Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sex And The City 2


I have one thing to say about this movie and that is.....DON'T LISTEN TO ANY OF THE REVIEWS!!! The movie is terrific and I'll even go out on a limb and say it was better than the first one.

There wasn't one moment in the two plus viewing hours that I was bored. I thought the storyline was great and the one-liners were priceless. Now add to that all of the different wardrobe changes and you have two and a half hours of viewing pleasure.

I am so sick of all of these reviewers panning this movie. The difference between them and the viewers is that we go to the movies to be entertained and they go to the movies to critique what they're seeing. There wasn't one person in that theater who didn't enjoy this movie. Based on all the applause, everyone got their money's worth and this movie was everything we were hoping to see.

So please don't listen to any reviewers or read any of their pitiful reviews. Just pay the price and get your ticket and enjoy a day with the four women we have come to love.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Good-Bye to Vancouver


And so we say good-bye to the 2010 Winter Olympics. I'm going to miss it. Not that I watched every single event but it was nice to be able to turn on NBC and see our athletes doing us proud whenever I felt like it.

There were so many highlights both good and bad. Starting off the Olympics with the death of a Russian luger was just so sad and then seeing his actual funeral at the closing ceremony last night was just heartbreaking. Watching Joannie Rochette of Canada skate just days after her mother's sudden death was one of the saddest things I've ever watched on TV. Seeing just how classy Apolo Ohno was after being disqualified is also something I'll remember. He was also my favorite athlete during these Olympics. Lindsey Vonn, Shani Davis, Steve Holcomb and his bobsled team, Evan Lysacek, Shaun White and all the others who walked away with medals.....I salute you. And to all those athletes who got to Vancouver and didn't leave with any medals, I salute you as well. It takes a lot of training just to get there and being there alone is testament to how good you are.

I thought the city of Vancouver was highlighted beautifully and it's a place I'd love to visit someday. Having Bob Costas report the results every evening was also a pleasure. The most disappointing, of course, was USA's loss to Canada in ice hockey but they played great and should be proud.

The closing ceremonies were very long as they usually are. I was all ready to leave these Olympics on a high note when they began to display all of their very own Canadian "celebrities" telling the world how proud they were to be Canadians. I looked at all of them....especially Michael J. Fox....and thought how great it is that they're so proud. But then I thought, "Why do they all live here in the states and use our health care?" They forgot to mention that in the closing ceremonies.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Big Snowfall

All week long, the weather forecasters have been predicting a huge snowstorm for our area this week.......somewhere in the area of 12" to 18". For once in their lives, they were correct. They didn't predict that we would also lose our power which is beyond annoying as we also lose water and flushing toilets when we're without power. When we lived on Long Island, we hardley ever lost power. Since we've been living in Pennsylvania (for 24 years now), it is a common occurrence to lose your power whenever there's a storm. I don't know why we haven't bought a generator yet but, after this storm, I'm seriously considering it as nothing makes me angrier than being without power. Here's some pictures for your viewing pleasure.... (It's so annoying that I can't figure out how to space these closer).


































































Saturday, January 2, 2010

"My" Best and Worst of 2009


As we close out the year of 2009, I thought I'd like to post some of my "Favorites" of the year and some of my "Least Favorites".

Starting off the list is my favorite blog. I've chosen this one because the person who writes it is so darn clever. When she started the blog, she had a husband and a golden retriever. This year she added a beautiful baby boy named Charlie which only added more clever opportunities for her. So here's the entire list.

FAVORITES

Favorite Blog -- Lunch Break

Favorite Christmas Card -- My cousin Karen's -- She and her husband Larry just gave birth to two boys after having three girls. Her card read "We are tinkled "pink" that we are finally having a "blue" Christmas!!!

Favorite People -- Aunt Margie and Aunt Viola -- It doesn't get much better than these two.

Favorite Book -- Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese

Favorite Netflix Rental -- Man On fire with Denzel Washington

Favorite TV Show(s) -- Mad Men, Friday Night Lights, 24

Favorite New TV Show -- The Good Wife

Favorite "Real" Hero -- Captain Sully Sullenberger

Favorite Movie -- Blind Side

Favorite Video -- Single Ladies with Beyonce

LEAST FAVORITES

Most Disappointing Person -- Tiger Woods -- Great Golfer -- Terrible Individual

Most Despicable Person -- Tie -- Levi Johnston and Jon Gosselin

Most Disappointing Show Cancellation -- The Bonnie Hunt Show

Most Disappointing Politician -- Governor Mark Sanford and his Appalachian Trail excuse

Most Annoying thing on TV -- Whoopi Goldberg rolling her eyes and smirking at every guest she doesn't like.....which is mostly everyone

Most Played Out -- Michele Obama's arms

Most Despicable Family -- The Jackson's for trying to cash in on their brother's death



It ended up being a successful reading year for me. Somewhere, midyear, I made up my mind to stop reading mediocre books. As a result, I ended up finding some real winners after searching through Amazon.com. My year end total was 32 books......16 of which were literature/fiction, 15 in the mystery/thriller category and 1 non fiction book. I've listed my favorites below. In order to be a favorite, it would have to rate either an 8, 9 or 10 on a scale of 1-10. I've also listed the "clunkers". I also belong to a few online book groups where we post our top ten picks of the year, which are then all compiled to come up with one major list. As soon as this has been completed (usually by the end of January), I'll post that here as well.

LITERATURE/FICTION

Cutting For Stone -- Abraham Verghese -- 10

The Help -- Kathryn Stockett -- 10

The Boleyn Inheritance -- Philippa Gregory -- 10

The White Queen -- Philippa Gregory -- 9

That Old Cape Magic -- Richard Russo -- 9

The Book Thief -- Markus Zusak -- 9

Leaving The World -- Douglas Kennedy -- 8.5

MYSTERY/THRILLER

The Lincoln Lawyer -- Michael Connelly -- 10

The Brass Verdict -- Michael Connelly -- 10

The Scarecrow -- Michael Connelly -- 10

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo -- Stieg Larsson -- 10

Echo Park -- Michael Connelly --9

The Closers -- Michael Connelly -- 9

Vanished -- Joseph Finder -- 8.5

The Narrows -- Michael Connelly -- 8.5

Rules of Vengeance -- Christopher Reich -- 8.5

The Overlook -- Michael Connelly -- 8

WORST BOOKS

Breakfast At Sallys -- Richard Lemieux -- 2

The Hour I First Believed -- Wally Lamb -- 4

Travel Writing -- Peter Ferry -- 4

Love and Summer -- William Trevor -- 4

Friday, January 1, 2010


HAPPY NEW YEAR


2010






I don't think I've ever been as happy to say good-bye to a year as I am to say farewell to 2009. Between my mother's stroke, the awful real estate market and the overall doom and gloom of the economy, it's about time for some good news. And 2010 has a nice ring to it and I'm hoping it brings only good things for everyone.

We closed out the year last night with dinner at PF Changs (courtesy of a gift card from Keith) and seeing the movie Invictus starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. I definitely recommend it. We had intended to see either It's Complicated or Up In the Air but both were sold out. We had already seen Blind Side which was one of the better, feel-good movies I've seen in a long time.

This was the third year that Kathy Griffin joined Anderson Cooper on CNN to bring in the New Year. I'm not usually a CNN watcher but the combination of these two just cracks me up. She really brings out the best and the funniest in him. Last year, she upset the bigwigs at CNN with her foul mouth and this year, it was in her contract that if she said anything even remotely connected with the "f" word, she would have to give them their check back. Well, I think she'll be writing out that check because when they was talking about the "balloon boy" Falcon, she was trying to pronounce his name and it sure sounded like she said something that would give CNN grounds to get their money back. When she said it, I had to rewind my DVR just to see if I really heard what I heard and I did. But that was the fun of the entire night.....just watching to see if she could make it through two and a half hours with a clean mouth. For as "D" list as she is, I just love Kathy Griffin. I don't think anyone makes me laugh as much as she does. And I became a huge Anderson Cooper fan when he first hosted the TV show, The Mole, and then again when he guest hosts for Regis Philbin when he's out. The matchup of Anderson Cooper and Kelly Ripa is right up there with Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin.

Another thing they did that I loved was when the clock stroke midnight and the ball fell, instead of having to listen to them talking, they just panned the crowds for a full ten minutes which was a spectacular fest of people watching. I changed channels just to see what ABC was doing and they were airing a commercial. ABC had some great musical talent and Ryan Seacrest but I think it's about time that Dick Clark passed the torch and removed himself from the show. I would bet that half of the generation of watchers that ABC is trying to draw probably don't even know who he is. There comes a time when the older generation has to step aside for the younger generation to take over......did you hear that Mary Hart of Entertainment Tonight???? How much more face work can you get before your sixty plus years start to show?

So, of course, like everyone else, I'll make the usual resolutions that will be broken before the first week in January has come to a close. But I'll still make them and see how far I can get.

1) I would like to blog more because I've definitely been slacking.

2) I would like to lose weight and I actually have a plan for doing so....it's a secret though.

3) I would like to read more books than I did in 2009. I ended up finishing 32 books which was up from my 2008 total of 19 books. For 2010, I'd like to at least hit 40.

4) I would like to see more movies. I only ended up seeing 7 this year which was down from my 2008 total of 10.

5) I would like to win or final table a live poker tournament. The closest I've come is 11th place in a Ladies' event and 21st place in a Deep Stack event.

6) I would like to have at least one real estate transaction per month in 2010. In 2009, I went months and months without any. This is compared to previous years when I had multiple transactions every single month of the year.

7) I would like to make myself available to spend more time with my friends. Upon reading this resolution, it will probably take my friend JoAnn about two seconds to email me pinning me down to a definite date.

8) I would like to go to bed earlier so I can get up earlier in the day. I'm such a night person but this means I waste so much time in the day because I can't get up early.

9) I would like to take better care of myself which means getting all the tests done that the doctor says I should be doing at my age. Also, a face lift would be nice. lol

10) I would like to exercise more...at least three days a week of doing something.

Notice that I've started each resolution with the words "I would" instead of "I will".....I think that's telling. In any event, at the end of this year, we'll see how I did. The one thing I know for sure that I will do is buy a new laptop. This is one of the things that causes me to stop blogging because my laptop is so annoyingly slow and the keys stick and the pictures won't load and then it just becomes too much of a hassle. So a new computer is definitely on the list for 2010.

I'll be doing a separate post with my "best of" and "worst of" (yes that's you Tiger) for 2009 so look for that in the next day or so.

In closing, I'd like to wish all of my friends and family and blog followers a happy and, more importantly, healthy 2010.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Four Book Reviews All At Once!!!!

It seems lately that my life revolves around reading, working and reading. Here are four reviews all at once.

TOO MUCH "TRAVEL WRITING" IN THIS BOOK -- 2 of 5 stars

As I begin to write each review, the first thing that comes to mind is whether or not I couldn't wait to get back to the book I'm reading each time I put it down. I wish I could get this feeling more than I do but I'm satisfied with the possible dozen or so times each year this situation will occur. Did it occur with Travel Writing? Sad to say it didn't. I'm so in the minority here, however, based on all of these other reviews. Not only did I not look forward to picking it up again but I actually couldn't wait to finish it and move on to all the other good books I have waiting here for me to read. That's right....John Irving's book just came out!!!

I know an argument can be made about why I just didn't stop reading it and move on to something else. I'd like to be able to do this but, once I start a book, I always finish it. This is why you'll see many reviewers with only four and five star reviews in their repetoire....they put down the books they don't like and, consequently, don't review them. It's also why many books here are actually rated higher than they should be because the ratings don't take into account all of the people who read a few chapters and decide that the book wasn't for them.

So why didn't I like it? I'm a very black and white person; very cut and dry. It either "is" or it "isn't". When an author writes a story that is perhaps true and perhaps not true, yet parts are definitely true while other parts are definitely not, he/she loses me. I don't like to play guessing games when I'm reading. I don't mind this when I'm reading a mystery/thriller and I know from the first page what I signed up for. That's fine with me. But this story within a story, whether it's real or not, just does not fly with me. The bottom line is that I don't like to be confused when I'm reading. Challenge me...yes!!! Confuse me...no!!!

Every other reviewer has already told the story about Peter Ferry, teacher/travel writer, who witnesses a car crash and begins to tell the story to his writing class. From that point on, the reader is not sure if it ever actually happened or if only part of it happened. It reminded me of Toni Morrison's books where you never really know what happens and, according to her, if you have to ask, she won't tell you anyway. Since the author is also a travel writer (as is the narrator), the book is flooded with little paragraphs and chapters of travel snippets that bored me to death and had nothing to do with the story. As a matter of fact, they messed up the fluidity of the story as far as I was concerned. I know others might feel I'm being a bit too critical but I tell it like it is....or at least how I feel it is. Now if that's "real" or "not real", that's for you to decide.


REPERCUSSION IN ECHO PARK -- 5 of 5 stars

In my quest to get all caught up with the Harry Bosch series, I just finished book #12, Echo Park. I'm trying to get caught up so I can read the latest, Nine Dragons, which just came out this month. There's only one book standing between me and the dragons and that's The Overlook, which I hope to read shortly. With Echo Park now under my belt, this puts the grand total of Michael Connelly books read by me at 18. This means that I've read more books by this author than any other author. Guess it's safe to say he's one of my favorites.

This is the second book that finds Harry working in LA's Open Unsolved Unit trying to close those "cold cases"...some of which have haunted him for years. This is really the perfect job for Harry Bosch as he considers himself a true detective...."one who takes it all inside and cares." In his world, "everybody counts or nobody counts." Whether the victim is a prostitute or a millionaire, they are all the same to Harry. This philosophy most likely dates back to Harry's own mother who was murdered while he was a young boy and her means of support was none other than prostitution. Harry would probably be a dream patient on a psychiatrist's couch, especially since he was able to make something out of his life after a very poor beginning. Connelly describes LA as a "sunny place with shady characters" and this statement really sets the tone for this book.

The Echo Park case is one Harry has been trying to close for many years. The victim, Marie Gesto, has never been found and Harry is presented with a deal whereby he will be led to her burial ground if only he will fall into play with the LA politico. Fans of Harry will know that he is not easily led down someone's else's path and, in this case, he will fight tooth and nail to stand his ground. Harry's partner, Kiz Rider, will be right by his side as he interrogates the so-called killer and the two of him will go on the field trip together, with the killer, to find Marie's body. This field trip is not your usual junior high trip to the zoo. It's a trip into the dark side from which some never return.

As with all of Connelly's books, I thought this one was well thought out. Connelly has a way of allowing the reader to enter Harry's mind and come up with some of the clues at the same time as he does. I did pick up one or two a little earlier than Harry did but I'm sure Connelly wanted it that way. I have to say that I have enjoyed reading these last few books in the Harry Bosch series back to back. When I finish these, I might just do this with one of the other series of which I find myself in the middle.

So now it's on to The Overlook. Just wait for me "Dragons".....I'm almost there.

TIME TO WAVE GOODBYE TO THE CAPPADORO'S -- 3 of 5 stars

Back in the late 90's, I was just getting back into reading when, lo and behold, Oprah started her book club. For as much as the reader elite got pleasure in putting down an Oprah pick, I, on the other hand, couldn't wait for each new one to be announced. I was right there, at the beginning with her, when she touted Deep End of the Ocean as the first book to be read by the "club". I read it and loved it and was consequently introduced to Jacqueline Mitchard as a "new to me" author. I can probably count on one hand the books that have brought me to tears and Deep End was one of them.

I couldn't believe my eyes when I realized that her newest book was a sequel to that Oprah pick. I don't think there's anyone, who has read that book, who has not wondered, in their literary mind of course, whatever happened to the Cappadora family. Now was my chance to see what occurred in the years following their discovery that their kidnapped son Ben was still alive and well....and living just a few blocks from them. If you haven't read Deep End of the Ocean, I highly recommend reading it before beginning to delve into No Time To Say Goodbye.....if you must!!!

In a way, I almost wish I hadn't read Deep End because then I wouldn't have wasted my time reading this sequel. So I guess that pretty much spells out what I thought of this book. I always seem to be a sucker for all these five star Amazon reviews and I don't know when I'm going to learn my lesson and check to see just how many of them are written by first time reviewers....reviewers who have only written one review on this site. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that these are friends of the author obviously trying to boost the rating of the book.

So where did this book fall short for me? I think I'd have to start with the writing which is so disjointed that half the time I had to reread sentences and paragraphs just to find out where the characters were and how they got there. There is so much misplaced punctuation that it actually made it hard to read at times. The writing is so deplorable that I even found it hard to believe that the same author wrote both books. But I figured I'd overlook that and just try to enjoy the book. But my question is....how can you enjoy a book when you're basically disliking every character? Did I dislike them this much the first time around? I don't think so but I definitely didn't like anything about them in this go-round.

So many other reviewers have already given synopses of this story about the older brother Vincent trying to make something of his life by getting into the movie business. He's certainly talented but, unfortunately, his recent documentary will bring back some bad memories of a time in the Cappadora's lives where everyone was walking around in a daze. This was because their youngest son Ben had been kidnapped, while Vincent was supposed to be keeping an eye on him. So his has been a life filled with guilt. The only one who seems not to have minded those years is Ben himself, who still considers his kidnapper's husband to be his real father. I just found this part of the book so appalling, as Ben calls his real parents by their first names, Beth and Pat, while he calls this other man Dad. And, as if that isn't bad enough, he's so nasty to them and flaunts this relationship in their faces all the time.

As the story progresses, the family will once again face a potential tragedy that will bring out the worst in all of them. The only redeeming character in this entire book is the son Vincent, who I also felt an attachment to in the first book.

Prior to reading this, I had been on such a great run with mostly five star reads. This one ruined my streak. If you've already read Deep End of the Ocean, stop there and don't go any further. Just cherish those memories of a really good book and don't have them marred by a really not so good book.

CALL ME "MERCILESS" -- 4 of 5 stars

I'm no stranger to this author having gotten on the John Gilstrap bandwagon in the late nineties when he came out with Nathan's Run. I was on an AOL book board at the time and many of the posters there were talking about this book and how good it was. Gilstrap, himself, also showed up and began posting and I just thought the other posters were being nice to him because he was, in fact, a published author. I also figured he had an ulterior motive in posting there and just wanted to sell his book. But, then I read Nathan's Run and it actually blew me away.....it was that good. His sophomore novel, At All Costs, was every bit as good as his first as was the next one, Even Steven. But with Even Steven and the follow up, Scott Free, I began to notice some inconsistencies in the book....things that just didn't pan out or just plain didn't make sense. Things that a good editor would have noticed. They were still good books, excellent even, but they could have been great books. It's been six years since Gilstrap has had anything published and I had almost forgotten about him until I saw No Mercy on Amazon's "New Releases" list. But, curiously enough, no longer was this Gilstrap book first coming out in hardcover...this one was going straight to paperback. This doesn't usually bode well for me as I detest reading paperbacks and, if I hadn't already had a history with this author, I definitely would have passed.

This seems to be happening a lot lately. Another favorite author of mine, Colin Harrison, has a new book out, Risk, and it's also a paperback and not a hardcover. Is it just becoming too expensive for these publishers to commit to a hardcover copy. I guess woe is me because I don't think I can put myself through another paperback read for this year. And believe me, I'm not trying to sound elitist, I just don't like the size or feel of a paperback.

This must also be the year to start a "series" because two other authors I follow (Joseph Finder and Christopher Reich) have also penned the first book in their new series this year. Surprisingly enough, this is the route Gilstrap has now chosen as he introduces us to Jonathan Grave, ex-military...sometimes Rambo, and now heading up his own "security solutions" company. That description could run the gamut of the many things people are willing to pay for but, in this book, the security solution involves trying to find a college student who has been kidnapped. Here's a little tidbit of information for all of you. Gilstrap has one son and usually each of his books prominently features a child in danger and always a boy. As his writing career began with Nathan's Run, the boy in that book was twelve. As Gilstrap's own son has gotten older, so have the boys in each of his books. I just find this kind of stuff interesting.

No Mercy has an intricate plot beginning with the kidnapping of Thomas Hughes and taking us into the inner sanctum of a company that manufactures many different items for defense, one of which is a secret "germ juice". In the background is an activist group, The Green Brigade, who wants to get their hands on some of the things this company is producing. They're the kind of people who think they can save the planet through violence and they dish out some of the most awful torture you can imagine. But there's only one person who might be able to stop them and that's our main character, Johnathan, with his sidekick Boxers and his assistant Venice Alexander. Our Jonathan Graves is unbelievably "connected" and it's nothing for him to call the director of the FBI, Irene Rivers, and tell her what he needs. I particularly loved this main character, better known to some as "Scorpian". From chapter to chapter, I was on the edge of my seat and this has been the case with every Gilstrap book I've ever read.

But here's where the real "No Mercy" will come into play and that's in the end of this review. I love it when an author acknowledges and thanks his editor but it really irks me when he should be firing them. I found no less than thirteen errors in the book and that's only the ones I wrote down. There were a few more before I even started to keep count. I understand how editors are overworked and underpaid but where does the burden fall in putting out a book that is typographically and grammatically correct? If I was an author and my name was going on the front of a book, I'd make darn sure everything inside was correct. And then there were the usual Gilstrap inconsistencies that I mentioned above which a good editor would have noticed. I don't want to give anything away but I'm still scratching my head trying to figure out how the chip/video made it's way to Grave's office and exactly who made the call to hire and pay him since he surely doesn't come cheap.

And lastly, and this is my real pet peeve, why do authors have their friends write reviews to boost the rating of the book? Of the ten reviews here as I'm typing this, half are by people who have only written one Amazon review. What does that tell you? When my son was growing up and playing sports, he would be with other kids all the time who bragged about everything they did. My husband told him that "if you're good, you don't have to tell anyone because they already know it." Well, guess what Gilstrap? You are good and you don't need any bogus reviews to let readers know how good you are because they already know. And if they don't know it now, I hope my review will encourage everyone to read your entire repertoire of books.

is a five star story you've written. However, thanks to some very poor editing, I can only rate it 4 stars. I'm hoping that you will heed this criticism and be more on top of the next book that comes out in this series. And see if you can convince your publisher to go back to hardcover editions.

In any event, I look forward to the next episode of Jonathan Grave and Company....a company of people who sometimes find themselves outside of the law but not necessarily on the wrong side of it.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sunday Salon -- Another Two Books This Week



LET THE WARS RAGE ON!!!! --- 5 OF 5 STARS


If you've read my last few reviews, you'll already know that I am on a quest to read only great books for the rest of this year. I'm not looking for mediocre; I'm not looking for good; I'm looking for flat out great books. I've been right on target with many of my recent reads....Cutting For Stone, The Help, That Old Cape Magic...and now it was time for Philippa Gregory's newest, The White Queen. Before I start reading a book, I usually come to Amazon and glance at the reviews. And I do mean "glance" when I say it because many of the reviews here give too much away. Needless to say, when I saw all of the three and four star ratings, I thought that perhaps I should pass on this one for fear of ruining my "great book run." But I had loved so many of Gregory's other books in the past that I decided to go for it.

Her Boleyn series gave us a look at the Tudor dynasty courtesy of King Henry VIII. This newest book is apparently part of a trilogy which will take us through the Plantagenet reign. The "Plantagenet" reign?? This was one I knew nothing about although, once I started reading and found out it was about the War of the Roses and the Lancasters versus the Yorks, some old history classes started coming back to me. The best part of reading a historical fiction book, about a time in history of which you are ignorant, is that some of it reads like a thriller. Since this book covers the kingdoms of Henry VI, Edward IV and Richard III, I had no idea when one would end and another would begin. Each time Edward IV went off to war, I waited with bated breath to see if he would return. I read many of these pages as if I was a graduate of the Evelyn Woods' School of Speedreading making my way through them as quickly as I could because I couldn't wait to see what was going to happen. As I already mentioned, since I had no recollection of this time in history, I was not sure if Edward was King for a long time or if his reign was short-lived. I didn't know if he died in battle, died of some illness or lived until old age. His death came as a shock to me and what ensued thereafter was even more shocking.

Since this book is mostly about King Edward IV of the York dynasty, it details the battles he fought with cousins and even his own brothers to attain power and then keep it. It is also a story of a King and Queen who actually loved each other and struggled to maintain power and peace so as to pass the reign on to their son Edward V. Unfortunately, it is also a story of a family with a curse and that is the curse of ambition. While Edward's family is fighting amongst themselves as to which brother should really be on the throne, it is his wife Elizabeth Woodville's family who is causing most of the problems. When King Edward IV married Elizabeth Woodville (in secret), she was a commoner. So her family's rise to prominence is not taken too kindly by England's nobility. In the end, this is the story of how the great Plantagenet family finally destroyed themselves in a bloody struggle known as the War of the Roses.

Midway through the book, I was still wondering what all of these reviewers were complaining about because I really thought this book was so darn good. It has everything I'm looking for in historical fiction....intrigue, betrayal, adventure, deceit, death and, of course, love, And while Edward and Elizabeth were hoping to continue a dynasty with their son Edward V, it is their daughter Elizabeth who will create her own dynasty when she marries Henry VII of the Tudor family. She will become the mother of Henry VIII and will also be the subject of the third book in this trilogy called The White Princess. But first we'll get to see the real power behind Henry VII in Gregory's next book, The Red Queen, which covers Henry's mother, Margaret Beaufort.

So while historically this period in history is mostly remembered for its wars, Gregory brings to light what went on beyond the battles and I found this family every bit as fascinating as the Tudors. Let the wars rage on until the next book comes out.




BOTTOM OF THE NINTH, HARRY BOSCH IN FOR THE CLOSE -- 5 OF 5 STARS

I'm on a mission right now to get all caught up with the Harry Bosch series in time to read Connelly's newest, Nine Dragons, when it comes out in October. I have Echo Park and The Overlook to finish in order to be ready in time. That sounds like a quest I might be able to accomplish.

In starting The Closers, once again, I had no idea what closers were. I knew what it was in baseball but had no idea what it was in "Harry Bosch Land". The explanation comes pretty quickly in the book when Connelly explains that it's very much like the pitchers who come in for the ninth inning to win or lose the game. But in this case, it's the homicide detectives who come in after many year have gone by and try to close out a case. What they do is apply new techniques and technology to old cases that have gone unsolved. Right now you're probably thinking that it sounds like the TV show Cold Case and you would be right. And, in The Closers, Bosch has come out of retirement and is back at the LAPD working those unsolved cases. In the Los Angeles police department, they say it's the noblest place to work because "a city that forgets its murder victims is a city lost." Harry Bosch will now become the voice of all of these murder victims and, one by one, he will give them and their families what rightfully belongs to them.....their killers.

I sometimes think that no one writes a police procedural better than Michael Connelly. This author knows that while Bosch is trying to solve the crime, so are his readers. He makes sure that Bosch covers every angle and does it in such a way that the reader isn't scratching his/her head wondering why he did what he did. Because when Connelly writes a book, it all just makes sense. There is no confusion when you get to the end of the book. You know how you got there and why you got there.

In The Closers, there was never a moment where I was bored and never a page I didn't find interesting. The case Harry is following is one that took place in 1988 when racial relations between the police department and the community were at a simmer getting ready to boil over. A sixteen year old bi-racial girl had been taken from her home and shot in the chest. Autopsy reports will reveal things her parents and friends didn't know. Harry will uncover things he feels the department pushed under the rug. New DNA technology will lead him to a suspect. While all this is going on, fingers will point to Harry's nemesis Chief Irvin Irving. There's not a fan out there who wouldn't love to see Harry take this guy down. And one of the best things is that Harry is partnered once again with Kiz Rider....a definite fan favorite relationship.

Readers will find that Harry is the perfect detective for this job because he just doesn't give up and, since the crime is so old, there's no one breathing down his neck to get it solved. His only problem will come when he tries to resurrect the old records better known as "the murder book." Many things have been lost, some things have been intentionally removed and other things have been filed in the wrong place. But since Harry is so great at reading between the lines and analyzing each case to the bone, the freedom for these killers will be short-lived. One by one he is going to find them and is going to give one last voice to the victims. That voice is going to be saying, "I can finally rest."

Let's put it this way, Harry could pitch for my team in the 9th inning any day he wants.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday Salon -- Two New Reviews

LOST ON BROAD STREET -- 4 OF 5 STARS


Most of the reviews I've read on this book read like a broken record..."I've waited so long for Conroy to write a new book", "I so wanted to love it and I didn't" or "It didn't live up to my expectations". And these are the reviews from longtime Conroy fans. Yet, even with all of this, most reviewers admit that even a "not great" Conroy book is far better than most of what else is out there. So will my review read like these broken records?...no. But I will say that somewhere along the way, when Conroy was walking "south of Broad", he turned left when he should have turned right and what we're left with is the problem most of the reviewers are writing about.

The book is divided into five parts. While reading the first part, I emailed a friend of mine telling her that I was 100 pages into South of Broad and loving every word I was reading. So, at this point, I couldn't understand all of the so-so reviews. Then I got to Part 2 and I started to understand. Part 3 justified these so-so feelings. Thank goodness for Part 4 and Part 5....otherwise this review might have been heading south all on its own.

It all begins on Bloomsday, June 16, 1969, when, as an upcoming high school senior, Leopold Bloom King meets eight people who will change his life forever. All in one day, his future will be set out before him as it is these eight people who will become his lifelong friends. For those of you who don't know the significance of Bloomsday, it refers to James Joyce's novel Ulysses where all the events take place on the same day, June 16, 1904, in Dublin and, the main character in Joyce's novel happens to be named Leopold Bloom. So it almost makes sense that our Leopold Bloom King will have events occur all on the same day that will shape his life as well. Just in case you're wondering, Leo's mother is also a Joycean scholar and lives and breathes everything James Joyce.

So begins our journey into Leo King's life (better known to his friends as The Toad). As I mentioned before, the book is divided into five parts. The first part delves into Leo's life as a child, living through his own brother's suicide and the ramifications of what this can do to a young child. By the end of Part 1, he has been through hell and back and is ready to begin his senior year of high school, where his mother is the principal and his father is a science teacher. Nobody can tell a story like Conroy and he excels in this part of the book. He tells of Leo's morning newspaper route and I swear no one could make a mundane task such as this sound so exhilerating. In this section, he also explains Leo's upbringing as a Catholic, with a mother who is an ex-nun and whose after newspaper route routine includes serving as an altarboy at morning mass every day. Having grown up going to Catholic elementary school with three brothers who were all altarboys, I could so relate to this part. I could almost smell Conroy's description when he says, "the smell of the Catholic world washed over me" as Leo is entering the church to serve mass.

Part 2 fast forwards to twenty years later when Leo is now working for the same newspaper he delivered every morning as a teenager. All of his friends are still with him and, as a reader, it is fun to catch up with what they have done with their lives. Part 3 finds them all heading out to San Francisco in search of one of the infamous eight who has gone missing. It is these two parts that fell short for me and I can't put my finger on the reason but trust me.....it will happen to you as well. At this point, I emailed that same friend and said I hope one of the later parts of the book brings me back to his life as a senior in high school because so far Conroy hadn't shed any light on those years. Conroy did not disappoint and, once again, writes a good section in Part 4 about this time in the friends' lives. The last section, Part 5, brings us up-to-date with all of them once again, in 1989, as they try to stave off the wind and rain of Hurricane Hugo, while at the same time trying to keep out of the line of fire of someone who is bent on killing them all.

Yes, you read right. Conroy has a killer in this book. This is the part that I just didn't get and didn't feel the need. There's so much I could write about this book but I have to remember that I'm writing a review and not an English paper. This is one author whose descriptions and storytelling I like much more than his dialogue (in this book at least). I felt the dialogue was a bit fatuous (for lack of a better word) and most times, I just didn't like the repartee between the characters.

But the best part of the book is about Charleston itself. Because many of these characters are hurting and Charleston is a city "who" can actually heal you. Let's face it -- Charleston is as real a person as the characters in this book are and, perhaps, as real as Pat Conroy himself. This book is a love affair with Charleston as much as it is a testament to James Joyce's Bloomsday. I finished this book and wanted to book the first flight out to South Carolina. But I also have to say that this book also says something about Conroy's life as a Catholic because he's obviously trying to lash out for something that might have happened to him or someone he knows. Again, growing up as a Catholic, I can totally feel his pain.

Is this a book I won't forget? -- Yes. Is this a book I would recommend to my friends? -- No. The reason is that I only recommend great books to my friends and this is just a "good book". Sad to say, it's just not vintage Conroy. But is he still one of my favorite authors of all time....the unequivocal answer is YES!!!





Is There Anything Sweeter Than Vengeance? --5 of 5 stars

At the beginning of every Christopher Reich story, I usually find myself wondering why I read this author's books because the first fifty pages make me so darn nervous. I guess the answer would be found in a similar question..."Why does someone ride a roller coaster?" They do so because it gives them the chills, a thrill and that sudden quiver of excitement. Well, I read Reich's books for the same reason and he is one author who has yet to disappoint me.

But my real question is.....how is Reich not on the tip of everyone's tongue when they talk about the best mystery/thriller authors out there? When this category comes up, readers always think of Connelly and Lehane and Finder. But guess what....it should be Connelly, Lehane, Finder AND Reich. In any other Reich review I've ever written, I usually talk about how I discovered him all on my own some years ago when he penned Numbered Account (a favorite). I've read everything since so I now consider myself not only a fan but an expert on this author.

Last year, he delighted his fans by starting a series with Dr. Jonathan Ransom as the main character. Working for Doctors Without Borders, he was the perfect protagonist as his job takes him around the world. But it wasn't just Jonathan we were following. It was also his wife Emma who, we found out in Rules of Deception, works for a secret US agency referred to as "Division". This agency does things even the CIA and FBI can't touch. "Deception" ended on such a note that Emma was forced to go into hiding while Jonathan returned to Africa, once again helping those in need. Vengeance finds them meeting up again in London but this will be no honeymoon for The Ransoms. Considering that this doctor is married to someone who is a secret spy/assassin means that their marriage is not going to include a white picket fence and a dog.

There is one thing I can say about Christopher Reich and that is you can never figure out where he is going with a story until HE decides you are going to get there. And, once you do arrive, he still confuses you to the point of wanting to email him and ask him exactly what is going on. You think you know how it ends, but you probably won't know if you're right until the next book comes out.

I'm a huge proponent of reading books in order and honestly feel that to really appreciate Rules of Vengeance, you should read Rules of Deception first. This way you can understand the relationship between husband and wife or, dare I say, mentor and apprentice. For it's hard for this doctor to be married to this woman and not have some of her expertise rub off on him. And it is this rubbing off that will save Jonathan's life as he escapes from the police when he is accused of doing something his wife has done. As everyone is searching for Emma Ransom (after she car bombed a Russian convoy), they feel the only way to catch up with her is to follow her husband. The chase is on and it's quite a ride as Jonathan has them traveling from country to country in Emma's pursuit. But while they just want to catch her, Jonathan wants to stop her as he realizes what her next assignment is.

Emma Ransom (although we find out this isn't even her real name) is so diabolical that I can't even imagine this marriage lasting past this book. As I was reading I was thinking, "how can these two even go out for dinner together." I can't imagine where Reich is going to take us in the next book in this series other than having Division recruit Jonathan as one of their own. He certainly has the skills.

So you did good by me Mr. Reich. For all you other reviewers out there, just know that this is one author who reads these reviews. He's great at taking constructive criticism but, as you can imagine, that is something that is not usually dished out on his behalf. Once again, I applaud you on another great one!!!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday Salon Review

I've just joined an online group called The Sunday Salon as indicated in the title of this post. The idea is to post your book reviews each Sunday and everyone in the group will be able to read them. So here's my first of many reviews for this group.

                                        LOOKING FOR THAT HAPPY PLACE

I would like to think of Russo as being one of my favorite authors but don't feel qualified to make that statement since this is only the third book I've read by him....Empire Falls and Bridge of Sighs being the other two. But I will say that I've loved all three and look forward to going back and reading some of his earlier works. So when writing this review, I'm not sure if his writing style has changed or if he has, in fact, gotten better. All I know is that I think he's a great storyteller and That Old Cape Magic keeps proving that point over and over.

I've been so looking forward to August '09 because there were four books coming out that I've been eager to read....South of Broad by Pat Conroy, Rules of Vegeance by Christopher Reich, The White Queen by Philippa Gregory and That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo. I thought I'd start out with the Russo book and right off the bat I've hit a home run. I loved it!!!!!

There are many authors out there who write stories with very little dialogue and, most times, they are not my favorite books simply because the author's storytelling capabilities aren't good enough to pull this off. In Russo's book, I didn't care if the characters said one word to each other because the story he was telling was just so interesting that I failed to notice the lack of discourse.

And boy does Russo love his bridges. I've only read three of Russo's books but each one prominently mentions a bridge. In Empire Falls, it was the Iron Bridge that separated the mansion of the Whiting's from the rest of blue collar Empire Falls. The Bridge of Sighs is an actual bridge located in Venice and it's the last thing a prisoner walks over before being imprisoned in that famous city. Is Russo trying to tell us something? Do his characters cross over into their own prison of sorts as a penance when crossing these bridges? In this book, the bridge of note is the Sagamore Bridge. It represents two weeks of happiness to Jack Griffin's family as it leads to Cape Cod....their ultimate vacation place and their reprieve from the Mid f'n West as his parents liked to call it.

Russo has so many subplots in this book, one of which is the story of a childhood summer on Cape Cod where young Jack meets young Peter Browning and has the most idyllic two weeks of his life as Peter's family is everything Jack wishes his was and Peter is the friend he always wanted. Four decades later, it is this story (Summer of the Brownings) that Jack is destined to tell and it's something he's had in the works for years but he can never seem to finish it. It makes me wonder if this story (That Old Cape Magic) is also something that Russo has been dying to tell for years and perhaps he too has been sitting on it for a long time.

This is only one of the stories Russo tells. He goes through Jack's life with his academically snobbish parents, Jack's marriage to someone he makes unhappy, Jack's desire to be rid of his parents' influence and, most importantly, his desire for a place to scatter their ashes. This book is chock full of everything an avid reader is looking for. I can't say enough about it.

On a personal note, I really related to the main character in this book being so close in age and experiencing two weeks of bliss each year while on summer vacations with my own family. In my case, it wasn't the Cape, it was Riverhead out near the Hamptons. Taking that car ride from Brooklyn, New York and traveling on Montauk Highway until we finally passed "The Big White Duck" which was, in a sense, our Sagamore Bridge, is something I vividly remember. From that point on, my three brothers and I knew everything was going to be happy. My mother liked my Dad more during those two weeks of the year and even thought her four kids weren't too much of a burden.

Russo talks about happiness perhaps being "a place". This gave me some food for thought because I clearly could relate to that place (Riverhead) bringing me more happiness as a young child than anything I had ever known. Are we all searching for that happy place? Surely Jack was in That Old Cape Magic. You'll have to read the book to see if Jack finds his "place of happiness".

5 of 5 stars

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wondering if this applies to Mary Jo Kopechne's parents' flag??

CBS/AP) Barack Obama issued a presidential proclamation Wednesday, ordering that U.S. flags around the world fly at half-mast in honor of Sen. Edward Kennedy, who died late Tuesday night.
The proclamation applies to flags at the White House, public buildings, and U.S. embassies, consulates and military installations around the world as well as those on U.S. Navy ships - but the orders are customarily observed by anyone who flies the flag.
The flags are ordered to fly at half-mast until sunset on Aug. 30.
"Senator Edward M. Kennedy was not only one of the greatest senators of our time, but one of the most accomplished Americans ever to serve our democracy," the president said in a statement accompanying his decree. "
Senator Kennedy was also involved in this accident driving off a bridge into the water and not reporting it for ten hours.  There was a girl in the car at the time who died.....her name was Mary Jo Kopechne. I was nineteen years old at the time and it's something I never forgot.  It taught me that it was great to live in a free country......especially one where money could buy you "real" freedom.   A week after the incident, Kennedy pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and received a suspended two-month sentence.  The diver who recovered the body felt sure if he had been called at the time of the accident, he could have saved her.  But Kennedy decided not to call until he had met with all of his handlers to concoct his story which, to this day, is not plausible.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

So What Do You Think????

DO THEY LOOK ALIKE????














Brady -- Born 8/16/08............................. Katy-- Born 8/08/09


OUR LITTLE IRISH TWINS

A Multitude Of Reviews Today

THE STRAIGHT AND NARROW OF IT ALL

After finishing The Narrows, I realized it was the 16th book I had ready by Michael Connelly which means I have read more books by this author than any other. Fans of Connelly will understand the reason for this is simply that he doesn't write a bad book (Chasing The Dime being the only exception). Of the 16 books, this was the tenth one in the Harry Bosch series, a character much beloved by Connelly's readers.

Harry starts off this book as a retired LAPD homicide detective....retired not because of age but because he was sick of the bureaucracy. Connelly loves to have characters from one book/series show up in another and this is the case with The Narrows as Harry is asked by Terry McCaleb's (Blood Work, A Darkness More The Night) widow to look into Terry's death. Terry was a retired FBI agent who had crossed paths with Harry during his career. At the time of his death, he was a heart transplant recipient operating a charter fishing boat with his partner Buddy.

Enter the "poet", Robert Backus of "The Poet" fame. He was probably the most despicable of all serial killers thought possibly dead at the end of that book but apparently very much alive at the beginning of this one. And what would Backus be without Rachel Walling, the FBI agent who shot Backus and hopefully killed him in "The Poet". They say all roads lead to one and this story will have many of our favorites involved in catching the poet once again. This time the road involved is called Zyzzyx Road; an exit off a desert highway and also the buriel place of many more of Backus' victims. As the FBI tries to unravel the clues, Harry is one step ahead of them as he realizes that McCaleb's death is tied to this infamous serial killer.

The Narrows also gives us a look at Harry's softer side as he tries to establish some kind of a relationship with his young daughter Maddie who is living in Las Vegas with Harry's ex Eleanor. He sets up an efficiency apartment in Las Vegas just to be closer to her and, little does he know that this next case will bring him to Vegas for reasons other than seeing his little girl.

One of the most exciting things to happen in this book is a phone conversation Harry has with someone from the LAPD who tries to convince Harry to come back to the police force. Apparently there's a three year amnesty going on where they are looking to get back some of those experienced detectives who have left the force on their own. If Harry would consider coming back within this three year period, he would not have to take any of the police academy tests in order to do so. You know that every Bosch fan out there is looking to see Harry back at his old stomping grounds.....Parker Center. Next up for me is The Closers and I'm hoping it finds Harry sporting his badge once again.

If I Don't Like It, You'll Know It


BREAKFAST, LUNCH AND DINNER AT SALLY'S OR WHEREVER!!!

Call me insensitive; call me unsympathetic; call me jaded; but don't call me someone who thought this book was inspirational. I usually get my book recommendations from other reader friends or from high ratings from other Amazon reviewers. In this case, I got this recommendation from one of my doctors who told me the book was terrific. After he said that, I immediately came home and checked out the Amazon reviews and it looked like all of the reviewers concurred with my doctor. Why is it then that I don't agree? It's probably because of all of the adjectives I've attributed to myself above. Let's face it.....I didn't like Tuesdays With Morrie either.

But I still can't understand why so many people think this book is so good and even consider it "inspirational". How can I be so wrong? I teetered on despising it. I get the whole homeless thing and how it happens and how it happens many times to people who had great jobs and have lost everything...even their families. But the thing I don't get, and the thing I'll never get, is why don't they just get a job? Okay I know that a job at McDonalds or in a retail store is not going to give them the kind of life they are used to but at least it will give them a bed to sleep in and a stove to cook on. But instead, this particular homeless person (author) decided to live in his car and take handouts from people who actually went to work every day and made money so they could be able to donate this same money to places who in turn feed the homeless.

During parts of the book, I felt like I was reading about the daily existence of high school kids where they go over someone's house in the middle of the day to watch TV and smoke some weed. Because many days, this is what Richard Lemieux did.....when he wasn't playing on the homeless softball team, of course. And why don't I consider someone who lives in their car and drives their friends around during the day, homeless!!! His situation was so much better than someone living on the street. But such is the life of Richard Lemieux who finds himself no longer with the company he founded and the family he supported. His homeless journey will lead him to write a book about his experiences.

The inspirational part of the journey for me wasn't that of the homeless people but that of the people at the Salvation Army and other charity organizations who are so selfless in giving up their time and money to help these people. That was what was truly inspirational to me.

And I know that the writer of the book is not an experienced author but this book read like a high school senior's journal. You might wonder why I even finished it and I'll still wondering what the answer is to that question. I'm sure many of you will not agree with me but I feel I must state my case and my reasons for not being among the dozens of "lovers of this book". I think I mainly feel sorry for his family who had to take this journey with him whether or not they did it alongside of him or in the background.

And lastly, all the political bashing just made me dislike the book even more. I guess the author loved the theory of capitalism and achieving the American dream when it was all going well for him but, once the tides turned, it was obviously the system's fault and apparently not the author's. Well at least he's made enough money from this book to get out of his car. I sure hope he's made it up to his poor dog who was forced to live in a car while Richard went about his daily activities with his friends. At least Richard got to get out of the car most of the day while poor Willow had to stay in there. I think I had better end it here before I get myself even angrier over this situation. Needless to say, it's not a book I'll be recommending to anyone. One last thing though....is the cover picture meant to look like someone who has no teeth or is that accidental?? See I told you upfront I was jaded.

Will Probably Be My Favorite Book of 2009


Last month I decided that I was sick of reading mediocre books and came to Amazon to see what I could come up with. What I was specifically looking for were five star books that had hundreds of positive reviews.....this way I would know it wasn't the author's friends boosting the average. I came up with two books that fit the bill...."Cutting For Stone" by Abraham Verghese and "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett. I read "Cutting for Stone" earlier in July and it lived up to every positive review on this site. I just finished reading "The Help" and I only have one word for it...WOW!!!!

I was on the edge of my seat reading this book as if it was something in the mystery/thriller genre. But the feeling inside of me was one of pure fear....fear that these women would get caught...fear that all of their plans would be futile and fear that a heroic act would not somehow be rewarded.

This is a story set in the early sixties in Mississippi when "colored" people were forced to use separate water fountains, ride in the back of buses, be persecuted or prosecuted if they were caught speaking to white people and made their livings working for these same white people who enacted all of these laws. Having lived in the north, I can't even imagine what this was like. I went to school in Brooklyn in the early 60's and sat in classrooms with these same people who were being persecuted in the south and ate lunch with them and played with them and never even thought anything otherwise about it. I'm not saying this to sound sanctimonious....I'm just telling it like it was. So to read this book was a real eye opener for me.

There's a real heroine in this book in the form of Skeeter Phelan. She has just graduated from college and is interested in a career in journalism. Many of her friends are already married and have "help" working for them. As Skeeter looks on and sees how they are treating their "help", she sets in motion something that could spell disaster not only for herself but for many of the maids working for these families. She decides to write a book about it and enlists the aid of some of the same maids working for her friends. Talk about an eye opener...this will be a book written from the maid's perspective....something never done before because no one has ever given them a voice. As much of a heroine as Skeeter is, the true heroines will be these "colored" maids who are risking everything, even their lives, to tell it like it is. You can just imagine what's going to happen if this book gets published.

I have to say that I was on the edge of my seat reading this novel as Skeeter was sneaking around in the stealth of the night trying to interview these different maids. It is so well written and is such an inside look at the way things really were. The author herself is from the south so what she is writing is obviously based on first hand knowledge. One of my favorite quotes in the book might even be something she heard while growing up -- "They say it's like true love, good help. You only get one in a lifetime."

When I think of maids, I think of people who might cook and clean and tidy up. In the south, however, these maids actually raised the children of the white people for whom they were working. These young children grew up loving these maids sometimes more than their own mothers. So the goodness pouring out of the hearts of those considered as "help" far exceeded anything I've ever imagined.

If you want to read one great book this year, pick up "The Help". There is no way you will be disappointed. In a few of the other reviews here, others have mentioned reading Mudbound after reading "The Help". I've already ordered it and look forward to continuing my education on this important time in history.....one many would like to forget but one that definitely needs to be acknowledged.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A BOOK REVIEW



FINDER'S TALENT IS NO VANISHING ACT!!!

I don't think there's any mystery/thriller author out there whose new books I look forward to more than Joseph Finder's. His newest one, Vanished, was particularly the case because this is the beginning of a "series" for Finder. I don't know about you but, as a reader, I love getting involved in a series of books featuring one main character.

I have some favorite series that I follow and it seems that the most important thing for the author to do is to develop a character that the reader not only understands but is rooting for every step of the way. Finder scores high points with his introduction of Nick Heller an ex-Special Forces veteran now working for an upscale corporate investigative firm. I will admit here that I often wished that if Finder ever started a series, he would do it based on the main character from Power Play, Jack Landry........he was my favorite Finder character ever.

I'm one of the lucky fans who gets copies of Finder's books prior to their publication as I'm such a longtime fan. I've read everything he's written. But he also knows that this will not sway my reviews in any way.....I tell it like it is.

With that being said, I loved the beginning of this book with Heller being sent on a mission by his employer, Stoddard Associates, to find a cargo plane holding billions of dollars that has gone missing. Within minutes of his arrival at the airport, Heller has it figured out. But at the same time this is going on, a much more important mystery is unfolding. Heller receives a phone call from his nephew telling him that his Dad, Heller's brother, is missing and his mother, Heller's sister-in-law is in the hospital in a coma. Heller drops everything to come to his brother's aid....even though they have been estranged for years.

What follows is the type of story Finder has mastered. On the surface, it appears that his brother has been kidnapped but Heller seems to know better. Working closely with his sister-in-law and nephew, Heller dechiphers every single clue until he's able to unravel the mystery. Throughout his entire discovery mission, he doesn't know who to believe. It becomes more entangled when Nick realizes that his brother discovered some discrepancies in his job involving mergers and acquisitions.I have to say I was a bit lost in this unraveling and the ending was a bit convoluted for me. Whenever I have to go back and reread the end of a story because I didn't understand it, I then know it's a little contrived for me.

I'm excited just knowing that Finder is probably penning his next Nick Heller story. I'm looking forward to some further development of this character and continuing with my corporate education by Professor Joseph Finder. I think the author has a hit on his hands with this series and I look forward to Nick Heller becoming as popular a fictional character as Connelly's Harry Bosch or Childs' Jack Reacher.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Happy 21st Birthday Melissa!!!!


Today is my niece's 21st birthday. Not only is she my niece but she is also my godchild. Melissa was born in Connecticut to my brother Kelly and his wife Barbara. They moved around a bit as a result of my brother's job with Kraft General Foods but settled in Naperville, Illinois when Melissa was young.

She's a senior in college right now but spent most of her high school years playing soccer and was even given the nickname "Boomer" because she scored so many goals. She was my brother Kelly's little athlete. Practically every picture I have of Melissa growing up shows her in her soccer uniform.

Her one wish when she turned 21 was to spend it in Las Vegas so, needless to say, my brother made sure her wish came true. Her entire family is there with her right now along with some cousins, aunts, uncles and her grandmother. We have always referred to my brother Kelly as a "wheeler and dealer" so this request was right up his alley. They're staying at the Wynn Encore and Kelly already texted me telling me how beautiful it is. My only regret is that I'm not there with them. Here's a picture of Melissa with her sister and two cousins....From left to right...Melissa, Ryan (my brother Bobby's son and also my godchild), Tracy (Melissa's sister) and Brendan (my brother Michael's son and also my godchild by personal request).

Celebrating a 21st birthday in Las Vegas was also something I did with Michael when he turned 21 so I think she might be following in his footsteps. I just remember having the greatest time there on that vacation and I'm sure Melissa is going to have as much fun as he did on that trip.

I bought Melissa a special present for her 21st birthday.....a Michael Kors watch. Michael Kors is her favorite designer so I knew she would love this. I made sure my brother had a picture taken of her opening up her gift. I know it's not as good as a trip to Vegas but I bet it runs a close second. I bought her the one with the white chain link band because this seems to be so "in" right now. I hope I picked the right one. This isn't the clearest picture of Melissa with her new watch but it serves the purpose.

Because they've lived so far away from us, I haven't gotten to spend as much time with Melissa as I would have liked but have watched her grow up through pictures and their few visits here back east. She really has grown into a beautiful young woman and I'm very proud of her.

So Melissa, here's a great big 21st birthday wish from your Aunt Nancy. I'm sure it's going to be great having your very first "legal" drink.

Enjoy.






Monday, August 10, 2009

She's Here -- Katy Elizabeth




On Saturday morning at 5:47AM, Katy Elizabeth Love graced us with her presence as she entered the world and became part of our family.

I received an email from Bryan's mother Darlene wondering why this baby is now three days old and I have yet to post it on my blog. So here she is for all to see......our precious little bundle of joy.

I will post more about the delivery tomorrow but wanted to make sure I made the Florida grandmother happy. Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Little Family Reunion



This past weekend was a very special one as three of my cousins and my Aunt Viola drove from Long Island to Pennsylvania to visit my Mom....and me, of course. They haven't seen my Mom since Liz' wedding which was almost five years ago.

From left to right: My cousin Debbie (Viola's daughter), my cousin Pat, my Mom, Aunt Viola, my cousin Carole. Pat and Carole are sisters and their mother was my Aunt Madelyn, who was my mother's and Aunt Viola's sister. She has since passed away. Aunt Madelyn was clearly the sweetest of all the sisters and, I hope they don't get mad at me for saying this, but also the most beautiful. She looked like an angel.

My mother used to live in Queens and was able to see her relatives more often then but, when I moved her to Pennsylvania five years ago, it's been much harder for them to get together simply because my mother doesn't like to drive in a car.

I moved my mother from her apartment in Queens to a beautiful retirement facility here in Bucks County where we joke that she is now "living in the lap of luxury". She has a beautiful one bedroom apartment, goes down to dinner every evening, plays Bingo every Monday, goes on shopping trips once or twice a week and basically lives a stressfree life. That's her reward for raising four children. My cousins and my aunt were excited to see where she lives and they all just loved it.

My Aunt Viola is my mother's oldest sister (92) yet she talks and acts like she is 65. I have a special connection to my aunt as I used to work with her for years at Xerox Corporation. As a matter of fact, she knew my husband Bob even before we were dating as he worked there as well. She must have been in her late fifties when I was working at Xerox and they were looking for a receptionist. Since I practically ran the office, I was able to get her the job. Aunt Viola became a legend at Xerox....everyone just loved her. She is probably a favorite to everyone in our family as well because she's just so nice and so enjoyable to talk to. She always starts a sentence by saying your name first. I knew it was a lot for her to make this trip and I am so appreciative that she did this to see her sister. She hasn't been feeling well since she got home and I know this trip took its toll on her.

We went to eat lunch at Olive Garden which was a good choice because everyone likes Italian food and there's a lot to choose from. We had a big round table which made conversation easy although my mother complained afterwards that she wasn't able to hear anything we were saying.

This trip was in the works for years and it couldn't have turned out any better. As I'm sure all of you know, there's really nothing better than being with your relatives because it's such a relaxed situation. You've known them your entire life and they basically know everything there is to know about you. I never had a sister so my girl cousins are the closest I've ever gotten to having a sister. I just wish we lived closer. It's times like these that I regret our move to Pennsylvania 24 years ago but what's done is done. When you're young and moving away, it's exciting. When you're older and you realize how many family things you've missed out on and will continue to miss out on, it's not so exciting.

I know my Aunt Margie (the youngest sister) is dying to see these pictures and hear about the entire trip so I hope she enjoys this. Since I usually have some funny things in my blog, I thought I might add some of the tidbits that went into planning this trip.

I mentioned this get together to my mother over a month ago and her initial reaction was that they couldn't come because it would be too much housework for her. This surprised me as she lives in a two room apartment and has a housekeeper who comes in once a week. So I waited until three two days before they were actually coming to give her the news.

I called her last Thursday and this is kind of how the conversation went....

Me: Mom, so my cousins are coming this weekend with Aunt Viola.

Mom: They're coming to visit YOU, right?
Me: Well, they're stopping here first and then we're all coming over to see you.
Mom: They can't come on Saturday....you know what I do on Saturday.
Me: Well, perhaps you can do your LAUNDRY on another day.
Mom: Why do they have to come on the weekend? Why can't they come during the week?
Me: Probably because they do have JOBS.
Me: We'll all go to lunch at the Olive Garden.
Mom: You know I don't eat lunch.
Me: Well, perhaps this one time you can.
Mom: Why do they have to come in the summer? Why can't they come in October?

At this point, I had just about lost my temper and I won't even type here what my answer was to that question.

But this is my mother and this is what I have to go through to make anything happen. A few months ago, we had plans to go out to dinner on Mother's Day. I told her about it a week before and she didn't say anything. Two days before Mother's Day, she called to tell me she had stubbed her toe and couldn't go. Typical.

I'm telling you this story because before I hung up on the conversation I described above, my parting shot was, "And please don't stub your toe before Saturday."

But all in all it was a great little reunion that turned out so well despite all of my mother's complaints and I can't wait to do it again.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Bachelorette Finale


So tonight's the finale where Jillian chooses who she would like to be with. Here is one reason not to choose Ed. He has worn this same bathing suit/tank top combo on every single show. And what's going on with those shorts/bathing suit....this is what guys wore in the 70's. It really goes great with his wife beater tank top.

I can't wait to see who she chooses but, for me, the clothes would have been a deal killer.

EDIT: Well, she picked Ed, shorts and all. And, on last night's After The Rose show, she actually said she liked those shorts and he just bought another pair that were even shorter. Go figure.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Review That Could Have Been Close To My Heart



NOT THE BROOKLYN OF MY YOUTH!!!

I don't even know where to begin with this review as my thoughts are all over the place so it's best I start at the beginning. First off, I don't think it's a great idea for an author to give a name to a character that a good percentage of his readers won't know how to pronounce. In the novel Brooklyn, we are introduced to an Irish lass named Eilis. I've never even seen this name before and, when I first looked at it, I thought it said Elias. Consequently, every time I saw the name thereafter, I always pronounced it as Elias and clearly this main character was not an Elias. I know this is a minor point but it's one that bothered me.

I grew up in Brooklyn and, when I was living there, I couldn't wait to leave and, now that I'm gone, I'm always in search of any book that will bring me back. I guess that's what nostalgia is all about. Years ago, I came upon another book with Brooklyn in its title, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry by Jennie Fields, and it's one of my favorites because it really brought me back there. Fields also grew up in Brooklyn so everything she wrote about was very authentic. I corresponded with Fields after that and it was she who recommended this book to me.

This story starts out in Ireland post WWII and it's where we first meet Elias....oh, excuse me, I mean Eilis. She's just out of school and looking for a job but, in her town of Enniscorthy, jobs are hard to find. She lives with her mother and older sister Rose and it's Rose's job that basically supports the entire family. Through a priest, who's visiting Ireland from Brooklyn, Rose arranges for him to sponsor her sister Eilis' emigration to the states where jobs are plentiful and a future is possible. Eilis is heartbroken to leave but goes along with the plan. Once she arrives in Brooklyn and begins her job, she's not sure if she did the right thing. But she perseveres and makes a life for herself working, going to school and eventually finding a boyfriend.

I really enjoyed the story Toibin was telling. Even though his main character is very passive, it works within the story. I loved all the supporting cast and felt they were all believable. But then the main problem came into play for me. It all started when Eilis is at Nathan's with her boyfriend and his brother and the author talks about them putting ketchup and mustand on their hotdogs. At this point, not being familiar with this author, I had to look at the back jacket to see where he was from and I could see he never lived in Brooklyn. I'd like to report here and now that no one, and I mean NO ONE, put ketchup on a hotdog at Nathan's in Brooklyn in the 1950's. The only reason Nathan's even had ketchup on its premises is for the french fries. Then one night, in the midst of a calamity, Eilis decides to take the train to her boyfriend's house in Bensonhurst. The author says that the trip should take a little more than an hour. A little more than an hour??? There's nowhere in Brooklyn that's going to take you more than an hour to get to via train from another location in Brooklyn. You could go all the way out to Suffolk County on Long Island in less time. I know these are things only someone from Brooklyn would probably pick up on but my feeling is if you're going to write a book that takes place in Brooklyn and then make the title of the book "Brooklyn", then you better have your facts straight before you put it out there for your readers. Or better yet, have someone edit it who actually lived there during that time.

Many times an author tries to make a location a character within the book. I love when they do this but there is no way Toibin tried to do this. He couldn't because he simply doesn't know the place. I never felt for one minute that I was in Brooklyn. Other than the trips to Coney Island and Ebbets Field, it could have been Anywhere, USA. While Eilis was working on Fulton Street in a department store, I would have loved to have had her make a visit to A&S or Mays department store. I would have loved for her to sit at a lunch counter drinking an egg cream. I would have loved for her to be walking in the street while watching some kids play stickball. I would have loved to see her witness a dog at a Johnny pump. This is the real Brooklyn but it's not the Brooklyn that came across on these pages.

At one point, Eilis makes a trip back to Ireland and it's here that the author, who is from Dublin, is clearly more comfortable. Even with everything I've already said, I was still enjoying this story and actually stayed up late one night to finish it. At this point, it was a 4 star book for me. Not great but certainly a good read. That is, until the ending where I feel the author must have gotten a call from his publisher telling him he had to wrap it up. Because that's what he did and before I knew it, the book was over. To say I didn't like the ending would be an understatement.....I hated it.

So nostalgia aside, because I never felt any, this Brooklyn was definitely not the Brooklyn of the 50's where I grew up. I agree with other reviewers that Toibin can write but it's a shame that my first introduction to his work was not a 5 star one.



3 out of 5 stars