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Boy 21 April 29, 2013

Boy 21 by Matthew Quick

boy21

Finley, known as “White Rabbit” to his teammates, loves basketball.  His earliest memories are of shooting hoops under the night sky.  It may be his only chance of escape from Bellmont, a gritty town ruled by the Irish mob.  He and girlfriend, Erin hope to leave for a brighter future by way of college scholarships.

Russell Allen was star ball player and top college recruit.  That was until his parents were murdered and he moved to Bellmont to live with his grandparents.  Now he wants to be known as Boy 21 – and he doesn’t want to play basketball.

Finley is asked by his coach to take Boy 21 under his wing since they both share mysterious and violent pasts.  This unlikely pairing just may be the best thing for both of these stargazers.

Hooked from page 1, I loved every minute of this mesmerizing story.  Not a sports fan?  No worries when picking up this one.  Matthew Quick, author of Sorta Like a Rockstar and The Silver Linings Playbook delivers another emotional and touching story of redemption and the celebration of life.

 

Paper Covers Rock April 17, 2013

Filed under: Books — Heather @ 3:16 pm
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Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard

paper covers rock coverIn honor of April being National Poetry Month, I’ve chosen to highlight the William C. Morris Debut Finalist, Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard.

Set in 1982, Alex is a High School Junior at an exclusive boarding school in North Carolina.  One drunken night, Alex and his friends make some terrible choices that lead to the accidental drowning of schoolmate Thomas.  In an attempt to conceal the nature of the accident, more terrible choices are made.  Alex narrates the repercussions of those past events, as his guilt and grief linger in the present.

Miss Dovecott, the object of every students’ fantasies, may be aware that there is more to the story than the boys are letting on. Faced with coming clean and facing the truth, Alex and his friends perpetuate their lies with dire consequences.

Paper Covers Rock is more that  a little reminiscent of John Knowles’ classic boarding school/accidental death tale, A Separate Peace.  Hubbard cleverly weaves literary references to Moby Dick, the metaphor of all metaphors.

 

Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu February 24, 2013

Filed under: Books — Heather @ 8:29 pm
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dirtylittlesecretsLucy Tompkins has a dirty little secret…her mother is a hoarder.  For years her mother has been “collecting” items that are too precious to throw out.  The result is a house filled to the ceiling with newspapers, clothes and garbage.  There is no heat and no running water.  Lucy navigates her way around the trash and her mother’s illness, biding her time until she can leave the house like her two older siblings.  This is the deep, dark secret she’s been living with her whole life.  Lucy has artfully controlled the situation by never letting anyone in her home and choosing her friends carefully.  All that falls apart when she returns from a sleepover to find her mother has died under a pile of National Geographic magazines.  Panic-stricken she starts to dial 911, but stops.  If the authorities come…everyone will know their dirty little secret!

The majority of the novel deals with Lucy’s attempt to clean up her house so she can attend to her mother.  At first I didn’t understand why she just wouldn’t call for help.  Her mother’s dead, who cares about the house.  But then we are given a glimpse into exactly what Lucy has been living with.  If you’ve ever seen the TV shows about hoarders, you’ll understand.  Lucy’s mother has saved every single scrap for years and years, and it’s all in the house.  There’s no where to walk except for winding, claustrophobic paths carved into the debris.  The smell is overwhelming. Lucy recalls how family members have tried to help and clean up in the past.  This was seen by her mother as a betrayal.  Lucy has no choice but to live in the squalor until she graduates.

Her mother’s sudden death has made Lucy take action like never before.  The dichotomy between the anger and sadness she feels towards her is perfect.  Lucy is finally free of her mother and she’s left with the mess, but the fact is that her mother has died.  The guilt she feels for not mourning properly is equaled by her fear and sadness.  By the end of this Dirty Little Secrets I came away with a great respect for Lucy and her strength to endure her mother’s illness and try to protect her family.  I can not even imagine what it must be like to live and function in this situation.  For many people out there, this is a reality.  I applaud C.J. Omololu for shedding light on the issue of hoarding and those it affects.

 

Hush by Eishes Chayil

hush bookHush is story of Gittel Klein, a young girl living in Borough Park, Brooklyn, the largest community of Orthodox Judaism outside Israel.  From a very early age, Gittel has been brought up to become “Eishes Chayil” or a “woman of valor.”  This means following the strict rules of her community and becoming a wife and mother.  Life in this insular community is different, but it is all she’s ever known.  The novel takes us back in time as Gittel reminisces about her family, her neighbors, and her best friend Devory.  We follow her as she celebrates Purim, sneaks kosher candy-that may not be kosher enough, and listens to her father’s stories.

When Gittel is ten, she witnesses something terrible.  Devory is raped by her brother Shmuli while Gittel lies in the next bed. Unsure of what she really saw, Gittel is confused and upset.  No one, not Devory’s parents or her own, believe that such a thing could occur.  Devory’s erratic behavior continues to escalate.  Constantly trying to stay with Gittel, she is always forced to return home-where her attacker waits.  One day, Devory commits suicide by hanging herself in Gittel’s home.  A tragedy, this is all best forgotten.  Gittel is forced to put the memory of her friend in the past and move on with her life.  Devory’s family moves to Israel and life in Borough Park goes on.

Fast forward ten years and Gittel is now eighteen – graduated and married.  Attempting to push her memories of Devory out of her mind, she can no longer ignore her feelings.  The ghost of her friends begins haunting her dreams, forcing Gittel to confront the issue.  She risks everything by going to the police and telling them what happened to her friend all those years ago.  Why did this have to happen to Devory?  Why will no one acknowledge the ugly truth?  Will Gittel avenge her friend and lay to rest the nightmares she’s been carrying around for the last decade?

Hush is an incredibly powerful book.  The author, writing under a pseudonym, gives us a deeper look into the ultra-Orthodox lifestyle.  I was entranced by the rules and rituals Gittel followed.  The author delicately describes the community, not holding back.  The sense of devotion is intoxicating while the extremities are at times alarming.  She was able to capture a complete picture of Chassidism, good and bad.  I was familiar with some of the rules, but what stood out to me was the role of women. Responsible for carrying on the traditions by giving birth, they are second-class citizens.  Gittel’s only option beyond marriage and motherhood is to become a teacher.  I was surprised at the level of glaring ignorance on the subject of sex and reproduction, not just from the women but the men as well.  Gittel’s confusion over what happened to Devory is compounded by the lack of information in the community.  They have no word for “rape” therefore it could not have happened.  Hush, don’t say a word.  It will all just go away.  Eishes Chayil has shed light on a darkness that is plaguing us all over the world, not just Borough Park.  No longer should victims be silenced.

 

The Radleys by Matt Haig February 13, 2013

Filed under: Books — Heather @ 6:49 pm
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the radleys

The Radleys are you average British family.  Like all suburbanites, they are hiding a deep, dark secret.  They are a family of vampires.

Parents Peter and Helen have chosen the “stiff upper lip” route by following the Abstainer’s Handbook and not giving in to their urge to drink blood.  So hidden is their true nature, children Rowan and Clara don’t know they are vampires.  The two Radley children are pale pariahs, plagued by photosensitivity and weakness.  It’s not until one night young Clara accidentally kills a classmate while fending off unwanted advances that the truth comes to light.  Unable to hide the secret anymore, the Radleys must face their true identities.  To complicate matters, Peter’s wayward brother Will, an unabashed blood drinker, arrives to “clean up” the mess Clara left behind.  A complicated history between the family members reemerges during this crisis.

Matt Haig deftly illuminates the repressed British struggle under the guise of a modern vampire tale.  The Radleys is a wry and witty dark comedy with enough blood and guts to please any vampire lover.

 

The Space Between Trees by Kate Williams

Filed under: Books,Staff Pics — Heather @ 1:44 am
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The_Space_Between_Trees

Evie is a loner, emotionally distant, without friends.  She invents realities more colorful than her true life.  She imagines scenarios involving Jonah Luks, the handsome drop out and dead animal remover for whom she harbors a secret crush. One Sunday morning she stops to chat with Jonah while on her paper route.  Used to the sight of dead animals, he is startled by the discovery of the body of a girl.  Evie recognizes her as Zabet McCabe.  They were friends years ago in Elementary School.  Evie immediately fixates on the murder of her past friend.

While attending Zabet’s funeral Evie encounters her grieving father.  Mr. McCabe, eager to find a connection to his murdered daughter, latches on to Evie and urges her to tell him about his daughter.  Evie, adept at stretching the truth, weaves a story that will comfort Zabet’s father.  Zabet’s real best friend, Hadley continues the charade.  The two girls vow to discover the killer of their friend.  Hadley becomes obsessed with unearthing the truth.  Evie’s life is spinning out of control.  She wants to find Zabet’s murderer as much as anyone, but at what cost?

Kate Williams’ debut novel is a hauntingly beautiful story.  The cover itself is stunning.  What lies beyond is a lyrical masterpiece.  I am a big mystery lover, but this one goes beyond the simple whodunit.  The focus of this novel is not the murdered girl or the identity of the killer.  It is how those left behind are changed by the events.  I can’t accurately do justice to the depth of this book.  The Space Between Trees is one of my favorite books.

 

Jane by April Lindner

Filed under: Books,Staff Pics — Heather @ 12:54 am
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jane april lindner

“What if Jane Eyre worked for a rock star?”

Jane Moore is orphaned by the death of her parents. Left with no alternative, she drops out of college and begins job hunting. Her travels take her to a nanny service that matches her with a client. Jane is probably the only person not thrown by the name Nico Rathburn. He is a world famous rock star who coincidentally needs a nanny for his daughter. So off to Thornfield Park in Connecticut she goes. Here Jane is introduced to a world unlike any she’s ever known. Rambling around a huge mansion and grounds, Jane tries to assimilate to her new life. Maddy, minus a famous French mom, immediately takes to Jane.

Just like her nineteenth century counterpart, our Jane doesn’t meet Rochester, I mean Rathburn, at first. He is mysterious and brooding, yet simple and kind. Jane is not thrilled by his rock star status, and this intrigues him. Nico insists on Jane’s presence during his parties and practices, but never fully exposing his true self.

Through Jane’s simplicity and honesty, Nico relies on her to assist him during precarious situations. If you remember the original, you’ll be waiting for the mysterious woman in the attic. Well, she’s here too. Grace Poole is now Brenda, keeping watch over a deep, dark secret. Just when Nico and Jane’s love blossoms, this secret from Nico’s past comes back to stand in their way.

Jane flees Rathburn and Maddy, reverting to a simplified existence in New Haven. Here she meets the St. John siblings. Just as in the original, this is my least favorite part but Lindner manages to make Jane’s sidetrack more palatable that Bronte’s. I was actually engaged with these characters rather than skipping over these chapters.

So same ending you ask? Will Jane and Rathburn live happily ever after at Thornfield Park? You’ll just have to find out for yourself.

Sure I’ll admit I had low expectations upon cracking the cover. Seriously, how can you improve on a classic? I stand corrected. Any doubts evaporated once I began reading. Bravo April Lindner!  I was totally blown away by a fantastic update of the classic Jane Eyre. For those of you that are not familiar with the original by Charlotte Bronte, I urge you to pick that up first. For those of you, like me, that have loved Jane Eyre and pictured yourself walking the halls of Thornfield Manor, Jane is a welcomed companion.  Look for Catherine, Lindner’s adaptation of Wuthering Heights.