Monday, June 30, 2014

The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths 371 pages

 Archaeologist Ruth Galloway on a dig at Norwich Castle has discovered the remains of Mother Hook—a back in the day type bogeyman or bogeywoman to be more precise—who was hanged in the 1800’s for the murder of five children. Meanwhile the married father of her child DCI Harry Nelson investigates the deaths of three children in one family. And if that wasn’t enough a child is abducted and then another.

As bad as all this sounds, it really isn’t. One of the things I love most about this series is the lack of gore and minimal violence. The Outcast Dead is a fascinating read with odd and likeable characters that just keep getting better in each successive book in the series. I say this a lot but to truly appreciate the characters and their relation to each other it is best to start at the beginning of the series with The Crossing Places.  Every one of Elly Griffiths books has been a one sitting read for me.

A Dark and Twisted Tide by Sharon Bolton 444 pages

 Lacy Flint previously a detective on the Lewisham Major Investigation Team is now back in uniform as a marine policing agent who patrols the river Thames. While out swimming she discovers a body covered in a shroud. Further investigation uncovers more bodies, a stalker, ties to illegal immigrants and much more.

While A Dark and Twisted Tide could be a stand-alone read I would recommend starting with Now You See Me the first in the Lacy Flint series. Lacey has evolved from a secretive, standoffish loner into well, a little less secretive, standoffish loner who is beginning to let others in.

This really is an excellent series, one of those clear-the-decks beforehand books so you can read undisturbed from beginning to end.

Burning Blue by Paul Griffin 291 pages


This books is a Young Adult Gateway Nominee for 2014-2015 and is the first book by Paul Griffin I have read.  Nicole Castro is the perfect teen.  Beautiful, inside and out, she is a senior in high school and very popular.  Then one day, she is attacked in the hall way and acid is thrown in her face, destroying one side.  She does not see the attacker.  In an instant her world changes.  How do you go on?  How do you continue through school when everyone sees you differently?  You are the same inside!  Nicole is befriended by social outcast Jay Nazzaro.  Jay has been labeled a freak because he has seizures, sometimes publicly.  But Jay is a tech whiz kid and can hack into anything.  He makes it his personal mission to find out who did this to Nicole.  What he discovers is the terrible truth about what some people will do to hold on to those they love.  Look out!  All is not as it seems.

Delicious by Ruth Reichl 374 pages

Although Ruth Reichl is a New York Times best-selling author for her cookbooks, this is her debut novel, and it is a good one! Attention all you foodies, you will love this book!

Billie Breslin has an unusual gift, the perfect palate. She can taste a morsel of food and pick out each and every spice used to make that food. She and her sister, Genie, started their own bakery when Billie was only 10-years-old. They were famous for their wedding cakes, Genie would design them and Billie would create the recipes. But tragedy strikes and Billie loses the desire to cook. Instead, she travels to New York to work for the food magazine, "Delicious!", an iconic food magazine. Billie mans the guarantee hot line. Delicious! guarantees all their recipes and Billie must decide what ingredients the caller left out or added that ruined the dish. This book is full of the delightful New York characters Billie meets, but the best part of this story is the hidden room in the magazine's library, full of letters written during WWII by 12-year-old Lulu Swan to legendary chef James Beard. While discussing recipes and the challenges of cooking when important ingredients are rationed, Lula also shares her fears and troubles. It is a first-hand look at surviving on the home front while her father is MIA. There are so many delightful things about this book, so many quirky characters, so much mystery and discovery. The only disappointment was there were not enough recipes included! I guess I will have to find the author's cookbooks for that. Definitely a recommended read!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Big Girl Panties by Stephanie Evanovich, 336 pages

Stephanie Evanovich is the niece of best-selling author Janet Evanovich.  I say this because I mostly listened to this book because of that fact.

Overall, I enjoyed the story and think Stephanie Evanovich has the potential to be a very successful author.  Where I stumbled with the story were the love scenes that included "ample bosoms," "strong manly fingers" and the word "ravished" among many other kitschy phrases.  I think this would probably be considered a romance, but the supposedly sexy scenes were anything but.

Other than that, "you go girl" is what I would tell Stephanie if I ever have the chance to meet her.

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer, 512 pages

Scarlet is book 2 in the Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer.  Cinder, the beautiful cyborg, who just found out she's also Lunar, escapes from prison in the Eastern Commonwealth early in the story, along with fellow prisoner Carswell Thorne.   A parallel story is happening in France with Scarlet, whose grandmother has disappeared, and Wolf, the mysterious stranger who says he wants to help Scarlet find her.  This book seemed to mostly be a set up for book 3 of the series.  I kept waiting for Cinder and Carswell to hook up with Scarlet and Wolf, and it did eventually happen, but right at the end so now on to book 3 to see what fairy tale character will get a sci-fi twist next.  Let the fun continue!

Plainsong by Kent Haruf, 320 pages

Plainsong was a book club selection this year and the Downtown group just had the pleasure of discussing it.  Everyone gave it a hardy thumbs up.                             The story is set in the high plains of rural Colorado in the small town of Holt.  Several towns people are part of the story Tom Guthrie, his estranged and depressed wife, Ella and their two sons Ike and Bobby.  The other set of brothers, Raymond and Harold McPheron were, hands down, everyone's favorite characters.  I thought these two saved the book from being too depressing.  Other major characters were Victoria Roubideaux, a pregnant teenager and kind teacher, Maggie.                        I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys literary fiction.  

The Things We Do To Make It Home by Beverly Gologorsky 211 pages

The Things We Do To Make It Home could refer to how we feather our nests or what we do to get home from someplace far away.  Both are appropriate interpretations for this very well written book by Beverly Gologorsky.

The first part of the book is short and deals with a group of men and women before the men head off to Vietnam.  The rest of the book is what happens to the couples as they have children and grow older and the effects that the war has on everyone. 

I really like Gologorsky’s writing and her descriptions.  At one point one of the returning vets says “my skin is too tight”.  There were many such succinct phrases throughout the book.

I reviewed another book by this author called Stop Here earlier on this blog, and that book dealt with people who work in a diner.  At the end of The Things We Do To Make It Home, one of my favorite characters finds herself stranded after a bizarre sexual encounter.  When she leaves on foot to return to her home she finds a diner in which she seeks comfort.  I really liked that connection.

I would highly recommend this book.

Brewster by Mark Slouka 288 pages

This book is referred to reviewers as a “coming-of-age” book and is written from the point of view of Jon Mosher as he looks back over several decades.  In high school he befriends Ray Cappicciano, a loner and a rebel.  The both fall for Karen Dorsey, but their friendship remains strong, even after Karen’s choice between the two of them is made.

There is a lot of unhappiness in Jon’s and Ray’s lives. Jon feels partly responsible for the accident that took his older brother’s life when he was a young child.  The sadness and anger his mother harbors through all the years following that incident are almost unbearable.

Ray’s mother left his father when he was a young child.  His stepmother left after the birth of his stepbrother, Gene.  Ray feels responsibility for Gene’s safety and well being, a heavy burden for a teenager with problems of his own.

There is so much foreshadowing in this book that you pretty much know from the get-go what is going to happen, just not when it will happen or by whose hand.

I enjoyed the writing but some passages were tedious.  I would recommend this and I think it would be a good book club book.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Young God by Katherine Faw Morris

Sex, drugs, (not much rock and roll), pimps, whores, double wides, singles wides, incest, violence, same sex coupling, murder…….Let’s see did I leave anything out?

This book is not for everyone, but it is a fast read and an unflinching look at a way of life most of us will never experience or be touched by.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Keep Quiet by Lisa Scottloline 333 pages

I love Lisa Scottoline 's Rosato and Associate books, but when she writes other storylines she very much reminds me of Jodi Picoult.  This book is not an exception.  Much like Picoult's books, this is a gut wrencher with a twist at the end.  The Buckman's are a typical upper class family.  Mom is a judge, Dad is a financial planner who saw some rough times but is bouncing back nicely and they have one son, Ryan, a high school basketball stand out and all around good kid.  Then one night there is a tragic accident and rather than do the right thing, Dad Jake tries to cover it up to protect Ryan.  There is a paragraph in the book that best describes what happens next, "He was trying to make it better, but that was impossible. They were going to the memorial service for a young girl they had killed, and they were ruined, guilty, and afraid.  A corrupt family, bound by a secret crime.  Bankrupt, despite the money they had.  Nothing could be made better."  But, oh!  Wait!  There are 48 more pages to go!  You will have to read to see how everything turns out!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Scent of the Missing: Love & Partnership with a Search and Rescue Dog by Susannah Charleson 285 pages

I have a weakness for books about dogs.  Just look at that face!  How could anyone resist?  A patron recommended this book to me (thanks, Grace!) and I really enjoyed it.  Susannah Charleson lives in Texas and has been a search and rescue assistant for sometime when she is inspired to qualify after the Oklahoma City bombing.  The hours are long, the pay non-existent and the results can be heart-wrenching.  So what drives these volunteers?  They must be physically fit, willing to volunteer  long hours under grueling conditions even though they have regular jobs, pay for the care and feeding of their dog, travel all over the country, the list goes on an on.  These are truly dedicated people with special dogs. Often times the dogs are asked to search a sector just to prove the victim is not there.  Other times, the search team may not know the outcome.  But all in all, the connection between the handler and the dog is what makes it all worth while.  Next time I see a search and rescue canine team on TV, I will look at them in a whole new light.  This book is a great read.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The List by Tara Ison 259 pages

In The List, Isabel and Al are in a relationship that is driving them both crazy. They continually break up and get back together.  Finally they compose a list of things they will do together to get them out of  each other’s systems, once and for all. The idea is to accomplish/experience each item on the list and then break up for good.

The book is well written in places but I never got to liking the characters.  Isabel is a brilliant medical student and Al works in a video store.  Al produced one hit movie and has since become somewhat of a bum.  I also never really saw what the two of them saw in each other, but then, many relationships remain a mystery to outside observers.

I would recommend this on some levels but on other levels I would say it is not worth the bother.

Hidden by Catherine McKenzie 304 pages

Hidden by Catherine McKenzie is a pretty fast read, which is a good thing, because not much happens in the book and the characters did not garner my sympathy whatsoever.  Jeff is married to Claire and is having an affair with Tish.  In a freak accident he is struck by a car and killed.  Tish shows up at the funeral and Claire senses something is not right.

This happens early in the book and the rest of the book is told from the viewpoints of all three of the above characters, in alternating chapters.  This was confusing because it was sometimes difficult to tell which person was talking, and the retelling included past as well as recent history.

Tish’s husband is almost a non-character except for the fact that he is a good provider and there seems to be no discord in their marriage.  We learn that Claire had an intense affair with Jeff’s brother during college but that ended and later when Jeff and Claire meet up again, they decided to get married. 

Overall I felt the characters were selfish and shallow.  The only merit to the book was in the questions raised about truth telling and secret keeping.  When does one keep a secret in order to keep another person from being hurt?  What is the benefit in truth telling if all it does is cause pain?

Dead People by Ewart Hutton 362 pages

DS Glyn Capaldi is back to his old tricks in rural Wales.Several bodies are discovered by a crew excavating for a wind farm. Missing their heads and hands it’s left to Capaldi to discover who they were and why that particular site was chosen. And like usual he’s the only one who doesn’t believe the perpetrator conveniently committed suicide. Still an outsider and without the support of his superiors, Capaldi sets out to discover a motive and the identities of the bodies.

I really, really like this character. I love the way he solves crimes most especially when it seems all but impossible. He thinks outside the box, is not easily fooled and never gives up. Not even on the last page. A read in one sitting book, I can’t wait until the next installment. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Can't Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg, 365 pages

I'm sorry to say I didn't really like this book.  It was just too sweet.  The saving grace for it was that I listened to it and the reader was Fannie Flagg, whose southern lilt I so enjoy.

I guess I wanted more angst in Elmwood Springs, a fictional Missouri town about 45 minutes from Kansas City.  Everything worked out okay for every darned person mentioned in the book and really, who am I to begrudge that?

Fannie's still on my to read list so I'll try another one in a month or two, and hopefully I won't be in such a grumpy mood.

Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo, 192 pages

I might be the last person in the U.S. to read the hit book "Heaven is for Real - A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back."  And actually, I listened to it.

It was an easy to listen to story by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent.  Todd Burpo is a minister in a small Nebraska town and his son barely 4-year old Colton had a missed burst appendix that required touch and go, major surgery to try and correct.  While Colton never died according to the doctors, he did spent the next couple years giving his parents tidbits about his visit to heaven and what he told them convinced them that Heaven is real and Colton was truly there.

Children of the Mind by Orson Scott Card, 384 pages

"Children of the Mind" is book number 4 in the "Ender Wiggin" series.  It immediately picks up where "Xenocide" (book #3) left off. Originally Card intended them to be one book, but it just got too long.

In this book, we're still trying to save the planet Lusitania, the self-aware computer program Jane and figure out what to do with "New Valentine" and "New Peter" whom Ender accidentally created on a trip outside in "Xenocide."

Without sharing any spoilers I will say I liked it and thought it wrapped up the story nicely.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Field of Prey by John Sandford 392 pages

Oh, yes!  Young love!  It is 4th of July weekend and two teenagers find a secluded spot near an old, rundown, farm house to park and lose their virginity.  However, their experience is somewhat tainted by a horrible smell!  What is that?  It smells like something large and dead.  OMG!  They have discovered an abandoned cistern that a killer has been using for his dumping ground.  It holds at least 17 skulls and the recent remains of  a missing woman.  Lucas Davenport is called in to solve these murders that have been happening like clockwork, one every summer.  It has to be someone local, someone right next door, someone you see every day. As law enforcement closes in, will they be in time to save one of their own?  A great read!  This one I do recommend.

Carnal Curiosity by Stuart Woods 306 pages

Okay, this is the last Stuart Woods book I will read.  In case you could not guess, I do not recommend it, unless you like reading porn.  Less than 10 pages in, the female insurance adjuster Stone Barrington has just met, has removed her panties to allow him easy access to her "firm, smooth buttock" and other associated regions.  Really?!  Every woman he meets immediately becomes insatiable.  Oh well, these books are written strictly from a man's view point.  An older, money is no object, wealthy man.  Obviously, I am not the target audience. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Hollow Girl by Reed Farrel Coleman 303 pages

Moe Prager an unlikely hero to say the least. Widower, grandfather, stomach cancer survivor, living in a bottle. Although to be fair, his fiancĂ© was just killed in a tragic accident and he did lose his first wife to murder. Not an easy life for anyone. But then an old could have been girlfriend had other things not intervened resurfaces to ask his help in locating her missing daughter and Moe, ex-policeman and sometimes PI lays the bottle aside—sort of— delves into the case, and finds that nothing is at it appears.

The Hollow Girl is the ninth book in the Moe Prager series and the first one I’ve read. I will read the others because Moe is a very real, humble and likeable character; you can’t help but root for him. He never forgets where he’s been and he doesn’t take crap from anyone. He doesn’t quit—although he does take a few detours—until he gets his man. I was highly entertained.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker 272 pages

For reasons unknown the Earth’s rotation begins to slow adding minutes to every day in increasing increments until days goes by before the sun rises or sets again. Gravity is out of whack: birds fall from the sky, whales beach themselves, people are getting the sickness, and inhibitions disappear. 

While it may seem this is a science fiction story it is anything but. The real story is the coming of age of eleven year old Julia who has to navigate through the challenges of this new life despite losing her best friend, watching her family fall apart, experiencing her first love and dealing with the vagaries of school yard bullies and changing relationships.

The Age of Miracles is an exceptional debut novel, a plausible and beautifully written story of survival, courage, and perseverance in the face of adversity.

Lavender Morning by Jude Deveraux 375 pages

This book is the first in the Edilean series.  Edilean is a small town in Virginia, near Williamsburg.  It was founded by a Scotsman, Angus Harcourt.  The town and the family "manor" are named for his beloved wife, Edilean.  This series is about their descendants and some of the mysteries surrounding the people of the town and the manor. 

Jocelyn Minton has lived most of her life in Boca Raton, Florida.  As a young girl, she was befriended by an elderly, disabled neighbor, Miss Edi, who teaches her about culture and education.  When Miss Edi dies many years later, she leaves behind lots of secrets and a manor house in Virginia, which she bequeaths to Joce. 

It is when Joce moves to Edilean and gets to know everyone in this small town that she discovers many things about Miss Edi, and herself.  Lots of the action in this book takes place during WWII.  I found it to be very interesting, but not something a real history buff would enjoy.  A nice read for a relaxing evening.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Field of Prey by John Sandford 400 pages

John Sandford’s books featuring Virgil Flowers and Lucas Davenport are well written and fast paced reads.  Sandford’s newest Davenport novel, Field of Prey, is one of his better ones.

Even though most of the plots in these books contain gory, gruesome, and hideous acts of cruelty I almost always find myself chuckling at the repartee between the investigators.  The cast of characters in the Davenport books remains pretty consistent although new people are added from time to time.

Without sounding like I am telling anyone what to do, if you are not currently a reader of these books, you should be!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Effects of Light by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore 349 pages

I finished this book because I wanted to know how it ended and what led up to the tragedies that occur in the lives of the characters.  I tried to read ahead and not sit through the whole thing, but that was unsuccessful, too much detail would have been left out and I still would have had unanswered questions.

There are still a lot of pieces missing but without giving a lot of the plot away, I will not include that information in this write up.

In short, two sisters grow up being photographed (in the nude) by a family friend named Ruth.  The girls’ mother died when they were very young and they are being raised by David, their permissive father.  Eventually, of course, the girls mature and questions arise as to whether the photographs are pornographic or pure art.

The story is told alternatively by the two sisters. Part of the story is in the present and part of the story is set in the past.  Some questions of choice and free will are posed in the story but a lot of the book is tedious going. After all is said and done I would not recommend this book.

Scarlet Nights by Jude Deveraux 374 pages

I have always pegged Jude Deveraux as a romance author.  I had just finished a rather dark novel and needed something light so I pulled this book from the shelf.  Much to my delight, it was pretty good!  Not as mushy as Debbie Macomber with just the right mix of mystery, suspense and, of course, a hot guy. 

Sara Shaw is a small town girl who prefers dresses over jeans, makes all her own clothes, loves to bake and is very close to her family.   When she is dumped by her boyfriend, she is easy pickings for Greg Anders.  Greg is really a con man who is after something valuable Sara owns.  Sara has completely fallen under his spell and has no clue she is being used, even though the whole town despises him. 

In swoops Mike Newland, undercover detective, former inhabitant of this small town, and work-out fanatic whose muscles have muscles!  His assignment is to find out what Greg, and his dangerous mother are after.  In the process, he sweeps Sara off her feet, saves the day, and she gets to see his buff body!  A light and enjoyable novel.  A fun summer read!  Take it to the beach and enjoy.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman, 384 pages

Alice Hoffman is an author I've always intended to read, but never had so "The Museum of Extraordinary Things" is my first Alice Hoffman book.

The story is primarily set in 1911 in New York City and Coney Island and is a gritty tale of life for the not rich or famous. The two main characters are Coralie Sardie, a young woman with a birth defect that her father exploits and Ezekial "Eddie" Cohen, a Ukranian immigrant who has left the Jewish community he grew up in. Coralie's father owns the Museum of Extraordinary Things, a small museum on Coney Island.

Not surprisingly, Coralie and Eddie's stories intersect. There are some real events that are depicted in the novel, such as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and the Dreamland fire on Coney Island. Alice Hoffman is an excellent writer, but I found myself thinking, "I am going to be very disappointed if this ends badly for Coralie and Eddie." Don't worry, it doesn't, but it takes a good while and plenty of sorrow to get there.

Field of Prey by John Sandford 392 pages

John Sandford’s Buried Prey had just been released when I began the Prey series. I started with the first book and I read them all in order over a few months span and except for book club books they were the only books I read. I literally ate, breathed and slept Lucas Davenport and the officers of the BCA. I felt bereft when it was over.

In the latest installment, Field of Prey several bodies are found in a cistern in the middle of a corn field. Eventually they discover that the victims had been killed over a period of time dating back almost twenty years. Sandford introduces a new character, detective Catrin Mattsson who investigates with Lucas the Black Hole Killer as he has been named.

Field of Prey is vintage Sandford: fast paced, action packed, with enough twists and turns to keep your attention until the very end. A great part of the allure of the Prey books is the relationship that you develop with the characters as they grow and evolve. For that reason this is one series that I would recommend that you start with the first book and read them in order.