Jessica's books

The One and Only Ivan
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**