Staff Book Reviews

Almost Home
Debbie Macomber
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Almost Home is comprised of four short stories detailing 4 people who take risk of opening their hearts to new relationships. "Whale Island" is about a children's writer who is resisting falling in love with the reporter who interviews her because she has a big family secret to hide. In "Queen of Hearts', a man who was a real geek in high school has become successful and handsome as an adult and has run into the woman who he had a crush on in high school but felt out of her league. "The Honeymoon House" is a story of a photographer who finds a bridesmaid of a halted wedding destroying his house. And finally "The Marrying Kind" reunites two high school sweethearts who has a very brief marriage right when they got out of high school but were cruelly torn apart by family members. A great read if romance novels are your genre!

Reviewer's Name: Susi W.
In Her Shoes
Weiner, Jennifer
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Maggie and Rose are sisters with very different lives and personalities. The two common things they share are their mother's tragic death, a "car accident" when they were kids and the same shoe size. Rose is an attorney, practical, responsible and has her own apartment. Maggie, the younger of the two, is good looking (which she uses to her advantage), impetuous and manipulative. They live together for a short stint, until a major falling out causes them to go their own ways. Thus begins a journey of self discovery for each woman and the surprise of a grandmother who they thought was long gone. The love/hate relationship of sisters is well captured, along with humor and sharp observations.

Reviewer's Name: Susi W.
The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself
Singer, Michael A.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Wow...reading this book will take you on a spiritual journey unlike any other. If the idea of becoming more mentally and emotionally free, mindful, concious, happy and self-actualized interest you, then give this #1 New York Times Bestseller a read today!

Reviewer's Name: Alyssa
Awards:
The Code of the Extraordinary Mind: 10 Unconventional Laws to Redefine Your Life and Succeed On Your Own Terms
Lakhiani, Vishen
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Written by the founder of the successful online learning platform MindValley, this book will change your life, or at least spark a bit of self-reflection. Vishen takes the reader through 10 life-redefining laws leading to success, which are then divided into 4 parts. Part I explains how we have each been shaped, for better and for worse, by our culture and childhood. In Part II, the reader is challenged to either accept or modify what was brought to the surface in Part I. Part III is entitle "Recoding Yourself" and delves into mindfulness, discipline, "bending reality," goal setting to lead to lasting fulfillment every time and other compelling topics. Finally, Part IV provokes the reader to find their quest, and change the world. This is one of the most worthwhile self help books I have ever read and I recommend it to anyone wanting to change their life, thinking patterns, or habits for the better.

Reviewer's Name: Alyssa
Awards:
Travel As Transformation: Conquer the Limits of Culture to Discover Your Own Identity
Diehl, Gregory
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Part travel, part philosophy, part self help, this book is certainly a compelling read. Gregory Diehl shares his unique perspective and riveting accounts from his time spent traveling around the world. He describes in depth how his experiences and sometimes dark and uncomfortable lessons he learned while living in multiple countries around the globe have shaped his unique identity. He also challenges readers to examine the lessons in self discovery they too have encountered when traveling and to experience immersion in other cultures in order to develop a more well-rounded identity and life experience.

Reviewer's Name: Alyssa
The Bat
Nesbø, Jo
2 stars = Meh
Review:

While this is the first book (1997) in the wildly popular Harry Hole series, it was actually the fourth translated into English. After reading it, I had assumed it was the first book and the publisher had been cheap -- poor translation and editing --- but hoped to piggy back on Stieg Larsson's success in the U.S.. I began reading the series with Harry Hole No. 9, The Phantom (2011) as a Why Not? purchase during a lengthy flight delay. I am thankful I did not start with The Bat or I might have missed out on one of my favorite Nordic Noir authors and a compelling character in Hole (prononced HO-Lay in Norwegian). The Bat gets off to an uncharacteristically slow start but later delivers the gritty thriller action Nesbo fans enjoy in later works. In the novel, the troubled police detective travels to Australia to investigate the murder of a Norwegian, then discovers and solves a series of homicides while running amok of local authorities eager to send him back to Oslo. If you are a series reader who wants to start at the beginning, then read The Bat. But don't feel bad if you start with Cockroaches (1998) or even The Redbreast (2000), the third Hole book, which won The Glass Key award for best Nordic crime novel.

Reviewer's Name: Joe P.
Awards:
Criss Cross
Patterson, James
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Alex Cross used to be a police detective but for the last few years he's been a psychologist who still does consultant work with police. In his career, he has crossed paths with a numerous amount of serial killers and other highly intelligent murderers and psychopaths. Needless to say, he's made a few enemies along the way. In this latest novel (he appears in a total of 28 at this writing), Alex must reflect on past cases and enemies as the mysterious "M" plays cat and mouse while copycatting previous cases he's worked on. It even leaves Alex wondering if a prior nemesis whose death he witnessed is still alive when he sees his carbon copy in the flesh. But things escalate when "M" manages to kidnap his 10 year old son Ali. Not the best book I've ever read, but I enjoy the incredible family dynamics Alex has with his 90 something grandmother, his wife and his three kids which have been developed over the past 30 years, and ties me into reading each new novel written with this character in it. Patterson writes very short chapters, so the novel provides a quick read.

Reviewer's Name: Susi W.
Maplecroft: The Borden Dispatches
Priest, Cherie
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Everyone is has heard the macabre childhood rhyme about Lizzie Borden, and the gruesome murders that took place in Fall River, Massachusetts. Many have questioned the acquitted Lizzie's innocence, but few have explored if there might have been a very justified reason for Ms. Borden to wield her infamous axe. After the trial, the Borden sisters have retired to a more secluded life in their new home called Maplecroft. In a scenario worthy of HP Lovecraft, Cherie Priest uses her Fantasy/Horror/Mystery skills to shape a very different version of Fall River - one where people are starting to act "peculiar". Something from the ocean is calling to them, controlling them, and causing them to change, and commit murderous acts. Lizzie and her studious sister Emma, have seen something like this before, but they had hoped it had ended with their parents. Unbeknownst to the town, the Borden sisters have been keeping mysterious night creatures at bay, but now townspeople are becoming infected with some madness Lizzie and Emma suspect may engulf the town. Lizzie searches for answers in ancient lore, while Emma conducts her research in modern science. Can their combined efforts save the very town that shuns them?

This book is not for the faint of heart, as it details some ghastly fight, and murder scenes, but it is a fresh paranormal take on an existing notorious history. Maplecroft:The Borden Dispatches is available in book form, but can also be downloaded in eBook and eAudiobook formats.

Reviewer's Name: Chris W.
Awards:
The Institute
King, Stephen
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Luke Ellis is an especially bright boy living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He's so smart, that he is poised to attend a prestigious University in the Massachusetts area at the tender age of 12. Then in the course of one night, his life completely changes. His parents are murdered and he is kidnapped and taken to a place known as the Institute in the remote woods of Maine. He wakes up in a room that looks like exactly his but is not. He soon meets other kids who are both younger and older than him in a building called "the front half". These are kids with special talents such as telekinesis or telepathy,or TK or TP for short. Their talents are strengthened, using a series of shots and painful experiments, administered by abusive caretakers. Those who graduate to the "back half" never return, as their combined talents are used to commit psychic assassinations of political figures and others who are in power. Unfortunately, the combined group think strips the young residents of all their faculties. As victims disappear, Luke becomes more desperate to find a way out.

With the recent state of the world, I didn't think I could bear a Stephen King book, but found myself pleasantly surprised and distracted. King not only writes for entertainment, he often wants to impart a deeper message. A must read.

Reviewer's Name: Susi W.
A Gentleman in Moscow
Towles, Amor
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

A Bolshevik tribunal puts Count Alexander Rostov under lifelong house arrest at The Hotel Metropol, a real luxury establishment located near the Kremlin, at the start of the Soviet Union. This man, who has never worked a day in his life, uses his considerable charm to carve out an existence while bearing witness to some very tumultuous decades. The people he meets, loves and opposes over the next 30 years help the nobleman determine a purpose in life under reduced circumstances. His evolution over the decades and his charm make the Count, who could have been insufferable in a different situation, someone many would befriend. This beautifully written second novel by the author of The Rules of Civility provides an interesting perspective on Soviet history, what it means to be a family and the reasons why to keep on living, even in a gilded prison.

Reviewer's Name: Joe P.
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
Jonasson, Jonas
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This charmer was a runaway international bestseller and it is easy to see why. The main character, Allan Karlsson, is memorable even as his stories from his wanderings around the world get more and more far-fetched. Karlsson has always done what he wanted and skipping his 100th birthday party at the start is the least surprising thing when looking back upon this Swedish novel. I read this for a book group (book club set available through PPLD) and one participant described Karlsson as Forest Gump with a dangerous affinity for vodka and explosives. This "intelligent, very stupid novel" as the author described it, is enjoyable if a tad long.

Reviewer's Name: Joe P.
Women Who Run With the Wolves
Estés, Clarissa Pinkola
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Centered around the "Wild Woman Archetype," Dr. Estes examines what it means to be a "Wild Woman," the expectations placed upon women in society and the consequences of ignoring the wild feminine nature within. The book certainly has a different approach to imparting knowledge and experience, but her tales of ancient myths and stories will make you feel as if you are sitting around a cozy campfire with an old friend. If you want to better understand the Wild Woman Archetype, an empowered and liberated side of women, I would recommend giving this classic New York Times bestseller a read.

Reviewer's Name: Alyssa
Awards:
 How to Travel the World on $50 a Day
Kepnes, Matt
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is jam-packed with helpful tips and tricks for making travel affordable and more accessible to individuals living on a budget. Whether you travel seldom or regularly, this book will get you excited about the various ways to save big money on trips that may have previously seemed financially out of reach. Want to plan a trip to India? Skip to the chapter specific to the country or region where you want to go for highly specified money-saving advice. I found myself jotting down a long list of notes to refer back to when planning for my next trip. Give it a read if you enjoy traveling and saving money while you do it!

Reviewer's Name: Alyssa
Genres:
Book Review: The Flatshare
O'Leary, Beth
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I don't usually rate chick lit higher than 3 stars as it's my guilty pleasure, but this book was very well written, had an engaging plot, likable characters, and addressed a serious topic without seeming heavy handed. I recommend it as a quick and satisfying read.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
The Housekeeper and the Professor
Ogawa, Yōko
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This beautiful exploration of living in the moment centers on the relationship between a brilliant math professor, his young housekeeper and her 10-year-old son. The professor suffered a traumatic brain injury decades earlier, limiting his
short-term memory to only 80 minutes. She is hired to care for this unique, challenging client. And every morning, the housekeeper and the professor meet anew, creating this strange, yet lovely relationship that blossoms between them. The damaged yet lively mind of the professor allows him discover connections in everyday items like shoe sizes and the universe at large, an eye-opening experience for mother and child as their lives draw closer together. The short novel focuses on those mathematical equations and the emotional connections that create a unique family. The 2009 English translation is available as a PPLD book club set. The novel's bibliography cites The Man Who Loved Only Numbers, a biography of Paul Erdos, on which the professor character is based. The 2003 novel, original title The Professor's Beloved Equation, won the Hon'ya Taisho award. It was a massive bestseller in the prolific, well-regarded Ogawa's native country.

Reviewer's Name: Joe P.
The Great Alone
Hannah, Kristin
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Author Kristin Hannah has told interviewers that she scrapped an early version of The Great Alone that she wrote shortly after her career-making breakout bestseller, The Nightingale. Readers will be happy she started over because what the author delivered in 2017 was a compelling page-turner featuring Leni Albright. The strong-willed young woman was 13 when her father, a former Vietnam War POW struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, moved her and her mother to the remote wilds of 1970s Alaska after years of wandering. Things are good when the weather is warm and sunny but then the long, frigid nights of winter descend on a fractured family not quite ready for those hardships. Leni grows up over the course of the novel, forged by the destructive nature of her parents' relationship, abuse, young love and the coming-of-age struggle to find a place where she belongs. Her resilience will be tested by her family and equally beautiful and dangerous Alaska, which takes its toll on those she loves in this award-winning novel (2018 Goodreads Choice Awards, Best Historical Fiction).

Reviewer's Name: Joe P.
Genres:
Book Cover
Hardinge, Frances
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Hark is an orphan who forms a bond of brotherhood with Jelt, a fellow orphan. So when Jelt asks Hark for help executing a job for a local gang, Hark reluctantly agrees. And gets caught, natch. He ends up as an indentured servant of a scientist studying the leftover pieces dead sea-monster gods that ruled the island until they all fought each other to death 30 years prior. Hark talks to the former priests who worked with the gods and is largely enjoying himself, until Jelt shows up with a new job that threatens Hark's new life.

There is obviously a lot going on in this book, and the worldbuilding was next level creative. Each sea-monster/god is different, and the descriptions of them were fantastic and a bit creepy. The mysteries of their existence and sudden disappearance unravel throughout the course of the book. That's kind of half of the book, and the other half is the adventures of Hark (they are, of course, intertwined), which I didn't love as much due to his blind devotion to Jelt. But even still, Hark's story goes down a very interesting and unexpected path and I think a lot of young teenage boys will identify with him. The book's message ends up being about your story/legacy and storytelling, which resonated with me as it will with anyone who understands the power and value of good storytelling.

This is a perfect read for tweens and teens graduating from middle grade fiction to YA who love adventure with a touch of horror. If this book finds it's audience, I can see it being really popular. I really enjoyed it! 4 stars.

Thanks to Netgalley and MacMillan for the eARC, which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. Deeplight is available now - put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Book Cover
Shin, Kyung-Sook
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

The word mom means unconditional love. When I saw the title it seems a little awkward. The mom who had taken care of her family an given endless love was missing; the elderly woman, suffering from dementia vanished in the crowd in the train station. She came to Seoul to celebrate her birthday withmher children. After her disappearance, the story started with a view from each family members. Each of them followed her trace to find her from their memories. While they struggling to find her, they gradually realized that the mom was ignored and had been neglected, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Her name was Park, So-nye; like meaning (So-nye = little
girl) of her name. She was an ordinary girl like all of us who had many dreams for her future. As time passes by her name and her dreams were sacrificed for her to take the role of a mother without her children's knowledge. Through this book, we encounter question and explore true, universal meaning of family.

Reviewer's Name: Hyun Sook Oh
Awards:
Book Cover
Duhigg, Charles
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"The Power of Habit" by Charles Duhigg is a great read if you are interested in changing your habits or changing your company's habits for the better. Duhigg guides the reader through how habits work in life and in business. What makes "The Power of Habit" a good read, though, is Duhigg's remarkable talent for storytelling. The narratives Duhigg presents are both informative and heartfelt. The stories are what make this book a real page turner, but when coupled with Duhigg's insights about habits, the book is both enlightening and informative.

Reviewer's Name: Melina D.
Book Cover
Durst, Sarah Beth
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Tamra is desperate. After two of her rider trainees were hurt in practice, she found herself without anyone to teach and no source of revenue. When her patron gives her a measly 200 gold coins to purchase a Kehok (a racer) and find a rider to train, she knows she'll do what it takes to win the annual Becar Races and and the huge purses that come with it. So she finds an untrained and unproven Kehok that no one wants, and a rider whose a clearly a recent runaway. Raia, the runaway rider, is fleeing her parents who would marry her off to a man who murdered his last wife. Both Tamra, Raia and the increasingly strange Kehok must win the races to save themselves and win their freedom.

That was a really tough description to write, because there's a ton going on in the world! Reincarnation is widely accepted and the motivation for a lot of folks actions (Kehoks were monsters in their former lives and cannot reincarnate as anything but a Kehok, for example), there's a religious caste that low-key rules everything, at least BTS, and the not-quite-coronated-yet-because-his-brother-just-died-emperor is fighting off revolution. That last bit leads to a lot of political and court intrigue in the second half of the book. This was a really solid standalone fantasy. As you can tell, the worldbuilding was rich and complex, but it wasn't so complex as to be confusing. I found it to be refreshingly new and inventive, and would recommend the book on the strength of that alone. There's also quite a bit of ethical questioning of one's actions and what folks owe each other (this did occasionally feel a tad heavy handed), which is something that I love.

The worldbuilding is not the only star of the show - Tamra and Raia are easy to relate to, and quite lovable. You'll fall in love with their monstrous, strange kehok as well and you'll think about any horse-related novel that you adored as a kid. In fact, this book would have been catnip for me when I was 12 as I was into all things Tamora Pierce (Tamra is her namesake) and most things horse (I kept thinking about the "Thoroughbreds" series when I read this book, which I reread a bunch of times as a kid). In fact, this book could have easily been marketed as YA, although Tamra is clearly the main character, and she is very much an adult - I don't remember her age, but she's late 30s on the very low end. Since fantasy novels, even those for adults, often star adolescents (and yes, Raia is 17), I found this to be refreshing.

TLDR: With inventive worldbuilding, strong female characters, and major crossover appeal, fantasy readers of all ages will love this book! It's sort of The Scorpio Races meets Tamora Pierce and from me, that's high praise. I wouldn't say it was amazing, but I did love it, so 5 stars!

Thanks to Netgalley and Harper Voyager for the eARC which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. Race the Sands is available now - put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:

Pages