Book Title: Let’s Find You
Author: Jeffrey D. Barbieri
Genre and Target Market: fiction; family relationships; coming-of-age
Publication Date: 2009
Book Length in Pages: 207
As someone who works in the writing and publishing industry, I am asked to read books by new authors nearly every day. While I am thrilled when anyone makes the decision to express themselves through the written word, I sometimes am left wondering why a writer felt the product they handed me was ready for public consumption. The message is jumbled and the mechanics are messy. Other times, the writing may be admirable but the author is simply rehashing a literary approach that has already been done. While imitation is supposed to be the sincerest form of flattery, it does not get me excited about a new author’s work. However, there are those instances in which I am presented with a book that captures me from the first page and has me reach the last sentence with an eagerness to share my discovery with others. Such is the case with the new release Let’s Find You by Jeffrey Barbieri.
Let’s Find You offers its readers the first-person account of Benjamin, a boy who shares both trivial and life-changing moments of his life through the pages of the novel. The book is divided into chapters that each read like a short story, but also come together seamlessly to provide an emotional depiction of Benjamin’s life from the time that he is a young boy through the point that he is on the verge of manhood.
While many of the stories that Barbieri shares through the perspective of his character Benjamin are light-hearted and remind us all of incidents from our own childhoods (playing pranks on our siblings, spending hours dreaming about our first love), the undercurrent of Let’s Find You is heart-wrenching. There were instances in this book during which I felt a kick in my gut, and that is a testament to powerful writing. Benjamin must face life with no father, an emotionally absent mother who moves frequently in order to avoid this absent dad, and no one with whom he can share the difficult insecurities of adolescence. Although it sounds a bit clique, the statement holds true in this instance – you will laugh, you will cry.
One unique feature of Let’s Find You is the integration of poetry throughout the novel. It seems that Barbieri uses these pauses to let us into an even deeper level of Benjamin’s emotions. For example, when a tragic moment involving a family member happens right in front of his eyes, Benjamin wonders why there is a ridiculous need in his home to remain strong and show no emotion. Readers then find the following: “The storms that surround me/Block me in,/Seeking some shelter/Dying within.” After that interlude, we move right back into the storyline. Most of Barbieri’s poetic offerings are quite short, and therefore offer the perfectly succinct summation of his character’s thoughts and fears at any particular moment. I loved this component of the novel.
If you are interested in reading a novel that beautifully captures difficult emotions and also offers amusing anecdotes to which any of us with siblings can relate, I highly recommend that you find yourself a copy of Let’s Find You. This book is the first offering by new author Jeffrey Barbieri, and I look forward to the promise of future novels in the series.
Book Title: I’m Still Standing
Author: Julia Booker
Genre and Target Market: memoir, abuse
Publication Date: 2009
Book Length in Pages: 125
Books certainly have the ability to transport you into the lives of their characters, which may be a thrilling adventure, a terrifying experience, or something in between. A period piece can whisk the reader away to the royal courts in Europe or the frontiers of the Wild West. As you turn the pages of a science-fiction novel, you may be able to close your eyes and envision yourself exploring a new galaxy. And then, sometimes, there are those books that just hit you in the gut with raw emotion … plain and simple. You are handed the heartbreak and pain that a supposedly fictional person is living and the feelings could not be more real. Such is the case with the first release by author Julia Booker, entitled I’m Still Standing. The gripping story shared within its pages will affect you long after the final words are read.
I’m Still Standing tells the story, primarily, of a mother and daughter who find themselves caught in lives of constant abuse. Jenny Baker gives birth to her daughter, Erin, when she is just a young teenager and soon begins to numb the regrets of her life through drugs and alcohol. The men who Jenny brings into her home are abusive in all possible respects to both her and her daughter, as the reader is brought into scenes of beatings, rapes, and emotional cruelty. As Erin develops into a young woman, she is dismayed to find herself in danger of following the same path in life that her mother has chosen.
Julia Booker’s writing is so powerful because each word seems to come at the reader from a place of genuine and enduring pain. The author mentions on the back cover of I’m Still Standing that her book depicts a true story, which makes each episode of abuse and neglect even more compelling. There is no attempt to sugarcoat the harsh reality that exists in the lives of both Jenny and Erin. The scenes of violence are graphic, the language used between those who should be in loving relationships is explicit and hurtful, and all of the shattered pieces of Erin’s life are not brought back together with a shiny bow by the end of the book. Yet, through it all, the reader is also given a sense that there is reason to have hope. After all, as the title points out, Erin remains standing and growing stronger through her ordeals.
If you are looking for a light read to enjoy while on vacation, I’m Still Standing is probably not the right book for you. If, however, you are ready to make an emotional investment in women who are repeatedly told they are not worth the time, you should check out this initial release by new author Julia Booker. I’m Still Standing is a gut-wrenching literary experience that sends an important message to all of its readers, but especially women, about the damage of staying in an abusive situation. Hopefully, as the author encourages in her introductory letter to her readers, the words of I’m Still Standing will result in at least one reader deciding to leave an abusive situation. I cannot imagine a more important impact for a book to have.
In and Out of Madness
N. L. Snowden
Sneakaboard Press (2009)
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views
“In and Out of Madness” is one of the most disturbing, yet also one of the most powerful books I’ve read in a long time. Carrying an intriguing subtitle of “A fictionalized account of a true experience,” it left me wondering what is it that propels some people into madness while others seem to benefit from the harsh experiences life deals them and simply careen into growing stronger and more resilient.
The book’s protagonist, Lee Thames, is somebody who seems to attract violence, be it physical or emotional, throughout her life. Having grown up with an abusive grandmother and no less abusive mother, she briefly seems to find solace in the arms of her first husband. That happiness does not last and his actions - as well as his inactions - push Lee into a series of affairs, which, although endorsed by her husband, certainly contribute to the demise of her first marriage. Her second marriage becomes her true undoing. Cursed with an honest desire to please her husband, and almost unbearably willing to trust him, Lee gets entangled in an intricate web woven by her husband Joe, a slick talker who lies, cheats and exploits her in every possible way. The one bright spot of her existence, which luckily remains consistent, is her daughter Jolly.
The book begins with Lee escaping from a mental facility after an unsuccessful suicide attempt. She decides to take revenge on her husband, Joe. Planning a perfect murder, Lee revisits the events that lead to this powerful decision, thus familiarizing the reader with the way her mind works.
N. L. Snowden’s writing is sharp, precise and powerful. The story grabs you quickly and most certainly does not let go. I found it strangely fascinating, somewhat akin to picking on a dried scab on one’s knee when we were children. Yes, it hurts, but... Reading “In and Out of Madness” was much like that. Parts of me wanted to put it down, feeling like I was intruding on somebody’s most private thoughts. My always inquisitive mind was dead set on finding what happens next. And I was not disappointed. This is definitely a book that I would recommend to anybody who loves solid, tight writing and to anybody who’s curious about the ways people’s minds work, especially in case of multiple personalities disorder coupled with a bi-polar condition. Enlightening, powerful and strangely uplifting, this is one of those books that will haunt you for a long time.
101 Tips for Recovering from Eating Disorders: A Pocket Book of Wisdom
Loving Healing Press (2009)
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views
“101 Tips for Recovering from Eating Disorders” is only a twenty-two page book. Yet within those pages is a great deal of tips that also include inspirational thoughts to help someone with an eating disorder on their road to recovery. In the first part of the book, the author tells the story about how she dealt with the pain of having an eating disorder. I think that most, if not all, readers will find themselves totally relating with her in this section and they will know that they are not alone.
In addition to other common experiences, the author and I both shared having a female role model that supported our disease. While they might not realize it themselves, it was pretty apparent to both the author and me that this was the case. I could definitely pick this up in her writings. For me, when I went through a hideous divorce, the role model in my life commented, “Well, it was too bad that it happened, but at least she lost the weight.”
If others out there are reading this, and remembering similar experiences, please note that they will find themselves relating even more to the 101 tips covered in these pages. Before you even get into the tips, read the section about the ten lessons that the author learned along the way. They are so true. As you read through the 101 tips, there are spaces that you can journal your thoughts about the tips that apply to you. I highly suggest that you do this so that you can really reflect on the tips and think about applying them to your life. The colorful illustrations that are on each page will help keep you in a positive frame of mind.
I highly recommend “101 Tips for Recovering from Eating Disorders” by Amy Barth for people who are contemplating recovery, in recovery, or think that that they have recovered from eating disorders. You will discover healthy ways to cope with your eating disorder as you learn to heal.