Twelve Mighty Orphans by Jim Dent

Reviewed by Jayne S (Library Staff)

This book is similar to Seabiscuit (the underdog racehorse) and Cinderella Man (the underdog professional boxer). This time it’s about a ragtag group of boys living in a Texas orphanage during the 20’s and 30’s.

Their new teacher and coach, Rusty Russell, wants to make a difference for these boys. He has overcome near blindness in World War I, and while only making $30 a week and starting without any football equipment – not even a ball! – he forms a competitive team that is beating the biggest high school teams in the state.

The book takes the reader through many memorable games and ends with how the young men fared in adulthood. This book was made into a movie in 2021, starring Luke Wilson. The movie changed and condensed a lot of the boys’ histories and sensationalized some aspects. As usual, the book was much better than the movie.

If you like the Depression era underdog stories, this book is for you.

Available through the Bridges Library System

Forever Boy by Kate Swenson

Reviewed by Jayne S (Library Staff)

Kate grew up always knowing that she wanted to be a mother, so she was filled with joy with the birth of her son Cooper.

But as she relates, something was wrong. He did not sleep, he screamed on and on and did not make the baby achievement milestones like other babies did.

Her book tells her journey on trying to get a diagnosis, finding schooling to help him, trying to balance work, marriage and motherhood all the while having unconditional love for her son.

She went through the stages of grief, knowing Cooper would never drive a car, marry, or even live independently. She gradually came to acceptance and decided to share her insights with other parents that are adapting to live with autism.

This is a sad, but inspiring book. It gave me a glimpse of how parents with special needs children live their lives.

I recommend this book whole-heartedly. Five stars.

Available through the Bridges Library System

The Secrets of Bones by Kylie Logan

Reviewed by Jayne S (Library Staff)

Jazz Ramsey, an administrative assistant at a Catholic Girls School, is passionate about cadaver dog training. She takes a certified dog to the girls’ career day and hides old bones into the unused fourth floor for a demonstration. Everything becomes unraveled when the dog finds a skeleton of a former teacher that supposedly left the school a few years before.

Jazz starts investigating into Bernadette Quinn’s past, and finds more suspects than the detective working the case. Her on again, off again cop boyfriend helps too.

This book was very predictable and I knew how it would turn out way before the end of the book. The storyline veered into many uninteresting directions . The bestselling author may have a devoted following, but the book just wasn’t for me.

I’ll give it one star – something to read on a rainy night, but I’m not clamoring for more.

Available through the Bridges Library System

Once Upon a Time in Russia: The Rise of the Oligarchs, a True Story of Ambition, Wealth, Betrayal, and Murder by Ben Mezrich

Reviewed by Jayne S (Library Staff)
The author wrote this book as a dramatic narrative account, creating it from court documents, newspaper articles, and participant recollections. Some dates and names were changed to protect privacy, but this is a true story, these events really happened from 2000-2013.

The story follows Boris Berezovsky, known as the Godfather of the Kremlin and Roman Abramovich. After the fall of communism, these and other ruthless men privatized major industries in Russia and became billionaires.

This is a true life thriller, the story starts with an assassination attempt and follows the brutality of the men rising to the top and acquiring billions along the way.

Berezovsky’s TV stations helped keep Yeltzin in power and also propelled Putin to the top. When Berezovsky turns on Putin, he has to flee the country with his bodyguards and enormous wealth in tow.

This book gave me a good understanding of how the oligarchs come to be and why they are so dangerous. Roman Abramovich is still in the news – he is the current owner of the Chelsea (England) Football team that is now under worldwide scrutiny.

This was an interesting, but disturbing read. I feel that I learned a lot and recommend this book to anyone that wants to be more knowledgeable about world events.

Available through the Bridges Library System

Scoundrel: How a Convicted Murderer Persuaded the Women Who Love Him, the Conservative Establishment, and the Courts to Set Him Free by Sarah Weinman

Reviewed by Jayne S (Library Staff)

The book starts with Edgar Smith dying of old age in prison. Then it backtracks to 1957 when he murders a young girl and is convicted and sentenced to death in the electric chair.

He starts appealing to the courts, successfully delaying his execution, while gaining the attention of the conservative TV host of Firing Line, William F. Buckley. Buckley is convinced that he is innocent and helps Smith obtain a book editor to publish his account of what Smith says really happened.

The book bogs down in the middle, with endless correspondence with Buckley, court dates, and an unlikely romantic relationship with the book editor.

Ultimately he gets out and Buckley celebrates with him in NYC, but then things go downhill for Smith again, culminating with a kidnapping and attempted murder.

I did not like this book – it dragged, and since the author reveals the conclusion at the start of the book it did not build any momentum. I was just happy to be done with it. I do not recommend it.

Available through the Bridges Library System

The Chancellor: The Remarkable Odyssey of Angela Merkel by Kati Marton

Reviewed by Jayne S (Library Staff)

Angela Merkel grew up in East Germany during the Cold War. Her father was a Lutheran minister, her mother a teacher who was forbidden to teach English. Her grandparents in West Germany sent care packages to her family.

Due to her academic excellence, she was allowed to attend a university and became a research physicist. During that time one of her classmates was hired by the Stasi, the German secret police, to spy on her activities. Then everything changed when the Berlin Wall came down.

She pursued a career in politics, being mentored by Helmut Kohl, the chancellor of the reunited Germany. Within 15 years she rose to the top, using her intellect, her morals, and her scientific reasoning to become the unofficial leader of Europe. She out maneuvered Putin and Trump, worked with Obama and Macron, handled the COVID pandemic with scientific strength and created social policies that included accepting thousands of refugees.

The title of the book really sums it up – she had a remarkable odyssey. I recommend the book wholeheartedly.

Available through the Bridges Library System

ROAR: into the second half of your life (before it’s too late) by Michael Clinton

Reviewed by Jayne S (Library Staff)

This author is a cheerleader for everyone over the age of forty. He gives many examples of people who excelled in making their lives better as they matured. They tried new things and enjoyed life to the fullest.

He feels that the term elderly should be updated and retiring is not what people should do, they should be refiring or rewiring to enjoy the second half of life. He uses the acronym ROAR:

REIMAGINE yourself
OWN who you are
ACT on what’s next
REASSESS your relationships to get you there

If you need a nudge to start that bucket list, this book will do it. Enjoy!

Located in Adult Nonfiction (155.66 CLI)

The Midwestern Survival Guide: how we talk, love, work, drink, and eat…everything with Ranch by Charlie Berens

Reviewed by Jayne S (Library Staff)

I have watched his “Manitowoc Minutes” segments on Facebook and have seen his stand-up comedy routine on YouTube, this book is more of the same.

The book embraces the Midwest culture with funny observations and tidbits from his upbringing. If you’re not a big reader, there are plenty of pictures and illustrations, quizzes and even recipes that everyone from the Midwest knows and loves.

This book was enjoyable to scan through and a perfect book to borrow from the library. I don’t think it’s worth purchasing unless you are a diehard Charlie Berens fan, however.


Located in Adult Nonfiction (977 BER)

Leaving the Witness: Exiting a Religion and Finding a Life by Amber Scorah

Reviewed by Jayne S (Library Staff)

This is the biography of one young woman’s religious life.

Amber has devoted her life to the Jehovah’s Witness religion. She volunteers to preach in China, even though it is illegal there and she could be arrested.

She needs to support herself but opportunities are limited since her schooling ended when she married after high school. But due to her Chinese language skills, she is hired by a Chinese language learning podcast.

As her marriage deteriorates, she confides with a chatroom friend about her life and her religion. He challenges her beliefs, and she starts questioning her faith.

The journey to start over without her religion is daunting. Everything she believed to be true is gone.

This was an interesting read, it gave me insight on a religion that I know very little about.

Located in Adult Nonfiction (289.9 SCO)

Spider Lake by Jeff Nania

Reviewed by Jayne S (Library Staff)

This is the second book of the series by a Wisconsin author. Figure Eight introduces us to John Cabrelli, a former Chicago cop who moves to northwestern Wisconsin after an on-duty tragedy.

Spider Lake picks up with John recuperating after a confrontation with a crooked local cop in Musky Falls.

The new Chief of Police recruits him to assist in finding a missing federal agent. John has found his late uncle’s secret vault of photos that include a picture of the federal agent, suitcases of cash, and an incriminating photo of a FBI agent that is currently working on the case.

This is an easy-to-read, fast paced mystery. I enjoyed it and picked up the third book of the series, Bough Cutter.

Located in Adult Fiction (FIC NANIA)