Sunday, February 1, 2015

SCCCLD February Challenge

Here it is,
 the month of romance and cold weather.

Since I plan to spend the second half of the month cruising in the romantic, sunny, warm Caribbean,
 it is only fair that all those left behind share in the experience.  

For your February Challenge find a story that 
includes a cruise ship 


 takes place in the Caribbean. 

 For your effort you will receive one sunny bonus point.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Dementia: Mother's Story/Patsy Barnes/90 pages

To start, I know the author, and the subject of this book is someone who was very dear to me. She is never referred to by name, but she was born in Warrenton and lived in St. Charles most of her 80+ years. She was a delightful woman who was interesting and insightful which made her diagnosis and very quick decline that much harder to watch. Some of the stories of her decline I had heard, but some were new to me. All were heartbreaking.

Barnes gives some helpful advice and information on dementia.

The Last Original Wife/Dorothea Benton Frank/352 pages

Leslie and Wesley, known to all as Les and Wes, are still on their first marriage. Death and divorce ended their friends' marriages, and the husbands replaced the first wives with much younger versions  (the Barbies as Les calls them) within months. Wes' loud and abusive nature makes him less of a prize than one would think. Their adult children seem to lack motivation and financial stability. An accident resulting in injury on a vacation and the subsequent discovery of bank statements showing untold wealth have Les fleeing back to her childhood home in Charleston for an extended visit to her brother while she sorts out her life.

An engrossing novel that deals with what do you do when you realize you are unhappy and have no one to blame but yourself.

Saving Grace/Jane Green/346 pages

Grace and Ted Chapman seem like the perfect literary couple, but looks can be deceiving. Ted is a famous best-selling author whose books aren't selling much anymore. His moods and demands are legendary in the publishing world, but only Grace knows how intimidating he can be. Thank goodness for their assistant Ellen who keeps everything organized and running properly, giving Ted little reason to throw a tantrum. Problem is, Ellen must leave to take care of her ailing mother in Florida. Grace fears what happens when she fails, as she most likely will, to keep Ted happy and on an even keel. Then Beth appears, as if out of nowhere, and she is the answer to Grace's prayers. Beth is even more organized than Ellen, but she makes Grace uneasy. When Beth starts dressing like Grace and taking her place at events, Grace's normal unflappable reserve leaves her. Soon, Beth is on the run, heading back to England to get her life back in order.

At first, I thought this would be focusing on an emotionally abusive husband, but the story soon became more about the devious assistant and her plan to take Grace's place. Somehow, the assistant seems to tame Ted quickly which makes me ask the question: is he really as abusive as he seems at first or was Grace just too timid? The ending is somewhat unsatisfactory if you like judgement or at least closure.

Winter Street/Elin Hilderbrand/246 pages/December Challenge

Winter Street chronicles December 23, 24 and 25 for the blended Quinn family on Nantucket Island. Kelley Quinn bought the Winter Street Inn as a wedding gift for his second wife Mitzi. He quit his high-profile job, renovated the inn and became a very happy innkeeper with Mitzi or so he thought. Two of his children from his first marriage live with them, while the oldest lives in Boston. His son with Mitzi has just been deployed to Afghanistan. His first wife is one of the most recognized women in America since she anchors the evening national news. An unwelcome surprise and a discovery of illegal transactions threatens to ruin the holiday for everyone.

Told from each family member's points of view, this is a quick holiday read that doesn't wrap everything up in a neat little package.

When No One is Watching/ Joseph Hayes/ 320 pages

When No One is Watching, written by Joseph Hayes, is a study of actions and consequences.  Blair and Danny are accomplished lawyers with a friendship that goes back to law school.  One of them makes a decision that can ruin the other's life.  The reader follows the lives of both men and how they deal with that decision.  This was a thought provoking story of good and bad with a little Grisham-like action tossed in.

Fifty Shades of Plaid/ Parody Brothers/ 169 pages

Fifty Shades of Plaid, written by the Parody Brothers is a 'Choose Your Own Adventure' style adventure written for Kindle.  It's not an especially funny parody, but it was interesting to use the 'choose your own' feature.  Unlike a print 'choose your own', the Kindle version makes it trickier to skip back and forth between possible adventures.   In terms of a parody it was fairly weak, but on the upside it had much less 'adult' content.  Overall it was more of a curiosity than a worthwhile read.

Murder on the Isle of Capri, Italy// Dr. Karen Donahue and Thomas Donahue// 364 pages

Murder on the Isle of Capri, Italy, written by Dr. Karen Donahue and Thomas Donahue is the fourth book in the Ryan-Hunter series.  This is the first book in the series that I read, but it was easy to jump in and follow the story.  Marin Hunter and John Hunter moonlight as investigators.  When one of Marin's colleagues is killed they find them selves being hunted  down by the killer.  The plot reminded me very much of a Dan Brown, Dave Berry plot and should appeal to those readers.

The Girl on the Train/Paula Hawkins/323 pgs.

Rachel is a mess. A few years ago her husband, Tom, left her for another woman, Anna. Rachel spends her time riding the commuter train to and from the city in which she used to work. This train passes the house Rachel and Tom used to live in, and in which Tom and Anna now live. In her back and forth train rides, Rachel notices a couple who lives just a few houses up the street from Tom and Anna. In her imagination, Rachel creates a fantasy life for them, until the day she sees the woman kissing a man who is not her husband. Later, Rachel hears about the woman's disappearance, and thinks she has information that might help in finding her. The problem is, that Rachel has become an alcoholic since Tom left her, and is prone to blackouts--she's not the best witness. This is a great psychological thriller, somewhat in the fashion of Gone Girl. Very gripping!

30-minute therapy for anxiety/Matthew McKay/118 pgs. January 2015 challenge

This is a very good self-help book for anxiety sufferers. In concise chapters, McKay describes the different forms of anxiety, and methods to help alleviate the feelings it produces. The exercises are easy to follow, and very beneficial. Highly recommended!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Key of Knowledge / Nora Roberts 352 p.

Key of Knowledge / Nora Roberts 352 p.

In the second of the trilogy, Dana Steele, the librarian, takes on the quest for the key.  The magical key that unlocks the glass box that holds the souls of three demi-goddesses imprisoned by the Sorcerer.  Mallory Price, Zoe McCourt join with her. They are a team.  Dana does the research.  She runs into her former lover author Jordan Hawke.  She's having nothing to do with him and it is not just that she is busy looking for the key and rehabbing a house for her new business.  She not letting her heart get stomped on again.  Roberts does a delightful job of presenting interesting characters, clover plot twists, and getting romance back in Dana's life.
Key of Light / Nora Roberts 352 p.

In this first in Robert's key trilogy, three women, Mallory Price, Dana Steele, and Zoe McCourt receive an interesting invitation for conversation and cocktails at Warrior's Peak.  They learn that they are the key and the lock awaits.  Three locks must be found and turned by mortals.  Three demi-goddess sisters souls are locked in a glass box.  Rowena and Pitte offer each $25,000 to just try.  And a god's ransom if they are successful; and, no one has been successful in a millennium or so.  Mallory, an artistic type, is the first to try.  She begins by bumping into Dana's half-brother newspaper reporter Flynn.  She's attracted to him, but she has other things on her mind...namely getting the key.  She only has a month to find the key.  Sexy guys are not going to get in her way.  (Ah, but he does get involved, this is a romance).

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Santa Claus / Father Christmas Holiday Books

Santa Claus / Father Christmas Holiday Books

December Challenge

December Holiday Books

Father Christmas / Raymond Briggs

Night Before Christmas / Clement Clarke Moore ; illustrated by Robert Ingpen

Barbar and Father Christmas / Jean de Brunhoff

Christmas Day in the Morning / Pearl S. Buck

How Santa Got His Job / Stephen Krensky

Dear Santa: the Letters of James B. Dobbins / Bill Harley

Santa Claus: the World’s Number One Toy Expert / Marla Frazee

Little Santa / Jon Agee

Upon a Midnight Clear / Jude Deveraux, Linda Howard, Margaret Allison, Stef Ann Holm, Mariah Stewart 489 p.

Upon a Midnight Clear / Jude Deveraux, Linda Howard, Margaret Allison, Stef Ann Holm, Mariah Stewart 489 p.

Christmas is coming.  Each author weaves her magic around Christmas and romance.

The teacher / Jude Deveraux -- Christmas magic / Margaret Allison -- Jolly holly / Stef Ann Holm -- If only in my dreams / Mariah Stewart -- White out / Linda Howard.

Bad Girls of the Bible / Liz Curtis Higgs 244 p.

Bad Girls of the Bible / Liz Curtis Higgs 244 p.

Higgs features several 'bad' women of the Bible, e.g., Rahab, Delilah, Lot's wife, Jezebel.  She seeks to teach us lessons from these women.  Women she has categorized as bad to the bone, bad for a moment, and bad for a season, but not forever.  Their story opens with a modern retelling of their life.  Higgs introduces personal notes into the telling like with Jezebel, she says
I understood her personality, I empathized  with her need for control, I tuned into her angry outbursts ... but boy did she teach me what not to do in my marriage.

 Each chapter closes with some lessons to be learned from the life of the bad girl and thoughts for the reader to consider.  Higgs tells these biblical stories in her own style filled with insight and humor.

Christmas List / Richard Paul Evans 353 p.

Christmas List / Richard Paul Evans 353 p.

It's three weeks to Christmas.  James Kier died in an automobile crash.  His death is reported in the newspaper.  It is big news when a real estate mogul dies.  The twist is that he didn't die.  James is unwillingly pitched into learning just what people really thought of him.  He is a fierce competitor, and frequently ruthless.  Blogs are filled with personal comments about him.  When his mistress fails to show up at their 'destination', he is disappointed.  When he appears at her home and finds her surrounded by all the expensive items quickly charged to his account before the news of his death can close it, he learns some very harsh home truths.  And he continues to learn more about himself at every turn.  And his ex- doesn't seem to be ready to welcome him home with open arms.  At the other James Kier's wake, he finds a man who is truly mourned, and who's life made a positive impact on others.  This gives him a wake-up call.  He has prepared a list of people he has most actively hurt over the years.  And does his executive secretary hand over quite a Christmas list for him to work through as he prepares to change his ways.

Touch of Enchantment / Teresa Medeiros 329 p.

Touch of Enchantment / Teresa Medeiros 329 p.

When heiress Tabitha Lennox displays her inherited paranormal talents at an early age,  she does everything to squash them.  She feels cursed.  She dedicates herself to science, doing research in her father's company.  When her parents go missing and presumed dead, she is presented with a video her mother left her.  There she learns that her mother's magical amulet was not destroyed and is in the apartment.  When she finds it, she studies it.  Without warning she is catapulted into Scottish lands of 1254, where she is almost trampled by Sir Colin of Ravenshaw.  Little did he know what he gained.  A strange lady who wears strange garb and professes to be a witch after saving a young boy.  In Sir Colin's time, witches are put to death.  So what is Sir Colin to do with Tabitha, especially as he finds he cannot live without her.  And with each of the lovers coming from different time periods, how will this romance flourish.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Beyond the sunrise / Mary Balogh 384 p.

Beyond the sunrise / Mary Balogh 384 p.

Jeanne Morisette and Robert Blake went through the throes of first love when she was 15 and he, 17.  Her father forbids the romance when Robert's illegitimacy is discovered.  Her final words were so harsh, he joins the military.   During the Napoleonic Wars he rises through the ranks to become a captain.  They meet again when both are spies; and neither knows the other's role; and she doesn't even recognize him.  Even the lies they must tell each other doesn't keep a romance from slowly flourishing.  She especially plays her spy cards close to her chest.  Robert doesn't have a clue as to her real role.  He captures her when he breaks out of a French prison.  Dragging her back to the British lines as a French spy gives them ample opportunity to explore their budding romance.  Interwoven into the romance is the fascinating description of Wellington's masterful defense of Lisbon by using a series of forts, built in secrecy, the Lines of Torres Vedras.

The Brutal Telling: A Three Pines Mystery / Louise Penny / 384 pages / 11 discs

     Inspector Gamache has returned to the village of Three Pines to try and solve a murder that hits close to home. In the beloved local bistro a body has appeared and no one knows him. Even the owners are perplexed as to his identity. As Gamache begins to follow the twisting trail, he begins to suspect one of his friends, a villager isn't telling all he knows. The village has also seen the historical mansion on the hill turn into a spa. This means direct competition for the bed and breakfast. Is this part of the murder or is it a red herring? Gamache and his team follow all the available clues, uncovering some unpleasant truths about the village's history. Is he on the right trail or is he letting his personal feelings cloud his judgement?
     The fifth volume in the series and it has definitely turned toward a darker tone in voice and the plot. The reader is uncomfortable with what is happening to familiar characters. Has the author been fooling us all along and everyone has terrible dark secrets that will ruin them? One of Penny's best in my opinion. She has turned her fictional world on its ear. I was pulled along by the story even though my mind was screaming "No! No! I don't want to find out anymore!" Our village which seemed a tranquil place has begun turning into something else.The ending has unsettled me so much I am taking a break from my beloved Gamache. I need to come to grips with what has happened. As usual the narrator has done an excellent job. I truly recommend listening to him read this series.

6 Degrees of Reading: Bruno, Chief of Police: A Novel of the French Countryside by Martin Walker, Death of a Cozy Writer: A St. Just Mystery by G.M. Malliet, Death at La Fenice: A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery by Donna Leon.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Revival/ Stephen King/ 405 pages

I generally love Stephen King.  This will not go down in history as one of my favorites.  It's got the weird supernatural stuff going on and leaves you guessing until the end about how weird it might be.  But, then I think it fell flat.  I think if this would have been a novella, I could have accepted the ending and even liked it.  But, I'm just having a hard time swallowing that the ending I read is the actual ending.

A Rule Against Murder: A Three Pines Mystery / Louise Penny / 322 pages / 9 discs

     Inspector Gamache is on vacation. He has taken his wife to the beautiful and historical Manoir Bellechasse. They have gone there every year since Gamache asked his wife to marry him. It is a secluded retreat from the pressures of being a policeman. Also at the Manoir is a family reunion though it isn't a happy one. They are there to remember their patriarch and to put a statue in the garden. During a severe thunderstorm the statue falls over and kills a young woman. Gamache is pulled into the family's tragic past while investigating the murder. He finds secrets from the bus boy to the Manoir's owner. Will he figure out what happened in order to save them from themselves?
     This is the fourth volume in the Three Pines series. Gamache is a bit battered from the events from the last novel. He needs time to reflect and gather his strength. The novel's tone has changed a bit from the last few stories. It is a bit darker and not so quick with the puns. Gamache has seen some of his friends betray him and that has caused some hesitation in his thinking. Don't get me wrong. The novel is pure Gamache with his questions, provoking comments and undying love for his wife. We learn even more about the history of Quebec and its peoples. But the change is there. The ending is so surprising and exciting that you realize Gamache isn't done yet. Heartily recommended for mystery and well as history aficionados.

6 Degrees of Reading: A Fine Summer's Day: An Inspector Rutledge Mystery by Charles Todd, Vertigo 42: A Richard Jury Mystery by Martha Grimes, A Dangerous Place: A Maisie Dobbs Novel by Jacqueline Winspear. 

The 100-Year-Oled Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared / Jonas Jonasson / 384 pages

     If you are looking for a hilarious romp through history, poking fun at just about every important figure, this is the book you are looking for! Allan Karlsson is about to turn 100 and he doesn't want anything to do with it. The nursing home is throwing a birthday party complete with the town's mayor and media but Allan has made a decision. After working his way through a window, Allan makes his way to the bus station. He picks up a rather large suitcase and takes off on the bus. No, the suitcase isn't his and yes, the owner is very angry.
     As Allan travels across the breadth of Sweden, we flashback to his life and where he has been. His father wasn't happy because Socialism wasn't taking hold in his country so traveled to Russia where he could help their cause. The father left Allan and his mother behind. Thus Allan's life is set. He becomes interested in explosives and becomes a rather rich business man. He blows up his own house and his travels begin on a bicycle. I am not sure how he does it but Allan does manage to meet just about every major figure during the 20th Century. He first goes to Spain with a friend to help in the revolution only to end up saving General Franco's life. Franco offers him a chance to go to New York and from there he ends up in New Mexico. It is a little head shaking at all the connections but read the book, you will laugh out loud at Allan's madcap adventures.
    The one thing I thought about with recommending this is someone has to be familiar with all the historical events of the 20th Century. One has to be of a certain age or even a true history buff to understand all the hidden innuendos. The author really did his research and Jonasson admits sometimes a bit too much. I found this a quick read. I was very curious about what was happening in the present as well as what happened in the past. Excellent satire on our world and historical events.

Six degrees of reading: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin.

Monday, January 26, 2015

On the Rocks/Erin Duffy/307 pages

While Abby Wilkes is trying on a Vera Wang wedding dress when her fiancĂ© changes his relationship status to single on Facebook and announces that the wedding is off. He's decided he's not ready to be married and accepts a job across the country in Phoenix. The same day her life is falling apart, her sister becomes engaged. Six months later, Abby is still not over the break up and has gained 20 pounds. Her best friend Grace suggests they split a rental in Newport for the summer to help Abby regain perspective and get emotionally ready for her sister's wedding later in the summer. Abby's job as a teacher gives her the opportunity to soak up sun and learn how to date again.

Good summer read in the middle of winter, especially while sitting in the hospital with a recovering spouse!

Cold Sassy Tree/Olive Ann Burns/391 pages

Set in a small Georgia town in the early 1900's, Cold Sassy Tree follows a well-respected family after the wife of the store owner dies, and he decides to remarry a much younger woman a three weeks later. The story is told from the point of view of Will Tweedy, grandson of the store owner. Life in a small town is examined.

Nice story with lots of drama.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Golden Son/Pierce Brown/446 pgs.

This is the 2nd book in the Red Rising trilogy, and it is just as good, if not better than Red Rising.  In a Dystopian world where society is divided into colors, with Golds being the  highest members of society, and Reds being at the bottom, Darrow was transformed from a Red into a Gold in the hopes that he could lead a revolution which would result in a more equitable society. It sounds good in theory, but Darrow soon learns that the Golds are more than happy with the current state of the world, and do not welcome change. There is conspiracy, death, political struggles. suspense--you name, this book has it. There are some striking similarities to our world affairs--past and present. Highly recommended!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Orphan Train / Christina Baker Kline / 278 p.

I read this historical novel for my book club. I had no idea that the orphan trains ran well into the 20th century--the last being in 1929. Kline tells this story through the voice of a 90 year old woman, Vivian, looking back at her experience as a child who was sent from New York City to Minnesota on one of the last orphan trains. The story is framed in present time with Molly who is a teenager in foster care and is assisting Vivian in a project to clean out her attic. Despite the sadness, this is a sweet story that I could easily recommend to teens as well as adults. 

Lisey's Story / Stephen King / 513 p.

I wanted to like this book more. I picked it up after reading an interview of the author in which he stated that this is his favorite work. He does a great job of conveying the incredibly strong bond and symbiotic relationship of Lisey and her author husband Scott. That was the part I enjoyed. But the source of Scott's inspiration for his King-like novels left me wanting. It is interesting that King mentions editing in his afterword because that was exactly what I felt was needed. Too much repetition and too much use of family phrases and sayings wore thin. And, of course, King's book generally have really bizarre characters, places, settings...but this was especially strange. I listened to much of it and I think Mare Winningham did a very good job with the audio version.

Changes / Jim Butcher / 438 p.

Not just Changes but BIG changes in this 12th book of the Dresden Files series. This book is filled with people from Harry's past as well as family secrets, betrayal, friends willing lay down their lives and the overriding need for our heroic wizard Harry to save a child from the Red Court--a VERY special child. Of course, Harry makes those nasty vampires pay. It's my favorite Dreseden book so far.  I "read" the book by listening to the audio version. As I have already mentioned in previous reviews it is not just the story but the fabulous narration of James Marsden that brings the story to life. And what an ending! 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Murder at Breakfast/ Steve Demaree/ 245 pages

Cy Dekker teams with his partner Lou to solve a murder at an apartment housing retirees in this fourth book in the Dekker Cozy Mystery Series written by Steve Demaree.  With ten possible suspects and a body in a locked room, how will Cy and Lou solve the crime?  Will Cy ever accept Lou's increasing use of Wii Fit and decreasing body size?  This book will appeal to people who like a clean mystery and puzzle solving.  

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Outlander / Diana Gabaldon / 627 pages

In the foreword to this book, the author recounts that her publisher told her this book would have to be a word-of-mouth book because it was just too weird to describe.  While there is some truth to that, I shall do my best to describe it.  This is primarily a historical fiction with some time travel and a heap of romance thrown in.  Gabaldon doesn't shy away from describing any of the practices of 18th century Scotland in excruciating detail - whether it's the punishment of a young thief by nailing his ear to a post or the use of herbs and plants in both medicine and magic.

Gabaldon covers a slew of social issues throughout her fiction.  You'll find Elizabeth Beachamp's reactions to domestic violence, corporal punishment, homosexuality, relationships between husbands and wives, and fealty between lords and subjects expressed in a refreshingly honest way.  I personally liked the juxtaposition of religion, magic, and science in 18th century Scotland and the question that Gabaldon raises of whether we have progressed or regressed in our thinking about those subjects.

Overall, it is a great read, and I look forward to reading the next book in the series, Dragonfly in Amber.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Rude Bitches Make Me Tired/Celia Rivenbark/254 pgs

Full title of this humorous nonfiction book is "Rude Bitches Make Me Tired: Slightly Profane and Entirely Logical Answers to Modern Etiquette Dilemmas."  Needless to say just by the title you should be able to realize that this etiquette book is not going to be your run of the mill Emily Post.  Okay, so are you ready to hear some of the chapter titles?  These should peak your curiosity and/or make you chuckle:

- Check Splitting: Who Had the Gorgonzola Crumbles, and Should We Really Care?
- Office Manners: Loud Talkers, Cake Hawkers, and Britney Sue's Unfortunate Cyst
- Get a Clue in the Loo: Restroom Etiquette for Lasses
- Road Sage: Accept the Things You Cannot Change, Like Idiot Drivers
- Facebook Etiquette: An Oxymoron
- Space, the Final Frontier: How to Get Some, How to Give Some

Celia Rivenbark addresses some everyday issues in a straight forward, no sugar coated manner... besides going off on a few tangents.  So, if you're looking for a light read with a few ah-ha and ha-ha moments, then I would suggest picking up this title; and remember not to take life to seriously!

Gone Girl/ Gillian Flynn/ 419 pages

Gone Girl is a suspense novel written by Gillian Flynn.  I choose this book due to it's popularity and the suspenseful nature of the story.  Amy and Nick are a couple who seem to be meant for each other.  While sometimes uncomfortable to read, the book does a great job at hooking the reader.

For more information read a likes, check out the SCCCLD website

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Murder Is Easy / Agatha Christie / 248 pages / November Challenge Deceased Author

Luke Fitzwilliam, a retired British police officer, surreptitiously meets Lavinia Pinkerton on board a train where she recounts a series of accidental deaths in her hometown that she believes to be murders.  She is on her way to Scotland Yard in hopes that they will investigate.  When Mrs. Pinkerton is killed by a hit and run driver in London and the man she believed to be the next victim turns up dead, Luke is compelled to investigate himself.  Going undercover as an author doing research for a book on witchcraft, he connects with the cousin of a friend, Bridget, who will ease his way into the small town.  Multiple suspects, a developing romantic relationship, and an absence of objectionable language make this classic a rewarding, engaging experience.

Blue Screen / Robert B. Parker / 306 pages / November Challenge Deceased Author

Boston private investigator Sunny Randall is hired to act as bodyguard for a buff, spoiled Hollywood star, Erin Flint.  Erin's manager/lover owns a major league baseball team, the Connecticut Nutmegs, and he wants Erin to play for his team.  The hype will provide PR for the team and boost ticket sales making the team merchandisable.  The reader is treated to Erin's training for the team, her commitment to fitness to further her career, and her sordid past...and present.  When a female member of Erin's entourage is found murdered in Paradise - the site of Erin's training, local police chief Jesse Stone and Sunny work together to find the murderer...and discover shocking facts about the victim's identity and her ties to Erin Flint.  Language alert!

Chasing the Bear / Robert B. parker / 169 pages / November Challenge Deceased Author

This Robert B. Parker book gives the reader insight into Spencer as a young boy.  Living in a most unusual household which included his father and his two uncles but no females, Spencer was read classics daily and treated often to examples of ethical/moral behavior, justice, and personal responsibility.  He exemplified these attributes and they compelled him to right a gross injustice which resulted in a man's death, then rejected advice from his family to just let it go.

Mark Twain: America's Humorist, Dreamer, Prophet, a Biography / Clinton Cox / 234 pages / November Deceased Author

Mark Twain believed that laughter was the "one really effective weapon" people possessed in their struggle against justice.  "Probably the most striking thing about Twain - a measure of his genius - was his ability to write humorously about issues that made hem seethe with anger."  His humor is recorded on every page of this biography, lending depth and credibility to a well-researched and well-documented recounting of the none-too-easy life of one of America's greatest authors.  "Throughout his career as a reporter, Sam would often show a remarkable indifference to the facts.  If the facts sounded better mixed with fiction, then Sam threw in the fiction."

A Farewell to Arms / Ernest Hemingway / 297 pages / November Challenge Deceased Authors

This American classic was a most informative, sad read.  Hemingway brings World War I to life, recounting the love between Lieutenant Henry, an American ambulance driver on the Italian front, and Kathryn Barkley, an English nurse.  Henry's relationships with fellow soldiers, his injury-recuperation/return to battle, and his desertion serve as a contrasting foil to his love affair with his nurse.  I couldn't help but picture Hemingway as I listened to this audio by John Slattery.  Hemingway himself was a  World War I ambulance driver.

Little House in the Big Woods / Laura Ingalls Wilder / 238 pages / November Challenge Deceased Authors

This is the first of nine Little House books written by Missouri's own Laura Ingalls Wilder.  These classics lovingly depict life on the American frontier through the eyes of one spunky young heroine.  Based on Laura's own life and family, the Little House stories begin in 1871 in a little log house on the edge of the Big Woods in Wisconsin.  "They were cozy and comfortable in their little house made of logs, with the snow drifted around it and wind crying because it could not get in by the fire."

Silent Night / Robert B. Parker / 343 pages / November Challenge Deceased Authors

It's Christmas in Boston and private investigator Spencer is approached by a young homeless boy, Slide, who needs help.  He is currently staying at Street Business, and he and its other residents have recently been threatened by ruffians.  Jackie Alvarez, who runs the shelter, has also been threatened and someone wants his property.  Hawk and Spencer take the case even though they might not get paid.  The threat turns out to have familial connections and involves a world class tennis star.  Although language is a bit rough - Caution!, Spencer's relationship with Susan, Hawk, and Pearl make this a most readable detective  story.  Upon his death, Robert B. Parker's widow agreed to let his agent, Helen Brann, finish the manuscript for this book upon which he was working on when he died.

Bad Business / Robert B. parker / 310 pages / November Challenge Dead Authors

This is the thirty-first mystery starring the Boston private eye, Spencer.  Here Spencer is hired by one Marlene Cowley to conduct surveillance on her assumed cheating spouse.  While engaging in said surveillance, Spencer discovers that another private eye is shadowing Marlene.  Yet another investigator is discovered and one of the surveillance subjects is murdered.  Spencer is determined to discover the murderer, especially after he is offered a lucrative contract in Tulsa to remove him from the case... and the other two investigators go missing.  Spencer uncovers a surprising perpetrator and corporate greed.

My Kind of Christmas / Robyn Carr / 379 pages / December Challenge Winter Holidays

Angie LeCroix was recently involved in a tragic accident that almost cost her life.  After numerous surgeries and extensive rehab, she has decided to drop out of medical school and go in some different direction.  Her strong-willed mother is opposed to this shift and goes so far as to say Angie needs to see a psychiatrist for her radical personality change.  Angie decides to escape to Virgin River for the holidays to rethink her future and recover from her past.  Her mother's brother, Jack Sheridan, has agreed to keep an eye on her.  Unfortunately for Jack, Patrick Riordan complicates a good way for all concerned.  This is a warm and cozy holiday read spiced with romance and strong female characters.

Recommended Children's Christmas books

The Three Gifts of Christmas by Jennie Bishop
How Santa Got His Job by Stephen Krensky

Table for Seven / Whitney Gaskell / 400 pages / December Challenge Winter Holidays

Fran and Will Parrish are hosting a New Year's Eve dinner party for seven, offering a different course for each hour of the get together.  The party and the meal are such a success that all decide to form a monthly dinner club and call it Table for Seven.  We follow the couples and singles, Audrey, Coop, and the irrepressible Leland, through a year of their lives, and witness marital infidelity, a drifting apart that nearly leads to an affair, and the disappointments and challenges of dating and friendships.  This is a comfortable read, however I was amazed at the culinary expertise of the protagonists.

"Sometimes a certain amount of amnesia was not only excusable, but necessary for friendships.

Recommended Children's Christmas books

The First Christmas ABC by Laura Derico
Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson
Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn Buehner

Happy Kid / Gail Gauthier / 230 pages / January Challenge Self-Help

Kyle's mother announces at dinner that she has bought back to school presents for him and his sister, Lauren.  Kyle still hadn't recovered from his birthday, when his mom had given him a magazine subscription to encourage him to read, a pedometer to encourage him to exercise, and a museum pass to encourage him to be an old fart. (His words, not mine!)  His gift is a book - Happy Kid! a Young Person's Guide to Satisfying Relationships and a Happy, Meaning-Filled Life. She thinks he needs it because he told her "Bert P. Trotts Middle School is the Gateway to Hell."  She thinks he is just being negative and that the book will help him redirect his thoughts and ultimately his life.  Is it possible, however, that the book is more than it seems?  Does it give readers messages that are just for them?  It certainly makes a difference in Kyle's life!  Dealing with problems encountered by most middle school students, Happy Kid offers practical, sensible, and, at times, humorous, suggestions for handling these difficulties.

Emmet's Guide to Being Awesome, Fun Tips, Awesome Advice, Hilarious Jokes, & More! / Ace Landers / 127 pages / January Challenge Self-Help

Using characters and circumstances from the Lego movie, Mr. Landers has rafted a fun, entertaining self help book targeted to a young audience.  Featuring photos of Lego people and places, conversation balloons, and enumerated tips, it is well worth the time spent perusing it, and sure to appeal to fans of the movie.

Friday, January 16, 2015

SCCCLD January Challenge

It's January!

Time to try something new.

For the January Challenge 
read a self-help book and write a review. 
 For each book and review, earn one bonus point.  

If you learn something helpful, you'll have the extra bonus of 
self improvement!