Book Review: The Age of Miracles

Age of Miracles by Karen Thompsom Walker

Age of Miracles by Karen Thompsom Walker

 

After I read a couple of reviews of Karen Thompson Walker’s The Age of Miracles, I kicked myself for not grabbing a copy during BEA. Or maybe I saw that my roommate Rachee had picked up a galley of the book. Luckily the wait for a digital copy from my library wasn’t very long.

In the near future, the Earth’s rotation mysteriously slows. As each day passes, the days become longer than our usual twenty-four hours. At first everyone panics, soon the slowing becomes old news.  Julia, who is in middle school when the slowing begins, observes how her family, friends, and neighbor fall apart or adapt to the longer days and nights.

At first glance the novel looks like a dystopian science fiction story, but how humanity deals with change. Yes, there’s talk about climate change, hoarding food, and crop failure.  All of that is just background for the main focus: the people.

The novel is well written and Walker gives insight on how humans deal with change. The majority of the world continues to live on the 24-hour clock, instead of relying on the unreliable sunrise and sunset. For them, the sun would shine bright at midnight or the sun rise at lunchtime, depending on when the clock times fell. The real-timers were the opposite, and their waking hours were dictated by the sunrise and nightfall. Which group are the realists and which are the dreamers? It’s not as clear cut as it seems.

How would you react if you had more hours in the day?

I couldn’t help but compare The Age of Miracles to Spin by Robert Charles Wilson. In Spin, a similar occurrence changes the planet, but the story is also about the people.  The pace in Spin is a bit faster and focuses around more than one character.

The mood in The Age of Miracles also reminscent of Tom Perrotta’s The Leftovers (which I reviewed last year). Even though a catastrophic event has occurred, life must go on.

I read The Age of Miracles in less than twenty-four hours. I highly recommend it.

I borrowed a copy of the book from my library. Affiliate links are included in this post.

What Makes a YA Book Young Adult?

Dune by Frank Herbert

Dune by Frank Herbert

NPR recently published their list of 100 Best-Ever Teen Novels as determined by a poll of their readers. A friend posted the link in a book chat Facebook group I belong to. I was curious, so I took a look at the list.

Confession: I don’t read YA books very often.  It’s not because I don’t like it, it’s because I love my adult fiction. If I read a book a day, I would never get through all the adult fiction books I want to read.

The first time I learned of the YA genre was when Stephanie Myer’s Twilight series became popular. Then of course The Hunger Games (of which I wasn’t a big fan). I read the latter because I wanted to see the movie so I read the book first. I prefer a well developed fantasy like The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin (loved it! Review soon)

When I perused NPR’s YA book list, I was shocked to see that classic sci-fi fantasy books I loved were on it. Titles such as

Sure, I read those books in high school, but never thought of them as young adult fiction. The themes in Dune are very adult. I’ve read it over ten times and each time, I get something new out of it. As a teenager, I missed most of the novel’s nuances.

I asked my librarian friend for her definition of it. The YA genre is new and still evolving. There were no young adult shelves in my library when I was growing up. I frequently brought adult books to the checkout desk, hoping the librarian there wouldn’t “catch” me reading books I wasn’t supposed to. As far as I can tell, the books I mentioned above are now on high school reading lists. Now they’re considered young adult fiction.

So here’s my question for you, my readers. What do you consider a YA book, besides the publisher’s designation of the book as such? Is it due to the main characters’ age? What’s your thoughts on these older, classic sci-fi/dystopian novels being classified on YA?
If you’re a fan of YA books, check out Teen Lit Rocks
This post contains affiliate links.

My Summer Reading List

The Reckoning by Alma Katsu

I feel like summer is half over, yet I haven’t compiled my book list. So I’m grabbing my huge stack of books and pulling some out for my July and August reading. I’m going to be on a lot of airplanes within the next two weeks so I hope I can get lots of reading done!

I always feel like a part of me isn’t whole if I don’t get a little bit of reading in each week. Here what I have on my list so far:

The Reckoning by Alma Katsu

Alma Katsu‘s The Reckoning is on the top of my list. I met her last year at Book Blogger Con. Not only is she smart, funny, and sweet, she’s a great writer. On my train ride home from BEA last year, I read The Taker in one sitting. In the Reckoning, Lanore has found her happy place in her long, immortal life, but now she is once again on the run from her creator who has finally escaped from the bonds Lanore created for him. The Reckoning is the second book of  The Taker trilogy. Don’t you love the cover? It’s so strking.  (Gallery Books)

Secrets of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen

The Secrets of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen is a fictional account of a slave that was freed and educated in Philadelphia. The historical fiction is based off a real person. Mary Bowser then returned to the South and became a Union spy during the Civil War. Sounds fascinating right? I don’t know of very many female spies, much less a African-American woman spy. (William Morrow)

The Boy Who Stole the Leopards Spots by Tamar Myers

The Boy Who Stole the Leopard’s Spots by Tamar Myers is set in the Belgian Congo. Amanda, an American missionary; a police chief plus a local witch doctor and his wise-woman wife become involved in the mystery of a decades old murder. I’ve read Tamar Myer’s Den of Antiquity cozy mysteries but haven’t read her more literary work. I’m looking forward to “traveling” to Africa. (William Morrow) Update: My review for the book is posted.

Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot has been sitting on my shelf for over a year. It time I read it. Part biography, part a look at cancer studies, this book gives credit to unknown Henrietta Lacks. Known to scientists at HeLa, Lacks’ human cells are still alive today as scientists use her cells to develop vaccines, study cancer and much more. This non-fiction uncovers yet another example of the United States’ history of experimentation of African Americans. (Crown)

I have a few more books I could add to this list, but I’m not sure if I’ll get to them. It’s a pretty diverse list.

Have you read any of these books? What’s on your summer reading list?

For some of these books, I received review copies. This post contains affiliate links.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn (Review)

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

 

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn Cover

Tip: Don’t read Sharp Objects in the dark of night when your apartment is quiet, except for the random creaks and bumps from your neighboring walls. I mean you could, but I was totally creeped out as I read Gillian Flynn’s description the murder of two preteens in a fictional Midwest town.

Let me rewind a bit.

Protagonist Camille Preaker’s first big assignment is to return to her hometown to cover the murder of two young girls for her Chicago newspaper. For someone who has avoided their hometown for eight years, Camille carries more than her fair share of baggage. The longer Camille stays in town, the more she reverts to her old self. She must rely on what she learned from her recent stay at the psych hospital in order to discover the preteens’ murder.  Besides her challenging work assignment, she must also deal with her estranged relationship with her mom and half-sister.

Besides taking a reading break because I was so creeped out by the murders, I could hardly put the novel down. Flynn fed me bits and pieces of Camille’s past, and I devoured each page, searching for more details. I can’t tell you much more without giving the away important parts of the novel.

Flynn does a fantastic job illustrating emotionally (and physically) wounded characters and weaving their worlds together in this thriller. All I could say after the last page was: WOW.  A thriller needs a good satisfying conclusion and Sharp Objects did not disappoint.

I received a copy of Sharp Objects from publisher. Thanks Crown Publishing!

Hitting the National Book Festival in Washington, DC

National Book Festival 2011 poster

National Book Festival 2011 poster

I’ve lived in the Washington, DC area for over 8 years and this is my first time attending the Library of Congress’s National Book Festival. The festival schedule is jam packed with author talks, book signings, storytellers and much more. This was the first year that the festival lasted two days. In the past it was only on  Saturday, but a half day was added on Sunday. Thank goodness because we wouldn’t have been able to make it otherwise.

Since I attended with my family, the first tent we hit was the PBS Kids tent. Our kids are PBS fans. There were plenty of activities for the kids and parents to do. There were tables with coloring pages, long lines to receive a temporary tattoo of your child’s favorite character and a create-your-own-sentence bean bag toss. The highlight for us was catching Steve Roslenik aka Steve Songs’ last performance for the weekend. Even though we saw him this summer at Wolf Trap’s Theatre-in-the-Woods, my daughter had a blast. I liked that he’s not afraid to try new things at performances. Both times we saw him, he was testing his new songs on the audience. I’m sure we made a great focus group.

National Book Festival

After that, my daughter and I got in many different lines for the obligatory photo ops with various PBS Kids characters. Even my toddler learned how to pose and say, “Cheese.” I think coming on the second day made our wait in line a lot shorter than if we had visited on Saturday. After we spied The Magic School Bus, we had to go check it out. Even Ms. Frizzle was on hand to autograph copies of her book, which Scholastic generously handed out copies of  The Magic School Bus on the Ocean Floor and The Magic School Bus in the Time of the Dinosaurs.

I recently fell in love with reading my library’s ebooks on Overdrive Media App so I stopped by their tour bus. Since I was already familiar with them, the tour bus wasn’t of much interest to me. However, they had plenty of information about the different ways you can read ebooks from your local library. No ebook reader like the Kindle is necessary. You can download and read ebooks on your computer or your smartphone via their free app, which is available on Android or iPhone. You can even borrow audiobooks and download them not just to your computer but to your mp3 player as well. Visit Overdrive website to learn if your library participates.

We didn’t attend any author readings or talks, but I would have liked hear Garrison Keillor. We arrived late on Sunday so didn’t have as much time to visit all the tents. I think next year, we’ll visit on the first day.  We kept running into fellow From Left to Write book club member and founder of Teen Lit Rocks, Sandie and her family throughout the afternoon. It’s great to run into other book nerds!

National Book Festival 2011 Poster courtesy of Library of Congress. Ms Frizzle photo by Thien-Kim Lam. Affliliate links are included in this post.

Learning to Breathe by Priscilla Warner (Review & Giveaway)

Learning to Breathe by Priscilla Warner

Learning to Breathe by Priscilla Warner

It’s funny how the universe sends you messages when you least expect it. I spent most of the weekend in bed with a head cold that turned into a sinus infection. I couldn’t sleep at night because I couldn’t breathe comfortably. What do I do, but pick up Priscilla Warner’s Learning to Breathe: My Yearlong Quest to Bring Calm to My Life.

Warner’s memoir chronicles her battle against the panic attacks she’d suffered since she was a teenager. Born Jewish, she opens her mind and body to meditation, Buddhist teachings, and even a Jewish ritual bath, in an attempt to control her panic attacks.

Was the universe trying to tell me something? Perhaps the universe was telling me to slow down, not just physically, but mentally as well. I’ve been burning the candle at both ends recently and my sickness forced me to slow down by keeping me in bed for a couple of days. So i slowed down and read this memoir.

Warner’s journey to find the cause of her panic attacks, essentially to find herself, fascinated me. I have never experienced anything like what she experienced. I can’t even imagine trying to live life the way she did, worried that a panic attack would hit her at any moment. During each attack she felt literally felt like she would die.

As she described her visits to various meditation and Buddhist retreats, classes, therapists, acupuncturists and other specialists, I had a hard time relating to Warner. How could she afford these treatments and retreats? She briefly mentioned her husband worked in the corporate world so maybe that’s how she could take all of these retreats. Would others who suffered from panic attacks be able to identify with her struggle and search for a treatment? I know that I would not have the means to try everything she experienced in the book. I’m not trying to make light of her problems. I know that not everyone can just take a class or visit a retreat on a whim.

The book is separated into three sections: How to Live, How to Love, and How to Die. As she becomes more enlightened about her past and present, Warner discovers that she has more to learn. She takes more classes and goes on more retreats. I would have liked to hear more about her husband’s reactions to each phase of her journey. She shares glimpses of his unconditional support but also mentions a bit of “eye-rolling” on his end.   A more detailed insight on her husband’s reactions to each phase of her journey would have made it easier for me to identify with Warner, as I’m at all familiar with most of the teachings and practices she follows.

I think there is a message in the book for everyone. I’m not sure what the message is for me. Maybe I’m just not open to receiving a message from the book at the moment. Or maybe all I can handle right now is to slow down and breathe.

I think I can handle that.

Want to win a Tibetan singing bowl? In the book Priscilla Warner tries several of them before find the one that resonated with her. Playing a Tibetan singing bowl forces you to slow down and concentrate on its beautiful sound.

To enter, just leave a comment below about how you find some quiet and peace in this busy world.

For an extra entry, like From Left to Write’s page on Facebook and leave a comment below.

I’ll draw a winner’s name at the end of the blog tour, Sept 27th.

This post is part of a blog tour for Learning to Breathe: My Yearlong Quest to Bring Calm to My Life by Priscialla Warner, published by Simon and Schuster. Visit the other blog tour stops every day this week for your chance to win other prizes that Warner used in her journey towards inner peace.

No compensation was received for this post. I received a copy of the book to review. The giveaway prize is courtesy of Simon & Schuster and Priscilla Warner. From Left to Write is not responsible for any lost or misdirected prizes.