Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

The release date of Sarah Addison Allen's newest book, Lost Lake , is only three weeks away and I can tell you that it does not disappoint.  Thank you Goodreads for the Advance Readers' Edition.  Even if I hadn't won this book, I would have bought it right away.  If you haven't had the pleasure of an introduction to Ms. Allen's work, now is the time to change that.  Her characters are rich and filled with magic.  These books may just be the thing to help you through the post holiday doldrums.
Lost Lake  follows Kate, a newly widowed mother of a young daughter as she tries to find herself after a year of mourning.  She takes her daughter Devin to visit the lake resort of her Great-Aunt Eby whom she has not seen since she was a child herself.  It is here that Kate fully wakes up to the world around her, Eby realizes how important she still is to the people in her small town and in her newly reunited family, and Devin discovers a magic alligator intent upon saving them all.
I loved the flashbacks to Eby's 1962 honeymoon in Paris and how in love she and her husband George were.  "He could have had his pick of beautiful belles....But he'd loved only Eby.  You didn't need a mirror to tell you that you were beautiful when you had proof like that."  Kate doesn't have the same feelings regarding her young marriage, but she is still heartbroken at its loss.  Devin is a free-spirited child with her own sense of style.  "She loved wearing stripes with polka dots, and tutus, and pink and green socks with orange patent-leather shoes.  Devin could[n't] care less what people thought about her."
And as in any family, there is drama and conflict.  Kate's mother-in-law, Cricket, swoops in to take over after the death of her son.  She has very specific plans for Kate and Devin and those plans certainly don't include tutus or dress up clothes or butterfly wings.  She orchestrates the sale of the business that Kate had run with her husband as well as the house Kate had inherited from her mother so that Kate and Devin can move in with her.  Eby's extended honeymoon was seen as an escape as she and George tried to avoid Eby's family's feelings of entitlement to George's money.  When they must finally return home, it is not to the welcome she had imagined.
I always enjoy reading books by Sarah Addison Allen and I eagerly anticipate each release.  This is the first book that she has published after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011.  Her readers are certainly grateful to have her back.  I will leave you with this one last quote from which I think we can all learn:
"The trick to getting through life, she'd told him, is not to hate it when it isn't exactly how you think it should be."  

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altenbrando

This book, Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altenbrando, came to me via NetGalley.  It is currently available as a free Kindle book in preview from Amazon here.  You really can't beat a free book, can you?  While I am not exactly as a 35-year-old mother of two the intended audience for this book, I really did like it.  It was a quick read and I found the characters likable and realistic.  Elizabeth, or EB as she is called, and Lauren are strangers living on opposite coasts and have been notified that they will be roommates when they head for their freshman year at Berkley.  EB emails Lauren in an attempt to get to know her new "roomie" before the big day in two months time.  The emails continue and they learn a great deal about one another. 
This is not just a book of emails between two girls, it is a novel exploring the difficulties of change, especially those facing a newly adult young woman leaving home for the first time.  The authors take the reader through the full gamut of emotions- wanting to leave while wanting to stay, breakups with boyfriends and best friends, beginning a new life without being sure about the old one.  The book also explores the choices these young women make.  To drink at a party or not?  To have sex or to wait?  These are situations common in Young Adult literature and in young adult lives, but in Roomies these topics are not approached too lightly or with too much judgment.  Not everyone drinks and not everyone has sex and the characters each have lots of reasons for their decisions.  I would recommend this book to an older high school student or even to another mom like me who might be interested in reminiscing about her college days.  It was fun and I enjoyed it.  I hope you will, too.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

It is hard to believe the statement that truth is stranger than fiction, but in Jenny Lawson's memoir, Let's Pretend This Never Happened  the truth is stranger and much more hilarious.  I am not exaggerating when I say that by the end of the introduction, my abs had already had a serious workout.  I really was sore the next day.  And I think I drove my husband a little crazy with the very noisy outbursts of laughter.  Seriously- a "dear sweater"?  I cannot even imagine.  Honestly, this is exactly what I needed after my last, very disappointing read. 
I loved the rambley (it's a word, I just made it one), convoluted nature of this book.  While it is essentially a collection of blog posts, the reader feels like she is having lunch with a friend- an unbelievable funny, slightly off-center friend that she might be nervous about introducing to other friends and certainly her children, but a friend none the less.  See look!  The rambliness (you're liking my new word, aren't you?) is contagious!  To tell the truth, I did find that a few of the emails I wrote while I was reading this book did tend to take on Lawson's voice a tiny bit.  I also love that on the very first page, Lawson acknowledges that she is sure to offend everyone with something in her book and she apologizes for it right away.  She is a little crass and the language may be offensive to some (I'm wondering if anyone has counted the number of times she uses the F-word in this book because I'm guessing it just may top four digits), but if you can get past all that you are going to love this book.
Lawson begins with her childhood in West Texas and what her family life was like.  She then takes us through meeting her husband and then into their life as a married couple and later as parents.  She shies away from nothing, the good, the bad, the ugly, and the crazy.  Lawson suffered multiple miscarriages and takes her readers through that difficult time.  She also struggles with anxiety and while making clear that mental illness is a serious issue, she presents it with humor. 
I really do recommend this book, especially if you don't mind a little crazy mixed in with your over-the-top hysterical.  At our book club meeting, one member read one chapter aloud because it was her favorite and she was nearly unintelligible because she was laughing so hard.  We decided that the whole book would be amazing as an adult read-aloud book.  Get a group of girls together (enjoy some adult beverages if that's your thing) and take turns reading it to each other.  Everyone's laughter makes it so much better.  You can also follow Jenny Lawson's blog here which is amazingly funny and how I was initially introduced to her.  And you can follow her on Pinterest.  You know that is going to be unlike any other board you follow!