Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas

Title: Devil in Spring: The Ravenels, Book 3, Author: Lisa KleypasDevil in Spring. Finished 4-29-18, romance, pub. 2017

Unabridged audio performed by Mary Jane Wells.

The Ravenels book 3 (1-Cold-Hearted Rake) (2-Marrying Winterborne)

Most debutantes dream of finding a husband. Lady Pandora Ravenel has different plans. The ambitious young beauty would much rather stay at home and plot out her new board game business than take part in the London Season. But one night at a glittering society ball, she’s ensnared in a scandal with a wickedly handsome stranger. 

After years of evading marital traps with ease, Gabriel, Lord St. Vincent, has finally been caught-by a rebellious girl who couldn’t be less suitable. In fact, she wants nothing to do with him. But Gabriel finds the high-spirited Pandora irresistible. He’ll do whatever it takes to possess her, even if their marriage of convenience turns out to be the devil’s own bargain.     from Goodreads

I  was happy to be back with the Ravenel family!  Pandora was not one of my favorite characters in the first two books, but she grew on me in this one.  I was so impressed that she wanted to be a creative businesswoman and didn’t want any man to take her accomplishments away from her.  She was a woman ahead of her time.

Gabriel was fine. I think he appeared in a different series at some point so there were probably more positive feelings to be had for him by those who knew him before.  The two of them had me for most of the book, although the last bit dragged for me.

I’m already looking forward to the next in the series.  I think these are best read in order.

 

 

 

 

Golden Prey by John Sandford

Title: Golden Prey (Lucas Davenport Series #27), Author: John SandfordGolden Prey. Finished 5-6-18, rating 4/5, thriller, 393 pages, pub. 2017

Lucas Davenport series #27 (1- Rules of Prey, 2- Shadow Prey, 3- Eyes of Prey, 4- Silent Prey, 5- Winter Prey, 6- Night Prey, 7- Mind Prey, 8- Sudden Prey, 9- Secret Prey, 10- Certain Prey, 11-Easy Prey, 12- Chosen Prey, 13- Mortal Prey, 14- Naken Prey, 15- Hidden Prey, 16- Broken Prey, 17- Invisible Prey, 18- Phantom Prey, 19- Wicked Prey, 20– Storm Prey, 21- Buried Prey, 22-Stolen Prey, 23-Silken Prey, 24-Field of Prey, 25-Gathering Prey, 26-Extreme Prey)

Thanks to some very influential people whose lives he saved, Lucas is no longer working for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, but for the U.S. Marshals Service, and with unusual scope. He gets to pick his own cases, whatever they are, wherever they lead him.
And where they’ve led him this time is into real trouble. A Biloxi, Mississippi, drug-cartel counting house gets robbed, and suitcases full of cash disappear, leaving behind five bodies, including that of a six-year-old girl. Davenport takes the case, which quickly spirals out of control, as cartel assassins, including a torturer known as the “Queen of home-improvement tools” compete with Davenport to find the Dixie Hicks shooters who knocked over the counting house. Things get ugly real fast, and neither the cartel killers nor the holdup men give a damn about whose lives Davenport might have saved; to them, he’s just another large target.   from Goodreads

The Lucas Davenport series is one that continues to hold up well, not just because of the writing and well executed chase stories, but because Lucas ages and evolves.  Too many long running series seem to recycle the same stories and characters over and over.

Lucas is no longer stuck in Minnesota, so the country is his playground and it takes him south to track an old favorite on the FBIs most wanted list that’s never been caught.  There are a multitude of very scary bad guys and they are equal opportunity killers since the women may be even more scary than the men.

I missed some of Lucas’s old friends in Minnesota, but he has two new marshal pals that I’m sure we’ll see again.  This was another solid thriller in the series, perfect for plane rides or vacations because it reads so fast.  These do not have to be read in order to enjoy the series.

 

 

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Title: Small Great Things, Author: Jodi PicoultSmall Great Things. Finished April 28, 2018, rating 3.75/5, fiction, 458 pages, pub. 2016.

Jodi Picoult has a good thing going with a huge number of people who devour her books and always want more.  I am not one of them and I’m not sure why.  The first one I read was My Sister’s Keeper and I LOVED it.  It’s still on my top 100 favorite list.  I read two more (Vanishing Acts and The Pact) and thought they were okay.  After reading this I still feel the same way.  Picoult is a great writer and knows how to tell a story. The biggest difference with this one is that the subject matter is so on point for what is going on in our country right now, so I read it hoping for raw honesty and got it – up until a point.  I will reveal no details but feel free to discuss in the comments.

Ruth is a labor and delivery nurse, the only one of color at her hospital, and when a white supremacist couple comes in to deliver they reject her and her superiors agree to switch nurses. Something bad goes down and Ruth is suspended and needs a lawyer, enter Kennedy, a young white lawyer who wants to take race out of the case right away.  This book alternates between their three voices.

Turk’s chapters were difficult to read.  It was hard for me to come to terms with that kind of hate.  I feel like a got a firsthand look at the white power movement and  it was beyond disturbing.  Kennedy bore an almost too familiar feeling for this white mom.  So many things we think we understand about racism are really only surface deep and it takes someone like Ruth to come along to give us a small glimpse into her world.  The chapters between the women were what kept me reading.  Honestly, I just wanted to stop every time I saw Turk’s name come up.

We read this for our book group and there were many positives and a general good feeling about the book.  A few (me included) felt it was a little heavy handed.  But we all agreed that it did open our eyes about what is going on all around us that we may not have noticed before, and really, what more could you want in a book club discussion?

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What’s your favorite Jodi Picoult novel?

 

The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg

Title: The Story of Arthur Truluv, Author: Elizabeth BergThe Story of Arthur Truluv. Finished 3-27-18, 4/5 stars, pub. 2017

Unabridged audio read by the author, Elizabeth Berg, 6.75 hours

A moving novel about three people who find their way back from loss and loneliness to a different kind of happiness. Arthur, a widow, meets Maddy, a troubled teenage girl who is avoiding school by hiding out at the cemetery, where Arthur goes every day for lunch to have imaginary conversations with his late wife, and think about the lives of others. The two strike up a friendship that draws them out of isolation. Maddy gives Arthur the name Truluv, for his loving and positive responses to every outrageous thing she says or does. With Arthur’s nosy neighbor Lucille, they create a loving and unconventional family, proving that life’s most precious moments are sweeter when shared.  from Goodreads

This opens with Arthur in the cemetery at the grave of his wife, so it immediately brought shades of A Man Called Ove, but these two widowers were different types of men. Where Ove was crusty and had to be drawn into relationships, Arthur was open and friendly and sought ways to reach out.  Ove was cloudy and Arthur sunny, but they also ended up being drawn into makeshift families that they didn’t have when their wives were with them and their fates in the end were the same.  I particularly loved Arthur’s insight into the buried dead at the cemetery. Cemeteries speak to me.

I liked the three main characters of this one. Arthur was great, obviously, but Maddy as the neglected and friendless teen and Louise as the lonely next door neighbor with a second chance at love, were both great too.  Maddy broke my heart. Her mother died when she was 2 and her father has never forgiven her for it.  She is bullied at school and tries to find someone to love her in a yucky boy and pays for it dearly.  Louise came off a little strident, but under that was a woman looking for a purpose in her retirement years.

I like Elizabeth Berg and was glad to catch up with her latest.  This is an uplifting book at its heart.

If you read both Ove and this one, did you feel similarities too?

 

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Title: Far From the Madding Crowd (Barnes & Noble Classics Series), Author: Thomas HardyFar From the Madding Crowd.  Finished 3-14-18, 4.25/5 stars, classic, pub. 1874

Unabridged audio read by Nathaniel Parker. 13 hours, 35 minutes

Gabriel Oak is only one of three suitors for the hand of the beautiful and spirited Bathsheba Everdene. He must compete with the dashing young soldier Sergeant Troy and the respectable, middle-aged Farmer Boldwood. And while their fates depend upon the choice Bathsheba makes, she discovers the terrible consequences of an inconstant heart.

Far from the Madding Crowd was the first of Hardy’s novels to give the name Wessex to the landscape of southwest England and the first to gain him widespread popularity as a novelist. Set against the backdrop of the unchanging natural cycle of the year, the story both upholds and questions rural values with a startlingly modern sensibility.   from Goodreads

I watched the movie last year and really liked it. I’m going to do a comparison post in a few days so I’ll try not to compare  the two now.

Bathsheba is a woman before her time.  It’s 1800’s England and Bathsheba, once a young woman living with her aunt, becomes an independent woman when her late uncle leaves her his successful farm. She is a head strong woman and not the first one who has had her intelligence questioned by her terrible taste in men.  Gabriel Oak knew her when she lived with her aunt and is steadfast and loyal. Mr. Boldwood owns a neighboring farm and was forever changed when he received a Valentine sent from Bathsheba.  Sergeant Troy has his head turned by the pretty Bathsheba with her money.  Bathsheba, at least at first, doesn’t want to marry and be put under a man’s thumb, but things change when her heart starts to beat a little faster.

I liked this classic.  Being a city girl myself I loved learning more about the everyday life on the farm.  Bathsheba and her one time maid, Fanny, both made the very same mistake but suffered very different fates due to their circumstances.  I liked the way it showed the truth that opportunities don’t come to all and mistakes, when made, are more easily forgiven when you have money.  Bathsheba did drive me crazy at times, but probably no more flawed than the rest of us.  The three suitors were all interesting in their own right, but it is Gabriel Oak who is my new crush 🙂

This is my second Thomas Hardy novel and  my 21st selection for the Classics Club and I have until January 1, 2020 to get to 50.  I am woefully behind!

 

Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton

Title: Lilli de Jong, Author: Janet BentonLilli de Jong. Finished 3-14-18, 4/5 stars, historical fiction, 335 pages, pub. 2017

A young woman finds the most powerful love of her life when she gives birth at an institution for unwed mothers in 1883 Philadelphia. She is told she must give up her daughter to avoid a life of poverty and shame. But she chooses to keep her.

Pregnant, abandoned by her lover, and banished from her Quaker home and teaching position, Lilli de Jong enters a charity for wronged women to deliver her child. She is stunned at how much her infant needs her and at how quickly their bond overpowers her heart. Mothers in her position have no sensible alternative to giving up their children, but Lilli can’t bear such an outcome. Determined to chart a path toward an independent life, Lilli braves moral condemnation and financial ruin in a quest to keep herself and her baby alive.    from Goodreads

What an emotional book.  Lilli was a devout Quaker and lived happily with her parents and brother, but when her mother dies suddenly and her father takes up drinking and a sexual relationship with his cousin, Lilli’s life quickly turns.  Finding strength in Johan, her father’s assistant, she has one night of passion and many promises for a bright future after Johan and her brother go off to set up a life in Pittsburgh.  Lilli, jobless thanks to her father, pregnant thanks to an absent boyfriend, and homeless thanks to a jealous cousin is suddenly on the streets of Philadelphia.  Being an unwed mother-to-be is no easy feat in 1883 and Lilli’s life and that of her baby girl go from bad to worse.

This was a series of 10 diaries written by Lilli during her almost two years of hardship and life was tenuous. I read it over two nights and was drawn in completely.  It did move a bit slow for me, but was such a interesting look at the life of women at the time.  Lilli’s story will stick with me for quite a while.

We read this for book club last night.  There were five of us, and only one didn’t care for it. There was a great discussion about how much has really changed for women since then.  It was also pointed out that this was a book of survival during a harsh time, so even though it was difficult to read it was an honest look at life at the time.  At its heart it is a book about what being a mother really means and the lengths one will go to for her child.

 

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L Sanchez

Title: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, Author: Erika L. SánchezI Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. Finished 1-6-18, 4.25/5, YA, pub, 2017

Unabridged audio read by Kyla Garcia. 9 hours 41 minutes.

Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family.
But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role.
Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed.
But it’s not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. With the help of her best friend Lorena, and her first kiss, first love, first everything boyfriend Connor, Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister’s story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal?     from Goodreads

I don’t read a lot of YA books, but last year The Hate U Give ended up being a favorite and this one, a National Book Award for Young People Finalist, also satisfied my desire to learn about American lives so different from my own.  Julia, a Mexican-American teen in Chicago, lost her sister to a freak accident and she struggles in the aftermath.  Her sister was the perfect one, going to community college while living at home, and when she died Julia’s mother lost it.  Julia is trying to understand her older sister after the fact and it leads her to surprising answers.

Julia is a teenager with some issues and she was trying at times, yet she did grow on me.  I had sympathy for her cockroach infested apartment (been there and it was disgusting) and her embarrassment over being poor when she met a boy she was interested in, but it wasn’t until she was sent back to her family in Mexico for a visit that I began to really root for her.  Julia is a memorable teen and I have high hopes for her future as a writer and for a relationship with Connor, her first love 🙂  I wouldn’t mind a follow up book at all!

This is an immigrant story, Julia’s parents are undocumented and used a coyote to cross the border, a mystery when she discovers her perfect sister had a secret, and a coming of age story with a heroine full of angst and mental health issues.  This really is a relatively quick read that delves into many issues that will keep you engaged.  I really liked this one.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Charlie Bucket, #1)Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Finished 9-22-17, rating 4/5, children’s classic, pub. 1964

Unabridged audio performed by Douglas Hodge and enhanced with sound effects.

Willy Wonka’s famous chocolate factory is opening at last!

But only five lucky children will be allowed inside. And the winners are: Augustus Gloop, an enormously fat boy whose hobby is eating; Veruca Salt, a spoiled-rotten brat whose parents are wrapped around her little finger; Violet Beauregarde, a dim-witted gum-chewer with the fastest jaws around; Mike Teavee, a toy pistol-toting gangster-in-training who is obsessed with television; and Charlie Bucket, Our Hero, a boy who is honest and kind, brave and true, and good and ready for the wildest time of his life!  from Goodreads

The audio was excellent and even had sound effects.  At only 3 1/2 hours I want to listen to it again with Gage because I think he would love it since he loves both of the movie adaptations, although I have a marked preference for Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka.  I loved the original and this took me right back there, to my childhood, excited every time one of the few channels on TV was showing the movie

Is Willy Wonka the best person to hold up as an example of all good things?  Nope.  But the story is so fantastical and fun that I can overlook that.  Charlie and his Grandpa have such a heartwarming relationship that the warmth and goodness coming from them makes up for the meanness of the others.  Already having the visual in mind when reading the book didn’t stop my imagination from adding more to the mix.  I can’t say enough good things about the audio production and am glad that I experienced the story that way for this one.

This was my 20th selection for the Classics Club and I have until January 1, 2020 to get to 50.  I am woefully behind!

Three bestselling authors in one post!

As the year winds down and Christmas preparations hit high gear I’m just going to knock out short thoughts about these three books I’ve finished recently.

Title: Rogue Lawyer, Author: John GrishamRogue Lawyer. Finished 11-2-17, rating 3/5, fiction, pub. 2015

Unabridged audio read by Mark Deakins.  11 1/2 hours.

Sebastian defends people other lawyers won’t go near: a drug-addled, tattooed kid rumored to be in a satanic cult, who is accused of molesting and murdering two little girls; a vicious crime lord on death row; a homeowner arrested for shooting at a SWAT team that mistakenly invaded his house.  Why these clients? Because he believes everyone is entitled to a fair trial, even if he, Sebastian, has to cheat to secure one. He hates injustice, doesn’t like insurance companies, banks, or big corporations; he distrusts all levels of government and laughs at the justice system’s notions of ethical behavior.    from Goodreads

Jason and I listened to this on a road trip and it was okay.  Sebastian was a fun character and the cases he found or that found him were fun, but I wanted to dive a little deeper into each of them.  I didn’t realize at the beginning that it was more a series of short, sometimes connected short stories, and that took away some of the enjoyment for me.  Jason liked it better than I did.

Title: Friction, Author: Sandra BrownFriction. Finished 12-6-17, rating 4/5, thriller, pub. 2015

Unabridged audio read by Stephen Lang.

A Texas Ranger, relegated to deskwork due to past recklessness, petitions to regain custody of his five-year-old daughter, and his case is assigned to a family court judge who is as attractive as she is ambitious. When a masked gunman barges in during the custody hearing with his sights on the judge, the Ranger reacts instinctually and goes after him. But authorities apprehend the wrong man, and the real gunman remains unknown, at large, and a threat. Will this take-charge lawman jeopardize his chances of custody by going after the would-be assassin? And will this unlikely pair be able to deny the forbidden attraction building between them?    from Goodreads

I haven’t read Sandra Brown in years and I really enjoyed this thriller.  I could have done without the (few) sex scenes, but I really liked Crawford, a Texas Ranger, and Holly Spencer,  the judge deciding his child custody case.   There were layers to the mystery and the narration by Lang was excellent.

Title: E Is for Evidence (Kinsey Millhone Series #5), Author: Sue GraftonE is Evidence. Finished 12-13-17, rating 3/5, mystery, 200 pages, pub. 1998

Kinsey Millhone series #5 (1-A is for Alibi, 2-B is for Burglar, 3- C is for Corpse, 4- D is for Deadbeat)

Being a twice-divorced, happily independent loner has worked like a charm for P.I. Kinsey Millhone—until holiday weekends like this one roll around. What she needs is a little diversion to ward off the blues. She gets her much-needed distraction with a case that places her career on the line. And if that isn’t enough to keep her busy, her ex-husband, who walked out on her eight years ago, pops back on the radar…

It all begins with a $5,000 deposit made into Kinsey’s bank account. Problem is she’s not the one who deposited the money. But when she’s accused of being on the take in an industrial arson case, Kinsey realizes someone is framing her…     from Goodreads

I like Kinsey.  She’s fiercely independent, successful, but also a bit lonely.  Some of her personal relationships were missing in this one. but we did get to meet one of her ex-husbands so that was fun.  I thought this one dragged a but did pick up the pace with a letter bomb.  These mysteries are always quick which is another reason I like this series.

 

 

Yes Please! by Amy Poehler & Something New by Lucy Knisley

Two memoir catch ups!  How did I get so behind?!

Yes Please! Finished 9-27-17, rating 4/5, memoir, pub. 2014

Unabridged audio read by Amy Poehler.  7 hours 30 minutes.

Do you want to get to know the woman we first came to love on Comedy Central’s Upright Citizens Brigade? Do you want to spend some time with the lady who made you howl with laughter on Saturday Night Live, and in movies like Baby Mama, Blades of Glory, and They Came Together? Do you find yourself daydreaming about hanging out with the actor behind the brilliant Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation? Did you wish you were in the audience at the last two Golden Globes ceremonies, so you could bask in the hilarity of Amy’s one-liners?

If your answer to these questions is “Yes Please!” then you are in luck. In her first book, one of our most beloved funny folk delivers a smart, pointed, and ultimately inspirational read. Full of the comedic skill that makes us all love Amy, Yes Please is a rich and varied collection of stories, lists, poetry (Plastic Surgery Haiku, to be specific), photographs, mantras and advice. With chapters like “Treat Your Career Like a Bad Boyfriend,” “Plain Girl Versus the Demon” and “The Robots Will Kill Us All” Yes Please will make you think as much as it will make you laugh. Honest, personal, real, and righteous, Yes Please is full of words to live by.   from Goodreads

Amy read it along with a few friends helping along the way: Kathleen Turner, Seth Meyers, Patrick Stewart, Carol Burnett, her parents, and probably one or two more that I forgot about.
I liked it, but for me, I felt like she was trying too hard.  Maybe that’s just part of her charm, because I know she’s funny.  I laughed and learned that she’d been at this comedy thing longer than I thought.  I was impressed to learn about the Upright Citizens’ Brigade that she helped form, less impressed with her sex tips. She is accomplished and successful and full of energy.  I LOVE Parks and Recreation and might have loved a book written by the great Leslie Knope even better.


Something New: Tales from a Makeshift BrideSomething New. Finished 9-29-17, rating 3.5/5, graphic memoir, 292 pages, pub. 2016

A funny and whip-smart new book about the institution of marriage in America told through the lens of her recent engagement and wedding…. The graphic novel tackles the all-too-common wedding issues that go along with being a modern woman: feminism, expectations, getting knocked over the head with gender stereotypes, family drama, and overall wedding chaos and confusion.    from Goodreads

This is my third book by the talented graphic artist and author and this fell between the first two for me.  I liked it and loved her drawings, but I was also bored.  Wedding planning is a wonderful and tedious business and it is probably most interesting to the people who know you or are going through the same process.  I do think this would be a perfect gift for the newly engaged.