Wednesday, December 7, 2016

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 POSTMAN

by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

As 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 REVIEWS

Ellen 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 REVIEWS

Jenn 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 Watson

Ray 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!



Sunday, November 20, 2016

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


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

INDIES FIRST DAY + SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY!

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

And...I'll be working...as 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

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

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 ("...here 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 REVIEWS

Ellen 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 REVIEWS

Alyssa 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 (historical)



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!



Wednesday, October 5, 2016

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 MIRACLES
by 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 REVIEWS

Lucy 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 REVIEWS

Alyssa 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 (historical

Scott Parker: THE HALLOWEEN TREE by Ray Bradbury (fantasy)

Stacy of the Cat's Meow: LIFE AND OTHER NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCES by Camille Pagan


NONFICTION REVIEW

Jenn Jilks of Cottage Country: 3 self-help autobiographies


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!



Wednesday, September 7, 2016

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 Mattick
FINDING WINNIE: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear
by 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, "...so 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 REVIEWS

Jody 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 REVIEWS

Ellen 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 REVIEW

Ray 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!



Wednesday, June 1, 2016

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 reviews


WITH 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 Paper
School Trip Ends In Tragedy
May 3

Two 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 REVIEWS
Sarah 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 REVIEWS
Alyssa 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: NEW YORK DEAD by Stuart Woods (mystery)

Patti Abbott:  NIGHTINGALES by Kristin Hannah (historical)

Stacy of the Cat's Meow: THE TEA ROSE trilogy by Jennifer Donnelly (historical)


NONFICTION BOOK REVIEWS
Jenn Jilks of Cottage Country: BEYOND THERAPY by Erving Polster (self-help)J

Jenn Jilks of Cottage Country: NO TIME TO CRY by Vera Lienvebers (autobiography)

Ray Potthoff: THE GAMBLE by Thomas Ricks (military 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!



Wednesday, May 4, 2016

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 TwitterFacebook 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 REVIEWS
Alyssa Goodnight: THANKS FOR THE TROUBLE by Tommy Wallach (YA, contemporary)

Ellen Booraem: INSTEAD OF THREE WISHES BY Megan Whelan Turner
                                                                                      (MG, fantasy, short stories)
                                                                                                                       
Sarah Laurence: OUTRUN THE MOON by Stacey Lee (YA, historical)

Stacy Nyikos: THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE by Janet Fox
                                                                                      (MG, paranormal mystery/thriller)
                                                                                                                                                               

ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWS
Jody Feldman: SCYAMORE ROW by John Grisham (thriller)

Linda McLaughlin: WHEN A SCOT TIES THE KNOT by Tessa Dare (romance)

Lucy Sartain of Ranting and Raving: THE NEXT by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney (contemporary)

Patti Abbott:  MY BRILLIANT FRIEND by Elena Ferrante (contemporary, Italian)

Rob Costello: AN ENGLISH GHOST STORY (horror)


NONFICTION BOOK REVIEW
Ray Potthoff: AND THEN ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE by Richard Engel

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!







Wednesday, April 6, 2016

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 REVIEWS
Ellen 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 REVIEWS
Alyssa 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 Doerr

Linda McLaughlin: THE DOG WHO KNEW TOO MUCH by Spencer Quinn (mystery)
                                 PAW ENFORCEMENT by Diane Kelly (mystery)
                                 A DOG'S PURPOSE by W. Bruce Cameron

Lucy Sartain of Ranting and Raving: THE HAUNTING OF MADDY CLARE by Simone St. James
                                                            (part romance, part historical, part mystery, seriously creepy!)

Ray Potthoff: THE REVENANT by Michael Punke (historical)

Stacy of the Cat's Meow: THE SWANS OF FIFTH AVENUE by Melanie Benjamin


NONFICTION REVIEW
Jenn Jilks of Cottage CountryALL-ELECTRIC AMERICA by David Freeman & Leah Parks
                                                  THE LIFE & TIMES OF LILIAN J. RICE by Diane Welch
                                                   (biography)

Scott Parker: LEONARD: MY 50 YEAR FRIENDSHIP WITH A REMARKABLE MAN
                      by William Shatner (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!



Wednesday, March 2, 2016

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 REVIEWS
Beth Bonini of TRAC: SIMON VS THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA by Becky Albertalli

ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWS
Alyssa 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 Robert J. Randisi (western)

NONFICTION REVIEW
Linda McLaughlin: YOU'RE NEVER WEIRD ON THE INTERNET (ALMOST) by Felicia Day
                                 (memoir)

Sarah Laurence: THE SOUL OF AN OCTOPUS by Sy Montgomery (adult)

Stacy of the Cat's Meow: MY LIFE ON THE ROAD by Gloria Steinem (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!



Wednesday, February 3, 2016

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 REVIEWS
Beth 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 REVIEWS
Alyssa 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 REVIEW
Jenn 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!