Library Girl's Guide To Books

Reviews and Musings From A Reading Life.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

I work with teens in my library and lots of adults come in asking for recommendations for Young Adult books. Besides The Hunger Games  and Twilight, there are many wonderful Young Adult books.  Here are some of my favorite YA books that adults will love. How many have you read?

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Product Details

The Girl Who Knew Too Much 

                                       by Amanda Quick

           I am not a big romance reader but I do enjoy Amanda Quick's (Jayne Ann Krentz) Historical Romances. Most of them are set in the 1800s but this book is set in 1930 during the Golden Age of Hollywood. I love everything about old Hollywood so I was really looking forward to reading this book. I listened to it on audio and the reader, Louise Jane Underwood, was adequate but not one of my favorites. 
        The story begins in New York City where Anna Harris is working for a wealthy socialite as her personal assistant.  Anna returns home to find her employer dead on the floor and the words "Run!" written on the wall with her blood. Anna runs out of the room, in a panic, and sees that the safe is open. Inside it is a valuable necklace, a notebook and money. Anna also finds a note that says "don't trust anyone, not even the FBI."  Anna grabs the money, that her employer owes her, the notebook and gets into the Packard that her employer has also given her. She drives across the country, changes her name to Irene Glasson and begins working for a small newspaper in the Los Angeles area. One night, Irene is called to meet with a woman at the Burning Cove Hotel. The woman promises her a scoop on a great story about a famous movie star. The Burning Cove Hotel is known for its discretion and famous stars often stay there. When Irene arrives, it is only to discover that her contact has been murdered and is floating in the pool. 
         Then she meets Oliver Ward, the owner of The Burning Cove Hotel. Oliver was a famous magician who was badly injured in his last performance and now owns the hotel. He wants to prevent  a scandal for his hotel and Irene wants to find out what is happening, so they form an uneasy alliance. Of course, this being a romance, sparks fly but Irene/Anna doesn't know who to trust.        Everyone seems to have secrets, including Irene's deceased employer.  As more deaths occur, she realizes that she is in danger, too. 
         This was an enjoyable book but not my favorite Amanda Quick novel.  The killer was unexpected, so that was nice. Can't quite put my finger on why I didn't like it that much.  Not a horrible book but not a great one, either.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Women in the Castle: A Novel by [Shattuck, Jessica]

The Women In The Castle

by Jessica Shattuck

Over the last couple of years, there has been a surge in fiction books set during WWII. When I saw this book, I wondered if I wanted to read another book about the Nazis. Don't get me wrong, I love historical fiction set during WWII but that seems to be mostly what I have been reading lately. I am glad that I did read this book. It is a fine example of literary fiction. I listened to it on audio and the narrator, Cassandra Campbell was perfect!

The book opens with a Prologue. Marianne von Lingenfels is at her husband's ancestral castle in Northern Germany helping his aunt, Countess, prepare for the Harvest Party that will be attended by elite Germans. Marianne's husband, Albrecht, comes from a long line of German generals and his family is prominent in German high society and very well respected. At the Harvest Party, the men disappear to meet in private and that night, Marianne becomes aware that the men are planning something. They are part of a group that, on July 20, 1944, are going to try and assassinate Hitler. Marianne promises the men that she will take care of their wives and children if their assassination attempt fails. It does fail and the story begins.

It is 1945 and the women in the title are Marianne, Benita and Ania. No nonsense, Marianne is the leader of the group. After the war,  she finds Benita and Ania and brings them, and their children, to live in the now crumbling castle. The castle has fallen into disrepair after the war but at least they have a place to live. The women are very different from each other and they have secrets. The plot of The Women In The Castle is complicated and difficult to summarize, without revealing too much of the story. These very different women form a family during this difficult time but it isn't easy. Marianne, who has had a privileged upbringing, thinks that their shared experiences of losing their husbands in the Resistance will cause them to bond.  But Marianne soon learns that everything isn't black and white and things are more complicated than she could have imagined.

 This interesting, thought provoking book asks, can you really love someone if you don't know everything about him or her or what has been done in the past?  Can the past be forgiven? As you get to know each woman and learn of the devastating things each has endured, some of these questions become a little clearer. Readers get a feel for what life was like for ordinary Germans after the war and I liked reading a book with this different perspective. I did find that the timelines were sometimes confusing and the story got bogged down somewhat with too much detail. I also had a little bit of trouble bonding with the women but I still recommend this book.

This book has been compared to The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I disagree. The Nightingale was the best book that I read in 2015 and, while I liked The Women In The Castle, it was slower than The Nightingale.  I would compare it more to All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer, another fine example of literary fiction.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The  Hollywood Daughter 

Product Details                             by Kate Alcott                                                                                                                 
The Hollywood Daughter is an interesting book. I love stories and gossip about "Old Hollywood" and this book had lots of references to that, but it focused heavily on the main character's obsession with Ingrid Bergman. Like everyone, I loved Casablanca but, beyond that, I wasn't really that enamored with Ingrid.  The story begins in 1958 where Jessica Malloy is living in New York and working at a boring job, while she submits her writing to various magazines, hoping she will get published. Out of the blue, she receives an invitation to attend the Academy Awards. Her best friend, who still lives in California, convinces her to come back home to attend the awards ceremony. She tells her that their old Catholic school, St. Ann's is being demolished and they must go and see it one last time. Jessica wants to do this, especially since Ingrid Bergman's movie, The Bells of St Mary's was partially filmed there. So, she  reluctantly agrees, and heads back to Beverly Hills to confront painful memories from the past. 

Growing up, Jessica's father worked  as a publicist for David O. Selznick's studio and Ingrid Bergman was his main client. Jessie was obsessed with Ingrid. She and her best friend would pore over movie magazines trying to find gossip about Ingrid and other stars. When Ingrid becomes involved with Roberto Rosselini, leaves her husband and child and has a baby out of wedlock, everything falls aprt for Jessie and her family. 

The Hollwood Daughter takes on  McCarthyism, the Catholic Church and how careers and lives were ruined by the "Red Scare" in Hollywood.  I liked lots of things about this coming of age story but the focus on Ingrid Bergman became tedious for me. But, I was curious to find out who sent Jessie the invitation to the Academy Awards and why, after so many years. I listened to the audio book narrated by Erin Spencer, and her narration was very good. If you enjoy stories set in 1940's and 1950's Hollywood you will probably find something to like in this book.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

My "To Be Read" List Is Growing!

If you love thrillers as much as I do, you will want to check out these new books. I am really looking forward to Paula Hawkin's book Into The Water,  She wrote The Girl On The Train.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Murder At The Brightwell: An Amory Ames Mystery

Murder at the Brightwell: A Mystery (An Amory Ames Mystery) by [Weaver, Ashley]

Murder at the Brightwell   (Amory Ames Mystery #1)

                                                          by Ashley Weaver

Five years ago, Amory Ames probably made the worst mistake of her life when she broke off her engagement to Gil Trent to marry handsome, charming and charismatic Milo.  Despite the fact that they are married, Milo has spent his time in Monte Carlo and other exotic locations being photographed with beautiful women while Amory stays at home wondering when her husband might grace her with his presence. When Gil suddenly shows up at her country estate asking for her help, she is surprised. It seems that Gil's sister, Emmaline, is engaged to an unsavory man named Rupert Howe and Gil wants to stop the engagement. He asks Amory to accompany him on holiday to the Brightwell Hotel where a group of his friends are gathering. Gil thinks that Amory, because of her own seemingly disastrous marriage, might be able to talk some sense into Emmaline.
          At first Amory is hesitant but then decides that if Milo is going to travel all over being photographed by gossip columnists, with beautiful women on his arm, then she should have some fun, too. It is after all 1930's Britain and she is a modern woman.  She agrees to accompany Gil, separate rooms of course, and they board the train for the seaside and the Brightwell Hotel.
         When they arrive, Amory meets the rest of their colorful group and it isn't long before there is a murder! When Milo surprises her with his arrival, Gil is accused of the murder, and then another murder occurs, the plot thickens. When it appears that someone might have tried to kill Amory, too, she takes it upon herself to investigate. Soon she is butting  heads with a detective who is less than thrilled with her interference. Amory grudgingly allows Milo to work with her on trying to solve the murders and the fun begins.
         This book has been compared to The Thin Man series because of the often witty banter between Milo and Amory.  Their relationship is complicated and, although she clearly has some unresolved feelings for Gil, Amory wants to believe that her wealthy, playboy husband loves her.
        Murder at the Brightwell is the debut novel for this author. It was an enjoyable mystery that had enough red herrings to keep me engaged.  I loved the period details, the description of the clothing, the people and the  Brightwell Hotel. Readers of Agatha Christie and other light historical mysteries should enjoy this first book in the series. I am looking forward to reading the next book to see what is going to happen with Milo, Amory and their investigations.

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Wages of Sin: A Novel by [Welsh, Kaite]The Wages of Sin 

by Katie Welsh  

Sarah Gilchrist wants to be a doctor, something that isn't common in 1892. Because of a scandal, she has fled her home in England and ends up in Scotland, living with her aunt and uncle. She is among a small group of female students who  are the first females to study medicine at the University of  Edinburgh. Sarah is smart, resourceful but headstrong and trying to fit in with the other medical students is difficult. The male students don't want females in their school and Sarah's scandal has followed her to Scotland. Her aunt and uncle only want to get her married so that she can put the scandal behind her but Sarah doesn't want to get married. She begins volunteering at a free clinic where she treats the unfortunate people living in poverty, including prostitutes. There she meets a young prostitute named Lucy, who later dies, and Sarah is convinced that she was murdered. She begins investigating and, by doing this, puts her own life in danger. Sarah develops a relationship with one of the professors at the school but he seems suspect too, especially after she sees him visiting the same brothel where Lucy worked. Who can she trust?

This book has wonderful descriptions of the Victorian time period and the role that women were forced to play.  Sarah is a strong character who suffered the scorn of society, even though she didn't do anything wrong. There is a mystery and a twist that I didn't see coming.  I felt that the ending was rushed so, I am wondering if there will be a sequel to this book. Enjoyable, if not fully developed.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reading copy of this book to review.

I work with teens in my library and lots of adults come in asking for recommendations for Young Adult books. Besides The Hunger Games  and T...