Review: Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon

Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon
I feel so behind on sharing reviews of my recent books. But I’m trying to catch up because I really enjoyed them.

While I’d rather not think about school shootings, the sad reality is that it’s a problem in our country. The fictional high school shooting in the novel Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon could easily occur in any school. This visceral novel punches its readers in the gut, but Reardon’s writing makes it impossible to stop turning the pages. You must read this book.

After receiving news of a shooting at his children’s high school,  Simon rushes to his children’s high school. His daughter Laney is safe, but Jake is missing. The police are on a manhunt for Jake, whom they believe is an accomplice.  At first Simon is positive that Jake is innocent, but as he discovers his son’s secrets, Simon’s belief wavers. The media coverage, the police searches, and the parents’ of his son’s dead classmates makes Simon question his role as a good father and his son’s innocence.

The novel alternates between the tragedy and its aftermath and Simon’s journey as stay-at-home father. Simon didn’t plan on becoming a stay-at-home father, but it made more sense economically. For seventeen years, he’s taken care of the daily childrearing while his wife heads to her law office each day. Simon revisits his past, trying to figure out where he went wrong during his years raising Jake.

My kids are still young, but reading this novel as a parent was hard. I  yo-yo’d between wanting to hide the book and reading to discover what really happened with Jake. No one wants to imagine what it would be like to be in any parents’ shoes, much less Simon’s role. Obviously, I kept reading and finished the novel.

As a work-at-home mother, I appreciated seeing the story through Simon’s eyes. While stay-at-home fathers are becoming more common, Simon was the unicorn of his neighborhood. His role was different from social norms, but any stay-at-home or work-at-home parent can empathize with his isolation and self-doubt as a parent.

Bryan Reardon tackles the nuances of a tragic situation that shows the many sides of the story.  The media is quick to point fingers, but the novel reminds us that in a situation like this, there’s no black and white.

Add Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon to your reading list. You’ll be glad you did.

Review: Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran

Review: Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran

As someone who found my world history textbooks lacking in strong women leaders, I’ve gravitated towards historical fiction to fill that gaps. Thanks to many novels, I’ve traveled to India and ancient Egypt and walked in the shoes of powerful queens. As soon as my review copy of Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran arrived, I eagerly dug in.  And finished the book in one sitting.

Set on the cusp of Britain’s colonization of India, Queen Lakshmi fights to keep her throne and preserve her people’s way of life. She gathers a powerful army of men and her trusted women warriors to keep the British empire at bay. In fact, Lakshmi’s actions earns her the name of Rebel Queen in England.  Her story is told through the eyes of Sita, one of her female bodyguards. Raised in a small town, Sita was raised in purdah. She was not allowed to leave her home or speak to other men without her father’s permission. With no dowry to speak of, Sita’s father trains her so that one day she may join the queen’s private army.

I don’t know very much about this time period of India, but the colorful world of the India court leapt off the page. Some novels set in pre-colonial India focuses on the jewels and riches, but Rebel Queen gives a glimpse into the aristocracy and the lower castes, like Sita. Telling Queen Lakshmi from Sita’s perspective was perfect because as she learned about the world around her, so does the reader.

At the beginning, I found Sita’s explanation of the caste system and Indian mythology a little too obvious and simplified. However, it works in the context of Sita’s story–she’s been asked to write a memoir for the British about her former life in Queen Lakshmi’s court. In the early 1900s, I doubt very many British truly understood the people that they forcibly colonized. Once I turned that last page I was simultaneously sad that the story was over and excited because I wanted to learn more about Queen Lakshmi.

I highly recommend Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran. If you enjoy reading novels about strong female characters, this book is overflowing with independent women who were not afraid to take control of their destiny.

While you wait for Rebel Queen to release on March 3, you should read Michelle Moran’s other novels about female rulers. I suggest you start with Nefertiti.

READ MORE: 7 Books About Inspiring Women Rulers From History

Another Book Purge Giveaway!

Book Purge Giveaway at From Left to Write

It’s winter and I’ve been inside, cowering by my heater. A lot. Sitting in my home office for so many cold days made me realize that my book stash is threatening to fall over and crush me. Again. That means time to purge some books. My purge is your gain. So who wants new to you […]

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Book Club Discussion: Trapped Under the Sea

I lost an entire night’s sleep reading  Trapped Under the Sea by Neil Swidey  (Broadway Books) because I couldn’t put it down. Even though I cheated and Googled the ending of the true events that Swidey retells, I had to read it until the end. Boston Globe Magazine journalist Swidey made me feel as if I was right […]

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What’s On Your Nightstand: Maria Murnane

Maria Murnane Headshot

 I met Maria Murnane purely by accident. Several years ago at the Massachusetts Women’s Conference, Maria and I shared a table at Elizabeth Gilbert’s lunch keynote. After a bit of small talk, I discovered her success story. Her first self-published novel was so successful, that it caught Amazon’s attention. They quickly signed her on under […]

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Ruby by Cynthia Bond is an Oprah Book Club 2.0

Ruby by Cynthia Bond Oprah Book Club 2.0

It’s pretty exciting when a book we love finally gets the recognition it deserves. Last year From Left to Write members were deeply moved by Cynthia Bond’s debut novel Ruby. Oprah has chose Ruby as her fourth book in her Book Club 2.0. Take a look at Oprah’s announcement: Our book club discussion of Ruby touched on the character’s challenges, hopes and […]

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