The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

This book has been getting a lot of hype and publicity, but I knew I had to get on board and read it too since it is about a girl living in a world where the earth suddenly slows down its rotation.  Julia lives with her mom and dad in southern California in a standard suburban development.  Just about to turn 12 she’s got enough on her plate with worrying about changing friendships, loneliness, and becoming more aware of her parents as adults with secrets and a not perfect relationship.  The story is told from a future point of view and Julia often remarks on these things and how she can’t help but wonder how they were affected by the slowing-would things have been that way anyway? It seems, for the most part, yes.  Sure her friend Hanna’s family’s sudden departure to Utah was because of the slowing, but based on Hanna’s treatment of her when she returns it seems like even if the Earth had continued to spin as normal Hanna was the type of girl who would indeed abruptly change allegiances during middle school.  It’s this aspect of the book that has been most touted in the reviews-that it’s a good adolescent story regardless of the framework of the crazy disaster going on.  But that, of course, is the part that was of the most interest to me, so let’s talk about that.

It seems a bit obvious to say, but I find post-apocalyptic books sooooo sad and hopeless. So, quite suddenly one day, scientists announce to the world that the Earth’s rotation is slowing down. What does this mean? The days will keep getting longer.  Now, here was my first issue-they announce it on a Saturday and on Sunday the day is 1 1/2 hours longer. How did the scientists discover this if it hadn’t been happening gradually? It was just weird that suddenly they announced it and then the day immediately lengthened.  The slowing happens quite dramatically and with more and more consequences.  Plants can’t grow without light and as the days lengthen that means periods of 30 or more hours of sunlight followed by the same amount of darkness. Without plants how can animals be fed? What crops and native plants will disappear? Tides are tremendously affected and houses are washed away and thousands of whales get stranded and die. Gravity is changed too. Here’s what was so appealing (and horrifying) to me about this story-thinking of all the ways these things changed life.  Life on Earth as we know it relies on that 24 hour rotation.  When it changes life cannot exist the same way, if at all.  From basic survival-plants won’t grow, people can’t eat.  To the frivolous-gravity makes playing sports hard, so I imagine professional sports would cease.  To inbetween-can planes even fly anymore?? Birds are dropping out of the air.  There is simply no way to fix it and I found it amazing that people even continued to try to live because at some point, possibly soon, the planet would be inhabitable.
Another surprise effect is what happens when people agree to remain on “clock time”-sticking to the 24 hour clock.  Many people choose instead to be “real timers” and live with the light and dark, adjusting their inner clocks to the natural change of light.  I spent a lot of time thinking which would I choose? What was interesting was the hatred the clock time people had for the real timers-vandalizing their homes and driving them our of their neighborhoods.  Would you really care so much how someone else lived their day?  Or is it just in the face of disaster banding together against that which is different?

As I mentioned the story is told from some point of view, but you don’t know how far ahead, so I was super curious throughout about whether everything would explode, or was she telling the story as last person alive? or living sort of normally? on another planet? dying?

It was horrific to imagine in a way very different from other end-of-the-world books and I enjoyed it (while also finding it hopeless and sad.)

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

I read this for my Go Bag Book Club.  The apocalyptic event in this case is an “infection” that took over the world, aka zombies.  They are known as the Unconsecrated and Mary is mostly safe from them in her village.  It is surrounded by a big fence that keeps the unconsecrated out, and that fence is constantly patrolled and maintained.  Mary’s society is very controlled-The Sisterhood, nun type women in a cathedral who run everything, the Guardians-they check the fence, the way getting married and having babies works.  It’s all a very organized (and old fashioned society.)  It seems like it’s from hundreds of years ago, but we learn that it was generations ago that the infection happened.  It’s just that now not only is there no modern knowledge, but the people living aren’t even aware they are missing out.  Mary doesn’t even know if “the ocean” exists, or if it’s just a story her mother told her.  After Mary’s mother gets given over to the Unconsecrated she is sent to the Sisterhood, where she starts to question the things they have been told and wonders if there’s a way out of her village.  Random thoughts:

a. A main character is called Sister Tabitha (Paul-“no one is a Sister Tabitha” Me: they are made up nuns. It’s post-apocalyptic.) In case you don’t know, my daughter’s name is Tabitha.

b. Although it’s not uncommon, it’s always interesting to see the use of religion-scripture-sisters-to control knowledge for the greater good.  Oh, and Sister Tabitha’s zeal and need for control reminded me of our first Go Bag Book Club selection, Go Go Girls of the Apocalypse, when the guy comes across a woman in charge of a haven of women.

c. I kept thinking at the beginning that it would be like Beth Revis’s Across the Universe, wherein the character starts to get a clue that everything is a pack of lies and has been for generations and that’s really what kept me reading. Waiting for it all to unravel and have some big reveals.  There was some of that, but not enough for me.

d. I hate zombies and gory stuff, and I have to say this was very mild on the gore factor.

e. I was definitely caught up in this and was madly reading towards the end, but then I felt a bit letdown overall.   I just found out there is a sequel, which may make me feel better about the ending. or maybe not. It seems like no one is content anymore to end a book and make you wonder about the characters’ futures.

Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse by Victor Gischler

First I wanted to love this book, then I hated it, then I loved it.I read this at the recommendation of my friend Paula-the first selection of our “Go Bag Book Club.” If you don’t know what a go bag is, then you likely won’t survive an apocalyptic event, a pandemic, the downfall of civilization, whichever doomsday scenario you like.  If you’ve followed my reviews here then you probably have heard me go on and on about how I like post apocalyptic books, but hated The Road.  Basically I can’t stand it when the author presumes that when a catastrophic event or series of events happens, that man will revert to a primitive state of killing and random violence, including cannibalism.  I just can’t believe that the majority of mankind is only a full grocery store or functioning government away from becoming a random killing machine. Paula says, ” I say if no one is gettin’ eaten, it ain’t worth readin.'”  Which cracks me up.  And I totally loved Dies the Fire, which did have a few crazies eating other people (and also recommended by Paula, so I should have known she wouldn’t steer me wrong.)

So anyway, I loved the first chapter of this book, in which Mortimer Tate comes out of his cave on a mountain, where he’s been hiding for 9 years, and descends the mountain to find out what has happened to civilization and what has become of the wife (separated) he left behind.  What he finds is pretty dreadful and by the end of chapter 2 he’s witnessed some brutal raping, been drunkenly beat, and had a finger cut off.  That’s when I said, “UGH!” and put it down.  But when I picked it up a mere page later I was finding myself getting more interested and invested in Mortimer’s survival.

Bill saves Mortimer’s life, and thus becomes his friend and ally in this strange new world.  Bill introduces him to Joey Armageddon’s Sassy a Go Go, a “chain” of places that are hotel, saloon, and general store all in one.  Armageddon dollars are the only thing accepted and it’s pretty much the only way to get anything.  Oh, and naked chicks dance in cages and are available as whores, too.  Mortimer finds out that his ex-wife, Anne, was a Joey girl, but has moved on to another location.  Determined to find her, and now a “Platinum” member of Joey Armageddon’s, Mortimer and Bill get aboard a hand cranked train to find her.  Cannibals, crazy people, violence, it’s all there.  But so is an absolute ton of humor and adventure.  I know, it doesn’t sound like it could be funny, but it is! Mortimer is a great character and it’s unbelievable how kick-ass he is.  Bill and Mortimer are caught up in not just their own survival, but also a plan to possibly remake civilization.

The chase scene final battle ending is awesome, and then, to make it even better for me, an epilogue!!  I really liked this a lot, so thank you Paula! And, should society ever collapse like it does in this book, I think we can all agree that I won’t survive long.

The Condition by Jennifer Haigh

conditionHumongous thanks to Melissa for passing this along to me. I loved it.  It’s been a while since I’ve read a book of this type/style and I had forgotten how much I like it.  The story/writing reminded me very much of Anne Tyler, one of my favorite writers.

The story is about one family– Paulette and Frank, and their three children Bill, Scott, and Gwen—and the relationships they have with each other, how they misunderstand each other, and the family ties they have.  What I especially loved about this story was the structure of it.  The first chapter, actually I think it’s the prologue, is set in the 70s on the Cape at the family’s summer house.  Continue reading

Good Grief by Lolly Winston

griefThis was our book club choice last month and I’m glad it was chosen because I remember wanting to read it when it came out.  I really enjoyed this, despite a little hesitancy about reading about a young widow.  Since getting engaged (almost six years ago, now married for 5) nothing has been scarier than the thought of my husband dying while we are still young.  We all expect that at some point when we are old one of us will have to live without the other, but no one expects that after finally finding the right person and imagining growing old together your partner might die before you have even gotten out of your honeymoon phase, much less had children.  That is the situation 36 year old Sophie (my age even!) finds herself in when her husband Ethan dies of cancer. Continue reading

Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe by Jennie Shortridge

biologyI can’t believe this is the second book in a row I read in which there was a sainted older mother/grandmother who I didn’t like. However, unlike in Sweet Love, it was not so troublesome to me, nor central to the story.  I was very drawn to this book because the premise is that a woman, married 24 years old, finds out that her husband doesn’t believe their marriage is that great, she freaks out and panics, and flees. She winds up in Seattle working in a coffee shop and living in a tiny apartment.  These stories always appeal  to me (I had romantic fantasties as a young twentysomething of just leaving everything behind and going to Montana. I think reality would not have matched the story in my head) and one of my very favorite books is Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler (a wonderful novel which I highly recommend.)

Continue reading

Between, Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson

betweenThis was our book club selection thi smonth and it was a good book to talk about.  It’s a story set in a small Southern town with two fueding families and the woman at the center of it.  Born to a teenager in the drunk-white-trash family, she ends up being adopted by the classier, wealthier family of the town.  What is interesting is that this family, the Fretts, is completely kooky.  Nonny is raised by her mother and aunt, who are twins.  Her mother has been deaf since birth and goes blind as an adult. Her aunt is completely neurotic and mentally ill.  Their bossy meddling sister lives next door.  With that trio it’s a wonder that Nonny grows up as well as she does. Continue reading

You’ve Been Warned by James Patterson

I cannot believe James Patterson gets paid as much as he does. Seriously. This is the only book of his that I’ve ever read and maybe his early stuff is awesome and he’s just phoning it in now, or maybe he always wrote stuff like this.  (This novel is actually co-authored, leading me to believe even more that he’s just coming up with a story idea and farming out the actual writing.)

The writing was just really kind of lame. And for a 370 page book there were very few words on each page, and there were something like 95 chapters. Because near the end each chapter was only a page long. I’m not kidding. And every chapter ends with some brief “shocking” sentence like “Only she wasn’t alone.” Every time I read one of those things I could hear “bum bum BUM” in my head and imagined David Caruso on a boat with sunglasses. Continue reading

Belong to Me by Marisa de lost Santos

I chose this as this month’s book club selection not really realizing that apparently it’s currently hugely popular, and also hugely popular with reading clubs. oh well. Well deserved though. There’s so much to talk about in this that I’m really looking forward to discussing it with my friends. I had wanted to read this book because it’s by the author of Love Walked In, a book I had read some time ago and really enjoyed. I didn’t even realize that this book is a sequel! I guess I didn’t remember that much about the first book so when I started reading this the main characters named sounded vaguely familiar but I still wasn’t quite sure. So, although it is a sequel it is completely stand alone.

Cornelia and Teo have moved to the suburbs of Philadelphia into a nice little neighborhood where people walk to their neighbors’ houses.  Cornelia feels like an outcast, especially when she meets nasty suburban Queen Been, Piper.  I’m not sure how I feel about the fact that when you read the first chapter, from Cornelia’s point of view, you hate Piper. She’s clearly a nasty bitch and you, the reader, are eager to be on Cornelia’s side.  And then you get to the next chapter from Piper’s point of view and of course find out she’s human and develop sympathy for her despite yourself.  There’s definitely an awful lot going on here: Piper has a best friend, Elizabeth, who is dying. Cornelia has a new friend, Lake, who has moved to the area possibly under interesting circumstances.  At least that’s what her genius son, Dev, thinks. Dev and Lake become friends with Cornelia and Claire, Cornelia’s special friend from Love Walked In.  There are many relationships here, all a little complicated, and they all connect in some way.  I thought it was great, loved how much there was to consider.  There are many points of view, which made it an easy book to put down at the end of a chapter (see, that’s good for me.) I hope my friends liked it as much as I did!

Nights of Rain and Stars by Maeve Binchy

nights.jpgI’d read this before so was delighted when my friend chose it for our book club selection this month. This story is set in a charming charming village in Greece and brings together five characters from different countries and different backgrounds through a tragedy-they witness a pleasure boat catching on fire. These five spend that tragic day together at a restaurant atop a hill and it forms a bond between them. Like in Binchy’s other stories thereare characters with sad backstories and the characters all have very real flaws.

I’d love to write more, but I finished this a week ago and what else can I say? It’s a captivating story, she weaves the characters’ stories together well, Greece must be absolutely beautiful and one of the main characters is somewhat unlikable.