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Search tags: Contemporary-Fiction
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review 2018-07-30 18:35
Whodunit: Horror edition
The Outsider - Stephen King

The Outsider is the newest notch in the belt of one of the most prolific writers of supernatural horror, Stephen King. It's been a good long while since I've sunk my teeth into a King novel but when I read the premise (and saw the ultra rad cover) I knew that it was time to take a bite. (That metaphor got away from me.) The very beginning launches the reader into a graphic description of the murder of an 11 year old boy named Frank Peterson. [A/N: As this is literally the first two pages I don't consider this a spoiler. I do want to point out that it is very graphic and involves a sexual element so if this is in any way triggering to you please steer clear.] It seems to be an open and shut case because of the preponderance of evidence which points directly to a prominent member of the community...who also happened to be the coach of the Chief Detective assigned to the case. Can anyone say conflict of interest? However, things are not so cut and dry because it turns out that this man has an alibi with witnesses. So how was he in two places at once? What next occurs is a roller-coaster of police procedural drama with a heaping dash of supernatural horror thrown in for good measure. I wrote tons of notes about this book after I had read it but because they are mainly about the plot and super spoiler-y I don't feel that I can enumerate them here. Suffice it to say that in trademark King style there are always more twists and turns just when you think there couldn't possibly be any more. I enjoyed it thoroughly right up until the very end which I felt was not up to King's usual standard. With that being said, I did really like it and immediately lent my copy to another coworker with my recommendation so I can't help but give it a 9/10.

 

What's Up Next: The Figure in the Shadows The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring by John Bellairs

 

What I'm Currently Reading: How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2018-07-26 14:27
Letting Go Of Gravity
Letting Go Of Gravity - Meg Leder

"That's what friends do- they remind you of who you are underneath all the stuff people believe about you, all the stuff you believe about yourself."

Charlie and Parker are twins. During childhood, they always had each other's back. However, they were always two different people; Charlie is extroverted, loud, popular and easily makes friends, Parker is introverted, guarded and needs approval.  One other difference arose when Charlie and Parker were in fourth grade, Charlie got leukemia.  As medical bills rose and their parents lived in fear, Parker vowed to become a doctor and help kids with leukemia.  Now it is coming true, as Parker graduates valedictorian of her class with an internship at a hospital and an acceptance to Harvard, and Charlie is in remission for a second time.  When it's time to begin the internship, Parker feels overwhelmed and panicked at even being in the hospital.  She quits, reconnects with an old friend and finds a job at a pottery shop and the weight lifts.  Now, if she could only tell her parents.

Letting go of gravity is an epic coming of age tale that so many teens will be able to connect with.  It is not only Parker's story either, it is also Charlie's.  For so much of Parker's life she has strived to be what her parents expect that she has lost herself.  For Charlie's life, he has been the boy with cancer that people have given up their lives to help.  They both just want to stop being people's expectations for them and learn to be themselves, but they will need each other to do it.  I could easily relate to Parker and was swept up in her story, eagerly turning the pages to see how she would manage the twists and turns in her life.  Even though I have never had to deal with cancer, Charlie was also intriguing.  His journey in and out of remission while being a teen is very sincere and heart wrenching, even when he is ok.  Charlie and Parker's journey took me through emotional highs and lows that reminded me of the transitional time after high school.  In addition to this, the romances were very sweet and realistic.  Overall, a roller-coaster of a story about self-realization and being able to become who you truly are.

This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

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review 2018-07-19 09:18
The Change Chronicles- Paula Friedman

      This book is dripping with realism, with historic realities, stuffed full of the issues of the then still young baby-boomer generation. We are immersed, near drowning, in the real issues of a student body that feared the bomb: but feared man’s inhumanity to man far more. We are with the issues of the post-war generation that had to make stark individual choices between defying the generally respected government apparatus of their parents and grandparents, by radically opposing neo-colonial war, or joining the ranks of those that might have to kill as soldiers, or certainly by proxy, those fighting for their homes and their innocent children in distant lands.

      As the body-bags and damaged young men, returned from the war in ever greater numbers a social divide split Berkeley, this read’s setting, then West-Coast America, and eventually the ‘free world’. Additionally, the boomer generation were deep in the already progressing struggle against racism and, as the ‘60s progressed, the drive towards sexual equality was gaining a long-dormant momentum. A tsunami of social consciousness grew out of the student Free Speech Movement, the roots of the 60s Counterculture, and swelled out so far and so deep that even today we feel its dissipated pull. Culture has seen fundamental change, despite recent pressures to reset the clocks of history from many right of centre and ‘religious’ groups.

      Nora is at the centre of the social struggle, a child of the ‘50s, a daughter of parent’s born in the ‘20s and ‘30s. The older generation that had suffered the deprivations and often the full horrors of world war and who now struggled to understand the anti-establishmentarianism of so many of their kids. In 1966, the parental generation was as psychologically distant from the lives of their children as any times have seen. But quite naturally, establishment structure and deeply ingrained cultural expectations, hung heavy shadows over even the most progressive. No generation can reject all the expectations of their upbringing. Nora, like those around her, was struggling with her personal place in the world as much as with grand designs. This is so vividly drawn in this story as the young unmarried mother feels little choice but to give up her new-born child. This is a chronicle of change for one women in a social fabric that was constantly melting and reforming around her.

      Friedman’s brilliant writing lets us see how the new sexual permissiveness of late ‘60s youth is overshadowed by old moralities. For example, we see how many men were all-too-ready to enjoy new sexual freedoms but without accepting the fullness of accrued responsibility. We see the young women, who are equally driven by new social permissiveness, but are so often left abandoned to face single parenthood, still then illegal abortion, or cruel adoption. The pill, though a birth control reality from 1960 onwards, was still years away from available to all but a few women; or in many territories and especially among their many religious and cultural groups, any women whatsoever. The 1960s were more about changed expectations than the progress that decade unleashed, just as previous history had paved the groundwork for racial equality, and the ‘70s would soon for the rainbow of sexuality.

      Friedman draws us through every significant thought and fear, not just of the principle character, Nora, but her whole generation of educated, informed, and variably enlightened young activists. She represents a post-war generation that was desperate to change society, rather than just their own fortunes. As always, change brought mixed and shifting actions and conflicting opinions even between those that held aloft the very same flags. This is a book that in an equal universe should find a place as the ‘lighter’ but equally socially enlightening read, complementing iconic works from Weinberg, Ginsberg and so many well-recognised others. This book should be on the shelves, available to all those that seek insight into the social tapestry behind songs of Dylan, Baez and Lennon and so many more. This book is so much part of the essential history of those in my wide generation that fought with the banner, the guitar and the pen, and with the desperate but sadly naive conviction that the world could be made better for all, not just those blessed by God to have the most money and the most destructive guns. Of course, as in all generations the baby-boomers fill all areas of the political spectrum, though for a time there was promise of us really being something different; a truly progressive generation. So incidentally, it’s feels so sadly poignant that our now senior, empowered generation, is making such a mess of its responsibilities to humanity and this planet. But despite abject failings those that marched can at least find some relief in the social earthquake that is still shaking out new and profound chronicles of hopefully sustainable change, across so much of the Earth. Despite everything, the wind of change that blew from Berkeley in the ‘60s has left an indelible footprint on social history, and Friedman’s book gives us a glimpse into the countercultural foundations of our changing social fabric. I feel so fortified when reading Friedman’s deeply woven commentary on the early determined stands of so many of our post-war generation. This goes some small way towards alleviating the sense of shame brought on so many of us by the actions of the aging boomer leadership, which conspires to reverse so very much of what Friedman and her contemporaries achieved. Sad though many aspects of this book are the overall feel is one of positivity, a banner flown for the progressive spirit.

      This is quality writing that lets one breath in the winds of change that may have lost its acute direction, but whose influence is felt in so many aspects of the world today, including currently in hashtag metoo, in the wider struggles for social justice, human rights and for our basic freedom of speech. We have hopefully passed onto our children enough social conscience to bring down the new savage capitalism and currently growing fascist tendencies. This is a book about some of the ordinary voices in an extraordinary movement, in the chronicles of change. This read is an intimate look behind the placards and politics of a generation that once dared to march, not for themselves, but for a better world.

AMAZON LINK

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review 2018-07-10 19:16
Contemporary fiction meets supernatural thriller
Graveyard Shakes - Benchmark Publishing Group;Stephen Jay Jackson;Rina Alvarez;Lisa Crane;Scott-Laura Schoeggl;Jessica Friedman;Sara Lynn;Sarah Alston;Emily Ku;Paula Maxheim;Michelle Posey;Melissa Madden;Jorge Gonzalez;Terry B Bruno;Samuel Guss;Erin Johnson;G.E. Masana

Continuing the trend of reading books selected for the Summer Reading program, I read Graveyard Shakes by Laura Terry. The reader follows two very different storylines that at the outset have no correlation to one another. The first revolves around two sisters who have newly arrived at a boarding school and are struggling to come to terms with their change of environment. The second focuses on a little ghost and his friend Modie (I don't know either) who as best as I can tell is a reanimated corpse. So on the one hand we are rooted in reality with a situation that seems very familiar: wanting to fit in yet also wanting to be recognized as the individual that you are. On the other hand, the supernatural elements of ghosts and zombies are compacted with horror because the only way that Modie can stay 'alive' is to absorb the soul of a dead (i.e. murdered) child. Yes, this is a middle grade graphic novel. (It is at this point that I have essentially 'sold' this book to the reluctant child reader standing in front of me while the parent stares at me open mouthed.) The good parts: The illustrative style was excellent and I really enjoyed the character journey of Victoria, the older sister. The not so good: It was way more disturbing and graphic than I expected plus the ending was entirely too predictable after all of the narrative build-up. While I did thoroughly enjoy the illustrations, I don't know that I'll be rushing out to read Terry's next work (unless the cover draws me in again). I didn't overwhelmingly dislike this book but I also didn't love it with all of my heart and soul (get outta here, Modie!). The little guys and ghouls in your life that love a good ghost story will probably fall head-over-heels for this one. 5/10

 

An example from the inside. [Source: A Kids Book A Day]

 

What's Up Next: The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions by Russell Brand

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2018-06-29 15:48
All the world's a stage but thank goodness I'm not a Winged Monkey
Short - Holly Goldberg Sloan

One of the things I regretted last summer was that I wasn't more in touch with the books selected for the Summer Reading program. So I decided as soon as the list was given to us that I would read as many books as I could so that I'd be better prepared for recommending them to our patrons. This is why I picked up Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan. The story is told through the eyes of Lydia, an 11-year old girl, who is super sensitive about her height...until she is chosen to be a Munchkin and Winged Monkey in her town's production of The Wizard of Oz where it suddenly becomes an advantage. She discovers that her height is just a small (no pun intended) part of her. She makes friends with a fellow cast member named Olive who is herself a dwarf as well as an older neighbor named Mrs. Chang who turns out to have many years of experience with the theater and costume making. My favorite part about this book was the main character, Lydia, who was absolutely hysterical. 

 

An example from page 26-7 as she describes the director of the play she's performing in:

He is for sure older than my parents, who are old, because they are forty-two and forty-four. He might be super-super-super-old. Is he fifty-five? I have no idea.

Sloan totally gets the 'voice' of a child. They have zero concept of age (I've been told I'm 84 so I know from experience) and they also have zero reason to lie to you. Lydia is a well-rounded character who not only makes hilarious asides but also conveys depth of feeling.

 

When confronted with an awkward conversation about death:

My voice is small. I whisper, "Life is a cabaret." I don't even know what this means, but I heard Shawn Barr say it to Mrs. Chang a few days ago and they both laughed. It works, because she smiles. I'm guessing a cabaret is a kind of wine. I hope she'll have a tall glass. - pg 240

Overall, this was a delightful little read and I've been more than happy to recommend it to the children and parents at my library. If you're a fan of the theater or looking for a book full of heart (or both) well I think you've found your book match. ;-)

 

A/N: If you're triggered by repeated mentions of pet death then don't come near this book. It's not a spoiler to tell you this is a running theme throughout the book beginning in the first couple of pages. Grief is a large theme explored in this book but I didn't find it as compelling as the self-discovery/acceptance experienced by Lydia. 

 

There are 2 different covers for this one and honestly I like them both quite a bit.

 

Source: Barnes & Noble

 

 

What's Up Next: The Royal Rabbits of London by Santa & Simon Sebag Montefiore

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Madam President: An Open Letter to the Women Who Will Run the World by Jennifer Palmieri

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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