Thursday, July 31, 2014

When Grief Calls Forth the Healing

When Grief Calls Forth the Healing by Mary Rockefeller Morgan
Open Road Integrated Media: 4/29/2014
eBook, 236 pages
ISBN-13: 9781497652088

In 1961, Michael Rockefeller, son of then-governor of New York State Nelson A. Rockefeller, mysteriously disappeared off the remote coast of southern New Guinea. Amid the glare of international public interest, the governor, along with his daughter Mary, Michael’s twin, set off on a futile search, only to return empty handed and empty hearted. What followed were Mary’s twenty-seven-year repression of her grief and an unconscious denial of her twin’s death, which haunted her relationships and controlled her life.

In this startlingly frank and moving memoir, Mary R. Morgan struggles to claim an individual identity, which enables her to face Michael’s death and the huge loss it engendered. With remarkable honesty, she shares her spiritually evocative healing journey and her story of moving forward into a life of new beginnings and meaning, especially in her work with others who have lost a twin.

My Thoughts:

When Grief Calls Forth the Healing by Mary Rockefeller Morgan is a highly recommended memoir of how healing finally took place for Mary Rockefeller Morgan after the death of her twin brother Michael in 1961 when he disappeared off the coast of  southern New Guinea. Mary joined her father, Nelson A. Rockefeller, who was governor of New York, in the search for Michael in New Guinea. He was never found and eventually pronounced legally dead in 1964.

As twins, Mary and Michael were close and had a special bond. Because the interconnectedness of twins was not really understood or accepted, it took 27 years for healing to finally start to take place. Her memoir is divided into four parts. The first two deal with the events following Michael's disappearance. She recalls the search effort, growing up with Michael, and most importantly how family dynamics and the movements of the time help create a toxic environment that didn't allow her to take the steps she needed in order to heal. The third section of the book recounts her experiences with a wilderness healing retreat. In the final section Mary Rockefeller Morgan explains twin bonding and how she now helps those who have lost a twin find healing.

Mary Rockefeller Morgan, LMSW, is a licensed psychotherapist and certified imagery guide and trainer. She has had a general psychotherapy practice in Manhattan since 1991 and is now specializing in twin loss and bereavement counseling.

I found this memoir interesting and certainly it could be a resource for those who have lost a twin and searching for ways to help their recovery. It is also a touching tribute to her memory of Michael and the legacy he left behind. This is a very specific, personal account, however, and not a general guide for healing after the grief of losing a loved one. I also found it rather sad that it took her so many years to find peace and healing, although it is uplifting that she is helping others find healing sooner.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Open Road Integrated Media via Netgalley for review purposes.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam: 7/29/2014
eBook, 480 pages

A murder… . . . a tragic accident… . . . or just parents behaving badly?
What’s indisputable is that someone is dead.
But who did what?
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.
My Thoughts:

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty is a brilliant, very highly recommended novel that closely follows the lives of three woman who have kindergarteners in Pirriwee Public School. This is both a murder mystery and a comedy.

Opening with the observations of Mrs. Ponder, an older woman who lives by the school, we learn about the drunken chaos on the night of the school's annual Trivia Night fundraiser where parents are dressed in either Audrey Hepburn or Elvis costumes and someone turns up dead. The novel then jumps back to the six months preceding that fateful night. Interspersed in the narrative are snippets from interviews of various parents about all the events/gossip leading up to the death.  Who was the victim and could it have been a murder?

The main narrative follows three different women as everyone meets at Kindergarten orientation.

Madeline has just turned forty. Her youngest Chloe is the kindergartener. She is struggling with her ex and his wife also having a kindergartener at the same school. And why on earth would her oldest daughter want to go live with her father when he abandoned them right after she was born? Madeline is charming, vibrant, outspoken, and willing to take on the Blond Bobs who run the school.

Celeste is the mother of twins, Max and Josh, who are starting kindergarten. Celeste is a beautiful woman married to an incredibly wealthy man but she's been hiding some dark secrets about her marriage for years.

Jane is a young, single mother whose son Ziggy is starting Kindergarten. Madeline befriends Jane on orientation day, the same day Jane's son Ziggy is accused of choking another child and, later, bullying. The mother and her sycophant friend immediately make take an adversarial stand against Ziggy, trying to rally the school against the five year old boy. Madeline takes exception to their misguided, but strident, accusations.

The comments from various parents are interspersed throughout the story are like a Greek Chorus of defenders and accusers. Some of their perceptions and alliances are clearly drawn, but there is more than one controversy going on in the school. The comments cover such a wide range of opinions and judgments that it is a challenge to discern exactly who is commenting on what event that went on that night. Clearly, by some of the comments lines have been drawn and some parents are hard pressed to do more than pass along gossip and half-truths.

As I said, this is a brilliant novel. While covering some difficult social issues, Moriarty has managed to make Big Little Lies an entertaining, clever, humorous, dramatic novel that ultimately encompasses some acute discernment into human nature. Along the way, even when the subject matter may be hard. Big Little Lies is very engaging and will keep your attention to the very satisfying conclusion. The three main characters are all likeable and you want to help them overcome their issues. You will care about these women.

This is another very highly recommended book to read this summer.  Might I also mention if you have ever had a child in a school with very involved parents, or if you've ever been part of an organization with widely different participants, or if you have ever witnessed mommy wars and helicopter parents, or if you are even remotely involved with schools, you will find parts of this book wickedly funny, but extremely accurate.

I know Big Little Lies will be on my best books of the year list. It is that good. (While previously mentioned Cop Town was another top read of the summer, it is much darker and grittier than Big Little Lies.) Liane Moriarty has just made a new fan.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Amy Einhorn Books for review purposes.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Good Girl

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica
Harlequin: 7/29/2014
eBook, 352 pages
ISBN-13: 9780778316558

"I've been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I don't know the color of her eyes or what they look like when she's scared. But I will."
Born to a prominent Chicago judge and his stifled socialite wife, Mia Dennett moves against the grain as a young inner-city art teacher. One night, Mia enters a bar to meet her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when he doesn't show, she unwisely leaves with an enigmatic stranger. With his smooth moves and modest wit, at first Colin Thatcher seems like a safe one-night stand. But following Colin home will turn out to be the worst mistake of Mia's life.
Colin's job was to abduct Mia as part of a wild extortion plot and deliver her to his employers. But the plan takes an unexpected turn when Colin suddenly decides to hide Mia in a secluded cabin in rural Minnesota, evading the police and his deadly superiors. Mia's mother, Eve, and detective Gabe Hoffman will stop at nothing to find them, but no one could have predicted the emotional entanglements that eventually cause this family's world to shatter.
My Thoughts:

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica is a highly recommended debut suspense/mystery novel.
In The Good Girl Mia Dennett, a 24 year old art teacher in Chicago has disappeared. Detective Gabe Hoffman is assigned the case.  Mia is from a wealthy, privileged background. Her arrogant father is a prominent judge who thinks Mia is simple off somewhere being irresponsible, while her mother, Eve, is truly worried about her missing daughter. Mia was supposed to meet her boyfriend for drinks after work, but he bails on her and instead she meets Colin at the bar. Colin, unknown to Mia, has been paid to abduct her and deliver her to the man who is paying him as part of a bigger extortion plot.

On his way to drop Mia off, Colin has second thoughts and instead drives off to an isolated cabin that he knows will be vacant, and keeps Mia captive there in an attempt to protect her. Eve is desperately concerned about her daughter while her husband seems less interested in finding her. Gabe works tirelessly to uncover the clues about her abductor, but he also feels a growing a growing attraction to Eve and tries to stop in to see her as much as possible.
The Good Girl is narrated through the voices of three characters: Eve, Mia’s mother; Colin, her abductor; and Gabe, the detective. The actual story alternates between these voices and between the past and the present. We know that Mia survives, calls herself Chloe after the abduction, and has a form of amnesia, but you have to read through all the accounts of what happened to actually get the complete picture.

Don't let the fact that this is a debut novel dissuade you from reading The Good Girl. It is an extremely well written character-driven plot that is very readable. This is a good choice for someone who likes suspense novels but can do without a lot of sex, violence, or language. Naturally, there is a twist at the end. Some readers may have guessed it before the truth is revealed, but others will be surprised.

Now, apparently the narrative is labeled either "before" or "after" in the chapters. This was not the case in my advanced reading copy where everything was presented as one long book with no division. This resulted in a lot of confusion with the abrupt switches in who was talking until I figured out what was going on. I would expect that having the chapters labeled when the action was taking place might have increased my reading enjoyment; however it did serve to highlight the fact that the voices of the characters were very similar, rather than unique.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of
Harlequin via Netgalley for review purposes.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Lucky Us

Lucky Us by Amy Bloom
Random House: 7/29/2014
eBook, 256 pages

ISBN-13: 9781400067244

“My father’s wife died. My mother said we should drive down to his place and see what might be in it for us.”
So begins this remarkable novel by Amy Bloom, whose critically acclaimed Away was called “a literary triumph” by The New York Times. Brilliantly written, deeply moving, fantastically funny, Lucky Us introduces us to Eva and Iris. Disappointed by their families, Iris, the hopeful star, and Eva, the sidekick, journey across 1940s America in search of fame and fortune. Iris’s ambitions take them from small-town Ohio to an unexpected and sensuous Hollywood, across the America of Reinvention in a stolen station wagon, to the jazz clubs and golden mansions of Long Island.

With their friends in high and low places, Iris and Eva stumble and shine through a landscape of big dreams, scandals, betrayals, and war. Filled with gorgeous writing, memorable characters, and surprising events, Lucky Us is a thrilling and resonant novel about success and failure, good luck and bad, the creation of a family, and the pleasures and inevitable perils of family life. From Brooklyn’s beauty parlors to London’s West End, a group of unforgettable people love, lie, cheat, and survive in this story of our fragile, absurd, heroic species.
My Thoughts:

Lucky Us by Amy Bloom is a highly recommended novel about unconventional familiar ties in their many varied forms and the whole spectrum of luck, good to bad, from 1939-1949.

Right at the start Amy Bloom will hook you into reading the novel, Lucky Us, which opens in 1939 with 12 year old Eva and her mother going to see her father at his home after his wife died. Eva's mother runs off and abandons her there with her father, Edgar, but more importantly this begins Eva's relationship with her 16 year old half-sister, Iris. Eva soon makes it her job to support Iris as she attends and wins various speech contests around the area. The girls ban together to hide the money Iris wins from their father (who would steal it). After Iris graduates from high school (Eva skips several grades and makes it through 11th grade at age 14) , the girls set off together for Hollywood where Iris is going to be a star.

After Iris does start on her way up, she is photographed with another actress and is blacklisted in Hollywood for their lesbian relationship. Francisco, a gay makeup artist, likes Iris and wants to help the girls. Just as he is waiting for Iris to tell him what has happened, their con-artist father, Edgar, shows up. The four then set off on a road trip across the country while preparing for their interviews as a butler and governess for the Torelli family, who live on an estate in Great Neck, Long Island. They get the job and move into the carriage house, where calamity still seems to follow the whole family.

I will guarantee that Lucky Us will keep your attention and glued to the story to the end. Getting to the end will be a rather unpredictable ride. A good portion of the book is epistolary, told through letters from Iris and another character, Gus. As the story unfolds, it is told through several viewpoints, the main narration is by Eva, but others also share a part of the telling, including Iris, Gus, and Edgar. There will also never be a dull moment or a lull in the advancing story as one mishap seems to foretell another.

There are a few short comings for me. While Iris's letters propel the story forward, in some ways it is awkward since she is reminiscing in them about shared experiences with Eva, something you'd likely not write, especially if sending a letter overseas. Additionally the dialogue doesn't seem to be set in the 40's. Finally, it doesn't seem true to life that the gay characters would be so open about their lifestyles during that period of time, along with interracial relationships. Setting those misgivings aside, Bloom does use these character traits to show that a family can be made up of many different people, not always related by blood but by mutual support and love.

 What is never in question is Bloom's enormous talent as a writer and there are several wonderful passages I can't help but quote:

"My father had been a beaker of etiquette and big ideas, Iris was a vase of glamour, and I was the little brown jug of worry."

"...I would have told you that no one came to see someone like me because they were happy. I would have said, People come because they are so frightened, they wake up in a sweat. They look into the well of their true selves, and the consequences of being who they are, and they’re horrified. They run to my little table to have me say that what they see is not what will happen."

"We were like the soldiers in Stalingrad, moving forward only because backward wasn’t possible."

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Random House for review purposes.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Don't Worry about the Kids

Don't Worry about the Kids by Jay Neugeboren
Dzanc Books/Open Road Media: 7/8/2014
eBook, 178 pages
ISBN-13: 9781497669413

When Jay Neugeboren's first book of stories was published a quarter century ago, it was hailed by one critic as "the most penetrating and superbly written look at adolescence since J. D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye." Since then, Neugeboren has published more than fifty new stories, many of which have won prizes and/or been chosen for anthologies. This volume brings together fifteen examples of his best work--stories that are by turns violent and tender, lyric and stark, terrifying and playful, funny and surreal.
Although the voices and settings of these tales are diverse, their central concerns remain constant. Neugeboren explores the precarious nature of family life and those elements--madness, betrayal, loss--that often shape and threaten it. He writes about the mysterious, sad, surprising, and sometimes beautiful ways in which love expresses itself. He reveals how our choices, large and small, inform and define our lives.
Whether writing about a black American musician in Paris or a documentary filmmaker in Maine, about a boy grieving for the death of his father or parents for the loss of their children, about divorce or city life or basketball or mental illness, Neugeboren brings to his craft a profound knowledge of the heart's imperatives.
This volume is the mature, seasoned work of one of our finest writers.
 My Thoughts:
Don't Worry about the Kids by Jay Neugeboren is a highly recommended collection of 15 short stories originally published in 1997 and now being re-released as an eBook by Dzanc Books/Open Road Integrated Media.

While the protagonist of these stories can vary widely, often they are divorced fathers and/or Jewish men. In several the men have a mentally ill brother, which ties into author Jay Neugeboren's memoir,  Imagining Robert: My Brother, Madness, And Survival. There are a few exceptions to Neugeboren's common themes, such as in "Connorsville, Virginia" where the story is told by a black man.

All of the stories are well written and will hold your attention to the end. Not being a Jewish divorced male from Brooklyn or even remotely interested in sports, some of the stories were a stretch for me. I also felt that many of the female characters were stereotypes and never felt like real people. All in all, though, this is a fine collection and it should please fans of the short story.


Don’t Worry about the Kids - a divorced father talks to the court appointed mediator in a bid to get more time with his kids; an excellent story and perhaps my favorite
Workers to Attention Please - a man fights anti-American protestors with the real reason explained later
The St. Dominick’s Game - a young man is giving it his all for the coach, while concerned about his mother's suitor
Romeo and Julio - an imaginative young man with a mentally ill brother thinks he's found his Juliette
Leaving Brooklyn - a young woman is reflecting on her childhood and life
How I Became an Orphan in 1947 - a car crash results in a mother giving up her child
Minor Sixths, Diminished Sevenths - young man living in Paris reflects on when he and his brother were in a band in the 60's
Fixer’s Home - A former athlete was paid off to fix games
Department of Athletics - a 17 year old young man is biding his time while waiting to hear from the right college
Connorsville, Virginia -  a young black man working for a difficult white sheriff
The Year Between - a couple take a year away from each other
Your Child Has Been Towed - a man in Brooklyn ponders his relationship with the library
What Is the Good Life? - a CIA agent sends his daughter to her death
In Memory of Jane Fogarty - a psychiatrist is named as the beneficiary to a patient's insurance policy but his relatives want the money
Tolstoy in Maine -  a filmmaker hiding in Maine has a fling with a woman who disappears, and then her side of the story is told

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Dzanc Books via Netgalley for review purposes.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Road Ends

Road Ends by Mary Lawson
Random House: 7/8/2014
eBook, 352 pages
ISBN-13: 9780812995732

The New York Times bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Crow Lake and The Other Side of the Bridge returns with a brilliantly layered novel about self-sacrifice, family relationships, and the weight of our responsibility to those we love.
Twenty-one-year-old Megan Cartwright has never been outside Struan, Ontario, a small town of deep woods and forbidding winters. The second oldest in a house with seven brothers, Megan is the caregiver, housekeeper, and linchpin of the family, but the day comes when she decides it’s time she had a life of her own. Leaving everything behind, Megan sets out for London.
In the wake of her absence, her family begins to unravel. Megan’s parents and brothers withdraw from one another, leading emotionally isolated lives while still under the same roof. Her oldest brother, Tom, reeling from the death of his best friend, rejects a promising future to move back home. Emily, her mother, rarely leaves the room where she dreamily dotes on her newborn son, while Megan’s four-year-old brother, Adam, is desperate for warmth and attention. And as time passes, Megan’s father, Edward, stubbornly refuses to acknowledge that his household is coming undone. Torn between her independence and family ties, Megan must make an impossible choice.
Nuanced, compelling, and searingly honest, Road Ends illuminates how we each make peace with the demands of love. Mary Lawson delivers compassion and heartbreak in equal measure in her most stunning novel to date.

My Thoughts:

Road Ends by Mary Lawson is a very highly recommended character study of three members of the Cartwright family, a family which is slowly, tragically falling apart.

Set in Straun, Ontario, and spanning 1966-1969, the large Cartwright family is heading for a breaking point. Lawson focuses her attention on three members of the family: Edward, Megan, and Tom.

Megan has been the caregiver, housekeeper, disciplinarian, and, really, the mother to all of her brothers for years. Her mother only wants to love and care for the babies but leaves the raising of her offspring to Meg, the second oldest and only daughter. Everyone has taken Meg for granted. Now 21 year old, Meg wants to experience life on her own and sets out to live with a friend in London. She has heard the doctor tell her mother and father no more children and she feels this is her chance to live her own life. Before she left, Meg "had started to wonder if her mother was going senile." She is sure that at 45, she can't be but was instead simply not listening to what people are telling her.

Tom, Meg's oldest brother is in the midst of a serious depression since the suicide of his life-long friend, Robert. Tom has a degree in aeronautical engineering, but he's staying in the family home in Straun, Ontario, driving a snow plow, or a lumber truck, just biding his time, reading newspapers, eating lunch at the diner, and becoming more and more closed and emotionally distant.

The father, Edward, is the manager of the local bank but he is purposefully and completely distant and isolated from his family. He eats his meals out, he stays late at the bank, he visits the library, and when home, he goes into his study and shuts the door, avoiding any responsibility or contact with his family. He never wanted the children and he expects his wife to raise them. Alternately, he is afraid if he does discipline his sons, he will become abusive like his father. He turns a blind eye to the problems around him and all the indications that something isn't quite right with Emily, his wife. Edward alternately dreams of visiting great cities and seeing treasured art work, while also reading what is left of the many years of his mother's diaries and trying to come to terms with his childhood.

Meg's arrival in England is fraught with challenges and disappointments at the beginning, but she overcomes these hurdles and with the help of a caring supervisor, manages to land a position that uses her skills at organizing and cleaning. Meg does miss her youngest brother, Adam. She sends him Matchbox cars and is hopeful that Tom will look out for him.

Back in Canada, out of his haze of depression, Tom notices that his younger brother, Adam, smells bad... and apparently has been left to go hungry with no one around to make sure he gets meals, baths, or clean clothes. His mother has had yet another baby and she is holed up in her room, with the baby, ignoring everything around her. His father is as mentally absent as Emily; both are living in their own world. Meg's absence has propelled the inevitable falling apart of the family since she was the caregiver who kept things going and organized.

This is an incredibly well written novel that is a complex character study over a few years of time in the lives of these members of the Cartwright family. While there won't be a lot of action or complex twists and turns, this is the kind of novel that those who love character studies will relish. It also has a distinctive Canadian feel to it. You sense the great burden of snow and more snow, with one blizzard following on the heels of the previous one. It reminded me of the novels of David Adams Richards, with the melancholy that seems to pervade everything. At the end, Lawson does give us a glimmer of hope, even amidst the increasing disappointments, and leaves the reader anticipating that beyond the story there is a hopeful future. It reminds me that even when bad things happen to people, ultimately good can come out of the struggles - that there is a reason for everything.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of
Random House for review purposes.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The City

The City by Dean Koontz
Random House: 7/1/2014
ebook, 416 pages
ISBN-13: 9780345545930

New York Times bestselling author Dean Koontz is at the peak of his acclaimed powers with this major new novel—a rich, multi-layered story that moves back and forth across decades and generations as a gifted musician relates the “terrible and wonderful” events that began in his city in 1967, when he was ten.
There are millions of stories in the city—some magical, some tragic, others terror-filled or triumphant. Jonah Kirk’s story is all of those things as he draws readers into his life in the city as a young boy, introducing his indomitable grandfather, also a “piano man”; his single mother, a struggling singer; and the heroes, villains, and everyday saints and sinners who make up the fabric of the metropolis in which they live—and who will change the course of Jonah’s life forever. Welcome to The City, a place of evergreen dreams where enchantment and malice entwine, where courage and honor are found in the most unexpected corners and the way forward lies buried deep inside the heart.

My Thoughts:

The City by Dean Koontz is a very highly recommended coming-of-age story about love, friendship and loyalty.
"In our lives, we come to moments of great significance that we fail to recognize, the meaning of which does not occur to us for many years. Each of us has his agenda and focuses on it, and therefore we are often blind to what is before our eyes."

As a much older Jonah looks back on his family and the events that happened during 1967 when he was 9 to 10 years old. It was a year that would change his life. Jonah comes from a long line of musicians. His mother, Sylvia, is a gifted singer while his grandfather, Teddy Bledsoe was a piano man. They loved jazz, big band, and swing music. Jonah himself is a piano man and getting better every day. His on and off again father, Tilton, is a loser who is never there and suspect when he is around.

"My name is Jonah Ellington Basie Hines Eldridge Wilson Hampton Armstrong Kirk. From as young as I can remember, I loved the city. Mine is a story of love reciprocated. It is the story of loss and hope, and of the strangeness that lies just beneath the surface tension of daily life, a strangeness infinite fathoms in depth."

The City (which is New York City, although it is not named) is actually personified into a real person from whom young Jonas gets advice and, perhaps, a couple of visions that are meant to save him. "She said that more than anything, cities are people. Sure, you need to have the office buildings and the parks and the nightclubs and the museums and all the rest of it, but in the end it’s the people—and the kind of people they are—who make a city great or not. And if a city is great, it has a soul of its own, one spun up from the threads of the millions of souls who have lived there in the past and live there now."

The story is told from the perspective of an older and wiser Jonah looking back at his childhood, so he naturally gives his younger self more insight into what is going on than most kids his age would have. "I was already an optimist when all this happened that I’m telling you about. Although I’ll reverse myself now and then to give you some background, this particular story really starts rolling in 1967, when I was ten, the year the woman said she was the city. By June of that year, I had moved with my mom into Grandpa’s house."

Koontz's writing is superb and he is a masterful story teller. He had me engrossed in this tale from the beginning to the end. I can say that I loved this book. Jonah is a great protagonist.  I loved the character Mr. Yoshioka. Yes, the bad guys are not fully realized characters but, to me, they are as an adult would recall them, looking back armed with more knowledge and recounting the information from the point-of-view of the child he was at the time.

Where I'm speculating that some readers had a problem with The City is because it is not a horror novel, like one might expect from Koontz, and while it has suspense and some moments where you will read as swiftly as possible to find out what is going to happen, this is more of a family drama/novel of suspense where all the action leads up to an event that changed Jonah's life. I was actually hesitant to start reading The City based on the poor ratings/reviews, but, alas, that was to my own detriment.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Random House via Netgalley for review purposes.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night

Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night by Barbara J. Taylor
Akashic Books: 7/1/2014
ebook, 256 pages
ISBN-13: 9781617752278 

Almost everyone in town blames eight-year-old Violet Morgan for the death of her nine-year-old sister, Daisy. Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night opens on September 4, 1913, two months after the Fourth of July tragedy. Owen, the girls' father, "turns to drink" and abandons his family. Their mother Grace falls victim to the seductive powers of Grief, an imagined figure who has seduced her off-and-on since childhood. Violet forms an unlikely friendship with Stanley Adamski, a motherless outcast who works in the mines as a breaker boy. During an unexpected blizzard, Grace goes into premature labor at home and is forced to rely on Violet, while Owen is "off being saved" at a Billy Sunday Revival. Inspired by a haunting family story, Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night blends real life incidents with fiction to show how grace can be found in the midst of tragedy.

My Thoughts:

Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night by Barbara J. Taylor is a very highly recommended historical novel. Based on real events from the author's family, Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night is a novel rich in detail and historical references. Set in 1913 in the anthracite coal mining region of Wyoming Valley,  Pennsylvania, this is a novel of tragedy and hope.
The Morgan family is composed of Owen, the father, Grace, the mother and their two girls, nine year old Daisy and 8 year old Violet. On July 4, 1913, there is a horrible accident and Daisy is left mortally burned. As Daisy slowly dies over three days, Violet plays the piano  for her while Daisy sings hymns. The whole town blames Violet for the death of her sister and neither parent is able to set aside their own grief to comfort or console her.

Grace Morgan is already emotionally fragile and the death of her daughter pushes her into a severe depression. She has personified Grief as a real person since the death of her father when she was a child, and with each death and each miscarriage she has had, Grief has grown stronger. Daisy's death pushes Grace to the edge of the abyss and she is totally emotionally crippled.
Owen also takes Daisy's death hard and can't cope with Grace's depression at the same time. He turns to drinking. After he returns home drunk very late one night, he has an explosive altercation with Grace. He then leaves his family, choosing to live in a rented room above the gin mill.

In this tangle emotional miasma, Violet is left to try and deal with her grief on her own, even while the adults around her holds her responsible for the death of her sister and seemingly even  the disintegration of her family. If not for her new friend, Stanley whom with she plays hooky from school with to fish and explore, Violet would have no support system. When an older widow befriends the two, they both get a modicum of the mothering they both need. 

During this same time period the famed evangelist Billy Sunday is coming to Scranton for a huge revival meeting. The town is building a temple to prepare for the special event and attendance is expected to be high. 

As a sort of Greek chorus in the background, Taylor includes comments from the church women in sections between several chapters. Preceded by some helpful homemaking advice from the time period, the chorus of comments that follow are from the widows and spinsters who are always there, doing things for the church and keeping track of everyone's business. Perhaps they mean well, bless their hearts, but perhaps they are spreading tales and making things worse.

This is an incredibly well written novel that has the kind of historical accuracy and details that make reading historical novels a treasure. It is hard to believe based on the description, but this is also a novel of hope, grace, survival and even joy. Picked as a best summer book for 2014 by Publisher's Weekly, Barbara J. Taylor's Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night is not to be missed.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Akashic Book for review purposes. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Isolation by Denise R. Stephenson
Mill City Press: 4/1/2014
Trade Paperback, 396 pages

ISBN-13: 9781626527607

Isolation depicts a bleak but recognizable future in which the fear of contagion reaches a fever pitch as a bacterial epidemic catapults the US into an apocalyptic crisis.
Touch is outlawed. Mothers like Maggie bind their infants' hands, terrified they might slip fingers into mouths. Gary, a Sterilizer, uses robots to scour the infected, avoiding all contact with human flesh. Trevor, the Chief Enforcer, watches, eager to report any and all infractions.
One inadvertent touch will change all of their lives.
My Thoughts:

Isolation by Denise R. Stephenson is highly recommended, especially because this could conceivably happen.

Isolation opens with a woman cutting her finger, just a little nick, while slicing red onions. Within a day she is dead from a bacterial infection. We hear about these cases today, although death may not come quite that quickly.  Perhaps there is a bacterial infection, like E. coli O157:H7, running rampant, causing severe abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting. Maybe the bacterial infection is a salmonella outbreak linked back to tainted spinach. Or perhaps it is Listeria. Or Staph. The point is we all hear about these cases of bacterial infections that result in death today.

But what would happen if the bacteria became more lethal?

We need bacteria to live; it helps digestion for one thing. The problem is as we use more and more antibiotics, we are creating an environment where antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria develop. We nuke food for preservation, which kills bacteria, but does that create more resistant strains? We genetically alter crops to be resistant to diseases and bacteria, but what is the outcome, the end game, of those actions?

In Isolation, Denise R. Stephenson creates a future reality where bacteria seems to be declaring war on the human race and we are fighting back by creating government bureaucracies (through  Homeland Security, NSA, etc.) to control the population and the spread of bacteria. It begins with outlawing all facial touching - don't even think about wiping your eyes, scratching your nose, etc. in a public place because chances are an enforcer will find out and there will be consequences.

AB, anti-bacterial sprays and products are the norm and  liberally used. There is no chance to build up any resistance as all bacteria are deemed bad. If there is a bacterial outbreak, citizens may be required to stay isolated indoors. Eventually all touching/human contact becomes prohibited and everyone is required to stay indoors.

Isolation follows several different characters over the years as the government becomes more and more intrusive and controlling in the attempt to stop all bacteria. Interspersed through the first half of the novel are newspaper articles that provide more informative background on what is happening and on the science behind it. The news articles were a nice way to convey information as the story and the intrusiveness of the government increases. I would mention that today many people get their news online, so some of the articles could have reflected this - but they may in the final copy of the book. Either way, the news articles were effective in helping propel the story forward.

There is a huge buildup of information and over-reactions to the bacteria at the beginning of the book and then the novel focuses on individuals and how they are coping with their brave new hyper-controlled world.

A chilling scenario that could be played out today on several levels, I enjoyed Isolation enormously.

Disclosure: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the author and Premier Virtual Author Book Tours for review purposes.  


Virtual Author Book Tour

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

But I Love You

But I Love You by Peter Rosch
Rosch, LLC: 5/31/2014
ebook, 282 pages
ISBN-13: 9780692210925

A successful dating service maven falls for a beautiful new client, forcing the hand of her sociopathic admirer.
On the well-intentioned dare of a friend, model and recovering addict Lisa Denton meets Alicia Lynn Wilde, Manhattan's hottest matchmaker to the city's elite and the mind behind an exclusive, very lucrative singles service built on a misguided ideal, lies, and Midwestern blue collar work ethic. Alicia's brief encounter with this new stranger quickly begins to unsettle her meticulously curated world, and throws Lisa unwittingly into a series of unsavory-possibly lethal-events already set in motion when one of Elite Two Meet's members claims to have been sexually assaulted by two high-profile clientele.
My Thoughts:

But I Love You by Peter Rosch is a highly recommended love/con story. You're just going to have to read it to figure out how that combination happens, but perhaps life is a con of some sort.

First, you know right at the start that somebody dies on August 7th in But I Love You, then the story jumps back to August 2nd and you will begin to figure out what is going to happen - or you will think you are figuring out what is going down. Yup, expect a twist or two in this wild ride of.... almost an anti-love story, but I digress.

Alicia Lynn Wilde runs the Elite Two Meet dating/single's service. Elite Two Meet is exclusive and all the members are carefully vetted by a very controlling and tightly wound Alicia and her very controlled staff.  Chris, one of the members of her service who is obsessed with Alicia, is becoming a nuisance with her constant texting and calling. Alicia is interviewing prospective customer/client Lisa and is clearly smitten/obsessed with her. Add to this garbled jumble a lot of self-medicating, many varied sycophants, some simple-minded co-conspiritors, and Rosch self-confessed love of the run-on sentence and you'll begin to see that this is not a simple love story.

Despite the run-on sentence part, Rosch is a very good writer and carries But I Love You along on that strength and the twisty plot. This is a cast of unlikeable characters with a number of obsessions, be it people, success, appearance, or the previously mentioned self-medication. I'm glad I had the time to read it in one sitting. I like one reviewer who compared it to a Shakespearean tragedy where the characters are to blame for all the mishaps that befall them. It's a train wreck waiting to happen - and Rosch lets you know from the start that the train wreck is coming. You won't be able to predict how or why, though.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of the author for review purposes.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Mockingbird Next Door

The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee by Marja Mills
Penguin Group: 7/15/2014
ebook, 288 pages
ISBN-13: 978159420519

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is one of the best loved novels of the twentieth century. But for the last fifty years, the novel’s celebrated author, Harper Lee, has said almost nothing on the record. Journalists have trekked to her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, where Harper Lee, known to her friends as Nelle, has lived with her sister, Alice, for decades, trying and failing to get an interview with the author. But in 2001, the Lee sisters opened their door to Chicago Tribune journalist Marja Mills. It was the beginning of a long conversation—and a great friendship.
In 2004, with the Lees’ blessing, Mills moved into the house next door to the sisters. She spent the next eighteen months there, sharing coffee at McDonalds and trips to the Laundromat with Nelle, feeding the ducks and going out for catfish supper with the sisters, and exploring all over lower Alabama with the Lees’ inner circle of friends.
Nelle shared her love of history, literature, and the Southern way of life with Mills, as well as her keen sense of how journalism should be practiced. As the sisters decided to let Mills tell their story, Nelle helped make sure she was getting the story—and the South—right. Alice, the keeper of the Lee family history, shared the stories of their family.
The Mockingbird Next Door is the story of Mills’s friendship with the Lee sisters. It is a testament to the great intelligence, sharp wit, and tremendous storytelling power of these two women, especially that of Nelle.
Mills was given a rare opportunity to know Nelle Harper Lee, to be part of the Lees’ life in Alabama, and to hear them reflect on their upbringing, their corner of the Deep South, how To Kill a Mockingbird affected their lives, and why Nelle Harper Lee chose to never write another novel.

My Thoughts:

The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee by Marja Mills is a highly recommended look at the life and friends of reclusive author Nelle Harper Lee.

In June, 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird was the first book of 34 year old author Harper Lee. "Through the experiences of Scout, Jem, and their best friend, Dill, Lee paints a vivid picture of small-town childhood in the segregated South. She also explored complex themes in the lives of her characters, from mental illness to addiction, racism, and the limitations society imposed on women. The story of small-town childhood and racial injustice in Depression- era Alabama garnered mostly glowing reviews and stayed on the best-seller list for nearly two years. In 1961, Lee won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The Academy Award–winning 1962 film version of the novel, starring Gregory Peck, became a classic in its own right."

After the success of To Kill a Mockingbird, (Nelle) Harper Lee never published another book. She jealously guarded her privacy and actively avoided all publicity or interviews for many, many years.

 In 2001 Mills was sent by the Chicago Tribune to Monroeville, Alabama to try to get some information about Nelle Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird. The classic novel was chosen to be Chicago's first book in the new One Book, One Chicago program. Mills just expected to get some background information, write about the town, and set the tone for the city wide read. After gathering all the background information, she felt she should make at least one attempt to talk to Nelle or her (at that time) 89 year older sister Alice.

The sisters both knew from people around town that Mills was there gathering information and Mills herself had sent them information concerning the One Book, One Chicago program. Much to her surprise, Alice invited her in to talk and this started an unprecedented friendship. The sisters decided to trust Mills because they were intrigued by the One Book, One Chicago program and because, from Mills various inquiries around town, they were sure she wasn't a gossip. This insight proves to be true as Mills carefully shares only what Nelle deems safe. The tone of the book is all Southern charm and information about Nelle Harper Lee is carefully disclosed without a hint of gossip or scandal.

Mills was given permission to write this book from Nelle and Alice, and that seems obvious after reading it, although there was plenty of buzz around before its publication that it was going to be another unauthorized biography. Mills slowly and gently tells the story of their developing friendship and shares many of their recollections and stories, along with those of their friends. She covers daily life with the sisters (both are now in assisted living) in Monroeville, as well as with Nelle in New York City. Some things remain off the record. She does cover Nelle's longtime friendship with Truman Capote and why she never wrote another book.

Mills struggles with lupus are as evident as Nelle's feisty personality in this charming but careful account of Nelle Harper Lee. It is not, by any measure, a full biography of Nelle Harper Lee. Mills did not get an extensive on-the-record interview. It is, however, a portrait of her life during the time Mills interviewed her and lived next door to her along with whatever stories or information Nelle chose to share.

Disclosure: I received an advanced reading copy of this book for my Kindle from the Penguin Group for review purposes. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Forever Man

The Forever Man by Pierre Ouellette
Random House: 7/8/2014
ebook, 340 pages
ISBN-13: 9780804177191

Portland, Oregon, was once a beacon of promise and prosperity. Now it’s the epicenter of a world gone wrong, its streets overrun by victims and hustlers, drifters and gangsters. Lowly contract cop Lane Anslow struggles to keep afloat—and to watch out for his brilliant but bipolar brother, Johnny, a medical researcher. Lane soon discovers that Johnny is part of an experiment veiled in extraordinary secrecy. But he has no idea who’s behind it, how astronomical the stakes are, or how many lives might be destroyed to make it a reality.
Now Johnny’s gone missing. To find him, Lane follows a twisting trail into a billionaire’s hilltop urban fortress, a politician’s inner circle, a prison set in an aircraft graveyard, and a highly guarded community where people appear to be half their biological age. Hunted by dueling enemies, Lane meets a beautiful and enigmatic woman at the center of a vast web of political and criminal intrigue. And behind it all is a sinister, desperate race to claim the biggest scientific prize of all: eternal life.

My Thoughts:

The Forever Man by Pierre Ouellette is a very highly recommended dystopian science fiction crime novel.

Set in the near future in Portland, Oregon, society has eroded into the haves and have-nots. Corruption, amoral behavior and greed have taken over. The land has broken down to sections ruled by various crime lords and the government/law enforcement is likely just as corrupt as the rogue leaders. If you have the money, you will be living in privately guarded enclaves and constantly seeking a way to extend your life through various medical procedures. If you don't have money you will be scrambling hard to find some way to get by, avoid confrontations with local bad-boy enforcers, and likely with some self-medication to try to make it all tolerable.

Lane Anslow is a contract cop in his 40's who is at the low end of the pay scale and on the verge of being considered too old for the job. Lane's brother, Johnny, is a brilliant medical researcher who has just made the break-through discovery to reverse aging that everyone seeks - but especially Thomas Zed, a man wealthy beyond imagination who wants nothing more than to live forever. Now Johnny has disappeared and it is up to Lane to save him, again. Lane must untangle what Johnny has discovered and who would be trying to kill both of them.

The Forever Man worked as a noir crime fiction novel for me, one that just happened to be set in the future. The sci-fi elements are there and believable, but it's the search and digging up information in a bleak world that really propelled the novel along and compelled me to read faster. The sci-fi elements of the world are just a given, they are just background and there as Lane tries to stay alive and figure out what has happened to Johnny and why. Lane is a great character, he has his standards, but he also knows that he may have to revise them in order to survive. His search takes him through all levels of society.

The back story of characters is developed through flashbacks, a technique that works for this novel, and I thought the character development was good. Ouellette raises some interesting questions about seeking to live forever - or beyond the Gompertz Curve - and what questions might arise with living an extremely long life. This is done embedded in the story rather than in a pushy, glaringly obvious lecturing way, something I appreciate.

Disclosure: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from Random House for TLC review purposes.  

TLC Tour

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Panopticon

The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan
Crown Publishing Group: 4/22/2014
Trade Paperback, 320 pages

ISBN-13: 9780385347952
Random House

Anais Hendricks, fifteen, is in the back of a police car. She is headed for the Panopticon, a home for chronic young offenders. She can't remember what’s happened, but across town a policewoman lies in a coma and Anais’s school uniform is covered in blood.
Raised in foster care from birth and moved through twenty-three placements before she even turned seven, Anais has been let down by just about every adult she has ever met. Now a counter-culture outlaw, she knows that she can only rely on herself. And yet despite the parade of horrors visited upon her early life, she greets the world with the witty, fierce insight of a survivor.
Anais finds a sense of belonging among the residents of the Panopticon – they form intense bonds, and she soon becomes part of an ad hoc family. Together, they struggle against the adults that keep them confined. When she looks up at the watchtower that looms over the residents though, Anais knows her fate: she is an anonymous part of an experiment, and she always was. Now it seems that the experiment is closing in.
Named one of the best books of the year by the Times Literary Supplement and the Scotsman, The Panopticon is an astonishingly haunting, remarkable debut novel. In language dazzling, energetic and pure, it introduces us to a heartbreaking young heroine and an incredibly assured and outstanding new voice in fiction.
My Thoughts:

The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan is highly recommended but with a cautionary note that this book is not for everyone.

In The Panopticon we meet Anais Hendricks, a 15 year old who has been in the care system her entire life. She's a chronic offender and being taken to the Panopticon in Midlothian, Scotland. The Panopticon was a former psychiatric hospital and prison that has been turned into an experimental home for chronic young offenders, based on the prison designs of English philosopher Jeremy Bentham. In the Panopticon the buildings are crescent shaped with all rooms visible to a central watch tower that looms large in Anais's mind. Anais has been sent here for putting an officer into a coma.

The world Anais inhabits is awash with drug abuse, physical abuse and violence, but most certainly non-stop f***ing swearing.  Once she is in the Panopticon, she forms a sort of rag-tag very dysfunctional family-like bond with the other troubled teens who are there. Fagan does not mince words or paint a pretty picture with these young displaced disturbed teens. They are all dealing with some horrific issues and problems.

The Scottish dialect Fagan uses didn't bother me and was easy to understand.  And while the chronic drug abuse is disturbing, what really did bother me was what felt like non-stop swearing. The F word is liberally used with abandon, and while that may reflect a certain segment of society and certainly a certain culture, it is decidedly not mine. I managed to struggle and overlook  the profanity simply because the novel is so intriguing and I wanted to try to decode what had happened to Anais.

This is not a YA novel. This is a dark and disturbing, atmospheric novel that will be memorable for those who read it, but the real question is more if they will remember the fierce drug-taking heroine, Anais, or if it will be for the liberal use of the "f" word, along with more British/Scottish slang than I ever knew existed for various body parts and actions. 

While the accolades are huge for this novel, I'm afraid I can only highly recommend it for those who feel they can take on all the baggage that comes along with reading it. While it is a good novel it is not for everyone. (I also would not compare it to Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale.)

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books for review purposes.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Hurricane Fever

Hurricane Fever by Tobias S. Buckell
Tom Doherty Associates: 7/1/2014
ebook, 272 pages
ISBN-13: 9780765319227
Prudence “Roo” Jones never thought he’d have a family to look after—until suddenly he found himself taking care of his orphaned teenage nephew. Roo, a former Caribbean Intelligence operative, spends his downtime on his catamaran dodging the punishing hurricanes that are the new norm in the Caribbean. Roo enjoys the simple calm of his new life—until an unexpected package from a murdered fellow spy shows up. Suddenly Roo is thrown into the center of the biggest storm of all.
Using his wits—and some of the more violent tricks of his former trade—Roo begins to unravel the mystery that got his friend killed. When a polished and cunning woman claiming to be murdered spy’s sister appears, the two find themselves caught up in a global conspiracy with a weapon that could change the face of the world forever.
In Hurricane Fever, New York Times bestselling author Tobias Buckell (Arctic Rising, Halo: The Cole Protocol) has crafted a kinetic technothriller perfect for fans of action-packed espionage within a smartly drawn geo-political landscape. Roo is an anti–James Bond for a new generation.
My Thoughts: 
Hurricane Fever by Tobias S. Buckell is a very highly recommended, fast paced thriller that will leave you feeling like you have been through a hurricane of action.
Dreadlocked Prudence “Roo” Jones, a retired operative from the Caribbean Intelligence Group, is trying to live a quiet, retiring life on his catamaran, Spitfire II, while caring for his teenage nephew and watching out for hurricanes. Roo is tracking an approaching hurricane and preparing to sail to a safe harbor when he gets a message from Zee, a former colleague and friend. Zee simply says if Roo gets his message, Zee is dead and Roo needs to extract revenge. Zee's message sends Roo out on a dangerous mission where the approaching storm may not be a destructive as the people now after him. And is the woman, Kit, who claims to be Zee's sister really his sister or could she have other motives for reaching out to Roo?
Set in the Caribbean in the near future, this is a fast paced thrilled that moves with lightning speed from one action packed encounter to another. I love what Publisher's Weekly said in their review rating the climax as "one white cat shy of a Bond movie" - a very apt description. This is a perfect summer read since the plot moves along so swiftly it holds your attention and there are no little niggling details to remember as you race to the dramatic climax. (And, not to spoil any plot points, but it showcases two of my favorite subjects: weather and bio-warfare.)
Buckell knows how to write an engrossing thriller in an unequivocal style: clear, concise and captivating while still managing to insert a whole lot of action and interesting plot developments.

There is violence (just like in a Bond movie) but Buckell doesn't revel in showcasing the gore or making it excessive. This is a fun, entertaining read that shouldn't disappoint readers.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Tom Doherty Associates via Netgalley for review purposes.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Infinity Program

The Infinity Program by Richard H. Hardy
Coffeetown Enterprises, Inc.: 4/1/2014
ebook, 250 pages
ISBN-13: 9781603819336

Jon Graeme and Harry Sale are unlikely friends. Harry is a world-class programmer, but his abrasive personality alienates co-workers. In contrast, Jon is a handsome and easy-going technical writer, the low man on the IT totem pole. Sharing a love of nature, the men set out together, planning to go their separate ways--Jon on a hike and Harry, fly fishing. Three days later, Jon arrives at the rendezvous point, but his friend is nowhere in sight. When Jon finds Harry unconscious on the floor of a cave, Harry claims to have been lying there the entire time. But he is neither cold nor hungry. What Jon doesn't know is that Harry fell into an underground cavern, where he came into contact with an alien quantum computer. Back at work, Harry jettisons his regular tasks and concentrates exclusively on inventing new operating language to access the alien system. In the process he crashes his office's Super Computer and is fired. Jon convinces the company to give Harry a second chance, arguing that the system he has invented will make them millions. Jon has no idea what havoc Harry is about to unleash.

My Thoughts:

The Infinity Program by Richard H. Hardy is a recommended light science fiction novel with a major focus on office politics.

Jon Graeme is a newly hired technical writer whose boss sends him to get information from eccentric, curmudgeon-like programmer Harry Sale. His boss was under the assumption that Jon would fail to acquire what he needed, but instead Jon ends up befriending Harry. After a brief friendship the two go off on a fishing/hiking adventure together. While Jon hikes up the mountain, Harry stays behind to fish. Harry ends up falling into a mysterious hole in a cave. When Jon returns three days later, he finds Harry unconscious on the cave floor. When they get back to work, Harry begins programming 24/7 like a man possessed. In the cave Harry encountered an alien technology and he suddenly has an idea for a new programming language.

Rather than being a focused science fiction novel, it really is quite light on the sci-fi and heavy on the office politics. In fact, the whole scheme of office politics seemed a bit dated by today's standards. Currently, there are many avenues of recourse through Human Resources in place at large companies to handle cases of sexual harassment at work, an unreasonable request from a boss, etc. While it succeeded in creating tension and a protagonist, the office politics part of the novel felt like it was written 20 years ago.  Even the set up of the company seemed old school.

Also it was odd to only have one female character, even in the world of programmers. The female character we get is Lettie, who seems more a fantasy than a real woman. It seems that some men retire and know they have a book to write. Then they make their female characters that stuff of dreams/porn rather than a real person. It would be refreshing to see some strong, confident women as characters involved in the actual plot rather than simply as a love interest.

This is a simple, predictable plot, told in a simple, uncomplicated style. There is not a whole lot of character development. The world of programming is not presented in an intricate, detailed manner so anyone should be able to follow the plot without confusion or extra knowledge. There are some grammatical errors and other problems with the writing that you should be forewarned about before you read The Infinity Program.

For all its faults, I have to say that there was something charming about the uncomplicated quaint feel to the writing. Once my expectations were lowered, as far as any major plot twists or character development,  I actually enjoyed the book.

Disclosure: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the author and Premier Virtual Author Book Tours for review purposes.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Forsaking Home

Forsaking Home by A. American
Penguin Group: 6/24/2014
Trade Paperback, 416 pages

ISBN-13: 9780142181300
Survivalist Series #4

They survived the collapse, but can they survive the aftermath?
Morgan Carter has weathered the weeks after the collapse of the nation’s power grid, reuniting with his family and ensuring their safety, but his struggle isn't over yet. Carter must focus on survival in an increasingly unstable society—but the challenges he faces are beyond his wildest imagination.
Meanwhile, the enclosed quarters of the nearby government-run refugee camp make for an environment where injury, assault and murder are the norm. As Jess creates trouble within the camp, Sarge and his crew plot to take down the entire establishment.
From the author of the hit Survivalist Series books, Forsaking Home is an action-packed adventure that depicts the harrowing possibilities of a world gone awry, and the courage it takes to protect what matters most.
My Thoughts:

Forsaking Home by A. American is a recommended (highly if you are reading the whole series) conclusion to the survivalist series that includes Going Home, Surviving Home, and Escaping HomeForsaking Home is the fourth book in the series.

For those following the series, Morgan, his family, and all the other characters are back on their trek to survival among lawless citizens and the DHS continues their obscenely wicked ways at the refugee/detention camps. The chapters alternate between life at Morgan's camp and the DHS camp/Sarge's group. Morgan's life this time around is comparatively more settled (for an apocalyptic-end-of-the-known-world survivalist novel) and A. American settles into having his characters provide some more survivalist lessons/skills one would need to know in this situation. This book isn't quite as action packed as the earlier installments of the series.

I was pleased to note that binoculars (rather than binos) were used, as well as a monocular and spotting scope. Enough said.

The quality of the writing in this final book of the series (and I'm just speculating here, but it seemed like it had reached a conclusion) has improved dramatically from the first book. Upon reflection, I do think that books three and four could have been edited in such a way that they made one book - especially since book three just ended mid-story. It is nice to finally reach the conclusion with a bit of hope for the future of society. And I still love Morgan's devotion to his family.

This is survival in Florida, or the deep South. Things might be a bit different in your neck of the woods. We could certainly get some cattail rhizomes here, but forget palm anything. Hey, I've hunted the wild asparagus and morel mushrooms. I've made wild plum jelly and eaten wild rose hips, as well as made them into jelly. We wouldn't be catching any gators to eat, though. I guess I sort of wish someone (not me) could just start snaring wild rabbits and squirrels that are eating up my landscaping without having to eat them because of a societal collapse, but I know they are around should the unthinkable happen.  When winter comes, though, things would get dicey.

Going Home, Surviving Home, Escaping Home, and Forsaking Home really should be read in the order they were written to follow the various threads in the plot. Despite the number of pages, they are all easy to read and you can get through them quickly. If you are looking for a summer read full of escapism and enjoy survivalist fiction this series might be a great airplane book choice - except for the EMP or CME in the first book that started the end of civilization.

Disclosure: My paperback edition was courtesy of the Penguin Group for review purposes.