Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Extreme Prey by John Sandford 406 pages

This mystery novel is the latest in the Prey Series with Lucas Davenport.  Lucas is at loose ends and renovating his lake house when he gets the call from his friend the Govenor.  The  Govenor has been hearing disturbing rumors about a threat to female presidential candidate Bowden, on the campaign trail in Iowa.  The local authorities have investigated but Davenport's particular brand of expertise is needed.  Little does he know the hell-hole of crazies he has just stepped into.  Political emotions run hot and when you've, literally, already lost the farm, what else do you have to loose?  This is a real page turner so clear your calendar!

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff, 97 pages

This is a little gem of a book that I read because it was listed as similar to another book I am on the wait-list for.  It can be classified in one of my favorite nerdy librarian genres "Books about Books."

Helene Hanff was a New Yorker with a hankering for classic British literature and she couldn't afford to buy the books from New York book sellers, or often find what she wanted.  She began a 20 year correspondence and love fest in 1949 with a bookstore, Marks & Co. Booksellers located at 84, Charing Cross Road, London.

The book is a collection of the real letters that were exchanged between Helene and Frank Doel (and others) at the store.  Beautiful, wonderful, uplifting.  And oh yes, jolly good!

Dance Hall of the Dead by Tony Hillerman, 255 pages

Tony Hillerman has long been on my "to be read or listened to" list and I finally got a start on it.

Joe Leaphorn is a lieutenant on the Navajo tribal police force in the 4-corners area of the American Southwest.  He is called to help solve the mystery of the disappearance of two Indian boys, one a Zuni, the other a Navajo.  It soon turns into a murder investigation.

The book kept me interested, if not totally enthralled, but I have another Hillerman in the hopper ready to be read soon so will keep on the Hillerman trail.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Time of Fog and Fire by Rhys Bowen 277 pages

This is the latest in the Molly Murphy series.  Molly's husband, NYPD Captain Daniel Sullivan, is on the outs with his bosses, so when an offer comes from Secret Servce Director John Wilkie to do some undercover work, Daniel jumps at the chance.  It is so secret, he cannot even tell Molly where he is going!  But she spots him on a newsreel at the cinema!  He is at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.  When she then receives a cryptic letter from him, she and Baby Liam take the train across country to track Daniel down.  When she arrives, she is told Captain Sullivan has met an untimely death! Oh!  Say it ain't so!  Molly is taken under the wing of influential San Franciscan and Nob Hill resident Bella Rodriguez.  But all is not as it seems and just when Molly thinks she has the pieces to solve the puzzle,  the San Francisco earthquake hits and chaos ensues.  Will she ever make it back to New York with her family intact?
An interesting side note:  While reading this I noticed an error.  Molly's train stops in Council Bluffs, IA, then crosses the Mississippi River into the western frontier.  Not!  So I e-mailed the author and received a prompt reply:

Oh dear. So many people have caught this error. Sorry. The embarrassing thing is that I have driven across that bridge a couple of times so I should have known better. Also my manuscript is read by a whole line of editors who should have checked my facts.
At least she got to San Francisco safely?

Best wishes
Rhys Bowen

Cool, right?!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Endangered by C.J. Box 369 pages

This is a real page turner so be prepared!  Once again, Game Warden Joe Pickett is in it up to his eyeballs.  1st of all, daughter April, the wild child, has been found on the side of the road, severely beaten with head trauma.  Boyfriend Dallas Cates, youngest son of the despicable Cates family, is the primary suspect but he has an alibi!  Thrown by a bucking bull, he is laid up with broken ribs and other injuries. Meanwhile, someone has ambushed Nate Romanowski and he is near death, but where is his companion, Liv Brannon?  And this is just the drama in Joe's private life!  Someone has wiped out LEK 64, a brace of grouse that the Feds have been monitoring as a possible endangered species.  Can Joe solve this crime and keep it together for his family?  Well.....we are talking Joe Pickett!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Widow by Fiona Barton 324 pages

Jean Taylor’s husband, poor thing, has died. Now she doesn’t have to put up with anymore of his nonsense. Nonsense as in being accused, tried, and acquitted of kidnapping and murdering a child. Now that he’s gone, the world wants to know if he did it and if she knew.

With multiple narrators, none of which are likeable or even trustworthy, The Widow focuses on the widow Jean and what she may or may not know about what really happened to little Bella. Although the subject matter is dark, it seems almost an afterthought: there’s no gore, overt violence, or graphic details. The real story seems to lie with a suddenly free (since poor Glen got hit by a bus) Jean who must navigate life without her controlling and emotionally abusive husband.

Still, I enjoyed this book. It was well written and even if the characters leave much to be desired, you still want to know what happens to them.

The Martian by Andy Weir, 369 pages

This is one fantastic book.  Okay, okay it is very technical in parts but if you are unscientific like me just think of it as getting a free pass to skim.  Astronaut Mark Watney is one witty, wicked smart and optimistic guy.  That's all good because he gets stranded on the planet Mars when the rest of his crew think he's dead and abandons the planet in a hurry during a devastating sandstorm.

NASA figures out he survived about 60 days later and Mark and NASA figure out how to communicate close to 40 days after that.  NASA, his old crew and pretty much everyone on earth do everything they can to bring Mark home.  The suspense is fantastically excruciating.  Will they do it?  Luckily, I saw the movie first. Loved the movie, LOVED the book.   Andy Weir, I can't wait to see what you bring us next.

Going Postal by Terry Pratchett 377 pages

Have you ever read any Terry Pratchett?  If not, you really should.  He had a real knack for presenting the absurd and outlandish, and making it not just accessible, but believable.  If you love British humor and fantasy in the sense that this is just a different world, where golems and vampires rub elbows with trolls, many of whom are on the police force, and just regular Joes, you really need to give him a try.  This particular story opens with a hanging death.  Kind of.  Moist Von Lipwig has many names, but that is his true name.  He's a master of fraud and a cunning con man.  He's done well being completely bland and unmemorable, but it finally catches up to him.  He's sentenced to death.  He hangs.  Then he's cut down...still drawing breath.  Lord Vetenari seems to know everything there is to know about Lipwig and he makes him an offer he has not choice but to accept.  Live and become the new postmaster or go through the door to your left.  (By the way, the door to his left leads only to a plummeting death).  Welcome the new postmaster.  The post office has been closed for a long while, but mail was never thrown out.  Every inch of every surface is piled with mail.  Then Lipwig does something very simple, very...natural.  He delivers a letter.  The rest is a roller coaster of mad fun.  I cannot recommend this book highly enough!   I loved it!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Last Mile by David Baldacci, 417 pages

This is book #2 in the Amos Decker series by Baldacci.  Amos played professional football for about 30 seconds.  He was injured in his first pro game and that injury left him with a condition, hyperthymesia, which translates into never forgetting anything.

In this outing, the FBI puts Amos and his extraordinary memory to work on a special team working on cold cases.  Amos lobbies the team to take up the case of Melvin Mars, a gifted college football player who ended up on death row instead of playing in the NFL.  Right before Melvin is to be executed someone else confesses to the murders for which he was convicted 20 years ago.

Typical Baldacci fare, which frankly is exactly what I like.  And, I 'd like to throw out a big kiss to David Baldacci for making a library book very important to the story! 

Friday, May 20, 2016

In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward 311 pages

I usually enjoy reading debut novels.  It is sometimes a great way to discover a new favorite author.  However, I found this novel to be a disappointment.   In my opinion, the characters were not fleshed out enough for me to identify with.  The story did not draw me in.  Overall, a thumbs down.
In Derbyshire, England, in 1978, two young girls are kidnapped on their way to school.  One is found several hours later, traumatized, but otherwise unharmed.  The other is never found. Fast forward thirty years later.  The mother of the missing girl commits suicide.  Days later, a teacher from the school ( not the girl's teacher) is found strangled in the woods.  Rachel, the surviving girl, is now a genealogist.  She uses her research skills to see how the recent deaths could be tied to the kidnapping.  In the process, she also uncovers some family secrets.  Has she also put herself in danger?

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han, 355 pages

When Lara Jean is over a crush, she writes the boy a love letter and stores it in her hatbox.  She never intends to send the letters.  One day without her knowing, the letters are sent and suddenly her former crushes are back in her life and she doesn't know what to do!

I book talked this to a group of middle schoolers last week and I hadn't really finished the book yet.  It was checked out immediately.  I hope whoever checked it out enjoyed it as much as I have.  It was a a very sweet read and I think many young girls would easily relate to it. 

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell, 323 pages

It is 1999 and Y2K is on it's way.  Lincoln takes a job at a newspaper working systems security.  He's tasked with checking flagged emails and sending out warnings if your email is inappropriate.  Not exactly the job he thought he'd be doing.

Meanwhile, Beth and Jennifer email all day long.  They know their email is being checked, but that doesn't censor them.

Lincoln starts looking forward to reading these exchanges between Jennifer and Beth.They are hilarious and the bright spot in his otherwise dull shift.  Eventually he realizes that he has feelings for Beth, but he doesn't know what to do about them.  How can he ask a girl out after reading all these messages?  Knowing all these private details of her life?  Not to mention the fact that she already has a boyfriend.

This is my second Rainbow Rowell novel and she is quickly becoming one of my new favorite authors. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Blackout by David Rosenfelt 274 pages

I really enjoy David Rosenfelt's books and this one did not disappoint!  Doug Brock is a New Jersey State Police Officer who suffers a traumatic head injury while conducting an investigation " off the books." The fact that he cannot remember the last 10 years does not diminish the pull of the investigation.  He knows it was huge, he knows he was close, and he knows and trusts that his partner Nate and his ex-fiancĂ©, Jessie, will help him get back on track.  Gangsters have partnered with terrorists to wreak catastrophic damage and worse yet, they have help from the inside.  Can Doug and friends  unravel it all in time?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Deceptive Homecoming by Anna Loan-Wilsey, 304 pages

This is book #4 in the Hattie Davish cozy mystery series by Anna Loan-Wilsey.  Two of the library's book clubs are reading the book this year because it is set in St. Joseph. 

It is 1893 and traveling secretary and amateur sleuth Hattie Davish has returned to her hometown of St. Joseph, Missouri to attend the funeral of her friend's father.  But . . . all is not as it should be in good ol' St. Joe. 

I am not a big fan of cozy mysteries, I guess I like a bit of grit and gore.  However, this was a fun book because it was set it St. Joseph and our heroine visited Mt. Mora Cemetery, the Lunatic Asylum, Lover's Lane and many other familiar places.  And not to worry, she also solved that pesky mystery along the way.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Boys in the Trees: A Memoir by Carly Simon, 376 pages

I experienced this book the best way possible, I think.  I listened to it read by Carly Simon.  The audio-book includes music in the background and even a few songs.  About half-way through listening to the book I checked out the print copy to see the pictures which I figured, correctly, would be there.

Carly Simon is the 3rd child and daughter of Richard and Andrea Simon.  A son, Peter, was born a few years after Carly.  Her father was a co-founder of the publishing company Simon & Schuster, though he was ousted in later life.

Both Carly and her father suffered from anxiety and depression.   I have always admired Carly Simon and enjoyed her music and never really considered she has the same worries and demons as everyone else.  The book is a very candid look at her life and marriage to James Taylor.  No surprise, she has a way with words.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Famous Last Words by Katie Alender, 312 pages (2016-2017 Truman Readers Award Nominee)

In Famous Last Words, Willa is an angst filled teenage girl who has just moved to Hollywood with her recently remarried mom and her new famous movie producer stepfather.  As if starting a new school and making new friends weren't hard enough, Willa harbors a dark secret.  She killed her father.  Willa wants nothing more than to get in touch with her father and tell him how sorry she is for the fight they had and how she didn't mean to hurt him.  Though her spiritual attempts to contact her father never seem to work, Willa gets these crazy headaches and starts having visions of terribly frightening things.  There's a dead body in her swimming pool, messages on walls, and other things only she can see or hear.  Meanwhile, there's a serial killer loose in Hollywood who is targeting young actresses and reenacting famous death scenes and Willa starts to realize her hallucinations might be tied to the murders and that someone or something might be trying to send her a message. 

Of course, it's not all ghosts and murders in this story.  Willa makes a few new friends.  Marnie, a Hollywood kid like Willa, Reed, her stepfather's handsome young assistant, and Wyatt, a serious guy who is obsessed with the Hollywood Killer.  When Willa realizes the magnitude of the trouble she's in she needs someone to help her, but who?

I can't say much more without spoiling it.  I will say I never would have picked this up had it not been an award nominee.  Mysteries are fine, but ghost stories are not my cup of tea.  Fortunately for me this was creepy, but not too scary.  The story itself moved quickly and I stayed up too late finishing it last night and then stayed up even later watching something silly to counteract the creepiness.

Friday, May 13, 2016

As Time Goes By by Mary Higgins Clark 278 pages

I love Mary Higgins Clark!  It could have something to do with the huge emerald ring she wears...or it could be that she writes solid, clean mysteries.  Stories that hold your interest without all the sex and violence drama.  They do not call her the Queen of Suspence for nothing.  This one is the newest in the Alvira and Willy series.  Television journalist Delaney Wright is covering the sensational trial of Betsy Grant, accused of murdering her husband who had been suffering from early onset Alzheimer's.  Betsy is a very sympathetic character who truly loved her husband  and took excellent care of him.  But did she do it? Or was it the step-son who is deep in debt and stands to inherit $15 million?
Meanwhile, Delaney asks her friends Alvira and Willy to help her find her birth mother.  What they uncover is a bit shocking!  Will everyone live happily ever after?

The Pieces We Keep by Kristina McMorris 439 pages

This is the second Kristina McMorris novel I have read and, honestly, it took me a while to get into this one, but it was worth it.  The author flips back and forth from the present to pre-WWII, even using different print fonts!  Audra is a young widow trying to raise her son, Jack.  Jack has night terrors and seems obsessed with WWII.  When finally asked by his therapist how he knows so much about WWII, Jack replies, " Because I was there."   On the flip side we have Vivian, daughter of an American diplomat living in London.  Vivian is having a secret affair with a German student, Isaak, but when war begins to break out, Vivian returns to the United States and Isaak must return to Germany and try to help his family escape the Nazi's.  What is the connection between these two stories?  Ah, you don't really expect me to tell you, do you?  That would spoil the read for you!  Just be sure you read the Author's Notes at the end.  Discussion questions are also included so this would be perfect for a Book Club.  Caution:  this was an Interlibrary Loan.  SJPL does not own this book.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Off the Grid: A Joe Pickett Novel by C. J. Box 371 pages

Wyoming Govenor Spencer Rulon is about to leave office, but before he does, he has one more assignment for his "Special Liaison to the Executve Branch" Game Warden Joe Pickett.  Surprisingly, he sends Joe off to Wyoming's Red Desert in search of his " off the grid" buddy Nate Romanowski. Nate has been approached by men claiming to be federal agents and promised forgiveness for past crimes .  All he has to do is make a connection to fellow falconer Ibby.  Sounds simple, right?  Not so much.  There is a rogue killer bear headed their way, suspicious, possibly terrorist activity, in the area and unbelievably, Joe's daughter Sheridan is mixed up in the mess. Will they all make it out alive? 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

NYPD Red 4 by James Patterson 332 pages

I know I have sworn off James Patterson for a while but I am not sorry I read this book.  It was a quick read ( all of  Patterson's are) and it held my interest.  Red 4 is an elite group of detectives  called upon to handle cases involving New York's rich and          (in)famous.  This time, a hot young actress has been murdered on her way to a red carpet premiere and the $8 million emerald necklace she was wearing ripped from her body.  Detectives Zack and Kylie are former lovers, now partners, and are tasked with solving the murder/theft.  However, it could be he greatest obstacle to their success will be handling all the personal issues in their lives!  Hang on for a fast paced ride from page one!

Monday, May 9, 2016

The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas by Anand Gridharadas, 319 pages

This is not the kind of book I typically read. If I read nonfiction it is normally either related to either World War II or is a memoir.  This book is about a Texas man, Mark Stroman, who killed two people he presumed to be Muslim shortly after 9/11and he wounded a third.

It is the story of how Mark Stroman got to the point in his life where he felt like he was being a patriot by hating and killing people that didn't look or sound like him.  It is also the story of the man he wounded, Rais Bhuiyan, an immigrant from Bangladesh who ends up trying to help Mark Stroman's kids break the cycle of poverty they've known their whole life.

The author, Anand Giridharadas, recently spoke at a conference I attended and I came away from that talk wondering if and hoping it is possible to create a more merciful America. 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian, 336 pages

This is a heart wrenching novel about the consequences of human trafficking and the sex trade.  Richard is a happily married father of a 9-year old daughter.  He is also happily employed as an investment banker at a swanky bank.  He hosts a bachelor party at his house for his younger brother and things turn out not-so-happy after the two young "strippers" kill their handlers. It turns out the strippers were likely sex slaves.

At the time of the party, Alexandra has been in the United States about 3 weeks.  She was kidnapped from Armenia and forced into the sex trade in Russia when she was 15 years old and is now 19.

The story alternates from Richard's perspective and story to Alexandra's.  It follows the aftermath of the party with Alexandra on the run and Richard trying to put his life back together after the fall out from the very public sex party at his house.  It is a gripping thriller.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Killing Trail: A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery by Margaret Mizushima 311 pages

This was an amazing debut novel!  I read it in one day.  Mattie Cobb is a Deputy Sheriff in the small community of Timber Creek, Colorado.  Her partner is K-9 police dog Robo.  The body of a young girl is found partially buried in the woods, guarded by her wounded Bernese mountain dog.  This is the loose thread that unravels a story of drug trafficking, murder, domestic violence and animal abuse in this quite rural community.  The first in a series, I look forward to reading the next.  Mattie and Robo are a refreshing duo and Margaret Mizushima's writing, while captivating, is not the stuff of nightmares.  Read this book, but do not expect to put it aside easily!

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm 208 pages

 Ellie is not fond of change. She misses how things were when she was in fifth grade, like her best friend who is more focused on joining the volleyball team. She even misses her goldfish that she thought was special when he survived a lot longer than anyone else’s. When her grandfather Melvin comes home with her mother one night, things are about to change in Ellie’s life.

Grandpa Melvin, a scientist, has been obsessed with immortality. When he is shipped a unique jellyfish, he just might have found an answer. He ends up turning himself into a thirteen-year-old, pimply boy, who comes to live with Ellie and her mom after he gets in trouble with the police. After spending time with her grandfather, Ellie’s interest in science increases as well as her knowledge of Melvin. 

This was read by Georgette Perna and is a preliminary nominee for the Mark Twain Award.

Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal by Ben Macintyre, 364 pages

Ben Macintyre is a very readable non-fiction writer.  He writes about the British Secret Service and the brilliant way they dominated Hitler's Third Reich during World War II.

Eddie Chapman was a thief who had the bad luck of being in jail on Jersey Island when it was occupied by the Germans at the beginning of World War II.  He was savvy enough to convince the Germans he would make a great spy for them.  Instead, as soon as he was returned to England, he let the British Secret Services know what he was up to so he could instead spy for them.

He may have been an unapologetic thief, but he was also a great spy for the Allies.  Known as Eddie to his friends, code named Fritz by the Germans and Zigzag by the British Secret Service, he was a man who loved adrenaline and turned that into a daringly successful run as a spy.