Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, 343 pages

I listened to this book that was read by lots of people and many whom I recognized from Hollywood or other books I've listened to.  The story tells the tale of tale of the night after Willie Lincoln's burial in the Georgetown cemetery. 

Not surprisingly, Willie and his father, President Abraham Lincoln, are both struggling with Willie's death.  It was an interesting book.  And while I didn't love it I am glad I read it.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Kids of Appetite by David Arnold, 331 pages

It starts in two interrogation rooms at the Hackensack Police Department...

In one room sits Vic (short for Victor).Two years ago, Vic's father died of cancer. Two years later, Vic is still missing him so much it hurts. So on a fateful evening in early December, when Vic storms out of his house, he takes his father's urn with him. In doing so, he sets in motion a quest that will lead him to closure, friends, the girl of his dreams, and a murder.

In the other sits Mad (short for Madeline). Her uncle has just been murdered.

As Vic and Mad tell their stories (or avoid telling their stories), they unpack the events of the past eight days. In sentences that read like poetry, author David Arnold shows us all the ways Vic and Mad overlap. If Vic and Mad were a Venn diagram, their overlap would be the truth. And it's the truth that protects the innocent.

The writing is spectacular. Arnold's sentences read like poems, and there is plenty of deep stuff that will leave you contemplating your place in the universe, and the universe itself. There are some places where the plot doesn't quite work, but all in all, the writing helps you suspend your disbelief. I highly recommend this book.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction by Neil Gaiman, 522 pages

This is a collection of author Neil Gaiman's selected speeches, introductions to books, essays and articles.  It starts with an homage to books and libraries and includes other various topics like authors past and present, music, storytelling, comics, bookshops, travel, fairy tales, America, inspiration and ghosts.

I listened to the book, which was read by the author himself.  It provides wonderful insight into his smart and creative brain.  Very enjoyable and I added several books and authors to my "to be read" list

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, 462 pages

Loved. This. Book.  Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to house arrest for life in 1922 due to a seditious poem.  He is sentenced to live in the same luxury hotel he has been living in for four years, but is moved from his suite to small servants quarters.

Alexander is in his early 30s when he is sentenced and quite a man of the world.  We follow his life for the next 30 years or so, all lived out in the hotel.  The book is full of friendship, love, coping, humor and a cast of wonderful characters. 

I listened to the book, which was read by Brit Nicholas Guy Smith.  Pure heaven.  I stopped listening for a few days because I didn't want it to end.  Alas, I had to finish it because ultimately, I had to know how it ended. 

Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst, 278 pages

In the mood for a bit of psychological thriller?  Interested in a book about the autism spectrum?  Like a good family story?  This book has all that and more.

The story unfolds from the perspective of three characters: Alexandra (mom), Tilly (on the spectrum) and Iris (Tilly's sister).  Alexandra and Josh, parents to Tilly and Iris, are looking for help with raising Tilly the best way possible.  They think the find the answer in Scott Bean, who has a blog about how to have a harmonious family with a child on the autism spectrum.  Scott Bean has the idea of starting Camp Harmony, a camp where families will spend a week, learning how to better interact with each other.

Alexandra, Josh and the girls leave their life and head to Camp Harmony to help start the camp with two other families, along with Scott.  Unfortunately, things end up being not so harmonious at the camp . . .

Monday, June 5, 2017

Hidden Figures: The Untold True Story of Four African American Women Who Helped Launch Our Nation into Space by Margo Lee Shetterly, 240 pages

The hit movie "Hidden Figures" is based on the book "Hidden Figures" and I listened to the Young Readers Edition because that is what we had available through MissouriLibraries2Go.

A little known fact is that the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics based in Langley, Virginia recruited women during WWII to work as mathematicians, known as computers.  NACA also recruited black women to be computers.

This is the true story of four of those black women, who were all brilliant mathematicians, and their journey at NACA, which became NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick 400 pages

Britt has been training to hike the Teton Range over spring break with her best friend Korbie. Britt knew that Korbie's boyfriend Bear was going to join them, but she was unprepared for Korbie's brother, Calvin who is Britt's ex-boyfriend. As Britt and Korbie head up to the mountain, they get stuck in a snow storm in the middle of the road. The girls decide to get out and look for help. They come across a cabin where two men are staying. At first, they seem like they are going to help until the hold the girls hostage. Britt is forced become their guide off the mountain. Britt must do what she has to, to survive. She tries to escape, but is caught by Mason. When they walk back to the cabin where they were staying, Britt sees Calvin kill her other kidnapper. Britt just thinks that Calvin is worried about her and will do anything to find her. But when Britt arrives to Korbie's and Calvin's family cabin, learns a secret while on the  her in more danger than before. Who will make it off the mountain alive?  

The Stars of Summer by Tara Dairman 352 pages

Gladys Gatsby is turning twelve and for her birthday, she receives a counselor-in-training position at the day camp in town from her friend Charissa. Gladys did not envision her summer at day camp. She would rather be at the library looking through cookbooks or thinking about her next restaurant review for the New York Standard. At least she gets to work in the kitchen, however, she and the cook have opposite views on good food. So while Gladys is dealing with the camp cook, she learns that her next review is to find the best hotdog in New York. How is Gladys supposed to visit all the different hotdog vendors in New York and still make her deadline with her editor?

This was read by Kathleen McInerney. 

All Fall Down by Ally Carter 320 pages

When Grace was thirteen, she witnessed the death of her mother. Everyone believes that she died because of a fire, but Grace is adamant that her mother was killed by a man with a scarred face. When Grace moves to Embassy Row to live with her grandfather, she believes that she has found her mother's killer, but no one believes her. Not her grandfather, her new friends, or Alexei, the boy Russian boy next door. When Grace starts to follow the scarred man, she discovers things about herself that she is not ready to face. Grace confronts her grandfather but he keeps declaring that her mother's death was an accident. She finally learns the truth about her mother's death. 

This was read by Eileen Stevens. 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman, 324 pages

Britt-Marie first turned up in another Fredrik Backman book "My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry."  She was the fussy neighbor who never had anything nice to say and was not very likeable.

Fredrik Backman specializes in writing about curmudgeonly people with a heart of gold.  These folks might not have family that consists of relatives, but by the end of the book, they have family that consists of people who love and appreciate them. 

Britt-Marie had to leave home to find her place and that family, but she does so with satisfying results.  Verdict: heartwarming, sweet and uplifting; another winner from Swedish author Fredrik Backman. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Eagle's Quill by Sarah L. Thomson 224 pages

After finding Benjamin Franklin's original key that he discovered lightning with, Sam, Marty, and Theo are headed to Glacier National Park in search of their second Founding Fathers' key. They are lead to a Montana Ranch in search of Thomas Jefferson's quill that he used to sign the Declaration of Independence. Not far behind them is Gideon Arnold, who kidnaps their chaperone and the ranch owners. Sam, Marty, and Theo must work together with Abby, the daughter of the ranchers. In order to get the adults back, the group must find the quill and give it to Gideon. They enter the wilderness where they encounter a bear, a mountain lion, and the waterfall. Will they be able to find the quill and keep everyone save? Again, this was another fast read with interesting historical facts. 

The Eureka Key by Sarah L. Thomson 240 pages

Sam is a master at puzzles. When he wins a contest, Sam learns that he will get to travel across America for the summer. What Sam didn't know is that he would be taking this trip with Martina, a history buff, and Theo, a descendant of George Washington. Sam was recruited to help solve puzzles and clues that were left behind by the Founding Fathers of America. The Founding Fathers left seven keys that will unlock an invention created by Benjamin Franklin, a secret weapon that would help defend the U.S. While Sam, Marty, and Theo are looking for their first key in Death Valley, they come across a group of thugs who are working for Gideon Arnold, a descendant of Benedict Arnold. Together, Sam, Marty, and Theo must work together to make it out of a secret cave while searching for the key. This book is a fast read and reminds me of National Treasure

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Rules by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguie 352 pages

The best of Callabrese High have come together for a final scavenger hunt put on by August DeYoung and he wants to make sure that it is one that they remember. August believes that many of the invitees played a part in his sister's death and he wants them to admit to it. Secrets are coming to light when the teens start completing their tasks. But after a while, players start turning up dead. After witnessing a fellow player being pushed out of a loft from a hangman's noose, the remaining members of the scavenger hunt learn that they are playing by the rules of someone else's game. They have to break the rules to survive but can they make it out alive?

This was read by Robbie Daymond and follows multiple point of views.

Twisted by Hannah Jayne 320 pages

Bex Andrews is moved across the state of North Carolina to escape her past of being Beth Anne Reimer, a daughter of a serial killer. Beth Anne was seven years old when her father went on the run from the law, leaving her with her grandmother. In Raleigh, Beth Anne was picked on by other kids and was called a murderer like her father. When Bex moves to Kill Devil, she wants no one to know about her past. She has become a normal girl with two foster parents who treat her like their own and friends. She is afraid to let them know who she really is, because she knows that they will hate her like everyone else has. But you can never really escape your past and there are girls turning up murdered. Bex is approached by Detective Schuster, who she knew back in Raleigh. Detective Schuster wants Bex to reach out to her father and bring him out off hiding. Bex takes to the internet and is approached by her father. Her father is in Kill Devil and wants to take Bex with him and run away again. Who should Bex trust her father or Detective Schuster? 

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy, 295 pages

This is one of those books that has a story happening now (2007 in the United States) and then (1945 in Germany.)  Then details the life of Elsie Schmidt, who is 17, working in her family bakery in the middle of Nazi Germany.  Now mostly focuses on Reba, a reporter who meets Elsie and her daughter Jane.  Reba comes to Elsie's German Bakery to get a feel-good Christmas story about Christmas in Germany.

Most World War II related books I read tell the story of the Holocaust or life in England during the war.  This told the story from the perspective of Germans and their lives under Nazi propaganda and rule.  It also had a nice juxtaposition dealing with modern life and illegal immigration in America.  When do we get passes for how we treat people?  This is a book club book for the library this year and I am looking forward to our discussion.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Dare by Hannah Jayne 288 pages

Erica was Brynna's best friend. When Brynna dares Erica to jump off the pier into the ocean, Erica never resurfaces. Brynna blames herself and she goes off the deep end into drinking and drugs. After wrecking her mother's car, Brynna is sent to rehab. Brynna's parents feel that a move is what is best for Brynna. Brynna decides to stay off the radar at her new school, but plans change when she meets Evan on the first day. For the first 6 weeks of school, Brynna thought she could be normal again. All of a sudden, Brynna receives a tweet from Erica, asking if Brynna remembers her. How can she receive a tweet from a dead girl? Brynna is convinced that Erica is alive. So much that she is driving herself crazy. Is Brynna crazy or is Erica really alive? And if it isn't Erica, then who is terrorizing Brnna?

Saturday, May 13, 2017

What Waits in the Woods by Kieran Scott 228 pages

Callie and her two friends go on a camping trip for 5 days in the woods. Callie's boyfriend Jeremy tags along, even though it was supposed to be a girls-only camping trip. Callie is a city girl and this is her first time camping. When Penelope and Lissa tell her the tale of the Skinner, Callie freaks out. Why would these girls bring her on a trip, when there is a killer in the woods? Ever since then, Callie believes that someone is following them. After getting lost on the trails, the group comes across a stranger, Ted, who agrees to help them. Strange things start to happen, Callie helps hearing a laughter, 5 dolls appear in the fire pit, and they have even seen a figure moving in the trees. When Lissa comes up dead, no one knows who they can trust. Will Callie make it out of the woods alive and will the killer be found?   

Friday, May 12, 2017

In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem and Fun in the Sandbox, 288 pages

I am a fan of Carol Burnett and try to listen to all of her books.  This book is about the 11-year run of her musical variety show The Carol Burnett Show.

She lovingly tells stories about the cast, crew, guest stars and sketches.  I listened to this book, which I recommend, because included are interviews from actors Vickie Lawrence, Harvey Korman, Tim Conway and costume designer Bob Mackie, among others.

Carol Burnett is good people and this book was totally enjoyable. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Pants Project by Cat Clarke 267 pages

Liv is 11 years old.  Liv is starting a new school.  A school with a very strict dress code, including that girls must wear skirts.  There's one big problem with this.  Liv is not a girl.  Finding a way to tell her moms that she is trans is hard enough without discovering that her best friend is more interested in being popular than being her friend anymore.  One thing that Liv absolutely cannot let go is getting the stupid dress code changed.  Why can't people dress in the clothes that make them feel like themselves?  Liv finds unlikely friends and the end of the book is not just hopeful, but really lovely.  The nice thing about this book was that, while it dealt with the issue of transgender, it wasn't so unrealistically optimistic as Gino's George.  This had a much more believable timeline for its characters.  I loved it.  I thought that Liv was a truly cool and strong character, and I appreciated the message that we are who we are and that's something we should all appreciate.

The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan 401 pages

Yikes.  If you don't like horror, don't read this book!  I got almost halfway through it several years ago and had to stop because it was giving me nightmares.  No joke.  It was really good, though, so I wanted to finish it and finally made the effort.  I only read it at lunch, at work.  It was still very unsettling.  This is not your average vampire novel.  It is desperate and terrifying and the vampires are not even remotely sexy, so forget that nonsense.  I'm pretty proud of myself for making it all the way through, but I don't know how soon I'll be able to tackle the sequels!  I highly recommend this to people who love to not be able to sleep at night.

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos 341 pages

"In the historic town of Norvelt, Pennsylvania, twelve-year-old Jack Gantos spends the summer of 1962 grounded for various offenses until he is assigned to help an elderly neighbor with a most unusual chore involving the newly dead, molten wax, twisted promises, Girl Scout cookies, underage driving, lessons from history, typewriting, and countless bloody noses."

This book has a lot of appeal for a wide audience.  It won the Newbery Award a few years ago for good reason.  It's like opening a time capsule and being able to vicariously experience a childhood that would be completely unimaginable these days.  Gantos has such a believable voice, and his characters, while bigger-than-life, are not absurd or out of the realm of possibility.  I really enjoyed this book.  I think it will appeal strongly to boys of all ages and most girls, too.

Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore 335 pages

At the end of the first book, Charlie Asher (beta male death merchant) finds himself without a body.  No worries, his new girlfriend has a solution...of sorts.  This book finds the death merchants in a state of unusual inactivity.  It seems the need to collect souls died with the Morrigan in the first book.  You know that's not going to hold for long though.  With his characteristic whimsy and goofiness, Christopher Moore turns phrases that will make you laugh out loud.  While I confess that I liked the first book better, I still really enjoyed this one and hope that someday Christopher Moore hires me to be his proofreader so that I get to read all his stuff without the irritating wait for it to hit the shelves.

True Son by Lana Krumwiede 277 pages

This was the final book in the Psi Chronicles trilogy.  One thing that really bummed me out about the Hunger Games books was that there was a LOT of murder and despair.  This series, in contrast, had a lot more hope and problem solving.  Taemon finds himself taking a lead role for his community.  He will need to use all his intelligence and heart to determine a path that will save his people from war, or worse, complete annihilation.  Fortunately for everyone, he has no shortage of either.  I highly recommend this entire series to anyone who enjoys dystopian, but is pretty much over the hopeless and desperate direction it tends to go.

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Whole Town's Talking by Fannie Flagg, 402 pages

The Whole Town's Talking tells the story of the citizens of Elmwood Springs, Missouri, somewhere not too far from Joplin.

The story begins in the 1880s with Lordor Nordstrom, the founder of the little community of Swedish immigrants.  By the time the story ends it is 2021 and we've learned the life and death stories of generations of community members, along with the life and death of the community itself.

I am not often a reader of gentle fiction and I would put this book in that category, but I do enjoy Fannie Flagg.  I doubt someone less than 40 would enjoy the story, but since I breezed by that a decade ago, I was good.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Naturals Series (The Naturals, Killer Instinct, All In, and Bad Blood) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes 1,472 pages

Cassie is considered a "Natural". At seventeen, Cassie is recruited to the Naturals program in the FBI, to become a profiler. Cassie is assigned to help with cold cases. She moves into a house with four other kids in Quantico, Virginia. Everyone has something that they are good at. Michael can read people's emotions, Lia is a human lie detector, Sloane is great with numbers and statistics and Dean, like Cassie, can read people. 

Cassie recognizes that a serial killer is killing women that look similar to her mother. Soon, Cassie is being targeted by that killer. It turns out that Cassie mentor, is her mother's younger sister as well as the killer. Soon, Cassie and the others are soon given active cases that tends to put them in dangerous situations. As the books progress, Cassie learns more about her mother's murder. 

These books had me hooked within the first chapter. These books are intense and they get into the minds of serial killers. I had a hard time putting them down. Heck, I read the first 3 books within a week! If you like the t.v. show Criminal Minds, this is book series for you. 

The Crossroads by Chris Grabenstein 329 pages

Zac and his family move to his father's hometown. On their property is a tree that has a mean-hearted spirit. Fifty years ago, Clint ran a bus off the road killing everyone but one person. Since then, their spirits have haunted the town of North Chester. It is up to Zac and his new step-mother, Judy, to rid the town of Clint's spirit. 

When I first heard of Chris Grabenstein, I only thought that he wrote funny books, but I was wrong. When I met him back in March, I learned that he also wrote ghost stories. I was excited to see another side of Chris Grabenstein. The Crossroads was a hard book to put down. 

The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes 400 pages

Tess Kendrick has lived with her grandfather ever since her parents died, but when he gets dementia, Tess is sent to live with her older sister, Ivy. Tess has no idea that her sister is the famed "fixer" of Washington, D.C., however, when she school at Hardwicke, she soon learns what it means to be a fixer. After Tess helps a girl with her problem, everyone starts coming to Tess for help. 

When a Supreme Court Justice dies in surgery, Tess's friend Vivvie comes to Tess and to confess that she believes that her father killed him. Tess brings Ivy into the investigation and secrets start coming to light. When Tess is kidnapped by a secret service agent, she learns her biggest truth yet - Ivy is really her mom. Ivy exchanges herself for Tess and Tess must make a deal with the devil to get her back. 

If you like the t.v. show Scandal, you will like this book. 

The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die by April Henry 224 pages

The first thing that Cady hears when she wakes up is "take her out back and finish her off." She has no idea who she is, where she is, and why someone is wanting to kill her. Cady is able to overcome one of her kidnappers and makes a run for it. When Cady learns that she is from Portland, Oregon, she decides to head there with her savior turned companion, Ty. 

When Cady meets a woman posing as her aunt, she learns the real reason why she was kidnapped. Cady's parents work for a bio-tech company that works with viruses. They learn that the company is creating a virus that could harm many people unless they can pay for the antidote. When Cady's parents decide to expose them, the company tries to keep them quiet. Will Cady be able to save her parents and will her memory come back? 

This was read by Cristina Panfilio. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Nobody by Jennifer Lynn Barnes 400 pages

Claire is a girl that nobody ever notices. She has spent her whole life invisible, even her parents have forgotten her at times. Nix is a Nobody, a boy who was raised as an assassin because he blends into everywhere. When Nix is assigned to kill Claire, he thought she would be is twelfth kill. What Nix did not expect was that Claire could see him, even when he was in the fade. Nix cannot follow through with hit. When he realizes that the Society sent more people after Claire, Nix decides to take Claire to a cabin in the woods. Nix realizes that some of his kills were of Normals, instead of Nulls (psychopaths). Nix starts to learn more about the Society that changes how he views things. Can Nix help save Claire from the Society or will he be their next victim? 

Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer by Katie Alender 304 pages

Collette cannot wait to be in Paris, Francis. She'll be spending the next nine days sight seeing with her French class. When the class gets to France, they learn about series of gruesome murders, where people are losing their heads. As Collette moves around Paris, she keeps seeing a pale woman in the a ball gown and a powdered wig. She figures out the figure that she is seeing is Marie Antionette. Collette learns of her family's connection to Paris. Collette is a descendant of Mario Antionette's closest friend, a member of the group who brought Marie Antionette to her beheading. The queen's ghost is ready to strike again, but she is leaving the worst for Collette - she must lose her heart, before the queen takes her head. Can Collette make it out of Paris alive? 

This was read by Elea Oberon and Erin Spencer. 

Friday, April 28, 2017

A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis 384 pages

Grace Mae is living in an insane asylum in Boston. When her father learned that he had impregnated her, he placed her in the asylum to hide the pregnancy. After she loses the baby, she is sent to the cellar where she encounters a doctor who is interested in criminal psychology. Dr. Thornhollow recruits Grace as his assistant when he sees that she has a brilliant mind. Grace is smuggled out of the asylum to Ohio to live in another asylum, though this one better than her previous. While there, Grace helps Dr. Thornhollow in observing crime scenes to help hunt down killers. Grace must eventually face her own demons, while trying to keep her own sanity. 

The Leveller by Julia Durango 256 pages

Nixy Bauer is a leveller. When someone stays too long in Meep, a virtual-reality gamer world, Nixy is hired to retrieve them. When Wyn Salvador, the game's billionaire developer's son, leaves what appears to be a suicide note, Nixy is hired to retrieve him. Nixy isn't the first person to go after Wyn, but hopefully she will be the last. To get to Wyn's custom world, Nixy must go through a maze, where she must overcome sharks, scorpions, and a banshee. When Nixy finds Wyn, she learns that he cannot leave Meep. Wyn and Nixy must find a way out while trying to figure out who is keeping them there.  

Tetris: The Games People Play by Box Brown 253 pages

I can confidently say that most people in the world have at least heard of Tetris and many have played it, but how many know the story behind such a timeless and culturally important game. Brown shows the journey of Tetris from being a side project of a computer scientist from Moscow to a worldwide phenomenon. He also dives into how games have shaped society, and how it reveals things about psychology and human behavior. The artwork goes very well with the subject matter, showing the development of the game in such a way that makes it very understandable. This is a wonderful example of a non-fiction graphic novel done right.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer, 518 pages

"The Chemist" is an action adventure thriller featuring a super-secret doctor/interrogator who is on the run from the super-secret agency she used to work for.  She heard something she shouldn't and they decided she needed to die.  She ends up connecting with an ex-CIA black ops guy also on the run because he heard something he shouldn't and someone decided he needed to die too.

I enjoy a fun action adventure and this was mostly enjoyable, but I would not rate it in the top ten books I've read this year.  I hope Stephenie Meyer continues to write because she can tell a good tale but I liked her sci-fi book "The Host" better than this one.   

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Ruthless by Carolyn Lee Adams 256 pages

Ruth Carver is in for the fight of her life. When Ruth wakes up in the back of a truck underneath a pile of shavings and manure, she has no idea how she got there. Once Ruth and her kidnapper reach their destination, Ruth learns the reason as to why she was kidnapped. Ruth is to be punished because her kidnapper believes her to be a bad girl. However, Ruth is not like the other 6 victims, she is ruthless. Ruth escapes into the wilderness with a hunter on her trail. 

Forget Tomorrow by Pintip Dunn 400 pages

On Cassie's seventeenth birthday, she receives a memory from her future self. She is hoping that she will see herself as a famous manual chef, however what she sees terrifies her. Cassie's memory shows her killing her own sister. To escape her future, Cassie turns herself in to the government. Cassie's childhood friend Logan, breaks Cassie out of Limbo and they escape to Harmony. As Logan and Cassie get closer, Cassie learns that she and Logan can never be together, no matter how bad she wants them to be. Cassie decides that to save her sister, she must learn more about her memory and how it came to be. Will she be able to save her sister and change her future? 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Bartender's Tale by Ivan Doig, 414 pages

This is billed is a Western, which frankly, is not my genre of choice.  Set in a small Montana town in 1960, it may be a Western but it is also a coming of age story.

Rusty lives with his bachelor father, Tom, who owns the locally famous bar, the Medicine Lodge.  Rusty's mom left when Rusty was just a baby, but the two do just fine on their own.

The summer Rusty turns 12 brings changes to their lives.  This is a slow paced tale that totally captivated me from the beginning. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen, 50 pages

This is a little gem of a book that reminds readers to enjoy family, nature, ourselves . . .life.  It includes lovely pictures too.

I picked this up at the library's book sale last fall and finally took the time to read it.  Note to self: maybe a clue that I really needed it!  There is a post-it in the front from a previous reader or giver of the book that says "deserves to be read as a weekly reminder of what life should be."  Yep, couldn't have said it better myself.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Mischling by Affinity Konar, 344 pages

This is a World War II novel that tells the story of identical twin girls, Pearl and Stasha.  They are sent to Auschwitz, along with their mother and grandfather, in September 1944.

As they come off the train, Dr. Josef Mengele selects the girls for "the Zoo," the area of the camp used for his experiments.

Mischling was the legal term used in Nazi Germany to denote a person who had both "Aryan" and Jewish ancestry, but the term was never explained in the book.

There is not just death and horror in this book, there is some surviving and triumphing also.  I do have to admit though, I am glad I am done with this one.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines with Mark Dagostino, 208 pages

I am a HUGE fan of the HGTV show, Fixer Upper, so when I saw this book come through I knew I had to read it.  And you know what?  It's just about as adorable and sweet and fluffy as you'd imagine that Chip & Joanna were in person.  They built their business from the ground up and appeared to have a few struggles along the way before finding the success and fame that starring in a reality TV show granted them.  There really wasn't a lot of meat to this book.  No decorating tips.  No business tips.  And most conflict was glossed over.  I skimmed the last 40 pages or so.  In my opinion, there weren't enough pictures of their projects.  Fans of Fixer Upper will likely still want to check this out though.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Bicycles: Love Poems by Nikki Giovanni 109 pages

A beautiful, funny, witty, sad, hopeful, inspiring book of poems by the poet Nikki Giovanni.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Art of the Pie: A Practical Guide to Homemade Crusts, Fillings and Life by Kate McDermott, 352 pages

This is a cookbook with a dash of philosophy added.  I know how to make a pie, but I am still seeking the perfect pie crust and Kate McDermott shares lots of recipes for crusts and pies, along with step by step directions and tips both for pie making and life.  To sum up her technique: Chill. 

For pie makers, she offers a variety of crusts, including gluten-free and vegan.  Don't think you'll just get fruit pies here, there are also some meat pie recipes too.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, so much so, that I actually bought the book which is almost unheard of for me.  

Ego-tripping and Other Poems for Young People by Nikki Giovanni, 37 pages

The award winning poet, Nikki Giovanni, is visiting St. Joseph in April and will be offering a public presentation on April 6th, on the MWSU campus. 

I didn't want to miss this chance to meet Ms. Giovanni but wanted to brush up on her poetry so checked out some books from the library.  This book, originally published in 1974, is still relevant today and is about growing up black.  Race, and how we treat each other, is still an unresolved issue and that makes this book of poetry timeless, for now.

The Magnolia Story by Chip & Joanna Gaines with Mark Dagostino, 208 pages

I don't get HGTV at home but that doesn't mean I haven't heard of Fixer Upper and Chip and Joanna Gaines.  This seemed like a fun book to listen to, and I was not disappointed.  Read by the Gaines, it was a treat.

They talk about their lives before and after they met, their faith and of course, their business.  They just seem like good people and the book makes me want to watch their show more than the little snippets I've caught here and there so far.  

Friday, March 24, 2017

Faithful by Alice Hoffman, 258 pages

Hope. I tend to love books that are hopeful.  In this story, 17 year-old Shelby practically walks away from an accident that leaves her best friend incapacitated.

Shelby was always popular and the tragedy plunges her into depression and guilt and a belief that her life is over, or should be.

This is a story about Shelby eventually learning how to enjoy life again.  5 stars and thumbs up from me.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson, 396 pages

This book was originally published in Sweden and was translated into English by Rod Bradbury.  It is a comic caper about Allan Karlsson, who escapes from a nursing home on his 100th birthday.

First stop?  The bus station where a criminal with a suitcase full of cash needs to use the bathroom and entrusts Allan with the suitcase.  Oops.

The book fluctuates between the present and Allan's storied life.  Remember how Forrest Gump was present for A LOT of stuff in history?  Yeah, so was Allan.  I rate the book enjoyable, but not lovable. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Case of the Phantom Cat: The Mysteries of Maisie Hutchins, Book 3 by Holly Webb, 176 pages

Maisie Hutchins is something of an amateur sleuth.  And like most amateur detectives the mysteries just seem to find her.  This time she accompanies her friend Alice on a trip to the country to get away from the London fog that is making Alice ill.  When they arrive at the country home they are informed that the house is haunted and was built on a plague pit.  Of course, all kinds of spooky things happen shortly after their arrival, but Maisie is not buying it.  She's determined to find out the real reason everyone is seeing a phantom white cat and why the library smells so horrid!

Maisie is plucky and courageous.  This was a fun bedtime read with my 7 year old.  The chapters were a nice length so that reading one a night was enough for us.  We did have to power through and read the last 40 pages or so one night just to find out the end.  This is the first Maisie Hutchins book we have read, even though it's book 3.  My daughter is anxious to read the first two though.  I think I'll be introducing her to Nancy Drew in a few years.

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin, 262 pages

Eilis Lacey is an Irish immigrant to Brooklyn after WWII.  She takes a job as a bookkeeper and moves into a boarding house. While in America she sort of reinvents herself and finds romance and a career both of which seemed unattainable at home.  But when a family tragedy takes her back to Ireland, she discovers what her life might have been like if she had stayed.  And then she has to make a choice, go back to America where she has commitments and a life waiting for her.  Or stay.  I won't tell you the choice she makes and I'm not even sure it was the right choice.

I enjoyed this book and would recommend it if you enjoy historical fiction from this era.  It has some romance, but I wouldn't catalog it as such.

Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes, 352 pages

I started this book twice before actually finishing it.  It finally took the recommendation of a respected friend and listening to the audiobook before I made it all the way through.  And I'm glad I did.  I admit that I was a little turned off at the thought of a self-help book.  Honestly though, I wouldn't say this is self-help, or biography, or memoir or just any one thing.  It was exactly what I needed to listen to in the moment.  I listened in the car and found myself mmm-hmming and nodding along to Shonda's (I feel like we're on a first name basis now) guidance . I especially loved her chapters on being a working mother.  And I'm trying to say yes to my kids more often these days when I get invited to play or cuddle or read with them.

She also had some important thoughts on saying yes to saying no. Setting limits for yourself.  You can't do it all.  And it's true.  I'm still working on this though.

Oh and the "power pose!"  Where you put your hands on your hips and pose like Wonder Woman for a minute or so.  It really helps.  I tried it.

So as you can tell, I really enjoyed this book.  I've been a fan of Shonda's TV shows since the early days of Grey's Anatomy.  And even though I haven't watched most of her newer stuff, if I happen to catch a few minutes, I'm probably hooked for the rest of the hour.  She's an incredible storyteller.  And this book was a true testament to that.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa, 312 pages

This is a well written and devastating fictional account about the protests at the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle.

There is Victor, the 19 year-old runaway who has returned home to Seattle to protest and perhaps, see his step-father the Chief of Police.  There is John Henry, the proponent of non-violent protest and his girlfriend, King, who struggles with rage.  We meet two police officers, Julie and Park, who battle in the protests.  Finally, we meet Dr. Charles Wickramsingne, who is a delegate from Sri Lanka and has a must-get-to meeting with President Clinton to ensure Sri Lanka's entry in the WTO.

This is a fast and unsettling book about one violent day and event.