Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz 256 pages

I love a good twist on a fairy tale and this one definitely panned out.  The author warns that it is not a tale for the faint of heart, that the only story most of us know about Hansel and Gretel is the smallest portion of their tale and possibly the most tame.  We get to meet their parents and learn of the terrible beginnings that would set their whole story in motion.  This story has child eaters, dragons, beheadings, souls being plucked from young women, a trip to Hell and more.  It was a very enjoyable story and I'm glad I decided to give it a try.  It was gruesome, but I would still recommend it to kids 3rd grade and up who like a little meat and gore to their adventure stories.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham 344 pages

Sebastian Rudd is a hotshot and cocky rogue lawyer.  Why rogue?  He doesn't have an office - he has a bodyguard/driver/paralegal and a souped up van that serves as his office.  He often defends people no one else want to defend because they are guilty.  He also defends people he feels have been unjustly treated by the criminal justice system. 
If you are guilty, you should expect to pay Rudd big bucks, if you have been railroaded, Rudd just might defend you for free.  Sebastian doesn't have much of a personal life, but he has a 7 year-old son that his ex-wife barely allows him to see.  He is also involved in the local cage-fighting scene, where he is a financial backer of an up and coming fighter.  Life is complicated. 
The book starts out feeling like it will be a collection of short stories, but after the first story and part, the rest of the book's stories are related and  flow.  This is not John Grisham's finest,but it was still enjoyable and kept my interest throughout the story.  The book ended in a way that left the door wide open for us to hear more from Sebastian Rudd.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Black Mountain by Rex Stout 208 pages

This was a most unusual Nero Wolfe mystery.  The murder of Wolfe's longtime friend and owner of his favorite restaurant, Marco Vukcic, gets Wolfe moving.  He doesn't just leave his house, he leaves the country.  Archie is taken along and their roles are nearly reversed.  They travel to Italy and Yugoslavia, Wolfe being totally fluent in eight languages is fine.  Archie simply listens to the noises being made around him, with the agreement that Wolfe will tell him verbatim what was said later.  Archie has to pretend to be Wolfe's son and they have some pretty tenuous interactions with locals.  It's a very dangerous game to play and there's no guarantee they'll come home as winners...or even come home alive.  This was a very interesting and enjoyable story read by Michael Prichard.

Woundabout by Lev Rosen 278 pages

Connor and Cordelia have just lost both their parents in a terrible accident.  They lived on a capybara training ranch with their Dad and Pop, but one of the bombs being used to train the capybaras was faulty and killed everyone except Connor and Cordelia (young twins) and Kip, the runt of the litter of capybaras.  They are shipped off to live with their Aunt Marigold, who they've never met in person, in the strangest town on earth...Woundabout.  The town rests upon a steep, winding cliff where the winds are so strong, you fear you'll be blown off the cliff completely.  Connor and Cordelia keep seeing mysterious holes in parts of the city, they aren't large, and look vaguely mechanical.  The mayor gives them a less-than-friendly greeting, and informs them that not only are they banned from asking questions, they can expect to be shipped away to school after summer break.  There are no other children in the town, except a boy who doesn't live there, but whose family lives just outside of town.  When the children hear about a mysterious "thing" that has gone missing, they embark on an adventure that could change everything...but for better or worse?  Change is a very relevant theme throughout the story.  This was a great book.  It had a little mystery, a bit of light fantasy, some adventure and a lot of heart.  Highly recommended for children 3rd to 5th grade.

The Lake House by Kate Morton 492 pages

Wow, this is a great book!  Full of secrets, mystery, love, hate and the sacrifices mothers will make for their children.  
The story takes place in England and the tale switches back and forth from 1933 to 2003.  Eleanor and Anthony Edevane are deeply in love and deeply devoted to each other.  They live on an idyllic estate in Cornwall with their 3 daughters and 11 month old son, Theo.  On the night of their annual grand summer party, Theo disappears.  Seventy years later, Detective Constable Sadie Sparrow is on forced leave from her position in London when she stumbles upon the abandoned Edevane mansion.  Her natural curiosity is piqued when she hears of the cold case.  But how much will her intervention cost her?  DC Sparrow has her own secrets, her own set of demons.

This book takes a lot of twists and turns.  It is filled with eccentric, interesting and romantic characters.  A great read and a satisfying ending!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Beat the Reaper (Peter Brown #1) by Josh Bazell, 310 pages

"Beat the Reaper" is a profanity laden and hilarious adventure about medical resident Dr. Peter Brown who also happens to be a former hit man for the mob.  His real name is Pietro Brnwna aka "Bearclaw" and he is in the Federal Witness Protection Program.

He is a resident at a crappy hospital and walks into the room of a terminally ill mobster and they, of course, recognize each other.  Oops.

This is a book club book and I am expecting to be chastised for making the book club read a book that mentions the "f" word in about every other sentence.  However, I'll just blame Shirley for picking this one. 

Author Josh Bazell has a BA in writing from Brown University and an MD from Columbia.   What a wicked and lovely combination.  And after reading this, I am going to do my best to stay OUT of the hospital.

Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben Macintyre, 399 pages

Everything I've read (or listened to) by Ben Macintyre have been very readable non-fiction books about British spies or World War II.

I don't know if the subject is just intriguing to me, or if he just knows how to tell a great story, but he always makes history come alive in his accounts.

In "Double Cross" he tells the story of the spies, and their spy masters, who double crossed Germany and helped the Allies make the Normandy landings on D-Day a success.  What a time and what a story! 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Murder by the Book by Rex Stout 246 pages

This was a very good Nero Wolfe mysteries, I think it's one of my favorites and that's saying something!  It opens with Inspector Cramer coming to Wolfe for help on a body that was dragged out of the river.  They know it's murder, but they can't even begin to start on it.  The only real clue is a list of names found inside a book in the dead man's residence.  Unfortunately, the names apparently do not belong to any real person.  Wolfe confesses that he doubts he can be of any help at all.  Then a man comes from Illinois to hire Wolfe to find out who killed his daughter.  She was living and working in New York for a publishing house.  The man shows Wolfe the last letter his daughter ever wrote to him and Wolfe recognizes a name in it.  This sets Wolfe and Archie on a trail that gets tougher and deadlier.  It is well worth the ride on this one!  I listened to this one read by Michael Prichard, who did a wonderful job as always.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler 293 pgs.

This is not the sort of book I would normally read but it was a book club selection so I started early in case I had to force myself. What a wonderful surprise to discover that not only did I want to keep reading but I that I was enjoying myself immensely.
      After a night of Vodka and Austen, Courtney—a present day, modern woman—wakes up in Regency England in the body of another woman where she has to pretend, at the risk of being sent to an asylum, that she is Jane Mansfield and not Courtney. And if that isn’t bad enough she has to contend with an angry, bitter mother who wants to marry her off, a fall off her horse that requires bloodletting as the cure, and a world where bathrooms, let alone toilets have yet to be invented.
      This is a funny, inventive, and highly entertaining read. But a note of caution. You should probably read this one without expectations and with the knowledge that not all your questions will be met with answers. But not to worry. I heard just recently that a sequel exists that could tie up the loose ends.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Please Pass the Guilt by Rex Stout 176 pages

Two men are up for president of a major company.  One of them opens the drawer of the other one's desk and a bomb removes him as competition.  The problem is: which man was the bomb intended for?  That's what the victim's wife wants to know.  Was it meant for her husband?  And if so, how did anyone know why and when he would be opening that drawer?  It seems that everyone has a story to tell...sometimes more than one version of the same story.  It takes all their wit and guile for Archie and Nero Wolfe to sort this one out.  Read by Michael Prichard and enjoyed as always.

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt 276 pages

Wow.  This is another wonderful book from Lynda Mullaly Hunt.  I read One for the Murphys when it was on the Mark Twain nominee list and loved it.  When this one came in, I read the first chapter, as I do with new books, but I couldn't put this down.  It is a wonderful story about a girl who can't read.  The letters just dance all over the page.  She's become a master at avoiding reading in class, going so far as to be sent to the principal or the nurse.  When her regular sixth grade teacher takes maternity leave, Ally braces herself for a new teacher to disappoint afresh.  What she gets is Mr. Daniels.  He determines to not send her to the principal, and begins to notice how skillfully she avoids reading.  Ally is such a smart kid, and Mr. Daniels sees it.  He is the catalyst for a major shift in Ally's existence.  One that involves her realizing her potential and talents, rather than her shortcomings.  This was a beautiful, well-told story and was told in a believable voice for a twelve-year-old.  You really felt for Ally, and the end was worth every heartache.

Where There's a Will by Rex Stout 258 pages

When strong, influential sisters, April, May and June call on Wolfe, he prepares himself for the worst.  After all, he does not play well with women.  Their main complaint is that their bother's will is bizarre.  He left his sisters a piece of fruit each, an oddly small amount to his wife and a whopping $700,000 to his mistress.  Something sure doesn't seem right in all of it.  The sisters don't care about money, they all have plenty of their own.  However, there were some legacies that were promised and it seems unlikely that their brother would have completely ignored them.  This was a tricky one that even got Wolfe not only out of his chair, but out of the house!  Read by Michael Prichard, it was a treat as always.

Too Many Women by Rex Stout 192 pages

A Wall Street employee well on his way up in his firm is run down by a car.  The police have it down as simply a hit and run.  So why has the director of his department listed him as murdered?  That's what the man who visits Nero Wolfe wants to know.  It will mean sending Archie in undercover to learn what he can at the firm.  Poor Archie...when he arrives, he discovers that the office is staffed by hundreds of women, all of them put together just the way he likes.  It's a tough case, even without all the distractions.  Leave it to Wolfe and Archie, though and you're likely to get there in the end.  Read by Michael Prichard.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore 344 pages

Following the stroke of their father, the Appledore children move into their familial mansion.  Their mother says this will bring them geographically closer to their father's new doctor.  The house, known as the Water Castle, is full of its own secrets.  Secret rooms, secret passageways, secret histories.  The town where it's located is full of mystery, as well.  Everyone seems exceptional, smarter than your average town, better at sports and no one ever seems to be sick.  With the help of some local kids, the middle Appledore child embarks on a search for what his ancestors hoped to find: The fountain of youth, and perhaps a cure for his father.  This was a lovely book.  It hopped back and forth in time to allow the reader in on the history more than the main characters of the book ever knew.  It also illustrated the sometimes messy tangles of family histories and how that influences things for generations.  I thought this book was just great, I wasn't going to read it, but was able to get it on audiobook by interlibrary loan.  This is a Mark Twain award nominee for this current 2015-16 year.  This was read very well by Chris Henry Coffey.

A Family Affair by Rex Stout 152 pages

When a bomb kills his favorite waiter from his favorite restaurant, sedentary sleuth and gourmand Nero Wolfe is determined to go to any length to find the killer.  This is a bit hairier than he'd like, though.  Some suspects are people he admires.  The answer hits closer to home than anyone would ever have dreamed.  Cherchez la femme...look for the'll usually find the key to the problem, or at least that is what the moral of this story was.  It had one of the most surprising endings I have ever encountered in a Nero Wolfe mystery and listening to it read by Michael Prichard was wonderful!

Gambit by Rex Stout 225 pages

A private club is the setting for murder when Paul Jerim, playing chess with twelve opponents, is poisoned. When her father is accused of the murder, beautiful Sally Blount calls on Nero Wolfe to find the real killer.  This is a little tricky, because all the evidence really does point to her father.  Nero and Archie will have to exercise all their creative thinking muscles to get to the bottom of this one!  Read by Michael Prichard, this was a very enjoyable story.

The Old Willis Place by Mary Downing Hahn 199 pages

Mary Downing Hahn is one of the best at telling ghost stories to children.  She has a knack for making things creepy without going too far over the line.  This particular story is about two children who live on the Old Willis property.  For ages, since "the bad thing" happened, Diana and her brother have followed the rules and not made trouble, except for playing pranks on the string of caretakers that have come and gone.  Diana desperately wants to become friends with the new caretaker's daughter, but it's a clear violation of the rules.  When she gives in, it sets in motion the release of an angry, vengeful ghost of the old woman who lived in the Willis house.  It doesn't take long for the reader to figure out what's really going on in this story, but the ending was a bit of a surprise.  If you know of a child, probably 3rd grade or older, who wants scary, but not terrifying, this is a great book to suggest.

The Silent Speaker by Rex Stout 271 pages

When a powerful government official scheduled to speak to a group of millionaires turns up dead, the business world clamors for a solution and Nero Wolfe takes the case.  There’s really not a lot more to tell…Archie is irresistibly charming, as always.  Wolfe gets sick of having too many clients and warring agencies constantly crashing his office calm.  Another fantastic Nero Wolfe mystery read by Michael Prichard!

Over My Dead Body by Rex Stout 293 pages

When a Balkan beauty gets in trouble over some missing diamonds, whom else can she turn to but the world-famous Nero Wolfe?  Especially since she claims to be Wolfe's long lost daughter!  The stakes are suddenly raised when a student at this woman's fencing school ends up dead after a pointed lesson.  As Wolfe and his sidekick, Archie, thrust and parry into a tangle of documents, identities and international intrigue, another student body turns up, expertly skewered through the heart.  Is Wolfe's long lost daughter the black sheep of the family, a hot-blooded mistress of murder? 
Another fantastic Nero Wolfe mystery read by Michael Prichard, but I've yet to meet one I didn't love!

The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin 343 pages

This book was so amazing.  I try to read a few chapters of all our new books, just so I can speak knowledgeably about them to our young patrons.  I couldn't put this one down.  The story is about a girl, Suzy, who is just in the first part of seventh grade who decided to stop speaking.  She states that small talk amounts to nothing, so she may as well say nothing to begin with.  Suzy notices that she becomes nearly invisible, a fact she thinks very we see more with our ears than our eyes, she wonders?  The main part of the story, though is her moving through a heavy guilt and grief.  You don't find out until near the middle of the book why she feels guilty, but the grief is due to her best friend drowning while on vacation.  Suzy hates that because of something she did the last image she has of her friend was Franny walking away in tears.  Suzy doesn't want to be the bad guy in this story and becomes fixated with finding out if perhaps a jellyfish sting is really responsible for the drowning.  There were several points in this story where I felt for this kid so much, I was crying.  The author did an excellent job of giving this character a believable voice and a realistic story.  No one was over the top mean, or precocious, or exuberant.  It was a very believable story, which was why it was so moving.  I highly recommend this to all ages, but probably 5th grade and up will appreciate it the most.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke, 276 pages

I am not a fan dark and depressing books where there is no hope or light.

I was not a fan of this book.

Friday, November 20, 2015

A Banquet of Consequences by Elizabeth George, 592 pages

This is book #19 in the Inspector Lynley series by Elizabeth George.  This is a modern mystery series featuring New Scotland Yard and I have to admit, I don't always like them.

For me, this book was perfect.  The main characters, Thomas Lynley and Barbara Havers were both prominently featured, along with other characters I've grown to know and appreciate.

The main storyline is a classic murder mystery wtih Barbara desperately trying to prove herself and keep her job after her adventures in #18.  Thomas Lynley is doing everything he can to assist Barbara.

Feast upon this great book and hope with me that George does it again in #20.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah 438 pages

It has been ages since I have blogged.  I was in a rut and it seemed nothing was inspiring me.  Well, let me tell you, that has changed!  "The Nightingale" by Kristin Hannah will knock your socks off!  It is unlike anything else by her that I have read. 

"The Nightingale takes place in France during WWII.  It is a tale of the French Resistance and 2 sisters, Vianne and Isabelle.  Vianne's husband is off to fight in the war, the Germans occupy France and Vianne's home is taken over by a German officer.  Vianne has no choice but to cooperate, or she and her daughter will suffer.  But things go from bad to worse.  Not only is food scarce, but the winters are brutal, her neighbor and best friend is a Jew, and word comes that her husband is a prisoner of war in Germany.  But Vianne, humble, starving, desperate Vianne, finds a way to save lives.

Meanwhile, Isabelle, rebellious, reckless and beautiful Isabelle, is risking her life as part of the French underground, rescuing downed pilots, guiding them over the mountains into safety.  Like her sister, saving lives. 

This is a book about resiliency, bravery, self-sacrifice, and the long term effect of one person's actions on the lives of others.  Would you be brave enough?