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BOOKWOMAN_CAT's Book Lists
Kristi & Abby the Tabby read together in 2014 (47 titles)
modern literature, mystery, history, biography
Kristi's 2013 Book List in memory of Maggie, the cat (154 titles)
Happy to say my new reading companion is Abby the tabby, the funniest cat who has ever owned me.
Kristi & Maggie the cat read together in 2012 (143 titles)
eclectic - modern literature, mystery, non-fiction...
kristi & Maggie's Literature Wish List (775 titles)
modern fiction - women's literature - historical fiction....
kristi & Maggie's Non-fiction Wish List (294 titles)
history, biography, autobiography, religion, psychology, medicine
Show all 9 booklists by BOOKWOMAN_CAT

BOOKWOMAN_CAT's Comments    
Cover ArtThe husband's secret
by Moriarty, Liane
* 1/2 stars. Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. The letter contains his deepest, darkest secret, something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive. . . .Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia, or each other, but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret. **** I found it easy to guess the husband's secret before his wife read the letter. It is difficult to find anyone in this book who can claim the moral high ground. Another husband is emotionally unfaithful. His wife who drags her son away from his home abruptly and jumps into bed with an old flame. The denouement seems artificial and largely unbelievable. Years and years of pain are resolved much to easily. Sorry... Cannot recommend.   posted Apr 7, 2014 at 10:28PM

Cover ArtThe forever girl
by McCall Smith, Alexander, 1948-
*** stars Amanda and her husband, David, feel fortunate to be raising their son and daughter in the close-knit community of ex-pats on Grand Cayman Island, an idyllic place for children to grow up. Their firstborn, Sally, has always listened to her heart, deciding at age four that she would rather be called Clover and then, a few years later, falling in love with her best friend, James. But the comforting embrace of island life can become claustrophobic for adults, especially when they are faced with difficult situations. At the same time that Clover falls in love with James, Amanda realizes that she has fallen out of love with David and that she is interested in someone else. While Amanda tries to navigate her new path, Clover finds, much to her dismay, that James seems to be growing away from her. And when they leave the island for boarding school — James to England and Clover to Scotland — she feels she may have lost him for good. As Clover moves on to university, seldom seeing James but always carrying him in her heart, she finds herself torn between a desire to go forward with her life and the old feelings that she just can’t shed. Through the lives of Clover and James, and Amanda and David, acclaimed storyteller Alexander McCall Smith tells a tale full of love and heartbreak, humor and melancholy, that beautifully demonstrates the myriad ways in which love shapes our lives. **** I am a huge fan of McCall Smith's series. I liked this stand-alone novel because of its excellent character development and understanding of love for both children and adults. Sweet story of forever love in a young girl. Recommend!   posted Mar 31, 2014 at 11:56PM

Cover ArtA month of summer [electronic resource]
*** stars. A Month of Summer by Lisa Wingate. For Rebecca Macklin, an ordinary summer brings about an extraordinary change of heart when she discovers that her aging father has been wandering the Dallas streets alone, and his wife, Hanna Beth, has landed in a nursing home. Now Rebecca must put aside old resentments and return to her childhood home. In this moving story of separation and forgiveness, two women will unravel the betrayals of the past and discover the true meaning of family. **** I had to obtain this book thru Inter-Library Loan. Hennepin County does not have a copy of the book or audiobook. Ms. Wingate is a "Christian" author. I did not realize this when I requested the book because of a review concerning the reconciliation of a family. Her religious aspects are not heavy-handed. She does a nice job of character development. You want a resolution of years of secrets and misunderstandings. She does what I believe is an excellent job of portraying the point of view of a stroke survivor. Recommend unless you do not want a Christian perspective.   posted Mar 31, 2014 at 9:16PM

Cover ArtPolice
by Nesbø, Jo, 1960-
*** stars The police urgently need Harry Hole . . . A killer is stalking Oslo's streets. Police officers are being slain at the scenes of crimes they once investigated but failed to solve. The murders are brutal, the media reaction hysterical. But this time, Harry can't help . . . For years, detective Harry Hole has been at the center of every major criminal investigation in Oslo. His dedication to his job and his brilliant insights have saved the lives of countless people. But now, with those he loves most facing terrible danger, Harry is not in a position to protect anyone, least of all himself. **** I really like Nesbo's Harry Hole series. They are sometimes a little more graphically violent than I usually like, but I have bonded with Harry and his continuing story. It took me a little while to get involved with this book because Harry is not part of the storyline at the beginning. The book opens with a great "red herring" that had me guessing for quite a while. Highly recommend the series with the caveat about the violence, but as I always say with any series start with the first book. Until now that was not possible because the first two books "The Bat" and "Cockroaches" were not published in the U.S. until 2012 and 2013 respectively. I started with the 2006 book "Redbreast". Now I can go back to the beginning.   posted Feb 20, 2014 at 9:32PM

Cover ArtPolice
by Nesbø, Jo, 1960-
*** stars The police urgently need Harry Hole . . . A killer is stalking Oslo's streets. Police officers are being slain at the scenes of crimes they once investigated but failed to solve. The murders are brutal, the media reaction hysterical. But this time, Harry can't help . . . For years, detective Harry Hole has been at the center of every major criminal investigation in Oslo. His dedication to his job and his brilliant insights have saved the lives of countless people. But now, with those he loves most facing terrible danger, Harry is not in a position to protect anyone, least of all himself. **** I really like Nesbo's Harry Hole series. They are sometimes a little more graphically violent than I usually like, but I have bonded with Harry and his continuing story. It took me a little while to get involved with this book because Harry is not part of the storyline at the beginning. The book opens with a great "red herring" that had me guessing for quite a while. Highly recommend the series with the caveat about the violence, but as I always say with any series start with the first book. Until now that was not possible because the first two books "The Bat" and "Cockroaches" were not published in the U.S. until 2012 and 2013 respectively. I started with the 2006 book "Redbreast". Now I can go back to the beginning.   posted Feb 20, 2014 at 9:32PM

Cover ArtFreud's mistress
by Mack, Karen.
1 1/2 * stars. Minna Bernays is an overeducated woman with limited options. Fired yet again for speaking her mind, she finds herself out on the street with few options. In 1895 Vienna, marriage and family are are regarded as the primary role for women. Minna wants more. Out of desperation, Minna turns to her older sister, Martha, for help. But Martha has her own problems — six young children, a host of physical ailments, a household run with military precision, and an absent, overworked, disinterested husband who happens to be Sigmund Freud. At this point he is a struggling professor, all but shunned by his peers and under attack for his theories, most of which center around sexual impulses, urges, and perversions. While Martha is shocked and repulsed by her husband’s "pornographic" work, Minna is fascinated. She is everything Martha is not —intellectually curious, an avid reader, and stunning. But while she and Freud embark on what is at first simply an intellectual courtship, something deeper is brewing beneath the surface, something Minna cannot escape. *** As a former teacher of psychology I had not heard about this aspect of Freud's life. The book is factually based and certainly provides an interesting look at Freud's view of women. This is not a bad book, but I did not really bond with anyone. I think I would have been happier reading a good biography of Freud that looked more at his private life. I have certainly read enough about his psychological theories and their development. I think I simply chose the wrong book to read. Cannot recommend.   posted Feb 20, 2014 at 9:19PM

Cover ArtFreud's mistress
by Mack, Karen.
1 1/2 * stars. Minna Bernays is an overeducated woman with limited options. Fired yet again for speaking her mind, she finds herself out on the street with few options. In 1895 Vienna, marriage and family are are regarded as the primary role for women. Minna wants more. Out of desperation, Minna turns to her older sister, Martha, for help. But Martha has her own problems — six young children, a host of physical ailments, a household run with military precision, and an absent, overworked, disinterested husband who happens to be Sigmund Freud. At this point he is a struggling professor, all but shunned by his peers and under attack for his theories, most of which center around sexual impulses, urges, and perversions. While Martha is shocked and repulsed by her husband’s "pornographic" work, Minna is fascinated. She is everything Martha is not —intellectually curious, an avid reader, and stunning. But while she and Freud embark on what is at first simply an intellectual courtship, something deeper is brewing beneath the surface, something Minna cannot escape. *** As a former teacher of psychology I had not heard about this aspect of Freud's life. The book is factually based and certainly provides an interesting look at Freud's view of women. This is not a bad book, but I did not really bond with anyone. I think I would have been happier reading a good biography of Freud that looked more at his private life. I have certainly read enough about his psychological theories and their development. I think I simply chose the wrong book to read. Cannot recommend.   posted Feb 20, 2014 at 9:19PM

Cover ArtAva Gardner : the secret conversations
by Evans, Peter, 1933 December 10-
1/2 * “I EITHER WRITE THE BOOK OR SELL THE JEWELS,” Ava Gardner told her coauthor, Peter Evans. Ava Gardner was one of Hollywood’s great stars during the 1940s and 1950s, an Oscar-nominated lead­ing lady who co-starred with Clark Gable, Burt Lancaster, and Humphrey Bogart, among others. Her films included Show Boat, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, The Barefoot Contessa, and On the Beach. But her life off the screen was every bit as fabulous as her film roles. Born poor in rural North Carolina, Gardner was given a Hollywood tryout thanks to a stunning photo of her displayed in a shop window. Not long after arriving in Hollywood, she caught the eye of Mickey Rooney, then America’s #1 box-office draw. Rooney was a womanizer so notorious that even his mother warned Gardner about him. They married, but the marriage lasted only a year (“my shortest husband and my biggest mistake”). Ava then married band leader and clarinetist Artie Shaw, who would eventually marry eight times, but that marriage, too, lasted only about a year. She carried on a passionate affair with Howard Hughes but didn’t love him, she said. Her third marriage was a tempestuous one to Frank Sinatra (“We were fighting all the time. Fighting and boozing. It was madness. . . . But he was good in the feathers”). Faithfully recording Ava’s reminiscences in this book, Peter Evans describes their late-night conver­sations when Ava, having had something to drink and unable to sleep, was at her most candid. So candid, in fact, that when she read her own words, she backed out and halted the book. Only now, years after her death, could this memoir be published. ***** I am not doing well with biographies this year. This is a poorly organized, often repetitious summary of Ava's drunken ramblings. The book could have been a 10th as long and would have contained all the information Ava revealed. In addition to the fact that she eventually backed out of of the book and stopped talking with Evans, the book was not published until after Evans' own death. Someone did a bad job of organizing his notes and saw that there was not enough material for a book without the many repetitions of the same information. I ended up liking Ava for the very candidness and bad language that led her to abandon the book, but if you want to read a biography about Ava Gardner, pick another book.   posted Feb 20, 2014 at 9:05PM

Cover ArtNicholson : a biography
by Eliot, Marc
1/2 star . For five decades, Jack Nicholson has been part of film history. With twelve Oscar nominations to his credit and legendary roles in films like Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, Terms of Endearment, The Shining, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Nicholson creates original, memorable characters like no other actor of his generation. And his personal life has been no less of an adventure—Nicholson has always been at the center of the Hollywood elite and has courted some of the most famous and beautiful women in the world. From Nicholson’s working class childhood in New Jersey, where family secrets threatened to tear his family apart, to raucous nights on the town with Warren Beatty and tumultuous relationships with starlets like Michelle Phillips, Anjelica Huston, and Lara Flynn Boyle, to movie sets working with such legendary directors and costars as Dennis Hopper, Stanley Kubrick, Meryl Streep, and Roman Polanski, Eliot paints a picture of of Nicholson’s fifty-year career in film, as well as an intimate portrait of his personal life. ***** WOW!! What a terrible book!! He slept with this woman and then he did this movie and then he slept with this woman... ad nauseum. For me Jack Nicholson has acted in some of my favorite films like "Five Easy Pieces" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest". I admired his acting in some of these roles, but I never necessarily liked the people he played and I was always left with the feeling that I would not like Jack Nicholson if I met him. I had hoped that this biography might offer some ameliorating features of his personality that would show him in a better light. WRONG!! He is presented as a narcissistic misogynist. Poorly written!! A waste of my time! I am glad I have never met Jack Nicholson.   posted Feb 20, 2014 at 8:48PM

Cover ArtThe ghost at the table : a novel
by Berne, Suzanne.
1/2* Strikingly different since childhood and leading very dissimilar lives now, sisters Frances and Cynthia have nevertheless managed to remain "devoted" AS long as they stay on opposite coasts. But with the reappearance of their elderly, long-estranged father they find themselves reunited for a cold, snowy Thanksgiving week a reunion that awakens sleeping tensions and old sorrows. Frances envisions a happy family holiday with her husband and daughters in her lovely old New England farmhouse. Cynthia, a writer of historical fiction, doesn't understand how Frances can ignore the past their father's presence revives, a past that includes suspicions about their mother's death twenty-five years earlier. Adding to her uneasiness is her research for a book on Mark Twain's daughters, whose lives she thinks eerily mirror her own and Frances's. As Thanksgiving day arrives, with a houseful of guests looking forward to dinner, the sisters continue to struggle with different versions of their shared past. The Ghost at the Table reveals what happens when one person tries to rewrite another's history and explores the mystery of why families try to stay together even when it may be in their best interests to stay apart. I did not bond with these sisters. I was left with unresolved issues and seeming total misperceptions of reality, not only on the part of the sisters, but also by Frances's husband. Who made a pass at whom? How did their mother die? Is the daughter self-injuring? Does anyone care about the children? I guess my opinion is that they should have skipped the dinner and I should have skipped the book.   posted Feb 20, 2014 at 8:27PM

Cover ArtTrains and lovers
by McCall Smith, Alexander, 1948-
*** 1/2 stars. The rocking motion of the train as it speeds along, the sound of its wheels on the rails . . . There’s something special about this form of travel that makes for easy conversation, which is just what happens to the four strangers who meet in Trains and Lovers. As they journey by rail from Edinburgh to London, the four travelers pass the time by sharing tales of trains that have changed their lives. A young, keen-eyed Scotsman recounts how he turned a friendship with a female coworker into a romance by spotting an anachronistic train in an eighteenth-century painting. An Australian woman shares how her parents fell in love and spent their life together running a railroad siding in the remote Australian Outback. A middle-aged American patron of the arts sees two young men saying goodbye in a train station and recalls his own youthful crush on another man. And a young Englishman describes how exiting his train at the wrong station allowed him to meet an intriguing woman whom he impulsively invited to dinner—and into his life.... I adore Alexander McCall Smith and regard him as one of the consummate story tellers of our day. I love Precious Romatswe and the "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series!!! They are an especial delight to listen to on audiobooks for the great Botswana dialect. I am only slightly less fond of the Isabel Dalhousie and 44 Scotland Street series. Mr. McCall Smith is also an author of children's books, which is probably what helps to make him such a great story-teller, character developer and lover of the whimsical and and heart-breaking all at the same time. I loved the stories in this novel, but prefer his continuing character novels more because you always get another chance to join their lives. HIGHLY RECOMMEND!!   posted Jan 22, 2014 at 8:27PM

Cover ArtThe Ashford affair
by Willig, Lauren.
** 1/2 stars. As a lawyer in a large Manhattan firm, just shy of making partner, Clementine Evans has finally achieved almost everything she’s been working towards, but now she’s not sure it’s enough. Her long hours have led to a broken engagement and, suddenly single at thirty-four, she feels her messy life crumbling around her. But when the family gathers for her grandmother Addie’s ninety-ninth birthday, a relative lets slip hints about a long-buried family secret, leading Clemmie on a journey into the past that could change everything. . . .What follows is a story that spans generations and continents. From the inner circles of WWI-era British society to the skyscrapers of Manhattan and the red-dirt hills of Kenya, the never-told secrets of a woman and a family unfurl. This is not a bad book - I liked many of the characters, but for me there is still a very large unexplained gap in the life of one of the main characters and the boy meets girl, boy and girl are alienated, boy and girl resolve differences and fall madly in love story has been told ad nauseum. Why is it that so many authors believe that a man is always needed to make a woman's life meaningful? If you are more of a "romance" oriented person than I, you may find this book delightful. Mild recommendation.   posted Jan 22, 2014 at 8:15PM

Cover ArtThe Devil and Miss Prym : a novel of temptation
by Coelho, Paulo
1/2 star. A struggle between good and evil unfolds in this fable. When a stranger arrives in an isolated mountain village, he brings with him a devilish offer: If anybody in the town is murdered within a week, every surviving resident will receive a fortune in gold. His evil instigation throws the townspeople into a moral dilemma. This is a moral parable with many references to Biblical temptations. I prefer my "morality plays" to be much more subtle - where there is not a "devil" figure laying out a temptation. I would rather see real people coping with more subtle moral dilemmas. This felt more like a sermon than a novel. Not my cup of tea. Cannot recommend!!   posted Jan 22, 2014 at 8:03PM

Cover ArtAwait your reply : a novel
by Chaon, Dan.
*** stars WOW what a convoluted novel - you cannot let your attention stray for a moment.... The lives of three strangers interconnect in unforeseen ways–and with unexpected consequences. Longing to get on with his life, Miles Cheshire nevertheless can’t stop searching for his troubled twin brother, Hayden, who has been missing for ten years. Hayden has covered his tracks skillfully, moving stealthily from place to place, managing along the way to hold down various jobs and seem, to the people he meets, entirely normal. But some version of the truth is always concealed. A few days after graduating from high school, Lucy Lattimore sneaks away from the small town of Pompey, Ohio, with her charismatic former history teacher. They arrive in Nebraska, in the middle of nowhere, at a long-deserted motel next to a dried-up reservoir, to figure out the next move on their path to a new life. But soon Lucy begins to feel quietly uneasy. My whole life is a lie, thinks Ryan Schuyler, who has recently learned some shocking news. In response, he walks off the Northwestern University campus, hops on a bus, and breaks loose from his existence, which suddenly seems abstract and tenuous. Presumed dead, Ryan decides to remake himself–through unconventional and precarious means. Just when you think you know the identity of a character... you may be wrong. This is a brutally stark novel of identity theft - alienation - physical and mental torture. Very well written, but NOT a happy read. Recommend with a strong caveat!!   posted Jan 22, 2014 at 7:56PM

Cover ArtThe privileges : a novel
by Dee, Jonathan.
0 starS Smart, socially gifted, and chronically impatient, Adam and Cynthia Morey are so perfect for each other that united they become a kind of fortress against the world. In their hurry to start a new life, they marry young and have two children before Cynthia reaches the age of twenty-five. Adam is a rising star in the world of private equity and becomes his boss's protégé. With a beautiful home in the upper-class precincts of Manhattan, gorgeous children, and plenty of money, they are, by any reasonable standard, successful. But the Moreys' standards are not the same as other people's. The future in which they have always believed for themselves and their children—a life of almost boundless privilege, in which any desire can be acted upon and any ambition made real—is still out there, but it is not arriving fast enough to suit them. Amoral parents, amoral children. I did not care what happened to any of the characters, nor did I like any of them. I cannot understand the author's purpose in this book. CANNOT RECOMMEND!!   posted Jan 19, 2014 at 4:31PM

Cover ArtThe last original wife [sound recording] : a novel
by Frank, Dorothea Benton
*** stars Leslie Anne Greene Carter is the last original wife among her husband's group of cronies. They've all traded in their first wives-the middle-aged women they long ago promised to love and cherish 'til death did them part-for riper peaches: younger . . . blonder . . . more enhanced models. Leslie is proud of her status and the longevity of her marriage. Sure the spark isn't quite as bright. And it wouldn't be too much to ask if her husband paid just an itty bit more attention to her desires. But there's something to be said for a comfortable and deeply familiar relationship. Or at least she thinks until the day, out walking with her husband and his friends, she slips into a manhole. Nobody realizes that she's gone. That one misstep opens Leslie's eyes to the sham her perfect life has become. No longer will she be invisible. No longer will she accept being taken for granted. With the healing powers of South Carolina's lush white beaches, beautiful sunsets, and endearing and funny residents, Leslie is going to transform herself and reclaim the strong, vibrant, sexy woman she was meant to be. The Last Original Wife is classic Dorothea Benton Frank: a tale of friendship and love. Ms. Frank creates great characters - very nice read. Even at 60 it is not too late to reclaim your life and make your own choices. Recommend.   posted Jan 18, 2014 at 2:15PM

Cover ArtWhistling past the graveyard [sound recording] : [a nove]l
by Crandall, Susan.
*** 1/2 stars The summer of 1963 begins like any other for nine-year-old Starla Claudelle. Born to teenage parents in Mississippi, Starla is being raised by a strict paternal grandmother, Mamie, whose worst fear is that Starla will turn out like her mother. Starla hasn’t seen her momma since she was three, but is convinced that her mother will keep her promise to take Starla and her daddy to Nashville, where her mother hopes to become a famous singer—and that one day her family will be whole and perfect. When Starla is grounded on the Fourth of July, she sneaks out to see the parade. After getting caught, Starla’s fear that Mamie will make good on her threats and send her to reform school cause her to panic and run away from home. Once out in the country, Starla is offered a ride by a black woman, Eula, who is traveling with a white baby. She happily accepts a ride, with the ultimate goal of reaching her mother in Nashville. As the two unlikely companions make their long and sometimes dangerous journey, Starla’s eyes are opened to the harsh realities of 1963 southern segregation. Through talks with Eula, reconnecting with her parents, and encountering a series of surprising misadventures, Starla learns to let go of long-held dreams and realizes family is forged from those who will sacrifice all for you, no matter if bound by blood or by the heart. Great characters. Great lesson on the definition of love. Recommend!   posted Jan 18, 2014 at 2:09PM

Cover ArtSharp objects [sound recording] : a novel
by Flynn, Gillian, 1971-
** stars Words are like a road map to reporter Camille Preaker’s troubled past. Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, Camille’s first assignment from the Chicago daily paper where she works brings her reluctantly back to her hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. Since she left town eight years ago, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed again in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille is haunted by the childhood tragedy she has spent her whole life trying to cut from her memory. As Camille works to uncover the truth about these violent crimes, she finds herself identifying with the young victims — a bit too strongly. Clues keep leading to dead ends, forcing Camille to unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past to get at the solution. Dogged by her own demons, Camille will have to confront what happened to her years before if she wants to survive this homecoming. This book is well written, but too dark and full of psychological pain for me. I saw the end coming, but kept hoping what I believed was not true. Ms. Flynn sees and writes about psychic pain very well, but I cannot recommend.   posted Jan 9, 2014 at 9:04PM

Cover ArtNecessary lies
by Chamberlain, Diane, 1950-
*** 1/2 stars After losing her parents, fifteen-year-old Ivy Hart is left to care for her grandmother, older sister and nephew as tenants on a small tobacco farm. As she struggles with her grandmother’s aging, her sister’s mental illness and her own epilepsy, she realizes they might need more than she can give. When Jane Forrester takes a position as Grace County’s newest social worker, she doesn’t realize just how much her help is needed. She quickly becomes emotionally invested in her clients' lives, causing tension with her boss and her new husband. But as Jane is drawn in by the Hart women, she begins to discover the secrets of the small farm — secrets much darker than she would have guessed. Soon, she must decide whether to take drastic action to help them, or risk losing the battle against everything she believes is wrong. Set in rural Grace County, North Carolina in a time of state-mandated sterilizations and racial tension, Necessary Lies tells the story of these two young women, seemingly worlds apart, but both haunted by tragedy. Jane and Ivy are thrown together and must ask themselves: how can you know what you believe is right, when everyone is telling you it’s wrong? The United States Eugenics program involving often "involuntary" sterilization, especially of the poor and people of color decreased after WWII because of its similarities to the Nazi eugenics horrors. It did not end completely in this country, however, until the 1960's or early 1970's. In 2001, the Virginia General Assembly acknowledged that the sterilization law was based on faulty science and expressed its "profound regret over the Commonwealth's role in the eugenics movement in this country and over the damage done in its name. You will discover the origin of the title and meet two wonderfully developed characters in Jane and Ivy. Well written. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.   posted Jan 9, 2014 at 8:51PM

Cover ArtPortrait of an unknown woman
by Bennett, Vanora, 1962-
**** stars This very well written book is set during the reign of King Henry VIII and told from the point of view of a ward of Thomas More named Meg. This is the time when Lutherans and other Protestant adherents could be tortured or burned at the stake for their beliefs. Meanwhile King Henry VIII wants to remove the rule of the Pope in England so that he can have his legal marriage annulled and marry Anne Boleyn. Into this mix arrives Hans Holbein. The narrative focuses on two paintings, a portrait of the More family and one of two French Ambassadors. Eventually Thomas More becomes Lord Chancellor for Henry. We also encounter a possible explanation for the disappearance of the two princes locked in the Tower of London by King Richard III. Meg becomes the strongest voice for tolerance and finds it particularly difficult when Thomas More must act against the protestants as the King's Chancellor. The art history is fascinating as the author interprets hidden symbols and artifacts in the paintings of Holbein. I had to look up the two paintings to see the images directly. I think the author did a great job of telling a very readable story of the complexity of the religion, art, and politics of the era. I think Thomas More is "forgiven" a little too easily for this own cruel acts, but other than that, I found this to be a terrific book. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.   posted Jan 9, 2014 at 8:36PM

Cover ArtNight vision [sound recording]
by White, Randy Wayne.
** Doc Ford # 18. A lot is going on in the trailer park known as Little Guadalajara, inhabited principally by illegal laborers. The park manager is the hired gun of a financial syndicate that wants to develop the property, and he's prepared to do whatever it takes to get rid of the site's inhabitants. He can't figure out what to do about a teenage girl who seems to help protect the migrants, who believe has some sort of religious or psychic gift. When she witnesses the manager killing a man and runs away, he has to find her and silence her forever. Doc Ford, a marine biologist and secret agent on Sanibel Island and his friend Tomlinson, must find her first. I have been reading this series for 23 years. I have been disappointed with the last few volumes - there has been less development of the characters and more violent action... I was originally drawn to this series because I love Sanibel and I enjoyed the characters. So... recommend the series if you begin with "Sanibel Flats", but only a faint recommendation for this particular book.   posted Dec 21, 2013 at 7:56PM

Cover ArtLeaving everything most loved : a novel
by Winspear, Jacqueline, 1955-
**** Maisie Dobbs # 10. The death of an Indian immigrant leads Maisie Dobbs into a dangerous yet fascinating world. The book is set in London in 1933. Two months after the body of an Indian woman named Usha Pramal is found in the water of a South London canal, her brother, newly arrived in England, turns to Maisie Dobbs to find out the truth about her death. Not only has Scotland Yard made no arrests, evidence indicates that they failed to conduct a full and thorough investigation. Before her death, Usha was staying at an ayah's hostel alongside Indian women whose British employers turned them out into the street when their services were no longer needed. As Maisie soon learns, Usha was different from the hostel's other lodgers. But with this discovery comes new danger: another Indian woman who had information about Usha is found murdered before she can talk to Maisie. As Maisie is pulled deeper into an unfamiliar yet captivating subculture, her investigation becomes clouded by the unfinished business of a previous case as well as a growing desire to see more of the world, following in the footsteps of her former mentor, Maurice Blanche. And there is her lover, James Compton, who gives her an ultimatum she cannot ignore. I have enjoyed this character for 10 years. I don't want to create any spoilers, but this book marks a pronounced turning point in this wonderful series. As always, I recommend starting a series at the beginning with the first book "Maisie Dobbs". Ms. Winspear has created a complex and delightful protagonist. I love series that engage you as much with the character as with the story. Recommend highly   posted Dec 21, 2013 at 7:40PM

Cover ArtThe sound of broken glass
by Crombie, Deborah.
**** stars. This is the 15th book in the Gemma James and Duncan Kincaid British police procedural series. Ms. Crombie creates extremely enjoyable characters in additional to excellent mysteries. Half the enjoyment of her series is to find out the latest developments in the lives of Gemma and Duncan. The fact that she also writes intriguing and complex mysteries is the frosting on the cake. We begin in the past, on a hot August afternoon in Crystal Palace, London, once home to the tragically destroyed Great Exhibition. An isolated thirteen-year-old boy meets his next door neighbor, a recently widowed young teacher hoping to make a new start in the tight-knit South London community. Drawn together by their lonliness, the unlikely pair form a deep connection that ends in a shattering act of betrayal. We move to the present and find that Detective Inspector Gemma James is back on the job now that her husband, Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid, is at home to care for their emotionally fragile three-year-old foster daughter. She has been assigned to lead a Murder Investigation Team in South London,and is assisted by her colleague, newly promoted Detective Sergeant Melody Talbot. Their first case involves a crime scene at a seedy hotel in Crystal Palace. The victim, a well-respected barrister, is found naked, trussed, and apparently strangled. Is it an unsavory accident or murder? In either case, he was not alone, and Gemma's team must find his companion. When another man turns up dead in the same manner, they realize they are facing a serial killer. As the bodies accumulate they find that the trails all lead to the former lonely boy who is now a successful guitarist. Is he the murderer or the victim of very old hatred. I always look forward to the next edition in this excellent series. Again, if you are not familiar with this author, I always recommend starting from the beginning to enjoy the ongoing story of Gemma and Duncan. The first book in the series is "A Share in Death" published in 1993. Highly recommend.   posted Oct 24, 2013 at 9:28PM

Cover ArtLight of the world [sound recording]
by Burke, James Lee, 1936-
**** stars. I have been reading and enjoying Dave Robicheaux mysteries for 27 years. I love him, his daughter, Alafair, and best friend Clete Purcel. I wait each year for their newest adventure. Louisiana Sheriff’s Detective Dave Robicheaux and his longtime friend and partner Clete Purcel are vacationing in Montana’s spectacular Big Sky country when a series of suspicious events leads them to believe their lives, and the lives of their families, are in danger.First, Alafair is nearly killed by an arrow while hiking alone on a trail. Then Clete’s daughter, Gretchen Horowitz, has a run-in with a local cop. Next, Alafair thinks she sees a familiar face following her around town—but how could convicted sadist and serial killer Asa Surrette be loose on the streets of Montana? Surrette committed a string of vicious murders while capital punishment was outlawed in his home state of Kansas. Years later, Alafair, a lawyer and novelist, interviewed Surrette in prison, aiming to prove him guilty of other crimes and eligible for the death penalty. Recently, a prison transport van carrying Surrette crashed and he is believed dead, but Alafair isn’t so sure. Wyatt Dixon, a former rodeo champion and convicted felon who first appeared in Burke’s 2001 novel “Bitterroot”, is another potential suspect. The search for Surrette, which stands at the novel’s center, widens to encompass a related series of abductions and murders that involves both Surrette and the family of a wealthy oil baron, one of the corporate profiteers who have helped lay waste to a formerly pristine environment. An alcoholic in recovery, Dave Robicheaux is visited by ghosts of the past, and his musings have deep roots in mythology and mysticism. He is a complex, thoughtful, damaged and violent man, unlike any protagonist in modern mystery fiction. The nature of evil is a theme also familiar to Mr. Burke's readers. Mr. Burke's books are always complex page-turners, he has been called “America’s best novelist” (The Denver Post) and “the reigning champ of nostalgia noir” (The New York Times Book Review). If you have not met this great writer and his characters, start with "The Neon Rain" published in 1987 and hold on to your hat for quite a ride!! Highly recommend!   posted Oct 24, 2013 at 9:05PM

Cover ArtUnknown means
by Becka, Elizabeth, 1963-
*** stars. New mystery author for me. Evelyn James is a forensic specialist in the Cleveland Medical Examiner's office who's juggling a demanding workload. Somehow she always happens to be involved in some of the twistiest, most challenging crime scenes imaginable. This time around she's called in to investigate what appears to be a locked-room mystery: A wealthy woman is murdered in the penthouse suite of a luxurious, high-security building. The building's intricate surveillance system didn't pick up anything, the entrance wasn't forced, and the victim's husband has an airtight alibi. Things look even trickier when another victim turns up in another penthouse suite. Then Evelyn's best friend is attacked. And when a third person is found dead, Evelyn realizes that the killer's choice of victim is anything but random. But what is the connection? Pretty good mystery with likeable characters - recommend.   posted Oct 24, 2013 at 8:38PM

Cover ArtBenediction [sound recording]
by Haruf, Kent.
* stars When Dad Lewis is diagnosed with terminal cancer, he and his wife must work together, along with their daughter, to make his final days as comfortable as possible, despite the absence of their estranged son. Next door, a young girl moves in with her grandmother and contends with the memories that Dad’s condition stirs up of her own mother’s death. A newly arrived preacher attempts to mend his strained relationships with his wife and son, and soon faces the disdain of his congregation. And throughout, an elderly widow and her middle-aged daughter do all they can to ease the pain of their friends and neighbors. I really liked Haruf's book Plainsong, so was looking forward to this book. Benediction is so depressing!!! I think we are supposed to empathize with "Dad" because he is estranged from his son, yet the reason for the separation is because Dad rejected his son because he is gay. Dad has had faithful employees helping him manage his store for years, but asks his daughter to give up her own life to come home and take over the store. The people who have worked for him for years no longer matter. Dad fired an employee for stealing from his store and then helped to support the man's family after he commits suicide. This does not make him a good man, it makes him a judgmental man who assuages his conscience by doing "the right thing" when it is too late. When his wife, Mary, briefly hospitalized for stress over the burden of caring for him, checks out AMA and walks home all the way across town, he tells her: “If you keep this up, I’m going to die right now and not put it off any longer, just to keep you from doing this again.” Good empathy there, Dad. Benediction means blessing - there is no blessing in this book except when Dad finally passes away and puts everyone, especially the reader out of our misery. I don't understand the author's purpose in writing this book. There is no redemption, no insight, no healing. I simply found the book profoundly depressing. Cannot recommend.   posted Oct 9, 2013 at 3:50PM

Cover ArtThe white garden : a novel of Virginia Woolf
by Barron, Stephanie.
*** 1/2 stars. In March 1941, Virginia Woolf filled her pockets with stones and drowned herself in England’s River Ouse. Her body was found three weeks later. Six decades after her death, landscape designer Jo Bellamy travels to Sissinghurst Castle for two reasons: to study the celebrated White Garden created by Woolf’s lover Vita Sackville - West and to recover from the terrible wound of her grandfather’s unexplained suicide. Jo makes a shocking find: Woolf’s last diary, its first entry dated the day after she allegedly killed herself. Is the diary and content about Jo's grandfather real? Does it explain Jock's suicide when Jo told him she was going to England? Interesting premise. Nice read. Recommend If authenticated, Jo’s discovery could shatter everything historians believe about Woolf’s final hours. But when the Woolf diary is suddenly stolen, Jo’s quest to uncover the truth will lead her on a perilous journey into the tumultuous inner life of a literary icon whose connection to the White Garden ultimately proved devastating.   posted Oct 9, 2013 at 3:19PM

Cover ArtStarvation Lake : a mystery
by Gruley, Bryan.
*** stars In the dead of a Michigan winter, pieces of a snowmobile wash up near the crumbling, small town of Starvation Lake. It is the former hockey coach's snowmobile that went through the ice on a different lake years earlier, accidentally killing him. The evidence from the snowmobile says one thing, however. Coach Blackburn was murdered. Gus Carpenter, editor of the local newspaper, has recently returned to Starvation after a failed attempt to make it big at the Detroit Times. In his youth, Gus was the goalie who let a state hockey championship get away, crushing Coach's dreams and earning the town's enmity. Now he's investigating the murder of his former coach. Even more unsettling to Gus are the holes in the town's history that he finds and the growing suspicion that those gaps may conceal some dark and disturbing secrets that some of the people closest to him may have killed to keep. Good page turner. First in a series. Recommend.   posted Oct 4, 2013 at 11:09PM

Cover ArtSun and shadow : an Erik Winter novel
by Edwardson, Ake, 1953-
** 1/2 STARS This is book number 1 in the Erik Winter series. For more than a week a newspaper boy has watched his deliveries piling up behind a front door. When Chief Inspector Erik Winter and his team enter they find a murdered couple arranged in a disturbing tableau, death metal music playing, and a message written on the wall. The case eventually leads to a possible sexual "couple swapping" scenario. Chief Inspector Erik Winter has other concerns on his mind: the murder has taken place very close to home and his pregnant girlfriend is nervous because of mysterious silent phone calls. When the investigation unearths a possible link between the murders and the police force, even friendly faces are not to be trusted. When the killer strikes again, Winter is in a race against time to protect both the city and his family. I had hoped that reading the first book in the series would help me like the books more. I do enjoy Mr. Edwardson's character development, but have mixed feelings about the mysteries. Mild recommendation   posted Oct 4, 2013 at 10:56PM

Cover ArtDouble take [compact disc]
by Coulter, Catherine
*** STARS Six months after the death of her husband, renowned psychic August Ransom, Julia is just beginning to recover. The media frenzy that followed his murder left her exhausted. Strolling along San Francisco's Pier 39, she realizes she is starting to feel happy again until an assailant attacks her. Special Agent Cheney Stone, out to stretch his legs, interrupts the man, who then throws Julia into the bay. Not only does FBI agent Stone save her, but he comes to believe there is a a connection between her assault and her husband's death. Meanwhile, in Virginia, Sheriff Dixon Noble (another recurring Coulter protagonist )still mourns his wife, Christie, who vanished three years earlier. His life, too, is just getting back to normal when he learns of a San Francisco woman named Charlotte Pallack, whose shocking resemblance to Christie leads him to go there. Though he knows in his heart that she can't possibly be his wife, Dix is compelled to see her with his own eyes. Inevitably the two cases interact. Agents Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock, from San Francisco connections prove essential in unlocking the mystery behind Charlotte Pallack's identity as well as the forces behind Julia Ransom's attempted murder. Ms Coulter always writes a good page-turner. Recommend if you like the genre.   posted Oct 4, 2013 at 10:11PM

Cover ArtDaddy love [sound recording] : a novel
by Oates, Joyce Carol, 1938-
I HATED THIS BOOK. I did not realize when I started listening to this book that it is all about a little boy who is stolen by a pedophile, sexually abused, and tortured. The man has a history of taking small boys and then killing them when they get too old for his taste. I kept reading in hopes of a happy ending, but there is none. Ms. Oates is an excellent writer, but far too often her subjects are very dark. This was way to painful for me. I don't know what the author accomplished by writing this book except to perhaps examine the psychology of a kidnapped child. Personally, if I wanted to experience this much pain I would simply go have an appendage amputated without annesthetic. MY OPINION: DO NOT READ THIS BOOK.   posted Oct 4, 2013 at 9:55PM

Cover ArtThe final solution : a story of detection
by Chabon, Michael.
*** stars This novel is a detective story that in many ways pays homage to the writings of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The story, set in 1944, revolves around an unnamed 89-year-old long-retired detective (who may or may not be Sherlock Holmes but is always called just "the old man"), now interested mostly in beekeeping, and his quest to find a missing parrot, the only friend of a mute Jewish boy. The title of the novella references Doyle's Sherlock Holmes story "The Final Problem," in which Holmes confronts his greatest enemy, Professor Moriarty, at Reichenbach Falls, and the Final Solution, the Nazis' plan for the genocide of the Jewish people. The story opens with the chance encounter between the old man and a mute young boy, Linus Steinman, who is a German-Jewish refugee staying with a local Anglican priest and his family. The boy's constant companion, a parrot, is in the habit of rattling off German numbers in no obvious order. After we are introduced to the priest, his wife, son and two lodgers, we find out that the numbers may have some significance. One lodger speculates that the numbers are a military code of some kind and seeks to crack it. The other lodger, a Mr. Shane, from the British foreign office, pretends at dinner not to even notice the bird. After Mr. Shane is found murdered the next morning and the parrot Bruno has gone missing, the local inspector, Michael Bellows, recruits the old man to help solve the mystery. Mr. Chabon always has a unique voice - loved his " The Yiddish Policeman's Union "!! Recommend   posted Oct 1, 2013 at 1:55PM

Cover ArtTapestry of fortunes [sound recording] : a novel
by Berg, Elizabeth.
*** stars. This is a lovely novel about four women who take a trip into their past, to find again the people they miss, and to reconnect with their fortunes. Cecilia Ross is looking for a change. She has recently experienced the death of a close friend and decides to take time off from her job as a successful motivational speaker. She moves in to a beautiful old house in St. Paul, Minnesota, complete with a big front porch, a wild garden, and three roommates. The four women are different ages, but all are feeling restless, and want to take a trip to find again the people and things they miss. One woman wants to connect with a daughter she gave away at birth; another wants to visit her long-absent ex-husband; a third woman, a professional chef, is seeking new inspiration from the restaurants along the way. Cecilia is looking for the man she never forgot, who recently sent her a postcard out of the blue. This novel is a portrait of how women grow through the relationships and a testament to the power of female friendship. A pleasant, joyful read. Recommend   posted Oct 1, 2013 at 12:42AM

Cover ArtShadow tag
by Erdrich, Louise.
**** 1/2 stars. Ms. Erdrich writes beautifully even when pain and its infliction is the primary theme of her book, or perhaps because pain is the "other" character in her novel. When Irene America discovers that her husband, Gil, has been reading her diary, she begins a secret Blue Notebook, stashed securely in a safe-deposit box. There she records the truth about her life and her marriage, while turning her Red Diary, hidden where Gil will find it, into a manipulative farce. Irene is resuming work on her doctoral thesis. Gil, her husband, has gained notoriety as an artist through his emotionally revealing portraits of his wife. His work is conflicted: adoring and sensual, but also humiliating and shocking. This mirrors his efforts to love her and destroy her. Irene and Gil fight to keep up appearances for their three children: fourteen-year-old genius Florian, who escapes his family's unraveling with joints and a stolen wine; Riel, their only daughter, an eleven-year-old desperately planning to preserve her family; and sweet five-year-old Stoney. As her home increasingly becomes a place of violence and secrets, and she drifts into alcoholism, Irene moves to end her marriage. Shadow Tag fearlessly explores the complex nature of love, the boundaries of identity, and one family's struggle for survival. Ms. Erdrich has written one of my all time top 10 favorite books ever!!: " Love Medicine ". She writes about the intricacies of love and pain better than anyone! Highly recommend with the caveat that this is not a "feel good", happy novel. It is hard to read such an honest account a tortured relationship.   posted Oct 1, 2013 at 12:31AM

Cover ArtThe vanishing point
by McDermid, Val.
**** stars. Young Jimmy Higgins is snatched from an airport security checkpoint while his guardian watches helplessly from the glass inspection box. But this is no ordinary abduction, as Jimmy is no ordinary child. His mother was Scarlett, a reality TV star who, dying of cancer and alienated from her unreliable family, entrusted the boy to the person she believed best able to give him a happy, stable life: her ghost writer, Stephanie Harker. Assisting the FBI in their attempt to recover the missing boy, Stephanie reaches into the past to uncover the motive for the abduction. Has Jimmy been taken by his own relatives? Is Stephanie’s obsessive ex-lover trying to teach her a lesson? Has one of Scarlett’s stalkers come back to haunt them all? I have always enjoyed Ms. McDermid!! She keeps you guessing until the very end. Recommend.   posted Oct 1, 2013 at 12:08AM

Cover ArtThe teahouse fire [compact disc]
by Avery, Ellis.
*** stars This is the story of two women whose lives intersect in late-nineteenth-century Japan. It also a portrait of Japan as it opens its doors to the West. It was a period when wearing a different color kimono could make a political statement, when women stopped blackening their teeth to profess an allegiance to Western ideas, and when Japan’s most mysterious rite—the tea ceremony became not just a sacramental meal, but a ritual battlefield. The narrator, Aurelia, an American orphan adopted by the Shin family, proprietors of a tea ceremony school, after their daughter, Yukako, finds her hiding on their grounds. Aurelia becomes Yukako’s closest companion, and they, the Shin family, and all of Japan face a time of great challenges and uncertainty. Like a tea ceremony, this novel moves with delicacy and slow pace. If you find Japanese history and tradition interesting, I would recommend the book.   posted Oct 1, 2013 at 12:04AM

Cover ArtAgainst the wall : Helsinki homicide
by Sipila, Jarkko
** stars. This Finnish police procedural gives equal time to the crooks and the cops and more time to plot than to character development. There is an ensemble cast of police, with an undercover officer who plays both sides of the law taking a lead role, and criminals ranging from a low-level junkie who runs errands and tries unsuccessfully to avoid getting in over his head, to a businessman who lives in expensive luxury paid for by arranging deals with Russian partners to fudge shipping manifests. The story begins with a man being lured to an isolated garage where he is executed in cold blood; a second man is similarly lured to the site, where he is told to dispose of both the weapon and the body. He doesn’t have the stomach for this kind of violence, panics, tries to get out of trouble by tipping off the undercover cop, but instead becomes their prime suspect. The first sentence explains why I cannot recommend this book. One of the reasons that I love Scandinavian mystery writers like Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson is their strong psychological analyses of characters. I would rather understand the fears and motives of the people than read about crime after crime. In this book, most of the characters are so minimally drawn that I lost track of who was who until I actually did not care. New author for me - afraid I will not meet him again.   posted Sep 4, 2013 at 3:13AM

Cover ArtOn beauty
by Smith, Zadie.
** stars I really wanted to like this book because I had heard such praise for Ms. Smith. She is an excellent writer, but this book failed me because I did not care about or else actively despised the main characters. Howard Belsey is an Englishman teaching in Wellington, a college town in New England. After 30 years of marriage he is struggling to revive his love for his African American wife Kiki ( my favorite character, but she appears far too infrequently and definitely should kick his ass to the side ) ( the book does have one of the finest descriptions of mature sex that I have ever read) . Meanwhile, his three teenage children Jerome, Zora and Levi are struggling with their own lives. After Howard has a disastrous affair with a colleague, his sensitive older son, Jerome, escapes to England for the holidays. In London he defies everything the Belseys represent when he goes to work for Trinidadian right-wing academic, Monty Kipps. Taken in by the Kipps family for the summer, Jerome falls for Monty's beautiful daughter, Victoria. But this short-lived romance has long-lasting consequences, drawing these very different families into each other's lives. As Kiki develops a friendship with Mrs. Kipps, and Howard and Monty do battle on different sides of the culture war, hot-headed Zora brings a handsome young man from the Boston streets into their midst whom she is determined to draw into the fold of the black middle class. Part of my problem with the book is that I have lost all patience with men and women who allow lust and selfishness to be justifications for despicable behavior - in one case the sexual abuse of a young student by a professor. I disliked both the adult and the child-woman, but this sexual scene seemed unnecessary for the story line and led me to wonder about the author's inclusion of it, especially because his behavior had no consequences for the professor. Does this young woman author find such an encounter titillating or despicable? I could not identify with the teenagers. I did empathize with the street kid who had talent, but was used by Zora and ended up a child at the candy store window. The two professors are egomaniacs who allow themselves to cause harm with impunity. Kiki stands out in the chaos around her with great integrity, but she is not enough to allow me to like the book. Sorry to say, I cannot recommend.   posted Sep 4, 2013 at 2:46AM

Cover ArtBroken : a novel
by Slaughter, Karin, 1971-
*** stars. Ms. Slaughter combines two of her series in this mystery - it is number 4 in the Will Trent series and number 7 in the Grant county. When the body of a young woman is discovered beneath the icy waters of Lake Grant, a note left under a rock by the shore points to suicide. But within minutes, it becomes clear that this is murder, not suicide. Former Grant County medical examiner Sara Linton - home for Thanksgiving after a long absence - finds herself unwittingly drawn into the case. The chief suspect is desperate to see her but when she arrives at the local police station she is met with a horrifying sight - he lies dead in his cell, the words 'Not me' scrawled across the walls. Yet he has signed a confession. Deeply suspicious of Lena Adams, the detective in charge, Sara immediately calls in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Shortly afterwards, Special Agent Will Trent is brought in to investigate. But he is immediately confronted with a wall of silence on the part of the police department. Grant County is a close-knit community with loyalties and ties that run deep. The only person who can tell the truth about what really happened is dead. Then murder strikes again. What can two young college sweethearts have been involved in that resulted in their deaths? Recommend   posted Sep 3, 2013 at 11:14PM

Cover ArtRestless in the grave
by Stabenow, Dana
*** stars. This is the 19th book in the Kate Sugak series. This is the first pairing of Stabenow's two most popular characters: Aleut private investigator Kate Shugak and Alaska state trooper Liam Campbell. Alaska aviation entrepreneur Finn Grant died in the fiery crash of his private plane. Someone sabotaged his engine, and virtually everyone in southwestern Alaska has a motive, including his betrayed wife, his bullied children, and Liam’s wife. With few places to turn, Liam asks his former mentor for help, and he quickly brings Kate onto the case. Working undercover as a waitress at a bar, Kate learns that Grant’s business had expanded significantly over the last two years. After buying the closed Air Force base south of town from the federal government, he spent his time running his fishing, hunting, and flight-seeing business, servicing planes flying through the area, and most interestingly and lucratively, getting into the air freight business. But what kind of freight was he moving, and where? Recommend, but not my favorite in the series.   posted Sep 3, 2013 at 11:03PM

Cover ArtCity of dragons [sound recording]
by Stanley, Kelli
*** stars It's Chinese New Year in 1940 San Francisco, and Chinatown is full of celebrants - including Miranda Corbie, a 33-year-old private eye with a colorful past and a hard-boiled point of view. A Japanese male teenager, beaten and shot, dies at her feet. The Chamber of Commerce wants the murder covered up, and the police are happy to forget it, but Miranda wants justice. Her quest takes her through Chinatown’s tenements and herb shops to a tailor in Little Osaka and a high-class bordello. Chain-smoking Chesterfields all the while, Kellie tries to get information from both hoods and cops. Stanley has vividly re-created the atmosphere of the era, using authentic San Francisco landmarks and the Golden Gate International Exposition as background. Her hard-boiled, strong female sleuth stalks Hammett’s San Francisco and does the job with all the panache of Sam Spade. Fun read! Recommend   posted Sep 3, 2013 at 10:54PM

Cover ArtShattered genius : the decline and fall of the German general staff in World War
by Stone, David
***** stars. Many of us accepted with equanimity the recent books and films about the plot to kill Hitler led by the German war hero Claus Von Stauffenberg and other men of high position in the military staff. Of course, we reflected, it was reasonable for the military to try to kill Hitler and take over the government; he was a madman who was leading his country to destruction. To appreciate the boldness of their plot, imagine the attempted assassination as taking place in the United States. The equivalent would have found the Joint Chiefs of Staff murdering Franklin Delano Roosevelt and setting up a military government because they believed the best strategy after Pearl Harbor was to attack Japan, not Germany. Unimaginable!!! Yet this was the ultimate act that some members of the German General Staff were willing to attempt in order to negotiate for peace and try to save their country..... This book looks at the demise of one of the most historically admired and elevated classes in Germany, that of the traditional military elite. The German general staff controlled all aspects of army operations, the movement, quartering, engagement and mobilizing of troops, and thus the conduct of war. With its roots in the Prussian army, it was manned by Germany's best and brightest officers. Few could ascend to its ranks. Of the 400 or so officers annually admitted to the war college for general staff training, only the top 10 or 12 were selected for promotion. What the general staff failed to adequately prepare for and prevent was being shunted aside in favor of Heinrich Himmler, the SS, the Gestapo and ultimately Hitler himself. The German general staff knew that fighting a two front war was nearly impossible to win and that Germany was not prepared to invade Russia when it did. Given the fact of Operation Barbarossa, if the General staff had been in charge, the soldiers would have been supplied with winter gear, the invasion would not have outrun its supply lines, strategic retreats may have led to victories, and the 6th army at Stalingrad would have broken free instead of fighting until their numbers were so depleted that surrender was the only recourse. It is disconcerting to find oneself wishing that Hitler had left the strategy to his General Staff as this would have prolonged the war, caused more allied casualties, and provided more time for the holocaust. Of course, you don't really want this, but seeing the increasingly egomaniacal, insane Hitler sacrifice his military for the goals of ethnic cleansing and the rule of the SS and SA is painful. This is not to say that the German General Staff were all noble & anti-nazi, but many were simply attempting to make the best military decisions for their country. One might admire Patton and Guderian for their military skills and still hate everything that a German Nazi believed. This book is a terrific analysis of the death of the General Staff at the hands of the Nazi powerful. Highly recommend to lovers of WWII history.   posted Sep 3, 2013 at 2:20AM

Cover ArtMrs. Robinson's disgrace [sound recording] : the private diary of a Victorian la
by Summerscale, Kate, 1965-
** 1/2 stars. Headstrong, high-spirited, and already widowed, Isabella Walker became Mrs. Henry Robinson at age 31 in 1844. Her first husband had died suddenly, leaving his estate to a son from a previous marriage, so she inherited nothing. A successful civil engineer, Henry moved his wife and their 2 sons to Edinburgh's elegant society in 1850. Henry is frequently away from home and remote when present. Isabella is left alone with a very active imagination. No doubt thousands of Victorian women faced the same circumstances, but Isabella chose to record her innermost thoughts - and especially her infatuation with a married Dr. Edward Lane - in her diary. Over five years the entries became more and more passionate, sensual, and suggestive. One fateful day in 1858 Henry chanced on the diary and read it. Aghast at his wife's perceived infidelity, Henry petitioned for divorce on the grounds of adultery. Until that year, divorce had been illegal in England. Their trial would threaten the foundations of Victorian society. Her diary, read in court, was as explosive as Flaubert's Madame Bovary, just published in France but considered too scandalous to be translated into English until the 1880s. Kate Summerscale recreates the Victorian world and writes in compelling detail of the life of Isabella Robinson. In this book the longings of a frustrated wife collide with a society clinging to rigid ideas about sanity, the boundaries of privacy, the institution of marriage, and female sexuality. Mild recommendation   posted Sep 3, 2013 at 2:01AM

Cover ArtA mad desire to dance : a novel
by Wiesel, Elie, 1928-
*** stars. No one has ever written about the Holocaust as well as Elie Wiesel. In this novel Doriel, a European expatriate living in New York, suffers from a profound sense of desperation and loss. His mother, a member of the Resistance, survived World War II only to die in an accident, together with his father, soon after. Doriel was a child during the war, and his knowledge of the Holocaust is largely limited to what he finds in movies and books. Doriel’s parents and their secrets haunt him, leaving him filled with longing but unable to experience the most basic joys in life. He plunges into an intense study of Judaism, but instead of finding solace, he comes to believe that he is possessed. He finally turns to Dr. Thérèse Goldschmidt to cure him of his "madness". The psychoanalyst finds herself particularly intrigued by her patient. The two enter into an uneasy relationship based on exchanges of dreams, histories, and secrets. Despite Doriel’s initial resistance, she helps to bring him to an amazing choice. Recommend   posted Sep 3, 2013 at 1:45AM

Cover ArtA treacherous paradise [sound recording]
by Mankell, Henning, 1948-
*** 1/2 stars. I love Mankell's Wallander series, so at first I was disappointed to discover that this book is a departure from his Swedish detective series. This stand alone novel is largely set in Mozambique during the early years of the 20th century. Cold and poverty define Hanna Renström’s childhood in remote northern Sweden. In 1904, at nineteen, she boards a ship for Australia in hope of a better life. Nothing prepares her for the life she will lead. After a brief marriage to a sailor, she becomes a widow. On impulse she leaves the ship and she checks in to a hotel, only to discover that it’s Lourenço Marques’s most prestigious brothel. After just a few weeks the brothel keeper, a man called Vaz, asks her to marry him, which she does. Then he also dies, and Hanna finds herself running the business in his place — with considerable aplomb and success. White colonists rule, and Hanna is expected to adopt their racism. She is isolated within white society by her profession and her gender, and, among the bordello’s black prostitutes, by her color. As Hanna’s story unfolds over the next several years in this “treacherous paradise,” she wrestles with a devastating loneliness. As her life becomes increasingly intertwined with the prostitutes’, she moves toward the moment when she will make a decision that defies all expectations. Mankell is an excellent writer who breaks from expectations with this book much as Hanna does. Recommend   posted Sep 3, 2013 at 1:35AM

Cover ArtI am forbidden [sound recording] : a novel
by Markovits, Anouk
*** 1/2 stars. Moving from the Central European countryside just before World War II to Paris to contemporary Williamsburg, Brooklyn, "I Am Forbidden" brings to life four generations of one Satmar ( an Hasidic movement of primarily Romanian and Hungarian Jews ) family. The book begins in 1939 Transylvania when five-year-old Josef witnesses the murder of his family and is rescued by a Gentile maid to be raised as her own son. Five years later, Josef rescues a young girl, Mila, after her parents are killed while running toward the Rebbe they hoped would save them as he is deported in a box car. Josef helps Mila reach Zalman Stern, a leader in the Satmar community, in whose home Mila is raised as a sister to Zalman’s daughter, Atara. As the two girls mature, Mila’s faith intensifies, while Atara discovers a world of books and learning that she cannot ignore. With the rise of communism in central Europe, the family moves to Paris and eventually to the United States. When the two girls come of age, Mila marries within the faith, while Atara continues to question fundamentalist doctrine. When Mila and her husband are childless after 10 years, it is custom for the husband to divorce the wife as he must become "fruitful". What are they to do? The different choices the two sisters make force them apart until a dangerous secret threatens to banish them from the only community they have ever known. Great book! Highly recommend   posted Aug 17, 2013 at 1:21AM

Cover ArtMissing Mark [sound recording]
by Kramer, Julie.
*** stars. TV reporter Riley Spartz works for very thinly veiled WCCO. This is a new author for me and I picked it up because of the Minnesota connection. When Riley sees a want ad reading “Wedding Dress for Sale: Never Worn,” her news instincts tell her that the story might make an intriguing television piece. The groom, Mark, last seen at the rehearsal dinner, never showed up for the wedding, humiliating his bride, Madeline—and her high-strung, high-society mother—in front of 300 guests. His own mother, eager to spare him further embarrassment, waited weeks before filing a missing-person report and then learned how difficult it is to get police, or the media, interested in missing men. The story turns into a murder investigation. Interesting premise behind the murder. Enjoyed the book. Recommend   posted Aug 17, 2013 at 1:03AM

Cover ArtThe Obituary Writer (Audiobook on CD)
by Hood, Ann, 1956-
*** 1/2 stars. On the day John F. Kennedy is inaugurated, Claire, a young wife and mother obsessed with the glamour of Jackie, struggles over the decision of whether to stay in a loveless but secure marriage or to follow the man she loves and whose baby she may be carrying. Decades earlier, in 1919, Vivien Lowe, an obituary writer, is searching for her lover who disappeared in the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. By telling the stories of the dead, Vivien not only helps others cope with their grief but also begins to understand the devastation of her own terrible loss. The surprising connection between these two women will change Claire s life in unexpected and extraordinary ways. I enjoy the interweaving of stories that appear unconnected. Ms. Hood creates real characters that you care about and personal stories that make you want to know their resolution. I thought it was particularly poignant to have one protagonist so involved with the idea of hope, Jackie, and the Kennedy inauguration. We all know how that hope was dashed and we are still writing obituaries for that family and what might have been. Highly recommend.   posted Aug 17, 2013 at 12:55AM

Cover ArtThe red house [sound recording]
by Haddon, Mark, 1962-
* 1/2 stars. I had high hopes for this novel, as I find "dysfunctional family dynamics" story lines interesting. Richard, a wealthy doctor, invites his estranged sister Angela and her family to join his for a week at a vacation home in the English countryside. Richard has just re-married and inherited a willful stepdaughter in the process; Angela has a feckless husband and three children who sometimes seem alien to her. The stage is set for seven days of resentment and guilt, a staple of family gatherings the world over. Unfortunately the "confrontations" largely fell flat. I did not bond with any of the characters except perhaps for the sister's children who are attempting to survive amid the narcissistic teenager and the "adults" - and I use the term here very loosely. Sorry, cannot recommend   posted Aug 15, 2013 at 6:20PM

Cover ArtThe burying place [sound recording]
by Freeman, Brian, 1963-
*** stars. Brian Freeman is a new author for me. The story line involves two mysteries. In the quiet town of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, a baby vanishes from her bedroom in an opulent lakeside home. Was she abducted - or does her father have a terrible secret to hide? That same night, a young policewoman gets lost in the fog and stumbles into the middle of an horrific crime. I picked the book because of the Minnesota connection. Complex and intriguing story - good character development. recommend   posted Aug 15, 2013 at 6:15PM

Cover ArtBack of beyond [sound recording] : [a novel]
by Box, C. J.
*** stars. C. J. Box can always be counted upon for a good read. It's not great literature, but this Edgar award winning author crafts characters that you care about and stories that keep your attention. This is what all authors strive for, and many fail to accomplish. Cody Hoyt, while a brilliant cop, is an alcoholic struggling with two months of sobriety when his mentor and AA sponsor Hank Winters is found burned to death in a remote mountain cabin. At first it looks like the suicide of a man who's fallen off the wagon. Hank had 14 years of sobriety and Cody does not believe the man had started drinking again. When he takes a closer look at the scene of his friend's death, it becomes apparent that Hank was murdered. After years of bad behavior with his department, he's in no position to be investigating a homicide. Unfortunately, clues found at the scene link the murderer to an outfitter leading tourists on a wilderness horseback trip into the remote corners of Yellowstone National Park and Cody's son is part of the group. Recommend   posted Aug 10, 2013 at 7:37PM

Cover ArtThe drowning house : a novel
by Black, Elizabeth, 1950-
* 1/2 stars. Photographer Clare Porterfield's once-happy marriage is coming apart, unraveling under the strain of a family tragedy. When she receives an invitation to direct an exhibition in her hometown of Galveston, Texas, she jumps at the chance to escape her grief and reconnect with the island she hasn't seen for ten years. There Clare will have the time and space to search for answers about her troubled past and her family's complicated relationship with the wealthy and influential Carraday family. Soon she finds herself drawn into a century-old mystery involving Stella Carraday. Local legend has it that Stella drowned in her family's house during the Great Hurricane of 1900, but did she? I recently visited Galveston for the first time and fell in love with the city and its history. I thought this book sounded intriguing. This is the author's first book and you can tell. She tries to do too much and throws too many secrets and story lines into the melee. We have Clare's loss and unresolved marriage. We have a past relationship with a boy and a secret tragedy they caused. Add in the 1900 story line, incest, financial crimes, a dying island resident, an off-islander who wants a relationship with Clare, undiscovered love affairs..... and much more. Clare is at the same time astute enough to discover secrets via old photos and too stupid to look in her family's garage apartment for the old flame she searches for in vain for 90% of the book. Sorry, cannot recommend. If you find the Galveston hurricane history intriguing, read: "Isaac's Storm - A Man, A Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History" by Erik Larson!!!!!! Non-fiction, published in 1999.   posted Aug 10, 2013 at 7:17PM

Cover ArtToby's room : a novel
by Barker, Pat, 1943-
*** 1/2 stars. “Toby’s Room” is a sequel to "Life Class" and continues the story of 3 students of the Slade School of Fine Art in London. When the war begins, both Paul Tarrant and Kit Neville serve as volunteers with the Belgian Red Cross. Their friend Elinor Brooke, however, chooses to disregard it. Like Virginia Woolf (who makes a cameo appearance), Elinor thinks that since women are outside the political process the war doesn’t concern her, and she imposes a taboo on herself: the war is not to be acknowledged, in either her art or her life. But her brother, Toby, a doctor, becomes a medical officer at the front and WWI is no longer outside Elinor's life. As stated in the previous review, Ms. Barker has a style that makes you believe she is a contemporary of her characters. Recommend.   posted Aug 10, 2013 at 7:01PM

Cover ArtLife class
by Barker, Pat, 1943-
*** 1/2 stars. In this novel, Pat Barker returns to her most renowned subject: the devastation and psychic damage wrought by WWI on all levels of British society. In the spring of 1914, a group of young students gather in an art studio for a life-drawing class. A group of students at the Slade School of Art have gathered for a life-drawing class. Paul Tarrant is easily distracted by an intriguing fellow student, Elinor Brooke, but Kit Neville - himself not long out of the Slade but already a well-known painter - makes it clear that he, too, is attracted to Elinor. Paul's new life as a volunteer for the Belgian Red Cross is a world away from his days at the Slade. He must confront the fact that life, and love, will never be the same again. Ms. Barker has the marvelous ability to recreate the style of the great British authors of the early 20th century. If you did not know that the book is a work of new fiction, you would swear the author endured the pain of WWI herself. Recommend   posted Aug 10, 2013 at 6:49PM

Cover ArtThe stranger [sound recording]
by Lackberg, Camilla, 1974-
**** stars This is the fourth of Lackberg's series set in the rural Swedish region of Tanum, featuring police investigator Patrik Hedstrom and his team. A fatal traffic accident is initially put down to alcohol as the cause, but is puzzling when it is discovered the the woman victim never drank. Marit lived an entirely blameless life with her lover Kerstin and daughter Sofie, and her only enemy seems to have been her embittered ex-husband Ola. Patrik suspects foul play and begins to investigate. Meanwhile, a new reality show "Sodding Tanum" descends on the town in a media circus. The show takes survivors of other reality series and films them pursuing 'ordinary' lives in a small town. The cast is, not surprisingly, narcissistic and confrontational. Regular sessions with psychologist Lars, husband of new police team member Hanna, do little to control them, especially in the face of a production crew determined to keep tensions high. Soon bickering leads to drunken brawling at a party. The cosmetically enhanced "Barbie" of the cast is found dead. Media interest in the reality-show murder means that Patrik and his team neglect Marit in favor of investigating Barbie's death. However, neither case moves anywhere fast until Patrik half-remembers something he heard at a police training day several years earlier. Even then, the resolution proves to be more complex, and more disturbing, than he imagined. I am a fan of the Scandinavian mystery writers and enjoy following the story line of Patrik, his family, and his fellow police officers. Highly recommend.   posted Jul 7, 2013 at 8:03PM

Cover ArtGuilt [sound recording]
by Kellerman, Jonathan
*** 1/2 stars. I have been reading Jonathan Kellerman's Alex Delaware mysteries for 28 years. By this time Alex, and his curmudgeonly police partner Milo Sturgis, are old friends. A young couple purchase their dream home in a wealthy LA suburb. The last thing they expect to find has they renovate the grounds is the long dead body of in infant in a blue box The most likely culprit is a mysterious woman, employed as a private nurse to wealthy L.A. families during the Second World War. Before Alex can properly get to work on the case,however, a young woman is found in a park near the home. She has been shot in the head at close range in an execution-style killing, but even more chilling is the discovery in the same park of another baby’s skeleton... and this one died more recently, its bones scrubbed clean and polished. As Milo and Alex delve into the past, they stir up tales of a beautiful nurse with a mystery lover, a handsome, wealthy doctor who seems too good to be true, and a hospital with a notorious reputation. The problem is that all of them are long gone, along with any records. The investigation of the more recent deaths leads in the direction of the highest echelons of celebrity privilege. Milo and Alex are shaken by the depravity they find beneath the gloss of wealth and fame. Mr. Kellerman never disappoints. Recommend!   posted Jul 7, 2013 at 7:39PM

Cover ArtBurn [sound recording]
by Barr, Nevada.
* 1/2 stars. I have been reading Nevada Barr's mystery novels involving Anna Pigeon, a national park ranger, since 1993. It has been fun to follow the events in the protagonist's life and the mysteries are credible and well-written. This book, however, is my least favorite for two reasons. The first is that the subject matter concerns the theft of children for use in a brothel and the second is that Anna is almost a secondary character to a mother who is searching for her lost girls. Anna is staying with a friend in New Orleans while recuperating from recent traumas. She encounters Jordan, a hostile young man living in the same building. Of course, since we are in the Big Easy, there has to be an element of voodoo when Anna finds Jordan placing a sacrificed pigeon in the trash. But nothing about Jordan is what it seems. Highly recommend the series, but not this particular book   posted Jul 7, 2013 at 7:21PM

Cover ArtTrust your eyes
by Barclay, Linwood
*** 1/2 stars. By chance this year I have read three books by this author, who is new to me. This one is by far the best of the three. Thomas Kilbride is a map-obsessed schizophrenic so affected that he rarely leaves the safety of his bedroom. With a computer program called Whirl360.com, however, he travels the world via cameras that film every street and building of cities. Thomas can tell you every business and home on a street corner in Amsterdam. When their father, who had lived with and cared for Thomas, dies, his brother Ray returns home intending to sell the house and place Thomas in a group home. One day Thomas detects an image in a window...an image that looks like a woman being murdered. Day by day Ray learns the extent of Thomas's disability as he takes care of him, cooking for him, dealing with the outside world on his behalf, and listening to his intricate and increasingly paranoid theories. Ray also begins to wonder if something happened to Thomas when he was 13 as he observes his behaviors, fears, and stories of a troubled relationship with their father. When Thomas tells Ray that he has seen a murder, he humors him with a half-hearted investigation. But Ray soon realizes he and his brother have stumbled onto a deadly conspiracy. I was skeptical when I started the book because I had not particularly enjoyed the previous books, but Mr. Linwood won me over with a carefully laid out plot that keeps you guessing until the very end with one final shocker just when you thought the roller-coaster ride was over.   posted Jul 7, 2013 at 7:03PM

Cover ArtA week in winter [sound recording]
by Binchy, Maeve.
**** stars. I have loved and read Maeve Binchy for 30 years. Sadly this is her last book, as she passed away last year. She was an Irish story-teller of the highest caliber who had a amazing ability to create vivid, wonderful characters who drew you into their lives. She had ample opportunity to do this in this book as the story involves the hosts at a hotel which has just opened and the guests who travel to western Ireland for a week in winter. . When Chicky Starr decides to take an old, decaying mansion set high on the cliffs overlooking the windswept Atlantic Ocean and turn it into a restful place for a holiday by the sea, everyone in the small town of Stoneybridge thinks she is crazy. Helped by Rigger (a bad boy turned good who is handy around the house) and Orla, her niece (a whiz at business), Chicky is finally ready to welcome the first guests to Stone House’s big warm kitchen, log fires, and understated elegant bedrooms. John, the American movie star, thinks he has arrived incognito; Winnie and Lillian are forced into taking a holiday together; Nicola and Henry, husband and wife, have been shaken by seeing too much death practicing medicine; Anders hates his father’s business, but has a real talent for music; Miss Nell Howe, a retired schoolteacher, criticizes everything; the Walls are disappointed to have won this second-prize holiday in a contest where first prize was Paris; and Freda, the librarian, is afraid of her own psychic visions. Ms. Binchy interweaves all these stories. Chicky and Stone House offer warmth and the possibility of healing. But do she and the beautiful setting have enough magic to improve the lives of all involved? I will miss Ms. Binchy and her wonderful books. Highly recommend!   posted Jul 7, 2013 at 6:35PM

Cover ArtIn the kitchen
by Ali, Monica, 1967-
*** stars. Gabriel Lightfoot is an man from a northern England mill town, who has climbed to the position of executive chef at the once-splendid Imperial Hotel. Much of the beginning of the book involves the efforts of Gabe to run a successful kitchen. But his integrity, to say nothing of his sanity, is under constant challenge from the competing demands of a multinational staff, frustrating hotel management, and business partners with whom he is secretly planning a move to a restaurant of his own. Despite the pressures, all his hard work looks set to pay off until a worker is found dead in the kitchen's basement. It is a seemingly "insignificant" death of a foreign worker - but it is enough to disturb the tenuous balance of Gabe's life. Outside of work, Gabriel faces other complications. His father is dying of cancer, his girlfriend wants more from their relationship, and there appears to an illegal business taking place in the hotel. Enter Lena, an attractive young emigrant woman with mysterious ties to the dead man and an horrendous history. Under her spell, Gabe makes a decision, the consequences of which change the course of the life he knows - and the future he thought he wanted. Throughout the book I kept wanting to interrupt Gabe and tell him to think about what he was doing. He makes so many poor choices and manages his priorities so badly, you want to wring his neck. Perhaps, however, this is precisely the goal of the author - to engage the reader to this degree of involvement in the progression of Gabe's life. To have you wonder, will he ever act wisely and find what is truly important for his life? recommend.   posted Jul 7, 2013 at 6:09PM

Cover ArtCranford
by Gaskell, Elizabeth Cleghorn, 1810-1865
***** stars. I loved the PBS Masterpiece Theatre presentation of this novel and could not imagine that a book could capture the wonderful observations and interactions of Judi Dench and her fellow actors. I had never read an book by Ms. Gaskell, and felt I should give one a try. What a delight!! Much as I loved the production, it is almost never possible for a film to capture all the internal machinations of the minds of the characters. The thoughts and interactions of Miss Mary Smith and her two friends in a world largely without men, where said creatures are viewed perhaps at best as minor impediments to an orderly, reasonable life, are wonderful. I listened to this book on CD. This heightened the enjoyment of the terrific prose. Dame Judi did a great job, but Ms. Gaskell goes her one better. The book may be over 150 years old, but I would recommend it to everyone. Hurrah!!   posted Jun 27, 2013 at 10:37PM

Cover ArtSail of stone
by Edwardson, Ake, 1953-
* star. I am such a fan of several of the Scandinavian mystery authors that I hate to admit that I found this book to be very disappointing. I still enjoyed the main characters, Erik Winter and his family and fellow officers. A brother and sister believe that their father has gone missing. They think he may have traveled to Scotland in search of his father, who was presumed lost at sea decades ago in World War II. Meanwhile, there are reports that a woman is being abused, but she can’t be found and her family won’t help the police. I was very intrigued by both story lines and read avidly for the explanations. The end was so confusing and disappointing that I was angry that I had cared so much about solving the mysteries. How can you manage to reach the end of a 300 page book, have a 4 page denouement and not even be certain who was or was not still alive? For those characters who I knew were dead, I had no idea or only flawed vague ones of why they died. This is a good book in search of a satisfactory ending. I still like the author, but cannot recommend this book.   posted Jun 27, 2013 at 10:19PM

Cover ArtThe dressmaker [sound recording] : [a novel]
by Alcott, Kate
*** STARS The storyline follows 4 survivors of the sinking of the Titanic. Tess, an aspiring seamstress, thinks she's had an incredibly lucky break when she is hired by famous designer Lady Lucile Duff Gordon to be a personal maid on the Titanic's doomed voyage. Once on board, Tess meets two men, one an uneducated but kind sailor and the other an enigmatic Chicago millionaire. On the 4th night the Titanic sinks. The sailor witnesses Lord and Lady Duff Gordon’s questionable actions during the tragedy. Rumors about the survivors begin to circulate, and Lady Duff Gordon quickly becomes the subject of media scorn and later the official U. S. hearings on the Titanic and the behavior of passengers and crew. Instead of focusing on the disaster itself, most of this novel takes place after the sinking and looks at the hearings and the impact of the disaster on the lives of the surviving passengers, especially on their ethical / unethical behaviors in order to save themselves and others. Much is based on real events. I liked this point of view and the ultimate choices made by Tess. Recommend   posted Jun 27, 2013 at 9:51PM

Cover ArtDeath comes to Pemberley [sound recording] : [a novel]
by James, P. D.
*** stars P. D. James continues the story Jane Austen’s novel "Pride and Prejudice" by turning it into a tale of murder. It is 1803, six years since Elizabeth and Darcy embarked on their life together at Pemberley, Darcy’s magnificent estate. Their peaceful, orderly world seems stable. They have two fine sons, Fitzwilliam and Charles. Elizabeth’s sister Jane and her husband, Bingley, live nearby; her father visits often; there is optimistic talk about the prospects of marriage for Darcy’s sister Georgiana. And preparations are under way for their much-anticipated annual autumn ball. Then, on the eve of the ball, a coach arrives carrying Lydia, Elizabeth’s disgraced sister, who largely because of her devious husband Wickham, has been banned from Pemberley. She stumbles out of the carriage, hysterical, shrieking that Wickham has been murdered. The Darcys' lives now involve a mystery. I have loved P. D. James mysteries since 1962. I could not wait for the new Adam Dalgliesh to be printed. I enjoyed this novel, and Ms. James is a superb writer, something that cannot be said about far too many novelists whose books bring out the urge to edit as you read. I recommend the book, but I think I was simply disappointed that this was not a Dalgliesh and that I may never encounter him again as Ms. James is now 93. If you have never read an Adam Dalgliesh, start with "Cover Her Face" or try "An Unsuitable Job for a Woman" with Cordelia Gray and be prepared to revel in one of the greatest mystery writers of the 20th century.   posted Jun 19, 2013 at 1:33AM

Cover ArtThe dinner [sound recording] : a novel
by Koch, Herman, 1953-
***** STARS "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." thus begins Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina". So begins Mr. Koch who then sets out to prove that the self-described happy family of the protagonist is very different from other happy families. Two brothers and their wives go out to dinner. I was prepared for a literate book of table talk - Wow was this narrative a surprise. I highly recommend this book + I also highly recommend that you begin the book with as little knowledge of the plot as possible. Just let a superb author lead you down an amazing garden path!!!!!   posted Jun 19, 2013 at 1:11AM

Cover ArtThe long fall [sound recording]
by Mosley, Walter
*** 1/2 stars. I have enjoyed Mr. Mosley's well-spoken, intelligent African American protagonists for more than 20 years. My favorite, of course, is Easy Rawlins, but this book introduces a new character, Leonid McGill, PI. Mr. McGill is attempting to turn over a new leaf and give up his willingness to participate in shady deals to earn a buck - changing from crooked to perhaps slightly bent. Mosley's noir style has moved to contemporary New York. Leonid has been hired to track down four men, knowing only the street names they used as teenagers. His client won't say why he wants to find these men, but what does McGill care? It's a job. He delivers their current whereabouts. When all of them end up dead, he realizes that he may know too much and be the next victim on the list. Meanwhile he is struggling with a loveless marriage and a teenage son headed for trouble. Mr. Mosley is a great writer of characters and mysteries. He has created a complicated and intriguing new "hero". Recommend   posted Jun 11, 2013 at 3:40PM

Cover ArtThe fifth witness [sound recording]
by Connelly, Michael, 1956-
*** stars. You can always count on Michael Connelly for a good read! My favorite of his protagonists is Harry Bosch, but I am falling for Mickey Haller, the "Lincoln Lawyer" who operates out of his car. When times are tough, Mickey turns to a lucrative and abundant source of cases: foreclosure. He acquires a client named Lisa Trammel who is a "poster child" for the homeowner fighting big banks. When she is accused of murdering one of the "bankers" involved in her case, everything becomes much more complicated than it seemed. Recommend.   posted Jun 11, 2013 at 3:22PM

Cover ArtI am half-sick of shadows [sound recording]
by Bradley, C. Alan, 1938-
*** 1/2 stars. First of all, I am in love with precocious 11-year-old Flavia de Luce, the heroine of this mystery series. She has her own chemistry lab and is far too smart for her own good. It’s Christmastime, and Flavia is tucked away in her laboratory, whipping up a concoction to ensnare Saint Nick. She must know "scientifically", once and for all, if he really exists. This may sound like at best an amusing subplot, but Bradley incorporates Flavia’s trap into the main mystery. "I am half-sick of shadows" is a quote from Tennyson's "The Lady of Shallot" who is tired of living a shadow life and wants to engage the real world. Due to financial problems, Flavia’s father rents the family estate Buckshaw to a film company over the holidays. The title most aptly applies to the lead actress in the movie production. One of the actors is murdered on a night when practically the entire village is stranded at Buckshaw during a snowstorm. Shadows is the most Agatha Christie-like of Bradley’s mysteries, featuring a classic country house whodunnit. The mystery itself is an intellectual puzzle, with wonderfully placed clues and red herrings. This is book 4 in the series. I recommend the books and especially love to listen to these mysteries and Flavia's unique voice.   posted Jun 11, 2013 at 3:09PM

Cover ArtFair stood the wind for France [sound recording]
by Bates, H. E. 1905-1974.
*** stars. This World War II novel was written in 1944. The story concerns John Franklin, the British pilot of a Wellington Bomber who badly injures his arm when he brings his plane down in Occupied France. He and his crew make their way to an isolated farmhouse and are taken in by the family of a French farmer. Plans are made to smuggle the them back to Britain via Vichy controlled Marseilles but Franklin's condition worsens and he remains at the farm and falls in love with the farmer's daughter Françoise. This book reads much like the story lines of movies of the 1940's. I bonded with the characters and hoped for the safe escape of Franklin. An enjoyable war time love story. I especially liked the softer 70-year-old style of writing and characterization. (Hard to describe.) A man who has lived through the Blitz has a different perspective from a modern author. Time to get out an old WWII classic. Recommend.   posted Jun 11, 2013 at 2:42PM

Cover ArtNever look away [sound recording] : a thriller
by Barclay, Linwood
** 1/2 stars. David Harwood has the "perfect" life. He is a newspaper reported with a wife and son he adores. His wife disappears suddenly and it gradually looks like David is skillfully being framed for murdering her. Why does he find her birth certificate hidden in an envelope with a key? Has anything about his idyllic family ever been true? I liked this book better than "The Accident". There are several plot twists, but not so many that they are not plausible. Mr. Barclay seems to have a theme of "nothing is what it seems" in his books. Mild recommendation for this one, I definitely wanted to know how everything resolved and explained the disappearance.   posted Jun 11, 2013 at 2:29PM

Cover ArtA prisoner of birth [sound recording]
by Archer, Jeffrey, 1940-
*** 1/2 stars This mystery is a contemporary retelling of Dumas's The Count of Monte Cristo. After proposing to his childhood sweetheart Beth Wilson, Danny Cartwright takes her brother Bernie and her to celebrate at a nearby pub. In the pub, they are accosted by four people. Danny, Beth and Bernie attempt to leave the pub without getting involved in a fracas, but Spencer Craig, one of the four that confronted them, follows them out of the pub along with his friends. A fight breaks out; Bernie is stabbed and dies. Danny is blamed for his murder in a well-orchestrated plot by Spencer and his friends. Danny is arrested and convicted. Sentenced to 22 years in Belmarsh prison. His cell mates are Albert Crann, known as "Big Al," and Sir Nicholas Moncrieff. Meanwhile, outside the prison, Beth is pregnant with Danny's daughter. Sir Nicholas slowly teaches Danny to read and to write. Their friendship grows closer, and Danny decides to dress like his friend in the hope that it will help his upcoming appeal. Danny begins to gather evidence for his appeal with the help of a young lawyer, Alex Redmayne, but unable to present the new evidence, Danny's appeal is denied, and he must serve his complete sentence in Belmarsh prison. Danny resigns himself to his sentence and cuts off contact with Beth, hoping she will find a new life without him. Then a series of events finds Danny outside the prison walls and plotting his revenge on the men who participated in the murder of his friend and framed him. How does Danny escape from the prison? Does he find justice? The reader must at times accept the plot twists without analyzing their plausibility too closely, but the characters are well drawn and the book is definitely a page-turner. Recommend.   posted Jun 11, 2013 at 2:15PM

Cover ArtArticles of war [sound recording] : [a novel]
by Arvin, Nick.
*** stars. This book has some of the feel of " The Red Badge of Courage" set in World War II France shortly after the Normandy invasion. An 18-year-old Iowa boy is called Heck by his comrades because he refuses to swear. He meets a young French girl, but is so young and inexperienced that he does not know if what he feels for her is love or not. He is overwhelmed by the horrors of battle, feels he is a coward, and ultimately commits an outright act of cowardice. The pivotal event of the novel concerns Heck's confrontation of the consequences for a soldier who has deserted. No one would call this boy a brave soldier, but it is difficult to judge Heck who never even saw an ocean before he was shipped off to Omaha beach. How can one cast stones when you have no idea how you would react if thrown into hell at 18. Arvin does a good job of capturing the confusion, terror and randomness of war. Recommend.   posted May 18, 2013 at 6:47PM

Cover ArtThe wonder spot [sound recording]
by Bank, Melissa.
1/2 * stars. I guess at 65 I am too old to appreciate the wanderings of a 30 year old woman from man to man and job to job. The men disappeared from chapter to chapter often without explanation of why Sophie was attracted to them or why they are no longer in her life. She hates her jobs, but moves on only with the assistance of friends. I kept waiting for the stories of self-indulgent inertia to lead to some progress or insights in Sophie's life. My hope was never fulfilled. I found her life boring to the very end. Cannot recommend   posted May 18, 2013 at 6:18PM

Cover ArtThe confidant
by Gremillon, Helene
*** stars This story is set in 1975 France. A young book editor starts receiving letters shortly after the death of her mother. They slowly tell the story of events just before and during World War II. At first she believes the letters are from an author who wants to get his book read and has used them as a strategy to bring his work to her attention. Gradually she begins to wonder if the stories relate to her own life. The author keeps you reading to find out what happens. recommend.   posted May 13, 2013 at 4:04PM

Cover ArtThe violets of March / : a novel
by Jio, Sarah
*** stars A young woman whose husband has left her for another woman returns to Bainbridge Island, Washington to the home of her great aunt to heal. She finds a ? dairy / ? novel about events in the World War II era. Gradually she begins to wonder if the story relates to her own life and long kept family secrets. Ms. Jio keeps you reading to find out what happens and has a talent for interweaving the past and the present. recommend.   posted May 13, 2013 at 4:00PM

Cover ArtSalvage the bones : a novel
by Ward, Jesmyn.
*** stars This is an amazing story of an African American family over 12 days of the approach, duration, and aftermath of hurricane Katrina. The teenage daughter is pregnant who finds her heroines in mythology. One brother has a fighting pit bull. Ms. Ward does not pull any punches in describing the brutality of the life of this poor family. It took me a while to engage with the book, but was soon invested in the survival of the family. recommend   posted May 13, 2013 at 3:43PM

Cover ArtGoing clear [sound recording] : [Scientology, Hollywood, and the prison of belie
by Wright, Lawrence, 1947-
*** 1/2 stars I grew up in rural Iowa. In the 1960's a family from the community "disappeared" into Scientology in California. From that day forward I have had a fear of and curiosity about the "church". Mr. Wright has done thorough research and written a very readable account of the history of L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology. Recommend   posted May 13, 2013 at 3:33PM

Cover ArtSay you're sorry
by Robotham, Michael, 1960-
*** 1/2 stars. Michael Robotham writes a page turner!! The story alternates narration between Piper, one of two teen-age girls kidnapped and held hostage for more than 3 years, and Joseph O'Loughlin, a clinical psychologist who struggles with Parkinson's disease and the fact that his own daughter was also kidnapped in the past. He is called in as a consultant when two people are murdered in the former home of one of the girls. The main suspect is a psychologically wounded young man who hears voices and says he saw a young girl fleeing through a snowstorm being chased by a snowman. One of O'Loughlan's first tasks is to convince the local police to re-open the case of the missing girls and that there might still be someone to save. At times the book is difficult because the girls are subjected to sexual violence, but with that warning, I have to recommend the book highly. By the last 50 pages you are frantic to know who the real kidnapper is and whether Piper will survive. This is the 5th book in this British series. I have read them all plus a couple of stand - alone novels. As always I suggest starting with the first book in the series, "The Suspect" as Robotham's characters are complex and develop from book to book.   posted May 8, 2013 at 1:54AM

Cover ArtDune Road [sound recording] : a novel
by Green, Jane, 1968-
** stars. The Dune Road of the title is the site of the home of a reclusive writer. The story revolves around a newly divorced woman and single mother who becomes the assistant to the author. There are a lot of people with hidden agendas. I found some of the story lines very predictable. A little too much of a soap opera for me. Can't recommend   posted May 8, 2013 at 1:30AM

Cover ArtTelegraph Avenue [sound recording] : [a novel]
by Chabon, Michael.
*** stars. Michael Chabon always speaks with a unique voice and creates believable, complex characters. Telegraph Avenue is a real place where Oakland, an historically African American city and Berkeley meet. The male protagonist is Archy Stallings, who is African-American and Oakland-raised. With his white best friend, Nat Jaffe, Archy owns a store called Brokeland Records, and sells used vinyl. At first I was a little confused about the setting, which is modern day, largely because of the nostalgia that characterizes Archy's yearnings for everything from Blaxploitation films to the Black Panthers to the music his records bring back. It is the story of a man who fears fatherhood as a man raised without a father who has a pregnant wife and a newly discovered illegitimate son. I bonded most strongly with Gwen, Archy's wife who is a midwife who struggles to establish the validity of her profession among racist physicians. She is amazing in her strength and her ability to love Archy. My favorite of Chabon's books is still " The Yiddish Policeman's Union " but I have never been disappointed by his books. Recommend.   posted May 8, 2013 at 1:14AM

Cover ArtThe American heiress [sound recording] : [a novel]
by Goodwin, Daisy.
*** stars. Cora Cash ( yes, Cash) the wealthiest heiress in America goes to England to buy herself a title. She leaves behind a young man who lacks the courage to marry her and takes with her a mother, who is far from endearing. She "stumbles" upon a Duke with a mother to more than match her own. Think "Downton Abbey". The Duke, who was the second son, inherited the title only when his beloved brother died. Add to this an imagined or real mistress to the Duke, the Prince of Wales, and the downstairs staff and you have a great collection of characters and egos. Perhaps the most sympathetic person is Cora's black maid who tries to find an honorable means of weaving her way through the intrigue. I enjoyed the book. I believe the author would like to be Edith Wharton, but no one is, so the book cannot be held to such a standard. You are left guessing until the very end whether the Duke is a cad or man in love with his wife. A very nice read. Recommend.   posted Apr 29, 2013 at 7:35PM

Cover ArtWith every letter [sound recording] : a novel
by Sundin, Sarah
I STOPPED READING THIS BOOK. The story was ostensibly about the training of nurses for the WWII program of air evacuation of the wounded. I seek out books set in the WWII era. I had no idea that it is a CHRISTIAN ROMANCE. The "Lord had a purpose" in having the protagonists fall in love. I strongly object to this simplistic view of a deity. Perhaps he if were spending less time being a matchmaker, he could have been more active in preventing the Holocaust. I almost never stop reading a book, but this is the exception. I HATED THIS BOOK and put myself out of my misery. I will now climb off my soapbox....   posted Apr 23, 2013 at 11:24PM

Cover ArtNever end : an Erik Winter novel
by Edwardson, Ake, 1953-
*** stars I enjoy this Swedish mystery / police procedural series ( Not as much as I love Wallander and Erlunder, but I am still getting to know Winter). This is the second book in the series. Young women are being murdered and / or raped in a park in Gothenburg. One such incident is separated from the others by several years. Is it the same perpetrator? A copycat? What do the young women have in common that marks them as victims. A mystery right until the end. Recommend. Now, however, I need to follow my own advise to others and go back to read the first book in the series: Sun and Shadow.   posted Apr 20, 2013 at 5:13PM

Cover ArtA place in the country
by Adler, Elizabeth
* 1/2 stars. A divorced young mother of a teenage daughter buys a barn near Oxford, England intending to open her own restaurant. Her ex-husband dies of a gun-shot wound in Singapore, their former home. Was it murder or suicide? An unknown daughter of said former husband arrives on the scene. Sounds like an intriguing scenario, but for me the book fell flat and was far too predictable in far too many ways. Cannot recommend.   posted Apr 20, 2013 at 5:02PM

Cover ArtSay her name [sound recording]
by Goldman, Francisco.
** stars I became very confused while listening to this book. I thought I was reading a novel until I found out the author's young wife Aura did actually die in an accident. The book is the story of their relationship, a paean to her virtues, and a processing of grief. So I was reading a memoir?? I thought "I know who will have the answer to this dilemma - the critic for the New York Times." Wrong again sports fans. To quote Robin Romm: "A few times, the book bucks its already messy categorization as nonfiction novel or fictionalized memoir, grief book or love story, and becomes a distilled wail." Now that we have cleared that up..... This is a man who truly loved his wife. The narrative jumps back and forth to different times in their marriage and to the author's attempts to start life again after her death. It is a tragedy that she died so young, but I got to a point where I not only did not want to "say her name" but I did not want to hear it said 100 times on yet another disc. This is a eulogy that needed an editor. I lost my empathy with the poor man. It is not a bad book, but it certainly is a depressing one. I cannot recommend.   posted Apr 17, 2013 at 2:57AM

Cover ArtSmash cut [sound recording]
by Brown, Sandra, 1948-
*1/2 stars. This is not a "who done it". You know who the psychopathic murderers are from the very beginning. The question is whether they will get away with their crimes and successfully frame the female protagonist. Ms. Brown certainly writes a page turner, but for my taste there is too much graphic violence and a bit too much bodice ripping. I also have a hard time with violence when the victims are not adult humans. I have read a couple of Ms. Brown's other novels and have liked them better, but this one was my least favorite. cannot recommend.   posted Apr 17, 2013 at 2:16AM

Cover ArtVoices
by Arnaldur Indriðason, 1961-
*** 1/2 stars. I always enjoy the Erlendur mystery / police procedural series set in Iceland. In this book a handyman man who lives in the basement of a hotel a is found stabbed to death in his Santa suit just before his appearance for the children. He was once a famous choir boy with a beautiful voice. How has he fallen so low? Why does he have a poster of Shirley Temple as the Little Princess on his wall? As usual I had not figured out the murderer and motive until the very end. I like the complexity of the mysteries, but what I love best about this series is the great character development. Erlunder may be terrific at ferreting out the secrets of others, but has a difficult time understanding his drug addicted daughter and his own profound survivor's guilt. Be sure to start with book 1: Jar City and book 2: Silence of the Grave. This is book 3 Indridason is a great pleasure!! Highly recommend the series.   posted Apr 17, 2013 at 1:41AM

Cover ArtThe orchard
by Stepakoff, Jeffrey
* star. I should just remember that I do not like "romance" novels where you know from page 1 that the boy and the girl will get together. I read this author's book "Fireworks over Toccoa" and liked even though it too was a romance, but had a lot more to it than just how long it takes for boy to finally get together with girl. So... I tried again.... Bored to tears except for a little of the information about creating flavors. My favorite character was the protagonist's daughter. I don't mind a good love story as long as it is about 10% romance and 90% strong story line and character development. Why didn't Abby the tabby tell me, "don't read this book, mom." Sorry can't recommend this to anyone but hardcore romance lovers.   posted Apr 13, 2013 at 2:26AM

Cover ArtCrossing on the Paris
by Gynther, Dana
*** stars. Marvelous premise - three women travel in 1921 on the maiden voyage of the ocean liner "Paris" from Le Havre to New York. The youngest is a French girl who has lost her 4 older brothers to WWI. She dreams of adventure and signs on to work in steerage in the great ship. The second is an American mother and wife who has unsuccessfully tried to get her younger sister to return to Massachusetts from Paris to help care for their mentally ill mother. ( That's a no-brainer for me....) After seeing her sister's carefree life, she begins to wonder about her own safe choices of husband and dutiful daughter and mother. The third is an elderly American woman who is dying. She has lived in Paris for decades, but for some reason decides to return to New York for her final days. Great characters. It is hard for me to explain exactly why I was disappointed. There are definitely some terrific scenes in the book, but two story lines were very predictable for me... If you like the premise, try this book, you may like it more than I. mildly recommend   posted Apr 8, 2013 at 2:08AM

Cover ArtThe accident [sound recording] : a novel
by Barclay, Linwood
** stars. The accident refers to the puzzling death of the protagonist's wife when she was supposedly driving while intoxicated. To this is added the selling of fake purses, prescriptions drugs, construction supplies and more. It ends up with too many people killing too many other people for too many reasons for me. I admit the end was a surprise, but the middle was way to busy for my preference... new author for me - can't recommend.   posted Apr 8, 2013 at 1:54AM

Cover Art22 Britannia Road [sound recording] : [a novel]
by Hodgkinson, Amanda
**** 1/2 stars. Marvelous! A Polish family desperately tries to put itself back together after WWII. Silvana and their infant son, Aurek, leave Poland and disappear into the forests of Eastern Europe, where they bear witness to German atrocities. Meanwhile Janusz, the sole survivor of his slaughtered military unit, flees to France. He eventually ends up in England where after the war he begins searching for a family that may not even be alive. They are found and Janusz brings his wife and the child to Ipswich, to the small house and garden that give the novel its title. Having been separated for more than 5 years of war, each has secrets and lies. Is there hope for 3 people who need each other desperately? Great first novel!! Highly recommend!!   posted Mar 30, 2013 at 7:06PM

Cover ArtThe ice princess [sound recording]
by Lackberg, Camilla, 1974-
**** stars. This is the 1st book in the Swedish Patrik Hedstrom series. A young woman is found frozen in her bathtub with her wrists cut - a murder made to look like a suicide. You meet the main continuing characters which is always a huge plus when the mystery is intriguing and the people are well developed. If you are looking for the first book in any author's series I love Fantistic Fiction a British website. Recommend the book and author.   posted Mar 30, 2013 at 4:49PM

Cover ArtThe stonecutter [sound recording] : a novel
by Lackberg, Camilla, 1974-
**** stars. This is the 3rd book in the Swedish Patrik Hedstrom series. I find the stories well written - great character development - intriguing mysteries. This particular book involves the murder of a child and abuse of children + a series of murders stretching back to the 1920's. I highly recommend the book and the series with the caveat about child murder. As always I advise starting with the first book in the set, as the characters and relationships develop over time. A good source to find the first in almost any author's series is " Fantastic Fiction" a GREAT website!!!!   posted Mar 21, 2013 at 6:32PM

Cover ArtSigns of life = Lebenszeichen : the correspondence of German POWs at Camp Algona
*** 1/2 stars I grew up on a farm near Algona and remember going to there one Christmas to see the almost life-size creche made by German POW's during their incarceration. I stumbled across this title while looking for something else and thought this was a point of view of WWII that I had never explored. The book provides information about camps scattered throughout Iowa and Minnesota. There are many B&W photos of the men in the camp, working for local farmers, and at home in Germany. The letters in the book are called " lebenzeichen " or signs of life, as often they were the first proof provided to families in Germany that their sons / brothers / husbands were indeed alive and well. There are a couple of letters included from commanding officers to families stating that a soldier had been taken prisoner, but in the confusion of battle and its aftermath, the true status of the man was often unknown. The out-going letters are a little boring, largely because they had to pass thru censors in the U.S. and possibly also in Germany. The second part of the book provides letters involving the same POW's which were written after the war. They are much more revealing about the devastation and hardship in Germany, feelings about their good treatment in the camps and their opinions about the Nazis. One POW was about to be murdered in the camp by Nazi hard-liners, but escaped. Needless to say, the Nazi party members who still believed in a triumphant Hitler, did not participate in the book, with one or two exceptions. A unique perspective for those of us who are WWII "nuts".   posted Mar 20, 2013 at 5:14AM

Cover ArtNorway
*** stars. This is a review of "In the Hands of my Enemy; A Woman's Personal Story of World War II" by Sigrid Heidi. Early in 1943, Heide, in her mid-30s, was arrested in Oslo by the Gestapo for resistance activities. She remained incarcerated for much of the war, first in Norway, in a prisoner's camp and Gestapo prison, then in Germany and Austria, in concentration camps. The author tells of her questioning and months of isolation. Her personal faith helped her not only endure torture, but find a way to not hate her captors. She was able to find moments of joy through such simple things as a spider weaving its web, a tiny taste of butter, or a small flower. A unique view of WWII. Hennepin County does not carry the book, but it is available through interlibrary loan.   posted Mar 20, 2013 at 5:00AM

Cover ArtBreaking silence [sound recording]
by Castillo, Linda.
*** stars. This is the third in the Kate Burkholder series set in Amish country in Ohio. Kate, the police chief, was raised in the faith, but was excommunicated. She still has conflicts about her loyalty to the Amish community versus the "English" as they call the outsiders. The mysteries usually involve the Amish people as victims and / or perpetrators of crimes. The books are nice, solid mystery / police procedural reads. As with all series I always recommend starting with the first in the set, as the history of the main character explains her subsequent behaviors / conflicts. If you are wondering.... a good source to find the first in almost any author's series is " Fantastic Fiction" a GREAT website!!!!   posted Mar 20, 2013 at 4:45AM

Cover ArtWolf Hall [sound recording] : [a novel]
by Mantel, Hilary, 1952-
**** stars. Wow! This is an amazing retelling of the saga of Henry VIII and his efforts to marry Anne Boleyn. Told from the point of view of Oliver Cromwell who becomes the second most powerful man in England because he has the ear of the king and enables his marriage. In his fight against Henry and the heretics of the new Protestant faiths, Thomas More does not come off a quite the hero that he has been portrayed in previous depictions. The dialogue and descriptions of the period are so adept, that you sometimes wonder if Ms. Mantel is the reincarnation of a person who was actually a "fly on the wall" during all the conversations. Highly recommend   posted Mar 11, 2013 at 7:32PM

Cover ArtThe sense of an ending [sound recording]
by Barnes, Julian.
** stars. A philosophical analysis of suicide, the ablility of people to gain insight, and the effects of thoughtless anger. A bit too much navel gazing, but the end redeems the book and really leaves you thinking.   posted Mar 11, 2013 at 7:20PM

Cover ArtThe Provence cure for the brokenhearted [sound recording] : [a novel]
by Asher, Bridget.
*** 1/2 stars. Still mourning the loss of her husband, a young woman travels with her obsessive-compulsive seven-year-old son, and a jaded sixteen-year-old niece, to a small village in the south of France, where a crumbling stone house may be responsible for mending hearts since before World War II. This is a charming book about grief, loneliness, and the risks of opening one's heart. Three generations of characters are well defined and engaging. Recommend.   posted Mar 9, 2013 at 8:51PM

Cover ArtNorway
**** stars. This is actually a review of the book: *** BERLIN POPLARS by Anne Ragde ***. The setting is modern day Trondheim, Norway. An 80-year-old woman suffers a stroke and sets in play an amazing interaction among her 3 alienated sons and a couple of surprise additions to the family. Tor tends the family farm and dotes on his mother and his pigs; Margido is a devout Christian funeral director; Erland is homosexual and lives in Copenhagen with his partner. The three have not been in the same room together for many years. To this group we add a distant and compliant husband, a granddaughter who has never met her father, and Erland's partner. Having grown up on a farm with parents of Norwegian heritage, I found this book to be a poignant and funny reminder of what that meant concerning meals, farm chores, long-standing family quarrels and especially the "ease" with which older traditional Norwegian men express profound emotions. Why is a book set in Norway titled "Berlin Poplars"? Can there be any reconciliation? If you anticipate the ending you are a smarter cookie than I. Highly recommend this book, especially to those of us who are older Norskies. The book is not carried by the Hennepin County system, but is available through interlibrary loan and of course on line and in book stores.   posted Mar 9, 2013 at 8:21PM

Cover ArtThe land of mango sunsets [sound recording]
by Frank, Dorothea Benton
*** stars Nice story - engaging characters. I always enjoy Ms. Frank for a pleasant read.   posted Mar 8, 2013 at 5:47PM

Cover ArtToo much happiness : stories
by Munro, Alice, 1931-
** stars. Again I am not a fan of unrelated short story collections. Often a better title for this book might be Too Much Despair.   posted Mar 3, 2013 at 4:01PM

Cover ArtA possible life : a novel in five parts
by Faulks, Sebastian.
1/2 * half a star - This Title is misleading - this is a book of unconnected stories and in no way a novel. It was probably called a "novel" by the publisher for more sales, as short story collections often do not sell as well. The first is about a British man and the horrors of the holocaust - it is the best of the 5 stories, but seems to end without insight and with a whimper. The second (set around 1859) is about a boy placed in the work house in England so that his family will not starve. It reads like the outline for a possibly good novel unrealized. The third, set in 2029 Italy, seems to be about proving the neurological basis of "human self awareness" and therefore the impossibility off existence after death. ???? I have not finished the book yet, but feel angry and tricked into reading this book. I liked "Birdsong" and "Charlotte Gray" so was excited to see a new title by Faulks. I am not finished yet, but my advise so far: DO NOT BOTHER TO READ THIS BOOK.   posted Feb 27, 2013 at 1:56AM

Cover ArtVulture peak
by Burdett, John.
** Stars. I have enjoyed this series for years because the protagonist is a Bangkok policeman and I lived and studied in Thailand. Yes, I was a farang. It's fun to understand the "inside" humor. This particular edition was my least favorite of the series. It deals with an international human organ selling conspiracy. Still enjoy the main characters and recommend the series, if not this particular book. Again if you are interested in the adventures of Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep start with "Bangkok 8".   posted Feb 24, 2013 at 7:26PM

Cover ArtOff the grid [sound recording]
by Tracy, P. J.
*** This is the 6th in the Monkeewrench series based in Minneapolis and written by a mother-daughter team. I always enjoy the characters in these books, especially the humorous interactions. Ostensibly a game software company, the odd group becomes involved in crimes and works with the police. This episode has everything from Somali sex trade dealers who kidnap Native American girls to terrorists planning an attack on the U.S. This was my least favorite of the series - I am not a fan of books about terrorism. I recommend the series completely, however, more due to the wonderful characters than this story. Earlier plots were more engaging for me. If you are a newcomer to the series, I strongly suggest beginning with book 1. If you are wondering.... a good source to find the first in almost any author's series is " Fantastic Fiction" a GREAT website!!!!   posted Feb 24, 2013 at 4:21PM

Cover ArtThe widow of the south [compact disc]
by Hicks, Robert, 1951-
*** 1/2 stars. This novel is based on true events surrounding the Civil War Battle of Franklin, Tennessee in 1864. Colonel John and Carrie McGavock's plantation home, Carnton, was opened as a field hospital. Later when the hastily buried local Confederate graves deteriorated the McGavocks donated land and had 1,500 soldiers dug up and reburied. The story is told from multiple perspectives, but it is largely the story of Carrie and her efforts to honor the dead and deal with her own personal loss. Recommend, especially if you enjoy novels set during the American Civil War.   posted Feb 24, 2013 at 4:05PM

Cover ArtOutrage : an Inspector Erlendur novel
by Arnaldur Indriðason, 1961-
**** stars Actually Erlendur is MIA in this book from the series, but it was nice to get to know Elinborg better. A young man is found murdered. One of the few clues is a scarf that emits a very distinct odor. Ms. Elinborg, who doubles as police detective and writer of cookbooks, is probably the only person on the force who can identify the scent and use it to solve the murder. I always enjoy this Icelandic author - good mysteries without lots of graphic violence. Highly recommend, but I suggest that a new reader start from the beginning of the series.   posted Feb 24, 2013 at 2:19AM

Cover ArtStill missing [sound recording] : a novel
by Stevens, Chevy
* 1/2 stars. Through sessions with her therapist a young woman reveals her ordeal when she was kidnapped, held captive, raped and tortured by a man she meets as a real estate agent showing a house. Painful to read, but I had to find out how she survived and if she was able to restore some quality to her life. ...or was she still missing? cannot recommend because it is so hard to read about her experiences, not because it is a poorly written book.   posted Feb 17, 2013 at 11:21PM

Cover ArtThe almost moon [sound recording] : a novel
by Sebold, Alice.
** stars This amazing book begins with a woman murdering her aged mother who suffers from advanced dementia. Over the next 24 hours, Helen confronts her life and relationships. What a premise! I had to find out how the story ended. It has some macabre humor. I cannot really recommend the book, but if you are fascinated with the vagaries of the mother - daughter dance, you may really like this book.   posted Feb 17, 2013 at 11:09PM

Cover ArtThe book of lost fragrances
by Rose, M. J., 1953-
*** stars. Intrigue involving a secret perfume dating from Cleopatra's Egypt which enables people who smell it to remember past lives and to recognize a true love. Centers on modern day Paris siblings whose family has been creating perfumes for hundred of years and who may have the secret formula. Of course evil people are trying to steal the secret... Even involves the Dalai Lama. A bit too far fetched for me, yet it held my interest. medium recommendation.   posted Feb 17, 2013 at 10:59PM

Cover ArtFlash and bones [sound recording]
by Reichs, Kathy.
** stars. A Temperance Brennan, forensic medical examiner mystery involving race cars and hate groups. Readable, but did not stand out in any way.   posted Feb 17, 2013 at 10:52PM

Cover ArtThe monster of Florence [sound recording] : a true story
by Preston, Douglas J.
* 1/2 stars A true crime book by American writer Douglas Preston and Italian journalist Mario Spezi who investigate a series of murders that occurred between 1968 and 1985 and involved couples who were killed in the Italian province of Tuscany. Sounded intriguing, but often the story was more about the authors than the serial killer. Cannot recommend.   posted Feb 17, 2013 at 10:46PM

Cover ArtTigers in red weather [sound recording] : a novel
by Klaussmann, Liza
*** stars This novel concerns the lives and families of two female cousins who spend summers at Tiger House on Martha's Vineyard. The story begins just after WWII and is told from the perspective of 5 family members. The facade of normality is broken by a murder. The cover suggests a light story, but the interactions and secrets of the families are much darker. recommend.   posted Feb 17, 2013 at 10:39PM

Cover ArtThe life of objects
by Moore, Susanna.
**** In 1938, Beatrice, a young Irish lace-maker finds herself transported into the world of a family of wealthy Berlin art collectors. She is caught in the middle of World War II with the horrors of deportations, Nazi persecution, refugees and the Red army. Highly recommend, especially if you are are as interested in the WWII era as I am.   posted Feb 17, 2013 at 10:32PM

Cover ArtWhite truffles in winter [sound recording] : [a novel]
by Kelby, N. M.
** 1/2 stars This book creates the world of the remarkable French chef Auguste Escoffier. Interweaves his long term affair with Sarah Bernhardt and his wife and family. I did not bond with the character as I would have wished. Enjoyed the stories and gourmet creations. If you enjoy the idea of the culinary history of the Ritz and Savoy via this famous chef, i think you will like the book.   posted Feb 17, 2013 at 10:23PM

Cover ArtBlackberry winter
by Jio, Sarah
*** 1/2 stars heartwarming / heartbreaking story that alternates between 1933 and the present - two women each lose a child 70 years apart in time - a blackberry winter in Seattle leads the modern day newspaper writer to research a similar storm in 1933 - amazingly the women are connected, but how?? very readable!!   posted Feb 17, 2013 at 10:17PM

Cover ArtRed mist [sound recording]
by Cornwell, Patricia Daniels.
*** Cornwell is dependable for a good read. I enjoyed her earlier books more when there was less political / CIA intrigue and more good old fashioned murders to be solved.   posted Feb 17, 2013 at 8:48PM

Cover ArtMidnight in Peking : how the murder of a young Englishwoman haunted the last day
by French, Paul, 1966-
*** 1/2 Examines the murder of a young woman in 1937. Interesting period of time - British colonialism - Chinese revolution - Japanese invasion. British and Chinese police detectives attempt to solve the murder amid growing chaos. I enjoyed the history as much as the investigation   posted Feb 17, 2013 at 8:44PM

Cover ArtAlice I have been [sound recording] : a novel
by Benjamin, Melanie
*** 1/2 stars - the evolution of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll told from the point of view of Alice Liddell, perhaps the Alice of the books. Speculates about Dodgdon's relationships with and photography of children. Recommend!   posted Feb 17, 2013 at 8:35PM

Cover ArtThe plum tree
by Wiseman, Ellen Marie
**** World War II / Holocaust novel told from the point of view of a German family / town. Interesting perspective. I did not find it as well written as "Sarah's Key". This story, however, does not break your heart as Tatiana De Rosnay's book did. That fact could be a plus or a minus depending on your preference. This is engrossing and well told. See what you think of the ending. Highly recommend.   posted Feb 13, 2013 at 10:39PM

Cover ArtLaura Lamont's life in pictures
by Straub, Emma
** 1/2 Nice novel. I did not bond well with Laura. A young girl from Wisconsin finds fame in Hollywood. Not unhappy that I read it, but she often seemed to be waiting for her life to happen instead of being present in the lives of her friends and family. recommendation is neutral   posted Feb 13, 2013 at 10:27PM

Cover ArtGarment of shadows : a novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Hol
by King, Laurie R.
*** I enjoy Laurie King's series with Mary Russell, but wish she would set the series in Britain more often. This one takes place in Morocco and involves political intrigue that does not particularly appeal to me. Recommend if you like the characters regardless of setting.   posted Feb 13, 2013 at 10:24PM

Cover ArtHeartsick [compact disc]
by Cain, Chelsea.
*** Story holds your attention, you want the police detective to catch the serial killer - I just wish Ms. Cain were not quite so creative and graphic in her ideas of torture. Recommend with caveat concerning violence.   posted Feb 13, 2013 at 10:21PM

Cover ArtWhere the god of love hangs out [sound recording]
by Bloom, Amy, 1953-
*** I enjoyed the book, but I am not a huge fan of short story collections - I become invested in the characters and then they are gone. I enjoyed these stories, however, and recommend the book   posted Feb 10, 2013 at 1:31PM

Cover ArtThe art of fielding [sound recording] : [a novel]
by Harbach, Chad
**** stars "If it seems a stretch for a baseball novel to hold truth and beauty and the entire human condition in its mitt, well, “The Art of Fielding” isn’t really a baseball novel at all, or not only. It’s also a campus novel and a bromance (and for that matter a full-fledged gay romance), a comedy of manners and a tragicomedy of errors — the baseball kind as well as the other kind, which as Alexander Pope pointed out also has something to do with the human condition." Gregory Cowles, New York Times book review. Almost did not read this book because of the baseball theme - So glad I read it - Great character development - Very nice interweaving of individual stories - highly recommend   posted Feb 10, 2013 at 1:27PM

Cover ArtThe winner stands alone [sound recording]
by Coelho, Paulo
* Vehicle for Coelho's diatribe about the sources of power and superficiality in modern world - serial killer - hated ending   posted Feb 10, 2013 at 1:25PM

Cover ArtDream when you're feeling blue [compact disc]
by Berg, Elizabeth.
**** Stars Very nice World War II era novel - Berg is always excellent at character development - deals with the loves and losses of 3 Irish sisters in Chicago - recommend   posted Feb 10, 2013 at 1:22PM

Cover ArtThe last nude [sound recording]
by Avery, Ellis.
*** 3 stars - took a little while to engage - liked it by the end - involves a female artist and model who become romantically involved - or do they? does everyone have their secret agenda? who is using whom. loved the setting of Paris between the wars. mild recommendation   posted Feb 10, 2013 at 1:20PM

Cover ArtGourmet rhapsody [sound recording]
by Barbery, Muriel, 1969-
* One Star - Pierre Athens, the greatest food critic in the world, is dying. He has been judging world’s greatest chefs for years, deciding their fates with a stroke of his pen, destroying and building reputations on a whim. During his final hours he is searching for the forgotten source of the best food he ever tasted. This self-absorbed man desires only one thing before he dies: one last taste. I thought, France and food, what would there be not to enjoy. I could not bond with character nor empathize with his search. Cannot recommend.   posted Feb 10, 2013 at 1:17PM


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