The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

dog stars picI guess I’m kind of a Peter Heller fan. I first read The Dog Stars and loved it. Recently I read The Painter, and enjoyed that book as well. The Dog Stars is about a post-apocalyptic society created out of the remnants of those who survived flu and blood disease pandemics. The book is written in a way that does not transmit total doom, but conveys what the human spirit needs to go on.

If I think about the writing style of Peter Heller, I would have to say it’s unique, and takes a few chapters to get accustom to the rhythm. He writes conversationally, which makes it very personal and easy to get yourself immersed in his story. I wanted to read The Painter because, to be honest, I didn’t want The Dog Stars to end.

I hope Peter Heller will continue the Dog Stars story with another book…or possibly a prequel? The story is one that gets under your skin, and I believe it has everything to do with the writing and storytelling style of Peter Heller. I recommend it to anyone who loves great characterization wrapped in a unique point of view.

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The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

The Storied LifeI was completely pulled in by this story, which is about a cranky bookseller who is not really living- as a result of his young wife dying in a car accident.  Through a series of events carefully knitted together by the author, A. J. (book store owner) comes to take care of an orphaned? toddler.  His life is never the same.  The child opens life up to A.J. in ways he could not have imagined, and soon a book saleswoman arrives on the scene to shake everything up again.

I’m sure we all gravitate to stories that resonate familiarity…but there was something so compelling about the way the story was told that made me want to just live inside the pages.  I can’t remember the last time that’s happened.

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Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen

Anna Quindlen has always been one of my favorite fiction writers and here’s why,Still Life with Bread Crumbs her books all have a real life ring to them that you don’t often find without having the story go sappy and melodramatic or (as lately) dark to the point of tortuous. The story follows a period in a 60 year old woman’s life. She finds her finances to be so precarious that she sublets her Manhattan apartment and moves to a furnished mountain cabin about 2 hours away. She thinks that she may be able to save some money and reevaluate her situation at the same time. Anna Quindlen weaves the story to include a host of supporting characters that impact the story’s trajectory. We care what happens to ALL of them and as the story ends, you (the reader) are actually uplifted. This is not one of those “At Home in the Mountains” kind of book, but a slice of life that will leave you satisfied… that you took the time to read Still Life with Bread Crumbs.

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The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Signature of All ThingsI read Eat, Pray, Love and loved it. (The movie ruined the experience, though).  I also enjoyed Committed, Gilbert’s second memoir.  The Signature of All Things is historical fiction, and I almost didn’t pick it up based on the fact that I usually must be coerced into this genre.  This book breaks out of classification and holds the reader in all the folds and layers of a family saga.  The book follows the historic beginning of Darwin’s theories  and discoveries and places the characters down in the middle of a time when an educated woman needed to follow social norms and bow to the male opinion- no matter how incorrect.

A few months ago our book group read Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier.  This novel has the same familiar note, but I would call it the orchestra version.

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Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

First, let me say that I in no way count myself among the multitudes of Stephen King fans. However, when I heard he was writing a story to continue the life of young Danny in The Shining, I was definitely intrigued.
The story begins with Danny Torrance, now an adult, struggling to come to terms with (no surprise) addiction and depression. His parents are dead and he finds himself untethered from a stable environment and any permanent relationships. Luckily, he still possesses a modicum of the “shining” he once had as a small child. He finds he is able to help people as they linger in the doorway between life and death- hence his nickname…Doctor Sleep. This ability allows him to settle down enough to finally get a grip on his addiction to alcohol and create a small family unit knitted together from the people around him who believe he is worthy of their affection.
Along comes Abra. Abra is a young girl who possesses a large amount of “the shining.” As Danny describes it, “I am a flashlight and she is a lighthouse.” This rare ability causes Abra to surface on the radar of a band of paranormal parasites calling themselves, The True Knot. It is their sole mission to find children with the shining ability and kill them to take away their “steam” which reinvigorates them, much like vampires use human blood. Abra connects telepathically with Danny and together they set out to “untie” the True Knot.
The story is quite a page-turner, as are all Stephen King novels. Whether you are an avid fan or just curious (as I was) about the rest of young Danny’s life, I think you will find Doctor Sleep to have the excitement and creepy chills to keep you up at night reading to the end. My only disappointment in the novel is that it reads, in my opinion, like two separate novellas. Danny’s story is linked to Abra’s, but when Abra comes into the picture, Danny’s story recedes to the background. I guess I was hoping for more of Danny’s personal development…
…see what you think by reading Doctor Sleep by Stephen King.

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The Sock Wars by Maia Sapp

The Sock Wars title came up as one of those Amazon recommendations after I became interested in another book. I tend to enjoy stories about people rehabbing houses because (big surprise) I am in the process of renovating. It sounded like the perfect book for the HGTV addict that I am.
Anyway, the book opens as the main character finds out that her only relative has died suddenly, and has left her a Victorian brownstone in Brooklyn. There is a lot of back and forth about whether the house warrants rehabbing. We find that the main character and her boyfriend have different ideas about lifestyle and comfort. The sock wars title is in reference to the constant battle with each other over clean socks. In the end, the brownstone is finally renovated, but along with the renovation process there are some realizations that impact the next chapter in the lives of this couple.
This is a debut novel. There are places in the story that are not drawn out well, and it may annoy you (as it did me) that the main character spends an inordinate amount of chapter time incessantly whining. Other than that, I liked it well enough- I did not love it.

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The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I have been interested in what John Green has to say ever since he spoke at our library conference a few years ago.  He was informative and totally hilarious at the same time- quite an accomplishment in a room full of librarians!

This book is about the relationship of a young couple who meet at a cancer support group (they both have the disease), but is predominantly told from the viewpoint of 17 year old Hazel.  Green tells the story from the inside out.  This is pretty interesting since he is a) male- and by the time he wrote the book, older. b) hasn’t experienced cancer- that I know of…

He wrote a book that is illuminating, not only into the world of pediatric cancer, but also into the world of a teenage girl- trying to figure out what to do with the emotions of love and hope…and is (at times) pretty funny.

How did he do this?  What a great book.  I highly recommend it.

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Bad Dog: A Love Story by Martin Kihn

I can’t remember, now, how I decided to read this book.  There certainly are enough dog stories out there…and I’m pretty tired of reading them.  This is a complicated story about relationships and how people and dogs can veer off the path together.  This is a memoir that illustrates how bad it can be to hide out in a bottle, and how good it can be to accomplish a task- any task, when you’ve been sitting with the bottle for too long.  Dogs can save us.  They have a unique way of consoling and cajoling that tends to be a positive step when you’re facing the depths of depression.  The author never intends to train his dog, but the dog is a force that flips the switch on wanting a life- a life that he’s not afraid to take control of…great story and great writing.

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