The Female of the Species. A Propensity to Discuss review.

The Female of the Species

I have a confession. You have probably noticed, but here goes. When I find an author that I like, I read everything they have written and will write in the future.

That said, having read and loved A Madness so Discreet by Mindy McGinnis, I knew I would have to read her other books. So I just finished The Female of the Species and it did not disappoint.

It has been said that we all have our own demons to face and we can either fight or flee. For the main characters in this story, the demons seem to be close to winning. Close, but not quite victorious.

The Female of the Species. A Propensity to Discuss review.

Alex Craft’s demons rule her life. Her older sister, Anna had always been her protector. She protected Alex from the world and from their alcoholic mother. Alex’s mother saw only her absent father in Alex and poured on to her all the anger that she could not show to her AWOL husband. But Anna was murdered and Alex bears the burden of her death as an albatross around her neck. She talks to no one. She has no friends. She goes to school, comes home, eats, studies, reads, and sleeps and does it again the next day. She has a mere existence, not a life.

Jack’s demons lie in the poverty that his parents can not overcome. He loves them, knows they do everything they can to make life better, but there is just no getting ahead. So leaving this town by way of a college scholarship is the demon that dominates his need to be the best in athletics, in classes, in life. Branley, his best friend since childhood knows everything about him and even though other people come in and out of their lives, Branley is one of the constants in Jack’s life, even when he knows it isn’t for the best.

Peekay’s demons are in her nickname. She is a “PK” or Preacher’s Kid. Peekay has a strong faith but living up to being a PK in a very small town where everyone knows your business is extremely difficult. And when her long-time boyfriend Adam leaves her for Branley, she is back to just being Peekay, having lost the title of Adam’s girlfriend. Her biggest demon is that she doesn’t allow herself to be who she is, just who everyone else needs her to be.

The Female of the Species. A Propensity to Discuss review.

Dark and emotionally challenging with some brutality, but with a lesson in vengeance, forgiveness, and acceptance the story of Alex, Jack and Peekay’s battle against their demons is a book that everyone needs to read. Whatever your own demons, this book shows how cathartic it can be to rid yourself of your demons, even if the cost of doing so is beyond what you can imagine or think you can handle.

When you consider the extreme contrast in setting, characters, and plot between this book and A Madness so Discreet, it is impossible to compare one to the other and to ensure that if you like one of them that you will like the other. However, McGinnis’ writing is quite mesmerizing. “Every day the sun rises and the wind bottle empties and his sits there wondering where his life went wrong until it sets again.” Her writing is beautiful, even when the subject isn’t. This is absolutely an author I will continue to read.

 

5 Stars. A Propensity to Discuss Review.

This post contains affiliate links. I would never include an affiliate link on any product that I would not completely endorse. So if you choose to purchase through this link, I get a small payment that does not affect your price at all. And I whole-heartedly recommend these linked products!

Check out all the books I have reviewed on the blog by clicking this link.

https://propensitytodiscuss.wordpress.com/book-reviews-list/

The Miniaturist. A Propensity to Discuss review.

The Miniaturist

Yes, I am a librarian/media specialist. And yes, I buy books for the media center all the time (you can read about that process in this post). And yes, I LOVE to read but very rarely do I have the time to read at work. I am usually helping students with computer issues, teaching kids and adults how to use computers to do exactly what they want (sounds strange for high school students and teachers to need that help, but you’d be surprised), helping students find the right book to read and a myriad of other tasks.

So if I ever take out a book during the day and take the time to stop and read, it is a REALLY good book and it has bewitched me, body and soul as Mr. Darcy so eloquently put it.  The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton is one of those books. I could not get enough of it. I could not put it down. I read every spare minute. So what had my attention, you ask?

When Petronella “Nella” Oortman turns 18, her mother arranges for her to marry Johannes Brandt of Amsterdam, who is in his late 30s, to save their family after Nella’s father drank away most of their money and then died, leaving them nearly destitute. Nella met Johannes a couple of times before the marriage but basically knows very little about him.

The Miniaturist. A Propensity to Discuss review.

When she arrives in Amsterdam, she is met at the house by his sister Marin, who in most aspects is the head of the house, Otto, a former slave from Surinam who was freed by Johannes and Cornelia, the maid. The fact that Marin takes the lead of the house is damaging to Nella’s already low self-esteem. Add to this a husband who is rarely home and does not interact with his wife when he is there and Nella cannot figure our where she belongs in this new life she is supposed to forge.

When Johannes presents her with a miniature replica of their home as a wedding gift, she is not only confused by the gift that she sees as a toy but also angry that he would think so little of her as to believe she would be interested in such an expensive waste of time and money.

However, when Marin gives her the name of a miniaturist in Amsterdam and money of her own to pay for the items, she decides to hire out pieces for the house. When she receives the items that she ordered, she also receives pieces that she did not order and that seem to mock her life and her situation. Nella, furious, sends word to the miniaturist not to send anything else.

But as Nella’s life becomes more complicated, the miniatures keep coming and seem to not just mock her life, but to foretell it. While terrified of what the miniaturist will send next and yet terrified that no more will arrive, Nella sets out to get her life, her marriage, and her house in order, just as the walls seem to be falling down around her.

Detailed and intriguing, this novel deposits you smack in the middle of a macabre world of 1860s Amsterdam where the citizens are encouraged or maybe somewhat commanded by the Church to spy on their neighbors and to turn them in for anything that the Church deems impure, even the “idol worship” of gingerbread men and dolls, not to mention the “wickedness” of money, though no Priest would ever turn down a quickly palmed bribe.

This beautiful work is a rich tapestry of history, intrigue, love, hatred and family and exactly to what lengths people will go to protect those they love and seek vengeance against those believed to have inflicted harm or wrongdoing against them.

The Miniaturist. A Propensity to Discuss review.

Burton first saw the dollhouse owned by Petronella Oortman (above) which does actually exist in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and decided to tell a fictional story about its owner. And I am so very happy that she did.

5 Stars. A Propensity to Discuss Review.

This post contains affiliate links. I would never include an affiliate link on any product that I would not completely endorse. So if you choose to purchase through this link, I get a small payment that does not affect your price at all. And I whole-heartedly recommend these linked products!

Check out all the books I have reviewed on the blog by clicking this link.

The audio version of The Miniaturist read by Davina Porter is also available. 

The Detective Ella Marconi Series

Ella Marconi is a no-nonsense, get-the-job-done homicide detective living and working in Sydney, Australia. Author Katherine Howell, a former paramedic, always gives Ella a run for her money with the cases that she puts before her and also with paramedics and their work calls thrown into the mix. So if you like mysteries and you like medical dramas, you’ll LOVE the Ella Marconi series. If you like one or the other, you’ll LOVE the Ella Marconi series.

I really like Howell’s writing style and I love that she uses her experience as a paramedic around which to base her secondary characters’ lives and stories. The series began in 2007 and is still going strong, with the last one published in 2015, and hopefully more to follow!

Frantic (1) 

In an instant, life changed completely for Sophie Phillips – her police officer husband, Chris, is shot on their doorstep and their ten-month-old son, Lachlan, is abducted from his bed. While the police, led by Detective Ella Marconi search not only for their colleague’s child but also investigate the very strong possibility of police corruption, Sophie begins her own search for Lachlan.

Detective Ella Marconi Series. Propensity to Discuss reviews.

But through it all, Sophie has to wonder if a terrible mistake she made will mangle her hope and efforts at finding her child. And what about Chris, is he a part of the corruption, or is he the one who brought it to the attention of the news media? The longer Lachlan is missing, the more Ella and her team know they are working against the odds to find him.

The audio version of this book is performed by Caroline Lee, whose audiobook performances I always absolutely love! She is actually the reason I purchased this novel to begin with but the writing and the story brought me back to the series. For other Caroline Lee audiobook reviews, check out this post or this one.

The Darkest Hour (2)

In the second Ella Marconi book, paramedic Lauren Yates finds herself alone in an alley helping a man that she knows all too well, Miles Werner. A man she knows to be angry, hateful, deceitful, and most of all, dangerous. All the while, another man lays dead in the same alley. When she begins to help Miles he threatens her life, her sister’s life and the life of her niece, Mile’s own daughter.

Detective Ella Marconi Series. Propensity to Discuss reviews.

Terrified of Werner’s threats, she lies to Detective Ella Marconi, to her sister and to her partner and sets into motion a trail that leads to even more victims. Lauren becomes desperate and has no idea how she will ever get out of this mess alive. Ella knows something is not right with Lauren’s testimony and knows that she must be hiding something. She will have to gain Lauren’s trust to get to the bottom of this case.

Unfortunately, there is no audio for this, but the book was a really good, pretty quick read and I really recommend this series.

4 Stars. A Propensity to Discuss Review.

 

This post contains affiliate links. I would never include an affiliate link on any product that I would not completely endorse. So if you choose to purchase through this link, I get a small payment that does not affect your price at all. And I whole-heartedly recommend these linked products.

A Madness So Discreet. A Propensity to Discuss review.

A Madness So Discreet

Perfectly sane, Grace Mae leaves behind the life of a wealthy socialite and enters a horror filled existence when she is banished to an insane asylum for a reason thoroughly out of her control. Feeling that she has nothing to live for and certainly nothing to offer, she closes herself and her voice off from those around her.

When she is pushed beyond the limit of what she can withstand, she strikes out and is sent to the dungeon where she meets someone who changes the course of her life forever. Enter a very forward-thinking doctor who uses the clues left behind at the scenes of murder victims to identify their killers. Grace, in her new-found life, the doctor believes, can help him.

From the first few pages of A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis, I was completely mesmerized. I hated to put it down and when I had to, I could hardly wait to pick it up again. McGinnis did a remarkable job developing the characters for this story, as well as giving them social and moral dilemmas that show how they react to working for the right reasons, even if they may be morally or ethically questionable.

Add the rich history of the ethics, or lack thereof, in asylums in the late 1800s and you have a story that vividly brings to light what fate those with mental illnesses, those who were easily disposed of by their wealthy families, and those who were chronically ill had to face.  Throw in the beginnings of forensic science and several main characters that you come to know and love and you have one really great book on your hands.

This is an unputdownable, must read!

If you are interested in the audio version of A Madness so Discreet performed by Brittany Pressley, I do recommend this as well. I both listened and read because I did not want to be away from Grace for long periods of time!

5 Stars. A Propensity to Discuss Review.

This post contains affiliate links. I would never include an affiliate link on any product that I would not completely endorse. So if you choose to purchase through this link, I get a small payment that does not affect your price at all. And I whole-heartedly recommend these linked products! 

 

 

A – Z Romantic Comedy Movies

In continuing with my A-Z listings theme that I have used before, (A – Z Books for Adults; A – Z If I Were Stranded on a Deserted Island)  I have gone with one of my go-to types of movies, romantic comedy.

I did have to take a little poetic license with a couple, and there is one of those that is a stretch to make it a rom-com, but I’m not the one who names the movies. Let me just tell you, those people are sort of stingy about using the letter Q!

Hope you enjoy this. If you haven’t seen these, I highly recommend them all!

A*American President, The (Michael Douglas, Annette Bening)      [Amazon, IMDB]

BBreakfast At Tiffany’s (Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard)     [Amazon, IMDB]

CClueless (Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash, Brittany Murphy)     [Amazon, IMDB]

A - Z Romantic Comedy Movies. A Propensity to Discuss Post.

DDeeds, Mr. (Adam Sandler, Winona Ryder)     [Amazon, IMDB]

EEnchanted (Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey)     [Amazon, IMDB]

FFailure To Launch (Matthew McConaughey, Sarah Jessica Parker)     [Amazon, IMDB]

A - Z Romantic Comedy Movies. A Propensity to Discuss Post.

GGrease (John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John)     [Amazon, IMDB]

H*- How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days (Kate Hudson, Matthew McConaughey)     [Amazon, IMDB]

IIt’s Complicated (Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin)     [Amazon, IMDB]

A - Z Romantic Comedy Movies. A Propensity to Discuss Post.

JJust Go With It (Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston)      [Amazon, IMDB]

KKnocked Up (Katherine Heigl, Seth Rogan)     [Amazon, IMDB]

LLife As We Know It (Josh Duhamel, Katherine Heigl)     [Amazon, IMDB]

A - Z Romantic Comedy Movies. A Propensity to Discuss Post.

M*My Big Fat Greek Wedding (Nia Vardalos, John Corbett)     [Amazon, IMDB]

NNotting Hill (Julia Roberts, )     [Amazon, IMDB]

OOne Fine Day (Michelle Pfieffer, George Clooney)     [Amazon, IMDB]

A - Z Romantic Comedy Movies. A Propensity to Discuss Post.

P*Pretty Woman (Richard Gere, Julia Roberts)     [Amazon, IMDB]

QQueen* (Kangana Ranaut)     [Amazon, IMDB

RRoxanne (Steve Martin, Darryl Hannah)     [Amazon, IMDB]

A - Z Romantic Comedy Movies. A Propensity to Discuss Post.

S*Sweet Home Alabama (Reese Witherspoon, Josh Lucas, Patrick Dempsey)     [Amazon, IMDB]

TTwenty-seven (27) Dresses (Katherine Heigl, James Marsden )      [Amazon, IMDB]

UUgly Truth, The (Katherine Heigl, Gerard Butler)     [Amazon, IMDB]

A - Z Romantic Comedy Movies. A Propensity to Discuss Post.

VValentine’s Day (Jessica Alba, Bradley Cooper, Patrick Dempsey)     [Amazon, IMDB]

WWhile You Were Sleeping (Sandra Bullock, Bill Pullman)     [Amazon, IMDB]

X – SeX And The City (Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis)     [Amazon, IMDB]

A - Z Romantic Comedy Movies. A Propensity to Discuss Post.

YYou’ve Got Mail (Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan)     [Amazon, IMDB]

Z –  CraZy, Stupid, Love (Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore)      [Amazon, IMDB]

A - Z Romantic Comedy Movies. A Propensity to Discuss Post.

 

One other one that I dearly love and watch over and over and over is Sabrina, both the original (1954 – Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn) [Amazon, IMDB] and the remake (1995 – Harrison Ford, Julia Ormond) [Amazon, IMDB]

A - Z Romantic Comedy Movies. A Propensity to Discuss Post.

*Favorites that I can watch over and over.

**Okay, so I took a little poetic licensing with this one. It’s not really a rom-com, more of a falling in love with oneself. But how many movies with Q in the title are there?

This post contains affiliate links. I would never include an affiliate link on any product that I would not completely endorse. So if you choose to purchase through this link, I get a small payment that does not affect your price at all. And I whole-heartedly recommend these linked products! The only one I have not seen is Queen and that link is not an affiliate. 

Helicopter teachers. A Propensity to Discuss Post.

Helicopter teachers

Whether or not you have read my post on helicopter parenting…I think the research shows that “hovering” as parents is a no-no. It is so detrimental to kids and it is a travesty of justice for kids. But now there is an issue with teachers being led into hover mode.

What another insane travesty of justice.

In school systems where parents have 24/7 access to their students’ grades and access to all the upcoming assignments, and quiz and test dates for their students through a learning platform, why are teachers required to call/email a parent when a student fails a test? Why on earth do parents have to be specifically notified? If parents want to hover and helicopter, this is the one area where they actually should be a little over the top. But ironically, most are not.

Many of the same reasons that make hover parenting bad, also make hover-teaching bad. Let’s look at entitlement. So the child fails, the teacher calls the parent and the parent wants to know why the child failed. Hello? Your child doesn’t study. Your child doesn’t prepare for class. Your child doesn’t care. Why? Because a parent that doesn’t hold kids accountable for their grades gives that child an open invitation to entitlement.

Think about it: Mom and/or Dad know that Junior isn’t studying. He is playing video games. Or hanging out with friends. He may even be working. But if he isn’t studying, he is not preparing for his job as a student. So, when Junior (or Suzie-Q) fails, Mom/Dad really don’t have any recourse. They have allowed the child to forgo studying, so how can they legitimately get angry when he/she didn’t pass?

Chronic complainers? Yes! Kids who don’t study and don’t pass are generally the ones who complain about the test or the teacher or the school or anything else that doesn’t go exactly they way they want it. They are entitled, so they know for certain that it is not their own fault that they failed. “This wasn’t on the study guide/We didn’t get a study guide.” Guess what, there is no study guide for life or for your job/career. What then?

Helicopter teachers. A Propensity to Discuss Post.

At what point do we hold the students responsible for their actions or inaction, as the case may be. The teacher has to notify the parent. Really? Can the parent not talk to the child? Can the child actually be held accountable?

I was, and I am pretty sure you were, also. In the 70s and 80s, how many times did our parents blame teachers for our bad grades? How often did our parents get a phone call about a failing grade we made? They didn’t. And they didn’t have instant access to grades.

Our parents got a report card once every 6 or 9 weeks, and it had to be signed and returned to school the next day. That was it. They knew about those things, not because they had a learning platform on a computer that was updated daily, but because they took an interest in our education and asked us what we were doing in school.

Let’s face it, anyone who doesn’t hold kids accountable is responsible for the anxiety and lack of confidence these students have. In the same way that helicopter parenting damages kids, helicopter teaching has a similar outcome.

Should parents know their kids have failed a test? Yes!

Should the teacher have to be a helicopter figure to let the parents know? No!

If parents take the initiative to know what their child is doing in school, the child will be more likely to take the initiative to do better. If not, the parents must force the issue with the child. The parents. Not the teacher.

We are raising the future here. We need them to be confident, non-entitled adults ready to take on the world by themselves, not just because someone is forcing them to do so.

Sorry for the rant, I just get a little heated sometimes!

Anyway, what are your thoughts on this?

 

Not a story I would advise you to visit.

Summit Lake (Charlie Donlea) is a very small, close-knit town of full-time and part-time residents and tourists. It’s the sort of place where everyone knows everyone else and no one’s business is safe from the local gossip mongers.

So when a part-time resident, Becca Eckersley is savagely murdered in her family’s cabin, the entire town is up in arms to find out who killed her and why.

Not a story I would advise you to visit. A Propensity to Discuss review.

When Kelsey Castle returns to work as a crime magazine reporter after a month-long recuperation from a brutal attack, her boss and mentor sends her to Summit Lake for more rest and relaxation and to write a story on the murder. Makes sense, right? She’s trying to get over being raped and beaten, so send her to investigate a case where someone was raped, beaten and died.

She arrives to find that Becca’s family is doing everything they can to cover up some secret, including shutting out the local sheriff and calling in the State Police. Kelsey sets up an appointment with the Sheriff who gives her all of the notes that he and his team have on the case. Just like that. She asks; he gives. That happens, right?

In the meantime, Kelsey meets Rae, the pseudo owner of the town coffee shop and they become instant friends and confidants. Kelsey even opens up to her about her own attack, which is something she wouldn’t even do with her therapist.

There is also Dr. Peter Ambrose, a surgeon in town who is ready to do anything at all, including Breaking and Entering to help this reporter he has only just met. Not to mention the fact that having been brutally attacked 6 weeks before she was willing to just go out and commit not one, but 2 B&Es with this man she has only met three times. How does that make sense?

In the end, of course, the reporter is able to break the case that neither the local nor the state police were able to even get any leads on. And it leaves you asking why the family would try to cover up the murder anyway. Wouldn’t they want to see their daughter’s killer brought to justice?

Sorry, this one just didn’t do it for me.

And if I may add another warning: Do NOT purchase the audio of this book! It is really bad. Shannon McManus has recorded quite a few books, but this one is an absolute mess. Her inflection is completely wrong. Her voice goes up at the end of most sentences, the way it should when asking a question. She has no grasp of cadence in moving from one sentence to another. Thank goodness I only paid $2.95 for it! If I had paid more, I would be sick over it.

1 Star. A Propensity to Discuss Review.

This post contains affiliate links. I would never include an affiliate link on any product that I would not completely endorse. So if you choose to purchase through this link, I get a small payment that does not affect your price at all.