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, October 23, 2011

Okay, okay... I haven't blogged in two months. There's been a lot going on here - house buying, many moves, cancer scare, lots of doctors, pain, retirement, frustration. I haven't stopped reading, just not writing about it. Here's a little catch up.

Another great Chevy Stevens Never Knowing. Susan finds her birth mother and her birth father turns out to be serial killer.

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb - fiction but well researched and fascinating by Melanie Benjamin.

Disturbance by Jan Burke. Reporter Irene Kelly and dectective husband Frank in another go-around with killer Nick Parrish who pulls off a prison escape goes after Irene.

This was an unusual offering from Roland Merullo. The Talk Funny Girl, sheltered in a rural home with strange parents involved in a cult and speaking their own dialect, accepts her abuse as normal until she is hired to assist a quiet young stonemason who is building his own cathedral.

More child abuse in this one - two boys are abandoned and incarcerated in a terrible institution until one is adopted by the wife of a prominent politician and the other runs away under the cloud of a murder accusation. More murders happen over the course of 15 years, the boys, now grown men, are reunited and the murders are solved.
Iron House by John Hart.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Greg Iles again

I don't know why this guy hasn't skyrocketed to the top of the charts - unless he has and I missed him. Just finished my second of the summer by him and it was just as satisfying as the first. Deep Sleep is a crime novel revolving around paintings of dead women, featuring photographer Jordan Glass and John Kaiser, her new FBI love interest. Good one and another on the pile to begin.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Mother California

This was a totally excellent book by Ken Hartman, who was convicted at the age of 19 for murdering a man in a park, and sentenced to life without parole. He has traveled throughout the California prison system - Soledad, San Quentin, Folsom and others - and remains incarcerated 30+ years after his conviction. He met and married and fathered a child now in her teens who he adores. The quality of his writing displays talent, intellectual curiosity and a refreshing honesty about his own situation and the corrections system in general. Really, really good read.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Rich, arrogant neurosurgeon Jack Scales buys a fancy boat and pressures his fractured family into sailing with him to Bermuda. Before they even leave the dock, troubles begin, and the voyage escalates into a nearly unbelieveable nightmare of violence and terror. This was a real page turner if you don't mind brutal and bloody. Written by David Poyer.

The Silent Girl, another Rizzoli and Isles novel by Tess Gerritson, is a cop novel set in Chinatown involving missing girls and ancient Chinese secrets.

Laurel Shields' doctor husband goes berserk in Third Degree, imprisons her in their home and threatens mayhem if she doesn't give him the name of her lover. Her denials serve to infuriate him more and more until he has killed his business partner and endangered all their lives, including their children. Who will rescue them? Hmmm...could it be her lover? Good one by Greg Iles.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Just a darn good read

Good characters, good writing, good plot: Betrayal of Trust by J.A. Jance. Not spectacular, just good solid cop stuff. JP Beaumont and Melissa Soames investigate the suicide of the governor's teenage ward. Jonas also uncovers details about his own father's life and family.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

On the train from Dobb's

Not a bad Kindle read: The Abduction - a 99 cent special that was a little choppy with flashbacks to Viet Nam but I liked it. Vet's granddaughter is kidnapped by military group in Idaho mountains for a complicated reason. I liked the grandfather/hero Ben Brice.

Before I Go To Sleep

Despite its current popularity, I thought this was a dumb, dumb book. Like the movie 50 First Dates, woman forgets everything when she falls asleep and must relearn her whole history every day. Her husband turns out to be an imposter, best friend did not move to New Zealand, her grown son did not die in Afghanistan. The whole plot was such a stretch it was not believable and irritating as hell to read. Author S.J. Watson. They must have paid LeHane a bundle to "like" this one.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Beach House

This novel by Jane Green got off to a promising start. I loved the first pages about Nan, the aging eccentric on Nantucket and the subsequent set up chapters about the lives of disparate people who end up together in the island community. However, the tale spiraled into a cliche-ridden drama, drama, drama with a predictable sappy ending. Too bad.

The Tattoo Artist

What a unique and poignant novel by Jill Ciment. A Jewish shopgirl falls in love with a tall, blonde, handsome avant-garde artist and becomes his protegee in the Bohemian art world of 1920's New York. When Philip loses his fortune in the crash, they embark on a South Seas adventure which leaves them stranded on a remote island. It will be 30 years before Sara is "rescued" and returns alone to a new world in which she has no place. The book details the art of primitive tattooing, its origins and meanings. It is a journey through the art world, a world war, and an intense love story. I loved it.

Michael Koryta has written a story which wanders a bit through some hard to digest plot lines that include bargaining with the devil in an isolated area called The Ridge (Blade Ridge, Kentucky). I didn't much like the devil connection but did like the big cat sanctuary and the characters. It was okay.

Scared to Death by Wendy Corsi Staub had a blurb by Jeffrey Deaver which led me to read it. The plot was a bit of a stretch, involving the biological and adoptive mothers of a boy who was kidnapped. Fifteen years have gone by and another adoption is threatened by a number of murders. This was also okay, but not great.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Story of Beautiful Girl

Aptly title novel by Rachel Simon, this was a great read about two residents of an institution in 1968, a deaf black man and a pregnant girl, who flee the horrors. Soon after taking shelter with the newly-born baby in the farmhouse of a lonely widow, the authorities find them. She is captured, the man flees and the widow hides the baby. A forty year journey through their lives.

More Chevy Stevens

Really like this author. Never Knowing is not as gripping as Still Missing, but great premise, fast read: woman searches for birth parents and finds her father was a serial killer. I'll be watching for more by this author.

Slash by David Klein
Suburban PTA mother Gwen's world erupts when she is arrested for pot possession after a car accident. Under extreme pressure, she confesses she bought the pot from an old boyfriend who later turns up dead.

Leave Reads

Something for the Pain: Compassion and Burnout in the ER by Paul Austin
Memoir by ER physician

Postcard Killers by James Patterson and somebody
Another cookie cutter by Patterson who I vowed not to read again but was desperate

The Girl's Guide to Homelessness: A memoir by Brianna Karp
Didn't like this needy woman much, hated her vulnerability to mean boyfriend

The Confession by John Grisham
This was a good one, been on my shelf for a while, capital punishment gone awry

Monday, July 4, 2011

July has been good so far

'Roid freak Erik Crandell is out of prison and out to get one of the policemen who put him there and stole his drugs. Cop Will Bennett is now off the force and working security for the LA Dodgers, clean and sober. After the death of his first child, Will is expecting another baby with wife Laurie, and must protect them and his golden retriever from the crazed parolee. East on Sunset by Ken Mercer shines a light on the LAPD in the wake of the Rampart scandals.

Fantastic story

Still Missing - I think this one was better than Emma's Room, altho similiar in plot and tone. Real estate saleswoman is abducted after an open house and held in an isolated cabin by a non-descript-appearing guy she calls The Freak. Her boyfriend, her best friend, her mom, all searching. She is beaten, raped, subjected to bizarre rituals and one unimaginable horror. Author Chevy was spot on with her descriptions, emotions, explanations, and pace setting. I truly couldn't put this down but didn't want it to be over. Amazing plotting and ending.

Marcus, a misstep?

Marcus Sakey - risen to the top of my favoirtes list. It doesn't hurt that he is young and handsome. Newest book was well worth waiting for, disappointing only in the realm of love scenes. I'm sorry, Marcus, but it soundeds like a Harlequin romance. I almost wrote him a letter. Might still.

June 28

Anna Mayhew has written a rich novel about a white Southern family with a black nanny which is reminiscent of The Help. Race relations, family relations, coming of age and death. It is a page turner, dramatic and readable and emotional. Oh, the title – The Dry Grass of August.

I am fascinated with hoarding and enjoyed Jessie Sholl’s memoir called Dirty Secret, A Daughter Comes Clean about Her Mother’s Compulsive Hoarding. Found Jessie pretty annoying.

Robert Parker, I love you, and I love the new character Zebulon Sixkill in the book of that name. Sixkill seems to be filling in for Hawk who is off on a mission someplace. Wonder if someone will take over writing Spenser now that Parker is gone. Haven’t heard anything.

O.J.’s DA Marcia Clarke is turning her hand to writing fiction and this legal thriller is obviously well researched as DA Rachel Knight investigates the murder of her pal and associate Jake Pahlmeyer in Guilt by Association. Not exactly a page turner, but worth a read.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Meeting VZandri

was an enlightening event. He spoke about ebook publishing from his vast experience with a list of successful ebooks on Amazon. I had some questions answered and enjoyed Zandri and his significant other, Gina, who is an art instructor at Saint Rose.

Reading this week included Lost by Michael Robotham (a British cop drama featuring Vincent Ruiz, who has sustained both a bullet wound and a case of amnesia about how he got shot).

J.A. Jance entertained with a good read about a cyber stalker who turns up dead with a long trail of duped women in his cyber stable. Ali tries to salvage her friend Brenda from a life of alcohol and suspicion of murder. Fatal Error.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Three Mysteries

Coming Back, a good Sharon McCone, by Marcia Muller. Sharon is recovering from a gunshot to the head and trying to get her life back with the help of the staff. Adah is kidnapped and Craig is beside himself with grief.

The Terror of Living by Urban Waite. Besides having a neat name, this author wrote a readable narrative, made interesting by the fact that the bad guy is really a pretty good guy and wins the sympathy of the sheriff pursuing him. Hey, he loves horses and he loves his wife.

On Borrowed Time by David Rosenfelt, the golden retriever guy. I think I love him. This is not an Andy/dog book but a very good stand alone novel about a guy who loses his fiancee - or, is he loseing his mind? I had a few doubts about the plot line, but really liked the story.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


The success of Unbroken led me to explore more true WWII stories and I found this one - Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff. A transport plane crashes in the wilds of New Guinea with 24 US soldiers, including WACS, aboard. The three survivors - one beautiful, injured WAC, a burned man with a vicious head wound, and a lieutenant whose twin brother died in the crash, must survive in the uncharted and inaccessible jungle, surrounded by cannibals, until they are found and rescued. Totally good one. Complete with real pictures of naked women and men with penis gourds.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Trex Recommends

Ghosts of War by Ryan Smithson, a Columbia High grad who went to Afghanistan as a 19 year old GI. Tristan really liked this and I learned from it. It was written in very simple language, explaining basic Army terms and abbreviations. Not too gory and sad in spots but not overwhelmingly so. I kept thinking it was a YA book, but it wasn't.

In return, I gave him Dave Pelzer's A Boy Called It and was very pleased that he zipped right through it. It is such a great story. He is now readinga Walter Dean Myers' war story about Fallujah which I brought him from the lib.

Joyce recommended a YA book that I also liked: Revolver by Marcus Sedgewick. Set at the turn of the century in Alaska, a teen must cope with the freezing death of his father and a murderous stranger who invades their small isolated home in the wilds.

Finally finished Love is the Best Medicine, a vet's story by Dr. Nick Trout. Sort of a "pick up and read a little now and then" kind of dog book.

I attempted to read Lisa Scottoline's bestseller Save Me and found it totally insipid, bad dialogue, improbable situations, unlikeable characters. A popcorn read for the brain dead. I abandoned it.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Mem Day Reading - two

Emily, Alone reinforces Stewart O'Nan creds as a master storyteller, one who takes an unfortunate backseat to such popular less talented writers such as Grisham. O'Nan has a unique ability to expound on subjects he couldn't possibly have experienced (as in a woman's perspective) as he does in this novel of an aging widow. It is a timely study as we Boomers are approaching this stage of our lives and excellently done.

I also read a little known nonfict account called Death in the Barrens by George Grinnell who, as a college student in the 50's completed a horrific, ill-fated canoe trip across Northern Canada. Not particularly well written but nevertheless very readable, I enjoyed it.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Albany, O Albany

I always like novels set in the Capital District and this is no exception, made especially desirable by the fact that author Vincent Zandri will be here at the library in June. Zandri's new protagonist in the Concrete Pearl (yes, downtown Albany, Pearl Street)is Ava "Spike" Harrison, a tough-as-nails female construction company owner, battling to save her late father's business in the face of an asbestos scandal and murders. I love the references to the area - APL, Miss Albany Diner, etc., and the presence in the story of Tess and the Lark Tavern. Intend to ask how a writer goes about fictionalizing a real person, name and all. Permission? I read this on my Kindle and was distressed by the grammatical errors. Who to blame for that? I am eager to meet Vincent and ask some questions.

A Drop of the Hard Stuff

Sometimes I wish I drank alcohol becuase I find this title particularly attractive. It is a Matt Scudder novel and a good one, as he approached his first year sober and finds him enmeshed in a complicated and threatening multiple killer investigation. Lawrence Block is a dependable writer and I like Scudder.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Not spectacular

what the night knows - Dean Koontz Too supernatural for me. Cop and family assailed by the presence of a long-dead killer.
Crunch Time - Diane Mott Davidson Same old, same old.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Easy Reads for a Hard Week

Sandra Brown is always a reliable storyteller and she came through with tough customer which was easy to get in and out of as I suffered from insomia and worried about my nephew. It was not only a killer/stalker tale, it was a neat love story with some echoes of my own life in it.

i'd know you anywhere is told in flashbacks, a technique I'm not fond of. The situation is: Elizabeth, kidnapped at 15, held for 6 weeks, released by abductor who has previously killed his victims. Twenty years passes, name change, marriage, two kids, Elizabeth starts recieving communications from the incarcerated killer. And, for reasons which the author (Laura Lippman) attempts to explain, the victim responds. I was not thrilled with this book on several levels.

However, I am pretty happy with Rebecca James' Beautiful Malice, although it also was told in flashbacks. A psychopathic "friend" exploits a young woman's guilt over the rape and murder of her younger sister. This "friend" is truly frightening and wrecks havoc in many lives. Read this in a matter hours. Can't find any more by this author, but I'll be watching.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Boys of the Dark

Unbelievable true story of the Florida School for Boys in Marianna, FL - a house of horrors where children from 6 - 17 were hogtied, handcuffed, flogged, raped and murdered from its inception in 1900 through the 2000's. Many people were aware of what was happening there and no one cared enough to expose it and put a stop to it. Eventually the hidden graves of over 30 nameless boys were discovered in a nearby woods. This book was the collaboration of Robin Gaby Fisher and two of the survivors who were finally able to confront the impact their incarceration there as children had on their lives. A group of these men became known as the White House Boys, finally met, and were acknowledged as the victims of terrible atrocities for which no one was ever prosecuted.

See also my review of The Bone Yard, the fiction account which started me researching this story. (April 11 post)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


This is a really weird story by Karen Russell. I got halfway through it, decided to abandon, then kept reading. Swamplandia is an alligator wrestling park owned by the Bigtree family who are not real Seminoles, but talked themselves into believing they are. Grandpa is in a home, mom who swims with alligators dies young, the tourists stop coming, son Kiwi runs off to the mainland, as does the Chief who just leaves his two girls alone on this creepy island in the Everglades where the 16 year old falls in love with a ghost and the younger one traipses off with a Bird Man to the underworld to look for her sister. Strangely engaging.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Fourth Day

Charlie Fox' love life is beginning to resemble that of Meredith and Derek on Grey's Anatomy and it is annoying me. If she and Sean don't stop this on again/off again business, I'm going to stop reading. Charlie is too riddled with issues. Zoe Sharp produces a very readable story, but there was something amiss in it for me that I can't quite put my finger on. It was refreshing that the "cult" leader Bane was not portrayed as a total wacko, but the character was not totally believable; the same could be said for truly heartless government agent, not that I have a problem believing in government evil. I always get confused with complicated double agents/double talk/double plots and this was like that.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mystery - not

Jonathan Kellerman has made a little too much "mystery" out of this mystery. The plot turns out to be a little far-fetched and not that interesting. Starts off nicely with Alex and Robin on a date night at an old hotel/nightclub and is very readable until the end disappoints. Milo reigns.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Smith's Tavern Contest

Florida Catch Up

Did a lot of Florida reading on vacation, all on my Kindle, which proved a trusty traveling companion. I finished Unbroken (see separate post),The 7th Victim by Alan Jacobson, and Baltimore Blues by Laura Lippman. Jacobson was a new author for me and one I would read again. Lippman came through with a very good Tess Monoghan story.

Castle and Cannell

I expressed my deep sorrow over the death of Stephen Cannell last fall and was delighted this week to hear him mentioned on the TV show Castle. Cannell made regular cameos on the show at Castle's Thursday night writer's poker game, whose players were Michael Connolly, James Patterson, Dennis Lehane, Cannell and Richard Castle. When a new writer attempted to take the empty seat at the game, Connolly informed him that was Cannell's chair and no one could sit in it (for at least one year). Made me smile.

Night Vision - Randy Wayne White

Doc Ford is not normally a really exciting type of guy. This episode in his laid back Sanibel life proves to be loaded with extreme characters, and reveals more of the marine biologist's tough-guy background than ever before. Much of the book is about the "bad" guy Harris Squires, a 'roid rage bodybuilder who cooks meth and feeds dead bodies to his pet alligator. When Harris disappears with a twelve-year-old Guatemalan refugee who channels Joan of Arc, Ford's hippie friend Tomlinson urges their involvement in finding the girl. But...does she need rescueing?

Monday, April 11, 2011


Totally mindblowing non-fiction by Laura Hillenbrand. See Best Books entry.

The FIfth Witness

I waited a long time for my name to come up on the list for this Michael Conolly courtroom drama starring Mickey Haller, Bosch's half brother.. Enjoyed every minute of it.

The Bone Yard

It is amazing the amount of stuff I've learned from fiction books. This one by Jefferson Bass led me investigate the Florida Home for Boys, which was a real facility on the FL panhandle with a long history of abuse and murder of the young men in it's charge. I visited the webpage and found it crammed with accounts of this notorious institution. The book itself is a total page-turner.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

TIck Tock

Mike Bennett. Cop. Widower. 10 kids, all adopted, one Irish nanny with whom he is falling in love, Irish grandfather. From his "vacation" on Long Island, Mike is running back and forth to Manhattan to deal with a sick, sick killer who is re-creating famous crimes of the past. Other complications include the arrival of his old romantic interest from the FBI and a family of bullies who are terrorizing his kids. Short chapters, likeable characters, fast moving, but not a deep read. Typical James Patterson who I keep vowing to stop reading.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Night Season

Kirkus is calling Chelsea Cain “the new queen of serial killer fiction” and I agree. Archie Sheridan remains the hero cop in this timely drama of the Willamette River flooding Portland, first uncovering, then complicating, the search for a man who kills in a weird and unusual way. I won't gvie it away but it is pretty scary. Archie’s friend Henry becomes the victim of an attack, as does pink-haired Susan the young reporter whose relationship with the older cop seems to be developing. Also entangled in the story is the appearance of a kidnapped boy and some survivors of a 1948 flood which wiped out most of another Wasington town. It is a great page-turner which wraps up all the loose ends in a satisfying manner.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Exit Through the Gift Shop

This movie about street art was more enjoyable to me than Basquiat which I watched recently. The sensation generated by Thierry Guetta, a French filmaker who decided to become a graffitti artist, included the participation of Shepard Fairey who created the now famous Obama image and Banksy, the reclusive Brit whose work I love.

The Cat Dancers
P.J. Deuterman conjured up an out of the ordinary plot involving a conspiracy of men who set about rectifying the errors made by the justice system. Deputy Cam Richter ends up in the middle of it when his ex-wife, a judge, is murdered and he suspects his friend and co-worker Kenny Cox is part of the group. The cat dancers? Well, that's another whole aspect to the story which leads to an exciting denouement. Think mountain lions. And German Shepards.

The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog by Bruce Perry (PhD.)
These are case histories from the shrink who debriefed the children of Waco, and others.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

My Thoughts on Kindle

I am currently loading up my Kindle with reading material to go to Florida. I can hardly imagine not having to lug an extra sack full of paperbacks on vacation. That alone is worth the price of the ereader. I probably won't have to recharge either as the battery seems to last a long time, 'tho I will try to remember to bring the charger. I only have the less expensive ($139) version, which is totally adequate as long as you are in a WiFi zone for the downloading.

I have subscribed to a free newsletter that brings me daily links to the latest free or very cheap book releases. Most of what I download is from Amazon, which is okay with with me because it is a very slick but useful and simple system.

When I first started using a Kindle, I sat in astonishment, watching as I chose a book (from Amazon)and saw it appear on the reader in the space of - oh, 30 seconds? It is truly amazing to me. One of my very first downloads was a favorite from 50 years ago - Seventeen by Booth Tarkington, which I reread immediately with such joy. I have paid the top rate (approx. 9.99 - 12.99) for only three purchases, a Jeffrey Deaver, a Michael Connolly and a Dennis Lehane, all of which were brand new and I really wanted. New releases are naturally priced up (still 1/2 the cost of hardcovers) and stay that way for a long time, altho another great bestseller, Water for Elephants, I saw recently discounted to $5. Note: jump on those free offers, as they are subject to change eventually. I downloaded a medical thriller which I see is now $2.99.

There is an abundance of free poetry from all the old standards (Whitman, Dickinson, Blake, etc); also thousands of classics - mine include The Call of the Wild, some Frederick Douglass and Mark Twain, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (another re-readable old favorite). And, a dictionary, a foreign language phrase book, and a Bible, all free. I even have tattoo books, complete with pictures (a word here - the color Nook is very nice, I have seen it, but not worth the considerable added expense as far as I am concerned. I just want the words, right?). Word games and puzzles are also frequently offered free; I have Scrabble, of course, although I don't often play as I'd rather read, but it's there if I want it.

I have discovered a number of good indie authors such as Vincent Zandri(Albany area crime writer - check him out)thru the reader's comments and recommendations, downloading only those with 4 1/2 or 5 stars. Always look to see how many reviews the rating is based on - a five star review is meaningless if three of the author's friends have sent in the comments. I balance this out with the publisher's plot description, being careful to look for buzz words such as "Christian", vampire, paranormal and "erotic", and I avoid anything that hints of silly romance. I am a die-hard true crime afficiando, with crime fiction a close second, and there is an abundance of this material readily accessible.

I now have 120 items downloaded with the one-click system (you need to set up an account on Amazon). The vast majority of these were free or 99 cents. You receive an email confirmation of your downloads and then the charges, if any, appear on your credit card.

As for the device itself, it does complicated things, setting up categories and lists, highlighting phrases, looking up words, keeping any notes you want to make. It does things I haven't even explored yet. The type size is adjustable for us old people and even without a backlight, there is no problem with seeing the screen. Inveterate bed-reader that I am, this has become a breeze, easy to hold and page turn and it goes to sleep by itself if I fall asleep first.

I have resisted buying the overly expensive protective covers, choosing instead to slide it into a flat, cloth zippered bag that I tie-dyed years ago, just to protect it from scratches in my purse and hopefully sand on the beach; I'll be testing that out soon. The artist in me desired a "skin", a thin adhesive veneer available in a multitude of colorful designs which sticks easily on the surface of the reader and makes it look attractive, if that is important to you. Mine is an exotic black and orange art deco design.

I wrote this because I have been asked so many questions about Kindles. Ereaders are taking over the publishing world and (I'm afraid) are the libraries of the future. Yes, I love the feel of a book in my hand, but, truly this is a wonderful innovation.

March 2011

Friday, March 4, 2011

Just Kids

Truth told, I skipped chunks of this Patti Smith memoir for lack of time, but found it very readable and revealing. Her relationship with Robert Maplethorpe was poetic, strange and enduring.

Another Sheldon Russell

HOUSE RULES by Jodi Picoult
An 18-year-old with Asperger’s syndrome is arrested for murder. For those like me who are unfamiliar with AS this story is an enlightening introduction to it. Told chapter by chapter from the viewpoints of Jacob, Emma his mother, Theo his brother, Oliver his lawyer and Richard the detective, it is a skillful and interesting portrait. It also leaves you hanging until the last page.

THE YARD DOG by Sheldon Russell
This is a follow up (actually a previous) book to The Insane Train. I really liked Hook and his colorful companions. There is a new girlfriend and a likeable moonshiner in this one involving the grisly train murder of a friend. Hook investigates the nearby camp housing German prisoners of war for the answers.

GONE by Mo Hayder
A car jacking becomes an abduction when police realize that the young girl sitting in the back seat has been targeted, and it turns out that she is not the first. Detective Jack Caffery and police diver Flea Marley are working to solve this series of deadly crimes, while Flea is trying to protect secrets of her own.

CUT by Cathy Glass
True tale of a young British couple with their first foster child, a thirteen-year-old with desperate problems.

THE SENTRY by Robert Crais
This was an excellent book. Joe Pike and Elvis Costello are one of the best working teams in the crime world. Their friendship is extraordinary and I get a kick out of the idea that Pike is invincible. In this one he loses his guarded heart to a con artist in the middle of a multimillion dollar drug scheme.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Insane Train

THE INSANE TRAIN by Sheldon Russell
I admit I read this one because I loved the title. Turned out to be a good choice. Hook (yes, he wears a prosthesis) Runyon is a yard dog, a railroad detective who lives in a caboose in a railyard in Needles, CA, and has trouble staying out of trouble himself. After a deadly fire at a mental institution, Hook is assigned to oversee the transport of the surviving patients, including some criminally insane and extremely dangerous, to an empty facility in Oklahoma. A headstrong hound dog, a freckled nurse, a prostitute and a few WWII vets/hobos add to the flavor of this top notch 1940s tale.

I am now reading at least four books, all moderately interesting, none of which is enthralling me.

Just got ILLed the Mark Twain bio. Good Lord, it is humungous and tiny type. Not gonna bother. Too many books, too little time.

The Color of Lightening

***THE COLOR OF LIGHTNING by Paulette Jiles
Excellent post Civil War fact-based story of Britt Johnson, a black man whose family was captured by the Kiowa. This was one of Suzanne’s book discussion picks and it was very, very good.

A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY by Lauren Grodstein
Another good one involving two families whose friendship is derailed when Pete’s son falls in love with Joe’s daughter, the daughter who murdered her newborn and left it in a bathroom.

THE BRAVE by Nicholas Evans
Close to a popcorn book, with a mostly predictable plot , this is rescued by a couple of shocking twists, present to past timing leaps and a good storyteller. Tommy starts the story as a cowboy-obsessed English lad and grows into the role of father of a young serviceman accused of horrible war crimes in Iraq. Not heavy-duty, but worth reading.

**ROSE IN A STORM by Jon Katz
Katz lives on a farm in upstate New York and has written many books, fiction and non, about his life with dogs. Rose is a remarkable dog and Katz demonstrates a remarkable ability to get inside her head and think dog thoughts. Rose’s “work” is herding and when a monster snowstorm hits and her farmer is injured, Rose must care for the animals on her own. A wonderful story.

NAKED CRUELTY by Colleen McCullough
Suddenly remember this name as the author of The Thorn Birds (many years ago) and was surprised to see it was the same woman. This book not even close in quality. This is a police story, a strange mix of English/Australian spellings and phrases in an American setting. It is a mixup of several crimes and departmental politics without delving deeply into any of it.

Myths and Misconceptions of the English Language


TILL I END MY SONG: A Gathering of Last Poems edited by Harold Bloom
Good short bios of all the writers along with one poem from each.

Finishing out the year with 100

Made it to the century mark for 2010.

PAINTED LADIES by Robert Parker
Spenser dialogue kills again. Parker’s the best. But Hawk is missing.

****EMMA’S ROOM by Emma Donoghue
Excellent. Fascinating. Different approach to an unusual situation. Mostly related through the eyes of a five-year-boy who has never experienced the world outside the garden shed where he has been imprisoned with his young mother since before his birth.

SANTA FE EDGE by Stuart Woods
This was a little confusing because of all the hopping around the country on private planes with pilots named Bart and Teddy and Todd. Also, all the bad guys got away with a lot of clever stuff and were left unpunished. No main protagonist to root for.

MOONLIGHT MILES by Dennis LeHane (Kindle)
Lehane doesn’t disappoint. Patrick and Angie going on with their lives.

This is the hiker who chopped off his arm.

BROKEN by Karen Slaughter
Will Trent again. A dyslexic FBI agent?

by Gary Small and Gigi Vorgan
A psychiatrist’s stories of his most bizarre cases. Interesting final story on his mentor whose 183 IQ is assaulted by Alz.

SECRET HISTORIAN by Justin Spring (Life and times of Samuel Steward)
Huge book, quite fascinating, very sexual (homo-), but slow read. May buy it.

DEATH ON THE D-LIST by Nancy Grace
Much like her tv show, blah.

THE EDGE by Jeffery Deaver (Kindle)
Board gamer Corte plays deadly mind games with a heavy “lifter”, determined to kidnap and torture a police officer for information.

PRETTY LITTLE THINGS by Jilliane Hoffman
This was more than good. A cyberspace monster trolling for girls on the internet, kidnapping, murder and a FDLE agent with a missing teenage daughter. Solid read.


I returned a lot of stuff unread or partially read today. Is it me or is it the writers?

FULL DARK, NO STARS by Stephen King
Short stories which I liked in varying degrees. King is a master of observing the human condition.

IN THE DARK by Brian Freeman
Jonathan Stride takes a sentimental, and torturous, journey through his youth and marriage, recreating the 30 year-old murder of his late wife’s sister. Too many suspects, too much pain. Good one.

the last time I saw you by Elizabeth Berg
Berg (who I met many years ago at a reading she did in Albany), author of Talk Before Sleep and other good ones, comes through again in her thoughtful way. Great characterization, reflections on life, at the approach of a 40-year class reunion. I have to be in the mood for Berg, but when I am she doesn’t disappoint.

Seems fitting that I should end the year with the final book from Tapply, who has been a consistently reliable writer of engaging stories. It is the last Brady Coyne novel and it was a good one as the lawyer addresses the murder of an old friend, but leaving unresolved the conflicts in his love life.