Saturday, December 20, 2014

Close to Home by Lisa Jackson 424 pages

This book is full of chills and thrills.  Sarah McAdams has returned to the shores of the Columbia River in Oregon to restore the old family Victorian home.  She brings along her 2 daughters who, to say the least, are not thrilled at the prospect.  Young Gracie is open to the spirits who dwell in the house, while teenage Jade can only focus on the boyfriend she left behind in Vancouver.  Between the lurid family histories, the ghosts inhabiting the house, the teenage girls being abducted from the streets, and Sarah's reconnection with the various characters from her past, family and otherwise, this book will keep you entertained until the end.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride, 291 pages

It took me months to read this book because I rarely found time to sit and read.  However, that is not a reflection on the book.  It was totally engrossing every time I sat down to read it.

James McBride is one of twelve children born to Ruth McBride Jordan in the projects in New York City.

The book alternates between chapters written by James, and chapters dictated by Ruth.  When James was a child his mother never admitted to being white.  She was born an Orthodox Jew named Rachel Shilsky.  Her family left Poland and emigrated to America when she was a child.  Her father was a rabbi who also operated a general store in Virginia.  Family life was difficult.

Rachel left Virginia after high school and started life again in New York City in the early 1940s.  There she fell in love with James McBride, a black man.  She left the Jewish faith and became Ruth.  Her first husband died when she was pregnant with their eighth child (James).  A few years later she fell in love again and married Hunter Jordan, with whom she had four more children.  Hunter died when James was a teenager.

Ruth's will helped her leave her past and raise her twelve children, all of whom went to college and are successful professionals.  Ruth was a woman who never gave up or in.  I'm not doing this powerful book justice.  Read it for yourself and see.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Mermaids in the Basement by Michael Lee West, 291 pages

"Mermaids in the Basement" is a light novel about the deep south.  Renata's mother has recently died and her high-profile boyfriend seems to be having a high-profile affair on a movie set in Ireland.  Renata is depressed and is suffering from writer's block.  She leaves the coast of North Carolina to go visit her grandmother in Alabama.

Once in Alabama, she also reconnects with her father and her past.  This may be a book about the deep south, but the book itself isn't very deep.  Sometimes that's okay and this one one of those times.  I'm not sure I'll pick up another book by Michael Lee West, but I don't regret the time spent relaxing with this one.

The Secret Place by Tana French 452 pages

Tana French is one of my new favorite authors and this book has received quite the hype, but frankly, I am disappointed.  This is the story of the lives of privileged teens in private schools.  The girls' school is St. Kilda's and the boys' school is St. Colm's.  There has been a murder of a St. Colm's boy on the grounds of St. Kilda's.  It has gone unsolved for a year.  Then, a picture of the boy, Chris Harper, with a note saying “I know who killed him", is posted to the Secret Place, a special bulletin board in an alcove at St. Kilda's where the girls can anonymously pin their innermost secrets.  Cold Case Detective Stephen Moran brings it to the attention of the acerbic Murder Squad Detective Antoinette Conway and together they try to solve the murder.  Good luck to them, navigating the secrets and emotions of teenage girls and hormonal boys.  Both schools are private, religious boarding schools but the keen eyes of nuns and priests alike does not keep the students from sneaking out at night, meeting to have sex, drink, party.  Not to mention the cruelty of the "mean" girls at St. Kilda's and the boys at St. Colm's.  My beef with the author is that there is enough angst, secrets and emotions involved with teens this age, without bringing in the hint of magical powers.  Don't get me wrong, I liked the book.  However, I much preferred some of her previous stories to this.  

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Gray Mountain by John Grisham, 384 pages

This is a John Grisham novel that deals with the issue of Mountain Top Removal coal mining.  If you are a fan of big business, don't read this book.  It will just irritate you.  On the other hand, if you don't mind considering that big business might deem their bottom line more important than say, the people living in the communities where they do business, then sit down and enjoy the story.

The year is 2008 and Samantha Kofer is a hotshot young lawyer working in the real estate department of a mega law firm in New York City.  Samantha loses her job as a result of the financial crash and is told if she interns for a non-profit agency for one year she will keep her health insurance and have the prospect of returning to the firm.  Samantha ends up working for Legal Aid in Brady, Virginia, deep in Appalachia.

There she learns that she can truly assist people in need and she's darned good in a courtroom.  She also gets involved in some pretty nasty business involving coal companies, environmental disasters and black lung disease.

My beef with this book is that many of the story lines were not resolved.  I hope that means that John Grisham will return to Samantha and Brady, Virginia in another book.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

I"ll Drink to That by Betty Halbreich 272 pages

The title of this book makes it sound like it might be about a woman with issues with alcohol, when in fact it is about a woman who runs the personal shopping department of Bergdorf Goodman in NYC. The title refers to her raising a toast to her helping women dress well.

The author, Betty Halbreich, was a coddled wife and mother until her marriage to a serial adulterer ended.  She took time to hit rock bottom emotionally and then moved on with her life.  Being offered the job at Bergdorf gave her a place to grow into herself.

This book will be interesting to anyone who has a passion for fashion.  Halbreich’s comments on the changes that have occurred over the forty years of her employment are sharp and on target.  She dresses celebrities, wealthy clients from all over the world, and regular shoppers.  Throughout the book she stresses that she never just sells the most expensive dress or accessory just for the price.

I found this book a lot of fun to read.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Have a Nice Guilt Trip by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella 275 pages

Lisa Scottoline, author of the Rosato & Associates mystery series, is one of my favorite authors.  This is a collection of essays by mother and daughter about their lives.  The title caught my eye because, Lord knows, I have enough Catholic guilt to fill a book myself!  Lisa is at times self-deprecating but more often humorous.  You learn very quickly she loves dogs, chocolate cake, her Mother Mary, her Italian heritage and has strong negative feelings about getting old and her 2 ex-husbands.  A cute read but I think this will probably be the only one in the series I will read.  Just not my style.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Kiss, Kill, Vanish, A YA novel by Jessica Martinez 422 pages

Seventeen year old Valentina Cruz lives a live of luxury in Miami-- private school, credit cards with no limits, yachts, and works of art.  Then one night, after sharing a kiss with her hot boyfriend, her world shatters.  She runs away to Montreal and anonymity.  She is willing to accept her temporary life of poverty while Emelio saves for their future.  But things are not always as they seem.  When she is forced to see the truth about her life with a new clarity, she realizes her whole life is based on untruths, ugly lies.  And only she has the power to change it.  

Private India: A Ciy on Fire by James Patterson and Ashwin Sanghi 352 Pages

I have never been to India and if I were to rely on this book as a travel guide to Mumbai, I would NEVER go!  This book is the latest in the "Private" series.  Jack Morgan has opened the Mumbai branch of this elite detective agency. Someone is strangling seemingly random women with yellow scarves.  It is up to Santosh Wagh and the rest of his Private crew to discover how these ritualistic murders are related before it is too late, perhaps for one of their own, perhaps for all of Mumbai.

The author paints this city teeming with 13 million inhabitants as crowded, dirty, and smelly.  A place where no one is honest and anything or anyone is available, for a price.  Beware, the final chapter takes place at the Tower of Silence, a green oasis within the concrete hustle and bustle of Mumbai  A place were the poor of Mumbai leave their dead, their bodies laid out to be shredded and eaten by the circling vultures, the bones bleached by the sun and left to disintegrate into a fine powder.

Yeah, don't think I will be visiting anytime soon

Betrayed by Lisa Scottoline 340 pages

Oh My Gosh!  I was stressed out just reading this book!  Judy Carrier is the main character in this latest novel about the all woman Rosato and Associates law firm.  Judy's beloved Aunt Barb has kept her breast cancer diagnosis secret from Judy and her mother until she realizes she will need surgery -- and let's just say this is the least of the secrets she is keeping.  Meanwhile, Judy's live-in boyfriend, Frank, is being irresponsible and jeapordizing their relationship.  Things are not going well at work when senior partner Bennie Rosato wants Judy to handle some income creating work that Judy's uncomfortable handling.  But what really puts Judy's life in danger is when she starts investigating the sudden death of Aunt Barb's best friend, Iris, an illegal immigrant.  The discovery of large sums of money hidden all over Aunt Barb's house sends Judy into the shadowy world of vulnerable people who cannot go to the police when preyed upon by the ruthless.  All this happens in the space of along weekend!!!  YIKES!