Monday, November 19, 2018

The 17th Suspect

The latest Women's Murder Club novel from the prolific James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. Someone is targeting San Francisco's homeless population, but they haven't yet committed a murder in Sergeant Lindsay Boxer's jurisdiction. Yet, thanks to her confidential information, she has been first on the scene to three different murders, leading her to believe her fellow investigators may be padding their hours. Assistant District Attorney Yuki Castellano, meanwhile, tries a high profile assault case that could change legal precedent, if her client is telling the truth. And the search for a murderer is hampered by Boxer's unusual medical symptoms. But her friends are with her each step of the way. This book is just fast moving fluff. I got hooked on this series from the beginning and read each new one when it comes out. The series is basically a soap opera in book form. I kind of hate to admit I read it....

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Island of the Mad

One of the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series by Laurie R. King. I love this series! I'm this one, Russell and Holmes help an old friend track down a missing, and aunt. Lady Vivian Beaconsfield has spent most of her adult life in one asylum or another since the loss of her brother and father in the Great War. Her mental state seemed to be improving, but she's now disappeared after an outing from Bethlem Royal Hospital (better known as Bedlam). Together, Russell and Holmes search Bedlam to Venice, only to find the increasing shadow of Benito Mussolini.

Vinegar Girl

A modern retelling of The Taming of the Shrew by Anne Tyler. Kate Battista is running life for her scientist father and stuck-up sister, Bunny. She also works at a preschool where the children love her but the parents don't. Dr.Battista is close to a breakthrough, but his brilliant lab assistant, Pyotr, is about to be deported. If that happens, all will be lost. So Dr. Battista hatches a plan, expecting Kate to help him. She is furious;it's too much! Yet the very ludicrousness is touching.

Leave no Trace

Fascinating novel by Mindy Mejia. Ten years ago, Lucas Blackthorne and his father trekked into the Boundary Waters wilderness; and didn't come out. They were presumed dead. Until... a decade later, mostly mute and prone to violence, Lucas walks out. He is put in a psychiatric hospital. Maya Stark, assistant language therapist, is charged with making a connection. She has secrets of her own, and abandonment issues. She's drawn closer to Lucas, and will risk all to reunite him with his father.

The Shadow of the Wind

A gorgeous novel by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, translated from Spanish by Lucia Graves. Daniel works with his father in their bookstore in Barcelona just after the war in 1945. He is initiated one night into the secret of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, where he findsa a novel by Julian Carax called The Shadow of the Wind. Daniel loves the work so much, he sets out to find the rest of Carax's body of work. Only someone has been there first, systematically destroying all the Carax books he can find. Daniel must find the truth of his quest which has opened up one of Barcelona's deepest secrets, or those he loves will suffer greatly.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Catholic Writers Guild

I was privileged to attend the live conference of the Catholic Writers Guild this year. It is held in tandem with the Catholic Marketing Network and this year was in Lancaster, PA. I am currently working on a memoir of my child -bearing years; over the course of 6 pregnancies I spent 1 1/2 years on bedrest! I also converted to Catholicism, and received 2 medical diagnoses that could have been devastating. The book will tell how we managed and, I hope, be a tool for women put on bedrest in their own pregnancies.

I learned much at the conference. I signed up for a non-fiction critique group July 31, and really scrambled to get 10 pages of my manuscript ready to go. Arriving at the group, the leaders had no idea who I was, and had not received my manuscript! We agreed O could audit the session. It was God's hand! As I listened to the conversation and took notes, I realized, my work is not ready to be critiqued. It needs real reworking. I intend to join the Guild, join the online non-fiction critique group, and submit my manuscript a piece at a time then.

The first day of the conference was informative and interesting. I may have found a niche for myself. I wish we could have stayed longer. We took it as a girl's trip, with my mom, two daughters (we celebrate each girl starting her period by including her on a trip: one more daughter to go), and myself. My eldest daughter and I attended the conference; she is a poet. There was a poetry critique group scheduled, however, my daughter was the only signee. She was rewarded with an hour of one-on-one time with the leader, an established poet. An excellent confidence builder for my girl! But my mom had to be home for another obligation, so we  had to leave the second day of the conference. And, although there is ample opportunity for Mass, we didn't get to attend this time. We had a lovely time anyway.

I am now in a fibromyalgia flare because we drove from IN to PA in one day. I can't get my mom to understand my limitations. We did break up the trip back; after 8 hours we found a motel. We were heading to IL and 12 hours driving was a little more than mom could do. So I am in pain and fatigued. Apparently, the conference has been in Schaumburg, IL in the past. Perhaps it will be moved back. Lancaster was difficult to negotiate, we found. Still, a good time.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Wives and Daughters

A novel by Elizabeth Gaskell. I read and enjoyed Gaskell's book North and South, so I thought I would enjoy this classic as well. I was wrong. The pace was slow, for one thing, and I just couldn't be enthusiastic about any of the characters. I can see the worth of the novel, but I finally had to abandon it. A rare thing for me. Perhaps it just wasn't the right time and if I pick it up again someday I'll be able to enjoy it. Perhaps not.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

What Happened That Night

A gripping novel by Sandra Block. Dahlia is a senior at Harvard, successful and pretty. Then, one night at a party, she is brutally attacked. Her memory of the assault is vague, and she is left with a cold rage. Five years later, she is tattooed as a survivor, working as a paralegal, depending on her gay best friend to get her through the pseudo-seizures that PTSD leaves. Then a video of the attack surfaces online; and her rage becomes white hot. With the help of James, the awkward IT guy, Dahlia vows revenge on her attackers.

The author describes depression accurately. She also is spot on in her description of a character with Asperger's Syndrome, and what he does to compensate for his differences. I saw the final twist coming, but I am intuitive and at one time made a steady diet of books such as this in my reading life. I still stayed up way too late to read this well-crafted novel.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye

A Lisbeth Salander novel by David Lagercrantz, continuing Stieg Larsson's Millennium series, translated by George Goulding. Lisbeth Salander has never before had access to the secrets of her traumatic childhood, until now. She enlists the help of Mikael Blomkvist, the editor of the investigative journal Millennium. Nothing will stop her from getting answers about her past; and plenty try. She aids a young woman to escape the brutality of her Islamist brothers; a prison gang leader puts a curse on her; her evil twin, Camilla, tries to chase her down; and there are people who will do anything to keep buried the pseudoscientific experiment known as the Registry. You hardly get a chance to catch your breath in this novel.

Code Talker

A fabulous memoir by Chester Nez, with Judith Schiess Avila. This is history at its best. Nez grew up in the Checkerboard region of the Navajo Reservation of New Mexico in the 1920's. He was given the name "Chester Nez" in kindergarten in boarding school and was forced to speak, read, and write in English although he didn't yet know the language. As a teenager, the news of the bombing of Pearl Harbor spurred him to enlist in the Marines (Native Americans did not yet have the right to vote at that time).

During World War II, the Japanese had broken every code the Americans used. The Marines turned to the Navajo recruits to develop and implement a code based on their native language. They created the only unbreakable code in modern warfare and helped assure victory over Japan in the South Pacific. Chester Nez was one of those man who developed the code and used it in battle. This is his story.

The Good Son

Fiction by You-Jeong Jeong, translated by Chi-Young Kim. 25-year-old Yu-jin has an odd relationship with his mother. She must know where he is at all times, he must be home in their apartment in Seoul by 9:00 pm, he must take his medication. He simply assumes she worries he will have an epileptic seizure. One morning he wakes to the smell of blood and finds his mother's murdered body  at the bottom of the stairs. He feels he has had a seizure, and has only a vague memory of his mother calling his name. Was she calling for help? Or begging for her life?

The novel covers three days as Yu-jin struggles to recapture what happened that night, and to learn the truth about himself and his family. It's an incredibly bloody novel with a highly unreliable narrator.

Monday, July 9, 2018


Book one of the Incubation Trilogy by Laura DiSilverio, a young adult dystopian novel. Jax is a researcher at her Kube, trying to discover how to eradicate the locust swarms that plague Amerada. Until she finds out the Proctor of the Kube has been lying to her about her parents. Her best friend Halla has gotten pregnant, if she stays at the Kube her baby will be taken away. Wyck, the boy Jax likes, gets his papers to serve as a border sentry; he doesn't want to serve the Pragmatists in any way. So they run away from the Kube. They head first from Jacksonville to Atlanta to try to find Loudon, Halla's boyfriend, an IPF recruit (the Pragmatist's National Guard). They then plan to go to an outpost. But they come up against all sorts of trouble, eventually ending up in an organization known as Bulrush, an underground railroad for pregnant women to get away from the people who would take their babies.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

A short novel by Shirley Jackson. I found this book, though highly recommended, to be just ... weird. I didn't like it at all. It's narrated by Merricat Blackwood, a teenager, (though she comes across as younger, her emotional growth has been stunted). Merrckat, her sister Constance, and their disabled Uncle Julian live together in a large house. Merricat runs their errands in the village, where the villagers treat her with disdain. The rest of the Blackwood family has died through poisoning four years before. Connie had been tried and acquitted for their murders. One day Cousin Charles shows up, a mercenary soul who has heard the rumors that all the Blackwood money is kept in the house. He woos Connie, befriends Julian, threatens Merricat. A fire chases him away and shows the nature of the villagers. (Horrible, all of them.) Merricat and Connie salvage what they can and move into the kitchen, the only inhabitable room. It's an overview of obsession, greed, mob mentality, remorse (on the part of some of the villagers), but it's just weird.

In the Kingdom of Ice

The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeanette by Hampton Sides. I'd never heard of this particular polar expedition, which was apparently a big deal in it's day. James Gordon Bennett, Jr., the wealthy and eccentric owner of The New York Herald, had recently captured the world's attention by dispatching his reporter, Stanley, to find Dr. Livingstone in Africa. (Never mind that Livingstone wasn't actually lost - he sold tons of papers!) Now Bennett wanted to recreate that sensation on an even grander scale. He funded an official U.S. Naval expedition to reach the North Pole, choosing as its leader a young officer named George Washington De Long, who had gained fame for a rescue operation off the coast of Greenland.

July 8, 1879, De Long and 32 men on the USS Jeanette set sail from San Francisco. North of the Bering Strait they were trapped in pack ice, where they remained for two years when the hull was breached, sinking the Jeanette to the bottom of the Arctic Ocean. The men found themselves marooned on the ice cap a thousand miles north of Siberia with three open boats and only the barest of supplies. Thus began their march across the frozen sea. Facing various hardships, the expedition battled madness and starvation as they struggled for the Siberian coast.

After the Crash

A mystery by Michael Bussi. December 23,1980, a night flight bound for Paris crashes in the Swiss Alps, killing all but one of the 169 passengers. The only survivor is a three-month-old girl thrown from the plane before fire consumed it. The problem? Two infants were on board. Is the "Miracle Child of Mont Terri" Emilie Vitral, whose grandparents sell snacks from a caravan on the beaches of northern France or is she Lyse-Rose de Carville, whose grandparents are in the oil business, wealthy, powerful, and dangerous.

18 years later, a private detective given the task of solving the mystery of the girl known as "Lylie" is on the verge of giving up and committing suicide when he sees a secret in plain view. Will he live to tell it? And Lylie, a lovely young university student, gives a secret notebook to Marc, the young man who loves her, and disappears. After Marc reads the notebook, he frantically searches for Lylie. But he is not the only one searching for her.

This one had a twist I didn't see coming at all. A thrilling read.

Under Rose-tainted Skies

A young adult novel by Louise Gornall; difficult to read at times. Norah is seventeen, smart, funny ... and afraid to leave her house. She has a number of fears and phobias; her mental health is so fragile that she stays indoors, communing with the world through windows and social media. Then Luke shows up on her doorstep. He sees her as smart, funny, and brave. He researches her mental illnesses. He becomes her friend. Their relationship turns deeper, but Norah knows Luke deserves a normal girlfriend, one at least not afraid of kissing! Can she let him go for his own good? Or can she see herself through his eyes?

Everything All at Once

A magical young adult offering by Katrina Leno. Lottie Reaves plays it safe to avoid getting hurt. Then her beloved Aunt Helen dies. Aunt Helen was the author of the Alvin Hatter series, about a brother and sister who discover the elixir of immortality. She was beloved to a generation of readers as well, who learned the magic of words through her writing. In her will, she leaves a series of letters for Lottie, designed to get her to take a leap. Then the letters reveal an extraordinary secret - the inspiration for the Alvin Hatter series. Lottie is faced with a choice and confronts her greatest fears, once and for all.

Gone with the Gin

Cocktails with a Hollywood Twist, by Tim Federle. A drinks cookbook to pair with the best films of all time. Includes movie-themed snacks and drinking games. If you don't like puns, you won't like this book!

Absent in the Spring

Written by Agatha Christie under the pseudonym of Mary Westmacott, this was not her usual fare of mystery, but general fiction. Joan Scudamore is traveling back to England after visiting her daughter in Baghdad, and the rains have caught her between trains on the Turkish border between trains. Stranded in the desert with nothing to do and nothing to read, Joan is left to simply reflect on her life, her family, and come to grips with some harsh realities about herself. I found this novel gripping, perhaps because of Christie's keen observations of people, and I found it ultimately disappointing, because of Joan's final decision.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Confessions of a Queen B*

By Crista McHugh, this was a thoroughly enjoyable young adult book; apparently book 1 in a series. High school hallways everywhere have a type of queen bee - usually head cheerleader, drawing everyone into her orbit out of desire to be near her. Alexis Wyndham is the other type of queen B - the queen bitch. She makes the in-crowd quiver by what she posts on her blog, using her position to help unpopular kids. Posting video of freshmen being bullied, etc. She doesn't care about acceptance, from anyone. Enter Brett, the star quarterback. They're teamed up for a unit on reproduction, or how to avoid it. It involves pretend-parenting a doll that needs changed, bottled, and burped. Head cheerleader, who claims Brett, doesn't like this. Neither does Alexis, at first. Stereotypes don't always fit.

A Joyful Break

Book one of the Dreams of Plain Daughters series by Diane Craver. This is, of all things, an Amish romance. A bit of fluff I picked up for my Kindle to read in waiting rooms. It's surprisingly good. Rachel Hershberger is an Amish young woman tending her family since her mother died at the age of 44. She is angry with her father, thinking if he had just put in a phone shanty, her mother would not have died. She feels pressured by her Amish boyfriend to get baptized and join the church, so they can marry. Samuel is a good man, a furniture maker, but is he her future? So she takes her rumschpringe to visit her Aunt Carrie, a senator's wife, to think things through. Should she join her Aunt Carrie's English family, or join the Amish church and marry Samuel?

The Grave's a Fine and Private Place

This is the ninth in the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley. Flavia is now 12, and reeling from a family tragedy. Dogger, loyal servant that he is, suggests a boating trip for her and her two older sisters as a necessary escape from moping about the house. Dogger took them boating near a church where the vicar had recently been put to death for poisoning three of his parishioners with cyanide in the communion wine. Of course Flavia, an expert chemist with a passion for poison, is excited about this. Then, while punting near the church, dabbling her fingers in the water, Flavia hooks something. it is not the Hemingway-sized fish she first imagined, but a body. AH! The perfect remedy for sorrow, in Flavia's book, is solving a murder. Though it could bring about her own.

This may just be my favorite of the delightful Flavia de Luce series. And it leaves plenty of room for more books to come. The children and I pass these books around as we get them; they are adult fiction, but no cursing, sex, or gratuitous gore. Flavia is a worthy young heroine, especially for unschooled kids, as most of her learning (and that of her sisters) was achieved on her own. I'm hooked!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Girl in the Spider's Web

By David Lagercrantz, continuing Stieg Larsson's Millennium series, translated from Swedish by George Golding. Lisbeth Salander is back. She has hacked into some delicate, government computers. The journalist Blomkvist gets a call from a source late one night claiming to have information vital to the USA. He needs a scoop; Salander has her own agenda. Together, they go against a web of governments, cybercriminals, and spies. The price could be death.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Quiet Kids

Help Your Introverted Child Succeed in an Extroverted World by Christine Fonseca. This book provides specific strategies to teach introverted children how to thrive in a world that may not understand them, that seems designed for their extroverted peers. The book shows how to develop resiliency, self-confidence, and enhance the positive qualities of being an introvert. It addresses academic performance, bullying, and social anxiety. I had high hopes for this book, because all but one of our large family are introverted (the remaining child is an ambivert). However, I had an extremely hard time getting through it. It includes self-reflection guides, tip sheets, checklists, workbook  - style tasks, overviews, q & a sections... What text there was seemed dry to me. The tip sheets were helpful, but the rest of the book just didn't hit me where I am. Too bad.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Final Girls

A thriller by Riley Sager. When Quincy Carpenter was in college she got away for a weekend with several friends in the Pennsylvania mountains. While there, a stranger with a knife changed her life forever. He massacred her friends, leaving her with wounds running into the arms of a State Trooper in the area to search for an escapee from the asylum nearby. The escapee was quickly dispatched, and Quincy was left with a gaping hole in her memories. She was also now a member of a club she never wanted to join - girls who had survived a massacre. The media dubs them Final Girls. There are three: Lisa, Sam, and now Quincy. Fast forward ten years. Quincy seems to have gotten control of her life; her boyfriend Jeff lives with her, she has a baking blog, Coop, the State Trooper, keeps tabs on her. Then Lisa is found in her bathtub with her wrists slit and Sam blows into town to stay with Quincy and turn her life upside down. What really happened the night her friends died?

With Every Letter

This is a historical novel by Sarah Sundin, the first of the Wings of the Nightingale series. Set in WW II, Lieutenant Mellie Blake is training as a flight evacuation nurse. Lieutenant Tom MacGilliver is an engineer stationed in North Africa. They participate in a morale boosting program, writing to each other anonymously. They both have reasons to keep their identities secret, but they both need real friends. Through the letter writing campaign a friendship develops. Could it be more? Should they meet? Then they're both stationed in Algeria. Will their friendship bloom once they meet or will their fears of the past keep them from meeting? This book really resonated with me, as writing letters is how I got to know my husband in the days before computers were ubiquitous. Living in two different states we were "set up" by my college roommate, his colleague. I gave her permission to give him my address but not my phone number. And so we began. By the time we met, months later, we knew each other quite well. It's a system I would recommend.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Fifty Years of Fear

Dark Lives Book I by Ross Greenwood. This novel tells the story of Vinnie, who becomes a convict, and may or may not have Borderline Personality Disorder. It talks of memories, how they ground us, and how they may be different when viewed by different people. The same incident Vinnie remembers is skewed when related by Frank, his brother, or Clara, his wife. You're left with a gentle sympathy for this convict who seems to be caught up in circumstances beyond his control.

On Turpentine Lane

Elinor Lipman wrote this romantic comedy; although I had a hard time finding the comedy in this novel. Faith Frankel writes thank-you notes for her swanky alma mater. She's just bought a cozy bungalow with a disputed history on Turpentine Lane. She's thirty-two, in her hometown too close to her mother, with a fiancee who's off on a crowdfunded cross country walk. Her father has separated from her mother to paint, and, apparently, to continue to fool around. And speaking of fools - her boss. And there's odd artifacts found in her attic and the police searching her cellar. Fortunately, she has Nick Franconi, friend and colleague, to help her work through it.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Child

A novel by Fiona Barton, with a twist I didn't see coming! A tiny skeleton has been found by a workman in a section of London slated for gentrification. The baby was buried years ago and Kate Waters, a journalist covering the story, can only ask the public, "Who is the Building Site Baby?" She becomes entangled in the lives of three women: Angela, whose baby was stolen from a hospital decades before and miles away; Emma, a woman with mental health issues and secrets; and Jude, Emma's mother, with a rocky relationship with her daughter and her own reasons to keep the past buried. Triggers abound here, and it is entertaining in spite of them.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Someone Else's Daughter

By Linsey Lanier. Miranda Steele was pushed out of an abusive marriage to a cop after he took her infant daughter to an adoption agency. The child was not his, but was conceived in rape, therefore had no place in his home. Now, thirteen years later, Miranda has made herself strong, taken self defense and martial arts classes, stays on the move, works construction to stay fit, and looks for Amy, her daughter. Through a letter she wasn't supposed to receive she finds herself in Georgia, and is brought to the attention of and under the wing of Wade Parker. He owns a prestigious private investigation agency. He sees raw talent in Miranda and hires her, just in time to help with an investigation of a serial killer of 13 year olds.

The Shoes of the Fisherman

By Morris West, a highly prescient novel of the papacy. A Slavic pope is elected; he takes the name Kiril I. He has been 17 years in prison in Russia for the faith. His torturer, Kamenev, has risen to power in Russia. The two are almost friends. The book deals with the issues and reforms the new pope faces and implements. It is fascinating. The job is quite isolating and humbling. It can get bogged down in bureaucracy and paperwork. An interesting work.

Another Man's Treasure

A novel by S.W. Hubbard. Audrey has a business in which she prepares houses for and manages the estate sales for bereaved family members. In the house of Agnes Szabo she's preparing for the nephew Cam she finds a baggie full of street drugs in the kitchen and a trunk full of jewelry in the attic. Included in the jewelry? A ring that once belonged to Audrey's mother. A ring she never took off. A ring she was wearing when she committed suicide when Audrey was three. The ensuing investigation is very interesting, involving a senator with presidential aspirations, Cam, and an unexpected fire.

The Thirteenth Tale

By Diane Satterfield, this is a satisfying novel for those who love reading great literature as well as base gothic tales with ghosts. Vida Winter is a reclusive author known for making up wildly outlandish stories for her own history. Now, old and ill, she wants the truth to be told. She hires amateur biographer Margaret Lea, who has secrets of her own. The ensuing take is strange and mesmerizing, dealing with incest, feral twins, a ghost, and a devastating fire.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Eleanor and Park

A novel by Rainbow Rowell. Park tries desperately to fit in with the other high school kids, on the bus, at school. He's half-Korean, though, and can't quite do it. Eleanor doesn't pretend to fit in; her life is too hard. A chance encounter on the bus leads to friendship, then to more. But Eleanor's hard life catches up to them. Is star-crossed first love doomed to die?

A Body on the Porch

This is the tenth in the Dekker cozy mystery series by Steve Demaree. Cy Dekker is a former homicide detective in Hilldale, Kentucky. He and his partner, Lou Murdock, are now retired. On a vacation in Gatlinburg, Cy tells a stranger he'll investigate a murder free of charge for him, but only if the victim is found on his front porch. Lo and behold...

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Hidden Letters of Velta B.

A novel by Gina Ochsner. A dying mother tells Latvian folktales, myths, and family history to her son who has extraordinary ears. I couldn't get into it and abandoned it midway. I'm learning that is perfectly okay.☺

The Life of Thomas More

By Peter Ackroyd, this biography reads like a novel. It's fabulous! The history and feeling of the times (More lived from 1478-1535) is incredible. Even though More was born into the professional classes, a long line of lawyers, the author covers not just how life would have been for More, but for the everyman, the intellectual, and the religious. More was a renowned statesman, author, and Catholic martyr. His ascension to the rank of Chancelor and fall from grace was riveting. The absolute hubris of Henry VIII so heartbreaking. He tore a country asunder from the true faith for lust, not only of Anne Boleyn, but of power. Sorrowful. Highly recommended book.

A Simple Favor

This a psychological thriller by Darcey Bell. Stephanie is a widow with a kindergartener and a blog that gives her the company and validation she needs. Emily is a glamorous public relations guru for a fashion designer whose son is friends with Stephanie's. One rainy day they strike up a conversation and quickly become friends themselves. Emily asks, some months later, for a simple favor; could Stephanie pick up Emily's son when she picks up her own? Sean, her husband, is out of town; the nanny has the day off.... Of course. Mom friends. No problem. Emily doesn't return to pick up her boy. When Sean comes back, they report Emily missing. Then a body is found with her DNA, wearing her ring, in the lake outside her family's cottage. Stephanie blogs every stage of confusion, of grief, of helping Sean and his son recover. But the secrets everyone carries, the lies, betrayals spill over. Emily is the least likable character ever. Stephanie is a close second. I would pity the children if these women were real. I truly hope the author has not met such manipulative moms. This is a debut novel; it shows.

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library

A fun children's book by Chris Grabenstein. Kyle Kelley has two older brothers, a jock and a brain. He can only compete with them in playing board games; their favorites are those designed by Luigi Lemoncello. Imagine Kyle's excitement when he finds out the famous game maker has designed the town's new public library and is having an invitation-only lock-in for opening night! Kyle decides he has to be there - and he wins a spot with 11 other 12-year-olds. But the challenge is to get OUT of the library. Passing this on to my youngest.

The Trespasser

By Tana French, sixth in the Dublin Murder Squad series. Aislinn Murray, well-groomed and pretty, is found dead in her right-out-of-a-catalog living room, next to a table set for a romantic dinner. Detectives Conway and Moran are given the case, and Detective Breslin as backup. He's pushing for a quick solve; just a simple domestic quarrel, pin it on the boyfriend who swears he never got into the house. But is that where the evidence is leading? And what about the shadowy figure haunting Conway's lane? A convoluted tale.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Girl You Left Behind

A novel by Jojo Moyes, the title refers to a painting. The painting is of Sophie Lefevre rendered by her husband Edouard in France in the early 1900's. In 1916, he goes to the front to fight. Sophie runs her family's small inn with her sister, even after their town falls to the Germans. The portrait of Sophie catches the eye of the Kommandant. He becomes obsessed with the painting, and Sophie decides to risk everything for a chance to see her husband again.

Nearly a century later, the portrait is given to Liv Halston by her husband as a wedding gift shortly before his untimely death. Then a chance encounter reveals it's true worth and a legal battle ensues. Was it looted during the war? Who should pay restitution? And who is the true owner?

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

An interesting children's book by Brian Selznick. It's a past winner of the Caldecott Award. Hugo is an orphan and a clock keeper in the busy Paris train station in 1931. His survival depends on anonymity and thieving. He makes the acquaintance of a bookish young girl and her guardian, a bitter old man who runs a toy shop in the train station. That's when his secret life, and his most treasured possession, are put at risk. This is a fascinating combination of picture book and graphic novel with lovely illustrations.

The Secret Place

The fifth in Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad series, this book is about loyalty and friendship. Sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey finds a card with a picture of a murdered boy on it and the caption "I know who killed him" on The Secret Place, a board where the girls at St. Kilda's school can post their secrets anonymously. She is a detective's daughter, but doesn't want to take the card to her dad, so she takes it to Detective Stephen Moran, in Cold Cases. Moran has wanted to get on the Murder Squad and sees this as his chance. The photo is of Chris Harper, who was killed a year ago on the grounds of St. Kilda's. The investigating officer was Antoinette Conway, a prickly, abrasive murder Detective. They join forces to find out who posted the card and from there to solve the case. Narrowed down, their search focuses on two cliques in St. Kilda's Boarding School for girls; Joanne, a queen bee, and her three lackeys; and Holly and her three free-spirited friends. The dangers for the detectives are many, not least of which are the machinations of teenage girls. 


Book 1 in the Unwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman. An incredible book! Based on the premise that a second civil war, also known as The Heartland War, has been waged in the United States over a single issue; abortion. To end the war, a set of constitutional amendments known as the "Bill of Life" was passed, stating that from the moment of conception until a child reaches age 13, that child's life could not be touched.  Between 13 - 18, however, a parent may "retroactively" choose to "abort" a child on the condition that the child's life doesn't technically end; every bit of the child is salvaged for parts for transplant in others. This solution satisfied both pro-choice and pro-life armies (obviously, the author is equating pro-life with pro- birth). The process of salvaging for parts is called "unwinding".

Connor is a troublemaker, so his parents want to be rid of him. Risa is an orphan, has no utility for society, and the orphanage wants to free up her bed. Lev is a "tithe", a sacrifice his strict religious family has planned from his birth. All three are slated for unwinding. this is the story of how they try to escape their fate and the challenges and characters they meet on the way. It's a very thought provoking book. What is a "meaningful" life? Where does the soul go after death? Abortion, transplants, adoption (through the unusual practice of "storking"), and other heavy issues. The author is good about just asking the questions without inserting his own solutions, but letting the reader come to conclusions on his/her own. It is rather heavy for a young adult novel, though that seems to be the norm. I have passed this one on to my kids.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

The Girl With All the Gifts

A postapocalyptic thriller by M.R. Carey. Wow! Melanie is a child/prisoner. She spends her time strapped in a wheelchair in classroom with others like herself, learning from various teachers. Or she is in her cell. Alone. Her favorite teacher is Miss Justineau. Sergeant Parks is in charge of moving her from the cell to the classroom; he holds a gun on her while two of his people strap her into the chair. There is also Dr. Caldwell, whom Melanie doesn't like nor trust. You're sucked into the story almost against your will. Turns out, Melanie is at Hotel Echo, a military base/ research facility somewhere outside London after The Breakdown has happened. A fungal infection, highly contagious, has struck. Almost everyone infected "dies" soon after, leaving the husk of his or her body to carry on with one goal - to feed. They're called "hungries". Basically, this is a zombie apocalypse book and it is amazing! Hotel Echo gets overrun by junkers (survivalists) and hungries. Melanie escapes with Miss Justineau, Dr. Caldwell, Sergeant Parks, and one of his soldiers. They head toward Beacon, a refugee camp on the other side of London. Melanie comes to learn about herself and makes decisions no ten year old should be responsible for, but, as test subject number one, she is up for the challenge. Recommended.


The Cowboy's Calabrese Mail Order Bride. Book one of the Sweet Land of Liberty Brides series by Lorena Dove. Giovanna Ransoni is newly-widowed, living with her young daughter Rosa. Rosa is ill, and Giovanna worries how to care for her properly. A friend helps her reply to an advertisement for a mail order bride placed by Laars Gundersen. Laars wants a bride and someone to help with his cows. Giovanna is looking for a way to pay for Rosa's treatment. Can two people looking out for their own interests actually forge a marriage?

Friday, March 2, 2018

Stone Groove

This is a Dale Conley thriller by Erik Carter. It is set in the 70's. Dale Conley is an agent for the Bureau of Esoteric Investigations. When an entire commune goes missing, eerily reminiscent of the lost colony of Roanoke complete with Dare stones, Conley is called in. Is it because of his solve rate, or because of his past?

Sunday, February 11, 2018

In This Grave Hour

This is the eleventh in the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. It stands alone nicely, for it is the first I have read and I had no trouble following the plot. Maisie is an investigator with unique skills and friends. As Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain broadcasts Britain's declaration of war with Germany, a Secret Service agen, Dr. Francesca Thomas, approaches Maisie with an urgent mission. Find the killer of a man who escaped occupied Belgium as a boy during the Great War. Soon after the investigation begins, another former Belgian refugee is murdered, and it is obvious the murders are related. As the investigation continues, London prepares for war.

This is a work of historical fiction and is meticulously researched. As an American born after World War II, at a remove from the events, I found it both heartbreaking and fascinating. It would be hard enough to have your husband serving in harm's way, but to send your children away? Yes, for their safety, yet...? Barrage balloons, blackout curtains, rationing, gas masks, bomb shelters... the rending of families. How does one prepare for and endure this sort of hardship?  And there are countries where this sort of hardship is current. May I never forget.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Two Nights

This is a novel by Kathy Reichs. Sunday Night, former military, former police, current recluse, is pulled from her Goat Island home to search for the granddaughter of Opaline Drucker, a Charleston grande dame. Stella Bright, the granddaughter, managed to survive the bomb blast that killed her mother and brother, but hasn't been seen since. Mrs. Drucker also wants revenge and offers Sunnie a per head bounty for each bomber she catches...or kills. Sunnie's search begins in Chicago, to Los Angeles, to Louisville, all the while trying to repress memories of her own childhood that may just be why she took this case to begin with.

The Handmaid's Tale

A dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood which I read for book club. I didn't like the book, the ending, the subject matter, and I'm not inclined to read another by Atwood based on it. I will agree it is good fodder for book clubs simply because there's so much to discuss. The book is set in the not-too-distant future; a  religious, political party is in power in the United States. To address the problem of a low birth rate, all women who have proven themselves capable of child bearing have been separated from those children and the men who fathered them and are set up as handmaids  for the men who now run the country and their wives. The handmaids have to bear at least one child for the couple who has hired them; failure equals death in most cases. The handmaids also lose their names. They become Of the man. Our titular tale is told by Offred, and it is a horrifying tale indeed. The book is unsatisfactory in that there's no resolution. After reading this train wreck of a life we're not told how or if it ends. Not to my liking.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Dark Lava

A Lei Crime novel by Toby Neal, book 7 of the series. Lieutenant Michael Stevens is investigating disappearing petroglyphs, rare rock carvings on Maui. Someone is taking them out of their rocks with a hand held jackhammer. Stevens is married to Lei Texeira, also a police officer on Maui. She is training for the bomb squad - and not doing well. This book features Stevens' ex-wife, Anchara; Lei's dad Wayne; someone who uses shrouds to let Stevens and Lei know he wants them dead... It's an interesting police procedural that gives information on Hawaiin customs at the same time.

In Sheep's Clothing

A novel by L.D. Beyer. Action-packed, political intrigue. Matthew Richter is a Secret Service agent assigned to protect the president of the United States, Thomas Walters, who, while trap shooting, manages to kill himself. No one knows why, nor does no one know that he was being blackmailed by a Washington insider. Soon, the vice-president, David Kendall, is sworn in as president. Richter is assigned to his protective detail. Tyler Rumson, an ambitious senator, is appointed the new vice-president. The book details the survival of Richter and President Kendall after Air Force 1 is attacked. Heady stuff. And it carries you right along.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Creative You

Using Your Personality to Thrive. Informative non-fiction by David B. Goldstein and Otto Kroeger. Goes into the basics of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and how each personality tends to express self in creative works. Which tendency is strongest in each type (for instance, as an INFP, feeling is my strongest function; I should try to share my intuition instead.) Tells each type's least developed function (thinking, for me; go figure) and how to strengthen that function. How to interpret what critics say is included, as well as how each type can best overcome creative blocks. This book is so packed, actually, that I got bogged down. I was trying to take notes... it took me about a month to get through. Well worth it if you're at all interested in personality tools.

Going Underground

Autistic Detective Jonathan Roper Reveals a Dark Conspiracy in a Gripping Thriller. This is an independently published work of fiction by Michael Leese. It was one of the freebies on my Kindle, and I decided to read it because of the premise: an autistic detective. The book is well done, and the character of Jonathan Roper seems spot on as someone with high functioning autism. Chief inspector Brian Hooley is given the task of discovering what happened to Sir James Taylor, a highly regarded billionaire/philanthropist who went missing six weeks prior to his torso being found in an abandoned warehouse. He calls on the special investigative skills of Jonathan Roper, who has been on administrative leave since his challenges almost ruined his last investigation. Together, Hooley and Roper solve this case that puts Roper in personal danger.