Friday, May 27, 2016

SCCCLD Challenge for Spring

Spring Challenge

(We are defining Spring as March, April and May)

SCCCLD Challenge for Spring 

It's an easy one!  
Read a book in which a main subject is gardening.
It can be fiction or nonfiction,
 a romance, a mystery, or a how to book.  
It's your choice.

You earn one bonus point for each book that meets the criteria.   Be sure to add the label:
SCCCLD Challenge Spring 
to your blog entry to receive credit.

For those super readers who want an even bigger challenge:
Read a poetry book about gardens for a two point bonus!

Be sure to add the label:
SCCCLD Challenge Spring Poetry

Remember we are only awarding bonus points for this challenge in March, April and May!

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Man Who Wasn't There:Investigations into the Strange New Science of the Self/Anil Ananthaswamy/270 pgs.

This is a fascinating book about the "self," and how certain parts of the brain impact one's perception of body, mind, and self. The author interviews individuals with different "disabilities:" Alzheimer's disease, autism, depersonalization disorder, to name a few. He discusses how each person functions in society, the treatment and testing he/she has undergone, and how neuroscience is trying to understand what these individuals face. Recommended!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Salt to the Sea/ Ruta Sepetys/ 391 pages

Salt to the Sea, written by Ruta Sepetys introduces the reader to Operation Hannibal, an attempt by the Nazis to evacuate two million people from east and west Prussia.  The reader meets three of the main characters as they flee the Soviet Army while making their way to the evacuation site.  Joana, Florian and Emilia along with several other characters travel together to the port.  Each has a secret that is finally revealed to the reader.  As they travel across Prussia, Alfred is already at the port preparing the ships for the evacuation.  All are passengers aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship built for vacation cruises just prior to the war.  The ship will ultimately carry over 9000 people to their deaths.  The author does a good job of revealing the little know history of the Wilhelm Gustloff, the greatest sea disaster recorded, with more lose of life than the Titanic or the Lusitania.  This book will appeal to readers who enjoy historical fiction from the perspective of younger people.

I Still Dream About You / Fannie Flagg 590 p.

An aging former Miss Alabama looks to have everything-- she can still turn heads, owns a lovely condo, has a successful career, and depression.  Her real estate office is in the dumps with the housing depression.  She has lost her best friend and optimistic boss.  She even makes a list of reasons why to jump in the river.  She plans a graceful exit that keeps getting postponed; first by her best friend Brenda wanting to see the Whirly Dervishes, then has to save the crown jewel house in Birmingham from the wrecking ball, and, and, and.  The scene with the goat is not to be missed.

I Still Dream About You / Fannie Flagg 590 p.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Fortune Favors the Wicked / Theresa Romain 314 p.

When Royal Navy Lieutenant Benedict Frost suffers an career ending injury, he finds himself without meaningful work and bored.  When he learns of the heist of gold coins from the Royal Mint, he decides to follow the clues.  At the same time courtesan Charlotte Perry is very interested in getting the reward for finding the coins.  This means a new life for her.  Of course, circumstances bring them together resulting in allies in this Regency romantic mystery.

Some of the characters story is continued in Passion Favors the Bold.

Fortune Favors the Wicked / Theresa Romain 314 p.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

14th Colony/ Steve Berry/450 pages

The 14th Colony is Steve Berry's latest adventure featuring Cotton Malone, Cassiopeia, Stephanie Nells, and President Danny Daniels.  Even though the Magellan Billet has been dissolved, the story begins in Russia with Malone's help requested to find an aged former Soviet archivist.  The shooting starts there along with the adventure.  As more is revealed about an old Soviet plan to bring the United States into chaos, an old American plan to conquer Canada is also revealed.  From Russia to Canada to Virginia and finally DC, the chase continues as all characters rush to stop a disaster as the next president is sworn into office.  This book will appeal to the Steve Berry's fans and readers who enjoy action and adventure.

Where is Joe Merchant?/ Jimmy Buffett/ 416 pages

Where is Joe Merchant? is the debut novel written by Jimmy Buffett.  In this book Jimmy Buffett  introduces the reader to an array of unique and unusual characters whose lives intertwine in a totally unexpected way.  Each character is given a back story that brings them up to current time.  The charm of the book is the way they all come together in the Caribbean.  Frank is a pilot, deep in debt, Trevor is his ex-girlfriend, looking for her brother, Desdemona is building a rocket, Colonel Cairo is intend on owning his own country.  The question remains, where is Joe Merchant?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Flawed/Cecelia Ahern/324 pgs.

Celestine North is a perfect teenager--good student, obedient to her parents, girlfriend to Art Craven, whose father is the head judge for the Guild. The Guild is the ruling body that determines if a person is "Flawed." The Flawed live by different rules in society--they have curfews, eat different food, sit in different seats on the bus, just to name a few. Celestine performs an act that marks her as Flawed. The book makes the reader think how society treats its members that are considered different or "flawed." This book is a fast read, but it leaves some unfinished plot lines that will be resolved in the next installment. Recommended!

Fangirl/Rainbow Rowell/438 pgs.

Cather "Cath" and her identical twin sister, Wren, are going off to college. Wren is ready to establish her own identity, and begins by informing Cath that they won't be roommates in college. Cath has always relied heavily on Wren, and isn't sure she can make it in college without Wren right there beside her. They have always shared a love of Simon Snow--a Harry Potter type of fictional character--to the extent that Cath blogs her own stories about Simon. So, part of Fangirl consists of Cather's entries about Simon. On top of Cather and Wren's growing pains, is the fact that their mother left them when they were eight years old, and now wants to be a part of their lives. Add to this Cath and Wren's father's mental health issues, and the reader is given insight into a not so uncommon family situation. Highly recommended!

Crippled America / Donald Trump / 193 pgs

As promised, I've finished reading the other current book by a presidential candidate. This is a short one and I was easily able to finish it in less than 48 hours. As before, I am not going to give you my opinion on the book or its author, and rather just post what the book is about.

Essentially, Crippled America is a campaign manifesto, published just this past November, months after Trump announced his candidacy and even after the first two televised debates took place. Therefore, Trump is able to give his take on how the first few months of the presidential campaign is shaping up. His chapters deal with the media, his views on immigration reform, health care reform, tax reform, education reform, the military and ISIS, and the economy as a whole. He includes pictures of himself growing up and many of his Trump Towers and other holdings, but this isn't an autobiography, unlike Cruz's A Time for Truth. So, if you are looking for Trump's views on politics, this is a starting point, but if you want an autobiography, you probably need to find his The Art of the Deal which I have yet to read myself.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

If the Shoe Kills / Lynn Cahoon / 203 pages

"Spousal abuse happens in all families."  As a family law attorney Jill Gardner knew this to be true.  She'd seen her share of abused wives, trapped in the vicious cycle.  Now owner of Coffee, Books and More in a small coastal California town, Jill recognizes the syndrome in a local shop owner, Marie Jones.  Marie escaped her situation and her abusive husband claimed she had been kidnapped and a  ransom had been paid.  Marie remained missing.  Apparently Ted had hired a PI to find her and tracked her to the small town of South Cove.  When Ted is murdered, Jill is the one who finds the body and begins investigating the rude employment agency director.  She uncovers his wealthy roots, his wife, and an excellent motive for murder.  A dead rabbit is left on her doorstep to stop her snooping.  Loyal readers of the series will know this is impossible for Jill.

Mission to Murder / Lynn Cahoon / 217 pages

Maybe the South Cove, California detective liked his women on the wrong side of the law.  That was Jill Gardner, "a rebel coffee shop/bookstore owner with an unused law degree."  She is investigating the murder of Graig Morgan, the obnoxious owner of South Cove's most popular tourist spot, The Castle.  She is the prime suspect as she was seen arguing with the man twice the day of his death.  He was determined to thwart her claim of historically significant mission ruins on her inherited property.  He was also hogging city marketing revenues that could be used by her business.  Jill's investigation encompasses a bike gang, drug trafficking, and an abusive stalker.  Another great installment in the Tourist Trap Mystery series will leave the reader wanting more.

"We only win if we work together."

Killer Run / Lynn Cahoon / 183 pages

This is the fifth book in the Tourist Trap Mystery series.  South Cove is asked to host the first annual 5K Mission Run.  The race is a fundraiser for the local preservation society.  Jill Gardner, the owner of CBM and heir to Ms. Emily's estate, is anxious for the commission to rule on the authenticity of the mission wall found on her property.  Unfortunately, runners stumble over a dead body on the race course.  Was the wife of the promotional company sponsoring the event a victim of hit and run or murder?  Is the vandalism at the local train store related?  Jill Gardner investigates despite her beau's objections.

"If you hold anger in your heart, it turns to evil."

Fool Me Once / Harlan Coben / 390 pages

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's creation Sherlock Holmes said "When you eliminate the impossible what remains, however improbable, must be the truth."  This philosophy seemed more apropos to Maya Stern's situation than Occam' Razor - that the simplest solution is usually the best.  Her sister Claire was brutally murdered.  Her husband, wealthy Joe Burkett, was shot and killed while they were walking in the park.  Wasn't he?  They say you can't bury the past.  Well they couldn't have the reading of Joe's will due to a problem with the death certificate.  What about the footage on the nanny cam?  Maya knew from her military career that "traumas ripples and echoes and somehow stays alive."  As Maya investigates the deaths, she uncovers family secrets, a conspiracy, and knowledge that may lead to her own death.  The realistic ending is shocking beyond measure, but quite apropos.  This one is most definitely too miss...sure to wreak havoc with other responsibilities.

Guidebook to Murder / Lynn Cahoon / 220 pages

Last week Jill Gardner, owner of Coffee, Books, and More, read a mystery.  Today she lived one.  Her elderly friend, Miss Emily - whose derelict house and yard were threatened with citations and condemnation by city hall and sought after by a wealthy developer - was dead; her best friend and city planner, Amy, had gone missing; her windfall inheritance might belong to a mysterious granddaughter; and the great-looking guy, detective Greg King, who seemed to be into her...might be married.  She had become a walking, talking country song.  This first book in the Tourist Trap Mystery series will leave the reader wanting more.  This is most enjoyable, cozy whodunit...set in a small town with an intrepid heroine and a supporting cast of interesting characters.

Off the Grid / C. J. Box / 371 pages

Nate Romanowski, game warden Joe Pickett's best friend, a "kind of homicidal libertarian folk hero," is off the grid.  Although the federal government has been trying to track his whereabouts, they had no luck until Liv Brannon's mother became terminally ill and Liv had to make contact with her.  Now they offer Nate a deal...all records will be expunged for both Nate and Liv if Nate will locate and neutralize a perceived threat to national Muhammed Ibraaheem.  For six years he was the hardest working journalist in the world.  Now he, too, is off the grid.  Although sorting out chatter "is like trying to drink from a fire hose," recent intercepted chatter points to a huge upcoming terror event in the Mountain West where no one expects it.  A satellite picture shows Ibby engaged in falconry just one hundred miles from Nate.  Given Ibby's nationality and a photo taken of him with high-value Al Queda militants in Yemen, the government suspects he is involved with this threat.  Nate, as a fellow falconer, is to investigate.  Sheridan, Joe Pickett's college age daughter, is caught in this dangerous game, one of many innocent bystanders.  As always, this page turner by Mr. Box is an engaging, thought-provoking read.

Torn Away / Jennifer Brown / 276 pages

Jersey Cameron has so many regrets.  She should have danced with her sister.  She should have told her mom how much she loved her.  She should have tried to forge a relationship with her step dad.  A tornado has torn through her small Missouri town and she has lost everything.  Even as the reader empathizes with Jersey thing keep getting worse for her.  Finally, hope, love, and trust come from totally unexpected source.  This novel vividly portrays the horrific impact of natural disasters and the tenuous ties that bind.

Gateway Award Nominee 2016-17

Lady Killer / Lisa Scottoline / 255 pages/ audiobook

Lawyer Mary DiNunzio is astounded when the mean girls from high school show up in her office.  They are anything but nice to her, but she thinks she owes them because they went to the same high school and hail from the same neighborhood.  They don't want to be friends and never hesitate to talk down to her but they want her help.  Trish Gambone is being abused by her mobster boyfriend.  She is afraid he is about to ask her to marry him and if she refuses he will kill her.  When the boyfriend is shot dead in an alley, Trish is a prime suspect.  You can't help but chuckle as you listen to the mean girls' accents and the crazy path Mary's investigation takes.  The ending is great...?!

Friday, May 13, 2016

A Time for Truth : Reigniting the Promise of America / Ted Cruz / 400 pgs

I actually read Cruz's auto-biography earlier this year, but I wanted to wait until he was out of the race before posting this. I am looking towards reading a Donald Trump book next, and then either a Sanders or Clinton (or both) book later this year. I am going to only post a summary without political commentary.

In his book, Cruz details the lives of both of his parents before Cruz was born. He then moves on to his own childhood. Cruz talks about how he changed his mind from pursuing a career in computer science (the profession of both of his parents) to law when he was in high school. After going to school at Princeton and Harvard, Cruz talks about his early career, his campaigning for George W. Bush in 2000, which is where he met his wife, Heidi, and his time as a solicitor general of Texas. The second half of the book is about his senate campaign in 2012, what he has done in the Senate since he was sworn into office in early 2013, and then ends with his vision for America in the future.

The Texan's Courtship Lessons / Noelle Marchand / 288 pgs

I really enjoyed The Texan's Courtship Lessons more than I thought I would. First of all, let me acknowledge that I read this book only because I am judging a group of romance books for The Maggie Awards. That said, I was worried when I saw that it was the second book in a series, but the author did a good job of acknowledging a bit of what happened in the previous book with the previous couple, without being too confusing. In fact, it was very easy to read this book as a stand-alone.

Isabelle Bradley is not open to courting any of her older sister's former beaus. Amy Bradley has recently secretly eloped and now her suitors have turned their eye to Isabelle, but she is not interested in being someone's second choice. Rhett Granger's awkwardness around the female sex is a bit of a joke in town, but he finds that he is not the least bit tongue-tied around Isabelle. However, Isabelle is only able to offer friendship to Rhett. How is Rhett going to convince Isabelle that she's first in his heart, not a consolation prize?

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Life After Life / Kate Atkinson / 544 pgs

My book discussion group is reading Life After Life this month. This is my second time reading Life After Life and I think I appreciate it more than I did the first time. Still not as good as Clare North's The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, I think I was less confused this time around with all of the constant rebirths. Ursula Todd is born on a snowy evening in February 1910 and dies before she barely can draw her first breath. But, that's not the end of Ursula Todd. Again, she is born at the same time and place, but this time, she survives....for a while. Every time Ursula dies in a different way, she is reborn at the same time and place, and every time she lives again, some feelings of deja vu bleed into her new life. Clearly history has something important in store for Ursula, something that may change the trajectory of 20th century history itself.  

Monday, May 9, 2016

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End/Atul Gawande/282 pgs.

Dr. Gawande, a practicing physician and surgeon, discusses how the improvements in modern medicine impacts the growing elderly population and their quality of life. It's a moving book which should be read by baby boomers and all medical professionals. It has the reader thinking about the difference between being kept alive and the quality of living. Dr. Gawande has experienced this enigma in his practice and his personal life. It's eye opening book, a difficult read at times, but highly recommended!

All Dogs Go To Kevin/Dr. Jessica Vogelsang/323 pgs.

The subtitle of the book, "Everything three dogs taught me (that I didn't learn in veterinary school)," is the crux of the book. Dr. Vogelsang takes the reader through her personal history--what lead to her decision to become a veterinarian, and the dogs that have impacted her life (so far). The reader will laugh, and inevitably cry, at various parts of the book, but it's well worth it. Recommended!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

House of Silk / Anthony Horowitz 294 p.

Anthony Horowitz captures the essence of the Sherlock Holmes genre.  Dr. Watson is back with Sherlock Holmes at 221 B Baker Street while Mary Watson is off to care for an ailing child.  A fine arts dealer, Edmund Carstairs, comes to Holmes for help-- a strange man with a flat hat is stalking him very publicly.  Carstairs relates that man is a ring leader for a Boston crime gang who's ire he provoked when he attempted to get the culprits who stole his four valuable landscape paintings.  The murder investigation of the Boston criminal drags the pair deeper into intrigue.

House of Silk / Anthony Horowitz 294 p.

Monday, May 2, 2016

A Girl's Guide to Moving On/Debbie Macomber/339 pgs.

Nichole, and her soon-to-be ex-mother-in-law, Leanne, are both "moving on" after divorcing their husbands. Jake, Nichole's ex, (and Leanne's son) has followed in his father Sean's footsteps: while married to Nichole, he cheated on her with several women. Sean, with Leanne's knowledge, cheated on her throughout their 35 years of marriage. When Leanne learned that Nichole was divorcing Jake, she decided it was time for her to divorce Sean. The novel is told in alternating Nichole and Leanne chapters. They move into apartments across from each other, and support each other in this new stage of their lives. Along their journey, they each meet a new male "interest": Rocco for Nichole, and Nikolai  for Leanne. This is where the story becomes a long stretch for me: neither man seems a believable match. There are some unexpected turns, but on the whole, I don't think it's one of Macomber's best  efforts. BTW: it somewhat follows Macomber's Last One Home.

Pretty Little Things/Jilliane Hoffman/360 pgs.

Elaine "Lainey" Emerson, 13 years old, has gone missing. Lainey's older sister has runaway before, so it is initially assumed that Lainey is following in her sister's footsteps. Special Agent Bobby Dees, who heads up the Crimes Against Children Squad, is called in to investigate. He discovers that Lainey has a secret online relationship with Zach Cusano, known online as ElCapitan. It turns out, though, that someone has been posting as Zach. Dead girls begin to show up after the killer sends canvas paintings of them to a local television reporter, who then gets the information to Bobby Dees. On top of searching for what appears to be a serial killer, Bobby is searching for his missing teenage daughter, Katy, who ran away from home less than a year ago. There is constant suspense plus the tension surrounding Bobby and his wife, LuAnn. It's fast paced, and keeps the reader turning the pages in anticipation of what's to come! Recommended.

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor, Vol. 2: The Weeping Angels of Mons / Robbie Morrison / 128 pgs

I saw that Doctor Who has come out with some new 10th Doctor adventures featuring a new companion from NYC and was intrigued, so I checked out KL's copy. I ended up reading the 2nd volume first, but had no problem following the story line. I feel that World War I has been overdone a bit in the Whoniverse, but I also know that WWI just seems to be a bigger deal for most Brits than it is for Americans, but that would be my only complaint for the story. I do like that the Angels are back to sending people to the past. One of my biggest complaints about Season 5 of Doctor Who was how the Angels were all of a sudden killing people rather than feeding off the energy of their victims' "would have beens". Some have said that you don't necessarily need to have watched a bunch of Doctor Who episodes to understand the plot of this graphic novel. Not having read the first volume of this graphic novel yet, that might be true. The Doctor does go into a lot of detail about the Weeping Angels in this second volume, but I'm unsure how explanatory the first volume is on who the Doctor is, where he comes from, etc.

Stars Above / Marissa Meyer / 369 pgs

This is the end. The last book in the Lunar Chronicles universe. I'm really sad. I loved these books so much. I've seen a lot of people complain about Stars Above and say that some of the stories were unnecessary. Obviously, none of the stories were necessary, but they were all perfect. A lot of them flesh out what was only mentioned in passing in the previous books, including Carswell Thorne's interactions with his high school crush, Kate; how Winter chose to stop using her Lunar gift and how she got her facial scars; how Cinder came to live with the Linh family; how Wolf was taken from his family and turned into a special ops soldier in the Queen's army; how Cress was taken to the satellite when she was very young; and how Michelle Benoit was roped into helping keep the heir to the Lunar throne safe for eight years. Other short stories were new, like Kai's perspective when he first met Cinder and "The Little Android", which is based on Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid", but the best story of all was the last one, which goes forward a little over two years into the future and gathers all of our favorite characters together as they celebrate a certain two characters' wedding. To tell you who would be to give away plot points. Suffice to say, it was an awesome epilogue to what is definitely now my favorite YA series!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Tombstone Courage / J. A. Jance / 300 pages

Joanna Brady #2
After Joanna Brady's husband was killed while running for county sheriff and Joanna solved his murder, she decides to run for office in his stead.  Unfortunately, she faces stiff opposition.  If elected, she will be the first female county sheriff in Arizona.  Elected she is and before she can even be sworn into office, two murders occur.  The men she defeated in the election cut her out of the information loop and she must battle this obfuscation, equipment concerns, and the active murder investigations.  One cannot help but admire this very plucky heroine.

Divine Evil / Nora Roberts / 501 pages

Claire Kimball, an accomplished sculptor in New York, is troubled by depression fueled by the return of childhood nightmares.  She returns to her small hometown in Maryland, to the home where her father fell to his death.  Was the death suicide, an accident, or murder?  Claire found the body that night and it has haunted her ever since.  Strange events are happening in the town...a baby's body was dug up and removed from the cemetery..., a young girl has gone missing..., devil worshippers are cavorting in the woods...,  high school bad boy turned sheriff, Cameron Rafferty's step father is found viciously beaten..., and Cam is both investigating officer and possible suspect.  Sparks fly between Cam and Claire as Claire is forced to relive her childhood nightmares.  Can she outrun the demons?

The Drifter / Nicholas Petrie / 371 pages

Peter Ash is an ex-marine who served eight years in multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.  His tours of duty and white static made it difficult to resume a normal life stateside.  Being indoors caused intense discomfort and spawned his decision to live in the wilderness.  When his second-in-command, Jimmy Johnson, commits suicide, Peter returns to Milwaukee to aid his widow and two kids.  The first order of business is to repair a rotten front porch.  The job is made more difficult by an evil-tempered mad dog who has reputedly eaten all the neighborhood cats and dogs and is soon to start on the children.  Peter is able to subdue the dog and begins clearing garbage that has accumulated under the deck.  When he finds an old suitcase with four hundred thousand dollars and some explosives, he knows they will lead to no good.  Well developed characters people this suspense filled tale of a true American hero.

Killer Smile / Lisa Scottoline / 358 pages

Mary DiNunzio believes in justice and love...and that you should "never get over it."  You should accept what happens as a part of yourself.  She is investigating a suicide in an Italian-American internment camp during World War II.  When a lawyer connected to the case is murdered and Mary is burglarized, she realizes someone wants the investigation to cease.  Instead, Mary decides to visit the camp in Montana and interview first hand anyone who might know what really happened.  Her maverick actions pay off and she uncovers murder, secrets, true love, and inter-generational greed.

Hostile Witness / Rebecca Forster / 287 pages

A Josie Bates Thriller, Book 1
Josie Bates is an excellent trial lawyer with a killer reputation.  Years ago she defended a young mother accused of murder and won.  The young mother then killed her own children.  Josie had sworn off criminal law and worked simple civil cases instead.  When an old friend, Linda Sheraton, requests her help, however, she agrees to help, at least initially and then will recommend someone else to represent the girl at trial, if necessary.  The friend has married well.  Her husband is the son of Fritz Rayburn, a California Supreme Court judge.  Unfortunately, the judge died in a fire allegedly set by sixteen year old Hannah Sheraton - the friend's daughter, a diagnosed obsessive-compulsive with a history of difficulties.  Josie feels compelled to help the girl despite the ghosts from her past and additional evidence that increases the likelihood of the girl's guilt.  This psychological thriller is intense with multiple plot twists and extraordinarily well-developed characters.

Green Lake / S. K. Epperson / 237 pages

Madeleine Heron's husband, Sam Craven, is dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  He had lost his job as an aeronautical engineer and refused to accept any other job.  They just couldn't maintain their lifestyle on Madeleine's job as a college professor and fought often, sometimes physically.  Madeleine had become disenchanted with her job and especially her students and when Sam's parents request she not sit with them at the funeral, Madeleine is devastated.  Madeleine's sister, Jacqueline comes to the rescue and offers their lake cabin as a transitional residence as Madeleine had to sell the house to pay debts.  At the lake, Madeleine encounters a recalcitrant neighbor, a psychotic conservation officer, a cemetery-loving digger, several murders,...and true love.  Several thought-provoking themes cause the reader to take a break from nonstop actions to ponder ethical and moral possibilities.

Cruel Intent / J. A. Jance / 340 pages

Ali Reynolds #3
Ex TV journalist Ali Reynolds is determined to host the family Thanksgiving this year, over the strenuous objections of her Sugar Loaf owning mother.  Some serious remodeling of her home is underway in preparation for the big event.  Unfortunately, Ali's contractor is arrested for murder of his wife.  He confesses innocence and Ali believes him.  Although his crew continues to work in his absence, Ali's remodel is sabotaged by the dead, cheating, embezzling wife.  An online dating site has enabled a serial killer to prey on unsuspecting cheating spouses.  The plot is fleshed out  by Ali's direction of a scholarship, her relationship with lawman Dave, her indomitable butler Leland, and her feisty mom.  As always, Jance has crafted a well-wrought page turner set in the desert Southwest and peopled it with interesting, believable characters.

The One You Love / Paul Pilkington / 312 pages

While Emma Holden is out celebrating her upcoming wedding with a hen party with her girlfriends, she receives a call from her brother, will, complaining that her fiancĂ©, Dan failed to arrive at the meeting place for his bachelor party.  He had gone to Emma's flat, but Dan was not answering the intercom.  When Em arrived and they entered the flat, they discovered Dan's brother, Richard, badly beaten and unconscious and Dan nowhere to be found.  Had Dan beaten his brother?  Where had he gone?  Had he been kidnapped?  Will and Em are determined to find out.  Emma  turns to a horror stalker from her past for answers and discovers far more than she bargained for.  This edge of your seat thriller's tension is magnified by the approaching wedding and all its obligations as well as Emma's career breakthrough.

The Magnificent 12: The Call / Michael Grant / 160 pages

"David MacAvoy - whose friends call him Mack - was not an unlikely hero.  He was an impossible hero."  "Only twelve, not especially big, strong, wise, kind, or good-looking, plus he was scared of a list of things...spiders, dentists, fire, puppets, shots, oceans, sharks... so this was not a twelve year old you'd expect to become one of the greatest heroes in human history - not the person you'd expect would try and save the world from the greatest evil it had ever faced.  But that's our story."  Mack is visited by an extraordinarily creepy creature from the past and learns that he must assemble the Magnificent Twelve.  The Pale Queen was imprisoned below ground three thousand years ago and is soon to be released...unless the Magnificent 12 can stop it.  Mack and his bully/body guard, Stefan, travel to Australia, encounter Risky, the queen's daughter, and enlist the second member of the elite, if somewhat dubiously heroic, group.  This first book in the series, by the author of the Gone series, features adventure with a capital A.

Escape, A New Life / David J. Antocci / 205 pages

Wow!  This was one wild, violent ride with a most unique premise, an awesome beginning, and a satisfying ending that segues well into the second book of the trilogy, Past Sins.  Abby wakes up on a deserted island beach without knowing where she is or how she got there.  She has always been a bit curvy. At just five feet it was hard not to put on weight, but her stomach seems smaller and she seems to be in much better shape than she remembers.  She sees someone floating in the water and struggles to rescue a lean, strongly built young man.  Eric doesn't know how he got to be on the island either, but suspects hijinks from his friends.  This is not practical joke.  The reader discovers that they are willing participants in a wilderness reality TV show and have had their memories wiped of the past ten years so they do not know they are a part of a TV show.  They only know that are stranded with killers and learn they, too, must kill to survive.  Abby's secret past includes a ruthless mob-connected husband who wants her back.  The nonstop action and fearless heroics of the diminutive Abby make this a most enjoyable read.

"Good people get into bad situations, sometimes they have to take measures to get out."

Relief Map / Rosalie Knecht / 286 pages

The FBI has locked down the tiny Pennsylvania town of Lomath.  Blockades are established on all outgoing roads and electricity and phone service have been cut.  They are looking for an international fugitive, one Revaz Deni.  They suspect that someone local may be harboring Deni and have prohibited anyone from leaving, not even for much needed prescription refills.  Two ne'er do wells, Dominic and Brian, convince sixteen year old Livy Markos and her best friend, Tela - 18, to accompany them to a nearby pharmacy for the medicines.  This well-intentioned drug run turns into an armed robbery and kidnapping.  This book has so many vital messages that are skillfully and sensitively delivered.  The characters are well sketched and evoke empathy and incite the reader to thoughtfully consider the moral and ethical ramifications of their actions.

The Summer Before the War / Helen Simonson / 479 pages

It is 1914 and the peaceful English countryside and peace-loving British are about to be irreparably changed by war.  Hugh Grange's uncle, working in the foreign office, did everything in his power to forestall the war, but the inevitable happened.  Hugh enlists to continue his studies in surgery along with his cousin, Daniel, of somewhat dubious reputations, and various countrymen.  They leave behind the new Latin teacher, Beatrice Nash, whose beauty and somewhat modern thinking has stirred controversy.  This engaging story of a world at war, shifting paradigms, and love during conflict is perhaps a bit slow in the beginning, perhaps to mimic the slow passage of time during peace.

The Practical County Drama Queen / Michelle Houts / 168 pages

Frannie Ryan lives on family's farm in Nowhere, Indiana.  She may be the Drama Queen of Practical County, but she has every reason to be.  She feels compelled to stop her brother from marrying Precious Darling.  Her older sister, Libby, who might have been an ally in the subterfuge, is away for the summer on a vet internship.  Her stuttering, bat-obsessed best friend, Cooper, and forgetful, farmer Grandpa feel her pain.  This is an absolutely endearing bird's eye view of family farm life, the importance and inevitability of change, and the love that binds all.

Submerged / Dani Pettrey / 278 pages

Alaskan Courage Series #1
Bailey Craig was abandoned by her parents and raised by her Aunt Agnes in Yancey, Alaska.  Her aunt owned and ran The Trading Post, specializing in Russian artifacts and history.  Bailey had fled Yancey and her checkered reputation ten years ago, determined never to return.  When her aunt is killed in a plane crash, however, she returns to tie up loose ends and return to her life and career in Oregon.  The plane crash that killed her aunt was not an accident and her death is one among many.  Aunt Agnes had uncovered clues to exiled Romanoff royalty and a submerged Russian church.  Bailey and Cole McKenna and his family rush against time to preserve the chain of evidence and to stop the killing.  This is a story of Russian presence in Alaska and the importance and life-changing reality of faith in awesome read!!...inspirational, romantic suspense.

A Tangle of Knots / Lisa Graf / 230 pages

"It's the way we deal with what Fate hands us that defines who we are."  This is a delightful "novel of magic, mystery, and Talent with a capital T," with this universal categorical imperative.  We find interesting, well-defined characters who react and interact with their fate-given talents.  The talents themselves are most curious, and in some cases their desirability is somewhat dubious.  We have an emporium owner who steals and hoards talents, St. Anthony suitcases, an orphan who bakes cakes specific to each individual (with recipes included), a woman with a stroke, a former archaeologist who literally holds the key to the discovery of the century, and an intricately woven plot that ties all together in an eminently satisfying tale.

The Alliance, a Registry Novel / Shannon Stoker / 442 pages

Mia, Andrew, Carter, and a number of Affinity operatives have embarked on a mission to infiltrate America and stop the Registry and mandatory service.  Much of the world is a vast radioactive wasteland after the Great War.  America attempted to overcome the population devastated by biological warfare by instituting these two measures and insulating her citizens.  Mia's revelation to the American public is hoped to inspire revolution and toppling of the totalitarian government.  This third book in the Registry trilogy is filled with non-stop action, a truly evil villain, an intrepid hero and heroine, true love...This one has it all.

No Passengers Beyond This Point / Gennifer Choldenko / 240 pages

"You have to wait for good things to happen - wait and wait and work so hard - but bad things occur out of the blue, like fire alarms triggered in the dead of night, blaring randomly, a shock of sound, a chatter of current from which there is not turning back."  The announcement made at the Tompkins Family Meeting was one of those bad things.  India, Finn, and Mouse were to leave the next day for Colorado.  The family had lost their house and their Mom would stay behind to complete her teaching contract. Unfortunately, the flight does not go as planned and the kids are plunged into an alternate reality where decisions are crucial.  Each chooses family over perfection.  With a unique, creative approach, Ms. Choldenko has crafted a heart-warming, adrenaline pumping story of the importance of family and the foibles of growing up.  This would make an excellent read aloud (not to mention movie) and would be a great spark for creative writing or illustrative artwork.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Lost Light / Michael Connelly 400 p.

A newly retired Harry Bosch needs little prompting from a former colleague to investigate a cold case that haunts him, the murder of  Angella Benton, a young production assistant-- A murder that is linked to a $2 million heist from the film company where she worked.  Lawton Cross shares that an FBI agent informed his late partner that a bill from the heist turned up, the agent who goes missing shortly after making the call.  Connelly masterly advances the complex plot with its multiple twists and turns to an action packed ending.

Lost Light / Michael Connelly 400 p.