Thursday, October 20, 2016

Saints / Orson Scott Card / 711 pages

 This tome is about the Mormon movement from England to Nauvoo, Illinois in the 1840's.  His fictional character is Dinah Kirkham and her family which is loosely based on Eliza Snow and his own great-grandmother, both of whom were wives of Joseph Smith and then Brigham Young.  The story points up the extreme choices and sacrifices people made to be Mormons.  It also deals with the start of the revelation for celestial marriage that caused Mormons to be viewed with such horror due to the polygamy.  A person really had to want to be a Mormon and have a very strong faith to survive the persecution.  Orson Scott Card views it as a crucible or test from God, not unlike Abraham.  Only the true believers would remain. 
  It was a surprise to find that the author of Ender's Game was the author of this book.  I had known that he wrote some books about Biblical characters, but I didn't know he is Mormon.  It is a very interesting book and it took him a long time to get it published as a historical novel rather than being sold as a romance.  Interesting, in-depth look at a group in a time period of history.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Bridget Jones's Baby: The Diaries / Helen Fielding / 240 pgs

At 240 pages, this book was a pretty quick read. I finished it after only a couple of hours last night and a couple more this morning. I've always loved the first two Bridget Jones books and movies, but have not read the third book that was released last year, nor have I yet to see the newest movie, "Bridget Jones's Baby." That said, I am aware of the new character played by Patrick Dempsey in the movie. If you were expecting him to be in the new book, you will be disappointed. Instead, we have Daniel Cleaver again, which annoys me to no end. You would think, after the first two books, Bridget would have figured out what a jerk he is, but apparently she has not. That infuriated me more than anything else, especially since Daniel actually plays a part into why Bridget and Mark broke up not long after the end of the second book.

So, that is the bad. The good is that the new book brings back the nostalgia of the old books including the fun characters like Shazzer, Tom, and Bridgets' parents. However, since Bridget has gotten her weight under control, she no longer keeps a running total of her weight, calories consumed, and the like. I recommend the book only to those who want to relive the fun of the original Bridget Jones novels, but not to those who just want to read a novelization of the latest movie.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Sweetness of Forgetting/Kristin Harmel/349pgs.

This is the first novel of Harmel's that I have read and I have already added more
to my to be read pile. Hope McKenna-Smith is a newly divorced single mom,
running her family bakery. A promising law student who came home to help
care for her mother who was dying of breast cancer, Hope carries a huge
burden of the debt their business has curtailed over the years. After her mother passes she stays on to run the bakery and look after her great grand mother, Mamie. Her great grand mother suffers from alzheimer's and is lost in her own memories of her tragic past. Her family was lost to her during the Holocaust and now she has sent Hope and her daughter on a hunt with a list of names to France. Hope starts to unravel all the secrets of Mamie's past and learns more about her family than she has ever imagined possible. This was one of those novels that was hard to put down and that draws you into the characters lives. It will make
a great book discussion title and I would give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Night and Day/Iris Johansen/342 pgs.

This is an Eve Duncan novel, in addition to being the third entry in a trilogy. Eve has risked everything to protect 11 year old Cara Delaney from her greatest threat--Cara's mother, Natalie Castino.  Natalie has plans for Cara, and they are not good! There is murder, betrayal, and romance. This is one of Iris Johansen's best trilogies--and doesn't disappoint. Highly recommended.

Twelve Days of Christmas/Debbie Macomber/253 pgs.

This year's Christmas offering from Debbie Macomber is a step up from last year's Dashing Through the Snow. Julia Padden works at Macy's but is in the running for her dream job in a marketing firm--she and her competition have to come up with a blog. The blog with the most hits will determine who gets the job. Julia is at odds with her across the hall neighbor, Cain Maddox. Julia tries to make friendly overtures to Cain, but he remains indifferent, and at times, rude. Her best friend suggests that Julia should kill Cain with kindness, and blog about the results. So, Julia's blog, "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is created, and the story takes off from there! It's a fast, feel good read--just right for the upcoming holidays! Recommended.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Year We Disappeared/ Cylin and John Busby/ 329 pages

The Year We Disappeared is a memoir written by Cylin  Busby and her father, John Busby.  It recounts the year in their lives following the attempted murder of police officer John Busby.  Labor Day weekend on the Massachusetts Cape, John is ambushed and shot.  John survives the shooting but loses most of his upper and lower jaw due to the shotgun blast.  Facing a long and painful recovery while fearing for retribution on his family, the reader follows John and Cylin as they tell the tale from their own perspective.  John is gripped by anger and fear for his family.  Cylin must learn to cope with police escorts to school and being shunned by classmates.  The story is especially poignant with the recent crimes against police officers.  Both authors paint a picture of what fear and anger can do to a family.  This is a well written book that will hold the reader's interest.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Stiletto/Daniel O'Malley/583 pgs.

This is the second entry in the "Rook" series. It takes off from the first entry, The Rook, where two supernatural factions are trying to form an alliance. Rook Myfanwy Thomas of the Checquy is hoping to incorporate the Grafters into the Checquy organization. Since both organizations' members are equipped with "unique" talents, and are distrustful of each others' organizations, it makes for a fun read. In addition, both organizations operate without normal humans knowing about their existence. There is humor, suspense, and adventure-- an all around enjoyable read. Hopefully, there will be more entries forthcoming! Highly recommended, but you have to read The Rook first in order to understand what's going on with the plot.

Monday, October 10, 2016

I, Robot / Isaac Asimov / 225 pgs

I just finished listening to I, Robot. This is the first time I've listened to the book, but I believe I have read it at least twice before. This is one of those old favorites of mine that I turn back to now and then. If you have only seen the movie, you have no idea what the book is about. The book follows three characters across nine short stories. Two of the characters are the subjects of the first few stories, Mike Donovan and Greg Powell. They help test new robots as they are used in various ways when humanity first starts exploring the solar system. The third character, and arguably the most important character is Susan Calvin, a robo-psychiatrist.

The stories span decades from the earliest years of the 21st century to about 2060 AD, and they trace the development of artificial intelligence to a conclusion that is completely logical once you get to it. Asimov published these stories together in I, Robot in 1950 and although science did not progress nearly as quickly as he envisioned, the stories still resonate today. My favorite stories are "Robbie," "Liar," and "Evidence." The Three Laws of Robotics are within every story, but how the robots interpret these laws are extremely interesting. I highly recommend this sci-fi classic!

Hidden Figures/ Margot Lee Shetterly/ 346 pages

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shettetly documents the lives of several black computers at NACA and later NASA Langley.   Located in segregated Virginia,  a job at Langley was one of few options open to well educated black women in the 1940's and beyond.   It was hard for any woman to break into the world of engineering, but even harder for a black woman.  Shetterly does a good job of exposing the difficulties for blacks in the south seeking either an education or a well paying job.  Forced to attended segregated colleges, the women often received excellent instruction, an off shoot of segregation.  Black men could attend northern colleges such as Harvard, but would never be able to teach there.  As a result the segregated colleges in the south had an excellent faculty and attracted the best and brightest students.  From this background the women moved mostly into teaching positions.  Finally during the Second World War and the Space Race they were able to move into math and engineering positions.

Langley, located in Virginia was not free of the blatant segregation of that state.  The black women computers were housed in the 'West Campus' away from the white computers.  They dealt with black only tables in the cafeteria and segregated bathrooms.  They moved their families into segregated housing and attended segregated churches.  But most found acceptance and admiration for their work at Langley.

The author does bring up one very interesting point.  As the computers moved up to mathematician and engineering positions with pay raises, they moved on to better housing.  An unforeseen result was that the families left in the lower cost housing no longer had the same role models to look up to and living conditions in those areas deteriorated.

Over all the author does a good job of presenting the life of a black computer.  She glosses over the technical accomplishments of NACA and NASA giving the date of Yuri Gagarin's  space flight, while skipping the date for Alan Shepard's and John Glenn's historic flights.  It's a good read for one to understand what is happening in our cities today.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Pretty Baby/Mary Kubica/371 pages

I read this book based on a recommendation by Mary Anne H. The plot was interesting but I was expecting more things to happen between some of the main characters, so the side-stories were fairly boring.  There are some surprises but I was able to guess some of them.  The three-person narrative keeps me interested - I always want to see what will happen next.
As a young mother takes the train to work, she notices a teen girl with a baby in bad weather.  The mother feels compassion for the teen, and takes the two into her family home.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Apprentice in Death/J.D. Robb/375 pgs.

It begins with what appears to be a random sniper shooting at an ice skating rink; the year is 2061, and this is the latest entry in J.D. Robb's Eve Dallas series. Lt. Dallas is called in to head up the investigation, and to ultimately put a stop to anymore killings. Early on in the investigation, it becomes apparent that the police might be looking for two killers instead of one. Once the identities of the suspects are known, it's a battle against time in order to stop more murders. This is one of Robb's best efforts, and furthers the reader's enjoyment of the series. Highly recommended!

I'm Thinking of Ending Things / Iain Reid / 224 pgs

This book was ridiculous. It was crazy. It was completely off-the-wall nuts! I can't even. I JUST CAN'T EVEN!! I blame Stacey Lynch at SP for telling me that I ought to read this book and keeping the twist ending to herself.

This book is just over 200 pages long, pretty short when you get down to it. The last couple lines of the book pretty much tell you in a sly sort of way that now that you've got a bit of an idea of what the heck just happened, you ought to read it again. Just to see the not-so-obvious big twisty reveal unfold before you. Just to get a handle on what was going on the entire time that was staring you in the face, but you just didn't allow your head to go there while reading it.

Man, this book is chilling! It's spooky to the Nth degree. DO NOT read this if you get nightmares. Or, at least, don't read it late at night if you get nightmares. It's not gory. It's not gross. It's just plain spooky. The story is of a young woman, just past college age, who has been dating a PhD student named Jake for the last 6 weeks and is on a 2 hour long road trip to meet his parents. Despite that, she is thinking about breaking up with Jake. She goes back and forth between telling us all about how she met Jake and how much she likes him to telling us about things he does that's weird, and other nit-picky things that don't seem so bad at first. The couple meets his odd parents who constantly bicker when they think no one is listening. Then Jack and the young woman head back, but what happens once they head home is pretty mind blowing.

Only one other warning: there's a lot of internal monologues and dialogues with very little action happening until the last third of the book. 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Hired Girl / Laura Amy Schlitz / 387 pages

      This engrossing novel set in 1911 and 1912 is about a fourteen year old girl who runs away from her home to a city and finds a position as a maid.  The book is written through her journal entries which are really descriptive.  Hers is a sad life on a farm living with her father and 4 brothers. Her mother had died and she has been doing all the "women's work" for two years and cannot go to school.  Her father is really mean and running away is really her best option.
     Her family of employers in the city are Jewish and she is Catholic so there is a lot of education for the reader about the two religions and the common ground.  She has many ups and downs and reacts like the fourteen year old she is rather than the eighteen year old she is pretending to be.  I was so glad of the happy ending as I was rooting for her the entire way.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Undead and Unwed / Mary Janice Davidson / 255 pages

     This paranormal book is listed as a romance on the cover and is also called chic lit.
I just call it funny.  The main character has  something funny to say about most everything that happens.  She is a laid-off secretary who turns into a vampire.  The entire story is how she deals with the changes and with her relationship (rocky) with Sinclair, a vampire involved in vampire power struggle.  As far as romance, she will end up with Sinclair at the end, but it wasn't really romantic.  Perhaps she will like him better in the next book.  In all, she is much more fun than Bella in Twilight.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Great Reckoning/ Louise Penny/ 386 pages

A Great Reckoning is the twelfth book in the Inspector Gamache series written by Louise Penny.  All is quiet in Three Pines.  As quiet as it can be with the usual quips an comments between Gabri and Ruth and Myrna.  Inspector Gamache is preparing for his new job, head of the Surete Academy.  As he reviews all the applicants information he comes across a name that jars him.  After a long debate he accepts Amalia Choquet to the academy, tattoos and body piercing and all.  All is well as Gamache works to clean up the academy and prepare the students for life as Surete officers until a professor is murdered.  The crime scene is made to look like a suicide and evidence points to Amalia as the murderer.  All the while the Gamache has tasked four promising cadets with the job of deciphering an old map found in the walls of the Bistro.  This is a well written book and will be enjoyable to those who like mysteries.  The regular fan of  Inspector Gamache will finally learn why Three Pines does not appear on any map.  

Monday, September 26, 2016

Treasure Hunters/ James Patterson/ 451 pages

My son received this book as a birthday gift.  He finished it and said "This book was awesome!! You have to read it!" So, I did.  It was a fun book to read.  The story is told by a set of twins.  One writes the story and the other illustrates.  Treasure Hunters is about a group of kids (the Kidds) who lose their mom and dad, now they must treasure hunt and survive on their own.  I think it will be a fun series.  I really, really enjoy the illustrations--very fun & funny!

A Dog's Purpose / W. Bruce Cameron / 319 pgs

Since starting at the Spencer Road Library in January, I have a longer commute from Wright City and back again. My dislike for St. Louis radio stations and my political pundit fatigue this election year has driven me to audiobooks and I’ve been enjoying them immensely! I just finished A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron and it has greatly contributed to my new appreciation for dogs, which is a feat considering how firmly of a cat person I have been up until now. A Dog’s Purpose tells the tale of a dog who learns his purpose in life over the course of four dog lifetimes - first as Toby, then Bailey, then Ellie, and finally as Buddy. The book is hilarious as we learn how dogs think, their desire to be a “good dog,” to take car rides and eat food! However, it is also a three hanky tale, so be forewarned that a lot of heartstrings will be tugged. I am about to check out the sequel, A Dog’s Journey, and can’t wait to take my husband (a firm dog lover) to see the movie version starring Dennis Quad when it comes out on January 27th. I suspect with the new movie coming out, the book might go on the reserve list. As of right now, there are only three of thirteen copies available, but it is offered as an e-book and e-audiobook.

Bloodlines/Sharon Sala/372 pgs.

At the age of two, Olivia Sealy was kidnapped, and her parents were murdered--an unsolved case. Her protective grandfather raised her, giving her a life of luxury. Fast forward decades later, and the bones of a baby are found in a suitcase hidden in a wall. Olivia's old boyfriend, Detective Trey Bonney, is called in to investigate. Old feelings between Trey and Olivia come to the surface--especially when it becomes obvious that Olivia's life is in danger. The original copyright on this book is 2005--it shows. It's a fast, entertaining, light read.

Daughters of the Bride/Susan Mallery/400pgs.

This is typical Susan Mallery--which I thoroughly enjoy! Courtney, Sienna, and Rachel are the "daughters" in the title; the "bride", is their mother, Maggie. Rachel, the oldest of the girls, is a single mother--she divorced her husband, Greg, when he confessed to a "one night stand." Sienna, the middle child, is the "pretty" one, but is the force behind a non-profit that assists abused women. Courtney, the youngest, is "the klutz;" she left school at 18, and is close to completing her college degree--unbeknownst to her sisters and mother. Maggie was left with three young daughters when her husband passed away years ago. So, this is more than just about a wedding--this is family dynamics at its best and worst! Recommended!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Winter Garden/ Kristin Hannah/ 391 pages

Winter Garden written by Kristin Hannah is a story of a mother who hides all emotion and two daughters trying to break through.  When Meredith and Nina were young, their mother, Anya, told them a fairy tale of peasant Vera, prince Sasha and their great love.  One day Anya refuses to continue to tell the tale.  After the passing of Meredith's and Nina's father, the girls must find a way to convince Anya to finish the tale.  It was their dying father's wish.  Along the way the reader is introduced to Jeff, Meredith's husband and Danny, Nina's boyfriend.  Meredith has stayed close to home, helping her father run the family apple orchard.  Nina has traveled the world often with Danny in search of the perfect photograph.  As more of the fairy tale is told, it becomes evident that the story is true and very much a part of Anya's life.  Over all the book will hold the reader's interest although the characters seem a bit extreme in each of their weaknesses.  The 'fairy tale' gives an insiders recounting of the Siege of Leningrad and the suffering endured.  The ending is just a little too neat, but does reinforce the idea presented through out the book of not waiting to do something.