Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A Murder in Time By Julie McElwain 765 pages

This debut novel by Julie McElwain is also the 1st Library Big Read - "The first ever global eBook club".
Kendra Donovan is an exceptional FBI agent in the 21st century. After half her team is wiped out in a disasterous raid, an FBI mole is discovered and she is severely wounded, Kendra goes rogue.  She travels to England to assassinate the man responsible for this disaster.  However, after being nearly assassinated herself, she is transported to 1815 England!  Mistaken for a Lady's maid, she relies on her knowledge of history to survive.  Soon, though, she is able to use her skills and knowledge to help catch a serial killer.  Spoiler alert!! This is the first in a series and a cliff hanger.  Well worth the read.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, 440 pages

"The Nightingale" tells the story of two sisters in France during World War II.  Vianne is married with a daughter and a husband in a German prisoner of War camp once the French army collapses.

Isabelle spends the war working for the Resistance.  The sisters and their father were not close before the war.  Their father was distant, physically and emotionally for years.  Vianne is a mother and wife who always considered herself weak.  Isabelle felt abandoned since their mother died and their father sent the girls away and is impetuous and headstrong.

This is a story of what happens to women during war and the actions they take to survive.  It took me a long time to work up the desire to read this one as I kept hearing it was heart-wrenching and sad.  Yep, it's a weeper but beautiful too.  5 stars for this epic story.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Most Wanted by Lisa Scottoline 417 pages

I enjoy Lisa Scottoline's Rosato and Associates books so I will try not to hold this book against her. I have to admit, the whole time I was reading it, I felt like a was reading a poorly written Jodi Piccoult novel.
Christine Nilsson is a young teacher whose husband is infertile.  They really want a family so they choose an anonymous sperm donor.  Every thing seems to be going fine until the man arrested as a serial killer of young nurses bears a strong resemblance to their donor.  Here is where the story goes off the rails, in my opinion.  Christine puts her marriage and her life at risk when she decides to find the identity of the donor and prove he is not guilty. 1st, she impersonates a reporter, then a paralegal to gain access to the prison and to interview witnesses.  Some may argue that this shows what a strong woman she is and how resourceful teachers are.  On the other hand, I thought she was irresponsible and did not take into consideration the reprecussions of her actions.  This book does include book club discussion materials for those who want to debate the point!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld - 512 pages.

      Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld is a modern retelling of the love story, Pride and Prejudice, for those 20th century millennials who don't quite understand what that was all about. Based in the suburbs of Cincinnati, Liz Bennet and her three other sisters - Jane, Lydia, and Kitty. The well known character, Mr. Darcy also makes an appearance. I instantly fell in love with the title of the book alone, something about the difference from the original title to the new one.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Lemon Meringue Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke 352 pages

One of Hannah Swensen’s gentlemen callers, Norman Rhodes, informs Hannah that is he going to build their dream house; a house that they built to win a contest. Hannah’s other gentlemen caller, Mike Kingston, gets a little worried that Norman might propose, but Hannah is not sure what to say if he does.

When Hannah, Norman, and Hannah’s mother, Delores, go to Norman’s new house, Delores discovers the former owner in a partial grave in the basement. Hannah tries to stay out of the way of the police, but she just can’t help stepping in. Along the way, Hannah enlists her sisters Andrea and Michelle in helping her. While trying to save another potential victim, Hannah puts herself in danger and the killer has her in their sight.  

This was read by Suzanne Toren.

Blueberry Muffin Murder by Joanne Fluke 328 pages

The citizens of Lake Eden are preparing for the Winter Carnival. Hannah Swensen, owner and baker of The Cookie Jar, is busy preparing her cookies for the festivities. Connie Mac, a famous baker, is in charge of creating the Winter Carnival cake. When her delivery van with the cake gets put in a ditch, Connie Mac takes over Hannah’s bakery to recreate her cake.

When Connie Mac turns up dead in Hannah’s kitchen, Hannah gets on the case. Since her kitchen is now a crime scene, Hannah moves to Lake Eden’s Inn to create her cookies that she is asked to do in replacement of Connie Mac’s cake. While at the Inn, Hannah has access to question Connie Mac’s people. The only person missing is Janie, Connie Mac’s assistant. Hannah wants to solve this mystery so she can have her kitchen back and to clear Janie’s name.

This was read by Suzanne Toren.

Death Without Company by Craig Johnson 288 pages

Walter Longmire, sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming, has been called in on another case at the Durant Home for Assisted Living. Mari Baroja has been found dead, but it does not look like foul play. To appease the former sheriff, Walt decides to investigate a little.

Walt’s investigation leads him to a secret relationship, an abusive relationship between Mari and her husband, and a motive of money. Walt gets some help from his best friend Henry Standing Bear, Deputy Victoria Moretti, and newcomer Santiago Saizarbitoria. All Walt needs to do, is to stay alive.

This was read by George Guidall.

Zane and the Hurricane: A Story of Katrina by Rodman Philbrick 192 pages

Zane Dupree, a twelve-year-old boy, is meeting his great-grandmother, Miss Trissy, for the first time; traveling from New Hampshire to New Orleans. Zane’s world changes when the threats of Hurricane Katrina hit. As Zane and his great-grandmother are heading out of New Orleans, Zane’s dog, Bandy, jumps out of the car, which leads Zane to follow him.

Zane and Bandy are sent to the attic, when the water starts to rise in the house. To escape, the two move out to the roof, where they meet Mr. Tru and Malvina traveling in a canoe. The four travelers search out for dry land while trying to stay alive.

This was read by Jerry Dixon and is a nominee for the Mark Twain Award.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Ollie's Odyssey by William Joyce, 294 Pages

Ollie's Odyssey is the story of 6 year old Billy & his favorite toy Ollie and their huge "a-venture."  Ollie is Billy's constant companion.  They've been together since the day Billy was born and his mom made Ollie for him.  They do everything together, go everywhere together, they are totally inseparable.  Until the day, the Creeps take Ollie to Zozo's lair and Billy sets out to find him! 

This was an incredible first chapter book to read aloud with my 6 year old daughter.  She too has a favorite toy and we made many comparisons between Ollie & Henry.  We both loved the story very much and some nights it was hard to stop at just 1 or 2 chapters.

Prior to this, I had never read any other William Joyce books, but he has quickly become a favorite in our house and we'll be reading more as soon as we get our hands on them! 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Space Case by Stuart Gibbs 352 pages

Twelve-year-old Dashiell Gibson is one of the first humans to live on the moon. His parents are scientists working at Moon Base Alpha. You would think living on the moon would be great with tons to do, but you would be mistaken. Dash is bored out of his mind. Kids are not allowed to travel outside of the moon base and there is little for them to do inside.

When Dr. Hotlz turns up dead, nobody believes Dash when he tells them that Dr. Holtz was murdered. Dash enlists the help of Kira, a new girl to the base, in order to find clues that prove that Dr. Hotlz’s death was no accident. Can Dash and Kira solve the mystery before the rocket goes back to earth, possibly taking the killer with it? 

This was read by Gibson Frazier and is a nominee for the Mark Twain Award.

Screaming at the Ump by Audrey Vernick 250 pages

Twelve-year-old Casey Snowden comes from a family of umpires and he knows everything there is to being an umpire. His dad and grandfather own and run Behind the Plate, the third best umpire school. Casey, however, does not want to be an umpire; he wants to be a reporter.

When Casey learns the identity of a student, he decides to write an article that he hopes will get published in the school paper. The only problem, sixth-graders do not get published. Casey learns some valued lessons about what it means to be a writer.

This was a preliminary nominee for the Mark Twain Award.

Mothman's Curse by Christine Hayes 310 pages

Don't let the fact that this book has a cartoonish cover fool you.  This had some pretty unsettling stuff in it, but was still really accessible for young readers.  I wouldn't recommend it for readers under about 10 years old, but kids who like to be creeped out will love this.  It took the legend of Mothman from the Point Pleasant, West Virginia disaster and made a whole new story about it.  The story follows Josie and her brothers, Fox and Mason, who live in Athens, Ohio.  Their father owns an auction house and they get the estate of John Goodrich.  This is significant, as he is one of the few survivors of a major mudslide that destroyed a nearby city.  He and his wife had tried desperately to warn their neighbors, but were chalked up to being nutty.  After the disaster, which also took his wife's life, Mr. Goodrich became something of a hermit.  Now, he's dead and Josie and her family have all of his items to auction off, just waiting in their barn.  Strange things begin happening.  A camera with no film spits out pictures that all feature a very sad man.  Voices come through radios that aren't plugged in.  It just gets worse after Josie discovers a piece of jewelry, a moth pin, and puts it on.  Can she stop a curse before hundreds of people die...possibly herself among them?  I think this is a pretty solid story and I really liked the characters.  It really makes me want to investigate the history of Mothman myself!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, 256 pages

This is a book club book this year for two of the library's book clubs.  The book was written in 1937 and is a classic in African-American and Women's Literature.  In 2005, Time named it as one of the 100 best English-language novels.

It's a difficult story to read, or in my case, listen to because of how people treat each other.  It is set in Georgia and Florida in, I believe the early 1920s.  The exact timing is never shared, but I believe it is before the Depression.  There is total separation of whites and blacks, except of course, in some working relationships.

It is the story of a beautiful, mixed race woman Janie Crawford, who marries three times.  She grows from a quiet girl who does as she is told to a strong and confident woman by the end of the story.  It is beautifully written, but some of the dialog is difficult to understand because it is written in the vernacular of the time and location of the story.  

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Blessing Way by Tony Hillerman, 294 pages

This is Tony Hillerman's 1st book in his long-running Leaphorn & Chee series.  I got mixed up and listened to book 2 before this one.  However, reading them out of order didn't ruin anything.

Hillerman originally published this book in 1970, but it did not seem dated.  Set in the four-corners area of the American Southwest, the series follows Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn of the Navajo Tribal Police and his cases.  In this outing a depressed university professor gets mixed up with a Navajo Witch during a summer research trip.

I don't know if our hot weather made me more in the mood for this or not, but I really enjoyed the story and am looking forward to getting book 3 started in a few weeks.

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain by Bill Bryson, 380 pages

Bill Bryson is getting grumpy.  I totally enjoyed his classic "A Walk in the Woods" about America's Appalachian Trail.  I enjoyed this one too, but not as much.

It's great when he describes the English countryside, points of interest, villages,shops, museums and pubs he visited.  It is not so great when he repeatedly calls people idiots and fantasizes about hitting or killing those who irritate him.  Hellooo, Mr. or Ms. Editor . . . where were you?

So, read at your own risk.  For me, the enjoyable parts outweighed the sheesh! parts, but just.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier 350 pages

This is a pretty creepy little book that would be great for fourth grade readers and up who enjoy some chills.  Molly and her brother, Kip, are orphans who need work and a place to live.  They agree to be the maid/cook and groundskeeper respectively at a home far away from their home in Ireland.  This is historical fiction to some degree, as it takes place probably mid 1880s.  The house where they've been hired is in the middle of the "Sour Woods" somewhere in England.  The locals do their best to warn them away, but desperate times mean sometimes having to do what you'd really rather not.  It doesn't take long for Molly and Kip to notice that the family just isn't quite right and that strange goings on are afoot.  For one thing, there is a tree growing into the house.  Not just the roots into the foundation, but into the rooms.  The family tells them that they must absolutely not touch or trim the tree back.  When the truth is finally discovered, Molly and Kip will have to decide whether to stay and help the family or run while they still can.  This had a pretty original idea for a different kind of ghost story and was really a good read.

Freakling by Lana Krumwiede 309 pages

This was another book that I started reading to see if it would be a better fit in our juvenile section or in teen literature and got completely hooked.  I read the first few chapters online, but then had to wait impatiently for it to arrive so I could finish it.  I was hooked in the first chapter.  This was a really well written, never forced, first in a series that I really look forward to carrying on.  Taemon is a young man in a society where everyone uses psi (basically telekinesis) to do everything.  No one uses their hands to eat, drink, get dressed.  In fact, it's considered vulgar to do so.  Taemon has an additional ability that his parents have warned him to keep hidden.  He can send his mind wandering into basically anything to see how it works, right down to the atomic level.  Any differences can be dangerous and make him a target, so he does his best to keep that to himself.  His brother, Yens, has dreams of power and is determined to be named the True Son.  Yens is also quite cruel and manipulative.  Through a traumatic and volatile interaction, Taemon loses his power of telekinesis.  He is then sent to the 'dud farm', a colony outside his city where psiless people live.  He adapts quickly to this kind and friendly environment, but discovers some very dangerous secrets.  Taemon may be the only one who can stop a war and save thousands of lives.  This was book one of the Psi Chronicles and I am really looking forward to reading the next one!  I highly recommend this book to kids fifth grade and up who like a book that keeps them guessing and who enjoys the dystopian genre.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Atomic Robo The Everything Explodes Collection by writer Brian Clevinger and artist Scott Wegener 463 Pages

Atomic Robo invented by Nikola Tesla is the worlds leading metal protector. A blend between Indiana Jones and Ironman, Robo has people to save and things to learn.

This collection brings together many of Robo's adventures. It almost reads like a classic superhero comic but all the cliches are turned on their heads and laughed at. Of course the main enemy has an obvious and exploitable weakness, lots of Nazis get their plans foiled, and giant ants that have no reason to exist needing to be exterminated. All in a days work for Robo. Seeing a main character with that much cleverness and potential is very refreshing, he is not your average meat-headed superhero.

Robo's exploits also put him in contact with some very fancy individuals, each with problems for him to solve. Carl Sagan needed some help on mars, and H.P. Lovecraft has a time independent alien bursting out of his head....might need to read some to understand. There is also a curious relationship with Stephen Hawking, where Hawking really enjoys picking on Robo.

I could not stop reading once I started, I can easily recommend this to any fan of Science fiction, superheroes, graphic novels or anyone who could do with some laughs. The art is great and it does justice to the fast paced action Robo has to put up with on a daily basis.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Famous Last Words by Katie Alender 320 pages

Willa has just moved to Hollywood after her mother remarries a movie producer. Ever since moving in, Willa is seeing things that no one else can see. Messages written on the walls, a dead body in the pool, and a tub full of water.

Willa has made a few friends. There’s Marnie, who acts like a friend, but it is not completely trustworthy. Wyatt, Willa’s science partner, seems standoffish. Reed, her stepfather’s assistant who seems to understand Willa.

To make matters worst, there is a killer running around Los Angeles. Being dubbed the Hollywood Killer, someone is targeting girls and recreating movie murder scenes. When Marnie goes missing, Willa gets worried. Will Willa be the next victim? 

This was read by Nora Hunter and is a nominee for the Truman Award.

Strawberry Shortcake Murder by Joanne Fluke 296 pages

Hannah Swensen, bakery owner of The Cookie Jar, gets the honor of being the head judge at the first annual Hartland Flour Dessert Bake-Off. When basketball coach Body Watson, one of the judges, turns up dead in Hannah’s strawberry shortcake, the police suspect Boyd’s abused wife, Danielle.

Hannah knows that Danielle is innocence despite her motive. Hannah recruits her sister Andrea in helping her track down the real killer. Along the way, Hannah finds another body. Hannah needs to figure out who the real killer is, before she becomes the next victim. The real killer is not revealed until the very end.   

This was read by Suzanne Toren.

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews 451 pages

I highly recommend this book as a great summer beach read. Riley Griggs is following a summer tradition and coming home to Belle Isle. Her family have been residents and land owners for centuries.  But this summer will be like none other.  This is the summer when Riley and her husband will break the news to their daughter that they are divorcing.  But Riley's husband doesn't show and instead she is met by a process server.  Riley will need the support of her old friends and family.  By the time Labor Day rolls around and hurricane season blows in, old secrets will have been revealed and lives changed forever.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer 322 pages

Beth has a lot on her plate. Her husband has left her for another woman, she hasn’t seen or spoken to her parents in years and her eight year old daughter Carmel has a habit of wandering off causing Beth to become over protective. Then Beth’s worst nightmare comes true and Carmel disappears while on an outing to a literary fair and the story takes off from there.

The Girl in the Red Coat was beautifully written. I wouldn’t be surprised if it became a bestseller. But, quite frankly, I was disappointed. From the pre published hype, to my expectations that never measured up, The Girl in the Red Coat went places I had no interest in. I just wanted a plain old English mystery. I got a tormented family drama instead.

Perhaps the worst part of the book was the ending that left all its potential blowing in the wind especially since I forced myself to continue reading in hopes that a few of my expectations could be salvaged.