Read in 2012
I started volunteering in a book store one
day a week this year and decided
to read a book from the shelves every time I'm there--picking short books
that I can usually finish within the 4 hours I'm working.
This gives me the chance to read some oddball books, and this collection
should show that. I'm marking the book store books with "LOGOS" so I can
which is which.
The Forgotten by David Baldacci
Baldacci's new hero, John Puller (first appearance in "Zero Hour") is
commissioned by his father, suffering from dementia in a VA hospital, to check on his
aunt, who has sent a cryptic message about strange things happening in her little town of
Paradise, Florida. But when Puller arrives in Paradise, he discovers his aunt is dead.
The police have ruled it accidental death (she was found drowned in her back yard
fountain), but Puller has his suspicions, especially when two friends of hers also turn up
dead, as does her next door neighbor.
At the same time in a parallel story, a giant of
a man, known as "the man" for half of the book, escapes from an oil rig in
the Gulf of Florida, where he and others have been held captive after being captured and
brought to the United states to be sold into slavery or prostitution. After his
escape and 20 mile swim to shore, he sets out on a plan to free the would-be slaves and
bring the slavers to justice.
As Puller works the mystery of his aunt's death
and the man begins his planned fight for justice for "the forgotten" their
stories intertwine and the book begins on a thrill ride catapulting the reader to its
final conclusion. One of Baldacci's best.
Wishin' and Hopin' by
This book will take you back to the iconic
movie, A Christmas Story. This lightweight read follows (almost) a year in
the life of fifth grader Felix Funicello (whose claim to fame is that he is cousin to
Mouseketeer Annette). Felix attends parochial school and I think I knew all
of his teachers during my years of parochial school. The story starts with Felix
sending his nun-teacher over the edge of a nervous breakdown, and the interesting
situations which arise when "Madame" (a French Canadian lay teacher) comes in as
a substitute. It's great escapist fun, though not so much a "story" as a
series of episodes that culminates with the big Christmas program, which is oh so
painfully reminiscent of my grammar school years!
A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens [LOGOS]
Yes, I really read "A Christmas Carol" at work today. Just
because I hadn't seen the show in...oh...days. There is a big
difference between seeing a stage show or a movie and reading the original in the words of
the author. All the famiiar elements are there, but Dickens' words add just that
extra layer that made this book special to begin with.
A Year in Provence
by Peter Mayle [LOGOS]
What a fun book. Mayle and his wife bought a 200 year old farmhouse and moved to
Luberon, in the Provence area and begin to set up housekeeping, learning the language,
learning the customs and the habits of the population (the casual attitude toward home
repair, for example). He takes us on a tour through the restaurants, proprietors
bakeries, and wines of the area. Each chapter is a new month, with new things to see
and do (like goat races), new problems to confront. A delightful, easy read.
The Black Box by
What a thrill ride. This was Connelly's 25th book in his 22nd year of publishing and
yet Harry Bosch is as fresh now as he ever was. He's not young any more and, in
fact, is kinda retired, but working on a five year extension deal and assigned to the Open
Unsolved unit. He is investigating the murder of a young woman during the Watts
riots of 1992 that has been haunting him all these years. She was a Danish
journalist who was found murdered in an alley during one of the craziest nights of
violence. As Bosch begins to go through the investigation that was done in that time
one little thing leads to another and before you know it the case has taken on HUGE
implications and taken him places he never dreamed it would.
Of course, to complicate things the new chief of
the unit is after him and has reported him to higher ups, for what he views is a minor
infraction, hoping to get him suspended (so time is of the essence for Harry to solve this
I love the way Connelly crafts these books.
You get a real feel for the step by step process that goes into solving a crime,
yet it never becomes dry and is always exciting. I don't know how accurate it is,
but it certainly reads accurate!
Life of Pi by Yan
This book is really written in two quite different parts. The early part of the book
tells the upbringing of young Piscine Patel a now 14 year old boy growing up in
Pondicherry, India. Pi's father owns a zoo and Pi and his brother were raised with all of
the animals. In the first part, Pi is going through a search for God, trying various
religions and a lot of attention is given to the precepts of each and what attracts Pi to
them. Ultimatey he becomes Catholic, Hindu, and Muslim, even though nobody can
understand how he reconciles the differences in the religions. But he is very
spiritual and has a deep love of God, which sustains him on his "adventure."
During economic and political hard times. Pi's
father decides he must sell the zoo and move his famly to Canada. Many of the
animals will go with them and they set out on a freighter, which ultimately sinks.
Pi is the only survivor and finds himself on a 26 foot long lifeboat with a zebra, an
orangutan, a hyena and a 450 lb Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. As Pi finds ways
to avoid the animals, the hyena kills the zebra and the leopard and is ultimately killed
by the tiger and it is just Pi and the tiger for the next 227 days adrift in the Pacific
ocean. Pi's ingenuity and his experience with animal behavior keep him alive as he
endures incredible hardships and manages t find enough food and water to sustain both of
them. It's a great adventure tale, which could be so much more maudlin, but in the
end is actually believable.
The Last to Die by
Well, this was such a page turner that rather than prepare for Thanksgiving dinner, I sat
in a chair and did not get up until I finished (fortunately, I still had a day left to
prepare). This is the latest in the Rizzoli-Isles series. I prefer the books
to the TV series because the books meet my mental image of the characters far more than
the actresses on the screen do. Also, Maura Isles is not the annoying pedant that
she is on television.
This story involves three families who are
massacred, each leaving one child living. The child is placed in foster care and
each foster family is also massacred, again leaving the child untouched. As the
massacres occur in vastly different parts of the world, nobody suspects a serial killer at
large, but Rizzoli begins to see patterns, after she begins her investigation following
the murder of the foster family of young Teddy Clock.
The children are put in a very secure school in
Maine, with high tech electronic security, hundreds of acres of forest, and seemingly
impenetrable fortress, until suddenly it doesn't seem like it is. Strange things are
happening. A teacher commits suicide. Scary signs appear in the woods.
And at the same time, Rizzoli is beginning to uncover the thing that connected all three
of the murdered families.
The last quarter of the book will be impossible
to put down, and the ending was a surprise I certainly didn't see coming.
Dreams of Joy: A Novel
by Lisa See
This book is the sequel to See's earlier "Shanghai Girls. " At the
conclusion of that book, the idealistic young college student Joy had just discovered the
secret of her parentage, her birth, and her real father. Angry with both her Mother
and her Auntie May, Joy flees to China, where she plans to find her real father and become
part of Mao's "Great Leap Forward." In this book, mother Pearl follows Joy
to China, determined to find her daughter and convince her to return to America.
Both women get caught up in the changes in China, Pearl in Shanghai, and Joy in a commune
in the country, where conditions are, first, idyllic for her, and then begin to
disintegrate terribly. It takes three years before Pearl is able to rescue her
daughter from the commune and their harrowing journey out of China kept me glued to my
seat for several hours.
Hell's Corner by
Oliver Stone (aka John Carter) and the Camel Club are back in this fast-paced Book 5 of
the popular series. Stone is tasked by the president with investigating Russian drug
cartels, but that job quickly goes by the wayside when a bomb explodes in Lafayette Park.
It is presumed that the intended target was the British prime minister, staying at nearby
Blair House. As Stone begins to investigate, however, that idea goes quickly by the
wayside. Stone partners with an M16 agent and the Camel Club becomes involved as
well. There is intrigue, action, and as many twists and turns as Lombard Street in
San Francisco. Just when you think you have it all figured out, you don't. And
members of the Camel Club are dropping like flies. This is a page turner from start
Shanghai Girls by Lisa
I needed to make a charge at the book store the other
day, to see if I had corrected a problem with the charge machine, and so chose this book
and bought it. I had read two of Lisa See's books before and figured that I would
enjoy this one. My assumption was correct.
Pearl and her sister May are "beautiful
girls" in Shanghai. In their early 20s, they are models, living the good
life. They look down on those who are not of their financial status and they dream
of marrying for love, not an arranged marriage, as their mother had. But tragedy
befalls the family. The father gambles away all of their money and runs up huge
gambling debts and is forced to sell his daughters to a rich man in America, who wants
them as brides for his two sons. Though Pearl is determined to find a way out for
them, things go continually from bad to worse and as the Japanese invade China, they are
forced to flee to Hong Kong and then to America, to their detested husbands.
This story starts in 1937 and ends in 1957 (with
a sequel now having been written). It beautifully weaves together history,
contrasting cultural groups, and an intense personal story. It shows the strength in
the bonds of families, the hatred Chinese have faced in this country, and the extent to
which people will go when they are desperate.
Lisa See says this book is the one which is
perhaps the closest to her heart, as she has set it in an area where she grew up, and knew
intimately. My bet is that when you finish this book, you will do what I
did--immediately find its sequel "Dreams of Joy."
The Stupidest Angel: A
Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror by Christopher Moore
Well, I hate to say it, but if I were to rename this book it would have been "The
Stupidest Book" This was a book club selection, so I stuck with
it through the most amazing dumb "plot" (of sorts). Or maybe I just need a
humor transplant. If you want quirky characters, Pine Cove, California is the place
to go. Everything from the police officer who grows pot to buy an ancient Japanese
sword for his girlfriend, the ex-adventure/porn star with mental problems who thinks she's
still an avenger when off her meds to a pilot with a talking sun-glasses wearing fruit bat
named Roberto to the bar owner who laces her Christmas fruitcake with Xanax and XTC,
through the entire town and down to the dim-witted angel sent to earth to grant a child's
wish and in the process turns an entire cemetery into an attacking hoard of zombies.
I loved Moore's earlier "Lamb: The Gospel according to Biff Christ's Childhood
Pal," but this one just didn't do it for me!
The Year of Magical Thinking
by Joan Didion [LOGOS]
Joan Didion's husband, the writer John Gregory Dunne, died of a heart attack,
just after they had returned from the hospital where their only child, Quintana, was lying
in a coma (she would die soon after this book was published). This book is a memoir of
Dunne's death, Quintana's illness, and Didion's efforts to make sense of a time when
nothing made sense.
Anyone who has lost a special someone,
especially if the loss is sudden, will identify with this book. As I read her
journal through grief and the long mourning period, she was echoing everything I had felt
for the first time when my friend Gilbert died in 1986. When she talks about grief
coming in waves, I nodded in agreement. She didn't use the terms I used, but
experienced the same thing. I called it "little deaths," where at some
point I would be buried in memories of a certain moment or event. It would crush me.
I could almost feel myself back in the moment. And then the need to exprience
it was over, and I had buried that little piece of our time together. When I stopped
having "little deaths," I knew I had survived the mourning period and was ready
to get on with my life. It was the roadmap that helped get me through the deaths of
our sons, David and Paul, that helped me know I would survive, no matter how bad it was.
I remember so strongly my need to know EXACTLY
how and why he died, feeling that if the doctors would admit they had screwed up, somehow
it would bring him back.
I still have his furniture and other things here, though he has been dead nearly 30 years.
I know he's not coming back, but somehow I feel I'm holding on to them for him.
Yes, I walked the steps with Didion and
understood everything she said and experienced.
The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street
by Helene Hanff [LOGOS]
What a deightful find this was at the book store today! Helene Hanff is
better known for her wildly popular "84 Charring Cross Rd.," which details the
20 year correspondence she had with the proprietor of a London book store. It had
long been her dream to visit London, but she never got there while the store was still in
business. However, she did finally travel to London in 1971 and this is the
journal of that trip. Her delight is palpable as I read through the short book and
since she was visiting a lot of my favorite spots in that wonderful city, I could picture
where she was most of the time. The trip changes her in many ways and the book
introduces the reader to a host of new friends she met on her trip, from the family of the
late proprietor to actress Joyce Grenville. I loved every page in this book!
Zoo by James Patterson
This book is so bad I don't want to write a short review here, but you can find a full long review on Good Reads
(including a complete synopsis, to save any person tempted to read the book from wasting
Other Voices, Other Rooms
by Truman Capote [LOGOS]
This is Capote's first novel, written in 1948. Copying the Amazon description of the
book, "Truman Capotes first novel is a story of almost supernatural
intensity and inventiveness, an audacious foray into the mind of a sensitive boy as he
seeks out the grown-up enigmas of love and death in the ghostly landscape of the deep
At the age of twelve, Joel Knox is summoned to meet the father who abandoned him at birth.
But when Joel arrives at the decaying mansion in Skullys Landing, his father is
nowhere in sight. What he finds instead is a sullen stepmother who delights in killing
birds; an uncle with the faceand heartof a debauched child; and a fearsome
little girl named Idabel who may offer him the closest thing he has ever known to
I read the book and have to admit that I could
hardly follow it. I read it through to the end, hoping to figure it out, but I was
still hopelessly lost! It gets top ratings on Good Reads, but maybe I wasn't intelligent
enough to see the value of it.
Let's Pretend This Never
Happened by Jenny Lawson
This is one of the funniest books I ever read. To say Jenny Lawson had an unusual
upbringing would be a gross understatement. She emerged into adulthood full of angst
and fears and phobias. Her book is kind of a stream of consciousness combined with
conversations with her husband and...well, you just have to read it, but some of the
chapter titles are "Thanks for the Zombies, Jesus," "And then I got Stabbed
in the Face by a Serial Killer," "Stabbed by a Chicken," "Hairless
Rats: Free to kids only," "And then I snuck a dead Cuban Alligator on an
Airplane." and 'It wasn't even my crack." There is a lot of talk
about the "zombie apocalypse." This book is laugh out loud funny and I
read huge chunks of it aloud to Walt.
The Sleeping Doll
by Jeffrey Deaver
Deaver is a new to me author and if this book is an example of his work, I will be reading
more. Detective Katherine Dance is a kinesics expert so an awful lot of the book
deals with how to read body language, but it was fascinating. When evidence turns up
that implicates Charles Manson wannabe Daniel Pell, who is already serving a life sentence
for the murder of a family in Carmel, California, in another murder, Dance has him brought
in for questioning. Turns out this was planned by Pell, who finds it easier to
escape from the questioning facility than the prison in which he has been living.
Pell goes on a killing spree and the chase is on. There are twists and turns all
along the way in this book, people who aren't what they appear to be, and a finale that
seems to go on forEVer, but interest never lags. Highly recommended.
Lucy by Laurence
I saw this on Amazon and thought it sounded interesting, but didn't want to pay
$12 to get it. So I was pleased when I saw it on the Logos book shelves and was able
to read it on my work day. Primatologist Jenny Lowe has been working in Congo
studying bonobo chimpanzees for years, but the civil war in that country puts her life in
danger. With soldiers approaching, she escapes and makes her way to the encampment
of a fellow scientist (with whom she has no real social connection). She finds that
the soldiers have beaten her to it and the scientist is dead. In a back room she
finds a young girl cuddled next to a female bonobo, who has also been killed. Jenny
rescues the girl, whose name is Lucy, and using her connections is able to flee Congo and
bring the girl to the United States (using a forged passport), It is her plan
to find the girl's mother in England and turn her over to her family.
Lucy begins to adjust to life in civilization
and starts high school, but there is something "different" about the girl.
One night, in reading through Lucy's father's jurnals, Jenny discovers the truth
about the girl--her father is the scientist, her mother is a bonobo.
The story for the first half was quite good,
Lucy's adjustment, her making a good friend, her schooling, etc. But then she gets
deathly ill and things change because in analyzing her blood test, the doctors discover
her secret. From there on it is overkill with unfeeling government officials,
religious zealots who yell "abomination" and clamor for Lucy's death, etc.
It just went too far, though the concept was intriguing.
How to Live with a Neurotic Dog
by Stephen Baker [LOGOS]
Funny part cartoon, part text book which gives no clue as to how to live with three
neurotic dogs! The book was published in 1971 and is definitely dated in its look at
men, women, and family life. However, he's right on with the chapters on dog sleep
and feeding dogs. However, I did wonder if I was being made fun of as a fat lady
California's Golden Age
by William Woollett [LOGOS]
This is a little book (191 pages) of etchings by the author, who decided to
record a lot of the classic old buildings in Los Angeles and San Diego, plus the
California Missions and the building of San Francisco's bridges. Though the
publication date is 1983, the pictures are from the 1930s, before the bridges were
completed. It was mostly unsatisfying, since the etchings were too light to see
well, though I was fascinated to see the pictures (and read the descriptions) of
the building of Hoover Dam, and of the Pilgrimage Play Theater in Los Angeles, which held
900 spectators and was used only once a year to perform "The Pilgrimage Play: the
Life of Jesus." The theater lasted only 7 years. The book is a
disappointment in that only 3 of the 21 Missions are recorded and the book itself
seems to be self-published since there are uncaught misspellings, such as the word
"pilgrimage" which is in a title and is misspelled "pilgrimaige."
Visions of Sugar Plums
by Janet Evanovich [LOGOS]
This is my first meeting this this author and with her heroine, Stephanie Plum. A
short book I took from the shelves at the book store. The story starts 5 days before
Christmas and Stephanie does not have the Christmas spirit. She has no tree, has
purchased no gifts, has visited no malls, and would like to ignore the holiday
altogether. There appears in her living room a man, who seems to have popped
in out of nowhere. He says he's there to help her find the Christmas spirit, but on
the way they search for a little toy maker named Sandy Claws, and a bunch of vicious elves
trapped in a toy factory. It's a very strange book, but it made me want to read more
Jonathan Kellerman [LOGOS]
A new penpal I heard from this week mentioned that she loved books by Jonathan Kellerman,
so when I went to the book store I found one and read it. Kellerman has written a lot
of books, so I may have found a new author, but I'll have to go way back to start at the
beginning, since this book is #25 in the series. Kellerman's hero is LAPD detective
Milo Sturgis (who is gay), and his crime-investigating sidekick is Alex Delaware, a
forensic psychologist. In "Deception" a teacher in a very elite public
school is found murdered, after making a videotape accusing three other teachers in the
school of sexual harassment. Investigating the murder and trying to save the
reputation of the school because it could affect the chances of the graduates getting into
good ivy league schools is very tricky, but eventually Alex and Miles solve the crime, of
course. Good page turner.
The Elephant's Secret Sense
by Caitlin O'Connell
Another fascinating book about Elephants. O'Connell spent 14 years studying Namibian
elephants and their methods of communication. She became fascinated when observing a
group of elephants, noticing that the matriarch would raise her foot and check the
surrounding area, and all the others in the group would do the same thing. This led
to experiments which showed how elephants use their feet to pick up vibrations in the
ground (seismic communication), standing on their toes when stressed, increasing the
strength of the signal they are receiving. This book is a combination of easy to
understand scientific facts, compelling emotional stories, and the politics involved in
the constant battle between the elephants and the farmers, whose crops are routinely
Red Mist by
Many people have given this book a very bad review on Amazon.com. I disagree.
While I wouldn't give it five stars, I might give it 3-1/2. It was a relief to see
the return to somewhat normal relationships and personalities of the characters we have
come to know over the years (and not as how they have changed as a result of the
horrible things Cornwell has done to them in previous books). Kay's insecurities & the
food are back, but Kay is not overly neurotic. Benton has a bit more meaty role in the
story this time. Marino is back to being a friend, rough & grouchy, but protective
& part of the family. I am especially pleased to note that Lucy is way less weird than
she has been in previousbooks and is back to being the computer wiz that first drew me to
The story opens with Kay arriving in Savannah on
her way to the Georgia Prison for Women. She has been summoned by one of the prisoners,
Kate Lawler, who wants to talk to her about the murder of her assistant, Jack Fielding.
It turns out that Lawler had not requested the visit after all, but things were
being manipulated by attorney (and Lucy's former lover) Jaime Berger. Before the
book ends, there have been three mysterious murders, two of which seem impossible that
they could be murders (inside prisons, a far distance apart). All seem somehow
connected to a mass murder of a family many years before.
Unlike some of Cornwell's more disappointing
novels, this has its share of suspense and tension and in the end, I was feeing better
about Cornwell again.
The Fiery Cross by
At last I have finished Book 5 of Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander" series. It
was about a 50-60 hour audio book, which takes a long time when you only listen to it when
you're alone in the car! Claire and Jamie are now in America with their daughter
Brianna, her husband Roger, and their son Jemmy. In a 1400+ page book, you are going
to have slow parts. I could have done with the shortening of several parts of this
book, but in the end I didn't care because I just love immersing myself in the story of
the time-traveling Claire and her 18th century lover. This is set in the
pre-Revolutionary colonies and the build up to the actions of 1776. There's enough
intrigue, history, sensuality, and medicine to go around. Amazing things happen
which will change the Fraser family forever, and there is the return of characters we
haven't seen in awhile. The best review I can give this book is that as soon as I
finished it, I immediately downloaded the sequel and can hardly wait to get into another
50 hour adventure with the Frasers.
Lost in Shangri-La
by Mitchell Zuckoff
This is a strange book. It is the true story of an airplane carrying sight-seeing
military personnel from New Guinea, which crashes in the dense forrest of that country.
Twenty-one people died in the crash. There were only 3 survivors. Using
diaries, newspaper clippings, interviews, and military records, Zuckoff pieces together
their survival story, dealing with the dense forest, severe burn injuries which were
becoming gangrenous, no food or water, finally finding a clearing where they encounter
native people, reportedly cannibals, who had never seen a white person before. It explains
how they survivied while waiting for rescue and the amazing rescue itself. But it's
strange because it meanders. Before the plane ever leaves the ground, you have the
back story of everyone on the plane, everyone who ever touched the plane, some of their
families. Before rescue attempts are made, there are more biographies and more
technical background. You learn how they survived with the natives and even made
friends of some of them. When the time comes for the actual rescue it takes about 2
pages of the book and then it's over.
There is a chapter on follow up on all involved
in the incident, including how the interaction with modern society changed, and some would
say, ruined the native settlements.
A huge chunk of the book is dedicated to
research methods, more bios of everyone who has already been described in detail (but nw
in alphabetical order), and an index. ( skipped that part of the book)
Book of the Dead by
This is the book which comes right before
"Scarpetta," which I read last year and absolutely hated. I realized that so
much is alluded to from this book that I probably missed a lot of nuance in
"Scarpetta." I then realized that there were two books in the series before
"Scarpetta" which I had not read. "Predator" was the first one and I
was disappointed in it. There was a hint of the old Cornwell in it, but I hated a lot of
the book. When I posted my review on Good Reads, someone said that this one, "Book of
the Dead" was just as bad, so I decided not to bother. Cornwell, like James
Patterson, had lost her magic and I was sad to see that go.
But then it gnawed on me that I should really read this book, and am I glad I did. It was
a hint of the old Cornwell, and so much of what I hated about "Scarpetta" is
explained in "Book of the Dead." It filled so many gaps in the continuing story
of Kay, Benton, Lucy and Marino that I'm now all jazzed to read the next in the series
(and must go back and re-read the start of "Scarpetta" again to refresh my
memory of how the story continues. I understand what has happened to Marino (even though I
don't like it). Heck, I even like Lucy again in this book!
I don't like a lot of the
conversations where the people involved are talking past each other...Lucy is discussing
what happened between Kay and Marino and Kay is talking about something completely
different because she doesn't want to acknowledge the encounter with Marino. This
happens more than once and is annoying because I don't know anybody who would have a
conversation like that, so it does not read true.
As for the actual story, a 16 year old tennis star is found nude and mutilated in Rome. A
young boy's body is found in a marsh in Charleston (where Scarpetta has now re-located)
and there is a hint that the two deaths are related and that somehow a exploitative talk
show host may be involved. The story has enough twists and turns and tension for the most
dedicated Cornwell fan and in the end, I'm so very glad that I read it after all!
The Book of Illusions
by Paul Auster
I joined a book club which meets in a few days and saw they were going to discuss this
book, so I ordered it for my Kindle and managed to get it read in 3 days. Very good
Professor David Zimmer's life is destroyed when
his wife and two young sons are killed in a plane crash. He goes on a destructive binge of
drinking and taking pills until he happens to see a documentary in which he is drawn to
silent film comedian Hector Mann, who vanished around 1929 after a brief but promising
film career. Zimmer begins to investigate the work of Hector Mann, an interest which
becomes an obsession which takes him on a quest to see the 12 films which were mailed,
anonymously, to 2 museums around the world. He ends up writing a book about Mann and some
time later receives a letter from a woman claiming to be Mann's wife, saying that Mann is
very much alive, but ill, and would like to meet with him. This sets off a series of
events no one could anticipate.
Auster writes with such convincing detail that the first part of his book reads almost
like a documentary, so much so that I wanted to google Hector Mann and find out what
Wikipedia had to say about him. (I actually found there is an entry, about a band that
created an album based on Auster's book, and several entries by people who seem to think
Mann was a real actor.) Auster's description of Mann's films is so detailed it makes it
difficult to believe they don't actually exist. If Auster wanted to make those films, he
already has a ready-made screenplay within his own book.
This is a great read and highly recommended.
Code Name Verity by
This is the story of two life-long friends, both women aviators, working for the
British military during World War II, when it was nearly unheard of for women to fly
planes. The two crash in Nazi occupied France. One is taken prisoner and one
has a chance for survival, if she can get back to England. The captured woman
becomes a virtual Scheherazade, writing her "confession" and weaving into it
such a story that her interrogators keep her alive for another day...a week. Within
her confession, and her revelations of war secrets is her history with her friend Maddie.
This is an amazing book that gives such an incredible glimpse of what life was like
for the French Resistance and the people who risked their lives every day doing impossible
Kill Alex Cross by James
This is another disappointing Cross book. Cross ends up involved in two of
the biggest cases in the country simultaneously (the kidnapping of the president's
children and the potential for the worst terrorist attack in the country's history.
This stretches credibility beyond all bounds--is Cross the only SuperCop in the
country? But even if we buy that only Alex can work these cases--and do them
simultaneously--the plots just fizzle out, without little tension. Find a house?
Kids inside? Yep...OK. Move along. Foil the terrorist plot?
Everybody dies or disappears, ho-hum. I don't know why I keep reading Patterson when
he so consistently disappoints these days!
Darkest Evening of the Year
by Dean Koontz
I haven't read enough Dean Koontz to know whether I like him or not. I've
read some I loved and some I hated. I picked this book up because after reading his
quasi autobiography (A Big Little Life) about his golden retriever, he commented that this
book was one that was inspired by his love for his dog and for golden retrievers. This
starts off with the story of Amy Redwing, who runs a rescue organization for golden
retrievers. When she rescues Nikie from an abusive situation, she realizes that this
is more than just an ordinary dog. Nickie begins to have a profound effect on Amy
and on her friend, widower Brian McCarthy. That's when it turns from a normal novel
to some sort of supernatural book and it lost credibility, though I have to admit that the
story he built really appealed to me!
Echo Burning by Lee Child
Look. We get it. It's Texas. It's
desolate. It's hot. And Reacher doesn't say much. This is a gripping story,
but oh do those now famous descriptive passages of Child's draw this out for-EV-er!
And if you took out the sentence "Reacher said nothing" you could shorten it by
at least a chapter.
That said, I enjoyed this book. Reacher
runs afoul of a local police officer and needs to get outta town quick and while
hitchhiking is picked up by Carmen Greer, who has more than doing a good turn for a guy in
mind--she wants Reacher to kill her abusive husband, because she can't do it
herself. Well, of course it turns out to be much more complicated than that, but
it's Jack Reacher to the rescue all the way. With Tom Cruise now being chosen as the
movie Reacher, I think that this is one they'd better not try to bring to the
screen...Cruise's short stature would definitely not work for this plot!
I will add that this was an audio book, read by
Dick Hill, whom I usually like, but his tone of voice for attorney Alice (whose last name
I forget) made her sound like such a whining wimp that I suspect it would have been quite
a different story if I had actually READ the book instead of listened to it.
Zero Day by David
John Puller is a combat veteran and the best military
investigator in the U.S. Army's Criminal Investigation Division. His father was an Army
fighting legend, now, sadly, no longer in his right mind, and his brother is serving a
life sentence for treason in a federal military prison.
Puller is sent to investigate an
"unusual" murder -- a whole family slaughtered -- in a small W. Virginia, coal
town. As bodies pile up, Puller begins to realize that the story behind the murders
stretches way beyond the confines of this small town and may spell a catastrophe for the
whole country. The federal government is intensely interested, but unwilling to
commit any other personnel to help in the investigation and it is up to John to save the
This is a page turner. I was up until 2
a.m. finishing it.
L is for Lawless by
Sue Grafton [LOGOS]
I have not been a great fan of Grafton. I'd started her alphabet series many years
ago and read a few books, but wasn't passionate enough about them to continue. The
reason I read this one was because I had to wait at a bus station after work at the book
store and had forgotten to bring my Kindle, so I picked this out of the $1 Bargain Box
bins outside the store. It was OK. Nothing to make me want to go back to where
I stopped and pick up reading the series again. Detective Kinsey Millhone is asked
to do a favor for a neighbor, which was to involve helping a guy look through his father's
papers for proof of his military service. To go into too much depth might ruin it
for potential readers, but suffice to say this little favor ends up sending Kinsey all
across the country, nearly getting arrested, caught in a fire, nearly shot, and ultimately
ending up in the hospital with a concussion before she manages to get home again (in time
to be a bridesmaid, I might add). It kept my interest, but I'm beginning to think
that I've just read too many mysteries and should find another genre. I always seem
to end up rolling my eyes at some point in most of the books I've read this year, this
book no exception.
The Pretty Women of Paris
by Robin de Beaumont [LOGOS]
Not being in the market for information about prostitutes I have no idea if guides like
this still exist in the 21st century, but I have a mental image of some tattered street
newspaper being hawked near downtown hotels in San Francisco. This is the
translation of a book written in the mid 1800s and sold to, presumably, wealthy men
looking for female...uh...diversion Companionship, shall we say. It's
kind of the Montgomery-Ward catalog of upscale prostitutes. It also includes a
listing of many of the houses of ill repute in Paris.
I really hadn't intended to read it, but I found
it absolutely fascinating. Each entry always includes a physical description of the
But the descriptions are sometimes absolutely
...her backside is remarkable for size and shape and we may declare without hesitation
that she possesses one of the handsomest bums in Paris.
...she is thin as a hurdle, with rough skin and insignificant countenance. She is pale,
with light hair and blue eyes. Looks well when dressed as a man but undressed is like a
wooden doll -- very long, very hard, with a bust like a plank and an arse like a rabbit.
In addition to the comments regarding the women, I also increased my vocabulary.
"Pelf" is a term for ill-gotten riches. And I learned the Banting System was
developed in 1863 by W. Banting as a diet for reducing superfluous fat...and it sounds
VERY MUCH like the Atkins diet. The dietary recommended was the use of butcher-meat
principally, and abstinence from beer, farinaceous food, and vegetables.
And while you may have thought the Indians cornered the market on sexual pleasure with the
Kama Sutra, you may not have heard of Aretino's Postures, which is Italy's own
version, I Modi or The Sixteen Pleasures. These were engravings
and--surprise, surprise--were destroyed the Catholic church.
Predator by Patricia
I've been a Cornwell fan since I read her first book.
I've had some complaints about her recent books ("Blow Fly" was probably
the worst). This is getting back to her roots, but still the magic of her earlier
books isn't there. I hate what she has done with the character of Marino.
In earlier works, I kind of pictured Marino as an Ed Asner type, but now he's buff
and bald and riding motorcycles and I've lost my picture of him. I also loved the
working relationship they had, and now it seems non-existent. I also don't like the
way she has taken her niece Lucy. The thing I've enjoyed in previous Cornwell books
was the weay that these three and Scarpetta's male friend, Benton Wesley worked
together to solve crimes. Now...I don't know. The story was so convoluted and
there was such a dark undertone to everything. Lucy hates herself, Kay isn't
speaking to Benton because he kept Lucy's confidence about a health problem, Marino is
whoring after anything with tits and have a love-hate relationship with both Kay and Lucy.
The story held my interest, but it just wasn't her best. Also the evil Basil
Jenrette, on whom the story appears to hang, has an almost non-existent role that fizzles
out in the end. He can't even try to kill Kay and make it gripping. For
Cornwell fans, this is a good read. If it's your first Cornwell book, go back and
start at the beginning, when they seem to have had more substance.
Orphan Train Rider, One Boy's
True Story by Andrea Warren
I picked this book up at the Sacramento Train Museum store because it was a report on a
piece of American about which I knew nothing. Between 1854 and 1930, more than
200,000 orphaned or abandoned children were sent west on "orphan trains" to find
new homes. In exchange for "good homes," the children, many of whom
had been living on the streets and eating from garbage cans, were offered to farmers,
housewives and businessmen as indentured workers. Some were adopted by loving
families, otherswere not as fortunate. The hero of this story was one of six children
whose father gave them away when their mother died. Lee and his brother Leo ended up
in an orphange, their younger brothers (a toddler and an infant) were given to friends,
the older son and daughter were sent out into the world to find their own way. Lee
and Leo ended up being put on an orphan train, with 50 or more other children.
The train made stops in midwest towns and the
children were put on display for prosective adoptive parents to view (it reminds me of the
scene of a slave auction). It's a fascinating story and, as I said, a part of
American history about which I had no knowledge whatsoever. The practice ended in
1930 because of new laws and new organizations designed to help children and immigrants.
More stories of orphan train riders can be found here.
The Sixth Target by
James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
I have, up until now, enjoyed Patterson's Women's Murder Club series. This was one
huge exception. There was no suspense, no action, no nothing. There are three
parallel plots, which don't intersect (the old Patterson would have worked to weave them
all together in several of those twists and turns that he is so famous for). There was no
satisfaction in how any of them resolved...or didn't. This book was a
disappointment from start to finish.
The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy
by Robert Leleux [LOGOS]
When I picked this up at Logos today, I was thinking of David Sheff's
"Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction." I didn't
remember the title or the author, but I just remembered that it had the words
"beautiful boy" in it. And I remember thinking that maybe I might want to
read it. So when I sat down and started to read, imagine my surprise to discover
that this was a memoir of a young gay boy and his rather odd family, especially his
flamboyant mother. This reads like David Sidaris on tranquilizers...not quite as
riotous, but equally interesting.
The book starts the day Robert and his mother
come home from their weekly trip for hair and nail treatments at Neiman Marcus, to
discover a note left by the father saying he was leaving them penniless. Adjustment
to their situation, selling off all the fancy clothes and jewelry, the search for a new
(old, rich) husband, and Robert's coming of age as a gay man (he had no idea he was until
he met the man who would become his husband) is a delightful story, with unforgettable
scenes (like Mother's having her head shaved and a wig superglued to her scalp, or the
terrifying trip to the "emergency room," where, unbeknownst to Robert, his
mother has an appointment for plastic surgery. A nice surprise and not at all as
depressing as the story of a father dealing with his son's addiction!
The Death of Manolete
by Barnaby Conrad
I decided to read this book because Pat Conroy raved about it so much in his "My
Reading Life." I suspect this would have been better read as a real book rather
than a kindle book because there are so many photos in it, and the regular Kindle doesn't
do photos all that well. But the story is fascinating. I knew nothing about
bull fighting (and have no desire to see one) but I learned a lot about bull fights and
the world around bull fighting. I liked that the reader gets an opportunity to know not
only the background of Manolete, but also of Isolo, the bull that killed him.
The Tears I Couldn't Cry: Behind
the Convent Doors by Patricia Grueninger Beasley
I can't decide if I loved this book or hated it. I bought it because I could see
from the cover photo that it was about the Daughters of Charity, who taught me in high
school and whose order I decided to join when I graduated (ultimately I did not, because
the sisters suggested I wait 6 extra months to think about it--and in that time I decided
I didn't really want to join). The story is about Ms. Beasley's 22 years as a
Daughter of Charity and her decision to leave. Stephen King has nothing on her in
the horror story realm. My one thought throughout this book is that I dodged a huge
bullet in my decision not to join.
She entered the convent in the late 50s (about 3
years before I would have joined). From day one she was hit with all sorts of rules
and regulations that she had never expected. She was expected to lose all emotional
ties to her family, she was never permitted to touch another person. An accomplished
artist and pianist, she was not permitted to do any art or touch a piano. She was
not permitted to mix her foods on the plate because that would indicate she was actually enjoying
the food, and that was not permitted. She could not raise her eyes to enjoy a sunset
or listen to a bird singing. She could not attend her sister's wedding or her
grandmother's funeral, though they were only a few miles from her convent. The rules went
on and on and on. She had to learn how to pee on schedule (if you had to go when it
wasn't your turn, too bad. Hold it and offer it up). Sickness was a weakness.
She suffered from motion sickness many times and felt like vomiting, but was told she had
to hold it in and offer it up. She suffered from migraine headaches and was refused
medication and told to pray instead. She was forced to teach with an abscessed tooth
because there was no one to cover for her. When she had terrible diarrhea while
visiting the town of Assisi she was told to have a glass of beer (permitted because they
were not supposed to drink the water in Italy). She had wanted to be a social worker and
hated teaching, but she was told she was going to be a teacher. When she left, after
22 years, having taught for most of that time, she was given $1,000 and the door shut
behind her. No half-way house to reorient her back into the world, no Social
Security had been paid for her time working, no nothing.
The book was written after she had
worked outside, met a man and married and perhaps some of the negative tone of this book
came out of the therapeutic act of writing it all down. I'm sure there must have
been some pleasurable experiences, but the total picture is of a naive 18 year
old girl, still in love with a man, who was pretty much railroaded by one of her teachers
into agreeing to join the convent, who never should have been there in the first place.
My Reading Life by
Pat Conroy [LOGOS]
I read a quote somewhere that says "Reading Pat Conroy is like watching
Michaelangelo paint." A very good description. It was Conroy's facility
with words which made me choose to read "Prince of Tides" when we were driving
around Honolulu, rather than look at the scenery. I couldn't put the book down.
When I saw this book on the shelves of Logos, I knew I couldn't possibly read
>300 pages in 4 hours, but I also knew that this was a book I had to read, so I read it
during my shift and then brought it home to finish.
I'm hard pressed to know how I feel about this
book. It is rich with the language that so attracted me to "Prince of
Tides," and you learn about his lifelong passion for reading, fostered by his mother,
self taught through her unquenchable thirst for books. If there are any doubts as to
the roots of "The Great Santini," they are dispelled in Conroy's comments about
his abusive father. He reveres all of the men and women in his life who brought out
his creativity and inspired him to be a better writer. He is unapologetic in his
love of and passion for books...books...books -- his reading of them, his
collecting of them, his writing of them. Anyone who has not read, and intends to
read, books like "Look Homeward, Angel" and "War and Peace" would do
well to skip those chapters, since he covers the plots so thoroughly in his dissection of
why they are such special books to him. I was moved to put down Conroy's book and go to
Amazon.com to order Barnaby Conrad's "The Death of Manolete" after reading his
comments about that work. But he indulges in purple prose when he gets to why he
writes and I found myself rolling my eyes in exasperation during that chapter. I
also think this chapter would go far to discourage anyone who has aspirations of becoming
a great writer.
Anyone who is a Conroy fan will enjoy this book,
but sometimes you have to overlook the self-aggrandizement.
The Elephant Whisperer
by Lawrence Anthony and Graham Spence
This book is subtitled "My Life with the Herd in the African Wild."
Anthony, a South African conservationist who owns a reserve called Thula Thula received a
call that someone needed to get rid of a herd of rogue elephants--they would either give
them to him or, if he could not take them, they would be destroyed.
Against his better judgement, he accepted the elephants and thus began the adventure of
settling them into their new surroundings, winning their trust, and learning the
lessons the elephants had to teach him. This was a book I could not put down.
I have such great admiration for and fascination with elephant society and this is an
intimate look at what humans can know about these magnificent beasts. Anthony's
intention was that the elephants, and all the animals on his reserve, remain wild and have
no interaction with human beings, other than himself. In the years that followed he
became a part of their family. And as he battled to create a bond with the elephants, he
came to realize that they had a great deal to teach him about life, loyalty, and
freedom. Along the way there are stories of other animals--rhinos, crocodiles,
poodles--as well as African politics, Zulu society, poachers, and French women.
San Francisco Confidential
by Ray Mungo [LOGOS]
What a fun book! I was going to read Henry V, which I am reviewing
this week, but that plan didn't last long and soon I was up and looking through the
shelves again. This was one of the display books and I picked it up and within
seconds had returned Henry V to the shelves. Published in 1996, this is
quite dated but it covers the scandalous activities in San Francisco from the time of the
Gold Rush to the date of writing. Not all of the scandals, of course, but some of
the more notorious and most of them things that I remember. It's not only scandals,
but also things like the birth of the Beat era and the Hippie era (I'm amazed at how many
things I lived through were "firsts" in the country). There is the
re-telling of the story of the murder of Mayor Mosconi and Supervisor Harvey Milk (the
first gay supervisor). I was quite familiar with that story, of course, but I don't
think I ever heard that homophobic assassin Dan White was actually gay and having an
affair with a San Francisco Fireman. The books covers suicides on the Golden Gate
Bridge, Patty Hearst, and lots and lots of San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb
Caen (now deceased). I was so tickled by the book that, of course, I bought it.
Cheap at only $5!
Divine Justice by
This book starts the same day that "Stone Cold" ends and continues the
adventures of The Camel Club, now one member short, in its search for truth. It also
provides a complete history of Oliver Stone (aka John Carr). By the time you finish
this book, you will be ashamed to be an American, if only part of it is anywhere near the
truth. As the book starts, Oliver has just assassinated two of the most powerful men in
the country, who were responsible for the murder of Oliver's wife, and has decided to get
outta town. He's going to go to New Orleans, where he can blend in where questions aren't
asked, and work to rebuild houses after Katrina. However, things go wrong on the
train and he stands up for a kid who is getting beaten up and ends up being ejected from
the train, along with the kids and the guys with whom he has fought. With no other
options, he goes home with the kid, Danny, to his tiny mining town where more things go
wrong than you could imagine. Just when it appears that Oliver can't possibly get
out of his current situation, the Camel Club, like the cavalry, rides into town and takes
things in hand.
The Camel Club series is one of Baldacci's best
and this is no exception. There is one more book in the series, but it apparently
has no connection to this particular book, so I'm taking a Camel Club vacation before
Stone Cold by David
I started reading "Divine Justice" at Logos and realized it was a continuation
of "Stone Cold," so stopped and read this book first. This is another in
Baldacci's Camel Club series, and ranks with one of his best. In this book there are
three plot lines which intersect -- former CIA assassin John Carr (aka Oliver Stone)'s
vigilance at the White House; Anabelle Conroy's $40 million con of Atlantic City casino
mogul Jerry Bagger, the man who killed her mother; and a new character, Harry Finn, a
member of the Department of Homeland Security, who is secretly killing off the people who
murdered his father. All of these stories gradually merge in an ugly picture of what
really goes on behind the doors of government. This one is a gripper and thank
goodness I already have "Divine Justice," the action for which begins
minutes after "Stone Cold" ends, because I could start reading it immediately.
A Pygmy Perspective
by Mitchell Agruss
Unfortunately for you, the reader, this is a book you can't read because it has never been
publicly published. It was written by my friend Mitchell Agrus (whom people my
children's age, who grew up in the Sacramento area in the 1970s-80s may remember as TV
"Capt'n Mitch.") It is subtitled, "20 years of personal experiences
with prominent figures of the American theatrical, film and television scene from 1941-61
(an exercise in truthful name-dropping)." It is all that it is described as
being, but more -- "more" being a delight to read. I love listening to
actors talking with one another and this is Mitch reminiscing about the likes of Katharine
Hepburn, John Houseman, Thornton Wilder, Harpo Marx, Jack Klugman, Moss Hart, Mel Brooks,
Carol Channing, Carl Reiner, Bert Lahr and scores of others. The books includes
photos of himself in performance with many of these luminaries. I read the whole
thing in one sitting and devoured every word.
I want to grow hair, I want to
grow up, I want to go to Boise by Erma Bombeck [LOGOS]
The title refers to what a child, suffering from cancer, said were his/her three wishes.
Bombeck was approached to write an upbeat book about children with cancer.
She wasn't sure she could do it until she visited a camp for children with cancer and got
to know them. What she has written reminds me of the book "When Someone You
Love Has Cancer," by DanaRae Pomeroy. You get to "know" kids with
cancer, you get to know their parents, you get a sense of the joy and the tragedy, and you
get a feel for how someone who cares can help -- what to do and what not to do. Not
Bombeck's usual belly laughs, but a wonderfully thought out and written book (I
would have expected nothing less of my hero).
Total Control by
After the disappointing "True Blue," it was nice to read another Baldacci
thriller that fills the bill again. Sidney and Jeffrey Archer are your typical
upwardly mobile couple, raising their little daughter Amy. Jeffrey works for a
technology company, Sidney (yes, she's a girl) is a corporate attorney. Jeffrey has
been doing some mysterous stuff after hours but the plane in which he is flying to LA
mysterously crashes, killing nearly 200 people. On the day of Jeffrey's memorial
service, Sydney receives a phone call...from Jeffrey which sets off a non-stop
thriller in motion that ultimately goes off in so many directions it's sometimes hard to
keep up. There is corporate greed, a sex scandal, double identies, sociopaths,
chases, gun battles, people sneaking around in dark office buildings. It's a
thriller you can't put down.
Address Unknown by
Katherine Kressman Taylor
Someone recommended this book to me. It's very short, only 58 pages. The novel
is written in the form of correspondence between two business partners, a Jewish art
dealer in San Francisco and his partner, who had returned to Germany in 1932.
According to the notes, the book is credited with exposing, early on, the dangers of
Nazism to the American public.
While it has the feel of letters written by a
woman, rather than two men, it still tells, very effectively the affection for the two
families, the betrayal, and vengeance. Even this many years later, it is a chilling
War Horse by
Morpugo is apparently Britain's best-loved children's book writers, so it's not surprising
that this book, which I bought because of the hoopla about the Broadway production and the
movie, seemed pretty simplistic. It's the story of Joey, a horse born in England who
gets sold to the Army during WWI and his boy's (Albert) attempts to find him. It is
told from the perspective of the horse and traces his adventures from Germany to France to
how he finally reunited with Albert and the shock that threatens to remove him from Albert
forever. Really a good story, and children will enjoy it too!
True Blue by David
Baldacci usually writes excellent books, but this is not one of his best. However,
at some point mid-way through I had the vision of this making a great "caper"
movie, with whoever is the latter day equivalent of Goldie Hawn and Steve Martin.
Too many bodies discovered in too many weird places, and weird inter-weaving of plots,
characters. Is it corporate espionage? terrorism activity? And the situation
of the Chief of Police of Washington, DC being the older sister of the disgraced (framed)
beat cop just made of lots of unbelievable situations. Still, it held my interest,
but I rolled my eyes a lot.
Driving Mr. Albert
by Michael Paterniti [LOGOS]
This may be one of the strangest books I have read (except for the one about
Australian hats) since beginning work at Logos. This is a true story of "a trip
across America with Einstein's brain." Albert Einstein's brain floats in a
Tupperware bowl in a gray duffel bag in the trunk of a Buick Skylark barreling across
America. Driving the car is journalist Michael Paterniti. Sitting next to him is an
eccentric eighty-four-year-old pathologist named Thomas Harvey, who performed the autopsy
on Einstein in 1955 -- then simply removed the brain and took it home. And kept it for
over forty years.
On a cold February day, the two men and the brain leave New Jersey and light out on I-70
for sunny California, where Einstein's perplexed granddaughter, Evelyn, awaits. And riding
along as the imaginary fourth passenger is Einstein himself. This book is part
travelogue, part memoir, part history, part biography, and part meditation, It is
definitely unlike any other travel/adventure book you'll ever read and yet quite
compelling. It is Paterniti's skill as a writer which keep this story so
Then Again by Diane
This is not your usual Hollywood memoir. It is as much (if not more) a tribute to
Diane's mother, Dorothy Hall, who loomed very large in her life, as it is the story about
how shy, insecure Diane Hall became a celebrated movie star, lover to Woody Allen, Warren
Beatty and Al Pacino, and triumphed over her persistent insecurities and went on to give
us memorable performances in movies such as the Godfather series, Annie Hall
(which Woody Allen based on Diane's own family), First Wives Club and many
others. Dorothy Hall was a writer who kept delightfully complete journals of the ups
and downs her own life, and her daughter's life and career. Keaton quotes liberally
from her mother's diaries and often compares her life to her own life. As her mother
receives the diagnosis of Alzheimers and slowly sinks into that abyss from which there is
only one escape, Diane is brutally honest about what is happening and in the end, we all
weep with her at her mother's death. This really is a beautiful and beautifully
written book. Get the "real" book--I read it on my Kindle, which does not
do justice to the photos.
The Journey by
James Michener [LOGOS]
Whoda thunk that a Michener book could be my choice for what to read during my day at the
book store? But this is actually only 240 pages and a bit slower going than the
books I've been reading, I didn't quite finish it at the store, but did finish it here at
home. This is a story of an unlikely crew of four English gentlemen and one Irish
tenant who take off for the Gold Rush. After reading a report of a ship loaded with
"gold bars" heading out of the Yukon Territory, Lord Evelyn Luton decides he
wants a piece of the action and assembles a crew of four, plus someone to be their servant
and he heads for Canada. The problem is that he refuses to set foot on American soil
because he wants to support the British holdings in Canada. This decision, which
makes the journey much more difficult than it should have been, proves disastrous, but the
story of the travel across Canada from Quebec to Dawson City is fascinating and difficult
to put down.
Travels with Alice
by Calvin Trillin [LOGOS]
Now this was more like it. Delightful travel book by this staff
writer for the New York Times is essentially a food tour through So. France,
Italy, New York, Barbados and parts between. I loved this book on so many levels,
not the least of which was that most of the places he describes (in scrumptuous detail)
are places where I have been. I love reading what might have been had we not been on
a tour. Specifically, you must learn about taureaux piscine, which combines
bullfighting and swimming. Seriously. Watch
the video and read the description. This is the kind of touring I'd like to do
if (a) we were rich and (b) Walt enjoyed eating as much as I do. (Alice, by the way,
is Trillin's wife, often referred to as la principessa.)
Cutting for Stone
by Abraham Verghese
Written by award winning physician-author Verghese, this is a book for history buffs and
medicine buffs and anybody who likes a good story. Beginning in India in 1947, the
story follows the path of Sister Mary Joseph Praise, a young nun from India who ends up at
a hospital in Addis Ababa, where she becomes an excellent surgical nurse, assisting the
brilliant surgeon Thomas Stone. When she goes into labor (having hid her pregnancy
for 9 months from everyone including the father, Stone) things go terribly wrong.
The nun dies, Stone flees in horror and the identical twin babies boys, Marion and Shiva,
rescued from almost certain death, are raised by an Indian obstetrician, Hema and her
fellow doctor, Ghosh, whom she marries and who raises the boys as his own sons.
The first half of the novel concerns the boys
growing up the hospital, displaying brilliant abilities to learn medicine as they are
coming to maturity during the days of Emperor Haile Selasse. The books offers an
in-depth look at the practice of medicine and the revolutions taking place in Ethiopia.
A pivotal moment occurs midway through the book which causes a rift between the two
brothers and ultimately ends up with Marion fleeing the country in fear of his life, his
immigration to the United States, and finding his place in a poor hospital in New York.
By this point, I was so hooked, I had to take the day off to read until I'd
finished the book.
The book is alive with the sights, sounds, and
smells of Ethiopia, of family, of love and betrayal, of life and death and eventual
redemption under tragic circumstances. Along the way I got a full education on the
condition of women in Africa who suffer from fistula, and the relationship between high
class modern hospitals and their poor counterparts in this country. The characters
are all well drawn and we know them well, even the least of them. The writing was a
delight to read. I highly recommend this book.
Girl Cook by Hannah
I'm almost embarrassed to write a review of this book, which may have been the most
lightweight of all the books I've read at Logos, but I just kind of grabbed the first
right-sized book that looked llike I could finish it. The Amazon synopsis tells it
Layla Mitchner is a twenty-eight-year-old Cordon
Bleu graduate trying to carve out a space for herself in the fast-paced, high-pressure
world of Manhattans top restaurant kitchens. She knows shes got the talent to
be a great chef, but there she is slaving for a misogynistic boss whod sooner
promote the dishwasher than give a woman the chance to prove her sous-chef mettle. And
while Layla knows that the dwindling balance in her bank account wont begin to cover
what she owes her roommate, shes desperate not to seek help from her self-absorbed,
serially divorced, soap-opera-actress mother.
Her romantic prospects seem no brighter. She gets set up with a nice enough guy, but his
tassel loafers and corporate demeanor reek of the WASP aristocracy shes determined
to leave behind. After continuously striking out, she meets a musician who appears to be
the bohemian Mr. Right of her dreams, only to find he may be more deadbeat than
heartthrob. But Layla refuses to settle for anything short of true love and success, and
she ultimately finds both where she least expects them.
It wasn't unpleasant, it wasn't challenging.
I finished it with an hour and a half to spare. Next time I'll choose
Blue Nights by Joan
There are two primary topics in this book--grief at the loss of her daughter (and to some
extent her husband, though she covered that in her book "A Year of Magical
Thinking") and as a 75 year old, awareness of her own aging/fragility and how to
Midway through the book I had a mental picture
of the inspiration for the writing. I envisioned her sitting there with all of her
memories of her daughter, the good, the bad, her insecurities about parenting, her
daughter's long dying process, pictures of her as a child, etc. all being poured in
snippets over her head in very slow motion and out of that waterfall came this book.
It is almost painfully personal and anyone who has lost a child will instantly
The Christmas Train
by David Baldacci
This is a departure from Baldacci's usual spy/suspense fare, though there are a few
elements of suspense in it. Tom Langdon, a former war correspondent who has
tired of the danger and travel and has been spending his time writing fluff pieces for
magazines like House and Garden and Ladies Home Companion. After
an altercation at an airport security line, he has been banned on all domestic flights for
a year and so if he wants to see his bicoastal girlfriend in Los Angeles, he will have to
take the train from DC. In truth, he's not sure how he feels about Leila, but his
distant relative Mark Twain was always going to write about his experiences riding the
rails across the country and Tom long ago made a promise to his now dead father that he
would do what Twain never did.
The train is peopled by unforgettable
characters, starting with the big time Hollywood movie director and his entourage (which
just happens to include the love of Tom's life, Eleanor Carter, whose loss he has mourned
lo these many years). There is the elderly priest, the couple running away from
disapproving families to get married, the lonely woman who rides the rails all the time,
especially at Christmas, because she is estranged from her daughter, the attorney who is
out to sue anybody who makes him angry, and a train crew so delightful you just hope they
are on your next train.
Christmas and a threatening storm are
approaching, someone is pilfering things from people's compartments, and sparks fly
whenever Tom and Eleanore have to be together.
There is also a surprise ending which I did not
Dear Professor Einstein
by Alice Calaprice [LOGOS]
Fun, short read which included two brief biography of
Einstein, by different authors, with different emphasis, but repeating the same
information. Who knew that he had problems with math and had to ask famous mathematicians
to help create the formulas for his relativity theory, or that E=mc2 was originally L=mc2
(though that is never explained). The fun part, though, is the letters to and from
children, for whom the scientist obviously had a particular fondness. Again, in the
comments on the letters, Calaprice repeats, again, information. There seems to be no
rhyme nor reason to the letters chosen and it was frustrating because some children's
letters have responses from Einstein, others do not and there is no explanation of why or
why not. One child's letter, for example, thanks him for his previous letter, but
that letter is not included. I think a more interesting book would have been a book
of replies from Einstein, and the letters that sparked them.
This book could have used an editor, but for
what it was, I enjoyed it.
Fifty Shades of Grey by
This book is in the running for worst book I've read all
year--and it's only March. Heroine Anastasia Steele has the dubious honor of being
the most annoying heroine since Bella Swan. I read this because an interview with
the author made me curious about the controversy. In truth it started out all
right--for the kind of book that it is. But it became boring, repetitive, juvenile
(in a warped sort of way), whiny and completely uninteresting. I completed it
because I was wondering how it was going to end, but the longer it went on the worse it
got. I understand there is a much-needed sequel. I shall not read it.
Simple Genius by
This is the third or fourth in the adventures of Sean King and Michelle Maxwell, ex Secret
Service Agents, now working together in their own detective agency. I made the
mistake of starting this before I had read the previous book, "Hour Game," and I
didn't have a clue why Michell has a mini psychotic break at the start of the
book. I finally stopped reading it and went and read "Hour Game."
It's not that you can't understand this book without reading "Hour Game," but I
kept asking myself "what the hell happened to her in that book?"
By the second of third chapter, it's not really important, but I was glad to have read
"Hour Game" before I went back to "Simple Genius."
Michelle commits herself to a psychiatric
facility after her break and the cost of her medicial expenses empties their bank account,
so Sean accepts a job from former girlfriend, that of investigating the death of the
brilliant mathematician Monk Turing, on the staff of a high-tech think tank.
Turing's body is discovered inside the fence of Camp Peary, the secret CIA facility.
Authorities rule Turin's death suicide, but others aren't so sure. As things
progress, and the bodies pile up, it's pretty clear that Turing was also
murdered. His brillliant, but strange 11 year old daughter Viggie (who may have
Aspergers) seems to hold the key to solving the mystery, but she isn't talking.
All in all, another page turner from David Baldacci.
Yosemite: The first 100 Years by Shirley
This is the kind of book that I would be likely to pick up for the pictures but
never read the content. But I did read the content (since I still had 3 hours to
kill and what a fascinating book it was, from the early Indian inhabitants to the
deplorable destruction of the Indian culture and the park itself by the first white
inhabitants, to its years under the supervision of the Army. Turns out Abraham
Lincoln was the first to envision saving places like Yosemite by signing a bill that made
this come under the supervision of the state of California (paving the way for Teddy
Roosevelt to make Yellowstone the first national park). There is a history of the
Bracebridge dinners that so many of my friends have been involved with, the story of Camp
Curry, where we have stayed so many times. Just a wealth of fascinating information.
I'm gladI read it.
Griffin and Sabine (a trilogy) by Nick
I'd seen "Griffin and Sabine" forever but had never read it, nor did I know it
was actually a trilogy. Griffin is an artist living in England who receives a
mysterious postcard from Sabine, who lives on the other side of the world. Through
postcards and letters (nice touch having the letters be in envelopes that the reader
removes, unfolds, and reads), a friendship and then a love relationship develops and
deepens. Over this and the following two books, we watch the two attempt to meet and
follow the relationship to its conclusion. A very unusual set of books, but for
anybody who is a letter writer, simply deilghtful
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Yes, everybody reads this book in high school...unless you went to a Catholic girls' high
school. I can't imagine any of my teachers discussing this story of Holden
Caulfield in class. At one point I decided that if Ferris Bueller had been suffering
from depression, this is the kind of week off he might have had (Ferris only had a day,
Holden had a week). Themes of teen age angst, alienation, isolation, confusion,
depression. I haven't read any of the cliff notes or voluminous discussions about
this book, but what was very clear to me was that Holden, the privileged of wealthy yet
uninvolved parents never resolved his grief following his beloved brother's death.
It's no wonder he has abandonment issues. We watch his continuing downhill slide,
involving flunking out of school, being on his own in his hometown (New York), drinking in
bars that will serve underage drinkers, hiring a prostitute, alienating most of the people
he comes in contact with...and ending up in the mental hospital where he is dictating his
I'm glad I read it. It was totally not like anything that I
had thought it would be. I'm not sure this is a book you "enjoy," but it
definitely makes an impact
Bizarre World by Bill Bryson
This was the first real "comedy" book I'd seen by Bryson. A very short
collection of articles that would work well in News of the Weird. A couple
of examples: "In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a sixteen year old youth was charged
with beating up his fifteen year old wife after the latter hid the caps to his toy
pistol." and "A man who shovelled snow for an hour to clear a space for his car
during a blizzard in Chicago returned to his vehicle to find a woman had taken the space.
Understandably, he shot her." Many incidents are longer, but the whole
thing was just a fun, quick read.
A Rare Benedictine: The Advent of Brother Cadfael
by Ellis Peters [LOGOS}
Here are 3 stories about the 12-century Benedictine monk, Brother Cadfael. I loved
the TV series with Derek Jacobi as Cadfael. The first story is more of a back-story,
telling how Cadfael came to be living in the monestary at Shrewsbury. The second
story concerns the theft of ornate silver candlesticks and the violent aftermath of rent
collection. In all Cadfael is wise and good and gentle and always finds solutions to
the thorniest problems!
Love, Loss and What I Wore by Ilene Beckerman
I had a bit of time left over after the Berg book, so I read through this book that has
been around for awhile. This is a book I cannot relate to AT ALL. Author
Beckerman sketches and describes all the significant dresses she wore at various points in
her life, from Brownie uniforms to wedding dresses, to things she bought after her
divorce. Along with the outfits, we get a good, if sketchy, view of what life was a
like for a girl who lost her mother too early, whose father left her upbringing to her
grandparents, who married badly (twice), who buried a child, and eventually became her own
woman. Interesting vehicle for a life story.
If I had to put together a book like this there is no way I could have
remembered this many outfits if I tried. I'm lucky to remember my wedding dress.
Until the Real Thing Comes Along by Elizabeth
What if you got everything you thought you wanted? Real estate agent Patty Murphy's
biological clock is ticking loudly. She's in her mid-30s, unmarried, desperately
wants a baby and can't find "Mr. Right" because she's still in love with her
lifelong friend, Ethan, who just happens to be gay. After some disasterous blind
dates, leaving her depressed and frustrated, she finally convinces Ethan to impregnate her
and they are off on her dreamed-of scenario. Ethan becomes so involved with the
pregnancy that he decides they should relocate and he will try being straight.
Needless to say all sorts of things don't work out and in the meantime, Patty's father has
bad news about her mother.
I read this book at the book store on Valentine's Day. I had hoped
to find a Harlquin Romance because I've never read one and I figured a good bodice-ripper
would be just the thing for Valentine's Day, but the book store probably has better taste.
This was a compromise...and filled the bill. I also discovered Berg has
written a whole bunch of books. I might try some others sometime, because I enjoyed
this little light-weight story.
Once Upon a Secret by Mimi Alford
I saw a brief news report from Scarborough Country about this book today.
This is not a program I regularly watch, so I don't know who the woman is on it, but while
Joe Scarborough and Chris Matthews talked about the book, this woman looked like she had
just swallowed something disgusting and kept making dismissive gestures as if the whole
topic was so distasteful she didn't want to be involved with it.
Well...I ordered Alford's book about her youthful affair with JFK and I
understand why she wrote the book. You have to imagine the time in which she came to
the White House as an intern, and what her upbringing had been. Then imagine her
affair with the most powerful man in the world, who essentially raped her (though she says
it was consensual), but for whom, over their 18 month affair, she had very fond feelings.
Her confession to her fiance, on the eve of Kennedy's assassination, of
the affair set the tone for their marriage which, inevitably ended in divorce. She
might have kept her secret forever had not she read some comments about her (not mentioned
by name) in a book about JFK and then discovered the tabloids digging for more information
about her, and printing erroneous things. I see that she wrote this book to
set the record straight and to cleanse herself of the effects of her affair.
This is not a salacious book. Things are handled in a very
dignified, tasteful manner. The interesting part (a backstage glance at life in the
White House during the Kennedy administration) peters out after the assassination, though
it is painful to see how this 18 month period in the life of a 19 year old girl took so
many years to come to terms with. I hope that the woman on Scarborough Country
actually reads the book, preferably with an open mind. I think she would be
Hour Game by David Baldacci
Lemme tell you...this book has more characters and more murders than you can shake a stick
at. Let's just say, it is not a good thing to be a member of the Bobby
Battle family or to live in Wrightsburg, VA! A serial killer begins copying famous
other serial killers, and leaving clues at each of his kills, each of which represents the
signature of the likes of John Wayne Gacy and the Zodiac killer. Former Secret
Servant agents, Sean King and Michelle Maxwell (introduced in "Split Second"),
who now are partners in a detective agency, are hot on the trail of the murderer...or
murderers. This is an action-packed story which does not let up until the end.
Another Baldacci winner.
The Clothes They Stood Up In by Alan Bennett
This is actually two short-ish stories, the second one being "The Lady in the
Van." The first is fiction, the second is true. Both were written by
British playwright Alan Bennett (The Madness of King George) and both examine the
subject of "possessions" and their importance in our lives. The
first story tells of the Ransomes, who return home from a night out to discover that their
apartment has been burgled. Not only has it been burgled, the thieves stripped it of
everything, down to the toilet paper and lightbulbs. The story makes you
think about what would happen if you lost literally EVERYTHING and had to start from
The second (true) story concerns an eccentric woman who, for reasons that
are never explained) parked her van, in which she lived, in the author's driveway
for more than fifteen years. The van is stuffed with the possessions of a lifetime
and over time became a health hazard, as it had no bathroom and Miss Shepherd's ways of
dealing with that were not always the most sanitary, especially as she got older.
Some have called this one of the funniest stories ever written, but I didn't find much
humor in it; rather I found it an interesting, if rather odd, look at a very strange woman
and her relationship with the world around her.
Nowhere Man by David Gerrold
In inviting people on Facebook to read this young people's story, David wrote, "If
you want to see how I took "revenge" on a junior high school bully, go over to
Amazon and download "Nowhere Man." Part of it is based on real events. Sometimes
it takes half a century to figure out how to get even...."
While he admits that it is a young people's book, I think it belongs on
the shelves of a young people's Mensa library. It is riddled with so much techno
talk that I was unable to follow that part of it, though I did enjoy the story and how
young "Squish," a teen age misfit, finds a way to get even with his
nemesis. It's kind of "The Man Who Folded Himself" updated...sort
There is a section where Squish describes the outdated computer programs
that were cleaned out of a room at his cousin's house...I pictured David sitting in his
own office and just reading off the programs piled up on his shelves. TapCIS?
Who remembers TapCIS, for heavens sake! And if you want to know what you can do to
make the best use of a brick, this is the book for you!
Talk to the Hand by Lynne Truss
Lynn Truss is the author of the wildly popular "Eats, Shoots and Leaves," that
book about punctuation and grammar. "Talk to the Hand" takes on the
subject of civility and how we have lost it and become a rude society in general.
Given her previous book, then, I found it odd that she writes (twice) the phrase
"....bigger than me" in one of the chapters. Shouldn't that be
"...bigger than I" ?
The subtitle for this book is "The Utter
Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the
Door." Her purpose is not to become the new manners maven, but to point out how we
have lost civility through things like social medial, cell phones, voice mail hell, off
shore telephone operators, etc. It is amusing, but also kind of depressing
because I remember when people still said "thank you" and "please" and
where nobody went around with a T-shirt that says "eff-off" (she uses
"eff" a lot in this book!)
Akubra is Austrian for Hat by Grenville
I suppose it's kind of cheating to say I "read" this book. It's mostly a
photo book of various styles of Australian hats and the men (and few women) who wear them.
While it covers the history of the Akubra, and how the scourge of the rabbits
brought in by Europeans is responsible for the making of the first akubra, it is mostly
very nice photos of the people who wear them -- station hands, property owners,
roustabouts, trappers, shooters, and soldiers, to mention a few. Each photo is
identified by the name of the wearer and what he has to say about his akubra. This
is a book I "read" while working at the book store--and never would have picked
up, if I hadn't been working in a book store...but it was, in all honesty, fascinating!
The Making of the African Queen
or How I went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall and Houston and almost Lost My Mind
by Katharine Hepburn [LOGOS]
This book is like sitting down and having tea with Hepburn and listening to her stories.
Lots of photos, Hepburn's unique style of speaking clearly comes through in this
candid memoir of a movie she made 30 years before the publication of this book. Give
a good glimpse of the personalities behind the Bogarts, John Houston and a little bit of
Robert Morley, an historical look at Africa in the 1950s (and who remembers that there
were once sleeping berths on airplanes?). Just a fun, short read.
Murder Takes the Cake
by Gayle Trent
Oh my...what a lightweight! This is the first of the "Daphne Reynolds Cake
Mysteries" and was more a lesson in cake decorating than a murdery mystery.
Daphne has returned home to a small town where it seems that everybody knows everything
about everybody and they are all eager to share it with a total stranger. Delivery
of a cake to Yodel Watson's house (doesn't then name scream "Mayberry"?) she
finds the customer dead. Investigation shows that she was murdered and everybody
thinks it was by Daphne's cake, though she was dead when the cake was delivered. In
comes a love interest, intrigue, investigation and all sorts of totally unbelievable
situations that I couldn't wait to get to the end of this book, just because I don't like
not finishing books. I won't be following the further adventures of Daphne in future
books. Oh yeah--and the back part of the book is filled with recipes, just in case
you haven't learned how to decorate a cake by reading the exhaustive descriptions
throughout the story (and I'm a cake decorator!)
Girl Missing by
This is Gerritsen in her pre-Rizzoli and Isles days. It is Gerritsen not quite sure
if she wants to be a romance writer or a writer of medical thrillers (fortunately for us,
she went in the thriller direction!). Interestingly, I "read" this book as
an audio book and there is an attached interview with Gerritsen at the end.
Throughout this book, I kept comparing it to Nancy Drew mysteries -- it's rather
lightweight, but still gripping. The interviewer asks her if she had been influenced
by Nancy Drew as a girl and she acknowledges that she was very influenced by the young
This book, which is a republished, re-named
early novel called "Peggy Sue Got Murdered," follows medical examiner Kat Novak,
trying to track down the cause of some mysterious deaths, which she gradually comes to
believe are caused by some bad drugs leaked from a local drug lab. Along the way
there is a romantic entanglement with the guy who runs the lab, his hunt for his lost
daughter, a few more murders, and a solution which involves someone much too close to Kat.
She describes this as her "crossover
novel," which takes her out of the realm of romance and into the realm of
mystery...and aren't we all so glad for it!
Books read in 2011
Books read in 2010
Books read in 2009
Books read in 2008
Books read in 2007
Books read in 2006