I feel like I’m a bit late to the party with this popular book, but it’s amazing! It’s one where you know something really bad has happened, but not to whom or who did it, so there’s a sense of foreboding throughout. It follows 3 mothers whose children have just entered Kindergarten and unravels the tragic events at a school function. There’s suspense, sadness, friendship, and a surprising amount of humour. It particularly resonated with me, as my child entered Kindergarten this fall – I hope nothing so dramatic happens to me! I can’t wait to see the HBO series and see how Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman tackle the characters of Madeline and Celeste. (Submitted by Gayle)
I came across Stephen King’s 1979 book The Dead Zone by happy accident when I had nothing to read. Though I have read many King novels, I somehow hadn’t heard of this one before, and the story piqued my interest: young Johnny Smith awakens from a five year long coma to find the world a changed place. His beloved fiancée has moved on to another man and now has two children; his ultra-religious mother has lost her mind; and his body needs extensive surgical repair if he ever wants to walk again. Johnny’s once promising teaching career is in question, and on top of all of this, he seems to have developed a supernatural power of precognition in connection with his brain injury. This ability is a blessing and a curse to Johnny: he is able to help loved ones avoid misfortune, but he also sees terrifying flashes into the depraved mind of an active serial killer who has been terrifying the New England area for years. Johnny’s unwanted new ability does not go unnoticed: it attracts the vulture-like attention of reporters and scammers looking to make a quick buck. While he mourns the loss of his old life and longs for solitude in rural Maine, the growing number of women falling victim to the serial killer and the strengthening connection force Johnny to use his new power for good. Johnny has another connection to a force even more sinister than the killer: a local politician with the darkest of intentions. I couldn’t put this book down. Though I had never heard of it before, it will remain one of my favorite Stephen King books from here on out. It was thrilling as well as deeply moving. I’d definitely recommend this on a chilly fall weekend! (Submitted by Mandi)
“Until Death Do Us Part” or… until jail sets us apart – that’s a focal point of this well written, discussion-stirring novel by Tayari Jones. Celestial and Roy are a married couple, just one year into their love-filled relationship, doing well financially, planning for a child – when something unexpected happens and overturns their lives, sending Roy to prison for 12 years. Now, Celestial is at the cross roads and it seems like no matter what she chooses there is no joyful solution for either her or Roy. The first half of the book just zoomed by me; it was easy flowing and intriguing. The second half did slow down a bit, but it was still very good. The book touches on multiple subject matters including: racism, injustice, love & friendship, obligations, search for happiness. A good book for a book club discussion – evokes various feelings and opinions. (Submitted by Mariya)
I love preteen novels with elements of the supernatural and this book doesn’t disappoint. Amanda and Leo are old friends, born on the same day and always happy to celebrate their birthdays together. Until this one. Something happened to their friendship that left them estranged. Turning eleven can be hard but in this instance it gets harder as the day repeats on Amanda. She can’t escape all the bad feelings and her miserable Hollywood theme party creating a fun ride as she attempts to face it differently each time. Age appropriate relationships and the unexpected ways the day plays out will keep a young reader engaged in this enjoyable work. (Submitted by Pippa)
Meanwhile across town, I finished reading Jennifer Keishin Armstrong’s book “Sex and the City and Us” and I couldn’t help but wonder, was I a Miranda or a Charlotte? If you’re a fan of this HBO show from the late 90s – early 2000s, then this read will definitely appeal to you. Subtitled “How Four Single Women Changed the Way We Think, Live, and Love,” this book is an examination of the cultural impact that the show had on the world as we know it: from feminism to being single to finding love in your friendships.
The book turned out to be a fun read! It wasn’t as academic as it is made out to sound. In fact, it’s more of a behind-the-scenes look at the show, how it started, how the people behind it used stories from their own lives to help shape the stories being told, etc. I thought I knew everything about the show, but this book taught me so much more. For instance, I didn’t know that Sarah Jessica Parker was reluctant to do the program since she was more of a movie actress and wasn’t interested in pursuing television. This was all before what is now considered the new golden age of television. In fact, Sex and the City may have been at the onset of that resurgence, having given HBO a major hit show that would bring the network to the forefront of the movement with other series such as The Sopranos and Game of Thrones.
At the end of the day, if you’re a fan of Sex and the City and if you’re wondering whether you should pick up this book or not, my answer to you would be: “Abso-frickin’-lutely.” (Submitted by Alan)
I’ve read a few biographies by or about musicians but this one was the most passionate, honest, but brutal in its way, so far. The title pretty much says it all; Laura Jane Grace started life as Tom Gabel, became involved in the punk music scene as a teenager and eventually fronted a punk band called Against Me! What I learned in between those 3 points is the struggle someone goes through when they feel like they aren’t who they are supposed to be and how self-destructive that feeling can make you all the while trying to live, work, create music, and to love. Reading about what Tom did to himself was tough, but I’ve never been close to anyone who has struggled with their identity like this, but it all felt very honest and upfront and I wanted to know how Laura Jane made it work. The book touched on her new life but I’m hoping she has the courage to tell us more in the future. (Submitted by Renee)
A beautiful exploration of mental illness, family, and culture. The Astonishing Color of After takes place immediately after Leigh’s mother has committed suicide. Leigh, who is already a teenager discovering her place in the world, struggles to come to terms with what happened – and how her mother’s depression has affected both Leigh and her father. Believing that her mother’s spirit is still present, Leigh travels to Taiwan to reconnect with her estranged maternal grandparents.
This is a beautiful, thoughtful look at mental illness and grief, as well as an exploration of Taiwanese culture (the author’s background as well.) It’s also a touching reflection on family. The chapters move back in forth in time – present day Taiwan, and in the past, with flashes of memory surrounding Leigh’s mother and parents.
The subject matter here could easily become either melodramatic or saccharine, but Emily X. R. Pan has managed to write an incredibly thoughtful and balanced book that explores heavy topics with grace and a deft hand. I loved the writing, and I loved spending time with Leigh in Taiwan as she rediscovers her mother’s roots. Quietly powerful and highly recommended. (Submitted by Veronica)