Saturday, March 31, 2018

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus, 358 Pages

I was pleasantly surprised with this one. I kind of lost my love for YA for a while, but I think that this book reignited it for me. Bonus points for the fact that it reminded me of a modern day Breakfast Club.

Five students find themselves in detention due to something that none of them actually did. Shortly after detention begins, Simon winds up dead. The police quickly discover a gossip blog written by Simon that was on the verge of being published, exposing the deepest secrets of the remaining 4 students from detention. Due to this, they are now the prime suspects of Simon's murder. Four students who had basically no interaction until now are forced to work together to not only clear their names, but also figure out how this could have happened, when they know there was no other person in the room. 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Same Kind of Different as me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore, 96 pages

  This book worked well as an audio book, and the readers (Dan Butler and Barry Scott) were fabulous.
  I jumped into this one knowing nothing about it. I didn’t even look at the title or have a clue what kind of literature it was before listening to it. I just took the piece as the words came. The main characters/narrators are Ron Hall and Denver Moore, so my mind went reeling in new directions when the recording ended too soon for me with the spoken footnote that the book was written by Ron Hall and Denver Moore.
  I was sucked into Denver’s story from the first words. His childhood story painted a picture of Louisiana sharecropping in the South during the 30's and 40's that brought new, much appreciated insights to me. I liked Denver from the beginning even though he doesn’t necessarily seem to think he is more than, I believe he says, "No one telling anyone who will listen about someone everyone should know."
  Ron and Debra Hall met Denver when he was homeless and friendless in Texas after they each had lives full of experiences to share with each other. I’m glad they became friends and shared their combined stories for me to hear.
  This double autobiography is heart-warming, heart-wrenching, and potentially life-changing. My only complaint is that it's too short; I’m still checking to see if I accidentally lost the last half of the book.
  I see online that a movie version of the story was released in October of 2017.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna, 304 Pages

This was a hard one for me to get through, for whatever reason. It wasn't a terrible book or anything, I just didn't get into it as much as I would have liked! The ending turned out fine, though. 

Jamie is a single mother to two girls, 10 year old Kylie and 8 year old Bailey. She takes them to a local department store, and tells them to stay in the car while she runs in and picks up a gift for a birthday party. Upon returning to the car, every mother's biggest fear is happening- the girls are gone. Realizing that the local police don't have any leads, Jamie's family hires a tough as nails private investigator named Alice Vega. Vega teams up with local PI and former cop, Max Chaplan. With multiple suspects, the pair begins eliminating them one-by-one. The clock is ticking and stress is building as they both fight to find the girls. 

Monday, March 26, 2018

No Turning Back by Tiffany Snow, 426 pages

I hadn't heard of this somewhat local author until she came to speak at a book club that I attend in the Kansas City area. When she found out that I am a librarian she offered to send us some of her books. She donated this entire series plus the follow up series. I read the first book in the series in one sitting. I could not put it down. If there were enough hours in the day I'd probably read the entire series only stopping for food and bathroom breaks. It's a mix of suspense and romance. Fans of Janet Evanovich will like this series. I have a prediction about a character in this series but I cannot wait to keep reading to see if I'm right. Check back with me in a week or so...enough time to read her next 7 books.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Kepler’s Witch: An Astronomer's Discovery of Cosmic Order Amid Religious War, Political Intrigue, and the Heresy Trial of His Mother by James A. Connor, 402 pages

  I read this book immediately after reading Galileo’s Daughter to round out my understanding of the times and world re-centering observations of two mathematicians whose work inspired each other during the early 17th Century.
  Johannes Kepler was a devout German Lutheran whose free-thinking, stubborn and conceited ways got him ex-communicated from the Lutheran church but respected (albeit with little pay and exiled from the country by the Catholic church) as a court expert. As the title alludes to, his intelligent hard-headedness likely came from his mother who was tried as a witch in spite of opportunities to apologize and potentially remove herself from harm. His mother, in spite of the book title, is a fairly minor character in this account.
  The biography was written well and kept my interest as the pages of Kepler’s life unfolded. I would have liked a little more straight chronology rather than the time-jumping and doubling back done by the narration, but perhaps the repetition required by the non-linear narration made me notice and better remember some of the more important aspects of Kepler’s influence on our understanding of cosmic order today.
  I’m glad I took the time to read and learn.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith and Love by Dava Sobel--420 pages

  I thought that, perhaps, reading a historical fiction account of Galileo’s daughter might be a not-too-dull way to trick myself into learning about a world-view-changing 17th Century scientist.
  I’m smarter now than I when I made the commitment to open to the first page if only because I know how wrong my initial impressions and lack of enthusiasm about this book were. First of all, Galileo considered himself to be a mathematician. Secondly, this book is non-fiction. Thirdly, the title is a ruse; the book is totally a biography of Galileo in which his daughter is but a character.
  Galileo lived in Italy, and I really like Italy and peeking into the religious/political landscape of different time periods. And best of all, I read through the book quickly, with excitement, frustration, anger, and fear based on what my now favorite mathematician was going through . Before reading this book, I had no idea how much Galileo Galilei happened upon, observed, and understood in ways no one else ever had. And I had no idea how difficult it was for him to make sure that the truth he saw didn’t die with him.
  My husband will not have to read this book because I couldn’t keep it to myself. Without his even asking, I gave him thorough and energetic reports of pretty much every chapter. Lucky man!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Chasing Light: Michelle Obama Through the Lens of a White House Photographer by Amanda Lucidon, 222 pages

"Chasing Light" is a collection of photographs taken by Amanda Lucidon while she was the White House photographer assigned to Mrs. Obama.

It is a wonderful glimpse into the public life of an American First Lady.  It not only contains lots of photographs, but also some behind-the-scenes stories from Ms. Lucidon.

Aah, those were the days!

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.