Ames Free Library

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2016 Adult Summer Library Program Book Reviews

2016 Book Reviews:


I Will Always Write Back, by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda

Rate the Book: 5

This was the assigned summer book for the high school where I work and is meant to be incorporated into the curriculum for the 2016-2017 school year.  It is an excellent true story, and I hope every one of my students gets as much out of the book as I did.  The book revolves around a girl from PA, Caitlin, and her pen pal, Martin, who lives in Zimbabwe.  Caitlin was assigned a pen pal during her history class as a seventh grader but, unlike others in her class that ceased to write, Caitlin kept up the writing and friendship.  What evolved over the next eighteen years was Caitlin and her family helping Martin and his family- with Martin eventually coming to the U.S. to attend college.  The book and letters do a wonderful and poignant job of showing the difference between the life of an upper middle class girl in the U.S. and of a very poor boy in Zimbabwe, Africa.


Deep Dish, by Mary Kay Andrews

Rate the Book: 3

I'm a big fan of the author.  This is light summer reading.  Two local cooking show personalities compete for a spot on a national stage.  This author uses the south, primarily Georgia and the Carolinas in her setting and the southern charm and recipes are interesting touch to all her books.


The Greatest Knight, by Thomas Asbridge

Rate the Book: 5

Uses a medieval biography of Knight William Marshal to give us new information about the history of England from 1150-1220. Really well done.  A must read for Medieval history buffs.


The Widow, by Fiona Barton

Rate the Book: 3

This is a debut novel for this author.  It is told in alternating chapters from 4 different characters’ points of view.  It has a lot of twists and is a good book to read if you enjoyed Gone Girl and Girl on a Train.  Worth reading.


The Widow, by Fiona Barton

Rate the Book: 4

 Interesting tale of the darkest secrets in a marriage.  Does anyone really know one’s spouse?  And what lengths will one go to in order to save one’s reputation?


The Sellout, by Paul Beatty

Rate the Book: 4

Funny, satirical, and absurdist view of race in America. It was hard to get into it: The first 100 pages read like a tightly wound monologue or snarky comedy riff. It eases up after that. At first this book baffled me. Then it made me think.


Boy in the Striped Pajamas, by  John Boyne

Rate the Book: 3

It tells the story of the Holocaust from a 9 year old's perspective, thus makes you think about what is really going on. The last line of the book is what got me. That line made the book more powerful and emotional. I am looking forward to reading his other books.


The Boy at the Top of the Mountain, by John Boyne

Rate the Book: 4

From the author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas - another intriguing book about a young boy in WWII Germany.  It shows the innocence and the naivete of childhood and how easily it can be corrupted.  Short easy to read novel but “packs a punch.”


Iron Kissed, by Patricia Briggs

Rate the Book: 5

I love this book! The heroine Mercy Thompson a strong independant woman who doesn't look for trouble but it finds her anyway.


Bone Crossed, by Patricia Briggs

Rate the Book: 5

I love this book!!!!!! It is part syfy, fantasy, horror, romance, action,humor and a lot of fun-- every thing I love!!!! I highly recommend this book series.


Silver Borne, by Patricia Briggs

Rate the Book: 5

I love her books about Mercy Thompson. The title of the book refers to an old magical book that is really a silver bird statue.


A Siege of Bitterns, by Steve Burrows

Rate the Book: 4

A contemporary setting for this British mystery about local government and the environment.  Much fuller character development than the typical detective story.  Local politicians selling out the environment is very topical for Easton today.


Remember Mia, by Alexandra Burt

Rate the Book: 3

A debut novel about the journey of anguished and disturbed mother searching for her missing baby.  It is a dark mystery but it has an emotional pull.


The Atomic Weight of Love, by Elizabeth J. Church

Rate the Book: 5

I enjoyed knowing the main character, Meridian, an intelligent woman seeking to connect in meaningful ways with others, especially people who are interested in the world of ideas/intellect. She struggles with the changing roles of women and understanding the true nature/meaning of love. Throughout the novel in different locations she is appreciating the natural world.

 

Everyone Brave is Forgiven, by Chris Cleave

Rate the Book: 3

Set during WW II, in England, the books tells the story of three main characters and the hardship of living during air raids and in wartime conditions. Choices are made and the consequences ensue. It took a little while for the book to really grab my interest, but it's definitely worth reading and I really liked the ending.


Everyone Brave is Forgiven, by Chris Cleave

Rate the Book: 5

World War II drama showing how war disrupts and destroys families from all walks of life in London from 1939 onward.  Very poignant and heart breaking at times.  The author makes the characters come to life with beautiful prose.  I loved the connection to the author’s grandparents.


Everyone Brave is Forgiven, by Chris Cleave

Rate the Book: 3

A character driven novel- started out slow but got better as it went on.  A novel of love and long, and terror and joy.  A personal one for the author, which he writes about in the end of the book.


The Girls, by Emma Cline

Rate the Book: 4

This novel is about a teenage girl in 1960s California who falls under the spell of a cult living on a squalid "ranch" with a charismatic leader, similar to the Manson family followers. You come to understand how an unhappy girl, friendless, ignored by her parents, and longing for love and acceptance, could fall under the thrall of such a group. Tensely written with wonderful prose. Descriptions of seemingly ordinary events (and people) turn sinister with dread and foreboding ... Sometimes it sent shivers up my spine. A great read.


The Girls, by Emma Cline

Rate the Book: 4

This was an interesting approach to create a plot that had a basis in history. This novel, to the best of my limited knowledge does not tell the real story, but there are many connections to a real crime involving a cult figure. Characters are believable.


The Death of Santini, by  Pat Conroy

Rate the Book: 4

Powerful and intimate memoir by the best selling author of "The Prince of Tides" and “The Great Santini". He comes to terms with his abusive father who was a towering figure in his life. As a huge fan of all his books..sad to have recently lost such a great writer.


My Reading Life, by Pat Conroy

Rate the Book: 4

Pat Conroy was a voracious reader throughout his life. Starting with his mother reading to him as a child..he explores the authors, publishers, booksellers,  books that have influenced his life. Really enjoyed this book. Love his use of language explaining why books were so important to him.


The Rainbow Comes and Goes, by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt

Rate the Book: 4

A Wonderful read. A Unique format- a series of conversations over email between mother and son. Fascinating biographical info presented in an entertaining format. Touching, poignant and deeply meaningful. I did not expect to enjoy this as much as I did!


The Rainbow Comes and Goes, by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt

Rate the Book: 4

I'm a big fan of Anderson Cooper's reporting and this book gave me insight into his life with his famous mother and his and her early years. What a special opportunity for them to share these stories with each other and their readers.


By Cook or by Crook, by Maya Corrigan

Rate the Book: 4

This was a great start to a new series in the "cozy mystery" genre. Val Deniston is the owner of a cafe at a sports club and one of the members is murdered. There's a lot of colorful characters, especially Val's grandfather who attempts to learn to cook throughout this mystery as well. The bonus is that there are several 5 ingredient mysteries in the back of the book. Great easy read!

 

Scam Chowder, by Maya Corrigan

Rate the Book: 4

The 2nd book in the 5 ingredient mystery series, this one draws out the characters a bit more that were introduced in the first book. This time Val's grandfather throws a dinner party only to have one of the guests get sick and later die from suspected food poisoning. Val is at it again in trying to solve a whodunit in a town that is full of lots of colorful characters. Through it all, she juggles her job as a cook as well as trying to start a romance, all while trying to still teach her grandfather too cook.


The Girl with No Past, by Kathryn Croft

Rate the Book: 5

A thrilling read, could not put it down! A lot of unexpected twists and the ending will floor you!



Sweetbitter, by Stephanie Danler

Rate the Book: 3

Modern coming of age tale set in New York. Reminded me of a tree grows in Brooklyn for grown-ups. Great character development, but a little slow at times. More heavy-duty than a beach read, but still fun. 


The After Party, by Anton DiSclafani

Rate the Book: 4

Set in Houston in the 1950's, this book tells the story of two women and their lifelong friendship. This friendship is complicated, to say the least, and I found the relationship between the two women fascinating. Secrets are kept and eventually come to light. The author really developed the characters well--they felt complicated, and real. I definitely recommend this one!


The Accountant's Story, by Roberto Escobar & David Fisher

Rate the Book: 4

The Accountant's Story, by Roberto Escobar with David Fisher, details Roberto and his more well known brother, Pablo’s, exploits, adventures and day to day life as they ran one of the most notorious and well fueled drug empires ever.  Roberto offers an inside look at Pablo, the business, and the rise and fall as only an insider could.  Is it objective?  Hardly.  He is Pablo’s brother and business partner after all.  What drew me in initially were the economics of what was accomplished.  A drug cartel that built submarines, that budgeted $2,500/mo just for elastics to bind their cash, that wrote off 10% profit a year due to rats chewing paper money, that’s all draw.  What kept  the book interesting was the human aspect.  I learned the “how” but learning the “why “ was just as compelling. 


All Summer Long, by Dorothea Benton Frank

Rate the Book: 3

Set in NYC and Sullivan's Island SC, Olivia is an interior decorator now downsizing and moving south with her husband who is retiring. She continues to work and we meet some of her rich and famous clients. Enjoyable summer read.


A Memory of Violets, by Hazel Gaynor

Rate the Book: 3

A meaningful story about the love of sisters.  It was based partly on true events.  It was interesting learning about the “flower girls” of London.  Great research went into writing the book and this was reflected in the novel.


Good as Gone, by Amy Gentry

Rate the Book: 4

A compelling story about the disappearance of a 13 year old girl, seemingly kidnapped at knifepoint, and her return 8 years later. A fascinating look at family dynamics and the strength each of us has within. I fluctuated between believing the girl who came back was the real kidnapped victim to thinking she was an imposter. Well written.


The Widower's Tale, by Julia Glass

Rate the Book: 3

Sibling rivalry..ecoterrorism..cancer..immigration..gay issues..there is a lot going on in this book. Despite all of this or because of it....I really enjoyed this book. The author weaves this story of an older gentleman, his family and neighbors together nicely.  


Virginia Woolf: A Writer’s Life, by Lyndall Gordon

Rate the Book: 4

I enjoyed reading this book very much.  I have always had an interest in Virginia Woolf, and I have read To the Lighthouse and Mrs. Dalloway. I find Lyndall Gordon to be an excellent author.  Her research and points of view are impressive - from my perspective!

 

Winter at the Door, by Sarah Graves

Rate the Book: 3

This is the first book in a new crime thriller series featuring police chief Lizzie Snow - who was a big city cop who moved to a small town to find her missing niece.  Lots of twists - suspense and action.  I look forward to the next book in her series.


Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff

Rate the Book: 3

The book was chosen for my Easton Book Club and I am not quite sure if I liked/or would recommend. The first part of the book is titled, “Fates” and is about two young people, Lotto and Mathilde, who get married.  Lotto is an egotistical and sometimes frustrated playwright and Mathilde plays the apparent role of wife.  There are numerous twists and turns with plenty of other characters that play minor and major roles.  The second half of the book, “Furies”, takes place after Lotto dies and focuses on Mathilde not being quite what she appeared to be in the first part of the book- definitely an evil side.  I definitely preferred the second half of the book which almost stood alone.

 

Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi

Rate the Book: 5

"Homegoing" follows the lives of two sisters born in Ghana in the 18th century and their descendants.  It's a stunning, rich, immersive, emotional story about the experience of Africans and African-Americans from the beginning of slavery to the Civil War to the Great Migration and on to the present day. The characters are vivid and the writing is impressive. It can be difficult to read about the brutality we humans inflict upon each other, but this is a very interesting and very important book -- especially in light of current events involving race-related violence. Everyone should read this.


Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi

Rate the Book: 5

The author tells the story of a family that begins in Africa during the 1700s. Two half sisters, unknown to each other, experience two very different fates. One sister remains in Africa while the other is taken as a slave to America. The author alternates locations as she shares stories about the individuals that resulted from these two sisters. Excellent writing! A valuable story, the history that is part of this is one to know and the African culture that is shared is interesting.


The Girl in the Red a Coat,  by Kate Hamer

Rate the Book: 4

Very interesting book about a troubling topic.  One can only hope that it ends well.


The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah

Rate the book: 4 

The Nightingale was a very good read.  Once I was into it, I found it difficult to put down.  The ending came as a surprise to me.

 

Before the Fall, by Noah Hawley

Rate the Book: 3

A good page-turning thriller and a good beach read/vacation book.


The Matchmaker, by Elin Hilderbrand

Rate the Book: 4

Set in Nantucket. A story of long lost love that speaks to the heart. Love this author and really loved this book.


The Rumor, by Elin Hilderbrand

Rate the Book: 4

An entertaining summer read involving friendship, betrayal, and love. Set in Nantucket, how rumors can fly in a small community.


Bettyville, by George Hodgman

Rate the Book: 3

Author writes of returning to his hometown to care for his elderly mom. His mom, Betty, is a character who speaks her mind and is fighting her deterioration from dementia.  Their journey together is unforgettable.


The Midnight Assassin, by Skip Hollandsworth

Rate the Book: 4

an interesting non-fiction account of a largely forgotten part of American history: her first serial killer. The book was entertaining to read and descriptive without being overly gruesome.


The Book That Matters Most, by Ann Hood

Rate the Book: 4

What is the book that matters most to you?  This is the premise of Ann Hood’s new book.  Each chapter is told through the point of view of a main character.  Family drama - struggles - how to pick yourself up and begin again.  A great read.


The Italian Wife, by Ann Hood

Rate the Book: 2

Thought I'd enjoy this story but was very disappointed. A bunch of stories about naive woman and their sex lives. Have liked other Ann Hood books but this is by far her worst.

 

Take Me With You, by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Rate the Book: 3

A feel good story in that life works out for the characters. Some situations in the plot would likely not happen in the same manner in the real world.


Yellow Crocus, by Laila Ibrahim

Rate the Book: 3

Set in antebellum Virginia, this book tells the story of the young mistress of a plantation and the slave who  essentially raised her.  I thought the writing was so-so, but the story was interesting if not particularly new ground.


Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren

Rate the Book: 4

Hope Jahren has written one of the best memoirs ever by an American scientist. Detailing her early life in Minnesota up to her current academic position in Hawaii, she provides amazing insights into the life of a woman in science while simultaneously making the reader look at trees in a completely new light. Having earned a master's degree in science myself, I found myself wishing this book had been published 4 years ago when I was starting my 4th year in college. Her descriptions of how passionate she is about her work and how tough life as a scientist can be would have given me a totally different view about science before I started applying to graduate school, and might have altered by decision to apply at all. I highly recommend any young adult interested in pursuing a scientific career to read this book, along with anyone who loves a good memoir.


Instinct, by T.D. Jakes

Rate the Book: 1

Instinct is a synonym for intuition. Writing is somewhat repetitive, perhaps deliberately composed this way to emphasize his message.

 

Washington Square, Henry James

Rate the book: 4

I hadn’t read Henry James in a long time.  I enjoyed his Washington Square very much.  I really enjoyed how he lets us get inside people’s heads.


What Maisie Knew, by Henry James

Rate the Book: 3

I sort of enjoyed this novel.  It is an interesting look at a child’s point of view of her parents and their lacks.  It has to do with a perspective on divorce by a very young girl.  It is not all dire - there are some loving people in her life as she has the good sense and maturity to choose one of them as a guardian.


The Vegetarian, by Han Kang

Rate the Book: 2

Write a Short Review: A woman stops eating meat and makes a statement against all the lousy men in the patriarchal society she lives in. Or it could be also about eating disorders and sexual assault. Super dark, weird, and subversive.


Lilac Girls, Martha Hall Kelly

Rate the Book: 4

A wonderful debut novel inspired by the life of a real WWII heroine.  The book is centered on three very different women with three very different situations during WWII.  Excellent, powerful read.


Orange is the New Black, by Piper Kerman

Rate the Book: 5

It shows the American prison system through the eyes of someone who went through it. If you think it is anything like the Netflix show, then you are wrong, it is a non fiction memoir based on her year in a prison.

 

Shoe Dog, by Phil Knight

Rate the Book: 4

This is a memoir by one of the creators of Nike. Wasn't sure it would be interesting, but very engaging right from the start. Some great anecdotes about the early start of the company, his trials and tribulations as a business owner and keeping first Blue Ribbon and then Nike afloat.  Great insight into the person and company.  Well worth reading, just do it!


Quench Your Own Thirst: Business Lessons Learned Over A Beer Or Two, by Jim Koch

Rate the Book: 5

Jim Koch shares advice and insights about running a business while describing his experiences as founder and brewer of Samuel Adams beer in this short, fun book. Mr. Koch does a great job recounting the highs and lows of being a craft brewery in the United States, and while definitely a great book if you are a fan of brewing, Quench Your Own Thirst is also a great account of being an entrepreneur and how to maintain a successful business through good times and bad. Much of Mr. Koch's advice can be applied to any business you might be interested in starting. A word of warning though, if you're not already a fan of Samuel Adams beer, this book will make you want to go buy a case as soon as you're finished!

 

Watchers, by Dean Koontz

Rate the Book: 5

Write a Short Review: I read this book when I was younger and it remains one of favorite by this author.   An afterword by the author also states that it remains his favorite written book as well.  The plot revolves around a company, Banodyne, that created a genetically engineered dog with the intelligence of a human for possible use as a spy.  Banodyne also created the perfect genetically engineered “soldier” that also was extremely intelligent but which was a killing machine that had the genes of a dog aswell as a baboon- “the outsider”.  The book revolves around the two beings and the hatred of the outsider for the dog.  A man called Travis befriends the dog and the plot continues.


Spark Joy, by Marie Kondo

Rate the Book: 3

Read like an advice manual for how to declutter your life. While the author's ideas are original and inspiring, overall, I found her methods to be unattainable and impractical in real life. Still, she provides an interesting philosophical point of view about evaluating what really matters in your life.


Ready for a Brand New Beat: How "Dancing in the Street" Became an Anthem for a Changing America, by Mark Kurlansky

Rate the Book: 4

Fascinating story of how a famous. Who knew that this 60's song that I listened to on my transistor radio as a fun summer song meant different things to different groups in the turbulent time in history. Interesting story of Motown and the early years.


Dead Wake, by Erik Larson

Rate the Book: 5

Excellent story of the last voyage of the Lusitania.  Mixes human interest of the passenger stories with excellent historical details about running ships and subs and the politics of war.


The Giver, by Lois Lowry

Rate the Book: 4

The Giver is a unique, mature, and thought-provoking novel that people young and old can enjoy. The story is set in a society that initially appears to be utopian society, but gradually is revealed to be dystopian as the story progresses. This unfolding sets The Giver apart from other dystopian novels, and arguably makes it even more disturbing. An excellent book that I recommend to young and older adults.


Twisted River, by Siobhán MacDonald

Rate the Book: 2

MacDonald takes the reader inside the lives of two families who exchange homes through a vacationing program. The New Yorkers and Irelanders trade places in hopes to escape their hectic lives, until a turn of events causes for a great deal of chaos.

 

I Let You Go, by Clare Mackintosh

Rate the Book: 4

A great debut novel for this author.  It is a page turner.  Great characters and a twisted plot.  Didn’t want to put it down.  Really liked all of the twists and turns.  Great read.


I Let You Go, by Clare Mackintosh

Rate the Book: 4

Suspenseful with great twists and turns. I don't want to give anything away! A great beach read.


Silver Linings, by Debbie Macomber

Rate the Book: 4

A solid summer read romance!  Easy read.  I enjoy reading her books because you know that the heroine and the heroines in the subplots are going to find love.  Its nice to close the cover with a happy romantic ending when you are beach reading.  This series with Rose Harbor really has me hooked...there is something about Jo Marie!  This time closing the book, I got a real cliffhanger..will her love make it or not??  Nice work Debbie Macomber--I'll be waiting for the next Rose Harbor installment.


The Mapmaker’s Children, by Sarah McCoy

Rate the Book: 4

A great historical fiction novel from the author of The Baker’s Daughter. The storyline from the past is about Sarah Brown, the daughter of abolitionist John Brown.  The modern storyline is about Edith who is desperate to conceive a child.  Living in an old house she discovers a porcelain doll head in the cellar linked to the Underground Railroad.  Their woven lives connect the past to the present.  Read to find out how they do…


The “Me Me Me” Epidemic, by Amy McCready

Rate the Book: 3

A fresh perspective on childhood behavior. Presents insightful strategies for teaching kids to be empathetic.


That Night, by Alice McDermott

Rate the Book: 4

I read "That Night" by Alice McDermott in a day and a half after a friend recommended it.. It's about a teenage couple and an unwanted pregnancy and a fateful night in 1960s suburbia. But it's also about childhood, teen angst, marriage, sex, loss, love, and regret. The book pivots on "that night," telling what came before and after from different vantage points through the eyes of a girl who was 10 years old at the time. The opening scene is fantastic and I was hooked. The writing is vivid and never hits a false note. I don't usually re-read books but this is one where you might discover hidden layers with each re-reading. What a gem!


Lessons from the Mountain, by Mary McDonough

Rate the Book: 3

Nice read for fans of The Waltons.


Dollbaby, by Laura Lane McNeal

Rate the Book: 3

This novel is set in the south, New Orleans, in the civil rights era. The plot deals with racism and family drama not connected to the color of one's skin. The ending came as somewhat of a surprise as a key event in one of the character's life was not revealed until the climax neared. A satisfying read.


Playing for Keeps, by LuAnn McLane

Rate the Book: 4

Easy to read romantic short book really enjoyed this book - need a romance every now and then.


Heaven Preserve Us, by Cricket McRae

Rate the Book: 3

Book was good but felt it jumped around a bit. The mystery part was interesting but dragged on a bit. Easy short read.


The Southern Pie Book, by Jan Moon

Rate the Book: 4

Recipes for pie, yes, but also desserts that push the boundaries of a round pie in crust. This is a Southern Living cookbook, meaning the recipes are triple-checked and for the most part have only easy-to-find ingredients. Recipes are easy to follow and each has a full color photo. The dark chocolate cream pie is not to be missed!


Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal, by Christopher Moore

Rate the Book: 5

An absolutely hilarious account of the first 30 years of Jesus Christ as told by his childhood friend, Levi who is called Biff. This is the funniest book I have read in years and I found myself laughing out loud numerous time throughout the novel, but at its core Lamb is also a moving story of friendship and love. An excellent novel that I highly recommend.


After You, by Jojo Moyes

Rate the Book: 2

I was a little disappointed in "After You." I enjoyed the first book, "Me Before You" much more. It was an interesting read as far as learning more about the main character Louisa, and how she copes with the loss of her friend Will, but I found some of the plot line to be a bit far from reality. I think I'll be taking a break from Jojo Moyes and will read a historical book next.


Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes

Rate the Book: 4

Good summer read...a romance novel somewhat predictable but it does engage you in a different way than most ... many different issues come from reading it.. a tear jerker.  It was an easy read yet thought provoking too.  Wonder what the sequel is like.


Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes

Rate the Book: 3

Me Before You was an easy summer read. Jojo Moyes writes about a 27 year old girl falling in love with her employer’s quadriplegic son. This romantic story has a bit of a tragic twist that leaves readers curious to pick up the sequel.


Me Before You, by JoJo Moyes

Rate the Book: 5

I wanted to read this after reading One Plus One which I really enjoyed.  I wasn’t disappointed with this book which was about a young quadriplegic, Will, whose mother hired a young woman, Luisa, to care for him and keep him from harming himself. After the first chapter or two I realized that I read this when it first came out in 2012 but I decided to re-read it. I still enjoyed the book the second time around as the author has an amazing ability to make her characters come alive.

 

One Plus One, by JoJo Moyes

Rate the Book: 5

Me Before You by the same author was recommended by my Easton book club, but the library didn’t have it (I have put it on hold). I really enjoyed this book, though, which was about a single Mom household with a teen-age step-son (Nicky) who is being bullied and a daughter (Tanzie) that is a young, 8-year-old math whiz.  Money is tight and the daughter has a chance to attend a private school due to her abilities.  Along comes Ed who gives the family a ride to a math Olympic competition for Tanzie along with their large family dog.  Ed is about to be arrested for insider trading and the story keeps unfolding.  The scene with the dog had me in tears which is rare.  It drags a bit at the end when you can already predict the outcome but JoJo Moyes was amazing to me by the way she made her characters come to life. I can’t wait to read Me Before You.

 

Wild Born, by Brandon Mull

Rate the Book: 5

I loved the book. The four main characters a very brave and lucky to have summoned the four fallen spirit animals. My spirit animal would be a dragon.


Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov

Rate the Book: 3

I was embarrassed I had never read this classic before now. But I ended up disliking all the characters and the entire plot. (Man obsessed by 12-year-old girl, ick.) But what a writer. The best thing about this book is the clever wordplay. Nabokov has a lot of fun with the language. A difficult book to read otherwise.


The Last Beach Bungalow, by Jennie Nash

Rate the Book: 3

This book is about a cancer survivor and her feelings as she celebrates 5 years cancer free.  There are some very compelling feelings that the protagonist shares about being a cancer survivor that are alarmingly familiar.  These feelings are what makes this an interesting read.    Very easy read and one that is compelling enough to continue. Wish the author had delved a little more into those inner feelings that are relatable as a survivor.


Wesley the Owl, by Stacey O'Brien

Rate the Book: 3

For over 19 years the author lived and raised a barn owl. The owl had injured his wing and would never be able to live on his own. A fascinating and heartwarming story.
 

Gumption, by Nick Offerman

Rate the Book: 4

Nick Offerman’s Gumption is an easy to read book with chapters on some well known and lesser known American citizens who have an intangible something, a passion, luck, determination most easily described as gumption.  Not all are historical, not all are politicians.  There are rock stars, writers, artists, farmers, woodworkers.  The books is appealing because like America herself the author includes a tremendous melting pot of personalities.  The common thread uniting them is the refusal to submit to circumstance.  The farmer is a poet.  The Japanese-American whose family was in a USA camp during WWII is an amazing woodworker.  Nick Offerman has written an inspiring book for all people. 

 

The Mob and Me, by John Partington

Rate the Book: 4

The Mob and Me, by John Partington, chronicles the fledgling days of what we know as the witness protection program.  The book is great for fans of true crime, history and even has background to offer on New England mob history.  The book follows John’s career as he works for the state of RI and eventually works in a federal capacity.  He touches on his relationships with the Kennedy family as well, most notably RFK.  John also tells how his career sometimes caused tensions in his own home.  It was interesting to find at the witness protection program was birthed right here in New England.


Heart of Ice, by P.J. Parrish

Rate the Book: 4

I would definitely recommend the book as it kept me reading all night until I finished.  The plot centers around bones that were discovered in an old lodge on an island in Michigan.  They were originally thought to be from a missing girl named Julie and the skull was missing.  A local autistic man who took the skull and the finding that the bones were not from Julie but from another girl and included fetal bones made this an intriguing read.  I was surprised to find that the author is actually the pen name for two sisters that write together and that have written quite a few other books.  I will definitely try another by these authors.


2nd Chance, by James Patterson

Rate the Book: 4

This is the second in a Women’s Murder Club series. I read the 5th Horseman and decided to go back and read an earlier episode. Although not usually a fan of James Patterson, I do enjoy this series with the women that help to solve murders- Lindsay the lieutenant in the police force, Cindy the reporter, Jill the attorney, and Claire the medical examiner.  The latter is definitely my favorite.  This book in the series revolves around a killer called Chimera who was an ex-cop convicted and sentenced of killing a black suspect.  He is eventually tracked down and the plot leads back to Lindsay.  The books remind me very much of the TV series, “Castle”.


The 5th Horseman, by James Patterson

Rate the Book: 4

I definitely liked this book better than Beach Road as it was a medical thriller and I am a scientist.  It is a series from the Women’s Murder Club and I am going to read the earlier books in the series.


The 6th Target, by James Patterson

Rate the Book: 4

I read the 2nd and 5th book in this Women’s Murder Club with Lindsay, the Lieutenant and her friends.  The book was a bit different as there were three different plots going on and I kept trying to figure out how they were related, but they weren’t.  I still haven’t read the first book in the series.


The Lives They Left Behind, by Darby Penney

Rate the Book: 3

I read this book after reading Wiseman’s, What She Left Behind which was a fiction story based on this book.  The Lives They Left Behind is a true story of suitcases found at the Willard State Hospital for the Insane after it closed in 1995.  Ten suitcases were chosen and the lives of these patients were chronicled based on the contents.  What went on behind closed doors was revealed as many of the patients were immigrants that did not speak English, teens that did not obey parents, epileptics, homeless, and those that had a short-term mental illness.  After  commitment, the majority of patients grew to old age and dies in Willard.

 
 

And the Good News Is...Lessons and Advice, by Dana Perino

Rate the Book: 4

Former press secretary of George W. Bush tells of her journey from growing up in Wyoming to the White House. She offers practical advice on working together to solve problems..restoring civility to public and private conversations and confronting challenges. Her optimism is encouraging.

 

The Heart of the Sea, by Nathaniel Philbrick

Rate the Book: 4

The author brings us back to the sinking of the whaling ship the Essex and Nantucket life at the end of the nineteenth-century.  There is no doubt how difficult life at sea was and the hash realities of a whaler's and their family's life.  Well written. Tough to put down.


Keeping Faith, by Jodi Picoult

Rate the Book: 3

Despite the overarching religious theme, I found this book quite entertaining.  Picoult does an amazing job balancing the mother’s maternal instinct with her uncertainty of her daughter’s mysterious visions.  Although at times the narrative of the mother’s boyfriend is slow and drawn out, I was compelled to read until the end to discover the truth behind young Faith’s miraculous powers.


Leaving Time, by Jodi Picoult

Rate the Book: 3

I was disappointed in this book.  I loved learning more about elephants, but I found the story confusing to follow and not at all satisfying.


Vanishing Acts, by Jodi Picoult

Rate the Book: 4

I couldn’t put this book down! Each chapter a new piece to the story was introduced.  Written from a different view-point, each chapter I was torn between which character to root for.  Picoult is phenomenal at creating such realistic and raw characters which kept me intrigued yet interested the entire book.  Definitely one of Picoult’s best! I’ve already recommended it to multiple people. 


Barkskins, by Annie Proulx

Rate the Book: 3

For the record I would have liked to give this book 3.5 stars. At 700-plus pages I was a little afraid of it at first. But it was very easy to read because it's broken up into elegant, bite-size portions. It tells the story of the deforestation of Canada, Maine, Michigan, and beyond by following the descendants of two Frenchmen who arrive in Canada in the 1690s. It's a very compelling story, and the language can be quite beautiful. However, the book's rhythm became predictable: harrowing tale of survival and/or harrowing tale of death, clear-cut more forests, and then move on to the next generation, and so on. And yet I couldn't stop reading because it was so compelling at the same time. There is no one main character - except maybe for the forest itself. Proulx is sounding out a warning about how we mistreat our planet she should be lauded for that.


Barkskins, by Annie Proulx

Rate the Book: 4

Write a Short Review: An important message for all of us today underlies the story told in this novel. We need to care for each other and care for our living natural world. Proulx shares with us several cultures and their diverse experiences connected to the development of our world. As the title indicates trees are the main focus, but the novel includes other areas as well. I enjoyed the reading, however I think it is truly a bit too long.


Miller’s Valley, by Anna Quindlen

Rate the Book: 3

This is a coming of age story about what time and reality does in changing the landscape of one’s home, family and relationships.


Year of Yes, by Shonda Rhimes

Rate the Book: 3

Author, a successful screenwriter of Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, etc., challenges herself and decides to step out of her comfort zone and try new things.  Great book about confronting your fears and being open to new experiences.


The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan

Rate the Book: 4

The plot is interesting with some twists and turns, but I feel like they rely on the characters immortal parent explain why they act a certain way. The book is a bit predictable but a good summer read.


What Was Mine, by  Helen Ross

Rate the Book: 4

Started this book and couldn't put it down read in two days.

 

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, by Carlo Rovelli

Rate the Book: 3

Lessons are definitely brief! Important principles are introduced but not truly explained.

 

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, by J.K. Rowling

Rate the Book: 5

Every time I read this book, the better it gets. I always find something good new that I didn't realize before.


Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany

Rate the Book: 3

Overall, I felt as though that this script was written hastily and did not read like a true Harry Potter novel.  The twists were predictable, the time travel created plot holes, and many characters felt out of character.  For example, *spoiler removed*  I have never heard such a ludicrous statement before.  However, though the book had many faults, Scorpius was extremely lovable as a character and Hermione *spoiler  removed*  felt true.


Extreme Prey, by John Sandford

Rate the Book: 4

Great book!  Lucas Davenport, the now freelance investigator, is worth reading in the Sandford books.  Entertaining, plot-twists, murder and mayhem!


They May Not Mean To, But They Do, by Cathleen Schine

Rate the Book: 4

The dynamics of a family when old age becomes an issue for all.  There was humor and compassion when dealing with changes that inevitable occur before and after the death of a loved one.


Salt to the Sea, by Rudy Sepetys

Rate the Book: 4

Salt to the Sea is a great work of historical fiction. Sepetys writes the stories of four refugees whose lives essentially become dependent on one another in one of the most deadly maritime accidents of WWII. Her writing is both entertaining and educational.


Meet Me at Emotional Baggage Claim, by Lisa Scottoline/Francesca Seratella

Rate the Book: 4

Mother/daughter authors share short stories about life..love and family. The audio book was great and enjoyed hearing the stories in their words.

 

A Chain of Thunder, by Jeff Shaara

Rate the Book: 5

I love his books. They put you right in the middle of the battle. I like that the people in his books are real.


The Smoke at Dawn, by Jeff Shaara

Rate the Book: 5

I love his books. He really brings history to great effect. He puts you right in the battle.


The Art Forger, by B.A. Shapiro

Rate the book: 2

The book was well researched. There was great detail about art and the processes. I did feel like the book was lacking something. The ending felt rushed. I did not like how the book was set up either.

 

The Muralist, by B.A.Shapiro

Rate the Book: 4

I enjoyed this book. I knew of the artists included in this book and I was inspired to research and see if the main character was based on a real artist I had not learned about. The author includes art, history, and politics in the plot. A great companion read for the one book town project.

 

Off Season, by Anne Rivers Siddons

Rate the Book: 2

This book was humming along great.  Nice story of a young girl in the 60's who spends her summers and Maine and now is returning with her husband’s ashes.  Am a fan of this author but I felt the book fell apart in the last 50 pages or so.


Boys in the Trees, by Carly Simon

Rate the Book: 5

I am a Carly Simon fan so reading this book was a pleasure for me. I felt as if I was standing beside her and peeking into her early life. It gave me more perspective on the meaning behind many of her songs, which in turn prompted me to bring out my collection and listen to them all again with pleasure and new understanding.  This book is written with depth of feeling, just like her songs. New insight into her relationship with her parents and James Taylor.  She still loves that man, for certain. If you are a fan, this is a must read.

 

 

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, by Dominic Smith

Rate the Book: 3

The novel's plot was told over three different time periods. This sometimes created distance. A late chapter employed different time periods within the same chapter. The characters could have been developed more deeply if the author focused on one main character and told the story via this person.

 

Boys in Trees, by Carly Simon

Rate the Book: 3

Listened to the audiobook in the author's voice. Growing up in the 70's, her music was part of the soundtrack along with her then husband, James Taylor. This book gives some insight into her early family life and her remarkable career.


Humans of New York: Stories, by Brandon Stanton

Rate the Book: 4

If you enjoy his blog, you will enjoy this book.


Hunted, by Maggie Stiefvater

Rate the Book: 5

This book series spirit animals are the best. Everyone should know what theirs is. They are here to guide us.


Kitchens of the Great Midwest, by J. Ryan Stradal

Rate the Book: 4

This would make a great book club book. You care about the characters, it's real, funny, sometimes tender, and there are recipes! It follows the life of a girl with an unusual upbringing and sometimes goes off on a tangent delving into the lives of other characters, but in each case, food and drink bring the story together. It's also a good book to listen to on audio because the Minnesotan accents are great!


My Name Is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout

Rate the Book: 3

Poignant and concise story about a daughter reconnecting with her mother during a hospital stay. Really nails the emotions that family can stir up, for better and worse. A quiet book that runs deep.


My Name is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout

Rate the Book: 4

Touching, gripping tale about a mother-daughter connection. Characters are relatable in their humanity and emotions.


The Nest, by Cynthia D. Sweeney

Rate the Book: 4

Siblings gather to discuss the plans for receiving their inheritance.  The oldest brother has endangered this joint trust by being reckless.  The other siblings are counting on the money to solve their money problems. The power of family  relationships and what money does to those relationships. Great story.


Rare Objects, by Kathleen Tessaro

Rate the Book: 3

A solid read, and an interesting look a time period when women's choices were limited but starting to shift. Two of the main characters meet in a mental institution, but the book focuses on their life after they leave.


Summer House, by Nancy Thayer

Rate the Book: 4

Nancy Thayer is one of my favorite author's for  beach read.  This was one of my favorites and involves a long standing family on Nantucket and their saga in Nona's house.  My favorite characters are Helen and Worth's children, Charlotte, Oliver, and a younger brother who is an alcoholic.  When the younger brother brings home a girlfriend who is pregnant, no one believes it is his child.  This brings up Nona revealing the past to her son, Worth, that she is not his real mother either- his father, Herb, had an affair with a German woman during WW II. Drama and an interesting twist.

 

Summer Breeze, by Nancy Thayer

Rate the Book: 3

Not one of my favorites and a bit disappointed after Summer House.  This story involves three friends staying at a Nantucket cottage- one is pregnant and her husband cheated on her, the other has cancer, and the last (a sister), had an affair with a student and her professorship was stripped from her.  A young islander, Josh, befriends them and affairs, etc. begin.

 

Nantucket Sisters, by Nancy Thayer

Rate the Book: 3

Still not as good as Summer House.  Emily (old money on Nantucket) and Maggie (townie) are friends and the story is about their relationship with each other and with others.  No real twist at the end. Taking a break from Nancy for awhile.

 

All My Puny Sorrows, by Miriam Toews

Rate the Book: 5

I fell in love with the characters, especially Yoli. It would be nice to chat and have a glass of wine with her. This is a sad book. Suicide, grief. But it's all very real. There isn't even much of a plot, except maybe how do we just keep on going day after day? But you  spend all of it in Yoli's head, which is a darkly funny and hopeful place.


All the Stars in the Heavens, by  Adriana Trigiani

Rate the Book: 4

Really enjoyed reading about the early years in Hollywood.  Remember watching the Loretta Young show on TV with my grandmother. Loretta was the epitome of class and grace. I remember her literally twirling in at the introduction to her show.  It was interesting to learn the story of her family, her life in the movies and her relationship with Clark Gable.  Brought me back to the glamorous days of Hollywood where a breaking a "morals clause" with the movie studios could ruin your career. Very interesting book.


Vinegar Girl, by Anne Tyler

Rate the Book: 4

Love Anne Tyler and not surprised by this light, witty, entertaining gem. A modern day retelling of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew. Cleverly done.


My Sunshine Away, by M.O. Walsh

Rate the Book: 4

This book is set in Louisiana and tells the story of an upper middle class neighborhood and school that is shocked by the rape of a young girl. The narrator is one of the suspects and the book moves between present day and the past before coming to a suspenseful conclusion. (A note about the subject matter: while rape is the reason for the story, the actual event is touched briefly and not in great detail. It is not at all  graphic.) I loved the narrator's descriptions of the South as seen by people from elsewhere.


Summer’s Bloodiest Days, by Jennifer Weber

Rate the Book: 4

This book is a children's book about the battle of Gettysburg, however anyone can read it.  My son and I read it separately and both enjoyed it since this summer we visited Gettysburg and did the full tour of the battlefields.  It is a good read for anyone as it gives a good overview of the battle. The maps help explain each day of the battle.  And the pictures are interesting and engaging as well as the sidebars.


Jewel  and Her Lapidary, by Fran Wilde

Rate the Book: 2

The plot was really good. If the book had about one hundred pages to paint a better picture by explaining more details and giving some background information.


The Longest Night, by Andria Williams

Rate the Book: 4

This novel is based on true events surrounding the only fatal nuclear accident in the US. Set in Idaho Falls in 1959, the book focuses on a married couple with young children. The husband is in the military. The wife is restless and not quite content. Tension builds slowly (in a good way!) throughout the book, and it ended well too. It's not what I would describe as a suspenseful book, yet I didn't want to stop reading.


A Certain Age, by Beatriz Williams

Rate the Book: 5

I devoured this book. It is a well-written, highly entertaining mix of post-war ennui, underground jazz clubs, rising hemlines and lipstick, Manhattan’s high society, cocktails, secrets that are well-buried, secrets that are well-known, and plot twists and turns that kept my light on well past bedtime.


A Return to Love, by  Marianne Williamson

Rate the Book: 4

Each (short) chapter of this book is like a meditation that leaves the reader with a sense of calm and self- worth. This book reminds the reader that we are all here to love and be loved, and everything boils down to just that.


Underground Airlines, by Ben H. Winters

Rate the Book: 3

An interesting premise is the basis of the plot. Slavery remains legal in 4 states. The main character is an agent who locates run away slaves. The author has included historical events and people as part of the "setting" of this story. Technology plays a role.  It started out strong, but the finish is disappointing.  Sorry, no hints. This book could be the basis of an interesting discussion in that the plot raises many issues worth talking about.

 

What She Left Behind, by Ellen Marie Wiseman

Rate the Book: 5

I just read this for my book club.  Many of the reviews were negative and thought it was too depressing and couldn't finish it.  I hung in there and really enjoyed the back and forth in terms of time between Izzy and Clara.  I thought it was well tied together at the end when Clara meets her daughter.  I was especially intrigued when I found out that Willard asylum is in upstate New York and was run until 1995.  The author got her idea for the fictional novel after reading the nonfiction book on the suitcases that were found in the asylum and how they were documented.  I ordered the latter book and will post when I finish it.


What She Left Behind, by  Ellen Marie Wiseman

Rate the Book: 5

This is an amazing novel which incorporates many historical facts. It is wonderfully written and the author combined the present and the past beautifully. I read this in one day and recommended it to my book club. Can't wait for the discussion at the end of this month.


Dishonorable Intentions, by Stuart Wood

Rate the Book: 3

A typical Stone Barrington easy read.  Nothing out of the ordinary but entertaining for fans of this character.


The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

Rate the Book: 5

This is the book that The Easton Book Club will be discussing at the end of the month.  An excellent book about a young girl named Liesel who is a foster child in Germany during Hitler’s reign.  She lives with the Hubermann’s and is obsessed with the written word, hence the title.  The book has a bit of a different twist as the author has death as the voice telling the story.