A Hundred Small Lesson by Ashley Hay #Mini-Review @AtriaBooks

A Hundred Small Lessons cover

After a bad fall, Elsie Gormley has no choice but to leave her beloved house to live in a nearby nursing home. The house is sold, and a new family moves in—Lucy, her husband Ben, and their son. Right from the start, Lucy feels a connection to Elsie after discovering items she left behind, and often thinks of her and wishes she knew more about her. As Lucy settles in to her new home with hopes for the future, Elsie is caught up in memories of the past. Her memories are often focused on the house and the life she lived there as a young bride, mother, and—finally—a widowed grandmother.

What struck me most about A Hundred Small Lessons was the focus on motherhood. I remember what it was like to have a toddler in the house, and how overwhelming it could be. I also know what it’s like to look back at those years and wonder how they went by so fast… missing one thing, regretting another. It was easy for me to identify with the way both women felt, which was very nice and kept me invested in them throughout the entire story.

This was a sweet read, and I enjoyed it very much.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Atria Books.

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Author: Ashley Hay

Title: A Hundred Small Lessons

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Published: November 28th, 2017 by Atria Books

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

About the Book

When Elsie Gormley leaves the Brisbane house in which she has lived for more than sixty years, Lucy Kiss and her family move in, eager to establish their new life. As they settle in, Lucy and her husband Ben struggle to navigate their transformation from adventurous lovers to new parents, taking comfort in memories of their vibrant past as they begin to unearth who their future selves might be. But the house has secrets of its own, and the rooms seem to share recollections of Elsie’s life with Lucy.

In her nearby nursing home, Elsie traces the span of her life—the moments she can’t bear to let go and the places to which she dreams of returning. Her beloved former house is at the heart of her memories of marriage, motherhood, love, and death, and the boundary between present and past becomes increasingly porous for both her and Lucy.

Over the course of one hot Brisbane summer, two families’ stories intersect in sudden and unexpected ways. Through the richly intertwined narratives of two ordinary, extraordinary women, Ashley Hay weaves an intricate, bighearted story of what it is to be human.

About the Author

Author Ashley Hay
Author Ashley Hay

Ashley Hay’s new novel, A Hundred Small Lessons, was published in Australia in April 2017 and will be published in the US in late 2017.

A writer for more than 20 years, her essays and short stories have appeared in volumes including the Griffith Review, Best Australian Essays (2003), Best Australian Short Stories (2012), and Best Australian Science Writing (2012), and have been awarded various accolades in Australia and overseas. In 2016, she received the Bragg UNSW Press Prize for Science Writing.

Author photo and (partial) bio via Goodreads.

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Buzz: A Stimulating History of the Sex Toy by Hallie Lieberman #Mini-Review

Buzz: A Stimulating History of the Sex Toy cover

The first person to receive a PhD in the history of sex toys, Hallie Lieberman has written a fascinating book that tells you everything you wanted to know on the subject, and more. For example, did you know that until as recently as 2008, it was illegal to sell sex toys in Texas? Obscenity laws there (and elsewhere) set the stage for decades-worth of headaches and careful maneuvering for anyone involved in selling them. Regardless of the specific topic—whether it’s about manufacturing, advertising, or selling—there is always a story to tell on how things were done, and how they evolved over the years.

If you enjoy learning the history of how commonplace items came to be, this is an interesting read.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Pegasus Books via Netgalley.

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Author: Hallie Lieberman

Title: Buzz: A Stimulating History of the Sex Toy

Genre: Nonfiction, History

Published: November 7th, 2017 by Pegasus Books

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

About the Book

Once only whispered about in clandestine corners, vibrators have become just another accessory for the suburban soccer mom, showing up in all manner of pop culture, from sitcoms to talk shows to the pages of glossy women’s magazines. But how did these once-taboo toys become so socially acceptable? The journey of the devices to the cultural mainstream is a surprisingly stimulating one.

In Buzz, Hallie Lieberman—who holds the world’s first PhD in the history of sex toys—starts at the beginning, tracing the tale from lubricant in Ancient Greece to the very first condom in 1560 to advertisements touting devices as medical equipment in 19th-century magazines. She looks in particular from the period of major change from the 1950s through the present, when sex toys evolved from symbols of female emancipation to tools in the fight against HIV/AIDS to consumerist marital aids to today’s mainstays of pop culture. The story is populated with a cast of vivid and fascinating characters including Dell Williams, founder of the first feminist sex toy store, Eve’s Garden; Betty Dodson, who pioneered “Bodysex” workshops in the 1960s to help women discover vibrators and ran Good Vibrations, a sex toy store and vibrator museum; and Gosnell Duncan, a paraplegic engineer who invented the silicone dildo and lobbied Dodson and Williams to sell them in their stores. And these personal dramas are all set against a backdrop of changing American attitudes toward sexuality, feminism, LGBTQ issues, and more.

Both educational and titillating, Buzz will make readers think quite differently about those secret items hiding in bedside drawers across the nation.

About the Author

Hallie Lieberman
Hallie Lieberman

Lieberman obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin Madison in 2014, with a dissertation on Sex Toy History. Her writing has been published in Bitch, Bust, Eater, The Forward, and Inside Higher Ed, among others. She is often featured on podcasts such as “In Bed With Susie Bright” and Bitch Magazine’s “Popaganda.” She has given talks at many university events and conferences. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Author photo and bio via author’s website.

Silent Lies by Kathryn Croft #Review @KatCroft @bookouture

Silent Lies cover

Five years ago, Mia Hamilton’s husband, Zach, committed suicide. On the same night, Josie Carpenter,  disappeared and was thought to have been murdered by her university teacher—Zach Hamilton. The coincidence of Josie’s disappearance and Zach’s suicide happening on the same night had everyone convinced Zach murdered Josie and disposed of her body before committing suicide. Josie’s body was never found and there was no absolute proof Zach murdered her, but the discovery of his corpse in Josie’s flat was enough for most people to believe it.

Five years later Mia is a counselor and in love with a man named Will, whom both she and her daughter, Freya, adore. Mia is starting to feel she can put the past behind her when she meets a new client named Alison who drops a bombshell during her first counseling session—saying Zach didn’t kill himself, only to deny having said it moments later.

Desperate for answers yet unsure if Alison can be trusted, Mia is determined to find out what Alison knows, and if she’s telling the truth. As she learns more about Alison, she questions her agenda and fears for her own safety—but she can’t stop until she finds out what Alison knows about the night Josie disappeared and Zach died.

Full of secrets, deceptions, and jaw-dropping plot twists, Silent Lies is guaranteed to keep you reading through the wee hours of the night. The story is told from the perspectives of Mia (in the present) and Josie (five years ago) in alternating chapters. While both perspectives are interesting, I found myself far more captivated by Josie’s tale. She went through something truly horrific in her past, and to see the way she coped with that—let alone, everything else she faced in her everyday life—was simply fascinating to me. Through her interactions with Zach, we see the sort of person he was, and even get glimpses of the way Mia was in the past in the rare moments he talks about her. The more I learned about Josie, the more theories I had about that fateful night, and her role in it.

Alison—who features in both perspectives—definitely kept me on my toes. Just when I thought I had her all figured out, something would happen to change my mind. She is definitely a complex character who constantly gives you a feeling of unease every time she shows up.

I can’t say why, of course, but the ending totally blew my mind! I was so shocked, I actually had to reread several paragraphs to make sure I hadn’t read it wrong. Just… WOW.

If you love psychological thrillers, you definitely need to add this one to your TBR pile!

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Bookouture via Netgalley.

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Author: Kathryn Croft

Title: Silent Lies

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Published: October 25th, 2017 by Bookouture

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the Book

‘Your husband didn’t kill himself.’
Five years rebuilding your life. Five words will destroy it again.

Mia Hamilton lived the perfect life with her husband, university teacher Zach, and their two-year-old daughter, Freya. But everything changed when Zach committed suicide on the same night one of his students, Josie Carpenter, vanished.

Five years later, and Josie is still missing but Mia has finally found some happiness with new boyfriend Will.

Until one day when stranger Alison walks into her life and tells Mia that her husband didn’t kill himself.

Desperate to find out what really happened to Zach, Mia is forced to put her trust in Alison. But she soon discovers that Alison has her own agenda behind exposing the details of Zach’s death. Can Mia really believe anything Alison says?

Mia must decide how far she is willing to go to uncover the truth – even if she risks losing everything she loves.

About the Author

Kathryn Croft
Kathryn Croft

Kathryn worked in HR and management training before her passion for literature led her to train as an English teacher. She spent six years teaching secondary school English; a job she believes was invaluable to her writing career. Kathryn now devotes all her time to writing.

Author photo and bio via Bookouture.