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.

PS, 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.

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 wont 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.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Funeral Food

By Kathleen Taylor

The first Tory Bauer mystery, set in Delphi, South Dakota (timeline wise, that is. I don’t think it was the first to be published). I know I am biased, but I just like Tory Bauer. She’s smart, chubby, over-forty and a waitress, all good things as far as I am concerned.

But if you like a murder mystery to start right away with the murder, then skip this book. The murder doesn’t occur until some 100 or so pages into the story. This didn’t bother me because I enjoy reading about Delphi and its inhabitants.

The story starts out with the arrival in town of a young and handsome Mormon missionary. He immediately catches the eye of man-hungry Delphine, Tory’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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 throughly 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

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 enjoyed it very much.

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 Van Alstyne, 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.

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 lam 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.

2nd Chance

By James Patterson

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.

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

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.

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.

Mourning Shift

By Kathleen Taylor

Let me just say that I am a fan of Tory Bauer since I first
read one of Taylor's novels set in Delphi, South Dakota.
Tory is my kind of gal, 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 costume
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! I
mean, no one in Delphi ever 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 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.

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. It
is not a type of fiction I usually read.
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.

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

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.

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.

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.
Once that story was written, she really didn't have anything
else to say. So she never published another novel.

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.

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 (a redundant phrase) 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 Elle and her life.

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.

Fifty Degrees Below

By Kim Stanley Robinson

First, you might want to read Forty Signs of Rain. It is the first in this set of stories. 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.

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.

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.
On a side note, Lee Child's descriptions of the American
countryside in this story are written like he grew up here
and walked these plains and valleys himself. I was surprised
to read that he is actually British. He has a real feel for
the American landscape.
I enjoyed this story. Not because I like the genre. But
because I like Jack Reacher.

Flight Lessons

By Patricia Gaffney
This is a romance/family drama. It was an OK read.
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.
The whole time I was reading this story, it was like I had
read it before. I don't know if this is because I had read
it before or because I had read a story that was similar.
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.

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
This is a romance. It was pretty dull. I skipped a lot of it
and I was reading the condensed version from Reader's
Digest.
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.
Oh, I forgot to mention that 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. It was pretty
boring.
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.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Advice and Consent

By Allen Drury
Pulitzer Prize winner 1960
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. It was an interesting inside look at senators in
the U.S. Congress. If you are interested in politics and
politicians, then you will enjoy this novel.
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.
For more information, see
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advise_and_Consent.

From Beirut to Jerusalem

By Thomas L. Friedman
Friedman is a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter who worked for
UPI and the New York Times while he was stationed in the
Middle East. His book is a memoir of his experiences while
living in Beirut and Jerusalem in the 1980s.
If you are having a hard time understanding the what & why
of the whole Middle East mess, Friedman's book may help. I
found it unbiased and fair in its look at Israel and the
Middle East.

Dragon's Fire

By Todd & Anne McCaffrey
It just sucks when one of your favorite authors gets too old
and feeble to write a good story anymore. Anne has roped in
her son Todd to help with the writing chores but it doesn't
work. Todd's writing is blah. Like reading a newspaper
article.
This new Pern novel just is not interesting. It doesn't have
the passion and spark of McCaffrey's earlier stories. It is
about a mute named Pellar who wants to investigate the
Shunned, the outcasts of society, and who also ends up
finding a new source, less dangerous source of firestone.
Firestone is used by the dragon's to produce flame to
destroy the alien thread that periodically threatens all
life on the planet Pern.
If you like Pern stories, go back and reread Anne's earlier
works. Don't waste your time on this book. It reads a lot
like a Star Trek or Star Wars novel, lots of info but no
heart.

A Private Hotel for Gentle Ladies

By Ellen Cooney
This novel is worth reading even though I was disappointed,
through my own fault, in this book. I misunderstood the
jacket blurbs. This is what I got from the blurbs: a proper
lady leaves her cheating husband and checks into a womens'
hotel in Boston. Only the hotel is a bawdy house. Fun and
hilarity ensue!
Ok, so it's my fault I misunderstood the premise of the
story! I thought it would be fun and games and lots of
goofiness. But no. This is a serious story about a woman who
feels betrayed by her husband and runs away to Boston. And
yes, the hotel is a bawdy house, but the women are the
customers. They book the rooms and are serviced by the male
prostitutes. That sounds exciting but somehow the author
manages to make it dark and closeted.
Anyway, the woman hooks up with one of the male whores and
commits all the acts she thinks her hubby did. And yet
somehow she gets back together with her husband despite her
sudden sexual awakening with her new boytoy. Her husband
must be a prince among men.
This novel was an interesting read. Odd, dark, peculiar and
interesting. But NOT hilarious.

The Dogs Who Found Me

By Ken Foster

Ken Foster likes what are commonly called pit bulls, those ugly dogs with the bad reputations. I didn't know it, but apparently there is a great deal of interest in fighting pit bulls against other dogs and animals. So pit bulls come in for a lot of abuse and neglect when their vile owners decide they have outlived their usefulness. These dogs end up on the street or abandoned to shelters. This book is about Ken Foster and his encounters with stray, lost and abused dogs. It was quite enlightening to read if you are not familiar with the plight of these poor dogs. We humans come off as a pretty heartless and disgusting lot in our neglect and abuse of creatures that give their whole loyalty and love to us. Whatever you do, don't get a pet unless you are willing to consider your pet as part of your family and not just as a piece of property or a commodity. And if you are one of these soulless bastards who uses dogs to fight in the arenas for gambling and amusement, well, then shame, shame, shame on you.

Amsterdam

By Ian McEwan
Winner of the 1998 Booker Prize.
Eh, I can't say I really liked this story. True, a couple times it made me laugh. But the two main characters are both weasels and pretty much got what they deserved. I am not fond of novels about weasels.
This story comes off as a kind of morality play. Like a movie from the 1940s, all the "bad" people end up badly. First, there is Molly, the slut. She sleeps around, even though she is married, gets a nasty disease that turns her brain to mush, and she is dead at the start of the novel. Then there are Clive, a composer who was one of Molly's lovers and Vernon, an editor and another of Molly's lovers. And there is Garmony, a self-righteous politico, who was also one of Molly's men and who liked cross-dressing. These three former lovers of Molly all end up badly and some end up very badly. Molly's husband George watches Molly's men crash and burn and smiles.
Well, it wasn't my cup of tea. Like I said before, I don't like stories where the main characters are creeps and bastards.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Books I've Read 2004 - 2006

Isle of Dogs
The Last Precinct
Hard Eight
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Black Notice
Seven Up
Going Postal
Hot Six
Southern Cross
Mortal Engines
Angels
Point of Origin
High Five
Unnatural Exposure
Bandbox
Attack of the Bounty Hunters
Four to Score
Thou Shalt Not Grill
Hornet's Nest
Three to Get Deadly
Conquistador
The Cold Six Thousand
Cause of Death
From Potter's Field
The Body Farm
Dead Lines
Cruel & Unusual
The Ring
Homegrown Democrat
Domes of Fire
Body of Evidence
Skinny Dip
Firethorn
Rose Madder
All That Remains
No Phule Like an Old Phule
Bushworld

Books I've Read 2004 - 2006

Black Rose
Pasta Imperfect
Death and the Visiting Fellow
Dragonsblood
A Garden in the Rain
The Queen's Knight
The Children's Blizzard
Skeleton Man
Spin
Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders
Trace
Dies the Fire
The Crystal City
Eyes of Fire
Heartfire
Alvin Journeyman
Ya-Yas in Bloom
Blow Fly
Myth Alliances
The Elder Gods
The Treasured One
A Redbird Christmas
Red Prophet
Twisted
The Three Miss Margarets
Prentice Alvin
Paradise Fields
Metro Girl
Khai of Khem
Barrel Fever
Well of Darkness
Guardians of the Lost
Journey into the Void
Acorna's Triumph
The Ghost and Mrs. McClure
Reading Lolita in Tehran
Ten Big Ones
How I Lost 5 Pounds in 6 Years
Myth Directions; Hit or Myth
The Work of Wolves
Bubbles Unbound
The Importance of Being Ernestine
Children of the Mind
To the Nines
Lucy Sullivan Is Getting Married

Books I've Read 2004 - 2006

Reader's Digest Select Editions (RDSE)
Chamomile Mourning
700 Sundays
Marley & Me
Back Home Again
He's Just Not That Into You
Dragonflies
The Painted Drum
Déjà Dead
Calamity Jane
A Random Act
Learning Joy From Dogs Without Collars
Never Have Your Dog Stuffed
A Good Yarn
Holiday in Death
Suspense and Sensibility
The Glass Castle
Scattered Suns
Naked Empire
Vengeance in Death
Horizon Storms
Crusader's Cross
Legends
A Forest of Stars
Keeping Heart on Pine Ridge
Cat's Eyewitness
Ceremony in Death
Hidden Empire
Seriously Funny
The Catswold Portal
101 Cataclysms
Little Scarlet
Swimming to Antarctica
Garfield
God Save the Potato Queens
Long Spoon Lane
The Amorous Busboy of Decatur Avenue
Rapture in Death
Immortal in Death
The Queen's Gambit
The Chalice
Glory in Death
Chainfire
Naked in Death
Donna Rose and the Slug War
Standing in the Rainbow

Books I've Read 2004 - 2006

Reader's Digest Select Editions (RDSE)
Bare Bones
Hardcastle's Conspiracy
The Cat Who Dropped a Bombshell
My Mother's Keeper
Hardcastle's Armistice
Judgment in Death
Silence of the Hams
Judas Unchained
The Unforgiven
Dave Barry's Money Secrets
Alphabet of Thorn
Sour Puss
The Fifth Sorceress
Enrique's Journey
The Coffee Train
Mother Climbed Trees
Somewhere a Cat Is Waiting
The Fine Art of Hypochondria
Running with Scissors
The Isle of Battle
The Hunt Ball
The Shadow Roads
The One Kingdom
Don't Look Down
Freakonomics
Giving Up the Ghost
Witness in Death
The Good Samaritan Strikes Again
Into the Twilight, Endlessly Grousing
The Bear in the Attic
Kid Camping from Aaaaiii! to Zip
If the Slipper Fits
Currant Events
Loyalty in Death
A Breath of Snow and Ashes
Wings on her Petticoat
The Thurber Carnival
Do You Speak American?
Saving Fish From Drowning
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Conspiracy in Death
Teacher Man
The Interruption of Everything
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Books I've Read 2004 - 2006

Reader's Digest Select Editions (RDSE)
Cerulean Sins
The Prince of Dreams
The Prince of Shadow
Savage Messiah
A Perfect Day (RDSE) by Richard Paul Evans
Split Second (RDSE) by David Baldacci
Drifting (RDSE) by Stephanie Gertler
Beachcomber (RDSE) by Karen Robards
Letter From Home (RDSE) by Caroline Hart
PS, I Love You (RDSE) by Cecelia Ahern
The Promise of a Lie (RDSE) by Howard Roughan
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night (RDSE) by Mark Haddon
The Accidental Empire
A Bride Most Begruding
Nighttime Is My Time (RDSE) by Mary Higgins Clark
Blood in the Sky (RDSE) by Steve Hamilton
Maximum Security (RDSE) by Rose Connors
Some Danger Involved (RDSE) by Will Thomas
Santa Fe Rules
The Scrolls of the Ancients
Death du Jour
Grave Secrets
The Sweet Potato Queens' Wedding Planner
The Sweet Potato Queens' Divorce Guide
The Things We Do For Love (RDSE) by Kristin Hannah
Three Weeks With My Brother (RDSE) by Nicholas and Micah Sparks
The Murder Artist (RDSE) by John Case
Night Train to Lisbon (RDSE) by Emily Grayson
A Quiche Before Dying
Blowing My Cover
Rumpole a la Carte
Dead Canaries Don't Sing
Worth More Dead
Bait (RDSE) by Karen Robards
Mosaic (RDSE) by Soheir Khashoggi
One Shot (RDSE) by Lee Child
Diving Through the Clouds (RDSE) by Nicola Lindsay
Having It and Eating It
A Diet to Die For
A Really Cute Corpse
Quick Service
Monday Mourning
Death and the Walking Stick
Family and Other Accidents
Betrayal in Death

Books I've Read 2004 - 2006

The Gift of More
Reader's Digest Select Editions (RDSE)
Daddy's Little Girl (RDSE)
Without Fail (RDSE)
Flight Lessons (RDSE)
Three Weeks in Paris (RDSE)
The Dilbert Future
Advice and Consent
From Beirut to Jerusalem
Dragon's Fire
A Private Hotel for Gentle Ladies
Lost and Found
Fifty Degrees Below
A Separate Peace
Forty Signs of Rain
The Nanny Diaries
A Bell for Adano
Mockingbird
The Forever Year (RDSE) by Ronald Anthony
Cold Pursuit (RDSE) by T. Jefferson Parker
Lover's Lane (RDSE) by Jill Marie Landis
Temporary Sanity (RDSE) by Rose Connors
Last Bus to Woodstock
The Pusher
Digging to America
Mourning Shift
The Devil Prada
Chesapeake Blue (RDSE) by Nora Roberts
No One to Trust (RDSE) by Iris Johansen
Standing In the Rainbow (RDSE) by Fannie Flag
In the Bleak Midwinter (RDSE) by Julia Spenser-Fleming
An Accidental Woman (RDSE) by Barbara Delinsky
2nd Chance (RDSE) by James Patterson
Distant Shores (RDSE) by Kristin Hannah
City of Bones (RDSE) by Michael Connelly
Funeral Food
Blue Shoes and Happiness
The Hotel South Dakota
The Birth of Israel
The Trouble with Magic
The Gates of Heaven
The Wedding (RDSE) by Nicholas Sparks
The Sight of the Stars (RDSE) by Belva Plain
The Conspiracy Club (RDSE) by Jonathan Kellerman
Summer Harbor (RDSE) by Susan Wilson