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Author: Ashley Pohlenz
I am a senior library assistant. I am in charge of creating adult book displays that showcase many different books from our library collection.
Being able to work around books is a dream! I read anything but my favorite genres are historical fiction and YA. Give me anything set in Tudor England or teenage fantasy novel and I am set.
First line: A boy is coming down a flight of stairs.
Summary: In 1580, in England, a young tutor named William Shakespeare meets the daughter of his employers. She is a strange girl who wanders the fields with her falcon on her arm. Against the wishes of their families they marry. Agnes has a reputation as a healer. People flock to her for cures. However, when their son, Hamnet, falls ill to the bubonic plague there is little she can do for the boy. With the heartache and loss Shakespeare writes one of his most epic plays.
My Thoughts: This book was beautifully written. It was almost poetic in its writing and style. I listened to most of this and the reader was so soothing. I think this would be a perfect book for book clubs, fans of historical fiction or literary fiction.
This brings to life a major part of Shakespeare’s life, his family. Very little is written or talked about since his most famous times were in London and on the stage. I loved learning about Agnes (or Anne) and their children. Life was so simple back then but also very tragic as well. I knew very little even though I have read several of his plays and watched many documentaries and movies of his life. The fact that we can still see some of the places he lived in Stratford-Upon-Avon is astounding since over 400 years have passed.
My favorite chapter, and the one that will most likely stick with me, was the one about the flea. O’Farrell spends a whole chapter on the flea that brought the plague to the home of William Shakespeare and eventually killed his only son. It is hard to imagine how something that started thousands of miles away could affect so many. The tale was fascinating. Who would ever consider writing about the flea?! It is genius.
First line: A convenience store is a world of sounds.
Summary and Thoughts: In Japan, convenience stores are essential to the Japanese lifestyle. They are on every block, sometimes two facing each other. Keiko Furukura sees convenience stores to be a part of her as much as they are a part of Japan. Odd since birth, Keiko has always found trouble fitting in. She took everything literally and always seemed to get in trouble no matter what she did to correct her behavior. At the age of eighteen she started working part-time at a new convenience store in hopes to blend in to normal society. There she learns how to interact with people only as a convenience store worker. It’s also there that she learns to copy the clothing style and mannerisms of her coworkers. Eighteen years later she is still doing her usual routine much to the distaste of those around her, despite her being perfectly happy as a convenience store worker. In fact, she believes she can only live and breathe as a convenience store worker. An opportunity with an ex co-worker means she can finally pretend to please her family and friends’ wishes, but she’s not sure if she’s truly happy about it.
This was a quick read as it was small with only about 170 pages. It was also quick in that I didn’t want to put it down. I found the main character to be hilarious and relatable without her even trying to be. You can tell she is coded as an autistic character with a lot of self-awareness. She knows what it takes to be a normal person in society and that her odd behavior has made those around Keiko want her to be ‘cured’, but she can’t. I got frustrated along with her when some of her attempts where met with criticism. What is she supposed to do when no one is clear with her? This book also helped me understand Japanese cultural norms but also understand why someone like Furukura would be frustrated with what society thinks she should do. It was refreshing to see marriage not be the end or desirable goal. To me, this book was a good way to show that Japan still has some ways to go in terms of understanding and educating themselves about people with autism. For a quick read, I was able to learn so much and be entertained.
FYI: Main character has violent intrusive thoughts.
First line:Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body.
Summary: Vesta, a seventy-two year old lady, is walking her dog through the woods when she finds a note about Magda. She is dead. But there is no body. Vesta is intrigued by the note. She is sure that she is smart enough to figure out who killed Magda.
My Thoughts: I immediately wanted to read this with the description and the cover. It seemed like something I would absolutely love. As soon as I started it I was confused and wasn’t sure how to feel. It was just intriguing enough to keep reading but I never knew what was truly going on.
Vesta is a solitary old woman who decides to solve a mystery. She knows no one in the area so she just makes up names and characteristics of the suspects. Everything plays out in her head. And over time things start to change. Her remembrances change. Her views on reality change. I just do not know what I just read. It did keep me reading until the end but I was disappointed in its ending.
Summary: Pete is a stay-at-home dad while his partner, Maddie, works. One day after arriving home from dropping his son, Theo, off at the daycare he gets a visit from a man who tells him that Theo is his son. It is a lot to take in. Miles tells him that there was a mix-up at the NICU when Theo was born. It seems that Pete and Maddie’s son was switched with Miles’ son. They have each been raising the others’ child for the last two years.
As the couples meet and discuss the situation they feel like they got lucky that each is so amendable. They are getting along well and working out the details. But can they trust this other couple with their son? As time goes by they see that things going on in the Lambert’s house is not as they seem.
My Thoughts: I think this is Delaney’s best book so far! It was really fast and had a good story. It’s terrifying but a real worry that sometimes mistakes like this may happen. With understaffed hospitals and so many children to be taken care of, it could easily happen.
I knew from the beginning when everything was going so well that there was going to be a lot of drama hitting Pete and Maddie soon! It kept me guessing and shaking my head as more craziness continued to appear. I was so shocked with the way every little interaction was spun and twisted to fit the needs of the Lamberts.
And I loved the ending. It wasn’t exactly mind-blowing but it was satisfactory and gave perfect closure. I would highly recommend this to anyone who wants a book they can easily finish in a weekend. It is easy to lose yourself in the drama and need to find out what happens next.
FYI: Check out J.P. Delaney’s other books for more great reads!
First line: “There are places you can go,” Ariana tells him, “and a guy as smart as you has a decent chance of surviving to eighteen.”
Summary: A Second Civil War was fought over the rights of reproduction. Under the new Bills of Life children between the ages of thirteen and eighteen can be unwound which means their organs will be harvested and given to patients who need new parts. Every part of the Unwind will be used so technically they are still “alive” but just in another form.
Connor has been trouble for his parents for years but he never thought that they would actually choose to unwind him. Risa is a ward of the state. She lived her whole life in a state home learning how to play classical piano but when it comes time to test her she does not measure up to the set standards. Lev was raised knowing he was born to be an Unwind. He is called a tithe. But on one fateful day these three get thrown together and their lives will change forever!
My Thoughts: I absolutely love everything that Neal Shusterman has written (at the last the ones I’ve read so far)! He is a genius. He writes books that really make a person think. It is great that there are books like this and his other series, Scythe, for kids to read. The stories deal with tough topics and decisions. And the worlds he builds are just unreal. I am blown away by his story telling and his plots.
It is easy to get caught up in the story. I was listening to this as I took a trip to Kansas City and one of the discs had trouble loading and I was yelling at it to start working. I needed to know what happened! Luckily it started playing.
Each of the characters is unique and have difficult stories to tell. Shusterman brings in minor characters that give even more insight into life in the days of Unwinds and the recipients of the organs. And at one point we get to experience the consciousness of an Unwind while he is being unwound. It was disturbing.
I cannot wait to start the next book and see how the story continues. It is scary, realistic and very thought provoking. I highly recommend this.
FYI: It does have some graphic moments and can be a little disturbing for some people.
Summary: Laura Lyons and her family had recently moved into the superintendent’s apartment in the New York City Public Library. It seemed like a dream come true to be surrounded by so much history and knowledge. But even with everything seeming so perfect she knows something is missing. She takes a chance and applies to Columbia Journalism School. When she is accepted she doesn’t realize how much her life will now change.
Eighty years later, Sadie, Laura’s granddaughter is working in the same library. She has been preparing an exhibit when books, very valuable books, begin to disappear. As she helps search for them she worries that the blame may be put on her because of her family’s past. It seems that the past is repeating itself.
My Thoughts: I am so happy that Davis went back to her old style of writing. I love her stories that have intertwining stories from different time periods. She does them so well. I was really disappointed in the Chelsea Girls when she diverged from this format. It did not have the same magic as her other books have had.
The author does a wonderful job of bringing the landmarks she writes about to life. They almost become a character in the story as well. These buildings have so much history. I would love to one day be able to visit them. And the fact that there are all these secrets or unknown parts of each building are fascinating. Who knew that there were apartments in the New York library? I for sure didn’t. It would be a dream to live in such an iconic location.
I highly recommend this to anyone who wants a gentle read with a little mystery thrown in. The history and story are easy to get lost in.
FYI: Perfect for fans of Rhys Bowen and Beatriz Williams.
Summary: When their grandfather dies, he leaves a dying wish. He wants his grandchildren to recreate and follow the same road trip they took together 20 years before. He wants his ashes taken with them and scattered in the desert where their trip ended.
Family road trips can be stressful. But made even more stressful when everyone is hiding a secret. However, in order to earn their inheritance, they must complete his request. Money is a motivator. So even with all the fighting and secrets they know they must finish the road trip at all costs.
My Thoughts: This book was messed up! It was one crazy twist after another. When you think you’ve seen it all you are proven wrong. At the end I kept flipping the page over because I couldn’t believe the book ended as it did. It was a wild ride. I did not like any of the characters. They treat each other terribly and most of the people they meet. It’s like watching a train wreck and you can’t look away. I had to know what was going to happen next. The one critique I had was the cigarette situation. It seemed so petty but that may have been the point. It made me dislike the characters even more.
I did like though that the sites they visit are real. Take a look. They are pretty neat actually. I would even add them to my next road trip.
First line: If great talent can arise from adversity, mine must have been forged in the cauldron of my childhood.
Summary: The most famous actress of her time, Sarah Bernhardt, rose from obscurity to stardom in France. She was the daughter of a high-class courtesan. She is raised in a convent until her mother decides to start her in the family trade even though Sarah has hopes of being an actress. With the help of influential men like Alexandre Dumas she gets her chance to shine of on the stage and become a worldwide superstar. But even with stardom comes tragedy too.
My Thoughts: Before reading this I had never heard of Sarah Bernhardt but after finishing it I want to know even more. Her life had so many ups and downs. She achieved so much in a time when women still had very little power. She used her skills and strong will to rise. She may have had help but she knew who she was and what she wanted and took it. And she used her influence to help others like during the Franco-Prussian War, another event that I knew very little about.
Unfortunately, most of Sarah’s work was on the stage and before motion pictures and sound but there are a few examples from early recordings that can be found on Youtube. Even though her acting would be out of date in the present at the time it was revolutionary. She changed the way actors spoke to the audience and portrayed the characters on stage. We are lucky to have any piece of her and her skills available for us to see.
Gortner is a phenomenal historical fiction author. He really makes the story gripping. He brings the women he writes about to life. I learn more about the time period then I have ever known while being entertained by the story.
FYI: I highly recommend Gortner’s last book, The Romanov Empress, about the mother of Czar Nicholas II of Russia.
First line: It’s the cooling bathwater that wakes me.
Livia has been planning her fortieth birthday party for twenty years.
She wants it to be perfect. Everything is in place and it looks like it
is going to be a beautiful day. She does not want anything to spoil it.
But she has a secret she has been keeping from her husband. She knows
she should tell him but she doesn’t want to ruin the day. So she decides
to wait until after the party.
Adam, Livia’s husband, wants
Livia to have a great birthday especially since she has been planning it
for so long. He has a big surprise for her but when he learns something
that may ruin her life he has a dilemma on whether to tell her or wait
until after the party.
My Thoughts: This wasn’t a thriller
in the traditional sense. No one is murdered. It is just lots of
miscommunication and secrets that cause problems throughout the plot. I
really enjoyed it. I was very anxious about how it would end. I made
myself not look at the end so I didn’t find out what happened. It was
hard not to. I needed to know. This is a book that I really had to put
down so I could sleep. Even after that I kept thinking about it. So
immediately I had to finish it in the morning.
I did get a
little annoyed with the characters and their misunderstandings. So many
secrets involved in this. Lots of messed up relationships. But it gave
the book a lot of shock factors. I know I gasped a few times. B. A.
Paris is a really good author for a fast paced thrill ride. Give her
books a try if you haven’t already!
First line: Katheryn was seven when her mother died.
Katheryn Howard, the fifth wife of Henry VIII, lead a very scandalous
life before her marriage. She grew up as a charity case, living off of
the kindness of family. However, she got the great chance of living with
her step-grandmother, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. While there she
meets several men who she falls quickly in and out of love with. And
then one day she earns a place among Queen Anna of Kleves household
which puts her in the path of the King. She is delighted but when the
King sets his sights on her she begins to worry that her past will catch
up with her.
My Thoughts: I have enjoyed all of Weir’s
Six Wives books. I think she did a great job bringing Katheryn’s story
to life. Unfortunately the girl made some terrible mistakes and had to
pay for them so dearly. I learned more about her earlier life. I was
fairly familiar with her time in the Duchess’ household and in Henry’s
court but before that was a mystery to me.
It’s sad that she was
pushed around from house to house. It makes it easy for me to see why
she was constantly looking for someone to love and love her back. Out of
all the women I think her story is the saddest. She was so young. She
was being maneuvered by her family into the King’s life. She had very
little choice over her life. I am looking forward to the final novel
about Katherine Parr.
FYI: There are several intimate scenes throughout her story.