Sunday, October 12, 2008

A batch of books

It's the big week for fans of Katherine Neville .... THE FIRE makes an appearance in bookstores... not to be missed! (see review in earlier blog posts)

For those of you still needing extra 
reading material here are a few other sugestions:

Romance readers can enjoy a new 
Susan Wiggs book: Just Breathe.  Known for her light touch and contemporary romances, Wiggs gives us a pregnant comic strip artist running from her cheating husband back to her seaside hometown. As a high school misfit she has lots of memories from those years including ones about the good looking fire chief (can we say hot romance about now?). Easy to read and you'll enjoy it too much to feel guilty about this modern romance with baby! on board.

Canine lovers try Marley and Me. This dog really is man's best friend and once you start reading you'll understand why Hollywood optioned this book and why the movie is coming out during the holiday season. 

Non fiction lovers who worry about the threat posed by Vladimir Putin and are interested in the "new" Russia will enjoy Putin's Labyrinth. It may scare you more than the American economy when you read about the killing of journalists, and others who have dared to take him "on." Does Alexander Litvinenko and 
polonium-210 ring a bell? Read this and you'll think twice if you believe the Cold War ever ended.

Saturday, October 11, 2008



American Wife's central character is a first lady so conflicted that she makes Hamlet look happy and  the reader thankful that the White House is not her future residence. Written by Curtis Sittenfield, author of PREP it tells the story of Alice Lindgren a Wisconsin born and bred former school librarian, a somewhat straight laced but quietly liberal woman who bears a striking resemblance to real first lady Laura Bush. How she meets Charlie Blackwell, marries and reforms him and then scales political heights with him -something to which she never aspired is l chronicled in detail.

If you keep thinking George W. Bush as you read, well you know the "W" pretty well because like the “real president” Charlie comes from a powerful, monied family with political connections. He is known for many things but not his IQ (although he is a Princeton and Wharton B. School grad). The fictional character  is the black sheep of his family, buys a pro-baseball team, struggles with alcohol until he becomes "born again," is strongly Conservative and a Republican. to     

But Alice is the real story here. Her early years, quiet, family life, her struggle with guilt over the accidental death of her first love - a death she caused (again like the real Laura Bush).  While no one is privy to the real thoughts of another person, Sittenfield's character Alice is never far from her first love whether it is in her dreams, thoughts, or indeed how the incident and it's aftermath continue to haunt the rest of her life. 

Alice's transition from small town, middle class girl, school teacher/librarian to the country club clique with her marriage is one of the more interesting parts of this book as we see Alice change in response to her new life. Her often naïve outlook and lack of guile leave her open to Blackwell family pressures and her life of financial privilege is not always what it seems to those around her.

It is fascinating and does make the reader wonder how accurate Sittenfield might be about America’s real first lady. You’ll wonder if the truth is out there so to speak when you finish  this novel, and if it is even close you’ll appreciate Laura Bush’s grace and spirit.

This is another Sittenfield book to savor and leave you guessing.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

For Red Sox Fans

Fun read with lots of facts and back stories - really humanizes Terry Francona. Well paced, easy page turner and a must-read for Red Sox fans... If you like baseball trivia you'll love the Michael Jordan stories.

The Teammates: A Portrait of a Friendship 
 David Halberstam 2004

The best baseball book ever (well, at least my favorite ). Halberstam, one of the all time great writers tells the story about Ted Williams and   his teammates Johnny  Pesky (as in Pesky's Pole), Dom DiMaggio and Bobby Doerr and  the grand days of the Sox.  He tells about the highs and lows of Teddy and the final journey his friends take to say goodbye to him. Hang on to your kleenex, but also be prepared to laugh as you read because some of the stories are absolutely priceless (yes, like  a visa commercial).
This book  makes a wonderful  gift for anyone who is a Red Sox fan, anyone who loves baseball history or just  appreciates great sports writing. 

A Few New Recommendations

If you are looking for something new to read or gift, here are a few suggestions

For fans of historical fiction:


David Ebershoff's   19th Wife will intrigue fans of "Big Love," as it tells the story of Brigham Young's young wife (#19) and at the same time has a contemporary plot featuring a "closed" community where present day polygamists (think Warren Jeffs here)  practice their beliefs.  Well written and a fascinating  jaunt through the history of the Church of Latter Day Saints and the impact of polygamy on families - especially the women
 and children.

 by Heather Terrell 

Were the Chinese the first to circumnavigate the globe? Did the emperor send ships under the famous Admiral Zheng to explore, map and  bring riches  back to  him? This is the fictional tale of a young mapmaker and his long journey... a tale worthy of Marco Polo. It's also a history of China in the 1420's, the Forbidden City, the world of palace intrigue, and a young man's gift to his family of his manhood and happiness so he may enter the gates of the Forbidden City, learn  mapmaking and  navigational skills. As a eunuch his status, salary, etc. elevate his family  although he has lost the woman he loved.

While this story alone would make the book -- there is much more. In the present day a young woman owns a  rather unique company that  negotiates and retrieves stolen artifacts, art, etc.  A request to find a Chinese map from the 1400's stolen from an archaeological dig  is rather unusual since the person who is paying her has not told her the full truth about the very unique map. Seems everyone wants it too so now we have a little suspense and danger.

And that is why there is a third story taking place in the book that traces the story of the  Portugese explorer most school age children can name with ease because he was the one  who first circumnavigated the globe --- Vasco deGama. In the late 1400's he made this trip under Portugal's banner but this books speculates that he had a secret -  the Chinese map that made his trip possible. Perhaps our teachers were wrong? 

Characters both historical and imaginary paint portraits of times and places so real that you can t hear the waves, taste the salt and visualize the map.  Chances are you won't be able to put it down for long and you'll be caught up in each of the three stories and how they tie together. Great read .

Monday, September 22, 2008

Charlemagne Pursuit

Steve Berry's book THE CHARLEMAGNE PURSUIT features Cotton Malone, the intrepid American  Magellan Billet (US covert operations) member, who is  on a personal mission to discover the truth about his father's fatal mission on the submarine USS Blazak. It seems, however, that Cotton is not alone in his search for answers about the never recovered sub.  

Suddenly, many people share his quest  including  the competitive, twin daughters of a German who died along with Cotton's  father and a US  admiral with lofty political ambitions and a nasty temper who wants the secrets of the mission to remain buried in  Antarctica. As is usual with Cotton Malone there is the thrill of the chase, shootings, mass mayhem, and of course the historical links that  provide such a fascinating aspect to every Berry novel. 

Charlemagne's secrets lead to information that can help Cotton with his search but there are many obstacles along the way and the clues must be followed exactly (which isn't easy if you have killers chasing you and your supposed allies are plotting your demise). The book also touches on NAZI fascination with the the Aryan race, and their exploration of Antarctica in the late 1930's, nother little footnote in time courtesy of Berry's research.

Journey with Cotton through Germany, France and Antarctica as he battles both the past and present to find the truth amidst  government cover-up,  unforgiving weather, and not so trustworthy partners. 

One fun and quirky item  is that fans of Brad Thor will note the mention of Brad Thor's character Scott Harvath in Berry's book. Seems to be an insiders joke... I am not 100% certain but I'm almost sure Cotton Malone was mentioned in the last Thor's book I read.

The Charlemagne Pursuit hits bookshelves on 12/9/08.  Pick it up and enjoy - it's another great read from the master of this genre and it'd be a great holiday gift for a friend. 

Saturday, August 23, 2008



Brunonia Barry's novel, THE LACE READER is novel about the timeless power of family ties, the use inherited characteristics as gifts or curses and why we are drawn back to our home by a crisis. Towner Whitney returns to her childhood home in Salem, Massachusetts to deal with a family crisis and begins to confront her haunted past.

The women in Towner’s family are gifted with the ability to “read” the future through the patterns in lace. Much as lace is delicate, intricate spun threads so is the book a patterned web of intrigue, mystery, deceit, entanglements, and heartache.

With a hometown of Salem, MA – America’s pre-eminent home of witchcraft, the plot ranges from the merely odd to the paranormal and perhaps only to places our own imagination stretches as we follow Towner’s story. As her Aunt reminds her "There are no accidents... everything happens for a reason."

This is a DuMarier genre novel and the author gives excellent descriptions of lace making and lace reading as well as the spoken and unspoken truths that are common to all families. It’s stylish with a psychological and perhaps otherwordly story that captures Towner and her family in a spell that can only be broken by confronting what has gone before.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Don't let an odd name deter you from reading this  absolutely wonderful book which tells the story of English Channel Island residents who lived under Nazi occupation during WWII. Caught after curfew following a forbidden gathering some quick thinking on the part of one local suddenly merged a disparate  group into "The Guernsey Literary Society." 

Their story is told through letters they write after the War to a young London columnist who becomes their confidante, amateur psychologist, pen pal and friend. How all of their lives have been changed by the war and the new relationship they build through the post is the basis of this charming novel. It is at once delightful, moving, has interesting historical notes and is ultimately about the power of friendship and hope when faced with hardship and adversity.

You can easily fall in love with this book - one of the best of 2008.  

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Few More Suggestions

If you like medical thrillers Robin Cook's new book FOREIGN BODY takes on medical tourism, something that has been in the news a great deal the last few years. If you've missed it, the condensed version is that Americans are traveling to India and other countries to have procedures such as hip replacements, face lifts, etc. because they are so much cheaper than in the US.

These "package deals" include airfare for the patient and a family member or friend, the surgery and follow up care usually at a posh hotel all for thousands less that the price in the US. It is such a "bargain" that some American companies now have agreements with these offshore hospitals and send their employees for surgeries rather than paying top prices for procedures at US hospitals.

Cook takes this timely topic and looks at the downside of it using two of his continuing characters, forensic pathologists from the New York City Medical Examiner's Office, Laurie Montgomery and Jack
Stapleton. They happen to have a personal connection to someone who lost her life under suspicious circumstances following a routine procedure at an Indian hospital.

When the hospital wants to hurriedly cremate the body, the victim's granddaughter who is a bright medical student from the US calls in the two pathologists who are family friends and the plot continues from there.

While it is formula driven in the Cook tradition, it's still an interesting read and poses some thoughtful questions.

A great book for those who like thrillers, medical mysteries or those who just need something to escape  tedium  during an airplane flight or on vacation.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

THE FIRE, Katherine Neville

Sometimes just as you awaken, for an instant you see the threads of wisdom and knowledge that flow through the universe linking the past and future of mankind. It is as if you suddenly have the key to enlightenment. That was the feeling I had time and again when I read Katherine Neville’s first novel, THE EIGHT.

I found the book so incredible that I kept wondering how she came up with her ideas – how did she manage to translate those few, rare moments into a book that captured the imagination as it traveled from present day to the French Revolution, linking the past and present so seamlessly through puzzles, clues, games and the forces of good and evil?

I had stumbled upon the book when it first came out and soon found myself recommending it to friends so we could discuss it. THE EIGHT also provided the impetus to form a book club and was of course the first book we ever read and discussed as a group.

So, after more than 20 years, Neville has continued the story and of course “the game” that started in THE EIGHT with her new book, THE FIRE. Drawing from historical references and time periods as well as from the present day, Neville has written another stunning novel for those with inquiring minds.

THE FIRE centers on Alexandra Solarin, daughter of Catherine Velis the main character from THE EIGHT. A former child chess prodigy who quit playing after a traumatic incident in her youth, Alexandra is living a quiet, uneventful life in Washington, DC but has a series of adventures that catapult her from the safety of life as a sous chef to the middle of “the game” and the frantic search for her missing mother.

This being a Neville novel, Cat Velis has left her daughter a series of riddles and clues to discover and decode based on mystical chess set. Alexandra is now playing a life and death game with terrifying consequences that reach across the centuries to the Ottoman Empire, and involve such well known figures as Lord Byron, George Washington and Catherine the Great.

A White Queen, a Black Queen, a chessboard, links to Islam, references to current events such the war in Iraq, and many gambits keep the reader guessing about the truth of the chess set. Pay attention because the large cast of characters, many historical shifts, and abundance of information may cause overload but also keeps the reader captivated.

If you like puzzles from sudoku to cryptograms, are intrigued by history, enjoy quirky but believable characters (the kind of people you’d love to claim you’ve met), and if you loved THE EIGHT, then get this book. If you just want something interesting to read, get this book. You don’t have be a devotee of THE EIGHT to enjoy it (but you should read it anyway).

You’ll finish THE FIRE, ponder it and want to discuss it with friends because it so much more than just a novel. It is another book for inquisitive minds and readers who like mystery, romance, suspense, history, and imaginative writing all in one book. Buy it October 14. You won’t be disappointed in playing “the game” once again because this book like THE EIGHT, is a chance to discover a little bit of enlightenment from the mind of Katherine Neville.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Great Summer Reading

Need a book or two for  summer reading?

 Here are a few suggestions: 

If you are a history buff pick up Jeff Shaara's series on WWII (the second book is even 
better than the first) :
Rising Tide (in paperback  this is the first book 
 in the planned trilogy )
Steel Wave  (second in the series)

Conn Iggulden has written two  great historical novels (series of three are planned) about Genghis Kahn.   Fascinating and well written these are well worth the reading time. 

Genghis:Birth of An Empire (first in the series)
Genghis: Lords of the Bow

If you prefer a little mystery or a political thriller  for your summer pleasure pick up the latest from Brad Thor or James Rollins (and if you don't want to splurge on hard covers buy any of their other books already in paperback).  You can't go wrong with these two authors.

For a different kind of thriller, take a  look at life behind the Iron Curtain when the government says that crime  does not exist, discover  how  you catch a killer, when you read the book  Child 44  by Tom Rob Smith.

The Last Patriot****  Brad Thor
The Last Oracle**** James Rollins

Need a little romance? If you like regencies try anything by Julia Quinn such as her Bridgerton series or Lisa Kleypas' Wallflower series. If you prefer contemporaries you can't go wrong with  Debbie Macomber, Catherine Anderson or Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

Here are ten other good picks for summer reading not in any particular order some are old and some are new:
1. Garden Spells Sarah Addison Allen

2. The Eight  by Katherine Neville 

3. The Power of One  Bryce Courtenay

4. Buster Midnight's Cafe by Sandra Dallas

5. Lancelot  by Walker Percy

6.  A Bell for Adano   by John Hershey

7.  Shantaram Gregory David Roberts 

8. Mademoiselle Boleyn  by Robin


9. Skeletons of the Zahara: A True
 Story of Survival by 
Dean King

10. Tea Rose and Winter Rose by Jennifer

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Brad Thor's The Last Patriot

"What if," games are always interesting especially when it's another Brad Thor thriller. The current US war against terror isn't the first to take on Islamists who have used the latter part of the Koran to justify killing infidels as set down from Allah to Mohammed. (ah, the history lessons you will lessons you will learn). But what if Mohammed's last message from Allah was one so startling that Wahabbi's and other fundamentalist Islamists would kill to keep the secret from reaching the present day faithful?

Taking the reader from Thomas Jefferson and the scourge of Barbary pirates, to present day scholars searching for early versions of the Koran that may include a final revelation, there is plenty of murder, mayhem and other action to keep you guessing. And of course we have Thor's continuing characters including , Scot Harveth a modern day hero for the war on terror who is the thinking man's equivalent of Rambo - a hero still smarting from a betrayal in the last book (if you read it). Suffice it to say Harveth just happens to be in the right spot for action although he is unofficially "of duty."

Pick up the book, turn a few pages and you'll be hooked. ANd if you haven't read the rest of Thor's books - pick them up as well.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Woman of a Thousand Secrets

I've read a number of Barbara Woods books through the years, my favorite having been DOMINA **** that is until I read .... Woman of a Thousand Secrets... which is why I added it to this blog!  It will be available in September and is worth the wait!


Barbara Wood draws from myth and history as she tells the story of Tonina, a baby from the sea found by a childless Pearl Island couple who raise her knowing that someday she must return to her own people among the mainlanders. Her journey across water and land, the search for family, and the quest to discover a mysterious red flower that promises miraculous cures are woven through Tonina’s story as she changes from a near outcast to a strong, resourceful woman.
Woods paints vivid, lush pictures of a time and place long since vanished but alive within the pages of this book where feathers dance, eagles soar, pyramids remain and the land holds many secrets. The supporting characters are strong females, wily profiteers, mythical mutes with godlike powers, people of the earth who can hear nature’s heartbeat and interpret the smallest changes in weather and plant life, sports stars with egos to match, families struggling to lift their children to a better life and those who have lost their families because of their own greed.

History fans will once again find many facts and fascinating tidbits in Woods’ latest book. Central American lore, culture, history and geography are well traversed in Tonina’s story. The resourcefulness of the main character, the power of legend (and a few coincidences) and the path of the human heart lift this book to a must read category for fans of Woods work.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Rollin's Last Oracle

Weaving history, current events, and unusual tidbits of knowledge with his creative storytelling makes any James Rollins book a great fun and THE LAST ORACLE continues the tradition. You'll want to get comfy because you may just want to read it in one sitting. The SIGMA Force is back in another thriller complete with savant children, Chernobyl, diabolical scientists, gypsies and lots of action. If you are a reader of Rollins’ previous works you'll recognize the characters and see their stories brought up to date.

Like a spider, Rollins weaves a complex web and the reader has a chance to follow the threads through not only the past and present, but also through India, Russia, Washington, DC and other locations as the various characters tangle themselves in a deep mystery that has the possibility of eradicating mankind.

I admit to being a fan of Rollins and have read his previous SIGMA Force books, so I was happy to get an advance reader’s copy of this book.

The book’s title THE LAST ORACLE, refers to the Oracle of Delphi and the plotline is based on a cabal of scientists who manipulate the brains and talents of autistic-savant children with the goal of world peace. Some group members, however, have other plans for the children that are not so altruistic. Stopping the bad guys is where the SIGMA Force comes in and the worldwide chase begins. Chernobyl plays a key role, psychic abilities are also important to the storyline and SIGMA teams up with gypsies in a rather remarkable way --- (some great historical tidbits here). If you know the SIGMA characters you’ll appreciate the updates to their stories. Plus you get the drawings that Rollins’ includes with his novels – always a nice addition.

While I lay no claim to psychic talent I do predict that if you read this book you’ll be fascinated with the historical and scientific information, you’ll find the storyline thrilling and the book hard to put down.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

A Prisoner of Birth

Jeffrey Archer's A Prisoner Of Birth**** Sentenced for a crime he did not commit, a young London mechanic befriends his cellmates and they in turn help him seek justice during the many plot twists and turns of this latest Archer novel. Throw in lying barristers, sleazy actors, a priceless stamp collection, two young lovers, a passionate defense attorney and you have  a book that will  keep you reading past bedtime. You'll find it hard to put down because the characters  are both real and entertaining and the plot is very imaginative.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

New Cold War

The New Cold War Putin’s Russia and the Threat to the West***1/2 And you thought Russia was no longer a threat? Where exactly have you been hiding your head in the sand? While he doesn’t advocate home bomb shelters the author  Edward Lucas does provide information about the power yielded by Russia due to large oil and gas reserves (he calls this chapter “Pipeline Politics) – a huge boon in today’s energy wars. If you missed it -  the KGB never really went out of business – it just changed it’s name --- and journalists and others are feeling it’s power if they “upset” the powers that be (Putin perhps). Shades of polonium?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Skeletons at the Feast

If you have not read Chris Bohjalian's new book  Skeletons at the Feast, go find it at your local library or bookstore. The title may leave you puzzled when you first hear it, but it's the story of a once wealthy German refugee family trying to outrun the Russians who are closing in during the waning days of WWII. Fearing the atrocities of the Russians, many ordinary Germans would rather die than submit, so they are racing against the clock to reach American and British lines. This particular family is also sheltering a Scottish POW who was forced to work on their farm and with whom the daughter has fallen in love. Two of her brothers are still fighting for the glory of the Third Reich. Her mother cannot believe the stories she has heard about the fate of the Jews during Hitler’s reign, and it takes a young man hiding out as a Nazi to complete the circle as all of their stories begin to collide on the road to redemption for some and freedom for others.

Bohjalian has written a beautiful book with an interesting assortment of characters that bring a different perspective to WWII. He tells the reader of ordinary people during times of extraordinary hardship while evoking emotions of fear, despair, hope, love and tenderness.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Forbes 400

All the Money in the World: How the Forbes 400 Make and Spend Their Fortunes
by Peter Bernstein and Annalyn Swan
 If you ever wondered about inherited wealth vs. earned money; blue collar billionaires; high school drop outs who became financial superstars; Ivy league grads vs. state schools  for making the "400" list ; top philanthropic multi-billionaires; “eccentric” very, very rich people;  which person in today’s dollars would have been the wealthiest American in our history;  well this is the book for you. It’s interesting with lots of tidbits for the curious (kind of like a People, Money, Newsweek, Fortune, Forbes and WSJ rolled into one --- with a touch of the Robb Report. So if you are fascinated with the superrich you’ll be able to find out in chapters such as “What It Takes, Making It, Spending It, “ how the Forbes 400 works, lives and spends. You’ll understand the risks and rewards of the lifestyle and the vast differences in the way the 400 live their lives and the vast differences in the make-up of the 400 themselves. You’ll also find lots of little sidebars such as which members of the list served prison time, which have given the most money to charity, which women top the list, what cars they drive, and family feuds over inheritances, etc. All in all a very interesting book worth a read – perhaps a chance for the authors to get on the list if we all buy this book and subsequent ones…

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Four Queens

When is the last time you read a book  so intriguing that you wanted to take the phone of the hook, ignore the doorbell, and forget about doing anything but reading the rest of the story? Well this might be that book - it was for me and it is not even fiction. 

Nancy Goldstone's, Four Queens: The Provencal Sisters Who Ruled Europe,**** is a beautifully written history that is so fascinating it reads like a novel about four sisters, a clever mother and ambition matched by success. It was the time of knights, crusades, kings, and troubadours in medieval Europe. Each sister made a brilliant match marrying some of the most powerful men of their time (including the Kings of France and of England) , surviving wars, crusades, and rebellions. Their stories are interwoven in the fabric of the thirteenth century. Family disputes over dowries (how many times can a father promise the same castles?), triumphs, heartaches and petty jealousies as they grew into powerful women (all actually became queens) are all duly noted. How they raised families, formed political and social alliances and their lasting impact on the times is also explored in detail. Nancy Goldstone writes with heart and makes the sisters come to life.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Heroines

The Heroines, is an intriguing debut novel about a young teen and her mother whose B&B is host to a cast of literature’s finest (and most tragic) heroines from Ophelia to Hester Prynne and Scarlett O’Hara. The daughter narrates and tells  about  being ordered to play with Hester’s daughter Pearl (can we say “playing “pillory”) so the two unwed mother’s can share notes. The narrator is cautioned by her mother that she must keep two secrets: don’t tell anyone you see heroines (albeit they are garbed in modern clothing) and  never  tell the heroines the rest of their stories or they will not go back to meet their dreadful fates. Can you blame them? Frankly Scarlett you will give a damn about this book. 
No wonder the young narrator ends up accidentally (so to speak) in a psych ward. An interesting take on a  remarkable  situation. Who hasn't wished that book characters would come to life?  For readers of children's books it may remind you of  of an adult “Inkheart” with a tad less drama, a lot less fantasy and slightly more heart.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Sundays at Tiffany's

Sundays at Tiffany's is a James Patterson book you'll want to  sit and read one afternoon especially if you remember your imaginary childhood friend. Did you have tea at the St. Regis with yours? Perhaps not but Jane does until at age nine Michael her protector, best friend and playmate vanishes... 

In her thirties Jane is still a loner, but has become a famous playwright (can you guess what her play is about? Perhaps even tea time at a big hotel with a certain pal?) She expresses her love for Michael through the story she can only tell from her memories. And then Jane meets her special someone but he is very familiar...Can you guess where this is going?

Saturday, May 3, 2008

For Children of All Ages

Need something fun to read aloud to the little ones? These books will delight the kids and also make you smile - don't be surprised if they ask you to read them again and again.

Here is the list:

1. Five Little Monkeys Jumping On The Bed by Eileen Christleow
and the story is  "one fell off and hit his head...."

2. Five Little Monkeys Sitting In A Tree  by Eileen Christelow   another page turning, giggle a minute book that the wee ones will love.

3. Dr. Seuss The Foot Book comes in a board book version for little hands but will cause big belly laughs.

4. Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb... the dum, ditty, dum, dum, dum will surely please, the monkeys make toddlers smile and the rhymes are just fine. Also in board book form for wee ones.

5. Wheels On the Bus... yes, it is the song in book form - a little gem for the under five set and perfect for singing if you dare. 

Thursday, May 1, 2008


When you hear the name Lancelot, you may first think of fair Guinevere and the legend of Arthur and his knights.  These myths are told and retold throughout history and novels have also drawn upon them for story lines and character development. One of the more interesting uses of both Lancelot's name and chivalry is found in a masterpiece  by Walker Percy titled LANCELOT. Like its author's chosen home of New Orleans a city of shadows, ghosts, and duality where nothing is as it seems,  Lancelot Lemar a modern day self professed (or self imagined white knight "wanna be," shares his story from a psychiatric ward - your first clue that all is not well in the world of his legal mind. 

This is the book your college instructor would have you tear apart by layers -- searching for hidden meaning, recounting philsophy, digging for clues from Percy's own history to flesh out the demons that haunt Lancelot in the story. On the other hand it is just a great book to pick up and read. You'll laugh, you'll  ponder the crime that led to Lancelot's insane asylum admission and  you'll marvel at  Percy's words and  the passions they evoke as he describes Lancelot's love of chivalry, his overwhelming need for the romance of the past - even if it is all an illusion. It is said  that the difference between the North and the South is that in the South we 
appreciate our eccentrics -- well, I suspect except for the terrible violence, Lancelot would be revered south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Is Lemar haunted? Is Lamar crazy? His narrative will leave you guessing and you can decide for yourself. Whatever you think, don't miss a chance to read the words of a classic novel by a truly gifted writer. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Baldacci's latest : The Whole Truth

David Baldacci's The Whole Truth**** is an interesting premise --- why don't we just start a war? Just a little throwback to the Cold War perhaps? If you are the world's biggest defense contractor like Nicholas Creel, have billions already and can easily manipulate media and shape world opinions, and are even willing to kill to make your dream a reality - who is there to stop you?

 Baldacci's brings to life, journalist Katie James, a down on her luck, hard drinking print reporter who used to cover war zones  and now writes obits. She may have found story of the year. Shaw, the one named hero of the book is a ruthless alphabet agency killer, who wants to finish this last job and retire. But in his line of work --- well that may be a bit impossible. And his boss isn't about to let this professional slip away when his work is a mix of James Bond, Jason Bourne, and Jack Bauer.

The two are on a mission to find out who is  causing the great powers to face each other down and stop what may trigger a global conflict from which there is no escape. 

Another gripping read from Baldacci who tends to not only have great characters, but also timely issues.

Biographies of Note

If you like to read biographies you are not alone. Whether it is an historical figure, someone of significant accomplishment or someone from the world of arts or entertainment there are so many wonderful books from which to choose one to read.

Here are two I  enjoyed that you may have missed...

Hattie McDaniel: Black Ambition, White Hollywood**** by Jill Watts. Amistad Press (2005), Hardcover well written and intriguing. You may remember her as "Mammy" from Gone With the Wind,"  and also recall that she won a best supporting actress for this role becoming the first African American to ever receive an Oscar.  This remarkable woman's story will fascinate you with details about her life as well as Hollywood in the 1930 -1940's.  The book is also a commentary on the life of African - Americans in US in general as well as in show biz during the same time period.

Nancy Cunard: Heiress, Muse, Political Idealist**** by Lois Gordon. Columbia University Press (2007) How could I have missed knowing about this fascinating woman? Heiress to the Cunard shipping fortune with a social conscience who fought against prejudice and injustice before most American’s even realized it existed in our own country. Also worked to gain benefits and rights for factory workers, etc and to help soldiers, etc…A fascinating woman who rubbed elbows with and knew the major “players” of her time period including Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway and Langston Huges.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Two for the Day

Since I don't want to completely bore or overwhelm anyone - I've decided to just post a few recommendations/reviews a day for a bit.  You'll notice that they are far flung and on a wide variety of topics...

Buster Midnight's Cafe**** written by Sandra Dallas this delightful book has characters with such memorable names as "Whippy Bird" and of course Buster Midnight. While it concerns a Tinsel Town murder triangle, it's really the story of small town friendship, growing up, finding your way in life and how dreams can change, especially when violence shatters that perfect facade. Once you've read this book you'll want to check out all her other books .... I especially like The Persian Pickle Club which features some of the same characters and the two completely different books The Chili Queen and Alice's Tulips.   Her website is:

The Teammates: Portrait of a Friendship****, by the late David Halberstam may be the best book about baseball ever written  - it is also a beautifully crafted story about four men's enduring friendship, aging, and the road trip to say a final goodbye to their ailing teammate who in this case happens to be Ted Williams. These four former Red Sox players were all icons of  Fenway - Dom DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky (yes - Pesky's Pole is named for him), and Bobby Doerr. Although Doerr didn't make that particular trip they all shared stories and memories of their friendship, of baseball and of their enduring love for the game. It truly is an anthem to not only the Red Sox nation, but also baseball, friendship and male bonding. 

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Fiction Favorites 2006-08

Here are some of my favorite picks in fiction from 2006-current date... remember these are just my favorites... (also if I have listed books in other posts they may not be included on this list).

But I have to admit my very favorite book from  the past few years was written by a first time author. It is the only book that I gave five stars too - it is  beautifully written. 

Setterfield, Diane
The Thirteenth Tale*****beautifully written, the language flows like starlight, enchanting the reader, keeping her awake, enthralled as she & the narrator search for the truth behind the famous, reclusive writer Vida Winter’s personal story. What is the truth of the feral twins, an overgrown garden a ghost child, a governess, a medical experiment gone awry and Margaret the narrator’s search for the promised “truth” as her own story is told from the pages of this cloying tale.
If you like The Da Vinci Code, books with templars, biblical mysteries, historical legends...
Assensi. Matilde The Last Cato***1/2 (Dante, the true cross & Vatican mysteries)

McGowan, Kathleen
The Expected One****(interesting twist on the Mary Magdalene story/history, thought provoking, while the writing was not the very best, the story more than compensated for it – seems to be the first in a potential series—also seems to be based on some experiences of the author).

White, Jack Knights of the Black and White****(well researched & well written, fascinating history, novelized account of the Templars (#1 in the series), can’t wait for the next 1 – has concise reasons for not becoming a Christian (how this was a hoax on the world by the church leaders), should instead believe in God and not a church ) Whyte, Jack
Standard of Honor**** Book 2 in his series of Templars novels chronicling the crusades - another well written, interesting book.

Young, Robyn
Brethren: An Epic Adventure of the Knights Templar***(a young boy, his quest to become a knight, a secret group w/in the Templars, & a look at the Holy Land and crusades through Muslim and Christian eyes – some excellent history inc. the rivalries between the Knights of St. John (Hospitallers) and Templars., and about the Mamluks)

 Historical Fiction

Maxwell, Robin,
Mademoiselle Boleyn**** Intriguing, well paced, historical novel about the early life of Anne Boleyn in the French court. It traces the history of Anne and her sister Mary who are sent by their ambitious and calculating father across the Channel…What happens to them, the interactions with other historical figures, Anne’s first glimpses of the political and social implications of sex and her education about court life and intrigues provides the basis for her later life in the court of Henry VIII. Well researched and fascinating – a must for English history, Tudor fans.

Denny, Anne
Anne Boleyn: A New Life of England’s Tragic Queen**** refutes “bad” history in many previous works and lays a case for a new look at this woman. Interesting, especially if you like Tudor history.

Bennett, Vanora
Portrait of an Unknown Woman: A novel ****As a ward of Sir Thomas More, Meg Giggs is schooled as few women (or indeed men) are in the 1600’s. With her tender heart, interest in healing and family ties Meg and the More household face many interesting times during the reign of Henry VIII. More’s appointment to the King will impact the entire household, including Meg’s love life, paternal respect, faith, passion and sense of right and wrong. When Hans Holbein the painter comes to do a series of portraits that seem to show much more than intended – the artist may very well change her life in ways she never dreamed. A great period piece with interesting historical tidbits and some fun suppositions too boot.

May, Antoinette
Pilate’s Wife*** well written, interesting semi-historical perspective on the wife of Pilate - many things you never knew about the time period- fascinating look at religion and culture of the time.

Iggulden, Conn
Genghis: Birth of an Empire **** fascinating historical novel about the beginnings of this man and his formative years – always a great read from this author. Gehghis Lords of the Bow***1/2


Thor, Brad BlowBack***1/2(well written thriller bioterrorism w/ quite a twist) and  Takedown*** (another well written thriller)

Hosp, David, Da
rk Harbor ***(a lawyer, Boston serial killer, the mob & a mystery)

Reilly, Matthew,
7 Deadly Wonders***(the capstone for the pyramid)

Holland, Thomas
One Drop of Blood***(one of the more unusual book plotlines I have read over the past few years involving Vietnam/Civil Rights linked murder, small Arkansas town, id’ing soldier remains, FBI, etc. well written, twists in plotline, a little weak toward end but well developed characters)

King, Tabitha & McDowell, Michael
Candles Burning*** (odd, but a great mystery, thriller, hard to explain but great reading –about Calley’s dad being horribly murdered and her odd life)

Archer, Jeffrey A Prisoner Of Birth**** Sentenced for a crime he did not commit, a young London mechanic befriends his cellmates and they in turn help him seek justice during the many plot twists and turns of this latest Archer novel. Throw in lying barristers, sleezy actors, a priceless stamp collection, two young lovers, a passionate defense attorney and you have the making for a book you’ll want to sit and just keep reading well pat bedtime. Hard to put down and with characters that are both real and entertaining.

Rollins, James
Black Order***1/2 Continuing Sigma force novel about NAZI experiments, forward to present day- based on some real life evidence going back to quantum physics, and racing from Mt. Everest, to South Africa, Germany, Copenhagen and DC. Great read!  Judas Strain*** another good read with the Sigma Force and the “Guild” battling over a “plague/bio weapon” that goes back to the time of Marco Polo. Lots of adventure! (as usual with same cast of characters from Black Order and Map of Bones.)

Meltzer, Brad , The Book of Fate ***1/2 well written, intriguing political drama, focused on a post presidential (Masonic) conspiracy going back to an assasination attempt during the former president’s time in office that left the narrator/aide disfigured.

Isles, Greg True Evil**** kill your spouse slowly and it is untraceable – get the $ and the kids. A “rogue” FBI agent is on the case – after her sister extracts a deathbed promise. Another great Isle’s read.

Harris, Thomas
Hannibal Rising***1/2 Well written account of Hannibal the cannibal’s early life and how he “became” the “monster” depicted in Harris’ later books and the films. Much better than the last Harris book of the trilogy. Almost up to The Silence of the Lambs category – but, not quite. Kind of makes yoy understand him – almost more of a psycholgocal novel like a J. Kellerman – but still some gore.

Baldacci, David
Stone Cold **** A continuation of the “Camel Club” characters with honorary member Annabelle Conroy playing a key role over her act of revenge (a con job netting her $40 million from a casino owner), meanwhile revenge of a different kind is being extracted ob former CIA operatives by someone from Stone’s shadowy past. And then we meet Harry Finn a mild mannered suburban dad who dotes on his baseball playing kids – is every thing as it seems here?

Flynn, Vince
Protect and Defend***1/2 Mitch Rapp is back and taking on Iran after what appears to be an inside demolition of their nuclear operation – but which they blame on Israeli and American bombers. It’s a big political and diplomatic tangle and when Irene Kennedy the CIA director goes to secretly meet with her Iranian counterpart she is kidnapped. Rapp can’t tolerate this and you can be sure this book leads the reader through all the twists of turns of another great Flynn thriller.

A Lighter Touch (I dare you not to laugh)

Graham, Laurie,
Gone with the Windsors*** (written as a Maybell's diary – this delightful book is a hilarious, but insightful romp through the courtship of the Duke  (eventually the King of England) and Wallace Warfield Simpson the "woman he loved" during their courtship   period - vastly entertaining! Maybell tells “all” and is absolutely clueless to say the least at what she gives away in her daily “memoirs”)

Strohmeyer, Sarah
The Cinderella Pact *** (fun read about an overweight magazine editor who makes up a british alter ego to get her own column)

Lustbader, Victoria Hidden ***1/2 saga of two families tracing two young men in NYC (1920’s) how they meet and become friends in the Great War and their lives – one from the Jewish Lower East side who struggles to escape his upbringing the other who tries to deal with his expected role as a scion of wealth and privilege.

Crichton, Michael
Next **** Fascinating look at genetics, scarey in part, interesting, looks at ethical dilemmas, animal issues, etc. kind of distracting with newslike articles too

 Jacobs, Kate
The Friday Night Knitting Club***1/2 good read, reminds me of something a book club (women’s) would read and identify with – bonding, various life stages, figuring it all out, mother and mothering issues, romance, lifestyle choices, body issues – it’s all here. I hear it will be or is going to be a movie with Julia Roberts or produced by her company...

 Ginsburg, Debra
Blind Submission***, a new assistant at a literary agency, Angel gets more than she bargained for when a “blind” submission seems to mirror her life – fun read- lots of quirky characters

 Hannah, Kristin
Comfort and Joy*** holiday romance/and a lot like Mark Levy’s book If Only It Were True- (movie was “Just Like Heaven” w/Reese Witherspoon)