Monday, September 22, 2014

Karrie's October Reads


The Ghost-Eye Tree

Bill Martin Jr. &Ted Rand

When I was little my sister and I made my mother read this book over and over to us before going to sleep. From it's old-fashioned story of two brothers going across town to fetch a pale of milk, to it's awesomely beautiful illustrations, this is the best book for Halloween and autumn nights!













The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is a master of fantasy, winning a Newbury Medal for The Graveyard Book. Now he moves into adult fiction and takes us on a wonderfully frightening adventure that helps us see the hard choices we face in life that guide us in letting go of the past. Filled with amazingly strong female characters, Gaiman writes the power of friendship and love which can only exist within the realm of mystery. As a middle-aged man returns home and remembers his mysterious childhood as an eleven-year-old trying to make sense of the world around him in which he does not fit, he stumbles across the best friend he will ever find. The death of an opal miner sets his life on a strange and magical path to the Hempstocks - a curious family of three generations of women living on their farm at the end of the lane. The untimely appearance of Ursula Monkton results in a series of horrifying events that proves the power of the female Hempstocks.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Morgan's Mysterious June


Mysteries Abound


Growing up I was always a fan of Nancy Drew and a number of other mystery series. This continued into my more mature reading habits and I thought these are some suspenseful, great reads as we head into beach season.

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

This is a funny, bizarre mystery for the true mystery lover and literary wizard. Focused on our sometimes capable heroine Thursday Next the story takes place in England  in an alternate reality where all of society takes its literary history very very seriously. The mystery comes in as an evil conglomerate starts tampering with works of fiction by entering books (FYI there is some ScFy in here too) and kidnapping main characters. Don't worry, Thursday Next is on the case and will put Jane Eyre back to its rightful condition (mostly). A fun and silly series that definitely gives you an intellectual workout I recommend reading it when you have time to really enjoy it. Also, you may need a dictionary - the vocabulary is out of this world.


Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

For the more historically inclined the Maisie Dobbs series is a fantastic way to bring together mystery, suspense and historical fiction. I found Maisie to be an engaging, intelligent and funny main character and thoroughly enjoyed learning about her background as much as I did trying to figure out the mystery. Based in England after WII this is a great book for those of you waiting for the next season of Downton Abbey or those who are looking for a more modern Sherlock Holmes. The best part is this series already has a number of installments so if you like the first you won't have to wait to continue with the characters!


The Rope by Nevada Barr (Anna Pigeon Series)

This is a fantastic (out of order) addition to the Anna Pigeon mysteries all of which take place at various National Parks. A fantastic series that doesn't necessarily have to be read in order these are fun mysteries that have great backstories and beautiful descriptions of our National Parks. Anna Pidgeon has long been a front runner for my absolute favorite heroine. She is tough, funny and bright and The Rope is the story of how she got her start as the mystery solving park ranger those of us who have read all her books know so well. This is a dark, surprising novel and definitely helps fill in some of the gaps about Anna that we have all been waiting to hear about for years. I found the secondary characters in this novel to also be interesting and engaging and overall this book seemed to fly by. I'd definitely recommend this book to a long time fan of the series or to a newcomer. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Marti's June Picks

The Daring Ladies of Lowell by Kate Alcott

This is is Kate Alcott's newest book. This book is based on a true event that occurred in Lowell during the 1800s. The characters and their back stories are the author's imagination filling around the basic facts. The textile mill industry with the mill system allowed for large numbers of young girls to work in the mill and live in boarding houses nearby. The girls ran more than one loom at a time and were constantly on their feet in dangerous conditions. Through this story line, we are introduced to the characters and have a chance to bond with them and hear their reasons for their choice to work in the mill. It is in their stories that we are exposed to the dangers in the mill with open machines, exhausted workers, cotton fiber and fires. These stories brought out the resilience of each girl as they struggled.

The Daring Ladies of Lowell follows the girls at a very turbulent time. Alice Barrows left the farm and her home to work in the mills. It was her idea to help her father get out of debt, but it also got her off the farm and away from her father. Alice was assigned a boarding house and made friends with the the girls she worked with. They taught her how to survive in room with all the looms: noise, extraneous cotton materials, heat and huge number of hours every day. She was exposed to the problems with the mills as part of the story. She befriended the girls and stood up for them when she could. It is into this atmosphere that Alice meets Samuel - one of the mill owner's sons. The rest of the plot line follows the dichotomy of their living situations as Alice and the girls become embroiled in a murder of a mill girl. 

The was a good book to find out more about the mills in Lowell. The story line was clear and allowed for the readers to find out more about the girls and the mills. I did read the book quickly and found the story line easy to follow. What a difficult time in our history, while all the technological advances allowed our economic system to grow and expand, the workers were kept in dire poverty with horrible working conditions and no power to change anything if they wished to keep their job.  Kate Alcott's book never fail to tell a great story with memorable characters.




Private LA by James Patterson 

Private LA is one of the new James Patterson books based on a crime-fighting agency called Private. The difference from the police and the alphabet of agencies in the US is that Private does not have to follow police procedure or the laws. Which leads to a moral dilemma all on its own. Jack Morgan, the head of Private has many resources at his disposal and he uses them to solve both of the crimes in this novel. Sometimes I felt the two stories were too disparate and other times I was glad they were not the same. I like the format of crime fighting and the people who I can root for. I enjoy the reoccurring characters that show up in his novels from Private. I also like how each character interacts with each other hand the investigations they handle. Jack Morgan becomes such a real person to the reader, including understanding his situations with his  brother and the mob.  The novel read quickly and kept me totally entertained and entranced. The use of the short succinct chapters helps you feel like you are reading much more quickly and pulled you in deeper.




Far Gone by Laura Griffin

Laura Griffin’s new book Far Gone is a romantic mystery. Each of her mysteries keep you turning pages until late at night, trying to solve them before you fall asleep. The books are set in the Texas area and always have characters in the law enforcement field. Laura Griffin’s characters are relentless in their pursuit of justice. Jon North is a FBI agent who is trying to solve an old crime – six years old. He is positive that he has found the murderer. Meanwhile, Andrea Finch is a detective for the Austin PD, but is on leave. Her brother is in trouble, and Andrea feels she needs to help him, despite his insistence that he does not need help. The problem? Andrea and Jon are not working together. As a matter of fact, they don’t even trust each other. Withholding information is what they do best, however that does not stop the sparks from flying between them. Meanwhile, someone is killing people. Jon is trying to pursue the old case and thinks it ties with the new case. His bosses don’t believe him. Andrea is only out to save her brother. Jon wants Andrea’s brother to help him solve the crimes. 

Laura Griffin leads you right into the midst of a great mystery and the mind of a madman. A great read.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Morgan's March Picks

Historical Fiction for March 



Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

I loved this young adult novel. It is a fantastic story of friendship during WWII. The two main characters are best friends who meet during their service in England during WWII. One is captured and the other is missing. An intense drama of Nazi capture, hiding out in France and the struggles we face between freedom and life are highlighted throughout the book.

 The story definitely keeps you guessing and I loved the drama when the perspective flipped between the two characters in the middle of the book.

Additionally, this book provides great insight into the roles women played during WWII. Too often the women and girls who were critical in the resistance, flying of planes and general support roles during the war go unnoticed.

I would definitely recommend this for middle to high school students and for adults who just like a good read! 

 

The Paris Wife by Paula Mclain

This book was incredible. Although this is historical fiction it reads almost like a tell-all diary of Ernest Hemminway's first wife. The story is wonderfully told and does a good job illustrating an important part of Hemminway's life.

A tragic story and one that is definitely easy to sympathize with I was struck with the simultaneous fragility and strength of the main characters. I also enjoyed the historical context - reading about Paris during the time of some of the greatest writers of all time.

For fans of Hemmiway's work and anyone interested in a historical romantic tragedy. 

  

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

I spent most of this book waiting for it to redeem itself at the end. It did! This book gets a little slow in certain sections but I thought it was a very complex and interesting character study and it had enough twists and turns that I felt like my time spent reading it was worth it.

A look into a bizarre project sponsored by british intelligence this is a love story, a coming of age novel and a look into british society. Very different from Atonement I still felt like Ian McEwan pulled out a win on this one.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Marti's March Picks

Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker

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This is a story about power and secrets.  There is a flow of life around a river in a small logging town.  The river defines the rhythm and their fortunes of the people through the mills.  The Androscoggin is such a river and the small town of Titan Falls, NH is such a town.  The people of Titan were hardscrabble people.  Surviving in the bitter cold and heat, along with the noxious fumes of the plant and its toxic runoffs.

The family who owned the mill ran this world. They held the power over who survived in this small town.  Into this world came three siblings, used to making do. Needing a place to be.  There was family land and a place to stay.  Mercy, Zeke and Hannah Snow struggled to survive the harshness of Titan.  
Things might have been quietly the same until the bus accident. From the wreckage of the accident, another body was found and another mystery opened up. Someone caused it and someone would need to pay.

Zeke went on the run to hide as he was going to be accused of causing the accident.  Mercy who had found work with Hazel and her sheep struggled to survive and take care of Hannah.  Meanwhile, June the wife of the mill owner Cal has her own suspicions and continued to force people to turn away from the Snow family.

To me the book showed so much of what could and did happen in small mill towns.  I found all the characters realistic – with both good and bad traits.  I worried over Mercy and Hannah. I became disgusted over the capitulation from some of the town’s peoples.  I found the book built slowly after the initial accident and might have even dragged a bit in the middle.  Much like the river that slowly moved the logs to the mill and left the toxins to leach into the water until the whole river was enmeshed.
The end was a surprise to me, which I liked. There was a little of magical realism in the book, which I didn’t mind surprisingly. The resolution showed the corruptness of power and the fallibility of people and to me - hope.

Fear Nothing by Lisa Gardner

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Lisa Gardner's new book might be titled Fear Nothing, but don't let that fool you. There are things in the dark to fear. In this case a serial killer on the loose that is somehow wrapped up in a serial killer who has died and his two daughters. One is in jail for murder and is an antisocial personality disorder, a narcissistic nightmare and the other a prominent psychiatrist who feels no pain, literally.

Into this maelstrom, DD Warren investigates a murder. She goes back to the scene to investigate late a night only to be found at the bottom of the stair unconscious later. She is badly hurt and is off the case, but that did not stop her, because another killer is on the loose, the serial Rose Killer. DD has drawn his/her attention and now she is being “stalked” by the killer. 

Great Read! Fun Read! Creepy Read! Fear Nothing has very nice structure to the story with several great characters and mounting tension. This is one to enjoy.


The Wind is Not a River by Brian Payton

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In June of 1942 During WWII, the Japanese invaded the Aleutian Islands and through massive efforts of the United States Military were evicted the following May (1943). This arena of the war was mostly unknown as there were black outs of the media in Alaska.  This is the setting of Brian Payton’s book The Wind is Not a River.  John Easley, a reporter decides to honor his brother’s death in WWII by investigating the rumors of what is happening in the Aleutians. Meanwhile, his wife does not want him to leave.  He leaves after harsh words quietly in the middle of the night.

The plane that John was able to sneak onto crashed over the islands.  John and a young service man found themselves on an island without any resources.  It is from here that the story truly starts to take your breath away, as they try to survive without being caught.  Meanwhile Helen knows something is wrong and is determined to get to where her husband is.  She finds herself cast in many roles as she looks for her husband.   

The book was a journey of love and survival at the most basic level and opened my eyes. I continue to be astounded over how far some people can go for love and how much suffering is too much. The Aleutian Islands are some of the harshest places on earth for survival. The search for a missing man who was secreted in the area for news was both painful and powerful.

The Wind is Not a River will resonant with me for quite some time. Emotionally the book brings you on a journey of life allowing you to witness both characters as they struggle to survive.  The sheer will of survival is highlighted again and again. 

A Great Read.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Marti's February Picks


Zoo by James Patterson

Zoo by James Patterson knocked the socks right off of me. Why? The plot was too close to something that could actually happen. The reasoning of what happened was all too real. The government officials – just frosted me. I mean – I was furious with the self-centered and self-righteousness of the government officials. As long as it didn’t bother them! GRRRRR...

The premise of the book was that there are many incidences of unusual animal behaviors occurring. The main character, Jackson Oz has for sometime been trying to get people to pay attention. No one has believed him and he needs proof. Then he goes to Africa to investigate and that’s when it all happens!

As with all James Patterson books, it read quickly and kept my interest! This was one of the few books of his that absolutely blew my mind! I was not expecting a dystopian novel.



Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand is a powerfully moving book about the life of Louis Zamperini. The majority of the focus was on his time during World War II when he was shot down, later captured by the Japanese and survived in their camps. Louis was an Olympic runner. He was improving in his sport and looked forward to competing in the next Olympics. But WWII intervened, as it did for many people, and Louis went to war. Certainly his bravery and ability to survive was highlighted, but his descent into the darkness of PTSD after the war was also highlighted. This book is one of the most powerful books, I have ever read.



This book was earth shattering. Due to the factual writing style of the author, information was presented as a straight recall without added emotion. This made the book readable. In reading how badly the American POWs were treated made me sick to my stomach. Intellectually, I do understand how a prisoner of war camp needs to have discipline and strict rules. I absolutely cannot justify the beatings and starvations that occurred so regularly. 

The powerfulness of the book cannot be underscored sufficiently. This has brought home to me more than anything else why, Tom Brokaw called this generation of men and women the Greatest Generation. Having said that, it is also clear to me that any man and/or woman who goes into battle is a hero, knowing the consequences of their choices could have life long ramifications.

Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker

Mercy Snow is a story about power and secrets.  There is a flow of life around a river in a small logging town.  The river defines the rhythm and their fortunes of the people through the mills.  The Androscoggin is such a river and the small town of Titan Falls, NH is such a town.  The people of Titan were hardscrabble people.  Surviving in the bitter cold and heat, along with the noxious fumes of the plant and its toxic runoffs.

The family who owned the mill ran this world. They held the power over who survived in this small town.  Into this world came three siblings, used to making do. Needing a place to be.  There was family land and a place to stay.  Mercy, Zeke and Hannah Snow struggled to survive the harshness of Titan.
Things might have been quietly the same until the bus accident. From the wreckage of the accident, another body was found and another mystery opened up. Someone caused it and someone would need to pay.

Zeke went on the run to hide as he was going to be accused of causing the accident.  Mercy who had found work with Hazel and her sheep struggled to survive and take care of Hannah.  Meanwhile, June the wife of the mill owner Cal has her own suspicions and continued to force people to turn away from the Snow family.

To me the book showed so much of what could and did happen in small mill towns.  I found all the characters realistic – with both good and bad traits.  I worried over Mercy and Hannah. I became disgusted over the capitulation from some of the town’s peoples.  I found the book built slowly after the initial accident and might have even dragged a bit in the middle.  Much like the river that slowly moved the logs to the mill and left the toxins to leach into the water until the whole river was enmeshed.

The end was a surprise to me, which I liked. There was a little of magical realism in the book, which I didn’t mind surprisingly. The resolution showed the corruptness of power and the fallibility of people and to me - hope.




Safe With Me by Amy Hatvany

This is a novel that is going to be published in March. While this is my first time reading a novel by her, this is not her first book. I received this book through Book Browse with the understanding of providing an honest evaluation of the book.

This book touches on difficult issues: loss of a child, organ donation and spousal abuse. There is a poignancy to the grief and a sharpness to the fear. Amy Hatvany delivers characters struggling with their burdens. Their emotions underline the passion of the novel. Even during the hardest times, there is an underlying positiveness to the novel, with your hope moving them forward. 

Hannah has lost her daughter, Alice. A tragic accident has left her raw with grief as she slowly pushes everything and everyone away. Her daughter's organs are donated to children needing transplants. Meanwhile, in a parallel story line, Olivia is living with her husband of many years and their teenage daughter who desperately needs a liver. Maddie is growing weaker daily, while waiting for a match. The two stories begin their connection when Maddie receives Alice's liver. However, it is as the story line continues that the secrets of Olivia and Maddie's lives are revealed. 



This is the first Amy Hatvany novel I have read. I have enjoyed this book and will be adding her name to the writers to watch for. I was able to read the book easily in a day and found myself engaged with the storyline and empathetic with the characters.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Karrie's January Pick




Colum McCann

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61wAgmDqFCL.jpgThis story is a roller coaster ride of emotions. A beautiful entanglement of stories that speak to the human nature about pain and love, faith and forgiveness. One morning in 1974 New York City is abuzz with the rumor that a man is walking a tightrope between the World Trade Centers. Frantic excitement lures people to the scene and causes gossip all over Manhattan. In the Bronx, an Irish monk, Corrigan lives purely and amongst prostitutes in hopes of curing the evil he believes is inside him. He spends his time helping at the old folks home and lending his bathroom to the prostitutes - living simply for others. In upper Manhattan, Claire, looks forward to entertaining the other mother's in her support group as she tries to find a way to cope with the affects of Vietnam. And in upstate New York, Lara, a young artist, struggles to learn how to fix the mistakes she has made in life. Love has gone wrong, drugs have ruined her morals, and a life-shattering accident has flipped her world into perspective. All the while a man is walking, skipping, jumping, cart-wheeling, tumbling across a tightrope between the Twin Towers - not caring is he falls so long as his body is at peace.