mean-streakMean Streak by Sandra Brown is a stomach-clenching story of survival in the mountains of North Carolina. Dr. Emory Charbonneau is a pediatrician and a marathon runner competitively training for her latest marathon. She decides to go away for the weekend to run a mountain trail in North Carolina. Leaving her husband, Jeff, after a bad argument, she takes off and spends the night in a tiny town to begin her run early the next morning. Running the trail by herself, Emory goes missing, leaving no trace behind except for her car abandoned in the trailhead parking lot.

By the time Jeff reports her missing, a  snowstorm has blown into the area, leaving fog and ice everywhere, halting any search for Emory, and destroying any clues about her whereabouts. Local police suspect Jeff of an ‘instant divorce’ and dive deep into his life, looking for anything that would lead him to want to get rid of his wife.

While suspicion is cast on Jeff, Emory regains consciousness from an unexplained head injury, finds herself in a mysterious cabin, and being held captive by a man who will not even tell Emory his name. She is willing to do anything to escape him, but the snowstorm raging outside force her to stay. Emory and this mystery man soon find themselves swept into a dangerous encounter with some people who have their own way of handling things. Emory soon finds herself forced to confront her own morals and sense of justice.

While local police and the FBI narrow in on her husband’s deception and the identity of her captor, Emory finds herself wondering about the true motives of her captor. Her initial fear falls away, leading her to think about his past and what could have been so violent that would have necessitated a complete move off the grid. This novel weaves together multiple storylines from many different perspectives, allowing readers to glimpse some motives without fully being able to put the whole story together. Mean Streak is ripe with tales of deceit, love, and survival that grabbed my attention and had me deeply invested in the lives of each character.


This book is also available in the following formats:

vinegar girlVinegar Girl by Anne Tyler is a modern retelling of the classic Shakespeare play, The Taming of the Shrew. Initially I picked this book to listen to through OverDrive for two reasons: the cover looked interesting and it was available for checkout. I’m glad I checked this out. This was very quick to listen to, the characters are all excellently developed, and the narrator hooked me in.

In this retelling, Kate Battista lives with her father, Dr. Louis Battista, and her younger teenage sister, Bunny. Kate works as a nursery school assistant, takes care of the family house, and has watched her younger sister ever since their mother’s early death. Dr. Battista, a research scientist studying autoimmune disorders, is eccentric to sat the least. His compulsiveness shines through in his work and the way he wants Kate to run the house. Everyone’s laundry is done on a different day of the week, Bunny has to follow her father’s behavior rules 100%, and meal prep is down to a specific science. Kate follows her father’s computer-generated grocery list and makes the family’s “meat mash” at the beginning of the week, a less-than-appetizing-sounding food concoction that contains all necessary nutrients that they then eat for the rest of the week.

Dr. Battista has gone through a number of different lab assistants, the current one, Pyotr Shcherbakov, being his favorite. Pyotr is apparently a star scientist from Russia that Dr. Battista, who is equally famous in Russia, was lucky to get. Unfortunately for everyone, Pyotr’s three-year work visa is about to expire, meaning he will be deported back to Russia unless he marries an American girl. Dr. Battista has the perfect girl in mind for Pyotr: his oldest daughter, Kate, who has never turned down any of his crazy schemes before. This retelling of Shakespeare’s classic veers from the powerful emotions in the original, but is a delightful and positive retelling that leaves readers wondering what will happen between Kate, Pyotr, and her father? Will his research be successful? Will Kate and Pyotr get married? Will the meat mash ever change? Tyler’s quirkiness adds a new level to this classic Shakespeare, something that will have readers clamoring for more.


This book is also available in the following formats:

There are many other clever adaptations of The Taming of the Shrew, some of them you may not realize. Check out this list of my favorite adaptations (and call the library for more suggestions!).
mclintockkiss me kate10 things i hate about you

 

 

 

 

 

 

heads in bedsHave you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of hotels? What the front desk attendant, concierge, bellman, or housekeeping person is thinking as they check you in, follow you around, or clean up your room? Having spent a fair number of my summer vacations in hotel rooms, I was curious as a child what these people actually did at work and what they thought of everyone they came in contact with on a daily basis. Lucky for me, I found just the book to ease my curiosity: Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality.

Heads in Beds is written by Jacob Tomsky, a pseudonym the author adopted to keep his anonymity since he was, and is still, a member of the hotel industry at the time this book was released. Every hotel he worked for, as well as every person he worked with and each hotel guest, has a pseudonym, allowing Tomsky to go into great detail about everything that happens behind the scenes of hotels.

This book is a hilarious ride through Tomsky’s journey from a valet to manager to front desk attendant. Want to know how to get an upgrade? Tomsky tells you. How to get a late check out? Tomsky again. What about those pesky mini-bars and in-room movie fees? Tomsky knows all about those. He is full of tips and tricks about how to make the most out of whatever hotel stay you’re experiencing. Check out this book for glimpses into the inner workings of the hospitality business, what valets really do in your car, what goes on in empty rooms, and even why you should never turn down a bellman’s help.


This book is also available in the following formats:

True Story starring James Franco and Jonah Hill

True Story starring James Franco and Jonah Hill

December 19, 2001.  Waldport, Oregon.  The body of a young boy was discovered floating in a pond.  No one knew who the boy was and there were no missing persons reports for a child.  Three days later, divers searched the pond, looking for clues on the boy’s identity.  There was a highway bridge over the pond, and it was suspected that a car with the child’s family may be in the pond.  Divers found the body of a girl with a rock tied around her ankle.  The media ran the story asking for help finding the children’s parents.  A babysitter stepped forward and identified the children.  From there, the authorities searched the children’s residence.  It was evident that someone had packed up the personal belongings.  But the father, mother, and younger sister of the children were missing.  Divers searched the water nearby and found two suitcases.  Inside were the bodies of the mother and the baby girl.  Four out of the five members of the Longo family were dead.  Mary-Jane and her children Zachary, Sadie and Madison had been murdered.  Christian Longo was no where to be found.

The story of the Longo family is truly horrific.  Stories such as these remind us all that there are dangerous people in the world.  Even a person that you love and trust could be the person that ends that your life.  But True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa is not just about the murdered Longo family.

Michael Finkel lives in Montana and is a writer for the New York Times.  He had recently written a story that was not entirely true and was terminated for it.  So when he gets a call from a journalist at The Oregonian, Finkel expects the call to be about his disgrace.  Instead, the newspaper writer asks him about his reaction to Christian Longo being arrested after claiming to be Michael Finkel from the New York Times.

And so begins the bizarre relationship between the accused murderer and the disgraced journalist.  Longo calls Finkel from prison on a weekly basis.  They exchange letters.  Finkel even drives to Oregon to visit him a few times.  And Michael Finkel is in the court room during Longo’s trial.

True Crime: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa by Michael Finkel

True Crime: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa by Michael Finkel

An interesting story of murder, deceit and redemption.  True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa is a must read for true crime fans and for those interested in human behavior.  It is available in print and in audiobook.

There is also a movie based off of the book.  True Story was released in 2015.  It stars James Franco as Christian Longo and Jonah Hill as Michael Finkel.  True Story is available on DVD from the library.

eleanor and parkHave you ever read a book that immediately piqued your interest? One that you just couldn’t put down? My latest “must finish quickly” book was Eleanor & Park, and what hooked me, besides the immediately engaging story line, was that I listened to it as an audiobook and was therefore able to listen to it while I was doing other things. (The version I listened to was through OverDrive, but this title is also available as a print book and a book on cd – same narrators too!)

Eleanor & Park tells the story of the two title characters: Eleanor, a red-haired chubby high school student starting at a new school, who runs into Park, a kid right on the cusp of the cool crowd, but not firmly implanted there. Eleanor feels like she doesn’t belong anywhere, especially at her new school or at home. and Park feels like she doesn’t belong at their school either. Despite himself, Park finds himself falling for Eleanor, a situation that she has trouble with since she can’t possibly believe or see why this perfect Asian boy with the perfect family would ever fall for a mess like her, living with her mother, abusive step-father, and four siblings in a tiny house. This book is set over the course of one school year in 1986 with readers getting an intense look into Eleanor and Park’s budding relationship and daily lives as they struggle with trying to fit in and the strange sweetness and intense hold that first love has on them. This book pulled at my heart strings, making me pull for Eleanor and Park to beat the odds.

What really hooked me about this book was the narrators. Their voices perfectly matched the characters that I envisioned in my head with earnest emotion shining through both voices. Their inflections as both narrators mimicked the different people in both Eleanor and Park’s lives had me present, immediately in the story with them: sitting on the top bunk in Eleanor’s room while she read the comic books and listened to the tapes that Park gave her, and watching Park as he only asked for batteries for Christmas, so he could continue to give Eleanor music to listen to. I couldn’t get enough and finished this audiobook in two days. Check this book out, either in print or audio, and let me know what you think!

AtlantisMeet Me in Atlantis: My Obsessive Quest to Find the Sunken City by Mark Adams

The Lost City of Atlantis.  One of the Western World’s most famous tales.  Many people dismiss the story as a myth.  But what is interesting about the story of Atlantis is that it was recorded by the great philosopher Plato and that he is the only written source on this story.  The debate over whether or not Atlantis is real or fiction stretches back to Plato’s death back in 347 BC!  Plato claimed that the story was true and the he heard the story from reputable sources.  However, even Plato’s famous student Aristotle expressed doubts about Atlantis being a real place with the quote, “He who invented Atlantis also destroyed it”.

Follow Mark Adams around the world as he interviews people that have studied the lost city of Atlantis.  Some people insist that Atlantis is a legitimate place and that they know the precise location of it.  Other people that speak with Mark Adams are scholars and are less inclined to believe that Atlantis was a real location.  Whether you personally believe in Atlantis or not, you cannot help but be fascinated by the theories that people come up with.

Mark Adams travels to various locations, being shown evidence and possibly proof, that Atlantis existed.  You may think this sounds tedious, but Adams is able to make his journey sound like an exciting adventure.  Much more exciting than Indiana Jones!  One of the first places that he visits is Ireland, home of the Atlantipedia.  The Atlantipedia is similar to Wikipedia, except in this case, the entire web site is devoted to information on Atlantis.  Of course, Mark eventually travels to the Mediterranean and to Greece, home of Plato.  On the way to Greece, he stops at the Straits of Gibraltar.  Many people believe that this is Plato’s site for the Pillars of Heracles.  And yet, some have placed the Pillars of Heracles in North America!

Even if the Lost City of Atlantis is not something that usually captures your attention, you will find yourself engrossed in this story.  After all, the city of Troy has been discovered.  PerhAtlantis2aps Atlantis really existed.  Maybe someone will uncover it.  Or, perhaps it has already been found but we need to find the evidence that links it to Plato’s story.  Anyone that loves the Classics, Greek Mythology, Archaeology, and/or adventure will enjoy this book.

Meet Me in Atlantis: My Obsessive Quest to Find the Sunken City is available in print and in audiobook.

 

I love Robert B. Parker’s mysteries. I’m a big fan of both Spencer, his Boston boxer-detective, and Jesse Stone, his laconic small town police chief.

So when Mr. Parker passed away in 2010, I mourned not only one of my favorite authors, but Spencer and Jesse (and Hawk and Sally and Suitcase and Vinnie Morris, and . . .) as well.

And when I learned that Mr. Parker’s family had made to decision to allow other authors to continue these series, I had mixed feelings about it. On one hand: more Spencer and Jesse (and Hawk and Sally and Suitcase and Vinnie Morris, and . . .)! On the other: who could possibly write Robert B Parker’s characters as well as Mr. Parker himself?

Parker Lullaby AtkinsIn my opinion, Ace Atkins can. He picked up Spencer in Robert B. Parker’s Lullaby and ran with him through four more books, all of which have the snappy dialogue, moral quagmires, and occasional brute force that a reader could hope for. The style may not be identical, but it doesn’t have to be—Mr. Atkin’s isn’t ghostwriting for Robert B. Parker, he’s honoring him.

Fool Me Twice BrandmanI wish I could say I liked the Jesse Stone books as much, or at least the first one I’ve tried. Unlike the Spencer series, each of these new mysteries was written by a different author—I don’t know whether that was the publisher’s idea or the authors declined to pick up the series in favor of their own characters, or if the publisher hasn’t found the right fit yet.

Part of my troubles with Robert B. Parker’s Fool Me Twice, by Michael Brandman, might be because I listened to the audiobook first. No matter how talented a voice actor is (and James Naughton is very talented), if the reading doesn’t match how my beloved characters sound in my mind’s ear—and I’ve had years to fix these voices the way I want them—I have trouble getting past how things are said to pay enough attention to what things are being said.

This isn’t a fair assessment of Mr. Brandman’s writing, so I tried it in print . . . and still didn’t care for it.

I know that these books aren’t going to be perfect—every writer will bring a different style to the same story, even Ace Atkins. But while I think the styles of Mr. Atkins and Mr. Parker mesh well, the style that Mr. Brandman brings is too far off what I expect from a Jess Stone novel. The dialogue is excellent, but there’s too much omniscient narration and parts of it—particularly the sections that aren’t from Jesse’s point of view—read more like background notes than a story. The bare bones of the plot are intriguing . . . but that’s what the whole book seems like to me: bare bones.

Or maybe I just miss Mr. Parker too much to enjoy Jesse Stone’s adventures without him.

Will I give a different author’s Jesse book a try? Sure.

But this time, I’ll read it in print first.

Do you think a book series should outlive its author?

Do you enjoy the post-Parker Spencer or Jesse Stone novels?

Can you recommend a post-Parker Jesse Stone novel you really enjoyed?

Did you love Fool Me Twice?  Please let me know why in the comments—I’m willing to be convinced!

TaxiYou’d think that summer would mean spending less time driving the Mom Taxi, but even though there’s no school commutes, there’s day camp, play dates, vacation trips, and So Many Birthday Parties.

Since my pre-teen and I have a mutual dislike of each other’s favorite radio stations and my eight-year old’s tummy rebels when she reads in the car, audiobooks are a peaceful way to stave off boredom when the conversation runs out on those long rides.

As long as we all agree on the book, of course.How they Choked

A co-worker (the librarian who selects the audiobooks for our three library locations) recommended How They Choked: Failures, Flops, and Flaws of the Awfully Famous, written by Georgia Bragg and read by L. J. Ganser (CD NF 920 BRAGG GEO)

This book is a collection of the biggest LifeFails of fourteen historical figures, from Marco Polo (even Kubla Khan knew better than to send him into battle) to Amelia Earhart (her fame took off without her) to “Shoeless Joe” Jackson (baseball done him wrong).

As we listened, it became clear that the phrase “awfully famous” could mean “really famous” or “really awful”. Or both. This book provides ‘behind the scenes” 411 on well-known people who worked through their failures to achieve greatness . . . and those who refused to learn from their mistakes.

(My family will never look at Queen “You Should Have Expected The Spanish Inquisition!”Isabella of Spain the same way.)

Whether inspirational or a dire warning, each of these stories is fascinating and L. J. Ganser’s voice lends a certain dry sarcasm that perfectly matches Ms. Bragg’s wry and witty tone. He even manages to read the lists of fun (and “not so fun”) facts at the end of each chapter in a way that made us look forward to them (who knew George Custer was a clothes horse?).

There were even a few times that we arrived at our destination and didn’t leave the car until the chapter was over. That’s one sign of a pretty good audiobook.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to successfully convince my kids to clean their rooms by withholding chapters of How They Choked—because I didn’t want to wait!  But I’m planning to follow the example of Susan B. Anthony, learn from my failure, and try, try again.

A Touch of StardustA Touch of Stardust  by Kate Alcott is a novel about the filming of the movie, Gone With the Wind.

Fictional character Julie Crawford is new to Hollywood and is pursuing a career as a screenwriter. A female screenwriter is a rare thing in 1938 Hollywood so she gets a job working at Selznick International studios to earn some money. Julie’s first day on the job is the first day of filming Gone With the Wind. The first scene of GWTW that was filmed was the burning of Atlanta. Producer David O. Selznick decided to burn down old movie sets in order to make room for the new GWTW sets. At this point in time, Selznick had not cast the role of Scarlett O’Hara. The front runner for the role, Paulette Goddard, has not been able to convince Selznick that she is right for the part. Julie has been given a message to give to Mr. Selznick but she cannot get near him due to the crowds and the fire department keeping her away. When she finally finds David Selznick, he promptly fires Julie for giving him the message too late. The note told him that actress Vivien Leigh would be visiting the set and that she was interested in playing the lead, Scarlett O’Hara. Selznick had been talking to Vivien Leigh for the past hour.

Actress Carole Lombard takes pity on Julie and hires her as her personal assistant. Julie now has a front seat to the developing romantic relationship between Carole Lombard and actor Clark Gable, who stars in Gone With the Wind as Rhett Butler. Julie is constantly in Carole’s movie set trailer signing autographs for the actress or at Carole’s house helping her with a project. Carole Lombard becomes a true friend to Julie. She advises Julie on life and the way that Hollywood works. Carole and Clark even invite Julie to dinner at their home. Julie also spends a lot of time with David O. Selznick’s fictional assistant, Andy. Andy invites Julie to come on set and watch scenes being filmed. She witnesses Vivien Leigh’s first day on set, the siege of Atlanta and  the desolation of Tara among other scenes.

Another aspect of the story is the growing tension in Europe. The film industry was trying to ignore the growing war overseas. Some people in Hollywood believed that the war should be addressed while others thought that a war movie would bomb at the box office. Julie’s boyfriend Andy is Jewish. He has family in Germany that he worries about. Julie’s parents would not want her dating Andy because he is Jewish which is a source of tension between the pair. Along with that tension, the African American community has reservations about the making of the movie GWTW.

70th Anniversary Edition of Gone With the Wind

70th Anniversary Edition of Gone With the Wind DVD

A Touch of Stardust is a coming of age novel about friendship and relationships centered around the filming of Gone With the Wind. Author Kate Alcott’s late husband, Frank Mankiewicz, grew up in a film family (his father was a screenwriter and his uncle was a director) and shared many stories about Old Hollywood with Alcott. Included in the novel are stories about what it was like on the movie set and working for David O. Selznick.

A Touch of Stardust is available in print and in audiobook.

 

I found this book in a roundabout way, but I’m so glad I landed on it! On the recommendation of a friend, I picked up Julia Quinn’s What Happens In London to read on an upcoming vacation, so I was familiar with the author: her books focus on 19th century London society, clever dialog, and spirited characters. So, when I saw A Night Like This on a search of audiobooks read by my favorite narrator, Rosalyn Landor (a reader I fell in love with for her perfect reading of Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella), and it happened to be on the shelf not 10 feet away from my desk, I snagged it immediately!

I’m very glad I did. A Night Like This is a terribly fun romance; a genuine connection between two likable people, explored in an enjoyable book with a bearable quota of romance cliches. Anne Wynter, the main character, is probably my new all-time favorite romance heroine. She is brave, intelligent, and kind, and she is factually, genuinely self-sufficient in a way that most historical heroines are emphatically NOT (though the author may try to trick you into thinking they are). After a scandalous incident in her teen years, she is sent away from her modest gentry family to live as a governess under an assumed name; during this novel, she has been succeeding at this career for eight lonely years, isolated from her family and unable to create any new connections of her own status. That she still manages to be bright and positive is inspirational, and when she falls in love with the Earl of Winstead, a man way out of her league as a “ruined woman,” you’ll root for them all the way. Daniel, her beloved, is a pretty boring version of the romance-hero-pretty-boy trope, and his instant lovesickness is tiresome, but this book is worth reading just to get to know Anne.

Good news! This audiobook is available for download via WILBOR!