Jessica's books

The One and Only Ivan
Pollyanna
Revolutionary War on Wednesday
Leprechaun in Late Winter
Ella Enchanted
The Courage of Sarah Noble
Plain Murder
Gone-Away Lake
Circling the Sun
Maggie and Max
The Haunting of Sunshine Girl
The Night Sister
Tuck Everlasting
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Bedknob and Broomstick
Mister Monday
Alice Through the Looking Glass
The Birchbark House
The Hobbit
The Witch's Daughter


Jessica's favorite books »

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Book Review: The Whistler by John Grisham


The Whistler 

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

We expect our judges to be honest and wise. Their integrity and impartiality are the bedrock of the entire judicial system. We trust them to ensure fair trials, to protect the rights of all litigants, to punish those who do wrong, and to oversee the orderly and efficient flow of justice.

But what happens when a judge bends the law or takes a bribe? It’s rare, but it happens.

Lacy Stoltz is an investigator for the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct. She is a lawyer, not a cop, and it is her job to respond to complaints dealing with judicial misconduct. After nine years with the Board, she knows that most problems are caused by incompetence, not corruption.

But a corruption case eventually crosses her desk. A previously disbarred lawyer is back in business with a new identity. He now goes by the name Greg Myers, and he claims to know of a Florida judge who has stolen more money than all other crooked judges combined. And not just crooked judges in Florida. All judges, from all states, and throughout U.S. history.

What’s the source of the ill-gotten gains? It seems the judge was secretly involved with the construction of a large casino on Native American land. The Coast Mafia financed the casino and is now helping itself to a sizable skim of each month’s cash. The judge is getting a cut and looking the other way. It’s a sweet deal: Everyone is making money.

But now Greg wants to put a stop to it. His only client is a person who knows the truth and wants to blow the whistle and collect millions under Florida law. Greg files a complaint with the Board on Judicial Conduct, and the case is assigned to Lacy Stoltz, who immediately suspects that this one could be dangerous.

Dangerous is one thing. Deadly is something else.

My Thoughts:

I am a HUGE John Grisham fan!  I love his legal thrillers and always race through the book.  It's been a long time since I've read one of his books though.  I was immediately drawn into the story and hardly put the book down until I finished it.

Lacy works for the Board on Judicial Conduct in Florida.  She is single and happy to do her job and go home to her French Bulldog.  She hangs out with her partner, Hugo Hatch and his wife Verna.  She has a good life. 

Hugo is a father of four with his wife, Verna.  The littlest is still just a baby and loves to keep her parents up at all hours of the night.  Hugo is sleep deprived and grumpy but you can tell he loves his wife, loves his kids and loves his job.  He was my absolute favorite character!

Lacy gets contacted by a man that claims he has information on a corrupt judge, a mafia group and an Indian casino.  Lacy and Hugo meet the man to see if his information pans out.  The man, Gregory, is in hiding himself and is very cryptic.  He gives Lacy and Hugo just enough information to get started.  After speaking with their boss, they decide they will investigate.  

Now Lacy and Hugo are thrown into a dangerous game where someone is very likely to get hurt.  People are killed, some disappear and others are hunted.   The evidence against the judge, the casino and other key players builds up and these people are getting nervous.  

I loved the characters in this novel.  Lacy was stubborn and ambitious and was not really afraid of a lot (other than getting behind the wheel of a car later but there is good reason for that).  Hugo is just a big, lovable teddy bear and Gregory was mysterious but also a very fun character to me.  

This book started off with mystery and kept it going until the end.  It was exciting and full of surprises.  John Grisham did not disappoint me with this book!



 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Book Review: Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm 

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

"All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others."

One night on an English farm, Major the boar recounts his vision of a utopia where his fellow creatures own the land along with the means of production and are no longer the slaves of humans.

Before long his dream comes true, and for a short while all animals really are equal. But the clever pigs educate themselves and soon learn how to extend their own power, inevitably at the expense of the rest of the community.

This well-loved tale is, of course, a satire on the Soviet Communist system that still remains a powerful warning despite the changes in world politics since "Animal Farm" was first published.

This production is based on Orwell's own radio version which was first produced in 1947.
 

My Thoughts:

I assigned this book to my 8th grader to read for literature this year (we homeschool) but figured that since I was making him read it, I should read it as well.  It was one of the books in my AP English class that I decided to skip in high school.  My son and I had a great time discussing this one!

Old Major knows he is nearing the end of his life.  He has a dream and decides to share it with the other animals on Manor Farm.  He talks about a revolution, how humans are no good, and how the animals are living a life of misery and slavery to make a human's life better.  Once Old Major dies, the idea of a revolution starts to grow and suddenly the animals on Manor Farm are in charge after running their owner off. 

The animals come together at first and work to make sure all animals are treated equally.  They have rules to follow that they write on the barn wall and they all work together to get Manor Farm, now known as Animal Farm, to be productive.  The animals decide that the pigs should be the ones in charge since they are the most "intelligent".  Pretty soon that leads to more problems than before though.

Animal Farm is a very powerful story.  It's about power and greed, brainwashing, communism, and how history often repeats itself, especially if there is no one who remembers the past.   This book has a lot of lessons to be learned and I am very glad I decided to read it.  It led to many interesting talks with my kiddo.

 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Book Review: Sweet Lake by Christine Nolfi

Sweet Lake: A Novel (Sweet Lake, #1) 
 Synopsis (from Goodreads):  

Linnie Wayfair knows just how many people are counting on her. But knowing doesn’t make doing any easier.

Everyone in Sweet Lake, Ohio, wants her to muster all her business sense and return the Wayfair Inn to its former glory. Her parents hope she’ll forgive her scoundrel of a brother and reconcile the family. The eccentric Sweet Lake Sirens want her to open the inn—and her heart—to new possibilities. And her hilarious lifelong friends Jada and Cat are dropping none-too-subtle hints for her to ignite a romance with Daniel Kettering, the sexy attorney who’s been pining for her for years…

Now a shocking turn of events will open old wounds and upend the world Linnie has carefully built. She has to make changes quickly—and the results, though not entirely what she expected, might be what she’s been yearning for all along.

My Thoughts:

I have read a few of Ms. Nolfi's novels and while I have enjoyed them all, I think Sweet Lake is my favorite.  It was a sweet, feel good story that had some romance, turmoil and some family issues that desperately needed to be resolved.

Linnie is working hard to undo the trouble that her older brother, Freddie, imposed on her family and her town.  The inn that her parents have put her in charge of when Freddie ran off with stolen money is finally in the black again.  Linnie is in charge of a big event that will definitely help the inn when she finds out her brother is in town for some mysterious reason.  

Linnie is hurt when her long time friend, Daniel, helps Freddie.  Daniel is an attorney so he is unable to break client/attorney privilege and tell Linnie why Freddie is in town or what issues Freddie is dealing with.  Freddie is a film maker in California and brings his whole entourage to the inn to wreak havoc and cause Linnie stress.  Add to this chaos Freddie brings, Linnie also has to deal with the town and the group of older women called The Sirens that are ready to hang Freddie.  Oh, and did I mention Linnie also has to deal with her parents who think that Freddie does no wrong and a romance that is beginning with Daniel?  Poor girl has a lot on her plate!

I loved most of the characters in this book.  The Sirens were hilarious.  They were a group of older women who were trying to protect Linnie as best they knew how, which included good luck charms, good energy and wisdom of their years.  Daniel was very sweet and has had feelings for Linnie for a long time.  You can tell he cares deeply for her but he has his morals and cannot bring himself to break his client's confidentiality.  Cat and Jada, Linnie's best friends, are hysterical and I found myself agreeing with them about how Linnie should approach her family drama.  Freddie was an immature child and I couldn't stand him or Linnie's parents.  Linnie would annoy me slightly when she wouldn't stand up for herself with her parents but in the end, I was very proud of her.
I thought this was a very entertaining and uplifting book.  I can't wait to read more about Sweet Lake and its crazy characters!


 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Book Review: Unbelievable (Pretty Little Liars 4) by Sara Shepard

Unbelievable (Pretty Little Liars, #4) 

 Synopsis (from Amazon):

Four pretty little liars' charmed lives have turned into living nightmares. 

Emily's been shipped off to Iowa to live with her ├╝berconservative cousins. Aria's boyfriend is behind bars—because of her. Spencer's afraid she was involved in Ali's murder. But Hanna's fate is far worse: She's clinging to life in the hospital because she knew too much.

If these girls don't start listening to me, Hanna's going to look like the lucky one.

My Thoughts:

I can't believe it took me this long to start this book after finishing book 3!  Hanna was hit by a car at the end of the last book and coincidentally, it was right before she could tell the other girls who "A" was.  So, this book opens with Hanna still in a coma and Spencer and Aria trying to figure out if she really knew that answer to the question that has been plaguing them all.

Emily has been sent off to Iowa to live with her cousins because her parents don't approve of the fact that she is gay.  Her cousins are from this super strict family and Emily knows that her life is going to be miserable there, especially after riding home with her aunt and uncle.  However, Emily was in for quite the surprise when it came to her cousins.  After her cousins betray and place all the blame for their little outing (where Emily meets another girl) on Emily, Emily runs away and ends up back in Rosewood.   Now Emily, Aria and Spencer have to help Hanna try to remember who "A" is and Emily has to figure out what she is going to do between the new girl and Maya.

Aria is now living with her father and Meredith because her mom kicked her out and then she was caught kissing Ezra, her teacher and so her boyfriend kicked her out of his house as well.  She is not happy about living with Byron and Meredith but what can she do?  She continues to try to show her father what a poor choice Meredith is for him but surprisingly she maybe starts to soften a little towards Meredith at the end.  

Spencer has to continue the sham of the Golden Orchid contest and pretend she knows what she wrote about, which of course, she doesn't because she turned in her sister's paper instead of her own.  Spencer's parents refuse to let her tell the truth because they don't want to tarnish their family's reputation.  Spencer makes it through the interviews but just barely.  She is trying to figure out if her sister is the on who killed Ali and it's really wreaking havoc with her mind.

Hanna finally wakes from the coma but can't remember anything from the night of the accident.  She doesn't remember her fight with Mona or why she was in the park to meet the other girls.  Lucas tries to lead her away from Mona and tells her numerous times to ask Mona about the fight that they had.  Of course, Mona downplays the fight and it isn't until it's too late that Hanna remembers....and she remembers everything!

This book was full of twists and excitement.  I love the alternating views in each chapter.  It keeps it fresh and you never get bored with one character.  I can't wait to read book #5!


Book Review: Aspen Everlasting by Kathryn Cooper

Aspen Everlasting 

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Water splashed on all sides then took control of the tires. The car swerved right toward the river.
“No. NO. NO!” I turned the wheel toward the road. It didn’t work. Fast running water pulled the car into the flooded river.


Aspen Foster thinks she’s just a normal sixteen-year-old, but when her car’s caught in a flash flood, Aspen and her sister discover the superhuman strength they never knew they had.

Soon Aspen learns she’s not normal at all. She’s an Evermortal fairy, with powers beyond her wildest dreams. But the more Aspen finds out about her family’s past, the more dangerous her future becomes.

This riveting fantasy is full of action, adventure, and romance. Suspenseful and exhilarating!
 

My Thoughts:

Aspen and her sister, Willow, are caught in a flash flood with two of Willow's friends.  As the car is sinking, Aspen and Willow both find some inhuman strength and kick open windows and well as throw Willow's two friends an incredible distance to safety.  Both are very surprised by this strength but chalk it up to adrenaline (we've all heard of the parent who has lifted a car off their child or some story along those lines) so it's not too hard to believe.  At least, it's not too hard to believe until the next day when they both still have this incredible strength.  When their brother, Ash, also exhibits the same strength, the teens decide to go out and look for their parents (a park ranger and nature photographer) to get some answers.

The answers that the kids' parents have for them are unbelievable.  They are Evermortal fairies that are in hiding from the queen.  They learn all this quickly as they are on the run from the queen's henchmen so they don't have much time to get all the details but Aspen certainly has a lot of questions.

After arriving safely home, Aspen gets a few more answers from her parents.  Evermortals age more slowly than humans and her parents are really much older than they thought, as are their grandparents.  Evermortals are incredibly good looking as well.  Aspen isn't sure how to deal with these things or let her crush, Nate know.  Until she finds out that Nate is also special.  She also finds out that there are more Evermortals in her town than she knew of.

Now Aspen has to figure out what other secrets her parents are hiding from her (and there are many more) and try to stay safe, which is hard to do when you don't know which people are your friends and which ones are your enemies.

This was a fun and quick book to read.  I love that it was a clean read (some kissing between Aspen and Nate but that's all) and I would totally feel comfortable with my daughter reading it.  The only thing that was a little off for me was how quickly the kids accepted what they were.  Aspen certainly had questions for her parents but if my parents told me that I was a fairy, my reaction would not be as easy going and accepting as Aspen's and her sibling's reactions were.  Aspen also put herself into danger a couple of times that was unnecessary.  I understood her need for information but sometimes she just wasn't thinking at all.  

All in all, this was a fast paced read full of excitement and a little romance.  The end tied up nicely but left things open for possibly another book.  I really enjoyed it!

**I received this book from the publisher for an honest review**
 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Book Review: Mischief and Manors by Ashtyn Newbold

Mischief and Manors 

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

When Annette Downing and her mischievous little brothers are sent to Kellaway Manor for the summer, she hopes for a relaxing escape. But Annette finds her closeted heart in jeopardy when reunited with the handsome Owen Kellaway, a childhood acquaintance and respected gentlemen. When Owen is enlisted to help the boys with their behavior, Annette wonders if he has just as much mischief up his sleeve as her brothers. Bound by a promise she made to her late parents, and amid a frightening mystery, Annette faces a difficult decision when she finds herself falling for Owen's charm… 

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this clean, fun romance.  It was refreshing to read a book with no sex or swearing.  The characters were funny and I loved reading about the boys and all the mischief they get themselves into!

Annette and her little brothers are sent to live with their very prim and proper, mean and abusive aunt after the death of their parents.  Annette made a promise to care for her brothers and she fully intends to keep that promise and protect them from their aunt's wrath.  The boys are young though and as the saying goes, "boys will be boys".  They are into all sorts of trouble all the time. 

Annette's aunt issues Annette and the boys an ultimatum.  They either go away to Kellaway Manor for the summer and learn to become proper gentlemen or the aunt will send the boys to the orphanage.  Annette hasn't been to Kellaway Manor since she was nine and her last visit there ended in her own mischief with the boy that lived there.  

Once there, Annette feels right at home, even though Owen Kellaway (the boy she met at age 9) is there as well and still appears to cause some mischief.  Owen promises to help make the boys into the gentlemen they need to be and Annette finds herself falling for him a little more every day.

This story has it all.  It has romance, humor and even a little mystery.  There are parts where I actually laughed out loud.  It was a very entertaining read that I wasn't able to put down!

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review*


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Book Review: Caitlyn's Christmas Wish by Laura L. Walker

Caitlyn's Christmas Wish 

Synopsis (from Goodreads): 
 Just when former model and single mother Caitlyn Drevier Reel has finally put her life on track after a divorce and six-month stint in rehab, she is surprised to receive an invitation from her ex-in-laws to spend Christmas with the family. After all, she reasons, her ex-husband Grant is constantly on the road with his band and it's only fair to allow them to get to know her young son, Brody. What Caitlyn isn't prepared for, however, is the spark of attraction she feels toward Ridge, Grant's older brother, or the sense of belonging to their wonderful family once again. Ridge, who is recovering from his own personal heartache, seems to feel the same about her. As they work together to ensure the success of the Winter Festival his parents have organized for their small Wyoming town, Caitlyn begins to envision a bright future. But will Grant's unexpected arrival keep her Christmas wish from coming true? This inspirational novella will have you grabbing a cup of hot cocoa as you get in the holiday mood.

My Thoughts: 

Caitlyn's Christmas Wish is a short, sweet, Christmas story that leaves you feeling good when you finish it.  

Caitlyn is a former model who was once married to a famous country singer, Grant.  Caitlyn divorced Grant when she found out she was pregnant because Grant was selfish and addicted to drugs.  Caitlyn had her own problems with eating disorders and Grant's family supported her while she went to a rehab center.  Now Grant's family has asked Caitlyn to spend Christmas with them.  They want to see their eight-month old grandson, Brody and they don't expect that Grant will be around because, well, he never comes home for the holidays. 

Caitlyn takes the family up on their offer and heads to the town where Grant's father is the mayor.  Grant's family is in the middle of a Christmas festival that lasts a few days so Ridge, Grant's brother, is the one who meets up with Caitlyn when she arrives.  There is an immediate spark between the two and Ridge, although a little awkward with Brody, seems to enjoy him.  

Of course, a couple days later, Grant surprisingly shows up.  Grant is having some issues and needs to get back together with Caitlyn to solve those issues.  Caitlyn has (very quickly) fallen in love with Ridge and has no desire to get back together with Grant.  The family goes through some conflicts but the story ends leaving you feeling good and in the Christmas mood.

I really liked Caitlyn and Ridge.  This book is such a short and fast read that there had to be an instant attraction between Ridge and Caitlyn so I wasn't too annoyed with that like I usually am with instant romances.  Grant was a very childish and immature man that annoyed every part of me.  

Charles and Jacinda are Grant and Ridge's parents and I really liked how they put Grant in his place several times.  He is their son and they love him but they had no problem telling him that he was wrong in the past and that he wasn't going to be allowed to act like the entitled brat that he was acting like.  

The story was very clean.  There was romance and kissing but no sex or foul language.  The Reel's are a religious family who believe that the birth of Jesus Christ is the reason for Christmas but it was pretty mild and not preachy at all.  

If you are looking for a feel good Christmas story that you can read quickly, because we all know how busy this time of year is, then pick up this book.  

 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Book Review: The Liar by Nora Roberts

The Liar 
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Shelby Foxworth lost her husband. Then she lost her illusions …

The man who took her from Tennessee to an exclusive Philadelphia suburb left her in crippling debt. He was an adulterer and a liar, and when Shelby tracks down his safe-deposit box, she finds multiple IDs. The man she loved wasn’t just dead. He never really existed.

Shelby takes her three-year-old daughter and heads south to seek comfort in her hometown, where she meets someone new: Griff Lott, a successful contractor. But her husband had secrets she has yet to discover. Even in this small town, surrounded by loved ones, danger is closer than she knows—and threatens Griff, as well. And an attempted murder is only the beginning …
 
My Thoughts:
I have always loved Nora Roberts.  Her books are always a fun read that doesn't make you think too much but full of suspense and anticipation.  The Liar is no different.  Although I had the ending figured out almost from the first chapter, I was still in for a few surprises.
Shelby is from a small town in Tennessee.  She meets Richard and runs away with him to get married and live a life of luxury...or so she thinks.  Shelby travels the world with Richard but once she gets pregnant, Richard is distant and it is obvious he doesn't want a child.  He leaves Shelby and their daughter often for business trips.  The one trip they were supposed to take with Richard, they end up staying home because of a sick child, and Richard gets into a tragic accident.  His body is lost at sea and Shelby is left a single mother with an unimaginable debt to pay off.  It seems Richard was not at all what he said.  Their whole life was a sham.
Shelby and her daughter, Callie, head back home to the hills of Tennessee.  There she is welcomed by her family and most of the town.  When some strange people show up in town and some even stranger things start to happen, Shelby knows that there is something more going on with Richard's lies and that she may very well be in danger.
I had the ending figured out pretty much from the beginning so that was a little disappointing but the book still kept me interested and it was such an easy read.  I loved Shelby and her mom and grandmother.  Nora Roberts described the town much like what I would expect from a small southern town (think Steel Magnolias) with the beauty shop gossip and the "second runner-up" beauty queen that still thinks she runs the town.  
There were a couple issues I had with the story like the way the law enforcement was portrayed. I come from a family in law enforcement and there is no way that some of the stuff that Forrest (Shelby's deputy brother) did would fly in any department that I know.   I was not bothered by the instant romance between Shelby and Griff because that isn't unusual in a Nora Roberts book but the way they talk to each other sometimes drives me insane.  "I just met you but I am in love with you and we will date/have sex/get married because I say so" dialogue is just annoying.  Shelby's family was almost perfect and it was so easy for her to just jump back into life in her town.  She found not one but two jobs that were just perfect for her and, aside from one "mean girl" character, everyone forgave her for running off and it was just like she never left.  Even her best friend, who was deeply hurt, had a quick talk with Shelby, said she was going to be hurt for a little bit and then seemed to forget about it all.  
If you want an fun, easy, slightly suspenseful and romantic read then you will like this book.  If you are looking for a mystery with an unpredictable ending, you will be disappointed in this one.  I enjoyed it but it definitely won't at the top of my favorite 2016 reads.