Tom Rob Smith: Child 44
My friend Linda recommended this book after her bookclub read it, but I chose not to at that time. Now Ann loaned me an audio version and I could hardly wait to plug myself in. Perhaps you have to be of an age to remember the Soviet threat and the collapse of it all to know what horrors this book represents. Or perhaps it's enough to read it for the mystery itself. Either way is an excellent novel and am now enjoying book 2 in the series. Expect the unexpected. The only trick is to make it past the beginning which doesn't appear to make sense, but will. Just stay with it. (*****)
Melanie Benjamin: Alice I Have Been: A Novel
This is a novelization of Alice Liddel's life before, during and after the Lewis Carroll years. What this book caused me to do was to do more research on both their lives. No one can know for sure what happened between these two people, but this book doesn't make any sweeping statements either. If you like history, a bit of a mystery and especially the Victorian era, this book might just be for you. (*****)
Diane Setterfield: The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel
This novel has been highly praised, but not by me. I slogged through to the end, but was disappointed. A young woman goes to write the biography of a mysterious author. Both the author and the young woman have secrets and the novel tries to lead us through them. Unfortunately, I thought it was long winded, somewhat unbelieveable and didn't answer all my questions. But, if you like a story with twists and turns, this would be your cup of tea. (***)
E.L. Doctorow: Homer & Langley: A Novel
When I think of a book by E.L. Doctorow, I think of a masterpiece. Unfortunately, this book is not one. While interesting and at times arresting, the real story of the hermit, hoarder Collyer Brothers of New York is even more interesting and intriguing. If you can suspend reality enough to have the characters live from WWI to Vietnam, with gangsters to nuns for fellow travellers, you may enjoy this book. To be honest, I almost gave up on it several times. (***)
Deborah Blum: The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York
Murder, Money, Sex, Gangsters, what more can we ask for? This is non-fiction about the scientists working to discover how to uncover the murderers of Jazz-Age New York, chemical compound by chemical compound. The fact that so many deathly elements were in everyday cleaners and tonics shouldn't surprise us, but it does. And don't miss the part about the Loony Factory to learn all about leaded gasoline. What a gem of a book! (*****)
Rachael Herron: How to Knit a Love Song: A Cypress Hollow Yarn
If you can't knit-read about knitting. This is Chick Lit with Knitting thrown in to make it even more fun. Mix up a knitting designer with a sheep rancher/cowboy. Add a dash of alpaca. There are some very true to life moments- such as when she tells him to wait during a tricky knitting bit, that make the knitting more than just an add in to a romance book. Happy to have another quick read when it gets too dark, or I am too tired or hands too sore to knit. (****)
Adrienne Martini: Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously
If you cannot knit, read about knitting-that's my new motto.
Sweater Quest chronicles Martini's year long knit of an Alice Starmore (dare I type her name, she of the litigious nature) design-Mary Tudor. The search is actually a narrative of why knitters knit, as spoken by some of the stars of the knitting world. While I did enjoy her adventures, I learned way, WAY too much about the designer and her ways. As a not so daring knitter, I have to agree, that for me, the joy is in the process, even if fraught with knots, and slips, and the occassional curse word. If you want to read about knitting, you might like this one, but maybe (k)not. (***)
Spencer Quinn: Thereby Hangs a Tail: A Chet and Bernie Mystery
As in the previous book, Chet, the dog tells the story. In this case of a kid/dog napped owner and show dog. He doesn't "get" the fluff ball at first (I call them little yappy dogs myself), but he comes to respect her. And we learn more about Suzie Sanchez and her relationship with Bernie. Another fun read. Would be a good beach read or sitting in the boat while your partner fishes. (*****)
Spencer Quinn: Dog on It: A Chet and Bernie Mystery (Chet and Bernie Mysteries)
This book and the next are from a great new voice in detective fiction-Chet, a washed-out of the police academy, mongrel dog, who works with his partner Bernie, to solve a missing child case in Dog On It. If you love dogs, or you love mystery fiction, or you love a laugh you will love these books. (*****)
David Plotz: Good Book: The Bizarre, Hilarious, Disturbing, Marvelous, and Inspiring Things I Learned When I Read Every Single Word of the Bible (P.S.)
My Dad recommended this book-and I enjoyed a look at the Bible (Old Testament) from a, mostly, untrained eye. Mr. Plotz had celebrated his bar mitzvah many years ago. In a sudden urge to read the Bible, he began chapter by chapter, with no additional commentaries or study guides at his side to read the Bible. What he discovered was disturbing, funny, and some times terrifying. thanks to my Dad and our nightly Bible readings, I knew a lot of these stories. But most people will not-and therein lies the useful of this book. Enjoy learning what you thought you knew. (****)
Barbara Demick: Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
If you don't appreciate living in a free society (one where we can disagree, agree, prosper, fail, and think), read this book. A journalist with in depth knowledge of the area writes of the lives of 6 defectors from North Korea. Poverty, darkness and starvation are the norm. But according to government propaganda the people are living a life envied by everyone else in the world. These are the human faces of a world we know little about-told by defectors, so we must take that into account, but a cautionary tale, none the less
Patti Smith: Just Kids
I vividly remember the album (and, yes, it WAS an album)Horses by Patti Smith-cover photo by Robert Mapplethorpe. This book tells the story of their life together and apart during the 60's to Robert's death in 1989 from AIDS. They knew they would be famous, and this tells us how they got there together. An interesting story of life, love, and the lure of fame. (****)
Rhoda Janzen: Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home
What else can life throw at the author- horrific car accident, husband leaves her for another man, left with an unmanageable mortgage? To get her bearings she heads home to mom and dad (formerly a head in the Mennonite church). And so we learn about her life-becoming the adult she is now and how her religious upbringing made it all possible. My major complaint would be some of the language she chooses to use-a professor and poet surely should have a better grasp on alternative verbiage. I would hesitatingly recommend this book. (***)
Barry Schwartz: The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less
When I am presented with the menu at most restaurants my eyes glaze over with the choices. Most of us assume that more choices will make us happier, but this book shows us how wrong we are. We are smothered with choice overload- 1000's of channels on TV and nothing to watch, dozens of shampoos, and just getting a cup o' joe is overwhelming. This book at least has us thinking of too much of a good thing isn't a good thing (****)
Joel Waldfogel: Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn't Buy Presents for the Holidays
This tiny book gets it right. Please note, Waldfogel is NOT suggesting we never buy gifts, just that the compulsary gift giving at Christmas is ill-advised. Most gifts are relatively worthless to their recipients. And the felt need to present a present is stressful to the shopper. Instead he suggests thoughtful gifts at any time of the year. This book would be a good first start. (*****)
- Margaret Wild: Mr. Nick's Knitting
Another fun Australian children's book about knitting. Mr. Nick rides the train each day to work with Mrs. Jolley. On their ride they each knit and help each other while viewing the sights. When Mrs. Jolley becomes ill, Mr. Nick creates a knitted mural for her so they can still watch the sights while they knit together-even if one of them is in the hospital. (*****)
Lisa Scottoline: Why My Third Husband Will Be A Dog: The Amazing Adventures of an Ordinary Woman
You will laugh. You will cry. What a fun book. Short bursts of life gleaned from her newspaper column as she talks about dogs, her father, life as a woman of "a certain age" and all the odd things that occur as life happens. After reading this, move on to her mysteries that contain quirky women as well.
FUN read! (*****)
- Nette Hilton: The Long Red Scarf
This week's book is an out of print children's book, chosen for it's subject-The Long Red Scarf. One of my new adventures is knitting red scarves for children who have aged out of foster care and are in college or trade school, so this book title caught my eye.
The story is of Grandpa who likes to fish with his friend Jake, who has a blue scarf. Grandpa asks Great Aunt Maude and Cousin Isabel to knit him one, but they are too busy. So----Jake teaches Grandpa to knit. In my opinion men tend to be better knitters-it's all about the math and engineering, after all. Watch for the kangaroos in the illustrations, as this book is by an Australian author. (*****)
Louise Penny: Still Life (Three Pines Mysteries)
On occasion there is a book/series that catches me and won't let go. Still Life is one of those. A friend told me of this book and I thank her. I am now totally caught up in life in Three Pines and with Inspector Gamache. I am grateful I listened to this book so I could learn the French pronunciations (as this book takes place in Quebec)for my future readings in the series. Run and pick up a copy! (*****)
Lee Eisenberg: The Number: What Do You Need for the Rest of Your Life and What Will It Cost?
Don't start this book thinking you are going to get financial advice. Rather you will be forced to think about your own situation and what you want to do/be when you are grown up. But, read this for some good insight into what we should be thinking about long before retirement comes our way. Just figure out "The Number" for yourself. Those planner would have us believe it is never enough. What's most important in my view is having something you like to do, not necessarily money. (***)
John Eisenberg: That First Season: How Vince Lombardi Took the Worst Team in the NFL and Set It on the Path to Glory
This book takes a look at the arrival of Vince Lombardi to Green Bay and the system he set in motion. What was even more fun than reading this book was listening to my Dad about the good old days when the Packers played wherever they could when in Milwaukee, when Vince loomed large in controlling the team and its players. What would Vince think of the players and system now- not much, I fear-he would not have tolerated the shenanigans. So, for a peek back to the start of the Glory days, enjoy this read. (****)
- Dwight Currie: How We Behave at the Feast Reflections on Living in an Age of Plenty
Thanksgiving has gone. Black Friday is over for the year. This book, set in weekly installments over the course of a year, gives us pause to reflect on living in an age of plenty.
Who do we invite to our feast, our we selfish about our feast, neglectful of our guests, and are we good guests ourselves?
This is an out of print book, but one you could pick up at your local library (as did I) or favorite used book store.
Kathy Reichs: 206 Bones: A Novel (Temperance Brennan Novels)
For those who follow Bobes on TV, this book was written by the
Kathy Reichs Temperance Brennan novels are NOT about the TV Bones. That said, they were the influence for the television series and the author is very involved in the production of the show.
206 Bones takes us, once again on a ride with Temperance and her sometime SO (significant other) Ryan. This book takes us from Chicago and her (still not ex) husbands family back to Montreal and her lab.
I've been enjoying Reich's books since before they became famous and enjoyed this one despite the fact I had it figured out long before the end.
If you like a good story along with a mystery and want to learn a bit about medicine, anatomy and lab work, this series is just right.
Lisa See: Shanghai Girls: A Novel [AUDIOBOOK/AUDIO CD] [UNABRIDGED]
Shanghai Girls relates the story of two sisters, Pearl and May, and their journey from Shanghai to the United States and over time-from the 1930's to the 1950's. The most important lesson this book can impart is for all Americans talk of freedom and the melting pot and accepting people, we have been anything but. I can only imagine that right now Muslims are going through many of the atrocities that these fictional women went through due to the Red Chinese scare.
But, the story is good, if a bit contrived, of the sisters who go from "Beautiful Girls" in China - their faces being used to sell products and grace calendars- to arranged marriages to try and save their father from disgrace, to running from a gang of thugs and the Japanese invasion, finally to the U.S. and Angel Island. As the years follow we get a peek into another way of life.
Lisa See has written other novels and I will check some out as I have time. I enjoyed listening to this rendition. (****)
Sara Bongiorni: A Year Without "Made in China": One Family's True Life Adventure in the Global Economy
This book is an easy read, but one that takes the reader on a thoughtful journey. Where does our "stuff" come from and why? We follow her family on a year's journey started on almost a whim after seeing Christmas litter almost exclusively from China. This whim takes the family on a hunt that takes us searching for simple things such as sunglasses, an inflatable pool , shoes and toys for her children made anywhere but China. She (and we) are hit with the realization of how hard this has become.
I would highly recommend this book as we all think about our place in the global economy. You can finish this book in a night or two, but the consequences will stay with you for time to come.
Gil Mcneil: Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club, The
The story is a year in the life of Jo Mackenzie-after her husband announces he wants a divorce-and then promptly dies in an accident. She moves to take over her grandmother's yarn shop and create a new life with her 2 boys. There's knitting (of course), romance, dealing with the "beautiful people", and her mother.
You will have to suspend your sense of disbelief (English lit majors, what is that called?) as to all this actually happening, especially in the course of 1 year, but is a fun read nontheless.
Here's hoping for a sequel. (****)
Alexander McCall Smith (Author): Tea Time for the Traditionally Built: The New No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Novel (Hardcover)
Either you love the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books, or you don't. I happen to be on the love side of them. But I couldn't tell you what I love more, No. 1 Ladies, 44 Scotland Street series or the Sunday Philosophy Club books. All are gentle, easy books, with lessons and morals if you choose to see them. Seeing Botswana throught Precious Ramotswe's eyes and issues that surround her is a delight. I would especially recommend listening to them as you learn how the names & places are pronounced. Lisette Lecat (originally from South Africe) brings true accents to the narrative.
Debbie Macomber: Summer On Blossom Street
Ahhh, Summer! We all need a light read for the summer and this fits the bill. I would recommend starting with "The Shop on Blossom Street" if you haven't already made it throught the series, but is easy enough to catch up. As always in a Macomber book there is conflict and romance, which resolves itself (not always well, I might add). There's a little knitting, a little cooking and some things to think about, such as adoption in this book.
So, pull up a deck chair, grab a glass of iced tea and this book and enjoy a lazy afternoon on Blossom Street. (***)
Steve Luxenberg: Annie's Ghosts: A Journey Into a Family Secret
What an interesting book! In the course of several hundred pages I traveled from Michigan to the Ukraine, and back again. The author thought he knew his mother and the family history-turns out he knew nothing.
How many of us don't have family secrets? I know how surprised I was to learn in my 30's that my great-grandparents on my father's side of the family were divorced.
If you are up for a real life detective story, this is it.
Sam Macdonald: The Urban Hermit: A Memoir
The Warning on the cover tells it all:
"This way of life is not for everyone. It terrified my mother and has been known to cause hunger pains, penny-pinching, and the desire to never eat tuna again."
Sam endeavors to lose weight by eating 800 calories a day (mostly tuna and lentils) and spend $8 a week. By the end of the year he has progressed to accepting free meals when they are presented, paid off some debts and found a girlfriend. An enjoyable light read