She GONE: Book review – Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

gone-girl-book-cover-medWhen I read the NY Times’ review of Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn, I was immediately taken and realized that the book was not just a fad, but would be truly a GREAT read.

The Times’ review aptly described the necessity of a board game to plot the intricacies of Nick and Amy Dunne’s relationship – almost like a combination of Chutes and Ladders, Sorry and Monopoly and Life – in which you climb great ladders only to fall into an abyss of mystery, hear the words “Sorry!” said with laughter and malice, definitely go to jail, maybe collect $200 and could end up with a baby or two along the way.

The book opens innocently enough – a couple, celebrating their 5th wedding anniversary in much the way they had in the past. But then the story – and their lives – begins to unravel: Nick goes to work and Amy…..well, Amy goes ….like she GONE….

Fast forwarding thru the novel, you begin to see that two stories are emerging. The story of the misguided, stupid husband who made mistakes, acted selfishly and possibly – just possibly – fell out and back in love with his wife. And then there’s the other story – the story that Amy tells…..a story of deceit, anger, violence and just a bit of crazy.

Keeping my fingers busy, this book was definitely a page-turner. I finished it weeks ago and, due to other circumstances, I’m just getting around to reviewing it – but the good news is that its still on the bookshelves at your local stores and with the holidays, you may have a new reason to escape the craziness of your own families to sneak off and read! OR if you are going to be sitting by a ski-lodge fire or pool/beach-side, this is a great book to bring with you!

One thing is for sure, I feel blessed in my marriage and in my mind. I may leave myself at times, but I am certainly NOT a Gone Girl.

Rachael’s Grades:

Writing: A

Character Development: A+

Plot: A

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925 Pages and I’m Finally DONE: Book Review (Winter of the World)

Happy thanksgiving y’all!

I was lucky enough to get to read for most of mine……..and while I’m a fast reader, 925 pages is a LONGASSBOOK, friends. So I’m sorry that it’s been so long since we chatted and I hope you can forgive me. I mean, even reading 300 pages a week – well maybe more like 250 – makes me fast; this book was just long and thorough.

That said, and without further delay, I’m excited to tell you about the second book in Ken Follett’s new trilogy chronicling the 20th Century. The first of this sequence, Fall of Giants starts with the Great War – detailing the evolution of England and the United States and the challenges facing Germany and Russia. In Winter of the World, the latest volume and the eater of most of my time over the past few weeks, he continues on with the story – taking us on a voyage thru the volatility and situations that lead up to, thru and following the 2nd world war.

While I’d love to detail all of the characters for you, or even set the stage, I would have to dedicate my entire blog to this topic for months…..truly. What I can say is that, in true Ken Follett style, he has masterfully depicted the 30s, 40s and 50s with his array of characters and historical references. And, in keeping all of the existing characters in tact from the first book, he is able to delve even deeper into their lives without overwhelming the reader.

As I said, 925 pages is a BIG BOOK, but those 30 years really do impact our lives TODAY, so there’s no way around it. What’s incredible to me about this book is that Follett is able to beautifully intertwine the story lines so effortlessly. The characters seem to ebb and flow and the story is NEVER lost. Sometimes, it does get a little choppy, but the story continues and, in the end, ties together well.

Here’s my only complaint: neither this, nor the Fall of Giants, were as good as The Pillars of the Earth or World Without End. Maybe it’s because my exposure to this time period is much deeper, or maybe it’s because I’m older….or maybe it’s because he kept us waiting so damn long, but the first two were just better……..
Whatever…..I still love me some Ken Follett – and if you like historical fiction, you will enjoy this.

Rachael’s Grades

Writing:  A-

Character Development: A

Plot:  A

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Chapter 35: The Waiting Room

If you’ve never sat in the waiting room of a fertility clinic, let me just tell you – it’s miserable. The tension is thick; you could cut it with a knife.

In the corner, a nervous wife (or girlfriend, or woman of some sort) chats incessantly with her spouse/partner/sister/mother while said “other” just nods – nearly comatose by the nonsense said woman is spewing. The rest of the room is silent; eyes darting back and forth – not making eye contact with any of the other women there – for fear that you might all start crying at once.

It’s early, so you are tired. The television is turned to something relatively innocuous – like the History Channel – and you are learning about Jack the Ripper or about Atilla the Hun or the settlers that disappeared 3 years after forming the Roanoke Settlement in what’s now known as North Carolina.

You wait for your name to be called – because, while you got there at 7:05 (they open at 7), there are 15 other women who must have arrived at 6:59 and are waiting to be a pin-cushion just like you.  You sit….and you sit….and you sit. And all the while you are both filled with hope and with gloom, just like you assume people would feel at a cancer clinic.

What’s interesting is that while I sat there this morning, I couldn’t help but think of the contrast between what I felt at that moment and what I felt when sitting at my OBGYNs office – mostly because you don’t see the preggos….you just see those of us who want to become a preggo; which I guess is both better and worse.

At least it’s not so in your face “I’m so happy because I’m about to have what you cannot”. But at the same time, the sense of depression is palpable and the sadness/anxiety/worry/fear is unparalleled.

After what feels like an eternity, they call your name, draw your blood – again – and hand you back your papers. You go back downstairs to the main reception area and wait another 20 minutes to be seen for your ultrasound.

Again, you avoid making eye contact, lest you start to cry – or at least that’s what I felt like. You see the “first timers” come in with their spouse or partner, excited that these doctors will be able to work their magic. You sit there alone – not because your husband won’t come with you, but because you know its not necessary. He can’t fix you. He can’t change your sadness. He can’t do anything so why make him miss work?

When you finally go into the room, you strip down, you get probed and then you are sent on your way – with a chirpy “looks good to go, unless the bloodwork….” Blah blah blah.

And again, you begin to feel hopeful….until your phone rings and they tell you that you are needed for another test, “can you come in next week?”

And so, now I find myself filled with fear, anxiety, sadness, longing and anger. And buried all the way under all of that, maybe just a little hope.

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Book Review: Defending Jacob by William Landay

How far do you go to protect your child? Are you capable of truly seeing your child as they are? Does that make you a good parent or a bad one? Does a rotten egg mean you did something wrong? Who should be punished?

All these questions and more kept running through my mind as I quickly and obsessively read this novel by William Landay.

Defending Jacob is a beautifully written quasai-suspense/ quasai-murder mystery novel with lots of heart poured into every page. In fact, when I first started reading it – and when my mom told me about it during her visit for Rosh Hashana – I wasn’t sure if it was a true story or not!

Set in one of Boston’s elite bedroom communities, this book is told from the point of view of the father; an Asst. District Attorney, and the father of a 14-year-old boy on trial for murder.

Mixing testimonial transcripts from the trial and his own thoughts, we struggle along side Andy Barber as he tries to do what’s necessary to defend his son. We experience the impact that such an event has on a family. And we watch as he and his wife, once united in all things, unravel.

I don’t want to give away too much of the book, but I will say this: it doesn’t end as you think it will; and every page from the very FIRST will keep you on edge. A challenging read, it’s not; but if you really want to think about it when finished, its messages do challenge you in a “what would you do?” kind of way.

So, I guess I pose this to you, my friends: What would you do? How would you respond? Who would you blame? How would you make it better?

Rachael’s Grade:

Writing:  B+

Character Development: A-

Plot: A

 

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Book Review: Warsaw Requiem

when I hear the word Requiem, I think of Requiem of a Dream….and when I think of Dream, I wish I had slept. But, alas, I did not.

I’ll get to the reasons for my lack of sleeping first:

1) our A/C was out and it was hot and humid

2) our windows were open (see above)

3) our neighbors are drug dealers and had people in and out of their house all night…ALL NIGHT (until 5:30 a.m.)

4) everytime I tried to sleep and was awoke, I picked up this BOOK and read it!!!!!!

Ok, so now about the book: Warsaw Requiem by Bodie and Brock Thoene. I hope you aren’t sick of reading my reviews of these Zion Chronicles – I’m almost done with them and have a few books to read once I’m done (including the new Ken Follett book!!!! yippee!!!!).

What’s important to know about this series is that, unlike so many series that introduce new characters each book, in these, it works! I mean, it really works. Just when you think you are bored of a story line, the Thoene’s introduce a new character! And, talk about the development of those characters, Nu!, they are amazing.

I know this review probably leaves a little to be desired in detail, but it should tell you something when 6 books into a series, I’m still riveted!!!!

As soon as I’m done with the series, my next two are:

 

Rachael’s Grades

Writing:  A

Character Development: A

Plot:  A

 

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Exciting News in Books!!!!!!

here’s some interesting news in publishing in case you missed it! (headline links to the actual article in the New York Times)

Media Chiefs Form Venture to E-Publish

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

From left, Barry Diller, Frances Coady, Evan Ratliff of Atavist and Scott Rudin.

By
Published: September 18, 2012

Two powerful entertainment moguls, Scott Rudin, the film and theater producer, and Barry Diller, the chairman of IAC/InterActiveCorp, are joining together to enter the turbulent world of book publishing.

Mr. Rudin and Frances Coady, a longtime publishing executive, have formed a partnership with Mr. Diller in a new venture called Brightline. It will publish e-books and eventually physical books in a partnership with Atavist, a publisher based in Brooklyn with expertise in producing electronic books and articles.

The alliance creates a new competitor in the rapidly changing digital book market, one that is dominated by Amazon, the online retailer, which has roughly 65 percent of e-book sales. Though fledgling, the new venture will enjoy the support of two influential executives who control a wide array of resources in media and entertainment.

Atavist and Brightline will exchange an undetermined amount of minority equity interests in each other’s ventures, and IAC will provide $20 million in capital to build out Brightline as a publisher in addition to making investments in Atavist.

Atavist, a start-up conceived by three friends in Brooklyn — Evan Ratliff, Jefferson Rabb and Nicholas Thompson — received attention for its content management system, which the group used to produce multimedia storytelling for various electronic devices. In May, Eric E. Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, was among a group of high-level technology executives who invested in an early round of financing for Atavist.

There were informal discussions this summer in which Mr. Diller and Mr. Rudin discussed paying as much as $10 million for a controlling interest in Atavist. A partnership grew out of those discussions.

“The book business has a concentrated number of players and is unquestionably in transition,” said Mr. Diller, sitting at a conference table at IAC’s Manhattan headquarters on Monday with Ms. Coady, Mr. Rudin and Mr. Ratliff. “There is a possibility here that if we start with a blank piece of paper that you could hit the opportunity that exists in the book business now.”

Mr. Rudin, who frequently works with authors like Michael Chabon, Jonathan Safran Foer and Jonathan Franzen to turn their books into films, said he had heard a steady stream of complaints about the opaqueness and resistance to change in the publishing business.

While traditional publishers are now releasing books in both paper and digital formats, e-book sales have surged in the last several years. E-books now account for more than 15 percent of publishers’ revenue, posing a challenge to the dominance of print in the long run and leaving the future of brick-and-mortar bookstores in doubt. Fiction has been an especially rich market for digital books: major publishers say new novels often sell more e-book copies than print copies in their initial weeks of sale.

Mr. Rudin worked for Mr. Diller as head of production at 20th Century Fox during the 1980s, and the two men have remained friends. For this venture, they decided to work with Ms. Coady because she was an early innovator in trade paperbacks at Random House and went on to work with authors like Augusten Burroughs at Macmillan’s Picador imprint.

They are hoping that a brand new enterprise, without the legacy costs and practices of traditional publishing, can find traction.

“Evan and the Atavist started this with nothing,” Mr. Diller said. “We are going to lead this with a lot of marketing money and investment. They want to do bigger things without losing control.”

It has been a remarkable run for Atavist, which was conceived over a series of beers in Brooklyn and began publishing in 2011 with articles built for tablet reading.

Mr. Ratliff said the offer from Mr. Diller and Mr. Rudin got Atavist’s attention because it was not just about the software.

“Other people came to us with various ideas, but this allows us to do what we did before, except bigger,” he said. “We have a partner with the same vision that we have.”

Brightline and Atavist will remain separate for the time being and the books will be published under the Atavist name. No author has yet been signed by Brightline, and Mr. Rudin asserted that the new enterprise was not an attempt to get an early look at books he might make into films.

“I already have access to all the books I need,” he said. “I am doing this for the same reason I do theater, which is that I love the work and this seemed like a good way to get involved.”

Instead of beginning from scratch, Ms. Coady said, the partnership will give Brightline access to the software, a place to market books in all forms and the design expertise of Mr. Rabb and others at Atavist. And Atavist will have access to big-name authors whom Ms. Coady and Mr. Rudin could bring to the table.

“The Atavist has put together a beautiful reading experience,” Ms. Coady said. “They’ve done so much so quickly.”

Unlike Atavist, Brightline will pay big advances to compete for big-name authors, but many questions remain, including how the new company will share revenue with its authors and how it will get printed books into stores.

Julie Bosman contributed reporting.

 

 

 

 

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Chapter 34: Remembering…..

It used to bother me when, fresh back from NYC, I’d hear my Windy City friends talking about the horror that was September 11 (2001). Maybe it was my youth, or maybe it was because the aftermath – the shock and disbelief – was still so raw to me, having lived there and seen it – but I was, admittedly, unnecessarily critical of them.

I used to sit and listen to them talk about how scared they were that their non-descript Chicago skyscraper  office  tower would be hit by a terrorist madman; or that the L – which is above ground in many parts of the city – would be attacked and they would be stuck. And I’d shake my head and get angry and leave the room.

Or sometimes, I’d share with them what it was like to be there; to see it; to not be able to see movies or television programs without anxiety swelling up thru my neck and throat, my heart hurting and my eyes watering uncontrollably.

It’s hard to believe it’s been 11 years; that children born to those who perished that year are now in middle school; that they’ve lived this long without one (or both) parents.  And yet, I can recall the day like yesterday.

As a child, I’d listen to my parents talk about the day that JFK was assassinated, or when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, in total disbelief that they could recall EXACTLY what happened at that moment in their lives. They could recall, with clarity and detail I found incredible, exactly how they felt or what their parents said. And, now, at the ripe old age of 34, I understand.  I understand because I, too, do the same thing now.

11 years ago, I rolled out of bed like it was any other day of my 23rd year on earth. I went to the gym, I got dressed while I chatted with the other ladies in the locker room at New York Sports Club and I buzzed out the door to hop on the subway at Grand Central Station. It was a big day for me – I was pitching the New York New Media Association’s annual technology summit (taking place that week) to the local reporters – efforting to get better coverage than I’d ever had before for an event.

I arrived at the office nice and early – sat down at my desk and turned on the computer while I went to get coffee and cereal. Returning to my desk, my  phone light was BLAZING and the phone was ringing. I had 5 new messages all from that morning!

I thought, “Man, my pitching skills are AMAZING” – until I saw they were all from my mom.

Then my AOL messenger popped up. It was mom. Again. I was about to delete when I read: did you see the news? A plane flew into the World Trade Center!!!! We are under attack.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Where are you? CALL ME NOW

So, that’s what I did. I assured her I was ok and then ran into the president’s office to flip on the TV. And, when others arrived at the office, we ran to the other side of the building and….as we watched….the second plane hit.

Smoke billowing from everywhere, and our offices a mere 2 miles from the site of devastation, my mind went to the friends who worked in the towers ….  My “boyfriend” being one of them.

I dialed my phone frantically and failed to reach anyone. I cried. I was scared, and yet, calm.

The office sent us home.

But my home was by the UN – and there was still a plane at large. We did not know that the heros of flight 93 would surface that day to save hundreds thousands of lives. So, two older and wiser friends decided I would go home with one of them, to the West Village, to wait it out.

As we walked from the office to her small, but cozy, light-filled studio apartment, the silence was deafening. My city….MY BIG APPLE…..was stunned silent.

You’d imagine that the chaos and hustle bustle would be ever-present. But, alas, the calm prevailed. Kindness prevailed. Strangers made eye contact that said, we are all scared and yet, we are strong and must be strong for those who cannot be strong now. We were united in that moment of grief and, for many, still are united.

Eventually, I heard from a few friends – including the boyfriend – and learned they were all OK. And, as the day progressed, we all found ourselves transfixed to the news – to the repeated footage of the planes; the repeated footage of the buildings crumbling to the ground; to the repeated sounds bites of women, children and men crying screaming out in pain for those who were lost or missing or dead or injured.

But, as I recount this story, what stands out is not the pain or the suffering. Not the injustice of it all – because, and believe me, it was an injustice to all of us…..but rather, the beauty I found in the way we rallied together. The love and patriotism that I’d never experienced. The kindness of strangers. The strength we all found, together and alone, to carry on and continue to live.

To live for those who were denied that opportunity.

And so, today, 11 years later, we remember. We remember those who tried to stop us from carrying on with our way of life. We remember those who are threatened by our democracy and the premise of our great nation. We honor those who, willingly or not, died for our country. We honor the first responders who risked life and limb and still do. We honor the soldiers who protect us.

We honor each other for being strong, kind and good.

I no longer resent those who have their own story to tell – no matter how far or near they were to that day. I no longer think my story is more important than some. Instead, I see it as one of 1 million stories that make up what history books cannot teach.  The stories, you see, make up the truth….the stories teach.

I hope that they will teach that kindness and honor, democracy and liberty, courage and strength of heart will champion evil.

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