Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry


Title: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Publisher: April 1st 2014 by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Format: Hardcover, 260 pages
Genre: Fiction

Have you ever sat down to write a review only to be afraid that your inadequate words might scare off future readers? That is where I am right now. I am afraid that my words might diminish this book and therefore others might choose to walk away without giving this book the attention that it deserves.

Do not walk away. This book will resonate with you. After the tears have subsided, it will fill you up with the belief that good can come from horrible situations.

For me, this small book was actually a story within a story. It begins with Amelia, a publishing representative, trying to sell a book from her winter catalog entitled “The Late Bloomer”; but by the end of the book, I began to wonder if Amelia and A.J. were actually the characters described within the original manuscript. Well, at least that is how I walked away.

A.J. Fikry is a young widowed bookseller who is very particular as to what he will sell, when Amelia arrives at Island Books, A.J. is completely ill mannered but that seems to be the beginning for both of them.

A.J. usually spends his evenings with microwaved meals and enough alcohol to help him to pass out, but this evening, he decides to take out his copy of Tamerlane, a limited publication written by Poe, that A.J. found and thinks of his retirement fund. After a night of drinking the book is gone, his future is gone, until one evening when he is closing the store he hears a sound, someone has left a beautiful baby girl with a note.

Thus begins the second season of A.J.’s life.

You do not want this book to end. You want all the happily ever after’s for all the characters involved. You want these people, which have been drawn together because of Maya, to stay the way they are into their doddering old age because that is what each of them needs. Unfortunately, that is not the way it is supposed to be. There has to be a crack somewhere. A truth needs to be told and a story must come to an end.

A spectacular one at that.

This book is a shelf keeper. One of those books that each time you read it; you will come away with something different.

Each character is well placed with no extras. They each have a story to tell. There is no extra fluff. No need to round out and fill pages. This book hits you in the heart and that is where the characters will stay.

This would be an excellent book for a group discussion. There is depth and layers that could be discussed. Justifications behind decisions made and characters further explored could keep you talking well into the night, if not into the next week.

Monday, April 28, 2014

NYPD Red

Title: NYPD Red
Author: James Patterson and Marshall Karp
Publisher: October 8th 2012 by Little, Brown and Company
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Genre: Suspense
Series: NYPD Red #1

Following his usual formula of beautiful women and the average men that are struggling to keep up with them, James Patterson with Marshall Karp, introduce the New York police duo of Zach Jordan and Kylie MacDonald.

As you read, the name dropping becomes ridiculous and after a while I was beginning to wonder if this was a novel or just an elaborate advertisement for the next Patterson show to hit the small screen.

NYPD Red is a task force set up for the sole purpose of protecting the rich and famous of New York. Zach Jordan and his new partner Kylie MacDonald have no idea how convoluted their lives are going to become when a movie producer is poisoned and hours later a seemingly innocent movie scene is filmed with deadly results.

It is up to two detectives and an entire task force to decide if they are related. That is until a third attack is filmed live and now everyone who is involved in the film festival billed as Hollywood on the Hudson begins to wonder if they could be next.

Behind the killings is a man who calls himself the Chameleon. He is making it his job to exact revenge, but it all has to go by his preplanned script. No rewrites, it must be as he has writ.

Unfortunately, the smart and beautiful woman at the center of this story has other plans for the Chameleon and how the final scene plays out is not what the final script had called for.

There is nothing in-depth written here. You do not need to pay close attention or even try to gulp it down in one sitting. Simply put, this is a television show, which you have seen before, on paper.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Pigeon Needs a Bath!

Title: Pigeon Needs a Bath!
Author and Illustrator: Mo Willems
Publisher: April 1st 2014 by Disney-Hyperion
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 40
Genre: Children's
Ages: Age Range: 3 - 5 years Grade Level: Preschool - Kindergarten

Pigeon will give you every argument in the world as to why he does not need a bath - that is until the flies buzzing around him begin to complain.

Fine he says he will take a bath, even if it is impolite in some places to do so.

Too hot, too cold, whining and complaining the whole way until ten hours later and pigeon has had a revelation about bathing.

A fun simple book that will have you and your young ones laughing and making up your own reasons as to why bathing can be fun.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Slice of Heaven

Title: A Slice of Heaven
Author: Sherryl Woods
Publisher: March 1st 2007 by Mira Books
Format: Paperback, 395 pages
Genre: Romance
Series: The Sweet Magnolias #2

From the first paragraph you know how this is going to end, there are no true surprises and with the slow southern charm, readers will be able to unwind into the town and people of Serenity.

Dana Sue, the central character, owns a small restaurant that seems to be the center of her world since her husband Ronnie left. Actually, he did not leave on his own accord, when Dana Sue found out that he had an affair she packed up his belongings and tossed them all to the curb.

Ronnie realized that he made a mistake with a fling that meant nothing to him. He has been in love with Dana Sue since high school and now being out of his daughter’s life is killing him by bits and pieces each day.

Dana Sue has been clashing with her daughter over her eating habits, Annie is looking much too thin but she always has an excuse. That all comes to a horrible head on the night of Annie’s sleepover when she collapses and is rushed to the hospital. In a desperate call, Dana Sue wants Ronnie there for their daughter and he drops everything just to be with the two women that he loves most.

The weight that Dana Sue has been gaining seems to be in direct proportion to the weight that Annie is losing. Anorexia is a horrible, mental as well as physical, disease and mother and daughter need help, both professional and from friends, to see their way through.

The way Sherryl Woods handles anorexia in her book is overly simplified. Granted this is a romance novel with the main need being a happily ever after ending, so the reader has to be patient with how that is handled.

If you are looking for a light romance with some quirky characters that are both funny and deeply caring, take a spin through Serenity and meet the women that make up the Sweet Magnolias.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Grilling Season

Title: The Grilling Season
Author: Diane Mott Davidson
Publisher: September 2nd 1997 by Bantam
Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Genre: Mystery
Series: Goldy Bear Culinary Mystery #7

It has been a long time since I have read a Diane Mott Davidson book. I know, it is a love hate relationship with some readers, but there is something about Goldy that I like. Her capers might be on the silly side and her son reads more immature than his age, but that is what happens when your characters live is a small community in Colorado where everyone knows each other and Goldy shares the same abusive ex-husband with the lady down the street.

Goldy has been hired to cater the Babsie (think along the lines of a Mattel fashion icon with a very similar name) Doll Collectors convention, but that takes a backseat when the girlfriend of her ex-husband is found murdered with similar markings to those that brought Goldy to the emergency room on numerous occasions.

Everyone knows that Dr. John Richard Korman is volatile and abusive, so the imagination is not stretched too far when he is arrested for the murder.

Goldy’s adolescent son Arch begs for his mother to help prove his father’s innocence, which puts Goldy in a predicament. She fears this man, but would do anything she can for her son. What she finds out is that John Richard’s world is crumbling and Suz Craig, the now deceased girlfriend, was at the center of it.

Unfortunately, Dr. John Richard Korman is not the only one that is having issues with this manipulative, back-stabbing woman and as Goldy digs, more suspects are coming to light until the final moments on a glass slick floor in the middle of a doll convention.

I did not like the whiney tone of Arch or the ridiculous, seemingly pulled out of nowhere, reasoning behind the murder; but in a long series, there is a lot of give and take and sometimes one book will appeal to you more than others. That being said, I will continue and hope that Arch will grow up and Goldy will one day be able to leave her ex-husband in the past.

Friday, April 18, 2014

How To Babysit a Grandma

Title: How to Babysit a Grandma
Author: Jean Reagan
Illustrator: Lee Wildish
Publisher: March 25th 2014 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 32
Genre: Children's
Ages: Age Level: 5 - 8 | Grade Level: K - 3

A companion book to How to Babysit a Grandpa.

I do not know about Grandma, but I was exhausted just reading this book.

This was a fun narative. There is nothing like turning the table when your young one is to spend the night at grandma’s. There can be anxiety, but when you explain that she is a big girl and she is the one that needs to babysit grandma - things might go easier than you thought.

Told through a child’s eyes, taking care of Grandma is a lot of work, but with careful planning, they can have a marvelous time and Grandma will not be scared or lonely at all.

Beautiful illustrations, a positive happy story that will be your go to on your next Grandma sleepover.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Outwitted

Title: Outwitted
Author: Beth Solheim
Publisher: March 1st 2011 by Echelon Press Publishing
Format: Paperback, 273 pages
Genre: Mystery
Series: Sadie Witt Mystery #2

It is so disappointing when an entertaining series ends after two books. I enjoy Sadie and Pinecone Landing. I even enjoy her sister Jane and her stodgy ways. But alas, it appears that there will be no more.

Witt’s Landing, a small resort in Northern Minnesota, is the place where soles wait their time to enter a parallel world. Apparently, not all souls pass right away, a few are earth bound until they finish up their business here. When they remain, they appear to Sadie Witt, a death coach, and spend their time in Cabin 14 until they can solve their dilemma and find another soul that is on the verge of departing.

Since Mr. Bakke’s death in book #1, Sadie is now the funeral director’s assistant and if you know Sadie and her penchant for interesting outfits and hairstyles, this is not the best fit, but what are the options. Nan needs help and if you have a funeral home on the grounds of a vacation resort, you cannot be too picky.

See how interesting this book can be?

When the manager of the resort is tricked into renting Cabin 12 to the funeral director’s ex-husband and skeletal remains are discovered underneath, Sadie and her gang – including a man that is a priest but doesn’t want anyone to know, a local man that had died during a simple operation, a young death coach in training and a darling little girl that is lost and desperately wants to see her father before it is her time to leave; set out to discover the identity of the dearly departed all the while an infant is abducted from the local hospital and a local politician is up to his eyeballs in crime.

There is never a dull moment when you are a death coach, a funeral assistant and the best friend to a sister that you could not be any more different than, but Sadie loves passionately and there is nothing that she will not do for those that she calls family.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Moving Target

Title: Moving Target
Author: JA Jance
Publisher: February 18th 2014 by Touchstone
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 352
Genre: Suspense
Series: Ali Reynolds #9

It is surprising how a book can start on an airplane heading to Europe and end in a junkyard in Texas with a gun battle involving a drug cartel. Such is Moving Target by JA Jance.

Ali Reynolds has volunteered to travel with Leland Brooks to England to help him reunite with his estranged family. There had been questions as to the death of Leland’s father many decades before and hopefully, there can finally be answers and Leland can put that part of his life to rest.

At the same time, B. Simpson, Ali’s fiancĂ©, is following the story of Lance Tucker, a boy that is gifted in computers and who is the recent victim of a vicious attack in a juvenile detention center. It was B’s testimony that put Lance in the facility, and with this attack, he feels responsible and is determined to get to the bottom of who is responsible and why this took place.

With Lance moved to a hospital, one of my favorite characters is reintroduced. Sister Anselm is appointed as Lance’s patient advocate. So, when a tech company starts nosing around to acquire a program called GHOST that Lance and his high school computer science teacher developed, Sister Anselm and B are right there to help Lance and his family. A tech company is not the only one that wants this program and there are no limits as to what others will do to get this application. If it were not for the insight and skill of a nun and a tech nerd, a 17-year-old and his family would be yet another causality.

This story does bounces around quite a bit. It was good to get more insight into Leland’s background, but at the same time, I think it took too much away from the main drama that was unfolding. JA Jance can build a good storyline, unfortunately, she wrote two books that she tried to combine into one and it took too much away from both.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Ed and Kip


Title: Ed and Kip
Author and Illustrator: Kay Chorao
Publisher: January 14th 2014 by Holiday House
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 32
Genre: Children's
Ages: Beginning Readers

A beginning reader with muted illustrations that will not distract your booklover.

With the help of monkey, Ed and Kip, young elephants, are playing with a rock. When they disturb a bug, they soon learn that though he may be small he will become quite useful when they encounter a scary crocodile.

Told in easy to read one and two short sentences per page, your first time reader will enjoy the story and soon learn that size does not matter, friendship does.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Panic


Title: Panic
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: March 4th 2014 by HarperCollins
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 408
Genre: Young Adult


This book did not hit me as emotionally as it did others who have read it. It was very much a take it or leave it type of book. So much so, that I put it down a couple of times and picked up others.

Like many young adult books, this too takes place in a small middle of nowhere town with where the kids have nothing to do and tend to create their own excitement.

The game is called Panic, comparable to a game of chicken but on a larger scale, and all seniors are encouraged to play the summer after graduation. Throughout the school year, students are forced to contribute to a growing pot of money and when all is said and done, the last surviving senior will walk way with a grand total of $67,000 dollars. This is an astronomical sum for a town where people are barely working and very few get out.

Each senior has the ultimate choice of whether to play or not and those that have the most determination are also the ones that seem to have their own ulterior motives. Panic is made up of both extremely dangerous mental and physical challenges. The police in town know of the game, but until one of the challenges goes terribly wrong, they seem to be a step behind.

Heather, the lead female character, is reminiscent of Katniss of Hunger Games. The only difference is her reason for playing. She wants the money to enable her to take her sister and leave their alcoholic mother. Dodge is there to correct a wrong that happened to his sister in a prior Panic game. Natalie is playing both ends and there is a second guy that I cannot remember his name, which I kept confusing with Dodge, and I cannot remember his back story.

I did not feel the fast pace that everyone else did until the end. That is where the book felt like a race to the finish. The sabotage, the lies, the choices – all came together in one final life or death challenge.

This stand-alone book will appeal to many, but for me, the clichés were redundant and not much stands out as different from any other book in this genre.

Monday, April 7, 2014

How to Hug a Porcupine

Title: How to Hug a Porcupine: Easy Ways to Love the Difficult People in Your Life
Author: Debbie Ellis (Contributor), June Eding (Editor)
Publisher: March 10th 2009 by Hatherleigh Press
Format: Hardcover, 160 pages
Genre: Self-Help

I work with a prickle of porcupines. I know, calling a group of porcupines a prickle is funny, but truly, that is what they are called to.

Some mornings maneuvering around this group is treacherous at best, so when I came across this book I thought it was a gift from above.

In easy to follow little snippets, the book spells out the background and ways to deal with the difficult and toxic people in your life. By no means is this a book that should be read in one sitting. The reader has to take each section, read it, digest it, possibly read it again and see how to apply it to the person or situation that they are currently dealing with.

I am a “confront the situation head-on” type of person, so the idea of sitting back and letting a porcupine run the show was way out of my comfort zone, but on a lovely spring morning I turned my office into a science lab. Little did my little porcupines know that they were now my guinea pigs.

When quills started fluffing up, I stepped back, let the porcupines bristle a bit, did not confront, did not interfere and just let them stomp and grumble – and you know what? It really threw them off; it took the wind out of their sails. Who knew that there was a way to do this without my feeling that I had to give up who I am solely to keep peace in the office.

I actually learned a great deal from this book. It may have gone against my grain, but learning how to deal with the difficult people in your life is so much easier when you see what is causing it and how to work around their stubborn need for control without losing too much of your own independence.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Hi, Koo!

Title: Hi, Koo!
Author and Illustrator: Jon J. Muth
Publisher: February 25th 2014 by Scholastic Press
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 32
Genre: Children's
Ages: 4 - 8 years; Grade Level: Preschool - 3

Hi, Koo! is actually written in Haiku which I am sure will be way over your young reader’s understanding, but for the adult, it is a fun way to reintroduce this form of poetry.

Haiku traditionally is made up of seventeen sounds, but English syllables and Japanese “on” are not the same. Since traditions change, sounds are not strictly adhered to and this book takes on the more non-traditional English version of the five-seven-five syllable pattern.

In this book, Koo, an adorable panda, takes the reader through the seasons adding delight with each page and each new adventure.

Unlike traditional children’s books, there is not the comfortable rhythm that most books of the genre use. It will come across as choppy and you might lose your child’s attention, and if that is so, just use the beautiful illustrations and let your child tell you the story.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

I Forgot to Remember

Title: I Forgot to Remember
Author: Sue Meck
Publisher: February 4th 2014 by Simon & Schuster
Format: ARC, 288 pages
Genre: Memoir
Source: Amazon Vine

This book hit me as odd from the very beginning. How could a woman who has sever amnesia write a memoir in the first person begin prior to the head injury that caused the amnesia?

It appears that she is recapping a puzzle assembled by others and taking it as fact.

I cannot say that it is not true since memoirs are an amalgamation of stories that emphasize the good and minimize the bad – unless you are going for dramatic effect. But for me, I could not become engaged with either the book or Su Meck herself.

Being considered clumsy her whole life, Su Meck just happens to be standing under a ceiling fan in the kitchen when it comes crashing down on her and miraculously misses her infant son. The book tells of her recovery bouncing back and forth between the before and after.

Unfortunately, this book has not stuck with me. There is very little that is memorable and each chapter titled with lyrics was just peculiar.