I enjoyed this story, which reminded me of the Johnny Stompanato case which took place when I was actually reading Photoplay (the magazine). But, it'sI enjoyed this story, which reminded me of the Johnny Stompanato case which took place when I was actually reading Photoplay (the magazine). But, it's not a fictionalized rendering of those events, but Ephron's own tale which draws on her childhood as the daughter of screenwriters in Hollywood. Well worth reading....more
Laurie R. King is, I think, better known for her Mary Russell series featuring Sherlock Holmes. Holmes appears, in a way, in this book, part of her eaLaurie R. King is, I think, better known for her Mary Russell series featuring Sherlock Holmes. Holmes appears, in a way, in this book, part of her earlier Kate Martinelli series about a San Francisco police detective. When the body of a consummate Holmes collector and re-enactor is found in a disused gun emplacement, there are many avenues for Martinelli and her partner Al to explore, including what may be a lost Holmes story. I found this book rather slow going at first but it may just have been me. I didn't see the ending coming, anyway. Also, a nice portrait of a lesbian couple (Kate and Lee) raising a daughter. I have no hesitation in recommending it....more
Although Grabien's Haunted Ballad series will always be my favorites, I've grown to enjoy the JP Kinkaid series, focussed on a rock band, almost as muAlthough Grabien's Haunted Ballad series will always be my favorites, I've grown to enjoy the JP Kinkaid series, focussed on a rock band, almost as much. The characters are fascinating with their health and personal issues never distracting them from their passions for music and, in the case of Kinkaid's "old lady" Bree, cooking. Definitely recommended and especially if you like rock music more than I do....more
I've been a little disappointed in some of the recent Harry Bosch books, but I liked this one a lot, possibly because of the cold case aspect and becaI've been a little disappointed in some of the recent Harry Bosch books, but I liked this one a lot, possibly because of the cold case aspect and because there was no serial killer involved! The ending was a bit over the top, but I can forgive that. Recommended....more
What is there to say about Michael Connelly's books that hasn't already been said? This is part of the Mickey Haller series, which some people don't sWhat is there to say about Michael Connelly's books that hasn't already been said? This is part of the Mickey Haller series, which some people don't seem to like as much as the Harry Bosch one, perhaps because Haller is a criminal defense lawyer beset with moral ambiguity. That's my favorite part of this series, so if that's bearable for you, I'd highly recommend it....more
This book was not quite what I expected after skimming a couple of reviews; I think it was even better.
Michael Hainey's father, a Chicago newspapermaThis book was not quite what I expected after skimming a couple of reviews; I think it was even better.
Michael Hainey's father, a Chicago newspaperman, died in 1970 when the younger Hainey was six years old and his brother two years older. Little was said about him after that, or about the manner of his death -- just that he had had a heart attack at 35. As Michael grew up and became a journalist himself, various parts of the story did not add up. When he reached the age at which his father had died, he began to investigate in earnest, After many difficulties, he learned the truth -- or rather, many truths.
After Visiting Friends kept me fascinated from beginning to end. It's not only the story of a great family history investigation, but a meditation on fathers and sons, and the larger topic of family. With side trips to Nebraska and California, it's also a great Chicago story. Very highly recommended....more
It's been quite a while since I read the previous entries in the Jane Whitefield series. In Runner, Jane has taken on a new case five years after herIt's been quite a while since I read the previous entries in the Jane Whitefield series. In Runner, Jane has taken on a new case five years after her retirement to the quiet life of a doctor's wife. When a pregnant girl asks for her help, Jane, who's been worried about her and her husband's failure to conceive, can't help but assist her to escape those who are seeking her. Jane must deal with 21st century technology and the increased security that followed 9/11. When things start to go sour, it's because she doesn't really know how her 20-year-old charge will behave, and doesn't warn her against every possible slip. Perhaps my memory is faulty, but I found this book had more violence -- some carried out by Jane herself -- that I recalled from earlier books. I also felt more aware of the moral ambiguity inherent in Jane's use of illegal means to help more-or-less deserving fugitives. But I was glad to have Jane Whitefield back. Something else new was that I listened to Runner on Audible. The reader (Joyce Bean) was excellent and I look forward to hearing her read Poison Flower, the next book in the series....more
I believe Walter Mosley got quite a bit of buzz when he first published Devil in a Blue Dress in 1990. I seem to recall that I began to read it at theI believe Walter Mosley got quite a bit of buzz when he first published Devil in a Blue Dress in 1990. I seem to recall that I began to read it at the time, but for some reason didn't get very far. Perhaps I just wasn't into noir fiction back then. A couple of years ago we listened to White Butterfly, another in the series, and enjoyed it very much. So when I saw this on Audible I couldn't resist giving it another try.
The narration, by Michael Boatman, adds immeasurably to my enjoyment. Boatman sounds just as I would imagine Easy does (the story is told in first person) and the voices he does for the other characters, including the women, are believable as well. Mosley himself has an excellent ear for dialect and dialog, and the combination of author and narration takes the listener to a completely different place -- in this case, Watts, Los Angeles, 1948.
Devil in a Blue Dress explains how Easy Rawlins went from working in an aircraft factory to being a private investigator. Easy is a black World War II veteran, originally from Houston, who has ended up in Watts and has bought a small house. He is so thrilled to own his own home that he even enjoys receiving junk mail, so when he loses his aircraft factory job because of a disagreement with the white foreman, his main concern is how to make his next mortgage payment. When his bartender friend introduces him to a mysterious white man who offers him $100 to search for a missing young woman, Easy takes on the job, despite some misgivings which turn out to be well-founded.
Although the plot is fascinatingly full of incident, the characterizations and setting are equally strong. Easy is a complicated man with simple desires which the world seems eager to thwart. The setting of LA in the 40s, legally integrated but still full of racism, adds to the tension of the story. Very highly recommended....more
The fifth in the Chet and Bernie series, the adventures of the Little Detective agency as told by Chet, the partner who happens to be a dog, is the beThe fifth in the Chet and Bernie series, the adventures of the Little Detective agency as told by Chet, the partner who happens to be a dog, is the best yet, but I think that about every new entry in this series. I listened to this book (read by Jim Frangione, who does a great job) while walking my own dog, and likely got a reputation around town as a nut because I so often found myself laughing out loud. I think any dog owner will recognize the traits of dogdom in Chet's "voice."
Although the dog tells the story, he has no special powers beyond those any dog of his size and training might have. We have often noticed how much effort our dog puts into trying to communicate with us -- and how often we probably fail to understand him. Chet is the same, so sometimes he "gets it" before Bernie and can't make him understand. And at other times, like any dog, he just gets distracted or confused.
A Fistful of Collars finds Bernie and Chet hired to make sure all goes smoothly on a film shoot in their area of the San Fernando Valley. The star seems to be wrestling with some private demons which turn out to be connected to a cold case which turns into a hot one. The climax is very scary! As usual, the characters and setting measure up to the plot. I hope Chet and Bernie continue catching perps for a long time to come. Highly recommended....more
Like Parker’s earlier Edgar winner, Silent Joe, California Girl is set in Orange County and brought home even more than the earlier book that Orange CLike Parker’s earlier Edgar winner, Silent Joe, California Girl is set in Orange County and brought home even more than the earlier book that Orange County is not Los Angeles.
There are a lot of ways one could describe California Girl. It’s a story about two families, the Beckers and the Vonns, and how they intersect and affect each other’s lives. It’s definitely a story of the changes in America, and specifically Orange County, from the 50s through the 60s and onward. Richard Nixon and Charles Manson make brief appearances, as does Timothy Leary. It’s also the story of three brothers – a clergyman, a journalist, and a cop – trying to love and support each other and be honest men in spite of their own human frailties and the compromises they sometimes have to make.
I have a hard time reading Parker’s books. They evoke corruption so well I almost have to hold my nose – even this book, which was not really about corruption, has a character who makes a fortune from a cleaner made of rotten oranges. Parker’s world is not a world I want to visit often. Although his characters enjoy the beauty and good weather of Southern California, they are also surrounded by urban sprawl and commercial ugliness (not to mention some extremely right-wing characters and others who are just generally unpleasant.) In some ways Parker’s books remind me of Donna Leon’s Guido Brunetti novels. But although Brunetti goes on beating his head against the wall of bureaucracy and corruption that confronts him at the end of nearly every book, he has the many compensations of Venice to console him. Parker’s Orange County doesn’t seem like a good place to live, but it’s a place we need to know about, and the stories he tells about it are worth hearing. So even though in many ways I didn’t “like” this book, I would highly recommend it. ...more
I've listed this as "set in California," but I think part of it is set in Nevada. Chet and Bernie are hired to provide escort service (not THAT kind!I've listed this as "set in California," but I think part of it is set in Nevada. Chet and Bernie are hired to provide escort service (not THAT kind! more like moral support)for a divorced woman who will be going to Parents' Weekend at her son's wilderness camp and expects to see her ex there. Not only is the ex not there, her son is missing. Before the happy ending, there will be some tough times for Bernie and still more for Chet, his canine partner. I continue to enjoy this series; the dog thinks and acts like a dog, and Bernie is a pretty engaging character too. Recommended quite highly....more
I like mysteries with female protagonists, whether police, private eye, or amateur sleuth. Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone has been one of the premier wI like mysteries with female protagonists, whether police, private eye, or amateur sleuth. Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone has been one of the premier women private eyes in fiction since this first book (although I gave up on the series around K or L, not sure exactly why). This first in the series has a plot that always hooks me, the cold case/who-REALLY-dun-it. If you haven't read Grafton (and it's hard to believe there are any mystery readers who haven't) you should give the series a try and see how far into the alphabet you get....more
I had meant to read this memoir when it was first published, but somehow never got around to it. I did read Janzen's second volume of memoirs, Does ThI had meant to read this memoir when it was first published, but somehow never got around to it. I did read Janzen's second volume of memoirs, Does This Church Make Me Look Fat?, but it didn't inspire me to rush out looking for Mennonite.... However, the other day there it was at a library book sale, and I am so glad. Not that Janzen doesn't say some very worthwhile serious things in this book, but what I really enjoyed was the humor. I got more good outloud laughs from this book than any since the last Bill Bryson book I read. The nicest thing about Mennonite... is that the humor is not mean-spirited. Janzen clearly loves her parents and the other elderly Mennonites they hang out with. Even as she realizes afresh that she really no longer belongs in their world, she appreciates the good things from her upbringing in the faith. If Rhoda Janzen writes a third volume of memoirs, I'll be sure to read it....more
I really wish I had written this review while the book was still fresh in my mind. I actually listened to it on Audible; it was a wonderful experienceI really wish I had written this review while the book was still fresh in my mind. I actually listened to it on Audible; it was a wonderful experience.
I've not read very many of what I'd call "Westerns" but this is one, albeit a very different sort of Western. Set during the California Gold Rush, it is the tale of Charley and Eli Sisters, two brothers who work as hired guns for a Godfather-like character in Oregon City. Sent to California to track down and kill a certain man, they are somewhat caught up in the gold fever themselves. One of the key episodes verges on science fiction; there is also plenty of humor in the book. For much of the story, Charley and Eli engage in almost thoughtless violence, so be forewarned and don't read it if you can't bear that sort of thing. But this was one of the best and most memorable books I read in 2012 and I would recommend it most highly....more
Mickey Haller, the Lincoln Lawyer (I liked the movie too, by the way), his ex-wife, Maggie McPherson, and his half-brother, Lt. Harry Bosch of the LAPMickey Haller, the Lincoln Lawyer (I liked the movie too, by the way), his ex-wife, Maggie McPherson, and his half-brother, Lt. Harry Bosch of the LAPD, are working together on this case. Haller has been called in to sit on the other side of the aisle as a prosecutor when a convicted child-killer is retried following a high court reversal of his 24-year-old conviction. Even Bosch's old girlfriend Rachel Walling gets involved. The story is riveting and the interactions among the characters well-done. I found the ending somewhat unsatisfying although it was probably a realistic picture of what might really happen in the situation. Still, don't miss this one....more
This book flew by much faster for me than the previous one, Shamus in the Green Room. Kandel wove the present-day plot in with the story of Agatha ChrThis book flew by much faster for me than the previous one, Shamus in the Green Room. Kandel wove the present-day plot in with the story of Agatha Christie's famous 11-day disappearance very cleverly. The sections dealing with Cece's friends and family provided relief, comic and otherwise, from the murder plot. However, I'm getting a little tired of Cece's skittishness about marrying her police detective fiance. But I'll keep reading if Kandel keeps writing....more
I plodded through Shamus in the Green Room even though I read it in a large-print version, which usually goes faster for me. Whether it was the characI plodded through Shamus in the Green Room even though I read it in a large-print version, which usually goes faster for me. Whether it was the characters (the film people were just plain annoying and I didn't enjoy spending time with them) or the plot, which involved a shadowy figure -- victim or villain?, I'm not sure. Protagonist Cece Caruso is a mystery-writer biographer and the writer in question in this book is Dashiell Hammett, subject of her first book. Cece is hired to consult on a film about Hammett for a film star who doesn't read much. When he's called to identify a body, real-life crime steps in. I liked the subsequent book much better....more
I'm not sure why I assigned only three stars to this book, except that perhaps I felt I was giving too many 4 and 5 star ratings. As I recall, it wasI'm not sure why I assigned only three stars to this book, except that perhaps I felt I was giving too many 4 and 5 star ratings. As I recall, it was a good story of a boy whose father gets a job at Alcatraz and moves the family - mother and two sons, the one who's not the narrator is autistic - to the island prison. It's a good mixture of the events of the time and place with the usual middle-school age troubles and feelings. It certainly deserved to be honored by the Newbery committee. Recommended for, I'd say, ages 9-12 and anyone else who's not too "grown-up" to read a children's book now and then. (I am slowly reading or re-reading the Newbery Award and Honor books -- it's taking quite a while since they keep adding new ones!)...more
The Tales of the City series began as a serial in the San Francisco Chronicle. The tales quickly become an addiction for readers, and just when you thThe Tales of the City series began as a serial in the San Francisco Chronicle. The tales quickly become an addiction for readers, and just when you think Maupin can't come up with anything new for his characters to experience, something unusual but (in the context of San Francisco) completely believable happens. Highly recommended, as is the rest of the series....more
My daughter, who is a minister, is leading a group on spiritual memoirs and has chosen Miles's earlier book, Take This Bread as the first selection. TMy daughter, who is a minister, is leading a group on spiritual memoirs and has chosen Miles's earlier book, Take This Bread as the first selection. That one is a true spiritual memoir and will also give the reader Sara Miles's fascinating "backstory". But it's not strictly necessary to read it first in order to be stirred by Jesus Freak, even though in some ways it's an extended epilogue to Take This Bread.
The subtitle says it all: Feeding, Healing, Raising the Dead. Lest this last phrase scare you off, there is no charlatan here, but rather someone who really ministers to the dying and their families, as well as to the sick and the hungry.
As detailed in Take This Bread, Miles, a middle-aged, middle-class member of the radical intelligentsia, rather suddenly became a Christian and active in St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church [http://www.saintgregorys.org/]. Living in the Mission District of San Francisco, and coming to Christ's teachings with fresh eyes, she took them seriously and got the church to start a free food distribution program. This did not happen without struggle. But as Jesus Freak opens, the food distribution has become a vital part of the church and community, with those who came to receive often staying to give as volunteers. Through her engagement with the diverse people of the food pantry, and with other people in the church, Miles also gets involved in healing ministry and, as a logical corollary when the body cannot be healed even when the soul can, in ministry to the dying.
Not that she makes this seem easy. One of the best things about Miles's books (besides the writing) is that she doesn't sugar-coat the realities of trying to be a Christian. Not only does she have to serve people who are drunk, who stink, who act crazy and can be scary -- she also has to deal with other Christians and fellow church members who may be annoying, fearful, stubborn, resistant to change, or simply don't see things the same way she does. And yet she knows that we are called to love.
Jesus Freak doesn't say much that's new, philosophically or theologically, for those of us who grew up in the church. You can get the same ideas from reading Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. But each generation needs to be recalled, reminded, shaken out of complacency, and Sara Miles gives us that needed wake-up call. Highly recommended....more