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The Truth About Forever

Name:                               The Truth About Forever

Author:                              Sarah Dessen

Rating:                              5

General Rating:               A perfectly sweet book to make you forget the pandemic. This novel will make you smile. It ranks as one of my favorite YA books.

Skip factor:        >1% I barely skipped anything. A few times I was so engrossed in the story I speed-read through several paragraphs to find out what would happen. I couldn’t wait to see what was around the bend.

Who should read:           Women, young and old. This is clean and appropriate for any age. Young girls will identify with the main character, and older women will fondly remember days past.

Summary:          No spoilers. This is the story of a high school girl, Macy, whose perfect suburban world is suddenly tainted by the death of her father. She is the youngest of two children and while her older sister is a bit wild and outspoken, Macy is quiet, smart, and sensible. She was close to her dad and after his death, she folds inside herself and tries to become the perfect daughter for her mother. She has a relationship with an intelligent boy, who is driven by his life’s career goals. When he goes away for the summer to “brain camp,” Macy’s mother hires a catering service for an event, and Macy becomes enamored by the owner, Delia, and her employees. She begins working for Delia and hanging around with some of the workers, in particular, a boy named Wes. Macy’s mother believes this is the “wrong” crowd for Macy. But is it? This is a lovely story about life and growing up.

Characters:        Dessen creates simple characters, some who immediately win you over, and some who take the normal route of progression and capture your heart over time. I loved most—actually—all of them. Helplessly. I was a quarter through the book before I realized certain characters brought a smile to my face every time they walked onto a page.

Here they are in the order I liked them:

Kristy – My favorite character had a scar on her face that never inhibited her. The personality Dessen creates in Kristy is clever and vivacious. She has an extraordinary attitude and is witty. Her take on life will make you smile.

Wes– He’s cute and doesn’t know it, a talented artist and doesn’t flaunt it, and he is unimpressed with the scads of girls who “swoon” over him. Unrealistic, I know. But despite his impeccably perfect personality that seems unlikely, his simple nature has you loving him almost the moment he appears. Dessen is that good.

Macy – Macy is the type of character you want to pull out of the book and wrap your arms around. She is quiet, kind, and never speaks her mind. She is painstakingly shy, even afraid to show anger toward her mother. I routed for her from the beginning.

Minor characters – I liked the minor characters more in this book than any other novel I’ve read.

Delia – Delia is my favorite minor character. She owns the catering business. An old soul with a good grasp on life, Delia lacks the organizing skills of a normal business owner. Still, somehow, things always work out for Delia in the end. She is positivity, kindness, and chaos wrapped in one. If her charm doesn’t make you love her, her pregnancy will. She’s the perfect minor character who jumps in, flaws and all, with a perfect splash.

Caroline – Macy’s sister flits in and out. Macy mentions her “sneaking out” as a teenager so the reader gets the impression, she is a bit wild. For me, I wasn’t sure about her at first, but when she reappeared later in the book, I loved her. You see Caroline from Macy’s perspective only, which is how it should be. However pulling this off is sometimes hard for an author. Not Dessen. Caroline is one character (as is the mother) whom I learned to love over time.

Monica – This is the sister of my favorite character, Kristy. So how could Dessen make her stand out when Kristy has such a magnanimous personality? Dessen made her painfully laid back—the total opposite of Kristy. People could barely get more than an uh-huh or umm from her. It worked. I loved Monaco, too. When she finally spoke, I felt like applauding.

Bert – Brother of Wes is a nerd. He has a silly little game that he plays with his older brother, is forever awkward, and is enamored by some Sci-fi group waiting for the world to end. He adds flavor to the story. You’ll be saying, “oh boy, here he comes.”  AND. He makes you like his big brother, Wes, even more for putting up with and loving him.

The mother – You see Macy’s Mom through Macy’s eyes. She, too, evolves throughout the book, adding an unusual, almost silent, side-story to the coming-of-age plot. The woman has lost her husband and Macy doesn’t quite understand her. The mother doesn’t understand herself. She progresses in the background until she finds her own truth.

Storyline:            There are no slow parts. This story flows, page after page, flawlessly. Even the middle, which I usually struggle with, kept my attention. This is an old story dressed up by unique minor characters. Not my usual genre, but I loved.

Writing:              Dessen’s writing is superb. Not much else to say. Her plot and characters keep your attention. This is the first novel I’ve read by this author and honestly, I googled her to find out where she went to school. How she learned to write so well.

Read this author again? Yes. Three-fourths of the way through this book, I realized I would be done soon, panicked, and took out another Dessen book from my library online. I can’t afford to buy them all!

Read on!

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CJ Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene, a psychological thriller, Dream Wide Awake and Project Dream, two thrillers that carry a sixth-sense paranormal element, and Friends Who Move Couches, women’s fiction. 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 InstagramTwitterFacebookGoodreadsBookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.

 

The Silent Patient

Name:                               The Silent Patient

Author:                              Alex Michaelides

Rating:                              4

General Rating:      This is totally my type of book, what I call an in-your-head novel. I dislike books with long, drawn-out descriptions. This story is to the point. Has much dialogue. And is an easy read while hiding a complicated plot.

Skip factor:     0% This is one of those few books where I did not skip a word.

Who should read:         People who do not like descriptions of settings, people’s looks, or places. This is an in-the-head book. The plot consumes you.

Summary:          No spoilers. This is the story of a psychotherapist who believes his wife is cheating on him. He begins a new job and immediately throws himself into helping a single client whose case he is familiar with. So not to spoil it, I’ll say there is a murder and throughout the entire book, you will ask yourself who really killed the person? Is it this character? Or this one? Who’s crazy?

Characters:        Despite the depth Michaelides creates for each character, you do not have to go back and reread sections to clarify traits. This varies from most thrillers I’ve read where I am saying What? And then thumbing back through pages or zipping through screen after screen to find what I am remembering that has confused me. I’m not sure how the author did this, but I always felt the next clue would be in a future chapter, never in a past one.

Having said that, this is another book where I did not feel connected to any character. Another novel where I was concentrating so greatly on the plot, the character’s personalities were clues only. I never asked myself if I liked any of them until I had nearly finished the novel. The way this author writes is that good.

Here are the characters I remember:

Alicia – If I came close to liking a character, it was Alicia, the accused murderess. I rode the roller coaster of she-did-it-she-didn’t up and down and throughout. The element of surprise from this, the silent patient, character intrigued me. She kept me guessing.

Theo– The psychotherapist. This is to the author’s credit: I was about three-fourths through the book before I realized I had no attachment to him. I asked myself why. He’s believable as a psychotherapist. Think of how you read a document written by a doctor or how you listen to a doctor give a diagnosis. You listen to their words. You’re hanging onto their diagnosis, suggestions, or whatever they are relaying. Their words are important, not them. It never occurs to you that this is a person with a life, family. Theo was that believable. Throughout most of the book, I thought only of what he was saying. Additionally, he was believable. I imagine the author did much research on psychotherapy. I actually expected him to have a psychology background.

Minor characters – People came in out. Kathy, Theo’s wife; Yuri, a co-worker; Max, the adopted brother of the victim entered and exited scenes perfectly. While I neither liked nor disliked them, I studied everyone. Each character held a connection to the storyline. They were necessary.

Storyline:            There are slow parts in the middle like every book. I’ve heard some reader’s criticisms, and a few times, I thought I might end up rating this a 3 or 3.5 at best. That feeling did not last long. In all, I found the story magnificently plotted and the lives intricately pieced together. This is my type of puzzle. Towards the end, I couldn’t put down.

Writing:              Not sure how to evaluate the writing. Again, this is my style. I hate long paragraphs that describe settings. I am more a “people” person, always wondering what is going on inside someone’s head. If you are the sort who remembers what someone was wearing, their eye color, or the smell of their perfume, you may not like this as much as I did. If you are like me, always asking What did they mean by that statement? Why was this character introduced? I believe you’ll enjoy this one immensely.

And if you like strong dialogue? You’ll love. Nature lovers, interior decorators, people who like physical detail? Not as much.

Read this author again? OMG absolutely.

Read on!

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CJ Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene, a psychological thriller, Dream Wide Awake and Project Dream, two thrillers that carry a sixth-sense paranormal element, and Friends Who Move Couches, women’s fiction. 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 InstagramTwitterFacebookGoodreadsBookBubor LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.

To Mom, With Love

Dear Mom,

We had some great times in our little family, didn’t we?

I stayed right beside you while Jessie, Zak, and Jilly grew up and moved away. I nuzzled Furgy back yardnext to your feet after you retired and sat alone writing. I ran with you. (Remember those days?) We spent time together on warm summer mornings on the Peninsula when Dad went to work. (Remember the turtles?) You snuck me lots of treats when Zak and Dad weren’t around. (The doctor said I was fat.) We hiked through tons of forests. (I got ticks but it was worth it!) We welcomed Layla into our family. (Isn’t she just perfect?) And Bandit, Peanut, and Peaches. (I love them, too!) We traveled to lots of states and cities! Visited tons of parks! Swam in lakes and creeks. Played catch. Rolled in grass and sand and snow!

In the past few months, I traveled back and forth to Raleigh with you and helped make moving away from the house you raised your children in and your great friends easier.

I know you love me, Mom, but it’s time. I’m tired. I don’t think you will ever stop loving me, but this is the best time for me to leave you. You are in a nice new place by Jilly now. (Maybe Zak will move there and you can catch a plane to see Jessie and Layla within fifteen minutes.) I don’t want to cloud your new home up with lots of memories of me to make you sad. So I’m going home. It’s best for you if I leave now.

Plus, I want to be with Molly. Play tug of war with her again. Have my legs back. My wild fuzzy hair, strong lungs. I want to roll in heaven’s thick grass and see her colors. Run in her warm snow!!

Be strong for Jessie, Zak, Jilly, and Dad, Mom. furgy and family2They are going to miss me. Sorry about waiting until you were on the plane to get sick, but it was best if you and dad were with Jessie and Layla and I was with Jilly and Zak. Didn’t all three of them know just what to do? I’m so proud of them.

Love you, Mom. Bye for now. See you later.  I know I will live in your heart forever.

All my love,
Furgy

 

Dear Furgy,

Even in death you thought only of me. No dog ever loved as much as you. I love, love, love, love you right back. No human ever loved a dog more.

Run free, my sweet girl, run free.

All my love,
Mom

Furgy 1

 

_____________________________________                          CJ Zahner is a wife, mother, author, and a girl who loved a dog with all her heart.

To My Husband

If you see Jeff Zahner today wish him happy retirement!

Jeff is going on an adventure.

That’s how we do things in our family. Our oldest daughter, Jessie, inspired this family moto. “What adventure shall we tackle today, Layla?” she asks her two-year-old just about every morning.

And that’s exactly how Jeff is looking at his future. He’s gathered up books he wants to read, Marx toys he wants to organize, and journals he wants to reminisce over. He’s made notes of places he would like to visit, sorted through boxes of sports paraphernalia, sold his journeyman’s tools, and emptied his prized shed.

He’s free.

For over forty years, Jeff worked full time and provided a wonderful life for me and our children. Twenty-five of those years (at a minimum), he worked consistent 60+ hour weeks.

I know, lots of people work overtime. But the one thing that sets Jeff apart is in the over-forty years of rising early and working long days and weekends, he never once complained.

Not one single time.

I’ll never understand that in him–his ability to accept the hand life deals you so easily, happily.

I have been blessed to be married to Jeff for over thirty-eight years. I asked him the other day if he minded always being my shoulder and never having me be his shoulder because that’s the way it is in our marriage. Me worrying. Him coddling.

He thought for a moment and then said, quite sincerely, “Actually, no. I like being the shoulder.”

That’s Jeff. Content, happy—accepting life just as it is. That is a quality many people never choose. (Me included!)

I think my children will agree, Jeff has been a great role model. All three inherited his courage and work ethic. Jessie ventured away after high school to earn an undergrad and graduate degree in psychology, then worked in the professional sports arena for years until taking on her most important job, raising our granddaughter! Zak said goodbye to Erie for good after law school, and Jilly, at age twenty-six, packed up her car, moved all by herself to Raleigh, North Carolina, and today holds two jobs and is working toward her doctorate!

Now it’s Jeff’s turn, and I am blessed to be a part of his next adventure. We will spend the next few years partially in Erie and partially in Raleigh. We will also visit our daughter and granddaughter in California, our son in Philly, and travel as often as we can/want!

There will be good times and bad times ahead. (But how lucky am I to always have that firm shoulder to lean on?) Our adventures may lead us to many places. Some we will love and others, not so much. But that’s what makes life exciting, isn’t it? The adventure? And there isn’t anyone else in the world I would rather go on an adventure with other than my husband.

I love you, Jeff. Thanks for working so hard all these years and providing a great life for me and the kids.  Thanks for always being a firm shoulder for me to rest my weary head on. And most of all, thank you for loving me. Marrying you was the absolute best adventure I took in my life. If our next adventures are half as good as that, what a great retirement you (we) will have.

jillys fence(Ps. Jilly texted. Don’t sell all your tools. When you get to Raleigh you have to fix her fence.)

 

 

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CJ Zahner retired from her full-time job at 58 years old when her supportive husband, Jeff, said, “Quit your job. You’re a writer.”

She is now 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 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. And watch for her soon to be released novel, Friends Who Move Couches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Help a Small-time Author Hit 50 Reviews!

This is meant to EASILY instruct readers on reviewing novels on Amazon and Goodreads.

I am a small-time author who can’t win Amazon’s respect until I reach 50 reviews. Many people purchase my novels, but few review them. If you’ve read but not reviewed my novels, please consider helping me to 50! Here’s how:

On Amazon, if you purchased the book, you may post a VERIFIED review. Amazon sometimes removes reviews but almost never removes verified reviews.

If you purchased the book/ebook, post a verified review by:

  • Opening your account and selecting:
    1. My Orders
    2. Digital Orders (Orders if paperback)
    3. Write a product review –  write one & hit SUBMIT

REVIEWS _ AMAZON1    REVIEWS - AMAZON2 REVIEWS - AMAZON3

If you didn’t purchase on Amazon, you can still post a non-verified review:

  • Go to http://bit.ly/CJ_Zahner or type CJ Zahner in search box
  • Click the book cover
  • Scroll to Customer reviews & stars (watch left side of screen) (see pic below)
  • Select:
      1. Review this product
      2. Write a customer review – write one & hit SUBMIT.

REVIEWS - AMAZON 1A REVIEWS - AMAZON2A & scroll to REVIEW - AMAZON 3A

On Goodreads, you must create an account, but it’s great. You may track all the books you read. Post a review:

  • Go to http://bit.ly/CZgoodreads or enter CJ Zahner in search
  • Click the book cover
  • Click dropdown box (arrow) under book cover on left
  • Select read (if read doesn’t appear click currently reading)
  • Write review, select stars, titles
  • Scroll to the bottom of the screen and hit POST

REVIEWS - GOODREADS1 REVIEWS - GOODREADS2 REVIEWS - GOODREADS3

 THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!!

 For those of you completely enamored by the process, feel free to review my novels on BookBub, It’s the simplest once you create your account:

  • Enter book title in search box,
  • Click on book cover
  • Click review
  • Select stars/recommendations/write a review
  • Click share

NOTE: To Anyone who has reviewed all three of my novels, please contact me at cyndie.zahner@gmail.com with the subject line CJ ZAHNER REVIEWER. I will send you a free ebook of my new novel, Friends Who Move Couches, in May!

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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 paranormal experience, a premonition of 9/11 here. Download her Beyond Reality Radio podcast here. Follow her on InstagramTwitterFacebook, Goodreads, BookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon. And watch for her soon to be released novel, Friends Who Move Couches.

 

 

 

Meet Another GREAT Erie Book Club.

Can a book club make you a better person?

Reading sneaks you inside someone else’s head. Your mind inches up next to theirs. Your stomach churns as their life rolls up and down and squeals around the curves. You experience their pain, realize their wants and needs. You grow to like some characters and detest others, but always, some emotion arises out of your soul when you read a book. Even indifference inspires you. (I labor over why I couldn’t put down Gone Girl and loved The Secret History when I felt so—bleh—about the characters!)

Can a book club make you a better person, though? I say yes. Book clubs introduce you to stories and lives you might never know. Stories, which inspire empathy in you.

But don’t take my word for it. Google “can reading make you empathetic” and peruse the articles.  Psychology Today’s article at https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201501/how-reading-can-change-you-in-major-way explains ways in which reading affects us.

I loved this article because it suggests reading makes us more open and empathetic, and I believe empathy softens human nature. There’s nothing better in life than sitting down with a cup of coffee (or glass of wine) and discussing a good book or life issues with empathetic people.

MJ logo  The Cen“Я”Us Book Club

I met some of these people—the kind I like—on a recent night out with an Erie book club. I shared coffee with The Cen“Я”Us Book Club, comprised of five women who were so much fun that I overstayed my welcome. Four out of five of this all-female book club worked for the Census together in 2015. (Hence the clever name.) When their job was done, they’d had so much fun together they wanted to remain friends.

What better way than sharing food, books, and laughter once a month?

The women, overachievers, read two of my novels for their January club meeting and asked me to attend their January meeting. We discussed the books a bit, but more importantly, we laughed our way through the entire evening talking life, people, and comradery. I had a blast. They were fun-loving, positive, and witty book addicts.  I’m thinking of writing another book just so I can go back!

Marijane Dillon book club
Top Row: Kim Trott, Maureen Bonny LoPresto Bottom Row: Kate Kunkel, Marijane “Mj” Dillon, Pam Zimmer

Thank you to Marijane, Kim, Pam, Kate, and Maureen for reminding me readers are the most compassionate, passionate, fantastic people in the world!

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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 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. And watch for her soon to be released novel, Friends Who Move Couches.

Educated by Tara Westover

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.