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.

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.