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Name:      Educated
Author:    Tara Westover
Rating:     4.5    This book challenged me. Yet, once I got past the Westover’s junkyard and herbal world, I was mesmerized by Tara’s journey.

Skip factor: 8%    At around 30% I called a friend and asked if the story improved. I did not like the junkyard or herbal lore at all. However, I hung in there and once I worked through that beginning section, I couldn’t put it down.

Who should read? Deep-thinkers, people inspired by education, hard-workers who themselves have risen out of poverty, and lovers of the English language—young and old.

Summary: This is the memoir of Tara Westover, the seventh and youngest child of Val and LaRee Westover. She was born in her childhood home which sat on the side of a mountain in Provo, Utah. The month of her birth was September of 1986, but the actual date is unknown. Her birth was unrecorded, as were most of her sibling’s births. She grew up in a Mormon family littered with racism and anti-Semitism. She worked in her father’s junkyard for much of her youth and often encountered dangerous, life-threatening tasks at his direction. She had no formal education until she was seventeen years old and received no home-schooling from her family. Her mother was well-versed in and revered for her herbal remedies and mid-wife expertise. Her father, along with her older brother Shawn, suffered mental illness and Tara and her siblings were often abused.

This is the story of a young girl’s metamorphosis, her rise from the ashes of her parent’s scrapheap despite all odds. Her father believed the end of the world was imminent and the government against him. His mental illness led to many hardships over the years, for not only him but his wife and children as well.

Inspired by a brother who left the family to attend college, she accepted a friend’s offer to teach her to read. She enrolled in college against all odds and was forced to choose between her family and her education. Despite her passion to learn and the education she eventually received, her mind sometimes led her back to the rudimentary fundamentalist viewpoint of her father, making her question much throughout her educational journey. She had never even heard of the holocaust until she was in college.

Characters: Lots of great books have unlikeable characters, and while I found myself rooting for Tara throughout the book, I wasn’t in love with any of the characters. I was shocked by many. Disgusted with others. Westover created very “real” people, but many confound me. I was baffled by them more than like them. Yet, they interested me. The characters that stood out the most to me were:

Tara: Of course, I rooted for her all the way, but I never felt close to her. She had an aloofness about her. Because of her upbringing, her personality held a protective emotional shield that prevented people from knowing her well—even, to some degree, her readers. Simply, I couldn’t get close.
Her mother: Simply put, I did not like her for the fact she sided with her husband, who had mental challenges, over her children. Period.
Her father: I couldn’t understand and felt no compassion for him whatsoever. Lots of people have a mental illness, but they are not as evil as this man. He hid his sins behind religion.
Shawn: The abusive brother I felt differently about. Although I adamantly disliked him at times for the pain he caused family members and women, every once in a while you’d see a spark of kindness. Confusing, as the results of mental illness can be.
Minor characters I liked: Brothers Richard and Tyler were compassionate. I was fond of both of them along with Tara’s Grandmother who offered to take her to Arizona and enroll her in school. I felt disappointed Tara didn’t leave with her. Just that she offered made me like her.
Other minor characters: I wasn’t drawn to any others, not one. (And especially not to her only sister, Audrey, who in the end hurt rather than helped her.) Because many of the minor characters were introduced to me through Tara’s eyes, they seemed impersonal. Toward the end of the novel, a softness seemed to develop in Westover. She looked at later roommates and people more compassionately, seemingly letting her guard down and consequently, I liked those characters a bit more.

Storyline: The story does come across as a bit unbelieve. I did read several online articles that stated fact-finding had been extensive. That the author herself included footnotes when her memory differed from one of her siblings, gave credibility to her story. That there is a Tara Westover, who was born without record, attended college, completed her master and doctorate degrees in England, further substantiates her story—at least in my mind it does. I’ll let the rest of you decide for yourselves.

Writing style: This woman’s writing is exquisite. Not much more to say. That she rose out of such poverty to champion the English language is remarkable.

Read this author again: Maybe. I’m not often fond of non-fiction, but Westover’s writing is superb, so I may attempt another.

Read on!
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CJ Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene, a psychological thriller, and Dream Wide Awake and Project Dream, two thrillers that carry a paranormal element. These last two novels were inspired by Zahner’s own experiences. See the video of her own paranormal experience, a premonition of 9/11 here. Download her Beyond Reality Radio podcast here. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, BookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.

The Secret History

Name:                             The Secret History

Author:                             Donna Tartt

Rating:                              4

General Rating:

A perfect beginning. I may have read this entirely because of the first few pages. Let me be clear up front; I didn’t understand this novel but could hardly put it down. I read the opening once and then slipped it back onto the bookshelf when my book club considered reading it. (I hate reading books too early and forgetting important parts.) But I couldn’t stop thinking about the beginning.

Skip factor:

10% and I can’t believe I skipped this little. After all, I DNF Middlesex for Greek detail.

Who should read?:

English majors, Greek Mythology lovers, attention-to-detail readers. This is the most perplexing question for this book as I have no idea why I couldn’t put it down.

Summary:          Richard Papen works his way into the classes of college instructor Julian Morrow at a small Vermont College. There he befriends, Henry, Bunny, Francis, and twins Camille and Charles. Morrow teaches them about Greek bacchanalia and/or the Dionysian Mysteries (which I admit, proudly, I had to look up and am not sure I even placed in the sentence properly.) These teachings have, before Richard enters the class, inspired the members of that odd group to make a sacrificial murder—which leads to a second murder.

That second murder is of one of its own—Bunny. No spoiler here. This secret is told upfront, which may be part of the reason I could not put the book down. The entire novel has to do with how they lived after Bunny’s murder.

Characters:        The bizarreness of these characters superseded any dislike I had for them. I wanted, needed, to hear more. Maybe their behavior flabbergasted me. Here are the characters in preference order:

Bunny – If I came close to liking a character, it was Bunny. Somewhere, I’m sure there is a psychologist, possibly of Greek descent, clumping personalities of people who read this novel into flawed groups depending on who their favorite Secret History character was. Bunny’s character goes so against my grain I found myself cheering for him. He’s a fake, uncaring, and relies on the favors of friends to get through life to a point of exasperation.  But he is also a cheery bloke you can’t help find yourself smiling over when he works his way onto a page. I couldn’t wait to see what he would do next.

Camille – Everyone loves Camille, including her brother—a little too much. Yet Camille is not enamored by anyone. She has an admiration for Henry, who is their mysterious, well-read, gardening leader.

Henry – I like Henry more than Richard because, like the characters in the book, I was drawn to his strange, independent mentality. He seemed to think himself Greek God-like. He has lots of money and is the master manipulator of the group. Henry calls the shots.

Richard – Dull and boring, but it reminded me of—was it Daisy’s cousin?—the narrator in The Great Gatsby. Richard is the newcomer to the group. For lack of a better word, he’s detached. He seldom shows emotion, yet he is unwaveringly loyal to the group.

Francis and Charles – I can’t decide the order. They were the most insecure of the group. Alcoholics (although they all probably were). Sometimes gay, sometimes not, with Charles having an incestuous spark. I liked them less and less as the book went on. For a while, I experienced a soft spot for Francis, but that washed away toward the end. Simply, I have no idea why these were my two least favorite characters. I almost lumped Richard with them and might have had I not been astounded by his detached nature. I’m sure there is some flaw deep down inside me for liking these two the least.

Storyline:            I’ll be frank. I didn’t understand it. If I were younger, taking this for a class, or not ADHD, I’d google this book and delve into Greek Mythology, or story, whichever needed, and search for meaning. But I’m old and the ship sailing toward old Greece (remember? I didn’t finish Middlesex) left the docks a long time ago.

Still. I’m rating this a four because I simply couldn’t stop reading THE STORY, which highlights a character, whom I didn’t like, and his life before and after Bunny’s murder. His life was mundane afterward. I kept thinking, really? You’re going to sit and read?

See what I mean? Confusing.

Writing:              Superb. I highlighted quotes and will use some. Already have. While Tartt’s attention to detail was too intense for me, she does command a reader’s attention by a sweet rhythm of words.

Read this author again? I’m not sure. Because she is such a good writer, I’m willing to try. I’m not sure the story of The Goldfinch will be enough to keep me reading and skipping past the detail as this one did. I’ll let you know.

Read on!

 

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CJ Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene, a psychological thriller, and Dream Wide Awake and Project Dream, two thrillers that carry a paranormal element. These last two novels were inspired by Zahner’s own experiences. See the video of her own paranormal experience, a premonition of 9/11 here. Download her Beyond Reality Radio podcast here. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, BookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.

Defending Jacob

Name:                        Defending Jacob

Author:                      William Landay

Rating:                       5

General Rating:        This novel is great from the beginning, meaty in the middle, and unable-to-put-down in the end. One of my all-time favorites, Defending Jacob is one of only two books I’ve read cover to cover twice. The surprise for me? I didn’t skip a word during the second read and if you’ve read my reviews, you know I’m a skipper. Love, love, love, love, loved this one.

Skip factor:               

0%  (A double zero, actually.)

Who should read:            

Adults, men and women, and especially parents.

Summary:  This is the story of a father, Andy Barber, and his unending defense of his son, Jacob. The title is perfect. Told from Andy’s perspective, the novel unfolds through a parent’s eyes and thoughts. Andy is a District Attorney who finds his son is a suspect in a murder case.

Characters:  After reading this twice, I had to ask myself if I had a connection with the characters. While I normally evaluate characters along the way, the compelling storyline of this novel kept me thinking of nothing more than what would happen next. After sitting back and evaluating, I realize part of the reason I loved the book so much was due to the characters.

Andy – I loved the voice of this novel and the voice is Andy’s. Brilliantly, he poses questions to the reader because what would a parent do if their son was accused of murder? How loyal would they be? When damning evidence arises, the reader doesn’t realize that Andy uses trial-attorney charm to coax them to his side. He drags empathy from the readers like a defense attorney from a jury.

Laurie –  Jacob’s mother is portrayed perfectly. She’s honest. She poses questions that sometimes floor her husband. She asks what the readers can’t. Always secondary to Andy, Laurie often depicted the undulating emotion that a parent of a child accused of murder might truly feel.

Jacob – Perfect. You aren’t exactly sure what he feels, so none of the story is revealed through Jacob. Readers are left guessing about his true nature. Is he narcissistic? Or just a teenager boy being careless in his teenage world? I volleyed these two opinions throughout the novel.

Minor characters – I did not like the prosecuting attorney, as I’m sure was the author’s intention. The author introduces all characters through Andy’s eyes. The kids interviewed were interesting and added to the story at exactly the time needed. Andy’s legal friends seemed authentic—torn, loyal, empathetic, and a bit judging all in one. They help make the story believable.

Storyline: This is a great storyline. What makes it superior to other novels is its tone and the author’s writing style.

Writing style:    POV is on cue, flawless. The entire tale unfolds through Andy’s eyes only. This is single POV at its best.

Landay’s writing is flawless. He doesn’t overwrite scenes. There are no too-wordy descriptions. He shows and tells magnificently. He “tells” interestingly by using Andy’s inner thoughts.

The story is believable. Landay’s readers feel as if they’re sitting in the courtroom during the day and go home with Andy at night.

When people ask me to recommend a book, I tell them Defending Jacob, hands down.

Read this author again: Yes. Because I loved his writing, I’ll read any novel by this author. I need to sort through my to-read list and open up space for one.

Read on!

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CJ Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene, a psychological thriller, and Dream Wide Awake and Project Dream, two thrillers that carry a paranormal element. These last two novels were inspired by Zahner’s own experiences. See the video of her own paranormal experience, a premonition of 9/11, or listen to its podcast. Download her Beyond Reality Radio interview or listen to its apple podcast. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, BookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.

 

 

Who Would You Pick to Sell Erie?

I love this city. All I ask is that those of you who don’t, keep your thoughts to yourself and let the rest of us flaunt our strengths.

Today we’re on the front page of the New York Times. Recently, we were the location of a Discovery Channel’s reality TV show that’s making all sorts of headlines. Last spring, Scott Slawson, the president of GE’s labor union spoke at Bernie Sander’s presidential campaign announcement.

Whether we know it or not, we are under the watchful eye of the country—smack dab in the middle of the next presidential election—out in the open for all of the country to see.

Let’s flaunt our assets.

A diamond in the rough

I worked at City Hall for twenty years. I continually said we can’t compete with southern cities where wind chills hardly dip below freezing, but we can compete with other northern cities.

We are two hours from Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Buffalo. Four from Toronto and Columbus. Six from Baltimore and Washington D.C. Eight hours, give or take, from Chicago, New York City, and Boston. Our location is one of our greatest assets.

We have fresh water, a Great Lake, beaches, the bayfront, Peninsula, three colleges at our fingertips, a fortune 500 company adding to our downtown tax base, impressive small-town culture venues, a plethora of  nearby wineries,  Knowledge Park, the Gannon Business Development Center, a multitude of  innovative start-up companies, a lot of energy, and deep-rooted hope.

We’re tough. We don’t hibernate in the winter, and we celebrate summer as well as any other city with concerts and events happening every single day all over town. We know how to live.

Let’s sell ourselves!

Erie needs its most outgoing, positive, intelligent business, political, and economic leaders to set up a team and sell our city. The team can’t be comprised of good old boys. It must be energetic men and women who love this city. People who have built thriving businesses or led successful Erie events—and not just on paper. (Anyone can fudge results.)

I’ll say it again because this is vital. I have three children who moved out of Erie to secure decent, living-wage jobs. All three are educated beyond college. We must find ways to keep our kids here. There are some great new start-up companies in Erie. Let’s support them. When we devise our sales team, bring some of these entrepreneurs to the table.

One-time opportunity

This, today, is an opportunity for our political and economic leaders to step up to the plate. We need one unified organization that will work for the good of the entire city—not a multitude of organizations and teams working for themselves.

I can suggest names of a few successful, energetic Erieites I’d like to see on our city’s sales team: Mayor Joe Schember (he loves this city as much as I do), business-woman Michelle Griffith-Aresco (sorry, Michelle, I know how busy you are), United Way’s Laurie Root, the Children’s Art Museum’s Ainslee Brosig.

Do you have ideas? I invite you to add names in the comments.

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CJ Zahner has lived in Erie her entire life. She retired from the City of Erie to pursue her dream of writing. She is the author of The Suicide GeneDream Wide Awake and Project Dream. See the video of her 9/11 premonition which inspired two novels. Download her Beyond Reality Radio podcast, and follow her on Instagram, TwitterFacebook, Goodreads, BookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.

Where the Crawdads Sing

Name:                        Where the Crawdads Sing

Author:                      Delia Owens

Rating:                       4

General Rating:

What’s all the fuss about? I liked this book. I did. But, meh, wait until the dust settles to read. I was over 2000 on the waiting list at the Philadelphia Free Library to borrow this book. It’s not that wait worthy. I give this a 4 only because I loved the writing. In comparison, I looked forward to reading it as much as I did Baldacci’s Absolute Power and Moriarity’s The Hypnotist’s Love Story. I liked the plot and story in the other two more, but Crawdads had the best writing, by far.

Skip factor:               

3% I could not take all the marsh information. I tried but TMI.

Who should read:            

Most women and especially any back-to-nature people. (Back-to-nature folks will skip 0%.)

Summary:  This is the story of a ten-year-old girl, Kya, who is deserted in a North Carolina marshland and must learn to survive on her own. Her mother and siblings leave by the time Kya is six. Her father stays, but comes and goes until finally, he leaves for good when she is ten. To prevent a spoiler, I’ll summarize by saying she befriends a kind boy who teaches her to read, a not-so-kind boy who says he loves her but doesn’t, and a few other people in a nearby town who help her survive until she creates a way to sustain herself.

CharactersI did not feel a connection with any of them:

Kya Clark –  Kya is a strong female character with aloof qualities that living in solitude might relay. She does not have a big personality. Yet, you root for this ten-year-old. She must learn survival skills on her own. And while she is somewhat unbelievable to me, the author was so knowledgeable about wildlife and the marshlands she had me wonder if a child could survive out there alone.

Chase Andrews – Chase, who loves the marshland, befriends Kya, teaches her to read, and falls in love with her before going away to college. He promises to say goodbye and then—going against every grain of his character—doesn’t. He leaves but much later redeems himself. I won’t say how. No spoilers.

Other characters – I didn’t like Tate, which I’m sure the author intended. I liked the man at the store (although obviously not that much as I can’t remember his name) and his wife Mabel but didn’t feel the connection with them I thought the author was trying to evoke. I liked the police investigators, and although there were times they were funny, I didn’t love them.

Storyline: Is it believable? No, but here’s where I go against my grain. Typically, I pay no mind to where an author went to school or grew up. I’ve read lots of books written by Ivy School grads that I DNF. But because I loved Owens’ writing, I googled her to find out how she learned to mix words so well. Astonishingly, I found she’s a zoologist. So I sat back and reevaluated the storyline. Is it believable?

Still no. To be believable, Kya 1) would have been more aloof and recluse (a duller story) and 2)  would have had much more trouble alone in that marshland (a more depressing story). Additionally, Chase walking away without even a goodbye but continuing to love her for years? Fairy tale fiction.

Writing style:    The writing is flawless and that is why this is worth the read. I loved her dialogue, and while, again, I am not a fan of setting description, the author’s wonderful word mixing led me much deeper into scene description than I would go for any other author. Sometimes, in those marsh descriptions that I typically would have loathed, I found myself saying, “Wow, what a clever way to describe that,” which is the only reason I skipped so little.

There is also clever symbolism between the marsh and life that is worth a ponder.

Read this author again: Because I loved her writing, I’ll try reading another of this author’s books. If there is too much nature-loving description in that one, I’ll give it a miss and return it to the library early. However, I’ll just quietly walk away. Won’t add it to my Books I Almost Read category. Her writing is too good to tarnish with a DNF.

Read on!

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CJ Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene, a psychological thriller, and Dream Wide Awake and Project Dream, two thrillers that carry a paranormal element. These last two novels were inspired by Zahner’s own experiences. See the video of her own paranormal experience, a premonition of 9/11 here. Download her Beyond Reality Radio podcast here. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, BookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.

 

Beyond Reality Radio Interview

Have you had a premonition? Apparition? Seen a ghost? If you’re enamored by the unexplained, tune in to Beyond Reality Radio (BRR).

I recently had the opportunity to be interviewed on BRR about the childhood attic experience, 9/11 premonition, and church apparition that led to my novels Dream Wide Awake and Project Dream.

Please listen to my interview on Youtube at CJ Zahner on Beyond Reality Radio. I’d love for you to hit the thumbs up button and like if you enjoy!

The host and interviewer, JV Johnson, was awesome. He made my debut radio interview a positive, comfortable experience. Since that interview, I’ve discovered several other past discussions on various subjects. You can search http://beyondrealityradio.com/past-shows/ for past topics.

If you listened to the interview and have questions for me, or if you’ve had a premonition or apparition you’d like to share, please email me at cyndie@cyndiezahner.com. I’d love to hear from you!

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CJ Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene, a psychological thriller, and Dream Wide Awake and Project Dream, two paranormal thrillers. These last two novels were inspired by Zahner’s own real-life experiences. See the video of her 9/11 premonition here. Listen to her Beyond Reality Radio interview about her premonitions/apparitions here. Purchase her books on Amazon. Follow her on InstagramTwitterFacebookGoodreads, BookBub, or LinkedIn.

What I saw in the Chapel

What was that? Am I crazy? Or am I having (gulp)—a vision?

At the risk of sounding deranged and for the lack of a better description, I’m admitting I experience occasional, brief, inexplicit “movies in my head” without reason. These little episodes surprise me in different settings: at home while relaxing on the couch, at my workplace, the bank while talking to a teller, or in a chapel while I’m praying. This last setting was the inspiration for the first chapter in my new novel, Project Dream.

What happens in the book is much more melodramatic than my real-life experience because, well, because I write fiction and real-life isn’t all that exciting. So here’s what I conjured up:

In Project Dream, ten-year-old Izzy Jimenez visits a chapel in San Diego, California. An angel appears. The ghostly spirit swoops down and begs Izzy to dissuade a forlorn woman in that chapel from going to New York City. Reluctantly, Izzy approaches the woman and relays the advice of the angel (who she thinks is the woman’s mother). The woman asks Izzy what the angel’s name is. Izzy doesn’t know. She doesn’t hear the angels, only sees them, but they do give her signs.

“Wait!” Izzy says. The spirit opens her arms. She’s holding roses. “Rose? Is your mother’s name Rose?” And with that verification of the mother’s name—walla—the woman cancels her trip. Izzy has saved her life.

Was that the real-life story?

No. I wish it was. My 9/11 vision (read that story) was so vague, it helped no one. I often question why I had it. I knew a building would collapse and I suspected people would lose their lives, but I had no idea where the building was located other than somewhere in northeastern America near a body of water.

The single advantage of that premonition was personal confirmation. That vision made me, CJ Zahner, believe I wasn’t crazy. It was too accurate to be coincidental.

But I digress, what actually happened in the chapel?

Many years ago, a new friend asked if I would like to visit a side chapel of a Catholic church—not in San Diego, but in Erie, Pennsylvania.

The chapel struck me as lovely. I knelt beside my friend and immediately began praying. I don’t recall who I prayed for, probably my kids. Regardless, there I was—minding my own business praying—when I had this swooshing feeling like an angel came down out of the ceiling. I attempted to ignore the sensation, blaming my wild imagination. This time, however, the woman, white spirit, ghost, whatever you would like to call her, was relentless. She wouldn’t leave.

She said, quite clearly, “My daughter doesn’t believe in this sort of thing.” She chuckled, told me she wanted her daughter to know she loved her, and just before she left, she opened her arms and showed me roses.

The dream seemed so real that I was quite shaken. When we were leaving, my friend asked what was wrong.

“You’re going to think I’m crazy,” I said. “But I think the mother of one of those women in that chapel appeared to me.”

My friend didn’t know me too well at that time so, of course, she looked at me like I was nuts. But still shook, I described what the angel relayed, and my friend became quiet.

“What was the woman’s name?” she asked.

I told her I’d seen lots of spirits, but I never seemed to get their names right. They usually only gave me feelings or showed me signs. Then I remembered the roses.

“Oh, wait,” I said. “The woman’s name may have been Rose.”

Again, silence from my friend. I was sure she thought I’d lost my mind. Finally, she spoke. “My mother’s name was Rose.”

And from that true-life experience, I conjured up the entire first chapter of Project Dream.

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CJ Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene, a psychological thriller, and Dream Wide Awake and Project Dream, two paranormal thrillers. These last two novels were inspired by Zahner’s own real-life experiences. See the video of her 9/11 premonition here. Follow her on InstagramTwitterFacebookGoodreadsBookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.

Big Little Lies

Name:                         Big Little Lies

Author:                      Liane Moriarity

Rating:                       5

General Rating:

This was a can’t-put-down novel for me. Confession: Not sure I would have LOVED this book as much if I hadn’t watched the Netflix series. Reese Wetherspoon’s voice echoed through my head with the turn of every page. (I love that girl.)

Skip factor:               

O% This doesn’t happen very often, but I skipped nothing. Not one word.

Who should read:            

Anyone who has watched the series. Women who are in their own heads too much. (You’ll identify with Maddie.) Mothers with angry teenage daughters. Rumor mongers. Women who are bored and need to spice up their life. (I say boring is good. This novel spiced up my dull little life.) Mothers who share custody of their children…oh, forget it, let’s say all women…

Summary:  I’ll attempt brevity. Jane, a single mom, enrolls her son, Ziggy, in Pirriwee School. There she meets Madeline, a head-strong, thinks-too-much, underdog-defending mother of three. Madeline takes Jane under her wing and the two of them, along with Madeline’s best friend, Celeste, take up arms when another mother, Renata, accuses Ziggy of bullying her daughter.

Celest is rich and beautiful but married to an abusive husband. Madeline is married to a good guy, but her ex-husband and his much-younger wife have moved into the Pirriwee school district. They inadvertently flaunt their life in Madeline’s face. Madeline, bitter because her ex-husband left her when her now teenage daughter was a baby, becomes outraged when that daughter opts to live with him.

The disturbing crux of this novel is Ziggy is the result of Jane’s one-night-stand turned rape. She has returned to the scene of the crime, the Pirriwee area, in hopes of finding and confronting Ziggy’s biological father.

I won’t say more than that about the story, so I don’t spoil it. I truly want you to read this one.

Here are three of the main characters whom Moriarity creates and whom I loved:

  • Madeline – love, love, laughed-out-loud loved her. She’s relentless. Her thoughts, hysterical. If you don’t love this character, you’re not human.
  • Celeste is Maddie’s best friend and the mother of twin boys. She’s so sweet you’ll adore and root for her.
  • Renata, is originally cast as the villain, but Moriarity had me loving her, hot-headedness, materialistic flaws, and all.
  • Oh, and the husbands – I didn’t care for a single one. Maybe that was Moriarity’s intention?

Storyline: Early on, the author lets you know there will be a death at a Pirriwee school function. The story unfolds through the eyes of Madeline, Jane, and Celeste. Each has their own storyline. In each chapter, Moriarity includes brief transcripts of police interviews of other school parents. Some are hilarious. Some reveal more of the back story until everything unfolds at the event.

Writing style:    The writing was superb. Moriarity has a way of allowing the readers to see past Madeline’s pettiness and take her side. Pacing was excellent. I loved the dialogue, and again, the police interviews were brief and entertaining. Evoked suspicion and interest. Perfect. Felt as if I was right there at Pirriwee school, standing beside Madeline.

Read this author again: Absolutely. Already did. See my 4-star review of The Hypnotist’s Love Story. I fully intend on reading everything Moriarity writes.

 

Read on!

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CJ Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene, a psychological thriller, and Dream Wide Awake and Project Dream, two thrillers that carry a paranormal element. These last two novels were inspired by Zahner’s own experiences. See the video of her own paranormal experience, a premonition of 9/11 here. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, BookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.

 

 

 

Books I Almost Read

Read the Pulitzer Prize winning Middlesex? Me neither.

Wandering through my seventh decade, I treasure time. I used to read the classics no matter how grueling and gut-wrenching, but now? Meh. Distinctions can be deceiving. Some of the smartest people I met over the years never earned a high-school diploma. Lots more swore off college. I’ve learned not to judge a book by its accolades.

So Pulitzer Prize and all, I’m pulling out the ladder, stepping up, and slipping Middlesex onto that top shelf I can’t reach, setting it alongside Hillbilly Elegy and Moby Dick. (Yes, it’s above me. Who cares?) I couldn’t take the Greek history or the multitudinously-lined paragraphs as I’m a fan of dialogue and white space.

My apologies to my book club. I really did try. This is only the third time they selected a book I couldn’t muddle through. The other two were Hillbilly Elegy, and (um, my sixty-two-year-old memory fails me) another one about a pig. Oh wait, there was a fourth. Some Steve Martin blunder. (Sorry, Steve. I love you otherwise.)

So now I add Middlesex to a perfectly wonderful list. These are all great books that have appealed to hundreds, thousands, of people. They just aren’t reading-in-the-backyard-with-a-cup-of-coffee worthy to me. Their skip factor was too high.

You’ll find my skip factor is what sets my reviews apart from others. I’m coming out of the bookstore closet and admitting I skip. (Gasp.) And, really, who cares if we skip a line or paragraph or book or two?

In alphabetical order, here are the books I almost read. (To see books I recommend, browse my review page.) My apologies to the authors:

Hillbilly Elegy – Skip rate 40%. I read more than half of this book. I believe the fall of the middle class is unavoidable, and I was anxious to read this story about the working-class Vance family. However, I could not get through it. Sorry to the author for what I am about to say. I felt this was a story of many Americans and the only reason this succeeded was because of the author’s ivy-league resume. He rambled on, and I kept asking myself why his thoughts were so important. (Confession: I earned straight A’s in my poor, menial, private-school college economic classes years ago but HATED the subject.) DNF (did not finish).

Middlesex – Skip rate 90%. As stated above, I just couldn’t wade through the long paragraphs and Greek history. I did want to read the story. Where it began, I do not know. For those of you who have more patience than me, carry on the read. I do think the author is a gifted writer and some will like. DNF.

Moby Dick – Skip rate ??. Honestly, I do not remember how much I read. This was years ago and I tried to read this monstrosity of a book several times. Never could. Not sure why. I went back and read the first few lines. Maybe because of the full-of-myself male voice? (The skies rumble as the Mel-admiring gods groan.) No desire to try again. DNF.

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CJ Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene, a psychological thriller, and Dream Wide Awake and Project Dream, two thrillers that carry a paranormal element. These last two novels were inspired by Zahner’s own experiences. See the video of her own paranormal experience, a premonition of 9/11 here. Follow her on InstagramTwitterFacebookGoodreadsBookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.

The Hypnotist’s Love Story

 

Here’s my take on The Hypnotist’s Love Story. I recommend this book!

Name:                         The Hypnotist’s Love Story

Author:                      Liane Moriarity

Rating:                       4

General Rating:

This novel kept me turning pages. The main character’s thoughts engaged me. I had to know what was going to happen to her.

Skip factor:               

5%. Generally, I like more dialogue. This novel held a lot of “in her head” chatter that did get to me, occasionally.

Who should read:            

Just about any woman who has ever been in love.

Summary:  This is the story of Ellen O Farrell, a hypnotherapist who has had three unsuccessful relationships. Now a thirty-something, Ellen doubts she’ll find Mr. Right. So when she meets Patrick, she is pleasantly surprised that he likes her, she likes him, and he appears normal. Patrick is widower with one son, who also seems lovely. The catch? Patrick’s ex-girlfriend—Saskia, whom he met after his wife’s death—is stalking him.

Patrick’s stalker remains in the shadows for quite a while. Ellen is both intrigued and worried by the stalker. When Saskia finally reveals herself, Ellen realizes the woman is a client of hers. A client she rather likes.

Without telling all, the relationship between Ellen and Patrick progresses, and Ellen remains unsure if Patrick really loves her.  Saskia’s stalking continues and readers constantly wonder what will happen next.

Throughout the book, I found myself wondering if Patrick truly loved Ellen. It’s  why I kept reading. Other tidbits kept me turning pages as well. Without spoiling the ending, I’ll say Moriarity took me up and down and all around before revealing Patrick AND Ellen’s true emotions.

Characters:   Moriarity engages her readers through the main character’s thoughts. To say she is deep in POV is an understatement. Every thought Ellen has is out in the open, and I loved it. While other characters were occasionally interesting, most definitely, the well-developed main character, the hypnotist, was the center appeal.

To mention a little more about other characters:

  • Patrick was aloof. I liked him, but Moriarity intentionally doesn’t reveal too much about him so readers must wonder (and worry) if he is committed to his relationship with Ellen.
  • Saskia is crazy, yes, but Moriarity creates something appealing about her also. I found myself seesawing between, “Ah the poor girl was jilted,” and “She’s freakin’ nuts.”
  • Patrick’s son is a normal child and is there more to reveal Patrick’s nature than his own.
  • Ellen’s three ex-lovers are weaved into the story to reveal more about her.
  • Others: Ellen’s mother and two godmothers, Patrick’s ex-mother- and father-in-law, and a few others I felt no attachment to whatsoever. That didn’t take away from the story. Ellen’s bigness made me love it.
  • Storyline: The start was not as interesting as some novels. Yet right away, I found myself imagining all sorts of scenarios on Ellen and Patrick’s first date. Is he crazy? Is there really a stalker? Moriarity puts enough doubt in your head to make you question everything. You become invested in Ellen’s tale. About three fourths through I grew tired of Ellen’s thoughts and felt some forced storyline. Toward the end, it picked up again. Simply, the main conflict, the hypnotist’s love story, kept me reading. There were other small conflicts here and there, but as simple as it sounds, what held my interest was finding out if Ellen’s fourth love affair would work.
  • Writing style:     The writing was superb. I’m not sure another writer could so cleverly craft a simple story and keep their reader’s attention. It wasn’t deep or insightful, but there were simple underlying life lessons. Moriarity’s descriptions are clever. Pacing is good, but generally, I like more dialogue—which is the only reason I struggled between giving this a 3.5 or a 4. Her writing boosted it upward. The book did not disappoint. Not much depth to the storyline, an easy voice, I thoroughly enjoyed the relaxed read.

Read this author again: Absolutely. Already did. See my 5-star review of Big Little Lies.

Read on!

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CJ Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene, a psychological thriller, and Dream Wide Awake andProject Dream, two thrillers that carry a paranormal element. These last two novels were inspired by Zahner’s own experiences. See the video of her own paranormal experience, a premonition of 9/11 here. Follow her on InstagramTwitterFacebookGoodreadsBookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.