Friday, March 27, 2015

Still Alice by Lisa Genova 293 pages

The author of this book, Lisa Genova is a Dr. of Neuroscience from Harvard University.  This is her first novel.  The story may be familiar to some of you because it was made into a movie that has won several awards.  In fact Julianne Moore won an Academy Award for best actress.  The story may also be familiar to you because you know someone suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's. 
 I do.  

Alice is a 51-year-old cognitive psychology professor at Harvard.  She is world renown for her knowledge in this field.  She is married and has 3 grown children.  She is a runner, She has everything going for her.  When she starts forgetting things, it is easy to attribute it to the fact that she is too stressed or too busy.  But one day, after a run, she is blocks from her home but cannot remember where she is or how to get home. She begins to search for words she should know.  They are on the tip of her tongue but she cannot remember them.   She cannot remember how to cook, and cannot hold a thought long enough to read, she wants to sleep all the time. But she is still Alice. And she knows all too well what is happening to her.  This novel is great for book clubs and has discussion questions in the back.  It also offers links to anyone wanting to know more about this disease with no cure.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling, 503 pages

“A Casual Vacancy” is J.K. Rowling’s first adult fiction novel. The story is set in the small town of Pagford. It is a beautiful town where many of its residents feel it is their ordained birthright to control and preserve its heavenly beauty. Unfortunately, if you happen to be the less than blessed in this small town, beware, because it is the poor that has the local parish council in an uproar.
The story begins with Barry Fairbrother dying. Barry had held a seat on the parish council and was a champion for the less fortunate. With his death, there is a fear that the council will have the power to pass a vote to separate the town of Pagford from what is known as the Fields. The Fields would be similar to what we would call public assistance housing. Get rid of the responsibility of the residents of the Fields, and the town will be saved from the savages that many on the council believe live there. 
But the fighting in this small town doesn’t just revolve around the parish council, no, in this story you become a fly on the wall of all of the varied residents of Pagford. You will find a battle for power festering behind every door, be you rich or poor.

Although the story did start out slow, I was glad I stuck with it to the end. Rowling’s does a beautiful job with character and setting detail. The ending was not what I had expected, which I always enjoy. And Krystal, a teenager who lives in the Fields, will always be one of those characters I will never forget.  I felt Rowling’s challenges the reader to question their views on what makes a town beautiful. Is a town beautiful because of its buildings and natural splendor, or is the true beauty found among the diverse residences that live on both sides of the track? 

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Escape by David Baldacci, 480 pages

"The Escape" is book #3 in Baldacci's John Puller series.  John Puller is a military investigator in the Army.  His father is a retired general with dementia.  His older brother, Robert, was a military star in the Air Force a few years ago.  Now he is in military prison in Leavenworth, Kansas after being convicted of espionage.

Robert somehow escapes from the inescapable prison and John Puller is called in to help capture him.  But . . . was Robert actually guilty?

This is typical Baldacci.  Thrill a minute, men's men and tough women.  Oorah.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline, 294 pages

"Orphan Train" is a book club selection for two of the library's book clubs this year.  It tells the story of two women, Vivian, who is 91 and was an Orphan Train rider in 1929 and Molly, who is a 17 year old foster kid in 2011.  Their stories intersect when Molly is sent to Vivian's house to help clean out the attic in order to work off 50 hours of court mandated public service.

The books goes back and forth between 2011 and the past in order to tell Vivian and Molly's stories.  Vivian and her family immigrated to the United States from Ireland and ended up a New York City tenement house, where most of her family perished in a fire.  That's how she ended up on an Orphan Train, headed to Minnesota in 1929, at the age of nine,

Molly's father died when she was young and her mother fell apart.  Molly ended up in the foster system.  Neither Vivian nor Molly had and easy life with their foster families.

For some reason, I expected the book to be somewhat trite and sweet.  It wasn't.  It was gritty and sad and heartwarming and hopeful.  On the surface Vivian and Molly have nothing in common, but underneath, where it counts, their experiences bring them together.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins 323 pages

The Girl on the Train is a psychological thriller—my absolute favorite kind of book—told from the perspective of three different women none of them very likeable. But I expect if my husband left me and married a younger, fertile woman and put her in the home that I loved while I had to live with a friend who really didn’t want me there and every day twice a day on my way to and from work I had to see and be reminded, I would probably drink myself to distraction as well. And probably eat myself there too. So it’s not that difficult to understand why Rachel lives in a bit of a fantasy world and why she creates a fantasy life for a young couple who live a few doors down from her old house. And then one day, as the train rushes past she sees something quite unexpected and startling enough to bring her out of her alcoholic fugue to investigate. 
The Girl on the Train starts slow and passes back and forth between three narrators that seem unconnected at first. But what a great read it was. Beautifully written, with real, wounded characters you can feel for even as you’re screaming at them to get it together.  A true can’t-put-it-down kind of book.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion, 341 pages

"The Rosie Effect" is a sequel to "The Rosie Project."  Don and Rosie are now in New York City adjusting to married life.  Did you notice the cover?  Yep, that's gonna be a problem here, folks.

Don continues to wreak unknowing havoc on those who do not understand his Aspberger's learning brain.  And really, those who understand still have problems too sometimes. 

What I kept thinking as I read this book was "it takes a village" to lead a good life.

I enjoyed this book as much as I enjoyed "The Rosie Project."  I bet I said bittersweet last time, and I'm saying it again.  It's an easy read, funny, sad and makes me want to go out and hug all my friends out there who get me and make up my village.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Nightmares! by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller 355 pages

I thought this book looked interesting.  It wasn't until I really looked at the author's name that it dawned on me...yes, it's that Jason Segel!  I absolutely loved the reboot of the Muppets that he was largely responsible for, so I thought what the heck?  The story is about Charlie, a kid who has recently lost his mother and his dad married a woman Charlie is positively convinced is a witch.  Charlie, his dad and his little brother, Jack, move into the giant purple mansion that has haunted Charlie nearly his whole life.  Almost immediately, Charlie is assaulted by nightmares about a witch who is determined to eat him, piece by piece.  She looks oddly like his stepmother, too. The story takes an unexpected turn when Charlie ends up in the Netherworld, the world of nightmares. Nightmares! is co-written by Kirsten Miller (Kiki Strike series).  It was a fun book.  I found myself knowing a lot more than the character apparently could figure out, but that is to be expected.  It never got terribly scary, nor did it get overly emotional, but it was a solid story.  The characters were believable and likable...even the nightmare creatures!  I will definitely recommend this to kids probably 4th grade and up.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Cold Cold Heart by Tami Hoag 384 pages

Beware, this one could give you nightmares!  Dana Nolan was a successful young TV reporter.  Beautiful, perky, intelligent, she was on her way up.  Then, she is abducted, tortured, raped, and disfigured by a serial killer.  But Dana is stronger than she looks and she manages to kill her abductor and survive. Her memory has huge holes and she cannot remember what was done to her.  She calls herself After Dana.  After Dana is ugly.  After Dana has no filter and blurts things out.  After Dana dresses sloppily and tries to hide deep in the hood of a sweatshirt.  After Dana is also determined to use Before Dana's research skills to solve the disappearance of her best friend Casey.  What happened to Casey? Is she still alive?  Who took her? Was it Casey's dark and brooding boyfriend from the other side of the tracks, or was it the same evil man that abducted Dana?  Could their cases be related? For the answers to these questions and more you will need to read the book.  Beware! 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Will In Scarlet by Matthew Cody 260 pages

Do you love the tale of Robin Hood?  I do!  This was a wonderful take on the legend, told from the perspective of Will Scarlet.  Liberties were taken with the original legend, but there's nothing saying it couldn't have happened this way just as easily.  I loved the portrayals of the players.  When we meet Will, he is living in Shackley House, awaiting his father's return from crusading with King Richard.  Will's uncle, Jeff, has been managing in his brother's absence to keep their area running smoothly.  Enter Sir Guy of Gisborne and the Sheriff of Nottingham and let the adventure ensue!  This was a beautifully told, highly enjoyable spin on Robin Hood's legend.  I loved the characters and the way we learn about Robin, John and the others.  Their introductions are funny and heartwarming.  I listened to this Mark Twain 2015-2016 nominee on audio.  Maxwell Caulfield did an excellent job of giving each character a voice without ever being a distraction.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, 295 pages

This was a charming little book.  The story is told in the voice of Dr. Don Tillman, a of professor Genetics at an Australian University.  Don knows he is wired differently than most people.  As the reader, and yes I did read and not listen to this one, it is obvious he is on the autism spectrum.

Don is 39 years old and wants to find a wife so begins The Wife Project.  He gets sidetracked on The Father Project, helping Rosie, one of The Wife Project rejects, find her biological father.  Hilarity, sweetness and growth ensues.

Much of the humor in the book comes from the perspective that Don gives on an situation or conversation he had.  There's not a lot of character development, but the story works.