Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson

Before I Go To Slee[Before I Go To Sleep, or as Hubby said, “50 First Dates meets Memento” was a thrilling and gripping book.  (Thank to Lisa from Books On The Brain and TLC Book Tours for “telling” me to read it NOW.) It’s also the first book I have finished since last spring.  It was just what I needed!

Before I Go To Sleep is the tragic but somehow realistic story about Christine, a woman suffering from extreme amnesia.  Watson is clever with her storytelling and introduction to her main character.  Christine has suffered from a debilitating amnesia that wipes her short-term memory clean every night when she goes into a deep sleep.  This has been going on for twenty years!  She wakes not knowing who she is, who the man is in the bed next to her, not even how old she is.  She wakes some mornings thinking she is still a child and sometimes no older than her mid-twenties.  It’s a shocking moment, repeated every morning in the bathroom mirror’s reflection, when she sees a forty-seven year old woman, wrinkles, cellulite and all when she expects to see someone at the beginning of life.

The cleverness I mentioned is how Christine starts keeping a journal to document her daily discoveries.  At the suggestion of a doctor who wants to help her, but also study her and write a medical paper about her situation, Christine is able to wake, receive a phone call from this doctor who reminds her where she keeps her journal, and then read her own words and learn about what her life has become and what it was.  She is told she loves her husband but is also warned of things that scare her.

Before I Go To Sleep had me fearful for Christine and second guessing things in her journal.  Unfortunately I started having a hunch of what the twist could be early on in the book, but I continued to second guess myself which was fun.  I don’t like predictability in books.  I want to be surprised, learn something new and be thoroughly entertained.  This book brought all three of these things to me for the most part.

I learned that a film adaptation of the book is in pre-production.  I hope it makes it to the big screen because, if done well, it could be a hit.  Nicole Kidman is slated to play the role of Christine.  Okay, well Nicole, let’s see what you could do with this character.  It could be great!

{5 out of 5 stars (4 stars for the twist at the end alone)}

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New vs. Old

It’s Wednesday, so I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Books On The Nightstand, this morning while getting ready for the day.  The topic in segment two that got the wheels turning in my mind was about whether you should “resist the lure of the new?”  New books that is.  Yes!!  They are shiny and seductive but they cloud the view of those books that haven’t been read yet though they’ve been sitting on your shelves for a while now.  There is nothing wrong with reading that new best seller.  That hot title from that hot new author that all the bloggers are raving about and read advanced reading copies (ARC’s) of months ago.  I was that blogger once.  I feel like I pioneered the fan-wagon for The Art of Racing In The Rain by the wonderful Garth Stein.  That book continues to make waves and it was published in May 2008.  But because I read the new hot thing for so long, and more often than that book that slipped through my radar initially, I have missed out on some great books.  I may own them already, but I never made time for them once I had them.  I am working on correcting that problem.  It’s not really a problem I guess.  There are worse problems to have, but the fact that I have a library of half-read books is weighing on me.  So, like I said in my last post, I did “go shopping” in my personal library of enticing titles.  I will be seduced into reading some new books published in late 2012 and in 2013.  I will just read!  I won’t think about deadlines, or getting that ARC.  It’s a freeing feeling for me and I love it.

I’m almost done with my first read of 2013 and let me tell you, I’m loving it.  I’m not going to tell you what it is till I review it but I hope you will check it out and add it to your “flew past my radar” list.

I also want to share with you an upcoming read-along hosted by my friend Tina at BookChatter.net.  The read-along will start April 1st and the book will be The Wind Up Bird Chronicles by Haruki Murakami.  I have not read anything by him, though I own a few titles already, so I’ll be reading along with Tina and her blog followers.

Now that I proofread this post I realize that it’s all over the place, but that’s okay.  I’m still feeling a bit scattered but I am getting a grasp on things again.  Blogging/writing, like reading, is a muscle in the brain.  (Thanks Tina for reminding me of that!) I know I’m on the right track to getting back on the blogging/reading wagon.  It won’t happen overnight, but it’s happening.  Thanks for coming back to Planet Books or for visiting for the first time!

XOXO-K

A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Summary ~ A Visit From The Goon Squad ~ Bennie is an aging former punk rocker and record executive. Sasha is the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Here Jennifer Egan brilliantly reveals their pasts, along with the inner lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs. With music pulsing on every page, A Visit from the Goon Squad is a startling, exhilarating novel of self-destruction and redemption.

 

 

 

Pulitzer?!  What?!  Seriously?!  Okay, fine.  There’s always next year I guess.  A Visit From The Goon Squad was a cluster &%!@ of a book in my opinion.  I didn’t even start to grasp it until someone suggested that I should read it like I would a collection of short stories.  That made things easier but I continued to have issues.  Who is telling this story/chapter?  Why is this book getting soooo much praise, attention and awards?  Who is that guy?  Where did they go?  Scattered is a good way to describe the vibe of this book.  Now on the other hand I did enjoy some of the stories/chapters.  I related to some and was simply drop jawed at others. 

I just returned from One More Page Bookstore’s monthly book club meeting and this was the book we discussed.  It was interesting that out of the dozen women in attendance it was almost half and half on loving/hating A Visit From The Goon Squad.  It was an interesting discussion about the why and why nots of opinion and I gained insight on the book that I was lacking over the last few days while I was reading it.  “It reflects the scattered ways our lives move forward.”  “The disjointedness is what I hated about it.” “Those were some unlikable and tragic characters.” “The power point journal which is chapter 12 was my favorite!”  I did not like that chapter so much but will go back to reread it. 

I am torn on this book.  If I was giving it a rating based on the fact that it is categorized as a novel I give it a lower score (I gave it 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.com) but if I was to rate it on it as a collection of short stories I would rate each separately.  In that case, because I agree that that’s the way the book should be approached, I give it 6 out of 13.  There are thirteen chapters so that is where that number comes from. 

This is not a light read nor is it a book that can be considered an easy read in my opinion.  I think it should be read.  I think it should be questioned and discussed.  I don’t regret reading A Visit From The Goon Squad and though I don’t ever re-read books (except for Where The Red Fern Grows) I would heavily consider re-reading this one later down the road after a few visits from the goon squad.  😉  Thanks to Jenn’s Bookshelves for hosting this event at the charming and wonderful One More Page Books

{Rating 6 out of 13}

I Gave My Heart to Know This by Ellen Baker

Summary ~ I Gave My Heart to Know This ~ In January 1944, Grace Anderson, Lena Maki, and Lena’s mother, Violet, have joined the growing ranks of women working for the war effort. Though they find satisfaction in their jobs at a Wisconsin shipyard, it isn’t enough to distract them from the anxieties of wartime, or their fears for the men they love: Lena’s twin brother, Derrick, and Grace’s high school sweetheart, Alex. When shattering news arrives from the front, the lives of the three women are pitched into turmoil. As one is pushed to the brink of madness, the others are forced into choices they couldn’t have imagined—and their lives will never be the same. 
More than five decades later, Violet’s great-granddaughter, Julia, returns to the small farmhouse where Violet and Lena once lived. Listless from her own recent tragedy, Julia begins to uncover the dark secrets that shattered her family, eventually learning that redemption—and love—can be found in the most unexpected places. 

Well my dear Ellen Baker, you have done it again!!!  I Gave My Heart to Know This is an intricately woven tale of family, friendship, love and loss and it is simply amazing.  Ellen Baker’s debut novel, Keeping The House, is one of my all-time favorite novels and her sophomore release sits right up there with it.  This book had me reading when I could and even when I really shouldn’t have.  Baker’s mastery of character development as well as plot twists and turns kept the pages flying and are what makes her so great and her novels very memorable. 

Grace, Violet, Lena, Joe and Jago found themselves in tragic times along with many of our great-grandparents and grandparents.  The times were WWII and the U.S. was asked to make the sacrifice and help its military overseas by giving blood, sweat and tears.  Grace, Violet, Lena and their friend “Boots” joined the work force as welders and ship builders.  Relief from the dangerous work and long hours came from Lena’s twin brother Derrick’s letters from his military base in California and later the Pacific theater.  On Lena’s suggestion, Grace and Derrick became pen-pals and soon star-crossed lovers who never met but made plans for after Derrick’s return home.  That never came and from that sorrow and heartbreak grew lies, deception and more heartbreak.  The family never quite recovered from the loss of the golden brother/son who wanted to see the world. 

Baker’s storytelling crescendos throughout the story but reaches great volume when later generations discover hidden letters and secrets that tore the family apart all those years ago.  The history of our nation is rich and told well in I Gave My Heart to Know This.  Little known facts enriched the everyday actions and helped create a very realistic feeling for the reader.  I feel like these characters truly lived there on that rural farm and cried real tears.  Though most of the time the vibe of the book is sad and melancholy, I was rewarded with one of the best endings I’ve read as of late.

I can’t tell you with enough urgency TO BUY I GAVE MY HEART TO KNOW THIS ON AUGUST 2nd and while you’re waiting for that day to come TO READ KEEPING THE HOUSE NOW! Sorry for “yelling” but I felt it extremely necessary. 🙂

Thank you to the lovely, kind, friendly and interesting Ellen Baker for thinking of me when she received her galleys of I Gave My Heart to Know This and felt the need to get one to me as early as she did.  I’m sorry it took so long to finally read it!  I adore her and our pen-pal friendship.  XOXO

{Rating ~ 5 out of 5}

The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen

 Summary ~ The Bird Sisters~ Love is timeless. So too is heartbreak.

Whenever a bird flies into a window in Spring Green, Wisconsin, sisters Milly and Twiss get a visit. Twiss listens to the birds’ heartbeats, assessing what she can fix and what she can’t, while Milly listens to the heartaches of the people who’ve brought them. The two sisters have spent their lives nursing people and birds back to health. 

But back in the summer of 1947, Milly was known as a great beauty with emerald eyes and Twiss was a brazen wild child who never wore a dress or did what she was told. That was the summer their golf pro father got into an accident that cost him both his swing and his charm, and their mother, the daughter of a wealthy jeweler, finally admitted their hardscrabble lives wouldn’t change. It was the summer their priest, Father Rice, announced that God didn’t exist and ran off to Mexico, and a boy named Asa finally caught Milly’s eye. And most unforgettably, it was the summer their cousin Bett came down from a town called Deadwater and changed the course of their lives forever.
Character analysis, atmosphere and subtlety are the name of the game in Rebecca Rasmussen’s lovely debut novel The Bird Sisters.  Twiss & Milly are sisters in every sense of the word.  Blood sisters, best friends, supporters, criticizers and playmates.  Life in rural Wisconsin is slow, quiet and calm for the most part.  That is until the church pastor walks away from his faith and his church community, the sisters father suffers unknowing damage from a freak accident and their cousin Bett arrives for the summer.  The Bird Sisters was a slow start for me but once I found my rhythm and became familiar with the characters and their lives I became wrapped up in their stories. 
 
I was disappointed to find myself unwillingly figuring out the secrets way too early that showed themselves later in the book.  I don’t try to do that but my brain just sees things between the lines.  The Bird Sisters surprised me when I found myself welling up due to the heartbreaking sadness that plagued the sisters and their family.  It takes a lot for me to cry when reading and I didn’t realize how invested I was in this book until the first tear fell.  Like the subtle story telling that Rebecca writes so beautifully the emotions crept up on me and took me over like the scent of flowers in a field as you drive by.  Taboo topics are hinted at and then quietly brought to the forefront by Rebecca’s gentle hand. 
 
 
Like The Bird Sisters, its author is sweet, lovely and full of layers.  I had the sincere pleasure of not only meeting Rebecca Rasmussen last night at One More Page Books in Arlington, VA but because of the strange turn of events I had the opportunity to really talk with Rebecca and get to know her quickly but truthfully.  This crazy weather we’ve been having here on the east coast played its tricks about fifteen minutes before Rebecca’s book event was to begin.  Lightning and thunder struck just above the building that One More Page Books is in and that tripped the circuits.  The fire alarms in the building block went off and weren’t reset for two hours.  We all had to stand outside for forty minutes where I proceeded to melt and wither a bit.  Eileen, the store owner and host took matters into her own hands and went across the street to La Cote D’Or Cafe, a quaint restaurant that graciously allowed One More Page Books to hold the book event in their dining room. 
 
 
Once settled the evening proceeded smoothly and quite nicely.  Instead of reading from The Bird Sisters Rebecca took questions from the audience.  I really loved the way she could elaborate on a question and in a way tell a story to get her answer across.  She made me feel better when she discussed the fact that some readers were finding it difficult to get settled into the book.  I had felt the same way and though I love literary fiction and prefer it to “commercial fiction” I still found it challenging at first to find my groove with The Bird Sisters.  Rebecca also answered questions about her publishing experience and sang her editor’s praises.  All in all Rebecca Rasmussen was a joy to meet, talk with and listen to.  If you get the chance to attend one of her upcoming events I highly recommend it.  She will be on the east coast for a little while and you can check out her website for tour dates and locations HERE.
 
If you are looking for a beautifully written book to add to your TBR list pick up The Bird Sisters.  The beautiful cover is just the icing on the cake with this book!
 

Rebecca Rasmussen & Me with The Bird Sisters

 {Rating ~ 4 out of 5}

What A Fabulous Day For A Book Festival!

Saturday I attended the 2nd Annual Gaithersburg Book Festival in Gaithersburg, MD.  The weather was picture perfect and excitement was in the air.  Stories were everywhere you looked but the stories I was there to hear were being told by Paula McLain, Rachel Machacek, Meg Waite Clayton, Caroline Leavitt, Eleanor Brown (for the second time in three days!) and Katharine Weber.  What a well run, smooth and seamless event!

I had a whole personal schedule put together of authors I wanted to see and you know what?  I listened to all of them speak and read plus one that was unplanned and received their signatures while enjoying short conversations with each lovely lady in the signature tents!  This was truly and bookish event. 

I started the morning with the long drive from my home in Northern Virginia to Gaithersburg, MD.  Actually it didn’t take that long because of the light, swiftly moving traffic (47 miles in 50 minutes) but my excitement for what the day had in store for me kept me anxious the whole way.  I drove past the pink Marriott Hotel where Hubby and I got married and felt a sense of happiness and excitement.  I didn’t know what to expect since this was only the second book festival the city of Gaithersburg had held but I did have faith because the organizers had been communicating so well on the social networks and in the local news media as well as through their website http://www.gaithersburgbookfestival.org/.  The date was May 21st, the supposed end of the world and Rapture.  So, I took it as a good sign that things weren’t as serious as some were trying to lead others to believe when I parked at a church a block from the event and asked a priest who was passing by if I could park there for the book festival.  He said, “Sure!” and continued leisurely on his way.  LOL!
 
I was meeting a couple of friends, Diane & Beastmomma, but as usual was the first to arrive.  Nothing on my friends!  I’m just always early or on time and can count on one hand when I have been late.  I made my way onto the festival grounds and looked around.  I checked out the tent where most of the authors I wanted to see were going to present later that day.  After getting a water and scone from a vendor I ran into Eleanor Brown, the author of The Weird Sisters.  We had met two days prior at her event at One More Page Books and had hit it off.  We caught up, compared schedules and began walking.  Eleanor was looking for the VIP tent since she was one of the featured authors of the festival.  We parted ways but continued to bump into each other throughout the day.  What a lovely and fun woman she is!  I found the signing tents and the B&N book sales tent which I entered to check things out.  I was pleased with how nicely all the books by the featured authors were displayed.  Tables and tables of books, some familiar and most not.   I had already brought some books I bought especially to be signed at the event but I discovered some by authors I was seeing that I ended up buying.  Let’s just say my bag was very heavy.  I know you know what I’m talking about!
  
Time was moving so I made my way towards the F. Scott Fiztgerald tent for the first event I was attending.  Paula McLain would be discussing her debut novel The Paris Wife.  Ms. McLain was just darling!  She was passionate in discussing the background of her main character Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway’s first wife.  She told us how Hadley and Hemingway had met and then a bit of their lives together, their adventures and misadventures in Paris and she set the scene for her book.  Then she read, really I should say recited passages, from her book.  During the reading my friends arrived.  After her presentation we met Paula McLain in the signing tents where I chatted quickly with her while she graciously signed my copy of The Paris Wife.  One down, five books to go!
 
 
The day continued without a hitch under picturesque blue skies and light breezes.  I had to make a choice about which author to see in one time slot so I missed listening to Katharine Weber, author of The Music Lesson, True Confections, Triangle, The Little Women and Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear but I did get to meet her in the signing tents where she signed my copy of The Music Lesson
 
Next was my unexpected addition to my schedule.  Per Eleanor Brown’s recommendation my friends and I went to the H.L. Mencken Pavillion to listen to Rachel Machecek talk about her book The Science of Single: One Woman’s Grand Experiment in Modern Dating, Creating Chemistry, and Finding Love.  What a good idea that turned out to be seeing her!  Rachel was HILARIOUS and gave a great talk!  She was self-depreciating enough and very likeable.  Funny and thoughtful and critical but not mean.  My friends and I were cracking up and as soon as the event was over we bought her book and met her over at the signing tents.  Rachel asked me if I was single and I told her that I had been out of the dating scene for a decade now.  I shared with her my story of meeting Hubby in D.C. and I told her that I was proof that dating in D.C. isn’t hopeless by any means.  She was very interested in the details and was kind and signed my book. 
 
After grabbing a quick bite one of my friends and I headed back to the F. Scott Fitzgerald tent and listened to Caroline Leavitt and Meg Waite Clayton.  Caroline’s book Pictures of You has been heating up the book blogs this year so I was very curious about her.  Also Meg Waite Clayton has some very popular books under her belt.  The Wednesday Sisters, The Language Of Light and her newest novel, The Four Ms. Bradwells.  I felt that pairing the two authors together on stage was a bit awkward but the let us know that they were happiest not being alone on stage.  Authors aren’t performers.  They’re creativity flows from solitude and quietness so sometimes the stage is not the most comfortable place authors.  Caroline talked about her book Pictures of You and gave us some background on where she was coming from when writing it.  Having not read it yet I had to go on the things bloggers have been saying about the book to follow but she made me even more excited to read it.  Meg Waite Clayton was a force to be reckoned with in her presentation.  She used to be a lawyer and it showed!  She talked about living in Maryland’s horse country and the time there raising her young children and really starting to write.  After their event my friend and I met them in the signing tents.  I enjoyed the conversations I had with both and even got a hug from Meg because I had bought two of her books.  She was very grateful and it was very sweet.
 
 
The last event on my list was Eleanor Brown being interviewed by The Washington Post’s Ron Charles.  What an energy filled, funny and enjoyable event that was!  Eleanor was star struck by the famed Post fiction critic and he was in awe of Eleanor and her creation, The Weird Sisters.  Eleanor had told me earlier that she was going to have the same stories and jokes as the other day but this event was made even better because of Ron Charles’ questions and interest in getting to the heart of Eleanor’s writing. 
 
What an inspirational and wonderful day!  I think what made it even better was the fact that it wasn’t over attended.  The Annual National Book Festival that is held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. is so massive, crowded and manic at times that in comparison the Gaithersburg Book Festival was a joy in every moment.  I know that will change as the festival grows in popularity over the coming years but I’m glad to have attended this year when calm and order was the name of the game.  I was happy to learn that for the first time this year the National Book Festival will be expanded to two days from the one day it’s been for the last decade.  Hopefully that will alleviate some of the crowd problems it faces. 
 
I hope that if your local area hosts a book festival in the future that you will take advantage and attend.  The authors I saw were so happy to talk about their pride and joys.  They lit up when fans presented them with blank title pages of their books to be signed.  Happy reading!

Bookish Fun In Arlington

Earlier this year I received a phone call from my mother-in-law telling me about this book she was reading on her Kindle.  It was called The Weird Sisters and she thought I might like to read it too.  She gave me a little summary about the book and explained that though the father was a professor of Shakespeare and not a physicist like mine and though there were three sisters instead of the two in my family, there were some similarities between the fictional family and mine.  So I put it on my ever-growing TBR list over on Goodreads.com. 

In April I discovered that the author, Eleanor Brown, would be doing a reading/signing event with one of my favs Sarah Pekkanen here in Northern Virginia at One More Page Books in May.  I ordered the book immediately, started reading it a few days before the event and just in time (four hours shy of the start of the event) I finished reading it.  When I walked into the wonderfully cozy and friendly independant bookstore One More Page Books in Arlington,VA I went over to say hi to Sarah who then introduced me to Eleanor Brown.  Damn do I love that woman!  She is AWESOME!  We hit it off immediately.  I told her that I had finished the book in time (I had typed on her Facebook wall earlier that day that I had twenty pages left to read before that night) and she recognized me from Facebook.  I then shared with Eleanor and Sarah the similarities between my family and the fictional Andreas family.  My mother is a breast cancer survivor, I have a father who is obsessed with physics and grew up surrounded by books and creative thinking and I have a strained relationship with my sister.  Eleanor’s response was, “Well that’s because I was following your family around as I wrote this book!”

Sarah Pekkanen & Eleanor Brown @ One More Page Books in Arlington, VA

 

The discussion was great and the chemistry between Sarah and Eleanor was sensational.  The space is small but adaquate and it was great to see so many people who turned out for these hometown girls.  As you can see it was a very animated and funny event.  Afterwords each author was set up on opposite sides of the store.  I finally got a signature from Sarah for her latest novel Skipping A Beat.  I had read it on my Kindle the week it came out but wanted to get the physical book version for my collection.  With that done I popped over to the other end of the store and hat a nice chat with Eleanor.  I told her how funny I thought she was and that I was looking forward to seeing her again in two days at the Gaithersburg Book Festival in Maryland.  A fellow fan took our picture too which turned out nicely.  

Eleanor Brown & me, Karen @ Planet Books

 

I was so glad to have this opportunity to meat Eleanor and see Sarah again!  Also, for maybe the first time I had the books read before the event.  That made a world of difference because then the conversation is about the book.  It seemed like most of the attendees had read The Weird Sisters too which made for a great Q&A.  I hope that they also take the time to read Sarah Pekkanen’s wonderful second novel Skipping A Beat.  If you can I highly recommend visiting One More Page Books!  It’s the newest indepenant book shop in the DC Metro area but what makes it even better is they sell wine and chocolate and serve both as well as pastries for their events.