The Fever by Megan Abbott

the-fever
The Fever

by
Megan Abbott

Rating:
bookmarks-3a

Dryden’s small town high school is a normal place until Lise Daniels has a mysterious seizure in class.  And panic takes over when other girls become ill, with alarming and bizarre symptoms.  Doctors are stumped, parents are in a frenzy and, within the dark and secret teenage culture, Lise’s girlfriends wonder who will be next.

Parents point to the HPV vaccine recently given to all the girls and others think it could be toxins in the school or in the closed-off lake in town, thick with strange foam and algae.  But maybe its cause is something entirely different.  Whatever it is, the media jumps in with all the angles and it’s not long before the police get involved.

The Fever is Megan Abbott’s 2014 modern story about complicated adolescence and sexuality, broken families, false friendships and jealousy.  The story’s central figures are chemistry teacher Tom Nash and his high school children, hockey star Eli and Lise’s best friend, Deenie.  News travels at the lightning speed of texts and uploaded YouTube videos, adding fever to the frightening illnesses.  As the investigation continues, the reader learns about the dynamics of Deenie’s friendship with Lise, Gabby Bishop and the weirdly frightening Skye Osbourne, Gabby’s new free-spirited friend with vintage skirts and bangles on her thin arms.

Abbott does a great job portraying the girls in a contrasting light, initially as clingy and giggly schoolgirls, dressed in brightly colored tights and neon sneakers, but also as teenagers obsessed with intense friendships and lost virginity.  Unexplained events and characters add a paranormal layer to this already mysterious story.  I also like how she integrates the town and its dreary environment into the mood of the story, one of my favorite types of storytelling.

The Fever is a quick and dark read, with a mildly compelling plot and somewhat forgettable characters, but it is otherwise entertaining.  I recommend it to anyone who likes stories about teenagers and their secret lives.


reconstructing amelia

And if you like to read about the scary lives of teenagers, you may like Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

What’s That Book? The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson

whats-that-book

the-most-dangerous-place-on-earth

Title: The Most Dangerous Place on Earth

Author:  Lindsey Lee Johnson

Genre: Adult Literary Fiction

Rating:  ****

What’s it about?  Debut novel (2017) about privileged high schoolers from a wealthy suburb of San Francisco.  The story centers around eight high school kids and a new English teacher who tries to connect with them.

It has been three years since the suicide of their eighth grade classmate, Tristan Bloch, and while they have moved on, each is saddled by complex feelings of guilt.  Abigail is a super achiever, Ryan a heartthrob baseball player.  Emma is driven to dance, Nick is an unscrupulous moneymaker, and Elisabeth is a stunning beauty.  Dave must meet his parents’ expectations and Damon has landed in rehab.  And the biggest burden of grief falls on Callie, who reinvents and loses herself in a numbing transformation.

While these may sound like typical advantaged and spoiled teenagers, Johnson does a terrific job developing her characters and defining their painful adolescence, showing that money cannot fix feelings, families or relationships.  Johnson also points to the superficial and damaging effects of social media and its often destructive role in friendships.  She gives the reader a sometimes shocking look into the secret lives of teenagers.

As the friends move through their junior and senior years, a series of dangerous developments threatens to break some and free others, with an imperfect but satisfying finish.

The story is loaded with excellent imagery, one of Johnson’s strongest points, adding that extra layer of quality writing that I love to see.

How did you hear about it?  I saw an online book review and wanted to read it.  I enjoy reading about high school kids because of all the changes they face in a compressed period of time.

Closing comments:  I like books about groups of friends and how their relationships change over time.  The Most Dangerous Place on Earth is an excellent story about seeming stereotypes with unique, realistic and modern problems.  Johnson also gives her characters the universal teenage challenge of both fitting in and being comfortable in their own skin.  It reminds me of the 1985 movie, St. Elmo’s Fire (even though those friends are recent college grads) and one of my favorite books, The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer.

Contributor:  Ginette


Have you read something good?  Want to talk about it?
Consider being a contributor to What’s That Book.

Email Book Club Mom at bvitelli2009@gmail.com for information.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Caught by Harlan Coben

caught

Caught
by
Harlan Coben

Rating:
bookmarks-4a

When Dan Mercer walks into a televised sting designed to catch sexual predators, TV reporter Wendy Tynes and the New Jersey suburban community are certain of his guilt, even if Dan’s ex-wife says it’s not true.  Then in an alarming development, the courts throw out the evidence.  That’s more than enough for one enraged father to act and when high school senior Haley McWaid goes missing, everyone is ready to pin the crime on Dan.   Are the two cases connected?  Wendy Tynes is beginning to wonder if there’s a bigger story.

Wendy’s intuition points to other suspicious players and she can’t rest until she has it figured out, with the help of police investigators.  Coben introduces many characters who seem to be one way, but have interesting hidden motives that are only made clear as the plot develops.  The investigation takes the reader all around northern Jersey, with a couple Ivy League trips south to Princeton’s campus.

Caught is an exciting thriller that follows the circuitous leads after Dan’s arrest and the questionable motives of the story’s many characters.  It’s a fast-moving and engaging and story that looks at issues of entrapment, vigilantism, destructive viral marketing and, of course, secrets.  In addition to the crimes, Coben includes themes of marriage, families, raising teenagers, careers, and loss and he asks a question that has many answers:  How far would you go to protect your family?

While some of the characters and plot lines stretch logic and plausibility, they are nevertheless entertaining.  And despite the serious subjects, Harlan writes with a good amount of humor.  In addition, any reader with ties to New Jersey will appreciate the unique references.  Coben’s storytelling and writing style make the book a page-turner that is appealing to a broad audience.  I recommend Caught to anyone who likes a fast moving thriller.


Harlan Coben has written twenty-six novels and has over seventy million books in print worldwide.  He has won many awards for his writing.  His first books featured the sports agent character, Myron Bolitar, but he has since branched out to write about other characters. Among his books are two separate series which are set in the New Jersey, New York area.  Each series includes the same main characters, with some who appear in both.

His latest thriller is Home, about a high-profile kidnapping case of two young boys.

I love to imagine a writer’s friend group and found this fun author fact:  Coben has two interesting close friendships.  One with Amherst college fraternity brother, author Dan Brown and the other with high school chum and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Check out Coben’s website at harlancoben.com.

Click here to read about Coben in a 2012 Family Circle interview.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

The Time Between by Karen White

the-time-between
The Time Between

by
Karen White

Rating:
bookmarks-3a

Are sisters “forever” or can secrets can break the bond?  That’s the big question in Karen White’s story about two sets of sisters whose lives are divided by tragedy and broken dreams.  The Time Between traces the modern lives of Eleanor Murray and her wheelchair-bound sister Eve, whose life was forever changed because of a sisterly dare.  We meet the second set of sisters when Finn Beaufain, Eleanor’s daytime boss, hires her for a second job as companion to his elderly aunt, Helena Szarka.

The story takes place on the scenic Edisto Island in South Carolina, where Eleanor and Eve grew up and where Helena and her sister Bernadett followed their older sister Magda after World War II.  Eleanor is a young woman, trapped by guilt and obligation to care for Eve and their arthritic mother.  Her dream of studying piano at Julliard has been dashed and Eve’s husband Glen is a reminder of what could have been.

Helena does not want a companion.  At ninety years old, she is grieving Bernadett’s death and has little patience for Eleanor’s self-absorbed martyrdom.  Their shared love of music may bring them together, but family secrets on both sides block the way.  At Helen’s house, something is strange about the oil paintings that hang on her walls.  And Eleanor’s unspoken and painful thoughts trace back to Eve’s accident.  If only her father were still alive to guide her.

I enjoyed this story of family, mystery, and the parallel look at sisters, written from the surviving sisters’ varying points of view.  I also enjoyed the historical element, which describes the three Szarka sisters as young women during the German invasion of Hungary.  White’s vivid descriptions of Edisto make it easy to picture life on the island, a place that would be nice to visit.  Sweetgrass baskets sold by roadside locals fill Helena’s house and they take on special meaning when Helena enters a forbidden closed-off room at Luna Point.

Helena and Eve are different, but their similarities may be enough to help them understand the decisions they’ve made and see that there are indeed second chances, allowing them to break free from the time between.

The Time Between is a light story with thought provoking themes.  While its plot and characters are often predictable, White writes about many of my favorite subjects, family, relationships, and mysterious old houses with locked doors and forbidden rooms.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

That’s life! Books about life

Life has many ups and downs, but you can always count on a book to get you through the tougher days.  Heavy or light, fiction or nonfiction, there is no shortage of books on the subject!


Books with the word “life” in the title:

Archie The Married Life
Archie – The Married Life Book 2
by Paul Kupperberg
:  Even comic book characters have challenges and Archie has his hands full with both Betty and Veronica!


Barbarian Days A Surfing Life
Barbarian Days:  A Surfing Life
by William Finnegan:  winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Biography, a self-portrait of a life-long surfer.


Dear Life coverDear Life by Alice Munro:  terrific collection of short fiction by one of the best.


life after life pic

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson:  One of the best books I’ve ever read, Atkinson looks at the what-ifs during the world-changing events of World War II.


Stll Life with Bread Crumbs
Still Life with Bread Crumbs
by Anna Quindlen:  Love enters the picture at all stages of life in this popular story.


The Secret Life of Walter Mitty new
“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”
by James Thurber:  A henpecked husband escapes into his own world in this Thurber classic.


The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace
The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace
by Jeff Hobbs:  an absorbing story about a super smart and caring guy from a poor neighborhood in New Jersey who just couldn’t make it work.


helen-keller-the-story-of-my-life
The Story of My Life
by Helen Keller:  Helen Keller lost her sight and hearing as a baby and overcame tremendous obstacles and became a well-known supporter of many causes.


Of course you don’t have to have the word “life” in the title to write about the subject.  Here are some notables from this year’s reading list:

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway:  Hemingway looks back on his days in Paris and his marriage to Hadley Richardson.

Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín:  A young Irish woman takes a chance on a better life in America after World War II.

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume:  a fictionalized depiction of life in 1950s Elizabeth, New Jersey when three planes crashed in their town.

My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout:  How do you put the hushed experiences of your childhood into words, and should you?

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie:  terrific semi-autobiographical story about a life of poverty on the Spokane Indian reservation.

The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler:  Life changes in an instant when a man’s wife dies.  Will he get a chance to fix unreconciled conflicts in his marriage?

The Hours Count by Jillian Cantor:  great 1950s historical fiction about the lives of accused spies, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were the only civilian Americans to be killed for spying for the Russians.

Traveling Mercies – Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott:  an honest and often humorous memoir about finding faith.

We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas:  A family’s life is transformed after a loved-one’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler:  a solid reminder that successful people put in a lot of time at the bottom, before anyone knows about them.


Thanks for visiting – back to my book!

Currently reading The Time Between by Karen White

That Girl…Books with “girl” in the title

Who remembers Marlo Thomas in That Girl? Photo: Amazon.com
Who remembers Marlo Thomas in That Girl? Photo: Amazon.com

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has noticed that there are a lot of books out there about that girl.  She’s on a train, she’s in Boston, and then she’s gone.  She’s good, she has a tattoo and wears a pearl earring.  She’s playing with fire and kicking a hornet’s nest.  First she’s in pieces and then she’s interrupted.  You get the idea!

I’ve read and enjoyed many of these and now I’ve added more to my list.  And there are even more “girl” books out there.  Just do a search on Amazon and you will see what I mean.

Calmer Girls by Jennifer Kelland Perry

Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland

Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Razor Girl by Carl Hiassen

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

The Girl by Rachel Blakeman

The Girl Before by Rena Olsen

The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

The Girl from Venice by Martin Cruz Smith

The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza

The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

“The Girl on the Plane” by Mary Gaitskill

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Lied by Sue Fortin

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

The Girl You Lost by Kathryn Croft

The Girls by Emma Cline

The Last Girl by Joe Hart

The Munich Girl by Phyllis Edgerly Ring

The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan

The Winter Girl by Matt Marinovich


And of course there’s this one, which stands alone.

Anne Frank:  The Diary of a Young Girl

anne-frank-the-diary-of-a-young-girl


What girl books have you read?  Can you add to my list?

Calmer Girls  gonegirl  the boston girl  The Good Girl  The Girl on the Train 

the girl with the dragon tattoo pic  The Girl who played with fire pic  The girl who kicked the hornet's nest pic  Girl with a Pearl Earring  The Munich Girl

 

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

The Other Wife by Kathleen Irene Paterka

the-other-wife

The Other Wife
by
Kathleen Irene Paterka

Rating:
3 book marks

Eleanor Anderson’s comfortable life in the Chicago suburbs changes forever when her husband Richard dies in his sleep, but not for the usual reasons.  Her life begins its crumble when she learns about the changes in Richard’s life insurance policy, changes that point to another woman.  She’s sure it’s a mistake and as her lawyer son Jeffrey tries to make sense of the news and keep his money monger sister Genevieve at bay, what becomes obvious is that there is indeed not just another woman, but a second younger wife and two small children tucked in a nice house in Hyde Park.

Meantime, Claire Anderson has no idea that her husband has died.  Richard had supposedly been off on a long trip as an independent contractor working with the U.S. government.  Being the beneficiary is not enough to comfort Claire, who thought Richard was the perfect husband.

Tension builds as the two women move towards an inevitable confrontation, but the plot twists and new characters muddle up the drama.  The author closes with an exciting meet-up and satisfying finish, with a few surprises.

I was looking for a fun read and enjoyed escaping into this light and easy story.  I like reading about characters with secret lives and think the plot premise is the strongest part of The Other Wife.  I think Eleanor’s character is the most developed, enabling the reader to identify with her situation.

There’s a great deal of repetition, however, which takes away from the experience.  In addition, plot developments are somewhat unrealistic as well as are some of the lightweight details that drive the story.  This is the kind of book that you pick up, read for fun, and move on.  Put your analytical mind on the shelf and enjoy the escape!

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!