Books Read in 2013

Books marked "LOGOS" are books I read in the
book store on the day I work

new.jpg (1359 bytes)Saving Baby: How One Woman's Love for a Racehorse Led to Her Redemption by JoAnne Normile & Lawrence Linder, and Susan Richards
I may never watch horse racing again.  I will never really enjoy it again.   JoAnne Normile had wanted horses all of her life, and finally had them. Because of an agreement with the real owner of her horse, Baby (whom she raised since birth and had a very special bond with), JoAnne got involved in the racing world, helping Baby fulfill his genetic destiny.  But when Baby was injured in completely preventable freak accident during a race and had to be put down, JoAnne began to learn the dark side of racing--what happens with all those horses that are "retired," the slaughterhouse companies who pick them up, and the horror they endure before their final death.

Starting small, she began "re-homing" those injured race horses and ultimately founded CANTER, a Michigan-based organization that helped save horses from the nightmare of the slaughterhouse.  Now CANTER is a nation wide, thriving non-profit business which has saved thousands of horses from painful deaths.  A riveting read and important for any animal lover.

A portion of the proceeds from each purchase of Saving Baby goes to Saving Baby Equine Charity, a horse rescue that saves Equines from the brink. Learn about horses saved at: savingbaby.org


The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty
I called the heroine of this book an "extraordinary ordinary woman." The book starts when Cora Carlisle, then 36, married and mother of two sons who are away for the summer, is asked to chaperone 15 year old Louise Brooks (real silent film star, making this an historical fictional novel) on a one month trip to New York City, where Louise has been offered the chance to study with the prestigious Denishawn School of Dance.

Cora has her own reasons for wanting to go to New York, hoping to answer some questions about her own past. The trip is one that will change the lives of the two women forever, though they only see each other once more in their lives after the trip. The time line takes the reader from the start of the 1900s up until 1986.

The story goes in so many different directions, it would do a disservice to describe them, since part of the joy of discovery is in reading the book. I give it five stars.


Dave Barry's Worst Songs and Other Hits by Dave Barry
This is a compilation of columns by humorist Dave Barry, starting (and ending) with his worst songs (boy he sure doesn't like Neil Diamond!).  The good thing is that this is a list of worst songs that I've actually heard of.  In between the two columns on music, there are columns about Elvis fans (sweet and funny both), a pilot for his Action Dog TV series, which is hilarious and oh so familiar, and a host of other Barry columns which made the miles fly by while we listened to the audio book.


Fried Eggs with Chopsticks by Polly Evans [LOGOS]
It took three days of working at Logos to finish this book, but it's worth it.  Evans is a travel writer and this book, subtitled "One woman's hilarious adventure into a culture and a country not her own"  talks about her travels around China, in an assortment of vehicles, including enough adventures traveling by bus that I know I would never want to get on a bus outside of a major city in China!  She visited many of the places where we were, in about 2003 (before the completion of the 3 Gorges Dam) and it was interesting to get her perspective and to see how things changed by the time we went there. She learns how to cope in a country where she does not know the language, and can't even get hints from the written form.  It's informative but also very funny and very readable.  Highly recommended.  I'm sending my copy on to Char, who traveled with us to China and will definitely enjoy reading it!


Things Overheard While Talking to Myself by Alan Alda
I expected to like this book much more than I did. I had read Alda's book about never stuffing your dog and found it very funny. This one...I dunno. I started out liking it, but as he continued to quote more and more and more of his speeches to graduating clases, it began to be more of the same, more of how wonderful I am because I have all these deep thoughts. I found things that made me think, but I also would have liked it to be about 3 chapters shorter.


A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute [LOGOS]
I picked it up to read at the book store and was immediately drawn in by his writing style. I marveled as much at the story as at the ability of a good writer to draw you in immediately. This is not the sort of book that I would have picked up based on plot line. A woman is captured with a bunch of families in Malaya in the 1942. The Japanese send the men off to a prisoner camp, but have no facilities for women, who end up being marched darn near all over Malaya looking either for a camp or passage to Singapore. There were 32 women at the start of the march and they lost half of them due to harsh conditions of marching 20 or so miles a day in hot sun, with little to no food, and no place to rest when they got to that night's destination. In one location Jean, the only unmarried woman, meets Joe, an Australian prisoner who is on a work detail. They become friends. He thinks she is married and she does not let him know otherwise. He ends up helping the women and getting crucified for it. Jean thinks he died, but he did not.

Later, Jean discovers she has become an heiress and returns to Malaya to help build a well for the women of the village where she spent 3 years until the war ended. While there, she learns Joe did not die and she flies to Australia to meet him. In the meantime, Joe has learned she was not married, after all, and flies to England to meet her.

The rest of the book concerns Jean's impact on the outback town near where Joe lives, how they finally get together, what happens to her fortune, and the power of the human spirit. It is a book that never lost my interest and I marveled all the way through how this was 99% due to Shute's writing.


Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson
This was the first book I read for my new book club.  I remember reading it when I was in high school, but I don't know if I finished it.   Ramona is a young Mexican-Indian woman who was adopted by her father's sister-in-law on the death of his wife (who had, herself, adopted her husband child by his Indian lover).  The young girl grew up unloved by her new step-mother, but loved by everyone else who knew her.  Thing go bad when she falls in love with a young Indian who is working on the hacienda. They end up eloping and spend the next several years moving from town to town, as the white man continues to push Indians off of their land and into smaller and smaller reservations. 

This is an ugly story of the destruction of Indian cultures by the white man.  The author hoped that it could do for Native Americans what "Uncle Tom's Cabin" did for slavery.  The book certainly has a legacy.   There is a town called Ramona in California, there is an annual outdoor play, which is the longest running outdoor play in California (been running since about 1932).   The book is credited with preserving Old Town San Diego, so people could see where Ramona was married.  Someone said that the most influential woman in Southern California history was a woman who never existed.


More than Petticoats: Remarkable California Women by Erin H. Turner [LOGOS]
This is one of a series of women in history in various states.  I was drawn in because the first chapter is the story of Mary Ellen Pleasant, whom I knew all my life as the infamous "Mammy Pleasant."  Her story was fascinating and her title of infamous was a slandar by a former friend and colleague.  Others profiled include Sarah Winchester, who built the famous Winchester Mystery House, dancer Isadora Duncan, photographer Dorothea Lange (who took the most famous photo that represented the Depression) and a host of others.  Fascinating book.


Babi Yar by A. Anatoli (Kuznetsov)
This nearly 500 page book was written by a non-Jewish resident of Kiev, who was 10 years old when the Nazis entered Kiev and slaughtered 33,771 Jewish men, women and children over two days in September of 1941.  The Nazis went on to kill gypsies, Catholics, people from the mental hospital, and anybody they thought deserved to die.  It is estimated that ultimately 100,000 people met their deaths at Babi Yar.

The author is adamant that people need to know what it was like to live in Ukraine during the German occupation and was eye witness to many of the events which took place, and also includes eye witness reports of others who survived the atrocities.  This is not an easy book to read.  The extent of the torture and murder of so many people in the area that it will turn your stomach time and time again as the shock hits you of how much worse it was than "just" the massacre of so many innocent people .  The author writes, "I cannot for the life of me understand why, on this beautiful, blessed earth---among people equipped with brains and the capacity to think, who are not just animal with instincts, among thinking, understanding beings -- it is possible for people to indulge in such absolute madness as war, dictatorship, police terror, to kill each other and to humiliate each other sadistically."


I, Michael Bennett by James Patterson
Sigh. I remember when James Patterson was good. That was before he became a factory, churning out a book or two a year, each with a co-author.

Michael Bennett is the white counterpart to Alec Cross. Cross has 3 kids, Bennett has 10 (adopted). Both are widowers. Cross's kids are taken care of by his grandmother, Nana Mama. Bennett's kids are taken care of by a Nanny, Mary Catherine, with whom he is kinda, sorta involved, but not involved enough to prevent him from dating.

Both are policemen, Cross in DC, Bennett in NY. Both are expected to accomplish super human feats. (From the cover of this book, "...now Bennett is torn between protecting his hometown and saving New York City.")

This book is intermittently gripping, but then the sophomoric dialog and the ridiculous plot elements are so bad that you have to stop and laugh.  And you don't even have the satisfaction of a conclusion, but must read the next book.  No, thank you.

I don't know if Patterson actually WRITES anything any more, or if he just puts his name on these books, but I'm getting very tired of picking up a book that looks like it's going to be "old Patterson" only to discover that it's very, very bad new Patterson.


The Scarpetta Factor by Patricia Cornwell
While not up to early Scarpetta, this was at least better than some of her more recent books have been (James Patterson, take note!).  Scarpetta is now the forensic analyst for CNN and in that role, she must revisit an old case, which brings her into collaboration with niece Lucy (who is less weird that she has been in recent books).   In honesty, I read this on our cruise and don't really remember a lot of details about it, except that I was pleasantly surprised that Cornwell seems to have picked up some of her old writing style.  Marino is also likeable again.


Stolen Souls by Stuart Neville
A young Lithuanian girl, thinking she is going to Ireland to work as a tutor for a Russian family, teaching their children English, is actually sold into sex slavery in a Belfast brothel.  She manages to escape, by killing the man who is going to "break her in."  She seeks help from a guy who gave her his phone number and said he could help her if she were ever able to get away, but he turns out to be something she never bargained for.  The whole thing starts a mob war among the Lithuanian thugs living in Belfast and Inspector Jack Lennon is called in to solve the case, when all he wants to do is spend Christmas Eve with his daughter.  His efforts are hampered by someone in the police department who is on the Lithuanian mob's payroll.

Actually a fairly good book, which I read when someone brought it to the book store to donate. 


Term Limits by Vince Flynn
The book begins with the systematic assassination of three congressmen who are responsible for holding up the president's budget.  Idealistic senator Mike O'Rourke, a former Navy SEAL thinks he knows who is responsible.  Then two more congressmen are killed, along with their bodyguards in a manner which seems completely contrary to the methods of the first three assassinations.  O'Rourke gets drawn into the action and as more and more is revealed, secrets threaten to destroy the United States Government.  The last 1/3 of the book is impossible to put down.  And I wonder how many reading it can read   it without thinking of Dick Cheney and Karl Rove.


Wild Writing Women.  Stories of World Travel by lots of writers [LOGOS]
Fascinating collection of essays by women living on the wild side, everything from watching lava on the Big Island in Hawaii to climbing high peaks to see wild tortoises, to traveling across the deserted parts of China, alone, on a motorcycle, to confronting ghosts in Scottish castles.  Twenty-four essays, each interesting and each making me glad I am only an armchair traveler.


Weird Things Customers Say in Book Stores by Jen Campbell
I bought this as a "coals to Newcastle" thing to bring to the Logos owners.   The title really says it all, but here are some examles:  "I'm looking for some boooks on my kid's summer reading list.  Do you have Tequila Mockingbird?", "Do you have the Cliff Notes for 'The Poems of Jimmy Stewart'?" "Where is your section on bat books.  To build a bat house." "I've forgotten my glasses.  Could you read the beginning of this book to me to see if I like it?"  And on and on for 188 pages.  It's great fun!


When the Time Comes: Families with Aging Parents Share their Struggles by Paula Span
I wish I had read this book a year before my mother had to move into Independent Living.   The author interviews many children and aging parents (using their real names) and each chapter talks about the various scenarios from bring Mom and/or Dad home to live with you through hired help in the parents' home, Assisted Living, and all the way to Nursing Home and Hospice care.  Since we had already made the decision and moved my mother, I found some of the early chapters funny when I identified with things, and also found some of the pitfalls that we fell for.  I had to stop reading when I was into the Nursing Home chapter because it is by far the most depressing and the one that nobody wants to even think about, though reality tells you that sooner or later this may be the best option for your parent.

There is a lot of heroism in this book, but it focuses on the parent and not stress relief for the child.  I haven't found the need for that yet, but I can feel it is coming and it has been recommended that I find a book that deals with this subject.


American Assassin by Vince Flynn
Though this is the 10th book about hero Mitch Rapp, this book describes how he became a "super agent" for the CIA and explores his first big project, dealing with Islamic terrorists,  I had not heard of Vince Flynn until my brother-in-law recommended his books and I have to admit that if American Assassin is any indication, I can hardly wait to get into the meat of the rest of the series.  One thing I learned from this book:  I never want to be an assassin.  Rapp's reason for wanting to kill bad guys is that his fiancee was killed in the plane crash over Lockerbee, Scotland and he wants revenge...but he wants to do it "legally," sorta.

Rapp starts in Istanbul, where he assassinates the Turkish arms dealer who sold the explosives used in the Pan Am attack. Rapp then moves onto Hamburg with his team and across Europe, leaving a trail of bodies. All roads lead to Beirut, though, and what Rapp doesn’t know is that the enemy is aware of his existence and has prepared a trap. The hunter is about to become the hunted, and Rapp will need every ounce of skill and cunning if he is to survive the war-ravaged city and its various terrorist factions.

It also appears that all terrorists and bad guys all over the world are in cahoots and both distrust, late, and yet rely on each other.


Dangerous Fortune by Ken Follet
Walt liked this book.  I didn't.  I eventually got caught up in the story, but really really wanted it to end.  The story centers around the Pilaster family, a powerful banking family in England and the murder, committed while cousins Hugh and Edward, were at an uppity boys' school.  You wanted to choke Aunt Augusta, the matriarch who rules the family with an iron fist and will do anything, including murder, to keep her place in society...and push her inept, alcoholic son, Edward, into banking prominence.  It's just a genre I don't really like and, given that it's by Ken Follet, I expected something different, which is why I chose it in the first place.


Uncle Daddy Will Not Be Invited by David Gerrold
This is a powerful one-act play in which two men are planning their wedding.  One is more enthusiastic about the myriad details than the other.  Things become tense and revelations are made which could change everything, in a bad way or a good way.  The development of the conversation is masterful and the ending will have you in tears.


Understanding Dementia and Caregiving for Your Aging Parents, A to Z by Ellen Gerst
I've started reading books about dementia and this one had some interesting and helpful things to say.


The Cat Who Saw Stars by Lillian Jacson Braun
This is the 23rd in the "Cat Who..." books about newsman/amateur detective Jim Qwilleran and his crime-solving cats Yum-Yum and KoKo.  I have read a few of them and they are nice for light, easy reading, but this one seems thinner, plot-wise, than most.   The mystery of the disappearing back-packer is solved almost immediately, then there is the disappearance of the restaurant owner (murder? kidnapping?) whose solution is almost anticlimactic...and then add the "visitors" (UFOs) that everyone believes in...and can it possibly be closer to home than Qwill thought?  The Cat Who books are riddled with quirky characters and genteel situations but this one is too quirky and has less meat than a can of cat food.  My least favorite of all I've read.


Inferno by Dan Brown
Of course I had to read the latest Dan Brown as soon as it came out, but halfway through the book I found I was very disappointed.  Hero Robert Langdon wakes in a hospital, not knowing where he is or why he is there.  He discovers he has been shot and has a head wound.  But then things begin to escalate, when a woman comes to kill him, his doctor is shot, and his other doctor spirits him out of the hospital the back way.  I read this on my kindle, which tells you what percentage of the book you have finished and the first 50% of the book is a chase scene through Florence.   Fascinating, I guess, for the history revealed as you follow Langdon and his doctor trying to escape from people they don't know, chasing them for reasons they don't understand.

Ahhh, but I was too quick to judge.  Just when you think you can't go through another secret passage in another famous museum, the story begins to rapidly unfold and you are hooked once again.  Following Dante's Inferno (you will find that you want to read it before the story ends...or may feel like you have, after all the talk!), Langdon is trying to solve a riddle that, if not solved, will cause a world-wide calamity.  But along the way there are such twists and turns.  What is real and what is not? Whom can he trust?  And is everything what it seems to be or is nothing what it seems to be?

This story starts in a city that I visited and ends in a city that I will visit this year, so it had personal meaning for me!  Despite my early feelings about the book, it's a great read.


Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
I first read this book about 25 years ago and then read no other Gabaldon until about 3 years ago.  Having now finished the whole set, and no new one expected until the spring of 2014, I decided to re-read the original (and will probably re-read the whole series again).  In this original book, Claire Randall slips through a cleft on a rock in a circle of standing stones and finds herself in 18th century Scotland, eventually entering into a forced marriage to Jamie Frasier to protect her from the evil Black Jack Randall (a distant relative of her 20th century husband Frank Randall).  Romance and adventures abound.  The nice thing about re-reading this original is discovering how many foreshadowings of things to come appear.  It was fun reading it with the knowledge of all that comes in the next 7 books.


Murder Unscripted by Clive Rosengren [LOGOS]
Eddie Collins, like author Rosengren, is a sometimes actor who also has another profession.  For Rosengren, it's writing, for Collins it's being a part-time investigator, who is happy to leave his current film gig (filming a Chubby's Chicken commercial...we learn about "spit buckets") to investigate a murder on a movie set.  The victim turns out to be Collins' ex-wife, whom he has not seen in several years.  Through the investigation of the murder, we learn a lot about being on a movie set, the behind the scenes Hollywood life, and the process of a murder investigation.

It's a short read (only 122 pages), but never feels contrived or rushed.   This is the author's first novel, after nearly 40 years as an actor, and shows great promise for good things to come, as we follow Eddie Collins' career.


A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett   [LOGOS]
I read this book after seeing a new musical based on it.  The musical was nice, but "something" was missing and I couldn't put my finger on what, so I went to the source material, and realized that the "soul" of the story had not  come across to me in the musical.  I started reading it on my Kindle, and then found it on the Logos shelves when I worked this week and finished it there.

Sara Crewe is the daughter of Captain Crewe, an adventurer who is going off to seek an even bigger fortune.  He takes Sara out of India, where she has grown up, and puts her in an English boarding school, run by a harridan, Miss Minchin, who at first exploits Sara because of her fortune and then, after her father dies in the jungle, searching for diamonds, she forces the now destitute girl into slavery at the school.

The book shows Sara's character and how she has the heart of a princess by her kindness toward all, even after she loses all of her money.   It is Sara's ability to fantasize, tell stories, and make magical the most dreadful of situations that is her salvation. We see her in incident after incident being selfless and generous which, of course (since this is a children's story) is rewarded in the end.


Cannery Row by John Steinbeck   [LOGOS]
I started re-reading this book after my friend Lynn and I were on Cannery Row in Monterey and decided to read it together.  Then I became even more interested when I visited the Steinbeck Museum in Salinas, CA, fulfilling one of my bucket list items.   This is one of Steinbeck's short stories and really if you want to talk plot, it is about a few drunken ne'er do wells who want to throw a birthday party for a doctor they all love.  But this isn't about plot.  It's about character development and word pictures of the setting.  It is Steinbeck doing what he does best.  When we visited the museum, I had just finished a section about the homeless who had taken over sections of huge discarded pipes to live in, and how they had fixed them up...and in the museum there is a section of pipe, decorated as described in the book.  It brought the whole thing to life for me. 


Along The Way by Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez
In 2012, Emilio Estevez wrote and directed (and had a small role in) a movie called The Way, starring his father, Martin Sheen.  It tells the story of a man whose son dies on his first day walking the Camina de Santiago, an 800 km road from St. Jean Pied de Port in the French Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.  The man goes to France to retrieve his son's body and decides to have it cremated and take it on the pilgrimage himself.  It is a voyage of discovery and in making the film  Sheen (whose real name--and still his legal  name--is Ramon Estevez) and son Emilio had their own voyage of discovery.  At the completion of the movie, the two collaborated on this book about their lives, separately and together.  It's more than a Hollywood autobiography (though it is that too), it's also a spiritual journey and it made me want to watch the video, which I did just before finishing the book.  I had hoped to find out about making "The West Wing," which is not even mentioned in the book, but I didn't miss it.  The stories of the two men and their lives as father and son is a good one and I highly recommend both the book and the movie.


The Sixth Man by David Baldacci
This is the fifth in the Sean King/Michelle Maxwell books (#6 is reportedly due to be published in November 2013).  The duo this time are hired to help in the investigation of the case of Edgar Roy, an alleged mass murderer being held at a federal supermax facility in Maine.  Of course it can't be as simple as investigating the murders of the six people the cops found buried in Roy's barn.  More bodies start piling up, starting with Roy's attorney, leaving Sean the lead attorney on the case.   The convoluted plot continues to roll out as they try to discover who killed the attorney? why won't Roy speak? what is his secret? The investigation leads into the highest levels of the federal government and surprises are met at every turn,   though, as with most of these books (by Baldacci as well as by others) there are parts where you roll your eyes at the next surprise revealed.   Another fun Baldacci read.  I hope the next one is out soon!


Pontoon by Garrison Keillor
This is a greatly expanded version of Keillor's popular "Tales from Lake Wobegon" complete with the quirky characters and bizarre situations that we have come to expect.  Who else but Keillor could make a story out of a bowling ball-urn, a hot-air balloon, giant duck decoys, a flying Elvis, and a pontoon boat. The wedding of the decade  (accompanied by wheels of imported cheese and giant shrimp shish kebabs) competes with the funeral of the decade as madness and mayhem ensue. It does go on a bit, but stick with it till Chapter 23, when you will be holding your sides laughing.


Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris   [LOGOS]
A collection of essays by humorist David Sedaris, this based on his recent move to Paris with his parther, Hugh.  There are a lot of giggles in this book, as Sedaris attempts to learn French, and introduces the reader to his rather bizarre family, including his father, whose eating habits and practices are...unusual, at best! "Sedaris has turned self-deprecation into a celebrated art form," writes an Amazon viewer and in so doing becomes a writer with whom every "everyman" can relate!  He speaks for all of us non-celebrities!


An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon
I am bereft.  I have now finished the 7th book of Gabaldon's "Outlander" series...and the 8th book is not due out until Fall 2013.  This book has Bree and Roger in the 20th century while Claire and Jaime remain in the 18th century, partly in "the colonies" and partly in Scotland, where Jaimie goes to retrieve his printing press.  There is war (the Revolutionary War battles following the Declaration of Independence), love affairs, murder, intrigue, and all the stuff you expect from Gabaldon.  This book brings Lord John and his stepson (Jamie's real son) into the story and the plot lines bring them closer and closer and closer until the final confrontation.  Claire and John become much better acquainted.  Bree's son Jem has the key to a treasure that everyone wants, and enough plot lines resolve and are left dangling that I will, with the rest of Gabaldon's other fans, be panting for the next book to be released..and I sincerely hope that the book and the audiobook will be released simultaneously!


The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
This was a book club book.  A rather odd writing style that I didn't like a lot.   The whole story is told in mostly present tense from the point of view of a disinterested observer.  Rarely, throughout the ~300 pages do we get enough emotion to actually care deeply about any of the characters.  Gogol Ganguli is an American-born son of Indian parents, who move to the US shortly after their arranged marriage.  Through the fate of his grandmother's letter, giving them the name they were to name the child, being lost in the mail, Gogol's father gives him a temporary name (which ends up being permanent) honoring his favorite author, the Russian Nicholai Gogol, who had helped the father through many terrible periods of his life.

We watch Gogol grow up, and watch the parents integrating into the U.S. culture, along with their Bengali friends.  We get a good picture of the immigrant life, through parties, foods, and the disconnect between the children and the immigrant parents. 

The second half of the book had a bit more emotional connection...but not much.  Given how disconnected I felt with the characters, I was surprised to find myself a bit teary at the end.


Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo  [LOGOS]
This was a book I'd been embarrassed to admit I wanted to read, but I certainly didn't want to buy it, so I was happy to find it on the bookstore shelves when I worked. I've always been intrigued by people's near death experiences, and especially seek validation of "something" after this life when I began losing friends...and children.  This book isn't it.  It is subtitled 'a little boy's astounding story of his trip to heaven and back' and is written by his minister-father.  While I buy that little Colton may have had the experience of seeing his parents in the time while he was undergoing surgery for a burst appendix (there are certainly lots of stories by adults and children alike, describing things they can't possibly know), the whole "trip to heaven" thing, sitting on Jesus' lap, Jesus wearing a gold crown with a jewel in it, lots of gold and jewels around, Jesus riding a rainbow colored horse, etc., etc. are just too much to swallow.  The thing reads like a pastor's sermon to children to tell them about God and heaven. 

Colton was 4 when he nearly died and the "revelations" come out over the next 3 years.  What confuses me is that if you have a child who has this amazing story to tell, why would you not record it?  At one point the father talks about Colton meeting other people in heaven who have died, but he has conveniently forgotten the names Colton told him. 

This book gets 5 stars on Amazon and is apparently very popular.   Sadly, I read it with a huge grain of salt.  According to Colton, the only entrance into Heaven is through Jesus, which discounts anybody of any other religious belief and that just is not credible to me, though for those who find this book comforting, more power to ya.


Buckingham Palace Blues by James Craig
Inspector John Carlyle is walking in Green Park, near Buckingham Palace, one night when he finds a 9 year old girl, barefoot and crying sitting on a bench.  She speaks minimal English and when she asks if they are going to "f***k now" he takes her under his wing, determined to find out her story.  The story takes the reader behind the scenes at Buckingham palace (a fascinating glimpse), exposes corruption in the British police, and gives a heartbreaking introduction into the world of child sex trafficking in the Ukraine.

I will admit that when the bodies began to pile up toward the end, I did wonder how far this was going to go...seems that every good guy (and it wasn't often easy to identify who was the good guy and who was the bad guy) who tried to help Carlyle with his investigation ended up being killed in increasingly gruseome ways.  But in the end, I enjoyed the book very much.


Lie Down with Lions by Ken Follett   [LOGOS]
** SPOILER ALERT**
Poor Jane just can't pick her men right.  First there was Ellis, with whom she has been living in Paris, whom she leaves when she discovers he's a CIA agent, informing on terrorists.  So distraught is she that she agrees to marry Jean-Pierre, a French physician, and move with him to Afghanistan to help care for rebel families holding out against the Russian Army.  They set up housekeeping in a  small village, living in the house at night and in the mountain caves in the day because of the Russian bombing raids.  They have a baby, Chantal.  But then Jean-Pierre turns out to be a Russian spy who has caused many of their Afghan friends to be slaughtered.  Just at the right moment, Ellis arrives to help get a treaty among the Afghan tribes so they can receive US aid.  Jane and Ellis pick up where they left off (in a very steamy love scene), Jean-Pierre learns Jane has betrayed him.  He and his Russian partner, Anatoly, set off to find Jane, Ellis and the baby.  The last 1/3 of this book is a harrowing escape over impassable terrain, carrying a 2 month old baby, all the while being hunted by Jean-Pierre and the Russians.  It's a gripper, as are all Follett books.  


My Antonia by Willa Cather
This was the classic fiction book for our book club, a book I'd known about since childhood, of course. I'm not sure quite how to review it. It is a beautifully written picture of life on the Nebraska prairie in the early 1900s. It's a lovely character study, a lovely study in lifelong friendships and how lives change and move in different directions. Antonia's indomitable spirit in the face of adversity sets a wonderful example (as evidenced by how she has raised her children, and how they view life).

However, I guess I have had too many action/adventure novels under my belt. I felt it tedious going. I finished it. I didn't dislike it, but if I had been reading it for fun, I probably would not have finished it.

Interestingly, I have always heard it as AntoNEEa, the book club says AnTONia, and the guide in the book says it should be pronounced ANtonia. I find the "proper" pronunciation as impossible to roll out of my mouth comfortably.


Cesar's Way by Cesar Milan  [LOGOS]
I read this over two weeks at Logos.  It's not a book that a lot of people are interested in buying, apparently! I have never really bonded with Cesar Milan, but this book, in which he details his childhood, how he came to learn to love animals, and his work with them, which has resulted in his popularity as "The Dog Whisperer" was really very good and though this is not a "how to," he talks in depth about the animal thought process and how your dog perceives your actions...how we are not doing our dog favors by loving them so much and so openly.  I did learn a lot, but sadly there is no chapter on how to try retraining an excitable dog when the dogs have all been in your life for many years and there are THREE of them, making it impossible to do one-on-one training!  In any event, a useful book, recommended especially for people contemplating adding a new dog to their life!  (Heck, even Oprah had to learn how to stop being submissive to her dog!)


Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon
Oh my god...there is only one more book left in the Outlander Series.   Whatever will I do?  I "read" these as audio books, so it takes a long time to get through an >1400 page book covering the story of the time-traveling Frasier family, Claire, immigrant from the 20th century to 18th century Scotland, where she meets and falls in love with Jamie Frasier, conceives a child, returns to the 20th century, has the baby, returns 18 or so years later and has now taken up permanent residence, first in Scotland (eventually with daughter Brianna and her husband Roger) and then in the new world in pre-Revolution days.  I liked this book much better than the previous one, "The Fiery Cross," which focused more on politics, battles, etc., and less on home and hearth.  This one is almost like a succession of short stories, one building on the other.  I found it kept my interest better and included medicine in the 18th century, rape, kidnapping, incest, witchcraft, murder, sex, and enough of history that we get a feeling for what was going on in other colonies as the Continental Congress was drafting and voting on the Declaration of Independence.  The ending was such that it made me immediately start listening to the next book, "An Echo in the Bone," which is slightly more than half the size of this one, so in the sadly foreseeable future, I will be finished with the currently-written Outlander adventure and will sink into Gabaldon withdrawal and grief.


The Compassion of Animals by Kristin von Kreisler [LOGOS]
This is a collection of stories about animals who have done extraordinary things out of love, compassion, concern for, etc. humans.  Mostly dogs, several cats, and a few oddball types like pigs, horses, cows, and an iguana.  There are animals who have saved people from drowning, burning, being crushed by animals, natural disasters, attack by bad guys, etc.  We find an iguana can be surprisingly affectionate and caring when its owner is ill.  There is a tear-jerker on almost every page, so read with tissues at the ready.


The Winner by David Baldacci
People think winning the lottery is the best thing in the world.  Not so LuAnn Tyler, who is 20, beautiful, dirt-poor, and living in a trailer with her deadbeat boyfriend, the father of her newly born daughter, Lisa.  Then she gets a call from a mysterious "Mr. Jackson" who offers to make her rich beyond her wildest dreams.  All she has to do is buy a lottery ticket and he will take care of the rest.  LuAnn is also a good girl, so, though tempted, she doesn't want to do anything illegal, but circumstances beyond her control make her change her mind and she accepts Jackson's offer.   She wins the $10 million and, according to her agreement, leaves the U.S. forever.

Ten years later, tired of running, she sneaks back into the U.S. and sets off a series of events that involve Jackson, and a host of people he kills trying to keep his secret from coming to life. 

This Baldacci was definitely readable, but toward the end, the events seemed a bit unbelievable.  Still, I enjoyed it very much.


The Floor of Heaven by Howard Blum
This was the non-fiction book we were reading for our book club, but it reads like a fiction novel.  It is subtitled "A True Tale of the Last Frontier and the Yuon Gold Rush" and centers on 3 men whose lives, after many, many pages, intersect in Alaska.  George Carmack, is a Marine deserter, whose discovery sets off the stampede to the Yukon, "Soapy" Smith is a flamboyant western villain, and Charlie Siringo is a cowboy turned Pinkerton detective named Charlie Siringo.  This was an exceedingly readable book, though, since it is non-fiction work, when the end comes, it's rather anti-climactic.  The book, in the very end, suffers from the lack of suspense that you would find in a work of fiction.  But I found the notes about research almost as interesting as the book itself, since Blum had lots and lots of material at his disposal, but freely admits that there is a lot of fiction and self-aggrandisement in the personal memoires, so his book is as accurate as it can be, but how true it is, will never be known!


Miracle by Danielle Steel   [LOGOS]
Logos got in a huge number of Danielle Steel books.  She is one of my mother's favorite authors and I have avoided the books like the plague, but decided that I would read one this week.  I chose the thinnest book (and it was large print to boot).   It was an easy 3 hour read and OK.  The story of a widower getting his life back together, with a couple of ther people, the widow next door and a handyman who is hiding a secret.  A lot of the book revolved around boating, since the wealthy widower is having a sailboat built for him in Amsterdam, with the idea that he will sell his house and retire to the boat for the rest of his life.  The whole thing is pretty predictable (except for the sub plot about the handyman), and an enjoyable, if mindless read.


The Bleachers by John Grisham    [LOGOS]
This is an unusual Grisham book in that it has no courtroom drama, no crime, no nothing like that.  It tells the story of Neely Crenshaw, former high school football star of the "Messina Spartans."  Neely hasn't been back home in a very long time, but his former coach, Eddie Rake, one of the most victorious coaches in high school football history, is about to die and many of the players he coached over his career have returned to Messina to hold a bit of a death watch.

When I started this book, I thought a lot about Friday Night Lights and the relationship between coach and player in that wonderful TV series, but Coach Rake was nothing like Coach Eric Taylor.  Rake ruled through intimidation and downright cruelty and his players hated him...but years later, as they sit in the bleachers of Rake Stadium (so named after the coach was fired for causing the death of one of his players), they realize how much he shaped their lives. 

As the players talk, long-held secrets are revealed and help create a better rounded picture of not only the coach, but also the players who worked under him for many years.

This is a quiet sort of a book, a "coming home" sort of a book, and a good read.


The Learned Ladies by Moliere
This was the first book I read for the Woodland Shakespeare Book Club, to which I was invited this coming week end.  It is a play, translated from the French.  What's interesting is that I found the text on line for free but the problem was that I couldn't put bookmarks in it, so whenever I put it down, I had to search through the book trying to find my place again.  I finally gave up and bought a Kindle book and it was a totally different translation, much more "colloquial" and written entirely in verse (which I suspect is more in the style of Moliere anyway).

Very funny play about two daughters, one of whom rejects men and prefers to lead an intellectual/philosophical life while the other is in love with a man and wants to marry.  The struggle between feminism and the typical housewife could have been written today.