Monthly Archives: July 2012

Book Review: After the Fog by Kathleen Shoop

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After the Fog reminds us that the sins of our past come back to haunt us and unknowingly shapes who we are in the present.

From Goodreads:
The sins of the mother… In the steel mill town of Donora, Pennsylvania, site of the infamous 1948 “killing smog,” headstrong nurse Rose Pavlesic tends to her family and neighbors. Controlling and demanding, she’s created a life that reflects everything she missed growing up as an orphan. She’s even managed to keep her painful secrets hidden from her loving husband, dutiful children, and large extended family.When a stagnant weather pattern traps poisonous mill gasses in the valley, neighbors grow sicker and Rose’s nursing obligations thrust her into conflict she never could have fathomed. Consequences from her past collide with her present life, making her once clear decisions as gray as the suffocating smog. As pressure mounts, Rose finds she’s not the only one harboring lies. When the deadly fog finally clears, the loss of trust and faith leaves the Pavlesic family-and the whole town-splintered and shocked. With her new perspective, can Rose finally forgive herself and let her family’s healing begin?

Rose is having one hellish week. Her job is in jeopardy, her family is falling apart and her secret past is turning her inside out. On top of all that, the people of Donora, PA are dropping dead from the “killing smog”. This mix makes for a compelling read.

I really like Rose. She’s such a complex character, hopelessly flawed and deeply scarred but at the same time courageous, kind and caring. She’s a no-nonsense hard-working gal that calls it as she sees it. She can curse like a sailor and drink like one too. She’s a mom that wants secure futures for her children. She’s a wife that never denies her husband his pleasures and puts up with his less than ideal family. She’s a caring, take charge nurse. I think any working mom can relate to Rose’s struggles, that need to be everything to everybody.

It’s the 1940’s and many townsfolk think Rose would do better to stay home and take care of her family. She’s constantly battling against tradition and trying to juggle everything. Rose has broad shoulders but even they can only carry so much. She struggles with forgiving herself so she can give herself to those she loves.

Not surprisingly, the things that go on behind the closed doors of this mill town are troubling. Hate, lies and deceit descend like the fog itself.

I would have liked the story to have delved into the “killing smog” a little bit more. The book starts off on a run with a death and loses a little of that steam midway. It ends up being well-rounded and very well thought out though. I really enjoyed being surprised by some of the revelations that were revealed.

This book was provided for review by Netgalley.

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Headed to The National Book Festival

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I’m so excited! Last night I was able to book some seats on a bus trip bound for The National Book Festival in Washington D.C. on September 22, 2012.

This will be my first trip to the Festival and I am really, really looking forward to it.

They have a great variety of authors this year. You can see the full list HERE.

Will you be at the Festival? Have you gone before? Do you have any tips to share?


Today’s Kindle Deal – 7/29/12 Includes a Pre-Order!

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Head on over to Amazon and pick up today’s Kindle deal.

The Hangman’s Daughter and The Dark Monk are just 99¢ and you can pre-order the 3rd book in the series,The Beggar King, which will be released in January 2013, for just $2.99.

I picked up all 3. This is the first time I’ve seen a pre-release on the deal.

Get Reading! 🙂


All Names Are Not the Same

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When your reading a work of fiction, do you ever stop and wonder about the names of the characters?

I always appreciate all the thought that an author puts into a characters identity including the name. Like in real life, a name is so important! It helps shape who you are. The same goes for characters in a book.

Once in a while, and not very often, I read a book and think a name change would have made all the difference. In The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, his character Leonard Bankhead could have benefitted from a name change. When I tried to conjure up this character in my mind as I was reading this book, I could get a good picture from the descriptions, but then calling him Leonard Bankhead made him lose credibility some how. It just didn’t click for me.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are book characters that I just can’t imagine having any other name. Like Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon or Sophie Kinsella’s Becky Bloomwood. Would Twilight be as popular if Edward and Bella were Wanda and Steve? How about Fifty Shades of Grey? I didn’t care for the book, but loved the character’s names.

Mental Floss has a great article about classic books that had last-minute identity changes.Scarlett O’Hara was almost named Pansy? What?

What character names would you change? Which one’s are your favorite?


Book Review: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

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A great book for younger YA readers, The Age of Miracles focuses on those trying middle school years during a bleak turning point in Earth’s history.

From Goodreads:
On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, 11-year-old Julia and her family awake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow. The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray. Yet as she struggles to navigate an ever-shifting landscape, Julia is also coping with the normal disasters of everyday life—the fissures in her parents’ marriage, the loss of old friends, the hopeful anguish of first love, the bizarre behavior of her grandfather who, convinced of a government conspiracy, spends his days obsessively cataloging his possessions. As Julia adjusts to the new normal, the slowing inexorably continues.

This book is geared more toward the younger YA set. It focuses mainly on the main character, Julia’s, life growing up during the slowing, her interaction with friends, boys and family. It paints a very bleak picture of how we humans have done so much but are so unprepared for the unexpected changes that could occur. What if the sun stopped coming up or it never went down? What if the power went off and never came back on? Or what if it never rained again? How would we survive?

There was a deep sadness in the tone of the book. As an adult reading this book, I felt like it could have been so much more. Such a great premise, I would have liked to see it expanded as a dystopian adventure of sorts.

There were some good quotes in this story. My favorite:-
“How much sweeter life would be if it all happened in reverse, if, after decades of disappointments, you finally arrived at an age when you had conceded nothing, when everything was possible.”

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Go Vote! Best-Ever Teen Novels

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Head on over to NPR and vote for your favorite YA novels.

You can vote for up to 10 titles from the top nominations. Which ones are your favorites?

I had such a hard time picking just 10!!!!


New to the ToDo: Year Zero by Rob Reid

Turns out that our music is what aliens really want! This book caught my attention right away as a unique read!

You can visit NPR and listen to the first chapter for free here.

Visit this book on Goodreads.
Visit this book on Amazon.

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Thank You Oprah, Cheryl Strayed and Oprah’s Book Club 2.0!

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I was so excited to receive a surprise package today from HarpoStudios! I started following Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 on Twitter when they began and got a DM from them a few weeks ago thanking me for following and letting me know they would be sending me a gift.

I was so excited to open it and find a signed copy of Wild! I absolutely love it!!!

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Thank you so much Oprah, Cheryl Strayed and Oprah’s Book Club 2.0! You made my day!


Book Review: The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler

 

 

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The Beginner’s Goodbye was a short, easy to read story about love, loss and moving on.

From Goodreads:
Anne Tyler gives us a wise, haunting, and deeply moving new novel in which she explores how a middle-aged man, ripped apart by the death of his wife, is gradually restored by her frequent appearances—in their house, on the roadway, in the market.
Crippled in his right arm and leg, Aaron spent his childhood fending off a sister who wants to manage him. So when he meets Dorothy, a plain, outspoken, self-dependent young woman, she is like a breath of fresh air. Unhesitatingly he marries her, and they have a relatively happy, unremarkable marriage. But when a tree crashes into their house and Dorothy is killed, Aaron feels as though he has been erased forever. Only Dorothy’s unexpected appearances from the dead help him to live in the moment and to find some peace.
Gradually he discovers, as he works in the family’s vanity-publishing business, turning out titles that presume to guide beginners through the trials of life, that maybe for this beginner there is a way of saying goodbye.

A beautiful, subtle exploration of loss and recovery, pierced throughout with Anne Tyler’s humor, wisdom, and always penetrating look at human foibles.

Aaron gives a glimpse of his grief and how he deals with the death of his wife. He reflects back on their marriage, the good and the bad, and how people perceived them before and after and how they treat him since her death. I felt Aaron’s reflections were often times offhanded and distant. This allowed the story to move forward without too much drama and saved it from being a tearjerker.

Throughout the book, I kept forgetting that Aaron was only in his 30’s. The author’s descriptions of his handicaps, how he moves and gets on with everyday life, as well as the tone and inflection he uses when speaking to others, kept me thinking he was more in his 60’s. All of the characters seemed older to me than what the author intended.

If this would have been longer and more drawn out, I wouldn’t have liked it nearly as much. However, being short, it ended up being a nice story that I was able to read in an afternoon.

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Book Review: Cascade by Maryanne O’Hara

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Cascade, so named for the town in which the novel takes place, is a book that reveals a story of descent and succession, of selfishness and independence.

From Goodreads:
Cascade, Massachusetts, 1935. Desdemona Hart Spaulding, a talented young artist who studied in Paris, has sacrificed her dreams of working in New York City to put a roof over her newly bankrupt and ailing father’s head. Two months later he has died and Dez is bound by the promises she has made to her father, her husband, and her town. Stifled by her marriage to kind but conservative Asa, who is impatient to start a family, her ambitions are fading. Dez also stands to lose her father’s legacy, the Cascade Shakespeare Theatre, as Massachusetts decides whether to flood Cascade to create a new reservoir for Boston.

Amid this turmoil arrives Jacob Solomon, a fellow artist and kindred spirit for whom Dez feels an immediate and strong attraction. As their relationship reaches a pivotal moment, a man is found dead and the town points its collective finger at Jacob, a Jewish outsider. When unexpected acclaim and a chance to recapture her lost dreams of life in New York City arise, Dez must make an impossible choice.

This story was such a surprise to me. It wasn’t simply a story of a woman trying to reclaim her independence but how that reclamation affects so many others including the town of Cascade.

Dez makes promises she doesn’t intend to keep. Still in what would be called the honeymoon period of her marriage, she is already feeling stifled and trapped by her husband, by the town.

She’s an aspiring artist and uses her talent to try to help the town but ends up causing more trouble than good. She never fully tries to embrace her life in Cascade and her friendship with Jacob helps to plant seeds of unrest in her mind. One lie leads to a sickening web of lies. But, even with all the lies, part of me respected her and her willingness to forego traditions and expectations to realize her dream.

When you read the book take the time to look up the artwork that the author mentions throughout the book. They are beautiful examples and will help you relate to the characters and town. Also, Google the Works Progress Administration to see all the wonderful murals that came from this project. The author does a wonderful job with imagery that will take you back in time to 1935 and have you pining for a Vanilla Coke served up as you sit on a bar stool at the local pharmacy.

A well written story of a strong woman seeking her independence, a nod to fledging artists of the depression era and the ravaging effects of small town desolation, Cascade is a novel well worth reading.

This book was provided for review by Netgalley.

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