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?

Monday, November 9, 2015

Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin 348 pages

What happened to Tessa when she was sixteen was truly the stuff of nightmares. Now 20 years later the wrong man may be executed for the crime. So Tessa has to go back in time, has to find a way to remember details she has spent a lifetime trying to forget.  

If you like Psychological thrillers you will love this book. Beautifully written, fast paced, with lots of twists and turns, Black-Eyed Susans is a read in one sitting book that you don’t want to end even though it’s also sad and disturbing, and makes you want to scream at Tessa to just do what needs to be done even though you’re pretty sure that if it happened to you, you would probably do the same.

It’s not all dark though. It’s also a story of hope and life and courage and the good that comes from facing what you fear most. 

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Second Confession by Rex Stout 197 pages

Now that the library offers audiobooks by Interlibrary Loan, I can fulfill my dream of listening to all the Nero Wolfe mysteries!  This title, however, is one that we have at our own library.  I must have heard it before, but didn't remember much about it.  Nero Wolfe is hired by a man to discover whether the young man his daughter is dating is actually a communist.  This would not do as far as the client is concerned, for him or his daughter.  All he needs is proof to show his daughter so that she'll break it off with him.  Well, Wolfe confirms with the client that the job is actually to discourage the daughter from carrying on with this young man, for any reason and gets to work.  As always, that means that Archie is really doing the work.  Wolfe can just sit and deduce from reports.  In the process of discovering the young man's political affiliations, Wolfe is contacted by a possible nemesis.  They have not been on opposite sides of an investigation yet, which is how Wolfe hopes it remains, since it will mean he has to go into hiding.  When the young man under investigation is found dead, run over, and by Wolfe's car, things really kick into high gear.  This book was read by Michael Prichard, which is how it is best to enjoy a Wolfe mystery.

George by Alex Gino 195 pages

This is a lovely book that dealt with a topic most readers don't usually get to read about.  The main character, George, is a 9-year-old child who was born a boy, but has always felt like she is really a girl.  The use of pronouns was a very powerful tool to drive home that this is who George is.  She feels this way, she loves these things, she wants to be Charlotte in the school play of Charlotte's Web.   It had a sensitive approach to it without being saccharine.  The only thing that might have been a little unrealistic was the glossing over of negative reactions.  This is how I would like to see children able to express themselves, it is not the reality of anyone I have ever personally known.  There were no moments in this book where I felt this would be unsuitable for a young audience either.  In fact, it will quite possibly be very helpful for kids who have friends or who themselves are questioning how to let the world know that the person they appear to be is not the person they are.  I really hope that this book can help someone be more comfortable and content in themselves.  I loved this book.

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani 488 pages

This book is an awesome read!  It is layered and surprising, it gets you right from the beginning and you have no choice but stay for the ride.  Two girls are friends in a village called Gavaldon.  Sophie, like everyone else in town, is convinced that someone will be whisked away to become fairy tale legend.  Agatha, who lives in the graveyard and only has one friend - Sophie, thinks it's a lot of nonsense.  The night comes and sure enough, Sophie is snatched for what she expects will be her 'happy ever after'.  Agatha gets dragged along trying to rescue Sophie.  They are flown to the School for Good and Evil.  Then an unexpected thing happens that will test everything they each believe about themselves and each other.  This is a great story about magic, right and wrong, fantasy, but more than anything, it is a story of friends.  I highly recommend it!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Mistake I Made by Paula Daly 347 pages

Roz is desperate. She’s lost her business, her parent’s nest egg, her husband to another woman and her child is acting out at school. If that wasn’t bad enough she’s two weeks from being evicted. So when a possible solution presents itself, Roz jumps on it without really considering possible consequences. So begins the first mistake and from there they snowball until Roz’s life spirals out of control.

Perhaps, Daly should have named it, ‘All the Mistakes I Made.’

Despite the fact that Roz’s actions set matters in motion, and she only spends the briefest of time being remorseful before she moves on to the next silly choice she’s still a  character that you can’t help but root for. A page turner and read in one sitting kind of a book. Can’t wait until the next one.

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, 392 pages

Oooh, I was in the mood for this sweet little fable of a book that included romance and bromance and healing and love.

 Jean Perdu is 50 years old and lost the love of his life, Manon, 21 years ago.  He never recovered from that and has cut himself off from life.  He owns a Literary Apothecary (book store on a barge) and prescribes books to people.  He's very good at helping other people, but hasn't been able to help himself.

A new woman arrives in his life and he learns something about his lost love and he does a runner to try and get himself together.  He leaves Paris and sets the barge free for a trip to the South of France.  Along for the ride is his neighbor and superstar writer, Max Jordan, who is also running from life and writer's block.  The best part of the book for me was the bromance between Jean and Max.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

In a dark, dark wood by Ruth Ware 310 pages

The jacket of In a Dark, Dark Wood told me I’d be on the edge of my seat, and that it was going “to be huge” and like every other psychological thriller debut you pick up, that it was in the vein of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, so I couldn’t wait to read it. Although truthfully, Gone Girl is not the barometer I use to measure readability but it seems many do so I was very disappointed to find that it really wasn’t all that. 

To be fair it was a fast and easy read and the story was interesting and I read it in one sitting, but I had it figured out about halfway through and I spent more time wanting to slap the main character for being a wuss than clinging to the edge of my seat. I really will be surprised if it turns out the book is a hit.  

Having said all that I would still recommend it just because I know as diverse as readers are, there will be those who think it's a gripping, thrilling ride or some such.