Friday, September 27, 2013

The Silver Star

The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls

Mom always says you need to find the magic.  That is the secret to being creative and the secret to life.  "And if you can't find the magic, then make the magic."

Liz Holladay is fifteen, her sister, Bean, twelve, and they are accustomed  to their mom, Charlotte, leaving for days to chase her dream of being a singing star and musician.  This time, though, she doesn't return.  Instead she sends $200 in a letter telling the girls she misses  them and to carry on without her.  Money like that will buy a lot of chicken potpies.  It won't buy their love.

The bandersnatchers (social services) are soon alerted to the girls predicament.  So being the resilient young ladies that they are, Liz and Bean head to Virginia in search of Uncle Tinsley, Charlotte's brother. They eventually find him, and he reluctantly allows them to stay in the dilapidated mansion which was once the pride of the small town of Bayler. Years ago, the Holladay family owned the mill which employed just about everybody in town.  Now Jerry Maddox is in charge, a strapping, overbearing, obnoxious man who takes great delight in bullying the townspeople.  Short on money, the girls choose to work for him without telling Uncle Tinsley.  Unfortunately, this turns out to be a very, very poor decision, especially for Liz who faces many difficult days ahead.

This is a simple story that takes place in 1970-a time of unrest in this country with the Vietnam War and the beginning of desegregation in the South.  It tells the story of a mother's mental illness, a bright, motivated young girl wise beyond her years who refuses to conform, and a sister who admires and cherishes her family with a fierce loyalty.  Is it  possible to triumph over the injustices of the world?

An easy, enjoyable read with a hint of humor.

And a touch of magic.....

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Cuckoo's Calling

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

Lula "Cuckoo" Landry's body lies sprawled on the snow covered pavement below her apartment.  Limbs mangled, her beautiful, highly photographed face will no longer grace magazines and entice her many admirers.  Suicide or murder?

Lula's brother, John Bristow, contacts Cormoran Strike, a private detective, to uncover the truth.  It is hard for him to believe that Lula would jump from her balcony when days earlier she seemed so happy.  She made repeated calls to friends, supposedly harboring a secret that she could not share in person.  Enter her world.  A highly dysfunctional family.  Adopted by a wealthy father and a pampered, selfish, indulged mother after the tragic death of son Charlie who just happened to be Cormoran's closet friend.  Surrounded by multimillionaires, submerged in the culture of a rock-star boyfriend, an obsessed clothing designer, and friends who want to latch on to her for their own gain.  Did any of these want her dead?

Cormoran Strike really doesn't want this case, but it is hard to turn down when you are broke, living out of your office, avoiding creditors, and unlucky in love.  So he accepts John's generous offer.  Temporary office secretary, Robin Ellacott, is growing on him, too.  She delights in this world of intrigue and mystery; of being a private eye's right hand.  Cormoran's skepticism  about murder slowly begins to disappear as he delves deeper into Lula's dark and complicated life.  When a friend of Lula's is found dead and tossed into the river like discarded garbage, the private eye realizes that other lives are in danger.  The  time to act is now.

Some pros and cons with this novel.  It is quite long and at times tedious.  Strong language with adult content-well, let's just say colorful.  Now for the pros...a true whodunit for those of you who delight in deciphering clues and examining the smallest of details.  The author has created a most complex character in Cormoran Strike.  A veteran of war who has lost a leg in battle.  A man who has touched bottom, the son of a famous star who never loved him. A man who longs for self-respect. An intelligent man with the perseverance to carry on. You might even like him.  Certainly an individual  that I believe you will read about again in subsequent novels to come from this exceptional author.

After all, Galbraith, a.k.a. J.K. Rowling, created another memorable character you may remember.

Harry Potter....


Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Hundred Summers

A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams

It's official.  Autumn has arrived.  Hold on to those last, lazy summer days with this delicious beach read.....

As children, Lily Dane and Budgie Byrne enjoyed endless vacation days at their family homes on the beaches of  Seaview, Rhode Island.  Now they are both students at Smith College.  Budgie with her shiny dark curls, silver grey eyes and irresistible charm; Lily, meeker,  polished,  blessed  with a subtle beauty.  So different, yet what a strong friendship they share.  A road trip to a Dartmouth football game in 1931 will change their lives forever.  Budgie's boyfriend, Graham, introduces them to quarterback Nick Greenwald, and he is immediately attracted to Lily.  A romance ensues in the months ahead, marred by the fact that Nick is Jewish and her family's refusal to accept him. 

It is now seven years later.  Lily returns to Seaview.  Her constant companion is her "sister" Kiki, a precocious six-year-old child and the source of gossip to all the inhabitants of Seaview.  Lily's mother, cold and distant, seems perfectly content to have Lily raise the child.  Two other people return to Seaview this fateful summer. Mr. and Mrs. Nick Greenwald.  Yes, Budgie has recently married Nick, Lily's one true love. So begins the intricately woven story of why.  The chapters alternate between the early 1930's and 1938. The reader will marvel at hidden family secrets, the heartache of lost love, jealousy, insecurities, and the true meaning of friendship.

The Great New England Hurricane of 1938 plays heavily in the final chapters.  Not only does the author explicitly describe the destruction of the area, she also sets the scene for the final moments in complicated lives.

No murder or mayhem in this one-just a touching story of lost love and redemption.

Keep summer alive a moment longer....

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Wicked Girls

The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood

You can run but you can't hide.

Sins of the past never really disappear; they just simmer below the surface like a  kettle ready to boil.

Jade and Bel are unlikely friends.  Jade is one of the Walker clan, dirty, disheveled, a product of a slovenly mother who clearly is unable or unwilling to exhibit any affection for her own children.  Bel lives on the affluent side of town with her mother and wealthy stepfather.  She feels like a stranger in her own home, nothing but  a nuisance to her family, hiding unfathomable
secrets.  One fateful day in 1986 they are charged with the murder of a  four- year-old child named Chloe.  Forbidden to ever contact one another again, they are sent to two different detention centers to repent for the crime.

Twenty-five years later both girls have new identities.  Kirsty is a journalist covering a series of brutal murders in a seaside vacation town.  Amber is a supervisor at a local carnival where the most recent, gruesome death has taken place.  Their paths cross again.  Now they are forced to relive that horrible memory and somehow place trust in one another because no one, including their families, know the truth about their hideous past.  And when that past is revealed, Kirsty and Amber once again find themselves the targets of suspicious minds.  Ultimately, the sacrifice of one will save another.

This book is not for everyone.  Rough language, adult situations. Eerie and haunting.

A true psychological a word....wicked. 

And the ending? 

It will blow you away..........

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Fin and Lady

Fin and Lady by Cathleen Schine

The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Vietnam War, Woodstock, sit-ins, hippies.......

Ah, the 1960s..........

Fin is just eleven years old, but he knows the meaning of being alone, so alone. His beloved mother has died of cancer, his stern, unreachable
father gone, too.  It seems that his older half-sister, Lady, is now his guardian-what a sight to behold with her stunningly beautiful good looks, haughty attitude, and progressive thinking. Apparently she had a  toxic relationship with their father.  Why?  Now Fin must leave the farm in rural Connecticut and move to Greenwich Village in New York where Lady maintains a most intoxicating lifestyle. 

Fin soon realizes that this relationship is destined to be quite unconventional.  Lady may be older, but not necessarily wiser, and he finds himself often taking on the role of the adult.  Lady attracts suitors with such ease it is frightening. Yet she finds it impossible to feel love. That is, until a trip to Capri.  Here she allow herself to become emotionally vulnerable. She  feels the pain of unrequited love for the first time.  And once again Fin is there for her as she has been for him.  As Lady's life takes a dramatic turn, a young, naive sibling may be the answer to her prayers after all.

This novel is quirky, playful, even comical at times. Also poignantly sad.  A coming-of-age story that highlights those turbulent times with references to music, politics, assassinations, and war.  A heartfelt, bittersweet story of two lost "orphans" who form an impenetrable bond.

Can you guess the identity of the narrator?       

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Whistling Past The Graveyard

Whistling Past The Graveyard by Susan Crandall

That's what Daddy called it when you done something to stop thinking about your worstest fear.

Words to live by for nine-year-old Starla Claudelle.  My, my, how she misses Daddy who works on an oil rig far away in the Gulf, but most of all she longs to reunite with her Momma who left six years ago seeking fame and fortune as a singing sensation in Nashville. At least that's the story she has always believed.  Living in rural Mississippi in 1963 with her grandmother, Mamie, Starla is often in trouble. No doubt  she is a spitfire, but Starla is tired of Mamie's threats to send her to reform school because of her sassy mouth and disrespectful attitude.

Starla longs to attend the annual Fourth of July festivities and parade this summer.  Yet another series of misbehaviors finds her on house restriction-the wrath of Mamie is something to behold.  Now, she rationalizes, is the time to run away, find her beautiful Momma in Tennessee, and when Daddy joins them, her dream of belonging to a real family will come true.  And so her ill-fated journey begins. Along the way, she accepts a ride with an African-American woman named Eula who is traveling with a white baby.  The demise of Eula's alchoholic, abusive husband lead these three unlikely travelers to harrowing adventures with surprising results.

The Civil Rights Movement is at the heart of this novel.  Life in the deep South in the 1960s is described in detail as the reader is exposed to the prejudices and injustices in this period in time.  You will feel the fear, humiliation, and intimidation  these characters endured. You will feel the acceptance, kindness, and love that transcends the color of one's skin.  It is a story of one child's life changing forever  because someone cared.

Thanks for reading my blog....
Thanks for the recommendation
Thanks, Joyce.....

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sandrine's Case

Sandrine's Case by Thomas H. Cook

Sandrine-Popular French name meaning helper and defender of mankind

No wonder she has been blessed with this name.  Professor Sandrine Madison epitomizes all that is good.  A bohemian beauty, talented, kind, intelligent-a woman who enjoys teaching even the mediocre students that surround her at this small liberal arts college in Georgia.  She dreams of opening her own school someday.  Her husband, Samuel, often wonders why she chose him.  Meek, plain, far from handsome and dynamic, he dreams of writing a great novel while managing to tolerate the average student at the same college. Sandrine sees all this small village has to offer. Thomas,on the other hand, finds the common townspeople beneath him and his lofty goals. The thread that drew this couple to one another is beginning to unravel.

Now Thomas is accused of murdering Sandrine.  He maintains it is a suicide due to extenuating circumstances that were revealed to him months before her death.  Slowly but surely, Thomas sees his life crumbling around him-those residents he clearly rebuffed believe he is guilty, daughter Alexandria looks at him with doubting eyes, and many witnesses come forward at the trial with surprising revelations. His meaningless infidelity comes to light at the expense of others. Thomas begins to question his own innocence, as he relives that tumultuous night Sandrine took her own life.  Her angry words cause sleepless nights, and he begins to realize that perhaps his once tranquil life is over.  He now must now examine the love they once had and put together the puzzling last days of Sandrine's life.

Much of this book takes place in the courtroom as colleagues and neighbors make a case for the prosecution which makes for an easy read.  The cover of the book is definitely provacative.  You will come to understand why.  It is a fascinating tale of two people who have lost the art of communication.

Maybe love prevails even after death.....

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Tell Me

Tell Me by Lisa Jackson

Guilty.  Guilty as charged. 

Blondell Henry is undoubtedly the most hated woman in Savannah, Georgia.  Twenty years ago she was convicted of killing her pregnant daughter, Amity, severely wounding son, Niall, and paralyzing her youngest daughter, Blythe. The prosecution maintained she wanted to be rid of family obligatons to be with her newest lover.  All of these charges she vehemently denied.  But when Niall testified he witnessed the shooting, the jury sealed Blondell's fate.  Guilty.

Now decades  later, Niall is recanting his confession, saying he was pressured  by the lead investigator on the case, whose son, by the way, was supposedly having a secret, illicit affair with Amity.  Blondell steadfastly maintained that an unknown intruder attacked the family and that she desperately tried to protect her children and unborn child.  Yes, Blondell was also pregnant at the the time. Seems men were defenseless againt the elusive beauty and charm of both mother and daughter.

Writer and journalist Nikki Gillette decides that if indeed, Blondell is telling the truth, who actually murdered Amity?  Not only is Nikki in need of a quality story for a new novel,  Amity was her best friend.  The night of her death, she begged Nikki to meet her to tell her something vitally important, but Nikki didn't go.  The guilt of not seeing Amity hours before her death haunts her. Favorite uncle Alexander just happened to be Blondell's defense attorney and saved her from the death penalty.  Could the rumors that he was one of her many lovers be true?  Nikki and her police detectective fiance, Pierce, find themselves in the midst of danger and intrigue to uncover the truth.

By the way, do you dislike snakes as much as I do?  Let's just say the slithering, venomous, hissing creatures play a part in the plot.

Be sure to check your bed tonight when you slip under the covers....