Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Four of a Kind

Four of a Kind
Valerie Frankel

Four of a Kind

Genre: Women's Fiction

Summary (from Goodreads): Besides the fact that their kids all attend the same fashionable Brooklyn Heights private school, Bess, Robin, Carla, and Alicia have little in common. Thrown together on the tony school’s Diversity Committee, the women impulsively turn their awkward first meeting into a boisterous game of poker. Instead of betting with chips or pocket change, however, they play for intimate secrets about their lives.

As the Diversity Commitee meetings become a highly anticipated monthly ritual, the new friends reveal more with each game. Picture-perfect housewife Bess struggles to relate to her surly teenage daughter and judgmental mother. Robin, a single mom, grapples with the truth concerning her child’s real father. Carla, an ambitious doctor, attempts to balance the colossal demands of her family with her dream of owning her own private practice. And to distract herself from her troubled marriage, shy copywriter Alicia fantasizes about an attractive younger colleague.

Putting all their cards on the table, the four women grow to rely on one another, bracing for one final showdown.

Review:  This book was an entertaining piece of escapist women's friendship fiction (which I am a sucker for), but I found it unrealistic that these four completely different women would become fast friends over monthly Texas Hold'em nights.  Although I enjoyed reading about adult women forging unusual friendships, I struggled with the sex-obsession and immorality that was prevalent throughout the story.  And the front cover is deceptive - it should have pictured bottles of liquor or shot glasses instead of dainty flowery tea cups. 

Rating: 3 stars

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Magic Hour

Magic Hour
by Kristin Hannah

Genre: Fiction

Synopsis: In the rugged Pacific Northwest lies the Olympic National Forest-nearly a million acres of impenetrable darkness and impossible beauty.  From deep within this old growth forest, a six-year-old girl appears.  Speechless and alone, she offers no clue as to her identity, no hint of her past.

Having retreated to her western Washington hometown after a scandal left her career in ruins, child psychiatrist Dr. Julia Cates is determined to free the extraordinary little girl she calls Alice from a prison of unimaginable fear and isolation.  To reach her, Julia must discover the truth about Alice's past-although doing so requires help from Julia's estranged sister, a local police officer.  The shocking facts of Alice's life test the limits of Julia's faith and strength, even as she struggles to make a home for Alice-and for herself.  In Magic Hour, Kristin Hannah creates one of her most beloved characters and delivers an incandescent story about the resilience of the human spirit, the triumph of hope, and the meaning of home.
from the back of the book

Review: This book was so captivating.  The story just drew me in with this little girl who was hurting so much and who had been denied so much of her formative years.  They psychology of it just fascinated me!  The other stories going on about Julia's sister, Ellie, and about other characters were ones that I didn't care so much about.  I much rather would have focused solely on Julia's relationship with Alice and with Alice's internal dialogue, which we do see in some parts of the story.  This story pulled at my heartstrings and really left me torn about things that happened later in the book.  I thought I knew what was going to happen and I tried to remove myself from the emotional state that I thought I was going to be in.  But then the author pulled a fast one on me in the last 4 pages (not counting the epilogue) and threw in a game changing twist.  Up until this point, I loved the book.  But once this happened (and I can't tell you what happened because that would be giving away the book) I felt like the author just missed the mark completely and made the ending so that the readers would like it and not what was believable.  This book was so close (4 pages away!) from being a 5 star book.

Rating:  4 stars

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Three More Words

Three More Words
by Ashley Rhodes-Courter

Genre: Memoir

Synopsis:  In the sequel to the New York Times bestselling memoir Three Little Words, Ashley Rhodes-Courter expands on life beyond the foster care system, the joys and heartbreak with a family she's created, and her efforts to make peace with her past.

Ashley Rhodes-Courter spent a harrowing nine years of her life in fourteen different foster homes.  Her memoir, Three Little Words, captivated audiences everywhere and went on to become a New York Times bestseller as well as a movie produced by the team who brought you Twilight.  Now Ashley reveals the nuances of life after foster care: college and its assorted hijinks, including meeting "the one."  Marriage, which began with a beautiful wedding on a boat that was almost hijacked (literally) by some biological family members.  Having kids-from fostering children and the heartbreak of watching them return to destructive environments, to the miraculous joy of blending biological and adopted offspring.

Whether she's overcoming self-image issues, responding to calls for her to run for Senate, or dealing with continuing drama from her biological family, Ashley Rhodes-Courter never fails to impress or inspire with her authentic voice and uplifting message.

Review: At first I wasn't so sure what to think of this book because I felt like the beginning jumped all over the place and I was having a hard time following.  Plus I didn't feel the connection to her continuing story and felt like some aspects of the beginning were very trivial and not connected to her past as a foster child.  Once Rhodes-Courter got married and they decided to become foster parents, the story really picked up for me.  It's heartbreaking to read about the horrors that the children went through before entering foster care and then how they would get shuffled around and ended up in situations that may not have been much improved.  I think Rhodes-Courter does a good job of being honest as to the emotions that a foster parent goes through when finding out the child's story and also when they have to relinquish control of them back to the system.  I appreciated the rest of her story but I liked the first one better.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Independence Day

Independence Day
Ben Coes

Independence Day (Dewey Andreas, #5)

Genre: Thriller

Summary (from Goodreads): Dewey Andreas, former Delta and newly recruited intelligence agent, is sidelined after screwing up his last two operations. Still drowning in grief after the tragic murder of his fiancĂ©, Dewey has seemingly lost his focus, his edge, and the confidence of his superiors. 

A high level Russian hacker, known only as Cloud, is believed to be routing large amounts of money to various Al Qaeda terror cells, and the mission is to capture and render harmless Cloud. At the same time, a back-up team is sent after the only known associate of Cloud, a ballerina believed to be his girlfriend. Unwilling to sit out the mission as ordered, Dewey defies his superiors, and goes rogue, surreptitiously following and tracking the two teams. What should be a pair of simple snatch and grab operations, goes horribly wrong—both teams are ambushed and wiped out. Only through the unexpected intervention of Dewey does the ballerina survive.

On the run, with no back-up, Cloud’s girlfriend reveals a shocking secret—a plot so audacious and deadly that their masterminds behind it would risk anything and kill anybody to prevent its exposure. It’s a plot that, in less than three days, will completely remake the world’s political landscape and put at risk every single person in the Western world. With only three days left, Dewey Andreas must unravel and stop this plot or see everything destroyed. A plot that goes live on July 4th—Independence Day.

Review: This is a solid non-stop action thriller featuring the psychologically broken Dewey Andreas who, with a team of other crack CIA agents, manages to save the United States from a nuclear terrorist attack.  The villain is terribly evil, the hero is smart, tough and lucky, and the plot is fast-paced and entertaining.  There was too much spy talk and violence for me, though.

Rating: 4 stars


Mark Kelly

Astrotwins -- Project Blastoff

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Summary (from Goodreads): A team of middle schoolers prepares for blastoff in this adventure from the author of the New York Times bestselling Mousetronaut, based on the childhoods of real-life astronauts Mark Kelly and his twin brother Scott.

It's a long, hot summer and Scott and Mark are in big trouble for taking apart (aka destroying) their dad's calculator. As a punishment, they're sent to their grandfather's house, where there's no TV and they have to do chores. And Grandpa is less tolerant of the twins' constant bickering. "Why don't you two work together on something constructive. What if you built a go-kart or something?" Grandpa suggests.

But it's not a go-kart the twins are interested in. They want to build a rocket. With the help of Jenny, nicknamed Egg, and a crew of can-do kids, they set out to build a real rocket that will blast off and orbit the Earth. The question soon becomes: which twin will get to be the astronaut?

Written by a NASA astronaut with four space flights under his belt, this exciting story includes extensive back matter on the space program with fantastic facts and details.

Amelia's Review:  It was good and it was funny.  This book was about two boys named Mark and Scott who wanted to build a rocket ship  A girl came over to help make the rocket; her name was Jenny, but they called her Egg.  A few other kids helped, too.  They made the rocket out of some metal bricks that they covered in duct tape.  The kids were very creative when they built the rocket, and they asked a science teacher at Egg's school what they could use for fuel, and they used sugar and molasses!  They actually sent Scott into space, for real! He came back to Earth and he landed in a lake, but that's okay because rockets are supposed to land in water.  I liked that the kids could figure out how to make a rocket even thought they aren't that old.  I would recommend this book to Noah because he likes space.

Amelia's Rating: 4 stars

Marcie's Review:  Amazon states that this book is recommended for grades 4-6, but the detail around the physics would likely be beyond the understanding of even a 6th grader.  I'm sure my second grader just glossed right over it.  The author is clearly trying to teach kids about science, engineering, math and rocketry (at times it felt very teachy to me), but it is done in the context of an engaging story with enough mischief to keep kids interested.  I was happy to find a book about kids doing STEM activities that my girly girl was interested in.  The only problem is that now she wants to build a rocket and launch it into space.

Marcie's Rating: 4 stars