Category: Book Reviews
Book Review: The Life List – Contemporary women’s novel 0 comments

The Life List is a charming novel recommended to me by a friend.
With a little bit of chick lit tone, but sincere and lovable characters, it broke out of the mold with a fresh story.
Brett appears to be the young career woman who has it all. The book opens with her grieving her mother’s death. She expects to be named CEO of her mother’s cosmetic corporation. But the will has an unusual
stipulation. Brett’s mother had saved her seventh grade list of dreams – the life list – and instructs Brett to complete all the unfinished tasks.
The adolescent dreams – like owning a horse – seem ridiculous to Brett. And others, like having a good relationship with her late father, seem impossible. As she achieves each one, her mom’s lawyer reads a note that her mother had written before her death. In the process, Brett discovers not only that her mom knew her better than she knew herself, but that her seventh-grade self also had some wonderful dreams.
The Life List had terrific character development and the plot unfolded nice and slowly, but with enough unpredictable developments to keep me guessing.
The book was on sale this summer and is now back up to full price at $9.02. Audiobook: $3.99.
Click here to purchase The Life List

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Guest Book Review by April: Dragonkin – A light fantasy with some romantic elements – $2.99 0 comments

DragonKin ($2.99) , the sequel to Dragons of Wendal ($2.99) by Maria E. Schneider, a light fantasy with some romantic elements. Think, cozy mystery with dragons and you’ll be closer to the mark. This is the story of Drissa who happens to be in hiding and has the bad luck to stumble upon some nefarious goings-on while she is trying to be as inconspicuous as possible.
So, Drissa is on the run and hiding but finds someone who needs her help to help someone else…and against her will she gets snared into someone else’s struggle and, well, I can’t give you more or I’ll spoil it. Just know that the story keeps on moving and is full of fun and interesting characters (many of which I’d definitely like to read more about-hint, hint) and has a fast-moving plot that keeps you turning those pages until it the very end.
If you liked Dragons of Wendal you will definitely like this. If you haven’t tried the first book, what the heck are you waiting for? This one is on my five star reads list for 2014.
April is an avid reader. In an alternate reality she is a young dragon just learning to fly. You can find her on Goodreads here.

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DCR Book Club: Book Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein 2 comments

It has to be a dog. No offense to cat lovers, but if a pet is going to tell Denny Swift’s story, only a dog could do it. The Art of Racing in the Rain ($5.99 Audiobook $6.99) by Garth Stein is a novel told in the dog’s voice.
Enzo starts the story with “Gestures are all I have; sometimes they must be grand in nature.” Throughout the book I visualized his expressions and actions as he tells us about the interloper Eve, Baby Zoe, watching television, the Evil Twins and the ride of his life in the Aston Martin DB5.
Enzo became my personal friend with all the latest on the Swift family. He told their story, not as a gossip, but with his own unique insight. He loved them for who they were, not for what they should have been.
At the beginning Enzo explains that he is old and ready to go on. Much of the story was predictable. I knew what was going to happen to Eve and the situation with Annika was telegraphed from the get-go. But that didn’t diminish the book for me as I wanted to know how Enzo would tell it.
Mr. Stien’s style drew me into the story, almost making me feel as a member of the extended family. I knew enough to form attachments and to dislike the evil people. It was well-paced but there were parts I didn’t understand, such as the zebra incident. Enzo’s explanation late in the story was helpful, but it was still odd.
If you have a dog who is considered a member of the family, this book may scare you if you give much thought to the story your dog could write. My husband and I are pet-free and feel safe – unless the walls start talking.
What are your overall thoughts about the book? Did the dog telling the story work for you? Was the book depressing? Did you like the car racing theme running throughout the book?
In a week or two, we’ll spend time discussing Enzo’s philosophies of life.

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Book Review: Wonder by R.J. Palacio, a young adult novel for everyone – $7.99 2 comments

I’m not smarter than fifth-grader August Pullman. I certainly have not experienced Auggie’s pain and rejection.
R.J. Palacio’s touching novel Wonder is Auggie’s story, a fifth-grader born with a “facial difference.” As Auggie says:

I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

Wanting their son to move toward a more normal life, his parents make the difficult decision to move him from home-schooling to a private school when he begins the fifth grade.
The book is Auggie’s story of the school year – his hurts, disappointments and even a few good experiences. His young voice acutely shares his fears and pain as he tries hard to be normal when he looks abnormal.
Via, Auggie’s older sister, tells her story too. Having lived in the shadow of Auggie’s needs for many years she is spreading her wings and wants to be known as for herself and not just Auggie’s sister.
Told through six voices, this amazing novel vividly portrays tender emotions, the insensitivity of children and adults and the angst of parents who must make tough decisions out of love. I purchased and listened to the well-presented audiobook version. I highly recommend this book and audiobook for all ages.
Bring out the tissues and learn from a fifth-grader when you read this book selling for $7.99. The audiobook is $3.99.
 
Ms. Palachio has written a short story that is a follow-up to Wonder, The Julian Chapter ($1.99) The boy who bullied Auggie tells his story for treating Auggie like he had the plague. This is a must-read for anyone who has read Wonder.

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Book Review: Odette’s Secrets – Historical fiction for young adults and adults – Only $1.99 0 comments

So many secrets and so much whispering! Odette doesn’t understand why her father had to leave nor why her mother brings strangers into their apartment late at night.
In Odette’s Secrets war has come to France and her family must hide their Jewish faith. Odette must keep secret many things about her family. Her mother insists that Odette tell no one. Conflicted by the new identity that she must take on to protect her life, Odette is saddened by the way her life has changed.
Maryann MacDonald has written a moving historical novel from Odette Meyers’ true childhood in war-torn France. Written in lyrical, free verse, the story reads quickly and clearly tells how war changed the lives of innocent children.
Readers ages 10 and older will learn the tragedies of World War II when they read this historical novel, selling today for only $1.99.
Click here to purchase Odette’s Secrets

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Book Review: Compromising Positions – Contemporary romance – Only 99 cents 0 comments

The public loves a scandal and when members of Congress are involved, the appeal increases. Compromising Positions takes us to the halls of the Capitol for romance and the age-old struggle for power.
Author Mary Whitney brings together two freshman members of the House of Representatives with opposing political ideologies. Jessica Clark from Arizona, an outspoken liberal with moxie, and Michael Grath, a rising star from a political dynasty in Chicago, are attracted to one another.
It’s a battle of wills as their political views, the sins of the past and even well-meaning chiefs of staff play out in their budding relationship.
The story is told in alternating voices and develops the characters more fully. Occurring over the course of a year, contemporary oft-debated topics are integral to the plot. The press even has a part in the story, giving the book a real Washington feel.
It’s spicy in few places, but anyone who loves a political scandal or a good romance will want to buy Compromising Positions while it is only 99 cents! Highly recommended.
I downloaded this book for free, but that did not influence my evaluation of this book.

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Guest book review: Miss Fortune Mystery Series – First book free 1 comment

I think I have a new favorite humorous mystery series! I thoroughly enjoyed Louisiana Longshot (Free) by Jana DeLeon, the first book in the series. I laughed more than once and was quite intrigued by a heroine who is involved in undercover work and who views her high heels as a weapon.
The second in the series, Lethal Bayou Beauty , is a six dollar book so I hesitated before buying it. But I can tell you, it is worth it! I enjoyed it even more than the first in the series.
Yes, these are silly cozy fun, but they are exactly the type of cozy I like: All the great characters are back, including the Geritol Mafia. They take center stage, but we also get to know a bit more about Walter and his nephew, the possible romantic interest. Fun, witty and dare I admit that I laughed out loud in more than one spot? There’s this scene with a fish where I had to put the book down, laugh and then read the entire section all over again! I think the mystery was a bit stronger in the second installment, but they were both just wonderful. I love it when a series gets better as they go. Zany, crazy fun. Buy Lethal Bayou Beauty for $5.99 today.
I have gone out and purchased book three already, Swamp Sniper ($5.99). These are like chocolate cake.
 
Maria Schneider is an avid reader, gardener and the author of Soul of the Desert ($4.99), a story about an adopted kid on the run.

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App Review: Scrabble – Kindle Tablet Edition – $4.99 0 comments

Nanna, nanna, nanna!
When Scrabble Kindle Table Edition was offered for only 99 cents last week (now $4.99) I downloaded it in anticipation of a bit of friendly competition between my husband and me.
Tiger was a champion speller in his younger days and he has only gotten better as an adult. On second thought, I probably understated the atmosphere when I said “friendly competition.”
I chose the Pass ‘N’ Play option for the game where 2 – 4 players use the same device, passing it among the participants.
We spelled, strategized and scored the choice squares on the Scrabble board. We bemoaned the letters we were given and still posted words during every turn.
Tiger won three out of the four games. He would have gone undefeated expect for my lucky game with the words TUX, WIZ, and QUARTS – all on triple words scores.
In addition to Pass ‘n’ Play, options include playing with friends via social media, playing a random opponent or playing the computer (I call that Scrabble suicide). You can activate the Teacher – an annoying screen that tells you what word you could have played from your tiles to have scored more points. I disabled it. Who needs that kind of helpful advice?
I strongly recommend that you download the game today and have great fun with a classic.
BTW – NANNA is an acceptable word and used three of the four Ns in my tile pile.

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Book Review: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion – $1.99 0 comments

He’s a geek – socially inept, funny when he doesn’t mean to be, and a literal guy. He’s also charming and endearing. He’s the unlikely hero in The Rosie Project.
Professor Don Tillman knows his academic subject (Asperger’s syndrome), schedules his life down to the minute (ninety-four minutes to clean the bathroom which he had to reschedule resulting in an 8-day period of compromised bathroom hygiene), and is totally clueless about women (the apricot ice cream experiment). In an inspired moment he decides to find a wife through questionnaires and interviews.
Rosie is a student who tends bar on the side. She not a wife applicant, but when Rosie visits Professor Tillman’s office, his life lessons begin. The process is hilarious, frustrating and heartwarming.
Told in first person by Professor Tillman, the story is a bit ribald in places. Written by Austrailian Graeme Simsion, the humor is droll and the characters are quirky. This romantic comedy from the man’s point of view is highly recommended. Buy it today for only $1.99.
Click here to purchase The Rosie Project

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Book review – Orphan Train – Parallel lives many years apart 6 comments

Christina Baker Kline’s Orphan Train reminds us that a family is a wonderful thing to have.
Molly is a sullen, lonely teen, angry with the misfortunes that have befallen her. She makes bad choices, perhaps to gain attention. She desperately wants acceptance but builds a wall to keep people out.
Vivian is an elderly woman who has accepted the misfortunes life has given her and the decisions she has made. She’s from a very different generation than Molly, but longs for a familial connection.
The two meet when Molly must complete community service and her not-quite-boyfriend convinces his mom to let Molly help Vivian sort through the boxes in the attic. The mementos and memories in the boxes demonstrate the similarities in their lives and through shared stories, Molly becomes the catalyst to change Vivian’s world even at the age of 91.
The book alternates between the life story of Vivian and current day reality for Molly.
Vivian’s dysfunctional family immigrated to America from Ireland. When a fire took the lives of her parents, brothers and sister, Niamh (later named Vivian) was placed on an orphan train and sent to Minnesota to be placed with a family there.
Money was scarce to provide for them and those who ran the Aid organization were employees, not loving relatives. The horrors and abuses to the children as described in the book are probably based on true stories from children who actually rode the trains. Ms. Kline’s writing of the atrocities is gripping.
The homes and families throughout Molly’s life prove that today’s foster parents can still be motivated by greed and free labor more than a concern for the child.
We can view the events that happen in our lives as coincidence or providence, a coming together for a reason. Novels demonstrate these instances more clearly than real life. If Molly had not stolen the book from the library, she would never have known Vivian and her story. Vivian, living an isolated life, would not have known a teen with tenacity who searched the internet to find information of the ones that Vivian knew and loved.
The novel is well-written and kept my attention. At times I wanted to keep reading Vivian’s story and not be interrupted by Molly and her teenage angst. With the exception of Vivian and Molly, I didn’t like the women in this story. Several of the men were weak, milquetoast characters.
What are your overall thoughts about the book? We will discuss particular aspects later, but how did you feel about the alternating voices? Do you feel this book should have been classified as a young adult/teen novel?

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