Here we go again! My "the world is coming to an end" obsession is rearing it's ugly head again! But, in my defense, this time I can honestly say that I had no clue that The Age of Miracles was post-apocalyptic.
Eleven year old Julia wakes up one morning after a sleep over with her best friend, Hannah. They had been camped out on the living room floor in their PJ's when Julia's mother rushes home from the store and demands that they turn on the television. Sometime in the middle of the night the Earth's rotation started to slow down. In an event that came to be known as "The Slowing" the rotation of the Earth became increasingly slower until the days became 72 hours long. As the days and weeks go by the country is divided into two factions, the "real timers" and those who live by the clock, not the rising and setting of the sun. The division is where the discord really starts and Julia's world becomes a little less safe with each passing day. Will the human race be able to survive "The Slowing" or will Her inhabitants self destruct long before nature can do it for them?
The Age of Miracles is a beautifully written masterpiece. Written in an almost lyrical fashion the story is told solely from the viewpoint of eleven year old Julia. While she is an observant young girl and is well aware of the changes going on with the world, and her family, she does not portray the catastrophic sense of doom that blankets most post-apocalyptic novels. Don't be mistaken though, that fear - that urgency - lies just beneath the surface with Julia's anxiety ridden Mother and disappearing classmates, it is just not dominant in this novel. Julia is, instead, a young girl on the verge of blossoming into a young woman and is forced to navigate the ever changing world that "The Slowing" has created, at the same time having to deal with your typical school girl troubles like when to buy your first bra or dealing with your first crush.
Bottom line, the voice of Julia is so beautifully written it is so very easy to find yourself swept up into the concerns of her world as it seems to be coming to an end. Julia and her family are the kind of characters that have traits we all can relate to in one way or another, whether it be the anxiety of Julia's mother or the paradox that grips Julia's father, we can all find something in common with these characters. While the book is written for adults, there is no reason why your Young Adult would not be able to read The Age of Miracles. The "What if's" portrayed in this novel would certainly make for a good discussion between anyone who has read the book. Give it a read and let me know what you think.
It is the Fourth of July 2005 and the Frankel family is gathering at the family Summer home to celebrate. But not in the way that you would think. They are gathering to celebrate the life of Leo Frankel, the youngest child of David and Marilyn and the only son of the family. Leo was killed as a foreign correspondent in Iraq exactly one year ago. The family is coming from all over the world to be there for Leo's memorial.
Noelle is the one coming from furthest away. Noelle is an Orthodox Jew living in Jerusalem with her husband and their sons. She was the last one to see Leo alive. Clarissa and Lily both live on the East Coast, and Thisbe, Leo's widow, is flying in from California. All of them gather at the family Summer home after a year of dealing with the insurmountable grief in their own way. The one thing they discover is that the family unit they once thought was ironclad is coming apart at the seams, as if Leo was the glue holding them together and with him gone, the family just falls apart. Divorce and infertility are just a couple of issues that pop up over the few days as they prepare themselves to say their final goodbyes.
I have seen several comparisons of The World Without You to This Is Where I Leave You. I can understand why they would make such comparisons. Both books are about a Jewish family, (both families have lapsed members) who have gathered because of the death of a loved one. Both books examine the relationships of the family members and how they deal with that grief. There is one major difference between the books, This Is Where I Leave You was really quite funny. The World Without You, not so much. In fact, I had a real hard time even liking some of the characters, let alone finding any humor in their stories.
Bottom line, The World Without You is a very well written examination of what grief can do to the family dynamic, but it can sometimes seem like it is the never ending story. The critics are just raving about this book, but frankly I wasn't all that impressed. I did not find myself overcome with any kind of emotion, in fact the only emotion I felt was impatience. I found some of the characters are less likable than others, but isn't that par for the course in any family? I found the "politics" of this family in direct contradiction with my own, and I think that is where some of my impatience generated. Sometimes watching the characters deal with their grief almost feels like an intrusion, and that can be a bit uncomfortable. But overall this novel about families and grief is one that many of us can relate to, I mean we all can relate to grief and loss, no?
If I have learned anything in the last two and a half years it is this: Marriage is Hard. Especially when there are kids involved. Dynamics changes, relationships evolve, and sometimes the marriage can't withstand the pressures.
Imagine this if you will, Eve and Eric have been married for fourteen years and have two kids. They have been out to dinner to celebrate the publication of Eve's first book. Eric leaves to run the babysitter home and never returns. At first Eve thinks he returned to his studio to work on a sculpture, then she fears that he has had an accident. It is only after checking the credit card transactions does she realize that he has left. With the babysitter. Not a word, not a phone call, nothing. He is just Gone.
In the weeks following Eric's disappearance, Eve struggles. She struggles with the grief of losing her husband, she struggles maintaining her career as a nutritionist while holding together her family, she struggles with dealing with her children who don't understand why Dad left, and she struggles to pay the pills with only her income. All the while trying to understand why her husband would just leave. Was he really having an affair with the babysitter or is there something else going on that she doesn't know about? Throughout the book we get glimpses of Eric's side of the story. And the important thing to remember is that there is always two sides to the story.
There are some pretty heavy hitting themes in Cathi Hanauer's new novel, Gone. Obviously there is the breakdown of Eve and Eric's marriage, but there is also some pretty deep depression at play, as well as obesity and the consequences that stem from morbid obesity. And through it all Eve is desperately trying to hold on to her own sanity and keep things moving along with the least disturbance possible to her children.
Bottom line is that Gone is a beautifully written novel, almost a cautionary tale, about what happens when life gets in the way of a marriage. The majority of the story is written from Eve's viewpoint, but we do get to see some of Eric's side of the story and the reader truly gets an understanding just how hard marriage can be from both parties involved.
I just want it to be known that I have had this book on hold at the library long before Oprah decided that she was going to resurrect her book club. Booksellers all over the country are grateful to the media mogul for choosing such a good book for Oprah's Book Club 2.0, because it is guaranteed to sell!
In Wild we meet Cheryl Strayed, a young woman who has had her world turned completely upside down with the death of her mother. In the nearly five years since her mother lost the battle to Cancer she has been nearly wild with grief. "Wild with grief" means everything from committing adultery to finding escape in a nasty Heroin habit, and everything in between. In a moment of clarity she decides that she wants to hike the Pacific Coast Trail. With no training, very little preparation and a backpack so large that she can barely lift it at first, she starts off on her 1,100 mile hike. On the trip from Mojave, California, to Ashland, Oregon Cheryl encounters many people along the way and as she hikes through the Wild she releases the grief and all of the other emotions that has held her back from moving past her mother's death. The woman who arrives in Ashland, Oregon is not the same woman who started out in Mojave, California.
There has been a lot of industry buzz surrounding Wild from almost the first announcement of publication. I wavered between wanting to read the book and just letting it pass by me. I put a hold on the book so long ago that when I heard Oprah chose it for her club, I thought "Oh thank God, I put it on hold before she chose this book." I am glad that I did decide to read, Wild. Cheryl is so honest in her grief and her description of the pain she felt at the loss of her mother is so detailed and so raw it almost brings the reader to their knees.
What I enjoyed most about this book is that we get to see how the people she meets on the trail become part of the transformation Cheryl makes from a woman paralyzed by grief into this strong, confident woman who is ready to take the next step into her future. At first she is cautious and reserved with the people she encounters, but the constant encouragement and support is the kind of motivation she needs. Even though they are virtually strangers it becomes a family like atmosphere at each stop along the trail. And I think that is what Cheryl desperately needed after losing her mom and feeling abandoned by the rest of her family, people who are excited to see her and encourage her to keep going, no matter what.
Bottom line, Wild, is an absolutely fabulous read. Cheryl tells her story with such insightful and introspective honesty that it is easy to get lost in her story. She is such a strong woman and by the time she reaches Mount Hood I felt an amazing amount of admiration for the author. What she accomplished is truly astounding. This book is a must read for anyone who has suffered a loss of any kind. Cheryl's words are sure to give you strength and hope to carry on.
You don't have to be a Stephen King fan to know that he is one of the most successful, prolific writers who EVER put pen to paper. His writing has been called everything from genius to horrific and everything in between. It does not take an aspiring author long to figure out that if there is anyone to idolize in the business, it is Stephen King. So of course, I set out to read his memoir on the craft, On Writing.
In his memoir, On Writing, "Uncle Stevie" (as he referred to himself in the Entertainment Weekly columns) tells us the story of how he got into writing and what it took to get his works published. The secret to his success? Perseverance. Even as a young boy, Stephen King was a creative soul who wanted nothing more than to get his stories out to the mass population. He even wrote stories and sold them to his classmates at school. From the days when he taught High School English to when he first sold Carrie Stephen King shares with us the path he took to success and gives advice as to how we can get "there", too.
Advice such as "Read A Lot. Write A Lot" -- that was a paraphrase, but you get the gist. "Uncle Stevie" was basically saying if you want to write, then turn off the television and just do it! Another favorite line from the book was in reference to revising - "Only God get's it right the first time." So true, Uncle Stevie, so true. It was while he was writing this book that he was hit by a car while out for a walk. He shares that story at the end of the book, too.
I went through a Stephen King "kick" a long, long time ago and read several of his books such as It, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, and Bag of Bones. I was far too young to understand ANYTHING about It, (I was around thirteen at the time) and I can vaguely remember the plots of the other two books. I haven't really written anything by Stephen King in the last ten years, unless you count all of the columns he did for Entertainment Weekly a few years back. It was while reading those pop culture columns that I really started to become a fan of "The King". His fair (and generally spot on) observations really reminded me of a favorite Uncle. If so inclined you can read some of his old EW columns here.
Bottom line, On Writing is a wonderfully written book. Full of motivation and inspiration. And I can see why it is such a beloved book for so many people. If you need that extra little motivation or are looking for advice from an author who has been through the trenches, then pick up this book. You won't regret it, I promise.
It is the year 2008 and Gretchen Berg is smack dab in the middle of a personal recession. She has an exorbitant amount of credit card debt and is facing unemployment when an old friend suggests that she join him teaching English overseas. Specifically Iraq.
Like any modern day woman would, Gretchen initially scoffed at the thought of going to Iraq for any reason, let alone to teach English. But as the reality of her situation hits home, she realizes that the large, tax free salary plus low cost of living would equal a relatively quick and easy way of getting out of debt.
We follow this Liberal fashionista move to a country where women are regarded as second class citizens. To say she experiences culture shock is quite the understatement. From her desperate search for Diet Coke to her discovery of "Virginity Soap" at the store, we get to experience a Westerner's life in the Middle East. Written in a funny, introspective manner, I Have Iraq in My Shoe is a wonderful read for "Armchair Traveler" like myself.
I have several friends from the bookstore who have taught English overseas. When I first heard Anna speak of teaching in China I was very skeptical and then quickly turned envious. In the last five years I have friends who have taught in China, Egypt, and Turkey. I wish I could say that I was adventurous as them, but I am not, so I just stalk their Facebook accounts for tales of their adventurous lives.
Gretchen Berg's experience in the Middle East is not really one that I would ever experience for myself, but it sure is fun to read. As I was reading the book there were several times that I thought, I sure wish there were pictures, and what do you know, there are pictures! I really enjoyed Gretchen Berg and her wits, wisdom, and observations. If you are an "Armchair traveler" like myself, check it out and visit Gretchen in the Middle East.
Deidre "Dee" Griffin has had it up to "here" with her family, specific her brother, Tag. Tag is a "New Age" guru with a following of millions. His "persona" has been turned into the family business and Dee's role in the family business is to be Tag's personal assistant/PR Maven/scheduler/personal slave. All of that family togetherness and demands from her high maintenance brother has finally gotten to be too much for Dee. So she "quit" and then promptly signed into her brother's Facebook account and (as Tag) posted that his followers should throw their support behind Dee to be the last minute replacement contestant on Dancing With The Stars. And it works.
Before Dee knows what is happening she is on a plane to Los Angeles where she she finds a luxury rental car waiting for her, a furnished - albeit small - apartment and a dancing pro waiting to turn her into a "Dancing Queen" . It is all too much for this lifelong "wallflower". As the practices with her partner increase in intensity Deidre is forced to face the family she left behind, specifically Tag. Will she finally be able to be honest with her family regarding her place in the family business? Or will they continue to ignore her wants and needs just like always?
Wallflower in Bloom is another one of those "woman pushed to the edge because she can't stand up for herself" kind of books. Dee is a "wallflower" who has never been able to stand up to her family. It was only after years of (what she perceived) wrongs that she finally was able to stand up for herself against an overbearing family and tell them "ENOUGH"! I can certainly relate to the family dynamics, especially regarding brothers (I have five of them) - but there were several times in this book that the childish interactions between Dee & Tag almost seemed cartoonish. The name-calling and bickering is something I experience with my step-kids (12&14) but these characters are grown adults in their thirties. I have very little patience for that kind of behavior from the kids and it disgusted me reading about it from adult characters.
Bottom line, you have to read through the childish behavior of Tag & Dee to get to the enjoyable parts of Dee "blossoming" into her own. I am not a Dancing With The Stars viewer, but I enjoyed the behind the scenes insight we got, even if it was completely fictional. The resolution between Tag and Dee at the end of the book was a bit predictable, but it did leave me wondering what their relationship would be like in a year or even five years. Wallflower in Bloom is a quick read and bad behavior aside, a fun read. Perfect for an afternoon at the beach.
Yes. I admit it, I am on a "kick" of sorts. An "The End of the World as We Know It" kind of kick. I like the creativity that is behind each story. I like how each author creates a different scenario and a different world. Like I said when I read The End, a post-apocalyptic novel is whatever the author's imagination will allow. The author of One Second After has got a heck of an imagination!
Picture the idyllic college town of Black Mountain, North Carolina. The kind of town where everyone knows everyone. Retired Colonel John Matherson teaches Military History at the small Bible college nestled on the edge of town. Since his wife died of breast cancer, John has been the sole caretaker of his two daughters, Jennifer and Elizabeth. With the help of his Mother-in-Law, Jen, they have given the girls a somewhat "normal" life.
They are celebrating Jennifer's twelfth birthday when "the shit hits the fan". It starts with the power going out and John realizes that there is so much more going on when not a single electronic in the house works, yet Jen's old Ford Edsel runs just fine. An EMP (Electro-Magnetic Pulse) has essentially fried every piece of electronic rendering the nation helpless. Fried electronics means no electricity, no cell phones, no heat or air conditioning, no refrigeration, nothing. In rather quick fashion society as we know it completely breaks down. Within days people are dying from lack of medication and John faces the very real possibility that he may lose Jennifer, a Type 1 Diabetic. As things disintegrate into chaos John and the town's leadership team struggle to keep their town safe from famine, disease and wandering bands of thugs. Will John and his colleagues be able to keep the peace long enough for help to arrive? Will help arrive or have they been abandoned by their country?
With any post-apocalyptic novel, any novel really, the reader is asked to use their own imagination to make the details of that world come to life. And I must say that William R. Forstchen's novel put my imagination into overdrive. The "What-If's" that are generated by this novel is the stuff of nightmares. Death, destruction, cannibalism, and other forms of mayhem can all be expected during the breakdown of society. It makes me want to run out and stock up on all of the essentials. Food, water, toilet paper, and Diet Dr. Pepper. AND it made me Thank the dear Lord that (at this time) I am not reliant on modern medicine to stay alive.
While One Second After is not the most "literary" novel I have ever read it was entertaining and engrossing. The characters, while a bit cliche, came to life as they struggled with this crisis. From the Middle-Eastern convenience store owner to the town's Mayor, the familiarity of the characters made me long for small town living. I *do* wish that the author would have given a little more time to John's daughters and how they were dealing with "stuff" as he was off saving the town. I know the book was written from John's viewpoint, but including the girl's viewpoints would have made the book a little more well rounded.
Bottom line, if you are looking for a good book to keep you entertained give One Second After a chance. BUT, go into it knowing the subject matter and knowing that it can be a bit graphic.
Annajane Hudgens is sitting AT the wedding of her ex-husband when she has a major realization. *Gasp* She might not be completely over him yet. Not too long after that thought crosses her mind is the wedding stopped due to the flower girl, and the groom's daughter, getting sick. Is it a sign that she should rethink her own engagement and reevaluate her relationship with Mason?
Spring Fever is set in the North Carolina company town of Passcoe. Everyone has some sort of connection to Quixie, the soft drink company that is owned by Mason's family. Annajane is no different. She grew up with her parents working for Quixie and as a young child she became lifelong best friends with Pokey, the Bayless daughter. As they grew from young girls to young women Annajane falls in love with Mason and eventually becomes not only his bride, but the director of marketing for Quixie. Five years ago, though, their marriage fell apart. Even though they were divorced, Annajane remained an important part of the Bayless family and their company. Now they both are moving on with their lives and Annajane will be leaving the company and Passcoe. As Mason is on the verge of marrying Ceclia, Annajane discovers that Celia may have less than honorable reasons for marrying Mason. Will she be able to convince Mason that Celia is dangerous without sounding like the bitter ex-wife?
Sping Fever is your typical Mary Kay Andrews novel. Fun, fluffy, set in the South, and everything you have come to expect from a Beach Read. I really enjoyed Annajane as a character. And as someone who had unresolved issues with an ex (I married mine, but I can't tell you what happens to Annajane) I could really relate with her character. Ceila, on the other hand, was your stereotypical evil bitch. Her character was very cliche, but that did not stop me from the whole "love to hate her" kind of feelings.
Bottom line - Mary Kay Andrews has made a name for herself as a "Beach Read Author" - her books are always out in the summer and always feature female characters going through some sort of transition. Her books aren't ever going to win literary awards, but they are an entertaining means of escape. And, in my opinion, if a book has done that, then it is a success.
2002 was a rough year for a lot of us. The world was trying to adjust to a post-911 world and everything that entails. For Kate Spenser, she was mourning the loss of her friend, Elizabeth. Elizabeth was killed in an unrelated plane crash, but it was close enough to the events of September 11th, that the feelings co-mingle for Kate.
She takes the Summer of 2002 to regroup. Retreating to the island getaway she has visited for year. This year she has Elizabeth's journals to keep her company. For Elizabeth left a locked trunk full of a lifetime of journals to Kate. Not to her husband or children, but to Kate. And while that move has baffled all of those involved, Kate is taking it very seriously. She spends the Summer reading the journals and realizing that there was so much about her friend that she did not know. She did not know that Elizabeth had a Sister that died when they were young, and she blamed herself. She did not know that Elizabeth studied art at NYU. And so much more. As she reads about Elizabeth's life, she starts examining her own life in a way that has needed to be done for sometime, now.
The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. was an incredibly poignant read. Reading back through Elizabeth's journals with Kate was emotional for both Kate, and myself - the reader. The choices we make have such an impact on our whole lives and nothing illustrates that more than Elizabeth's stories. But what it came down to in the end for Elizabeth was the choice she made to keep the biggest secret of her life from everyone. Including her husband, Dave. To me that was the saddest part of the whole story. The fact that she felt she could not tell her Husband or her best friend about the secret that was eating her alive.
I think Nichole Bernier has written the first "Must Read" beach book of the Summer. I think it is one to stick in your bag, take to the beach and then contemplate your own life altering choices as you gaze out over the water. Lots to think about with this one!
Summer is upon us once again. And nothing says Summer like a Nancy Thayer
novel. This year’s novel, Summer Breeze,
is set in a small New England town that borders a lake. And of course beach front property is prime
This year, Nancy Thayer introduces us to three
women who are currently neighbors at the lake.
There is Bella, who left her teaching job to move home and help run her
mother’s retail shop after an accident laid her up. She has been staying with her parents while
trying to decide what to do with her life.
Then there is Natalie, an artist from New York City who is staying in
her Aunt’s house for a year while her
Aunt is off travelling. And finally
there is Morgan, the Stay-At-Home-Mom.
Morgan and her husband, Josh, have recently moved into this prime piece
of real estate after he landed a presigious job with a wealthy chemical
company. As the friendship between the
three women grow, they are all faced with challenging decisions to make about
the future of their lives. Does Bella
decide to stay and start her own business, or does she follow her boyfriend to
the other side of the country for his job?
Does Natalie let herself fall in love with Ben, her opposite in every
way possible, and does Morgan make the tough decisions necessary to save her
marriage, or is it too late?
Summer Breeze is exactly the kind of book that I
have come to expect from Nancy Thayer.
Her books have become synonymous with Summer for me. They invoke images of lazy days at the beach,
warm gentle breezes, and close knit communities where everyone looks out for
each other. Her novels are never going
to challenge you way of thinking about life, but neither are they so fluffy
that you come away feeling like you just had candy. They are warm and inviting and transport you
to another place, which exactly what I want my books to do!
Grace and Adam have had a charmed life together. They are madly in love and have a beautiful baby daughter, Millie, when they decide to move to the Yorkshire Moors and raise their daughter in an isolated cottage that Adam just inherited. Sounds idyllic, no?
They have barely unpacked when Adam turns up missing. He had been out for a walk with Millie when he just vanished into thin air. Millie was found unharmed in her pram (aka stroller) in the yard of the cottage, but Adam was nowhere to be found. To say that Grace is distraught is a great understatement. After an extensive search by the police and their new neighbors, despite Grace's protests, it was determined that Adam was a "runaway" and he just did not want to be found. Grace knows better, though and is not about to give up on the man that she loves.
Flash forward a year. Grace returns to the cottage determined to find out the truth about what happened to her husband. With the grief stricken haze somewhat lifted, Grace is able to look at the cottage and her neighbors with fresh eyes. While she wants to believe that they are all the kind and caring people they lead her to believe, she knows that one of them did something to her husband and Grace is not about to rest until she finds out what happened to Adam.
I think my favorite thing about Beneath the Shadows was the cottage. Possibly haunted, positively ancient, and most definitely Gothic, the authors descriptions of the cottage set the tone for me. The rest of the story was a little more lacking for me. I wanted to like Grace but I felt the author did not give her the same kind of depth and development as she did the cottage. The book has been called a "thrilling Gothic suspense" - but I did not find it thrilling or suspenseful. The story did not give me the sense of anticipation that I would have expected. I did not feel the urgency to finish the book to find out what happened to Adam. I almost gave up on it because it got to the point that I really just didn't care.
I did finish Beneath the Shadows, though. The evil villain wasn't all that big of a shock to me. The revelations about Adam's life did not really illicit the kind of response in me that I think the author was going for, but maybe that is just me. BUT I do think fans of Gothic architecture and "haunted houses" will enjoy this book. The house is a very important character in the book, in fact I think it was my favorite character of Beneath the Shadows.
I love a good gritty mystery. That is no secret. Author Gillian Flynn is becoming one of those authors that I regularly stalk to find out when the next book will published. Not only do I love her work, but she is a Missouri girl and is originally from the KC area and all three of her books have been set in Missouri.
In Gone Girl Gillian Flynn takes us to the fictional town of North Carthage, Missouri along the Mississippi River. We meet bar owner Nick Dunne and his wife, Amy. They were forced to leave New York City and return to Nick's hometown in Missouri when his parents fall ill. It does not take them long to realize that Missouri is not good for their marriage and it is on their Fifth Anniversary that Amy goes missing and Nick is the prime suspect. As more and more information is revealed we, the readers, start to question Nick's innocence. Did he do it or did he not? And if he didn't kill Amy, then where is she and who took her?
Gone Girl is a psychological thriller like no other. It is one giant mind game that leaves the reader exhausted by the time it is over. But, oh what a ride! I wanted to like Nick, I really did. But he is a shithead of a husband, but even I have to say that being a bad husband does not mean that you are a killer. And Amy. Anyone who has a single guy friend has heard stories about girls playing mind games, well, Amy has turned playing "mind games" into an Olympic sport.
Fans of a good, gritty mystery novel are going to enjoy Gone Girl. While the "mystery" is revealed about halfway through the book, you are flying through the pages to find out how the whole thing gets resolved. Is Amy really dead? Is Nick facing the death penalty? And what exactly led them to where they are now? This is most definitely a book to throw in the old beach bag or take with you on vacation. It is just too good to pass up.