Tuesday, September 6, 2022

The Book Review Club (September 2022)




Welcome to the September 2022 edition of the Book Review Club. I don't know what the weather is like in your neck of the woods. But, here, in Southern California we are melting in a heat wave. Thank goodness for books! We have reviews and recommendations for both kids and adults. Perfect timing for fall (and, hopefully, cooler) reading. Under my post are links to terrific reviews by terrific reviewers. Enjoy.




NO WAY HOME (YA, thriller)

By Jody Feldman


For me, it's been a summer of reading adult and middle-grade books. I wasn't actively avoiding YA. It was more about what I'd put on hold at the library vs what actually came in and who loaned me what and which book migrated to the top of TBR pile. Anyway, I knew Jody's (one of our intrepid reviewers! and a terrific middle-grade writer!) YA debut was coming out in August, and I'd preordered it. Always fun to have a book you're looking forward to! Thank you, Jody!

In NO WAY HOME, teen protagonist Tess Alessandro travels to Rome as part of a summer exchange program. Her host family's daughter, Sofia, stays with Tess's family in Washington, DC. Tess is particularly excited about the program because her family has roots in Italy. And, quite frankly, what teen wouldn't be excited about a summer in Italy. Well, unless they experience what Tess went through. :)

So, I start reading. And I'm motoring along, enjoying all the snippets of Italian and the sightseeing and the food descriptions. It's bringing back memories of my summer in St. Pierre (French island near Newfoundland). I'm commiserating with Tess whose Italian isn't all that great. Then there's the stress of staying in someone else's home. Not to mention having to make new friends at school. 

Suddenly... BAM! I hit chapter 8 (which happened to be 16% into the book. I noticed because I read NO WAY HOME on my Kindle). EVERYTHING changes. Tess's host parents (Angelica and Francesco Rossis) wake her up for a video call with their daughter. Who drugged Tess's parents! Who's brandishing a knife while Tess's parents sleep in the background! The Rossis confiscate Tess's passport, credit cards and cell phone. They threaten to murder her parents unless she commits a series of crimes. Wow! Tess teams up with a fellow student to solve the mystery and keep Tess's parents alive. There's a little romance. A lot of betrayal. Family secrets. Twists and turns galore. 

NO WAY HOME is perfect for readers who enjoyed WITH MALICE by Eileen Cook. (Here's my review.) If you're looking for a YA thriller, this NO WAY HOME is for you.


(Dear FCC: bought. Yes, I know Jody. But I just review what I like.)


And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!

MIDDLE GRADE FICTION BOOK REVIEWS

Jenn Jilks: STEALING FROM WIZARDS by Ryan Consell (MG, fantasy)


ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWS

Jody Feldman: THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB SERIES by Richard Osman (mystery/thriller)

Ray Potthoff: LONE WOLF by Jodi Picoult (contemporary)

Sarah Laurence: SMALL THINGS LIKE THESE by Claire Keegan (contemporary)


NONFICTION BOOK REVIEWS

Lucy Sartain: BRAT: AN 80s STORY by Andrew McCarthy (memoir)

Margy Lutz: THE LAND OF LITTLE RAIN by Mary Hunter Austin (nature, memoir)

Patti Abbott: TASTE: MY LIFE THROUGH FOOD by Stanley Tucci (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, June 1, 2022

The Book Review Club (June 2022)


Welcome to the June 2022 edition of the Book Review Club. We have reviews and recommendations for both kids and adults. Perfect timing for summer reading plans. Under my post are links to terrific reviews by terrific reviewers. Enjoy.


SAME HERE! (picture book, contemporary)

By Susan Hughes

Illustrated by Sophie Casson


SAME HERE! THE DIFFERENCES WE SHARE isn't my typical  read. But it was the perfect book for last week. After the horrific Texas school shooting, I needed something uplifting, something feel good about children happily going about childhood. SAME HERE! more than fit the bill. 

This well-researched 64-page picture book is about children from around the world sharing details of their lives. The reader learns ways in which these children differ from each. Depending on where they live, they speak different languages, live in different kinds of dwellings, eat different foods, etc. 

BUT THE BIG TAKEAWAY is that children from across the map share the same needs. Such as: the need to communicate, the need to feel loved and protected, the need for shelter, etc. Altogether, the author explores nine needs.

A few of my favorite shares: Somchai from Thailand who describes his house on stilts as "a big sun umbrella...always shady and cool underneath." Also, the stilts keep the house above water during the rainy season. (We all need shelter.) And Erica from the US whose first word was "dah woozy" ("strawberry" in Navajo. (We all need to communicate.) And Salma from Bangladesh whose school is on a boat because of the low land and all the rain. (We all need to learn.) And the child from the Bahamas whose favorite food is gooey macaroni pie. (We all need to eat.) And the girl from Nigeria who wants to be a teacher or a doctor. (We all need to dream.) You can see how SAME HERE! isn't just interesting. It's endearing.

I would be remiss not to mention the illustrations that draw you in (no pun intended :) ) and amplify the text. They are delightful with just the right amount of detail. As per the publisher, Owlkids Books, SAME HERE! is written at a third-grade reading level. I can add that this book would be a terrific read-aloud for the younger crowd, too. And, obviously, since it spoke to me, it works for the older crowd. Ha!

There's a reading list at the back of the book. Here's a link to the discussion guide written by the author. 

SAME HERE! THE DIFFERENCES WE SHARE is highly recommended for libraries, classrooms and your kid's/grandkid's/nephew's/niece's/neighbor's bookshelf. This book is a terrific jumping-off point for some important discussions with kids.

(Dear FCC: library)


And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!

MIDDLE GRADE FICTION BOOK REVIEW

Linda McLaughlin: JOHNNY TREMAIN by Esther Hoskins Forbes (MG, historical)

ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWS

Jenn Jilks: THE LAST ISLAND by Zülfü Livaneli (political allegory)

Lucy Sartain: ALL HER SECRETS by Wanda M. Morris (thriller)

Margy Lutz: THE BOOK WOMAN OF TROUBLESOME CREEK by Kim Michele Richardson     (historical)

Patti Abbott: MONTANA 1948 by Larry Watson (literary)                                                                                                                                                                   

Ray Potthoff: NORTHWEST ANGLE by William Kent Kruger (mystery)


POETRY BOOK REVIEW

Sarah Laurence: DEAD BURYING THE DEAD UNDER A QUAKING ASPEN by David Cranmer


NONFICTION BOOK REVIEWS

Jenn Jilks: THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY OF PLANTS by Stefano Mancuso

Phyllis Wheeler: AMY CONEY BARRETT: A JUSTICE & A MOTHER by Joyce Claiborne-West          (picture book, 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, April 6, 2022

The Book Review Club (April 2022)





Welcome to the April 2022 edition of The Book Review Club. You are in for a treat! My little sister, Sheilagh, wrote today's review. That's her picture on the right.  Cute, eh? When she was a baby, I used to bring kids home from school to look at her. :) Under her review are links to everyone else's reviews. Enjoy!



EIGHT DAYS
 by Teresa Toten 
(contemp middle grade novel, friendship, family, personal growth)

A little bit of fun background info from Barrie: I mentioned EIGHT DAYS to my very thoughtful sister who happens to have a memory like a steel trap. Basically, I was whining that the book was being released in Canada (where she lives) before the US (where I live). In the midst of exciting wedding-dress shopping with her eldest daughter in London, Ontario, my sister nipped into a bookstore and bought EIGHT DAYS for me! Of course, she read it first I would've done the same! She enjoyed the book so much, she wrote this review.... 

About the author: Teresa Toten is a Canadian children's book author who writes everything from picture books to middle grade to young adult. She's that kind of talented. Her young adult novel, THE UNLIKELY HERO OF ROOM 13B, won the Governor General's Award. 

The premise of EIGHT DAYS: Samantha (Sami) has just found out her mother died suddenly in a drug rehab centre in Chicago. The catch: Sami was told her mother died 10 years ago. 

More about EIGHT DAYS: Sami lives in the very diverse Thorncliffe Park area of Toronto. She lives with her recovering alcoholic grandfather (her mother’s father), Carl. Following the shocking news, Sami and Carl, along with Aggie, a motherly neighbour, set out on a life-altering eight-day roadtrip (Toronto to Chicago to Toronto) to recover Sami’s mother’s body.

During the trip, Sami deals with her grief by staying in contact with close friends, Nilofer and Tarek and by being useful. As Sami says, she is not a crier. She's a responsible, helpful person. This is her tried-and-true strategy for getting people to keep her around. Along the way, Sami gains insight into her relationship with her mother and her mother’s reasons for disappearing, as well as her mother’s love for her. She learns new ways to navigate her relationship with Carl, as Carl learns to accept the past and the very different present in which he lives.

Recommendation: Yes, yes, yes! A great read for the 10-14-year-old crowd. The passages about grief ring very true, as does Sami’s fear of abandonment. The author doesn't shirk from difficult topics like drugs, alcohol, death, but addresses them in a wholly appropriate middle-grade way. And, as a Torontonian, I can attest to the authenticity of the Toronto setting with Sami visiting such locations as the Eaton Centre, Shoppers Drug Mart, and Home Hardware. Her entourage follows the Gardiner/ QEW to leave Canada.

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
Phyllis Wheeler: 365 DAYS TO ALASKA by Cathy Carr (contemporary middle grade)

Jody Feldman: PRIDE AND PREMEDIATION by Tirzah Price (young adult mystery)


ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWS

Jenn Jilks: GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE by Diana Gabaldon (time travel, romance)

Linda McLaughlin: WHILE JUSTICE SLEEPS by Stacy Abrams (legal thriller)
 
Lucy Sartain: THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY by Matt Haig (time travel)

Sarah Laurence: NERUDA ON THE PARK by Cleyvis Natera (contempt, adult)

Scott Parker: THE LIGHTNING ROD by Brad Meltzer (mystery/thriller)


NONFICTION REVIEWS

Margy Lutz: THE RIDE OF HER LIFE by Elizabeth Letts (biography)

Ray Potthoff: AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARK TWAIN by Mark Twain (autobiography)



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 2, 2022

The Book Review Club (February 2022)



This month marks the thirteenth anniversary of The Book Review Club. Yes! We've been meeting for THIRTEEN LUCKY YEARS! Wow! Please scroll down below my post for links to great reviews of great books. Enjoy and Happy Lunar New Year!  🐯






THE MAID

by Nita Prose (adult, cozy mystery, contemporary)

It's not often I read an "it" book, hot off the presses. (THE MAID pubbed Jan 4.) It's not often I review a book that has already catapulted to the top of the charts.  (THE MAID is a NYT bestseller, #1 Canadian bestseller, UK Sunday Times bestseller, a Good Morning America Book Club Pick, been optioned for a movie.) It's not often I review an adult novel. But...it's 2022, and, apparently, the year of living dangerously. After all, it is the Year of the Tiger.

The author: Nita Prose is the pen name for Nita Pronovost, VP/Editorial Director at Simon & Schuster in Toronto, Canada. THE MAID is her first novel. 

The premise: 25 y.o. Molly Gray, a woman somewhere on the spectrum a la Elinor Oliphant, works proudly as a maid at the swanky Regency Grand Hotel. "I love cleaning. I love my maid's trolley, and I love my uniform." Molly's navigating life as best she can, cleaning obsessively, alone and lonely since her Gran died a few months earlier. She's holding it together, and then she finds the body of wealthy Charles Black, "very dead in his bed." 

I mostly listened to this book. The narrator (actress Lauren Ambrose) is excellent. I listened in the grocery store, in the bank, while weeding, while cooking. You get the picture. I was hooked. It's a fun, quirky read. Lots of interesting characters. Humor. I was very invested in Molly the Maid with her social miscues and mishaps and her love of the Olive Garden and Colombo. This whodunit with heart is all about personal growth, trust, friendship and romance. 

A final thought: The last twist threw me for a loop. Really threw me. So, if you read THE MAID (and I think you should!), and you have a free moment or two, I'd be curious to hear your reaction.

Here's a short story by the author: The Missing Mona Lisa

Here's the GMA interview with the author: Good Morning America

(Dear FCC: bought)

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

Phyllis Wheeler: THE HEDGEHOG OF OZ by Cory Leonardo (MG, fantasy)

Sarah Laurence: WHAT I CARRY by Jennifer Longo (YA, contemporary)   


ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWS

Jenn Jilks: STATE OF TERROR by Louise Penny and Hilary Clinton (thriller)

Lucy Sartain: WE ARE NOT LIKE THEM by Christine Pride and Jo Piazza  (women's)

Margy Lutz: AMERICAN DIRT by Jeanine Cummins (contemporary) 

Patti Abbott:  HAMNET by Maggie O'Farrell (historical)


NONFICTION BOOK REVIEWS

Linda McLaughlin: YOUR BEST YEAR EVER by Michael Hyatt (adult, self-help)

Jody Feldman: THE WOMAN ALL SPIES FEAR by Amy Butler Greenfield (YA, 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, December 1, 2021

The Book Review Club (December 2021)





Welcome to the December 2021 edition of The Book Review Club. It's that time of year when we're rushing around, buying gifts and wrapping gifts and writing cards and baking and, and and! Here's our holiday tip: Books make the best gifts. For everyone on your list. While you're at it, buy one for yourself. Then grab a tea/coffee/hot chocolate, a cookie and some quiet reading time. Below my post are links to more book reviews. Terrific gift suggestions. Enjoy!





TANGLED UP IN LUCK (MG, mystery)
by Merrill Wyatt 

If I had to choose one word to describe this humorous middle-grade mystery, I'd choose "fun."

Much to their chagrin, seventh-graders Sloane Osburn (popular volleyball star) and Amelia Miller-Poe (melodramatic misfit) are partnered up for a class project. Their task? To find the jewels that went missing in their town of Wauseon, Ohio way back in 1887. We're talking graveyards, hidden compartments, family secrets. There is serendipity (great luck) and zemblanity (horrible luck). A mysterious someone is also after the jewels. This someone is following the girls and the centuries-old clues. Who will get there first? Fun! Fun! Fun!

TANGLED UP IN LOVE is a twisty-turny mystery with well-rounded characters (my favorite is Amelia) and a satisfying ending. Secondary characters, such as Sloane's grandmothers, provide great comic relief. A narrator ups the tension with ominous pronouncements. The girls learn about friendship and family and standing up for yourself and standing up against bullies. And they learn that luck isn't really all that important. It's "how you choose to live your life around that luck" that counts.

And hurray! There will be a sequel. Also, I'm not the only one who loved this book. Kirkus gave it a starred review: "Funny, cheering, and narratively fulfilling."

P.S. I will attempt to use the word "zemblanity" in a sentence daily.

(Dear FCC: bought for Kindle)


And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!

MIDDLE GRADE FICTION BOOK REVIEWS

Phyllis Wheeler: THE STRANGEWORLDS TRAVEL AGENCY by LD Lapinski (fantasy)                 


ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWS

Jenn Jilks: mysteries by three different female authors (mystery)

Linda McLaughlin: THE LIEUTENANT'S NURSE by Sarah Ackerman (historical)

Lucy Sartain: STATE OF TERROR by Louise Penny and Hillary Clinton (thriller) 

Patti Abbott: OH, WILLIAM by Elizabeth Strout (literary)

Ray Potthoff: LIGHTNING STRIKE by William Kent Krueger (mystery)

Sarah Laurence: THE WORLD THAT WE KNEW by Alice Hoffman (historical, magical realism)


NONFICTION BOOK REVIEWS

Lucy Sartain: I'LL TAKE YOUR QUESTIONS NOW by Stephanie Grisham (memoir)

Lucy Sartain:  THE BOYS by Ron and Clint Howard (memoir)

Margy Lutz: FOR JOSHUA: AN OJIBWE FATHER TEACHES HIS SON by Richard Wagamese (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, November 3, 2021

The Book Review Club (November 2021)

Welcome to the November 2021 edition of the Book Review Club. My fun and smart critique partner, Kathy Krevat, wrote today's review about LAST REDEMPTION, a terrific adult PI crime novel by local San Diego author Matt Coyle. Kathy is the author of the GOURMET CAT MYSTERY series and the CHOCOLATE COVERED MYSTERY series, so this woman knows her way around a mystery! 🕵️‍♀️  If she recommends it, it's good. And she recommends LAST REDEMPTION. Below the post are links to great reviews about great books. Enjoy! And Happy Thanksgiving in advance to those who celebrate. 🦃





LAST REDEMPTION by Matt Coyle 
(adult crime fiction)

In LAST REDEMPTION, Matt Coyle has once again succeeded in making us root for PI Rick Cahill as he investigates a sensitive case for his dearest friend Moira McFarlane. In each book of the Rick Cahill series, Coyle allows his hero to evolve by meeting challenges. LAST REDEMPTION is no different. 

Rick is facing his toughest trial yet – a possible brain-altering disease caused by past choices. And it comes at a time when he’s most happy in his new settled life, with a desk job that’s financially secure and a fiancé who is pregnant with their child.

But even Rick's desire to stay alive and well for his future wife and baby can’t keep him away from a case that starts off simple, but quickly escalates. Rick is involved in a dangerous mission to find Moira’s missing son Luke and solve a murder mystery while evading sadistic killers intent on stopping him. 

LAST REDEMPTION is fast-paced while allowing Rick to explore his complicated emotions of upcoming fatherhood, marriage and serious illness. 

Coyle is one of the best PI noir writers out there today. His books have won several awards: the Anthony, Shamus, Lefty, San Diego Book, Ben Franklin. And they've been nominated/finaled for several.

Fans of PI noir, suspense and mystery readers will love this book as a stand-alone or as the next in the series.

LAST REDEMPTION publishes November 30. And for us local yokels (or anyone visiting San Diego), Matt will be Warwick's Nov 30, 7:30pm for an in-person signing.

(Dear FCC: ARC)

And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!

MIDDLE GRADE FICTION BOOK REVIEWS

Phyllis Wheeler:  BEING CLEM by Lesa Cline-Ransome (historical)             

Jody Feldman: THE UNSUNG HERO OF BIRDSONG, USA by Brenda Woods (historical)

ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWS

Lucy Sartain: THE HUSBANDS by Chandler Baker (thriller)

Margy Lutz: BURIED SECRETS by Mike Martin (police procedural) 

Linda McLaughlin: THE ALICE NETWORK by Kate Quinn (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, September 8, 2021

The Book Review Club (September 2021)


Welcome to the September 2021 edition of The Book Review Club. We're back after our summer hiatus! September is a busy month, right? Labor Day, Rosh Hashanah, Patriot Day, Yom Kippur, Autumnal Equinox. And then there are the odd celebrations like Nat'l Happy Cat Day, Internal'l Talk Like a Pirate Day and National Punctuation Day. :) Anyway in the midst of all this busy-ness, what better than some recommended books to read?! We've compiled terrific reviews of terrific books. Enjoy!



THE KING OF JAM SANDWICHES

by Eric Walters (MG, Contemporary)

THE KING OF JAM SANDWICHES tugs hard at your heartstrings. It's the story of two children forced by negligent parenting to grow up far too soon. It's also a story of friendship, resilience, survival and success. And there's humor. And a protective dog named Candy.

Determined to stay out of foster care, Robbie, an eighth-grade boy, keeps his home life secret. His widower father struggles with mental illness which manifests itself in mood swings and unpredictable behavior. Robbie's father disappears for days at a time, leaving Robbie to fend for himself. Robbie studies hard, does chores around the house and works part time at a local butcher shop. His goal is to get to university and be a somebody. See what I mean about heartstrings? You just can't not root for him. 

Enter a new student at school. A feisty, outspoken, tough girl. Harmony is living in a new foster home while her single mom is in rehab (again) dealing with alcohol and drug addiction. Harmony provides most of the humor in the book. 

After a rocky start, the two form a friendship where they're able to share their secrets and help each other through tough times. "Maybe we feel tired because we have to think about things other kids don't have to think about." (pg 118) "You and I know we're broken...If you're broken and you know it, you have to get up every day and work harder and longer than everybody else if you want to get anywhere." (pg 298)

The title? Robbie makes jam sandwiches for lunch every day. They're cheap and easy, but he's sick of them. Hurray for Harmony who figures this out and exchanges sandwiches regularly with Robbie at the school lunch table.

THE KING OF JAM SANDWICHES won the 2020 Governor General's Literary Award for Young People's Literature. It also received a starred review from SLJ. Well deserved!

This story is based on the author's own life. No wonder if feels so authentic. I can imagine THE KING OF JAM SANDWICHES starting conversations about poverty, friendship, unreliable adults,  difficult home lives, secrets and more. Highly recommended.

(Dear FCC: library)


And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!

YOUNG ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEW

Jody Feldman: THE INHERITANCE GAMES by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (mystery/thriller)


ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWS

Jenn Jilks: NOT A HAPPY FAMILY by Shari Lapena  (mystery)

Lucy Sartain: FALLING by TJ Newman (thriller)

Sarah Laurence: CLOUD CUCKOO LAND by Anthony Doerr (literary)


NONFICTION BOOK REVIEWS

Margy Lutz: RIVER FOR MY SIDEWALK by Gilean Douglas (memoir)

Patti Abbott:  BRING YOUR BAGGAGE AND DON'T PACK LIGHT by Helen Ellis (humorous essays)


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!