Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Lincoln's Last Trial/ Dan Abrams/ 287 pgs

This was a book discussion title that details the very last trial Abraham Lincoln participated in before he ran for president in 1860. I found all of the historical details fascinating but the walk through of the trial itself to be a bit tedious. As well, Abrams repeats a lot of anecdotes. The trial took place in Springfield, IL and a man named Robert Hitt transcribed it using a form of shorthand. Hitt had done the same with the Lincoln and Douglas debates. Abrams used this transcript (found in an attic) to recreate the trial on the written page. A man named Quinn Harrison was on trial for the murder of Greek Crafton. Lincoln's strategy was self-defense and it was interesting to see how he handled the trial and to see how the law and the way trials run have evolved since 1859.

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Lovely and the Lost/Jennifer Lynn Barnes/325 pages

                                                  The Lovely and the Lost is a fantastic read!
                                                  Kira Bennett is a teen living with her foster mother, Cady, and Cady's
                                             son, Jude.  All are involved with canine search and rescue.  Search and
                                             Rescue is a logical choice for Kira because she was lost as a child, found
The Lovely and the Lost                                             living in the woods more animal than little girl.  Now all these years
                                             later, she still struggles to fit in, to do the right thing, to feel, react and
                                             live like a normal person.
                                                  Our team is asked by Cady's father to join the search for a lost child.
                                             The tale of the rescue--along with several side stories going on
                                             simultaneously--is riveting!
                                                  The story is original and fresh; the characters are genuine and oh, so
                                              likeable!  As an added bonus for me, I didn't figure out the ending ahead
                                              of time.
                                                   Totally loved this one!

Friday, May 17, 2019

The Au Pair/ Emma Rous/ 360 pgs

The Au Pair is a decent mystery/suspense novel. It has your usual, for these days, dual timeline. Seraphine is 25. She has an older brother Edwin and a twin brother Danny. Their family has been marred by tragedy. Their father has just passed away. Their mother jumped off a cliff the day Seraphine and Danny were born. The oldest brother Edwin had a twin Theo who died as a toddler. Seraphine has always felt different and as if she didn't fit into her family. When she's cleaning out her dad's things and finds a family photo from the day she and Danny were born that only pictures one infant, her spidey senses go off. Soon she's looking for her older brother's former nanny, Laura, and asking questions of anyone she can. The other timeline belongs to Laura, from twenty-five years before when she was employed by the family. There are several revelations at the end, some surprising, some not.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

A Christmas Mystery/James Patterson/137 pages (Mystery)

The Christmas Mystery: A Detective Luc Moncrief Mystery     A Christmas Mystery is a novella featuring Luc Moncrief and his partner K. Burke, detectives in New York City working a murder investigation which involves the disappearance of priceless masterpieces from the walls of the murder victim's homes.  Luc is still recovering from the death of the love of his life Dalia Boaz and its the holiday season. The mystery is quickly solved and K. Burke saves the day by saving Luc's life one cold, snowy night out near the woods and the lake.  Just when you think the story should be over--Luc's father dies and our pair take off for Paris.
     I'm afraid I was not impressed with this book.  I understand it is a novella and is not suppose to be as well developed as a regular novel but it was a totally unsatisfying read--not much of a story and a bit of a ramble after the mystery was solved.
     I won't be picking up any more of Patterson's Bookshots.
     (BTW--the cover says "Have yourself a scary little Christmas".  Don't believe it.)

Monday, May 13, 2019

The General's Women / Susan Wittig Albert / 387 pages

This book is the fictional account of the historical affair General Dwight D. Eisenhower had with an Irish woman, Kate Sommersby, while he was leading the armed forces in Europe during World War II. Kate was assigned to be his driver when he went over to Europe and she was with him throughout the war.  I had read about this relation ship in my many studies of American history.  It always intrigued me.  The Eisenhower family did a lot to cover up this relationship because of the political interests and future of Dwight Eisenhower.  The author tell the story through the viewpoints of Dwight, Kay, and Dwight's wife, Maime.  I found the book interesting and I learned more about Kate Sommersby.

Friday, May 10, 2019

A Paris Affair/Tatiana de Rosnay/ 127 pgs

This novel was a quick read. It wasn't bad but it's a bit of a downer. It's basically about husbands cheating in their wives. Each chapter shows a different couple and how the wife finds out her husband is cheating on them. Some women choose to ignore it and stay with their spouse, others leave while others seek revenge.

The Matriarch/Susan Page/ 539pgs

This biography focused on former first lady Barbara Bush. Overall, it wasn't a bad read. I loved to read details that weren't particularly discussed openly like the rift between Nancy Reagan and Barbara. Also how Barbara got along better with the Khrushchevs than the Reagans did. The book mentions George h.w Bushs alleged affair and what Barbara thought about it.

It was a pretty good read. I think what drew me in was the fact that the author got to interview Barbara and read all her diary entries before she passed. So it wasn't guesswork on her life but Barbara actually discussing it.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

A Lethal Legacy/Heather Graham/331 pages (Author's name ends in M) (Mystery)

A Lethal Legacy       A Lethal Legacy is another fast paced thriller about the Finnegan clan from
Heather Graham.  This time, Kieran Finnegan and her special agent boyfriend, Craig Fraiser, are headed for an island not far from New York City, Douglas Island,  where a friend of a relative died in what could have been a nasty fall or could have been murder.  Much mystery surrounds the island and the more Kieran and Craig and the rest of the gang investigate, the more unusual possibilities present themselves--if the place haunted? is it a place visited by aliens?  is there buried treasure in the caves?  Trying to keep an open mind while they investigate is hard.  Trying to rule out some of the more fantastic suggestions is harder because nothing seems to fit with the facts as they know them!
     Heather Graham has done a lot of research and puts a lot of history into her books.  This one is no exception.  There are times were it seems she really could do with a little less background information but for the most part, in order to get a really complete picture, you need all of the information.
     Loved the characters, loved the story, loved the book!

A Duke by Default/ Alyssa Cole/ 376 pgs

Why yes, I am on an Alyssa Cole reading binge. However did you guess? This is one of her contemporary romances in the Reluctant Royals series. While the writing was fabulous as always, I didn't love this one as much as her other books. Portia was a bit of a wild child in the first book but after seeing how her behavior hurt her best friend, not to mention herself, she has her life back on track. She accepts a sword-making apprenticeship in Scotland. The sword-maker, Tavish, is initially thoroughly unimpressed with Portia. But she's a social media/marketing whiz and soon she's doing all the right things for his business and they are falling for each other. Then the duke part of the plot enters the picture and the book went downhill from there. I have nothing against dukes and in fact love historical romance, which is littered with them. But Cole makes some very basic factual errors in this plot line and as a history major, I just couldn't go along with it. The sword-making business and the romance plots are both outstanding. I just wish she would have left the duke plot out.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Years of Rice and Salt / Kim Stanley Robinson / 672 pages / Asian Setting

Though this book wasn't exactly what I was expecting, I really enjoyed it nonetheless. The premise that the plagues in Europe in the 14th century led to 99% of all Europeans dying, rather than the 33% that actually died is really interesting. The author posits that the world would be divided between two major superpowers, the Chinese and Dar-es-Islam with other powers coming into their own in the 19-21st centuries, Travancore (aka India) and the Haudenosaunee (a league made up of Native American nations).

The story is told with the idea that the same people keep reincarnating over the centuries with the K character being rebellious and often a leader and the B character is usually hopeful and often religious. The biggest thing I did not expect was long discourses about religion, philosophy, and science, but I think the author was really trying to get the whole western European mindset out of our American heads to see how the mindset of Buddhists, Daoists, and Muslims affect how people in the Eastern Hemisphere live, work, love, and learn.

At nearly 700 pages, it's a long book and it took me about 3 weeks to get through it all, with the combination of both reading and listening to the audiobook while commuting to and from work. Pick up this book only if you are in the mood for something really meaty, not something fluffy.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The Favorite Daughter/Patti Callahan Henry/368pgs

Lena Donohue is returning to Watersend, South Carolina, after leaving her husband at
alter ten years earlier. On the day of her wedding she found out that her sister and her husband were romantically involved and left home to pursue a career in New York City.  When her brother calls her home due to the fact that her father is suffering from Alzheimer’s she knows she has no other choice but to help with the family crisis. It’s sad to read about how this disease robs people of their memories, especially since my mother is having the same issues at this time. However, I believe this is a wonderful story of forgiveness and how strong family bonds can be in difficult times. I wanted to read this book because I loved The Bookshop at Water's End, written by this author. I would live give this a 3 out 5 star rating.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Fifth Doctrine/Karen Robbards/334 pages

                                                The Fifth Doctrine starts when a female hacker with NORAD steals
                                            sensitive material she plans to sell to the North Koreans.  The true story
The Fifth Doctrine (The Guardian)
                                            starts when Bianca St Ives (who is hiding from the CIA) is contacted by
                                            Colin Rogan (Five Eyes operative and Bianca's nemesis from previous
                                            novels) with a proposition.  If she goes undercover posing as the hacker
                                            and successfully sells the stolen information to the North Koreans with
                                            a worm encryption, a CIA kill team will be halted that plans to eliminate
                                            Bianca once and for all.  Much though she does not want to be part of this
                                            operation, Bianca is totally suited and equipped to take on the mission
                                            with an excellent chance of success.  The story progresses quickly with
                                            several explosions, attacks, captures and near misses.  Colin and Bianca are attracted to each other but being the strong personality types that they are--and both have trust issues--romance is a minor thread through the book. 
     The climax comes when Bianca wakes up in a North Korean prison camp and attempts to escape with four other detainees.  The entire plan is simply a masterpiece!  The action and plot twists make this one hard to put down.  Great read!

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Born Survivors: Three Young Mothers and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage, Defiance, and Hope / Wendy Holden / 368 pages

Born Survivors tells the story of three young Jewish women who gave birth around the same time in 1945.  The women did not know about each other, but were together at Auschwitz II-Birkenau in Poland  in 1944.  They were later sent to the death camp Mauthausen in Austira.  The women managed to conceal their pregnancies. It was nearing the end of the war and the kindness of strangers, which included civilians and guards, helped these women and their babies survive.  Sixty-five years later the three "miracle babies" meet for the first time at Mauthausen for the anniversary of the Americans liberating the camp.  The author does a good job telling the individual stories of each woman.  It is absolutely astounding that these women were able to give birth and for their babies to survive.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Stone Bridges/Carla Neggers/303 pages

                                                           Stone Bridges is a light romantic novel.  Adrienne Portale had
                                                      spent the recent winter in Knights Bridge while she was getting to
                                                      know her biological father.  Now she is back as the innkeeper for
                                                      part of the large Sloan family.  The most interesting part of that
                                                      family is the ex-marine, Adam Sloan--totally masculine, strong,
                                                      silent type--and the attraction is mutual.
                                                           This novel would make the perfect vacation paperback.  It is
                                                      interesting and the characters are good but there is no doubt from
                                                      the first chapter that Adrienne and Adam are going to wind up

                                                                                                                                             Stone Bridges (Swift River Valley Book 9)

Monday, April 29, 2019

Justified Murder/Jude Deveraux/330 pages (Mystery)

                                                             Justified Murder picks up just months after the first book in this
                                                        series (A Willing Murder) leaves off.  Our three main characters--
                                                        Sara, Kate and Jack--successfully solved the murder of the first
                                                        novel and the towns people naturally assume they will jump in and
                                                        solve the "who done it" when a sweet neighbor lady is found dead
                                                        three times over!  Originally determined to mind their own
                                                        business, they are drawn in especially after the plot thickens 
                                                        with an old story of a kidnapped child and there's a stranger in the
                                                        area who is watching the investigation.
                                                             This is a delightfully light mystery with humor and great
                                                        characters.  It has a rather complicated story line and the ending could have gone several different ways and I think the readers will be surprised with the ending that Deveraux chose.

A Justified Murder (A Medlar Mystery)


Sunday, April 28, 2019

Where the Crawdads Sing / Delia Owens / 368 pages

This is the author's first fiction book and she scores a home run with it!  It takes place in a quiet town on the coast of North Carolina.  It begins in 1969 when Chase Andrews is found dead.  Chase is a young, handsome, and popular man in town.  The suspect for the murder is Kya Clark.  Kya is nicknamed "Marsh Girl" because she grew up isolated in the marsh outside town.  The author tells the story between the present with the murder investigation and trial and the past with the childhood and growing up of Kya.  Kya's family one by one abandons her and she is left to survive on her own.  The backdrop of the marsh of North Carolina is vividly described in the book and the author makes you feel you are there.  This is not a book I would have chosen on my own, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend !!

The First Patient / Michael Palmer / 371 pages

The author, Michael Palmer, is known for his medical mysteries.  This is the first one I have read and I enjoyed it.  Andrew Stoddard is the President of the United States and has been experiencing unexplained psychotic episodes.  His personal physician suddenly and mysteriously disappears.  The President convinces his Naval Academy roommate, Gabe Singleton, who is now a doctor to come to Washington to become his personal physician.  It is only after taking the job and coming to the White House that Gabe learns about the president's condition.  The President needs Gabe to figure out what is causing these episodes.  There is a lot of excitement, action, and danger as Gabe works to help his long time friend.

Glass Ocean / Beatrix Williams, Lauren Willig, Karen White / 403 pages

The back story of this book is the sinking of the passenger liner Lusitania during World War I.  It takes place in two time periods, in the present 2013 and in the past 1915.  Each author develops a different main female character.  Sarah Blake is an author researching a book on the sinking of the Lusitania.  Her great-grandfather was part of the crew on the ship.  Her research takes her to England.  Caroline Hochstetter is a southern belle married to a wealthy industrialist.  She and her husband on sailing to England on the Lusitania.  Tess Fairweather is traveling second class on the Lusitania to return to her family in England.  However, her real name is Tennessee Schaff and she is partnering up with her sister for one last heist.  I enjoyed following each character and seeing their lives piece together to tell the story.  I loved the historical backdrop of the Lusitania.

Watching You / Lisa Jewell / 324 pages

Watching You takes place in England.  It is a murder mystery involving several characters each with their own story line that comes together at the end with some twists.  Joey Mullen is a young woman recently married that comes home to live with her brother in an affluent neighborhood in Bristol, England.  She becomes infatuated with a neighbor whose wife later is found dead.  While the murder is investigated the lives and secrets of the suspects are exposed.  I found the story lines interesting and enjoyed the unexpected twists.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

An Unconditional Freedom/ Alyssa Cole/ 320 pgs

I loved the first book in this Civil War historical romance series and this one does not disappoint either. Cole does such a good job of developing characters with interesting backgrounds and most of all, heart. Janeta is the daughter of a Cuban father and a black, former slave mother. Her father is rich and, after the death of his first wife, married Janeta's mother. Janeta was never allowed to see herself as black or as even remotely related to the slaves. When Union soldiers imprison her father (the family moved to Florida a few years ago) her Confederate boyfriend convinces her to spy for the South in order to win her father's freedom. Janeta infiltrates the Loyal League and is partnered with Daniel. Daniel grew up in Massachusetts a free black man. At one time he was studying to be a lawyer but he was tricked by some southerners and kidnapped into slavery. He suffered brutally, both physically and mentally, from this experience and does not have a good opinion of himself. As you can see, both Janeta and Daniel have a lot of issues to work through. This is, rightly, a slow burn romance but watching these two become friends and figure out who they are on the inside is a joy. There isn't much action in this story until the end, but I don't think you'll regret taking this journey with Janeta and Daniel.