outcomes being companions, concubines, or chastities. Quite frankly, each option sounds pretty horrific to me, but of course, they know no different. Becoming a companion is what nearly all of the girls long for.

Argh! There’s too much I want to talk about with this book, but firtstly let me say that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. Lots of testimonials say something along the lines of  ‘a horrific vision of a future that could easily come true’, and I think the reason I didn’t love the book is because I don’t believe that for a second.

I mean, I know I’m coming at this book from the perspective of someone who has grown-up in freedom with very little amount of prejudice and inequality – but for me, as a vision of the future it just wasn’t believable. I feel like we’re moving further away from what this book is portraying than towards it. Women are no longer supposed to be perfect, to serve men, to solely be the child bearers…are they? Hasn’t society already come a long way in making that future implausible?

And the same goes for the gay rights – or lack of- in this book. ‘Aberrants’ (gays) have been extinguished by pinpointing the ‘gay gene’ and destroying it somehow. Again, I’m fortunate to come from somewhere where gay rights have come a long, long way in a short space of time, and yeah there’s still further to go before equality is at 100%, but I can’t imagine a future where this would happen, a past perhaps – that I would believe.

I was also really disappointed at how slowly the book moved along. It took so long for it to get to the ceremony and not much was happening in the mean time! And when the book finally did start to wrap-up it was an anti-climax.

I was hoping and praying that at some point Freida and Isabel would either discover that there is an outside world in which life is not like this. That they had somehow been imprisoned and fooled into believing that they were bred not born and there is nothing else but there is. OR that they would start some sort of rebellion…but no. Rage.

Maybe that’s just the Hunger Games generation in me. Maybe I’m completely missing the point? IDK. I am glad I read it, and if this rant makes it sound like I hated it, I didn’t! I just thought it would be…more. Or perhaps I was just victim to the hype-monster again. Who knows! 

unicorn rating 3