Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

Rating:           10

General Rating:  Finally! A book that makes sense out of the senselessness of anxiousness. I LOVED this book and give it a ten—and I don’t hand tens out easily. This will go down as one of my all-time favorites. The writing is magnificent; the characters, irresistibly lovable; and the storyline, hilarious at times and teaching at others.

Skip factor:  Not. One. Word.

Favorite line: “Do you know what the worst thing about being a parent is? That you’re always judged by your worst moments. You can do a million things right, but if you do one single thing wrong you’re forever that parent…”

Who should read: If you like fabulous writing in laugh-out-loud books or outlandish stories with quirky characters, you’ll love this.  And if you’re anxious, you’ll love. And if you’re an idiot, you won’t be able to put down.

Summary:  This story is about a bridge. And life’s puzzle pieces. Simply, a boy attempts to save a man’s life but the man jumps off a bridge to his death. Later, the boy does save a girl from ending her life on that same bridge, but the boy’s never able to forgive himself for not being able to save the man. He grows up to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a good cop. And a good person. If not an anxious person.

Enter a tired, anxious, idiotic bank robber who has two children, is divorced, has been fired, and needs $6,500 for rent.

When the bank robber—who robs a bank with no money—ends up at an apartment “open house” near this bank, which sits across from the infamous bridge, the lives of eight anxious people converge. The bank robber holds a businesswoman, gay couple (one pregnant), retired couple, realtor, and a little old lady—the worst hostages ever—captive while sorting out what to do before the police storm the building.

What happens in that apartment is quirky, strange, unbelievable, believable, and so puzzling that readers won’t put the pieces together until nearly the final page. It’s one of those ten thousand piecers you have to be patient snapping together, but trust me, in the end, you’ll find Backman has assembled a beautiful picture.

Characters:  Very rarely do I grow attached to two or three characters in a book. Here, I loved eleven characters and a few of their deceased relatives (and friends). Need I say more? Who loves a dozen people in one book? They all had distinct personalities, were anxious, and yes, they were idiots—the good kind.

Storyline:  There is a madness to this storyline, which you might find annoyingly confusing at times, but you MUST hang in there and piece this one together slowly. Wait for it. The story is so much more than a tale of anxious idiots as it professes to be. This book tells of the essence of humans. The individuality and likeness of people.

They’ll be a point when you think, huh? But wait for it. Wait for pieces to start snapping into place.

You may need time to warm up to this one. My friend Joanne had to put it down. She said the anxious people were making her anxious. (Go figure.) She’s going back to read it now and won’t be sorry.

Writing:  I loved the writing of Backman’s novel, A Man Called Ove, but this book? The writing is magnificent. I highlighted so many sentences and bookmarked so many pages, my Kindle nearly overloaded. I’m heading off toward Bear Town and intend on reading everything Backman ever wrote or will write.

Read this author again?  Absolutely.

Read on!

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CJ Zahner is anxious. She 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 two ChickLit novels Friends Who Move Couches and Don’t Mind Me, I Came with the House. Many of her 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, TwitterFacebookGoodreadsBookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Rating:           8

General Rating: A bit disappointed. (Like Crawdad’s, I may have expected too much.) Ng’s writing earns a nine, but the scattered storyline, a seven, averaging a solid eight rating.

Skip factor:  8%. I skipped some of Mia’s flashbacks. Her backstory dragged.  

Who should read:  If you read Everything I Never Told You, if you are a writer, or at least love writing, you’ll enjoy this. I don’t believe people who grab this book before reading Everything I Never Told You will be as enamored by Ng. This is a good book, but I expected great from Ng.

Summary: The story begins with a fire and the mention of Izzy Richardson. Izzy is one of four children who lives in the house burning to the ground. The story also mentions a mother and daughter, Mia and Pearl, who rent one of the Richardsons’ apartments. Mia and Pearl leave the afternoon of the fire, so right away the reader wants to know what’s going on.

The novel tells the story of the well-to-do Richardson family living in the Shaker Heights neighborhood of Cleveland. When Mia, an artist, and her daughter Pearl rent an apartment from the Richardson’s, their lives intersect in more than tenant-landlord fashion. Elena Richardson admires Mia’s art and hires her to cook and clean for them part-time, saying Mia must continue her art. Mia accepts reluctantly but the position, along with a second part-time job, allows her the freedom to continue her photography.

Eventually, all four of the Richardson children become involved with Mia and Pearl who seem slightly mysterious.

Enter Beebe and Mrs. McCullough. Beebe works with Mia at Mia’s part-time coffee shop job and Mrs. McCullough has been Elena Richardson’s best friend for years. When Mia realizes the adopted McCullough baby may be Beebe’s lost child, the story takes an emotional turn.

There are numerous twists and turns to this story. (Possibly too many.) The author jumps back and forth in time, and where normally I like this, I didn’t here. I found myself skipping Mia’s backstory.

Characters:  I loved all four Richardson children and Pearl. I did not like Elena Richardson or Mrs. McCullough, although I did feel sorry for Mrs. McCullough who could not have children of her own. I believe I experienced all of the emotions the author hoped readers would experience with the characters except for Mia. Mia was too odd for my liking, and the author’s attempt at creating a sad background for Mia didn’t work.

Storyline:  This novel winds through several important life topics: suburban racism, family dynamics, rich versus poor, adoption tribulations, motherhood, and even carries YA coming-of-age subject matter. The story has several protagonists, two mothers, one rich, one poor; five children between them who are at the height of their emotional teenage years; and a destitute woman who finds herself in an impossible situation.

Without spoiling the story, I’ll say this touches heartfeltly on family, pregnancy, adoption, and even abortion.

Writing:  The novel is well written, yet there were many parts where I felt the dramatics of the situations were drawn-out and overdone, hurting the importance of the topics. Mia’s backstory could have been tightened to make readers feel more of a connection with her.

Read this author again?  Yes, I will. I love her writing and am hoping for another book like Everything I Never Told You.

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 Instagram, TwitterFacebookGoodreadsBookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.

Where to Find FREE Books

For those who missed my newsletter, here’s how to find FREE books. They’re out there. Hundreds of them:

Find Free Books

Occasionally, authors offer their novels free. Why? They hope you’ll review or recommend them. Here’s the secret way of finding thousands of free books. First, you must use a laptop or computer. (Your mobile phone will default to the Top 100 Paid.)

  • Go to Amazon Best Sellers Page
  • Select Kindle e-books on the left hand side
  • Scroll & select a category/genre on left (example: Humor & Entertainment)
  • Select Top 100 Free (circled in blue on the picture below)

Select a book that piques your curiosity. One with a number of reviews. If it’s not for you, you can easily delete.

Grabbing free books is as simple as that! Here are a few direct links (must be clicked from computer or laptop): HumorRomanceMystery Thriller & SuspenseWomen’s Fiction. (Again: Your mobile phone will default to the Top 100 Paid.)

Other ways to find free books:

Amazon Prime Members, you are missing out if you’re not downloading a monthly First Reads. You get one free book per month (sometimes two). These are brand new novels, so google Amazon First Reads mid month. By then, readers will have posted hundreds of reviews. Pick one with 4+ stars.

Anyone can find free or low cost books on various sites. My favorites are BooksendsBookBub, or Bookgorilla. (I’m sort of addicted to them.) I’ve seen discounted books by authors such as Liane Moriarty, David Baldacci and Nora Roberts on these sites.

Don’t miss future tips. Sign up for my quarterly newsletter here.

Read on!

_______________________________________

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.

Dream Wide Awake Book Club Questions

  1. What character in this book would you most like to meet and why?
  2. Which Callahan sister could you identify with more?
  3. Did Rachel Callahan surprise you?
  4. Of all the characters, whose likeability factor changed the most? (Whether you thought they were good-hearted in the beginning but disliked them in the end, or feared them at the start but grew to like them.)
  5. Who, at one time or another during your read, did you feel could be the kidnapper?
  6. Do you believe some people are clairvoyant?
  7. Have you yourself ever experienced a premonition or seen a ghost?
  8. If you had to send one person, from your book club, to participate in an Area 51 secret government program, who do you feel would handle the situation best?
  9. If you have not read the prequel, Project Dream, what do you believe the children experienced in that Nevada desert?
  10. If Lisa Callahan had gone to the desert instead of Rachel, how much would the story have changed? Would she have used drugs?
  11. Do you feel Jack’s decision to protect Mikala on his own was warranted? Wise?
  12. If your child was clairvoyant, would you tell anyone?
  13. What do you think Mikala Daly is going to be like when she grows up?
  14. Do you believe the United States government would ever design a child prodigy program for the good of the country?
  15. If you had the chance to ask the author one question, what would you ask?

Feel free to email other questions to cyndie@cyndiezahner.com. Thanks for reading!

_________________________________________                 Cyndie Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene and Dream Wide Awake. Listen to her BookCircle Online interview about how her 9/11 premonition influenced her writing of the novel Dream Wide Awake  here, follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, BookBub, LinkedIn, purchase her books on Amazon, or sign up for here semi-annual newsletter here.

One for the Book Clubs

Ever get to the end of a book and say, “W-what?” Well, rest assured, if you select  Dream Wide Awake or The Suicide Gene for your book club, I’ll answer all those questions that leave you wrinkling your nose and scratching your head.

Book Clubs should email their questions to me.

Email me at cyndie@cyndiezahner.com with the subject line “Book Club ?s.” I’ll respond.

And pay attention while you turn those pages. I love a good Easter egg hunt. Read closely and you’ll find a hint in the beginning of Dream Wide Awake about who the perpetrator is. Give the ending of The Suicide Gene your total attention, and you’ll know just how smart M. McKinney was.

And please, please, please, leave me a review.

Reviews are more important than you know!

Especially for new authors. I will be indebted to anyone who leaves a review. Amazon won’t consider me a serious writer until I’ve gotten 50. Here are the websites (Look for DWA in address for Dream Wide Awake and SGene for The Suicide Gene):

Amazon http://bit.ly/AMDWACZ and http://bit.ly/AMSGene
– Click on one of the stars 1-5
–  click customer reviews next to stars and/or “write Review”
– add a headline (what is the most important thing to know)
– Copy and paste your review

Goodreads http://bit.ly/CZDWAg and http://bit.ly/gSGene
– Click dropdown box (arrow) under Cover picture
– As you hover over “read” options appear, select “write a review,”
– A review box appears
– Give a star rating, copy your review to the “what did you think box,” (all else optional),
– click save.
(Click on my name and “follow author” to make me really happy!)

Bookbub http://bit.ly/CZDWAbb and http://bit.ly/BBSgene
– if you don’t have an account it will prompt you to create one
– Click review box on the right
– Give book 1-5 stars
– Click as many traits as you think describe the book
– Copy in your review
– Click share
(Click on my name and follow me to make me really happy!)

Barnes & Noble http://bit.ly/BNDWA and http://bit.ly/BandNSGene
-scroll down page past “customer reviews” and select “write a review”
-It will prompt you to sign in
-click stars
-copy in your review

Rifflebooks http://bit.ly/CZDWAr and http://bit.ly/RfSGene
– click star rating on right of cover and check box to show read and heart to recommend
– click “add review” below the cover”
– click “post”

Kobo http://bit.ly/CZDWAk and http://bit.ly/KbSGene
– Scroll down to review section and click on red “write your review” button
– It will prompt you to sign in
– Add star rating
– Copy in review
– Add title for review
– Add your name

Thank you and read on!

________________________________________Cyndie “CJ” Zahner is an author of The Suicide Gene and Dream Wide Awake. She is also, very much, a dreamer. Follower Zahner at  www.cjzahner.comAmazonFacebookInstagramtwittergoodreads and Bookbub.