Sunburn by Laura Lippman



Dear Fellow Reader,

I was excited to receive an advanced copy of Laura Lippman’s new book, Sunburn.  I had read other books by Laura Lippman and had enjoyed them.  She has seven books in the Tess Monaghan series along with many other books. She has won awards  and praise for her writing.  She is from the Baltimore area and many of her books take place in or around that city.

Sunburn is a psychological thriller.  As the book opens, we meet Adam Bosk. Adam is in Belleville, DE, on a case.  He is a private investigator and has been hired to find and follow a red-headed woman.  He follows her to a bar in Belleville and then to a seedy hotel.  The woman, who gives her name as Polly Costello, has just left her husband and three-year-old daughter.  They were on vacation and she walked away from them while they slept.

Adam has information on the woman from his client.  He was also warned to watch out for her. He has been told that she is dangerous.  When Polly takes a job at a local restaurant/bar, Adam does too.  He finds that he is drawn to her and she is drawn to him.  But both have secrets that they cannot reveal.  Polly does indeed have quite a past that is revealed as the book progresses.  Even after Adam discovers more about her, he still finds her irrestible.  Then when a co-worker dies suspiciously, another level of suspicion grows between the couple.

Is Polly truly as bad as she seems?  Is she heartless?

I liked the book.  The end of the book is a HUGE shock.  I sat with my mouth open.  It was nothing that I expected.  It made the book.  I am glad I read it.

Thanks for reading!

 

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Marabel and the Book of Fate by Tracy Barrett

Dear Fellow Reader,

ALERT – this book is not an adult book.  This book is for Grades 3-7.(ages 8-12)

Why? Why did I read this book?  It caught my attention and perhaps I was trying to avoid reading a book for my book group.  (No…. that can’t be true) I was given an advanced copy of this book for my unbiased review.

While I have not been in third grade for a long time, I do remember having a reader that was not very motivated at that age.  I really had to search to find something that would be interesting to him. I think that this story would have worked but it might be more interesting to a girl because the protagonist is a girl.

As the story of Marabel and the Book of Fate opens, Marabel is about to turn 13.  She is a twin and she is a princess.  Her twin brother, Marco, is the definite star of the family.  He is going to be the future king and receives better treatment than Marabel. She doesn’t seem to mind as she knows he will be the king.  Marco is a nice guy who gets along well with people, a trait that Marabel has not quite mastered. Even though she is a girl, Old Lucius gives her sword lessons. The lessons are hidden from her parents because girls shouldn’t learn sword fighting. She enjoys those lessons.

At the big birthday party for Marco and Marabel – really for Marco – Marabel sees something odd.  She sees a woman slip around the security line and go into the party. She tells security but they don’t pay much attention to her.  Then, just before the big birthday moment, a spell is cast on the crowd and Marcus is taken by the King’s sister.  Mab was banished to the Desolate Barrens, the kingdom next door, after she and her brother had a disagreement about who should lead the kingdom.

Marabel decides that she needs to go to get her brother back. Ellie, her faithful servant announces that she has to go with her. While leaving the kingdom secretly, Marabel and Elie are joined by Floriano, the talking unicorn. They encounter many new and magical creatures on their way to rescue Marcus.

As you can tell, this book is a fantasy. I liked it. I would say that the King (Marabel’s father) treats her poorly through the entire story.  She is not given credit for anything she does until Mab gives it to her.   That part is a bit bothersome but it works out.  I would have wanted a different ending but that is not to say that the ending isn’t good.

On the good side, it does show that while Marabel does not fit in with the other princess’s very well that she is strong and courageous on her own. She doesn’t have to fit in to be a good person – that her personality is perfect for what she needs to do.

Thanks for reading!

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By the Book by Julia Sonneborn

Dear Fellow Reader,

Anne Corey is an English professor at Fairfax College.  She needs to have her book (a scholarly work on several 19th-century woman novelists) published so that she can keep her job.  She wants to keep her job – she loves teaching at Fairfax and she doesn’t want to bounce around trying to find another position. Her friend, Larry Ettinger, is a professor at Fairfax; he helped her get the position. She is running out of time and publishing options.  If that isn’t enough stress, her family was not supportive of her decision to get her Ph.D. in English and the accompanying cost of that education.  She has student loans she is trying to pay off. Losing her job will not help keep her head above her debt.

Fairfax College has a new president.  Anne has not paid much attention to this as she has many other things on her mind. Her friend, Larry, tells her that she needs to go to a reception to meet the new president and then mentions that the new president went to the same school at Anne.  When she askes Larry the name of the new president, she is shocked.  It is her ex-fiance.  She had broken up with him at graduation 10 years ago and had not spoken to him since. She goes to the reception and it is definitely her Adam Martinez. So, her ex-fiance is now her boss.

That is the start of By the Book by Julia Sonneborn. It is a good premise for a that keeps blossoming. Throw in an extra-marital affair (not Anne),  a romance that is full of deceit, a death, and success (publishing? love?).  Through the story, we find out more about Anne’s family, her research, and romance. Will the dashing, successful writer Richard Forbes Chasen be the perfect man for Anne?

Some might recognize the storyline as a modern retelling of Jane Austin’s Persuasion. I liked the book.  It was fun to read and find out all the twists and turns. The cast of characters is interesting and believable.  A good first outing for Julia Sonneborn, who is an English professor.

Thanks for reading.

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The Financial Diet by Chelsea Fagan

Dear Fellow Reader,

Today’s book is a departure from my usual type of book.  The Financial Diet is subtitled A Total Beginner’s Guide to Getting Good with Money. This book was made available to me by the publisher, Henry Holt and Company.  ( In other words, it was a freebie for my unbiased review.)

This is not your typical financial guide.  Not anywhere near your typical financial guide.  And that makes it a tad bit better.  It is an interesting take on a finance book.  This is a book for a young woman – probably great for a fresh college grad or someone just starting out.  There are seven chapters – Budget, Investing, Career, Food, Home, Love, Action.  Yes, you read that right – Food and Home are in there.  There are even recipes included along with kitchen equipment that you should have to start a kitchen.  The chapter on love includes the following quote:

 

“There is nothing more cringeworthy than having a relationship be your financial plan.”

It is written in a light and breezy style.  My feeling is that the idea behind the book is to send you to join the website.  Despite that, it is worthwhile for someone just starting off.  It is very easy to read and understand.  The author provides lots of personal history and “what not to do” moments.  Also included in the book are sections from experts on finance and work.

So, if you are looking for a gift for a college grad or high school grad starting out, this might be a helpful gift for them.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

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Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

 

Dear Fellow Reader,

I know this is a bit off topic but I have to say that I don’t like it when I don’t understand the title of a book.  I find it irritating when the title is so esoteric that you cannot see a connection between the story and the title. When a title has to be explained, I don’t think it hits the mark.  This is NOT the case with this book.  You find out in the book what the title means.

Turtles All The Way Down is a story about Aza Holmes.  Aza is 16, misses her dead father, and has OCD.  Her OCD is not what one might think of as OCD.  It is not the repetitive behavior like hand washing.  Aza has thought spirals.  She has thoughts that she can’t stop no matter how much she tries.  She is under a doctor’s care but since she does not take her medicine as consistently as she should it does not help her much.  Aza has a best friend named Daisy Ramirez. Aza is not a great friend in that she gets caught up in her thought spirals and is unable to pay attention as a friend might normally pay attention.  It isn’t that she doesn’t care, it is that her mind can’t always be present with Daisy.  They have been friends a long time and Daisy knows about Aza’s shortcomings as a friend and accepts them.

One summer after Aza’s father died, she went to what she calls “sad camp”, a camp for children with a deceased parent.  At the camp, she met Davis Puckett. Davis lives down the river from Aza and his mother has died.  At the time of the story, they had not seen each other for a couple of years.  Davis’s father, Russell, is fabulously wealthy.

At lunch, Daisy is talking about Russell Puckett’s disappearance and the reward that is being offered for information leading to finding him.  It seems he was about to be arrested for deceptive business practices and he just disappeared.   He left his two sons behind with caretakers. Daisy would like to find information or Russell himself so that she can collect the reward.  She remembers that Aza knew Davis and suggests that Aza can help her find Russell.  Aza doesn’t believe that she can be of any help but goes along with Daisy. Aza and Daisy take an old canoe down the river to check out the Puckett estate. Aza recalls that when she knew Davis that there was a night vision camera in the woods by the river on their estate.  Aza and Daisy get out of the boat on the estate to check and see if the camera is still in place. They get caught by a caretaker but Aza claims the is there to see Davis.  Davis doesn’t really believe her – because his family is in the news so prominently and he thinks people are after the reward money. Aza and Davis reconnect and their friendship is rekindled.  Davis does ask Aza not to work on finding his father. To get her to stop, he gives her money.

I think that the plot of the book is good.  I will admit that I did get a bit tired of Aza and her thought spirals.  They do serve the purpose of showing what it is like in her head but it was so relentless that I was wishing the story would move on.  Yes, I got tired of her illness.  And that was the point – her illness is hard to deal with both for her and for those around her.

I turned to her. “STOP TALKING. Jesus Christ, you haven’t shut up in ten years. I’m sorry it’s not fun hanging out with me because I’m stuck in my head so much, but imagine being actually stuck inside my head with no way out, with no way to ever take a break from it, because that’s my life. To use Mychal’s clever little analogy, imagine eating NOTHING  BUT mustard, being stuck with mustard ALL THE TIME and if you hate me so much then stop asking me to – “

To be honest, I got caught up in the characters and forgot about the plot of the book partway through.  When we circle back to Davis’s father, I wasn’t thinking about him any longer.  I’m not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing.

Overall, I am a huge fan of John Green’s writing style.  There is so much cool information in with the story that I enjoy reading and listening to him.  The characters in this book are flawed and that is one of the things that John Green does very well.

 

 

“A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: “What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise.” The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, “What is the tortoise standing on?” “You’re very clever, young man, very clever,” said the old lady. “But it’s turtles all the way down!”

Stephen Hawkings

Thanks for reading.

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