Category: Books


The last few weeks, my reading pile has included a variety of books whose focus is North Korea.

These were not easy books to read, in fact it was dammed dis-heartening. I read about a country suffering through near poverty while its leader lives the good life.

Well, when he is not having his mistress shot because his wife found out about the affair. Granted I have only hearsay for that one. But it is pretty certain that his uncle is dead after some of his bolder acts came to be known. The man disappeared and no one has seen him. It is assumed that he is dead – somewhere. If one story is true, it was a very public and nasty death.

esape from camp 14This does not surprise me. Especially after I finished reading Escape from Camp 14. This non-fiction book, which is currently up for the Lincoln Award, tells the story of a young man , named Shin, who was born in Camp 14, a brutal gulag meant for those who went against the government in some way. If that isn’t enough, the government gathers your family, have people ‘mate’ or marry so that they can punish your children.

It is the whole idea of punishing three generations of wrongdoers. People within the camp are taught to snitch on each other, to always work alone, and to never trust one another. God forbid if you try to escape and fail. Chances are you will shot or hung in front of a crowd so your mistakes are an example to everyone else.

Recently it has come out that Shin changed facts around such as his mother, brother, and himself were transferred to a different camp, and that one escape attempt led him to being repatriated to North Korea.

Reluctant CommunistIt could lead you to discount the whole story until you read The Reluctant Communist by Charles Robert Jenkins and Jim Frederick. Jenkins was stationed in South Korea during the 1960s. While this was his second stint in South Korea, it was one filled with depression and loneliness. After eight years in the service, the Sargent wanted to go home and not be sent to Vietnam. That is when he deserted the Army and walked over the border to North Korea. Jenkins thought he would be sent home to face a court martial.

Instead he lived 40 years in a country that was brutal in its rations of food and money. He knows he had it better than most of the citizens but he dealt with irregular heating, electric service, and food sources. He was lucky to meet a Japanese woman and to have a true love match. Other American captives were ‘given’ women or eventually given a woman for a wife.

Because the Japanese government came looking for their abducted citizen, Jenkins’ wife Hitomi, was allowed to go back home. It would take nearly two years of effort on the part of the Japanese government  to get Jenkins and his two daughters into Indonesia to re-unite the family.

I raced through this book but would read various passages again so that I could truly understand what happened to Charles and Hitomi.

Without You There is no UsThe book that started me on this journey is the memoir by Suki Kim, Without You, There is No Us. It details the time Kim spent as a teacher at a university in Pyongyang, teaching English to children of the Korean elite. But even here, life is not privileged. Food seldom tastes good, even if there is meat. The electric service is spotty. Everyone’s computer is bugged so officials know what you are looking up at all times which was a huge fear when one of the other teachers stated they googled each of their co-workers.

Private conversations can only be had if you walk outside in the compound. And there is no such thing as a private conversation with students. You never know who is an informant and who is a rebel.

Kim tried to subtly introduce Western ideas but came to realize that she was only putting her students, whom she grew to love, in danger. Field trips for the teachers pointed out the abject poverty of the people. With her students not even allowed visits from their parents until school break times, Kim wondered about the life that her students lead outside of the university, if they had any freedom or were able to see other students like themselves.

You might say “That Shin guy lied, couldn’t these others be lying, too?” The problem is that there are too many stories from too many defectors. Why would thousands of people lie so grandly if this country was better than what it appears to be?

Then this week I heard about the Wired magazine article that talks with a man who smuggles thumb drives filled with American TV shows into North Korea. These are easier to hide than DVDs, easier to move around.  In doing this, the smugglers hope to show North Koreans that Americans do not focus on how to destroy their tiny country at all hours of the day.

Once upon a time, about 70 years ago, we said never again to things like the Holocaust and genocide. But with examples from North Korea and ISIS and Darfur and the break up of Yugoslavia, I wonder if that is ever possible. The only thing I do know is that we must keep working against the evil that deems we must obey or die.

My Austen Obsession

Just when I think I am off my Jane Austen kick, it comes roaring back.

I know that I should read other pieces of fiction that have nothing to do with Austen. And I do. Recently I read China Dolls by Lisa See, Without You there is No Us, and Escape from Camp 14 in a fit of need for knowledge about Asia. I have one more book to read about an American soldier who defected to North Korea during a period of homesickness and depression.

JA Death Comes to PemberleyBut ever since my book group read Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James, I have found my self lost in a round of Austen that is not even written by Jane. I have even delved in to the Austen Project by Harper Collins.

In this book, we are back at Pemberley but it is six years later. Darcy and Elizabeth are deliriously happy with two little boys. Georgina still lives with them but has shown interest in a busy but successful lawyer. Jane and Bingley live nearby with their children.

Life couldn’t be happier as they prepare for the annual Autumn ball that is held in the memory of the last Mrs. Darcy.

But on the night before the ball Lydia comes to the front door, screaming that Wickham has been killed and They must do something about it. Well, he is not dead but his friend, Denny, has a nasty blow to the head.

Here is my problem with this book. It is stiff. The language, the action, the formalities between people who should like each other and feel at ease. The story is told from Darcy’s viewpoint most of the time and perhaps that is one reason for the constant formal atmosphere. Except that Elizabeth has taken on some of that as well.

This was not a favorite and nor shall I be reading it again anytime soon. I liked the story but some of the relationships seemed a bit preposterous. It was a mystery and not a comedy of manners in the way of Pride and Prejudice. in this book the problems of the past could not be laughed away. Instead there was too much analysis.

JA Sense and Sensibility_trollope_Well, having failed that my other faux Austen adventure was sinking into the new versions of Northanger Abbey, and Sense and Sensibility. Harper Collins has put together a group of modern-day writers who take on of the six and write it in the modern era. That means there are constant references to iPhones and texting.

Joanna Trollope took on Sense and Sensibility. For me, this should have been a slam dunk for Joanna. If you have read her novels, you know that she has a knack for describing the human heart and it’s layers of feelings. I have enjoyed her writing over the years.

In this book, mom and dad never got married so Norland goes to John. Fanny comes in with plans to make the old manor home into a B&B. Elinor is yanked out of her architectural program, Marianne is an asmathic, and Margaret is a sulky pre-teen.

Thank God for cousin Sir John Middleton who offers them a home on his estate near Exeter. He owns a clothing company and uses members of the family as models for his catalog. He also finds Elinor a job in her field and introduces the Dashwoods to Col. Brandon.

I enjoyed the pace of this book, I enjoyed how Trollope worked around various parts of the story that made sense in 1802 but not 2014. I did not enjoy how rude the girls became to one another. I never felt that until Elinor gives up her secret, Marianne was nothing more than a selfish little twit. Margaret wasn’t much better but she is 12. Worse was Mrs. Dashwood who never understood Elinor’s worries and was the example that Marianne seemed to live by.

If it wasn’t for the fact that Alexander McCall Smith is working on Emma, I might have to give up on this series.

JA Murder Most PersuasiveIn truth, I find the best adaptation stay away from the source books with only a tiny bit of a story working its way in to whatever the main plot turns out to be. At Christmas, my mother sent me a newer mystery series by Tracy Kiely. Here our detective is a Jane Austen devotee. She quotes Jane Austen whenever possible. It is a sickness shared by her favorite aunt who has a B&B in Martha’s Vineyard named after Longbourn.

While some portion of the story has characters lifted from the canon but given different names, the murder mystery often has nothing to do with that bit. I have read all but one book in the series. Sadly it ends at number four, which is too bad because I think Kiely was hitting her stride at no. 3, Murder Most Persuasive.

In this book, Elizabeth is helping out her cousin after the death of a beloved uncle. That is when the body of a former friend of the family is discovered. Worse yet, he is the former fiancee of the cousin’s older sister. Soon one of the plot lines resembles Persuasion and Elizabeth’s sister is almost word-for-word like Mary.

What I love about this series is that it is light and breezy, a great read for summer time or anytime you want something quick. They have been great when I need my mind to focus on something other than my father’s death. And my daughter has picked them up. I was able to get the rest of the four book series through my library. We are in Austen heaven for the time being.

JA Jane Austen and the Maddening Lord ByronNext on my list to read is Jane Austen and the Madness of Lord Byron by Stephanie Barron. When I read Barron’s work in the past I found the language too formal and the relationships too casual.

However, I have a huge crush on Lord Byron. I would never want to  be married to the man as he has way too much baggage. But to be in his circle for even a short time would be something.

I will get to this book as soon as I am done with the latest book club book. Then I can get back to my Austen Obsession.

What books have you been obsessing over?

Dear Jane,

Happy Birthday and all that. It is another grey day here.

Joanna Trollope, S&SWell, I had just written a lovely letter talking about the new Austen Project that Harper Collins is working on when my computer decided to lose everything. I had a link for you( http://theaustenproject.com/) and a little discussion on it all. But so much for that. I have neither the patience or the time to rewrite everything.

The first book in the series is Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope, yes, of that Trollope family. Why did they need to use the exact same titles I do not understand but there it is. I have request a copy from the Library and hope to get it soon so that I may devour it. Then, and only then, will I come back with a full review.

Jane AustenWell, I would write more but the shower awaits and then I am off for the day to do numerous errands before showing up to work. This is a long day at work, which I do appreciate. Lord knows the money is helpful. I will tell you about my novel which is going through various re-writes before I send it off to my beta readers. I only have five chapters to go. Perhaps someday I will see it published but that is next year’s goal.

Once again, wishing you happy, happy. Have a lovely day, doing whatever it is you do there in heaven.

Yours, etc.

Karyn

From the Bookpile

Have you ever had an off day, a not so good project?

For me the last few weeks have proven I am not always as efficient or competant as I like to believe I can be. So I understand when this happens to other people or at least I try to understand.

I have been on a reading tear lately, reading authors in the genre I want to write in to see what makes them good, what makes their stories readable or not.

One of the authors I have been exploring is Barbara Delinsky. She writes women’s fiction and has been at it for a long time. I read The Secret Between Us and Sweet Salt Air.

So what happened? I loved one book and totally hated the other. I almost gave up on her because the first book I read, Sweet Salt Air, was the one I hated.

Book Sweet Salt AirThe story is about two friends who come back together to write a cook book about the Maine island where they spent their summers. Both have secrets that could dammage everything.

I liked the writing, the decriptions of the island. I felt as if I was there. But it was the lack of suspense, the excessive reference to the one big secret (three times in the first chapter before being revealed in the second chapter) was the real turn-off. And that was before some conversation turned me off to one character in particular. I kind of sort of read the end but even that did not save my interest in the book.

I hated the book, gave it what I felt was the appropriate rating on Goodreads and felt guilty. I wanted to like it, I really did and knew I was telling the author she stinks when maybe this was just a bad outing. So I used the resources at hand, I asked another librarian to help me find a book by this author.

My thought was maybe I caught Delinsky on a bad day, maybe it was the topic I didn’t like, who knows. That is when I was handed The Secret Between Us. As I type this in, my mind is going into bad soap opera drama voiceovers. That voice in my head is going deep and melodramatic. Book the secret between us

The story is about a mother and daughter who are in a car accident. Their car hits a man on the side of the road during a rainy night. He dies but what everyone does not know is that the daughter was the one driving. She is on a permit and so Mom is right there. But Mom doesn’t tell the police that. She lets them assume she was driving.

There are more secrets that will come out. And we have to deal with an autocratic father, a selfish ex-husband, a pregnant sister, a child with vision problems, and the grieving family members of the victim. But I liked this book better. Perhaps it was because I can identify with this cast of characters better. Perhaps it seemed to me that this situation could really happen. Perhaps it was because the secret affected people but it was not as longly held.

For whatever reasons I felt one book was better than the other. When I looked at Goodreads I noticed that both books received positive reviews, both received negative. I hoped that Sweet Salt Air was one of her earlier efforts but it came out last year. Secret was published in 2008.

Perhaps Delinsky’s next book will hit me better. In the meantime, I am reading Delinsky’s 3 Wishes. Strangely enough, it feels like an upbeat Steven King book.

What are you reading?

It is summer time and your beach- read is not going to be some long-winded tome on butterflies, mosses, or goldfinches and the people who explore these topics.

 

Image from Chick Lit Plus

Image from Chick Lit Plus

Really, who wants to read five hundred pages when there is a wonderful breeze slipping past as the sun dances on the waves of the water? And that drink at your side might have a little extra kick in it.

 

I am ready for something light-weight and fun when Chick Lit Plus sent me a copy of Tax Cut by Michelle Lynn Seigfried.

 

This is Seigfried’s second novel featuring single-mom Chelsea Alton, a New Jersey municipal clerk who won a settlement against her former employer for unsafe working conditions. This has allowed her to stay home with her adorable 2-year-old girl. But the settlement is getting low and while being at home is great, Chelsea is starting to miss work.

 

When she gets a call from a friend alerting her to a job opening, well, she decides to jump on it. Mom and Dad are retired and willing to babysit the adorable granddaughter. Things progress at work but as Chelsea settles in, she begins to notice funny things. They are not connected until chips and pieces appear to fit  it all together with disappearing residents, ramblings of a woman with dementia, and bosses seen talking to people they shouldn’t be otherwise.

 

Then there is the subplot of the potential boyfriend. He is a single dad and a great kisser. But Chris cannot seem to make a relationship work from a perfectly willing woman who is crazy about him.

 

Image from Chick Lit Plus

Image from Chick Lit Plus

I found Tax Cut to be an interesting novel that is a perfect vacation read. Want a little time to yourself then go and hang out with Chelsea and her friend, Bonnie. Bonnie is everything a side kick needs to be; she is sassy, confident, and not without a few resources and connections. She works well with Chelsea whether it is in the office with a crude co-worker or checking out why a former employee left.

 

While the pacing could have been a little tighter, it did not stop me from enjoying the book. Plus, I am very familiar with the mom routines that show up so I felt as if I was someplace I already knew. When we finally get to the action, let me just say it goes very quick. But it is an end that satisfy, especially for those of you with a boss you hated.

 

Would I read it again? That is always my big question and the answer is yes. On those days when I am gifted with some time to myself, I am willing to hang out with Chelsea and Bonnie once more.

 

To Purchase Tax Cut (Jersey Shore Mystery Series #2):

 Amazon:  http://t.co/dZvYKmEy51

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/tax-cut-michele-seigfried/1117789686?ean=9781494215330

To Purchase Red Tape (Jersey Shore Mystery Series #1):

Amazon:  http://t.co/asOvRiAD9J

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/red-tape-michele-seigfried/1115098453?ean=9781482012880

As the news came out this week regarding Woody Allen and Dylan Farrow’s accusation towards her father, I wondered if this affects how I feel about Woody Allen the artist. Can I support a man, artistically, who has this terrible accusation rolling about?

Poster Image

Poster Image

Currently, Midnight in Paris sits waiting to be viewed at my house. I really do love this Woody Allen movie in which Owen Wilson is magically transported to the Roaring Twenties and the ex-pats era. He meets the Fitzgeralds, Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway. Giants. Gods, really, in the literary world. To have Gertrude Stein edit your manuscript is a dream come true.

My head hurts as I think about this because I feel the same way about Roman Polanski. He is a brilliant film director, The Pianist was/is a masterpiece that made us understand the suffering of the Holocaust even more deeply. And yet, Polanski has not been in this country for over 30 years because he is accused of drugging and molesting a 13-year-old girl.  Other girls/women have made similar claims against him. PianistEven being a Holocaust survivor cannot gild that fact over.

Pedophiles. We scorn them, hate them and never want to believe their victims. Who could do such a thing to a young child?

Who wants to believe that a priest, a coach, a trusted friend, a parent could ever do such a wrong to a child?

We don’t so we give that person a pass. They move on to a different job, a different family, a different child.

Philip Seymour HoffmanWhat about Philip Seymour Hoffman? Does our image of him as an actor/artist change because now we know about his heroin addiction? We know on the morning he was supposed to be picking up his kids for a day of fun, he started it off with getting high. We can laugh about parents who need wine to deal with their kids. But really, did Phil need that high so badly? Was he a bad person because the fix was sooooo important to him – beyond kids, beyond personal relationships, beyond work?

Heath LedgerIt gives me flashbacks to Heath Ledger – so talented, so young, so driven. His were legal prescription drugs but still, too many are too many. Like Hoffman, Ledger and his companion, Michelle Williams, were on the outs because of his addictions. Knowing these people cannot function without their drugs, does that change my mind about their work, their artistry?

The same goes for Hemingway. I know his reputation – the boozing, the women, the multiple wives. But as I read A Movable Feast in which Hemingway examines his Paris years, I find myself liking him and enjoying his writing. I want to get to know him better, I want to know his opinion about other writers. While I dislike Hemingway personally, I see what draws people to him. He has style, he Movable Feastlikes fun, and he is not afraid to get into a fight. When Hemingway writes about why a young boy should always carry a knife, it makes me realize his homophobia might have had some real basis to it.

Back to the original question – Does an artist’s personal life affect how we view their art?

As much as I want to say ‘yes,’ the truth may be more of a ‘no.’ I enjoy the work of Allen and Polanski, of Hoffman and Ledger. Their abilities have a certain pull, a certain truth about them. I would have never said I feel the same about Hemingway till I started reading this memoir.

When it comes to the person, I cannot say the same. Allen and Polanski have such allegations that are reprehensible. Hoffman, Ledger, and Hemingway fought against a different demon – one of addiction that most will tell you is a battle royale with addiction being the victor most of the time. The latter three I can excuse or make exceptions. But of the first two, I cannot.

I probably will watch movies by Allen or Polanski again but I will always think about their predatory behavior as well and wonder how this has affected the movie I am watching.

If that is the case, then the answer will always be yes. I might be able to make excuses for some. But knowing what I know, I will always look for clues of those unearthed secrets in their works. I will wonder if there weren’t signs of it before the accusation.

I will always wonder.

There are several services out there that allows one to get books, read them and review them. I personally subscribe to Booksneeze which sends one book at a time that I can review in a truthful and honest manner. If I hated the book, I am free to say so.

This time around I choose 7 Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness by Eric Metaxas. I enjoy biographical stories and thought this grouping would be interesting.

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Things did not go off to a good start as the author started down the road of what makes a good man in his forward. He pulled out the chestnut of how men  are being redefine and it is so difficult to know. This offends my sensibilities because being a good man should not be that difficult.

The men chosen are George Washington, William Wiberforce, Eric Liddell, Deitrich Bonhofer, Jackie Robinson, Chuck Colson and Pope John Paul 2.

Once I got into the stories of these men’s lives, the book became increasingly interesting. He details the simple things that make them great, the small actions that almost seemed to count more than the large actions. In Colson’s case, one could say he was a great man for his prison ministries. But Metaxas argues that it was his decision to repent that was the greatest action of his life.

The highest compliment I can give any book is to state if I would read it again. And I have to say I would because I thought these biographies were compelling and interesting. Once I find the book in my messy stack again, I would like to re-read the portion about Wilberforce and his fight against the slave trade or Washington’s speech that made people love him.

Now you may notice that the title says “Giveaway” in it. And the truth is I will send out this book to someone who says they want it. But first you have to place in the comment section the names of a man who has achieved a level of greatness in your eyes. I will make a random selection from there and contact the winner. But you have to hurry. You have only until June 28th to name your man of greatness. Good luck!

Family Movie Night

by Karyn Bowman

The last day of school this year, was especially emotional and poignant.

It wasn’t because I have a child graduating or making some great leap on the road map of life.

 

Picture by Clarita

Picture by Clarita

What brought me to tears was the special ceremony honoring Mrs. Pat Farman, trusty librarian at the grade school, as she went through her last days before retirement.

I had the good luck of being a volunteer with Mrs Farman in the library and with a few book fairs. Our conversations centered on books and, well, they were exciting enough to not have to go much farther. We talked about the Young Adult genre a lot because that is one area we both read a lot. We never got into the “who is a better writer – Austen or Bronte” conversation which is probably a good thing.

Now some of you who have not been in a library for a few years might wonder why I would celebrate a librarian besides the fact that I am a book nut. I celebrate librarians because they are some of the bravest people I know.

 

Image from IMDb.com

Image from IMDb.com

Librarians across the country fought for our rights to privacy when the Patriot’s Act tried to take too many away. And when it comes to standing up for books that others try to ban, well, thank a librarian that you can get a copy of To Kill A Mockingbird or Huck Finn or Where’s Waldo. All of these books were on lists to be banned and librarians fought them down.

Maybe that is not the kind of bravery you were thinking of, was it? Not every librarian can be like Noah Wylie in The Librarian movie series that showed up on the TNT network. Granted, how many librarians do you know get to chase after a historic relic with a martial arts expert on their side.

Maybe not all librarians look like Rachel Weisz in The Mummy and get to fall in love with Brendan Fraser while trying to figure out how to get a mummy back into his resting place.

 

Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz in The Mummy, Image from IMDb.com

Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz in The Mummy, Image from IMDb.com

Perhaps the most memorable librarian is Marian played by Shirley Jones in The Music Man. She learns to trust and love a man who is a con-artist. His plan usually consists of collecting money for band uniforms and instruments. Before anything arrives or has even been ordered, Harold Hill takes off with the money but this time it might turn out differently.

Oh, librarians might seem ordinary, maybe even useless. But they help those of us coming into a library discover new books, new worlds, new information. A library without a librarian is a like a hollow book; it looks good but you need the inside scoop for guidance, direction, to find one that best suits your needs. A good librarian, such as Mrs. Farman, does just that with love and enthusiasm. And that is what kids need in order to foster a love for reading and learning.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Argh!  Today has been one of those days.

Did I mean to have this review done and ready to go yesterday? Yes, I did.

Did I mean for it to be posted and not have Samantha worry that one of her bloggers was failing or flailing? Yes, I did.

Unfortunately, life and family got in the way. Baseball games, dog training,  and the need to be out of the house during this awful period of unemployment got in the way.

While my son’s team lost last night in a complete blowout, I can tell you almost every time he was at bat Sam hit the ball and managed to get on base.

I can tell you that the picture for my mother’s Mother’s Day gift is ready and the frame needs a little adjustment. I can tell you I bought a nice red dress shirt for my son’s concert in two days and that I found a cute top for my daughter on her birthday next week. And I finally bought the needed Plumber’s goop for under the kitchen sink.

Those are all stories for another time.

Image from Chick Lit Plus

Image from Chick Lit Plus

Today we are talking about Cookies For Dinner  by Pam Johnson-Bennett and Kae Allen.

This collection of essays follow the very different paths to motherhood Pam and Kae took, as well as their philosophies.

That might explain why the germophobe had a cockroach wave at her or the usually punctual mom found herself getting late to class as her pregnancy wore on.

Life, pregnancy, and child rearing is seldom what you will expect it to be; there is no such thing as perfection.

Which may be the reason I found myself laughing at the cockroach story and the measles story and one of the potty training stories.

I like this book for being easy to pick up and put down. Some days, the only time I had to read even one essay was at bedtime before I passed out. But during that time, I would read one complete story. It gave me time to reflect on the story and chuckle to myself.

I understood the one about trying to get through a store without a dreaded tantrum but still buying your stuff because, yep, I did that. Child had a tantrum and I refused to give in. We have all done some of the things in this book and it is reassuring to know that sometimes, some days, we fail. But then the next morning comes and we try again.

Now the stories that might have you tearing up are the ones Pam tells about adopting her two children.  When you need comic relief, Kae jumps in with a tale of hosing off her child’d car seat in the front yard after an explosive poop. Did I mention the child was still in the seat?

Pam and Kae: Image from Chick Lit Plus

Pam and Kae: Image from Chick Lit Plus

Oh, you can sit there and pretend you have never done any of this or thought about it. Truth is, too many parenting books are pompuss and filled with inane advice. I put down one book because the author’s forward was a hot air explanation of what we do wrong as parents from the perspective of someone who may have never had a kid.

That I do not need. Instead, I want to read stories of real people who have been there, done that, and can tell a damn funny story after the storm clouds have settled down. These two moms have that down. If there is no other reason to read the book, then listening to their stories about parenting in the worst of times and in the best of times is one of the few things you will actually wish to do again.

Especially the one about the waving cockroach because it is both touching and funny.

 

Want to find the book? Connect with Pam & Kae!

Facebook link: http://www.facebook.com/twoloonsandabook

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/2loonsandabook

Our website: http://www.twoloonsandabook
Buy the Book!

http://www.amazon.com/Cookies-Dinner-tales-survive-motherhood/dp/1935052519/ref=la_B001H6NUGW_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1367684096&sr=1-7

Welcome to those on the CLP blog tour of Unexpecting by Lori Verni-Fogarsi.

After the review stay a while and find a great easy recipe for supper or walk through my garden to see what is blooming this month. As for the regulars who come all of the time, you know where the tea cups are stored. Find your favorite and let’s get into this book.

Image from Chick Lit Plus

Image from Chick Lit Plus

So, some of us knows what it feels like to finally have kids out of the house or just about out of the house. You plan a great vacation for just you and the spouse. You buy a white couch. And you count down the days until that moment of peace with kids out of the house.

That is until a child shows up with no place to go, claiming to belong to your spouse. She comes along with a big drooling dog and a pregnant belly a month away from delivery.

Holy mid-life crisis not of your making.

Well, that is exactly what happens to Shelley and David who are both on their second marriage. They have been married about 10 years, raising their combined family of 4 children, the last of whom is a senior in high school.

But with Alexandra’s arrival, the finish line suddenly disappears. While she is a senior in high school, she is no where near being ready to handle the huge responsibilities that await her. Worse yet, she will drag the family through trauma they never expected.

The situation feels very real as this family goes through highs and lows from dealing with Alexandra’s issues as well as other family members who are trying to find their way. In that way, I appreciated the book for being real and honest, for not just focusing on Alexandra and what her inclusion does to the family.

Image from CLP

Image from CLP

The other part I like was how the parents dealt – or didn’t – with the problems brought on by Alexandra. A marriage gets rocked and both sides have to figure out what is most important to them.

So here is the long of the short – would I read it again? I think the answer is yes because I like Shelley to certain extent and I feel for her in a problem that was not her making.

Shelley did not ask for Alexandra’s mother to die, she did not expect David to do some of the things he did. Nor did she expect to have to be the tough guy.  She and David have a great marriage but when the going gets rough, suddenly he is acting like a dofus, forgetting how she has been there for him through the years.

Perhaps that is what bothered me the most, characters getting a little out of character. Some of the characters went in directions that seemed totally out of their normal routines. And yet, does that not happen to all of us when life throws a curve ball? We act a little crazy and reject those around us? That I can understand while not liking it one bit.

What perplexed me the most was the emotional buffer in this book that I or the characters could never break through. I could see their pain but never touch it. Alexandra – with all of her teenage drama and justifiable but unnerving angst – may have been the truest character.

In the end, the journey was worth the ride. We watched a couple make the next steps towards redefining their lives as well as slowly accepting a new person into their lives. Life, as it turns out, is never really all that boring.

Lori Verni-Fogarsi has been an author, speaker, and small business consultant since 1995. She has been featured in major media including Lifetime Women’s Network, the My Carolina Today Show, and Boston Globe Forums Live.

 Her public speaking has occurred at many prestigious venues including North Carolina State University, Nassau Community College, and many more.

She has received two awards for her novel, Momnesia, and her nonfiction, Everything You Need to Know About House Training Puppies and Adult Dogscontinues to be one of the most highly recommended in its genre since 2005.

 Lori is a happy married mom of two, step mom of two more, and has two cats, both rotten. Originally a native New Yorker, she now divides her time between Raleigh, NC, and Lake Gaston, VA.

She is very excited about the release of  Unexpecting, and looks forward to her book tour, interviews, launch parties, and other festivities!

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