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Danielle Steel

Country

There are many different ways our lives can be turned upside down—the loss of a career or a major illness or even a sudden storm that wipes away all we have worked for. But nothing is as devastating as death. Death takes our constant, stable life and turns it upside down and inside out, leaving us in an out-of-control tail-spin-- as the heroine of Danielle Steel's Country, Stephanie Adams, discovers. Part of the devastation is the unexpectedness of her husband’s death, which took place on a yearly ski trip with the couple's best friends. Part of it was the regret for lost opportunities –now they will never have the chance to regain the closeness and intimacy they used to have. Another part was guilt –being upset as she watched her children rewrite history—making their absentee father into father-of-the-year. Then there is the fact that now as a singleton she no longer fits in with her partnered acquaintances and friends. But most of all, Stephanie has no idea what to do with the rest of her life. She subjugated her own wants and desire, putting her family and husband first. Now she is on her own, with nothing to hold her back, and she is paralyzed with indecision and fear. Life before was straightforward—uncomplicated and even safe. Country is filled with emotions and feelings not often discussed. With her husband’s death, Stephanie grieves for her husband, but she doesn’t make the mistake of canonizing him. He derailed their marriage with his affair, but Stephanie has to accept that she failed to stand up for herself because she lacked the courage to demand change. And now she must find the fortitude to move forward, because change is the only constant in her life now. This was my favorite part of the book. Watching Stephanie as she ventures out in the world –tightrope walking without a safety net, discovering what she truly wants for herself for the first time in a long while. Each step along the way tests her courage. Is she ready to date? Is it too soon for a relationship, no matter how innocent? Does she still have the ability to evaluate a man’s sincerity and honestly? As she charts her way through this unfamiliar world, she faces two choices: the familiar and easy way, or the untried and unknown. Stephanie’s choices will delight you as she becomes the person she was meant to be.

Leigh
Club Reader
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Stephen King

Finders Keepers

At the beginning of the twentieth century, literary genius John Rothstein crafted a trilogy of novels starring the classic American rebel--except in the third novel, the character "sells out" and becomes an advertising executive. Most readers accept this as the reality of growing up and settling down. But Morris Bellamy sees it as gross betrayal. In 1978, he kills the aged Rothstein and takes $20,000 from his safe, along with the huge pile of notebooks filled with hand-written stories that the writer has been amassing since he stopped publishing decades ago. Morris buries the loot but is soon arrested on an unrelated charge and sentenced to life in prison. Thirty years later, thirteen-year-old Peter Saubers finds the buried treasure and devises a plan to anonymously use the money to save his family, struggling financially since his father was injured by the Mercedes Killer. By the time the cash runs out, Peter is in high school and headed for a degree in literature, inspired by the lost Rothstein novels still in his possession. And Morris, now an old man with only one thing left to live for, is finally released on parole and returns to claim his long-awaited prize. Retired Detective Bill Hodges, who solved the Mercedes Killer case, makes a reappearance in the ensuing chaos, along with his sidekicks Holly and Jerome. They race to save Peter and his family before it's too late. As with much of his recent work, King's greatest achievement in Finders Keepers is writing convincing, very human characters. King always finds a way to make characters understandable (if not always sympathetic), even when their backgrounds or worldviews are very different from those of most readers. Morris's willingness to kill to get what he wants might be beyond most readers’ abilities to empathize with, but his ability to justify all his actions by shifting the blame to others should be recognizable to everyone. Morris isn't as mentally unbalanced as the Mercedes Killer of the first book; he’s just an average citizen with his faults taken to extremes. He starts with the same desires and impulses we all have, but fails to draw the line where most people would. The book is written in present tense, which may or may not be to your taste. However, it flows so smoothly that the the choice of tense is scarcely noticeable, which is as it should be. Most of the narrative moves back and forth between Peter and Morris. Bill Hodges plays a reduced role in this installment of his eponymous trilogy. Fans of Hodges and company should be warned that, although this book is strong in its own right Hodges's personal story doesn't progress very much; this novel appears to be a pause between the two "big" Hodges adventures. As usual, the setting is embellished with just enough rich details to make it shine without letting the pace of the story bog down.The story is well-crafted but straightforward; there are not many surprises save for a few gratifying or unfortunate coincidences that serve to move the plot in the right direction. It's clear how the three main characters will eventually come together, but it's still exciting and satisfying when they finally do. The supernatural dread present in much of King's oeuvre is just the tiniest flame on the back burner now, with hints that it will come to the fore in the final book of the trilogy.

Ashley
Club Reader
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