Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant, 320 pages

I listened to this book, read by Linda Lavin.  Addie Baum was born in Boston in 1900 to Russian immigrants.  The premise of the story is that Addie is telling her life story to her granddaughter Ava in 1985, not long after Addie has celebrated her 85th birthday.

It was a story of family, friendship and life and was an enjoyable book that was easy to listen to.  Rocked my world? No.  Waste of time?  Not at all. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande, 282 pages

My sisters, the nurses, both told me I had to read this book.  I'm glad they did.  In "Being Mortal" doctor and author Atul Gawande discusses how medicine has triumphed over the dangers of childbirth, injury and disease.  However, when it comes to the reality of aging and death, modern medicine often fails.

Through real-life stores Dr. Gawande shows what we face - nursing homes devoted to safety, not well-being.  And doctors and patients who avoid discussing the inevitability of death to the detriment of those patients' quality of life.

Yes, death is a difficult subject, but ain't none of us getting out of here alive.  I listened to this book, but also checked out a print copy after I finished it to make sure I was able to write down some key points I want to have for the time I - or a loved one - faces a serious illness.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen, 296 pages

When life gets too stressful, I relax by rereading one of my favorite books and I took a little break from life this week and re-enjoyed this gem.

Set in Mullaby, North Carolina, there are two main characters.  Emily is a 17 year old whose mother recently died and who just moved in with the grandfather she never knew she had.   Julia is a 36 year old who has reluctantly returned to Mullaby.  She left when she was 16 and never planned to live there again.

It's a magical little tale I never get tired of revisiting.

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan, 464 pages

The Royal We was the perfect book to end the summer for me.  Fluffy, but definitely had some meat to the story.

This is the story of the romance between Rebecca Porter an American exchange student studying at Oxford and Prince Nicholas, Great Britain's future king.  You might say there are parallels between the romance of Prince William and Princess Kate, but trust me, this story is definitely more exciting!

Read this is you're looking for something light & fun or if you're intrigued by royalty and modern day fairy tales.  It won't disappoint!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Time of Death by Mark Billingham 436 pages

Time of Death is the thirteenth installment in the Tom Thorne series. Detective Inspector Tom Thorn and his girlfriend Helen are on vacation when two girls go missing in Helen’s hometown. When her childhood friend’s husband is arrested for the crime they head to Helen’s hometown, she to offer support and Tom to investigate even though he has no jurisdiction, the local police want nothing to do with him and the evidence overwhelmingly points to the husband’s guilt. But then that’s Tom all over. With help from his good friend Phil, Thorn sets about getting to the truth and Helen faces a past that had kept her away for over twenty years.
I love this series. I love the time and effort that Billingham puts into his characters, the relationship between them and their very human foibles that make me wonder if Phil will find true love and if or perhaps when will Tom and Helen part.

Friday, September 18, 2015

P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia 304 pages

This is a preliminary nominee for the Mark Twain Awards and I see why it did not make the final list of nominees. I felt as though I was missing information throughout the book. P.S. Be Eleven kept referring to the first book in the Gaither Sisters series, One Crazy Summer.

Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern return home after spending the summer in Oakland with their mother. The girls have to deal with their father finding a new love, their uncle returning from war, and learning to give up responsibilities to others.

This book was read by Sisi Aisha Johnson, who did a great job. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Bent Road by Lori Roy, 352 pages

"Bent Road" is the Downtown Library's September book club book.  The book won an Edgar Award for best first novel.

Set in western Kansas in the late 1960's, a family has migrated from Detroit back to the father's hometown in Kansas because of the race riots.  Returning to Kansas is not all happiness and roses.  There is domestic abuse, missing children and maybe convicts on the loose.

It was suspenseful, dark and depressing.  Frankly, not my cup of tea.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Sasquatch Escape by Suzanne Selfors 240 pages

Ben is sent to stay with his grandfather for the summer in Buttonville. Being one of the few children in the little town known for button making, Ben thought his summer was going to be uneventful. That was, until his grandfather’s cat brings home what looks to be a baby bat.

When Ben and Pearl decide to see if Dr. Woo, a worm doctor who took over the abandoned button factory, could help, they learn that the baby bat is actually a baby dragon. They also learn that Dr. Woo doesn’t just look at worms. She is the veterinary to imaginary animals. When Ben doesn’t get the front door locked properly and huge, hairy, stinky beast escapes, he and Pearl are tasked with finding him.

This is a preliminary nominee for the Mark Twain Awards and read by Bryan Kennedy.  

Brotherhood by A.B. Westrick 368 pages

Shad and Jeremiah, two brothers, who live in Richmond, Virginia after the Civil War. It is up to them to help take care of their mother, having lost their father to the war. Jeremiah is not happy about how things have turned out. There are Yankees everywhere and the colored men are taking jobs from the white men for cheaper pay. Shad, is conflicted with his thoughts.

In exchange for helping colored school children learn to sew, Shad receives lessons on how to read. He starts to enjoy his time at the school, but he tries to hide what he is doing from his brother and other Klans members. Shad must learn what the word brotherhood means and just how far you will go for your brothers.

This was a preliminary nominee for the Mark Twain Awards. 

Blood of My Blood by Barry Lyga 480 pages

Barry Lyga concludes his I Hunt Killers trilogy with a thriller. Jazz, Connie, and Howie must fight to survive. Jazz is locked in a storage locker, bleeding out of a bullet hole in his leg. Connie is facing down the famous serial killer, Billy Dent. And Howie is laid up in a hospital bed.

After Jazz is discovered by the police and Connie jumps out a window to get away from Billy, all three teens end up in the hospital at the same time. Jazz learns from Connie that his mother is still alive and that Billy is keeping her hostage. Howie also informs Jazz, that he believes that his aunt is Ugly J, the crow king. Jazz vows to save his mother and to kill his father. While evading police, Jazz tracks his father back home, to Lobos Nod, back to where it all began. Jazz learns something terrifying news that changes his view on who the crow king really is.

Blood of My Blood does a good job of answering questions brought up throughout the series, except for what G stands for in G. Williams.

This was read by Charlie Thurston. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee, 278 pages

I eagerly awaited my turn to listen to this book and was rewarded by having it read by Reese Witherspoon, who has a wonderful southern drawl.

I really enjoyed this book.  Yes, yes, there is the controversy of Atticus.  How could Harper Lee have changed him?  Well, this book was set in the 1960s during desegregation and I think Ms. Lee did a good job of portraying how many (especially older) southern white middle class people felt at the time. 

Scout is now known as Jean Louise and has lived in New York for five years and is just as shocked as the rest of us to learn how her father feels about desegregation.  Was it really written by Harper Lee?  I don't know.  All I know is, I'm glad I read it.

Bettyville by George Hodgman, 279 pages

"Bettyville" is a memoir written by George Hodgman who grew up in Northeast Missouri, Madison and Paris, to be exact. 

He left Missouri soon after graduating college and moved to New York, where he thought he would find his place in the world.  He arrived just in time for the AIDS scare.

George returned to Missouri throughout the years to visit his parents, but returned for an extended time toward the end of his mother's life when she couldn't really live on her own any longer but didn't want to move into a nursing home or assisted living situation.

This is a beautifully written memoir by a man whose family always loved him but were never able to accept that he was gay.  

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Wonder by R.J. Palacio, 320 pages

This has probably been my favorite read of the summer. A friend and former teaching colleague recommended it to me and I loved it.

This story is told from multiple perspectives but the main character is Auggie. He is starting beginning fifth grade in his first year at a public school. This may seem strange until you understand that Auggie's face is severely disfigured due to a birth defect. He's had multiple surgeries in his ten years but there isn't much that doctors have been able to do.

This book chronicles Auggie's first year in school. The good and the bad and how it affects both him and those who've loved him since he was born and those who meet him at school.

I'm typically not a huge fan of books with multiple perspectives. I find that following too many characters often makes it difficult to keep up with what's going on. It can also be annoying when you have a character you really like and you have to periodically break away from that character to follow someone you don't care about.

I thought that would be the case in this book because I loved Auggie's voice so much. Therefore, the first time the novel switched perspectives, I couldn't help but grimace. But the great thing about this book is that every character is engaging. As each viewpoint switched, I found myself sad that I was having to leave a character I enjoyed but excited to meet someone new whom I was sure I'd love just as much.

I can't recommend this book enough. It made me cry and laugh and cry some more.

5 out of 5 stars

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Holes by Louis Sachar, 233 pages

If Stanley Yelnats and his parents didn't have bad luck, they wouldn't have any luck at all.  They can trace the bad luck to Stanley's no-good, dirty rotten, pig stealing great-great grandfather.  Some even say there is a curse on the family. 

Stanley's latest round of bad luck sends him to Camp Green Lake, a detention camp for wayward boys.  It isn't green and there isn't a lake and the boys are expected to dig a five-foot hole every day in the old lake bed.

Stanley unknowingly gets the chance to break the family curse while he's there.  This is a great children's book that won many awards, including the 1999 Newbery Medal.  I listened to it because I was looking for something quick and enjoyable and I was not disappointed.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Spider Ring by Andrew Harwell 213 pages

Maria is not a very popular girl.  She has one friend, but he's a wonderful friend.  Her mother and brother don't understand her, but they love her.  Her grandmother, however, is Maria's kindred spirit.  Grandma Esme has had an exciting life.  She worked in a circus as a lion tamer, but she didn't really call it taming.  She was merely friends with the lion, so he was happy to do as she requested.  Grandma Esme is as surprising and mysterious as can be.  One of the things that she is very firm about is that you never hurt a spider.  Grandma Esme loves spiders.  She loves them so much that she even wears a spider ring always.  Maria doesn't hate spiders, but she's not overly fond of them.  One day, Maria visits her grandma and the old woman is in a panic.  She acts terrified and, most surprisingly to Maria, it seems to be that she's suddenly afraid of spiders.  When her grandmother dies within a week of this incident, Maria is very worried that these weren't simply the rantings of old age.  Then she finds out that her grandmother left her the mysterious spider ring.  Maria discovers that power comes at a price and one should always think before wielding powers they don't understand.  This was a really fast paced and interesting story.  I enjoyed reading it and will definitely recommend it to children 4th grade and up.

Prisoner's Base by Rex Stout 209 pages

Listening to Michael Prichard read Nero Wolfe mysteries is like putting on my favorite comfy pants and curling up with a nice cup of tea or glass of wine, depending...  It is one of my greatest pleasures.  This story was a doozy!  A young woman comes to the home of Nero Wolfe and says she wants room and board for one week.  She refuses to give her name or any other information.  If she had arrived any other day, Archie would have turned her away without question, but she has caught him in a mood to needle his rotund employer.  After several other events that evening, Wolfe does turn her out.  Unfortunately, she turns up dead the next morning, which wakens a feeling of remorse and responsibility in Archie Goodwin.  He undertakes to find her killer and ultimately becomes Wolfe's client himself.  This was a great they all are.  I enjoyed it immensely.  If you want to listen to a Wolfe myster, make sure you are listening to Prichard, he does it superbly!