Saturday, January 27, 2007

"Sickened: The Memoir of a Munchausen by Proxy Childhood," by Julie Gregory

I stayed up late last night just to finish this book. I couldn't put it down. It's the true life story of a child growing up being deliberately sickened by her own mother. Julie Gregory's childhood was a series of doctor's visits, tests, unnecessary surgeries, and gross mistreatment at the hands of her parents.

Interspersed in the book are Gregory's real medical records, with only the names of physicians and hospital officials blacked out.

While it was Gregory's mother who insisted Julie was sick, always in pursuit of some "answer" to her mysterious medical conditions, both parents physically abused their child. But they always presented a united front in public, able to convince the world of a close-knit, loving family. Julie Gregory's love for her family and desperate need to please her mother ensured that no one would ever know about the abuse. In fact, the family eventually came to take in elderly veterans and foster children, all destined to suffer at the hands of Julie's mother.

Not since reading A Child Called It have I been so appalled and horrified at the living conditions and mistreatment of a child. But Gregory's story doesn't end tragically. This book is well worth the read, not only for the content, but for impeccable writing. I had to keep reminding myself that the book wasn't a work of fiction.

5 stars

Friday, January 26, 2007

"Secret Society Girl: An Ivy League Novel," by Diana Peterfreund

"Think The Da Vinci Code meets Bridget Jones."

Need I say more? Okay, if you insist.

Amy Haskel is a junior in a prestigious college, Eli University. She works as an editor at a literary magazine and assumes she'll be joining a not-so-secret literary club. To her immense surprise, she gets "tapped" to join the ultimate boys club, Rose and Grave, the oldest and most powerful secret society on campus. Amy is part of the very first class to have women tapped to join, and soon she's hanging out with senators and CEOs. What could be better? Unfortunately, there are some members who are outraged at women joining, which leads to threats.

Mostly the book was fun and enjoyable. I was a little annoyed with the main character's commitment phobia. It didn't really ring true to me. It felt more like the author was trying to fit more in the novel than just cloak-and-daggers. There is a sequel on its way. I don't know if I'll read it, but for the most part, I did like this book.

4 stars

"Dead Until Dark," by Charlaine Harris

I've been lazy about updating, haven't I? So sorry.

Dead Until Dark is the first in a series of Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris. It's the story of a barmaid named Sookie Stackhouse, who has the unusual ability to read minds. The world Harris creates is filled with vampires, who have recently made their presence known to the rest of the world and become legal citizens. They can now exist on artificial blood, so humans have nothing to fear. Or do they?

There are some sort-of good vampires and really evil ones, too. And the first vampire Sookie ever meets becomes her first boyfriend. (It's a little hard to date regular guys since Sookie can read their minds and know exactly what they think about her body and such. Vampires are like a blank canvas.) But being with a vampire has more than the obvious drawbacks (he's dead and drinks blood), such as violence following in his wake. And soon the small town of Bon Temps, Louisiana is spotted with the deaths of women who have all been with vampires.

Sookie is an extremely likeable character. She's only high school educated, but uses things like a word-a-day calendar to educate herself. She's a little back-woods, but she's also sweet and funny and unforgettable.

I have read all of the other books in this series currently out, but I won't be reviewing all of them. Suffice it to say that I enjoyed each one. If you care to check them out as well, I'll leave you with a list of the titles in order.

4.5 stars

Dead Until Dark
Living Dead in Dallas
Club Dead
Dead to the World
Dead as a Doornail
Definitely Dead
All Together Dead (to be released May 1, 2007)