Saturday, December 3, 2016

Thank You Notes/Jimmy Fallon/164 pgs.

This book is a compilation of some the "thank you" notes Jimmy Fallon has shared on the "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" television show. Some of the "thank you" notes are funnier than others, but it's a quick read--and a stress reliever during this holiday season! Recommended.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Luckiest Girl Alive/Jessica Knoll/338 pages

Something happened to TifAni FaNelli when she was 14.  She was an outsider, attending an exclusive prep school, and would do just about anything to fit in with the popular crowd.  And as an adult, she still is trying to appear moneyed - wearing designer (size 0) clothes, being engaged to a rich successful businessman, with a rock of an engagement ring.  She thinks that being rich and successful can somehow change a person inside, but finds that some things can't be changed or forgotten.







Better Than New: Lessons I've Learned from Saving Old Houses/ Nicole Curtis/ 239 pages

Better Than New: Lessons I've Learned from Saving Old Houses written by Nicole Curtis follows her life from a high school graduation to the present and how it led to rehabbing and her own television show. Nicole left Michigan for Tampa Florida with her then boyfriend.  Working double jobs, waitressing double shifts, she bought her first house.  Before the birth of her first child she relocated back home to Michigan.  After some time bartending, and cleaning apartments and selling real estate she used her saving to buy a run down home to restore.   She was discovered and offered a television show, Rehab Addict on HGTV.  While Nicole's houses are loving restored, her life is one of chaos, often brought on by her own decisions.  The reader will find that even a TV star can have the same problems that normal people encounter.  It was interesting read in which the author revealed what she wanted revealed.  If your looking for a book that follows the ins and outs of creating a TV show, this book only glosses over that aspect of Nicole's life.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay / J.K. Rowling / 304 pgs

First, I should note that this was a screenplay, complete with stage actions for the actors, how they should comport their facial features as they were saying their lines and the complete script. As such, although it was 304 pages, it is a very quick read. I have yet to see the movie, and so I did just spoil myself, but it was totally worth it. Since the movie is such a big deal right now, I don't want to say much about the story itself. Suffice to say, after the disappointment that was Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which read as so much bad fan fiction, this is most definitely a return to form. It is completely evident that J.K. Rowling had her hands all over this screenplay, rather than the multiple names you find on the complete script of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I can see why the movie is doing so well and I hope to get to see it this weekend if not the next weekend. Reading the screenplay has only whetted my appetite for the movie.

Newt Scamander, a Hufflepuff, lands in 1926 New York City with a suitcase full of magical beasts that get loose during a hilarious comedy of errors. Helping Newt are sister witches, Tina and Queenie, as well as a No-Maj (the American word for Muggle), Jacob. However, Newt finds that he has a villain working against him, as well as the Magical Congress of the USA (America's equivalent of England's Ministry of Magic).

Monday, November 28, 2016

Heartless / Marissa Meyer / 449 pgs

I went into Heartless thinking that I wasn't going to like it as much as the Lunar Chronicles. In a way, that's still true. The Lunar Chronicles is the pinnacle of the YA Fantasy/Sci-Fi Fiction Series genre. Heartless is a stand alone novel, which is good because the story, in my opinion, is complete and needs nothing added to it. I had read the first chapter in a sneak peek preview that appeared at the end of Winter and wasn't sucked in, hence why I wasn't as excited about Heartless. However, the book was way better than I imagined. I bow down to the greatness of Marissa Meyer and I intend to never doubt her again. 

Heartless is the story of how the evil Queen of Hearts from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland came to be the cruel woman she is in Lewis Carroll's story. Before she was the Queen of Hearts, Catherine is the daughter of the marquess and marchioness of Rock Turtle Cove. Catherine dreams of opening up her own bakery, but finds that her parents are not as agreeable. They have bigger plans that include the King of Hearts. Catherine wants anything but the king's hand in marriage. What she doesn't count on, however, is falling in love with the court joker, Jest.

Marissa Meyer does a wonderful job of writing romance, and you will pull for Catherine and Jest, but this is a book about how Catherine becomes the Queen of Hearts, so don't expect a happy ending. Things do not wrap up as nicely as they did in the Lunar Chronicles

Gray Mountain / John Grisham /368 pp

Samantha Kofer was living the dream in one of New York City's largest law firms. She was working 60-80 hour work weeks executing her plan to make partner. Then Lehman Brothers collapsed. In order to keep her health insurance and a chance to go back once the recession improved, she took a furlough to a legal aid clinic in Appalachia. She had never seen the inside of a courtroom, so she had a lot to learn. She also met people who had made getting justice for coal miners and their families their live's work. Samantha soon learns a secret that starts a domino effect with unforeseen consequences.



All the Old Knives/Olen Steinhauer/294 pgs.

Six years ago, Celia Harrison and Henry Pelham were both lovers and spies. When a rescue attempt due to a terrorist attack goes horribly wrong, Celia leaves the agency and Henry, eventually marries, has two children and seems to be living a normal life in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Henry, however, has remained in the agency, and suggests a dinner date with Celia. It seems that there was a leak in the operation to rescue the hostages that took place in Vienna those six years ago. It's up to Henry to try to find out who was to blame--even if it's Celia, the woman he could never forget. The action takes place in one day, with flashbacks to what leads up to the dinner date. There are twists and turns in the plot--it's a good read!

Think Like a Freak / Steven D. Levitt / 268 pp

How do you look beyond what seems intuitive to what is really true? Levitt is offering to retrain your brain so you don't fall into the common thought traps that cause you to accept the conventional wisdom. My favorite chapter was the one when they published an article in Great Britain on how terrorists could avoid detection. The whole country was mad at them until they found out why.

Very readable and entertaining. Highly recommended.


The Sun Is Also a Star/Nicola Yoon/248 pgs.

Natasha is a teenager, originally from Jamaica, but has lived in the United States, illegally, since she was 8 years old. Daniel, also a teenager, was born in the United States from Korean parents who immigrated to have a better life for themselves and their unborn children. Both Natasha and Daniel live in New York City. Natasha is on her way to the immigration office to see if there is any way that her family can stay in the United States. Daniel is on his way to an interview for admission into Yale. Neither knows each other, but by chance, coincidence, fate (whatever you want to call it!) they do meet, and the story takes off from there. The story is told in chapters mainly in Natasha's and Daniel's voices. However, even minor characters have a voice, plus an unknown narrator, which adds to the depth of this novel. Yes, it's a love story--but it's so much more than that. The characters come to life on the page making the reader identify with them and feel their pain and joy. Highly recommended!

Destiny and Power/ Jon Meacham / 836 pp

This biography paints a pretty positive picture of George H.W. Bush - there's no big scandals uncovered. He's lived an amazing life. The youngest WWII fighter pilot to be shot down. Vice-President. President. Father of a President. The author has access to his diaries so you get a sense of what he is thinking at various points in his life. Some surprises are GHWB's opinion of the man who followed him to the White House, Bill Clinton, and how that opinion changed over time.

I listened to this book on a trip and enjoyed getting an insider look at a presidency I remember well.

China Dolls / Lisa See / 383 pages

     This latest book of Lisa See is set in the World War II era from 1939-1948.
It follows the lives of three friends and dancers; Grace, Ruby, and Helen.
Two are Chinese and one is Not!   The stories of these protagonists are so intertwined and totally immersed in the time period that it is difficult to stop reading.  There was so much going on in the United States and it was a tough time to be Asian.  Reading about it now seems like reading about a different mindset that I would hope is gone.  The history and culture are throughout this book and really puts the reader there.  It is a fascinating book and could easily be a school choice for history.  Very good book.

The Girl on the Train/ Paula Hawkins/ 323 pages

Finally!!! I think I checked this book out 8 times before I actually got a chance to read it!  Worth the wait! and even better because no one gave me any spoilers!  So, I will do the same here.  I don't think I need to sell anyone on it.  But, I wish I could have read it with my book discussion ladies.  I would love to discuss! I wonder if some of them would not have liked it, just from the way the story is told--multiple viewpoints and told by going back and forth in time from said view points.  Anyway, great read!

The Hammer of Thor / Rick Riordan / 465 pages

This is the 2nd book in Riordan's Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series.  This series focuses on Norse Mythology.  The first book in the series was The Sword of Summer, in which Magnus appears as a homeless teen who finds out he is the son of Frey, the Norse god of summer.  He embarked on the heroic quest to find the sword of summer and ended up as a guest in Hotel Valhalla.  He has made friends with Hearthstone (the deaf elf), Blitzen (dwarf), and Samirah al-Abbas (Muslim /Valkyrie / daughter of Loki).  At the end of book 1, Magnus compares notes with his cousin Annabeth Chase from the Percy Jackson series.


In this book, the team from book 1 is sent on a quest to retrieve Thor's hammer, which he is always losing or someone is always stealing from him.  Magnus learns more about his healing powers and Samirah meets her demigod sibling Alex Fierro, a gender-fluid child of Loki.  They have to follow through on an arranged marriage to an earth giant in order to get close enough to the hammer to get it back.  Shenanigans ensue as always.


Readers of Percy Jackson will find this series familiar.  I felt some of the themes were a little more mature than in Percy, but the overarching theme is always a group of very different people finding a way to work together and respect each other to develop close friendships and achieve a common goal.

Lord of the Flies / William Golding / 285 pages

This is one of those classics that pops up in pop culture so often, I just wanted to see what all the hype was about.  I REALLY wanted to like this book, but I just didn't.  Perhaps I am the wrong audience, being an adult female.  I sympathized with Piggy, trying so hard to make friends with Ralph at the beginning.  I sort of knew enough about the book to know that it wasn't going to end up well - it was like a train wreck that you are horrified to watch, but just can't step away from.


My husband seemed to have fond memories of it, so the book does appeal to some people.  There are some themes about friendship, the use of masks to justify behaviors, and the importance of working together that could be used an educational justification of reading the book in the classroom.  I would not recommend it for anyone under the age of 12 unless you're counting on the darker elements going over the child's head.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Dollhouse: a Novel/ Fiona Davis/ 289pages

The Dollhouse: a Novel, written by Fiona Davis takes place in a dual time track.  Darby McLaughlin has arrived at the Barbizon Hotel for women in 1952 to pursue a career in stenography.  It's 2016 and Rose Lewin has moved into her boyfriend's condo in the newly refurbished Barbizon.  Rose discovers a elderly woman living on the fourth floor in a rent controlled apartment made available to the long time Barbizon residents.  Through an odd series of events, Rose and Darby's lives intertwine around the care of Darby's dog and Roses hope to tell the story of the Barbizon's longtime residents.  Rose begins to unravel the mystery of jazz club coat check girl, a terrible death and Darby herself.  It takes a few chapters to get into the swing of the parallel story line, but soon the reader is entrenched in both stories.  It was a nice look at the culture and lifestyles of 1950.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Angel's Share (Bk 2 in Bourbon Kings series) / J.R. Ward / 415 pp

Book two in this series continues Lane and Lizzie's story from the first book and adds more of Edward, the oldest son, and Gin, the only daughter. Again, neither of these characters are particularly likable. Edward was kidnapped and tortured by South American mercenaries, the details of which caused him to break away from the family business to train horses.  He's terribly disfigured and in constant pain. Gin's life is no better. She ignores her 16 year old daughter, had out of wedlock, and takes selfishness to level rarely found in a character that the author wants you to eventually root for. But, I was caught up in the murder mystery and embezzlement parts of the story, so I continued on.  Eventually, there is character evolution in both Edward and Gin so maybe they are redeemable.  They both are pretty self-destructive so the twists at the end of the book are not straight forward (I can't say anymore without giving it away). They both have love interests as well but they didn't make sense to me. There's no announced date for the next book in the series but I will look for it to see how Ward will resolve the cliffhanger at the end of the book.



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The Bourbon Kings (Bk 1 in Bourbon Kings series) / J. R. Ward / 424 pp

I haven't read any J.R. Ward books before but the summary of this book caught my attention. The super rich son of a Kentucky Bourbon dynasty, Tulane "Lane" Bradford, fell in love with Lizzie King, the head gardener of their estate. But their relationship was broken off when he had to marry his previous girlfriend who was pregnant. He married her out of honor then left to live in New York with a friend from college. Now, two years later, he's back when the woman he thinks of as his mother, the family cook, falls ill. His wife, who "lost" the pregnancy, is firmly entrenched with his family, but Lane is determined to ditch her and make things right with Lizzie.  Unfortunately, embezzlement, suicide and murder distracts their, reluctant on Lizzie's part, reunion.

I found the Bradford family to be dysfunctional beyond belief but couldn't help but stick it out to find out what was going on.  Their weren't many likable characters in the Bradford family but Lane was starting to grow up a little by the end of the book. There's lots of secrets and behind the scenes manipulations  - it reminded me of the show "Dallas" that was on in the '80s. There is language and steamy parts, so definitely not for those looking for a sweet romance.

The Leader In Me / Stephen R. Covey / 242 pp.

When a school took the "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" and made it the central theme of their magnet school, they began to see changes in students and staff as they all began to think and act as academic leaders. Soon they had parents outside their boundaries wanting to enroll their children and schools from all over the world who wanted to replicate their success. This book profiles many schools who have begun teaching the 7 Habits as an integral part of their academic curriculum (including one in Festus, MO). It's interesting to read about how this philosophy is communicated to children as young as kindergarten age. It encourages confidence, collaborative thinking and ownership in their academic lives. As I read about how the cultures of failing schools changed, I couldn't help but think the same ideas could be used in many organizations. It highlights the importance of a central vision that is communicated and shared, how the habitat affects the habits as much as the habits affect the habitat of an organization. Great read if you are interested in shaping organizational culture.

The Magnolia Story / Chip and Joanna Gaines /184 pp.

I admit, I'm huge fan of the HGTV show "Fixer Upper." Chip makes me laugh and Joanna's design style makes me swoon. This book about their lives and how they came to be the most famous couple in Waco, Texas only adds to their appeal. I listened to the book so I got to hear their story in their own voices, which was perfect. Their story is inspirational and funny. They encourage each other and the readers to have dreams and work hard for them. I recommend this book wholeheartedly whether you are a fan of the show or not.

Fight Club 2 / Chuck Palahniuk / 256 pgs


25614994Ten years after the events in the first novel, the protagonist (aka Jack/Travis/Tyler), is now married to Marla and has a regular job and a kid.  He lives a mundane life and keeps his alter-ego/split personality (Tyler Durden) at bay through heavy medication.  However, Tyler is starting to resurface, and Project Mayhem is ramping up again.  This is a revisit to Tyler's crazy fight club world, which is a sarcastic, satirical look at our materialistic world.  Being a graphic novel only visually highlights the bizarre images and situations that Palahniuk describes in his books.       Fans of the first book (and/or movie) will enjoy this continuation; the rest will probably feel out of the loop and lost reading this strange, winding story. 

Halfway to the Grave / Jeaniene Frost / 358 pgs

1421990      Catherine Crawford (aka Cat), is a half vampire / half human, or in other words, a human with supernatural strength and fast healing abilities, that spends her evenings hunting and killing vampires. Cat is in search of her "father", the man that attacked her mother and resulted in her creation; in order to confront and remove him from the face of the earth.
      Her "hunting vampires" methods though are a little on the impractical side, as she pretty much has to dress and act like a prostitute in order to lure vampires out of seedy clubs in order get them alone where she can quickly kill and dispose of them.   While on one of her hunts, Cat meets master vampire Bones, who is cocky, sexy, and British.  Bones is also hunting Vampires who have committed major crimes against humans, so they team up.  (and of course sparks start to fly).

This spicy paranormal romance are for fans of the genre that know what they are in for.  It is fast- paced, with a lot of banter between Cat and Bones and gory battles with criminal vampires.  I would say this book is like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer - for Adults".  (ie strong female lead, vampire hunting, love dynamic between vampire and vampire hunter.)

A Wallflower Christmas / Lisa Kleypas / 213 pgs

3050104This short novella is a nice add-on for fans that have read Lisa Kleypas' Wallflower Series as she revisits her main characters; but works just as nicely as a standalone.  In "A Wallflower Christmas", Rafe Bowman, brother of two of the "Wallflowers" is introduced and it is his turn to spend the Christmas season cavorting with the ladies of London society culminating with him choosing a fiance by Christmas Eve or else he will loose his inheritance.

Rafe thinks he has found a good match with beautiful (and wealthy!) Lady Natalie; but there is something that piques his interest in her companion, the intriguing, but penniless Hannah.

A quick holiday read, the romance felt a bit rushed and out of character for they serious and shy Hannah.  Still, a solid recommendation for fans of Victorian Romances.    

Superman, Wonderwoman (vol. 1) : Power Couple / Charles Soule / 192 pgs

Volume 1 of a new series that explores the question, "what if Superman and Wonder woman were in a relationship?".

I'm not sure how I feel about this comic; as it just throws the whole Clark Kent/Lois Lane relationship right out the window, pretending that it never happened.  I mean that's a pretty classic pairing, and to mess with it kind of makes this not a "superman" story.

But, I digress; IF Lois Land and Superman were never in a relationship and Superman hooks up with Wonder Woman, then this is actually a pretty interesting story line.  I like that in volume one, Wonder Woman deals with the same relationship problems as any other normal human goes through.  She doubts Superman's feelings, she wonders if he wants her to change her lifestyle for him, she hopes they can have a "normal" relationship even though they are famous superheroes.

There are a few superhero fighting sequences, but I was reading this for the relationship story-line.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

IQ/Joe Ide/321 pgs.

This is one of the most intriguing "detective" debuts I have read in a long time. Isaiah Quintabe, a.k.a. IQ, is a high school drop out of extremely high intelligence, living in East Long Beach, California. In the style of Sherlock Holmes, IQ uses his skills to solve mysteries and crimes that the police can't solve, or don't want to deal with. His form of payment ranges from money to animals--whatever the "client" can pay. The main story involves the murder attempt of a rapper, Black the Knife--real name, Calvin Wright. The story line goes between solving the mystery, and the background on how IQ became a "detective." It's a fast, interesting read; I hope this is the start of a new series. Highly recommended!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Ghosts / Raina Telgemeier / 239 pgs

Cover art
Very cute, kid-friendly graphic novel about two sisters who move to California, due to the younger sister's health issues.  The older sister Cat is bitter over the move and resentful of her sister; and is even less impressed with her new town when she learns from the locals that the town is rumored to be haunted.

The issues of family, moving, and friendship are nicely played out, as well as touching on deeper topics of illness, death, dying, and the afterlife.  Not treating nor scary makes this a good read for any elementary school age child and up.

Eggnog Murder/ Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis, Barbara Ross/ 343 pages

The Eggnog Murder is a collection of three stories written by Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis and Barbara Ross.  Each is a murder mystery that revolves around eggnog.  Each author features a series heroine in her story. In the Eggnog Murder did someone really want to murder a retired Tinker's Cove postal worker?  Or was it meant as a bad joke?   Lucy Stone is ready to solve the mystery.  Death by Eggnog deals with the demise of the town's cranky librarian.  Was it an accident or was it intended?  Hayley Powell lends a hand to the investigation.  In Nogged Off is it really a jinx that stirs up trouble for Julia Snowden?  In the midst of all the mayhem someone's boyfriend turns up murdered in Julia's moving van.  Is Imogen really that unlucky, or is something else going on?  All three stories go a good job of introducing their characters and tempting the reader to indulge in more of their crime solving antics.
 

Little Black Dress: from Mourning to Night/ Shannon Meyer/160 pages

Little Black Dress: from Mourning to Night, written by Shannon Meyer, is the companion book to an exhibit recently hosted by the St. Louis History Museum.  The book follows the development of the black dress connected to the very rich and widows in the 1800 up to current fashion.  The book is well illustrated with samples of clothing from the exhibition.  Originally, black cloth was prohibitively expensive for most women due to the excessive amount of dye needed to achieve the color.  As dyes became more affordable the use of black became more wide spread, but only for married women.  As taste changed and Coco Chanel grew in popularity, more fashion houses began to create black evening clothing and younger and younger woman began to wore these fashions.  This book offers an interesting look at the evolution of the black dress with a few other interesting asides as well.
 

Secret Sisters/Jayne Ann Krentz/336 pgs.

Twelve year-old Madeline was saved from a brutal attack one evening when her friend, Daphne, alerted Madeline's grandmother of the abduction. Soon afterward, Daphne and her mother left town, and Madeline lost touch with Daphne. So many secrets were covered up that night only to resurface nearly two decades later when Madeline's grandmother dies under suspicious circumstances. Madeline has her security expert, Jack Rayner, help solve the mysteries that have been hidden throughout the years. In addition to mystery and suspense, there is romance and family "issues"--all leading to a good, fast, read!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Whiskey and Charlie/ Annabel Smith/ 327 pages

This is the story of identical twin boys.  The story starts with one of them in the hospital with severe injuries from an accident.  The story alternates between the present and their childhood through adult years.  You learn about the boys' differences and pasts.  What has caused them to be so distant and cold to each other? It was a great story and the characters were believable.  I love when I can relate to the characters and root for them.  Good story.  Thoughtful read.  Wish I was still able to go to my book discussion group, because I would have loved to discuss this one!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child/ Jack Thorne/ 325 pg

Harry Potter and the Crused Child, a collaborative script, is a play put together by Jack Thorne, J.K. Rowlings, and John Tiffany.  The play picks up with Harry seeing his youngest son Albus, off to Hogwarts.   Albus quickly befriends Scorpius, son of Draco Malfoy and before long trouble ensues.  Time travel by the two young men create chaos in the present when parents switch partners and good switches with bad.  Eventually everyone realizes what's really important and Voldemort is once again defeated.

Troublemaker/Linda Howard/384 pgs.

Someone wants to kill Morgan Yancy, a paramilitary operative and leader. After a near death hit, Morgan is sent to recuperate in a small West Virginia town, at the house of Isabeau "Bo" Maran--the part-time police chief. Morgan's superior is hoping to eventually smoke out the would be assassin, and discover why Morgan was targeted in the first place. There's suspense, mystery, and romance--what more does a reader need? Recommended!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Adulthood is a Myth: A "Sarah's Scribbles" Collection / Sarah Andersen / 109 pgs

Sarah's Scribbles are just that, a lot of fun, funny, and so-true-it-hurts scribbles about her daily challenges is a young adult. The main character, who I assume is Sarah, is introverted, and painfully self-aware. She struggles with the difficulty of speaking in public, of loving your body (hairy legs and all), with connecting with me, and with trying to be professional and put-together when all she wants to do is wear ratty sweaters, curl up in blankets, and read.  She is me. I'm only sad that my favorite of Sarah Andersen's strips did not make it into this book, but I hope it makes it into the next one. Here it is below:

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Girl You Left Behind / Jojo Moyes / 369 pgs

This is one of those books that I would have never read if it were not a book club book. It's also a book that I would have probably given up on if it were not a book club book, because it was a bit of a snorefest. I will put in a disclaimer and say that this is the first Jojo Moyes book I have ever read. Having already been spoiled a year ago or so on the ending of Me Before You, I decided that I would prefer not to read that book, nor its sequel.

In 1916, a French town is occupied by German troops during WWI. Sophie and her sister run a bar/restaurant/hotel and must cook daily meals for their occupiers. Both of their husbands are fighting in the war, both leaving their young sons with their moms. Sophie's husband, Edouard, is an impressionist artist. The Kommandant becomes enamored with a portrait of Sophie that her husband painted of her, but Sophie is arrested and sent away on a train. Seventy years later, a young widow has the portrait, now entitled "The Girl You Left Behind" but soon finds herself embroiled in a fight to keep the painting when the descendants of Edouard and Sophie sue to get the painting back.

I think this may be the third book I've read in as many months where the action flip flops between the past and the present, and every time I find myself not at all caring about what is occurring in the present. I guess I just prefer my historical fiction to stay in the past. The only time the present ought to be mentioned is if time travel is somehow a factor.

Desert Dog/ Jim Kjelgaard/ 129 pages

Desert Dog was written by Jim Kjelgaard in 1975.  The setting for the story is a desert somewhere in the western United States.  Tawny is a racing greyhound who finds himself free in the desert.  He learns to cope with the harsh conditions, finding water, hunting food and avoiding predators.  Unlike many dog stories, this one has a happy ending for all.

Pollyanna Grows Up/ Eleanor Porter/ 216 pages

Pollyanna Grows Up was written by Eleanor Porter as a sequel to Pollyanna.  Pollyanna has recovered from her accident and has returned home to Aunt Polly and her new husband Dr. Chilton.  At the request of a nurse Pollyanna goes to Boston to bring her special magic to her spinster sister, Ruth Carew.  Miss Carew has lived in a dark dreary world ever since the disappearance of her nephew, Jamie.  Pollyanna is amazed at Boston, the size and number of people excite her.  It's not long before she makes friends and introduces Miss Carew to the 'stray people' she befriends.  Over the course of the book Pollyanna becomes a young woman facing yet another obstacle to overcome with her glad game.  The reader will be satisfied with the ending as all becomes clear and friends become more.  The only draw back in reading this book is setting it in time.  Pollyanna, Aunt Polly and Dr. Chilton spend six years in Europe.  It seems that they would have been there during World War I yet this never enters into the book.

This Is Where It Ends/ Marieke Nijkamp/ 292 pages

This Is Where It Ends is a Young Adult novel written by Marieke Nijkamp.  It was chosen as an Overdrive Big Read.  Set in Alabama, the reader meets various students attending Opportunity High School.  It's the first day of the Spring semester.  A student who has left school is returning.  While some great his return anxiously it is not until he sets foot in the auditorium that the real fear begins.  The book continues to examine the thoughts that cross the minds of key students as they react to brutal actions.  Bit by bit the reader is exposed to the back story that brought about the violent actions carried out by one student.  Written for a young adult audience the book is a light treatment of what makes a school shooter.

The Accident/ Chris Pavone/ 418 pages

The Accident by Chris Pavone is set in the  New York publishing world with a bit of spy action tossed in.  An unknown person has Isabel Hayden under surveillance in her own apartment.  Isabel has stayed awake all night to read an anonymous work concerning the life of an media giant about to run for political office.  Once it is known that Isabel has the manuscript the lives of everyone who touches it are in danger.   Surveillance and mayhem follow the manuscript across the country.  Isabel is in a run for her own life as she realizes death is following the manuscript.  Slowly as different people read bits of the manuscript the reader is exposed to the full story.  It's a good action adventure tale although the ending is just a little too convenient.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Girl From Everywhere / Heidi Heilig / 443 pgs

I finished listening to the audio book of "The Girl From Everywhere" yesterday. This is a brand new YA fantasy/time travel fiction and I enjoyed its original premise very much. This is author Heidi Heilig's debut novel and she already has a sequel planned, which is very good as this was left a bit on a cliff hanger. Nix was born in 1868 Honolulu, Hawaii, but has actually lived in all sorts of places and times thanks to her father's ability to "navigate" maps. Once her father's ship, the Temptation, moves to the margins of a map, the crew of the ship find themselves in a completely different part of the world in a different era, all thanks to the new map they are using. Her father's one mission in life is to return to 1868 Honolulu where Nix's mother died in childbirth. But, if that happens, what will happen to Nix?

This book kept me guessing. I liked the characters, and my only two complaints would be another uninspiring love triangle and I am not the biggest fan of the narrator, Kim Mai Guest, who always sounds SO sad in every book she narrates. Her vocal fry is also pretty annoying. I wish I had read this book rather than listened to it. However, I am very excited for the sequel. I'd recommend to fans of YA and fantasy.

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Japanese Lover / Isabel Allende / 322 pgs

I just finished the audiobook of The Japanese Lover, which will be my book club's book to read for our April meeting. The story revolves around Alma, a woman in her 80's who moved recently to an assisted living area. She is cared for by Irina, a Moldovan young woman who immigrated to the United States as a young teenager with her mother. Irina carries a lot of secrets, but so does Alma. Alma was born in Poland and was sent to live with her rich uncle and aunt in California in the early days of WWII. Her parents died in the war and she is raised to be like a daughter to the rich Belascos. It is there that she meets the Japanese gardener's son, Ichimei, and forbidden love eventually blooms. The story goes back and forth between the past (from the 1930s to the 1980s) and the present in 2013.

I don't know. I feel as if we were never really told much about why these characters went from friends as children to lovers in their 20s. The plot feels thin and too conveniently tied up. When Alma marries another man because marrying a Japanese man just wasn't done in that time or social circle, you're led to believe that this other man loves Alma, only to find out that it was never the case. Maybe I should believe that there really wasn't a love triangle at all, but I find myself disappointed that everything just fell neatly into place. The book didn't challenge me in the least. It's good if you want fluff without the smut, but there's no real fun in that.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Five Star Billionaire / Tash Aw / 400 pgs

This is the very last book I had to read for a #ReadHarder challenge (read a book by an author from southeastern Asia) and I have to admit that it was a hard challenge to fulfill. I started and stopped two other books that would have fit the category before finally starting and finishing this one. I don't blame the other two books, as it seems very little is holding my attention lately.

What I liked about the book: I learned a lot about Shanghai and immigration to China. We hear a lot about immigration to America, both legally and illegally, but it's interesting to learn about how other countries absorb people from neighboring countries. The story is modern, lots of reference to the internet and other pop culture items, although for an American, the references to Chinese pop culture can be a bit confusing. Also, it was a fast read despite its length.

What I disliked about the book: The book focuses on four different characters, all of them Malaysian (like the author). All of them have moved to Shanghai to have a better life. Phoebe is invited to come to Shanghai where she has a job waiting for her. When she gets there, she discovers the job is no longer available and she is forced to figure out other means to make a living. Justin is the son of a wealthy real estate developer. He becomes overwhelmed with his work and family demands, so he goes into hiding in a city of over 23 million people. Gary is a pop star who falls from grace when his innocent persona is dismantled after he is filmed in a bar fight. Yinghui is an up-and-coming business woman. Behind the scenes is Walter Chao, the "five star billionaire" in the title of the book. The story shifts between the characters. To be honest, a couple of the characters were not at all interesting to me and I found myself wishing their parts would be a bit shorter.