Sunday, January 13, 2019

(4)The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

Weird things are happening at the local university in Santa Lora, California.  It all started with Rebecca, a student who stumbled home from a party and didn't wake up.  Soon other students in her dorm fall asleep and don't wake up.  One by one the students are leaving the dorm on stretchers and the local hospital is filling up.  Doctors are baffled, what is causing the students to sleep?   Soon it isn't just students being affected by this affliction.  Hundreds, thousands of people in this small community are asleep with no end in sight.  The hospital soon is closed to new patients and there are guards at the door.  And then there are guards at the exits of the city.   In one neighborhood the fear is real. Two young girls live with their father who works at the university as a janitor.  Their new neighbors are transplants from New York City with a newborn baby.  They all know that they are in the middle of a history-making epidemic when the nurse across the street commits suicide by leaving her gas oven on.  People are terrified.  Tanks are driving down the streets, helicopters are flying overhead.  The grocery stores are nearly empty and people believe that this could be the end.  Will they be able to find a cure before one small California town is completely overtaken by The Dreamers?

 There is nothing better than finding a well written apocalyptic novel.   The Dreamers doesn't go full-blown apocalyptic, but it is close. And that is good enough for me.  Karen Thompson Walker writes an absolutely perfect novel.   The chapters are short but more than adequate.  We get to meet various people throughout the crisis in Santa Lora.   We meet Mei, the roommate of "patient zero." She and Matt escape the gym where they are being quarantined to go on and help hundreds of people. Each of them carrying their own variety of guilt.   We also meet Ben and Annie, new parents who are desperate to do anything for their baby girl.  We also meet Catherine, the Psychiatrist who is called in to be sure that it isn't psychosomatic. And then there is Sarah and Libby.  Two pre-teen girls who grew up with a father who was always prepared for the collapse of society.  They don't know what to do when their own father falls ill.  All of these characters have incredibly compelling stories, but it is Sarah and Libby that really tug on the heartstrings.  As I always do when reading stories such as The Dreamers, I always wonder what I would do if I were a character in this story.   I think that I would self-quarantine and find a way to keep myself from the outside world.   All of this builds to a conclusion that seems natural and peaceful.  Which may seem like a weird word to use for this kind of book, but it did seem peaceful. 

Bottom Line - The Dreamers was perfect.  Simply perfect.  The characters are well developed, the writing is lyrical, and the story is engrossing.   One not to miss!


Thursday, January 10, 2019

(3)An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Make-up artist Jessica Farris is looking for a way to earn some extra money.  She has been helping her folks with her sister's bills and she is willing to answer a few questions on a Psychology Study to get that extra money.  She shows up and from the very first question, Jessica feels a little uncomfortable.  "Could you tell a lie without feeling guilt?"  The questions get increasingly more personal and Jessica feels increasingly uncomfortable.  Because she does have secrets.  But, the checks keep getting increasingly bigger. With each session, Jessica starts to learn a little bit more about the psychologist behind the questions.  Dr. Lydia Shields is mysterious, intelligent, and very beautiful.  Soon Dr. Shields hires Jessica to be part of a special study where she is asked to do unusual things for the name of "science."  Like, give free make-up sessions to women.  Or approach a man in a bar and try to seduce him.  The money is seductive and Jessica cannot refuse Dr. Shields.  Until she realizes that Dr. Shields has been keeping her own secrets.  Secrets that could harm Jessica.  Will she continue to allow Dr. Shields to manipulate her actions to keep the money coming in?

An Anonymous Girl is another thrilling psychological thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat.  Jessica is somewhat of a complex character.  She did something many years ago that had consequences that are still being realized.  I understand her desire to help her family, but I feel that the minute things started getting weird, she should have stopped "working" for Lydia.  Having said that, I can see where Jessica was seduced by the alluring Lydia Shields and her money.   She was smart and sophisticated and would hang on to every Jessica's every word.  The "secrets" that  Jessica discovered was a bit shocking, too.  It was the proof needed that Dr. Lydia Shields was just as crazy as her patients.  The way she used her "study" to manipulate Jessica and her husband was proof that she was mentally unstable.   The twisted relationship between Lydia and her husband was more than enough "psychological thriller" for this book, but there was more!  The end was a little shocking.  The one part - anyway.  The book had a satisfying, yet unexpected, conclusion. - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS. 

Bottom Line - An Anonymous Girl is a great psychological thriller to kick of the new year of reading.  You will find yourself hooked from page one and you won't be able to put it down until you get to the last page. 


Monday, January 7, 2019

(2.)The Library Book by Susan Orlean

The end of April 1986 lives in the minds of many for the Chernobyl disaster that happened on April 26th.  The meltdown monopolized the news for days, if not weeks.  And because everybody was in fear that it was the end of the world, many missed the news of the fire that destroyed more than a million books at the Los Angeles Public Library.   The arson inspectors believe they know who started the fire, but to this day, nobody has been punished for their actions.

Author Susan Orlean had thought that she was done with writing.  And then she took a tour of  Central Library, the main branch of the Los Angeles Public Library.   It was on this tour that she first heard about the fire of 1986. And she knew that she had to write about it.   The Library Book is part true crime novel, part love story.  The love story being between the author and her love affair with books and libraries.  She reminisces about her childhood visits to the library and she takes the reader on a descriptive tour of the Los Angeles Public Library as it stands now.   And there is so much more to the LAPL than just a place to check out books.   It is a place that people gather to research genealogy.  It is a place they call to get questions answered. It is one of the only libraries in the country where they can go to get a diploma.  Not just a GED certificate, but a diploma.  It is a place they go to use a computer.  And it is a place they go to learn how to speak and read English.  In fact, Chapter 17 speaks to the Literacy Center and the author interviewed a teacher and a tutor.  Both were names that I recognized from work. 

Susan Orlean weaves the history of the library, the details surrounding the fire, and present-day life at the library in alternating chapters.  Each chapter starts with a list of books, their authors, and their Dewey Decimal number.  And each title listed gives the reader a clue as to the topic of the chapter.   It was fun.  And I found myself trying to guess the chapter's outcome based on the titles.  And of course, there is the mystery that surrounds the crime itself.  It isn't "edge of your seat" kind of suspense, but it was engaging and tastefully woven into the rest of the book. 

Bottom Line - As a devoted bookworm, I absolutely loved The Library Book.  It brought up the memories of my own early days as a library patron.  It was nostalgia at it's best.  Definitely not one to be missed.


Saturday, January 5, 2019

(1.) The Ever After by Sarah Pekkanen

Josie and Frank Moore are like any other suburban married couple.  They get busy with the day to day life with two small girls. The day that Josie Moore's world shattered started out just like any other.  She and her husband, Frank, have made a quick stop at Starbucks when Josie asks to borrow his phone.  She discovers that he has been having an affair.  Now Josie is a fortysomething mother of two small girls whose husband cheated on her.   He swears that it never progressed past kissing, but how can she possibly ever trust what he says ever again?  Now Josie has a decision to make - does she end her marriage or does she try to fix her relationship with a man who betrayed her.   It is going to take a lot of introspection on Josie's part to make a decision that will impact her family for years to come.  What will she do?

The Ever After is a book about what happens after people say "I do."  Love isn't always "happily ever after."  The book is told from Josie's perspective, but it flashes back in time to give the reader insight into how Josie and Frank got "here."  I know the author was trying to give us a better perspective, but it just added to my dislike for Josie.  It was in those flashbacks that I realized that Josie wasn't exactly nice to her husband.   I know the pressures of raising children can take on a toll on a marriage, that is obvious with this book.  But where was the common courtesy?  I have been married nine years and I still make sure to say "please" and "thank you" when asking my husband to do something.  I don't demand it.   Now, of course, this is no reason to cheat on your spouse.  But it is easy to see where their marriage started to break down.  And it didn't just happen overnight.   I was okay with the way the book ended - it was real.  And honest, if not difficult. -- CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom Line - I guess you could say that The Ever After is a cautionary tale.  It happens to marriages all over the country when two people in love stop making each other a priority and take advantage of them, well, it puts their marriage in danger. 


Why I Read...

I remember the carefree summer days when I used to ride my bike to the public library to pick out new books. I would go almost daily to find books to read. I read to learn. I read to explore the world. I read to escape. I read because not reading is not an option.

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