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Barrie Summy

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Updated: 2017-12-16T03:54:58.401-08:00


The Book Review Club (December 2017)


Welcome to the final edition of 2017 of The Book Review Club. December is a busy time of year. All the better to learn of a good book and sit down quietly with it and a cup of tea. AND what are the bests gifts in the world to give? Books! So, please click through to other reviews at the end of mine.A FLIGHT OF PICTURE BOOKS Picture books! Why picture books? Well, I'm reviewing a few seasonal picture books for a couple of reasons. First, it's good to read picture books. Even as grownups. Rebecca J. Gomez lists here 10 (sometimes very funny) reasons why adults should read picture books. Here's one of my (serious) favorites: "A picture book could teach you something new." Second, picture books are part of how I decorate my house for various holidays. On the coffee table, I fan out picture books relating to the holiday. They're short; they're colorful; they're unintimidating (it should be a word!). Everyone flips through them. They're conversation starters. My children trip down memory lane. Picture books are a very good thing.THIS NEXT NEW YEAR by Janet S. Wong, Illustrated by Yangsook Choi: This Korean-English bilingual book follows a half-Korean boy as his friends and family prepare to celebrate the Chinese New Year in Pasadena, CA. It's about fresh starts, bringing luck into your house, being the best you can be and feeling comfortable about celebrating in the way that fits you. Very uplifting. At the back, there are facts about the Korean language and the lunar year. And here's a link to Duk Gook soup (Korean Rice Cake New Year's Soup). I'm going to make it this year. Let me know if you do. Duk Gook SoupTHE LEGEND OF POINSETTIA by Tomie dePaola: This folk story of a young girl, Lucida, who lives with her family in a small village in the mountains of Mexico. Her plan to weave a new blanket for the Christmas Eve Nativity scene falls through. She doesn't want to be the only one without a gift for Jesus and grabs an armful tall green weeds and places them by the manger. After Mass, all the tall green weeds throughout the village shine with red stars. The weeds have turned into la Flor de Nochebuena (the Flower of the Holy Night--the poinsettia). There are great details about life in rural Mexico and Christmas preparation. There is a nice moral about the power of simple gifts that come from the heart. At the back, the author explains how the poinsettia ended up in the United States.A KENYAN CHRISTMAS by Aunty Kiko, illustrated by Moses Wanjuki: Filled with Kenyan details like bare Jacarandas and hornbills and peppered with Kenyan words, this rhyming picture book is very atmospheric. It follows Akinyi who is at first stuck inside due to the short rains, but then goes to the fair and the beach and finally celebrates Christmas with her extended family in the country. At the back, there is a glossary and facts about Kenya.(Dear FCC: Bought. Bought. Bought. Oh, and Season's Greetings to you!)And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!PICTURE BOOKSJody Feldman: FINDING WINNIE: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear                         by Lindsay Mattock and Illustrated by Sophie Blackall                                   THE YOUNGEST MARCHER: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks                          by Cynthia Levinson and Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton                        MIDDLE GRADE/YOUNG ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSJenn Jilks of Cottage Country: CASTLE IN DANGER by Karen Lautenberg (MG,  historical)Sarah Laurence: A SEASON FOR DARING GREATLY by Ellen Emerson White (YA, contemp)Stacy Nyikos: I AM NOT YOUR PERFECT MEXICAN DAUGHTER by Erika Sanchez                              &n[...]

The Book Review Club (November 2017)


Happy November 1st and welcome to the November meeting of The Book Review Club. As per Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women and other books, "November is the most disagreeable month of the whole year." Whether you agree or not (I don't, but perhaps t's because I live in So Cal!), we can improve your November with great reviews of great books. Enjoy!CREMAINS OF THE DAYby Misty Simon (adult, cozy mystery)As a girl who was raised on Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, there will always be a soft spot in my heart for cozy mysteries. In fact, I'll read a bunch of books from a variety of genres and then wake up one morning and think, "Time for a cozy mystery." So, not too long ago, I woke up, emailed my dear friend Misty Simon and asked, "Got a spare ARC of your upcoming cozy?" And, voila! That's how I wound up with the first book in the Tallie Graver mystery series.I don't want to give too much away because, uh, I don't want to spoil the mystery for you.I will say that I giggled my way through the book. Here's an example of a bit of the humor: I took a sip of perfectly doctored tea--lots of cream and more sugar than my mother would have been happy with--and tried to quell the shaking in my hands. My adrenaline was fading...I had seen shock before when I'd shown Waldo my monthly bills for new shoes, but had rarely experienced it firsthand. (pg 39)There's a body with a knife in the chest, a stun gun, embezzlement, a break-in, a nasty ex-husband, some light romance (not with the ex!), a difficult cop, a nosy cookie-baking mother, flower deliveries from a dead woman, and a protagonist who needs to clear her name. Everything gets tied up and solved by the final page so you can sleep easy.CREMAINS OF THE DAY. Ya gotta admit, Misty comes up with the best titles.If you're into cozy mysteries, this one's for you! Clever, funny, satisfying!(Dear FCC: I know Misty. She sent me an ARC. Guilty as charged. BUT I did truly enjoy the book.  And you would, too!)And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!YOUNG ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSLucy Sartain of Ranting and Raving: THE HANGING GIRL by Eileen Cook (thriller)Sarah Laurence: STARFISH by Akemi Dawn Bowman (debut, contemp)Stacy Nyikos: SIX OF CROWS by Leigh Bardugo (fantasy)Stacy of the Cat's Meow: DRESS CODES FOR SMALL TOWNS by Courtney Stevens (contemp)                                                                                                                 ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSLinda McLaughlin: THE TEA GIRL OF HUMMINGBIRD LANE by Lisa See (women's lit)Patti Abbott:  LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE by Celeste Ng (literary)NONFICTION REVIEWSJenn Jilks of Cottage Country: JOURNEY FROM INVISIBILITY TO VISIBILITY                                                  by Gail Harris, Marilyn Lesser, Cynthia SolowayMargy Lutz: HARRY: A WILDERNESS DOG SAGA by Chris Czajkowski (memoir)Ray Potthoff: THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE by Edward Gibbon (history)Note to Reviewers: Any errors (broken link, missed review, etc), just shoot me an email or leave a comment. Thank you so much for your reviews![...]

The Book Review Club (October 2017)


"From ghoulies and ghosties/And long-legged beasties/And things that go bump in the night,/Good Lord, deliver us!" (Scottish prayer) Welcome to the October edition of The Book Review Club! Please be sure to scroll down after my review. There are links to reviews of good books in a variety of genres (more adult fiction than usual this month). Enjoy!IN A DARK, DARK WOOD by Ruth Ware (adult, British psychological thriller)Because I figure you'll hear about them from other sources, I don't often review books that hit the NYT bestseller list (In a Dark, Dark Wood was a NYT, USA Today, LAT bestseller and more. Plus Reese Witherspoon's developing it as a movie.). BUT a psychological thriller makes for a great Halloween month review. AND this book kept me on the elliptical way, way past 30 minutes! WHICH MEANS In a Dark, Dark Wood totally grabbed me.In a Nutshell: Six twenty-somethings celebrate a bachelorette weekend in a remote house in Northumberland, England. Some of the characters know each other. Some are meeting for the first time. The house is creepy and surrounded by a forest (hence, the title :) and has sketchy cell phone service. Voila! You have all the ingredients for a thriller.So What?: But what makes this story stand out? Believe me, I don't stay, huffing and puffing, on the elliptical for any old thriller. Two things, I think. Number one is the characters. They are so very multi-dimensional.  For example, the protagonist, Leonora Shaw (who goes by several names, depending on the stage of her life) is a runner. Which is handy in a thriller. A runner can run away from the bad guy. But more than that, Leonora has the loner mentality of a runner. And it's that loner mentality that directs how she reacts, how she makes decisions, how she interprets information. And all these things drive the plot. Number two is the moving parts. There are a lot of them. And they are handled expertly and fit together perfectly. Leonora Shaw is our point-of-view character. The story begins with her receiving an invitation to the bachelorette weekend. Fairly early on, though, Leonora wakes up in a hospital room, trying to remember how she got there. From this point, the author is juggling two time lines (before the murder and after the murder). I can imagine Ms. Ware sitting with a cup of tea, thinking and planning and scheming to make sure there are no loose threads and no clunky plotting. Much appreciated!I listened to In a Dark, Dark Wood. Imogene Church is a terrific narrator. Also, I enjoyed all the British-isms in this book, such as "hen" party in lieu of "bachelorette." Ruth Ware's most recent publication, also a psychological thriller, is The Lying Game (July 2017). It's certainly on my list!(Dear FCC: library. And I heartily recommend this book!)And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!YOUNG ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSSarah Laurence: THE RATTLED BONES by S.M. Parker (YA, ghost story)ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSEllen Booraem: NORSE MYTHOLOGY by Neil Gaiman (mythology/folklore)Jody Feldman: THE SHADOW by Todd Moss (thriller)Linda McLaughlin: SISI: EMPRESS ON HER OWN by Allison Pataki (historical)Lucy Sartain of Ranting and Raving:  LOVE THE WINE YOU'RE WITH by Kim Gruenenfelder                                                             (women's)Ray Potthoff: THE WOMEN IN THE CASTLE by Jessica Shattuck (historical)Scott Parker: HEAT STORM by Richard Castle (mystery/thriller)Stacy Nyikos: THE OTHER EINSTEIN by Marie Benedict (historical)Tanya Sutton: MISSING, PRESUMED by Susie Steiner (mystery)NONFICTION REVIEWAlyssa Goodnight: HALF BAKED HARVEST COOKBOOK by Tieghan Gerard (cookbook)Margy Lutz: THIS IS ME by Danny Wilks (memoir)Patti Abbott:  MORNING STAR by Ann HoodNote to Reviewers: Any errors (broken link, missed review[...]

The Book Review Club (September 2017)


Welcome to the September edition of The Book Review Club. We're glad to be back following our hiatus and have lots to recommend after a summer of reading. We never know from month to month who will choose to review in which genre. It's always fun to see if there's a pattern. This month, we have more reviews of adult fiction and nonfiction than of young adult/middle grade. Must've been something in the water, I guess. Enjoy!THE MAYO CLINIC HANDBOOK FOR HAPPINESSby Dr Amit Sood (self help)I don't often read a book from the self-help shelf. But in August, I had an interesting chat with someone who is physically disabled. She described the accident at age 25 that broke her neck, the rehab for learning to walk again, the return to college for a new career. "I met a lot of depressed, bitter people in rehab and decided not to be that way." It was the word "decided" that grabbed me. This person consciously decided to be happy. I thought back to my twenty-something self, to a time when I was profoundly miserable (relationship, job and grad school angst).  Could I have chosen to be happy or, at least, less unhappy? Maybe? And this is how I ended up reading The Mayo Clinic Handbook for Happiness.In a nutshell, Dr Sood divides brain activity into "focused" and "wandering." When we're in the default wandering mode, which is over 50% of the day, we stress and worry and drift toward depression. I swear there are days when my brain wanders 90% of the time! Social media has only worsened the condition. I could join Wandering Brains Anonymous (if such a group exists)!The Handbook for Happiness is a four-step, 10-week program. The steps are: Train Your Attention, Cultivate Emotional Resilience, Start a Mind-Body Practice, Pick Healthy Habits. Each step comes with a series of exercises. For eg., Cultivate Emotional Resilience (weeks 3-8) provides strategies to "refocus thoughts" away from stress.Does this all sound a little simplistic? Yes. Maybe. But, yet, yet, there could be something to it. Something important. We all know if you want to improve at a skill, you need to practice. On some level, it makes sense to practice being happy. I think the book is worth the read. I love the "Food for Thought" maxims, such as "A step back is often a move forward." I'm going to try some of the exercises.(Dear FCC: Bought the book)And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!MIDDLE GRADE/YOUNG ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSJody Feldman: A WHOLE NEW BALLGAME by Phil Binder (MG, contemporary)Sarah Laurence: AMERICAN STREET by Ibi Zoboi (YA, contemporary)ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSEllen Booraem: HONEYDEW by Edith Perlman (historical)Linda McLaughlin: THE MOON IN THE PALACE (Bk 1 of duology) by Weina Dai RandelPatti Abbott:  IN A LONELY PLACE by Dorothy HughesStacy Nyikos: A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW by Armor TowlesTanya Sutton: EMMA IN THE NIGHT by Wendy Walker (suspense/thriller)NONFICTION BOOK REVIEWSJenn Jilks of Cottage Country: UNSETTLING THE SETTLER WITHIN by Paulette Regan (adult)Lucy Sartain of Ranting and Raving: INTO THE WILD by Jon Krakauer (biography)                                                            THE WILD TRUTH by Carine McCandless (biography)Margy Lutz: LISTENING TO WHALES by Alexandra Morton (memoir)Ray Potthoff: MERLE'S DOOR--LESSONS FROM A FREETHINKING DOG by Ted Kerasote                      (memoir)Stacy of the Cat's Meow:  CORK DORK by Bianca Bosker (memoir)Note to Reviewers: Any errors (broken link, missed review, etc), just shoot me an email or leave a comment. Thank you so much for your reviews![...]

The Book Review Club (May 2017)


Welcome to the May 2017 edition of The Book Review Club. Here's a little May trivia for you...On May 10, 1877, the White House's first telephone was installed. On May 10, 1994, Nelson Mandela was sworn in as South Africa's first black president. And on May 10, 1924, Edgar J Hoover was named acting director of the Bureau of Investigation, which became the FBI in 1935. Whew. And now onto our really amazing book reviews! (This is our last meeting until September 2017. Happy Summer!)THE WEIGHT OF SILENCE by Heather Gudenkauf (adult, mystery/thriller)Somehow or other, the thriller NOT A SOUND by Heather Gudenkauf made its way onto my radar. I thought it sounded like a book I'd like to read this summer, and I jotted the info on a scrap of paper and stuck it to the fridge. Along came a rainy day, which put me in the mood for a thriller. I thought why am I waiting till May 30th for the release of NOT A SOUND? Why don't I read something else by Heather Gudenkauf? And anyway why haven't I already read something by Heather Gudenkauf? So, I picked up her debut, THE WEIGHT OF SILENCE, which was published in 2009 and was a NYT bestseller. The result? My family ate ordered-in pizza for dinner.In a nutshell: Early on an August morning in the small town of Willow Creek, Iowa, two seven-year-old girls disappear from their homes. The girls, Calli Clark and Petra Gregory, are neighbors and best friends. Calli has been a elective mute since the age of four after witnessing a domestic violence incident.The story is told from several points of view (which I love): Calli, her mother, her 12-year-old brother, the local deputy sheriff, and Petra's father. The voices are all distinct and different and really well executed. There is loads of conflict: an alcoholic + abusive father, FBI agents vs the local law enforcement difficulties, previous romantic entanglements, a large uncharted forest, etc, etc. Also, due to the number of narrative perspectives, the reader knows much more than the characters in the story. This heightens the tension enormously.  The plot is very fast faced. The characters are rich and multi-layered. I happened to guess the identity of the villain (something I'm generally bad at), but it was based more on a feeling than anything concrete. And if anyone else has read/reads the book, I have one teeny, tiny question: I kinda would've liked a different character to pull the trigger. How do you feel about that?All in all, it was a great, edge-of-your-seat read. Any complaints would come from my family because, once I started THE WEIGHT OF SILENCE, I was so absorbed that I ignored everyone and everything around me. It's been several books since I've been this absorbed, and it was A DELICIOUS FEELING.(Dear FCC: Bought book. Plain and simple.)And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!MIDDLE GRADE AND YOUNG ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSJenn Jilks of Cottage Country: MAX AND CHARLIE by Zack Lieberman (MG, graphic)Stacy Nyikos: PLANET JUPITER by Jane Kurtz (MG, contemp)Sarah Laurence: WILDMAN by J.C Geiger (YA, contemp)Beth Bonini of TRAC: THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas (YA, contemp)ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSEllen Booraem: ARABELLA OF MARS by David D. Levin (steampunk)Jody Feldman: THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD by Agatha Christie (mystery)Linda McLaughlin: Z: A NOVEL OF ZELDA FITZGERALD by Therese Anne Fowler                                SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK by Matthew Quick                                I NEVER PROMISED YOU A ROSE GARDEN by Joanne GreenbergLucy Sartain of Ranting and Raving: WHAT ALICE FORGOT by Liane Moriarty (women's)Ray Potthoff: LILAC GIRLS by Martha Hall Kelly (historical)Stacy of the Cat's Meow: EXIT WEST by Mohsin Hamid (literary)Tanya Sutton: THE MONOGRAM MURDERS b[...]

The Book Review Club (April 2017)


What would you get if you crossed April1st with a monster? April Ghoul's Day! Ha, ha, groan, groan. April just happens to be National Humor Month. And, now....all joking aside...Welcome to the April edition of The Book Review Club! We've got terrific reviews of terrific books. Please scroll down after my post for links to everyone else's review.SONIA SOTOMAYOR: A BIOGRAPHYby Sylvia Mendoza (middle grade, biography)For whatever reason, I don't tend to read much nonfiction. But when I do, I enjoy it. And I really, really enjoyed this book.So, what is it about Sonia Sotomayor: A Biography that grabbed my attention?For starters, Sonia Sotomayor herself is incredible. I mean, come on, she's the first Latina and the third woman appointed to the US Supreme Court. She's your basic American icon!A few interesting facts I learned about Sonia Sotomayor:-At the age of eight, she began giving herself insulin shots. And we're talking back in the day when you had to sterilize the needles!-She grew up in a housing project in South Bronx. Her mother raised her and her brother on $5,000/yr. When her parents fought, Sonia escaped into books, homework and TV. She even read Encyclopedia Brttannica! She decided early on to become a police officer, then changed her goal to lawyer after reading this latter profession was more compatible with  her diabetes.-As a Princeton undergrad, she joined organizations to help improve the conditions of various ethnic groups. She believed she was "...not a champion of lost causes, but of causes not yet won."-And this fact just for fun: She applied to Harvard based on the movie 1970 Love Story. (One of my sons applied to Cornell based on The Office. High schoolers! Yeesh!)Okay. So, Sonia Sotomayor is a great subject. What else makes this book sing?Details. This book is alive with details. It often reads more like a novel than a biography. Which is infinitely more appealing than a dry account of someone's accomplishments. For example: On Sat. nights, Sonia's extended Nuyorican (Puerto Ricans living in New York) family gathered for good food, music and games. "She wanted to hear every word as they chopped vegetables, talked, laughed, and exchanged gossip. Sonia pressed her ear against the kitchen door to hear. She wanted to be a part of that link of womanhood, of that link to her heritage, of that link to two worlds."The writing. Sylvia Mendoza writes well, really well. She's obviously done extensive research. (You should see the bibliography!) I was confident I was getting the real deal, the true story of Sonia Sotomayor. As an aside, I think the language is sophisticated enough to appeal to YA readers.The take-away. Sonia Sotomayor: A Biography is inspirational. It encourages you to be the best you can. To fight for the underdog, to care for your community, to honor your roots. "At the end of each day she asks herself two questions: What have you learned today? What acts of kindness did you perform?"Seems like an awesome way to live your life.(Well, well, well, dear FCC: I'm actually lucky enough to know Sylvia Mendoza. And I requested an ARC of this book. I reviewed Sonia Sotomayor: A Biography because I loved it. Plain and simple. )And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!YOUNG ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSBeth Bonini of TRAC: ANNA AND THE SWALLOW MAN by Gabriel Savit (YA, historical)Lucy Sartain of Ranting and Raving: PRADA & PREJUDICE by Mandy Hubbard                                                            (YA, time travel romance)Sarah Laurence: THE PEARL THIEF by Elizabeth Wein (YA , historical mystery)Stacy Nyikos: THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas (YA, contemporary)ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSLinda McLau[...]

The Book Review Club (March 2017)


Happy Very First Day of March! And welcome to this month's edition of The Book Review Club.  On this day in 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed an executive order which established the Peace Corps. Today also happens to be National Horse Protection Day and National Pig Day. And I'd say that's about enough trivia for one paragraph! And now our book reviews! Interestingly, we have an abundance of reviews of non-fiction books this month. Enjoy!ON TURPENTINE LANEby ELINOR LIPMAN (adult, romantic comedy)Do you want to be charmed and entertained? Fall in love with a crew of quirky characters? Get tangled up in a twisty-turny plot? Yes? Then I have the book for you! On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman.In a Nutshell: Our sassy thirty-something protagonist, Faith Frankel, buys a small 5 1/2 room quaint but rundown house with an unexpected history. This purchase somehow sets off a crazy chain of events. There's Faith's deadbeat fiancé whose idea of a ring is a piece of red wool that makes her finger itch. He's walking across America. I'm not exactly sure why. I don't think he knows either. Enter Faith's meddling mother, her father and his wandering eye, her snow-plow driving brother with a new relationship. And, and, and a perfectly delightful officemate named Nick. Now, toss in a murder and a few more zany characters. It's all just so amusing!What I Loved: 1. This book is beautifully, perfectly, wonderfully plotted. The plotting is a work of art. 2. The dialogue is spot on to the point you feel you're right there with the characters, perhaps sitting at the kitchen table, sipping a cup of coffee with them. 3. Great humor. And lots of it. 4. The writing is so damned good. Here are a few of my favorite examples:~"...Windexed at the first sign of a fingerprint..."~"His next question, eyes never leaving a colorized Kris Kringle, was..." (character is watching Miracle on 34th Street)~"One of the things I love about you is your doomsday outlook based on affection for whoever's at risk."What I Didn't Love: I have to wait another year or so for the next Elinor Lipman novel!Kirkus Reviews describes On Turpentine Lane as "warm, clever, a little silly, a lot of fun." I'd say it's all that and more! Heartily recommended!(Dear FCC: Bought it.)And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!YOUNG ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWStacy Nyikos: THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR by Nicola Yoon (contemporary YA)ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSStacy of the Cat's Meow: THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD by Colson Whitehead                                           (historical, literary)Tanya Sutton: BIG LITTLE LIES by Liane Moriarty (contemporary women's lit)ADULT NONFICTION BOOK REVIEWSAlyssa Goodnight: TALES OF HISTORY'S BOLDEST HEROINES, HELLIONS, AND HERETICS                                by Jason Porath (biography/folklore)Jenn Jilks of Cottage Country: THE BLUE SATIN NIGHTGOWN by Karin Crilly (memoir)Lucy Sartain of Ranting and Raving: BORN A CRIME: STORIES FROM A SOUTH AFRICAN                                                            CHILDHOOD by Trevor Noah (memoir)Linda McLaughlin:WHITE TRASH: THE 400-YEAR UNTOLD STORY OF CLASS IN AMERICA                                by Nancy Isenberg (sociology)Margy Lutz: TIDE RIPS AND BACK EDDIES by Bill Proctor and Yvonne Maximchuk                     (autobiography)Ray Potthoff: THE PATRIARCH by David Nasaw ([...]

The Book Review Club (February 2017)


Welcome to the first 2017 meeting of The Book Review Club. You're in for a fantastic February treat as my critique partner, Kelly Hayes, is in charge of the review on my blog this month. Here's my rule of thumb: If Kelly recommends it, I read it!THE ICE BENEATH HER by Camilla Grebe (psychological thriller, Scandinavian)I don't know about you, but lately I can't seem to get enough of Scandinavian crime novels. There's just something about the moody atmosphere, not quite Noir, which can oftentimes be too dark, and not the sanitized commerciality of a lot of American crime fiction. There's a low-key authenticity to most Scandinavian crime fiction that juxtaposes nicely with its more fantastic elements, making it feel universal and yet somehow exotic.THE ICE BENEATH HER by Camilla Grebe is one such crime novel. It takes place in Stockholm, Sweden where a woman's body is found brutally beheaded in the home of Jesper Orre, the controversial CEO of a huge fashion chain. Of course, Orre is the main suspect, but seems to have disappeared into thin air, leaving his cell phone and wallet at home. And then there are the gruesome similarities between this case and an unsolved one from ten years before where a man was beheaded in the same way.We get the story from three different perspectives: Peter Lindgren, one of the detectives investigating the case, Hanne Lagerlind-Schon, a criminal profiler who has had a past relationship with Peter, and Emma Bohman, a young sales clerk who worked for Jesper Orre's company and had a secret affair with him.For the first half of the book, the plot kind of takes a backseat to the three main characters, as we live inside their heads and see the story through their eyes. There's Peter with his crippling fear of commitment. Hanne has early onset Alzheimer's which threatens her brilliant work as a profiler. And then there's Emma whose story takes place months before the murder. Her naivete and abusive background make her the ultimate target for a playboy like Jesper.Emma is the character that really stood out for me. There's something so sadly inevitable about the tragic chain of events in Emma's life and her inability to pull herself out of the mire that got to me emotionally. And kept me turning pages.But nothing in this book is as it seems. Just when you think you'e figured it out, it changes. And even if you do deduce who did it, it doesn't really matter because there's still plenty more tension to come, and plenty more to discover.And that, I think, is the key to the success of Scandinavian crime fiction. It doesn't necessarily rely on plot devices to keep you reading. The characters often seem so real, you want to know what happens to them even after then mystery is solved.(Dear FCC: I forgot to ask Kelly where she got her copy of this book. But if I were a betting woman, I'd bet her local library.)  And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!MIDDLE GRADE AND YOUNG ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSJody Feldman: COSMIC by Frank Cottrell Boyce (middle grade)                         This review examines a medley of humorous middle-grade novels.Sarah Laurence: THE LOOSE ENDS LIST by Carrie Firestone (contemporary YA)Stacy Nyikos: SPARE AND FOUND PARTS by Sarah Maria Griffin (horror YA)Stacy of the Cat's Meow: MOSQUITOLAND by David Arnold (contemporary YA)ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSAlyssa Goodnight: AGATHA RAISIN AND THE QUICHE OF DEATH by M.C. Beaton                                (cozy mystery)Ellen Booraem: HOMEGOING by Yaa Gyasi (historical, literary)Jenn Jilks of Cottage Country: NEW PLANET, NEW WORLD by Ian Prattis (futuristic, time travel)Linda McLaughlin: IT CAN'T HAPPEN HERE by Sinclai[...]

The Book Review Club (December 2016)


Welcome to the December edition of The Book Review Club. I can't believe it's our last get-together of 2016! It's a great time of year to read reviews and get ideas for books to buys as gifts. Even as gifts for yourself! I highly recommend the book I reviewed this month. Please scroll down for the links to everyone's reviews. You'll be glad you did.THE JOLLY CHRISTMAS POSTMANby Janet and Allan AhlbergAs part of the decorations at Halloween and Christmas, I set out the books I used to read to my children back in the day. They inevitably pick them up and thumb through the pages, making comments like "I remember when this was my favorite book" or "I can't believe you still have this, Mom." It's a little trip down memory lane for them. For me, too.THE JOLLY CHRISTMAS POSTMAN (the sequel to the wonderful The Jolly Postman) is a particularly special picture book. It's the story of a postman cycling around Banbury Cross (so clever!) to deliver Christmas letters, cards, games and other gifts to various fairy tale characters like the Gingerbread Man and Humpty Dumpty and even The Big Bad Wolf (a stop he doesn't want to make). Janet Ahlberg's illustrations are delightful. Allan Ahlberg's rhyme is really entertaining. Even for adults. :)  This is an interactive book, and the envelopes inside hold the cards, etc. Below is the "hazardous board game," Get Out of the Woods (more cleverness!) sent from the Wolf to Little Red Riding Hood (ever more cleverness!).  You remove it from the envelope and unfold it to play. I have won at this game!The British authors married and created many children's books together over a twenty-year period. Probably their most well-known book is Each Peach Pear Plum. Sadly, Janet died of breast cancer at age 50 in 1994. According to Wikipedia, Allan said after her death that that they "made an absolute fortune" but "never really had holidays." So, there's a little gem of wisdom for you. And here's a link to an interesting and very recent Telegraph article about Allan who remarried (to his editor) and has created a couple of books with his daughter. Among other things, he talks about his writing routine (he writes daily in his shed) and the vagaries of the publishing industry. It's quite an intimate article. I think you'll like it.(Dear FCC: Happy Holidays!)And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!MIDDLE GRADE/YOUNG ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSEllen Booraem: GOODBYE, STRANGER by Rebecca Stead (MG, contemp)Stacy Nyikos: THE GREENGLASS HOUSE by Kate Milford (MG, mystery)Sarah Laurence: YOU KNOW ME WELL by Nina LaCour & David Leviathan (YA, contemp)ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSJenn Jilks of Cottage Country: TIMESHIFT by Kris Trudeau (futuristic techno-thriller)Linda McLaughlin: LORD PERFECT by Loretta Chase (regency romance, audio)Patti Abbott:  MISS JANE by Brad WatsonRay Potthoff: DARK EAGLE by John Ensor Harr (historical)Stacy of the Cat's Meow: THE MOTHERS by Brit Bennett (literary)Note to Reviewers: Any errors (broken link, missed review, etc), just shoot me an email or leave a comment. Thank you so much for your reviews![...]

Visit Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore for Indies 1st Day + Small Business Saturday on Nov 26!


Next Saturday, November 26, 2016 is ...drum roll...


I'll be at the one-and-only Mysterious Galaxy, 5943 Balboa Ave, Ste 100, San Diego, 92111.*

And...I'll be a bookseller! Yes, it's true. No bonbons or couches for me from 1:00-3:00pm. 

Mysterious Galaxy let me order for their shelves six of my favorite mysteries and fantasies. Please stop by and talk books. Or just come see me putting in an honest 2 hours of work. Or bring me a coffee.

Other bookselling authors will be: Mishell Baker, Lisa Brackmann, Nick Cole, CB Lee, Cindy Pon, Kat Rocha and Laura Tims.

We're all very friendly. :) And it's always good to support a local independent bookstore.

*store hours=10am-5pm


The Book Review Club (November 2016)


Guess what Emily Dickinson said about November? "November always seemed to me the Norway of the year." What's a really great way to cheer up a dreary month? AND to take your mind off the elections? BOOKS! How propitious (there's your $5 word for the month!) that you stumbled upon this blog. Presenting: the November 2016 edition of The Book Review Club with reviews of books we want you to read! Welcome!13 WAYS OF LOOKING AT A FAT GIRL by Mona Awad (debut, adult, literary)I'm trying to write this review carefully because 13 WAYS OF LOOKING AT A FAT GIRL is a very, very good book. I want to do it justice. Actually, a lot of people think highly of this book. For example, it's: a finalist for the Giller Prize, winner of the Amazon Canada First Novel Award, one of the most anticipated books of 2016 according to Elle, Bustle, and The Globe and Mail. Whew.The book consists of thirteen interconnected vignettes that follow Lizzie/Beth/Elizabeth/Liz from teenage hood through college, temp work, inappropriate relationships, marriage and more until her early thirties. Lizzie changes her name depending on her weight. (See how FAT is partially erased on the cover?!)In the first story, "When We Went Against the Universe," Lizzie is an overweight high schooler, hanging out with her best friend, Mel, at a McDonald's in suburban Toronto (" in Misery Saga which is what you're allowed to call Mississauga if you live there.") By the last story, "Beyond the Sea," Lizzie is in her thirties, thin, unhappy, divorced and living in a gated community where she fights for time on the Lifecycle and questions the point of all her exercising and neurotic, cautious eating/starving.13 WAYS is the story of Lizzie March, a multi-dimensional character we see interacting with several other characters, in a variety of settings, from a dressing room to a nail salon to her bedroom to a hospital waiting room to various restaurants and the list goes on. 13 WAYS is also the story of women in today's society. How we're pressured to look a certain way, dress a certain way, even to think in certain ways. And how we're so very often ill at ease in our very own skin.13 WAYS is witty, caustic, insightful. I laughed. I cringed. I kept turning pages.I think perhaps People magazine said it best: "A hilarious, heartbreaking book."Highly recommended.(Dear FCC: I bought this book.)And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!YOUNG ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSEllen Booraem:  DREAMHUNTER by Elizabeth Knott (YA Fantasy, bk #1)                           DREAMQUAKE BY Elizabeth Knott (YA Fantasy, bk #2)Jody Feldman: THE CANDYMAKERS by Wendy Mass (middle grade, bk #1)                         THE GREAT CHOCOLATE CHASE by Wendy Mass (middle grade, bk #2)Stacy Nyikos: THE ADVENTURERS GUIDE TO SUCCESSFUL ESCAPES by Wade Albert White                        (middle grade, fantasy, sci fi)Beth Bonini of TRAC: ASKING FOR IT by Louise O'Neill (mature YA)Stacy of the Cat's Meow: SALT TO THE SEA by Ruta Sepetys  (YA historical)ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSAlyssa Goodnight: A STUDY IN SCARLET WOMEN by Sherry Thomas (historical mystery)Jenn Jilks of Cottage Country: THE HUMMINGBIRD by Stephen P. Kieran (contemporary)Linda McLaughlin: THE LAST WALTZ by G.G. Vandagriff (Historical/Saga)                              Lucy Sartain of Ranting and Raving: THREE WISHES by Liane Moriarty (contemporary)Ray Potthoff: PEOPLE OF THE BOOK by Geraldine Brooks (hi[...]

The Book Review Club (October 2016)


Welcome to the October edition of The Book Review Club. Apparently, October is a crazy, busy month. Who knew? It's Caramel Month, Cookie Month, Dessert Month, Pasta Month, Pickled Peppers Month, Pizza Month, Popcorn Popping Month, Pork Month, Pretzel Month. Here's the link to everything Oct is hosting. I say, let's offset some of that eating with...READING. Oh, you thought I was going to say EXERCISE? Did you see the blog title? The BOOK Review Club? (October is also National Sarcasm Month.). Enjoy our reviews!ROOT BEER CANDY AND OTHER MIRACLESby Shari Green (middle grade)First off, can I just say that I'm in awe of anyone who can write a book in verse. And not just verse, but good verse. So, kudos to Shari Green!In a nutshell: Eleven-year-old Bailey and her younger brother are sent to spend the summer with their grandmother on Arbutus Island (by British Columbia) while their parents try to repair their marriage.Digging a little deeper: Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles is about family, friendship and community. Bailey is worried about her parents splitting up. Also, her mother and grandmother never buried the hatchet after a falling out before the book opens. Bailey is also worried about her new friend who suffers from cystic fibrosis. And there's in-fighting in the island community over a prophesizing ice cream seller.Bailey wants a miracle. Badly. Over the course of the novel, she matures and comes to grips with what she can and can't change.What I Loved: Well, lots of things! In no particular order, I loved the language. Here's a small sample: "I never saw such turmoil on the sea--dark water snarling at us and grabbing whatever it could in the white claws of its waves." I loved how all the conflicts were not favorably resolved. Just like real life. I loved how island life (sea cave, ocean swimming, a dolphin, driftwood, and more) was a natural part of the story.Highly recommended for the middle grader in your life. :)(Dear FCC: Guess what? I actually received and read an ARC of this book. Oh so unusual! But I reviewed it because I loved it.) And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!CHILDREN, MIDDLE GRADE, YOUNG ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSLucy Sartain of Ranting and Raving: GIRAFFES CAN'T DANCE by Giles Andreae (children)Stacy Nyikos: THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON by Kelly Barnhill (middle grade, fantasy)Beth Bonini of TRAC: A COURT OF MIST AND FURY by Sarah J. Maas (YA Fantasy)ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSAlyssa Goodnight: MAISIE DOBBS by Jacqueline Winspear (historical mystery)Jenn Jilks of Cottage Country: BROKEN PROMISES by Nick Nichols (legal thriller)Lucy Sartain of Ranting and Raving: EVELYN, AFTER by Victoria Helen Stone (women's)Patti Abbott:  A MAN CALLED OVE by Frederic Bachman (literary)Ray Potthoff: VICTORY AT YORKTOWN by Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen (historicalScott Parker: THE HALLOWEEN TREE by Ray Bradbury (fantasy)Stacy of the Cat's Meow: LIFE AND OTHER NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCES by Camille PaganNONFICTION REVIEWJenn Jilks of Cottage Country: 3 self-help autobiographiesNote to Reviewers: Any errors (broken link, missed review, etc), just shoot me an email or leave a comment. Thank you so much for your reviews![...]

The Book Review Club (September 2016)


It's September and our first Book Review Club meeting of the fall. Welcome! I hope everyone had a marvelous summer and managed to fit in lots, or at least some, reading. A little literary trivia about September: Shakespeare didn't use this month in any of his plays. And now onto our book reviews!Child #4 enjoying FINDING WINNIE by Lindsay MattickFINDING WINNIE: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bearby Lindsay Mattick *illustrated by Sophie Blackall This picture book is the true story of Winnie the Pooh. Which I know sounds a bit odd because how can you have a true story about a fictitious bear? Well, here's how...One August day in 1914, a vet named Harry Colebourn from Winnipeg (remember this city!), Manitoba, Canada boarded a train with a whole horde of other soldiers headed to WWI.  The train stopped in White River, Ontario. The vet disembarked to stretch his legs and met on the platform a trapper with a brown bear cub. The vet (who loved animals as most vets probably do) gave the trapper $20, then re-boarded the train with his new cub. I believe this is what we call A Sign of the Times. I'm pretty sure nowadays people would frown if you tried to board a train with a bear cub.Anyway, the vet named his new cub Winnipeg, " we'll never be far from home." Awww. She was called Winnie, for short. Winnie became the Mascot of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade. The bear sailed to England with her brigade, but the vet felt France might be too dangerous. So he found Winnie a home at the London Zoo.And guess who liked to visit the London Zoo? AA Milne and his son, Christopher Robin! Christopher Robin regularly went into the exhibit to play with Winnie. Another Sign of the Times.And there you have it (well, minus a load of details, which are in the book) .... "the true story behind the world's most famous bear."The story is delightful. The illustrations are, too. This book won the 2016 Caldecott. I also loved the real photos at the back of the book: various people, Winnie, memorabilia (such as Harry's diary). Here is a link to some of those pictures. *Lindsay Mattick is the great-granddaughter of Vet Harry Colebourn.**$20 Canadian in 1914 would be worth $473.05 Cdn or $368.33 US now. Roughy speaking.(Dear FCC: I have one word for you: LIBRARY)And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!MIDDLE GRADE/YOUNG ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSJody Feldman: A RIDDLE IN RUBY by Kent Davis (MG, action/adventure)Stacy Nyikos: THE MARK OF THE DRAGONFLY by Jaleigh Johnson (MG, fantasy)Sarah Laurence: WRECKED by Maria Padian (contemporary YA)ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSEllen Booraem: THE BURIED GIANT by Kazuo Ishiguro (historical fantasy)Patti Abbott:  MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON by Elizabeth Strout (literary)Linda McLaughlin: A DESPERATE FORTUNE by Susanna Kearsley (romance)Scott Parker: REPLAY by Ken Grimwood (SF/Fantasy/Time Travel)NONFICTION REVIEWRay Potthoff: ALEXANDER HAMILTON by Ron Chernow (biography)Note to Reviewers: Any errors (broken link, missed review, etc), just shoot me an email or leave a comment. Thank you so much for your reviews![...]

The Book Review Club (June 2016)


Welcome to the June 2016 edition of The Book Review Club. This will be the last "meeting" before our annual summer hiatus. Which doesn't mean we won't be reading over the summer. We will! All to return with September 7th book reviews that'll knock your socks off! As for post and links to fellow reviewers? We have books to recommend for your summer reading! Thanks for checking us out today! Below my post are links to reviewsWITH MALICE by Eileen Cook (young adult, contemp psychological thriller)I once shared a room with Eileen Cook. That was BEFORE I read WITH MALICE! Ha!From the book itself: The Record Eagle PaperSchool Trip Ends In TragedyMay 3Two local girls, Jill Charron and Simone McIvory were involved in an automobile accident in Tuscany Italy while on a school trip. Ms. McIvory was declared dead at the scene. Ms. Charron sustained significant injuries, including a brain injury that has impacted her memory of events. She’s been flown home for further care.So....what do we have? An 18 year old girl wakes up in an Italian hospital following a car accident. Jill can't remember the last six wks of her life, including what happened in the car accident that killed her best friend. What role did Jill play? Was it indeed an accident? Was Simone truly her best friend? What kind of person is Jill really? Simone? And where does the not-so-nice Italian guy fit in? How about the new best friend, Anna, from the rehab hospital? And the feuding families? And the online brouhaha? (Ya gotta love a review that can work in "brouhaha"!!) And then there's the ending....Toss in Eileen's tight writing, devious plotting, strong sassy voice, chapter hooks...and you've got a book that keeps you up at night. (Luckily, my family loves me tired and cranky.)A little extra something else that really grabbed me: The story is told through a variety of mediums: police statements, newspaper articles, travel guidebook entries, social media posts, yearbook entries, regular narrative. All this keeps the twisty-turny plot moving smartly along. And keeps the reader so spellbound, she doesn't accomplish a single thing on her to-do list!In conclusion: Go read the book, but don't complain to me when you get behind in life along with losing your beauty sleep. WITH MALICE is superbly written and perfectly creepy. It can be enjoyed by both young adults and adults. This book hits shelves on June 7.(Dear FCC: I read everything Eileen Cook writes. (I'd read her shopping lists, if she'd share them with me.) I read an ARC of WITH MALICE. I only review books I like. I reviewed this book. Put it all together... Go buy yourself a copy of this great book. Enjoy life a little. )And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!YOUNG ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSSarah Laurence: THE LIE TREE by Frances Hardinge (YA)Scott Parker: DOC SAVAGE: THE MAN OF BRONZE by Kenneth Robeson (1933 version,                                                                                                crossover YA to adult, action/adventure)Stacy Nyikos: HOW I LIVE NOW by Meg Rosoff (YA)ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSAlyssa Goodnight: DYING BY DESIGN by Renee Patrick (mystery)Ellen Booraem: SLADE HOUSE by David Mitchell (supernatural mystery)Jenn Jilks of Cottage Country: GREEK MYTHIC HISTORY by Spencer Clevenger (mythology)Linda McLaughlin: LORD OF SCOUNDRELS by Loretta Chase  (historical romance)Lucy Sartain of Ranting and Raving: NE[...]

The Book Review Club (May 2016)


Welcome to the May edition of The Book Review Club! My marvelous critique partner, Kathy Aarons, wrote today's review about a book she can't stop talking about. I mean, you have to really love a book to beg me to let you write a review for the blog. Well, maybe not so much "beg" as in you owe me. But, hey, it's all good. Also, I just started the book in question, and it's pretty amazing thus far! So, without further ado (love that phrase!), take it away, Kathy!FURIOUSLY HAPPY  by Jenny Lawson  (adult, essays)From Amazon: In FURIOUSLY HAPPY, #1 New York Times bestselling author Jenny Lawson explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. But terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.I really enjoyed Jenny Lawson's memoir, LET'S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED, which delves into her eccentric childhood growing up in western Texas.But even that didn't prepare me for all the truly laugh-out-loud moments of her recent book, FURIOUSLY HAPPY: A FUNNY BOOK ABOUT HORRIBLE THINGS.FURIOUSLY HAPPY is a collection of essays that illustrate Lawson's wacky sense of humor, which is at its best when describing arguments with her husband. I can't help but think he's both the luckiest and most put-upon husband alive. I tried reading a few pages to my husband, but couldn't get through them because I was laughing so hard I couldn't speak.While these humorous vignettes are worth the purchase price, what makes this book truly important is Lawson's brutally honest explorations of her mental illness. Right when I was crying with laughter, I'd be crying for an entirely different reason.The combination of humorous stories about koalas with chlamydia interspersed with heart-breaking descriptions of her depression, anxiety and wish to self-harm, made me want to give the author a hug and a high five at the same time.The expression "furiously happy" comes from a taxidermied raccoon named Rory, whose frozen smile and jazz hands appear to show determination to have a fun time no matter what. Lawson uses it to tell herself and demonstrate to her readers that her mental illness doesn't have to control her life. That sometimes you can choose to be happy even in the face of terrible depression or anxiety. She discusses how she's learned to deal with her complicated issues, but never preaches or pretends to know how any other sufferers should deal with theirs.I've been recommending this book to everyone I know, whether they suffer from mental illness or not, because it can help anyone understand the day-to-day struggles of someone who does.And it will make you laugh while you do.From Barrie: If you're looking for Kathy, author of the nationally bestselling Chocolate Covered Mystery series (yes, I'm proud!), you'll find her on Twitter, Facebook or on her website. And Jenny Lawson blogs regularly here: The Bloggess(Dear FCC: Kathy borrowed this book from the library. Then, she went out and bought two copies. She spends a small (or large, if you believe her husband!) fortune on books.)And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!MIDDLE GRADE AND YOUNG ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSAlyssa Goodnight: THANKS FOR THE TROUBLE by Tommy Wallach (YA, contemporary)Ellen Booraem: INSTEAD OF THREE WISHES BY Megan Whelan Turner                                                                               [...]

The Book Review Club (April 2016)


Welcome to the April edition of The Book Review Club! Here's a famous first line for you: "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." (from 1984 by George Orwell) We have loads of reviews this month, which means we've all been reading good books and want to pass on the word!WHEN THE WHISTLE BLOWS by Fran Cannon Slayton (middle grade, historical)I met Fran in March of 2010 at the Virginia Book Festival in Charlottesville, VA. She might not remember (there were scads of kid lit authors), but Fran made an impression on me: smart, articulate, helpful, genuine. Above all, genuine. Her middle-grade novel, WHEN THE WHISLE BLOWS, has been on my TBR list since that meeting. Yes, yes, my pile of to-read books is totally out of control! It's threatening to take over the bedroom! Anyway, I finally read WHEN THE WHISLE BLOWS last week during my Oklahoma trip, and I LOVED IT!This past January, Fran was diagnosed with brain cancer. She writes a very honest and heart-warming/heart-wrenching blog about this ongoing journey. Here's the link to Fran's My Unexpected Journey.WHEN THE WHISTLE BLOWS opens on Halloween 1943 in the small mountain town of Rowlesburg, West Virginia. Jimmy Cannon is in seventh grade and wants nothing more than to grow up and, like his dad and older brother, work for the railroad....the "iron horse." Unfortunately, the steam engine is on its way out, and, like the rest of us, Jimmy is unable to stop change. Jimmy's dad, whose birthday is on Halloween, predicts the coming of the diesel engine. By the end of the book, this prediction comes true. Each chapter is the next Halloween. Which is pretty cool because you see Jimmy growing up a year at a time, all the way to 1949. Also, each chapter gives us a slice of Jimmy's life: pranks with his friends, a robbery, his uncle's wake, a high-school football game, etc. A great strength of this book lies in the characters. They are well developed and authentic. I was sorry to reach the last page and know my time with them was over. As the mother of three boys, I can attest that the author really and truly captured the boy perspective. Another strength is the historical details. They are woven seamlessly into the narrative and dialogue. For me, WHEN THE WHISTLE BLOWS is reminiscent of a Jack London or a Richard Peck novel. Yes, it's that good.Not something I normally do as part of a book review: Fran will need help to cover medical expenses. Buying this book would help. For other ways to pitch in, click here.(Dear FCC: I bought this book. Plain and simple. And I'm glad I did.)And staying on track (oh, come on, you were waiting for at least one train pun!) ...onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one! Choo choo! (That's it! Seriously, I'm done :) )MIDDLE GRADE/YOUNG ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSEllen Booraem: GRAYLING'S SONG by Karen Cushman (middle grade, fantasy)Jody Feldman: THE MYSTERIOUS MOONSHINE by Eric Luper (middle grade, mystery)Beth Bonini of TRAC: ILLUMINAE by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff (YA, science fiction)Rob Costello: BUTTERFLY by Sonya Hartnett (young adult)Sarah Laurence: THIS IS THE STORY OF YOU by Beth Kephart (young adult, contemporary)Stacy Nyikos: THE PASSENGER by Alexandra Bracken (young adult, science fiction)ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSAlyssa Goodnight: FLIGHT OF DREAMS by Ariel Lawhon (historical)Jenn Jilks of Cottage Country: YOU'RE ONLY OLD ONCE by Dr. Seuss (humorous)Patti Abbott:  ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony DoerrLinda McLaughlin: THE DOG WHO KNEW TOO MUCH by Spencer Quinn (mystery)      &nbs[...]

The Book Review Club (March 2016)


Welcome to the March edition of The Book Review Club. You're in for a marvelous March treat as my critique partner, Kelly Hayes, is in charge of the review on my blog this month. Take it away, Kelly! And thank you bunches!LUCKIEST GIRL ALIVE by Jessica Knoll (debut, mystery/thriller)This is a tricky book review to write without spoilers. I want to avoid spoilers as much as possible because the slow reveal is so important to the plot of this book. So here goes.The first storyline starts in present day New York City where 28 year-old women's magazine writer, Ani, is gearing up for a big expensive wedding to her silver spoon fiancé, Luke. It isn't long before we realize that all is not right in Ani's rarefied world. For one thing, she's non too thrilled to be getting married, even as she obsessively plans every detail of the wedding. Not to mention her 700 calories per day diet and her manipulative, controlling, judgmental inner dialog. And what's with the name change from Tifani to Ani? It seems like way more trouble that it's worth to constantly correct people when they use her old name. That's when we realize this character has gone to great pains to reinvent herself and it's taking all her energy to keep up her new, sleek, engineered persona.Enter the ticking clock. Ani has committed to being the main subject of a documentary about a traumatic event she was involved in at her upper crust prep school when she was fourteen, which made the headlines and gave her a strange sort of fame. Filming starts just two weeks before the wedding and her fiancé does not want her to participate.This is where the second storyline creeps in. As the date of filming looms, Ani begins to relive the months leading up to the traumatic event. And this is when her carefully constructed life begins to crumble bit by bit, just as it did fifteen years ago when she was so desperate to fit in at the prestigious Bradley School.The author skillfully feeds us intriguing details and yet holds back the crucial information. About halfway through the book, just as a major traumatic event is revealed, and we're reeling from the shocking details, we realize it's only the tip of the iceberg. There's way more to come, as TifAni spirals down into the depths of teen despair, and her precarious new social standing disintegrates.I think Luckiest Girl Alive defies classification and genre parameters. I started reading it, thinking it was psychological suspense, and it does have some of those elements. But, ultimately, I think this is a story about how reinvention only works on a surface level. Because buried secrets don't stay buried forever. Eventually they will rise to the surface and demand your attention. And when they do, you'd better be ready.(Dear FCC: I don't actually know where Kelly got her copy of this book. But I do know her well enough to say she wouldn't give a positive review if she didn't believe in it. So there.)And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!YOUNG ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSBeth Bonini of TRAC: SIMON VS THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA by Becky AlbertalliADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSAlyssa Goodnight: LOVE IN LOWERCASE by Francesc Miralles (romantic comedy)Ellen Booraem: HONEYDEW by Edith Pearlman (short stories)Jenn Jilks of Cottage Country: DECEPTION ON HIS MIND by Elizabeth George (mystery)Jenn Jilks of Cottage Country: THE FOREST by Edward Rutherford (historical)Lucy Sartain of Ranting and Raving: The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty (women's)Ray Potthoff: STONE COLE by David Baldacci (thriller)Scott Parker: BOUNTY ON A BARON by [...]

The Book Review Club (February 2016)


Greetings and welcome to our first Book Review Club meeting of 2016! I gather  we're in for an early spring as per several groundhogs, including Punxsutawney Phil, Shubenacadie Sam, Staten Island Chuck, General Beau Lee. None of these saw his/her shadow yesterday. No matter the season, it's always good to have a book to curl up with. Please scroll down under my review for links to our awesome reviewers. P.S. A little trivia: a group of groundhogs is a repetition.UNUSUAL CHICKENS FOR THE EXCEPTIONAL POULTRY FARMER by Kelly Jones (debut, middle grade, fantasy)If I had to choose one word to describe this book, I'd choose "delightful."In a nutshell (or should I say "in an egg basket"! ha!): Twelve-year-old Sophie and her parents move from LA to a rundown farm they inherited from a great uncle. On the farm, Sophie discovers her great uncle's leftover chickens. But these are not ordinary chickens. These are chickens with super powers. Take Henrietta, for example. She rules the roost. She lays glass eggs and is telekinetic. She's quite moody, and her feathers are often ruffled. Then there's Chameleon who disappears. To avoid spoilers, I won't list the talents of the whole, er, unusual flock. Of course, every book has its bad egg. In Unusual Chickens, it's Ms. Griegson, a local farmer, who wants to steal Sophie's chickens. Sophie must figure out how to outsmart the poultry-napper for good and keep her chickens safe. There are some nice life lessons along the way.What I Loved (in no particular order): The format. This story is told through letters from Sophie to her grandmother and great uncle (both deceased), letters between Sophie and the mysterious Agnes of the Redwood Farm Supply Company, a correspondence course for looking after chickens, recipes, newspaper articles, amazing line drawings and a quizz (as per the quiz, I would make a very excellent chicken farmer!). Sophie's sunnyside-up, resourceful, plucky attitude. I fell in love with that girl. How the diversity blends into the story and feels realistic. Sophie has brown skin, and her mother is Latino. Sophie is aware they are in the minority in the small town. At one point, they are even mistaken for migrant workers. All the chicken facts. Because there's just something about chickens, right? Lastly, the humor.Highly recommended. Quit clucking and go get yourself a copy!In 2012, my little town approved backyard goats, bees and .... chickens! Just saying...(Dear FCC: Happy New Year! I bought this book.)And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!MIDDLE GRADE/YOUNG ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSBeth Bonini of TRAC: THE WOLF WILDER by Katherine Rundell (MG, historical fantasy)Stacy Nyikos: ILLUMINAE by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (YA, sci fi)ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSAlyssa Goodnight: THE WILD GIRL by Kate Forsyth (historical)Ellen Booraem: THE DOOR by Magda Szabo (realistic)Jenn Jilks of Cottage Country: LO! JACARANDA by Harry Freiermuth (historical)Linda McLaughlin: JUST LIKE HEAVEN by Julia Quinn (historical, romance)Patti Abbott:  THE COLD SONG by Linn Ulman (mystery)Ray Potthoff: DEVIL'S BROOD by Sharon Kay Penman (historical)NONFICTION REVIEWJenn Jilks of Cottage Country: THE PLANET FRIENDLY DIET by Cat Smiley (self help)Sarah Laurence: BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME by Ta-Nehisi Coates (adult)Note to Reviewers: Any errors (broken link, missed review, etc), just shoot me an email or leave a comment. Thank you so much for your reviews![...]

The Book Review Club (December 2015)


Welcome to the last Book Review Club meeting of 2015! It's been a great year....full of good books and wonderful reviews. Books make the best gifts. If you're looking for ideas....check out our current and past reviews.Happy Holidays!THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH by Ali Benjamin (debut, middle grade)I decided to end the year with a review of The Thing About Jellyfish, one of the best middle grade novels I read in 2015.  I'm in good company; many people loved this book. It was a NYT bestseller and National Book Award finalist and got starred reviews from the usual suspects (Kirkus, SLJ, Booklist, etc.)The Thing About Jellyfish is the story of 12-year-old Suzy "Zu" Swanson as she deals with her parents' divorce, the loss of a friendship, and the death of her friend. A chatterbox, Suzy chooses to stop talking, and there's a nice thread running through the book about communication.Suzy and Franny Jackson have been friends for years. But they're very different. Always have been. Suzy is bright, interested in all things science, socially awkward.  Franny struggles academically, but fits in well with others. You can imagine what happens when they hit middle school.  Franny joins a popular clique and ditches Suzy. There's a particularly poignant scene in the school cafeteria when Suzy tries to eat lunch at the same table as Franny and her new friends. It hurt to read. The author captured the awkwardness and humiliation so well that I was cringing. I pulled into a parking lot to finish the chapter.  (I was listening to the book on audio). Anyway, the girls' friendship spirals downward and ends on a very sour note. And then Franny dies.This book is full of lots of interesting scientific facts, especially about the Irukandji jellyfish. (I'm guessing the author enjoyed all the research. I know I would've!) Suzy becomes convinced this transparent, venomous jelly was  responsible for Franny's death.  Suzy wants a scientific explanation for why Franny, an excellent swimmer drowned in a calm ocean. Continuing with the scientific theme, The Thing About Jellyfish is organized into seven parts, like the scientific method.And here's a quotation from the book, just to showcase the exquisite writing:“In the end Suzanne, it's a gift to spend time with people we care about. Even if it's imperfect. Even if that time doesn't end when, or how, we expected. Even when that person leaves us.” Highly recommended.Dear FCC: Thank you for checking in on me. I bought this book, fair and square.  And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!MIDDLE GRADE/YOUNG ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSStacy Nyikos: HUSKY by Justin Sayre (MG)Sarah Laurence: THE WRATH and THE DAWN by Renée Ahdieh (YA)Stacy of the Cat's Meow: NIGHTFALL by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski (YA)ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWS Linda McLaughlin: THE SISTERS WEISS by Naomi ReganPatti Abbott:  BROOKLYN by Colm ToibinPrairie Rose of Prairie Rose's Garden: THE LAKE HOUSE by Kate Morton (mystery)Rob Costello: MONICA NEVER SHUTS UP by A.S. King (short stories)NONFICTION REVIEWRay Potthoff: BLACK EARTH: THE HOLOCAUST AS HISTORY and WARNING                       by Timothy Snyder (history)Note to Reviewers: Any errors (broken link, missed review, etc), just shoot me an email or leave a comment. Thank you so much for your reviews![...]

The Book Review Club (November 2015)


It's the first Wednesday in November (November?! Already!?) and time for a meeting of our monthly Book Review Club. A little trivia: November comes from the Latin "novem" meaning "nine" because November was the ninth month in the ancient 10-month Roman calendar. When January and February were added in 713 BC, November kept its name. Similar story for December. Could be useful trivia at a holiday party? Onward!HALF BROTHER by Kenneth Oppel (young adult)Kenneth Oppel is a prolific Canadian writer. By prolific, I mean he's written close to 30 books. We're talking picture, middle grade, young adult, and even a little adult fiction. He wrote his first novel, Colin's Fantastic Video Adventure, while in high school. He wrote his second, The Live-Forever Machine, while a student at the University of Toronto.  In 2004, his young-adult novel, Airborn, won the Michael L. Printz Award and the Governor General's Award. His Silverwing trilogy has sold over a million copies. Uh, wow! Just wow!And now that you're all properly impressed, let's talk a little about Oppel's young adult novel, Half Brother.In a nutshell: It's 1973, and a few really big changes take place in the life of only child, 13 year-old Ben Tomlin. His parents move him across country from Toronto to Victoria. He has to get used to a new school and new friends. On top of that, his mother brings home from Africa a newborn chimp. His behavioral-science parents want to raise the chimp, Zan, as a member of the family and teach him American Sign Language. It's all part of an experiment to see if Zan can acquire language.What I Loved: The author draws heavily on similar kinds of chimpanzee language experiments from the 1970s. Think Nim and Washoe. There was a lot going on the book. Ben falls for a girl, makes new friends (not all appropriate), struggles in school. Zan matures, learns signs, grows stronger. The funding for the experiment is pulled, and decisions about Zan's future are up in the air.In the Final Analysis: This is a book about relationships, especially family relationships and what constitutes a family. Also, as you can imagine, it raises questions about the ethics of animal experiments. Readers will get caught up in rooting for Ben and Zan.-Here's a link to the author's website: Kenneth Oppel-Here's a YouTube link to a short book trailer: Half Brother-Here's a link to a short interview with the author talking about his inspiration for Half Brother and for the main character, Ben:  interview with Kenneth OppelDear FCC: I actually forget where I bought this book. But I did pay for it, and it is mine.  And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!MIDDLE GRADE/YOUNG ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSBeth Bonini of TRAC: THE MONTMARAY JOURNALS by Michelle Cooper (YA historical)Rob Costello: SLASHER GIRLS & MONSTER BOYS edited by April Genevieve Tucholke                       (YA short story collection, horror)Sarah Laurence: KISSING IN AMERICA by Margo Rabb (YA, contemporary)Stacy Nyikos: EVIL LIBRARIAN by Michelle Knudsen  (YA)ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSEllen Booraem: THE BOOK OF SPECULATION by Erika Swyler (fantasy)Jenn Jilks of Cottage Country: THE SPIRIT OF THE PLACE by Samuel Shem                                                  DYING TO LIVE by S. [...]

The Book Review Club (October 2015)


Happy October and Belated Canadian Thanksgiving! October is also Breast Cancer Awareness month (see Lucy Sartain's review below). And today is National Dessert Day. So, grab a couple of desserts and settle in for some thoughtful book reviews. Weirdly, we have more reviews of nonfiction books than usual. Something's in the autumn air... 30 LESSONS FOR LIVINGby Karl Pillemer (adult, nonfiction)Karl Pillemer, Ph.D., a gerontologist, interviewed over one thousand Americans elders (the average age was 78 yrs) to discover the most important lessons these people have learned during their lifetime. We're talking about "80,000 years or so of combined life experience"!The reason behind the book: "Older people have one unique source of knowledge that the rest of us do not: they have lived their lives. They have been where younger people haven't."30 Lessons for Living is divided into eight chapters. Each chapter covers a different aspect of your life: marriage, career, parenting, aging, living without regrets, happiness. There are lessons, tips and many real-life anecdotes from a broad variety of people across the country.I didn't agree with all the lessons. But I may change my mind with a few more years under my belt! And some of the advice seemed a little simplistic. But perhaps that's my problem; perhaps I'm making life more complicated than it needs to be! I'd like to discuss some of the lessons with Mr. Summy's parents, who are in their early eighties. (Sadly, my own parents died many years ago.)All in all, the book made me stop and think. It's uplifting and sends the message that life is doable, being happy is doable.Here are a few random lessons:*Say yes to opportunities.*Marry someone a lot like you.*Happiness is a choice. Not a condition.I particularly like that third piece of advice.Dear FCC: I own this book. And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!MIDDLE GRADE/YOUNG ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSBeth Bonini of TRAC: CUCKOO SONG by Frances Hardinge (MG)Ellen Booraem: THE NIGHT GARDENER by Jonathan Auxier (middle grade fantasy)Stacy Nyikos: **THE GOLLYWHOPPER GAMES: FRIEND OR FOE by Jody Feldman** (MG)Sarah Laurence: I CRAWL THROUGH IT by A.S. King (young adult)ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSAlyssa Goodnight: GIRL WAITS WITH GUN by Amy Stewart (historical)Ray Potthoff: ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr (historical)Stacy of the Cat's Meow: THE FINE ART OF F**KING UP by Cate DicharryNONFICTION REVIEWJenn Jilks of Cottage Country: THE CAREGIVING TRAP by Pamela D. WilsonLucy Sartain of Ranting and Raving: BETTER by Amy RobachPatti Abbott:  THE MOST DANGEROUS BOOK by Kevin BirminghamScott Parker: TAKE OFF YOUR PANTS!: OUTLINE YOUR BOOKS FOR FASTER, BETTER                      WRITING by Libbie Hawker**Written by our very own Jody Feldman** Note to Reviewers: Any errors (broken link, missed review, etc), just shoot me an email or leave a comment. Thank you so much for your reviews![...]

The Book Review Club (September 2015)


Welcome to the September meeting of The Book Review Club! We're back after a summer of fun and reading. Please click through below my post for links to smart, thoughtful reviews of a variety of books. You will not regret it. Promise! A little trivia: On this day in 1850, California became the 31st state. And in 1956, Elvis Presley debuted on the Ed Sullivan Show. Happy Birthday to Michael Keaton! I've always had a bit of a celebrity crush on you.JUST SAY YES by Alyssa Goodnight (adult, romance, contemporary)It's the end of the summer. I've been reading a lot of middle grade and young adult. And I'm really in the mood for a break. So, I pick up JUST SAY YES by our very own Alyssa Goodnight. I expected to enjoy this book. After all, I'm already in the know re Alyssa's snappy writing and her terrific sense of humor. What I didn't expect was to enjoy it oh so much!In a nutshell: Jade Moran is a single mom in desperate need of a kitchen remodel. She's not looking for romance, and she has her reasons. Max Gianopoulis, contractor, doesn't get involved with clients. He has his reasons. Toss in some wacky family, a teenage daughter (yes, I could relate!), a bunch of humor, a little magic and...voila...a fun, entertaining romance.The thing with romance is you pretty much know the ending from the start, right? Boy and girl wind up together. What's tricky is the journey, how the author manages to get the hero and heroine together by the last page. And Alyssa does it seamlessly, in small, believable steps. Loved this!The dialogue is smart and witty:Her: "I didn't lure you here as a part of a ploy to seduce you."Him: "I've seen your kitchen...your alibi is rock solid."Something a Little Different: Each chapter begins with a description of a food and how it relates to life. You know how addicted I'm majorly addicted to licorice? Here's the food description from the top of chapter 5: Licorice can rein in the emotions and foster a sense of control over tricky situations, but it should only be a temporary fix. Ha! Who knew?!Thank you, Alyssa Goodnight, for JUST SAY YES, a very entertaining romantic read!Dear FCC: No subterfuge here. Bought JUST SAY YES for my kindle.  And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!MIDDLE GRADE AND YOUNG ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSRob Costello: WHAT JAMIE SAW by Carolyn Coman (middle grade)Jody Feldman: DIME by E.R. Frank (young adult, contemporary)Sarah Laurence: TONIGHT THE STREET ARE OURS by Leila Sales (young adult, contemporary)Stacy of the Cat's Meow: THE CURE FOR DREAMING by Cat Winters (young adult)ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSPatti Abbott:  THE PAINTED VEIL by Somerset MaughamAlyssa Goodnight: SPOTLESS by Camilla Monk (humorous adventure)Jenn Jilks of Cottage Country: MY TOWNIE HEART by Diane SperrazzaLinda McLaughlin: MAISIE DOBBS by Jacqueline Winspear (mystery)Prairie Rose of Prairie Rose's Garden: GO SET A WATCHMAN by Harper LeeRay Potthoff:   THE DOG MASTER: A NOVEL OF THE FIRST DOG by W. Bruce CameronStacy Nyikos: EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU by Celeste NgNONFICTION REVIEWJenn Jilks of Cottage Country: BEING MORTAL by DR. ATUL GAWANDENote to Reviewers: Any errors (broken link, missed review, etc), just shoot me an email or leave a comment. Thank you so much for your reviews![...]

The Book Review Club (June 2015)


We're meeting late this month. I was off galavanting in Canada, hanging out with fun family and friends, attending my high school reunion and various The Disappearance of Emily H.-related activities. But I'm back home and settled and ready to talk books. We have reviews of quite a variety of books today. All to get you ready for summer. And, before I forget, we're taking July and August off. The Book Review Club will resume September 2. KETCHUP CLOUDS by Annabel Pitcher (mystery, young adult)Many people have sung the praises of Ketchup Clouds. It got starred reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, Booklist, and Publishers Weekly. It won the 2013 Waterstones Children's Book Prize, was a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Pick and won the 2014 Edgar Allen Poe Award. It may well have been nominated for and won other awards, but those are the ones I know about.Listen to this brilliant premise: A fifteen-old-year British girl named Zoe (fake name) committed murder and writes to Stuart Harris, a Texan inmate on death row for killing his wife. Zoe wants someone to know her story. Someone who can relate. Brilliant, right?The novel is epistolary in style. One sided. Zoe goes out to the family shed at night and writes her letters. The letters span a little over a year, detailing the events leading up to Zoe's crime as well as chronicling her daily life. We learn of her romance triangle with two brothers, her relationship with her sisters, one of whom is deaf, her best friend, her parents' financial difficulties after her dad is made redundant.And, through it all, we fall in love with Zoe and her guilt and her angst and her sharp wit and her observations on life.In case I haven't done Ketchup Clouds justice, here's The Beginning of the Book: Dear Mr. S. Harris, Ignore the blob of red in the top right corner.  It's jam, not blood, though I don't think I need to tell you the difference. It wasn't your wife's jam the police found on your shoe.And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!MDDLE GRADE AND YOUNG ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSEllen Booraem: ONE CRAZY SUMMER by Rita Williams Garcia (MG)Lucy Sartain: THE DISAPPEARANCE OF EMILY H. by Barrie Summy (MG, mystery)Stacy Nyikos: ALWAYS OCTOBER by Bruce Coleville (MG)Beth Bonini of TRAC: ME BEING ME IS EXACTLY AS INSANE AS YOU BEING YOU                                      by Todd Hasak-Lowy (YA)ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSAlyssa Goodnight: ARTIFACT by Gigi Pandian (mystery)Lucy Sartain: QUEEN OF THE TRAILER PARK by Alice Quinn (A Rosie Maldonne mystery)Patti Abbott:  NOVEMBER by Georges SimenonRay Potthoff: THE DREAM LOVER by Elizabeth Berg (historical)**Scott Parker: CONCRETE ANGEL by OUR VERY OWN Patricia Abbott (domestic suspense)**NONFICTION REVIEWLinda McLaughlin: THE MONUMENTS MEN: ALLIED HEROES, NAZI THIEVES, AND THE GREATEST TREASURE HUNT IN HISTORY by Robert M. Edsel with Bret Witter (adult)Rob Costello: SO YOU'VE BEEN PUBLICLY SHAMED by Jon Ronson (adult)Sarah Laurence: I WILL ALWAYS WRITE BACK by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda                           with Liz Welch (young adult)Note to Reviewers: Any errors (broken link, missed review, etc), just shoot me an email or leave a comment. Thank you so much for your reviews!Dear F[...]

The Book Review Club (May 2015)


Happy May, and welcome to this month's meeting of The Book Review Club! We have a lot of good reviews today. Please click through below my post. You will not regret it. Promise! Before I forget, next month we'll be meeting a little later than usual...On WEDNESDAY, JUNE 17.  May trivia: Happy Birthday (in alpha order) to George Clooney, Sigmund Freud, Willie Mays and Orson Welles!LULLABIES FOR LITTLE CRIMINALS by Heather O'Neill (debut bk, adult, literary)I can say unequivocally that LULLABIES FOR LITTLE CHILDREN is one of the best adult books I've read in the last couple of years. It was published in 2006 by Harper, which means a) I've been living under a rock for nine years or b) my to-be-read pile is out of control. Your choice. :)A lot of people loved this book. In 2007, it won Canada Reads AND the Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction AND was shortlisted for the Governor General's Award. Wow! It was short and long listed for too many other awards to list. Let's just say my love of LULLABIES FOR LITTLE CHILDREN puts me in good company!In a Nutshell: The novel follows 12/13 year old Baby (yes, that's what her 15 year-old parents named her!) for two years while she lives in rundown apartments with her heroin-addicted father, does a stint in foster care, goes to school, looks for love, and survives, survives, survives.What I Loved: EVERYTHING! Oh, what? You want more detail than that? Well...the voice pretty much jumps off the page and hits you right between the eyes. It's that perfect. Baby is very pragmatic, smart, often humorous (I bet you didn't see that coming) and is trying to come of age on the streets of Montreal. Of course, she's looking for love in all the wrong places. Of course, she makes mistakes with drugs and alcohol. But, oh my, you are rooting for this character till the wee hours of the morning. And the ending? Let's just say I cried. I'm not saying whether it ended on an upbeat note or not (no spoilers from me!). I'm just saying it was an emotional ending.From the Book: "That first night in the new place, Jules dismantled the fire alarm so that he could smoke in peace. I loved when he smoked a cigarette with the lights off. The smoke in the dark looked like the dove that whispered the future to saints in paintings."What I Must Mention: This book is gritty. We're talking child prostitution, heroin addition, abandonment. Personally, I'm fine with reading gritty. And it's not in-your-face graphic or anything. In fact,  I'd say another strength of the book is that it deals with some tough subject matter and keeps the reader turning pages.Dear FCC: Bought this one with my own credit card.  And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one! PICTURE BOOK REVIEW Jenn Jilks: PLASTIC ISLAND by David CuellarMIDDLE GRADE/YOUNG ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSAlyssa Goodnight: IF YOU FIND THIS by Matthew Baker (MG)Jody Feldman: ROLLERGIRL by Victoria Jamieson (MG)Sarah Laurence: THE DISAPPEARANCE OF EMILY H. by Barrie Summy (MG) Beth Bonini of TRAC: THE DOOR THAT LED TO WHERE by Sally Gardner (YA)ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWSEllen Booraem: THE SILKWORM by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling) (mystery)Linda McLaughlin: MIDNIGHT ROSE by Lucina Riley Lucy Sartain of Ranting and Raving: GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn(thriller)Patti Abbott:  WADE INTO WAR by Scott Parker (mystery) **Yes, it's [...]

The Book Review Club (April 2015)


No doubt you remember my critique partner, Kelly Hayes. Well, she's back to review a book she thoroughly enjoyed. No, this is not an April Fool's joke. (Sorry, but you know I had to fit in something about April 1st!) Kelly really did write the review below! Thank you, Kelly, and I owe you breakfast next week. Take it away! THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN (adult, psychological thriller) by Paula HawkinsI don’t know if it’s because we as readers have become more jaded or if it’s that the real page-turning plots have been done and redone, but it seems like the books that you can’t put down are getting fewer and fewer these days. You know,  that book you read late into the night even though you have to get up early in the morning or the one you wish you could call in sick to work to finish? Well, for me, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins was one of those books. The kind of book that is so riveting, so compulsively readable, that you’ll go anywhere the author wants to take you.I was originally drawn to this story by the element of lives glimpsed from a moving train. I lived in England for several years and took the over-ground trains more times than I can count. On those journeys I often occupied my mind by imagining lives lived in the houses we passed. But that is where the similarities between Rachel, the book’s titular main character, and I end. Because Rachel is a sad alcoholic who has lost her job, but still gets dressed and pretends to go to work so that her kind hearted roommate won’t find out, all the while drinking warm gin & tonics from a can. The words ‘train wreck’ come to mind.It isn’t long before we come to understand that the cozy identities and back-stories Rachel makes up for the attractive couple in one particular house she passes every day are not just a means to occupy her time on the train. It’s all part of a coping mechanism. Because just two houses down is where Rachel used to live with her husband, Thom, who now lives there with the woman he left her for, and their baby daughter.  This is where my sympathy for Rachel ratcheted up several notches.  When Megan, the attractive neighbor, disappears, Rachel’s delusional obsession intensifies. She thinks she has important information regarding the case, but the police soon dismiss her as the pathetic drunk she proves herself to be. At this point the narration begins to alternate between Rachel, Megan, and Thom’s new wife, Anna. And we learn that Rachel is not the only one who has fabricated an elaborate web of denial for herself. It’s now the unreliable narrator times three.Hawkins uses Rachel’s drunken blackouts and her resulting fractured and incomplete memories to wonderful effect. The suspense is palpable as Rachel grasps for the missing pieces that seem always just out of reach. And yet she knows deep in her gut, as we do, that she holds the key to finding out what happened to Megan. The Girl on the Train is top-notch psychological suspense wrapped around a core of gritty realism that hooked me from page one. Like the proverbial train wreck, it grabs your attention and doesn’t let go.Dear FCC: Kelly works at a library. So, as you can imagine, she borrows a lot of books from the library. Just like this one.  And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a si[...]