Dragonslippers: This is What an Abusive Relationship Looks Like by Rosalind B. Penfold

Rating: 6 out of 10
Summary: Rosalind B. Penfold is an appealing, successful thirty-five-year-old businesswoman running her own company when her parents, worried that she works too hard, invite her to a country picnic-party one weekend. There she meets widower Brian and is swept off her feet. Romantic and exuberant, with four loving children, Brian seems like everything a woman could possibly want, and Roz falls deeply in love. But soon Roz begins to notice troubling signs that Brian is not what he seems. A pattern of lies and petty cruelties begins to emerge that, over the course of their decade together, comes to encompass a litany of physical, mental, and sexual abuse appalling in its scope and malevolence. Often too traumatized and ashamed to admit the true extent of what she is experiencing, Roz instead pours her anguish into a series of graphic diaries that provide a touching, profoundly shocking, and completely original portrait of domestic abuse.

Commentary: Interesting format and original way of explaining domestic abuse.


Soul by Tobsha Learner

Rating: 8 out of 10
Summary: In nineteenth-century Britain, young Lavinia Huntington’s older husband appreciates her lively intellect and seems eager to extend his wife’s education from his study to their bedroom. Lavinia absorbs all he has to teach and glories in the birth of their son.

In twenty-first-century Los Angeles, Julia Huntington studies the human genome, seeking the origins of human emotion. As passionate about her marriage to her beloved Klaus as she is about her life’s work, Julia is delighted to discover that she is pregnant.

Separated by nearly 150 years, Lavinia and Julia suffer the same shock when their men abandon them. Their powerful love becomes painful hate; their intense passion transforms into icy logic. The genes of the Huntington women have formed their emotions–now their life experiences drive them to make decisions that they, and those they love, may long regret.

Commentary: I started reading another of Learner’s novels quite awhile ago, The Witch of Cologne, but I never finished it. However, I really enjoyed Soul–finished it in a day. Learner did a great job of interweaving two stories and two conflicts, transitioning well between one narrative and the next.

I think the best part about this book was the emotion and intensity involved–Learner takes the reader through a whole rollercoaster of ups and downs, and you can feel every single thing that happens to both Lavinia and Julia. I don’t want to reveal too much, but I’m not sure I would have been as strong as Julia, strong enough to hold back from dealing revenge at such a horrible betrayal.

Usually a novel with two narratives can become unbalanced–I’ve read books before where I become far more interested in one story than the other. But Learner did a good job of paralleling Julia’s and Lavinia’s stories.

The one thing I can really pick on is Learner’s central, scientific idea that supposedly tied the two stories together–the question of nature vs. nurture, of whether or not our DNA and basic genetic makeup can determine our behavior. It may be because I am personally so biased (I favor nurture over nature) but I felt that the scientific arguments and evidence presented in Soul were weak and not particularly engaging. The science and genetics weren’t what linked these two related women–their situations and decisions did.

Maybe in the end, especially considering the climax, that is what Learner intended to prove.

Great read, fast-paced and very, very interesting.

Bunker 10 by J.A. Henderson

Rating: 8 out of 10
Summary: At eight o’clock in the evening, 24 December 2007, Pinewood Military Installation exploded. The blast ripped apart acres of forest and devastated the remote highland valley where the base was located. No official cause was given for the incident. Inside Pinewood were 185 male and female personnel–a mixture of scientists and soldiers. There were also seven teenagers. This is the story of their last day . . . (from book jacket).

Commentary: More evidence of my increasing laziness as the summer goes on–I finished this book and started the draft for this review on June 2nd, about a month ago. Goodness. Let’s see if I can remember anything about this story…

My first thought is that it was a fast-paced, high energy read. Had me hooked every step of the way, and not just with action and adventure, but very intelligent twists and turns. It’s meant for the Young Adult audience, and reads a bit like it too–I guess the dialogue’s just simpler, characters not as developed, and the romance is very tween-ish. Not to say it wasn’t enjoyable, but it was just something very obvious that was there throughout the whole novel.

However the Young Adult factor didn’t take away anything from the plot and action. It starts with the end: the destruction and assumed death of all the main characters (super intelligent genius kids held in a military installation), which can make you kind of think “Well, what’s the point of reading this novel if I already know what’s going to happen to all the characters?” However, Henderson’s unorthodox beginning merely draws you in, and makes you want to know how the characters ended up in their seemingly deadly predicament.

I can’t say anything else about the plot without giving away the whole story, but I would definitely recommend this. The author kept surprising me throughout the book–very well thought-out, and a good, fast read.