If Tracey Garvis Graves’ On the Island was an idealized version of the romance between a teen-aged boy and a woman in her third decade A Much Younger Man by Dianne Highbridge is the real story.
Aly is a teacher and has a distinct air of melancholia about her. She meets Tom on the train coming home from work and cannot place him at first, he is the 15 year old son of a once close friend from whom she has drifted away. Aly is not a predator, she doesn’t harbor lascivious thoughts about the children she teaches and Tom is uncommonly mature and cultured for his age. Despite the implausibility of a relationship between a 35 year old woman and a boy 20 years her junior Ms Highbridge has managed to craft a believable, realistic tale.
A woman and a boy catch sight of each other one afternoon on a train, an old man trips, a possum darts across a wet road. These are the things you can never foretell, the true coincidences.
A Much Younger Man
They are two people who do not quite fit into the world they inhabit, Aly is emotionally damaged from an abusive marriage and Tom is the product of two professionals he has been well educated culturally and socially. It still begs the question what would a then 15 year old boy see in a woman who is one of his mother’s peers? But that question isn’t as glaring as it would be in the hands of a less accomplished storyteller. It is inevitable that their relationship would face obstacles perhaps too easily surpassed in On the Island. That being said A Much Younger Man is a strangely compelling thought provoking tale that should not be missed.
I have read the following statement a number of times in reviews where it seems that the writer wants to soften the blow and it is applicable in my case as well. I really wanted to likeLosing It, I adore the plot device, the oft used yet somehow never old one of, mistaken identity or perhaps not even bothering with the identity part at all. It sparked the relationship at the center of the wildly successful television show Grey’s Anatomy spawning one of the greatest television super couples of recent memory, yet somehow it falls short in Cora Carmack’s debut novel.
Bliss is a 22 year old theater student in her final year of school and *gasp* a virgin! Why? As far as I could ascertain because she is completely and absolutely neurotic and not in that appealing Woody Allenesque fashion from his Annie Hall years. The story opens with confessing her dark secret to her bully of a best friend whose solution is to drag her bodily off to the bar and find the first halfway appealing man to deflower our Bliss.
Enter Garrick, a gorgeous Brit simply minding his own business reading Shakespeare in the corner. A perfect candidate to help Bliss out of her current predicament, how she could look this gift horse in the mouth I do not know. They end up at her place moments from “fait accompli” when Bliss chokes coming up with possibly the lamest excuse of all time and runs off. Of course the next morning when she attends class her new theater professor is none other than the plummy Garrick from the night before.
Throughout the novel the reader is never sure what precisely Garrick sees in Bliss and Bliss is one of those adolescent seeming characters who don’t seem to have a clear idea of what they want. In and of itself not an objectionable trait but there seems to be no real reason why Bliss has remained a virgin so long. Is she waiting for religious reasons? Fine. Has she been unlucky? No. This character was extremely hard for me to relate to not because of her age or even her virginity but because she seemed to have no clear reasoning for the choices she made. It was difficult to see how other characters would find her arbitrary nature attractive. Her character lacked motivation and thus I found the momentum in the story itself lacking as well.
Losing It was a fluffy enjoyable read but just not for me.
There is a method in my madness… which madness you might ask as some might say I do lots of maddening things but in this case I refer to the creation of this blog. Like all things it has evolved from its original purpose and it isn’t even a month old. One of my closest friends is an author, Auralee Wallace and to a self professed book nerd that is so very cool. What is unbelievable to me is that no one has discovered her yet. I am one of a very few people who has had the very great privilege of reading her work in particular her latest book Sidekick. One might think that I am just saying that because I am a loyal friend but being such a picky reader I literally could not profess to like a book that I did not genuinely appreciate. Sidekick is unique and considering the thousands of books I have read in my lifetime that is saying something. Have you ever wondered what Bruce Wayne would be like if he was Robin, and his father instead of a philanthropist was inherently evil, and he was in fact a she …who had more in common with Paris Hilton than Batman? Well if so then Sidekick is the book for you.
“I can’t help but think you misunderstood the instructions,” she said observing the chaos I created.
Oh shoot. The test!
“There’s still time!” I said quickly.
“Really?” Ryder replied, her eyes moving from mine to the direction of the street. The girls had vanished and a skinny butt was hobbling away into the shadows.
“You’ve got to give me a second chance!” I pleaded. “I mean giving me a flasher? Totally fair. But bitchy mean girls? They’re like my kryptonite.”
Ryder turned and walked away from me.
This was terrible. Awful. And I had been doing so well! This couldn’t be how it all ended. I had worked too hard! I had sacrificed my hair!
“This isn’t over Ryder!” I called to her sleek back. “Do you hear me? This isn’t over! I’ll show you!”
Suddenly a large boom rocked the night, and a fireball shot into the sky from the roof of the opera house.
Ryder looked back at me.
My hands shot straight up into the air.
“I didn’t do it.”
I was doing some research for another post and came across this article which reminded of the situation that my friend is currently in. In the article Jessica Park describes the frustration of having written a great book that for some reason no one wants to publish. http://indiereader.com/2012/06/how-amazon-saved-my-life/ This is no longer the case for her as Flat Out Love is now a New York Times bestseller. Look for an upcoming in-depth review her on her work to date Relatively Famous, Flat Out Love, Flat Out Matt and her newest novel Left Drowning.
Readers are at heart book hoarders, personally I never quite got the whole “returning” the book to the library thing. Separate from reading, my hobby is collecting books for and arranging my library. If you follow any book person’s blog they often bemoan the state of the their TBR pile, honestly I couldn’t even hazard a guess at how many books I have in this infamous queue yet I live in mortal fear of “having NOTHING to read!” After reading Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, a frighteningly realistic dystopian YA novel one of the first thoughts that occurred to me was not to go immediately to my local grocery store and buy all the canned goods in the place but whether I should abandon my new e-reader in favor of paperbacks because “how would I charge my e-reader if the hydro went out?!” Although I must admit this fear does still plague me somewhat I have reached an uneasy accord with myself balancing my book purchases between e-books and what I categorize as “library worthy” hardcover/trade paperback favorites for display and insurance against the apocalypse purposes.
With the creation of this blog my reading plan has changed somewhat from my lifelong rather aimless approach, it seems appropriate that to accurately evaluate a novel that there should be something to compare it to. An “apples to apples” approach if you will. Writing my review of On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves inspired this thinking and as I discussed it with others I became intrigued with the exploring what different authors did with similar situations and who did it more effectively. Initially, I thought Finding Home by Bonnie Dee & Lauren Baker might be a good comparison piece but for reasons I will detail in the upcoming review I eliminated this one from competition. A comment from a blog follower actually ended the search and I am now waiting with bated breath to read and review A Much Younger Man by Dianne Highbridge.
Personally, after reading a really great book, I can’t just pick up any old thing …being a discerning book addict and unfortunately the really great authors are never as prolific as we would like. Sometimes you just get lucky and there is something compelling either by the cover, the description or by word of mouth. This is, I think, the most subjective part of book selection because everyone’s tastes vary and simply because one person loved it is no guarantee that you will. Thankfully with the advent of Google and websites like Goodreads much of the risk out has been of book selection. Even with these resources some people, you know who you are, still require further assurance that what they are reading is worth their time which brings me finally to the object of this post.
Sometimes a story affects us intensely, which sounds like a good thing, it may even be one the best things about reading. There is a darker side to it though, I have joked in that way people do when they really aren’t joking “that the book had broken me“. If a reading hangover is the “inability to start a new book because you are still living in the last book’s world”, I must have had the equivalent of book alcohol poisoning that left me in an 18 month long coma following the conclusion to a book series that I had been anticipating with almost as much fervor as I did the birth of my first child. Suffice it to say that when you look forward to something that much there is no way that the author could satisfy my expectations. Even I realize how crazy that sounds, that being said Richelle Mead’s conclusion to the Georgina Kincaid series spectacularly disappointed me to the point that I did not even bother to finish the Dark Swan series.
I realize that books are the intellectual property of the authors who write them but don’t they have some responsibility to the reader? Particularly when they are successful and have established a significant following. Having never written nor published a book I cannot imagine the pressures that a successful author is under but is writing not like any other business and to a degree where customer satisfaction plays a rather important part? While I think fans threatening an author’s life is more than a little extreme as in the case of Charlaine Harris‘ conclusion to the Southern Vampire series.
I will say that after concluding Succubus Revealed I simply didn’t want to read anymore. I am the first to admit that I probably overreacted. As readers, I think, we come to believe in authors whose books we love and I felt that Richelle Mead’s effort was marginal at best having seen what she could do in her past novels. It wasn’t until recently that I even felt remotely interested in searching for something new and exciting to read or even revisiting some of the classics that I knew could never disappoint. Suffice it to say that my spring reading has reignited the passion I feel for reading and I am looking forward to that next great read and possibly even more reviewing it.
This blogger may be my long lost BBC television series twin, having watched Andrew Davies version of Pride and Prejudice so many times I swear my then infant daughter responded to the theme music. I may just reblog this so I remember to watch “The Lizzie Bennett Diaries” alone as I have seen and own all the rest.
“You pierce my soul. I’m half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I’m too late. […] For you alone I think and plan.”
–Captain Wentworth, in the best-loved love-letter of all time in Jane Austen’s ‘Persuasion’.
Do you ever feel that you’re an anachronism? That you’d rather have been born in a time and place where romance was simpler and yet more complex than now? I get that whenever I watch or read period romances. Like I’ve been doing for the past few days. I started with ‘The Lizzie Bennet Diaries’, moved on to ‘Lost in Austen‘, then watched all the four episodes of BBC’s adaptation of ‘North and South’, got worm-holed (my friend V’s expression, I hope you don’t mind me borrowing, V!) into watching my favorite scenes of ‘Emma’ (Jonny Lee Miller playing the gorgeously correct Mr. Knightly), and rounded up by watching Ciaran Hind…
Although I am really not a fan of cherry fudge ice cream being an advocate of Gold Medal Ribbon myself or Project Runway as I prefer The Bachelor, I couldn’t agree with this blogger more. I also stumbled upon All About Romance’s top 100 poll and found it to be an excellent tool for a while I was actively searching out many of the books I found there before others that I came across at the same time diverted me from the path. A top 100 list of my own seems daunting even though I know I have at least that many that I have categorized as “Library Worthy” and that is my own personal library of course so they are handily accessible when I NEED to re-read them.
There’s nothing better than a witty, heartwarming romance novel. Not molten chocolate cake, not a half gallon of cherry fudge ice cream, not a Project Runway marathon, not three-day weekends, not sleeping in on Saturdays, not welcome-home hugs. A real life romance might compete, but it would need to make me laugh and cry … and last at least six hours.
Several years ago I stumbled across All About Romance’s top 100 poll. They were compiling a list of readers’ favorite titles, and I thought, I should send them mine. I knew I’d read at least 100 romances by then, but tragically, I couldn’t remember all the good ones—much less rank them.
So I immediately started my own top 100 list. I don’t always remember to update it, especially if a book’s so good that all I can think about is tracking down the rest of the series; and it’s missing all…