Archive for November 2010

Still Life by Joy Fielding

Joy Fielding is one of my favorite authors.  My mom introduced me to her books a few years ago.  I’ve read quite a few of them so far but nothing lately… I hadn’t really heard about any new ones coming out.  I think the last one I read was “Charley’s Web“.  I like that she always writes about a strong female lead character and there’s always a twist in the story.

Still Life” starts with Casey, a successful interior designer around 30-ish, having lunch with her two best friends, Janine and Gail.  Janine is sleek, sophisticated, and sometimes a little abrasive, while Gail is basically the opposite.  Casey breaks that news that she and her husband, Warren, are going to try to get pregnant.  When lunch is done, Casey walks alone back to the parking garage where she parked.  Right as she is approaching her car, she hears tires squealing and a motor revving.

When Casey wakes up, she’s in the hospital and can hear people around her talking but can’t see anything and doesn’t understand what’s going on.  Turns out that Casey was run down by a hit-and-run driver and is in a coma.  She can’t see, move, or speak, but can hear, but of course, no one knows that because she has no way of communicating.

Casey starts to learn tidbits about what happened to her and is hoping they catch who did it.  As she lays in the hospital, helpless, with her husband at her side, she is shocked to hear the REAL story when people talk in front of her (not knowing that she can hear, of course).  Casey recovers from her broken bones and other injuries and is taken home, still in a coma.  She tries to communicate with her younger sister, Drew, who she’s had a rocky relationship with in the past.  For the most part, Casey is still immobile and can’t speak, so she has almost no control over what happens to her and can’t stop some people from finishing out the job they set out to accomplish…

Hope I didn’t give too much away!  I don’t think I’ve disliked any of Joy Fielding’s books, but I really really liked this one.  The entire story was told from Casey’s perspective (although not in the first person) while she was in a coma.  While she can’t interact, she could hear the action going on around her and would slip in and out of sleep and would have vivid dreams/memories about things that happened to her in the past.  This wasn’t the typical thriller/suspense novel and I dug that.  I was pulling for Casey the whole time, wishing she’d wake up and be able to take control again.

Joy Fielding has authored a number of thriller/suspense novels (some of the ones on her Amazon page look to be translated into… German?).  I think I’ve read most of these except two or so.  If you like this genre, I’d recommend picking up a few of her books – I know you’ll love them!

The Summer Before by Ann M. Martin

This has to be one of the most embarrassing books I’ve read lately.  More so than the Kendra Wilkinson biography.  It’s embarrassing because it’s something that I would have read in 4th grade.  And I’m 27.  But I am a proud former Babysitters Club fan, so I couldn’t resist.  And I know that all of you other BSC-ers want to know.

The Summer Before” is the recently released prequel to the Babysitters Club series.  Were you always curious about how the Babysitters Club came to be?  Kristy Thomas, Mary Ann Spier, and Claudia Kishi are neighbors in the small town of Stonybrook, Connecticut.  During the summer before 7th grade, the tweens are keeping themselves busy but are noticing that they are growing apart.  Claudia is into art and fashion and most recently, boys, after her pool party birthday where she meets a boy who is a few years older than her.  Kristy thinks that boys have cooties and is mostly focused on sports.  Mary Anne is shy and is still treated like a baby by her widowed father.

In typical BSC book fashion, each chapter is told in the perspective of a different girl.  Kristy’s birthday is coming up, and more than anything, she wants to hear from her father.  She is also unhappy about her mother’s relationship with Watson (the father of Karen, of the “Babysitters Little Sister” series).  Mary Anne is also thinking about a lost parent, her mother, who passed away when Mary Anne was young.  She finds a box of her belongings in the attic and frequently looks through to learn about her mother.  She’s also realizing that she’s no longer a child, even though her father still treats her like one, and she is tries to show him that she is growing up.  Claudia gets her first boyfriend, Frankie, an almost-9th grader, but learns that maybe her feelings were stronger than his.  She also recognizes that maybe she’s growing up faster than Kristy and Mary Anne and perhaps they don’t have as much in common as they used to.  Stacey McGill is also introduced in this book, although just in a couple chapters.  Stacey’s family relocates to Stonybrook from New York City.  Stacey had problems at her old school after being diagnosed with diabetes.  Her family hopes to start her life over in a new town.

The three girls make attempts to spend time together over the summer, but there is a clear separation between Claudia and the other two.  Right before school starts back up, Kristy comes up with an idea to start a club where the local parents can call and reach a group of babysitters to book someone without making call after call when people aren’t available.  Mary Anne’s father finally is convinced to let her babysit alone, which is perfect timing.  After Claudia’s breakup with Frankie, all three girls talk and realize that maybe they are growing up at different rates, but they will still always be friends, no matter what.

I’m wondering if this book was written for the 10-year old crowd, or for someone like me in their late 20′s who wanted a walk down memory lane.  Either way, it definitely brought me back!  I didn’t remember a ton about the series, but as I was reading, I recognized names and things that happened.  Stacey wasn’t exactly incorporated into the story, just briefly introduced, and I can’t remember how she’s incorporated into the first book.  Dawn was nowhere to be seen either, but I think she comes in a few books into the series (I vividly remember “The Ghost at Dawn’s House” about the Underground Railroad secret passage!).

I actually purchased the UK version of the book (it was the cheapest one on Alibris) so there were some random British references thrown in (lots of extra U’s, “lantern” instead of flashlight, a few other things that I thought were funny).  There were a few other things that I thought were weird – the cover of mine had a picture of what looks like a cell phone?

The series ended in 2000 (I’m sure the girls were still 13 years old) after a 14-year run, but were being rereleased starting in April 2010.  I wonder if the books were being modernized, hence the cell phone on the cover.  Email or computers weren’t mentioned at all in this one.  Who knows.

There is SO much more that I could talk about regarding the BSC, but maybe I’ll save that for another post.  But I’ll just ask this: what was YOUR favorite book of the series?  I don’t know if I could pick a single book that was my favorite, but I know I always loved the Super Specials!

Barefoot in Baghdad by Manal Omar

As I’ve said many times before, I like to read books about other cultures.  I feel like I learn so much.  This was a recounting of the author’s humanitarian efforts trying to help Iraqi women during the height of the War in Iraq.  I’ve read another book, From Baghdad with Love, which was about a US Marine adopting a dog during his time in Iraq.  While neither of these books focuses directly on the war, the author’s opinions about the war, etc., they both give you some insight on that “side” of the war and what is going on.  Plus, isn’t the book cover so beautiful?

Barefoot in Baghdad” is told in the first-person of Manal Omar, an American-born Muslim of Palestinian descent.  Even though she was born and raised in the US, she chooses to wear the traditional veil.  In 2003, after graduating from college and securing a great job in DC, she chooses to accept a job with Women for Women International, providing aid to women in Iraq.  Her family does not want her to go and begs her not to.  Manal feels so strongly about this cause that she finally convinces her family that she is going.

When Manal arrives and begins her work, she is paired up with three Iraqi males, who are disappointed that she was not a “traditional” American woman as they imagined in their minds.  She begins to forge a relationship with them and helps teach them English as they help her navigate through Iraq.  Manal’s goal is to help Iraqi women get on their feet and provide for themselves when their culture tends to shun them for certain reasons.  Manal is enjoying time in Baghdad, the culture and the people, until the war begins to take its toll.  She is afraid for her life – several business contacts have been killed or kidnapped and she is forced to change her routines and business in order to stay alive.  All the while, her relationship with one of her Iraqi coworkers becomes stronger despite all of the challenges they face.

I so enjoyed this book.  While it was a difficult topic, I thought Manal did a great job of detailing her experience in Iraq.  She writes at the beginning of the book that the book is NOT about the war or her opinions, etc., but about her experience helping women.  She explains several “cases” she is assigned to and you learn how difficult women really have it over there.  You also hear more about the Iraqi culture and the people.  It gives you a much different perspective on what you hear in the news and on TV.  While some might read too much into things and still see this as controversial, I learned so much about what the Iraqi women are going through and it really opened my eyes.

If this story really connects with you, you can sponsor a woman in one of the countries that Women for Women International supports.  (I am in no way affiliated with or have a relationship with this organization.  Just wanted to share a way for you to help.)

2012 Reading Challenge

2012 Reading Challenge
Jaci has read 1 book toward her goal of 35 books.

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