Weekend Reading

6 books leapt into my hands during a quick trip into the Library. Yes, all in the New Section when you walk in. And mostly new to me authors.

Both the title and the cover attracted me to this book : A Strange Scottish Shore by Juliana Gray (the third book of the series, so now I have to read the other two!). Edwardian time travel back to 1300 Orkney with Scottish myths. Then I discovered that this is a pseudonym for Beatriz Williams, whose books I discovered in December, and proceeded to devour as great escapism.

A Hunter in Winter by Conor Brady A Joe Swallow mystery. This is the third in a series, set in Ireland 1888. Wonderful evocative writing with fascinating characters and political intrigue. Great quote:“All for the empire upon which the sun will never set….Because God couldn’t trust the English for what they’d likely do in the dark.”

Gin and Panic by Maia Chance was a delightful romp during prohibition NYC. This is also the third in the Discreet Retrieval Agency Mysteries. The author is writing her PhD dissertation on nineteenth century American literature.

And perhaps the most timely is Lockdown by Laurie R. King. I highly recommend ALL her books and was disappointed that this book wasn’t more popular. It’s a hard, difficult US subject, a high school lockdown, but King is an amazing detailed writer of psychological suspense.

Will finish the other two tomorrow or Monday of the long holiday weekend.

Happy reading!

(They will be returned Tuesday if you want to check them out!)

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.

Book Review – Heading out to Wonderful

Cover-of-Heading-Out-To-WonderfulHeading Out to Wonderful
A Review by Catherine H. Armstrong

I love when a book surprises me; when my expectations aren’t very high and then the story begins to unfold and I can’t wait to turn the page to find out what happens next.  That’s exactly how I felt when reading Robert Goolrick’s Heading Out to Wonderful.

Several years ago I read Goolrick’s A Reliable Wife and walked away slightly disappointed. The book had received so much praise that my expectation level didn’t quite meet my experience, and I was left disappointed.  For that reason, I picked up Goolrick’s second novel with some mixed feelings.  More than anything, I wasn’t expecting much but felt the need to read it because the synopsis was intriguing.

What a wonderful surprise!  Set in a small town shortly after the end of WWII, Heading Out to Wonderful tells the story of a young man so hopelessly in love with another man’s wife that there’s nothing he wouldn’t do or give her to express his love.  Very quickly, his love begins to consume him to the point that the only thing that exists is his love for this woman.

Gossip spreads quickly in small towns and soon there is none who is unaware of the affair between the young butcher and the young wannabe starlet wife of the town’s richest (and meanest) resident.  And then came the ultimate betrayal by the only person in town that could hurt the young butcher….a betrayal so heinous and vile that it tips the entire town on its head and causes the townspeople to turn away from the man they all once trusted and called friend.

Heading Out to Wonderful was an exciting story with an ending that truly took me by surprise, and one that would make a great read as you while away the hours indoors this winter season.

This book is available at the Rochester Public Library and Bookmobile.

Book Review – Bring Up the Bodies

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Bring Up the Bodies
A Review by Wendy Jaensh

I loved Hilary Mantel’s novel Wolf Hall, so it was with great excitement, that I opened her new novel, Bring Up the Bodies.  By the second page I was completely confused since it wasn’t clear to me who “I” referred to:  Cromwell or Henry the VIII.  However, the writing was so beautiful that I kept reading and – within two chapters – my confusion was replaced with pleasure.

Bring Up the Bodies details the downfall of Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, who was eventually convicted and beheaded under the direction of the King’s chief minister and confidant, Thomas Cromwell.  Writing from the perspective of Cromwell, Mantel does a wonderful job of using the Cromwell’s thoughts to build his character.

Much that is written about Cromwell argues that he was ruthless and self-involved, but this novel illustrates the author’s view of Cromwell’s internal dialogue. He still seems to be cold, but there is some thoughtfulness in his character, especially toward his son and his friend, Sir Thomas Wyatt, who was implicated in the plot of Anne’s supposedly treacherous sexual behavior.

Though I knew the queen’s accused lovers would eventually be put to death, the author does such a great job of sharing the emotional dialogue between Cromwell and the condemned men that I actually felt sympathy for the accused and found myself wishing they would be found innocent.

Hillary Mantel does an excellent job of bringing the sadness and horror of the 16th Century into the present. For a little while, I felt the terror they must have felt over 500 years ago because of the mastery of the author. What a great piece of historical fiction.

This book is available at The Rochester Public Library in traditional format, as well as on Audio CD and downloadable audio version.

Book Review – “Blackberry Winter”

Blackberry Winter
A Review by Catherine H. Armstrong

I love when a book can grab you by the throat in the first few pages, and hang on until the last page is turned.  It doesn’t happen very often.  Too often a book opens with wonderful promise, only to lose my interest half-way through.  Even worse is when a book opens with great promise, keeps me on the edge of my seat through every page, and then drops the ball in the last few pages.  So disappointing that so many books do that.  Thankfully, that’s absolutely not the case with Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio.  From the first few pages of this book, I was completely hooked; and, as I turned the last page, I did so with disappointment that the story had finally come to a close.  I would miss the characters.

Blackberry Winter tells the story of two women, Vera and Claire, both suffering the loss of a child, but separated in time by more than 75 years.

In 1933 Seattle, Vera Ray is a young woman on her own with her 3 year old son, Daniel.  In the midst of the Great Depression, she’s poor and her resources are limited.  In order to keep starvation at bay, she must leave her precious child alone at night while he sleeps in order to keep her job as a maid at a nearby posh hotel.  She kisses her son goodbye late one May evening and heads to work, only to be shocked early the next morning to step out onto snow-covered streets.  She rushes home only to find her precious son missing from his bed.

In 2010 Seattle, Claire Aldridge is a newspaper reporter assigned to write a story about a freak May snowstorm that has occurred on the exact same day as the one in 1933.  Struggling to find an angle for her story, she notices the police blotter has a brief mention of the disappearance of young Daniel Ray.  Further investigating reveals that his disappearance was written off as “runaway.”  But Claire knows – as every rational adult understands – that 3 year olds don’t simply run away from home.

What happened to Daniel Ray?  It’s a question that Clair simply cannot let go.  As she begins the investigation into what really happened to Daniel Ray, the emotional wounds of her recent loss finally begin to heal.  The need to learn what happened to Daniel and to his mother begins to give her the first “purpose” since the loss of her own precious child nearly a year earlier.  In order for her own wounds to heal, she must find closure for the disappearance of Daniel Ray.

Blackberry Winter is a beautiful novel of loss and healing.  The characters are compelling and made me feel such complete empathy for the plight of both women that I caught myself more than once with tears of empathy streaming down my face.  The story was simply riveting.

This book will be released on next Tuesday, September 25th, and will be available at the Rochester Public Library.

For more information about this book, you can visit the author’s website by following this link.

Check out the YouTube Video Trailer for this book:

Book Review – Gone Girl

Gone Girl
A Review by Catherine H. Armstrong

After 64 weeks on Amazon’s list of Top 100 books, I finally got my hands on a digital copy of Gone Girl through SELCO.  I finished it just this morning and I can sum this novel up in three words:  OH!  MY!  GOSH!

Okay, so maybe three words aren’t enough.  I think I’d have to add:  WOW!  YOWZA!  YIKES!

Like most people, I love a really good suspense novel.  Unfortunately, so many these days have become too formulaic and predictable.  This is absolutely not the case with Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

Flynn’s newest suspense novel takes the reader to the small midwestern town of North Carthage, MO.  Nick and Amy Dunne are transplants from New York, returned to Nick’s hometown to care for his terminally ill mother and Alzheimer’s afflicted father.  It’s not an ideal situation, but they’ve committed to making the best of a bad situation.

On the morning of their 5th wedding anniversary, Amy disappears.  All that’s left behind are signs of a struggle and clues that lead the police straight to Nick as the primary suspect in her presumed murder.  Through the horrific investigation, the evidence against Nick just continues to pile against him:  an extramarital affair; a secret credit card account, maxed out on deviant and violent porn DVDs; and even Nick’s own daydreams of smashing in his wife’s head.  But did he do it?

Gone Girl is nothing short of a surprising and twisted psychological thriller.  Just when you think you have everything figured out, another curve ball is thrown and a new avenue of twists and turns opens for the reader.  The end result is jaw-dropping disbelief.

This book is available at the Rochester Public Library in traditional and audio CD format.  It is also available through SELCO in downloadable e-book format.  For more information about this book, visit the author’s website by following this link.

Book Review – BitterBlue

BitterBlue
A Review by Helen McIver

Kristin Cashore’s first two YA novels,  Graceling and Fire, were wonderful books and I was eagerly anticipating this third novel in the series. Although reviewers say you don’t need to read the first two to love this book, I highly recommend doing so as there is good character development and interesting plot interactions. The cast remains exceptional.

This is the story of BitterBlue, whose mother was killed trying to save her from her evil, sociopath father. He in turn was killed by Katsa in Graceling to save the Kingdom. BitterBlue takes place in Monsea, one of the Seven Kingdoms, with magic and nonstop action. In these books a few people have extreme skills known as “Graces” that develop as they mature. Some of the more interesting ones are assassin, herbalist, fearlessness, mind reading, and telling lies which are perceived as true.

At the end of the previous book, Graceling, BitterBlue becomes Queen at the age of 10. As BitterBlue opens, she has matured to the age of 18 and is becoming unsettled in her rule. She has begun to question her advisors and rebel at the mounds of paperwork (we can relate!); and she is intent on unraveling and uncovering her father’s horrific legacy.

BitterBlue is a strong female heroine: curious and extremely intelligent, though extremely sheltered (and at times seeming far younger than 18). In her restlessness she sneaks outside the castle and discovers an entirely different world.

BitterBlue was classified as YA science fiction, but it could equally qualify as adult fiction, romance and political thriller. It is a detailed book of vivid descriptions, though some are horrific and gritty and include details of abuse, corrupt power and betrayal. These are tough issues and difficult questions, but we live in a world with Serbia, Rwanda, Bosnia, North Korea and Iraq. While the characters deal with pain, sorrow, loneliness, depression and heartache, they also experience joy, love and developing friendships.

I sincerely hope the Graceling books continue with these developing characters, especially Bitterblue, Katsa, Po and Sky. My favorite character in this book was Death (pronounced Deeth), the Royal Librarian who is graced with speed reading and possesses a photographic memory for everything he reads.

This book is filled with interesting illustrations which serve to clarify locations.  The romance is perhaps “young and scared,” but it is not the focus of the plot and I, personally, like that her characters don’t fit the “happily ever after” mode.

The first two novels in this series won several awards and were selected for a variety of reading lists, including the ALA Best Book for Young Adults and SLJ Best Book of the Year. I have no doubt this story will follow its predecessors.

To learn more about Kristin Cashore or her series of wonderful books, visit the author’s blog at http://www.kristencashore.blogspot.com or http://www.gracelingrealm.com.