Books Read in 2021

Bonnie's Boy by F.E. Rechnitzer
This was one of my favorite books about dogs when I was a kid.  I mentioned in Funny the World that I had looked for it and was not able to find it...and then magically it turned up in my mail.  Jeri found it and had it sent to me.  I read it in an afternoon (266 pages).  It was as good as I remembered, a predictable story about a boy raising an orphan puppy who turns out to be valuable dog and the bad guy who is trying to get him...and the dog shows that prove who has the best dog.  Simple story that I read in grammar school, but it was fun reading it again....and it made me cry again.

Mr. Monk Visits the Firehouse by Lee Goldberg
I have been a fan of the TV show Monk for many years and was surprised to learn there was a series of books, so I got one to try.  All of Monk's eccentricities as he sets out to find the murderer of a firehouse dog, are  there, but the written character somehow lacks the personality of Tony Shaloub and the relationship between him and Natalie Teeger (who tells the story) is not as warm as it is on TV.  I enjoyed the book but it wasn't the Monk that I have known and loved for so long.

Miracle Cure by Harlan Coben
This book, written in 2011 is extremely dated.  It is Coben's second book and in an introduction he himself apologizes that it is not up to his later work -- and it's not, but it's still a page turner.  It centers around a clinic that is developing a cure for AIDS but the comments and attitudes about gay men and the disease are very ... well... 2011 in this era where AIDS is no longer a death sentence and gay couples are able to legally marry.  But there is a gay slasher killing gay men who have been patients of the clinic and who have reportedly been cured of AIDS.  Even an early work, the book is filled with the twists and turns that are typical Coben, and just when you think all has been revealed, it has not and another shocker is uncovered. 

Win by Harlan Coben
Winsor Horn Lockwood III is the best friend of Myron Bolitar, the hero of Coben's series of Bolitar books.  But this book is Win alone, with Myron getting slight mentions occasionally.  Win is insanely rich but is also into torture and murder (of people who deserve it) as well as sexual pleasure.  In this book, a man who was a member of the Jane Street Six protest group in the 60s is found murdered and with him is a priceless painting that once belonged to Win's family.  Win sets out to find the other painting that was stolen, and to avenge the terrible things done to his cousin after her kidnapping.  It's a can't put down story and we learn more about Win than we ever did in the Bolitar books.  This is listed on Amazon as Book 1, so I hope that there will be a Book 2 soon.

Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon
This is the 8th in the Outlander series of books, which I actually read six years ago.  I re-read it because book #9 is to be released in November and I wanted to remember what happened in the 8th book.  It is 848 pages long and I figured that it would take me close to November to read it all, but I got so wrapped up in the story (again) that I did nothing for two days but read and finished it last night.  My 2014 review is here and I pretty much stand by what I wrote then.

Quality of Care by Elizabeth Letts
This is Letts' first book, written in 2005 when she was still working as a midwife (now, after 9 published books, she has given up midwifery and is a full time author).  Her talent as a writer, writing books that will ultimately become prize winners, is apparent in this first work, though it is kind of a weird book, which combines both her medical experience and her love of horses (who will become her primary subject in later books). 

Clara is an obstetrician who is overwhelmed by two women in labor, one of whom is her good friend, who once saved Clara's life and who is now married to Clara's former lover.  A tragedy happens that results in Clara taking some time off from the hospital while investigations take place.  About 1/3 of the way into the book, things begin to happen which are almost fairy tale....relationships and situations are improbable, but written so well it was 3 a.m. before I finished the book and could put it down.

The Ride of Her Life by Elizabeth Letts
I was fortunate to get an advance copy of this book, which will be published June 1.  It was one of those page turners that I could not put down and I finished it in a day and a half. 

This book introduces you to Annie Wilkins, "the last of the saddle tramps," a woman so interesting that when I finished the book I had to check out You Tube to see if I could find her there.  I did find her as a contestant on the Groucho Marx Show, in 1956.

Annie Wilkins, a native Maine resident, was 63 years old in 1954 when she was told that she had only 2 years to live, if she relaxed and took care of herself.  She had lost her farm to the bank, her family had all died, and she had no money, with winter coming and no place to stay.  So she decided to get a horse and ride to California!  She sold pickles and earned $32, paid  $5 for a horse named Tarzan who was about to be put down, got a little dog named Depeche Toi, and set off 7000 miles to California, dressed in several layers of clothes to keep her warm in the approaching winter, with all of her bedding and equipment attached to the horse..

Letts, who says she drove 10,000 miles in researching this story, has created a marvelous saga of Wilkins' trip across the country, a 2 year affair, riding along the highways and back roads, stopping at homes that had barns willing to let her put her horse up for the night, sleeping in the homes of people who invited her, or in the local jail, which would offer a bed to an itinerant like Wilkins.  Letts story is so compelling, you feel like you are on this trip with Wilkins, who has been described as "funny, quirky and bold." 

There are happy scenes, beautiful scenes, and worrisome scenes as both Wilkins and her horses (she eventually got a second horse) had physical problems, but yes, she does make it to California, becoming a celebrity along the way, thanks go reports from local and national news reports.  Letts also reports on the life in this country at the time of Wilkins' journey, and gives a history of many areas, towns, and families.

One thing I loved about this book is that it takes place in the mid 1950s, when I was growing up in San Francisco and the relationships Wilkins  forms with all sorts of strangers across the country just made me remember what life was like in this country in the mid 1950s.  I doubt anybody could make this journey today. This book will make you smile, cry, and root for the heroine, who lived many more years than the 2  she was given before she started her journey.

Murder on the Orpheum Circuit by Jim Brochu
Jim Brochu has written his first murder mystery, set in turn of the 20th century vaudeville.  Like Agatha Christie's "Murder on the Orient Express," everybody has a  reason and an opportunity to murder Frank.  The characters are all at the early part of their careers, which is why Jack Benny turns out to be the guy who figures out the real killer.  The group are a mixture of fictional characters and real characters, perhaps with their original names, which will be changed as they become famous.  Also there is a big  Surprise at the end of the book but you have to be a real movie buff to recognize it.

Murder mystery may not be Jim's best genre, but he's such a fun writer that this keeps you reading.


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