The culminating book in the Last Survivors series, this one takes place 4 years after the moon's shift has caused cataclysmic devastation to the EarthThe culminating book in the Last Survivors series, this one takes place 4 years after the moon's shift has caused cataclysmic devastation to the Earth, resulting in millions of deaths. Our little group has relocated from Pennsylvania to Tennessee, where three of them are privileged to live in a protected enclave while the rest live just outside. And the two groups are emblematic of the Haves and Have-Nots in our own world. The Clavers get plenty of food, live in nice houses, and also live in fear of losing their status. The Grubs work long hours, must kowtow to the clavers, and are constantly on the verge of death. Jon lives in Sexton, the enclave, with his stepmother Lisa and her 3-year-old son Game. They have servants (grubs). Jon's after-school commitment is to play soccer, though he doesn't enjoy it, because his team is forced to win against grub teams that don't have time to practice, aren't well-fed, etc. And they must not only win, but annihilate the opposing team. Often after a match, the players go into the grub town to "party," and it is plain that they have a lot of leeway with no consequences, no matter what they destroy or how many girls they abuse. Jon's mother Laura, his sister Miranda, and her husband Alex live in grub town. They all have jobs -- in a greenhouse, teaching at the high school, and driving a bus. Jon is portrayed as a spoiled brat who doesn't appreciate what he has - in fact, he's tired of his privilege and feels guilty because of his family's sacrifice. And also guilty because he's in Sexton on the pass of his former girlfriend, Julie, who died -- and he blames himself for her death, too. There are a lot of teenage angst feelings going on in this book, which might help it appeal to the teen reader. And I was curious about how this might end. But this was not the strongest book in the series. ...more
The cover compared this to "Little Prince" or "The Alchemist." It had elements of "Eat Pray Love" too. Hector, a psychiatrist who is weary of treatingThe cover compared this to "Little Prince" or "The Alchemist." It had elements of "Eat Pray Love" too. Hector, a psychiatrist who is weary of treating well-off patients who most often don't seem satisfied with their lives, takes a trip to various countries asking people what makes them happy. He compiles their answers along with the lessons he himself observes in a little book, adding up to about 20 attributes of happiness, such as "Happiness is being with the people you love," and "...doing a job you love," and "...feeling useful to others." The sentence structure is elementary. One example: when referring to people having sex, he calls it "what people do with each other when they're in love." He never states the names of the countries or cities he's visiting other than China, but there are several clues that make it easy to guess. For example his own country is called "the place of More, as in everyone always wants More." (this is U.S.!)
A quick little read that is clever and satisfying....more
What a delight to re-enter the world of Harry Potter and friends! Just what I needed after slogging through a few "heavy lifters". The story was engagWhat a delight to re-enter the world of Harry Potter and friends! Just what I needed after slogging through a few "heavy lifters". The story was engaging and quick, but fit well into the logic and "traditions" of Rowling's septet. ...more
I absolutely loved the first book in this series. Of course, at that time I was reading a lot of YA literature with an eye on what to recommend to myI absolutely loved the first book in this series. Of course, at that time I was reading a lot of YA literature with an eye on what to recommend to my students, and *Life as we Knew It* was very popular. I picked this one up cuz I wanted to know how Miranda and family were holding out. And I admit that most of my interest in this book centered on plot, not on the character development nor the suspense. It was pretty dismal, in fact, and I just didn't care as much. So much to put up with. Every once in a while a gory detail about mass death to contend with. An occasional reprieve from the hunger and fear of running out of food. And the lack of privacy, loss of hope, loss of future --- all pretty depressing. I might keep reading, just to see what happens. But how could there be a happy ending to this planet-killing disaster? Maybe I would have reacted differently if I weren't already depressed about the state of our world and how D. Trump is going to kill OUR planet and country. ...more
*The Nightingale* was better written on a similar topic -- German occupation of a French small town during WWI. This one has the counterpoint chapters*The Nightingale* was better written on a similar topic -- German occupation of a French small town during WWI. This one has the counterpoint chapters taking place 60 years later in England, when a woman who has already suffered the death of her husband and the imminent loss of income and home decides to fight a court case to retain ownership of a painting that had been a wedding gift from her husband, but which may have been stolen from a French family by their German occupiers. ...more
This was the 3rd time I've read this book, this time for my book club, and I was thrilled to revisit it one more time. The first thing I noticed aboutThis was the 3rd time I've read this book, this time for my book club, and I was thrilled to revisit it one more time. The first thing I noticed about it was the writing -- I found myself turning over corners again and again as I found paragraphs or phrases or topics that I knew I'd want to share delightedly with my fellow book-clubbers. The characters, the details of their daily lives, the short story format which allowed dipping in and out of the book - all made this a wonderful reading experience.
Without giving too much away, this is the coming-of-age story of Corey, a 12-year-old boy in a small Alabama town in 1964. One day he joins his father on his early-morning milk delivery route, and towards the end they witness a car driving into a lake. When his father dives in to rescue the driver, he finds a dead man, strangled and handcuffed to the steering wheel. And then the car sinks into this deep, deep lake. The book takes us through the next year, as his dad is haunted not only by his inability to save the driver, but even more by the realization that evil has come to their small town. Meanwhile Corey is beset by the angst of pre-teen life --- school, bullies, baseball, friends, etc. as he witnesses the changes in his world. Some are caused by the times -- the Civil Rights efforts of the blacks in town, the push-back by others, including some in the Ku Klux Klan -- and some changes come as a result of Corey's growing awareness of the realities of life. His loss of innocence and growth in maturity are major themes, as we readers share in the poignant memories of our own growing up years. The magic that is referred to on the back cover is similar to that in Peter Pan --- if you believe, you make it true. Can the boys and their dogs truly fly over the town on their first day of summer vacation? Why, of course! And does Corey's bike (which he names Rocket) truly have an eye that looks out from the headlamp, and also has a mind of its own about where and how fast they ride when being pursued? Naturally! Didn't we all have these experiences in our own childhood? There is one chapter that was just too real and painful for me, but that one dose of reality was a small blip in an otherwise perfect portrayal of Corey's 12th year. In short, I LOVE this book!...more
**spoiler alert** Reasons I liked this book: * Racism is a vital topic for us to address in this country, and Picoult hauls out the names-from-the-new**spoiler alert** Reasons I liked this book: * Racism is a vital topic for us to address in this country, and Picoult hauls out the names-from-the-news (Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, and many others) to emphasize the relevance. * She explores the perspectives of "both sides" of the issue by making the three main characters representatives of their groups: the overt racist and white supremacist, the successful black woman who has followed the rules and tried to fit into the white person-dominated world, and the white lawyer who believes that she is not racist, but who learns (along with we readers) how racism pervades her white privilege. * Picoult is one of the authors I admire because she collects realistic memories (that evoke my own) and includes seemingly-small details about daily life and interactions that make her characters almost walk-off-the-page realistic. (Elizabeth Berg is another author who does this to perfection.) * So many minor characters add so much. Rachel aka Adisa (Ruth's sister) has chosen a different path, and her anger, her poverty, her children's actions, and her activism are in stark contrast to what we see of Ruth and her son Edison. Kennedy's mother, raised in the South, has opinions about blacks that she has grown up with, and yet she points out to Kennedy how far things have come. And when Ruth's mother dies, she extends the hand of understanding and empathy that is surprisingly kind. Christine, the rich girl from the family for whom Ruth's mother was the maid, escapes stereotyping - though she and Ruth go in separate directions after their shared childhood, she proves her true friendship at the end.
Reasons that kept me from rating this book with five stars: * too often Picoult veers into the melodramatic. She overemphasizes the emotionalism almost to the point of soap opera. Sometimes.
But in general, this is a great book club book because of the discussions it will encourage. I look forward to talking about it, and I think in general it has changed my perspective. ...more
**spoiler alert** If you wish to enter a world, read a book by Ms. Simonson. She embeds her reader deeply into the culture, geography, social attitude**spoiler alert** If you wish to enter a world, read a book by Ms. Simonson. She embeds her reader deeply into the culture, geography, social attitudes, and daily routines. This novel takes place during more-than-the-summer before World War I, in Sussex, England. And if you enjoyed Downton Abbey, you'll feel right at home in this portrayal of country life with decidedly stratified social statuses. There are the have's, the have-nots, and the outcasts, as well as those whose status meets with whispers and raised eyebrows. Beatrice, newly orphaned after years of accompanying her scholarly father as his secretary, organizer, and companion, is hired as the first female Latin master at the small country school (for boys only, of course), over the protestations of some members of the school's board of directors. Agatha Kent is one of a small coterie of influential women in this small town, and it is her support that brings Beatrice to town. The small skirmishes between Agatha and the other women-who-run-things, the lady Emily and the mayor's wife, Bettina Fethergill, are entertaining and enlightening. Beatrice, though she has been independent for years, must strain against the constrictions of society in that she no longer controls her money nor her living arrangements. Being a woman, there are "the niceties" to observe. She has ambitions as a writer and editor, but is basically patted on the head and told to let the REAL scholars (i.e. the men) handle that. We see prejudice in the attitudes towards the gypsies who come to work in the town every year, and towards a couple of women suffragists. There are other prejudices exposed when Daniel, one of Agatha's nephews, develops a close relationship with a school mate and fellow-artist --- that guy's father implies an impure relationship and tries to discredit and disgrace Daniel. A poor refugee Belgian girl is found to pregnant as a result of an assault by a German officer, and all of a sudden the girl is rushed out of town as a disgrace -- she isn't even allowed to continue to stay with Beatrice because that could ruin HER reputation --- even though the pregnancy wasn't a result of any misbehavior on the girl's part. It is most interesting to see how these social issues were handled back then, and I'm so glad at the progress we have made! All in all, read this if you like historical period pieces, good character development, and engaging stories. ...more
I hadn't read Russo's prequel to this book, "Nobody's Fool," but after reading an interview with Russo, we saw that there was a movie with Paul NewmanI hadn't read Russo's prequel to this book, "Nobody's Fool," but after reading an interview with Russo, we saw that there was a movie with Paul Newman, so we rented that and watched it. This book picks up about 10 years after its prequel, and though that one (at least in the movie) centered on the character of Sully (Sullivan), this one had several main characters, between whose point of view the narrative regularly shifted: Raynor, the chief of police; Rub, Sully's very-needy sidekick; Sully himself; Ruth, Sully's former lover and current cook and owner at the diner; and Roy, Ruth's abusive and in-and-out-of-prison former son-in-law. Other characters, most of them familiar from "Nobody's Fool," reappear here, most notably Sully's son Peter; Miss Beryl, Sully's former landlady; and Carl Roebuck, owner of Tip-Top Construction. Then we have some new characters: Charise, the dispatcher at the police station that Raynor may or may not have feelings for; Gus Moynihan, the former academic and current mayor of Bath, who has high hopes for raising the standard of life and the reputation of their sorry little town; and Jerome, Charise's twin brother, who may or may not be gunning for Raynor's job. Then there is Raynor's dead wife Becka, whom he still mourns even while he is haunted by the knowledge that she was leaving him when she fell down the stairs and broke his neck. And it torments him that he can't figure out who her new lover was that she was leaving him for.
The entire action of this book takes place over just three days --- which is almost unbelievable, because so much is jam-packed into those days. In one day alone Raynor faints into an open grave, is hit by lightning, and is faced with deadly poisonous exotic snakes. So that gives you a taste of the spirit of this book -- a very rich character study that twists, turns, and winds up in an extremely satisfying place --- for MOST of its characters. But definitely not all......
Another checkmark on the list of Daniel Silva books. Since this is #2 in the series, I had already met the title assassin in a later book, but it wasAnother checkmark on the list of Daniel Silva books. Since this is #2 in the series, I had already met the title assassin in a later book, but it was interesting to see this prequel to that encounter between Gabriel Allon and the English assassin. As always, world politics and economics relating to treatment of Jews was the main character, this time focusing on Switzerland and its complicity with Nazi Germany....more
This short little book allowed me to re-immerse myself into the world of literature. As in, English-major literature, which I was forced to read whileThis short little book allowed me to re-immerse myself into the world of literature. As in, English-major literature, which I was forced to read while getting my degree. And many people might think that Chaucer, Pepys, Shakespeare, Donne, et al might be boring and dry, but this book helped me to remember that those authors' works are deemed classics for a reason. A friend is in a book club that she says just reads tripe, pop fiction, etc., and she misses reading "good books." She would appreciate this book, because it reminds the reader that there are people who spend their leisure hours in the company of deep thoughts, good writing, and correspondence with friends. The book is made up of a series of letters between a book reader and collector in NYC and a book shop in London, England between about 1949 and 1969. There is humor, a bit of history, and a whole lot of personality. Loved it....more
I couldn't make it through this one. Kept trying, as I always TRY to read book club selections, but this was way too detailed without variation or stoI couldn't make it through this one. Kept trying, as I always TRY to read book club selections, but this was way too detailed without variation or story enough to keep my interest. I get it -- warlords, embedded journalists, blah blah blah. Does this make me a bad American to not care enough about what "our people" are going through overseas? I care, but there has got to be a better way of learning about it....more
I loved the premise of this book, and I hoped that it would inspire in me the desire to travel and to read. Unfortunately, I was disappointed (initialI loved the premise of this book, and I hoped that it would inspire in me the desire to travel and to read. Unfortunately, I was disappointed (initially) in some of the writing elements that distracted me from what I DID like about it. The thought that someone could intuitively know what book would help another person out in some life crisis was appealing. The reality of that person's level of despair, depression, and withdrawal from the world was a disappointment. Perdu, the owner of the bookshop-on-water, lives in an apartment building, and though he knows most of what goes on among the other inhabitants, he interacts with none of them, and he leads a quiet, simple life of solitude in his mostly unfurnished room, eating little, and exercising extensively. When approached by a neighbor to supply some furniture for a new neighbor, a woman who has been abandoned by her husband, Perdu enters a room that he had blocked off for 20 years, and the memories start to enlighten us about the cause of his isolation and depression -- a woman, Manon, who had left him suddenly and without explanation.
The woman neighbor with whom he has shared a table (and with whom he felt an immediate bond, and even shared an attempted fling) finds a letter from Manon in the table drawer which explains that she was dying and didn't want to subject him to that pain --- but if he finds this letter, he should follow her to her home to be with her as she dies. This revelation -- that the woman for whom he has pined for 20 years is dead -- is too much for Perdu, and he disembarks on his floating bookshop down the rivers of France. A last-minute arrival accompanies him on his journey -- an author, Jordan, who is besieged by avid fans but feels inadequate because he can't come up with a second book to match the quality of his first one. Their river journey suggests to me a sort of Huck Finn and Jim epistolary adventure, as they discuss philosophies, problems, and eventually their own personal stories. Perdu takes Jordan under his protection and comes to see him as a son. Along the way they meet others -- this also imitates parts of Huckleberry Finn -- and some characters even spend time on the boat with them. All along Perdu is constantly revisiting and remembering his old love affair with Manon.
I think what bothered me was the preposterous setup for Perdu's mourning. WHY on earth didn't Manon just leave the letter on top of the table instead of hiding it in the drawer? Why did she leave (to spare him pain) if she really wanted him to be there with her as she died? And for someone who was ostensibly so connected to feelings and was able to intuit the needs of total strangers, Perdu was amazingly dense about his own emotional needs. The fact that it took him weeks of boating down a river, weeks of working in a small seaside town on the Mediterranean, cleansing himself of the pain with daily swims, and then finally getting to Manon's home and meeting her husband and daughter was too soap-opera-ish for me. But I did love the language, and the images of river travel were appealing.
In summary, nice idea, but just-okay for a rating....more
When I get frustrated with my current book club selection, it's nice to have a "relaxing", "fun", "thoughtless" book to fall back on. Silva thrillersWhen I get frustrated with my current book club selection, it's nice to have a "relaxing", "fun", "thoughtless" book to fall back on. Silva thrillers are not all that relaxing or thoughtless, but they don't require much of me other than the ability to quickly turn pages and hold my breath during the more suspenseful parts. I do like how he ties the various entries in the series together with common elements and characters, to build the readers' understanding of the main character and of the issues he holds up to our attention (Switzerland and the Catholic church during and after WWII, the plight of Israel in Middle East affairs, etc.) This entry involves also a Mafia don on Corsica, the probability of spies living among us, and the influence of big business on government decisions. ...more
Though it took me longer than is reasonable to finish this book, I found several discuss-able tidbits in it, and found myself listening to the readingThough it took me longer than is reasonable to finish this book, I found several discuss-able tidbits in it, and found myself listening to the readings at church with a new ear, one that has been a bit more educated about the "life and times" of Jesus. I hadn't done much reading about the historical Jesus, and so was very interested to hear how his ministry fit into the bigger picture of evangelists and "messiahs" who traveled around that region. And into the political struggles which read a bit like "Game of Thrones," with all the warring, slaughters, and conquerings. I am intrigued enough to read more on this topic. Any suggestions?...more