Friday, August 17, 2018

Broken by Rosie Lewis

Life as a foster parent is never dull, and in her time as foster parent Rosie Lewis has met and helped children facing all kinds of challenges.  Nothing so far has quite prepared her for Archie and his younger sister Bobbi.  The children have been removed from their mother and moved into foster care because there are concerns they might be neglected, but it is soon abundantly clear that there is more to their story than simple neglect.  As a foster parent Rosie has to engage with the parents, and she soon discovers that Archie and Bobbi's mother Tanya is more interested in her partner Jason and putting on the appearance of being a good mother - rather than actually being a good mother.

Archie is a little gentleman, perfectly polite and full of compliments - but it is only on the surface, and Rosie is more than a little concerned about what might be lurking under his civilised exterior.  Bobbi is completely different, a child that never seems to stop moving and is constantly demanding attention and hurting herself when she doesn't get what she wants.  Although the children are showing very different signs, it is clear to both Rosie and their social worker Danny that something is not right with the children.  As they slowly peel back the layers of protection the children have built around themselves, Rosie discovers that Archie has been hiding more than she knows.  As the pieces finally fall into place there is finally hope for Archie and Bobbi to heal and move on with their lives.

Broken tells the story of the months that Archie and Bobbi spent with Rosie - and it is a story that is moving, terrifying, and ultimately makes you believe in the kindness of strangers.  Some of these kinds of stories are just heart breaking, but Rosie tells the story of Archie and Bobbi in such a way that it gives you hope that things can change, and gives you hope that children can recover from neglect and abuse.  One of the most interesting aspects of this story for me is the manipulation of the children, and the sentiment that neglect is worse than abuse - something that I have long felt and didn't realise that some experts agree.  I have seen children who have been neglected and it just tears at your heart to see them suffering, while people say things like 'at least their parent isn't hitting them' - but the damage left by neglect seems to be linger much longer than cuts and bruises.

Rosie Lewis has a very personable writing style, and while she is sharing a story that is deeply personal (to both her and the children) she doesn't descend into gratuitous tactics, rather laying out the story 'warts and all' as it happened.  This story has moments that are almost too painful to read, and I would challenge anyone to read this book without feeling sympathy for Archie, Bobbi, Rosie and her family.  While it is a confronting read, we need stories like this to remind us that life can be hard, and it can be cruel - but there are also people out there who care and can pick up the pieces.

Take your time with this story and pause when you need to.  If you read this book and want to read other biographies from people who have lived through difficult experiences and trauma, then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, August 6, 2018

Blood and chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause

When their rural property is attacked by the local towns people Vivian and her pack flee with their tails between their legs, licking their wounds and mourning the loss of key members of their pack.  Living in the city is challenging, the pack has been split up into different households and instead of wide open forests they have small patches of wood to run free in.  It's a dangerous time for the pack, their last leader died in the fire and they can't decide on a new leader which leaves everyone unsettled and playing power games.  For Vivian it is a time of coming to terms with loss, being disgusted by the behaviour of her age mates in the pack, and trying to avoid the attentions of the men who are starting to notice her change from girl to woman.  It seems as though nothing is going right - and then she meets Aiden.

Aiden is like no one she has ever met before - he is nothing like the brash and crude Five, and nothing like the men and wolves who have started sniffing around.  For the first time Vivian is spending time with humans rather than pack, and while the others can't understand her fascination with the 'meat boy', Aiden and his friends accept her as one of their own.  As the summer moves on there is an almost dream like quality to their relationship, a sweetness that Vivian has never seen with the wolves and for the first time she is tempted to tell a human what she really is.  It's a bad time to expose her secret though, because someone has killed a human - and everyone knows that once you have a taste for blood you can't stop the craving.

Blood and chocolate appeared on a recommended reading list recently and it made me want to pick it up and read it again to see if it had stood the test of time - and basically the answer is yes.  Annette Curtis Klause wrote a story focused on relationships, so although this is quite an old story now, it doesn't have all the little place markers that pinpoint it to a certain place in time.  It is the characters that make this such an amazing story, and it is the characters that stay with you long after the story ends.  In some ways the story is too short, because the story is so neatly written and the pace is quite quick, but it is a very enjoyable read.  If you have never read Blood and chocolate before then I highly recommend it, because while it is a very well written and interesting twist on the werewolf genre, it is also a very well written first love story and coming of age story.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla