Monday, July 21, 2014

Invisible by James Patterson and David Ellis 399 pages

In typical James Patterson fashion, this book is a real page turning thriller! Emmy Dockery lost her twin sister, Marta, in a fire.  Using her talents as a FBI research analyst, she has a theory that a string of fires across the US, including the one that killed Marta,  are not accidental at all, but the work of a killer.  Just when Emmy and her FBI team think they are on the right track, the arsonist throws in a twist.  Intertwined in the story are excerpts from the killer's "Graham Sessions", detailing the murder. Just one part of the book that will leave you on the edge of your seat!  This book has more twists and turns than a ride at Worlds of Fun.  Fasten your seat belts and hang on!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Trafficked by Kim Purcell 384 pages

This book is another 2014-2015 Gateway Nominee, and another one about a young Russian (actually Moldovian) girl. Hannah's parents were killed in a terrorist bombing and her favorite uncle has disappeared. She lives with her "babushka" but they are very poor and seventeen year old Hannah cannot continue school. When she is offered the chance to move to Los Angeles to be a nanny, she takes it. But things are difficult from the start. She is issued fake documents, her money is stolen from her, and the family treats her like a slave. She works 16 hour days, is not allowed to leave the house, lives in the garage and the wife is insanely jealous of her youthful looks. Things go from bad to worse until Hannah ends up in the hospital, badly beaten by the wife. Only then is she rescued and given a chance at a new life.

This book was okay. I don't feel the characters were well developed. Kudos to Kim Pucell, though, She is donating 20% of sales from this book to organizations that help trafficking victims. She says that 14,500 to 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States every year and at least half of them are children and teens.

Can't we talk about something more PLEASANT? by Roz Chast 228 pages

In this book Roz Chast chronicles the last months of the lives of her elderly parents.  There are cartoons illustrating some of the steps of the way and some of the text and some of the cartoons are hilarious.  On the other hand, the truth about what a family goes through during the end of life journey is something Chast details with clarity and dignity.

As an only child Chast has all the responsibility on her shoulders when it comes to advising her parents and making decisions about moving them from their apartment to an assisted living situation.   We can all empathize with her quandaries about monetary issues and hospice and end of life care for elderly parents or relatives. 

I would recommend this book to anyone who has had experience making any of these decisions.

The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer, 304 pages

I listened to this book because the library book clubs are reading it this year.  As the story begins, it is 1985 and Greta Wells is in a deep depression.  Her twin Felix recently died of AIDS and within six months her long time live-in lover, Nathan, left her for another woman.  Her aunt Ruth is all she has left.  Antidepressants are not helping so Greta makes the decision to try electroconvulsive therapy.  She is scheduled for 26 treatments.

The therapy causes her to wake up in other times, 1918 and 1941.  In these other times she is still Greta, still taking the electric shock therapy and the key people in her life are still there.

I mostly enjoyed this book, though I also found it annoying as Greta was often overwrought with emotion, or maybe that was just the audiobook reader . . . anyway, I'm looking forward to hearing what the other book club members thought about this one.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

So Much a Part of You by Polly Dugan 225 pages

So Much a Part of You is a collection of stories which can stand on their own, but which contain characters who interact with each other over the years as they grow and mature.  A lot of the stories are about couples who have come to a point where some decision has to be made, do I stay or do I go?  It is interesting to see how the characters make their choices.

I really liked Dugan’s writing and look forward to more books by her.

Dark Eyes by William Richter 373 pages

This debut novel by William Richter is a 2014-2015 Gateway Nominee, and a good one, at that. This story of a young Russian girl, adopted and brought to the United States is a well written thriller that would also hold the attention of many adult readers. Wallis Stoneman remembers very little of her life in Russia. Adopted at age 5 and brought to the United States, she is the privileged daughter of wealthy parents in New York City. When she reaches adolescence, she becomes rebellious and curious about her real parents. She ends up on the streets, her parents divorced. One day, when she tries to score a new fake ID, she is sent to Brighton Beach. Instead of a fake ID, she is given a folder with clues to her true identity. However, this folder is the proverbial can of worms! When she sells a valuable stone hidden inside the folder, she sets in motion dangerous events that will forever change her life, and the lives of her "crew". Certainly a contender for the Gateway award.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Vacationers by Emma Straub 292 pages

The Vacationers is a good, well written book. Franny and Jim take their daughter from New York City to Mallorca for a two week vacation at the home of a friend. Charles and his husband, Lawrence, fly to meet them there as do their son, Bobby, and his girlfriend, Carmen.

Everyone has issues and by the end of the book everyone knows everyone’s issue.  The outcome is not startling or shocking but the way Straub writes is a pleasure and the story is a good one.

I would recommend this for a beach read or a good long airplane trip.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead 180 pages

Rebecca Stead wrote one of my new favorite books, When You Reach Me, so I was really excited to see that her new title was nominated for the Mark Twain award.  I listened to Liar and Spy on audio and was underwhelmed.  It was the story of a young man who has just moved into a new apartment.  He misses his old house, but is trying to make the best of a bad situation.  He befriends a boy in the building who is head of a spy club and is convinced that a man in the building is up to no good.  As I say, this was not a wow kind of book, but it wasn't terrible.  I think kids in 4th or 5th grade might enjoy it more than any other grades.

Worst. Person. Ever. by Douglas Coupland 301 pages

Raymond Gunt, the narrator of Worst. Person. Ever., is a cad, a cur, a rotter, a scoundrel and a womanizer.  He is also a cameraman who is hired to work on a reality television show.  He is told he needs an assistant and rescues a homeless man, Neal, from the streets of London, cleans him up, and they set off for an island in the Pacific.

On their way to the film site the two encounter all sorts of adventures and upheavals.  There are obscenities galore, references to body parts and sexual activities galore.  These men are after women.

Raymond is such a louse that he is called “Worst. Person. Ever.” emphatically, by at least three different individuals, before one is halfway through the book.  The book is funny, however, and the determination the two men exhibit in their quest for “companionship” is admirable.  Due to language and some descriptive passages, I would say this book is not for everyone but I enjoyed it a lot.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo 358 pages

This was an interesting book about a young woman who discovers she has a unique power.  Orphaned as a child, Alina always believed herself to be nothing special.  Her country is partially covered by "the Fold", an area that is completely dark and filled with deadly creatures.  Crossing the Fold is a dangerous undertaking at best.  Being a mapmaker, Alina is on a trip across the Fold with her childhood friend, Mal, (now in the military) and a ship full of others.  Partway across, they are attacked and when her Mal is threatened, something remarkable happens to Alina that sets her on a journey she never expected.  This was a pretty entertaining book with a different twist on the familiar theme of a kid discovering their secret powers.  This book is a Truman Award nominee and I listened to it on audio.