A moving drama about a tutor and her student who survive a plane crash in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, only to wash up on a deserted island.  TJ missed a year of school while he was battling cancer.  Now that he’s in remission, his folks enlisted teacher Anna to tutor him while the family vacations in the Maldives.  All of that, of course, goes very wrong when their pilot has a heart attack en route to meet up with TJ’s parents already in the Maldives. 
At first, I found the story pretty Cast Away-esque.  Starting the first fire, cracking coconuts and catching fish for the first time were all VERY akin to the 2000 Tom Hanks movie, where Hanks’ character is stranded on an island in the middle of nowhere after a plane crash.  Sound familiar?  But, where this tale deviates is the growing, evolving, changing relationship between Anna and TJ.  Right after the crash occurs, they are very much teacher and student.  But, they soon learn to become partners in their desperate attempt to survive.  They care for each other.  They worry about each other.  And most of all, they learn to help each other survive under the direst of circumstances.  Yes, there are fights and frustrations.  But, for the most part, their mutual survival is aided by their strong and constant rapport.  Both characters grow quite a bit as people, both emotionally as well as physically.  One would think the TJ would do most of the growing here, since he is only 16 when they get stranded, but Anna starts off this story uncertain of her future and her life; she basically is not that grounded of a person.  They both are forced to toughen themselves up in all ways and to grow up fast.   There is no learning curve on the island — TJ doesn’t have high school and college to prepare him for “the real world” and Anna no longer can blame everything on the bad relationship she was in. 
And the relationship between the two of them is the best part of this novel.  I’m not talking about the romance.  I’m talking about the companionship and the friendship and support these two have together.  Each needs the other one to survive and when one’s survival is in jeopardy, the other is not sure they will be able to go on without the other.  And all of this is conveyed with sincerity and honesty in the book.  Garvis-Graves is an author to watch. 
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A true tearjerker, Night Road, is a perceptive novel on motherhood, friendship, family relationships and the devastation of loss. Jude Farraday is a super overbearing mother of twins, Mia and Zach. On the first day of high school Lexie Baill, newly adopted by her grand aunt, befriends Mia who is shy and insecure in contrast to her popular and athletic twin Zach. Jude grateful that Mia has found a friend opens her home to Lexie. The friendship flourishes.

As the action fast forwards to senior year, Jude beset by college applications and drinking parties becomes obsessive in her control of the twins’ lives. The timing for this novel is just right for Mother’s Day since the characterization of Jude relates so well to every mother who feels the pressure and concern for the happiness of her children. Adding to the tenderness of the novel Lexie and Zach fall in love.
On one tragic night on Night Road Jude’s fears are realized. In the explosion of Jude’s grief, guilt and rage lives are broken and dreams destroyed.
Setting and strong insightful characterization contribute to a realistic heartbreaking story.

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Having just read Andre Agassi’s autobiography Open, I decided to stick with the non-fiction genre and read the account of Nick Schuyler in his book Not Without Hope written with Jere Longman. This is the true story of four friends, two of them NFL football players, who went on a fishing trip that ended in tragedy as Nick was the only one of the four to come out alive. This accident occurred Spring of 2009 and the book was released one year later in March 2010. I remember vaguely hearing about this on the news, but had little recollection of the events, so everything in the book was new to me.

Nick Schuyler, his best friend Will Bleakley, NFL pros Marquis Cooper, and Corey Smith all went out on a fishing trip on Cooper’s boat in Florida. Ominous weather was quickly approaching so the guys decided to head back to shore. As they prepared to head home they realized the anchor of the boat was stuck. In a last ditch effort to free the anchor they tried tying the anchor rope to the stern of the boat and hitting the throttle. The anchor did not yank free, but instead, the stern sank and filled with water causing the boat to capsize. This is where the tragedy begins. Nick recalls his 43 hours at sea waiting for rescue while sitting on the hull of the boat grabbing on for dear life. He describes how his three friends eventually succumb to hypothermia and the elements and die right before his eyes.

It was very easy to get hooked into this book. I’m not a fast reader, but it only took me 2 days to finish the book. It was a very compelling story with very vivid descriptions of what the four men endured out at sea. Even though I knew the outcome of the story I remained glued to my kindle. There were parts of the book that were heartbreaking to read, but as a whole I found it a very riveting account.

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