Guest Review: The Circle by Dave Eggers


Special shout out to Midsummer Contributor, Brittany, for reading and reviewing The Circle!




When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency.

As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company’s modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO.

Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in America – even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.

This novel was a friend’s choice in our book club.  I was only supposed to read half the novel for our first meeting but I couldn’t stop.  I ended up reading the entire book and I LOVED IT.  Yes, I have read books that have a similar storyline (very 1984ish) but I was really able to relate to this specific portrayal. This is my first time reading the author, Dave Eggers, but I will now be looking into more of his work.    

The Circle is a powerful tech company that is slowly taking over….basically everything…the way you shop, the way you interact with others, and even the way the government works.  In my mind I pictured something along the lines of Google or Facebook.  The Cirlce made me question my own presence on social media.  It made me question the power of the internet in general.  It’s quite chilling because I could potentially see this as our future.  There were multiple times when I put my book down and just thought, “Holy crap.  This could really happen.”  This novel made me ask questions.  What are our limits as a society when it comes to sharing knowledge? Where is the line between innocent curiosity and breaching privacy?  Are we becoming dependent upon instant gratification?  

Some of the ideas and beliefs of the Circlers are just mind blowing.  For instance, if you don’t post a picture of yourself surfing in Costa Rica then you are selfish and are denying others the opportunity to be involved in the experience.  Their belief is that everyone is entitled to ALL knowledge and “sharing is caring”.  Out of context it seems obviously insane, but Eggers brings you so deep into the Circle that these radical ideas begin to make sense.  It brings forth your true notions on how society and privacy should be constructed.  

Mae is such a wonderfully well written character.  I loved watching her journey in finding her place within the Circle and the unraveling of her humanity.  I’m super pumped because this is going to be a major motion picture with Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, and John Boyega.  It looks SO good!

Eggers does an outstanding job with this novel.  And let me just say, the ending is awesome.  

5 bards 

Book Review: The Life We Bury by Allen Eskins

College student Joe Talbert has the modest goal of completing a writing assignment for an English class. His task is to interview a stranger and write a brief biography of the person. With deadlines looming, Joe heads to a nearby nursing home to find a willing subject. There he meets Carl Iverson, and soon nothing in Joe’s life is ever the same.

Iverson is a dying Vietnam veteran–and a convicted murderer. With only a few months to live, he has been medically paroled to a nursing home, after spending thirty years in prison for the crimes of rape and murder.

As Joe writes about Carl’s life, especially Carl’s valor in Vietnam, he cannot reconcile the heroism of the soldier with the despicable acts of the convict. Joe, along with his skeptical female neighbor, throws himself into uncovering the truth, but he is hamstrung in his efforts by having to deal with his dangerously dysfunctional mother, the guilt of leaving his autistic brother vulnerable, and a haunting childhood memory. 

Thread by thread, Joe unravels the tapestry of Carl’s conviction. But as he and Lila dig deeper into the circumstances of the crime, the stakes grow higher. Will Joe discover the truth before it’s too late to escape the fallout?

Release Date: October 14, 2014

Awesome murder mystery! Great story, great characters, and great suspense. I honestly have nothing bad to say about this book. It was a great read and it sucked me in from the very beginning.

It made sense when I found out the author, Allen Eskens, is a criminal defense attorney. The whole plot was very intricate and it was evident that he was very knowledgeable about what all goes into a criminal case. There was never doubt that what I was reading was not exactly how things would go in an actual murder trial. I actually learned a few things about the whole process.

What impressed me even more was the fact that this is Eskens first novel. He writes with the ease of a seasoned veteran.

Totally did not expect the ending. The sudden twists throughout the story left me unable to put the book down.  Eskens kept me interested by diving in to each character…Really giving the reader an understanding of whose these people were.

If you want a good thrill, read this book. One of my favorites this summer!

4 Bards


Book Review: Zac and Mia by A.J. Betts

“When I was little I believed in Jesus and Santa, spontaneous combustion, and the Loch Ness monster. Now I believe in science, statistics, and antibiotics.” So says seventeen-year-old Zac Meier during a long, grueling leukemia treatment in Perth, Australia.

A loud blast of Lady Gaga alerts him to the presence of Mia, the angry, not-at-all-stoic cancer patient in the room next door. Once released, the two near-strangers can’t forget each other, even as they desperately try to resume normal lives. The story of their mysterious connection drives this unflinchingly tough, tender novel told in two voices.

Release Date: September 2, 2014

I recently finished reading The Fault in Our Stars.  When I picked up Zac & Mia and realized I was reading another teenage cancer novel, I was reluctant to continue reading.  I assumed I already knew the story and the final outcome.  Well…I was wrong.

This is not another sappy teenage love story.  Yes, there is an undertone of young love but this novel chooses to focus on relationships in general.  The bond between family.  The bond between friends.  The bond between total strangers.  The bond we have with ourself.  I felt that I knew most of the characters well but could have used a little more depth with a few of them.

The author does a good job of connecting with the reader by using modern pop-culture references.  Any book that mentions Lady Gaga and Harry Potter is OK by me.  There was one line that I really loved.  “When an animals kicking and fighting the most, that’s the time you need to pull it closer.”  This sums up the book for me.  Sometimes people, myself included, act out…resisting and fighting love, friendship and intimacy.  Zac & Mia taught me to just pull closer.

This novel would not have been my first choice for a summer read but I am glad I read it.  If you liked The Fault in Our Stars you should most definitely read this because I enjoyed it twice as much.

5 Bards



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