Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Calling Me Home

Calling Me Home
by Julie Kibler

In Texas, an elderly Caucasian woman, Isabelle, asks her much younger African-American hair dresser to drive her to Cincinnati for a funeral.  It appears to be a rather odd request but Dorrie agrees to take some time off and do it.  

During their time on the road the story weaves through Isabelle's past and Dorrie's present. Isabelle grew up in Northern Kentucky just across the river from Cincinnati.  She and a local black boy fell in love and planned to share their lives together.  While Isabelle's story unfolds we also learn about Dorrie's life as a single mom and her issues learning to trust.  

I was fascinated with the story of the "illicit" love in the early 1900's. While the black boy was so aware of all the horrible things that could only come of their love, Isabelle was so naive and could only imagine they'd have a wonderful life together no matter how far they had to run from the world to have it. 

All throughout the trip to Cincinnati, Isabelle withholds who's funeral she is attending. From the stories Isabelle is telling it's easy to make a guess, but don't be surprised if it's not who you think. 

I really enjoyed this story and give it 5 of 5 shots.

Monday, June 15, 2015


by Stephen King

I listened to this story as an audio book on a cross country trip from Kentucky to Oregon.  I have to say I absolutely loved it and the time flew by in the car. 

As the "King" of horror stories I was pleasantly surprised that this fantasy story wasn't full of horror.  In truth is had a little bit of everything from fantasy to mystery to romance.  I was happy to have so much time to listen because I did not want to "put it down." 

*It's been a few months since I listened to the book so please forgive me for any vagueness here.   

The "hero" of the story is told of a gap in time where he can return to the late 50's early 60's. No matter how long he is gone he will always return to the same time he steps through that gap.  He is persuaded to return in time and save Kennedy, although it will mean spending several years in the past.  The bulk of the story is about those years and when things go right and when things go wrong.  

I was expecting a story all about how Kennedy was saved and what the world was like as a result. Instead the story is about the years our hero lives in the past marking time until the assassination.  Then ultimately what the assassination means to him personally and what is most important.  

King tells an awesome story of time travel and the implications of time in years that flash by in micro seconds. This book is high on my must read list. So high that I am considering reading it now that I've listened to it.  I hope you agree. 

Any surprise that I give this five of five shots? 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Body Double

Body Double
by Tess Gerritsen

I've been grabbing audio books to listen to in my car recently.  I get rather addicted to them once I start.  Maybe even to the point that I try to think of someplace I need to drive just so I can listen some more. 

Body Double is a Crime/Mystery/Thriller.  Little did I know that it's one of the Rizzoli and Isles stories that the TV series is based on.  I think I may have been expecting another thriller that would have been the basis for the 1984 movie with the same name, Body Double.  

This book starts with a murder in which the victim is a spot on look-a-like for Dr. Isles.  So much so that the investigative team is pretty shocked when she shows up wondering what is going on.  

Dr. Isles discovers she had a twin sister. They were separated at birth and adopted by different sets of parents.  (What a way to make such a discovery!)  Since the victim is killed right outside Dr. Isles' home, the question becomes who is/was the real target?  

The twists and turns in this story and satisfying and unexpected. I give it 3 of 5 shots.  I enjoyed the story a lot but it's not my usual genre. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Husband's Secret

The Husband's Secret
by Liane Moriarty

Liane Moriarty is quickly rising to the top of my pool of favorite authors.  The Husband's Secret is the third of her novels I've read and it looks like I have three more to go before I run out.  I hope she can write faster than I can read. 

The Husband's Secret follows the lives of three women at different places in their lives. Cecilia is the busy mom who is involved in everything and does everything seemingly perfectly.  Little does she know that her husband has a secret, until one day she stumbles upon an envelope addressed to her from her husband. The instructions on the envelope indicated it should only be opened upon his death. 

Rachel is a secretary at the small Catholic school Cecilia's children attend. She is a widow who's daughter was murdered years earlier. When she's not working or caring for her grandson she is grieving for her daughter and searching for the proof she needs to have the 'boy' who murdered her put away. 

Tess has just arrived in Sydney with her young son to stay with her mother.  Her husband and cousin/best friend have just announced to her that they have fallen in love.  She needs time to digest this news and decide what she must do.  Unexpectedly meeting up with an old boyfriend seems to make the adjustment easier. 

The husband's secret is not revealed until far into the book.  It's a secret that could be devastating to their lives, and indeed creates a disastrous situation. I don't know what surprised me more; the secret or the results of the secret coming to light. 

I easily give this story five of five shots. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Family Affair (Truth in Lies #1)

A Family Affair (Truth in Lies #1)
by Mary Campisi

I picked up this book from the Apple Store as a free book I could read on my phone.  Probably 'free' because it's part of a four part series.  I doubt I'll read parts two through four. 

The story revolves around the heroine, Christine Blackstone, an ambitious young woman who works tirelessly to earn her place in her father's world of finance.  Her father is killed in an auto accident while away on a monthly retreat at his cabin. Thus the scene is set for Christine to discover the woman and child her father spends four days a month with; his "other" family.

She sets out to find who this other family is and what they meant to her father.  She discovers that her father was not entirely the successful business oriented man she knew and adored, but rather a man who loved a simpler life with another woman and their daughter. She tries to make sense of this "new" side to the man she worshiped and reconcile it with the side of the father she knew. 

It was an entertaining read, easy and uncomplicated.  I give it three of five stars.  A book that I liked but will probably not remember in the future or rave over.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Light Between Oceans

The Light Between Oceans
by M.L. Stedman

Set in Western Australia in the early 1900's, The Light Between Oceans actually deals with issues that still are with us today. The issue of child custody in which there are never really any winners.

Living on a remote rock of an island are the light house keeper, Tom, and his young wife, Isabel. They love their life together in this quiet remote place.  Unfortunately, though, their efforts at starting their family fail as each pregnancy ends with a miscarriage or stillborn birth. 

One day, while tending to the graves of her lost children, Isabel can't believe she's hearing the cries of a baby.  On the beach she discovers a boat has drifted ashore in which she finds the baby she heard crying along with a man who has died.  The baby seems to be the answer to her prayers. There is no identification on the man or baby and no indication of what caused the man's death.  Having recently suffered another miscarriage, no one from the mainland would ever suspect that this is not the child she had been carrying.  She pleads with her husband not to report the incident of the boat drifting ashore with it's unusual cargo and allow her to keep and raise the child as their own.  Tom is torn between the right and honest thing to do and his love for his wife and desire to end her pain. Ultimately he keeps quiet and destroys any evidence of the boat's arrival.

In time they come to find out who the baby is and how she came to be in the boat with her father.  But years have passed and the child is healthy and happy and a delight to both Tom and Isabel.  They know the child's mother continues to mourn the loss of both her husband and child.  Without answers as to what ever became of them, time has not been able to ease her suffering.  Tom wants to assure her that her child is alive and well, but could lose his job and marriage by doing so. Eventually the truth comes out. 

What kept me interested and drawn to this story is the question of the right thing to do at this point.  When a child only knows two people as his or her parents, do you rip the child away from loving people and place him/her with a stranger, even though the stranger is the real parent?  I don't believe there is a right answer to that question.  Did Tom and Isabel hurt the child by keeping her and loving her?  Did they act ethically?  

I can't give away the story, but no matter which way it goes, there is not a winner.  Similar stories appear in the news today regarding children of surrogacy or adoption where a natural or birth parent changes their mind.  It's a very difficult issue and this story dealt with it well.

I give this book 4 of 5 shots.  It dealt with a difficult subject and caused me to reflect on it well beyond the last page.  However, I did have some trouble at the beginning of the book getting into the story.  

Monday, February 16, 2015

Lost in Shangri-La

Lost in Shangri-La
by Mitchell Zuckoff

I bought a new cell phone in January.  Part of the package was a book app. I don't recall exactly when I purchased (for free) this book on that app, but I found myself reading it on my phone when ever I had a chance.  

This true story takes place in New Guinea toward the end of WWII. A military plane filled with service men and women takes off on a sightseeing tour to view a recently discovered valley in the center of the island. This beautiful valley, nicknamed "Shangri-La" was home to thousands of native people who had never seen or been visited by any other humans on earth.  They were indeed very frightened by the planes that had suddenly begun flying over their villages. 

This sightseeing tour ends tragically when the plane crashes into the dense jungle and bursts into flames.  All but three of the 28 people on board are killed.  Two of the three survivors are seriously injured.  Their survival appears uncertain unless they can move out of the cover of the forest to where they can be seen and hopefully rescued.  Making matters worse is the unknown demeanor of the natives. They are believed to be cannibalistic, and the survivors have no idea whether they are friendly or hostile.

The rescue mission is complicated by the high altitude of the valley, the dense jungle with no options for landing a plane and the distance and terrain that separates them from their post.  The book is scattered with photos of the survivors, the natives, and the paratroopers who came to rescue them.  The story is gathered from diary entries and interviews of those involved.  The epilogue satisfies my curiosity of what became of the military men and women involved in the crash and rescue, as well as the primitive culture found previously undisturbed by outside influence. 

I loved this book and look forward to reading more by Zuckoff.  I give this book 4 of 5 shots


The Last Days of Dogtown

The Last Days of Dogtown
by Anita Diamant

This is the second or third book I've read by Anita Diamant and I still have not read the one I have been wanting to read, The Red Tent.  To be honest, this was an audio book so I didn't actually "read" it.  I started it on my road trip home from Oregon, toward the end of the trip.  Since I really only listen to audio books in the car, and it was the end of the trip, this book took several weeks to complete.  But it's the perfect book for that kind of listening.  

The Last Days of Dogtown is historical fiction.  Dogtown really existed as did the characters in the book.  Each chapter is the story of a different citizen of Dogtown and could easily stand on it's own as a short story. But of course the charm of the book is how each character can also make an appearance in someone else's story weaving the history of the town through it's inhabitants.  

Dogtown was an early 19th century hamlet in Massachusetts that was home to the lowest caste of society and named for the wild dogs that also inhabited it.  These citizens range from widows and  spinsters, to prostitutes and freed slaves. 

I very much enjoyed all the stories of the citizens of Dogtown. I find it interesting, however, in reading other reviews, that many people felt disappointed by this book having read The Red Tent previously.  I am happy that I listened to Dogtown first.  

I give The Last Days of Dogtown 4 of 5 shots. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Duma Key

Duma Key
by Stephen King

I am the only one who has issues marking an audio book as "read?" I listened to Duma Key on a cross country car trip in December.  I had lots of miles and plenty of time to hear the story in just a few days. 

I have no doubt that Mr. King is an amazing, top story teller.  He's written some excellent stories that are not horror stories that have stuck with me for a long long time.  I sort of wish he would write more of those.  The one that comes to mind is a short story that inspired The Shawshank Redemption.  I remember when the movie came out - I was so confused why I already knew what was going to happen. Inevitably, I watch that movie every time it's on, to me it's the story is that good. The movie Stand by Me was also based on a story from that same short story collection: "Different Seasons." It's been a long long time, but if by any twist of fate I still have my copy of that book, I'm thinking I may have to go back and re-read it.  

But I am far off topic here, this was to be a review of Duma Key.  I'm not sure if it's a result of it being an audio version, or my age, or the story, but I didn't get as creeped out by Duma Key as I have in the past by King's novels.  But I did love the story, the otherworldy influences that make the story possible and the heart breaking effects they have on relationships we are rooting for. 

At the center of the story is Edgar Freemantle, who is trying to rebuild his life after a terrible construction accident leaves him disabled and angry.  He should have died but instead he survives, dealing with a missing arm and a brain injury that spurs his anger and ultimately destroys his marriage and the life he's built.  On his doctor's suggestion he moves to Duma Key in Florida, a remote, mostly unoccupied beautiful island (key) to hopefully promote his recovery and rehabilitation.   

He begins drawing and then painting in his new life. Eventually the demand for his talent puts him in the public spot light and it appears may even have a calming effect on the strained relationship with his family.  But there are evil forces at work and his art is actually the vessel for this evil to be released into the world. Edgar can stop painting, but can he stop the evil?

I remember the book being released while I was working for Barnes & Noble in Utah.  It's a hefty story and the audio version was many hours long.  Being as I am not a huge fan of horror stories, picking them up only occasionally, I felt the story could have been easily told in an abridged version.  For this reason I am only giving the book three of five stars. The story was good but the length would have daunted me had I not had a long drive or had picked up the printed version. 

I maintain King is truly one of our best story tellers.  How can a man who makes normally inanimate objects become so terrifying, not be?  

Where There's Smoke by Jodi Picoult

Where There's Smoke
by Jodi Picoult
Free ebook

I went to my iPhone to look for something quick and easy to read while waiting for/getting a pedicure. This came up as a free download and being a Picoult fan, I downloaded it without even reading the synopsis.

It turned out to be an short story expanding the past of one of the characters in her latest novel, "Leaving Time."  As I am a real fan of Leaving Time and will tell everyone I meet to read it, I was thrilled to have found this short story. 

Where There's Smoke is a quick story about Serenity Jones' rise and fall from stardom as a psychic. It fleshes out her character a bit more and explains the beginning of her downfall.  The moral of this short story is simply, "be careful of what you wish for."

For Picoult fans and those that have read or plan to read Leaving Time, I wholeheartedly recommend this story.  

I give this short story five of five shots.