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BOOK REVIEWS 

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What Should I Read Next?

The Little Red Christmas Ball: a story for kids and anyone whoever was…and would be again

The Little Red Christmas Ball, by Brian Moloney, is a sweet little chapter book. It is the perfect read-aloud for the holiday season. Part Velveteen Rabbit, part Charlotte’s Web, all wrapped up in a Christmas bow, it talks about the power of love and kindness and friendship. It’s an old fashioned nostalgic story, full of hope and cheer. To read more, click here.

The Fall of the House of Cabal: A Novel (Johannes Cabal Novels)

If you throw a dart at my list of book reviews, odds are good you’ll land on one of my odes to Jonathan Howard’s books and short stories. “The Fall of the House of Cabal” is no exception.  Click here to read more.

The Shattered Crown (The Legends of Ansu Book 2)
The Shattered Crown by AJ Webb is the second in the Legends of Ansu series, but you really don’t have to have read the first to enjoy this book. It is a sweeping fantasy epic, with many elements familiar to the genre. There’s a quest. There’s a struggle for power between the usurper and the legitimate heirs. There are dark forces, ancient beings, magic artifacts, beautiful queens, and roguish sword fighters. To read more, click here.

  Until He Comes: A Good Girl’s Quest to Get Some Heaven on Earth

“Until He Comes: A Good Girl’s Quest to Get Some Heaven on Earth” by K. Dawn Goodwin is a hilarious coming-of-age memoir written by a talenten author not afraid to strip herself bare (in some cases literally as well as metaphorically) to tell a good story.  Click here to read more.

Confessions of Super Mom

Confessions of Super Mom by Melanie Lynne Hauser left me asking myself more questions than the author probably expected me to.  The book centers around Birdie Lee, a suburban single mother of two, saddled with a toad of an ex-husband. One day, she spots a Stain of Unknown Origin and, when regular cleansers don’t do the job, she mixes them all, passes out, and wakes up with Super Powers.  Click here to read more.

  The Good Luck of Right Now: A Novel

The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick is a strange little book, with a narrator reminiscent of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.” Bartholomew Neil is a man in his late 30’s, clearly impaired in some way, though it is unclear in what way.  Bartholomew Neil is going through his recently deceased mother’s things, and finds a form solicitation letter purportedly from Richard Gere. Since his mother, at the end of her illness, called Bartholomew “Richard,” Bartholomew find this connection/coincidence to be unavoidable, and the book is written as a series of letters that Bartholomew writes to Richard Gere.  To read more, click here.

Gods Behaving Badly: A Novel

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips gets points mainly for creativity. It imagines a world in which the no-longer-worshipped Greek gods are living in a dysfunctional townhome in London.  To read more, click here.

A Solitary Romance: Book 1 in the Only Love Series

“A Solitary Romance” by Violet Sparks tells the story of Katrina Crimshaw, or “Kate,” a CPA and auditor who has a blog under a pseudonym regarding vintage jewelry. For reasons never quite explained, she doesn’t want anyone at her day job to know she has this passionate interest. When an old crush comes into town….click here to read more.

Every Day

Every Day by David Levithan is further proof of my theory that if you want to read a really good, beautifully written, engaging, creative, through provoking book that you ought to spend most of your time in the young adult section.  To read more, click here.

Stay Where You Are And Then Leave

“Stay Where You Are And Then Leave” by John Boyne is such a simple, lovely heartbreaking book.  Written by the author of “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,” it tells the story of Alfie, whose fifth birthday party is interrupted by the outbreak of World War One.  His father, Georgie, enlists, and promises to be “home by Christmas.”  Several Christmases go by, and Georgie still isn’t home, leaving Alfie and his mother in dire straits. To read more click here.

Someone Could Get Hurt: A Memoir of Twenty-First-Century Parenthood

“Someone Could Get Hurt” by Drew Magary is a hilarious parenting memoir from the father’s perspective that is relatable and heartbreaking at the same time.  Click here to read more.

Gol (Legends of Ansu) (Volume 1)by J.W. Webb

The good folks at BookBear asked me to participate in the virtual book tour for “Gol” by J.W. Webb. “Gol” is a sweeping fantasy novel, the beginning of the Legends of Ansu series. I’m always skeptical when I start novels like this because, while some of them are wonderful, some of them are tiresome, or overly dense. I am pleased to say that “Gol” falls into the category of fantasy books I like.  It’s a big story, with many characters and lots of threads of varying importance.  To find out more about it, click here.

The Kura

The Kura, by Mary Patterson Thornburg, is Ms. Thornburg’s second novel. Like her first, A Glimmer of Guile, she does a great job presenting the reader with a strong female protagonist whose intelligence and goodness is treasured above her other qualities. This is a rarity in fantasy literature, in which women are either pure evil or helpless, rarely three dimensional, and always prized mainly for their beauty. This would be alone a reason to read the book. But there are more reasons.  Click here to read them.

 

Thanks for the Trouble

“Thanks for the Trouble,” by Tommy Wallach, is more proof of my theory that if you really want something interesting, compelling, thought provoking, and different you should look in the Young Adult section.  In this book, the narrator, Parker, is a troubled kid who hasn’t spoken a word in five years. Not since he witnessed the death of his father. He cuts school one day, and happens upon Zelda, who seems to be Parker’s age, but claims to be much older.  To read more, click here.

Bernadette Peters Hates Me: True Tales From A Delusional Man

“Bernadette Peters Hates Me,” by Keith Stewart, has got to be one of the best titles of all time. Doesn’t it make you want to know why on Earth Bernadette Peters would hate anyone?  To read more, click here.

The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain

The Road to Little Dribbling, by Bill Bryson is a really funny book. It is mostly a travelogue, but it is also a rant about progress that really takes us backwards, people’s foolishness in general, and a lack of understanding about the importance of historic preservation.  To read more, click here.

 

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh is not like any other book. I guess it is a memoir of sorts, and it is definitely funny, but that really doesn’t tell you much.  The quality of the book itself is worth the price of admission. The pages are thick and glossy like a high quality coffee table book. Each chapter is printed on a different color of paper. The colors of the bizarre illustrations are bright and eye catching.  To read more click here.

It’s Not That I’m Bitter . . .: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Visible Panty Lines and Conquered the World by Dr. Gina Barreca

It’s Not that I’m Bitter, by Dr. Gina Barreca, is a somewhat philosophical, somewhat autobiographical, definitely funny book about professional, well-educated women. Dr. Barreca, a professor of English and Feminist Theory at the University of Connecticut, is also funny enough to be endorsed by the likes of Dave Barry. To read more, click here.

The Last Roadshow by John Czarnota

The Last Roadshow, by John Czarnota, has a fantasic premise: Joe Knocker (not his real name) goes to the filming of Antiques Roadshow programs. He finds someone with a valuable piece of artwork, and then six months later (so someone at the Roadshow won’t be suspected). His network of fences and dealers are extensive, as is his love of and appreciation for the works he steals. Just when he thinks he’s ready to retire, a man from whom Knocker has ‘liberated’ a flag presented by Lewis and Clark to a Native American chief figures out who he is and tracks him down.  To read more, click here.

Queen of Your Own Life: The Grown-Up Woman’s Guide to Claiming Happiness and Getting the Life You Deserve

Queen of Your Own Life by Kathy Kinney and Cindy Ratzlaff is not the kind of book I usually read, in that it is a sort of self-help book, full of self-affirming mantras and feel-good platitudes. However, Chicken Soup for the Middle Aged Woman’s Soul this is not. Kathy Kinney (best known as Mimi on the Drew Carey Show) and Cindy Ratzlaff (the marketing genius behind the South Beach Diet) are two intelligent, funny women who have been there and done that and want to pay it forward by telling you about it.  To read more, click here.

Simon: The Genius in My Basementby Alexander Masters

Simon: The Genius in My Basement by Alexander Masters is a sort of odd little book I found at the dollar store. It tells the story of Simon Norton, a mathematical prodigy, and how he went from Cambridge professor to eccentric bus schedule collector.  Click here to read more.

Supreme Courtship by Christopher Buckley

All the best satire is just a little bit too true. I read this book years ago. Now that Justice Antonin Scalia has died unexpectedly and, as my friend Suzanne wisely said, threw a gooey chocolate cupcake on the anthill that is 2016 politics, this book has become increasingly relevant.  To read more, click here.

 

New York Night: The 7th Jack Nightingale Supernatural Thriller

New York Night by Stephen Leather is a detective story, of sorts. Jack Nightingale is on loan from England to investigate mysterious killings in New York. The victims are mutilated and the crimes seem to be unrelated, but observant medical examiners have noticed that demonic sigils are carved into the bodies of the victims. The killers aren’t what they seem – they aren’t teenagers, they are demons who have taken over the bodies of the teenagers. It is Nightingale’s knowledge and experience with demons and the occult that allows him to tie the threads together and keep New York safe from the ultra-violence wrought by the denizens of Hell.  To read more, click here.

 

Forging of a Knight: The Stolen Thief

Forging of a Knight: The Stolen Thief, by Hugo V. Negron, is a fantasy adventure book, featuring noble knights, pompous kings, elves, myths, magic, and other creatures. Negron excels in world building and adventure. The world is complete, unique, and true to its own internal rules. There are difficult journeys and battles a-plenty, which will no doubt appeal to fantasy fans.  To read more, click here.

 

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children)

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs is, as I type this, being made into a movie by Tim Burton, who is probably the only person who could pull it off successfully.  Dark, different, and interesting, you really should read the book before you see the movie.  To read more and for links to the Amazon page, click here.

Go Set a Watchman: A Novel

After much consideration, I decided to read Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman.” I had a little bit of a moral conundrum about it: I mean, if she didn’t want me to read it, who am I to invade her privacy like that? But then, who am I to be sure that her caretaker is lying? Anyway, when I saw it propped up on the library table, I grabbed it.  To read more about what I thought after I read it, click here.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Saenz is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, and I’ve read a lot of good books lately. There are four medals printed on the cover from four prestigious literary award giving out institutions, and they are all deserved.  To read more, click here.

TOP TEN BOOKS TO READ IN 2016

A recap of my top ten reviews for 2015, as decided by a completely made up process.  Click here to read more.

Carter & Lovecraft

Dan Carter is a police detective whose partner mysteriously (and in Carter’s presence) kills himself with a smile on his face after a brief conversation with a serial killer who has committed suicide-by-cop. Carter resigns from the force and becomes a PI, but the out of character death of his partner continues to haunt him. The police aren’t interested in the unanswered questions about the serial killer, since the case is closed, but Carter is. When he suddenly inherits a book store in Providence, Rhode Island from a relative he didn’t know he had, things start getting weird.  To read more, click here.

East of the Sun: A Novel

East of the Sun by Julia Gregson is a sweeping, historical romance. I think I enjoyed it mostly because it outlined a time and place I don’t think of much: in the 1920s at the end of English colonial period in India.  To read more, click here.

The Children of Darkness

The Children of Darkness, by David Litwack, is a dystopian young adult novel, of the sort that seems to be very popular these days. This isn’t a Hunger Games clone, though, and has original characters and plot. I was given a copy of this book by the good folks at BookBear in exchange for an honest review.  I liked it.  I read most of it in one sitting. To read more, click here.

Openly Straight

In Openly Straight, a young adult book by Bill Konigsberg, Rafe, a Colorado teen, has been out of the closet since eighth grade. He doesn’t get much flak from his schoolmates for it, but he is known as “the gay kid” and this has repercussions socially. He’s athletic and reasonably smart, and just wants to be one of the guys. He convinces his parents to send him to a boarding school in New England where he can start fresh and no one has to know him as anything in particular.  To read more, click here.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

This week was Veteran’s Day. While I can’t say that I spent the whole day in prayers of thanks for the veterans who have served our country, I did actually spend some time thinking about my father and grandfather and how hard it must have been to be told by the government to pack their bags and leave their family and potentially be killed. The draft is such a strange thing for my generation to contemplate.  This book is so vivid and so real, and can’t help but make you appreciate the sacrifices veterans have made.  Click here to read more.

Show Time by Phil Harvey

Once again, the good folks at BookBear asked me to be a part of a virtual book tour, this time for a book called “Show Time” by Phil Harvey.  “Show Time” is a powerfully interesting book. It describes the life of the contestants on a Survivor-like show. What makes is unlike Survivor is that there is a good chance that they won’t actually survive. To read more, click here.

Fangirl: A Novelby Rainbow Rowell

This book is well on its way to being a young adult classic. It stars Cather (identical twin to Wren – get it Cather…Wren….?) who is what most young women imagine themselves to be and so is infinitely relatable. Cather is prettier than she thinks she is, funnier than she thinks she is, and not nearly as awkward in social situations as she thinks she is. She is so insecure about her looks that she can recognize her identical twin sister’s outer beauty while being convinced her own doesn’t exist.  Click here to read more.

 

All Who Go Do Not Return: A Memoir by Shulem Deen

This book is a memoir written by a once pious yeshiva boy living in an insular Hasidic community turned Brooklyn hipster.  The story of how that happened, the spiritual and social struggle, is really fascinating.  To read more, click here.

 

Secondhand Souls: A Novel by Christopher Moore

I have a confession to make: I love Christopher Moore. I make this by way of confession rather than simply a statement of opinion because he makes more penis jokes than someone of my pretend stature and education ought to approve of. He’s often crude, often blasphemous, but always creative and funny and original. And smart and well read – for someone who seems so obsessed with his manparts, Moore is well read and erudite and clever. No one is like Christopher Moore. Click here to read more about Moore’s latest.

 When to Rob a Bank: …And 131 More Warped Suggestions and Well-Intended Rants

When to Rob a Bank by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen L. Dubner is the fourth in the Freakonomics  series written by the duo, an economist/journalist pair. This book is a little bit different than the first three, in that rather than longer articles with in depth analysis, this is a curated collection of blog posts from the past ten years or so.  Click here to read more.  

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (Young Reader’s Choice Award – Intermediate Division)by John Boyne

This book is gorgeous. The writing is so simple and pure, and the story so heartbreaking, I’m afraid to read anything else by this author for fear that it won’t measure up.  Told from the perspective of 9 year old Bruno, the son of a high ranking Nazi official, this book gives a truly unique take on a subject which is often written about.  To read more, click here.

Desolation Sound by Fraser Heaton and Heather J. McAdams

Desolation Sound is a book written by Fraser Heston (son of Charleton) and Heather J. McAdams, who is a sorority sister of mine. You can decide for yourself which is a greater link to legend. Ha ha. Seriously, though, since proximity to greatness is completely unrelated to quality, this is in fact a well written book, even if it is kind of disturbing.  Click here to read more.

The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy: A Novel by Jacopo della Quercia

If you’ve read more than one or two of my reviews before, you know that there is nothing that impresses me more than originality. A close (related) second is cleverness. This book has both in spades. Click here to read more.

Super Sad True Love Story: A Novel by Gary Shteyngart

Don’t let the title of this book fool you. You should not read it because it is super sad, or true, or a love story. It isn’t terribly sad, or true or, really, a love story. You should read it because I’m guessing in about ten years, we’ll be calling Shteyngart a prophet. Click here to read more.

You Shall Know Our Velocity by Dave Eggers

This book has an odd title, which is ok, since it is kind of an odd book. It’s a profound one, though and definitely worth reading. The events in this book don’t so much happen as unravel. Information comes scattershot in the memories of the characters rather than summary pages and paragraphs. Slowly but surely it all makes sense. Even the title.  Click here to read more.

 Fowl Language Comics by Brian Gordon

Usually I use this space to tell you about books I think you’ll like. This time, however, I am going to tell you about a comic strip you should read. For free. Click here to read more.

Killer Smile (Rosato & Associates Series) by Lisa Scottoline

Mary DiNunzio, is a lawyer who was hired to get reparations for an Italian man who was placed in an American internment camp during WWII and ultimately committed suicide. The research in the case suddenly turns to murders, both old and new, and involve millions of dollars in illicit gains.  I don’t usually read courtroom dramas, but I liked this one.  Click here to find out why.

Hard Laughter: A Novel by Anne Lamott
Jennifer’s father, Wallace, has a brain tumor. They don’t know if it is cancerous or not, but in any event he is having brain surgery. Hard Laughter chronicles Jennifer’s life surrounding Wallace’s diagnosis, surgery, and (hopefully) recovery. Click here to read more.

 

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir by Bill Bryson

I loved this book. I cannot state that more strongly. I mean I really really loved it. Like, if it were a man, I would consider cheating on my husband for it. I loved it that much. (Just kidding, Mikey! You know I love you!)  Click here to read more.

 

The Wee Free Men (Tiffany Aching)by Terry Pratchett

The Wee Free Men is one of Terry Pratchett’s best, and you know that is saying something.  Don’t let the fact that it looks like a children’s book fool you.  Click here to read more.

 

The Kingdom of Keys by Brian Moloney

This is a fun, imaginative novel for the middle schoolers in your life, with a great message about staying true to yourself and doing what you think is right.  To read more, click here.

 

You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversationby Deborah Tannen

This is my review of a book I read a long long time ago that forever changed the way I think about what people say — and what I say and how I say it.  Click here to read more and for handy-dandy Amazon links.

The Poet of Tolstoy Park: A Novel (Reader’s Circle)by Sonny Brewer

But something about this book has stuck with me, and that, I think, is the mark of a truly good book. There are passages and ideas I think about all the time. To read more, click here.

 

Write to Grow by Colleen Walsh Fong

This is a book about how to create an online presence and create other marketing materials that contain content people will actually read and interact with.  It’s a surprisingly readable business book with no corporate doublespeak or self-congratulatory filler.  Click here to read more.

 

Dog on It: A Chet and Bernie Mystery (The Chet and Bernie Mystery Series) by Spencer Quinn

If you like detective novels but want to read one with a twist, or, if you’re like me and don’t particularly like detective novels because (yawn) they all follow the same basic plot line, this is the book for you.  It’s completely unique voice, pulled off flawlessly, will suck you in.  Bernie is the PI, Chet is his dog.  Chet is the narrator, who absolutely thinks like you are sure a dog does.  Click here to read more and for handy dandy links.

 

A Long Spoon by Jonathan L. Howard

Jonathan L. Howard, that is to say, Johannes Cabal, is at his best when in Hell. The literal Hell, not the figurative one.  Of all the Cabal adventures, this one may be my favorite, if for no other reason than Cabal may have finally met his equal.  Click here to read more.

The Language of Flowers: A Novel    by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

This is a book that will stick with you, potentially break your heart, and ensure that you will never look at a grocery store bouquet the same way again.  Click here to read more.

 

  Not a book, but….this is my new ringtone.  I love it!!  It gets stuck in my head and makes me giggle.

 

 My Fair Lazy by Jen Lancaster

It is hard to imagine a better book to read poolside, or on one of those days where work has worn you down and you just need a bit of fun, and perhaps a bit of schadenfreude.  Click here to read more.

Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan

If you are looking for a little bit of silly to get you through the day, the kind of book that makes you laugh and taps into something we are all thinking but don’t ever say out loud, this is the book for you.  Click here to read more.

 

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

As you can probably tell if you’ve read more than one of my reviews, I like books that are different. This young adult novel fits that bill. The premise is both possible, unique, thought provoking, and horrifying, and the characters are well drawn. Click here to read more.

 

Johannes Cabal the Detective by Jonathan Howard

This book is the follow up novel to the hilarious and inventive Johannes Cabal the Necromancer. It is just as funny, and just as clever. Click here to read more.

 

This Is How by Augusten Burroughs

I found this book in the humor section of the library. I’m not sure it should have been there. It was funny, but it also had a point. Click here to read more.

 

Neverwhere: A Novel by Neil Gaiman

This is a magical book, filled with brilliant prose and questions that will haunt you for weeks to come. Click here for more.

 

Jane Austen in Boca: A Novel

What if, instead of an upperclass English mother of three daughters, Jane Austen’s Mrs. Bennett was a busybody housewife from New Jersey? And what if her three daughters were retired Jewish women living in an insulated retirement community in Boca Raton? Click here to find out more about Paula Marantz Cohen’s novel.


Johannes Cabal: The Necromancer   by: Jonathan L. Howard

johannes-cabal-the-necromancerIf you’ve read a lot of books, you probably think you can’t be surprised by writing.  That every book is a variation on a theme already written.  Wrong.  Originality is not dead  Click here to read more.

 

 

The Tender Bar    by J.R. Moehringer  

the-tender-barHeartbreakingly beautiful.  And funny.  And somehow you end up cheering for the 10 year old to spend more time in the bar.  What?  Click here for more.

 

 

 

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened   by Jenny Lawson

lets-pretend-this-never-happened

Jenny Lawson is one of those people that you are pretty sure is certifiably insane.  She’s the good kind of crazy, though.  The hilarious kind.  Click here to find out what a ninja baby has to do with it.

 

 

A Glimmer of Guile   by Mary Patterson Thornberg

a-glimmer-of-guile-mary-patterson-thornburgImaginative, well written fantasy with non-marginalized or idealized women.  I love it!  Click here for more.

 

 

 

Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir by Roz Chast

Roz-Chast
Roz Chast, best known as a cartoonist for the New Yorker magazine, clearly thinks in pictures, so this graphic novel medium works perfectly for her story. Click here to read more.

 

You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty    by Dave Barry

http://www.loriduffwrites.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/you-can-date-boys-when-youre-forty-by-dave-barry.jpgI admit to being predisposed to liking anything written by Dave Barry. Basically, I want to be Dave Barry when or if I grow up. Or maybe it is the opposite – I hardly think that going from “lawyer/litigator” to “humor writer” could be called growing up. Anyway, I really did like this book.  Aside from the whole humor writer thing, my life parallels Dave Barry’s in some ways, or rather, his life parallels my family’s. In his family, he is in his 60s and yet has a young daughter and an adult son from a previous marriage. His wife is younger and Jewish, and he is not Jewish. In my family, my husband is in his 60s, and we have young kids about Dave’s daughter’s age, he has an adult son from a previous marriage. I am much younger than my husband, and I am Jewish, and my husband is Not. So there was a lot for me to relate to – about parenting children the age of my children, about being so much older than the other kids parents, about Bat Mitzvah prep, and even the final chapter about being a writer. Given that, it is possible that I liked this book more than other people would.

Still, whether you relate personally to what is going on or not, no one can argue that Dave Barry is just flat out, hands down, inarguably hilarious. Hilarious like don’t drink anything when you are reading him or you will spit it across the room. Hilarious like don’t read him in the waiting room of a doctor’s office or the other patients and family’s of patients will look at you like you are a psycho. Don’t read him on your iPad or phone while you are sitting through some boring meeting/class/lecture or you will be quickly found out.

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What Lori Likes August 6, 2014


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