Son of the Shadows - Pt 2 of the Sevenwaters Trilogy. by Juliet Marillier, 580 pages, read by Kira, on 11/21/2015
Very enjoyable read! As the second daughter Liadan believes she is destined to care for her ailing mother and is surprised when the most eligible man asks her instead of her sister to marry. Before she has a chance to get to know her suitor any better she is captured by a band of sinister outlaws who despise her family. The old creatures, the fairies, have advice for Liadan, then the even older creatures who inhabited the land before the fairies pushed them out, have other advice for her. Liadan is a strong willed individual who knows her mind and what she wants out of life. Atmospheric, with a romance that didn’t annoy me.
I’m on book 3 of the trilogy.
Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything across Italy, India, and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert, 334 pages, read by Kira, on 12/01/2015
Wonderfully told chronicle of a woman’s search for wholeness. After a protracted divorce and a nasty breakup with her boyfriend, Gilbert decides to travel to the 3 I’s: Italy for pleasure, India for prayer, and Indonesia for balance.
A friend of mine said, yes there is pain and depression, but still she has the means to go travel about and Not worry about money. I’ve travelled and remember some very lonely times and wished I had Gilbert’s ease in creating a family wherever she goes.
I am very glad I finally decided to read this book, or more accurately to listen to it the narrator who is also the author has a wonderful reading voice. The least strong section is her romance with the expat. Still I felt I learned some pieces of wisdom along the way.
The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi, 464 pages, read by Madeline, on 11/30/2015
Afghan-American Nadia Hashimi’s literary debut novel, The Pearl that Broke Its Shell is a searing tale of powerlessness, fate, and the freedom to control one’s own fate that combines the cultural flavor and emotional resonance of the works of Khaled Hosseini, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Lisa See.
In Kabul, 2007, with a drug-addicted father and no brothers, Rahima and her sisters can only sporadically attend school, and can rarely leave the house. Their only hope lies in the ancient custom of bacha posh, which allows young Rahima to dress and be treated as a boy until she is of marriageable age. As a son, she can attend school, go to the market, and chaperone her older sisters.
But Rahima is not the first in her family to adopt this unusual custom. A century earlier, her great-aunt, Shekiba, left orphaned by an epidemic, saved herself and built a new life the same way.
Crisscrossing in time, The Pearl the Broke Its Shell interweaves the tales of these two women separated by a century who share similar destinies. But what will happen once Rahima is of marriageable age? Will Shekiba always live as a man? And if Rahima cannot adapt to life as a bride, how will she survive?
Model Woman: Eileen Ford and the Business of Beauty by Robert Lacey, 352 pages, read by Madeline, on 11/25/2015
A revealing, no-holds-barred portrait of Eileen Ford—the legendary entrepreneur who transformed the business of modeling and helped invent the celebrity supermodel.
Eileen Ford, working with her husband, Jerry, created the twentieth century’s largest and most successful modeling agency, representing some of the fashion world’s most famous names—Suzy Parker, Carmen Dell’Orefice, Lauren Hutton, Rene Russo, Christie Brinkley, Jerry Hall, Christy Turlington, and Naomi Campbell. Her relentless ambition turned the business of modeling into one of the most glamorous and desired professions, helping to convert her stable of beautiful faces into millionaire superstars.
Model Woman chronicles the Ford Modeling Agency’s meteoric rise to the top of the fashion and beauty business, and paints a vibrant portrait of the uncompromising woman at its helm in all her glittering, tyrannical brilliance. Outspoken and controversial, Ford was never afraid to offend in defense of her stringent standards. When she chose, she could deliver hauteur in the grand tradition of fashion’s battle-axes, from Coco Chanel to Diana Vreeland—just ask John Casablancas or Janice Dickinson. But she was also a shrewd businesswoman with a keen eye for talent and a passion for serving her clients.
Drawing on more than four years of intensive interviews with Ford and her intimates, associates, and rivals, as well as exclusive access to agency documents and memorabilia, Robert Lacey weaves an unforgettable tale of a determined entrepreneur and the empire she built—a story of beauty, ambition, business, and popular culture as powerful and complex as the woman at its center.
People I Want to Punch in the Throat: Competitive Crafters, Drop-off Despots, and Other Suburban Scourges by Jen Mann, 208 pages, read by Madeline, on 11/20/2015
People I want to punch in the throat:
• anyone who feels the need to bling her washer and dryer
• people who treat their pets like children
Jen Mann doesn’t have a filter, which sometimes gets her in trouble with her neighbors, her fellow PTA moms, and that one woman who tried to sell her sex toys at a home shopping party. Known for her hilariously acerbic observations on her blog, People I Want to Punch in the Throat, Mann now brings her sharp wit to bear on suburban life, marriage, and motherhood in this laugh-out-loud collection of essays. From the politics of joining a play group, to the thrill of mothers’ night out at the gun range, to the rewards of your most meaningful relationship (the one you have with your cleaning lady), nothing is sacred or off-limits. So the next time you find yourself wearing fuzzy bunny pajamas in the school carpool line or accidentally stuck at a co-worker’s swingers party, just think, What would Jen Mann do? Or better yet, buy her book.
My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl, 352 pages, read by Madeline, on 11/10/2015
In the fall of 2009, the food world was rocked when Gourmet magazine was abruptly shuttered by its parent company. No one was more stunned by this unexpected turn of events than its beloved editor in chief, Ruth Reichl, who suddenly faced an uncertain professional future. As she struggled to process what had seemed unthinkable, Reichl turned to the one place that had always provided sanctuary. “I did what I always do when I’m confused, lonely, or frightened,” she writes. “I disappeared into the kitchen.”
My Kitchen Year follows the change of seasons—and Reichl’s emotions—as she slowly heals through the simple pleasures of cooking. While working 24/7, Reichl would “throw quick meals together” for her family and friends. Now she has the time to rediscover what cooking meant to her. Imagine kale, leaves dark and inviting, sautéed with chiles and garlic; summer peaches baked into a simple cobbler; fresh oysters chilling in a box of snow; plump chickens and earthy mushrooms, fricasseed with cream. Over the course of this challenging year, each dish Reichl prepares becomes a kind of stepping stone to finding joy again in ordinary things.
The 136 recipes collected here represent a life’s passion for food: a blistering ma po tofu that shakes Reichl out of the blues; a decadent grilled cheese sandwich that accompanies a rare sighting in the woods around her home; a rhubarb sundae that signals the arrival of spring. Here, too, is Reichl’s enlivening dialogue with her Twitter followers, who become her culinary supporters and lively confidants.
Part cookbook, part memoir, part paean to the household gods, My Kitchen Year may be Ruth Reichl’s most stirring book yet—one that reveals a refreshingly vulnerable side of the world’s most famous food editor as she shares treasured recipes to be returned to again and again and again.
After You by Jojo Moyes, 352 pages, read by Madeline, on 11/05/2015
11 hours, 6 minutes
How do you move on after losing the person you loved? How do you build a life worth living?
Louisa Clark is no longer just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. After the transformative six months spent with Will Traynor, she is struggling without him. When an extraordinary accident forces Lou to return home to her family, she can’t help but feel she’s right back where she started.
Her body heals, but Lou herself knows that she needs to be kick-started back to life. Which is how she ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On support group, who share insights, laughter, frustrations, and terrible cookies. They will also lead her to the strong, capable Sam Fielding—the paramedic, whose business is life and death, and the one man who might be able to understand her. Then a figure from Will’s past appears and hijacks all her plans, propelling her into a very different future. . . .
For Lou Clark, life after Will Traynor means learning to fall in love again, with all the risks that brings. But here Jojo Moyes gives us two families, as real as our own, whose joys and sorrows will touch you deeply, and where both changes and surprises await.
After You is quintessential Jojo Moyes—a novel that will make you laugh, cry, and rejoice at being back in the world she creates. Here she does what few novelists can do—revisits beloved characters and takes them to places neither they nor we ever expected.
The Class of '65: A Student, a Divided Town and the Long Road to Forgiveness by Jim Auchmutey, 272 pages, read by Madeline, on 11/01/2015
Being a student at Americus High School in 1964 was the worst experience of Greg Wittkamper’s life. A member of a nearby Christian commune, Koinonia, Greg was publicly and devoutly in favor of racial integration and harmony. Koinonia’s farm goods were boycotted by businesses for miles around, and they were targeted and attacked with bombs and gunfire by the Ku Klux Klan.
But Greg did not waver in his beliefs. When Americus High School was integrated, he refused to participate in the insults and violence aimed at its black students. He was harassed and bullied and beaten but stood his ground. In the summer after his senior year, as racial strife in Americus reached its peak, Greg left town.
Forty-two years later, in the spring of 2006, a dozen former classmates wrote letters to Greg, asking his forgiveness and inviting him to return for a class reunion. Their words opened a vein of painful memory and unresolved emotion. The long-deferred attempt at reconciliation started him on a journey that would prove healing and saddening.
The Class of ’65 transcends the ugly things that happened decades ago in the Deep South. This book is also the story of four people—David Morgan, Joseph Logan, Deanie Dudley, and Celia Harvey—who reached out to their former classmate. Why did they change their minds? Why did it still matter to them, decades later? Their tale illustrates our capacity for change and the ways in which America has – and has not – matured in its attitudes about race.
At heart, this is a tale about a pariah and the people who eventually realized that they had been a party to injustice. It is a tandem story of a country and its people—angry, fearful, and proud—to make real change.
Buzz Kill by Beth Fantaskey, 368 pages, read by Courtney, on 10/13/2015
It’s Millie’s senior year. She still doesn’t know any French, in spite of having taken it all four years. She mostly gets her journalism assignments in on time (or maybe a week or two late, but who’s counting?). Her Philosophy Club is going strong, even if Millie is the only member. All in all, things are going pretty well. Then Millie happens to (literally) stumble upon the clearly murdered body of the high school’s infamous football coach, Hollerin’ Hank Kildare. Now Millie is determined to get to the bottom of this crime. The first place she plans to start is with the mysterious quarterback who just transferred to their school that year. No one knows much about him, but it appears that he knows far more than he’s letting on. To solve the crime, Millie decides to channel her childhood hero, Nancy Drew. Millie may not be as calm and collected as Nancy and she’s got a particularly mean rival on the school paper staff who would love to steal the story out from under Millie, but Millie has determination on her side. And that should be enough, right?
Breezy and quickly-paced, Buzz Kill is a light-hearted murder mystery. Millie is a quirky heroine, though many of her habits and character traits seem deliberately idiosyncratic rather than genuine. She and her friends also seem far younger than they’re portrayed. If Millie is really 17 or 18, she’s extremely naive, though this same characteristic does mean that this mystery is appropriate even for middle-grade readers. The plotting is twisty and just unpredictable enough to keep casual readers entertained. Not a life-changing book here, but a fun little diversion.
I Crawl Through It by A.S. King, 319 pages, read by Courtney, on 10/10/2015
Stanzi feels like she’s being torn in two. That’s partially why she always wears her lab coat all the time. Dissecting things, frogs in particular, is calming to her. That last bit only sounds weird until you consider that her family enjoys vacationing at famous school shooting sites like Sandy Hook or Columbine. Arguably, Stanzi’s got a better grip on reality than her parents do.
China is the girl who swallowed herself. Sometimes she does it over and over. It’s a rare day when China’s insides are actually where they’re supposed to be. She and Stanzi have been friends for a long time.
Gustav is building a helicopter in his garage. It may or may not be invisible. Or it may or may not be red. It depends on which day you’re looking at it. One thing is certain: it’s the only means of escape.
Lansdale lies all the time. Lying makes her hair grow. Lansdale has to cut nearly a foot off of it every day. She’s the newcomer to the foursome. Stanzi’s not sure how she feels about Lansdale.
One of these four, or maybe all four of these teens is sending the school bomb threats every day. Every day the bomb squad with the explosive-sniffing dogs troops through the school only to find nothing. The only drill that’s worse is the constant testing preparation that seems to consume the school around this time of year. The only hope is for Gustav to finish his helicopter so they can fly far away from the school, the tests, the bomb threats, everything.
This is by far A.S. King’s strangest and least accessible novel yet, which means it’s right up my alley. I’ve honestly never read anything quite like this and I kind of doubt I’ll ever encounter its likeness again. Every single character is an unreliable narrator, though they each possess their own unique charm. Whether or not events happen as described is entirely up to the reader to decide. This isn’t the easiest book to read, but if you’re willing roll with it, this book is fascinating.
You Can't See the Elephants by Susan Kreller, Elizabeth Gaffney , 192 pages, read by Angie, on 11/30/2015
Mascha spends her summers with her grandparents. She is terribly bored in their town as it seems to be inhabited by mostly older people. One day she meets younger kids Julia and Max and soon believes they are being abused by their father. Everyone in the neighborhood seems to know about it, but no one wants to become involved. So Mascha comes up with a crazy plan to help them. She locks them in a blue shack in the middle of a barley field. The shack has no running water or bathroom facilities. Mascha brings them food, but soon the shack is barely inhabitable and the police are looking for missing Julia and Max. When they are found Mascha is accused of kidnapping them, not helping them as she thought she was.
I thought this was a pretty decent story. Most books about child abuse are generally not handled like this. I thought the abuse and the fact that the neighborhood residents didn’t want to get involved was handled pretty realistically. Many people have problems believing that a prominent member of society would be an abuser. I thought Mascha’s desire to help seemed genuine and I also thought Julia and Max’s response to someone finding out they were abused also seemed pretty realistic.
What I had a problem with was the fact that the translation of the book moved the location to the United States instead of Germany. The U.S. has mandatory reporting laws that require certain professionals to report any suspected child abuse. So a doctor would never be sued for suspecting the dad was beating the kids. He would have reported it and the police and social services would have investigated. I also had a problem with the fact that a neighbor who reported it had her tires slashed and was run out of town and sued by the dad. If she had reported the abuse again the police and social services would have investigated it. Germany doesn’t have mandatory reporting laws so it makes more sense that these things would have happened in Germany not the United States. I’m not sure why the location was changed from the original, but I think it would have worked better if it had remained in Germany.
Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans by Don Brown, 96 pages, read by Angie, on 11/30/2015
Drowned City is a fabulous graphic novel about Hurricane Katrina. It details the lead up to the disaster and its aftermath. Don Brown pulled no punches it showing just how incompetent and inadequate the response was. The illustrations are amazingly vivid and really bring the disaster to life. It is an important book that will let young readers, who might not have been old enough to remember Katrina, to realize just how big of a disaster this hurricane was.
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson, 240 pages, read by Angie, on 11/30/2015
Astrid and Nicole have always been best friends, but now that they are getting ready for junior high their interests are diverging. Nicole starts spending more time with mean girl Rachel because they have the same girly interests in dance and clothes and boys. Astrid wants to spend the summer at roller derby camp after her mom takes her to a match. Turns out roller derby isn’t easy, especially when you can’t skate very well.
Astrid is going through things a lot of kids do when transitioning from elementary to junior high school. She is growing apart from her friend, she is trying to figure out who she is and what she is interested in, she is rebelling a bit from what is expected of her. While everyone seems to go through these issues, it is how they are handled that makes you who you are going to become. Astrid goes through some rough times with Nicole and Rachel and her new friend Zoe. What I really admired about her was her perseverance though. She really sticks it out with roller derby even though she isn’t very good.
Besides Astrid’s perseverance, I really enjoyed her spunkiness. She is everything you want a young teenage girl to be. I liked that Jamieson tackled so many issues young girls face: friends, diverging interests, body image, peer pressure. I also really loved that the subject was roller derby. I have never been to a roller derby match, but I think the sport is fascinating and the people who play really interesting characters. This book will definitely appeal to fans of El Deafo and Raina Telgemeier.
The Murder House by James Patterson and David Ellis, 589 pages, read by Donna, on 11/29/2015
James Patterson never stops amazing me with the variety of mysteries he writes. The Murder House is no exception. While I figured out several of the subplots, I did not expect the final pronouncement, even after I figured out the real culprit. I enjoy his short chapters because they make it simpler to stay on track and not get lost in the details.
“No. 7 Ocean Drive is a gorgeous, multi-million-dollar beachfront estate in the Hamptons, where money and privilege know no bounds. But its beautiful gothic exterior hides a horrific past: it was the scene of a series of depraved killings that have never been solved. Neglected, empty, and rumored to be cursed, it’s known as the Murder House, and locals keep their distance. Detective Jenna Murphy used to consider herself a local, but she hasn’t been back since she was a girl. Trying to escape her troubled past and rehabilitate a career on the rocks, the former New York City cop hardly expects her lush and wealthy surroundings to be a hotbed of grisly depravity. But when a Hollywood power broker and his mistress are found dead in the abandoned Murder House, the gruesome crime scene rivals anything Jenna experienced in Manhattan. And what at first seems like an open and shut case turns out to have as many shocking secrets as the Murder House itself, as Jenna quickly realizes that the mansion’s history is much darker than even the town’s most salacious gossips could have imagined. As more bodies surface, and the secret that Jenna has tried desperately to escape closes in on her, she must risk her own life to expose the truth–before the Murder House claims another victim.” — provided by publisher.
When Santa fell to Earth by Cornelia Funke, 164 pages, read by Kira, on 11/28/2015
A cute short story about a Santa who is challenging the consumerist policies that have been implemented at the North Pole and the children he meets and changes they bring about. Nice story, not much depth, but hey it’s a kids book.
The Martian by Andy Weir, 369 pages, read by Angie, on 11/29/2015
Mark Watney was one of six astronauts on Mars. When a massive dust storm comes through their camp they are forced to abort their mission. Watney is injured in the evacuation and presumed dead and left behind as the others head back to earth. Turns out Watney isn’t dead and he has to figure out how to survive until the next Mars mission in four year.
Watney uses his skills as an engineer and a botanist to figure out how to grow crops and use what supplies he has to survive. One thing after another goes wrong, but he always seems to figure a way out. Things get a bit better when mission control figures out he is still alive. A rescue mission is attempted and fails. It is up to the smartest minds on earth to figure out how to bring Watney home.
I was enthralled by this story from page one and had a very hard time putting it down. I will admit that some of the detailed science descriptions were over my head and a bit boring to read. However, I am sure if you are into that those details were an essential part of the story. It did highlight just how much research Andy Weir did to write this book. Everything seemed very authentic and possible. As a reader, I assumed Watney would be rescued (kind of a terrible story if he isn’t); however, I had no idea how it would be accomplished. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and can’t wait to see how they did on the movie adaptation.
A Pocket Full of Murder by R.J. Anderson, 352 pages, read by Angie, on 11/25/2015
I am a stickler for world-building. If you are going to create your own world for a story, you really need to make sure the world makes sense and has enough details that readers will understand it. Unfortunately, the world in this book is far from detailed and doesn’t always make sense. What I know is that there are rich and poor. The rich do sagery (high magic) and the poor do common magic (basically cooking spells). There is also a religious divide between the Moshites and everyone else. Finally, there is a king who people don’t really like and a prince everyone adores. That’s about it.
Isaveth is one of the poor who bakes common magic. Her mom died a few years ago and her dad lost his job as a builder. Her oldest sister is wasting her talents in a factory and the two younger sisters are pretty indistinguishable from each other. Dad gets arrested for murdering Governor Orien. Isaveth is sure he didn’t do it and enlists the help of her new friend Quiz to figure out who really did.
Turns out Quiz has secrets of his own and those secrets help reveal who was really behind the murder. This is pretty much where the story falls apart. The motivation for the killing is so very typical that there is really no innovation to the story. The magic and the religious issues all fall by the wayside and don’t have a lot to do with the final outcome. It was a bit of a hot mess and not fun to read.
The Walking Dead, Compendium 3 by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard (illustrator), Stefano Gaudiano (illustrator), 1088 pages, read by Angie, on 11/28/2015
This set of The Walking Dead comics covers the arrival of Negan and all the horrors he enacts on our heroes. It shows the death of two of the survivors and how Rick’s group bands together with other communities in the area. There is hope through a couple of issues, which is quickly dashed by the arrival of a new brand of evil called The Whispers.
It is hard to talk about TWD comics without talking about the show, although at this point they are very different in many ways. Several characters have completely different paths like Carol and Andrea. It is also hard to read the comics without thinking about the show characters as the comics characters. I thoroughly enjoy both and can’t wait to see how the show tackles these issues of the comics.
Playing with Fire by Tess Gerritsen, 250 pages, read by Jane, on 11/19/2015
A beautiful violinist is haunted by a very old piece of music she finds in a strange antique shop in Rome.
The first time Julia Ansdell picks up The Incendio Waltz, she knows it’s a strikingly unusual composition. But while playing the piece, Julia blacks out and awakens to find her young daughter implicated in acts of surprising violence. And when she travels to Venice to find the previous owner of the music, she uncovers a dark secret that involves dangerously powerful people—a family who would stop at nothing to keep Julia from bringing the truth to light.
Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie, 411 pages, read by Tracy, on 11/29/2015
Everyone blamed Emily’s accident on the stairs on her dog, but she was convinced someone was trying to kill her. She wrote to Poirot with her suspicions on April 17th, but the letter did not arrive until June 28th, by which time she was dead.