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.

 

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Title: The Silent Patient, Author: Alex Michaelides The Silent Patient. Finished 8-15-19, fiction, 4.25/5 stars, pub. 2019

Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations–a search for the truth that threatens to consume him….  from Goodreads

I listened to the audio way back in August and realized I never shared my thoughts.  It’s been a while, but I still remember the story and the feelings.  This debut thriller was at times a bit boring, but my husband loved it so I continued listening so I could see what all the fuss was about and by the end I got all the buzz and was happy I stuck with it.

Theo is a strange man.  Alicia became a strange woman.  The story was told in a strange way.  All of these things give it extra points for originality.  The fact that I can remember almost all of the details over two months later gives it extra points too. All I know is that I kept thinking that I would not want Theo as my therapist because he seemed creepy, but since his wife was cheating on him I cut him some slack.  You should too and give this one a try, but once you start make sure you make it to the end.

 

November Road by Lou Berney

Title: November Road, Author: Lou Berney November Road. Finished 10-22-19, 4.5/5 stars, thriller, 299 pages, pub. 2018

Frank Guidry’s luck has finally run out.  A loyal street lieutenant to New Orleans’ mob boss Carlos Marcello, Guidry has learned that everybody is expendable. But now it’s his turn—he knows too much about the crime of the century: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Within hours of JFK’s murder, everyone with ties to Marcello is turning up dead, and Guidry suspects he’s next: he was in Dallas on an errand for the boss less than two weeks before the president was shot. With few good options, Guidry hits the road to Las Vegas, to see an old associate—a dangerous man who hates Marcello enough to help Guidry vanish.

Guidry knows that the first rule of running is “don’t stop,” but when he sees a beautiful housewife on the side of the road with a broken-down car, two little daughters and a dog in the back seat, he sees the perfect disguise to cover his tracks from the hit men on his tail. Posing as an insurance man, Guidry offers to help Charlotte reach her destination, California. If she accompanies him to Vegas, he can help her get a new car.

For her, it’s more than a car— it’s an escape. She’s on the run too, from a stifling existence in small-town Oklahoma and a kindly husband who’s a hopeless drunk.
 It’s an American story: two strangers meet to share the open road west, a dream, a hope—and find each other on the way.  from Goodreads

I’m always intrigued by stories set around the Kennedy assassination and was excited to see this one available to review for its paperback release today.  The killing of the President is the impetus, but the characters and their stories quickly take over.  The chapters alternate between Guidry, a likable mobbed up man on the run, Charolotte, a woman who has been nowhere and is trapped in a bad marriage, and Barone, a fixer.  As the three make their way from Texas westward I was completely hooked.  The pages turned fast and I was sad to see it end.  Guidry saw a future fraught with hope and Charlotte became her own woman by making one hard decision after another to get her and her daughters where she wanted to be.  I loved her.  The story was mainly Guidry’s and his arc was perfect.

I didn’t realize until I read the interview with the author at the end of the book that Carlos Marcello was a real New Orleans mob boss and that this is one possible way the author sees the Kennedy story playing out for real.  Kennedy enthusiast or thriller fan, this is a winner.

If you still need convincing the blurb on the cover is from Stephen King, “When people say they want to read a really good novel. the kind you just can’t put down, this is the kind of book they mean.”  I concur.

I want to thank TLC Book Tours and Harper Collins for the book and the hours of enjoyment they sent my way 🙂

 

 

Washington Square by Henry James

Title: Washington Square, Author: Henry James Washington Square. Finished 9-10-19, 4/5, classic, 199 pages, pub. 1880

The plot of Washington Square has the simplicity of old-fashioned melodrama: a plain-looking, good-hearted young woman, the only child of a rich widower, is pursued by a charming but unscrupulous man who seeks the wealth she will presumably inherit. On this premise, Henry James constructed one of his most memorable novels, a story in which love is answered with betrayal and loyalty leads inexorably to despair.”  from Goodreads

“Try and make a clever woman of her, Lavinia; I should like her to be a clever woman.”

Mrs. Penniman, at this, looked thoughtful a moment.  “My dear Austin,” she then inquired, “do you think it is better to be clever than to be good?”

“Good for what?” asked the Doctor.  “You are good for nothing unless you are clever.”

But, sadly, Catherine is not clever and never quite manages to gain the respect of her father no matter how much she tries.  She is quiet and meek, but a spinster.  In 1840’s New York City a 21 year old woman has been passed over quite a few times already, especially if her father is a well respected physician and she stands to inherit quite a bit of money someday.  So when Morris Townsend, a handsome family friend, pays attention to her, love comes quick for the young woman.

Dr. Sloper distrusts Morris immediately.  Morris finds that his charm doesn’t  work on the good doctor, but does exceedingly well with Catherine’s companion, her aunt Lavinia.  Catherine is torn between a handsome man and an overbearing one.  What lengths will the two men go to for Catherine’s affection and loyalty?

This slim classic tells a timeless story that is still being played out 140 years later.  Catherine was an unusual heroine given that she had no real sparkle or cleverness.  The end was somewhat unexpected and made me look at her in a different way and I appreciated that considering that I wanted to give a shake more than once while reading.  I liked this one quite a bit.

This is   my 29th selection for the Classics Club challenge.  I have until January 1, 2020 to get to 50.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Title: The Giver, Author: Lois Lowry The Giver. Finished 9-8-19, YA classic, 4.25/5 stars, pub. 1993

The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community.  From bn.com

Jonas lives in a world with no violence, no poverty, no starvation, but also no passion, no color and no choices.  The Elders decide what your role in the community will be.  They may take your interests into consideration but the decision is theirs, not yours.  Jonas, has had a few instances of something otherworldly happening to him and is assigned one of the most honored positions in the community, but it comes with a heavy price.

I loved the world building and character development in this slim book.  Lowry managed to paint a stark picture and tell a cautionary tale while making it the perfect size for children.  I’m excited to read this one with Gage.  I admit that I didn’t care for the ending, but I understand there are two more books after this one that continue the story.

I watched the movie years ago when it came out but don’t remember much about it so I’m looking forward to watching it again now that I know the story.

This is the 1994 Newbery Medal winner and  my 28th selection for the Classics Club challenge.  I have until January 1, 2020 to get to 50.

 

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.

 

 

 

Inspector Rebus

Last year I read Knots and Crosses, the first Inspector Rebus mystery and really fell in love with the dark side of Edinburgh.  I loved Rebus as well, but was concerned about his health, mental and physical.  Then author Ian Rankin came to town and charmed me into reading the next in the series, Hide and Seek and, well, a fan was born.  I actually thought both of these next in the series were better than the first two.

Tooth and Nail by Ian Rankin Tooth & Nail. Finished 9-2-19, 4.25/5 stars, mystery, 277 pages, pub. 1992

Inspector Rebus #3

Drafted down to the Big Smoke thanks to a supposed expertise in the modus operandi of serial killers, Inspector John Rebus is on a train south from Edinburgh. His Scotland Yard opposite number, George Flight, isn’t too happy at yet more interference. It’s bad enough having several Chief Inspectors on your back without being hounded at every turn by an upstart Jock. Rebus is going to have to deal with racial prejudice as well as the predations of a violent maniac. When he’s offered a serial killer profile of the Wolfman by an attractive lady psychologist, it’s too good an opportunity to turn down. But in finding an ally, he may have given his enemies an easy means of attack.   from Goodreads

It was fun see see Rebus take Edinburgh to London to track down a serial killer.  He also let himself get into a bit of hot water with a beautiful woman who has insinuated her way into the case.  I liked seeing Rebus form a friendship with one of the good guys and a real relationship with his distant daughter.

 

Strip Jack by Ian Rankin Strip Jack. Finished 9-13-19, 4.25/5 stars, mystery, 269 pages, pub. 1992

Inspector Rebus #4

When respected MP Gregor Jack is caught in a police raid on an Edinburgh brothel and his flamboyant wife Elizabeth suddenly disappears, John Rebus smells a set-up. And when Elizabeth’s badly beaten body is found, Rebus is suddenly up against a killer who holds all the cards..    from Goodreads

This one has a lot of connected people and their relationships held the key to figuring out what was behind the raid of a brothel that caused a pristine politician to be caught up in the snare.

What’s so great about George Orwell’s Animal Farm?

Title: Animal Farm, Author: George Orwell Animal Farm. Finished 9-9-19, 3/5, classic, pub. 1945

Unabridged audio read by Ralph Cosham. 3 hours.

A farm is taken over by its overworked, mistreated animals. With flaming idealism and stirring slogans, they set out to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality. Thus the stage is set for one of the most telling satiric fables ever penned –a razor-edged fairy tale for grown-ups that records the evolution from revolution against tyranny to a totalitarianism just as terrible.
When Animal Farm was first published, Stalinist Russia was seen as its target. Today it is devastatingly clear that wherever and whenever freedom is attacked, under whatever banner, the cutting clarity and savage comedy of George Orwell’s masterpiece have a meaning and message still ferociously fresh.   from Goodreads

This is not a hypothetical question.  I want to know what you loved about Animal Farm.  It’s a still widely read beloved classic, but when I finished it I was so happy it was over and it was only 3 hours! Maybe listening to it all in one day without time for introspection wasn’t the most fair treatment of this dystopian oldie.  So, I’m asking you to sell me on those pigs.  Was I rooting against them?  Of course!  Did I almost shed a tear at Boxer’s end?  Yes!  Did I need to read a study guide at the same time to appreciate it?  You tell me.  And yes, I ‘get’ everything in the above description 🙂

Tell me what you loved the most…

This was my 27th selection for the Classics Club challenge.  I have until January 1, 2020 to get to 50.

I Had Seen Castles by Cynthia Rylant

I Had Seen Castles I Had Seen Castles, 4.5/5, YA, 128 pages, pub. 1993

John Dante is seventeen when the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, and he wants to fight for his country. But then he falls head over heels for Ginny Burton, who is against all war, and his beliefs are suddenly questioned. Rather than be judged a traitor or a coward, though, John enlists–a decision that changes his life forever.   from Goodreads

I picked up this book last month because of the length and the fact that I could add it to my Classics Challenge so I really didn’t even know anything about it.  I was so moved my this novella.  It was so engrossing and really pulled the heartstrings.  If you are talking to kids about war or the military this would be a great read, as long as you are okay with one sex scene and one drunken night.

It’s Pittsburgh in 1939 and there’s a war going on but when Japan attacks Pearl Harbor all the boys, including 17 year old John Dante, know that signing up is what they must do.  John has to wait until he turns 18 and during that time he meets Ginny, his first love, who is against war of any kind.  They don’t let that keep them apart and until the day John ships off you are hoping love prevails.

This book runs the gamut of the realities of war and the validity of it: the all consuming patriotism after an attack, the pressure to join the military, the feeling of being a hero, the bloody reality of war and the aftermath when you learn to live with what you’ve done.  And to Rylant’s credit she also brought to light what happens to the women.  John’s mom goes to work and he resents it and his sister was perhaps the most interesting character to me and I won’t say more.  I would read her story in a heartbeat.

Obviously a lot of love for this one.  This was my 26th selection for the Classics Club challenge.  I have until January 1, 2020 to get to 50.

Tommy and Tuppence

A few years ago I signed up for the reading challenge where I thought I was going to read all the Agatha Christie novels.  In order of publication.  Yes, 80 of them including her short story collections.  I didn’t get very far, but I remember reading the first Tommy and Tuppence book, The Secret Adversary, and loving it.  So, my own challenge to myself was to read the rest of those.  After reading two last month I only have one left.

Title: Partners in Crime (Tommy and Tuppence Series), Author: Agatha Christie Partners in Crime. Finished 9/2019, 4.25/5 stars, mystery, 347 pages, pub. 1929

Tommy and Tuppence Beresford were restless for adventure, so when they were asked to take over Blunt’s International Detective Agency, they leapt at the chance. After their triumphant recovery of a pink pearl, intriguing cases kept on coming their way: a stabbing on Sunningdale golf course; cryptic messages in the personal columns of newspapers; and even a box of poisoned chocolates.  from Goodreads

They’ve been married six years and Tuppence is bored.  Tommy still works for the agency, but Tuppence wants more out of her life.  And, out of nowhere, an opportunity to aid their country appears and the two become sleuths, ‘owners’ of their own detective agency.  This was a series of short mysteries they solved, each while taking on the persona of a classic detective.  It was fun.

Title: N or M? (Tommy and Tuppence Series), Author: Agatha Christie N or M. Finished 9/2019, 4.25/5 stars, mystery, 304 pages, pub. 1941

The final words of the dying man…the code names of Hitler’s most dangerous agents…the mysterious clue that sends Tommy and Tuppence to a seaside resort on a mission of wartime intelligence. But not as husband and wife. As strangers, meeting by chance, setting an elaborate trap for an elusive killer.  from Goodreads

Tommy and Tuppence are older, with grown children now.  Tommy is asked to go north to investigate potential wartime spies, solo this time.  Tuppence doesn’t take kindly to this and as Tommy arrived at the inn he finds her already ensconced with a new identity.  I loved the seaside inn setting and loved their kids having no clue as to how their parents serve their country.