One of the best books of 2017, and all time

I read it like it was a library book due yesterday.

A year ago.

It has taken me that long to assimilate and absorb the impact of all the glorious stories. I had greatly anticipated this novel, from my discovery 7 years ago of this 20 year series. A chance view of a cover lured me to Fool’s Assassin, the first of this trilogy. Then I read ALL of her previous novels. I still shudder when I think about what I might have missed. At the end of this novel, I completely reread the entire series, 16 books. For the third time? If there was ever a time to immerse yourself in fantasy this is it and these are tremendous. I have only read Tolkien more. Patrick Rothfuss is perhaps the only other author/series I will continue to reread (and also can’t wait for the next installment). I have to say that slower reading revealed many hidden gems, within the writing and the story.

And wait for it. I was in a library bookstore and NINE (9) of her books came in as paperbacks, in pristine condition. I purchased them all, for copies to share. The Friends of the Rochester Public Library is one of the best bookstores around, I urge you to peruse the shop today! (And every week as the stock is always changing!)

Title: Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb

Publisher: Del Ray May 2017 962 pp

Genre: fantasy, science fiction, coming of age, action and adventure, literature and fiction

5+ stars highly recommended

Author:

Robin Hobbs is the second pen name of American author Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogdon (b 1952). She also writes under Megan Lindholm. Her books number over 25 with numerous short stories. If you are still waiting for the next installment of Game ofThrones, pick up Hobbs.

This is another wonderful book in the Realm of the Elderlings, begun in 1995 with the first of the Farseer Trilogy Assassin’s Apprentice, which led directly into the Fitz and the Fool Trilogy. This book in particular combines many of her other series; there are something of the order of 15 books that are referenced here. Don’t miss any of them (Farseer chronicles, Tawny man, Rain wild chronicles, Liveship traders). I’ve told you to start reading this author! I love books that build on previous stories, develop in different directions, shed new light on previous events and reverse roles. These are brilliant, clever, utterly absorbing stories.

Her writing is absolutely brilliant, extraordinary in her detailed storytelling. World building is taken to new heights. Every story is “unputdownable” you cant wait to finish the book, and life is out on hold while you are mesmerized in another magical realm. Her characters resonate in real life. Be warned, while it’s been an amazing journey, the beautiful ending is bittersweet.

Story:

To fully appreciate this book you MUST read the previous 8 featuring Fitz and the Fool in the Farseer world. But really there are 16 in the Realm of the Elderlings that altogether complete the intricate, complex story. That includes the Liveship Traders and the Rainwild Chronicles. Why not read them in order?!

Assassin’s Fate seamlessly picks up right after Fools Quest (yes, my last review complained of the abrupt ending). Fitz and the Fool are on their way to Clerres to rescue their daughter Bee, although they believe they are avenging her death. Her struggle is exceedingly painful ala graphic GRRMartin. Narration is shared between Fitz and Bee, with all my favourite characters present including nighteyes, the Fool, Paragon, Icefyre. Fitz is again introspective, but there is such depth to his struggle. It makes the ending even harder. Bee, like the Fool, is very much of the future, and both are game changers. Yes, there are endings, sorrow we neither expect nor want. But they always provide hope on a narrow horizon or in a darkened world. Changes are opportunities, not necessarily easily obtained but always worth striving for. There are many life lessons. I’m hopeful the story/world continues with Bee.

NB there have been some exceptional interviews with Hobbs this last year, which shed light on her writing and these books. Look for them. I’m ever hopeful that movies could be made, now that we have Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones.

Read on : this is perfect for summer reads, for any tween, teenager interested in fantasy. Adults will truly enjoy this magic. Typical read time is 19hours!

For fans of Patrick Rothfuss, GRR Martin, Terry Goodkind, Sarah Maas, Robert Jordan

Quotes

So I fled, knowing I could not escape but too frightened to let them reclaim me.

Death is better than the sort of captivity they plan for you.

It’s only a dream scarcely applies to what a dragon can do to one’s sleeping mind.

Sixty was not thirty, regardless of how I might appear.

Received as an ARC from Netgalley. Purchased my own copy to complete my set.

Readathon!

Wouldn’t you like to curl up with a good book for four hours on a gray Saturday in January?
Join us for the first National Readathon Day Jan. 24, 2015! hashtag: #timetoread.

Penguin Random House is launching America’s first National Readathon Day, Jan. 24, 2015, from noon to 4 p.m. The campaign encourages bibliophiles to get together and make time to read. The readathon supports the National Book Foundation using an online fundraising service, firstgiving.com. The National Book Foundation presents the annual National Book Awards, as well as its educational programmes including BookUp, after-school reading program which has given out over 25,000 books.

Partners in the readathon include Mashable, which will dedicate one session of its book club to the project, and Goodreads. Bookstores, libraries and schools are encouraged to join in. People can sign up to participate in the readathon on their own or form teams that pool their fundraising resources.

The idea of reading as a fundraiser has been a great success (26 years!!) in Los Angeles. The Library Foundation of Los Angeles, which supports the city’s public libraries, will hold its Stay Home and Read a Book Ball on Feb. 28, 2015. For the ball, instead of dressing up and going out, people make a donation and pledge to stay home and read.

You might take for granted how easy it is for you to read this sentence, but millions of Americans still struggle with basic literacy. 40% of American adults are either at or below basic reading proficiency, and 14% are fully illiterate. But the trouble doesn’t stop there. Each year, millions of Americans — especially our youth — are losing touch with the power and importance of reading books. As Malcolm X said, “People don’t realize how a whole life can be changed by one book.””

Help change lives this winter by celebrating National Readathon Day with Penguin Random House, GoodReads, Mashable, and the National Book Foundation. Together with your support, we hope to help fund their efforts to educate, tutor, create and sustain a lifelong love of reading.

Need a book??? The Friends of the Rochester Public Library Bookstore have great books for a lovely winter read! There is a huge selection of excellent fiction, nonfiction, YA, and children’s books at fabulous prices. Join Paige Turner between 10am and 4 pm.

As for me? I will be reading poetry- Sunday is the Burns supper in celebration of the national poet of Scotland (Robert Burns, born 25 January). It is perhaps our biggest holiday celebration and involves both reading and writing poetry (and prose). In his spirit I have given a dozen children’s books, several adult books, donated time and money, and will be reading to my heart’s content. Join me.

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Book Review – I Hate Picture Books

cover24888-mediumI Hate Picture Books
A review by Catherine H. Armstrong

My favorite thing in the entire world is a great book.  Don’t get me wrong; I love all books.  I love the smell of books, the weight of a book in my hands, and even the crisp sound of the pages as I turn them.  But what I love most of all is a really great book; a book that makes me laugh out loud, or one with a main character that speaks to me and evokes strong emotions.  And when I find a great book, I can’t wait to tell the world about it.  I want the whole world to know what I’ve discovered.  Last night, I found a great book, and – much to my complete surprise – it’s a children’s picture book!

I Hate Picture Books by Timothy Young is simply the best picture book I’ve read in years!  It tells the story of a young boy who decides one day that he’s too old for picture books.  After all, every picture book he’s ever read has led him astray!  He read Harold and the Purple Crayon and then got into trouble for drawing on the walls!  He had a bad day and went to bed believing that the monsters from Where the Wild Things Are would come and spirit him away in the night.  He awakened the next morning to find  himself snuggled into his same old bed in his same old room.  One day, he even found some green ham in the refrigerator and decided to give it a try.  After all, Sam I Am found out that it was really good, right?  Only, unlike Green Eggs and Ham, the green ham made him throw up!

This book had me laughing out loud, and even giggling later that evening when I was reflecting back on pieces of the story.  Unable to help myself, I called my 8 year old down to read it with me.  He not only recognized every book referenced in this story, but he got more than a few surges of the giggles.  But I knew had a hit when I decided to read it at dinner to my husband and 17 year old daughter.  When you can make “the teenager” laugh, then you know you’ve done something pretty special…and that’s exactly what Timothy Young has done! He had all four of us – including “the teenager” – grinning from ear to ear!

I Hate Picture Books is a fantastic story that uses some of the best loved story books of all time to remind us all that we’re never too old for a great picture book.  In all honesty – though it’s a children’s picture book – I’m going to add I Hate Picture Books to my list of “Top 10 Books” I’ve read in 2013.  It really is that good!

This book is not yet available at the Rochester Public Library, but I’ve already put in a request.  Let’s see if we can’t get it added to our shelves!

One Step Too Far – Free Kindle Download!

Readers:  It isn’t very often that we repost a blog that we’ve already run; however, today I felt compelled to do so.  Last week we Featured Tina Seskis as an Author  Spotlight and ran a review of her book, One Step Too Far.  Today only, this book is a FREE KINDLE DOWNLOAD.  To download this book to your Kindle or Kindle App, follow this link. In the meantime, I’m reposting our review of Tina Seskis’ debut novel, One Step Too Far.  Enjoy!  CHA

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17404760One Step Too Far
A Review by Catherine H. Armstrong

Sometimes a person’s life falls so completely apart that the only solution, it seems, is to simply walk away and start over. Leaving behind her husband and family, that’s exactly what Emily Coleman does…walk away. As she leaves the home she’s shared with her husband for many years, Emily carries with her almost nothing with her, except for the painful memories that she can’t seem to escape.

One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis is a story of one woman’s attempt to heal from her past in the only way she knows how: by leaving behind everything that provokes daily memories of all that she’s lost.

As a reader, you’re not really sure what Emily has lost or what provokes her painful memories, but you know it’s huge. There are hints along the way, but the author does a wonderful job of keeping the reader guessing and clueless until she’s ready to let you in on the secret. And when she finally does, the reader should be prepared for a jaw-dropper.

Seskis’ book was a wonderful read that I fully expect to quickly rise on the list of bestsellers.

This book is currently on order at the Rochester Public Library and should be shelved soon.

In celebration of the release of this book, Tina Seskis will be our Author in Spotlight on tomorrow’s blog! Come back tomorrow to read our exclusive interview with Tina Seskis. Learn about the background of this book and you’ll be surprised at the evolution of this book!

Book Review – Sh*t My Dad Says

7821447-1Sh*t My Dad Says
A Review by Catherine H. Armstrong

Last night I was looking around for something to read and was searching the library’s digital collection when I came across a book entitled, Sh*t My Dad Says.  The title alone was intriguing and – knowing very little about the book – I downloaded it and began reading.   To say that it’s exactly what I needed right now is putting it mildly.  With the winter weather droning on and on, I was in need of something light and humorous to lift my spirits.  This was definitely the book for that!!

Sh*t My Dad Says is a work of non-fiction anecdotal humor about a  young man growing up with a father that has no “filter” on what not to say.  At one point, the author refers to his father as being the least passive aggressive person he’s ever known.  If his father is thinking it, it will come tumbling out of his mouth.

Justin Halpern’s book isn’t quite a memoir so much as it is a series of anecdotes on life through his father’s eyes….and it is absolutely laugh-out-loud hilarious!  More than once I caught myself reading a passage that was so funny that I was caught in a fit of giggles with tears streaming down my face.  It’s that funny!

A word of caution to the reader, however:  when I say that Halpern’s father has no “filter,” I mean that he not only has no filter on his thoughts, but none on his language either.  The language can be a bit raw, and that can be a bit of a turnoff.  If the reader can get past the language, though, the book is absolutely hilarious and is a wonderful tribute to all of our parents who embarrass us in their own unique ways.

This book is available at the Rochester Public Library in traditional format, and through downloadable e-book format.

Bookscapes by Helen McIver

A Good Book and Chocolate – Flowers Optional
Romantic Authors

bookpile2Following the library’s (and Facebook’s) alphabetic lists of either books or authors, here is a list of authors that write romance fiction.  I, personally, never knew that Jane Austen or Garrison Keillor was considered a romance writer (searching Kindle selections). These are some of the authors I have enjoyed reading, especially classics and Regency or historical novels.

To quote Robertson Davies, “It is dangerous to condemn stories as junk which satisfy the deep hunger of millions of people. These books are not literary art, but a great deal of what is acclaimed as literary art in our time offers no comfort or fulfillment to anybody.” (From For Your Eyes Alone; the Letters of Robertson Davies, ed. Judith Skelton Grant, Viking Press)
A
Jane Austen, Jennifer Ashley, *Laurie Anderson

B
Mary Balogh, *Angela Benson

C
Gail Carriger, *Jennifer Crusie, Mary Chase Comstock

D
Christina Dodd

E
Suzanne Enoch

F
Jane Feather

G
*Diana Gabaldon, *Roberta Gellis

H
*Madeline Hunter, *Deborah Harkness

I
Iris Johansson

J
*Eliosa James

K
Lisa Kleypas, Susanna Kearsley, Lynn Kurland

L
Stephanie Laurens

M
Karen Marie Moning, *Lucy Muir

N
Brenda Novak

O
Constance O’Day Flannery

P
Mary Jo Putney, *Elizabeth Peters, * Nina Coombs PyKare,

Q
Julia Quinn, Amanda Quick

R
Karen Rose, Karen Ranney, Deanna Raybourn, *Pamela Regis

S
*Christina Skye

T
Adriana Trigiani

U-V
Joan Vincent

W
Susan Wiggs, Lauren Willig, Edith Wharton, Kathleen Woodiwiss

X-Y
*Jane Yardley, Rebecca York

Z
Mia Zachary
* Denotes authors who have a PhD in various subjects and take the romance novel to a new level.

Book of the Moment
Susanna Kearsley’s The Winter Sea

I read Shadowy Horses, Mariana and The Rose Garden, quite quickly in succession, charmed by the writing and locations. Historical Scotland, medieval England, magic as well as reminding me greatly of reading Mary Stewart as a teenager. Then I discovered Mary Stewart was one of Kearsley’s favorite authors growing up, and I couldn’t wait to read more. Her first novel Mariana won the Catherine Cookson literary prize, all of her books have become bestsellers. She also writes classic thrillers under the name Emma Cole.

The Winter Sea is her most recent book, and rumor has it her next one is a sequel (you have time to read this one before Firebird is released in June). Prepare to be enthralled: this is a beautiful and engaging work of historical fiction, with a dash of romance, tragedy, mystery in an engrossing story. She has done her research, both in richly detailed history but also in the present day settings – interesting characters, a moody sea, enchanting Scottish village and local customs.

Summary: Carrie McClelland moves to Scotland to continue to research her next book on a relatively unknown Jacobite rebellion of 1708. She is drawn to Slains Castle, rents a remote cottage and begins to dream of her characters, creating a parallel story.

If you like Barbara Erskine (Lady of Hay), Diana Gabaldon and Mary Stewart, read on.

Book Review – Hopeless

15717943Hopeless
A review by Catherine H. Armstrong

I love Facebook.  Not only does it help you keep in contact with old friends, but it’s also a great source for finding wonderful reading material.  Several of the best books I read last year were brought to my attention through the Facebook posts of my friends or pages that I’ve “liked” (such as the Rochester Public Library, Friends of the Rochester Public Library and Paige Turner).

A couple of weeks ago, author Tracey Garvis Graves posted on Facebook about a book she’d read that she couldn’t put down.  Graves is the author of On the Island, a book I reviewed for this blog some time back and which I thoroughly enjoyed.  When I first read the recommendation, I made a mental note to read it at some point in the future; however, over the next several days, her post kept popping back into my news feed with comment after comment by those who’d read the book and were just raving about it.  The book was Hopeless by Colleen Hoover.

My curiosity had been piqued and I decided to investigate further and went to my two favorite sources for all-things-books:  Amazon and Goodreads.  I was absolutely stunned to find that nearly 2,500 Amazon readers had rated this book a strong 4.5 stars, and more than 15,000 (yes, you read that correctly) Goodreads readers had also read it a full 4.5 stars.  In that moment, I knew this was a book that must be queued up immediately.

Knowing nothing about this book other than that readers seemed to love it, I purchased and downloaded it immediately.  I seriously needed to know what all the hype was about.

I’m not sure whether knowing nothing about this book was a good or a bad thing.  At first, I was terribly disappointed because the first few pages read like a YA novel.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy YA novels, but I really wasn’t in the mood to read a boy-meets-girl and crush ensues novel.  I thought I’d signed up for a really excellent adult novel with a deep plot and the first few pages didn’t give me the warm fuzzies that I was going to get what I’d hoped for.  But I kept reading, and I’m really glad I did.

Hopeless is a beautiful and intense novel about a young woman named Sky who was adopted at the age of 5 and has been sheltered for the remainder of her nearly 18 years by her single mother.  Sky has been home-schooled all of her school years, and her mother doesn’t believe in technology such as computers, telephones and televisions.   As she enters her senior year of school, she convinces her mother to allow her to attend public high school where she meets Dean Holder – a young man who will change her life forever.

As the story unfolds, the reader begins to realize that there’s something just not quite right about Sky.  She’s been sheltered her entire life and has virtually no memories of her life before her adoption.  While she is a seemingly normal teenager, there’s something not quite right about her lack of attraction to other young men her age.  To put it simply, she “tolerates” young men, but has never had the traditional teenage girl crush and has never felt the butterflies in the tummy that most young women her age experience.  Until Dean Holder.  Meeting Holder will turn her world upside down in every way imaginable.

Holder is a wonderful character in every way, but the reader realizes almost immediately that he’s holding something back from Sky.  The only thing we really know about him is that his twin sister committed suicide a year prior and he’s still struggling to deal with his loss.  And  yet the reader immediately begins to feel that there’s so much more to Holder’s story and his attraction to Sky.

The description of this books sounds like a YA Romance novel and, in some ways, it is.  And yet, it is so much more.  Though it does have moments of very explicit intimacy between Sky and Holder, there are so many more layers to this story that makes the genre classification quite murky.  The reader is constantly sitting on the edge of her seat wondering what’s coming next.  Who is Holder?  Why doesn’t Sky have any memories before her adoption?  Why hasn’t she ever had a normal teenage crush before Holder?  What in the world is Holder hiding?

Hopeless is a wonderful, shocking and sometimes painful read.  It’s also one of the few books I’ve read in a single day.  I simply couldn’t put it down.  Above all of that, it’s “real.”

This book is currently not available at the Rochester Public Library; however, I did request that it be added to our collection.  Keep your eyes open to see if it will be added!  In the meantime, this book is available through traditional booksellers in paperback and eBook formats.

Book Review – The Women’s Murder Club Series

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The Women’s Murder Club Series
A Review by Catherine H. Armstrong

As an avid reader, I love to know what everyone else is reading.  I’m always excited to hear about new authors or great books, so it’s not uncommon for me to interrupt a complete stranger’s reading moment to ask, “What are you reading?”

A while back, I asked a woman, “What are you reading?”  The woman gave me a sheepish grin and responded, “Oh, just visiting old friends.”  Probably prompted by my look of curiosity, the woman went on to explain that she breaks up her heavier reading by catching up on the books in a series by her favorite authors.  The “old friends” she referred to were the repeat characters from the books in a series by her favorite authors.

I loved that explanation!  I can’t even count on both hands how many “old friends” I have and need to catch up with.  There’s Sookie Stackhouse…Stephanie Plum…Zoe Redbird from the House of Night series…the list goes on and on. And then over the last couple of weeks, I’ve added some new friends that will need to be revisited on a regular basis:  The women of James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club series.

I’d read a few of James Patterson’s books in the past, but I’d deliberately stayed away from the books in a series for the simple reason that I was afraid to get hooked on a new one.  When I start a series, I can’t just stop after the first book.  I have to keep reading until I’ve finished the series and am on pins and needles for the next book to be released.  I suspected that if I started this series, I’d fall into a black hole of reading until the series was complete.  I wasn’t sure I was ready to commit that much time.  But I had the whole Women’s Murder Club series sitting in a box, compliments of my wonderful mother-in-law. The books were not only gathering dust, but taking up space;  so I figured I should read them or give them away.  I decided to read them and I’m so glad I did!

At the heart of the story is Homicide Sergeant Lindsey Boxer and her best friend, Medical Examiner Claire Washburn, both of the San Francisco Police Department.  The two women have been friends for nearly a decade and are bonded by their unique status as being among the few women within a mostly all-boys’ club police department.  Together with a female crime reporter from the local newspaper, and a female Assistant District Attorney, the women jokingly form the Women’s Murder Club and meet frequently at a local bar – designated as their “club house” – to give input on the crimes being investigated within the homicide department.  But, though the club started out as a joke, their effectiveness in solving murders is no joking matter.  With each member bringing her own unique investigative abilities to the group, the Women’s Murder Club bands together to solve some of the most heinous crimes to hit the streets of  San Francisco.

Very quickly, these new friends became old friends.  I couldn’t wait to read the next book to find out what happened next in the lives of the four women and those in their inner circle.

Probably one of the best aspects of these books is that they don’t have to be read in order.  Patterson has a gift of bringing the readers up to date in the lives of the characters in such a way as to not only refresh the memory of the reader who’s waited a year for the next book in the series, but also to quickly bring new readers into the loop and not left scratching their heads and wondering what they missed.  I wish more authors could do that!

Each book in the Women’s Murder Club series is a fairly quick read with short chapters, enabling a reader to pick up and read for short time spans and without stopping mid-chapter.

These books are available at the Rochester Public Library in both traditional and eBook format.  The 12th book, 12th of Never, is due to be released in April.

Making new friends and revisiting old ones.  As Martha Stewart might say, “It’s a good thing.”

Book Review – My Lucky Life in and out of Show Business (A Memoir)

My Lucky Life in and out of Show Business – A memoir
A Review by Kaye Aune

Dick Van Dyke’s memoir, My Lucky Life in and out of  Show Business, is a self-portrait of Van Dyke’s family, personal struggles and successes in the 60 years of being in show business.  Using his well-loved humor and openness in a very moving manner, Van Dyke takes us on a  travel through his childhood:  one of love but not much money, as everyone was poor.  We follow his career from singing and dancing in the Air Force Special Services, and then into radio, theatre, TV and the movies as he entertained the world.

Van Dyke calls his career “luck,” but others know better.  It was a merging of kindness and talent which formed such a funny man.  A Must Read!

This book is available at the Rochester Public Library in large print.