Sunday, April 10, 2011


Exposure by Brandilyn Collins

We all have fears and the majority of us manage to work around them.

But what if you couldn't?  What if your anxiety caused issues in your daily affairs?  And what if your worst fears came true?

Kaycee Ray writes a newspaper column that pokes fun at her own paranoia.  Her claustrophobia, her fear of bees, rollers coasters, dentists, heights ... the list goes on.  Her paranoia helps her reach out to others, helps them overcome their own issues, but it also publicly alerts everyone to her less than reliable state of mind.  The local police have come to expect her frantic phone calls of being "followed", of being "watched".

But when Kaycee stands alone in her house and a camera set on her table takes a picture of her - all by itself - she knows this is more than just her irrational fears talking to her.  Then the child of a close friend runs away from home to live with Kaycee, but never makes it to her house.  And pictures of a dead man, the smell of blood, the sound of footsteps and screams are all too real for her.

Kaycee thinks that she inherited her irrational fears from her mother, but in reality, she finds that her mom had more than a vivid imagination to fear.

This was a freebie on my kindle that I'd downloaded months ago.  I'd begun the book several times but never got very far into the first chapter.  I can't really tell you why, just that it hadn't spiked a real interest.

I sat down with it again, determined to get through it, and was somewhat surprised.  It was definitely an interesting look into paranoia and fears that can stop a person cold.  Having a fear of heights myself, I am familiar with the anxiety the author described.  I was also drawn into the suspense and mystery behind the stories.

What I didn't enjoy?  I'm not a fan of books that switch perspective from once chapter to the next.  This book was really two stories - one of Kaycee and the happenings in her current day life, and one of a mafia run bank heist that involved a family with a sick child. The book goes on to bring the two stories together, but for me, it's just a personal peeve of mine to jump back and forth.  I always tend to find one side more interesting than the other, so I tend to feel the book drags out.

This book is listed as Christian fiction, but religion did not play a huge part in the book.  I actually read a review or two that expressed upset over the fact that it seemed to be missing.

The story itself was good, suspenseful and well thought out.  I don't have much experience with the mystery/suspense genre, but it was an easy read for when I didn't have a lot of time to invest at each sitting.  I did figure out the connection of the two stories fairly early in the book, is that normal? or just a sign of too much crime drama TV??  ;0)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Uncoupling (a novel)

The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer

I admit that a great many of the books I read come straight from the book reviews in the People magazine that is delivered through my mail slot every Thursday afternoon. This book was one of those; I saw the review in People and was so intrigued that I immediately downloaded it to my iPad and read it in three days.

Set in an average, if progressive, suburb of New Jersey, the story centers around certain faculty members of a local high school and their families. A new drama teacher is hired and for the annual winter play, she chooses Lysistrata, a Greek comedy about a slew of women going on a sex strike in protest of a protracted war. As soon as the cast of the play is put in place and rehearsals begin, a strange spell is slowly but surely cast over all the females in town, rendering them done with sex. As each female is overcome by the cold wind of the spell, she immediately loses desire and retreats from the male (or males, as the case may be) in her life. Even seemingly good, solid marriages come to a screeching sexual halt, and nobody understands what is happening. Everything comes to a climax - no pun intended - on the night of the play, and . . . well, I don't want to spoil it, so I'll say no more.

While I wouldn't rate this a great literary work, the author has a sharp wit and excellent insight, I think, into male-female relationships. Although the subject matter is sex, it's not pornographic or even very graphic for that matter - it's really more about relationships. The story is an easy, engaging read, and the subject matter is so intriguing that I found that it moved along very quickly. While I was personally a little horrified at how casually and matter-of-factly the story deals with sex among high-schoolers (probably because I am on the brink of having a high-schooler myself), it certainly raises some very thought-provoking questions about the role of desire in relationships, the ebb and flow of it, the importance of the sexual side of relationships - especially long-term ones - and how the differing needs and wants of men and women in relationships so easily leads to conflict.

I think this would be an excellent book club choice! It would be fascinating, and probably very bonding and therapeutic, to sit among an intimate group of women and talk honestly and openly about the role of sex and desire in our relationships. I hope someone will choose it for my book club at some point!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer's Life (biography)

Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer's Life by Pamela Smith Hill

Having been a voracious reader for as long as I can remember, I'm pretty sure that Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books was the first complete series I read, and I was also a devoted fan of the television series, Little House on the Prairie. It's the truth when I say that growing up, I wanted to be Laura Ingalls.

Finally reading a biography about the real Laura Ingalls Wilder after all these years was fascinating. I have to admit that in some ways, having the real Laura Ingalls exposed took a bit of the shine off the fantasy I had grown up with and still find myself holding dear today. I guess on some level I realized that the Little House series of books are fiction based on Ms. Wilder's actual life experiences, but to read in detail about how facts were changed, embellished, etc. for the sake of artistry was a little like finding out that Santa Clause isn't real.

Still, it's a very good book. The author delves into not only Laura's true life experiences, but presents a detailed portrait of how Laura crafted the books that would become iconic. It also discusses at length the role her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, played both in Laura's personal and professional lives. I was surprised to learn about the controversy that exists as to how involved Rose was in the writing of the Little House series (did she merely edit them or actually ghost-write them?), as well as the fact that Laura and her daughter had an often contentious relationship.

If you are a Little House fan, or a fan of a good biography, I highly recommend this book. I am definitely inspired now to go searching for my old Little House books wherever they are packed away.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Forgotten: Seventeen and Homeless

Forgotten: Seventeen and Homeless by Melody Carlson

As if seventeen wasn't hard enough ... Adele finally thinks her mom has got things under control when she moves them to a new city, with a new job and actual money in the bank.  Adele immediately finds herself loving her new life, her new school and her new friends.

But the fun doesn't last long.  Mom is bipolar and like her good moods, all good things come to an end.  Suddenly, the rent is past due, there is no more food in the house and after a fight with her daughter, mom flees the scene with her new pothead boyfriend.

Adele is forced to make it on her own.  She gets a job, lives out of the pothead's abandoned van, and tries her best to go on as if nothing has changed ... but how long can that possibly last?

Another freebie on Kindle, and I actually read the book's description before diving into the book itself.  Two things drew me in - a mother with bipolar and a teenager trying to make it on her own.  The story line intrigued me, being both bipolar and trying a short stint on the streets as a teen myself, I felt I could relate.

The story itself was half believable.  Adele seems to be a fairly well thought out character, but the supporting characters lacked realness.  One character in particular, I really grew to like, but then the author cut her out of the story without any real information. Towards the end of the book, Adele is introduced to a priest, who plays a very minimal part in the book.  At the end, Adele goes to him for help and is told if she finds god, she finds help.  Suddenly there is a couple willing to take her in and care for her so that she can finish school, her old employer takes her back and her boyfriend is forgiving of being lied to for months.

Really?  all because of god?  not because she actually told someone that she was alone and struggling.  not because she asked for help.  but because she found god?

I have no problem reading about people who find strength in their faith, but this came out of no where and left me feeling like someone was trying to prove a miracle and wrap up the book in a pretty gold bow.

I consider this an easy read, for those times when you need something to fill in the days between the "next great read", but I wouldn't go out of my way to look for it.