Monday, June 1, 2015

SCCCLD June Challenge

Now for something completely different...

(No we won't all be reading Monty Python this month.)

You are challenged to read a book 
published in the year you were born.

Need some help finding a book?  Think Newbery Award Winners.  
They go way back!  And there is one for every year! 

Think of it as your  historical fiction.

Each book you read and review will be worth on extra bonus point.
You do not have to  reveal  the year the book was published!

Friday, May 29, 2015

I Heard That Song Before / Mary Higgins Clark 384 p.

I Heard That Song Before / Mary Higgins Clark 384 p.

When Kay was a 6 year old child she overheard a conversation between a man and a woman.  He angrily retorts "I heard that song before".  Later that same evening 18 year old Susan Althorp goes missing after being driven home by Peter Carrington, heir to the Carrington's millions.

22 years later Kay asks a favor of Peter.  She's the librarian at the Englewood Public Library.  She wants to hold the fund-raiser for the literacy program at the Carrington mansion.  When her grandmother is injured at the gala, Peter accompanies them to the hospital.  And that is the start of a whirlwind romance leading to marriage.

Susan's mother hires a private investigator to get the evidence to convict Peter of her daughter's murder.  He is successful at getting the case reopened and finding a witness who changes her testimony.  As the DA works build the case, Susan's body is discovered on the Carrington estate.  Peter is jailed awaiting his trial.  Kay works to support him and find the speaker of those long ago spoken words.  Clark masterfully maintains the secrecy of the murderer while building a case against Peter and slowly dropping hints about the murderer.

Time Voyage / Steve Brezenoff 111 p.

Return to Titanic : Time Voyage / Steve Brezenoff 111 p. 20th Century Fiction and Time Travel

20th Century Historical Fiction + Time Travel

Tucker had to go to the museum with his mom. What a boring day! The museum is the official most boring place ever. She's setting up for a new exhibition on the Titanic. He and Maya get to open the last packing case labeled Special Collection Handle with Care. In it is a Titanic boarding pass issued by the White Star Line. It was issued to Liam Kearny to be used on the 11th day of April in the year 1912 to board at Queenstown, Ireland. When Maya goes to look closely at the ticket, it slips from its protective covering. They both grasp the actual pass at the same time and are instantly transported back in time to April 11, 1912, Queenstown, Ireland. Tucker and Maya meet Liam and his family. They explain what happens to the Titanic but are unable to convince the Kearny's not to board. And how are they to get back to their time?

First in the series Return to Titanic.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Prostitute's Daughter / Adrienne D'nelle Ruvalcaba 468 p.

Prostitute's Daughter / Adrienne D'nelle Ruvalcaba 468 p.

Cece Graves has been running from her past for 27 years.  When a deadly fire engulfs her apartment building, Shane Gregory is the one who carries her to safety.  She is extremely resistant to love.  It takes the steadfastness of Shane's friendship to keep the relationship going.  She was once dominated in the cruelest way, but she fights back.  Determined to not be a victim again, she trains in the martial arts.  Shane, also, has issues.  He has his own tragedy to deal with.  Ruvalcaba tackles domestic abuse.  This may not be an easy story to read as Cece Graves abuse is revealed.

Once Upon a Masquerade / Tamara Hughes 280 p.

Once Upon a Masquerade / Tamara Hughes 280 p.

March, 1883, New York City

Rebecca Bailey just doesn't know where to turn when her father's gambling debts reach a new high. When brutes threaten his life, she and a fellow servant hatch a plan to turn her into a member of high society where is must attract the attention of a rich man. Self-made shipping magnate Christopher Black first spies Rebecca at a masquerade ball where she captivates him. She is so different from his former fiancee. The closer he comes to her secrets, the harder she pushes him away. The plot twists when Christopher's investigation of his best friend's murder leads him straight to Rebecca. Now he has a dilemma, trust the love of his life or expose her as a sinister character.

Confessions of a Royal Bridegroom / Vanessa Kelly 473 p.

Confessions of a Royal Bridegroom / Vanessa Kelly 473 p.

Justine Brightmore, a spy's daughter, is called to take care of an abandoned baby boy left on the steps of Griffin Steele's brothel and she will take care of the baby.   Griffin is the secret, illegitimate son of a Royal prince.  To be saddled with a baby, is quite enough.  Then to protect the baby and his high born nurse, he finds himself married to the baby's nurse.  Romance takes a back seat when the baby becomes a target for kidnappers.

This is the second in the Renegade Royals series.

Promise by Daylight / Alison DeLaine 377 p.

Promise by Daylight / Alison DeLaine 377 p.

The only way Millicent Germain can achieve her dream of being a physician is to masquerade as a man.  After a near fatal accident, the Duke of Winston vows to change his way (it means giving up his decadent lifestyle.)  He hires a personal medic, Miles, to take charge of his convalescence.  Little does he know that the lifestyle he thinks he has put aside, is just a short temptation away in this historical novel.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death/James Runcie/392 pages/Historical fiction challenge

Sidney Chambers is not your ordinary village priest. He is fond of warm beer and jazz. He also has a keen mind and an eye for details. His friendship with the local inspector, Geordie Keating, gets him involved in the village life in ways that a priest usually is not. His bachelor status as well as his new curate Leonard, his housekeeper Mrs. Maguire, and his black lab Dickens provides him with plenty of distractions from his duties.

A completely delightful set of stories. Set after World War II, Runcie gives us a nice view of life in a English village. Masterpiece Mystery has turned this first book into the first season of The Grantchester Mysteries. I can't wait for the second book and the second season. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Cold Cold Heart/Tami Hoag/388 pgs.

Dana Nolan was a young, television reporter before she was abducted by a serial killer known as Doc Holiday. Through a desperate act, Dana kills Doc Holiday, but comes out of the experience with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and traumatic brain injury (TBI). She spends time in rehab trying to learn coping skills to deal with day-to-day life. She returns to her hometown with her mom and step-father. Dana is something of a celebrity--not in a good way. Her return brings up questions concerning the disappearance of her best friend, Casey, who went missing seven years ago. Had Casey also been a victim of Doc Holiday? Dana tries to use her research skills to bring closure to the unsolved crime. There are too many loose ends in this novel, plus not very many "likable" characters--not one of Hoag's best efforts.

A Deadly Web: a Bishop Files Novel/Kay Hooper/295 pgs.

Psychics are missing:one day they're going about their daily business, the next day they are gone without a trace. John Brodie is a Guardian; he is tasked with protecting psychics from a deadly enemy. Tasha Solomon is a particularly gifted psychic, unaware of the enemy stalking her. John Brodie becomes her protector, and together they hope to discover who the enemy is, and why psychics are going missing. It's a fast paced, roller coaster ride of a novel--a good addition to an entertaining series.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Just Deserts Hetta Coffey Mystery Series Book 4/ Jinx Schawrtz / 330 pages

The first time I met Hetta Coffey I thought she was rude and self centered and did not expect to like her.  Once you get to know her, she's OK.  In Just Deserts by Jinx Schawrtz, Hetta's boat is in need of repairs.  Stuck in dry dock and in need of cash to pay for the repairs, Hetta takes a job as a mine consultant for a Mexican mine.  Her job puts her in contact with mine operators, human traffickers, mystery men, drug smugglers and winery operators.  With the help of her long time friends, Hetta manages to get into  and out of deep trouble while saving Arizona and befriending a coyote.  If you enjoy strong women with a heart, you will like Hetta Coffey.

This One Summer/ Mariko Tamaki/ 317 pages

This was a sweet book about a girl named Rose and her friend, Windy.  They see each other every summer at the beach houses their parents rent in the same small town. I don't know if teens will feel the same sympathy as a parent towards the mom in this book.  But, maybe the end will help them to relate?  Rose's mom is sad and desperately wants another child.  You can see how this affects Rose and her relationship with her parents.  But, there are also things going on with "townie" boys and normal teen drama.  A sweet read, not my all time favorite realistic graphic novel, but still good.

Let the Great World Spin/ Colum McCann/ 349 pages

We read "Let the Great World Spin" for book discussion this month.  I was the only one that loved it.  I think it's because I was first attracted to due to the tightrope walker.  Several years ago I watched the documentary "Man on Wire" about the man who illegally tightrope walked between the twin towers.  This book isn't really about him, but it's about people who either saw him or were somehow affected by him on the day that he did walk between the towers.  I think I liked it because it kept me thinking about the connections between these people for a long time.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Mulch / Ann Ripley/ 279 pages/ SCCCLD May Challenge

Mulch is the first novel in Ann Ripley's Gardening Series.  Louise Eldridge is determined to create a beautiful garden at her Washington D C home.  All she needs to complete the task are some leaves to fill in a low area.  She collects leaves bagged and  left out by people for recycle pick up.  Little does she know those bags may hold more than leaves.  This was an enjoyable mystery that did a good job of introducing the neighborhood characters.  For more information and read-a-likes see the SCCCLD website

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Maude / Donna Mabry / 477 pages

     This was a riveting book that had to be totally true because that many things would never be in a fiction book.  The book is a memoir of the author's grandmother of the stories and events of her life.  It is a story of personal survival of the spirit in that so much tragedy happened in Maude's early life and then more unwanted events made up much of her story. the time period is the early half of the 1900's.  Donna Mabry has been able to weave the changes in culture and morality seamlessly into the story.  It explains Maude's actions since most women today would be able to change their life more easily.
     I think this is a self-published book as there is no publisher listed.  Donna Mabry has written other books which are listed at the back.  I doubt that the fiction can compare with this compelling story.

Penny from Heaven / Jennifer Holm / 285 pages / Twentieth Century Fiction

Penny was named for a Bing Crosby song, a favorite of her deceased father.  Her real name is Barbara, and in 1953, the setting for this book, she is still missing her father.  She and her mom live with her grandparents and her mom has started dating the milkman.  One of her father's brothers, Uncle Dominic, lives in a car, and her other uncles and cousin Frankie form the bedrock of her life.  After Penny is seriously injured by a wringer washing machine while she and Frankie are treasure hunting, several family secrets are revealed, understanding and forgiveness granted, and a change of heart exhibited by all.  This is a warm, moving story which focuses on life in the mid twentieth century and spotlights the plight of Italian American during and post World War II.

Bread and Roses, Too / Katherine Paterson / 275 pages / Twentieth Century Fiction Challenge

This is an inspiring, informative story of the Lawrence, Massachusetts strike against the American Woolen Company.  Rosa is a good student, who recognizes that education is the key to success, but after her fathers dies in the mill, the rest of the family is compelled to work to replace his income.  Conditions in the mills are deplorable, unhealthy, and unjust.  Workers spend over fifty-six hours in the mills each week.  When the owners decide to short the paychecks but not the time, many workers walk out.  Harvard students are brought in and armed to discourage participation in the strike.  Rosa and Jake, a ne'er do well whose drunken father beats him, are sent to live with a sponsor family far from strike-torn Lawrence.  Jake has falsified his information to escape...  Although the sponsor's reaction to Jake's thievery is a bit unbelievable, it is most welcome.  This story brings to light a little-studied aspect of America's Industrial Revolution.

One, Two Buckly My Shoe / Agatha Christie / 286 pages / Deceased Author Challenge

Hercule Poirot's dentist is discovered dead of a gunshot wound shortly after the detective's annual check-up.  The death is believed to be a suicide.  Supposedly, Dr. Morley was despondent over administering an overdose of sedative to a patient which resulted in his death.  In the course of the investigation, Poirot uncovers a dead witness beaten beyond recognition and a gardener who unexpectedly encounters a gun in the garden just after a shot has been fired.  As always, Poirot uses his excellent skills of observation, deductive reasoning, and knowledge of human nature to solve all the murders.

Mark of the Thief / Jennifer A. Nielsen / 339 pages

Nic, a slave in Ancient Rome, works in the mines outside the city.  When Julius Caesar's treasure trove is discovered in a secret vault deep within the mine, Nic is ordered to retrieve it.  One slave has already died in the attempt and another is no longer sane.  Nic refuses and runs away.  Unfortunately, his hiding place is discovered by General Radulf, who has secret plans to overthrow the emperor.  He wants the bulla of Julius Caesar to accomplish this.  Nic discovers the bulla, battles a griffin, and is marked with the sign of the gods, the divine star.  Does he now hold the power of the gods?  Can he perform magic?  Will he live to use it?  Nic's life is forfeit.  His sister Livia is missing and he has become instrumental in a battle to save the senate, the empire, and himself.
This is a well-plotted page-turner whose setting enhances sharp-edged suspense.  Well-developed characters, the intricacies of friendships, and the magical nuggets of historical fact/lore make the Mark of the Thief a most intriguing read.

"The world will judge you based on what you think of yourself."
"Emotions can be unpredictable and hard to control."
"Not every chain is made of metal.  The worst are made of comfort and false promises."
"Ignoring reality doesn't change it."

After: The Shock / Scott Nicholson / 171 pages

Book one in the After Series, a post-apocalyptic thriller
It's August.  The setting is North Carolina.  July was the Old Days.  Everything has changed.  They called it the Big Zap and the neurologically altered humans are called Zapheads.  The animals who survived the cataclysm appear to be unaffected, but a sizable portion of the surviving human population have turned into rage-filled murderers.  The reader views the devastation through the eyes of the normal survivors.  There are several different groups dovetailing to a secret survival complex in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Unfortunately, the reader is left hanging in suspense at the end of book one.  The plot lacks resolution.  Perhaps it can be found in book two...

Death by Chocolate, a Dessert First Cozy Mystery / Carol Lee / 76 pages

Myra Bailey moved to Fish Creek Falls after her divorce and realized her heart's desire - opening her own bakery, Dessert First.  Her shop is the first competition for Barbara's Brilliance, which has been the only bakery in town for twenty years.  Unfortunately, Barbara Simpson is found dead on the floor of her shop.  She had eaten a piece of poisoned chocolate cake.  The piece might be a piece of Myra's Death By Chocolate Cake.  Detective David Bentley fears she is going to take the fall for this.  One of Myra's recipe cards was found near Barbara's hand and Myra has no alibi.  Myra and her best friend, Lizzie, work together to uncover the murderer.  Shallow character development and highly predictable plot disappoint while entertaining.

My Antonia / Willa Cather / 371 pages / Deceased Author Challenge

This inspiring story is narrated by Jim, an orphan sent to live with his grandparents in Black Hawk, Nebraska.  Life on the frontier is hard but civilization has made inroads and there is often a clash between newly arrived, hard-working, often non-English speaking, immigrants and established residents.  Jim is attracted to one Bohemian immigrant, Antonia.  He is impressed by her strong, independent personality and indomitable refusal to allow hardships to defeat her.  Jim notes how the immigrants often succeed where others fail because of their determination and their flexible, at times necessarily questionable, interpretation of law and social mores.  Jim reconnects with Antonia years later.  Jim is a lawyer and Antonia is mother of a multitude, still battling poverty, but relishing the love of her family.  She is the core, the inspiration, the storyteller.

Trust No One / Jayne Ann Krentz / 337 / Gardening Challenge

Julius Arkwright, a wealthy investment advisor, has two rules:  Trust no one and Everyone has a hidden agenda.  When the Chief of Police of Cloud Lake, Washington and his wife set him up on a blind date, he becomes entangled in the dubious affairs of one Grace Elland.  When she was sixteen,  Grace discovered a murder scene and rescued a small boy.  She has just discovered her murdered boss and is one of many suspects.  A vodka bottle at the scene, e-mails from the dead boss's account, a vindictive heiress, embezzled money...and romantic tension escalate the plot...  Quirky, interesting, secondary characters, a plethora of affirmative statements, a tension-filled-revenge-fueled plot, and a multiplicity of suspects and crimes make this one captivating read.
(Two of the quirky characters have outstanding gardens and actively compete with each other for supremacy.)
"Love changes everything."
"There was some natural, built-in competition between positive thinkers, just as there was between gardeners."

Lilies That Fester / Janis Harrison / 240 pages / Gardening Challenge

Bretta Solomon, a florist from River City, Missouri, has organized the first annual Show Me Competition, bringing together the most talented florists in the state of Missouri.  She has lost over one hundred pounds, probably due in part to the death of her husband Carl, a deputy.  An astute observer, Bretta has had success in solving past mysteries.  At the convention, she is left a mysterious missive from the parents of a recently deceased girl who had come to Branson to meet her and enlist her help.  When the couple turns up missing...dead..., razor blades are used as weapons, a friend and fellow florist leaps to her death, Bretta is determined to discover exactly what is going on.  She is shadowed by one Bailey Monroe...a police officer? whom she is attracted.  Despite being warned off the investigation, Bretta uses her God-given talent for helping others and her keen mind to bring justice where it is due.
Several inclusions enhance this entertaining who-done-it: a seventy-two year old sidekick, a focus on extreme weight loss, an amazing artist who crafts pictures from petals (etc.) - including personalities, a budding romance, Branson and the Missouri Ozarks, African orphanages, and drug dealing.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Missoula:Rape and the Justice System in a College Town/Jon Krakauer/360 pgs.

As Jon Krakauer indicates, the University of Montana in Missoula is not that different from most colleges and universities. It's mainly a college town with the residents very supportive of the Grizzlies--the university's football team. The book focuses mainly on two rape charges against two of the University's football players. However, in a Department of Justice investigation of 350 sexual assaults reported to the Missoula police between January 2008 and May 2012, only a handful were properly handled either by university or local authorities. It's a compelling, and in my opinion, disheartening read. I had naively assumed that our society, on the whole, had moved away from thinking that a rape victim was somehow responsible for his/her attack. In the two main cases that Krakauer focuses on, the victims knew their attackers, which seemed to further hurt their cases. It's a very eye-opening account, and describes situations happening on campuses across the United States--not just in Montana. Highly recommended!

A Small Indiscretion/Jan Ellison/323 pages

Annie Black sits down to write a letter to her son to explain everything that led up to his tragic accident and how life has changed since. Her story goes back to the year before she met her husband when she was living in London trying to save money to study in France. She had fled her colorless life in the States looking for adventure. Her memory of what happened may be skewed by time and guilt. Ultimately, she has to face what happened all those years ago and how it effects the present.

A very good first novel. This is our book club selection for the month, and I look forward to the discussion.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Lincoln Lawyer/ Michael Connelly/ 404 pages

The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly presents the reader with the American justice system as worked by a defense lawyer.  Mickey Haller doesn't waste money on a fancy office, he operates out of his Lincoln and has an ex-wife for a secretary.  He's good at what he does, and his biggest fear is not recognizing an innocent client when he has one.  When he meets Louis Roulet things start to fall apart.  This book is definitively a page turner.  Anyone who likes police procedural and suspense will enjoy this offering from Michael Connelly.  For more information and read a likes, visit the SCCCLD website.

Friday, May 15, 2015

SCCCLD May Challenge

April Showers Bring May Flowers

But good gardening skills also help.  This month you can choose from fiction or nonfiction.  
Your choice should have something to do with gardening.  

Was someone found dead in the garden?  

What's the best way to build raised beds? 

Do flowers really tell a story? 

 Manure by any other name... 

You get the picture!

For each book read, you will get one extra point!  If you post a photo of your garden, container garden, or potted plant you get a special super bonus point!

Need help finding a book?  Check out these titles available on the SCCCLD website

Laughing in the Dark / Chonda Pierce 232 p. Self help

Laughing in the Dark / Chonda Pierce 232 p. Self help

Chonda Pierce offers help with depression.  For many having a mental illness is full of shame and humiliation.  Some think that you can just shake it off.  (One doesn't say that to someone with cancer).  Chonda shares her very real trip through depression.   She makes it clear that this is a disease like any other.  And the patient needs therapy that includes medications, counseling, and support,  it is not something that one can just shake it off.  She explains that meds take time to take effect.  They may need to be changed.  And one may need to take for one's lifetime.  She shares practical insight, biblical teachings, emotional support, and concern.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Little Monkey Calms Down / Michael Dahl / 8 page board book

     This seems an odd choice the book blog, however, it is quite a good book.
It is really about mindfulness and is such a simple explanation of the process that even a two year old could grasp the concept.  Little monkey drops his ice cream.  He cries.  He's upset and angry.  How can he calm down?  He can hold his blankie. He can breath.  He can sing a little calming song, He can calm down.  This is just pure gold.  If a young child can learn to do this, that child has a solid base for good mental health.  Adults can use this book too!

Runaway Ralph / Beverly Cleary / 175 pages

This sequel to Ralph and the Motorcycle should definitely be read right after the first book.  Ralph, sick of all his little cousins, his judgmental relatives, and worried mother, decides that he will make a new life for himself at a camp where children will leave him peanut and butter sandwiches.  Problems and obstacles confront Ralph at every turn.  What will Ralph learn about life?  This is a great little story and has a parallel story about Garf, the boy who catches Ralph.  Definitely recommended for children.

A Most Inconvenient Marriage / Regina Jennings / 324 pages

     This new Christian fiction is a post Civil War novel set in the Ozarks of Missouri.
Abigail Stuart who worked as a nurse for the Union in St. Louis marries a dying Confederate soldier.  He wants to marry her so that she will take care of his invalid sister and his mother.  In return, she will have a home and a horse farm.  She takes that action since she is estranged from her family and her love is for horses which had been the family business.
     The story is about what happens when the "dead" soldier returns home from the war to find that he is married to a complete stranger.  Whom did she marry?  How will his fiancĂ©e take this news?  How will this drama play out?  And, yes, there is plenty of drama.  It is a very entertaining book and fairly fresh for a romance novel.  (The horse even gets drunk in one chapter)  The author also brings out the post war animosity that continued in Missouri for years after the battles ceased.  This is definitely recommended.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Blondes/Emily Schultz/384 pgs.

Hazel Hayes is a grad student, recently pregnant by a married man, and living in New York City. A strange illness breaks out, apparently only affecting blond women. Once infected, the women become violent. Not knowing the cause of the illness, blond women begin dyeing their hair, or completely shaving it off. Hazel, a red-head, falls into the "blond" category, and is under suspicion of having the "disease." The story is told in Hazel's voice, as she relays the situation to her unborn child. I found it fascinating--recommended!

The Fiery Cross / Diana Gabaldon / 976 pages

This is part 5 of Gabaldon's Outlander series.  This installment focuses a bit more on Brianna and Roger's relationship, though Jamie and Claire still feature prominently.  If you ever wondered what living in 18th century America would be like, this book gives a pretty good idea.  This is one of the best-written series I've ever read.  Even though the events described are absolutely fiction, it's hard to believe that they never happened and that these characters never lived. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Where They Found Her/Kimberly McCreight/326 pages

When an infant's body is found in the woods back behind Ridgedale University, Molly Sanderson gets the call to go investigate for the local newspaper. The other "real" reporters are unavailable, as is the paper's contributing editor, so Molly, the paper's freelance features reporter, is it. Any other story would be welcomed as her big break, but Molly delivered a stillborn baby a while ago and suffered from severe depression.

As she uneasily begins the questioning of authorities, she finds herself drawn into the mystery of whose baby it is and what is the significance of where she was dumped. Is the long ago accidental death of a teen in the same spot merely a coincidence?

Told from several difference viewpoints (almost a requirement these days) and covering different time periods, McCreight weaves a intricate story of murder, betrayal and tragedy.