Book Review: The Perfect Nanny

The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani

First line: The baby is dead.

Summary: When Myriam decides to go back to work she is tasked with finding someone to watch her two children. Along comes Louise. She is perfect. She works late, cleans the house and the kids love her. As time goes on the family and Louise become even more reliant on each other, which leads to jealousy and resentment.

Highlights: For such a short novel there is a lot of story. It was a slow burn. There are no twists and turns. There is just an underlying darkness to the novel. Louise has a past that haunts her but she seems to overcome it. As we delve deeper into the plot, it becomes apparent to Myriam that the perfect nanny is not quite so perfect. Little things begin to happen. Who is the woman that they let into their life? So much is packed into the pages. It is not the next Gone Girl but it is still worth the read.

Lowlights: It ended very quickly and abruptly.

FYI: Translated from its original French version.

Early February new releases

I’m having a hard time believing it’s already February! How did January go by so fast? I’d like to think that it’s all the reading I’m doing, but I’m afraid that’s not actually the case.

In the meantime, there are more great books being released every week. Here are four that we think look pretty appealing. If you decide to read any of them, please comment below and let us know what you thought of it.

Remember, click on the book’s title to go to the catalog where you can see if it’s available or put it on hold.

Feb. 6: As Bright as Heaven by Sarah Meissner
The 1918 Spanish flu epidemic is at the center of this book about family and relationships. The Bright family moves to Philadelphia in 1918, with the hope that they can give their three daughters better opportunities. Just a few months after they arrive in Philadelphia, where Thomas goes to work in his uncle’s funeral home, the Spanish flu hits the town. As the pandemic spreads and kills 12,000 people in the city, the members of the Bright family find the things they believe in challenged.

Feb. 6: The Glass Forest by Cynthia  Swanson
It’s autumn of 1960 and Angie is living her dream life with her husband, Paul, and new baby. Then a phone call shatters their comfortable world. Ruby calls her Uncle Paul to report that her father, Henry, has committed suicide and her mother, Silja, is missing. Angie and Paul immediately head to upstate New York to be there for Ruby, who is 17. As Angie learns more about her husband’s family, she begins to wonder about her own marriage.

Feb. 13: Miss Newman isn’t Human! (My Weirdest School #10) by Dan Gutman (juvenile chapter book)
From Goodreads: “In this tenth book in the new My Weirdest School series, Sprinkles Newman, the local TV meteorologist, is coming to Ella Mentry School! She’s going to teach A.J. and the gang all about the weather. But what happens when a real live (well, not live) hurricane comes to the school? Hold on to your umbrellas!

“Perfect for reluctant readers and word lovers alike, Dan Gutman’s hugely popular My Weird School chapter book series has something for everyone. Don’t miss the hilarious adventures of A.J. and the gang!”

Feb. 13: White Houses by Amy Bloom
Lorena Hickok grew up desperately poor in South Dakota, but in 1932 she met Eleanor Roosevelt during FDR’s first presidential campaign. Hick, as she was known to her family and friends, was able to rise above her circumstances and by 1932 had fashioned herself as the most prominent female journalist in America. Bloom’s novel explores the relationship between Eleanor and Hick, as Hick moves into the White House and her status as “first friend” is an open secret, along with FDR’s own lovers.

Book Review: Still Me

Still Me by Jojo Moyes

First line: It was the mustache that reminded me I was no longer in England: a solid, gray millipede firmly obscuring the man’s upper lip; a Village People mustache, a cowboy mustache, the miniature head of a broom that means business.

Summary: Louisa Clark is starting a new adventure. She is travelling to New York City to work as a personal assistant. However, the new job is not exactly what she had pictured. With a busy schedule of appointments and society events, she tries to balance work and her new relationship with Ambulance Sam, who is back in England. At one such social event, she runs into someone that reminds her of her past and changes her future.

Highlights: Jojo Moyes is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I have read several of her novels and enjoyed them all. She has a way of writing that makes you feel everything. I laughed at Louisa Skyping with Sam. I nearly cried at the end when she is deciding who she wants to be. I love the character of Louisa Clark. She is quirky. She is funny without always meaning to be. She is not afraid to be herself. She is kind, honest, and loyal. I loved her interactions with all the different people in the apartment building. She is a person I would like to be. A complete optimist. She may have a few sad times but she is always looking at the bright side. In addition, getting to know more about her family. This book gave so much more to the other two. It filled in spaces and brought closure to many of the plotlines.

Lowlights: The more I think about this while writing the more I realize how much I liked it. Nothing to complain about at all.

FYI: Must read Me Before You and After You before reading in order to understand the background and characters.  Also check out the movie, Me Before You, starring Emilia Clark and Sam Claflin.

Release Date: January 30, 2018


Book Review: The English Wife

The English Wife by Lauren Willig

First line: “They say he’s bankrupted himself rebuilding the house—all for her, of course.”

Summary: When Bayard Van Duyvil is found dead with a knife in his chest and his wife, Annabelle is missing, speculation starts around the happy couple. Did Annabelle kill her husband? Who is she anyway? The whirlwind romance and quick marriage to an English woman brings gossip and questions to the New York society. Janie, Bay’s sister, is determined to find out who killed her brother and clear her sister-in-law’s name.

Highlights: I am a huge fan of Lauren Willig and her books. She can write a good mystery with well-developed characters. I really liked the character of Georgie/Annabelle. She has a twisted past that is slowly revealed through the story. Her relationship with Bay was one of my favorite parts. I enjoyed their interactions and the way that their relationship changed. The rules and etiquette of society were so annoying but I believe very real for the time. Divorce and gossip were game changers for people of the upper classes. The old money hated the new money. There is a plenty of detail about the period making it easy for me as a reader to understand and be transported into the story. The ending shocked me. I was not expecting the story to wrap up the way it did but it was perfect. As I read another review, they compared it to Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. I think this is a great comparison.

Lowlights: The switching between 1899 and 1894 got a little confusing at different points. I am not always good about reading the little notes at the beginning of the chapter detailing when and where the story is taking place. It is very important in this book. In the middle, the story seemed to hit a lull. It was all about building up to the climax at the end.

FYI: Another win for Lauren Willig! If you like this, check out her Pink Carnation series. They are fantastic.

Book Review: The Girls in the Picture

The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin

First line: Lately, the line between real life and the movies has begun to blur.

Summary: Hollywood was not always the glamorous place it is today. At the dawn of the motion pictures were Frances Marion and Mary Pickford. Their friendship and collaboration created many of the earliest movies. Each took their careers in hand and made a name for themselves. Marion as a screenwriter and Mary as “America’s Sweetheart”. Through a duel narration, we see the changes of the movies, their lives and the nation.

Mary Pickford and Frances Marion

Highlights: Melanie Benjamin is becoming one of my favorite authors. She writes amazing stories of strong women. I am completely enamored with Mary Pickford and Frances Marion after reading this novel.  I really liked both characters. Each woman is independent but they have a strong friendship that they rely on as well. The history behind the beginning of the motion picture was fascinating to see through the eyes of women who actually experienced it when women were barely working outside the home.

I have inter-library loaned several of their movies as I read in order to watch the movies discussed in the story. Having never watched a silent film, it will be a fun experience. My first one will be Sparrows starring Mary Pickford.

Sparrows starring Mary Pickford

Lowlights: The middle of the plot was a little slow. Especially when Frances was in Europe during the First World War. It is an important point in her life but when the rest of the story is centered around Hollywood and the movies it was not as interesting.

FYI: If you like The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty then read this!

Release date: January 16, 2018

Early January new releases

It’s a shiny, brand new year and oh, the reading possibilities that brings! With the advent of a new year, we are getting into the seasons of many more new books being released! With that in mind, here are a few titles we are looking forward to in the first half of January. Click on the title of the book to go to our catalog to check availability.

Tell us in the comments what your reading goal is for 2018.

Jan. 2: The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1) by Holly Black—young adult
At 7, Jude lost her parents when they were murdered. At the same time her sisters were spirited away to live in the High Court of Faerie. Now 17, Jude desperately wants to join them, but to do so, she’ll have to defy Price Cardan, the youngest and most wicked of the sons of the High King.

Jan. 2: The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
Anna Fox hasn’t left her home in 10 months. Over those months, she has sat at her window day after day watching her neighbors. When a new family moves in, she feels particularly drawn to what looks like a picture-perfect family living what used to be her life. Then she hears a scream rip the silence and sees something no one should ever have seen, but what should she do?  She’s not certain anyone will believe her, but she must get to the bottom of what happened.

Jan. 9: The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor
In 1986, Eddie and his friends spend their time biking around their English village, sharing information with each other via little chalk figures. One day, a figure leads them to a dismembered body and everything changes. Now, it’s 30 years later, and each of them gets a letter in the mail that contains a chalk stick figure. Then one of them turns up dead. Eddy figures it’s time he learns what really happened all those years ago.

Jan. 9: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
A traveling psychic shows up in New York City’s Lower East Side in 1969, a woman who claims to be able to foretell the day a person will die. Four teenagers, the Gold children, sneak out to hear their fortunes. The prophecies they hear guide their stories for the next 50 years.

Jan. 16: Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict
From Goodreads: “In the industrial 1860s at the dawn of the Carnegie empire, Irish immigrant Clara Kelly finds herself in desperate circumstances. Looking for a way out, she seeks employment as a lady’s maid in the home of the prominent businessman Andrew Carnegie. Soon, the bond between Clara and her employer deepens into love. But when Clara goes missing, Carnegie’s search for her unearths secrets and revelations that lay the foundation for his lasting legacy. With captivating insight and stunning heart, Carnegie’s Maid tells the story of one lost woman who may have spurred Andrew Carnegie’s transformation from ruthless industrialist into the world’s first true philanthropist.”

Jan. 16: The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin
Two of Hollywood’s earliest female superstars are at the center of this book, which explores the friendship and creative partnership shared by Mary Pickford and Frances Marion. In 1914, Frances meets Mary, who is already making a name for herself. But together, these two women will hold much power in the movie industry and in Hollywood itself. Mary Pickford was knows as “Queen of the Movies” and Frances Marion is considered one of the most important female screenwriters of the 20th century.


Book Review: Uncommon Type

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

First line: Anna said there was only one place to find a meaningful gift for MDash—the Antique Warehouse, not so much a place for old treasures as a permanent swap meet in what used to be the Lux Theater.

Summary: A collection of short stories written by Tom Hanks. Each story has its own feel and flow to it but in each he incorporates a typewriter. The stories span from time travel to a struggling actress to a bowler with a perfect score.

Highlights: I liked each and every story. They are all unique. I was excited to read this book because I am a big fan of Tom Hanks. He is very talented and once again proved it with this collection. The depth of the stories and the variety captured me. It was nice to have something I could pick up and put down without losing track of the storyline. I think my favorite was the story of the time traveling billionaire. The ending was sad but I completely enjoyed it.

Lowlights: I wanted more! I have never been drawn to short stories but I think this will be a gateway into trying more. I was always disappointed when the story ended.

FYI: Must read for all Tom Hanks fans!

Book Review: The Visitors

The Visitors by Catherine Burns

First line: Like a white bird, the scream flew up from the depths of the cellar, then became trapped inside Marion’s head.

Summary: Marion, a spinster, living with her brother in their cluttered childhood home, is scared of the secret that is hidden in the cellar. When her brother has a heart attack, she has to face the reality of what he has been hiding. Told through flashbacks and snippets of their past lead you to believe that people are not always what they seem.

Highlights: A slow burning thriller. Little pieces of information are scattered throughout the book leading to theories. I kept thinking I had figured out who and what was happening but then I would second guess myself. Marion and John’s relationship and lifestyle oddly transfixed me. Who are these people? How have they lived this long like this and no one has ever discovered their secret? The end leaves you with a sense of “what happened?” Very unsettling but in a good and spooky way. I had a very tough time putting this down.

Lowlights (or what could have been better): The only problem I found was I kept waiting for some big reveal at the end but it didn’t come. But I wasn’t really disappointed because I still am thinking about the story and the ending and wondering. Who is to blame? Who was the scarier of the siblings?

FYI: Not fast paced but worth every page.

Late September new releases

The first few weeks of school are out of the way, the mornings are a little cooler, and we can always find more excuses reasons to read, right? There are some books that look like they will be great reading as fall makes its way to Kansas. So take a look at a few books we think are worth noticing as the pumpkins start to ripen.

Click on the title to go to the library catalog where you can see if the book is available and put it on hold. Grab your favorite hot drink, find a comfy chair and sit and read for a while!

Sept. 19: Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore
Jane was raised by her Aunt Magnolia, a deep sea photographer and adjunct professor. But now Jane is a year out of high school and Aunt Magnolia got lost during an expedition to Antarctica a few months ago. Jane is now obsessed with the umbrellas that reflect her dreams. When she is invited to a gala at the island mansion Magnolia told her to absolutely go to if she ever got the chance, Jane goes. What Jane doesn’t know yet is that every choice made in the mansion comes with a reward, or a price.

Cover of The Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille
Meet Daniel “Mac” MacCormick, owner of a fishing boat that may be making a trek to Cuba to recover $60,000,000 hidden during the Cuban revolution.

Sept. 19: The Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille
Daniel “Mac” MacCormick is a decorated U.S. Army veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan during his 5-year stint as an infantry officer. Now he owns a 42-foot charter fishing boat and is sitting in a bar waiting to hear why he should take a $2,000,000 fare to Cuba. After hearing Sara’s story of the $60,000,000 her grandfather hid during the revolution, he knows that he’ll either come away from this job rich, or he won’t come back at all.

Sept. 26: Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King

Cover of Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King
Stephen King co-authored “Sleeping Beauties” with his son Owen King.

This father-and-son collaboration explores the question of what might happen if the women of the world disappeared. From Goodreads: “In a future so real and near it might be now, something happens when women go to sleep; they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If they are awakened, if the gauze wrapping their bodies is disturbed or violated, the women become feral and spectacularly violent; and while they sleep they go to another place. The men of our world are abandoned, left to their increasingly primal devices. One woman, however, the mysterious Evie, is immune to the blessing or curse of the sleeping disease. Is Evie a medical anomaly to be studied, or is she a demon who must be slain? Set in a small Appalachian town whose primary employer is a women’s prison, Sleeping Beauties is wildly provocative and gloriously absorbing.”

Sept. 26: The Last Castle by Denise Kiernan (non-fiction)
If you have been to Asheville, North Carolina, and visited the Biltmore Estate, or if you’ve never been to North Carolina and only seen pictures of the Biltmore Estate, this book tells the magnificent story of how the country’s grandest residence was built. However, the book is more than just the story of how a 175,000-square-foot home was built. You’ll also learn the story of George Vanderbilt and Edith Stuyvessant Dresser.

Cover of Wishtree by Katherine Applegate
This book for middle grade readers is a wonderful story about relationships.

Sept. 26: Wishtree by Katherine Applegate (for young readers)
From Goodreads: “Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood ‘wishtree’—people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red’s branches. Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red’s hollows, this ‘wishtree’ watches over the neighborhood. You might say Red has seen it all. Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red’s experiences as a wishtree are more important than ever. “

Book Review: The Breakdown

The Break Down by B.A. Paris

First line: The thunder starts as we’re saying goodbye, leaving each other for the summer holidays ahead.

Summary: Cass is driving down a back road during a storm when she sees a car along the side of the road. She is scared to stop fearing that it could be dangerous. But when she finds out that the woman in the car she saw was her new friend, Jane, and that she was murdered the guilt begins to eat at her. And she cannot seem to remember little pieces of her day. With the recent loss of her mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, this is another fear to add on top of the guilt. Are the mysterious phone calls and suspicious man outside her house Jane’s killer? All this is leading Cass to a break down or is it?

Highlights: I was constantly wanting to listen/read this book. Whenever I had free time I would pick it up. I kept having to look back whenever Cass had a memory lapse to check and make sure that I was not forgetting something as well. Alzheimer’s is a scary disease, which I have personally seen with my grandmother so this hit close to home. The ending was perfect for the book. Once all the pieces fall into place and the way that Cass deals with it was exactly how I wanted it to happen.

Lowlights: Even though I loved the ending I felt like it was a little obvious. About ¾ of the way through I had a good idea what was happening but it was still rewarding to read it.

FYI: Quick and fun thriller. Definitely looking forward to reading B.A. Paris’ other book soon.