Tag Archives: Fiction

Review: The Things That Keep Us Here

The Things That Keep Us Here
By Carla Buckley
Random House
February 2010

Here’s the blurb from the publisher:

How far would you go to protect your family?

Ann Brooks never thought she’d have to answer that question. Then she found her limits tested by a crisis no one could prevent. Now, as her neighborhood descends into panic, she must make tough choices to protect everyone she loves from a threat she cannot even see. In this chillingly urgent novel, Carla Buckley confronts us with the terrifying decisions we are forced to make when ordinary life changes overnight.

A year ago, Ann and Peter Brooks were just another unhappily married couple trying–and failing–to keep their relationship together while they raised two young daughters. Now the world around them is about to be shaken as Peter, a university researcher, comes to a startling realization: A virulent pandemic has made the terrible leap across the ocean to America’s heartland.

And it is killing fifty out of every hundred people it touches.

The Short of It:

A gripping plot, likable characters, yet this one falls a bit short of its mark.

The Rest of It:

There are a lot of books out right now that deal with the end of the world, or a pandemic of some sort. This one deals with H5N1 and from its name alone, you can imagine the similarities to H1N1. As I was reading, I couldn’t help but think about the H1N1 scare here, and how it could have been much, much worse. In this novel, things take a turn for the worse and Ann is forced to make some tough decisions. As a mother, I could easily relate to Ann. The decisions she made were not made easily. They were made out of fear, and an intense desire to keep her family safe. I felt that the author did a good job of making Ann’s situation desperate enough for the reader to understand her decisions.

There is a lot that didn’t work for me though. This is a story of survival yet when opportunities present themselves, Ann and her husband Peter, don’t always take advantage of them. If there is any chance of your kids starving, you are going to do what you have to do to ensure that they don’t. There are moments when they do take advantage of a situation, but not always and the inconsistency bothered me. As I was reading, I found myself asking about water or food or weapons, etc. To me, these things are basic necessities when dealing with a pandemic of this magnitude.

A couple of the characters really didn’t have much of a purpose except to cause conflict between the main characters. One example of this is a young woman named Shazia. As a reader, I never really got to know her and I wondered what her purpose was besides the obvious, which I won’t go into as it would give some of the story away. Her character, along with her back story seemed a bit choppy to me and could have been a bit more developed.

Overall, the situations that I expected to be the most difficult ended up being almost too easy. Too pat. Water becomes an issue and then all of a sudden there’s a stash of water at your convenience. Not very believable. A trip to the hospital, in the middle of a pandemic… and she gets in and out in under an hour. Not likely.

I received this ARC several months ago so I don’t know how the final version turned out, but the version that I received was a bit disjointed and could have used a bit more editing. There were some overused passages that could have been weeded out and perhaps a heavier hand could have been used as far as keeping things consistent. Without these distractions, I think I would have enjoyed the book quite a bit more.

I recently read In a Perfect World, which also deals with a pandemic, but it was much more moving for me than The Things That Keep Us Here. However, I would definitely read something from this author author again as this was Buckley’s debut novel and parts of it did show some promise.  

Source: This ARC was sent to me by Bantam Dell via Shelf Awareness. The official release date for this book is February 9, 2010.

Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games
By Suzanne Collins
Scholastic, Inc.
September 2008

Here’s the blurb from the publisher:

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before-and survival.

The Short of It:

Well paced. Very readable. Vivid characters. Vaguely familiar.

The Rest of It:

This is where I become unpopular.

After hearing all of the hype over this book, I expected great things, but what I got was good, but not great. I know, the planet has come to a grinding halt and birds have stopped singing everywhere!! Here’s the deal, I am a 40-something female and I watched a lot of movies in my youth, but as I was reading,  I couldn’t help but compare this book to The Running Man and Logan’s Run. I’m not saying that The Hunger Games is exactly like these two movies, but the whole game show aspect…THAT, that to me was very similar. In the case of Logan’s Run, age is a factor too. Much like in The Hunger Games. Hasn’t anyone else noticed the similarities? If not, watch the movies and get back to me. Actually, The Running Man was a story by Richard Bachman (Stephen King) which was later made into a movie.


Did I enjoy the book? I did. I liked Katniss a lot. It was nice to see a young girl, with a good head on her shoulders. One who is a bit insecure yet quite capable at the same time. I thought some of the other characters were quite memorable as well. Who wouldn’t love Rue? Oh, and Haymitch was quite interesting. Funny at times, but serious when he had to be. I’m not quite sure how I feel about Peeta and his affection for Katniss though.

I can see why this book appeals to all different age groups even though it’s geared towards the young adult set. I am looking forward to the next book in the series, Catching Fire which came out this past September. The university that I work for was considering The Hunger Games for their Freshman Common Reading book for 2010, but they decided to go with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I missed the meeting though so I can’t tell you why!