Franny and Zooey – J.D. Salinger


You’re lucky if you get time to sneeze in this goddam phenomenal world.

Years back I tried to read Catcher in the Rye. I didn’t finish it. I’m pretty sure I got thirty pages to the end and said “screw it.” Now, I’ve talked to many people about why I probably didn’t like it and the same word always comes up. Angst. I was an angsty teenager, isn’t that what being a teenager is all about? But maybe my brand of angst wasn’t the sort necessary to appreciate Rye.

So, when I picked up Franny and Zooey the other day because I had finished Bird Box and I hadn’t had time to get to the library to pick up a book that I desperately wanted to read; I was nervous. I thought, “Oh, I’ll just pick it up, read a few pages, probably hate it, put it down and then read something else.” That, obviously, didn’t happen. I actually liked it. No, I didn’t like it. I loved it! Shocked the hell out of me too. I wasn’t aware that it isn’t one but two stories that are linked together.

F and tells the story of sister and brother, Franny and Zooey respectively, and the relationship they have with each other and the rest of their family while one is going through a breakdown. Franny, as told in the first story, is at her wits end with college and is trying hard to be “a good girlfriend” to her boyfriend Lane during a weekend visit to his university; but she can’t hold it in any longer. She talks about how she’s quite theatre and wants to leave the English department because everyone is all about ego and seems so fake.

“I know this much, is all,” Franny said. “If you’re a poet, you do something beautiful. I mean you’re supposed to leave something beautiful after you get off the page and everything. The ones you’re talking about don’t leave a single, solitary thing beautiful.”

She goes on to tell Lane about a book she picked up at the library about a pilgrim in Russia who wants to learn to pray without ceasing and how, when he finally learns how he learn The Jesus Prayer and says it over and over until it is emblazoned upon his heart and it becomes one with his heart beat. That is the key to praying without ceasing.

In Zooey you see that Franny is in full-blown breakdown and is trying to hold on to anything that may give her sanity, even if that thing is The Jesus Prayer. You also see the relationship Zooey and Franny Glass have with their mother, Bessie. She is a riot of a woman and I could actually hear my grandmother’s voice while I was reading. Bessie doesn’t know what to do with Franny but knows that Zooey is the key. I also felt that the relationship between Franny and Zooey is exactly what she needs to be searching for while she’s in that state. It is a beautiful relationship that is just oozing with familial love.

Being a “retired” actor myself the bits at the ends where he is talking to her about why she got out of the theatre and how she’s got it all wrong really struck a cord with me.

Somewhere along the line—in one damn incarnation or another, if you like–you not only had a hankering to be an actor or an actress but to be a good one. You’re stuck with it now. You can’t just walk out on the results of your own hankerings.

To me, this book is for anyone who is looking for something bigger. Anyone who needs someone to tell them that they shouldn’t give up on their “hankerings”, and for anyone who just needs a hand to hold while they climb out of the well that they have dug for themselves.

Bird Box- Josh Malerman


How can she expect her children to dream as big as the stars if they can’t lift their heads to gaze upon them?”

This book was recommended to me quite a few months back by my friend Josh, no relation. I was struggling at the time to get through a book that I was hoping I would love, but I was crashing and burning every time I opened it. I did finally give up on it and Josh told me to read Bird Box. I ended up reading other things and nearly forgetting about it until I was at that magical place The Ferndale Public Library and happened by it in the library bookstore. I grabbed that and a few Jodi Picoult books and left the library to go have a glass of wine and bask in that warm faux feeling that buying books gives me.

Bird Box is set in Detroit and, funny enough, the author actually lives in the area and is friends with one my managers at work. Set in a time, probably in the not too distant future, where there are things outside that drive to insanity just by looking at them. The problem? No one knows what look like. One look at these “creatures” and you are driven to the farthest reaches of madness and you kill anyone and anything near you. That includes yourself.

Finding herself alone and pregnant Malorie finds herself living in an abandoned house with people who share the same ideals she does. Stay inside. Cover all the windows. When you go outside always, always, wear a blindfold. And for God’s sake listen. When your sight is taken away you have to use your other senses to “see” the world around you. Which begs the question. Would you survive? I’m pretty much blind without my contacts in, but I don’t think I would be able to live in a world where I couldn’t see the sky. But you do what you must to survive each day.

Bird Box is an easy read. Now, don’t scoff at me the way my fiancé did when I said that. Some times you want a book that you can devour in one sitting; and that is what I mean when I say that it’s an easy read. Malerman describes the ravaged and torn Detroit as only one who has seen it can. Also, in a world where no one is allowed to see what is outside their front door he gives you the feeling of utter desperation and vulnerability one must feel when they do step outside, blindfolded and ultimately alone.

In short, I loved it. If you’re looking for a book to get lost in during these last few days of summer this one is for you. Take the journey with Malorie as she navigates a new and maddening world with the strength and determination that only a single mother could.

Room – Emma Donoghue


I’m working on believing.

I bought Room a few years back at a thrift store that I would frequent in Chicago where you could buy book for fifty cents. That was the last I had seen of Room until we moved to Michigan and my coworker, the ever amazing Jobeth, told me I had to read it! She has been the person I go to for book recommendations a lot recently. She hasn’t let me down and she didn’t with Room either.

The story starts with Jack, who is turning five, and his Ma who is desperately trying to give him a birthday that he deserves. You come to realize very quickly that the home that Ma and Jack occupy is a small shed in the back of a house. Padlocked from the outside, Ma sees no end to the monotony of the life that she has created for her and her son. They create their own games, they create their own exercises, they create their own world. Inside room everything is as Ma wants it to be for Jack and that is all he has ever known.

So, when Ma finally tells him that there is more to life than what he sees around him, his world changes and it’s hard for him to grasp the fact that the people on TV are actual people and not on a different planet. One where room doesn’t exist. Ma devises a plan and soon they are out in the world and Jack has to come to terms with the fact that everything he has ever known isn’t true.

Told from the point of view of a five-year old you would think that you would grow tired of Jack’s way of seeing or his way of speaking, but you don’t. I found it endearing to see the world through the eyes of a child again; and also heartbreaking to see the world from a child who hasn’t seen the world before. Heartbreaking and yet a story of sheer bravery, Room will remind us all what it’s like to be a child and remind us that there is such evil in the world. Evil that would keep a young girl away from her family and a young boy away from this big, bad, beautiful world that we all love and hate.

The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman


Fear is contagious. You can catch it. Sometimes all it takes is for someone to say that they’re scared for the fear to become real.

I feel like these always start off with me apologizing for how long it took me to finish the book. We all know that life gets in the way of the small pleasures, so I shall do my best not to apologize any more. I am human, after all.

This book was given to my fiance by his dad quite a few months ago and then was recommended to me by his dad about a month ago. I had seen it kicking around the house and had wanted to pick it up, but there’s always something next in the queue. But isn’t there always going to be? I had read Stardust many years back having loved the movie and going to see it multiple times on my own and with Craig. I still reach for it after a long day and when I need a smile. The book was a different story. I won’t go in to detail, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the book. I thought the movie did a better job at fleshing out the characters and wrapping things up. The same goes for this book, although there isn’t a movie based on the book…yet.

Nodody Owens has lived in the graveyard his entire life, having stumbled upon it as a small child while his family was being murdered in the house he used to live in. He is given the freedom of the graveyard and there the ghosts that live there protect him. His “parents” Mr. and Mrs. Owens along with his guardian, Silas, are charged with the well being of Nobody. Silas is the character that I was most interested in and he doesn’t disappoint in his “fatherly” wisdom.

As any young child will do, Nodbody gets in to all kinds of shenanigans, albeit not the kind that a normal child would. Romping with ghouls and werewolfs. Underneath it all The Graveyard Book is a wonderful little book that makes you think about your life and the way you live it. It did leave quite a few things unanswered for me, but I still enjoyed it and will recommend it to anyone who is looking for an easy read. Me? I’m still trying to figure out if Mr.Gaiman is my cup of tea.

Next up, friends, is another Jobeth recommended book and she hasn’t let me down yet! Stay tuned. I’m sure I’ll finish this next one in a flash.

Dark Places- Gillian Flynn


The truly frightening flaw in humanity is our capacity for cruelty – we all have it.

I had been waiting for this book to be returned to the library for months! I just couldn’t ever synch up my reading with when someone was returning it, in short, everyone wanted this book. After Gillian Flynn’s runaway hit Gone Girl went to the big screen the demand for her books has been high, and after reading this one I understand why.

Dark Places is written in a style that I love! Every chapter is told from a different character’s perspective and even jumps time periods to do so. I always feel like I’m getting more of the story this way. The three main narrators are Libby Day (present), Ben Day (past), and Patty Day (past). That would be her older brother and her mother, respectively. While Libby is in the present grappling with the after math of her families mass murder; Ben and Patty are in the past just days away from the fateful day and as tension mounts so does the desperation in the chapters.

Patty Day has been trying to keep her family of five running smoothly since her husband left and the farming hasn’t been great in Kansas. She’s stuck in a place where she can’t get out, and her son Ben isn’t making things better. He is a teenager trying to find his own in a rural neighborhood all the while living with four females. He’s just boy trying to find his own and you can feel that pull in his chapters. While the desperation in Patty’s comes through ten fold.

Libby is just trying to survive and while her money is running out she is desperate to do anything for some cash. Enter Lyle. He is a guy who is a part of a club they lovingly named The Kill Club. Where people of like minds get together and try to solve America’s cold case murders. The Day murders just happen to fit the bill and they track down Libby to try and convince her that her brother, Ben, is innocent.

We follow Libby and Lyle through the back streets of Kansas and beyond trying to find answers to a murder that happened so long ago and when Libby was a young impressionable girl. It’s hard to convince someone to change their thoughts when those thoughts have been the same since you were young, and when this is what everyone has been telling you for years.

The back and forth chapters and the pacing of the book make it for a fascinatingly quick read, I couldn’t put it down once it started rolling. The conclusion will leave you breathless as you take this journey with Libby and Lyle to uncover the truth that so many have kept hidden for decades.

The Pact- Jodi Picoult


At seventeen, the smallest crises took on tremendous proportions: someone else’s thoughts could take root in the loam of your own mind: having someone accept you was as vital as oxygen.

The Pact was suggested to me by my wonderful friend Jobeth. We were talking about how it’s hard to pick a new book to read after you’ve finished one that changes your core temperature. Suddenly a light went off inside Jobeth’s head and she quickly said, “The Pact!” I looked it up on goodreads and I have to say that people have very mixed emotions about this book. But I, like my friend utterly loved it.

The Pact is a story about love and loss and about what you do when the love that you think you deserve seems some what forbidden. Chris Harte and Emily Gold have been friends before they were born; their mother’s struck up a rather unlikely friendship when Emily’s mother Melanie and her husband Michael moved in next door to the Hartes. Actually the basis of their friendship is how I came to call Jobeth the oil to my vinegar:

Melanie, who had been too bookish in junior high school to have much of a social life, suddenly had a seventh-grade friend. Somehow, instead of Gus’s exuberance overshadowing Melanie’s reserve, they complemented each other. It ws not unlike the mixture of oil and vinegar—-neither of which one wanted alone on one’s salad, but which together seemed such a natural twosome it was easy to believe they’d been made with each other in mind.

The Hartes and the Golds have a picture perfect friendship. They go to dinner every weekend at the same chinese restaurant and they have picture perfect children who are dating and are ultimately going to be married. This is something everyone knows, even Chris and Emily. But what happens when one of the pair doesn’t seem to want the things that everyone wants for them?

Emily Gold doesn’t seem to want to be glued to Chris the rest of her life and that’s why at the very beginning of the story we find out that Emily Gold is dead and Chris Harte is alive with a gun in his hand. The story unfolds beautifully to show the life of a tortured girl who doesn’t seem to want the things that everyone else wants for her and what the boy she loves would do for her.

I have read My Sister’s Keeper so I was somewhat familiar with Picoult’s style of writing, though this one is different, not told in a back and forth style as Keeper is. It unfolds with each chapter jumping from Then and Now, and each chapter gives you just one more piece of the puzzle and it all fits perfectly. It was an easy read and made me want to pick up her new book. One thing I learned from this adventure, is aways listen to Jobeth when she suggest a book. She’s 2 for 2 now.

Find Me- Laura Van Den Berg


My unconscious mind is very powerful and it wants me to live.

Before I talk about the above book I have a confession to make. I gave up on a book. Yes, it’s true. I had been carrying it around with me like an albatross around my neck and I just couldn’t bring myself to open it. I started it, don’t get me wrong, I just couldn’t get into it. I voiced my concerns to my coworker JB: “It always makes me nervous when, on the back of the book, instead of praising the book you currently have in your hands it’s praise for their other book.” But let’s be honest. It’s true. Whenever a back cover says wonderful things only about the first book the book you have is usually not so great. That’s what happened. I’m sure it was a fine book, but at this point of the year it just wasn’t for me. I’m not going to tell you which book it is, because I feel like that is unfair, and who knows maybe I’ll pick it up again and love it. Such is the life of a reader. Anyway, onwards and upwards.

As I was walking around the library last week feeling utterly ashamed that I gave up on a book I stumbled on the “Lucky  Days Collection”.  It is described as such:

 “Lucky Day is a collection of the most popular, current, in-demand books,” explains Library Director Jessica Keyser. “We have filled the Lucky Day shelves with best-sellers and other books that currently have a long waiting list. We hope that our patrons will be surprised and delighted by their ‘luck’ in finding these titles on the shelf when they walk in the door, no waiting required. The Lucky Day collection is our love letter to the Ferndale community.”

The catch is; you can only keep the book out for one week. One week? I’m a fast reader at the best of times, especially if I have the time and am completely engrossed in the book. (I read The Other Boleyn Girl in two days and finished the bulk of Winter’s Tale in one.) Even so, one week is not a long time, since I don’t take the train anymore that has eaten in to my reading time. The industry I’m in is also not conducive to reading either. It’s hard to come home at 3 o’clock in the morning and crack open a book when all you want to do is mindlessly watch that episode of Friends you’ve seen a million times. That’s neither here nor there.

So, I had seen Find Me on a few lists for “books you should read in 2015” and after glancing at the synopsis on the inside flap; and checking to see how many pages it was I decided to go for it. At 278 pages it was a quick read. Now, I’m not saying that the amount of pages makes a book any easier to read, Jude the Obscure was pretty short and that was brutal!

It is told from the eyes of Joy a girl who was abandoned when she was only a month or so old at a hospital, it is there she was given the name Joy. She is then pushed through the foster care system and lives in a few different homes. She keeps her sentences short and to the point but filled with emotion. She is a girl who has been beaten down by the system and a life of floating from place to place where people don’t seem to really want her around. After she is on her own for a while an epidemic sweeps through the country. People, everywhere, are forgetting everything. She happens to be one of the lucky few that is immune. She is taken to a hospital where the “lucky” people are being held so that scientists and doctors may examine them day in and day out trying to find a cure.

It’s not until she breaks free that the book really grabbed my attention. Joy starts to remember things from her past that have long been hidden away. It’s in these parts that she becomes more relatable. Now, I’m not saying that the things that happened to Joy happened to me, no, I’m saying that we all have things that we would like to bury deep in to our psyche and never let out again.

A theory on why we stop remembering: there is a part of our story that we do not know how to tell ourselves and we will away its existence for so long that finally our brain agrees to a trade: I will let you forget this, but you will never feel whole.

Find Me is a fantastic book that turned bloody brilliant as it kept on. You find yourself identifying with Joy and her best friend Marcus on their journey to forgiveness and life. This being Ms. Van Den Berg’s first novel I’m interested to see what else she has up her sleeve. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I ended up really enjoying this book. I finished it at the laundromat last night and every time I read a great line I looked around searching for someone to tell. “Hey, listen to this…”


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