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!



Wednesday, June 2, 2021

The Book Review Club (June 2021)




Welcome to the June 2021 edition of The Book Review Club. We're taking the summer off, so our next "meeting" will be September 8. June is a big month in California as we open up on the 15th. Whew. And a little June history trivia for you: Queen Elizabeth II's coronation was on this very date in 1953. Enjoy the summer solstice on June 20. And definitely enjoy the terrific reviews of terrific books we've compiled for you!





RIVER MAGIC (middle grade, fantasy)

by Ellen Booraem

RIVER MAGIC is one of those books that grabs you from the beginning and doesn't let you go. You think I'm exaggerating? Ha! Try this first paragraph on for size: "The river is wide and calm in front of our house, like it never meant you any harm. But you hear the rapids all the time a quarter mile around the bend. Here's what those rapids are telling you: Do not mess with this river." 

Our protagonist, 13 y.o. Donna, is dealing with a lot. Her beloved Aunt Annabelle drowned in the river about 8 months before the story opens. Donna's living with her difficult teenage sister and her stressed mom. Her best friend has ditched her for new basketball team friends. The outcast kid at school keeps hanging around. Due to financial hardship, Donna may be forced to spend the summer with mean Aunt Betty. 

Now . . .  throw in magic. Throw in lots of it. Thunder mages, dragons, pixies. Transmogrification, powerful gold, a book of spells. Incredible! Fun! It turns the plot upside down!

This is a story about family ties, repairing old friendships and making new ones. It's about dealing with grief and fears. It's about saving the day in contemporary world that has magic in it. 

Looking for summer reading for your 10-12 year old (the ages are a loose guide)? Pick up a copy of RIVER MAGIC for the win! Highly recommended. Did I mention the starred review from Kirkus?


(Dear FCC: bought at Mysterious Galaxy, my local Indie bookstore. While I know the author, I reviewed RIVER MAGIC because I loved it.)

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: I AM DAVID by Anne Holm (MG/YA, historical)

ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWS

Patti Abbott:  KLARA AND THE SUN by Kazuo Ishiguro (literary)

Sarah Laurence: THE CARPENTER'S PENCIL by Manuel Rivas (historical, translated)

Scott Parker: DEATH AT THE SALON by Louise R. Innes (cozy mystery)


NONFICTION BOOK REVIEWS

Jenn Jilks: POLICE LINE: DO NOT CROSS by Kelly Donovan (memoir)  

Margy Lutz: THE AGE OF GREAT DREAMS: AMERICA IN THE 1960S by David Farber (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, April 7, 2021

The Book Review Club (April 2021)


Welcome to the April 2021 edition of The Book Review Club. I'm thinking we could all use a brief break from things serious and news-y. So, here's some April frivolity! April is Grilled Cheese Month, National Humor Month and Soft Pretzel Month. In French, someone who is tricked on April Fool's Day is a "poisson d'avril" or an April fish! Ha! And now to the task at hand...we've compiled a bunch of terrific reviews of terrific books just for you guys! Enjoy!


THE YEAR I FLEW AWAY 
by Marie Arnold (middle grade, magical realism)

In THE YEAR I FLEW AWAY,  10-year-old Gabrielle Jean leaves her family in Haiti to start a new life in America with her aunt, uncle and three cousins. Right off the bat, there's a lot of built-in conflict: Gabrielle leaves warm Haiti for winter in Brooklyn. Brrr. The students at school make fun of her accent. She has trouble making friends. One of the cousins is an unfriendly teen. She's lonely and homesick.

You might think this is enough tension for our middle-grade protagonist? Enter Lady Lydia, a witch. Lady Lydia offers Gabrielle three wishes. Of course, the witch, as witches are wont to do, has her own agenda. So, each wish comes with a (secretly hefty) price. 

This book easily opens the door to discussions about immigration, assimilation, acceptance, celebrating differences, and bullying. All important discussions to be having in the current climate. One of my favorite lines from the book: "Yeah, but you should know that until you tell the truth about who you are and where you're from, no one sees the real you."

THE YEAR I FLEW AWAY is author Lola StVil's first middle-grade novel. Incidentally, the author emigrated from Haiti to New York in the middle of the winter as a child to live with her aunt, uncle and cousins. I'm not sure if there was a witch.

Highly recommended.

(Dear FCC: library, which is appropriate given that it's National Library Week)

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: A PLACE TO HANG THE MOON by Kate Albus (MG, historical)


ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWS

Jenn Jilks: VERONICA SPEEDWELL series by Deanna Raybourn (mystery) 

Lucy Sartain: BLACK WIDOWS by Cate Quinn (domestic thriller)

Linda McLaughlin: THE BOOK OF LOST NAMES by Kristin Hamel (historical)

Patti Abbott:  REMAINS OF THE DAY by Kazuo Ishiguro (literary)

Ray Potthoff: SMALL GREAT THINGS by Jodi Picoult 

Sarah Laurence: SMALL ISLAND by Andrea Levy (historical)

Scott Parker: MURDER AT THE BEACON BAKESHOP by Darci Hannah (mystery)


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!