The Interestings

The Interestings

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
(Riverhead Books, 2013, 480 pages)

Jules was transformed when she went to summer camp after her father died. There she met Ethan, Ash, Jonah, Goodman, and Cathy and they formed The Interestings and Julie became Jules. As the years pass, some members of The Interestings leave the group after a New Year’s Eve incident that changes the course of their lives. Years later, Ethan and Ash are a successful and happy couple while Jules and her husband Dennis are struggling to keep up with the basics. The Interestings have always pledged to be loyal to one another, but that doesn’t mean they each don’t have their own secrets or jealousies to hide.

I thought this was an interesting concept to explore. Throughout the read, it was revealed that everyone was envious or wanted something they couldn’t have. This was especially true for Jules but it also might seem that way since the majority of the book was told from her point of view. The least envious character was Ash but it’s also curious that the reader never received her narrative. This was definitely a read I pondered long after I finished with it.

You can also check out Julia’s review of this title.

How People With Autism Grieve, and How to Help

How People With Autism Grieve

How People With Autism Grieve, and How to Help
by Deborah Lipsky
(Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2013, 128 pages)

When non-autistic people grieve the loss of a loved one, they usually get in touch with and express their feelings. There is also often a need to seek comfort in others. The opposite is true of people with autism. In How People with Autism Grieve, and How to Help, Lipsky—an autistic person herself—explains that autistic people are logical problem-solvers who are first and foremost concerned with how the death of someone close will change their established routines. This may appear to others as cold, heartless, and lacking empathy, but broken routines are such a stressor to them that it has to be dealt with before any other emotions can be experienced. Sticking to routines, engaging in special interests, and being alone are ways many autistic people deal with stress. Autistic people do feel deeply, but they usually choose the more soothing isolation over sharing emotion with others.

Lipsky offers advice on how to deliver the news of death to an autistic person, how to help them get through funeral services, and how to help them develop new routines to replace those that involved the loved one. She does warn that there are individual differences among people with autism, so it is important to have a plan in place in advance to help a specific person deal with death. She offers an outline of questions to help develop this plan. In the final chapter, the author explains why death sometimes becomes the special interest of an autistic person. There are many books that address anxiety and autism, but the specific focus on death makes this book unique. It is a quick read and highly recommended.

The Silence of the Library | by Miranda James

The Silence of the Library

The Silence of the Library by Miranda James
(Berkley, 2014, 308 pages)

In honor of National Library Week, I am reviewing a book written by a librarian with the story occurring during National Library Week. The novel is The Silence of the Library by Miranda James. It is the 5th novel in the A Cat in the Stacks Mystery series featuring librarian, Charlie Harris, and his Maine coon cat, Diesel.

To celebrate National Library Week, the Athena Public Library where Charlie volunteers is doing an exhibition of vintage young adult detective mysteries like Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. The exhibit will include selections from Electra Barnes Cartwright who authored the Veronica Thane series. Mrs. Cartwright who is almost 100 years old is scheduled to be a guest speaker at the Library. Mrs. Cartwright has some very devoted fans even though her last novel was published 30 years prior to this event. Unfortunately, one of Mrs. Cartwright’s biggest fans is murdered before Mrs. Cartwright’s appearance. Charlie Harris and Diesel once again have a murder to help solve.

The A Cat in the Stacks Mystery novels are always fun to read. The characters are interesting. The pace of the story is steady. And Diesel almost always gets his treat!

Picture This | by Molly Bang

Picture This

Picture This by Molly Bang
(Turtleback Books, 2000, 96 pages)

I learned about this book when reading the March/April 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. This particular issue spotlights Illustration and has some great essays by a number of illustrators. Picture This by Molly Bang was referenced as a way to understand what goes in to making an illustration “work.” There’s a lot that has to be considered in order to get the right feeling across to the reader through an illustration. Bang breaks this down step by step in this slim but enlightening text.

Bang demonstrates to the reader how things like layout and color need to be taken into account to set the right tone. That sounds simple, but as she illustrates, there’s a lot that goes into getting the right effect. Using only three colors (and white) and basic shapes it’s pretty impressive how little it takes to change the whole feeling of an image. This book is a great way to understand the power of picture books and how/why they convey the feelings they do. I’m really glad I picked this up – it definitely gives you an appreciation for the talent that goes into creating visual elements in books, whether they’re in picture books for children or in the form of graphic novels aimed at adults.

Anna Dressed in Blood | by Kendare Blake

Anna Dressed in Blood

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
(Tor Teen, 2011, 316 pages)

I don’t even remember what prompted me to pick this book up aside from being in the mood for a YA read but it certainly kept my attention. Cas is 17 and after the death of his father ten years earlier he is following in his footsteps and ridding the world of ghosts intent on doing harm. Because of the nature of his work, Cas and his mom move around often. They have to be wherever the harmful spirit is and they find out about these spirits through a small circle of people who know what it is that Cas does. This is the reason Cas and his mother move to Thunder Bay, Ontario. Cas has been contacted to rid the town of a spirit known as “Anna Dressed in Blood.”

As Cas familiarizes himself with the town and learns more about Anna he can’t explain why he feels so “connected” to her. There’s no question she’s a violent spirit, but when the two finally meet she resists any urge she might have to tear Cas limb from limb. Despite trying to maintain his lone wolf status Cas somehow finds himself with a few friends who want to help him in his quest. But there’s more to the story than just Anna. Cas’s father died a gruesome death and Cas has been “training” for the day he’ll confront the monster/spirit that killed him… but sometimes things don’t follow the path we’ve laid out.

This was a well-written and engaging read. Blake didn’t romanticize the paranormal in this book and the descriptions of what spirits do to people are definitely grisly. I think this is a good book for teens who are interested in dipping a toe in the horror genre. I also appreciated that the romantic element in the story didn’t overshadow the actual plot.

Murder at the Pentagon | by Margaret Truman

Murder at the Pentagon

Murder at the Pentagon by Margaret Truman
(Random House, 1992, 291 pages)

This is the second book I’ve read by Margret Truman. It certainly didn’t disappoint. The main character from the previous book, law professor Mackensie Smith, plays a supporting role here. A civilian scientist is murdered at what seems to be the most secure building in the world, the Pentagon. Major Margit Falk, a new lawyer, is assigned to defend Corporal Robert Cobol who is charged with the murder. The victim was a lead scientist of a defense research project devoted to small nuclear devices.

While Major Falk investigates the case, she finds herself tangled in secrets, cover-ups and dangerous situations. The alleged murderer had a sexual relationship with the victim. The victim’s project was linked to a small Arab country which recently revealed its nuclear capability. A congressional committee investigation also has a stake in this case. As if it’s not complicated enough,  Major Margit’s boyfriend Jeff is involved in this as well. Jeff’s boss, the senator, heads the congressional committee. Major Margit turns to her mentor Mackensie Smith for help. The story line is engaging and has a few twists and turns. The ending is surprising and satisfactory.

Having visited Washington D.C. several times, it’s fun to try to picture the landmarks and streets. There are detailed description about the Pentagon’s layout. I would love to (if possible) tour this famous building someday.

The Guardian | by Nicholas Sparks

The Guardian

The Guardian by Nicholas Sparks
(Grand Central Publishing, 2003, 382 pages)

Overview:

Julie Barenson’s young husband left her two unexpected gifts before he died – a Great Dane puppy named Singer and the promise that he would always be watching over her. Now four years have passed. Still living in the small town of Swansboro, North Carolina, twenty-nine-year-old Julie is emotionally ready to make a commitment to someone again. But who? Should it be Richard Franklin, the handsome, sophisticated engineer who treats her like a queen? Or Mike Harris, the down-to-earth nice guy who was her husband’s best friend? Choosing one of them should bring her more happiness than she’s had in years. Instead, Julie is soon fighting for her life in a nightmare spawned by a chilling deception and jealousy so poisonous that it has become a murderous desire…

I’ve read many of Nicholas Sparks’ books but somehow I missed reading The Guardian. I enjoyed the storyline and how it went from being a love story into an unpredictable thriller! I appreciated how Sparks developed not only the main characters but even the Great Dane in the story named Singer. I think this is one of my favorite Nicholas Sparks’ books and if you haven’t yet read The Guardian, I highly recommend it!