Thursday, April 28, 2016


Water is such a basic human need, and one which its ready availability we usually take for granted. But what if one day mysteriously that all changed. In Thirst by Benjamin Warner, the main protagonists are faced with such a dilemma. Taking place in the midst of a scorching hot summer and immediately following an unexplained disaster which has left the streambeds bone dry, trees burnt, homes without power and no running water, Eddie and Laura Chapman have to suffer the effects of heat and thirst, but also the fear that no one is coming to help them. As violence and panic spreads in the streets, they’re forced to decide just what they’re willing to do to survive.

Thirst is a very small book which made for a quick, but very tense read. The author did a great job of quickly ratcheting up the tension as the protagonists very lives were on the brink of extinction, making you feel their building sense of desperation. While it was gripping and impactful (believe me, by the last page I was planning a Costco run to stockpile on water, no joke), the speed at which all social norms and sense of morality deteriorated in the story - literally from one day to the next - seemed a bit of a stretch. Granted panic does spread like wildfire, but in the span of hours would you so quickly be able to go from law-abiding citizen to guilt-ridden thieves and murderers?

Despite my small gripe, Thirst was a worthwhile read, if for no other reason than to be frighteningly reminded of the importance of this natural resource.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Brilliant! A moving story of love, loss and remembrance perfectly told in 1 minute, 45 seconds.

Player Two from John Wikstrom on Vimeo.

"It is with words as with sunbeams. The more they are condensed, the deeper they burn." ~Robert Southey

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Despite this book’s intended audience (young readers/pre-teens), I was intrigued with the subject and plot and decided to give it a shot, and I’m so glad I did. OCDaniel is a wonderfully engaging novel that offers a candid and moving account of life with OCD. This is a small book but it really packs a punch. Daniel’s candid confessions of his daily struggles with OCD were heartbreaking, but served to draw me in and truly care for his plight. While Daniel’s OCD is central to the story, it’s not the whole of the book, in so much as the story also has great supporting characters and an engrossing, though predictable, little mystery.

From the publisher: "Daniel is the back-up punter for the Erie Hills Elephants. Which really means he’s the water boy. He spends football practice perfectly arranging water cups—and hoping no one notices. Actually, he spends most of his time hoping no one notices his strange habits—he calls them Zaps: avoiding writing the number four, for example, or flipping a light switch on and off dozens of times over. He hopes no one notices that he’s crazy, especially his best friend Max, and Raya, the prettiest girl in school. His life gets weirder when another girl at school, who is unkindly nicknamed Psycho Sara, notices him for the first time. She doesn’t just notice him: she seems to peer through him. Then Daniel gets a note: “I need your help,” it says, signed, Fellow Star child—whatever that means. And suddenly Daniel, a total no one at school, is swept up in a mystery that might change everything for him."

The author’s depiction of Daniel’s pain, fear and sense of weirdness and isolation undoubtedly honestly capture what many children (and adults) struggle with openly or in silence on a daily basis. I think it’s invaluable to have diverse books dealing with real struggles for readers of ALL ages, so that someone (adult or child) facing a personal obstacle can see characters that look like them and hopefully feel a little less alone. Another great book in this vein is Wonder by R.J. Palacio.

No matter the genre or intended audience, I love any book that helps me walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, to see with the eyes of another and feel with the heart of another.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter

Any number of adjectives could be used to describe this latest Kennedy-related book, including poignant, engrossing, and unforgettable but the one I’d use is heartbreaking. Kate Larson’s Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter sheds light on the life and struggles of Rosemary Kennedy, the beautiful eldest daughter of Joe and Rose Kennedy, whose intellectual disabilities were a secret highly guarded by her powerful parents. Relying on diaries, letters and family interviews, Larson gives the reader a glimpse into Rosemary’s lonely life; isolated from her siblings, as she was shipped from one exclusive school to another in her parent’s desperate attempts to find a miracle cure to fix their daughter to meet their standards of perfection. The true heartache of the tale though comes when at the tender age of 23 her father decides to have Rosemary undergo a lobotomy, an event which changes the course of her life forever.

The author never passes judgment on the Kennedy’s for their actions or questions their motivations, but provides facts and background and leaves any judgment call to the reader’s personal interpretation. Thankfully, despite attempts to silence her voice or diminish her value, Rosemary made a difference. For she’s undoubtedly the catalyst that pushed her siblings to act on behalf of millions of disabled Americans like her; including Ted passing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or Eunice founding the Special Olympics.

Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter is a hopeful book, in so much as it shows how far we've come as individuals and as a nation in our attitudes towards and treatment of the disabled. A moving and poignant book that will stay with you well after you read its last page.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Jane Steele

Reimagining classic tales is the hot new trend, and let me tell you Lyndsay Faye’s Jane Steele delivers. More homage than actual retelling, this first-person narrative kicks off with a bang with Jane Steele’s confession “Reader, I murdered him”, a far cry from Jane Eyre’s own “Reader, I married him” for in this tale Jane is a serial killer.

From the publisher: "Like the heroine of the novel she adores, Jane Steele suffers cruelly at the hands of her aunt and schoolmaster. And like Jane Eyre, they call her wicked - but in her case, she fears the accusation is true. When she flees, she leaves behind the corpses of her tormentors. A fugitive navigating London's underbelly, Jane rights wrongs on behalf of the have-nots whilst avoiding the noose. Until an advertisement catches her eye. Her aunt has died and the new master at Highgate House, Mr. Thornfield, seeks a governess. Anxious to know if she is Highgate's true heir, Jane takes the position and is soon caught up in the household's strange spell. When she falls in love with the mysterious Charles Thornfield, she faces a terrible dilemma: can she possess him - body, soul and secrets - without revealing her own murderous past?"

Jane Steele’s premise alone had me stoked before I’d even read the first page, and while I thoroughly enjoyed it, it ended up being more like (really, really like) than love. The book starts great – clever, compelling, a true adventure with a good dose of drama and murder, but in the second half once Jane’s ensconced at Highgate House as the governess the story starts to plod along and go the drab gray of her frocks, though thankfully it picks up again in the last quarter of the book. Ultimately, it wasn't as great as the book it honors, but definitely worth the read.