The Monday Agenda 9/2/2013

MondayAgendaNot a lofty, ambitious to-be-read list consisting of 100+ book titles. Just a simple plan for the upcoming week — what I’m reading now, what I plan to read next, and what I’m hoping to squeeze in among the nooks and crannies.

I’m out of town on vacation this week, driving through beautiful Alaska (with my beautiful daughter)! Here’s the quick version of the Monday Agenda.

How did I do with last week’s agenda?

The ReturnedThe Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic

The Returned by Jason Mott: Done! My review is here.

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker: In all of my pre-trip frenzy, I ran out of time, and since this is a long book, I’m going to wait until I’m back from my travels to dig into it.

The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis: My son and I have read about five chapters so far. Last book in the series! I’m sad to see the Narnia adventure coming to an end. The Last Battle gets off to a pretty depressing start; I hope it picks up — and lightens up! — before the kiddo loses interest.

Fresh Catch:

For my inner fangirl, a treat from the Buffy-verse:

Willow: Wonderland

What’s on my reading agenda for the coming week?

Here’s what I packed to bring on vacation. We’ll see how much reading actually gets done – after all, I have trails to hike, and hope to spend my nights enjoying the Aurora Borealis (fingers crossed!!).

Bring Up the Bodies (Thomas Cromwell, #2)The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime WalkThe Shining (The Shining, #1)

It’s crazy that I brought so many books, but heaven forbid that I run out!

So many book, so little time…

That’s my agenda. What’s yours? Add your comments to share your bookish agenda for the week.

boy1

Book Review: The Returned by Jason Mott

Book Review: The Returned by Jason Mott

The ReturnedThe Returned is a brand-new release by a first-time author — and fortunately for the author, it’s gotten a tremendous amount of advance buzz, perhaps in large part because it’s already been snatched up by Brad Pitt’s production company and is scheduled to debut in 2014 as a TV series (with the title Resurrection – see here for more information on the TV show).

Not a bad beginning! But is it worth the hype?

In The Returned, dead people start showing up all around the globe — not as zombies or creatures out of horror stories, but simply picking up where they left off at the time of their death. They come back, whole and healthy, and if they remember where they’ve been or know why they’re back, they’re not saying.

The Returned, as the formerly deceased are known, reappear suddenly and in random locations. In the central storyline, 8-year-old Jacob appears one day by a river in a small fishing village in China, and it is up to the Bureau — an international agency hastily funded to manage the Returned — to get Jacob back where he belongs. Where Jacob belongs is in the tiny, isolated Southern town of Arcadia with his parents Harold and Lucille, now in their 70s… who never really recovered from their son’s tragic death fifty years earlier.

What plays out in microcosm in Arcadia is happening everywhere. More and more Returned keep appearing, and what people first viewed as miraculous has now started making them nervous. Just how many are there? Will it ever stop? Where are we going to put them all? Eventually, the Bureau stops focusing on reunions and soon shifts its mission to one of containment. Before long, Returned are living in increasingly squalid camps behind wire fences and with soldiers on patrol — but as it quickly becomes apparent, no camps can ever be big enough for the never-ending flood of Returned.

In some ways, The Returned tells two very different stories. On the one hand, it’s an exploration of love, parenting, and family. We meet Harold and Lucille as two elderly, somewhat ornery but likeable folks, getting on with their lives, with their aches and pains, bickering and scolding as only a long-married couple can. As Jacob reenters their lives, they confront their losses over time, what it meant for them to lose their child, and how their lives might have been different if they’d had Jacob all along. They also must adjust to being parents of an eight-year-old at a time when they might more naturally be grandparents — and confront the inevitable question facing all families of Returned: Is this person really their son? Is he really a person? What does it mean to have him back? And is he back for good?

The chapters focusing on this fractured and then reunited family are touching in their small details — Lucille’s need to feed Jacob and check up on him whenever he’s out of arm’s reach, Harold’s resumption of the ordinary daily rituals that used to be a part of the father-son relationship, like swimming in the river and teaching him knock-knock jokes. By extension, we get to know more of the townspeople and see how the phenomenon of the Returned impacts all of them, for good or for bad, in some cases bringing up memories of horrible events, for others a longing for a lost loved one who hasn’t Returned.

On the other hand, as the book approaches its climax, the tone shifts into something a bit more action-oriented, focusing on the cramped quarters of the camp that has taken over the entire town and the enraged townsfolk who want to get rid of the Returned by any means possible. It’s a powder keg that is bound to explode, and the inevitable results are violent and sad. For me, these parts of the book reminded me in various ways of Under the Dome by Stephen King, Haters by David Moody, and The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta — and certainly , shades of Torchwood: Miracle Day (for those who appreciate the geeky side of TV). None are a perfect comparison, but bits and pieces and certain themes definitely brought these other books to mind.

Overall, I liked The Returned quite a bit, although the climax and resolution didn’t entirely work for me. The parts of the book that deal with the emotional impact of the return of lost loved ones were evocative and emotional, and I truly enjoyed the lovely little moments at play as tentative new bonds are explored between family members separated by death decades earlier. The dilemmas the characters face seem realistic for people facing impossible situations and choices, and it’s easy for the reader to sympathize with their struggles and feel invested in their lives. Yet once the narrative becomes centered on the violent outcomes of the treatment of the Returned, the book in some ways became more ordinary for me. As an action story, it isn’t much that we haven’t seen before, in one shape or another. It’s the more personal moments that set this book apart and make The Returned such an interesting read — and I only wish that the focus had remained more on the relationships rather than moving into (dare I say it?) practically a dystopian set-piece by the end.

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The details:

Title: The Returned
Author: Jason Mott
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Publication date: 2013
Genre: Fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of Harlequin MIRA via NetGalley

Thursday Quotables: The Returned

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Welcome back to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

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This week’s Thursday Quotable — short but sweet:

His father’s love was an open door. It would never close — neither to keep you out nor to keep you in.

Source:  The Returned
Author: Jason Mott
Harlequin MIRA, 2013

The Returned

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

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If you’d like to participate, it’s really simple:

  • Follow Bookshelf Fantasies, if you please!
  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now.
  • Comment on this post with the link to your own Thursday Quotables post.
  • Make sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com).
  • Or… have a quote to share but not a blog post? Leave your quote in the comments!
  • Have fun!

The Monday Agenda 8/26/2013

MondayAgendaNot a lofty, ambitious to-be-read list consisting of 100+ book titles. Just a simple plan for the upcoming week — what I’m reading now, what I plan to read next, and what I’m hoping to squeeze in among the nooks and crannies.

How did I do with last week’s agenda?

The HumansLetters from Skye: A NovelThe Returned

I love these kind of weeks when I end up loving everything I’ve read.

The Humans by Matt Haig: Done! My review is here.

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole: Done! My review is here.

The Returned by Jason Mott: I’ve read about a third of this book so far… and it’s a good one!

The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis: Done! Book #6 in our great Narnia read-aloud was terrific. I can’t believe we’ve almost finished the series!

Fresh Catch:

One new book, and a copy of a book I’ve read already but just had to have:

Bone Quill (Hollow Earth #2)Some Kind Of Fairy Tale

What’s on my reading agenda for the coming week?

The ReturnedThe Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic

I aim to finish The Returned in the next few days.

Next up, a review copy of The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker, which  I think sounds like a lot of fun.

At the end of the week, I’m heading off on a week’s vacation — and I’m working on the all-important decision of what books to bring. As of now, top contenders are:

Bring Up the Bodies (Thomas Cromwell, #2)The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Rose Under FireBilly Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

Four books for a one-week trip is a bit excessive, but I have until Friday to narrow it down!

And… the Narnia read continues! As of Sunday night, we’ve officially started the last book, The Last Battle.

So many book, so little time…

That’s my agenda. What’s yours? Add your comments to share your bookish agenda for the week.

boy1