Nikki Dubose: Washed Away

Trigger Warning:  eating disorders, rape, domestic violence, sexual abuse, addiction, self harm, mental illness, obsessive behavior

Washed Away: From Darkness to Light is a memoir that recounts the experiences of model Nikki DuBose as she overcomes a more than seventeen-year battle with abuse, child sexual victimization, eating disorders, psychosis, alcoholism, drugs, depression, suicide attempts, body dysmorphic disorder, and various other mental health issues, all while trying to navigate through the dark side of the fashion industry.

Her journey began as a young, introverted child with a florid imagination growing up in Charleston, South Carolina. By the age of eight she had been sexually, physically, and emotionally abused and had developed an eating disorder. The abuse warped Nikki’s self-perception and sparked patterns of psychosis, depression and destructive behavior that stayed with her into adulthood. In her early twenties she began working as a television host and started a career in modeling. Eventually Nikki attained success, appearing on the covers of magazines such as Maxim, shooting for editorials like Vanity Fair, Glamour and FHM, and appearing in campaigns for Perry Ellis.

Cast into a world of excess, superficiality, and vanity, Nikki traveled the globe and experienced the finest that the material world had to offer, all while feeling empty inside. Her disorders, addictions and mental health issues took her to the brink of mortality and only through a deeply painful inner-battle and her mother’s death was she able to reconnect the lost pieces of her soul and see the person she had so long rejected.

Her recovery from a nearly lifelong struggle with PTSD, psychosis, addictions and eating disorders has left Nikki with a passionate longing to help others who are also suffering by advocating for mental health and self-acceptance. Washed Away: From Darkness to Light will serve as a testimony to others to let them know that they are not alone in their fears, doubts, and frustrations, and that through recovery all things are possible.

 

Remember back when I read Lady Injury, when I told you that I liked a book…but then warned you not to read it? That’s exactly how I feel about Washed Away. In fact, the books are as similar as they are different, just as the two women are. Both books are about eating disorders and extremely severe mental illness. Both books are horrifically triggering and devastating. But, just as no two people are the same, no two mental illnesses are the same–and thus, no two memoirs could be the same either.

Washed Away is the story of two women, actually–not just Nikki herself, but also her mother. Nikki’s story illustrates just how strong the ties of mental illness can be–both nature and nurture. Her life was basically just a boulder rolling down a mountain–there was no way to stop it until the very bottom–and that boulder crushed everything in its path.

And Nikki was crushed by everything imaginable. I don’t often put a trigger warning at the beginning of my reviews, but it was necessary for this one. It is so easy to feel hopeless while reading a book like this because there seemingly is no end to the tragedy that this woman went through in her life. But she found her way out. I cannot imagine how impossible recovery seemed, but her epilogue was full of all the hope that was missing in the rest of the pages. It’s worth reading the rest just for that.

If you are looking for a story about someone who got out, someone who fought through bulimia and mental illness and came out on the other side–maybe look at Nikki’s book. Just be aware that this is a very triggering story, so take care.

I received a copy of this book from Book Publicity Services for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links.

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Jill Bowers: Immortal Writers

Young up-and-coming author Liz McKinnen has no idea that her life is about to change forever when she comes home from her first book tour. When she’s kidnapped and told by her captors that she has to kill her fantasy book’s antagonist, she thinks that she’s fallen into the hands of crazy, dangerous fans… until her antagonist sends a real, fire-breathing dragon after her. Liz is quickly initiated into the Immortal Writers, a group of authors from throughout time whose words have given them eternal life, and whose prose is so powerful that it’s brought stories over from the Imagination Field into the Reality Field. As Liz meets authors such as William Shakespeare, JRR Tolkien, Edgar Allan Poe, and Jane Austen, she has to learn how to control magic, fight dragons, and face her own troubled past before her power-hungry villain takes over the world. Will she survive the ultimate battle against the dragon lord whom she created?

Can you be both in love with a story and hate the writing at the same time? This is such a mixed review for me. The concept is so creative:  a young writer is so brilliant that her characters come to life and take her to a castle where she is inducted into a society of Immortal Writers with the like of Shakespeare and Tolkien. However, as a sort of initiation, she must conquer her own villain. There are dragons, and magic, and a dashing hero to kiss.

Sounds awesome, right?

However, I found it all a bit juvenile. NetGalley lists this in their Teens & YA group, but I would put this on the very young side of that grouping. For a book about an author who is supposed to be as great as HG Wells and Dostoevsky, the prose just doesn’t measure up. The characters are very one-dimensional, and even the authors, while amusing, are caricatures of themselves. Bowers seems to have a particular disdain for Jane Austen and romantics, which is ironic since this is a fantasy romance.

Not much diversity either. Every relationship is heterosexual, and there is only one token POC in Langston Hughes…and he’s the first to get injured in battle. I never thought I’d call Langston Hughes a “token” POC, but he really feels that way here. More diversity, please!

Trigger warnings for domestic violence and child abuse.

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NetGalley and Blue Moon Publishers provided an ARC for an unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links.

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Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

Liane Moriarty and her deadly good story-telling strikes again. I haven’t seen Women’s Fiction this good since My Sister’s Keeper (really, nothing I’ve read by Jodi Picoult has measured up to that one, although I still have a great many of her books yet to read). Now that I’ve read four in a row, I’ve really seen just how far her reach can go. Every single plot was meticulously mapped from the beginning, and gone over with a fine-toothed comb to match every single detail.

Big Little Lies is now my favorite of the four, perhaps because it has a different mapping than the other three. With the others, we knew what was happening, but the characters didn’t. We were almost omnipresent–watching the characters figure out the details. The stories were far from boring, however, because we still had to pick together the pieces of how everything fit.

In Big Little Lies, however, we know someone has died at school trivia night. We know there has been some huge conflict between the parents, and between the children. We just don’t know who or what yet. The scene is set via Moriarty’s ability to break apart the chapters with both multi-person narration and other writing devices to see outside the box–in this book she uses a journalist’s interview with the parents to get multiple POV.

The story is super thrilling. I mentioned in one of my previous reviews that her books feel like a master laying dominos down, and Big Little Lies is a perfect illustration of that. She waits patiently for us to THINK we know what is about to happen and then *clickclickclick* down they all come.

She also covers a lot of BIG topics in this one. Bullying. Sexual assault and date rape. Domestic violence. PTSD. The sexual trafficking of children. They are wrapped in a women’s fiction/thriller, but Moriarty is making some very clear points here. Don’t let those go unnoticed.

I’ve added everything from her Goodreads page to my TBR, and I’m following her now too. I can’t stand to miss a single thing this woman puts out. It’s bound to be keep me falling off the edge of my seat.

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I received a copy of this book from Berkley Publishing via Twitter Contest.

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I Let You Go

In a split second, Jenna Gray’s world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever.

I’ll be honest, I almost gave up on this one. I Let You Go starts out really slow, and at first seems like just a stereotypical romance novel. Girl has tragedy. Girl moves to remote cottage on island. Girl makes friend with female leader of island. Girl gets dog. Girl meets attractive male leader of island and falls in love.

We’ve all read those kinds of stories. They are nice, but after so many of them…a bit dull. This one also kept flipping perspectives between Jenna’s story and the “homefront”–a police procedural plot that followed the casework of Jenna’s original tragedy. While the perspectives changed at each chapter break, they weren’t labeled, so my brain switch really had to be on.

However, as I scrolled through Goodreads for the summary, I saw 5 star review after 5 star review talking about the twists of this amazing thriller!

Wait…

…What? Am I reading the right book?

It took until about the 45% mark, but yep. Thriller. Once I got to the top of that plot hill, it reeeeeeeeeally started tumbling down fast. It was still a little bit predictable to someone who reads a lot of books like this, but the pace did pick up quite a bit, and there were a few turns that made me think twice a few times.

This is quite a dark book. Be prepared for domestic violence, rape, and death of a child. It’s a pretty scary rendition of just how far abuse can go, and how hard it is to fight back. It also answers the question, “Why didn’t you call the police?”

No really–the police actually ask that question. You will get an answer. Pay attention to it. And apply it to real life every single time it pops into your head from then on.

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NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review. Releases May 3.

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