Ghost by Jason Reynolds

Ghost (Track, #1)Ghost by Jason Reynolds

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Castle Crenshaw, who calls himself Ghost, is a kid who gets himself into trouble. And that trouble makes this book hard for me to read – I put this slim volume down countless times while cringing as Ghost does something he knows he shouldn’t. Still, I had to finish this compelling story.

Ghost is a kid who can run like the wind, a kid who has caught the eye of a track coach, a kid who has no gym shorts, no gym shoes.

Ghost is a kid who lives in the projects, a kid whose dad tried to kill him and his mom, a kid whose dad is in prison, a kid who has a lot of anger inside of him.

Ghost is a kid with a mom who has ambitions to make their lives better.

First in a series.

The Dry by Jane Harper

The DryThe Dry by Jane Harper

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Aaron Falk reluctantly returns home – to the rural farming community of Kiewarra, Australia, a place of childhood memories and one large and still looming mystery – for the funerals of his best friend Luke, Luke’s wife and six year old son.

Aaron works for the Australian Federal Police (AFP) in their financial crimes division in Melbourne. Luke’s parents, who were like surrogate parents to him during his childhood, implore him to look into their son’s death. They don’t believe he could have killed his family and himself. Aaron agrees to take a quick look and is surprised that the local police sergeant has doubts about the murder-suicide theory – Raco’s keen eye sees evidence that suggests something else happened and he welcomes Aaron’s help.

This is a quick yet well-developed read. The severe drought, the shocking suicide/murders, the tight-knit community on a downward spiral and Aaron’s haunting memories provide a mesmerizing prose.

First in a series.

Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes

Tales of the Madman UndergroundTales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I absolutely love Karl Shoemaker’s honest, youthful, brave, foul-mouthed, caring voice.
From laughter to tears, this book takes us through Karl’s first six days of senior year high school, this tale of fierce friendship in 1973 – much more interesting than any days of my senior year!
Karl’s dad was the mayor of Lightsburg, OH and there’s a street in town named for the family. Karl’s mother is a widow, an alcoholic who steals Karl’s hard earned money to drink not only at home, but in local bars so she can pick up men. She leaves an IOU with the date and amount whenever she steals from Karl. This makes Karl the only adult in this household, one who has wisely set up some kind of trustee account with his mom’s pay check so their bills get paid first. But…that just keeps the roof over their heads and the lights on.
Since fourth grade, Karl has been in group therapy at school. For this last year of school he is desperate to have a “normal” year:
No group therapy – no sessions with the Madman Underground during school hours – talk about a stigma inducer!
A social life?
A non-group therapy girl friend?
So, Karl launches “Operation Be Fucking Normal.” Oh, yeah. He wants to keep his friends who are all members of that therapy group.
A 2010 LJ review says “This book is the first, and not the last, title on this [?] list that details the impact of bad parenting on kids.” Ouch! I wonder what other books are on that list?
Two highlights:
p.454 “So we fell asleep holding hands. If married couples got to do this all the time, shit if I could understand how there were ever divorces, or even fights.”
p.505 The rescue for Karl. Just ask. Please. Kids of alcoholics? You’ll get it.

Fatal by John Lescroart

FatalFatal by John Lescroart

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Kind of Fatal Attraction-like.

Kate is attracted to Peter Ash, someone she met at a small dinner party, and she decides to act on her attraction. She thinks she has everything under control, nothing has been left to chance. The charges for the hotel will never been seen; she has not used a phone that can be traced back to her….

Then disaster strikes.

The bright star in the book is the character of Beth Tully. We think Kate will be the main character and her story will be the main plot-line. Haha – not true.

A word to John Lescroart fans: this is not his usual type of book.

The Magic Room: A Story about the Love We Wish for Our Daughters

The Magic Room: A Story About the Love We Wish for Our DaughtersThe Magic Room: A Story About the Love We Wish for Our Daughters by Jeffrey Zaslow

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I LOVED this book – from the Introduction to the very last Acknowledgments page. Zaslow was a gifted writer, weaving people’s stories into factual information about the wedding industry and our culture. Does that sound boring? His book was not boring, not at all!

Zaslow, a Wall Street Journal columnist, chose Becker’s Bridal for his setting which is located in the rural town of Fowler, MI and has been in business since 1899. He spent more than a year interviewing brides, researching their stories, finding what led them to Becker’s, its family owned business and its Magic Room – a former bank vault surrounded by floor to ceiling mirrors where brides are invited when they think they’ve found “the dress.” Each bride’s journey to Becker’s is different, some spanning years due to personal circumstances. Their journeys bring us stories of strong women!

What kind of love does Zaslow wish for our/his daughters? Love that shares and gives. Marriage that is a partnership; a spouse who is an ally and a teammate.

It’s so sad that he will not have “a chance to be a father of the bride.”

This is a good book club selection.

Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters

Highest Duty: My Search for What Really MattersHighest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters by Chesley B. Sullenberger

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A thoroughly enjoyable and inspiring book, I could sense the guidance of writer Jeffrey Zaslow throughout this amazing story of the life of pilot Chesley Sullenberger who landed U.S. Air flight 1549 in the Hudson River on a very cold January afternoon.

Undoubtedly, everything in Sully’s past helped prepare him for what could have been a disastrous bird strike and subsequent successful landing.

Glider Training He discounts his training as a glider pilot, noting instead that he relied on energy management, using the energy of the Airbus, without the function of either engine, to land safely. I still say his glider training must have helped. 🙂

Crash Site Investigation Definitely, his history of studying aviation accidents and reviewing an experimental “ditching” exercise from 1944 in the James River, and volunteering as a crash site investigator gave Sully tips (“procedural guidelines”) that he used just before his landing in the river.

Aircrew Ejection Study Something else that was critical to the safe landing of the aircraft was Sully’s fast decision to sacrifice the airplane for saving lives. Sully mentions an aircrew ejection study which examined why pilots waited too long (or never) to eject from their planes. The study found that pilots often tried to fix the unfixable. Sully’s flight was a little over 5 minutes – he says, “I had never forgotten the aircrew ejection study I had learned about in my military days. Why did pilots wait too long before ejecting from planes that were about to crash?…The answer is that many doomed pilots feared retribution if they lost multimillion-dollar jets. And so they remained determined to try to save the airplane, often with disastrous results.” Sully did not have the luxury of time, nor altitude. His disaster was looming and he “chose not to” worry about being questioned by superiors and investigators.

Home for Christmas

Home for ChristmasHome for Christmas by Andrew M. Greeley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My dad recommended this to me a few years ago!

I just re-read this in preparation for a readers advisory Holiday Book Discussion program. I couldn’t quite remember why this short, delightful story is one of my favorite Christmas books. There’s love and romance, reality, a cover-up, war and battles, and a gracious Medal of Honor acceptance speech on pages 164-165.

This book covers Peter Patrick Kane’s life from second grade on to life in the military where he is injured three times, badly enough to be awarded Purple Heart medals. His third injury sends him to a meeting with God who has a couple of things he wants Petey to accomplish.

The Catholic priest who plays a role in this book is the kind of pastor we all wish our parishes could have and keep! He is full of personality, reason, deep faith and wisdom.