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 na├»ve 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.