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



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 fiancĂ© 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.