Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Just Jennifer

The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Fiction by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is well-known for his novels (Coraline, The Ocean at the End of the Lane), his short stories, books for younger readers and The Sandman graphic novels.  Here he presents a collection of speeches, articles, essays and shorter pieces that are, according to Gaiman’s own words on the jacket copy “Some of them are serious and some of them are frivolous and some of them are earnest and some of them I wrote to try and make people listen.” He has succeeded.  The book might be subtitled “These are a few of my favorite things” as Gaiman extols libraries, bookstores, and authors and how music, comics, and movies fit in with---or not---a  reading life.

While each piece can be read on its own and out of order, the pieces are carefully and deliberately laid out into meaningful sections beginning with “Some Things I Believe” which lays the foundation for what is to follow, ending with “The View from the Cheap Seats: Real Things” a fitting coda to all that has come before, making it perhaps for effective to read the pieces through in order the first time (and there will be multiple readings) and then re-reading favorite selections.  Smart and fun, but accessible and real, Neil Gaiman professes this is not the “complete non-fiction” …how wonderful for his fans to thing there may be more to discuss, inhale and absorb.

Disappearance At Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay

Multiple Bram Stoker Award finalist Paul Tremblay continue to carve out his own genre which is scary, unsettling, horrific and psychological thriller all in one.  In the middle of the night, Elizabeth Sanderson receives the phone call all parents dread: her thirteen-year-old son Tommy is missing.  Except the call comes from the friends with whom he was spending the night and not the police, and the friends tell a story of how the three snuck out into Borderland State Park during the night, Tommy running off into the woods never to return; but something doesn’t sound right to Elizabeth.  The police find no clues and have no leads, and Elizabeth becomes convinced Tommy is dead when the ghost of Tommy appears in her bedroom and then her younger daughter Katie, who has withdrawn completely after Tommy’s disappearance, and some neighbors say someone or something, is peering in their windows at night.  When Torn out pages of Tommy’s journal begin to appear, a different version of Tommy begins to take shape, a version that is dark and obsessed, one that may lead to the circumstances and reason for his disappearance, the truth of which may haunt Elizabeth and Katie for the rest of their lives.  A perfect steamy summer, up all night read.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Just Jennifer

Summer Reads coming in June:

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
Ten years ago, shortly after the disappearance of her best friend Corinne, Nicolette left her home town in Colley Ridge, North Carolina and made a new life for herself in Philadelphia.  Nic is now returning home to care for her father and just after she arrives in Cooley Ridge, another young woman, Annaleise, disappears, thrusting Corinne’s case back into the spotlight.  In an unusual, but very effective narrative, the story is told backwards from Day 15 to the day Annaleise disappears as Nic tries to figure out what happened to Annaleise and how it connects to Corrine’s disappearance and what Nic’s future will look like once she learns the truth.  Trust no one and nothing while reading this novel, not even what you think to know to by true.  Secrets are slowly revealed, some surprising, others not---as the truths hidden in Cooley Ridge for ten years slowly start to emerge.

Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry  
Nora is anxious to spend the weekend with her sister Rachel in the countryside outside of London but her world is torn apart when she arrives and finds Rachel murdered.  Soon Nora is suspecting everyone in her sister’s murder, not realizing that she is also a primary suspect.  As she begins to look for Rachel’s killer, secrets about Rachel, and about Nora, secrets about their relationship that the sisters kept hidden from each other and from the world begin to emerge, setting up a much different  story, though with the same, sad ending.  Shocked and afraid, Nora finds she cannot trust anyone, even the police, and sets out to find Rachel's killer herself.  Shutting herself off from her everyday life, Nora looks to the past, to a time when Rachel was assaulted, for answers, not knowing that the answers lie closer than she could have imagined.  Deceptively simple prose slowly builds tension as a true portrait of the sisters' relationship full of secrets and lies emerges slowly revealing a story from which you cannot look away.

They May Not Mean To, But They Do by Cathleen Schine
Joy and Aaron Bergman have had a long life together and have built a family with their children Molly and Daniel.  Together they have witnessed their children’s journey to adulthood, the birth of a grandson and two granddaughters, the dissolution of their daughter’s marriage and her remarriage to a woman and her relocation from her home in Manhattan to Los Angeles.  Now faced with Aaron’s illness and eventual death, the Berman’s come together to grieve as a family, Molly and Daniel trying to help their mother get through her grief, forgetting that Joy’s grief is that of a widow’s, different from the grief they feel as children, and that sometimes that grief needs to be left alone so Joy can maintain her independence and make her own decisions on how she wants to live the rest of her life.

The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell
After a devastating fire takes away Pip and Grace’s home and father, their mother Clare finds a flat for them bordering on a communal garden in London, a place where her pre-teen daughters can be safe and heal; until Pip finds Grace unconscious in the garden after a neighborhood party.  Clare begins to search for who did this to her young daughter as she and her family wait for Grace to wake up hoping she can solve the mystery of what happened, leaving Clare to wonder if this place to which she has brought her children is as idyllic as she and her neighbors thought it to be.

We Could Be Beautiful by Swan Huntley
Catherine West appears to have it all: a trust fund, a beautifully furnished and decorated West Village apartment and a card shop she treats like a hobby; the one thing that eludes Catherine is true love and a family of her own until William Stockton appears before her, sweeping her off of her feet.  As the two get closer, things don’t add up for Catherine and William is sometimes elusive; how much is Catherine willing to ignore in order to have her dream or learn the truth about William and risk giving it up?
Catherine and her charmed life may appear shallow to some: a personal trainer, weekly massages in her house, new 1,000 thread count pillowcases when she is feeling down, but others will recognize that deep inside Catherine is searching for something and as afraid of finding as she is of never having it.  She is certain her mother, suffering from early stages of dementia, can give her the answers she needs, if not wants, but at what cost?  Catherine’s sometimes desperation and helplessness is as palpable as her generous spirit and the feeling of disbelief she gets as her world starts to unravel.  Catherine is a compelling character first in her privilege and then as she slowly puts back together all that has come undone.

Collecting the Dead by Spencer Kope
The FBI has a new secret weapon in tracking down people: Magnus “Steps” Craig, aka “The Human Bloodhound”.  Steps has stopped over a dozen serial killers and found many missing people in his five years with the bureau.  Now he is tracking one of the most complex killers yet---one who changes the rule mid-stream.  While Steps tracks the latest killer using his special ability to see people’s “shine” he gets the feeling he is being taunted by an unsolved case from his past, a killer who continues to haunt Steps.  This first novel is astonishing in details and depth of all the characters, especially Steps---a character readers will be anxious for more of---and soon.  

If I Forget You by Thomas Christopher Greene
Henry thought he had tucked his love away twenty-one years ago and she for him.  A chance meeting on a Manhattan street reignites the pair’s love for each other stirring the feelings of “what might have been” as the story of how they came together and were pulled apart and what their futures might be is revealed in this tightly written meditation on love, loss and hope.

The Second Girl by David Swinson  
Frankie Marr is a former Washington, DC cop, now a PI with a drug habit, but also an uncanny knack for knowing just how far he can push people to get what he wants and needs.  After rescuing a teenage girl from a drug gang, he learns there is another missing girl who needs to be found and he knows that using orthodox police methods to find her may take too long or get her killed but with his connections and willingness to do what needs to be done Frank thinks he can save her if he isn’t’ shut down by the police.  Frank is a thoroughly damaged but complex character and the streets of Washington DC are a perfect back drop as the pomp of the nation’s capital stands in opposition to the grittier parts of the city.  Strong writing, fast-paced plotting and a character, flawed though he may be, that readers will be taken with add to a well-written thriller. 

Just Jennifer

Reader, I Married Him: Stories Inspired by Jane Eyre ed. Tracy Chevalier

One of the most beloved, certainly most read, characters from nineteenth century literature is Jane Eyre.  Plucky, often headstrong, Jane has caught the imagination of many readers throughout the years and her deceptively simple, yet telling line “Reader, I Married Him” that ends the eponymous novel may be one of the most quoted lines and now provides a prompt for twenty-one modern day authors, one admittedly never having read Jane Eyre.  Patricia Park brings the feisty heroine into modern day Harlem in “The China from Buenos Aries” as a young woman tries to find her place in New York City.  In “The Mash-Up” Linda Grant depicts an unorthodoxed wedding in which the bridge and groom try to tie the knot while accommodating each family’s differences, a union that is doomed from the beginning.  Some of the stories retell the traditional tale from another’s point of view, even Rochester’s, many are faithful retellings while other explore the famous sentence with modern sensabilities.  This is one of the better compilation homages to traditional literature by modern authors to come along in a while.

Just Jennifer

Love Wins: the Lovers and Lawyers Who Fought the Landmark Case for Marriage Equality 
by Debbite Cenziper and Jim Obergefell

What started as a fight to be acknowledged as the surviving spouse on his husband’s death certificate became a Supreme Court ruling in June 2015 making same-sex marriage legal---and recognizable--- in all fifty states.  Jim Obergefell and John Arthur fell in love twenty years ago and lived with the constant knowledge that their home state, Ohio, would not recognize their relationship and they might even be subjected to harassment or discrimination.  John was diagnosed with ALS and was nearing the end of his life in 2013 when the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government must afford married same-sex couples the same benefits as those with traditional marriages.  Jim and John flew to Maryland, were married aboard a chartered medical aircraft, John on a gurney and flew back to Ohio husband and husband.  It was only when they began attending to the details of John’s certain and imminent death that Jim realized the state of Ohio would life John as “single” on his death certificate and in John’s death, Jim would all but vanish, legally, from John’s life.  Meeting civil rights advocate and attorney Al Gerhardstein changed everything:  Al represented Jim who sued for widower’s rights, specifically acknowledgement on the final document that book-ended John’s life.  Al quickly realized the narrow scope of the suit (which they won) and sought to broaden it when he became aware of the fact that many states did not only not permit same-sex marriage, they would also not allow both same-sex parents to adopt a single child, nor in the case of a woman who gave birth to a child, the right for her wife to adopt the child, leaving the children essentially parent-less if the custodial parent were to die.  As family after family emerged, Al began to get a fuller appreciation for the magnitude of families living “under the radar” just to be a family.  John never lived to see the landmark 2015 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in all fifty states, but his legacy, and love for Jim, lives on.  Debbie Cenziper, a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist has told Jim and John’s, and hundreds of others’, story with frank compassion and clarity making this account part memorable love story as well as the course of events leading up to the first landmark case of the twenty-first century.