Archive for the ‘must read’ Category

How many authors do you know who can follow the rain from downtown New York to uptown on a dark, stormy night and, Fatherhoodwith each passing street, describe the sinister deeds being done? Or, have a newspaper man see a lone, forgotten, beaten boxer on the back seat of an uptown bus and learn the truth about his downward spiral? Or, on his death bed, have an aged father tell his son the truth about their estrangement?

Thomas H. Cook is known for his mysteries, my favorite (and the one that started my obsession with his writing) being The Chatham School Affair. What a marvelous book! And, every year when in Chatham, MA on Cape Cod I ask the local booksellers for a recommended local author. Unfortunately, it seems I’ve run through anyone of interest. (I’m not into cozy mysteries or sea stories, somewhat limiting my interest in the wonderful local authors who live on the Cape.) So, when I saw Fatherhood and Other Stories by Mr. Cook at Where the Sidewalk Ends, how could I pass it up? (By the way, Where the Sidewalk Ends is a must stop for any book lover on the Cape.)

There are few authors who are so able to create an atmosphere and put you right in the center. I was on that bus when Jack Burke sat down next to Irish Vinnie Teague, the Shameful Shamrock, known in the sports world for his blatant throwing of a fight. A contender before the fight; a nothing after it. I was in the thunderstorm, following it uptown, seeing the dastardly deeds being done, the rain blurring the visions.

The 11 stories in this volume run the gamut from suicide to father/son relations, to beating the odds to boxing to loneliness. I guess the best way to summarize the tone of Fatherhood and Other Stories comes from the story of Veronica, working in the Mysterious Bookstore on Christmas Eve. In the solitude of the store at that late hour, she reads and ponders the sentence “We live in the echo of our pain.” In the stories in Fatherhood we live in the echo of our pain. I’m guessing that once you taste Thomas H. Cook’s writing, you’ll become obsessed as well.

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I hate reading about something bad happening to a character I like. So, as I began to like Ashleigh Maynard, I read with trepidation, knowing that Thousand Words is about a nude photo of Ashleigh texted to her boyfriend going viral. However, Jennifer Brown ThousandWords(author of The Hate List) handles the situation well.

We hear so many warnings on the news about what you should and shouldn’t put on your social media pages. We hear about potential employers checking Facebook and its equivalents to see what’s out there on potential employees. We don’t hear quite as much about the impact on teens and their families and friends when a simple mistake, such as texting or putting on social media, compromising photos, be they nude photos or otherwise, goes viral which in this instantaneous, cell phone age will happen.

Jennifer Brown does an outrageous job in the form of high school junior, Ashleigh Maynard, who drunk at a summer party, texts a frontally nude photo of herself to her college bound boyfriend, Kaleb, who has spent more time with the ‘guys’ over the summer than with Ashleigh. The reasons for the photo going viral are important, but less so, than the impact on the characters. What we and our children don’t realize is that both Ashleigh, 16, and Kaleb, 18, can be charged with distributing child pornography.  The criminal ramifications based on the different ages are dramatically different.

Brown describes in realistic detail the emotional impact on Ashleigh, her friends to some extent and her parents, exacerbated by the fact that her father is superintendent of schools in their district. The characters are marvelous. The story rings true. The writing just adds to the realism of Ashleigh’s tale.

In  the hands of a less talented writer, this story could be mundane or sordid. However, we all know Jennifer Brown has talent and she does teens a great service by informing them of the consequences of one ‘little’ mistake. Parents and teens alike MUST read this book.

I”m not a fan of sequels, but the story of Kaleb should be told as well. Jennifer, what about a ‘companion’ piece?

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