Monday, September 30, 2019

Sea Sirens

A cute middle grade novel about a Vietnamese American surfer girl named Trot who is accidentally engulfed in a big wave and cast underseas with her trusty cats. What she discovers is a fantastical palace ruled by mermaids, when her trusty kitty, Cap'n Bill, fends off some dastardly serpents, the mermaids welcome the unlikely duo. At first Trot is apprehensive about staying underwater too long, she cant leave her grandfather alone for too long and her mother is at work, but soon she is having too much fun with her new friends. That is until disaster strikes! Cap'n Trot's services will once again be needed to take care of the serpents that threaten the realm. Cute, whimsical, but not terribly action packed. It's fun and I think younger teens will be intrigued.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Bringing Down the Duke

A historical romance that is not only witty, but a tad bit steamy too! Certain plot lines read right out of a Jane Austen novel, but that only served to make the book more enjoyable! In her mid-twenties, Annabelle is practically a spinster, she convinces her closest relations to let her study at Oxford (now that women can attend) and finds herself getting more and more involved in the women's suffragette movement. While she's busy trying to recruit men to the cause she stumbles into Duke Montgomery, a dashing and infuriating man. Even though he is far above her station they keep finding their paths crossing. He is so insufferably attractive and witty; it would be easier if she could just hate the man and move on with her life. Soon they are both wanting to rip off each others clothes, but Annabelle has a lot more to lose if a scandal occurs. Charming, steamy, and unerringly witty; a nice romantic read.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Ninth House

Shut the front door! This book was all around amazing. I literally cannot wait for the next book in the series. I have previously only read one book by Leigh Bardugo, but you can bet your sweet ass I'm going back and reading more after this masterpiece! Ninth House is brilliant and complex and wonderfully dark. It was SO inventive. The first few chapters were a little bit overwhelming as the reader has to absorb a lot of information quickly and try not to get disoriented or lost, but soon everything clicks into place and it becomes a thrill to read. Nineteen year old, Alex Stern has a pretty sordid past so when she gets the opportunity to leave California and attend Yale FOR FREE, she takes it. Yale wants her not for her book smarts, but for her ability to see ghosts. Her whole life she shrunk away from her ability and used any type of drug to let her lose sight of the dead, but now Alex can use her ability for her gain. Yale has secret societies of varying magical abilities, the Ancient Eight, and a group needs to keep them in check. Enter the Lethe House. Members of Lethe show up at all sanctioned rituals and help make sure that the magic never bleeds out into the college or into the town and keep everyone safe. Or at least they're supposed to. When a young townie is killed on a ritual night, Alex is convinced that it isn't an ordinary murder. She'll have to follow her gut and get into a world of trouble and hurt to get to the bottom of it. Badass. My description doesn't do it justice. Alex is an amazing character and the magic described in this book is unique and fascinating. 100% recommend!

Monday, September 23, 2019

Shortest Way Home

This was one of the better written political memoirs I've read. It isn't all rhetoric, it's honest, and it isn't manipulative to prove points. Mayor Pete isn't just eloquent delivering speeches or debating, he's a gifted author as well. This memoir gives a great glimpse into his life and illustrates the many things that have built up his beliefs and world views. From his childhood in South Bend, his college days, his first political leanings, to his service in the navy; Mayor Pete's life is inspiring and well worth the read. I learned a lot about how he runs South Bend and I was amazed at every turn. His memoir isn't braggy, and he often shares anecdotes and gaffes that show he knows how to bounce back after mistakes. I hope to see more from this bright inspiring politician from my home state!

Practical Magic

I haven't seen the movie in a minute, but I grew up LOVING it. I was way past due reading the book the film was actually based on and I''m so excited that I listened to the audiobook version of it, it was WONDERFUL! I couldn't have asked for a better narrator, she embodied the Owens sisters so completely! It's a witchy book that's not really about witches; it's about sisterhood, love, trust, and hope. It's beautiful and haunting and you really root for all the characters despite their faults. It's the perfect fall time read as the leaves change and the witching hour grows closer. The Owens sisters had a unique childhood; raised by their aunts, the girls were mercilessly teased and bullied for their aunts potions and love spells the villagers used in desperation. Sally just wants to be normal and settle down, whereas Gillian wants to paint the town red; jumping from man to man until she can get the hell out of town. Years pass and the sisters have moved on with their lives though they haven't seen each other much in two decades. Sally is living with her two daughters in a nice suburban town when Gillian shows up on her doorstep with a problem so big it threatens to tear everything apart. Wonderful. Such unique and vibrant characters! The writing is beautiful as well! Although the movie is quite different; it's a wonderful tribute to the book!

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Long Way Down

Easily one of the best books I've read so far this year! Utterly compelling, impossible to put down, and packs one hell of a punch. This teen novel in verse discusses gun violence in such a way that leaves no room for argument, it demands to be heard and felt. Will's older brother Shawn has been shot and killed and it falls on Will to exact vengeance. He has to he has no choice. It's part of the rules.
1. No crying
2. No snitching
3. Get revenge no matter what
It's what his brother would have done. So he takes his dead brother's gun and heads to the elevator to leave the building and take out his brother's killer. But it's a long way down and he must pass seven floors. On each floor, a victim of gun violence enters on the elevator. Sixty seconds. Seven floors, Three rules. One gun.
AMAZING! Seriously can't stop thinking about this book. It's giving me the chills.

Dead Voices

Engrossing and wonderful, I adored this follow up to Small Spaces! The gang is back but this time they are on a new adventure. Ollie's dad has won a free ski trip for five at the newest ski resort in Vermont. Ollie and her best friends Coco and Brian will accompany Ollie's Dad and Coco's mom on the trip of a lifetime. On their way up the mountain the snow keeps coming down, and by the time they reach the top, Coco is convinced she has seen a ghost and they all know that they are completely snowed in. None of the other guests ventured out into the weather except for an odd ghost hunter so they have the entire ski lodge to themselves... except maybe they don't. Closets rattle, ghosts appear, and Mother Hemlock is after them. They soon realize that this trip will turn into a nightmare if they don't stop the ghosts and figure out what they're after. A lot of fun and will probably be genuinely terrifying for young kids. There are definitely some creepy elements in her. I hope there are more in this series!

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Furious Hours

I was captivated by this book! It's essentially three mini-biographies tied together with a common thread and the story is stranger than fiction. Furious Hours tells the story of a black southern preacher who had a bad habit of buying life insurance policies on friends and family members who would then "mysteriously die." Even though everyone knows he was responsible, he was a slippery man and the law couldn't seem to get any charges to stick. At the funeral of an adopted daughter (who "mysteriously died") the reverend was shot to death in front of 300 people. The story then switches gears to cover the story of the lawyer who defended the man who shot the reverend. The final profile in the book is that on Harper Lee, the famed novelist who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird. Lee, was fascinated by the case and thought that maybe she would try her hand at true crime writing to get her out of a slump. She spent years covering the reverends case, interviewing the lawyer, townsfolk, family members and more. But what ever became of her manuscript? Compelling and wonderful, this is a must read for fans of southern gothics, Harper Lee, and true crime. Hard to put down!

Monday, September 16, 2019

Five Dark Fates

Honestly, this was a pretty solid ending for this series. I didn't see who would ultimately wear the crown and my opinion changed after each new book; even in this one I was kept guessing until the end. Five Dark Fates is the fourth and final installment of the Three Dark Crowns series and finally solves the question over who will rule the island. You have the triple queens (who did NOT successfully kill each other as tradition decrees) and now the popular Legion Queen, Jules, a commoner born with insane gifts that not even the queens can match; fighting for the throne that no one really wants. You also have the friends, lovers, and consorts trying to get their piece of their pie (or more realistically, just trying to survive) AND the mist which is getting closer and closer to the island and murdering any who fall under its spell. There's a lot of action, a lot of excitement, and only a teensy bit of romance. Just how I like my teen reads to be. A pretty solid series from start to finish.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Ayesha At Last

One of my favorite Jane Austen spin offs yet, a Muslim Pride and Prejudice set in modern day Canada. Ayesha has set aside her dreams of being a poet so she can focus on teaching and paying back her uncle for the college loan he gave her. When her younger cousin has her dreams set on being an event planner she enlists Ayesha to help her... only to abandon her at the meetings, leaving Ayesha to pretend being her cousin, Hafsa. Khalid is a conservative Muslim and is willing to do whatever it takes to keep his mother happy. When she insists on an arranged marriage; his heart isn't in it until he realizes that Hafsa, the event planner, might be the one his mother is trying to set him up with. What ensues is a comedy of errors and heartbreak. A thoroughly enjoyable take on a classic storyline. Unique, playful, and romantic; Uzma Jalaluddin is an author to look out for!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

A Gentleman in Moscow

I'm mad at myself for putting this book off for so long. I missed out on reading one of the most endearing and touching novels of the past decade simply because I thought the cover made it look "too literary." I'm a fool! Now that I am acquainted with the Count, I'm remiss on how long it took for me to make his acquaintance. This book spans decades and its scope is confined to the four walls of the Metropol Hotel in Moscow; but despite all that its depth, imaginings, and plot is perfect and transcends the small setting. Thirty year old Count Alexander Rostov has been cast out of favor with the Bolsheviks and placed on house arrest indefinitely. The good news is he can continue living in the luxurious Metropol where he has ample money, friends, and a handsome room. The bad news is they take his room, most of his possessions and cast him in one of the smallest rooms on the sixth floor. Determined to make the best of an unfortunate situation he establishes a new routine and soon befriends most of the hotel's staff and repeat customers making the most of his new home. When a young girl of six is placed as his ward his whole world shifts and he begins to see the Metropol in a whole new light as the staff treats the young lady as one of their own and embrace her and the Count as family. Descriptions don't do this novel justice. It's beautifully written and filled with some of the best characters I have ever met on the written page. Utterly charming and may make my top 5 books of 2019.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Park Avenue Summer

Initially I wasn't jazzed to read this, I don't know if it was the cover or the description "Devil Wears Prada meets Mad Men," but I went into this book completely meh. Three and a half hours later I had a completely different reaction, I was head over heels. I started by reading a chapter and then... I couldn't stop. I literally bailed on plans so I could sit and read this book in one setting. I simply adored the main character Alice Weiss and her vulnerability and indecision; her tenacity won me over. Alice moves from the country into the big bad city of New York. It's the sixties and she is convinced that she will be able to make it as a photographer. She calls up one of her mother's friends who doesn't give her any hope on the photography front but does set her up with a secretarial job to one of the most controversial and revered women in the country, Helen Gurley Brown, the editor of Cosmopolitan magazine and author of the book, Sex and the Single Girl. Alice is swept away in helping Helen tackle the fools at Hearst convinced that no woman can run a magazine and who are determined for the whole venture to fail. Alice gets so wrapped up in the magazine, her boss, and her new "Don Juan" that she slowly starts to lose her aspirations for photography and her vision for the future. A wonderful read and journey into 1960s New York publishing scene.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

They Could Have Named Her Anything

Jimenez, Stephanie. They Could Have Named Her Anything. 9 CDs. unabridged. 10hrs 57 mins. 2019. Brilliance Audio.  ISBN 9781721367283. $34.99.

Debut author, Stephanie Jimenez, doesn't pull any punches in this arresting coming of age novel. Wealth, racism, and privilege duke it out in this powerful young adult story between two unlikely friends. Maria comes from a close knit family in Queens down on their luck financially and Rocky comes from the Upper East Side where she uses her money as a shield from family drama. Together they attend an elite girls school and find themselves drawn to each other. Their budding friendship is riddled with questions and boundaries as they navigate unexpected jealousy that threatens to tear them apart. What happens when you want something so bad that you'll stop at nothing to secure it for yourself? Family and friendships pale in comparison to the deepest unspoken desires of both Maria and Rocky and the choices they make will effect far more than their friendship. Brilliantly  narrated by Almarie Guerra, who gives the young girls authenticity and youthful naivete. Sincere, at times uncomfortable, and always authentic; this teen novel will appeal to readers of all ages.  - Erin Cataldi, Johnson Co. Public Library, Franklin, IN

The Unhoneymooners

This book made me LOL in real life. It was so freaking cute and witty; I read it in one afternoon and couldn't put it down. I loved the banter, I loved the characters, and I loved that even though you know exactly what's going to happen you can't stop reading because it's so much fun. When Olive is forced to go on a luxury honeymoon with her worst nemesis, her brother in law, Ethan. She isn't exactly thrilled. I mean she's pumped for the free drinks, snorkeling, and views; but gross, she has to share it with a guy who literally can't stand the sight of her. After the world's most revolting wedding where everyone except Ethan and Olive gets sick from fish (yay for shellfish allergies and buffet phobia!), Olive's twin sister INSISTS that she take the free honeymoon she won since she reuses to let it go to waste. What could wrong. A cute romcom that was delightful from start to finish. An excellent beach read :)

Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune

This book was charming and made me SOO HUNGRY. Seriously my stomach kept growling the whole time, that is how good Roselle Lim's descriptions are! When Natalie comes back to San Francisco it's not to celebrate. Her mother has just died and she needs to come to arrange the funeral. As the only surviving family member Natalie must wrap up all the affairs, but those hardest to wrap up ,are the affairs of the heart. Natalie and her mother hadn't spoken in 7 years after Natalie ran away to pursue her dream of being a cook when all her mother wanted for her was to stay at home. When Natalie come home she see how down and out her little part of Chinatown is, if only there was something that could help rejuvenate it... When Natalie discovers that her mother owned not only the apartment but the whole building including the small restaurant below, she thinks that maybe she can continue her family's legacy. Paired with the magical recipe book of her grandmother's she is set to change the luck of those around. Cute, charming, and filled with amazing recipes. A nice fluffy read :)

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Death Warmed Over

I apologize in advance for the two stars. It wasn't that this book was horrible, or written by an illiterate ape, I just didn't like it. It wasn't my cup of tea but that doesn't mean that it won't be anyone elses. I don't know if I wasn't in the right mood or what, but I was very meh about it all.Death Warmed Over stars a private investigator who has recently come back from the dead as a zombie. Not only does he have to investigate his own murder, he has a full caseload as well. From a vampire too scared to leave his own home from a witch who was turned into a pig because of a typo, Dan Shamble has his arms full. Funny and witty, perfect for fans of Charlainne Harris and other "punny" paranormal mysteries.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The Legacy Letters

A bundle of letters, a dying man, hope for his family's future and his legacy. Estranged from his pregnant wife and found to be with terminal cancer; a lost man finds peace in writing out his hopes dreams, advice, memories, and thoughts out to his unborn children. His wife doesn't know that her husband is ill, she doesn't even know that he found out she was pregnant. So when she gets the first letter months after his passing she is flabbergasted. She didn't even know he was sick, there is no chance for a reconciliation or for him to meet his kids. In reality, he saved her from pity and from forcing her to forgive him because of his circumstances, he wanted her to remember him as he was.

The remaining letters, poems, and songs won't be given to her or their kids until their tenth birthday and they have no idea how much the letters will impact the rest of their lives. Each letter contains some nuggets of wisdom, humor, and memories. It's clear that their father put his heart and soul into the 200 letters he wrote in less than a year. Even though his clock was ticking faster and faster, he doesn't speed up or rush his letters. They are full of tenderness and nostalgia. He's trying to impart what he can on kids he'll never meet. From appreciating the seasons, traveling, falling in love, turning 18, appreciating music, and respecting nature; they are all written from a rugged romantic rancher extracting what beauty he can out a bleak situation. Even though this reads as non-fiction, the letters and the story are in fact, fiction, but don't let detract from the message and the lessons. A wonderful book that readers won't soon forget about.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Small Spaces

Legitimately terrifying and this is a kids book! Small Spaces slowly draws sets the scene, develops the characters, and then drops them into a slow boil of terror. I loved it. I couldn't put it down. When Ollie goes on a field trip to a local farm with her 6th grade class, she begins to find the parallels with the farms history and the creepy book she's reading unsettling. Ollie had stolen the book the day before from a distraught, crying, woman who was hell bent on destroying it. Ollie couldn't abide for a book to be damaged so she ran off with it and the more she read from it and the more she sees at the farm, she realizes that she could be in serious danger. Scarecrows ring the farm and seem to be keeping a special eye on her. As they're leaving the bus breaks down in the mist and Ollie knows she has to act fast before whatever is happening to the farm happens to her. Genuinely amazing. The characters are wonderful, the threat real, the scarecrows scary as hell, and the friendships precious. I can't wait to read the next one! I'll recommend this to everyone. It would make a great movie!!

Wilder Girls

Dark, ominous, and creepy, this young adult book about a deadly disease ravaging an island secluded all girls school will give you the heebie jeebies. Cut off from the rest of the world they are told to stay within their quarantine if they want to stay alive and hope to get a cure. The tox affects each girl differently, it could be scaly skin, massive body sores, a second spine, a ravaged eye, or even death. Over half the girls, most of the teachers, and the local wildlife have succumbed to the tox. It's been 18 month and the food rations are getting less and less. What happens when the government stops sending food? Will they die on this godforsaken island? Hetty has grown numb to the everyday nothingness in the school. She has her two best friends Byatt and Reese to keep her sane but when Byatt goes missing, Hetty must decide if she's worth breaking the quarantine from. Gory, creepy, and unique. A new take on the horrors of isolation, disease, and starvation.

The Girl Who Lived Twice

Honestly, this series has not disappointed me. There's nonstop action, complex storylines threaded together, and badass characters. Lisbeth Salander is not the sole focus of this novel, as with the other books, she shares the spotlight pretty equally with her friend, the famed journalist, Mikael Blomkvist. Lisbeth has been focused on taking out her family and ridding the world of their evil presence, she's located her sister in Russia and nothing is going to stop her from finally ending it all. Blomkvist on the other hand is wrapped up in a little mystery, that at first, doesn't even seem worth his time investigating. A homeless man found dead on the streets with no identity, the police can't identify him using dental fingerprints, or DA so Mikael is trying to reach Lisbeth to help him identify the man. The trouble is, when she doesn't want to be found, she won't be. Soon enough their separate "tasks" end up crossing wires and they are in each other's business whether or not they want to be. Intriguing and unique, although I could have gone with a more drawn out ending. It seemed to wrap up so quickly! I wonder what they'll get into next!