Friday, October 28, 2016

Review: For This Life Only by Stacey Kade

For This Life Only

For This Life Only is very different from Stacey's other books.  It doesn't contain her usual quick wit and humor that I have come to expect.  In fact, it was a bit of a tearjerker at the end, so you may want to keep that in mind if you are planning on reading this book in public.  Stacey grew up as a PK (pastor's kid), so I'm sure this book was harder for her to write than most of the others because it certainly hits closer to home than ghosts and aliens.

Jace and his brother Eli are the twin sons of the local minister.  Their father expects everyone in the family to maintain a perfect image and to always reflect positively on the family and the church.  Their grandfather was the minister before their father took over and everyone assumes they will eventually carry on the family tradition.  For Eli, that may be a possibility, but Jace is well on his way to a baseball scholarship and plans on moving as far away as possible.  Everything changes the night Eli and Jace are involved in a car accident.  Jace injures his arm and leg and will never be able to pitch again.  Eli was even less fortunate.

The majority of the book revolves around Jace's family struggling with the loss of Eli.  Jace always viewed Eli and the "good twin" while he was the "bad twin" or the screw up.  They were two halves of a whole and without his brother, he is only half of what he should be.  

Jace has always been taught to believe in the afterlife, but after nearly dying and losing his brother, be begins to question his beliefs.  He can't turn to his family or the church, so he seeks guidance from Thera, who he discovers was secretly friends with Eli.  The reason for the secrecy....she is the daughter of the local psychic and the church does not approve of this profession.  The church would also like to take over her mother's property, which is located directly across the street from the church, and has been trying to force them out for years.  The more Jace gets to know Thera, the more he realizes his brother may not have been as perfect as he seemed.  

Overall, this was a very thought provoking book.  Stacey doesn't attempt to provide the answers to Jace's questions about loss and the afterlife.  She does; however, share some research and evidence that allows readers a chance to explore their own thoughts on the subject without pressuring anyone into a certain set of beliefs.  We also get to see Jace mature and stand up for himself and the things he believes in, which provided a silver lining in this otherwise tragic story.  

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Review: Four to Score by Janet Evanovich

Four to Score (Stephanie Plum, #4)

Stephanie Plum is back in action as Trenton, New Jersey's most lovable bounty hunter.  She may not be the most talented, but she certainly is the most entertaining.  

This time around she is looking for Maxine Nowicki, who was arrested for stealing her estranged boyfriend's car and failed to appear for her court date.  It seems strange to everyone that Maxine would run from the police for such a minor offence.  This could have all blown over by simply paying a fine and returning the car.

Stephanie soon discovers that Maxine's good friend Margie "accidentally" cut off her finger and Maxine's mother has a nasty head injury, which was also an "accident."  In addition Maxine’s former boyfriend, Eddie Kuntz, is willing to pay Stephanie $1,000 to find Maxine, so there is clearly more to this story than meets the eye.  
Eddie starts receiving mysterious clues from Maxine, which are in a secret code that nobody can solve.  Stephanie recruits the services of her elderly neighbor's nephew who is a pro at solving these types of puzzles.  He also happens to be one of Trenton's most famous drag queens, which really spices things up.  Add in Lula, Grandma Mazur and the other usual suspects and you have one hilarious page turner.

In addition to the hunt for Maxine, things are beginning to heat up with Joe Morelli.  Stephanie is forced to move in with him when someone sets her apartment on fire.  She doesn't want to bring any trouble to her parents' house, so she turns to Joe for help.  They have had a love/hate relationship since Stephanie was 6 years old, but they may be moving in a more positive direction.  

I'm still very early in this series, which currently has 23 novels plus some holiday stories.  I'm not sure how long Evanovich can keep up this all luck / no skill bounty hunter routine while still keeping the series funny and fresh, but so far so good.  I gave Four to Score 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads and will definitely continue onto book five.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Marathon Monday: Nationwide Children's Hospital Columbus Half Marathon

Sunday October 16th was the Nationwide Children's Hospital Columbus Half and Full Marathon.  It was 60 degrees while we waited at the start and warmed up to the mid 70's for those full marathon runners that took a little longer to finish. It was probably only in the high 60's by the time I finished a little before 10:00 A.M., so I couldn't have asked for a better day.

Here I am with half of my cheering section prior to the race.

The start of the Columbus race is always exciting with fireworks and music to send off the runners.

I saw my "fan club" a couple of miles into the race and again at the 7 mile point.

They were also at the finish, which was quite impressive compared to the last time I ran this race when I never saw anyone until well after I finished.  

Here are my official results:

And of course you have to get the customary post race celebration picture.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Review: The Partner by John Grisham

The Partner

I was a huge fan of John Grisham's legal thrillers back in high school, but I haven't read many since.  I decided to pick up where I left off and read his 8th book, The Partner, which was released in 1997.  I've heard that some of his never books aren't as good as the originals, but he certainly had his A game when he wrote this novel.

The Partner is about a young attorney in Biloxi, Mississippi named Patrick Lanigan who faked his death to start his life over.  He was in a bad marriage and discovered the partners in his firm were planning on firing him before he could cash in on their corrupt scheme.  He carefully gathered the evidence he needed before staging a car accident and sailing off into the sunset.  The partners of the firm put on a good show at the time of his funeral, but were secretly grateful for their good fortune.  

When the 90 million dollar settlement was wired into the firm's account it immediately went missing.  The firm was supposed to receive 1/3 of the amount (30 million dollars) with the remainder being transferred to their client.  Everyone began to question the circumstances surrounding Patrick's death and the search soon began.

When Patrick is found in Brazil four years later everyone thought he would finally be brought to justice and their stolen money wold be returned.  Little did they know the depths of the research and planning he had done the year before he left as well as while he was on the run.  

I was absolutely amazed by the level of detail.  Everything is woven together seamlessly and I couldn't help but root for Patrick to come out unscathed.  While his actions appeared to be inexcusable on the surface, he managed to have an explanation for everything.  There was always a bigger fish in the sea with regards to every accusation and Patrick had every detail covered.

I was highly entertained and would definitely recommend this book.  There was a shocking twist at the very end that I never would have anticipated.  I guess Grisham didn't want to leave readers with a too good to be true feeling and decided to drop a bomb in the last chapter.  Now I'm curious if there is more to Patrick's story in one of his future novels of if he truly was left hanging in the balance.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Review: The Bronze Key by Cassandra Clare & Holly Black

The Bronze Key (Magisterium,  #3)

The Bronze Key is the third book in the Magisterium series.  Call, Aaron and Tamara are on a quest to uncover who the "spy" is within the Magisterium and why he or she is targeting Call.  The most obvious reason is the fact that he is a Maker, which is someone who specializes in chaos magic.  There are very few Makers in each generation and very little is knows about their form of magic.  As a result, many people are afraid of them or perhaps want to be them.  The students don't believe that is the reason for the threats on Call's life because Aaron is also a Maker and he hasn't been threatened.

Call does have a secret that only his father and closest friends are aware of, which is most likely the reason for the attacks.  They can't share this information with anyone.  Call, Aaron, Tamara and Jasper must work together to solve this mystery on their own.

The conclusion of this book was not at all what I was expecting.  This is a middle grade series, but Holly and Cassandra certainly aren't coddling these characters or their readers.  There is an epic battle as one would expect and the fallout was more than a little shocking.  I have no idea what direction they will take the series next, but it probably leans more to the "Evil Overlord" side of the spectrum.

Overall, this book wasn't as fast paced and gripping as the first two books in the series, but that is often the case with middle books in a series.  Hopefully things will pick up again with book four or I'm afraid they will lose their appeal to younger readers.  I have a sixth grade son that probably would enjoy the first two books in the series, but he would likely struggle to get through this one.