All posts by BGBookworm

Book Review of Morning Comes Softly by Debbie Macomber

Book Review of Morning Comes Softly by Debbie Macomber
CCO: https://pixabay.com/en/computer-laptop-macbook-work-911165/

I thoroughly enjoyed  this romance mystery, Morning Comes Softly –the story of a lonely Louisiana librarian, Mary Warner, who took a risk to find love. While her library pages were putting newspapers away one day, they happened to see a personal ad for a wife placed by a Montana rancher, Travis Thompson, who was caring for his brother’s orphaned children after he and his wife had been killed in a drunk driving accident. The pages encourage Mary to apply, but she rebuffs them. She had given up on the idea of ever finding a husband and at first she rejected the idea. Then she began to realize she did want marriage and children and the thought of the orphaned children of the rancher’s brother and his wife touched her heart.

Travis loves his brother’s three children, but doesn’t know the first thing about parenting and he can’t cook. He realizes he can’t be a real father to the children while running the ranch, and he’s afraid the social workers who check on the children will put them in foster care if he doesn’t satisfy them that someone capable will be looking after them. He has been persuaded by his friends to place the ad, and as a last resort, he does.

Mary takes the risk of answering the ad, and a correspondence develops between Travis and Mary, in which even the children have input. After several letters have gone back and forth, there is finally a phone call, and Mary goes to the ranch to meet them and marry Travis.

Book Review of Morning Comes Softly by Debbie Macomber
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The wedding is just the first step to turning five people  into a family. I can relate because my husband and I adopted two older children. We also cared for my oldest nephew for the year his parents could not be home with him. It’s never an easy adjustment to build a family from from people who have not all lived with each other before. Love comes softly. Mary learns to love Travis and the children. She is not so sure that all of them love her back. Step-parents have to earn love and trust from their step-children.

Mary’s relationship with Travis is also awkward because neither seems anxious at first to consummate the marriage. Travis really wanted a caretaker for his children more than he wanted a real wife. He is obsessed with finding the drunk driver who is responsible for the death of his brother and sister-in-law, and spends most of his free time doing his own investigation. That is also a major thread in this book. He has promised himself and his brother’s oldest son that he will find and bring that person to justice. Things come to a head when the sheriff closes the investigation.

I had a good idea who the killer was from the time the subplot reached its climax. The author dropped plenty of clues from which the reader can figure it out. The question is whether Travis can forgive. Until he can, it doesn’t appear the marriage will ever become healthy either.

I enjoyed getting to know the characters in this book. I admired Mary’s determination to take a risk and commit herself to making a very unusual marriage work. I genuinely liked her as a person. It was a bit harder to identify with Travis’s hatred for the person responsible for the accident that killed his brother, though I appreciated his willingness to commit himself to taking in his dead brother’s children. It’s hard not to love the children as each responds individually and age-appropriately to the loss of their parents and being thrust into a newly forming family. I even felt a bit sorry for the “villain” and his family, though I won’t spill the beans as to their identities. I don’t want to spoil your own detective work.

If you like romance with a touch of mystery and you enjoy watching families with a rough start overcome their relationship problems, I believe you won’t want to miss Morning Comes Softly by Debbie Macomber.

Read my Reviews of two of the Rose Harbor romances pictured  below on Review This!


Legal Thrillers by Mark Gimenez

 

Gimenez The Common Lawyer
Buy The Common Lawyer at Amazon

Does every life matter? Mark Gimenez deals with this question in his legal thrillers. I reviewed the The Color of Law, on Review This recently. I finished The Common Lawyer two days ago.

Each of these books got off to a slow start and then started moving so fast I didn’t want to put it down. In fact, once I reached the point where the action picked up, I couldn’t go to bed until I finished the The Common Lawyer. In each book the lawyer protagonist is faced with a life-changing moral dilemma where he has to weigh conscience against money.

The reason the books get off to a slow start is that Gimenez wants to be sure the reader gets to know the main character very well before he goes into action. So after a short Prologue in which a mother helps her five-year-old daughter escape from a research hospital where she is being used a guinea pig in experiments – we meet Andy Prescott.

Andy is a lawyer who only got admitted to law school because his mother was on the faculty of the University of Texas. He barely made it through law school and only passed the bar on his third attempt. He cannot get a decent job in the legal profession, but stumbles on a way to earn enough to support his biking lifestyle by getting traffic tickets dismissed. He had discovered that if he asked for a jury trial for his clients, the calendar would be backed up so far it might take two years to get to court. By the time of the trial, the officer would not come in to testify and the case would be dismissed. Andy would get tickets dismissed for a $100 fee with a guarantee that if the ticket were not dismissed, he would pay it himself. He had never had to pay a ticket. That’s a good thing, because he never had enough money to pay a ticket.

Andy’s office is in a part of Austin known as SoCo because of its location on South Congress Avenue. It would be helpful to see a map and other information about SoCo as you read this book. A good portion of this book is spent on Andy’s bike rides in the Austin area. You will enjoy the books more if you have a map in front of you, or at least have a map to consult, The web site shows you not only a map, but also a photo of Guero’s Taco Bar, one place Andy was often found. Another place Andy would hang out with his friends was Jo’s Hot Coffee. The Jo’s Hot Coffee Facebook Page will help you visualize that part of Andy’s lifestyle, since it has photos and even a video. It is dog friendly, so Andy often takes his dog Max there at breakfast time and buys muffins for him, too. Geography is more important in this book than in some others because a lot of the action takes place in the restaurants and on bike trails or the streets of SoCo.

Back to Andy’s office. Andy rents a very small office space located above Ramon’s Body Art. Ramon is Andy’s landlord and Andy pays $200 a month for his space and to share Ramon’s computer and restroom. Tattoos are an important part of SoCo culture. Not having a tattoo marks one as an outsider. Andy’s desk is a card table. His advertising is by business card and word of mouth. Many of his friends collect tickets people drop off for him. He appears at Municipal Court to get the tickets dismissed. Andy lives in a one-bedroom apartment in SoCo and can only afford it because it is awaiting renovation, and his landlord was transferred to California and isn’t thinking about it.

Andy lives to ride his mountain bike. He is a daredevil who carries extreme sports to their limits. He has crashed and totaled bikes many times. He runs red lights in the city. Near the beginning of the book he is going full speed with no brakes and has to take his bike over a high ledge on a back trail in the Barton Creek Greenbelt because three elderly lady hikers are looking at a map in the middle of the trail and freeze when they see him coming at them, unable to stop. He either has to hit them or go over the side. He gets pretty beat up, but doesn’t break any bones. He was lucky enough to land in the lake. His bike is history. His wealthy friend Tres was with him and helped him get to a safer place to rest. Andy always rode as fast as possible and took unnecessary risks.

When he wasn’t working or riding his bike, he sat around Guero’s Taco Bar or Jo’s Hot Coffee with his three best friends. Tres had a trust fund and a “hot” girlfriend, the kind Andy would like but only money could attract. Dave and Curtis were friends from Andy’s UT days. Curtis was a math TA at UT, and the friends relied on him for any kind of tech support they needed. While they were consuming food and beverages, all but Tres read the personal ads in the Lover’s Lane section of the online Austin Chronicle, trying to find some girl to go out with. The first chapters of the book focus on watching Andy go about his daily routines, wishing he had more money for a better bike, talking to the judge at court, meeting his buddies, riding his bike, thinking about how to find a “hot” girl, and living a life that doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.

Then one day a billionaire, Russell Reeves, well-known philanthropist, shows up at his office with his driver, Darrell, and his life changes. Reeves was referred by his secretary whose ticket Andy got dismissed. Reeves wants to renovate some old properties to create a low income housing development, but is afraid if he sends a high-powered corporate lawyer into SoCo, the populace will fight him just because he’s from the wealthy part of town. So he hires Andy, who is already accepted by the community, to convince the people to approve of the renovation. Russell offers Andy $400 a billable hour for this. Andy accepts, does his job, and gets a great new mountain bike and a motorcycle with money enough left over to buy his mother a proper birthday present and move into nicer living quarters. The girls finally know he’s alive.

Then Russell wants him to take on another assignment. According to Reeves, he has 17 ex-girlfriends he did not treat well in his younger days and he wants to make things right with them. He asks Andy to find them, talk to them to see how they are doing, and take their pictures so that he can make sure they are the right women. He will give Andy a trust fund to pay expenses, including hiring a private detective. As Andy goes down the list, he finds the first six women, each of whom happens to have one very sick child with a condition medical science can’t cure. But the seventh woman can’t be located and the detective says it’s because she doesn’t want to be found.

On his mother’s birthday, Andy visits his parents at their more rural home. They inquire about Andy’s new job. They press Andy for details about the new assignment, which seems rather strange to them. Andy thinks it’s all good, but his parents are wary. They are liberals who don’t trust those who got rich in corporate America. Even though Reeves has used a lot of his money for good, Andy’s parents think Andy is being used and is likely to be caught in a trap. His father warns him that ‘when things don’t seem right, they’re usually not.’ Even Andy has to admit that the cover story for his assignment to find the women doesn’t make much sense.

Here’s more you should know about Reeves. His seven-year-old son Zach has a rare incurable form of cancer. The doctors think he won’t last more than a year. Reeves has spent freely of his billions to try to find a cure. He has even opened The Reeves Research Institute on the campus of UT. So far, it hasn’t helped find a cure any faster. He s despairing, afraid he will lose his son. One study has been published by an anonymous doctor that indicates a “Person X” has stem cells that might help Zach.

Andy’s father, Paul, is also dying of cancer. He needs a new liver, but has at least a two-year wait to get one. Andy would like to save his father. Both Andy and Reeves would do anything possible to save their loved ones. Andy has met Zach and played video games with him. He admires Zach’s fighting spirit. Zach asks Andy for a private conversation and wants to talk about death, since Zach couldn’t get his father to talk to him about it, so Andy tries to answer his questions. Zach has a genius I.Q. but that doesn’t tell him all he wants to know about what’s ahead for him.

Meanwhile, Andy hires a detective who is willing to stray from approved legal practices, unlike the detective Russell had recommended. He does locate the seventh woman. Andy finds her and talks to her, but her seven-year-old daughter is perfectly healthy. He is surprised by this. The woman, though, says she is fine and needs no help. (Andy had given each of the first six women a million dollars from Russell, and Russell had also used his influence to get the very best medical help for the children who needed to get into special facilities. ) By the time Andy gives Russell the address of the seventh woman, she disappears again.

Andy finally confronts Russell about the parts of his story that don’t make sense and accuses him of deceiving him about the purpose of finding the women. Russell comes clean and admits he is looking for the patient with the perfect immune system – Patient X. He is convinced the seventh woman, or her daughter, is Patient X. Andy keeps looking, but becomes unsure it’s the right thing to do. The list was actually the mothers of the children who were part of the experimental research referred to in the Prologue. Reeves had somehow gotten the list of patient names and their mothers, knowing that Patient X had been one of them.

Meanwhile, two people approach Alvin Adams, a research publication editor, in Queens. Adams had edited the research article about Patient X. The first to approach him is a lawyer, Mr. Smith, who bribes him to reveal the confidential name of Anonymous, who did the research. Adams stuffs the envelope containing the bribe money into his pocket and goes out to try to drink away a headache. As he starts home he is approached by someone in a black sedan who demands to know what Alvin told the lawyer. When he refuses, the man pulls a gun and asks him if the confidentiality is worth dying for. He decides not and reveals Tony Falco’s name. The man kills him anyway. Meanwhile, Tony Falco has moved his research to China where the political environment makes it easier for him to conduct his research.

By the time you get to this part of the book, you realize that two parties are both trying to find Patient X. Russell sees her as the only hope of saving his son. The thugs hired by the pharmaceutical companies want to kill her, but Andy doesn’t know about them yet. Andy is still looking for the woman he now knows is Patient X to help Zach, and maybe his father. But when he locates her again, the plot takes a surprising twist.

Andy has to choose between betraying his client, Reeves, and being disbarred while also losing the money that will make life easier for himself, or risking the life of Patient X by making her visible again. By this time Andy has become close to Zach and may also be falling in love with the mother of Patient X. His creative solution to this dilemma will have you on the edge of your seat until the book is finished.

Alerts: Some readers may be offended by the way some men seemed to consider women mere sexual playthings, and others may be offended by the portrayal of the anything goes dress and mores of some of the people. Parts of the plot are highly unrealistic, but unless  extreme biking in large doses and bike chases bore you, you will still enjoy the book.

Check prices at Amazon. 

Find Gimenez books at eBay.

Cancer is the Villain in These Youth Novels

Cancer is the Villain in These Novels  for Young Adults

These two books aimed at teens and young adults do not have happy endings, so be warned. The books are very different in tone, but cancer is the villain in both of them.

Raoul (The Angel of Music Book 1): The Plot

Viktor and Christine Homeless in Amarillo

The first book, Raoul (The Angel of Music Book 1) opens with two homeless people, a father, Viktor Daaé, and his eleven-year old daughter, Christine,  leaving the Greyhound Station in Amarillo, Texas, as it closes on a snowy night. Someone directs them to a shelter. They receive kind treatment.

Before leaving, Viktor takes the stage in the dining hall with his violin, which he always carries in its case, and Christine sings with a voice developed far above what one would expect for her age. When she sings, it’s said to be with the voice of an angel.

Homeless In California

When they leave the shelter, they head for California, where Viktor hopes to find work with his violin.  He hopes to  play in a symphony orchestra someday. He had been a musician in Chicago until his wife died of cancer. Their goal had always been to go to Los Angeles to enroll Christine in the Belen Conservatory of Music. They wanted  Christine to train to develop her vocal talent. Now Viktor is determined to carry on with that dream.

Cancer is the Villain in These Youth Novels

To earn money for food when they get to Santa Monica, father and  daughter  play and sing on the Promenade. A policeman says they need a permit to play there and shoos them away. They discover government policies make it hard for the very  poor to make a living . The process they go through to get a permit is indicative of this. They slept in the park that night.

Viktor Finds Work and a Place to Live

The next day they go to City Hall to get a permit. Viktor gets a part time job in a local coffee shop, but only because the owner sees Christine.  Viktor convinces the owner he will be reliable – that he’s not a drifter. The cafe owner helps Viktor get a room in a transient motel and says he’ll pay the first week and take it out of Viktor’s wages. Christine must stay inside all day and let no one in.

At night they busk on the pier to bring in more cash. Victor had been a professional violinist in Chicago, and Christine is a musical prodigy, so they quickly find an appreciative audience and collect a lot of money in Viktor’s violin case. One whose attention they attract is Zoë, a young woman dressed all in black. Next to her is twelve-year-old Raoul, dressed in a private school uniform.

There are frequent flashbacks in the book. We learn how Viktor met Christine’s mother and what happened to her.  We discover how Viktor, originally from Sweden, came to be in America.  We also find out how other characters introduced in the book become important in Victor and Christine’s story.

My Review of Raoul (The Angel of Music Book 1)

The book is well written.The author provides enough background to help readers of all ages who are paying attention anticipate what will happen next. The end is sad, but there is still room for hope.

I enjoyed watching the characters interact, especially Raoul and Christine.  Zoë is a sort of governess to Raoul and lives with his very wealthy family. All have music connections to the Belen Conservatory of Music. As the book progresses, Raoul and Christine become friends, and we begin to wonder if they will have a future together.

I see one fault in the book from an adult standpoint. Everything falls into place a bit too neatly to be realistic. The characters are vivid and developed enough so that one can predict how they will behave. Although many of the minor characters are no angels, the main characters are all caring people who like to help others.

It’s a heart-warming story, if a bit sentimental in tone, and I enjoyed it. I suppose one could call it a coming-of-age story. It is very sympathetic to the homeless. It will be of special interest to young adult music lovers. The complete trilogy below is a modern retelling of The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. This book is just the first volume.
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Here is the complete  trilogy.

 Raoul (The Angel of Music) (Volume 1) Erik (The Angel of Music) (Volume 2) Ghost (The Angel of Music) (Volume 3)

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James Patterson and Emily Raymond’s First Love: A Review


At first I couldn’t believe Patterson was writing a book whose main characters had no qualms about breaking the law. It stars two teens who are in love and afraid to admit it to each other. It begins in Klamath Falls, Oregon.

The Characters

Axi, the girl, is sixteen wants to run away from home. She wants her close friend Robinson, the boy, seventeen, to come with her. She has the itinerary all planned and has decided they  will go by bus. Robinson agrees to come. He has other ideas about the transportation, though, and wants to ride in style.

He steals a Harley. This freaks Axi out. She is basically a good kid. In fact, Robinson’s pet name for her is GG – Good Girl. She is the more academically inclined of the two. Her name for him is Scalawag.

Axi’s Family

It is three weeks from the end of the school term. Robinson hasn’t been going to school anyway. He doesn’t seem to have a family — at least he never mentions one. Axi is a good student, but she thinks getting away is important enough to ditch those last three weeks of classes.

We learn that Axi’s mom had left after her other daughter, Axi’s little sister Carole Ann, died of cancer. Axi’s dad was an alcoholic. Before she left on the trip at 4 AM, Axi kissed him goodbye, but she didn’t wake him or leave a note. She wasn’t happy with any of the drafts she had written so she skipped the note altogether.

On the Lam

On their travels the two do many wild and illegal things, stealing other vehicles as they go, and even worse. Axi is often terrified at some of the things Robinson does, but she goes along with them. She follows Robinson’s directions, hoping they won’t land in jail. They never did suffer the kind of consequences you might expect for their behavior, but readers won’t really care.

You are far into the book and past the crazy stuff when the real truth of how and where Robinson and Axi met comes out and Axi has to deal with a crisis. I won’t spoil it for you.

My Opinion of First Love

 

 First Love

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Readers will enjoy watching Axi and Robinson banter back and forth and tease each other, and they will sympathize with how vulnerable the two feel when it comes to expressing their hidden feelings. The book’s beginning is so humorous that readers are caught off-guard when the first hints of how the book will end come out.

This book is outrageous, unrealistic, and funny at the beginning. The humor continues until almost the end. The characters are engaging and even if you don’t approve of all they do, you will still love them. You will want to grab some tissues as you near the end as you finally come face to face with what is real life for too many of today’s youth.

Review of Resilience by Elizabeth Edwards

Elizabeth Edwards died about five years ago of breast cancer. She had  announced the diagnosis in 2004 after the election in which her husband, John Edwards, lost his bid to become Vice President of the United States. Eight years earlier, in 1996, the Edwards had lost their 16-year-old son, Wade, when the car he was driving was pushed off the road by the wind and he lost control of it. At the end of  2006. Elizabeth learned of what she called John’s “indiscretion”  with another woman, and at the beginning of 2010 the two separated after John publicly  admitting fathering a child with another woman.

Quote from Resilience by Elizabeth EdwardsElizabeth’s first book, Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers, which I have not yet read, was published in September, 2006. Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life’s Adversities, followed in May, 2009, a year and a half before her death. In this book, Elizabeth Edwards shares her journey of bereavement, fighting her cancer, and dealing with her husband’s betrayal. She also reveals how hard it was to have planned one kind of life and to face the fact that the life she had planned was going to be much different than she had been prepared for.

Mary Elizabeth Anania Edwards grew up in a military family. Her father was a Navy pilot, and she spent part of her childhood in Japan. That was when she first learned a bit about resilience from her tutor, Toshiko. Toshiko had been a beautiful woman. She had trained for a decade in one of the top courses in Japan to become a geisha , and her future had looked very bright. When she finished her course, she went home to visit her parents in Hiroshima in August, 1945. Unfortunately for her,  that was when the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on that city.

Toshiko was knocked to the ground and badly injured. Her skin was charred and her hair was burned. After months of treatment, she was able to resume what for some might have been a normal life, but it was not the life she had trained and planned for, since she had lost her beauty — an essential for her planned career. Elizabeth shares Toshiko’s story and what she learned from her.

A large part of the book deals with Elizabeth’s internal processing of Wade’s death and her own grief work. I lost my Jason when he was fourteen, two years younger than Wade, also in an accident. I can identify with much that Elizabeth shares here. I believe most bereaved moms will recognize her feelings as some part of their own. She got more support than many of us had, since she was a public figure who got thousands of letters from the public. She also got support from internet support groups, which did not exist yet when I lost Jason. My support came from my family, church and other home school families.

Bereaved mothers will find much here that may help them keep going as Elizabeth shares her own experience of trying to put the pieces of her life back together. She shares her struggle to understand why her son, who was a good person, who did nothing to contribute to his accident happening, who had a bright future ahead, would die when he did. Why did God allow it?

Knowing what I do about grief, I personally believe that losing Wade may be a contributing factor in the other trials that follow. A major emotional stress, and the death of a child is one of the greatest a parent can face, can make the body more susceptible to disease. Although no scientific research proves a link between stress and breast cancer, Elizabeth mentions a common result of bereavement — not eating normally  and not being able to sleep.  A poor diet and sleep deprivation  can lower resistance to disease.

Here is more information on dealing with the death of a child. This article states that the death of a child can take a toll on one’s health. Research of long-term effects on bereaved parents indicates the death of a child from unnatural causes such as accidents can be associated with mortality of the mother: “Bereavement was associated with long-term mortality due to illness (e.g., cancer) for the mothers, presumably because of stress, a weakened immune system, or poor health behaviors.”

This same study indicates  that divorce rates among bereaved parents are eight times that of the norm. As far as we know, John’s infidelity did not begin until after his wife was diagnosed with cancer, eight years after Wade’s death. No one really ever gets over the death of a child — the thoughts of it just become less frequent over time. Perhaps the double blow of losing his son and the possibility of losing his  wife, added to the side-effects of her treatments and the frequent separations when he had to travel, were all contributing factors to the infidelity.

Be that as it may, whatever the causes, Elizabeth has to deal with it all. She shares from her heart how each challenge impacted her, what she felt, and what she did. She relates the help she got from others and how what she’d learned from her family had helped her face her own situations. She shares her doubts and her attempts to understand her faith in light of Wade’s death. Since the Plan A she had for her life had been blown apart, she tries to construct a Plan B.

In conclusion, Elizabeth makes it clear that each of us must find our  own path through pain and grief. We won’t all be on the same grief timetable. We aren’t competing with each other in the immensity of our grief nor in how well we handle it or how long it lasts. Most people will not have to deal with all three of Elizabeth’s sorrows at the same time, as she did. We will deal with whatever sorrows and challenges life throws at us. They won’t seem less just because someone else may have had more.

This book will not take your own pain away, if you are facing similar circumstances. It will not provide a plan to fix your life. That you will still need to work through yourself. It will give you some company as you work through grief and loss. It will encourage you to know that it is possible to find your own resilience.

 

 By Elizabeth Edwards: Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life’s Adversities Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers

What Makes a Novel Memorable?

I usually read novels to relax and escape from my daily routines. Some novels I finish and instantly forget. There was really nothing memorable about them. Others stay with me, even when I’m not still reading them. What’s the difference between them?

Here’s my answer. The good novelist must create a believable world and believable characters you want to get to know better. An excellent novelist should have something important to say, but he lets his characters say it in such a way that you, the reader, almost don’t notice, because you are so immersed in the world the novelist has created for you.

In a well-written novel, every piece of the plot puzzle is placed on the table where the reader can find it as the plot builds. The reader is with the writer as they put the pieces together until they fit perfectly and the picture is complete. They work with what is on the table. The writer doesn’t hide pieces and then throw them on the table when the puzzle is almost complete, stealing the satisfaction you have as you work with him to put the final pieces in place.

A great novel makes it hard to return to the real world. One doesn’t want to leave the characters behind. The reader is left wanting more.

I felt that way about the Mitford series by Jan Karon. I never wanted it to end. That’s why I’m delighted to discover Jan Karon has finally given us another Father Tim book set in Mitford once more.  Even the title reflects the wholesome atmosphere of the Mitford books — Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good. If you are tired of violence and pain and explicit sexual scenes, this is the book you want to read next. I just ordered my copy to be shipped free on its release date of August 4.  I can finish some projects before then so  I have time to get lost in it for a few days.

If you’ve never been to Mitford with Father Tim, you just might want to start at the beginning of the series with At Home in Mitford. You can find all the Mitford and Father Tim Books here.  You can start reading them while waiting for the new book  to be released.

Have you read any of the Mitford books? What do you think makes a novel great?

 Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good: The New Mitford Novel (A Mitford Novel) Mitford Series Complete Series Set, Volumes 1-9 At Home in Mitford: A Novel

Short Reviews from Recent Reading

One of my challenges is that if I read a lot, I don’t always have time to stop and review a book I’ve finished,   and these books tend to pile up because reading is more relaxing than writing about what I just read.

pix-sweden-713021_640-houseI finally read the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and I wish I hadn’t. Although I enjoy mysteries, I don’t enjoy people being tortured and mutilated as recreation. If you like thrillers, this is likely to keep your spine tingling, especially near the conclusion .

Much of the book is set in Sweden.  The two main characters are Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who was convicted of libel, and a brilliant but unconventional helper, Lisbeth Salander, who is a genius at internet research, legal and illegal, and a master analyzer of the data she finds. Mikael has been hired by a wealthy Swede, Vanger, with a large and dysfunctional family to find out who in his family killed his missing niece years ago. Mikael is to live on the Vanger estate under the pretense of writing a biography of Vanger, with access to most of the family.

The only character I liked very much in this book was Lisbeth, who was a ward of the state whose appointed guardian was raping her as a condition for giving her access to some of her money. The only part of the book I sort of enjoyed  was when Lisbeth used her wits to fight back and get her revenge and get free of him.

I pretty much agree with this New York Times review of the book.  It shows me again that being on the Best Seller List does not mean a book is worth the time spent reading it. It seems to me that too many people are putting poison into their  brains. I will not read more by this author. But if you don’t mind rape and torture scenes as a mystery is solved, and seeing  some sexually abusive sadists in action, you might be able to stomach this better than I did. To each his own. I don’t recommend it.


I recently finished The Art of Detection by Laurie R. King. I checked it out from the library because I needed a book to take to a waiting room and my Kindle battery was dead. It’s another book I think was a waste of my time. The major problem was that the characters were not developed very well and I didn’t really care about any of them.

The plot was also unrealistic, at least to me. It was set in San Francisco, and the victim, William Gilbert, was an eccentric Sherlock Holmes fan whose living room was like a replica of Holme’s Victorian sitting room. The murder appears to be related to a manuscript Gilbert believed was an undiscovered Sherlock Holmes story by Doyle and he was trying to authenticate it when he was murdered. Suspects included his  friends in the Sherlockian Dinner Club that met once a month, some of whom knew about the manuscript and had even read it.

The manuscript described a murder that very much resembled Gilbert’s murder, right down  to the place the body was discovered. The reader is treated to a chance to read it along with Detective Kate Martinelli – a story within a story. Unfortunately, when I read this I wasn’t in the mood for long descriptive passages, intricate subplots, and having to work to keep all the characters straight. To top it off, I’m not a Sherlock Holmes fan. There was just nothing in this book  to grab my attention and make me care. I finished it because I had started it, but I had to force myself. The book gets mixed reviews on Amazon.  I suppose we get out of a book what we bring to it. If you like all things Sherlock Holmes, this book may interest you more than it did me.

pix-the-white-house-269734_640I was more interested in  Elliott Roosevelt’s mystery novels. I just learned they were actually written and researched by William Harrington, who also wrote novels I’ve read listing Margaret Truman as the author.  I  just did a bit of research on both Ellliott Roosevelt and William Harrison and have concluded neither is someone I would enjoy knowing.

Harrison was a competent researcher, and from what I’ve read in memoirs of other figures mentioned in Murder in Georgetown, many incidents mentioned may well be true. They are certainly realistic, except for the part about Eleanor Roosevelt getting personally involved in solving murders.

Much of the book was set in the White House in 1935. Prohibition has ended, but it’s obvious the White House didn’t take it very seriously even when it was law. We meet Joseph Kennedy, who sees that the White House always gets the best booze when it’s important, and the author often brings him into the story .

A major part of the plot turns out to be bank corruption at the highest level. The real killer of Sargent Peavey, a member of the federal treasury board, tries to frame a young Jewess, Jessica Dee, who had been smuggled into the country from Poland.   Mrs. Roosevelt had recommended Senator Huey Long hire Jessica as a secretary.  Since he was  F.D.R.’s main political opponent, Eleanor was hoping Jessica could keep her informed about what was happening in Long’s office.

When Jessica was arrested for Peavey’s murder because her earring was found at the scene, and some other non-conclusive evidence, Mrs. Roosevelt works with the detectives to try to find the real killer.  She doesn’t believe for a moment Jessica is guilty,

The reader witnesses some of the political intrigue behind the scenes in the Roosevelt White House and is party to the local gossip. We learn that politicians and the people who are involved with them are as crooked as we suspected.

I learned outside this book that Elliott himself, the credited author and the son of Eleanor and F.D.R, was involved in his own share of scandal,  and that was not fiction. He ( and Harrington as well) probably shared the casual morals of his characters. It seemed most characters believed it didn’t matter what you did, as long as you were discreet enough so that no one who wasn’t supposed to know ever found out. Jessica could have been cleared much earlier had she been willing to reveal whom she had been with when two of the three murders with the same weapon had been committed.

This was not a thriller – just a picture of discrete police investigations, including some in the White House, and some visits to dives and dark alleys. The reader sees more questioning than dangerous pursuits of criminals. I prefer novels like this that let me see what the investigators see so I can draw my own conclusions and see if I was right.   In this case, I had it solved by the time the police did,  though I  didn’t have all the motivations until the last scenes.

This book is out of print and there are some cheap copies left on Amazon as I write this. If you enjoy murder mysteries with some political intrigue set in the White House, I think you might enjoy Murder in Georgetown.  Since I’m currently so busy, I was glad that I could read a couple of chapters at a time to relax without feeling I had to rush to the end. If you need a real page-turner, this is isn’t it, but it’s just right if you want to take reading breaks during the day and be able to go back to what you were doing without being frustrated.

The Litigators: An Escape from Corporate Law

How would you feel if you had to work a hundred hours a week at a job you hated for a boss you despised because your father had pressured you into it? What if that job were bringing in three hundred thousand dollars a year with the promise of more if you kept up the pace to become a full partner in the law firm? What would you do?

The Litigators is the story of  Chicago corporate lawyer David Zinc’s  breakdown and escape from his high-pressure law firm.  He snaps one morning as he’s about to take the escalator up to his office. When he can’t force himself to get on, he sits on a bench to try to figure out why  he suddenly feels like he is having a heart attack. Five years of his deadly dull and meaningless work with colleagues he couldn’t stand, have made him physically ill.

David finally makes it to an elevator going up to his office on the ninety-third floor, watching others get off on the way up. He was sweating and hyperventilating by time his floor approached. When he arrived, his colleagues urged him out of the elevator, but his head was spinning and he fled back into it before it started down.

He sat down in the corner of the elevator and other riders were a bit freaked out to see him there. When he finally got to the ground floor,  he  felt better because he’d had the guts to leave and the pressure was off. He thought about what the important people in his life might think, and then  he became afraid his boss might send security after him. He decided to flee the building as quickly as he could, though he had no idea where to  go.

In a Bar

He finally ducks into a bar he sees and begins to drink to get drunk (though he has never done so before.) When his secretary calls to ask where he is, he brushes her off. When his wife calls to say the office had called twice trying to find him, he doesn’t answer. He spends most of the day in the bar with Abner the bartender.

Before the author introduced us to David, he first introduced us to the shady “boutique” law firm of Finley and Figg and the two partners, Oscar Finley and Wally Figg. Their specialty was personal injury cases, and they never let ethics get in the way when they were trying to recruit or sign up clients.

We also meet their secretary,  Rochelle Gibson, who had no qualifications except she’d been a client whose case had been butchered  and she had threatened to sue the partners. She hung around the office so much that the three got used to each other, and she was there when the real secretary quit. Since the phones were still ringing and the partners were busy yelling at each other, Rochelle just started answering and was soon the new secretary, peacekeeper, and real manager.

Back to David, who at almost five o’clock is passed out at the bar. Abner wakes him up, tells him it’s time to leave and go home, and puts him in a cab. But David doesn’t want to go home and face his wife. He sees an ad on the side of a bus for Finley and Figg and tells the cab driver that’s where he wants to go.

Shortly after that a disheveled David Zinc walks into the office of Finley and Figg and says he loves the place and want to work there. When asked why he left his corporate job he says, “let’s just say I hate the work, hate the people I work with, and hate the clients.”

Rochelle comments he should fit right in at Finley and Figg, and over Oscars objections, they let him stay to see how things will work out.  Around eight Wally calls Helen Zinc to come get David, and Helen proves to be fairly understanding — at least enough to wait until he sobers up before they really talk.

I love the way Grisham brings the most unlikely people together. David had a Harvard education and impeccable law credentials and  had been on the path to a partnership in the large firm of Rogan Rothberg. Finley and Figg was a two bit ambulance chasing firm. Finley and Figg had felt no need or desire to add another lawyer, but David makes  an offer to work at a price they could afford,  on a trial  basis.

David joined the firm just before Finley and Figg were on the verge of what Figg considered their ticket to wealth —  a class action suit against a large pharmaceutical company.    David becomes the ethical voice of reason in the firm who gets stuck with the dirty work and and gets paid little for it.  It is watching these unlikely  characters interact so that each meets his own  goals that makes this book so much fun to  read.

I won’t tell you any more. I found the ending very satisfying and consistent with what we might expect of the characters as Grisham portrayed them, and you, too, will know them well before you are far into the book.

David is called upon to use all his  education and experience his new position, and his character and the genuine concern he has for his clients give the book heart. As he saves himself, his presence is a catalyst in saving Figg, Finley, and Rochelle. As in most of Grisham’s books, we see plenty of courtroom drama, and a bit of humor. I highly recommend the book.

 The Litigators: A Novel

Review of Cat in a Vegas Gold Vendetta: A Midnight Louie Mystery

I’m a great fan of cats, and I’ve also become hooked on cat mysteries. The Midnight Louie Series by Carole Nelson Douglas is my favorite series in this genre. The human characters are as fascinating as the main cat character, Midnight Louie, a large black tomcat, who by this book in the series has received a vasectomy so he can have his fun without making kittens. How this happened is explained in an earlier book. I have read all the books in this series up to and including this book, and wrote about the series itself in Why I Love the Midnight Louie Series by Carole Nelson Douglas.

I was looking forward to this book because the last one, Cat in an Ultramarine Scheme: A Midnight Louie Mystery (Midnight Louie Mysteries)
left me hanging. Max, the ex fiance of Temple Barr, had disappeared. Everyone thought him dead back in Las Vegas, including Temple.  Meanwhile, Temple began to return the love of her friend Matt Devine, who lived in the condo above the one she and Max had shared. It appeared that Max was dead and gone forever, and finally Matt and Temple became engaged. The reader of the previous book, however, knows that Max has narrowly escaped death and been whisked away to a clinic in Switzerland by his friend Garry, who was also thought to be dead earlier. Temple, in fact, thought she had witnessed Garry’s death. The reader also knows that Kathleen O’Connor, who had tried to kill both Max and Matt, who was also supposed dead, may also still be alive. The previous book ended with Temple receiving an international phone call from none other than Max, who though alive, had lost his memory in the attack that almost killed him.

So this book opens with Temple anticipating picking up Max from the airport. Garry had told Max that Temple knows him and can help him know who he was. But now Garry really is dead and Max is totally alone, knowing very little about his past life. Matt was in Chicago interviewing for a new job when the phone call came. Temple cannot refuse to help, but neither she nor the reader can help wondering what will happen when Temple and Max meet again.

Cat in a Vegas Gold Vendetta: A Midnight Louie Mystery (Midnight Louie Mysteries)
included the usual cast of characters readers have gotten to know, including Lieutenant Carmen Molina, her ex-husband Rafi Nadir, Detective Alch, her right-hand man, and Dirty Larry, an undercover narc officer. On the loose is still the deadly Barbie Doll serial killer, who may be a threat to Molina’s teen daughter, and Molina and company are working hard to stop him before he strikes again.

As Temple is getting ready to meet Max at the airport, she receives a call from one of her least favorite people, aspiring actress Savannah Ashleigh, owner of two cats Louie had once loved, and who was responsible for Louie’s vasectomy. She is definitely one of Louie’s least favorite people. Savannah wants to hire Temple, whose real work is public relations, as a private investigator to look into the death of her Aunt Violet’s hired hand who cared for her many cats. Violet is very sick, on what is presumed to be her death-bed, and is very concerned that her cats be taken care of after she dies. Pedro, the yardman who was found dead, was the one taking care of the cats. Savannah is convinced he has been murdered and wants Temple to find the killer.

As the book progresses, the three plots intertwine. As usual Midnight Louie offers his perspective throughout the book, and his supposed daughter, Midnight Louise, assists him in helping to solve the mystery at Violet’s house and save the cats who have been disappearing from it.

I confess to starting the book yesterday afternoon and finishing it this afternoon. I find the books in this series hard to put down, but I wanted to see how Temple, Max, and finally Matt would interact when they got together. For me, the human elements in the plot are the most interesting and I like to follow the characters and their lives throughout the book.

At the end, both Louie and the author, Carol Nelson Douglas, encourage readers who have pets to consider what will become of them if they outlive their owners. She encourages pet owners to make arrangements for their pets’ care after the death of their owners.

An Interview with Carole Nelson Douglas

I watched two video interviews with Carole Nelson Douglas. This one was the best, even though it didn’t say as much about the Midnight Louie series as I would have liked. Most of the conversation deals with the newer Delilah Street Paranormal Mysteries. I got a much different impression of the author in the interview than I did from the Midnight Louie books. Maybe that’s because I was so wrapped up in the stories.

Have you met Midnight Louie yet? If you love cat mysteries and you haven’t,  don’t deprive yourself any longer.

A Brief Look at HOW SWEET THE SOUND by Amy Sorrells


When I began HOW SWEET THE SOUND I didn’t realize what I was in for. I guess I expected a typical formula-written inspirational Christian novel that would not challenge me much. I got quite a surprise.

This was not a book to let me escape, but a book to make me think about the subjects many people live through and few want to bring into the open and talk about. These subjects include bereavement, grief, rape, incest, suicide, sibling rivalry, and child abuse – most of it in one family. Unfortunately, this book is realistic enough to make it believable, and, therefore, depressing. Most of the book is depressing, but it’s so well-written that you are willing to see it to the finish. Fortunately, by the end things are looking up.

The author really knows how to use the English language. No cliches here. We see the characters through the eyes of thirteen-year-old Anniston, and her aunt, Comfort. Anniston begins the narrative on Thanksgiving Day in southern Alabama shortly after Hurricane Frederic has ravaged the coast and destroyed half the Vaughn family’s pecan orchard. At first she describes what appears to be a typical extended family gathering, but before dinner is over you will see how dysfunctional the Harlan family is. Before the night is over, two brothers, Anniston’s father, Rey, and uncle, Cole, will be dead, and their sister Comfort will be dying inside.

The book is hard to follow in the beginning. The family tree diagram on the first page is a must if you want to keep straight how the characters are related. The first chapters are like beginning to work a jigsaw puzzle. They contain pieces of plot that you will need to place in your mind. It’s better to get the edges (the family tree) in place first, so you can more easily figure out where the other pieces go.

This is not a book one reads to just enjoy and savor. It’s a book that will introduce you to ways of life that may seem foreign if you were raised in a loving and a supportive family. The plot is based on the story of Tamar in the Bible, a daughter of King David, who was raped by her brother Amnon. You can read the story in 2 Samuel 13. Even royal households can be dysfunctional. Sin and lust lurk everywhere. The sins of the fathers often are passed to their sons until the cycle is broken. Yet the book will offer hope to those who have suffered bereavement, grief, rape, and incest. It will also show parents how important it is not to favor one child over the others, and everyone what sharp weapons their tongues can be.

The dead cannot be brought back, but the living can become new. Comfort’s path to healing was not an easy one, as you will see in the short poems she writes. But her Abba does not leave her alone. His voice comes to her during her darkest moments. Her family and Solly, the man she had been planning to marry, continue to reach out to her. It is only when she had lost all hope that she was willing to accept help. Abba (and her family and Solly) pull her from the prison into which she had retreated and healing begins.

Even though this may be a hard read, I recommend it. I almost stopped reading after the first few chapters, but I’m glad I didn’t. The characters reached into my heart and I wanted them to find peace and recognize the love that did surround them. No family or person is without sin. The author reveals the destructive patterns that can lead families and individuals to despair, but also show us the way to Abba’s love and healing. You can purchase How Sweet the Sound Here

In Between – Not Just a Title but Also the Theme

 A Book Review of In Between, by Jenny B. Jones

Katie Moves in with the Scotts

How does it feel to be in between in the small Texas town of In Between? We meet sixteen-year-old Katie in a minivan as her social worker, Mrs. Smartly, is driving her to a foster home. Katie’s mother, Bobbie Ann Parker is in prison for selling drugs. Katie has been in a group home since her mother was arrested six months ago. Until her mother left, Katie was pretty much raising herself.

Like many older children in foster care, Katie fears what she may find in a new home. Katie is really freaked out when she finds her new foster daddy, Jame Scott, is a preacher.  Katie has not spent much time in churches.  As Katie and Mrs. Smartly get closer to the Scotts’ home, Katie discreetly seeks clues on what her “pretend-o-parents” will be like. She says it this way:

It’s like I want to know about these people, but I don’t want Mrs. Smartly to think I’m too interested. Or scared.  The thing with foster care is you have way too much uncertainty. I knew where I stood at the girls’ home. I knew who to be nice to, who to totally avoid, and what the lumps in the dining hall mashed potatoes really consisted of.

As Mrs. Smartly keeps probing to find out what Katie is afraid of, we get a good idea of what life in the Sunny Haven for Girls was really like and what Katie fears about foster care. She is in between one life and another, and although she hated the old, she is afraid of what she might find in the new. She still smarts from the rejection of her mother, who chose drugs over her own child.  I remember one of my very own nephews grieving for the same reason many years ago. He never had to go to a real foster home, since my mother and I were allowed to take him and his brother in to our homes until their home was stable again. Eventually it was.

Foster Care is an Adjustment for Everyone

Jenny B. Jones has written In Between (and the books which follow it in this series) in Katie’s voice.  Though the books are targeted for young adults, I couldn’t put them down.  That may be partly due to my own experience as the foster parent of a troubled girl we later adopted. I only wish our experience could have been a bit more like the Scotts.  Our daughter left us when she was a few days from turning seventeen. As we continued to read In Between, we discovered that the Scotts’ also had an adopted daughter, Amy, who left them for some of the same reasons.  This is one more reason this book spoke to me.

In Between deals seriously with common problems both foster children and their foster parents face, and many of them are similar to what most teens and conscientious parents face.  These problems include self-esteem, acceptance, boundaries, discipline, expectations, drug abuse, and peer pressure.  More complicated issues include the fear of being sent away from a family once you feel at home, or having a child you have grown to love sent back to unsuitable parents.

We watch as Katie adjusts to learning about church and God, as she tries to fit into a new school and has to deal with a school bully who happens to be the daughter of her P.E. teacher, who is also a bully.  She first gets into the wrong crowd at school and gets into trouble. She is sure James and Millie will send her away, but they find a way to keep her from getting a jail record while providing some very appropriate consequences.

 Maxine  Provides Comic Relief

Almost the first thing Millie does after Katie moves in is take her mall shopping for new and fashionable clothes. This is followed with a new hair style. While they enjoy lunch at a restaurant, Millie’s phone rings and we first become aware of Millie’s eccentric mother, Maxine. Here’s how Millie describes her to Katie:

‘my mother is, um, different. I don’t want to scare you, but she’s been compared to Judge Judy….on crack’

We then learn that Maxine can no longer drive because she knocked over a few stop signs. So she bought a tandem bicycle that she named Ginger Rogers and had a little accident

‘wiping out in the street. Luckily though, the chicken truck stopped for her. After it hit a fire hydrant.’ (Millie) shakes her head and laughs. ‘It rained feathers and naked chickens for and hour. But Mother says she is close to perfecting he wheelie.’

As you might guess, Maxine and Rocky provide the comic relief in this book to keep it from getting too heavy.  Maxine reminded me a bit of Electra Lark, Temple Barr’s eccentric landlady in the Midnight Louie Series by Carole Nelson Douglas, but Katie’s foster granny Maxine makes Electra seem conventional.

My Recommendation

By now I’m fully immersed in Katie’s world. I have read all four books in the series, In Between (1), On the Loose (2), The Big Picture (3) and Can’t Let You Go (4).  I’m not a spoiler, so I won’t say much more about the plot. I can’t get enough of the characters. I now really care what happens to James, Millie, Katie, Frances (Katie’s friend), Sam (Maxine’s friend), Amy, and even Maxine, crazy as she seems.  Like most teens, Katie doesn’t learn all she should from her mistakes the first time around. James, Millie, and Maxine do their best to keep her safe from those mistakes and unlikely to repeat them.

Trust is a big issue, as it is in most families.  The books show how it is carefully built, violated,  and rebuilt. We see important changes in all the characters as the plot develops, and we get to know them well.

I recommend this series to all who want to get inside the heads of foster children and foster parents, to those who are foster teens or foster parents, or to anyone who is a friend of any of these.  Even when the plot moves into serious territory such as tornadoes, bullying, vandalism, and cancer, the author allows us to laugh and relieve the tension. She doesn’t put anyone on a pedestal and gives even ministers and their families heavy problems to grapple with.

Although the book is definitely Christian, it’s not goody-goody nor does it raise expectations that Christians will have trouble-free lives. Instead it shows believers trusting God in the midst of their pain and uncertainty.

Get the Series All at Once

I received In Between as a free eBook from Amazon. It may still be free if you hurry. But I give you fair warning. If you read it, you will want to get the other books immediately. I have now purchased and read them all. You can get all of them at once in the Kindle edition.  If you decide to buy the paper rather than the Kindle editions, be sure to buy them all at the same time to avoid being left hanging, waiting for the next book to arrive.

 

Featured photo at the top is one I took edited on PicMonkey.com

The photo below is perfect to share on Pinterest. The girl in the photo is my daughter, who had come to us as a disturbed foster child. The picture  was taken when she was about the same age as Katie was in the book. You can read her story here: Sarah: The Suicide of Our Adult Child

Book Review of In Between by Jenny B. Jones