Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Missing Child

Fiction by Patricia MacDonald.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/

Caitlin has a secret from her past that she doesn't want her husband to know, but when their six-year-old son disappears, it starts to come out!

This was an exciting thriller with a surprise ending.


Saturday, October 13, 2018

Mama Might Be Better Off Dead

Subtitled: The Failure of Health Care in Urban America
Nonfiction by Laurie Kaye Abraham.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com

Published in 1994, this story of the "failure of health care in urban America" is a bit out of date. Still, I doubt the health care system today is markedly better, to be honest.

There are so many factors involved in health care legislation that I wonder if it's even possible to "fix" it at this point. The health insurance system alone (both public and private) is a money and power giant that I don't see caving anytime soon to being streamlined or regulated.

So in a way, reading this book was kind of a waste of my time, if we are talking about finding a way to actually solve this huge problem that's been growing for oh-these-many-years. In general, this is why I dislike "political" books: they spend pages and pages on The Problem without ever offering a viable solution.

But what interested me in picking up this book in the first place was the story of a family. The author followed a specific "poor" family in Chicago with chronic health problems (the husband had kidney failure, the old grandmother has uncontrolled diabetes, the father was also disabled, and the poor woman had to take care off all of them while raising three kids) and reported on how they personally navigated the convoluted setup of public health care. So I was interested in learning about these people and their lives.

The thing that struck me while reading this was, although the Health Care System is a problem I can't by any means solve, or even really understand, it was  individual people who really made a difference in this family's lives. There was mentioned one doctor, one social worker, and one intern in the sea of health care workers that this family had to deal with who genuinely tried to connect and care as best they could. And interestingly, these were described as religious people, including an Orthodox Jew and  Catholic nun.

So I'm taking that as inspiration when face with The Unsolvable: just to do what I can to care and connect with people.

I'm pretty sure that's not the point the author intended, but...

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Mrs. Pollifax Pursued

Fiction by Dorothy Gilman.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com

This is book number eleven in the Mrs. Pollifax series; I just found it at the library book sale and remembered how I'd enjoyed the Mrs. Pollifax books in the past. I got the next couple of books in the series to read too.

These are fun mysteries about an old lady who goes to work for the CIA, with her only (seeming) advantage being that she is last type of person one would expect might be a spy. Start with book #1 if you are interested, The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax.

I also read by this author: Mrs. Pollifax and the Second Thief


Saturday, October 6, 2018

You

Fiction by Caroline Kepnes.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com
This was a dark thriller that was a little TOO dark for me.

The plot was compelling and the characters well-written, but I didn't like them at all. It's pretty obvious from the beginning, so I don't think it's a spoiler to say this a stalker story. It's written from the point of view of the psycho-predator-guy, so the reader gets way into his head (again, a little TOO dark), but it's hard to identify with him, or even with his victim(s).

It's a good enough book, but I didn't really like it. Still, I can't give a thumbs-down if it kept my attention so... well...

I also read recently by this author: Providence

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Peril at End House

Fiction by Agatha Christie.


https://www.barnesandnoble.com

This book, first published in 1932, was next on my list of Agatha Christie's mysteries in order. On b&n.com, it is listed as #8 in the Hercule Poirot series. I guess at this point Mrs. Christie had decided that she was stuck with continuing to write the Poirot character, after her attempt to retire him in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

This is one of her best Poirot stories, in my opinion, because he takes so long to arrive at the solution to the mystery. (In most books he seems to have everything figured out right away, and spends most of the book sneering at everyone for not knowing the answers.)

I have previously read this book, recently enough to be able remember who the murderer was before I was halfway finished, but the story is still very good.

I recently read by this author: The Sittaford Mystery

Monday, October 1, 2018

The Secrets She Keeps

Fiction by Michael Robotham,

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/
This story is told through the points of view of two London women, both expecting a baby around the same time. Meg is a mummy blogger with two young children and a "perfect" home and husband. Agatha is a supermarket stock girl who idolizes Meg and her family. The reader can tell there is something wrong about Agatha's interest in Meg, but the plot twists are pretty surprising!

I won't give anything away; just read it! Great book!


Sunday, September 30, 2018

Carissa's Law

Fiction by Misty Boyd.



https://www.barnesandnoble.com

What do you know about spina bifida? I didn't know much. What I was pretty sure I knew was (a) it's caused by lack of folic acid in the mother' diet during pregnancy, and (b) babies born with it usually die soon after birth or are in a permanent near-vegetative state.

Well, this book didn't address the folate deficiency thing, and wikipedia agrees that it is a risk factor but not necessarily a cause. So I was partly right about (a). But I was quite wrong about (b)!

This novel was actually written by a woman with spina bifida. The story is about an 18-year-old girl with the condition who uses a wheelchair and has some medical troubles, but is otherwise just like any other girl of her age: going to college, trying to be independent from her parents, and meeting boys she'd like to date.

I enjoyed reading about a character who is different from myself and realizing how alike we all really are. Also, I learned a few things about dealing with a disability that I'd never thought of before. For example: When able-bodied people take up the only handicapped stall in a public restroom, it's pretty upsetting to a person who uses a wheelchair, especially if there are regular stalls open. I'm trying to remember not to do that in the future!

Anyways, this was a nice story and a quick read.


Friday, September 28, 2018

The Second Silence

Fiction by Eileen Goudge.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com

Mary Jeffers has a shotgun wedding and a baby daughter by the age of seventeen. But these are not the things she ends up regretting at almost fifty.

This was an interesting character story with some romance and suspense.


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

How to Stop Time

Fiction by Matt Haig.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com

In this story, the main character is over 400 years old, but looks about mid-thirties. He's not exactly immortal, but it's pretty close to that. The book has a plausible explanation but I won't go into that any further because....

The important thing here is that this is a great story! Like the movie The Highlander, this book makes you think about what it would be like to live on after everyone you know and love is dead. The scene in that movie with the song, "Who Wants to Live Forever" sung by Queen, still breaks my heart when the immortal Connor calls for his wife and she comes up the path, suddenly older, while he still looks just the same.


But I digress.

Anyways, this story does a great job of making such a strange concept seem real This is a great book!


Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Sittaford Mystery

Fiction by Agatha Christie.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com

I haven't visited my Agatha Christie list for a while, But I hadn't forgotten about re-reading all her books in order through audiobook.

This one is a classic non-detective story, by which I mean there is no Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple here to show everyone how clever they are and you AREN'T. There is only a regular policeman with the help of a regular person to solve this mystery.

Great book!! I actually remembered who the murderer was at the beginning (from previous reading) and still enjoyed the story!

I also read recently by this author: Murder at the Vicarage

Sunday, September 23, 2018

The Other Woman

Fiction by Sandie Jones.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com

Emily thinks she's found the perfect man in her fiance Adam, except for one problem: his mother is a complete psycho.

This is not a spoiler; it's obvious from the book jacket.

The surprise is HOW psycho the woman is, and WHY.....

It's an exciting read, but I was unsure if I completely buy the ending. Still a pretty good book!



Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Last Hours

Fiction by Minette Walters.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com

This novel is set in 14th century England at the outbreak of the black plague. Although that sounds like a terrible place to put a story, I really enjoyed this book, mostly because the author manages not to kill off everyone you like. The plot was very good and the characters were believable.

The only problem was, apparently this story is just an opening to a series, and the book ended with"to be continued..." Grrr.


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Wife

Fiction by Alafair Burke.


https://www.barnesandnoble.com/

Now THIS is actually the "psychological thriller" it claimed to be.

It starts out with Angela, who is apparently standing by her husband, although he's being accused of some kind of assault. She's a tightly controlled character, hyper-focused on her son and her perfect homelife; it's not surprising at first how loyal she is to him, and what her reactions are. Still, as the story unfolds, we get more and more layers of information about her and her relationships and it gets really interesting. By the end, the story packed in so many surprises I was practically yelling WOW!

This is en exciting read!


Saturday, September 15, 2018

Armada

Fiction by Ernest Cline.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com

I recently read Ready Player One by this author, and it was really good, despite being basically a giant gamer fantasy. (I am not a gamer, and usually find those sorts of things kind of lame.)

This book was also a giant gamer fantasy, but it was not nearly as good as Ready Player One. However, it was not completely lame either. The characters were good and the story turned out to hold together rather well, but I thought it had too many fantasy battle sequences, which I would unfortunately call lame. Have you seen that scene in "The Big Bang Theory" where Leonard, Sheldon, Raj, and Howard are all playing a fantasy game together?

(https://www.youtube.com/)

There were a bunch of scenes like that, where the reader is supposed to think these dues are cool and saving the world and all, but really I just kept picturing a bunch of nerds in some basement on their laptops.

Besides that, this was a good book. And if you're into gamer stuff, you might not even have to skim those parts...


Friday, September 14, 2018

Night Over Water

Fiction by Ken Follett.


https://www.barnesandnoble.com

Did you know that, just before World War Two, they used to have flying boats? Apparently these were huge, luxurious, passenger seaplanes that could fly over the Atlantic, London to New York, in about thirty hours. This sounds like a fabulous way to travel.

This story is of a fictional flight of one of those actual planes, taking off right as England declared war on Germany. It carefully follows several passengers and one crewman in the events leading up to the journey and on the long flight itself.

As usual, Ken Follett's characters are a joy to read about, and the history seems to come alive. This story also had a large element of suspense. It's a really great book!


I also read recently by this author: A Dangerous Fortune.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Providence

Fiction by Caroline Kepnes.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com
In this story, a 13-year-old boy called Jon is cutting through the woods on the way to school, a route he takes to avoid bullies. Even though he is semi-secret close-friends with Chloe, a popular girl who hangs out with the bullying boys, he is still routinely victimized by the boys while she fails to intervene. Then he disappears.

Oddly enough, the bullies are not to blame. No one knows (or seems to care much, with the exception his parents and Chloe) where he is, until he suddenly reappears four years later, and he comes back changed. He's different, and I mean in a Pet Sematary kind of way that I can't explain without a major spoiler. The rest of the story deals mostly with his continuing relationship with Chloe, a girl he seems forever linked to through what seems a combination of her guilt and his obsession.

I really liked this book at the beginning because the characters were so real and engaging, and that continued throughout the reading (with the addition of a police detective who was equally well-drawn), but I became more and more troubled by what was happening in the story. I like a complicated plot that I can eventually figure out, and I don't mind weird unexplained elements that eventually get explained or resolved somehow, but this book did not manage to get the resolution on track. I found the ending very unsatisfying.

Still, it held my attention and engaged my emotions. I'm still giving a qualified thumbs-up.


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

They're Not Your Friends

Fiction by Irene Zutell.


https://www.barnesandnoble.com/

This book should have been a fun read; it's basically about celebrity gossip writers. It had some fun elements and funny bits, but I had some trouble enjoying it.

The main characters are Lottie, a underpaid gossip-writing genius; Lem, a used-to-be-great gossip writer on his way out of a job; and Mike, an overpaid, neurotic guy who couldn't write his way out of a gossip paper bag. They were all well-written and realistic characters, but I couldn't properly like them, and I wasn't sure who to root for. I think the story got to heavy for the light reading it was supposed to be.

I'm not sure what rating to give this one.


Saturday, September 1, 2018

Tailspin

Fiction by Sandra Brown.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com

This was an exciting story about a (handsome and dashing male) pilot and a (beautiful and sexy female) doctor. You can guess where that storyline is going...

But the plot still has plenty of surprising twists. It was a fun read!

I also read recently by this author: Sting


Monday, August 27, 2018

Ready Player One

Fiction by Ernest Cline.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com
This book was way better than I expected.

I saw the trailer for the recently-released movie based on this book and thought it looked like a lame concept: the guy who was best at video games could rule the world? Please! That sounded like a gamer fantasy on steroids. Oh, yeah sure, LOSER. Your lonely joystick-gripping "skills" could really pay off in the apocalyptic future. A story only for geeks, I thought.

And, to be honest, the story is one giant gamer fantasy, but it is so cleverly written that I loved it anyways.

It's definitely worth reading.

Oh, and listening to it on audiobook, read by Will Wheaton, was even better. Maybe I'm a bit of a geek after all...


Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Long Drop

Fiction by Denise Mina.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com

This was based on a true story about "Scotland's first serial killer." I didn't realize that at first; if I had I might not have chosen to read it. It was pretty grim.

The author does a good job of humanizing and filling out the characters so the reader can understand them and their motivations. This made the story interesting to read, but in the end it was still rather a terrible story. True crime is not my favorite genre because real serial killers are not the Evil Geniuses of fiction, or even the Poor Tortured Souls they imagine themselves to be. They are just rotten grubby criminals, and boring in their own way.

Still, I'll give this book a passable thumbs-up for holding my attention.

I also read by this author: Blood Salt Water


Thursday, August 23, 2018

Suicide Club

Fiction by Rachel Heng.


https://www.barnesandnoble.com

This was a strange book about a futuristic society where people can live practically forever... if they have enough money. So those who can't afford expensive life-extending treatments are called "sub-100's," because the poor slobs can't live past 100.

In the opening chapter, Lea, the main character, is a "Lifer" celebrating her hundredth birthday while still looking a perfectly preserved twenty-five. But as the story progresses, she starts to see the darker side of her society's worship of youth and health, and finds out about the existence of an underground "suicide club" that rebels against the norm.

As a social commentary, this was an interesting book, but the story was not quite right in some way. A review on barnesandnoble.com called this an "uneven"debut novel, and I think that's probably a decent assessment.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

If I Could Turn Back Time



Fiction by Beth Harbison.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com

I don't think I have mentioned before that book titles often remind me of songs, and when they do, I have the song in question stuck in my head for almost the entire time I'm reading the book.

Perhaps you can guess the song this title brings to mind? Yes, I've spent the past couple of days setting my face into a jutting Cher-jaw and singing, "Uh-if Ah could TURN back Tii-Um!"

Image result for cher if i could turn back time
image from wikipedia.com
But I digress.

In this story, 38-year-old Ramie gets a chance to go back to being 18-year-old Ramie, to see if she would change any of her life choices. Or so it appears.

This is an idea that interests me greatly; I think one of my favorite movies is Back to the Future, because I love the part where George McFly changes everything with that one punch to Biff's face. It's a cool concept. I like time travel stories a lot... BUT...

There is one problem: the story does have to make sense within its own set of rules. For example, I can buy that Christopher Lloyd's character built a time machine out of a Delorian within the confines of that story, since he's a wacky inventor with access to plutonium, and he is set up that way from the beginning. I can buy that the guy in The Time Traveler's Wife (by Audrey Niffenegger) randomly and uncontrollably time travels within the confines of that story, because he lives in a world where there are such people, and again he's doing it from the beginning.

But this story seems to take place in the real world, with regular people having a party for Ramie's 38th birthday, and then she suddenly wakes up the next day on her 18th birthday. Well, I could just barely buy that one at first, but when she time-jumps again for no reason later in the story, my willing suspension of disbelief began to erode a bit.

Still, I will say that the author DID come up with an explanation at the end, although I didn't necessarily like the explanation.

All of this to say,, this book was good but not great.


Monday, August 20, 2018

Clock Dance

Fiction by Anne Tyler.


https://www.barnesandnoble.com

I really love Anne Tyler's characters. They are so REAL. I hate to finish any of her books and say good-bye to them.

This book was no exception; the main character was a wonderfully drawn and relatable woman called Willa whom the reader follows from 1967-2017.

This book was not as perfect as some other I've read by the author; for one thing I didn't feel the title was a good fit. Also I did not really like the ending because I felt it was too abrupt, but that may be just my separation anxiety from Anne Tyler's characters talking.

But obviously I'm nit-picking here, because I have such high expectations.


I also read recently by this author: Vinegar Girl

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Final Detail

Fiction by Harlan Coben.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com

This book is number six in the Myron Bolitar series. I have been breaking my I-Must-Read-A-Book-Series-In-Order rule with these books big-time, so I have trouble keeping up with what is actually happening with Bolitar's character. (This is because I read #11 first, a fabulous book called Home.)

Anyways, I liked this book better than numbers #1, #2, #3, and #5 that came before it. (I missed number 4 completely it seems.) The Bolitar character gets better in the later books, which is very unusual.

In this story, Myron's close friend and business partner Esperanza is accused of murder, and she just might have done it!


I read most recently by this author: Live Wire (Bolitar #10), Long Lost (Bolitar #9) Promise Me (Bolitar #8)

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Rules for a Pretty Woman

Fiction by Suzette Francis.


https://www.barnesandnoble.com

This was about a woman who, at age 34, finally decides to take charge of her own life instead of letting a man dictate everything to her. After the man in question dumps her, of course.

Image result for rules for a pretty womanAt first I was a little leery of this premise because I didn't want to read about a female character who was a complete pushover. But it turns out that this lady was an accomplished professional and generally not an idiot; she just had a blind spot when it came to boyfriends. It was a good story.

Also, on a completely unrelated note,  I liked the cover of the copy I read a little better:-->