Thursday, July 31, 2014

Without Warning by David Rosenfelt 295 pages

Wow!  I could use that one word to describe this book, but really, it deserves a few more:  amazing, thrilling, spine tingling, page turner!  Read it!

David Rosenfelt is one of my favorite authors for the Andy Carpenter series he writes.  This title is a stand-alone and in case you could not tell, I loved it.  It takes place in small town Wilton, Maine.  There has been a flood and it is decided to unearth the town time capsule to make sure nothing is water logged.  Much to their surprise, they discover a human skeleton on top of the capsule.  Not only that, but there is an extra box of predictions, all with clues to murders, past, present and to come.  Local town Chief of Police Jake Robbins goes from hero to suspect as things begin to unravel.  He has a complicated relationship with Newspaper editor Katie Sanford and even that is threatened.  Who is trying to frame Jake and put Katie in jeopardy?  Prepare to stay up late reading.  Rosenfelt mixes just the right amount of humor in with the terror.  You can't decide if you want to laugh or scream!

No One Could Have Guessed the Weather by Anne-Marie Casey 304 pages

No One Could Have Guessed the Weather is a book about four women living in New York City. The author jumps from story to story and that can be hard to follow, but the book is a good read.  The women’s lives and marriages are all in a state of flux and change, as are their friendships with each other.

While not providing any earth shattering revelations, this was an entertaining book and I think it would provide good discussion for a book club.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Shooting Star by Peter Temple 232 pages

I pulled this off the Newbooks shelf because it looked like it contained a lot of short, snappy dialogue and I was not disappointed in the writer’s style. This was a fast, satisfying read. I had not heard of Peter Temple before picking this book up but I intend to investigate his other books.

Shooting Star is about the abduction of a wealthy family’s 15 year-old daughter.  Not too far into the book it becomes apparent that this family has a lot of secrets and skeletons.  The investigator who is called in, Frank Calder, is an ex-cop and ex-serviceman with secrets and skeletons of his own.

Frank enlists the aid of a colleague named Mick Orlovsky whose background is similar to Frank’s background.  Of Mick, Frank muses “he was neatly dressed and clean-shaven but he always managed to give the impression that he’d escaped from somewhere”.  Orlovsky does not disappoint as a sidekick to Frank.

Together Mick and Frank look into the girl’s disappearance and the family secrets and eventually find answers.  As I said, this is a fast, satisfying read.

By the way, Peter Temple is an Australian author.

A Child Out of Alcatraz by Tara Ison 264 pages

A Child Out of Alcatraz is an interesting book.  I did not realize until I read this book that the families of prison employees lived on the island in state provided housing.  School age children took the ferry back and forth to San Francisco on a daily basis.

This book is about one of those families, and the chapters about them alternate with chapters about the history of Alcatraz.  Vivian and Arthur are the parents of Olivia and her older siblings, Stella and Jerry.  The story is told from Olivia’s point of view, and is as much a story about the changing roles of women in society in the 40's, 50's and 60's as it is about what Olivia is going through, growing up in the shadow of her siblings.

Vivian eventually starts seeing a therapist and starts taking mood enhancing drugs, something a lot of mothers in those years were doing.  Olivia reports again and again that Vivian will participate in family events and decisions if she is “Up. To. It.”, her code for “capable of coping with reality”.  In some ways Olivia becomes the parent as Vivian’s coping skills diminish.

The outcome of the story is unsurprising, but it was a very good read, nonetheless.  I really liked this book and Tara Ison’s writing style. 

Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding, 496 pages

Helen Fielding is a great comic writer.  In this story, Bridget Jones is now 51 and a single mother.  Her husband, Mark Darcy, died five years ago when son Billy was 2 and daughter Mabel was 2 months old.

Bridget is just emerging from her grief and trying to live again.  I read other reviews on Amazon and Good Reads and many people disliked this book.  I didn't.  I also did not read the other two Bridget Jones books, though I really enjoyed the movie version of "Bridget Jones."

During the book Bridget loses 40 pounds and begins dating a 30 year old Toy Boy named Roxster.  They are perfect for each other, except for the 21 year age difference.  I laughed out loud a lot as I listened to the book.  Bridget is not perfect, but she is perfect for her kids and her life.  I give this a definite thumbs up.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore 326 pages

Someday, if my dream comes true, Christopher Moore will ask me to be his proofreader.  That way I will get first looks at all of his books and I won't have to wait until they are published!  I love his books so much. This one, like Fool was inspired by some pretty heavy Shakespearean works.  Fool was kind of a retelling of King Lear from the fool's perspective.  Serpent has Pocket (the fool from Fool) back for more crazy, witty antics (and some pretty gnarly revenge involving a man-eating sea serpent), but inspired this time by The Merchant of Venice and Othello.  Only Moore could weave two completely different stories (make that three, because there was another work that inspired him for this one) and make it not only make sense, but have you giggling at others' demise.  I have never been disappointed by Moore, I just greedily wait for the next book.  Write faster, Christopher!!!

One For The Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt 224 pages

Carley is one unlucky kid.  She thinks that might be because there are 13 letters in her name.  Or maybe it was some other superstitious thing that cursed her.  Whatever it was, it must have been bad, because now she's stuck with the "perfect" family and she feels anything but perfect.  The longer she stays with the Murphys, the more she realizes that this kind of family is not only perfect, it's what she wants.  How can she face going back to the life she's known when she sees how great her life can be?  This was a fantastic book that really captured all sides of a foster family situation.  I loved the characters and felt all the hurts and joys they did.  Get your tissues ready!  This is a current Truman Award nominee.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Target by David Baldacci, 342 pages

"The Target" is the third book in the Will Robie series by Baldacci.  Will Robie and Jessica Reel are highly skilled assassins for the CIA.

They were very busy in this book.  First they were recruited for an ultra-secret mission to kill a bad world leader on the QT, then they had to rescue a young friend who was kidnapped by a Neo-Nazi group tied to Jessica's past, next they were asked to rescue some people in another country, finally they got a cushy assignment that turned out to be the hardest one yet.  Wow, from hit man/woman to all around go-to people for the biggest guy in the US government, in between their own personal missions.

Obviously the story was a little far fetched, but it was fun.  There is another storyline that involves an assassin in a totalitarian state.  That part of the story is not wham bam, and parts are actually quite serious.  However, overall this is an action-packed book full of making bad people pay the price for their badness.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What We've Lost Is Nothing by Rachel Louise Snyder 296 pages

This book takes place in the two days following burglaries which occur one afternoon in an affluent neighborhood of Chicago.  The chapters alternatively recount the reactions of the residents of Ilios Lane as they deal with their shock and sense of violation.

The McPherson family is at the center of the novel.  Mary Elizabeth McPherson has skipped school and is home during the break-in, high on ecstasy with her Cambodian neighbor, Sofia.  They are making too much noise to notice that a crime is being committed in another part of the house.

Everyone’s belief systems are shaken when fingers are pointed at different racial groups and suspects are discussed.  Neighbors who were proponents of diversity find themselves questioning their previous ideas.

Interspersed with the chapters are emails and blogs discussing the crimes.  I found this addition to be disruptive and hard to follow.

Otherwise, I really enjoyed this book and how the story unfolded.  I was reminded of the 2004 movie, “Crash” while I read this book.  I think it would be a good book club book.

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.

Summer House with Swimming Pool by Hermon Koch 387 pages

Summer House with Swimming Pool is told from the point of view of Dr. Marc Schlosser.  Marc, his wife, Caroline, and their two teenage daughters, actor Ralph Meier and his family at their rental summer house. 

This story is fraught with innuendo and winks and nudges that Marc interprets and extrapolates upon, in his inner dialogue.  His view of the workings of his family and of the people with whom they come in contact, is often hysterically funny.   

Some of the best and oddest parts of the book are sections of lectures that Marc sat in on during med school days, lectures by Professor Aaron Herzel.  Herzel may even be loonier than Marc.

A tragedy occurs during the summer at the rental house and it sets into motion Marc’s downward spiral.  This is a fast read, often laugh out loud funny.  Herman Koch’s protagonists are the closest to Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley, one of my favorites of all time, that I have had the pleasure to discover in a long time.  Who doesn’t love a good nut-case?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Where Somebody Waits by Margaret Kaufman 200 pages

Where Somebody Waits is a story told by many characters but the main character is Ruby Davidson.  As a teenager she has a passionate love affair with John Clay.  When he goes off to fight in WW II she meets, falls in love with, and marries Bubba, a shop owner from a tight knit Jewish family who is much older than Ruby.

John Clay eventually returns home and the story that follows is told by Ruby, John Clay, and Ruby’s nieces and nephews.  This is a good, well written book, and is an interesting chronicle of that time in our nation’s history.

By the end of the book, and the end of Ruby’s life, we have learned of her loves, friendships, and family ties.  I would recommend this book and I think it would be a good book club book.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks, 342 pages

I listened to this book after checking it out from Missouri Libraries to Go. The premise of the book is that it is 12 years after the end of a Zombie infestation that almost wiped out the human race.  The character, Max Brooks, not to be confused with the author, wrote a history of the conflict for the United Nations.  The UN didn't publish many of the personal stories that Max collected in his research, so he published those on his own and that is this book "World War Z."

I believe the audiobook is actually an abridgment of the print book, but it was great fun.  Author Max Brooks read the part of interviewer Max Brooks and each character was narrated by a different voice actor.  Actors included Alan Alda, Mark Hamill and Rob Reiner, among many others.

I'm sorry to say that in order to save the United States during the worst of the outbreak, that everything east of the Rockies was abandoned by the Army.  Ouch.  So much for St. Joe, MO!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Chasing Darkness by Robert Crais 273 pages

Three years ago Elvis Cole was hired by prominent defense attorney Alan Levy to investigate murder charges against Lionel Byrd. Lionel walked free, but now, 2 more girls are dead and Lionel's corpse is discovered with pictures of 7 murdered women. Did Elvis unwittingly allow 2 more murders? He and Joe Pike are on the case, made more difficult because they are shut out of the task force investigation. They never let a little thing like that stop them though. The more they dig, the more personal, political, dark and uglier this becomes. Elvis has to call in a few favors but "this is why I do what I do. I chase the darkness to make room for the light."

Unlucky 13 by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro 384 pages

As you may have guessed from the title, this book is the latest installment in the Women's Murder Club series.  James Patterson's books are usually easy reads and thrilling page turners, but this one is exceptional. Good job, Maxine Paetro! 

There are actually 3 stories within a story in this one book.  Mackie Morales is back and as long as she is running free, Detective Lindsay Boxer's way of life is not safe.  Women's Murder Club member and hotshot reporter Cindy is on the trail, hoping to get a Pulitzer Prize winning interview. Not only that, but best friend Yuki and Yuki's  handsome groom Brady are on their honeymoon cruise to Alaska when their ship is taken by pirates!  These guys are not afraid to shoot to kill and the cruise liner will not pay the ransom.  Will Yuki and Brady make it to their one year wedding anniversary? On top of all this, someone is planting "belly bombs" in Chuck's Prime hamburgers.  Can Lindsay and her partner Richie find the bomber before more innocent people are killed?  And you thought there was drama in your life?!  Wow!

Top Secret Twenty-One by Janet Evanovich, 352 pages

I always complain about Janet Evanovich books.  Not this one.  By golly, I laughed out loud several times.  Sure, the same old characters are there: Stephanie, Lula, Joe, Ranger, Grandma Mazur, Grandma Bella, Momma Plum, Daddy Plum. . .  And they are all up to their normal antics but maybe I've given in to the fact that not much is going to change except for a new mad cap, comic, yet deadly situation that Stephanie somehow manages to survive in spite of and with the help of her friends, family and her two guys - Trenton, NJ Cop Joe Morelli and man of mystery Ranger.

Lately, there also seems to be a crazy animal or two running loose.  This time it is a pack of feral chihuahuas on Stark Street, the scary part of town.  This book also features the return of grumpy little person Randy Briggs and a smackdown between Grandma Mazur (Stephanie's grandmother) and Grandma Bella (Joe's grandmother).

Anyway, I'm giving this one a thumbs up.  Sit back, read (or listen) and while away a few summer hours.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Privateer's Apprentice by Susan Verrico 195 pages

This was a pretty decent book.  It read a lot like Treasure Island and was full of sea-faring adventure.  A young man whose parents die of the plague is accused of stealing bread.  He is bought as a slave by the baker who accused him, only to be kidnapped the first night at the baker's.  His kidnappers are a band of salty dogs in service to the Queen and he is forced to serve as mapmaker and anything else that needs doing aboard ship.  I liked the story, although some of it dragged a bit.  This is a great book, especially for adventure-loving boys, 4th grade and up.

The Watsons Go To Birmingham, 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis 210 pages

This is one of my new favorite books.  I listened to it being read by Levar Burton and couldn't get enough of it!  It is told by a young, black boy, Kenny, and is just a slice of life spanning about a year when race relations in this country were tenuous at best.  Levar Burton (of Reading Rainbow and Star Trek Next Generation...oh, and that little film: Roots) captured his voice perfectly.  The characters were charming and completely believable. I spent most of the book just laughing at the things the main character and his brother would say.  When his parents decide to take the kids from their home in Michigan to visit their grandma in Alabama, new adventures are on the horizon.  A near calamity leaves them in not-so-great shape, but I loved the end of the book.  Even though I cried through a lot of the last couple chapters, I thought it was just the most perfect ending I could imagine.  You really need to read or listen to this one if you haven't before...if you have, do it again!

Elemental by Antony John 326 pgs

This was a really interesting read. It follows a young man who has grown up completely isolated in a small, tight-knit community.  This is because he is the only one who does not have an "elemental".  Others can sense storms, work water to do their will, feel living things in the earth, but Thomas has none of that.  His little village is hit hard by a storm and they send Thomas and the other children to their island shelter.  When no word comes the next day, the kids go back to explore and find no one is left.  Pirates have been there and the children have no way of knowing if their parents are alive or dead.  This story was told really well and kept me reading and interested to the end.  

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Skin Game by Jim Butcher, 464 pages

The agony and the ecstasy of a Jim Butcher novel is that it is so good I can't put it down, but at the same time I know as soon as I finish it I'm going to have to wait a year or two for the next one so I want to stretch out the experience as long as possible.

Skin Game is book 15 in the Dresden Files series.  Harry Dresden is the main character in this series and he is a wizard in Chicago.  Jim Butcher has been described as the dean of Urban Fantasy.  These books have hilarious dialogue, gritty non-stop action and great characters.  I'm addicted to them.

This is my favorite series.  And I listen to them.  Bonus! James Marsters, who narrates them is fabulous too and does a wonderful job with accents.  Come on Mr. Butcher, chop, chop on the next one! Pretty please . . .

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Possibility Dogs by Susannah Charleson 483 pages

Susannah Charleson is passionate about her dogs!  Her previous book, "The Scent of the Missing", was all about Search and Rescue dogs.  This one is about service dogs.  Particularly, rescued dogs who become outstanding service dogs.  Featured in this book is Jake Piper, pictured on the cover.  Jakey was left abandoned in a shed and was nearly starved to death when Susannah came into his life.  This becomes a case of who rescues whom when Susannah experiences more and more OCD episodes and trouble with her failing kidneys.  She delves quite deeply into psych disabilities and the discriminations they face, especially when they try to enter a public place with their service dog.  Their disability is not evident and their dogs are often not welcome. 

Beware when reading this book.  The author's enthusiasm is contagious!