One perfect lie – Lisa Scottoline

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I love these kind of books – obviously. The mystery and intrigue keep me turning page after page until my eyes can’t see anymore. I usually finish them in a few days, neglecting  import things, like dishes.

In this book Chris Brennan is working as a high school teacher and coach. On paper, he looks like the perfect guy. However, Chris isn’t who he says he is. The story focuses around three kids, a loner, a rich kid, and a troubled teen all with their own secrets. There is a plot in place to cause some sort of destruction on the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing and Chris is at the center of it. Is he trying to help one of the kids do it? Is he trying to enlist one of them to help him? Or is he trying to prevent it? The reader is left wondering while lies and secrets come pouring in from all the families.

This novel, as I said, leaves you turning pages and wanting more. It is a fast paced, heart thumping novel and is a fine example of how wonderfully Lisa Scottoline weaves a story.

I would recommend to lovers of: Lisa Scottoline, Stephen King, Lisa Jackson…, mystery and fiction lovers as well thriller and suspense lovers.

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The Girl who was taken – Charlie Donlea

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This was one of those stories that had you second guessing every single character right to the very end. I was so sure the antagonist was five different people at any one time. The author would expertly feed the reader clues and false trails so that by the end…well you will just have to read the book.

This is a story of two missing girls. Both go missing the same night, both go to the same school and are the same age. One makes it home and the other doesn’t. As the story unfolds you get insight from the one of the missing girls sister, Livia and insight from one of the missing girls, Megan. As Livia searches and searches for answers to help find her missing sister, she ends up going down a dark road that brings up more questions that it answers. The man she thought responsible is dead, and the trail for any other suspect is cold. Until she recruits some unlikely helpers and starts to piece things together. The answers she finds may not be the ones that she is ready to hear.

This story takes a few twists and turns, it grips you and stays with you when you are unable to read it, and it has a lot of great medical detail that I always enjoy. I would recommend to anyone who enjoys fiction, mystery and suspense.

 

Do not become alarmed – Maile Meloy

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I read this book in one day. Okay one day and a few hours. I could not put it down. I absolutely love books that suck you in and don’t let go and also end well. Often times I feel that when a book as such a gripping beginning and middle, the end seems to come up abruptly. You are left turning pages wondering what happened. This book delivered a gripping beginning, a thrilling and nonstop middle with a satisfying conclusion.

In this story, two families set off for a holiday cruise. They meet another family on the trip and the parents hit off as do the kids. The cruise line is supposed to be very safe, where the adults can do what they want and the kids have fun in the Kid Zone. However, it is made clear early on that, while security may seem like a number one priority, it isn’t always so. Kids easily go missing in the Kid zone for example. When they decide to participate in one of the land excursions, the families split up to make the most of the day. Some going zip lining while others go golfing. It is on this excursion that the parents experience every parent’s nightmare. What follows is fast paced account of what the children and parents are going through during the time. The story is actually narrated through multiple points of view, to give the reader a look into each person’s mind as they struggle with situation they have been thrown into. It is page after page of build-up, anxiety, relief and then repeat. It is chilling account of just how easy your life can go from snapshots of having fun to those same snap shots becoming final memories. I would say anyone who is a fan of mystery, family drama, horror, fiction, reading books about what could happen, or just love a fast paced book should read this one. I think I found another favorite author.

As a side note – have your trusty Spanish-English translator near by.

Always – Harry Potter Series J.K. Rowling

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It may seem like I have been slacking with my reading goal but I haven’t I promise. I started re-reading the Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling. I can’t tell you how many times I have read this series or how much I adore it. I actually wrote a collage essay about it. (shown below) I love all the underlying themes, the characters, the plots, the creatures, the imagery, the message. I love that when I read it as a teenager I felt one way and now, reading as a mother I feel a completely different way. I love that each time I read it, I feel happy, sad, triumphant, and thoughtful. I love that I find new things each time and I love that no matter how many times I read it, it still leaves me wanting more.

There isn’t much to say about the series, most people have read it, watched the movies (please read the books too the movies do nothing for them), or have at least heard the general plot. If you are so inclined – read my essay about how I feel it should be a classic. If you haven’t read the series yet, I implore you do to so. It may not be for everyone, but I feel like this series is for most. If you enjoy fiction, fantasy, adventure, love, magic, interesting creatures, humor, good vs evil, family, friendship, mystery, and more, than I think you will love this series. My husband sometimes asks if I will continue reading this series year after year and I respond to him, Always.

Creating a classic

 

“This above all: to thine own self be true” (Shakespeare 22)

“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times” (Dickens 1)

“Not all those who wander are lost.” (Tolkien 170)

Famous words by some of the greatest masters in literature. Shakespeare, Dickens, and Tolkien, all masters in their craft. One could ask, why? Why after hundreds of years, do scholars seek out their pages, searching for wisdom? Why do educators continue to use them as teaching tools? And, is it possible for others to be added to this elite list? Is it possible that a new author can join the club and become as sought out as those before them. That is what I would I like to answer today. One author, I believe, has done just that. I also believe that this author’s works will live for hundreds of years, be searched for by scholars and used for teaching, if it hasn’t already. I am talking about J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter Series.

People can laugh that a children’s series has no place among great works like Macbeth or Lord of the Rings. What possible comparison could be made of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and a Tale of Two Cities? Some might even find it insulting to compare such books to the tomes of the past. However, I hope to prove that J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter Series deserve a place among them.

When people think of great works in literature, they think of authors such as the ones listed above, or others Jane Austin, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Homer, Herman Melville and Mark Twain. Really the list goes on. Why do these stories stay with us long after the last page is turned? Why do we discuss them in dark coffee shops over herbal tea and expensive espresso? Why, when we reference something happening in our life do we compare it to them? I believe it is because the tales they tell are universal and fluid. No matter the age or time period people will always experience love, anguish, joy and discord. We will always feel some sort devotion whether to family or country or something else entirely. That is one of the main reasons these stories live on. As many times as you read something, you will always find something new. You are never the same when you read something a second, third or even the hundredth time. Each day brings new challenges, new experiences, new thoughts, dreams, etc. Some of the people, who started reading Harry Potter when they were children, are graduating college or starting families. Worlds away from where they were when they were first reading them. Characters that mean something to a person might change or evolve when you pick it up again years a later. Someone who might have wanted to be Harry’s friend may now side with Molly or Dumbledore.

Each of the Harry Potter books has its own theme, its own life so to speak. That has all the elements of the classics from the past.  In The Philosopher’s Stone, you see a boy that has been abused his whole life to find out that he is in fact a wizard. A giant man comes and tells him of his true identity, of another world that he is a part of. Harry walks through the door of a run-down shack in the middle of the ocean, trusting this stranger more than he trusts the people he has lived with for 10 years. He walks through that door and into his future adventures much the same way the Bilbo Baggins walked through his hobbit hole door and followed Gandalf on their grand adventure. In the Chamber of Secrets, Harry and his friends discover a part of the castle that had been searched for by many. In this story, we see Harry risk his life for his best friend’s sister. We see Harry who, despite being abused and mistreated in his early life, has amazing compassion, empathy and love. He would throw his life down for a little girl and never think twice about it. In Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry is ever so briefly offered a better life than the one he has experienced so far. He could live with his father’s best friend, only to have that taken away from him. Yet again though, we see Harry’s resilience and compassion. As the books go on we see darker themes emerge. Death of school mates, death of loved ones, and the rise of an evil villain who seems to only care about the destruction of Harry. Harry, thinking that he will be taught or shown some particular way of destroying this monster for good, is told that they only thing he possesses that Voldemort doesn’t, is love. It takes Harry until the final book to realize that love is a lot more powerful than hate. Love is something you die for, something you live for, something you sacrifice for. Love is everything while hate is nothing. Harry goes and meets his death for his friends, his loved ones, and all the people who died before him. It is in that moment that as a reader, we realize that love and the human condition are really driving themes of this series. Love showed Harry the way in the mirror of erised, love was prevalent in the chamber of secrets when Harry sacrificed himself for Ginny. Love was finding a new link to his parents in Prisoner of Azkaban. Love was risking his life to bring a classmate home after Voldemort killed him in Goblet of Fire. Love forced Harry to again risk his life to save a loved one in Order of the Phoenix. Love was Harry avenging the death of mentor in Half-Blood Prince and love was what almost destroyed him in Deathly Hallows.

If you look even deeper into the series you will see that it isn’t all about Harry and his compassion and his ability to love either. J.K. Rowling shows us the complexity of humanity in multiple characters. How love could make Hermione erase her parent’s memories so they would be safe.  Hermione also showed us amazing strength of character, her fierceness, her heart, and her strength in the face of all that she faces in this series.  Love destroyed Snape, turning him into the villain we loved to hate, until we knew the depth of his suffering. Snape’s character is one of the more complex in the entire series. How unrequited love can literally destroy a person, turning them into a shadow of who they were. Love, compassion and a decent sense of humor drives the Weasley family in so many ways. Each character could really get their own paper because each one has a story to tell.

In an article from the Wall Street Journal Oona Eisenstaedt’s has this to say about why Harry Potter was a classic, “Insight into the human condition” ( De Visa, Daniel), and that is exactly why I think Harry Potter deserves its place among the great works of literature. It shares that common theme that Romeo and Juliet had, that Great Expectations and Moby Dick and Huckleberry Finn were famous for. Insight into the human condition. A theme that never grows old.

If the content of the books wasn’t enough, I believe the fans of Harry Potter have turned it into a classic. A story that, because of their devotion will be passed down for generations and generations. Even if the books themselves don’t get the prestige of “classic”. There have been stories about Harry Potter saving people’s lives, people finding strength they didn’t know they had because of Harry or another character in the series. The series deals with some heavy stuff; bigotry, bullying, love, hatred, revenge, death, and acceptance; each of these are things children and teens experience. They identify with Harry and the rest of the characters, find comfort and strength and the will to keep going. If one needs evidence of how deeply the Harry Potter series has touched its fans, I ask you to read an article written in the Telegraph shortly after the awful tragedy that happened in an Orlando nightclub. One of the kids that was murdered worked at Harry Potter World. A eulogy was held and fans turned out to pay their respects. They raised their wands like the wizards did after Dumbledore died, until the dark mark was no longer visible. A quote from Dumbledore was repeated there and in twitter and Instagram feeds that covered it: “”Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” (Alice Vincent)  Another testament to the fans devotion came upon the news of Alan Rickman’s death, the man who played the iconic Professor Snape; fans all over the world raised their “wands” to pay tribute. (Megan McCluskey)

Whether it is the stories themselves, or the way the people who read them relate to them, there is really no denying that Harry Potter has truly become a classic of its age. The reoccurring themes of all manner of human emotions is evident in all the classics from the past. From love destroying Romeo and Juliet, to compassion saving an old man in A Christmas Carol or simply finding friendships in the oddest of place like in Lord of the Rings. The Harry Potter Series possesses all those qualities and more importantly, insight into the human condition. That is why I believe it deserves to sit with great works from the past.

 

Unbreakable – Will McIntosh

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I really enjoyed this novel. I went through a few books that I started and just couldn’t finish, so I was so glad when I found out that this one was available for Kindle download.

The story follows Celia as she discovers that everything she knows about the world and her life has been a lie. She lives in a walled-in town called Record Village, where all the inhabitants have to compete to break records, like longest to go without sleeping, or holding your breath, or eating hot dogs. When you break a record you and your team get rewarded with food and lodging. If you don’t break the record, then its possible you and your team have to live in squalor. When Celia’s close friend, who has been like a mother to her, needs medication that Celia thinks she can only get beyond the walls of her village, Celia doesn’t think twice about. Problem is, no one has ever gotten out and come back to talk about it.

On her journey she finds new friends, the truth of her existence, her town, and everyone in it. The truth ends up being much more horrible than she could have imaged.

I think this is good novel for anyone who enjoys science fiction or dystopian novels. Will McIntosh is an excellent storyteller that leaves the reader excited for each new chapter.

 

Life Expectancy – Dean Koontz

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I enjoyed this book pretty much from the first page. The main character is a pastry chef and I love baking and watching baking shows. He also describes himself pretty much how I feel about myself, so it was nice having a main character you could really believe in. All that mixed with the characters dry and dark sense of humor and I was pretty much reading what my family would sound like…if we were pastry chefs with crazy clowns in our lives.

I think one of the greatest things, actually, was how Dean Koontz wove generations into the story, and made the whole thing seem completely plausible. In this book, Jimmy Tock is born on the same night his grandfather died. His grandfathers dying words were predictions of five terrible days for Jimmy that would happen throughout the course of his life. Each time one came true, there was no doubt that the rest would come to pass as well.

Jimmy and his family would face each terrible day as ready as they could; armed with love, common sense, sarcasm, pepper spray and a little creme brulee.

This book spans Jimmy’s life time and each chapter is leads you wanting the next one.

I would recommend this to anyone who loves mystery, Dean Koontz, and suspense. I would probably say if you are afraid of clowns…well this book won’t help your fears.

Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel

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It is no surprise that I enjoy reading dystopian fiction. I like it for many reasons, but mostly I enjoy reading what other people think of humanity. You can tell how positive or negative they feel by the world they create when the world as we know it ends.

This novel reminds me a lot of The Stand by Stephen King. The Georgia Flu has taken out 99% of the population. (Capt. Tripps or Project Blue – a man-made super flu – killed off 99% of the population) Society must put itself back together. Instead of having a good/evil that puts the society that is left in two camps. It follows the more likely Glenn Bateman theory of a bunch of little societies popping up and being led by different forms of government. From Socialism to Dictators and everything in between. The way we can experience this, is by following the Traveling Symphony. The members of the group preform Shakespeare plays and play music while traveling around the mostly deserted landscape that used to be America. For 20 years they have done this, but of course, the good people aren’t the only ones that survived and as such, they run into problems trying to find some friends of theirs.

The whole novel sweeps back and forth through landscapes and over time, from before the flu to the present, going from one character to another and bringing the reader into a world where everything is gone. The internet, modern medicine, TV, cold food from the fridge, cooking on a stove, going to drive through for food, flying across great distances, getting in your car and traveling hundreds of miles in only few hours. Families, friends, jobs, useless degrees all gone in the blink of an eye and what remains is only what we are. Musicians, doctors, mothers, fathers, electricians, trying to find ways to find meaning in the new normal.

I think what I enjoyed most about this book was the other reason I like dystopian novels. I feel like most of humanity (not all) is stuck in rut. We live each day going about our business with very little thought to our futures, or even our present. We work, we sleep, we eat, we repeat and for what? Is that living? Or just existing. Two parts of the book stick out for me that make me feel like the author feels the same way. There was a monolog in the middle where a woman is describing her boss and she describes him as: “High-Functioning Sleepwalker” Deep. Because I look around and see a whole lot of “high-functioning sleepwalkers” every day. The second reason is a recurring phrase: “Because survival is insufficient” which is apparently originally from Star Trek. Again – isn’t it true? Just because you are alive doesn’t mean you are living.

Another thing that stuck with me is the way she would make you think about morality – one minute here, the next gone. There was one reflection where one of the characters was remembering making snow ice cream with his mother and brother. “Frank standing on a stool on his wondrously functional pre-Libya legs, the bullet that would sever his spinal cord still twenty-five years away but already approaching” again – deep. Thinking about it makes you think about your life, what events have shaped where you are and what events are still to come.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even if it took me a long time to read it. I would highly recommend this to anyway one wants to read as good dystopian novel.