Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Wrong Man: a Novel of Suspense/ Kate White/ 322 pages

The Wrong Man is a novel by Big Read author Kate White.  Kit Finn is on an island get away when she meets Mr. X.  Their one time encounter pans out to another dinner.  When Kit arrives at Mr. X's door, someone else is living there and he has the same name as X.  When bodies start to accumulate, Kit realizes her life is mixed up with Mr. X and an insider trading scheme that she will need to untangle.  This was a quick read with lots of twists and turns with a satisfying ending.  For more information and similar reads check out the SCCCLD website.

Who Let the Dog Out? An Andy Carpenter Mystery/ David Rosenfelt/ 324 pages

Who Let the Dog Out? is a mystery novel written by David Rosenfelt.  A dog is stolen from Andy's shelter.  With the help of a track-able collar Andy locates the dog next to a newly dead body.  Andy is sucked into defending the man accused of the murder.  In his attempt to free his client Andy is drawn into the dangerous game of diamond smuggling.  This was book was a quick read, although the solution of the 'major incident' was almost too quick and easy.  For more information and read a like choices see the SCCCLD website.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl/Jesse Andrews/295 pgs.

Greg Gaines is a senior in high school, and thinks he has it all figured out how to fly under the radar. He and his friend, Earl Jackson, make movies--and that's using the term "movies" loosely! Life is fine for Greg until his mom enlists his help when her friend, Denise, finds out that her daughter, Rachel, has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia. Rachel and Greg know each other, but have never had a very strong friendship. This is a story of teenage angst, humor, sadness--a plethora of teenage emotions. It also deals with sickness and death in a realistic manner. It was a good read.

Pretty Is/Maggie Mitchell/306 pgs.

In this debut novel, two girls, Carly May and Lois, both 12 years-old and from different parts of the United States, are abducted by a man they come to know as "Zed." They are found six weeks later, apparently physically unharmed. Carly was the beauty pageant queen, and Lois was the spelling bee whiz. Fast forward to the present--Carly May, now known as Chloe, is semi successful as an actress in bit parts; Lois,is an English professor and author of Deep in the Woods (written under the pseudonym of Lucy Ledger), a fictionalized account of her and Carly's abduction. Deep in the Woods is optioned as a movie, and "Chloe" has been given the role of a detective. Chloe and Lois are now 29 years-old, and will have the opportunity to discuss those fateful six weeks of their lives. Told in alternating chapters, Lois and Carly shed light on how they were abducted, and its aftermath. It's a suspenseful read, but the ending, in my opinion, wasn't very satisfying.

Naked Greed/Stuart Woods/307 pages

Stone Barrington's last few adventures have been a mix of politics and international intrigue. This time around, he's just facing off with a group of common criminals with connections with the New York mob. That must be such a letdown for him. No one gives him vast sums of money which has become a pretty common occurrence, but he does land a huge client for himself and Woodman & Weld. There's plenty of shooting, and someone close to Stone is a target as well.

Not the worst, or the best, of the series. I've always liked the character of Dino, Stone's former partner, but as he moved up the ranks right up to Commissioner (all the dumb luck can't be Stone's), he lost some of his appeal and sense of humor. I was glad to see some of the fun come back into the conversations with Stone and Dino. I keep hoping that Stone's meteoric rise will lead to an equally fast fall and we'll be treated to the Stone of old. It hasn't happened yet.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

In a Dark, Dark Wood / Ruth Ware / 310 pages

I received this  book as an ARC and would highly recommend it.  To say it is a page-turner would be a gross understatement.  Allow enough time to read straight through.  You will be most unhappy if you don't.  The book opens with Leonora Shaw running...hurt and hospitalized...then running again as time waffles.  She has been invited to the Hen (bachelorette) Party of a friend she hasn't seen or heard from in ten years.  Another best friend begs her to attend.  Nora is a writer, almost a recluse, and attends only to please Nina.  The Hen Party setting is bizarre as is the bride-to-be's best friend.  Tension mounts as mysterious footprints are discovered in the snow, a midnight intruder is discovered in the house, and a shotgun supposedly loaded with blanks, is used to kill someone.  Who is the murderer?

"People don't change...they just get punctilious about hiding their true selves."

Royal Wedding / Meg Cabot / 434 pages

Princess Amelia (Mia) Thermopolis of Genovia is "a college-educated, vital, attractive, newly-turned 26-year-old woman, with meaningful employment, a loving (if sometimes challenging) family, an amazing boyfriend, loads of great friends, and tons to offer the world."  Recently she has been under so much stress her left eyelid has been twitching pretty much nonstop.  She is still coping with her stepfather's death from a sudden heart attack just a year ago.  Her father was recently arrested for driving a racing car 180 miles per hour on the west side of New York.  His opponent for Prime Minister of Genovia is using this to mount protests in front of the embassy.  There are hordes of paparazzi gathered outside the consulate doors and following Mia wherever she goes.  She is obsessed with her current Rate a Royal rating and she is being stalked by the RoyalRabbleRouser who has vowed to kill her.  In addition to her ongoing conflicts with her Grandmere, social media has mounted a campaign questioning her relationship status with her childhood friend, Michael Moscovitz, a billionaire Jewish computer tech medical design engineer.  Dr. Delgado, the newly appointed royal physician, suggests she journal to relieve this tension. When Michael asked Mia to marry him, journal entries, text message exchanges, and press clippings relate the background story to the royal wedding.  Loved the literary references to Harry Potter and Hunger Games.

"Human beings were put on this planet to...leave it a better place than they found it."

The Scarlet Gospels / Clive Barker / 361 pages

"The great wound of the world was deepening..."  Pinhead, a priest of Hell, has waged war on mankind using magic and magicians as tools.  Harry D'Armour, an ex New York police officer and PI with extraordinary perceptions of beings from the other side, has dedicated his life to stopping evil whenever possible.  His many tats etches upon his body by Caz and his blind friend, Norma - who communicates with the dead, aid him on his crusade.  When Norma is taken by Pinhead to the very depths of Hell, Harry and his Harrowers follow to secure her release.  "The world-soul is sick...crazy sick, and if we don't each do our part and try to get to the root of its pain and burn it out, then everything is for nothing."  Although this was an interesting page-turner, I would have liked additional character development and less dismemberment. 

"War is but a continuation of diplomacy by alternate means."

The Stranger / Harlan Coben / 386 pages

This book's premise is only too true - "A well-placed lie can help build a wonderful life - and a secret has the same explosive power to destroy it."  A life built upon a lie is built upon treacherous, shifting sand and when the lies, deceptions, and moral wrongdoings are revealed lives are shattered and in some cases ended.  When The Stranger suggests to Adam Price that his wife faked a false pregnancy, he is, of course, incredulous..but he cannot help but investigate the possibility of her duplicity.  When he confronts her, she asks for several days and then disappears.  Adam is determined to find her... This edge-of-your-seat thriller is a compelling read.  The twists and turns in the plot, embezzlement, parental over-involvement in children's organized sports, and the transcendent power of love fully engage the reader and inspire him/her to ask "What if...?"

Cotton in My Sack / Lois Lenski / 191 pages / Deceased Author Challenge

This book was recommended in a Children's Literature workshop sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank in St. Louis.  Unfortunately, the book is out of print and only available at inflated prices.  Fortunately, we (SCCCLD) hold one copy in our collection.  Ms. Lenski well researched her story of sharecroppers and tenant cotton farmers in rural Arkansas and even visited with them to add detail and realistic interpersonal and familial relationships to her story.  Dealing in a non-pedantic way with a number of economic issues, Cotton in My Sack recounts a family too tough to be overcome by hardship.

Making Money / Terry Pratchett / 400 pages / Deceased Author Challenge

Postmaster General Moist von Lipwig has accomplished the seemingly impossible.  He has resurrected the defunct postal service of Ankh-Morpork and rehabbed the deplorable post office.  He has become rather attached to his position.  Lord Vetinari, however, has other plans for him.  He had engineered Moist's rescue from the hangman and placed him the postal position for his own nefarious reasons.  Now he wants Moist to run the bank.  When Moist turns him down, he finds himself heir to Mrs. Topsy (Turvy) Lavish, inheriting her dog who owns 51% shares (controlling) in the banking system.  For all practical intents and purposes, Moist is now in charge...again!  Of course, once again he succeeds in a most unorthodox manner.  This is great fun!  The audio is well executed, although one must listen carefully in order to catch every double-entendre and wise quip.

Mortal Stakes / Robert B. Parker / 328 pages / Deceased Author Challenge

This was one of the early Spenser books.  This Boston PI thriller lacks much of the panache of later books as Spenser's relationship with Susan has not been yet developed and Hawk is absent.  Spenser, a rabid baseball fan, is hired to investigate one the game's premier players.  Has the pitcher for the Boston Red Sox been throwing games?  If so, what is his motivation?  Is organized gambling involved?  Spenser uncovers the salient facts and handles the repercussions in the inimitable Spenser fashion.

Judas Goat / Robert B. Parker / 181 pages / Deceased Author Challenge

Spenser is hired by a wealthy paraplegic to find the murderers of his wife and daughter.  They were slain and he was grievously wounded by a terrorist group calling themselves Liberty.  Spenser will be paid $2500 per person and Dixon doesn't care if they are dead or alive.  Spenser tracks the gang around the globe, dispensing them as the situation demands.  The final showdown occurs at the Montreal Olympics.  With typical Robert B Parker irony, Hawk is instrumental in ending the reign of terror fashioned to promote preserving Africa for whites.

Haunted / James Herbert / 219 pages / Deceased Author Challenge

David Ash has quite a reputation for solving mysteries of the paranormal, or the irregular normal as he prefers to call it.  He works for the Psychical Research Institute.  His job is to debunk charlatans, often persons who claim to be mediums to separate people from their money, or to dispel rumors of hauntings.  A terrible incident in his childhood has compelled him to disprove the existence of ghosts.  When sent to the Edbrook Estate in rural Ravenwood, England, however, he is forced to confront the very real possibility that ghosts do exist.  This is a spine-tingling, edge-of-your-seat horror story, well told and extraordinarily well-written.

The Boxer and the Spy / Robert B. Parker / 210 pages / Deceased Author Challenge

Fifteen year old Terry Novak is convinced that a fellow high school student did not commit suicide.  Although his body washed ashore and had traces of steroids in it, Terry refuses to believe he was using.  When he shares his doubts with his best friend, Abby, they begin an investigation into local steroid use/sales, a questionable construction site, and a sandbagging principal.  This is an outstanding portrayal of bullies/jocks and their pack mentality, the sad reality of inappropriate authority figures,  the dedication, commitment, and life altering presence of appropriate authority figures, and the foibles and blessings of first love.

Sixkill / Robert B. Parker / 293 pages / Deceased Author Challenge

Zebulon Sixkill is a Cree Indian, a former football standout, a former bouncer, and current bodyguard for overweight actor Jumbo Nelson.  When Jumbo is accused of the rape and murder of a young woman, Boston police ask Spenser to investigate.  After Spenser takes down Z, Nelson fires him.  Spenser sees something in the young man and begins training him for better things.  With Hawk in Southeast Asia, Z proves to be an admirable stand in.  Lots of action and a mystery whose resolution is a bit of a surprise illuminate Spenser as a hero for the ages.

Little Men / Louisa May Alcott / 496 pages Deceased Author Challenge

This beloved American classic offer so much practical advice it perhaps should be shelved with the Self Help Books.  Mrs. Jo and Fritz have founded a school for boys...and girls.  Mama and Papa Bear are imminently kind, patient, understanding, and knowledgeable and the children entrusted to their care thrive...even the somewhat incorrigible Dan.  The antics of the children amuse; the parenting is exemplary; and the inspiration is world class.  Of particular note is Mrs. Jo's Conscience Book, a most excellent idea.

The book was penned by an American author born before the Civil War.

Friday, July 31, 2015

August Challenge

August Challenge

Ever hear of the 'Dog Days of Summer'?  

It refers to the conjunction of Sirius the Dog Star with the Sun.
This usually occurs from July 3 to August 11.

As we move into August and pass through the 'Dog Days' your challenge is to read a book where the dog is one of the main characters.  To help you get started with this challenge here are some ideas from Novelist.

If you take on this challenge in the summer heat, you will be rewarded with one point.

Final Appeal / Lisa Scottoline 269 p.

Final Appeal / Lisa Scottoline 269 p.

Lawyer, single mom Grace Rossi needs this job as a law clerk for a federal appeals court judge.   She doesn't expect a huge case involving the death penalty to land on her desk.  Nor does she expect a love affair with her boss.  But both do.  And when her lover commits suicide, she is caught unawares.  She feels in her gut that he would not have committed suicide but that he was murdered.  His death leads to the perception that he was involved in judicial bribery and corruption.  She gets involved in finding the murderer.  When she becomes a target, she realizes that her gut was right and that it is murder.  She has to find the evidence.   Scottoline creates strong feisty women with the ability to get in and out of hot water.

Breaking the Food Seduction / Neal Barnard 324 p. Self-help book

Breaking the Food Seduction / Neal Barnard 324 p.  Self-help book

Trying to stay on a healthy diet may be proving to be difficult. Dr. Neal Barnard has suggestions and the medical research to back them up.  He shares

  • insights into the chemical reasons behind your cravings, 
  • seven simple steps to break craving cycles and tame your appetite
  • important advice for kids' sugar cravings and how to halt them

He suggests following his plan for three weeks to break the craving cycle.  He has a chapter on dining out.  His recipes seem easy to prepare.  Read this if you want to lose weight, lower cholesterol, get energized, and quiet the food cravings.

Simply Magic / Mary Balogh 433 p.

Simply Magic / Mary Balogh 433 p.
Third in the Simply quartet that features the teachers from Miss Martin's school.

Susanna Osbourne is drawn to the incredibly handsome Viscount Whitleaf when she meets him at the home of former fellow teacher Frances Marshall (now the Countess of Edgecombe*).  He is drawn to her.  The more he pursues the more she withdraws.  His kindness and his charm gradually win her over especially when they agree to be friends.  This friendship grows and looks to lead them both to a place where they may not want to go.  He is not ready for marriage and nor is she because of the dark hurtful secret she carries.  As his love grows he wishes to marry her, but she still refuses.  She feels this secret will be an impossible roadblock to their happiness in marriage.  But still he persists, even to taking her advice to go home and talk to his strong-willed mother so that he can enjoy the life he wants.  Balogh writes of complex characters, interesting dialogue becoming humorous at times, and a delightful growing romance.  Look to see characters from previous stories appear.

*Simply Unforgettable

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Stalin's Daughter: the extraordinary and tumultuous life of Svetlana Alliluyeva/ Rosemary Sullivan/ 741 pages

Stalin's Daughter: the extraordinary and tumultuous life of Svetlana Alliluyeva, written by Rosemary Sullivan is an engaging biography of Stalin's daughter, Svetlana Alliuyeva.  Born in the USSR in 1926, Svetlana grows up in the Kremlin raised by her nanny.  In 1966, after years of  unhappiness and losses in the Soviet Union, she defects to the United States.  Life in the USA brings more sadness and difficulties for Svetlana.  This was an easy to read biography about an interesting woman living in an interesting time.  Near the end of her life, Svetlana has ties to  St. Louis, MO.  For more information and read a likes see SCCCLD website.

Grey/ E. L. James/ 558 pages

Grey is a follow up to the Fifty Shades of Grey series written by E. L. James.  The author has rewritten the first book in the series from Christian Grey's viewpoint.  There is very little new material and large portions of the previous book are repeated verbatim.  The author misses the chance to explain in any dept what Christian was like before he met Elena and why he insists that her actions saved him from himself.  Christian's unspoken thought are not nearly as entertaining as Ana's inner For more information and read a likes visit the SCCCLD website.

The Passion of the Purple Plumeria / Lauren Willig / 468 p.

     This story departs from the French spies that inundated the past novels in the series.
In fact the main character is an older spinster, Gwendolyn Meadows.  (Old means in her forties).  Back in 1805, that was quite old.  She has been the chaperone of the Pink Carnation Jane Wooleston, but things are changing.  Jane's sister is missing from her school.  Is this connected to French spies?  Gwen meets the father of the other missing girl and he is a retired East India Company soldier.  Hmm.  Finally a romance for the older readers.  He is not really that old; he's fifty-five and in "good shape." 
     It is an interesting story and keeps the reader's attention as the many different threads are woven into one story.  The back story about the present day grad student is also advancing so that it should conclude possibly in the book that is coming out this fall.
Can't wait for that one.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Slightly Dangerous / Mary Balogh 415 p.

Slightly Dangerous / Mary Balogh 415 p.

The final installment of the Bedwyn saga finds Wulfric Bedwyn accepting an invitation to a sedate  house party.  Once there, the party changes character into one where young debs are seeking husbands.  The icy cold Duke of Bewcastle knows how to keep himself aloof from that game.  Not even the greatest beauty can interest him.  One woman did catch his eye without even trying.  She almost the opposite of him.  She is outgoing, fun-loving, and a widow.  She is definitely not interested in a husband.  When he returns home, he finds Mrs. Derrick coming to mind more and more.  So much so that he fills his house with guests and family so as to include her there.  This is one woman who can hold her own with him.  And the Bedwyn siblings set out to help.  A most fun read, filled witty conversations and humorous situations.

Blessings / Anna Quindlen 237 p.

Blessings / Anna Quindlen 237 p.
A young nervous couple drop off a baby at the garage for the Blessing estate.  Skip Cuddy, just released from prison, has vowed not to return to his old friends, is the caretaker at Blessing.  He takes on the baby as his own.  He names her Faith and has quite a few moments of fatherhood as he learns to care for her; ultimately developing into a wonderful father, all the while keeping Faith a secret.   Lydia Blessing discovers the infant and works with Skip to keep her a secret.  They make quite the pair, the rich octogenarian and the poor caretaker.  There are many secrets at Blessing and these are slowly revealed.  Quindlen creates compelling characters whose decisions have influenced theirs and others lives.

Mixed Signals / Liz Curtis Higgs 370 p.

Mixed Signals / Liz Curtis Higgs 370 p.

Belle O'Brien, a radio personality with a warm voice, is ready to change stations.  Her station has changed formats and when an offer comes from her former boss Patrick Reese, she takes it.  She falls for the historic town of Abingdon, Virginia.  She'd like to get married but the prospects are hard to find in a small town.  She's drawn to Patrick Reese, who launched her career way back when, and the new owner of WPER.  She keeps fumbling equipment around the station broadcast engineer, David Cahill.  Then there is the local Methodist minister in town.  Patrick Reese blows his relationship with Belle.  He does start one with Belle's landlady.  A humorous sparkling Christian romance is a fun read.

Summer At Willow Lake / Susan Wiggs 477 p.

Summer At Willow Lake / Susan Wiggs 477 p.

Olivia Bellamy returns to her family's old resort camp in the Catskills to spruce up the camp for her grandparents.  She runs into an old flame, Connor Davis, and is forced to hire him as a contractor.   She is still aware of him; but she was really hurt.  She's keeping up her guard.   Life was and is not simple for Connor.  His father was an alcoholic and Connor did his best to take care of him.  Now he is taking care of his half-brother.  Her family comes to help.  A lot going on and some of it will be between Olivia and Connor.

Lover Avenged (Black Dagger Brotherhood Bk. 7) / J.R. Ward / 527 pgs

Book #7, in the Black Dagger Brotherhood Series, focuses on (until now) a side character in the Brotherhood universe.

Rehvenge (aka Rehv, and The Reverend) is a lucrative businessman, owning several clubs and restaurants, as well as a major drug/crime boss in the Vampire World.  However, his powerful empire can come crashing down if his secret that he is half Vampire and Half "Symphath" is revealed to the Vampire Brotherhood; and someone is threatening to do just that.

To make matters worse, Rehvenge falls in love with a kind-hearted, and very patient Vampire, Ehlena, whom he really wants to change his ways for.  But how will naive, innocent Ehlena take it when she finds out the whole truth about Rehvenge's lineage and lifestyle?

I didn't think anyone could convince me to care about a criminal Kingpin, but the author, JR Ward, found a way!

Golden Son (Red Rising Bk. 2) / Pierce Brown / 446 pgs

"Golden Son continues the stunning saga of Darrow, a rebel forged by tragedy, battling to lead his oppressed people to freedom from the overlords of a brutal elitist future built on lies. Now fully embedded among the Gold ruling class, Darrow continues his work to bring down Society from within."----Provided by publisher.

I really, really wanted to like this book; and like the first book "Red Rising", I felt like I had to "work" through the first third to half way through, to get to the real good stuff.  In "Golden Son", much of the book has the main character, Darrow, navigating the elite's political system, plotting his next move.  If you are interested in reading political intrigue stories, with a lot of dealing, secrets, lies, backstabbing, and nobody reveling their actual agenda; then this book is for you.  The rest will have to suffer through as the main character's plans change over and over again as characters change sides, loyalties, agendas, or just plain die off.  I guess this is suppose to be considered as "plot twists", but I just found them frustrating and made the plot move along slower than it needed.

Still, I enjoyed the characters and some of the political maneuvering (as most are much more likable then the psychos in Game of Thrones).  However, once the actual war starts, the author's talent in writing action-packed battles and strategy scenes really comes through.

And, of course, a planned trilogy can never end Book 2 without a cliffhanger ending.
Book 3, "Morning Star" comes out Feb. 9, 2016!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog / Lisa Scottoline 359 p.

Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog / Lisa Scottoline 359 p.

This nonfiction work is a compilation of the Chit Wit column Lisa Scottoline writes for the Philadelphia Inquirer.  She tackles topics that are so familiar to real life like mother-daughter talks, spanx, pets, and going braless to the ER.  Be prepared to LOL.  Good news there are sequels.

Everywhere that Mary Went / Lisa Scottoline 359 p.

Everywhere that Mary Went / Lisa Scottoline 359 p.

First in the Rosato and Associates series.

Mary DiNunzio piles up tons of billable hours on her road to making partner in a top corporate law firm in Philadelphia.   Her goal is just in reach when crank phone calls she's been receiving for sometime escalate.  The phone rings as soon as she gets to work and then again as soon as she gets home.  She cannot shake the feeling that someone is following her.  When the notes arrive in inner office mail, she looks at her co-workers.  She breaks off relationship with Ned, her friend from law school (his father runs a rival law firm).  As the danger escalates, Mary becomes paranoid and begins to believe that the hit-and-run accident that killed her husband is connected to the accident that killed her secretary.  Twists and turns in the plot keep the suspense high.

Mr. Revere and I / Robert Lawson 152 p. Deceased author Told from Animals point of view

Mr. Revere and I / Robert Lawson 152 p.  Deceased author Told from Animals point of view

Mr. Paul Revere's horse tells of the story of the American Revolution with charm and wit.  Once a member of the "King's" army, Sherry is destined for the glue factory when Sam Adams rescues her.  She becomes member of the Sons of Liberty under her new master Paul Revere.  Sherry and Revere made many rides, traveling to New York and Philadelphia to report on the political activities in Boston.   What a delightful way to learn of Revere's role in the founding of the United States.

Wonderful Wizard of Oz / L. Frank Baum 267 p. Dead author + 100 yrs old

Wonderful Wizard of Oz / L. Frank Baum 267 p.   Dead author + 100 yrs old

Thanks to the 1939 movie starring Judy Garland, many know the story of Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  Dorothy is swept to the Land of Oz via a whirling, twirling, spinning tornado ride, only to land on the wicked witch.  Glenda comes and gives her a kiss that gives her a welcome to some of the many inhabitants of Oz. Following the yellow brick road sends her on a series of adventures that keeps one on the edge of one's chair until Dorothy returns home.  There are  many many books that followed (upwards of 30 in the series) to continue the story of Munchkins, Scarecrow, and Cowardly Lion.

Slight Trick of the Mind / Mitch Cullin 253 p.

Slight Trick of the Mind / Mitch Cullin 253 p.

World War II has ended.  Sherlock Holmes is living out his retirement in a remote Sussex farmhouse.  He is experiencing the typical infirmities that a ninety-three-year-old experiences, difficulty moving around, forgetfulness, and cognitive decline.  He has just returned from a long trip to Japan, a place he had wanted to visit.  There he discovers his host is a Holmes aficionado.  He has a secret hidden agenda with Holmes.  He wants to know about his father who sought Holmes advice ever so long ago.

While gone he leaves his apiary in the care of his housekeeper's young son Roger.  Roger is a most respectful, patient young boy.  His care of the bees is exceptional.  However, he does enter Holmes' attic retreat where he reads an unfinished work about Mrs. Keller.  He checks back hoping to read the end of the case.

Readers expecting to see Holmes deductive powers at work may be disappointed.   This is more a look at the person of Holmes.

Monday, July 27, 2015

A Girl Undone/Catherine Linka/296 pgs.

This is the sequel to Linka's,  A Girl Called Fearless. Aveline Felicity Reveare (a.k.a. Avie) is still on the run from her fiance, Jessop Hawkins, with whom she has a marriage Contract. Avie's father basically sold her into marriage with Hawkins in order to save his company. Avie is on the run from Hawkins, and carries with her information that will bring down many high-level government officials. Will she be able to get the information into the right hands, and who can she really trust? It's a fast moving, exciting sequel to A Girl Called Fearless. Highly recommended!

Summer Secrets/Jane Green/308 pages

Cat Coombs is in her twenties, a journalist and a party regular. She grew up with a distant father and her depressed, American mother in England. She always knew she was a disappointment to her father, but she never knew why. After his death and a particularly bad hangover, her mother reveals a secret that gives Cat hope for a better family life. But her trip to Nantucket doesn't go like she hopes and her life in England goes on. Years later, another trip to Nantucket, this time to make amends, opens up a surprise relationship and leads her back to another one.

I don't know anything about Jane Green, but this book and it's intimate knowledge about alcoholics and AA seems very close to her. I almost wouldn't call it a summer read or beach book just because it's such a heavy subject. But with its focus on relationships and forgiveness, it is just what most people want from summer book.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Go Set a Watchman/Harper Lee/278 pgs.

The setting, as in To Kill a Mockingbird, is Maycomb, Alabama. Jean Louise Finch (a.k.a. Scout) has returned from New York for a visit with her dad, Atticus, who is now in his seventies. She is now 26 years-old, and is surprised by the attitude her hometown has towards the "Negroes." She is disheartened by what she perceives as Atticus's "bigotry." I can see what the author is trying to get across with this novel, but I found Atticus a much more believable character than the grown up Scout.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Deception: A Novel/ Randy C. Alcorn/ 486 pages

Deception: A Novel  is part of a trilogy of sorts written by Randy C. Alcorn.    Deception focuses on Ollie Chandler, a detective with the Portland, Oregon police department.  The murder of a prominent college professor results in too many suspects and too many alibis.  All the clues point to the murder being one the detectives.  Is Ollie being setup to take a fall?  Just how deep in the department does the deception go.  This was an interesting read that will keep you wondering until the end.  For more information about this book and the other two in the trilogy see the  SCCCLD website.

Those Girls/Lauren Saft/330 pgs.

Debut novelist Lauren Saft takes the reader through junior year of high school for three friends:Alexandra Holbrook, Veronica Collins, and Mollie Finn. Alex and Mollie have been friends since grade school, with Veronica becoming part of the group when she moved into town in fifth grade. Each chapter is written in one of the girls' voices. The book consists of drinking, some drugs, sex, partying--and trying to establish one's own identity. It's part "Clueless" and part "Mean Girls"--not a very good read. I personally hope it's not an accurate portrayal of today's 16 or 17 year-old girls--or that young adults reading this book feel that there is something wrong with them if they aren't like one of these characters.

The Mask:a Vanessa Michael Munroe Novel/344 pgs.

Vanessa Michael Munroe, when working undercover as "Michael," knows how to ferret out information and keep herself safe, even though she encounters the deadliest situations. In this go around, Michael's lover, Miles Bradford, has been brought in as a security consultant for a high-tech Japanese company. When Miles is accused of murdering a company employee, it is up to Michael to discover the truth that will gain Miles his freedom. There is drama, action, double crossing, etc., which makes for a fast, compelling read. If you are a fan of Lisbeth Salander (Girl With the Dragon Tatoo), you will want to read this series! Highly recommended!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

In the Dark Places / Peter Robinson / 326 pages

In this Inspector Banks novel we have two cases that quickly and neatly dovetail into one.  An expensive tractor is stolen from a wealthy weekend farmer while he and his wife are away on vacation.  There have been a rash of such rural robberies and the detectives are determined to end them.  Almost simultaneously, a wounded war veteran and his dog discover blood and remains in an abandoned air hangar.  As improbable as it seems the cases are related.  A local man is missing and believed to possess information critical to the case's solution.  An accident on a hazardous pass provides an incredibly fortuitous clue.  This is an engaging read, remarkable for its Harry Potter - look alike detective; the relationship between Terry Gilchrist (the veteran) and Winsome (one of the detectives); and the plethora of British terms and locales sprinkled throughout.

Cupcakes, Trinkets, and Other Deadly Magic / Meghan Ciana Doidge / 190 pages

Dowser Series Book 1
I almost felt as if I were reading a tamed-down, tongue-in-cheek parody of the Twilight saga with this one.  We have gorgeous vampires and werewolves too scrumptious to describe...and a heroine who is attracted to both.  We also have a zombie and to references to cupcakes, chocolate, and a sundry baked goods that if your appetites are not aroused, you must be numbered among the dead...or undead.  We have a half-witch in training who becomes involved in the investigation of multiple deaths in the neighborhood.  Her skills as a dowser are emphatically requested.  Although the perpetrator seems unlikely, this reader had him/her pegged from the beginning.

"Not making a choice is a choice in itself."

Eight Cousins: or the Aunt Hill / Louisa May Alcott / Deceased Author Challenge

When Rose Campbell is orphaned, she is sent to the Aunt Hill where her Uncle Alec - a bachelor, her six aunts, and seven boy cousins live.  Rose is pale and somewhat frail.  Her overprotective aunts want to coddle and shield her, but as Uncle Alec is her guardian, he insists that she spend an abundance of time outdoors, eat often, and enjoy many pursuits with her rowdy cousins.  Although the aunts are appalled and object strenuously, saying to do so would be harmful for Rose, Alec - a doctor, insists.  All agree to let Alec have his way for one year...a year filled with adventure, fun, love, and some misfortune.  At year's end, Uncle Alec and all the aunts realize that Alec's ideas were sound and beneficial.  A compromise is reached regarding Rose's habitation that pleases all.

This book was written by an American author born before the Civil War.

Little Women / Louisa May Alcott / 469 pages / Deceased Author Challenge

Rave reviews go to this audio of the classic Little Women.  Performed by a cast of voices and accompanied by delightful music and vocal accompaniment, we are treated to a vivid portrait of New England at the time of the Civil War and the hardship of a father gone to the front; serious illness; and the foibles of growing up and romance for the four intrepid March sisters - Meg, Jo, Amy, and Beth.  The faith, generosity, family cohesiveness, desire to do the right thing, and ability to find happiness in a difficult time recommend this quick read to all in need of a pick me up or a return to a simpler, though not necessarily easier time.

This book was written by an American author born before the Civil War.

Sea Change / Robert B. Parker / 295 pages / Deceased Author Challenge

Police Chief Jesse Stone must investigate when a woman's partially decomposed body washes ashore in Paradise.  Identifying the corpse as Florence Horvath, an attractive recently divorced heiress from Florida is just the beginning.  Jesse's investigations uncover a steamy sex-on-yachts club involving wealthy men, under-aged girls, and video cameras.  Florence was a willing, enthusiastic participant.  If it wasn't someone in the club who caused her death, who did?  Florence's twin sisters, Corliss and Claudia provide invaluable, horrifying information leading to the identity of the killer.

Dodger / Terry Pratchet / 360 pages / Deceased Author Challenge

According to the author, Dodger is a fantasy based on reality.  Mr. Pratchet incorporated prominent research from the time detailing the deplorable conditions of the poor in London as rapid population growth stressed the city's resources.  Dodger is a seventeen year old street urchin in Victorian England.  He scours the sewers of London in search of coin or saleable objects to sustain himself.  Solomon, a wise and kindly Jewish bloke, is Dodger's protector and best friend.  When Dodger encounters a young lady being set upon in the streets, he rushes to her aid.  Her story is most interesting and puts her life and Dodger's in jeopardy.  As Dodger attempts to spruce himself up, he is nearly killed by the notorious barber, Sweeny Todd.  Dodger does not hold this attempted murder against him, however, (There are several other bodies in the basement.) but insists that the war is to blame, not Todd.  Dodger frequently encounters Charles Dickens and Sir Robert Peale in his scrambles and his ingenuity provides for Simplicity's safe passage.  If you can read/listen to this delightful tale without laughing or at least smiling, I would be very surprised.

Sudden Mischief / Robert B. Parker / 288 pages / Deceased Author Challenge

This is a story about a messed-up, murdering cad - one Brad Sterling, Susan Silverman's ex-husband.  When Brad is charged with sexual harassment and a lawsuit is filed by four women, he turns to Susan (Boston PI Spenser's girlfriend) for help - money.  Susan asks Spenser to investigate and ameliorate the charges if at all possible.  In the course of his investigation, Spenser uncovers problems with Galapalooza, a fundraiser organized by Brad and doubts the veracity of the sexual harassment claims.  A murder occurs with a horrifying detail; Brad disappears; and Spenser and Hawk are repeatedly threatened.  As always, Spenser succeeds, but what makes this Spenser novel of particular interest is Spenser's relationship with Susan.  We see Spenser as a keeper - sensitive, understanding, intuitive, and self-sacrificing.

Hundred-Dollar Baby / Robert B. Parker / 291 pages / Deceased Author Challenge

Years ago Spenser had rescued April Kyle from a terrible family life and prostitution.  He had left her in the hands of a  well-to-do business woman, a madam if you will.  April enjoyed her life but went to seek Spenser's help when she is threatened.  Someone is trying to take over her business.  When several of April's girls are beaten, Spenser realizes that April's problems are not imaginary.  As he attempts to uncover the perpetrators, he and Hawk are threatened.  Murder magnifies the problem and the guilty party is revealed.  Joe Mantegna does an excellent job narrating this audio book - especially the voice of Hawk.  This is an entertaining who-done-it with Spenser as Sir Galahad and a rather transparent damsel-in-distress.  Warning:  Objectionable language!!

Weedflower / Cynthia Kadohata / 260 pages / Gardening & 20th Century Historic Fiction Challenges

Twelve year old Somiko and her family grow carnations and chrysanthemums.  She has a dream to one day own a flower shop of her own.  When the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, a fear-filled Congress passes laws to inter Japanese residents in the U.S.   Somiko's family is forced to relocate, loses their farm, and are separated.  Despite harsh time, Somiko retains her love of beauty, flowers, and family.  This is an excellent account of the treatment of and reaction to Japanese internment during World War II and the ever-present prejudice and discrimination afforded to those who are different.

Carney's House Party / Maud Hart Lovelace / 281 pages / Deceased Author Challenge

Carney's House Party is a delightful excursion into the past, a much simpler time, and the history and traditions of Vassar Female College.  Caroline (Carney) Sibley, from Deep Valley, Minnesota, debates the merits of inviting her wealthy Eastern roommate to her house party this coming summer.  It is a good thing that she does and a swell time is had by all.  The extensive character development, non-pedantic prose, and well-researched period details make the reader a welcome participant in the daily life and romantic interests of a time gone by.

"What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"

This book was published in 1949, the year of my birth.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

SCCCLD July Challenge:

Summer is a time for light fluffy reads on the beach or at the pool, 

but that's not much of a challenge, so....

For the July Challenge

Read a book by an American Author born before the Civil War!

To help get you started I've included a link to a list of Early American Authors.

Earn one extra point for each book that you read for this challenge!

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Rumor/Elin Hilderbrand/374 pages

Madeline and Grace have been best friends for 20 years. Grace lives a very pampered and expensive existence with her husband, Nantucket real estate mogul Eddie, and twin daughters, Allegra and Hope. Madeline's life is much more low key with local pilot husband Trevor and son Brick. While Madeline is a moderately successful author, Grace's passion is her hens and her spectacular gardens. Nantucket is a small island and an even smaller community, so when the rumors start to fly about both ladies and their families, everyone gets involved, but the most scandalous events might be the ones no one guessed.

Which is worse: a rumor that is true, one that isn't or one, true or not, attributed to someone erroneously? While Hilderbrand's books will never be touted as great literature, they are entertaining and present some interesting questions. Great summer read!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Lover Unleashed (Black Dagger Brotherhood #9) / J.R. Ward / 489 pgs

Payne, the twin sister of Brotherhood member, Vishous, suffers an injury that leaves her paralyzed.  Vishous, has to swallow his pride and reach out to his wife's ex-lover (and boss) Dr. Manuel Manello to ask him to help his sister.  Tempers and emotions run high which makes for an enjoyable read, as the reader can sit back and think, "yeah, at least my family life is not THAT messed-up-crazy".

Of Course! Payne and Dr. Manuel "hook up", and through Dr. Manny's "healing", Payne regains the ability to walk.  (now that is some kind of special healing!).  There is also a side story about a new group of villains that are entering into the series.  We shall see how this new threat plays out over the next few books.

Steamy, funny, and full of arguing, this was a fun read.  And although the healing through love bit was trite; I did find it refreshing that the characters Payne and Manny explored the possibility of living their lives with Payne remaining paralyzed.  The time Payne spends in her paralyzed state showed the reader that she can still carry on normal activities and relations and that she could be happy this way too.  

Winger / Andrew Smith / 438 pgs

Ryan Dean West is a smart 14 year old who attends a boarding school and plays on the Rugby team.  He has been placed in the dorm for "troublemakers" and get the school's biggest bully as his roommate.  He is also in love with his best friend Annie, who just thinks of him as a little kid.

The novel is a slice-of-life drama following Ryan Dean and his friends through their funny pranks, dating, rivalries & jealousies, and the rough world of boy culture.

The book reminded me of "The Chocolate War" with fewer references to masturbation (although still in there). I remember the interactions between the male students feeling similar to what I was reading in "Winger". The 40 years between book and it looks like some things in human nature do not change.

For Young Adults (ages 13 and up)

An Echo in the Bone / Diana Gabaldon / 820 pages

Having almost caught up with the author of the Outlander series, I can safely say this has been the most enjoyable series to read.  I find it amazing that while describing time travel and more bad luck than any one family should ever have to contend with, the author keeps the characters themselves realistic.  Beware reading further for spoilers.

One thread that has been running through the last few books was whether young Ian would ever return home - in this book he finally does.  Relations between the Frasers and John Grey come to a head.  While resolving some cliffhangers from past books, this one opened up several new cliffhangers.  I can't wait to see how they are resolved.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up / Marie Kondo / 4 discs (213 pages)

The first time I saw the title I thought the author must be rather arrogant to think she knew anything that would really change my life.  After running across the title several times and having access to the CDs, I finally decided to listen.  I'm still of two minds on the worth of this book and the Kon-Mari method. 

Some good points were that the narrator had a pleasant voice and the author has a good sense of humor, leading me to believe the title might be a bit tongue-in-cheek.  There was a lot of good advice about how to begin getting rid of things and organizing what was left.  If you need advice on how to get started, this book serves that function well.  The portion of the book I found useful was about 30%.

There was also a lot about the author's personal experiences.  She told stories about being a little girl in school organizing the classroom instead of playing at recess.  She also suggests talking to each item and thanking it for its use, and greeting the house each time you come home.  I'm not sure how useful that advice is, but perhaps it's better than talking to yourself while sorting and organizing.

The most important thing I got out of this book was to give myself permission to let go of things I didn't need.  Immediately after finishing the last CD, I went home and cleared out 4 trash bags of clothes and shoes I no longer needed.  I won't argue with those kind of results.