Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Hocus Pocus & The All New Sequel

Hocus Pocus & The All New Sequel
by A. W Jantha , Matt Griffin
Disney Press, 2018, 528 pgs, Young Adult

The first half of this book is the Hocus Pocus from the 90’s all about Max the virgin who lit the black flamed candle which brought the Sanderson sisters back to life for the night of Halloween. Max, his little sister Danny, and Allison partner up with the 300 year old cat Binx to stop the Sanderson sisters from killing all of the children in Salem. Fast forward 25 years to tonight on All Hallows Eve, Max and Allison’s daughter Poppy can barely handle the mention of Halloween after she had a horrible experience being teased after telling friends about her family’s history with Halloween and the Sanderson sisters. Poppy has a crush on her classmate Isabella and is dying with worry of what her superstitious parents are going to say on this one Halloween night they invite the entire school to their house for a party. When Poppy and her friends sneak over to the Sanderson house they accidentally summon the sisters and have to work to send them back to Hell or risk losing her family forever.

I am a total 90’s child I loved listening to the first section of this book and re-living all of my childhood memories. I had a lot of fun going through the second half of the story and finding the parallels and imagining the characters going through all of this tonight. This book was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it.


Willowkeep : a Regency romance

Willowkeep : a Regency romance
by Julie Daines
Covenant Communications, Inc., 2016, 267 pgs. Romance

Charlotte Darby is left to take care of her special needs sister when her mother dies and shortly after her father is lost at sea, when suddenly a solicitor from London brings news that she has inherited an estate in Kent. She quickly relies on the estate’s steward Henry Morland to help her navigate this new life she has been introduced to. She soon has a lot of decisions to make when people start plotting to take her new life away from her and her sister.

 This was a fun feel good romance. I loved how the author handled the special needs sister and while she never specifies what kind of need she had she illustrated very well how hard it would have been for this young woman to have a job which could pay for their needs and still take care of her sister. I loved the variety of relationships which were included in this story and not all of them were warm and loving.



By Melissa Landers
Hyperion, 2016. 368 pgs. Young Adult

Opposites and enemies since high school, Doran Spaulding is a pretty-boy from a wealthy family and wants for nothing, while Solara Brooks wants a fresh start where nobody cares about the engine grease beneath her fingernails or the felony tattoos across her knuckles. When Doran experiences a brief bout of amnesia, Solara is able to convince him that he is in service to her, switching social statuses with him as she heads to the outer realm on a renegade ship with an eccentric crew to get her fresh start. However, when Doran is framed for conspiracy, both of them are suddenly on the run for different reasons.

I originally became interested in this novel because I liked the idea of the two characters switching social statuses. I wanted the spoiled and prideful Doran to get what was coming to him, but as I read on this book became so much more than that. It was about friendship, what it means to be family, and deciding what’s most important in life. Often I find that I like plot or characterization more in a book, but I feel like both were well done in this case. I could easily recommend this to others.


The Chaos of Standing Still

The Chaos of Standing Still
By Jessica Brody
Simon Pulse, 2017. 406 pgs. Young Adult

On New Year’s Eve a massive blizzard shuts down Denver International Airport, leaving 18-year-old Ryn trapped overnight on the anniversary of her best friend’s, Lottie’s, death. Ryn still has Lottie’s last text message, unopened and waiting for a year, sitting on her phone. She can’t bring herself to open it, to read Lottie’s last words to her. When she literally bumps into Xander and they accidentally swap phones, she’s thrust into an all-night adventure complete with mysterious strangers, a massive party, a conspiracy, and coming to terms with the past.

 This book was a roller coaster of emotions, and I loved it. Ryn has a lot going on in her head that I can relate to. She’s struggling in a variety of ways but and has coping mechanisms that, while perhaps not healthy, are just the way she deals with things. Those who like contemporary, realistic, young adult fiction will want to pick this book up. I hope if I ever get trapped in an airport I find an adventure like Ryn’s.



by Dave Itzkoff
Henry Holt and Co., 2018. 544 pgs. Biography

I think most people who were alive during the height of Robin Williams' career can't help but be familiar with his electric energy and quick wit.  Many even feel a sort of connection to him, as his performances could have a heart that touched audiences everywhere. The outcry over his death was felt around the world. Itzkoff attempts as complete a portrait as we may be able to get about Williams in this book. I appreciated that much of his work (films, etc) was described for the benefit of those who might not have seen every movie and stand up performance. Throughout the book it seems as though there was foreshadowing to Williams' future, an allusion to a troubled soul, which seemed a bit sad to me that Williams' death casts a shadow over his decades-long career. But the book does a good job of capturing what was special about Williams, not put succinctly into one description but rather ascertained from a long look across the years.

I listened to the audiobook and the narrator does a great job of imitating Robin's voice and manner of speaking, and even many of the voices and impressions that Williams himself did.  There is plenty of adult language and sexual innuendo.


The Comic Book Story of Baseball

by Alexander C. Irvine
Ten Speed Press, 2018. 171 pgs. Nonfiction

Starting in the earliest days of baseball, this title covers the history of baseball down to the current day. It talks about rules, equipment, leagues, and other developments that influenced how the game is played today. Some of the major controversies, like segregations, are discussed at length, as well as international developments in baseball and the world. There are stories about important or interesting individuals, as well as achievements and records that have lasted for years. The comic book format allows for smaller paragraphs and less dense reading, while still maintaining the breadth and details. The illustrations are in a traditional style, reminiscent of early baseball trading cards, and enhance the information presented.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book on the history of baseball. I was drawn into the stories about individual people and how they affected the game, as well as the overarching history of the development of baseball. There is tons of detail, but is often presented in quick side notes that work well in the comic book format. It took me much longer to read than I was expecting, but I was fascinated throughout the whole book. I would recommend them to anyone who wanted to learn more about baseball, or a student who is looking for a great book for a project or book report.


Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Optimist's Guide to Letting Go

The Optimist's Guide to Letting Go
By Amy E. Reichert
Gallery Books, 2018. 330 pgs. Fiction

The Optimist's Guide to Letting Go follows the life of Gina, a grilled cheese connoisseur. After the loss of her husband, Gina can barely keep her life together. Between running her own business, mothering a rebellious teenager, and placating her critical mother, she's not sure how she can go on without the support of her late husband. When her mother is unexpectedly hospitalized, an old secret surfaces that just might help Gina let go and move forward.

Honestly, this book wasn't what I expected. I picked it up without reading the synopsis and thought it was going to be a nonfiction guide to processing grief. Imagine my pleasant surprise when I realized it was an actual story with a plot. The characters were flawed, yet relatable, and the story was relationship driven (which I adore). The description of Gina's grilled cheese sandwiches had me salivating and resulted in me buying a lot of bread and cheese. The language was colorful at times, which was a turn off for me. As a whole, this book was well written and portrayed different manifestations of grief in a beautiful way.


Friday, October 19, 2018

At the Pulpit : 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women

At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women
by Kate Holbrook, Jennifer Reeder
Salt Lake City : The Church Historian's Press, [2017]. 452 pages. Nonfiction.

At the Pulpit showcases the tradition of Latter-day Saint women's preaching and instruction by presenting 54 speeches given from 1831 to 2016, with selections from every decade since the founding of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The discourses, given by women both well known and obscure, represent just some of the many contributions of women to Latter-day Saint thought. In addition to being a scholarly history, At the Pulpit is intended as a resource for contemporary Latter-day Saints as they study, speak, teach, and lead. These discourses allow readers to hear the historical and contemporary voices of Latter-day Saint women--voices that resound with experience, wisdom, and authority. 

This book celebrates the strength and intelligence of women who belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I greatly appreciated the fact that each discourse begins with biographical and historical context. Doing so brings a more personal touch to the book and gives the reader a greater understanding of the significance of the contribution these women made to the Church during their time period. I would recommend this book to those seeking inspiration and those who seek to relate to others who have had similar trials and challenges in their lives. This book is also a great reference tool for those interested in the history of the Church. 


Meet Me at the Museum

Meet Me at the Museum
by Anne Youngson
New York : Flatiron Books, [2018]. 272 pages. Fiction
When the curator of a Danish museum responds to a query about ancient exhibits, he doesn’t expect a reply.

When Tina Hopgood first wrote it, nor did she …

Professor Anders Larsen, an urbane man of facts, has lost his wife, along with his hopes and dreams for the future. He does not know that a query from a Mrs Tina Hopgood about a world-famous antiquity in his museum is about to alter the course of his life.
As each letter is exchanged, the reader receives an increasingly intimate view of the budding relationship between two strangers who bond over loss and love. Intimacy, in this case, makes for a slow-paced read due to the focus on the subtle changes in growth between characters Anders and Tina. This is not a book that will launch the reader into page-turning insanity, but is instead the kind of book meant to provoke self-reflection with the revealing of each life-lesson. 
I selfishly wish the museum played a larger role in the book. The Tollund Man (Silkeborg Museum) provides the spark to Anders' and Tina's relationship, seemingly disappears after the first few letters, and plays a non-consequential role at the end. Even so, this book is a charming and gentle read that is sure the warm even the coldest of hearts. I also recommend listening to the audio book version, as it adds dimension to the characters of the book. 


Monday, October 15, 2018

The 5 Second Rule

The 5 Second Rule: Transform Your Life, Work, and Confidence With Everday Courage
By Mel Robbins
Savio Republic, 2017, 238 pgs. Nonfiction

Mel Robbins explains in this book how we rarely ever feel like doing something. The important thing is to learn how to still do it, even when we don't feel like it. Her simple solution is to count down from 5-1 and as soon as you get to one, take action. An example of this, and often the easiest place to start, is with waking up in the morning. Decide the night before what time you will wake up in the morning, and when your alarm goes off, count down from 5 to one, and get out of bed. Don't hit snooze and don't count down again. Just get up! This will set the tone for the whole day. She also explains why this concept works and how it has helped her and many other people with motivation, anxiety, depression and health.

The concept in this book is life changing. I have already been using the 5 Second Rule and noticed huge changes in my daily life. It's the little moments of everyday courage that help us make huge strides forward. I also really liked her explanation of anxiety. It was put in a way that made sense and helped me to understand what happens in our brain. That being said, the book itself is not very good. It is very repetitive and felt more like they were taking a very simple concept and trying to stretch it into a book that they could sell. The author spent a lot of time explaining what fans of the 5 Second Rule said on social media, then having the actual post, and then restating what they said. I would recommend watching the author's TED talk instead of spending time reading the book.


The Greatest Love Story Ever Told

The Greatest Love Story Ever Told 
by Megan Mullally & Nick Offerman
Dutton, 2018, 273 pages, Nonfiction

Some celebrity couples are major “relationship goals”, and Nick Offerman and Megan Mullaly seem to be one of these. In their new book, they share their life stories, tell about their courtship, and share insights they’ve garnered in their 18+ years of making love last. The book is written in a conversational style and most chapters are formatted like a script, which makes it a quick read that brings you intimately into the discussion and makes it feel like you're sitting down to chat with a pair of old pals- who happen to be really famous.

I’ll admit I wanted more from this book. I wanted the pair to reveal all the secrets to achieving an ideal relationship, built on laughter and a shared love of character acting and puzzles. While entertaining, this book felt less like a story of their love, and more like a very selective biography of each of their pasts and careers, with little quips about their lives together mixed in for good measure. None the less, it’s a must read for fans of either, or both, of these beloved actors. The audiobook is especially enjoyable as it is read by the authors and is filled with giggles and asides that charm and warm the heart, and some that would cause even a sailor to blush.


Saturday, October 13, 2018

Summer Days and Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories

Summer Days and Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories
Edited by Stephanie Perkins
St. Martin’s Press, 2016. 400 pgs. Young Adult Fiction

Anything can happen over the summer and in this book, 12 best-selling young adult authors give their take on summertime romance. The stories range in genre from contemporary to fantasy to horror and more. Along with summer love, characters navigate tough issues such as broken families, life after high school, and figuring out who they are.

This book is great for anyone who loves a good summer romance story since you have 12 to choose from. Even if you’re not looking to read all 12 stories, with such a wide range of subgenres, there’s definitely one in here to suit your mood. This book is marketed as being “love stories” so that makes things a little more predictable plot-wise—the main character and the love interest WILL get together—but that still doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of it happening. I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of one (or more) of the authors included, or to anyone who wants to spend half an hour reading a story with a guaranteed happy ending.


Thursday, October 11, 2018

Whiskey In a Teacup

Whiskey In a Teacup: What Growing Up in the South Taught Me About Life, Love, and Baking Biscuits
By Reese Witherspoon
Simon & Schuster, 2018, 304 pages, Nonfiction

In this chatty memoir/recipe book, Reese Witherspoon shares what it was like growing up in The South, particularly the influence of her grandmother Dorothea. Reese talks about the magic of sweet tea on the front porch, catching fireflies, and decorating for the holidays. Her glowing descriptions of the wisdom of her mother and grandmothers evokes a time when things were slower and people looked each other in the eye. At the end of each chapter, she shares family recipes and lists of books and music that can bring the charm and tradition of Tennessee to your home.

I loved this book. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but Reese Witherspoon writes with charm and candor about her upbringing and the power of family. It was really interesting to see into her life outside of her movies. Definitely a fun read for the upcoming holidays.



Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Passing For Human

Passingfor Human
by Liana Finck
Random House, 2018, 222 pages, Graphic Novel.

Cartoonist Liana Finck explores her own history and coming of age in graphic novel format in this engaging and tender tale. Through her non-linear frames, she weaves together the experiences of her doctor and architect parents with magical realism, a bit of imaginative biblical creation retelling, and her own idiosyncrasies to come to understand the world, and what it means to find your way in it when you feel like an outsider. With humor and charm, she learns to move forward in her search for ways to relate to others and better understand herself.

While the New Yorker cartoonist might not be a household name, the themes she explores in her graphic memoir, like finding oneself and embracing your own strangeness, are relatable and heartfelt. Starting several chapters as “Chapter 1”, she embodies the feeling of discovery and starting over that accompany self-reflection and exploration. Her simple pen and ink style drawings lend themselves well to the emotions she represents, and the somewhat surreal world view of the characters she introduces. This is a book for anyone who has felt as though they don’t quite fit in with other humans, and it will reassure you that you’re not the only one walking around with the fear that you may be found out at any moment.


The Word is Murder

Cover image for The word is murder : a novel
The Word is Murder
by Anthony Horowitz
HarperCollins, 2018, 390 pages, Mystery

One bright spring morning in London, Diana Cowper - the wealthy mother of a famous actor - enters a funeral parlor. She is there to plan her own service. Six hours later she is found dead, strangled with a curtain cord in her own home. Enter disgraced police detective Daniel Hawthorne, a brilliant, eccentric investigator who's as quick with an insult as he is to crack a case. Hawthorne wants a ghost writer to document his life; a Watson to his Holmes. He chooses Anthony Horowitz. Drawn in against his will, Horowitz soon finds himself at the center of a story he cannot control.

This interesting meta version of a Sherlock Holmes novel, where a fictional version of real-life author Anthony Horowitz plays the part of Dr. Watson, threw me for a bit of a loop at first. But like the fictional version of Horowitz, the more I learned about the case, the more intrigued with the story I became. Horowitz has the elements of a good Sherlock Holmes novel mastered.

The real appeal of this book for me, however, was the audio narration of it. Rory Kinnear blew me away with the wide range of voices used for all of the different characters, and there were a few times where I had to stop what I was doing and just listen and marvel at Kinnear’s voice acting skill. Do yourself a favor and listen to this one!


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Love and Ruin

Cover image for Love and ruin : a novel
Love and Ruin
by Paula McLain
Ballantine Books, 2018, 388 pages, Historical Fiction

Martha Gellhorn is known as one of the greatest war correspondents of the twentieth century. In 1937, twenty-eight-year-old Martha Gellhorn travels alone to Madrid to report on the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War and becomes drawn to the stories of ordinary people caught in the devastating conflict. But she also finds herself unexpectedly--and uncontrollably--falling in love with Ernest Hemingway, a man on his way to becoming a legend. In the shadow of the impending Second World War, and set against the turbulent backdrops of Madrid and Cuba, Martha and Ernest's relationship and their professional careers ignite. But when Ernest publishes the biggest literary success of his career, For Whom the Bell Tolls, they are no longer equals. Martha must make a choice: surrender to the confining demands of being a famous man's wife, or risk losing Ernest by forging a path as her own woman and writer. It is a dilemma that could break both of their hearts.

Paula McLain clearly excels at writing fictional accounts of real-life, complex, independent women who question conventional views and dare to reach for their own dreams. In McLain’s hand, Martha Gellhorn comes alive as a fully fleshed out person, and I appreciated the way she demanded respect for herself and her work in her own right, and wasn’t content with being known as the lover/wife of Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway is also fully fleshed out (and fully frustrating), and experiencing the ebbs and flows of their relationship, as well as learning more about such an interesting and tumultuous time in history, kept me engrossed in the story. The narration of the audiobook was excellent.

Although it’s young adult nonfiction, I was interested to see the parallels between this book and Eyes of the World: Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, and the Invention of Modern Photojournalism.


Saturday, October 6, 2018

The Geography of Lost Things

The Geography of Lost Things
By Jessica Brody
Simon Pulse, 2018. 320 pgs. Young Adult Fiction

Even when he was alive, Jackson was a terrible father and it's going to take a lot more than his 1968 Firebird convertible to change Ali's mind. She plans to sell his final gift to her as quickly as possible so that she can save her childhood home. Luckily, she finds a buyer right away, but he's 300 miles up the California Coast and she can't drive stick. Enter Ali's ex: Nico. Despite not agreeing with her decision to sell the car, Nico offers to drive her the entire way for a cut of the profit. As they drive, however, he tries to convince her to "trade up" to get the money she needs instead. Starting with a hair tie, Nico is convinced that they can raise $25,000 simply by trading things on Craigslist.

This is a fun road trip story with likable characters, an emotional main plot, and a quirky subplot. The book moves quickly as Ali and Nico trade items and make their way up the Western coast of the United States. The plot left plenty of room for character growth and it was enjoyable to watch Ali come to terms with her father and their relationship. I did think her inner monologue was tiring and repetitive at times, but other than that, this is a great read for anyone who wishes they could go on a spontaneous road trip.


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Fly Girls

Fly Girls: The Daring American Women Pilots Who Helped Win WWII
By P. O'Connell Pearson
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018. 198 pgs. Young Adult Nonfiction

During World War II there was a huge shortage of pilots because women were not allowed to fly in combat, even if they were the ones training the fighter pilots. This is the story of the brave women who loved to fly and had the determination to prove that they could help in the war effort. They helped ferry planes from factories to bases, towed targets for live ammunition artillery training and tested repaired planes and new equipment. They had to face discrimination and harsh living conditions and were considered civilian employees, making less pay and no military benefits. It didn't matter to the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs). They loved to fly and they loved our country.

This was a fascinating look at an often forgotten part of history. I really enjoyed all the interesting facts that the author supplied about the war and the cultural norms of the time.There were pictures, maps and sidebars to enhance the book. This is written for middle school readers so it was easy to understand but kept me engaged in the information.  I loved how it showed the amazing strength, intelligence, determination and patriotism of women.


Monday, October 1, 2018

The Magical Slow Cooker: Recipes for Busy Moms

The Magical Slow Cooker: Recipes for Busy Moms 
by Sarah Olson
Front Table Books, 2015. 215 pgs. Nonfiction

Grab your slow cooker and get ready to make healthy and easy meals for your family! This book has slow cooker recipes for every occasion including parties, breakfast, sides and main dishes, and desserts. Complete with tips and measurement equivalents, everything you need to make healthy food for family and friends is inside The Magical Slow Cooker.

Most of these recipes call for little to no work outside of the slow cooker, which is the best way to go when slow cooking. My family enjoyed the pot roast dinner, and there are so many other recipes in here that I need to try like the salted caramel apple cider and the chicken and gravy. This book lives up to its subtitle, these really are useful recipes for busy moms!


Defending the City of God: a Medieval Queen, the First Crusades, and the Quest for Peace in Jerusalem

Defending the City of God: a Medieval Queen, the First Crusades, and the Quest for Peace in Jerusalem 
by Sharan Newman
Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. 256 pgs. Nonfiction

In the 12th century, Europeans began the Crusades, their attempt to free the holy land of Jerusalem from infidels and restore the sacred land that saw the life of Christ to the hands of Christians. Historian Newman shows how diverse the area really was, between different native Christian groups, Muslims, and Jews, and how politics of the region during the early 12th century weren’t strictly divided by religious lines, and that women held more power than in Europe during later centuries. She approaches this time period through the life of Queen Melisende, who inherited the throne of Jerusalem through her own right, and the life of her father Baldwin, one of the first crusaders and third elected king of Jerusalem after it had fallen to the Europeans.

This book presents a very accessible history of Jerusalem and the surrounding area during the first half of the 12th century. It promotes itself as a history of Melisende’s rule, but more than half of the book is spent setting the stage through the actions of her father Baldwin. When the historical record falls short the author is quick to insert her own speculation and commentary on things, which I found distracting. But it’s fairly clear when she is speculating versus presenting documented evidence, so it’s still an interesting history of the region. I would recommend this book to the casual history reader.