Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Dry Bones

Title: Dry Bones
Author: Craig Johnson
Narrator: George Guidall
Published: May 12th 2015 by Viking
Format: Audio, Hardcover, 306 pages
Genre: Mystery
Series: Walt Longmire #11

I love listening to George Guidall narrate the Walt Longmire series. For me, he is Walt; this is no boring narrator with a monotonous delivery, he brings Walt’s passion directly to the reader. His voice portrays the depth of humor and sadness that is Walt’s life. The Walt Longmire books are completely different than the Longmire series so know what you are getting into if you are coming from the show to the books for the first time. The books are more of Walt’s single person experience and with that, you get the inner workings of his mind. Unlike Victoria Moretti, Walt gives everyone the benefit of the doubt and it is the interaction between these two that make this series an absolute gem.

Dry Bones involves both the discovery of a complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton and the death of Danny Lone Elk, whose body is found being nibbled by turtles in a fishing hole. Once the value of the skeleton is announced, the ownership fight ensues and since the bones were found on Danny Lone Elk’s property, more craziness follows.

Add in an additional subplot of Walt’s daughter and granddaughter traveling to Absaroka County when tragedy back in Philadelphia strikes and rips a hole in the middle of the listener’s stomach. There was no way to prepare for that and I actually had to stop listening for a few moments to catch my breath. It also opens up what I hope is a foothold into the next book.

Dry Bones is an excellent addition to the Longmire series. There might be parts that seem redundant from previous books, but that is okay, Walt’s life is about people and places that he loves and from time to time their spirits continue to guide him.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Witches of Cambridge

Title: The Witches of Cambridge
Author: Menna van Praag
Published: February 9th 2016 by Ballantine Books
Format: ebook, Paperback, 320 pages
Genre: Magical Realism
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine for an opportunity to read an advanced copy of thisbook.

I am not a fan of romances so when I say that this book is magical, I do not want you to jump to that conclusion. There is love and loss, but what stands out in this book is hope and healing. Magical realism can be a slippery slope for some authors but Menna van Praag binds a spell around her readers in a way that does not feel overly done or sappy sweet.

Centered on a group that has their own abilities - Amandine, the president of the Cambridge University Society of Literature and Witchcraft has the gift of extraordinary empathy, Noa can always see the truth though she considers this more of curse, Cosima can bake spells into her pastries, Kat can cast regular spells, George has a few secrets of his own and Heloise can still communicate with her recently deceased husband. Together, they have formed a family of sorts that comes together to help each out in a special way. A way that needs love, faith and a little magic to help them all to heal.

I look forward to new releases by Ms. van Praag she has a way of writing that makes me fall into her books and become totally immersed in the story that is being told. As I said, magical realism is not my usual genre of choice, but I love this author. There is something warm and inviting that makes you fall in love with each and every character.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Priority List

Title: The Priority List: A Teacher's Final Quest to Discover Life's Greatest Lessons
Author: David Menasche
Published: January 14th 2014 by Touchstone
Format: Hardcover, 240 pages
Genre: Memoir

Imagine being in the prime of your life. You develop a ringing in your ear that progresses into a constant discomfort that now resonates to your feet. You finally give in and make a doctor’s appointment only to be told that it is glioblastoma. This is not your life plan. A blueprint that only gives you 15 months to live. A preordained strategy that will rob you of your passion for teaching.

David (Da-Veed) Menache did not choose teaching, it chose him the day that he visited a first grade class and read to them. The children were enraptured and when David had the class write their own poems, he was sold when he saw the looks in their eyes. Flash forward to his current day when he has to explain to his advanced English class at a progressive Coral Springs, Florida high school that their beloved teacher was just diagnosed with cancer. There were questions and tears, but what remained was a man and his influence over his students. A man that ate, slept, and breathed education. A man that had to find a new normal and not let his students down.

As his condition deteriorated and he was no longer able to enter a classroom, David decides that he wanted to travel. To see his past students and to see if what he had instilled in his classroom had lasting effects on those that he had dedicated so much to. His whole adult life was teaching what he loved, teaching was what he did, and who he was. It was now time to see their stories. Putting his treatments on pause, he took the greatest leap of all.

The ‘Priority List’ title comes from an assignment that he had given to his student. Placing words in order of their importance, each student used different terms depending on what was going on in their lives at the time. We can each do this simple task. Who we are and what we think will change over time and situation, but still, we each have priorities.

Interspersed with book titles, poems, quotes, and notes from previous students, David Menasche takes us through his journey and his priorities to see the man that he had become through his teaching and opening up to his students during the most difficult years of his life.

One-hundred and one days, thirty-one cities, and seventy-five students later he has succeeded; he had succeeded in his goal of getting his confidence back after cancer had stolen it from him. On his final trip, he was able to stop being the teacher and become the student. He was able to see in person whom they had become. In return, his students were able to see him – foibles and all – and once again, connect with the man that was so instrumental in their lives.

David Menasche died on November 20, 2014, at the age of 41.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Crash & Burn

Title: Crash & Burn
Author: Lisa Gardner
Published: February 3rd 2015 by Dutton
Format: audio; Hardcover, 400 pages
Genre: Suspense
Series: Tessa Leoni #3

What I still do not understand is why they fingerprinted the car and not the person. Maybe I missed it, but this story seems to be wrapped around bad police work.

Nicky Frank will tell you that she has died two times and now after three head injuries the reader is wondering what her full story is. For the first third of the book, it is just a bumbling police procedural mess of “Where is Vero – Vero is here – Don’t your see Vero – Vero wants to fly”, then the story further unravels (if that is even possible) and the ending is predictable. Really, there is no other way to describe it. Two officers are called out to a single car accident with the only occupant calling for Vero. After the investigation, no other person is found. Wacky unreliable Nicky keeps pushing for them to find her. It is not until the final chapters of the book that the full story is told. Unfortunately, it was too late, and too predictable. I had already mentally checked out and only finished because the idea of an unfinished book bothers me.

This is supposed to be a Tessa Leoni novel, but she barely make it on the radar other than to wonder if she is ready to share her life with a dog and to get in on the final action. This book is more of a Wyatt Foster book – Tessa’s boyfriend. Is Lisa Gardner trying to branch out her characters yet again? Honestly, I have no idea why I finished this book.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Zig Zag Girl

Title: Zig Zag Girl
Author: Elly Griffiths
Published: November 6th 2014 by Quercus
Format: Hardcover, 328 pages
Genre: Mystery
Series: DI Stephens & Max Mephisto #1

Loving the Dr. Ruth Galloway Mysteries, I was happy to see that Ms. Griffiths has begun a new series with Detective Inspector Edgar Stevens and Max Mephisto, this time, taking place in Brighton during the 1950’s. I must admit that was my initially drawback. For me, the book felt more like the 1850’s and I had to remind myself of the true period.

Detective Inspector Edgar Stevens is called in when the head and legs of a woman are found in two suitcases. Days later, the torso is sent to Detective Stevens addressed to him using his former military ranking. The image of this woman reminds him of a magic trick that he saw years ago performed by Max Mephisto. Max not only was a well-known illusionist he was also a friend of Edgar’s back when they served together in the war.

They were part of a group called the Magic Men, a group that was based in Scotland during the war and used illusion and subterfuge to gain intelligence. Flash forward to their current time, the two must work together to solve this crime. A crime that is becoming more and more obvious that the true culprit is someone that they know. Someone is using his illusions in a deadly manner to lure and expose their involvement in this secret group. Grudgingly, Max now has no options; he must help Edgar since he knows the murdered girl and also the people that could be involved.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Ghost to the Rescue

Title: Ghost to the Rescue
Author: Carolyn Hart
Published: October 6th 2015 by Berkley
Format: Hardcover, 288 pages
Series: Bailey Ruth Ghost Mysteries #6

Sometimes you just have to wonder about the ridiculousness that author’s get away with. Even I am beginning to wonder why I read the books in the series, but I do. I think it all boils down to hope – I hope that each book will be better.

The premise is good, an emissary from Heaven sent back to earth to help a deserving person who is in some sort of peril. Unfortunately, the emissary from the department of good intentions (really, I could not make that up myself) seems more interested in her current wardrobe then following precepts set out and when you would think that a heavenly emissary would be infused with some sort of special power to right the wrongs, you would be wrong. Bailey Ruth, the aforementioned ambassador, seems to be just as much in the dark as everyone around her.

Deidre Davenport is trying to keep her financial life in order and is crossing her fingers for a teaching position in the English department of a local college. Smarmy Jay Knox, who is in charge of the department and will be making the decision, is found dead and it looks like Deidre is the one with the most reason for wanting him out of the picture. With Deidre’s fingerprints on the champagne bottle, it is up to Bailey Ruth and her curious tactics to clear Deidre and ensnare the real culprit.

With multiple wardrobe changes and too many names bandied about, the story is eventually told. Unfortunately, there is too much rehashing of the story line and too little story progression. The reader is easily bored and finds that they are wandering over to the bookshelf to see what else they could sink their teeth into.