Monday, May 20, 2019

A Thousand Naked Strangers

Subtitled: A Paramedic's Wild Ride to the Edge and Back
Nonfiction by Kevin Hazzard

Obviously I picked this book just for the clever title.

I've done this before, and sometimes the book isn't quite as clever as the title; however, this book definitely was.

This book was full of funny stories about crazy things, and also managed to show the reader a little of the author's journey through life and what he learned. I recommend this one!

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Dogs of Babel

Fiction by Carolyn Parkhurst.

Linguistics professor Paul's wife Lexy dies unexpectedly from a fall while at home alone with the couple's dog, a Rhodesian ridgeback called Lorelei. The police are satisfied that Lexy's death is an accident, but Paul becomes obsessed with finding out what really happened. He is convinced that Lorelei can tell him, and takes a sabbatical from work to focus exclusively on animal communication  research. Basically, he begins to spend all his time trying to get a dog to talk.

His colleagues are convinced he's gone off the deep end in his grief, and it may well be so. But the reader can't help but wonder: What if it's possible? Maybe dogs can talk, if we listen hard enough.

This was a very interesting character story.

I also read by this author: Harmony

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Darkest Fear

Fiction by Harlan Coben.

This is #7 from the Myron Bolitar Series (see The Final Detail for the others I've read, all out of order). In this story, Myron is trying to find a missing bone marrow donor in order to save a thirteen-year-old boy who might be his own son.

Yeah, I know. That's a weird premise, isn't it? But somehow the story works, and you'll never guess where it's going to go...

I also read recently by this author: Run Away

Monday, May 13, 2019

Red Queen

YA Fiction by Victoria Aveyard.

The characters in this story occupy a universe where humanity is divided into two groups: Reds and Silvers. Reds are regular people like us, and they are basically a slave race, born to serve the Silvers. Silvers are not only richer and more privileged than Reds, they also have almost supernatural abilities that set them apart: some have incredible strength, or superhuman speed, or magical healing ability. But the main thing that sets the two races apart is their blood. While the Reds, like regular humans, have red blood in flowing in their veins, the Silvers have... can you guess? Silver blood! It's not clear if they evolved from humans or if they are aliens or what, and I guess it's not important to the story.

Anyways, background aside, the story focuses on a young Red girl called Mare who is destined to somehow rise into the Silver world. It's a pretty good story, and it's only the beginning in this book. I'm not sure if I want to commit to the rest of the series, however. The characters din't quite grab me as much as I'd like. Still, it was exciting.

Friday, May 10, 2019

The Book That Matters Most

Fiction by Ann Hood.

Ava's husband Jim has just left her for another woman after some twenty-five years together. The children are on her side, aghast at their father's betrayal, but it doesn't help her much as they are both abroad, one studying in Italy and the other in the Peace Corps in Africa. So Ava joins a book group for solace, and the group is embarking upon the theme, "The Book That Matters Most." Each book club member will choose a book that they think is the most important to them personally and have everyone in the group read it.

Personally I find this theme a little grandiose, and in general I dislike being asked things like, "What is your FAVORITE book?" or "What book has influenced you the MOST?" I just love too many books to choose just one, and also it seems like one is pressured to pick a Classic or Intellectual Book of some kind in order to not look like a dullard. And these people in this story did just that, almost invariably choosing books your high school English teacher would make you read. (Pride and Prejudice, Anna Karenina, The Catcher in the Rye, etc.) Still, one character does remark cheekily, "Mark Twain's definition of a classic is a book you have heard of but never read."

But Ava's book choice is a personal one, a reminder of her troubled past, and throughout the book club year we learn about her life, and about her daughter Maggie, who is indeed abroad, but she isn't actually studying. And will the faithless Jim come crawling back? We can only hope...

Wednesday, May 8, 2019


Fiction by Affinity Konar.

This was an almost-poetic novel about children in Auschwitz, if you can believe that. The title refers to a German word for half-breed or mixed blood, something the Nazis detested, but the main characters are not really mischlings at all. Sasha and Pearl are a pair of identical twins, Polish Jews plucked from the cattle car by the infamous Dr. Mengele for study in his laboratory.

The story is both beautiful and terrible, and I feared to finish it because I hated the thought of these poor girls' destruction. (Even though, you have to expect that in  Holocaust book, I know.) Even at the liberation of Auschwitz it still looked really bad for Pearl and Sasha, and that was the point I'd been hoping for things to get better. But the good news is that they don't both die....

I would recommend this book, as long as you know it's very sad, but that there is hope at the end.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Don't Believe a Word

Fiction by Patricia MacDonald.

I really like Patricia MacDonald's suspenseful books! In this story, a young woman called Eden discovers that her mother and handicapped half-brother have been tragically killed. The police call the deaths a murder-suicide, but Eden is not so sure....

This was an exciting story!

I also read recently by this author: Little Sister

Sunday, May 5, 2019


Fiction by Stephen King.

Jamie Morton first meets Charles Jacobs, the man he calls his nemesis, when he is six years old and Jacobs is around twenty-five, but it is hard to see any darkness in their encounters at first. Indeed they appear to share a truly positive connection initially. But they are fated to encounter each other many times over the next fifty years in this strange story, and everything ends badly.

Stephen King can write such amazing characters! I felt like Jamie and his family and everyone else in this book were completely real, and it as impossible not to care about these people. Of course, that makes it all the worse when terrible things begin to happen, and in King's work terrible things always seem to happen. Still, sometimes there is is enough good in the story to make it worth reading, and the characters are so compelling!

Unfortunately, I felt like the awful ending ruined this book. Looking at the reviews on b&, (see above) I find I am not alone in that opinion. I can't give this one a whole thumbs-up, but I will give it a half because the first part of the the novel was so good.

I also read recently by this author: The Outsider

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Summer of Fear

Fiction by Lois Duncan.

Another fun, exciting read by Lois Duncan, this book tells the story of sixteen-year-old Rachel. When her orphaned cousin Julia comes unexpectedly to live with her family, Rachel tries to be friendly and welcoming.

But it looks like Julia is no friend to Rachel, and may be a danger to everyone!

A good thriller with some surprises in store.

I also read recently by this author: Don't Look Behind You

Monday, April 29, 2019


Fiction by Carolyn Parkhurst.

Alexandra Hammond is near the end of her rope in dealing with her "on the spectrum" daughter, 14-year-old Tilly. Then a charismatic man called Scott Bean offers her a hope of helping Tilly, but it will require her family to change everything and commit to a completely new way of life. Alexandra and her husband are hopeful, but you can tell from the beginning that this is not going to work out.

The story is told from the perspective of Iris, Tilly's younger and "neurotypical" sister, and (interestingly) in the second person from Alexandra's point of view, which draws the reader in.

It's a really good story with fascinating characters. There's a blurb from Jodi Picoult on the cover, who is one of my favorite authors. and this writer reminds me a lot of her. I recommend this one!

Sunday, April 28, 2019

The Summer Wives

Fiction by Beatriz Williams.

I thought I'd read other books by this author, but apparently I haven't. Well, I will now! This book was really good.

On a small island off the cost of New England, there is a sharp divide between the summer "Families" who vacation there, and the year-round residents, who are lobstermen and working-class folks of mostly Portuguese descent. In 1931, when the story begins, the two sides come briefly together in a way that will have disastrous consequences for years to come. The story stretches to 1969, when Miranda Thomas returns to the island as a grown-up movie star, ready to confront the past.

I'd definitely recommend this book.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Run Away

Fiction by Harlan Coben.

A new book by Harlan Coben? Everyone say it with me... "SQUEEE!!!"

Sorry; I was really excited to read this. I've been waiting and waiting...

It did not disappoint. For one thing, this is not in a series of any kind, which I like because I enjoy meeting new characters. For another thing, it was really exciting to read!

Simon's daughter Paige is the eponymous runaway, although the title is two words and implies a few other ideas as well. Paige has been stolen away by a dirtbag boyfriend and a drug addiction, neither of which she can break away from, and Simon would pay any price, brave any danger, go through anything to get her back. He doesn't realize just how much he'll have to go through, however.

This was a great thriller!

I also read recently by this author: The Final Detail

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Lying in Wait

Fiction by Liz Nugent

This story starts with a murder in 1980. Andrew, or more likely his wife Lydia, kill a woman called Annie Doyle and hide her body in the first few pages. There's no mystery about it; this is not a spoiler. The story is about how this terrible act affects the couple, their son Laurence, and Annie's sister.

It's a dark book but fascinating to read. I didn't expect the ending.

I also read by this author: Unraveling Oliver (Apparently I never posted this book here on my blog, but I know I read it last year and it was also dark but fascinating.)

Monday, April 22, 2019

After the Lie

Fiction by Kerry Fisher

This book, which I really wanted to like (see below), suffered from both "Oh-No-I-Can't-Look Syndrome"* and "I-Can't-Tell-The-Truth-Or-The-Story-Will-End-Here Syndrome,"** both of which are plot devices that annoy me greatly.

The basic plot is, the main character Lydia did something when she was thirteen that she doesn't want her husband to know about. But it's obvious that the husband is a good guy, and the youthful mistake is so ridiculously forgivable--not to mention it was thirty years ago!!!-- that all her agonizing should-I-tell-him?-but-he-might-hate-me! seems less than believable. And she whines about it for pages and pages!

And then Lydia has to complicate things by doing something she should not do and does not even even to have a good reason to do, and I just couldn't stand her any more.

I'll admit I wanted to find out the ending, but I just could not take one more page of Lydia's whining victim-mentality, so I skipped to the last chapter. (I never do that, but Lydia made me. I'm the victim here.)

I also read by this author: The Silent Wife WHICH WAS REALLY GOOD! That's why I tried to give this one a chance.

Oh-No-I-Can't-Look Syndrome

(see  Saving Grace by Jane Green)

That's when you know a main character is making a major error in judgement that's going to have huge and terrible consequences.

**I-Can't-Tell-The -Truth-Or-The-Story-Will-End-Here Syndrome

(See Twenty-eight and a half Wishes by Denise G. Swank)

This shows up in romances quite a bit, in which a main character withholds some vital piece of information form his/her love interest for flimsy reasons, making it obvious that the author is using the device to further complicate the plot and lengthen the story.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Watch the Girls

Fiction by Jennifer Wolfe

Olivia Hill and her sister Gemma are TV teen queens, pushed and prodded into stardom by their mother Desiree. Unfortunately (in Desiree's opinion) their youngest sister Miranda has no interest in being a performer of any kind, much less a star. But one night all three sisters reach a crisis that leaves one of them better, one of them worse, and one of them gone.

That's just the beginning of this story, which twists up pretty creepily after that. It's a really dark book with more gore than I usually prefer, but it was exciting, and the end was unexpected.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Her Pretty Face

Fiction by Robyn Harding,

At Forrester Academy, a fancy private school in the Pacific Northwest, two boys who are new to sixth grade become friends, drawing their mothers together as well. Frances's son Marcus is a slightly awkward child, and she's grateful he's found a calming influence in Kate's son Charles. It seems an added bonus for Frances that Kate is such an easy and fun person, a cool mom who is so cool she doesn't even care what the other moms think. The two women become fast friends.

But both Frances and Kate have something to hide.....

This was a great novel, both a good character story and a page-turner.

I also read recently by this author: The Party

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Clockmaker's Daughter

Fiction by Kate Morton.

This is the story of a house, first and foremost. The house is called Birchwood Manor and the book spans time between the mid-nineteenth century and today, as the house goes from a private home to a girls' school to a modern museum. At first I was thinking the book should have been called "Birchwood Manor," but eventually I realized that the story was just as much about the girl (the clockmaker's daughter) as it was about the house. Or that, perhaps, the girl and the house were the same.

The novel is both mystery and a romance, and keeps you guessing about what really happened to the clockmaker's daughter until the end, while weaving the whole story in and out of many lives over the ensuing 150 years.

It's a very good book!

I also read recently by this author: The Secret Keeper

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Don't Look Behind You

Fiction by Lois Duncan

This was a fun break from the heavy reading I've been doing the past week or so.

In this story, a high-school girl named April has everything going for her, until her family is suddenly forced into witness protection and she must leave everything she knows behind.

It's an exciting thriller!

I also read recently by this author: Ransom

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Whistle in the Dark

Fiction by Emma Healy.

At the beginning of this book, fifteen-year-old Lana is found after having been missing for several days, refusing to disclose where she has been. She says she was lost and just can't remember where she was. Her father is inclined to accept this and just be glad that she is home safe, but Jen, her mother, feels like she has to know what really happened while Lana was gone.

Another complication is that Lana had been very depressed before the incident and had attempted suicide, so her mother has been on high-alert for so long that she doesn't feel able to relax. She seems to transfer all of her anxious energy into this Quest, trying to find out what had really happened, although it seems clear to the reader that Lana probably does remember and just doesn't want to tell her mother. ( A secretive teenager? Surprise, surprise.)

Eventually, Jen does find out where Lana had been, but I don't think she's happy about it. In fact, no one in the book is very happy. I found the whole story kind of bleak. It was interesting, but not really an enjoyable read.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Killing Commendatore

Fiction by Haruki Murakami.

Translated into English, this book covers close to 700 pages; I don't know how long the original Japanese text was. IQ84, which I read several years ago, (see below) was of a similar size and was well worth the reading; it was a great story. On the strength of my memory of that book by the same author, I read this whole book (it took me almost two weeks), waiting for it to get interesting.

It didn't. Not really.

The characters were okay, but nothing much happened to them, and what did happen just didn't make any sense. It could be that the whole story took place inside the main character's head. The only things I know actually happened: At the beginning of the book, the main character's wife divorced him for no reason. At the end of the book they got back together, also for no discernible reason.

Lest you think this is a spoiler: it isn't. He actually says near the beginning of the story that they would get back together at the end.

I can't recommend this book, even though I really have enjoyed others by this author. Sorry. But I did finish it...

I also read by this author: Norwegian Wood, IQ84

Thursday, April 4, 2019


Fiction by Michael Crichton.

In this story, an expedition looking for diamonds in the African Congo disappears into the jungle, leaving behind satellite video images of the entire party inexplicably killed by some mysterious force.  Another expedition is sent to find out what happened to them, and to find the diamonds, but will the second party survive?

This was a good thriller, but not quite up to the standard of Jurrassic Park.

I also read recently by this author: The Great Train Robbery

Monday, April 1, 2019


Fiction by Lynn Hightower.

I found this book when I was looking for a different book of the same title at the library. I ended up getting both books, and I'm not sorry.

Sonora Blair is a police detective in Cincinnati, and she starts working a missing persons case at the request of a husband whose wife, Julia Winchell, didn't come home after an out-of-town business conference. At first, the case looks pretty cut-and-dried: Julia, strikingly beautiful in her photo, has left behind two kids under three and a mountain of work at the small business she and the slightly mousy husband own together. It seems likely that Julia has cut out voluntarily, as Detective Blair knows so many young mothers secretly fantasize about doing, and will show back up again after she's had a little break. But the case doesn't go that way, and Julia isn't coming back.

I think this is the second book in a series; however, I didn't feel like I couldn't understand the story because I hadn't read the first book or anything. It is interesting to note that the mystery in this story was not super-mysterious; it was fairly obvious from near the beginning what had happened to Julia Winchell. Still, I wanted to keep reading and find out what happened next, and discover how Detective Blair could prove that her hunch was correct.

This was a good detective story.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

The Flight Attendant

Fiction by Chris Bohjalian.

Cassie the flight attendant is a hot mess. She drinks too much and does crazy or stupid things, and then forgets she has done them. She sleeps with strange men she never wants to see again, and sometimes forgets that too. And because her job takes her all around the world, she can do these crazy/stupid things in the United States AND abroad.

So far she's managed to keep her job with the airline, but when she wakes up in a strange hotel after a blackout in Dubai, she realizes that things may have gone too far. The UAE, like many Middle Eastern countries, is not particularly forgiving of foreigners who may be lawbreakers. Her one goal is to get back to New York unscathed. But after that, who knows what will happen?

This was a good story with interesting characters and a few surprises.

I also read by this author: The Double Bind

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Little Sister

Fiction by Patricia MacDonald.

This book, published in 1986, could not be found on, where I usually find my cover images, and a search of the title "Little Sister" on that site earned me a look at a whole bunch of Babysitters Club books, and some smut books I'd rather forget I saw the covers of. So, take my advice, and don't look there this time. I did find the correct book on amazon (above) and

This book was really good, though. It's about a girl named Beth who has escaped her dinky hometown and is working in the big city when she hears the news that her father has died. She has to go back for the funeral and confront her past, including her teenage little sister Francie, whom Beth blames for their mother's death. (You'll find out why!) But Beth discovers that Francie may really need her to put the past away and be a big sister now.

I recommend everything I've read by Patricia MacDonald, including this story.

I also read recently by this author: The Girl in the Woods

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Murder In Mesopotamia

Fiction by Agatha Christie.

This book was next on my Agatha Christie reading list. I didn't realize it was a Hercule Poirot story until more than halfway through. because Mrs. Christie used a different narrator than usual, which I liked. (I get tired of Captain Hastings rather quickly, unfortunately.) Of course I do see now that it says, in very small letters on the bottom of the cover, "A Hercule Poirot Mystery," so I shouldn't have been surprised.

Anyways, this was a good mystery story with a very unexpected ending.

I also read recently by this author: Death in the Clouds