Books Read in 2014

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

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
This may be the strangest book I've ever read.  I don't THINK I liked it...but maybe I did.  The story alternates, one chapter is his story, the next is hers, and so on.  She disappears and he is accused of her murder, the clues overwhelmingly pointing to him.  "Her" chapters are, at first, from her diary, his chapters are what is happening in real time.  This is written so skillfully that in one chapter you hate her and the next you hate him.  You never know who is playing whom.  I suppose the ending was inevitable but it was unsatisfying for my revenge-seeking soul.


Exceptional Depravity by Lloyd Billingsley
This is the story of a murder, investigation and trial.  Oliver Northup and Claudia Maupin were people I knew.  Northup was a member of a band called The Putah Creek Crawdads, whom I interviewed when I did a story on the group.  His wife was in a play that I covered and reviewed (to my surprise, I am mentioned and quoted in the book).  Both were lovely people who were massacred while they slept in their beds, killed by over 120 stab wounds (>60 each) and evisceration.  They were killed by a 15 year old kid who just wanted to see what it was like to kill someone and who admitted to feeling so excited by the murder that he was planning to kill someone else with a baseball bat, to repeat the high.  The author of this book has covered the crime and the trial in almost excruciating detail. Not the sort of book I would normally read, but this was in my own back yard, sort of.  Tragic story all around. And if you want to know the nuts and bolts of a trial whose outcome hinges on whether or not the admitted murderer was sane, this is an interesting perspective.


A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows by Diana Gabaldon
This is an Outlander novella, which follows part of the story of Roger's father and what really happened to Roger's parents before he was taken in by the Reverend Wakefield.  I have to admit that I love Gabaldon and love her characters, but I think she is getting a little too enamored of the time travel theme.  I felt this in reading her last Outlander novel and certainly here.  It suddenly seems as if everyone is a time traveler, which makes me wonder how the events of the 18th century were shaped by all those folks from the 20th century popping up all over the place.  This is the first work by Gabaldon that I didn't like much.


Back Spin by Harlan Coben [AUDIO]
Myron Bolitar is hired to find the kidnapped teen aged son of golf pros Linda Coldren and her husband Jack.  Jack turns out to be the cousin of Myron's best friend Win Lockwood, who usually helps Bolitar solve cases, but family enmities are so strong he refuses to lift a finger or even express an opinion. So Myron is on his own and his investigation takes him into the darkest secrets of the Lockwood family and the darker side of professional golf.  This is the third in the Myron Bolitar series and I am enjoying this odd hero very much.


The Third Option by Vince Flynn
I said I wasn't going to read another Vince Flynn, but I started this on the plane to Boston and got hooked.  The thing about Flynn books is that each is quite different.  All concern a paid assassin, but "The Last Man" was filled with anger and it was so terribly bloody.  "Pursuit of Honor" dealt with the amount of torture and the country's struggle to balance "legalized" murder and torture with our interpretation of the Constitution.  "The Third Option" is a "kinder, gentler" story of murder and torture, mostly because Mitch Rapp is in love and it kind of dictates what he will and won't do.

His "last" job goes terribly wrong and the partners who were picked for him were actually working for someone else and had been given instructions to eliminate Mitch himself.  That happens at the start of the book and Mitch obviously escapes, so the rest of the book is given to finding out what went wrong, who the mastermind is, where there is a leak in the government chain, and how to eliminate it.  Along the way guys are killed but not in the bloodbath of other books.  I may have to read the sequel to this book because I know part of what is coming (it is discussed quite a bit in "The Last Man") and I want to see how it happens.


Pursuit of Honor by Vince Flynn [LOGOS]
I'm going to have to stop reading Vince Flynn books, as compelling as they are.   Flynn's hero, Mitch Rapp, is an assassin for the United States, constantly at war with the FBI, who insists that there be no torture, no murder, nothing done unless it's by the books.  But Mitch is all about torture and murder and doing it all clandestinely.   As I read, half of me is wanting Mitch to waterboard, electrocute, beat up and do whatever is necessary to get the bad guy, but the other half of me sides with the FBI that we are a nation that does not do those things.

In this book, Book 12 of the Mitch Rapp series, the bad guys are a group of middle eastern terrorists who have attacked the National Counterterrorism Center in Washington D.C., killing 185 people.  The book follows the surviving terrorists and their plans for escape, leaving devastation in their wake, Mitch Rapp and his friend Mike Nash and their attempts to find them and bring them to justice, and the U.S. Congress and top people at the FBI who are trying to reign Rapp in and bring him to justice for taking the law into his own hands.

At the end of this book, I was glad that all had turned out the way it did, but felt guilty for cheering Rapp on.  I would love to know what author Vince Flynn feels about this whole thing, but, sadly, he is dead.


A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin
I decided to choose a mystery from a more classic era then the mysteries I have been reading lately. The only other book of Levin's that I had read prior to this was "Rosemary's Baby" so I knew that he was a writer whose work I enjoyed reading.

This book tells the story of a man who comes from a poor family and who is determined to climb the social and economic ladder and become rich. He first woos Dorothy, the daughter of a rich copper baron and things go well until she announces she is pregnant. This spoils his plans because if her father knows she is pregnant he will disown her. He tries to get her to abort the baby, but the attempt is unsuccessful. Ultimately he kills her, carefully planning the circumstances so that it does not appear to be murder. The death is ruled a suicide and he is convinced he got away with murder.

A few years later, her sister Ellen begins piecing together the evidence of her sister's "suicide" and suspects that it was not, after all, a suicide and she begins investigating on her own. At this point the reader realizes that we have never heard the name of the man who murdered Dorothy. Ellen travels to the college town where Dorothy was murdered and comes up with two different men who could have killed her. Without giving away too much of the plot, her investigations lead to the death of one of those men, and Ellen herself.

The murderer sets his sights on Marion, the last of the sisters and ultimately proposes to her and is accepted by her wealthy father. But someone is convinced that he is not what he sets out to be and the story of how his guilt is revealed makes a gripping page turner all the way to the end..


The Last Man by Vince Flynn  [LOGOS]
I picked this up at Logos' bargain book racks.  This is the last of Flynn's books, published in 2012 (he died of prostate cancer in 2013).  While, like all of Flynn's books, this is a gripping story of terrorism featuring undercover terror fighter Mitch Rapp, I found this book had some problems.  There are places where what sounds like a story line just peters out or is not fleshed out.  The story is very convoluted and Rapp kills just about everyone who gets in his way.  There are situations that come up which are not believable.  I enjoyed reading this book, but I was left with too many questions to enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed his previous books.  Still, if it had to be the end of the Mitch Rapp series because of the death of the author, I suppose this was a good way to go out.


The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett
The full title of this book is "The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective and a World of Literary Obsession.  It has been in my Kindle "to read" queue for a long time.  I don't know why I thought it was a novel, but it's the true investigation of crime in the rare book world, and a fascinating look at one well known criminal, John Gilkey.  The author spent a lot of time interviewing him (both in and out of prison), as well as book dealers and those working the hardest at catching book thieves like Gilkey.

I don't know that I liked  this book, but I learned more about rare book theft than I ever wanted to know, including how uninterested law enforcement is in trying to apprehend those who misapprehend books worth thousands of dollars.  On the whole, I think I'm glad I read it.  And I got so intrigued by Gilkey that I checked Google images for a photo of him.

gilkey.jpg (9618 bytes)

(I am assuming these are mug shots)


Drop Shot by Harlan Coben  [AUDIO]
This is #2 in the Myron Bolitar series and I'm liking this sports agent/private investigator very much.  This one starts at the U.S. Open, where Myron's client, an up and coming superstar is hoping to make it to the finals.  At the tournament, a young woman, former super star, who has had a nervous breakdown is murdered.  The police suspect that somehow Myron's client is to blame, even though he was playing in front of a large audience at the time of the murder.  Along with his sidekick Win and his on-again, off-again girlfriend Jessica, the sarcastic, sardonic, self-effacing Bolitar deals with the mob, the police, a vindictive senator and a grieving mother, until he finally figures out who committed the murder...and another one to boot.  Very much kept my attention and now I want to order book #3.  I'm enjoying Marlon and his world.


The Vault by Ruth Rendell [LOGOS]
This was the third Rendell book that I picked up to read at Logos.  These are from her Inspector Wexford series.  The first book of the series is one I read, when Wexford was an active police officer.  This is toward the end of the series where he is retired and now invited to be an advisor on a strange case of three bodies found in a hidden underground vault in someone's back yard.  Two have been dead for at least 10 years, the other more recent.  They don't know who they are, how they died, or who put them in the ground. 

I have to admit this was the first Rendell book that plodded for me.  By the end of the book (I finished it to get the answers to those questions), I really didn't care about any of them and decided I would only read another Wexford book if he was still and active officer.


Enrique's Journey: The True Story of a Boy Determined to Reunite with his Mother by Sonia Nazarro
This is a book based on a Pulitzer Prize winning series of articles, first appearing in the Los Angeles Times.  It was recommended to me by many people as a story that would put a human face on the immigration crisis that has taken center stage in our newspapers and television news these days.  The author experienced many things that her hero, Enrique.jpg (8603 bytes)Enrique (no last names are given to any living person to protect them from possible capture by immigration authorities) experienced so that she could truly relate his story. He made nine attempts to travel from Honduras to the United Statets to find the mother who left him and his sister when he was five years old. She was unable to feed her children and she left to seek a better life in the U.S. so she could send money home so they could have food, clothes and a chance for an education.   This is a heartbreaking story of a young boy's search for love and acceptance.

During the first part of the book, I wanted to give it to every person standing with a sign shouting hateful things at buses full of frightened children.  To have them read the conditions in their home countries which drove them to make this harrowing journey, to find out what the journey actually entails and realize how desperate you have to be to even attempt it.  Physical violence and rape are just one aspect of it.  Children lose body parts in accidents with moving trains, there is travel across the desert with no food or water, hunted like dogs,...etc., etc.

Enrique was caught and sent back to Honduras eight times.   On his ninth try, he finally made it and actually found his mother in South Carolina, but this is not a "happily ever after" story.  The difficulties children and parents face after a separation of years is incredible.  The second half of the book talks about that, about statistics, about the new life in a new country and I have to admit that my head was spinning before I finished it.  I no longer knew whether this migration was a good thing or a bad thing. 

You look at the face of Enrique at his kindergarten graduation, wanting only for his mother to be there.  And then you watch what he goes through in the intervening years.  The end of the book is ambiguous.  We know where Enrique is, but we don't know where he will be after that.

The one thing this book did for me was to make me want to sponsor a child in Honduras through Compassion International.  I found Brayan, 12 years old (the age Enrique was when he decided he would save money so he could find his mother), living with his grandmother (like Enrique's sister did after their mother left) and I figured I can't make conditions better for any of this, but maybe I can help one child have a better, safer life.  I highly recommend reading this book.  It's not a feel good book and I doubt that anybody will find any black and white solution in it, but it definitely puts a new level of understanding on what is happening on our borders right now, and should make anyone hurling epithets at immigrant children feel ashamed of themselves (but I doubt if it will).


The Innocent by David Baldacci
This is Book 1 in Baldacci's series about Will Robbie, a paid assassin, often for the United States.  The book begins with Robbie successfully completing two assignments and then receiving a third, to kill a woman.  He never knows why is killing the person; he just carries out the assignment.  But this time the hit goes wrong and Robbie's life is suddenly in danger.  At the same time a precocious 14 year old girl is escaping an abusive foster home and heading to New York to meet her parents.  On a rickety bus their paths cross and suddenly nothing makes sense and Robbie begins to wonder if they were supposed to meet and help each other.  But everybody is shooting at them and they no longer know whom they can trust, so Robbie has to drop the wall around his emotions and admit he cares what happens to this child.  The cover ups will lead Robbie to the highest levels of power.  But we know it will all eventually turn out all right because I've already read the second book in the series!


I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali, Delphine Minoui, and Linda Coverdale
Malala Yousafzai,  the young Pakistani girl shot for trying to get an education shed light on the situation of education for women in Muslim countries.   While she achieved fame and was up for a Nobel Prize, she is now under death threats again. 

Nujood.jpg (25217 bytes)Nujood Ali, sold to a 35 year old man at age 9, was raped on her wedding night (the man promised her father that, according to Yemeni law, he would not touch her until her first menses).  She was raped and beaten every night thereafter. When she screamed, she was beaten and her mother-in-law beat her if she complained.  She managed to escape while on a visit to her family and went to the local courthouse, demanded to see a judge, and asked for a divorce, which was granted, after her case was taken on by a woman attorney.  This book tells her tragic story.  It was published in France and translated into 35 languages.  The story of both girls shows, as Gavroche in Les Miserables says, "what little people can do." 

However, I did research on Nujood today and discovered her father has spent all of the proceeds from her book (which was to have paid for her education) and kicked her out of the family home (which Nujood actually owns because it was paid for by money from the publication of her book).   She no longer attends school, though she still dreams of becoming an attorney.  Yemeni law does not permit the money to be paid to her directly. A law to impose a minimum age of 17 for marriages, for both girls and boys, never made it through the Yemeni parliament. Religious scholars and other parties intervened to prevent it. Fathers in Yemen can still marry their daughters off as young as eight or nine.  Nujood's little sister has been sold to another man, twice her age.  

The Yemeni authorities have twice denied Nujood permission to travel. Both times she had been invited abroad to receive an award. But the government clearly feels the story of a nine-year old child bride is one better not told to the world. More bad advertising for a country that still ranks at the bottom of the list when it comes to gender equality.

It appears that little has changed, except that this brave little girl no longer has to endure torture at the hands of her "husband."  "Compared to dreams, reality can be cruel," Nujood said. "But it can also come up with beautiful surprises."


Shake Hands Forever by Ruth Rendell [LOGOS]
Chronologically, t his comes about midway through the Inspector Wexford series.  The crime this time is the murder of Angela Hathall, who was found by her mother-in-law, lying on her (Angela's) bed, strangled.  There are almost no clues, the place was been wiped clean. there is no murder weapon and the husband has an iron-clad alibi.  As the investigation progresses (or doesn't),  leads grow cold.  Wexford is convinced that the husband and some other person conspired to kill her, but that doesn't match what his boss thinks and Wexford has been ordered to leave Hathall alone.  The dogged detective manages to continue the investigation long after everyone has relegated it to the cold case file, and the ultimate solution is one that nobody would ever have guessed.  But it does keep the pages turning crisply until the murder is solved!


Happy Accidents by Jane Lynch [AUDIO]
The amazing star of Glee, a member of Christopher Guest's stable of zany and talented actors, a familiar face on dozens of commercials and sit coms, and now host of Hollywood Game Show tells her story with humor and brutal honesty, as she reveals her drinking problems, her perenniel insecurity, her difficulty in accepting that she really was a lesbian, and along the way her not quite meteoric (at first) rise into the Hollywood "A" listers.  A delightful saga that will have you laughing, and identifying (some of you...well, me, for instance) with some of the more tragic parts.   Highly recommended.


The Hit by David Badacci [AUDIO]
This book was the perfect size to listen to on a round trip to Santa Barbara.   We finished Part 1 as we pulled into the parking space outside Walt's sister's house and we finished the book entirely about 25 minutes before we returned home.

This is Book 2 in a 3-book series about U.S. government paid assassin Will Robie, who is tasked with the job of killing another assassin, Jessica Reel, whom they fear has been "turned."  She's every bit as talented and dangerous as Robie so this will not be an easy assignment.  But, this being a Baldacci book, there is more to the story than originally meets the eye and Reel convinces Robie that she is not the threat to the United States, but that there are dangerous people working within the government and she has been sent to kill them.   Trust her?  Not trust her?  That is the dilema Robie finds himself in.   Even when the two team up to work together, there is still distrust...and who will ultimately win this match of killer vs. killer?


Written In My Heart's Own Blood by Diana Gabaldon
It's very tricky writing a review of a book that has only been out a few days, a book which thousands of people have been waiting for for more than five years.  You definitely don't want to give away the plot!  So let me say that in this Book 8 of the "Outlander" series, Gabaldon weaves together the stories of several people -- Claire and Jamie, of course; Brianna and Roger and their kids, Lord John, his adopted won William; Ian and Rollo; Jenny and a bunch of other characters we have all come to know and love.   So there is a lot of jumping back and forth between groups and centuries, but it allows us to know the prevously lesser characters much better.

The action moves from modern day Scotland to 18th century Scotland and America (can you call it the "United States" if independence has not yet been won?) Much of Claire and Jamie's story takes place in Philadelphia, during the Revolutionary war.  To be honest, I could have done with less about battle and troop movements, but it did give me a whole different insight about how wars were fought in the 1700s. 

Gabaldon seems to have had a lot more instruction in medicine while writing this book, because there are even more graphic descriptions of procedures, medications, and homeopathic remedies. My medical transcriptionist's soul enjoyed reading all those technical words that I remember fondly from my days of typing them.

She has also included more sex than I remember in previous books.  Now there is not only Claire and Jamie cavortin' around in bed, but all the other couples as well....and while the language is quite tasteful, the pictures painted are quite graphic (and give one a hint as to Ms. Gabaldon's own proclivities, perhaps!)

I did take exception with the whole time travel thing, though. This took it from beyond the realm of plausibility and more into the "am I the only one who doesn't know how to time travel?" realm. I thought that part a bit overdone. I lost track of who was related to whom and felt I should be singing the old song, "I'm my own grandpa"

There will be tears, there will be joy.   And there will be another book, which Gabaldon says will be the last in the series.   It took years to produce this one, so who knows how long it will be before we see the end of this saga.  But in the meantime, there is the "Outlander" miniseries to look forward to on Starz in August.  And I have now 8 books in the series to go back and listen to again as audio books....given how little time I have to listen to audio books these days, that might actually take me up to the relase of Book 9!

I give this book 4-1/2 stars (the 1/2 star off just because I got tired of troop movements and battle planning).  Some have been angry about the ending, but I thought it ended just perfectly...and set the stage for Book 9!


Talk Before Sleep by Elizabeth Berg [LOGOS]
This is a book that celebrates the friendship of women, but in a very special way.   Ann met Ruth at a party and it was hate at first sight.  She just wasn't Ann's kind of person, but after the two of them get drunk together in the party's bathroom Ruth realizes that she may just have found the person who is going to be her best friend.   "Until that moment, I hadn't realized how much I'd been needing to meet someone I might be able to say everything to." 

The two women do, indeed become best friends, talking about their unhappy marriages, their children, and just about everything.   When Ruth is diagnosed with breast cancer, it is Ann who is there for her, and when the cancer metastasizes it is Ann and group of mutual friends who share the care of Ruth -- keeping her spirits up, taking her to appointments (she has by now left her husband, who has remarried), but it is Ann who spends the nights helping to keep Ruth from being alone when she might need something.

There is no miraculous recovery.  But in reading about her gradual acceptance of her inevitable death, the irreverent and often funny ways in which her friends support her, and the last goodbyes, we learn what a "good death" can be like.  This is not a maudlin book and it is understandable why it was a New York Times best seller.  Author Berg writes that she has seen many friends go through the breast cancer struggle and she wanted to celebrate the friendships that helped them finish their days in dignity.


A Judgment in Stone by Ruth Rendell  [LOGOS]
In a small town in England, "The St. Valentine's Day Massacre" has nothing to do with roaring twenties US gangsters.  It was on February 14 that housekeepr Eunice Parchman killed four members of the Coverdale family, for whom she worked, while they sat in their living room watching a performance of Don Giovanni on televsion.   The murder is announced at the start of the book, the build-up to why the family were murdered and how the crime was solved is the substance of this book.  The direct reason for Eunice's actions is rooted in her most deeply held secret -- she has never learned to read.  She copes well, but misunderstandings and misinterpretations are inevitable when one is ashamed to have that fact known.  It was the reason she killed the family...and the reason she was caught by the police.  In the end, her punishment for this crime was exacerbated by the fact that everyone learned her life-long held secret.  While there is little "suspense" in this book, it is more a psychological study of a sociopath and how she blends in with the life around her.


The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
This book is designed to be a book for teens, but it seems that everyone has read it, since it spent a year on the NY Times Best Seller list.  With all the hype of the new movie coming out,  I wanted to find out what all the fuss was.  I enjoyed the book, but will not see the movie, because this is a movie that is dialogue and philosophy-driven and I don't know how that could successfully translate to the screen.   The plot would be simple to film, but the heart of the book would not.

This is a coming of age/falling in love story with the twist that the two people involved are teens and will not live to their 20s.   Hazel (16) has been depressed for a long time and her parents think it's time for her to go to a support group for kids with cancer.  There she meets Gus, who is in remission and who has only come to the meeting to support his friend Isaac, who is about to have his second eye removed in an attempt to catch his cancer.  There is an immediate connection between Hazel and Gus, though she is reluctant to define it as "love" because Gus's former girlfriend died and she doesn't want to cause him pain for having to go through that again and wants to keep him at arm's length.

But the plot is secondary to their discussions trying to find meaning in their brief lives--does their life have meaning? will they be remembered?  Their guidebook along the path to understanding is a book about cancer called "An Imperial Affliction," which they read and discuss endlessly, obsessively wondering what happens to the characters after the book ends.  Gus uses his "Make-a-Wish" wish to take Hazel to Amsterdam to meet the author of the book in an attempt to get the answers, a trip which has unexpected results.

This story artfully examines life, love, and death, with sensitivity, intelligence, honesty, and integrity. In the process, Green shows his readers what it is like to live with cancer, with death always just on the horizon.   But this is no maudlin cancer book.  It is a book that celebrates life, even while acknowledging its pain.


King and Maxwell by David Baldacci [AUDIO]
This was the book that took us to Santa Barbara and back on our last trip.  Count on Baldacci's plots to make the miles fly by!  In this continuation of the partnership of former Secret Service agents, Sean King and Michelle Maxwell, a family is told that their father, Sam Wingo, has been killed in fighting in Afghanistan.  His son Tyler doesn't believe it and hires Sean and Michelle to investigate.  Sean is totally against it and thinks the boy needs closure, but Michelle feels there is "something" about the case, which is proven when Tyler receives an e-mail from his father.  Could he be alive?  What was his real mission?  The story gets more and more complicated and treacherous and ultimately involves threats on the life of the president. 

Baldacci is a master of writing books like this, but sadly he does not write believable dialog for teen agers.  The situations involving young Tyler and his girlfriend Kathy just don't read right, though they are integral to the plot.  Still, this book gets 4 stars and would be 5 if the dialog of the kids were more believable.


Deal Breaker by Harlan Coben
I have heard of Coben for a long time but this was the first of his books I'd read.   Written in 1995, it is the first of his Myron Bolitar books.  Bolitar is a former basketball star, now sports agent who has just signed his biggest contract,  a rookie quarterback, Christian Steele.  When Steele's girlfriend, who has been missing and assumed dead, turns up in a porn magazine, Bolitar gets involved in the hunt for her, for her recently murdered father, and with her sister, Bolitar's own ex girlfriend.   This book reads like a Film Noir detective story with similes so funny, I began writing them down.  E.g. "as welcome as a whitehead on prom night," "The yard looked like the trees threw up," "The menu was as long as a Tolstoy novel," "He's tight enough to pop a champagne cork with his butt." etc.

Myron is a wisecracking, self effacing guy surrounded by an interest cast of characters including his fabulously wealthy college friend Windsor Horne Lockwood ("Win") and assistant Esperanza Diaz who was a very famous wrestler in a formal life, who "dabbled in lesbianism" for while.

I must read more of Harlan Coben -- and Myron Bolitar.

Oh...and he solves several mysteries along the way.


Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly
This is the latest in the Mickey Haller series.  Haller learns that one of his former clients, a prostitute who had turned her life around, has gone back to her old life and what's more, her life is in danger.  This is another book where Connelly gives a master class in how to craft a criminal trial, with all the give and take and back office deals that entrails.  As usual, Haller not only has "acceptable" clients, but also is on the payroll of a powerful mob boss.  Over the course of the book, Haller has to deal with is own demons.  Another gripping tale that ultimately puts Mickey Haller back in the backseat of a new Lincoln again.


From Doon with Death by Ruth Rendell   [LOGOS]
I haven't read a complete book at Logos in awhile, but today was slow, I found a book I was interested in, and I just about finished it by the time Walt came.  This is the first of the Inspector Wexford mysteries.   Mr. Parson informs the police that his introverted wife Margaret is missing.  Inspector Burden (Wexford's partner) secretly feels she has run off with another man, but when her body is discovered the next day, the hunt for the killer is on.  In searching her things the inspectors find a trunk in  which is hidden a collection of very expensive books, each with a love note "to Minna" from "Doon."

This is Rendell's first book and I will have to check out her other works, because in this she weaves an intriguing story that unfolds slowly until the surprising conclusion when "Doon" is confronted.  


Private #1 Suspect by James Patterson   [Kindle]
Don't know what possessed me to get this Kindle book, when I've been so down on James Patterson lately, but I'm glad it did.  It doesn't have the tightness of his earlier solo work, but so much better than so many Patterson books I've read lately.  You can tell he's become a machine.  The publication dates on this series are: 2010, 3 in 2012, 2013, 2 in 2014 and one scheduled for 2015.  At the same time there are others of his books in other series also published in the same time period.

However, let us not quibble about the process.   This is a book that holds your interest.  Former Marine helicopter pilot, Jack Morgan, now runs a detective agency, called Private, which caters to the famous, the well to do, and anybody who wants to keep his/her business secret.  As this story starts, Morgan has just returned home from a long trip, staggers through his house directly to the shower, comes out, intent on falling asleep instantly in his bed, only to find his former lover in the bed, with a bullet through her heart.  All the signs point to Jack as the murderer, his DNA everywhere, including inside her.  His  twin brother seems to have an iron clad alibi.

At the same time, a mob boss strong-arms him into recovering $30 million in stolen pharmaceuticals and there are serial killings in a hotel chain owned by an alluring woman.  Just a day (or a week) in the life of Private, and ultimately all mysteries are solved to the satisfaction of everyone except the bad guys, who end up dead or in jail.  It is up to the reader to find out who is who!


Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson may be one of my favorite authors and, once again, he does not disappoint.   This is a small, very readable book about the guy who is perhaps the world's most famous author.  The surprising thing is that for someone so well known, he's not really well known at all.  The things we don't know about Shakespeare (starting with how to spell his name) would fill a book--and they do in this tome.   Other than his plays, he left almost no footprint.  The three famous paintings of him, in fact, were painted years after his death by people who never met him.  Of his five signatures, 3 are forgeries.  Over and over again, Bryson talks about "facts" about Shakespeare and then what the true facts are and that most of what we know about him comes from supposition and guesswork based on things that pop up around the time of his life.  I'm not a Shakespeare buff by any stretch of the imagination, but I found this book fascinating.  (Did you know that his collected works contain 884,647 words, 15,785 question marks and 10 instances of the term "dunhill"?
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Gidget by Frederick Kohner [book club]
There is no way on earth that I would have voluntarily chosen to read this book. It is the book on which the Gidget movies and TV series were based and is the story of real life Kathy Kohner (now Zimmerman), who lived in Malibu and at age 15 fell in with the surfers at Malibu beach.  The book is written by her father (and it amazes me that a DAD could write this book) and uses what I assume is the vernacular of the beach set in the 1960s.  Though it is long on character description and teen age love angst, nothing really happens in the book.  Ever.  Unless you count the fire that gets set on the night of the "orgy" on the beach.  A 71 year old retired woman is definitely NOT the target audience for this book.


40 Years of Chez Panisse by Alice Waters and others [book club]
This was a book club selection and it seems a rather odd one, since it's more a browsing book than a reading book, but having lived in Berkeley when Alice Waters was first starting Chez Panisse and having been part of some of the campus goings-on at the time, I found it a nice trip down memory lane.  In truth, it becomes too "in-group" for me after awhile.  Too many chefs, too many foods I'd never heard of, too many things that were obviously written to include all of her friends, but of little interest to the folks who can't afford to eat at her very expensive restaurant...and whose unsophisticated palate probably wouldn't enjoy it even if they could afford to eat there.


Upstairs at the White House, My Life with the First Ladies, by J.B. West with Mary Lynn Kotz
This is an absolutely fascinating, delightful book by the Chief Usher of the White House from FDR to the beginning days of the Nixon administration.  It really has very little to do with politics and concentrates on the running of the White House and the varius First Ladies who reigned there.  I learned so much, like how much of the cost of entertaining is the responsibility of the President himself.  He gets free rent and an amount for the upkeep of the house, but the cost of many of those lavish parties are borne by the President himself.  I also never knew that there was an assassination attempt on Truman, that the White House had to be practically rebuilt during the Truman administration because it was literally falling apart.  I didn't know the huge impact Jacqueline Kennedy had on turning the White House into a museum (we visited there in 1962 and bought one of the souvenir books, the sale of which ultimately paid for the remodeling of the building).  It's a real page turner and highly recommended.


Cat Chat by Helene Thornton [LOGOS]
The day I wrote my entry about Cat(s), I found this book at Logos and was enchanted.  It appears to be a British-published book, which did not come up when I attempted to enter it onto GoodReads (though I did later find it on Amazon).  It's a delightful little book about a British woman who vacations in the South of France and whose life is changed by a cat she sees in the window of a house.  The story goes on through her move to France and the collection of cats she and her husband live with.   Just an enjoyable, sweet little book, which answers my question about where are all the cats in literature!


Port Mortuary by Patricia Cornwell
Why do I keep reading this author?  I keep hoping for the good old days, I guess.   This was not as bad as some of her recent books have been but my god, there are endless pages of musing, thinking about why someone did something or other...they go on for chapters.  Then she will have a long thought process about what hubby (and FBI agent) Benton must be thinking, followed by huge long pages of Benton telling her what he was thinking.  Publishers Weekly calls this her "strongest work in years," and maybe it is, but given what her last books (since "Blow Fly") have been like, that isn't saying much.  I finished this book just to finish it, but I hated it most of the way through.  It has sections where it was a flash of the old Cornwell, but then she would fly off on some tangent again and I'd want to throw the book across the room. There are 3 more books of her which I hae not read and I am going to give serious thought as to whether I want to read them or not.  I miss the old Kay Scarpetta.  And I'm really, really tired of niece Lucy knowing more about technology than God.  She is no longer a character, she is a caricature.  Marino is no longer someone I recognize.  A reviewer on Amazon said, "It was boring, confusing, way too long, and the characters are annoying."  I think that sums it up nicely
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Days of Anna Madrigal: A Novel by Armistead Maupin
This is the 9th and final novel in the "Tales of the City," which started decades ago as a regular submission to The San Francisco Chronicle.  Over the past 20-some years we have watched our favorite characters grow and change.  Anna Madrigal is now 92 years old, ready to confront some long-held secrets, Michael Tolliver is married to Ben, who is younger and Michael is feeling his age.  MaryAnne is back in San Francisco, after another disastrous marriage.  We don't encounter her much in this book, which is fine because I grew not to like her much any more.     The action takes place in San Francisco, in Winnamucca (where Anna grew up in a whore house), and at Burning Man.  How these all interact and collide and bring us to a perfect conclusion is the fun of this book.  Maupin has wrapped things up perfectly.


Switchblade by Michael Connelly [audio]
This is one of those novelettes that they are making for Kindle these days.  Harry Bosch, still at the Open Unsolved unit, gets an anonymous tip on an old case and sets out to check it out.  The book is about 50 minutes long, but he tells the whole story in that time and I did not see the mystery solution coming, so it was a good book to me...and we finished it just as we arrived at the BART station, so it was timed perfectly for our drive.


The Day of the Locust by Nathaniel West [book club]
I know this is supposed to be #73 on a list of best  English language novels of the 20th century and that TIME magazine included it in the top 100 novels written between 1923 and 2005, but I didn't like it.  I found it an ugly book and I didn't care about any of the characters, all of whom are part of the seedy side of Los Angeles during the Depression.  One of the key characters is Homer Simpson, long before Matt Groening was a twinkle in his mother's eye.  The hero of the piece  is Tod Hackett, who works as a movie costume designer and scene painter and lives in a little bungalo out in the valley with his friend Homer (who is somewhat similar in intellect to the cartoon character).  Tod meets and falls in love with aspiring starlet (and sometime prostitute) Faye Greuning and through her and her father, an out of work actor (who eventually dies), Tod is introduced to a cast of ne'er do well characters.  It is a good picture of the time, but it was an ugly time and the picture is an ugly picture.   I finished it, since it is the book we will discuss at our next book club meeting, but I didn't enjoy it.


The Ocean at the End of the Lane:  A Novel by Neil Gaiman
This is a fantasy adventure , remembered by the adult narrator, about his 7 year old self living in rural Sussex (England).  The boy is lonely and has no friends, but loves to read and leads a peaceful life until he meets his neighbors, the Hempstocks -- the grandmother, the mother and 11 year old Letitia and plunges into a magical world filled with wonderful and beautiful things, ugly and scary things.  At the center of all the bad things is the new Nanny, Ursula Monkton, whom the boy can see for the evil person she is, but whom others in his family think is wonderful.  A plot summary would spoil the book for new readers, but let's just say it is a battle childhood innocence and the dark forces of evil, the kind of thing that, as we become adults fades in our memory and we sometimes wonder if it ever really happened.