Monday, November 23, 2015

The Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore 344 pages

Following the stroke of their father, the Appledore children move into their familial mansion.  Their mother says this will bring them geographically closer to their father's new doctor.  The house, known as the Water Castle, is full of its own secrets.  Secret rooms, secret passageways, secret histories.  The town where it's located is full of mystery, as well.  Everyone seems exceptional, smarter than your average town, better at sports and no one ever seems to be sick.  With the help of some local kids, the middle Appledore child embarks on a search for what his ancestors hoped to find: The fountain of youth, and perhaps a cure for his father.  This was a lovely book.  It hopped back and forth in time to allow the reader in on the history more than the main characters of the book ever knew.  It also illustrated the sometimes messy tangles of family histories and how that influences things for generations.  I thought this book was just great, I wasn't going to read it, but was able to get it on audiobook by interlibrary loan.  This is a Mark Twain award nominee for this current 2015-16 year.  This was read very well by Chris Henry Coffey.

A Family Affair by Rex Stout 152 pages

When a bomb kills his favorite waiter from his favorite restaurant, sedentary sleuth and gourmand Nero Wolfe is determined to go to any length to find the killer.  This is a bit hairier than he'd like, though.  Some suspects are people he admires.  The answer hits closer to home than anyone would ever have dreamed.  Cherchez la femme...look for the'll usually find the key to the problem, or at least that is what the moral of this story was.  It had one of the most surprising endings I have ever encountered in a Nero Wolfe mystery and listening to it read by Michael Prichard was wonderful!

Gambit by Rex Stout 225 pages

A private club is the setting for murder when Paul Jerim, playing chess with twelve opponents, is poisoned. When her father is accused of the murder, beautiful Sally Blount calls on Nero Wolfe to find the real killer.  This is a little tricky, because all the evidence really does point to her father.  Nero and Archie will have to exercise all their creative thinking muscles to get to the bottom of this one!  Read by Michael Prichard, this was a very enjoyable story.

The Old Willis Place by Mary Downing Hahn 199 pages

Mary Downing Hahn is one of the best at telling ghost stories to children.  She has a knack for making things creepy without going too far over the line.  This particular story is about two children who live on the Old Willis property.  For ages, since "the bad thing" happened, Diana and her brother have followed the rules and not made trouble, except for playing pranks on the string of caretakers that have come and gone.  Diana desperately wants to become friends with the new caretaker's daughter, but it's a clear violation of the rules.  When she gives in, it sets in motion the release of an angry, vengeful ghost of the old woman who lived in the Willis house.  It doesn't take long for the reader to figure out what's really going on in this story, but the ending was a bit of a surprise.  If you know of a child, probably 3rd grade or older, who wants scary, but not terrifying, this is a great book to suggest.

The Silent Speaker by Rex Stout 271 pages

When a powerful government official scheduled to speak to a group of millionaires turns up dead, the business world clamors for a solution and Nero Wolfe takes the case.  There’s really not a lot more to tell…Archie is irresistibly charming, as always.  Wolfe gets sick of having too many clients and warring agencies constantly crashing his office calm.  Another fantastic Nero Wolfe mystery read by Michael Prichard!

Over My Dead Body by Rex Stout 293 pages

When a Balkan beauty gets in trouble over some missing diamonds, whom else can she turn to but the world-famous Nero Wolfe?  Especially since she claims to be Wolfe's long lost daughter!  The stakes are suddenly raised when a student at this woman's fencing school ends up dead after a pointed lesson.  As Wolfe and his sidekick, Archie, thrust and parry into a tangle of documents, identities and international intrigue, another student body turns up, expertly skewered through the heart.  Is Wolfe's long lost daughter the black sheep of the family, a hot-blooded mistress of murder? 
Another fantastic Nero Wolfe mystery read by Michael Prichard, but I've yet to meet one I didn't love!

The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin 343 pages

This book was so amazing.  I try to read a few chapters of all our new books, just so I can speak knowledgeably about them to our young patrons.  I couldn't put this one down.  The story is about a girl, Suzy, who is just in the first part of seventh grade who decided to stop speaking.  She states that small talk amounts to nothing, so she may as well say nothing to begin with.  Suzy notices that she becomes nearly invisible, a fact she thinks very we see more with our ears than our eyes, she wonders?  The main part of the story, though is her moving through a heavy guilt and grief.  You don't find out until near the middle of the book why she feels guilty, but the grief is due to her best friend drowning while on vacation.  Suzy hates that because of something she did the last image she has of her friend was Franny walking away in tears.  Suzy doesn't want to be the bad guy in this story and becomes fixated with finding out if perhaps a jellyfish sting is really responsible for the drowning.  There were several points in this story where I felt for this kid so much, I was crying.  The author did an excellent job of giving this character a believable voice and a realistic story.  No one was over the top mean, or precocious, or exuberant.  It was a very believable story, which was why it was so moving.  I highly recommend this to all ages, but probably 5th grade and up will appreciate it the most.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke, 276 pages

I am not a fan dark and depressing books where there is no hope or light.

I was not a fan of this book.

Friday, November 20, 2015

A Banquet of Consequences by Elizabeth George, 592 pages

This is book #19 in the Inspector Lynley series by Elizabeth George.  This is a modern mystery series featuring New Scotland Yard and I have to admit, I don't always like them.

For me, this book was perfect.  The main characters, Thomas Lynley and Barbara Havers were both prominently featured, along with other characters I've grown to know and appreciate.

The main storyline is a classic murder mystery wtih Barbara desperately trying to prove herself and keep her job after her adventures in #18.  Thomas Lynley is doing everything he can to assist Barbara.

Feast upon this great book and hope with me that George does it again in #20.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah 438 pages

It has been ages since I have blogged.  I was in a rut and it seemed nothing was inspiring me.  Well, let me tell you, that has changed!  "The Nightingale" by Kristin Hannah will knock your socks off!  It is unlike anything else by her that I have read. 

"The Nightingale takes place in France during WWII.  It is a tale of the French Resistance and 2 sisters, Vianne and Isabelle.  Vianne's husband is off to fight in the war, the Germans occupy France and Vianne's home is taken over by a German officer.  Vianne has no choice but to cooperate, or she and her daughter will suffer.  But things go from bad to worse.  Not only is food scarce, but the winters are brutal, her neighbor and best friend is a Jew, and word comes that her husband is a prisoner of war in Germany.  But Vianne, humble, starving, desperate Vianne, finds a way to save lives.

Meanwhile, Isabelle, rebellious, reckless and beautiful Isabelle, is risking her life as part of the French underground, rescuing downed pilots, guiding them over the mountains into safety.  Like her sister, saving lives. 

This is a book about resiliency, bravery, self-sacrifice, and the long term effect of one person's actions on the lives of others.  Would you be brave enough?