In the beginning...

...there were The Flyaways, a family who traveled in their miraculous flying machine having daring adventures with Goldilocks and Cinderella. The first in the 3-book series by Alice Dale Hardy was published by Grosset and Dunlap in 1925 and copies are almost extinct. Few people remember Ma and Pa, Tommy and Susie Flyaway now.

I became acquainted with them on my grandfather's lap, my dear Grandpa Baker who read and read and read to me every evening for as many years as I can remember. I would hold my breath as each chapter ending neared, hoping he would not stop. I would keep begging for "just one more" chapter until his voice got so hoarse I would have to run to his room to get his throat lozenges.

Over the years we covered all of Uncle Wiggly and Honey Bunch, the Bobbsey Twins, the Five Little Peppers, the Wind in the Willow series, some of them more than once. He read to me until long after I could read everything for myself, until I was into Beverly Gray, Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. I was safe and happy snuggled up on the couch with him and that feeling has never left me. I still read and read and read, and it still makes me feel safe and happy.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Couple in December

Relentless struck me as kind of a Christmas story although the holiday is not mentioned in the novel. Grady Adams and his Irish wolfhound Merlin discover a pair of unidentifiable creatures in a meadow near their home. When the pair appear to be stalking their house, Grady calls his friend, the local vet, to find out what they are, and finds her as baffled as he is. Unfortunately for all, the idiots at Homeland Security catch wind of the amazing creatures and launch a full out takeover, endangering the future of what is the discovery of the millenium. This is not Koontz' best writing, some iffy and seemingly irrelevant subplots, but real suspenseful moments and an imaginative and delightful tale. I vote yes.

I also just read the new bio by - yes - Terry Bollea (Hulk Hogan) with a collaborator whose name I can't remember. Fascinated as I have been for over 30 years with the professional wrestling world, I was very interested in the private persona of this mega superstar and this seemed to be a fairly honest portrayal of his, including his drug and steroid usage, and his failings as a father. It was enlightening and a real easy read. My confession here includes that I have also read the bio of Mick Foley, aka Mankind, and found that quite astonishing.

I could elevate my reading matter a little, I guess, as I have Rainwater, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Three Cups of Tea all sitting on my coffee table waiting for me, but I am distracted with other things such as online shopping. I am waiting for the coffee to brew and must get on with the Christmas wrapping.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Two good ones

I love Andy Carpenter because Andy loves dogs and all the books are dog-centered. Andy is a rich lazy lawyer who is forced to accept a pro-bono case involving the custody of a show quality (and endearingly rascally) Bernese Mountain dog. It turns into a murder whodunit when one of the combatants is exploded and the other, her stepson, is accused of killing her. New Tricks is the name of this book, but any of the David Rosenfelt series is good, light and very readable. Andy's girlfriend, Jen, also plays a role in this one when she is shot and nearly dies when playing with the dog.

Smokey Barrett, the detective badly scarred from the encounter with a killer who murdered her beloved husband and daughter a few books ago, is right on with another serial kidnapping/lobotomizing killer who preys on men in chat rooms who hate their wives. One of the wives, who has been missing for 8 years, is dumped out of a car on the beach where Smokey is celebrating her friend Callie's wedding. Good plotting and a reassuring love story as Smokey's future begins to look brighter. Cody MacFadyen is a more serious and in-depth writer than Rosenfelt and I love Smokey and her cast of characters. Title is Abandoned.

Also in the middle of a good tattoo book called Ink. I learning a lot.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

November drags on

Boy, this tattoo business has really cut down on my reading time. I'm going to tattoo Lauren's butterfly today. It is raining and dreary. Eli doesn't even want to go out. The siding guys just picked up their tools and left. I guess there's no work going on today. It's a good reading day.

The Last Child was a good one, my daughter particularly loved it, with an out-of-the-ordinary plot, interesting characters and action, a good cop, bad cop, abusive lover, a messed up teenager, an abducted 12-year old, a little love story and pedophilia, if you can stomach that.

I also read the newest Sara Paretsky, Hardball, which is a V.I. Warshawski, mixing politics, a civil rights murder and a black man who has been missing since the 60's, who Vic is searching for on behalf of his dying aunt. Paretsky is one of those writers who do not continuously churn out popcorn books, which leads to more thoughtful plots and descriptions. And smaller print. Not good for reading in bed.

Now reading about a bombing in the Mall of America with heroine Maggie O'Donnell, which I am enjoying, although I find the short chapters and back and forth settings a little disconcerting. Maybe I'll get back under the covers this afternoon and try to finish it. I have a real pileup of books waiting for me. Brought home Three Cups of Tea on the strong recommendation of Suzanne.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I'm bad

Not even going to try to catch up on the month of reading I've missed blogging. The last two weeks have been all tattoo school. I've read one book - Nine Dragons, which took Harry Bosch to Singapore to rescue his daughter Maddie. Eleanor, his ex, is killed. Love Michael Connelly but this was not one of my favorites, don't know why. I can't even remember the others, altho I know there was at least one good one. I'll think of it. Oh, I guess it was Robert Parker's new Spenser, The Professional. Now started The Last Child, about an unusual kid trying to find his abducted sister who has been missing for a year.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Hunter Thompson

I've been really bad about blogging my reads. Busy, busy, but no excuse. It's been so long, I've forgotten half of what I've been reading. I did another Chelsea Cain, Evil at Heart, continuing Gretched Lowell's wicked pursuit of poor Archie, who is in a mental health facility recovering from more torture. And it goes on. My good book for today is Hell's Angels by Hunter Thompson, which I tracked down following the Gonzo movie. All you ever wanted to know about the group circa the 60's when Thompson spent a year in their midst. Lots of interesting stuff, both confirming and refuting the wild tales that have circulated about them. My daughter spent last weekend at a motorcycle convention in the Catskills and told me some good stories, piqued my curiosity. I now want to find an update, wondering how the group has changed in the new century.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Movie P.S.

Also this weekend, between following the coverage of the Kennedy funeral which I found sad and moving, I sandwiched in two dvds. The first was Gonzo, the bio of Hunter S. Thompson. I don't generally do biographies, but was curious about him because my 20-year-old grandson read his book about the Hells Angels and has been talking about him. Thompson was a manic, freaky, creative, doomed journalist who hung out with both the HAs and the Merry Pranksters in the 60s. It was a good way to pass a very rainy afternoon.

After Gonzo, I watched Before the Fall, which I had brought home from the library and was thinking about returning unwatched. What changed my mind was another grandson. This one, at age twelve, had watched it and told me how good it was (despite the subtitles). He was right. A German teenager in 1942 runs away from home and forges his father's signature on the application to a school which trains young men to fight for the Fatherland. The young man is a talented boxer who is eagerly welcomed into the organization. His zeal and naivity is soon compromised by the life he is forced to live and the lessons he is expected to accept without question. It is both a hope and a tragedy.

Child 44

I almost rejected this book before I started it. I admit it - I have trouble with Russian names. I ploughed my way through all the Russian classics as a young woman and enjoyed them tremendously. After that, I (unconsciously?) avoided them because the names confuse me. Child 44 reminded me of that. How glad I am that I did not let it deter me, because once I got into it, I was mesmerized. Set in the period of Stalin's iron-handed rule and prodigiously researched by this first time novelist, Tom Rob Smith, I was surprised at what I learned that I did not realize. This author was gifted in his ability to draw the reader into the thought processes of the era and characters, whose lives were so controlled by the State that it made Hitler's Germany look mild by comparison. Child 44 is, among other things, a murder mystery. Scores of children have been victim to a serial killer, a fact that the government refuses to acknowledge because there is no such crime in a police state. The murders are all explained away as aberrations. One man refuses to conform to this belief, however, and his loses the life that he has worked for and valued because he fights to prove the truth. It is an amazing story, made more so by the idea that this kind of thinking exists and is promulgated by those in authority, who have such control over the lives of their citizens. It left me open-mouthed in places and even a little frightened. It is a story well worth reading, although, yes, I did struggle in spots to keep the characters straight.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

CJ Box and Linwood Barclay

If you are a fan of Joe Pickett, the game warden hero, you'll recognize April, his foster child, who was killed. Well, April appears to have turned up in Zero Down via text message to Joe's daughter Sheridan and the whole family wants to find her, if indeed, she exists. How could this have happened? Good question and it seems pretty unlikely, but the story is good and very readable as always. Joe's friend, the fugitive falconer Nate, is part of the action, as well as a pitiable bad guy, and his despicable son, who has taken a young blonde runaway under his wing. Is it April?

I should add Barclay to my list of authors to watch as he has written some good ones. Another disappearing daughter, this time Tim Blakes's 17-year-old Sydney. While staying with her divorced dad for the summer, Tim discovers Syd has been lying to him about where she works, and he is consumed with the quest to track her down when she doesn't come home. Her bloody car is located and someone sends Tim on a goose chase across the country following a lead while they trash his house and plant cocaine there. I'll be finishing this one today.

The end - this was a definite winner (titled Fear The Worst). The action never stopped and the ending revealed a surprising and emotional twist.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Misc. Poetry

Finally got around today to catching up on some poetry books I brought home from VPL. I love Billy Collins and found a book of his on my shelf that I had forgotten about. My favorite of his is Ballistics which I got as a gift from my son, bless him. Also enjoy Mark Strand, who has some of the best one-liners I've read. Check out the blog I write for the Every Other Thursday Night Poets ( for some quotes. I read some Lucille Clifton who I had the pleasure of hearing at Russell Sage a couple of years ago. I also had The Tin Horn, a new anthology, and Charles Simic's Walking the Black Cat. I now have a poem in my head that I will write tonight, inspiration permitting. That's what hearing others' poetry does for a writer. That is why every poet needs a support group. To get the brain stimulated. So, I'm returning my overdues tomorrow and you can all check them out. In the meantime, the two novels I have going are another Don Winslow and Ravens, by a new author. I'll have to let you know.

VIncent Zandri

An Albany writer - I met him on Facebook. Not familiar with his name, I googled him and found he has published three novels with a fourth coming out soon. I was embarrassed. I am a crime book afficiando and I work in a library. My list of favorite authors is at least half crime writers and I was very surprised to find one right in Albany that I hadn' t heard of. I remedied that as soon as I could get my hands on a copy of his first book, As Catch Can. The protagonist is the warden of Green Haven prison, right down the Hudson. I loved the area references, as I do with Richard Strachey and Elizabeth Brundage. Elizabeth, btw, lives in New Scotland and is a lovely and successful author, with two great books out, The Doctor's Wife and Somebody's Daughter. She has been at the Voorheesville Library to do book signings, talks and workshops. Zandri's book was just the right combination of plot and action and I enjoyed it. I'll be waiting for the next.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Laurie Halso Anderson wrote this YA novel on another sensitive subject: eating disorders. Lia's best friends Callie dies alone in a cheap motel room after pushing her anorexic body into systems failure with alcohol. Not an easy way to go. Lia, who is consuming under 500 calories a day in the hope of reaching her goal of 85 lbs., is haunted by her friend's death, but does not stop starving herself. I read this book because I am curious about what motivates these young women to pursue this punishing lifestyle. I don't understand it and I can't say the book helped me in that respect. It was a grueling read and seemed to express Lia's thought process very well without offering any formula solution. An intriguing story.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Don Winslow

Okay, move over, Marcus, ' cause Don is on the shelf beside you.

I went to Marcus Sakey's FB page, linked to what he's been reading and jotted down all the authors I hadn't read. Winslow took some top honors with Marc, so I ILL'ed (interlibrary loan) one called The Dawn Patrol and absolutely couldn't put it down. Compelling characters. Strong dialogue. Unique commentary. I learned a whole new surfing language. Interesting history of Pacific Beach, CA. Perfect plotting. I'm raving, aren't I? The Dawn Patrol is the sobriquet for the a very tight pack of morning surfers and also female children who are being exploited in the sex trade. Can't wait for more.

I've read all of Sakey, so I have fertile new ground to catch up on with Winslow.
Thanks, Marcus.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Living Dead Girl

I laid back and zipped through two books yesterday and today, staying up til 4 a.m. Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott is a YA novel that has caused a lot of controversery in the kid lit world over the subject matter. It is written from the perspective of a normal happy ten-year-old who is abducted while on a school field trip. It is a heart-wrenching story of the abuse she suffers and the final resolution of her experience. Uniquely told and vague enough in the details, I found it unoffensive, but then I guess you would put me at the liberal end of the spectrum. I don't believe in shielding children from the realities of life and teenagers could certainly handle this. It is too bad that many libraries don't want to carry it.

My second fast read was a good old Sharon McCone mystery written by Marcia Muller. I tired of Sharon for a while but found myself enjoying her again in Burn Out, where she is getting some needed r&r on Hy Ripinski's ranch. Sharon is bonding with a horse and solving murders while coping long distance with problems at her agency. It was a pleasant and undemanding read. Muller, btw, is married to Bill Pronzini, a fine crime writer in his own right.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Marcus Sakey

Marcus Sakey is one cute dude (all the cute ones are married) as well as a terrific storyteller. I am on the last chapter of his new crime novel The Amateurs which I could easily have finished it on the deck in the sun after work, but I stopped just short of the conclusion because I didn't want it to end.

Sakey is a relatively new discovery. I've read a couple of his others and was waiting, not too patiently, for a new one. It did not disappoint. Great plot: four drinking buddies - a bond trader, a bartender, a doorman and a travel agent - who play the "what if" game at their favorite bar once too often. Sakey superbly explores each of their motives and the consequences for committing a serious crime that swiftly becomes a deadly game. The action is riveting and well plotted, the characters well drawn.

I had already joined his fans on Facebook when I sent my boss to meet the author at the ALA convention in his home base of Chicago. She brought me back an autographed galley copy of his soon-to-be-released book. I hurried through James Lee Burke to get to it and already I want more. Thanks, Marcus. Please write faster.

James Lee Burke

As I mentioned before, I read Black Cherry Blues many years ago and sent Burke a letter, comparing him to my old favorite detective writer, the late John MacDonald, creator of the Travis McGee series. Burke's hero Dave Robicheaux was a perfect counterpart to the macho, but sensitive McGee, who lived aboard a houseboat in Florida called the Busted Flush. Robicheaux is a sheriff in the bayou country of New Orleans, an on-the-wagon alcoholic who is always one breath away from the bottle. His companions and the criminals they pursue are as earthy and colorful as any I've ever read about, and Burke's prose as rich and descriptive and evocative as a poet. I've read everything Burke has written, including new adventures with new protagonists, but Robicheaux remains my favorite.

Much to surprise, Burke responded to my fan letter with a personal note - this was at least 15 years ago, before they started making his books into movies. I had a chance to meet him at a mystery book store in NYC and found him to be a warm and personable guy, who continues to send me Christmas cards. His real daughter Alafair, who is a character in the Dave Robicheaux series, is now a mystery writer in her own right.

His newest book is Rain Gods, which I just finished, a Sheriff Hack Holland novel set in Texas. Burke has received his share of publicity, including an article in People magazine around the time that Heaven's Prisoners was made into a film. He looks like a craggy cowboy himself and I'd be fantasizing about him if he weren't very happily married. Rats.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

David Levien

Today I finished David Levien's Where the Dead Lay, the second of his books I have read, the first being City of the Sun, which was good enough to lead me to seek out more. You will find out that I devour detective stories and my all-time favorites features the rugged and sensitive Travis McGee, whose adventures on his houseboat The Busted Flush unfortunately ended with the death of author John McDonald back in the 90's. All of his McGee books, and there were many, have a color in the title, e.g. The Lonely Silver Rain, and can be found in libraries and used books sales. He is worth looking for.

Levien's PI is Frank Behr, a former cop tortured with guilt over his part in the death of his young son. This book opens with the murder of his friend and mentor, Aurelio Santos, in his martial arts studio. Behr, of course, determines to track down the killers and finds them a strange and violent crew. He continues to battle his own demons, particularly his feelings when his young girlfriend becomes pregnant. I also learned what a "pea shake" operation is. Anybody else know?

I'm now looking for Levien's first two novels, and not just because the photo on his book jacket is very cute.

Stephanie Plum

I flew through Finger Lickin' Fifteen in a long afternoon.

The cast of characters in skip-tracer Stephanie Plum's life is incredible. And unforgettable. Best friend Lula, the pistol-packing reformed 'ho busting out of her outrageous and colorful outfits, is up to her generous endowments in trouble after witnessing a machete murder on the street in front of her Firebird, which, btw, ends up torched. Also torched are Stephanie's old Escort and two of the mysterious Ranger's new Porsches. Lula and Grandma Mazur(also a pistol-packer) set fire, not once but several times, to their chef's outfits and surrounding areas while practicing their barbequeing skills for a cooking competition to win a million dollars. Stephanie's apartment is firebombed, and Rex the hamster survives an exploding pressure cooker of BBQ sauce which demolishes Stephanie's kitchen. Stephanie is rescued by Ranger, resists his charms to bed her, and agonizes over her breakup with Morelli the cop, as her rival Joyce Barnhardt is on hand to move in on Morelli.

It is impossible to read anything else when one of these wacko, campy adventures awaits me.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Not Enough Time

I am reading three books at once, not an unusual occurance - one in the living room, bedroom, car. Plus the half dozen poetry tomes I keep handy for casual pickup - Lucille Clifton, Mark Strand, Charles Simic and Billy Collins included. Luckily I work in a library. There is no better place for me, except perhaps the beach at Key West, but even there, I would be reading.

Yesterday I finished a Richard Stevenson novel about Albany P.I. Donald Strachey. It was a kick to read because of the Albany setting, altho not as good as older ones.

I just started Rain Gods from an old friend, James Lee Burke. I met Burke in NYC many years ago, soon after sending him a fan letter about his Black Cherry Blues, which features the best detective I have encountered since John MacDonald died and we lost Travis McGee. Before he got famous, Burke answered his own fan mail and I was blown away to get a letter from him, then met him at Murder, Ink.

Also on my plate is Where the Dead Lay from a new author find named David Levien, who I expect to read a lot of.

Already reading those two, I had to crack open another one I had been waiting for (interlibrary loan is a marvelous thing) - the newest of Stephanie Plum adventures, which I consume like popcorn at the movies. Janet Evanovich can make me laugh out loud.

It is a good reading day.