Bleachers by John Grisham

Title: Bleachers, Author: John GrishamBleachers.  Finished 9-11-16, rating 2/5, fiction, pub. 2003

Unabridged audio read by the author.

High school All-American Neely Crenshaw was probably the best quarterback ever to play for the legendary Messina Spartans. Fifteen years have gone by since those glory days, and Neely has come home to Messina to bury Coach Eddie Rake, the man who molded the Spartans into an unbeatable football dynasty.

As Coach Rake’s ‘boys’ sit in the bleachers waiting for the dimming field lights to signal his passing, they replay the old glories, and try to decide once and for all whether they love Eddie Rake or hate him. For Neely Crenshaw, still struggling to come to terms with his explosive relationship with the Coach, his dreams of a great career in the NFL, and the choices he made as a young man, the stakes could not be higher.     from Goodreads

Last month I started listening to this audio for my 30 books in 30 days challenge.  After a slow-moving cd or two I went to Goodreads to mark it as currently reading…and found out that I read it in 2003!  Honestly, I thought it sounded familiar but I thought that maybe I just hadn’t finished it.  Well, when you are reading a book a day and are halfway through a book already it’s easy to make the decision to soldier on.  And, to be honest, it did feel a little like I was sacrificing myself for the sake of the challenge.  I really didn’t like this one.  I’d have to check but I have to think it was one of my least favorites for the month.

Neely, a has been high school football player, comes back to his small football crazed town when he hears his legendary coach is dying.  He meets up with other football alumni doing the same thing.  I couldn’t find one character to care about or plot point to keep me interested.


The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan

Title: The Lifeboat, Author: Charlotte RoganThe Lifeboat. Finished 9-5-16, rating 4/5, fiction, 278 pages, pub. 2012

Unabridged audio read by Rebecca Gibel. 7 hours, 47 minutes

Grace Winter, 22, is both a newlywed and a widow. She is also on trial for her life.

In the summer of 1914, the elegant ocean liner carrying Grace and her husband Henry across the Atlantic suffers a mysterious explosion. Setting aside his own safety, Henry secures Grace a place in a lifeboat, which the survivors quickly realize has exceeded capacity. For any to live, some must die.

As the castaways battle the elements and each other, Grace recollects the unorthodox way she and Henry met, and the new life of privilege she thought she’d found. Will she pay any price to keep it?

Grace and 39 other passengers are adrift in the Atlantic with no way of knowing when or if they will be rescued. A ship’s crewman takes charge and they all, seemingly, appreciate the leadership. As the days go by, however, there is mutiny in the hearts of some and desperation in others.  Grace tries to stay under the radar but cover her bases.  Is she innocent or conniving?

The story begins with Grace and two other women on trial for murder, so we know they were rescued, but we know people were killed.  What happened?  Grace is asked to write a journal of her experience for her defense  and it’s through this diary that the time on the lifeboat unfolds. Grace is mysterious in ways that her journal only highlights.  Readers will have fun discussing her.

Prepare to see the worst and, well, mainly the worst that human nature has to offer. If we strip ourselves down to a struggle for survival (water, food, shelter) what would happen?  What if our survival, for better or worse, was tied to a group of strangers?  A compelling read, for sure.

This was my fifth book for my 30 books in 30 days challenge. You can read about today here.


One Kick by Chelsea Cain

Title: One Kick (Kick Lannigan Series #1), Author: Chelsea CainOne Kick. Finished 8-29-16, 4/5 stars, thriller series, pub. 2014

Unabridged audio read by Heather Lind.

Kick Lannigan series #1

Kick Lannigan, 21, is a survivor. Abducted at age six in broad daylight, the police, the public, perhaps even her family assumed the worst had occurred. And then Kathleen Lannigan was found, alive, six years later. In the early months following her freedom, as Kick struggled with PTSD, her parents put her through a litany of therapies, but nothing helped until the detective who rescued her suggested Kick learn to fight. Before she was thirteen, Kick learned marksmanship, martial arts, boxing, archery, and knife throwing. She excelled at every one, vowing she would never be victimized again. But when two children in the Portland area go missing in the same month, Kick goes into a tailspin. Then an enigmatic man Bishop approaches her with a proposition: he is convinced Kick’s experiences and expertise can be used to help rescue the abductees. Little does Kick know the case will lead directly into her terrifying past…          from Goodreads

I loved Cain’s first book, Heartsick, but didn’t care for the next in the popular series so I didn’t continue. With One Kick she has won me back.  This book is not for the faint of heart. It’s set in the world of child abduction and pornography, of safehouses and pedophiles, of locked boxes and bombs.  Kick Lanagan is a survivor but an eternal victim and she is damaged in a way that, thankfully, most of us don’t understand firsthand.  She is a compelling character that I’m curious to know more about as the series continues.

Kick is known as Beth to the thousands of men who have downloaded her child pornography. Between the ages of six and twelve, Beth lives with Mel and his wife and they are part of a pedophile ring and Kick, even seeing freedom in sight, shields them and countless others in a moment she will regret.  Enter Bishop ten years later who offers her a chance to redeem herself by helping him locate a missing boy.

This is a solid start to a new series. Kick is profoundly damaged, as is everyone around her, nary a decent person in sight, but she is also looking to make things right when she can.  Given that she is a victim of sexual abuse I know that it will always be part of the story, but I hope that the next book offers some light and hope and joy. Kick deserves it.


The Girl From Summer Hill by Jude Deveraux

The Girl from Summer HillThe Girl From Summer Hill.  Finished 7-19-16, rating 3.5/5, romance, pub. 2016

Unabridged audio 12.5 hours. Read by Emily Rankin.

Sparks fly as fiery Casey Reddick and brooding Hollywood actor Tate Landers clash in the Virginia summer heat. A chef who puts her career first and her love life second, Casey doesn’t see what every girl in town is swooning over. She made up her mind the moment she met Tate—he’s gorgeous, but stuck-up, nothing like his ex-brother-in-law, Devlin who’s playing the Wickham to Tate’s Darcy in local production of Pride & Prejudice. Casey makes the perfect Elizabeth Bennett—how could she be star-struck when she’s heard Devlin’s damning stories about Tate? As they rehearse together, however, Casey finds herself attracted to Tate—he’s much more down-to-earth than she expected and any physical contact between the two of them literally gives her a tingling, electric shock. As opening night draws near, Casey has some difficult decisions to make. Whom should she believe?             from Goodreads

I enjoyed this fresh take on Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  From the opening scene (let’s just say it’s hot and wet) to the ending full of love and friendship this book was fun. It wasn’t the most comparable to the original, but the main characters were there and recognizable.  It’s also the start to a new series set in small town Virginia, Summer Hill, where this story was set.

Summer Hill is putting on Pride & Prejudice to raise money for charity and Casey, in town to lick her wounds from her last job and relationship, is in charge of catering.  She is independent and outspoken and not impressed when two movie stars show up in town, even if one of them sends electric running through her every time they touch.  The sparks between Casey and Tate land them the lead roles in the play which also leads them to their expected happily ever after.  There is, of course, a Wickham but this one is even more devious than the original and is responsible for most of the (non-sex) action in the story.

This was light and fun and perfect for a summer read.

The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman

Title: The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax (Mrs. Pollifax Series #2), Author: Dorothy GilmanThe Amazing Mrs. Pollifax. Finished 6-12-16, rating 4/5, mystery, 172 pages, pub. 1970

When Emily Pollifax answers the phone that Sunday morning, she quickly forgets all about her Garden Club tea that afternoon. For the voice on the other end belonged to a man she had never seen, a man from the CIA who asked her if she could leave immediately on a mission that would take her halfway across the world! What could Mrs. Pollifax say but yes?    from Goodreads

Mrs. Pollifax is a widower in her 60’s and instead of settling down to garden club meetings she has become an improbable asset to the CIA.  This is her second case and she heads to Turkey to try to make contact with a double agent being sought by a seemingly endless list of countries.  As Emily Pollifax makes friends in the most unlikely of places, the authorities  and bad guys close in.

I read a few of the Mrs. Pollifax series way before I became obsessed with reading series’ in order and I have to say that it’s okay.  Emily is just as delightful in any order 🙂 I like learning about the exotic locales that Emily is sent to and really liked learning about the gypsies in this one.

I recommend this series to cozy mystery fans and fans of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple.


Already Home by Susan Mallery

Title: Already Home, Author: Susan MalleryAlready Home. Finished 3-29-16, rating 4.25/5, women’s fiction, pub. 2011

Unabridged audio read by Teri Clark Linden. 10 hours 33 minutes.

After nearly a decade as a sous-chef in a trendy eatery, and fresh off a divorce from the owner, Jenna Stevens is desperate for a change. So when she spots a for-lease sign in her hometown, she impulsively decides to open her very own cooking store. Her crash course in business is aided by a streetwise store manager and Jenna’s adoptive mother. But as soon as she gains a foothold in her new life, in walk her birth parents—aging hippies on a quest to reconnect.

Now Jenna must figure out how to reconcile the free-spirited Serenity and Tom with the parents who raised her and decide whether to open her heart to a man who just might be the best thing to happen to her in years. All without sacrificing her newly found dreams. In the end, Jenna will find that there is no perfect family, only the people we love.…  from Goodreads

I went in expecting a romance, and while this did have the feel of  romance, it was so much more than that.  Jenna (I’ve always loved that name) has been left by a jerk of a husband and decides to go home and on a whim buys retail space for a cooking store, with no retail experience or plan at all.  Her first order of business was hiring the most interesting character in the book, Violet, and the two of them form a successful business and friendship.

Jenna enjoyed a close and loving relationship with her parents and had no interest in finding her real parents, even after they showed up in her store.  The story of two families coming together was sweet and heartwarming.  I didn’t always love Jenna, she seemed clueless much of the time, but the cast of characters (especially her half-brother Dragon) made this a fun and touching novel.

If you love reading about family dynamics, especially those with likeable aging hippies, then you should give this one a look.

The Duchess by Jude Deveraux

Title: The Duchess, Author: Jude DeverauxThe Duchess. Finished 5-1-16, rating 4.25/5, 362 pages, pub. 1991

Claire Willoughby risked losing her millions in her inheritance if, as decreed by her grandfather, she did not wed an “acceptable” man. Harry Montgomery, the eleventh Duke of MacArran, seemed perfect. He owned a historical castle, he looked manly in a kilt, and he was as much a titled Scotsman as Bonnie Prince Charlie himself.

Their engagement announced, Claire’s future as a duchess was assured — and she set off with her family to meet the Montgomery clan in Scotland. Bramley Castle was a damp, chill place, overflowing with eccentric relatives. But there was also Trevelyan, a secretive, brooding man who lived in Bramley’s ancient halls. Whoever he was, he wasn’t at all like Harry: Trevelyan was the most exasperating, arrogant, know-it-all of a man Claire had ever met. And the most fascinating …

from Goodreads

The older Jude Deveraux historical romances, especially ones that have Montgomery men in hem, are comfort reads.  I used to read romances almost exclusively when I was in my teens and she and Judith McNaught were/are favorites.  I’ve read a few of Devereux’s newer books but they just don’t hold the same appeal.  This one did not disappoint.

Claire, a once-wealthy American, heads to Scotland to spend time with Harry Montgomery, laird of his clan.  It was 1883 and per her grandfather’s will, she must marry a man her parents approve of in order to collect her inheritance, an inheritance her lazy parents have already been spending.  Harry proposes and it looks like a happy ending is assured, until  she meets Trevelyan, the sickly man who lives in the hidden part of the castle.  She is drawn to him as she becomes disillusioned with life in the castle.  Trevelyan appreciates her curiosity and intelligence and Harry would be happy for her to silently watch him hunt all day.

There are evil mothers, mysteries to be solved, exotic people to meet and maybe more than one happy ending.  It’s also full of stereotypical tropes, but they are used well and easily forgiven.  Claire’s younger sister used language that was clearly not of the times, but meant to convey her young attitude.  If you like your romances to be politically correct then this is not for you, but as a lover of the genre I consider it a treat for my brain. I devoured it in two days.

This was from my personal library.



The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

Title: The Weird Sisters, Author: Eleanor BrownThe Weird Sisters. Finished 4-20-16, rating 4.25/5 , fiction, pub. 2011

Unabridged audio read by Kirsten Potter. 10 hours, 26 minutes.

The Andreas family is one of readers. Their father, a renowned Shakespeare professor who speaks almost entirely in verse, has named his three daughters after famous Shakespearean women. When the sisters return to their childhood home, ostensibly to care for their ailing mother, but really to lick their wounds and bury their secrets, they are horrified to find the others there.

See, we love each other. We just don’t happen to like each other very much.

But the sisters soon discover that everything they’ve been running from — one another, their small hometown, and themselves — might offer more than they ever expected.  

from Goodreads

Let me start by mentioning that I went and heard Curtis Settenfeld speak tonight about her latest book, Eligible,  inspired by  Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice (more on that later). She talked a little about how Austen had many unlikeable, unredeemable characters and how that it was different in today’s fiction.  As I sit here to write this review for a book I finished weeks ago, I have to say that in these three weird sisters, Brown has created some unlikeable characters, the biggest difference being that they all (more or less) achieved some redemption by the end.  The sisters were so distinct and, yet, so flawed that it made the story recognizable.

Two Andreas sisters were called back to Barnwell, a small, fictional Ohio college town, because their mother had been diagnosed with cancer, the third was still living there.  Rosiland, the responsible oldest, was afraid to leave.  Bianca, the middle sister, was a mess in more ways than one, thinking nothing of stealing thousands from her boss or sleeping with the husband of a woman she respects.  And, poor baby Cordelia, arrived on the doorstep preggers and unwilling to name a father.  I have always wanted a sibling or two, most only kids do at some point, because when push comes to shove, whether you like them or not, there is always a bond.  Stories about sibling dynamics always fascinate me and I really enjoyed this messed up family that quoted Shakespeare and would rather read books than do pretty much anything else.

The story is told from what feels like a fourth ghost sister. When I looked around, I saw it called a ‘plural collective’, ‘community voice’, and the probably most correct ‘first person plural’. At first I was a little confused about which sister was narrating the story, but (not as quickly as I should have) realized that it was really all of them. It was inventive and felt like a fresh way to tell a time-old story about sisters.  I really liked this one.

I read and listened to this one and would recommend either.




At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

Title: At the Water's Edge, Author: Sara GruenAt the Water’s Edge. Finished 4-7-16, rating 4.25/5, historical fiction, pub. 2015

Unabridged audio read by Justine Eyre. 10 hours.

After embarrassing themselves at the social event of the year in high society Philadelphia on New Year’s Eve of 1942, Maddie and Ellis Hyde are cut off financially by Ellis’s father, a former army Colonel who is already embarrassed by his son’s inability to serve in WWII due to his being colorblind.

To Maddie’s horror, Ellis decides that the only way to regain his father’s favor is to succeed in a venture his father attempted and very publicly failed at: he will hunt the famous Loch Ness monster and when he finds it he will restore his father’s name and return to his father’s good graces (and pocketbook). Joined by their friend Hank, a wealthy socialite, the three make their way to Scotland in the midst of war.

Each day the two men go off to hunt the monster, while another monster, Hitler, is devastating Europe. And Maddie, now alone in a foreign country, must begin to figure out who she is and what she wants.   from Goodreads

This was a slow but rich story about a young woman coming into her own during World War II. At first, the drunken, entitled trio of Maddie, her husband Ellis, and friend Hank, were so unlikeable that I’m sure some people stopped reading.  The self-absorption was just too much. Maddie and Ellis turned out of their wealthy Philadelphia home, headed to Scotland with Hank and his money.  They were going to find and record the Loch Ness monster, something that had brought shame to Ellis’s father.  As  they crossed the ocean headed toward the war zone instead of away from it, Maddie started to see more than just herself and her own needs.  To see her eyes opened to class, to war, to her husband, makes a very fulfilling journey.

We read this for book group and everyone liked it, most even more than Gruen’s Like Water for Elephants.  The discussion centered around Maddie’s growth, the World War II backdrop, Ellis and Hank’s relationship, and, yes, whether the Loch Ness monster is real.  As a counterpoint, Jason tried to listen to it and made it through two cds before giving up. There wasn’t enough going on for him.

Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child

Title: Bad Luck and Trouble (Jack Reacher Series #11), Author: Lee ChildBad Luck and Trouble. Finished 4-12-16, rating 4.5/5. thriller, 477 pages, pub. 2007

#11 Jack Reacher series (1-Killing Floor, 2- Die Trying, 3 – Tripwire, 4 – Running Blind, 5 – Echo Burning, 6 – Without Fail, 7 – Persuador, 8 – The Enemy, 9 – One Shot, 10 – Hard Way)

I went back and read my reviews of the first 10 books of the series because I’m running out of ways to describe the mysterious Jack Reacher.  I’m going to give you a taste of what I’ve sad in the past.

“Jack Reacher is a man’s man, but one that women are drawn to because of his sheer masculinity and unavailability.  He is who he is, take him or leave him and that confidence and physical presence makes him a force to be reckoned with.” (Die Trying)

“Many series have a main character or two and many recurring characters.  This series only needs one, loner extraordinaire, Reacher.  He’s a badass.  He makes his way around the country righting wrongs and fighting injustices.  He doesn’t have a home, an ATM card, close friends, but he does have a heart and lots of confidence.  He’s retired military police so he knows his stuff and his talents and he is not afraid to give into his baser instincts for vengeance.  Oh, and he absurdly attractive to women.  Me included.” (Without Fail)

“Jack Reacher, loner extraordinaire, wasn’t always such a hard man.  There was a time when he had a job, a family and friends.  He was a star in the military police force and he was content with life.” (The Enemy)

With that out of the way, I can say that this has been one of the better ones of the series.  Since 9/11 he’s been forced to get an ATM card, but other than that he’s the same Reacher.  It’s the ATM card that enabled one of the members from his old elite military group to find him and get him to Los Angeles.  One of their old team met a grisly death and they need to find the rest of the team to assess the damage.  What Reacher finds in the those old friends shatters some of Reacher’s confidence. It was enlightening to see Reacher with his old squad, those who knew him well and respected his talents, and it was also great to see Reacher questioning his life, something we haven’t seen until this point.

Great series. It makes me want to start the next one right away. Oh, and I really should have been keeping count of Reacher’s conquests since the beginning of the series.  In the span of a couple of weeks he made two this go round.

I read my very own paperback. I think I prefer reading them, the narrator of the series, Dick Hill, is good but the books read so much faster than the audio allows.