Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
(Scholastic, 2001, 435 pages)
Book 3 in the Harry Potter series has Harry going back to school while an escaped murderer is on the hunt to find him. He’s considered to be a big enough threat that even the Muggles are on the watch for him. This man, it turns out, is Sirius Black – he’s Harry’s godfather and apparently played a role in the murder of Harry’s parents. Extra security is in effect at Hogwarts. Dementors guard the perimeters and Harry is forced to stay in the castle walls for his own protection.
While all this is going on school goes on more or less as normal. They have a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Lupin, who is shockingly well-prepared for the job. Hagrid is teaching them about magical creatures and Ron, Harry, and Hermione are taking a class on divination – a class that Hermione frustratedly learns she is ill-suited for. Other things seem a bit off with Hermione, something’s up and she seems to vanish into thin air at times.
Despite the school and the Ministry of Magic’s best efforts, Sirius Black still seems to be getting close to Harry. Even within the castle walls. Is he trying to finish what he started with Harry’s parents? Completely ridding the world of Potters to get back in the graces of the Dark Lord? Or is there more to this story than meets the eye?
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was a great read. There was a lot more suspense in this book than in the previous two. I’m sure I’ve said it in previous HP reviews but I am loving re-reading this series. The audiobooks only enhance the stories. Next up, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
The Great Impersonation by E. Phillips Oppenheim
(Dover Publications, 1978, 210 pages)
Right before World War I, two men meet in Africa – one is German and one is English. They knew each other growing up, the German was educated in England, and they look almost exactly alike. The German kills the Englishman, takes his identity, and goes back to England as Lord Everard Dominey and as a spy for Germany. Everard Dominey has problems at home though (insane wife, haunted woods) and these are also part of the mystery. I really enjoyed this little novel (only 210 pages) but it took me a long time to get through it. Once I hit about the middle of the book, I couldn’t put it down. Even though it was written in 1917 it has a modern feel and includes a tasty twist at the end!
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
(Crown, 2012, 432 pages)
Talk about a page turner! After Nick and Amy lose their jobs, Nick drags his NYC born and bred wife back to his small Missouri home town to take care of his dying mother and aging father. Their marriage on the rocks, Amy disappears on the day of their 5th anniversary. Of course Nick is the prime suspect, it’s always the husband right? You get both sides of the marriage story from Nick and then from Amy’s journal but things are not always what they seem in this story. I loved it, and now I’m going to read her other two novels. There is a little extra interest because it is set so close to home, a Mississippi river town close to Hannibal.
The Edge by Catherine Coulter
(G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1999, 388 pages)
Jean’s review on Coulter’s Backfire prompted me to try one of her books. The first one in the series wasn’t on the shelf. The Edge seemed appealing from the first couple of pages.
Mac (MacDougal) is a FBI agent who’s recovering from injuries caused by a car bombing. Mac has a strange dream involving his sister Jilly. The next morning he finds out that Jilly was in a car accident and is in a coma. Mac flies to the small town of Edgerton, Oregon to be with his sister and to find out why Jilly drove her car over a cliff. Mac finds out little information after Jilly comes out of the coma. A few hours later, Jilly disappears from the hospital. No one knows if Jilly was abducted or went willingly.
Jilly and her husband are pharmaceutical researchers. They’d been working on a new drug and moved to Oregon from the east coast. A retired Chicago cop who lived in this town was murdered before he had a chance to talk to Mac. Mac tries to find out if there is a connection between the death of the retired cop and the disappearance of Jilly. Mac’s friends, Sherlock and Savich, a couple from the FBI, fly to Oregon to help out with the investigation. The story moves along okay. Some parts of it are far-fetched. I’m not sure I like the first person narrative in this book. It lacked additional insights into other characters besides the main character. It’s an okay book. I will try another of her books.
Notorious by Nicola Cornick
(HQN Books, 2011, 384 pages)
Susanna Burney has created a career out of successfully ending engagements. She’s employed by wealthy families who feel that their son or daughter is making a match too far below their means. Susanna steps in under an assumed name/identity, seduces whoever needs seducing, and then sets off having satisfied her client’s needs. She stepped into this line of work as a means of supporting herself after running out on her first marriage to James Devlin as a naive and pregnant 17 year old. Imagine her and James’s surprise when they come across each other at a society party…
James has been engaged for two years in the hopes of rising in the ranks of society by marrying a woman of means. He’s in no way attracted to his fiancee, but that doesn’t matter to him. What matters is security. When he sees Susanna he doesn’t know what to do. She had abandoned him the day after they were married and her family had told him she was dead. He’s intent on getting the truth out of her – especially when he learns that she is after his sister’s fiance-to-be…
This historical romance was alright. I kind of forced myself to finish it. If you’re looking for a historical romance with an interesting twist, this might be right up your alley.
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
(Random House, 2012, 288 pages)
Julia is 11-years-old and seems to have a pretty happy life but then the world decides to mess everything up. Literally. There is sudden chaos when the Earth’s rotation starts slowing and the days and nights become longer and more dangerous. When the Earth starts slowing, suddenly Julia’s best friend won’t talk to her, her parent’s marriage is on the rocks, and interactions with her crush aren’t going the way she wants. Julia is lonely and confused and with the Earth continuing to slow, her life is spinning more and more out of control with crops unable to survive, solar storms causing panic, and animals dying when faced with slowing consequences. Julia is left to grow up while the world is crumbling around her.
I liked that Walker came up with such a different plot to her novel. It was unusual and it kept me guessing as to what would happen next with the Earth. But while the Earth was so unpredictable, Julia’s personal story lines were extremely predictable. I guessed what was driving a wedge between her parents and was unsurprised when my guess was right. This might be the way that Walker writes since her character is telling her story from the future but even that takes a little bit of the mystery away since you know she survives. Overall this was a quick read and definitely got me thinking. I mean, what would we do if the Earth started to slow its rotation?
I Hate Everyone. . . Starting with Me by Joan Rivers
(Berkley, 2012, 256 pages)
After the popularity of comedian Tina Fey’s audiobook version of Bossypants, I thought this book would also best be heard in the author’s voice. After listening to the first chapter, or track, or whatever the first segment was, I didn’t think I could get through the rest. Joan’s voice sounded as if she had just smoked a pack of Camels, and it was irritating to me. I kept listening though, and either I got used to her voice, or Joan stopped smoking.
If you’re a fan of Fashion Police on TV, or if you’ve always been a fan of Joan, you will like this book. If you’ve always hated Joan, don’t bother with this one. I happen to like her, but even I was offended by some parts of this book. I particularly remember the part where she makes fun of old people, which made me think, “Old people can’t help that!” Since Joan herself is no spring chicken, she could also make fun of herself in this part—which WAS funny. The best parts of this book occurred when, in addition to making fun of herself, she made fun of celebrities. I know, I know…celebrities are people too, but come on, they’re also billionaires who put themselves in the limelight, so in a way—THEY DESERVE IT.
In summary, if you like Joan, get this audiobook. If not, I hear there’s an audio version of Fifty Shades of Grey read by Morgan Freeman.
One Last Strikeby Tony La Russa with Rick Hummel
(William Morrow, 2012, 420 pages)
One Last Strike by Tony La Russa with Rick Hummel is the true story of Tony La Russa’s career in baseball with an emphasis on the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals championship season. In One Last Strike, La Russa explains his baseball philosophy, his management style, and his rise through the baseball ranks. La Russa has managed the Chicago White Sox, the Oakland A’s, and the St. Louis Cardinals. When he is eligible, Tony La Russa will be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
In One Last Strike, La Russa explains some of the strategies, pep talks, and motivational techniques that he used to help the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals win the World Series. He talks about specific decisions that he made in the 2011 playoffs. La Russa also details his decision to retire and his bout with shingles.
One Last Strike is a must read for a St. Louis Cardinal fan. It can also be enjoyed by baseball fans in general. One Last Strike is well written and includes photographs of some of the highlights of La Russa’s career. One Last Strike is worth the read.
Scenes from an Impending Marriage by Adrian Tomine
(Drawn and Quarterly, 2011, 40 pages)
I don’t remember where I heard about this small graphic novel but I knew I wanted to read it. If you’ve ever gone through the process of planning a wedding you’ll relate to the stress/drama/fatigue included in these pages. Wedding planning is work, even when you try not to let it be. This collection of little storylines follows Adrian and his bride-to-be as they go through the process of planning their wedding. I feel like I smiled the whole time I was reading it simply because I related to what they had to deal with. This was a fun, light read.
This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz
(Riverhead, 2012, 224 pages)
I loved The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz so I knew I was going to read this collection of short stories that was recently published. The stories all revolve in some way around a young man named Yunior and they all touch on some aspect of love. Díaz’s writing has a way of instantly pulling you in and I enjoyed each of the stories included in this collection. I will say that I initially thought it was going to be more of a novel so I had to readjust the way that I was reading. A very enjoyable and quick read.