Tuesday, November 26, 2013


FirecrackerFirecracker, by David Iserson had me giggling almost at every page. I'm sure my co-workers in the break room thought I was crazy, and I know my husband gave me some strange looks. But it was just the kind of book I was in the mood for - light, funny, engaging, yet with just enough depth and heart to keep it from being complete cotton candy.

Astrid Krieger comes from a long line of powerful, influential, filthy rich people -- the kind who actually fit into that much-aligned "one percent." She lives in a defunct rocket ship in her family's back yard...she's never owned a pair of jeans...she's been arrested multiple times and has no qualms at throwing money at any problem...she's never been to a drive-through restaraunt...she doesn't know how to drive (why would she, when she has a private car and driver at her beck and call)...and has never been roller skating. Astrid doesn't have any friends (except her Grandfather -- who uses his diplomatic immunity to shoplift candy in foreign countries), but she doesn't really care. Her counselor and former dean of students calls her a "firecracker" which "in certain social circles is code for a**hole." Her self-proclaimed gift is seeing people's usefulness...and using (exploiting) that for her someteims elaborate schemes and plots. When one of those long-running plots (cheating) gets her expelled from yet another private school, her punishment is one she deems worse than death: public school. And with it, actual friends, personal and family revelations, new enemies, old enemies, and one very elaborate revenge scheme.

The plot in this book really centers around Astrid's personal growth as a character -- we get to know her better and see her grow. Astrid's not really a "nice" person -- but she's layered and more vulnerable that one would initially guess. I liked that her new surroundings bring people who look past that arrogant, clueless, prickly exterior and help bring out the best in her. And I really liked that while yes, Astrid's story is one of a girl getting in touch with her humanity and learning to be just a little less selfish...it's not one of those stories where the character makes a huge, life-altering change. Even those people who are helping her grow aren't trying to change her, they like her and love her just the way she is -- and simply encourage her to be the best version of herself. At the end of the story, Astrid is still Astrid -- she's still a firecracker. But she's a better Astrid in some ways: a little more aware of other people, a little more open.

bottom line: if you're looking for a funny, character-driven book with a different kind of heroine, check it out.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Reading....Pardonable Lies

Pardonable Lies (Maisie Dobbs, #3)I love Maisie Dobbs (here's where I thank the lovely Rita for introducing me to her). They are quiet mysteries, but not boring. Jacqueline Winspear creates a sense of place that goes beyond just the location of England, but of the time -- the changes and struggles of post-World War I Europe. And she does it subtlely, not with broad, sweeping commentary, but with personal interractions. The mysteries have that classic feel, but with a twist -- mainly in Ms. Dobbs herself. Not only is Maisie unique as an independent, single woman who owns her own business -- the forerunner of the middle class -- she is a woman who has studied meditation and psychology and yoga. And she just might have a bit of a psychological "gift." It keeps this classic, historical detective story fresh and interesting.

I also like that while each book has a mystery or mysteries that are solved by Maisie by the end of the book, the characters continue to grow and change throughout each book. Pardonable Lies is the third book in the series, and is as much about Maisie's experience in the war and her relationship with her mentor as it is about the mystery. Maisie's demons come back to haunt her and you're not really sure at the end if she's gotten rid of them or just buried them more deeply.

Bottom line, if you like quiet mysteries, historical fiction, and a strong heroine, you'll love Maisie Dobbs.  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Reading things everyone else has read too....

Allegiant (Divergent, #3)I've managed to pick up quick books lately -- books that are either action-packed, or breezy, or just short reads. As one might guess (well, someone who is at all aware of the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth), Allegiant falls in the action-packed-can't-put-down category. I really enjoyed the first two books in this trilogy - the action, the characters, the interesting set-up, the twists, and the love story (relationship growth and no love triangle -- thank you!). Although many of the dedicated and devoted fans of the books are divided when it comes to this final installment -- with reactions that range from dissapointed to enraged -- I actually thought Roth did an excellent job with this last book. Did everything get tied up with a nice, neat bow? No. But realistically, I don't think it could have. I loved that the world "outside" was not exactly what everyone expected. And again, I liked that Roth managed to fit character growth into all the action. I liked that life continued to be messy, just like real life. It was a bittersweet ending, but ultimately satisfying as well.

The Fault in Our Stars
When I first discovered John Green, I went on a bit of a binge, reading everything by him that our library had. I fell for that John Green wit and snappy dialog. But I may have burned myself out -- what started out as smart and funny began to strike me as smug and condescending. So it was with trepidition that I picked up The Fault in Our Stars. Unfortunately, I listened to the audio book, and I have to say the narrator did not do anything for me. There were parts that worked -- Hazel, Isaac, Peter Van Houten -- and parts that didn't -- the parents, Augustus. So it was hard for me to separate the actual book from the narration. Ultimately, I liked it, but I didn't love it. I liked its separate parts -- the relationship between Hazel and Gus and their parents, the quest to find the ending to Van Houten's book, the trip to Amsterdam. I liked the contrast between Hazel's synicism and her genuine love and compassion for her parents and other people. I even liked Augustus's self-awareness and posing and his desire to live a life bigger than himself. I liked that the characters didn't seem to have clear answers. But somehow, I didn't connect with the book as a whole.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Reading...Spirit and Dust

Spirit and Dust
Spirit and Dust, by Rosemary Clement-Moore is a companion book to Texas Gothic, a book that introduced us to the supernaturally gifted Goodnight family. In Spirit and Dust, we meet Daisy, a psychic whose particular gifts manifest in an ability to speak with the dead and help them pass over to the other side...whatever that is (she doesn't ask). Like her aunt before her, she's a regular consultant for the FBI, and that gig lands her in Minnesota, at the scene of a murder and possible kidnapping. Before too long, Daisy herself is kidnapped and forced to use her powers to investigate on behalf of a local crime lord.

The Goodnight books essentially classic mysteries with a supernatural twist and a little swoon thrown in for good measure. The characters are one of the strongest things about these books, in my opinion, especially this latest one. I could not stop thinking and wondering about what happened to the characters after the book ended. I just wanted more, more, more. And that's a successful story for this reader.

bottom line: read if you're in the mood for a ghostly, fun mystery.