Bethany's Readers' Advisory

The place to go for readers' advisory on books for children, teens, and adults

The Girl in the Green Raincoat by Laura Lippman November 13, 2011

Filed under: adult mystery — Bethany @ 11:52 pm
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Private investigator Tess Monaghan is a prisoner in her own home.  She is not being held hostage by a criminal or a disgruntled client; she is nearing the end of a high-risk pregnancy and has been sentenced to bed rest.  In her boredom, she spends a lot of time looking outside at a nearby trail.  One regular dog walker catches her eye; a woman in a fashionable green raincoat walks her dog in a matching green coat at the same time every day.  Then one day the dog is alone and the woman is nowhere to be found.  Tess suspects something is wrong. With the help of family and friends, she leads an investigation from her bed.  What she uncovers is a series of crimes and deaths that puts her life and the life of her unborn child in danger.

This novella was a page-turner.  For anyone who has ever thought, “I’d love to just kick back with nothing to do…”


I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley

Have you ever worried about what people would find going through your house in the event of your untimely demise?  Sloane Crosley has.  What would her mother think about her unmade bed, her unwashed dishes, the drawer of plastic toy ponies underneath her kitchen sink?

I Was Told There’d Be Cake is a series of essays, in the same style as David Sedaris or Chelsea Handler.

One essay recounts when an old high school classmate contacts Crosley out of the blue to ask her to be in her wedding.  Having never been in a wedding before, she has no idea what she’s getting herself into. “Weddings are like the triathlon of female friendship: the Shower, the Bachelorette Party, and the Main Event.  It’s the Iron Woman and most people never make it through.

Another describes a time after college in which Crosley volunteers for theNaturalHistoryMuseum.  What seems like a romantic experience surrounded by butterflies quickly turns into an uninformed, stuttering series of incorrect answers to kids’ questions and a final encounter with the horrifying Atlas moth.  In her attempt to escape this ill-fated volunteer assignment, she accidentally harbors a stowaway butterfly and must decide what to do with it.

This book made me laugh out loud.  Crosley says the things we are all thinking but don’t say out loud for fear of exposing the bad people we are.


Fragile by Lisa Unger

It’s a parent’s worst nightmare- a teenage girl has a fight with her mother and doesn’t come home.  After a frantic questioning of friends and the boyfriend, they realize she is missing.  While most people assume she’s run away, psychiatrist Maggie Cooper knows better.  She thinks back to when she was in high school and another young girl disappeared.  She worries further when one of her patients, a disturbed young man with an abusive father, writes on Facebook, “How do you know if you’re a bad person?”

The people of the small town The Hollows band together in a race against time to find Charlene before it’s too late.  But everyone is looking in the wrong direction.  And people who know the truth about the death of a young girl so many years ago aren’t helping.

I don’t usually read contemporary fiction, but this mystery has held my interest and made me think about how many times one small mistake can take change people’s lives forever.


Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson

“Being of sound mind, I do hereby leave to Hattie Inez Brooks my claim and the house and its contents, as well as one steadfast horse named Plug and a contemptible cow known as Violet.  Postscript: Bring warm clothes and a cat.”

In 1917, shortly after her friend Charlie leaves for war, 16-year-old Hattie receives a letter.  The letter is from a long-lost uncle that is dying and leaving his homestead in Montana to her.  Hattie, whose mother and father died when she was young, has long thought of herself as Hattie Here-nor-There.  She finally has a purpose, a place where she belongs.  She is not prepared for the life of a homesteader, but she learns as she goes with the help of her neighbors, the Muellers.

Homesteading life is not easy- blizzards, sickness, fires, and loss make it hard to go on.  The war wages on in Europe and hardships trickle back to the U.S.  Will Hattie be able to prove up in time?  Will her friend Charlie make it back from war?  If he does, will be the same person he was when he left?


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

This story is an epistolary novel- a story told through correspondences between characters, in this case letters.  It begins in January of 1946.  Writer Juliet Ashton is looking for a topic for her next book when she gets a letter in the mail.  A man, Dawsey Adams, from the island of Guernsey, located in the Channel Islands, contacts Juliet, saying he found her name in an old book.

In subsequent letters, Juliet learns of the origins of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  During the wartime German occupation, neighbors come together for a secret dinner party to dine on a roasted pig.  After the dinner, they are caught after curfew by German soldiers.  One of the neighbors makes up the Guernsey Literary Society on the spot to avoid being arrested.  They continue their ruse, meeting and discussing books, dining on one of the few food choices during wartime- potatoes.

As Juliet learns more about the people in the society, she decides to write their story.  The best way to write the story is to go there- which she does.  What she finds there is so much more than a story.

This is a heartwarming historical fiction about community, friendship, and how people can be brought together by the strangest circumstances.


It Sucked and Then I Cried by Heather B. Armstrong

It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margarita is the story of Heather Armstrong’s brave journey into childbearing.  Armstrong called her father after her first date with Jon and told him this was the man she was going to marry.  A few years later, they decided to have a baby.  This meant sacrifice- she had to give up things she really liked- beer, caffeine… and antidepressants.  After 9 long months of pregnancy (which are described in great deal), baby Leta is born.  What follows is Armstrong’s immense love for her child and a bout with postpartum depression so intense she checks herself into a mental hospital.  This is a hilarious and touching story of what it’s really like to have a baby and the changes it makes to your life.

As soon I finished this book, I went to my parents’ house, handed this book to my mom, and said, “Read this and tell me if it’s true.  If so, I’m never having kids.”  The book both made me laugh and terrified me to the core.  It’s not for the easily offended, but if you do like it, Heather Armstrong has a blog with more observations on day-to-day life at


I Love You, Miss Huddleston by Philip Gulley

Filed under: adult biography,humor — Bethany @ 11:38 pm
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I Love You, Miss Huddleston and Other Inappropriate Longings of My Indiana Childhood takes us back to the childhood of Philip Gulley.  He grew up inDanville,Indiana in the 1970’s, the fourth of five children.  His father was a “bug spray salesman” and his mother watched out for the kids, warning them from such dangers as riding their bikes down Main Street and carnival rides.  He grew up Catholic; his feeling in the church was “a cluelessness tinged with a vague fear” and did odd jobs for the Quaker widow next door.  He recalls going trick-or-treating with the goal of hitting every house in town, a long distance bike ride with his friends involving little food and lots of blood, and a big crush on his sixth grade teacher.

This book had me laughing out loud at the antics of boys growing up in theMidwestand the hilarious observations of daily life.


Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Filed under: drama,humor — Bethany @ 11:35 pm
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Contestants from all 50 states board a plane for the Miss Teen Dream competition.  On the way to the island destination, the plane crashes, leaving only a fraction of the contestants alive.  Now the girls must survive alone on a deserted desert island.  Or are they alone?

What started as a humorous, witty commentary on the roles of advertising and consumerism in the lives of Americans today, slowly degraded into a silly, tiresome attempt at female empowerment.  I was really disappointed in the last third of the book.  It seemed too forced and I almost didn’t finish.


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