Twisted Paths

Run Away by Harlan Coben includes everything I love about a book. It kept me turning pages (I finished it in two days); it’s action packed with interesting characters and surprising twists.  

Simon Green is sitting in Central Park when he sees his apparently homeless/drug-addicted daughter playing music for money. She is dressed shabbily and is clearly not doing well.  He attempts to approach her, but her boyfriend intervenes. All goes horribly wrong. He needs a lawyer for the fallout after punching her boyfriend Aaron, which goes viral almost immediately (“wealthy man punches homeless man”).  Meanwhile Paige gets away. Readers will gradually find out how Paige ended up in this situation in the first place. 

Some time passes after this incident before Aaron turns up viciously murdered. The police are looking at Simon and his wife as suspects. Meanwhile, a private investigator from Chicago ends up crossing paths with Simon. Both are searching for missing people connected by Aaron.  They begin working together (as Simon’s wife recovers from an almost fatal gunshot wound) to investigate the whereabouts of their missing people.

Readers will be taken down the crazy paths of murder and missing people investigations while also switching to follow the actual murderers.  Discovering the motives behind the multiple murders along with various family secrets all bring readers to the ultimate destination: answers.  And it is quite the trip.

A Loyal Friend

The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor was recommended many times over in a library group that I follow. The author also wrote All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook, which is a 2020 nutmeg nominee that I recently finished. 

This book gave me a tough time for a bit.  I had this overwhelming feeling that something (else) bad was going to happen. There are a couple bullies in this book, Matt and Lance, and Matt is so rotten that I was afraid of what he might do. Mason is a kind and likable character with many tough obstacles to overcome.  I didn’t want anything else bad to happen to him!

Mason has been solitary since his best friend Benny passed away. He struggles in school with his only respite being in his special education teacher’s room, otherwise known as the SWOOF.  Here, he is learning to use the Dragon which is a machine to help him write his story.  Gathering his thoughts to write by himself isn’t a possibility, neither is reading. 

Mason befriends a new student named Calvin. They bond in their attempts to escape the school bullies and they have a project building a cool hideout. Things take a terrible turn when Calvin goes missing after an encounter with Matt and Lance. It turns out that Mason has been under investigation for his former friend’s death, and now eyes are on him again because of Calvin’s disappearance.  

Eventually everything is righted, but waiting for resolution is nerve wracking! Calvin and Mason’s friendship reminds me quite a bit of  the main characters in Freak the Mighty (a novel I enjoyed teaching in 7th grade ELA class). In both cases an unlikely duo find strength in each other. Their loyalty helps them to overcome the “evildoers” around them.  This book mixes positive and negative; and luckily, good prevails in the end.

Worlds Collide

Estranged by Ethan M. Aldridge is my final Nutmeg nominee!

This book is a graphic novel, telling the story of two boys switched between worlds at a very young age.  The Human Childe (no name) is raised by King and Queen of an underground fairy realm, while the fairy child Edmund, is raised by a human family.  Both struggle with fitting in.

Worlds collide when the evil Hawthorne breaks up a royal party to take over the throne.  She turns the king and queen into rats, and the Human Childe decides it is time to find his changeling.  He ventures into the world above with his walking, talking candle/paige named Whick.

The Human Childe sees what life would be like in the human world, having a short time with his parents and sister Alexis before the underworld creatures start looking for him.  He knows they won’t stop unless he is able to overthrow Hawthorne, and he knows he can’t do it alone.  The Human Childe, Whick, Edmund and Alexis go back underground to fight Hawthorne together.

They face challenging foes during their travels.  During their adventure, they realize what family really means and they find where they truly belong.

Making Music

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid recounts the rise and fall of the famous, seventies rock band of the same name told through a series of interviews.  The quick switches from one character to another threw me off a bit at first.  Once I settled into the format, it was as though I was watching a rock documentary, along with all the craziness and drama you would expect of a typical rock band.

The band is founded by brothers Billy and Graham Dunne as The Six, which included Warren, Karen, Pete and his brother Eddie.  Meanwhile, Daisy was making a name for herself in California.  Her incredible beauty and charisma gave her lots of attention in the music industry.  Once The Six move to California, their musical paths cross.  Daisy collaborates on a chart-topping song with The Six.  It’s at this point that they decide to combine their acts.

Seven people trying to work together provides the drama you would expect.  There are power struggles between multiple band members, sexual tensions along with drug and alcohol abuse.  Through all of this the band creates a groundbreaking, memorable album together.  Even though Billy is married to his long-time sweetheart Camila, the chemistry between Daisy and him is undeniable.  Readers will follow the roller coaster ride of this band, and find out what made them break up in the middle of an extremely successful tour.

The author perfectly captures the voices and essence of what it might feel like to be part of the music industry.  All the song lyrics at the end add an impressive touch.  This group and its members feel as real as can be.  Anyone into making and/or listening to music will enjoy diving into the lifestyle through this book.

Murder Mystery

Conviction by Denise Mina takes readers on a roller coaster ride of secret identities, murder and mystery.

Anna wakes up early to a “normal” day in which she engages her guilty pleasure, starting a new mystery podcast series called “Death and the Dana.”  The day quickly becomes abnormal when her husband Hamish and supposed best friend Estelle announce they’re in love.  The lovers immediately leave for vacation, taking along Hamish and Anna’s two young daughters.

Anna spirals out of control, with nothing but the podcast to keep her tethered to reality.  As it turns out, Anna has a personal connection to two people in the podcast.  One of the people, the rich and powerful Gretchen Teigler, already attempted to kill Anna when she was known as Sophie.

Estelle’s jilted husband Fin joins Anna as they embark on an odd adventure together.  Both are feeling hurt and angry by the sudden betrayal of their respective spouses.  Fin, a former rock star with anorexia, begins documenting their attempts to solve the podcast mystery.  In doing so, Anna’s secret former life is exposed.

Fin and Anna have several near death experiences while traveling to important sites and people from the podcast, before finally solving the Death and the Dana mystery.  Overall, this is an engaging read with some surprises along the way.


Time Out

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor is my ninth Nutmeg nominee, and my first completed book of our mandated school closing.  Perry is born and raised in a co-ed correctional center by his mom and foster parent (the facility’s warden).  Perry is a happy-go-lucky kid who is quite settled in his “prison” life, until someone finds out about his unique living experience.

The new D.A. in town decides that he must save Perry by getting him away from his mom and his correctional family.  It turns out the D.A. is also responsible for the warden losing her job, and he is trying to hold up his mom’s parole eligibility.  The only positive is that the D.A.’s stepdaughter is also Perry’s best (and only) friend at school, Zoey.  Perry attempts to get through his time with the Van Leer/Samuels family, while still trying to stay connected to his mom through scheduled visits.

Perry decides to devote his school project to sharing the story of the inmates at his mom’s facility, including his mother’s.  Each character adds a unique flair to the story.  Working on the project makes Perry aware that there is more to his mom’s jail story than she previously led him to believe.  Readers will find out more about Perry’s mom (Jessica’s) story, and whether or not the D.A. gets his way to keep her incarcerated.

Despite the setting, this is a story of hope and patience.  It describes the need to stay positive and count one’s blessings, even in the most difficult of times.  This is a fitting message in light of my current reality.

Keep Reading

Ban This Book by Alan Gratz was a fun surprise.  As a teacher/librarian I should have been itching to read this book-focused Nutmeg nominee, but (embarrassingly) I held off thinking it might be dull.  I was so wrong!

Amy Anne is completely distraught when a classmate’s parent overrides school board protocol to ban a number of books from the school library (including her absolute favorite book). Along with help from a couple friends, she starts the B.B.L.L. (banned book locker library). They secretly build a collection of banned books with phony book covers to check out to interested students. Her locker library is a hit, until the principal discovers it. 

Amy Anne is suspended, but the whole experience helps her to find a voice to back up her beliefs/actions. Amy and her friends develop a plan to get the books (and the fired school librarian) back to where they belong. This book is full of well-developed characters, and  Amy Anne is an amazing one. She is quietly witty and a great kid. 

This book made me laugh out loud several times; it also made me angry and sympathetic.  It’s about knowing when to speak up, friendship and giving people a chance.  This is my favorite of this year’s Nutmeg nominees so far.  Two more to go …