Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Fireman

By Joe Hill. Oh. My. Goodness! I tore through this engrossing novel in three days (it's about 750 pages long). A plague has entered the world. Known as Dragonscale, it is a highly contagious, deadly spore that first marks the afflicted with beautiful black and gold patterns then later causes them to spontaneously combust. The resulting fires and mass hysteria creates an apocalyptic world. Harper Grayson is a nurse treating hundreds of infected patients, until her hospital burns down. She and her husband Jakob had made a pact; if they become infected, they will commit suicide together rather than burn to death. But when Harper finds the telltale black and gold markings, she realizes she wants to live, at least until she can bring the pregnancy she just learned of to term. She had seen at the hospital infected women give birth to healthy babies and wants to give hers a chance. Jakob becomes convinced she has infected him and becomes unstable. He tries to kill her, eventually joining a Cremation Crew, vigilantes who roam the streets killing anyone who is infected. Enter the Fireman, a mysterious stranger wearing a fireman's jacket and carrying a halligan, who can control the fire within him left by the Dragonscale and who uses that fire to protect the hunted and avenge the wronged. A fabulous read.

Friday, May 26, 2017


By Sarah Jio, this is a typical romance. By that I mean everything is just too pat, works out too well. Kailey Crain is a journalist, engaged to a near - perfect man, living the dream in Seattle. As she leaves the restaurant after a romantic candlelight dinner with her fiancée, she approaches a skinny, bearded homeless man to give him her leftovers and is shocked to find he is Cade, the love of her life who just disappeared ten years ago. She begins to help Cade get his mind back, initially keeping it from Ryan, her fiancée. And soon she must decide what - and whom- she wants. The book alternates between the past and present, telling the two love stories, very definitely manipulating you to pull for one over the other. And it's just so pat.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Into the Wild

Written by Jon Krakauer, this adventure non-fiction work tells the story of Chris McCandless. After he graduated from Emory in 1990, fulfilling his parents' dreams for him, he set out to meet his own dreams. He gave away a considerable savings account to charity, and in the course of a transcontinental adventure abandoned his car, most of his belongings, burned the cash in his wallet, identified himself as "Alex" ... He made his way by hitchhiking, picking up odd jobs along the way. April 1992 found him heading into the Alaska bush to commune with nature and make his way the best he could in a last great adventure. His body was found in August. The mystery of what happened to this idealistic young man is addressed in this book, as well as why he left to begin with and what happened in that two year span. An engrossing tale. Left me praying for his soul and all the people so affected by his loss.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

A debut novel by Helen Simonson, a quiet, charming, delightful romance. Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired) lives a quiet life in a small English country village, espousing proper English duty, decorum, and a well-brewed cup of tea. His brother's death kicks off an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Their shared love of literature and the loss of their spouses deepen the friendship. But culture, tradition, and family may all conspire to keep them apart.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Trixie Belden and the Marshland Mystery

By Kathryn Kenny. This series was one of my favorites growing up; and when I came across this one at a Friends of the Library sale recently I couldn't remember reading it. My children have not been drawn in by Trixie and her friends as I was, though I think some of the books have been read by some of them out of curiosity. I wanted to belong as a young person, and had an empathic soul that wasn't really nurtured. Reading about the Bob-Whites, the altruistic club Trixie forms with her friends, satisfied some of that longing in me. My children have each other for friends and we try to volunteer as a family. I was drawn to mysteries; my kids not so much. They like science fiction or fantasy more. I don't mind, although those are my least favorite genres, because they are reading. They also expand into non-fiction on occasion. A steady diet of one type of food is not only boring, but leaves you malnourished. In the Marshland Mystery, the Bob-Whites try to keep an elderly woman from being forced into the Home by the City Council. A rainstorm foils their plans, but as luck would have it, another way opens up. A child prodigy complicates matters, but of course that situation is resolved nicely as well.  That may be another reason I liked these books; nothing is left messy. All the ends are tied up in the best possible way. Not like my life at all. Pure escapism.

Bundle of Trouble

This is the first in the Maternal Instincts Mystery Series by Diana Orgain. A body has washed up in the bay, and heavily pregnant Kate is given reason to believe it is her brother -in-law, George. Soon, other bodies turn up, all connected somehow. Can Kate find George (with newborn in tow ) when he doesn't want to be found? And can she make a go of a private detective business from home, so she won't have to return to work and leave her child? This book didn't really address the dilemma working families face with any substantial answers; but even a gloss - over is more than most books give. A bit of fluff for my Kindle.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Dead Letters

A debut novel by Caite Dolan-Leach. Ava and Zelda are twins, raised in a dysfunctional, alcoholic family: owners of a failing vineyard. Straitlaced, well behaved Ava was primed to take over the family business and care for her mother with early onset dementia, until wild-child Zelda betrayed her. So Ava ran to Paris, and has kept silence with her sister for two years. Now she's back at the vineyard, for Zelda has fallen asleep in the barn with a lit candle. She is dead; burned up. But this is too pat for Ava... just too Zelda. It's surely one of her games. Then she gets an email from her sister.  There is a lot of drinking in here; and some associated messiness. Mind your triggers. An engaging book.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth

The debut novel by Lindsey Lee Johnson seems spot on; and I am so extraordinarily grateful to have escaped high school before the days of ubiquitous social media! My own high school experience was extremely negative as it is; if I had the ills of seeing the cruelty of my peers in my own home through a gadget I held in my hand... I may not have made it. This novel is about the real people under the typical high school stereotypes and how decisions made affect everyone. How cyber bullying works and it's effects. The difference a teacher can have, both positive and negative, on a student's life. And the feedback a teacher may get from his/her peers. A sorry book. Some elegant writing, just the wrong vehicle for me.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The River at Night

Erica Ferencik wrote this novel. It requires a suspension of disbelief  - a "what else could go wrong" mentality to get through. And if you can do that, it sucks you right in, leaving you staying up way too late to read one more chapter... and another... and another. Our narrator is Winifred Allen, middle - aged, recently divorced, stuck in a go-nowhere job, reeling from the death of her brother. Her annual girls' trip with her three best friends is coming up; they've chosen white-water rafting in the Maine wilderness. It becomes the trip to Hell and back, a thrill a minute, making your heart beat as fast as the current of the river.

Public Library and Other Stories

I enjoyed this collection of short stories by Ali Smith. The stories are about books; how they charge us to be mindful while helping us forget, how they change and challenge us. Interspersed with Smith's short stories are conversations with writers who are also readers about the importance of libraries in their lives. The blurb on the back of the book calls this a work of "literary activism"; I love the term!


This is a novel by Ian McEwan. It tells the pedestrian tale of Trudy, who has ejected John, her husband, from his ancestral home, and installed his brother, Claude. The ancestral home is a decrepit pile worth an absolute fortune on the London market; but it is still owned by John. Therefore, Trudy and Claude are planning his demise. It all sounds so tawdry. What makes the novel is the narrator: the resident of Trudy's womb. Nine months along, John's son hears all, and makes this novel a retelling of Shakespeare's Hamlet. Fascinating.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A is for Actress

A Malibu Mystery by Rebecca Cantrell and Sean Black. This is the first in an alphabetic series featuring Sofia Selgado, one - time child star of The Half-Pint Detective, who has quit show business and joined the private investigative agency of Brendan Maloney, who once served as the technical consultant on her show. Another fluff piece for my Kindle.. I enjoyed it enough that if the others in the series show up free as this one did, I'll pick them up too.

Present Over Perfect

Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living. This is a collection of essays by Shauna Niequist that blend mindfulness with Spirituality. They tell the story of Niequist's frantic life trying to earn her worth and the journey she took becoming present to those she loves, stilled and rested, content in her worth as a child of God. So much I could relate to here - if you're religious at all and looking for purpose, read this one.