Sunday, April 23, 2017

Murder and Mayhem on World Book Day

While I enjoy watching criminal shows and mysteries on television, I don't usually read those types of novels. The few times I have in the past, they were a bit...cheesy for my taste. Well, obviously, I wasn't tasting the right kind.

First, my regular book club chose Defending Jacob, by William Landay, for our book this month. We met on Saturday to discuss it. It is a great novel, but not a happy one. The premise is a teenage boy is murdered in the park on his way to school and another boy is accused of the murder. The boy accused of the murder just happens to be the Assistant District Attorney's son. There are many sides to this story, and it definitely keeps you interested. No boring pages in this novel. The book is heart-wrenchingly good...and more than a bit creepy.

Second, I just finished (and by 'just', I mean less than 10  minutes ago) Mary Kubica's debut novel from 2014, The Good Girl. Wow, what a ride! This book was recommended to me by one of my advanced reading students. Actually, it was more than that. She didn't simply recommend it, she brought her copy to school, put it in my hand, and told me to read it. My student has excellent taste. 

The Good Girl is not a young adult novel, it's an adult fiction book. It's a bit complex in the way it is set up, but I liked it that way. I will tell you that the novel jumps around between characters and points-of-view. It also goes back and forth between the present and the past. It is done very well, but I know some of my friends who don't like when a novel does that, so...don't say I didn't tell you up front.

The novel is a story of a young woman who gets abducted. In the story, we hear from the kidnapper, the mother of the victim, and the detective in charge of the case. We hear about the victim from the others, but don't hear from the victim herself. It's an interesting thriller, with lots of unexpected twists and turns. I really enjoyed the ride and look forward to discussing it with my student tomorrow.

That's all I have for tonight, folks. I'm sorry to cut it short, but it's been a glorious day filled with family and friends celebrating my granddaughter's second birthday. I'm barely able to keep my eyes open as I write this, but I was determined to put out the good word for these two novels before I went to bed.

I hope you all had an enjoyable weekend, and a beautiful World Book Day!!

Happy reading! :)

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Trying Something New

As much as I love to read, I've only ever belonged to one book club. And I have been a member of the same ladies' book club for about eight or nine years. It's comfortable. I know everyone. I know exactly what everyone likes to read. It's comfortable and...predictable. And, while there's nothing wrong with that,...I decided to try something new.

The Sign-up Sheet

One day, not too long ago, I found myself in front of a sign-up sheet while I was out wandering around town. The sheet had a photo of a book cover and said, "If you'd like to read this book and meet up with a group of people who have also read it, we'd love for you to join us for a discussion." The list already had about ten names on it. I thought about it, looked up the book on my Goodreads account (to get a feel for the book), and tried to decide if I wanted to take a chance on meeting up with a group of complete strangers. Of course, it's not really "complete strangers" if they are readers, in my opinion. When you share a love of books, well,,...that's about the best character reference I know of.

I put my name on the list. 

I also marked the date, time, and place of the meeting on my phone calendar and set myself an alarm. I pulled up Amazon on my phone, bought the book (along with a few others), and had the books sent to my house (love my Amazon Prime). I was try something new!

The Book

I enjoyed Carolyn Brown's The Ladies Room. It was, as we say where I come from, a hoot! While the base of the story line isn't an original, the cast of characters and the circumstances made it an enjoyable read. In fact, my oldest daughter and I were trying to figure out who should play the parts to make it a lighthearted movie.

The book opens at a great aunt's funeral where one cousin, Trudy, overhears her two cousins in the ladies room talking about Trudy "bless her heart" and her cheating husband. Trudy had no idea. The action starts when Trudy has to decide what to do with what she's just found out about her twenty year marriage to her very successful attorney husband. 

This book is Southern sass and "put you in your place" kind of funny. It also has its sweet and tender moments and insights. It speaks the truths we all know, once we've lived long enough. The style kind of reminds me of Joshilyn Jackson's novels, but The Ladies Room is less complex than Jackson's stories.

The Meeting

I admit I was a bit nervous when it came time to go to the book group meeting. I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I knew from the names on the list and from the type of book it was, it would probably be all women. And have I mentioned I'm quite a social creature most of the time? Still, I was nervous. I had read the book, of course, but I wasn't sure of how I would be received. Was it always an impromptu book club? Did other people know each other? Would I be the only newbie?

I felt a bit awkward, at first. But, when one of the other ladies walked up and welcomed me with a big hug, I knew I would fit right in. They had tables arranged in a square, so we could all face each other. Everyone had their book, everyone had read it (and, trust me, this is not a given in my own book club), and we all came to the same concensus about the book: it was a fun read, but a bit predictable and a bit too convenient. Still, it was enjoyable. We discussed the book the whole time, which I loved, and when we'd finished, a few of the ladies asked me questions about myself. By that time, after discussing the book, I was quite comfortable to share more about myself. My something new...was something I was really glad I did.


I'm keeping my eye out for other sign-up sheets. I think it'd be fun to visit various book groups, hear other "complete strangers" opinions, and step outside my comfort zone more often. In fact, I've just found out about a cool, indie bookstore I didn't know about. It looks like they have all kinds of interesting things going on there. 

Hmmm,...time to try something new again...

And I can't wait! 

Happy Easter!

I hope you and yours 
enjoy a wonderful 
Easter Sunday!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Wonderful Weekend

I'm happy to say that it's been a beautiful weekend filled with family and fun...and perfect weather for reading on my patio. And because it's been such a lovely weekend, I've spent very little time indoors and no time on my laptop.

I did, however, want to pop on here and tell you that I'm currently reading Bryan Cranston's memoir, A Life in Parts. The book is exactly what the title describes. Cranston takes us through his life with small stories that say much more than just the words on the page. It's interesting to read stories about another person's life and understand what shaped them and made them the way they are. I appreciate his candor and his sense of humor. I also appreciate his talent as a good storyteller.

I hope you enjoyed a fabulous weekend, wherever you are, and  you're ready and refreshed for the new week. I also hope you found time to enjoy a good book or two.

Happy reading! :)

Sunday, April 2, 2017


With a title like Midwinterblood, I just had to use it for the title of this post. In fact, it was the title that intrigued me and made me want to read the book. The cover on the front almost dissuaded me, as it looked a bit like a teenage romance novel. But that was because I didn't really understand the cover until I read the book. (And, you should know, I really love when that happens!)

I've never read anything by Marcus Sedgwick, the author of Midwinterblood, but I can assure he is on my "author radar" now. It only took reading through the first two chapters to know something was different about this storyteller. Sedgwick is a YA author, apparently, but I would not call Midwinterblood YA, unless you mean his books are for older high school students. 

Midwinterblood is dark, a bit historic, and is nothing like what you imagine from the first chapter. In fact, I almost didn't read past the first couple of pages of the second chapter, thinking it was another teenage romance novel. But that was when everything changed, and I definitely got the sense something (in a very good way). 

By the way, while I'm a sixth grade teacher and always on the look-out for great age-appropriate books for my students, I also have a warped and wicked sense of humor sometimes, enjoy just the right amount of dark, and have a very open mind when it comes to what I read. 

I'm actually glad I didn't know anything about the book before I read it (there was only reviews on the back of the book, not a synopsis). I think I enjoyed it more because of that. So, how do I give you a bit of a book review without spoiling anything? I know the book isn't for middle school students, but I also know some adults that may not appreciate the author's type of storytelling. 

So, let me put it this way...

If you'd like to read something dark and haunting, but...soulful and thoughtful. If you have a mind that is open enough to enjoy the possibility that the world may not actually work the way most people think it does and enjoy a good twist and turn (or a few) that you don't see coming, this book is for you. It isn't a long book, it was a fairly quick read for me, but it definitely has depth...and superstition...and mystery. I really liked it. And I liked it even more after I finished it and absorbed the novel and appreciated the craft of the author.

I will tell you where the story begins...

It is the year 2073. Eric, a journalist, is on a plane heading to Blessed Island to find out why people are so happy there. Other journalists have been sent to this 'utopian society' before to research it and tell the secret of what makes the island so wonderful, but they never return because they love it so much they stay there. Eric is determined to get the truth of what is going on at the island and tell it to the world. He arrives safely,...but is he safe?

And that is all I'm going to tell you. (But, remember, strap yourself in for quite a wild ride. Nothing is as it seems.)

I look forward to reading more of Mr. Sedgwick's books. I won't be passing them out to my sixth graders, though, until they're in high school...or college. :) 

Happy reading!