The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion

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My Review:

The Best of Adam Sharp is like a fantasy that materializes; the story of wishful thinking from a middle aged man in a status quo relationship with an adequate job.  In the story, Adam’s lost love of his life, an Australian actress, gets back in touch with him after 20 years and he is faced with the decision to stay in his ho hum relationship with his ok wife or to pursue his old flame to see what would be.  Adam struggles with the decision but ultimately chooses this once in a lifetime second chance, to meet up with his love from the past.  What happens next is not what you would expect, and some crazy things ensue. This quirky love story is well paced and throughout the book, author Graeme Simsion travels down memory lane referencing songs of the past. Nostalgic, romantic and mildly humorous, the story did include some bigger issues related to parenting and relationships, but I didn’t feel much emotional connection to any particular character.  I was curious to know what would happen next, but for me, the best part of The Best of Adam Sharp was the music mentioned throughout the story, including The Beatles, Joe Cocker, Stevie Wonder and The Rolling Stones.  A cute story for 50 year old music lovers; the “playlist” is in the back of the book if you want to preview it!

As seen on Goodreads:

From the #1 bestselling author of The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect, an unforgettable new novel about lost love and second chances

On the cusp of turning fifty, Adam Sharp likes his life. He’s happy with his partner Claire, he excels in music trivia at quiz night at the local pub, he looks after his mother, and he does the occasional consulting job in IT.

But he can never quite shake off his nostalgia for what might have been: his blazing affair more than twenty years ago with an intelligent and strong-willed actress named Angelina Brown who taught him for the first time what it means to find—and then lose—love. How different might his life have been if he hadn’t let her walk away?

And then, out of nowhere, from the other side of the world, Angelina gets in touch. What does she want? Does Adam dare to live dangerously?

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About the Author:

Graeme Simsion is a former IT consultant and the author of two nonfiction books on database design who decided, at the age of fifty, to turn his hand to fiction. His first novel, The Rosie Project, was published in 2013 and translation rights have been sold in forty languages. The sequel, The Rosie Effect, is also an international bestseller.
Graeme’s third novel is The Best of Adam Sharp, a story of a love affair re-kindled – and its consequences.
Graeme lives in Australia with his wife, Anne Buist, also a published writer ( Medea’s Curse, Dangerous to Know).

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The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

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My Review:

In The Underground Railroad, Cora is a slave in the early 1800’s working on a plantation in Georgia.  She is an outcast, has been abandoned by  her mother, and has been asked by Caesar, an educated slave, to travel on the underground railroad to escape slavery and the horrible conditions.  Ridgeway, the slave catcher is in hot pursuit of Cora as she is on the run and travels to other states by train.  In each location black people are treated differently; in Georgia the slaves are needed to work on the plantations, in South Carolina the black people are free to work and have homes yet they are secretly being sterilized so as not to grow the population.  In other states the white people are afraid of being outnumbered so they want to kill all the black people.  The horrific examples of torture and attitudes of white people are based on history, and the gory details are unapologetically presented throughout the narrative.

This was not a fun book to read. Graphic descriptions of torture, oppression, beatings, murders and struggle are uncomfortable, but it is crucial to know our attitudes and actions of the past, that it is remembered and never repeated.  Author Colson Whitehead was effective in portraying history, but did not create characters I could connect with; I was rooting for Cora but I did not tap in to her emotional state or feel what any of the other characters were feeling.  I was disgusted and upset with how people were being treated but I was disconnected from their hearts. I am not sure if the author wanted the reader to feel Cora’s anxiety when she was on the run, or her sadness, but it was interesting for me to read a book about slavery, such an emotionally charged topic, and not shed a tear.  I wonder if the author were a woman writing from Cora’s perspective would my reaction have been different….if I were black would I have related to and empathized more with the characters emotionally?

The element of magical realism, the actual underground railroad, is a clever way to depict how the slaves escaped and traveled from place to place, but for me it created more questions.  The idea was developed a bit, the trains were unpredictable and they stopped in random states, train stations were manned by people who helped the slaves hide, but I wanted to know how the system was built, who dug the tunnels and laid the tracks, it was a physical system in the land…how did slave owners not know about it?  I prefer the magical realism in Exit West by Mohsin Hamid where the idea of doors leading to other countries is not developed any further that a brief explanation but serves the purpose of transporting the characters to another time and place.

The Underground Railroad is an important book that depicts history; a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award Winner, it has been recommended by Barack Obama and is an Oprah’s Book Club 2016 selection.  Read it at your own risk.  Would love to know your reaction to the book so feel free to comment.

 

As seen on Goodreads:

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all the slaves but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood – where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned and, though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.

In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor – engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven – but the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. Even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.

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About the Author:

I’m the author of the novels Zone One; Sag Harbor; The Intuitionist, a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway award; John Henry Days, which won the Young Lions Fiction Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; and Apex Hides the Hurt, winner of the PEN Oakland Award. I’ve also written a book of essays about my home town, The Colossus of New York, and a non-fiction account of the 2011 World Series of Poker called The Noble Hustle. A recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a MacArthur Fellowship, I live in New York City.

My latest book, The Underground Railroad, is an Oprah’s Book Club pick.

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Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo

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My Review:

Stay With Me is a story about a Nigerian young couple who married for love, Yejide and Akin, as they faced the challenges of infertility.  In their culture, having children is expected, and they are desperate to become parents.  Yejide’s mother died at her birth so she hopes her feelings of belonging to no one will be rectified once she has a baby.  Akin’s mother is relentless and goes behind her daughter in laws back to present other women to her son so he can become a father.  The couple had agreed polygamy was not for them but the mother persisted and they unwillingly accepted another wife.  Desperation to become pregnant leads Yejide, a modern, working woman, to superstition and ritual and she convinces herself she is with child; saddled with the burden of male pride, Akin does his own scheming to make sure there is a baby in their future.  When Yejide finally gives birth, there are feelings of betrayal and jealously amidst the joy.  The political unrest in Nigeria is the backdrop as this powerful story travels back and forth from the late 1980s when the couple first meets to 2008.  The emotional journey of this imperfect marriage packs a punch every step of the way.

Author Ayobami Adebayo sheds some light on cultural traditions and expectations Nigerians aim to adhere to.  In this compact, hard hitting 250 page novel, we experience the course this troubled marriage travels, the joys of births and the sorrow of deaths, hopes, superstitions and brutal realities.  With complex characters that make difficult decisions to guide their paths, Stay With Me is heartbreaking, revealing, and a must read debut.

As seen on Goodreads:

Yejide and Akin have been married since they met and fell in love at university. Though many expected Akin to take several wives, he and Yejide have always agreed: polygamy is not for them. But four years into their marriage–after consulting fertility doctors and healers, trying strange teas and unlikely cures–Yejide is still not pregnant. She assumes she still has time–until her family arrives on her doorstep with a young woman they introduce as Akin’s second wife. Furious, shocked, and livid with jealousy, Yejide knows the only way to save her marriage is to get pregnant, which, finally, she does, but at a cost far greater than she could have dared to imagine. An electrifying novel of enormous emotional power, Stay With Measks how much we can sacrifice for the sake of family.

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About the Author:

Ayobami Adebayo’s stories have appeared in a number of magazines and anthologies, and one was highly commended in the 2009 Commonwealth short story competition. She holds BA and MA degrees in Literature in English from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife. She also has an MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia where she was awarded an international bursary for Creative Writing. Ayobami has been the recipient of fellowships and residencies from Ledig House, Hedgebrook, Threads, Ebedi Hills and Ox-Bow.
STAY WITH ME- UK (Canongate, March 2017), Nigeria (Ouida Books, April 2017), US (Knopf, August 2017), KENYA (Kwani?, August 2017) is her debut novel.
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Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

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My Review:

An emotional and timely novel, Home Fire is a compelling story about Muslim families in crisis.  Isma is the responsible older sister of twins Aneeka and Parvaiz.  Their mother and grandmother have passed away and the twins are now 18 years old, so Isma, having previously put her ambitions on the back burner to look after her siblings, is leaving her home in London to travel to America for a work opportunity.  Aneeka is beautiful and intelligent and will be studying law in London, and Parvaiz vacates the country on a quest to learn about his father, a known jihadist, who fought in Chechnya and Afghanistan.

In the US, Isma meets Eamonn, the son of a British politician who has a Muslim background like she does, but values that appear to be very different.  It seems like a spark is developing between them but then Eamonn returns to London and gets involved  with younger sister, Aneeka.  Parvaiz is unfocused and becomes radicalized by a friend who under false pretenses convinces him to go to Syria where he is told he will learn more about his estranged father but has really been recruited to a terrorist group.  When he decides he doesn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps but wants to return home to London, the law is not on his side and Aneeka is desperately hoping for help from Eamonn and his powerfully political father.

Government, loyalty to family and religious beliefs all come into play as author Kamila Shamsie skillfully writes about the Muslim immigrant struggle and the difficulties the innocent communities face due to extremists.   I loved this book and believe it has great movie potential.

As Seen on Goodreads:

Home Fire is the suspenseful and heartbreaking story of an immigrant family driven to pit love against loyalty, with devastating consequences.

Isma is free. After years of watching out for her younger siblings in the wake of their mother’s death, she’s accepted an invitation from a mentor in America that allows her to resume a dream long deferred. But she can’t stop worrying about Aneeka, her beautiful, headstrong sister back in London, or their brother, Parvaiz, who’s disappeared in pursuit of his own dream, to prove himself to the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew. When he resurfaces half a globe away, Isma’s worst fears are confirmed.

Then Eamonn enters the sisters’ lives. Son of a powerful political figure, he has his own birthright to live up to—or defy. Is he to be a chance at love? The means of Parvaiz’s salvation? Suddenly, two families’ fates are inextricably, devastatingly entwined, in this searing novel that asks: What sacrifices will we make in the name of love?

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About the Author:

Kamila Shamsie is a Pakistani novelist, who writes in the English language. She was brought up in Karachi and attended Karachi Grammar School.

She has a BA in Creative Writing from Hamilton College, and an MFA from the MFA Program for Poets & Writers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she was influenced by the Kashmiri poet Agha Shahid Ali.

Kamila wrote her first novel, In The City By The Sea, while she was still at UMass, and it was published in both India and England in 1998. It was soon shortlisted for the ‘John Llewelyn Rhys/Mail on Sunday award in the UK’, and she received the Prime Minister’s Award for Literature in Pakistan in 1999. Her second novel, Salt and Saffron, followed up on her success, and was published in the United States, the United Kingdom, Pakistan and Italy. in 2000 she was selected as one of Orange’s 21 Writers of the 21st Century. Her third novel, Kartography, received widespread critical acclaim and was shortlisted for the John Llewelyn Rhys award in the UK. Both “Kartography” and her most recent work, Broken Verses have won the Patras Bukhari Award from the Academy of Letters in Pakistan.

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Amanda Wakes Up by Alisyn Camerota

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My Review:

Hilarous and smart, Alisyn Camerota gives us a peak behind the scenes of politics and journalism in the newsroom.  No doubt, inspired by real life experiences on broadcast television, this charming, fictitious debut, Amanda Wakes Up, follows Amanda Gallo, the ambitious cable news journalist as she lives the exciting life of a reporter, struggling with the concept of unbias reporting, always being available to report breaking news and remaining profesional and respected in the workplace while on the home front, managing her mother’s expectations along with challenging boyfriend issues.  Amanda is the anchor at FAIR News and things heat up during the election season when the political candidates have air time.  If you follow politics and watch the news, you will thoroughly enjoy this humorous story that brings to my mind the saying “Life imitates art”!

I met the vibrant and eloquent Alisyn Camerota at a book talk where she spoke about her career as a journalist and some interesting tidbits about news, politics and her book.

Fake News

Camerota believes not all news is created equal.  She said CNN, WSJ, NYT, Washington Post, for example all have rules.  Vetted sources are required (at least 2) and if something reported was found to be not true, it must be retracted immediately.  On blogs and news websites there may be no rules, so check your sources.

Learning the Truth

Camerota said she makes the effort not to share her opinions on air and tries to be open during interviews, looking for the information.  When she knows she is being lied to she challenges the guest.  Often times guests come on tv to spin the truth and deflect; she tries to get them to refocus by redirecting.

Leaks

When asked how important leaks are Camerota said at the moment they are very important.  Today there are more leaks than ever, not national security leaks, but just insiders revealing the way things work in the government.

Amanda Wakes Up

Camerota was a weekend anchor in 2011-2012 and at that time, during the presidential race, where there were nine republican candidates, she started taking notes for posterity.   Seeing how personal relationships color the news and how the news colors the relationships she decided to write more.  She wanted to capture the breathless quality of working in live news; an anchor needs to understand the facts and be prepared for the unexpected when on the air.  Amanda Wakes Up is based on her 25 years of being in the news.

Schedule

Currently Alisyn Camerota goes to bed at 8pm and is up at 3am to co-anchor CNN’s New Day.  From 3:30-4:30am she catches up on all that has happened overnight emailing with her producer to request information she needs to challenge the scheduled guests.  At 4:30am she arrives at the studio, gets dressed, hair and makeup done, eats breakfast and is on set for 6:00am.

I enjoyed Amanda Wakes Up and the inside look at broadcast journalism as Camerota brings to light the challenges the media faces today when it comes to honest and unbias reporting, breaking news, fake news and news leaks, along with the perils of women working in early morning tv, and the struggle of life and work balance.

As Seen on Goodreads:

When Amanda Gallo, fresh from the backwater of local TV, lands the job of her dreams at FAIR News—the coveted morning anchor slot—she’s finally made it: a six-figure salary, wardrobe allowance, plenty of on-air face time, and a chance to realize her dreams, not to mention buy herself lunch. Amanda Wakes Up takes off as Amanda feels for the first time that she can make her mom and her best friend proud and think about an actual future with her boyfriend, Charlie. But she finds her journalistic ideals shredded as she struggles to keep up with the issues in a ratings-crazed madhouse—battling for hair and makeup time, coping with her sexist (but scathingly handsome) coanchor, Rob, mixing up the headlines with pajama modeling on the street, and showing Benji Diggs, her media maestro boss, that she’s got what it takes.

As the news heats up in a hotly contested election season and a wild-card candidate, former Hollywood actor Victor Fluke, appears on the scene, Amanda’s pressure-cooker job gets hotter as her personal life unravels. Walking a knife’s edge between ambition and survival, and about to break the biggest story of her career, Amanda must decide what she’s willing to give up to get ahead—and what she needs to hold on to save herself.

About the Author:

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Alisyn Camerota is a journalist and cohost of CNN’s morning show New Day. Prior to joining CNN, Camerota was cohost of FOX News Channel’s morning show FOX + Friends Weekend. She has been a national correspondent for NBC’s morning magazine show Real Life and the crime show America’s Most Wanted. She has also worked as a reporter at several local stations, including WHDH in Boston, WLNE in Providence, and WTTG in Washington, D.C. She lives in the New York area with her husband and three children.

 

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The Address by Fiona Davis plus author interview!

 

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My Review:

Last year, author Fiona Davis published her wonderful debut, The Dollhouse, rich in history about the Barbizon Hotel in NYC. Keeping with iconic Manhattan landmarks, her fabulous new release, The Address is set in alternating timelines; in the late 1800s during the building of the Dakota, the architecturally stunning residence on the upper west side of Manhattan, Sara, a housekeeper at a fancy London hotel meets Theo, the talented NYC architect, takes a job at the newly built Dakota, and craziness ensues. Their budding relationship remains hidden from his wife and children as they bond, it turns passionate and a crime is committed. In 1985, fresh out of rehab and penniless, designer Bailey, a descendant of the wealthy Dakota architect, without genetic proof, is not in line for the healthy inheritance.  Her cousin, Melinda, set to take over the family riches, hires her to orchestrate the renovation of the building and Bailey learns of her architect relative’s murder by a crazy lady named Sara.  And so the two compelling stories come together with rich historic detail and wonderfully creative characters, revealing the secrets from inside the unique and wonderful Dakota.
I had a chance to connect with the lovely Fiona Davis and ask her a few questions about her new and successful career as an author.

 
What has been the high point in your writing journey from the release of The Dollhouse to now?  From your first public book talk to a People Magazine feature, you have accomplished so much in such a short time!
I have to say, the first book talk for The Dollhouse seemed so scary! It was at a library in Westport, CT and there were more people than I expected to show up for a debut author. My knees were definitely knocking. But I loved every minute of it, especially answering questions after the reading. Now I adore doing Q&As and book talks, and I think those are my high points. The readers are so knowledgeable and inquisitive and their support has been amazing.

What are you reading now and what do you recommend for the summer?

I’m currently reading Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta, and next up is Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman. I’d recommend Eve Chase’s The Wildling Sisters, Jamie Brenner’s The Forever Summer as great vacation/beach reads.

Can you tell me a little about what you are working on now?

The next book is a similar structure, two times periods with a connecting mystery, set in Grand Central Terminal, and I’m having such a good time researching and writing it. I won’t give away too much, but I will say I’ve learned some really surprising things about the building that I can’t wait to share with readers.

Are you developing a “formula” or pattern you use for writing? 

I do love setting books in architectural landmarks and using dual time periods, so I definitely have a trend going on there. Once the Grand Central book is done, I’ll start thinking about other locales and possibly structures, but so far I’ve been having the time of my life. The pattern for each book, even though it’s similar, is incredibly challenging and rewarding.

I am now officially excited for the new book, I loved The Dollhouse, and I highly recommend the Fiona Davis’ new release.  With two connected stories, old New York, ornate architecture, an illicit affair, an illegitimate child, an insane asylum, and the beautiful Dakota on the upper west side, The Address is a perfect mix of history and mystery, fast pace and fun.

As seen on Goodreads:

After a failed apprenticeship, working her way up to head housekeeper of a posh London hotel is more than Sara Smythe ever thought she’d make of herself. But when a chance encounter with Theodore Camden, one of the architects of the grand New York apartment house The Dakota, leads to a job offer, her world is suddenly awash in possibility–no mean feat for a servant in 1884. The opportunity to move to America, where a person can rise above one’s station. The opportunity to be the female manager of The Dakota, which promises to be the greatest apartment house in the world. And the opportunity to see more of Theo, who understands Sara like no one else . . . and is living in The Dakota with his wife and three young children.

In 1985, Bailey Camden is desperate for new opportunities. Fresh out of rehab, the former party girl and interior designer is homeless, jobless, and penniless. Two generations ago, Bailey’s grandfather was the ward of famed architect Theodore Camden. But the absence of a genetic connection means Bailey won’t see a dime of the Camden family’s substantial estate. Instead, her -cousin- Melinda–Camden’s biological great-granddaughter–will inherit almost everything. So when Melinda offers to let Bailey oversee the renovation of her lavish Dakota apartment, Bailey jumps at the chance, despite her dislike of Melinda’s vision. The renovation will take away all the character and history of the apartment Theodore Camden himself lived in . . . and died in, after suffering multiple stab wounds by a madwoman named Sara Smythe, a former Dakota employee who had previously spent seven months in an insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island.

One hundred years apart, Sara and Bailey are both tempted by and struggle against the golden excess of their respective ages–for Sara, the opulence of a world ruled by the Astors and Vanderbilts; for Bailey, the free-flowing drinks and cocaine in the nightclubs of New York City–and take refuge and solace in the Upper West Side’s gilded fortress. But a building with a history as rich–and often tragic–as The Dakota’s can’t hold its secrets forever, and what Bailey discovers in its basement could turn everything she thought she knew about Theodore Camden–and the woman who killed him–on its head.

With rich historical detail, nuanced characters, and gorgeous prose, Fiona Davis once again delivers a compulsively readable novel that peels back the layers of not only a famed institution, but the lives –and lies–of the beating hearts within.

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About the Author:

Fiona Davis is the author of The Dollhouse and The Address. She began her career in New York City as an actress, where she worked on Broadway, off-Broadway, and in regional theater. After getting a masters at Columbia Journalism School, she fell in love with writing, leapfrogging from editor to freelance journalist before finally settling down as an author of historical fiction. Visit her at www.fionadavis.net, facebook.com/FionaDavisAuthor/ and on Instagram and Twitter @fionajdavis.
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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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My Review:

The Hate U Give is a five star must read for teens and adults.  A black family lives in the projects even though they are surrounded by the dangers of drugs, gangs and violence.  The father has a business there, wants to be loyal to his customers and friends and chooses not to abandon where he came from, so against the mother’s will, the family makes the best of it and stays in the neighborhood.  The kids go to a prep school in a nearby white community and the teenage daughter, Starr, experiences a struggle with her identity, behavior, and language as she straddles both worlds.

After a party in the projects, Starr’s friend, Khalil, was driving her home, they get pulled over for a busted tail light, the cop questions him, pulls him out of the car and searches him, and next thing you know, the cop shot him dead.  Devastating and infuriating, the white cop tells a false story about the occurrence, and now as the only other witness, Starr has to decide if it is worth the risk to speak the truth.  Who is responsible for the death of her friend and will telling the real story upset those close to her and put her in danger?

Author Angie Thomas has written an emotional and realistic story that brings to light some of the issues related to class and race.  Heartbreaking, thought provoking and worthy of discussion,  I highly recommend The Hate U Give.  The subject matter is extremely important and incredibly timely; I will have my high school son read it and I look forward to the upcoming movie!

 

As seen on Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

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About the Author:

Angie Thomas was born, raised, and still resides in Jackson, Mississippi as indicated by her accent. She is a former teen rapper whose greatest accomplishment was an article about her in Right-On Magazine with a picture included. She holds a BFA in Creative Writing from Belhaven University and an unofficial degree in Hip Hop. She can also still rap if needed. She is an inaugural winner of the Walter Dean Meyers Grant 2015, awarded by We Need Diverse Books. Her debut novel, The Hate U Give, was acquired by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins in a 13-house auction and published in spring 2017. Film rights have been optioned by Fox 2000 with George Tillman attached to direct and Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg set to star.

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Chemistry by Weike Wang

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My Review:

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I loved this book titled Chemistry! Author Weike Wang’s unnamed narrator, a Chinese-American Ph.d. student, lives with her redheaded boyfriend behind her traditional parents’ backs.  Despite the high expectations for their daughter to become a chemist, she is unable to be successful in her research, losing interest in her male dominated field and having difficulty making decisions regarding her career and her relationship.  The boyfriend proposed but she is just not feeling it enough to say yes, yet she doesn’t immediately say no.  Caught in ambiguity, with nonscientific questions of the heart on her mind, and confusion about her future hanging in the balance, she searches inside herself to understand who she is, flaws and all, and how she fits in.  Like an unsolved scientific problem, she may not be able to solve it and may choose to just ruminate. “Being in limbo doesn’t preclude us from sharing nice meals. In limbo, we still have to eat.”

The narrator states that her vision is poor, and everything about her, her parents and her acne for example, seems worse than others.  This, for me is a metaphor portraying how self conscious she is; a harsh judge of herself, while looking at others through a softer veil of judgement. Overwhelmed with her own situation, she shows little emotion to the outside world.  Her approach to life is scientific, and a bit negative. “The optimist sees the glass half full.  The pessimist sees the glass half empty.  The chemist sees the glass completely full, half in liquid state and half in gaseous, both of which are probably poisonous.” She is a realist, guided by proven fact and less by emotion and feelings; her life teeters back and forth while she is looking for a balance.  “The only difference between a poison and a cure is dosage”.  She searches for happiness and presents to the reader how she feels about it with an equation:

“Happiness = reality- expectations.

If reality is > expectations, then you are happy.

If reality is < expectations, then you are not.

Hence the lower your expectations, the happier you will be.”

Wang is a minimalist when it comes to verbiage; like a mathematical equation with no directions, she says only what is imperative, no flowery language or description but with an added touch of humor.  It is up to the reader to read into the meaning of what is presented; her metaphors are fantastic food for thought when it comes to understanding the main character and her journey.

Written without names, the narrator could be anyone; an anonymous person in the midst of the struggles of life.  I loved all the science references,metaphorical situations, and found this book most enjoyable. Chemistry is short but worthy of spending the time to read thoughtfully.  It is satisfying in so many ways; a must read this summer with a unique style, thought provoking, heartbreaking and funny!

As seen on Goodreads:

Three years into her graduate studies at a demanding Boston university, the unnamed narrator of this nimbly wry, concise debut finds her one-time love for chemistry is more hypothesis than reality. She’s tormented by her failed research–and reminded of her delays by her peers, her advisor, and most of all by her Chinese parents, who have always expected nothing short of excellence from her throughout her life. But there’s another, nonscientific question looming: the marriage proposal from her devoted boyfriend, a fellow scientist, whose path through academia has been relatively free of obstacles, and with whom she can’t make a life before finding success on her own.

Eventually, the pressure mounts so high that she must leave everything she thought she knew about her future, and herself, behind. And for the first time, she’s confronted with a question she won’t find the answer to in a textbook: What do I really want?Over the next two years, this winningly flawed, disarmingly insightful heroine learns the formulas and equations for a different kind of chemistry–one in which the reactions can’t be quantified, measured, and analyzed; one that can be studied only in the mysterious language of the heart. Taking us deep inside her scattered, searching mind, here is a brilliant new literary voice that astutely juxtaposes the elegance of science, the anxieties of finding a place in the world, and the sacrifices made for love and family.

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About the author:

WEIKE WANG is a graduate of Harvard University, where she earned her undergraduate degree in chemistry and her doctorate in public health. She received her MFA from Boston University. Her fiction has been published in or is forthcoming from Alaska Quarterly Review, Glimmer Train, The Journal, Ploughshares, Redivider, and SmokeLong Quarterly.

 

 

Posted in Authors, Book Reviews, fiction | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Indulge in Books the Way You Would in a Well Balanced Meal!

 

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Story originally published on Booktrib.com.

Recently someone asked me about my reading choices; do I stick to one topic or do I switch it up at all? I hadn’t thought about it much before but after reviewing my recent reads, I concluded that I am a true genre hopper. I go from fiction to memoir to historical fiction, thriller, essays and nonfiction. Like a well-balanced meal, I do indulge in a bit of everything.

Click on Booktrib.com to see what’s on my table!

 

Posted in Authors, Book Reviews, essays, fiction, memoirs, mystery, nonfiction, psychological thriller, suspense | Tagged , , | 2 Comments