Monday, August 14, 2017

What Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross

I love a story in which all of the characters are sympathetic, including the villain. This is a sign of a well-written story with thoroughly developed characters. Everyone has motivations for why they do what they do. Everyone feels justified in their actions. If they didn't think they had a good enough reason, they wouldn't do it. In Helen Klein Ross's What Was Mine, every one of the characters has a perspective I can understand.

Lucy Wakefield is desperate for a baby, but infertility treatments have left her disappointed and broke. The heartbreak has also led to the dissolution of her marriage. After months of depression, Lucy determines to move on with her life and devote herself to her work. When a chance encounter with what appears to be an abandoned baby leads Lucy to become a kidnapper, her entire life changes direction dramatically. Over two decades later, we watch as Lucy's lies crumble. Through flashbacks and perspective shifts, we see how many people are affected by Lucy's reprehensible crime. We also become acquainted with Mia, the baby who is now twenty-one years old. When the truth comes to light, how will this young woman react to the person she has trusted most in the world?

I was reluctant to read this book because it just didn't sound like something I would enjoy. I thought it sounded fluffy and dramatic and a bit boring. I was wrong. Though we know from the very beginning that Lucy is caught, it somehow still reads like  a mystery. The pages turned and turned as if under their own power and I read most of this novel in just a weekend. As a mother, I thought I knew how I would feel about this book. Again, I was wrong. It was wonderful and I can't wait for you to read it.

What I've Heard- A Wrinkle in Time

When I was in elementary school A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle was my favorite book. I loved the fantasy. I loved the math and science. I loved the stubborn protagonist. I have since read the book many times and I just finished listening to the audiobook. Read by the author, we get to hear this story the way it was intended to be told. Every emphasis is exactly where she intended it. We get to know the characters as she created them.

I am so excited for the film version to be released in March. The trailer makes it look wonderful. This is going to be our next family read-out-loud book. If you haven't yet read this fantastic children's classic, do yourself a favor and don't put it off any longer.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

What I've Heard- Austenland

I read Austenland for the first time five years ago and loved it. I have since reread it and also listened to the audiobook a few times. Have you ever had the experience of revisiting a book you liked and finding it not how you remembered? I certainly have and it can be so disappointing. Having just finished listening to Austenland again, I am so happy to say I still like it. This book is quirky and silly and fun. If you haven't read or listened to this book yet, get to it quick. What a lovely way to end summer vacation!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Girling Up by Mayim Bialik, PhD

From the moment I watched a young Mayim Bialik perform in Beaches, I liked her. I watched Blossom, but I don't really remember that much about it. I like her in The Big Bang Theory, but how I really became a fan is reading her website Grok Nation (grok means to understand something intuitively or by empathy) and her Facebook posts. Bialik isn't just an actor with things to say, though she is that, she is also an actual scientist. She earned her PhD from UCLA in Neuroscience and has taught science to elementary, middle school and high school students. In Girling Up, Bialik discusses the process of changing from a girl to a young woman and progressing into womanhood. This book contains six chapters:

How Our Bodies Work
How We Grow
How We Learn
How We Love
How We Cope
How We Matter

In these chapters, Bialik addresses the physical changes young women can expect to experience along with the variations in timing of those changes. She explains genetics- the differences in female and male- and how those genes determine how and when our bodies will react to puberty. She explains that everyone's body is different and will develop differently. This book contains diagrams that show the inner workings of the female reproductive system, but also, to satisfy curiosity of differences, a basic diagram of the male reproductive organs. She also explains menstruation in an easy to understand, practical manner. I especially appreciated this quote regarding the need to know one's own body:

Often the first person to know that something's not quite right with your body is you- so pay attention, and if something seems different or feels wrong, you can talk to a doctor or trusted grown-up about it.

I was irked, however, that at one point she made this statement:

The lower half of the female body looks pretty simple from the outside. That's because all you see is the vagina...

For a book that is so full of scientific information, this inaccuracy bothered me. What we see on the outside of our bodies is the vulva, not the vagina. The vagina is internal.

She discusses stereotypes often assigned to boys and girls and how sometimes those stereotypes are true and sometimes they aren't and how important it is to be who we are.

There is a bit of information about dating and sex in chapter four. It does not go into any detail that could be considered sensational, but you should of course read it for yourself and discuss it with your daughter in a way that makes your family comfortable. I thought it was all good information and that it could lead to some very good conversations. Especially important in this chapter is the topic of consent. Bialik does an excellent job of explaining this concept and its necessity.

Also included are the importance of nutrition (and the concerns of body image and eating disorders); stress and effective ways to cope; the significance of a good education; and mental health. Chapter six focuses on how girls can make a difference in the world through all of our choices after high school including military service, college, trade school, and volunteer service.She even lists several good causes that can use our help before we finish Girling Up.

I really liked this book. It had a flaw or two, but I thought it would make a very good read for a preteen girl. I do recommend reading it yourself and then sharing and discussing it. This will only make it better.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick

In Matthew Quick's Every Exquisite Thing, we meet Nanette, a junior in high school who has just been introduced by her favorite teacher to a life-changing book. This book is out of print, and has been almost since it was first published decades earlier. Nanette is eventually able to meet the author of this book, a man with the unlikely name of Booker, and become friends with him. When she presses him for more details about the book, answers to questions about the ending (who among us hasn't wanted to do the same?), he explains that he simply can't tell her.

"We can't know for sure."
"The story ends."
"But you could write more."
"No, I can't. There's no more to write."
"Just the way it is. The story ends where it ends."

I think we can all understand Nanette's frustration.

Besides obscure poets and her own independence, Booker also introduces Nanette to Alex, a boy angry at the bullies of the world and determined to defeat them. Nanette struggles to know what she should do with her life as high school graduation approaches. Should she be and do what she likes or what makes everyone around her comfortable and happy? And what exactly is it that she likes?

This book is full of teenage angst about how we become whom we are meant to be. It was a really good book, but I can't precisely say that I liked it, but I think maybe I did. This is exactly the kind of book that I can see developing a following. High school students will love it, especially if they aren't overly concerned with being like everyone else. This book was sad and thought-provoking and I think the dramatic teenaged me would really have found a lot of meaning in it. I think I would have read it multiple times and I think it might have prompted me to question what I wanted in life and the direction I wanted it to take. I think that would have been a good thing.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown

The facts are simple: Billie went backpacking by herself along the Pacific Crest Trail in Desolation Wilderness. She never came back down the mountain.

I finished Janelle Brown's Watch Me Disappear a week ago, but I needed a little time to marinate on the story before I could review it. This was an emotional novel that follows the people left behind when someone simply disappears. It has been a year since Billie, wife of Jonathan and mother of 15-year-old Olive, failed to return from a solo hike in the wilderness.After an extensive search, the discovery of a few of her belongings in unfavorable conditions and under the recommendation of the authorities, Jonathan and Olive are forced to accept that Billie has died. They are heartbroken, Jonathan is falling apart, Olive is struggling in school. And then the question arises: did Billie really die in alone in the middle of nowhere, or is something else possible?

Even now, a year later, Jonathan is plagued by the question of how long it had taken his wife to die. What if she had lain there for days, somewhere under the ponderosa pines, hurt and helpless, hearing the search helicopters overhead but incapable of summoning them?

With numerous flash backs, this is not simply the story of a missing woman, but of a marriage, how it began and how it progressed over the years. How much do we really know about our partner? It is about the relationship between a mother and her child and how that relationship transforms over the years by necessity.

You don't realize how much you'll miss the asphyxiating intimacy of early parenthood until you can finally breathe again.

This book kept me guessing the whole way through it. Each time I decided I knew how it was going to go, I learned I was wrong. It is the definition of dark and twisty. And when I was finished, I was exhausted. I think that speaks well for a book. Emotional exhaustion means there was emotional investment and what more can an author hope to ask of her readers?

I highly recommend this book, but if you need to talk when you're finished I'm here and I'm dying to discuss it!

Friday, August 4, 2017

What I've Heard - The Handmaid's Tale

I read The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood three years ago and I had a very emotional experience with it. I also recently watched the first season of the Hulu series and that was quite emotional as well. Knowing I would be watching the series, I wanted to review the source material and listening to the audio book was a very easy way to do it.

Claire Danes reads and her voice somehow sounds exactly like I would imagine Offred's voice to sound. Occasionally when I begin an audio book, I have to adjust to the sound of the reader. I've even refused to listen to some audio books because the reader sounds so little like I imagine the character to sound that I can't reconcile the two. In this case, Danes sounded exactly like Offred from the very beginning, to me.

I had forgotten the way this book ends, with the presentation of the "tale" at a conference. I really enjoyed that perspective on the story. I enjoyed this book and I can't wait to see what the Hulu series does to continue with the world Atwood has created.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Falling into Place by Amy Zhang

Liz Emerson is a terrible person. Absolutely awful.

In Amy Zhang's Falling into Place, Liz has decided that she has made enough of a mess of this world and it's time for her to go. As she meticulously plans her suicide, she has three rules:

First, it would be an accident. Or it would look like one.
Second, she would do it in a month. Well, three weeks.
And three, she would do it somewhere far away. She wanted a stranger to find her body, so no one she loved would see her broken.

Liz is a seventeen-year-old junior and one of the most popular girls at school. She has spent years cultivating her popularity and achieving it through any means necessary. The list running through her mind of all the people's lives she has ruined to secure her popularity, to maintain it, or just because she could is painfully long. It's painful even to Liz. She hates what she has become, what she has done to the people around her, even the people she loves and never meant to hurt.

Some nights, Liz looked back and counted the bodies, all those lives she had ruined simply by existing. So she chose to stop existing.

She hated what she was and didn't know how to change.

Liz is desperate. She knows she is an awful person, but she doesn't seem to know how to fix what she has done. She feels that the world will be a better place without her in it. What she doesn't know is how differently the people around her feel. Certainly, the hospital waiting area is filled with drama-seeking classmates who aren't really her friends, but her two closest friends, her mother, and a boy she ruined freshman year are also there praying she will survive.

I really liked this book. It was a very quick read and it kept my interest. Two of the most interesting aspects of this book are the time line and the narrator. The time line jumped around quite a bit- it begins on the day of Liz's suicide, but then it bounces between counting down a few months before, a few days before, and a few minutes before the crash. None of it is in order and I felt like that added to the intensity. We learn about Liz and why she is doing what she is doing bits at a time. If it were all laid out chronologically I don't think it would have been as interesting.

Adding to the intrigue is the question of who is telling us this story? It is someone who has been with Liz her whole life, someone who has seen her at her most vulnerable, someone who knows Liz better, possibly, than she knows herself. This may be my favorite narration technique. I was confused at first, but when it dawned on me, I loved it.

I can see how some readers may be concerned that this book excuses, or-more frighteningly- encourages, the use of suicide to atone for the horrible things someone has done. I don't see that. When I read this book, I see that the people around Liz are affected by her decision in ways she doesn't foresee. I see a distressed young woman who doesn't recognize all the options before her. She need help, but she doesn't know how to ask for it. I think when readers join Liz on her journey, those options are more obvious to them than they are to the main character. I think this book gives insight into the life of someone who needs to speak up and maybe by reading this book, it will help the reader speak up, to seek help.

If you or someone you know needs help, please speak up. If you don't know who to ask or you don't know what to say, please know that there are people who want to help you.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Crisis Text Line
text LISTEN to 741-741

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

In The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick, Arthur Pepper is a lonely, nearly 70-year-old widower of one year. He is stuck in his routines, wearing the same kind of clothes every day, eating the same kind of breakfast at the same time every day. He finally decides it is time to sort through his wife's belongings and find the right place to donate them. Perhaps a cat charity? When Arthur stumbles upon a charm bracelet he has never seen, he becomes curious about the life his wife lead before they married. This curiosity leads him on a journey to discover not only his wife, but also himself. He questions his routines and why he does the things he does. Why does he continue to wear clothes he doesn't like? And how did he allow so much distance to grow between himself and his grown children? When he finally allows himself to ask the questions, he is surprised by the answers.

This was a sweet book and I was just as curious as Arthur when he began his journey. I would say that the first 75% of this book was very interesting, but the climax and last few chapters left me wondering what happened with the writing. It seemed to wrap up quickly and the feel of the story changed. By the last few pages I felt this had been corrected and was left with a satisfactory ending. This was a quick read with lovely characters, some of whom I would have liked to get to know better. Overall, this was a nice book, perhaps good for a little light summer reading.

Monday, July 17, 2017

What I've Seen- The Handmaid's Tale

Nearly three years ago I read The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. I liked it, I was horrified by it, I wasn't sure how I felt about it. Today I finished watching Season One of the Hulu version of this book and I now know how I feel about it. I love it. And I'm still horrified. Starring Elizabeth Moss, we watch as women are subjugated to positions of singular purpose- wife, maid, child bearer. Women no longer have the right to own property, work, read, write or make decisions about their own bodies. This is all under the control of a new theocratic government that has displaced the previous rule of law.

Fertile women are rounded up to become handmaids for infertile couples. After severe training that requires absolute humility and meekness, they are sent to live in households with the hopes of countering the drastically reduced fertility rate.

This show is so hard to watch. I admit to covering my eyes and peeking through my fingers at least once per episode. When the introduction from Hulu warns that it is for "Mature Audiences Only" they are not kidding. Don't even have this on while your children might accidentally walk through the room. Beyond the scenes that you don't want children to see is the repellent subject matter. A government that refuses women any rights at all, that kills any objector or anyone the government deems sinful, that holds absolute power is something to fear. I found myself wondering how possible this actually could be. Could a rogue group stage a coup that could actually overturn the American government? What would be necessary to enslave a entire gender? Wouldn't there be places to hide and how long would the resistance last? How would people fight back?

Margaret Atwood, who makes a cameo appearance in Episode One, was heavily involved in the screenwriting and production process. The show has so many more details than the book and explores story lines that were not pursued in the novel and it is comforting to know this was all done with the author's approval. If you haven't read this book yet, it is time. And then you need to watch this show. Don't watch first- read first.

And then wait with me on pins and needles for Season Two!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Working through the tall stack of books on my bedside table, I finally made it to The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. With alternating view points and timelines, one featuring Molly set in 2011 and another a little girl with an ever-changing name starting in 1929, the reader experiences the life of two different orphans. Molly has been shuttled between foster homes since she was nine and has recently gotten into some legal trouble. The other little girl, named Niamh (pronounced Neeve), then Dorothy, then Vivian, loses her entire family in a fire. As new immigrants from Ireland, there is no other family to take her in and so steps in the Children's Aid Society. Their solution is to ship train loads of children to the midwest, placing them with any family that will take them. While well-intended, I'm sure, this didn't always lead to happy lives for these children.

As these two orphans with widely different ages come together they each find someone who understands the other's experience and perspective, someone to whom they can finally tell their stories. These words spoken by one accurately describe the other, no matter than they were spoken decades apart:

I feel myself retreating to someplace deep inside. It is a pitiful kind of childhood, to know that no one loves you or is taking care of you, to always be on the outside looking in. I feel a decade older than my years. I know too much; I have seen people at their worst, at their most desperate and selfish, and this knowledge makes me wary. So I am learning to pretend, to smile and nod, to display empathy I do not feel. I am learning to pass, to look like everyone else, even though I feel broken inside.

This heartbreak is woven throughout the whole book making the reader wish she could reach out and help these girls.I find it so difficult to understand the cruelty in this world and how anyone can treat another person so poorly. And yet, the story of orphan trains is real. This was all based on actual events and the author includes references in the back of the book.

I enjoyed reading this book, even if it did make me sad. The only complaint I had was that the ending felt rushed. The story progresses at a moderately slow pace when suddenly in the last twenty pages or so, it is all wrapped up and put away. Not everything is resolved and much is just skipped over. An open ending provides the opportunity for the reader to come to her own conclusions, but it is also a bit unsatisfying. Still, I liked it and would recommend it.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

What I've Heard- Furiously Happy

Back in March, I read Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson and I really enjoyed it. I happened to be laid up on the couch and it was the perfect distraction. It is funny and sad and encouraging and just what I needed at the time. This week I listened to the audio version and just like her audio version of Let's Pretend This Never Happened, it was read by the author. I really think that makes all the difference in an audio book- the author understands his or her intention so much better than a random professional reader and this is, in my opinion, especially important with a memoir.

I love Jenny Lawson. I love her humor and I love her ability to be candid about her mental illness. (What was that I was just saying about mental illness being a running theme in my books lately?) She doesn't mind admitting that she struggles and she is open about the ways she deals with her illness.

Jenny knows what it is to fight off her own demons and she knows that some days are harder than others.

There is plenty of absurdity in this book (killer possums in the pool, murderous swans by the pond) and it perfectly lightens the darker, more serious moments.

Jenny talks a lot about her mental illness and about how she works to protect herself from herself. She explains her experiences and she attempts to help people who don't suffer from mental illness understand how hard it can be.

 She says a lot about the medication she takes and the hours she spends in therapy. She encourages her readers to remember that "depression lies" and to reach out for help when they need it.

This is a wonderful book. It goes a little off the rails at times, but don't we all? I loved listening to this book. I would love to meet Jenny some day. She doesn't do a lot of appearances, but maybe someday I'll get lucky. Until then, here is my new goal in life. I hope you'll make it yours, too.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland by Rebekah Crane

Zander isn't your average "at risk" sixteen-years-old girl. She gets straight As in school, has a boyfriend, speaks fluent French, and until one recent slip-up was a star swimmer on her swim team. Zander's parents are frustrated that she seems content to live in her own head, sometimes disappearing into herself for hours at a time. Their solution is to send her to a 10-week summer camp hundreds of miles from home. At this camp, Zander thinks she doesn't quite fit in- these are the kind of "at-risk teens" with real mental problems- depression, eating disorders, cutting, possible future schizophrenia. This can't possibly be the place for her. The camp motto is "The only way to be found is to admit we're lost." Zander doesn't feel lost. She knows where she is and where she wants to be: nowhere.

I really felt like the title of this book was misleading and that was likely due to a publisher (or someone down the production line) hoping a love story would interest more YA readers than anything else. I think this is an underestimation of readers in general and YA readers specifically. This book did involve a budding romance, but what this book was really about was Zander struggling to face the world and the unexpected friendship she gains in the process. Do publishers think that all girls care about is if the main character gets the boy? Romance, true love (at sixteen!), the possibility of a teen love scene. Give readers more credit that there is more in life, and in the lives of their readers, than boys. Maybe they felt like a book blatantly about mental illness wouldn't attract readers and it would be better to sneak it into what they thought was a Contemporary Romance. I liked this book, but that disappointed me.

On another note, what do you think it says that the last 3 out of 5 books that I've read have contained a theme of mental illness? I didn't even know that's where some of them were headed, so it isn't as if I had sought them out on that basis. Is the book universe trying to tell me something? If I answer back does that mean I'm definitely crazy? Surely not, right? Right?? Eh, I'll just enjoy the ride either way.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

What I've Heard- The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

Last year I read and LOVED The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald. This week I listened to the audio version and I really enjoyed it as well. The main narrator, Fiona Hardingham, speaks with a British accent but switches to a Swedish accent when voicing Sara who is from Sweden. I enjoyed these two alternating voices, but I was less enamored with the accent of the people living in the small town of Broken Wheel, Iowa. It was hard to tell if this was due to the narrator's own accent or if perhaps this is what people from small town Iowa sound like. Either way it was a very small detraction from an otherwise extremely enjoyable listen. If you still haven't read this book, don't wait any longer. It is just lovely. 

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

Oh, my! I just finished reading Made You Up by Francesca Zappia and I had to rush over here to tell you about it. I heard about this book a while ago and snatched it up when I saw it at the library. Made You Up is about Alex, a teenage paranoid schizophrenic attempting her final year of high school at a new school. Alex doesn't always know what is real, but she does her best. She meets knew people and even makes a few friends (and a few enemies) all while trying to keep her mental illness a secret. When she suspects one of the boys in several of her classes is the same boy she met when she was seven and her symptoms first began, she worries that her condition is worsening.

This was a heck of a book. Alex is the ideal unreliable narrator. The reader knows she is unreliable, Alex freely admits it, but we also know it isn't her fault. If Alex can't be sure what is real, how can the reader hope to do so? The whole way through the book I kept wondering how much was real and how long it would be before I would learn what was delusion and what wasn't. Alex thinks she sees men in black suits and red ties standing guard along the school's rooftop. She also keeps seeing a python poking its head out of the ceiling in the hallways. She knows she can't always tell what is reality and what isn't so she takes pictures to help, but maybe it isn't always working.

There were some things that were never clear to the reader, but I suppose that makes sense coming from a narrator who isn't sure either. The storyline in this book is interesting, but I also appreciated the look into the life of a young woman with a severe mental illness. Until we treat mental illnesses with the same respect and understanding with which we treat physical illnesses, people will continue to be unable to get the help they need. A YA book about mental illness could be such a service to a teenager who needs it.

Both funny and heart-rending, this book is quite a journey. At one point my shirt was soaked with tears. And when Alex utters this line, I felt her hopelessness:

No medicine would ever be strong enough for this.

Monday, June 19, 2017

the perks of being a wallflower bu Stephen Chbosky

A few months ago, I watched the film version of the perks of being a wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, but I hadn't yet read the book. I really didn't know much about the story, but I like Emma Watson so I gave it a try. The movie took turns for which I was not at all prepared and I found myself often confused so I thought it was possible that something was missing from the movie that would have made more sense in the book.

the perks of being a wallflower, the book, was still not quite what I was expecting despite the fact that I had already seen the film. Set during the school year of 1991-1992, Charlie is anonymously writing letters to someone he knows, but not well. He tells this "friend" about all his worries starting high school and then proceeds to tell this "friend" everything that happens in his daily life. Essentially he uses this person as a journal, though he puts it this way:

...better than a diary because there is communion and a diary can be found.

Charlie struggles finding a place to fit in until he meets Patrick and Sam, seniors who take him under their wing. He's different, he isn't like anyone else. Patrick explains that he's a wallflower:

"You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand."

Some really awful things happen to and around Charlie and it is so hard to watch. He tries to do the right thing, he tries to understand, but he is so young and not really ready for it all.

At first this book bothered me and it took me a bit to realize it was the writing style that I didn't like. As the book begins, Charlie's letters are almost elementary. The sentence structure is choppy and it took me a few pages to understand that is the way a fifteen-year-old boy would write. As the story progresses, his writing improves thanks to the help of a very interested English teacher.

There were so many times I wanted to reach out and help Charlie, to stop him or help him make better decisions. As an adult reader, my perspective is so different from that of Charlie or that of the intended YA audience. This book has been included on the American Library Association's "10 Most Frequently Challenged Books" list a number of times and there were times when I certainly understood why. There is drug and alcohol use, smoking, and some sex that I can understand would make adults uncomfortable. I wouldn't want my thirteen-year-old to read it, but I wouldn't object if my sixteen-year-old were to bring it home. Certainly there are discussions that should accompany this book, but I don't think it should be banned. I won't add it to my "Required Reading" list because I'm not sure I feel that strongly about it, but I can see how it could have value.

Just today, as I was nearing the end of the book, a lady at the library saw me reading it and mentioned what a good book it was. She really liked it. I just liked it. Have you read it? Did you love it? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Sisters One, Two, Three by Nancy Star

This month's book club selection is Sisters One, Two, Three by Nancy Star. Ginger, Mimi, and Callie Tangle are growing up in New Jersey with their brother Charlie and their parents Glory and Solly. It isn't the most idyllic childhood; Glory is not the ideal mother. The children are on constant alert for their mother's mood changes, but when real tragedy strikes and Glory declares it all unspeakable, the real scars form. Years later, Ginger is the mother of a seventeen-year-old daughter who leaves home far too early and with far too few plans, breaking her mother's heart.

Told in alternating timelines, the reader is given glimpses of the lives of the Tangle family both before and after the tragedy and then years later as Ginger struggles with her rebellious daughter and  her aging mother. When secrets are revealed, no one is prepared for the paradigm shift left in their wake.

This book was so frustrating to me at times. Some of the characters made me so angry, but I suppose that was exactly what I was meant to feel. I couldn't stop reading because I just had to find out what had really happened. When it was finally all revealed, I was absolutely shocked and heartsick for what this family had suffered. The writing wasn't perfect and there were parts that dragged while the story seemed to wrap up a bit quickly at the end, but I did like this book. If family drama, in books at least, catches your attention, this is the book for you. It is quick and engaging, making for a good summer beach read.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

What I've Heard- The Chemist

A few months ago, I read The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer and I really liked it. I just finished listening to the audio version and it was oh, so good. Just as exciting as the book, perhaps even more so with the intensity of the reading, the audio version had my attention in its grip. I was reluctant when I needed to turn off the audio book because I really wanted to keep listening. There just aren't any good stopping places- the action moves at such a strong, fun pace.

As I mentioned in my book review, don't let the author's name discourage you from reading or listening to this book. I know Stephenie Meyer may have lost some credibility with readers, especially as time has progressed from the frenzy created by the initial love affair many of us had with Twilight. (Don't deny it- she sold over 100 million books from that series and they weren't all bought by teenagers.) This book is good! It is fun and it moves at lightning speed. I really hope that it is made into a film (thought I hope the adaptation is better than what The Host received). This would make the perfect summer read/ road trip listen. I hope you'll give it a try.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

All the Best People by Sonja Yoerg

Set primarily in the early 1970s, All the Best People by Sonja Yoerg centers around Carole, a loving mother of three, a wife helping run her husband's car repair garage and the oldest daughter of a woman who has spent the last three-and-a-half decades locked in a mental institution. When Carole begins hearing voices, the fear that she is following in her mother's footsteps is more than she can stand. Having seen first hand what happens to people who lose their grip on reality, Carole's only option is to pretend it isn't happening to her and to hide it as best she can. Carole's young daughter, Alison, sees that something is wrong with her mother, but she can't understand what is happening. Though she wants to help and tries talking to her father and her aunt about it, Alison feels helpless.

This book is an interesting exploration of family dynamics, the barriers that often exist between rich and poor, especially in the years following the Great Depression, and the realities of mental illness in a time when so little was understood about it. Told in the three perspectives of Carole, her mother Solange, and Alison, we also see three different time periods. We meet Solange when she is young and are allowed to watch as events lead up to her commitment to the nearby mental hospital. We see Carole as a young child forced to deal with the loss of her mother in a situation that she can't understand and of which no one will speak, let alone explain. And we see Alison leaving childhood, becoming a young woman and not having the motherly support she needs. Written in such a beautiful way, I was touched by not just the words Yoerg used, but their rhythm. For instance, this section when Carole is hearing voices:

Voices pursued her. She couldn't make out the words and was almost inside the side that was in not the side that was out inside out like a sock pulled off in a hurry. Keep your insides in. Keep your outsides out. Sounded simple simple Simon Simon says touch your nose touch your head. Touched head. Dead.

The first section I encountered like this briefly confused me, but it took only a moment for me to find the pace and to understand that the author was bringing the reader into Carole's madness, sharing her thoughts with us. That is what I enjoyed about this book. There were a few characters that seemed almost unnecessary to the story, characters that might make sense if they had more development. There were a few tangents I wish she had explored more deeply, but overall I really liked this book. This isn't a light, easy read (it does focus on mental illness, after all), but neither is it too heavy. Interesting and beautifully written, this is a book I think you would enjoy.

Monday, May 29, 2017

What I've Heard- Before I Fall

It was only a few months ago that I read Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. I still haven't seen the movie version, but I just finished listening to the audiobook and I really liked it. As with the book, I really hated Sam at the beginning and the narration by Sarah Drew really works. Sam sounds exactly like the spoiled, mean, self-centered teenager she is meant to sound like, but as the book progresses and Sam's personality softens, so does her voice.

This book kept me moving during workouts and make it difficult to turn off when I was finished. This was a really good reading and I recommend it.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

I really like Julie Murphy. Her first two books, Side Effects May Vary and Dumplin', were fantastic so I was naturally thrilled when I saw that she had a new book coming out. I reserved Ramona Blue from the library before they even had any copies and the second I had it in my hand I started reading. The title character, Ramona (last name not Blue, hair color blue), lives in a small town on the coast of Mississippi. This is a town that has struggled to fight its way back from the ravages of Hurricane Katrina, the storm that also left quite a mess of Ramona's family. She lives in a worn out trailer with her hardworking, loving father, her newly pregnant sister, and her sister's useless boyfriend. Ramona is 6 feet 3 inches tall and her world, and especially her home, are beginning to feel small to her. Ramona feels like she has herself figured out- she works two part-time jobs to help out her family and she's very comfortable in the knowledge and openness of being a gay girl in a small southern town- but maybe things aren't as clear as she would like. When a childhood friend moves to town and introduces her to competitive swimming, Ramona starts to wonder if there could be more for her than the beach town she's always known as home and if it is even a possibility.

Okay, SmartGirls. You know how I often complain that a lot of YA Fiction feels too shallow to me, that it just doesn't contain enough depth and can leave me feeling dissatisfied with its quality of writing? This has never been an issue with Julie Murphy's books. When Julie Murphy writes a character, the reader knows that character. We get involved and can't help but keep reading. And her writing makes me laugh. Some of the ways she phrases things make me laugh out loud in that crazy people-are-looking-at-me kind of way. For instance, when Ramona explains why she has to wear a two-piece swimsuit to the Y:

A one-piece on a girl as tall as me...well, that kind of camel toe might be a threat to national security.

She also introduces concepts that make me think of things in a way I haven't done before, while somehow also saying the things I've thought, but not known how to communicate:

It seems to me that childhood ends and adult life begins the moment you stop believing your parents can rescue you. As much as I love my dad, I stopped thinking that a long time ago.

Ramona Blue is wonderfully written and leaves me not at all dissatisfied. It is why I love Julie Murphy. Read it, won't you?

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond

I have been married for seventeen years and I love my husband, but if we ever met anyone involved in an organization like what is found in The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond, I would run for the hills! In this new thriller, we meet Jake and Alice, newlyweds who have been introduced to a great new way to keep their marriage strong. The Pact is a group of people extra committed to their marriages and to ensuring the survival of marriage as an institution. It is a group that comes with its own rules, all meticulously laid out in The Manual. "Read it. Memorize it." And no, that's not a joke. But what happens if someone decides The Pact isn't for them, or if, heaven forbid, their marriage doesn't work out? Let's just say that isn't an option. At all.

In this creepy book that details what sounds an awful lot like a cult in the beginning and sounds like it can't be anything else by the end, the reader has the opportunity to explore interesting theories of marriage. Not only has Jake joined this group, but in his professional life he is a marriage counselor so we have access to several different perspectives. Jake shares with the reader studies on marriage and relationships that are quite interesting. Among the rules shared in the book are no talking about The Pact; always answer your phone when your spouse calls; each spouse must buy the other a gift every month and the couple must take a trip together every quarter. These all sound pretty good, but it is when the consequences for not meeting these requirements are handed down through a pseudo court that it starts to get sticky. And there is no room for negotiation:

Fidelity to the Spouse, Loyalty to The Pact. Till death do us part.

I thought this was a very intriguing concept, but I was a little disappointed in its execution. I felt the author did not allow the reader enough of a look into the way the group normally works before things start to get crazy. I also felt that some of the writing seemed amateurish, that it could have used a little more polish. That said, there was a lot to like in this book. I loved the insertions of actual scientific studies on marriage into the insanity of The Pact. And I really enjoyed the descriptions of Jake's practice as a marriage and teen counselor. At one point, we read an interesting exchange he has with a group of teenagers he counsels. When he overhears two of them discussing The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, Jake has this to say, which I thought was very interesting in the context of this book:

It is scary, but not for the reason you think. The scary part is that you might find yourself agreeing with some of it.

How much does the reader agree with the protocols of The Pact? How much is right and if it is right, are consequences a necessary part of any organization with strict regulations? How much should Jake and Alice "make peace with The Pact" or should they try to fight against it? These are all very compelling questions. I'd love to hear how you would answer.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

What I've Seen- The Circle

Today I saw, despite its less than stellar reviews, The Circle starring Emma Watson and Tom Hanks. And...I really liked it! I don't always agree with reviews, but when the critics and viewers say it's no good, I usually stay away, or at least wait for it to come out on DVD. After all, Rotten Tomatoes gives it 16% from critics and only 24% from viewers. That doesn't make it sound great, but having just finished reading the book, I wanted to see it anyway. I'm really glad I did.

I liked the book The Circle, but there were some things I didn't care for, some characters I didn't like, and the ending wasn't what I would have liked to read, but I understand that not every book can go exactly as I would want. The movie The Circle changed some things and normally I would be all up in arms about that, but a lot of what was changed from the book to the movie, I really liked. That's not to say that they didn't chop out parts I thought were important. Of course they did. That is par for the course in adapting a book for the silver screen. They just can't fit everything in to a nearly two hour film. There were a lot of details that the unread viewer will have missed so I absolutely recommend reading the book in conjunction with the film; preferably reading first, watching second.

One of the reasons that I was so willing to take a chance on this film was the cast. I love Emma Watson and Tom Hanks, but that wasn't the end of the star power. Also among the cast were Karen Gillan (who I LOVE!), Bill PaxtonJohn BoyegaPatton OswaltJudy Reyes, and even Beck. That is a pretty compelling group of actors and I thought the were wonderful.

I absolutely see the irony in blogging about this movie, but wanted to be sure to share, after all, "Sharing is Caring!"

If you haven't seen the film yet, here is the trailer to peak your interest. If you have seen it, let me hear what you thought. I'd love to hear it- zing me! 

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Circle by Dave Eggers

The Circle by Dave Eggers has been on my radar for a while, but after reading some mixed reviews I was less interested. A couple of weeks ago, with the movie version being released, my new book club chose it for the May book. I was interested, but cautious.

The Circle features Mae, a new employee at the largest tech company in the world. She is so excited to work in such a supportive, accommodating atmosphere- free gourmet food, fancy offices, a gym onsite, as well as parties and activities every night of the week and plenty of activities all weekend long. It seems like the perfect job and she loves it. As she becomes more deeply entrenched and more visible at the company, some questions are raised for the reader. What Mae thinks of as the perfectly normal progression of social media, what will surely turn the world into an absolute utopia, is quite frightening for the reader. Privacy becomes a thing of the past. "Secrets are lies" is an actual motto for this company and watching it unfold is fascinating and alarming.

Cameras are every where. EVERY WHERE. One of the leaders of the company puts it this way:

"And no matter how many times they try to eliminate the cameras, because they're so small, they'll never know for sure where they are, who's placed them where and when. And the not-knowing will prevent abuses of power."

The company promotes these cameras as a way to end all government corruption around the world. That sounds lovely, but what about the private citizens? Do we really want everything we do recorded?

Also concerning is the dependence on social media. Sure, we all know people who can't seem to step away from Facebook or Instagram, but in The Circle, it becomes all consuming. Mae is required to use her social media as a way to bolster the feelings of everyone who contacts her. A missed party invitation leads to a meeting with her boss where she is reprimanded for not considering the feelings of the party host. Suddenly Mae is spending hours every night going through the thousands of messages in her feeds as though it were her moral responsibility. And then she starts to live for the number of people who follow her, she strives to raise herself in the ranks of social media. It doesn't take much imagination to foresee something very similar in our future.

Most of this book was thrilling and an interesting thought experiment. What would it really be like? Sadly, the last bit of the book seemed to lose steam. It didn't go the way I might have liked, but I don't mind that as much as the way the writing lost energy and then kind of just ended. I would still recommend this book, but I wish it had a little more.

What I've Heard- The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

I loved reading The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin and listening to it made me love it even more. It is beautifully written and the audio version is very well read. I cried at the sad parts, even weeping at one point. It hasn't been all that long since I read this book, but listening to it reminded me just how wonderful it is. Listen to it. Read it. Whatever works for you, but don't miss out on this wonderful book.

Monday, May 8, 2017

What I've Heard- The Daily Show (The Book)

I am a huge Jon Stewart fan and I was thrilled when I learned that a book describing the construction of The Daily Show would be published. I quickly put my name on the library reserve list, but when it was my turn to read The Daily Show (The Book): An Oral History by Chris Smith, I wasn't thrilled. The book is written as an oral history with each speaker's words preceded by his or her name. This made for a very choppy reading experience. In addition, the book was very large and this choppiness make for slow progress. Normally, I don't listen to audio versions of books I haven't read, but in this case I thought it might be better.

It was better, though not as much as I had hoped it would be. There are transcripts of episodes included within the text that I had hoped would be the actual audio from the show. I'm sure there were all sorts of legal reasons the show clips could not be included, but it would have been so nice to have it.

On the other hand, I learned so much about The Daily Show, Jon Stewart, and about how a show like TDS makes its way through production. The show did not always run smoothly, there were upsets and there were controversies, and the book gives a good sense of the people involved in the creation and running of the show.

I still watch The Daily Show, and I still like it, but I do still always hear the announcer say ..."with Jon Stewart" in the introduction. This is a show that has had a profound effect on the political involvement of so many people. It activated young people in system in which they previously felt unheard. It also changed the way the media approaches politicians and brought so many new voices to the conversation: most visibly Stephen Colbert and Samantha Bee, but also writers and producers that are influential outside of the spotlight.

If you're a fan of Jon Stewart, I highly recommend this book. Read it or listen to it, either way I think you'll learn a lot.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

I'm a book nerd and, like all book nerds, I love a leisurely walk through a bookstore. I stumble across so many books I want to read someday. Recently on one such wandering, I stumbled across Tommy Wallach's We All Looked Up. There was something appealing about the cover and it was on a table with other books I had enjoyed, so I picked it up, liked what I saw in the description and added it to my TBR list. I didn't feel the need to purchase it right away, but thought I'd see if the library had it. Just a few weeks later I did find it at the library, at the book sale- my favorite sale in the whole world. I was able to purchase the hard cover edition for only $3! Sure, borrowing it from the library would have been free, but this way I'm donating to the library (I love the library!) and I get a physical book I can share with someone else!

Okay, enough about my library love affair- what's this book about anyway? Well, basically, the apocalypse. Told in the alternating points of view of Seattle teenagers Peter, Eliza, Andy, and Anita, the Earth is staring down the barrel of an enormous meteor that has a 66% chance of wiping out all life on the planet. With only eight weeks to impact, each of these main characters wonders how they should spend their last days. Peter, the All-American jock who had been headed for Stanford, may not want his last moments to be spent with the vapid girl he's been dating for too long. Eliza, the girl with the reputation, intends to document how the world is changing, even if no one will ever really see it. Andy, the slacker with zero plans, is pulled between power and his dreams. Anita, the buttoned-up straight A student aiming at Princeton, is certain she has to live her last bit of life the way she wants and not according to the plans of her ambitious father. Of course, with so little time left, the world goes predictably crazy, but these are teenagers so there is still plenty of social drama.

So did I enjoy reading this book? Sadly, not really. I had an inkling from the start that the writing in this book was going to annoy me and it did. There was some aura, some odor of pretension in the author's voice that I suspected would not appeal to me. I've talked in this blog before about how some YA just aggravates me without my being able to pin down the exact quality it either has or is lacking, but whatever it is, this book had (or didn't have) it. Many of the characters' actions seemed unlikely to me; the mistakes they made just frustrated me. Yet, I finished the book because I wanted to know what would happen. And it ended exactly the way I expected it to do. And I suppose that's fine.

Were there any good bits? Well, there were a couple of quotes that I enjoyed. At the very beginning, Peter is having a discussion with a teacher who asks him if he knows what it is that makes a book really good. Peter doesn't know, but here is the answer the teacher gives:

"The best books, they don't talk about things you never thought about before. They talk about things you'd always thought about, but that you didn't think anyone else had thought about. You read them, and suddenly you're a little bit less alone in the world."

And in a conversation Andy, the slacker, has with the school counselor, Suzie, (a great character that needs her own book, actually) about his future, he claims he doesn't need to go to college because he doesn't care about money. She responds this way:

"It's not about the money. I'm glad you don't care about money. I'm talking about boredom. You think school is bad? A minimum-wage job makes school look like freaking Burning Man. Unless you have some kind of fetish for doing the same rote physical task eight million times a day."

When he claims that she is coming down on him too hard and that her job was to help people with the stress they have, not hand them more, she says:

"Strung-out people need to be chilled out. But chilled-out people maybe could use a good kick in the ass."

Much later in the book, in a conversation with Anita, Suzie tries to tell her there are still things she can be doing, that life still has purpose:

"There's still time for you to do things that matter. Even if it's just being there for someone who's freaking out."

Does it say something about me or about the book that the only parts I really liked were the ones that involved two adults at the high school? If YA is your thing, you may really like this one, but it just didn't have that something that I need in a book.

I think the word I'm looking for is depth. Or maybe not. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

From almost the time he could talk, Janie's son Noah has cried for his Mama- his Mama from before. He's violently afraid of baths and won't even wash his hands. And he knows things a four-year-old shouldn't be able to know: the plot of the Harry Potter books his mother has never read him; the names of dozens of different kinds of lizards that he's never seen. In Sharon Guskin's The Forgetting Time, we wonder, is Noah a savant or does he have memories from a previous life?

Janie struggles as a single mother with a child she loves but doesn't always understand. Any mother can tell you how frustrating a determined pre-schooler can be, but perhaps Noah is more than that. As Noah becomes increasingly inconsolable, Janie will try anything, see any doctor, to help her son. When her search leads her to one psychologist researching past lives and the possibility that some children can remember, she is skeptical, but out of other options.

This was a beautiful, and beautifully written, book. Noah's sweet little personality makes the reader hunger for a way to help him and Janie is every mother who has ever wanted to help her struggling child. This book is an interesting exploration of the idea that maybe this life isn't everything. Maybe there is more than we can possibly understand. Without getting into religion at all, this book poses the questions that have been asked since the beginning of time: Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where will I go next?

I adored this quote following Janie's observation of a waitress with a YOLO tattoo on her shoulder:

You Only Live Once. That's what people said, as if life really only mattered because it happened only one time. But what if it was the other way around? What if what you did mattered more because life happened again and again, consequences unfolding across centuries and continents? What if you had chances upon chances to love the people you loved, to fix what you screwed up, to get it right?

To me, that is such an interesting concept. We often think that life is more precious because we only get one shot at it, but what if we should be more careful with our actions because those consequences may reverberate through several reincarnations? At one point near the end of the book, Janie looks around at a group of strangers on the subway and wonders if maybe she was related to some of them in a previous life:

Perhaps one of them had been her mother. Or her lover. Or her son, the dearest of the dear. Or would be, next time around. So many lifetimes, it stands to reason that they were all related. They'd forgotten, that's all.

Now doesn't that make you think differently about the people around you? Maybe it will motivate you to treat others a little more kindly and with a little more compassion.

Really, what a beautiful concept.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

What I've Heard- The Peach Keeper

I read The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen several years ago because I have always enjoyed her books. In my review then I expressed disappointment that there wasn't more meat to the peach in this story and I'm afraid I still feel the same. I like this book, but I don't love it. The audio version was lovely to hear, the narrator's voice was soothing, but I was still left wanting more.

If you also enjoy Ms. Allen's books, I would never tell you to skip this one. It makes a sweet addition to her work and it would make a nice vacation listen. It just isn't her best, in my opinion.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

I love Liane Moriarty's books. They always grab hold of me and I'm always left stunned when I finish them. Okay, I've only read three, but they've all been good. The latest for me is Big Little Lies which centers around Madeline, Celeste, and Jane, three mothers with children in the local primary school. Madeline has been at the school for years with her older children and she knows everyone as well as the ins and outs of all the school politics. Celeste is the shockingly beautiful mother of kinder twins and there may be something she is hiding. Jane is the much younger single mother who is still trying to find her place in the world and in motherhood. When one child becomes the focus of another child's bullying it leads to crisis and scandal in the school and the book begins with the announcement that someone has been murdered. Told in flashbacks, the reader is shown all the little things leading up to the mysterious murder. Every few chapters are a countdown to the night we know someone is going to die which lends a delicious tension and excitement to the book.

Stephen King is quoted on the cover of this book, calling it, "A hell of a good book. Funny and scary." Is the murder part of the book scary? No, but the school politics sure are. I am pretty involved in my children's school and, while I've never seen things get as bad as this, sometimes the parental interactions can get a little sticky. I was amused with the descriptions of some of the mothers at the school.

In addition, this is the first book for my brand new book club. I have such high hopes. There are some interesting topics for discussion such as domestic violence, the roles of women and how we interact with (and sometimes judge) one another, and the carryover of some of those things we thought we may have left behind in middle or high school. I've heard great things about the HBO mini-series, but I haven't seen it yet myself. I liked this book and if you're putting together a stack of vacation reads for summer, I think you should definitely add this one.

What I've Seen- Thirteen Reasons Why

Oh my goodness. I was so excited when I saw that Netflix was producing a mini-series based on the book Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. I read this book nearly six years ago and the impact it had on me was substantial. This was one of the earliest of my Required Reading books and not because I thought my readers would really enjoy it. I think this book should be teen, pre-teen, and parental required reading. I really liked this book so I had high hopes for the series, but I was keeping my expectations low.

Those low expectations were absolutely unnecessary.

It is extremely rare that I feel like the film adaptation of a book is better than the book.

THIS is the BEST book-to-film adaptation that I have EVER SEEN. I know, that's a lot of bold, all-caps, but it is absolutely justified. The timeline of this book takes place over one long night. It is compressed to show the urgency the main character feels listening to the tapes of his friend who has recently committed suicide. The mini-series allows the timeline to expand to a number of days, perhaps even a couple of weeks, though it isn't exactly clear. This expanded timeline allows for so much more character and story development. So many things that were left unexplained and unexplored in the book are shown through the thirteen episodes of the mini-series. The book makes it seem as if the only people in the story are the main characters and only what Hannah says about them. The mini-series allows the viewer to see much more, including the effects of Hannah's suicide on all the people she has left behind. It is this that makes the mini-series so much better than the book; not just because we get more viewing minutes, but because the viewer is allowed to understand so much more.

We can never know what is going on in someone else's life. We can never fully understand how our words and our actions affect the people around us. Be kind. Be kinder than is necessary. Tell the people that you love what they mean to you.

And please, PLEASE, if you are struggling with thoughts of self-harm, please ask for help. If there is no one in your life to whom you can talk, please call for help.


As of now, the only viewing platform for this mini-series is Netflix, though I have high hopes that it will be available on DVD because I would like to own it. If you don't have a Netflix subscription, this mini-series alone is worth it. Subscribe, watch it, then cancel if you want, but you really need to see this. This is required watching.

What I've Seen- An Introduction

"Oh, but the book was so much better!"

How many times have we seen the film adaptation of a beloved book and uttered those exact words? Far too many to count, right? But time after time, we get excited when we see that "they" are making a movie or a mini-series based on our favorite books. We fantasize about which actors will play which characters. We wonder how they will fit in the whole story or what they'll have to cut. Sometimes they do a really good job and sometimes we are  heartbroken with disappointment. For the most part, I try to keep my expectations low and then I'm usually pleasantly surprised, or at least not as dissatisfied.

With this new addition to SmartGirlsRead, I hope to discuss what it is that we like and really don't like about film adaptations. Join me! A dialogue is always much more fun than a monologue.

Monday, April 3, 2017

What I've Heard- My Name is Memory

Three years ago I read My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares and I really loved it. I gushed about it in my previous review and I'm so happy to see that I still love this story. What other strong emotion do I also still feel regarding this book? Impatience! I've seen this book described as the first in a trilogy, but still, seven years after publication- NADA! That might not be such a problem, but this book ends on a cliffhanger! With no resolution!

Ms. Brashares, I'm sure you are very busy and that you likely have your reasons, but you are killing us!

I found lots of comments on Goodreads about how desperate her readers are for a sequel, but we are left waiting. Is it annoying to not know what happens to these fictional characters next? Sure, but this book is still worth it. Read it, listen to it, whatever works for you, but don't skip it.