Read in 2013
Books marked "LOGOS" are books I
read in the
book store on the day I work
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
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 fall, 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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
** 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
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
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
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
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
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
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.