Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that showcases books soon to be published.

This week's pick: River Road by Carol Goodman
Due out:  January 19, 2016

Product information taken from Goodreads:

From the award-winning author of The Lake of Dead Languages comes a chilling new psychological thriller about a professor accused of killing her favorite student in a hit-and-run accident.

Nan Lewis—a creative writing professor at a state university in upstate New York—is driving home from a faculty holiday party after finding out she’s been denied tenure. On her way, she hits a deer, but when she gets out of her car to look for it, the deer is nowhere to be found. Eager to get home and out of the oncoming snowstorm, Nan is forced to leave her car at the bottom of her snowy driveway to wait out the longest night of the year—and the lowest point of her life…

The next morning, Nan is woken up by a police officer at her door with terrible news—one of her students, Leia Dawson, was killed in a hit-and-run on River Road the night before. And because of the damage to her car, Nan is a suspect. In the days following the accident, Nan finds herself shunned by the same community that rallied around her when her own daughter was killed in an eerily similar accident six years prior. When Nan begins finding disturbing tokens that recall the death of Nan’s own daughter, Nan suspects that the two accidents are connected.

As she begins to dig further, she discovers that everyone around her, including Leia, is hiding secrets. But can she uncover them, clear her name, and figure out who really killed Leia before her reputation is destroyed for good?

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A Line of Blood

Ben McPherson's novel A Line of Blood is a psychological thriller - a genre I have come to love.  

Alex Mercer lives in his London home with his wife Millicent and their eleven year old son, Max.  After the family cat goes into the neighbor's home, Alex and Max follow it inside only to discover their neighbor, Bryce, dead in the bathtub.

What appears at first to be a suicide may have been murder.

Alex is taken in for questioning, as is his wife. 

Millicent has secrets of her own, and as Alex reveals bit and pieces of their past and how they fell in love and married, it becomes obvious that although they love each other, their relationship has many small cracks in it.

Along the way various clues point to one of the Mercers as the person who killed their neighbor.  And yet, I was still surprised by the ending.

McPherson's plot line is becoming a bit more familiar as the multitude of psychological thrillers are published but I'm still enjoying them and this is another strong addition to the genre.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Orbiting Jupiter

Gary Schmidt is one of my favorite authors of all time.  I love The Wednesday Wars and after having re-read it last year with a group of fifth graders and getting to hear him speak last spring, my Schmidt admiration is in full force.

I was amazed after hearing him speak by what a good storyteller he is. And I have been looking forward to the new novel he spoke about since seeing him.

And I was so not disappointed.  Schmidt had a lot to live up to for me, since his new book was no doubt going to be held up against Wednesday Wars for comparison.

Orbiting Jupiter is a very different novel than The Wednesday Wars.  It's set in the present day, not the 60s, but there are a few appearances by a few Wednesday War characters, and I enjoyed hearing the names Swietek and Hupfer again.

Jack and his parents take in Joseph as a foster child. His reputation has preceded him as he is known for trying to kill his teacher and has spent some time at a juvenile detention facility.

Joseph is also a father, although he has never met his daughter.  Despite the many stories surrounding him and the walls he has erected around himself, there's more to Joseph than most people understand.  Jack and his parents begin to know the real Joseph and find out what happened to him that has led to his current situation.

Jack wants to help Joseph find Jupiter, but he is also the one person that has Joseph's back.  And finally Joseph is starting to trust this foster family who cares so much for him.

Schmidt broke my heart many times in this story, but never moreso than at the end.  And yet, the ending was perfect.  

I'm walking away from this book, anxious to talk with others who have read it, and excited to see the love for another winner from Gary Schmidt. Orbiting Jupiter is a must read for middle schoolers and adults alike.  Schmidt's storytelling skills are again remarkable and I am already awaiting what he writes next.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sunday Salon

How can weekends fly by so quickly and yet the work week goes so slowly?  

We've had quite a few fun things to do these past few days: a high school football game, soccer games, getting to watch the Iowa football game with friends at their house, and a trip to the Mississippi River Museum with my mom and girls to see the Titanic exhibit.

The mornings are cold now, so when the soccer game began yesterday morning Middle Sister was wearing her winter coat under her soccer jersey. I wasn't even convinced she could walk - let alone run - so I was happy when she decided she had warmed up.  

My mom with Middle Sister and Little Sister outside at the Mississippi River Museum.  

And on the way home we stopped off to buy some pumpkins.  We're ready for fall!

Little Sister was sick for two days this past week, missing school and just being miserable. We are lucky that my mom is able to watch her on these occasions. 

I am hoping this week we don't have any sickness to contend with.  The after school hours are jam-packed with activities already without trying to add in a doctor appointment or urgent cares stop.

I've still got a lot to do before I'll be ready for school tomorrow. And since we booked up our weekend, we also don't have grocery shopping done. We have lots in our freezer and I'm about ready to do a cleanout of what we have before we go and buy more.  

Here's hoping your weekend has been relaxing and enjoyable and you feel ready for the week ahead.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Friday Five

It's Friday again!  Whoop Whoop!  The weekend ahead is jam-packed with a variety of activities: soccer games, time with friends, and a trip with my mom and girls to a museum on Sunday.   Reading time might be hard to come by, but I'm looking forward to everything we have planned.

This week's Friday Five is a little bit of this and that.  There are a variety of things that have caught my eye this week:

1.  Waterlogued App

I just saw this app this past week and have loved playing around with it.  I might be the last one to know about it, but just in case I'm not, I'll share with you all.  

2.  GB Night-Out Fringe Peep-Toe Pumps

Earlier this morning I headed over to The Big Mama Blog and checked out her Friday Fashion Edition.  There are lots of cute things this week, but I love these shoes.  Of course I have nowhere to wear them, but I am enjoying looking at them.

3.  Rosevine Sweater Tunic

I got my Anthropologie catalog in the mail this week and this sweater jumped out at me. It looks comfortable -and I'm a sucker for any good embroidered flowers it seems.

I doubt I'll ever actually be organized, but I like thinking about it. Recently I saw a vintage mail sorter being used as a shoe organizer in an entry-way.  This might not solve all my shoe problems that occur right inside our door, but it would sure help!

5.  Quantico

This fall I am attempting to check out a few of the new shows. Both have been winners that I've found time for. Quantico was great - I finished watching it over lunch on Hulu this week.  I can't wait for the next episode.

6.  Copenhagen Pants

And a bonus item this week are these Copenhagen pants at Title Nine that look super comfortable and appear as though they fit in with my school's dress code. I may have to check these out a bit more closely.

So.....that's it for today. What's caught your eye this week?

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Our Souls at Night

Kent Haruf's Plainsong is a book I read long, long ago - as soon as it was published.  I was pretty meh about the book, despite the fact that it received rave reviews. Now I am wondering if I should read it again.  I am wondering if my thoughts on a book will have changed as I have grown and matured and had different life experiences.  

I read Our Souls at Night today and loved it.  

Although this is a slim book, there is plenty in these pages.  Addie's husband died many years ago and she continues to live in a small Colorado town where the two spent their lives.  One day she visits Louis, a man whose wife died years ago as well.  The two have known each other as people in small towns do, sharing experiences and friends. Addie proposes that the two spend their nights together. Both are lonely and by spending their nights together they will have someone to talk to, someone that is there when the other option is being alone.

This is a beautiful novel with a story that will resonate with people who are aging, and even those who are not yet in that time period in their lives.  

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week's pick:  The Dressmaker's War by Mary Chamberlain
Due out: January 2016

Product Description taken from Amazon:

For readers of Amy Bloom, Sarah Waters, and Anthony Doerr, The Dressmaker’s War is a riveting work of historical fiction about a woman caught in the chaos of World War II, and the choices she must make to survive.
A powerful, riveting work of historical fiction, The Dressmaker’s War is the story of a brilliant English seamstress taken prisoner in Germany during World War II. It is about her perseverance, the choices she makes to stay alive, and the haunting aftermath of war.
London, 1939. Ada Vaughan is a young woman with an unusual skill for dressmaking who dreams of a better life for herself, of leaving behind her working-class roots and opening her own atelier. When she meets Stanislaus von Lieben, a Hungarian aristocrat, that new life seems to arrive. Stanislaus sweeps Ada off her feet and brings her to Paris. But when war breaks out and Stanislaus vanishes, Ada is abandoned and alone, trapped on an increasingly dangerous continent.
Taken prisoner by the Germans, Ada does everything she can to survive. In the bleak horror of wartime Germany, Ada’s skill for creating beauty and glamour is the one thing that keeps her safe. But after the war, attempting to rebuild her life in London, Ada finds that no one is interested in the messy truths of what happened to women like her. And though Ada thought she had left the war behind, her past eventually comes to light, with devastating consequences.

Gorgeously written and compulsively readable, The Dressmaker’s War introduces us to an unforgettable heroine—Ada Vaughan, a woman whose ambition for a better life ultimately comes at a heartbreaking cost.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Most Dangerous

I love non-fiction, but it is a rare event that I can't stop reading a non-fiction book.  Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin is the exception to that rule.  I started reading Most Dangerous over the weekend and was entirely unproductive until I turned the last page of this book.

Marketed as a young adult book, this book was totally fascinating to me as an adult, and my husband is now enjoying it as well.  

Sheinkin is a master of making non-fiction books come to life.  His book Bomb:The Race to Build- and Steal- The World's Most Dangerous Weapon has received many awards.  Most Dangerous is a book of that caliber.  

Daniel Ellsberg is a name that was new to me.  However, as soon as I was done reading I called my mother, who recognized his name but no longer remembered the specifics of his role in Vietnam.

My brief summary will not do justice to this book, but Sheinkin very easily breaks down what led to the war and the United States' role in it, and to Ellsberg's role in the war.  At first Ellsberg supports the war, but after traveling to Vietnam and seeing the devastation done to innocent citizens his stance changes.  His connections in Washington allow him access to highly confidential documents- and after he reads them he is even more certain of the need to end the war in Vietnam.

Ellsberg also believes American citizens have a right to know what their government has been hiding.  But sharing the documents is against the law, and may eventually lead to Ellsberg's arrest.

Sheinkin was able to create suspense as to how this story will end, despite the fact that the ending already occurred several decades ago.  I found myself racing to the end as quickly as I could.

Aside from my husband, I have several friends I've raved to about this book as well as the high school history teacher at my daughters' school.  Most Dangerous is non-fiction at its very best.  

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Thing About Jellyfish

Junior high is a tough, but it is especially hard for Suzy who is a little different from the other girls, and whose best friend has died over the summer.

Suzy feels guilt about Franny's death, even though she wasn't there when it happened.  Although Suzy still thinks of Franny as her best friend, the friendship the girls always enjoyed has changed recently.  

The last interaction the girls had is one that Suzy now feels enormous guilt over.  And she is convinced that she must find the reason for Franny's death.  

As Suzy researches jellyfish, her interest borders on obsession, as she even attempts to contact a scientist in Australia to learn more about them.

A lot of what Suzy experiences is her way of grieving.  Added to her grief over Franny's death is also her sorrow over the death of their friendship that was already taking place before Franny drowned.

I loved this novel, and I found Suzy to be an interesting and developed character.  I wondered if she was on the autism spectrum somewhere as she obsessed over jellyfish and seemed to perseverate on some things. I'm not sure tween readers would pick up on it, but her behavior had me wondering.

The amount of information about jellyfish was interesting without being boring or too dry.  I wanted to keep reading and actually enjoyed learning about them.

Benjamin did a great job of bringing closure to Suzy's story without creating anything trite or too perfect.  

I have been hearing a lot about The Thing About Jellyfish and agree that it is a solid tween read that I can now happily recommend to my readers at school.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sunday Salon

We've had beautiful weather this weekend with it forecast to continue through much of the upcoming week.  It feels like fall, but it's hard to imagine it getting cold anytime soon.

However, I know cooler weather is on its way. Today Little Sister started digging out some things to whip up her Halloween costume.

And equally as scary....

Big Sister practiced driving on the highway.  In Iowa you can get your driver's permit at the age of 14, and since she has hit that magic number and passed the exam, we are now having her practice driving us around.  I think she realizes it isn't as easy as it looks, and so far we are all still in one piece after she gets us to where we are going.

Soccer games, church, grocery shopping and a little relaxing have taken up much of this weekend.  

Tonight I made Middle Sister's favorite supper: penne pasta with chicken, bacon, asparagus and alfredo sauce.  It is yummy - and it makes a lot of different dishes dirty. 

I need to sit down with some lesson plans and get my meals planned for the week.  

How about you? Anything planned for this evening? How was your weekend?