Saturday, March 17, 2018

A Tap on the Window by Linwood Barclay, 512 Pages

Cal Weaver is an ex-cop, turned private investigator, who is mourning the loss of his teen-aged son. Driving home from a job one night, he attempts to ignore the young woman hitch hiking in the rain. That becomes impossible when said woman begins knocking on his car window, and then tells him that she was a friend of his son. Helping her turns out to be a bad decision, when the next morning she is missing, another woman turns up dead, and he is in the center of it all. 

Friday, March 16, 2018

Almost Adam by Petru Popescu, 544 pages

  Kenya, 1995--As two young paleoanthropologists find evidence that indicates ancient humans lived on a particular piece of Savannah land much more recently than believed, a non-verbal Gracile Hominid boy watches them rifle through where he has slept before they climb into some kind of flying bug that takes them away.
  The main adventure happens as Ken (the young American scientist) and the ancient boy he calls Long Toes find themselves depending on each other for minute-by-minute survival in the Kenyan wilderness. Each of them is a mystery who fascinates and terrifies the other.
  Meanwhile, Ngili, the young Kenyan scientist, finds himself pulled into family,  political responsibilities and conflict that influence the lives and futures of all who live in the nation.
  The storyline includes lions, poachers, drug rings, professional back-stabbing, political meltdown, science, business, ethics, international conflict, bigotry, hatred, death, murder, war, sex, friendship, and wonder . . . action-packed. I loved the idea that a piece of earth and early humanity might be preserved through time and was appalled but unsurprised at the ugly sides of our humanity, regardless of evolutionary stage.  Perhaps someone will turn this book into a movie. I think it could be done well.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels by Kenneth E. Bailey, 443 pages

  I zipped through this book of essays with much interest.
  Fascinating . . . with solid footnotes, bibliography, and indexing. Definitely worth the read for those who lead others through the Bible, who are interested in history and grammar of language, who wish to learn more about Judean culture during Jesus’ time, and who might be looking for a Lenten read or post-Easter study.
  The book consists of 12 essays, focusing on particular New Testament passages. Bailey clearly understands how the Western church, stemming from Greek and Latin languages has understood the passages. He shares perspectives from Middle Eastern Christian writings and translations closely related to Jesus’ own language and culture; the information will likely be new for most people raised in Western branches of Christianity. Bailey says the goal of this book is to “add new perspectives to our understanding of the text, rather than to rearrange old ones.”
  The author received his Ph.D. from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO, but was raised in Egypt. He has taught the New Testament in institutes and seminaries in several countries for 40 years. He is a Middle Eastern Christian, knows the cultures, speaks the languages, and is able to read early Syriac and Aramaic Christian literature about the Gospels.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Here And Gone by Haylen Beck, 304 Pages

This. Was. Intense. I caught this book coming in from a patron, and knew the minute I read the back of it that I had to take it home and start it ASAP. 

Audra is on the run. She packed up her two children and everything they could fit into her car, and they are en route to California. They are driving through Arizona when they are stopped by a local sheriff in the middle of no where. Audra is quickly handcuffed and placed in the back of the sheriff's car, while her children are taken to a "safe place" by another cop. Audra is begging and pleading for information about where her children are going, while the sheriff repeatedly tells her to remain calm and everything will be sorted out shortly. Once she is placed behind bars, and again asks about the whereabouts of her children, she is greeted by every parent's worst nightmare as an answer:"What children?" This will have you on the edge of your seat and reading as quickly as you can to get to the last page. 

Friend Request by Laura Marshall, 375 Pages

This was another book that's been on my "To-Read" list for a while now. Most of our lives revolve around social media, and I have to say... after reading this, I'll never look at it the same! It ended up being better than I expected, although I was a little disappointed in the ending. 

Friend Request is about Louise Williams, a single mother to her son, Henry. She is living a relatively ordinary life, when she receives a friend request from Maria Weston, someone she went to high school with. The only problem is: Maria Weston has been dead for 25 years. Louise is unsure if someone is playing a joke on her, or if something far more sinister lies behind that request. 

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman, 368 pages

  What a pleasant surprise of a book! Yes, it is about a museum, but it’s also full of more than I could have guessed!
  I was happily surprised to discover that this is the story of New York City at the beginning of the 20th Century. It was a time before U.S. laws that protected laborers, children, and people with disabilities, back when parents could easily prevent their children from going to school, when women and children could fairly easily be sold by their families, when electricity and indoor plumbing were not yet standard amenities, when fire hoses were a recent invention, and when the city was quickly absorbing wilderness lands where early settlers lived.
  Coralie’s father owns the Museum of Extraordinary Things; on her tenth birthday, she realizes that she is a living wonder to be displayed. Towering, lanky Eddie (a 25-year-old photo journalist) comes to the city as little Ezekiel, fleeing the Jewish pogroms in Ukraine that left his village and mother as burned ashes. The story brings other memorable characters to life as well, including a hermit and his wolf friend, a Jewish finder of lost love, a wolf man, a beautiful Irish woman who has been burned beyond recognition, and immigrant garment makers who are locked into their workplaces for up to 18 hours a day, seven days a week while being paid wages that keep them on the verge of starvation. The book is an interesting mix of historical truth, a fictional murder mystery, a love story, fascinating descriptions of living and non-living museum wonders, and young people and a city transitioning into new times.
  I would have been happiest to read through the pages at a faster pace than my drive times allowed me to listen to the audio version. The version I heard was well read by Judith Light, Grace Gummer, and Zach Appleman. I would not only recommend this book, but I already have urged my husband to listen to the audiobook that I had checked out. I treated myself to a second listen while he enjoyed the unfolding tale for the first time.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw, 320 pages

This book has been called Practical Magic meets Hocus Pocus. I was a little worried I was too excited for this book. It would never live up to my expectations. It turned out to be my first 5 star read of the year. I could have devoured this book but instead for a couple of days I only allowed myself a few chapters. I was savoring the book. Then today I read probably 80% of the book. I cried at one point, cussed at the book a few times and even got so excited that I dropped the book and lost my place. I found myself re-reading passages because I'd get to reading so fast I was afraid I'd miss something. When I finished I really did turn to the first chapter and read it again. I will definitely be re-reading the entire book. With this setting it may become an annual read. Readers of the book will know exactly when I'll be reading it again.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail by Malika Oufkir and Michele Fitoussi, 293 pages

  The stuff of great fiction here: princesses, kings, harems, palace intrigue, treason, murder, wrongful imprisonment, struggle beyond understandable human endurance, strong relationships, escape, capture, resolution, and hope. Elements of a great story (and a compelling book), however, aren’t necessarily experiences I would wish on actual people, and certainly not in relation to this particular story. This is an autobiography.
  Through these pages, with the assistance of journalist Michele Fitoussi, almost 50-year-old Malika Oufkir (former Moroccan princess) tells about her life.
  I’m glad that Malika got to tell her family’s story to the world and that I read it. My heart hurts for humanity that the experiences in the book actually happened.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson, 363 Pages

This book was recommended to me by one of my coworkers and I'm so glad that I took the time to read it! I've been telling everyone I know to read this book. 

Christine wakes up every morning with no memory. She has no idea where she is, how old she is, or even who she is. Her husband, Ben, reminds her every morning by telling her the same story, and showing pictures of her life since the accident that caused her memory loss. Christine attends regular meetings with a doctor, who encourages her to write in a journal daily to help her remember. She hides this journal (and meetings with said doctor) from her husband, which leads her to realize that some of what Ben is telling her is not adding up. She begins to realize that maybe everything is not how it seems, and maybe she shouldn't be so trusting of the person who she assumed has her best interest at heart. 

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Soul Is Here For Its Own Joy: Sacred Poems from Many Cultures-Edited with Introduction by Robert Bly, 268 pages

  I picked this book up because I like Robert Bly’s writing, not realizing that he’d edited rather than written the collection of poems inside.
  After my initial few seconds of disappointment, I was excited to read such a variety of voices. When I write, I’m certainly inspired by others, and Bly is one poet who inspires me. What a treat, to read his arrangement of poems, to interact with words that inspire him!
  The book features poems by authors familiar to me such as Ranier Maria Rilke, Emily Dickinson, and William Butler Yeats, and it also contains old works from Eastern minds (such as Rumi, Lalla, and Hafez) who were new to me. The collection includes selections from more than 30 different poets from different times and lands. Each poem incorporates a concept of soul, a favorite topic of mine. I appreciated the section divisions, Bly’s brief introductions to each one, and the fact that Bly translated many of the poems himself.
 I’ve finished the book that now sits with several dog-eared pages to which I intend to return. Don't worry; this one is my own. I didn't deface a library book. I promise.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Grant by Max Byrd, 359 pages

  I liked taking some time to ponder our country’s history during the era when Ulysses S. Grant, Mark Twain, General William Tecumseh Sherman, and a family member of the two Adams’ presidents interacted, back when Thomas Edison’s inventions were new, experimental, and rapidly catching on.
  I can’t say, however, that I liked the story telling. I think this content could have been told much better, so I'm not interested in reading other historical fiction by Max Byrd. If I am to read anything else about Grant, I'll look for non-fiction.

Friday, February 23, 2018

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Frederik Backman, 384 pages

  Seven-year-old Elsa and her 77-year-old grandma are quite the pair for others to contend with.
  The former is a precocious child obsessed with Harry Potter, straightforward to the point of adult discomfort with her never-ending questions. She is well-versed with Wikipedia content and experienced in running from children who would physically punish her for being so different.
  The latter is a retired surgeon turned grandmother who does and says exactly what she likes when she likes, very little of it socially acceptable.
  Grandmother and Elsa survive real-world "idiots" through fairy tale worlds Grandmother has created . . . until Grandmother dies . . . until Elsa is left with last missions from Grandmother that bring adventure and new perspectives of the real world, of cherished fairy tale lands, and even of Grandmother herself.
  This book was written by a Swedish author and takes place in Sweden. It's packed with dialogue, told through Elsa’s viewpoint, and caused me to laugh out loud all the way through . . . until I cried . . . and ultimately reached the end quite satisfied as should happen in all good fairy tales. The experience was delightful.
  I listened to the book as read by Joan Walker.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber, 326 Pages

I'd been eyeing this book since it hit the shelves, and I'm mad at myself that I waited this long to finally read it! It pulled me in from the first chapter, and I never felt like there were any dull moments where the book just dragged on, (which I've had happen a lot lately). 

It's been ten years since Josie Buhrman ran away from her old life. Her father was brutally murdered, her twin sister became a source of constant stress and heartache, and her mother ran away and joined a cult. Josie changed her last name, her appearance, and relocated states away, after backpacking around different countries in attempt to forget about her horrific past. She's settled in to her new life in New York with her boyfriend, Caleb, whom she's lied to about everything, even her true last name. But everything begins to unravel around her when a true crime podcast focusing on her father's murder becomes the latest fad, thrusting her family's history back into the spotlight. She is forced to return to her hometown after her mother's death, and comes face-to-face with the lies and history that she's tried so hard to forget.

The Red Box: a Nero Wolfe Mystery by Rex Stout 189 pages

Continuing with my Nero Wolfe infatuation, I listened to this one read by Michael Prichard.  Archie and Nero are confronted by a young man who insists that Wolfe leave the comfort of his office and his orchids to investigate a murder at a leading fashion design house.  A clever trick is used to get the rotund detective out of the only chair he feels comfortable in and down to the design firm.  It seems a young model has eaten a poisoned piece of candy.  The problem is that the candy wasn't hers.  The police are stumped, and the client is worried about his cousin who also models there.  Who was the intended victim and how many more will die before the truth is discovered?

This was a really well woven, enjoyable mystery.  Archie's sarcastic, confident voice was as entertaining as ever.  I highly recommend this series.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, 462 pages

This is one of my all-time favorite books.  It is the story of a Russian aristocrat who, instead of being shot in 1922 is sentenced at the age of 33, to house arrest in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow.  Count Alexander Rostov has already been in residence there four years but is moved from his swank suite of rooms to a small attic room.

This is a story of love in many forms, kindness, friendship and even adventure.  Almost all of it happening within the walls of the Metropol Hotel.  I listened to the book and enjoyed every moment of Nicholas Guy Smith's fabulous voice.    Two sentences on the book jacket of the print book sum up this book perfectly for me. "He can't leave. You won't want to." 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton, 362 Pages

This book was almost "too much" for me. By that, I mean that it was extremely close to having too many twists and changes in the story. It got to the point that it was hard for me to follow, but I'm glad I stuck with it because it ended up being a pretty good read. 

During a hot-air balloon ride, thirteen passengers witness a murder on the ground down below. Shortly after, the balloon ends up crashing, killing everyone on board except one woman. She saw and took photos of the killer, but the problem is... he also saw her. Now she is on the run, and he is after her, trying to make sure the only witness to his crime is not alive long enough to report it. She has no idea where is safe or who will help her. 

To The Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey, 417 pages

  This work of historical fiction is loosely based on real 1885 Alaska exploration under the command of senior U.S. Army Officer Henry Trueman Allen.
  The novel toggles between Colonel Allen Forrester and his young bride, Sophie. After being stationed near Vancouver, Colonel Forrester accepts the challenge of leading a small group of men into Alaska to explore territory unknown to the U.S. government, leaving Sophie behind in a wilderness outpost with military personnel and a few women. 
  Also woven into the story is the development of a letter-writing relationship between a present-day descendant of Colonel Forrester and an Alaskan museum employee who lives near the area where Forrester explored.
  The words of this novel are a pleasure, vividly describing majestic scenes, abutting cultures, the light and dark and ins-and-outs of 19th Century photography, privation, emotions, and personalities. It includes adventure, monotony, survival, supernatural mystery, and important thoughts relevant for today.
  This is my first book (technically audio book) with an Alaskan setting. I enjoyed and recommend it. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Ban This Book by Alan Gratz 255 pages

This book is a love letter to librarians.  When a parent railroads the school board into removing several titles, including her very favorite book, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, from her school library's shelves, Amy Anne decides she needs to stand up for what she knows is right.  The problem is that standing up and speaking up about anything at all are not what Amy Anne ever does.  What's a girl to do?  How about get the banned titles and make them available to all her schoolmates through her undercover locker library?  The reason I say this is a love letter to librarians is that you have kids getting fired up over reading, over their right to read the books they want to read.  The best part is that all the titles mentioned in this book have been challenged or banned from US libraries at some point in the last 30 years.  Seeing the titles in the story, reading about other kids clamoring to get their hands on them to find out why they would be banned, is likely going to reignite interest in some of my favorite books of all time.  I love this book so much!  I will definitely recommend it to kids reading at a 3rd grade level and up, students of children's literature, teachers, other librarians, parents...basically anyone who will sit still long enough for me to gush about it. 

The Wicked Day by Mary Stewart, 417 pages

  The life of Mordred (King Arthur’s son by his half-sister) is the main focus of this last book in MaryStewart’s Arthurian series.
  King Arthur’s legendary reign weakens as does Merlin’s power. Unlike in other versions of the Arthurian legend, Mordred is quite a likable character here, and we get to know him from early childhood. I wanted all to work out well for Mordred just as much as I wanted Arthur and the kingdom to enter a new age with hope.
  This book considers, through story, if we can change our fate or if we simply must do what is ordained by powers beyond the mortal realm. The characters are challenged to have hope and patience beyond their lifespans, to believe that, ultimately, the goal of difficult and even evil days can be to produce a greater, future good.
  While I was content to end the series with book three at the height of the Arthurian kingdom, this last book was more than just an encore after the series should have ended. The story-telling was just as compelling as in the rest of the books.
  Sigh. I've reached the end of the entire tale . . . again. It was time, but, still. Sigh.

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Rubber Band: A Nero Wolfe Mystery by Rex Stout 189 pages

Third in the series, this book in the Nero Wolf mystery series is a really fun one.  I think it has some of the best banter between Archie and Nero of any of them.  Clara Fox has a problem.  A very interesting problem.  40+ years ago, her father, along with several other men in a Nevada mining town, helped a man escape a hanging.  They did this with the understanding that this man would make them rich when he got home to England.  The real tricky part was that two of the main players were using aliases or nicknames and not many of the original group were still around.  Clara's father was killed in the war, but wrote all the details down in a letter to his wife, telling her that he hopes she can collect on the debt and help support herself and their daughter.  Now, Clara's mother has died and passed the letter on to her.  Clara is convinced that Nero Wolf is the only man who could possibly untangle this mystery and get her father's due.  As soon as he starts investigating, though, another of the original group is murdered...a few blocks from Wolf's residence and only a few minutes after receiving a phone call there.  Wolf's genius is certainly needed for this one, but it will be Archie's quick wit and sparkling comebacks that keep you laughing till the end.  I listened to this one again read by Michael Prichard...the best Nero Wolf audiobook reader.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Last Enchantment by Mary Stewart, 513 pages

  In this third book of Mary Stewart’s four-book Arthurian series, Arthur is the strong and admirable King Arthur of Legend. Battles rage. Alliances are made. Camelot and the round hall are built. Gwynevere joins Arthur as his queen, and knights join with him as brave and respected friends.
  Merlin is needed differently by King Arthur than he was by Arthur the boy, so he is able to turn his attention to the borne-in-magic threat posed by Arthur’s half-sister, Margause. Merlin longs for an apprentice of his own, finds love, and caused this reader’s heart to beat quickly with concern throughout his adventures.
  Even if you’ve read, watched, or heard other versions of King Arthur, I encourage you to read Stewart’s unique rendition. 
  The book comes to a satisfactory close, and I would have been content if the series ended with book three. Good news for those of us not quite ready to let the characters and legend go yet, satisfactory close or not: one more book awaits before the full tale reaches its end!

Friday, February 9, 2018

The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris 253 pages

Okay, I admit that I read this simply because I love Neil Patrick Harris.  That being said, it was well worth it!  It was never too heavy, had lots of heart, celebrated diversity and threw in some magic trick how-to's just for fun!  The story follows a boy, Carter, who is excellent at sleight of hand, but has been raised by a less-than-honorable uncle who wants him to use his skills to relieve others of their belongings.  The whole experience has made Carter quite certain that there is no such thing as real magic.  When he runs away, he runs into a group of people who love magic tricks as much as he does.  He will have to decide whether he can trust anyone when it comes to magic, facing off with more bad guys in the process. Do not pass this one up, it's a great story with lots of heart and humor!

The League of Frightened Men: a Nero Wolfe Mystery by Rex Stout 302 pages

I've decided to listen to all the Nero Wolfe mysteries again, this time in order which I've never done before.  I love the characters so much, but I've always bounced around to whichever book was available.  I think it might be fascinating to see their development as a natural progression.  That being said, this is the second book in the series.  A group of friends is sure that one among them, one that they wronged back in college with lasting effects, is picking them off one by one.  They hire Wolfe to remove him as a threat or source of concern.  Wolfe always picks up on things no one else does and the solution to this one caught me by surprise.  The ever-so-rotund genius will earn his fee whether people like it or not!  Read by Michael Prichard, this was a pleasure to listen to again.

Fer-de-Lance: a Nero Wolfe Mystery by Rex Stout 285 pages

I just listened to this one again and I think everything I said before still holds true.  This is the first book in the Nero Wolfe series.  It's a great introduction to the characters and is a really spectacular mystery, too.  We get to meet Wolfe, Archie and Fritz, not to mention Saul, Orrie and Fred in one of the most confusing mysteries Wolfe ever had to tackle.  When a young woman hires Wolfe to find her brother, no one can see the connection between the death of this "nobody" and the death of a major player on the social scene.  No one, except Wolfe, of course.  I'm not going to give anything away in this one, the twists and turns are too good to miss.  Archie's voice was already well-tuned, even though this was the first ride with him and Wolfe.

This is read by Michael Prichard (who would want to listen to Nero Wolfe books read by anyone else?) and is a really great story.

John Dies at the End by David Wong 384 pages

I decided to listen to this book, because the sequel titles cracked me up and I remember really liking the movie.  The book is insane!  I mean, it's hilarious and awful and twisted and...oh, you wouldn't believe me if I tried to explain...  If you read it or listen to it, don't get distracted and miss even a paragraph, you'll be hopelessly lost in the story.  That much happens in a very short time!  This mix of horror, sci-fi and wacky humor was really fun.  I will say that some outdated and non-P.C. is used frequently, so if that stuff really upsets you, give this one a pass.  If you can skim that over and just roll with the story, I think it's worth the effort, especially if you like roller coasters that move in more than just our 3 dimensions. 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Library Book by Tom Chapin, Michael Mark and Chuck Groenink, 40 pages

 This book is easily one of the cutest picture books of 2017. I had never heard the song it's based on. You can watch the video on YouTube. The text in the book is slightly different than the song. As a librarian I see the day to day happenings of the library. I had a friend read it and her first comment was "She walks to the library alone?!?!?!?". If I had a dollar for every kid that came in the library alone I'd be rich. The artwork is adorable. Of course I love the story line about the library. I think anyone that picks this up will enjoy it.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Alcoholics Anonymous by Alcoholics Anonymous, 575 pages

  I read the fourth and latest edition of the Big Book.
  If you struggle with any substance abuse or addiction or care about someone who does, this is a valuable read. It could be considered "Self Help" inasmuch as reading it could help you take a step away from life-destroying addiction and toward a 12-step group.
  This blue book is a primary piece of literature for Alcoholics Anonymous, aimed to be a tool to help those in recovery and those seeking sobriety guide each other through meetings and personal contact. The first section of the book describes how the program came about and how it is designed to work, along with notes to family members and employers of alcoholics. The majority of the book consists of personal stories written by individuals in recovery, each one sharing his/her own struggle and path to sobriety. The appendices are also much-used tools.
  The book retains the Foreword from each of the previous editions that, when viewed back to back, are awe inspiring. In 1939, the Foreword identifies Alcoholics Anonymous as “nearly one hundred men and women who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body.” In 1955, the group had “mushroomed into nearly 6,000 groups whose membership is far above 150,000 recovered alcoholics” in the all 48 states, Alaska, Hawaii, all the Canadian provinces, plus communities in six other countries. The 1976 edition conservatively estimated more than one million recovered alcoholics among their ranks belonging to 28,000 groups in more than 90 countries. The 2001 edition celebrates more than two million recovered alcoholics finding sober lives through Alcoholics Anonymous via more than 100,800 groups in approximately 150 countries. Impressive life changes across the globe stem from this book!

Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn, 432 Pages

I've been waiting months to read this book, and it did not disappoint. I felt like it definitely had a slow start, but once it took off, I couldn't put it down. I can't recommend this enough. 

Anna lives alone in her multi-million dollar home, in New York City. In fact, she's a prisoner to her home. She was diagnosed with agoraphobia, (the fear of going outside,) 10 months ago after a horrific accident caused her family to fall apart. She spends her time playing online chess, mixing wine with her multiple medications, watching black-and-white movies, and spying on her neighbors. When the Russell's move in across the way, Anna spends a lot of time watching them, trying to figure them out. While watching them one night, she witnesses something she shouldn't, and it quickly takes over her life. The problem is, most of the people around her know that she isn't in the right state of mind, so no one believes her. Secrets come to the surface and everyone is wondering what is fabricated, what actually happened, and are people in danger?

Friday, February 2, 2018

The Hollow Hills by Mary Stewart, 475 pages

  This is the second book in Stewart’s Arthurian series. It picks up right where The Crystal Cave leaves off and continues on with Merlin’s life, now with the addition of Arthur, the boy who will be king, as part of the story line.
  Merlin is in the prime of his life and has become a man who understands himself, his purpose, his powers and how to use them as much he ever will. He accepts that his cousin, Arthur, who has not yet been born when the book begins, will become the king the land’s people need and that his own role will be to protect, train, and guide.
   I love that I got to adventure to other lands with Merlin during the lightest years of his life. I also love that Arthur’s life is without burdens that will come once the weight of a kingdom is transferred to his authority. Arthur goes through childhood as a child, protected, while growing into who he is to be without the knowledge of who he is thanks to Merlin. This portion of the series is magical and exciting and builds to the last page in such a way that you’d better have the next book, TheLast Enchantment, ready to read immediately.
  When I’m extra enthusiastic about a book, my husband sometimes feels compelled to pick it up when I’m not looking and then stay up reading it while I sleep to reach the end before I do. That happened with this series. Luckily, I’d read it all before, so technically I still reached the end before he did. Right?

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks, 405 pages

Loved. this. book.  I listened to it, read by the author, who also happens to be Tom Hanks, the actor. 

It's a collection of short stories, hence the title.  A handful of the stories feature typewriters, there are a couple sci-fi stories and the last story is more like a radio play production, with actor friends reading the parts.  Remember Peter Scolari from Hank's "Bosom Buddies" days?   Woe unto the reader who doesn't get to hear that one.

Hope, friendship, love and good people are featured throughout the stories.   What a treat!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart, 494 pages

  I first read and liked this book as a high school student, and the time finally presented itself for me to reread Mary Stewart’s Arthurian saga. Hooray! The Crystal Cave is book one of four (followed by The Hollow Hills, The Last Enchantment, and The Wicked Day).
  Thirty extra years of my own life between readings of the series brought me a deeper appreciation for the story, so it was worth the reread.
  As an old man, Merlin reflects on his life, narrating his own story beginning when he was six-years-old. The Crystal Cave is about Merlin himself, how he comes to understand who and what he is and what his role in the kingdom will be. The story is full of mystery and great story telling  with not as much magic as one might expect. 
  Book one ends with Arthur’s conception, which, of course, means the story has barely begun. Even as a re-read, I can’t stop here. Onto the next book I go!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda, 368 Pages

I had to read All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda after recently reading The Perfect Stranger, also written by Miranda,  last week. I had high expectations because I enjoyed her other novel, and every review I read said that it wasn't even close to being as good as All The Missing Girls. This book did not disappoint. It had me on the edge of my seat, and I actually stayed up last night just so I could finish this one. This is also unique, because the story is told in reverse, so it gets you hooked from the very beginning. 

Nic has returned home to help her brother, Daniel, fix up their childhood home. Their father is in a nursing home, suffering from dementia, so they are forced to put the house they grew up in on the market to pay for his care. Nic left her hometown and started a new life for herself after her best friend, Corinne, went missing when they were in high school and basically everyone around her was a suspect. Shortly after returning to Cooley Ridge, another girl goes missing in very similar circumstances, and Nic finds herself not only caught up in the current investigation, but also trying to cover up secrets from her past. 

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, 203 pages

I saw a movie preview for "A Wrinkle in Time" and thought I better read this classic children's book that I missed reading when I was actually a child.

The book begins with the cliche, "It was a dark and stormy night" which made me giggle.  I missed out on a lot of great books when I was a kid because I didn't think I liked science fiction and fantasy.  You live, you learn.

This is book one in a five volume series.  Kids, adventure, space travel and a little magic.  Great fun!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods and Ministry Formation by David A. DeSilva, 975 pages

  Yes, I read reference and text books when I can make it happen. Do you? If so, you'll probably be happy as I am to explore the library reference shelves.
  This text was written as a resource for Christian pastoral preparation and was used heavily in a seminary class I took. It took me five years or so, but I finally finished reading it in full, hand in hand with simultaneously rereading each book of the New Testament as needed to best understand the content. 
  As with other similar handbooks, this resource examines each New Testament book separately. DeSilva uses the socio-rhetorical interpretation model of exegesis aiming to explore how the words and texts spoke within and to their original contexts. Four chapters precede the examination of each New Testament writing: the New Testament as Pastoral Response; The Environment of Early Christianity-Essential Landmarks; The Cultural and Social World of the Early Church-Purity, Honor, Patronage, and Kinship; and The Four Gospels and the One Jesus-Critical Issues in the Study of the Gospels. Each chapter focusing on a book of the New Testament ends with a section relating the New Testament book to ministry formation. Photos, maps, footnotes, and four indices all add value to this learning resource.
  This textbook has already been and will likely continue to be one solid resource from which I draw as I continue to learn, teach, and serve in various aspects of ministry.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Greenlanders by Jane Smiley, 558 pages

  Until I read this book, I wasn’t even aware that I had never spent any time wondering anything at all about Greenland. Now I have.
  Yes, the book contains ice, snow, details about the geography of Greenland, and hardship. It also contains tales about ships with people visiting from the European continent, bringing goods to trade and news from their world. But mostly, the book kept me engrossed in the drama between rival families over the course of a few generations, the escapades of Roman Catholic priests in all their imperfect humanity being transplanted to a foreign land, and the story of a woman who earned a life-sentence of exile because she followed her heart rather than custom.  
    I enjoyed the adventure of reading about people living in 14th Century Greenland. The personalities and actions of Asgeir Gunnarsson and his family and the Catholic priests in-residence were memorable and have come to mind every now and then for the last four months or so since I reached the end of this story.

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani, 256 Pages

There was SO much talk around this book, so I was extremely anxious to read it... and then extremely disappointed after reading it. This one just didn't do it for me. All of the excitement happens in the first chapter, and then the rest of it is just very dull suspense, without any twists or shocking moments. 

Myriam is a mother of two, who finds her life at home with her children very boring. When the opportunity arises for her to go back to work as a lawyer, she jumps at it, even though her husband isn't 100% on board. They decide against daycare, and start searching for a nanny. They are absolutely thrilled when they hire on Louise; the kids love her and she goes above and beyond for the family. But, they quickly realize that there's just something off about Louise. She loves this family so much and desperately wants them to accept her as one of their own, but also seems to harbor lots of jealousy and hatred toward them. A shocking event verifies the family's worst fears about Louise. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Blacks by Gwendolyn Brooks, 512 pages

  After hearing Gwendolyn Brooks read her poetry in person aloud once in her 72nd year of life, I learned to listen for her voice as I read her poems. Blacks contains a large selection of her work from 1945-1971, poems vividly depicting particular black people with lots of interesting, individual characters in particular settings doing particular things characteristic of themselves . . . like word video portraits. I own this volume and return to it now and then . . . always glad to spend a little time with a former Poet Laureate of my home state of Illinois. Gwendolyn Brooks was an admirable woman of words and remains so beyond her lifetime thanks to her poetry.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda, 337 Pages

The Perfect Stranger was the first book I've ever read by Megan Miranda, and I wasn't disappointed. This was one that I didn't know what the outcome was going to be until the very end, which I really enjoy, because I read so many books in this genre that I've gotten pretty good at guessing what is going to happen next. 

Leah Stevens was a journalist in Boston, when a story that she published blows up in her face. Restraining orders and potential lawsuits ensue, and she is forced to leave the place she calls home. She runs into an old roommate, Emmy, whom she hasn't seen in over 8 years. Emmy suggests that they relocate together, and they quickly find themselves in a small town in Pennsylvania. Leah is settling into her job at a local high school, when a woman is found on the verge of death by the lake near Leah's house. On top of this, Leah's roommate, Emmy, is missing. As everyone in town tries to figure out what happened, Leah tries to find Emmy, and she begins to question who she was living with. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Into The Water by Paula Hawkins, 386 Pages

I'm torn on how I felt about this one, honestly. I really loved The Girl on the Train, so I had extremely high expectations.. and unfortunately, this just fell flat. I think what bothered me so much about it was that it had so many different characters, and the story flips back and forth between each one, so it was hard for me to follow and keep track of who is who. 

Nel Abbot was found dead in the river near her home, which has been the setting of similar deaths, including that of her daughter's best friend, Katie. Nel grew up obsessed over the information about these deaths that took place in this body of water, referred to as the "Drowning Pool". Nel leaves behind a teen-aged daughter and a sister, whom she hadn't spoke to in years. Secrets start to unravel, and everyone realizes that there may be more to these deaths than what was originally seen. 

Class Mom by Laurie Gelman, 304 Pages

This is an absolutely hilarious tale of the politics that come with being a "class mom". If you are like me, and are currently drowning in PTA meetings, carpool lines and elementary holiday parties... READ THIS BOOK AND FIND THE HUMOR IN IT ALL! 

Jen Dixon is a mother of three- she has two daughters in college and one son in kindergarten. She reluctantly signs up to be the class mom for her son's class after some persuasion from her best friend, who happens to be the head of the PTA. None of the other parents seem to understand, or appreciate, her snarky sense of humor and seemingly do everything in their power to make her job more difficult than it already is. Throw in a nutty teacher, a huge age gap between Jen and the rest of the parents, and an old high school flame, and you've got plenty of drama and laughs to keep you entertained. 

John Adams by David McCullough, 751 pages

  This story was a journey for me, having read more than three-quarters of it before accidentally leaving it behind in a waiting room, losing it, and then mourning my lack of closure with the Adams family on and off for a few years before excitedly finding the book in audio form on our library shelves.
  Political biographies don't typically appeal to me, but I decided to give this one a chance because the piece was set in the context of a family and included people critical to the birth and early years of our nation.
  While John Adams was the first U.S. Vice President, second President, and father of a U.S. President, his service to our country included much more. John (I feel as though I can call him by his first name after all the time I spent with him) was an imperfect farmer, husband, father, neighbor, and scholar who felt a great deal of moral responsibility for his community and the people who lived in the colonies/new nation. His sense of moral responsibility was so strong that he couldn’t bring himself to not use what skills he had whenever called upon; and he was called upon . . . again and again and again. He was a servant who sacrificed personal gain, pleasure, and even well-being for most of his life for the common good. Everyone who lives in the U.S. today benefits because of his service.
 Right next to him was Abigail who was just as wise, kind, hard-working and giving to the point of personal poverty.
  This is the story of Abigail and John together and individually, their families, life, minds, and love. The book is pieced together from their private letters to each other and from other documentation of the time. I’m glad to have learned through the extensive research and writing of David MCullough, and I’m glad to have finally made it to the memorable closure of the book.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, 260 pages

When the story begins, A.J. Fikry is a 39-year old curmudgeonly widower and book store owner.  This book is one of my nerdy librarian subgenre favorites: books about books.  It also has hope and likeable characters.

Double Bonus:  I listened to this book and it was read by one of my favorite readers, Scott Brick.  (sigh of satisfaction.)

To sum up, here is a longish quote from the book: "Why is any one book different from any other books? . . . We have to look inside many. . . We agree to be disappointed sometimes so that we can be exhilarated every now and again."  Thank you, Ms. Zevin for the exhilaration.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, 336 pages

  I can’t say I’ve read any story quite like this one, and I loved it!
  Well, actually I listened to it on CD, narrated by a talented young reader whose voice, energy, and emotion fit perfectly with the story she was telling. Aside from the recording, the words themselves were a pleasure to hear, and I’m sure they would be a pleasure to read.
  This is a coming-of-age novel for the main character and for the Southern U.S. during the Civil Rights era. Lily Owens, a South Carolina white girl raised by her angry peach farmer father turns 14 in 1964. Rosaleen, the black housekeeper who raised her, determinedly sets out to register to vote in their small town. And the next thing you know, the two find themselves a few hours away, with a different family and circle of friends, on a beekeeping farm with a new cast of vivid characters in their lives. Lily’s own past is a mystery to her, a mystery that becomes clearer as she matures in the pages of this book through turmoil, adventure, celebration, injustice, daily life, love, and work.
  Enjoying a good story with likable characters was no surprise to me, but who knew I’d be just as interested to learn about bees? Since finishing the book, I’ve found myself thinking about becoming a beekeeper multiple times. I savor honey more as well. Mmm.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Generations of Winter by Vasily Aksyono (translated by John Glad and Christopher Morris), 592 pages

  Bound by love, blood, and years together, Gradov family members spanning three generations approach life individually in the midst of their socialist society. I was glad to get to know each person in this fictional, well-educated family whose best days center around the Gradov home in the Silver Forest on the outskirts of Moscow. With different fields of expertise and competing ideologies, each character faces the upheaval, purges, punishment, and war in different geographical places throughout the nation that was the Soviet Union from 1925-1945.
  I wouldn’t exactly say I’m a fan of Russian literature or history. Both are often a challenge to read with hard-to-face realities, but I’ve been glad to have read every bit of Russian literature that I’ve pushed on through. It fascinates me. This book is no exception.
  Multiple reviewers compare this novel to War and Peace; I see that the narrative styles of the two books could be compared. If you’ve read War and Peace, though, you’ll be getting an entirely different experience with Generations of Winter. This book covers a different historical period, hinges on close family relationships rather than on people from different segments of society, and incorporates a positive tone in spite of historically accurate, harsh, and even unsurvivable situations. Most Russian literature I’ve encountered presents a crumbling of personhood or a struggle to survive; this novel, however, shows how people live.
  It was worth the time to read and is a novel I would hold onto for another day if it were my own.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Inherit Midnight by Kate Kae Myers 416 pages

Think National Treasure, add in some 39 Clues and you get Inherit Midnight. The main character Avery is on an adventure solving puzzles and riddles trying to solve her grandmother's clues. Avery's grandmother is very wealthy but also sick. Instead of naming a heir, members of the family must travel the world learning about their family history. This is a nominee for the Gateway Readers' Award and a great read for young adults. 

One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus, 434 pages

  Imagine you’re a women in the Midwest U.S. in 1875. Every woman is pretty much a second class citizen, but you are an unacceptable sort, even further outside the realm of power over your own life than most. Say you’re an unmarried woman with children, or a woman with mental illness committed to an asylum, or a prisoner, or an immigrant with a heavy accent, or you just have wild notions in your head. Regardless, your present is so challenging that your future appears hopeless. And then, you’re told that, if you like, you may be part of a program supported by President Grant. Only if you want, you may get a free pass out of whatever hard situation you find yourself in. You are given the opportunity to travel with other women, each one who has accepted the offer to permanently join with a nomadic Indian tribe that you've only heard to be savages, marry an Indian, birth, and raise a family as an Indian wife.
  Such is the premise of this book. May Dodd sets out as a participant in the Brides for Indians Program, never again to see her parents, siblings, lover, or children she’s leaving behind in Chicago where she was raised and educated. She has no idea what to expect from a new life in the wilderness with the Cheyenne people, but she knows she is expected to help assimilate the tribe into the white man’s world.
  I liked May, the women who became her companions, and the Cheyenne people in this book. I rooted for the women and their new tribe all the way to the end. The book did a good job of pulling me into the world, albeit a fictionalize world, of one Native American Tribe as it struggled to survive foreign invasion of their land and lives.

Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy, 640 pages

Women played a large role in World War II and many of their stories were never told because they were working on top secret projects.  The title of this book, Code Girls, says it all.  This is the story of the women who helped break and continually re-break the encrypted messages of the Japanese and German armies during World War II.

Seventy plus years after the end of the war and fiction and non-fiction writers have not run out of material yet.  My hope is that those stories continue well into the future. 

Friday, January 5, 2018

Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming, 304 pages

  I picked up a recording of this book when I wanted to listen to something in the car and didn’t have time to look through selections on the library shelves. I wouldn’t ordinarily choose to read a celebrity autobiography, but I knew I wanted to listen through to the end of this audiobook from the first few moments.
  The author himself read the story he’d written as a way to work through traumatic childhood experiences that lurked about and sometimes assaulted his adult psyche. As a singer, actor, and performer with a lovely Scottish accent, no one could have read this particular text better. I felt as though I were listening to a friend read a long letter he’d written, and I liked being the recipient of his thoughts as he worked through his memories and kept me up-to-date with what and how he was doing in the present.
  This is not a story of fame. It is a story of a real person making his way in the world, bravely sharing his vulnerabilities to strengthen himself and others. Well done, Alan Cumming. Well done.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Plague Tales by Ann Benson, 474 pages

  The Plague Tales begins in an altered reality of the present. The present situation wouldn't be playing out as it is without a much deeper, past story full of characters. 
  Today’s story involves archaeological research and a sterile lab in which something quickly goes wrong . . . as in potential-bubonic plague-pandemic-wrong. 
  The past story about a 14th Century Jewish physician who pushed beyond culturally accepted boundaries of medical discovery kept me reading. I’m a sucker for books of all kinds set in pre-20th Century Europe. 
  The book wraps up both fast-paced story lines with suitable endings but then tacks on a two-page epilogue that sets up more to come . . . a tactic that irritates me. I see online that two more books have followed. If I ever get beyond being annoyed by the epilogue, I might read them because I liked the book itself.