09. January 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Claudia, Fiction

Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes by Marcus Sakey, read by Claudia, on 11/12/2012

I discovered this book in an online interview with Gillian Flynn….the interviewer asked her to list the best books she had read so far in 2012.  This title topped her list, and did not disappoint!  Flynn is an amazing writer in her own right and Marcus Sakey looks like an author to watch as well.

A man wakes up naked and cold, half-drowned on an abandoned beach in Maine of all places…
The only sign of life for miles is an empty BMW. Inside the expensive car he finds clothes that fit perfectly, shoes for his tattered feet, a Rolex, and an auto registration in the name of Daniel Hayes, resident of Malibu, California.
None of it is the least bit familiar. How did he get here? Who is he? While he searches for answers, he is being chased to down too, but has no idea beginning with the cops who kick in the door of his run-down motel with drawn guns. All he remembers is a woman’s face and that face is the star of a very popular television show…  he leaves Maine for California in search of this strangely familiar face in hopes of uncovering his true identity. But that raises the most chilling question of all…
What will he find when he gets there?


06. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Claudia, Fiction

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn , read by Claudia, on 08/20/2012

Camille Preaker has a  troubled past. She may have left her hometown as one of the seemingly popular beautiful girls, but Camille has a self destructive streak….and secrets.  Camille has been given a writing assignment from the second-rate Chicago daily paper where she works that ends up bringing her reluctantly (to say the least) back to Wind Gap, MO. to cover the murders of two preteen girls.  Since she left town eight years ago, Camille has had little to no contact with her neurotic, hypochondriac mother (Adora) or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with control issues. She is now a guest in her family’s Victorian (it’s creepy too) mansion and begins to relive a childhood tragedy she has spent her whole life trying to cut (literally) from her memory. As Camille works to uncover the truth about these disturbing crimes, clues keep leading to dead ends and surprising discoveries, forcing Camille to unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past to get at the story. A reluctant heroine, Camille will have to confront what happened to her years before she can move on.

Sharp Objects, was published in 2006 and won two Dagger Awards. Gillian Flynn is a Kansas City, Mo. native whose writing credits include Dark Places and Gone Girl.

06. September 2012 · 1 comment · Categories: Claudia, Fiction

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, read by Claudia, on 08/06/2012

One of my favorite authors is Scott Smith, who is a New York Times bestselling author of The Ruins and A Simple Plan.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn he is one of Gillian Flynn’s favorite authors too.  I have recently discovered Flynn is a genius of a writer. Don’t get me wrong, I’d heard of her and dismissed her (I know, crazy).  Several years ago, a library patron told me to read her debut novel, Sharp Objects.  I looked at it and didn’t think I’d I like.  Wrong! I couldn’t have been more wrong!  I’ve now read it and I’m currently on the waiting list for her 2nd book, Dark Places, and of course, I am already wondering when she’ll have another book out. Ok, back to Gone Girl….it’s number one on the NY Times bestseller list.  It’s impossible to put down.  It’s unpredictable.  It’s exhilarating!  This book is about a relationship that isn’t what it seems…Amy Dunne disappears on her 5th wedding anniversary.  Nick Dunne was tending bar….or was he?  What happened to Amy…..and so the thrill ride begins..

This is what Scott Smith says about Gone Girl:  If you aren’t sure you can trust me, trust him!

Set in Carthage, Mo, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl is my pick for the suspense filled, page-turner. who-done-it psychological thriller of the summer–probably the year. “I cannot say this urgently enough: you have to read Gone Girl. It’s as if Gillian Flynn has mixed us a martini using battery acid instead of vermouth and somehow managed to make it taste really, really good. Gone Girl is delicious and intoxicating and delightfully poisonous. It’s smart (brilliant, actually). It’s funny (in the darkest possible way). The writing is jarringly good, and the story is, well…amazing.



29. June 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Claudia, Fiction

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern,, read by Claudia, on 06/14/2012

While looking for a good book to read, I checked out our blog to find my co-workers couldn’t say enough wonderful things about The Night Circus.   I am here to tell you that EVERYTHING they said is TRUE!  I was not misled by their reviews in the least.  The Night Circus is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year!!!  I thoroughly enjoyed it and did not want it to come to an end.  This is the author’s first novel and all I can say is WOW!  I hope it is the first of many marvelous books to come. No pressure!  If you haven’t read it….you are missing out on one tremendous story  of magic and intrigue.  Celia and Marco’s story will stay with you for a long time after you’ve finished.  It’s the type of book that once you’ve finished, you really just want to re-read again.  You need to read this book!    I’m not kidding!

29. June 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Claudia, Fiction

The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton, read by Claudia, on 06/01/2012

I had the pure pleasure of reading The Moonflower Vine for the 2nd time recently.  Our Fiction at Noon group tackled it (and loved it btw) and I was delighted to have another opportunity to read this treasure from Missouri-born Jetta Carleton.  This book was written in 1962 and received a favorable response at that time, but was largely forgotten until Jane Smiley included The Moonflower Vine among the classics she read (or reread) and then discussed in her 2005 book, Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel, and wrote of it:

“To my mind, this is a novel characteristic of its time, the 1950s, because it completely avoids all political themes. To read it you would never know that black people existed in southern Missouri, that the area was still a hotbed of Civil War resentments, that the Cold War was raging, and that World War II had taken place. The novel exists in a timeless world of seasons and of girls coming of age, love their greatest concern, with earning a living teaching school or giving music lessons a distant second. The Soames family thinks only of religion, love, nature, and sometimes music. They are American innocents in spite of their lustiness, quite untainted by the compromises of American history. The novel is neither liberal nor conservative — more, perhaps, tribal, in the sense that while the characters do make authentic connections, these connections are only within their own family rather than with anyone outside (except for Jessica, who moves away). In addition, the world is repeatedly redeemed, not by human action but by natural renewal, as symbolized by the nightly flowering of the moonflower vine (a relative of the morning glory).”

At its heart, it is a story of family…. the Soames family, and their life and all its complexities told from 5 points of view.  I considered this one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read.  I enthusiastically recommend to anyone who will listen to me.  It is the type of book I know I will read more than twice in my lifetime, and I am confident with each re-reading I will discover something I missed before.  The writing style is unique and lyrical and as far as I’m concerned, there is nothing else quite like it in the world of fiction.

30. April 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Claudia, Fiction, Historical Fiction

A Good American by Alex George, read by Claudia, on 04/01/2012

Alex George’s  novel A Good American has received a lot buzz since its’ publication date of February 7.  Alex George was featured in the February issue of Book Page….and this is where I learned he lives in Columbia and practices law.  According to this article, George had just moved to Missouri in 2003 when he was struggling to write another book, and got the idea that most people have never had the experience of moving to a new country.   The result is a lively story of the that begins in Germany in ends in the small fictional town of Beatrice, Missouri.  Beatrice is populated with unforgettable characters: a jazz trumpeter from the Big Easy who cooks a mean gumbo, a teenage boy trapped in the body of a giant, a pretty schoolteacher who helps the young men in town learn about a lot more than just music, a minister who believes he has witnessed the Second Coming of Christ, and a malevolent, bicycle-riding dwarf. A Good American is narrated by Frederick and Jette’s grandson, James, who, in telling his ancestors’ story, comes to realize he doesn’t know his own story at all. From bare-knuckle prizefighting and Prohibition to sweet barbershop harmonies, the Kennedy assassination, and beyond, James’s family is caught up in the sweep of history. Each new generation discovers afresh what it means to be an American.   A Good American is a novel about being an outsider—in your country, in your hometown, and sometimes even in your own family.


28. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Claudia, Fiction, Literary Fiction

Cemetery Bird by Bridget Bufford, read by Claudia, on 02/18/2012

Cemetery BirdI recently had the good fortune of being introduced to Bridget Bufford’s latest book, Cemetery Bird.  Bufford was recently a guest at our library and because of that program, I had the privilege of meeting this fine author and listening to her talk about her experience writing this truly meaningful read.

At its heart, it is an exploration of one woman’s search for family and identity. It is the story of a young (half) Native American woman, Jay, who after an debilitating injury moves from Arizona to Missouri in order to help care for her autistic nephew,  Brandon, while his mother works and takes college classes.  This arrangement provides the opportunity for the development of  two surprising relationships, which have a profound impact on Jay…. the one is obviously with her nephew and other is with one of her nephew’s classmates, who suffers from a  severe brain injury. Bridget Bufford excels at giving the reader a realistic glimpse into the life of family members of people with autism and acquired brain injury at the same time writing in way about families all readers can appreciate it.   This book is beautifully written and incredibly descriptive…and I even would go so far as to say, poetic.  I would highly recommend to anyone who loves literary fiction.  It also had the great honor of being nominated for the 2012 Pushcart award.

28. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Claudia, Fiction, NonFiction, Reviewer, Travel

Fodor's Disney World 2011 Plus Universal Orlando and Seaworld by Fodor's Travel Publications, read by Claudia, on 02/01/2012

Fodor's Walt Disney World 2011: With Universal, SeaWorld, and the Best of Central FloridaFodor’s is one of the best known publishers of travel guides around.  I’ve worked in libraries for 20 years now and they are the mainstays of every travel section.  These guides are reliable, well organized, and a ratings system is used throughout the book to assist readers.  I appreciated this guide’s content, but the small type font of the book grated on my nerves before I was halfway through it it.  I missed the inclusion of photographs, but appreciated the maps provided of  each theme park.  The information on rides and restaurants was fairly consistent with what I found in other guides, I just struggled with the format.  For future trips to other destinations, I will continue to consult Fodor’s.  I respect the reputation it has and believe it is a solid source of information.  I simply think there are a couple of other guides, I will consult first when planning another Disney trip.

28. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Claudia, NonFiction, Reviewer, Travel

Official Guide to Walt Disney World 2011 by Stephen Birnbaum, read by Claudia, on 02/11/2012

Birnbaum's Walt Disney World 2011In preparation for my family’s first trip to Disney World, I had the opportunity to read this well known travel guide published by Disney Editions.   This guide originally came out in 1981, 10 years after the parked opened, and is known for being completely revised each year leaving “no attraction untested, no snack or meal untasted, no hotel untried!”  Of the three travel books I read about Disney, I preferred this one.  I really liked the format, the conversational tone, the details on EVERYTHING, and the nice color photographs.    I feel this guide fully prepared me to make some informed confident, decisions ahead of time….including making reservations at restaurants.  If I had to choose just one guide on Disney, this would be it!

09. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Claudia, Contemporary Fiction

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, read by Claudia, on 01/15/2012

Jamie Ford’s Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet has repeatedly been recommended to me on the Reference desk, and I finally had a chance to read it for our library’s Fiction at Noon book discussion in January.  Unfortunately, for me,  it did not live up to the reputation it had been given by many people….and I was frankly, surprised and disappointed.  Having said this, it’s not a bad story, it’s pleasant enough.  The author’s writing style simply struck me as emotionally flat and the characters did not continue to hold my interest throughout the novel.

The story that spans several decades and deals with Japanese families who were “evacuated” in 1942 from the West Coast after the bombing of 1942 and placed in internment camps for what was ironically called “their own protection.”  The story’s narrator is 12-year-old Henry, the son of Chinese immigrants. Henry’s father is an ardent Chinese nationalist who has long hated the Japanese….so it is no surprise, when Henry befriends and eventually falls in love with a schoolmate and Japanese American, named Keiko. Keiko’s family is inevitably evacuated to an internment camp in Idaho, and the book alternates between 1942-45 and the present day as Henry and Keiko’s story unfolds.  I did not find Ford’s writing particularly descriptive, but he does do a good job of creating the atmosphere of this historical time period and a highly emotional conflict between father and son.  Having said that, it’s predictable and thankfully short