Monthly Archives: August 2011

Tony & Susan by Austin Wright *Review*

Fifteen years ago, Susan Morrow left her first husband Edward Sheffield, an unpublished writer. Now, she’s enduring middle class suburbia as a doctor’s wife, when out of the blue she receives a package containing the manuscript of her ex-husband’s first novel. He writes asking her to read the book; she was always his best critic, he says.

As Susan reads, she is drawn into the fictional life of Tony Hastings, a math professor driving his family to their summer house in Maine. And as we read with her, we too become lost in Sheffield’s thriller. As the Hastings’ ordinary, civilized lives are disastrously, violently sent off course, Susan is plunged back into the past, forced to confront the darkness that inhabits her, and driven to name the fear that gnaws at her future and will change her life.

 

 

Susan gets a package in the mail from her ex-husband Edward.  A man she left for another man.  Just receiving the package stirs up memories for her.  Memories of hurt and disappointment.  Edward was in law school when they started dating and when they got married he gave it all up to become a writer.  The thing was, he wasn’t a very good one.  Now, receiving this package in the mail, Susan wonders what Edward’s ulterior motive is.  Is he trying to thumb his nose at her?  Will she find herself among the pages?  And what kind of portrait will he paint of her if he does?  Worried, she puts it aside…for months.

When Susan finds out that Edward will be coming to town over the Christmas break she can put off reading it no more.  She sits down with it and…is mesmerized.  It’s good.  It’s not only good, it’s thrilling, and soon Susan gets so caught up in the book Nocturnal Animals and the story of Tony Hastings, it’s main character, she can’t put it down.

 

Tony & Susan is a novel within a novel.  Not only are we reading about Susan and her critique of Edward’s book, but we are reading about Tony Hastings and the violence that befalls his family on their journey out of state on vacation.  Sometimes, with a story within a story, it can get confusing.  But this book, because of it’s clear cut lines between Susan’s quiet domestic life and Tony’s violent one, does not lose the reader.  I found myself getting absorbed in the thriller that Edward wrote about and wondering myself if there is some hidden parallel between his book and their former marriage.   What was I going to find out about them both in the end?

Written by the late Austin Wright, Tony & Susan is worth a read, even if just to see if you can figure out the subtleness of the message to Susan within its pages.  2.5/5 stars

My Nook and I At…

My family likes to camp…a lot.  Two weekends ago my son & I, out of the blue,  decided on Thursday night to go camping on Friday & Saturday night.  Last minute packing might not be a big undertaking for RVers, but for tenters it’s a lot of work!  We had a family reunion on Saturday that we didn’t want to miss so we knew we couldn’t go far.  So we settled on camping at Rock Lake about 30 miles from home in the Pillsbury State Forest.  When we go camping we have a tendency to go to places that are remote and a little more primitive, so we really enjoy going to state forest campgrounds  (different from state parks!) whenever possible.  They’re cheap (generally around $12 a night) and usually not very crowded.  They don’t have running water so you want to make sure to pack a refillable water jug and they only have outhouses, but the toilets are usually very clean.

While reading Tony & Susan I was able to enjoy the solitude that only nature can provide, and when my nephew joined us after the family reunion I was able to watch him fish along the banks of the lake by our campsite as well as get in a few more chapters.

If you are interested in finding a state forest campground in your area go to your state’s DNR website.

 

Come back tomorrow for my review of Tony & Susan by Austin Wright.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

  Last week I accomplished my It’s Monday! reading goals!  Remarkable, since I had an action packed week camping with my family along Minnesota’s north shore of big Lake Superior.  Where we were camping there was no cell phone service with T-Mobile, At & T, or Verizon…nothing, zip, nada!  Hence, the absence of posts last week.  I am never caught up enough to schedule posts in advance!

This meme by Sheila at Book Journey is a fun way to review what happened last week and a great tool to see what others will be reading this week- and come away with lots more added to your tall and tippy pile of books to be read ;)

This week my goal is to finish reading our September book club book The Postmistress by Sarah Blake.

In 1940, Iris James is the postmistress in coastal Franklin, Massachusetts. Iris knows more about the townspeople than she will ever say, and believes her job is to deliver secrets. Yet one day she does the unthinkable: slips a letter into her pocket, reads it, and doesn’t deliver it.

Meanwhile, Frankie Bard broadcasts from overseas with Edward R. Murrow. Her dispatches beg listeners to pay heed as the Nazis bomb London nightly. Most of the townspeople of Franklin think the war can’t touch them. But both Iris and Frankie know better…

The Postmistress is a tale of two worlds-one shattered by violence, the other willfully naïve-and of two women whose job is to deliver the news, yet who find themselves unable to do so. Through their eyes, and the eyes of everyday people caught in history’s tide, it examines how stories are told, and how the fact of war is borne even through everyday life.

And then to read The Winters in Bloom by Lisa Tucker.

Together for over a decade, Kyra and David Winter are happier than they ever thought they could be.  They have a comfortable home, stable careers, and a young son, Michael, who they love more than anything.  Yet because of their complicated histories, Kyra and David have always feared that this domestic bliss couldn’t last – that the life they created was destined to be disrupted.  And on one perfectly average summer day, it is: Michael disappears from his own backyard.

The only question is whose past has finally caught up with them: David feels sure that Michael was taken by his troubled ex-wife, while Kyra believes the kidnapper must be someone from her estranged family, someone she betrayed years ago.

As the Winters embark on a journey of time and memory to find Michael, they will be forced to admit these suspicions, revealing secrets about themselves they’ve always kept hidden.  But they will also have a chance to discover that it’s not too late to have the family they’ve dreamed of; that even if the world is full of risks, as long as they have hope, the future can bloom.

 

I’m kind of excited to get going on these now that I’ve looked at the synopses again!  How about you?  What have you got on your plate this week?  I’ll be visiting y’all to find out!

Exposure by Therese Fowler *Review*

In Exposure, Therese Fowler has written her most gripping novel to date—a ripped-from-the-headlines story of ardent young love and a nightmarish legal maelstrom that threatens to destroy two families.

Amelia Wilkes’s strict father does not allow her to date, but that doesn’t stop the talented, winsome high school senior from carrying on a secret romance with her classmate Anthony Winter. Desperately in love, the two envision a life together and plan to tell Amelia’s parents only after she turns eighteen and is legally an adult. Anthony’s mother, Kim, who teaches at their school, knows—and keeps—their secret. But the couple’s passion is exposed sooner than planned: Amelia’s father, Harlan, is shocked and infuriated to find naked pictures of Anthony on his daughter’s computer. Just hours later, Anthony is arrested.

Despite Amelia’s frantic protests, Harlan uses his wealth and influence with local law enforcement and the media to label Anthony a deviant who preyed on his innocent daughter. Spearheaded by a zealous prosecutor anxious to turn the case into a public crusade against “sexting,” the investigation soon takes an even more disturbing and destructive turn.

As events spiral wildly out of control and the scandalous story makes national news, Amelia and Anthony risk everything in a bold and dangerous attempt to clear their names and end the madness once and for all.

Wow! Where to begin?

In this digital age we live in, can we ever be to careful of the information we save, store, and put out there for the world to see?

My youngest son is 16 and his cell phone is an extension of his right arm.  We’ve had numerous talks about the dangers of sexting, the harm that can be done by simply forwarding a picture sent to him by someone else.  But does he really get it?

I don’t think I truly got it until I read Exposure.  Aside from the obvious humiliation, rumors and innuendos both parties would find themselves surrounded by, there are also the legal ramifications to consider which this book did such an excellent job of driving home.

Anthony and Amelia don’t feel like they have done anything wrong.  They love each other.  But what they don’t understand is at their age, Anthony eighteen and Amelia seventeen, is that in showing their love to each other they trip a wire that runs a thin line back to the law.  And even though they did something very personal and very private which they thought would only ever involve them, it turns out to have very real and powerful consequences for those that they love as well, and soon Anthony’s mother Kim is just as knee-deep in the court system as they are.

I felt the heartache these two teenagers were going through- the love they had for each other, the painful forced separation, the worry, anxiety and fear.   Therese Fowler makes you feel every emotion acutely.   Even though I could never condone what they did or what they’re about to do I found myself rooting them on.  And Amelia’s father, though well within his legal right as a parent, needed a rude awakening that I sincerely wanted to be the one to give him.

Exposure had me feeling far-ranging emotions with every page I turned and after my last book (good, but dry) it was a welcome feeling.  I loved this timely and relevant novel so I am rating it 4.5/5 stars.

My Book & I At…

My books and I go everywhere together.  You will find me in a huge state of panic if for some reason I am without one.  So I thought it would be fun to show you from time to time where I go with my books. 

My son recently spent a week at Cuyuna Scout Camp nestled in the woods by Crosslake, Minnesota.  This is his sixth year at summer camp and every year I dread seeing him go because I miss him so much when he’s gone, but the opportunities there are incredible.  Each year he signs up for 3 merit badge classes.  Some of the classes he’s taken over the years include Indian Lore, Wilderness Survival (where he gets to bring only twine to an overnight sleep out and has to build his own shelter), Weather, Canoeing, Environmental Science, Emergency Preparedness, Camping, Swimming, Archery, Shotgun, Rifle, Cooking (where he learned to make Mountain Dew cake in a dutch oven- now a personal favorite), and more.  He spends a week learning to lead other, younger scouts in his troop, playing games and having campfires in the evening, and enjoying the camaraderie of other scouts. 

The campsite they reserve every year, Apache,  is the farthest from the admit building and the beach (about a mile one way and they walk this several times a day) it is the largest and by far the most beautiful since it is situated right on Goodrich Lake.

 

While waiting for my son to finish packing his tent and patrolling the campsite for missed garbage I took my book down to the fire ring overlooking the lake and enjoyed the solitude of the camp.  I really love it there and I’m so glad my son is able to spend a week there every summer.

 

 

Stop by tomorrow for my review of Exposure by Therese Fowler.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

 

A productive week post-wise last week, which usually doesn’t happen so that’s a bonus!  My goal last week was to read two books and I made it part way through one of them and then we decided at the last minute to go camping which kind of put a kink in the reading plans but was so much funner!!

This meme by Sheila at Book Journey is a fun way to review what happened last week and a great tool to see what others will be reading this week- and come away with lots more added to your tall and tippy pile of books to be read ;)

 

 

Last week my posts included a review for The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson (if you’re an American history buff you’ll like this one!) and a review for The Winter of My Disconnect by Susan Maushart (a non-fiction read about a family who gives up technology for six months.)

I also showed you were my book and I traveled to, first,  the beach of Mille Lacs Lake and then by Blanchard Dam near the start of the Soo Line bike trail.

This week I need to finish Tony & Susan and A Paradise for Fools and if possible, start my book club book for September The Postmistress by Susan Blake.

Then,I’ll be gone for a week camping with my family up on the North Shore of Lake Superior!  A camping freak, I couldn’t be more excited about chucking everything out the window for a quiet, carefree, back to nature experience.  It’s been about 10 years since we have actually been camping in this area so my youngest son doesn’t remember much about Gooseberry Falls, Split Rock Lighthouse, and the Temperance River so he’s jazzed too!

Have a great week and keep those pages turning!

The Winter of My Disconnect by Susan Maushart *Review*

In the age of iPods, iPads, and controller-free gaming systems like the XBox 360 Kinect do you think you could go 6 months screen-free?  Would you even dare to try?  Author Susan Maushart did- and even more incredibly, convinced her three teenage children to go along for the ride.

In my household, just the whisper of “The Experiment,” as Susan’s family came to call their six month technology ban, would be cause for a mutiny.  Sure my boys enjoyed our “Little House on the Prairie Day” when after reading the book we went an entire day without electricity and made our own butter, but they were boys then. At 16 and 21 asking them to give up texting, Pawn Stars, and Call of Duty Black Ops with wireless headset for smack-talking with friends across county lines would be too much for them…and I suspect me as well.

I’m not quite as addicted to connection as they are.  I still enjoy reading, playing cards & sitting on my patio listening to the wind rush through the trees without earbuds in my ears.  But I also enjoy being able to call my husband and chat while I’m driving home from a business meeting, logging into Facebook to tell my niece in California I miss her and being able to catch the Minnesota Wild in action no matter what state or country they may be playing in.

Susan’s children Anni, Bill, and Sussy had a hard time initially with the decision.  How would they do their homework?  What would they do to occupy their time? How would they ever be able to walk their dog without an iPod?

But eventually, Susan found her children moving from being sullen and bored to engaged and excited about the new things they were now doing in lieu of IM’ing.  Board games were fun and a novelty for friends visiting after school,  cooking became more experimental, instruments languishing in the bedroom closet started making music again and a ten-volume collection of Murakami books was a thrilling sweet sixteen birthday gift compared to last year’s Nintendo DS.

Did that mean at the end of “The Experiment” they all smashed their laptop screens and threw their iPhones in the lake? No.  On the contrary, they gathered at midnight to celebrate with DVDs, laptops and cellphones at the ready only to suffer “media hangover” the next day.  But they did learn a lot about themselves…and each other.  They learned that there were other people in the house and they were kind of fun to hang out with.  They learned how to form friendships outside of Facebook, and they learned technology is better in smaller doses.

I enjoyed reading about the trials and tribulations of Susan’s family in trying to exist without all the inventions that have become such a way of life for most people.  The author did a lot of research on her subject and I learned a lot of interesting things about how we, as a society, use technology.  Any time new technological advances are made we hear about how this or that will be the downfall of our society, but technology itself is not as evil as some early scholars cried it would be.

Bust of Socrates from the Louvre

For instance, Socrates feared that reading would cause people to “cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful,” and a German critic predicted the reading revolution would cause a pandemic of “colds, headaches, weakening of the eyes, heat rashes, gout and arthritis.”

The point is technology, when used for it’s intended purpose and used in moderation can actually do some good- as witnessed in studies done on Digital Natives (those who have always had this technology from birth.)  Digital Natives are smarter than we are.  IQ tests show that they are gaining 3 points per decade and their peripheral vision is better- have you ever tried to text and walk at the same time?

But there is hope for us Digital Immigrants yet.  Research shows we are less vulnerable to distraction and we are better researchers since we don’t only skim for keywords.

The information packed into this book was exyensive. Interesting- but not a page turner.  I was hoping Susan would include more personal stories and journal entries, but I did like it  and it has caused some pretty interesting conversations around our dinner table.  3/5 stars