Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman 473 pages

I am sure if you look up "Ove" in a Swedish dictionary it would say "curmudgeon, set in his ways, high standards for himself and everyone else hiding a huge heart".  Throughout this entire book, Ove is trying to die.  You see, his lovely wife of many years, the only one who ever understood him, has died and Ove wants nothing more than to be with her.  However, life constantly interferes with Ove's plans.  First the young couple and 2 young daughters move in next door.  They don't know how to back in a trailer, fix a stuck window and the pregnant mother constantly needs Ove's assistance!  Then, the stray cat adopts him, his nemesis Rune needs his help and on and on.  This was a cute, heartwarming tale.

Emma and the Blue Genie by Cornelia Funke 90 pages

Cornelia Funke has long been one of my favorite authors of children's books.  Dragon Rider will always be in my top 20 favorites and I recommend it to kids all the time.  However, I am used to Funke writing books for older least 10-years-old and older, so I was intrigued by her new title Emma and the Blue Genie, because it was aimed at a much younger audience.  Funke can weave a story, she is responsible for the Inkheart series, you know.  I like that she took a stab at a simpler story to be told to a younger crew.  At only 90 pages long, this was a really fast read, but would be wonderful for your Mercy Watson/Junie B. Jones age kid.  The story is about a young girl who finds a genie in a bottle, but he has been stripped of his powers by an evil genie.  Well, what's a girl to do?  She has to help him get his power back and save his land.  This was a very cute story, with nice illustrations and well told to readers just getting into chapter books.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Wicked Ways by Lisa Jackson and Nancy Bush 342 pages

Elizabeth Ellis is just your ordinary housewife, except for two things: she has premonitions of terrible accidents that are about to happen, and if she gets mad enough to wish you dead, look out, because that is what happens. So far the death toll includes her mean boss, her philandering husband, even the traffic cop.  Elizabeth is horrified at herself!!  Now a private investigator tracks her down with a woman who claims to be her cousin.  They warn Elizabeth that she is in danger and her cousin tells her of her true birthright.

This is a fast paced supernatural tale, the kind you come to expect of Lisa Jackson and Nancy Bush and the ladies of  Siren Song.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Divergent by Veronica Roth, 496 pages

I waited to start the Divergent series until I could actually listen to all three books in the series right in a row.  I am definitely glad to have waited because I finished Divergent today which ended with a big cliff hanger.  I started Insurgent today, book 2, and it started up immediately where Divergent left off.

The trilogy is set in a future dystopian Chicago.  For those adults who haven't plunged into dystopian teen books, Merriam Webster defines dystopia as "an imaginary place where people are unhappy and usually afraid because they are not treated fairly."

The main character is Beatrice, who has grown up in the Abnegation faction.  There are 5 factions in society and everyone must choose a faction or become factionless - think dregs of society here.  Beatrice chooses to leave Abnegation for Dauntless, but finds what she really is is Divergent, which means she has the characteristics of more than one faction and that is very dangerous.

This is a typical wild ride, fast paced, adrenaline driven teen tale.  Great fun even though bad things happen to good people.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko 240 pages

In 1935, Moose Flanagan’s father gets a job on the infamous island of Alcatraz working as a prison guard/electrician. Moose, his mother, and his autistic sister Natalie all have to move to the island with his dad. Baseball helps Moose fit in with the other boys, but when Natalie is kicked out of her school, Moose must help take of her while his mother starts giving piano lessons on the mainland of San Francisco.

Moose gets drawn into helping Piper, the warden’s daughter, in her plan of having classmates pay a nickel to get their shirts washed by the inmates of Alcatraz, the most famous of all, Al Capone. Once this plan backfires, Moose must be careful to stay out of trouble.

This was read by Kirby Heyborne. 

The Cabinet of Curiosities: 36 tales brief & sinister by multiple authors 486 pages

This collection of short stories is really cool.  It is presented to the reader as a physical manifestation of the stories.  They will be housed in drawers, closets, and entire floors of the Cabinet of Curiosities.  Each section is comprised of several stories with a somewhat common theme.  The authors were Claire Legrand, Katherine Catmull, Emma Trevayne and Stefan Bachmann.  Some of the stories were very dark indeed.  They were all quite enjoyable, though.  I think that this would really appeal to kids who are outgrowing Goosebumps and want something that is creepier, more imaginative and entertaining.  I can think of many adults who would enjoy it, as well.  On the whole, I highly recommend this one to anyone who likes to walk in the shadows now and then.

On a side note, some covers I've seen say 40 tales rather than 36...I'm curious about those missing 4 stories...

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Father Hunt by Rex Stout 193 pages

Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe are at it again.  A young woman, Amy Denovo, asks them to find out who her father is.  Her mother is recently deceased, the victim of an unsolved hit and run, and leaves Amy a box full of money and a note that reads "This money is from your father."  The problems are numerous.  To begin with, her mother's name wasn't really Denovo.  She knows virtually nothing about her mother, except where she was working before she died.  Amy knows her own birthday and birthplace, but little more.  Of course, she has the best team working to unravel her mystery, but will they be in time to also save her life?

I listened to this title read by Michael Prichard.  It was very enjoyable.

The Red Box by Rex Stout 189 pages

Continuing with my Nero Wolfe infatuation, I listened to this one read by Michael Prichard.  Archie and Nero are confronted by a young man who insists that Wolfe leave the comfort of his office and his orchids to investigate a murder at a leading design house.  A clever trick is used to get the rotund detective out of the only chair he feels comfortable in and down to the design firm.  It seems a young model has eaten a poisoned piece of candy.  The problem is that the candy wasn't hers.  The police are stumped, and the client is worried about his cousin who also models there.  Who was the intended victim and how many more will die before the truth is discovered?

This was a really well woven, enjoyable mystery.  Archie's sarcastic, cocksure voice was as entertaining as ever.  I highly recommend this series.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card, 416 pages

I haven't read the "Ender" series of books in order.  I just read them in the order I can get my hands on them.  I knew the broad strokes of what would happen in this book because I've read later books in the series.

Ender is an adult here, in fact he's about 3,000 years old but because he has spent so much of that time traveling in space he is also only about 35 years old.

Ender makes his living as a Speaker for the Dead, meaning he tells the true story of someone's life after they have died.  It's a beautiful concept.  He travels from the planet Trondheim to the planet Lusitania to speak 3 deaths.  The trip takes him 2 weeks, but 22 years have past as he travels there.

Lusitania happens to be the one other planet with alien life and Ender gets caught up in the politics of dealing with an alien race.  The Ender books all seem to start slow but totally hook me about a quarter of the way through.  This one didn't disappoint.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Woman with a Gun by Phillip Margolin 291 pages

Wow!  This was a cool book!  Stacey Kim is an aspiring author working in a law firm in New York when she sees a photo in an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  It so intrigues her she knows it will be the basis for her book.  She moves to Palisades Heights to meet the photographer and get the story behind the picture.  What she finds is an unsolved 10-year-old murder, a wealthy man killed the night of his wedding to the bride pictured on the beach with an antique revolver behind her back.  The more Stacey learns about that night, the more twists and turns the tale takes, and the more dangerous it becomes for her.  

This short book will keep you turning the pages.  What really makes it interesting that indeed, this book was inspired by this photograph!  Don't forget to read the acknowledgments at the end to get the full story!

Close to Home by Lisa Jackson 424 pages

This book is full of chills and thrills.  Sarah McAdams has returned to the shores of the Columbia River in Oregon to restore the old family Victorian home.  She brings along her 2 daughters who, to say the least, are not thrilled at the prospect.  Young Gracie is open to the spirits who dwell in the house, while teenage Jade can only focus on the boyfriend she left behind in Vancouver.  Between the lurid family histories, the ghosts inhabiting the house, the teenage girls being abducted from the streets, and Sarah's reconnection with the various characters from her past, family and otherwise, this book will keep you entertained until the end.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride, 291 pages

It took me months to read this book because I rarely found time to sit and read.  However, that is not a reflection on the book.  It was totally engrossing every time I sat down to read it.

James McBride is one of twelve children born to Ruth McBride Jordan in the projects in New York City.

The book alternates between chapters written by James, and chapters dictated by Ruth.  When James was a child his mother never admitted to being white.  She was born an Orthodox Jew named Rachel Shilsky.  Her family left Poland and emigrated to America when she was a child.  Her father was a rabbi who also operated a general store in Virginia.  Family life was difficult.

Rachel left Virginia after high school and started life again in New York City in the early 1940s.  There she fell in love with James McBride, a black man.  She left the Jewish faith and became Ruth.  Her first husband died when she was pregnant with their eighth child (James).  A few years later she fell in love again and married Hunter Jordan, with whom she had four more children.  Hunter died when James was a teenager.

Ruth's will helped her leave her past and raise her twelve children, all of whom went to college and are successful professionals.  Ruth was a woman who never gave up or in.  I'm not doing this powerful book justice.  Read it for yourself and see.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Mermaids in the Basement by Michael Lee West, 291 pages

"Mermaids in the Basement" is a light novel about the deep south.  Renata's mother has recently died and her high-profile boyfriend seems to be having a high-profile affair on a movie set in Ireland.  Renata is depressed and is suffering from writer's block.  She leaves the coast of North Carolina to go visit her grandmother in Alabama.

Once in Alabama, she also reconnects with her father and her past.  This may be a book about the deep south, but the book itself isn't very deep.  Sometimes that's okay and this one one of those times.  I'm not sure I'll pick up another book by Michael Lee West, but I don't regret the time spent relaxing with this one.

The Secret Place by Tana French 452 pages

Tana French is one of my new favorite authors and this book has received quite the hype, but frankly, I am disappointed.  This is the story of the lives of privileged teens in private schools.  The girls' school is St. Kilda's and the boys' school is St. Colm's.  There has been a murder of a St. Colm's boy on the grounds of St. Kilda's.  It has gone unsolved for a year.  Then, a picture of the boy, Chris Harper, with a note saying “I know who killed him", is posted to the Secret Place, a special bulletin board in an alcove at St. Kilda's where the girls can anonymously pin their innermost secrets.  Cold Case Detective Stephen Moran brings it to the attention of the acerbic Murder Squad Detective Antoinette Conway and together they try to solve the murder.  Good luck to them, navigating the secrets and emotions of teenage girls and hormonal boys.  Both schools are private, religious boarding schools but the keen eyes of nuns and priests alike does not keep the students from sneaking out at night, meeting to have sex, drink, party.  Not to mention the cruelty of the "mean" girls at St. Kilda's and the boys at St. Colm's.  My beef with the author is that there is enough angst, secrets and emotions involved with teens this age, without bringing in the hint of magical powers.  Don't get me wrong, I liked the book.  However, I much preferred some of her previous stories to this.  

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Gray Mountain by John Grisham, 384 pages

This is a John Grisham novel that deals with the issue of Mountain Top Removal coal mining.  If you are a fan of big business, don't read this book.  It will just irritate you.  On the other hand, if you don't mind considering that big business might deem their bottom line more important than say, the people living in the communities where they do business, then sit down and enjoy the story.

The year is 2008 and Samantha Kofer is a hotshot young lawyer working in the real estate department of a mega law firm in New York City.  Samantha loses her job as a result of the financial crash and is told if she interns for a non-profit agency for one year she will keep her health insurance and have the prospect of returning to the firm.  Samantha ends up working for Legal Aid in Brady, Virginia, deep in Appalachia.

There she learns that she can truly assist people in need and she's darned good in a courtroom.  She also gets involved in some pretty nasty business involving coal companies, environmental disasters and black lung disease.

My beef with this book is that many of the story lines were not resolved.  I hope that means that John Grisham will return to Samantha and Brady, Virginia in another book.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

I"ll Drink to That by Betty Halbreich 272 pages

The title of this book makes it sound like it might be about a woman with issues with alcohol, when in fact it is about a woman who runs the personal shopping department of Bergdorf Goodman in NYC. The title refers to her raising a toast to her helping women dress well.

The author, Betty Halbreich, was a coddled wife and mother until her marriage to a serial adulterer ended.  She took time to hit rock bottom emotionally and then moved on with her life.  Being offered the job at Bergdorf gave her a place to grow into herself.

This book will be interesting to anyone who has a passion for fashion.  Halbreich’s comments on the changes that have occurred over the forty years of her employment are sharp and on target.  She dresses celebrities, wealthy clients from all over the world, and regular shoppers.  Throughout the book she stresses that she never just sells the most expensive dress or accessory just for the price.

I found this book a lot of fun to read.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Have a Nice Guilt Trip by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella 275 pages

Lisa Scottoline, author of the Rosato & Associates mystery series, is one of my favorite authors.  This is a collection of essays by mother and daughter about their lives.  The title caught my eye because, Lord knows, I have enough Catholic guilt to fill a book myself!  Lisa is at times self-deprecating but more often humorous.  You learn very quickly she loves dogs, chocolate cake, her Mother Mary, her Italian heritage and has strong negative feelings about getting old and her 2 ex-husbands.  A cute read but I think this will probably be the only one in the series I will read.  Just not my style.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Kiss, Kill, Vanish, A YA novel by Jessica Martinez 422 pages

Seventeen year old Valentina Cruz lives a live of luxury in Miami-- private school, credit cards with no limits, yachts, and works of art.  Then one night, after sharing a kiss with her hot boyfriend, her world shatters.  She runs away to Montreal and anonymity.  She is willing to accept her temporary life of poverty while Emelio saves for their future.  But things are not always as they seem.  When she is forced to see the truth about her life with a new clarity, she realizes her whole life is based on untruths, ugly lies.  And only she has the power to change it.  

Private India: A Ciy on Fire by James Patterson and Ashwin Sanghi 352 Pages

I have never been to India and if I were to rely on this book as a travel guide to Mumbai, I would NEVER go!  This book is the latest in the "Private" series.  Jack Morgan has opened the Mumbai branch of this elite detective agency. Someone is strangling seemingly random women with yellow scarves.  It is up to Santosh Wagh and the rest of his Private crew to discover how these ritualistic murders are related before it is too late, perhaps for one of their own, perhaps for all of Mumbai.

The author paints this city teeming with 13 million inhabitants as crowded, dirty, and smelly.  A place where no one is honest and anything or anyone is available, for a price.  Beware, the final chapter takes place at the Tower of Silence, a green oasis within the concrete hustle and bustle of Mumbai  A place were the poor of Mumbai leave their dead, their bodies laid out to be shredded and eaten by the circling vultures, the bones bleached by the sun and left to disintegrate into a fine powder.

Yeah, don't think I will be visiting anytime soon

Betrayed by Lisa Scottoline 340 pages

Oh My Gosh!  I was stressed out just reading this book!  Judy Carrier is the main character in this latest novel about the all woman Rosato and Associates law firm.  Judy's beloved Aunt Barb has kept her breast cancer diagnosis secret from Judy and her mother until she realizes she will need surgery -- and let's just say this is the least of the secrets she is keeping.  Meanwhile, Judy's live-in boyfriend, Frank, is being irresponsible and jeapordizing their relationship.  Things are not going well at work when senior partner Bennie Rosato wants Judy to handle some income creating work that Judy's uncomfortable handling.  But what really puts Judy's life in danger is when she starts investigating the sudden death of Aunt Barb's best friend, Iris, an illegal immigrant.  The discovery of large sums of money hidden all over Aunt Barb's house sends Judy into the shadowy world of vulnerable people who cannot go to the police when preyed upon by the ruthless.  All this happens in the space of along weekend!!!  YIKES!

Broken Harbor by Tana French 450 pages

Dublin's Murder Squad star detective Mike "Scorcher" Kennedy is hard nosed, hard working and focused.  So when this latest murder lands in his lap, he thinks it will be an easy solve.  A family is dead, the 2 children suffocated, the father stabbed to death, the mother barely hanging on.  There are baby monitors throughout the house.  But Kennedy and his rookie partner, Richie, soon discover strange things have been going on in this house. Not only that, but Broken Harbor holds tragic childhood memories for Kennedy and the fact that he is working this case sends his mentally disturbed sister, Dina, off the rails.  Scorcher has his hands full with this one.  Will he succeed or be destroyed?  My favorite quote from this book is "Boring is a gift from God.  Life has more than enough excitement up its sleeve....without you adding to the drama."  But really his book is about people who think so much of others opinions that they build carefully constructed facades to the detriment of what might really be important in life.  Another good Dublin Murder Squad read by French.  Look out Patterson!

Oh Yeah, Audrey! A YA novel by Tucker Shaw 243 pages

I am not sure how many teens will connect with this book...maybe those into vintage?

Gemma lives in Philadelphia and has just lost her mother.  She starts a Tumblr page she calls "Oh Yeah, Audrey!" a tribute to Audrey Hepburn and "Breakfast at Tiffany's".  In June, Gemma and 3 of her followers agree to spend 2 days in New York city, visiting iconic "Breakfast at Tiffany's" sites.  But things do not turn out as planned when Gemma is distracted by a glamours wealthy boy. Eventually Gemma realizes Holly Golightly's life may not have been a glamorous as Gemma imagined.

Isla and the Happily Ever After a YA novel by Stephanie Perkins 339 pages

This book is the 3rd in a series  but reads well as a stand alone.

Isla and Josh both live in New York but study at the School of America in Paris, a very elite high school. Romantic Isla has always had a crush on graphic artist Josh but until their Senior year he has been otherwise occupied.  Then after a chance encounter over the summer, they begin a hot romance.  However, Isla's insecurities and Josh's family obligations pull them apart. But, as you may be able to tell from the title, there is a happy ending.  A coming of age love story.

The Cinderella Murder by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke 303 pages

Okay, let me just say, I LOVE Mary Higgins Clark.  In this latest mystery she has teamed with Alafair Burke in what she promises is the 1st in a series.

Laurie Moran returns in this novel and she has found the ideal case for her TV program "Under Suspicion" where they revisit cold cases and try to solve them. 

UCLA student Susan Dempsey was murdered 20 years ago, the evening of her father's 60th birthday, on her way to an acting audition.  Her mother is looking for closure.  What happened to Susan?  Was it her jealous roommate? Her sketchy boyfriend?  Or did it have something to do with a controversial church that was active on campus?  As Laurie and her crew start to investigate, people close to the investigation are murdered.  They are hot on the trail but can they find the murderer before Laurie herself comes too close to danger?  A MUST READ!

The Job: A Fox & O'Hare novel by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg 289 pages

Yes, this is the latest in the Nick Fox and Kate O'Hare series.  Fans of USA network's "White Collar" television series will love these books.  Nick Fox is a notorious high end thief and Kate O'Hare is the FBI agent who finally captured him.  This time they are after the leader of a global drug cartel who has changed his look, but not his tastes.  Nick has some tricks up his sleeve to lure him out, but in the meantime they need to find the thief who is making Nick look bad. Someone is pulling off sloppy thefts in a Nick Fox mask. How unprofessional!  The humoruous cast of characters makes this book a fun read.

The Escape by David Baldacci 470 pages

  • In Baldacci's latest John Puller thriller, Puller's older brother, Bobby, has escaped from prison in Ft. Leavenworth, KS.  Bobby  was convicted and sentenced to life for being a traitor.  Surprisingly, John is tasked with investigating his brother. But Puller quickly discovers that his brother is being pursued by others and even those supposedly on his side have agendas of their own and everyone is a liar.   While I enjoyed this book, it was really full of alphabet soup: DB, NSA, CIA, STRATCOM,  FBI, CIA... You get the picture.  I had a hard time keeping track of everyone. Never the less, this was another great Baldacci book.  A great read!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Normal People Don't Live Like This by Dylan Landis 181 pages

This book is a collection of short stories that can be read alone but that have connections, if one chooses to read them that way.  The main character is Leah Levinson, who also appeared in Rainey Royal by the same author.  This collection was written first, it is almost a practice book, for what the novel Rainey Royal became.

I read them in the reverse order in which they were written.  I am not sure it would have made a difference in my understanding or appreciating the stories if I had read them chronologically. 

It is not a happy book.  However, I believe it accurately evokes the confusion, uncertainty, and depression that most teenage girls live with and try to overcome.  I would recommend this because of the excellent writing and because it is such a sharp portrayal of teenage girls, mothers, families, and our time.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Full Ridiculous by Mark Lamprell 240 pages

Murphy’s Law: anything that can go wrong will go wrong.  Murphy’s Law could be the theme of this book.  Michael O’ Dell is hit by a car as the book opens and survives the accident but from there, things in his life go from bad to worse.  His wife is patient and understanding and stands by him as his depression over his unemployment worsens and while he tries to keep up a good front.

Michael has a slightly manic way of reacting to circumstances and this does not help his case while dealing with police officers or the administration at his daughter’s school after his daughter gets into an altercation with another student.  Nor does it help when his son is found with illicit drugs and later when his son stages a movie at his school in which a “toy” firearm is used and the police are called in to investigate.

Some of this book was a slog, but for the most part it is funny and entertaining.  

Reunion by Hannah Pittard 271 pages

Reunion is the story of the family Stan Pulaski, who has committed suicide.  The story is told by Kate, his youngest daughter from his first (of five total) marriages.  Kate and her two siblings meet in Atlanta, where they were born and raised and where Stan took his life, in order to make funeral arrangements.

Kate’s marriage is on the brink of falling apart, her finances are a mess and she has lied to her siblings about her circumstances for so long she does not know how to start telling them the truth.  Between the grief and anger she feels about losing her father, who was not kind to her during his life, and the emotions caused by meeting up with so many ex-wives and step-siblings, she has quite the time of it.

This book was both funny and sad.  I think it would make a good book club selection.

Thanksgiving by Sam Sifton 125 pages

This book was given to me by my cousin as a thank you for hosting Thanksgiving meals the past couple years at our house.  It is a really nice book to read in preparation for the big day. 

The author’s tips take you through the whole menu and even through clean up and dispensing of leftovers.  He advises not to have appetizers, however, and, I had to disagree with this.  My family consists of serious grazers and would be disappointed if I did not supply noshing tidbits before the meal.

I would recommend this book as a fun read as well as a nice hostess gift idea.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace by Anne Lamott, 304 pages

I listened to this book, read by the author, Anne Lamott.  It is a collection of essays on life, faith, friends, family and community.

Anne Lamott is self-deprecating, a christian and a liberal.  Her interpretation of this crazy world makes perfect sense to me.  It was a lovely little book to listen to as the holiday and Christmas season ramp up to their normal frenzy of activity.

Cress by Marissa Meyer, 560 pages

"Cress" is book three in the young adult Lunar Chronicles science fiction series by Marissa Meyer.

The action is non-stop as Cinder, Thorne, Wolf and Scarlet work to stop the wedding of Emperor Kai, to the evil Lunar Queen, Levana.  Cress - think Rapunzel - is a computer whiz and has been stuck on a satellite circling earth for seven years.  She has been unwillingly helping the Lunars spy on earth.  Cinder and crew hatch a plan to rescue her.  That plan goes awry and the crew gets separated.

The only problem with this book and series is waiting for the next book to be published.  Book 4 is scheduled to be released in November 2015.  In the meantime, look for "Fairest: Levana's Story" to come out in January 2015.  We'll find out if Levana wasn't always so evil . . .

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling, 784 pages

My semi-regular foray into Harry Potter is finished.  The seventh and final book in the series, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" does not disappoint.

Harry, his friends and supporters face down Lord Voldemort and his supporters in this great ending to a great series.

The great thing about books is you can keep going back to them if you'd like and I know I'll return to the world J.K. Rowling created once again.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Rubber Band by Rex Stout 189 pages

This book in the Nero Wolf mystery series is a really fun one.  I think it has some of the best banter between Archie and Nero of any of them.  Clara Fox has a problem.  A very interesting problem.  40+ years ago, her father, along with several other men in a Nevada mining town, helped a man escape a hanging.  They did this with the understanding that this man would make them rich when he got home to England.  The real tricky part was that two of the main players were using aliases or nicknames and not many of the original group were still around.  Clara's father was killed in the war, but wrote all the details down in a letter to his wife, telling her that he hopes she can collect on the debt and help support herself and their daughter.  Now, Clara's mother has died and passed the letter on to her.  Clara is convinced that Nero Wolf is the only man who could possibly untangle this mystery and get her father's due.  As soon as he starts investigating, though, another of the original group is murdered...a few block's from Wolf's residence and only a few minutes after receiving a phone call there.  Wolf's genius is certainly needed for this one, but it will be Archie's quick wit and sparkling comebacks that keep you laughing till the end.  I listened to this one read by Michael Prichard...the best Nero Wolf audiobook reader.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Game by Barry Lyga 528 pages

It has been a month since Jazz helped to capture the Impressionist. It has also been a month since Billy Dent, a famous serial killer, escaped from prison. After a series of murders by the Hat-Dog Killer in New York City, Jazz is recruited by a police detective to help solve the murders. Using his serial killer knowledge that he learned from Billy, Jazz agrees to help.

While in New York, Jazz gets pulled into the game, where he learns that there are two killers Hat and Dog, where they both have a unique way of killing their prey. Jazz believes that his father is behind it, and as he fights to prove his theory, Jazz ends up in a jam.  

Will Jazz, Connie, and Howie survive this new set of killers?

Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen 256 pages

Cole Matthews is being sent to a remote island off the coast of South Alaska. Cole is to stay on the island for a year as a banishment that was handed down by Circle Justice, an alternative to jail.

Peter Driscal is an innocent boy who turned Cole in after hearing that he robbed a hardware store. When Cole found out what Peter had done, Cole beats up Peter.

Garvey, Cole’s parole officer gets the ball rolling for Circle Justice and comes up with the idea of banishment. He tries to help Cole, so that both Cole and Peter may heal.

Touching Spirit Bear follows Cole as he learns that there are consequences in life that he has to live with. Will Cole and Peter be able to come to terms with the abuse that both boys have had to deal with? Can they heal?

Monday, November 24, 2014

"A" is for Alibi by Sue Grafton 307 pages

This is the first in Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone Mysteries series.  We meet Kinsey, a woman who quit the police force because the politics and restrictions limited what could actually be accomplished for the sake of justice.  She has been working as a private investigator for a while, mostly for the insurance company with whom she shares office space.  Running down false insurance claims is quite a bit different from the case presented to her by Nikki.  Nikki has just finished serving time for her husband's murder and she wants Kinsey to find out who really killed him.  Kinsey is intrigued.  If Nikki had really murdered him, it seems unlikely she would bother hiring a P.I. to track down a phantom murderer.  Unfortunately, every time Kinsey follows a good lead, someone else dies.  If she makes it out of this alive, she might make it to "B" is for Burglar.  This is a fun little book and I like Kinsey as a character, especially as the series matures.  I listened to this book on CD read by Mary Peiffer, who was adequate, but nothing special as a reader.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

To all the boys I've loved before by Jenny Han 355 pages

This is a young adult novel.  Sixteen- year-old Lara Jean has written love letters to 5 boys.  Boys she, at one time or another, thought she was in love with.  Letters she kept, never intending to mail. Now, her younger sister Kitty, as an act of revenge, has mailed the letters.  Whoa!  It took me a really long time to get into this book.  It ended up being a story about high school reputations.  Are you a cool jock?  Are you the school slut?  Are you a quirky nerd?  Are you the mean girl?  What happens when the quirky nerd starts going out with the school jock, the ex-boyfriend of the mean girl?  Can she swim with the sharks?  It also illustrates how easily a good reputation can be ruined by a mean rumor.  Will I recommend this  book?  Doubtful.  It was okay, just not something to get real excited about.

The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams 307 pages

It had been years since I read this book, but I remembered it so fondly, I had to have a go at it again.  It did not disappoint.  Adams has a way of writing that feels like you're just sitting listening to someone tell a funny story.  Dirk Gently and his holistic detective agency were on the case when one of his clients ends up beheaded.  The plot got thick as jam when Thor, god of thunder, etc., got involved...not with the beheading, but with a massive explosion at Heathrow, which resulted in a ticket girl (Dirk's ex-secretary) being turned into a soda machine.  Is this book silly?  Oh, my, yes.  Is it a rollicking good time?  A million time, yes!!!  If you like a funny, irreverent mystery, and especially if you enjoy British authors, you must read this book.  I give you this colorful sentence to prove a point: The daylight shouldered its way in like a squad of policemen and did a lot of what's-all-thising around the room, which, like the bedroom, would have presented anyone of an aesthetic disposition with difficulties.

It's true love.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Doorbell Rang by Rex Stout 178 pages

Finding myself without an audiobook to listen to while I did dishes, I turned to recent purchases from our library book sale.  Hooray!  I found a Nero Wolf book I had forgotten I'd purchased.  This one was not read by Michael Pritchard, who is my favorite reader of these books, but it was still very good.  Nero is hired by a woman to get J. Edgar Hoover's FBI men to leave her alone.  Her crime is that she bought many copies of a book called The FBI Nobody Knows and distributing them to people she thought should read it.  Wolf's ego can't turn the job down and the massive payment check piques his interest, as well.  It turns out that he may be able to accomplish the job for his client and solve a murder in the process.  Only a genius like Wolf would be able to bully the FBI into doing as he wished, but he couldn't be the effective genius he is without wise-cracking Archie Goodwin doing all the legwork.  As always, an enjoyable book from the Nero Wolf series!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Faithful Place by Tana French 400 pages

Faithful Place is the name of a neighborhood in Dublin and this novel is a book about going home. Frank Mackey is a Detective in the Undercover department of the Dublin police.  Back when he was 19, he made plans with his girlfriend, Rosie, to run away to England.  You see, theirs was a Romeo and Juliet romance.  The Dalys hated the Mackeys and visa versa.  But on the night they were to leave, Rosie disappears.  Everyone assumes she went on to England without Frank.  Frank does not return home either, choosing to make his way in life on his own.  Fast forward 22 years.  The old house where they used to meet is being torn down and a suitcase is found stuffed up the chimney.  Frank is sucked in to the investigation although no one really wants him there.  The "Place" does not like cops, the Dublin police think he will choose loyalty to family and community and Frank's dysfunctional family holds too many secrets to want a cop hanging around, even if he is a long lost son.  This is another great Tana French novel.  I am hooked!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Sight Unseen by Iris Johansen and Roy Johansen 324 pages

This novel is the latest in the Kendra Michaels series.  Kendra was once blind, but due to an experimental surgery, has regained her sight.  However, she has kept her heightened senses and extraordinary powers of observation.  She is invaluable to law enforcement.  However, this most recent case is like a blast from the past, a blast into hell, that is.  Someone is committing murders that mirror Kendra's most notorious past cases.  She is forced to re-live those horrific crimes and the pain they caused the families.  The closer she gets to discovering who this sicko is, the closer the danger comes to her family and those she cares about.  Can she solve case before it is too late?  You will have to read to find out!

Monday, November 10, 2014

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen 342 pages

This is the story of a young orphan who is purchased to take part in the most dangerous scam imaginable.  Sage has been at an orphanage for years and is only about one year away from being able to strike out on his own, when a nobleman, Connor, purchases him.  This is an outrage for Sage.  He is extremely independent and self-sufficient.  Connor's plan is an attempt to thwart civil war by masquerading Sage, or one of the other 3 orphans he has acquired, as the country's long-lost prince.  Sage learns too soon that the losers in this game are doomed, but he doesn't want to be a part of it.  In the end, he decides that some prizes are worth fighting for and the truth is sometimes the hardest battle to fight.  This was a really solid story.  The characters were believable and the story was engaging.  I enjoyed listening to it as an audiobook read by Charlie McWade.  This title is a current Truman Award nominee and book one in the Ascendance Trilogy.

The Likeness by Tana French 466 pages

You know, they say everyone has a twin in this world.  Cassie Maddox discovers hers murdered, in an abandoned cottage in the country.  Not only that, she has an ID with Cassie's undercover name on it.  You see, Cassie is a Detective in Dublin and she used to work undercover.  Her undercover name was Lexie Madison.  Now, Cassie is asked to go back undercover, again as Lexie, to try and flush out the murderer.  She manages to return to the dilapidated country mansion Lexi shares with 4 roommates.  It is a complicated life full of complicated relationships.  Cassie finds herself becoming emotionally involved with this group of misfits while the investigation goes on, not only trying to discover just who killed Lexie, but Lexi's true identity.  Tana French weaves a great mystery, and seduces you into her tale with wonderful descriptive phrases.  Her pen is like a paintbrush.  I have found a new favorite author!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James, 304 pages

Death Comes to Pemberley is a murder mystery written by the famous British author, P.D. James.  It is also a sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

It is six years since the marriage of Elizabeth Bennett to Fitzwilliam Darcy.  They are happily settled on Darcy's estate Pemberley, with two young sons.  There is a murder on the estate the night before an annual Fall Ball and the still dastardly George Wickham is the prime suspect.

This was my second listen of the book because the Downtown Library Book Club will be discussing it in November.  I could barely finish it the first time but did better this time.  I expected it to be more Jane Austenish than it was and found the "stiff upper lip" dialog got old quickly.  However, it is a good story and I kept my ear out for the irony this time and found more of it.  I would recommend this book to fans of P.D. James but tell Jane's followers they can pass on it.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Charleston by Margaret Bradham Thornton 320 pages

This was a lovely book.  The story revolves around the city of Charleston and anyone who read and loved Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil might like this book as much.  There is so much history of the city, the families, the houses, and the customs of Charleston in the pages of this book.  Many of the characters remind one of the characters in Berendt’s book.  If they were not actual living citizens of Charleston, Margaret Bradham Thornton has done a wonderful job in making them seem as if they were.

In the book Eliza and Henry meet again after being apart for ten years.  They were madly in love until Henry made an error in judgment which caused Eliza to leave him and Charleston.  Both of them have matured and led full lives but in reuniting they find that they have not grown apart and the story continues from there.

The author does a good job of putting the reader into the spirit and atmosphere of Charleston.  I really liked this book.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling, 652 pages

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is book 6 in the seven book series by J. K. Rowling.

Harry is sixteen and Professor Dumbledore is working with him this year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, to help prepare Harry for the showdown he is destined to have with the greatest dark wizard of all times, Lord Voldemort.

The only problem with finishing this great book is in knowing that there is only one book left and when I'm done with that one, I officially have to put the magic of Harry Potter away for awhile.

Private Down Under by James Patterson adn Michael White 345 pages

This book should come with a caution: "Warning, the book you are about to read contains graphically violent scenes.  Be prepared to skip over some pages."  Yes, I realize this is a murder mystery, but WOW!  But I will say, in typical James Patterson style, it is a quick read and a page turner.  Young, beautiful women from the same wealthy suburb are being viciously murdered, their faces disfigured and a fistful of copied $100.00 notes stuffed in their vaginas, a Chinese gang has kidnapped and murdered a powerful businessman's son, and a famous rock star is trying to avoid the "twenty-seven club".  They all need the help of the newest Private office in Australia.  Although some Patterson die-hard fans will love this book, it is not one I would recommend.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

13 Treasures by Michelle Harrison 355 pages

One day I found myself without anything to read at lunchtime.  I went out and did a quick scan of our shelves down here in the Children's Department and this book jumped out at me.  It's the story of a girl, Tanya, who can see fairies, but that's not a good thing.  If she tries to tell anyone or get proof, they punish her.  These fairies aren't friendly, flitting from flower to flower nymphs.  They can be cruel and sadistic.  After a particularly aggressive reprimand from them, Tanya's mother decides she's too much of a handful for her, so she sends her to her grandmother's home for a couple months.  This is not a good thing, as far as Tanya is concerned.  She gets the distinct impression that her grandmother dislikes her and doesn't want her in her home.  Additionally, her grandma lives in the country and her home and its surrounding area are packed full of fairies.  Tanya has to navigate through all their mischief and try not to bring any more attention to herself than can be helped.  However, a strange gift from a local "witch" and a 50-year-old mystery are about to draw Tanya into more dangers than she ever would have imagined.  This is an excellent book that older kids and adults young at heart who enjoy the fantastic will really appreciate.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Gray Mountain by John Grisham 368 pages

In this, his latest book, John Grisham has taken on the strip mining companies and it is not pretty! Imagine, a pristine mountain in the Appalachians, colorful trees, lots of animals, just completely destroyed. The top sliced off to get to the vein of coal underneath. Trees, dirt, debris just pushed off into the valley. Workers' unions busted, miners dying because of too much coal dust in their lungs, their benefits denied. Rules are broken, regulations ignored, and communities divided. Bribes, corruption, you name it. Into this scenario lands Samantha Kofer. Samantha was born and bred to be a big time New York attorney. Both her parents are attorneys and she has been slaving away for several years now at a huge firm in New York. Then the bottom falls out and she is sent to a small village in the Appalachian Mountains to work pro bono at the Mountain Legal Aid Clinic. Samantha has never even been inside a court room, but she learns quickly that even small towns have their big secrets and litigations soon turns deadly. Will Samantha high tail in back to the big city or stick around to "help real people with real problems"? You will have to read to find the answer to that one!