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.