Book Trailer of the Week: As Nora Jo Fades Away

I was contacted today about reviewing a book called As Nora Jo Fades Away.  It is Lisa Cerasoli’s account of being the fulltime caretaker of her grandmother who suffered from Alzheimer’s and was slowly “fading away.”  This is not a topic I would have wanted to read about just a few years ago, but because we are watching my mother-in-law go through the same process right now, I find comfort in the experiences of those who have already endured the horror of watching a family member succumb to the disease.

As it turns out, the memoir is also the basis of a documentary film titled “14 Days with Alzheimer’s.”  This is the trailer to that film:

Here’s another look at Nora Jo (I have had this conversation so many times with my mother-in-law that this one is hard for me to watch):

(22nd Book Trailer of the week in a continuing series of unusual and memorable book trailers spotted by Book Chase)

The Highs and Lows of World Book Night 2013

Pre-Set-Up Picture of Mall Common

This year, figuring there was no better place to find a bunch of reluctant readers, I carried my case of books to a local shopping mall where I set up shop.  Within a few minutes, I was ready to go and the first curious shoppers were trying to figure out what the catch was.  This reminder of the cynicism that is so much a part of today’s world was the first indication that this was going to be a good bit tougher than last year when I brought my books to an assisted living facility where I was met by a small crowd of eager readers.

Michael Perry’s “Population: 485”

Within 45 minutes, though, I had given away about half the books.  I was appalled, however, by the number of people who stopped by just long enough to rather proudly proclaim that they do not read books and have no interest in ever doing so, thank you very much.  When I had heard enough of that, I decided to pack up and go inside the mall.  And there I struck gold when I spotted all those bored husbands sitting on mall benches waiting for their wives to finally claim them so they could go home.  My people.

Bored men with nothing to read who dared not stray from where their wives sat them?  What more could I ask for?  Within an hour I had given away the last 11 books, talked books with some nice guys of all ages, and walked away convinced that each of them was sincerely grateful for the book I left behind.  (I was even referred to as a “lifesaver” by two of the guys.  Now that’s appreciation.)

So the highs easily trumped the lows, and I can’t wait to learn what World Book Night 2014 will bring.

The Burgess Boys

The Burgess kids lost their father in a freakish accident when Jim was eight and the twins, Bob and Susan, were four.  They were too young to be blamed for what happened, but each of them, in their own way, would be traumatized by the collective guilt associated with that tragic day.  Now, decades later, they are still paying the price.
The boys both practice law in New York City and have left little Shirley Falls, Maine far behind.  Their sister, on the other hand, has never even been to New York City and still lives in Shirley Falls with her troubled teenage son.  The Burgess family, while not quite estranged, is most certainly not a close one.  Zach can barely remember his uncles.  And when Jim and Bob are together, Jim still takes great joy in belittling his brother, something he has done since at least the day their father died – behavior that the good-natured Bob seems hardly to notice.
But suddenly, all the way from Shirley Falls, Susan frantically reaches out to her brothers for support and legal help.  Zach is in trouble, big trouble, and neither the boy nor his mother is emotionally prepared for what they are about to face.  For the first time since their mother died, the Burgess kids are together in their old hometown, and they can barely stand the town – or each other.
Elizabeth Strout
With remarkable insight, Elizabeth Strout, beginning with the trauma they suffered as small children, moves up and down the Burgess family timeline to explain how they became the people they are today.  Bob and Susan, neither of whom can handle stress or confrontation, are the most obviously emotionally stunted of the three, but the outwardly successful Jim is only better at hiding his problems than they are.  Layer by layer, Stroud develops their distinct personalities, and when they are finally forced to confront their past, it is only a question of which of them will crack first.
The Burgess kids did not grow up to become likable adults, and Strout does not pretend that they did, but it is hard not to be sympathetic as one observes their efforts to cope with their lives.  Their father, after all, was only the most obvious victim of the accident that claimed his life – there were three other victims that day.

Stephen King’s Carrie – 2013 Version

Carrie is the novel that introduced Stephen King to the world (although I did not really discover him myself until I picked up a paperback copy of The Shining a while later).  Co-incidentally, the 1975 Hollywood version of Carrie is largely responsible for making Sissy Spacek a household name despite the fact that she already had been around for about five years.  Obviously, the bullied teen’s story has a firm grip on America’s imagination.

Now comes word that a new film version, one much truer to King’s novel, will be released in late 2013.  The movie will star Chloe Grace Moretz as Carrie and is directed by Kimberly Pierce.

I admit that the movie looks intriguing based on this one trailer, but I have to wonder whether anyone already familiar with Carrie will really want to sit through a new version, even one produced by today’s technology.  Will “familiarity breed contempt” in this case?

What do you think?

Lost in the Stacks

I’m rather honored that Danielle over at A Work in Progress added my bookshelves to her “Lost in the Stacks: Home Edition” feature today.  Danielle’s post includes multiple pictures of my books and shelves along with my answers to her questions regarding the shelves and how I handle my book collection.

If you’re interested, here is the direct link to A Work in Progress.  I’ve followed her “Lost in the Stacks” posts for a while now and always find them fun…loving to snoop the book collections of others, as I do.  Too, if you are interested in sharing your own shelves, I imagine that Danielle would like to hear from you.

(Thanks, Danielle, it was fun.)

Life After Life

Although I am one generation away from needing “elder care” for myself, I have spent a whole lot of time with my 91-year-old father in an assisted living facility during the last three years.  Remarkably, he is healthier and happier today than the day he took up residence there – and both of us attribute his improvement more to his daily interaction with the friends he has made there than to the extra care and assistance he receives.  There is just something special about being around people so regularly.
So when I spotted Jill McCorkle’s Life After Life I wondered if she had gotten in right.  Would her portrayal of daily life inside an assisted living facility accurately present all the ups and downs of what residents experience as they navigate their “life after life” period or not?  Well, I can now say that not only does McCorkle get it right, she also creates a number of memorable characters along the way.
Life After Life is set in a Fulton, North Carolina “retirement facility” called Pine Haven Estates.  Most, but not all, of its residents are locals who have known each other since childhood.  One of them, in fact, taught third-grade for so many years that she remembers most of Fulton’s citizens as they were when they were eight years old.  Sadie, now 85, has come to believe that, in our hearts, we are all still eight years old, and she conducts herself accordingly. 
Sadie’s best friend is Rachel, another retired schoolteacher, who has moved from Massachusetts to spend her final years in North Carolina because of mysterious (and well-guarded) reasons of her own.  Then there is Toby, a “youngish” lesbian and former high school English teacher, whose tendency to see the humor of any situation (and she is not afraid to laugh about it) makes her a treat to have around.  Throw in Stanley, who is outrageously pretending to suffer from dementia so that his son will finally move on with his own life, and the social possibilities are endless.
Jill McCorkle
But McCorkle does not stop there.  She includes characters like Joanna, a hospice worker who is a regular visitor to Pine Haven Estates; C.J., a much tattooed and pierced young lady who provides the facility’s beauty care; and Abby, the troubled 12-year-old who lives next door and prefers to spend her free time in Pine Haven Estates rather than with her feuding parents.  All of these “outside” characters have lives and problems of their own that they bring with them to Pine Haven, a reminder to the residents that the world they remember is still spinning right outside their front door. 
Life After Life is fun but it comes with the serious message that “life after life” is what we make of it – and that we best be preparing for it a long time before it begins.  In what I think is a rather jarring ending (which is sure to irritate some readers) one character learns about life the hardest way possible.  This one is definitely worth a look.

(Review Copy provided by Publisher)

The Last Bookshop

The video shown below was created in the UK by BakeryTV and is very well done.  It is a depiction of where the world could be headed if shopping trends and technology changes continue in the direction they are headed today.  The film is a rather satirical look at the worst-case scenario but it makes a couple of legitimate points about the future of books.

The Last Bookshop video is a bit over 20 minutes long, but the real punchline comes at the end, so try to stay with it.  Honestly, it is so wonderfully acted, scripted, and produced that you are more likely to be disappointed when it ends rather than you are to cut it off before the end.

World Book Night 2013 Fast Approaching

World Book Night 2013 (April 23) is fast approaching.  I, in fact, expect an email in the next day or so authorizing me to pick up a case of 20 copies of Michael Perry’s Population:485 from a near-by Barnes & Noble for distribution that evening.

Now it is time for me to finalize a spot to give the books away – and that is not quite as easy as it sounds.  The primary goal of World Book Night is to get books into the hands of light readers and others who seldom read a book at all.  So where do I best find them?  Starbucks, in the common area of a local shopping mall, in front of a Wal-Mart (don’t laugh), at a sandwich shop?  

Last year I gave away copies of John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany to residents of a senior living home a few miles from me.  The book’s were much appreciated, and I really enjoyed talking books with the folks I met that night.  But this year, I thought I would try for a more general selection from the population – keeping in mind that Population: 485 is not for younger readers.


For the First Time Since 1947, a Bay Psalm Book Will Change Hands

One of the eleven remaining copies of the very first American book produced in America is for sale.  And for a mere $30 million you can just about guarantee that it will be yours – just register with Sotheby’s for the Bay Psalm Book auction scheduled for November 26, 2013 in New York.  

The last copy of the Bay Psalm Book to change hands was purchased way back in 1947 by Yale University for a then, whopping $151,000.  

This copy is expected to sell for something between $15 million and the $30 million I mentioned earlier.  It is one of two copies owned by Boston’s Old South Church, whose leadership plans to use auction proceeds for repairs to the building and for various programs sponsored by the church.  


Driving Mr. Yogi

I suspect that Driving Mr. Yogi will almost exclusively be read by baseball fans, particularly fans of the love-them-or-hate-them New York Yankees.  And that’s a shame, because the book is actually a rather beautiful portrayal of love, respect, loyalty, and the powerful impact of mentoring by one generation of another.  Yes, as its subtitle makes clear, this is a book about two of the greatest Yankees ever to play the game: catcher Yogi Berra and pitcher Ron Guidry, two men with little in common other than their outstanding ability to play the game of baseball.  But playing baseball is the smallest part of this story.
Yankee owner George Steinbrenner was not known for his social skills, and Yogi Berra was a man with a long memory and the ability to hold a grudge indefinitely (neither of which make it easy to work for someone like Steinbrenner).  Baseball managers are “hired to be fired,” of course, and Yogi never objected to the fact that Steinbrenner fired him.  Buthe took offense to how Steinbrenner handled the firing – and refused to return to Yankee Stadium, or speak to Steinbrenner, for fourteen long years.  It was the vain Steinbrenner who cracked first, and decided to visit Yogi in New Jersey to work things out.
Ron Guidry, Yogi Berra
So when Berra arrived in Florida for his first Yankee Spring Training in fourteen years, Ron Guidry, a Berra protégéand sometime Yankee pitching coach, was eager to meet him at the airport to help his old coach get settled in.  Little did Guidry know at the time, that this would be the beginning of perhaps the most beautiful friendship he would ever experience.  What began as a courtesy on Guidry’s part, one stemming from his immense respect for Berra, would evolve into a deep friendship that made the lives of both men better.  If the truth were known, it probably made them both better men.  But over time, as Berra aged and became feeble, the relationship evolved into one in which Guidry was his friends protector, always there to ensure that Yogi did not suffer a crippling fall or otherwise endanger himself.  Theirs was almost a father-son relationship.
Driving Mr. Yogi might be specifically aimed at baseball fans, but it is also perfect for anyone interested in the aging process or in dealing with an aging parent of their own.  The bookis filled with insights beautifully presented via the many little personal moments that Ron and Yogi shared with author Harvey Araton.  We can all learn something from their story.

Bad Books, Vicious Libs, and Baseball Dopes Like Pedro Strop

I seem to be in the middle (I hope it’s at least the middle) of a frustrating period during which I can’t find a book that doesn’t leave me feeling as if I’m wasting precious reading-time on it.  The last few books I’ve started are either so poorly written (dominated by convoluted sentences, or even worse, by poor grammar and sentence fragments) or they are so utterly boring that I toss them aside from frustration after 50 or 60 pages.  

The sad thing is that the poorly written ones I’ve encountered during this streak have the best plots or topics, and the better written ones are the boring ones.  At this point, I’d settle for mediocrity in both writing and plot as a good compromise to jumpstart my reading.  I’m not sure which is worse: overhyped books from major publishers or all the self-published books out there that should have been kept at home.  I don’t mean to sound cynical (or worse, unfeeling), but the book-haystack is getting larger and larger, making it more difficult than ever to find the good stuff.  And that is frustrating.

Maybe, it’s me.  Do you ever get to the point where everything seems to be annoying and frustrating?  Maybe it started when I noticed the viciously gleeful reaction so many on the left are having to the death of Britain’s Margaret Thatcher.  That disgusting display of intolerance was enough to put me in a bad mood, and might be the reason my reading enjoyment went south about the same time.  I read many authors whose political opinions I don’t necessarily agree with, and some of them have jumped on the trash-Thatcher bandwagon, so maybe that’s it.

The final straw was last night when I turned to a longtime favorite pastime, televised baseball, for some relief.  Didn’t happen, thanks to some dope named Pedro Strop who pitches for the Baltimore Orioles.  This clown wears his baseball cap cocked so far to the side that it almost touches his right ear.  I wish I had a photo I could post, but just picture a very crooked baseball cap on this fool’s head – something you might see on some thuggish yo-yo hanging out at the local mall trying to look cool – and you will get the idea.  Come on, Mr. Baseball Commissioner, are you going to put up with this kind of thing?  Do you really want Major League Baseball to become the NBA?  If players don’t respect themselves or their fans, can’t you at least demand that they respect the sport?  That’s sort of your job.

I always figured that the older I got, the more patience I would have, especially after I retired.  It’s sure not working out that way.

The Cat

The horror of losing a child is bad enough.  But when that child is the only one you are ever likely to have, and you are a fast-approaching-forty, single mother, the loss can steal your very will to live.  Throw in the guilt Elise feels  about letting her eleven-year-old son be run down by a car in his own front yard, and her wish to join him in death is easy to understand.  Her world has been changed forever, her purpose in life snatched while she was not paying attention.
In such pain that she wants nothing more than to be left alone, the bewildered Elise begins to plan her death.  It should be easy enough certainly for someone as determined as her.  But then it hits her: if she kills herself, there will be no one left to take care of her son’s beloved cat, Pursie.  She knows her son will never forgive her if she abandons the animal to the woods surrounding their rural home.  So, reluctantly, she makes it through the first night without her son as her “jailer lay next to her and purred.”
The Cat chronicles the next seven months of Elise’s struggle to maintain her sanity as she cares for Pursie – and finally, even a little for herself.  As Elise crosses off the days on her calendar, she and Pursie settle into an existence of near isolation.  That isolation, however, will prove to be an impossible goal as Elise, over time, is forced to interact a bit with friends, neighbors, and others concerned about her.  Try as she might, she will not be allowed to cut herself off from the rest of the world.
Edeet Ravel
Much of Elise’s story is told through the memories she types out as a way to forget for a few minutes about her son’s death.  Her less than ideal childhood (Elise was born with nevus flammeus, a purple “stain” largely covering the left side of her face that made her a target for the taunts of other children) perhaps explains her ease with total isolation and a tendency to slip into despair.  But, as Elise will learn, hope can come from where one least expects to find it – and then she has to decide what to do with it.
The Cat might not be long on action, but its message is a powerful one that readers will think about long after they turn the novel’s final page.  If “literay fiction” is your preference, this one might be for you.

(Review Copy provided by Publisher)

Christopher Meeks and Libby Fischer Hellman On Writing

I am by temperament a traditionalist.  For some reason, I have always appreciated and been fascinated by the past – especially what happened during my life when I was still too young to understand what I was living through.  Heck, I’ve been that way since I was six years old and started pestering my father with questions about World War II (which ended three years before I was born).

But I do admire writers who are adjusting to today’s do-it-yourself environment in constructive and creative ways.  Be it Facebook, GoodReads, YouTube, or several other similar tools available to them, some writers are embracing the new technology rather than being thrown off stride by it.  As a result, I have discovered many a writer the existence of which I would never otherwise have become aware.  And I love their work.

Christopher Meeks and Libby Hellman are two examples that readily come to mind.  Both have begun to create YouTube videos on the subject of writing as a way of addressing students, readers, and fellow writers.  In this rather chaotic world of publishing, writers like Chris and Libby are making their presence felt in ways that would not have been possible even a few years ago.  And even though I know I do not aspire to actually be a writer myself, I find their videos interesting and can’t wait to see what’s next.

First up is a video Chris has titled “Writing Life — The Habit of Writing.”

This is Libby’s introduction to a series of writing videos that she calls “Writing Lite.”  This segment is about “building suspense.”

And, finally, this is an earlier video from Chris in which he is very much in the tongue-in-cheek mode: “3 Surefire Tips to Be a Great Writer.”

A Chance to Win

Much to the chagrin of Major League Baseball and baseball coaches at every level, the sport has pretty much been abandoned by the black youth of America’s inner cities.  This is not a new problem, and Major League executives have thrown a lot of money at the problem in recent years by building youth ballparks and providing equipment to teams willing to give the sport a shot. 
But, as Jonathan Schuppe points out in A Chance to Win, largely due to peer pressure, black kids are still reluctant to take up the game.  They consider it a “white” sport and by huge margins give their attention to basketball and football instead.  Schuppe points out, too, that baseball is a sport whose skills are most often passed on directly from father to son.  This is a huge handicap in an environment in which fathers are, more often than not, not living in the same home as their children – and are unlikely to have learned the game from their own fathers, in the first place.
Rodney Mason, a Newark kid now in his forties, knew early on that he was good at baseball.  He was a prized pitcher on his high school team, and had the potential to parley his baseball skills into a bright future for himself.  Unfortunately, Rodney was also pretty good at dealing drugs from a local street corner – but, as Rodney would eventually learn, a “pretty good” drug dealer does not stay out of trouble forever. 
Although Rodney’s drug dealing always did have the potential for  getting him killed, his undoing actually came at the hands of a rival who targeted Rodney for a drive-by shooting because of their dispute over a woman.  Rodney survived the shooting but woke up paralyzed from the waist down.  His baseball-playing days might have been over – but Rodney was soon back out on the street dealing drugs from his wheelchair. 
Jonathan Schuppe
Then, when the city of Newark decided to clean up the old ball field across the street from Rodney’s apartment, he decided to get involved.  He hoped that baseball, the only thing he was ever exceptional at in his life, could save him before it was too late.  He hoped to use baseball to save a few of the neighborhood kids from the street life that had crippled him – and in the process to turn his own life around.  But it would not be easy – and A Chance to Win explains why.
Over the course of a couple of seasons, the book closely follows “Coach Rock,” two of his better players, and the father of two other players as they struggle mightily to turn their hopes into reality.  For all of them, it turns out to be a case of “two steps forward and one step back.”  Life might be stacked against the Newark Eagles, but baseball gives them a chance to make the most of their potential rather than simply succumbing to the city’s street life.  Theirs is a touching story with a message of hope.  Baseball is their “chance to win.”

(Review Copy provided by Publisher)

Z: A Novel About Zelda Fitzgerald

Most fans of classic American literature, especially fans of F. Scott Fitzgerald, know at least a few basic facts about Zelda Sayre, the Alabama beauty who became his wife at the end of World War I.  As famous during their lifetime for their high-living lifestyle as for the fiction Fitzgerald produced, the pair considered themselves to be the epitome of the “Jazz Age.”  Whatever else might be said about them, Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald were two of a kind, and they and their marriage crashed and burned in relative short order. 
Some blame Zelda for what happened to them; some blame Scott.  The truth, however, is that both of them enthusiastically embraced the lifestyle that would ultimately be their ruin.  Therese Anne Fowler’s new book, Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, uses Zelda’s voice and perspective to tell their story.   And what a story it is.
The novel opens in Zelda’s hometown of Montgomery, Alabama.  It is June of 1918 and Zelda is only 26 days from her eighteenth birthday.  Beautiful, and part of a wealthy and respected Alabama family, Zelda already has more than her fair share of suitors.  But it is Lt. Scott Fitzgerald, a “Yankee interloper” stationed at nearby Camp Sheridan, who will win her heart.
Zelda, never having traveled far from home, was stunned by the lifestyle she and Scott assumed immediately following their marriage.  But, as Fowler vividly portrays in the novel, that lifestyle would ultimately cost them their health, their sanity, and their very lives.  Theirs was definitely not a marriage made in heaven, but for many, it represents the classic Jazz Age marriage.
Therese Anne Fowler
Therese Anne Fowler breathes new life into the stereotypical image that most have of Zelda Fitzgerald – although, sadly enough, much of the Zelda Fitzgerald stereotype seems to have been true. Zelda, a budding feminist, wanted more out of life than just being the silent, compliant wife that her husband demanded she be.  As much of a rebel Fitzgerald was regarding his own behavior, he required his wife to perform her “wifely duties” in the most conservative manner possible.  Her role, as he saw it, was to support him in his efforts; everything else was secondary.  This proved to be the wedge that would ultimately ruin their marriage.

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald is an eye-opener that will be appreciated by fans of historical fiction as well as by those who more specifically enjoy reading novels about authors and their books.

(Review Copy provided by Publisher)

The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius

The Spark is one of those rare books that had me wanting to talk about it for a week after I finished it.  It tells such a remarkable story of parental love, never giving up on a child, and achieving the seemingly impossible, that it stayed on my mind for days.  
Ten years ago, when he was two, Jacob Barnett was diagnosed as being autistic, greatly shocking his parents who had watched their “normal” child’s development deteriorate over the short course of his life.  By that point, Jake had withdrawn into his own world and, refusing to talk, he was content to sit quietly and stare at the shadows on the walls of his home.  Soon, the “experts” had given up on Jake despite his mother’s belief that she would eventually be able to “mainstream” her son.  When Kristine Barnett was told that Jake would probably never even learn to tie his own shoes, much less learn to read, she realized that she had to follow her own instincts.  She was Jake’s only hope. 
Today, Jake’s IQ cannot even be precisely measured because it is literally off the chart (it is said, however, to be higher than that of Albert Einstein).  This is a boy who taught himself calculus in two weeks so that he would be ready to take another class in which he was interested.  By the time he was nine years old, Jake was doing astrophysical research so original that he was thought of in terms of winning a Nobel Prize for the work.  And, perhaps most beautiful of all, Jake Barnett seems to be a natural teacher, with all the patience and ability in the world.  He loves tutoring high school and college students as much as they enjoy learning from a kid.
Kristine Barnett
And none of it would have happened without his mother’s intervention.  The Barnetts are not wealthy people – in fact, they sometimes struggled to feed and house their family.  But Kristine and her very supportive husband were willing to spend every dime they had on their children – and on other kids like Jake.  Kristine expanded her tiny daycare facility into a free program for autistic children at which each child was allowed and encouraged to pursue their own specific interests and talents – and Kristine was always able to identify those talents for each child.  The daycare she started in 1996, Acorn Hill Academy, has morphed into Jacob’s Place, a successful Indiana charitable community center for children with special needs, including autism. 
Kristine and Michael Barnett seem to be doing wonderful work for the people in their community.  Perhaps their story will inspire other parents not to rely only on the experts who might give up on their children too soon.  Parents are the best advocates of their children.  If Kristine Barnett had not believed so, Jake’s wonderful mind might have been lost forever to his autism. 
The Barnett family’s story is one readers will not soon forget.

(Review Copy provided by Publisher)

There Are Reasons Noah Packed No Clothes

Richard Issych, the central character of There Are Reasons Noah Packed No Clothes, knows that he is not crazy.  He also believes that he would be better off dead than alive, but despite his best efforts to make that happen, he cannot seem to get the job done.  But when his latest attempt to end his life fails, and Richard wakes up among the “crazies,” he cannot help but feel a little superior to his fellow inmates.  His awareness that all the other patients are crazy has to mean that he is not like them.  Right?
Although he is only nineteen years old, Richard already considers himself to be one of life’s failures.  In fact, his latest failed suicide attempt proves againthat he cannot do even that job correctly.  He has already tried – and failed – at everything: work, college, friends.  Now he just wants to go to sleep forever, and wonders why everyone can’t just leave him alone?
But much to his surprise (and that of his parents), Richard Issych will do some growing up while confined within the facility treating him for depression.  He is surrounded by, and must interact daily with, an assortment of people suffering from everything from schizophrenia to complete breaks with reality.  Some of those he meets are dangerous to themselves and others – and one or two of them are just dangerously innocent.  Despite the odds, Richard makes a friend or two, finds love of a sort, and best of all, discovers that he wants to live after all.
Robert Jacoby
Robert Jacoby’s portrayal of life inside a mental health facility walks a fine line between entertainment and insight.  Because it is largely seen from a patient’s point-of-view, the “truth” is often hidden between the lines, a style that Jacoby uses effectively right up to the end of the novel.  The ending, I admit, is still rather a mystery to me even after reading it three or four times, but that may very well be intentional.  Perhaps it is up to each of us to decide what really happened during the book’s final scene – and whether or not Richard is as sane as he thinks he is.

(Review Copy provided by Publisher)

Reconstructing Amelia

(Despite how it might appear, there are no spoilers in this review.  All the plot details I have mentioned are included on the book’s cover or as part of its publicity campaign.)
Kate Baron got a phone call one day that she never expected to get.  Her daughter, Amelia, is one of those kids parents never worry much about: academically gifted, popular, and with her head very much screwed on straight, she has a bright future.  But then it happens.  Someone from Amelia’s school calls Kate right in the middle of one of the most important business meetings of her career to tell her that her daughter has been suspended, effective immediately, by the school.  The sooner she picks Amelia up, the better – and no questions will be answered over the phone, thank you very much.
Under immense pressure to get to the school as soon as she can, Kate does not totally panic until she spots police officers, an ambulance, and fire trucks in front of the school.  Her mother’s instincts tell her that Amelia is in danger, and when she glimpses what appears to be a body on the ground surrounded by policemen, she rushes toward it.
The school’s theory is that Amelia, embarrassed to have been caught cheating, has jumped to her death from the school’s roof.  Kate reluctantly comes to believe that Amelia, despite having no reason to ever cheat on any kind of school exam, has indeed killed herself.  But then she gets a mysterious, anonymous text saying simply: “She didn’t jump.”  Now Kate intends to “reconstruct” her daughter’s last hours so that she can learn the truth.
Kimberly McCreight
Reconstructing Amelia is Kimberly McCreight’s debut novel, a novel that, judging from the major media campaign associated with it, its publisher highly believes in.  By using a series of texts, Facebook postings, and emails, the author is able to use both Amelia and her mother as first person narrators.  And as events of Amelia’s final few days unfold, both the reader and Kate will learn how little Kate really knew about what was going on in her daughter’s life.  Amelia’s world, although it was a typical teen setting in many ways, was more threatening and dangerous than most because of the sophistication and wealth of some of the students at the prestigious private school she attended.  Things are seldom as they seem there.
The novel does not work as well as one might expect because neither Amelia nor Kate are particularly realistic characters despite the horrible things that happen to them.  However, I do suspect that female readers of Reconstructing Ameliaare likely to disagree with me, and that I might be well outside the book’s target audience.  Bottom line for me: this is an interesting debut novel that shows much promise for the author’s future works.  I will remember the name Kimberly McCreight.

(Review Copy provided by Publisher)

Amazon Set to Close Deal on GoodReads

The Deal as Seen by

Well, I see that Amazon has made another strategic move in the company’s quest to control the world of publishing and book selling.  Although it doesn’t seem to have generated a whole lot of talk, Amazon (relatively quietly) announced yesterday that it had acquired GoodReads, the popular social network for readers, authors, and publishers.

Terms of the deal were not announced, but it is expected that the sale to Amazon will close by the end of June.  The folks at GoodReads seem exited about it, especially as to how the site might work within the Kindle format.  There is little doubt that this is a good deal for both parties.  GoodReads gets more exposure by being linked to Amazon’s massive number of users – and Amazon gains the type of social network it would have had, otherwise, to create on its own.

Barnes and Noble, on the other hand, is the loser because it will no longer be linked automatically by GoodReads to all the books that are discussed and reviewed on that site.  When the deal closes, those clicks will take a GoodReads user to the Amazon site instead.

So very quietly, Amazon has made another direct hit on Barnes and Noble’s website traffic and further consolidated its own attempt to some day monopolize book sales.  God help us.