Friday, December 26, 2014

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Everything I NeverTold You by Celeste Ng

We know Lydia is dead from the first page, but we witness her family discover she is missing, learn she is dead and then deal (or not deal) with their grief.  Lydia, the middle child of the Lee family, was the favorite child.  Each family member has a different picture of Lydia, each thinks they know her, but we learn that no one really knew her.

We meet the family in the seventies as the two eldest children are in high school.  The Lee’s are a multi-racial couple (he is first generation Chinese-American, she is Caucasian).  Today no one would bat an eye, but then in rural Ohio the Lee children are the only non-Caucasians in their school.  Lydia is under pressure from both parents to succeed where they believed they failed in their lives but she feels she needs to hide what she thinks her parents will see as faults. 

I was expecting a thriller, but this was more a study of a family in crisis.  Lydia is a complex character, living her life for others more than herself.  The end hits hard because the reader learns everything Lydia hasn’t told anyone else because she never got the chance.

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Jenna is thirteen and on a quest to find her mother who disappeared ten years ago after a tragic night at the Elephant Sanctuary run by her parents in New Hampshire.  The story is told by four people: Jenna; Virgil – a police detective now private investigator; Serenity – a psychic who no longer has contact with spirits; and Alice – Jenna’s mother and scientist studying grief in elephants who tells her story and what led up to the night she disappeared. 

I really enjoyed the readers of the audiobook, I liked that all four narrators were read by different people.  Alice’s parts, all the background information on elephants, did drag a bit, but overall it was enjoyable.  That said, if I were reading it I think I would have given up about pretty soon after starting.

The book, naturally, has the twist ending as all Picoult’s books do.  This one isn’t as shocking as some others, but some readers will be really annoyed by the ending.  Not her best, but not her worst either.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on theTrain by Paula Hawkins

This is the book that I’ve hearing buzz about since the spring for all those fans of psychological thrillers like Gone Girl.  Yep, that’s exactly who would love this book. 

Rachel Watson takes the train to work every day and watches the houses go by through the window.  The train typically stops at the same spot every day and Rachel arranges her seating so she can look at this one house and see the couple who live there.  One day, she sees something unusual out the window.  The next day she discovers that the woman has gone missing.  Rachel desperately wants to help but events from her life make her hesitant to speak out.

If you are a fan of unreliable narrators then this is the book for you.  You can’t believe anything anyone tells you (and there are three narrators) because they all have their own perceptions of reality.  You do learn early on that Rachel has a problem with alcohol (a huge problem actually) but that is just the start.  She is a complex character that I found myself disliking intensely then warming up to as the book went on and I learned more about her past and present.

Place your holds now since this book isn’t being released until January 13th.

Helsinki Noir edited by James Thompson

Helsinki Noir edited by James Thompson

Finland is a weird place.  I love Iceland and all things Icelandic because of their “otherness” but Finland may even be a bit stranger.  Since this anthology was put together by an American who moved to Finland and has lived there for a long time he understands the uniqueness of the country and the things to emphasize that Americans would find odd.

Most of the stories in this collection are strong.  I especially enjoyed “Kiss of Santa” a story about an undercover security person working as a Santa in a department store to discover who is robbing from them.  “Stolen Lives” was simply hard to read because it was dark and heartbreaking at the same time.  The other entries are all quite good, even the confusing financial trading one that I was surprised I enjoyed, but there are a few where you can predict the ending but I think that would happen in almost any anthology to anyone who reads a lot of mysteries.

Of course this is a noir collection and Finland is painted as a shady, dark place because of the genre.  Doesn’t mean I don’t really want to go there anyway.

Compulsion by Martina Boone

Compulsion by Martina Boone *YA
Reviewed by Cassandra, Teen Librarian at Mary Jacobs

Compulsion is a compelling, emotional debut YA novel set in a Southern Gothic atmosphere and revolves around a young girl whose mother passes away and she is sent to live with her only surviving relative, her mother's sister Lulu in South Carolina. Barrie knows that her mother ran away years ago from her family home but does not know the reason why.

Barrie moves to South Carolina with little information about her history and her family so she immediately begins to investigate and learn about her family. She has heard the stories about Watson's Landing that say it is cursed but doesn't know the details surrounding the myth.

I could not put the book down. Each chapter had a new, unexpected surprise. The characters are so wonderfully written and just grab you and take hold. Compulsion took me on an intense and emotional roller coaster ride. The southern charm and atmosphere of the book was the perfect setting to go along with the mysteries surrounding Watson's Landing. Fair warning: it is book 1 in a series.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride by Cary Elwes

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes

Apparently very few people saw The Princess Bride when it was first released on the big screen back in the 80s.  Neither the producers, the director nor the actors knew that their wonderful movie would become a classic in the videocassette age and become a favorite of mobsters, popes and presidents.  I was one of those few that did see it on the big screen when it was first released.  My friends and I all dressed as characters from the movie that Halloween.  I can joyously recite all the famous lines along with the movie and have no idea how many times I have seen it, but you don’t have to be a fan like me to thoroughly enjoy the book.

This is the story behind the movie.  You go behind the scenes with Cary Elwes as he relates funny off-screen (and on-screen) antics and stories.  Many of the reminiscences include Andre the Giant who was the loveliest man as described by all the cast and crew.  Most amazing are the fond memories from all the cast members, not just Elwes, who are honored to repeat their famous lines over and over again to this day for fans. 

To make this wonderful book even more wonderful (can you tell yet that I’m a fan of everything about this film?) the audiobook is read by Cary Elwes with guest narration by many of the cast.  Need a fun listen that will produce a few belly laughs?  As you wish.

A New Darkness by Joseph Delaney

A New Darkness by Joseph Delaney *JYA
Reviewed by Cassandra, Teen Librarian at Mary Jacobs

Thomas Ward from the Last Apprentice series is back for a new adventure in A New Darkness. Battling creatures of the dark is the job of the local spook. However with Master Gregory gone the job has gone to Tom Ward who never finished his apprenticeship. With a new monster terrorizing the county it will not be an easy task for Tom. Especially since the only person who seems to know anything about the monster is Jenny, the 7th daughter of a 7th daughter who will only share what she knows if Tom takes her on as his apprentice.

This new, exciting arc of the Last Apprentice series hooks in where the series ended. It is fast paced, full of adventure, horror and mystery as a new type of monster threatens the villages of the county.

The Good Sister by Jamie Kain

The Good Sister by Jamie Kain *YA
Reviewed by Cassandra, Teen Librarian at Mary Jacobs

The Fault in Her Stars meets The Lovely Bones, only Sarah’s leukemia is in remission and she knows who is responsible for her death. The Good Sister is a fast-paced young adult novel.

Sarah, the oldest of the Kinsey sisters, draws us into her purgatory world in the opening chapter. We understand from the start, there is more to her death than meets the eye. Did Sarah fall to her death on the rocky coast, or did someone push her? Only one other person knows what happened to Sarah on the trail high above the Pacific Ocean, and she’s not talking.

Rachel, the middle sister, and Asha, the baby, take turns with Sarah, telling the story of their lives, sharing their feelings for one another and their experiences growing up with hippie parents in a carefree lifestyle. Pieces of the puzzle come together and we learn of the shocking events that led to Sarah’s death.

I didn't love the story but I can see the attraction. Just a fair warning this is a young adult book with all the trappings of a young adult book: alcohol and intense relationships. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

That Night by Chevy Stevens

That Night by Chevy Stevens

Fifteen years ago Toni’s younger sister was murdered.  Toni and her boyfriend Ryan were accused and convicted of the crime.  Now Toni and Ryan have been released from prison and are trying to form new lives for themselves.  They are not supposed to have contact, but years later feelings between the two are still strong, and they unite to uncover who really killed Toni’s sister.  It seems that there are members of the small Vancouver Island community that don’t want the real killer named, or refuse to believe that the convicted could actually be innocent.

This was one of those very rare occasions where my mother and I were reading the same book at the same time.  I will admit she named the murder before the end of the book.  I did not: point to mom!

It was a good murder mystery, but I liked the whole sociological aspect of the plot.  An innocent woman goes to prison as a young adult and comes out fifteen years later.  What must that be like?  Forget the whole incarcerated while innocent thing, how did prison change her?  And what did she have to do to survive?  And how do you find a normal life after being out of society for so long?  The changes Toni underwent, and the way she suffers even after paying her debt to society were what made this book so interesting to me.

Mermaids in Paradise by Lydia Millet

Mermaids in Paradise by Lydia Millet

Deb and Chip are honeymooning in the British Virgin Islands when they discover mermaids on a snorkeling trip.  What follows is a scarily realistic depiction of what may actually happen if mermaids were found to be real: denial, hate groups, exploitation by tourism, etc.  Then things get really weird.

This is a good choice on audio because the narrator captures Deb.  She is a narcissistic, shallow woman, or so we are led to believe, but there is more to her.  For the first disc or two you will be listening to her wedding and honeymoon preparations and you will doubt her depth as a character and her likability.  It was amusing listening to her ponder her life and honeymoon choices so I continued to listen.  Then, early in their honeymoon, Chip and Deb find the mermaids and she becomes more dimensional, but still a little odd.  In fact, everyone is odd, but when all gets really weird, it all makes sudden sense.  Definitely one of the more left field endings I’ve ever read.  But for all that it still fit. 

How would the world react to mermaids?  I’m sure leaving them in peace would never be in the cards.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Forgers by Bradford Morrow

The Forgers by Bradford Morrow

A man is found dead, hands severed (and never found), in his home surrounded by priceless first editions and precious signed novels, most terribly damaged.  His sister Meghan is devastated and wants to know who could have possibly wanted to harm her brother Adam.  Meghan’s boyfriend, Will, is a convicted forger and when visiting Adam’s Montauk bungalow he recognizes many tools of the trade.  Yet Will refuses to begin doctoring books with forged signatures again, no matter how much money he could be making.  Until he starts to receive threatening letters, letters cleverly written in the hand of dead authors; this forger may be as good as Will once was.  What does this person possibly want with Will?

I listened to this book, but I was very fortunate to also have the print copy checked out at the same time.  There was a point early in the book where I swore I missed something, but I didn’t.  I was just confused.  And my confusion continued.  I can’t say why, it would ruin the book, but my puzzlement carried throughout.  Which wasn’t a good thing because when the big reveal happened I felt like somehow I already knew it, hence my confusion.  I’m sure after reading this paragraph you are perplexed – my apologies.  In summation, save your confusion for a twisty thriller that confuses on purpose with a big shocking reveal. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Maplecroft: The Borden Dispatches by Cherie Priest

Maplecroft: The Borden Dispatches by Cherie Priest

Lizbeth Borden, made famous because of the double homicide by axe she was acquitted of at trial, has moved to the outskirts of Fall River, Massachusetts with her sister Emma.  Their house by the sea, Maplecroft, is ideal for their current activities: saving the people of Fall River from the creatures that sometimes come up from the sea as well as the ailments that occasionally affect the hapless residents.

Each chapter in the book is voiced by another character including Lizzie, her girlfriend Nance, the local doctor, Emma and other characters like a Professor from Miskatonic University.  For those in the know that reference to Miskatonic U. made you smile because it’s the fictional creation of H.P. Lovecraft many of his Cthulhu stories reference in one way or another.  So Lizzie and her axe are saving us all from the tentacled denizens of the deep.  It’s a neat concept and I did enjoy the mashup.  It was also really interesting to have an apocalyptic type of feel to a story that takes place in the late 1800s.  While technology is still in its infancy it is the heyday of amateur scientists and naturalists and hearing how they test and observe new life forms is disconcerting knowing how things would be done now, but interesting nonetheless.

The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit by Graham Joyce

The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit by Graham Joyce

It’s the 1970s and David takes a summer job at a resort in a decaying seaside town on the coast of England.  He chooses the location because the resort’s name is on the back of a faded photo of his father, a man who died when David was only three.  At the resort David is a green coat, one of the members of the entertainment group which organizes and runs activities for children and seniors.  He makes friends, some who seem more scary than friendly, and tries to find his place in this medley of characters.  Underlying it all are the apparitions of a well-dressed father and son that only he can see.  What tie do these figures have to his past?

As much as I dislike the term, this truly is a coming of age story.  David is a young college student who learns about love, loss and politics while working at the resort.  The time period and setting bring to life a very politically charged time in England that mirrors some of the issues we were battling in America.  It is a quick read, and a good listen, I jumped between both, that will bring a bit of summer sun to your winter nights.