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Archive for the ‘Ed’ Category

I’ll start off, up front, by saying The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein is a great book. But who would expect less from the author of Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire.

Fifteen year old Lady Julia Lindsay MacKenzie Wallace Beaufort-Stuart has returned home for summer break to help her mother and grandmother pack up their household. Her grandfather’s recent death and the realization that they had lost their fortune forced them to sell their centuries old castle, Strathfearn, near Perth, Scotland to a school and construction was under way to convert the house and property to its new use. On her first day home, lying on Drookit Stane, a standing stone in the River Fearn, she is hit over the head and is unconscious for several days. Euen McEwen, a Traveller, a nomadic Scottish group, found her and brought her to the hospital.

Simultaneously, Professor Hugh Housman who was cataloging the antiquities of the household, mysteriously disappears. Julia remembers seeing him in the river, naked, prior to being clonked on the head and many feared that he had drowned, either on purpose (since his advances were recently rebuffed by Solange, Julia’s governess) or by accident.

The Pearl Thief is an amazing story combining Scottish folklore with a coming of age story with a little history with a small mystery. It takes place during the summer of 1938. The Travelers or Tinkers as they’re called (since many sell tin and other metals), are similar to gypsies and have that same derogatory connotation. They are not well regarded by the Scots yet have a long history in the land. The McEwens, especially, were friends with the Stuarts and Julia’s and Euen’s mothers played together as young children.

Wein contrasts the ‘haves’ of Julia’s upper crust gentry status with the ‘have nots’ the McEwens who live from day to day, traveling to where there is work, typically farming. Yet it is the Travelers whose philosophy it is that it is better to give than to receive.

Part of the pleasure of reading Elizabeth Wein is her descriptions–of the land, the history, the mythology. Her story traps you and her language reels you in. I can’t give this book and Wein’s other young adult books, enough accolades.

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LAPD Detective Renee Ballard was relegated to the ‘late show’, the midnight to 8 AM shift, after her allegation of sexual harassment against her supervisor, Lieutenant Olivas, was dismissed. Her former partner, Ken Chastain, did not back her up, although he saw the entire episode.
TheLateShow
On patrol with her new partner, Jenkins, one night they answer a robbery call in which an elderly woman fears that her credit card was stolen. Additionally they are called to the scenes of the brutal beating of a transgender prostitute and to a multiple shooting at a local club. Wile Jenkins is satisfied doing his eight hours and going home to his sick wife, Ballard is eager to perform real detective work and volunteers to officially pursue the robbery, while deciding to  investigate the other incidents on the sly, in the case of the shooting against Olivas’ direct order to ‘stay away’. Evidence prompts her to theorize that the shooter was a police officer and Ballard naturally assumes Olivas is the culprit…a dangerous path for her.
This is the start of a new police procedural series by Michael Connelly, creator of Harry Bosch. This lackluster entry pits the driven Ballard against a hostile Olivas. (I’m not going to say who wins.) An interesting character, Ballard is a tame female version of Bosch, caring and driven to finding the truth at all costs.
However, the quick and tidy solutions to the robbery and beating are anticlimactic. An early reference to Bosch was totally gratuitous. While the action builds in the second half, it is half-hearted.  while I’m sure Bosch and Connelly fans will clamor for Ballard, she’ll need a little more grit to survive.
P.S. It’s telling when the best character is Lola, the boxer mix dog that Ballard rescued!

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Alice bought Teddy a lottery ticket for his 18th birthday. It was a lark, a gag gift. But of course, as you can guess, it was a winning ticket–$141 million, $50+ million if taken in a lump sum.  Both Alice and Teddy have had their share of trouble. Alice’s parents died when she was young, within 13 months of each other. At the age of nine, she was uprooted from her California home and relocated to Chicago, to live with her Uncle Jake (her dad’s brother), Aunt Sophia and cousin Leo. Teddy’s gambler father walked out on him and his mother, draining their bank accounts, forcing them to move into a small one bedroom apartment, pinching pennies to get by. So, they deserve something good to happen.

Alice, in unrequited love with Teddy for ages, hopes that the Teddy she knows and loves is unchanged with his new found wealth, but of course, that isn’t the case. Suddenly he’s on a buying spree, buying everything he doesn’t need.

Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith (author of The Comeback Season,  Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between, The Geography of You and Me, and The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, among others)  is a ‘self discovery’ book. Alice, having a idealized memory of her parents, is trying to please them by doing volunteer work and applying to Stanford where her mother got accepted but could not attend. Is this what she really wants?

Her cousin Leo’s boyfriend is attending college in Michigan, where Leo is applying. But is that what he really wants?

And Teddy is spending money like he’s got millions, with no particular goal. Is that what he really wants?

The three teenagers all learn who they are and what family is in Windfall. As you read, I doubt you’ll be surprised by the end. It’s what you’d expect. It’s what I expected, but not what I wanted. I’m a big Jennifer E. Smith fan, beginning with her first book The Comeback Season, and you’re guaranteed a fun, readable story. But, in this instance, I wanted a surprise ending. I wanted her to go out on a limb. I wanted her to give us the unexpected, but I didn’t get it and that disappointed me. While the cliche is “it’s the journey, not the destination”,  in this instance I wanted the destination to warrant the journey and I didn’t quite get it. But still, I did have fun along the way.

SPOILER (maybe)

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I was rooting for the underdog!

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Sawyer!!!!!

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It was hard to believe that someone could write 227 pages on library card catalogs, but in reality, three quarters of those pages are photos. Written by the Library of Congress, The Card Catalog: Books, Cards and Literary Treasures includes a short history on the evolution of the card catalog and is mostly a venue to display various books in its collection (mostly first editions)…alongside of which is a copy of an index card from a card catalog. This is all fine with me.

TheCardCatalog

For those of us who are library users, the card catalog is a thing of the past…unless, like me, you have one in your home. Those user friendly little index cards detailing the pertinent information about a book have gone electronic and there is no more flipping through cards to find what you’re looking for…as lamented by various authors and poets when asked to sign catalog cards of their works for an exhibit.

The various great libraries of the world, especially the one in ancient Alexandria, needed some way of cataloging their holdings. As writing surfaces evolved from papyrus to codex to paper, the ability to catalog library holdings improved, both from the framework of the writing implements as well as the system by which items were cataloged. Most of us are familiar with the Dewey Decimal System and some of us with the Library of Congress Subject Headings.

The Library of Congress itself evolved from a library to support the fledgling United States Congress to becoming the premier library in the world, supplying cataloging information to libraries worldwide.

One tidbit of note: in the initial training programs for librarians in the United States, the penmanship of an index card used for cataloging purposes was one of the courses.

If you’re looking for some easy reading about books or want to learn a little bit about the cataloging of books, The Card Catalog is an enjoyable two day read. Book lovers will enjoy this immensely.

 

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Lorna Belling has issues. Her husband, Colin, is abusive. Her only hope is her lover, Greg, who assures her he will divorce his wife and take Lorna away from Colin.

NeedYouDead

Meanwhile she’s selling everything of value to squirrel away money to move to Australia where her sister lives, just in case. However, some guy she wants to sell her car to keeps saying he’s transferred the money through Paypal but she hasn’t received it. He keeps threatening to reveal her love affair to her husband if she doesn’t turn over the car or refund his money.

But the worst…looking at one of her beauty parlor customer’s vacation photos, she recognizes Greg and a woman, presumably his wife, lovingly looking into each other’s eyes. Realizing Greg has been lying about everything including his name, Lorna vows to ruin him. While waiting in the bathtub at their hideaway for their next tryst, she’s thinking of revenge. When he walks in she screams her intention. In a fit of rage he bashes her head against the bathtub wall, causing her to become unconscious, blood spurting everywhere. Unsure if Lorna is dead, he flees. Returning later to a corpse, he plots to incriminate Colin.

The question, not answered until the very end, is “Who is the murderer?”

Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, assigned to the case, appoints a young protege, Guy Batchelor, as Senior Investigating Officer partly because it will be good experience for Batchelor and partly because Grace will be in Germany meeting Bruno, the 10 year old son he never knew he had from his first marriage.

Need You Dead by Peter James, the thirteenth Roy Grace book after Love You Dead (all the titles in the series contain the word ‘Dead’), packs a punch. Suspects and red herrings abound and Grace, Batchelor and the investigative team follow the plentiful leads. Grace’s attention alternates between the case and the psychological impact on Bruno of his mother’s suicide and his subsequent move to England. This British police procedural has action, car chases, gory deaths and more. Something for every mystery fan.

Need You Dead is totally satisfying, although I do have one small criticism. The narrative glosses over how the murderer and Lorna originally met.  James ranks with other British mystery writers such as  Ian Rankin, Colin Dexter and Peter Robinson (although Need You Dead has no cold case component to it). If you’re already a Roy Grace fan or you’re looking for a new mystery series, try the Roy Grace series. At 13 books, it won’t be hard to start at the beginning and work your way through them. However, Need You Dead, stands pretty well on its own.

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Imagine, if you will, a divorce so acrimonious that the divorcees no longer can be in the same room with each other. Add to that second marriages and a child from each of those, in addition to the three children from the initial marriage. The childrens’ relationships to each other are complicated.

TheWholeThingTogether

One more wrinkle, a shared second home purchased by wife 1’s father but saved from foreclosure by husband 1. Every weekend is a transition from one family to the next, with only the first three daughters staying the whole time. Again, never the twain shall meet.

Ann Brashares, author of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, has written a unique book, touching on many of the issues surrounding divorce and second marriages, the primary being divorced spouses avoiding each other at all costs and the impact on all the children and their relationships to each other. There are subplots which enhance the story and which I’ll let you discover for yourselves.

The issues raised in this book are probably not uncommon among divorced families. The habitation of a second home may be unusual but it does not detract from the issues raised. Brashares takes both a serious and a humorous look at divorce. I expected something more light and fluffy from Ms. Brashares and was pleasantly surprised by The Whole Thing Together.

While I’d consider Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants to be more ‘chick lit’, The Whole Thing Together is much more substantial. I’d definitely go for this one. You won’t be disappointed.

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Alexander Carpenter, at his father Nelson’s request, takes on the case of convicted murderer, Willie Miller, who has been granted a new trial based on a technicality. The senior Carpenter, a retired judge, was the D.A. who handled the original case seven years earlier, where all the evidence pointed to a guilty Mr. Miller.

OpenAndShut

Shortly after taking the case, Alex’s father dies suddenly. As Alex is cleaning out his boyhood home, he comes across a photo of a young Nelson and three other young man who rose to prominence. Alex is surprised that Nelson knew these gentlemen as young men. He’s even more surprised to find that his father has a next egg of $22 million tht he never touched, stemming from a one time payment of $2 million deposited around the time the photo was taken.

As Alex and his investigator, Laurie, delve into both the trial and the photo, Alex’s life seems to be in danger and he’s convinced that the photo and the retrial are related.

Open and Shut is the first in the Alex Carpenter 15 book series. I’m not typically a fan of the ‘humorous’ mystery but Rosenfelt is able to combine some humor with an interesting story, a reasonable amount of action and a dog. What more can you ask for? Alex is a ‘normal’ guy, unsure of himself, doing dumb things on occasion, totally out of his league when it comes to romance. He’s not cocky. He’s not a hero. He doesn’t beat up everyone who gets in his way. He’s self-deprecating.

While I may not make it my business to read every book in the series, I certainly will pick up another book in the Carpenter series and future books will be on my radar.

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