Mrs. Pollifax twice in a month

I first read Mrs. Pollifax at the urging of a book loving friend about two decades ago.   There are 14 Mrs. Pollifax books and with these two I’ve now read ten.  They are short and cozy and feature a woman in her 60’s that seems to be hitting her prime years as an asset to the CIA.  I just love these quaint books that take me to exotic locales but also to a bit of a simpler time.

Title: Mrs. Pollifax Pursued (Mrs. Pollifax Series #11), Author: Dorothy Gilman Mrs. Pollifax Pursued.  Finished 9-15-19, mystery, 3.5/5 stars, pub. 1995

Mrs. Pollifax series #11

The last thing Mrs. Pollifax expects to find in her closet is a young woman hiding. Kadi Hopkirk insists that that she’s being pursued by two men in a van. Under the cover of darkness, Mrs. P. tries to drive Kadi home to Manhattan, only to have a dark green sedan give them a run for their money and, Mrs. P. begins to suspect, their lives.

Finally Kadi shares the startling truth: her friend, Sammy, is the son of the assassinated president of an African country, and unbeknownst to the young man’s bodyguard, he passed her something important during a recent meeting. Ever resourceful, Mrs. P. puts in a call for help to her CIA colleague, Carstairs, who installs them in a safe house—at a carnival!   from Goodreads

Kadi sure is lucky that the house she chose to hide in belonged to Mrs. Pollifax who has friends in high places.  The carnival that served as their safe house was a lively addition to a mostly stateside story. As two stories intertwine Emily finds herself in the middle of a worldwide scandal and, as always, she proves she’s tough enough for the job.

Title: Mrs. Pollifax, Innocent Tourist (Mrs. Pollifax Series #13), Author: Dorothy Gilman Mrs. Pollifax, Innocent Tourist. Finished 10-20-19, mystery, 3.5/5 stars, pub. 1997

Mrs. Pollifax series #13

Working with her retired CIA friend John Farrell, Mrs. Pollifax must smuggle a manuscript out of Jordan, a document that encodes the shocking truth of Saddam Hussein’s reign.

Hardly are the two airborne when the coils of Middle Eastern intrigue begin to unwind. Mrs. Pollifax’s seatmate is not the affable Arab businessman he pretends to be. It is not imagination that persuades Mrs. P. that wherever they go, she and Farrell are followed. To elude their pursuers in such a politically volatile country isn’t easy. In fact, it can be downright deadly…     from Goodreads

I always love the different places that Mrs. Pollifax finds herself in and I was equally happy to find an old friend, John Farrell.  The two of them share a friendship borne out of danger, trust, and respect.  The Jordan setting was perfect for some insight into the people and the international stage.  Mrs. Pollifax is at her best when learning new things and engaging with new people.  I aspire to be just like her when I’m in my 60’s 🙂

 

Clock Dance by Anne Tyler

Title: Clock Dance (B&N Exclusive Edition), Author: Anne Tyler Clock Dance. Finished 8-15-19, 3.5/5 stars, fiction, pub. 2018

Unabridged audio 9 CDs narrated by Kimberly Farr

Willa Drake can count on one hand the defining moments of her life: when she was 11 and her mother disappeared, being proposed to at 21, the accident that would make her a widow at 41. At each of these moments, Willa ended up on a path laid out for her by others.

So when she receives a phone call telling her that her son’s ex-girlfriend has been shot and needs her help, she drops everything and flies across the country. The spur-of-the moment decision to look after this woman – and her nine-year-old daughter, and her dog — will lead Willa into uncharted territory. Surrounded by new and surprising neighbours, she is plunged into the rituals that make a community, and takes pleasure in the most unexpected things.    from Goodreads

I love stories that take a main character from one life to another.  Willa gets a phone call from a neighbor of her son’s ex-girlfriend asking for help and Willa…hops on a plane.  She is married and has two grown sons, but is unfulfilled.  She convinces her husband to fly across the country with her, but after an extreme amount of patience he decides to head back to his real life while Willa stays.  At first she stays because she is needed, but then continues to stay because she likes living in the small house with mother and daughter in a close knit neighborhood with interesting people.  I liked the relationships and the people, but Willa was hard for me.

I think Anne Tyler has a gift writing recognizable people, stories and relationships.  I always feel some spark of understanding who the people are in her books.  This one was mixed for me because while I liked everything else Willa’s motivation and choices were hard to accept as something that could happen.  And the end didn’t help anything in that regard.  If you like Tyler you’ll probably like this one, but it wasn’t one of my favorites.

 

 

 

A Dirt Road To Somewhere by Romona Robinson

Title: A Dirt Road to Somewhere: An Emmy Award-Winning Anchor 's Incredible Journey of Faith Over Fear, Author: Romona Robinson A Dirt Road To Somewhere. Finished 9-20-19, memoir, 3.5/5 stars, 248 pages, pub. 2017

Raised in a tiny, poverty-stricken town in rural Missouri, Romona Robinson, along with her ten siblings, knows what it means to struggle. Under the tutelage of her hardworking, protective, and God-fearing mother, Romona develops an affinity for the Bible and Walter Cronkite. She also believes her home on a dead-end dirt road would lead her to somewhere. And it does. While crossing paths with the likes of the Ku Klux Klan, Nelson Mandela, and Barack Obama, Romona experiences unimagined pain, love, and success. Her compelling story will inspire you to examine your own purpose and leave you filled with a desire to walk in faith, not fear.   from Goodreads

Romona Robinson is a beloved Cleveland broadcast journalist who also lives about five minutes from me (not that I’ve ever been invited to her house :)).  She spoke at our Friends of the Solon Library annual meeting in the spring and did an encore in the fall.  She’s a presence: tall, beautiful and confident.  Not only has she won numerous awards but she started her own charity, Romona’s Kids, some of whom were in the audience.  She spoke for about 45 minutes and shared stories from this book.  I’m glad that I waited until after she spoke to read it because I could picture her telling the stories and that added to my enjoyment.

I think this book is a good choice for Clevelanders, but also kids growing up in poverty.  She found her way out and has inspired many I’m sure.

 

Some Firsts

Last month when I read a book a day I decided to give a few series a try.  I read four and although I liked them all I will probably only continue with one or maybe two of them.

Naked in Death (In Death #1) Naked In Death by JD Robb. Finished 9-30-19, 4/5 stars, mystery, pub. 1995

First in the In Death series featuring Eve Dallas.

New York City in 2058 is fairly recognizable.  The skies are full of transports around town and to other planets, but the mechanics of human living are not so different.  Except that guns are no longer the killers they are today.    When guns show up in a new series of murders involving legal ‘companions’ it’s an anomaly and Eve Dallas, ten years in the force is faced with political pressure like she’s never known.  Passion like she’s never known too.

This was great for car listening and I look forward to more of Eve and Rourke.

Borderlands (Inspector Devl... Borderlands by Brian McGilloway. Finished 9-23-19, mystery, 4/5 stars, pub. 2007

First in the Inspector Devlin series.

A girl’s body is found in the borderlands, and area between north and south Ireland where jurisdiction can go either way.  When Inspector Devlin gets the case he must sort through a lot of suspects and events from 30 years ago that touch way too close to home.  He’s has a bit of a roving eye (and lips) but his wife seems able to overlook it, bless her.  The mystery was complicated, but good.

I liked it, but it reminded me a bit too much of the Inspector Rebus series to continue with right now.  (Yes, this is Ireland and Rebus is Scotland, but they feel similar)

A Share in Death (Duncan Ki... A Share in Death by Deborah Crombie.  Finished 9-26-29, 3.5/5, mystery, pub. 1993

First in the Kincaid and James mystery series.

Duncan Kincaid is a Scotland Yard Superintendent, something he wants to keep quiet on his vacation to a Yorkshire timeshare.  But, as sometimes happens, a man is electrocuted in a hot tub and Kincaid is first on the scene.  And while he’s looking into that another person is killed and he’s living in a house of suspects.  He calls is his assistant, Gemma James, for some long distance help and the two try and figure it out before someone else gets murdered.

It was fun and it’s possible I continue, but I may try and read the print if I do and see if I like it better.  There were a lot of people to keep track while I was driving.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox ... The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson. Finished 9-14-19, 3.5/5 stars, YA, 265 pages, pub. 2008

First in the Jenna Fox Chronicles

Jenna is 17 and has just woken from a coma.  She is at home in California, but she has no memory.  Her dad is across the country, her grandmother seems to dislike her a great deal and her mother wants her to watch videos from when she was a child to see if she can remember.  This book addressed a lot of issues about what it means to be human and what a parent would do to keep their child alive.  Is this where we are headed in the future?  It seems like many of these questions are being played out in real life so it’s possible.

I’m glad I read it, but don’t have a desire to continue and even wonder how it could continue given the ending.

 

 

 

Indeh: A Story of the Apache Wars by Ethan Hawke and Greg Ruth

Title: Indeh: A Story of the Apache Wars, Author: Ethan Hawke Indeh. Finished 8-3-19, 3.5/5, graphic historical, 231 pages, pub. 2016

The year is 1872. The place, the Apache nations, a region torn apart by decades of war. Goyahkla, a young brave, has lost his family and everything he loves. After having a vision, he approaches the Apache leader Cochise to lead an attack against the Mexican village of Azripe. It is this wild display of courage that transforms the young brave Goyahkla into the Native American hero Geronimo. But the Apache Wars rage on. As they battle their enemies, lose loved ones, and desperately cling to their land and culture, they utter, “Indeh,” or “the dead.” When it appears that lasting peace has been reached, it seems like the war is over. Or is it?    from Goodreads

The history of the Native American Indians in this country always angers me and makes me sad.  This was no different.  The way they were treated was horrifying.  The illustrations in this graphic novel are perfection, the black and white showing the stark reality.  I learned a lot about the Apache Wars and Geronimo, both good guy and bad guy, just like us all.  I admit that I found the story confusing in some places, but kept with it and came away with a clearer picture. A quality graphic novel with an important part of history to be told.

I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney

Title: I Know Who You Are, Author: Alice Feeney I Know Who You Are. Finished 7-26-19, 3.5/5 stars, suspense, pub. 2019

Unabridged audio read by Stephanie Racine. 9 CDs

l Know Who You Are is the brilliant tale of two stories. One is about Aimee Sinclair—well-known actress on the verge of being full-on famous. If you saw her, you’d think you knew her. One day towards the near-end of her shoot on her latest film, Aimee comes home from filming to find her husband’s cell phone and wallet on the dining room table. He never goes anywhere without them. But he’s nowhere to be found. She’s not too concerned—they had a huge fight the night before. They both said things they didn’t mean. He might have done things he didn’t mean, things she can’t forget. Even though she has a history of supposedly forgetting. After all, she’s a very good actress.

Alternating with Aimee’s story is that of a little girl who wandered away from home. We always tell our kids not to talk to strangers or bad things will happen. Well, bad things happen.   from Goodreads

Aimee is one of those characters you can’t quite trust.  Yes, she’s an actress but she’s acting all wrong and you’re not sure why.  Her husband goes missing and obviously they had their problems and she’s lying to police, but why?  She’s not quite likable enough to pull it off.  You also get the story of the little girl and it’s no surprise that it’s Aimee’s story and it helps explain why she seems so off.  The police are sniffing around and she is totally unconcerned.

Honestly, I really didn’t really care one way or another but it was just interesting enough to continue listening and I’m glad that I did.  For any fireworks that were missing for most of the story they all showed themselves in the last part of the book and they were worthy of a grand finale.  I think the end will shock you, maybe even more than once.  So, if you are willing to go slow and wait for he payoff this is your book.

Stella Bain by Anita Shreve

Title: Stella Bain, Author: Anita Shreve Stella Bain.  Finished 6-13-19, 3.5/5 stars, historical fiction, pub. 2013

Unabridged audio read by Hope Davis.  7 hours

An epic story, set against the backdrop of World War I, from bestselling author Anita Shreve. When an American woman, Stella Bain, is found suffering from severe shell shock in an exclusive garden in London, surgeon August Bridge and his wife selflessly agree to take her in. A gesture of goodwill turns into something more as Bridge quickly develops a clinical interest in his houseguest. Stella had been working as a nurse’s aide near the front, but she can’t remember anything prior to four months earlier when she was found wounded on a French battlefield. In a narrative that takes us from London to America and back again, Shreve has created an engrossing and wrenching tale about love and the meaning of memory, set against the haunting backdrop of a war that destroyed an entire generation.    from Goodreads

After I finish a book I might write a few thoughts on a piece of scrap paper and slide it in the book until I share my thoughts here, but in between those two I’ll probably take a gander at Goodreads to see if something jumps out as something I forgot.  Well, let me save some of you the trouble and tell you straight up that this is a prequel of sorts.  The fact that I didn’t know this makes me more than a little miffed.  So, Shreve’s earlier book was written from the perspective of Stella Bain’s husband about their marriage.  I wish I had read that one first I think, but it may not stop me from picking it up now, even knowing how abhorrent he is.

So, with that fair warning out of the way, let’s get to Stella.  When we first meet her she has no idea who she is, but at some point early on she remembers that she drove an ambulance in the War (WWI).  The doctor and wife who take her in help her to recover enough memories to know she must go to the military headquarters in London.  Here she remembers everything and we’re not even halfway through the book.

I’m not sure how much more to tell you because I don’t want to spoil anything, but will say that I grew to respect ‘Stella’ but I never truly got a handle on who she was.  Some of her choices were hard to accept.  I did learn a lot about how shell shock (PTSD) was misunderstood and even feared during the time and I thought that was a strong part of the book.  I thought it was a good book, but probably would have liked it more if I’d read All He Ever Wanted first.

Handbook For the Soul Edited by Richard Carlson & Benjamin Shield

Title: Handbook for the Soul, Author: Richard Carlson  Handbook for the Soul. Finished 5-9-19, rating 3.5/5, spiritual, 215 pages, pub. 1995

America’s most celebrated spiritual writers offer inspiring words on the state of the soul today. This collection of more than thirty original essays addresses both the importance of caring for and nourishing the soul and the ways in which these individuals tend to their own souls on a day-to-day basis.  from Goodreads

I was working in a bookstore when this came out (way back when readers had to buy their books at an actual store) and remember scoffing at its new agey popularity.  Oh how far I’ve come in my life’s journey to be able to say that I actually read it and liked it.  This is what I posted as I was reading….

Handbook for the Soul edited by Richard Carlson and Benjamin Shield has been very interesting.  The different perspectives by the contributing authors have been a good way to start the day in meditation and introspection.  This morning’s reading was by Nathaniel Brandon and he was talking about keeping the soul engaged.  He asks two questions every morning.  “What’s good in my life?” and “What needs to be done?”  Yesterday, I read about the connection between spiritual frustration and disease.  It’s always good to open your mind to other perspectives, whether you adopt the beliefs or not.  I’m over halfway through.  

I found some of the essays more meaningful to me than others, but I think that’s the way it should be.  Now I have a few authors who I want to read more from.  I particularly liked Thomas Moore’s Embracing the Everyday.  “I think we would be able to live in this world more peacefully if our spirituality were to come from looking not just into infinity but very closely at the world around us – and appreciating its depth and diversity.” (page 25)

There are many heavy hitters featured so you are almost guaranteed to find a least a few that speak to you.  Steven Covey, Bernie Siegel, Marianne Williamson, Wayne Dyer, Ram Dass, Rabbi Harold Kushner, Jack Canfield, Melody Beattie and many others.  So many perspectives to digest and I thought it was a meaningful collection.

Hello Stranger by Lisa Kleypas

Title: Hello Stranger (Ravenels Series #4), Author: Lisa Kleypas Hello Stranger. Finished 5-16-19, 3.25/5 stars, historical romance, pub. 2018

Unabridged audio read by Mary Jane Wells.  10 hours.

The Ravenels book 4 (1-Cold-Hearted Rake) (2-Marrying Winterborne 3-Devil in Spring)

Dr. Garrett Gibson, the only female physician in England, is as daring and independent as any man—why not take her pleasures like one? Yet she has never been tempted to embark on an affair, until now. Ethan Ransom, a former detective for Scotland Yard, is as gallant as he is secretive, a rumored assassin whose true loyalties are a mystery. For one exhilarating night, they give in to their potent attraction before becoming strangers again.

A man who breaks every rule

As a Ravenel by-blow spurned by his father, Ethan has little interest in polite society, yet he is captivated by the bold and beautiful Garrett. Despite their vow to resist each other after that sublime night, she is soon drawn into his most dangerous assignment yet. When the mission goes wrong, it will take all of Garrett’s skill and courage to save him. As they face the menace of a treacherous government plot, Ethan is willing to take any risk for the love of the most extraordinary woman he’s ever known.     from Goodreads

I have really liked this series about the Ravenel family.  I’m picky about historical romances and this series has hit all the right notes for me.  Until this one.

Dr. Garrett Gibson has appeared in a few earlier books and I was excited for her story.  But, but, but…  instead of celebrating her mind and strength, it became weighed down between the sheets.  Ethan was a fine hero who fell deeply in love with Garrett from afar, but he too became just a vessel for lots and lots of sex.  This is why I’m picky about romance series, too much sex often just feels lazy.

I’ll still read the next one, but I’m a little less excited about it.

 

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Title: Beauty Queens, Author: Libba Bray Beauty Queens. Finished 3-28-19, 3.5/5 stars, YA, pub. 2011

Unabridged audio read by the author. 14 hours 30 minutes.

From bestselling Printz Award-winning author Libba Bray, the story of a plane of beauty pageant contestants that crashes on a desert island.

Teen beauty queens. A Lost-like island. Mysteries and dangers. No access to e-mail. And the spirit of fierce, feral competition that lives underground in girls, a savage brutality that can only be revealed by a journey into the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Oh, the horror, the horror! Only funnier. With evening gowns. And a body count.   from Goodreads

This was on my Goodreads Cleanup list and even though no one said they loved it I stil thought it looked like fun and the library had the audio.  The audio is the way to go with this one.  Author Libba Bray read it and she was so good.  I mean like really good.  Thanks to her I laughed out loud throughout the book.  Each of the girls had their own voice and the “Sarah Palin” character (that’s not her name and it doesn’t mention her, but some of the scenes are recognizable) earns much respect for Bray.

Beauty queens stuck on an abandoned island could have been fun but add it reality show pirates and evil dictators trying to take over the world and you’ve got a story.  The book was too long, but the funny parts made up for it.  Did your state make it?  I’m proud to say that Miss Ohio made it to the end, but not too many did.