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A place to read about books.

Surprise Me

Surprise Meby Sophie Kinsella

Hardcover, 432 pages
Published February 13th 2018 by Dial Press
4 Stars

 

My Review: I have read all of Sophie Kinsella’s books. I enjoy a light, fun chick-lit book and was expecting the same. It started out that way, but took a bit of a serious turn in the middle. This is a standalone book about Sylvie and Dan Winter. They are thirty-two and have to go for a physical for their health insurance. When they are told they will live to be over 100, they realize that means at least 68 more years together. This is a bit nerve wracking for them. How will they keep things interesting for that long. This is when Sylvie comes up with a great idea, Project Surprise Me. They both start planning surprises for one another and in typical Kinsella fashion, things go wrong. Sometimes it is humorous, sometimes embarrassing, but always surprising. That is, until things start to go wrong and Sylvie realizes Dan is keeping secrets that appear to be stressing him out. When she begins to snoop and eavesdrop, she comes to the conclusion that she does not know Dan as well as she thought. Is he having an affair? Is he gambling? Are they in debt? Is he borrowing money from her mother? What is the secret that seems to be pulling them apart.

Sylvie tells this story in first person so we never get to see what Dan is thinking or doing. As the story progresses, we see “Princess Sylvie” become responsible in her job and family life. She sees a side to Dan and her parents that she did not know was there. This was not the light and airy story I was expecting, but it was a satisfying read. If you are a Sophie Kinsella reader, you will see the somewhat scattered ditzy female you are used to, and in this case, she really grows and gets it right at the end. A good novel for a lover of chick-lit. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book via Netgalley.

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In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse

In the Footsteps of Crazy Horseby Joseph M. Marshall IIIJim Yellowhawk (Illustrations)

Hardcover, 176 pages
Published November 10th 2015 by Harry N. Abrams
4.5 Stars

My Review: Joseph M. Marshall III is a member of the Lakota nation and he has written other books about Crazy Horse, his childhood hero. This is his biography written for younger readers. Eleven year-old Jimmy McClean is 3/4 Lakota, but his 1/4 Scottish gave him his looks. He is teased about not being a real Lakota by older boys at school. When school gets out for the summer, Jimmy’s grandfather, Nyles High Eagle, invites him to go on a road trip. Jimmy loves spending time with his grandfather, so jumps at the chance. This is not just any ordinary trip, this trip will take them on a journey to follow in the footsteps of Crazy Horse, the Lakota hero and leader who lived in the 1800s. One of the first things Jimmy learns is that Crazy Horse was also teased as a boy because he had light coloring and brown hair. In fact, Crazy Horse’s name as a boy was Light Hair. The journey takes them through South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Montana. At each stop, Grandpa Nyles tells Jimmy how that area played an important part in the life of Crazy Horse and the Lakota. He explains what happened and why it happened. Jimmy learns that standing up for what you believe in is important and that strength comes from within.

For most readers, you have heard these stories from the perspective of the “Long Knives” or soldiers, but this story is from the perspective of the native people. I enjoyed learning about Crazy Horse and his struggles to defend the Lakota people from the encroachment of white settlers, gold miners and the US Army. One of the interesting things noted was the monument at the Battle of Little Big Horn. It states that General Custer and his battalion were defeated and there were no survivors, but Grandfather Nyles reminds Jimmy, there were survivors, the Lakota. We also learn about the strategy of the warriors that was successful at this battle. One thing I really liked was that Grandfather Nyles repeatedly stated that war should not be glorified and that all soldiers that died need to be remembered for their bravery and honour. The final stop on their trip is where Crazy Horse surrenders. The story explains why the Native People surrendered to the soldiers.

In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse is a well written story. The author explains that most of his information came from oral stories told by the Lakota as well as some other published works. The story is almost like a storyteller sharing this life of Crazy Horse with the reader. Jimmy and Grandpa Nyles are not fully part of the story except that they are the storyteller and receiver. It is an easy story to understand and follow and would make a great addition to a school or public library. A great middle grade story.

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Fight Back

Fight Backby Brent R. Sherrard

Paperback, 176 pages
Published September 1st 2015 by Lorimer
4 Stars

 

My Review: This is a high interest, low vocabulary YA book about a very sensitive issue. Tyler is physically and emotionally abused by his alcoholic father. His mother, fed up with her husband, took his younger sister and left, leaving 12 year old Tyler behind. When he is beaten that night by his dad, he finally tells a teacher what is happening. He is moved into a group home that night and then goes to live with his paternal grandmother. He is angry, dislikes everyone, hates school and wants to be left alone. When he makes a really stupid mistake, he is arrested and his grandmother no longer wants him to live with her. Figuring he is heading off to jail, he is offered a lifeline. He’s taken in by the Conways and they both show love and acceptance – but that’s not enough – it’s when Wayne Conway shows him how to channel and control his anger by learning to box that he begins to think he can be good at something. He begins running, lifting weights, learning the moves, and the thinking behind it that help him develop some self-respect. As he begins to feel better he has other successes in his life. A great story to show how and why some people may act the way they do. It also shows how finding self-respect and love from others can save someone from a life of self-destruction. A great book for any high school library and especially for those reluctant readers. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book via netgalley.

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The Ice Sea Pirates

The Ice Sea Piratesby Frida Nilsson

Hardcover, 359 pages
Published August 1st 2017 by Gecko Press (first published September 1st 2015)
Originally written in Swedish
4 Stars

 

My Review: Everyone knows about the evil Captain Whitehead and his ship the Snow Raven. They kidnap children and take them to Whitehead’s island to work in his diamond mine. On the island of Bluesay, Mikki and Siri are out searching for snowberries. Siri sends Mikki off by herself to hunt and she is snatched by the pirated. Siri wants to go after her, but no one from the village will help. She decides that she will go alone. She leaves her father sleeping and sneaks onto the last ship leaving for Segelen. Her journey is full of danger and magic. She meets mean pirates, a merchild and his mother, a bogle bird and white wolves. She gets captured and ends up working in the mines with her sister and other children. Along the way she discovers how mean and evil humans can be. She also discovers that there is more to Captain Whitehead that the stories she has heard.

This is a story of adventure, hope, determination, cruelty and courage. This is a great story for older readers (grade 5 and up) as they read about the cruelty humans can be capable of to animals and each other. The other thing to discuss is when someone perpetrates evil, but tries to justify it. Siri is brave, loyal, willing to make sacrifices, smart, persevering and has an amazing respect of all life. She remains optimistic even with all the cruelty and harshness of the world that she had to face. The story was well written with a great story, but it was a bit long. I recommend this book for school and class libraries. I think it would make a great read aloud for a middle grades classroom with a lot of themes for discussion. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book via Netgalley.

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The Weekenders

The Weekendersby Mary Kay Andrews

Hardcover, 464 pages
Published May 17th 2016 by St. Martin’s Press
3.5 Stars

 

My Review: I am not sure how to classify this book. I guess it is chick-lit, but it is also family drama as well as a murder mystery. Riley Griggs has her life turned upside down. In the past year her daughter was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes and she and her husband are getting a divorce. She has sold her house as she knows finances are tough, but she has no idea. When she and her daughter Maggy arrive at the Summer Home, it is locked up tight with a foreclosure notice on the door. That is just the tip of the iceburg. When her husband, Wendell, does not show up on Belle Isle as promised, she assumes he is ducking his responsibilities once again. When he does not answer Maggy’s calls or texts, they grow a bit concerned. When Wendell’s body is found in the marina and it is determined that he was murdered, the story gets interesting. Who killed him and why? What does Riley’s family have to do with everything? Who else was involved in the bad investments? Was Wendell having an affair?

We meet Riley’s family, her mother Evelyn, her Aunt Roo, and her brother Billy. Billy is married to Scott and has always been a bit of an outsider. He is a musician and an alcoholic. The family is basically living off trust funds that were left by Riley’s father and grandfather. When she finds out that she is broke, she is not sure what to do. Maggy is a bit much even with what she is going through. She says some terrible things to her mother that should not have been tolerated, I don’t care if her father just died. Thankfully, she changes by the end of the story. Billy is a typical alcoholic some of the time. He knows it, but doesn’t seem to have the willpower to end it. He is usually pretty good around his niece, but as the story progresses, he seems to not care anymore. He also has a huge secret. Nate Milas, an old friend of Riley’s seems to be a saint. He is patient and understanding and puts up with a lot of crap from Riley and Maggy. I don’t know how he does it, but seems to win the family over, even though he did not come from “old money”. This was one of the most dysfunctional families I have read about in a long time. I was glad to see the bright spots in their relationships. Riley’s friend Parrish is the bright light. She did not want to get involved in Riley’s schemes, but usually was convinced. She stuck by her side like a loyal friend should and pulled her butt out of the fire a few times.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. The beginning was a bit slow for me, but once I got into it, I flew through it, if only to find out who actually killed Wendell and why. If you enjoy family drama geared to women, this is a book for you.

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Another One Bites the Crust (A Bakeshop Mystery #7)

Another One Bites the Crust (A Bakeshop Mystery #7)by Ellie Alexander

Mass Market Paperback, 313 pages
Published January 2nd 2018 by St. Martin’s Press
4.5 Stars

 

My Review: Juliet “Jules” Capshaw is back again, bringing with her the wonderful Torte staff and the colorful characters of Ashland, Oregon. In the seventh book in “A Bakeshop Mystery” series, Jules once again showcases her baking skills as well as her sleuthing ones. The Shakespeare Festival is ready to open for the season and the eccentric and over the top Lance wants Jules to create mouth watering desserts from the Shakespeare period. He is trying to show everyone that he can throw the best party to showcase OSF, after the board had their gala at the Merry Windsor on the cheap. He is sure “The Board” wants to fire him. He is also feuding with the leading man in Antony and Cleopatra, who he is sure is behind the Board’s apparent feelings. When “Antony” ends up dead and Lance is the one to find the body, the first time, he is arrested for the murder. The Professor excuses himself due to his friendship with Lance, and brings in a detective from the nearby town. Suffice it to say, Lance wants Jules to investigate and get him off the hook.

I really like Jules as the protaganist in these books. Not only is she a strong character but she is smart, caring, compassionate and an excellent chef and baker. She is dealing with a lot in this story. Her mom is remarrying, but she still feels the loss of her father and her memories are strong and heart wrenching in this book. She is still working on renovations to Torte with her mother and now her friend has been arrested. The other characters that work at Torte also had their own smaller storylines and it was nice to see a bit more of them in other situations. Overall, this was a good addition to this series with a surprising ending that is sure to bring a new dimension to this series. I recommend this book to any cozy mystery lovers. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book via Netgalley.

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Stowed Away (A Maine Clambake Mystery #6)

Stowed Away (A Maine Clambake Mystery, #6)by Barbara Ross

Paperback, 280 pages
Published December 26th 2017 by Kensington Publishing Corporation
4.5 Stars

 

My Review: I have really enjoyed all the books in this series, and Barbara Ross has penned another winner. I loved that this book went back to Busman’s Harbor, Maine. It’s June and the Snowden Family Clambake on Morrow Island is getting ready to open for summer season. When Julia’s mother got her share of the sale of an antique piece of jewellery, she is considering either renovation or restoring Windsholme, the family home that is on the island. Quentin Tupper brings in Architect Wyatt Jayne to look it over and estimate the costs to renovate. A yacht belonging to billionaire recluse, Geoffrey Bower has anchored in the marina and it seems that Wyatt is in a relationship with the owner. Once again, there is a murder and Julia is asked to help investigate to clear certain people.

The usual characters are once again around including the rest of the family, Chris (Julia’s boyfriend), the police investigators that we have grown to know and love and some of the local townfolk. It makes me feel like I have gone home again. This story had Julia, Chris and Quentin opening up and sharing some secrets that give us more information about their backgrounds and how that has affected who they have become. This was a good story that had a lot of surprises that I never would have predicted. I did figure out who the murderer was before the end of the book, but not much before. This was a well plotted story with great pacing and characters. I recommend this story to any and all cozy mystery lovers. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book via Netgalley. Continue reading “Stowed Away (A Maine Clambake Mystery #6)”

Cold as Ice (The Country Club Murders #6)

Cold as Iceby Julie Mulhern

Kindle, Paperback, 268 pages
Published October 17th 2017
4.5 Stars

 

My Review: I love this series that takes place in the 70s. If is so wonderful to see families spend time together without cell phones, video games etc. taking the place of face to face communication. Once again, Ellison and her daughter Grace go back and forth from eye rolling to hugs. Having a sixteen year old daughter brings a lot of angst into her life. When Grace goes out to dinner with handsome detective Anarchy Jones, Grace allows Trip, her newest beau and what he things is god’s gift to women, over with a few friends. It quickly turns into a wild party with kids spilling onto the lawn and in every room in the house. When Grace turns Trip down, he finds Dawn, his old girlfriend, whom he uses for what he wants. When the police are called, Ellison and Anarchy head to the house where Ellison is shocked to see what is going on. She hopes this will wise up her lovely daughter to Trip, but she does not want to forbid their relationship. Fast forward to Ellison finding Trip’s mother dead a few days later at the Country Club. Add in some financial worries, embezzling, the usual partying and drinking of the Country Club set, and you are in for a delightful story.

Ellison has this unique ability to stumble or be in the immediate area when dead bodies are found, and this story has her find two. She is a pretty together lady most of the time. She is taking care of her daughter, trying to date and decide who to date, is an accomplished artist and in this book gets involved in a situation at the bank that was left to her daughter by her dead ex-husband. She has her moments with “Mr. Coffee” her sounding board, but is quite a strong woman. I admire her guts, brains and even her parenting skills. Grace is your typical sixteen year old. She thinks her mother is old fashioned and doesn’t really know what it is like to be a teenager. Between rolling her eyes and slamming doors, she really is listening to what her mother says and makes pretty good decisions for the the most part. The typical first love scenario where her heart is broken then miraculously healed, only to be broken again is well handled. I love how she deals with the attempted suicide of a classmate. Anarchy is wonderful. He cares for Ellison and deals with her foibles well. He worries about her investigating crimes and that she will be injured. He does get frustrated when he feels she is interfering with his investigation though. I really want these two to get together. I think they are real good for each other. This was quick read, I didn’t want to go to bed last night until I finished. This is a mystery with a lot of humor and family drama thrown in for good measure. Thanksgiving Dinner will have you laughing and praying that you never have one like it. This is a wonderful addition to the series and if you are a cozy mystery lover, especially where there is also humor, you will love this one. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book via Netgalley.

Continue reading “Cold as Ice (The Country Club Murders #6)”

Bible Story Books by Paul and Delores Gully

I read two books in this Bible Story series and really loved them.

A Giant Headache: The Story of David and GoliathA Giant Headache: The Story of David and Goliath

by Paul Gully (Illustrator)Delores Gully (Illustrator)

Hardcover, 32 pages
Expected publication: March 1st 2018 by Broadstreet Publishing Group, LLC
5 Stars

A wonderful new look at the story of David and Goliath. The illustrations are well done, very fun to look at and would definitely appeal to youngsters. The text is rhyming and easy to understand, just right for little ones to enjoy. This is a well adapted Bible story. Whether you are a Christian or not, this story can still be enjoyed showing how David stood up for his beliefs and how he faced adversity. This is one I will add to the list of books for my grandson as well as our church and Sunday school library. The publisher generously provided me a copy of this book via Netgalley.

The Big Flood: The Story of Noah and the ArkThe Big Flood: The Story of Noah and the Ark

by Paul Gully (Illustrator)Delores Gully (Illustrator)

Hardcover, 32 pages
Expected publication: March 1st 2018 by Broadstreet Publishing Group, LLC
5 Stars

My Review: A wonderful new look at the story of Noah and the Ark. The illustrations are well done, very fun to look at and would definitely appeal to youngsters. The text is rhyming and easy to understand, just right for little ones to enjoy. This is a well adapted Bible story. I actually learned a few new facts from this story such as it took 50 years to build the ark. Besides trusting God, the story also shows perseverance and working together. This is one I will add to the list of books for my grandson as well as our church and Sunday school library. The publisher generously provided me a copy of this book via Netgalley.

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