Books Read in 2008
The Black Echo by Michael Connelly
I first encountered Connelly's hero, Harry Bosch on a different trip to Santa Barbara, "Overlook," which happened to be the last (so far) in the Bosch series. "The Black Echo" is the first in the series and now I want to see/hear the rest of them. In this story, Bosch is investigating a dead body found in one of the underground water pipes that apparenlty form a whole underground city in Los Angeles. The investigation takes him into a complementary FBI investigation, a sexual encounter, and memories of the tunnels of Vietnam. The story takes as many twists and turns as the underground tunnels, but I was pleased to discover that I had guessed a big chunk of the story early on.
Whether reading or listening, the book will keep you going until you finish because it's that kind of gripping story.
Keeper of the Bride
by Tess Gerritsen
This is an earlier work (published in 1996), and, though shorter than her later works, still packs a punch. Nina Cormier is left at the altar by her fiance, Robert Bledsoe, for reasons she doesn't understand. Then, as she stands outside the church, contemplating these change in her life, the church blows up. Someone tries to run Nine off the road, and Bledsoe himself gets blown up.
It's up to Detective Nick Navarrro to figure out what's going on, despite the instant attraction between hiself and Nina. It's one of those cases where they fall instantly in love ... instantly ... and have a committed long-term relationshiop going by the end of the second day. OK--so suspend disbelief and just enjoy the roller coaster ride, as they search for the elusive Spectre before he succeeds in blowing Nina to smithereens.
Hannah's Dream by
You'll fall in love with Sam, her caretaker for 42 years, and his wife Corrine, who loves Hannah almost as much as she loves Sam. You'll love Max Biedelman of whom the word "lesbian" is never spoken, though her love for her beloved "Miss Effie" is a beautiful thing to see. When Max died, she left a trust for Hannah, but lawyers somehow kind of forgot to tell Sam that he was the trustee.
You'll meet Neva, the woman who comes to work in the zoo and changes Hannah's life; a pig named Milton; his people Truman and his son Milton; and Harriet. the new owner of the zoo who, unwillingly, becomes Hannah's saviour.
This is a wonderfully uplifting book, based on the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, which I have been supporting for many years. It ranks up there with "Water for Elephants," and I highly recommend it.
I Feel Bad About My Neck
by Nora Ephron
Fatal by Michael
The country is about to release an "omnivirus," which will protect everyone against some 30 diseases. Ellen Kroft, a grandmother whose granddaughter suddenly because autistic after receiving one of the baby vaccines, is the lone voice on the committee given the task of approving this vaccine for widespread release--and after extensive research, she has doubts about its readiness, but abstains from voting with the rest of her committee with thugs threaten the life of her granddaughter.
Meanwhile Dr. Matt Rutledge, in the town of Belinda, W.Va. has had several patients turn up dead, with suspicious lesions on their face. Attempts to tie the lesions to toxic waste from a local plant nearly gets Rutledge killed. Medical Examiner Nikki Solari attends the funeral of her friend, who also died with lesions on her face and, after a conversation with the local sheriff finds her life threatened.
These three are thrown together in a thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat. I must read more from this author.
Mephisto Club by
This one deals with satanic cults and even more bizarre murders and a chase which take the victim across Europe in the hope of evading her would-be killer. While there is lots of suspense, I don't think it rises to the level of "Vanish," but still enough to keep those pages turning once you pass a certain point.
My Stroke of Luck
by Kirk Douglas
Gravity by Tess
America, the Book: The Audio
Book by Jon Stewart
It's kind of the latter day answer to our very favorite recording: Stan Freberg presents The United States of America. Stewart's book even has French horns.
As is to be expected, this is a sardonic yet cerebral look at the history of the United States, and of the world. Funny, kinda sorta instructive, and decidedly entertaining!
The Overlook by
In this story, there is a murder on a cliff overlooking Los Angeles. It quickly becomes a question of who has jurisdiction--the LA homicide division or the FBI, since there are strong ties to terrorism in the murder. I found it quite interesting the animosity and the one-upsmanship that went on between law enforcement agencies, who, rather than work together, hide information from each other so they can be the one to solve the case. But as the case unfolds, the clues lead in more and more bizarre directions and the discovery of a body with severe radiation burns begins to point Bosch in the direction of the answer to all the questions that have come up.
I think I'd like to read more about Harry Bosch, especially the "Echo Park Incident," since it is referred to so often in this book!
My Trip Down the Pink Carpet
by Leslie Jordan
Jordan's collection of stories entertains and yet fills me with a great sadness for him and for the thousands and thousands of gay children growing up in fundamentalist Christian homes. He is quite candid about his years of alcoholism and drug-addiction (he's sober now and working his recovery beautifully) and I was left with wondering how many gay people are driven to substance abuse by the attitude of parents and religions.
This is a quick, fun read that is filled with wonderful lessons about learning to accept yourself, and our responsibility to be kind to others. "I found that happiness is a habit. Happiness is a choice. And happiness is something you have to really work hard at. I found that love is not a noun. Love is a verb. And it is in the action of offering loving service to others that we receive our self-love. I have found that the greatest healing is laughter, and I have been blessed to have the gift, as my daddy told me, of being able to make people laugh. I treasure that gift."
Let's Face It: 90 Years of
Living, Loving and Learning by Kirk Douglas
Everyone comes in for his or her share of chastisement, yet he makes perfect sense...a good reason why he'd make a lousy politician.
I have to admit that Kirk Douglas was never one of my favorites and that I bought this book simply because Audible.com was having a sale and the length of the book was right, but I'm very glad that I did. In fact, I actually went to Amazon and bought his book about his stroke.
Vanish by Tess
It's the story of trafficking in young girls from Eastern European countries, bringing them to this country as sex slaves and holding them as prisoner....who is doing the trafficking, what very public figures are involved, etc., etc. It is very definitely a book that grabs you very early on and doesn't let go. One of the best Gerritsens I've read.
I think I need to take a break and read another author for awhile, though!
The Sinner by Tess
Jane Rizoli has just discovered she's pregnant; Maura Isles is toying with getting back with her ex-husband, until his behavior makes her wonder why exactly he came to see her after 3 years anyway.
Lots to keep your interest, even with three dogs fighting over who gets to sit in your lap.
Body Double by Tess
The Apprentice by Tess
I don't know why a mild-mannered person like myself likes these books, but I do. I was glued to the pages from start to finish.
Dead and Doggone by Susan Conant
As for the story, maybe I was distracted because I read it on a trip and there were lots of things to think about, but it didn't actually grip me until the final couple of chapters. In this book, a woman who participates in obedience trials is found murdered with her (very expensive) grooming shears. Also, Holly's father loses his wolf-dog, a new man and his Irish setter come into Holly's life, her newly-acquired dog Rowdy (she got him in book 1) disappears, and eventually she solves the mystery of the missing dogs and the two murders (oh yeah--the woman's husband is also found murdered a few days later).
For plot purposes, I rank this one just OK.
The Surgeon by Tess
His principal target seems to be Dr. Catherine Cordell, who escaped "The Surgeon's" predecessor two years ago. That man has now been executed and it appears that there is a copy cat who knows just a bit too much about how the previous murders were committed. He is intent on finishing the job on Dr. Cordell which his predecessor did not.
Lots and lots of blood and gore in this one, and enough suspenseful and chilling incidents to satisfy the most ardent of thriller devotees.
A New Leash on Death
by Susan Conant
Hush Puppy by Laurien
Here's Johnny by Ed
Dog Eat Dog by Laurien
I rolled my eyes a bit at this early paragraph, for example: Tall and curvy, Bertie was dressed in a clinging blue silk jumpsuit whose low v-neck accentuated two of her best features. Her shoulder length auburn hair was layered becomingly arounda face that Botticelli could have painted--porcelain skin, full red lips, and luminous green eyes. God had given this woman a plenitude of assets and when she pressed herself against Louis's arm as she leaned across him to take her wrap from the coat check, I realized she wasn't wasting any of them.
That said, while I would have wished for a bit more sleuthing and a bit less rubbing elbows with the local elite, the book eventually grabbed me and held my attention to the end.
(I later heard from the person who had recommended the dog books to me and the author she was recommending was actually Susan Conant, who raises Malamutes!)
Rescuing Sprite by Mark
But Mark R. Levin (radio talk show host and author of the best-selling book, "Men in Black: How the Supreme Court is Destroying America") gives it all the warmth of a book about the Supreme Court. "Marley" tells the same story, but John Grogan does it with such style that we love Marley and we weep at his demise.
Levin gives us nothing to love. It's a dog, everybody worshipped him, and he died. We don't get a feel for his quirks, for his personality. We get an overly long gut-wrenching treatise on the decision to end his suffering, and an overblown period of guilt that they didn't do more to save him.
I'm certainly not a heartless person. I've loved, and lost dogs (and a cat or two). I have buried children. I know the pain of loss, but Levin's problem is not making us care about Sprite the way we did about Marley. In the end the book seems overly maudlin and, quite frankly, self-serving. I'm not sure why it was a best seller except, perhaps, that people like me who gobble up books like this thought we might be discovering another "Marley."
Don't waste your time on this book.
Water for Elephants by
Gruen is a wonderful writer, with a rich use of language which paints vivid pictures of a world most of us have never experienced. This is a riveting story with a couple of surprising twists at the end that I didn't see coming.
I highly recommend this book.
Inside Inside by James Lipton
It takes about 2/3 of the book before Lipton gets into the stories behind the appearance of many of the guests on Inside the Actors Studio, which is what I thought I really wanted to read. Surprisingly, I found his reverence for his guests, bordering on the cloying, to be tedious. There is no doubt that these are people of remarkable talent and skill, there is no doubt that they have generously shared themselves to the current students of the Actors Studio, but they are not royalty and I find that there is an overly reverential attitude which made me able to put the book down for a bit, when before I only took a break with great reluctance.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in theatre or who enjoys wonderful writing (it also helps to have a background in French, Latin, and history). But the ending of it was definitely not my favorite part.
Schuyler's Monster by Rob
Now Rob has put the whole story in book form, a well-written saga which is as easy to follow as a novel, with (for those who are coming cold to Schuyler's story) all the elements of suspense that you would find in a mystery story. Through it all you watch two ordinary individuals interact with an extraordinary child and learn how the experience changes all of them.
No one looking at Schuyler can fail to fall in love with this beautiful little girl who prefers King Kong to Barbie, who loves dinosaurs and butterflies. It is unfortunate that we don't know how the story ends, as this is a work in progress. But the story thus far is a gripping one and I suspect we'll all be around for the sequel, whenever that comes.