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PURITY: A Political Novel ~Jonathan Franzen

Monday, July 10th, 2017

PURITY is a marvelous story by Jonathan Franzen and it was on my holiday wish list in 2015.  It had already been out for a while, but with my reading schedule it was the first time I could clear a space to savor this read.   I like Franzen’s entire writing list and have read them even before one became an Oprah selection.  They are dense reads with great detail and the development of the characters is outstanding; one is certain that they know the individuals.  When you mix in the personal look at history that the characters share with the reader, the books become a truth to build perspective upon and enjoy.

PURITY was not an exception to the writer’s rule and it took me a full 18 hours to get from cover to cover and I had to put it aside several times to find enough time to truly understand the story and the lessons about life and political reality.  The story line is such amazing separate pieces that resolve into an integration of the character’s lives and a remarkable conclusion.   There was an incredible amount of sexual tension to the story as if sexuality was the subtext of the wholeness of the story.

Pip is the first focus and she wanders through the maze of other’s lives until she connects all the folks into a reunion that shines the love through the timeline and allows for it to manifest in a healthy manner.  She is a computer expert in a demeaning job saddled with $130,000 of education loans.  Her mother is “weird” and lives in a cabin in rural California and works as a grocery store checker.  Pip is learning about people, work, and how to get along with others – maybe?    She is also the focus of political intrigue and lessons, which match up with her self-protection, sarcasm, and ability to discern what is real. Pip does not know who she is or her roots.

Andreas is the political operative and the founder of an organization that is similar to WikiLeaks – ‘The Sunlight Project’.  He grew up with his parents a part of the Communist regime in East Berlin and yet for most of his youth he led a life of privilege and wealth.  He is well detailed and he starts his own revolution by speaking out at University and working against the grain.  He is there for the falling of the ‘Wall’ and he continually tries to ‘help’ people, particularly teenage girls, as a counselor at the mission church where he lives and hides.  He ends up developing a secret community of hackers and ‘truth tellers’ in a remote location in Bolivia.

The reader is pulled into the extraordinary wealth of a family in the Midwest of the USA.  The daughter is rebelling and trying to escape the life of the rich and yet her mental health is not so stable.  She is rebellious and a ‘hippie’ protestor/artist in her youth and she also becomes an exile as she hides from her family and takes on the role of being poverty.

Each section of the book, I had to read without putting the book down it was so compelling and detailed and fascinating.  One needs to wonder what the rebellion of youth will bring us and how we will live out our values within the confines of the life we are living.  How do we escape the political ramifications of our circumstances and be in touch with our values?  What do we reveal about ourselves and how is it that we learn to achieve our destiny to arrive at our own home; find the love we need?     Whew!  PURITY is the perfect length and yet still can take our breath away.

As always Franzen does not disappoint making the mind work with good story telling skill and focus.    A noteworthy read- PURITY

Author:

Jonathan Franzen is the author of four other novels, most recently FREEDOM and THE CORRECTIONS, and five works of nonfiction and translation, including FARTHER AWAY and THE KRAUS PROJECT, all published by FSG.  He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the German Akademie de Kunste, and the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

“Purity is a grand story of youthful idealism, extreme fidelity, and murder. The author of The Corrections and Freedom has imagined a world of vividly original characters–Californians and East Germans, good parents and bad parents, journalists and leakers–and he follows their intertwining paths through landscapes as contemporary as the omnipresent Internet and as ancient as the war between the sexes. Purity is the most daring and penetrating book yet by one of the major writers of our time.”(Cover)

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AMONG THE LESSER GODS: A Novel ~Margo Catts

Monday, June 19th, 2017

AMONG THE LESSER GODS was a story I enjoyed reading very much.  The writing was clear and the story straightforward as it explores the ‘blame game’ and how blame changes the lives of individuals and the surrounding characters and community.  We begin at the end of university in California for Elena Alvarez and a gap year arranged by her Grandmother in Colorado; space to figure out what comes next.

Elena has been living a very tense life with lots of adversity.  As a child, she accidentally set a deadly fire and this caused her family great disruption and a great deal of blame.  Her mother abandoned her and she has led a life of blaming herself and now finds herself pregnant and no plans for life ahead.  Her Grandmother has found her a volunteer job caring for two young children who have lost their mother to a car accident while the father figures out all the changes he will need to make and still accomplish a living wage; long haul trucking is no longer a working option.  Elena’s Grandmother has a permanent house in Leadville, but choses to live in the Ghost Town where she reared her children and lost one.  The family is full of mystery and unknown factors.

Elena who is mathematical and scientific is not sure about caring for children and yet her conversations with them are magical and revealing allowing the story to unfold in a gracious connection.  The community is a place with lots of adversity as the mining company is slowing down and evolving into new directions.  The characters unfold the realities behind the adversities and the strength of character and community bonding is a boon to self – discovery.  The mysteries are compassionately uncovered.  What a good story and first novel and yes I have to agree with other quotes – I want to read Catts’ next book for sure.  The power of listening – potent answers are uncovered.  AMOUNG THE LESSER GODS has the power of redemption.

“Margo Catts has a sharp eye for the intricacies of family, love, and tragedy. In luminous prose, she deftly explores the impact of the past upon our lives. This is a heartfelt book that will break your heart at times and at others fill you with joy.” — Daniel Robinson, author of After the Fire

TLC Book Tours review book

About the Author:

Margo Catts grew up in Los Angeles and has since lived in Utah, Indiana, and Colorado. After raising three children in the U.S., she and her husband moved to Saudi Arabia, where her Foreign Girl blog was well known in the expat community. Originally a freelance editor for textbooks and magazines, she has also done freelance writing for business, technical, and advertising clients, all the while working on her fiction. She is a contributing author to Once Upon an Expat. Among the Lesser Gods is her first novel. She now lives in Denver, Colorado. (TLC page)

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BEST LAID PLANS AND OTHER DISASTERS: A Novel ~Amy Rivers

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

BEST LAID PLANS AND OTHER DISASTERS is a companion story to WALLFLOWER BLOOMING, although both can be standalone stories also.  These are witty, warm and very fun reads about cousins who reside in Cambria, Colorado.  Wallflower is about Val a PR company owner and Best Laid Plans is about Gwen the new mayor of Cambria who also does public service work.

The young woman each find an opportunity to connect with their futures and for Gwen she is plagued with trying to figure out every angle by herself, before she will ask for assistance with her personal problems.   As mayor she is capable and enthusiastic and working full speed ahead with the council and the Governor.  At city hall one major problem reveals itself.   The female city manager has decided she does not care for Gwen and works to make her work difficult and not on course.  It is not surprising to see how woman can change their colors and become enemies very quickly.  One of the easiest strategies against resolution is getting two women competing with each other and manipulating their own truth.  Gwen does figure out how to overcome this particular problem while remaining true to herself and her values.

Jason, Gwen’s fellow, works in accounting for the city and this has become a problem to several people at city hall.  He takes a new job, which requires a great deal of travelling and a co-worker decides “to hitch onto his wagon”, another problem to resolve.   At the same time Gwen discovers she is pregnant and worries about rumors and how to tell Jason.

The story takes some nice dips into explaining emotions and the surrounding events and so we get some good backstory into family history and how to set oneself free from a family heritage that was not very supportive.  The childish emotions were being brought into contemporary living and finding new coping skills – maturing more into the authentic self.

Neither Gwen nor Val are simple characters, they have definition and smarts knowing how to use these tools.   They are intelligent and do not compromise what they know to be true.  These young women are sorting out complex issues and challenges and it is good to be privy to their thinking and resolving these solutions.  These are very enjoyable characters tucked into a good reading adventure.

There are even more unexpected problems, some are just plain fun and others are problems we all face in our lives.  Once again I will say this is a very good read, I think you will enjoy BEST LAID PLANS & OTHER DISASTERS.

“Amy Rivers was born and raised in southern New Mexico and currently resides in Colorado with her husband and kids.  She has a Master’s degree with concentrations in Psychology and Politics, two topics she loves to incorporate into her personal essays and novels.  Amy has been published in CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL, INSPIRATION FOR NURSES, NOVELTY BRIDE MAGAZINE, ESME.com, and SPLICE TODAY.  Her first novel WALLFLOWER BLOOMING was published in August 2016.”(Cover)

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TLC Book Tours  sent me a copy for review of BEST LAID PLANS &OTHER DISASTERS

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WALLFLOWER BLOOMING: A Romantic Story ~Amy Rivers

Monday, December 12th, 2016

TLC Book Tours sent me an e-copy of WALLFLOWER BLOOMING for review.  It is a nice read and is a variation of traditional romance as it includes a good amount of information about depression, anxiety, and control issues surrounding the heroine of the story.  Equal parts self-actualization and romance.

Val Shakely has her own business and her quiet and unassuming routines.  She runs a successful PR firm and has a life, which is contained within her comfort zone.  She has misread her sister and her mother after her father’s death and is glad they are not in the same city anymore.  Val enjoys her outgoing cousin Gwen’s energies and holds her as a dear friend.

Gwen has entered a tight race for Mayor of their city and has asked Val to be her PR person and attend many functions.  This opens up Val’s social life and makes her feel vulnerable and quite anxious as she re-arranges her carefully scheduled routines.  This also allows for the quiet city bachelor to discover her existence and join her routines and expand her comfort zones.

Although the politics get a bit over the top for Val and threats are made, she stands up when she needs to and learns a great many coping skills.  She becomes almost fearless as the race progresses and then begins to reconnect with her mother and sister and figure out the truth of the situation surrounding her father’s death.

Communication is good and solves many problems.  Being loved and adored by someone special makes the book light and smooth.  The story allows one to discover some extra problem-solving skills and shed light on better coping skills.  An enjoyable afternoon read.

About the Author:

“Amy Rivers was born and raised in southern New Mexico and currently resides in Colorado. She had an idyllic childhood despite a severe visual impairment and, perhaps because of her disability, she learned a lot about compassion and empathy from a young age. Her keen interest in social issues and violence prevention led to a Master’s degree with concentrations in Psychology and Politics. She was the director of a sexual assault response program and remains an advocate for social justice. Amy has been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses, Novelty Bride Magazine, ESME.com and Splice Today. Wallflower Blooming is her first novel.” (From TLC review page)

Amy Rivers Website
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