Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Aurora's End


What a stunning conclusion to this trilogy. I will read anything and everything written by Amie and Jay - they are quite literally one of the best writing duos around. I read this book in two sittings over the span of one day. I could not put it down. Like all their books - it's fast paced right out the gate. The book opens with Scarlett, Finnian, and Zila not exploding but being stuck in a time loop. It will take all their brain power and a lot of oopsies to figure out how the hell to get out of there and stop blowing up. But since they are in a loop they have all the time in the world... right? Tyler and his new frenemy, Saedii, find that they have a deepening attraction but her duty is to her people and not stopping the Ra'haam. He may have to set out solo and try to warn the Academy. Aurora and Kal are stuck with the starslayer and the weapon that can save the universe. The only problem is it's broken. So many variables yet it's up to this ragtag team to somehow save the galaxy. Witty, funny, and keeps readers at the edge of their seats. I'm already awaiting another book from this writing duo - give me more!!

Monday, November 22, 2021

All I Want for Christmas


I think this is only my second Nora Roberts book, but I sense a theme of beautiful people falling in love with each other. Zeke and Zack Taylor decide that for Christmas they want a mom. They write Santa early in the fall so that he has time to find them a perfect woman for their dad to fall in love wit. When Nell Davis moves to their small community as the new high school music teacher the twin boys are smitten. She's beautiful and nice and they are certain that she's the one Santa sent. Their dad, Mac does notice Nell and the attraction is mutual, but he's so worried about hurting his boys or having a woman walk out on his boys that he's not sure if he even wants to purse things with Nell. Will the boys get their Christmas wish or not. Predictable and cheesy, but okay for a holiday novella.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever


I'm positive I read this in second or third grade and it was a delight to revisit it again. This is a book that could never be written now with kids smoking cigars add bullying run rampant in these pages. That being said it was a blast from the past and a look into a book and a childhood that is vastly different from modern times. The Herman kids are everyone's worst nightmares. They are bullies, they lie, steal, hit, and even smoke cigars. Kids and adults try to keep a wide berth. The weekends are the only time that kids get away from the Herdmans, they at least have Sunday school without those demons - that is until they eventually crash that party too. And what happens when they bully their way into the Christmas pageant. Will Christmas ever be the same again? Lots of fun. 

Quiet Until the Thaw


I didn't realize until after I read this that it wasn't even written by an indigenous author, which really explains a lot. The story seemed mostly inauthentic and jumped around so much as to make it distracting. Two Native American cousins, Rick Overlooking Horse and You Choose Watson grow up in similar circumstances yet turn out to have vastly different futures. One becomes a drunk looking for trouble and the other finds himself in Vietnam and then later raising two orphan boys. Far more than just their two lives intersecting there are short vignettes about their friends and others struggling on the reservation. Too jumpy and sporadic. There are good parts, they are just buried. 

Friday, November 19, 2021

Emma in the Night


A thriller that sucks you in with it's leisurely pace and constant revelations. It may start slow, but it picks up steam all the way to the shocking conclusion. Cass and her sister Emma disappeared three years ago when they were both teenagers and Cass has come out of the woodwork and back to her mother's house. Everyone is shocked. Where has she been and where is her sister? Cass recounts to her family and the police about her time spent captive on an island and her sister being pregnant. They couldn't leave because of the baby. But how much of her story is true? Or is it all true and they've been barking up the wrong tree all along. Twisty and compelling although a little far fetched at times. 

Thursday, November 18, 2021

The Benefits of Being an Octopus


Honestly one of the most engaging and eye opening middle grade books I've ever read. Perfect for getting young minds to either think about those who have to struggle to make ends meet or it's a mirror for others to see that they aren't alone. Seventh grader Zoey doesn't have time for homework or crushes or other fun middle school things - she's barely making ends meet. She has to take care of her three younger siblings every day after school while her mom works and it doesn't leave her much time to be a kid. Changing diapers, soothing tears, giving baths - it's exhausting - but when you're stuck in a cycle of poverty you have to do anything and everything to stay afloat. She wished she could be an octopus so she had eight arms to do eight things at once, plus they have great protective defenses. But she's at least grateful that they live in a clean trailer with her mom's boyfriend - but even though they live somewhere "nice" they have to put up with a lot of mean things from the owner. A story of finding your voice, gaining confidence, overpowering the odds, and not judging those who are trying their best. A great book about empathy.  

Monday, November 15, 2021

Birdie's Bargain


Emotional and heartfelt - this novel is perfect for middle grade readers who are dealing with a parent in the military, confusion about Christianity, and struggling with friends. Birdie is upset that their parents have to move their family into Gram's house while her father is deployed for a third time because money is too tight. She has to go to a new school, lose her friends, and sleep in the world's tiniest bedroom. But the worst part is her dad leaving, Birdie is convinced he will die in Iraq. The third time is the charm. She makes a bargain with God that she will pray and honor him if he just keeps her dad safe. But not all promises can be kept. A good fictional account on struggling with religion and trying to process grief and anger. She's also a far from perfect heroine so she is a relatable character for kids to read about. 

If Fried Chicken Could Fly


Intriguing - a cute cozy mystery that is the first in a series. Centered around Gram's Country Cooking School, Betts assists her grandma with teaching classes and catering food. When the body of a man grams was seeing is found in the maintenance room, all hell breaks loose. Grams is considered a suspect and briefly jailed. It's up to Betts to try and solve the crime - and hopefully before the big cookoff that brings all the tourists to town. She might be in more danger than she knows - but thankfully a cowboy comes to her aid as does her ex-boyfriend who has recently returned and become a cop. It was cute and quirky - but I could have done without the supernatural element. 

Friday, November 12, 2021

No One Goes Alone


I knew this was only available as an audiobook, but I neglected to read the description. When I saw it was written by Erik Larson I assumed that it would be some kind of true crime nonfiction. Wrong. It was a historical ghost story set on a small island in 1905. A group of researchers, all who deal with the "supernatural" or fantastical things, come together to explore a manor on an island on which there have been some unexplained disappearances. They set out to prove there is nothing haunted or wrong with the house but as the days progress something is definitely off. No one can put a finger on it - but there are occurrences that make no sense. Danger, romance, mistrust, and slow growing fear spread throughout the inhabitants. Starts off strong, but I stopped caring the last hour or so.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Sun Down Motel


Impossible to put down. This thriller grips readers from the beginning and holds on to them til the very end. Told in two alternate timelines. In 1982, when Viv runs away from her home she tells her mom she's running away to New York City to become an actress. In all actuality, Viv doesn't care where she ends up as long as it's far away from home. She makes it to a sleepy town in upstate New York and lucks into a job working as a night clerk at the motel she's staying at. Things aren't what they seem at the Sun Down, is it haunted or is her mind playing tricks on her? Decades later in 2017 Viv's niece, Carly, comes looking for her. All she knows about her Aunt Viv is that she went missing in 1982 and was last seen at the Sun Down Motel. It always bugged Carly that no one in her family talked about her missing aunt. Now that Carly's mom has died, rather than processing her grief she's going to go back to the beginning, back to the Sun Down Motel. Genuinely creepy and wonderful. A must for fans of true crimes and armchair detectives. 

Monday, November 8, 2021

A Little Hope


Emotional and poignant - this was a rollercoaster of feelings and I zipped through this book super fast. Told through a multitude of characters yet, revolving around one couple, multiple storylines overlap and interact in this beautiful melting pot. In the not so small town of Wharton, Connecticut, many lives are off balance. A man struggles with addiction, a women misses her unreliable ex boyfriend, a husband cheats on his wife in an unforgivable moment of weakness. The thread that ties all these lives together is not just their location it's Freddie and Greg. Greg has just been diagnosed with cancer, the kind that most never recover from. How will his wife survive, or his daughter, and what do the people in town have to do with anything. Emotional and fulfilling - a tearjerker at moments yet ultimately inspiring and hopeful. 

Thursday, November 4, 2021

The House on Mango Street


A quick poetic look at the innocence, beauty, and hardship of growing up in a Latin neighborhood in Chicago. Esperanza minces no words and her beautiful, minimal, and magical prose tell so much about her neighbors, her dreams, and her family. The lens through which she views her world is often naïve but as the pages turn she gets more mature as she starts to grow out of childhood. The way in which she describes her world, namely the motley cast of characters that are her neighbors, is eye opening and honest. A quick coming of age tale told through vignettes that explores love, heartbreak, friendship, and family. A classic.  

Guilty Pleasures


I love this series. This is probably my fourth or fifth time re-reading this. It's been a few years since the last time and I had been itching to get back at it. Per usual, I loved every second of it. Anita Blake is freaking awesome, she's such a badass character. The intricate plot and amazing array of characters are also some of the things that keep me coming back or more. Vampirism is legalized in the United States and with that brings a whole slew of problems. Anita is on a retainer for police as their resident expert. Besides being a vampire slayer, she is also a full time animator, raising corpses from the dead for clients to settle wills and say goodbyes. At only, 24 she has quite the reputation. She's known as the executioner. Her newest case, a series of bloody murders around the vampire district is going to be challenging in more way than one. If she doesn't figure out who is wasting vampires, her best friend's life may be in danger. Wonderful from start to finish, I love Anita's sarcastic, cocky bravado.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

An Amish Quilt


Sweet and charming - I love a good Amish short story. An Amish Quilt contains three short stories by different authors that center around a quilt. In Patchwork Perfect, Eli Byler moves to a new community looking for a fresh start and a new wife to mother his two children. There are two lovely widows available but he keeps being drawn to Miriam, an unconventional "old maid." The heart wants what the heart wants. In A Bid For Love, Hannah Lynne pines after Ezra, a charming man who buys butter from her. After a debacle over a quilt at an auction - the two find themselves spending some time together and sparks are flying. Finally, in A Midwife's Dream, Iris Beachy wishes she was married with children, instead she's delivering other women's babies. She finds her life rewarding but she wants more. When two Englisher teenagers seek her out to deliver their baby and promptly abandon it - Iris finally knows what motherhood feels like. But is it enough? All three stories were unique and wonderful. Happy endings all around.

Gods and Monsters


Better than the middle book but still not as amazing as the first in the trilogy. But I digress. The book opens up with Lou acting weirder than normal. They all just suffered an unimaginable loss, but is she taking it worse than the others or is something wrong? A darkness is settling over her and if they can't drive it from her than nothing that they've worked towards will matter. They have to find and kill her mother, but traveling across the kingdom with their faces on every wanted poster is proving difficult. Are they out of option? Out of allies? Not fast paced till you reach the last 200 pages but then it flies by in a satisfying conclusion. The first book is amazing but if I were to judge the series as a whole I would only give it 3 out of 5 stars. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

What She Knew


A twisty police procedural/thriller about an abducted young boy. Alternating between one of the police higher ups, Jim Clemo, and the boys mother, Rachel - What She Knew is about lies, betrayal, fear, and second guesses. When Rachel lets her little boy run ahead on the trail she thinks she is giving him some independence. She'll regret that moment her the rest of her life. From then on her boy is missing. The case quickly becomes a media sensation and everyone is quick to lay the blame on the mother. But did she do it? A fast paced thriller that does a good job covering all aspects of the story with the alternating points of view. The ending was shocking to a degree, but not mind blowing. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

The Ickabog


I have to preface this by saying - no I don't support JK Rowling and her deluded thoughts on transgendered people. I felt icky for even reading this, I had to completely separate the author from her work. That being said, I did enjoy the story and I thought it had a good moral lessons and was an overall good kids story. I also loved that children were the illustrators; it added a little extra whimsy and fun. The Ickabog is about monsters and kings, deceptive advisors, loyalty, friendship, and tall tales. What happens when a King swears he saw a monster? A monster that killed the captain of his guard - what happens if it was all a hoax? How wrapped up can the kingdom get? How can one lie hurt everyone? Scarily relevant and timely. 

Monday, October 25, 2021

The Holiday Swap


Fluffy, cute, and full of holiday sappiness. Like Hallmark Christmas movies everything is wrapped up nicely in the end and all are happy. Two identical twins are in a bit of pickle. Chef Charlie Goodwin gets a concussion on the set of a baking show she co-hosts and she loses her ability to taste and smell. She'll never be able to pull off the rest of the holiday bake off and she needs to do good so that she gets chosen to be the host of a new baking show. Meanwhile her twin is in their hometown of Starlight Peak and has had enough of her long term boyfriend. Things haven't been going right for a while and she's ready to break it off, the only problem is he won't take a hint. The twins decide to switch lives to escape their problems. The only problem is they aren't in high school and the stakes are much higher now. What happens when they each find romance in their switched lives. Are they making more of a mess of things. Cute, predictable and fun. would make a great Hallmark movie. 

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Needlework


Kody isn't like most boys in his hometown in rural Kentucky. He likes to watch Golden Girls with his grandmother, quilt, and sing along to Dolly Parton. He lives with his Nanny and all things considered he has a pretty good life. His younger brother lives across town with his aunt and his uncle and his mommy lives just down the holler in a broken down little trailer. Their dad is in prison. Their mom has problems. She's an addict and she can hardly take care of herself let alone her two sons. Kody and Nanny do the best they can to keep her alive, but it's a thankless job. Thank goodness he has Dolly Parton to keep him sane. Besides his mommy, the most stressful thing in his life is keeping his grandmother from finding out he's gay and likes to dress up in makeup. But then he gets a Facebook and gets a message that will change his life and his family's forever. Touching and heartfelt. A Very genuine and fun young adult story. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The Women of Troy


Not as strong as her first book in the series, The Silence of the Girls, but still a wonderful imagining of what happens to the women left behind or captured in war. The Women of Troy takes place right after Rome has fallen to the Greeks. Instead of sailing back to their homes as victors, the Greeks are stuck on the beach as the gods punish them with horrible winds. Briseis, once a queen of Troy, then a slave bride of Achilles, is now forced to marry Alcimus. She is largely overlooked because she is a woman, but her life has drastically improved now that she is no longer a slave. Alcimus is a good man that doesn't force himself on her and for that she is grateful. Briseis spends her time trying to improve the lives of the slave women in her camp while also tracking down the former Trojan women who lived in the palace; Hecabe, Helen, Cassandra, and Andromache. With the exception of Cassandra, all are slaves forced into uncertain futures. As the Greek men get more frunk , belligerent, and angry as they are stranded on the shores of Trot - the atmosphere is like a powder keg. Could life get any worse for these women. Great for readers of Greek mythology. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Apples Never Fall


Filled with her trademark banter, crazy plot twists, and dysfunctional characters - I enjoyed Liane Moriarity's latest novel. When the Delaney children discover their mother is missing they don't call the police. After all the father would be the prime suspect and they're sure their mother is alright... wherever she is. The four Delaney children are all adults living their own lives (though not very well) but when they get together it's hard not to act like children competing for their parents love. The family is well known and envied in their corner of Australia, they ran a successful tennis school and all played brilliantly - they even had one of the top tennis players in the world get their start at their little academy. But if everything is so perfect then where is their mother? And why are they trying to hide things from the past. Twisty and interesting. The ending was a little rushed, but it was still another fast paced Moriarity read! 

Friday, October 15, 2021

Cujo


Jesus. This book. Not horror all the way through, not like I anticipated from a Stephen King novel, but disturbing nonetheless. I had never seen the movie so I only knew there was a bad dog and trapped people in a car. I wasn't prepared though for this. It's that of course, and so much more. It's upsetting and disturbing and although it's not fast paced, the slow and steady build of the story make it terrifying. When Donna and her son Tad drive out to a local mechanics place to get their car fixed they have no idea what horror awaits for them. Donna's husband is in Boston for business for a few weeks and the mechanics family has left for a week. No one knows where Donna is and soon they are trapped by a rabid dog with no hope in sight. No one is going to come to save them. It's the hottest week in the year - how will they survive? This is a hard read for animal lovers. A heartbreaking read. The ending was..... awful. Cujo is about more than just a rabid dog - it's about rabid people - people who are at their worst, people who make bad decisions, and those decisions have consequences. Disturbing, but well written. I don't know if I can stomach watching the movie though. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The Book of Magic


I adore all the books in this series and this final installment (I think it's the last? it felt very final) was "chef's kiss!" From start to finish I could not put it down and I definitely teared up at the end. As readers of the first three books know, the Owens family women have been cursed in love for over three hundred years. Anyone they love is doomed to die before their time. All Owens girl's know not to fall in love, all except Sally's two daughters, Antonia and Kylie. Sally's heart has been broken twice by the curse and she is very anti-magic. She has refused to tell her daughters anything about their witchy ancestry so they have no idea to not fall in love. When Kylie's love of her life, Gideon is struck by a car and put in a coma - all because of a curse she didn't know about - she decides to take matters into her own hands. What follows is a dangerous journey back to where it all started with their ancestor, Hannah Owens, in England. Fantastic, compelling, and magical. I gobbled this book up and it gave me all the feels!

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Lumberjanes


Oh my, I am soo glad I picked up this bad boy! It was even better than I anticipated!! You will want all your friends to read it so that you can talk about it and try to be as cool as the lumberjanes. Seriously, I want to be on their level. While at a summer camp for "Hardcore Lady-Types" five campers discover something mysterious going on in the wilderness surrounding their cabins. Three eyed foxes, yetis, a river monster, and rumors of a "Holy Kitten" keep the lumberjanes busy and drives their camp counselor up a wall. Hilarious and over the top, this comic amused me to no end. I was sold after the Holy Kitten, but it continued to get better after that, with sayings like, "What in the Joan Jett!?" minor hinting towards gay crushes, mythical creatures, and random rantings, this book has a little something for everyone. This is definitely one that I will buy and will continue to keep up with the series. Soo damn good!

Monday, October 11, 2021

The Ex Hex


Halloweentown meets an adult Sabrina the Teenage Witch in this cute romcom. Vivienne Jones drunkenly cursed her ex-boyfriend when she was a teenager. But she and her cousin were just fooling around, it's not like anything happened. Except when that ex-boyfriend comes back to town nine years later - all sorts of things start happening to him; a statue almost falls on him, he almost gets hit by a car. Did the curse really work? Rhys Penhallow is sent back to his family's hometown to recharge the ley lines on Halloween - and he hasn't been back since Viv broke up with him. The sexual tension is thrumming in the air and it's not the magic. Viv and Rhy have to work together to find a way to reverse the curse and save the town before something really bad happens. Cute, fluffy, and fun. A perfect Halloween read. 

A Spindle Splintered

 


Harrow, Alix E. A Spindle Splintered. digital. 2021. Macmillan Audio. $18.99. ISBN 9781250824486. 

Bestselling author, Alix E. Harrow (The Once and Future Witches), gives a feminist twist on the classic Sleeping Beauty tale in this inventive and empowering novella. A Spindle Splintered is the first in a new series of fairy retellings, Fractured Fables. Zinnia Gray's twenty-first birthday is bittersweet; she lives with a rare condition that no one has ever lived past the age of twenty-two. The clock is ticking and she is torn between wanting to live her own life and comforting her parents. When her best friend throws her a surprise birthday party in an old prison tower complete with warm beer, roses, and an old spindle, Zinnia is touched. She may be too old for her favorite fairy tale, but what's the harm in a little make believe? When she jokingly pricks her finger on the spindle, she finds herself transported to another time and place where a young girl's clock is running out just like hers. The two girls decide to take their destiny's in their own hands and race against the clock and their curses to make better futures for themselves. Amy Landon brilliantly narrates this inspired retelling while making it exciting and magical. Although a quick listen at less than four hours, this is a great start to a new series that fans of fairy tales and feminist literature will enjoy. - Erin Cataldi, Johnson Co. Public Library, Franklin, IN

Friday, October 8, 2021

Leadership: In Turbulent Times


This is a book that made me slow down and savor what I was reading, which is a change of pace from the fluff that I've read most of this year. Leadership in Turbulent times is a historical fiction/leadership book that recounts how four different presidents handled adversity and hardship. Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson became presidents at trying times. The Great Depression, The Civil War, Civil Rights, and the industrial revolution. Doris Kearns Goodwin does a remarkable job relating the character and leadership styles of each president from childhood through early politics and all the way through the White House. None of these men were saints and most suffered many setbacks and failures, but learning how they overcame those as well as their successes is what makes this book great. Utterly fascinating and compelling. Leadership has many styles and reading the profiles on these four leaders is a feast for the heart and mind.  

Thursday, October 7, 2021

A View Most Glorious


I've enjoyed all three novels in Regina Scott's American Wonders collection. They act as standalones but the thing that ties them all together is that they take place at National Parks before they are even considered National Parks. A View Most Glorious follows Cora Baxter's quest to get to the top of Mount Rainier to raise awareness for the suffragette cause. For propriety's sake she will travel with her stepfather and a guide - but the guide in question happens to be a prickly man that once held the same social standing that Cora does. Nathan Hardee is reluctant to take the spoiled society girl to the top of the mountain as it's treacherous and she has no experience. She eventually wins him over and as they set out on their journey they discover that they have more in common then they thought. Cora falls in love with the exertion and the beauty all around her - and in the process Nathan starts to fall a little for her. There are more dangerous things than than mountain path to watch out for though; Cora's dastardly suitor and her conniving mother have a few tricks up their sleeves. Historical romance at it finest - inspirational fans won't want to miss out.   

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Season on the Wind


I really enjoyed this inspirational Amish romance because it discussed the dynamics of strict orders versus more lenient and forgiving sects. It also had Englischers (non-Amish) as an integral part of the story as well as birding - two things we don't always see a lot of. Ben Zook fled the Amish way of life years ago and vowed never to return. But when a rare bird stops in Stoney Ridge he can't stay away - it would be perfect in his latest book on rare birds. He convinces his cousin to come with him because she needs a change of scenery as she copes from the mess her life is in. They rent a guest house on the property of Penny and Micah two kind hearted Amish siblings. Micah is an eighteen year old birding prodigy and Penny is a 35 year old woman looking after the homestead and her baby brother. When she sees Ben Zook she is stunned speechless - she hadn't seen him since she was 12. She is convinced that God sent him here for a reason. Unfortunately Ben doesn't seem to recognize her at all. Filled with blossoming romance, birding, and coming back to God. This inspirational romance is heartfelt and fluffy. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Money Shot vol. 2


Not nearly as good as volume one, but still enjoyable to an extant. Everyone's favorite xxx-plorers are doing their thing in space and growing more popular on earth. They're able to finally fund their research. When the jerk who slashed the funds in the first place, the stupid president of the United States, tries to take away Money Shot, their teleportation device, things get heated. The president basically blackmails them until they agree to take him to other galaxies so he too can bone exotic aliens. What happens when he's cocky attitude and stupid mouth gets them all into trouble though!? I'm hopeful that volume three will be even better. 

Monday, October 4, 2021

Fuzz


I adore Mary Roach and her latest microhistory was no exception. I devoured this in one day. Each chapter deals with real life scenarios on human rules that animals break. It's equal parts hilarious and nauseating, but all around fascinating. Mary Roach is America's funniest science writer and her foray into the animal kingdom is amazing. There is a bit of gore or violence against animals in these pages (she pulls stories from all over the world), but the message is positive and empathetic. Rowdy, ridiculous and informative. 

Money Shot


Quick and unique, I loved this irreverent graphic novel about boning aliens in order to raise money for funding their science lab. Christine Ocampo invented a teleportation device and is dying to go to other planets and meet other life forms. She convinces her team that if they all become porn stars and film themselves going to other galaxies and making love with alien life forms they will raise enough funding so they sexcapades will turn into research. Fun, ridiculous, and unique. Give me more! 

Pimp my Airship


I'm excited to read another Indiana Author Award winner and this one was definitely unique. I loved that this book was set in Indianapolis, because even though it was futuristic and very steampunk I still was able to recognize many of the place names. I like how the author created new "history" for some of the places as well. A poet named Sleepy, finds himself caught up in the middle of a protest and suddenly he has a new hanger on named, (120 Degrees of) Knowledge Allah, and is wanted by every COP in the city. What in the heck happened? Across town in the wealthy and elite neighborhoods, Sophine Jefferson's father has just been murdered, she never cared much for politics, but suddenly she is swept in everything trying to avenge her father. Soon their paths will cross and Indianapolis will never be the same again. Unique and fun. 

Monday, September 27, 2021

The Boy in the Black Suit


Anything Jason Reynolds writes is gold and The Boy in the Black Suit is no different. Initially it was a little difficult for me to read because it opens up with Matt's mother dying and that hit really close to home for me - but in a way it made me closer to that character. Matt's mother has just died from breast cancer and now it's on him to start his senior year of high school. He's a few weeks late  starting so he loses his after school job he had lined up. He considers applying at his favorite greasy spoon, The Cluck Bucket, but is convinced by the local funeral home director, Mr. Ray, to work from him instead. It seems a little morbid working at the place that just helped bury his mom, but Matt finds it a little soothing. He gets comfort in seeing how other people grieve; he knows he isn't alone in his grief. Soon the funeral home is the best part of his day and he's started wearing a black suit every day to school. Then he meets Lovey, she's gone through more heartbreak than anyone he knows and he's drawn to her, she has such a light about her and she doesn't cry. He is at once intrigued and enamored. A wonderful story. 

Friday, September 24, 2021

Scribbles, Sorrows, and Russet Leather Boots


A quick, albeit depressing, look at Louisa May Alcott's unconventional life. Prior to reading this biography I knew nothing about Louisa's life. I had of course read Little Women many times and count it as a childhood favorite, but that is where my association with the author ended. It was interesting to learn about how unique her upbringing was, and how that shaped her into the woman who would do anything for her family, even at the detriment to her own health and ambitions. Dirt poor from a young age, Louisa knew what it was like to want more. She vowed that when she was older she would become a successful writer and no  one would ever want for anything again. She slowly started having short stories published and a few small books, but when Little Women hit the market, she finally found her fame and success. She modeled the March sisters after her and her three sisters and she of course was the spitfire, Jo. As she promised no one in her family lacked for anything and Louisa worked herself to the bone and to an early grave trying to maintain that promise. It's sad that she never really seemed to do much for herself. An enlightening read.  

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Orbiting Jupiter


This book borders between middle grade and teen fiction. It's got some heavy themes but is a very readable and emotional book. When Jack's parents tell him they are taking on a foster kid, he's excited. Then they follow up by saying that Joseph, the foster kid they are taking on, tried to kill a teacher, and even though he's only thirteen he has a daughter who he's never seen. They doesn't scare Jack though - he's excited to get to get to know Joseph. At first Joseph is quiet and rarely smiles. But as he becomes used to his new foster parents and the farm he starts to open  up a little at a time. He milks the cows, reads, and starts to excel in school. How can he possibly have such a big and bad reputation?!? A very quick read that will engage readers. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

The Kingdom


Sam and Remi Fargo, everyone's favorite treasure hunting couple, have been recruited by one of the wealthiest men in the world to help find one of his missing researcher. The researcher in question happens to be one of Sam and Remi's friends so they take the job and head out to Nepal. While there, they discover that their "employer" on this mission is not being entirely truthful and they may in fact have been recruited under nefarious circumstances. Sam and Remi Fargo find themselves trying to unravel several mysteries at once, who or what are they really searching for, and what will happen if they find it. Their latest adventure will take all over Tibet, Nepal, India, and China and the clues have never been more complex. Impossible puzzle boxes, evil twins, black market fossils, and gold coins make this an adventure they will never forget. 

Beautiful Country


A heartbreaking and emotional memoir about growing up in New York City as an undocumented child in poverty. Qian and her parents worked in different sweatshops and low paying jobs around Chinatown, anything to pay the bills. It was tough grueling work and her family was always hungry but at least they had each other. Her Ba Ba had fled China to escape being told what to say and how to feel; he sought the freedom that America promised. A year later Qian and her mother followed to Mei Guo (Beautiful Country) and learned that here they weren't wealthy and educated; here they were undocumented and dirt poor. Qian recalls learning English through picture books and PBS, the joys (and embarrassment) of free school lunches, "shopping" in their neighborhood trash piles, and becoming her mom's most trusted confidant. New York promised so much, but as a poverty stricken child it was hard to appreciate. As Qian grew older she began to see snippets of the glittering New York City as portrayed in the movies and on TV; the magnificent Christmas display at the Rockefeller display, the magical treasure found in the trash of wealthy neighborhoods, the subway, and the joys of the New York City Public Library.  A coming of age memoir that readers won't be able to stop thinking about.

Monday, September 20, 2021

The Night She Disappeared


A thriller that kept me guessing till the very end. Very twisty, dark, and unsettling. Sophie and her boyfriend move into the headmasters cottage at a boarding school where he just landed a job, and things are off on a great start. There is one weird thing though - a small sign with an arrow pointing in the dirt that says "dig here." When Sophie finally caves and digs it up - what she found is linked to a bizarre missing person case from one year prior. Nineteen year old Tallulah and her boyfriend went to the pub and then a friend's house and were never seen again. Her mother knows they would never run off - they have a baby at home, a baby they love! Told in alternating timelines - one from the year leading up to the disappearance and the other a year after the disappearance. So many dropped tid bits will have readers leaning one way and then the other. Impossible to put down!

Friday, September 17, 2021

Scythe

 


Holy cow! I've heard this book get hype, mostly from my teens, but I didn't realize how right they were until I finally plunged in! This book is fantastic! The concept is insanely unique, and the whole story is inventive and over the top amazing! In a world where humans have finally overcome disease, old age, war, and injuries there is nothing left to fear or learn. People can reset their clock and be younger, they can also reset their nannites to have higher metabolism, adjust hormones, depression, and other maladies. They can even be brought back to life from extreme accidents. There is nothing to fear, except for the scythe. Since humanity has overcome every obstacle, the only problem now is overpopulation. The scythe are tasked with random killings to keep the world in balance; they are a terrible necessity. Two teens are about to get real intimate with the dark side of humanity when a scythe has chosen them to become his apprentices. They must learn the best ways to "glean" (killing is a dirty word), and how to do so with humanity and humility. A wonderfully different book. My review will not do it justice!

Thursday, September 16, 2021

The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery


When Sarah Ashby returns to her hometown she is a broken woman. Her husband has recently died and she is seeking some stability in her life. Sarah thinks working in her family's grocery store and being near her mother and grandmother can provide that. Her mother is excited to see her daughter but is aghast that she wants to start over back in her hometown - she needs a fresh start and to get far away from the tiny town and failing grocery store. However, Sarah insists on working with her family in the Old Depot Grocery - it has so many good memories for her! Told in alternating storylines from the present day with Sarah to the mid-sixties with Glory Ann (grandmother) finding out she is pregnant and her fiancé is never coming back from Vietnam. The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery is really about the ups and downs of mother daughter relationships and the power that secrets can have when they are allowed to fester for to long. Inspiring and heartfelt. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Daughters of Sparta


Wonderful and frustrating - this well told story of two sisters separated by marriage will infuriate and entertain readers. It's a man's world and Helen and Klytemnestra are just pawns in lives that are out of their control. They could have it worse, but they are both princesses (soon to be queens) rather than slaves or servants so they have more freedom than any other women. Unfortunately, there is still a high cost they have no control over the actions that their powerful, and often times uncaring, husbands take. Claire Heywood does a masterful story spinning the "true" version of Helen of Troy's legend and brings to life her often overlooked sister. A fantastic retelling of the classic Greek myth. 

Monday, September 13, 2021

Lady Whistledown Strikes Back


While fun - I just wasn't as invested in this short story collection centering around Lady Whistledown and the mystery behind who stole Lady Neeley's ruby bracelet. Four different romance novellas all take place around the same two week span and some of the characters even interact with each other. Four different romance writers write in the style of Julia Quinn and give us four more romances in the Bridgerton world. The four romance novellas were ok, but nothing to write home about and I'm not sure if I will ever read it again. Not horrible - just not as good as the Bridgerton saga - I respect what these ladies were trying to do though.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

The Final Girl Support Group


Good gory fun - I am never disappointed in Grady Hendrix! I really liked the premise of this novel - a bunch of final girls meet monthly with their counselor to talk about their struggles. If you're wondering what a final girl is - it's the last girl standing after a massacre or mass murderer - usually the smartest and most resourceful girl who takes matters into her own hands and ends up killing the killer. After one of their members doesn't show for a meeting, Lynette Tarkington is on high alert. She is sure that someone is targeting the final girls. What's next is a wild ride with lost of twists and turns and wrong guesses. I especially enjoyed learning about the backstories of each of the final girls as the story progressed. Gory and great. 

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Such a Fun Age


I wanted to like this book more, but I genuinely couldn't stand some of the characters - which I get is the point of the book - so that's more on me than the author. Emira is a 25 year old who doesn't quite know what she wants in life. She's stuck babysitting and typing and trying to scrape up enough money to party with her girlfriends. When Mrs. Chamberlain, her white employer, calls her late one night for an emergency session, Emira leaves the club and agrees to take their toddler to the local grocery store to kill some time. While they are walking around the high end grocery store looking at all the nuts and fruits and things that toddlers love, a security guard stops them, convinced that Emira is kidnapping a white child. The whole uncomfortable experience is recorded on a do gooder's phone who wants Emira to release it and get the racist security fired. Told alternately between Emira and Mrs. Chamberlain - this story is about fresh chances, growing up, and "doing the right thing." It's also a piercing commentary of white saviors and duplicity. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

A Christmas in the Alps


Melody Carlson Christmas books are always short and sweet, with minimal conflict or drama. A Christmas in the Alps is the story of a young girl who decides to sell her grandmother's house and use the money to travel to the French Alps to look for treasure. After her grandmother's death, Simone Winthrop realizes she has no family left, she can have a fresh start. While she's cleaning out the house her grandmother left her, Simone's best friend discovers an un-opened letter to Simone from her great-grandmother. In it she mentions treasure and her hometown in the Alps. With nothing holding her back and at her friend's extreme encouragement, Simone takes a leap of faith and decides to spend Christmas in the Alps. What she doesn't expect to find is family, romance, and a new take on life - but her great grandmother really delivers on the "treasure" that can be found if one is really looking for it. Very sweet, would make a good Hallmark Christmas movie. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

The Further Observations of Lady Whistledown


A fun little romp that is a delightful addition to the Bridgerton universe. Although none of the stories center on the Bridgerton clan they do occasionally pop up at balls and of course the beloved (and reviled) Lady Whistledown is there to record everything. All four short stories take place over the same span of a few weeks during winter. The Thames has frozen over and no one can remember a better winter social season; Valentines Balls, skating parties, resplendent plays, and more are on the calendar. Four unsuspecting ladies and four rakes will find themselves thrown together this season for some hot steamy fun. Not bad, but not memorable - a nice fluffy read to sate the appetites of Bridgerton lovers. 

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Dark Waters


Super enjoyable! I absolutely love this middle grade series. It's genuinely dark and creepy and I adore the characters. The third installment in the Small Spaces series is set in the spring and they are about to face a whole new nightmare. The kids know that the smiling man is still out there, the only question is - when is he going to strike next? When the adults are gone, the power turns off and someone starts pounding on the door. Whoever it was, left a black dot and a cryptic note. It's up to Ollie, Coco, and Brian to get to the bottom of it before IT gets to the bottom of then. In the meantime they have a happy distraction, Coco's mom is going to take them on a boat tour of Lake Champlain for a news story about Vermont's very own "loch ness monster," Champ. Very quickly this trip turns creepy and they wonder if the black dot and cryptic note have something to do with a real monster or a mysterious island that just popped up. A nice little twist at the end of this one - I can't wait for the next installment! 

Last Letter from Your Lover


I'm not one for affairs, but this romance story still sucked me in. Alternating between the sixties and the early 2000s; The Last Letter From Your Lover, is about a love letter uncovered in an archive and the journey to discover the origins. The letter is asking his lover to run away with him and Ellie has to know how it turned out. Did she leave her husband and live happily ever after? Ellie is a journalist obsessed with knowing more because she is currently in the middle of an affair herself. Is there hope for her? The origins of the letter are more twisted then she even realized, the woman to whom the letter was addressed was involved in a car accident and forget everything. Her husband, the affair, all of it. That is until she uncovers some letters in a dresser drawer. She was having an affair!? Interesting and engaging; an overall enjoyable story, saving for the adultery. 

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Blood and Honey


I wanted to like this one so much more than I did. I thoroughly enjoyed the first one but reading the follow up was not enjoyable. It was a painful slog and I stopped caring what happened to any of the characters. Lou is losing her mind, Reid is an insufferable "gentleman," and out of her merry little group of friends you know exactly who is going to die in the end (it is painfully obvious). I read the first one in a day and this one took me a week. I just couldn't get into it. I'll eventually read the third one because I really did love the first one a ton - but I'm in no rush. In fact, I think I need a break from this series for a while.