Friday, December 2, 2016

The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis

The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis

It’s 1952 and Darby has just arrived in New York City at the Barbizon Hotel, a hotel for women particularly those studying at Katherine Gibbs to be secretaries like Darby or for models working for the Ford Agency.  Darby feels lost stuck on a floor with glamorous models, and she really isn’t enjoying her classes very much.  She becomes friends with a maid at the hotel, Esme, who is outgoing and outspoken and takes Darby under her wing.  Esme introduces Darby to the jazz scene and a world Darby never knew existed.  Years later, in the present day, Rose is living in a newly renovated condo same building as the Barbizon Hotel.  Rose is a journalist and learns that back in the 1950s a maid fell to her death from the roof of the hotel and that some of the ladies who lived in the hotel then have never left and live in rent controlled apartments on the fourth floor.  So begins the story of the past and present in a building that touches the lives of two very interesting women.

This book really makes the lives of these singles ladies from small towns trying to exist and thrive in the big city in the 50s come to life.  The author is really good at breathing life into these characters and making the reader like them in spite of their flaws.  Good people will make some bad and interesting decisions when life throws horrible things their way.  I also liked the way she make the ladies spark as their younger AND older selves instead of making the older versions of these ladies quiet and cozy.  

For fans of historical fiction as well as books in New York City and mysteries too.

The Spinster’s Guide to Scandalous Behavior by Jennifer McQuiston

The Spinster’s Guide to Scandalous Behavior by Jennifer McQuiston

Lucy is not looking forward to her debut one bit.  Society and all that goes with it do not interest her at all.  So when her aunt whom she only met once leaves her a cottage in Cornwall (and her diaries on how to be a great spinster) Lucy knows she has to check out the property quick before her father sells her inheritance to a greedy marquess.  A handsome marquess who is not at all what she expected, which is only fair because Lucy, a lady wearing pants for their first meeting, is not what he was expecting either. 

Winner of the Historical Love and Laughter award from Romantic Times this year I didn’t love this one as much as the last one RT recommended which I read. I’m not a big fan of the ‘being alone is oh so lonely so having a man in your life makes things oh so much better’ ending so that may have colored my feelings but it’s a romance so that’s what I expected.  Also I wanted to smack a couple of people upside the head a few times because how could you not know that this person standing next to you was your perfect match?!  Argh!  The book did keep my interest and I kept turning the pages so all in all it was a fun historical romance.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Only Daughter by Anna Snoekstra

Only Daughter by Anna Snoekstra

Thinking her life is awful a twenty-something flees her family but having nowhere to go she decides to impersonate a girl who has been missing for a decade that friends commented years ago could have been her twin. Now she is Rebecca, Bec, and after convincing the police she will have to convince Bec’s family that she’s their missing daughter.  Will they believe her?  Will she be able to keep her DNA out of the hands of the authorities?  Will she share Bec’s fate?

This is a pretty creepy book.  Told in present day chapters with our unnamed imposter alternating with chapters of Bec’s life until the day she disappears the author is great at red herrings making you suspect just about everyone in Bec’s life.  It is a little difficult to empathize with the imposter, not knowing until almost the end of the book what she’s running from, just knowing that she’s giving this family hope -- but then also wondering how they can’t possibly know this isn’t their daughter…

All comes together at the end and not in the way you suspect.  There are some really difficult minutes towards the end (I listened, and the reader was great, her Australian accent was a constant reminder of the setting, but you can’t skim like with a book) but there is a good twist at the end.  Did it end a little too perfectly?  Yes, but I’m really glad it did.  (When you read the last few pages you’ll understand exactly what I mean.)

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate: Discoveries From a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben

The next time you hear a breeze rustling through the leaves and think you hear whisperings you just may be hearing the trees talking about you with each other! Okay, I exaggerate, but just a little.  Trees in old growth forests do communicate with each other.  They can also taste, hear and see -- just not like we do at all.  And they form relationships, keeping nearby fallen relatives alive for hundreds of years by feeding it nutrients when the stump no longer has leaves and can’t create its own food by way of photosynthesis.

Wohlleben is a forester in Germany (this book has been translated into many languages) and during his time on the job he began to realize that not only were the trees interacting with each other and the other life forms of the forest, but that a lot of what he was told as a forester simply wasn’t right.  Old growth forest is VERY different from new growth forest; our cultivation techniques are basically making the trees mute and forcing them to be loners.

I learned so much reading this book and the writing style was great.  Short chapters allow you to read a bit, put the book down for a while, and then resume reading with nothing lost in between.  If you enjoy walking in the woods be sure to read this one this winter, but not in front of a wood burning stove or fireplace because you’ll just end up feeling guilty.   

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Jersey Devil by Hunter Shea

The Jersey Devil by Hunter Shea

When I saw that the author of The Montauk Monster was coming out with a new book I was really happy, when I saw the title I knew I had to read it! 

A television personality and cryptozoologist teams up with a family of Upstate New York farmers to investigate the recent Jersey Devil sightings in the Pine Barrens.  Why are these farmers so interested in the Jersey Devil?  Will the cryptozoologist finally get proof that strange creatures exist in our world?  Will New Jersey survive?

Yep, this is a gore fest, that goes over the top, but it’s a monster/horror story so you have to expect that.  As a female some parts were extremely cringe-worthy, but if you know anything about the legend you kind of know where it was going.  I will give one spoiler here: the book should have been called The Jersey Devils…

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Schneider vs. Bax (Foreign Film - Dutch)

Schneider vs. Bax (Foreign Film - Dutch)

I currently have four books started and I’m anxious to finish them all, so of course I sat down and watched a movie a couple of evenings ago instead.  (In my defense there are holds on the film and I wanted to make sure the next person got it on time!)

Schneider just wants to be home with his wife and kids and help them with the preparations for a dinner party because it is his birthday.  But duty calls.  The client wants an author, who happens to be a child killer, brought to swift justice. His family thinks he works on boats but Schneider is a contract killer.  He figures that this will be an easy job, but this is one writer that is going to be very hard to kill.

Almost all foreign thrillers I’ve seen manage to mix dark humor, off the wall characters, and really odd plot twists.  This one really goes overboard on all three and makes for an entertaining, dark story.  Will Bax finally die allowing Schneider to enjoy his birthday cake?  Or was this birthday morning Schneider’s last?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman

Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman

The next time someone calls you a birdbrain just smile and say thank you for they are truly giving you a compliment! Can you find 30,000 seeds a year after burying them?  Can you find your way from Mexico to the Arctic without a map or GPS?  Can you sing the same song in the EXACT same way millions of times over?  I didn’t think so.  Birds can.  It’s amazing the things that these little bundles of feathers are capable of doing.  

The author, and the scientists she interviews, try very hard not to anthropomorphize their subjects yet they illustrate the feats birds perform in ways so we can feel our human inadequacy.  Simply, birds are darn good at what they do.  Personally I’m a fan of the less loved birds and I was very happy to see one of them get a lot of ink for their smarts.  That would be the corvids, the family including crows and ravens.  I always knew I liked them for a reason!

The one sobering part of the book was the end when  the author discussed climate change and loss of habitat and how it will affect the diversity of birds in the future.  Many may not survive the coming decades which will greatly change our world and our woods.  That fleeting pop of color winging by and the melodic song caught on a breeze may not be heard by future generations.  Birds are trying to adapt, but sadly not all of them have the minds to adapt as quickly as they may have to to survive.

I listened to this book and while I enjoyed it I did have one problem with the way the book was read. To my ear the reader paused over long before many names and I found it jarring.  Granted, that could just be me, and it didn’t stop me from listening to and liking the entire book.