Posts Tagged ‘2014 Best Books’

The Best in Summer Reading With Scribd (FREE 3 Month Membership!)

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

The Best in Summer Reading With Scribd

 

*This post is sponsored by Scribd

I feel so lucky to be partnering with Scribd again to share a few of my favorite summer reads and an incredible giveaway they are offering for our readers so you can start tackling your own summer reading with their fantastic service.

I have really been enjoying my own Scribd membership over this year and, in fact, loved it so much that I gave it to my Dad for a birthday gift this year. It’s one of those services that I genuinely enjoyed that I just had to share it with my fellow book lovers.

Have you heard of Scribd? If you missed my last post about Scribd, it is an eBook service that works a lot like Netflix, but for books. You pay a low membership fee of $8.99 per month and can read as many books as you want on all of your major ebook reading devices like iPhone, iPad, iOS, Android & the Kindle Fire tablet. It also offers page syncing so you can move from device to device and simply pick up where you left off.

With Scribd you have unlimited access to over 400,000 books (and counting!) from nearly 1,000 publishers including HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Kensington, Open Road Media, & New World Library. The catalog includes fiction books, nonfiction books (like cookbooks), young adult books, and children’s books. Basically, your entire family can benefit from this service, all with the cost of just one membership. I can think of no better gift to give yourself this summer!

For today’s post, I scoured the Scribd site to pull together for you a few of my favorite summer reads that I have enjoyed so much and I am also sharing what I would love to read this summer while I am sitting in my shady spot (I am awfully pale!) by the community pool!

Books I Recommend for Your Summer Reading List on Scribd:

Arranged

Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

I have to say that this book is one of my favorite reads this summer, simply because it is deliciously fast-paced chick-lit at its finest.

Anne Blythe seems to have everything. She has sold her first book, has a fabulous life, and fabulous friends. When it comes to being lucky in love though, she can’t seem to ever find the right guy. novel. After her best friend announces her engagement and her latest relationship ends, she decides to take a risk and contact a dating service in hopes of finding the perfect match. Upon her first appointment with the dating service though, she realizes that it is not a dating service at all, but a matchmaking service for an arranged marriage.

Once she starts the process, there is no turning back and Anne finds herself traveling to a Mexican resort where she will meet and marry (all in the same weekend) her “perfect,” guy.

This book has great twists and turns that you will really enjoy and after devouring this book in a mere day, I can’t recommend it enough for a fun reading escape!

Before I Go To Sleep

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

If you are looking for a psychological thriller that will have you guessing until the very last page what is happening, then I have the book for you.  This is the best thriller that I have read this year and can hardly believe that it is the author’s first book.

Every single day Christine wakes up not knowing who she is, where she is, and who her husband is.  It is the same scenario every day as she makes her way to the bathroom, where pictures are layered upon the mirror that explain who she is and who her husband is. Each day she must go through the heartbreaking discovery that she has had a terrible accident that has caused her to have permanent amnesia. People she thinks are alive have died.  She can’t remember if she is a mother. She doesn’t know why she doesn’t have any friends. Some days she wakes up and she believes she is in her twenties and cannot even recognize the woman who looks at her in the mirror.

When Christine begins meeting with a doctor, he encourages her to begin journaling each day to help jog her memory of what has been happening in her daily life. As each day opens, Christine opens her journal and begins to read and as she reads, she begins to discover that the life that she is leading might not be all that it seems to be.  As Christine becomes more and more aware of her story and begins to challenge the information that her husband is feeding to her about what has happened, the reader is left wondering if Christine is obsessing about details because she can’t really recall them or if the stories she is hearing are even real?

If you read one thriller this year, let it be this one. I promise you, it is truly amazing and will leave you stunned when you read the final pages.  I can’t wait to read more from this author.

mudbound

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Mudbound is storytelling at its very best and offers a beautifully rendered portrayal of race and politics in the South during the forties. This book is told from alternating points of view and shares the story of a Memphis-bred Laura McAllan who is struggling to adjust to being a farmer’s wife and living the idyllic dream that her husband Henry has for them to live off their own land. When Henry makes an error by trusting a handshake rather than a contract on the home they are renting, they find themselves living in less than ideal conditions in a shack that Henry had hoped to turn into his dream house. Laura not only must deal with the difficulties of living in this shack, but she has to do it with her racist father-in-law constantly judging and spewing hate at her.

As Laura struggles with this, the real story unfolds when Henry’s brother Jamie returns home from the war. Always the favored one, Jamie comes home as a raging alcoholic, struggling with nightmares and post-traumatic stress from the war he left. Ronsel, a son of the sharecroppers who have been hired to work on Henry & Laura’s land, also struggles with leaving the war after being a hero in fighting for his country; he is now seen as just a black boy and treated with only racism and hatred.

When a horrible crime is committed, the four lives of these main characters are woven into one and the reader is taken along on the journey every harrowing step of the way. Twist after twist creates a plot that illustrates racism in a very unique way.

This book is a fast-paced read, that will shock and grip you until the final pages. Not for the faint of heart- a great debut novel from Hillary Jordan worthy of the 2006 Bellwether Prize that she won for this.

Water For Elephants

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

This is an oldie, but a goodie! I actually waited a long time to read this one, but I think I savored it even more! The book opens with Jacob Janowski who is ninety (or ninety-three, a fact he can’t remember) and now living in a nursing home.  His days are now spent being shuffled from his room to the dining area, suffering from the everyday minutiae of life in a nursing home. Of course, his life wasn’t always like this, in fact, Jacob’s life was spent with a traveling circus after the untimely death of his parents. Circus life was a hard life for Jacob and one that he jumped to unknowingly when he boarded a train to escape after his parent’s death.

Gruen’s writing is as vivid as a movie screen as the reader is swept away into the hard and difficult life of being a part of the traveling circus during the Great Depression. When Jacob is appointed to veterinarian, he has a difficult role under August, a paranoid schizophrenic, who acts as the animal trainer of the circus. The reader is swept into the sad life of the animals and the repeated abuse that August inflicts on the animals.

The only sparkle of light in Jacob’s life is Marlena, a beautiful performer in the circus, who Jacob cannot stop thinking about. Sadly, it is August’s wife that he has fallen in love with, and the reader will sit on the edge of their seat as Jacob risks it all to free Marlena from the abusive life that she has been leading with August.

More than a love story, it is an unbelievably well-researched look into the life of the circus at this time, and a love story of how Jacob & Marlena fall in love with an elephant named Rosie who makes a reader’s heart melt in her beauty. Equally impressive is how Gruen is able to capture the life of the elderly as Jacob reminisces and longs for his youth. The ending is perhaps a little too neatly woven, but is a satisfying conclusion to it all as a reader!

Vivid, descriptive, cinematic, raw, chilling… I felt as though I was on a roller coaster just reading this one! Definitely give this one a read before hitting the movie theater! Let’s hope the movie is half as good as this book!

Forgotten

Forgotten by Catherine McKenzie

I can’t believe that I didn’t review this book sooner for you all! I am a HUGE Catherine McKenzie fan and this one is another excellent beach read that you won’t be able to put down.

Emma Tupper is a dedicated lawyer with a bright future. But when she takes a month-long leave of absence to go on an African vacation, she ends up facing unexpected consequences. After she falls ill and spends six months trapped in a remote village thanks to a devastating earthquake, Emma returns home to discover that her friends, boyfriend, and colleagues thought she was dead–and that her life has moved on without her.

As she struggles to re-create her old life, throwing herself into solving a big case for a client and trying to reclaim her beloved apartment from the handsome photographer who assumed her lease, everyone around her thinks she should take the opportunity to change. But is she willing to sacrifice her job, her relationships, and everything else she worked so hard to build?

In “Forgotten,” Catherine McKenzie tweaks a classic tale of discovering who we really are when everything that brings meaning to our lives is lost.

When She Woke

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

Imagine if your sins were on display for the entire world to see?  Hillary Jordan creates a futuristic spin on how society would look if our skin was colored based on the crime we committed.  The story follows Hannah Payne who has recently been, “chromed,” and is red because she has committed murder.  Hannah knows that this is the cross that she must bear for her crimes, but she has no idea how horrible her life will be now that society knows the sins she has committed.

Hannah was always a good girl and was raised in a very conservative family where it was even frowned up on to wear anything with color or that would draw attention to her natural beauty. The climate of the government also leans towards conservative views and the laws go along with the government views of what is right and wrong in this dystopian society.  She has always been a girl that has done the right thing, but she falls in love with a married man who sweeps her off her feet and causes her to make a decision that she will now spend the remainder of her sentence paying for.  To protect the future of the prominent man that she has fallen in love with, she must bear the burden alone and is now melachromed for her actions for all the world to see.

When an extremist underground group tries to help Hannah and reverse the chroming that has been done to her, the reader is taken on a thrilling journey as Hannah risks her safety and life for the crime she has committed.

Hillary Jordan could not have picked a book concept further from her fantastic debut, “Mudbound.”  This book would lend itself well to book club discussions as it flips every political debate on its head.  From abortion to women’s rights to Christianity to punishment for one’s crimes, no political rock is left unturned.  While one might not agree with Hannah’s viewpoint or those of the extremist views of the underground group, the concept of chroming is rich with discussion and a true modern day take on, “The Scarlet Letter.”

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow

I love debut novelists and the first book that I read on Scribd was The Girl Who Fell From the Sky.  This book deals with big topics like race identity and where we fit in the world when we are biracial. Rachel is the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I. who becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy. With her strict African American grandmother as her new guardian, Rachel moves to a mostly black community, where her light brown skin, blue eyes, and beauty bring mixed attention her way. Growing up in the 1980s, she learns to swallow her overwhelming grief and confronts her identity as a biracial young woman in a world that wants to see her as either black or white.

Faith

Faith by Jennifer Haigh

Faith is a masterpiece of literature that I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish. The novel does have a slow build as it shares a bit about the history and the scandal of 2002 when many Boston priests were accused of molestation in the Catholic Church, but the story is worth the plot set up and is a book that you will want to share and discuss with your friends.

Art is the apple of his mother’s eye and is wholly committed to dedicating his life to God from the time he is a child and on. He lovingly serves his church and feels great satisfaction in his work as a priest. When suddenly he is thrust into the spotlight and is accused of molesting a child that he has grown close to through his work in the church, he is devastated as his life is under scrutiny by the media, by other church members, by other priests, and by his family.

While some in his family side with him, others do not. When shocking discoveries are made into his past and the relationship that he has had with the little boy, the reader must examine which side they might be on and see both sides of the coin as his family comes to terms with these accusations. How would you feel if your son, your brother, or the person you trusted in your church was accused of such an act? Could you stand beside them or would you shun them even if they told you they would never do such a thing?

Haigh’s writing is exquisitely rich and the story is told through a fresh set of eyes from the scandal that we witnessed in the media.  Haigh brings in an angle that led me to believe that there truly are two sides to every story.

Spin

Spin by  Catherine McKenzie

I would be remiss if I didn’t include one more book by Catherine. Her books are the perfect addition to your beach bag and this past month, she came up with a sequel to this book that I am dying to pick up. Although I don’t see the sequel listed on Scribd yet, you must read this first book and get ready for it because it is such a fun escape!

When Kate Sandford lands an interview at her favorite music magazine, The Line, it’s the chance of a lifetime. So Kate goes out to celebrate—and shows up still drunk to the interview the next morning. It’s no surprise that she doesn’t get the job, but her performance has convinced the editors that she’d be perfect for an undercover assignment for their gossip rag. All Kate has to do is follow “It Girl” Amber Sheppard into rehab. If she can get the inside scoop—and complete the thirty-day program—they’ll reconsider her for the position at The Line. Kate takes the assignment, but when real friendships start to develop, she has to decide if what she has to gain is worth the price she’ll have to pay.

Fun, fast-paced, and one I couldn’t put down- you will love it!

2014 Summer Reading List

Now that you have some tried-and-true ideas for your summer reading, here are nine books I am dying to read on Scribd this summer. Maybe you can read along with me?

The Condition by Jennifer Haigh

The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry

Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman

The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Unless by Carol Shields

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

In celebration of summer reading, Scribd is offering EVERY MomAdvice a free three month trial membership by using our exclusive access code. To access your free membership head HERE and then input the following code: momadvice0614.   I’m so excited for you to try this service and I just know that you will love it as much as I do! Leave us a comment and let us know what you are excited to read on Scribd! 

This post is sponsored by Scribd. I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and effort in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Sundays With Writers: Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

Sundays With Writers

Happy Mother’s Day, my amazing mom readers!  Today’s Mother’s Day gift to you is a beautiful Sundays With Writers interview with bestselling author, Maggie Shipstead, on her beautiful new book, “Astonish Me.”  I am so honored that she agreed to do an interview with my little blog because I am such a fan of this talented writer. Although Maggie is most famous for her book, “Seating Arrangements,” I have to say that I enjoyed Astonish me even more and I have a feeling that you will too.

“For the first time she can remember, she is not afraid of failing, and the relief feels like joy.”

What truly makes Shipstead’s novels such a treat is her ability to write character-driven pieces.  When you are done with her books, it is as though you know her characters inside and out. With a backdrop of the ballet and what life is truly like to be a ballerina, the novel immediately pulled me in until the final pages.

Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead

In this book a young American dancer named Joan decides to help a Soviet ballet star, the great Arslan Rusakov, defect in 1975. Although they had a passionate love affair, Arslan soon moves on to other things and Joan realizes that, onstage and off, she is destined to remain in the background.

After her relationship with Arslan ends,  Joan decides to take her life in a different direction and marry the man that had always been in love with her, raises their son, and leaves the ballet for a quiet suburban life. Joan soon comes to realize though that their son,  Harry,  is a prodigy, in more ways than one. Through this discovery, Joan finds herself being pulled back into the world of the ballet and back into Arslan’s life once again.

If you are a fan of the ballet and you love character-driven pieces, this book is a treat from start to finish.

As always, no spoilers, just love for great books and writers on our Sundays With Writers series. So grab your coffee and let’s have a chat with the talented Maggie Shipstead.

Maggie Shipstead

Astonish Me is so different from your first novel, Seating Arrangements, but the one element I found to be similar was your ability to write such well-developed character driven plots. To me, it is one of those truly unique elements of your writing. Have your stories always been very character-driven and how do you shape them so well for your books?

Well, thank you! I’m glad you think so. My relationships with characters vary from project to project. Seating Arrangements exists pretty much only because I had what I’d describe as strong chemistry with the protagonist, Winn Van Meter, who is the 59-year-old father of a pregnant bride. He’s nothing like me as a person–I’m female, 30, from California, and no one would accuse me of being emotionally withholding–but I thought the idea of him was interesting and also like I understood him. The book started as a short story, but I felt I had lots more to say about Winn and also like I knew what he would do or say in almost any situation. As I expanded the story into a novel, I incorporated more characters’ perspectives, too.

Astonish Me was a little different in that I didn’t conceive of Joan as a fully-formed person in the same way as Winn, but I started out wanting to write about someone who’s very talented (enough to be in a major ballet company) but who will never be the star she wants to be. So in a way Joan evolved out of the circumstances of her life–the incredible discipline needed to be a dancer, the frustration of encountering her own limitations, the stubbornness she has about her doomed love affair with a Soviet superstar dancer. Sometimes when I’m having trouble writing, the problem is that I’m not connecting with my characters, and I’ll take some time to just stop and close my eyes and try to actually engage with these imaginary people. Being a novelist is kind of a weird job in that way.

When I was a kid I took ballet and there is something magical about it, which is why I was so captivated by this story. Did you also do ballet? How did you do your research for this setting for your book?

I did ballet very, very briefly–for a year when I was five. But my mother and I both love to watch ballet, and she took me to about four performances a year from kindergarten until I left for college. She danced more than I did and knows a ton about ballet, so I learned a lot from her over the years. I wrote Astonish Me mostly over five months while I was traveling abroad, and I dragged a hardback ballet reference book around with me but also relied heavily on the internet. I have to say that YouTube is an incredible resource for dance. I watched multiple versions of every variation I wrote about, and some companies, especially New York City Ballet and The Royal Ballet, post lots of backstage videos of rehearsal and class online, which I found incredibly helpful. I watched full-length documentaries as well and read interviews with dancers and things like that. In the end, though, it was all a bit of a leap of imagination because I’m just never ever going to know what it’s like to exist in a dancer’s body.

One book that we read for our book club was A Constellation of a Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra. In his book, he jumped forward and backward through time, taking and building the plot in these different time periods. Your book also does this as we jump decades around these characters lives. How difficult is it, as a writer, to take your readers through time travel?

It can be very difficult, definitely. There are a lot of technical decisions that go into figuring out the chronology of any narrative and a boggling, infinite number of places and times you can take the story at any moment. So that can be overwhelming. The structure of Astonish Me, though, for some reason, evolved organically from the beginning. I would write along chronologically, and then, when I got to a point in the story where I felt like a piece of information was missing, I would jump back in time to fill in the gap. The book is written in the present tense, and it’s meant to feel immediate and episodic, sort of like a ballet.

In the book, Joan gives up on her dream of being a ballerina because she believes that she isn’t good enough to ever be a prima ballerina. Did you ever give up on anything because you didn’t think you would be able to be the best at it?

When I was in high school and for some years afterward, I was a really serious horseback rider. I trained most days and had two horses I was obsessed with and missed a lot of school to compete, but I wasn’t particularly talented. I really, really, really wanted to qualify for certain events that took place at the National Horse Show in Madison Square Garden or at another big show in D.C., but I never did. I have to say, as frustrating as that experience was, I think it was ultimately good for me to understand that the process was worthwhile even if I had absolutely no chance of ever being the best. I liked spending time with horses, and I liked the pursuit of a physical skill and the excitement of competing, especially when I won, which did happen occasionally. And, generally, the idea of being the best is tricky, right? I hope I mostly try to do the best I can.

If you could tell anyone to read one book (other than your own) what would that book be?

I just finished reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which I loved. That’s the book I’m talking up to everyone right now.

What do you have in store for us with your next writing project?

I’m working on a third novel–about a female pilot after World War II–and I have a bunch of short stories I’d like to finish.

*This post contains affiliate links! Love our Sundays With Writers series? Check out all of our past interviews here

 

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April Book Club Discussion With the Author: The Bear

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

The Bear by Claire Cameron

Welcome to our April Book Club! I am so excited to be talking about this month’s selection, “The Bear,” by Claire Cameron.  Claire has truly been such a generous author to share in our book club discussion today and her book was so beautifully written that I could not wait to talk about it today.

Just as a recap from our announcement last week, here is a little on the basic premise of this book.

While camping with her family on a remote island, five-year-old Anna awakes in the night to the sound of her mother screaming. A bear has found their campsite and her parents become the bear’s victims.

As her mother lays injured on the ground, she convinces Anna to take her brother in the canoe, getting them away from the bear and (hopefully) to safety. Anna & Sticky must fight for survival as they are lost and alone in the wilderness.

Told through the eyes of five-year-old Anna, we see the struggles and triumphs as she tries to find safety with her brother.  A survival story unlike any other I have read, it is one that you just won’t be able to put down because you must know what happens to these children.

Wow, I don’t know about you, but this novel kept me on the edge of my seat until I finished it. I could not close the final pages until I knew if Anna & Sticky were safe.

As readers, we are swept away in the suspenseful story of Anna & her brother Alex (nicknamed Sticky). While their family is camping on a remote island, five-year-old Anna awakes in the night to the sound of her mother screaming. A bear has found their campsite and her parents become the bear’s victims.

As her mother lays injured on the ground, she convinces Anna to take her brother in the canoe, getting them away from the bear and (hopefully) to safety. Anna & Sticky must fight for survival as they are lost and alone in the wilderness.

Told through the eyes of five-year-old Anna, we see the struggles and triumphs as she tries to find safety with her brother.

Although telling the story through the eyes of a five-year-old can get a little old, I think it lends itself well in this survival story because we have to understand what Anna’s motives are for keeping her brother safe.

In the author’s note, we learn that in October of 1991, Ryamond Jakubauskas & Carola Frehe pitched a tent on Bates Island on Lake Opeongo in Algonquin Park and were attacked by a large male black bear.

Both of them died from injuries inflicted by the bear and there were no clear reasons why this bear attacked, other than hunger.

The author worked as a counselor at a summer camp at the park and used these stories and theories about what happened as a basis for her novel, adding in the children.

Since this story is only about the children, it is told through Anna’s eyes and her interpretation of what happened to her parents, who attacked them (referred to as a dog), and, ultimately, how they will survive.

Of course, since it is told through a child’s eyes, we also sometimes follow along confused about what is happening to them and what is real versus what is imagined. This helps us to truly understand Anna’s own confusion about the situation.

I loved that the story, in the end, had them come back to the place where the attack happened, in a small ceremony bringing a little more peace to them both.

Claire Cameron

Born in 1973, Claire Cameron grew up in Toronto. She studied History and Culture at Queen’s University. She then worked as an instructor for Outward Bound, teaching mountaineering, climbing, and white-water rafting in Oregon. Next she worked in San Francisco for Pearson Plc before moving to London in 1999. There she was director of Shift Media, a consultancy whose clients included the BBC, McGraw-Hill, and Oxford University Press. Her first novel was the taut thriller, “The Line Painter.”  Claire lives in Toronto with her husband and two sons. You can become a fan of Claire Cameron on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, follow her on IG, and on GoodReads.

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Getting in the head of a five-year-old voice can’t be easy. Who was your inspiration and how did you capture it in this novel?

It might not surprise you to hear that my son was five when I started writing the novel. He was in a really talkative stage and I used conversations with him to establish the emotional scope and ability of the character. The first draft was actually about two little boys. At some point in the endless rewrites, I realized there was a lot of me in Anna. That’s when she became a girl. I let her be me.

 I read an interview where you shared that, “the bear,” symbolizes our fears at parents. What is, “the bear,” to you as a mother?

Writing the novel was emotionally challenging as, in some ways, I was typing out my greatest fears. It was hard to live that way. In retrospect, though, it helped me relax as a mother. My story ended up being about how kids can be resilient and how they can cope. When I finished, I knew that was true and that they would be fine, whether or not I was there to help.

I suppose that’s ‘the bear’ to me, the idea of not being there to help my kids when they are in trouble.

 Have you camped at all since writing this book? Do you think it has made you nervous or added another perspective on camping?

Last summer I took my family on a canoe trip back to the island in Algonquin Park where the bear attack that I reimagined in The Bear took place. I did think about the attack, but I also found that I’ve slept in a tent so many nights before that I knew we were fine. It helped that it was a great blue berry season. The bears were full!

The first night we were back home, I tucked my son into bed and asked him if he felt safer in his bed, rather than sleeping in a tent. He said no, it’s scarier at home. Why? Because when camping we were all together in the same tent, but in our house we sleep in different rooms so his Dad and I are farther away. It helped me realize that feeling scared is different for everyone. Fear is a perspective and a mindset, not a set thing.

Did the father leave the family during arguments or did I misinterpret that part of the narrative? (from reader, Sarah)

I purposely left the details of Anna’s family situation in the state that 5 year olds often experience them, a bunch of vague details that don’t quite make sense because I child is rarely told the whole story. My hope is that a reader will use her experience to fill in the details (sorry that is probably a frustratingly vague answer).

Some of the scariest scenes for me are the ones where Sticky disappears and Anna isn’t watching him. As a mom, I think I held my breath until he came back. Of course, there are terrifying moments like that peppered throughout the book. What were some of the most difficult scenes for you as a mom?

The scariest scene to write was the same, when Sticky disappears. I know this because I skipped over it in the first draft. It was my editor, Sarah Murphy at Little Brown, who pointed it out–that I had worked up to this moment and then only vaguely sketched it in. When she said this I thought, “oh no, I’ve been caught out. Now I’m going to have to buck up and write it.”

That is the definition of a great editor, I think. Someone who is so in tune with the story that they can see the emotional gaps.

In, “The Room,” by Emma Donoghue, she utilizes a young narrator to tell a story of survival and a reader can’t help but notice the similar theme in your book. Have you read this book and what do you think makes your narrator different than Donoghue’s?

The book that was the bigger influence at the beginning of writing THE BEAR was LORD OF THE FLIES. I re-read it and, having boys of my own, couldn’t accept the mean take on human nature it shows. When I was about 1/3 of the way through the first draft. I got tired and wondered who would want to read a story told in a 5 year olds voice. That’s when I thought of ROOM. I read it and loved it, so I knew it was possible and I got a lot of strength to keep going from that. Both books have a child in a survival situation, but Anna is a very different child with more varied experience than the child in ROOM, Jack. Her voice reflects that. She needs to make a new normal after her rescue, whereas Jack has to find out what normal might be for him.

If you could tell anyone to read one book (other than your own) what would that book be?

Such a hard question! Maybe TREASURE ISLAND by Robert Louis Stevenson because it is such a great adventure story. I love Long John Silver as he’s the best kind of bad guy–one that feels so complete that you can’t help rooting for him.

What do you have in store for us with your next project?

I am writing a lot at the moment, but I’m not entirely sure what the book will be just yet. It will involve the wilderness, as that is a long time passion. I am interested in capturing the amazing things that happen in the outdoors between people. That’s at the heart of my interest. When you go through a survival situation with another person, you get to know them in a whole new way.

What did you think of The Bear?  Share your thoughts on our  book club pick below and offer recommendations for what you might like to see on our list in the upcoming year!

Our book club will now be going to a quarterly selection. Be sure to pick up our summer selection, “Love With a Chance of Drowning.” In the meantime, catch up on what is happening this year and explore our past book club selections here!

 

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April Book Club Selection: The Bear by Claire Cameron

Friday, March 28th, 2014

The Bear by Claire Cameron

I am so excited to announce our next book club selection and giveaway for April. This month we will be reading, “The Bear,” by Claire Cameron.  The past three books have all been historical fiction so I wanted to branch out a bit from that and try a different style of book this month.

I found, “The Bear,” at my local library and immediately was swept away in the suspenseful story of Anna & her brother Alex (nicknamed Sticky). While camping with her family on a remote island, five-year-old Anna awakes in the night to the sound of her mother screaming. A bear has found their campsite and her parents become the bear’s victims.

As her mother lays injured on the ground, she convinces Anna to take her brother in the canoe, getting them away from the bear and (hopefully) to safety. Anna & Sticky must fight for survival as they are lost and alone in the wilderness.

Told through the eyes of five-year-old Anna, we see the struggles and triumphs as she tries to find safety with her brother.  A survival story unlike any other I have read, it is one that you just won’t be able to put down because you must know what happens to these children.

Claire Cameron

Born in 1973, Claire Cameron grew up in Toronto. She studied History and Culture at Queen’s University. She then worked as an instructor for Outward Bound, teaching mountaineering, climbing, and white-water rafting in Oregon. Next she worked in San Francisco for Pearson Plc before moving to London in 1999. There she was director of Shift Media, a consultancy whose clients included the BBC, McGraw-Hill, and Oxford University Press. Her first novel was the taut thriller, “The Line Painter.”  Claire lives in Toronto with her husband and two sons. You can become a fan of Claire Cameron on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, follow her on IG, and on GoodReads.

Claire Cameron has graciously offered three of our readers the chance to win her book. She has also offered to answer your questions, which I could not be more excited about! 

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Our book club discussion for this novel will take place on April 29th. I will try to collect your questions for the author before that though via our Facebook groupSign up for our newsletter to stay informed and connect with me on GoodReads too!

To enter to win a copy of, “The Bear,”  please enter via the Rafflecopter widget below!  Just leave us a comment and let us know your thoughts on our book club and book club selections so far! 

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February Book Club Selection: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (GIVEAWAY!)

Friday, January 31st, 2014

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

I am so excited to share with you our next book club selection for the month of February. The book for this month is, “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena,” by Anthony Marra.

My intention this month was to step away from historical fiction and read a lighter book. I proceeded to read five good books, not *the* book. When I picked up A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, it hooked me within it’s opening sentences.

“On the morning after the Feds burned down her house and took her father, Havaa woke from dreams of sea anemones. While the girl dressed, Akhmed, who hadn’t slept at all, paced outside the bedroom door, watching the sky brighten on the other side of the window glass; the rising sun had never before made him feel late. When she emerged from the bedroom, looking older than her eight years, he took her suitcase and she followed him out the front door. He had led the girl to the middle of the street before he raised his eyes to what had been her house. ‘Havaa, we should go,’ he said, but neither moved.”

Just as, “The Paris Architect,” moved me to tears, this book is one of the best books I have ever read and brings to life a country and time of war that I was completely unfamiliar with.

In this novel, two doctors risk everything to save the life of a hunted child named Havaa.  Havaa is just eight years old when her neighbor Akhmed finds her hiding in the woods, watching her house burning down. Akhmed knows getting involved means risking his life, but her father is an old friend, and he risks it all deciding to take her to an abandoned hospital where a woman named Sonja Rabina runs a hospital almost single handedly.

Sonja does not love kids…at all. Akhmed convinces her to keep Havaa for a trial, and over the course of five extraordinary days, Sonja’s world will change in ways she never imagined. The reader is taken on a journey through each of these character’s past on an extraordinary journey of love, loss, and ultimately what it means to be human.

Again, because we are dealing with a wartime topic, there is a lot of graphic violence, gory medical scenes, and violence in this book. One torture scene in particular is difficult to read (but can be skimmed over).  It is a necessary part of the book though to truly capture what is happening to the Chechens.

For me, it took a little bit to really get into the meat of the story, mainly because of my own lack of education of what had happened in this country. If you struggle in the beginning, I encourage you to keep pushing on. This book is one of the most accomplished books I have ever read. It reads like poetry, the narrative is so unique, you will connect with every character in some way, there are moments of unexpected humor, and there is beauty in the pulling & weaving of these characters together.

Anthony Marra

The author, Anthony Marra,  is the winner of a Whiting Award, a Pushcart Prize, The Atlantic’s Student Writing Contest, and the Narrative Prize, and his work was anthologized in Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012. He holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is currently a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. He has lived and studied in Eastern Europe, and now resides in Oakland, CA.

I know you will want to become a fan after you read this one!

Anthony has graciously offered three of our readers the chance to win his book. He has also offered to answer your questions, which I could not be more excited about! 

To enter to win a copy of, “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena,”  please enter via the Rafflecopter widget below!  

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Our book club discussion for this novel will take place on February 25th. I will try to collect your questions for the author before that though via our Facebook groupSign up for our newsletter to stay informed and connect with me on GoodReads too!

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