One For The Money

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One For The Money

by Janet Evanovich

September 2016

I recently got a part-time job at a library nearby and one of my favorite things about the job is meeting people and talking books . . . I love giving recommendations and I love getting them back! One For The Money was one such recommendation from a patron. I was curious to read about this bounty hunter who doesn’t like guns, and I ended up mostly liking the book. I loved the writing and I really enjoyed all the twists and turns of the plot, but mostly I loved the humor! I was literally laughing out loud reading it. The only thing I did not like at all was this one particular character who is a sadist/rapist and who does some gruesome awful things that definitely freaked me out (caution: do not read at night or alone!). Aside from him, I loved the main character, Stephanie Plum, and I am looking forward to continuing the series.

Stephanie Plum is jobless and becoming penniless and has to find a solution to her financial strain. She lives in New Jersey with family near by and gets talked into applying for a job at her cousin’s Bail Bonding Company, but when she arrives the filing job she was going for is already taken. Her cousin’s secretary suggests doing skip tracing (finding people who have skipped out on their court date and bringing them in to the police). It’s dangerous, but lucrative. One particular case is worth $10,000.00 if Stephanie can find him and bring him in. The only catch? He is an ex-policeman and a former fling of Stephanie’s, but she is determined to get him. Throughout her unsuccessful attempts to find this Joseph Morelli, she is often helped by the shifty, but kind, Ranger, and gets caught up in the nefarious schemes of boxer, Ramirez, who would like nothing better than to torture her. Stephanie keeps at it though. She catches a few men to bring in, almost gets murdered a few times, and finds Morelli regularly (but can never bring him in). Spoilers: Soon, Joe gets so frustrated with Stephanie getting in his way, he decides to get her to work with him (he is trying to prove he is innocent of murder, which is why he’s hiding from the cops). Stephanie agrees and in the end they figure out the real criminal: Ramirez’ manager. He is caught up in a drug and money laundering scheme and needs to keep Ramirez fighting, but Ramirez is constantly getting distracted by women and hurting them, so it’s a tough job to keep him out of jail. Stephanie is making it worse because she has proof of what Ramirez is capable of and is getting the police involved. But before the manager can kill Stephanie, she shoots him (she has been scared of her gun the entire book), and then the police come and are able to wrap everything up, including locking up Ramirez. Stephanie gets shot in the process, but recovers well and is happy (in a way) she helped exonerate Joe (who she has very mixed feelings about – he can be nice or obnoxious to her).

Summing it up: I loved the humor and heart of this book, but I would definitely caution any reader Ramirez: he is absolutely horrible and it is not easy to read the things he does. He made the book creepy!

All the best, Abbey

Tell Me Three Things

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Tell Me Three Things

by Julie Buxbaum

September 2016

I found another amazing book . . . Tell Me Three Things. It was sweet, funny and moving. I am so impressed by Buxbaum’s writing style and ability and will be reading her other books. This was her first Young Adult novel and I was hooked on page one. Tell Me Three Things reminded me a lot of the movie, You’ve Got Mail (only taking place in high school). I’m still struggling with having finished the book . . .I’m just not ready to leave the characters.

Jessie has just gone through the unimaginable: her mother has died and her father has remarried (a woman she’s never met) and they are moving to L.A to move in with her and her son. It is a rough transition for Jessie, to say the least, but the one light in all the confusion, hurt, and loneliness is an anonymous email from Somebody Nobody (SN) who offers to help Jessie and show her the ropes of her new high school. At first she is skeptical, but then she takes him up on his offer and he gives her tips on cafeteria food and who would make a good friend. Jessie begins to adapt. SN was right: she becomes good friends with Dri and she also gets a job at the local book store, Book Up Below. The popular girls hate her and embarrass her regularly, but Jessie is partnered in English with another classmate, Ethan, who is quiet but very smart, and they slowly build a friendship. After about two months, Jessie’s stepmom (who is loaded) sends her back to her old home to visit her old friends. Jessie is thrilled, but the trip starts off rough because both she and her best friend have changed. After sorting out hurt feelings they make amends and move forward to be closer friends before Jessie has to go back. Spoilers: All this time Jesse has been trying to figure out who SN is and is battling feelings for Ethan. Everyone warns her that he has a dark past and that she shouldn’t get mixed up with him, but she is steadily falling for him. She is also falling for SN. With him she is herself and they have a lot in common, including losing a loved one. When they write, they go back and fourth sharing three things about themselves or how they’re feeling. Jessie is convinced that SN is a boy in her school named Caleb, but her friends help her figure out it isn’t him. Her friends think it’s Liam (the hot lead in a band who broke up with his girlfriend for Jessie), but Jessie is hoping beyond hope that it’s Ethan. Finally, SN agrees to meet her at IHOP. Jessie is so nervous and excited, but then very disappointed when Liam walks up to her table. But before she can really react, Caleb walks up, and then Ethan arrives. Liam is trying to ask Jessie out and she is trying not to show her disappointment when Ethan cuts in to ask everyone to hold on while he takes his phone out. Then Jessie gets a message from SN saying it’s him, not Liam. Jessie is filled with excitement, tells Liam she can’t go out with him and then she and Ethan finally “meet” and it’s perfect! Best ending.

Summing it up: I can’t say enough good things about this book. It was heartwarming and moving to tears at points, but also funny and sweet. I absolutely loved it and I highly recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

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Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

by J. K. Rowling

September 2016

I’m officially half-way through the Harry Potter series, and I am totally hooked and just loving it! I definitely think plot-wise and writing-wise, each book gets better and better. I love the characters and I love watching them learn and grow and face new challenges. There were a few things that really shocked/surprised me in this book, but I really enjoyed this fourth installment.

Spoilers ahead! We find Harry managing at the Dursley’s by hiding his school things and food that his friends have sent by owl. They have all remembered his birthday and sent cakes and presents. Ron has also sent an invitation for Harry to join them at the Quidditch World Cup and then stay with him for the last two weeks of summer. Harry persuades his uncle to let him go by reminding him that if he goes, Harry will be gone two weeks earlier than expected. The Quidditch World Cup is greater than even hoped, but it all ends terribly when during the night of celebrations, Death Eaters (Voldemort’s supporters) come to the camp and torture some Muggle-borns. Somehow Harry loses his wand and it gets used by a dark wizard to set off the sign of Voldemort causing confusion and fear. Soon, the excitement dies down and there is no clue as to what really happened. Harry, Ron, and Hermione return to Ron’s and then go back to Hogwarts. When they arrive they learn that this year will be very different. Instead of the usual house Quidditch games, two new schools (Durmstrang and Beauxbatons) will be joining Hogwarts and a representative (17 or older) from each school will participate in the dangerous Triwizard Tournament. Students freely enter by dropping their name in the Goblet of Fire, and at the announcing ceremony, one student from each school will be chosen by the Goblet. At the ceremony all goes smoothly as three students are chosen: Krum, Fleur and Cedric, but then all is confusion when a fourth name is called out: Harry Potter. It is a huge alarm because the Goblet must have been tricked to call out a fourth name and it cannot be undone – Harry must compete. Harry is shaken and consequently teased and jeered at because everyone thinks he magically put his name in (when he didn’t), and he even looses Ron’s friendship for a while over it. Hermione sticks by him though and soon Harry faces the first of three challenges: getting past an angry dragon to steal a golden egg. He does so by summoning his Firebolt and lives to go on to round two. This time, he must figure out how to breathe below water and save the thing he holds most dear: Ron (they have made up by this point). Dolby helps him (Dolby works in the Hogwarts’ kitchen now) by giving him a gillyweed to eat, which will let him breathe under water, and Harry rescues Ron and Fleur’s sister. Then it’s back to classes and prep for the last round. All throughout the year, Harry has gotten close to the new Dark Arts professor, Moody, and he has helped Harry get out of various scrapes. The final task is finally at hand: surviving through a maze to get to the Triwizard Cup. Harry’s journey is surprisingly uneventful, but he soon runs into Cedric and they get to the Cup at the same time and agree to touch it together. When they do, it turns into a Portkey (an object that can transport someone to a certain place). Harry and Cedric get taken to a graveyard where Cedric is immediately killed. Harry is captured by Wormtail and forced to witness Voldemort return to human form and then forced to duel him. During their duel, Harry fights with everything he has and is able to stand up to Voldemort. Their wands clash (because they are made with the same ingredient) and Harry reverses Voldemort’s last killings and sees their ghosts, including his parents and Cedric (whose last wish is that his body be returned to his parents). Harry holds off Voldemort long enough to escape to the Portkey with Cedric’s body. Once back at Hogwarts, where everything is in disarray and confusion, Harry is taken inside by Prof. Moody, but soon learns that he is actually working for Voldemort. Prof. Dumbledore comes in time to rescue Harry and the truth comes out about Moody and who he really is (another Death Eater: he took Moody’s form in order to do Voldemort’s bidding). When everything is wrapped up and resolved, the school is informed about Harry’s heroics and the school year comes to an end. It is bittersweet with the realization that one of their own is dead and that Voldemort has returned, but that Harry kept things from being worse.

Summing it up: another great installment in the Harry Potter series!

All the best, Abbey

 

The Book Thief

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The Book Thief

by Markus Zusak

September 2016

I have mixed feelings about The Book Thief. I didn’t really enjoy the writing style at first and it wasn’t the happiest story. However, once I got into the style, I did enjoy following Liesel’s story and her life. So, I’m definitely on the fence between liking it and disliking it.

Liesel is an 11 year old German girl who is orphaned in WWII and adopted by another German family. She soon makes friends and learns how to read, which starts a trend of stealing books. The book follows Liesel’s life full of friendship, family, and more book stealing. Spoilers: Liesel makes a positive impact on everyone around her from her parents, to a young Jew (Max) they hide in their basement, and to her neighbors. Towards the end of the book, their town is getting bombed and every time a bunch of the neighbors huddle in one of their basements and Liesel reads to everyone to keep everyone calm. Then one night Liesel is in her basement writing (Max had to leave) and the town gets bombed before the sirens can go off to warn everyone. So, everyone in the town dies, but Liesel lives. She is heartbroken, but later Max survives and finds her. The whole story is narrated by “death.”

Summing it up: It’s a very different, interesting book, which is why I have mixed feelings. So, I think I’d recommend it if you’re interested in WWII. Has anyone else read this one? What did you think?

All the best, Abbey

Brooklyn

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Brooklyn

by Colm Tóibín

September 2016

I just finished Brooklyn and I don’t get the hype. I was not a huge fan. I didn’t dislike the book, but I was annoyed/frustrated through the whole thing. It drove me nuts that Eilis was so spineless and just went along with anything. And then at the end when she’s back in Ireland. She was so deceitful and wishy-washy . . . I was just so annoyed!! So, while I thought it was beautifully written, I was too annoyed to enjoy the book.

Eilis is a young woman living in Ireland with her mother and her sister, Rose. Her father is dead and her two brothers are working in England. She is leading a normal, but uneventful life until one day Rose arranges for her to move to Brooklyn, New York to work and get trained in book keeping. She is homesick at first but soon settles in and does well at everything she sets her mind to. Almost a year in from her move she meets a boy named Tony who woos her and they get engaged after knowing each other for a while. As the end to a second year approaches, Eilis finishes her book keeping school and passes with flying colors. Spoilers: Then she gets the news that Rose has passed away because she had a heart condition and her heart gave out in her sleep. Eilis is heartbroken and knows she needs to return home, but before she does, Tony asks her to marry him before she leaves and she agrees. Once she is home in Ireland, she starts second guessing her whole life in New York City and gets comfortable with her mom and friends. She learns that her mom has agreed for the two of them to attend a wedding after Eilis is supposed to have returned to America. Eilis decides to postpone her return trip and stay for the wedding. She doesn’t let Tony know right away and she meets a young Irishman, Jim, whom she leads on, even kissing him and going on dates with him, while not telling him she’s married. Finally, the pressure becomes too much and she books passage back to America for the next day and tells her mom the whole story. Her mom is crushed, but sends her off. Eilis leaves and doesn’t explain anything to Jim. It was so annoying and so frustrating how Eilis was swayed to do things and go along with things so easily. I admired that she went back to her husband in the end, because that was a tough decision. But I did not admire her for anything else.

Summing it up: I spent the book so frustrated at Eilis, that I did not really enjoy the book. I don’t recommend it. What did you all think?

All the best, Abbey

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

by J. K. Rowling

September 2016

Well, this is my favorite Harry Potter book thus far (and therefore, in my opinion, Rowling’s best book so far). I loved it! I loved joining up with the characters again and I loved the plot and the twist at the end . . .I did not see it coming. I also love how easy it is to get caught up in Rowling’s writing and just get fully absorbed.

We find Harry once again miserable at his aunt and uncle’s. Another horrible aunt comes to stay with the Dursley’s and she gets Harry to his boiling point: she insults his parents and Harry explodes, causing her to expand into a balloon! Harry makes a mad dash out of the home, planing to run away because he’s afraid he will be expelled from Hogwarts for performing magic at home. He gets discovered, naturally, and learns he’s not getting expelled, but can return to Hogwarts, no problem. This year, Hermione is taking a double course load, and has acquired a cat, Crookshanks, who is obsessed with chasing Ron’s rat, Scabbers. Harry and Ron are occupied with the usual course load and Harry is focused on doing well in Quidditch. On top of this, a horrible criminal named Sirius Black has escaped from Azkaban and is on the loose trying to kill Harry. As a result, Hogwarts is being guarded by the guards of Azkaban: the Dementors, who suck any happy feeling away from you and leave you despondent. Spoilers: Harry is given a magical map from Fred and George so he can travel a secret tunnel to spend the day in Hogsmead (he didn’t get permission, so he couldn’t go honestly). He gets away with it the first time, but almost gets caught the second. Then, one night Harry, Ron and Hermione visit Hagrid secretly because Hagrid is about to watch one of his pets die (Hagrid had been teaching a class and the animal scratched Malfoy because he wasn’t following directions, and then Malfoy turned it into a huge problem, resulting in the animal sentenced to death). The three of them are trying to comfort Hagrid and leave just in time to avoid getting caught. However, on their way back, they see a giant black dog in the forest and he catches Ron and drags him to a secret passage (one of the ones on the map Harry was given). Harry and Hermione follow and finally catch up with Ron in a deserted house in Hogsmead. Ron’s leg is broken and the dog is none other than Sirius Black! After a confrontation, they learn that Sirius Black is not a murderer. He was framed by another wizard, Pettigrew, who transformed into a rat and went into hiding as Scabbers. Black is in fact Harry’s godfather and was a true friend to Harry’s parents. Harry also learns that Pettigrew, Black, Harry’s father, and their new professor Lupin, are all Animagi (people who can turn into animals). In the end, they believe Black, but get caught by Snape who brings them all back to Hogwarts while Pettigrew escapes as Scabbers. That’s when Dumbledore steps in and gives Harry and Hermione a clue so that they can save Black (who will receive the Dementor’s Kiss – i.e. get his very soul sucked out of him) and keep Hagrid’s pet from being killed. Hermione then shares how she’s been taking so many classes: she has magic to go back in time. She and Harry go back in time and save Hagrid’s pet and then use him to free Black before returning to their beds and acting like nothing happened. Before Harry leaves school for the summer, he gets an owl and a message from his godfather telling him that he is well, giving Harry permission to go to Hogsmead, and gifting Ron the owl. He also shares that the amazing new broomstick Harry received earlier is from him! It was the perfect ending.

Summing it up: I loved this one and definitely recommend the series so far!

All the best, Abbey

Truly Madly Guilty

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Truly Madly Guilty

by Liane Moriarty

August 2016

Truly Madly Guilty took me a while to read . . . I think because it was a serious, heavy book. I was on edge for a good 2/3rds of the book because I was so scared to learn “what happened at the barbecue.” And each of the couples’ relationships were on edge, which made me on edge. So, it wasn’t an enjoyable book to read. However, there was so much good in this book and I loved how the ending came full circle and wrapped the story up (thank goodness!!). Moriarty’s writing was a force and so compelling that I didn’t consider putting the book down (even though I wasn’t thoroughly enjoying it). The story and what the characters go through is so real, especially being someone in a similar walk of life (I have been married over 6 years and have 2 kids). I’m glad I read it, but I can’t say I really loved it.

Spoilers: Truly Madly Guilty follows three couples whose lives are changed forever at a barbecue. Erika and Oliver are immaculate, ordered and childless, despite multiple rounds of IVF. Erika’s best friend, Clementine (a cellist) and her husband, Sam, have two children: Holly and Ruby. Erika invites them over for dinner, but plans get derailed when her neighbor Vid invites all of them over to have a barbecue with his wife, Tiffany, and their daughter Dakota. The night gets off to a rough start when Erika and Oliver ask Clementine to donate her eggs so they can have a baby, and Clementine is not immediately thrilled. The barbecue starts off great with Dakota watching the two little girls and the 3 couples talking/drinking/flirting. But then things get tragic when Ruby falls into a fountain and almost drowns before the adults notice . . . eventually Erika notices and she and Oliver do CPR and save Ruby’s life. The couples must then deal with the aftermath and learn how to move on. Vid and Tiffany destroy the fountain and realize months after the event that Dakota has been blaming herself for the accident and punishing herself by taking away her most loved activity: reading. When it all comes out, they meet with Clementine and the girls and Dakota stops blaming herself and they move on. Erika and Oliver move on quickly, but struggle with their inability to have a baby and Clementine’s obvious distaste to give up her eggs (even though she doesn’t want more children), and apparent willingness to do so only because Erika and Oliver saved Ruby. Erika also struggles with her mother’s hoarding issues and how they are psychologically affecting her. Sam and Clementine suffer the worse and their marriage is struggling to stay afloat. They become more and more distant until they take a CPR class, where Sam breaks down and they realize he has PTSD. It’s only when he realizes this and decides to get help that their marriage starts to get back on track. While all of this is going on, one of Erika and Tiffany’s elderly, grumpy neighbors, Harry, is found dead at the bottom of his stairs (months after he died) by Oliver and Tiffany, and the two neighbors feel guilty and responsible, even though it was an accident. The entire book is told in the present from all of the character’s perspectives, with flashbacks to the barbecue interspersed throughout. At the very end you learn that on the night of the barbecue, Holly pushed Ruby into the fountain because Ruby took Holly’s stones (they are 5 and 3 years old). Harry sees Ruby first and tries to get Erika’s attention, but because she is tipsy, it takes her forever to realize what he’s gesturing at, so Harry races down the stairs to save Ruby, only to fall to his death. Erika finally realizes what’s going on and is the first to notice Ruby and get to her. Each of the characters feel their own level of guilt and deal with it in their own way. Thankfully, Ruby was saved with no negative long term effects. And, really, it ends quite happily for everyone.

Summing it up: Truly Madly Guilty was a good book. It was real, and dealt with serious issues, but it was good. Maybe read it in between light, feel-good books! 😉

All the best, Abbey