Sunday, April 23, 2017

Rosemary: the Hidden Kennedy Daughter/240 pgs.

I knew very little about Rosemary Kennedy, other than that she was mentally challenged, prior to reading this book. Her impact on her family, and her ultimate impact on how the mentally handicapped were (and still are, to a certain extent) treated in our country, was eye opening. It was a hard read--especially the section about lobotomies in general, and Rosemary's, in particular. It was a worthwhile read, and one I recommend!

Echoes in death/J.D. Robb/371 pgs.

The latest in the Lieutenant Eve Dallas series begins with a naked, bloodied, young woman stepping in front of Eve and Roarke's car. The woman, Daphne, has been brutally traumatized, and her doctor husband, Anthony Strazza, murdered. Upon further investigation, it appears that this has become a pattern--and one that Eve needs to unravel before more murders occur. Another solid entry in one of my favorite series!!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Devil Wears Kilts/ Suzanne Enoch/ 469 pages

This historical novel is set in mostly London in the early half of the 19th century.  It is classic angry male trying to cope with "polite society."   Ranulf's 18 year old sister has run off to London to have her first season.  He follows to bring her back, only to find a reason to let her stay for "two weeks" which is more like the three hour tour.  His reason is one Charlotte Hanover, an older (25) unmarried spinster who actually answers him back and is not afraid of his temper.  Of course, the book is about their tempestuous relationship and how it develops, but it is also about the British Lords who own large holdings in Scotland where they have displaced the common people to run sheep for profit.  The bad blood between England and Scotland is present as is the feuds between Scottish Lairds. It really accounts for Ranulf's anger issues and behavior by the end of the book. ( He actually lightens up, but that will be for the sequel in which Rowena will undoubtedly be the heroine with the childhood friend in Scotland.
fun, good bedtime reading.

Let It Be Me/ Kate Noble / 308 pgs

I quite liked this book! This is a historical romance set partially in England but mostly in Venice. The change of scenery was lovely. Bridget is the middle of three daughters and she's been overshadowed by her beautiful older sister for years. That sister has recently married but Bridget is not known among Society as having a pleasant personality, so the gentlemen ignore her. After a string of unusual circumstances, Bridget, her mother, and her younger sister set off for Italy, ostensibly to escape the English winter but Bridget has an ulterior motive of hoping to study piano with an Italian composer she once met. Once in Venice things do not go exactly as she planned but she does end up studying with the composer because he needs a female student to perform in a competition for him. Bridget begins her tutelage under the volatile composer with his half-English, half-Italian brother watching out for her.

This story starts out so slowly I almost gave up on it. I am glad I didn't. The romance is absolutely wonderful, mostly because the hero Oliver is my kind of guy: kind, protective, in love with the heroine before she even realizes it, always do the little things for her. The scenes in and around Venice are descriptive and full of life. The very best part of the book, though, is the way the music is described. It's first rate. Bridget is studying Beethoven's Sonata No. 23 but she and Oliver also are privileged enough to hear one of the first performances of Beethoven's 9th Symphony. I wish I had thought to listen to these two pieces of music while I was reading the book. Anyway, I highly recommend Let It Be Me.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Blood Between Us / Zac Brewer / 274 pgs

I have to admit that I wouldn't have picked up this book if not for the fact that it fulfilled some reading challenge categories I needed to check out. On a whole, it has some things going for it. It's an interesting mystery. The narrator, Adrien, starts out as a 13 year old boy whose adopted scientist parents were just killed when their home lab blows up. His sister, Grace, who was the natural born daughter of his adopted parents, has never been kind to her adopted brother. Grace has always resented Adrian, and isn't shy about letting him know. Both are taken in by their godparents, Victor and Julian, but Adrien doesn't want to go back to the east coast boarding school that he has attended with Grace. He wants to go to a boarding school in California. Four years later, at the start of their senior year, Adrien is asked by a dying Victor to come back, and he enrolls back into his old school. His sister is still a jerk, and she's managed to make nearly everyone hate Adrian, which makes him feel like a pariah. Oddly, he is receiving text messages indicating that Grace had something to do with their parents' death. Is it true? Is Grace capable of being that horrible?

At the same time, I was not as sympathetic to Adrien as I think the author would hope. He was extremely arrogant and narcissistic, and sometimes I thought he and Grace deserved each other as siblings. Also, the resolution to the mystery surrounding the book came out of nowhere and didn't quite fit. On a whole, I give it three stars out of five, but I'm feeling generous today.

Monday, April 17, 2017

I Could Pee on This And Other Poems by Cats / Francesco Marciuliano / 112 pgs

A librarian at another branch told me about this book and I think it's the funniest thing I've read in a long time! As a cat owner, I can very well identify with the numerous short poems featured within the pages of this little book. My favorite goes like this:

tiny boxes

tiny boxes, play and hide
tiny boxes, squeeze inside
tiny boxes, cozy here
tiny boxes, paw in ear
tiny boxes
stuck, STUCK, STUCK!!!
tiny boxes, little help?

The Boston Girl / Anita Diamant / 320 pgs

This is the book that my club will be reading in May. After quite a few duds, this one was really good. I had hoped the story would stretch out across the main character's whole life rather than ending in the 30's, but I still really liked it. Addie Baum is the daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants. She is born in Boston in 1900, but her much older sisters (10 and 12 years older respectively) remember their homeland, each adapting in different ways to America. The story takes place over about 20 years, from around age 15 to 35, and is a great coming-of-age story. The story alternates from heartwarming to heartbreaking as Addie deals with unsupportive, Old World parents, World War I, the flu epidemic of 1918-1919, and misogyny in the work place. I definitely recommend reading it, especially if you like historical fiction and stories about immigrants.

Dune Messiah / Frank Herbert / 256 p.

Dune Messiah is the 2nd novel in the Dune Chronicles series.  The first novel left the reader feeling that the Atreides were perhaps the only family with morality or basic decency in the entire empire.  This book immediately calls that belief into question.  The dreaded jihad has begun and hundreds of thousands have been killed in the name of Muad'Dib - the name Paul Atreides chose for himself when he meets the Fremen in Dune.

Dune Messiah focuses on the feelings of Paul as he is caught up in his own legend and forces beyond his control.  As the empire aligns against him, can he forge a path for himself and Chani that enables them to live peaceful lives and raise children?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Devil in Spring/ Lisa Kleypas / 384 pgs

Devil in Spring is the much anticipated sequel to Kleypas' Devil in Winter starring the son of the couple in that book. I was reluctant to jump back into reading Kleypas's new historical romances and I think I might be finished after this one. Lady Pandora is a somewhat flighty eccentric young girl who is "caught" in a compromising position with Gabriel, the golden-haired Adonis-like son of a duke. Pandora and Gabriel do not know each other and were not doing anything wrong. However, Society and Gabriel and his family all think they will have to marry. Pandora is dead set against marrying anyone because she wants to run a board game company. I really do hate to sound curmudgeonly because Kleypas knows how to string words together in a beautiful way, but I could not get into these characters and I did not believe in their romance at all. Gabriel falls in love with Pandora with hardly a by-your-leave (before the mid-point of the book), Pandora caves on her "I will not marry" stance by the exact middle, and there is no conflict between these two.  I enjoyed the cameos by characters from Kleypas' older series and I wish that I loved this one more.

Waking Gods (Themis Files #2) / Sylvain Neuvel / 320 pgs

I read this book in less than 24 hours. That's how much I enjoyed it and how quick of a read it is. This is the second book in the Themis Files series, the first being Sylvain Neuvel's debut novel Sleeping Giants. After the first novel, which was mostly a race to recover all of the parts of a giant 20 story tall robot, found buried deep all over the planet, this book deals with more robots materializing instantaneously in major cities all over the world. Are these new robots friendly? Can the first robot, Themis, piloted by Kara, a former soldier, and Vincent, a French-Canadian linguist, prevent any of the threats these new robots pose? Will the Earth survive an alien invasion?

The book is presented in the same way as Sleeping Giants through a series of interview transcripts and e-mails. The writing style is very reminiscent of World War Z. For those into science fiction and action, and want something quick and easy to read, I highly suggest starting with the first book and then reading this one.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Find Me/ JS Monroe / 400 pgs

Find Me is a thriller that starts out going in one direction and ends up in a completely different direction. The plot twist was a good one, coming out of nowhere (but in retrospect hinted at). However, and this is a big however, the direction the story ended up going was not one that I wanted to read about. Let me explain.

Jar Costello's girlfriend, Rosa, committed suicide 5 years ago. He loved her deeply and hasn't really got over her death. He's never believed that she died (her body wasn't found). He even imagines that he sees her around London.  Then one day Jar is handed a hard drive by Rosa's aunt and told that there is an encrypted version of Rosa's diary on it. With some help from friends, Jar gets into the diary and soon realizes that Rosa really might be alive and might have become a spy.

So, I'm down with a spy thriller and according to the blurb, that's what I'm reading. But then the plot twist happens and this becomes a whole other kind of thriller and it really wasn't one I wanted to read about (being vague to avoid spoilers but there is violence involving humans and animals). The writing is good and I give points to the author for an innovative, though sometimes unbelievable plot. But in the end (literally) I wasn't happy with this story.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Dune / Frank Herbert / 412 p.

This sci-fi epic novel includes treachery and politics, love and loss, novel inventions and familiar motivations.  Having seen the 1984 movie several times, I found this novel comfortingly familiar.  The harsh desert planet of Aracus is all-encompassing, ever-present, and water always in the thoughts of its people.  The members of the House of Atreides seem to be the only honorable people in the entire universe created in Herbert's novel.  The Harkenons are a scheming people only after power and willing to do anything to get it.  The emperor plots to have any dissenters killed.  Meanwhile Duke Leto, Lady Jessica, and their son Paul have loving relationships and the respect of their people.  Unfortunately the schemes of the larger court are determined to unseat them from the newly acquired fief of Aracus.  Has Jessica's teachings prepared her son for the challenges that await him?  Will they be able to hold this fief and give its people the paradise so long prayed for? 

Dune is the first in the Dune Chronicles series.  The next book in the series is Dune Messiah.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Burning Page: An Invisible Library Novel/Genevieve Cogman/356 pgs.

Librarian spy Irene Winters and her apprentice, Kai, have been sent to do a relatively mundane task--retrieve a book from one of the alternate worlds. However, the portal through which they should use to return to their "normal" world, bursts into flames. Using a different route, they safely return, only to learn that theirs was not the only "gate" that had burst into flames. They soon discover that someone is trying to destroy the Library--and it turns out to be Irene's nemesis, Alberich. Irene must stop him--and therein lies the "meat" of the story. There is adventure, suspense, and a satisfying conclusion--until the next book in the series appears! Highly recommended series.

Underground Airlines / Ben H. Wilson / 327 pgs

Underground Airlines was an amazing ride! The book is set in 2016, but in an America in which the Civil War was never fought and amendments were passed in 1861 that would keep slavery legal in the United
States for all time. Over the years, most states have chosen to abolish slavery, but there are still four left in the South that have not only maintained slavery, but incorporated it, where big corporations now own slaves, give them numbers, tattoos, and shuffle them around massive plantations. Another amendment to the Constitution requires ALL states in which an escaped slave is found to send them back to their owners, and the FBI is legally required to do all it can to track down escaped slaves. Our anti-hero, Victor, is one such escaped slave who the FBI kept to help track down other escaped slaves. He's a master of disguise and voices, doing all he can to infiltrate one group dedicated to helping escaped slaves make it to Canada.

I found this book very thought-provoking and captivating. I think anyone who likes alternate history books, dystopias, science fiction, or thrillers will enjoy it. I haven't read Colson Whitehead's Underground Railroad yet, so I can't make a comparison, but I can't imagine I would like it more than Underground Airlines.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

A Murder in Time/ Julie McElwain / 320 pgs

I haven't read a time travel in quite a while so decided to give this a try. Kendra Donovan is an FBI agent in the midst of a big raid to bring down a couple of bad guys. Only, one of their own betrays them, resulting in the deaths of fellow agents and gunshot wounds that leave Kendra rehabilitating for months. When she's finally healed she doesn't return to work, instead she secretly sets off to assassinate the one bad guy who's been turned into an informer. She tracks him down to a castle in England and is all prepared to poison him with ricin when someone else shoots him dead. When that mysterious killer then fires at Kendra she stumbles down a secret passageway and ends up traveling back in time to 1815, where there just happens to be a serial killer on the loose. How Kendra fits in, and doesn't, and how she ends up leading the investigation are the meat of this story.

This book is a strange bird. The author head hops--switches points of view--every few paragraphs, often unexpectedly. This is a huge pet peeve of mine and I almost quit reading this book because of it. But I kept going. Kendra is not a warm fuzzy heroine but I was okay with that. She's friendly and grateful when she needs to be. However, it's mentioned at the outset that she is a eugenics baby, apparently bred by two of the smartest yet coldest people on earth. Aside from this small tidbit, nothing else about it was mentioned. Was this a real government program? Or was this just two people experimenting? I have no idea. Also, Kendra is purportedly very smart, but admits she "doesn't know much about this time period," and then proceeds to spout all kinds of facts--awkwardly--about this very time period. In addition, while the author gets so much of the Regency time period correct, she also still gets some things very wrong

All in all, it's difficult to judge this book. Kendra does not get back to the present by the end and there is a sequel that just came out. I may read it down the line, once I've forgotten all the things I didn't like about this one:-)

The Woman in Cabin 10/ Ruth Ware/ 340 pages

I would say this book was okay.  It's supposed to be suspenseful *I thought* and it didn't really do it for me.  It finally got moving faster and had my interest at the last 1/3 of the novel. But, even then, I thought it was going to link back cleverly to the first scene and it's didn't, which leads to the discussion of was the first "break in" related to the events of the book or some crazy coincidence.  I feel like they left it at coincidence and I don't buy it.
Anyway, Lo Blacklock's apartment was burglarized while she was home. Almost immediately, she has to leave to cover the maiden voyage of a ship for her travel publication.  But, the woman in the cabin next to her's is gone and no one else has even seen that woman to begin with.  What's the story? Who can she trust to help her? Anyway, an okay book, but not a "must read".

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine: A Novel / Alex Brunkhorst / 314 pages / 10 discs

   If you have read any my previous postings my penchant for The Great Gatsby is well-known. I have found yet another novel that has been compared to the classic. I should know better but I cannot resist. Mostly the comparisons have failed in my eyes and I am feeling a little ambivalent about Matilda as well.
   Our narrator is an exiled journalist who was accused of plagiarism in New York City. He has fled across the country and is working for the Times in Los Angeles. Thomas Cleary has been sent to collect a quote or two from the daughter of a famous film director. Thomas has been reduced from writing front page news to doing the obituaries in the entertainment section. From that incidental meeting, he is swept into the world of Lily Goldman and her high powered and monied Hollywood friends. He is showered with opportunities that change his lifestyle and work environment.
   During one of these events, he meets a young woman playing tennis at night. He is completely captivated by her beauty and odd sense of the world. Her name is Matilda and she has not been allowed to leave father's estate since she has been born. Her every wish has been catered to by her father. These two go to great lengths to protect their relationship and try to find a way to survive in the world outside of Bel-Air.
   The descriptions of Hollywood, its residents plus the trip to Hawaii was just skillful. I really enjoyed some of the word play

     "We walked out between the gates. They were timed to close quickly behind us-they 
        had secrets to keep after all-and when they did I heard the rattle of iron.
       Then it went silent."

    I recommend this book for the summer beach readers, who like romance, cliff-hangers and just a bit of heartbreak.

6 Degrees of Reading: The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin, Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford, The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee

When All the Girls Have Gone/Jayne Ann Krentz/341 pgs.

Charlotte Sawyer tries to contact her step-sister, Jocelyn, to inform her that her close friend, Louise, is dead--seemingly from a drug overdose. Jocelyn is away on a "tech free" retreat, and when Charlotte stops by to take care of her plants, she discovers a padded envelope in the mail. It contains keys and a cryptic message from Louise. When Charlotte goes to Louise's place, she encounters Max Cutler, an investigator who has been hired by Louise's cousin, Daniel, to look into Louise's death. Charlotte joins forces with Max to uncover Jocelyn's mysterious disappearance, and the truth behind Louise's death. It's fast paced, interesting characters, with a little romance thrown in. Recommended.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Waiting on You/Kristan Higgins/457 pages

This "Blue Heron series" book tells the story of Colleen O'Rourke, who has lived in the same town all her life, and Lucas Campbell, who returns to that town when his uncle is dying.  They had a serious relationship when they were younger - now will they have a second chance?

The Perfect Match/Kritan Higgins/439 pages

Honor Holland is smart and sensible and has always followed all the rules.  When she confronts her "major crush", she finds out that he thinks they are just "friends with benefits".  Since Honor is in her mid-thirties, she feels her biological clock winding down, and decides she needs to find a husband.  This plot is like a roller coaster - I just didn't feel as though the main characters really connected until the very end.

Best Man/Kristan Higgins/426 pages

This is the first book in the Blue Heron series by this author.  Faith Holland is devastated when she is left at the altar.  She leaves town for a few years, and returns to her hometown to help with her family's business.  This story is about Faith's interactions with many of the town's inhabitants, who are people that she grew up with, and about how people aren't always as they seem.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

King's Captive/Amber Bardan/252 pgs

I heard a lot of buzz about this book and decided to give it a try, even though it's not something I would normally pick up. On Sarah's 18th birthday her family party is interrupted by a man named Julius King and a bunch of guys with masks on and guns drawn. Sarah's father, who she knows is involved in some shady business, ends up dead. Sarah ends up agreeing, under duress, to marry Julius so that he can have her inheritance when she turns 21. She does get him to agree to keep his hands off her until that time however. We then fast forward 3 years, to the month before her 21st birthday. Sarah has been held by Julius on a private Caribbean island the entire time.

This is a somewhat unusual book. I knew going in that all was not as it seems but I did not know the big twist in the story. Obviously I'm not going to spoil it here but I will say it was better than the scenarios I was imagining in my head:-) I have to admit, though, that once I knew what was going on (about 3/4 of the way through), my enthusiasm for finishing the book diminished, probably because I no longer had that sense of anticipation. Bardan is a thoroughly competent writer and there is a lot, I mean a LOT, of angst in this book, which isn't really my thing, but if you love angst, it's dialed up to 11 here. Be warned that this book revolves around criminal gangs who are into weapons and drug dealing. Even besides that, there are some very questionable morals running rampant through this story, especially if you think about it for longer than a minute. Still, I'm glad I read it.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

It's Always the Husband/Michele Campbell/311 pgs

This book releases in May. I read an Advanced Reader Copy that was sent to the library district.

Kate, Jenny, and Aubrey are 3 friends who met their freshman year at a pseudo-Ivy League school in New England. The book spends time in the present as well as chronicling their freshman year. Something tragic happened at the end of that year and the three women end up going their separate ways. Twenty-two years later they are all back in the same college town and must deal with repercussions from that tragedy as well as present day decisions. This book has lots of twists and turns but I have to say that I did not find any of the characters likable and even the police chief was creepy. There was no one for me to root for and by the end I was kind of hoping all the characters would implode in a flaming heap. Alas, they did not. I felt sorry for the main characters' children, who are really just shadows in the story, but I pity those children for having the parents they do.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Daisy in Chains/Sharon Bolton/344 pgs.

Dr. Hamish Wolfe is serving a prison sentence for the murder of three women. He claims he is innocent, and wants defense attorney, and best selling true crime author, Maggie Rose, to clear his name. Both Wolfe and Rose have their own agendas, which leads to a roller coaster ride of a novel. Highly, highly, recommended!!

Unbroken/Laura Hillenbrand/400 pgs

This might be the only non-fiction review you see from me all year as I tend to stick to fiction. Unbroken is a biography of Louis Zamperini, an irreverent and high-spirited Italian-American who was on his way to what looked like a spectacular Olympic career as a miler when World War II broke out. Louis became a bombardier in the Pacific theater after the United States entered the war. On a mission to search for a downed plane, Zamperini's own plane crashed into the ocean. He, Russell Phillips, and a third young man named Mac were the only survivors. While Mac died at some point, Zamperini and Phillips managed to stay alive for over 40 days adrift on the vast ocean, only to be "rescued" by the Japanese and taken as POWs. Their time as starved and beaten prisoners/slaves was just as horrific as their time lost at sea. But both survived.

This is an intense story, full of graphic scenes about the horrifying experience of these young men. I appreciated that this story wasn't just about Zamperini, the more famous of the two, but included the heroics and fortitude of Phillips as well. As mentioned, this is certainly not an easy read but a worthwhile one to learn about the "unbroken" spirit of ordinary young men who went off to fight in World War II.