Monday, June 29, 2015

The Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke 276 pages

Didn’t know what to make of this book. It seemed like a horror story but it wasn’t really. Then I thought it was about a mother’s descent into madness. But not that either. Not much happened or it didn’t seem to. Hardly no characters and the narrator had serious issues. It all took place in a twelve hour period during a raging blizzard on Christmas Day. Absolutely loved it. Oh and if you’re a read-the-end-first kind of a reader then you probably shouldn’t read this book.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Melody Lingers On by Mary Higgins Clark 262 pages

Mary Higgins Clark is one of my favorite authors and she does not disappoint in this latest novel. The chapters are short and it is a really quick read, especially since you do not want to put it down.
Lane is a young widow with a daughter who has never known her father.  Lane is the assistant to a really demanding and in demand interior decorator, Glady.  One of Glady's clients is Mrs. Bennett, the unassuming wife of disgraced financier, Parker Bennett.  Parker disappeared over a year ago with $5 BILLION of his client's money.  Is Parker still alive?  Was his dashing son Eric involved?  Does his mistress know where he, or more importantly, the money is?  As Glady and Lane decorate Mrs. Bennett's new condo, Lane becomes involved with Eric and befriends his mother.  What will this friendship cost Lane?  Her reputation?  Her job?  Her daughter?  Her life?  You will have to read to find out!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Memory Man by David Baldacci, 405 pages

This is the first book in the Amos Decker series by David Baldacci.  Amos Decker's life was irrevocably changed 22 years ago when he sustained a brain injury due to a hit during his one and only play and game as a professional football player.  That injury caused Amos to have a near perfect memory.

His life was changed again 16 months ago.  He returned home from his job as a police detective to discover his wife, daughter and brother-in-law murdered.  He left his job, lost his house and became homeless.  He is now a private investigator on the wrong side of town.

A man suddenly confesses to the murder of Amos' family and then a horrific mass killing happens at the local high school.

Baldacci has several series going but I hope he gets back to this one soon.  I am eagerly awaiting book #2.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

'Tis: a memoir by Frank McCourt 367 pages

This sequel to Angela's Ashes is a memoir from the time Frank McCourt came to New York until after his parents' deaths.  Frank had a rough time after he came to America.  His eyes had infection, his teeth were terrible, he was completely broke, and he was full of aspirations that had trouble being realized.  He has such a conversational and funny (albeit dry) way of telling his stories, I really enjoyed this book.  It was made all the more pleasurable because I listened to it read by the author.  He has a wonderful way of telling a story so you feel like you were there.  This was the first thing I ever read by Frank McCourt and I'm really glad I gave it a try.

Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly 551 pages

Oh my!  I loved this book.  I may just sit back and read all 551 pages again.  It begins in "before times" in Ireland.  Before the famine, before death, starvation and mass immigration to "Amerikay".  Honora Keely is supposed to join the convent in 2 weeks, on her 17th birthday, but up from the sea arises Michael Kelly.  It is love at first sight and their destinies are sealed.  But life in Ireland is not easy.  The Irish work as serfs, planting the fertile Irish fields only to have their crops shipped off to England.  Their diet consists of the pratties, (potatoes), and fish.  So when the blight hits, they are desperate.  Millions succumb to disease, fever, and starvation.  Millions also leave the land and traditions, the family they love, and travel to "Amerikay", to find work and survive.  And survive, thrive they do.  In American cities like Chicago.  The children grow into strong, intelligent and talented adults, leaders in their communities, hard workers.  But as time goes on, they lose a bit of the "Irish", forgetting their lyrical native tongue, the emerald green of the Irish fields, but not the love of family, the strong ties that bind and the love of a good story or reel.  Mary Pat Kelly is the great-great-granddaughter of Honora Kelly, the main character in this book.  This is a story passed down thru the ages, because after all, "We didn't die."

Monday, June 22, 2015

Cash Landing by James Grippando 364 pages

I enjoy James Grippando's books and this was a quick read, but I think the Subtitle should be:  "The Dumb and Dumber of Criminal Minds."  Ruban has the perfect set up.  Millions of dollars in cash come into Miami airport on a regular basis.  Unloaded in a warehouse and then loaded onto armored trucks, there is a moment in time when the bundles of green are vulnerable.  Especially if you have help from the inside.  However, Ruban may have a great plan, but as we all know, great plans are only as strong as the weakest links, and there are plenty of weak links in Ruban's gang.  

This novel will not go down as the best story ever told, but it was nice for a summer read.  

Saturday, June 20, 2015

At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen, 348 pages

Maddie, Ellis and Hank are an inseparable threesome, though Maddie and Ellis have been married nearly five years.  They are all privileged young adults of privileged parents.  At a New Year's Eve Party on December 31, 1944 they party a little too much much to the horror of Ellis' parents who support he and Maddie.  Hank and Ellis are already looked down upon because they are both 4F and unable to serve in the military and Maddie's mother was a disgraced woman.

The trio ends up in Scotland, during the war no less, searching for the Loch Ness monster in an attempt to redeem themselves.  They're not much respected there either and tensions grow.  Maddie struggles to free herself from her uppercrust snobbery, much to the dismay of her husband.  The search is on for the monster . . . but just who is the real monster . . .

It took nearly half the book until I started to enjoy it, but then I really did.  This is one I will recommend to others.  Sara Gruen, author of "Water for Elephants" may not receive the same acclaim for this, her most recent book, but it was still a winner for me.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler, 293 pages

Author Laurie Viera Rigler confesses to be a Jane Austen addict.  In this novel, she has created a character, Courtney Stone, who is also a Jane Austen addict and lives in modern day Los Angeles.  Courtney wakes up from a alcoholic binge (where she is trying to forget about a cheating ex-fiance) to find herself in England in 1813.

But she's not herself.  She's no longer blonde, short and busty.  Now she's got brown hair and a willowy figure.  Everyone around her calls her Jane Mansfield, and Jane is a woman living a life very much like the life portrayed by Jane Austen's heroines.  Sure it's great to read Jane Austen, but to live it?  Courtney's not so sure.  Chamber pots, bleeding of ill humors, showers don't exist, baths are rare and women exist to marry and have children.

A fun, light summer read for even those of us who aren't quite addicts, but never turn down a good Jane Austen story.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Program by Suzanne Young 405 pages A YA novel (Gateway nominee 2015-2016)

First, a personal disclosure:  I am not a teenager.  It has been a looong time since I have been a teenager, or even had a teen child. Having said that, you can take my review of this book with a grain of salt.  I found this book dark and disturbing and will NEVER recommend it to a teen.  After I read it, I went back and read reviews to see what it was I missed, but I still do not see why everyone so loves this book...everyone but me!

Picture a future society where there is an epidemic of teen suicides.  So much so that "the Program" has been created.  Now if your teen so much as sheds a tear in public, you can have a handler haul them off to have all their unpleasant memories erased.  They will not remember how their brother died, instead, they will believe any lie you tell them.  They will not remember their boyfriend or their best friend if, by association, it will make them remember something sad.  The teens are constantly being watched and "The Program" has turned some of their friends into such zombies that suicide seems a viable alternative.  Antidepressants are bad, but drugs that erase your memories are good?  This book is the first in a series, but needless to say, I will not be reading any of the others.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Last Letter from Your Lover by JoJo Moyes, 390 pages

I picked up a JoJo Moyes book last summer on the recommendation of my sister and really enjoyed it so have been on the look out for more titles by her since then.

"Last Letter" was JoJo Moyes first novel and is a standard romance. A blurb on GoodReads says A sophisticated, page-turning double love story spanning forty years-an unforgettable Brief Encounter for our times."

Hmm, not so much for me. I will be sticking with JoJo's more recent books from now on.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

El Deafo by Cece Bell 233 pages

This graphic novel is a semi-autobiographical recounting of Cece Bell's childhood.  The characters are all rabbit people, so it's not Persepolis accurate, but it's a really great book.  When Cece is 4 years old, she gets Meningitis and it causes substantial hearing loss.  The rest of the book is her trying to navigate a world she has lost one point of contact with.  We see her struggle with finding a friend who doesn't take advantage of her, or boss her around, or pity and talk down to her.  Let's face it, childhood is rough enough without feeling like you are completely unlike your peers.  Cece has a special hearing aid that requires her teacher to wear a microphone.  This ends up being a real perk when Cece begins hearing her teacher even when she's not in the room doing a lesson.  All's well that ends well, as the real Cece Bell grew up to write this wonderful book.  I hope a lot of kids read this and get a better feeling about making friends with those who have special needs of all kinds.  Those boxes may have different locks, but the treasures are just as rich if you manage to open them.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Sasquatch Escape: book 1 of The Imaginary Veterinary by Suzanne Selfors 215 pages

This book was a hoot.  It is a great book for kids in 3rd grade and up.  The premise is that young Ben has to go stay for the summer with his grandpa he barely knows.  Grandpa Abe lives in Buttonville, once home to a big button factory, but now basically a retirement community.  Ben, having lived his whole life in Los Angeles, is pretty sure he's going to have the most boring summer ever.  What's he going to do?  Head to the Senior Center with his grandpa every day?  He has no idea that he may be headed for the most interesting and exciting summer of his life.  It all starts when Grandpa Abe's cat drags home what looks suspiciously like a baby dragon.

This was a Mark Twain preliminary nominee this year, which means it didn't make the final list.  Too bad, because it was a lot of fun!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler 329 pages

I have always really liked Amy Poehler.  I was a huge fan of Upright Citizen's Brigade and I was really pleased to see her career keep advancing.  After listening to her Yes, Please, I have to say I respect her very much, too.  Her attitude toward everything is obviously one of gratitude, never taking anything for granted or as an entitlement.  Her stories are told with warmth and humor, and she never forgets where she came from or the people that helped her get where she is.  I love her optimism and general pleasantness.  This book was funny and fun, whimsical, but not saccharine, it was just a really fun read...or I enjoyed the audiobook read by Amy herself.  I highly recommend this one!  When you're done, make sure you watch Parks and Recreation on Netflix streaming.  You won't regret it!

So, Anyway by John Cleese 392 pages

First of all, I wish that this had been an audiobook read by the author.  Having said that, it doesn't really matter, because I don't think anyone would be able to read this without hearing Cleese's voice in their head.  The interesting thing is that it really didn't talk about Monty Python's Flying Circus.  Most of the book was about Cleese's youth and early career.  His stories were funny and unexpected.  I had no idea that he was friends with so many really acclaimed actors.  I especially enjoyed reading about his antics with Graham Chapman and his recounting of working with Peter Sellers and Marty Feldman.  I have always been a big fan of John Cleese's work, but now I am a fan of him as a person, too!  I don't know if people who don't know anything about Cleese or the Pythons would enjoy this as much as I did, but I would still recommend it to anyone.

Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation by Bill Nye 309 pages

I love books about evolution.  I love Bill Nye.  So, I was a very happy girl when I saw that Bill Nye had written a book about evolution!  I was not disappointed.  It is a real gift to be able to present very heady information in a clear and easy to understand fashion.  I remember semesters of biology and chemistry trying to grasp a concept that Mr. Nye explained in the span of a page and a half and I understood better than I ever had before.  It is important that we continue to push ourselves to understand more about our world and ourselves.  We can make much better plans if we understand patterns, we can make smarter choices when we understand the impact of those decisions.  To close oneself off to evolution completely is irresponsible.  Many people of faith have no more trouble accepting evolution than they have trouble accepting gravity or sound waves.  If the acceptance of evolution makes people afraid of their own mortality, then perhaps we should begin focusing on making the most of the time here on this plane, in this life and less about what may come after.  I don't know.  However, I think that this is an excellent piece of reading for everyone.  Maybe it will change someone's mind, maybe not, but it will be educational one way or another.  There were plenty of chapters that were just really fun science, but evolution was definitely a running theme through the book.

The Tell-Tale Start: book one of The Misadventures of Edgar and Allan Poe by Gordon McAlpine 178 pages

Edgar and Allan Poe are the great-great-great-great and maybe more greats nephews or Edgar Allan Poe.  They are identical twins who actually are completely in tune with one another.  This is a fantastic attribute when it comes to information gathering, but can certainly lead to some misunderstandings to anyone else.  This farcical romp has the two loveable boys getting kicked out of school and then leading their aunt and uncle on a quest to rescue their beloved cat.  Things get weird when a diabolical plot is revealed by a certain Professor Marvel of Kansas.  Can the boys escape certain doom?  Will their dear Roderick Usher (the cat) be saved in time?  You should definitely listen or read this one to find out! 

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein 291 pages

Are you a fan of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?  Did you love The Westing Game and do you love trivia?  Then you really need to check this book out!  12 kids, all 12 years old are selected to spend the night in the brand new, super high-tech library of the century.  I absolutely loved all the little nods to literature that are peppered throughout the story.  You can tell that Grabenstein loves book and adores libraries.  Kyle and his friends are given an opportunity to win a fantastic prize package if they can be the first to escape from the library.  There are clues that need to be worked out, treachery by other competitors and a certain amount of danger and intrigue.  The unsolved riddle for you, no matter how old you are, is how will you get your hands on this hot title?  This is a Mark Twain nominee this year, 2016-2016, and it is a very deserving candidate.

Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates 384 pages

This book took me a very long time to read.  It was one I had to step away from and read another title before coming back to read more.  On the one hand, I recognized my own stories in some of the stories written in this book.  On the other, more thankful hand, I did not see myself in the more terrifying stories.  There were some really horrific accounts of things people (mostly girls and women) have suffered at the hands of others.  It made me think about how I do view my place in this world.  Even as a strong, self-confident woman, I make choices that will ensure my safety.  One of the most powerful arguments is the fact that young women are taught how to avoid dangers, to try to prevent assault and rape, but young men are not being taught in the same forums that assault and rape are never okay.  It is a topic that rarely comes up.  Laura Bates started a movement to bring feminism to the forefront, to try to stop sexism as a norm in all societies, and was targeted loudly and aggressively.  She was threatened with rape, maiming, any number of things.  Why?  None of the men in my life would ever treat any woman in this fashion, thankfully, but once your eyes are open, you can't help but see how women are treated very differently in our world.  I would recommend this book to everyone.  Men who have been open to the everyday sexism blog and project comment about how they had no idea the impact of their "harmless" wolf whistling, etc.  Women, in fact people of all genders, need to know they have a voice. We should never have to feel like we can't walk down the street, go to work, see a movie alone, whatever we want to do without feeling at risk.  We can only bring about change by shouting back.  I can't say that I liked this book, because it was so heartbreaking, but I certainly feel more empowered on this side of its pages.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

14th Deadly Sin by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro 349 pages

This is the newest in Patterson's Women's Murder Club series, and as usual, it is a doozy!  Lindsay Boxer is in over her pretty little blond head, investigating 2 cases.  Thank goodness she has her handsome ex-FBI husband Joe to help her out!  1st, she and her partner have to find the gang of ruthless thieves, dressed in NYPD jackets and caps, wearing rubber masks, that are knocking off check cashing places, killing as they go. Of course, it escalates! Soon the gang steals cash and drugs from the "Kingfisher" and the blood bath begins.  Will Lindsay get caught in the crossfire?  Meanwhile, hubby Joe is investigating a series of murders that always happen on Claire's Birthday.  Yuki has switched jobs is now suing the NYPD on behalf of a client.  Oops!  Talk about a sticky mess.  And spoiler alert!  This one ends as a cliffhanger!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo, 323 pages

Breakfast with Buddha is a book club selection for two of the library's book clubs this year.  It is a novel that reads like a memoir.

Otto Ringling is a happily married father of two, living in New York, with a good job in the publishing industry.  His parents recently died and he and his flaky sister Cecilia need to sell the family farm in North Dakota.

Cecilia is afraid to fly so Otto agrees to drive her from her home in New Jersey to North Dakota.  When Otto gets to her house he finds out she wants him to drive her guru, Volya Rinpoche there instead.  And . . . she wants her portion of the family farm to go to the guru.  A long road trip and enlightenment ensues.