I find this book endlessly fascinating. It contains top 10 lists of college football's 'greatests' - from quarterbacks, running backs, and coaches, to mascots, programs, and game day experiences. While rabid fans of a particular team may disagree - and there is an admittance of the difficulty of the task and controversy of the decisions - there is certainly much to enjoy, especially in the gorgeous full page photos. My own favorite team didn't make the cut (Go Broncos! 13-0! 2016 MAC champions!) but there is a fine representation of both legends and legends-in-the-making. This would make the perfect gift for any football fan.
This charming intermediate novel begins with a hilariously disastrous wedding and ends with a perfect one. And in between, Archer Magill is just trying to navigate his first year of middle school - mean girls, bullies, seventh and eighth graders, and his surly older sister - with the help of his gutsy, no-nonsense best friend Lynette. He hopes for a growth spurt and a voice change, but mostly he wants to grow up to be as great as his role models - his architect grandfather, car restorer father, and amazing Uncle Paul. And when the equally amazing Mr. McLeod comes as the new classroom intern, he turns the town - and Archer - upside down in the best way. Richard Peck is a popular long time children's author, and with funny, sensitive, and wonderful stories like this one, well deserving of his many awards (a Newberry Medal included!). This was definitely one of my favorite books of the year.
I gave up on the Morelli or Ranger question about fifteen books ago. I gave up not expecting Stephanie's car to blow up about seven books ago. But I will always enjoy the bat guano-crazy plot points and creatively bizarre characters that lead to inevitable explosion - in this case a ten-foot boa constrictor named Ethel, a frozen dead guy dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with nuts, and a scheme by Lula, self-proclaimed 'hot little guy' Randy Briggs, and Grandma Mazur to get on an episode of Naked and Afraid. I love that my favorite character Lula is now Stephanie's constant wing man, and I love that twenty-three books in Evanovich can still make me laugh in this perfect palate-cleanser of a series.
Gertie has never, ever, given up on anything in her whole life. So when she hears the news that her estranged mother plans to get married and move away, Gertie hatches a plan to be the greatest fifth grader in the universe. That should make her mother take noticeof her! Unfortunately, Mary Sue Spivey, the new girl in town, aspires to be the greatest too, and Gertie knows there can only be one girl at the top of the fifth grade. Gertie is delightfully quirky - funny and spunky - and Beasley does a wonderful job with the voice of her determined young heroine.
The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles has a very important job - he must open every bottle found at sea and ensure that the message is delivered. He is very good at his job, but yearns for a message that is just for him. When he finds a bottle with a most intriguing message inside, however, it turns out to be the only one he cannot deliver, and it begins a quest for the very thing the Uncorker has really wanted all along. I adore this gentle story, with its soft and poignant illustrations in the colors of the sea.
One of the funniest books I've ever read was just released in paperback this week, although it underwent a bit of of a title change and has a different (and funnier) cover. Dan Marshall's life was just about perfect. He was living the carefree California dream with a job he loved and a beautiful girlfriend. His mother had battled cancer for years, but had always managed to beat it into remission, so Dan was caught off guard when she called to say that not only was her cancer back, but that his young, healthy, marathon-running, beloved father has been newly diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease. Dan assumes his dad will be the first patient to recover from ALS - until his return home when the reality hits hard as his "spoiled white jerk" lifestyle starts to fall apart. Dan tells his family's story with as much humor, profanity, sexual reference, and alcohol as possible. Even during the worst year of their lives, this is one hilarious family and their story is an absolutely delightful read.
First, this is the latest - number nine - in one of my very favorite mystery series. Secondly, I've waited seven years for this book to come out. I thought Charlaine Harris was done with the Aurora Teagarden series, and quite honestly I was angry. She left our heroine - who was told several books earlier that she could never have children - pregnant. And then for seven years, nothing. But Aurora is back, still pregnant, newly married, and looking after her teenaged half-brother Phillip. Phillip hitchhiked across the country in anger over his - and Aurora's - father's infidelities, but has been busy making new friends and looking forward to starting school. But when a dead teenager is found, another commits suicide, and Phillip and three of his friends go missing, Aurora is frantic to find answers. This latest installment was worth the wait, but I hope it won't be another seven years before the next one.
During our after-event dinner with Barbara Shapiro last month, she mentioned a book that sounded intriguing. Jill confirmed that she too had read it. Sometimes an interesting subject takes hold, and this was one. Author Martha Stout makes the claim that an estimated four percent of us walk around with an undetected mental disorder, the chief symptom of which is a complete lack of conscience. The trouble with diagnosing sociopaths is that the disorder hides behind such a wide range of behaviors, from the shiftless underachiever who always manages to find someone to take care of him to the megalomaniac overachieving Master of the Universe. Still more difficult, the sociopath is quite happy with the disorder and has little interest in changing - after all, it's a pretty nice life when you can manipulate things to your liking with no recourse. Worse, sociopaths can insinuate their way into and destroy other's lives - again, with no remorse, and for no other reason than for sport. Fortunately, Stout lays out plenty of ways to recognize and disarm the sociopaths who invade our lives, and leaves us with the good news reminder that a full ninety-six percent of us are people who value their sense of conscience and try to use it. This non-fiction book was easy to digest with plenty of examples and absolutely fascinating.
So I've been on kind of a cozy mystery kick lately, and if I were forced to choose a favorite author (and I certainly would hate to commit to that) I would probably still have to choose Agatha Christie. Christie's estate had bestselling author Sophie Hannah pick up the Hercule Poirot (who is without a doubt my favorite detective) franchise and this is a true classic cozy mystery. Lady Athelinda Playford had just announced at dinner that she is bequeathing her estate away from her two children and to her secretary Mr. Joseph Scotcher, who is dying of a liver disease. Mr. Scotcher promptly proposed to his nurse Sophie, and then had the bad manners to turn up murdered three different ways the very next morning. Fortunately, Lady Playford had the foresight to invite Hercule Poirot to her party.... My only real quibble with Hannah's Poirot stories is that she uses first names far more often than was polite. Other than that? This mystery was splendid.
In 1988, Thomas Edison sued George Westinghouse over one word. For a billion dollars. Edison said that he owned the patent for the light bulb. Westinghouse stated that he owned the patent on a light bulb, and he hired newly-minted and untested Columbia Law School attorney Paul Cravath to sort it all out. Author Graham Moore mashes this historical fiction with a legal thriller and peppers it with real people - J.P. Morgan and the eccentric inventor Nikola Tesla join Edison and Westinghouse in this fascinating look at ambition, science, high-society, and the race to light up America.
Vivienne Cally is thirty years old, charming, beautiful, and very wealthy - but in name only. The Cally name is an old and respected one in Houston oil-money society, but Vivienne must marry and marry very, very well if she wants to maintain her status. Preston Duffin is shirking his gentlemanly duty by pursuing his passion for architecture school. And while he's both known and loved Vivienne for most of his life, he finds himself both drawn and repelled by Texas tradition and the people who uphold it. This is a 'comedy of errors' novel, inspired by Edith Wharton's House of Mirth, and I found the peek into Houston's rather closed old-money society fascinating.