Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Interior / Lisa See / 391 pages

     This is book 2 of a trilogy about the Chinese police Liu Hulan and her American lawyer boyfriend David.  In this one, she investigates a factory to solve a murder and discovers the world of unsafe working conditions and illegal business practices.  David is caught up in representing an American corporation buying another business with the manufacturing in China.  There is so much corruption and illegal dealings in the name of "good old American capitalism" that it is difficult to come away from this book without new awareness of the problems and how the problem is global.  What to do in response is the difficult part.  How to be responsible for purchases so that safer, fairer working conditions can arise while knowing that it is occurring many other places besides China.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library / Chris Grabenstein / 291 pages

     This new Mark Twain nominee is all about the library, or rather escaping from it.
Kyle finds a way to get into a lock-in at the new library.  He is a game-crazy boy which is advantageous in that the lock-in is a giant game.  He and eleven others are chosen for this opening event game where they will be locked in and the object of the game is to use library resources to escape.  
     This library is a library of fantasy in that they have state of the art everything with a donated $500,000,000 million building.  Yes, like I said; fantasy.  The kids are pretty smart kids and they solve puzzles and take quizzes as they look for the answers.  How will the game end?  Read it and see.  Very engaging book.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

First Lady/Susan Elizabeth Phillips/376 pgs.

First Lady, Cornelia Litchfield Case, a.k.a. Nealy, is recently widowed due to the assassination of her husband, the President. His successor, Lester Vandervort, a widower, expects Nealy to continue on in the role of First Lady. Nealy wants the life of a "normal" citizen, so disguises herself, and escapes the White House--knowing that she will only get a few days of freedom. Her adventure begins, and soon has her meeting up with Mat Jorik, and the two orphan girls he is trying to get situated. It's an entertaining, but far-fetched story--a great vacation read!

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns)/Mindy Kaling/222 pgs./April challenge

Mindy Kaling, probably best know for her work on "The Office," and "The Mindy Project" writes a very entertaining celebrity biography. In addition to being an actress and comedian, Mindy is also a writer and producer. She comes across in the book as very down-to-earth, as well as being quite funny. Recommended!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Normal/ Graeme Cameron/ 294 pages

Normal is Graeme Cameron's first novel.  What a fun novel it is!  A black comedy about a serial killer who decides to clean up his act when he falls in love.  Even though you know what he's doing is wrong, the reader still finds him likable, in a quirky kind of way.  For more information check out the entry for this book on the SCCCLD website.  If you like A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore, this might be the book for you.

The Hurricane Sisters/Dorothea Benton Frank/326 pages

Maisie, Liz and Ashley represent three generations of an old Charleston family. Maisie is the 80-year-old, fun-loving grandmother who is in a relationship with the 65-year-old chauffer her daughter Liz hired when it became apparent that Maisie was  a threat to anyone else on the road. Liz is the wife of very successful (she doesn't even realize how successful) businessman who stays in New York City every week and comes home on the weekends. She's consumed by her charitable work for abused women and hurt by the lack of interest her family shows in her efforts. Ashley is an aspiring painter working in a gallery and living in the family beach house with her friend Mary Beth on Sullivan Island. These women, along with the men in their lives, tell the story from alternating points of view.

Overall, this was a satisfying story about a family and their secrets. I love the Charleston setting and hope to visit there sometime soon. There is a twist I didn't see coming--a small mystery that gives the story some unexpected depth.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Crossover / Kwame Alexander / 144 pages

This was an absolutely awesome audio, especially for this time of March Madness and the Final Four.  Josh and Jordan are twin brothers who burn up the basketball court.  Their father, a basketball champion, coaches and drills them.  Their mother is very concerned about his health and hypertension.  Unfortunately, tragedy besets the family, the brothers' close-knit relationship is severed by jealousy and rivalry over the new girl, and the brothers learn that life is tougher than basketball.  The story is narrated in rap by Josh bell and is truly phenomenal!!

What's So Funny?: My Hilarious Life / Tim Conway with Jane Scovell / 247 pages / Celebrity Author April Challenge

Tim Conway's nature is to amuse and he views everything in the world as a prop for his zaniness.  This was a thoroughly delightful CD of Tim Conway's book by the same name.  We get a firm feeling of a loving, humble man who wants to make people laugh, but doesn't want to be the star.  I would have loved to have heard more of his zany routines and humor, but found this plenty entertaining as Tim related his journey through show business...makes you miss the good old days....

The Alphabet House / Jussi Adler-Olsen / 465 pages / Twentieth Century Fiction Challenge

"This book is not a war novel.  The Alphabet House is an elementary story about breaches that can arise in all types of relationships, from daily life in marriage or at the workplace to extreme settings like the Korean War...or in this case, the Second World War," explains the Author's Note.  It took eight years to write and features two objects of the author's fascination - the possibly mentally ill and World War II.  It recounts the story of two British airmen whose plane was shot down while on a special reconnaissance mission; their harrowing tale of escape; their horrifying subterfuge; and their ultimate reunification.  Although I certainly agree that this novel deals with emotional breaches, I would most definitely consider it to be a war excellent period piece, and a spine-tingling tale of absolute heroism.  I did, however, find it a bit difficult to accept one love affair and one man's ability to survive....Truth is often stranger than fiction...

Cress; the Lunar Chronicles Book 3 / Marissa Meyer / 552 pages

Emperor Kaito, Prince Kai, is only days away from his dreaded marriage to the Lunar Queen Levana.  The marriage "would serve to unite the people of earth and Luna in a way that hadn't been seen for centuries and would no doubt lead to greater appreciation and understanding of each other's cultures.  It was the first step toward doing away with years of hatred and ignorance..."  Who on earth did he think he was fooling, anyway?  He hated Levana.  He hated himself for giving in to her.  But 16,000 earthens had died in a Lunar attack and Luna has a letumosis antidote.  He was saving millions of lives.  He was protecting his people.  Kai fears Levana will try to kill him after she gets the crown and perhaps an heir.  He needs a way to protect himself and his country from a woman who could control his thoughts with a bat of her lashes. ... Meanwhile...aboard the Rampion, Linh Cinder, Captain Carswell Thorne, Scarlet, and Wolf, characters met in books one and two of the Lunar Chronicles, are plotting to overthrow Queen Levana, but first they are going to rescue Cress, a girl imprisoned in a satellite since childhood.  She had been ordered to find Cinder, as she is deemed a threat to the queen.  Instead she has been using her hacking abilities to thwart queenly desires.  Filled with nonstop adventure, budding romances, and fairy tale allusions, this is an engaging read, compelling the reader to read on to book four, Winter.

The Klipfish Code / Mary Casanova / 227 pages / Twentieth Century Fiction March Challenge

Ten year old Marit Gunderson and her family were awakened when the Germans bombed their home in Norway.  The Germans wanted "to shatter Norway with one sudden and decisive blow."  Mama is a teacher from a family of teachers.  Papa's knowledge of the terrain and his engineering and Mama's language skills would be useful to the resistance. They will stay while Marit and her little brother are to be sent to stay with their gruff grandpa, Bestefar.  Marit doesn't want to go.  She wants to help too.  But "something larger and more frightening than she could possibly understand has been set in motion."  As occupation ravages Norway, each person must "do what they feel is right," often at great risk to themselves and their families.
This is a story of heroes, brave ordinary individuals whose bravery enabled the tide to turn and victory to be won.  It also reminds us that war changes people...and not always for the better.

"The Nazi occupation of Norway lasted five years.  All major events of this story are historically true."

Ben Tripp, the Accidental Highwayman / Ben Tripp / 303 pages

This is the first book in a trilogy detailing the adventures, escapades, and mishaps of young Kit Bristol and Morgana, a rebellious fairy princess who is half human and determined to escape an arranged marriage with King George III of England.  When his master is shot as a highwayman, Whistling Jack, Kit dons his apparel in an attempt to deflect suspicion from him.  Unfortunately, suspicion falls on Kit himself, and he is, in fact, accused of murdering his master.  Kit attempts to make sense of a death note penned by his master, follow advice from an old witch - Magda, rescue a maiden in distress, and do the right thing.  This action-packed fairy tale-like adventure is graced with beautiful illustrations and portrays true love as a rocky road only to be trod by selfish, right-minded individuals.

Betsy-Tacy / Maud Hart Lovelace / 113 pages / Deceased Author Challenge

Somehow I had totally missed the Betsy and Tacy books while growing up and later while working as a children's librarian.  The author/illustrator Cheryl Harness recently mentioned them in her presentation at the Warrensburg Children's Literature Festival.  While I've only read/listened to the first one, I was delighted and plan to read on.  Ms. Lovelace has lovingly described life, and especially childhood, in twentieth century America.  This time of innocence, morals, manners, creativity, and imagination awakens a yearning for simpler times and freer children.

Thank You Notes 2 / Jimmy Fallon / 166 pages / Celebrity Author April Challenge

This is the second book of Thank You notes from Jimmy Fallon and the writers of Late Nite.  This edition is accompanied by a push button recording of the theme music played while Jimmy is writing the notes.  Clever, funny, entertaining, and at times featuring language censors might object to, the book is a treat...although the skits are even better when you can watch Fallon's expressions, his delivery, his interpersonal interchanges with the piano player, and his rapport with the audience.

Thank You Notes / Jimmy Fallon / 166 pages / Celebrity Author April Challenge

Having never watched Late Nite or Saturday Night Live with Jimmy Fallon, when he made his move to host the Tonight Show, I became an immediate fan.  He is clever, funny, creative, and extremely entertaining.  One of his featured skits is to write Thank You notes.  These are, for the most part, commentaries on current events or mundane objects and experiences that strike the funny bone just right.  Finding a book of them was a perfect treat.

Bernadette of Lourdes; Shepherdess, Sister, and Saint / Frances Parkinson Keyes / 150 pages / Deceased Author Challenge

"Bernadette was faithful to her mission, she was humble in her glory, and she was strong when she was put to the test."  So said His Holiness Pope Pius XI at her beatification in 1923.  "She brought the world close to Christ the Savior because her self-respect was such that nothing could undermine it.  She lived in a hovel, she went hungry, she dwelt for years in ignorance, yet somehow she always found the way to be tidy, the strength to refuse alms, and the ingenuity to substitute sound sense for profound learning...and she was cheerful and industrious...she had true Christian resignation...she was sincere...she set the example of saying short and simple prayers."  Although she was the only one to see her visions (The Blessed Mother appeared to her eighteen times.) and she was forbidden by the authorities to return to the grotto, she was compelled to visit and pray before the Beautiful Lady.  This biography is extraordinarily well-researched and the author's notes detailing the research trips and their challenges and rewards were most inspiring.

"Anger has a way of retreating before those who confront it calmly and casually, whereas it pounces mercilessly on those who cower before it."

Silent Boy / Lois Lowry / 178 pages / Twentieth Century Fiction Challenge

The story begins in September, 1908 when Katie is eight years old.  She is curious about a neighbor boy named Jacob who is touched.  Jacob has a great affinity for animals but communicates through sounds and gestures.  Katie would like to invite him to her birthday party but she is told this would not be appropriate.  Ms. Lowry provides a vivid view of rural life in the early twentieth century, telling how girls from large families were often loaned to neighbors; mentions the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, Mary Pickford, The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, and the transitions from horse to automobile.  This is a heart-warming story of one girl's compassion and her desire to understand and serve her fellow man.  The ending is heart-wrenching, but skillfully done.

The Carpet People / Terry Pratchett / 289 pages / Deceased Author Challenge

Originally published in 1971 when the author was 17, The Carpet People was revised and reissued when the author was 43, after his Discworld series became bestsellers.  Accompanied by the author's illustrations, including the cover of the original edition, this work features clever language and is the product of a wonderful, creative imagination.  The carpet isn't what it used to be.  This is the story of Fray, sweeping a trail of destruction, and two young borthers, members of the Munrung Tribe, who seek to defeat the villainous Mouls and the wild Snargs.  Mr. Pratchett's metaphorical retelling of the creation story in the prologue is just one example of his imaginative use of language and storytelling.  If you listen to the audio, be sure to check the book out, too.  It contains the original artwork by the author.  When first published in 1971, the illustrations were black and white but Terry hand-colored the art in a few limited editions and it is these rare colored illustrations that accompany the text.  A most enjoyable, clever treatment of a most mundane object....

Kidnapped / Robert Loius Stevenson / 240 pages / Deceased Author Challenge

The year is 1751.  Upon the death of his parents, young David Balfour is directed to visit his only remaining relative, an Uncle Ebenezer.  His estate, the Shaws, should be all rights pass to David.  The crotchety old man has David kidnapped and stowed aboard a ship bound for the Carolinas.  The big ship runs into a small ship in a fog and only one man aboard is rescued - Alan Breck.  Breck is a Scotsman returning from exile in France.  The two become somewhat dubious fast friends and are bound together as criminals wanted for murder.  This fast-moving tale features all of the above plus flight, intrigue, the intrepid courage of the Scots, and clever, subtle humor.  No wonder it is a classic!!

"There are two things that men should never weary of:  goodness and humility."

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II / Denise Kiernan / 373 p.

This title is one of the district's book discussion titles and even though I couldn't make it to the discussion I had planned on attending, I found it well worth reading.

The author focused much of the book on the MAJOR and often overlooked contributions of women in the making of the atomic bomb. But the book is also about the sheer enormity of the project. And the amazing ability to keep the building of a small city in the hills of Tennessee camouflaged from most of the world. Some of it makes me proud of our country and what it can accomplish. Other parts of it make me ashamed at what is viewed as acceptable behavior in order to reach the goal. And between reading this, part of the book Area 51 and watching the TV series Manhattan,  I have to admit to feeling just a tad bit of paranoia about just what all our government can pull off.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Husband's Secret/ Liane Moriarty/ 396 pages

It only took me a week and a half to read this book.  Maybe to some people, that's a long time.  But, for me, this means I could not put it down!  I'm beginning to wonder what was going on when I was selecting books for book club this year, there is always something bad happening... (No shock, since the title is "husband's secret"---did anyone think it was going to be a good secret?  probably not.)  Anyway, this is mainly about the lives of 2 families and how one moment changed their lives forever.  Cecilia finds a letter from her husband to be opened after he dies, but he's not dead.  Should she read it?  What could he have to tell her?

Me Before You/Jojo Moyes/369 pages

Louisa Clark works in a small cafe and lives in a small town in England.  She is content with her life as it is.  When she must find a new job, she becomes a companion to a quadriplegic young man.  The book tells of their interaction and of Louisa's efforts to provide interesting activities for Will.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Obsession in Death/J.D. Robb/404 pgs.

Lieutenant Eve Dallas is a "murder" cop--her goal is always to bring justice for those who have been murdered. In J.D. Robb's latest in the series, Eve has become a murderer's obsession: the murderer is "eliminating" people that have either disrespected Eve, or criminals who have gotten lighter sentences than they deserved. The murderer leaves Eve messages at the crime scenes, claiming to be Eve's only true friend. It's classic J.D. Robb--fast paced, entertaining, and entirely enjoyable!

Basement Quilt, A Colebridge Community Series # 1 / Ann Hazelwood / 309 pages

Basement Quilt is the first book in Ann Hazelwood's Colebridge Community Series.  The story takes place in a town just across the river from the Saint Louis County.  Anne Brown owns a flower shop on Main Street.  Her family members gather together to help Aunt Julia complete her quilt.  The story centers on family and personal relationships.  For more information and read a-likes visit the SCCCLD website.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

SCCCLD April Challenge

You can be the 'Star' of the April Challenge.  
All you need to do is read a book written by a celebrity
 Then let us know if they did a good job writing their book.

One of my favorite celebrity authors is Jimmy Buffet.  
(Still need a book for the February Challenge?) 

But don't forget Tina Fey, Amy Poehler ,

or Sidney Poitier.  

For more ideas check out this link for a list of Celebrity Authors.

The 10 Best Anxiety Busters/Dr. Margaret Wehrenberg/237 pgs./January Challenge

The subtitle of the books says it all: simple strategies to take control of your worry. In clear, simple steps, the author addresses coping methods for dealing with various forms of anxiety. Her step-by-step approach is logical and practical. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Transfer of Power / Vince Flynn/ 395 pages

Transfer of Power written by Vince Flynn presents a fight between American covert operators and a group of terrorists who have taken control of the White House.  While not as factually accurate as Tom Clancy, this book would be a good substitute for the reader who misses the Clancy action and adventure.  Flynn tells the story from the point of everyone doing their job with little  told about their lives outside of that.   The story will hold the reader's interest as they follow the ups and downs of the politics of saving the White House and it's occupants.  For more novels by Vince Flynn  and similar read a likes check out the SCCCLD website.

Hooked/ Polly Iyer/ 344 pages

Hooked written by Polly Iyer takes the reader into the world of high priced prostitution.  A death woman has been found in the river and NYPD detective Lincoln Walsh is determined to find the murder.  Working with the FBI, a high priced escort is convinced to come out of retirement to help find the killer.  It was an interesting book filled with seedy characters pretending to be much better people.  This book would appeal to readers who like police procedural stories.

Completely Restored / Robert Kerr / 220 pages

Completely Restored written by Robert Kerr is a time travel novel set in Iowa.  Joe Murphy and his family have worked hard for three years to restore their Victorian style house.  The final piece is set in place, the fully refurbished front door.  The next morning the Murphys awaken to 1909 and have to explain their presence to their next door neighbor, a kindly doctor.  The family slips into the lifestyle easier than most people would do.  The ultimate message of the book is taking time to appreciate each other and life.  This book would probably appeal most to the person who likes historical fiction than the reader who looks for time travel.

Friday Edition (A Samanth Church Mystery) / Betta Ferrendelli / 312 pages

Friday Edition is the first book of the Samantha Church mystery series written by Betta Ferrendelli.  The reader is introduced to Samantha via the questionable suicide of her sister, Robin.  Both sisters are alcoholics, but Robin is a member of AA and has been clean for some time.  Reporter Samantha digs deeper into the suicide and puts her own life in danger.  If you like investigative mysteries this will be an enjoyable books.  A similar read would be the Silk Worm by Robert Galbraith

Monday, March 30, 2015

All the Light We Cannot See/Anthony Doerr/531 pgs./March challenge

Two characters on converging paths: Marie-Laure, blind since the age of six, living in Paris with her father, the locksmith for the Museum of Natural History; and Werner, living with his sister, Jutta, in an orphanage in Germany. Werner is quite brilliant when it comes to electronics--especially repairing radios. He is seen as an asset to the Germans as Hitler is taking a stronghold in Germany; as a result, Werner "earns" a place in the brutal Hitler Youth academy. Marie-Laure, now twelve years old, and her father flee the now German occupied Paris, arriving in Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure's reclusive great-uncle lives; her father may or may not be carrying with him an invaluable gem. Alternately, Werner is becoming a product of his Hitler Youth training. Years into the war, Marie-Laure's and Werner's paths cross--leading up to that point and its aftermath makes for a compelling and unforgettable read. Highly, highly, highly recommended!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands / Chris Bohjalian / 288 p.

This story is at once tragic and hopeful. Emily/Abby is a teenage girl who already makes questionable choices. When a nuclear disaster claims the lives of both of her parents---with her father being blamed for the disaster--her decision to run is just the first of many more dangerous and life-threatening situations in which she places herself. The story is told in first person and jumps all over the place chronologically. But this makes sense because it matches Emily's mind and emotions.

I was amazed at how well the middle-aged male author could be the voice of a teenage girl. That voice was aided by the young woman who narrated the audio version. At the end of the book, I learned just how important she was. It turns out that Grace Blewer is the author's daughter. Besides the narration, Grace also helped her father with the language, phrases and thoughts of a teenager girl.

There is a quite a bit of profanity and discussion of sexual situations and this makes it an "adult" level book.  But I would recommend it to older teens as well.

Second Chance Hero / Jeannie Moon 240 p.

Second Chance Hero / Jeannie Moon 240 p.

The worst happens, soldier Tom Albanese dies on the hospital table with his nurse fiance preparing to her best to save his life.  Her day goes even worse when his girl friend makes an appearance.   When  she goes to treat Tom's commander, she collapses.  He sees her pain and tries to cushion her fall.

Back stateside, Owen Kent cannot put the nurse out of his mind.  And he is speechless when he realizes the nanny he is sent to pick up is the nurse.  Kim doesn't remember meeting him.  She is putting the army and Kandahar out of bounds for any talks with him.  She carried Tom's secret with her.  Tom's family is taking his loss hard.  She is not going to reveal his duplicity.  She needs help getting through this.  Owen has a fixing habit that he can't break.

Warrior Heir / Cinda Williams Chima 426 p.

Warrior Heir / Cinda Williams Chima 426 p.

For Jack Swift, it is a normal Ohio day.  He snarfs down breakfast and speeds out the door, forgetting to take his all important heart medicine.  At the soccer tryouts, he sends his opponent into the net without trying.  Somehow he feels stronger even without his heart medicine.  Without any warning and knowledge of why, Jack is the focus of a man hunt.  With the help of his aunt and non-warrior friends he escapes.  He is surprised when his Aunt Linda shares with him that he is a descendant of a long line of ancient warriors.  These warriors are used settle dissension between the houses of magicians --and they fight to the death.  He is overwhelmed with learning the art of fighting, learning the rules of combat as well as wizard skills, and keeping up with his education.  A budding friendship with a girl who seems to understand him, is nipped in the bud when she must move away.   When the action is moved to England, the heat is turned up in the hunt for him.  When a near exchange with an opposing wizard nearly kills him, his trainer takes him to a hideaway to wait for the killing tournament.  He seeks to find his own way through is quagmire of death, deceit, and war, to a solution for all.

First in the Heir chronicles.

Long, Hot Texas Summer / Carolyn Brown 240 p.

Long, Hot Texas Summer / Carolyn Brown 240 p.

Stubborn, sassy, Loretta left her husband once she found him in the barn with his arms around a neighbor lady.  She packed up and left with their daughter before he knew what happened.  17 years later she appears uninvited back in his life on the ranch when she is realizes that their daughter has not intent to leave the ranch and finish her education.  Nona has fallen in love with a rancher and she is just as stubborn as her parents. She's not going back to school away from Travis.  Loretta finds she hasn't stayed away from her ex- long enough, he still make her long for him.  And Jackson is bound to find a way to keep her.  He's being extra careful this time.  And the hussy who broke them up...she's back but Loretta's not going to put up with anything from her.

Betting the Rainbow / Jody Thomas 294 p.

Betting the Rainbow / Jody Thomas 294 p.

Two sisters gave up their dreams to work the family farm.  When a poker tournament comes to town, Dusti Delaney decides this is the opportunity to get enough money for Abby to finish her last year of nursing school.  She enlists Kieran O'Toole to teach her the finer points of the game.  Some sparks begin to fly between them but he is a Gentleman.  He refuses to stand in her way of her dream.

Around the bend on Rainbow Lane, Ronny Logan is setting into a home after spending a year travelling.  She's enjoying the solitude and is not interested in sharing it.  Neighbor, Austin Hawk, senses her reticent.  He, too, has issues.  But something is slowly growing between them and could blossom if they only let it.

Nice character development along with some very funny quirky minor characters.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Last One Home/Debbie Macomber/320 pages

This story is about three sisters and their relationships as adults.  One of the sisters was involved in an abusive marriage and this story follows her as she rebuilds her life.
Debbie Macomber's books usually grab my attention right away and this title did too.  The primary story-line was interesting but the secondary characters weren't well-developed and the ending of the story seemed abrupt.

The Country of Ice Cream Star/Sandra Newman/629 pages

Ice Cream Star is a young woman living somewhat innocently in a dystopian America when her older brother's epidemic illness thrusts her into the leadership role for her small band of children. What follows is a wrenching struggle for survival for herself and her people as she attempts to find a cure to her brother's disease.

Analysis - An impressive exercise in creativity, this book involved peoples from various cultural groups and is told by the narrator in a pidgin English that becomes almost comfortable by the end of the book. 

Originality is the strong suit of this novel. But that originality also makes it hard to classify. While it is dystopian, it is firmly anchored in a very real America. While some aspects of the storyline seem science fiction-ish, the content is not hard-line science fiction. Its epic length and unusual language may make this book a challenge for some. But it is worth a read. The depictions of familiar places that have been shambled by the rigors of war and disease and the emotions wrought by its main character make it a worthy read.

Monday, March 23, 2015

My Sunshine Away/M. O. Walsh/20th Century Challenge

Growing up in an upper middle class neighborhood in Baton Rouge seems to be almost like a Norman Rockwell painting of Southern idyllic life. Children playing together, cookouts, colorful crepe myrtles and college football all sound like the perfect childhood. But when 15-year-old Lindy Simpson in attacked just down the street from her own house, the neighborhood takes on a darker side. Several suspects emerge, including the narrator of the story. His obsessive love, crossing the line into stalking, makes his own mother wonder about his involvement. Through his eyes, we see how life was before and after the attack and how he tries to set things right.

Beautifully written, this story truly captures the magic of growing up in a close-knit neighborhood with all the underlying currents of secrecy and dysfunction. This was a very fast read, mainly because it's hard to put down.

Death of a Liar/M. C. Beaton/261 pages

Hamish MacBeth's new case involves more than just murder. There's a lot going on in the small village of Cromish, one of the outlying parts of MacBeth's territory. Religious scams, smuggling, and drugs are all part of the crime. In addition, there are two new possible love interests, as well as two former fiancées to distract Hamish.

Another delightful cozy by the master!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

House of Echoes / Brendan Duffy / 384 pages

Wow!  I received this ARC from "Arcs Around the Library" and couldn't have chosen better!  Due for release on 4/7/15, it is destined to be an immediate bestseller. " In this enthralling and atmospheric debut suspense novel, one young family's dream of a better life is about to become a nightmare".  This is evocative of Stephen King at his best...without all the foul language.  The characters are well drawn, realistic and empathy inspiring.  The plot is clever, peppered with Revolutionary War era letters and anecdotes, and sinister enough to cause the reader to double-check locks, avoid shadows, leave lights burning, and beware real estate bargains.  Mental illness, bullying, faith, sacrifice, and what comprises family are themes carefully and craftily woven into the tale of terror.

"Better and easier were almost never the same thing."

Falling Up / Shel Silverstein / 176 pages / Deceased Author November Challenge

Just Delightful!!  It has been years since I read one of Mr. Silverstein's poetry books and I had forgotten how laugh-out-loud funny and entertaining they are.  Mr. Silverstein's illustrations are critical to the understanding of some of the poems and nearly all would make excellent read-a-louds.  Mr. Silverstein certainly had not forgotten what it was like to be a child.  He most assuredly kept his childish sense of humor...

High Profile / Robert B. Parker / 2980 pages / Deceased Author November Challenge

Chief of Police Jesse Stone is pressured to quickly solve two homicides in Paradise, Massachusetts.  A controversial talk show host was hung from a tree on the outskirts of the city and his current (pregnant) girlfriend's dead body was discovered several days later in a dumpster.  Suspects are legion, including four ex-wives.  While Jesse is investigating this high profile case, he asks his girlfriend, Sonny Randall, to serve as bodyguard to his ex-wife, Jennifer, who claims a recent rape and a stalker.  Parker's intricate plot machinations and Sonny's interactions with Stone's ex-wife provide excellent counter balance in this prime time thriller.

The Sound and the Fury / William Faulkner / 348 pages / Deceased Author November Challenge

One of the greatest novels of the twentieth century, this is a tale of a family's dance with tragedy.  The Compson Family strives to fulfill their role as an important family in post civil war Deep South.  They must  cope with a manchild, Benjy; the beautiful, rebellious Caddy; the haunted, neurotic Quentin; the brutal cynic Jason; Dilcey, one of their black servants; and run-around Quentin (Caddy's illegitimate daughter).  As is true of most of Faulkner's works, The Sound and the Fury deals with the moral uncertainties of an increasingly dissolute society.  Pair this reading with a visit to Faulkner's home in Oxford, Mississippi and become familiar with one of the giants in American literature.

The A.B.C. Murders / Agatha Christie / 248 pages / Deceased Author November Challenge

Although the murders are named for the railway guide (ABC) found at the scene, it soon becomes frighteningly apparent that the killer is, in fact, murdering by the alphabet.  First a person whose name begins with A in a location that begins with the same letter; then B; then C...and the pattern becomes manifest and the authorities rush to Thwart the murderer's next attempt.  Retired sleuth Poirot and inspector Hastings rush to prevent more deaths.  Is Alexander Bonaparte Cast the guilty party?  This is a mini tour of England led by both scallywags and intrepid heroes.

Family Honor / Robert B. parker / 322 pages / Deceased Author November Challenge

In this installment, of the Sonny Randall saga, Sonny and Richie have split up after nine years of marriage.  Sonny can't reconcile Richie's ties to organized crime (His father and uncles are members of the mob.) with her and her father's careers in law enforcement.  There is no doubt they love each other...but...  Sonny is tasked with finding a missing girl.  She has been hired by the girl's parents who are well-to-do, involved in politics, and involved in a somewhat unusual hobby.  Although her methods...and friends...are somewhat unorthodox, Sonny is more than successful.  Of particular interest in the Parker novel is Sonny's relationship with the missing/found girl and her sage mentoring.

"The more things you can do the more choices you have...the less life kicks you around."

Gunman's Rhapsody / Robert B. Parker / 289 pages / Deceased Author November Challenge

Wyatt Earp was a country boy from Illinois.  He wanted to be his own man.  He doesn't take much pleasure in shooting, just does what he has to do and moves on.  During the winter of 1879, he and two of his brothers and their womenfolk move from Dodge City to Tombstone, Arizona.  Virgil becomes City Marshal and Wyatt his deputy.  He and Morgan Earp also work as undercover men for Wells Fargo.  Wyatt had tired of Maddie, his live in love interest, and is attracted to the showgirl, Jessie Marcus.  When Wyatt and Josie act on their attraction, Johnny Behav, Josie's live in love interest, immediately becomes their enemy and starts rumors creating trouble for the Earps.  Tensions escalate and culminate in the Gunfight at the OK Coral.  This may well be the best Robert B. Parker book I have read/listened to.  Well researched and well written, this atmospheric western vividly recalls the Wild West and places it within the broader historical context with frequent "Chronicles."  Refreshingly, the objectionable language present in much of Parker's writing is, for the most part, missing.  Ed Begley, Jr. does an excellent job performing the story.  This might be an excellent companion piece to Epitaph by Mary Russell.

"It's not just what you do.  It's how you do it."

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie / C. Alan Bradley / 373 pages / 20th Century Fiction

Eleven year old Flavia de Luce is an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison.  Her scientific mind and her disenchantment with her vain older sister prompt her to spike her sister's lip rouge with poison ivy - to observe its effects!  A murder on the premises of the family home, Buckshaw, causes Flavia to mount her dead mother Harriet's old bike, Gladys, to investigate the murder and clear her father's name.  In the course of her investigations, she uncovers rare stamp thefts, a mysterious death, and the excitement and adventure she craves.  This is an eminently amusing portrayal of one spunky eleven year old in 1950's Britain...with perhaps too much courage and daring...a most likable heroine!

Hickory, Dickory Dock / Agathie Christie / 344 pages / Deceased Author November Challenge

Hercule Poirot is bored and aggravated - bored because it has been some time since he's had a mystery to solve, and aggravated because his secretary, Miss Felicity Lemon has made three mistakes in typing his letter.  She never makes mistakes and reveals that she is concerned about her widowed sister, Mrs. Hubbard.  Mrs. Hubbard has recently taken a position as matron at a hostel.  A series of odd thefts has occurred.  Why would anyone steal such things?  Of course, Mr. Poirot discovers not only why someone would steal them, he determines who the thief/thieves are.  Muder complicates the plot.  This engaging mystery by a master mystery writer challenges the readers powers of deductive reasoning while entertaining and informing.

Echoes / Danielle Steel / 324 pages / 20th Century Fiction

This heart-wrenching/heart-warming novel spans the twentieth century.  It begins in 1915, when Beatta Wittgenstein meets a dashing French officer, Antoine de Vallerand, at a Swiss resort.  They immediately fall in love.  Both families forbid the union.  Beatta's family is Jewish and German, and Antonie's is Catholic and French.  Beatta and Antoine hope that with time their families will reconcile with them.  Unfortunately, World War II erupts, and Naziism and a stubborn father prevent this hope's realization.  Beatta and Antoine have two daughters, one of whom, Amadea, is called to become a Carmelite nun.  The horrors of World War II are vividly portrayed as well as is the courage, heroism, and faith of the protagonists.  I did hear echoes of the Sound of Music as I read this one...

Vanishing Girls/Lauren Oliver/357 pgs.

Sisters Nick and Dara were inseparable before the accident. The accident leaves Dara's face scarred, and her relationship with older sister, Nick, estranged. In addition, the girls' parents are recently divorced--so there are issues aplenty! Told in chapters before and after the accident, Dara and Nick tell their stories in such a way to keep the reader in suspense. The story peaks when Dara goes missing--shortly after a local nine year old girl had been reported missing. It's a very compelling story, and one that I think young adults would highly enjoy.

Echo/Pam Munoz Ryan/587 pgs.

Playing hide and seek, Otto finds himself alone in a forbidden forest. He stumbles upon three mysterious sisters who leave him with a prophecy,  a promise, and a harmonica. It's not an ordinary harmonica--it produces music no other harmonica can produce. Decades pass, and the harmonica finds its way into the hands of three very desperate people: Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California. This is a beautiful story of magic, fate, and how the lives of these three people are intertwined, and impacted by music--and one special harmonica. It's part fantasy, with a dose of historical fiction. Highly recommended!