Sunday, October 16, 2016


by R.J. Palacio

A favorite of my super-reading buddy, Wonder tells the story of Auggie, a preteen boy with severe facial abnormalities. Palacio openly reveals the emotional tribulations Auggie faces as he decides to start school for the first time, having previously been homeschooled. In this story we get a lot of different perspectives on Auggie, all of which seem very real. His sister, Olivia, loves Auggie but at the same time feels a bit neglected and guilty. His mom who wants to protect him, his dad who wants him to get into the real world and new friends, some who are rather mean. Throughout, Auggie's voice is loud and clear. He wrestles with being untouchable, being teased and called names, and even with how to respond to cruelty. Although this is a middle grade reader, the life lessons translate to all ages: choose kindness. My husband has a quote on his blog that says, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." And isn't that the truth!

Hollywood is making this into a movie being released next Spring. You should read it before then!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Man Called Ove

by Fredrik Backman

I was rather taken aback at the beginning of this story, which opens with Ove going through the motions of hanging himself. Reading those step by step preparations was startling. After the death of his wife, Ove is very depressed and just wants to be done with his life, so he begins a series of attempts to end it. He has a lot of grudges against rule breakers, kids, neighbors and the routineness of every day. He yells at people and holds years-long resentments and just wants to be left alone. Despite that, Backman somehow manages to make him likeable.

I will say, it was a little hard for me to buy the relationships he had with his neighbors. Why would they go to him for help if he was so mean? When I was growing up we had a curmudgeony old neighbor who yelled at us for using his tree as third base and we all just steered clear! However, the hardest thing for me to swallow was his age! Here is a guy who is retired, knows nothing about a computer or ipad, doesn't use a coffee maker, drives too slow and thinks makeup and high heels are inappropriate. And yet he is 59 which Backman makes seem ancient! I just couldn't reconcile his age with his incompetence. (perhaps my offense is personal)

It may seem out of place to call this a feel good story since the main character is a grouchy old man on a mission to end his life, but ultimately that is what it is. If you like grumpy old men you'd enjoy A Man Called Ove. It's a quick and easy read and ultimately I kinda liked it too. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Ballad of the Whiskey Robber

by Julian Rubinstein

The complete title of this book is The Ballad of the Whiskey Robber: a True Story of Bank Heists, Ice Hockey, Transylvanian Pelt Smuggling, Moonlighting Detectives and Broken Hearts and that's the book in a nutshell! An incredible story that combines the true antics of Attila Ambrus, hockey player, pelt smuggler, robber with the history of Hungary's transition from a socialistic to a free market economy. When Attila fled Romania, he entered Budapest penniless and homeless. He was immediately accepted onto a national hockey team, but as it was a non-paying position he had to serve as team janitor in order to receive a paycheck. Still, this was too meager a salary to live upon, so Ambrus soon became involved in a pelt smuggling scheme. Once that enterprise ended, he took up bank robbing. Attila would get drunk, disguise himself, enter a small bank and kindly ask for the money, which was promptly handed over. After thanking the teller, he'd dart out the door managing to escape the bumbling police force. He became a national folk hero, rooted to success by the public, who endearingly referred to him as the gentleman robber. His capers are so absurd as to seem unbelievable.

If you like history or humor you'll like this one!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Cormoran Strike Books

by Robert Galbraith aka JK Rowling

I know, so rare for me to read a series! And two in one year even! Actually, I'm not sure if Rowling plans to write more in this series, but after #3 I'm not sure I'd keep going.

 The Cuckoo's Calling: Cormoran Strike is a disabled vet turned detective who is struggling to make it. By accident he ends up with a temporary assistant, Robin, who he actually likes but can't really afford. Until a former friend calls him to resolve the apparent suicide of his sister, who he believes was murdered. This story takes a while to get going and frankly there isn't much of a plot. Nevertheless, the characterization is good. The people are imperfect, quirky and ring true. What they say, how they say it and their actions are spot on. Enjoyed characters enough to read the next one.

The Silkworm: Another not so great story with really great characters, despite they were all a pretty awful bunch! Cormoran and Robin are hired to discover who killed the author of a tell-all book (very gruesome). The suspects are MANY, all of whom have good reason to murder. Unfortunately, there are so many of them and each is more nasty than the first that when it's all over and done, you're just glad it's all over and done. Cormoran seems to luck into most of his investigative feats while Robin is detail oriented enough to work through to some logical conclusions. I like Strike and Robin, but am ready for them to move forward. They're a little stuck where they are and it's getting redundant.

Career of Evil: It seems like the further JK delves into her stories, the darker they become. It happened with the Potter books and it's happening with Strike. In this story, Corm and Robin are hunting down a serial killer who has a penchant for dismemberment. This book had too much graphic violence and not enough substance to make it good. And while I like both of the main characters, Strike needs to get over his previous flame and Robin needs to step away from hers.

You might wonder why Rowling published under a pseudonym, but it's good that she did. This is not another YA series, these books are NOT for kids.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Mr. Mercedes Trilogy

by Stephen King

Review of the Bill Hodges trilogy from a Constant Reader (if you know what that means you'll know what I think). I have done my best not to give spoilers, because you'll want to read these books.

 Mr. Mercedes: In the beginning there is a nice man looking for a job, waiting in a long line for the opening of a job fair. Although he is desperate for a job, the young single mom next to him may need a job even more, so he offers to help her out. But before he can do that, Brady Hartsfield (a crazed maniac) comes careening through the crowd in a stolen mercedes, which kills and severely injures hundreds of innocents. In comes Bill Hodges, retired detective with a bleak outlook, to save the day. Except it takes a long time and at least one more tragedy to get there. The final blowout leaves Brady in a bad way.

Finders Keepers:  A bit of a spin off from book 1, taken from the family of a job fair victim still struggling to get back on their feet. The son, Pete finds a hidden treasure of sorts and is trying to work a way to capitalize on it, but instead winds up in a terrifying blackmailing scheme. It falls to Bill Hodges and his cohorts to try and rescue Pete.

End of Watch: In this final episode, we return to where it all began, with Brady. He is still suffering the effects of that final incident, but it seems to be working on him in an odd way, giving him some unique mental powers. As he secretly masters these abilities, he begins planning revenge on Hodges and his friends. In this book, King joins the supernatural with the psychotic in ways that give you the creeps.

The man can tell a story-- just read him.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

What Angels Fear

by C. S.  Harris

Sebastian St. Cyr is a nobleman who's been accused of murder. All the evidence points to him, but he swears he is innocent. His father wants to send him away so he won't have to face prosecution, but Sebastian is determined to find the true killer and clear his name. As he is dodging arrest, he is blamed for killing an officer as well and now the police are on an all out manhunt.

Sebastian is assisted by some stereotypical cohorts, an ex fiancee turned lady of the night and an Oliver-esque kid on the streets. And as is the case with many of these period English stories, it can be confusing keeping up with all the characters due to the many names and titles by which they are called. There are some pretty gross crime scene descriptions and ahead of the times police work, but even so, What Angels Fear incorporates some Regency history and is a good start to a who done it series.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Paper Magician

by Charlie Holmberg

Somehow I missed the tidbit about The Paper Magician being a YA novel (because it wasn't mentioned), but even that doesn't excuse this POOR writing, characterization and plot- or lack thereof. Not even sure I should continue this review except for you Twilight fans out there, who may like this book too.

After Ceony receives high marks on her final exam, she is apprenticed to a paper magician to learn the craft of magical paper folding, about which she is less than excited. Her tutee is sort of a recluse, who she dislikes and falls in love with, in all of 10 pages. His ex-fiancee, Lira, also a paper magician, is angry with him and on a mission to destroy him. Once under her spell, it is up to Ceony to save him.

I generally give bonus points to author's with unique storylines, but this was so poorly executed I have a hard time extending awards to it.

Shockingly there are three books in this series, so some people liked it, just not me.