I chanced to find this gal on Facebook and liked what I saw, so I picked up her book. I could really relate to it. It's split into five sections, an almost classical hero's journey from pain and ashes up to self-acceptance and strength.
Christie Starkweather has a roaring strength and passion that I really loved. She doesn't sugar coat her hard times or the despair they engendered, but throughout, there is always a fierce will to survive and rise up.
I liked "Redemption" in which neither angels nor devils can take in all of who she is. This necessary duality is at the heart of the book. "Playing Pretend" is a deceptively simple piece about the seductive emptiness of living inauthentically. I liked "Missing Me" because I've experienced that sensation of having lost myself. "Stolen Pieces" displays her characteristically sharp and unflinchingly honest style. "Into The Flames" is back to duality again, and it gave me a shiver of self-recognition. "Sipping Tea" is a fanciful entry in the more light-hearted middle section. The fourth section was my least favorite, as there were several almost greeting card-ish love poems there, and to me she seemed to lose the thread a little bit, as those drunk on love will do. I did love "100% Authentic" because, as a Detroit girl, the line "I wasn't built on an assembly line" pleased. In the final section I felt that she really found her footing again. It's full of hard-won wisdom and celebration of being there for one's self, there for others, and at peace with who one really is.
This is a strong honest collection and I recommend it.
It was okay. It's about Carly, who goes to Fell, New York to try to unravel how her aunt Viv disappeared while working the night shift at the Sun Down Motel 35 years previous. The POV shifts between Viv in 1982 (which I much preferred) and Carly in 2017. Carly annoyed me. I kept picturing her as Denise from Stan Against Evil. Appropriate I guess, since the motel is quite definitely haunted.
That said, this is less a ghost story than it is Nancy Drew Visits The Bates Motel. The first half tried my patience and I couldn't decide if I liked it or not. The spooky motel was cool, but the two dopey girls running around playing teen detective wore thin quickly. I also got very sick of the author's habit of invariably and everlastingly describing everyone's full ensemble every time they appear. Yes, we want to be able to visualize the characters; no, we don't need the full Marie Claire.
In the second half I have to say that I did get drawn in a lot more, as Viv consistently held my interest with her determination and resourcefulness. Carly, OTOH, continued to grate, with her super convenient luck in finding just the right (you have no idea) apartment, and her crush on the straight-from-central-casting handsome rogue Nick, who stays at the Sun Down because it is the only place he is able to fall asleep. (Um, kay.) The creepy motel is certainly the star here, and there were other things to like, including the weird baddie who checks in from time to time, but I just could never shake the tv movie feel of the whole thing. Not really recommended, though it is readable. Kudos for the cover, which is excellent.
I'm stunned, really. I'm stunned by the many plurals spelled with apostrophes (like this: apostrophe's), the blessed FLOOD of tears at every turn, the constant whimpering and trembling (What ever happened to that famous English reserve?) and just the whole host of offenses against Good Writing which are to be found here. What a mess.
The novel takes place in wartime England and that setting was one of only two things I liked about it. The other was the touching sweetness between the two main characters, Stella and Ruth. In their private moments, they really are lovely together. However, except for the love scenes, the writing is so laughably bad, and the editing non-existent (despite a claim that it was edited by some outfit called P-ink), that I had to resort to extreme measures just to get through it without extensive therapy. Arriving exhausted and annoyed on page 98 (of 222), I got out my pen and starting marking every clumsy, misspelled, repetitive, awkward, nonsensical, irritating passage as I went along. This process kept me interested enough to tolerate reading to the end.
The whole thing is stagey and melodramatic. Yes, life during the Blitz was certainly enough to try anyone's endurance, but here the only one being tried is the poor reader. Every time someone's teacup is upset, the characters start trembling and whimpering. Tears and more tears ensue. Even when a person might actually react that way due to bad news or whatever, it was done so often, and in such a predictable, plastic, over the top way, that it almost became funny. Then we have the mother, whose answer to every event is to make more everlasting tea. Moving right along, I am not one to shun the deets, but oh dear me does the author go into endless detail about trivial stuff. Every time a door opens, an inventory team gets its wings. We hear about the lamp shade, the dresser, what's on the dresser, the wallpaper (always flowered), the rug, the spider in the corner, everything. This is especially vexing when it's the middle of an important plot development and Lee pauses to inventory the soup tins or something. Moreover, the segueways are weird and jarring. On the occasions that the bombings or a sweet moment between the women absorbed me, Lee would jump to some wildly different mood and tone. For example, she manages (somehow!) to nail the perfect ending and then ruins it by segueing into a pedantic summary of WWII, followed with a painful and unnecessary "fifty years later" bit in which we discover that two of Stella's sisters live happily ever after with kiddies and the other mourns her life away over her dead serviceman boyfriend who she seems to have only known for two weeks or something before her steady boy yelled ships ahoy and joined the nay-ay-vee. (Or the army). In short, the "update" was really just a depiction of bizarrely static lives. Whee. So, even when Lee gets it right, she then turns around and messes it up.
Revel in this tortured sentence about Christmas decor: "It gave little in the way of joy but at least it was able to offer some sort of normality in the way of celebrating the traditional holiday." Now *I* want to whimper and burst into tears in the way of hammering my head against the desk. I haven't even mentioned the Spitfires leaving to bomb Germany, never mind that Spitfires were not bombers. And I've spared you the handy plot resolution near the end that is as unlikely in tone as it is emotionally false. All I can leave you with is that this is NOT the worst book I've ever read to the end. That "honor" still goes to Linda Rentschler's godawful "Mother", which makes this disaster look like Shakespeare. Need I say...NOT recommended.
This short novel reminded me a lot of Anne Tyler's "Breathing Lessons" which I hated. They both won a major prize ("Breathing Lessons" the Pulitzer and "Hotel du Lac" the Man Booker Prize), they were both written in the 1980's but feel more like the 1940's, and they both annoyed me as I read them, but this one redeemed itself a bit in the end. Getting there, however, was quite the tedious chore.
The blurb at Goodreads describes this book as "witheringly funny." It is not. There is the odd mildly amusing wry remark here or there, particularly in the opening chapter, but that's the full extent of any humor. The story concerns Edith Hope (This is the second time I have read a novel in which the author heavy-handedly names their character "Hope"), a writer of romance novels and an unmarried woman of a certain age who has been sent to a Swiss hotel as banishment for a social misstep. Heart-stopping stuff we can all relate to, not. The Hotel du Lac is a well-run but stuffy and colorless place for people who like their getaways calm to the point of coma, rather like the bulk of this book. If you enjoy reading reams abut what the women are wearing, what they think about each other, and who took a walk today and who went shopping, this is the novel for you, you wild thing. Reading this book was like one of those dreams where one tries to run but remains in frustrating slow motion.
Everyone cheerfully bullies Edith without malice or second thoughts. She appears to them to be a pleasant cipher, someone to fill an empty chair and behave as they would prefer for her to, but she has more spine than is readily apparent. Suffice to say, I felt I understood her in the end, and was proud of her, but it took the entire torpid, dull, endless, mind-numbingly repetitive book to get there. Not recommended, in the same way that I would not recommend for you to take grandma's dusty old lampshade down from the attic and put it in your living room. It is not charming, or nostalgic, or ironic--it is just lifeless. One star for the first 186 pages, four stars for the final two.