Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Middle Sister's November 2013 Books

Because of the US Thanksgiving holiday this weekend, I'm going to review my November reads a bit early. Any subsequent books finished before Saturday will be reviewed next month. It was a slow month, book-wise, but that's because one of them was quite lengthy.

Silence by Diarmaid MacCulloch I was hoping for a detailed treatise on silence in religious practice, as the book cover blurb indicated. The main material appears to be adapted from a series of lecture given by the author. The beginning of the book focuses on silence in the Old Testament and Judaism, the latter of which I'm not familiar with, so it was a bit steep. The next part deals with the early Christian church, with which I'm a bit more familiar and which therefore was easier to follow. The Final portion is where the author lost me. He switched from a discussion of silence as a meditative pursuit to silence in terms of official church policy on homosexuality, and while that is a an interesting topic and deserving of an essay or newspaper column, the book was supposed to explore the use of silence as a religious exercise, or so I thought. It's a very erudite book, with lots of footnotes, and clearly the author knows his subject matter, but it's probably too weighty for any readers but church historians.

And please, publishers, will you make the footnotes in your Kindle version active? The one downside to a Kindle is that it is not easy to scroll back and forth between locations when one doesn't know where the footnote pages begin because there is no link to that page or to specific footnotes within the text of the book. This book in particular needed its footnotes for the reader's enlightenment. (Net Galley Kindle)

Ten Lords A'Leaping by C.C. Benson Father Tom Christmas (yes,that's really his name), vicar in a small English village, sprains his ankle while jumping out a plane with a group pf philanthropist titled nobles for a fund raiser, and is stuck recuperating for a few days at the English manor where the event occurred until he is mobile. Unfortunately, someone is killed, followed by a second murder, in Benson's take on the classic mystery setting. Pluses: engaging cozy mystery, enough characters for suspects aplenty, interesting modern update of the country house murder ploy, and a cast of characters and a genealogy chart  (I love a cast of characters). Minuses: a heavy dependence on British idioms of vernacular jargon almost makes some passages read like a parody, and why does it take three-quarters of the book for us to find out that Miranda is 10 years old? Madrun's letters to her mother were an interesting sidebar, but the crossed-out misspellings got tiresome by about the fourth chapter. I enjoyed how Father Tom's two mothers were so matter-of-factly included in the story without drama. However, I enjoyed the book enough that I will seek out the first two entries in the series. (Net Galley Kindle)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Quote About Reading

I watched one of my favorite verions of the Cinderella story yesterday, and included was this priceless 'indictment' of the troubles that follow when one reads too much:

"They say she was once a grand lady and lived on the hill. But she took to reading books and went from bad to worse, stuffed her head with full of ideas, and now she's a bit addled."

The Widow Sonder to her children and stepdaughter Ella, about Madame Toquet, in The Glass Slipper (1955).

Friday, November 1, 2013

Middle Sister's October 2013 Books

Believe it or not, I've been reading--a lot--this month, but I'm currently reading an ARC on my Kindle that I've been reading exclusively for 3 weeks--it's that thick. The beauty/bane of the Kindle is you never know what you've gotten yourself in for with any particular book, because who really understands into how many inches thick thousands of locations translate? But I did finish two books this month:

Great Little Gifts to Knit by Jean Moss Charming small presents for the knitter to make. Taunton Press did as nice a job as a certain other press whose knitting books I've reviewed in making sure the layout is open (knitters write notes while knitting), and that there are lots of clear, detailed photographs. The usual line-up of knitted gift subjects (a shawlette, hats, mitts, toys) is upended by the inclusion of more unusual items, like a guitar strap that doubles as a belt. And there's a particularly cute tea cozy pattern, and you know how I love tea cozies...  (Net Galley)

The Money Bird by Sheila Webster Boneham Second in the Janet MacPhail series which, let's face it, I'm predisposed to like--50-ish, dog-loving woman finds charming, dog-loving professor to share life and murder mysteries with (yes,that's a dangling preposition there--I'm feeling spunky tonight). In this book, Janet gets involved with exotic bird smuggling. Although Janet again insists on doing harebrained things she should know better than to do after her first murder encounter, at least she has learned some lessons. I admit the ending surprised me--well done. Dog lovers will love this series. (Net Galley)

Next month may be another two-title-only month: Silence, which I'm reading now, and my book club will be reading Lorna Doone, which is 10,638 locations in the Kindle version I have, which sounds like it is an awfully thick book. But I've seen the old, silent movie, so I'm eager to brew a pot of tea, make some shortbread, and escape to the highlands.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Middle Sister's September Reads

Interesting mix of nonfiction, fiction, and fictionalized biography this month.

Improbable Women by William Woods Cotterman Interesting concept--compare five of the women who explored the Near East in the nineteenth ad early twentieth centuries,  all of whom the author asserts were influenced by the legend of Zenobia. Unfortunately, he doesn't demonstrate an interest in Zenobia on the part of the two twentieth-century explorers, but the book would have worked fine without this hook. The book does well by the first three women, Lady Hester Stanhope, Lady Jane Digby el Mesrab, and Isabel Burton, with interesting biographical information and excerpts from their memoirs and letters and others recollections to breathe life into these women. The book falters when it discusses the two more recent explorers, Gertrude Bell and Freya Stark, although Ms. Bell's life is more fully fleshed out than Ms. Stark's. This is a bit incongruous, as there is an excellent recent biography of Gertrude Bell and previous biographies of Freya Stark that could have been used to flesh out the women.  Nonetheless, if you enjoy biographies and travelogues, this book will keep you entertained. (Net Galley)

Richard III by Annette Carson A distillation of Ms. Carson's recent biography of Richard III (on my Amazon wish list, buy the way), the short book focuses on what she calls the Great Debate, the accuracy of his reputation as it has come down through 500 years. Nice summary of the actual facts as known, what is not known, where the popular factoids originated, and the players in the complicated War of the Roses. And it gladdened my heart to read "history is written by the winners" and the reader being urged to consider the sources and mull that facts herself before coming to a conclusion. (Net Galley)

Murder on the Orient Espresso by Sandra Balzo Nifty little twist on the country house murder mystery of classic novels, with a group of mystery conference attendees, organizers, and speakers marooned on a train ride in the Florida Everglades while a fierce storm rages around them, nasty enormous snakes threaten them, and someone is killed. Honestly, the snake incident totally grossed me out. But the main character, Maggy, is likeable, the action moves along at a fair clip, and the revelation of whodunnit, while not completely surprising, included enough red herrings to please cosy mystery lovers.  (Net Galley)

A Wilder Rose: Rose Wilder Lane, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Their Little Houses by Susan Wittig Albert Ms. Albert and I seem to have loved the same children's authors: first she wrote about Beatrix Potter, and now Laura Ingalls Wilder. This ficitonalized account of the collaboration between Rose Wilder Land and Laura Ingalls Wilder in the Little House books addresses aspects the recent biography of Rose Wilder Lane has made famous--namely, that Rose edited, in come places, extensively, her mother's books to make them more professional. I have no problem with that concept, but when that recent bio was published, the vitriol directed at the author was stunning. Apparently there are a lot of Little House lovers out there who are convinced that a frontier woman with a grade school education didn't ever need the services of an editor, and anyone who says otherwise is the devil. While the shifting POV is not my favorite literary device, I enjoyed the book. And have not had my fond memories of the Little House books forever tainted.

St. Peter's Bones by Thomas Craughwell Interesting short nonfiction book on twentieth century archaeology beneath St. Peter's Basilica that may have identified the bones of St. Peter himself. Good summary of the archaeology completely marred by the author's personal diatribe against the reforms of Vatican II at the very end of the book.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Big Sis' August 2013 Reads

The Dominant, Tara Sue Me - 50 Shades of Gray started this whole mommy porn trilogy trend.  I used to read a lot of books by "anonymous" when I was in my 20s, books that were really explicit and indecent.  I admit it; I used to exchange them with a friend (those of us who don't, read about it, you know?!?!).  So these mommy porn stories aren't new to me, but at least, please, have a storyline!  In this series, Nathaniel is a playboy businessman, and Abby is a submissive.  She applies to be his submissive.  (Uh-huh, see why this just makes my skin crawl?)  But they come to care about each other, and he realizes she means more to him than any of his previous submissives... 

The Silver Chain, Primula Bond - This is the first in yet another trilogy of mommy porn.  I won't be bothering with books 2 and 3.  I get it, 50 Shades of Gray was semi-okay; they're not going to win any Pulitzers or any other book awards, for that matter, but they were semi-well written, whether I liked the characters or the stories or not.  But The Dominant?  Eh.  Actually, "eh" is better than I thought the book was...  I was disappointed in it, in the main characters Serena and Gustav, in the storyline I had a hard time following...  I admit, I only skimmed this book, that's how not so good I thought it was...

Tell Me, Lisa Jackson (galley) - Nicki is engaged to Pierce. She's a reporter, he's a detective.  She starts investigating a 20-year-old murder, one that she has personal ties to, and eventually, of course, it becomes all too real and menacing.

Mistress, James Patterson and David Ellis - Ben is obsessed with Diana, and when she is found murdered, he begins to investigate her murder.  He soon finds Diana wasn't who he thought she was, that she was involved in illicit affairs, etc. 

Three Little Words, Susan Mallery - Believe it or not, this is the 12TH in the Fool's Gold series and I'm loving each and every one!  Isabel comes home to run her family's bridal shop, and everyone knows it's only temporary.  But Ford is home, too - does he remember all the letters she wrote him when she was a kid and her sister had broken his heart?  Lots has happened since then - he joined the military and stayed away for years, her sister married and had kids with the real love of her life, and Isabel still loves Ford, although he has no idea...  And really, she doesn't realize it at first, either...

The Longings of Wayward Girls, Karen Brown (galley) -

Maggie's Man, Alicia Scott (Lisa Gardner) -

Big Sis' July 2013 Reads

Under the Dome, Stephen King (Kindle edition) - Okay, I caved.  I got so caught up in this mini-series I didn't want to wait to get to the bookstore to buy the book, so I caved into that immediate gratification that is e-books and ordered it for my Kindle.  I had it in 30 seconds.  And I started reading it in 31 seconds.  LOVED it!  I haven't read a King book in, oh, it has to be 25 years.  The disappointment is that the book was so good that the series now seems a bit lacking - "Why didn't they...?"  "In the book she wasn't..."  "But that didn't happen in the book..."  Chester's Mill is enclosed by a giant dome.  We don't know where it came from, we don't know how it works, we don't know how to get rid of it.  People die, planes crash, there's all sorts of political drama and criminal trespassing and murders and crazy people...  Fun!!!

The Marriage Merger #4:  Marriage to a Billionaire, Jennifer Probst (Kindle edition from - Yea, okay, fluff.  Nothing but fluff.  A trashy romance with tension between our hero and heroine, a mom who arranges for them to marry 'cause after all, Mother knows best!  The fun part was it took place in Italy!

The Lean Startup, Eric Ries (Kindle edition) - I'm reading this a chapter at a time.  It's a business book, recommended by my new manager, so of course I bought it and am trying to get through it.  I see what he wants me to learn from it, but I have to say, it's not the kind of read I prefer.

The Returned, Jason Mott (Kindle edition from either or Harlequin) - This book got a LOT of buzz at BEA this year.  When I saw a chance to read this, I jumped at it.  The premise was pretty nifty:  people who have died, years ago or yesterday, are all coming back at the same age they were when they died, but in countries all over the globe, unaware of what happened, how they got there, how they could get home...  I was hooked on page one.  And I was disappointed in the quick ending, once I got to it.  Not that the ending was bad, per se, but it wrapped up just a little too quickly for my taste.

Thunderhead, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child - Nora Kelly, a young archaeologist,
receives a letter written sixteen years ago, yet mysteriously mailed only recently. In it her father, long believed dead, hints at the discovery of  the lost city of an ancient civilization that suddenly vanished a thousand years ago. Nora is chose to lead an expedition into Utah's canyons. Nora begins to unravel the greatest riddle of American archeology. but what she unearths will be the newest of horrors...

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Middle Sister's August 2013 Books

Happy September!  August was full of good books, with a nice variety of fiction and nonfiction, bestsellers and advanced reader's copies. And despite reading them all, I finished ahead of schedule on my class lectures.

Knit Christmas Stockings by Gwen W,. Steege Ms. Steege is a well-known knit pattern designer, and her latest offering is a beauty--handmade knitted stockings for Christmas stockings. Want a traditional stocking--it's in here. Want a stocking with animals on it--it's in here. One with flowers--it's in here. These are so gorgeous they are even tempting me to try to knit one. Or, if I'm lucky, two. As usual, gorgeous photos and a nice layout of directions, with room to mark where you stop or write your own notes to self. (Net Galley)

Cat Sense by John Bradshaw For the cat lovers of this blog. Mr. Bradshaw is a British scientist who has studied cats and cat behavior for many years. My guess is this was supposed to be the feline answer to recent popular dog books, like Inside a Dog. Unfortunately the book fails on a few levels--some of the experiments Bradshaw and his colleagues have undertaken seem poorly designed (let's watch cats interact with humans by putting a human in the room with them when their owner feeds them--all this is going to show is that a recently-fed cat is a happy cat, especially when it's just eaten wet food). However, the historical and archaeological history about human's long relationship with cats is interesting. The line drawings are very nice. Mr. Bradshaw ends the book with a very interesting question--are we encouraging the very behavior we don't want in cats by our selective breeding--we're neutering good family cats and letting feral cats run free, breeding at will, which he argues means more of the feral genes will be found in domestic cats. Interesting idea to contemplate. (Net Galley)

A Cruise to Die For by Charlotte and Aaron Elkins I'll 'fess straight away that I am a long time Aaron Elkins fan. I first encountered his Gideon Oliver character in graduate school and loved those books. I've even read some of his Lee Ofsted golf mysteries and enjoyed them--and I don't like golf. His latest series stars Alix London, an art evaluator and daughter of convicted art forger. In this book, Alix goes on a mystery auction cruise, where old Masters and modern masterpieces are up for sale. But is every painting authentic?  When Alix discovers some may not be what they purport, a difference that could cost the owner millions of dollars, murder and mayhem ensue. And it's all aboard a luxury yacht cruising the Greek isles--perfect summer reading. (Net Galley)

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Jones by Rebecca Skloot I've just joined a new online nonfiction book group, and this is our first choice for discussion. Extremely good book about the devotion of a journalist to her story, an easy introduction to medical research and how it's changed over 50 years, and a less-than flattering look at the poverty and lack of education that affected a significant population. I have to admit, Henrietta's daughter at first elicited a lot of sympathy from me. But her irrational behavior over the course of years would have driven me crazy--which is why I didn't want to ever be a cultural anthropologist. However, if readers get nothing out of this except exposure to a subgroup of people they had no idea lived in such circumstances in the US, then it's all to the best. (Kindle)

Between Urban and Wild by Andrea Jones I love nature books, and I love memoirs of people writing about their interactions with nature, either in crumbling old farmsteads or on wind-swept Cape Cod dunes.The premise of Between Urban and Wild intrigued me--a study of living beyond the suburbs, but not in complete isolation, and how the ever growing intrusion of ranch subdivisions here in West is affecting nature and public lands and open spaces. The middle section irked me, though. Ms. Jones got a little high-handed and condescending in her attitude towards city dwellers whose interaction with nature is nonexistent, in her view. Really? Tell that to all the city folks whose lives were destroyed or at least upended by Hurricane Sandy, or who bluster through blizzards every winter. They may not interact on a daily basis with birds and horses like Ms. Jones, but they are not oblivious to nature. And personally I find their deliberate seeking of nature--be it lunch outside on the edge of a public fountain in downtown Chicago or a walk through Central Park in NYC--far more inspiring than her very fortunate financial ability to live on a ranch in the Colorado mountains and indulge her desire to have horses. The last quarter of the book deals with wildfires, which all of us out here in the West either one day face ourselves or live in constant dread of having to face. That discussion was very personal to her and handled far better than other parts of the book.  (Net Galley)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Middle Sis' July Reads

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas I'm eager to read the recent biography of Dumas the father, so when my online book group read The Three Musketeers, it seemed like a good intersection of current and future book choices. I've seen several movie versions but did not, of course, expect them to be very similar to the original book. They weren't. The book was surprisingly engaging, with a lot more dialogue than I'd expected for a swashbuckling tale of adventure written in the mid-1800s. No pages and pages of Dickensian descriptions here. The female characters are very one-dimensional (even Milady, who is just beautiful and evil and nothing more), either all good or all evil, which was also expected. Someone in my reading group said the descriptions of parts of Paris were recognizable today. I read this one aloud to Pipsqueak while she was in the hospital, so while it will always be a bittersweet memory, it is a good read for those wanting something thick and action-packed and classic to while away the dog days of summer. Recommended. (Kindle)

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad The same online reading group read this next, which couldn't have been more different from The Three Musketeers. Dark, very dark. I know only a little about the Belgian Congo, and I did a little research on Conrad to fill in some background. He ran a steamship in the Belgian Congo, so he was an eyewitness to what he wrote. Horrifying. But his phrasing, his terminology, his descriptions are just fantastic--evocative, beautiful, haunting, terrifying. Amazing to remember that English, in which he wrote, was not his native language. Recommended, but prepared to be haunted by the imagery.  (Kindle)

How Many Dogs?! by Debby McMullen Advice book for multiple dog households. I hoped to get a few new ideas on how to deal with my larger-than-expected doggy crew, and really didn't. Not the fault of the author; my own fault for having half a bookshelf devoted to dogs, dog health, dog behavior, etc. This is an okay introduction for someone thinking about adding a second pet, but don't expect lots of tips. There are an awful lot of "You'll know when it's working for your dogs" types of statements that don't really help a novice dog owner. And while there are photos during the discussion of multiple dog play, McMullen has large working dogs (which I do, too), and their aggressive, loud style of play is not the same as that of terriers or other dogs, so that section is not helpful to owners of other types of dogs. In fact, there's little about breed specific problems or issues for dogs of other types (e.g., sporting dogs, terrier group, etc. ). Not recommended for new dog owners or owners of non-working dog breeds. (Trade paper)

Grapes of Death by Joni Folger I read two books in a row that take place in and around Austin, Texas, a favorite place of mine. This one does a far better job of incorporating Austin and environs into the book as a character, even though it has a minimal presence (a shame, it's such a great little city). The Texas wine country is the setting for the murder of a black-sheep uncle, and his whole family are suspects as are some particularly nasty acquaintances of his. The main character, Elise, is generally likeable and sympathetic, although I did get tired of her repeating being told to stop investigating by the sheriff, agreeing to do so, and then turning around and detecting anyway.  There were a few glaring bumps (out of whole bookshelf of books, Elise's friend just happens to grab the one with evidence off the shelf, when the two are surreptitiously trying to quickly search Uncle's home without the sheriff finding out; and if I am escaping a murderer intent on killing me and I run into an office to hide, the first thing I'm looking for is a telephone to call for help, not scissors to cut tape or a place to hide) that showed where the author had backed herself into a corner and couldn't figure a clever way for Elise to find the clue or get help, but I'll chalk that up to debut novel in the series syndrome. I liked the characters very much, especially her grandmother (who looks to figure more in the next novel), and the light romance with the sheriff was just romantic enough to add some spice without overwhelming the mystery aspect. Recommended to mystery lovers and summer readers. (NetGalley)

Out of the Frying Pan by Robin Allen The second book to take place in Austin this month. Interesting concept--restaurant-based and foodie mysteries abound, but this one centers on a former chef turned county health inspector. An interesting twist, and the author has clearly done her homework (see acknowledgments); I learned quite a bit about how a health inspector would go about their job. But, I was mightily confused in the first chapter by the rapid-fire introduction of a slew of characters, so much so that I had to keep going back to find out who was who, who was whose child, and eventually just stopped caring. It's not the first in the series, so maybe many are recurring characters that regular readers would know, but not every reader will be a devotee of the series who reads series books in order, and an author should make sure characters are distinct and memorable for those of us attracted by a cover or who get the book secondhand. The mystery itself was interesting, the murderer a bit of a surprise (but part of that may have been because I actually had to re-read the murderer's initial introduction to remember who it was), but the first half of the book, which took place during several hours at a party, dragged on and on. Poppy's investigation kept getting sidetracked, and while this was probably a deliberate plot device, the end result was a widely scattered, half-hearted attempt to nail down clues and information before the police arrived that didn't go anywhere. Not likely to be recommended, but good enough that I would probably give the series another read. (NetGalley)

Daisy's Aunt by E. F. Benson E. F. Benson's Lucia novels are the book I'd bring with me if stranded on a desert island (the old 5 volumes in one edition published years ago by Harper and Row; my copy is disintegrating, I've read it so much). I cannot believe this book was written by the same author. The characters are uninteresting, the premise tedious, there's no witty banter or biting social commentary. It's just--well, to use the common Internet verdict: meh. Not recommended unless you're a Benson diehard, and even then, prepare to be disappointed. I wonder if he was trying to parody a well-known book or play?

Friday, July 26, 2013


"You're an American, an American from New Jersey. That's a Turbo-American!"

John Oliver, 25 July 2013, to Ben Bradley on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on the Comedy Channel.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Purple Passion

Texas Ranger in bloom

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Friday, July 12, 2013

Big Sis' June 2013 Reads

Here we go...

Deeply Odd, by Dean Koontz (Kindle edition) - The latest in the Odd series, I LOVED this book.  I can honestly say I'm not particularly a horror fan, but there was enough of that in this book to keep your attention if you are, but it's not the main focus.  The rhinestone cowboy (sorry, Glen Campbell!) turns out to be out to get Odd Thomas, even though Odd doesn't know why.  We meet all sorts of terrific characters, as we always do, and the special guest star making his earthly appearance in this book is Alfred Hitchcock!  Odd knows he has to rescue the children, but he doesn't know who they are, where they are, or who has them.  The difference this time is he's not helping restless spirits but real life children in this world.

Dangerous Refuge, by Elizabeth Lowell (Kindle edition) - Tanner returns to settle his uncle's estate and finds himself working with Shayne to find out who killed his uncle.  This was okay (I usually like Ms. Lowell's books) but it wasn't my favorite.  The character development, to me, seemed to be a bit lacking...

Still Life with Crows, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (Kindle edition) - I needed something to read so I bought this $3.99 backlist title.  It's one I hadn't read yet and I was curious to see if the earlier Pendergast books were as good as the more recent 5 or 6 I've read.  Happily this was $3.99 well-spent.  Where else can you get ritual murders, American history, mutilations and spooky legends, all for under $5?!?  I'll most definitely have to get a list of all the Pendergast titles and go back and read the earlier ones, those published before I found the series...

The Submissive, by Tara Sue Me (Kindle edition) - Yuk.   Fifty Shades of Gray with a different author, a different cover and main characters I couldn't care less about if I tried.  Mommy porn without at least a decent storyline so I could pretend it was just fiction with more sex than usual.

The 9th Girl, by Tami Hoag (Kindle edition) - LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Miss Hoag!  Probably the 2nd author I've ever written a fan letter to in my life!  A killer nicknamed Doc Holiday, 9 unidentified women's bodies found murdered in Minneapolis, and repeat characters Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska - what more could I want for a beach read bar none?  Bought it at 10 in the morning, was done with in the afternoon, sitting on the dock, reading and tanning - I'm a multi-tasker, what can I say?

The Kill Room, by Jeffry Deaver - This was another Lincoln Rhyme book (yay!) and this time Lincoln and his wheelchair go to the Bahamas to find out how and why a US citizen was apparently murdered by - duh, duh, duh, DUH! - the US government itself!  Not everything is what it seems, of course, and with Amelia's help, we make it through all the plot twists to the very end.

In Too Deep, by Michelle Kemper Brownlow (Kindle edition) - This was a free electronic ARC I got from the author herself.  I saw it on a blog I read; the author of the blog and the author of the book are apparently friends.  Young innocent girl meets young VERY NOT innocent boy.  She falls for him despite all the warnings that he's a player, that he'll bed any girl who stands still long enough...  But of course she believes him when he says she's changed him.  They date for about a year, but then he goes away to college and it's the beginning of the very long end.  The author does a great job putting us in the mind of the young girl.  We really FEEL how he manipulates and abuses her (mentally and emotionally).  He's an abuse for sure.  But worry not, gentle reader - Jake is there to save the day.  Jake, who reminds me SO much of my best college friend, C.  How can we NOT like him it he's like C??!

Just One Kiss, by Susan Mallery - Another Fools Gold romance... This time Patience is raising her young daughter alone when her best friend Justice comes back to town - Justice who was there for her in high school, but disappeared overnight, literally.  Yea, it turns out to be a witness protection program kind of story, but it was a fun and entertaining romantic read.

More Kindle reads than I would have liked this month, but sometimes convenience beats true love.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Li'l Sis' June Reads

Yup, read a book! Hooray! It was The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro. Being the MGSA graduate I am this was up my alley. It was a quick read, not too much dialogue, which I like. I enjoy the visuals I get from reading. It was interesting and appreciative of the old masters. Recommend. I began The Good Sister by Wendy Corsi Staub; still working on it. It tends to run on.....happy reading!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Middle Sister's June 2013 Books

A slow month, taken up largely with my book club's June selection, The Three Musketeers, which I am three-quarters through and enjoying immensely.

Julia In Ireland by Ann Bridge Re-issued series from England, I began with the last in the series. Pleasant enough excursion into mid-twentieth century Ireland, where Julia has met her future second husband and becomes involved in a local land deal skirmish. Interesting enough that I'll pursue the earlier titles, where Julia is a spy for the British government in foreign locales.

A Bat in the Belfry by Sarah Graves Recent entry into the Home Repair is Homicide series, this is one of the best I've read in the Jake Tiptree series. I'm not that big a fan of stories that jump back and forth from various points of view, but this was handled well. Kudos to the author's portrayal of the most interesting character--the nor'easter. It was very easy to become engrossed in the storm, to feel and see and experience it. Note: this is another recent story that doesn't shy away from the fact that sometimes, some kids turn out bad, no matter what.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Big Sis' May 2013 Books

So I feel as if things are getting back to normal.  I read 6 books this month - not my best month, but certainly closer to par than recent months...

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald (Kindle edition) - I'm not going to bother summarizing the story; you've either read it or seen the recent movie (if not the original version).  What I will say is that I wasn't impressed.  I never had to read it in school, or perhaps I should say, if I was supposed to have read it in school, I never did.  The story?  Meh.  The style?  Yea, okay, I can dig it.  It was a very visual story, the images were bright and colorful and F. Scott's words really made you "see" the story.  Not one of my favorite classics, though...

Step Back from the Baggage Claim, Jason Barger - I bought this book after seeing it reviewed on a blog I read, but I'll be damned if I can remember who it was that arecommended it.  I bought it.  I put it on a shelf.  I never read it - until a couple of weeks ago.  I had run out of things to read, so I pulled it off the shelf and started to read.  The premise:  the author "spent seven straight days flying 6,548 miles to seven different cities living only in the airports the entire time. He studied 10,000 minutes of observations at all four corners of the U.S. and reflected on how our airport experiences can teach us about our lives TODAY."  It was a neat concept, neater in theory than in actuality, but his observations were sort of cool.  He talked about how we all RUSH off the plane, pushing and shoving, getting up before the door is even open, then RUN through the terminal, only to arrive at baggage claim and WAIT.  And wait some more.  Couldn't we have calmly and quietly deplaned and strolled through the airport and arrived just in time to pick up our suitcases as they moved past us on the conveyor belt?  That rush, that speed - we see it in other aspects of our life, don't we? This book, just in case you're wondering, had nothing to do with the movie The Terminal, with Tom Hanks.

Wind Chime Point, Sheryl Woods - Unemployed and pregant, Gabrielle Castle returns home.  Wade Johnson had fallen for her months before she got pregnant, but since she apparently had a boyfriend, nothing ever happened between them when she visited her grandmother.  But now she's home, possibly for good, with her life in termoil.  And things now DO happen between her and Wade.  They become friends, and Gabi learns that being friends is a great basis for more...

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling (Kindle edition) - Another book I won't be summarizing here; if you don't recognize the HP series by now, crawl out from under your rock!  I'm just in the mood to read them again, so I am, this time on my Kindle.  I bought them all for my Kindle because they're books I can read again and again, and the 7 of them will most definitely give me something to read when I'm traveling and don't feel like carrying multiple books in my luggage.  HP3 is not my favorite, but I did enjoy it!

12th of Never, James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (Kindle edition) - I don't normally buy Kindle editions of James Patterson books, but I was craving something to read so I did!  This is the most recent of the Women's Murder Club series. Lindsay's beautiful baby girl is born, a woman dies, her corpse goes missing from the morgue, and then the baby gets extremely sick.  The whodunnit part wasn't a big mystery this time, but it was a good story.

Inferno, Dan Brown (Kindle edition) - I went out to buy this book and thought to myself, "I wonder if I bought this in Kindle format?"  So I checked, and sure enough, I had!  EXCELLENT book, as usual, Mr. Brown!  I kept picturing Tom Hanks in the story, which again takes place in Italy.  There were some other strong characters, a plot twist I didn't see coming (wow!), and the usual art and history lessons made so much more palatable by Dan's writing!  This one revolved around Dante's Inferno, in case you couldn't figure that out, and I learned so much about it - GREAT story!  And it will be a great movie, too!!!  I can't wait!

Big Sister's April 2013 Books

(Yes, posted in June - so sue me!!!)

Six Years, by Harlan Coben - This started out with an awesome twist.  Jake watched Natalie marry another man.  Turn the page.  Years pass.  Jake sees the other man's obituary online and decides that despite Natalie's request he stay away from her, he's going to the funeral.  So he does.  And sure enough, the other man is dead but his grieving wife is NOT Natalie!  I got hooked on these mysteries a few years ago, when I was going on a cruise.  I bought 8 Coben paperbacks and read each and every one of them on that cruise!  He is from NJ so some of them take place there and it's sort of cool to recognize towns and landmarks.  Not all of his books take place there, but the ones with Myron Bolitar as the main character do.

Taking Eve, Iris Johansen - Another in the Eve series, and I really thought to myself a couple of books ago, "What can she do now that they found Bonnie?"  But the stories continue, and they're still good!  Eve is drawn into another missing persons mystery, but this time, Jim Doane, who appears to be a normal, loving, grieving day, well, let's just say he isn't.  Normal.

Fallen Masters, John Edward - Yes, a fictional book written by John Edward.  The psychic, not the fallen politician.  This was a cool story, about evil taking over the earth, based around the faith and strength of key people, all of whom appear to be random and unrelated, but wind up connected in tremendous ways.  Good does triumph in the end, with a touch of psychic phenomena, if you believe...

Shiver, Maggie Stiefvater - I had this ARC (advance reading copy) for years already.  It's a YA novel, about werewolves, and I really thought to myself, "I don't think so."  But after hearing a book review by a YouTube-r I follow, I gave it a shot.  And I can't wait to read Linger and Forever, the 2nd and 3rd in the trilogy!  It's a quick read, with appealing characters, a couple of werewolf-related plot twists I didn't see coming, and sure, it requires you step out of your "Yea, sure, this could never happen" box, but for crying out loud!  It's fiction!  Suspend belief! 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Middle Sister's May 2013 Books

May was a good month for books, at least with respect to numbers, because I downloaded several audiobooks to listen to while engaging in an excruciatingly mind-numbing task at work that required absolutely no attention at all to accomplish. Hooray for mixed media!

Grey Expectations by Cleo Simon (2012, No. 4 Dulcie Schwartz series) I love cats, I love gray cats especially (oh, how I still miss you, my sweet George), so when I saw a book that advertised one of the main characters was a big, grey cat owned by a graduate student amateur detective, well, naturally, I had to read it. I even overlooked the little fact that this was a big, grey, dead cat that talks to its owner, thinking that here might be a good way for me to sample the large paranormal mystery genre (extremely popular right now, and growing by leaps and bounds and full of vampires and witches and ghosts and every sort of paranormal activity one can imagine), which I had always secretly thought was stupid and a waste of shelf space and paper. Guess what? I was right. Oh my gosh, how insipid a main character Dulcie is--her friend is asked a few questions by the police and the amateur detective jumps to the conclusion that her friend is being accused of murder--even though there's no dead body. She hems and haws, she's not a good researcher  (based on my 9 years of graduate school which resulted in two graduate degrees), she gets mad when her dead cat talks to her boyfriend and not her, she works herself up into such stupid tizzies over nothing that she can't even walk past the police station for fear that she'll be arrested (because she's convinced that the cops are gunning for her, too). It got so bad, there were such inconsistencies, I started writing them down so I wouldn't throw my Nano out into the desert in sheer frustration. Don't worry, I won't recite them here. Just listen to me when I write: avoid this book. (Audiobook)

Whose Body by Dorothy L. Sayers I had to cleanse my brain from the previous book, and what better way to do so than to listen to a digital version of an older audiobook by one of the masters of mystery, Dorothy Sayers? The differences between Sayers and Simon? Writing ability to start with, ability to create and sustain a mystery and its ambiance, style, and despite being 90 years old (yes, that's right, 90--originally published in 1923), Sayers is timeless and reads just as fresh today as then. Check out this classic by a writer from the Golden Age of Mysteries is you've never met her protagonist, Lord Peter Wimsey. Highly recommended. (Audiobook)

And Be A Villain by Rex Stout I toyed with the idea, late last year, of reading all the Nero Wolfe mysteries in order in 2013. I've read a couple, and enjoyed them tremendously, but ultimately decided that access to some of the older titles might be difficult and thus to not undertake what would have been a very fun reading marathon. And Be a Villain is pretty early in the Wolfe canon (number 13, I think), but Stout had Nero, Archie, and the assorted detectives that swirl around Wolfe's brownstone well characterized by this book. Originally published in 1946, this is another classic that stands the test of time--someone murders a man on the air, during a radio talk show. Everyone on the set is keeping the same secret--why? Except for a few phrases and descriptions, this could have been written within the past few years. Highly recommended. (1996 audiobook, digitally remastered)

Trouble Follows Me by Ross Macdonald I remember shelving these titles from my time at the bookstore, and so when the title was set for re-release, I decided it would be good for me to check out this prolific author; maybe I'd find a new author to enjoy. The book, originally published in 1946, opens with a bang in Honolulu during World War II, has some promising gambits, but generally proceeds to stall and become flat by the end of the book. Too many coincidences are used to move the plot forward, although the journey on the train and the night in Tijuana are described very well and are very evocative. The murderer is very obvious, and this always disappoints me as I try deliberately to not figure out whodunnit. Still, the physical descriptions are good, and if you can overlook some distasteful jargon and stereotypical female characterizations of that era, as well as a nasty and brutal fight at the end, this might be a good summer read for you. (Net Galley ARC)

Beyond the Blue Horizon by Brian Fagan (2012) It was time for some nonfiction, and Fagan is adept at taking a theme and covering its many manifestations around the globe, over thousands of years. This time, Fagan ponders the question: what drove humans to explore the vast oceans of the world? How and why did man leave the safety of coastal fishing to venture out into the vast depths, without compasses, maps, or any certainty of landfall? Fagan is an old world archaeologist, so he spends a lot of time on the Lapita of the southern Pacific, Greek and other Mediterranean cultures, but gives very short shrift to the New World cultures (scant pages on the Maya, and barely paragraphs on the Andean cultures). Fun and fast, and I learned a lot of sailing vocabulary. Recommended. (Kindle)

The Last Days of Richard III and the Fare of His DNA by John Ashdown-Hill An updated second edition of the book that inspired Phillipa Langley to get the money and resources to test Ashdown-Hill's theory of where Richard III was buried--successfully relocated last summer. An easy read, with succinct data presented chronologically from contemporary written sources about what the king was doing in the last few months of his reign. Some familiarity with the Plantagenets, the Tudors, and their history helps. This edition includes a discussion of Ashdown-Hill's efforts to successfully trace the mitochondrial DNA of Richard's sister to the present day. Recommended. (Kindle)

Curly Girl, the Handbook (second edition) by Lorraine Massey and Michele Bender Massey single-handedly revolutionized the way curly hair is taken care of and cut with the first edition, published ten years ago. This edition updates and expands the first, with more curl categories, lots more photographs of gorgeous curls, and her trademark product recipes. Massey takes on some of the information that others have spread through the online curly world (baking soda rinses, final clarifying shampoos, etc.), but her message remains simple--love your curls and take care of them. Highly recommended to other curly tops. And I so want the cut on the model on the cover! (Trade paper)

Lace One-Skein Wonders by Judith Durant Possibly my favorite Story knitting publication reviewed to date! Gorgeous lace projects, the usual outstanding layout with lots of crisp, clean, photographs, written and charted patterns, and even a couple of crocheted and Broomstick lace patterns. As usual, a variety of patterns for every skill level. There are at least 20 patterns in this book I want to make. To be published later this year, so if any of you sisters want to buy this for me for Christmas....

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Middle Sister's April 2013 Books

Despite a crazy work schedule and a writing assignment and final exams to grade, I did manage to get four books read this month.

  • Murder Below Montparnasse by Cara Black The latest in the Aimee Leduc mystery series set in Paris. These are not cosies, with grim stories and gory murders. This one is no different, except that we get to spend a lot of time listening in to Aimee as she struggles with finding out more about her mother while trying to solve the murder of an elderly gentleman whose Modigliani painting has vanished. Was I surprised by who her mother was? No. Did I enjoy the murder and mystery? Partly. Grim murders always depress me, but I enjoy art mysteries, and despite the Lenin-Modigliani connection (I have no idea if such a connection ever existed, but Black creates a realistic connection between the two), I enjoyed this one. Did I enjoy the last page? No. Most definitely not. I don't want to ruin the book for any who might pick it up, but not being a fan of long story arcs and fictional soap operas, the last page ruined an otherwise engrossing book for me. (NetGalley ARC on my Kindle)
  • Death of a Kingfisher by M. C. Beaton Count me among those who will confess to a slight fictional crush on Hamish MacBeth. And while I haven't read all 27 books that preceded this one, you don't have to in order to enjoy these cosy police procedurals (now there's a contradiction in terms) set in a tiny town in Scotland. The murdered bodies were strewn about and quite numerous in this one, and Ms. Beaton is not afraid to let bad children be bad. A visit to Lochdubh is always a pleasant excursion. Well, as long as you're not one of the victims. Two of my favorite in one book--mysteries and birding--of course I enjoyed it. (Audiobook)
  • Speaking From Among the Bones by Alan Bradley Yes, I wish I were Flavia de Luce, all grown up. This is the latest in the erudite series starring a chemistry-loving pre-teen English girl, her older sisters (they don't get along) and widowed father (very eccentric), living in a rambling old mansion in 1950s England. This may be the best mystery series to have been published in the past 10 years. Even if you didn't love Nancy Drew as a child (Flavia is no Nancy Drew, trust me), or cosy mysteries, you cannot help but enjoy a series that is so well-written, so finely drawn, so, well, smart. You'll learn a little bit about chemistry, too. Who wouldn't enjoy, sure as shandygaff, the rollicking good time a book with Flavia ensures? (NetGalley ARC on my Kindle)
  • Brush with Death by Karen MacInerney The latest in the Gray Whale Inn mystery series. As usual, Ms. MacInerney's physical descriptions are wonderful--the winter snow and ice numbing the bones, the sparkling clothes worn by one regular character, all are well written and draw the reader in. And she's not afraid to kill off a recurring character, which is refreshing (albeit sad). But my enjoyment of a pleasant-enough story was marred by the terrible Kindle formatting and even worse editing. Missing quotation marks and hyphens, and spaces inserted where they don't belong, pale beside egregious errors like a secondary character whose name changes (Zelda is called Vivian, and it's not a mistake on the part of the speaker); Natalie muses how glad she is she made a spare lasagna the month before that she can serve surprise guests, and the next page muses how glad she is she made a spare lasagna the week before. I've not noticed Midnight Ink Press having this many obvious errors in any of the other books they've published, but when someone who's just reading for fun and escape (like me) notices the mistakes, they have to be prolific and obvious. (NetGalley ARC on my Kindle)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Li'l Sis has 2nd April Read!

Go figure! Stockpiling reviews for work, I just read Dream with Little Angels by Michael Hiebert. A trade original, it's not on sale until July.  This is a great Southern mystery; it made me remember how cool it was to be a kid (way back when) and did hit home with its focus on family and friendship.  But there's a very disturbing mystery behind the warm southern autumn; I'm not giving the whole plot away, so I have to wait until July to elaborate. But I love reading new authors! This book will be in our great reading program at work, so look for it in your grocery this summer!

Middle Sister's March 2013 Books

The Alpine Xanadu by Mary Daheim  I prefer Daheim's other mystery series to this one, but thought maybe it was time I revisited Alpine. I almost wish I hadn't. I'd forgotten how annoying some of the characters are, how the author doesn't explain relationships or introduce people, assuming the reader will remember from previous books who everyone is, their history, and everything that makes characters leap from the page and become someone you care about. If you like a long-running soap opera with a little murder thrown in, you'll enjoy this series. If you like a clever or unusual crime, enough backstory to keep characters and their relationships and histories straight, this may not be the series for you. (NetGalley)

Crochet One Skein Wonders by Judith Durant and Edie Eckman Lovely crochet pattern book for one skein, quick projects. Unique arrangement by yarn weight, not pattern type, which I loved, as sometimes you don't want to search through an entire book to find a pattern for that sport weight yarn in your hand. Great little projects, lovely photographs, nice layout--all crocheters will want this book. (NetGalley)

Glimpses of the Moon by Edmund Crispin You know that Gervase Fen is one of my fictional crushes, so of course I'm over the moon to see him back in print. Late Golden Age of Mystery series with the most erudite amateur detective (an Oxford don) and some of the funniest, laugh-out-loud scenes ever put to page in a mystery. Who else can incorporate the words stridulating and paynimry and pleonasm and scybalum in a mystery? Who else can write sentences like ""She wallowed in Routh's respectfulness like a hippopotamus in a mud-bank?" This is the last of series, so if you've never read Crispin, start with the first and make your way through all nine stories. You will not regret it. And you, too, will become a FenFan. (NetGalley)

A Solitary Summer by Elizabeth von Arnim Charming short novel that will be enjoyed by all lovers of gardens and books. I adore that she calls her husband the Man of Wrath and yet so clearly loves him and is loved and respected in return. "Books have their idiosyncrasies as well as people, and will not show me their full beauties unless the place and time in which they are read suits them." "What a blessing it is to love books. Everybody must love something, and I know of no objects of love that give such substantial and unfailing returns as books and a garden." If you can read this in a beautiful garden, so much the better. (Kindle)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Li'l Sis' April Read-So Far!

Tampa by Alissa Nutting

Whoa! Had to write about this one.  It takes "Hot for Teacher" to a whole new level.
As mentioned on Amazon, the lead character recounts her "seduction" of a 14-year old student. Yes, 14!!
To quote some adjectives on Amazon, as I do not want to give this away (it goes on sale 7/2)--she is "remorseless..Psycho-esque...monstrously misplaced..."
Now, I am 40-something, and can understand the attraction an older woman may have for a younger man....that is, a younger MAN, not a BOY!  This book is to me so controversial, bringing a new, horrific perspective to the world of fiction.  I've even told my contact that sent me the proof, I don't know how the author could have delved into this character and come out unscathed.  Not for the younger reader for sure!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Big Sis' March Books 2013

Well, two books.  That's it.  This whole "my husband is laid up and bored out of his skull" thing has really put a damper on my reading time...  I'm spending an awful lot of time entertaining him when I'm home.  He's not one for entertaining himself.  (PS:  That is something that should have been disclosed pre-marriage!  LOL!)

The Storyteller, Jodi Picoult - This wasn't what I expected, it was much more historical than previous books.  It takes place now, but flashes back to the Holocaust for a large part of the book.  Sage is a baker, and she works the night shift because she feels safer in the dark.  She was in a car accident that disfigured her face, and ultimately killed her mom.  She feels started at and noticed during the day, so she tends to work at night and only see a few people during the day.  The owner of the bakery is an ex-nun, which becomes important later in the book.  A bakery customer becomes friends with Sage and eventually asks her to help him die, in reparation, in part, for all he did as an SS officer during WWII.  Sage struggles with this request, which forces her to learn more about her grandmother's life as a survivor.  The ending was expected, with a twist...

True Love, Jude Deveraux (Kindle edition, via - So glad I didn't pay full price for the book, but it was certainly worth "free."  It takes place on Nantucket, with a recent architectural graduate falling for a famous architect who, it turns out, has strong ties to her mom and dad, ties she knows nothing about until much later in the book.  If you like ghost stories and love stories, it's okay.

Six Years, Harlan Coben - I'm 1/2 way through this book and will have my review in April...

Friday, March 8, 2013

Big Sis' Books - February 2013

Short month?  Short book list...

Night Magic, Karen Robards (Kindle edition) - Clara is a romance author, but that's all the romance in her life.  She lives with Puff, her cat.  Unfortunately Puff is also the code name of a rogue CIA agent who's being chased by the Russian mob.  I needed a little something to read, and for $2.99, this was the one I chose.  I'm a huge fan of Karen Robards, but this is one of her earlier ones and, well, it's not her best, but it was fun and certainly worth the cost!

Touch & Go, Lisa Gardner (Kindle edition) - The Denbes are the perfect family, or at least that's how it looks.  No one on the outside knows Justin and Libby aren't sharing a room anymore, and no one knows their marriage is shaky. They don't know their own daughter Ashlyn knows things aren't what they say they are.  All of a sudden the family is missing.  Kidnapped.  And eventually the ransom call comes in.  And eventually we find out all sorts of things about the Denbes, and about the kidnappers, and about Tessa Leoni, the private investigator hired by Justin's construction company to find the Denbes.

Alex Cross, Run, James Patterson - This was an AWESOME serial murderer story starring, as usual, Alex Cross.  I don't want to give away anything, but beautiful young women are being murdered, young men are being murdered.  Are they being murdered by the same person?  Who is doing it?  Do bodies in Florida have anything to do with the deaths in DC?

Proof of Heaven, Eben Alexander - Do you believe in heaven?  In life after death?  Dr. Alexander didn't.  At least not before he had a near-death-experience (NDE) of his own after he developed bacterial menengitis from an e coli infection.  He has made it his life's work to not only be the outstanding brain surgeon he was before the "episode," but he is now trying to show what he went through in an effort to help prove we don't just disappear after death.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Middle Sister's February 2013 Reads

February was a short month that flew by. That's my excuse for only reading three books. Well, that and I was trying to slog through Les Mis, which I abandoned. It's well-written, but honestly, it's so stinking long...I stopped caring what happened to Fantine.

Last Ape Standing: The Seven Million Year Story of How and Why We Survived by Chip Walter I admit it--I've fallen behind in keeping on top of paleoanthrology news. Yea, I read the news feeds and the New York Times articles when new fossils are found, but I haven't had to teach this stuff in almost 20 years, and there's just too much I do have to keep up with. I thought this would be a  (hopefully) painless way to update myself on the latest in hominins and hominids. Painless it was--and with very recent data, and funny, and a quick read to boot. Walter's writing style is a bit droll and bit sarcastic and I loved it. I could envision a great PBS documentary being made out of this book (well, with me reading it in my head, anyway, it came across as having great A/V potential). Highly recommended if the last you heard about human evolution was Lucy.

Victorian Lace Today by Alexis Xenakis  Gorgeous, gorgeous lace shawls and stoles. So far above my knitting skill level, I can't even see that bar. Maybe someday. I can dream about making and wearing one of these someday, though. Beautifully photographed and laid out.

Shawls Two by Trisha Malcolm All right. more my speed. There were 3 or 4 stoles I want to make out of here. Nice photographs, although the small size of the book itself was a surprise. Bigger is always better when it comes to photographs and patterns.

Tainted Mountain by Shannon Baker This really shouldn't be listed, as I gave up in disgust after chapter 8. I should have liked this book. It takes place in Flagstaff. I love Flag. It involves the very controversial and timely idea of artificially making snow to be deposited on a mountain sacred to the local tribes. This is a ongoing argument here, so very topical. I didn't like it one bit. I didn't like one single character. I need to at least have some sympathy for the main character, and I disliked Nora Abbott intensely from the beginning. Every single character is two-dimensional, mean, and utterly, utterly self-absorbed and narrow-minded. I wish I could have liked it. I really hate panning a book completely, but for only the second time, I'm going to write: stay away from this book. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Big Sis' January 2013 Reads

Sea Glass Winter, JoAnn Ross - I usually like Ms. Ross' books but this one was not one of my favorites.  It was stll a good story but it just took me a bit longer than usual to get involved in the story.  Claire moved herself and her teenage son Matt to Shelter Bay (thin is one of the Shelter Bay series titles) because her 16 year old got into trouble in his LA high school.  He's not stuck up but he does think he's the best basketball player on the Shelter Bay team.  Claire learns that her son's coach really does have Matt's best interests at heart even though she's not sure at the start.  Eventually she finds out he's interested in her, too...

Trading Up, Sandra Edwards (Kindle edition) - I read this for free either via Net Galley or by borrowing it through Amazon Prime, I can't remember which...  Either way, I'm glad it was free 'cause it really wasn't a good story.  I needed something to read and it was free...  I should have known it wouldn't be Pulitzer material when I found out the heroine's name was Tiffany...  Anyway Tiffany had a bad experience when she was younger; she was left at the altar by her ex-fiance.  Now it's time for her ten-year reunion and no one wants to go home and see their ex happily married when they're single with no prospects in site.  Soooo what do you do?  You "buy" a stranger at a fundraiser and rather than just go on a date with him, you convince him to play her doting, handsome and wealthy husband for the weekend...

Merry Christmas, Alex Cross, James Patterson - It's Christmas and after catching the bad guy who robbed the church's poor box, Alex figures he's in for a quiet Christmas holiday with his family.  But do you really think that's a possibility?  There's no chance, not once he's called to defuse a horrific hostage situation...

Shadow Woman, Linda Howard - Imagine, you wake up one morning, shower and when you look at yourself in the mirror, you don't recognize yourself!  That's what happens to Lizette, and as she struggles to find out who she is and what is going on, she deals with a face she doesn't remember, bad headaches that come on as she begins to remember...  It's a bit scary to think something like this could happen, that people could be watching you so closely that they'd know you were remembering things you should be remembering...

Two Graves, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (Kindle edition) - I couldn't wait to read this so I caved and paid for this e-edition...  Pendergast thought his wife had been dead for years.   But he then finds she's not and they get back together in NYC.  For about 15 minutes.  She's kidnapped from right in front of him and he chases her and the kidnappers to Mexico, only to witness her brutal murder.  The rest of the story includes his breakdown and eventual recovery, the solution of a serial murderer in NY, Pendergast's trip to South America to find his son and fight a secret Nazi community.  Sound bizarre?  Yes, but absolutely enthralling.

Private Berlin, James Patterson and Michael Sullivan - This wasn't one of my favorites, although the basic premise and the criminal and the crime were fascinating.  I think what put me off was that it took place in Berlin and the surroundings and descriptions of the country and the culture just weren't as irresistable as in other books; they just didn't draw me in as quickley or as thoroughly as in other Private books...

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Middle Sister's January 2013 Books

Well, it's been a slow month for three reasons--one sick dog, one new puppy, one attempt to read Les Miserables (oh, the peer pressure of the book group!). Sick dog is getting better, puppy is slowly getting better, and I may finish Les Mis this decade. But what I did finish this month:

Make Believe by Ed Ifkovic I enjoy Edna Ferber's books and the movies made from them, so I couldn't resist reading this galley. A witty, acerbic woman of a certain age--that's an amateur detective I can enjoy. This is the third in the series, I believe, and I liked it enough that I'll seek out the first two. In this entry, Edna rushes to Hollywood on the eve of the premiere of the latest version of her Show Boat not to attend that event, but because an old friend of hers has been blackballed by the fallout from the House Un-American Affairs Committee. Shades of today (If you disagree with us, you're unpatriotic! If you disagree with us, you're stupid. It's a little dispiriting we haven't gotten over that kind of behavior yet.). There are real Hollywood people as characters (Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra are important supporting characters, and I must say, Frank does not come off well), and real movies and shows (The Goldbergs), fairly skillfully woven in with fictional characters (Ethan and Tony/Tiny probably resemble a lot of low-life hangers-on of that era). Honestly, Edna was the only character I liked. But I liked her, and some of the bon mots that come out of her fictional mouth read like things the real Edna might have said. (NetGalley, read on my Kindle)

Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal An Englishwoman raised in America returns to England to sell her grandmother's house, only to get swept up in the turmoil of WWII and the British effort. Maggie becomes a secretary in the Home Office, and soon finds herself taking dictation from Winston Churchill himself and being privy to more than she expected. Meanwhile, the facts of her life that she always believed to be true are turned upside down, Maggie discovers that not everyone is who they say they are, and amidst bombs and air raids, Maggie races against time to save a London landmark from the IRA. I liked the characters and the setting very much, although at times the book read like a movie script, and the coincidences piled atop each other got a little much. The next book in the series is out, and I will follow Maggie's wartime adventures. (Kindle edition)

Spellbinding by Maya Gold This YA novel (aimed at 12-year-olds) tries to capitalize on the current pop culture obsession with witches, zombies, vampires, and other other-worldly creatures, but tries to do so incorporating some real American history. Abigail discovers, in her sixteenth year, that she is descended from a witch executed during the Salem witch trials, and that she has inherited the witch's powers. Not much character development, and that which does occur is pretty standard: Abby decides to use her new-found powers to make her childhood crush fall in love with her; Abby's reactions to her widower father's new romance are very immature, but then Abby is, in many ways, herself immature. But the underlying use of her powers to become the bully that she used to be the victim of is a good moral lesson that would probably be lost on the average 12-year-old reader, who'd be swooning over Rem's chiseled bare chest and startling eyes (yes, even YA novels have young men's bare chests described to make young bosoms heave). This is the second descended-from-a-Salem-witch book I've read in the past year (the other was an adult novel), and I'm disappointed again how the reality of the political and economic and social underpinnings of the witch hunt are swept aside as the 'powers' of the accused witches are assumed to be true. Ah well, I have to remind myself it's fiction. (NetGalley, read on my Kindle)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Big Sis' December 2012 Reads

It was a busy month, but I got in some good reading...

Extraction, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (Kindle single) - All I have to say is, this is the story of the Tooth Fairy as he lived and breathed and killed in New Orleans.  And yes, it's a n Aloysius and Diogenes Pendergast short story...

Cross Roads, by Wm. Paul Young (Kindle edition) - This is a new book by the author of The Shack, one of my all-time favorite books of all time.  Although Papa appears in this book, too, along with Jesus and the Holy Spirit, this one took a bit longer for me to get into; I didn't fall headlong into the story as I did with The Shack.  Once I finished the story, though, that was a lot less disturbing to me.  The main character, Tony, is not a very likable fellow at the start, so although it took me a while to figure it out, it makes sense that the book was less gripping than the first.  If you don't like the main character it stands to reason the book won't be a favorite.  BUT, once Tony starts to grow, the story does, too, and by the end, I was loving it!

The Racketeer, by John Grisham - I got lost in the story, and not in a good way.  It started off well, I was able to follow the story, but somewhere between the middle and the end, I got lost.  Malcolm Bannister is in jail, found guilty of a crime he didn't commit.  While he was in there, a judge was murdered, and since Malcolm claims to know "whodunnit," he negotiates his own release, witness protection, and a settlement to make it easier to disapper.  But then, it turns out the guy who did it didn't do it, and all of a sudden there's a relationship that's deeper than I could understand it could be, and Malcolm is on the run, trying to stay alive and free.  And then he's put into the position of getting the wrong guy out of jail, the right guy in jail, and...  yea, I got lost.  But it was a good story.  I probably need to read it again, just so I can get it.

Shiver, by Karen Robards (Kindle edition) - Sam is a single mom and a tow truck driver who's studying to be an EMT so she can provide a better life for 4-year old Tyler.  When she goes out to pick up a BMW, she never expects to find a handcuffed and beaten man in the trunk, and she certainly never expects to be kidnapped herself and tossed in the truck...  And you'd think that that would be an awesome premise for a story, but not ONLY does all that happen, she escapes and goes into protective custody with said beaten guy who (we think) happens to be a bad guy.  Of course they find true love together, he's not really a bad buy (not a spoiler, we know from the start but Sam doesn't!), and they solve a crime and live happily ever after.  I love Ms. Robards' books.

The Bridge, by Karen Kingsbury (Kindle edition of a ARC) - This book reminded me in a way of my relationship with my BF from college.  We met and everyone thought we'd get together as a couple, but with 1500 miles between us, that would have been difficult.  (Besides, then he wouldn't have D and I wouldn't have J and no one would be as happy as the four of us are!!!)  But in the book, the author had a knack of writing how we felt, the instantaneous connection, the forever friendship, the way we didn't have to talk but could never not be talking...  The difference is it's a love story so Molly and Ryan get together years later, as they should have years before...  But I loved reading it; it's far from the best book ever written, but it was fun sort of reliving my friendship with C...

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Middle Sister's December Books

Happy new year, happy readers!  December was not bad, as far as books go. A smorgasbord of different genres, all interesting.

The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner Want to live to be 100? This book, written for the general public, distills some recent research into centenarians and what strategies they share in common despite living in  different places around the globe. Okinawa, Sardinia, the Nicoya peninsula, and Loma Linda, CA, populations were investigated. Results: physical work/exercise, lots of fruits and vegetables, remaining an active part of your community, and maintaining a sense of spirituality all contribute by alleviating stress, providing a sense of purpose, and maintaining health and fitness. An easy prescription, but one that is perhaps not so easy to incorporate in our 21st century lives.

The Hoarder in You by Robin Zasio Nope, not a hoarder here, but I heard the author interviewed on the radio and she was talking about clutter, and clutter I got. So I read the book to see if there were any tips that would help me get this house in order and keep it so this new year. I was a bit ashamed to find that I fall partly into three of her categories: Clean and Clear, Neat but Dynamic, and Controlled Chaos. Yikes, better throw some stuff out right quick!

Archie Meets Nero Wolfe by Robert Goldsborough The latest in the continuing saga of Nero Wolfe, written with permission from Rex Stout's estate. Ever wondered how the wise-cracking Archie Goodwin met the beer-swilling, orchid-loving, gourmand Nero Wolfe? Using clues from the various Stout novels, Goldsborough has concocted a reasonable mystery that introduces the pair to each other, and a beautiful friendship began. Read this from NetGalley, and enjoyed it. I really should read all the original Nero Wolfes in order.

The Agency 3: The Traitor in the Tower by Y.S. Lee Although categorized a YA novel, my library had this e-book listed in adult mystery. And I must say, today's YA readers are not the YA reader I was. Sure, I read Battle for Dunkirk and the Red Badge of Courage at the age this is aimed at, but I would never have wanted to read about "undisguised hunger" and other quite adult themes. I guess I am stuck in some non-existent, rose-colored fairy land where 10-year-olds have no idea what kind of hunger the main character was experiencing. Anyway, overall, a fun, quick read, with a fairly engaging main character, who is really a 21st-century girl in a Victorian dress stage play. That's my real gripe. The character doesn't act like a 19th century girl, but a 21st century girl. And while I was soundly rebuffed online when discussing this book with the rejoinder that "modern girls wouldn't be interested in an accurate portrayal of Victorian girlhood," I disagree. I would have, at 12. And there are other YA series that do a better job of having the character be just modern enough to pique the reader's sympathy without completely misrepresenting the past. Heck, market it as a steampunk, or alternative history, or fantasy, but don't sell it as a solid historical unless it's accurate. Might make a 12-year-old reader really glad she's alive in 2013 and not 1880.