In Dreams Awake

Classic literature, tea, and a sweater....

Heaven Is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back

Heaven Is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back - Todd Burpo This is a book for those who can step out in faith and not get bogged down by judgments or questions of plausibility. If you've never had a supernatural experience even at the smallest of levels, then you may not be able to relate. Who is anyone to say that another person's experience didn't happen? If you can get past our innate tendency for skepticism, then this book has so much to offer- hope, encouragement, love, and a way to strengthen your faith. I've read books that have brought a tear to my eye and I've read books that have caused those tears to fall on my face, but this may be one of the few books I've read that caused me to sob. If you've lost a child before birth, don't read another book until you've read this one.

The Marriage Plot

The Marriage Plot - Jeffrey Eugenides Finally, a novel written for an English major. A modern version of a marriage plot overshadowed by the main character's obsession with marriage plots in the Victorian novel. If one of the Bronte sisters were alive today, would this be the novel they would write? Full of cliches? Yes, but so is Shakespeare. (wink)

Rescuing Your Teenager from Depression

Rescuing Your Teenager from Depression - Norman T. Berlinger This book does an excellent job in explaining how depression can look completely different in teens than in adults. Encourages parents to become proactive especially with the lack of help from the medical community and the stigma that is still associated with depression. I loved how the author explains depression as a true disease such as diabetes rather than something that can be switched off by "cheering up". He gives practical advice and shows how parents can be empathetic. I also liked in the end he talks about the gifts left over after depression has been overcome such as the gift of desiring authentic relationships- very true.

Once Upon a Time, There Was You

Once Upon a Time, There Was You - Elizabeth Berg Nothing at all like her other books. This one seemed forced and lacked believability. It's ok though, she'll always be one of my favorite writers.

Under the Dome

Under the Dome - Stephen King I think Stephen King is a brilliant writer. There I said it. The problem is like what can be found a 6th grade report card: "Stephen isn't working to his potential". His character development is good, if you like your novels with a good set of stereotypical characters, plot layering is excellent, shock value? Too much. It's true, before you can judge this book you MUST get through the last 200 pages. And for me this is where King lost me. And too many characters with similar sounding names. Very confusing, Stephen. Still a page turner. And I enjoyed the journey.

The Writing Circle (Voice)

The Writing Circle (Voice) - Corinne Demas Some readers prefer strictly plot-driven novels, while others appreciate a well-written character-driven novel. I would characterize The Writing Circle as a character-driven novel in the first part followed by some nice plot twists in the second part. The changing of the points of view worked for me and kept the story moving and the pages turning. I generally enjoy novels that switch character point of view.

Interesting subject matter too. Is it plagiarism if someone steals an idea- or just bad manners. I've been thinking of joining a writer's group, though I hope not to meet a "Gillian". I would recommend this novel, especially to writers. The cover may lead one to believe that this is chick lit, and while it does have some elements of that, there are some grittier elements to it also.

Conversations With Tom Petty

Conversations With Tom Petty - Tom Petty, Paul Zollo What first drew me to Tom Petty's music some 20 years ago was the poetic way he put lyrics together coupled with a unique yet always accessible musical sound. His music truly is the soundtrack to his fans' lives. I can hear one of his songs and think Oh, yeah, I listened to this a lot when I was going through.... whatever it may be. I've seen the TP and the Heartbreakers 5 times with my husband and have come away with fantastic memories of those evenings. I hope to have that chance again someday.

I was intrigued to learn about his writing process which he explains in the book that many times it's not a process at all- lyrics just come to him. Though I'm not a songwriter, his words inspire me for the other kinds of writing that I do. This was a pleasant surprise that I didn't anticipate when picking up the book. I also loved hearing TP tell the story about meeting his 2nd wife and the stories about his mother and grandmother. You can tell he has a genuine respect for women that is so often lacking with rock stars.

Refreshing in that the book isn't a tell-all, gossip-laden, poorly written work of drivel, but that's never been Petty's style anyway. This was a celebration of music and artists and the process, including the highs and the lows, in which one succeeds in mastering their artistic talents. And well written to boot!

One Summer

One Summer - David Baldacci This novel was dripping with so much cheese I had to run out and get some Ritz crackers. Very disappointing after all the great reviews about it. Even though the intention is a sad, yet inspirational story, everything seemed to just fall into place too perfectly in order for the plot to move along. And everything was way over explained, so that the reader feels like they're being condescended to. The stereotypes that incorporated the teen-aged characters in the novel were beyond ridiculous. I think it will work better as a Lifetime movie, which I'm sure it will be.

20 Years Younger: Look Younger, Feel Younger, Be Younger!

20 Years Younger: Look Younger, Feel Younger, Be Younger! - Bob Greene, Howard Lancer, Ronald L. Kotler, Diane L. McKay, Harold A. Lancer Loved all of it, especially the sections on skin care and attitudes about aging. Also helped me to realize that I need to be more than a one-trick pony when it comes to exercise. This is a book to come back to over and over for refreshers and encouragement.

Loving Frank

Loving Frank - Nancy Horan Nancy Horan has succeeded in spinning a tale based on the facts of Frank Lloyd Wright's notorious affair with Mamah Borthwick, the main character in Loving Frank. The story evokes strong emotions and the reader may come to loathe Ms. Borthwick, especially if said reader happens to be a mother. The writing is superb. Which proves that for literature to work you don't necessarily have to like the characters. I find the most engaging novels to be the ones that I know the characters will long stay with me. As Mamah Borthwick will certainly be . Her life can be used as a lesson for the rest of us.

I found it interesting that she didn't believe in women's intuition- she thought it was just another demeaning way to say that women didn't use all of their brains- yet in the end, her intuition could have saved her.

The Paris Wife

The Paris Wife - Paula McLain I've always been fascinated by Hemingway, the man and the writer, and this was cemented for me in college when I wrote a major thesis paper on Hemingway as part of my English degree. Boiled down into a perfect Hemingway nutshell- his mother really did a number on him.

Not that that's an excuse for the deplorable manner in which he treated his first wife, the Paris Wife. This novel explores their marriage and the complexities surrounding it in a gripping tale of love and betrayal. Paula McLain captured the atmosphere of Paris in the early 20s and the Lost Generation. I think Hemingway fans will truly enjoy this novel, though I'm not sure how it would read to a non-Hemingway fan. I could see how some may find that the story drags at times, though it picks up toward the end.

I'm anxious to re-read some of Hemingway's novels after getting a refresher course in his early years.

Every Woman's Guide to Cycling: Everything You Need to Know, From Buying Your First Bike toWinning Your First Race

Every Woman's Guide to Cycling: Everything You Need to Know, From Buying Your First Bike toWinning Your First Race - Selene Yeager I wish I had come across this book when I first started riding- would have saved me a lot of trial and error. Still, a lot of good tips for training on and off the bike. And I liked the section on the benefits of cycling such as relieving depression, PMS, and fatigue- so true.

What We Keep

What We Keep - Elizabeth Berg Elizabeth Berg captured the complexities of the mother/daughter relationship beautifully in this family tale of loss, regret, and redemption. I found myself equally frustrated and sympathetic for the mother in this story. The backdrop song could be the lyric by John Mayer: "Mothers be good to your daughters". Sometimes Mothers can be the hardest on their daughters, while at the same time daughters expect more from their mothers than anyone else.
Once again, Berg's writing is true to life, especially when it comes to the voice of the adolescent girl. I always find myself saying, "Yes, I feel that way too. So I'm not the only crazy one" when I read her writing.

Skeletons at the Feast: A Novel

Skeletons at the Feast: A Novel - Chris Bohjalian Most works of literature are an interpretation or a response to life. Historical novels about WWII continue to be an important part of the literary fabric and Skeletons at the Feast is no exception. We must never forget the Holocaust, nor can we downplay the atrocities that occurred during this dark period of time. While it may have been difficult to read some of the parts in Chris Bohjalin's novel, I didn't find the violence or descriptions of what occurred gratuitous in any way. Actually, just when the reader thinks they've had enough is when he releases us and focuses on the other part of the story- that of family connections, unlikely friendships, and romance.

Super Sad True Love Story

Super Sad True Love Story - Gary Shteyngart It's like Woody Allen meets Ray Bradbury when they're both having a super sad day.

What You Have Left

What You Have Left - Will Allison I won this in a Goodreads giveaway and may not have picked it up otherwise, at least not until Will Allison becomes popular which he is bound to do. He's reminiscent of Richard Russo. The chapters in the novel switch between the characters of Holly, her father, and her husband spanning a lifetime of, well, "life". If you don't like this style of writing then this novel isn't for you, but I generally think the changing points of view and time keep the story fresh and the reader interested. And Will Allison pulls it off flawlessly.

There is a lot of story packed into a book that is just over 200 pages. I like a story that leaves much for the reader to infer and doesn't over-explain every detail- I'm a Hemingway fan in that way. The characters in this novel are real- you may not like them all the time. I got especially upset with Holly over the way she was acting in her marriage. But I could also see all the anger in her that had been built up from her childhood.

If I had any criticism it's that the story ended too abruptly for me. I am left with many unanswered questions. Oh, and I'd change the cover.

Overall, this was a perfect little gem of a novel and I'll be looking out for more from Will Allison.

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