Books Read in 2021
You Well by David Baldacci
David Baldacci is one of my favorite
crime novelists. I've read 30 of his books and enjoyed them all.
"Wish You Well" is not a crime novel. It's quite different from
all of his other books. It tells the story of Lou and Oz, children
12 and 6, who lose their father in an auto accident, which leaves their
mother alive, but catatonic. They are sent to live with their
great grandmother, who lives on a farm in the Virginia mountains.
The farm has no electricity, no indoor plumbing and is self-sufficient,
run by the grandmother and Eugene, a young black man she took in many
The children learn to love the farm, make
friends, learn how to take care of the animals and the crops but then
tragedies come and their world is threatened to be turned upside down again.
The solution is great and the finale is perfect. I really enjoyed this
book and find that Baldacci's descriptive narrative is as colorful as John
for Good by Harlan Coben
The thing I like about Harlan Coben is his
twists and turns and surprises. This book has more twists and turns than a
roller coaster and the finale is definitely unexpected. Will Klein's older
brother Ken, Will's hero, disappeared after he was accused of killing a
girl. Will knows he's innocent and when his dying mother, 11 years later,
tells him that she has seen a picture of Ken and knows he's alive, he sets
out to find his brother and clear him of the murder charges. As I said,
there are so many twists and turns. Almost every chapter has a surprise
revealed and the characters include murderous acquaintances, girlfriends,
questionable police and just when you think you have figured them out, you
Definitely an interesting book to read!
Me by Tess Gerritsen and Gary Braver
This journal entry is a long review of this book:
Boys by Ron and Clint Howard
What an absolutely delightful autobiography/ies. Ron Howard
(The Andy Griffith Show, Happy Days) and his younger brother
Clint (Gentle Ben) discuss their parents, their unusual
upbringing (Ron has been performing since age 3) and how they managed to
have a more or less normal childhood, despite their being in television.
Their love for their father and how he helped them all of their life is
a big part of this book. The book reads like a conversation
between the two men who love each other and they don't shy away from the
negative (Clint spends a lot of time discussing his drug and alcohol
dependence; Ron deals with bullying). I loved that as I read the
book I was able to find a lot of the media on line and could watch what
they were talking about.
A can't put down book.
Teacher by Alec Clayton
When I got to the end of this 160 page book, I found I needed to
go back and skim through the first few chapters, which confused me on
first reading, but which now, having read to the end of the book, made
sense. I found problems with this book. Things which were
not fleshed out and stories that could have been more important but
which were discarded. Eva is the teacher and we first meet her
when she is a married woman, who is beginning to wonder if maybe she
might be a lesbian because of her interest in a group of Lesbians at a
club. We next see her part of the group, as a bisexual, with
interest in Helen, but too shy to speak to her. Next thing they
have been together several years and have a couple of kids and she
misses Johnny, her own son, whom she has not seen in years, but who, in
an earlier chapter was awarded joint custody when she divorced her
husband. We have no idea how he got sole custody until the end of
the book. I wanted to read how Eva and Helen got together and how
their relationship grew, but that isn't the point of the story.
Her relationship with her students is
important, but the one she is the most concerned about just kind of fades
away and we never know what happens to him. Likewise, she attends a
political rally, as does the school coach, but she is chastised for it and
nothing happens to him and nobody seems to care.
Alec is a good writer, but this is not one of
his best stories. With additional detail, it could be much better.
While there are no other errors that I could
find in the book, I'm sure Alex knows that the teats of a goat are udders,
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
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
Written in My Own Heart's Blood by
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
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,
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
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
Murder mystery may not be Jim's best genre, but
he's such a fun writer that this keeps you reading.