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Books, Books and More Books

Stop by and read a few sentences about the books I love and the books I hated. Leave a comment or two. I am a former librarian and a voracious reader.
Where the Crawdads Sing - Delia Owens
WOW! Just WOW! This is a great book. Murder, abandoned child, growing up alone, nature, young love, sex, ecology, love, poetry, betrayal, education, redemption, forgiveness, treachery -- it is all here.
Well written with strong characters and even stronger biology, Owens debut novel is clearly a winner.
The North Carolina coastal region and the animals, birds, flowers, grasses, etc. are as much a character as the human in this book. Kya, Chase, Jumpin’, Mabel and Tate are the main humans in this beautiful elegy to nature and the human spirit.
Saying too much more will spoil the “mystery” in the book, so just know that is a book that should not be missed.
Book groups will find much to discuss and ponder. Biologists and sportsmen/women will appreciate the accuracy of the science.
5 of 5 stars


OF BLOOD AND BONE (Chronicles of THE ONE, Book 2)

Of Blood and Bone - Nora Roberts
OF BLOOD AND BONE by Nora Roberts
Volume two of The Chronicles of THE ONE is a richly imagined world of magic, war, peace, education, and strategy. The characters introduced in volume one (YEAR ONE) are fleshed out and new characters become real. Roberts is a master of characterization and plotting. This book demonstrates that.
The training of THE ONE continues with an increase in magic, friendships and war. Although the middle of the book drags a bit, it is a welcome launch to the heart pounding final chapters. The conclusion of this book ensures readers will wait breathlessly for the third and final installment.
Readers who enjoy their magic laced with realism and great characters will appreciate this book. Can be read as a stand alone. 
5 of 5 stars


VOX by Christina Dalcher

Vox - Christina Dalcher
VOX by Christina Dalcher
The United States has been taken over in an election by seriously ultra conservative politicians. Laws have been passed restricting females to just 100 words per day and enforce this directive with punishing electric shocks for every word beyond the allotment. The novel starts with this interesting premise and then has a rather boring first 100 pages as we learn about the wife who is quite an acclaimed scientist and feminist but is married to a go-along, get-along politician husband high up in the conservative government.
The plot finally gets going when she is coerced by the government to restart her science project and discovers a sinister plot against women all over the world. The last two thirds of the book is an interesting and well plotted thriller.
Overall, readers who are looking for another “Handmaids Tale” will be disappointed. Readers looking for a thriller and make it through the first third will be pleased. The characters are clearly defined and remain in character for the entire book. The premise and resulting government action is full of holes but with a suspension of reality, the novel as a whole is satisfying.
3 of 5 stars


THE WAR OUTSIDE by Monica Hesse

The War Outside - Monica Hesse
THE WAR OUTSIDE by Monica Hesse
Texas was the site of Crystal City – an internment camp for “Enemy Aliens” during World War II. Crystal City was for those people of German, Japanese or Italian ancestry that the government believed might be spies.
Haruku and Margot both accompanied fathers who were suspects. They lived on opposite sides of the camp but became friends – sort of. This story gives a glimpse into the reality of their lives and that of the others interned at Crystal City. They were American teenagers, but because someone in their family was suspect, they had been uprooted and sent to a hot, dusty, ill equipped prison. They were enemies to each other and to their country.
Hesse writes clearly of young people confused and conflicted and does it extremely well. Margot and Haruku live and breathe.
They become friends - and enemies. They trust each other - and break that trust. We learn of their families – their love, their politics, their fears, their coping – and their NOT coping. Engrossing, terrifying, moving, sweet and bittersweet – all these and more.
Ultimately a story of betrayal and forgiveness, THE WAR OUTSIDE is thought provoking and well worth reading.
5 of 5 stars


Lines We Leave Behind by Eliza Graham

The Lines We Leave Behind - Eliza Graham
Maud/Amber is a young woman in a secure mental facility charged with a crime. As she speaks with her psychiatrist we learn what led her to the hospital as she “remembers” the past. She was a special agent for the Allies in the Balkans during WWII ….. or was she?
Told in flashbacks, this very interesting tale winds itself out in drips and drabs. The infighting between the Partisans, the Chetniks, the Home Guard and the Germans for control of multi-ethnic Yugoslavia is clear as Maud/Amber carries out her assignments.
Modern day ethnic strife is foreshadowed as the various parties and their doctrines become clear. The land and peoples of the Balkans are well developed and made clear. The personalities of the various players clash believably.
Well researched and well written, this tale is enjoyable and engrossing as the reader tries to determine what is true and what is result of trauma.
Family ties, partisanship, politics, spying, secrets, women in war, and mental health treatments are all topics for discussion by book groups. 4 of 5 stars


A WELL BEHAVED WOMAN by Therese Anne Fowler

A Well Behaved Woman - Therese Anne Fowler
A WELL BEHAVED WOMAN by Therese Anne Fowler
Alva Smith Vanderbilt Belmont was anything but a well- behaved woman.
Left near penniless as she approached marriageable age in the 1870’s, she set her aim for a wealthy man. William Vanderbilt, a younger son in the ultra-wealthy but socially ignored family, caught her eye, as she caught his.
This fictionalized account of her life as a philanthropist, sufferage activist, society hostess and intelligent, opinionated woman is a bit too long, but is vastly entertaining.
Alva, her sisters, her children, her husbands, the Vanderbilts, the Astors and others of upper crust New York society are clearly, and unsparingly, drawn.
The day to day life of Gilded Age society is the backdrop and conformingly repressive constraint her friends and “frenemies” endured.
Told with clear eyed sympathy, the novel follows Alva from age 17 to her death in 1933. Book groups will enjoy discussing the differences between women today and the women who found themselves painted, pampered, polished, packaged and utterly controlled by their fathers and husbands.
4 ½ of 5 stars



Everlasting Nora - Marie Miranda Cruz
EVERLASTING NORA by Marie Miranda Cruz
Nora, 12, lives in her father’s grave house in a Philippine cemetery. Written for middle graders, this novel will be eye opening to adults as well.
Nora and her mother have descended into crushing poverty and survive because Nora makes and sells flower garlands to visitors to other graves. Her friend JoJo, 13, and his grandmother assist as well as they can when Nora’s mother becomes quite ill.
Nora is well defined as a normal child who wants normal things. American preteens will easily identify with her and also with JoJo, a child who has never attended school and is his grandmother’s support. The “bad guys” (who are truly bad) are somewhat glossed over.
Friendship, initiative, caring, hope, forgiveness, determination are all traits exhibited by those Nora learns to trust. A heartwarming story that is ideal for a parent/child book club.
5 of 5 stars


The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The Great Alone - Kristin Hannah
THE GREAT ALONE by Kristin Hannah
Which would you rather do? Die by freezing, starving or being mauled to death by “Alaska” or die at the hands of your abusive, PTSD addled father?
Hannah has written a tense, terrifying love story. But is it a story of love for the beautiful wildness of Alaska or the wildly beautiful love of a father for his wife and daughter?
Leni’s father has decided the family will move to Alaska where he will finally be happy. They are woefully unprepared for the rigors of homesteading in America’s last wilderness. Taken under the wings of Large Marge, a successful homesteader and formerly successful big city prosecutor, the family quickly learns to be relatively self-sufficient. Leni learns to love Alaska and the “wild” life style her father has decreed for the family. Unfortunately, Leni’s father is friend and compatriot with Mad Earl, a rabid anti-government survivalist. Matthew, a classmate of Leni’s, becomes her only friend.
The wildness of nature and the difficulties of surviving in Alaska during the 1970’s and 80’s is made excruciating clear. The terror of living with an out of control abuser suffering from PTSD after surviving as a POW in Viet Nam is also clear. The relationships between mother and daughter, mother and father, Leni and Matthew, father and Mad Earl, among others, are clear and determine the vector and velocity of the plot.
5 of 5 stars

Duel to the Death (Ali Reynolds Mysteries) - J.A. Jance
I love Jance’s Brady and Beaumont mysteries, but am not so enamored of the Ali Reynolds series. Consequently, I have read a few of the series, but not all. I picked this one up because I was in need of a book and away from home. This one was available, so I gave it a try. I liked it – a lot!
Ali is now married and no longer a journalist. She and her husband, along with a few others, run a cyber security firm. They find themselves in the midst of a mafia/drug lord war when their unassuming, slightly shy, perhaps autistic, computer genius employee finds himself suddenly possessed of a fortune in bitcoins – likely all the profits of said drug lord/mafia kingpins. The twists and turns of this – how to get rid of said bitcoins without going to jail or getting killed – makes a great mystery.
The computer stuff is understandable. The danger is palpable. Now I want to go back and read the preceding novels to discover the character development I missed.
5 of 5 stars



Field of Bones - J.A. Jance
Joanna is on maternity leave, but her responsibilities as Sheriff keep getting in the way. A group of teenagers find, and then hide, a human skull. When a parent discovers the skull, Joanna’s leave comes to a screeching halt. A serial killer is on the loose. In the meantime, Joanna is reading her long dead father’s diaries and discovering traits she would rather not know.
Jance writes intelligent mysteries carried by her carefully drawn and fully fleshed out characters. You could read this as a stand alone, but the nuances of plot and character will be better understood if you are familiar with the series.
5 of 5 stars


The Wrong Child - Patricia Kay
THE WRONG CHILD by Patricia Kay I
n the midst of a blizzard, in an understaffed hospital and when the only labor and delivery nurse has a heart attack and dies, two infants are switched. Years later the awful truth comes out.
This tale tells what happens next. Several startling instances of happenstance and the plot thickens. The story is interesting. The characters have life to them. The plot is a tearjerker – but then you knew that, right?
There is no foul language. There is one sex scene. Altogether, not a bad way to spend a lazy afternoon or two.
3 of 5 stars


The Daisy childre by Sofia Grant

The Daisy Children - Sofia Grant
The Daisy Children by Sofia Grant
I’m disappointed in this one. I was imagining a treatment of the tragic explosion in a Texas school that killed most of the children in the town of New London 1937. Unfortunately this tale was only superficially about that and much more about a dysfunctional family and the unfortunate choices they made.
The “love” story is barely there, the characters are stock, the story could take in Anytown, USA.
The one redeeming feature is the twist that is revealed in the last few chapters. Is it worth reading the other 300 pages? I don’t think so.
2 of 5 stars


tense and exciting

Girl in the Blue Coat - Monica Hesse
A young woman living in Holland during the Nazi Occupation is forced into smuggling and utilizing the Black Market in order to feed her family and friends. One of her “regulars” asks her to find “the girl in the blue coat” and that is where the mystery begins.
Secrets, betrayals, lost friendships, disappearances, dead lovers and danger on all sides makes this a compelling and tense read. Everyday life in an occupied city is made real and horrific.
Although billed as Young Adult, this novel will appeal to anyone interested in WWII and the resistance, especially in Holland.
5 of 5 stars


THE INDIGO GIRL by Natasha Boyd

The Indigo Girl - Natasha Boyd
THE INDIGO GIRL by Natasha Boyd
In South Carolina in 1736, 16 year old girls were expected to be sweet, compliant and marry well. Eliza Lucas was anything but the normal Low Country girl. She was intelligent, educated and ambitious. Eliza was left to run to her father’s three plantations while he pursued his military career and jeopardized the family’s wealth and position.
When her family faced financial ruin it was left to Eliza to coerce an arrogant, incredulous male “consultant” and to befriend the family’s slaves to help her discover how to produce indigo dye all while discouraging suitors for her hand (and property). Her solution – teach the slaves to read (illegal) if they helped her.
Well researched and well written, the 5 years Eliza Lucas Pinckney ran her father’s plantations did not save her family’s lands but did secure South Carolina’s place in world trade and provided the fledgling United States with two astute politicians. Eliza’s actual letters to her friends, father and lawyer are interspersed throughout.
5 of 5 stars


Too long but worthwhile (maybe)

The Twelve-Mile Straight - Eleanor Henderson
THE TWELVE-MILE STRAIGHT by Eleanor Henderson 
Oh my, incest, moonshine, sharecropping, KKK, lynching, twins (one white, one black), chain gangs and everything else bad about 1920’s Georgia. It is all here along with a meandering timeline, numerous plots and sub-plots and the “N” word. If this sounds exhausting – it is. There is just soooo much going on in this 540 page tome that it is WORK to read it.
There is an interesting and valuable story here. The characters include a moonshining sharecropper with a problematic background, a teenaged daughter and a teenaged live-in black “maid.” Juke (the sharecropper/moonshiner) hires a black male farmhand. The farmhand has a relationship with both daughter and maid. Daughter has a relationship with the farm owner’s son that ends badly. Both teens are pregnant. The farmhand is lynched and dragged down the twelve-mile straight roadway to the delight (for a time) of the entire town. The son is accused of the murder and disappears – and that is just the beginning section of the book.
The characters are clearly drawn. The time and place are well defined. The situations are believable. But the whole thing is sooo long and the time meanders from before to after and back again with no clear delineation. The final resolutions are clear and satisfying. Dates at the start of each event would be helpful. A little (a lot?) of editing would help.
3 stars for length and confusing timeline


Definitely Women's fiction

The High Season - Judy Blundell
THE HIGH SEASON by Judy Blundell 
This is definitely “women’s fiction.” 
The writing is okay. The characters are okay. The plot is slow moving and heavy on feelings. The house plays a big part in both the feelings and the plot.
You will figure out the ending as soon as Adeline shows up.
Not much here. If you like to read for immediate pleasure and don’t mind stock characters and stock plot, you will like this book. If you are looking for a “mind stretch”, this one is not for you. It is a little long.
3 of 5 stars