Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Wild Tales (Foreign Film / Argentinean)

Wild Tales (Foreign Film / Argentinean)

The title is perfect.  This is a film that collects six wild tales.  The tales have nothing in common except their exploration of vengeance and the violence it produces.  All six tales were entertaining but two were standouts.  Even if you are not a foreign film fan I do suggest watching the first tale.  It’s short, only about ten minutes, and it’s amazing.  I watched about half wondering what was going on and then my mouth hung open in shock for the duration.  Like any well-crafted short story by O. Henry I can’t tell you what it is about because I’ll ruin it for you. The third tale was tied in my mind for first place in the anthology.  It is all about the dangers of road rage.  Again, that is all I will say. 

This is a black comedy, if there was a shade darker than black I would use it.  These tales show the dark places vengeance sends humans.  It is by turns violent and disturbing, but so often it was so over the top I found myself laughing and then scolding myself for finding it funny.  Typically I don’t really agree with Academy Award Nominations, but this film deserved a nomination, maybe even a win.

Lucifer’s Tears by James Thompson

Lucifer’s Tears by James Thompson

Inspector Kari Vaara is back and instead of being the chief of police in a small town above the Arctic Circle he is now a detective with homicide in Helsinki.  Kate, Kari’s wife, is thrilled to be in bustling Helsinki but Kari never missed the city.  However he would do anything to make his pregnant wife happy.  Kari is assigned a partner, an outcast like himself, but a unique individual unlike Kari in many ways.  The duo pick up a murder in their first few days of the job and what looks clear cut is anything but simple.  Kari must decide what resolution he and his conscious can live with as he solves the murder, investigates a national hero for war crimes and deals with a prolonged visit from his brother and sister-in-law.

Thompson manages to keep all the storylines interesting and ties them up well.  How the murder investigation is resolved is great because it’s unlike anything I’ve read before.  The best part of the book for me was learning the ways Finnish culture, law, everything, is different than here.  Get accused of a crime in Finland and your arresting officer doesn’t like you?  Doesn’t matter if you aren’t guilty, they can keep you for days just because they want you there.  Having a baby?  All new mothers receive a care package from the government with enough clothes for your child for a year plus diapers and other necessary baby items.  The glimpses of recent Finnish history, especially concerning activities during WWII, were very interesting as well.    

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Saint Mazie by Jami Attenberg

Saint Mazie by Jami Attenberg

Mazie Phillips moves in with her sister and her husband in New York City at the dawn of the Jazz Age.  She loves to have a good time but her brother-in-law thinks she needs to help out the family.  So he installs her as the ticket taker at The Venice, a movie house he owns downtown.  She struggles with the idea of being stuck in a small glass box all day, but learns to like her job and all the people she meets.  Mazie makes some interesting acquaintances at The Venice and through her eyes we experience Prohibition and the Depression as they come to the Big Apple.

Mazie’s story is told in interesting ways.  The book is mostly entries from Mazie’s diary, but there are also excerpts of interviews from those that knew her, postcards and other short pieces interspersed throughout.  What I liked even more than the interesting format?  The unanswered questions!  Like who is the narrator and why is she so interested in Mazie?  What was Mazie up to during the gaps in the diary? 

If you like headstrong women with a heart of gold (she is a hero to the homeless in the Depression) and stories based on the lives of real people you will enjoy everything about this book.

The only thing I didn’t like about the book was the cover.  This is one of those love it or hate it covers.  Do not judge this book by its cover!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Lacy Eye by Jessica Treadway

Lacy Eye by Jessica Treadway

Three years have past and the man convicted of beating Hanna’s husband to death and beating her so badly she has been disfigured is up for a retrial.  Hanna has no memory of the beatings and in order to make sure Rud is kept behind bars for the rest of his life she will need to remember so she can testify.  Her daughter, Dawn, was Rud’s girlfriend at the time of the crime. While Hanna is convinced Dawn had nothing to do with it popular opinion, and that of the prosecutor’s, has always been that Dawn was involved.

After receiving the news of the retrial and learning that her mother is trying to get her memory back Dawn returns home to help her mommy out.  (She always refers to her as mommy even though she is in her twenties.)  Hanna is happy to have Dawn back, but uneasy as well.  Dawn always had a way of seeing things the way she wanted to, like mishearing the doctor tell her she has a lazy eye and calling it the much more attractive and mysterious “lacy eye.”  Is Dawn as innocent as she claims?  Will Dawn help or hinder Hanna’s memory coming back?

If anyone ever wants a suggestion for a creepy audiobook this one is right up there (Mind of Winter by Kasischke and Bird Box by Josh Malerman being especially creepy as well).  I don’t think I would have enjoyed it (or been nearly as disturbed) if I read this book.  It’s so much more on audio.  The way the reader makes Dawn’s dizziness/craftiness/cluelessness come alive through her voice is so wonderfully unnerving you just want to scream at the main character to run, but it’s her daughter so she doesn’t have the ability to distance herself from the situation.  Dawn is her child, her favorite child; she knows she is safe with Dawn.  It’s just us listeners that are freaking out over and over wondering if we should trust her judgment or not.   

Monday, June 22, 2015

Armada by Ernest Cline

Armada by Ernest Cline

My absolute favorite book of 2011 was Ready Player One so when I found out that Cline was coming out with a new book I was overjoyed.  So much so I bothered my co-worker to please please please grab me a copy at Book Expo.  Not only did he get me an advance copy, he got me a personalized signed copy!  Woo hoo!  Added bonus, the author added the inscription: MTFBWYA.  If you know what that means this is a book for you.  Even if you don’t (hint: think Star Wars) but you enjoy science fiction alien movies you’ll find something to like here too.

Zack Lightman is an ordinary teen getting ready to graduate high school and thinking about going to full time employment at his local videogame store.  He feels he isn’t really good at much, but he excels at playing Armada, a videogame where you pilot drones to take down alien drones trying to invade Earth.  One day Zack is daydreaming and staring out the window of his classroom when he sees a Glaive fighter straight out of his favorite game hovering above the schoolyard.  The ship zooms away before he can alert his classmates and needless to say Zack is a little disturbed.  As he thinks about what this could mean (alien invasion, he’s going crazy?) he remembers his dead father’s notebooks from the attic that point to a conspiracy to cover up alien invaders.  Could his dad have been right?

The videogames Zach and his friends love are actual drone operating software that will be used by the Earth Defense Alliance to repel the alien invasion that is happening in, well, about six hours.  The action is fast and furious and the references to many beloved science fiction movies and books (Last Starfighter, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Ender’s Game) pop up often.  A really enjoyable story that is the perfect geeky beach read.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Daylight Marriage by Heidi Pitlor

The Daylight Marriage by Heidi Pitlor

Lovell and Hannah Hall have been married for a number of years and their marriage is far from perfect.  Opposites in so many ways it is difficult to know what is holding them together, and they are each finding it difficult to remember what it was they loved about the other years ago.  One night they have a fight that could have become violent.  The next morning Hannah disappears and naturally her husband is a suspect.

Told in alternating chapters from Lovell and Hannah’s perspective we learn the backstory of the marriage and what is happening in the present.  It’s a believable albeit dark story.  Lovell and his two children need to continue on with their lives as well as they can with their wife and mother out there somewhere.  This is the book that I think many expected Gone Girl to be; a straightforward thriller focused on the lives of the family more than the mystery surrounding the disappearance.  

The Blooding by James McGee

The Blooding by James McGee 
Reviewed by Keith McCoy, Somerset County Library System
Originally Submitted to Library Journal

This cat has more than nine lives.  In his fifth outing, British spy Matthew Hawkwood finds himself in Albany, and wanting to be in Canada.  The time is 1812, and the US is at war with England.  First Hawkwood spots a captured British officer from his past, then he notices the American troop build-up.  Of course, he has to rescue one and report the other, and so the chase and close calls begin.  The reader can barely catch a breath as the two Brits dodge bullets and tomahawks, and survive drownings and treachery in trying to cross the border.  The story is intercut with chapters about Hawkwood’s American childhood, which explains some of how he came to be the secret agent that he is.  The pace is fast, and never beyond belief, making for a most exciting story.

Verdict:  Not just for those who enjoy American historical fiction or war stories.  Readers who like their spies with quick wits and fists may want to start here with Hawkwood, and then return to the start of the series.

Put your holds on now: this book is released on July 15th!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Disclaimer by Renee Knight

Disclaimer by Renee Knight

Catherine Ravenscroft inadvertently reads The Perfect Stranger – a book on her nightstand that her husband claims isn’t his. Somehow, someone connected with an event in her past came into her home and left it there for her to read.  And her son, who hasn’t read a book in ages, has also read a copy of the book after a customer at his job leaves one for him as a thank you.  Terrified that her secret is about to come out Catherine begins to investigate a man from her past to see how he could possibly still have a hold over her present.

What I liked best about this book was the twist on a twist construction.  My perception of the main character, and other characters, changed multiple times over course of the story as new truths were revealed.  And the ending is especially enlightening since it explains the tension between two characters that I didn’t understand.  This is one of those books that manages to tie up loose ends that you didn’t even know were things that needed closure.  Any thriller reader will enjoy this book but make sure you stick with it, if you’re like me you’ll be annoyed with the main character and her over the top reactions, but reactions that are completely warranted once you know the whole story.

The Forgotten Room by Lincoln Child

The Forgotten Room by Lincoln Child

Jeremy Logan is called in to Lux, a famous think tank in Newport, Rhode Island to investigate the goings on at the venerable institution.  One prominent thinker went suddenly mad and others are claiming to have experienced unusual compulsions and visions as well.  Logan is an enigmalogist; he searches for explanations for the unexplained.  (In fact he’s called from Scotland to go to RI where he was looking for evidence of the Loch Ness Monster.)   Upon arrival at Lux Logan experiences some strange events of his own and the discovery of a secret room with a mysterious machine seems to be at the heart of it all.

What I enjoyed most about the book is what at first seems like a paranormal problem becomes something more mundane yet even more frightening.  The made up science of the book seems plausible.  I just hope it is not!

A fun science-y thriller fans of the late Michael Crichton should enjoy.

Wars of the Roses: Margaret of Anjou by Conn Iggulden

Reviewed by Keith McCoy, Somerset County Library System
Originally Submitted to Library Journal

The second installment of this retelling of the 15th century struggle for the English throne does not have the Queen front and center, but she is behind everything that happens.  Margaret schemes and plots to take the royal power back from the Duke of York, Henry VI’s cousin and competitor for the crown, as her husband lies abed, incapacitated by his mental illness.  Covering just six years of the half century that saw four men and a boy become king on seven occasions, this is the tale of Henry’s recovery and relapse, York’s rises and falls, and the family feuds which colored each move by Queen and Duke.  There is less derring-do from master spy Derry Brewer this time, but the politicking and conniving are worthy of a Washington potboiler.  The battle scenes turn on the flick of a decision, adding to the excitement of this twisting chapter in English history.

Verdict:  Royal watchers, history buffs, and those who love their war stories will be marching alongside the author as he illuminates the ups and downs of royal control in that uncertain era.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Liar by Nora Roberts

The Liar by Nora Roberts

Shelby Pomeroy Foxworth is a recent young widow with a three year old daughter living in a mansion outside of Philadelphia.  She is getting used to the idea of being widowed when she starts getting phone calls from various financial institutions.  Turns out Richard, her not-so-dear departed, was not as flush as he led her to believe.  He left her millions of dollars worth of debt.  And it turns out their financial situation isn’t the only thing he lied about.

This is romantic suspense in true Roberts style.  My only complaint is that I knew how the book was going to end as soon as it started.  But I kept listening, and gladly.  Shelby is a woman that is coming into her own and taking control of a life she lost her hold on when she got married to a con man.  Seeing her grow and fall in love was simply delightful.  There was enough action to keep the story moving and of course a great love story.  These characters are all too good to be true, but it’s so much fun believing they are real even if for only a few hours!

I really enjoyed this book on audio because the southern accent mixed with what I call southernisms was perfect.  The one that sticks in my head is “she’s as helpless as a baby duck with no feet” – horrible to think about but a perfect description!  The reader does an admirable job voicing three year old Callie, but the sweet tones get a little jarring after a while.  Still, I enjoyed it on audio for the accents.

Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker


A young woman working as a prostitute through Craigslist disappeared on a barrier island off Long Island in 2010.  After months of pleading by family a search is made of the nearby area for her remains.  In total the bodies of five women, all operating through Craigslist, are found close by one another.  This is the story of these five women whose lives were more than what they did to make money; this book is their chance to be seen as people with loving families and friends, not just as sex workers.

The title doesn’t lie; this is still an unsolved mystery.  I was drawn to the story because my favorite fishing spot and boat are located quite close to where the bodies were discovered.  I probably drove by the stretch of highway where these women were found numerous times, maybe even a few times while the bodies were there waiting to be discovered.  Because of my ties to the location I was interested in the story, but it was the way the author told the stories, made them more than just victims and statistics that made it a great, yet heartbreaking, read.  

End of Days by James Wilde

End of Days by James Wilde
Reviewed by Keith McCoy, Somerset County Library System
Originally Submitted to Library Journal

Two mighty warriors play an uncharacteristic cat-and-mouse game in post-Hastings England in this third volume of Wilde’s saga about the legendary English insurgent, Hereward.  William the Conqueror (or the Bastard as the locals called him) has spent the four years since his arrival from Normandy burning and pillaging his way across the Sceptered Isle to put down resistance to his taking of the crown.  Only Hereward, cornered in Ely in the fen country, remains.  A matched pair in ferocity and cruelty, the king and the rebel feint and probe the forces of each other, while Hereward simultaneously ponders getting revenge on his treacherous brother Redwald.  The battle scenes are just as gruesome as in the earlier books, but there is also a sly gamesmanship this time, with the fate of the nation in the balance.  Verdict: This is the equally vivid but alternate viewpoint to James Aitcheson’s series, which covers the same place and time period from the Norman perspective.  Those who read novels for the history and the battle action will want to read both authors in order to judge which side to root for.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

How to Start a Fire by Lisa Lutz

How to Start a Fire by Lisa Lutz

This is the story of three friends who meet in college and remain friends, at some times better friends than at others, over the course of the next twenty years.  The three couldn’t be more different. Anna is the one with the ideas who becomes a doctor.  Kate dreams of taking over her grandfather’s diner and is lost when her plans are dashed.  George is the pretty and athletic one that went to school to be a park ranger and gets derailed by domestic life.  The events of one night at a home they share near the college will have a large impact on each of their futures.  This is the story of how much that one night changed everything for the three of them.

I didn’t think I would like a book about female friendship throughout the years, usually the stories are a little too sweet and maudlin for my liking, but when I saw that this one was by the author of The Spellman Files, a bitingly funny mystery, I was willing to give it a chance.  There is humor, quite a bit, but there is a seriousness under the quirky and funny as well.  The circumstances of each character are a little extreme but never stereotypical.  These are larger than life characters that you can imagine existing, but it would be amazing to have them all together.  Part women’s fiction, part coming of age story (these women are each emotionally stunted in one way or another and need time to heal and grow) a good choice for a fan of either that likes their fiction less sweet with a taste of the bitter.

The Girls of Mischief Bay by Susan Mallery

The Girls of Mischief Bay by Susan Mallery
Reviewed by Cassandra, Teen Librarian at Mary Jacobs Library 

Nicole, Shannon and Pam are three friends that are thrown some unexpected curve balls in life with only their friendship to help keep them afloat. Nicole’s husband has quit his job unexpectedly to pursue his dream of being a screenwriter leaving her to care for their child, the household and still maintain her full time job. Shannon has dedicated her life to her career, sacrificing anything and everything especially romance, but when she goes on a blind date she finds herself rethinking her priorities. Pam has quite the perfect life but thinks her marriage could benefit from a little excitement; unfortunately her perfect life is thrown into an emotional upheaval when she’s forced to experience true loss.  It is easy to fall in love with each of the main characters in the series. The variety of character types gives a well-rounded feel to the novel while insuring that there’s someone for everyone to relate to. 

Authors Anonymous (Film – Starring Kaley Cuoco, Chris Klein and Dennis Farina)

Authors Anonymous (Film – Starring Kaley Cuoco, Chris Klein and Dennis Farina)

A writers group in California starts showing signs of strain when Hannah (Kaley Cuoco) gets an agent and gets published.  How could a woman who has never read The Great Gatsby and doesn’t know that Jane Austen is long dead possibly be a great author?  Jealousy and envy have all the members of the writing group vying to make their book the next to market.

The film is shot as a documentary with cameras following all the members of the group to see how Hannah’s success effects them individually and as a group.  Hannah is convinced that one member of the group has real talent, will he prove her right?  A fun, light comedy that brings together some great actors.

Make sure you watch a while longer as the credits start to roll!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

TifAni (yes, it’s spelt just that way) has reinvented herself as Ani (pronounced Ahh-NEE) to put a distance between her teenage self that attended high school at Bradley and the woman who has become an editor of the successful The Woman’s Magazine.  Ani is engaged to a rich finance guy, has a gorgeous ring and is starving herself to fit in her wedding dress.  All is going according to plan.  Her past is safely in the past.  Then a documentary company comes calling wanting to get TifAni to talk about that day at Bradley.  She will finally have a chance to tell her side of the story.  But will the truth set her free?  Or ruin everything she has been building for the last decade?

This is a psychological thriller being compared to Gone Girl for its blunt and sharp writing, and probably for its hard to like characters.  Unlike Gone Girl’s Amy you do start to feel for TifAni but it takes a while.  The author does set some chapters in the present and some in the past so you get to know what made TifAni want to become the catty and to my mind fake Ani.  You begin to like and sympathize with her especially when you get to know what happened to her in high school.


This is a hard read, horrible things happen to 14-year old TifAni and you can see how they could happen to any na├»ve girl her age and your heart bleeds for her because of her choices.  The author manages to take a truly obnoxious character and make you applaud that she has become this hardened creature because she survived.  But you have to keep reading to see the entirety of what she survived.  A gripping read that reveals itself slowly to an ending that made me cheer.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah Maas (YA Fiction)

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah Maas (YA Fiction)
Reviewed by Cassandra, Teen Librarian at Mary Jacobs Library

If you loved Maas’ Throne of Glass series (or if you haven’t read it yet, give it a try!) then you will not be disappointed by this wonderful teen fantasy novel. There is nothing I enjoy more than a kick-butt heroine who is not only tough but intelligent. Feyre is imprisoned in a magical land as punishment for her crimes against the faerie, crimes committed unknowingly in trying to protect and feed her family. Of course there is love, mystery and adventure – a fractured fairy tale reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast. 

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Reviewed by Cassandra, Teen Librarian at Mary Jacobs Library

If you loved Gone Girl …


The main character Rachel is a heavy drinker, whose life is teetering on the edge. She has lost her husband, and her job. Yet, she continues to ride the train into the city every day, pretending to go to work. Along the way, Rachel creates a story about a perfect couple whose home backs the tracks, a home just a few houses down from where she lived with her husband.

Enter Megan, whose story begins one year before Rachel’s. I must confess, I got a little confused with the dates interspersed throughout the story, but realized the author was using them cleverly. Megan’s story seems to move quickly forward, while Rachel’s, very slowly. I thought they were a perfect analogy for two trains on different tracks, bound to converge at some point along the way. And converge they do. Megan goes missing on a day Rachel has drank herself into a black out. What has happened to Megan and what does her story have to do with not only Rachel herself, but also her fantasy story of the perfect couple? This is definitely a thriller that kept me moving quickly through the pages.