Thursday, May 30, 2013


Just realized I haven't posted for quite a while.  It seems to be my busy season, and I'm reading two books at once which is something I just never do.  

I'm reading a long but wonderful biography of Harry Truman.  Learning so much about a man I thought I knew very well.  My grandfather, a staunch Republican, looked like Truman's twin, which of course he did not want to hear.  I remember Gramps taking me to the Illinois State Fair one day when I was a kid; he had apparently forgotten that Truman would be there that day.  We stood aside as the president's parade passed by, and I swear Truman took a second look at Gramps and smiled.  Unfortunately, my grandfather gave him a stone cold glare.  

The biography is by David McCulloch, whose writing style is so easy reading it's like listening to a born storyteller.  Turns out I knew almost nothing about Truman before he became president and not a whole lot about his presidency.  I'm really enjoying this one.

The other book I'm reading is Louise Penny's The Beautiful Mystery.  Set in an isolated monastery in Canada where one of the monks has been murdered, this is also an education.  The monks are renowned for their Gregorian chants about which I'm learning.  The monastery itself is intriguing and the story nearly impossible to set aside for necessary interruptions.  Penny is a favorite author of mine.

The reason I keep getting interrupted is that you can practically hear the grass growing around here.  Whenever it stops raining and the yard dries up enough, I have to mow and trim, etc.  This time of year that yard demands too much attention.  Every year I swear our next home will be a condo where someone else does the yard work.  After all, I've been doing it since I was 12 years old - enough is enough!

Then there are appointments, annual picnics, and graduation parties, and of course going out for ice cream on a hot day.  Busy, busy!

See you when I finish The Beautiful Mystery.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

BREACH OF PROMISE, Perri O'Shaughnessy

I had promised myself I would read this series in order.  Unfortunately though, the library didn't have Obstruction of Justice (#3) and I just can't wait to read another Nina Reilly book so I went ahead with Breach of Promise (#4).  This is like comfort food for me, I settle down comfortably and lose myself in the story with both familiar and new characters that seem like real people.

Reilly is a struggling lawyer raising a son, Bob, alone in Lake Tahoe.  She settled there because her brother and his wife live there with their children.  Occasionally there also is Paul, a private investigator she hires for some of her cases.  She's making  enough money to get by on but longs for that "big" case that will bring in sizable fees and a boost for her reputation.

When that big case does come in, who should her opposing attorney be but Jeffrey Riesner.   Riesner has made no bones about wanting to put Reilly out of business and out of state if possible.  He's just this side of shady in his dealings, which puts him opposite Reilly in philosophy and personality as well.  

The case promises millions if she can win it, but presents enough obstacles that she only takes it because of the issue involved.  Lindy and Michael Markov have been together for years, during which time they founded and made a huge success of a company.  He is a former boxer who was not successful in anything else but Lindy is bright, inventive, and possessed of a brilliant marketing mind.  In middle age they are millionaires and (in the throes of a midlife crisis apparently) he tosses Lindy out, fires her from the company, and becomes engaged to their financial officer.  There is a total lack of documentation for Lindy's part in their success, for instance, a marriage license.

Markov is a real heel that you want to slap all over the place, but Lindy although bright in everything else, is dense as pea-soup fog about her husband (common law, not recognized in California).  She thinks he'll come back to her.  Normally Reilly works alone but this case is beyond her usual style so she hires a big name lawyer from the coast as well as an expert on juries.  Everyone has dollar signs in their eyes which leads to serious complications and, in the end, real danger for Nina and Paul.

This story reeled me in like O'Shaughnessy books always do.  I have several books to read for specific date reviews now but as soon as I can I'll be reading the next Nina Reilly story.

Highly recommended
Source:  friend's stash

Sunday, May 12, 2013

KINSEY AND ME by Sue Grafton

Ordinarily I don't care for short stories but I've been a fan of Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone since  A is for Alias so there was no way I would miss this book.  Then I discovered that it is so much more than a collection of stories; it includes a lot of information about Grafton's life that she never talks about and some stories about a character named Kit Blue.  Blue's stories are from the decade after Grafton's mother died.  They deal with the alcoholism of both of her parents in real life as well as her mother's death.  It's an emotional journey of self discovery.

The Kinsey stories are short versions of her books written for various publications.  There is even one written for Land's End which features one of their parkas.  I got a big kick out of these little gems, some with surprising twists at the end and all excellent examples of how to write a short story.  Her quick portraits of characters are spot-on and most of the tales are very funny.  I just began to write about some examples but realized they were spoilers so I can't very well tell you much because I'll drift into spoiler land.  Well trust me, you'll love them.

The Kit Blue stories are heart-wrenching.  They showed me the depth of emotion Grafton feels but also a different side to her writing skills.  I never cry when reading a book but I came pretty close in this section.  Kit and her older sister became the parents because of their parents' alcoholism, and they had to learn responsibility for others and how to take care of a home and family way too early.  Then when their father remarried, learning to deal with a difficult stepmother was another challenge.  It told me much about Grafton and the origin of her series characters.

I had gone to the library to get another book but just had to grab this one from the display in the fiction department.  So glad I did.  Kinsey and Me was a fast read but one that greatly affected me.

Highly recommended
Source:  library

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


The Scandinavian invasion in crime fiction caught me off guard, so much so that I am only now trying my first novel from that phenomenon.  I know, I'm years late but at least I finally decided to jump in.  I had heard about Jo Nesbo and his hero Harry Hole; I even know how to pronounce Hole's last name, so I wasn't totally behind times.  Anyway, I noticed Nesbo's newest volume was available at Amazon Vine so I requested it.

I wonder now if all of these novels would give me the same reaction.  Reading The Redeemer is like watching a black and white movie.  It's colorless for the most part, the only color being the light turquoise blue of one character's eyes, and of course red blood in the snow.  Hole is a complex alcoholic loner detective whose heart is in the right place.  He defies authority to do what he knows is right, and he has compassion for victims.  I like him even though I find him somewhat depressing.  He figures things out with the help of experience and thought rather than being a super-detective who just seems to know things.  The killer is exactly his opposite.

Perhaps it's because this novel is set in Oslo in the winter, with a little foray into Serbia, but the predominant impression is of freezing cold, darkness, gloom, isolated characters who are irredeemably sad, and people who suffer through no fault of their own.  The Salvation Army as an organization is very much a character as well and some of the characters are members.  Despite the overwhelming sadness, I followed the story greedily as I tried to deduce who did what to whom and why.  I didn't actually know until near the end.

Thankfully about the time I finished the book the sun came out here and the temperature went up into the 70s.  Gosh, it was nice to warm up.  I should read the next one in this series during a heat wave.  And I will read more of them.  The writing, the atmosphere, the characters are all beautifully written.

Recommended reading
Source:  Amazon Vine