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Grant

Author, Jean Edward Smith, follows the life of Ulysses S. Grant in this epic biography. He was the very first four-star general of the United States to be inaugurated into the highest office in the land.  He was a great military hero who did not like the army, he never had a taste for political life, and yet was elected President not once but twice, at the end of his days when he was encouraged to write his memoirs, he did not think it would sell as he did not consider himself a writer, and yet, his book sold over 500,000 copies. For many years he was penniless, reduced to selling firewood on the street corners of St. Louis before the Civil War made him into the man we know of today as General Ulysses S. Grant.

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My Own Dear Brother

Set in the Austrian countryside during the last two years of the war, Amy Muller’s novel My Own Dear Brother revolves around the life of Ursula Hildesheim who is thirteen years old who discovers that her older brother, Anton is a completely different person from what she thinks he is. Muller has written into her novel a cast of wonderful characters for whom the reader feels empathy as well as antipathy toward.

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An Iron Wind: Europe Under Hitler

Peter Fritzche’s historical work An Iron Wind: Europe Under Hitler takes a look at the civilian side of the war and how  the war and living under German occupation was for the ordinary person. He compares the German occupation of two major European cities that came under Hitler’s thumb, Paris and Warsaw, one city situated in the west, the other in the east, and how different German rule was for each and why. The author used first-person accounts of the occupation through journals, diaries, and letters to try capture not only the chaos of war but its effect on the personal lives of those actually going through it.

Lost Heir

The Lost Heir by Tui T. Sutherland.

Unlike Clay’s anticlimatic homecoming, Tsunami is heartily embraced by her mother and even her younger sister (they could compete for the throne).   However, her mother has her friends imprisoned, for their “own safekeeping”.  But an assassin attempts to kill Tsunami and her younger yet to be hatched sisters.  This story focusses on Tsunami’s development, she learns to be less bossy, and to share responsibility, instead of doing it all herself.  I enjoyed this second book.

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The Stranger Game

Four years ago, Nico’s older sister disappeared without a trace.  Now, a girl from Florida has come forward saying she is Sarah, Nico’s sister.  As Sarah gets acclimated back into the family, it becomes clear that Sarah has really changed during her time apart.  She is no longer the mean, vindictive, athletic girl she once was and has become the sister that Nico always wanted.  This is a twisty turny novel with flashbacks that make it very interesting to read.

Gone Girl

Gone Girl

This is the story of Nick and Amy Dunne and how their lives fell apart. On their 5th anniversary, Amy goes missing and the evidence mounts that Nick may have had something to do with it. But wait, turns out Amy actually planned the whole thing to frame Nick because he wasn’t being the husband she wanted and because he was cheating on her. But really it’s because she is a psychotic bitch who wants to punish her man-child of a husband.

I truly don’t know what I think about this book. On one hand it was incredibly compelling and hard to put down. On the other hand, there was not a single likeable character in the whole story. They are all horrible people and Amy and Nick really deserve each other. There is no happy ending or light at the end of a dark tunnel. there is just more darkness and despair and pain.

I have to admit I was a little surprised at the mistakes in geography since Gillian Flynn actually is from Missouri. She should know that Carthage is no where near Hannibal or St. Louis and is not on a river. Carthage is in the southwest corner of the state and Hannibal is in the northeast corner. They are actually 300 miles apart. You would have thought there would have been a little more thought put into the locations if you are placing them in real cities.

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The Singing Bones: Inspired by Grimm’s Fairy Tales

Shaun Tan, the author and illustrator of The Arrival and Lost and Found, uses Grimm’s dark fairy tales as inspiration for ceramic creations. I love his style, as well as the layout of this book, which features snippets from a tale next to a full-page photo of the art inspired by it. The sculptures remind me of ancient Mesoamerican work, and that’s a good thing. Each one is wonderfully colored, lighted, and photographed. This is a great addition to a body of work I love. Neil Gaiman wrote the forward for this book, and agrees.

Danny the Champion of the World

Danny the Champion of the World

I haven’t read Roald Dahl since I was a kid and I don’t think I have read this one. It is the story of Danny who lives in a gypsy caravan behind a filling station with his dad. He and his dad work on cars and have a very loving relationship. But Dad has a secret and one day Danny finds out what it is. Turns out dad likes to do a bit of pheasant poaching from the local gentry Mr. Hazell, who is rather nasty. Danny comes up with the most ingenious idea on how to poach 200 pheasants in one night to spoil Mr. Hazell’s shooting day.

This was a delightful tale about a father and son. I loved the relationship between Danny and his dad and I really loved the idea of living in a gypsy caravan. I’m not so sure about Dad’s decision to introduce Danny to poaching. That may not have been the best parenting choice, but it seems like a hobby many of the local citizens like to participate in.

Darth Vader and Son

Darth Vader and Son

What if Darth Vader took an active role in raising his son? What if “Luke, I am your father” was just a stern admonishment from an annoyed dad? In this hilarious and sweet comic reimagining, Darth Vader is a dad like any other except with all the baggage of being the Dark Lord of the Sith.

Celebrated artist Jeffrey Brown’s delightful illustrations give classic Star Wars moments a fresh twist, presenting the trials and joys of parenting through the lens of a galaxy far, far away. Life lessons include lightsaber batting practice, using the Force to raid the cookie jar, Take Your Child to Work Day on the Death Star (“Er, he looks just like you, Lord Vader!”), and the special bond shared between any father and son.

What would life be like if Darth Vader raised Luke Skywalker as his son? Hilarious! I love how Brown takes lines from the movies and uses them in this new context. This is super creative and so much fun.

Vader's Little Princess

Vader’s Little Princess

In this irresistibly funny follow-up to the breakout bestseller Darth Vader and Son, Vader–Sith Lord and leader of the Galactic Empire–now faces the trials, joys, and mood swings of raising his daughter Leia as she grows from a sweet little girl into a rebellious teenager.

Smart and funny illustrations by artist Jeffrey Brown give classic Star Wars moments a twist by bringing these iconic family relations together under one roof. From tea parties to teaching Leia how to fly a TIE fighter, regulating the time she spends talking with friends via R2-D2’s hologram, and making sure Leia doesn’t leave the house wearing only a skirted metal bikini, Vader’s parenting skills are put hilariously to the test.

Now Vader is raising young Princess Leia and having a trying time with it. Another winner from Brown as he reimagines the Star Wars world. I loved it.

million ways home

A Million Ways Home

Poppy’s life has been turned upside down lately. She is living in the local children’s home because her grandma had a stroke. Her grandma is her whole life and Poppy just wants things to get back to normal. Then she tries to go see her grandma and witnesses an armed robbery where a store clerk is shot. Police officer Trey is the one to question her and get her story and he is concerned because she saw the man’s face. So Poppy goes to live with Trey’s mom, Marti, in a sort of witness protection program. Through Marti, Poppy is introduced to Carol and Lizzie who work at a local animal shelter and to Gunner, the most beautiful dog she has ever met. Poppy is determined to help Gunner who has some issues. She is also determined to get back home with her grandma, but things don’t always work out how we want them to.

I loved Poppy’s story. It was touching and so very realistic. Ok, so not many 12-year-olds witness robberies, but lots of them live with grandparents and I am sure lots of them have grandparents with health issues. I liked the fact that not everything went Poppy’s way, but she still ends up in a good situation that worked for her. Her relationship with Gunner was very touching and inspirational. This is a beautiful, heart-breaking story.

Some Writer

Some Writer: The Story of E.B. White

“SOME PIG,” Charlotte the spider’s praise for Wilbur, is just one fondly remembered snippet from E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. In Some Writer!, the two-time Caldecott Honor winner Melissa Sweet mixes White’s personal letters, photos, and family ephemera with her own exquisite artwork to tell his story, from his birth in 1899 to his death in 1985. Budding young writers will be fascinated and inspired by the journalist, New Yorker contributor, and children’s book author who loved words his whole life. This authorized tribute is the first fully illustrated biography of E. B. White and includes an afterword by Martha White, E. B. White’s granddaughter.

–from Goodreads.com

Agatha

Agatha: The Real Life of Agatha Christie

The life of Agatha Christie was as mysterious and eventful as her fiction. This beautifully illustrated graphic novel traces the life of the Queen of Whodunnit from her childhood in Torquay, England, through a career filled with success, mischief, and adventure, to her later years as Dame Agatha. Revealing a side to Christie that will surprise and delight many readers, Agatha introduces us to a free-spirited and thoroughly modern woman who, among other things, enjoyed flying, travel, and surfing. Centering around an episode in 1926 when Christie staged her own disappearance, Agatha is an intriguing, entertaining, and funny exploration of the 20th century’s best-loved crime novelist.

–from Goodreads.com

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Filthy Rich

The creep-factor wasn’t as bad as I expected. While the abuse these underage girls experienced was awful, Patterson did not go into a lot of graphic detail and kept the information to what was said in the interviews. The fact that this man had contact with people such as Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew; was a Palm Beach neighbor of Donald Trump and had contact with lots of names that I remember from the last thirty years. The fact that he served so little time and is still out there blows my mind. The lives that he affected, both male and female, and the fact that some people to this day still think he is an amazing man, mystifies me. This alone makes the book worth reading. The good and bad, the true and the guessed at, all come together to create a picture of a man who found a way to get everything he wanted – legal or not.

A shocking true crime tale of money, power, and sex from the world’s most popular thriller writer. Jeffrey Epstein rose from humble origins to the rarefied heights of New York City’s financial elite. A college dropout with an instinct for numbers – and for people – Epstein amassed his wealth through a combination of access and skill. But even after he had it all, Epstein wanted more. And that unceasing desire – especially a taste for young girls – resulted in his stunning fall from grace. From Epstein himself, to the girls he employed as masseuses at his home, to the cops investigating the appalling charges against him, FILTHY RICH examines all sides of a case that scandalized one of America’s richest communities. An explosive true story, FILTHY RICH is a riveting account of wealth, power, and the influence they bring to bear on the American justice system.

Goodreads.

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Island of Glass

This final book in the trilogy did not disappoint. It was nice to learn more about Doyle, the immortal, and see Riley as something other than the strong, organized lycanthrope she is. I was pleased at the ending and would not be unhappy to see a future book with how the six guardians lives panned out.

The final Guardians Trilogy novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Bay of Sighs and Stars of Fortune.  As the hunt for the Star of Ice leads the six guardians to Ireland, Doyle, the immortal, must face his tragic past. Three centuries ago, he closed off his heart, yet his warrior spirit is still drawn to the wild. And there’s no one more familiar with the wild than Riley – and the wolf within her… An archaeologist, Riley is no stranger to the coast of Clare, but now she finds herself on unsure footing, targeted by the dark goddess who wants more than the stars, more than the blood of the guardians. While searching through Irish history for clues that will lead them to the final star and the mysterious Island of Glass, Riley must fight her practical nature and admit her sudden attraction to Doyle is more than just a fling. For it is his strength that will sustain her and give her the power to run towards love – and save them all…

Goodreads.

thestoryofowen

The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E. K. Johnston.

Set in an alternative timeline, dragons have been wreaking havoc throughout history.  This story is told through a teen musician who’s talked into chronicling the stories of a young dragon-slayor in training. Siobhan’s town welcomes Owen’s family of dragon slayers into their small town in Canada.  Usually, dragon fighters win glory and money by working for the oil companies near big oil sites, (that dragons).   There are all sorts of regulations about dragon fighters, including that this job is only inherited from families already committed to the skill.  Owen’s family moving to Trondheim shakes this up.  At the same time dragon attacks on Trondheim have increased – eventually, everyone realizes that the dragons have established a new breeding ground.  If the locals cannot exterminate the breeding ground (because the oil monopolies won’t waste their time on small villages), another significant portion of Canada will be ceded to the dragons, and the humans will need to move.  I loved the alternate *historical* world building.  Everything from Abelard and Heloise, to salting the earth around Carthage is turned into dragon history.

I liked the political aspect, and the overthrow of money being more important than human lives.

Vietnam

Vietnam: A History of the War

The Vietnam War is a confusing period in American history. The reasons why we fought there and why we were there for so long are not clear. Russell Freedman does an excellent job of clarifying this conflict. It goes back much further than thought and the reasons for being there are not as clear cut. Reading it made me see some parallels between Vietnam and the Mideast conflicts. Not exact parallels, but the comparisons can be made. Freedman is an expert at making history come alive for young readers. This book attempts to make sense of a conflict that made little sense.

Hold your breath

Hold your breath

In the remote Rocky Mountains, lives depend on the Search & Rescue brotherhood. But in a place this far off the map, trust is hard to come by and secrets can be murder…

As the captain of Field County’s ice rescue dive team, Callum Cook is driven to perfection. But when he meets new diver Louise “Lou” Sparks, all that hard-won order is obliterated in an instant. Lou is a hurricane. A walking disaster. And with her, he’s never felt more alive…even if keeping her safe may just kill him.

Lou’s new to the Rockies, intent on escaping her controlling ex, and she’s determined to make it on her own terms…no matter how tempting Callum may be. But when a routine training exercise unearths a body, Lou and Callum find themselves thrust into a deadly game of cat and mouse with a killer who will stop at nothing to silence Lou-and prove that not even her new Search and Rescue family can keep her safe forever.

–from Goodreads.com

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Mischling

This book is about Pearl and Stasha and their lives in Auschwitz where the fact they were twins caught the notice of Josef Mengele and they became subjects for his experimentation. However, this book is about so much more than the evils perpetuated on Mengele’s victims. It’s about survival, family, sisters and strength beyond any imagination.
I cannot say this book was one I “wanted” to read as much as one I felt I should so we never forget the horrific acts man is capable of committing against his fellow man, or child as this book depicted. It is a book to remind us to keep vigilant in the face of pure evil and to not turn the other way. It was a difficult book to read but a necessary one.