Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Kitchen Boy: A Novel of the Last TsarThe Kitchen Boy: A Novel of the Last Tsar by Robert Alexander
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Actually found this book entertaining until the end. Of course, like any reader, I had speculated on what the final surprise would be but alas, I was not surprised at all.
It was interesting to get a view of the tsar from a different perspective but I'm not sure it was any more real than any of the other books I've read on the subject. Still, might be worth the read for a real Russia buff. Not for me.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Once We Were BrothersOnce We Were Brothers by Ronald H. Balson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A book club selection.
Holocaust novels usually seem trite to me. This one is a bit better than some. It might even start to get at the horror and tragedy. Either way, this is an engagiing story with interesting characters. Having it set in Chicago was an additional plus for me because I love my new home town.

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Thursday, September 27, 2018

WarlightWarlight by Michael Ondaatje
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is so beautifully written that I could hardly put it down. The problem is that the story didn't ring any of my bells. It should have because it is just what I like but.... I guess it never made it for me.
The book is too good to miss but at times I felt bogged down in it.

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Friday, September 7, 2018

Dear Mrs. BirdDear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pearce
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked it. A perspective look at the blitz that was somewhat new. How the Brits managed to keep their spirit up is beyond my understanding. Night after night of disaster beyond imagination and then a quick cup of tea and off to work in the morning. As if the Germans wouldn't be back again that night.
The story unfolds with the characters developing in my mind and their situatuation getting more and more complicated with bombs and emotions.
This is not the definitive work on the blitz but I feel that I might have some new insights into how they managed and made it through.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The All-Girl Filling Station's Last ReunionThe All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book club book that I would have passed on. I'm so glad I read it. It is a pleasure to read and has several aspects that are interesting and fun. The characters seemed larger than life and incredibly real. Come to find out they were based on real people and some real events. I loved it. Easy to read and with quite a lot of good personal philosophy that is worth reading. How does a grown up grow and change as a person? Can a grown person really change? What makes good parenting? Worth the read. Enjoy!

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Friday, August 24, 2018

The Money Shot (Teddy Fay #2)The Money Shot by Stuart Woods
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nothing much new here but Stuart Woods is my favorite read. His books are delightfully clever with interesting characters. This one has a great plot, dark humor. I just laughed at the end. I can't wait for the next.

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Monday, August 20, 2018

An Incomplete Revenge (Maisie Dobbs, #5)An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A little like reading the history of Britain between the wars. Fascinating look at that era with a remarkable set of characters. I love the plot, setting and sense of the story. These are remarkable books.

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Saturday, August 11, 2018

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely FineEleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, this is a book club book. I loved it. Its so beautifully written and the story unfolds so carefully that frankly, I could not put it down. A sad story that has so many tender and reflective moments. Don't take my word for it, read it. Don't read any reviews, just sit down and read it. Let the story wash over you and unfold for you. Better than knowing about it. I just hope Ms Honeyman has a long career and writes a lot more books. I'll line up for her next.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Turbulence (Stone Barrington #46)Turbulence by Stuart Woods
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a joy to read, sex, action and a touch of Stuart Woods humor. A very pleasant few days. I wish he would write six books a year. Alas, I now have to wait for Stone Barrington's next adventure and lover.
The character is so far fetched as to be unbelievable until Woods adds his personality, which makes him a real person.

People ask what I like about this author. I think its the many ways her weaves real life into this fantasy of wealth and beautiful people. I look forward to characters reappearing as the story unfolds. My guess is senator Box will come along in the next book. I'll be dissappointed if Stone doesn't deal with that slimeball.

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Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Other Woman (Gabriel Allon, #18)The Other Woman by Daniel Silva
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Of course I liked it, l have liked all of Daniel Silva's books. This one seemed special to me. I felt like the story was almost too real. I guess in this world, today, the reality is so far fetched as to make the newspaper read like a novel. It is fitting then that parts of a good novel might feel like a newspaper. Gabriel is still the main character but in this edition, the plot and subtext seems to be the main focus. I can't wait for the next masterpiece. Thanks Daniel Silva for a great read and some things to think about.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Lilac GirlsLilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a book club selection. Didn't particualrly like it. It seemed to make the holocaust too small. I guess that I will never be "happy" with a book about concentration camps. The subject is just so vast and the number of dead and maimed, both physically and mentally, is just too big to imagine. Alternatively, personalizing it in this story doesn't seem to help understand.
Caroline may be a real character but she is the least of the story. Her love affair, actually a construction of the author, seemed thin and hard to believe. Maybe I'm just too picky where this subject is concerned.

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Friday, June 29, 2018

Messenger of Truth (Maisie Dobbs, #4)Messenger of Truth by Jacqueline Winspear
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Complicated plot that held my interest from page one. Again, the characters fit together and make for a great read.

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Birds of a Feather (Maisie Dobbs, #2)Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

No time for a review but I loved the book.

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Pardonable Lies (Maisie Dobbs, #3)Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Love this series. The history alone is worth the read but its characters are rich and believable. The emotions are real and deep. I feel like each book is just a chapter in a continuing story.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Rising Sea (NUMA Files, #15)The Rising Sea by Clive Cussler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Never fails to satisfy. A delightful story that has adventure, science and heroism. These folks spin a tale that is interesting and informative. I know more about sea levels than I need to and I know a bit more about swords than I wanted to.. a fun read.

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

When Breath Becomes AirWhen Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A book club selection. Not my genre but still a thoughtful and thought provoking book. Made me want to hug my loved ones more often and spend more time on constructive things. We all die, its not how you die but how you live. No one lives a perfect life but we all can love more and hate less, build more and destroy less. Is this worth a read? Most definitely! Gives you an additional perspective on life and that is a good thing.

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Friday, May 11, 2018

Twisted Prey (Lucas Davenport #28)Twisted Prey by John Sandford
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

John Sandford is so readable. The characters so easy to picture and for the most part believable. Lucas Davenport has matured and become much more than a smart cop. He and his new side-kicks are fascinating. They story is rich with twists and turns. The characters seem real and this story is "ripped from the headlines..." Takes place in DC and the politicians are as sleazy and sick as one might expect from real life. Love this book. If you've never read a Prey novel, this one might stand alone and be a good place to start.

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Sunday, May 6, 2018

Greeks Bearing Gifts (Bernie Gunther, #13)Greeks Bearing Gifts by Philip Kerr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This may be the last of the Bernie Gunther books. He died in March, 2018. You can read his obituary in the Guardian. He was just 62. This book, like the whole series, shows us some of the emotions and conflicts people have in impossible situations. To quote the obit about Bernie Gunther: "morally ambiguous fictional private detective Bernie Gunther first appeared in March Violets (1989), set in the city in 1936, after the Nazis’ rise to power, and the first of his Berlin Noir trilogy. Each book, he later admitted, was aimed at painting Gunther into a corner “so that he can’t cross the floor without getting paint on his shoes”

Bernie's life before, during and after the war shows him filled with massive ambiguity and some moral ambivalence too. I love that this character seems not just real but gritty and thoughtful in a way that real people might never be. He sees things in ways that are interesting and enlightening. I read and reread parts of this book because they were telling the truth about people and history, truth that has often been obscured by current events.

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Monday, April 30, 2018

Shoot First (Stone Barrington, #45)Shoot First by Stuart Woods
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love this series. Action, sex, humor.... just a great and fun read. Good continuing story. The formula is strong and he couled write 45 more and I'd love every one. Its like eating a great meal with perfect wine in a perfect setting.

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Friday, April 27, 2018

The Last Letter from Your LoverThe Last Letter from Your Lover by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a book club book and not in my usual genre. I enjoyed it very much. I think that it is because Jojo Moyes is a masterful writer. I really enjoyed the way the main characters grew and changed. They stayed in character but matured. The scope of the book was also broad enough to be interesting and the plot seemed all together believable. I may read some more of her books.

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Hothouse Orchid (Holly Barker, #6)Hothouse Orchid by Stuart Woods
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sorry to see the series and but those of us who are Woods fans know that the story goes on and on. This one had some interesting and provocative plot shifts. Unlike most of these stories there were some interrupted and dropped plot lines. This kept me wondering where the story was going. Loved it. I heartily recommend the whole series and I recommend them in order.

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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Iron Orchid (Holly Barker, #5)Iron Orchid by Stuart Woods
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A little less exciting than the previous episodes but still a great book. This one is not a stand alone book but an integral part of the series. It solidly builds the story and from having read other Woods' series, it clearly keeps up the franchise. I liked it. On to the 6th and final Holly Barker book.

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Monday, April 9, 2018

Blood Orchid (Holly Barker, #3)Blood Orchid by Stuart Woods
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Completely predictable and utterly enjoyable. Read it in two days. Would have been faster but a guy's got to eat. Sleep is optional.
This is a sensational story with great action. You must read the first books in this series or you will miss some of the action. Just like all Stuart Woods books, there is action, fun and just a bit of intrigue. On to the next. Actually, Holly's fourth adventure is in Stone Barrington's tenth so I've read it already.

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Saturday, April 7, 2018

Orchid Blues (Holly Barker, #2)Orchid Blues by Stuart Woods
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, nonstop action until the last few pages. Well written with excellent plot twists. Actually found myself nervous for the characters. Holly is a full rich character and Ham could use a series of his own. Every character that Stuart Woods invents is worthy of a whole book. That might be what makes the books so enjoyable. One to #3.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Counting The Omer.... Why?

As a child, holidays came and went. Each had its own rituals and foods. Some I didn't even notice, others were pretty much good for a day off from school. Now that I am older, and have time to think about these things, I spend a little more time wondering what it is all about.

When my dear daughter asked me to write her an Omer counter I had to look it up to find out what it was. I find the idea interesting for many reasons. Most of which it makes the counter, if you choose to be one, cognizant of the passage of time and the season more than ever. It gives us a chance to prepare for the holiday that celebrates G-d giving us the Torah.

The Torah, everything you need to know about life in one easy to handle scroll, is an amazing gift and however you believe it came to be, it certainly has had a profound impact on Jews and non-Jews alike.


I found a couple of interesting articles on Counting the Omer. The first is from the blog PunkTorah regarding the counting:

So, what does this all mean to us now? Well, it can mean many things. Counting the Omer can be used as a tool of self reflection. We can take this time to recognize the miracle of the Exodus from Egypt, from the gift of our freedom. The Sages tell us that G-d freed us from slavery in order to give us the Torah on Shavu’ot, so this should be a time of preparation. Counting the Omer gives us the time to learn from the gift of freedom G-d has given us and incorporate it into our lives, to grow one day at a time, taking a spiritual accounting, to make sure that we are heading in the right direction, to look at what we are doing that is right or wrong and to try to make ourselves ready to receive the honor of the Torah.
Counting the days is another way of directing our mindfulness to the passage of time. Be aware of the days as they pass, count them, give them meaning. We have been freed from slavery, rejecting the confusion and idolatry (philosophically, literally, and spiritually) of our own Egypt’s and are being made ready to re-focus our lives.
I guess a good take-away from all of this is that one must make each day count. Make each day worth living for you and the people you love. 

(This is a repeat of a post from last year)
Orchid Beach (Holly Barker, #1)Orchid Beach by Stuart Woods
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ok, I'm just a sucker for a good story with well developed characters. Enough complexity to make it interesting and a little sex to keep me reading. Throw in a little violence and some great public servants and you have a Stuart Woods story. Stir in a little mystery and some red herrings dropped in to get you off the trail. Then add a surprise ending with a good fight. Let us not forget an incredible dog. I just loved this book. I like all Stuart's books.
The main character occurs later in the Stone Barrington series so I know she won't get hurt too badly. On to the next one...

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Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Kremlin's Candidate (Red Sparrow Trilogy #3)The Kremlin's Candidate by Jason Matthews
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a great read. I loved the first two books of the trilogy and this was the frosting on the cake. The story was from the headlines and the action never seemed to end. Twists and turns and a killer plot. I love a story that could end a dozen ways. The last few pages are incredible, don't peek. I hope Jason Matthews writes more books. He is a great author and seems to have an incredible knowledge of tradecraft. An impressive book.

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Saturday, March 24, 2018

Mounting Fears (Will Lee, #7)Mounting Fears by Stuart Woods
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another exciting page turner but alas, written in 2009 this series seems to be at its end. This is a great book with a lot of complicated things going on. There is not resolution to all the plot lines but some of them continue in other Wood's series.
I love these books partly because I seem to get totally immersed in his characters. I just can't put them down.

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Monday, March 19, 2018

Capital Crimes (Will Lee, #6)Capital Crimes by Stuart Woods
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another great story with great characters. I love the twists and turns and could not put this book down. In fact I read it in a day. I'm beginning to be sad that there is onlly one more book in the series. These are great books but.... I have read the Stone Barrington series and that has tipped me off as to some of the action... still great stories.

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Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Run (Will Lee, #5)The Run by Stuart Woods
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Just loved this book. I'm a sucker for Stuart Woods. These stories are just real enough to be believable and just fanciful enough to be fun. I like stories with twists and turns and this is one of them. Bravo, I'm sorry there are only a couple left in the series.

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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Grass RootsGrass Roots by Stuart Woods
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Kept me on the edge until the last few pages. In fairness I knew this was not the last in the series so I knew Will would make it out alive. Stuart Woods is quite an author, several times this book took turns I just wasn't ready for. I loved reading it.

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Saturday, March 10, 2018

The NestThe Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a book club selection. An interesting story that seemed to stray a bit at times. After finishing it I begin to see how it all fit together but I was a bit disappointed in the way some of the characters fleshed out. Some seemed full and rich and others, though important to the story, were flat and colorless.
I guess books about dysfunctional people are not my thing. I'll bet after the book club is done discussing it I'll feel differently about he book.

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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Deep Lie (Will Lee, #3)Deep Lie by Stuart Woods
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love this book. A great story. It is a little plagued by coincidence but the author does such a great job of weaving the story that it is actually believable. The story is complex and exciting, I could not put it down, just like all Stuart Woods books.

This was a great story and helped us to get to know Will and the other continuing characters better. Having read all the Stone Barrington books, I pretty well know what happens to them.

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Sunday, February 25, 2018

Run Before the WindRun Before the Wind by Stuart Woods
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! Strong interesting characters, a suspenseful story and great twists of plot. Interesting reading a book written in the 80's. No cell phones, email or other modern tech. The story might even be a coming of age story of sorts. Will Lee learns a lot and we learn a lot about him. I think I'll read another.

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Thursday, February 22, 2018

ChiefsChiefs by Stuart Woods
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've always thought of Stuart Woods as the writer of light, fun and clever stories. This book is genuine historical fiction with a hint of murder mystery. I know it is cliche but I could not stop reading this. It unrolled before my eyes and was interesting and kept me wondering what would happen next.
A period of time that I have not understood well. The post-civil war south up to the civil rights era is a period in which out country changed and the south changed even more.
I'm ready for the rest of this series. What a great author.

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Friday, February 16, 2018

Deep Freeze (Virgil Flowers, #10)Deep Freeze by John Sandford
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Not a murder mystery, more a how to find a killer. John Sandford stories are filled with memorable characters doing interesting things. Even the crime is interesting. I love the fact that the same old character can give me new and interesting plot lines and stories. This book is a real page turner and hard to put down.

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Monday, February 12, 2018

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in CrisisHillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not a favorite of mine, a bit disjointed and repetitious. It does illuminate the mores of a large segment of our population. A whole group of Americans who do not really share in the American dream. Although not surprising, this book does shine a bright life on the hillbilly ethics and lifestyle.
Incredible that this group has found a voice in the white house.

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Sunday, February 4, 2018

Manhattan BeachManhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is right in my wheelhouse. The subject, style and plot were totally what I like. Enjoyed the read and even looked at maps and researched some of the locations because I felt like I was there. Wonder how people lived in NYC during the war, this is a book for you.
This story unfolds beautifully. Egan is a master storyteller. Characters come alive and you can imagine their breath and smell. I love her style. No friends of mine are saying, why only 4 stars? I hated the ending. I wish she would continue the story. The characters are too interesting to drop. Please, write a sequel, and then four more...... when the little gent becomes nightclub owner?

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Saturday, January 27, 2018

The WidowThe Widow by Fiona Barton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Quite a book, great story, well told. Ms Barton is a master story teller bringing all the pieces together in a smart well constructed story. I must say I had figured it out but the end was well done. Hard to put down. The characters were well developed and kept the reader in the story 'til the end. No spoilers here because this is a book club book that I get to discuss with friends next week.

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Friday, January 19, 2018

A Replacement LifeA Replacement Life by Boris Fishman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A book club selection that I plodded through. I thought I hated it but in truth, I just hated the characters. That must give it points because after the book club meet I saw the value of the story and the author's clever tools, duh.... the characters.

Beautifully written, sometimes seeming like poetry. Certainly worth the read and I might zip through it again to see what I missed not liking it.

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Unbound (Stone Barrington #44)Unbound by Stuart Woods
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As always, Stuart Woods gives me a giggle and a pleasure. I love his books. The characters are just real enough to enjoy and just fanciful enough to be fun. The plot is convoluted and the ending is just what I expected. I so enjoy these books. They are just plain fun to read.

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Monday, January 8, 2018

The Midnight Line (Jack Reacher, #22)The Midnight Line by Lee Child
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lee Child has outdone himself with this book. Not only is it a clever and well constructed story but... it helps one to understand some of the intricacies of our current drug crisis. His commentary and treatment of the subject is excellent and woven into a great story. This is a must read and could be a stand alone.

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