Judy Blume returns for adults

23899174It’s been a hard week watching the U.S. elections. As a Canadian, I wish our neighbours to the south best of luck and suggest that they hide themselves in a good book until they have a better idea of what Trump stands for — and proceed to fight for their rights.

I recently finished Judy Blume’s In the Unlikely Event and thought it was, meh. My mistake is in thinking it’d be anything close to Summer Sisters, Judy Blume’s epic first adult book.

The story centres on a teenage girl named Miri Ammerman growing up with a single mom in Elizabeth, New Jersey in the early 1950’s. In the span of two years, three airplanes out of Newark Airport crash in Elizabeth earning it the nickname, Plane Crash City.

In the Unlikely Event is still full of believable and relatable, adolescent characters who are traversing the trials of growing up. This, Judy Blume will always excel at. But I just didn’t feel enough for the characters and I really didn’t like the ending. The story came up short for me. I’ll just stick to Summer Sisters, thank you.

It probably didn’t help that I took a two week break from reading In the Unlikely Event. I had planned to take it as plane reading materials for a trip to Asia but then decided against it. Who wants to read about plane crashes on a plane?

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The two per cent

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I took a hiatus from reading for fun. It didn’t feel right so I’m glad that’s over. I was studying for this finance test and just couldn’t commit what little free time I had to finishing a novel. I’d look at all the amazing books I had on my shelf and feel a little guilty for neglecting them. And they’d stare back and tempt me. Little bastards.

The first one I picked up again was Tom Perrotta’s The Leftovers. I’ve seen this book before but never picked it up because the cover looked boring. Yep, I judged a book by its’ cover. But now that it’s an HBO show, it has newer, dark cover art and I wanted to check it out:

Old cover:
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New cover (it’s 27% off at Indigo right now):

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I’m really glad I did because The Leftovers is an amazing read. In the not so distant future, a whopping two per cent of the world’s population disappears. One minute they’re sitting there and the next, POOF, they’re gone. The rest of the world goes into a mourning and most people think it’s something like The Rapture. But there doesn’t seem to be anything special about the people who are “chosen”. Some of them seemed like a**holes. But then what does that mean for those of us left behind?

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People try to find meaning in non-conventional ways. They’re joining weird cults, leaving their families and painfully trying to let go of the people who have disappeared. They stop buying all sorts of garbage and going to yoga (Perrotta hates yoga).

Perrotta’s characters are believable, relateable and so very broken. I couldn’t put this one down. The ending won’t satisfy most readers but only adds to the uneasiness of the story.

Interview with Robin Spano, author of Clare Vengel novels

Vengel_Dead_Politician_SocietyA while back, I discovered Robin Spano through Wattpad. She writes the Clare Vengel mysteries which are all based in Toronto. They’re great — and you can read the first book, The Dead Politician Society, for free.
What’s more, Robin was nice enough to agree to an interview with me! Unfortunately, I was a jerk and forgot to publish this until now. Sorry Robin! Luckily for you, the entire novel is now out on Wattpad so you won’t have to wait for each chapter to be revealed like I did (the suspense nearly killed me).
Describe The Dead Politician Society in 140 characters. A lighthearted mystery about politicians who are murdered and the people who might want them dead.
Why did you pick Toronto for the setting of this novel? The city and its people seem to play a big part in the story — could this have happened in any other city?
I grew up in Toronto, so it’s the city I know most intimately. It’s also where I lived when I was furious at the local political climate, so opening a novel with a dead mayor of Toronto felt poetically awesome.
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I personally love Clare because she’s so imperfect and insecure. As a young professional, I get that. What separates Clare Vengel from other fictional cops and detectives?
I think you nailed it. She’s different because she’s still learning the ropes of being an undercover cop. In the instruction books for how-to-write-a-mystery-novel, one of the cardinal rules is that the detective is supposed to be excellent at his or her job. I broke that rule.
While I think Clare has it in her to one day be a great cop, I’m more intrigued to watch her struggle toward excellence than I am to start her off as a hotshot right out of the gate. Readers can watch Clare learn and grow in each novel, and the arc of the series is a bit like a coming-of-age story.
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Did your personal politics find its way into your novel? Be truthful now, is there a municipal politician you’ve wished to off?
Yes! And he knows it. David Miller was mayor of Toronto when I wrote this book. While I loved his attitude toward arts and the environment, I felt like his government was screwing over Toronto businesses. (My husband owned a bar, so I felt this quite acutely.) Before he left office, I had the opportunity to meet Miller and explain why he had to go. He’s a mystery reader, so he was curious to read the book that he inspired. Now we’re quite friendly. (From a distance — on Twitter.)
You’re releasing Dead Politician Society for free one chapter at a time on Wattpad. In the words of Utopia Girl: “What’s in it for me, what’s in it for you?”
Dead Politician Society was published in 2010, and now there are two more books in the Clare Vengel series. (Death Plays Poker and Death’s Last Run.) As promotion for the series, my publisher, ECW Press, asked if I’d release the first one free and engage with readers in the process.

So what’s in it for you? A free read. What’s in it for me? I’m hoping to lure readers into the series with this free sample, make them want to follow Clare on her next adventures.

You can keep rereading Life After Life and never know it

life_after_lifeThat’s exactly what I wanted to do when I finished Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life. I wanted to flip back to the front cover and start all over again. And I could have because that’s what her main character Ursula does for most of her life. Lives.

Remember Choose Your Own Adventure novels? If you chose the wrong adventure, you’d wind up dead but then you’d just flip back to the previous section and choose again. That’s what Ursula Todd does in Life After Life. She winds up dead a lot but then the story starts all over again and she has the chance to choose differently (although, she’s not always sure why).

When Ursula gets to start again, you (as the reader) get to choose how to react. Sometimes, it’s a PHEW because Ursula’s life has become a train wreck. Other times, you can’t help but laugh out loud (always in public). I also loved the rich descriptions of places and times — from the British countryside to wartime London. It’s the kind of descriptors that keep you wanting more.

Judging from this novel alone, I can only conclude that Atkinson is incredibly clever. More clever than Churchill, Hitler and all the Todds combined.

One review suggested that she is perhaps, too clever. I couldn’t tell if they were sarcastic or just plain ignorant. Let’s blame sexism. I loved this one so much I could read it a thousand times again and again and again.

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Photo credits: flickr.com, flickr.com, telegraph.co.uk