Thursday, May 29, 2014

Xenocide by Orson Scott Card, 592 Pages

"Xenocide" is another book in the Ender Wiggin science fiction series by Orson Scott Card.

In this book, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin, is in his 60s, though it has been about 3,000 years since he wiped out the "buggers" in a war he didn't even know he was fighting.  He lives on the planet Lusitania and is married to Novinha and is step-father to several adult children.  Valentine, Ender's sister, comes to Lusitania too, along with her husband and children.

Congress has sent a fleet of ships to destroy the planet and Ender, Valentine and others are trying to stop them.

A concurrent story in the book takes place on the planet Path.  The stories intersect and while the plot line on Path is resolved, the one happening on Lusitania is left with a cliff-hanger that the book "The Children of the Mind" will resolve.

This is a great science fiction series with lots of deep moral undertones.  I will continue on to the next book in the series, though I have a few other books to read before I start on the next Ender saga.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Off Course by Michelle Huneven 287 pages

Michelle Huneven’s Off Course deals with love.  Married love, adulterous love, family love, and love between friends.

The story is set in the 1980s and centers around Cressida Hartley who is attempting to finish her dissertation and moves into her family’s vacation A-frame in the Sierras to have the privacy she requires.  The author describes the landscape, and the towns Cressida travels around in, in great detail and that added to the book’s appeal.

Cressida, or Cress, finds part time work here and there, partly as a means of making an income, and partly to distract her from the fact that she is not working on the dissertation.  Eventually she becomes emotionally attached to a carpenter from the area. Complications arise as they try to sort out their romance.

The book brings up questions about obsessive love and an explanation that is offered at the end of the book did not quite ring true to me.  I was reminded of the characters Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty played in Splendor in the Grass, as much as anything.

I would recommend this book and I think it would be a good book club book.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Waiting For Wednesday by Nicci French 372 pages

Waiting for Wednesday is the third book in the Frieda Klein series by husband and wife writing team Nicci Gerard and Sean French. Frieda is a psychotherapist who sometimes works with the police to solve crimes. In this installment Ruth Lennox, wife and mother of three is found murdered in her own home. The ensuing investigation reveals that Ruth was leading a secret life, the unveiling of which, throws her emotionally wounded children into Frieda’s life and home. Simultaneously, a chance remark sends Frieda on a separate investigation where she meets up with a retired journalist working on a series of missing girl reports.

I read the previous two books in one sitting but this one took a moment to get into. Way too much going on, and Frieda seemed to be losing her mind, although to be fair she was nearly killed in Tuesday’s Gone by a psycho first introduced in Blue Monday—you really need to read these in order—but eventually I got to the can’t-put-it-down stage. I can’t wait until Thursday to find out what happens next. 

Dark Tide by Elizabeth Haynes 384 pages

During the day Genevieve is a white collar worker in London. In the evening she moonlights as a stripper in order to save enough money to fulfill her lifelong dream of owning a houseboat. Not long after she realizes that dream and departs London for good she finds the body of her friend floating near her boat. Dark Tide alternates between the present day and Genevieve’s life on the boat and the not so far off past when she worked in a private men’s club. The answer to the mystery of the floating body lies somewhere between the two.

While this was an entertaining book and the passages of houseboat life were interesting and well written, there were way too many stranger-in-a-dark-alley moments that the character entered into willingly, that should have ended badly but somehow didn’t that I just couldn’t buy into it. This was another case of loving the author’s first book Into the Darkest Corner and wanting and waiting for this one to measure up. It never did. 

NYPD Red 2 by James Patterson 392 pages


NYPD Red is the elite group of New York Detectives assigned to high profile cases in New York City.  Their latest case involves the "Hazmet Killer", so named because the victims are found in public places dressed in a Hazmet suit.  Not only that, but their victims are tortured into confessing to crimes they have gotten away with, their confessions videoed and posted for the world to see.  NYPD Red is under even more pressure to catch this vigilante because the mayor is up for re-election and he wants this taken care of before election day.  Lots of twists and turns in this latest James Patterson novel.  Again, a quick and easy read.  Keeps your interest and keeps the pages turning.

The Chase by Janet Evanovich 303 pages

Super Thief/Con man Nick Fox and FBI Agent Kate O'Hare are at it again!
Carter Grove, former White House Chief of Staff,  now runs a ruthless private security agency.  Ruthless being the operative word.  He uses this as a cover to steal priceless works of art, no matter what the cost.  Kate and Nick's task is to take him down.  But to do so, they have to run a con that takes them all over the world and makes thieves of THEM, at least temporarily.  Good thing Kate has her dad and his gang to back them up.  Interesting and entertaining read.  A good read for a relaxing summer day.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Curveball : the year I lost my grip by Jordan Sonnenblick 285 pages

This was a solid book by Jordan Sonnenblick.  Sonnenblick is no stranger to having his books nominated for young reader awards and there's good reason for it.  This book follows Peter Friedman, an amazing pitcher on his baseball team, after he injures his elbow and discovers he'll never play again.  He discovers that he has more to offer the world than just baseball, but it's a tough lesson to learn.  Peter begins his freshman year of high school adrift.  No sports.  His best friend still convinced that he'll recover and play again, and a girl who throws him completely off balance.  Add to that odd changes appearing in his beloved grandfather's behavior and you can guess it will be a rough year for Peter.  This was handled well and believably.  I thought this was a very good book.

The Young Healer by Frank McMillan 208 pages

This is one of the best books that I've seen on the Mark Twain list for the last couple of years.  It seems like a lot of the books for the 4th to 8th grade range are full of kids who can't be told what's what.  They won't believe that a parent or elder might have a better handle on the way the world works until they have some major epiphany.  That is why I love Feather, the main character in The Young Healer.  She is smart, but very caring and trusts absolutely what her grandfather says.  Her grandfather is a Lakota medicine man.  The story is about one day in their lives.  Feather and her grandfather go on a vision quest of sorts to try to save her little brother's life.  Every time Feather starts to doubt the logic of something her grandfather says or does, she follows it with, "I know my grandpa has good reasons and will share them with me when it's time", or something to that effect.  How refreshing!  This book was full of colorful characters and Native American lore.  What a great read!  I highly recommend this book to 4th graders up to adults who love Juvenile fiction.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer 222 pages

Julie Orringer’s short stories in How to Breathe Underwater are all about girls and young women and their struggles with growing up and accepting their lots in life.  In one a teen helps her girl friend avoid making a mistake with a boy with whom they have both had a relationship.  In another a girl comes to term with the fact that she was present when her older brother’s girl friend died, and the aftermath of his feelings.

In a couple stories the young girls are observing their parents as they deal with death, illness and disappointment.  Orringer’s writing is clean, and a pleasure to read.  I would recommend this book.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Rockaway by Tara Ison 189 pages

In this book a painter named Sarah spends the summer months on Rockaway Beach, NY, in the home of her best friend Emily’s grandmother.  Emily is in Connecticut expecting her third child with her very wealthy husband.  Sarah’s parents are in California, where she has also been living.  Her brother died when she was young and since then she has grown into a relationship with her parents in which her role is the parent and they have become dependent upon her.

Ostensibly Sarah is supposed to spend the summer painting in preparation for a new exhibit but her creativity is drying up and she spends a lot of her time with an older musician named Marty who shows an interest in her as a friend, but not as a lover.  He takes his Jewish religion very seriously and invites Sarah to his home and to join him and his band members on several occasions. His part in the story is never made clear to me.

By the end of the book I had developed a dislike of Sarah because she seemed to make one poor choice after another and seemed to lack direction.  I think that was the point of the story, however, to demonstrate how a person can reach their mid-thirties and have no clue what their life has meant so far, and no idea how to take the next step.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan, 278 pages

"The Lifeboat" is written by first time novelist, Charlotte Rogan.  It is an intense tale told from the perspective of Grace Winter, who is on trial for murder after surviving 21 days in a lifeboat.

The year is 1914, World War I has just been declared in Europe, and Grace and her new husband Henry are sailing back first class to America on the ship the Empress Alexandra.  There is an unexplained explosion and Grace is one of the people who make it off the ship onto a lifeboat.

It took a good long while for me to appreciate this story because I am not a fan of survivor stories, but oh my is this intense and by the end I was totally enjoying it.  Is Grace good or bad, victim or criminal?  One thing is for sure, she is a survivor.

I'm looking forward to discussing this with other members of the library book club in a few days!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Mending: New and Selected Stories by Sallie Bingham 260 pages

This collection of short stories has been on my “to read” list for a long time and I am glad I finally read it.  I did not realize until I had the book in my hands that the stories spanned the years from 1967 to present, but the characters and plots are not noticeably dated in any way.

Some of the stories are sad and troubling and some of them are thought provoking.  Sometimes the author tells almost the whole story before revealing the characters names, and sometimes the action really only takes place between two individuals.

I found her writing intense and precise and I enjoyed this book.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

When I Found You by Catherine Ryan Hyde 397 pages

When I Found You is one compelling read.  Nathan finds an abandoned newborn in the woods when he is on a hunting trip.  He and his wife do not have children and he would like to raise the child but the boy’s grandmother claims him.  Nathan asks only that he be allowed to meet the boy when he is older.

The baby is eventually named Nathan and is called Nat.  The story that follows is of Nat’s difficult early years and his eventual connection with Nathan and his second wife.  Nat is determined to be a boxer, a subject I have never had any interest in, but somehow the characters of Nathan and Nat carried the story, and the boxing angle did not dampen my interest.

Nathan’s dialogue is so well written, his thoughts and observations are so succinct.  About resentment he says “Most people prefer to think that their resentment is entirely the fault of the person they resent….It’s like saying it’s your fault if I shoot you, because the gun is aiming at you.”

With Nathan’s guidance and help, Nat finds a purpose to his life.

I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it, especially for a book club.

Sense & Sensibility by Joanna Trollope, 368 pages

This is the classic Jane Austen tale of the the Dashwood clan, left penniless and homeless at the death of their father.  You might think, how could that happen today?  Joanna Trollope does at great job of making the back story make sense.

This is a totally modern version of the book - all the characters are there, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, mother Belle, Edward Ferrars, John Willoughby, John and Fanny Dashwood, and the list goes on.

The sisters have to deal with texting, twitter and YouTube videos of Marianne throwing herself at John at a wedding along with everything else.

Hilarious, fun and a perfect summer read or listen.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Boys of My Youth by Jo Ann Beard 208 pages

The only bad part about discovering Jo Ann Beard and her writing is that this is the only collection, or memoir, I could find of hers. 

The subjects of her writing are her family, friends, and boyfriends.  She skips around so that her childhood memories are intermingled with the adult ones.  When she writes about her older sister, Linda, there are some very funny passages. 

Her writing overall is sharp and masterful.  When she writes about her grandfather’s funeral she says “My aunt’s chin turns into a walnut, and then she’s crying too.”  When she escapes to Florida to heal a broken heart she writes “The Florida sun was climbing, the air felt like hot, wet lint.”  More of her wit and great descriptions abound in this tidy little book, which I really enjoyed.

Envious Moon by Thomas Christopher Greene 280 pages

In Envious Moon two friends decide they will go to an empty house and steal the money under the carpet that one of the friends, Victor, discovered earlier, during a funeral in the home.  Anthony, the other friend, ultimately goes into the house alone and finds that it is inhabited by a beautiful girl, Hannah, and her father.

Tragedy occurs when her father confronts Anthony. The story that unfolds is fast paced and we soon discover that Anthony is not exactly who we believed him to be at the beginning of the book.

At the very end of the book there is what one reviewer called an “O. Henry twist”.  I will be thinking about this book for a long time and would highly recommend it.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Cinder by Marissa Meyer, 448 pages

Cinder is retelling of Cinderella with a science fiction twist.  I like a good fairy tale so I gave it a shot.  I liked it.

Cinder is a cyborg in a future world that is celebrating 126 years of peace since World War IV.  She doesn't get a fairy god mother, but she does have a nasty guardian, who she refuses to call a step-mother, and two step sisters.  One nice, one not so much.

Cyborgs are humans who have lost limbs and are partly computerized.  They are considered second-class citizens.  Cinder is a gifted mechanic and is the only breadwinner in the family, even though she is only a teenager.

The only problem with this book is that it is part of a series and I didn't realize what I was getting into when I started it.  The story did NOT end with Cinder getting the prince and living happily ever after.  The second book in the series is a twist on Little Red Riding Hood.  Sounds like fun so I will stick with Cinder and put the next book on my to-be-read list.  I believe the author plans 4 books in the series, with 3 out so far and the final book to be published in 2015.

Franklin and Winston by Jon Meacham, 512 pages

The entire title is "Franklin and Winston: an Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship."  I checked the e-audio book out from Missouri Libraries2Go, so listened as opposed to read this book.

The book details the friendship of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston  Churchill, from their first inauspicious meeting in 1918 to the real and sometimes troubled friendship they formed during the war years.

I enjoyed the book, I really did, but my mind often wandered as I was listening.  That said, I would recommend this book to history and World War II buffs.  After listening to the book I checked out a print copy so I could peruse all the pictures, notes and appendixes in the book.  These total over 100 pages and are worth the checkout.

Shattered by Karen Robards 388 pages

Now that I have finished my 2nd Karen Robards book, I can speak more to what I like or do not like about her style.  I like thrillers and I read a lot of them.  It amazes me that authors can be so creative, that they are not all writing about the same topics or plots.  Lisa Grant, an assistant DA, becomes fascinated by a cold case, mainly because the little girl in the missing family bears such a strong resemblance to her.  But the more she investigates the case, the more endangered she becomes.  1st, her house catches fire and the folder with the evidence inside burns with it, then, when she goes to the home of the missing family, she is attacked.  More and more coincidences pile up until it becomes evident someone does not want her poking around in this case.  Meanwhile, she falls hard for her boss, District Attorney Scott Buchanan. But they have a past.  That, plus the fact that he is her boss make it difficult to act on the sexual tension between them.  That brings me to the part of Robards writing I could to without.  I don't mind a little romance in my mystery, but really!  Her sex scenes go on for pages and pages!  I get the idea!  You don't have to spell it out for me and if I wanted to read a romance novel, I would choose one of those!  Stick to the mystery.  Okay, now that I have said my piece, I will tell you her books are well worth the read.  You just may have to skim a few pages.

Home Fires by Elizabeth Day 245 pages

Home Fires spans the years between the 1920s in London to the present, and tells the story of Elsa and her parents and Elsa’s son and his family.  Elsa’s father returns from WWII a troubled man and this changes the fabric of her childhood.  Her escape and marriage are her salvation and she manages to make herself into an elegant woman who is impatient with Caroline, the “common” wife of her son, Andrew.

Andrew and Caroline’s son Max is the apple of everyone’s eye and decides to forego college and enter the military.  In addition, Elsa soon becomes infirm and moves into Andrew and Caroline’s guest room.

Anyone with elderly parents will relate to the complications that this type of arrangement will produce.  Anyone with any kind of reality check will relate to what happens to the elderly when they can no longer recognize their own family members or remember what day or year it is or where they are.

This was an interesting book and focused mainly on the two women and their relationship.  I would recommend it and I think it would be a good book club book.