Monday, December 30, 2019

Guts by Raina Telgemeier

This middle grade graphic novel delves into the authors true-life issues with anxiety.  Waking up with an upset stomach doesn't seem strange when Raina's mom has one as well.  But Raina soon discovers that the ebb and flow of school drama might be the cause of her constant stomach troubles.  She finds herself constantly worrying about making and losing friends, keeping up with school work and the terrible possibility of throwing up at school!  Telgemeier is honest and inspirational as she sheds light on dealing with anxiety, finding meaningful coping mechanisms and removing the stigma of therapy.  Guts will appeal to middle grade readers who enjoy the graphic novel format and can identify with the challenges of dealing with anxiety.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

I'm a big fan of film noir, and one of my favorites is The Big Sleep. The Humphrey Bogart/Lauren Bacall film has everything you would want from a 1940-50s detective movie. When I saw that the library got in a new copy of the original book, I had to dive in and read the origins of the movie. Some of the differences were a bit eye-opening, proving that many times the book and the movie tend to tell two different stories.
Raymond Chandler published The Big Sleep in 1939, introducing the world to the reoccurring character of private detective Philip Marlowe. Marlowe wisecracks his way through the book with all of the slang of 1939, some of which is not as smooth in today's PC world as it was in the pre-war days. There are some harsh attitudes toward women and homosexuals voiced through the comments of Marlowe. In addition, the book also works its way through the dark alleys of pornography production and distribution.
If you are looking for the smoldering love story that Bogart and Bacall brought to their movie portrayals, you are not going to find that in Chandler's original The Big Sleep. Instead of one problem rich sister as seen in the movie, both sisters are on the rotten side in the book, and Marlowe falls for neither one of them. With love being out of the picture in the book, the plot varies several time as you read through the written work when comparing it to the movie. The book is far more dark and cynical.
Chandler is a master of description, giving detailed information on both the characters and story locations. In that sense The Big Sleep is a very entertaining read. It is also fun to compare the book to the movie. The work is dated at bit, but if you can put yourself into a 1939 state of mind, the pages fly by.

Monday, December 16, 2019

I Miss You When I Blink: Essays by Mary Laura Philpott

Having a good career, spouse, house and kids, Philpott, a type A achiever, found herself lost in the pressures of modern adulthood. Drawing from her own life experiences, the author recalls her successes and challenges in this memoir-in-essays on midlife conundrums. She finally embraces change and accepts her real and flawed self. It is an honest and funny read.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz

     The story begins with a little girl of five experiencing the death of her mother and little sister, and the disappearance of her older brother at the hands of the Shawnee. She is left with her preacher father. He does send her East for a couple of years to help in her aunt's seamstress shop.
     When she returns to the cabin she shares with her father, she is a beautiful young woman. Now she finds that her pa is in failing health, and every man around wants to court her. Unfortunately not many of the men are very appealing  to Morrow. She is fearful and worried much of the time because of the unrest between the settlers, the soldiers, and the Indians. There is a particular young half-breed that she keeps crossing paths with. Can she let go of her past and forgive those who have wronged her? Will she choose to marry someone, just to stop other unwanted advances and so her pa can see her settled?
     Morrow faces much turmoil and really doesn't know what the future holds for her. The telling is in the rest of the story when you find out the choices she makes, and the adventures that await her.

Monday, December 2, 2019

The Soloist: A Lost Dream, An Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music by Steve Lopez

A newspaper columnist and a homeless man meet on Los Angeles' Skid Row. The journalist, Steve Lopez, is struck by the man's beautiful playing on an old 2 stringed violin.  When Lopez finds out this man, Nathaniel Ayers, attended Julliard he is shocked. Why would this extremely talented man be homeless lugging around his belongings?  A friendship develops between the two men and  Lopez attempts to get this man off the street.  Mental illness has gripped Nathaniel and he can be very hard to deal with, sometimes kind and gentle, sometimes in a rage. The stories the reporter writes in the Los Angeles Times bring awareness to the issue of homelessness. Slow successes do occur in helping this brilliant musician but disappointments are frequent.  This book is a biography and a movie has been made.  Both the book and movie are engaging, showing compassion and friendship which affect the two men positively.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson

Just prior to Halloween I was looking for something spooky, something scary to help ring in the season. Arriving in our new collection was the book The Saturday Night Ghost Club (SNGC) by Craig Davidson. The book has ghosts and fires on the cover and certainly looked to be able to meet my expectations. It also had a good word of mouth, so I checked it out.
What I got was proof of the old maxim "you can't judge a book by its cover" as SNGC was not a horror story full of ghouls and goblins, but a book dealing with a coming of age story and a story of things that haunt people from their pasts.
The main character of the the book is 12-year-old Jake Baker, a resident of a decaying Niagara Falls of the 1980s. Jake looks back from his present day position as a brain surgeon and reminisces about his awkward pre-teen years, the friends he made, and the issues he had to learn about his own family's past.
Davidson does great job of describing both people and places. You get to know the characters and learn what makes them tick. He also does a masterful job of describing the surroundings, the decay and and the situations that took them to that point.
SNGC makes you think - think about summer's past, friends you had, and possibly about what you might have missed when it comes to the people you knew back when, and, what you did not know about them. The Saturday Night Ghost Club points out that there are ghosts that haunt people for many reasons, but they aren't necessarily the type that jump out and say "boo"!

Sunday, November 17, 2019

The Leaving by Tara Altebrando

This young adult thriller begins when five teens find themselves suddenly abandoned on a playground with no recollection of where they’ve been or what happened to them.  They are about to learn that eleven years ago, on the first day of kindergarten, six of them were taken.  Now they are forced to struggle with their memory loss as they try to fit back into unfamiliar families.  Everyone wants answers… especially the sister of the one who didn’t return.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

In Depression era Minnesota, 12 yr old Odie O'Bannon runs away from the Lincoln Indian Training School, along with his brother Albert, their friend Mose, and newly orphaned Emmy.  They set out in a canoe down the Gilead river, heading for the Mississippi and St. Louis, hoping to find a place to call home.

Along the way, they meet many memorable people -- the "pig-scarer" farmer, a traveling revival show, residents of a Hooverville, and others.  All this time, they are being chased by the superintendent of the Lincoln School.  Odie eventually makes it so St. Louis, only to find out that his "Home" there wasn't what he hoped for.  But all of the Vagabonds do find home in time.

This is a beautifully written book with a wonderful story.  I highly, highly recommend it!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Public DVD review

A sensitive and enlightening look at the problem of the homeless in regards to public libraries. This movie tells the story of a librarian and his work at the Cincinnati Public Library. In a particularly long cold snap the homeless are lined up at the door waiting to get in at the moment of opening. They use the bathrooms to wash and groom themselves. They stay the day.They are required to leave at closing because the library is not a shelter equipped for overnight stays. Still, the main character feels the need to help these unfortunate ones, especially because of his own background and his desire to serve the public. One cold night he helps them to stay n the library with an act of civil disobedience. A touching story of someone just trying to help. "I can see clearly now, the rain has gone."

Thursday, October 24, 2019

The American Agent by Jacqueline Winspear

I had forgotten how much I enjoyed Jacqueline Winspear's previous Maisie Dobbs mystery, To Die But Once, until I read her latest work, The American Agent. Set in England during The Blitz of 1940, The American Agent follows Dobbs, a self-taught private detective. She works to solve the murder of an American war correspondent who met her demise just shortly after meeting Maisie, who was on ambulance duty during a bombing raid on London.
Winspear does a thorough job of working Maisie through all of the potential suspects and leading the reader through a variety of possibilities when it comes to the identity of the murderer; but it is with her historical fiction work where Winspear shines.
Maisie has several friends involved in various aspects of the war effort, as well as in Scotland Yard. She interacts with them in a variety of locations that highlight what it was like in the days of wartime Britain. You encounter displaced people, bombing raids, and propaganda efforts that were all a part of 1940 life. In fact, Maisie is trying to adopt a young girl whose mother passed away after she gave up her daughter and sent her to safety outside of London proper. There are many twists that revolve around the war and the people involved, and that's what I particularly like about Winspear's books.
The other thing I like about the Maisie Dobbs series is I think you can start with any volume and get caught up. The American Agent is book 15, and I actually started the series with number 14. I have since gone back and read 11-13, all of which I have found to be good reads.

Someone We Know by Shari Lapena

Lapena’s latest thriller opens with a gruesome murder. The quiet upstate New York suburb is shaken when their new resident Amanda Pierce goes missing… Did her husband Robert do it? It could also be any of the neighbors she was having affairs with. Paul and Olivia’s teenage son Raleigh has been breaking into houses to hack into the owners’ computers. Does he know secrets he is not telling? How about Olivia’s best friend Glenda and her husband Keith or their son Adam and other suspects? Lapena gives a few false leads leaving us guessing. The surprise twist towards the end was unexpected. It is a fast read “whodunit.”

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Heading for Home: My Journey from Little League to Hollywood! by Kent Stock with Ken Fuson

Need a quick, good story to read?  Look no further than Heading for Home: My Journey from Little League to Hollywood! This was just a good story.  Stock speaks of his growing up, his parents and grandparents growing up and how it all shaped their lives.  You can appreciate the hard work of Kent, his parents and others in the story. 
I grew up in a small community like Norway where the school was everything.  The town was a ghost town on Friday nights during football and basketball seasons and in later years when my school was an up and coming baseball powerhouse, the towns caught baseball fever and held on!  In 1997 when the girl’s basketball team played in the first round of the State tourney, the volunteer ambulance crew had to draw names out of hat as to who would stay back in town of there was an emergency.  this isn't something you find in larger communities.  Like Norway when the high school was moved to the other town after consolidation of three small districts, the whole town felt it and still does today.  
Take a night or two to read this uplifting book about Iowa Nice.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Butterfly Palace by Colleen Coble

In 1904 Lilly Dobson is in mourning for her mother and abandoned by the man she loves.  Moving to Texas she is hired for a position as a maid in a grand mansion and works for a spoiled young woman. Shocked to find her former boyfriend in this town she learns he is hiding his identity. There is a murderer in this town killing young women.  Who else is going to be killed?  How can she stay safe and know who is hiding unlawful deeds in this elegant society?  There are strange noises in the mansion and secret tunnels are found. Her master's exotic butterfly collection distresses her and causes an eeriness in this home. A web of secrecy, conspiracy, and some religious undertones make this novel interesting and in anticipation of the solving of different plots in the story.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

This is a great historical fiction novel spanning several generations of a Korean family.  It begins in the 1930s with Sunja, the beloved daughter of a poor family whose unplanned pregnancy threatens their honor.  A minister who stays at their boardinghouse offers to marry Sunja and take her with him to his new life in Japan.  In Japan, the family faces harsh discrimination and poverty.

Sunja's children, Noa and Mozasu, both end up working in the pachinko business, which is very popular in Japan, but also has a seedy reputation.  (Perhaps like casinos here?)  They take very different paths in life, and end up in very different places.  The story ends in the 1980s with Solomon, Sunja's grandson, who is navigating what it means to be a second generation Korean in Japan.

I found this book to be very readable, so don't let its nearly 500 pages keep you away.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Magnolia Table by Joanna Gaines

     There are lots of good cook books and recipe books at our library. One of my favorites is Magnolia Table. While Chip and Joanna Gaines first became well known for fixing up houses, they have now branched out into several other avenues; having books published being one.
     I have actually made several of the recipes in this book over the past year and have even repeated a couple that we really liked. We loved the After-School Banana Bread (which are more like banana bars) and the Baked Bruschetta with tomato, basil, and cheese (nice when you have a lot of tomatoes and basil!)
     Two other things I like about this particular book are Joanna's personal comments before a recipe and the tips she offers after the recipes. The pictures of her family working on the home place throughout the book are so charming, and help give the whole publication a country and family feel. Loved it!

Friday, September 6, 2019

Chances Are... by Richard Russo

Lincoln, Teddy, and Mickey are friends who met when they all worked cooking at a sorority during college in the late 1960s.  Fast forward to 2015, and they are middle aged men, meeting for the weekend at Lincoln's vacation home on Martha's Vineyard.

While there, of course the memory of their mutual college friend Jacy surfaces.  Jacy disappeared in 1971, after the 4 friends had spend Memorial Day weekend at that house, and her memory has haunted them ever since.  Lincoln goes digging at the local newspaper, and bits of information begin to surface.

I love Russo's writing style, and the characters he creates.  Eventually, we do find out what happened to Jacy.  If you liked Empire Falls, check out Chances Are...!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise By Dan Gemeinhart

Sometimes, life can be heartbreaking and tragic but how you deal with it can make all the difference.  After Coyote loses her mom and two sisters in a car accident, her and her father, Rodeo, travel across country in a refurbished school bus.  After 5 years on the road Coyote learns that the beloved park in her town is being demolished.  The very same park that holds the memory box Coyote buried with her mom and sisters.  Desperate to save the park, Coyote hatches a plan to trick her dad into driving 3,600 miles back home without him realizing!  Along the way they attract colorful characters with stories of their own.  Coyote discovers the journey home brings her closer to her past.  This is a heartfelt book with a genuine voice.  Appeals to 3-6th grade audience.


Saturday, August 24, 2019

Willie Nelson The Complete Liberty Recordings

In our library's CD selection, under the category of country music, rests a true gem. It is a 2-CD set featuring the Liberty Records recordings of Willie Nelson. There are 45 tracks recorded between 1962 and 1964. This means that these do not belong to the pony-tail-wearing, bong-smoking, country outlaw that most people think of when they think of Willie Nelson today. These belong to the clean-shaven, close-cropped, suit-wearing Willie that was trying to carve out his niche in the Nashville music scene.
What you will find in these 45 songs is Nelson's classic behind-the-beat or off-center singing style at the forefront. For some it is off-putting, but for many it is magic. Many songs in this collection have a jazz or blues groove to them and Nelson's singing style helps them jump out of the speakers. There are many classic country songs as well, leaning to the coutrypolitan sounds that were coming out of studios in the 1960s. These songs also contain a very strong country shuffle rhythm that was predominant in Nashville at that time.
These two CDs show the writing powerhouse that was Willie Nelson. Songs like "Crazy", 'Hello Walls" and "Night Life" may have been bigger hits for other artists, but they would not have existed at all if it weren't for Nelson. 
I would like to issue one warning - no matter how good of a mood you are in when you listen to these tracks, they are a bit of a downer. They are that strong. You will almost feel as blue, and as lost, as the characters in Nelson's songs. To me, that is a good thing, further illustrating the power and ability of Willie Nelson during a time when stardom wasn't coming all that easy for him.

Monday, August 12, 2019

The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick

Meet Martha Storm, a volunteer librarian who learns to say "no" and stand up for herself.  The novel was slow at first; it has stories within the main story.  However, it picks up as Martha's search for truth about her beloved grandmother Zelda and the fairy tale book she has published and dedicated to her.  Along the way, Martha finds her identity, new friendships and a better understanding of herself and her family.  It is gratifying to see her transformation.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

That Good Night by Sunita Puri

Puri's memoir chronicles her decision to become a doctor, then specialize in the relatively new field of palliative care medicine.  Puri highlights the tension between general medicine's impulse to preserve life at all costs, and palliative care's focus on the quality of whatever length of life remains.

The book recounts many conversations that she has had with doctors, patients and family members.  Her (and her mentor's) skills at navigating these conversations is, for the most part, masterful.  The questions they ask, such as "What does a good day look like for you?", or "What does your loved one "getting well" look like to you?" are thought provoking. The answers are very different depending on the person.

This book gives a good over view of the field of palliative care medicine, as well as being an interesting personal story of family and career.  It made me start to consider what my answers might be, if a traumatic situation should arise.

Monday, July 29, 2019

The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly by Matt McCarthy

A doctor recalls his first year as an intern focusing on his inexperience and interactions with patients and his superiors. With humor this memoir recalls his journey from ineptitude and humbling situations to competence.  The medical aspects of serious health conditions he is involved in are interesting and his relationship with Barney, a man living at the hospital waiting for a new heart is uplifting. Experiencing his own heath crisis and side effects of the medicines he must take, he pushes through and keeps training. I liked this book and appreciated this doctor's journey.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Bad Guys Series By Aaron Blabey

You may think wolves, sharks, piranhas, and snakes seem like "bad guys", but they are out to change their image!  For their first mission, Mr. Wolf hatches a plan to free 200 dogs from a Maximum Security Dog Pound.  Will it be that easy to become good guys?  This is the first book of an 11 book series, suitable for beginning chapter book readers.  It is full of wacky illustrations and silly humor.  Check out The Bad Guys series and see if they can salvage their reputations by tickling your funny bone : ). 

Monday, July 15, 2019

The Easy Gluten-Free Cookbook by Lindsay Garza

Along with the basics about the gluten-free diet, and other helpful tips throughout, this book includes a variety of gluten-free recipes that use readily available ingredients and are simple to make. Many of the recipes are for traditional classics like chili, lasagna, potato salad, and chocolate cake. They are each labeled as “5-Ingredient”, “One-Pan” “One-Pot”, “Sheet-Pan”, or “30-Minute” (many with more than one label), and there is a handy index of the recipes by these categories at the end of the book. If the recipes are also vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free, and/or nut-free, this is noted too. Although I don’t typically eat only gluten-free foods, I really enjoyed browsing through this cookbook, and will likely add several of the recipes to my collection.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Send Down the Rain by Charles Martin

     This story of a Vietnam War veteran is a lot about his life before and after serving as a soldier. Having their Dad leave them at an impressionable age, Joseph and his brother are deeply affected by his desertion. They each cope in their own way, going in different directions. Joseph is close to his brother, but is deceived by him more than once throughout the book.
     It is odd to him that he is so successful at things he tried after serving his country. Mostly he was just trying to cope with serious thoughts of desperation, and in so doing.....amassed a lot of money, which he used to help other people in desperate situations.
     It isn't until the end that you realize what a truly great sacrifice Joseph has made his whole life. I really enjoyed this story and think this author is fun to read because he often uses male protagonists.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Last Bus to Wisdom by Ivan Doig

11 year old Donal lives with his grandma on the Double W ranch in Montana.  When she has to have an operation, she sends Donal across the country to stay with his great-aunt and uncle, whom he doesn't know, in Wisconsin for the summer.  Riding the dog bus (Greyhound to you and me!), Donal meets all sorts of interesting people, who he tries to get to sign his autograph book.
Once there, Donal does his best to fit in, but it's tough and he makes mistakes.  One of my favorites is his description of a certain Montana festival to his aunt's bridge group.  His aunt finally has had enough, and decides to send Donal back to Montana before the end of the summer.  But who does Donal discover at the bus station?  His uncle, Herman the German, who has decided to go along for the ride.  We learn more about Herman along the way, and the characters that they meet during the ride are memorable.  They do indeed, take the last bus to Wisdom, and their story comes to a satisfying conclusion.

This is the first book Iv'e read by Ivan Doig, and it won't be the last!

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Instant Family DVD with Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne

     Pete and Ellie are searching for more in their lives after having established careers and achieving a certain amount of success.  Should they start a family? So begins this funny and loving movie.
     Their adventure into foster care is fraught with problems and entanglements. Just when it seems things are going okay, a new disaster sets in. This movie is inspired by a true story and I really liked it. I think the whole family would enjoy it—however, it is rated PG13.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon

84-year-old Florence has fallen in her apartment at Cherry Tree nursing home.  While waiting for the paramedics, her thoughts go to her best friend Elsie and the buried secrets that may surface.  Relying on her fragile memories, Flo is determined to find out if the new resident is who he claims to be…  Having been a psychiatrist, Joanna Cannon explores dementia and the bonds of friendship.  The story is filled with humor, mysteries and tenderness.

Monday, June 3, 2019

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

I've enjoyed every one of Lisa See's books that I've read, and this one is no exception.  "The Island of Sea Women" tells the story of the women divers on the Korean island of Jeju.  It follows the lives of Young-sook and Mi-ja, best friends who come from very different backgrounds.  It begins in the 1930s, under Japanese occupation, and follows them through WWII and the Korean war, into modern times.  Their friendship is tested and strained through events that no one could have foreseen, and only much later in their lives is the entire story understood.

I also learned about the matri-focal culture of the haenyeo, the women divers, which I had never heard of.  While they still needed sons to perform ancestor worship, and in modern times would never be head of the Fishing Association (a man would), the Jeju divers were strong women who did hard labor diving in the sea while the men took care of the children.  Women were used to making their own decisions, making money, and being in charge.

I thought this was one of See's most interesting book, and highly recommend it!

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Lady Maybe by Julie Klassen

A story of mistaken identity and secrets abound in this story set in 1819 England. After a carriage accident while moving with a wealthy couple, Hannah, a ladies companion, is recovering.  House staff and others believe she is Lady Mayfield, her employer. She continues with the guise and takes over Lady Mayfields's position. Hannah is believed to be dead instead of Lady Mayfield.  This book contains mystery, history, and romance. and some danger. Hannah keeps meaning to reveal herself but for a multitude of reasons (or excuses) the deception continues. I really enjoyed this Regency novel with it's plot twists and historical details.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Sacred Duty: A Soldier's Tour at Arlington National Cemetery by Tom Cotton

This book describes Tom Cotton’s time with the 3rd U.S Infantry regiment, nicknamed the “Old Guard.”  Now a United States Senator, Cotton’s mission at Arlington National Cemetery included exacting military funerals, being prepared for ceremonial duties such as reviews by President Donald Trump and state guests, and, for a select few, the honor of guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. As Cotton explains, the Old Guard’s standard, their requirement, is perfection.  Pick up this book and better understand how our military honors the dead at Arlington.  Bottom line:  Don’t miss it.

Monday, May 20, 2019

American Princess by Stephanie Marie Thornton

I enjoyed this novel about the life of Theodore Roosevelt’s eldest child Alice. Bold and brash, Alice Roosevelt lived life on her own terms no matter what the cost. Known as “America’s Princess” when her father was president, Alice went on to marry a prominent congressman and was a savvy political activist throughout her whole life, which spanned the majority of the 20th century.

I thought the author did a good job of weaving the various historical figures and world events throughout the story too. I was completely absorbed by the era depicted in the book, and often paused to research many of the characters and events. I would recommend this novel to any historical fiction fan.

The Beantown Girls by Jane Healey

True confession of a reader of non-fiction - I decided to read The Beantown Girls as a source to find other works on the subject of this book. I am discovering that many works of historical fiction are well documented and researched, and, open doors into non-fiction.  I was not disappointed in this book as author Jane Healey put together an entertaining work on this chapter of our country's World War II history.
So what is The Beantown Girls about? It is about the exploits of Red Cross Clubmobile Girls and how they served our nation during the war. Probably more familiar to some by the less-than-respectful name of "Donut Dollies" these women drove large buses and service vans to bring coffee, donuts, candy and a piece of "back home" to our troops serving overseas.
Main character Fiona, and her friends Viviana and Dottie (all from Boston, thus the title) join up to become Clubmobile Girls. Fiona hopes that opening this chapter of her life will help her find out what happened to her fiance who was shot down on a bombing mission over Europe. She talks her two friends into joining her.
The book follows these women through training and eventually into Europe in 1944 and 45. Healey uses experiences of actual Clubmobile Girls to flesh out the experiences of our main characters. What happens to them actually happened to women working for the Red Cross in Europe during the war. This is a very much unknown part of our history. Unless you had a Clubmobile Girl in the family you may have never heard of them.
Healey writes with great humor and emotion in The Beantown Girls, and I think you find it very engaging. Written from the Fiona's viewpoint, the story has many characters the weave in and out of the action and keeps you turning pages until the end.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

I loved this book! Do you believe in fate? Do things happen coincidentally, or is it providence? There are two main characters in this book; Molly and Vivian (me?). Young Molly and ancient Vivian become friends through a set of providential(?) circumstances.
     Molly is a teenager it today’s foster system and Vivian is one of the children sent to the Midwest from New York on an “orphan train”. Although they are years apart in age, they share similar experiences in the form of: loss of loved ones, living in numerous homes (ranging from horrible to very good), trying to fit in, expected to be always grateful, treated with suspicion, etc.
     My husband and I recently took a trip to Ireland, the lovely “green emerald island”. Vivian started out as Niamh (pronounced Neev) in Kinvara of County Galway in Ireland. How fun and interesting it was to read about places I had recently visited (coincidence?).
     The lives of these two women pulled me in and I so enjoyed reading about their lives. At the end of the book the author tells how she researched before writing and used actual details of kids who rode the “orphan trains”. Now I am anxious to read more of this author as I see she has written four other books.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin

What I like about Gretchen Rubin's books is her approach.  She doesn't think there is one RIGHT way to do something.  Instead, she researches and reports on many different methods for a given topic, urges the reader to use what works for them, and discard the rest.

This book tackles clutter and organizing.  It's a quick read, composed mainly of tips (suggestions?) rather than a narrative.  Some I found compelling, some I didn't. But that's exactly her point.  There isn't really any new groundbreaking information, just a nice summary of what's out there.  In a nutshell, I would summarize her overall approach as "Keep something only if you use it, need it, or love it", with many suggestions for accomplishing that.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Spearhead by Adam Makos

This is an amazing book! You don't even have to be a fan of non-fiction or history to enjoy this read. With Spearhead, Adam Makos has created a character-centric piece of action that follows the Third Armored Division as it rolls across Europe in the closing months of World War II.
More specifically, Spearhead follows the daily life of tank gunner Clarence Smoyer as he and his tank crew face the Germans in the final days of the war. Smoyer's tale takes place as the Third Armored Division tries to keeps the Germans from breaking out of France; gets caught up in the Battle of the Bulge; and, makes a dash to try and cross the Rhine River before the Germans can set up a strong enough defense.
At this time, late 1944 and into 1945, even though the United States was on the offensive, our tank troops found themselves out-gunned and out-armored by the Germans. Smoyer's crew is a testament to that as some of its members are wounded or killed throughout the book. Many of Smoyer's fellow tankers also faced the same casualties. The book can be very graphic at times as combat has never been very gentle.
Makos' writing is lively, detailed and very well researched. There are many twists and turns for Smoyer and his fellow soldiers and Makos captures them with page-turning excitement. The climax of the book takes place on the streets of Cologne, Germany, with many amazing tales being interwoven by the author.
Makos' after-the-war follow-up is just as good as he documents Smoyer's return to Cologne in 2017 to retrace his steps and to heal some very old wounds that had been haunting him in recent years. Spearhead is a very strong piece of writing that pays fitting tribute to the sacrifices that have been made for our freedom.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

On the anniversary of his wife Miriam’s death, Arthur Pepper was sorting through her possessions and found a gold charm bracelet in one of her boots.  On the elephant charm was an engraved phone number.  Intrigued, Arthur called the number and begins to learn about Miriam’s life before they met.  The bracelet also contains charms of a tiger, a book, a paint palette, a heart… Each of them reveals a significant point in Miriam’s life which in turn leads Arthur to travel aboard.  The journey gives Arthur a new perspective and possibilities.  It is a good read.  I look forward to reading Patrick’s new book, The Library of Lost and Found.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Lost Stone (The Kingdom of Wrenly Series) by Jordan Quinn

In the Lost Stone, we meet Prince Lucas, a lonely 8 year-old boy who longs to make friends and go on adventures. Clara, the daughter of the queen's seamstress, knows the kingdom well and becomes fast friends with Lucas!  When Queen Tasha's emerald goes missing, the king offers a handsome reward.  Lucas and Clara team up to explore all the lands of Wrenly.  They encounter fairies on the island of Primlox, trolls on the island of Burth, dragons on the island of Crestwood, wizards on the island of Hobsgrove, and finally... Mermaid's Cove!  Do Lucas and Clara outsmart the tricky trolls?  Are they able to nurse a baby dragon back to health?  Do they ever find the lost emerald?  Check out this fun series that is perfect for emerging chapter book readers or can be read aloud to a younger audience.  The chapters are short and most every page is illustrated. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Small Steps by Peg Kehret

     Small Steps is an autobiography written by author Peg Kehret.  In Small Steps, Kehret shares her 9 month journey with polio.  The story starts in choir as Peg notices her thigh muscle start to jump and twitch.  She then falls as she begins to walk home for lunch.  Like any other teenager, she doesn’t want to share with her mother that she isn’t feeling well as she would miss out on the homecoming festivities that would be taking place that afternoon.  Her mother catches on and she is sent to bed.  This leads to being diagnosed with three types of polio and a 9 month journey of recovery at Sheltering Arms Hospital in Minneapolis, MN.

     I have read this book at least four time and I love it a little more each time!  Kehret writes in such away that you part of the story and want to be friends with Peg and the other girls in room 206.  Take a chance and read this book…you won’t be disappointed!

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

How To Amaze Your Daughter by Raphaele Vidaling

This book is filled with crafts, recipes, and scientific like experiments. Sometimes I enjoy doing a craft or two and I really enjoyed this book. I can easily see me making the little paper dresses on the clothes line, the pebble people, and the shaving cream paint creations. Fairy houses also look fun to me. The food related ones would be appreciated by my little granddaughter.
     Now, my daughter was also looking through this book as it was sitting on the end table at my house. She was reading aloud to me from the section that had the experiments and magic tricks—I’m not sure about that rubber egg?!  She also kind of liked the mermaid costume. Anyway… fun to look at even if you don’t end up doing any! If you have boys, the library also has How To Amaze Your Son.

Monday, March 18, 2019

The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen

The Victory Garden is a new release by bestselling author Rhys Bowen.  The setting is England during World War I, and the story revolves around 21-year-old Emily Bryce, who is determined to contribute to the war effort despite her parents’ disapproval.  Emily falls in love with an Australian pilot, leaves her family to sign on with the Women’s Land Army, and finds that she has what it takes to stand on her own two feet.  This is a good book for World War I fiction fans.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Sacred Spaces: The Awe-Inspiring Architecture of Churches and Cathedrals. Photos by Guillaume De Laubier. Text by Jaques Bosser

Travel guides are famous among what are known as “armchair” travelers: people who love to visit other places through the magic of books. Sacred Spaces isn’t a travel guide, but through unbelievably well-done photography and well-balanced text, travelers of all types can now get a glimpse inside some of the most beautiful, ancient and unique cathedrals and churches throughout the world.  Be astonished at the enormity and scope of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Absorb the Spanish flavor of the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Sit with the spirits of thousands of students in King’s College Chapel at Cambridge. And recoil and marvel at sculptures made of human bone in the massive Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic.  You have to see these spaces to believe them.   Bottom line:  A richly photographed book that’s impossible to put down.  A must-read.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow: Quick-fix recipes for hangry athletes By Shalane Flanagan

     Olympian and marathon runner Shalane Flanagan teams up with chef Elyse Kopecky for the second time to offer new recipes and variations of popular ones from their first book.  Although it is aimed at performance athletes, anyone could benefit from the healthy but tasty offerings.  A variety of wholesome meals as well as pre-race and post-workout offerings are shared for readers looking for food that will sustain.  Color pictures and notes from the authors alongside the recipes make this cookbook engaging for the reader.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

When I first started reading Hank Green's An Absolutely Remarkable Thing I wasn't quite sure what I was getting into. It seemed a little slow, and it was hard to tell what direction this book was going to go. As the pages turned, and the story evolved, the book ended up with a commentary on fame and social media, an alien (maybe) invasion, and a mystery combining the two, which leaves the reader with all questions unanswered and a cliffhanger putting them on hold until a book two arrives.
The book follows the exploits of main character April May and her friend Andy, along with a handful of additional protagonists. One New York City morning at 3 a.m. April and Andy come across a large robot-like figure standing on the street. While Andy films, April investigates the robot, which they end up naming Carl. After going home, Andy posts the video on YouTube and April wakes the up the next morning a social media star.
As the story progresses, April's rise to fame skyrockets, and you find that the New York Carl is not the only one, as they are found in major cities around the world, not moving, not making a sound. One thing the Carls do initiate is a series of dreams being had by people who have been exposed to them. These dreams offers clues, but to what?
Along with trying to decode the dreams, April becomes a spokesperson for the whole Carl movement and what it might mean. An anti-Carl movement arises and puts the dreams, and April in its crosshairs. A violent conclusion to the story offers up more questions than answers. Some of Remarkable Thing's original mysteries are solved, but you will have to wait for a book two to find just what really happened.

Monday, March 11, 2019

The Book of M by Peng Shepherd

One afternoon, a man’s shadow disappears.  It is an inexplicable occurrence, and generates world wide media coverage.  Then it begins to happen around the globe, and people discover that the loss of their shadow also means loss of their memories, be it sudden or gradual.  The scariest part of this phenomenon is that in certain cases, something that a person forgets may also disappear or change form.  Thus some people can talk to animals, some locations vanish from existence, the power grids no longer function — anything can happen, really. 

Ory and his wife Max hide out at a hotel in the hills of Virginia, until Max’s shadow disappears.  Max leaves when Ory is away hunting, and then Ory sets out to find Max.  Many people hear rumors of “The One Who Gathers” in New Orleans, and many groups are heading that way.  The final showdown between shadowed and shadowless factions happens there, and you finally find out if Ory finds Max.

Overall, I liked this book and the questions it poses about what makes a person who they are.  Parts of the book annoyed me, as I felt the author wasn’t consistent enough with her “magical” rules (ie, just because one particular person forgets a place, why does that make it disappear when plenty of other people remember it?)   She never explains.  If you can get past that type of thing, you may like this dystopian debut novel.