Sunspots by Karen S. Bell
(CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013, 236 pages)
Aurora has just lost her husband Jake in a car accident. She tries to go on with her life but is continually brought back to her grief through flashbacks and learning secrets about her husband’s life from other people and the ghost living in her house. She wants to believe that Jake truly was the man of her dreams but something in her is starting to doubt their relationship.
For class I had to pick a romance book that was self-published and I landed on this one. I don’t want to say too much because I appreciate how much work it must be to publish your own novel but I found too many problems with the writing to really enjoy it. I felt like Bell was just skimming the surface and not expanding on the different conflicts that she presented to Aurora. Bell also referenced movies or books way too many times to describe something instead of just describing it herself. For example, instead of telling the reader about a car, she just stated it was exactly like the car in “As Good As It Gets.” But this movie comparison happened so often that I honestly just skimmed the last 20 pages.
An Inquiry Into Love and Death by Simone St. James
(NAL Trade 2013, 368 pages)
Jillian Leigh is considered unorthodox in the 1920’s because she attends classes at Oxford instead of searching for a husband. But when she learns that her Uncle Toby died in a mysterious accident, her life gets ever more unorthodox. Jillian’s parents are too busy with their research so they send her off alone to collect his things from the small town of Rothewell where he was ghost hunting for Walking John. The longer that Jillian stays in Toby’s rented house, the more bizarre interactions she has with Walking John and the town people of Rothewell. Luckily she meets Drew Merriken who is from the Scotland Yard and he helps Jillian investigate her uncle’s death and the mystery of Walking John
There was a lot going on in this read but St. James blended everything very well together. There were seemingly three different story lines going on: solving the mystery of Uncle Toby’s death, trying to finish Uncle Toby’s work with Walking John, and of course the love story between Jillian and Drew. The combination between mystery and romance with a gothic twist kept this a fun, yet creepy, read. There were two things that really stood out to me. The first was the setting of the small town of Rothewell. The town was on the cliffs of England overlooking the ocean with surrounding forest and was beautifully described. The other thing that stood out was the ending which was smart, sweet and kept me thinking about it for days.
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
(Alfred A. Knopf, 2009, 294 pages)
This is our March title for the SCC “Between the Covers” book club. It was a title I’d been wanting to read but never really made the priority to bump up in my to-read pile because I knew the content would be upsetting/stressful. The book looks at what needs to be done to provide women around the world with the opportunity to be seen as worthy members of their societies. This book was hard to read at times, but that’s because the lives some women around the world have to lead are HARD. Just a few of the things covered in this book are: sex trafficking; maternal mortality; maternal health; rape; the need for education for girls; female genital mutilation; and microfinancing to provide women with opportunities to stand on their own and demonstrate their worth.
This book was incredibly moving and on more than one occasion my jaw dropped because it was difficult to even comprehend some of the scenarios recounted. Half the Sky is meant to serve as a call to action. It’s a call to stand up and do something to ensure that women around the world don’t continue to be given the status of second-class citizens. It’s “easy” to have the knowledge of these things that happen to women around the world in the back of your mind because you don’t really have to think about it on a regular basis. It’s not at the forefront of your daily life. This book makes you think about what’s happening and put it in context with the life you’re able to lead here in America. Kristof and WuDunn highlight a number of different charities and organizations that are making women and their needs a priority and the book makes you want to get involved – it makes you want to do something to ensure that women around the world are given the opportunities they deserve.
I thought this was a great read and I already have some charities in mind that I would like to contribute to. Next, I need to watch the documentary. Can’t wait to talk about it at book club on April 3!
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
(Crown, 2012, 432 pages)
As the third person in our library to read this book I switched things up a little bit by listening to the audiobook. It got good reviews and it definitely kept my interest. I enjoyed the book and it kept me on edge wanting to figure out what would happen and what the real story was. I’ll give a quick recap but you can also check out the previous reviews of the book from Theresa and Sadie.
Amy and Nick moved to Missouri from New York after both lost their jobs and Nick decided it would be best to be close to his sick mother. Then, on their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy goes missing. All signs point to Nick as the story alternates between his perspective and Amy’s diary entries. He comes across as distant and unlikeable (almost like a sociopath), but is he responsible for Amy’s disappearance? Is there something else going on?
Like I said, I was engaged listening to this book and thought the narrators did a great job bringing each character to life.
Dirt Candy: A Cookbook: Flavor-Forward Food from the Upstart New York City Restaurant
by Amanda Cohen, Ryan Dunlavey, and Grady Hendrix
(Clarkson Potter, 2012, 224 pages)
I love a good cookbook – especially when it includes information beyond the recipes. Dirt Candy took a unique approach in coming out with a graphic novel format. Amanda Cohen gives the reader behind-the-scenes insight into how she came about developing her vegetable-focused restaurant (not to be called “vegetarian” because that has specific connotations), what really goes on in a restaurant kitchen, and explains various cooking terms in an easy-to-understand manner. Vegetables need to be treated differently when they are the star of the show and the recipes included in Dirt Candy sound pretty interesting.
While there were a lot of things I picked up from this book, most of the recipes were out of my comfort zone since they took a fair amount of time (there were numerous things you had to start preparing a day in advance). There were some basic things I’d try and, like I said, Cohen explained things in a very clear and straight-forward way which I appreciated. This was a quick-read that I enjoyed. I’d recommend it if you’re looking into experimenting with a more vegetable-focused menu and want to see how to get creative with it.
Red Velvet Cupcake Murder by Joanne Fluke
(Kensington Books, 2013, 323 pages)
Joanne Fluke’s latest title in the Hannah Swensen Mystery with Recipes series is Red Velvet Cupcake Murder. In this book, Hannah Swensen, baker and owner of The Cookie Jar, is accused of murdering Doctor Bev, the former girlfriend of one of Hannah’s two boyfriends. Doctor Bev is found dead with a box of Hannah’s red velvet cupcakes nearby. Hannah must solve the murder mystery to clear her name.
All of the Hannah Swensen Mysteries with Recipes are set in Lake Eden, Minnesota. They all feature Hannah Swensen and her family and friends. All of the books contain recipes for the food (mostly baked goods) that is mentioned in the books.
Red Velvet Cupcake Murder is an easy, fast read. I started reading this series for the mysteries. I continue to read them because I want to know what is happening with the characters. Some people continue to read them for the recipes. If you’re looking for something light to read, you might want to give Red Velvet Cupcake Murder a try.
The Fifth Vial by Michael Palmer
(St. Martin’s Press, 2007, 372 pages)
Michael Palmer is a new author I tried and enjoyed since we started “SCC Library Reads” two years ago. This book does not disappoint. The story has multiple plot lines with different settings and characters. It took me a while to get into it and to figure out who was who. Natalie Reyes, a medical student from Boston, flies to Brazil for a conference but ends up being kidnapped. Dr. Joe Anson, a brilliant physician and scientist in Africa, is developing a potentially life-saving drug. Ben Callahan, a skeptical and depressed private investigator from Chicago, investigates the disappearance of someone suspected of being killed for his bone marrow. All their lives seem detached from each other at the beginning. As the story evolves you will see the pieces fitting together. The plot is full of twists and turns. The story addresses the bio-ethical issue of organ trafficking. If you are into medical thrillers, this is the one to read.
The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg
(Grand Central Publishing, 2012, 288 pages)
The Middlesteins revolves around the family matriarch, Edie, and how her passion for food has affected her whole family. Edie has always loved food, it offered her a comfort she couldn’t get elsewhere. But food has played such a central role in her life that she has grown large enough that her health is affected. She is killing herself with food. Her husband leaves her, unable to take anymore. Her children are doing what they can to be supportive while also encouraging their mother to make lifestyle changes. Edie is loved and she loves her family, but she sees no reason to change what makes her happy…
This book was interesting. It was a quick read and the character development was certainly there. Overall I enjoyed it. This would be perfect travel reading. And it’ll certainly make you think about your relationship with food.
A Conspiracy of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz
(Del Ray, 2013, 352 pages)
Elle Chance is one of the few airship-pilots in 1903 so she takes any work that she can get, even if it means doing work for the Shadow. But the job that is given to her by her friend Patrice and his companion Marsh really gets her into trouble. Elle’s father is kidnapped by the Alchemists and Elle and Marsh must try and track the Alchemists down and save Professor Chance. Along the way, they run into trouble with different creatures of the Shadow and learn she might have a powerful gift herself.
Now this was a Steampunk book I could get into. I loved the story and how Schwarz stuck with one main conflict while slowly introducing complications and advancing the story. Her fantasy characters are ones I don’t get to read about very often like alchemists, warlocks, absinthe fairies, nightwalkers (which are really just vampires) and even sky pirates. The world is split into two groups, the Light and the Shadow. The Light is filled with non-magical creatures while the Shadow is just the opposite. This could be a stand-alone book if it wasn’t for the small epilogue at the end which continues the series and the mystery. I’ll be looking forward to the second book in The Chronicles of Light and Shadow series coming out in August.
Ghost Planet by Sharon Lynn Fisher
(Tor Science Fiction, 2012, 352 pages)
Elizabeth Cole has just landed on a new planet to start her new life and job. She’s prepared to be permanently attached to the ghost of a loved one as a side effect of the planet. Residents of the planet are strictly forbidden to interact with their assigned ghost as the ghosts might try to harm or trick them. Once Elizabeth arrives, she is greeted by Murphy, her new supervisor, who looks slightly familiar. Murphy is charming and a gentlemen until they find out Elizabeth died in a transport crash from Earth and she is actually Murphy’s new ghost on the planet. Now Elizabeth is shunned and must find a way to be accepted by the planet and find her independence.
It has been awhile since I read any Science Fiction and this was a great book to reintroduce me to the genre. The first chapter was really strong because it showed the difference with how Elizabeth was treated before and after Murphy found out she was a ghost. It just really grabbed me and I remember finishing the first chapter and telling my mom that this was going to be a good read. Elizabeth as a heroine was great. She was strong and independent even though she basically couldn’t leave Murphy’s side. I wish that I hadn’t been on such a time crunch to read this for class because I would have liked to spend more time with the characters.