Monday, August 20, 2018

The Middle Place

By Kelly Corrigan

Kelly Corrigan tells the true story of her life and how she coped with breast cancer battle and her father's cancer battle too.
The story shifts back and forth from the story of her life before cancer and the story of her life with cancer.
She found the lump and then had to have chemo, surgery and radiation followed by five years of hormone therapy.
Fortunately, Kelly had many close friends, loving parents, and a loving husband who were all glad to chip in and help her out when she was too ill from her treatments to take care of her two small daughters, both under the age of four.
From reading her book, it seems the worse things for her were facing her father's decline and that she would have to postpone having more children for five years because of the hormone medication, which came as an unpleasant surprise. She had always planned to have at least four kids, so waiting til she was in her forties to try and get pregnant again made the likelihood of that happening much lower.

This was an OK read. I bought this book last fall and I don't remember why I thought it would be a good read. I suspect that the blurb on the front describing the book as "funny and irresistibly exuberant" had something to do with it, along with the illustration which show a little girl bouncing high into the air. I wonder if I failed to read the back of the book where it clearly says that it is about the author's battle with cancer.
I didn't find it to be funny. To me, it was more depressing than funny. So that was disappointing.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Stormy Weather

By Carl Hiaasen

A killer hurricane has blasted through Florida, shattering buildings and lives. But to some, the resultant chaos is merely a golden opportunity to make some money.
One of those opportunists is Max Lamb. On his honeymoon in Orlando with his wife, Bonnie, Max has grabbed his video camera and headed into the danger zone to get video of the disaster, with a view to selling the footage to the networks. Unfortunately, he runs afoul of Skink, one of Hiaasen's recurring characters. Skink is a big, scary swamp thing and he grabs Max and sticks a shock collar on his neck and hauls him out into the back country. Where he proceeds to shock Max into abject compliance.
Also looking to score are Edie Marsh and a thuggish fellow called Snapper. After their first scam fails, they hook up with distressed homeowner, Tony Torres. Tony's house is severely damaged and he wants a quick settlement from the insurance company. Since his wife is joint owner of the house and she has run off with her boyfriend, Tony can't get the insurance check without her signature. Naturally, given that she has run off, Tony is not willing to share the settlement with her. So Edie will pretend to be Mrs, Torres and, when the check arrives, they will split the funds three ways and then split. And the real Mrs. Torres gets screwed out of her fair share.
Tony was a trailer salesman. The trailers he sold were supposed to be hurricane resistant. But they weren't and people died. One of those people was the mother of a mobster from up north, Ira Jackson. He tracks down Tony and kills him. Which leaves Edie and Snapper in the lurch. When the adjuster shows up, Snapper tries to pass himself off as Torres. But the adjuster quickly figures out that they are scammers. Edie seduces him and talks him into joining the scam, once again to split the money three ways.
Meanwhile Max is still being tormented by Skink and Bonnie has come to the hurricane zone looking for him. She got on phone call from him letting her know he had been taken but that the crazy man who grabbed him is not asking for any kind of ransom. Bonnie falls in with a local man, a young drifter who is living off a large insurance settlement from when he nearly died in a commercial plane crash.
And then there is the policeman, Jim Tile, whose policewoman girlfriend gets beaten up by Snapper. Tile is friends with Skink. He enlists Skink in tracking down Snapper and things just get more and more complicated from there.

I guess this was an OK read. There are so many characters coming and going, it is a bit hard to keep track of it all. It is also supposed to be very funny but I didn't find so. According to the blurbs on the cover, it is "hysterically funny" (USA Today), has "hilarious, black humor" (Wall Street Journal), and is "howlingly funny" (Cosmopolitan). I guess those blurbers are more easily amused than I am.
Also, I have never been a big fan of the recurring character, Skink. He's creepy. I'm getting tired of him.

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Avenhurst Inheritance

By Sylvia Thorpe

England, 1751, and eighteen-year-old Jocelyn Rivers is not his father's favorite. The favorite was the elder son but he died. And the dead son's boy is now the heir to the Avenhurst title, lands and fortune. The son's wife and children came to live at Avenhurst and Jocelyn does not get along with either the children or the widow.
So one day, the young heir gets stuck in a tree and Jocelyn is called upon to climb the tree and rescue the boy before he falls. For which stunt, Jocelyn receives no thanks, neither from the boy or from his mother. After listening to the boy's back talk and threats to "climb it if I want to," Jocelyn lays into him verbally, witnessed by the mother and servants:
'Oh, be silent, you contemptible brat!' Jocelyn said disgustedly. 'If there is one thing worse than a coward, it's a cowardly braggart."
After meeting with Celia, his secret girl friend and daughter of a wealthy neighbor, Jocelyn gets into an argument with his father. Dad informs his son that he has arranged a marriage for him to a very nice young lady. But Jocelyn is smitten with the beautiful Celia Croyde and informs Dad that he will marry her or no one. To which Dad responds:
'Do you imagine that William Croyde will permit his heiress to throw herself away on a younger son when his fortune can purchase a coronet for her in London? Or that a girl's silly lovesick fancy will be allowed to stand in the way of her attaining a great position? You must have even less wit than I gave you credit for.'
So it's not that the father objects to the match. It is that he knows the girl's father will never approve it and that he wants his lovesick son to wise up.
So in the midst of this argument, who should stick her nose in, but the Avenhurst heir's mother. She chews Jocelyn out for not rescuing her precious baby in a more gentle and understanding manner. Which naturally inflames Jocelyn's already bruised feelings even more. After she accuses him of delaying saving the boy "until it was almost too late," Jocelyn, enraged, responds:
'Would to God I had delayed even longer!...Long enough for the whelp to break his scrawny neck! I'll not be such a fool a second time, believe me!'
Things get even worse when Jocelyn next sees Celia and she tells him that she is being pressured by her father to marry an older, titled gentleman. Jocelyn points out that it is only the fact that he is not the heir that her father will not approve of their marriage. If he were the heir, he would become Viscount Avenhurst upon his father's death.
Of course, the next thing to happen is the little boy follows through on his threat to continue climbing and falls and dies. And of course it happens without any witnesses. And of course, the enraged mother accuses Jocelyn of killing the boy so that he will become the heir:
'You did this!' she cried wildly. 'You murdered my innocent child! He stood in your way and you killed him!...You were jealous of Anthony! He was the heir and you hated him for it!'
Then, when he next meets with Celia, she rejects him, believing that he did indeed commit murder:
'What right have you to reproach me? Have you forgotten what you said—that the only obstacle between us was the fact that you were not your father's heir? That you would find a way even if it meant going to the devil for counsel—?...Don't come near me....Don't touch me again.'
He returns home only to find out that his father, who had stood by his son and defended his innocence against the mother's accusations, actually believed Jocelyn had murdered his nephew to gain the inheritance:
'Do you dare expect me to show you in private the face which necessity compels me to wear before the world? To forgive what you have done, as well as seek to repair the harm and shield you from the consequences?' 
To which his son replies:
'God help me! You believe I was responsible for the boy's death. All your defense of me has been a sham.'
Not surprisingly, finding himself a scandal and a suspected murderer and rejected by the girl he loves, Jocelyn runs away.
He goes to Jamaica and enters into business with the friend of a friend. Things are looking better until he meets the lovely young daughter of a very wealthy business associate. This girl, Alathea, has been raised on a plantation far from anyone. She has lived in isolation all her life, attended only by servants, slaves and her doting father. Jocelyn is, once again, smitten.
It is not too much longer before Alathea's father summons Jocelyn to his plantation. When he gets there, Jocelyn can see that the man is at death's door. The man is worried about what will happen to Alathea after he is gone. She is his only child and he asks Jocelyn to marry her and take care of her and promise to never take her away from her home on the plantation. If he does, all the man's vast wealth and holding will be Jocelyn's.
Since Jocelyn has been lusting after the girl anyway, he agrees to the man's conditions and the two are quickly wed and the man soon passes away. But Alathea turns out to be a pig in a poke and is suffering from the same mental illness that her mother and grandmother also suffered from. She is quite insane, seeing things and hearing things that are not there and often violent. Turns out the father knew this and it is why he kept her at home and away from society. So Jocelyn feels like he was tricked into marrying the poor girl and starts spending more and more time away from her and their new baby. It doesn't end well for the young couple and their child.
Anyway, Jocelyn ends up back in England for a visit and, naturally, he is recognized. Which opens up a whole new can of worms to deal with.

This was pretty good read. Not the least bit lighthearted though. Poor Jocelyn/ Julian (he changes his name when he runs away) goes from heartbreak to heartbreak. Not really the sort of story I enjoy, a bit too depressing.
I did have a problem with the story. When Jocelyn establishes himself in Jamaica, he is aware that the laborers are slaves. It doesn't bother him. In fact, when he buys a new place, he never thinks twice about buying the slaves to do the work except to buy slaves he already knows so they will be more contented. The book does acknowledge that the plantation owners are fearful of their slaves and do worry about uprisings. And, at one point, it is speculated that the old black woman who raised Alathea and who also cared for her mother and grandmother may have been drugging the three women as revenge for her enslavement and causing their mental illness. But never is the moral issue of owning fellow human beings acknowledged or addressed. That lack bothered me, it bothered me a lot. I would have liked the main character better if he had at least once questioned the rightness of owning slaves, of buying and selling people like they were farm animals.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Mrs. Pollifax and the Golden Triangle

By Dorothy Gilman

Mrs. Pollifax and her recently acquired husband Cyrus are soon to be departing on a trip to the Orient for a vacation. Just hours before they are ready to leave for the airport, Bishop, from the CIA, shows up with a small request. Could they, while in Thailand, pick up some papers from a man and give him a payment for the information?
Naturally, this being a Mrs. Pollifax story, nothing is ever as easy as it is painted to be. When Mrs. Pollifax arrives at the rendezvous, she finds a dead man and another man lurking in the shadows. She runs to find Cyrus, followed by the man, just in time to see her unconscious husband being hustled into the back of van.
The man volunteers his vehicle to chase after the kidnappers and together they charge off after the van, soon ending up in the wilds of Thailand. As the two scramble about the countryside, they encounter jungle villagers, thugs, drug lords, revolutionaries, smugglers and a rogue CIA agent.

This was a pretty good story. Plenty of action and lots of local color.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Kaleidoscope

By Dorothy Gilman

This is the second book in the Madame Karitska series. In this book, Madame is settled into her apartment and seeing plenty of clients who wish to avail themselves of her psychic talents. A parade of troubled people come and go from her apartment, including the abused wife of a cultist, a policeman (who is a friend), a rich man with a spoiled and willful daughter, a government man investigating terrorist activities, and a murderer, just to list a few.
With the help and backing of her police friend, Madame Karitska gently nudges people onto the right path and helps bring miscreants to well-deserved justice.

This is mostly a collection of short stories tied together by means of being clients of Madame. And even though short stories are not my favorite form of reading, I still enjoyed this book a lot.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Mrs. Pollifax, Innocent Tourist

By Dorothy Gilman

Mrs. Pollifax is an older lady who got bored with being retired and applied to work as a spy for the CIA. Amazingly, the CIA decided she would be perfect as a courier and thus began her first adventure in the world of spy vs spy.
But this adventure is not a job for the CIA. Instead, she is traveling with an old contact from the CIA, Farrell, to give him the appearance of, as the title says, innocent tourist.
Farrell has been contacted by friends of a friend who died in prison in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. The contact has the dead man's last manuscript and is desperate to smuggle it out to world and away from the repressive Iraqi regime. He wants Farrell to come to Jordan to get the manuscript. Farrell is supposed to show up at a certain tourist attraction and a courier named Ibrahim will hand him the manuscript. So Farrell, knowing that a man hanging around a ruined castle for hours might attract unwanted attention, has talked Mrs. Pollifax into accompanying him.
Of course, with Mrs. Pollifax involved, things are bound to be complicated. She seems to attract complications. In this case, the complications start almost immediately when, on the flight to Jordan, a wanted terrorist slips a tourist memento into Mrs. Pollifax's carry-on bag while she is in the toilet. Of course, as soon as she is out of her hotel room in Jordan, the terrorists search her room for the item. But too late, as she and Farrell have already discovered the secret concealed within it: a key and a tiny map, which they are quick to give to the police. The terrorists don't know this and they start tailing the two everywhere they go, along with agents from Iraq who have a pretty good idea what Farrell is really in Jordan to do.
Throw in some horses and camels, a sheikh, some Bedouins, a precocious child, dust storms, Arab tents and the implacable desert, and Mrs. Pollifax is off on another of her adventures.

This was an OK read. It doesn't have the excitement and flair of the first novels in the Mrs. Pollifax series. But it was OK. Too often, though, it was like reading notes of a trip to Jordan to gather background for the novel.





Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Craig & Fred

By Craig Grossi

Craig was a Marine stationed in Afghanistan. He met Fred at a remote outpost. Fred was a goofy young dog who became a vital part of their small outpost, endearing himself to all the men stationed there, except for the Afghanis, who were abusive to poor Fred.
Anyway, when it was time to leave, Craig decided to take Fred back to the USA, even though it was pretty much against regulations. With the help of his friends, his family and a group of kind-hearted shippers, Fred found a himself living in the USA, waiting with relatives until Craig finished his tour of duty and came home.
Once home, things were a bit rocky. Craig kind of drifted. He went back to school and became friends with a fellow vet, Josh, a man who lost a leg when the vehicle he was riding in was blown up by an IED (improvised explosive device). They decided to take a long camping trip together with Fred, of course. It would be a chance for Josh to test the limits of himself and his artificial limb. Craig tells the story of the camping trip interspersed with the story of his time in Afghanistan and the story of Fred, the dog.

I enjoyed this book. But I didn't read it in the order in which it was printed. When I realized how it was set up, I read the chapters dealing with his time in Afghanistan first. Then went back and read the story of the road trip and of his time back home with Fred.

Natural Disaster

By Ginger Zee

Ever since she was a little kid, Ginger Zee wanted to be a meteorologist. She set her sights on the Today show.
Being smart and attractive, reaching her dream wasn't an impossible goal. But Ginger's biggest hurdle was probably herself. It wasn't her professional life that was the problem. It was her bouts of depression and her poor choice in men.
In this book, Zee tells the story of how she realized she needed help with her mental illness and how she rose through the ranks to become a meteorologist on national television.

This was a pretty good read. I only had one problem with the book. She is telling the story of when she was first on TV and told the viewers how her dog had tangled with a skunk and that no matter what she washed the dog in, it still smelled of skunk. She was totally surprised at the number of people who contacted her with sure-fire recipes for curing skunk smell. But in the story, she doesn't share the winning recipe!
So I enjoyed the book, even though I didn't know who she was, never having seen her on TV.