Month: June 2014

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Posted June 14, 2014 by Ashley in Adult, Book Review / 0 Comments

The Art of Fielding by Chad HarbachThe Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
on September 7th 2011
Pages: 512
Goodreads

At Westish College, a small school on the shore of Lake Michigan, baseball star Henry Skrimshander seems destined for big league stardom. But when a routine throw goes disastrously off course, the fates of five people are upended.
Henry’s fight against self-doubt threatens to ruin his future. College president Guert Affenlight, a longtime bachelor, has fallen unexpectedly and helplessly in love. Owen Dunne, Henry’s gay roommate and teammate, becomes caught up in a dangerous affair. Mike Schwartz, the Harpooners’ team captain and Henry's best friend, realizes he has guided Henry’s career at the expense of his own. And Pella Affenlight, Guert’s daughter, returns to Westish after escaping an ill-fated marriage, determined to start a new life.
As the season counts down to its climactic final game, these five are forced to confront their deepest hopes, anxieties, and secrets. In the process they forge new bonds, and help one another find their true paths. Written with boundless intelligence and filled with the tenderness of youth, The Art of Fielding is an expansive, warmhearted novel about ambition and its limits, about family and friendship and love, and about commitment—to oneself and to others.

Since I work in a bookstore, I see a lot of books come into the store. I have my own little system of picking and choosing which books make it into my “to read” pile and which book make it to my “someday pile”. This book caught my attention right away and went straight into my “to read” pile. Unfortunately it took me a year to finally pick it up. It only took me about a week to finish it but these characters will live in my mind forever.

Before I start my review I just want to point out the amazing names in this book. Henry Skrimshander, Guert and Pella Affenlight, Adam Starblind…I love them all!

This story has 5 main characters that are all intertwined together, each trying to overcome a major obstacle in their lives.

Henry gets recruited out of high school to play baseball at Westish. He is a scrawny kid with excellent instincts and social issues. For the first few weeks, Henry is lonely and lost. As the baseball season nears, the captain of the baseball (and football) team, Mike Schwartz, starts training Henry. The workouts are extreme and never ending but slowly Henry falls into a routine and eventually becomes the starting shortstop for the team.  Everything is going great until Henry throws a rogue ball that, with a bit of wind, changes him forever.

Mike Schwartz is the captain of both the baseball and football teams and his body reminds him of this every day. His knees are shot, his back is shot and his pill intake keeps increasing. Mike didn’t have much of anything growing up, in fact he dropped out of high school to work after his mom passed away from cancer. He started living on his own when he was 14. The only reason he ended up at Westish at all is because his coach made him come back to play ball. The only thing Mike wants out of life is to get into Law school but when he finds out he didn’t get into any of the schools he applied for, he doesn’t take it so well.

President Guert Affenlight has returned to Westish after being a student there himself. He is a 60 year old man that has taught at Harvard and published a book. He has had a reputation of being a ladies man in his past but he seems to have settled down. He has a daughter, Pella, whose mother passed away when she was young. When Affenlight was at Westish, he discovered that Herman Melville actually visited the college back in the 1880s. This discovery sparked the re-branding of the school. A statue of Melville was brought in and they officially became the Harpooners.  Guert lives on campus, works hard and seems to be in a pretty good place in his life, until he meets and falls in love Owen Dunne. Not only is it against every rule and policy the school has, but this is uncharted territory for Guert and it could cost him his career, his reputation and his daughter.

Pella Affenlight was a young high school student when David came to lecture at her private school. It wasn’t much longer after that, she gave up Yale and ran off with him, he was 31. The marriage last 4 years before she decided to leave San Francisco and head back to Westish to repair her relationship with her dad. Deeply depressed, tired and broke down she meets Mike Schwartz. The couple seems to be just what the other needs to make it through. The relationship tumbles when Pella cheats on Mike with another ball player, not just any ball player… Just when Pella thinks they won’t ever get back together, a campus death brings them closer than they ever have been.

Owen Dunn is Henry’s gay mulatto roommate. He is at Westish for winning the prestigious Maria Westish scholarship award. Owen is a neat freak baseball player (who reads books in the dugout with a light strapped to his ballcap) that smokes a lot of pot. One day, Owen meets disaster while at a game and ends up in the hospital. When the affair with Affenlight started, Owen is just having fun but after a few of Affenlights visits in the hospital, Owen realizes he does want to be with Guert. But this affair is doomed before it really gets started, and the aftermath may just doom Owen forever.

I can genuinely say this book made me laugh out loud, cry and yearn for more. I was sucked into the Westish atmosphere immediately and when the book was over, I didn’t want to leave it. I was so engrossed with the story, the characters flitted into my life throughout the day and I would find myself wondering how each of them was going to handled the situation that was thrown at them. The ending…oh the ending. I have read a lot of books. I have read books with similar endings that have upset me to a point that the book goes sailing across the room. I found this ending to be very fitting in a way. Sad, fitting and beautiful.

It’s time for summer reading in my store and I am happy to report I have sold this book three times since I finished it and I will continue to do so because I love it so.

 

four-stars

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The Finisher by David Baldacci

Posted June 8, 2014 by Ashley in Book Review, Young Adult / 0 Comments

The Finisher by David BaldacciThe Finisher by David Baldacci
Format: ARC
on March 4, 2014
Pages: 497
Published by Scholastic Press Source: Publisher

Welcome to Wormwood: a place where curiosity is discouraged and no one has ever left. Until one girl, Vega Jane, discovers a map that suggests a mysterious world beyond the walls. A world with possibilities and creatures beyond her imagining. But she will be forced to fight for her freedom. And unravelling the truth may cost Vega her life.

I have to admit this is the first Baldacci book I have ever read. I received this book as an Advanced Readers Copy from work and simply added it to my “to read” pile. I decided to pick it up 3 days ago and didn’t put it down until I was finished. There were several times throughout the book I was annoyed with the made up words like Learning instead of School- the children go to Learning every day. Sliver instead of second, Duelum instead of a two person fight. (I used some of these terms in my review, it’s not that hard to figure out what they mean). About 50 pages in though, I was truly sucked into world of Wormwood, made up terms or not.

Vega Jane is a 14 sessions old (see what I mean?) female who takes care of her 12 sessions old brother John. Their parents have become ill and stay in the Care (think nursing home-ish). Vega works in the Stacks where she is the Finisher of pretty things and John attends Learning during the day. Things are pretty routine in Wormwood, until one night Vega sees Quentin Herms disappear into the Quag, a place that means a sure death to the Wugs of Wormwood. Quentin Herms wasn’t just any Wug though, he was the Wug who taught Vega everything she knew about being a Finisher, he took her under his wing. Every Wug for many sessions had been told the Quag meant death, so why would Quentin go there? and why hadn’t he said anything to Vega? or did he?

As it turns out, Quentin did reach out to Vega. One obscure note on a piece of parchment, one hidden map and a lot of unanswered questions led Vega on a wild hunt for the truth. She isn’t the only one hunting for the truth though, the villages Council begins hunting for Quentin. The Council knows Vega knows more than she is letting on and as Vega comes closer and closer to the truth, the Council moves in to block her every move. After a page gripping turn of events battling monsters thrice her size, Vega finds herself in the fight of her life. Because the Council found the map and other items Quentin left her, Vega end up in Valhall, the village jail. The council decides not to behead Vega but to make her fight in the Duelum. In the past, the Duelum has only been males between 15 and 24 sessions old fighting, but now Vega will have to fight men older and stronger than her to keep her head. The Duelum isn’t just one fight but several over the course of days, she may survive one fight, but can she survive 4? In her search for answers, Vega stumbles upon a magical place that helps her answer some of her questions and provides magical tools to help her fight. But this magical place leaves one burning question left unanswered, who is Vega Jane?

Vega has lost everything, including her brother, but with the help of her best friend Delph she trains and she fights.


I have to admit, I found this book surprising. The first 25 pages or so I had my doubts. My review doesn’t even touch on the mystery, monsters and magic in this book. I did so on purpose. There is so much going on, it’s hard to put into words without giving everything away. I urge you to read this book, I don’t think you will be disappointed. I did have to remind myself that the book was intended for a younger audience, but I loved it nonetheless. This will be one of my summer recommendations at work for sure.

four-stars

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Winds of Salem by Melissa de la Cruz (repost from 8/13/13)

Posted June 5, 2014 by Ashley in Adult, Book Review / 0 Comments

Winds of Salem by Melissa de la Cruz (repost from 8/13/13)Winds of Salem by Melissa de la Cruz
Format: e-book
Genres: Fiction
on August 13, 2013
Pages: 288
Published by Hyperion

Winds of Salem is the 3rd book in the Witches of East End series, and it picks up pretty much where Serpents Kiss (book 2) left off. A good portion of this book takes place in Salem 1692, where Freya Beauchamp has been for the last year. She was transported in time to a place and time she has been before. This time, she is not hung for being a witch, but she doesn’t know who she is or that she has family hundreds of years in the future. This book travels from the past, where Freya lives now and the present where her family, all Norse witches, are desperately trying to find out who sent her back in time and how to get her back.  

One of the things I really like about this series is how each witch in the story is a god or goddess. I have been reading  de la Cruz’s books for years but I really feel like this story fell short. It felt rushed and half told. The first two novels in this series seemed well thought out, and didn’t feel as much like a Young Adult novel. At first I was disappointed at the end with the deaths but it did add an element of surprise, one thing I didn’t see coming.  Looking back at the ending, it feels like de los Cruz was wrapping up the series, or trying to fill pages.

I am a fan, and I always will be, if there is a book 4 (which I hope there is) I will read it, buy it and add it to my collection, I just hope its more like the 1st and 2nd and less like the 3rd.

three-stars

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Silver Star Review (repost from 7/6/13)

Posted June 5, 2014 by Ashley in Book Review / 0 Comments

Silver Star Review (repost from 7/6/13)by Jeannette Walls
Format: Hardcover
Genres: Fiction
Published by Scribner

From the beginning, I was rooting for sisters Liz and Bean to get away from their mother. The first two pages quickly had me questioning the situation they were in and why. It doesn’t take long to find out Charlotte is a flake with emotional and mental issues. She abandons her daughters several times throughout their lives; but the final shoe drops when she is gone for over a week and Bean (12) comes home from school to the police peering through their windows. It is 1970 and Liz (15) decides to use the remaining money Charlotte left them to buy bus tickets to Virginia, where their Uncle Tinsley lives.

Once in Byler Virginia, they stay in a decaying Antebellum mansion, the very house their mother grew up in. Throughout the summer, Bean discovers her dad’s family (the Wyatts) and the girls get jobs, against Uncle Tinsleys wishes. As the summer ends and school begins, Bean finds it easy to fit in and adjust but Liz becomes rebellious and withdrawn. Just when the girls start to feel “at home” with Uncle Tinsley and the Wyatt family, a truly heartbreaking event turns their entire world upside down.  

Charlotte comes back to town to lend support, but soon they find the whole town against them and they quickly lose hope. Who can you truly depend on when life throws you lemons? Family and perhaps a few overly large birds. Once things settle back down and people are put properly in their place, Charlotte decides she can not stand Byler after all, she is ready to move on, and in true Charlotte fashion, she leaves the girls behind.

I loved this story. Growing up in a small community I know all too well how small towns operate. I rooted for those girls all the way to the end. I was sad when they were sad and happy right along with them. Walls has a way of writing that puts the reader right into the book, and puts them in the characters shoes. I felt like I was there with Liz and Bean throughout the whole story. I actually gasped and laughed at the same time when I found out about Uncle Clarence and the bear. At the beginning of the book I just wanted Charlotte to get her crap together and take care of her girls, but by the end of the book, I wanted her nowhere near them. This is the second Jeannette Walls book I have read and I loved them both, maybe its time to add her 3rd to my collection!

 

three-stars

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Fly Away by Kristin Hannah (a repost from 3/10/13)

Posted June 5, 2014 by Ashley in Adult, Book Review / 0 Comments

Fly Away by Kristin Hannah (a repost from 3/10/13)Fly Away (Firefly Lane, #2) by Kristin Hannah
Format: Hardcover
Genres: Fiction
on April 23rd 2013
Pages: 400
Published by St. Martin's Press Goodreads

Once, a long time ago, I walked down a night-darkened road called Firefly Lane, all alone, on the worst night of my life, and I found a kindred spirit. That was our beginning. More than thirty years ago. TullyandKate. You and me against the world. Best friends forever. But stories end, don’t they? You lose the people you love and you have to find a way to go on. . . .
Tully Hart has always been larger than life, a woman fueled by big dreams and driven by memories of a painful past. She thinks she can overcome anything until her best friend, Kate Ryan, dies. Tully tries to fulfill her deathbed promise to Kate--to be there for Kate’s children -- but Tully knows nothing about family or motherhood or taking care of people.
Sixteen-year-old Marah Ryan is devastated by her mother’s death. Her father, Johnny, strives to hold the family together, but even with his best efforts, Marah becomes unreachable in her grief. Nothing and no one seems to matter to her . . . until she falls in love with a young man who makes her smile again and leads her into his dangerous, shadowy world.
Dorothy Hart--the woman who once called herself Cloud--is at the center of Tully’s tragic past. She repeatedly abandoned her daughter, Tully, as a child, but now she comes back, drawn to her daughter’s side at a time when Tully is most alone. At long last, Dorothy must face her darkest fear: Only by revealing the ugly secrets of her past can she hope to become the mother her daughter needs.
A single, tragic choice and a middle-of-the-night phone call will bring these women together and set them on a poignant, powerful journey of redemption. Each has lost her way, and they will need one another--and maybe a miracle--to transform their lives.
An emotionally complex, heart-wrenching novel about love, motherhood, loss, and new beginnings, Fly Away reminds us that where there is life, there is hope, and where there is love, there is forgiveness.

I have read a few of Hannah’s books and I have to tell you, I can’t decide if I love her or hate her. The first book I read by her was The Things We Do For Love and I absolutely loved it! My next was Once in Every Life which I hated. So I decided to give Kristin Hannah one more try with Firefly Lane, which I still haven’t reviewed because I can’t decide if I loved it or hated it. For a majority of the book I was in love, I finished this 528 page book in two sittings, and cried my eyes out at the end; which is why, I think, I can’t decide to love it or hate it. In the end though, I loved it without even realizing it. I thought about these characters for so long after I finished the book I knew I needed more. I only wish Hannah would have written Fly Away differently.

Fly Away starts out with Tully drunk and passed out in a Seattle bathroom stall. She is a train wreck, completely and utterly lost. She manages to get home and passes out on her sofa cursing her dead best friend for dying. She opens her eyes again long enough to realize a trashy magazine had run a story on her calling her an addict, the factual story however, is told by one Marah Ryan. Deeply hurt (and still loaded) she grabs her keys and leaves. Two hours later she is in a horrible car accident and rushed to the hospital. And so starts Fly Away.

For the first half of the book, I contemplated putting it down and making up my own stories for the characters, how I wanted them to live on. I was bored and annoyed with how Hannah jumped back in time, from the present (2010) to the past, the year Kate died and the years that followed. I felt like I was reading a new version of The Christmas Carol and the author was the Ghost of Christmas Past. Hannah tells the story of each character and how Kate’s death affected them all, her husband, children, mother and father but most of all Tully. Of course they all have fallen apart in their own ways, who wouldn’t? The part that gets me is how Hannah tells the story of the four years since Kate’s death. It reminded me a lot of Once in Every Life, which, if you remember, I am not a fan of. 

The last half of the book was really where the story pulled me back in and left me (again) sitting on my sofa at 2 am crying. I really loved learning about Cloud (Dorothy) and her past. For the whole first book I hated her for being a crappy mother, we learn that she had good reasons for running, I would have run too. Families really come together during a tragedy; they realize that the past is in fact the past, and the only way to move on is to forgive. This happens in Fly Away, but only with the help of Tully and Kate.  

This is a story that needed to be told. Fans all over the world need this closure, I know I did.  I wish I could say that I absolutely loved this book, I really wanted to but it just wasn’t there.  I liked it enough though and will definitely recommend it to any Firefly Lane fan. These characters will stick with me for a long time. Though I still haven’t decided where Kristin Hannah and I stand. Does she belong in my donate box or on my bookshelves?

three-half-stars

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The Cuckoo’s Calling Review (a repost from 7/21/13)

Posted June 5, 2014 by Ashley in Book Review / 0 Comments

The Cuckoo’s Calling  Review (a repost from 7/21/13)The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1) by Robert Galbraith, J.K. Rowling
Format: e-book
Genres: Fiction, Mystery
on April 30th 2013
Pages: 455
Goodreads

A BRILLIANT DEBUT MYSTERY IN A CLASSIC VEIN: DETECTIVE CORMORAN STRIKE INVESTIGATES A SUPERMODEL'S SUICIDE.
After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.
Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.
You may think you know detectives, but you've never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you've never seen them under an investigation like this. Introducing Cormoran Strike, this is the acclaimed first crime novel by J.K. Rowling, writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

Let me start this review by noting what I usually look for in a mystery/crime novel. I want said book to pull me in, give me bits and pieces of the story as I read, maybe even confuse me and throw me off with some crazy character or act that has nothing to do with the crime. But most of all I want suspense, I want to be chewing my nails muttering to the hero or heroine. I want the characters to be a part of me for days or weeks after the story is finished.

 

The Cuckoo’s Calling didn’t really have much of anything I like in a crime novel. To be honest I bought it on a Sunday night, only because Huffington Post had just tweeted who was really the author of this book, JK Rowling. I started it that night and finished it the following Thursday. Please don’t misunderstand, I did like the book but I am one of those people who only read it because this random author, Robert Galbraith turned out to be one of the most beloved author of all time.


All in all, I give this one 3 ½ stars. Any avid reader who picked up this book before last Sunday would pick up on the fact that there is no way this book was written by a new author. This was a well thought out, well organized novel. The characters are likeable (even rough and tuff Strike) and even surprisingly crazy! I did like the book but it’s not one of those stories that I would have picked up at the bookstore, the characters won’t stay with me for days, I probably won’t think of the until the next book comes out . 

three-half-stars

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