2013 Reading

2013 Reading Challenge

2013 Reading Challenge
Allison has
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Title: Knit The Season
Author: Kate Jacobs
Pages: 336 pp
Published: November 2010
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The third installment of The Friday Night Knitting Club series finds the bonds between the women even tighter. I think you need to read the first two books because there is not a lot of back story in this installment. This book focuses on Dakota more than the other characters and to see her grow and develop through the arc of the series is satisfying. I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. And I want to knit more!








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Title: The Orchard: a Memoir
Author: Theresa Weir
Pages: 266 pp
Published: September 2013
My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars


This is January's reading group selection. And I can't say I liked it, although I appreciated how well-written it is. Mostly, though, I didn't connect with the author and I was rather indifferent to her story. I wanted to (but didn't) skip the sections where the author revisits her childhood. It's bleak. And I wanted something to happen.

From the publisher:
THE ORCHARD is the story of a street-smart city girl who must adapt to a new life on an apple farm after she falls in love with Adrian Curtis, the golden boy of a prominent local family whose lives and orchards seem to be cursed. Married after only three months, young Theresa finds life with Adrian on the farm far more difficult and dangerous than she expected. Rejected by her husband's family as an outsider, she slowly learns for herself about the isolated world of farming, pesticides, environmental destruction, and death, even as she falls more deeply in love with her husband, a man she at first hardly knew and the land that has been in his family for generations. She becomes a reluctant player in their attempt to keep the codling moth from destroying the orchard, but she and Adrian eventually come to know that their efforts will not only fail but will ultimately take an irreparable toll.

So... final verdict, I didn't care for this book. I don't have a clue what we'll discuss.


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Title: Santa Responds
Author: Santa Claus
Pages: 128 pp
Published: September 2008
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Such snarky goodness! Santa replies to letters he receives from all kinds of kids from all over the world. And Santa lets loose. So amusing!











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Title: Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend
Author: Matthew Dicks
Pages: 320 p
Published: August 2012
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

From the publisher:
Imaginary friend Budo narrates this heartwarming story of love, loyalty, and the power of the imagination—the perfect read for anyone who has ever had a friend . . . real or otherwise

Budo is lucky as imaginary friends go. He's been alive for more than five years, which is positively ancient in the world of imaginary friends. But Budo feels his age, and thinks constantly of the day when eight-year-old Max Delaney will stop believing in him. When that happens, Budo will disappear.

Max is different from other children. Some people say that he has Asperger’s Syndrome, but most just say he’s “on the spectrum.” None of this matters to Budo, who loves Max and is charged with protecting him from the class bully, from awkward situations in the cafeteria, and even in the bathroom stalls. But he can’t protect Max from Mrs. Patterson, the woman who works with Max in the Learning Center and who believes that she alone is qualified to care for this young boy.

When Mrs. Patterson does the unthinkable and kidnaps Max, it is up to Budo and a team of imaginary friends to save him—and Budo must ultimately decide which is more important: Max’s happiness or Budo's very existence.

Narrated by Budo, a character with a unique ability to have a foot in many worlds—imaginary, real, child, and adult— Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend touches on the truths of life, love, and friendship as it races to a heartwarming . . . and heartbreaking conclusion.

It was interesting to enter the world of imaginary friends. I didn't have one when I was growing up. Now I kind of wish I had. Sometimes Budo gets repetitive when he's reminding the reader that imaginary friends are a different kind of real. And some of the descriptions were a bit drawn out, especially when the action is fast-paced, I felt bogged down with unnecessary description. But I liked this book. I especially enjoyed the scenes at school, they felt authentic to me as a teacher.

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Title: Sex, Murder, And A Double Latte
Author: Kyra Davis
Pages: 336 p
Published: April 2006
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This is the first book in the Sophie Katz series. Sophie is a mystery writer whose life imitates her fiction. She has a crazy group of friends who keep the action moving and the dialog snapping! There were some chuckle moments and twisty-turns and I didn't solve it before the ending. Always a good sign. I will definitely read more of this series.

From the publisher:

When a mystery writer cries bloody murder, everyone blames her overactive imagination…

Thriller scribe Sophie Katz is as hard-boiled as a woman who drinks Grande Caramel Brownie Frappuccinos can be. So Sophie knows it's not paranoia or post-divorce, living-alone-again jitters, when she becomes convinced that a crazed reader is sneaking into her apartment to reenact scenes from her books. The police, however, can't tell a good plot from an unmarked grave.

When a filmmaker friend is brutally murdered in the manner of a death scene in one of his movies, Sophie becomes convinced that a copycat killer is on the loose —and that she's the next target. If she doesn't solve the mystery, her own bestseller will spell out her doom. Cursing her grisly imagination (why, oh, why did she have to pick the ax?), Sophie engages in some real-life gumshoe tactics. The man who swoops in to save her in dark alleys is mysterious new love interest Anatoly Darinsky. Of course, if this were fiction, Anatoly would be her prime suspect.…



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Title: To The Moon And Back
Author: Jill Mansell
Pages: 448 p
Published: September 2011
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Jill Mansell creates characters and stories that are fun. I realize going in that this genre is all about happy endings but Mansell makes it an interesting journey to get there.

From the publisher:
The hardest part of love is moving on...

It's been a year since Ellie Kendall's husband, Jamie, was killed in an accident, but she's still haunted by his memory. In fact, she finds herself talking to him regularly. At the urging of Jamie's successful actor father Tony, Ellie moves to London's glamorous Primrose Hill, where nobody knows her past...

But even in her new home-and with her hardworking new boss, Zack McLaren; and Jamie's best friend Todd to distract her-Ellie can't seem to leave Jamie behind. Will Ellie stay stuck in the past? Or will she realize the man of her dreams is flesh and blood-and right in front of her eyes...

I enjoy Mansell's writing. I liked this book. Full of hope and redemption, love and friendship. And a fun dog named Elmo.


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Title: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
Author: Rachel Joyce
Pages: 336 p
Published: July 2012
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars



I was skeptical about this book at first. It seemed as if I was taking each step with Harold Fry on his unlikely pilgrimage. Then Harold and I hit our stride and I was enchanted by the story. It's reminiscent of Forrest Gump, in that while on his journey, unlikely people join in and the flavor of the journey is changed. One weird thing I noticed while reading is my hunger--because Harold often forgot to eat I found myself hungry to make up for it. It's unusual because I don't like to eat while reading (I don't want to mess up the book/Nook). My unresolved thread of the book is the relationship with neighbor, Rex. I wondered how or if he fit into the ending.

At its heart, it's a love story.


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Title: Beautiful Darkness
Author: Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Pages: 528 p
Published: September 2011
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars



The second in the Caster Series had a slow start but once it got going it was a quick read. Lena and Ethan are still the main characters, although they are separated through most of the book, but the secondary characters add a lot to the storyline. I like that Ethan narrates the story but he was kind of whiny in this book.








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Title: Crime and Punishment
Author: Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Pages: 718 pp
Published: 1866 (?)
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


My APUSH students are reading C&P in their honors English class and I said I would read along. Or listen along, as I listened to the audio book. What I liked was getting lost in the descriptive passages. I admit I had a bit of difficulty keeping track of characters. There are so many.

Basically the book is the story of Raskolnikov--wrestling with life's major questions, the book manages not to get too caught up in his mind. Because other characters interact with Raskolnikov while he's grappling with what he's done. And Raskolnikov doesn't make it easy to like him; although if we were to know him before the book begins, I suspect he was not only handsome but charming and intense, and then he spirals down in despair, hunger, and poverty. Sometimes it was difficult to follow Raskolnikov's rants and ravings but other than that the book moved right along.






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Title: Bonnie of Evidence
Author: Maddie Hunter
Pages: 312 p
Published: February 2013
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


Another very fun installment of the Passport To Peril series, this time set in Scotland. Emily leads the zany tech-savvy seniors from Iowa on a high tech scavenger hunt that puts them in jeopardy. I was amused at the stops on the tour and the hijinx and antics of the characters. And I didn't guess whodunit!






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Title: The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself
Author: Michael Singer
Pages: 200 p
Published: October 2007
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

From the publisher:
Who are you? When you start to explore this question, you find out how elusive it really is. Are you a physical body? A collection of experiences and memories? A partner to relationships? Each time you consider these aspects of yourself, you realize that there is much more to you than any of these can define. In The Untethered Soul--now a New York Times bestseller--spiritual teacher Michael Singer explores the question of who we are and arrives at the conclusion that our identity is to be found in our consciousness, the fact of our ability to observe ourselves, and the world around us. By tapping into traditions of meditation and mindfulness, Singer shows how the development of consciousness can enable us all to dwell in the present moment and let go of painful thoughts and memories that keep us from achieving happiness and self-realization.

We had a lively discussion about this book. Most of us enjoyed it. It is a lot of what I'm doing in therapy--being open to the possibilities, taking chances, stepping outside my box. Our biggest complaint with it was that Michael Singer makes everything sound so easy. But we wanted more of the how--the application of what he's talking about.





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Title: The Language of Flowers
Author: Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Pages: 352 p
Published: April 2012
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

From Barnes & Noble:
Victoria Jones is just eighteen, recently "emancipated" from British foster-care system and now sleeping on park benches. Timid and self-deprecating, she speaks with confidence in only one tongue, the language of flowers. Her gift with floral subtleties, however, proves to be enough, at least temporarily; it opens the way to a new vocation that nurtures both others and herself. Eventually though, Victoria discovers that to truly flourish, she must grapple with the painful secrets of her own past.

I LOVED THIS BOOK! I loved the flawed, real characters. I loved the vivid descriptions of the flowers, I felt as though I was stroking the petals and could smell them. I loved the twisty and unexpected story. I loved the setting. I loved how the meanings of the flowers was so critical to the story.





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Title: Spinning Forward
Author: Terri DuLong
Pages: 352 pp
Published: November 2009
My Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Spinning Forward by Terri Dulong is a charming novel of a woman on a journey. Everything Sudney knows about herself it challenged when her husband suddenly dies in an accident. I was expecting more about the knitting or the knitting shop she opens but it's more about Sydney finding herself. Predictable yet charming. I'll probably read the second in the series when I need a fluff book.









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Title: Teaching Argument Writing, Grades 6-12: Supporting Claims with Relevant Evidence and Clear Reasoning
Author: George Hillocks, Jr.
Pages: 227 pp
Published: March 2011
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


This professional book I read for the class I'm taking with some colleagues. It's a very clear, concise, step-by-step guide to how to set up argument writing. I tried several strategies with my students to very good success! I will continue to use these strategies with my classes. Even the reluctant writers were successful when I went step-by-step and modeled what to do and how to do it.








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Title: Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir)
Author: Jenny Lawson
Pages: 384 pp
Published: April 2012
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I loved listening to Jenny telling her stories. I don't think I would have enjoyed this as much in written form. There were a few times I forgot this wasn't fiction. An enjoyable book, entertaining!

What I didn't like was that the stories skip around through time. It was hard to keep track of when and how the stories unfolded. But in the end, that wasn't terribly important.

Oh, and be forewarned: there is liberal use of the f-bomb. And there's something funny about how Jenny says "vagina."





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Title: Life After Life
Author: Kate Atkinson
Pages: 529 pp
Published: April 2013
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars


I could not put this book down. Could. Not. Stop. Reading!

From the publisher:
On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born to an English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in a variety of ways, while the young century marches on towards its second cataclysmic world war.

Does Ursula's apparently infinite number of lives give her the power to save the world from its inevitable destiny? And if she can -- will she?




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Title: If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won't)
Author: Betty White
Pages: 272 pp
Published: May 2011
My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars


Title: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)
Author: Mindy Kaling
Pages: 240 pp
Published: September 2012
My Rating: 3.5 stars


I listened to two more audiobooks. Both women of comedy. It was so much fun to listen to these women at different points in their careers. Betty White was a little on the preachy side, I get that she's an animal lover. Mindy Kaling was like a conversation. I feel like we're friends.















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Title: Let Me Tell You Something: Life as a Real Housewife, Tough-Love Mother, and Street-Smart Businesswoman
Author: Caroline Manzo
Pages: 220 p
Published: March 2013
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars



The Bravo Housewives' series are my guilty pleasures. And Caroline Manzo is my favorite! So I was excited to listen to her book. It was like a long coffee chat with Caroline as she shared family stories and life lessons learned. A couple of times I thought Caroline sounded stilted, like it didn't flow smoothly, but I enjoyed what she was talking about so much it overshadowed it.











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Title: Beautiful Ruins
Author: Jess Walter
Pages: 352 p
Published: June 2012
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


I loved this book. Loved it. It was laugh-out-loud funny and heartbreaking. There is a large cast of characters who are flawed yet believable. The setting shifts from present day Hollywood to 1960s era Italy. Yet keeping track of the interwoven stories was easy. I want to travel to Porto Vergogna and other small Italian fishing villages. It's masterful storytelling and I was invested in it immediately.







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Title: Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Author: Maria Semple
Pages: 330 p
Published: August 2012
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars



From the publisher:

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle—and people in general—has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence—creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.

I wasn't really sure what to think of this book based on the overview from the publisher. But what a treat! This book is laugh out loud funny in several places. Even though you have to suspend belief, it's worth it to follow the improbable tale of Bee piecing together what happened to her mother, Bernadette. It's an epistolary-style book but it incorporates all types of messages: letters, texts, journals, billboards, emails, and other sources. The secondary characters start out as stereotypes but the arc of the story is surprising.

I really loved this book. I wanted to start reading it again just as I finished it.



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Title: Casting Spells
Author: Barbara Bretton
Pages: 320 p
Published: November 2008
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars




From the publisher:

Sugar Maple looks like any Vermont town, but it's inhabited with warlocks, sprites, vampires, witches-and an ancient secret. And Chloe Hobbs, owner of Sticks & String, a popular knitting shop, has a big secret too. She's a sorcerer's daughter in search of Mr. Right-and she's found him in Luke MacKenzie, a cop investigating Sugar Maple's very first murder. Bad news is he's 100% human, which could spell disaster for a normal future with a paranormal woman like her.

Part knitting cozy mystery, part paranormal romance, with just enough humor tossed in to keep me entertained. Even though there were a couple of inconsistencies, I stuck with it for a fun read.

I loved the knitting and the knitting advice, I loved the setting. I liked the secondary characters.


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Title: Laced With Magic
Author: Barbara Bretton
Pages: 352 p
Published: August 2009
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

The second installment of the Sugar Maple Series delivers a great romantic-comedy-knitting story. Well, maybe not as much knitting in this book, but it's a fast, fun read. I will read more in the series because this book left off with quite a cliff hanger!









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Title: Spun by Sorcery
Author: Barbara Bretton
Pages: 336 pp
Published: November 2010
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The third installment in the Sugar Maple series is so much fun! This story included lots of knitting references, yarn references and humor. There's romance, there's suspense, and there's a great cast of characters. I will read more.










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Title: Spells and Stitches
Author: Barbara Bretton
Pages: 336 pp
Published: December 2011
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I finished reading the fourth and final installment of the Sugar Maple series and was not disappointed in the conclusion. This series was so much fun--great characters, great setting, and lots of fun knitting references. Plus, paranormal romance and some wackiness! I need to lose myself in another fun series.








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Title: Charmed
Author: Barbara Bretton
Pages: ebook edition, no pages listed (166)
Published: March 2013
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

An ebook in the series, it's kind of considered story 3.5. It left me wanting more, that's for sure! I wonder if it's the author's way of introducing a new character into the series?




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Title: Wonder Boys
Author: Michael Chabon
Pages: 384 pp
Published: April 2008
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars


June's reading group selection was a re-read for me. It's the story of one weekend in the life of a washed-up, pothead, creative writing professor named Grady Tripp. Grady's college is hosting a writing conference and his publisher best-friend is attending to check the progress of his novel. Grady's marriage is collapsing as he finds out his mistress is pregnant. So the weekend has a frantic edge to it as Grady's relationships fail as other characters' become entwined. The story is somewhat slapstick in its forward momentum. I still haven't quite decided what the book is--a morality tale, a buddy road trip? We'll have lots to talk about at our book group discussion!




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Title: The Baker Street Letters
Author: Michael Robertson
Pages: 288 pp
Published: February 2011
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

So glad I discovered this series! The first book kept me guessing as the brothers, Nigel and Reggie along with Laura and an interesting assortment of secondary characters kept the action going. Based on the premise that because Reggie rents office space where Sherlock Holmes resided, letters to Holmes are part of Reggie's lease agreement. Nigel is compelled to help one of the letter writers and it starts off the action.

I loved the relationship between Reggie and Nigel--brothers who love each other but are competitive since childhood. And I loved the relationship between the brothers and Laura--Reggie's love interest.

I can't wait to see where the series goes. It was such a fun read!


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Title: The Summer We Read Gatsby
Author: Danielle Ganek
Pages: 304 pp
Published: May 2011
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is a great summer read. It's got all the elements of a beach book: fashion, cocktails, a touch of mystery, summer romance, and a glamorous beach setting. I got right into the story but there were a couple of slow points. I enjoyed the book and characters enough to keep reading and I'm glad I did. This would be a very fun summer book group selection. There is a literary quality to it--the Gatsby and Fitzgerald references as well as other artists and works.

From the publisher:
Half-sisters Cassie and Peck could not be more different. Cassie is a journalist with her feet firmly planted on the ground; Peck is an actress with her head in the clouds. In fact, the only thing they seem to have in common is their inheritance. Fool's House is a broken-down home in the Hamptons left to Cassie and Peck by their Aunt Lydia, a house that she decreed they must share. But Cassie and Peck can't afford the place, and they can't agree on what to do with it. Plus, along with the house, they've inherited an artist-in-residence and self-proclaimed genius named Biggsy who seems to bring suspiciously bad luck wherever he goes. Cassie and Peck try to figure out their Aunt Lydia's puzzling instructions to "seek the thing of utmost value" in the house, but as summer comes to a close, they seem no closer to coming to a decision.

I enjoyed it.

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Title: The Violets Of March
Author: Sarah Jio
Pages: 304 pp
Published: April 2011
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This is a good summer read: romance, family mystery, and a great island/beach location.

From the editors:
In her twenties, Emily Wilson was on top of the world: she had a bestselling novel, a husband plucked from the pages of GQ, and a one-way ticket to happily ever after.

Ten years later, the tide has turned on Emily's good fortune. So when her great-aunt Bee invites her to spend the month of March on Bainbridge Island in Washington State, Emily accepts, longing to be healed by the sea. Researching her next book, Emily discovers a red velvet diary, dated 1943, whose contents reveal startling connections to her own life.

Emily's life stalled out. She retreated to Bainbridge Island-as much a character in the story as any person-to regroup and start her life over. My only quibble with the book is that the discovered journal reads like a narrative instead of a journal. But I enjoyed how the story lines overlapped.

Not high literature but a solid summer read. I liked it, not loved it.


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Title: Thirteen Reasons Why
Author: Jay Asher
Pages: 336 pp
Published: June 2011
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

From the publisher:
Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out how he made the list.

It's a story all high school students can relate to: feeling ostracized, stigmatized, rumor-ized. Sometimes it doesn't take much to bounce back from being "ized" but for some people, there is no bounce. Hannah Baker tells thirteen of the reasons she takes her life in a series of tape recordings. There is dual narration, which was authentic throughout the book. And there is a snowball effect that leaves a feeling of being trapped, like Hannah was.

I felt sorry for Clay. And I wondered what this book would have been like if told from any other tape recipient's point of view. How they may have rationalized their effect on Hannah.

It was compelling and I had a hard time putting it down. The companion website has some audio that enhances the experience.


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Title: This Time Together
Author: Carol Burnett
Pages: 288 pp
Published: March 2011
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Carol Burnett and I are now friends. At least that's how I feel after listening to her audiobook This Time Together.

From the publisher:
Carol Burnett is one of the most beloved and revered actresses and performers in America. The Carol Burnett Show was seen each week by millions of adoring fans and won twenty-five Emmys in its remarkable eleven-year run. Now, in This Time Together, Carol really lets her hair down and tells one funny or touching or memorable story after another – reading it feels like sitting down with an old friend who has wonderful tales to tell.

In engaging anecdotes, Carol discusses her remarkable friendships with stars such at Jimmy Stewart, Lucille Ball, Cary Grant, and Julie Andrews; the background behind famous scenes, like the moment she swept down the stairs in her curtain-rod dress in the legendary “Went With the Wind” skit; and things that would happen only to Carol – the prank with Julie Andrews that went wrong in front of the First Lady; the famous Tarzan Yell that saved her during a mugging; and the time she faked a wooden leg to get served in a famous ice cream emporium. This poignant look back allows us to cry with the actress during her sorrows, rejoice in her successes, and finally, always, to laugh.

I was an avid fan of the Carol Burnett Show. I loved her and her zany cohorts. So I was excited to listen to her read from her memoir, based on the question and answer sessions she does on the road. I loved it!


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Title: The Brothers of Baker Street
Author: Michael Robertson
Pages: 288 pp
Published: November 2011
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The second installment of the series does not disappoint. It picks up where the first left off, so you definitely need to read them as a series. This time it's Reggie who gets caught up trying to solve the letter to Sherlock Holmes. The reader learns more about Reggie than Nigel this time around.

I think there was a missed opportunity by the author--to create the villain's name as an anagram, but overall I was not disappointed in the book. The ending is a taught thrill ride that left me wondering how it would all be wrapped up. The ending satisfied. And left me wanting more. I'll read the third installment soon.

Just a note, the books have been optioned to make a television series.




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Title: The Fault In Our Stars
Author: John Green
Pages: 368 pp
Published: January 2012
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

It feels weird to rave at a book about teenage love set against a backdrop of cancer. Hazel and Augustus are star-crossed loves who meet at an adolescent cancer support group. Working with teenagers, I found the voices in the book ring true. I'm hesitant to say much about the book for fear of spoiling it. But I will say I loved it.





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Title: Orphan Train
Author: Christina Baker Kline
Pages: 278 pp
Published: April 2013
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

From the publisher:

Between 1854 and 1929, so-called orphan trains ran regularly from the cities of the East Coast to the farmlands of the Midwest, carrying thousands of abandoned children whose fates would be determined by pure luck. Would they be adopted by a kind and loving family, or would they face a childhood and adolescence of hard labor and servitude?

As a young Irish immigrant, Vivian Daly was one such child, sent by rail from New York City to an uncertain future a world away. Returning east later in life, Vivian leads a quiet, peaceful existence on the coast of Maine, the memories of her upbringing rendered a hazy blur. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past.

Seventeen-year-old Molly Ayer knows that a community-service position helping an elderly widow clean out her attic is the only thing keeping her out of juvenile hall. But as Molly helps Vivian sort through her keepsakes and possessions, she discovers that she and Vivian aren't as different as they appear. A Penobscot Indian who has spent her youth in and out of foster homes, Molly is also an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past.

I really enjoyed this book, even though there were some predictable plot points. I liked how authentic Maine is portrayed in it. And the plight of the Penobscot is very sad.


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Title: The Last Word: A Spellman Novel
Author: Lisa Lutz
Pages: 352 p
Published: July 2013
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

I love this series. It has been fun getting to know the Spellman family as they are so cleverly and clearly developed through the books; each book includes a character dossier as if a background check has been run on them. For all of Izzy's hijinks, this book has a serious plot thread running through it.

Book six picks up with less time lapse than between the previous books. Because of Izzy's hostile company takeover, the rest of the family are up to some funny shenanigans to test Izzy's leadership skills. And naturally, power went to Izzy's head for a while. But I don't want to spoil anything, so that's all I'll say. I love the footnotes, the Morgan Freeman references, and all the characters.

I am sad that this is actually the last word. The series as we know and love it is not going to be told through Izzy's perspective anymore.



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Title: Islands In The Stream
Author: Ernest Hemingway
Pages: 448 p
Published: 1970
My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

One of my reading group members likes to challenge herself as a reader. Sometimes that spills over into our group. I admit, I struggled with this book. It felt like three different novellas slapped together instead of the flow of a novel. I read the first two sections and began the third, but needed to cut it with something more summery, lighter. I'm counting it as a read book, though, because I read 80% of it.



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Title: The Age Of Miracles
Author: Karen Thompson Walker
Pages: 304 pp
Published: Jan 2013
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I love the premise: something has happened to the rotation of the earth; days and nights are growing longer and longer, gravity is affected. Consequently, every aspect of life on Earth is forced to change--to adapt or die. The birds, the tides, the plants, and the behavior of humans is gradually thrown out of sync. Ultimately it is the coming of age story of Julia, eleven years old when "the slowing" begins.

What I didn't like about the novel is the author's use of retrospect. Because Julia is looking back at the time, some of the innocence and wonder is gone. The language used is not true of an eleven-year-old. But maybe it's supposed to be that way. I just didn't like how it shifted from first person present to first person past. What I did like was the coming of age story--of Julia's struggles to fit in and have friends at school, Julia's navigation of her mother's Slowing Sickness, and Julia's relationship with her father, which was somewhat strained. I didn't particularly bond with many of the characters. Except the grandfather.



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Title: Boy Nobody
Author: Allen Zadoff
Pages: 352 pp
Published: June 2013
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Book Summary:
They needed the perfect assassin.

Boy Nobody is the perennial new kid in school, the one few notice and nobody thinks much about. He shows up in a new high school in a new town under a new name, makes a few friends, and doesn’t stay long. Just long enough for someone in his new friend’s family to die-of “natural causes.” Mission accomplished, Boy Nobody disappears, moving on to the next target.

But when he’s assigned to the mayor of New York City, things change. The daughter is unlike anyone he has encountered before; the mayor reminds him of his father. And when memories and questions surface, his handlers at The Program are watching. Because somewhere deep inside, Boy Nobody is somebody: the kid he once was; the teen who wants normal things, like a real home and parents; a young man who wants out. And who just might want those things badly enough to sabotage The Program’s mission.



I could not put this down. Could. Not. Put. Down! From what I understand it is the first in a trilogy. I really can't wait for more!!



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Title: The Casual Vacancy
Author: JK Rowling
Pages: 503 p
Published: September 2012
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

From the editors: When Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty fa├žade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the town's council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?


I really didn't know what to expect from this book, except that it received mixed reviews. Maybe it's a good thing that I waited until the hype died down to read it. I enjoyed it--found myself sucked into the small town intrigue and the lives of the characters, how they wove together. It seems that a lot of people expected this book to be an adult Harry Potter, but this is a complete departure from that franchise. This is definitely a book for grown ups. Not children or young adults.

What I enjoy in Rowling's writing is her way with language. She creates characters who are real people, I knew these people. I'm excited to talk about this book with my reading group.


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Title: The Cuckoo's Calling
Author: Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)
Pages: 455 p
Published: April 2013
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is one of the best mysteries I've read in a v-e-r-y long time. This left me guessing, I suspected almost every character. I stayed up half the night listening to this book, I just couldn't stop.

Cormoran Strike is the war hero, down on his luck, private detective. Robin Ellacott is his temp-agency assistant who proves with her quick wit and cleverness that she can hold her own. I loved watching their working relationship develop.

I don't want to say too much about it because I don't want to spoil it. But it's a modern take on a classic mystery. And I loved it!

Even though there is a ton of hype surrounding this book because of JK Rowling's pseudonym was discovered, this book is beyond the hype. The book is great.






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Title: Eleanor & Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Pages: 336 p
Published: February 2013
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Two high school outsiders are thrown together and form a shaky truce of a relationship that blossoms into an intense first love over the course of this book. I liked the characters very much. Their voices were authentic. I liked the 80s references, the music and atmosphere worked. I can't really think of anything I didn't like about this book.











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Title: The Heist
Author: Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg
Pages: 320 p
Published: June 2013
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

From the publisher:
FBI Special Agent Kate O’Hare is known for her fierce dedication and discipline on the job, chasing down the world’s most wanted criminals and putting them behind bars. Her boss thinks she is tenacious and ambitious; her friends think she is tough, stubborn, and maybe even a bit obsessed. And while Kate has made quite a name for herself for the past five years, the only name she’s cared about is Nicolas Fox—an international crook she wants in more ways than one.

Audacious, handsome, and dangerously charming, Nicolas Fox is a natural con man, notorious for running elaborate scams on very high-profile people. At first he did it for the money. Now he does it for the thrill. He knows that the FBI has been hot on his trail—particularly Kate O’Hare, who has been watching his every move. For Nick, there’s no greater rush than being pursued by a beautiful woman . . . even one who aims to lock him up. But just when it seems that Nicolas Fox has been captured for good, he pulls off his greatest con of all: he convinces the FBI to offer him a job, working side by side with Special Agent Kate O’Hare.

Problem is, teaming up to stop a corrupt investment banker who’s hiding on a private island in Indonesia is going to test O’Hare’s patience and Fox’s skill. Not to mention the skills of their ragtag team made up of flamboyant actors, wanted wheelmen, and Kate’s dad. High-speed chases, pirates, and Toblerone bars are all in a day’s work . . . if O’Hare and Fox don’t kill each other first.

Such a fun summer read--a little romance, a little beach, a lot of adventure, and a lot of snappy dialogue! I loved the secondary characters and can't wait for more in this series.


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Title: Thinking of You
Author: Jill Mansell
Pages: 432 p
Published: May 2013
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

A coming of age story for middle aged women! Ginny is an empty-nester whose daughter, Jem, has just gone off to university. Ginny has to reinvent herself and her life now that Jem's starting off on her own. What I like about Mansell's books are the secondary characters' stories weaving in and out of the main thread. There isn't so much going on that it's tough to keep track. There are moments of tenderness and heartbreak as well as some laugh out loud funny moments. And I wanted all the characters to be my friend. Well, maybe not Gavin.

A chick-lit, rom-com, perfect for lounging around and reading.






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Title: Reconstructing Amelia
Author: Kimberly McCreight
Pages: 382 p
Published: April 2013
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

It's been awhile since I've read a book I really couldn't put down. This is one of those books. It's the story of Amelia--a sophomore in high school who seemingly has it all that dies in the opening of the book. Amelia's single mother, Kate, is driven to find out the why of Amelia's death. Is it as it seems--a suicide?

I'm excited to discuss this book with my reading group because there are so many layers: the story unfolds through a series of flashbacks which shift perspective from Kate to Amelia as we learn about Amelia's last days. The life of a teenager is examined through a variety of texts from known and unknown people, photos, blog posts, Facebook posts, secret clubs, and all the ways teens express themselves.

This book stirred me as a teacher and a maternal figure. Some of the characters were more fleshed out than others and there were some cliches that were easy.

It's an examination of relationships: mother-daughter, friends, and colleagues. It's an examination of teen life: school activities, cliques, bullying, and how technology shapes life.

Did I mention I couldn't put it down?






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Title: The Baker Street Translation
Author: Michael Robertson
Pages: 320 p
Published: April 2013
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

The third installment of the Baker Street series picks up with Nigel in California, studying for the bar exam, and Reggie still begrudgingly sending the Sherlock Holmes letters to Nigel to take care of. This time the brothers and their lively sidekick, Laura, have to contend with two related murders, nursery rhyme spouting toy ducks, Buckingham Palace sewers, a kidnapping, an inheritance from a wealthy Texas billionairess, her unhappy great-nephew, a birthday party for a minor royal, an almost proposal, and the connection to the letters to Sherlock Holmes.

There is much going on and it's fast paced. I enjoyed it, it was a fast read. I can't wait for more!





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Title: My Lucky Life In and Out of Showbusiness
Author: Dick Van Dyke
Pages: 304 p
Published: May 2011
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I've always been a Dick Van Dyke fan. This memoir, as an audio book read by Van Dyke, was like a long conversation with an upbeat, optimistic friend.

From the publisher:
Dick Van Dyke, indisputably one of the greats of the golden age of television, is admired and beloved by audiences the world over for his beaming smile, his physical dexterity, his impeccable comic timing, his ridiculous stunts, and his unforgettable screen roles.

His trailblazing television program, The Dick Van Dyke Show (produced by Carl Reiner, who has written the foreword to this memoir), was one of the most popular sitcoms of the 1960s and introduced another major television star, Mary Tyler Moore. But Dick Van Dyke was also an enormously engaging movie star whose films, including Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, have been discovered by a new generation of fans and are as beloved today as they were when they first appeared. Who doesn’t know the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?

A colorful, loving, richly detailed look at the decades of a multilayered life, My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business, will enthrall every generation of reader, from baby-boomers who recall when Rob Petrie became a household name, to all those still enchanted by Bert’s “Chim Chim Cher-ee.” This is a lively, heartwarming memoir of a performer who still thinks of himself as a “simple song-and-dance man,” but who is, in every sense of the word, a classic entertainer.

It was a perfect listen. And I've got tons of Dick Van Dyke in my Netflix queue now!


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Title: Me Before You
Author: Jojo Moyes
Pages: 384 p
Published: December 2012
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I finished reading this last night and it's still hanging on with me. By turns funny, romantic, and heartbreaking, I couldn't put it down and I didn't want it to end.

From the publisher:
Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.

Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

Most of the novel is told from Louisa's point of view. The weakness of the story is when other characters narrate. I didn't care for that, even though I am overall a fan of that style. There were layers upon layers of every character but the story is really about Lou and Will.

I loved this book. It moved me.



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Title: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
Author: Robin Sloan
Pages: 304 p
Published: October 2012
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This was an enjoyable quest! I enjoyed the technology bits and parts, the cloak and dagger aspects. The narrator, Clay, makes witty observations and cleverly pulls off a seemingly impossible task. Mr. Penumbra is quite a character--literally and figuratively; I wish he was my mentor. I won't go into much detail because I don't want to spoil any of the fun. I liked it, didn't love it, but it was very fun.










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Title: One Last Thing Before I Go
Author: Jonathan Tropper
Pages: 336 p
Published: August 2012
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

There's a certain dark humor in One Last Thing Before I Go. Drew Silver is a 44 year-old, divorced, almost-successful one-hit wonder musician, contemplating his life when he finds out a heart condition is going to kill him if he doesn't get surgery. Sounds bleak but the author manages to make this anti-hero more than a schlub.

From the publisher:
“Mistakes have been made.” Drew Silver has begun to accept that life isn’t going to turn out as he expected. His fleeting fame as the drummer for a one-hit wonder rock band is nearly a decade behind him. His ex-wife is about to marry a terrific guy. And his Princeton-bound teenage daughter Casey has just confided in him that she’s pregnant—because Silver is the one she cares least about letting down.

So when Silver learns that he requires emergency life-saving heart surgery, he makes the radical decision to refuse the operation, choosing instead to spend what time he has left to repair his relationship with Casey, become a better man, and live in the moment—even if that moment isn’t going to last very long. As his exasperated family looks on, Silver grapples with the ultimate question of whether or not his own life is worth saving.

There were many funny, laugh-out-loud moments, as well as some poignant moments. And some cringe-worthy moments, too. This was an audiobook and the narrator, John Shea, was very very good.


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Title: Sisterland
Author: Curtis Sittenfeld
Pages: 416 p
Published: June 2013
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Daisy and Violet are identical twins who were born with "senses." As they grow up, Daisy reinvents herself as Kate and decides to live her life free of premonitions and distancing herself from all things psychic. Vi becomes a professional psychic. Things get interesting when Vi predicts that a major earthquake will hit their hometown of St. Louis, it is actually Kate who intuits the exact date.

I loved all the family dynamics--between Kate and Vi, both girls and their father, Kate and Jeremy and their children. I liked the relationships between Kate, Jeremy, and their friends Courtney and Hank. I liked that the earthquake was as much a character as any person. The build up to the date had me tense.

What prevents me from giving this five stars is the very ending. I won't give anything away, other than saying I was disappointed in the very end. It's still on my list of top books for the year, though! I couldn't put it down.


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Title: The Girl You Left Behind
Author: Jojo Moyes
Pages: 384 p
Published: August 2013
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

From the publisher:
France, 1916: Artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his young wife, Sophie, to fight at the front. When their small town falls to the Germans in the midst of World War I, Edouard’s portrait of Sophie draws the eye of the new Kommandant. As the officer’s dangerous obsession deepens, Sophie will risk everything—her family, her reputation, and her life—to see her husband again.

Almost a century later, Sophie’s portrait is given to Liv Halston by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. A chance encounter reveals the painting’s true worth, and a battle begins for who its legitimate owner is—putting Liv’s belief in what is right to the ultimate test.

What I loved about this book was the richness at atmosphere during the sections Sophie narrates as well as the pain and loss of Liv's narration. Each woman was real to me. The only thing missing was dimensions of the painting, "The Girl You Left Behind,"
it was difficult for me to envision the size of such an important character. And I had to keep reminding myself that the painting is fictional, it was described in such detail.

It's a love story, it's story of survival, it's a story of patience.

My complaint is that I listened to it and the narrator with the French accent was distracting. Other than that, I loved the book. I am a Jojo Moyes fan.


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Title: The Husband's Secret
Author: Liane Moriarty
Pages: 416 p
Published: July 2013
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I liked this book.

It's the story of three women: Cecilia, Rachel, and Tess. They are acquaintances whose lives are going to become entwined because of secrets. Cecilia finds a letter from her husband that instructs her to open in the event of his death--and she struggles with whether to open it or not. His secret shatters Cecilia's world. Rachel is grieving the death of her daughter when her son announces he and his family are moving half-way around the world--taking her beloved grandson away. And Tess is also reeling from the aftermath of a secret by those closest to her.

It's not high literature but there were enough twists to make it unpredictable. It is a great summer read, or a great choice between heavier fare. I think I need to find more by this author.





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Title: Ender's Game
Author: Orson Scott Card
Pages: 256 p
Published: January 1985
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Several of my students have talked about this book for years and I am just now getting around to reading it. I'm glad I finally did read it.

From the publisher:
Once again, the Earth is under attack. Alien "buggers" are poised for a final assault. The survival of the human species depends on a military genius who can defeat the buggers. But who? Ender Wiggin. Brilliant. Ruthless. Cunning. A tactical and strategic master. And a child. Recruited for military training by the world government, Ender's childhood ends the moment he enters his new home: Battleschool. Among the elite recruits Ender proves himself to be a genius among geniuses. In simulated war games he excels. But is the pressure and loneliness taking its toll on Ender? Simulations are one thing. How will Ender perform in real combat conditions? After all, Battleschool is just a game. Right?

What I liked about it: there are a variety of themes explored, from loss of innocence, to self-sacrifice, to abuse of power, and many more. I liked knowing Ender. I felt like I knew him well. And I had a real sense of place, which is a big deal for me--since I'm not much of a science-fiction fan.

What I didn't like about it: I had a hard time forgetting it was written during the Cold War. There were a few dated stereotypes (about girls and technology) that distracted and annoyed me.

It was a quick read. Once I got into it, I liked it. And I'm especially glad to share it with my students.


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Title: Inferno
Author: Dan Brown
Pages: 480 p
Published: May 2013
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This is the fourth in the Robert Langdon series. As with the other books, it takes place over 24 hours. Because the thrill of the chase is packed into such a short time span, it heightens the adventure. But the implausibility kicks in and kind of spoils the fun.

I don't know much about Dante's Inferno and now am curious to read it. Or a condensed version of it. And I want to go to Florence and Venice and Istanbul. What I really enjoyed is that I didn't know who to believe, who to trust, through the whole book. Because Langdon suffers amnesia (which is not a spoiler), it sets up the action for the rest of the book.

I'm excited for my book group to discuss this book. I'm sure there will be a few readers who do not like it and I can anticipate their reasons. Overall, I thought it was a fun thriller.



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Title: Code Name Verity
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Pages: 368 p
Published: May 2012
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I'm going to annoy people with my love of this book. I'm going to recommend it to all my students and I'm going to rave about it over and over to my friends. This is a story about friendship and bravery. I'm afraid that it's YA (young adult) label will prevent my adult friends from reading it, but don't let it fool you. This is a book for everyone. I was hooked and couldn't put it down. And talk about plot twists!

From the publisher:

Oct. 11th, 1943-A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it's barely begun.

When "Verity" is arrested by the Gestapo, she's sure she doesn't stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she's living a spy's worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?








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Title: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Pages: 448 p
Published: September 2013
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

From the publisher:

In Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl, Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

Rowell does not shy away from the ugly side of her characters, which makes them authentic. Every character in this book is believably flawed. I knew of fanfiction but didn't realize how prevalent it is or what kind of sub-culture it has.

I liked the family dynamics, the budding relationship, the faltering way Cath enters the world, the dorm setting, and campus life. My gripe is that there was almost too much "quoted" fanfic. I didn't get caught up in that world. And I thought the ending was a tad abrupt. But don't let that put you off. It's another great read!


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Title: Allegiant
Author: Veronica Roth
Pages: 544 pp
Published: October 2013
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The third installment of Divergent Trilogy.
From the publisher:
The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love. .

This third and final book in the trilogy alternates narrative point of view between Tris and Tobias, also known as Four. My complaint is that I didn't care for Tobias much once I got to know his thoughts and internal struggles. In the previous books, Four was a strong character--the strong, silent type, yet once I got into his mind I was disappointed.

The plot, however, is fast-paced, action packed and doesn't shy away from violence, as the previous books. There is a lot of controversy surrounding a major plot point, that I won't spoil here, but I don't get the fuss. There were some elements of the dystopian element that I wanted to know more about. And you have got to suspend belief that Tris is a sixteen-year-old girl. As I was reading, I would catch myself questioning how realistic the plot points were, and then I would suspend belief again and get back into the story. I mean, (and this doesn't spoil anything--it's a common thread through the whole series) how does Tris really turn into a savvy politico overnight?

Anyhow, this is just me sounding off in a petty manner. I enjoyed this series. And I really can't wait to see what the movies are like!



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Title: What Looks Like Crazy
Author: Charlotte Hughes
Pages: 288 pp
Published: February 2008
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars


From the publisher:
Psychologist Kate Holly's own life has become the stuff of intensive therapy. She's divorcing her gorgeous firefighter husband, she has an eccentric secretary, her mother and aunt have erected a vaguely sexual sculpture in her front yard, and her psychiatrist ex-boyfriend won't stop calling to find out what color panties she's wearing. Now, Kate's being bombarded with mysterious threats, and the only person who can help her is the one man who always makes her lose her mind-and heart.

A great new cozy mystery series with a romantic-comedy twist.







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Title: The Silent Wife
Author: A.S.A. Harrison
Pages: 336 p
Published: June 2013
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

From the publisher:
Psychotherapist Jodi Brett is content with her tidy, tranquil existence—cooking for her husband, Todd Gilbert; walking the dog; seeing a few clients out of their gorgeous Chicago condo—while headstrong Todd works as a professional renovator. As Jodi sees it, they complement each other, and she doesn’t mind pretending to disregard Todd’s indiscretions (which he clumsily attempts to cover up) in exchange. Accepting the peccadillos of her adulterous husband is one thing, but when Todd takes his infidelity to the next level and tells her that he’s leaving her, the existence she’s clung to so dearly is destroyed. And Jodi will do anything to take it back.

Alternating from Jodi's to Todd's viewpoint, this psychological thriller left me guessing. It's about loyalty and love, relationships and trust. I related to both Jodi and Todd. They are flawed, real characters. Jodi loves order and through some flashbacks, you get an idea why. Todd is self-centered and the flashbacks explain his nature, too. I liked how psychology is a character in this story, too. I couldn't put it down and kept wondering what would happen next--how their flawed relationship would play out.

There have been a lot of comparisons to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I can see why.



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Title: The Sound and the Furry
Author: Spencer Quinn
Pages: 320 p
Published: September 2013
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This sixth installment of the Chet & Bernie series sees them on the move to the bayou of Louisiana. Chet is confused by the changes but adapts quickly. I thought this was one of the better of the series.









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Title: A Winter Flame
Author: Milly Hohnson
Pages: 450 pp
Published: October 2012
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I'm not sure how to characterize this book. It's kind of a rom-com, it's kind of chick-lit. It's the story of Eve, broken hearted by the death of her military fiance, inheriting a Christmas theme park jointly with a mysterious friend of her great-aunt. I really enjoyed the Christmas theme park, it was another character in the book. The secondary characters were people I want to know. There were some quirky plot twists which kept me reading. It's funny and sad, and maybe a bit predictable, but I really enjoyed the writing. I think I have a new author to check out.