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A Troubling Tale of One Woman Behind Iraqi Lines and Her Journey Home 

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Enemy Combatant by Ron Albury Published November 25th 2013 by Createspace ISBN 1494201887
I tend to be attracted to beauty and all things feminine, and the titles I read reflect that. I read poetry, vegan cookbooks, and women's fiction; never in a million years would I ever imagine myself gravitating towards political fiction, and certainly not books pertaining to military life and combat in Iraq.  The violence, strategic missions and men's comradery existing between soldiers that have experienced combat together are lost on me. I see them as irrelevant in my own life, and frankly, boring. 

I received a review copy of Enemy Combatant, and was attracted to it immediately because of its stunning cover art. I briefly skimmed the back face of the oversized paperback I held in my hand, looking for clues as to its content, but none were forthcoming. I was intrigued by more artful photography and the question, "Is she saving our country or destroying it?" I began to read.

Ron Albury's newly self-published novel, Enemy Combatant, begins in the unwinding of anti-terrorist agent, Samantha's, past self. As one of two siblings of a single mother, Samantha and her sister, Chris, live in shadows and silence, young girls whittled down into one, invisible presence trying to stay out of striking range of their drunken mother. One month to the day after 9/11, Chris is removed from the home and placed in state care following a brutal beating, and Samantha is left on her own, spending her days aimlessly wandering and contemplating suicide.

Samantha joins the military not to begin a new life, but to bring meaning to her death. What she discovers in basic training, however, is a level playing field with the other recruits, in which she was no longer identified as "the daughter of a drunken whore" or assigned temporary value based on her skills under the bleachers and on her knees..  Her former identity is stripped of her, and along with it, the inhibitions that kept her a prisoner of her low birth. She gives herself, willingly and in entirety, to the army, and is formed into a human weapon of worth and authentic, earned value.


 
 
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Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement Expected publication: February 11th 2014 by Hogarth
Having access to pre-release books for review, I often find myself in the untenable position of having to force myself through tortuous, mediocre, crudely written books. There's a lot of appallingly bad writing out there, cleverly disguised by misleading cover art; their publication based largely on overused cliches. I feel resentful for the time I spend choking down uninspired, poorly researched titles, when there are authors who invest themselves, literally for years, in the development of a well-written book. Jennifer Clement;s new title, Prayers for the Stolen, falls into the second category of higher achievement.


 
 
The Wishing Hill: A NovelThe Wishing Hill: A Novel by Holly Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Bathed in the lush, golden hues of Puerto Vallarta, Juliet Clark spends each sitting on the beaches of Mexico's Pacific Coast, painting landscapes and vaguely feigning a Mexican heritage to the tourists who come to buy her work as the waves lap at the shoreline. When faced with unexpected desertion of her husband, Juliet Clark is at a loss; her tranquil bliss comes to an abrupt halt. Like the native Huichol Indians performing breathtaking ritual, the dance of the flyer, her life has taken on the feel of a free fall ballet.

Furthering her sense of loss of gravity, a phone call, explaining that under no uncertain terms, she must leave her idyllic life and return home to care for her aging mother, a woman who, during Juliet's childhood, was constantly preoccupied with creating a grandiose public facade, while covering her personal inadequacies in a garnered sense of entitlement and self importance, drawn from the admiration of others. Her preoccupation with success in her career as an actress overshadowed the authenticity of her relationship with her childen, who were often neglected while Desiree, her mother, pursued her own interests and romantic relationships that would both serve as fuel for her narcissistic need to be constantly adored and who would supplement her personal income.

In the The Wishing Hill: A Novel, author Holly Robinson takes us to a place of hidden intimacy between mothers and daughters, exposing the pain of their choices and the fears that lay behind them. Written with tender honesty, she holds out her hand, offering her characters with a vulnerability that is, at times, unsettling. The fragile nature of generations of women is beautified in their heartbreaks and their uncertainties, even as they are made strong through the power of their convictions.

 
 
Am I Beautiful?Am I Beautiful? by Chine Mbubaegbu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars



This was a very personal telling of the marginalization experienced by the author, being both a woman and a woman of color, contrasted with the Truth as presented in God's Word; that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Chine Mbubaegbu revitalizes the Barbie argument, citing that with worldwide sales reaching one billion, 90% of girls between the ages three and ten own a Barbie doll. Combined with the fact that a girls's lifelong body-image is fully developed by the tender age of eight, its no wonder we, as adult women, come into agreement with female objectification and resent our bodies for failing to reach impossible standards.

 
 
Disposition of RemainsDisposition of Remains by Laura T. Emery
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I LOVE THIS BOOK.

I'm usually reading several books at a time (a bit like channel surfing) but I started reading it last night, and its been all I can do to keep from slacking all day and keep my nose in Disposition of Remains. THANK GOD the weekend is coming up and its a satisfying 384 pages!

 
 
The Bell JarThe Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved everything about this book. I especially loved The Bell Jar's symmetry... the electrocution of the Rosenbergs, and Esther Greenwood's electroshock therapy; the bird coming out of the egg in the fig tree and Esther's witnessing "a baby coming out of a woman"

 
 
Such a Pretty FatSuch a Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is NOT a feminist memoir.

Or is it?

I'm a fan of reading books on women's issues and feminism, and I generally shy away from books that attack less-empowered women, but I have to say; Jen Lancaster's bitching definitely works in her favor.

I've just finished re-reading Such a Pretty Fat, and, just like the virgin read, by the time I closed this book's cover, I felt both a vicarious giddy, ridiculous self-acceptance, and a also little smug.

Such a Pretty Fat is a memoir chronicling the author's struggles with her own body image and weight loss. Jen makes repeated conflicting statements about her comfort with her own body weight, yet, throughout the book, she hypercritically projects her insecurities onto other women- women she encounters who more closely resemble the idealized feminine form. Whatever flaws she may have, this great memoir reads to some degree like a pissy note passed in high school.

Jen Lancaster feels like best-friend material. She's a myriad of inconsistencies; she somehow manages to come off as both dainty and foul, self-indulgent and overly-critical of herself. It was a pleasure to share her journey through weight loss, and easy to root for her, even at her worst. I feel the need to defend her, to push the point that she is NOT a hot mess, only deeply insightful and multifaceted. This book is worth reading. TWICE.

Besides, in the end, even Barbie redeems herself.

Life just doesn't get any better than that.


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