Tuesday, May 28, 2013


by Mark Goldblatt

This was a delightful book narrated by the main character, Julian Twerski.

Julian Twerski isn't a bully. He's just made a big mistake. So when he returns to school after a weeklong suspension, his English teacher offers him a deal: if he keeps a journal and writes about the terrible incident that got him and his friends suspended, he can get out of writing a report on Shakespeare. Julian jumps at the chance. And so begins his account of life in sixth grade--blowing up homemade fireworks, writing a love letter for his best friend (with disastrous results), and worrying whether he's still the fastest kid in school. Lurking in the background, though, is the one story he can't bring himself to tell, the one story his teacher most wants to hear.
Inspired by Mark Goldblatt's own childhood growing up in 1960s Queens, Twerp shines with humor and heart. This remarkably powerful story will have readers laughing and crying right along with these flawed but unforgettable characters.
I read this book because my grandson will be in the 6th grade next year and I thought this would be a book he'd enjoy.  I certainly did.  

Friday, May 24, 2013

The River of No Return

by Bee Ridgway

I received this chunkster (550 pages) in the mail today and I'm so excited to read it.  Unfortunately, it was an advance reader copy and I was suppose to review it close to its release date of May 23.  Even though it's a story of love and time travel, and I would love to review it when requested, I cannot travel back in time to get this read before the 23rd.

What I can do is a post a "heads up" that this book is now in bookstores and it sounds like a fabulous read.  There are 51 reviews on that can give you a good feel for the book.

Here's the write-up from Bee Ridgway's webpage: 
In Bee Ridgway’s wonderfully imaginative debut novel, a man and a woman travel through time in a quest to bring down a secret society that controls the past and, thus, the future.​“You are now a member of the Guild. There is no return.”Two hundred years after he was about to die on a Napoleonic battlefield, Lord Nicholas Falcott wakes up in a hospital bed in twenty-first century London. The Guild, a secretive organization that controls time travel, helps him make a new life in the modern world.
But Nick yearns for home and for one beautiful woman in particular, now lost to history.Back in 1815, that very woman, Julia Percy, finds herself the guardian of a family secret inherited from her enigmatic grandfather... how to manipulate time. But there are those who seek to possess Julia’s power and she begins to realize she is in the gravest peril.The Guild’s rules are made to be broken, and Nick discovers how to travel back to the nineteenth century and his ancestral home. Fate and the fraying fabric of time draw Nick and Julia together once again . . . soon enough, they are caught up in an adventure that puts the future of the world into their hands.Love endures the gulf of centuries . . . and so does danger.  As gripping as it is evocative, The River of No Return is a sweeping story of lovers who match wits and gamble their hearts against the rules of time itself.
Can't wait to read this! 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Sleeping in Eden

by Nicole Baart
There's a bit of mystery in this book - who is the woman's body under the barn's floorboards and was she murdered by the man who hung himself over that spot?  

The story takes place in two different time periods, approximately 10 years between.  The earlier story involves a charming tomboy, Meg, who falls in love with the new boy at school.  The later story, which is interwoven with the first,  involves Luke whose marriage is strained.

I like this method of storytelling - one chapter about one person and then the next about another and back and forth.  Watching for clues as to how the two stories are connected keeps my mind in a questioning, seeking mode.

Sleeping in Eden is a mystery, I guess, but I think the better classification would be real life drama.  The mystery adds intrigue but the real depth of the book is in the characters and their personal dramas.

Thanks to Anne Staszalek and The Book Report Network for sending me a copy of this book to read and review.  I enjoyed it very much.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Girl, the Gold Tooth, and Everything

by Francine LaSalaon

I've never done drugs, but this made me feel like I might be on them.  It was mind-boggling, and not as in 'awe-some' but more like 'what was that?'  The first part seemed to drag on.  The last part of the book, when the action finally starts up was good but it didn't rescue the book.  The dentist scene made me think I had missed that this was a fantasy and not a mystery.  But, no, it is a mystery.  I can't imagine anyone I know going to that dentist and not feeling like something was totally off about it.

The language was over the top.  My students used to say that it was part of life and I would tell them that so is human waste but we didn't need to spend our days in the sewer.  I chose not to hang out in the sewer so I won't be reading any more books by this author.  

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Burgess Boys

by Elizabeth Strout

I wanted to read this because my mother loved Olive Kitteridge written by the same author.  Mom highly recommended it to me and to several other people.  Reading it was like a treasure hunt as I searched for and wondered why my mom loved it so.  What was it that 'spoke' to her? I never really answered that question and my mother couldn't really pin it down when I asked her.  She said there was something that resonated within her as she read it.

Now I understand.  Even though I really liked Olive Kitteridge, it didn't resonate with me, but The Burgess Boys did.  It wasn't so much the story but the characters and what they felt at different times.  I highlighted several (okay, lots) of passages that 'spoke' to me but I can't share them because my copy is an advance ecopy and I'm not suppose to quote from it.

Surprisingly, it wasn't the two Burgess boys that spoke to me, but their sister and one of their wives.  The doubts these women expressed were some that I have felt and sometimes still do.  Strout was able to help me see into the hearts of people who, on the surface, I wouldn't have thought I had much in common with.  The two women were not the only ones I felt compassion for - my heart ached for the teenage boy, for his two uncles, and for the Somali people who were forced to move to a small town in Maine.

Here's the write-up from the author's webpage.
Haunted by the freak accident that killed their father when they were children, Jim and Bob Burgess escaped from their Maine hometown of Shirley Falls for New York City as soon as they possibly could. Jim, a sleek, successful corporate lawyer, has belittled his bighearted brother their whole lives, and Bob, a Legal Aid attorney who idolizes Jim, has always taken it in stride. But their long-standing dynamic is upended when their sister, Susan—the Burgess sibling who stayed behind—urgently calls them home. Her lonely teenage son, Zach, has gotten himself into a world of trouble, and Susan desperately needs their help. And so the Burgess brothers return to the landscape of their childhood, where the long-buried tensions that have shaped and shadowed their relationship begin to surface in unexpected ways that will change them forever.
Strout won a Pultizer Prize for Olive Kitteridge and I'll bet she wins a few prizes for The Burgess Boys, too. I liked this book a lot.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

The Ophelia Cut

by John Lescroart

I read this book with my heart in my throat.  In this installment in the Dismas Hardy legal thriller series, Dismas must represent his best friend and brother-in-law against a murder charge.

Brittany McGuire is the beautiful, twenty-three-year-old daughter of Susan Weiss and Moses McGuire—and the niece of defense attorney Dismas Hardy. Popular and pretty, Brittany has always moved easily from one boyfriend to the next, but her most recent ex, a young man named Rick Jessup, can’t seem to get over her. His abuse escalates, culminating in a terrible night when Brittany is raped.
Within twenty-four hours, Rick Jessup is dead, Moses McGuire is the prime suspect in the investigation, and Dismas Hardy has been hired to defend his old friend. Making things even more complicated, this case threatens to bring to light old secrets that could destroy the careers of Hardy and police lieutenant Abe Glitsky.
As the overwhelming evidence against Moses piles up, Dismas Hardy focuses on planting doubt in the minds of the jurors—until, in a feat of legal ingenuity that is staggering in both its implications and its simplicity, Hardy sees a new way forward that might just save them all. But at what price?

I've read several in this series, but not in any order.  Each one read just fine as a stand-alone, although I think it would be nice to know more of the background story.  In fact, I'm going to get my hands on the last several books in the series so I can learn more about something that happened years earlier to Dismas, Moses and a couple other guys.

Lescroart writes a really good story, with substance. Meaty.  The characters are life-like and complex.  Nothing is black or white in this novel - lots of grey, shady areas.  I liked it a lot.