In polite conversation, the idea of dyeing nonviolent criminals bright colors and releasing them into society might not be met with raised...moreApril says:
In polite conversation, the idea of dyeing nonviolent criminals bright colors and releasing them into society might not be met with raised voices and ill-disguised disgust in one's political views. But this is the near-future America portrayed in "When She Woke" by Hilary Jordan. Because prisons are overflowing, it becomes acceptable to dye (to "chrome") the skin of those who committed nonviolent crimes and are not likely to repeat them again. America has swung so far to the right that a Secretary of Faith now sits on the President's Cabinet.
This is the life Hannah Payne has known: terrorist attacks, rabid religious conservatives, and chromed citizens. And the world is okay until she comes to find herself in a place where she is a Chrome, an outsider, a new level of second class citizen.
"When She Woke" is a haunting view of an American future not too hard to imagine. With strong characters and a convincing geography of the human soul, Jordan has created a solid representation of a new kind of Big Brother.
"When She Woke" is a page turner. Just as Jordan so beautifully wrote about the injustice and tragedies of racism in America in her last novel, Mudbound, she now artfully exposes the injustices and heartbreak caused by religious extremism that, as she demonstrates in "When She Woke", can arise from any rigid doctrine, even in heartland America.
I just finished reading this book, and I am amazed. It's topics are sooooo "right now":religious fundamentalism, women's rights, reproductive rights, the struggle to managecrime and the situation in prisons, the roll of technology in controlling people and theprivacy issues that go along with that. This book is going to create a STIR--I foresee protests and outrage countered by admiration and passionate defense of the sublime way all of these volatile elements are joined to create a love story as well as a page-turning thriller. The continued exploration of what it means to be "good", and themany roles God can take in people's lives, is brilliant. A great deal of philosophy, theology and social science are included in this book, but it doesn't seem preachy or didactic. It seems like, and IS, an amazing book that is impossible to put down.(less)
Victoria spent her whole childhood in the foster system, if you could call it a childhood. She is filled with guilt, mistrust and desires...moreJackie says:
Victoria spent her whole childhood in the foster system, if you could call it a childhood. She is filled with guilt, mistrust and desires only solitude when she "ages out" of the system. The one thing that she knows and loves is flowers, and the Victorian language that is based on them. She uses that knowledge to gain a job at a florist, who takes her under her wing and opens the world of possibilities that Victoria never had any access to before and still doesn't trust. Throughout the book we find this reluctant, damaged flower bloom into a woman with a family and a future. This is a wonderful, hopeful, intense read that really tugged at my heart. This is Diffenbaugh's debut novel, which makes it even more impressive. I urge all of you to read it, and I will be definitely eagerly waiting for more from this very talented writer (and foster mother, so she truly knows the foster system that she is describing in this book). (less)
I am soooooo in love with this book! Josh is an ex-drag queen and writer turned advertising maven, Brent is "Dr Brent" on The Martha Stewa...moreJackie says:
I am soooooo in love with this book! Josh is an ex-drag queen and writer turned advertising maven, Brent is "Dr Brent" on The Martha Stewart Show. They've been together for almost 10 years and seem to thrive on the big city lifestyle despite their 700 square foot apartment--until they take a wrong turn on a drive and discover The Beekman Mansion. It's HUGE, 200 years old and in need of a whole lot of work--but they want it. Dreams of leisurely weekends away from the city as gentlemen farmers dance merrily in their heads, so they take the plunge. Then Josh sneaks in a caretaker for the place that just happens to have a herd of goats. And, well, if they have goats now, they might as well have chickens. And a cow. And a garden. And then a bigger garden--MUCH bigger. Then a handmade Christmas project became a full on artisan soap company, and Beekman 1802 began--and grew...and grew...and grew. This is a wonderful tale of two Type A personalities taking on the bucolic life big city style, with some bonus ghosts and legions of zombie flies thrown into the mix. It's equal parts inspiring and exhausting, but you can't help but fall in love with these guys and the small town who has come to embrace them. The good news is they have a "docu-series" coming out in June 2010 on Discovery Channel's Planet Green called "The Fabulous Beekman Boys" so the laughs won't have to stop when the book cover closes.
Laura is in the sandwich generation--she's got two kids at home, a thriving nursing career, a loving husband, and a very difficult mother...moreJackie says:
Laura is in the sandwich generation--she's got two kids at home, a thriving nursing career, a loving husband, and a very difficult mother who shut down years ago when Laura's father died. When her mother has a massive stroke, Laura breaks her mother's long held demand for privacy by beginning to read to her the letters her father wrote to her mother years ago, describing their perfect love. Or at least that was always the story. As the letters unfold, a different tale of her parents lives and relationship emerges, and Laura finds she has more in common with her mother than she ever dreamed.(less)
This is a book about a writer's critique group made up of all levels of literati-- historians, popular fiction writers, biographers, poets...moreJackie says:
This is a book about a writer's critique group made up of all levels of literati-- historians, popular fiction writers, biographers, poets, all at various levels in their careers. It's a bit of a literary soap opera with former and current relationships among the members, secrets kept and ideas stolen. There are 7 characters, all well represented, and the story moves along at a brisk pace. I found it thoroughly entertaining.(less)
This is a little book, seemingly simple on its surface but deeply rich when you turn a closer eye to it. The surface is about Frank, a loc...moreJackie says:
This is a little book, seemingly simple on its surface but deeply rich when you turn a closer eye to it. The surface is about Frank, a local British newscaster for a regional news show, and his reactions to the death of his famous predecessor, the demolition of some buildings his father spent his life designing, the reality of his depressed mother in a nursing home, and moving his family from the country to the city. But the undercurrent of it all deals with, essentially, what we do with old things: old people, old buildings, old jobs, old mementos piled in the attic. This is a book about reinvention and demolition and what is involved in choosing one or the other. To borrow a term from across the pond, it's BRILLIANT.(less)
This is a powerhouse of a debut novel, and is certainly one of the "buzz" books this summer. And justifiably so. This is a masterful book...moreJackie says:
This is a powerhouse of a debut novel, and is certainly one of the "buzz" books this summer. And justifiably so. This is a masterful book of psychological suspense and a brilliant character study that is haunting in its extremes--a real summer page turner with some serious literary chops.
It's the story of Anne O'Sullivan, a 32 year old realtor who was abducted from an open house and held captive for over a year in a mountain cabin by a psychopath whom she only refers to as "The Freak", who wants his own family. There are moments of graphic violence, but the true horror comes from the constant and unpredictable possibility of it. The most interesting thing is that the story is told in a single voice--Anne's--as she tells her therapist about her confinement, her escape, and how she's adjusting, or not adjusting, now that she's "back". It's about the aftereffects of trauma as much as it is about the trauma itself. It's about what surviving does to a person, how it changes them, how to go back to an old life as a new person. It's utterly fascinating, and some of the points brought up by Anne in her sessions will linger with you for a long, long, long time. The last line of the book will break your heart--but do not cheat and read ahead--it's far better you end the book on that note. Trust me on this.(less)
This book has a broad range--from millionaire dot.com execs to literal tree huggers, book collectors and poetic references to food. It's a...moreJackie says:
This book has a broad range--from millionaire dot.com execs to literal tree huggers, book collectors and poetic references to food. It's about two sisters at its most basic, one a hugely successful workaholic, the other a drifting PhD candidate who just can't seem to settle down. And all the people they surround themselves with, willingly or unwillingly. Goodman is often compared with Jane Austen, and I can kind of see that with her deft complexity for weaving several disparate characters and times into one engrossing story. It is a love story on many different levels, as well as a "coming into one's own" kind of story that is very gratifying.
But I cannot say it better than a jacket-copy line from the ARC--this book is "about the substitutions we make when we can't find what we're looking for: reading cookbooks instead of cooking, speculating instead of creating, collecting instead of living." (less)
This is a laugh-out-loud treasure of a book that deals with the history and mystery of cheese in very layman terms. Eric and his wife Chuc...moreJackie says:
This is a laugh-out-loud treasure of a book that deals with the history and mystery of cheese in very layman terms. Eric and his wife Chuck ("pate to my rind" he says) are HUGE cheese fans. So, they decide to immerse themselves in it as much as they can on a very limited time and money budget. They do manage to go to an impressive number of places, including France twice (with hilarious results each time). This is a delightful read, which includes descriptions of complex cheeses such as "does not play well with others" or "this cheese was made to be consumed in a windy meadow", "tastes like what a milkmaids cheeks should", etc. Just about every page will have you laughing, yet this book teaches you a tremendous amount of information about cheese and will undoubtedly have you looking for the nearest local cheese monger to try some of them for yourselves!(less)
Rupert Brooke wanted to be the Great Lover. He was adored by women and men, but he seemed to love only the idea of love. Based on a true stor...moreJoe says:
Rupert Brooke wanted to be the Great Lover. He was adored by women and men, but he seemed to love only the idea of love. Based on a true story, pieced together from letters and stories, this novel is a delight to read. The action takes place in England, just prior to the Great War and captures a world that was about to end... the last vestiges of the British Empire. It took me a little bit to get into the language of the book, but by the time I got into it, I was hooked, and Jill Dawson didn't let me go until the end. Despite its setting, this is a thoroughly modern tale of the limits of love and lust.(less)
Just finished this one last night and I'm still trying to figure out what to say about it. First: Read it. It's so good. So freaking good! Lo...moreJoe says:
Just finished this one last night and I'm still trying to figure out what to say about it. First: Read it. It's so good. So freaking good! Loyal Ledford returns from fighting in the Pacific in World War II and doesn't see the world the same way he used to, and definitely not the way folks in West Virigina see things. Ledford sets about creating a place where black and white live and work together... something like a utopia, built around a marble factory. I'm not saying enough about why it's so good. The writing: compelling. Tight. Real. The characters: unforgettable. Real. Happy and sad and tragic and heartbreaking. It's like real-life, only better because it's so well-written. (less)
One of the surest signs that winter is over is a review copy of Claire Cook's new novel on my desk, because I've truly come to think that...moreJackie says:
One of the surest signs that winter is over is a review copy of Claire Cook's new novel on my desk, because I've truly come to think that summer would just not be summer without a new release from her. This one is coming out in June.
Seven Year Switch is another winner. Jill Murray had been living a man-free existence since her husband walked out on them when their daughter Anastasia was just a toddler. She cobbles together a living by doing telephone work for Great Girlfriend Getaways (who specialize in all women trips to exciting places) and teaching an "Around The World" cooking class while fitting in a bit of cultural coaching on the side (helping business people to learn cultural mores for business trips, etc). On the plus side, she's just met a great guy--the first to even make her consider dating again. On the minus side, her daughter is developing "pre-teen attitude" early. But the real problems start when Jill's husband turns back up in town.
As always, Claire populates her books with quirky characters and funny situations while delivering an important message. This is a fantastic summer, or any time, read!!!(less)
"Justin Cronin's "The Passage" is going to be the book of the summer. A story about the end of the world as we know it and the dawn of a worl...moreJoe says:
"Justin Cronin's "The Passage" is going to be the book of the summer. A story about the end of the world as we know it and the dawn of a world born on our refuse. Cronin does amazing things in this book...he juggles dozens of characters, and although you don't get close to all of them, I cared deeply for many of them. (Especially Alicia, who reminded me a lot of Starbuck (Cara Thrace) in the new Battlestar Gallactica...) Across this sprawling story, he manages to tie things up well in what was, for me, a very satisfying ending. (Although there will be a sequel, I did think it stood on its own.)
This is going to be a great book for the long days of summer. And don't let its size daunt you: the first 150 pages raced by and I read the last 500 pages in two days... I didn't want it to end, but couldn't slow myself down at all."
"This book is a modern day Frankenstein tale--literary science fiction on an epic scale. You may have heard that it is a vampire book, which is only vaguely true. This is more of an outbreak book, that involves a virus that can mutate people into a sort of vampire like creature, most often called "Virals" or "Smokes". It began as a very convert government project using death row prisoners, high up in the Colorado mountains. Except the monsters they created were far, far smarter than their inventors could ever have dreamed of. While the Virals are the constant threat, the real story lies in how the humans try to adapt to a rapidly changing world where they are an isolated minority and prey to the creations of "science". This book is reminiscent of Stephen King's "The Stand" in it's scope, diversity of slowly intertwining story lines, and bold look at humans in crisis, as well as an overlying mystical quality to it that waxes and wanes throughout the hundreds of pages of the book. This tale grips you hard and won't let you go. I was literally exhausted when I finished reading it because I lived every moment with those people--Cronin's story telling ability is mesmerizing."(less)
If you like crime drama and psychological suspense, don't miss this book. This is a magical onion kind of book--the surface is nothing lik...moreJackie says:
If you like crime drama and psychological suspense, don't miss this book. This is a magical onion kind of book--the surface is nothing like the center and there are hundreds of layers making it up. The complexity of the plot will take awhile to hit you, but when it does, you won't be able to put the book down. I literally finished the last 20 pages walking around my apartment because I was too exhausted to stay awake if I sat down but I HAD to see how things wrapped up. The premise: new mother Alice Fancourt leaves her two week old daughter for the first time for a quick outing, only to discover, when she gets home, that the baby in the crib is not hers. But she can't convince anyone else of that. Very British, very dark, very much full of surprises and very very much recommended by me!(less)
This book had me from the author's note, which begins, "This book was written because of a twelve-year-old girl named Aurora Esperanza." It...moreJackie says:
This book had me from the author's note, which begins, "This book was written because of a twelve-year-old girl named Aurora Esperanza." It seems that he, who was also 12 at the time, had said something terrible to her and then never saw her again, so was unable to apologize to her directly. He had to find a different way to apologize, and now, 25 years later, he has. In the form of this book. "I'm ready to dance with you, Aurora. This is my confession. I hope you understand why I need to say this here, to you, in this way: because a work of fiction is an excellent place for a confession."
Aurora is one of the many reoccurring characters in this collection of stories from different times through different eyes of the same neighborhood in East LA. This book is a fascinating patchwork of interwoven (whether they know it or not) lives and experiences that show what it is to be Mexican-American in LA (and perhaps anywhere). Skyhorse introduces us to characters who may only be a brief part of any given story but linger in the reader's mind long after the covers close on the book. This is a powerhouse debut novel that introduces us to a writer of rare skill--we WILL be hearing much more about him soon. (less)
Two book people, an editor and a former bookstore owner, married, in their 50s, decide to buy an old, historic house, renovate it, and mak...moreJackie says:
Two book people, an editor and a former bookstore owner, married, in their 50s, decide to buy an old, historic house, renovate it, and make it into a bed and breakfast. The dust, must, mistakes, the weird and wonderful neighbors, setbacks and triumphs are all there, as well as some seriously yummy recipes (at least one with a "her way" and a "his way" version)--what's not to love?(less)
Is this a likely story? No. But it is a very beautiful, very hopeful story. It's about a man who goes in search of a simple piece of his w...moreJackie says:
Is this a likely story? No. But it is a very beautiful, very hopeful story. It's about a man who goes in search of a simple piece of his wife's past--the antique cradle she herself was rocked in--that ends up changing the future for many, many people. It's about taking chances, getting second chances, and creating families in the most unlikely of ways. It begins as many stories, but ends as one. The smile you will have on your face as you finish the last page of this book is more than worth the price of spending an afternoon with this slim volume. (less)