Worth | by Jon Canter

Worth

Worth by Jon Canter
(Random House, 2011, 279 pages)

Jon Canter writes funny, insightful novels. Worth tells the story of Richard and Sarah, a couple who meet and marry in London. They soon decide to simplify their lives and move to the country. Adjusting to life in the Suffolk village of Worth proves difficult until Catherine moves into the cottage next door. She is the perfect neighbor – kind, considerate, intelligent, and fun. However, as the friendship between the three deepens, complications arise. No matter how far from the crowded city Richard and Sarah get, the difficulties of relating to and living with other people cannot be escaped.

Canter seems to enjoy writing about intelligent but under-achieving male characters. In his first novel, Seeds of Greatness, it was David, the Cambridge educated bookstore clerk. In Worth, Richard is an aspiring but as yet unsuccessful illustrator who seems to be content to cede control of his life to the driven and ambitious women that surround him. The book sees Richard attempting to correct this dynamic with Sarah, and it provides lots of humorous and observant passages about how a couple can share a life without eclipsing one another. There is also some pretty funny material about the pitfalls faced by a married man attempting to navigate a friendship with a woman who is also close to his wife. It seems that Richard and Sarah’s relationship is defined almost as much by how they relate to their mutual friends as it is by how they relate to each other.

I enjoyed this book a lot, though I found the final chapters a bit anti-climactic. In some ways, this probably makes it a story that is true to everyday realities. Some exciting and dramatic things happen, but these events tend to get absorbed in the more mundane and determinative events and decisions of life. On the whole, really enjoyable.

All Fall Down | by Jennifer Weiner

All Fall Down

All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner
(Atria Books, 2014, 388 pages)

Overview:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Weiner:

Allison Weiss got her happy endinga handsome husband, adorable daughter, a job she loves, and the big house in the suburbs. But while waiting in the pediatrician’s office, she opens a magazine to a quiz about addiction and starts to wonder…Is a Percocet at the end of the day really different from a glass of wine? Is it such a bad thing to pop a Vicodin after a brutal Jump & Pump class…or if your husband ignores you?

The pills help her manage the realities of her good-looking life: that her husband is distant, that her daughter is acting out, that her father’s Alzheimer’s is worsening and her mother is barely managing to cope. She tells herself that they let her make it through her days… but what if her increasing drug use, a habit that’s becoming expensive and hard to hide, is turning into her biggest problem of all?

With a sparkling comedic touch and a cast of unforgettable characters, this remarkable story of a woman’s slide into addiction and struggle to find her way back up again is Jennifer Weiner’s most masterful work yet.

I’d never read any of Jennifer Weiner books but I was told that she was a pretty good writer. And I did see the movie version of her book In Her Shoes, which I thought was very good. So when I saw this was her latest book it sounded pretty interesting to me. I have to say I was impressed with her writing style and the subject sparked my interest as well. I have known a few people with prescription drug addiction and saw firsthand the struggle they had to deal with to overcome it.

Her story is compelling and well-written. I would love to know the type of research she did for this story because she seriously did her homework. Allison is real. She can be any one of your friends or neighbors; she could be any one of us. I traveled on her journey rooting for her to find a way to pull herself together and in the end, she did. It was not easy for her, though. Which in real life it’s not. I found it hard to put down.

This book gave me a completely new insight to addiction. I don’t understand how someone quits or why they relapse. I know it is fiction but it was really well written. It wasn’t a depressing book and she even had some very funny moments in it. While it’s easy to see how Allison’s life spiraled out of control, you can’t help but root for her recovery. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed with the ending. For a story that had so much intrigue throughout, the end was kind of blah. I can see myself definitely reading another one of her books, though.

We Are Water | by Wally Lamb

We Are Water

We Are Water by Wally Lamb
(Harper, 2013, 561 pages)

Annie and Orion Oh were married for twenty-seven years and had three children together before Annie decided to leave Orion for a woman, Viveca, after moving to New York for her art. Now the family is set to come together once again for Viveca and Annie’s wedding but some of the Oh’s are having trouble adjusting to Annie’s new life. As they begin to gather on the east coast, Orion and their children, Andrew, Ariane, and Marissa, bring along new secrets while Annie continues to try and hide truths from her childhood.

I truly thought this was a fantastic read. I loved the family drama and how Lamb set up the story. The reader knows right away that Annie and Orion’s marriage fell apart and everyone is having a little difficulty handling it. But it isn’t until you get each character’s perspective that you realize how badly they are taking the new family dynamic. For me, the story just kept pulling me in from different angles and especially the cliffhanger Lamb sneaks in right in the middle of the story. I’m always curious how other readers enjoyed books and I like to see what their thoughts are. The consensus I got from the reviews I read is while this was a good book, it still doesn’t measure up to Lamb’s previous books She’s Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True. Since this is the first book I’ve read of Lamb’s, I can’t imagine it will be long till I pick up one of his past reads.

Carrie | by Stephen King

Carrie

Carrie by Stephen King
(Pocket Books, 2005, 253 pages)

Carrie has always been the outcast in school and her mother has not helped things along the way. Carrie’s mother is extremely religious and has tried to control Carrie’s sinning so that she never becomes a woman to the point that Carrie is frequently locked in her “closet” to pray. Her peers at school are always finding reasons to pick on Carrie so there is no one for Carrie to turn to when she discovers she has telekinetic powers. Instead, she just gets angrier at all the people in her life and is convinced that they are trying to trick her. But when Sue Snell convinces her boyfriend Tommy to ask Carrie to the prom as a way to make up for the horrible things they’ve done to her, Carrie reluctantly agrees to the date but has her guard up and her powers ready if this turns out to be just another one of their mean tricks.

This is one of those classic stories that I had never read or seen the film. I’m extremely glad I finally got around to reading this and was impressed when I learned that this was King’s first published novel. I listened to this on audiobook (thanks Kelly!) and the thing I enjoyed most about it, besides the great narration by Sissy Spacek, was the introduction by King. I loved hearing about the inspiration for the book and how he originally threw the first few pages away before his wife saved them from the trash. Now I will have to watch the film, but the original not the remake.

Sisterland | by Curtis Sittenfeld

Sisterland

Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld
(Random House, 2013, 400 pages)

Growing up, Kate and Vi knew that they were different from everyone not only because they were identical twins, but also because they were psychic. They didn’t always know when or what exactly was going to happen, but premonitions came to them mostly through dreams and strong feelings. As they grew older, Vi fully accepted her psychic powers and started to make a living off her abilities. Kate, on the other hand, destroyed her powers the best she could so she could live a normal life with her husband and two small children. Then Vi shakes up everyone’s lives predicting a major earthquake to hit St. Louis in the coming weeks. As Vi begins to get more media attention on her prediction, Kate must decide if she should use her powers to protect her family or stay true to her beliefs to leave her powers in the past.

I enjoyed this book mostly because Kate’s moral struggle was so interesting. She has such panic attacks whenever she thinks that her family might come off as anything but normal that she tries to control the situation immediately. So the fact that she and Vi have these psychic powers and that Vi embraces them so publicly has led to a lot of strain in their relationship. When Vi predicts the earthquake, Kate wants to protect her family but she also doesn’t want to come off as believing what Vi says or letting on that she has powers of her own. Also the fact that it’s set in St. Louis led to some interesting takes on St. Louis personalities and landmarks.

Death of a Unicorn | by Peter Dickinson

Death of a Unicorn

Death of a Unicorn by Peter Dickinson
(Small Beer Press, 2013, 204 pages)

This was a Nancy Pearl recommendation and there is no better place to find a forgotten gem. Published in 1983 and set in that time as well as 1950’s London, it follows the life of a titled young woman who is trying to strike out on her own writing a social column for a popular magazine. I wouldn’t exactly call this a mystery but it there are some unanswered questions the heroine has to look into later in her life. I loved the humor and tone of Lady Margaret and so even though the plot wasn’t exactly a page turner I still had a hard time putting it down. I’m definitely going to try out some of Peter Dickinson’s other mysteries.

“For best-selling author Lady Margaret, the past is no longer a pleasant memory. Her first lover’s mysterious death and the seeming inevitability of her inheriting the family’s stately home are cast in new light by secrets unwillingly revisited. The first in a series of reprints of Peter Dickinson’s mysteries, this classic British mystery will win fans currently engrossed in Downton Abbey.” – Amazon.com

MaddAddam Trilogy | by Margaret Atwood

MaddAddam Trilogy

MaddAddam Trilogy by Margaret Atwood
Oryx and Crake
(Anchor Books, 2003, 376 pages)
The Year of the Flood
(Anchor Books, 2010, 434 pages)
MaddAddam
(Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2013, 394 pages)

In preparation to read the last novel in Margaret Atwood’s Maddaddam Trilogy, Maddaddam, I decided to listen to the audio versions of the first two (Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood) which I had already read a couple of years ago. I liked the audio so much I decided to listen to Maddaddam. Of course I loved it as much as the first two. Set in the near future, Atwood creates a world that is disturbing, but unfortunately plausible and destroys that world with a waterless flood (plague) and shows us how strong is our need for survival.

“Set in a darkly plausible future shaped by plagues, floods, and genetic engineering, these three novels take us from the end of the world to a brave new beginning. Thrilling, moving, a triumph of imagination, this trilogy confirms the ultimate endurance of humanity, community, and love.” – Amazon.com