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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Last Writes

Book #106 Read in 2013
Last Writes by Laura Levine

This is the second book in a cozy mystery series featuring writer Jaine Austen (no relation to the author) and her cat Prozac.  In this book, Jaine is writing for a television show and then begins an investigation when one of the show's stars is killed.  But then she becomes somewhat of a target herself so will she be able to solve the crime in time?

These books are cute, quick reads.  There is a lot of humor in the series.  Jaine's parents are entertaining characters with their quirks.  I love Prozac; Levine writes the cat well.  I will continue this series.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Happier at Home

Book #105 Read in 2013
Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin

Following her successful "Happiness Project", Gretchen Rubin begins another project--to make herself happier at home.  Each month, she picks an area of focus and plans out tasks to help that area of her life be happier.  Most of the things that she implements are simple but things that may be easily overlooked or pushed aside. 

I enjoyed Rubin's writing style.  It is honest and thoughtful.  She does not sugar coat when she goes off the path of her happiness project and she does not force her thoughts onto others.  I have her other book, The Happiness Project, in the TBR pile and hope to get to it soon.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Catching Fire (YA)

Book #104 Read in 2013
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (YA)

This is the second book in the dystopian trilogy.  I loved it.  In this book, Peeta and Katniss return home to District 12 after winning The Hunger Games but their happiness is short lived.  They are told that all surviving past victors will have to play another round of the survival game.  They cannot believe their bad luck.  Haymitch is trying to help them select allies but in the end, they know there can only be one survivor. 

This book is full of action and fast paced.  Katniss and Peeta still have a complicated relationship--their public and private personas struggle to co-exist.  The other competitors are more fleshed out than in the first book and all bring an interesting element to the book.  I have Mockingjay in the TBR pile to get to soon....I have to see how this all wraps up.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

But Inside I'm Screaming

Book #103 Read in 2013
But Inside I'm Screaming by Elizabeth Flock

Isabel is a TV reporter.  She has a melt down on air and then goes home and decides to kill herself.  Her attempt is unsuccessful but her parents convince her to go to Three Breezes, a psychiatric hospital.  There, Isabel meets many interesting people who have their own very serious issues.  At first, Isabel thinks she has nothing in common with any of the other patients but as her recovery progresses, she realizes she is more like them than she ever thought possible.

This book was a good, quick read.  It gave a powerful look into mental illness and Isabel is a character that readers will root for in recovery and healing.  This was my first book by Flock and I enjoyed her writing style.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Tandem (YA)

Book #102 Read in 2013
Tandem by Anna Jarzab

This is the first book in a young adult trilogy.  Sasha is a typical high schooler--shy, academic, wanting to fit in.....and then she thinks her life is picking up when handsome Grant asks her to the prom.  But little does she know it is not Grant at all but his analog (double) from another world, Thomas.  Thomas needs to bring Sasha back to his world as she is the analog for his kidnapped princess and he is trying to prevent a war.  Sasha has to wrap her head around of all of this when she is taken back to his world but she agrees to impersonate the kidnapped Juliana until the upcoming wedding, only a week or so away.  But her agreement puts her in danger, while also allowing her to grow closer to Thomas.

I enjoyed this book.  Sasha is a complex heroine.  Thomas and she have a nice relationship forming.  There is good action and twists and turns in this book.  I look forward to reading book 2, Tether, when it comes out in the summer of 2014.

I received a copy of this book from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for a review.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Steelheart (YA)

Book #101 Read in 2013
Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson (YA)

This is the first book in a steampunk, young adult series.  Not my usual genre, but I ended up liking this one.  Set in what was once Chicago, there are now "super-powered" people called Epics in charge...and most are not especially nice.  Steelheart is the supreme ruler and a young man named David has studied him for order to exact revenge against Steelheart for killing his father when he was a boy.  David joins a rebel group called the Reckoners and enlists their help in bringing down Steelheart.  The rebel group has many interesting characters in it and they throw themselves into David's fight.

This book, while a little slow in the middle, was a decent read.  The premise is an interesting one and the Reckoners, including David, were interesting and complex characters.  There was a lot of action in this book, some humor and a hint of romance.  I will read the second book in the series, coming out in the fall of 2014.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Insurgent (YA)

Book #100 Read in 2013
Insurgent by Veronica Roth (2nd in series)

This book is the second in a young adult dystopian trilogy.  In this book, Tris and Four are trying to recover from the deadly fight that ensued between warring factions.  Additionally, Four (or Tobias) reconnects with his estranged mother, who is in charge of the Factionless.  Tris is not sold on the reunion but the couple have more than that issue to deal with before living happily ever after.

I really enjoyed both books in this series so far and will begin Allegiant in the near future to finish out the series.  These books are action-packed with complex and interesting characters.  They are quick reads that I highly recommend.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

November Reads

November Reads:

1.  Three Times Lucky (YA) 4.5/5  library book
2.  Hold Fast (YA)  4.5/5  library book
3.  The Storyteller (5/5)
4.  Murder on the Menu (4/5)  2nd in series
5.  Ripper (YA) 4.5/5
6.  Don't Turn Around (YA) 4.5/5  1st in series  Kindle
7.  The Chaperone (4/5)
8.  Love in the Time of Global Warming (YA) 4/5
9.  Endangered (YA)  5/5  library book
10.  Fallout (YA)  5/5  2nd in series
11.  Fortunately, the Milk (YA)  4/5  library book

99 books read so far in 2013

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Fortuantely, the Milk (YA)

Book #99 Read in 2013
Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman (YA)

This was a cute, quick read.  A mother leaves her family for a few days, giving the father a list of things to remember, including buying milk.  The next day's breakfast comes up short for the children as there is no milk.  The father says he will go and buy some.  He is gone for a long time and comes home with an incredible story for why it took him so long which includes aliens, time travel and vampires.  He describes in vivid detail the struggles he overcame to come home with the milk safely. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Fallout (YA)

Book #98 Read in 2013
The Fallout by S.A. Bodeen

This book is a sequel to The Compound.  In that book, a father moves his family underground, telling them they have to live in the bunker because a nuclear attack occurred (it hadn't).  This book picks up right where The Compound ends and the family, minus Dad, are trying to readjust to life above ground, with varying levels of success.  This book is full of action and  I read it in one sitting.  Bodeen is fast becoming one of my favorite authors, as I loved this series and her book The Raft.  I recommend her books.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Endangered (YA)

Book #97 Read in 2013
Endangered by Eliot Schrefer (YA)

Sophie goes to visit her mother in the Congo.  Her mother decided to leave Sophie and her father (who returned to America) to run a bonobo sanctuary.  On the way there, Sophie buys a young bonobo from a street vendor...a no-no according to her mother but Sophie couldn't leave the bonobo there.  She names him Otto and becomes his surrogate mother.  When a war breaks out, Sophie decides to not leave with the United Nations soldiers because they wouldn't let her bring Otto with her.  She bravely remains behind and due to her intelligence and courage, she begins to journey to the island retreat where her mother was last known to be heading.

I read this book in one sitting.  I had to know what would happen to Sophie and Otto.  This book shows civil unrest, animal cruelty and what the lack of medicine can mean.  It was a powerful read.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Love in the Time of Global Warming (YA)

Book #96 Read in 2013
Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block

This YA dystopian book reimagines Homer's Odyssey.  After the world is hit by a huge earthquake, Penelope is on her own, knowing her father is dead but not knowing what has happened to her mother or younger brother.  She begins to travel to find them.  Along the way, she finds some other lost souls...young people on their own as well...and they become a sort of family/pack. 

This book was a quick read.  Pen is a great character...she is intelligent, brave and a bookworm.  There is a decent amount of action and fighting to keep reluctant readers engaged.  I liked it.

The Chaperone

Book #95 Read in 2013
The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

The Chaperone is a good work of historical fiction.  Cora is asked to be a chaperone to young Louise Brooks, who is going to New York City to dance.  Cora wants to go to New York City to revisit the orphanage where she grew up, to see if she can find out any information about her birth mother.  While Louise tests limits and tries to act like an adult, Cora investigates her background, befriends a German man named Joseph, and questions why she lives like she does. 

I really enjoyed Moriarty's writing.  This book flowed well and the characters were interesting and complex.  I recommend it.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Don't Turn Around (YA)

Book #94 Read in 2013
Don't Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon (YA)

This is the first book of a series.  Noa wakes up in a warehouse and it seems as if someone had operated on her.  She escapes and uses her computer hacking skills to try to disappear.  That seems to be easier said than done.  She hooks us with Peter, another computer hacker, who is having issues with the same men/organization that experimented on Noa.  Can the two save other kids in time from these medical experiments?

This book was a must read.  It had tons of action and suspense.  Noa and Peter were interesting, complex characters.  This book will keep readers engaged from start to finish.  I recommend it.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Ripper (YA)

Book #93 Read in 2013
Ripper by Stefan Petrucha (YA)

Carver Young is an orphan.  He finds a letter from his father and is surprised to learn his father is not dead as he always thought he was....and Carver loves a good mystery to solve.  When Carver is adopted by a former Pinkerton detective, he begins to search for his father in earnest.  But his father seems to have a dark side....very dark....and Carver begins to wonder if he really wants to find out the truth. 

This book has great twists and turns to keep readers engaged.  I love reading about Jack the Ripper so that part was a huge draw for me.  Over 400 pages in length, this book flows quickly.  I enjoyed it.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Murder on the Menu

Book #92 Read in 2013
Murder on the Menu by Miranda Bliss

This is the second book in a cozy mystery series.  In this book, Annie and Eve had opened up a restaurant with their former cooking teacher, Jim.  As business begins to pick up, the girls reconnect with a former school pal, Sarah.  Shortly after, Sarah is found dead in her bath tub from an apparent suicide.  This does not sit well with Eve and Annie and the two begin their own investigation.  This does not happen without danger and bumps in the road.  Will they find the murderer in time, before he/she finds them?

I enjoy this series.  The characters are interesting--I like the friendship between Annie and Eve and their rapport.  Annie's relationship with Jim is interesting.  In this book, I enjoyed Doc, the dog with style.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Storyteller

Book #91 Read in 2013
The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

Sage is a baker who hides away from people because of a scar on her face, which she got in a car accident which killed her mother.  Sage has closed herself off from people, finding peace in her baking.  She is in a going-nowhere relationship with a married man, Adam.  Then an old man comes into her bakery, named Josef, and wants her to agree to help him die.  He tells Sage a tale of his past, about how he was a Nazi and the horrible things he did to people.  Sage reports him to the government and investigator Leo comes to see if he can try Josef for war crimes.  Leo and Sage have an instant connection.  As they work together to find out the truth about Josef, they also speak to Sage's grandmother, a Holocaust survivor.

This book was riveting and one of my favorite Picoult books.  Told in alternating narration, Picoult's writing style is complex and interesting.  Readers will be hooked and want to find out the truth about Josef's past and to see what Sage will do about his request.  I loved this book.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Hold Fast (YA)

Book #90 Read in 2013
Hold Fast by Blue Balliett (YA)

This is an author who I have tried several books of, without finishing any of them.  This one, however, I loved.  A family, not very rich but very loving, uses reading and books as a way to connect them.  Then the father comes up missing and people break in and wreck the family's home.  There is obviously something bad going on and Sum and her children, Early and Jubie, are forced to head into a shelter while they continue to hope that Dash will make his way back to his family.  Early decides to take on a more active role and begins her own investigation as to what happened to her father.

I enjoyed this book.  The writing style flowed well.  Characters were well-developed and ones I immediately cared about.  This book had a good mystery element to it and a decent amount of action to keep readers engaged.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Three Times Lucky (YA)

Book #89 Read in 2013
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage (YA)

Mo was found as a baby in the water during a hurricane by the Colonel.  She was taken in by him and Miss Lana and raised as their own.  They own a cafĂ© in a small town and Mo is wise beyond her years.  When a murder happens, Mo and her friend Dale decide to do their own investigation.  The stakes are raised even higher when the Colonel and Miss Lana are involved as well.

Mo reminded me of Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird.  She was a great character--intelligent, gutsy and a little crusty around the edges.  This book read to me like it was set in the 1960s so when George Clooney was referred to early on in the book, I was a bit thrown.  I enjoyed the writing style of this book...great characters, good mystery, some gritty issues mixed in with humor and a town that was truly connected.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Melissa's October Reads

Melissa's October Reads:

1.  The Boy on the Bridge (YA) 4/5 library book
2.  Ask Bob (4/5) Amazon Vine review book
3.  Rose Under Fire (YA) 4.5/5
4.  Hero on a Bicycle (YA) 4/5 library book
5.  The Boleyn Deceit (5/5) Amazon Vine review book
6.  Among the Janeites (4.5/5) library book
7.  In the Shadow of Blackbirds (YA) 4/5  Kindle
8.  The Girl Who was Supposed to Die (YA) 5/5 library book
9.  Panic (YA) 5/5

Year to date:  88 books read

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Panic (YA)

Book #88 Read in 2013
Panic by Sharon Draper (YA)

This book focuses on a group of high school students who are taking dance lessons.  They bond together and that helps when one of them, Diamond, leaves the shopping mall with a strange man and goes missing.  Her friends struggle to cope with the loss and the possibilities of what could happen to her.  Meanwhile, Diamond is enduring horrible things.  This book does not graphically describe those but you have enough information to put the pieces together.  I read this book in one sitting; I had to find out what happened in the end to Diamond.  As if that was not enough drama, there are parental issues, domestic violence and unrequited love among the dance crowd. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die (YA)

Book #87 Read in 2013
The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die by April Henry (YA)

Cady wakes up captive in a cabin by two men asking her questions about her parents.  When they realize that she won't be giving them any answers, one brings her out to the woods to kill her.  Cady cannot remember anything before waking up but by instinct, she uses self defense to disarm and escape from her captive.  Men are still looking for her and she has no idea why.  She meets a young man, Ty, who wants to help her figure out what is happening to her and why.  The two begins their own hunt for the truth.  But will they survive long enough to find it out?

This book was a great, quick read.  The action was non-stop and engaging.  Cady was a great character...intelligent and brave.  Readers will be hooked to find out the truth as Cady does.  I recommend this young adult mystery/thriller book.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

In the Shadow of Blackbirds (YA)

Book #86 Read in 2013
In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters (YA)

Mary Shelley Black goes to live with her aunt after her father is imprisoned.  The flu is working its deadly way through the country and Aunt Eva is petrified of it.  Mary Shelley seems to have some sort of supernatural power that allows the spirits of the dead to connect with her.  A photographer she knows would like to capitalize on that talent.  Her childhood love Stephen, the photographer's brother, is on his way to war and Mary Shelley is afraid she will never see him again...but she should know she will, even if he is not alive when she next sees him.

This book was a great, creepy read for Halloween time.  There were good twists and turns to keep readers engaged.  Mary Shelley was a great character; she was intelligent, brave and tough.  I enjoyed this book.

Among the Janeites

Book #85 Read in 2013
Among the Janeites by Deborah Yaffe

I love Jane Austen; she is one of my favorite authors.  I've read all of her books; I named my Jack Russell Terrier Emma after Austen's heroine.  But I'm nothing like these hard-core Jane Austen fans described in this book.  They live and breathe Jane Austen.  They attend conferences in Austen period dress, blog daily about her and her works and write fan fiction based on her characters...and I loved hearing all about it.  This book is a must-read one for any true Austen fan.  It refers to Austen's works, explains her appeal to modern readers and is a fun read.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Boleyn Deceit

Book #84 Read in 2013
The Boleyn Deceit by Lauran Andersen

This is the second book of a three book historical fiction series.  In this book, William is King and has fallen in love with Minuette, his childhood friend.  Elizabeth, William's sister, is still in her complicated relationship with Robert Dudley.  John Dee, a seer of the stars, reads the fortunes of William and Elizabeth.  The usual power plays in this time period are detailed and alliances can change quickly. 

I love this author's writing.  Her style shows good research and her writing fleshes out historical figures.  This book has romance, action and mystery...all based on fact.  I enjoyed both books in this series so far and cannot wait to read the third.  I received a copy of this book from Amazon Vine in exchange for a review.

Hero on a Bicycle (YA)

Book #83 Read in 2013
Hero on a Bicycle by Shirley Hughes (YA)

This book is set in Florence, Italy in 1944 and tells of the Nazi occupation in that country.  Paolo is a young boy whose father is a soldier and has left him in charge of the family.  He longs for action and adventure but when he gets some in his life, it is slightly more than he bargained for.  Paolo's mother is English and is doing her own war duty in their hometown.  This book was a good, quick historical fiction read, especially for middle school boys.  There was action enough to keep the book moving at a good pace.  Also, with Paolo's sister and her attraction to a Canadian soldier, there was enough romance to hook girls as readers too.  I enjoyed it.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Rose Under Fire (YA)

Book #82 Read in 2013
Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein (YA)

I couldn't get into Wein's other holocaust book, Code Named Verity, but I loved this book.  In this book, Rose Justice is an American pilot who is taken to a concentration camp.  She details the horrors faced by those in the camp in her journal and through her poetry.  She becomes friends with "the Rabbits", young girls who were tortured through medical experiments done to them by the Nazis.  I am never failed to be appalled at the horrors and evils that were done to these people during the Holocaust.  Wein's writing is gritty and real.  Her characters are remarkable and strong.  Readers will become immersed in this book immediately.  I recommend it.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Ask Bob

Book #81 Read in 2013
Ask Bob by Peter Gethers

This novel has a lot more depth to it than it looks to have at first glance.  Bob is a veterinarian in New York City.  He is drawn to rescuing animals and in a way, people.  But Bob's life has more complexity to it than one would assume.  There is physical and mental illness in his family, tragedy, heartbreak as well as happiness and love.  The snapshots of his two legged clients who bring him his four-legged patients are interesting.  This book had elements of romance, humor and sadness.  Overall, a good read.

I received a copy of this book from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for a review.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Boy on the Bridge

Book #80 Read in 2013
The Boy on the Bridge by Natalie Standiford (YA)

Laura is on an exchange program, spending a year of college in Russia.  She meets a boy named Aloysha and the two have an instant connection.  As their relationship grows, Laura begins to make Aloysha her top priority, skipping classes and missing curfews.  Her roommate is afraid that Laura is just being used to get a ticket to America and that Aloysha will ask Laura to marry him so she can bring him home with her.  She does not believe he would do such a thing....but is she right?

This book was a good, quick read.  I must have watched the movie Taken too many times because I kept waiting for Laura to get kidnapped and made into a Russian sex slave, but that did not happen.  However, there were twists and turns about Aloysha and whether or not he was truly a good man. 

I borrowed this book from the public library.

Monday, September 30, 2013

September Reads

September Reads:

1.  Touch and Go 5/5 (library book)
2.  Al Capone Does My Homework (YA) 5/5  3rd in series
3.  Longbourn (4/5)
4.  Not Your Ordinary Wolf Girl (YA) (4.5/5)
5.  Letters from Skye (5/5)

79 books read in 2013

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Letters from Skye

Book #79 Read in 2013
Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole

This book is told entirely in letters and spans two world war.  It details a love story that survives incredible odds.  Elspeth is a poet and receives a sort of fan letter from Davey.  She is from Scotland and he from America; the two begin a pen pal relationship.  Gradually, through their letters, they fall in love.  Love is never simple and factoring in Elspeth's husband and the physical distance, their love story is no different.  World War 1 begins and Davey enlists.  Years later, when World War 2 is going on, Elspeth is launched back in memories of the first war, and the war-time romance her adult daughter is having with a soldier reminds Elspeth vividly of Davey.  Can these two people ever get together?

I loved this book.  The writing was wonderful and the characters were ones that I cared about immediately.  This book had historical elements to it, great romance and the hook of hoping for a happily ever after ending.  I highly recommend it.

I received a copy of this book from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for a review.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Not Your Ordinary Wolf Girl

Book #78 Read in 2013
Not Your Ordinary Wolf Girl by Emily Pohl-Weary

Sam is a rock star in a girl band.  One night after a show she is attacked and bitten by a large dog.  By the time she gets home, her wound is almost healed.  She goes to the hospital but they think she is having mental issues.  It turns out that her issue is the dog was a werewolf and now Sam is becoming a werewolf too.  She needs to learn how to deal with her bodily changes, how to escape a psychotic werewolf who thinks they are soul mates, and how to deal with her growing feelings for the psychotic werewolf's brother (also a werewolf).

This was a good read.  Sam was a likeable and interesting character...intelligent, funny and brave.  The writing was quick-paced and the plot had good mystery, humor and romantic elements to it.  I enjoyed it a lot.

I received a copy of this book from the Amazon Vine program to review.

Sunday, September 15, 2013


Book #77 Read in 2013
Longbourn by Jo Baker

This book revolves around the servants, and their points of view, from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.  Since that is one of my all-time favorite books, this premise intrigued me.  Mrs. Hill, Sara and Polly are main characters in this book with Jane, Elizabeth and Darcy taking second stage.  Readers could track the plot of Austen's books by what the servants were reacting to or overhearing.  This was well written.  I enjoyed it. 

I received a copy of this book from the Amazon Vine review program.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Al Capone Does My Homework (YA)

Book #76 Read in 2013
Al Capone Does My Homework by Gennifer Choldenko (YA)

This is the third book of this series.  Moose lives on Alcatraz Island, where his father is a prison guard.  In this book, Moose's father is promoted to Assistant Warden and that brings some danger as the cons would like to hurt a prison boss.  As if that is not enough stress, the family's apartment catches on fire and neighbors are blaming Natalie, Moose's special need sister, for it.  Can Moose figure out who really set the fire?

I have enjoyed all three books in this series.  The books are well-written and the characters are interesting and well-developed.  The books have elements of mystery, humor, history and romance.  I recommend this series.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Touch and Go

Book #75 Read in 2013
Touch and Go by Lisa Gardner

This was my first book by this author and I will definitely read more of her books.  In this one, Tessa is a private investigator.  The company she has recently begun to work for contacts her when the company's owner, his wife and teenager daughter are kidnapped.  Surprisingly, there is no contact with a ransom demand.  Tessa works with the FBI and local law enforcement to try to find the family while they are thought to be still alive.

This book had good twists and turns that kept me hooked.  The family had its share of problems and had to put them aside and band together to try to survive this ordeal.  Gardner writes interesting characters.  I enjoyed this book.

August Reads

August Reads:

1.  My Reading Life (4/5) Kindle
2.  Big Girl Panties (3.5/5)
3.  Switch (3/5)
4.  Our Iceberg is Melting (3.5/5)
5.  Portrait in Sepia (4/5) library book
6.  The Mysterious Death of Miss Jane Austen (4/5)
7.  Out of the Easy (YA)  (5/5)
8.  The Ghost and the Femme Fatale (4/5) 4th in series

Year to date:  74 books read

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Ghost and the Femme Fatale

Book #74 Read in 2013
The Ghost and the Femme Fatale by Alice Kimberly

This is the fourth book in a cozy mystery series.  Penelope owns a book store and it seems to be a magnet for murder.  Pen usually begins her own investigation, with help from her live-in ghost, former private investigator Jack Shepard.  In this installment, there is a film noir festival going on in town and on the first night a near miss make Pen suspicious.  The following morning, an author ends up dead in her bookstore and Pen is sure this was no accident.  She begins her search for the culprit.

This series is a good cozy mystery series.  I love the bookstore and small town setting.  The cast of characters are a great batch, especially Pen, Jack, Pen's aunt Sadie and mailman and trivia whiz Seymour. 

Out of the Easy (YA)

Book #73 Read in 2013
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

I loved this author's first book and her second was no sophomore slump.  I loved this one even more.

Josie is the daughter of a New Orleans prostitute mother and a unknown father.  At the age of 12, Josie begins working in a bookstore and the nice owner lets her stay in the apartment above the store to get her away from her mother.  Between him, Willie (the madam with the heart of gold) and others, Josie begins to dream of going to college and escaping life in the French Quarter.  Then a man is murdered and both Josie and her mother are connected to him and questioned by the police.  Her mother's bad connections are catching up to Josie--will she be able to get away?

Sepetys writes a wonderfully intelligent character in Josie.  She is book smart, street smart and courageous.  Readers will root for Josie to be able to make more of her life and to come out a winner.  This book had a well-written plot, with elements of mystery, romance and humor woven into it.  I highly recommend it.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Mysterious Death of Miss Jane Austen

Book #72 Read in 2013
The Mysterious Death of Miss Jane Austen by Lindsay Ashford

This book puts an interesting spin on Jane Austen's early death.  In this book, Miss Sharp, governess to Austen family members who becomes a close friend of Jane's, feels that someone had a hand to Jane dying at the early age of 41.  Miss Sharp believes that someone poisoned Jane and she wants to prove it.  This book talks about the interactions among Austen's family members, the way of life during that time, and Jane's rise as an author. 

As a huge Jane Austen fan, I found this book's premise interesting.  I enjoyed the writing style and the mystery aspect to it.  The longing that Miss Sharp felt for Jane became a bit tiresome after a while but it served its purpose about her strong motivation to find out what truly happened to Jane Austen.  Overall, I enjoyed the book.

I received a copy of this book from Sourcebooks in exchange for a review.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Portrait in Sepia

Book #71 Read in 2013
Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende

This book is a family saga book.  Aurora tells the story of her family--past and present.  Her family members are interesting and complex people who have lived interesting lives.  Aurora is also trying to figure out some things about her past and hopes by detailing the histories of her family members, things will be clarified for her.  This book was a bit slow in parts but Allende's lush writing style and unique characters saved it for me.

Our Iceberg is Melting

Book #70 Read in 2013
Our Iceberg is Melting by John Kotter

This book uses a fable involving penguins trying to find a new iceberg home as a way of showing how to make change in the workplace.  Loved the fable and the penguins.  Some good discussion could be had using the fable to springboard how change can be done within a business/organization.  But really I just wanted to read about the penguins.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Switch: How to Change Things when Change is Hard

Book #69 Read in 2013
Switch:  How to Change Things when Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

I read this book for a book study I am offering to teachers next week.  It details how to change things within business organizations, realizing that change is often met with resistance and fear.  The book uses the are you an elephant or a driver throughout the book.  It reads like a text book but the short sections within chapters help it flow better and be more reader friendly.  Overall, it was a decent read.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Big Girl Panties

Book #68 Read in 2013
Big Girl Panties by Stephanie Evanovich

This was a decent chick lit book.  Holly is an overweight woman who has recently become a young widow.  On an airplane, she is seated next to Logan, this handsome physical trainer.  The two strike up a conversation when Holly is having trouble fitting into her airplane seat.  Logan, feeling guilty about his disgust at Holly's weight, offers to become her trainer.  Holly surprises herself and takes him up on his offer.  As the weight comes off, Logan and Holly's attraction to each other increases.  Of course they cannot have an easy road to happily ever after so there are some pitfalls and misunderstandings along the way.  Overall, I enjoyed the book, though it was a bit predictable and followed the usual chick lit formula.  This book did have a lot of humor in it which made it stand out more. 

I was sent a copy of this book through the Amazon Vine program in exchange for a review.

Monday, August 5, 2013

My Reading Life

Book #67 Read in 2013
My Reading Life by Pat Conroy

This non-fiction book tells the tale of the importance of literature and books and reading in Conroy's life, first in his childhood and then as an adult who is becoming a writer.  Conroy talks honestly about his abusive father, his mother who remained a mystery to him through adulthood and the connections he made over books and literature.  It seemed as if reading truly saved him at times.  Conroy details the books that he found especially meaningful; some are classics, some are not so mainstream, but all meant something to him.  This is a book for book lovers and also for Conroy fans; his writing style of his fiction carries over to this book.  I enjoyed it.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July Reads:

1.  Cleo:  The Cat Who Mended a Family (5/5)
2.  The Shade of the Moon (YA) 4.5/5  4th in series
3.  Sergeant Rex (3.5/5)
4.  The Ocean at the End of the Lane (3.5/5)
5.  Dear Girls Above Me (4/5)
6.  Lone Wolf (4.5/5)
7.  The Night Circus (4/5) Kindle
8.  Saturday Night Widows (4/5)
9.  The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap (4.5/5)
10.  The World's Strongest Librarian (4/5)
11.  One Breath Away (5/5) Kindle

66 books read in 2013 so far

One Breath Away

Book #66 Read in 2013
One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf

Augie and PJ are sent to their grandparents after their mother is horrifically burned in a kitchen fire.  As if that isn't traumatic enough, the day before spring break finds them being trapped in their school by a deranged gunman.  The police are outside of the school trying to negotiate with the gunman in the hopes of getting the students and teachers out safely.  But will that happen in time?

This was a thrilling read.  It showed the bravery of people in horrible situations.  The gunman's identity was not known for most of the book and there were a variety of suspects.  I figured out who it was about 2/3 through the book (and the gunman wasn't revealed for about another 15%) but that did not take away from the reading interest of the book.  Gudenkauf is one of my favorite authors.  I've read all of her books and they are all edge of your seat thrillers.  I recommend it.

The World's Strongest Librarian

Book #65 Read in 2013
The World's Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne

Josh is 6 foot, 7 inches tall, competes in strong man contests and has a severe case of Tourette's Syndrome.  His occupation?  A librarian.  Not exactly what one would think for a career of someone who suffers from Tourette's Syndrome and has loud, verbal tics as part of  this.  Josh loved books from a young age and learning and reading was important to him at his core, so this translated into a career as a librarian.  It was also a way for him to challenge himself to see if he could control some of his tics.  Told in a honest manner, Josh details his growing up with this syndrome, his wish for his young son and his connection to his wife and parents.  I enjoyed it.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap

Book #64 Read in 2013
The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap by Wendy Welch

This is a great non-fiction  read.  It tells the story of Jack and Wendy, a married, artsy couple,  who decide to open up a used bookstore in Big Stone Gap, an Appalachian coal town.  The book honestly details the struggles of opening the bookstore, keeping it afloat, building a customer base and being allowed into the inner circles of the town.  The writing style is great in that the book reads like fiction and the townspeople/characters are vividly described in wonderful detail.  They are quite the crew.  I very much enjoyed this book.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Saturday Night Widows

Book #63 Read in 2013
Saturday Night Widows by Becky Aikman

This is a memoir of six widows and how they move through their grief to get on with their lives.  They form their own support group and bring their very different stories of loss to the circle of support.  Each month they get together to do an event--a trip, a day at the spa, a visit to the museum etc.  These trips show their progression and healing and offer them a safe spot to voice their worries and asks their questions about life after loss.

Saturday Night Widows reads like fiction.  The writing style flows well and is extremely readable.  The widows are people who are down to earth and ones that readers will care about and connect with.  I enjoyed this book a lot.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Night Circus

Book #62 Read in 2013
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Marco and Celia are bound to each other by a competition they have been entered into by their father/guardian.  They do not truly understand the lengths that this competition will bring them to and the venue for the competition is the night circus.  The circus performers are all tied into the competition so the weight of many lives are weighing on Celia and Marco.  The two fall in love which complicates the competition, to say the least.  This book has great characters, a paranormal aspect that is woven expertly throughout the story and twists and turns to keep readers engaged.  I enjoyed it.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Lone Wolf

Book #61 Read in 2013
Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult

As Picoult typically does with her books, this one has an edgy topic at its core--when does family have the right to "pull the plug" on a loved one?  Luke has researched and lived with wolves.  This was done at the expense of his family.  He and his wife Georgie divorced, his son Edward has not spoken to him for years but his youngest child, daughter Cara, still lives with him and idolizes him.  Then there is a horrific accident that involves Luke and Cara.  Both are hurt but Luke is being kept alive by machines.  Cara wants to give Luke time to heal, fully needing to believe that her father will recover.  Edward wants to terminate life support and donate Luke's organs.  A court battle ensues to try to decide what Luke would want if he could tell them.

This book is told in chapter alternating between different points of views of different characters.  Picoult is masterful at this technique--allowing readers access to the minds of many characters, keeping single loyalty to one character at bay.  All of the character are complex yet well-developed--none perfect but all with interesting flaws.  I enjoyed this book.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Dear Girls Above Me

Book #60 Read in 2013
Dear Girls Above Me by Charlie McDowell

This book details the conversations had by his upstairs neighbors by the author.  The girls, Claire and Cathy, cover a variety of "important" topics like boob jobs, hot men, sex and other matters of interest.  Charlie receives an earful on a regular basis.  Some of the talk is educational for him, some too much information but all of it hilarious.  It will also be hilarious for his readers.  Charlie's writing makes me want to give him the title of the "male Jen Lancaster" which is high praise in my book of realistic, gritty and always hilarious writing.  I laughed out loud several times throughout this book.    I recommend this book.  I received a copy of this book from the Amazon Vine program.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Book #59 Read in 2013
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

A middle aged man returns to his childhood home for a funeral.  He begins a journey down memory lane, where he remembers a scary monster who tried to possess him, a family of witch-like woman who helped save him and the tribulations of a growing boy.  This book was in turn creepy and a coming of age story.  It had horror, a paranormal aspect, mystery and great writing.  The main character was interesting.  The Hempstock women were an interesting crew of powerful females.  This was a decent read.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sergeant Rex

Book #58 Read in 2013
Sergeant Rex by Mike Dowling

Rex is one of the first Marine Corps K9 dogs to be used in the war in Iraq.  Dowling is his handler.  This book details the strong connection between handler and dog, the horrors of war and the relationship formed by the men and women fighting it together.  I learned some things about military dogs that I did not know.  This book was a bit slow at times but overall I liked it.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Shade of the Moon (YA)

Book #57 Read in 2013
The Shade of the Moon (YA) by Susan Beth Pfeffer

This is the fourth book in the series that began with the book Life as We Knew It.  I loved the first two books in this series and the third one was good.  I did not know until recently that a fourth book was coming out, so when I had a chance to grab it to review, I had to get a copy.

In this book, two years have passed since book 3.  Jon is living with his stepmother Lisa and his half brother Gabe in a better town than White Birch--where his mother, sister Miranda and brother in law Alex are still living in poverty.  Jon has food to eat, clean air to breathe and attends a decent school.  He has begun to take this all for granted until he meets Sarah, the new girl, who questions why everyone should not have these things.  Jon and Sarah fall for each other but he has to be careful that he doesn't break the rules by taking her side.  During the book, Jon realizes what the true priorities are but that does not happen without great cost.

I enjoyed this installment in the series.  This book bounced  the series back in my estimation.  It had action, romance, and a plot that kept me riveted from start to finish.  The ending leaves enough of an opening that a book five could happen....and I hope it does.

I received this book from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for a review.