Friday, December 30, 2016

Twelve Days of Christmas by Debbie Macomber 288 pages

When Julia meets her Scrooge of a neighbor Cain, her best friend tells Julia that she should kill him with kindness. As Christmas approaches, Julia decides to keep a blog titled The Twelve Days of Christmas. Her first attempts at being kind to Cain are met with resistance, however her blog becomes a hit. Julia is very persistent and chips away at Cain’s icy exterior. Julia as well as Cain develop feelings for the other, but Julia has not told Cain about her blog. She is afraid how Cain will react if or when he finds out. Will their chance of love be ruined?  

Finding Father Christmas & Engaging Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn 352 pages

Miranda Carson travels to England on a spur-of-the-moment trip in search of her biological father. Miranda is led to Carlton Heath because a photograph of a little boy sitting on Father Christmas’s lap. The photography studio’s information is printed on the back of the photo. When Miranda starts looking for the shop, she learns that the studio is no longer. What she does find is a family who welcomes her with open arms. When Miranda discovers who her father is, she is faced with a decision that will hurt the people she is starting to love.  

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Muallaly Hunt 288 pages

Ally has a hard time reading and she is good at covering that fact up at school. Ally believes that she is dumb and is afraid to ask for help. When her new teacher, Mr. Daniels see how smart Ally really is, he starts tutoring Ally after school. They discover that Ally has dyslexia. As Ally’s confidence grows, she learns that it’s okay to be different.

This was read by Kathleen McInerney. 

The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog by Bruce D. Perry and Maia Szalavitz, 288pages

The full title of this book is "The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist's Notebook--What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love, and Healing."

I approached this book with trepidation.  I am not a fan of true crime or horror but I am happy to say this truly was a book of hope.  I wanted to read (listen) to this book because my Rotary Club is getting ready to work with a local elementary school whose teachers and staff all plan to read this.  Students who have adverse childhood experiences don't learn or behave like students who have a happy and stable home life. 

We all need appropriate love and interaction from birth and some families are not equipped to provide that.  In order to help traumatized children succeed and thrive, they need adults who can step in and be supportive and love them even when they are acting out.  That's a tall order, but this book explains why and how caring adults can impact lives.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling, 652 pages

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is book six in the seven book series by J. K. Rowling.

Harry is sixteen and Professor Dumbledore is working with him this year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, to help prepare Harry for the showdown he is destined to have with the greatest dark wizard of all times, Lord Voldemort.

The only problem with finishing this great book is in knowing that there is only one book left in the original 7-book series and when I'm done with that one I will have to put the magic of Harry Potter away for awhile.

Monday, December 19, 2016

"Brown Girl Dreaming" by Jacqueline Woodson

Brown Girl Dreaming is a book that is found in the juvenile section here at the East Hills library. This book is very different in terms of the way that it was written and set up. The book is divided into four different parts and each part are written in poems. The whole point of the making of this book is that it is a memoir of the authors life as she grew up in the 1960's and the 1970's. Growing up all in the midst of the Jim Crow laws. This book is different, exciting, emotional, and happy all at the same time.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett, 302 pages

Ann Patchett's latest novel spans 50 years and tells the story of a blended family.  It all begins when Bert Cousins crashes Franny Keating's christening party because he wants to avoid his own four children and wife.

By the end of the party, Bert has kissed Franny's beautiful mother Beverly, which eventually leads to divorce and remarriage and six children being thrown together as step siblings. 

Love and families are complicated.  What shines brightly through this story is the love and loyalty that binds them together.  Ann Patchett is an incredibly gifted novelist and wowed me again.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Whistler by John Grisham, 374 pages

I listened to John Grisham's latest and it was read by one of my favorite readers, Cassandra Campbell.

Lacy Stoltz is a lawyer and investigator for the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct, an underfunded state agency that investigates judges for misconduct.  She is given a case that involves not only misconduct, but likely corruption on a scale rarely seen.  It's not long before Lacy and her agency are in over their heads.

This was a fast-paced thriller that wrapped things up nicely at the end.  

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger, 307 pages

It is the summer of 1961 and Frank Drum, the middle of three children, is 13 years old.  The family lives in New Bremen, Minnesota and five deaths happen over the summer, some of which change Frank and his family forever.

The book is beautifully written and is told from the perspective of Frank 40 years later.  It is ultimately a book of hope, family and love.  Perfect for the season.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Welcome to Wonderland: Home Sweet Motel by Chris Grabenstein 304 pages

P.T. Wilkie loves to tell stories and he uses that strategy when he learns that the Wonderland Motel needs to earn $100,000 by the end of the month or the doors will be closed forever. P.T. teams up with his friend Gloria to come up with ideas to draw in customers. P.T.’s first idea is Croaky Karaoke with the pool’s giant frog slide. Their next idea is a pirate treasure hunt, which works great until they get in trouble with local businesses. P.T. learns that there may be hidden jewels somewhere, however they are two criminals who are also looking for them. Can P.T. and Gloria save the Wonderland Motel?

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan 592 pages

Echo is a book with several parts. The beginning and ending revolve around Otto, a boy who gets lost in a forbidden forest, who meets three mysterious sisters. He becomes entwined with a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica.

Several years later, Friedrich who lives in Germany during Hitler’s reign finds a special harmonica that does not sound like anything he has ever heard. Friedrich must rescue his father from a work camp when he talks out against Hitler. The harmonica finds its way to Pennsylvania and into the hands of Mike. Mike and his brother are being adopted, but the woman who is adopting them does not want boys, especially two.  When Mike learns of a harmonica group of kids that travels the country, he decides to try out in order to protect his brother. He makes a deal with their new mother, if he makes the traveling harmonica group, she will let his brother stay with her. The harmonica then finds its way to Ivy in California. Ivy’s brother has enlisted in the Army when the Japanese bombs Pearl Harbor. It becomes Ivy’s job to keep their family together.

The lives of Friedrich, Mike, and Ivy converge in a way that would someone would deem as fate. 

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley 304 pages

While growing up, Micah Tuttle would hear stories of Circus Mirandus from Grandpa Ephraim. Circus Mirandus is a magical place with an invisible tiger that guards the gates, a beautiful flying birdwoman, and the Man Who Bends Light. As Grandpa Ephraim’s health worsens, Micah is hoping that the Man Who Bends Light (Lightbender) will grant Grandpa Ephraim his miracle. 

Micah and fellow classmate, Jenny Mendoza, search for Circus Mirandus. They meet the Lightbender and they see his powers first-hand. During the meetings with the Lightbender, Micah learns some truths about his family. He also learns what miracle Grandpa Ephraim really asked for. 

This was read by Bronson Pinchot.

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley 336 pages

Ada has never left her one-room apartment in her nine years of life. Her mother keeps Ada inside because Ada was born with a clubfoot. But when her brother starts venturing outside the house, Ada teaches herself to walk. When humors of Hitler bombing London, Ada escapes with Jamie, her brother, to the country.

Ada and Jamie are taken to live with Susan, who really didn’t want kids. While with Susan, Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, Buttercup. She also learns to read with the help of Susan. She also begins to trust Susan and over time, Susan begins to care for Ada and Jamie. When Ada and Jamie are taken back to London with their mother, will they ever see Susan again and can they make it through the war?  

Friday, November 18, 2016

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, 445 pages

This was a totally delightful story of Cather & Wren, identical twins in Nebraska.  They have always done everything together but as they go off to college and University of Nebraska - Lincoln, extrovert Wren wants a different roommate and a life away from her sister. Introvert Cath is devastated. Both sisters have challenges their first year of college.

A big part of this story involves Cath and her FanFiction blog related to a very Harry Potteresque character. 

Families, love and growing up are all themes in this fun book.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling, 870 pages

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is book 5 in the wildly popular seven book series by J.K. Rowling.

In this volume Harry is a full-blown 15 year old teenager with an attitude.  The Ministry of Magic is trying to discredit him because they don't want to face that Lord Voldemort is back.  It seems to Harry that Professor Dumbledore cannot be bothered to talk to him, let alone look at him this year.  And to top it all off the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Dolores Umbridge, is a Ministry plant who is determined to keep the Hogwarts students from learning any defensive magic.

Not a happy time for our hero, Harry.  However, it is a rollicking good time for those of us lucky enough to read or listen to the story.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Rocks by Peter Nichols, 432 pages

This is a book club book I am not looking forward to discussing.  The setting is beautiful: Mallorca, an idyllic island off of Spain.  The people who inhabit the story are less so.

The story spans the years from 1948 to 2005 and revolves around a failed honeymoon, the honeymooners themselves and the future families of those failed honeymooners.

The characters weren't all that likable and some of them were downright despicable.  Meh.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World by Anthony Doerr, 290 pages

Before author Anthony Doerr won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel "All the Light We Cannot See" he won the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

The prize comes with a stipend, an apartment and a writing studio in Rome for a year.  He learned of the award the day after his wife had twin boys.  These new parents packed up the boys when they were six months old and headed to Rome.

Doerr had a novel ruminating in his brain that he thought he would work on during the year.  That novel eventually became "All the Light We Cannot See" but he didn't do much writing on it during the year he spent in Rome.

I listened to this book, read by the author, and it was such a wonderful peek into this brilliant writer's mind.  He knows his words, this one.   It was also a wonderful look at Rome and Italy and life in general.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling, 734 pages

Things are heating up for Harry Potter.  He's in his 4th year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and though he is only 14, is mysteriously entered and chosen to be a participant in the Triwizard Tournament.  Who could have entered his name?  Who indeed?

Another rousing adventure brought to us by J.K. Rowling.  These books never get old.  Come fall, I feel the urge to pull them out again.  Maybe one of these years I will outgrow them, but not yet!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Chasing Secrets by Gennifer Choldenko 278 pages

This is my first Choldenko book.  I never got around to the Al Capone series, I'm sure to my own loss.  I picked this one up after reading an interview with the author.  Something about her explanation of character development just drew me in.  I'm so glad I did read it, because this is an excellent book.  Even though it is a book for a juvenile audience, it successfully addressed racism, classism and sexism (all the bad -isms) in a realistic way.  It was never heavy-handed, but very natural.  The main character, Lizzie, is the daughter of a doctor in turn-of-the-century San Francisco.  Rumors of the plague reaching the states are running around and Chinatown is being blamed.  Lizzie is a smart, skilled girl, but being a girl, she has a lot of difficulty getting men to answer her questions.  She is determined to rescue Jing, a Chinese servant who has been with her family since before she was born, but keeps hitting walls trying to get answers or help from those around her.  I loved that the characters had some hidden qualities that weren't revealed all at once.  I also appreciate that it had a relatively unexpected ending.  Life doesn't always turn out the way we want it to, but it does have a way of resolving itself.  This book really showed the resiliency of the human spirit and I enjoyed it a lot.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, 530 pages

Three of the library's book clubs read this Pulitzer Prize winning book this year.  Set
in World War II, the novel tells the stories two main characters.  A brilliant German boy, Werner Pfennig, who gets caught up in the Hitler Youth and a blind French girl, Marie-Laure LeBlanc, who leaves Paris with her father when it falls to the Germans and spends the war in Saint-Malo, a walled port city in Brittany.

This is a beautifully written novel and is one of those books that I rushed to finish because I couldn't put it down and was sad to finish because it was so good.  It was a pleasure to listen to it again to get ready to discuss it in book club.

Grimm's Fairy Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

This is a 3-disc audiobook of 21 different Grimm's Fairy Tales including Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty.  Every tale has a different reader, including Jim Dale and Scott Brick.  Two of my favorites.

This is the Grimm version of the fairy tales, not the Disney-fied version many of us are used to.  Death or dismemberment is often a consequence for the baddies in these tales.

Fabulous listen!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood 390 pages

At fifteen, Mila attended her father Sean’s fiftieth birthday celebration with his newest wife, her twin half-sisters Ruby and Coco and several well to do friends. Before the end of the celebration, Mila, still angry at her father’s defection left early, a new stepmother was on the horizon and three year old Coco disappeared with life altering consequences.

Now twelve years later, most of the same cast of unlikeable, characters return this time to the home of his fourth wife for Sean’s funeral. Mila is asked to bring Ruby whom she hasn’t seen since that fateful night all those years ago. It doesn’t take long for the lies and secrets to surface.

Alex Marwood won an Edgar for her first novel The Wicked Girls a book I still think about even though it’s been couple of years since I read it. She won a Macavity for her second, The Killer Next Door. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a third.  

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty, 415 pages

Liane Moriarty's latest chick lit epic involves three couples and an infamous weekend barbecue. Something happens at the get-together and everyone there feels they are to blame, even the kids.

The actual event is shrouded in mystery and more than half of the book builds up to the big reveal.

Complicated relationships, difficult parents, strained marriages . . . pretty much life.  This wasn't my favorite Liane Moriarty book but it was definitely fun and worth the listen.

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman, 69 pages

This is a slim gem of a Neil Gaiman fairy tale.  On the eve of a Queen's marriage there is a mysterious sleep that is overtaking the kingdom.  The Queen sets out with her trusty dwarf companions to find the culprit.

Adventure, strong women and homages to Snow White and Sleeping Beauty follow. 

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling, 435 pages

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is book 3 in the 7-book series by J.K. Rowling.

Harry, Hermione and Ron are now 13 and in their 3rd year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  In this volume, crazed murderer Sirius Black has escaped from the wizard prison, Azkaban - a feat that no one has ever pulled off before.  He seems to be after Harry . . . and maybe Hogwarts isn't even safe.

Another great installment in the series.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling, 352 pages

"Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" is book two of the wildly popular seven book series by J.K. Rowling.

I've read and listened to the books before, but just don't seem to get tired of the story.  I'm especially drawn to them in the fall.  It's been a long time since I've read, instead of listened to them but so far I'm reading this time.

Harry is back for his second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  With the help of his friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, he is able to thwart the evil wizard Lord Voldemort (He Who Must Not Be Named, for you squeamish folks.)

On to the Prisoner of Azkaban . . .

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen, 269 pages

This is one of those books I re-listen to periodically just because I enjoy it. 
I recently had a solo road trip and this little gem was the perfect companion.

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.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton 343 pages

Several women are killed and Hamish Wolfe, a young and handsome doctor is convicted of the crimes and sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind bars. Hamish swears a blue streak he is an innocent man. And sometimes you believe him and sometimes not. Maggie Rose is a true crime writer and an attorney notorious for getting serial killers released independent of guilt, or innocence. She only cares that the conviction was just. Or at least that’s how it seems.  And Detective Constable Pete Weston is the officer who arrested Wolfe and gained a promotion because of it. So maybe he’s just concerned because he has a vested interest in protecting his conviction. Hard to tell.

All three characters are entangled in a web of lies, secrets and their own agendas. Along with several just as intriguing supporting characters, Daisy in Chains is an atmospheric, fast paced, psychological mystery that will entertain from the first page to the last. Seriously good read!

The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell 309 pages

Marnie and her younger sister Nellie live in a housing estate in Glasgow. Their parents have disappeared. Which isn’t really a problem for the girls, they like it like that. Marnie only has to make it through the year without anyone knowing to avoid going into foster care and being separated from her sister. If it were not for Social Services, a long lost relative recently found, a drug dealer who wants his money back and an odd assortment of wacky characters, the girls lives wouldn’t seem nearly so bleak.

But then an elderly neighbor with issues of his own and inexplicably, a Russian mobster on the run, reach out to the girls and once again hope is on the horizon and just maybe everything will work out.

The Death of Bees is a beautifully written, achingly sad, raw at times, hilariously funny and always hopeful, read in one sitting, book. I absolutely loved it!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman 368 pages

Garrison Griswold is the Willy Wonka of the publishing business. He created a book scavenger game where people hide books all over the world and they use puzzles through a database to find them. So when Emily and her family move to San Francisco, she cannot wait to participate in his newest game. When Mr. Griswold was attacked and put in a coma, the existence of his new game is in jeopardy. Emily and her new friend James discover an odd book, which they believe to be part of Mr. Griswold’s game. As they follow the clues, they learn that someone is following them.

This was read by Jessica Almasy.

Sugar Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke 384 pages

It’s the holiday season for the people of Lake Eden, Minnesota and there has been another murder. Everyone has come together for a holiday potluck in the community center. Gossip is running rampant when Martin Dubinski brings his new wife of two days, Brandi Wyen. Brandi was a Las Vegas dancer that Martin met just hours before the wedding. When Brandi is murdered in the parking lot, Hannah must solve the murder before the blizzard lessens and before people can leave the community center.  

This was read by Suzanne Toren.

Fudge Cupcake Murder by Joanne Fluke 320 pages

Hannah Swensen has once again come across another death body. While taking out the trash after her baking class, Hannah finds the body of Sheriff Grant. Hannah sister, Andrea, needs Hannah to find Sheriff Grant’s killer, to clear Andrea’s husband. Hannah takes the case and uncovers some very juicy secrets. When Hannah comes across the killer, she uses a unique way of capturing them.

This was read by Suzanne Toren.