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.  

Friday, November 4, 2016

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

Today Eleanor is going to do things differently.  She’s going to start the day off right, and not let the day fall apart.  But today is not a normal day.  Today would be challenging for anyone.  A great humorous novel dealing with serious issues from the author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

Eleanor is a hot mess.  I found it difficult to understand why she’s such a mess since she seems to be living an idyllic life until you start to learn about what makes her tick.  Gradually she started to make more sense to me and I found myself hoping that her life got straightened out and fast!  Life is messy. Some lives are messier than others.  The more lives you connect to your own the messier life gets. But while the mess is hard to deal with, the people in your life are so much more important than dealing with a mess.  

This was the best audiobook I’ve listened to in a long while.  I was laughing out loud.  The reader is really great and fun and makes the whole book come alive. If you are an audiobook lover, or are thinking of trying an audiobook, don’t miss this one!

This Heart of Mine by Brenda Novak

This Heart of Mine by Brenda Novak

It was pointed out to me that I haven’t blogged any romance books in a long time and since my brain needed a rest a book where I know things will end happily ever after seemed like a perfect fit right now!  I went to the Romantic Times website to see the books that won awards this summer, which would all be books published in 2015 and hopefully would be on the shelf -- and they were!  The winner in the Contemporary Romance category was this one, and I’ll admit, it was a winner even though the premise had me doubting their choice.

Phoenix is free again to make her own decisions and decides to return to Whiskey Creek to help out her mother and start a new chapter in her life.  She’s not expecting her reception to the town to be a warm one.  She’s been gone for seventeen years, shortly before giving birth to her son Jacob.  Jacob has been raised by her only love, her high school boyfriend Riley.  She’s anxious to get to know her son and avoid most of the residents of Whiskey Creek.  Phoenix went to jail for killing Riley’s girlfriend, the girl he dated after breaking up with her.  Phoenix always said she was innocent but instead of being bitter about serving so much time for a crime she didn’t commit, she’s back wanting to start again and hoping that everyone will see she paid for her supposed crime and let her get on with starting again.  Unfortunately the family of the dead girl doesn’t feel the same way.  And even more unfortunate for Phoenix, she still has feelings for Riley even though she knows she shouldn’t.  And more confusing?  It seems he has feelings for her.  Will Phoenix be able to start over in Whiskey Creek?  Will she be able to be a part of her son’s life?  Can she include her son’s father in her life or will she just be hurt again?

What I really liked about this book was the way it delved into the mind of a woman who has been incarcerated for half her life; a woman who isn’t bitter or broken from the experience, who truly wants to start with a clean slate and bends over backwards to retain her pride and establish a relationship with her son.  You know she and Riley will end up together but the distance she tries to make between them makes so much sense that you find yourself hoping they don’t, but come on of course you do want them together!  And this is a romance!  You won’t be disappointed!