Thursday, September 13, 2012

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

ISBN-10: 0307594033 - Hardcover $25.00
Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (October 2, 2012), 352 pages.

Review copy courtesy of the publisher and the Amazon Prime Program.

Will Schwalbe's mother is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer after having battled breast cancer years earlier. This time Mary Ann Schwalbe's prognosis is much worse. In the early days of her treatment, Mary Ann and Will find themselves discussing books - from books that they'd read to books that they're currently reading and those that they choose to read together. Of course, their discussions about books are also about the characters, the dilemmas that they face, and how best to live one's life.

The End of Your Life Book Club is a lovely and moving tribute to Will's mother. Mary Ann Schwalbe is an amazing woman in her own right. We learn of her accomplishments as a young Radcliffe graduate, the first woman to head the Admissions office at Harvard and Radcliffe, and a devoted and accomplished figure in the area of Refugee rights - all of which are impressive and enough to draw you in. Mary Ann Schwalbe's other accomplishments are less easily listed but perhaps even more unforgettable. Will paints a clear picture of a woman of unconventional grace and generosity of spirit. She is determined to make a difference, to bring hope and to be a force of good - it sounds strange but when you learn about Mary Ann Schwalbe, it's hard not to see her as someone for whom doing the right thing is an essential part of her life. She is unfailingly generous to those who need help while invariably forgoing cabs for NYC buses. It's so difficult to describe what I loved about the book. I loved learning about Mary Ann and the things that moved her. Reading about her courage, her stoicism and her grace throughout her struggle with cancer was particularly poignant. As a bookworm, I found the conversations about the books fascinating as well and have copied down the list of books that Will and Mary Ann Schwalbe read.

Mary Ann Schwalbe reminded me of my mother - someone who loves people, finds them interesting, and who will give unstintingly. I came to care for Mary Ann Schwalbe deeply and am grateful to Will for writing this book, for sharing these moments and memories of a woman of extraordinary courage, grace, and heart.

About the Author:
Will Schwalbe, founder of, has worked in publishing (most recently as senior vice president and editor in chief of Hyperion Books); in new media; and as a journalist, writing for various publications including The New York Times.  He is the coauthor with David Shipley of Send: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do It Better.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Every Day by David Leviathan

What would you do if you woke up in a different body every morning? How much would you be willing to disrupt your "host's" life? Would you sacrifice your own adventures to keep the other person's life intact? Or would you be willing to move their life around for a chance to be with the girl you love - even if she doesn't recognize you when she sees you?

A is sixteen years old and for as long as he can remember (Every Day!), he's lived his life waking up in a new body every day. He's come up with his own code of honor, his own rules that keep him from disrupting the lives of those people that he visits. He tries to do good, be kind, improve their lives as much as he can. Things are going relatively smoothly - as far as possible - until he meets and falls in love with Rhiannon. Rhiannon with the boyfriend who doesn't appreciate her and fails to treat her right. A finds that he can't forget her and whether he wakes up as a girl or boy, A wants to be with Rhiannon.

A starts breaking all his rules. He returns to her town, her school, her favorite places. He shares his secret. Rhiannon begins to recognize A in all his different shapes and identities.

Based on an unusual premise, supported by crisp and engaging writing, driven by sympathetic and unforgettable characters, Every Day is a story about love, identity, sacrifice and keeping one's true self. It's a wonderful read - a book to share!

ISBN-10: 0307931889 - Hardcover $16.99
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (August 28, 2012), 336 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher and the Amazon Vine Program.

A bonus - through Amazon David Leviathan shares a short story that describes A's life before Every Day.  Head to Amazon for the exclusive short story. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fall from Pride: A Home Valley Amish Novel by Karen Harper

The blurb:
Sarah Kauffman sought permission from her church elders to paint murals on a few of the Amish community's barns.  Each was designed like an old-fashioned quilt square, representing a piece of the Amish traditions Sarah loved.  The works of art were intended to draw more tourists to the Home Valley in the struggling economy.  But instead, they invited a menace.  One by one, each barn is set ablaze and destroyed. . . 

The arson fires spread fear through the community - amongst Amish and Englischers alike.  Now Sarah wonders if she's being punished for her pridefulness. . .  or whether there's a more malevolent will at work.

As an outsider, arson investigator Nate MacKenzie struggles to investigate the crime scenes while adhering to Amish ways.  With Sarah as his guide, he warms to the Plain People and their simple ways.  As the  fires rage, beliefs are challenged, a way of life is questioned and family secrets are exposed.  In the aftermath of the destruction the people of the Home Valley must join together to raise their barns and their hopes for the future.

Set in Amish Home Valley in Ohio, Fall from Pride is an unusual mystery.  Sarah Kauffman, a beautiful Amish woman in her twenties, loves painting and she struggles to follow the precepts of her faith and culture.  She wants to paint scenes of their Amish life but is aware that to do so may be regarded as "prideful" and grounds to for discipline, even expulsion from their community.  It's sometimes difficult to understand her commitment to a faith and culture that demands so much conformity, so much sacrifice from and of its members.  But Karen Harper also shows us the many ways in which the Amish culture and faith benefit their members.  Harper gives us an unusual view into a culture that is largely hidden.

Sarah connects with the stranger, Nate MacKenzie, the arson specialist sent to investigate the recent fires that have destroyed Amish barns.  Nate is surprised to find just how much he values Sarah's perspective and opinion and how deeply he comes to care for her in the days that he spends in Home Valley.

Nate and Sarah's partnership in investigating the arsons and their growing romance help make Fall from Pride a fun thriller.  While the characters are not particularly unusual, the Amish setting and culture helps make Fall from Pride a different sort of read.  

ISBN-10: 0778312496 - Paperback $14.99
Publisher: Mira; Original edition (July 26, 2011), 352 pages. 
Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

About the Author:
Karen Harper (born in Toledo, Ohio) is an historical fiction and contemporary fiction author. She is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author.