Tag Archives: Mental Health

Review of Small Blessings by Martha Woodroof


About Small Blessings

An inspiring tale of a small-town college professor, a remarkable new woman at the bookshop, and the ten-year old son he never knew he had.

Tom Putnam has resigned himself to a quiet and half-fulfilled life. An English professor in a sleepy college town, he spends his days browsing the Shakespeare shelves at the campus bookstore, managing the oddball faculty in his department and caring, alongside his formidable mother-in-law, for his wife Marjory, a fragile shut-in with unrelenting neuroses, a condition exacerbated by her discovery of Tom’s brief and misguided affair with a visiting poetess a decade earlier.

Then, one evening at the bookstore, Tom and Marjory meet Rose Callahan, the shop’s charming new hire, and Marjory invites Rose to their home for dinner, out of the blue, her first social interaction since her breakdown. Tom wonders if it’s a sign that change is on the horizon, a feeling confirmed upon his return home, where he opens a letter from his former paramour, informing him he’d fathered a son who is heading Tom’s way on a train. His mind races at the possibility of having a family after so many years of loneliness. And it becomes clear change is coming whether Tom’s ready or not.

A heartwarming story with a charmingly imperfect cast of characters to cheer for, Small Blessings’s wonderfully optimistic heart that reminds us that sometimes, when it feels like life has veered irrevocably off track, the track shifts in ways we never can have imagined.

My Review

An absolutely charming book, the characters are unique, a solid glimpse into the issues life presents and the choices made.

The college campus undoubtedly allows for a quaint feeling, people joining together in a tight knit community as faculty reside on campus, they’re coworkers, neighbors, friends. I enjoy a university setting, you always find an array of characters and issues causing interest and intrigue certainly proving true in this case. Agnes was my favorite, a woman with a tremendous amount of strength and sense. The bookstore serves as the cog of interest for all, a equal place for everyone to meet, convene without scrutiny, a true social playground.

The characters are a patchwork bunch, their lives slam into each other as they bumble with individual issues and issues created with their interactions. Each character weaves into the other’s in some form which makes the bunch quite interesting. Lots of maneuvering as the players figure out the ins and outs of life and predicaments delivered, both sad and joyous moments/events explored. Issues feel real and the wrongs and rights of their decision and actions plausible.

Humorous, poignant, a very warm and tender story appealing to most. The writing, potluck of issues make the story a worthwhile investment. Simply lovely. Woodroof impresses with her enchanting debut.

About Martha Woodroof290987

Martha Woodroof was born in the South, went to boarding school and college in New England, ran away to Texas for a while, then fetched up in Virginia. She has written for NPR, npr.org, Marketplace and Weekend America, and for the Virginia Foundation for Humanities Radio Feature Bureau. Her print essays have appeared in such newspapers as the New York Times, The Washington Post, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Small Blessings is her debut novel. She lives with her husband in the Shenandoah Valley. Their closest neighbors are cows.

Published August 12th 2014 by St. Martin’s Press (first published August 1st 2014)

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

Published August 12th 2014 by Atria Books (first published January 1st 2013)
Hardcover, 400 pages
ISBN13: 9781476702995

Reviewer: Dana
| Goodreads |

Read this book if you think your family is dysfunctional. I guarantee that this book will make your family look positively bland in comparison.I could not put down this obsessive read. It was fascinating to read about a family dealing with the aftermath of a mother with a hording disorder. Like many people, I have watched the popular hoarding reality show “Buried Alive” but I never truly understood how deep the rabbit hole really went for people suffering from this affliction.

When I told my mother about the story she said it sounded like a Jerry Springer episode, and I suppose she has a point. However this novel is so much more than that and I think this is where the cover truly shines. The bird family’s destruction really came about like the slow cracks of an egg. It was just one thing after another until it all fell apart.

I loved all of the characters, even the ones I hated! Even though all of this insanely dramatic stuff was happening I still felt that everyone was painfully real.

This novel broke my heart but I still felt very satisfied with the ending. Even if I was still holding grudges with some of the characters, I felt that the ending was so perfect and healing. I feel infinitely lucky to have been able to receive a galley of this book. Many thanks to Lisa and Atria publishing. I would definitely recommend this for a book club read. 6/5

Etched on Me

Etched on Meimage
Jenn Crowell

On the surface, sixteen-year-old Lesley Holloway is just another bright new student at Hawthorn Hill, a posh all-girls’ prep school north of London. Little do her classmates know that she recently ran away from home, where her father had spent years sexually abusing her. Nor does anyone know that she’s secretly cutting herself as a coping mechanism…until the day she goes too far and ends up in the hospital.

Lesley Holloway a girl dealt a rotten hand in life, suffering the unthinkable – a survivor, a fighter. Abuse took its toll but somehow Lesley dug from deep within and prevailed by fighting her demons. She has come a long way and still struggles but never gives up and keeps on keeping on. Lesley now a young woman facing yet another unbelievable challenge, and once again she fights and struggles all the while never playing the victim.

This story is gripping and emotional. I had to keep reminding myself it’s a fictional story. I kept asking myself, how much injustice can a person be dealt in a lifetime? I wanted to climb through the book and pull Lesley from the pages and erase all her pain and anguish. I wanted to fight for her and show her all the love and support in the world. I wanted to help her find her way as she continued to muster all her strength, courage and fight within. She touches your heart and you can’t help being inspired. You will be this young woman’s cheerleader for life!

Wonderfully written, touching on sensitive subject matters with a character focusing on the present and future as opposed to her heartbreaking past. A girl that has suffered beyond belief coming of age and emerges a victorious woman on many levels. A compelling story, leaving you elated and exhausted.

Published February 4th 2014 by Washington Square Press
336 Pages

ISBN13: 9781476739069

Recommendation: 3/5




Shari J. Ryan

Chloe possesses the ability to ‘drift’ which is similar to dreaming with a few exceptions. As her ‘drifts’ become a greater escape from the cruelty of the real world, Chloe finds herself lost between what is real and what is imagined, questioning her very existence.

Ryan developed a very creative narrative. Unique, full of suspense, it truly is a breakaway from anything out there. Her writing style shows promise, especially for a debut effort. I know the masses will enjoy Schasm.

The concept is extremely clever. Ryan is obviously ingenious with quite an imagination. The dream/drifting notion leaves you pondering, lots to explore while reading and long after you have completed Schasm. A great psychological thriller, you have no idea what will happen next, or the final outcome, loads of suspense with very little predictability.

The romance area could use a boost. There is a obvious romance element but it is very subdued. Perhaps this is intentional and attachment will unfold with the following installments in the series. I just wish there was more in the first book than what was presented.

I prefer character driven narratives, Schasm was purely plot driven. Ryan didn’t provide a lot on the characters personalities, back history and such. Once again, could possibly be another deliberate move with more unfolding as the series continues. Without characterization the reader fails to develop a connection with players.

The later portion of the book is a bit muddled. A lot is going on and it’s chaotic and disjointed. As a reader you are forced to pause and revisit what was presented. Creating mystery is great as long as it holds clarity. Editing might improve the slight confusion readers will face.

Schasm is a good book. Creative, suspenseful. Despite the issues I pointed out its worth the time and attention. Editing could turn this into greatness, clearly the potential is apparent. The creativity is the greatest feature, worth experiencing it for yourself. Curious to see what Ryan has in store with the series.

▪︎Published January 25th 2014 by Booktrope Editions
▪︎246 Pages
▪︎ISBN13: 9781620152010
A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review

Recommendation: 3/5