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, 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.