Monday, March 31, 2014

Counting by 7's

Title: Counting by 7's
Author: Holly Goldberg Sloan
Publisher: August 29th 2013 by Dial
Format: Hardcover, 384 pages
Genre: Young Adult

What a strange experience to read a book that takes place in a nearby town. Maybe that is what endeared the book to me, but more likely, it was Willow herself. The young girl at the center of the story that has her life implode and must find a new normal, a new family and her new place in both.

In a subtle way this book also teaches acceptance - characters whose race, culture and abilities are incidental to, rather than the sole focus of the story.

It is good that twelve-year-old Willow considers herself a bit odd since that is how the world sees her. She is obsessed with nature and medical conditions, she dresses differently, is far too smart for her own good, has poor social skills and from the outside, she might be somewhere on the autism spectrum.

When she appears to have little interest in classroom assignments and activities but scores in the one hundred percentile on standardized tests, she is sent to the counselor’s office for suspected cheating. This is where her world begins to open up.

From the outside, Dell Duke, the counselor, and Mia and Quang-ha, student rebels, are a curiosity to Willow, but on a fateful day when Willow’s world comes crashing down, they are the people that are there for her. Add in Pattie and Jairo, and you have the beginning of a new life. One that is different and diverse, but wonderful at the same time.

The number 7 has always comforted Willow, counting by 7’s, finding groupings of seven, the seven colors of the rainbow, and the seven most important people in her world.

In life, you never know where you will find your comfort, but Willow is lucky, her adoptive parents were there for her and her new family at the Gardens of Glenwood will continue to be there. All of her sevens are vivid and distinct and will forever hold a special place in her heart.

You cannot walk away from this book without hope. You meet an extraordinary girl who is devastated and then watch a rebirth. If only all children who have tragedy enter their lives could be this fortunate. If only all humans could reach out when they see a child in pain.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Spitting Devil

Title: Spitting Devil
Author: Brian Freeman
Publisher: Quercus (February 4, 2014)
Format: e-book, 71 pgs
Genre: Thriller
Series: Jonathan Stride

As I have said multiple times, I am not a fan of the half books that do not move the main characters or storylines of a series ahead. In that aspect, this book is not necessary in the world of Jonathan Stride. However, if you are looking for creepy afternoon read, this would fill the bill.

The bodies of dead redheaded women are starting to gather attention. Jonathan hates when the media gives a nickname to a killer, but there does not seem to be a way around it this time. There is one clue that the Duluth, Minnesota police are holding back and when a woman calls with that one piece of information Jonathan Stride and his partner Maggie Bei, know they finally have the lead that they need.

Alison Malville is beginning to fear her husband Michael. He has changed. His business is failing, he has left their marital bed, there are unexplained miles on the car and now a butcher knife is missing from the block in the kitchen.

There are more questions than answers in their home and if it were not for their young son Evan, who reads too many dark comic books, and a mother’s need to protect, the answers may come too late.

Short and to the point, this is not a novella to read at night before you turn off the lights. The creaking and settling of your house just might have your mind wandering to places that you do not want it to go.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Coldest Girl in Coldtown

Title: Coldest Girl in Coldtown
Author: Holly Black
Publisher: September 3rd 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover, Pgs 422
Genre: YA Vampire

What originally made me curious about this book was a comment that I had hear stating that if Stephenie Meyer knew how to write a vampire book, this would be it. Those are some harsh words, but that did pique my interest.

What should be the first book in a trilogy, the reader is introduced to Tana Bach as she wakes up in a bathtub only to discover that there has been a vampire attack at the home of a party that she has attended. Everyone is dead except for her and Aiden, who she finds bitten and tied to a bed with a vampire sitting in a chair across from him. Tana does not want to take any chances so decides to take them both to Coldtown. A place set apart for vampires where they can do no further harm to innocent people. Unfortunately, once you get into Coldtown, it is next to impossible to get out and this place seems to draw the non-colds as well who are fascinated by the perceived glamour.

This is where the vampire infection takes a turn. Apparently, a person does not become full turned, Cold, until 88 days after the first contact and then only if they drink human blood. If they can make it past this time, then they are free of the infection. Very few survive. Tana decides that there is no choice for her friend and the vampire Gavriel so out the window they go as a band of hungry vampires bust down the door to get to them. This is a game changer for Tana since she is scratched by a vampire as she heads out the window. Not knowing if she has been infected, as her mother had been, Coldtown is their only option.

What pursues is Tana discovering who Gavriel really is. This puts her life in deeper danger and the secondary characters that are there to help and hinder complicate matters greatly. Once in Coldtown, you do not know whom you can trust.

Gavriel has his ulterior motives to get to Lucien, the vampire that turned him. Midnight and Winter are in way over there heads solely to get more material for their blog. Jameson and Valentina, are two humans in Coldtown that are trying to help in the best ways that they can. In the end, it is up to Tana.

As far as young adult vampire books go, it is good, I did have a couple eye roll moments when it branched off into the Hunger Games for a scene two. The one thing that did save it for me was the lack of teen angst that seemed to have taken over the original Twilight books. Tana has her own mind and is determined to save herself and get back to her sister Pearl.

Depending on what exactly it is that you are looking for in a young adult book, this might be able to check off a couple of the boxes. Twists, interesting characters, betrayal, light romance, revenge and an open-ended conclusion that will leave the door unlocked for future installments.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Rite

Anthony Hopkins ... Father Lucas Trevant
Colin O'Donoghue ... Michael Kovak
Father Xavier ... Ciarán Hinds
Toby Jones ... Father Matthew

I am beginning to wonder if Anthony Hopkins is capable of staring in a movie that does not scare the bee-gee-bees out of me.

Inspired by the book The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist by Matt Baglio.

Actor Colin O’Donoghue plays Michael Kovak, a young mortician who wants more from life and unable to afford college enters a seminary for a free college education. As far as he can tell, he can walk away from the church prior to his ordination - no harm, no foul as far as he can see it.

His advisor, Father Matthew, see more in Michael and informs him that he has two choices, either convert his expenses incurred at the seminary into a student loan or go to the Vatican and take additional classes. Father Matthew tells Michael of the rise of demonic possessions every year and that the Church needs more exorcists.

This is where the movie turns creepy. Seeing that Michael is a skeptic, Father Xavier, the class instructor, sends Michael to Father Lucas – this is where Anthony Hopkins steps in and I proceeded to watch the movie with one hand over my eyes and the other grasping my stomach.

The movie is very graphic - both sights and sounds are a bit stomach rattling.

From the possession of a sixteen-year-old girl, to the dreams and fore knowledge of a young boy, to Father Lucas’s downward spiral, to dreams that Michael himself has, this movie is a rollercoaster ride.

The Rite is not for everyone, there are several points that the viewer might take umbrage of, but from beginning to end it is captivating. When it comes to demonic possession, that is for each individual to decide. However, if you are in the mood for a dark and creepy movie, I would suggest this one.

Friday, March 21, 2014

100 Simple Things You Can Do to Prevent Alzheimer's

Title: 100 Simple Things You Can do To Prevent Alzheimer's
Author: Jean Carper
Publisher: September 20th 2010 by Little, Brown and Company
Format: Trade Paperback Pgs 322
Genre: Health

I admit it, the title is what caught my attention. How can a person ‘prevent’ Alzheimer’s if medical science is still not sure what causes it? So of course, I had to stop and pick up the book.

Beginning with the introduction, author Jean Carper is back peddling. “What to do while we wait for a cure”. That should have been the title of the book.

What follows are 100 chapters outlining healthy living. Alcohol usage, vitamins, exercise, keeping an active brain, socializing, etc.

I did not come across anything in this book that is new. The author is relying on information that is already widely available.

Save your money.

Adopt a healthy lifestyle and you can lower your risk, but that is no guarantee that you can “prevent” Alzheimer’s like the title of this book implies.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Un-Remarried Widow

Title: Un-Remarried Widow
Author: Artis Henderson
Publisher: January 7th 2014 by Simon & Schuster
Format: ARC Pgs 242
Genre: Memoir
Source: Amazon Vine Program

“They came to my door today”

Stunningly devastating words uttered by Artis Henderson when she makes a call to a fellow military wife after she returned home to find two representatives that were there “to regretfully inform her” of her husband’s death.

From the beginning, you meet Artis, a woman that describes herself as “the not right kind of pretty” and her blossoming relationship with a man that is her everything.

Artis has always dreamed of moving overseas and becoming a writer, instead, she put her life on hold and travels from base to base with her boyfriend then husband. Taking odd jobs and barely subsisting with broken down apartments and broken down cars. However, that reality does not matter, what matters is that the moment he walks through the door her life begins.

Seeing how her mother had handled grief when Artis’ father died, she thinks that maybe she can learn from her, but comes to the realization that grief is personal. That each person must walk down their own path to see who they are at the end, and that grief is not a weakness, it is an individual act.

The reader journeys with Artis and along the way meets the individuals that have helped her become the person that she is today. I may not have agreed with all of her choices, but they were not my choices to make. Though at points, she may have felt that she had dishonored her husband, had not loved him enough, I did not see that at all. I saw a growing young woman, who started out afraid and insecure, who blossomed into a woman that had taken the worst that was handed to her and made a new life. A life that Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Miles P. Henderson would be able to look her in the eyes and say, ‘Yeah babe. You’re Okay’.

“Pursue your dreams wisely, with all your heart, with honor and with decency”

Monday, March 17, 2014

Invisible Murder

Title: Invisible Murder
Author: Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis
Publisher: October 2nd 2012 by Soho Crime
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 352
Genre: Nordic Noir
Series: Nina Borg #2


I am forty percent in and I can make neither heads nor tails out of this book. I am sure that somewhere down the road that the writing team of Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis will combine the multiple storylines but I no longer have the patience or interest to wait.

I started this book six weeks ago, and I am still fighting to finish it. Picking up a magazine or cleaning out a closet seems more interesting than seeing where this will go.

I loved “The Boy in the Suitcase” the first in the Nina Borg series, but Invisible Murder (#2) never left the ground for me and now I am debating whether book number three will be worth it. I am thinking that I will wait until I find it at a Friends of the Library sale so I do not feel that I have wasted any money.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Patches Lost and Found

Title: Patches Lost and Found
Author: Steven Kroll
Illustrator: Barry Gott
Publisher: April 30th 2005 by Two Lions
Format: Softcover; Pgs 32
Genre: Children's
Source: Amazon Vine
Ages: 6 - 8

Sometimes students can instruct their teachers.

Jenny is having an awful week. She is not a writer but when Mr. Griswold informs the class that they are to write a story, Jenny feels doomed. Asking if she can just draw a picture she is told “No, words first”.

Dread overwhelms her and that is compounded when she arrives home at the end of the day only to find that her pet guinea pig, Patches, has escaped his cage.

Jenny, doing what comes naturally for her, draws pictures. Lost posters and visuals of what she thinks could have happened to her beloved friend.

In the end, it is the teacher, Mr. Griswold that is learning the lesson of the day. Not all children process in the same way, sometimes pictures have to come first. They have to visualize the story and draw out a conclusion before a narrative can be written.

This is a wonderful tale to help your young budding writers over the hump of coming up with a story. If they are visual or tactile learners have them draw the story, then write what the story is telling them.

An excellent addition for the young author or illustrator in your life.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Hell Is Empty

Title: Hell is Empty
Author: Craig Johnson
Publisher: June 2nd 2011 by Viking Adult
Format: Hardcover, 312 pages
Genre: Thriller
Series: Walt Longmire #7

I am pretty sure that this is my favorite of all the Walt Longmire books, but then again, I tend to say that after each book in this series.

If you are not a fan of dry humor, you will not get these books. If you are not a fan of undying loyalty, you will not get these books. If your first introduction to Walt was through the television series, you will not get these books. Even thought the name is the same, what you see on that program has very little to do with this series of books.

That being said, the title Hell is Empty comes about from The Tempest “Hell is empty and all the devils are here”, which had me a bit confused since Dante’s Inferno is referenced throughout the book. Unless it was because both were guided by a man named Virgil. Ok, maybe that was it. Geez, I had to dig deep on that one. Now it makes better sense.

Walt and Deputy Saizarbitoria are transporting felons to the county line. The most horrible of the bunch, sociopathic murderer Raynaud Shade, has decided to lead the FBI to the remains of an abducted child. As the exact location is discovered, it is realized that the remains are located within Absoroka County – Sheriff Longmire’s jurisdiction.

With the help of a misguided young woman, Shade has murdered most of his security detail and Sheriff Longmire takes it upon himself to track this lunatic though the high country of the Bighorn Mountain during a blizzard.

Now you have to understand, no man in his right mind would do this, but the bones of this child need to be returned to his family. A family that has very close ties to Walt. Righting a wrong that has devastated too many for too long.

Walt sets out on his own but is soon joined by Virgil White Buffalo, a character introduced in Another Man's Moccasins. With Virgil’s help, Walt is able trek through this very unfriendly terrain and it is not until the end of the book that the reader is left confounded. Was Virgil really there or was Virgil only a spirit guide? Aha, the whole Dante thing again.

I loved this book; I loved the determination and the outright blunt dark humor. I know, others that have read this book comment on the unlikeliness (I am not sure if that is even a word) of several parts, but for goodness sake, this is fiction and if it is written well, like this is, then you skip over that and get sucked into the thriller that Craig Johnson has written.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Building Our House

Title: Building Our House
Author and Illustrator: Jonathan Bean
Publisher: January 8th 2013 by Farrar Straus Giroux)
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 48
Genre: Children's
Ages: 3 - 6

“One wall will face north to ward off the wind,
one east to welcome the morning,
one south to soak in the sun,
and one west to see out the day.”

Based on a true story and told through the eyes of a young girl, the reader follows a family as they decide to leave the city and build a home of their very own in the country.

As the story is told and the season’s change, the reader can see exactly what is involved in building a home and how with the help of family and friends - a little girl, her brother, a new baby and parents have a new home to call their own.

The illustrations come off a bit drab and cartoonish but that is a drawback only seen by an adult, children will see the adventure and the fun that can be had when helping and being involved in building a home.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Missing Mark

Title: Missing Mark
Author: Julie Kramer
Publisher: July 14th 2009 by Doubleday
Format: Hardcover, 288 pages
Genre: Mystery
Series: Riley Spartz #2

After reading her first book, Stalking Susan, I was wondering if Julie Kramer could keep up with her initial offering. I was not disappointed; Riley Spartz is a dynamic lead character. Her day job as a TV investigative news reporter at a second position station in Minneapolis, keeps her in constant movement towards her next forty-share story, but somehow she seems to land smack dab into a mystery.

An advertisement “Wedding Dress for Sale: Never Worn” piques her interest and is much reminiscent of Ernest Hemmingway’s shortest short story – “For Sale Baby Shoes Never Worn”.

Not letting on that she is a reporter, Riley seeks out the seller, Madeline Post, and the back-story. What she tumbles into is a missing person’s case. Mark Lefevre failed to appear at his own wedding and no one can locate him.

Julie Kramer weaves three plot lines throughout this book. A neighbor with weekly yard sales, Big Mouth Billy – a large mouth bass that has been stolen from an aquarium at the Mall of America and a missing groom. Each has their own merit, but Mark takes center stage.

Since not all missing people are treated equal, Riley is unable to get her station manager interested in a missing man. Riley must now reaches out on her own. What she finds is actually a very cleaver and genius twist on the author’s part. Prosopagnosia – or face blindness. What allowed Madeline Post to fall in love with Mark in the first place was the fact that this was the first and only man that Madeline could recognize. This was why Madeline would never give up on Mark. This is why Riley cannot give up on this story.

Madeline was not the only one in love with Mark. The story is heartrending but Riley is determined to find the truth and it leads her to a very dark and dangerous conclusion.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Outcast Dead

Title: The Outcast Dead
Author: Elly Griffiths
Publisher: March 11th 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Format: Hardcover, 384 pages
Genre: Mystery
Source: Amazon Vine Program
Series: Ruth Galloway #6

This book felt completely different to me. Compared to the previous, this book was more toned down, not as frantic feeling as the previous. I am not sure if it was because Ruth is becoming more comfortable in her shoes, or her daughter’s near miss in the previous book has put life in a better balance, but Ruth is different in The Outcast Dead.

Blending two storylines, both Forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway and DCI Harry Nelson are dealing with dead children and their caregivers. Ruth has excavated a body of a woman that she believes to be a Victorian era murderess called Mother Hook and Nelson is tracking down the clues in child deaths and abductions.

Since Ruth and Nelson have a child in common, this is hitting a bit too close for both of them. Not only do they have to protect their own, but also they need to find the truth. Ruth, with the help of Frank Barker ”a dishy American”, set out to prove one innocent and DCI Nelson needs to convince his team of the guilt of another.

As the story goes back and forth, you see the doubt and persistence that is needed from both. They care passionately for the truth, but that can only be accomplished with solid proof.

Nelson’s team is another story. He seems to be fighting them the whole way. When an abduction hits too close to home, when pushed beyond his comfort zone, DS Dave Clough must come to the realization that there are things that are not explainable, but instrumental.

The characters within the Ruth Galloway series are complicated. They have back stories that require the reader to start at the beginning of the series and keep their histories straight. Revelations in book one, will pop up later own causing the reader to stop and think.

Elly Griffith does leave a few danglers in there. Two new characters are introduced and where she takes them can only be guessed at. Suddenly the tangled web of King’s Lynn just became a little more interesting.

The Ruth Galloway books need your complete concentration. This is not a series that you can pick up, read a page or two, and put away until next week. You need to dedicate your time and concentration and in the end, you will be rewarded with an exceptional series and a phenomenal set of characters.