Friday, August 30, 2013

Starting Up Libraries

Just checking in to let you all know that I am still reading, however my pace has slowed a bit of late due to my involvement with getting a library project up and running in my city.

Perhaps you have heard of the Little Free Library movement. It started in Wisconsin in 2009 and has spread like wildfire across the United States and across the globe.

After ruminating on it for a couple of years, I put it out there to some community leaders a couple of months ago. The idea caught on here too! And so Fort Dodge Little Free Libraries has taken off.

I've been working to get the first few libraries placed and opened for the past couple of weeks which has slowed my own personal reading time. I WILL, however, be returning to book reviews ASAP! In the meantime, here is the first Little Free Library that is up and running in town. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Last Child

John Hart's crime thriller The Last Child is a great read! I should have known when Jeffery Deaver was one of the people who endorsed the novel that it would be a book I could not put down.

Full of twists and turns in the plot, Hart weaves together the story of Johnny Merrimon, a thirteen year old boy whose twin sister disappeared a year ago. Johnny's best friend, Jack, is the only eye-witness to Alyssa's last known moment--the moment she approached the white van that stopped beside her on her walk home from the library. The moment that changed everything about Johnny Merrimon's life.

His mother blamed his father for failing to pick Alyssa up at the library. Unable to cope with shouldering the blame and bitter resentment from his wife, Johnny's dad abandoned them. The town's richest bully comes to his mother's "rescue" by providing a run-down rental home and all the booze and pills she needs to slip away from the pain of life into a haze of oblivion, addiction, and abuse. Johnny, trapped in the middle, is the fragile thread holding everything together.

Methodical, jaded, and determined to find out what happened to his sister at any cost, Johnny uncovers more than he bargained for when he witnesses the murder of a local college professor who's dying words to Johnny are "I know where she is. The girl who was taken."

If you are a fan of fast-paced, who-dun-it thrillers, you will love this book. As a huge fan of Jeffery Deaver, I am so glad to find someone who does an equally excellent job with the crime thriller genre.

Hart kept me on the edge of my seat with The Last Child. I found myself reading as fast as I could to see if my own hunches about the characters and their fate would be accurate or not. I thoroughly enjoyed the twists in the story as well as the characters. I will read more by this author I'm so glad to have discovered. I think it will be a great discussion at my book club meeting!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Silence (Paranormal Thriller)

Michelle Sagara’s novel Silence is the first in her Queen of the Dead series. It is the paranormal “coming of age” story of Emma Hall, a high school student who’s paranormal abilities extend beyond the ability to simply see the dead.

The story opens with one of Emma’s after-dark walks with her dog, Petal. They follow their usual routine and head to Emma’s favorite place of quiet refuge, the nearby cemetery. Readers quickly discover that Emma has recently lost her boyfriend Nathan who died in a car accident. On this night, however, they find someone else who has made a habit of spending time among the tombstones–the new student at her school, Eric. When Emma is overcome by a ghostly presence bearing a brightly burning lantern, Eric steps in to help and Emma’s life takes a turn she had never imagined.

What follows is the story of Emma’s amazing true identity and the conflicts that arise between her and those who want to stop her from realizing her full potential. Fortunately for her, Emma has a group of friends who have her back in this life and some who are looking out for her from beyond the grave. Which camp will Eric fall into–friend or foe? And what might it mean if Emma Hall embraces her full paranormal potential?

I found Silence to be a quick and engaging read. To me it felt like it would fall into the category of Young Adult (perhaps even teen) fiction. Perhaps this was simply because the cast of main characters are all high school students. If you are a fan of paranormal thrillers, you are likely to enjoy Silence. If you have issues with the word/idea of “necromancer” or necromancy, you may not enjoy this novel.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Goodnight Mind: Turn Off Your Noisy Thoughts & Get a Good Night's Sleep

If you are embarking on a new journey of self-help in regards to difficulty sleeping, Goodnight Mind: Turn Off Your Noisy Thoughts & Get a Good Night’s Sleep by Colleen E. Carney, PhD and Rachel Manber, PhD is a good place to start.

The small (4.5"x 5.75") and succinct (only 181 pages) tome offers solid, basic knowledge to readers who may not have studied or read anything from a scientific point of view about sleep. If you have read anything else in regards to sleep patterns and how to make sure you are getting good, healthy sleep, you likely will find this book repetitive and lacking in the way of new insight.

The authors offer readers several “introductory” chapters about what makes for a good night’s sleep physically. The first five chapters of the book provide a good refresher of quite basic information. Since I believe there is a connection between the body and the mind, I was not quite as frustrated with this as some other reviewers who wondered whether the title of the book (which implies help with the specific problem of racing thoughts/busy mind in preventing sleep) was misleading. One would hope with the body relaxed and tuned for sleep, the mind would follow. Chapter Six offers advice for relaxing the body. I was disappointed that there was nothing in the suggestions that I had not heard or read before. (Perhaps there is simply nothing new to add and a review of the standard advice (PMR, guided imagery, focused breathing, yoga, massage, meditation, etc.) was all there is to offer readers.

As far as specific advice regarding worrying and rumination as the problems of the mind that prevent sleep, I did not find anything new: schedule a time to worry well before bedtime; write it out; practice mindfulness; be in the now; occupy your mind with other thoughts; rethink how you think about having gotten less sleep (it’s not the end of the world); don’t watch the clock; get out of bed when you can’t sleep. All of this is stuff I would consider to be standard advice. It’s good advice; I’ve simply heard it all before.

In the end I’m thankful to GoodReads’ First Reads for the free copy of Goodnight Mind. I would recommend it as a good place to start for people who are wanting to learn some strategies for overcoming sleep difficulties. It’s not for those who are already well-read on the topic.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Karma Gone Bad

Do you like to travel? Have you always imagined yourself living in an exotic place? Are you the type of person who enjoys reading memoirs?

If you answered yes to any of these, then Jenny Feldon's book, Karma Gone Bad: How I Learned to Love Mangoes, Bollywood, and Water Buffalo is a must read!

Feldon presents herself as a vivacious, young New Yorker who loves yoga and Starbucks. She also writes a blog which has many followers. Very early in her marriage, her husband Jeremy is presented with the opportunity to go to India and help organize an office in Hyderabad. It will be a two-year assignment.

Initially excited at the prospect of living abroad, the young couple dreams of the idyllic life they will lead as expats in such an exotic setting. Feldon imagines all the opportunities she will have to blog about her experiences. She pictures herself having the time and motivation to finally write the book she has been wanting to pen.

When the plane lands in Hyderabad and she steps into the sea of humanity, Feldon's sense of adventure quickly turns into a sense of "what have we done?"

Karma is Feldon's account of her time living in India. She is open and honest about the struggles she went through to adapt to this very different way of life. As a reader with a bit more life experience (I'm assuming at 47 I'm older than she was when this happened), I felt myself wanting to offer her advice about not trying to remake India into her expectations, but rather allowing herself the joy and surprise of embracing India simply for what it was. Sometimes funny and often touching, it was a delight to go with her on this life-changing experience!

Karma Gone Bad is a quick, fun book. I hope you have the chance to read it!