First line: She’s at Mrs. Ruthie’s house, eating one of Mrs. Ruthie’s peanut butter cookies, staring out Mrs. Ruthie’s living room window and waiting for her parents to come home.
Summary: After the death of her parents, Lo Denham, has spent years trying to find and reconnect with her sister Bea. As Lo was recovering from the accident Bea left and joined The Unity Project. The group preaches love, does charity work and helps out the community. They have slowly been growing but Lo has always been suspicious of them. Then one day a man comes into the office of the magazine she works for. He claims that The Project killed his son. Lo sees this as her chance to expose the group and finally find her sister.
My Thoughts: I wasn’t so sure about this book when I first started it. It has dual timelines with different narrators and time periods. It was a little confusing as the story set out and took a little time to get going. But as Lo learns more about The Project the story gets more twisted. Things start to reveal themselves but like most thrillers, not everything you hear and see is true.
Cults are scary things. As I read, I could easily see how people are drawn into them. They are looking for something or someone to guide them. They want a community. Someone to understand them. But then there is always the dark underside. And the author delivered all this.
I had a hard time rating this book. I struggled at the start but enjoyed the ending. It was worth a read and kept me invested until the end.
First line: Her mother had once told her the only way to truly know someone was to fight them.
Summary: Every seven years the gods of Olympus are made mortal and hunted by the descendants of legendary heroes. It’s called the Agon. During the last Agon, Lore Perseous walked away from the hunt and its world. But when the new Agon begins she is drawn back in by an old friend and the goddess Athena. As she binds herself to the goddess she is pulled back into this world she abandoned with the hopes of avenging the deaths of her family or die trying.
My Thoughts: I’d describe this as Percy Jackson meets The Purge. The gods of Olympus are fighting for their lives for one week every seven years. And if a god is killed by a mortal hunter then the hunter will gain the powers and immortality of that god.
I first started listening to this and had a hard time following everything. There was a lot of information dumped at the beginning describing the event and participants. So I switched to the text format and was completely engrossed after that. Lots of action, mythology and twists.
I enjoyed the characters even though most of them fell into the typical young adult tropes. Lore is the angry, tough girl hero. There is a love interest. Villains. Double crossings. It has it all. But I did not feel like it was a book set into a pattern. The idea was inventive and story was exciting. I did find the middle to be a little stretched and drawn out but it did give information that helped bring about the ending.
First line: PERSONAL – comely widow who owns a large farm in one of the finest districts in LaPorte County, Indiana, desires to make the acquaintance of a gentleman equally well provided, with view of joining fortunes. No replies by letter considered unless sender is willing to follow answer with personal visit. Triflers need not apply.
Summary: Belle Gunness, a Norwegian immigrant, has learned some hard lessons early on. Upon her arrival in Chicago she married with the hopes of achieving the American dream. But the life she dreamed of did not come true. She was disappointed in her husband, home and lifestyle. She must make her own way in the world by any means necessary. Mysterious deaths, house fires and heated arguments the legend of the Black Widow of LaPorte begins to take hold.
My Thoughts: Before finding this book on Netgalley I had never heard of Belle Gunness. She was a female serial killer. She killed an estimated fourteen people but may be linked to many more. I was really intrigued by the premise, the story and the character of Belle. It was very disturbing to be inside her head. She rationalized everything she did. But even a book about a serial killer I found much of it to be drawn out. There was long periods of time passing and very little happening. I think that much of this could have been taken out and the story would have felt more thrilling.
After finishing I visited www.newpapers.com via the library’s learning databases. I wanted to see what the newspapers of the time were reporting about this woman. Many had the same headline or story. Then there was a resurgence of sightings and murders that some believed were connected to her. There is still lots of mystery around this century old murderer. It’s crazy how reality can be even stranger than fiction.
Summary: On January 12, 1888 a blizzard swept across the Plains so suddenly it caught many settlers unawares. Over 200 people died during and as a result of the storm but a majority of them were children, which gave this storm its name, The Children’s Blizzard.
Young schoolteachers, Gerda and Raina, were teaching in their one room schoolhouses when the storm appeared. Unsure what to do with the frightened children they had to make a decision, stay in the cold building or brave the storm to find their ways home. The decisions of these young women lead to consequences they never even imagined.
My Thoughts: This book was more intense than I was ready for. I felt the tension and fear of the settlers as the storm swept over them. We are lucky to have weather forecasts that gives us some warning on what is coming. These people had nothing. And the amount of snow, temperatures and the white out conditions are terrifying.
I loved the different viewpoints that gave a look at the storm from several angles such as a young girl in the storm, the teachers, a newspaper man and a father who braved the storm to rescue his children. I cannot imagine the choices that these young girls had to make and the fear they would have felt. What sixteen year old with very little schooling could make a decision this big? That is a lot of pressure. Then the author spent time after the storm to see the aftermath on the land and the people. Many lives were lost due to carelessness or bad luck. People died just feet from their homes because they could not see where they were going through the snow.
After finishing the novel I visited www.newspapers.com, a library database with historical newspapers from all over the country. My ancestors spent years living on the Nebraska prairie. I wondered if there was any coverage of the storm near their hometown. I found nothing directly connected to them or their town but I read numerous stories in other papers that told the story of this tragic event.
FYI: The aftermath can be harsh for some readers especially hearing about the frostbite and amputations.
First line: Well, in The Beginning…there was a man in a kilt.
Summary: Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish, stars of the widely popular TV show Outlander set out on a trip around the Highlands of Scotland exploring the history, culture and landscape of this beautiful countryside. In their camper van they traverse the roads, lochs and pubs while sampling whiskey and traditional foods of the Highlanders.
My Thoughts: I highly recommend checking out the audiobook on CloudLibrary because I feel that this is what made the book much more interesting. Sam and Graham narrate the book. They recount times on set and with fellow cast members. They goof around and make fun of each other. I could tell that they really enjoy each other’s company and are good friends.
I learned a lot about the history of Scotland while reading this. As I listened I looked up the locations and people mentioned. It is astounding that there are homes older than our country. I could tell how proud they are to be Scottish.
I have always wanted to visit Scotland but I want to go even more after reading/watching Outlander. The land is beautiful and wild. The culture is rich and enduring. Much of my genealogy comes from Scotland. I want to experience the world my ancestors knew.
Summary: Juno, a retired therapist is living with the seemingly perfect Crouch family. She wants to spend the rest of her days here but then one day she overhears Winnie and Nigel discussing a matter that is hard for her to ignore. She tries to remind herself that she should not get involved but the therapist in her wants to help fix the situation. As she digs deeper into the family secret she worries that she will have to reveal it. But Juno has her own secrets as well.
My Thoughts: Tarryn Fisher’s book, The Wives, was one of my favorite reads from last year. I loved the big reveal that completely changed how the beginning of the book was read. It was inventive. I think Fisher does it again in The Wrong Family. I love that the story is once again set in the Pacific Northwest, in a beautiful house in Seattle.
I liked Juno. Her history and life were sad but most likely common for many people in the world. Winnie was whiny. She had a lot going for her but she seemed entitled. This shows the differences in society and people’s views on life.
The ending of this book was wild. But first the beginning was a little predictable but with several plot twists that really derailed what I thought would happen. I love how the author created this dual story line which leaves the reader oblivious to what is revealed. I raced through the ending as everything came to a head. I was really worried for both our narrators but the last chapter was a perfect ending. I had to go back and reread a few pages to make sure I picked up the final twist. It was worth every minute!
FYI: Very violent at the end. Drug and alcohol use.
Mom and Me Reviews: How to Write a Story by Kate Messner, Illustrated by Mark Siegel
First Line: “Step 1: Search for an Idea– a Shiny one”
Summary: This book gives gentle encouraging instruction to young minds on creating stories. They may or may not be in book form. It is told as more than character arc– like “shiny ideas” instead of just a story idea. You want a “good” one.
Maggie: 10 out of 10
Conor: goo goo gah gah
Mama Lala: 10 out of 10
Their Thoughts: “I dont know what about this story isn’t perfect!?” I like the illustrations. I like how it ixplains to us how to write a story so well.
Me: “You want to give it [writing a story] a shot?”
Her: “Mmmmmaybe. But, I’ll need that book again.”
My Thoughts: I love how simplified Messner made the complex task of writing a story. She took it from a mess, to an obtainable goal for children (and adults).
FYI: This is a new nonfiction book in or J (or elementary) section.
First line: I could not have written a more perfect man.
Summary: Agatha Christie, one of the most famous mystery writers of the twentieth century has gone missing. A widespread manhunt ensues looking for the missing author. Meanwhile, her husband is hiding secrets of his own. As time progresses and Agatha is not found more suspicion is placed on Archie. Then suddenly after eleven days Agatha reappears with no recollection of what happened or where she had been. What happened during these days? It is a mystery that is still yet to be uncovered.
My Thoughts: Several years ago I remember hearing about the disappearance of the Agatha Christie. It sounds like one of her stories but was actually true. I was really excited when I saw that Marie Benedict was going to bring this piece of history to life. Benedict does a great job of giving voice to historical women who time has forgotten. Even though Christie is famous, this part of her life was not as well known.
I liked the alternating time periods and perspectives. We see the beginning of the romance between Agatha and Archie. We see the progression of their lives together. But then we see how Archie deals with Agatha’s disappearance. I kept having to stop myself from Googling the case in order to avoid how the author’s reappearance happens. I liked that it was a short novel that was quick to read and gives a little more insight into such a prolific writer. I now have to read more of Christie’s novels starting with The Mysterious Affair at Styles.
FYI: Perfect for fans of Melanie Benjamin and Agatha Christie, of course.
Summary: Tessa Allen uses this book to explain the reasons people march (or protest) in terms your littles are more likely to understand. It does not argue that people should march, it simply explains why they choose to in as simple of terms as possible. For the older littles, there is also a reference at the end of the book listing which marches and protests are presented by the different illustrations, and what the main purpose of these protests were.
Maggie: 9 out of 10
Conor: Did not participate in this storytime
Mama Lala: 10 out of 10
Their Thoughts: “I wouldn’t read this regularly. It’s not a ‘fun’ book, it’s a ‘life-lesson’ book. It’s a good book to know (of); read once. It’s about standing together, for justice.”
My Thoughts: I love that Tessa Allen has put these complex issues into understandable chunks of information. She makes the issues relatable and simple. I also appreciate the list of protests in the back, and especially the page numbers listed alongside them. When Maggie asked me what a sign meant, I could explain it to her because of this!
FYI: This book covers many controversial issues, past and present.
Summary: Virginia Reeve has spent years as a guide for settlers trying to cross the mountains to California until one day she receives a request for a new adventure. Upon meeting her new benefactor she learns that she is going to be leading a group of women into the arctic to find the ships and crew of the Terror and Erebus. Many men have tried and now it is time to let women try to succeed where the men failed. However, not everything turns out like Virginia and her hopeful crew had planned.
My Thoughts: I went into this book really excited because I loved the author’s debut novel, The Magician’s Lie. And I am not saying I didn’t like the book. I did. I found the story interesting and the setting fascinating but it just didn’t have the same magic as her first book. I liked how the author linked several very tragic events together in one book. Virginia kept referring to the Very Bad Thing. I guessed early on what this was but I liked that twist. I definitely did a lot of reading on the internet to get better informed about the true events behind the story.
One thing that surprised me was that there was very little time in the book dedicated to the actual time on the ice of the arctic. But the descriptions were stunning. I cannot imagine trying to spend time, especially months in the winter, in the arctic. I could tell that the author did research on survival skills, the time period and life on the ice.