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The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle

The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle. To be published by Harper Teen in September, 2011. Read in August, 2011. ARC provided by publisher at ALA Annual.

Laurel is sixteen years old when her parents and younger brother are killed in a car accident, along with the mother of a classmate – David. David’s father was driving when the accident happened and is in a coma, leaving some questions about what caused the accident. Laurel and David were not in the car and are left to pick up the pieces of life that happens after. Laurel’s grandmother comes to stay with her and provides Laurel with a support system that David lacks. Laurel is drawn to David and can relate to his pain, but he is the son of the man who killed her family. Meanwhile, her best friend is growing distant, and she doesn’t know if a boy at school is only interested in dating her out of pity.

While I didn’t shed any tears over this one, it is an absorbing read. I liked Laurel and felt for what she goes through. It is comforting how much her grandmother loves her; the reader gets little glimpses into Nana’s life and what she is sacrificing to move into Laurel’s house with her since Nana lives out-of-town.

Laurel takes a job at a local veterinarian’s office; it is a fairly close drive but far enough away that her co-workers don’t know her as the girl-whose-family-died. It gives her a safe place where no one stares and whispers, and she finds healing in the work she does with the animals. She even volunteer’s to take in David’s dog, Masher, when David can’t take care of him. I looooooved Masher. He’s adorable!

But, there were times I felt like the way Laurel and her grieving are written are a little light. I was also bothered by how easily Laurel and her best friend grow distant. Overall, I enjoyed the book, but it just didn’t feel like an honest story about loss, death, sadness, grief, love, friendship, and moving on.

SPOILER: While it might frustrate some readers, I like that we never learn the definitive cause of the accident. Sometimes, horrible things happen and there is nothing to blame it on.

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This Week on Dog-eared and Well-read: Dark and Twisty

I recently managed to read a string of books back-to-back that dealt with loss, abandonment, fear, death, etc. It was after that string of titles that I really needed something different, hence my cry for help. I’ve decided to knock them all out in one week on the blog as a themed week: Dark and Twisty. So stay tuned!

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Readers Advisory Request

I am craving a new book to read, but I have a very specific craving.

Something similar to:

  • FitzOsbornes in Exile (and A Brief History of Montmaray but I liked Exile more)
  • The American Heiress 
  • Downton Abbey
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Brideshead Revisited (although I didn’t LOVE it, but it has the setting I might like)

I’m thinking a book that deals with:

  • upper class (but can also have other lower class characters)
  • late 1800s to beginning of WWII (but nothing set in the frontlines of a war), but I lean towards 1900 – 1920s
  • European in setting but would also be open to the northeast US
  • realistic
  • somewhat literary – I don’t want a bodice-ripper or trash, but I also do not require a literary masterpiece
  • can be YA but am thinking it will be easier to fill my needs with adult fiction

Any ideas? I’m coming up dry so far.

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Enter to win American Rose!

I saw American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare, the Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee at the airport this week and really wanted to read it.  I didn’t let myself buy it since I’d just mailed home 4 boxes of books from ALA Midwinter, so I would love to win a copy. You can enter to win a copy at Joshilyn Jackson’s site!

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Waiting on Wednesday – Bright Young Things

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event started by Breaking the Spine.

I’m really excited to finally read Anna Godberson’s Bright Young Things.  I loved her previous series, The Luxe, and was fortunate to obtain a bound excerpt of Bright Young Things at ALA.  I am hooked already!  It centers around three young women in the 1920s, a decade I have always had a fascination with.  The book came out last week, but I am waiting to read the copy I ordered for my school library.

Isn’t that cover gorgeous?  There is a You Tube video about the making of the cover if you want to check it out.

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One Reason for the Silence

Want to know what has been keeping me so busy?  A new dog!  Meet Nia:

Nia was a stray who found her way to a family friend’s house.  She did not have a collar on, is not microchipped, and they couldn’t find anyone near who was missing a dog.  The family could not keep her, already owning 2 dogs, 9 cats, and 16 horses, so we took Brinkley to meet her.  I did not think we would come home with a dog, despite the fact that we decided we were ready.  Brinkley is selective with the dogs he likes, and I thought it would be hard to find a new friend for him.

When we got out of the car, she came bounding over to us and she and Brink immediately hit it off.  She seemed to sense the things he doesn’t like other dogs to do (sniff his rear, dominate him, etc).  So, after several hours, she came home with us.

After much discussion, we named her Nia.  The vet thinks she’s about 9 months old, which puts her birthday around the time Jake left us.  I can’t help but feel like our buddy hand-picked his replacement in some weird way.  The consensus among the vet staff and just about anyone who meets her is that she’s a lab/rottweiler mix, AKA a rottador according to one of the vet techs who has her own.  She has a large head with rott bone structure, and she has the lab black coat, sweetness and smile.  Nia is such a love.

She really loves my husband, which makes me happy since Brink has always been partial to me, but she is not picky with her love.  Already, she has won over my in-laws, my sister, and my mom.  Brinkley continues to love her, expressing none of the jealously issues he had with Jake, and romping with her anytime she wants.  She has a lot of that puppy energy still, which is a lot of fun to have around the house.  We’re starting to work on obedience training, and will enroll her in a class through our county park program.  With a dog this big already, she needs to know who’s boss.

Her tail is docked, which could mean it was injured at some point, but I can’t help but think whomever had her first did it due to the rottweiler in her.  But who knows.  She wags what she has very happily; my husband calls her Nia Nubbins because of it.

She’s not fixed yet, but has an appointment in a week.  I’m adamant about not contributing to the animal overpopulation.

We are all happy to be a two-dog house again.  It feels good to have that much more love in our life, and Nia has lots of love to give us.

Brinkley is happy to have a new BFF, and she really wears him out.

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David Gray at Merriweather Post

Sunday night, I was fortunate to have front row seats for the David Gray/Ray Lamontagne tour.  It was an excellent evening!

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