What Are We Reading And Reviewing in July 2019?
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Carol Reads With A Friend in July
📌 - ★
📌An Unhallowed Grave by Kate Ellis - 3.5 ★
📌Silent Scream by Angela Marson - 5★
📌The Camel Club by Davis Baldacci - 3.5★
Pick A Winner...Make A friend
📌The Missing and The Dead by Stuart MacBride - 5★
📌Snowblind by Christopher Golden - 4★
📌The Suspect by Fiona Burton - 3.5★
📌 The Good The Bad and The Furry by Tom Cox 5+ ★
📌Night Women by Sara Blaedel - 3★
📌Hangman's Root by Susan Witting Albert - 2★
📌Every Secret Thing by Emma Cole - 4★
📌The Good, The Bad and The Furry by Tom Cox - 5+★
📌Ruff vs Fluff by Spencer Quinn - 4.5★
📌Skin Game by Stuart Woods - 3.5★
📌Sorrow's Anthem by Michael Koryta - 5★
📌The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne - 5★
📌Stranger In The House by Shari Lapena - 4★
📌The Pandora Room by Christopher Golden - 4★
📌Dead Ringers by Christopher Golden - 5★
📌More Than This by Patrick Ness - 4★
📌The Unsub by Meg Gardiner - 5★
📌While You Sleep by Stephanie Merritt - 4.5 ★
📌The Curse of Misty Wayfair by Jaime Jo Wright- ★
📌Daughters of The Lake by Wendy Webb - 3
📌Day Four by Sarah Lotz- 3★
Dusty's TBR for July
Becky Chambers - Record of a Spaceborn Few✔
Charles Stross - The Jennifer Morgue✔
Edgar Rice Burroughs - Fighting Man of Mars ✔
Paolo Bacigalupi - Windup Girl
Charlaine Harris - Midnight Crossroad ✔
Charlaine Harris - Day Shift ✔
Charlaine Harris - Night Shift ✔
Beverley Nichols - Down the Garden Path✔
Enid Blyton - Five Go To Smugglers Top ✔
Mary Willis Walker - Zero at the Bone ✔
Anthony Berkeley - The Poisoned Chocolates Case ✔
Georgette Heyer - These Old Shades ✔
Jill Murphy - The Worst Witch✔
Jeff Brown - Flat Stanley ✔
Jatne Ann Krentz - Secret Sisters ✔
The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches From the Border – Francisco Cantú
Audiobook read by the author.
Cantú studied international relations in college. He was raised primarily by his mother, a Mexican immigrant and U.S. Park Ranger, in the Southwest U.S. He joined the border patrol because, “I spent four years in college … learning about the border through policy and history. I want to see the realities of the border day in and day out. I know it may be ugly. I know it might be dangerous, but I don’t see any better way to truly understand the place.” In this memoir he examines what he learned, what puzzled him, what distressed him, and what haunts him still.
Cantú writes with a stream-of-consciousness style. He uses no quotations marks and there is little exposition. At times the change in time/setting is quite abrupt and made this reader feel a little off-balance. He begins with a visit to Mexico with his mother, covers his training at the Academy, his time in the field and in the office, and ends after he’s left the Border Patrol and is working at a coffee shop where he befriends the maintenance man, an undocumented worker who has been in the USA for about 30 years.
Cantú explains the policies and procedures of the Border Patrol and Immigration. He writes with brutal honesty about the realities of hunting humans, the horrors of finding bodies in the desert, the heart-breaking stories of women and children left to fend for themselves by coyotes who have taken their money (and what little water they had), the callous destruction of “caches” found by the agents (they put holes in water jugs, urinate on extra clothing, break tools). And he explores the dreams that plague him.
It’s raw and emotional and thought provoking.
The audiobook is read by the author. He sets a good pace and has a smooth delivery. And his Spanish pronunciation is perfect.
NOTE: There is occasional Spanish in the book, and Cantú rarely translates it.
A No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency purchase
I am very excited about a purchase I recently made from iTunes ~
No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency: BBC Radio Casebook: BBC Radio 4 full-cast dramatisations by Alexander McCall Smith (Vol. 4)
I purchased Volume 1 of the 4-set collection. Each audiobook contains mini-plays that AMS wrote based on the books he has been writing for almost two decades. The first volume contains 8 of them ~ each is about 45 minutes long. Audible/Amazon has all four volumes, too. My library's OverDrive site has Volume 2. I recommended adding the other three volumes. I enjoyed the first play today. I plan to explore the plays in Volume 1 during July.
Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker-in-Training / Tom Jokinen
What happens behind the scenes when someone dies until they “appear” at the funeral? The author looks at this, in addition to the business of being an undertaker, in all the historical changes – from burial to cremation… and still to come, green burials. He works with a family funeral home in Winnipeg where he learns all the different aspects of the business. He also heads to California, where he learns more about green burials (at the time of writing – this was published in 2010 – in Canada, the only place you could have a green burial was in Guelph, Ontario, and somewhere in BC was building someplace for it), then to Las Vegas for an undertaker trade show – see all the new and best in funerial apparel!!
I found this really interesting. Of course, there was a bit of humour thrown in here and there. In such a business, I think there needs to be!
>5 Molly3028: Have you watched any of the this series on DVD? Anyone that loves these wonderful characters would love seeing them in the "flesh". I started getting the DVD's for my mother as she loved the books.
I watched part of the pilot when it was on HBO years ago. I decided then that I preferred to "see" the characters in my mind's eye.
Reached / Ally Condie
This is the 3rd book in the Matched trilogy. Possible SPOILERS for the first two books…
I take too long in between books to remember what happened previously; these books were not great for recapping, so I have to just try to pick up and figure out what’s going on. Once I did, it was ok. I listened to the audio and parts kept my interest and other parts didn’t, so I did miss some things, but was able to follow the gist of what was happening. I think I had a similar reaction to the 2nd book, but I decided to finish the trilogy, so now I have.
So far the plan is to read I know you know by Gilly Macmillan and Lock every door by Riley Sager. Hopefully there will be more this month. Finished both!! Now I plan on reading I See You by Clare Mackintosh and Then She was gone by Lisa Jewel.
I failed. I didn't get to Then She Was Gone or I See You. BUT I finished One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus, The Nanny by Gilly MacMillan & Hunting Party by Lucy Foley.
An Unhallowed Grave by Kate Ellis
Wesley Peterson series Book #3
When the body of Pauline Brent is found hanging from a yew tree in a local graveyard, DS Wesley Peterson immediately suspects foul play. Then history provides him with a clue. Wesley's archaeologist friend, Neil Watson, has excavated a corpse at his nearby dig - a young woman who, local legend has it, had been publicly hanged from the very same tree before being buried on unhallowed ground five centuries ago. Wesley is forced to consider the possibility that the killer knows the tree's dark history. Has Pauline also been 'executed' rather than murdered - and, if so, for what crime? To catch a dangerous killer Wesley has to discover as much as he can about the victim. But Pauline appears to have been a woman with few friends, no relatives and a past she has carefully tried to hide.
I really like this series and this author. There is always two stories in these books...one that requires an archaeologist and one that requires the skills of a detective...both are provided by Ms. Ellis. I found the parallels presented by the two murders that were separated by 500 years a bit too coincidental to ring true. Never the less it was a very entertaining read and a great addition to this series.
Every Secret Thing by Emma Cole (Susanna Kearsley)
When an old man strikes up a conversation with her on the steps of St. Paul’s and makes a mystifying mention of murder and an oddly familiar comment about her grandmother, Kate Murray is intrigued. But she never gets to hear the rest of Andrew Deacon’s tale. Shocked by his unexpected death, she wonders whom this strange, old man is, and what the odd reference to her grandmother could mean. Interest piqued by the story never told, Kate becomes drawn into an investigation, uncovering secrets about the grandmother she thought she knew and a man she never did. Soon she is caught up in a dangerous whirlwind of events that takes her back into her grandmother’s mysterious wartime past and across the Atlantic as she tries to retrace Deacon’s footsteps. Finding out the truth is not so simple, however, as only a few people are still alive who know the story…and Kate soon realizes that her questions are putting their lives in danger. Stalked by an unknown and sinister enemy, and facing death every step of the way, Kate must use her tough journalistic instinct to find the answers from the past in order to have a future.
It was one of those books that I didn't want to end. The mystery is well plotted,with plenty of twists and turns while the characters...both past and present...keep the plot moving along without taking anything from the story. War-time New York and Lisbon come to life with just the right amount of detail for the period. Kate...the heroine, is motivated and easy to cheer for as she unravels the past while trying to keep herself alive. I especially liked the way the author dropped subtle hints throughout the story. A very enjoyable read.
The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto
Narrated by the voice of Music, this is the story of the magical but difficult life of Frankie Presto, musician extraordinaire, born in Spain and who became an orphan at a very young age. He was taken in by a blind music teacher who helped him hone his gift which leads him into his musical career and the ups and downs of his unusual life. Interesting read!
Eleven Minutes – Paulo Coelho
Maria is a young girl form a small Brazilian town. Her first love leaves her heartbroken and she becomes convinced that she is destined to never find true love. She works in a drapery firm, where she fends off her boss. On a trip to Rio de Janeiro she meets a “businessman” who promises her fame and fortune in Switzerland.
Well this went in a direction I wasn’t expecting. Yes, of course, Maria winds up a prostitute and not a famous movie actress, but she comes to understand much about herself and the world. She starts going to the library and reads up on a wide variety of topics. She opens a bank account and saves for her eventual return to Brazil, where she plans to buy a farm for her parents. She explores her sexuality in ways she never expected and thinks long and hard about the meaning of love and whether it really exists.
There were several times when I thought that Coelho really doesn’t know women at all. And still, I was captivated by Maria and her journey.
I had previously read Coelho’s The Alchemist and was not enthralled. At the outset of this book I felt it might just be the author’s attempt to write the same book with a female protagonist. But the strength and beauty of Coelho’s writing carried me away.
I was heading for a 4-star rating, but the fairy tale ending lost a half star for me.
Stranger In The House by Shari Lapena
Karen and Tom Krupp are happy—they’ve got a lovely home in upstate New York, they’re practically newlyweds, and they have no kids to interrupt their comfortable life together. But one day, Tom returns home to find Karen has vanished—her car’s gone and it seems she left in a rush. She even left her purse—complete with phone and ID—behind. There's a knock on the door—the police are there to take Tom to the hospital where his wife has been admitted. She had a car accident, and lost control as she sped through the worst part of town. The accident has left Karen with a concussion and a few scrapes. Still, she’s mostly okay—except that she can’t remember what she was doing or where she was when she crashed. The cops think her memory loss is highly convenient, and they suspect she was up to no good. Karen returns home with Tom, determined to heal and move on with her life. Then she realizes something’s been moved. Something’s not quite right. Someone’s been in her house. And the police won't stop asking questions. Because in this house, everyone’s a stranger. Everyone has something they’d rather keep hidden. Something they might even kill to keep quiet.
This is the 3rd book that I have read by this author. I enjoyed the book but so far nothing has taken the place of her first book The Couple Next Door. The thing that bugged me is teh same thing that bugged me in the first book and the second book...this authors love of the short sentence. I guess it is just her writing style and I will eventually get used to it. The story was predictable if you read many mystery & suspense novels but it did have some surprises. I really didn't form any real attachments to any of the characters but still it was a worthwhile read.
Skin Game by Stuart Woods
Teddy Fay series Book #3
When Teddy Fay receives a freelance assignment from a gentleman he can't refuse, he jets off to Paris on the hunt for a treasonous criminal. But as Teddy unearths more information that just doesn't seem to connect, his straightforward mission becomes far bigger--and stranger--than he could imagine. The trail of bread crumbs leads to secrets hidden within secrets, evildoers trading in money and power, and a global threat on an unprecedented scale. Under the beautiful veneer of the City of Lights, true villainy lurks in the shadows...and Teddy Fay alone can prevent the impending disaster.
I really like the Teddy Fay character. I've read the Stone Barrington series for more years than I care to count and have lately found that I am dissatisfied with what Stuart Woods has made of him, Teddy Fay brings back what the books were to begin with. He's bright...he's daring...he doesn't take anything off of anybody...and he has integrity. He always does things his way but he gets the job done. Woods blended the story with the characters of Stone and Dino. It would have been better if he had just let Teddy work his magic.
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows
★ ★ ★ ★ 1/2 - 295 pages
Nikki, a daughter of Indian immigrants, distances herself from the Sikh community. When she dropped out of law school, her father was very disappointed, and when he passed away, Nikki thought he was still angry with her. Nikki needs to supplement her income, as her bartending job may be endangered. She takes a job teaching creative writing in a Punjabi community center. The women who show up there are widows and thought they were going to learn to read English. Instead, they find a book of erotic short stories and start revealing their own fantasies and desires. As more women are drawn to the class, their stories start to spread to others, including the "Brothers," a group who want to keep women repressed, and Nikki is drawn into a young wife's tragedy.
Read for my face-to-face book group (although late as usual,) I really like this novel. It gave great insight into the Punjabi community, highlighting many of the cultural obstacles the widows dealt with.
The Missing and The Dead by Stuart MacBride
Logan McRae series Book #9
When you catch a twisted killer there should be a reward, right? What Acting Detective Inspector Logan McRae gets instead is a ‘development opportunity’ out in the depths of rural Aberdeenshire. Welcome to divisional policing – catching drug dealers, shop lifters, vandals and the odd escaped farm animal. Then a little girl’s body washes up just outside the sleepy town of Banff, kicking off a massive manhunt. The Major Investigation Team is up from Aberdeen, wanting answers, and they don’t care who they trample over to get them. Logan’s got enough on his plate keeping B Division together, but DCI Steel wants him back on her team. As his old colleagues stomp around the countryside, burning bridges, Logan gets dragged deeper and deeper into the investigation. One thing’s clear: there are dangerous predators lurking in the wilds of Aberdeenshire, and not everyone’s going to get out of this alive.
Our Logan McRae is a Sergeant in this book. As a part of his "promotion" he is sent to an outlying division to gain "experience". It's not a very nice area and he soon becomes caught up with drug runners, domestics violence investigations, and anything else they might want to throw at him. Of course he should have time to investigate just one more case. Logan's life soon becomes darker and much more confused. His relationship with Roberta Steele gets more complicated also. Actually I wish they would transfer her somewhere else...Mars or Jupiter would be great. The sad part of the story is that a little girl is found dead...and a horrible mutilation occurs. The story is both shocking and sad but is filled with surprises.
Isn’t It Romantic?– Ron Hansen
The subtitle of this little novel is “An Entertainment.” And that’s exactly what it is.
Natalie and Pierre are a young Parisien couple, but Natalie has had it with Pierre’s playboy ways. She decides to go to America and travel by bus to really see the country. Pierre follows her and they wind up stranded in Seldom, Nebraska, population 395. Natalie is taken in by the former French teacher (who’s apparently forgotten much of her French), while Pierre bunks with Owen, the local garage mechanic and amateur vintner. They also capture the amorous attentions of two locals.
What follows is a farcical comedy, with messages gone astray, intentions misunderstood, love declared, and more than one mishap. Who will wind up with whom?
It’s a fun romance, if totally ridiculous. Great beach read.
Little Town On the Prairie – Laura Ingalls Wilder
Digital audiobook performed by Cherry Jones
Book seven in the popular classic Little House series, has Laura growing into a young lady. She feels that the new teacher, Miss Wilder, is unfairly picking on her and her sister. Nellie Oleson seems to be thwarting Laura at every turn. Mary has left to go to a college for the blind, and Laura takes on a part time job to help pay the expenses. The town is growing and with growth come new opportunities for socializing. Laura passes her examination to be certified as a teacher, and love begins to blossom.
I love this series for the way the pioneer spirit is portrayed and the strong family relationships.
THIS book, however, has a scene that is very uncomfortable for modern readers. The towns folks put on a minstrel show, including performers in blackface. I know this is historically accurate to the period, but I just cringed reading about it.
Cherry Jones does a fine job narrating the audiobook. I particularly like it when she sings the hymns or folk songs.
Sorrow's Anthem by Michael Koryta
Lincoln Perry series Book #2
Once Lincoln Perry and Ed Gradduk were friends. Then Perry became a cop, Gradduk turned dangerous, and their friendship imploded. Now, Gradduk is dead. And Perry wants to use his PI license to prove that whatever else his childhood friend might have been, he wasn't a murderer.
For the police, this case is over. The woman Gradduk is alleged to have killed can't tell her side of the story, and the building she entered with him has burned to the ground. But Perry is making connections to a wave of arson that struck Cleveland seventeen years ago-fires that lit up the dark secrets of two families, a local power-broker, and at least one crooked cop. Now Perry and his partner can see ties between the past and present, between innocents and criminals-and sirens that keep playing.
I first read Michael Koryta when I found his book The Prophet at a library fund raising sale. From that first book I was hooked on this author and I loved his writing style. It was even more impressive when I found out that at the time he wrote that book he was 22 years old. Koryta paints a picture with words that makes the reader truly feel what is happening to the characters. This is the story of two best friends that chose entirely different paths in life and how Perry must now struggle to understand and accept what has happened to his friend. This is an author that just can't disappoint.
Divining Women – Kaye Gibbons
Audiobook read by the author.
In 1918 Mary Oliver, the child of well-to-do and somewhat liberal parents and raised in Washington DC, goes to spend time with her uncle Troop Ross, and his wife Maureen, who is expecting her first child. They live in small town in North Carolina, on a property a little out of town. Mary quickly learns that Troop is a bully, keeping his wife isolated, belittling her concerns, and threatening to put her in an asylum if she doesn’t shape up. The Spanish influenza epidemic further isolates the women, but also strengthens their resolve.
I have been a fan of Gibbons’ writing since the 1990s. For a time, I was devouring every one of her books; and I’ve read several of them more than once. But somehow, I missed this book until now.
I like the way Gibbons writes her characters. There are some very unpleasant goings on, and much of it makes me in turns uncomfortable, despairing, and angry. I was rather irritated with Mary for a time, feeling that she was butting in where she had no business. But as it became clear how much control Troop exerted over Maureen, I began to cheer for Mary’s involvement. This is at a time when women had few rights on their own, and yet Mary refused to be cowed by her uncle. And her strength empowered Maureen to fight for the freedom and respect she was due. Brava, ladies!
Gibbons narrates the audiobook herself. I really did not like her performance at all. She showed little emotion and it seemed like a student reading aloud because she was required to do so. Only 1 star for her performance on the audio. I think I’ll pick this up again at a later date and read it in text format.
Bittersweet – Colleen McCullough
Book on CD performed by Cat Gould.
A mini-series soap opera of a novel, following four sisters (two sets of twins) in early 20th century Australia. The Latimer girls have the same father, but different mothers. Edda and Grace’s mother died in childbirth, and their father later married the housekeeper originally hired to help the young widowed father. Early on their goals and dreams for themselves diverge: Edda wants to be a doctor, Grace to marry and raise a family, Tufts expects to stay single, and Kitty wants more than anything to known for something other than her extraordinary beauty.
McCullough does a great job of crafting this sweeping novel. I was engaged and interested in the story and in exploring life in Australia at this time frame. I really enjoyed learning about the nursing training the sisters underwent, as well as the early limitations and advances in medicine during this time period.
Ultimately, however, I did get frustrated by Grace’s manipulative “woe-is-me, I’m so helpless” attitude. Even Kitty – the extraordinary beauty – showed more gumption and grit. However, Grace did eventually grow up and showed some of the strength of her twin, Edda. I really liked Edda and the way that her story played out. She was the consistently strong one and seemed to naturally take on the mantel of oldest child and leader.
There were a few story lines that McCullough seemed to abandon for a time, and then reintroduce simply to resolve them.
Cat Gould does a fine job of narrating the audiobook. She sets a good pace and has clear diction and enough skill as a voice artist to differentiate the many characters. I was listening during a long road trip and it made the miles fly by! 4**** for her performance.
Snowblind by Christopher Golden
Once upon a time, Coventry weathered a horrific blizzard, one that left many people dead―and others mysteriously lost. Twelve years later, the town is still haunted by the snow that fell that one fateful night…and now a new storm is on the way.
A chilling offering featuring a group of spirits that visit a small Connecticut town during a major blizzard. It seems for the last 12 years there is a blizzard with bizarre happenings that noone can explain taking place. The reader encounters the horrors in the beginning of the story with the original horror-show inflicted on the town and then the aftermath. The question for the town folk is what will come out of the blizzard this time and who will be left?
Riders of the Purple Sage – Zane Grey
Digital audiobook read by John Bolen.
From the book jacket: Cottonwoods, Utah, 1871. A woman stands accused. A man, sentenced to whipping. In … rides … Lassiter, a notorious gunman who’s come to avenge his sister’s death. It doesn’t take Lassiter long to see that this once-peaceful Mormon community is controlled by the corrupt Deacon Tull – a powerful elder who’s trying to take the woman’s land by forcing her to marry him, branding her foreman a dangerous “outsider.” Lassiter vows to help them. But when the ranch is attacked by horse thieves, cattle rustlers, and a mysterious Masked Rider, he realizes they’re up against something bigger, and more brutal, than the land itself…
I hardly know what to write about this classic of the Western genre. It’s full of adventure, violence, strong men and women, tenderness, brutality and an abiding sense of justice. And, of course, there is the landscape, which Grey paints so vividly it is practically a character.
Yes, the storyline and dialogue are a bit melodramatic. But Grey’s story still captured this reader’s imagination with its sense of drama, almost non-stop action, and bold characters. I was reminded of the many western movies I watched with my Daddy in the ‘50s and ‘60s. They were exciting and the good guys always won. Clearly those movies (and other books of the genre) had Grey’s strong foundation on which to build. I’m glad I finally read it.
The digital audio available through my library’s Overdrive system was read by John Bolen. I was not a great fan of his delivery, which seemed overly dramatic to me. I might have enjoyed this better had I read the text.
The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland / Jim DeFede
Gander, Newfoundland has about 10,000 people. It was once a hub for airliners to stop to refuel, so it has lots of space for large aircraft. On 9/11, when the terrorists took down the Twin Towers in New York, air space in all of the United States was closed. Flights already in the air were ordered to land as soon as possible. 38 planes chose to, or were ordered to, land in Gander, adding 7,000 people in to the community who ended up staying for a few days before being able to get back on flights to continue on (or go back).
When Gander declared a state of emergency, people were housed at schools, churches, and anywhere else that had room, while flight crews took over all the hotel rooms. The people in Gander donated hours of their time, items from their homes, food, and places to stay for some of the stranded passengers. Friendships (and maybe even at least one romance) were formed.
The book was published in 2002, about a year after the events of the day. Some of the people the book followed included: a husband and wife returning from Kazakhstan with a little girl they’d just adopted; there was the parents of a missing firefighter in New York; there was royalty; there was a couple of higher-up people in well-known companies; there were a few Jewish people, in a town where most of the people had never met a Jewish person before, and more. I hadn’t thought about the animals that were on those planes, in the cargo hold!
I’m Canadian. I grew up in a small town, and can see people reacting as the people of Gander did, doing everything they could do to help. 9/11 itself is an emotional topic, though I have no close personal connections to New York. This was emotional, it made me feel proud to be Canadian, to read about everything the people in Gander had done.
I listened to the audio book, so I missed out on some photos that were included in the book. Overall, a really good (and emotional) account of what some of the people who were flying that day went through when they landed in a small isolated town in Eastern Canada.
Honeymoon – James Patterson and Howard Roughan
Audiobook performed by Campbell Scott and Hope Davis
Nora Sinclair is beautiful, smart and alluring. She has more men attracted to her than ants to a picnic. But the honeymoon won’t last long; people around Nora tend to end up dead. John O’Hara is the FBI agent who is determined to catch this modern-day “black widow.” He has his own issues and despite what he suspects about Nora he finds himself drawn into her web.
Patterson and his team can sure churn out the fast-paced suspense/thrillers! The action is quick and the target ever moving. The writing may be simple, but the plot holds the reader’s attention. Of course, there will be a twist (or two) to keep our protagonist just slightly off balance (and the reader, turning pages). Good beach / vacation read.
I was glad that the producers chose two talented voice artists to read the audio version. Campbell Scott takes those chapters from John O’Hara’s point of view. While Hope Davis is chilling as the cunning and twisted Nora Sinclair.
A Breath of Snow and Ashes / Diana Gabaldon
Everyone is settled on Fraser’s Ridge in North Carolina. And more settlers are moving there. They are coming close to the date that Roger and Bree had seen as the date Claire and Jamie died in a fire. They are also coming close to the Revolutionary War/the War of Independence in the colonies.
To me, this one felt a bit like “filler” to get somewhere, but at the same time, it (mostly) kept my interest. A few big things happened as time went on, but much of it was day-to-day. Those big things picked the action up for a while as each one happened. Claire had an apprentice to help her out/someone to teach, which I liked. There was something missing (in my opinion) that I would have liked to have “seen” just before the epilogue. I thought maybe that would be part of the next books, but I guess not.
Hangman's Root by Susan Wittig Albert
China Bayless series book #3
When a prominent animal researcher is found hanged in the midst of angry protests against his experiments, suspicion falls on biology professor Dottie Riddle. Known as the Cat Lady of Pecan Springs, Dottie's sympathy for strays—and the victim's distaste for them—gives the police reason to think she may be capable of murder. But China doesn't think so. She hires a lawyer for Dottie and starts looking around for clues. But she soon discovers that digging up old evil is a dirty and dangerous business.
The story centers around Dottie Riddle...a serious animal lover... who is accused of murdering her co-worker and neighbor, Miles Hartwick. I say good for Dottie for even thinking of killing him!!! China Bayless is quick to come to her friends defense. The only "crime" Dottie...the "cat lady....was guilty of was to provide a home for the homeless cats who found their way to her backyard. Meanwhile a series of nasty neighborhood incidents centering on the stray cats caused a number of people to believe that the kind hearted Dottie could have caused his death. Not a lot really happens after that except a lot of speculation. Cozy mystery people probably will, or already, love this series. I thought after the hanging that the book was just begging to end.
Dark Coulee: a Claire Watkins Mystery by Mary Logue
★ ★ ★ ★ - 231 pages
Second book in the series. Read for "Pick a Winner" Challenge.
Claire Watkins has been promoted to Investigator in her county's sheriff's department. She is still processing the events from the first novel, in which she learned that her husband's death had been a "hit," and that her former partner in the Minneapolis police force was dirty. When her neighbor/boyfriend Rich invites her to a street dance, she accepts and is looking forward to an evening off duty. She's back on the case, though, when Jed Spitzler is knifed at the dance and dies at the hospital. Two of Spitzler's children were there when it happened, as was his current girlfriend's ex. His late wife's former boyfriend was also in town.
There are a few twists and turns in the story, although I had most of it figured out fairly quickly. I love the setting - it is where we sometimes vacation on the Wisconsin side of the river across from Red Wing, Minnesota. Maiden Rock and a few other local attractions play a role in Logue's tales.
Ruff vs Fluff by Spencer Quinn
From the outside, Queenie the cat and Arthur the dog appear to have a lot in common. Both pets live in the charming Blackberry Hill inn. They both love their humans, twins Harmony and Bro. They both have a fondness for sausage. But that doesn't change the fact that they are mortal enemies. Goofy, big-hearted Arthur loves everyone he's ever met . . . except the snobby, scheming cat who's devoted her life to ruining his. Queenie is a bit choosier. And who can blame her? When you're brilliant AND exquisitely beautiful, you can't be expected to rub tails with commoners. Especially not slobbery dogs. But when the twins' beloved cousin is framed for murder, Queenie and Arthur must work together to clear his name . . . something Queenie finds even more distasteful than inexpensive caviar. Can two enemies put aside their differences long enough to solve the mystery?
Yeah... I know....it's a kid's book. But hey... it had a dog...and a cat...on the cover. Not just any dog and cat but a CUTE dog and cat. Queenie and Arthur. One chapter is the dog "speaking" and the next one we hear from the cat. They very much have their own insights about their humans, the murder, It's 304 pages of pure delight. I just wish Spencer Quinn had written the two little balls of fur to be able to communicate with one another.
The Passover Murder – Lee Harris
Book number 7 in the Christine Bennett mystery series. The former nun is invited to a Passover seder by her neighbor. During the event she learns that sixteen years prior, the neighbor’s aunt Iris disappeared in the middle of the Passover meal. Her body was found a few days later but the mystery of her death has never been solved.
I really like this main character. Christine is intelligent, calm, deliberate, tenacious and compassionate. She gains the trust of those she interviews and manages to ferret out information that even the police failed to uncover. Her husband, Jack, is a detective with the NYPD, and also going to law school, so while he’s always willing to listen and offer advice (and some “inside” help now and again) Christine manages quite well on her own.
One thing I like about this series (and the Kinsey Millhone series by Sue Grafton) is the setting in a time period before cell phones, computers and googling. The person doing the detecting has to rely on lots of tedious footwork and research, as well as keen observation and a well-hone intuition when interviewing suspects / witnesses.
A Scanner Darkly
by Philip K. Dick
A law enforcement agent, Fred is following the criminal activities of a known drug dealer and user – Bob Arctor. Bob is selling Substance D which alters the mind while destroying it at the same time. There is a big twist involving the two in this black comedy tale. The book was made into a movie and I would love to see how the director interpreted this unusual story!
Homebody: A Guide to Creating Spaces You Never Want to Leave by Joanna Gaines
★ ★ ★ ★ - 352 pages
In this beautiful book, decorating guru Joanna Gaines gives advice on how to create a home that reflects the owner's personality. The photos are gorgeous and the advice is good, if somewhat generic. I loved a lot of the furniture pieces Gaines used in her own home and other homes she's decorated. The biggest problem - the photos all have the same "look." Gaines could have used this book as a platform to show some variety, but instead, all show her signature industrial/farmhouse style.
The Pandora Room
A Ben Walker novel
Ancient lore soon turns into a modern-day horror. In one variation on the myth of Pandora’s Box, there were two jars, one for Pandora and one for her sister. One contained blessings of the gods, the other all the world’s curses. Archaeologist Sophie Durand has spent her life studying ancient mythology and languages. Years of work have led her to the greatest discovery of her career, a subterranean city deep in the heart of Northern Iraq. When Sophie’s team uncovers a secret chamber whose walls are covered in cuneiform, along with a warning from Alexander the Great, history and mythology begin to merge. The writings confirm the Pandora tale of two jars, but the chamber guards only one. It’s a find that could make history, or start a war. Weird-science expert Ben Walker is called in as the mystery grows ugly. Those who believe the myth want to know which jar was found, the one containing blessings or the one full of curses. Governments rush to lay claim, but jihad forces aren’t waiting for the dust to settle. Whatever the jars contain, they want it, no matter the cost. For Sophie, Walker, and the others, the Pandora Room may soon become their tomb.
I really liked his first Ben Walker book..Ararat. This one was based on an interesting idea and to some extent the author carried it along great...and then it started to drag. There was way too much fighting...although that type of find...and considering where it was found...would probably produce nothing short of an all out war. The story just needed to move forward and begin to reveal what was in the two jars and how the team was going to deal with it. The ending left the reader wondering what the future would hold for Ben Walker and Sophie. I gave the book a 4 for the originality of the plot and plenty of suspense
Night Women Formally published as Farewell To Freedom by Sara Blaedel
A journey to a new life or a prison of despair and death? A shocking murder on Copenhagen's idyllic streets and an abandoned child reveal a perverse criminal underworld that crosses international borders. A young woman's body is found on the street with her throat slit, and the media is clamoring for the grisly details. Detective Louise Rick is investigating the gruesome murder when her friend Camilla Lind calls. Louise assumes it is because Camilla, a crime reporter, wants to be the first to hear of any juicy new developments. Instead, her distraught friend reveals that her ten year-old son found an abandoned baby on his way to school. As Louise digs deeper into the murder and the mysterious foundling, every clue uncovered points to organized human trafficking from Eastern Europe, run by ruthless gangsters who won't hesitate to kill anyone who gets in their way.
I liked the cast of strong women characters and the fact that this author doesn't see the need to describe every tiny detail to be a big selling point on her books. I have read two of her other books but this one I found to be somewhat tedious with way too much going on making the story somewhat hard to follow. The editors...or rather the lack of...was partly to fault. I know translation is sometimes difficult from some languages to English but it seems they could have done a better job.
Turning Angel – Greg Iles
Audiobook narrated by Dick Hill
Book two in the Penn Cage series. Drew Elliott is a highly respected doctor in Natchez. He is also a life-long friend of Penn’s, having saved his life when they were boys, and he serves alongside Penn on the school board of their alma mater, St Stephen’s Prep. When the nude body of the school’s valedictorian is found near a creek bed behind the school property, the entire community is shocked. But Penn soon discovers that Drew had an inappropriate and passionate relationship with the girl, and Drew’s likely to be accused of her murder.
Okay… Iles can write a compelling story with lots of suspects, many twists and turns in the plot, complicated motives and subplots, and a fast pace that keeps the reader turning pages. Penn’s background as a prosecuting attorney in Houston serves him well, but also complicates matters; he’s no longer practicing law, though Drew wants to maintain an “attorney-client” privilege to their communication.
Iles books are full of violence … and of the three I’ve read, particularly against women. Murder is always a violent crime, of course, but the sexual component herein is particularly disturbing. But I have a major problem with THIS book due to the basic underlying relationships. We have a doctor having a torrid love affair with a TEENAGER who is his PATIENT! And
So the basic “thriller genre” gets 3 stars (even with the violence against women), but loses a star for the particularly distasteful – and disgraceful – underlying theme here.
And by the way … Penn is going on about how he wants to improve Natchez and bring more people to the community. But the author is sure doing a good job of painting it as a den of iniquity that no one would want to visit, with shoot-outs in hotels and drug cartels running rampant. Um, not my idea of a vacation spot (or a place to live).
Dick Hill does a pretty good job performing the audiobook. He sets a good pace and I like his voice for Penn Cage. He manages a decent teenaged Mia too, which is a bit surprising given his deep voice. But I really disliked the voice he used for Drew, who sounded whiny, cowardly and weak. No way I believed he was a big, strong man.
The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne
Helena Pelletier has a loving husband, two beautiful daughters, and a business that fills her days. But she also has a secret: she is the product of an abduction. Her mother was kidnapped as a teenager by her father and kept in a remote cabin in the marshlands of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Helena, born two years after the abduction, loved her home in nature, and despite her father’s sometimes brutal behavior, she loved him, too...until she learned precisely how savage he could be. More than twenty years later, she has buried her past so soundly that even her husband doesn’t know the truth. But now her father has killed two guards, escaped from prison, and disappeared into the marsh. The police begin a manhunt, but Helena knows they don’t stand a chance. Knows that only one person has the skills to find the survivalist the world calls the Marsh King—because only one person was ever trained by him: his daughter.
The book excels on a couple of counts. First, the author creates suspense by alternating chapters between the past and present. Sometimes that is a little confusing but in this case it works very well. Secondly, the characters are excellent...especially Helen. As she learns more about her parents her character grows and develops into someone that you can't help but like and admire. The story is chilling and psychological, but one of the most original...gripping... and beautifully told that I have read in some time.
Who Has Seen the Wind / W.O. Mitchell
Brian is a boy growing up in Saskatchewan in the 1930s. He lives with his parents, a younger brother, and his grandmother, whom he hates! The book starts when Brian is (I think) 4-years old and continues until he is 11 (I think).
It was ok. Pretty slow-moving, as nothing big really happens. It was just things that happened in his life as he was growing up. I grew up in Southern Sask (though in the 70s and 80s!), but “recognized” some of the small town prairie happenings (i.e. (sadly) kids trying to get gopher tails; luckily, I never saw it, just heard about it). Overall, it was ok.
The Good The Bad and The Furry by Tom Cox
The Good, the Bad and the Furry is a heartwarming memoir about a man at the mercy of his unpredictable, demanding and endlessly lovable cats. Meet The Bear―a cat who carries the weight of the world on his furry shoulders, and whose wise, owl-like eyes seem to ask, Can you tell me why I am a cat please? Like many intellectuals, The Bear would prefer a life of quiet solitude with plenty of time to gaze forlornly into space and contemplate society's ills. Unfortunately, he is destined to spend his days surrounded by felines of a significantly lower IQ. There is Janet, a large man cat who often accidentally sets fire to his tail by walking too close to lighted candles; Ralph, a preening tabby who enjoys meowing his own name at 5AM; and Shipley, Ralph's brother, who steals soup but is generally relaxed once you pick him up and turn him upside down. And then there's Tom Cox, writing with wit and charm about the unexpected adventures that go hand-in-hand with a life at the beck and call of four cats.
I had the pleasure and the privilege to be owned by a cat...little gray stripped Margie, for 18 wonderful fun-filled years. Although we never quiet lived up to her expectations of us...after all we only had two legs and couldn't climb a tree or bat a ball around worth a darn and we just reeked of inadequacy, but she loved us any way and allowed us to co-exist in her world. Tom Cox has our situation x 4. How I would love to meet his fur babies. Some authors you read for the subject...some for the writing style... Tom Cox has excelled the art to where you are entranced by both. If you love cats or just enjoy a moment of humor you'll love Tom Cox...and I guarantee you'll love his cats.
The Sandman, Vol. 2: The Doll's House / Neil Gaiman
Rose and her mother are flown to England and are in for a surprise when they arrive. Rose then heads back to the US to find her younger brother whom she hasn’t seen in seven years, since she was a teenager and he was only 5-years old. There is an odd convention happening.
Rose’s story was the most interesting storyline for me, though there a bit more going on in addition to her story and the convention. I reread my review for Vol. 1 and found that my favourite parts in that volume were also about the humans; I didn’t find the Sandman parts as interesting, though he does intersect with Rose’s story. On thinking back, I thought I had rated Vol. 1 lower than what I did. So, officially, I rated both volumes “good”, but I feel like I liked this one better, at least as compared to what I remember of the first one.
Blue Moon / Alyson Noel
Soul mates Ever and Damon are together and in love. All is going well, though Ever misses her family, and especially her sister, Riley.
But when Roman shows up at school and charms everyone, Ever can tell there is something “wrong” with him. What is he up to?
I thought this was good. Have to admit, I didn’t remember much of the first book at all. I think I read it fast (it’s YA), and it just slipped my memory, but it came back as I read this one. I thought it got better as it got to the end of the book, and I will definitely be continuing the series.
The Suspect by Fiona Burton
When two eighteen-year-old girls go missing in Thailand, their families are thrust into the international spotlight: desperate, bereft, and frantic with worry. What were the girls up to before they disappeared? Journalist Kate Waters always does everything she can to be first to the story, first with the exclusive, first to discover the truth—and this time is no exception. But she can’t help but think of her own son, whom she hasn’t seen in two years, since he left home to go travelling. As the case of the missing girls unfolds, they will all find that even this far away, danger can lie closer to home than you might think.
The writing wasn't the easiest to follow which is quiet unusual for Fiona Burton. I loved "The Widow" and "The Child" but this one wasn't on the same level.. It was suspenseful enough but really easy to figure out, and on some levels, repetitive. Not a bad book but not up to this author's usual fare.
>44 Carol420: Aw, sorry you didn't like it a little more. I really liked it. I've only read it, and "The Child". I do plan to also read "The Widow" at some point.
Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee
The trial of the murder of Reverend Willie Maxwell, who had taken out insurance policies on numerous family members with several ending up murdered, was the one story that Harper Lee could not resist. And so she returned to Alabama to attend the trial to take notes in an attempt to write a book about the crimes. Cep’s book flows so well that it was hard to put down and the information on Lee and the trial was fascinating.
More Than This by Patrick Ness
Seth drowns, desperate and alone. But then he wakes. Naked, thirsty, starving. But alive. And where is he? The street seems familiar, but everything is abandoned, overgrown, covered in dust. He remembers dying, his skull bashed against the rocks. Has he woken up in his own personal hell? Is there more to this life, or perhaps this afterlife?
I read Patrick Ness's A Monster Calls and remember really enjoying the way this author portrays his characters and messes with their minds. More Than This is certainly no exception. From page one the adventure begins on a high note. Well...maybe not so much for our main character Seth since he drowns. Have no fear...in the next chapter he wakes up and discovers he is in the dusty and deserted house where he grew up in an English suburb. To make his ordeal worse...the house is across the world from where he died in the Pacific Northwest. Seth just assumes this must be hell. The book is split into four parts and each drastically changes the dynamic of the story, unraveling more and more layers. The book is a YA novel but it is a well told, well written story that stays with you long after you close the covers of the book.
Hero Of the Empire – Candice Millard
Audio book read by Simon Vance.
Subtitle: The Boer War, a Daring Escape and the Making of Winston Churchill
Millard writes an interesting and detailed biography of the young Winston Churchill. Long before he became the statesman who shepherded his nation through the darkest days of WW2, he was a young, somewhat rash man eager to make his mark in the world. Working as a journalist and war correspondent, he was captured during the Boer War. He connected with a couple of other prisoners of war and planned a daring escape. Churchill was the weakest member of the team and his comrades considered leaving him out of the escape, but he was the one who managed to get across the fence. Unfortunately, he had no idea what came next. His propensity to talk out of turn had resulted in his mates keeping the complete plans secret from the talkative Winston. Also, they had the maps and supplies that would sustain them on the hundreds of miles of dangerous and wild terrain. So there he was – facing miles of unfamiliar territory, and without food or water to sustain him. He did the only thing he could … he started going forward.
It’s a fascinating story and gives a somewhat different picture of the man most of us know only from his prominence during WW2. Yet, the reader gets a sense of the man he will become.
Simon Vance does a marvelous job narrating the audiobook. His pace is good and he has the skill as a voice artist to different the many male characters.
Owls in the Family / Farley Mowat
Billy has a collection of animals as pets, including gophers, snakes, rats… He and a couple of friends decide they want an owl, so go looking to steal one from a nest, but instead find an injured baby owl and bring him home. They later come across a second injured one, and bring him home for company for Wol, the first owl. The two owls are very different in personality, but they both seem to not realize they are owls who can fly and do other things owls can do.
This was so short; I wish it had been longer. I felt terrible when I thought Billy was going to bring home an owl by stealing it out of a nest! There were plenty of humourous stories about Wol and Weeps. I am curious if Mowat actually had owls as pets.
>47 Carol420: I saw A Monster Calls and loved it though I haven not read the book though it is on my reading list. Going to add More Than This also!
Dead Ringers by Christopher Golden
What happens when you can’t even trust the face in the mirror? Tess Devlin runs into her ex-husband, Nick, on a Boston sidewalk, and is furious when he pretends not to know her. Afterwards, Tess calls his cell to have it out with him…only to discover that he’s in New Hampshire with his current girlfriend. But if Nick’s not in Boston, who was the man she encountered on the street? Then there’s Frank Lindbergh, who left his grim past behind and never looked back. But now that both of his parents are dead and he’s back in his childhood home, he’s assaulted by an intruder in his living room―a man who could be his brutal, violent twin…if it weren’t for the fact that Frank is an only child.
It's both a scary and an exciting read. The story is told through a few different characters' perspectives. Even though there were multiple characters...each one had a unique voice...so it wasn't too difficult to keep them straight. The doppelganger story-line was also a unique twist. You hope that you know where the story is headed but just when you think one thing is going to happen you find out you were wrong. I only recently discovered this author and thus far the 4 books that I have read have all been 4.5 and 5 star reads.
>51 JulieLill: My mother and I watched the movie before I read the book. We loved the movie also.
Page / Tamora Pierce
This is the 2nd book in the series. Kel has completed her first year to learn to become a knight. She is the only girl, and was bullied and picked on in her first year. Now in her second year, she hires a shy, scared girl (by request of the girl’s uncle) to be a servant to her while she continues to train, along with her friends, and some of her tormentors are still around.
I really enjoyed this. I liked Kel and I liked her friends. I also liked her new servant Lalasa. This one went pretty fast, as it sped through all the remaining years of Kel’s training, so it might have been nice to get more detail as we went along, but I guess being a YA book, it was sped up a bit. It’s certainly a great series for young girls, with Kel being such a strong role model, herself. But, of course, I’m enjoying it, too!
Born with Teeth
This is the autobiography of Kate Mulgrew, actress, who grew up in Iowa in a very interesting family dynamic and who eventually got into acting. She started out in the soap opera Ryan’s Hope and the book ends with her starting in her new role as Captain Janeway in the show Star Trek: Voyager. She certainly led an interesting life and this is definitely a page turner.
Unsub by Meg Gardiner
The Unsub series Book#1
Caitlin Hendrix has been a Narcotics detective for six months when the killer at the heart of all her childhood nightmares reemerges: the Prophet. An UNSUB—what the FBI calls an unknown subject—the Prophet terrorized the Bay Area in the 1990s and nearly destroyed her father, the lead investigator on the case. The Prophet’s cryptic messages and mind games drove Detective Mack Hendrix to the brink of madness, and Mack’s failure to solve the series of ritualized murders—eleven seemingly unconnected victims left with the ancient sign for Mercury etched into their flesh—was the final nail in the coffin for a once promising career. Twenty years later, two bodies are found bearing the haunting signature of the Prophet. Caitlin Hendrix has never escaped the shadow of her father’s failure to protect their city. But now the ruthless madman is killing again and has set his sights on her, threatening to undermine the fragile barrier she rigidly maintains for her own protection, between relentless pursuit and dangerous obsession. Determined to decipher his twisted messages and stop the carnage, Caitlin ignores her father’s warnings as she draws closer to the killer with each new gruesome murder. Is it a copycat, or can this really be the same Prophet who haunted her childhood? Will Caitlin avoid repeating her father’s mistakes and redeem her family name, or will chasing the Prophet drag her and everyone she loves into the depths of the abyss?
We have a highly intelligent Unsub who is patient enough that his terror has reigned for over two decades. He has a plan and is very meticulous...leaving cryptic clues while sitting in the background enjoying his successes. He can't think of any better pawn in his game than the daughter of the one he got the best of decades ago. If you love the show Criminal Minds...behavioral analysis and/or a just a gruesome and well thought out serial killer rampage...then you are going to be more than pleased with this book. Just what I need...another series that I can't resist:)
Monsters: A Celebration of the Classics from Universal Studios by Roy Milano
I picked this book because it had some more information on the film The Creature From the Black Lagoon which I read about in The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick by Mallory O’Meara which was really interesting. This is a pretty short book about some of the first monsters in film history but it has some great photographs from the films plus some interesting facts about the actors and the monster films they were in.
The Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver
Dara and Nick used to be inseparable. But that was before the accident that left Dara's beautiful face scarred and the two sisters totally estranged. When Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl, nine-year-old Madeline Snow, has vanished, too, and Nick becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances are linked. Now, Nick has to find her sister—before it's too late.
Nick and her younger sister, Dara, are as different as two sibling can be...in every aspect. An accident that leaves her sister permanently scarred both physically and emotionally...sees Nick walking away and for all purposes abandoning her sister. The story is told from both Dara’s and Nick’s points of view through alternating past and present day accounts as well as diary and blog entries. Unfortunately the essence of the story becomes lost in a story that simply tries to hard to be too much. The author unsuccessfully makes an attempt to weave the sister's story together by using a plot line about the disappearance of a 9-year-old girl. This drags the story down by taking way too long for the reader to sort out how the two different stories are related and it simply becomes a distraction. I did enjoy Oliver's writing style and I wouldn't say it's a bad book...it just wasn't the book I was expecting or hoping for.
>41 Carol420: I've placed a hold at the library for The Good, the Bad and the Furry which looks interesting. I usually stay away from true stories and pet stories, but as long as it is cute and funny and not sad (which is what this sounds like to me) I think I'll really enjoy it. I'm am presently "owned" by two of my own little beasts that I absolutely adore.
I am presently, finally, on the last stretch of Master and Commander. It has taken me so long to read this one. I also started a re-read of What do you Say to a Naked Elf? because I feel the need for the absurd.
>59 Jenson_AKA_DL: What do you say to a naked elf??? The Good, The Bad and The Furry is not at all sad. I couldn't have read it if it was. I can read the books with the most gruesome murders and as long as it isn't an animal that's on the other end of the gruesome murder it's alright. I worked in the education and volunteer department of our local zoo for 28 years as the coordinator, so I have met good, sweet, and beautiful animals of all types...not just dogs and cats. Hope you enjoy it.
What do you Say to a Naked Elf?, not sure why the touchstone didn't work before. I've read this a few times over the years and still enjoy going back to it every once in a while. Total brain candy LOL
>61 Jenson_AKA_DL: I like Touchstone but I've found that it is often a picky, choosy, stubborn little blue character. If you don't type the title EXACTLY as it is written including spaces and other little doodads often referred to as punctuation...it just refuses to work. I usually don't give up just to show it that I'm stubborn too:)
The Sixteen Pleasures / Robert Hellenga
Margot is a book conservator and has headed to Florence, Italy to help restore some books after a flood in 1966. She ends up in a convent, helping the nuns with their library, where she finds a rare 17th century book with erotic poems and pictures. The nuns would like to sell the book and be able to use the money, but the books and the library are owned by the bishop and they know he won’t allow it.
This was ok. I found the book conservation parts of it interesting, but I really didn’t like Margot, nor any of the other characters, except for the nuns. It was a bit difficult to figure out right at the start, as it flipped back and forth in time and was a bit hard to tell where we were (in time), but that didn’t last long. It was pretty slow-moving, but it was ok. An author's note would have been nice.
Ayesha at Last
This is a fun spin on Pride and Prejudice though this time the background is set in Toronto amidst the Muslim world. Ayesha is a poet and teacher when she meets Khalid to work on a community project. They clash over her choices while he is very conservative. While she would like to have nothing to do with him, circumstances keep putting them together. I really enjoyed this debut book by Jalaluddin.
The Great Train Robbery – Michael Crichton
In 1855 a gang of thieves carried out an elaborate scheme to rob a train of the gold bullion scheduled to serve as payroll for the soldiers fighting in the Crimean War. “The Victorians always referred to this crime in capital letters, as The Great Train Robbery.” This is Crichton’s fictionalized novel based on what is known of the truth, with a good deal of conjecture and embellishment.
What a rollicking good story! I was entertained from beginning to end. Crichton starts out with a recitation of the facts and sprinkles the text with details of Victorian life and the specifics which came to light during the trial. But the way he imagines the lead characters, especially Edward Pierce (the gang leader), is what really breathes life into the story.
I first read this back in 1975 when it was a new release. In fact, I have a book-club edition I purchased at the time. It’s always been one of my favorite books by Crichton and I’ve recommended it to people over the years as a quick, fun adventure / crime story.
The book was adapted to film in 1978, starring Sean Connery as Edward Pierce, and Donald Sutherland as his accomplice Robert Agar. It’s a pretty faithful adaptation, and well worth watching.
NOTE: This review was written on my second (or third) reading, August 2015. One of my book clubs chose it for discussion in June 2019, so I’ve re-read it yet again. And I still love it!
Beyond Reach by Karin Slaughter
3 1/2 ***
In a stifling hospital room in a small Georgia town, Detective Lena Adams sits, silent and angry--the only suspect in a horrific murder. Soon, a hundred miles away, Police Chief Jeffrey Tolliver will get the call that his young detective has been arrested. And Jeffrey's wife, pediatrician and medical examiner Sara Linton, has troubles of her own and little patience for Lena or her dramas. Fighting a heartbreaking malpractice suit, Sara cannot guess that within days she herself will be at the center of a bizarre and murderous case.
Hmmm. While a gripping book and police drama with characters we've grown to know and to love, I'm beginning to see some not-so-great parallels between Slaughter's stories and Patricia Cornwall's story-telling. This book starts with Sara Linton in court being sued for malpractice by parents of a child she was treating. While the childlessness of both the late boy's parents and Sara and Jeffrey become part of Sara's inner dialogue, the court case does not have any mention again until the end of the book. I saw a similar trend in several of the middle Cornwall series, of a series of events at the beginning being only a lead-in to the book and pretty much superfluous.
Nevertheless, the look at drug addiction in rural Georgia is certainly timely and how it gets started is quite accurate. The devastation to the community and to families is well-written, and it becomes part of Lena's troubled self-assessment. Much of her character is determined by the actions of her uncle and her mother (the former who raised her, the latter whose mysterious death Lena begins to uncover) and in true Karin Slaughter fashion, those inner discussions play a part in the mystery that Jeffrey Tolliver and Sara Linton set out to solve.
Old Bones by Trudy Nan Boyce
During a vigil calling for police reform, students from Spelman College, a historically black women's institution, are assaulted by rifle fire from a passing vehicle. On her way to interview witnesses, Detective Sarah "Salt" Alt confronts the fleeing vehicle of the suspects, but it gets away. While other detectives take the lead on the Spelman murders, Salt is tasked to investigate the case of a recently discovered decomposed body. When she combs through the missing-persons reports, it becomes clear the victim is a girl Salt took into custody two years earlier, and now she feels a grave responsibility to learn the truth about how the girl died. But before she can pursue any leads, Salt is called onto emergency riot detail--because in the wake of the assault on the Spelman students, Atlanta is in turmoil.
Another good and solid Sarah Alt (Salt) novel by this retired Atlanta policewoman and detective turned author. There are a combination of story lines here: a young Spelman student is murdered and people take to the streets; the body of a young woman from Salt's former beat is found; and the relationship between Old South and New is examined.
As Salt is called on to be part of the APD riot squad, the reader learns about the training that goes into being part of that team as well as the physical and mental demands on the officers. When rioting does break out, Salt encounters another of her young charges from The Homes, brother to the young girl whose body she finds (the "Old Bones" of the title), and when the POV of Lil D begins, a side of life opens for the reader. In addition, the home life of young Mary is explored, including her grandmother's abuse which led to Mary seeking what she saw as glamorous women who dance at strip clubs.
In an understated and still engrossing way, the relationship with Salt and Wills begins to deepen, leading to the decision about whose house they will live in and how they will keep their relationship secret from their bosses and co-workers. And Salt finds a box in the attic that contains a listing for her great-grandfather's slaves in the pre-Civil War era.
Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier
5***** and a Heart
Lord Colum of Sevenwaters is blessed with six sons: Liam, a natural leader; Diarmid, with his passion for adventure; twins Cormack and Conor, each with a different calling; rebellious Finbar, grown old before his time by his gift of the Sight; and the young, compassionate Padriac. But it is Sorcha, the seventh child and only daughter, too young to have known her mother, who alone is destined to defend her family and protect her land from the Britons and the clan known as Northwoods. For her father has been bewitched, and her brothers bound by a spell that only Sorcha can lift.
This is still, after 3 readings, an amazing book. The language is evocative, the plot is intricately woven between Pagan and Christian Ireland and Britain, (and accepting of both), and the stories of the characters are so very, very well told. This was Marillier's first book and I read it halfway through until 1 in the morning the first time.
The book is a re-telling of the story found in so much literature and mythology: the evil queen marries the king and is now stepmother to several brothers and their young sister. The lives of the children are upended by this marriage, and the Lady Oonagh in this tale is very, very cruel and destructive. When the spell is cast and the brothers are turned to swans, Sorcha is given a way that is almost impossible to turn them back, by spinning an equivalent of nettles into thread then weaving them shirts. In return, she can see her brother in human form twice a year but she still cannot speak.
About mid-way through the novel, Marillier brings in a Briton, brother to a young Briton (and enemy to the Irish) who takes the silent Sorcha and her shirts and threads and mangled hands to his holdings. She must now continue her task among the enemy without being able to tell them why, and it is literally Divine intervention that shows Lord Hugh of Harrowfield why he must protect this young woman. The political intrigue between Lord Hugh and Lord Richard of Northwoods was what took my interest this third time reading it, and it lends a lot to the suspenseful resolution of the evil spell.
The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart
5***** and a Heart
The Crystal Cave plunges the reader deep into Fifth Century Britain, a country in chaos and division after the Roman withdrawal. This is Merlin's world. The illegitimate son of a South Wales princess, he is aware at the earliest age of a great natural gift - the Sight. Against a background of invasion and imprisonment, wars and conquest, we see his emergence into manhood, and his dramatic role in the New Beginning - the coming of King Arthur.
Oh. Wow. It is truly an amazing book, a groundbreaking look at Arthur through the eyes of Merlin, and one that acknowledges the disparate bits of history that are traceable as well as Geoffrey of Monmouth's legends. The historical bits are the post-Roman Britons who are struggling to hold onto their lands amidst the constant invasions of the Saxons and the perceived betrayal of the Lord/King Vortigern in his alliances with the Saxons.
In this re-telling, Merlin is the bastard son to a noblewoman, whose father is Ambrosius Aurelianus, exiled to Brittany. Ambrosius is brother to Uther who will later be the Pendragon and father to Arthur, but until then, Ambrosius must claim his crown and train his retainers in fierce fighting and moveable military camps. Merlin's upbringing, his servants, his journey, and his education are well-told and full of an appropriate combination of speculation and research. And also in this book is an embrace of the element of magic through the Sight as well as an intelligent mind. And darkness and mist.
I can see why it was better that I read it at an older age instead of in the "Arthur must be medieval!" thinking of my teens. The historical Arthur was of a certain time period and the court customs of the Middle Ages were definitely anachronistic to his history. On the other hand, there is quite a thrill to see "Excalibur" or to read the poetry of Mallory. I highly recommend this book for students of this legend; it is probably the foundation of modern Arthurian tales.
Guardian of the Balance by Irene Radford
Her name was Arylwren--Wren to those she considered friends. She was the child who should not have been, daughter of Myrddin Emrys--the Merlin--and Deirdre--the Morrigan--high priestess of the Druids. As a child Wren roamed the land with her father so The Merlin could secretly watch over his other charges: Arthur, who would one day be king, and the other youths who would prove Arthur's most loyal followers. During their travels Myrddin taught Wren the old ways, the small magics, and bardic skills. Yet he feared he could not teach her enough to insure her safety in an ever more perilous world.
In all my readings of the Arthurian mythos, the sole representation of the women of that era has been "The Mists of Avalon." Now, there is this book, bringing a character into the warp and weft who is the sole daughter of Merlin. Unlike Bradley's Merlin, but more in the Mary Stewart aspect, Merlin here is allowed one night's liaison with Deirdre, the Lady of Avalon, as long as he swears to all the Dieties that he will raise her in the traditions of ancient Britain. He does, though in order to protect her later in life, he chooses? or is forced by the changing conventions? to marry her to a proud warrior with a dark and violent streak who nevertheless keeps to the old ways. This act of the Merlin's damages their relationship but eventually Wren is able to carve out a decent life for herself and keep the old ways she knows.
This book relies heavily on magick (with a k) and ritual and the change of seasons, as well as fairies and the religious changes in the world. The overarching theme is balance: balance of the elements, the king balancing the land, humans balancing their needs with the good of their folk, and so forth. Interwoven into this re-telling are the characters of Nimue, Ygraine, and Morgaine (here not a sympathetic character). While Merlin's voice is one of several POV, his is the only male voice that tells a story; the others are given to the women of the time with the exception of Ygraine and Guinevere. Radford also chooses to make Lancelot a contemporary since boyhood of Arthur's and yes, he does fall in love with Guinevere. But Wren and Arthur also share a profound love since childhood, and Radford is able to make that love part of the tragedy that befalls the Arthurian legend.
Packing for Mars / Mary Roach
In Mary Roach’s usual style, she takes a humourous look at NASA and space travel in this one, looking at some of the things that most of us just don’t think about when it comes to travelling in zero-gravity. She looks at using the “toilet”, eating, sex, throwing up, hygiene, and more.
This did, of course, include some history of space travel, as well. I hadn’t even realized when I started reading it a few days ago that the 50th anniversary of the walk on the moon was yesterday, while I was in the middle reading this – good timing for me! In the first chapter, it was interesting to read about how they made the flag “fly” (with no gravity!) on the moon, and also how to even pack it to bring with them, with the limited space available. There was one real transcript of three astronauts having a discussion when one of them noticed a “turd” flying in the air – omg, I couldn’t stop laughing and crying reading that transcript! Kept me from continuing to read for at least 5 minutes, if not more!! This, and “Stiff” are my favourites of the ones I’ve read by her so far.
The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
Book on C.D. read by William Hurt
One of Hemingway’s earliest novels, this was first published in 1926, and has never been out of print since that time. It is loosely based on the author’s own experiences with a circle of friends frequently known as “The Lost Generation.”
The novel follows Jake Barnes, an American journalist, and Lady Brett Ashley, a twice-divorced Englishwoman who seems unable to function without a man fawning over her. Together with a group of friends, including Brett’s fiancé, the Scot, Mike Campbell they travel from Paris to Pamplona for the Festival of San Fermin, and the running of the bulls. Along the way more than one man is convinced he loves Brett and can win her affections.
The first Hemingway work I read was his The Old Man and the Sea, which was assigned reading when I was in 8th grade. I loved it and have been a fan of Hemingway’s ever since. Still, some of his works fail to resonate with me. And this was one of them.
The ennui with which these people live their lives just doesn’t interest me. I am as bored as they seem to be by their own lives. I don’t understand the attraction to Brett, who seems unable to form any lasting relationship but lives for the conquest. Yes, she beautiful and apparently has some money, but men are literally coming to blows over her affections.
And Jake? I get that he’s been wounded in WW1, and that has resulted in impotence. I can understand his resultant reserve and reliance on alcohol to dull his emotions. But I just didn’t get the relationship between he and Brett. Or for that matter, his relationship with the other characters. What drew them together? And what kept them connected?
I may have liked (or at least appreciated) the novel more had I read rather than listened. I absolutely hated William Hurt’s delivery on the audio. He is a wonderful actor, but in this case he sounded so bored and uninterested. I felt that the pace dragged. He even managed to make the bullfight sound boring. 1* for his performance of the audio.
NOTE: The book was published in Britain under the title Fiesta
Arthur and Sherlock – Michael Sims
Subtitle: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes.
This is an interesting biography / history of Conan Doyle’s life as a young man. The reader learns of the people and events that influenced and inspired him when he created his most famous character: Sherlock Holmes. There was the professor in medical school who had trained himself to keenly observe a patient’s demeanor, clothing, and general appearance and from those observable “clues” infer the man’s occupation, background, and even marital status. And there were the writings of Edgar Allen Poe, Wilkie Collins, Emile Gaboriau and others, on whose foundations Doyle built his own style.
I also found it interesting to learn of the publishing business in this era, and stunned to discover that Conan Doyle had to basically sell his copyright in order to get that first Holmes mystery published.
The Blue Castle / L.M. Montgomery
Valancy is turning 29 years old and is constantly reminded by her family that she is an old maid. She has always been a good, obedient daughter, but hates pretty much everything about her life with her family. She even wears only clothes her mother approves of and an old-fashioned hairstyle approved by her mother. When she receives some news, she finally stands up to her family and does things that she wants to do, just for herself.
I really liked this. I liked Valency, though I hated her awful family. I liked some of the other characters, as Valency gets to know them after her rebellion from her family. It’s frustrating, the lack of options for an unmarried woman during this time (the 1920s). It’s slow-moving, but I really enjoyed it.
The Camel Club by David Baldacci
The Camel Club series Book #1
Welcome to THE CAMEL CLUB.: Existing at the fringes of Washington, D.C., the Club consists of four eccentric members. Led by a mysterious man known as "Oliver Stone," they study conspiracy theories, current events, and the machinations of government to discover the "truth" behind the country's actions. Their efforts bear little fruit--until the group witnesses a shocking murder...and becomes embroiled in an astounding, far-reaching conspiracy. Now the Club must join forces with a Secret Service agent to confront one of the most chilling spectacles ever to take place on American soil-an event that may trigger the ultimate war between two different worlds. And all that stands in the way of this apocalypse is five unexpected heroes.
I read some of this series 10 or so years ago and really didn’t care much for it. It has always been my least favorite of everything David Baldacci…one of my favorite authors of all time… ever wrote. The essence of the series is politics and more politics. The characters though, are another matter. Oliver Stone and Agent Ford are what would keep most people reading and coming back for more. Ten years later…I’m back for more…and it was all because it was a group read for the Mystery & Suspense group on LibraryThing…people that make everything worth reading. I still didn’t care for all the politics but the action was superb…especially the last few chapters. If any American, or any other world citizen can read or listen to these last 6 or 7 chapters and not find themselves holding their breath and their heart rate accelerated…then they are already ready for that granite stone. Well done…reading group. I think I’ll join you for the next one.
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
★ ★ ★ ★ - 317 pages
Stella Lane is brilliant - an economist who comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases. She also is autistic /has Asperger's. She understands numbers better than she understands people. After a co-worker tells her she needs practice, she decides to hire an escort to teach her how to be better at dating and sex. She hires Michael, who escorts to pay his mom's medical bills. What starts out as a business proposition soon becomes more.
I started this book last year and couldn't get into it. I put it on my "Pick a Winner - Make a Friend" challenge and it came up as July's choice. I started it over . . . and really liked it. Given that Stella and I think a lot alike (I'm probably on the spectrum, and I'm pretty sure my daughter is, too,) I found her thinking very real. Michael was sweet, and I loved his family.
I "made a new friend" and will be looking for Hoang's next book!
Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H. Watson / Lyndsay Faye
The title pretty much says it. This book has Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson looking into the Jack the Ripper murders.
I listened to the audio. I’m not sure if it was more the audio I wasn’t a fan of, or if I just don’t like Sherlock Holmes books (written by Conan Doyle OR by others). The audio didn’t help, anyway. I lost interest way too much. There were times here and there that I was paying attention; I think it depended what else I was doing at the time. In any case, I wasn’t a fan, though there were parts that were ok.
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Choices. Seventeen-year-old Mia is faced with some tough ones: Stay true to her first love—music—even if it means losing her boyfriend and leaving her family and friends behind? Then one February morning Mia goes for a drive with her family, and in an instant, everything changes. Suddenly, all the choices are gone, except one. And it's the only one that matters. If I Stay is a heart-achingly beautiful book about the power of love, the true meaning of family, and the choices we all make.
It's a book about family...tragedy....and unthinkable choices. Choices we should hope that we never have to make. Even though there decisions were a part of the story it wasn't by any means the main focus. Most of the book is about Mia's back story... her relationship with her parents...her best friend and her boyfriend...
her love for the cello and her music. The back and forth between the past and the present was sometimes a bit hard to follow but it didn't distract from the story. If you like a good, emotional read that isn't all perfect happy endings...then this is certainly your book.
False Step by Victoria Helen Stone
★ ★ ★ 1/2 - 279 pages
Veronica Bradley does a double take when she glances at the tv and sees her husband Johnny rescuing missing toddler Tanner Holcomb. Johnny, naturally outgoing, basks in the media attention his good deed brings, but Veronica is afraid all of that attention will focus on the flaws in her marriage - and on Johnny's role in the boy's disappearance.
A good mystery and psychological thriller, although I had it figured out early on. Not quite up to par of Stone's other work. Veronica spend too much time comparing herself to her philandering father. I really didn't find any of the characters likable, although i did find them quite real.
OverDrive audiobook ~
War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
(part 2/WWII England/Ada is a very independent 10-year-old with a younger brother/middle-grade lit/narrated by Jayne "Flavia" Entwistle)
The House of the Spirits – Isabel Allende
Audiobook narrated by Marisol Ramirez and Thom Rivera.
Review UPDATED on second reading.
Allende covers three generations of the Trueba family in her native Chile. Based loosely on her own family’s history, the novel weaves together personal and political triumphs and tragedies into an epic story of love and history.
I first read this with my F2F book club back in 1997 and was completely enthralled. I’ve been a fan of Allende’s ever since. I love Allende’s luminous writing, and the way that she seamlessly introduces elements of magical realism into her stories. Her gift for vivid description had me feeling cold drafts, luxuriating in sumptuous fabrics, enjoying the sweet juiciness of ripe fruit, hearing the cacophony of a busy marketplace or a student riot, cringing at the stench of human waste in a prison cell. She makes me believe that a woman can have bright green hair, or be clairvoyant and commune with ghosts.
These two examples show both her range from the vaguely humorous to the creepily eerie:
He had to make an enormous effort not to follow her around the house like a hypnotized chicken.
It had an impossible labyrinth of dark, narrow halls, in which the stink of cauliflower soup and cabbage stew reigned eternally.
And this passage perfectly described the entire novel:
…he told her about his family: a collection of eccentric lunatics for several generations, whom even ghosts made fun of.
The audiobook is narrated by Marisol Ramirez and Thom Rivera, changing narrators as the primary points of view change in the novel from male to female and back again. I thought they did a marvelous job. But this was my second “reading” so I was already familiar with the story. Because it has so many characters and complex story-telling I may not have enjoyed it as much had I not read it previously.
for all the small schools by Barb and Dave Else
★ ★ ★ - 272 pages
Barb and Dave Else drove around Iowa photographing many of Iowa's "forgotten" schools - schools that were closed and then repurposed or abandoned. They've combined the photos with a few pages of text (without citations) about some of the schools, athletics, lunch programs, teacher certification, etc. Many of the buildings are from the 1910-1925 era, with a few being from the early 1950's.
I was especially interested in the photo of the old Geneseo school. My mom taught there for years and I attended junior high there. I loved that old building - it smelled like duplicating fluid and chalk. The faculty used to have a few potlucks during the year, and my brothers and I, along with the Schelp kids and B Monroe would explore all of the nooks and crannies of the building. It is heartbreaking to see the building now.
A few disappointments of the book: a lack of in-depth analysis about why these schools closed - declining rural populations, asbestos, high heating and cooling costs - or any other topic. Citations for the limited facts used would have been useful, as would have been an index. A few schools are missing, as well. I wanted to see the Clutier school, in particular, and it wasn't in there. It is a coffee table book - not really a reference book, though.
The Storm Sister / Lucinda Riley
When six adopted sisters lose their father, he leaves with each of them a clue as to where they originally came from. Initially, Ally, the second oldest sister, decides she’s in a good place in her new relationship and doesn’t need to look into her family history - until tragedy strikes, and she decides to follow her father’s clues to Norway and her musical family’s history.
I really liked this one. The history of her family started in the 19th century, and included one generation living in Norway during the Nazi occupation during WWII. Initially I liked the family history story better than Ally’s present-day story, but I thought Ally’s story picked up as the book went on. Have to admit I really disliked one thing that happened at the start, but if it hadn’t happened that way, the rest of the story may not have worked the way it did. Also disliked something that happened in the 19th century storyline, but that was explained later on.
I like the way this series is being done, though I can see if being difficult to write. The books start off with the same event, but then go in different directions as each sister is followed in the separate books. The author has to keep the storylines and timing straight for all the sisters for when they intersect. There was an author’s note and a Q&A at the end, which looked at this a bit.
Day Four by Sarah Lotz
Hundreds of pleasure-seekers board The Beautiful Dreamer cruise ship for relaxation and fun in the Caribbean. For three sun-filled days, the journey seems to deliver all that the brochure promised. Until Day Four. Without warning, the ship stops dead. Electricity and communications are cut off. Smoke pours out of the engine room. The passengers and crew have no way to call for help and are stranded in the Gulf of Mexico. At first, all aboard are certain that rescue teams will come looking for them soon. All they have to do is wait. Supplies soon run low, the toilets stop working and a virus plagues the ship, but when the body of a woman is discovered in her cabin, irritation escalates to panic. There's a murderer on board The Beautiful Dreamer...and maybe something worse.
In the description it said that there was a murderer aboard the ship ...or Something Worse. It was the premise of Something Worse that demanded that I take this book home from the library. I really never saw the Something Worse. I thought that the toilets having stopped working might be IT...that would probably do IT for me. The electricity also went off...that also could have been the IT. Hard to read my book in the dark. The entire book was a lead up...but it ended and I still haven't seen the Something Worse. Maybe just that it left me hanging after the build up was the IT Oh well 3 stars for getting me to read the entire 415 pages if the book:)
Time and Again
by Jack Finney
This is the story about a government organization recruiting citizens to go back in time using self-hypnosis. The goal is to just observe but not change anything in the past. Set in the 1970’s Si Morley has shown adeptness in going back in time. He has done his first mission when the organization is upended when one of their other members who time traveled caused someone’s life to disappear after a mission. Despite that Si is urged to go again to the past and he ends up falling in love with someone from the past. Well told but at times the descriptive narrative just goes on and on and I just wanted something to happen and also the use of self-hypnosis to go back in time seemed implausible to me.
Daughters of The Lake by Wendy Webb
After the end of her marriage, Kate Granger has retreated to her parents’ home on Lake Superior to pull herself together—only to discover the body of a murdered woman washed into the shallows. Tucked in the folds of the woman’s curiously vintage gown is an infant, as cold and at peace as its mother. No one can identify the woman. Except for Kate. She’s seen her before. In her dreams. One hundred years ago, a love story ended in tragedy, its mysteries left unsolved. It’s time for the lake to give up its secrets. As each mystery unravels, it pulls Kate deeper into the eddy of a haunting folktale that has been handed down in whispers over generations. Now, it’s Kate’s turn to listen. As the drowned woman reaches out from the grave, Kate reaches back. They must come together, if only in dreams, to right the sinister wrongs of the past.
I really thought...and hoped... that this historical, ghostly murder mystery would be absolutely perfect for the ghost story junkie in me...and it almost was. "Almost" is the key word here. The book is more supernatural in tone than it is paranormal and the two story lines didn't merge as they were obviously meant to. Still...it was entertaining even if it was predictable from almost the first line. A lot of the story was told from dreams which began to blend and then blur making the reader have to pause to try to figure out what the author was trying to say. Not a bad book by any means and well worth 3 stars.
Change of Heart / Jodi Picoult
Shay is hired as a handyman around June’s house. When she comes home one day to find her young daughter and her husband murdered, Shay is charged, found guilty, and is the first person to be put on death row in the state in decades. In prison, it is noticed that he seems to be able to “do” things, magical sorts of things. He would also like to make amends the only way he can think of and donate his heart to June’s other daughter, who is in need of a transplant. Lawyer Maggie comes in to try to help grant Shay his wish, while priest Michael (who has a secret of his own in regards to Shay), comes in to counsel Shay.
There is a lot going on in this book, primarily religion and the death penalty. The story is told from four different points of view: June, Michael, Maggie and another prisoner, Lucius. I’m not religious myself, but did find some of the religion “debates” interesting; these mostly focused on the Gnostic Gospels, which I’d heard of, but didn’t know anything about. The “magic” portions reminded me a bit of “The Green Mile”, and in fact, one of the prisoners at one point nicknamed Shay “Green Mile”, which I did think was kind of a fun way to address that (not that it needed to be addressed, but…). At the same time, these events made the book less realistic for me. I still quite enjoyed it, though.
Dorothy Must Die – Danielle Paige
Digital audio read by Devon Sorvari
Amy Gumm hates living in the trailer park in Kansas with her alcoholic mother. Suspended from school, she’s caught off guard by a tornado warning. The twister makes a direct hit on their trailer and she’s aware of a sensation of flying – then she wakes on the ceiling of the overturned structure. Rescued by a passerby, she’s puzzled by the changed terrain – until she notices the yellow brick road.
This is an imaginative retelling … or perhaps sequel … to Frank L Baum’s The Wizard of Oz books. The characters are all here, but they aren’t as they were portrayed in Baum’s classic books, or the much beloved movie. Dorothy has become power hungry, convinced she needs ALL the magic in Oz to maintain her hold on the populace. Amy is drafted into the rebellion and tasked with killing Dorothy so Oz can return to the “good” place it once was.
I did think that Amy was a decent heroine – self-reliant, principled, tenacious, willing to sacrifice for the greater good. She’s helped by a cast of supporting characters, from a formerly flying monkey to a couple of good witches. And I liked the nod to Judy Garland by giving Amy the last name Gumm (Judy Garland’s birth name). However, the “mean girl” theme was a little heavy-handed for my tastes (and my stage of life). So my final verdict is “average” – fast-moving plot, interesting twist on a well-known tale, but nothing extraordinary. Also, I have a pet peeve about cliff-hanger endings, which this one has. Well, it won’t work in my case. I have no intention of reading more of this series.
Devon Sorvari does a fine job of voicing the audiobook. She sets a good pace and has the skill needed to differentiate the many characters.
The Curse of Misty Wayfair by Jaime Jo Wright
Left at an orphanage as a child, Thea Reed vowed to find her mother someday. Now grown, her search takes her to Pleasant Valley, Wisconsin, in 1908. When clues lead her to a mental asylum, Thea uses her experience as a post-mortem photographer to gain access and assist groundskeeper Simeon Coyle in photographing the patients and uncovering the secrets within. However, she never expected her personal quest would reawaken the legend of Misty Wayfair, a murdered woman who allegedly haunts the area and whose appearance portends death. A century later, Heidi Lane receives a troubling letter from her mother--who is battling dementia--compelling her to travel to Pleasant Valley for answers to her own questions of identity. When she catches sight of a ghostly woman who haunts the asylum ruins in the woods, the long-standing story of Misty Wayfair returns--and with it, Heidi's fear for her own life. As two women across time seek answers about their identities and heritage, can they overcome the threat of the mysterious curse that has them inextricably intertwined?
It carries a duel story line that follows the lives of two women born a century apart. I thought to start with that it was a ghost story but found that even though there was a ghost...and one of the women goes door to door taking photographs of the recently dead...it is more a case of reincarnation than an actual case of a haunting. Both Thea and Heidi share similar lifestyles. Other than looks they are both lonely...they both often display unorthodox behaviors...both had similar sad childhoods with mothers that shared a type of mental illness. The missteps that Thea made in the past have impacted Heidi's present and may still impact dead Thea. I found the book only somewhat creepy but high on suspense. The only problem I had with it was that the ending was very predictable if you read very many of these type of books. It was well written...engaging and well worth the 4.5 star rating.
The Two Faces Of January – Patricia Highsmith
From the book jacket. Athens, 1962. Rydal Keener is an American expat working as a tour guide and running cons on the side. He is mostly killing time, searching for adventure. But in Cheter MacFarland, a charismatic American businessman, and his flirtatious and beautiful young wife, Colette, Rydal finds more than he bargained for. After an incident at a hotel puts the wealthy couple in danger, Rydal ties his fate to theirs.
The only book by Patrician Highsmith that I’ve read previously was The Talented Mr Ripley. Once again, Highsmith manages to give us unlikeable characters that behave in ways that just keep this reader enthralled and interested, turning pages to find out what twists, turns and surprises the plot has in store.
As with Ripley, Keener is subject to “thinking” not with his head, but with his …. Well, he reacts based on lust and desire. Why he gets involved with these two to begin with is a mystery to me. And he gets entangled in their mess to a greater extent than he ever dreamed possible. But “in for a penny, in for a pound.”
Rydal and Chester try to outmaneuver one another, always thinking two or three steps ahead (or not). They are both facile liars, but hardly a match for Colette. Frankly you can’t trust a word any of them says. But that only adds to the suspense. The ending was a complete surprise to me, and I can’t say it was completely satisfying.
Still, this was a fast and entertaining read, though I did have to remind myself of the time and place and recall how much easier it was to change one’s identity in that era. Apparently, there was a movie made around 2014, but I never saw it nor even remember hearing much about it.
Silent Scream by Angela Marsons
DI Kim Stone series Book #1
Five figures gather round a shallow grave. They had all taken turns to dig. An adult-sized hole would have taken longer. An innocent life had been taken, but the pact had been made. Their secrets would be buried, bound in blood . . . Years later, a headmistress is found brutally strangled, the first in a spate of gruesome murders which shock the Black Country. But when human remains are discovered at a former children's home, disturbing secrets are also unearthed. D.I. Kim Stone fast realizes she's on the hunt for a twisted individual whose killing spree spans decades. As the body count rises, Kim needs to stop the murderer before they strike again. But to catch the killer, can Kim confront the demons of her own past before it's too late?
I absolutely love everything about this series...from the plot to the characters. I am really impressed with how they support one another. There's no bickering or back stabbing in the police force. Not everyone necessarily agrees with everyone but they respect their right to say it or believe it. I have read so many of these books... both British and American... that the entire story is taken up with fighting in the ranks and not enough investigating and solving the crime. If you want real down to earth police work...this series is diffidently your "cuppa tea".
Red Hood's Revenge / Jim C. Hines
Roudette (aka Red Riding Hood) is an assassin who is coming after Talia (Sleeping Beauty), a princess of Arathea who has been exiled and is living in a neighbouring country with Danielle (Cinderella) and Snow (White).
There is a lot of fighting in this series. Yeah, kick-ass princesses are fun, but I have to admit, I tend to skim some of the fighting scenes. I briefly considered giving up on the series, but with only one book left, I think I might as well finish it off. I keep waffling between feeling like I liked it (3.5 stars) and feeling like it was ok (3 stars).
West of the Moon / Margi Preus
Astri and her younger sister, Gerta, are living with their aunt and uncle in Norway after their mother has died and their father has gone to America. They are expecting him to send for them, but before that happens, Astri’s aunt and uncle sell her as a servant to a neighbour. While working there, she dreams of escape and running to America to find her dad.
I really enjoyed this. It’s a bit simple at times and seems easy to get out of some of her predicaments, but it’s a kid’s book, so I can look past that. There aren’t a lot of illustrations in the book, but I loved the ones that were there! It’s historical fiction (set in the mid-1800s), so it was nice to see that historical note at the end. She based it on a diary of her ancestors who came across the ocean from Norway – they had met a girl on her own, so this story was to make up why that girl might be on her own. The note also described some of the medical conditions in the book and how they would have been dealt with at that time.
American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump by Tim Alberta
The GOP has been on a decade-long suicide mission. All the horrifying, nitty-gritty details are covered in this book. Trump and the party's remaining members are soul mates. Lincoln must be shedding a waterfall of tears for the party he founded.
Gossamer Axe/Gael Baudino
5***** and a Heart
A doorway between worlds opened, releasing Christa, her harp - and her quest. Imprisoned for centuries, she had escaped from the faery Sidh and the musician Orfide, weavers of spells and schemes. But the doorway had shut too quickly, leaving her lover behind in the endless captivity of a timeless world. Now, in contemporary Denver, Christa discovers the way to her loved one's freedom - stunning and powerful electric music that can break down the walls of time. So this Celtic maiden turns rocker, her harp transfigures into an electric guitar, and her newly formed band of heavy metal warriors, called Gossamer Axe, becomes her most effective weapon.
It's one of the books that changed the way I look at life and music, and I wanted to pick it up and re-read it for the umpteenth time. I had a break in between one road trip involving music and another, also involving music, and so I decided this was the perfect book to read in this interim. It gave me an insight, way back in 1990, into music that is still with me.
So the premise is that a young woman with a harp lives in Denver in the 1980's teaching harp lessons, but she is really from 6th Century Ireland and her harp is from the immortal lands of the Sidh. She took it with her when she escaped their lands, but sadly, her lover, Suidb (Judith) did not get out with her. Chairste has been living a half-life of despair, since the harp gives her immortality, wondering how to bring Judith back when the gates between our world and the Lands of the Sidh are growing ever more fragile.
Enter one of Chairiste's students, a bass player, who introduces her to the world of the hair bands of the 80's, and guitar teacher Kevin, and Chairiste finds out how she can open up the gates, rescue her lover, and overcome the Master Harper who would keep Judith enchanted forever. Gael Baudino does a masterful job telling this story, interweaving threads of the dark side of Catholicism, women's efforts to make their mark in rock music, and how men can come to revere women as Goddess. The interweaving of music and magick is extraordinary, as are the glimpses into all of these worlds.
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