Review: Formation by Ryan Leigh Dostie

“A few hours before I am raped, two officers in a bar try to corner me and steal my panties.” And with that jarring first line, Formation by Ryan Leigh Dostie begins, hitting the ground running. A lyrically written novel that embodies the Hemingway quote, “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein,” Dostie lays bare the deepest depths of herself in this debut memoir. In boldly and candidly telling her truth, Dostie inspires.

 

Formation dives right into the trauma that will change Ryan Dostie forever – the night she is betrayed in the worst way by a fellow soldier when he rapes her. The events that transpire after this heinous act of violence shines a blaring spotlight on the culture of toxic masculinity within our own military. And what happens when our women warriors refuse to ‘go gentle.’

 

Raised surrounded by a group of powerful women, Ryan Leigh Dostie was never a girl destined to be a shrinking violet. Taught to embrace her own worth and desires from a young age, unintimidated by barriers that could get in her way, Ryan grows from a wonderfully wild little girl into a brilliant, spunky, adventurous young woman. So it’s no surprise that promises of thrilling endeavors draws Dostie to the army as a linguist. The army turns out to be both wonderful and terrible. And never what she expects.

 

Thrust into a male-dominated establishment unwelcoming to women, Dostie still manages to hold her own in the army with grit and sharp wits. But, after the vicious assault she suffers in her barracks room that night, when Ryan doesn’t adhere to the subliminal rule of ‘shut up and suck it up’ that’s been drilled into her since basic training, the commanders that are there to protect her utterly – and willfully – fail her. Even with a crime scene, with physical evidence, they look this woman in the eyes and tell her they don’t believe her. They cherry pick her statements, selecting snippets that suit their fabricated retelling of the crime. They bully, sneer, blame, and try to humiliate her for speaking up. They protect a rapist. These leaders chosen to be thus because of their valor and great endevours, force a victim to bare the shame of an assailant, shame that never belongs to her. While her attacker walks around albatross-less, she is ostracized like a leper, even though she’s not the one clothed in the boils. It is a second violation.

 

Even when recounting the turbulence, Dostie always seems to find moments of light within the dark to focus on. Instances of kindness and compassion from friends, from family – even a few strangers – are made evermore poignant for their rarity. And as she wages this war for justice, Dostie soon gets sent off to fight in another war, all the way in Iraq. 

 

Her battle scars take on the form of PTSD.

 

What follows is Dostie dealing with the aftermath of trauma and war. Can you ever really heal from something from which there is no closure, no justice? Ryan answers this question by showing us. In present-tense, she immerses us in another time. You feel every nuance of emotion as your own. All the rage, disbelief, heartbreak, triumph, resilience – it seeps into your amygdala. Formation is not just sitting down and reading a book. It is leaping into another dimension to stand juxtaposed with Dostie in her shoes.

 

Formation is a story for everyone. Though we all may have different backgrounds and journeys, the human experience is universal. Formation, at its core, is a starkly human journey. Dostie’s writing vividly captures the marrow of what it is to be human. The one truth we all know is that life is both gutting and glorious. We all have faced adversity, we have all been vulnerable to someone we trust, we have felt the burbling of happiness in our bellies, and we have all fought for something that mattered. It is by being utterly real in her humanity that Dostie connects powerfully with readers from all walks of life. 

 

The message in Formation is a timely and vital one in the #metoo era. The message is this: you are not alone, and you are never to blame. The way rape victims are treated is not acceptable. There is nothing in this world that justifies sexual assault. And the tradition of victim blaming needs to end. Sexual assault survivors deserve justice, for their voices to be heard. Not omitted. Consequences are for perpetrators, not victims. And the military cannot hide the way sexual assault has been grossly mishandled within its walls forever. It has to stop. We need to be the ones to fight for those changes. To fight for those who have been silenced. I have high hopes that Formation will shake up this world, and help those who have lost their voices find them.

 

Formation is a vindicated fist raised in the air. A rally for change. A self-reclamation, a narrative repossessed. It is a woman whom, even when she feels shattered to bits like Humpty Dumpty, has a lionhearted spirit that burns undimmed, as incandescent as it did when she was a child. A spirit that their barriers never did stop. It is a woman who has been heard. A woman who is believed. 

 

Formation is a book whose echoes will linger with you long after you’ve closed the pages. 

 

5/5 stars, and HIGHLY recommended. Formation lives up to all the hype, and is well-deserving of its spots at the top of summer reading lists. I look forward to more work from Ryan Leigh Dostie in the future, and foresee a bright career ahead. Now, book and author, go soar and make waves! 

 

Advertisements

The Dragon Sleeps by Ellen Read Review

‘The Dragon Sleeps’ takes place in 1927 Queensland, Australia and follows 21-year-old aspiring antiques dealer, Alexandra Thornton. Alexandra plans to follow in her forefather’s footsteps and get into the ages-old family business of antiques. Only her father doesn’t know it yet.

As Alexandra plans to head to a weekend party at Thornton Park, her ancestral home, Thornton Antiques’ manager – and Alexandra’s dear friend – Benedict Archer (who has been secretly helping Alexandra learn all she can about the antiques business) helps her gather her courage to break the news to her father.

The party seems to be a success…until a brutal murder is committed on the grounds of Thornton Park, and a precious antique is stolen.

Could the killing have happened because of an angry, murder-hungry dragon spirit, tied to a sword owned by the Thornton family? And how might the Ming dragon – a statue just gifted to Alexandra’s father – tie in, when blood is discovered on its claws?

Brilliant and independent Alexandra takes it upon herself to unravel the mystery, and figure out how its tied to her family. As secrets unfold, and Alexandra begins to question her feelings for Benedict, she soon finds that her own life is in grave danger.

Reading TDS was like stepping into the pages of an old-world Agatha Christie novel. The world Read builds brings the characters, setting, and time period roaring to brilliant life. The author’s love for her homeland, history, architecture, and flowers are passionately displayed within these pages, and the passion became contagious!

Alexandra was by far my favorite character in the novel. She’s so untraditional for her time period, and I loved that about her. She’s whip-smart and determined to forge her own path in life. I’m fond of strong female characters, and Ellen Read delivers just that in Alexandra.

The suspense and romance of ‘The Dragon Sleeps’ will leave you breathless until the very end!

I give TDS 5 stars, and highly recommend it! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

You can pick up your copy of ‘The Dragon Sleeps’ in paperback or Ebook format here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0994392729/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_awdb_t1_.qvUBb6RQCHDH

‘The Magic of Me’ by Becky Cummings Review

As an educator and an aunt, sometimes I believe that there’s more we should be teaching our children in addition to the standard curriculum we already have set. And that’s where ‘The Magic of Me’ comes in – a game-changer in the Self-help, Personal Development, Spirituality, and even Psychology genres.

With echoes of ‘A New Earth’ by Eckhart Tolle and ‘A Return to Love’ by Marianne Williamson – but for kids! – Becky Cummings delves into the importance of self-love, what nutrition is and why it’s so important, body health and the sacredness of our bodies, the power of forgiveness, bullying, caring for the environment, kindness and helping others, mindfulness and meditation, and tells children that they do have the ability to do and be anything in this world that they want, that they themselves have the power to make it happen.

‘The Magic of Me’ also addresses the Big Questions: Who is God? What happens when we die?

Some of my favorite parts of ‘The Magic of Me’ were the chapters on angels and on the afterlife. It reinforced things I’d explored and discovered as an adult, and even taught me some new and interesting things. Cummings even introduces The Law of Attraction to kids in a way they’ll understand, very cleverly using magnets to explain the power of our own thoughts. I LOVED that. And after every chapter, there’s a fun activity for kids to try out that helps to further increase their understanding of a topic. Kids learn best when it’s hands-on, and the inclusion of these engaging activities was brilliant.

My question is: why should a child have to wait until adulthood to explore these things? The subjects addressed in ‘The Magic of Me’ were all questions and wonderments I myself had as a child, but no one ever spoke to me about them, asked me about them, or even acknowledged that I might even be cognizant of them. ‘The Magic of Me’ finally does acknowledge that kids, do, in fact, think about and hunger to learn more about all of it, and I believe this will make us adults more aware that these are important things that SHOULD be discussed on a wider-scale with our children. They’re tiny, yes, but they’re still human beings that seek to understand deeper meanings. And if you’ve wanted to broach any of these topics with your children but didn’t know how, then ‘The Magic of Me’ can also help you with that, even allowing you to take the journey WITH your child as you do so.

I found myself not just reading this book, but EXPERIENCING it. From cover to cover, ‘The Magic of Me’ was a journey. One that will make children see the world around them, and themselves, in a new and utterly, beautifully, positive light.

Highly, highly recommended. Five stars. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Go and grab your copy at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07HNDD4LX/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_awdb_t1_FKpUBbSS299BE

September Ebook Review Roundup

September is on its way out today, so with that in mind I decided to round up all of the ebooks I bought & read this month – coming in at five – and share my thoughts about each one!

And I have a lot of them. Thoughts, I mean. 😅

I’ll start off with the book that caught me off guard, that had me so addicted I didn’t sleep for two nights straight. This book 100% turned me into a zombie, and I have no regrets. 🧟‍♀️ ‘Rose Petal Graves’ by Olivia Wildenstein is the first book in ‘The Lost Clan’ series. It’s listed as a USA Today Bestseller, and is “The Vampire Diaries with faeries.” I’m a huge Vampire Diaries/Originals fan, so the minute I read that tagline, I was on this book like white on rice! 🍚

RPG follows Catori Price as she returns to her hometown of Rowan – a quiet, boring place she happily left in her rear view mirror for college – when her mom passes away suddenly. Cat is positive that her mom was healthy, and that her death makes no sense. Her dad and mysterious medical examiner Cruz, however, agree that her mom passed away from a heart attack, a result of digging up ancient graves in their backyard. Which also happens to be the town cemetery. Cat always thought that nothing happened in Rowan, but there’s so much more than she knows to the tribe of Gottwa Indians that founded the town centuries ago. A tribe she and her family are connected to. And the mysteries coffin her mom dug up – empty of any corpse, but full of fresh rose petals – is at the center of it all. Could Cruz, a medical examiner that knows nothing about examining bodies and who glows like a human firefly, know more about her mom’s death than he lets on? Does he know what – or who – really killed her?

I don’t want to give anymore away, but I will say that this book is full of suspense, lore, mystery, tragedy, and a touch of romance. It literally has everything I could possibly want in a book. I devoured this and its sequels like a mad woman. I really like Catori. She’s such a real, imperfect character. And sassy. I love strong female leads, and Cat has the potential to be just that. There WERE some flaws like pacing, character development, and the story being all over the place at times. The ending is also pretty abrupt, a huge cliffhanger. Overall, I give this a solid four stars. ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️

The next ebook I read was ‘Ballers & Babies: The Complete Series Box Set’ by Lauren Landish. It follows professional football players and their love lives. This series sounded SO good when I read the synopsis, and had the potential to be good, too. I really wanted to like these books, but after reading all of ‘Blitzed’ and half of ‘Over the Middle,’ I’d had enough. I’m sorry to say this is one I just DNF.

Warning: Possible spoilers ahead!

‘Blitzed’ was the book I had the most issues with. Things happened too quickly, and there was no substance to it. There was InstaForgiveness and Instalove. I hate Instalove, but the InstaForgiveness drove me the most crazy. The female MC kept her baby from its father, and when he found out years later, he wasn’t angry! His love for this sainted woman was so strong that he didn’t care that she’d lied to him – a really BIG lie! He didn’t even care that he’d missed out on his child’s life. He was just blissfully happy and wanted to be with her forevermore. How does THAT make sense? Just…no. I feel like there should have been more conflict there, more angst, and it was nowhere to be seen. Some anger would have given the story that much-needed substance, and would have even made the ending better. Lack of substance, Instalove, and too-fast pacing was also an issue in ‘Over the Middle.’ These books rubbed me the wrong way, and made me realize I have absolutely no patience for the Secret Baby trope anymore. Fuhgeddaboutit. 2 stars. ⭐️⭐️

The third book in the list is ‘Satin and Pearls,’ also by Lauren Landish. It’s a professor/student “taboo” romance, and is the first in the ‘Virgin Diaries’ series. Even though there was a hint of Instalove – grr! – this read was much more enjoyable than ‘Ballers & Babies.’ There was a bit more substance in regards to emotion and plot – even some humor – and I really liked that the male MC wasn’t a jerky commitment-phobe. It was a cute and sexy read. 3 stars. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

The fourth book in the roundup is ‘Still Not Over You’ by Nicole Snow. It’s an enemies-to-lovers story – a trope that I love – and follows once-nerdy Kenna Burke, who is a romance novelist with writer’s block. Her brother tells her about a possible refuge where she’ll be able to write in peace and quiet – his best friend Landon’s place. House sitting for Landon while he’s away for work will give Kenna her much-needed vacation. The only problem is that Landon hates her guts. They were good friends as kids, but once love-sick Kenna read Landon’s diary (hoping she’d find some trace of his feelings for her, but instead finding out a very dark secret about him) all that ended. He’s never forgiven her, and they haven’t spoken in years. Kenna thinks maybe she’ll finally get some closure, but she doesn’t expect to be so attracted to this grown-up version of Landon. And Landon himself is very confused – he’s attracted to this version of Kenna, but he also can’t stand her. On top of all of this, someone might be trying to kill Landon, and Kenna is in their way. Will these two ever be able to look beyond the past, and survive long enough to give in to their feelings?

This book started off so promising. I was loving it. Sure, Landon hating Kenna so vehemently over reading a diary was a flimsy excuse to me, but I could look past that. And sure, they seemed to have a toddler’s “Squirrel!” attention span when it came to their emotions. It was all trivial flaws.

(Warning: Possible Spoilers Ahead!)

That is until the sexual assault/harassment came into it. I hate, hate, HATE when books use sexual assault as a plot device. In this case, it was used as a way to get the two MC’s to realize their feelings for each other. NO. And it’s still sexual assault if it’s a woman doing it to a man. A woman behaving this way is not any different or better than if it were a man. Excusing it away as the character being young and air-headed doesn’t fly. Nothing makes it okay. I might sound a bit harsh, but I truly believe that this kind of writing needs to stop. This book would have gotten 3 stars, but the whole using-sexual-assault-as-a-trope thing knocked it down to 1. We need to be more aware of what we write and the message it sends! ⭐️

The final book in this list is yet another one by author Lauren Landish, ‘Dirty Talk.’ DT is the first book in the ‘Get Dirty’ series. Kat and Derrick (who is The Love Whisperer on a local radio show, giving out advice about sex and love nightly) connect when Kat calls in for some advice about her crappy boyfriend Kevin. Even though they don’t know what the other looks like, these two are wildly attracted to each other’s voices after having a conversation on-air. Derrick asks Kat to call him back with an update and gives her his number. And so begins a series of phone-sex sessions, long conversations into the night, and an ever-growing desire to meet in person. When these two do finally meet in person, will they be able to survive the inevitable combustion and really, truly fall in love?

I actually enjoyed this one quite a bit. I loved that the two MC’s were respectful of and loyal to each other – a theme I’m recognizing and appreciating in Landish’s novels – while at the same time wanting to jump each other’s bones. It was a breath of fresh air. There was no Instalove (yay!), and there was some fair character development. These two are insanely attracted to each other, yes, but they’re also taking a huge emotional risk for the other, as well. I loved trying to figure out if they’d be brave enough to take the leap. I cared about them, rooted for them. There was some cheesiness and some things moved a bit fast, but overall, ‘Dirty Talk’ was both a cute and hot read. 🔥 I give this one 3 stars. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

What is YOUR least favorite plot device used in books? What’s one trope you can’t resist? Lmk in the comments below! ⬇️

Featured

A Book Blog is a Dream That You Hold in Your Hands

Hello, everyone! Thank-you so much for coming by for a visit! 😄

This is my first blog post EVER, and I couldn’t be more excited (and a little nervous…so much to learn!). I’m @KattitideReads from Bookstagram (for those that aren’t familiar, Bookstagram is a warm and welcoming corner of Instagram that’s a book lover’s Utopia), aka writer Kara Harte. 👋🏻

So, have you ever found yourself in a situation that just kind of happened? Maybe you’ve thought about it a lot, even visualized it. But you never really thought it would bear fruit. Then one day you look around, and the reality of it is all around you. The Law of Attraction has worked on you unawares.

That’s what happening to me now as I type this. I’ve wanted to start a book blog since I first found myself by happy accident in the world of Bookstagram a few years ago. I saw this amazing picture of a book on my feed one day, clicked on it, and was suddenly Harry as he looks upon Hogwarts for the first time. I looked around me in awe as picture after picture of books flashed on my screen, and much like Harry, wondered, “A place for people like me actually exists?!” Me, the bookworm obsessed with all things books: reading them, collecting them, sniffing them. My whole life I’d been that girl who’d rather be reading than out at a party. I’d never met anyone else as into all things bookish irl until I found all of the amazing people within the Bookstagram community.

That’s also where I discovered what book blogs were all about.

I loved the idea of having a place to write down and discuss in detail all your thoughts on a book, a place to unabashedly worship The Book Life.

I just wasn’t sure it was meant for me. So, the idea of starting my own was left to linger indecisively in Limbo.

I got an offer to read/review an ARC about a week ago. I’d been trying to figure out how to request an ARC to review for the longest time, thinking I’d never really figure it out – the password into that particular club evaded me, and it always would. Then, like a Hogwarts letter lands in your lap, it just kind of happened. I was called. My letter said, “Time to get this thing up off the ground, Harte!” And so here I am.

I didn’t expect this little dream of mine to become a reality. Once it was held in the palm of my hand like a magic bean, full of maybes. I’ve somehow dropped it, and find myself standing slightly dumbfounded at the foot of a magic bean stalk. I’ve grabbed a hold of it, and I’m ready to climb. Time to discover what adventures this new venture brings. Care to take my hand?

See you at the top! 💖