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: All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched.

The decade-old investigation focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson. Since then, only Nic has left Cooley Ridge. Daniel and his wife, Laura, are expecting a baby; Jackson works at the town bar; and Tyler is dating Annaleise Carter, Nic’s younger neighbor and the group’s alibi the night Corinne disappeared. Then, within days of Nic’s return, Annaleise goes missing.

Told backwards—Day 15 to Day 1—from the time Annaleise goes missing, Nic works to unravel the truth about her younger neighbor’s disappearance, revealing shocking truths about her friends, her family, and what really happened to Corinne that night ten years ago.

***North Carolina Author***

So, it’s no secret that I like to support North Carolina authors, but Megan Miranda is one that I’ve known for a handful of years now.  Not only does she live really close to me, she is a fantastic author that is now finally getting the IMG_2126recognition she deserves with the arrival of her first adult novel, All the Missing Girls.

Like the synopsis states, the story is told backwards.  Now when I visited Miranda at one of her book signings here in Huntersville, NC, she said the idea to write the novel this way came during her long drive from New Jersey down to North Carolina (which is around a 9 hour drive depending on your destination) as she considered the character’s journey.  Not a bad way to brainstorm, albeit the caviat of having nowhere to write it down.  But she got it done!

IMG_2128Anywho, the novel starts off quickly and it manages to pick up pace up until practically the last chapter and it is an absolute thrill ride.  Plot-wise the novel is executed well, and the reader is kept on their toes throughout.  I was also intrigued by the dichotomy established between Nic’s life in the North (although other than her being a school councelor and being engaged to Everett, we don’t know a whole lot) and her life back home in Cooley Ridge. It was done really well, and I did appreciate the comment about how the character’s southern accent came back once she arrives home, as it is something she masks in her life up north.  I think that it is a really clever way to hint that it’s not the only thing Nic has been masking while living outside of Cooley Ridge.

Speaking of masking, let’s talk about unreliable narrators.  Nelly from Wuthering Heights is a popular example of this, as she is relaying a story she was only on the periphery of, but what happens when you have a main character narrator that you can’t trust? A damn good novel is what happens. Trust no one in this thriller.

The ending was something I am pleased to say surprised me for the most part and it is one that I literally dreamed about after I finished the book at 1 AM.

Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this novel, it will keep you on your toes and possibly keep you awake at night.

4.5 Bards

four.fivebards

 

 

 


Book Review: Secret Society Girl by Diana Peterfreund

205057Elite Eli University junior Amy Haskel never expected to be tapped into Rose & Grave, the country’s most powerful—and notorious—secret society. She isn’t rich, politically connected, or…well, male.

So when Amy receives the distinctive black-lined invitation with the Rose & Grave seal, she’s blown away. Could they really mean her?

Whisked off into an initiation rite that’s a blend of Harry Potter and Alfred Hitchcock, Amy awakens the next day to a new reality and a whole new set of “friends”—from the gorgeous son of a conservative governor to an Afrocentric lesbian activist whose society name is Thorndike. And that’s when Amy starts to discover the truth about getting what you wish for. Because Rose & Grave is quickly taking her away from her familiar world of classes and keggers, fueling a feud, and undermining a very promising friendship with benefits. And that’s before Amy finds out that her first duty as a member of Rose & Grave is to take on a conspiracy of money and power that could, quite possibly, ruin her whole life.

I first read Secret Society Girl nine years ago when it first came out, and let me tell you, it still holds up. I love this book just as much now as I did then. Mostly because I can still relate to Amy so much, as a sarcastic (kind of know-it-all) twenty-something who feels like they barely have their life together. Within the first 30 pages I found myself writing “same” in the margins many times. Amy’s not a perfect character, she makes mistakes, she overanalyzes, and sometimes she’s judgmental, but that’s what makes her a great character and that’s why I love her.

The book itself is pretty straightforward and easy to read. Women finally get “tapped” into an all-male secret society and the stereotypical “old boys” push back against being brought into the 21st century for reasons like, “it will turn is into a goddamn dating club” and “I can already foresee the accusations of rape.” Yeah. These old guys are really great. But because the previous class of Rose & Grave actually decided to “tap” women, and this year’s class are also top-notch students, they all save the day and the women are allowed to keep their society status and all the benefits that come with it. Because of all this though, there are some really strong female friendships that come out of this. It’s an amazing representation of different types of women coming together for this common cause and developing strong bonds because of it.

So the book is a little cheesy, and sometimes a little stereotypical. But for the time it was released, I thought it was revolutionary. It was one of the first books I’d read where the main character had THREEE close friends who identified as LGBTQ, and one of them was openly pansexual, and everyone just moved on from her announcement. I was so shocked to see the word pansexual outside of any LGBTQ/ally organizations, PLUS the nonchalant reaction from everyone else was so refreshing.

All in all, it’s one of my favorite books, so four bards!

fourbards

 

 

 

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2015

NEDAweek

 

Each year, the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA for short) designates a whole week to raising awareness for the increasing numbers of diagnosed EDs.  We here at A Midsummer Night’s Read are avid supporters of the NEDA initiative, as an Eating Disorder has effected one of our own.

Educating yourself and those around you about eating disorders is a great way to get involved. Correcting myths and spreading awareness about the facts are important steps to eating disorder prevention. Visit NEDAwareness.org to review information about how eating disorders develop and why they are so complex, as well as finding out how you can be proactive in recognizing contributing factors and being a part of the fight against these life threatening illnesses (source: NEDA).

This week on MSNR we are going to feature a young adult fiction/non-fiction book concerning Eating Disorders.  Please be aware that some of these works can have some triggers (what we in the community call things that can lead to disordered behavior), but all of the messages here are about how damaging these behaviors are and how important diagnosis and treatment is are very valid and well done.

For our second day in National Eating Disorder Awareness week, I’ve chosen to spotlight prolific author Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls.

wintergirls“Dead girl walking”, the boys say in the halls.
“Tell us your secret”, the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.

Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend’s restless spirit.

Continuing on my re-reading journey, I decided to take a step back from Sarah Dessen for a week and look toward one of the books I recommended our audience read for a little more insight into the world of Eating Disorders so we can continue to raise awareness for the silent killer.

While Anderson is widely known for her ground breaking novel, Speak, I want to argue that this novel is just as important. Not only are more than 30 million Americans suffering from diagnosed and undiagnosed eating disorders, but many suffer in silence, just like Lia and Cassie.

Wintergirls begins at the end of a character’s life, a life that ended under mysterious circumstances, and the former best friend of the narrator.  While the synopsis makes it sound like Lia is being haunted by a ghost, it is clear that the Anorexia is what is haunting her.  Not only does the food and liquid restriction eventually cause hallucinations, but it also will cause an entire body shut down.

The writing is excellent, and I love Anderson’s use of strikeouts throughout the text to exemplify the struggle within the narrator.  I think that Anderson also did a great job of showing how the eating disorder can affect the family unit as well.

Please note that in some ways this novel can be a bit triggering since it is told in first person and the reader is consistently thrust into the innerworkings of the main character’s psyche. The narrative is hard to get through, but in all the ways that a non-fiction ED story can make you feel less alone, many of the thoughts that Lia suffers throughout the story are some that a lot of Eating Disorder sufferers endure.  You never know who you might know who is suffering, and maybe reading this book can help you be prepared if someone does reach out.  Either way, you need to read this novel.

If you know anyone who is suffering, please direct them to the National Eating Disorder Association.

5 Bards

“Food is something I am going to have to face at least three times a day for the rest of my life.  And I am not perfect.  But one really bad day does not mean that I am hopeless and back at square one with my eating disorder.  Olympic ice skaters fall in their quest for the gold.  Heisman Trophy winners throw interceptions.  Professional singers forget the words.  And people with eating disorders sometimes slip back into an old pattern.  But all of these individuals just pick themselves back up and do the next right thing.  The ice skater makes the next jump.  The football player throws the next pass.  The singer finishes the song.  And I am going to eat breakfast.” Jenni Schaefer

This Week in History & YA Lit

romanov-familyOn February 6, 1928, a woman claiming to be the surviving daughter of Czar Nicolas II of Russia arrives on United States soil.  This sparked one of the most long lasting mysteries of history.  Did Anastasia escape the assassination of Nicolas II’s family during the Bolshevik Revolution?

Many speculated on the validity of this woman’s story, who now went by Anastasia Tschaikovsky, but the most ardent supporter she had was the son of the family doctor who was residing in the US during this time.  Dr. Botkin, the Romanov family doctor, was executed with the Romanov family on that fateful night in 1918.

Overall, this woman, who was later discovered to not be genetically related to the Romanov family, sparked a myth that continues today.  Especially since once the Romanov’s bodies were exhumed, an interesting discovery was found: the bodies of one Romanov daughter and of the only son, Alexei, were missing.  Could Anastasia have escaped and then lived in anonymity?  I know that this mystery was largely introduced to my generation by the popular animated feature from Twentieth Century Fox, titled Anastasia, which starred John Cusak, Meg Ryan, and Hank Azaria.

This mystery and the brutal execution of the Romanov family has also inspired some excellent YA fiction, including one that will be released in April 2015.

Release Date: April 7, 2015

It’s summer in 1914 and the Romanovs are aboard the Standart, the Russian royal yacht. Tsar Nicholas, Tsaritsa Alexandra, their four daughters, and the youngest child, Tsarevitch Alexei, are sailing to Romania to meet Crown Prince Carol and his parents. It seems like a fairy tale existence for the four grand duchesses, dressed in beautiful clothes, traveling from palace to palace. But it’s not.

Life inside the palace is far from a fairy tale. The girls’ younger brother suffers from an excruciatingly painful and deadly blood disease, and their parents have chosen to shield the Russian people from the severity of the future tsar’s condition. The secrets and strain are hard on the family, and conditions are equally dire beyond the palace walls. Peasants chafe under the burden of extreme poverty and Tsar Nicholas’s leadership power weakens. And when the unthinkable happens—Germany declares war on Russia—nothing in Anastasia’s world will ever be the same.

 Natalya knows a secret.
A magical Faberge egg glows within the walls of Russia’s Winter Palace.
It holds a power rooted in the land and stolen from the mystics.
A power that promises a life of love for her and Alexei Romanov.
Power, that, in the right hands, can save her way of life.
But it’s not in the right hands.

 

 

 

 

For Anastasia Romanov, life as the privileged daughter of Russia’s last tsar is about to be torn apart by the bloodshed of revolution. Ousted from the imperial palace when the Bolsheviks seize control of the government, Anastasia and her family are exiled to Siberia. But even while the rebels debate the family’s future with agonizing slowness and the threat to their lives grows more menacing, romance quietly blooms between Anastasia and Sasha, a sympathetic young guard she has known since childhood. But will the strength of their love be enough to save Anastasia from a violent death?

Launch Day Blitz!

The-Destiny-of-Violet-&-Luke-Launch-Day-Blitz

 Luke Price’s life has always been about order, control, and acting tough on the outside. For Luke, meaningless relationships are a distraction-a way to tune out the twisted memories of his childhood. He desperately wishes he could forget his past, but it haunts him no matter what he does.

Violet Hayes has had a rough life. When she was young, she was left with no family and the memory of her parents’ unsolved murders. She grew up in foster homes, living with irresponsible parents, drugs, and neglect, and trying to fight the painful memories of the night her parents were taken from her. But it’s hard to forget when she never got closure-and she can’t stop dreaming about what happened that tragic night. To make it through life, she keeps her distance from everyone and never allows herself to feel anything.

 

Then Violet meets Luke. The two clash instantly, yet they can’t seem to stay away from each other. Although they fight it, they both start to open up and feel things they’ve never felt before. They discover just how similar they are. But they also discover something else: The past always catches up with you . . .

 

 

I’ve given good reviews to two of Sorensen’s other novels, and I’m extremely excited to read this one! Click on the titles to read my reviews!

The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden

Breaking Nova

Social Media Links:

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Buy Links:

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Can’t decide? Check out this excerpt!:

 


Luke

She reaches for my fries with an undecided look on her face. “So I have a question.”

“Okay…”

“About you.”

I slowly chew my food. “I’m not really sure I want to hear your question now.”

She picks a pickle off of her burger, pulling a repulsed face. “Well, I’m still going to ask it.”

I grab a handful of fries from the tray that’s on the table between us. “Go ahead and ask but it doesn’t mean I’ll answer.”

She props her elbows onto the table with her burger in her hand. “Why haven’t you ever talked to me before? I mean, we’ve walked past each other probably a hundred times, but never so much as acknowledged each other and then suddenly you’re stalking me.”

I pick up my soda and sip from the straw. “First off, I’m not stalking you. I just can’t seem to get rid of you.”

“You didn’t have to stop to pick me up.”

“Yeah, I did.”

“Why? You don’t know me—you’re in no way obligated to help me.”

“I know, but I wanted to.”

“Why?”

I shrug, setting my drink down. “Why not?”

She gives me a funny look, like I’m the most confusing person in the world, when really she should be looking at herself like that. “I don’t get it. Why would someone like you help someone like me?”

I open up the bun of my chicken sandwich to pick the tomato off. “What do you mean someone like me and someone like you?”

She points at me. “You as in a football player who has friends.” Then she points at herself. “And me as in the loner girl who could probably kick your ass.”

I choke on a laugh and my mouth full of food almost shoots out of my nose. “You could not kick my ass,” I cough, and then take a swallow of my drink.

She scans me over while scooping up some fries. “I beg to differ. I think you’re not as tough as you try to look.”

“Do you really?” If only she knew what really lay inside me. “Because most people think I am and for a good reason.”

“I think it’s all for show,” she replies nonchalantly and I can’t tell if she’s being serious or not. “I think that deep down you’re just a softy.”

“Are you trying to pick a fight with me right now?” I set my sandwich down on the tray and crack my knuckles. “Because I’m not going to fight a girl.”

“That’s such a typical guy answer.” She hurries and takes a drink, but I detect a hint of a smile before her lips wrap around the straw.

“You know what I think?” I cross my arms on the table and lean in, cocking my head to the side as I observe her closely. “I think you like arguing with me and that’s why you’re bringing this up.”

Her shoulders lift and descend as she takes a bite of her hamburger. “Maybe, but maybe I’m being serious.”

“You know that as a football player I have to tackle guys, right? It takes strength to do that.”

“Maybe you just run, though,” she counters. “Maybe you’re just good at running.”

The way she says it reminds me so much of my past and it’s like a kick to the stomach. “Maybe I’m not, though. Maybe I suck at running.” I sound choked and I decide it’s time to cut this conversation short, my brain seeking that potent taste of Jack and Tequila mixed with nicotine. I glance at my watch, pretending to check the time. “I just remembered that I have to meet Kayden somewhere in like a half an hour, so I’m going to have to take you back.”

She balls up the wrapper for her hamburger, acting nonchalant, but her shoulders are stiff. “Sounds good to me. I was done anyway.” She seems irritated and I have no idea why, other than she seems to be able to read through my bullshit and test me, which most people can’t and won’t even try. I’m supposed to be a closed book. A mystery. That way no one can see who I really am. It’s the way I’ve been living for years and it’s comfortable. Not ideal, but nothing is ideal.

We don’t talk as I collect our garbage and then walk next to her as she limps out to my truck. I try to offer her my arm and open the door for her, but she denies my offer, moving to the opposite door and pushing it open.

During the car ride, she barely says two words to me. I should be happy about it. That way there’s no room for sudden questions and statements that will set me off, however I find myself missing the bantering thing we had going and the way she pushed my buttons. By the time I drop her off, all I want to do is ask her to stay, talk some more, let me get to know her. But I don’t understand why. I’ve never wanted to get to know anyone before. I’ve never even been out on a date. Each woman I’ve been with, I’ve only been with once. Just sex. That’s all it’s ever about. And I’ve never wanted anything more.

Until now.

 

 

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