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Then There was You by Jennifer Weiner

I have read some of Jennifer Weiner's books in the past. I know that she's unusually prolific so I haven't read anything of hers in a while. I was surprised to find out that this book was all about surrogacy and egg donation instead of the usual chick-lit stuff. The story is told from differing perspectives. The first person we meet is Jules. Jules is a Princeton student, soon to be graduate, with a secret that she keeps from most of her classmates. She comes from a seriously broken family. She's also extremely beautiful and is at a loss as to why it attracts both men and women. It also attracts the attention of a person that works for an egg donation clinic, who is interested in her body but not in the normal way. We also meet Annie, a hard-working, blue collar mother of two and wife with two children and a husband that works for the TSA. Their small family lives in a beautiful farmhouse outside of Philadelphia. There is also the trophy wife: India. She's a chic…

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

This is Stephen King's most recent novel and his first (and hopefully only!) crime/detective novel. The protagonist is Bill Hodges, a 62 year old retired, overweight former detective who now spends his afternoon watching daytime television and contemplating using his father's gun on himself until he gets a letter from the infamous Mercedes killer. The killer had, the year before, driven a grey Mercedes into a group of people who were waiting for a job fair to begin, killing 8 and injuring many more. The killer had gotten away and the case was one of the active ones when Hodges retired from the police force. The letter rejuvenates Hodges in a way that the killer perhaps never intended, motivating him to start his own private investigation and solve the case before the killer strikes again. I understand that Stephen King has had a long and deep love for crime fiction - he has said it over and over again through the years. And lately, he's tried to branch out somewhat succes…

What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist That Tried to Kill Your Wife

How can we Americans, who sit and watch the news on our televisions or listen to it on NPR, even begin to comprehend what the limbs and blood and screams and other sounds are like in a terrorist explosion, unless we've actually lived it? In Israel, however, these sorts of conflicts and explosions are a matter of daily life that the occupants must endure. It is in tis sort of life that David Harris-Gershorn writes his first book - a memoir of sorts. He gives an interesting perspective on this daily life in Israel with its constant threats. While he's not a primary victim of a terrorist bombing, his wife was, making him a secondary victim of sorts. In 2002, Harris-Gershorn and his wife were living in Israel, studying and attending Hebrew university. Harris-Gershorn's wife was a student there. On one fateful date, she was sitting in the cafeteria when a bomb went off literally next to her while she and some of their friends were eating lunch. While eating pasta in the apartm…

My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff

I, like everyone else, read Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye in high school but haven't read it again since and when I moved to New Hampshire, I learned that there was the additional connection between Granite Staters and Salinger. He lived in Cornish as a near recluse in the State - maybe he knew what everyone else in NH knew - people here seem to respect a person's desire to keep to themselves as long as they're not causing any problems. So, when I heard a story on NPR about how Rakoff wrote a book about working for the literary agency that represented Salinger, my interest was piqued.This book takes place in 1996 and is best classified as a memoir; however it really feels like she could be talking about the female office workers in the Mad Men era. These are tastefully dressed women who live in Brooklyn and can barely make their rent, let alone purchase a deli sandwich. Most of Rakoff's friends are, like her, the underpaid assistants to the agents in the big l…

Euphoria by Lily King

When people hear the name of Margaret Mead,I don't think they necessarily think of the torrid, sexuality of her work and how big a splash it made because of it. It did make that splash though and this novel draws loosely on the 1933 expedition that Mead went on with her then husband and the man that would become her third husband. She then blended those facts into a story of her own creations. I really enjoyed reading this novel in major part because it was a well researched nod to Mead, a woman that the author clearly admired for the work that she engaged in. The love triangle that ensues and the ego competition add layers upon layers to an already lovely story. The tension is palpable from the get go when Nell Stone, the protagonist and author of a book that caused a splash is leaving an aggressive tribe with her Aussie husband (Fen) who is already jealous of Nell. The tribe that they are leaving lobs items at them as they leave, one of which Nell believes is a stillborn baby…

Wonder by RJ Palacio

Wow, I've nearly let this blog die and I'm so sorry for that. I'm restarting. I promise not to let it go so long again. And I'm starting with a book that I've heard so much about and have really wanted to read it. I've heard so much about Wonder. August (aka Augie) Pullman was born with a congenital facial deformity call Treacher-Collins Syndrome. As a result of this congenital deformity, Augie has been home schooled. The deformity has led to Augie having a number of operations and hospitalizations. However, at 10, his parents have decided that he should be enrolled in a somewhat prestigious prep school in New York City. Aside from his face, which is extremely distinct, Auggie is a normal kid, albeit a smart and perceptive one. His mental capacity is above average. This book examines his struggles to overcome his deformity, go to school and challenge people's perceptions about a person's outward appearance.Even though this book is classified as yo…

Book 6 - Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

This is the first book in the Century Trilogy and begins in 1911 - right before World War I breaks out. When we start, the Crowned heads of Europe still exist; however after the war, only the British monarchy has survived. There are five families that the reader follows, from all economic classes - both rich and poor. There is a Welsh coal miner and his suffragist daughter, the local Earl that is their nemesis, two orphaned Russian brothers (one who is a scoundrel and the other a working class hero), star crossed lovers (one English, the other German), and an American diplomat. What I loved about this novel, and all Follett's novels really, is that he's able to utilize an amazing story to create a civics lesson - we learn about World War I and the Russian Revolution at the same time that we follow the stories of an amazingly interesting group of people. He is meticulous in creating the world and the politics of his characters in the hopes of teaching us a bit about the time pe…

Book 5- Hitler's Furies by Wendy Lowrer

During World War 2, the best employment opportunities for German women wasn't in the Gestapo or the Red Cross - it was actually in the German occupied lands to the East and in Russia. Those territories needed thousands of teachers and nurses and secretaries among other occupations. Wives often accompanied their husbands to the Eastern countries as well. This sort of migration allowed women to see other countries, get ahead in their professional careers and escape the drudgeries of everyday life in Germany, which was economically depressed before the war. These women also became accessories to genocide.In this book, Wendy Lowrer follows the stories of 13 seemingly ordinary women who ended up working in the East, whether by choice or because they were assigned there by their superiors. The first chapter essentially set the scene: it explained the role of women in Germany briskly and efficiently and in language that the average reader would √understand. We then are introduced to th…

Book 4 - The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

This is Meg Wolitzer's ninth novel. I haven;t read any of her previous novels,but I can say that I will go back and look for them now. The story begins at an arts camp in upstate NY in the mid seventies. Six of the teenage campers are drawn to each other because they all consider themselves to be "interesting." Jules is the character that is the protagonist - the story seems to be told mostly from her perspective anyways - and she's seemingly the odd one out, not having come from an artsy background. Her best friend is Ash, her crush is Ash's brother Goodman and Ethan and Jonah are there for the ride. Cathy is Goodman's love interest. Ethan is the one that has the most breakout success as an animator in his adult life. As the group matures into adulthood, they, with the exception of Ethan, are forced to adjust their expectations of what their life was going to be to what their life actually has become.Woliter's prose is warm and astute - there seems to …

Book 3 - Carthage by Joyce Carol Oates

<It absolutely surprises me that Joyce Carol Oates has been publishing since 1964 and that this book was the first that I had ever written by her because it is apparent that she is a careful, adept and fluent writer. This book is set in Carthage, a very real town in upstate NY, nearly as far North as you can get without entering into Canada. It is a small town, so the shock that runs throughout the town and the Mayfield family when their somewhat dysfunctional 19 year old daughter Cressida disappears in the Adirondack Mountains is a living and palpable feeling. As the community gathers and begins the search for her, evidence against a disabled Iraq war veteran named Brett Kincaid (who ironically was engaged to be married to Cressida's older sister) seems to mount.During the course of the novel, we are treated to alternating perspectives, one of which includes the flashbacks to the atrocities that Kincaid witnessed while he was in the service. His memories are often jumbled with…

Allegiant and Insurgent by Veronica Roth

I read these novels back to back. It seemed fitting to do it this way so that I didn't forget anything in between the two books, particularly since Divergent is a cliffhanger. I can't give you a complete review of these books at this time without spoilers, but I will try my best.Allegiant is the final installment in the series and is told from alternating viewpoints: both Tobias and Tris give their own accounts. I found this to be a really good difference and divergence (no pun intended) from Roth's previous two novels because, while I enjoyed living in Tris' head, I also was very curious about Tobias and his experience. Frankly, there is also so much you can take of the sort of angst that Tris has and I really enjoyed the widening of the experiences that Tobias' experiences give. It also really shows the differences between how one person, Tris, views actions of Tobias and how he views his own actions (and which are often completely different). This was generally…