Author Archives: Jez

Ugly by Robert Hoge (2016)

uglyhogeIn this real-life Wonder story, Robert Hoge describes his early life being born with not only a large tumor on his face affecting the placement of his facial features, but also legs which were underdeveloped. While he addresses some of the surgeries he underwent as baby up through high school, this autobiography centers around his family life and his determined spirit, despite challenges with his physical appearance and abilities along the way. I highly suggest the audiobook, read by the author himself. Check out Ugly and other titles on this year's 2019 Bluestem nominee list targeted for grades 3-5.

Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain (2015)

Another great book by Diane Chamberlain! She has a remarkable talent for developing complex, relatable characters facing difficult situations and telling thought-provoking stories that make me feel a whole host of emotions. Pretending to Dance centers around Molly who, with her husband, is hoping to adopt a baby. This process brings up painful memories from Molly’s past which she has kept hidden from her husband. The story deftly switches between present day and Molly as a rebellious 14 year old. Her very close relationship to her father, Graham, who is a paraplegic from MS, is handled with sensitivity and humor. Graham was my favorite character, with inspirational wisdom and loving insight into life. There are unexpected twists and turns throughout the storyline, and many issues raised in a compassionate manner.

Find Her by Lisa Gardner (2016)

After surviving 472 days kidnapped by a sexual predator, kept in a coffin-sized box and slowly starved, Flora Dane is rescued. She tells her story only once, to FBI victim advocate Samuel Keynes. When D. D. Warren, a Boston detective, is called to the scene of a brutal murder committed by Flora, she learns that Flora has been involved in three other incidents since her return to society. D. D. Warren wonders if Flora is a victim or a vigilante and whether she can assist in the Stacey Summers case, a college student who has been missing for three months. Lisa Gardner’s Find Her will give you an awareness of trauma bonding, the effects violent crimes have on the victim and their families, and the psychology of sadistic sexual predators. Discover other titles featuring D. D. Warren.

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume (2015)

What would you do if three planes crashed in your town within eight weeks? As fifteen-year-old Miri Ammerman, her mother Rusty, her grandmother Irene, and friends prepare for Hanukkah and Christmas in December 1951, an airplane crashes. In the Unlikely Event is an engrossing story told from multiple perspectives, has likable characters, and deals with relationships and romance in the midst of tragedy. Judy Blume has stated that that idea stemmed from real plane crashes that occurred in Elizabeth, New Jersey near where she lived – get the scoop in this Buzzfeed interview.  

The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking (2017)

Ranking as the happiest country in the world three years running, the Danish know a thing or two about creating pleasant environments. A Dane himself, there is perhaps no one more qualified to write on this topic than Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. One of the reasons for their happiness is hygge (pronounced hoo-ga), which loosely translates to a sense of comfort, togetherness, and well-being. Some of the ways you can achieve hygge are warm blankets, crackling fireplaces, good conversation, homemade sweets, and candles—lots and lots of candles. This little book’s pages are packed with ideas for nights on your own or with others; recipes; happiness research; history; travel tips; and Danish wisdom. Check out The Little Book of Hygge today.

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny (2016)

Retired Chief Inspector Gamache becomes Commander of the Surete Academy in hopes of wiping out the last traces of corruption infecting the Sûreté du Québec. But his choice of professors seems ill advised with two who clearly had been involved in the wrongdoing. Also, the reader is greatly puzzled why Commander Gamache decides to admit a freshman, previously rejected for good reason, just because he recognizes her name. As expected with Louise Penny’s mysteries, the interesting characters of Three Pines come into play, this time in regards to an old map found in the wall of the Bistro and as hosts to the unlikely freshman and three other cadets for whom Gamache has special interest following the violent death that befalls the Academy. A Great Reckoning brings out hope for redemption, forgiveness, and justice in answer to the misdeeds of the past. Check out The New York Times list on the “latest and best in crime fiction,” which includes a nod to A Great Reckoning.

Memory Man by David Baldacci (2015)

David Baldacci’s latest hero is quirky and troubled Amos Decker: he can’t forget anything thanks to a head injury in his first (and last) NFL game, and he abandons his career as a police detective following the murder of his wife and daughter. Sixteen months after the tragedy, a man unexpectedly confesses to that crime—but is he guilty? In Memory Man, an introspective antihero is drawn back into police work by a school shooting. Is it somehow connected to his family’s murder? A gripping story and a memorable character. Intrigued? Check out The Last Mile and The Fix (just released last month) for more Amos Decker action.

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck (2017)

In 1938, Marianne von Lingenfels makes a promise to watch over the families of German resistors. As the war comes to an end, she finds herself taking in Benita and her son, Martin, and Ania and her two sons, Anselm and Wolfgang, at the family's run-down castle. The three women struggle to survive on their own as they come to terms with the enormous toll the war has taken on them. Taking place over almost sixty years, the novel explores the lives of everyday Germans during the war, a view that hasn't really been explored at length in popular fiction. The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck is an absorbing read that would be great for discussion. For people who enjoyed Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly and other female-centered World War II fiction.

I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes (2014)

A new author for fans of high-octane thrillers. Don’t be intimated by the size of this book (over 600 pages). I normally avoid books this size, but the description intrigued me enough to try it, and I’m really glad I did! I am Pilgrim is roller coaster ride of constant action; worldwide settings; a variety of complex, flawed, captivating characters; and many unpredictable twists and turns. The main character, code named “Pilgrim,” a former member of a covert US agency that dealt with terrorism, is pulled into a murder investigation by a friend who’s a top New York City police detective. This, in turn, leads him (and us, the readers) to many places around the globe – Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, and Turkey as he attempts to take down a terrorist group planning a potentially catastrophic attack on the US. Terry Hayes’ novel is a fun, high-adrenaline, and strangely addictive read.

The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood (2013)

In Ann Hood’s novel, a clever storyline follows two women's lives some fifty years apart against a backdrop of significant events in American history: the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco and its aftermath, and the 1960 presidential election and inauguration of JFK. At one point in The Obituary Writer, their two storylines merge into one. Vivien and Claire are not contemporaries, yet they share certain struggles and dreams. Can one woman's regrets bring closure and happiness to another woman? With the women's movement and all the changes of the 20th century, did individual women's lives change that much? Even in the 21st century, do women continue to feel trapped in traditional roles?