Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Drifting

By Stephanie Gertler

When Claire was just a toddler, her mother Sulie ran off, leaving Claire to the custody of her father Jack. Jack was a good dad and Claire had a happy childhood despite the absence of her mother. But now Jack has died and Claire is married to Eli with two almost grown kids of her own. Claire and Eli live in the town of Drifting and Claire works part-time as a psychologist and also runs a little inn.
Staying at the inn are a mysterious man and his young, blind daughter. Claire becomes involved with this couple despite the warnings of Eli that there is something a little off about the man. This man tells Claire that his daughter was abandoned by her mom because of the little girl's blindness. Claire feels a bond with this family because of her own experience of abandonment. But there is more to the story than the man is admitting.

An OK story, but Claire comes off as unbelievably dense.

Kirkus review: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/stephanie-gertler/drifting/.


Beachcomber

By Karen Robards

Christy Petrino is sick of the mob. Her dad was a minor mobster who was murdered by the mob. So when Christy discovers her fiancé is "connected" she runs away to Oracoke Island with her cat, Marvin. But she gets roped into running an "errand" for the mob and in the process trips over a body on the beach and comes under FBI surveillance.

In some ways, I think this novel was intended to be a lighthearted romp, but it never quite pulls it off. Some of the scenes were just too contrived. An OK read.

Publishers Weekly review:   https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-7434-5348-6.

Letter From Home

By Caroline Hart

In 1944 Gretchen, though only 13 or 14, gets a job as a reporter on the local small town newspaper. When her friend Barb's mom is murdered, Barb's dad, who was home on leave and is now missing, is the logical suspect. When the dad is found dead, an apparent suicide with a confession on the table by him, the case is considered solved. But a letter from Barb decades later brings the whole thing back to Gretchen.

I didn't care for this story. I didn't find the teenage Barb and Gretchen characters believable. They didn't ring true.

Review from Kirkus Reviews:    https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/carolyn-hart/letter-from-home/.


P.S. I Love You

By Cecelia Ahern

Holly has lost the love of her life, her young husband Gerry to cancer. Knowing that Holly would be grieving terribly, Gerry left her a series of letters to be opened every month for the next year. Each letter is a caring step to help Holly cope with her loss and get back into life, with the help of her close circle of friends. As the year progresses, Holly is able to gracefully move on to a new life without Gerry.

A pretty good read, the author accurately portrays the feelings of loss people have to deal with after losing a loved one.

Review from BookPage:   https://bookpage.com/reviews/3314-cecelia-ahern-p-s-i-love-you#.WlMFw_CnFtQ.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Cerulean Sins

By Laurell K. Hamilton

Number 11 in the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series.
I had never read any of the stories in this series before this one. I will never read another one. This novel is just one sex scene after another. I don't particularly enjoy reading the intimate details. One or two sex scenes per book is plenty for me. So mainly this book was just too much. The plot was complicated and the vampire politics boring. I found it peculiar that a woman who is always going on about her strong morals can jump in and out of the sack with all these guys. Also I think that whole "ardeur" business is a very weak excuse for making Anita have sex with whoever or whatever is handy. ("Ardeur" is an overwhelming sexual hunger that Anita has been cursed with.)

The Prince of Dreams

By Curt Benjamin

Book 2 of the Seven Brothers trilogy. The quest continues. Llesho has found two of his six brothers and continues the search for the others. Helping him are various gods, witches and wizards, dragons. Llesho learns more about his dream power from a group of adepts. But the evil magician Markko is trying to find Llesho and kills all the dream adepts. A good story; I enjoyed it.

The Prince of Shadows

By Curt Benjamin

Book 1 of the Seven Brothers trilogy. Llesho is a young slave, forced to dive for pearls every day. But he remembers a time when he lived in a grand palace with his dad and mom, the King and Queen, his baby sister and his six older brothers. Llesho saw his parents and baby sister murdered and the palace and the royal city sacked by fierce barbarian invaders. Llesho was carried off and sold into slavery. One day, while diving for pearls, it is revealed to him that he must find his brothers and save the lost kingdom. But he is just a child and a slave. What can he possibly do?
An interesting start to the trilogy with a strongly Eastern flavor; an enjoyable read.

Savage Messiah

By Robert Newcomb

The first book of the Destinies of Blood and Stone; it's pretty much a rehash of the first trilogy, The Chronicles of Blood and Stone.
OK. I have no excuse for reading this book other than it was a new book at the local library. This is a small town library and their selection of new books is pretty lean. I knew what I letting myself in for, having read the first trilogy. Newcomb's prose reads like something written by a high school kid. His characters are caricatures. Newcomb seems more interested in their outfits than in giving them any real depth.
This is a swords and sorcery epic, with the usual monsters, bad guys, spells, implacable evil, and so on. Tristin is the prince of a land under siege by a changing bunch of baddies with supernatural powers. He has to try to defeat the baddies even though he really doesn't know what he is doing and just to seems to get by mainly on luck and intuition. There is lots of blood and guts.
If you like swords and sorcery stories, you may like this. I think Newcomb's stories would work better in comic book form.


A Perfect Day

By Richard Paul Evans

Robert Harlan writes a novel about the relationship between his wife Allyson and her dying father. It becomes a bestseller. Robert finds himself constantly on the road promoting his book. Fame and fortune await! But while Robert enjoys his time in the spotlight, his marriage is withering of neglect. What will it take to snap Robert out of his ego trip before it is too late? Divine intervention? Maybe...

I kept wanting to take Robert and give him a good shake because he was acting like such a dumbass. Also, I think Allyson should have just relaxed and let her hubby enjoy his moment of fame without getting so bent out of shape. An OK read.

Split Second

By David Baldacci

After failing as a Secret Service agent, Sean King has a new career as a small town lawyer. When he was an agent, the presidential candidate he was supposed to be protecting was assassinated because Sean was distracted for a split second.
Now another Secret Service agent, Michelle Maxwell, has dropped the ball. The man she was guarding has been kidnapped through her error.
Seeing some connection between her failure and King's, Maxwell comes to him for help in tracing the kidnapped man.
Joan Dillinger, an ex-agent, also comes to Sean for help finding the kidnapped man.
Are these two incidents related? How and why?
Only towards the end of the book is it revealed what distracted Sean so much that a killer was able to get close enough to murder the candidate. This is where the story fell apart for me. I just couldn't believe a professional agent would let himself be distracted by something so stupid. I won't say what it was he saw, but believe me it wasn't that special. I would rate this story an OK read, mainly because I found the plot somewhat hard to follow.

Review from Kirkus:  https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/david-baldacci/split-second-2/.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Funeral Food

By Kathleen Taylor

The story starts out with the arrival to the small town Delphi, South Dakota of young and handsome Charles, a Mormon missionary. He immediately catches the eye of man-hungry Delphine, main character Tory Bauer's friend and housemate. Del has a very large and very jealous boyfriend, Deputy Big Dick Albrecht. So when Charles the missionary turns up dead in the closet of the Delphi Cafe where Del and Tory both work, Tory naturally supposes that Big Dick let his jealous anger go too far. However, boot prints lead Deputy Albrecht to another suspect, the loser, druggie boyfriend of another of Delphi’s waitresses. Is the druggie the murderer as the evidence seems to suggest or is Big Dick setting the boy up to take the fall?

The plot is a little hard to follow, but I still enjoyed the story very much.  I just like Tory Bauer. She’s smart, chubby, over-forty and a waitress, all good things as far as I am concerned.

Blue Shoes and Happiness

By Alexander McCall Smith

Set in Botswana, this is the seventh in Smith’s series about the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, which is run by Precious Ramotswe with the assistance of Grace Makutsi. Mma Ramotswe is very intuitive and helps people deal with mysteries that are the stuff of every day life.

I was not familiar with this series when I picked up the book because of its cute title. Everyone knows how a new pair of beautiful shoes can make a person feel confident and attractive, even if they do make your feet hurt. I pretty much enjoyed the story, though it was very different from any mystery novel I had ever read before in that no one is murdered. I didn’t really identify much with the characters though and I thought Smith’s tone towards the Africans in the story was a little patronizing. But overall it was a good read, if only to get a taste of another culture.

Publishers Weekly review:  https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-375-42272-0.

The Hotel South Dakota

By Kathleen Taylor

A Tory Bauer mystery, set in the small town of Delphi, South Dakota.
Tory Bauer is an overweight, over-forty waitress. At the time of this story, Tory is involved in helping to organize the high school reunion. Naturally, this brings to mind those long gone days twenty years ago and the death by drowning at a kegger held on the banks of the James River. For twenty years, Butchie’s death had been considered an accidental drowning. But as the townsfolk talk about and rehash old history, Tory begins to think maybe there was more to the incident.

I love the Tory Bauer stories. Yes, there is a lot of talk and not a lot of action, but that is what makes them such a true to life portrait of the goings on in a small town in the upper Midwest. If you like folksy stories, you might like the Tory Bauer mysteries. Besides, how often do you come across stories set in South Dakota? (For those who may not know, a kegger is a party thrown by underage teens to get drunk on beer and act stupid.)

The Trouble With Magic

By Madelyn Alt

Maggie starts a new job, working for Felicity in her antique store. Felicity’s store has a mysterious upstairs room where Maggie finds out that Felicity and her friends practice an ancient religion which some would call witchcraft. Yes, Maggie’s new boss is a witch! Just as Maggie is trying to get used this idea, her new boss is arrested for the murder of her sister. It’s up to Maggie and Felicity’s friends to find the real killer.

Gosh, I didn’t like this novel. I didn’t like Maggie, I didn’t like Felicity or any of her witchy cronies. They all just set my teeth on edge.

The Gates of Heaven

By Curt Benjamin

This is the third in the Seven Brothers trilogy.

In this final chapter, Llesho, the prince and former slave, has found his brothers. Even though the brothers are all older than he, they defer to Llesho and he ends up carrying most of the burden of trying to reclaim their lost kingdom and of defeating the demon that is threatening to destroy not only their world but heaven itself. In this story, Llesho continues his journey of discovery and comes into possession of his full powers. With the help of his brothers, dragons, magicians, emperors, princes, and gods, Llesho may have a chance at defeating the terrible demon called up by his old foe Markko.

I enjoyed the first two books in this series more than I did this one. It’s pretty obvious where Llesho is heading in this story and it is not a premise I particularly enjoyed. Plus the novel seemed to be rather contrived in the adventures it sets up for Llesho, more than in the first two stories. Still it was a good read, better than most swords and dragons fantasies

The Wedding

By Nicholas Sparks

Wilson Lewis did something that millions have done: he forgot his wedding anniversary. His wife Jane doesn’t get too upset about this, but Wilson is perceptive enough to see that his marriage has grown cold because of his unwitting neglect. If he doesn’t do something to redeem himself, he may lose Jane. So he cleverly sets out to subtly woo his wife and bring back some of the passion they shared as newlyweds.

This was a good story even though I wondered how a guy as sensitive and thoughtful as Wilson is portrayed managed to let his marriage deteriorate as far as it did without his noticing. Still I enjoyed watching Wilson worm himself back into Jane’s affections. It was a good read.

The Sight of the Stars

By Belva Plain

This is the portrait of a family. Adam Arnring, 19, sets out for the west to make a life for himself. He leaves behind his father and his dwarfish, reclusive and brilliant brother. Adam succeeds in his quest but his past keeps reaching out for him. Can Adam keep his dream intact or will past entanglements bring his little world crashing down around his ears? Who knows? Who cares? Frankly, I thought everything came a little too easy for Adam. Oh yes, he is a winner, the apple of his daddy’s eye. But he turns his back on his family back in New Jersey. It’s easy to see why his brother resented him so much, stuck back in Jersey doing work he hated.

It was an OK read, I guess.

Historical Novel Society review:  https://historicalnovelsociety.org/reviews/the-sight-of-the-stars/.

The Conspiracy Club

By Jonathan Kellerman

When Dr Jeremy Carrier’s girlfriend is brutally murdered, suspicion falls on him. When another woman is killed in a similar fashion, Carrier realizes he better do something to figure out what is going on before he ends up in jail. Into this investigation steps Dr Arthur Chess, an elderly eccentric who invites Carrier to dine with him and several other persons at a formal, late night supper. As Carrier begins to understand what all his fellow supper guests had in common he also begins to understand who is behind the brutal murders.

A good read for fans of Kellerman.

Review from Publishers Weekly:  https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-345-45257-3.


Summer Harbor

By Susan Wilson

When Kiley was a kid, her family spent their summers at Hawke’s Cove. During her summers there her two closest friends were Mack, from another summer family, and Granger, a local boy. These three kids were inseparable until Kiley began to develop, as young women are wont to do. Then the friendship turns to rivalry as Kiley unwittingly pits the two boys against each other. In a rage, Mack takes his sailboat out alone with tragic consequences.
Feeling guilty and ashamed, Kiley leaves Hawke’s Cove never to return until almost twenty years later when her parents ask her to oversee the sale of their house there. Kiley comes back to Hawke’s Cove with her teenage son, Will. Who is Will’s father? Everyone wants to know, including Will himself, but Kiley isn’t talking.

This was a pretty good story, although I didn’t really understand Kiley’s motivation in keeping Will’s birth a secret or her reasoning in avoiding Hawke’s Cove for all those years. In fact, I really didn’t understand why she chose to sleep with one boy when she was more attached to the other boy.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Walking the Bible

By Bruce Feiler

Bruce Feiler undertakes a fantastic and difficult journey, a trek to the places spoken of in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. Starting in Turkey, near Mount Ararat, he travels through the Middle East and Egypt, including Israel, the Palestine territories and Jordan, and crossing four war zones. He and his traveling companion, Avner Goren, an Israeli archaeologist, talk to everyone about religion, faith and the Bible. He spends a lot of time in the company of Bedouins, camping out in the desert wilderness. He learns as much about being a people of the desert as he does about his own Jewish roots.
I really enjoyed this book. It is almost as good as traveling there yourself but without all the dangers and hassles.

Publishers Weekly review:  https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-380-97775-8.

Chesapeake Blue

By Nora Roberts

I was introduced to Nora Roberts just a few years ago when my Granny sent me Blue Dahlia, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Roberts either has worked in a greenhouse or she does excellent research because the greenhouse scenes come across as authentic. I then found out she also wrote under the name of J.D. Robb for in "In Death" series, which I have also enjoyed a lot, even though they can be pretty gruesome. Roberts is a skilled and prolific author and very good at what she does.
Chesapeake Blue is the fourth in her Chesapeake Bay Saga. It is the story of Seth Quinn, who has returned home from Italy a successful artist. He meets the new girl in town, Drusilla Banks, a girl who is running away from her wealthy background and trying to make it on her own. She has just opened a flower shop and she is definitely not looking for a man in her life. But Seth is intrigued by her and not put off put her skepticism. He talks Dru into posing for him as he undertakes a series of paintings featuring the woman he wants to make his own. But into this happy homecoming comes an unwelcome figure from Seth's past, having heard Seth is successful and wanting a piece of Seth's pie.

I enjoyed this novel despite the rather weak blackmail plot. The Quinn family is wonderful and the place they live is beautiful. It was well worth the time reading about this family.

No One to Trust

By Iris Johansen

The DEA wants to take down ruthless drug lord Rico Chavez. They enlist soldier of fortune, Sean Galen, to locate Elena Kyler, the mother of Rico’s five year old son, Barry. The DEA plan to use Barry and Elena as bait in a trap for Rico Chavez, who is desperate to gain custody of his son. But Rico is a very wealthy man and he has a lot of power, fueled by bribes and intimidation. Elena is inclined to trust no one and, as a deadly assassin, she is used to taking care of herself and her young son. But she turns to the DEA and Sean Galen in a last ditch effort to free herself and Barry from Rico’s evil clutches.

This is a fast-paced story with lots of action and a "who can you trust" mentality. It was a pretty good read, although towards the end I was getting tired of all the double-dealing.

From Kirkus Reviews:  https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/iris-johansen/no-one-to-trust/.

Standing in the Rainbow

By Fannie Flagg

Welcome to the world of Elmwood Springs, Missouri and to the "Neighbor Dorothy" radio show. This story is set in a small town in the 1940s. It follows the lives of its denizens, especially Dorothy Smith, who runs a daily radio show out of her living room, and her family. It is a warm, wonderful, and cozy trip to a time that looks better in retrospect than it probably did in real life. Still, despite its good old days quality, it was lots of fun reading about the mostly goodhearted folks who traipse through the novel.

This story is a look at life in a small town in the old days. I loved this book and I have read it repeatedly.

See also The New York Times review:  http://www.nytimes.com/2002/08/11/books/neighbor-dot-and-aunt-elner.html.

In the Bleak Midwinter

By Julia Spenser-Fleming

Miller’s Kill, New York has a new Episcopal priest, Clare Ferguson. No young idealist, Clare Ferguson is a tough broad with a history. Then someone leaves a baby on the church’s doorstep and Clare and the police chief, Russ Van Alstyne, together try to find the baby’s family. In the process Clare finds herself in serious danger and also finds herself attracted to Russ, who is a married man.

I enjoyed this story, although I thought that Clare was kind of ditsy for an ex-Army chopper pilot and experienced woman of the world.

Review from Dear Author:  http://dearauthor.com/book-reviews/overall-b-reviews/review-in-the-bleak-midwinter-by-julia-spencer-f/.

An Accidental Woman

By Barbara Delinsky

Heather Malone has lived quietly in Lake Henry, New Hampshire for 14 years. But who is Heather Malone really? Is she the well-liked companion of Micah Smith and his two kids? Or is she really a terrorist who has been on the run from the Feds for decades? Will her best friend in Lake Henry, Poppy Blake, be able to clear Heather’s name? Or will Poppy’s investigation reveal that Heather is exactly who the Feds claim she is? In a story ripped from the headlines, Barbara Delinsky explores how Heather’s friends and loved ones deal with her possible duplicity.

A good read.

Writers Write review:  https://www.writerswrite.com/bookreviews/an-accidental-woman-90228.

2nd Chance

By James Patterson and Andrew Gross

Lindsay Boxer made her first appearance in Patterson’s 1st to Die. Now she has to investigate what appears at first glance to be a hate crime: a young black girl is gunned down in front of a church. As the body count mounts, the signs point to a mysterious character, the Chimera. With the help of her friends in the Women’s Murder Club and also with the help of her estranged father, Lieutenant Boxer will do her best to solve the case despite the obstruction of those who should be helping her, her fellow police.

An interesting read for fans of Patterson.

Review from Publishers Weekly:  https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-316-69320-2.



Distant Shores

By Kristin Hannah

Birdie is bored. Her girls are away at college, her husband has gone to New York in pursuit of his dream job and their marriage is on the verge of collapse. Birdie examines her life to try to figure out how all the passion has slipped away. She takes steps to try to renew herself and to find out if her marriage is worth saving.

This is not a bad story, but it was a little boring

Publishers Weekly review: https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-345-45071-5.


City of Bones

By Michael Connelly

Homicide detective Harry Bosch and his partner Jerry Edgar have to investigate the twenty year old murder of a little boy who skeleton was discovered buried in the woods near a housing development. Helping in the investigation is rookie cop Julia Brasher, the young cop who is the officer on duty at the crime scene. With such an old crime scene, Bosch and company have a struggle on their hands to try to solve this murder. Bosch is a relentless investigator and despite some false leads and the interference of the press and of those who should be helping the investigation, Bosch follows all the clues to the surprising conclusion.

An interesting read for those who are fans of police procedurals.

Review from Kirkus Reviews:  https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/michael-connelly/city-of-bones-2/.


Monday, October 23, 2006

The Devil Wears Prada

By Lauren Weisberger

This novel is generally thought to be a roman a clef about
Vogue editor Anna Wintour, although the author denies this.
But since she worked there as an intern, she is being
disingenuous. It's obviously based on Vogue and Wintour,
which was an eyeopener for me; I never knew there could be
such selfish, oblivious and unreasonable bosses. Must be one
of the consequences of having the kind of power Wintour (or
as she is called in the book, Miranda Priestly) does.
You know, as much as the reader is supposed to despise
Priestly and sympathize with poor, put upon Andrea, I
couldn't help feel that Andrea was being unfair to her boss.
I mean, some of the stuff Andrea pulls in her quest to get
even without getting fired are disgusting. Let's face it,
Andrea is in a position that literally millions of
girls would die for. She is the personal assistant to one of
the most important fashion editors in the world! So it means
she has to deal with an unreasonable and demanding boss ...
so what?! It's worth it! But this is something that Andrea
never realizes and neither did Weisberger, I guess.
I liked this book for its inside look at the world of high
fashion and the very rich. A revelation to one who is as
careless about and uninterested in fashion as I. It was a
good read.

Review from The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2003/sep/28/fiction.features.


Mourning Shift

By Kathleen Taylor

Tory Bauer is overweight, over-forty and not overly ambitious. She works as a waitress at the Delphi Cafe, run by the enigmatic, chain-smoking Aphrodite.
It's Halloween and all the gals at the Delphi are in costumes featuring characters from "The Wizard of Oz" and Tory is dressed as a munchkin. The day has barely begun when Tory discovers that one of the customers has passed away in the bathroom. And it turns out to be Aphrodite's husband!  No one in Delphi knew that Aphrodite was married. Then before the body is even cold, in marches Aphrodite's stepdaughter and her son. Next thing we know, there's another dead body and Tory takes steps to uncover the killer.

I enjoyed this story and am looking forward to another Tory Bauer mystery.



Digging to America

By Anne Tyler

In August 1997, two couples arrive at the airport to receive the Korean babies they have adopted. One couple arrives with their relatives in tow and armed with a video camera to capture every precious moment. The other couple, who are Iranian Americans, show up with just themselves and no cameras. Right away we see the culture gap between the two groups. And yet, despite this gap, a bonding and a friendship occur, based on the couples adoption of these two babies.
I liked this book for its insight on what it is like to be a newcomer to the United States. Though the chief character, Maryam, the mother of the son in the Iranian couple, often feels less than kindly toward the Americans in her life, even she comes to a better understanding of the culture she and her family have joined. A worthy read.
The Guardian review:
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2006/may/20/featuresreviews.guardianreview15.

The Pusher

By Ed McBain

So this person was going on about how much she loves the novels of Ed McBain. I had never read him so I decided to check him out at the library. I guess his genre would be called police procedurals. The book I got was The Pusher which was published in the 1950s which gave me pause. Would this book be too dated to appeal 50 years later? Surprisingly it wasn't.

It's a story of the 87th precinct, one of a long series of stories set there. Lieutenant Pete Byrnes & Detective Steve Carella have to investigate the apparent suicide by hanging of the local pusher. But how can it be death by hanging when the autopsy shows he actually died of an overdose of heroin? And what are these threatening calls Byrnes is getting about his own teenage son?

It's an interesting story and still holds up well even after all these years.

Review on James Reasoner's Rough Edges blog:     http://jamesreasoner.blogspot.com/2015/11/forgotten-books-pusher-ed-mcbain-evan.html.


Sunday, October 22, 2006

Lover's Lane

By Jill Marie Landis

A young woman finds herself pregnant. The good news, her boyfriend is eager to marry her and raise their baby. The bad news, he dies before that can happen. The worst news, his parents try to buy her baby and their lawyer threatens her with a custody suit. Terrified she will lose the baby to the heartless grandparents, she disappears with her baby.  The rich grandparents hire a detective to find the child. The detective arrives in the small town where the woman and her little boy are now living. He gets to know her and realizes she is not the trashy slut that the grandparents said. He also realizes that he is falling for her and the little town where she lives.

This was a pretty good story, although the premise was a little weak.


Temporary Sanity

By Rose Connors

This novel is a legal thriller or courtroom procedural.
Marty is a former prosecutor who is now a defense attorney. Her first client shot and killed his young son's murder on live TV. Her second client is a woman who stabbed to death the man who attacked and abused her. Marty has her work cut out for her, especially since the judge is a pill and an all
around pain in the ass.

A good story for those who enjoy this type of fiction.

Review from Kirkus Reviews:  https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/rose-connors/temporary-sanity/.



The Last Bus to Woodstock

By Colin Dexter

I first became acquainted with Inspector Morse on PBS. I grew to be very fond of Morse, as played by John Thaw, and didn't much care for it when they killed him off. So now Morse is gone from TV and if I want to spend time with him it has to be in a book. While a book doesn't have the wonderful visual impact that a TV show does, it does give you a better insight to the thoughts and personality of
the character and contains a lot of detail that is just not possible in a one hour TV show. The Last Bus to Woodstock was the first of Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse series. In it Morse has to investigate the murder of a woman who is found dead in a parking lot. It's interesting to meet Morse in his first
appearance and compare him to the Morse from the TV show. If you are a fan of the show, then this novel is a must read.


The Gift of More: Lessons of Faith and Love from a Life Cut Short

By Pamela Yates

I picked up this book hoping to find some comfort and inspiration. All I am going to say, out of respect for this family's loss, is that I found neither.

Daddy's Little Girl

By Mary Higgins Clark

When she was just a little girl, a young woman was the chief witness against the boy who murdered her sister. Now, a boy no longer, the murderer is out on parole and his family is pressing for a new trial to clear his name. The young woman returns to her home town to launch a new investigation against the murderer to prove her previous testimony and to protect an innocent man from being accused of her sister's murder.

The title, Daddy's Little Girl, refers to the dead girl. She was, in the eyes of her young sister, Daddy's favorite. After her death and the parents later divorce, the father dropped of out the little girl's life, leaving her angry and feeling abandoned. Part of the story is that of the woman dealing with her feelings of guilt about her sister's death and of abandonment. It was a good story. It was a good read.

Review from Publishers  Weekly:   https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-7432-0604-4.



The Forever Year

By Ronald Anthony

An elderly man is no longer able to live on his own so his younger son, Jesse, moves him in to stay with him. Jesse has a bit of a chip on his shoulder towards romantic love. It seems to him, after observing his parents staid and passionless marriage and from his own failed love affairs, that love is an illusion. It burns briefly and goes out. So Jesse treats his current girlfriend kind of cool and casual. His dad, Mickey, sees this and decides to tell Jesse about the great love of his life, a story he has never shared with anyone in the family.

This book was a good story, an uplifting story.

Review from Kirkus Reviews:    https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/ronald-anthony/the-forever-year/.

Mockingbird

By Charles J. Shields

I first saw the movie, "To Kill a Mockingbird," on TV when I was a kid. I liked it even though I doubt now that I understood what it was about. I later read the novel by Harper Lee, which I also liked. It was one of those stories that stick with you even after decades have gone by. So when I saw this biography of Harper Lee, I decided to give it a go. Harper Lee has become a recluse and doesn't give interviews, but still Shields' biography of her might give some insight into the woman and her famous, prize-winning (Pulitzer in 1961) novel.
I did enjoy the book. It gives a lot of info about Nelle Harper Lee. It gives the background of the novel and talks about her years in New York City and of her work with Truman Capote on his book, In Cold Blood. I found it worth reading even though Shields was not able to interview Lee. The main thing I got out of the book was that when Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird she was basically writing the story of her childhood in the small town where she grew up.

Review from BookPage:  https://bookpage.com/reviews/4701-charles-j-shields-mockingbird-portrait-harper-lee#.Wk3acvCnFtQ.


Cold Pursuit

By T. Jefferson Parker

Homicide cop Tom McMichael has to investigate the murder of one Pete Braga. Trouble is the McMichaels and the Bragas have been feuding for decades. Braga shot Tom's grandfather is a dispute over money. Shortly after, Braga's young son was beaten so severly that he was left mentally challenged. The McMichaels were suspected but it was never proved.
So now Braga is dead, bashed in the head and Tom is the investigating officer and Braga's beautiful (naturally) nurse is the main suspect.

This novel has lots of plot twists and characters and I found the story hard to follow at times.
Publishers Weekly review:  https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-7868-6805-6.


A Bell for Adano

By John Hersey

Winner Pulitzer Prize 1945

I'm puzzled as to why this novel won the Pulitzer. It just doesn't seem to have that much substance to it. Plus the attitude of the novel to the Italians is patronizing and
condescending. The main character is Victor Joppolo, who has been put in charge of the town of Adano during WW II as the allies are moving through Italy. This is what Joppolo says
to the local people who he is hiring to help him run the city:
"What makes a man master of another man? It is that he pays him for his work. Who pays the men in thegovernment? The people do, for they pay the taxes out ofwhich you are paid… Remember: you are servants now. You are servants of the people of Adano. And watch: this thing will make you happier than you have ever been in your lives."
Sounds like he thinks he is talking to a bunch of  grade school kids, not to grown men who have more years and more experience in government than he. And the story is kind of lame. The town lost its bell when it was taken to support the war effort by the Italian government. So Joppolo tries his best to find the town a new bell. The Americans in the story were all a bunch of jerks. The old term "ugly American" comes to mind. I just didn't care for this story. Although I fear that the attitude portrayed in it was probably very much true to life.

See also, The Millions: https://themillions.com/2016/01/moral-courage-matters-on-john-herseys-a-bell-for-adano.html.


Saturday, October 21, 2006

True Lies of a Drama Queen

By Lee Nichols

First off, just a small quibble. To me a drama queen is someone who over-dramatizes the little mishaps that plague us all. Like having a screaming hissy fit because you stepped in gum in the parking lot. So I really don't feel that Elle is a drama queen. I mean she gets videoed by a voyeur and she doesn't have a melt down about that or even a screaming temper tantrum at what is a legitimately dramatic event.
OK, other than that, this was a good story. Elle is a good, sweet, caring person who deserves the happy ending she gets. She may be a phony psychic but she treats her friends well, her lover well, her dog well; she even treats her shitty new neighbors well. Yes, she is obsessed with fashion and she isn't exactly ambitious, but at least she knows her own mind. I liked Elle and wouldn't mind having her as a friend myself. I did enjoy reading about her life.

Review from Dear Author:   http://dearauthor.com/book-reviews/overall-c-reviews/c-minus-reviews/true-lies-of-a-drama-queen-by-lee-nichols/.


Lost and Found

By Carolyn Parkhurst

Dang, it really gripes me when a novel is packaged to look cute and amusing but when you read it it turns out to be anything but. This is the case with Lost and Found. It has a bright, cheerful cover featuring parrots peaking out at you and bright, cheerful blurbs like this one: "Thoroughly original and inventive, peopled with engaging characters, and just plain fun, this second novel deserves to be as big a hit as the reality shows it genially pokes fun at." -Booklist

So one would assume this is a bright, cheerful and funny look at reality/adventure TV.
Well, one would be wrong. It is neither bright, nor cheerful. Turns out all the couples in the game show are bogged down with personal problems, two of the worst being the mother and daughter team and the Christian ex-homosexual married couple. Turns out the daughter was pregnant and her mom didn't even notice until the night her daughter gave birth in her bedroom. And the married couple turn out to be not so ex-homosexual after all.
The denouement comes when the players are asked by the show, "What have you found?" What the show is looking for is some big breakthrough moment, like, "I found that there is no one I'd rather be with through good times and bad than my wonderful boyfriend (or husband, wife, girlfriend, whatever)." So they ask the main character, the unobservant mom, "What have you found?" This is the big moment of the whole book. What has this character, who managed to miss her teen daughter's entire pregnancy, found out about herself and her sullen daughter? And you know what? I can't even remember what it was, that's how big of an impression it made on me.
OK, I'm not saying this is a sucky book. It's not. It was OK. You might enjoy it. What I am saying is it is not really a funny book and it shouldn't be promoted as a funny book.

Review from Kirkus Reviews:   https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/carolyn-parkhurst/lost-and-found-8/.


Fifty Degrees Below

By Kim Stanley Robinson

First, you might want to read Forty Signs of Rain. It is the first in this series. However, you don't need to read it to understand and enjoy this novel.
This is an environmental/science fiction novel about climate change. In the first novel, climate change is just starting to affect the world. In Washington DC several days of record breaking rain causes flooding throughout most of the city. In the second novel, things begin to cool down, ocean currents shut down and DC experiences the coldest winter on record.
In this second novel, the story centers on Frank Vanderwalh, a scientist who works at the National Science Foundation. Frank ends up living in a tree during this brutally cold winter in Rock Creek Park even though he has a good job and a van. Frank is a bit of a strange bird to say the least. He is a scientist who is trying to live what he perceives as an authentic primate life in Washington DC. Plus he saves a lot of money on rent.

I really enjoyed this book about Frank's personal struggles and about the NSF's struggles with a Presidential administration that is in deep denial about climate change. I am looking forward to the next book in the group.

Review by Greg L. Johnson on The SF Site:   https://www.sfsite.com/11b/fd212.htm.

A Separate Peace

By John Knowles

This story is a man's story for men. It totally left me cold.
These boys are at a private school in New England. It's WWII. The two main characters are Gene and Finny. Gene is more brainy and Finny is more athletic. Finny invents this dumb game where these fools climb up this tree and jump off the tree and out into the water below. This is a dangerous stunt because if they miscalculate, they could end up smashed on the ground below. Finny is one of those guys who don't seem to have much physical fear. But Gene isn't. Every time he has to do the jump, it bothers him.
After awhile, he starts to resent his friend's easy prowess. And he begins to think Finny in turn resents his intelligence and that Finny is trying to sabotage him. But maybe Finny really is a good guy who only wants Gene to succeed.
I don't know. All I know is that the next time he and Gene are up in the tree preparing to jump, Gene jiggles the branch, and Finny falls and shatters his leg on the ground, ending his career as an athlete. And also ending his chance of being a soldier.
This leaves Gene having to cope with his own lack of character and with his friend's blighted hopes.

If you like these sort of psychological studies, you might enjoy this book. I didn't. I really don't care for books where the main character turns out to be a creep and a coward.

Review from the Independent:   http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/a-separate-peace-by-john-knowles-book-review-a-forgotten-gem-of-the-us-in-wartime-9669357.html.


Without Fail

By Lee Child

Jack Reacher is this weird guy who doesn't have a place to live or own a car or have a driver's license (I think) or credit cards. He doesn't even own a suitcase. He lives off a bank account and if his clothes get dirty he goes and buys new ones and tosses the dirty ones away. I'm not sure what his background is. I think he is some kind of ex-military, special ops kind of guy. This is only the second Reacher novel I have read. The other one was One Shot. Anyway, Reacher is this loner, highly competent fellow who takes on the bad guys and wins.
In this story, Jack Reacher briefly joins the Secret Service to become part of the team that is protecting the Vice President-elect from assassins. There is the usual guns and shootings and car chases associated with this type of story.

Jack Reacher is a very likable and upstanding man. One wishes such a good guy could have a happier life. But I guess that would spoil the story. Jack Reacher is what makes these stories worth reading. He is heroic. I enjoyed this story. Not because I like the genre. But because I like Jack Reacher.

Review from BookPage:   https://bookpage.com/reviews/2386-lee-child-without-fail#.Wk8XRPCnFtQ.

Flight Lessons

By Patricia Gaffney

The main character, Anna, returns home after being betrayed by her current loser boyfriend. She agrees to help her aunt, Rose, run the family restaurant, even though she is angry at Rose for becoming involved with her father when her mother was dying.
Anna mets an ex-lawyer now bird photographer who has lots of problems of his own to deal with due to his own traumatic past.
Anna is a bit of a pill, judgmental and unforgiving. But things worked out in the end and Anna gets her guy and she and Rose deal with the past and come out better and closer.

This romance/family drama was an OK read.

Review from Curled Up:   http://www.curledup.com/flight.htm.


The Dilbert Future

By Scott Adams

Another of Scott's funny Dilbert books, worth reading for the cartoons alone. I enjoyed it very much.
At the end of the book, as in the previous Scott Adams book I read, Adams mentions his theory of the universe and that one can access alternate universes that have better outcomes that the one we currently live in. He says that by using a
certain method one can alter destiny. As in cure disease and get that dream job. Take it with a grain of salt, is my advice.

Three Weeks in Paris

By Barbara Taylor Bradford

It is about four women who went to design school together in Paris. Something happened at that school and now the women all hate each other. But it is their teacher's 85th birthday and they are all going back to Paris to celebrate it with her.
The four women are all talented and successful but unfulfilled. None of them have managed to find true love. They are all gorgeous (naturally). Even the fat one is gorgeous and she manages to
lose all her excess weight before the big birthday reunion.
They also all manage to find their true loves by the time of the party and all is forgiven when they discover that their big blowup was all just a mistaken impression.

You know, it is bad enough that in romance novels there is always at least one gorgeous woman. But this one had four of the blighted things. And if there was any way Bradford could have made it believable, even the 85-year-old would have been gorgeous! But her gorgeousness is just hinted at.
This romance story was pretty dull. I skipped a lot of it and I was reading the condensed version from Reader's Digest.

Publishers Weekly review:   https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-385-50141-5.


Friday, October 20, 2006

Advice and Consent

By Allen Drury

Pulitzer Prize winner 1960.

This prize winning novel is an interesting inside look at U.S. Senate. Set in the 1950s, this is the story of the struggle between the majority and the minority parties in the nomination of a liberal, pro-Soviet man as Secretary of State. Allegations are made that the nominee was a member of the Communist Party. In order to push the nomination through, a subcommittee chairman is threatened with exposure of his homosexual experiences during the war.

First off, this is a really long book. I had a struggle to get through the whole thing. But in the end, it was worth reading.  If you are interested in politics and politicians, then you will enjoy this novel.

For more information, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advise_and_Consent.