Getting Re-Acquainted with an “Old Friend”

Back in the mid 1980’s when I was deep in the throes of motherhood, I looked forward to reading Anna Quindlen’s wonderful column “Life in the Thirties.” It was syndicated in our Detroit Free Press, back in the day when my morning newspaper was just as much life’s blood as my morning coffee. Anna seemed to get me in ways that none of my real friends did – she knew about that tug to create, that urge to lose yourself in books and words, and how it was sometimes difficult to maintain the balance between caring for the ones you loved and caring for yourself.

This summer I’m happy to have gotten re-acquainted with the Anna I once knew via her new book Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake. I’m over at All Things Girl talking about it.

Grab a cup of coffee and join in the conversation – Anna and I would love to have you.

TLC Tours: The Year of the Gadfly

Contrary to popular belief, high school did not run according to a horizontal social hierarchy with the nerds as serfs to the popular despots. The alliances and antagonisms were more complicated than the political dealings of a Third World country. In high school, you never knew who was your enemy and who was your friend. The Year of the Gadfly, by Jennifer Miller

Iris Dupont knows all about the social hierarchy of high school. A budding journalist who channels the spirit of Edward R. Murrow, Iris transfers to the historic Mariana Academy after her best friend commits suicide. Mariana is known for it’s honor code, it’s pledge to treat everyone as equals. But a secretive underground group threatens the reputation, even the very existence of the entire school.

Iris, in her best investigative reporter role, is determined to break into the ranks of the group’s underground newspaper. There, she uncovers the source of all it’s blackmail schemes and rumors, some of which involve her favorite teacher, others which point to an albino girl (whose home Iris’ parents happen to be renting) who disappeared from school under strange circumstances.

I compared this novel to Harriet the Spy for grown -ups, and Iris is quite Harriet-like with her single minded determination, her quest for the truth, and her belief in her ability to affect change with the written word.

She is also Harriet-like in her otherness. Iris is different, and so are most of the other students featured in The Year of the Gadfly. Astoundingly different, actually, for author Jennifer Miller has peopled her novel with a cast of characters that are almost outrageous in their uniqueness.

But then again, almost every teenager feels their differences are exaggerated to the point of ludicrousy. It can be a painful time, one when mistakes are made from which it’s impossible to recover.

Does Iris make those kinds of mistakes in her quest for truth and justice?

You’ll have to read The Year of the Gadfly to find out.

In the tradition of some of the most popular “school” novels – like Prep and The Secret History – Miller explores the seamy underside of adolescence, and reminds us how this time in our lives can affect our futures in unbelievable and powerful ways.

Thanks to TLC Tours for the opportunity to read this interesting novel.

My Interview with Kristin Hannah: Find Out Which of Her Books “Touched Her the Most”

Last year when I was vacationing with my dear friend and reading buddy, she was in the process of reading Kristin Hannah‘s novel Winter Garden when she started sobbing.

“You have to read this book!” she said between tears.

It might seem strange that a friend would recommend a book that made her cry. But she knows how much I love a book that I can get emotionally involved with.

For some reason, I’d never read any of Hannah’s novels, but when I read Winter Garden, I had the same reaction as my friend did. It’s the story of a mother and her daughters, and the way events in the mother’s past have prevented her from developing a loving relationship with her daughters.

After reading Winter Garden, I set out on a mission to read more of Hannah’s work. I read Night Road, True Colors, and Firefly Lane, and I’ve really enjoyed the way she gets to the heart of our most complex and important relationships – between friends, sisters, parents and children.

So I was thrilled to have an opportunity to interview Kristin for All Things Girl magazine, and to read a copy of her brand new book, Home Front, released this week. Of all her books, I believe I enjoyed this one the most. And I’m not alone – Hannah herself says that Home Front “touched her more deeply than any of her other books.”

To find out why, check out Part One of my interview, and my review. And make it a point to read All Things Girl next Wednesday, for Part Two of the interview, and a chance to win a new copy of Home Front.

‘Tis the Season…

…for all things scary.

Although Halloween is far from my favorite holiday, it seems to be growing more and more popular. The number of homes decorated with spooky goblins, orange pumpkin lights, and even makeshift graveyards has come to rival those with halls decked in traditional Christmas trimming.

I don’t decorate for Halloween, but I do celebrate the season by reading more thrillers and mysteries. If you’re thinking about curling up with a good book this All Hallow’s Eve, check out my recommendations for Thrill Reads over at All Things Girl.

Happy Haunted Reading…