Thursday, February 26, 2015

Guest Review: Cane and Abe

Summary: A spellbinding novel of suspense from New York Times bestselling author James Grippando, in which Miami’s top prosecutor becomes a prime suspect in his wife’s disappearance, which may have a chilling connection to the woman he can’t forget. Unbelievable was the word for her. Samantha Vine was unbelievably beautiful. It was unbelievable that she’d married me. Even more unbelievable that she was gone . . .

Samantha died too soon. Abe Beckham’s new wife has helped him through the loss, but some say it was a step back to marry Angelina, a love from Abe’s past. Abe doesn’t want to hear it, and through the ups and downs, he’s even managed to remain a star prosecutor at the Miami State Attorney’s Office. Then everything goes wrong. A woman’s body is discovered dumped in the Everglades, and Abe is called upon to monitor the investigation. The FBI is tracking a killer in South Florida they call “Cutter” because his brutal methods harken back to Florida’s dark past, when machete-wielding men cut sugarcane by hand in the blazing sun.

But when the feds discover that Abe had a brief encounter with the victim after Samantha’s death, and when Angelina goes missing, the respected attorney finds himself under fire. Suspicion surrounds him. His closest friends, family, professional colleagues, and the media no longer trust his motives. Was Angelina right? Was their marriage not what they’d hoped for because he loved Samantha too much? Or was there another woman . . . and a husband with a dark side who simply wanted his new wife gone? -- Harper

CANE AND ABE by James Grippando is one of those books that I actually wish I'd read! Instead, I passed it along to my dad knowing that he would really enjoy it too. As you can see from his review, he definitely liked it!

The main character in CANE AND ABE is Abe Beckham, a white senior trial attorney at the Office of the State Attorney for Miami-Dade County. Abe has a complicated personal life. After his Afro-American wife died, he married his white ex-girlfriend. Abe also has to deal with caring for his ex-wife’s bi-polar brother.

He has been assigned to stay on top of a FBI investigation into a possible serial killer who hacks his victims with a machete. The first four victims were white women who were dating Afro-American men. Another woman’s body is found in the Everglades hacked to death. This time the victim is a fast rising Afro-American attorney in a prestigious Miami law firm.

Abe becomes a prime suspect in the case when the lead FBI agent discovers that he lied about his past association with the victim. The case is further complicated when Abe’s wife disappears after they fought about his past relationships. The story line now becomes very complex as the hunt continues for the serial killer, the search for Abe’s wife accelerates and the suspicion surrounding Abe becomes more serious as family, friends and colleagues begin to mistrust him.

Although Grippando has developed wonderful characters in the novel, particularly Abe, his second wife, his brother-in-law and the FBI agent, I found none of the characters likable. Abe is insensitive to his second wife and his feelings for his first wife are over the top. His second wife is unhappy with Abe’s interaction with his brother-in-law and his strong feelings for his first wife. His brother-in-law depends way too much on Abe and the FBI agent is bitter and secretive.

CANE AND ABE is a great read that twists and turns from a search for a serial killer to a troubled marriage. It is somewhat of a dark story that includes racial overtones, family mistrust and a villainous corporation in the Florida sugarcane industry. Author James Grippando weaves the various story lines into one great mystery novel with an interesting conclusion that leaves several unanswered questions to the imagination of the reader. I recommend this novel to anyone who likes a good murder mystery.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel and to Booking Pap Pap for his terrific review.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Review: Us

Summary: David Nicholls brings the wit and intelligence that graced his enormously popular New York Times bestseller, One Day, to a compellingly human, deftly funny new novel about what holds marriages and families together—and what happens, and what we learn about ourselves, when everything threatens to fall apart.

Douglas Petersen may be mild-mannered, but behind his reserve lies a sense of humor that, against all odds, seduces beautiful Connie into a second date . . . and eventually into marriage. Now, almost three decades after their relationship first blossomed in London, they live more or less happily in the suburbs with their moody seventeen year-old son, Albie. Then Connie tells him she thinks she wants a divorce.

The timing couldn’t be worse. Hoping to encourage her son’s artistic interests, Connie has planned a month-long tour of European capitals, a chance to experience the world’s greatest works of art as a family, and she can’t bring herself to cancel. And maybe going ahead with the original plan is for the best anyway? Douglas is privately convinced that this landmark trip will rekindle the romance in the marriage, and might even help him to bond with Albie. Narrated from Douglas’s endearingly honest, slyly witty, and at times achingly optimistic point of view, Us is the story of a man trying to rescue his relationship with the woman he loves, and learning how to get closer to a son who’s always felt like a stranger. Us is a moving meditation on the demands of marriage and parenthood, the regrets of abandoning youth for middle age, and the intricate relationship between the heart and the head. And in David Nicholls’s gifted hands, Douglas’s odyssey brings Europe—from the streets of Amsterdam to the famed museums of Paris, from the caf├ęs of Venice to the beaches of Barcelona—to vivid life just as he experiences a powerful awakening of his own. Will this summer be his last as a husband, or the moment when he turns his marriage, and maybe even his whole life, around? - Harper

At last year's BEA, I received an advance copy of David Nicholls' new novel US. I was absolutely thrilled because I loved ONE DAY -- you can read me review here. ONE DAY made me both laugh and cry, and it was just a very fun and sweet read. Needless to say, I had fairly high expectations for US.

I had a feeling that I'd be in for a treat with US. It was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and it received starred reviews from Booklist, Library Journal and Kirkus to name just a few. And I have to say that I really liked this novel. In fact, I couldn't put it down. The chapters are brief and the writing is so easy-to-read that I just sat down and let myself get carried away with the characters. Hours just flew by!

US tells the story of Douglas Petersen and his relationship with his wife Connie and his seventeen year old son Albie. The novel goes back and forth between present day and the past to show readers the ups and downs of Douglas and Connie's marriage. It's a pretty interesting look inside a family that seemingly has it all... until Connie tells him she wants a divorce.

Connie picks an interesting time to shock Douglas with this news because they are getting ready to take a month-long trip to Europe with their son to check out art. Connie thinks the family should still go for Albie's sake, and Douglas thinks he can use this trip to win back not only Connie's heart but also Albie!

Douglas is the narrator of the story and he's (how shall I say it?) a bit of a nerd... and definitely not a good fit for Connie. In fact, I actually wondered for the entire story how these two ended up together in the first place. Connie is a free spirit while Douglas is more of a planner (and that's an understatement.) They basically have different views on everything!

As the family travels through Europe, Douglas does his best to change Connie's mind and win over Albie. Will this family live happily ever after when they return to England, or will this European tour be the last thing they do together?

I loved US -- just loved it. I can't say it really reminded me much of ONE DAY except that it was a story about a long-time relationship, but I did experience many of the same emotions reading US that I had when I read ONE DAY. I laughed and almost cried (nothing like ONE DAY!), but overall I just enjoyed this family's romp through Europe as they tried to figure out their futures.

One thing I appreciated about this novel was the character of Douglas. He was an interesting guy to say the least, and I have to say that I didn't always love him. He was very rigid and probably would have driven most women crazy, nevertheless one as free spirited as Connie; and at times, he even got on my nerves. But I loved him as the narrator and I found myself rooting for him. He had a great sense of self-deprecating humor and I found myself laughing at not only his views on others, but also his views on himself and his family.

Another aspect of US that I enjoyed was that the book was a travelogue... in a way. The Petersens traveled through Europe and saw major museums and art attractions. For someone who hasn't been to these places, it was definitely fun to see them through each family member's eyes. I also liked how the Petersens' trip to Europe was kind of a representation of the journey their life was taking. Maybe I'm reading too much into the story, but it just felt that way to me.

And finally, the ending! What can I say? Not much because I don't want to give anything away. Let's just put it this way, I thought my book was missing the ending. Once I got past the initial surprise, I realized that the ending was perfect for this novel. It also might not be the one that many readers want. I, however, found it just right!

US would make a terrific book club pick. It's a look at middle-aged relationships, marriage, and parent/child relationships; and there is a great deal to discuss. Fortunately, there is a reading guide with twelve thought-provoking questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include marriage, sacrifice, parenting, change, acceptance, forgiveness, family, instant gratification, love, art, and flexibility. I found all of the characters to be rather interesting, so I'm sure most groups could spend hours analyzing their behavior!

I really enjoyed US and definitely recommend it to fans of ONE DAY. I also think readers who enjoy stories about love, marriage, and family will appreciate this book.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Giveaway: The Headmaster's Wife

Summary: Like his father before him, Arthur Winthrop is the headmaster of Vermont's elite Lancaster School. It is the place he feels has given him his life, but is also the site of his undoing as events spiral out of his control. Found wandering naked in Central Park, he begins to tell his story to the police, but his memories collide into one another, and the true nature of things, a narrative of love, of marriage, of family, and of a tragedy Arthur does not know how to address emerges. Luminous and atmospheric, bringing to life the tight-knit enclave of a quintessential New England boarding school, the novel is part mystery, part love story, and an exploration of the ties of place and family. Beautifully written and compulsively readable, The Headmaster's Wife stands as a moving elegy to the power of love as an antidote to grief. -- Picador

I can't believe it's been almost a year since I reviewed THE HEADMASTER'S WIFE by Thomas Christopher Greene. I really liked this novel, both for the gorgeous writing and the unusual twists! I am happy to share that the paperback version of the novel is available today -- just check out the gorgeous new cover. I'm hoping this release brings a whole new audience to Mr. Green's very intriguing story!

THE HEADMASTER'S WIFE is truly unlike any book I've read. Mr. Greene is a terrific writer and it's evident throughout this novel. The prose is just wonderful. However, this book also pretty suspenseful. There is a rather surprising event that occurs about halfway through the novel which is guaranteed to throw readers for a loop. Not only did it hit me like a punch to the stomach, but it was also very well executed. I truly appreciated everything about this book!

To celebrate the paperback release of THE HEADMASTER'S WIFE, I have two copies available to giveaway courtesy of the publisher! To enter, just fill out the form below before March 9th at 11:59 p.m. EST. I will randomly select and notify the winners the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. addresses only. Good luck!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Review: Hush Hush

Summary: The award-winning New York Times bestselling author of After I’m Gone, The Most Dangerous Thing, I’d Know You Anywhere, and What the Dead Know brings back private detective Tess Monaghan, introduced in the classic Baltimore Blues, in an absorbing mystery that plunges the new parent into a disturbing case involving murder and a manipulative mother.

On a searing August day, Melisandre Harris Dawes committed the unthinkable: she left her two-month-old daughter locked in a car while she sat nearby on the shores of the Patapsco River. Melisandre was found not guilty by reason of criminal insanity, although there was much skepticism about her mental state. Freed, she left the country, her husband and her two surviving children, determined to start over.

But now Melisandre has returned Baltimore to meet with her estranged teenage daughters and wants to film the reunion for a documentary. The problem is, she relinquished custody and her ex, now remarried, isn’t sure he approves.

Now that’s she’s a mother herself—short on time, patience—Tess Monaghan wants nothing to do with a woman crazy enough to have killed her own child. But her mentor and close friend Tyner Gray, Melisandre’s lawyer, has asked Tess and her new partner, retired Baltimore P.D. homicide detective Sandy Sanchez, to assess Melisandre’s security needs.

As a former reporter and private investigator, Tess tries to understand why other people break the rules and the law. Yet the imperious Melisandre is something far different from anyone she’s encountered. A decade ago, a judge ruled that Melisandre was beyond rational thought. But was she? Tess tries to ignore the discomfort she feels around the confident, manipulative Melisandre. But that gets tricky after Melisandre becomes a prime suspect in a murder. Yet as her suspicions deepen, Tess realizes that just as she’s been scrutinizing Melisandre, a judgmental stalker has been watching her every move as well. . . . -- William Morrow

I actually couldn't wait to read the new Tess Monaghan novel HUSH HUSH by Laura Lippman. I adore Ms. Lippman's novels, especially her ones starring Tess; and I just knew when I picked up this book that I'd be in for a treat. I am happy to say that I wasn't disappointed!

In HUSH HUSH, the reader finds a newer, but certainly not gentler Tess Monaghan. She is now a mother to Carla Scout, a toddler who give Tess a run for her money in stubbornness and determination. Tess's uncle and lawyer to Melisandre Harris Dawes recommends Tess and her partner to Sandy Sanchez for security detail for Melisandre.

Tess reluctantly takes the job. She isn't an expert on security by any stretch of the imagination, and she's not exactly thrilled to have Melisandre for a client. About ten years ago, Melisandre left her two month old daughter in the car on a very hot August day while she sat on the shores of the Patapsco River. She was tried for the baby's death but found not guilty by reason of insanity. She served some time in a mental hospital and later left the country. Now she's back in Baltimore and wants to be reunited with her two other teenage girls. And... she's hired someone to make a documentary on her life and the state of mental health in our country!

As frustrating as Carla Scout can be, Tess can't really begin to understand the desperation (?) Melisandre felt to neglect her child in such a way. After meeting Melisandre and having a few testy exchanges, Tess begins to wonder if Melisandre was really beyond rational thought or just a deceptive criminal. When another person close to Melisandre ends up dead, Melisandre becomes the prime suspect in that murder too; and Tess finds herself rather deep in this manipulative woman's life!

I loved HUSH HUSH, but that's not really a surprise! I couldn't put this book down and that's really saying something given my current reading schedule... or lack thereof! I absolutely love Tess and seeing how she's navigating life as a private detective and a mom was so interesting. In addition, Melisandre was fascinating (in a scary way!) and the mystery aspects of the novel were outstanding. Finally, I appreciated what Ms. Lippman tried to do with the theme of motherhood.

First of all, Tess is just a terrific character and if you haven't read one of the Tess Monghan novels then you are missing out in a major way. Tess is so real to me and seeing her as a mother brings her character to an entirely new light. I loved the dynamics between Tess and Carla Scout -- they were pretty funny and I do think Carla Scout is going to give Tess a run for her money over the next few years! In addition, I appreciate seeing Tess balance the major challenges of working and parenting.

And then there's Tess as a crime solving private investigator... she's so good and so smart. She does get some help from Sanchez, her partner and a retired cop, (who is also a fantastic character!) I definitely appreciated how Tess got inside Melisandre's twisted mind, and I do think being a new mom (and all that comes with it) helped her to understand Melisandre's behavior. In addition, I saw a softer side to Tess in this book -- she definitely had some compassion for a few characters -- that worked in her favor in figuring out the murders.

In addition to loving anything starring Tess, I enjoyed HUSH HUSH because I found the mystery (or mysteries) to be intriguing. There were definitely some twists and turns in the story, and Melisandre was scary enough (and smart enough) to be very dangerous. Her manipulative personality played a major role in how she worked people, and every time I thought I had part of the story figured out, I was thrown for another loop.

And finally, HUSH HUSH had an interesting underlying theme of good versus bad parenting, and especially as it relates to being a mother. I really liked how Ms. Lippman wove these themes into the story first by making the reader question Melisandre's actions and motivations. But I also appreciated seeing this through Tess's behavior as a mother to a challenging toddler. Carla Scout was a lot like my daughter, and I could so appreciate Tess's emotions and difficulties with controlling her behavior. There is one scene in particular in a market that brought back nightmares to me!

HUSH HUSH would make a great book club pick. I wasn't able to find a formal discussion guide on-line but I don't think one is necessary. There is a great deal to discuss about parenting and mother/child relationships. In addition, there are some issues relating to both Tess's and Sandy's personal lives that might be interesting to analyze. Some of the themes you might want to explore include parenting styles, marriage, the insanity plea, depression, and parental guilt.

I'm not the only one that's glad to see Tess back. Check out this new site devoted to HUSH HUSH!

I loved HUSH HUSH and can't wait to see what Lippman next brings to the table! Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read. Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Kid Konnection: The Zodiac Legacy: Convergence

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week, I'm going to share with you a new Disney illustrated middle-grade novel from Stan Lee.

Summary: Stan Lee presents a brand new, magical, super-powered adventure! When twelve magical superpowers are unleashed on the world, a Chinese-America teenager named Steven will be thrown into the middle of an epic global chase. He’ll have to master strange powers, outrun super-powered mercenaries, and unlock the mysterious powers of the Zodiac. -- Disney Press

You might be surprised to find that I am reviewing THE ZODIAC LEGACY: CONVERGENCE by Stan Lee, Stuart Moore, and Andie Tong for this week's Kid Konnection post. I'm not exactly the ideal audience for this new series of books by the famous comic creator Stan Lee; however, I admit that I was intrigued by the premise. And, I figured it might be a fun read for Booking Son since he is the target audience!

THE ZODIAC LEGACY: CONVERGENCE begins when a Chinese-American 14 year old boy named Steven is touring a museum in China. When he hears a strange sound behind a set of doors, he decides to follow it and finds himself in a major adventure that pits two warring factions, each with animal powers from the Chinese zodiac, against each other in a quest to change the world.

When Steven leaves the group of fellow students to follow the screams, he is face-to-face with Maxwell, a war contractor who is trying to take control of the various zodiac powers. Maxwell is fighting for total control of the dragon power with Jasmine, the leader of the other group. Steven gets caught up in the supernatural power fight when he finds himself taking on the traits of the tiger symbol. As Maxwell's group travels around the world trying to find more "hosts" for the powers, Jasmine and Steven (and the rest of her group) try to get to them first and sway them to the "good" side.

Steven is not only physically tested with his new superpowers, but he is also emotionally tested. He questions whom he can trust while also doubting his ability to save the world from Maxwell's dangerous plans!

I'm pretty sure I'm not the best person to be reviewing THE ZODIAC LEGACY: CONVERGENCE. It's not a book I would normally pick up, nor do I know much about this genre in general. So keep that in mind when I share with you a few of my thoughts!

I did enjoy THE ZODIAC LEGACY: CONVERGENCE, and I definitely think it's a great start to a planned trilogy. The book is action-packed and I suspect it will appeal to boys in general and even some reluctant readers. It will also probably appeal to fans of Stan Lee's! The pace of the book is extremely quick and I actually flew through the story. There was a nice blend of action scenes along with some intriguing points about Steven's characters too.

The artwork is just fantastic, although I'd expect nothing less from the authors. I thought the illustrations were the perfect complement to the story, and I really did enjoy taking the time to look at them. Fans of comics and graphic novels should go crazy over how awesome these drawings are.

One thing that stood out to me about THE ZODIAC LEGACY: CONVERGENCE was how well the story ended. Just when I thought things might be a tad bit predictable, I was blown away by the ending. That's not to say that I was blindsided though. Rather, I loved how the book wrapped up (or should I say ended up with more questions than answers). What brought it to the next level to me was that there were enough clues that the ending actually did make sense... in a twisted way.

I wanted to give you an idea of THE ZODIAC LEGACY: CONVERGENCE, so I decided to also include this video. Pretty cool, right?

Overall, I enjoyed THE ZODIAC LEGACY: CONVERGENCE despite not being the target audience for it. I am actually looking forward to the second installment just to see what's next in store for Steven!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Review: Reunion

Summary: The author of the highly acclaimed The Fates Will Find Their Way returns with a novel about a far-flung family reunited for one weekend by their father's death.

Five minutes before her flight is set to take off, Kate Pulaski, failed screenwriter and newly failed wife with scarcely a hundred dollars to her name, learns that her estranged father has killed himself. More shocked than saddened by the news, she gives in to her siblings' request that she join them, along with her many half-siblings and most of her father's five former wives, in Atlanta, their birthplace, for a final farewell.

Written with huge heart and bracing wit, REUNION takes place over the following four days, as family secrets are revealed, personal foibles are exposed, and Kate-an inveterate liar looking for a way to come clean-slowly begins to acknowledge the overwhelming similarities between herself and the man she never thought she'd claim as an influence, much less a father. Hannah Pittard's "engaging and vigorous"* prose masterfully illuminates the problems that can divide modern families--and the ties that prove impossible to break. (*Chicago Tribune) - Grand Central Publishing

When I saw down to write a review this morning, I realized that I never shared my thoughts with you about the novel REUNION by Hannah Pittard. I read this one quite a few months ago and enjoyed it quite a bit at the time. The book centered around a dysfunctional individual who was part of a dysfunctional family, and I found the story to be both entertaining and enlightening.

REUNION tells the story of Kate Pulaski, a former screenwriter who has recently cheated on her husband. She is pretty much down on her luck -- both career-wise and marriage-wise; and she's majorly in debt. She is on an airplane waiting for takeoff one day when she plays her phone messages... out loud. She discovers that her estranged father has just killed himself and that her siblings want her to join them for the sendoff. This means not only her brother and sister with whom she is actually somewhat close, but her father's five ex-wives and her many half-siblings... with whom she isn't all that close.

The rest of the novel takes place in a few days as the family comes together for the final farewell. Secrets are revealed and Hannah begins to see that she and her father have more in common that she ever knew. It's a time for Hannah to not only learn more about her estranged father but also her own self.

I found REUNION to be a terrific read! I'm sure you can tell that Hannah was a deeply flawed character; however, that aspect of the story made it all the more appealing to me. The beauty of this novel wasn't necessarily in the actually story itself (although I did enjoy it). Rather, it was Hannah's character and her narration of the novel which brought it to the next level to me.

Hannah was a piece of work, and frankly, I had a hard time liking her. Her self-absorption, immaturity, and self-pity were extreme (albeit entertaining in a twisted way); and her "journey" and/or self-discovery were interesting to say the least. I am pretty sure that some readers will hate Hannah, or at the very least, want to knock her upside the head every now and then. I just chose to accept her and she even managed me to laugh more than a few times.

I was pretty sure I knew where this novel was going. Heck it's about a dysfunctional family, an immature women, and saying good bye to her estranged father. And while, I wasn't exactly surprised by how everything worked out, I was impressed with how the author got there. I found Ms. Pittard's writing to be fresh, smart, and humorous; and I especially enjoyed her first person portrayal of Hannah. I haven't read any other books by Ms. Pittard, but I wouldn't hesitate to pick up her first book THE FATES WILL FIND THEIR WAY.

I do think REUNION would make a terrific book club pick -- if nothing more than to discuss Hannah and her self-absorption. There are quite a few relevant topics to discuss like family, marriage, secrets, honestly, forgiveness, redemption, siblings, and responsibility. Since so many of Hannah's actions are kind of/sort of questionable, I do believe that they should generate quite a bit of passionate discussion.

I totally enjoyed REUNION -- both because of the wonderful writing and the interesting characters. Highly recommended.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Review: The Circle

Summary: When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency. As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company’s modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO. Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in the world—even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge. -- Vintage

This month, my book club read THE CIRCLE by Dave Eggers. I had a feeling that someone would pick this novel because a few of the members in my group had already read this book and loved it. I admit that I did think many of the subjects in this story would make for a compelling discussion, but I was less than thrilled by the length of this book. (I know that sounds awful, but I really have a hard time with books around 500 pages!)

THE CIRCLE is a dystopian tale about what could happen if social media could totally infiltrate all aspects of our lives. Mae Holland was thrilled when she was hired by the Circle, the world's most influential company. The company had the best and the brightest employees and its campus location made it possible for employees to get almost everything they need in one place. The Circle was a company that combined almost all things "internet" including email, banking, purchases, and more. The goal was total transparency -- scary, right?

Mae loves her job and the perks that come with it. She even manages to make some friends and find a romantic interest... or two. However, her world drastically changes when her role at the Circle becomes increasingly visible to everyone in the world! Can Mae balance her desire to do well at the Circle with her and her family's personal privacy? Needless to say, Mae's new responsibilities bring to light many relevant issues about privacy, transparency, and the greater good of society.

THE CIRCLE was a very good book club selection; however, I didn't love it like I had hoped. Truth be told, I think I'm the only member of my book club that didn't rave about this novel. Maybe I had my expectations set too high, but the book just seemed a little far-fetched to me. I guess what I'm saying is that the story was book was good -- not great, and I did think the story dragged in quite a few places. I just wanted more from the character development, the suspense aspects of the story, and the way the novel ended.

Having said that, I do think THE CIRCLE was very interesting and I appreciated how the author gave readers so much to think about. His thinly veiled references to Twitter, Facebook, Google and how much they can affect our lives was no doubt fascinating (and a little scary!), and I loved how he showed how social media and our "obligation" to it can take over our lives. I also really enjoyed seeing some relevant issues addressed like the pros and cons of privacy and transparency. There is absolutely no doubt that this novel made me think, often times in an uncomfortable way; and it did generate a lot of discussion for our group.

What fell short for me in THE CIRCLE was the actual story itself. I really didn't like Mae and never truly felt an affinity for her. I realize it isn't supposed to matter whether I liked her or not, but I just couldn't overcome my many issues with her character. In addition, I felt like parts of the novel (and one major one in particular) were very predictable... almost so much so that I rolled my eyes when the surprise was finally revealed.

And realize when I say this that most of my book club disagreed with me... but I thought the way the book rose to its "suspenseful" conclusion was just plain silly. The book just got too over-the-top for me. I realize that the author was probably trying to make his points (and build suspense) with his descriptions of the shark tank and more, but it just wasn't my cup of tea nor all that effective.

Despite my feelings about THE CIRCLE, I am glad that I read it; and it definitely made for an interesting discussion. One thing we enjoyed talking about is how different our kids are with social media. There is definitely less transparency, both a good thing and a bad thing in my opinion; and things that make my generation cringe will probably not be an issue in just a few more years. We also talked about bit about some of the literary elements the author used to make his point. You can probably tell by now that I was generating this aspect of the discussion.

There is a reader's guide with 19 questions, but unfortunately we didn't use it. Our discussion was pretty lively, but I do think it might have helped us to cover even more. Some of the themes you might want to explore include privacy, memories, transparency, honestly, secrets, progress, technology, future, past, health care, and sacrifices.

Overall, THE CIRCLE is an interesting read about technology and our future. Recommended to fans of suspense and dystopian stories.