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Ted and I: A Brother's Memoir
Ted and I: A Brother's Memoir
by Gerald Hughes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.25
55 used & new from $4.47

4.0 out of 5 stars TED AND I is a short but sweet and moving memoir written with the heart of a brother who truly loved his family., December 15, 2014
Reading Gerald Hughes’ memoir, TED AND I, a look back at his growing up in Yorkshire, England with younger brother Ted Hughes, one is gifted with a sense of fondness and sincere empathy for the world in which the Hughes family lived. The early years, which start in the mid-1920s, don’t stray far from the typical childhood; in fact, one will find oneself nostalgic for that certain time and place. However, Gerald does a wonderful job illustrating precisely what being a child in the Depression era was like. Still, TED AND I is neither bleak nor sad, but rather idyllic. It’s a mood that strikes well, and not only gives fine insight into life in the 1920s onward, but also describes the roots --- the nature and outdoors life in Yorkshire --- that later shaped Ted and his poetry.

As described here, there is a great sense of unity despite the economic hardships. Reading these stories is like reading through great fiction (the best stories are often the real ones), and our relationship with them is one where we remember our own childhood despite the difference in time and environment (some things, like a great slay ride, never change). The various model boats the Hughes brothers made using materials from a downed plane nearby, and the hunting that helped provide for their family during the Depression, all steer towards unity within this era in which everyone pitched in and nothing was wasted. People worked with their hands, and it was a time when family, church and hard work especially were valued. But no one had to lose their childhood as a result of it.

TED AND I is a memoir told with simplicity and the keen sensitivity of a brother who stayed in close contact with his sibling through their lifetime. Even the wars years, when Gerald worked as an airplane mechanic, did not prevent them from keeping in touch --- with Ted sending Gerald an early copy of the poem “Pike,” which was inspired by fishing on the Crookhill Estate at Cambridge and shows early development into the genius that Ted’s poetry would grow into. Even when Gerald lived in Australia (we also get a great story here about Gerald visiting the great painter Hans Heysen in the backwoods of South Australia), the two continued communication, with Ted urging Gerald to pursue their dream of owning a farm together.

However, the true circumstances behind the relationship of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath is somewhat thin. As the outside observer, Gerald speaks candidly about how he never got to meet Sylvia, but from his correspondence described their relationship as loving. He does his best to describe Ted’s mindset following Sylvia’s suicide, stating that it haunted him and ultimately left him in a fragile state. But further insight into the relationship between Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath --- how they shaped each other’s poetry, the ins and outs of their relationship --- is left out within the memoir. Not that Gerald does not describe who the two were on the surface --- what we get mostly is a brief time and place of their relationship.

It’s easy to see how the outdoors influenced Ted’ poetry. Gerald even takes the step to include a list of poems in the back of the book and where directly in Yorkshire the influence came from. Ted died before his brother and sister, Olwyn, but the amount of work he left behind is vast and beautiful. TED AND I is a short but sweet and moving memoir written with the heart of a brother who truly loved his family and took pride in his upbringing.

Reviewed by Stephen Febick.

Perfect Sins: A Mystery
Perfect Sins: A Mystery
by Jo Bannister
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.25
51 used & new from $7.75

5.0 out of 5 stars A character study with a good deal of description and steady, diligent police work resting on a solid foundation of storytelling, December 15, 2014
PERFECT SINS reminds me of nothing more or less than a Nancy Drew mystery with adult themes. People who know me are aware that this is a huge compliment. Those early Hardy Boys and (to a lesser extent) Nancy Drew books have informed my reading tastes to this day, some 55 years down the road. So yes, I make the statement in my first sentence with love and respect.

Jo Bannister’s latest marks the return of British policewoman Hazel Best and her friend, semi-retired industrial security expert Gabriel Ash. Both are somewhat damaged goods. Ash is probably the worst of the two, though he bears his wounds of loss stoically. He was investigating ship hijackings in Somalia on behalf of the British government when his wife and sons were kidnapped by pirates. The three are presumed to be dead; Ash deteriorated and is slowly making his way back to normal living with the help of Best. For her part, Best was forced to kill a perpetrator in the line of duty and is having her own issues with that. Given the baggage both of them are carrying, it appears that a trip back to Ash’s childhood home, where her father still works as an estate gardener, would be just the berries.

Two of Ash’s childhood friends are there as well: Peregrine Byrfield, now the lord of the manor, and the somewhat prickly David Sperrin, a self-proclaimed archaeologist who is employed by Byrfield in that capacity. Best and Ash arrive just as Sperrin is about to excavate a small mound on the Byrfield property. Sperrin is hopeful of finding artifacts dating back hundreds, if not thousands, of years. What he discovers, instead, is of a more recent and much more grisly vintage. Sperrin unearths the skeleton of what turns out to be a young boy of approximately 10 years of age who has been dead for about three decades. Worse, his death is found to have occurred as a result of foul play, that being a shotgun blast to the face.

Recriminations ensue, and family secrets, real and otherwise, are unearthed. Many of them have to do with the British system of bequeathing and devising of property, a subject that becomes particularly of interest when it is discovered that the unfortunate victim had Down’s syndrome. Divisions that have laid dormant for years suddenly rear their heads, and accusations go flying.

It takes a local police inspector and (primarily) Best’s keen insight and intuition to ultimately figure out what occurred and the tragedy behind it all. Of course, a bit of forensic science applied to the victim’s DNA doesn’t hurt, either. The major revelation, though, belongs to Best’s problems, which more or less bookend the narrative of PERFECT SINS. If you read all the way to the end (and no peeking, as Bannister spent nearly a year of her life writing this book and its surprise ending. So, seriously, no spoiling it), you will want to read the next Ash and Best mystery. I guarantee it.

PERFECT SINS is not loaded with explosions, karate, fisticuffs or heaving bosoms. It’s primarily a character study with a good deal of description and steady, diligent police work resting on a solid foundation of storytelling and a mystery with some interesting twists and turns. It’s just the thing to read in front of the fireplace (lit or otherwise) in the waning days of the old year. Do so, and you won’t be sorry.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

Asylum City: A Novel
Asylum City: A Novel
by Liad Shoham
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.79
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4.0 out of 5 stars Shoham keeps the narrative moving quickly with frequent changes in points of view marked with short chapters., December 15, 2014
This review is from: Asylum City: A Novel (Hardcover)
Liad Shoham is a practicing attorney who also happens to be the Israeli equivalent of John Grisham and James Patterson. His books, as with the best of crime fiction anywhere, combine elements of culture, politics and police procedure, a mix that was very well displayed in LINEUP, Shoham’s first novel to see publication in the United States. ASYLUM CITY, which was published in Israel in early 2013 (and has been optioned for television there), has just been released in the United States, thanks to the translation of Sara Kitai. It is somewhat of a different book from its predecessor, being a bit more character-driven, but nonetheless provides an interesting read.

Shoham takes a chance in ASYLUM CITY by introducing a fairly compelling character and then taking her off the board early on. Michal Poleg is a tireless advocate and activist working on behalf of African refugees who land in Tel Aviv. She is not a universally popular person, by any means, so when she is found brutally murdered in her apartment, the police do not lack for suspects. Tel Aviv police officer Anat Nachmias finds herself thrust into the forefront of the investigation into Poleg’s killing. While Nachmias has never led such an investigation before, she welcomes the challenge and is determined not to let down either her superiors or her victim.

It is Nachmias’ superiors, however, who ultimately let her down. When a suspect is identified in relatively quick order and turns himself in, Nachmias seems to have the case all wrapped up. The suspect in question is a young refugee named Gabriel who was close to Poleg and almost immediately confesses to the killing. Nachmias is troubled by several factors. It quickly becomes clear that Gabriel knows almost nothing about how the murder was committed. The eyewitness who claims to have seen someone flee the scene of the killing identifies someone other than Gabriel in a lineup. Nachmias’ superiors want the case closed, and they have a warm body --- Gabriel --- to account for the creation of the cold one in the Tel Aviv morgue.

Nachmias, though, will not be swayed and is determined to obtain not just an arrest in the case but justice as well. In order to do this, she needs to ascertain why Gabriel wants to confess to a crime he did not commit; the answer lies in his past and involves those with whom he has erroneously placed his trust. What Nachmias ultimately discovers and uncovers is a crime of a magnitude that stretches far beyond the streets of Tel Aviv. The only question is whether or not she will be able to prove what she finds before it is too late to save Gabriel.

While ASYLUM CITY isn’t quite as good as LINEUP, it nonetheless has much to recommend it. Shoham keeps the narrative moving quickly with frequent changes in points of view marked with (for the most part) short chapters. And there is a definite mystery here, although veteran mystery readers should be able to discern “whodunit” early on. Given that, however, there is an even stronger question of the motive behind the murder that drives the book and will almost certainly keep you guessing. This, combined with the cast of characters that populate the book --- good, bad and imperfect --- ultimately makes ASYLUM CITY worth reading.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

The World of Raymond Chandler: In His Own Words
The World of Raymond Chandler: In His Own Words
by Raymond Chandler
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.68
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Day has diligently combed through Chandler's oeuvre and doesn't hesitate to display the gems he's found., December 15, 2014
For all his fame, Raymond Chandler had a relatively slight output (seven slim novels, a couple dozen short stories). But that hasn't prevented a steady stream of biographies, literary studies and adaptations of his work. At this point, more words probably have been written about the creator of Philip Marlowe than he wrote himself. Barry Day's THE WORLD OF RAYMOND CHANDLER, consisting mostly of excerpts from Chandler's letters, stories and novels, with some connective commentary in between, is the latest in this line of books about the man who invented Southern California noir.

Chandler, who was born in Chicago and raised in England, was always an outsider --- a “man with no home,” according to Day, who begins with a cursory overview of Chandler's first 40 years. He traces his brief career in the British Civil Service, his early, mostly failed, literary efforts, and his service in World War I. As he does throughout, Day lets Chandler speak for himself whenever possible, quoting liberally from his letters to draw a picture of a man struggling to find his way in the world. And it certainly took Chandler some time to find his path --- he didn't publish his first novel until his 40s, after being fired from his job at a Los Angeles oil company because of his alcoholism.

After establishing the outlines of Chandler's biography, Day shifts focus to his career as a writer. Despite claiming that he had “absolutely no talent” for fiction when he started out, Chandler was a quick study, and it didn't take him long to startturning the hard-boiled detective story into genuine literature. But while Chandler elevated pulp mysteries, he also struggled to work within the constraints of the often-derided genre, lamenting that “[W]hen I write something that is tough and fast and full of mayhem and murder, I get panned for being tough and fast and full of mayhem, and then when I try to tone down a bit and develop the mental and emotional side of the situation, I get panned for leaving out what I was panned for putting in the first time.”

The book is packed with interesting tidbits. Humphrey Bogart may be the iconic Marlowe now, but Chandler favored a different actor for the part: Cary Grant. He once considered abandoning mysteries and trying his hand at fantasy fiction. He owned a tyrannical cat named Taki (half-a-dozen pages are devoted to Chandler's musings on his beloved pet). Especially interesting are his thoughts on other writers. He dismisses James M. Cain as “a faux naïf, a Proust in greasy overalls,” even though he later earned an Academy Award for his adaptation of Double Indemnity. But he admires F. Scott Fitzgerald, who he argues would have been a great writer if he hadn't been an alcoholic. It's a poignant observation, given Chandler's own struggle with drinking and the way it marred his last novel, PLAYBACK, and the unfinished POODLE SPRINGS.

Day's admiration for his subject's talent is clear. He has diligently combed through Chandler's oeuvre and doesn't hesitate to display the gems he's found, making a convincing case that “it wasn't his plots or supporting characters that set him apart. It was his use of language.” Unfortunately, Day's enthusiasm for Chandler's ability to craft an evocative sentence sometimes goes overboard. Chandler may have been the master of the simile, but rather than give a handful of the best examples of his efforts, Day packs page upon page with sentences divorced from their context. It's simply overwhelming, and Chandler's clever way with words starts to seem trite. It also illustrates a larger problem with the book: an author so enamored of his subject that he is blind to the weaker aspects of his work. Day only briefly touches on Chandler's casual homophobia, offering the unsatisfactory observation that “We are now never likely to know whether he was a genuine homophobe.” Chandler's often harsh treatment of his female characters (the majority of his killers were women) receives a bit more attention, though Day doesn't delve too deeply into what motivated his persistent sexism.

Resting uneasily between biography and literary study, THE WORLD OF RAYMOND CHANDLER offers compelling evidence of Chandler's talent as a writer, though anyone really wanting to get a feel for his style would be better off picking up a copy of THE LONG GOODBYE. The book is at its best when Chandler speaks through his letters, where the man that emerges is by turns supremely confident (“I am the best there is in my line and the best there has ever been”) and dismissive of his talents (“What I write that sells is not at all the sort of thing I really want to write”). Day's book may not offer much in the way of new insight, but it's still a compelling, if incomplete, portrait of a writer of lasting influence.

Reviewed by Megan Elliott.

The Big Finish: A Thorn Novel (Thorn Mysteries)
The Big Finish: A Thorn Novel (Thorn Mysteries)
by James W. Hall
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.88
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4.0 out of 5 stars If this indeed is Thorn’s finale, Hall is sending him off in a literary vehicle that consists of some of his best writing yet., December 15, 2014
I like old guys who can get the job done, or at least attempt to do so, whether they exist in the real world or in the netherland of fiction. James W. Hall’s Thorn is one of those guys. Thorn is somewhere on the downside of middle age, closer to social security than insecurity, and aware of his limitations, if not always entirely comfortable with them. He has seen and done bad things in the name of the good but has attempted to put that part of his life behind him, content instead to live way off the grid in the Florida Keys, manufacturing unique fishing flies by hand while watching the sun come up. However, his past keeps intruding on the present and continues to drag him into violence, despite his best intentions.

THE BIG FINISH has been advertised as the finale to the Thorn series. Indeed, from the first sentence, Hall appears to be dead set on not only dumping over the apple cart he has so meticulously created over the past several years, but also kicking all of its contents down the road. As Thorn makes his initial appearance here, he is on the receiving end of a number of postcards from Flynn Moss, the son Thorn never knew he had until recently. Flynn went off the grid (like father, like son), but for a far different purpose, disappearing into the shadowy world of eco-activists and -terrorists. Thorn has respected his son’s decision, but when he gets a card with a one-word message --- HELP --- he does what any father would do and springs into action. He brings his capable, if somewhat reluctant, friend Sugarman into the mix, as well as Tina, a quasi-love interest of Sugarman’s who attaches herself, almost barnacle-like, to the party at the last minute.

It isn’t long before things turn drastically upside down, starting with a woman who introduces herself as an FBI agent named Madeline Cruz. After taking Thorn and Sugarman into custody (while Tina makes a jackrabbit-like escape), Cruz advises Thorn that Flynn and his organization have been ambushed by the owner of a North Carolina hog farming operation on which they had been gathering information. He offers Thorn the opportunity to rescue his son, while Cruz wants Cassandra, the woman with whom Flynn has aligned himself, and with whom Thorn himself had a brief relationship in the past. Cruz wants to use Thorn as bait to get what they both want.

Thorn, though, slowly comes to the realization that everything he thinks he knows about Cruz, Flynn, Cassandra, and the mission they are undertaking is all a lie. Worse, Thorn’s life is on a collision course with a fanatical eco-terrorist who goes by the name of X-88. Be warned: X-88 is a very unique and dangerous antagonist with an almost-superhuman ability that is credible and fascinating. It gives him a frightening edge in certain circumstances; as we learn by the book’s conclusion, it is also a ticking time bomb that may take him and all those around him. The collision between X-88 and Thorn is only one of many that Thorn will experience as he races with Sugarman to North Carolina to save his son, even though both men are coming to the sinking realization that they may be too late.

THE BIG FINISH does not end entirely neatly or well. Still, if this indeed is Thorn’s finale, Hall is sending his creation off in a literary vehicle that consists of some of his best writing to date and certainly one of his best books in a career that has run for almost three decades. His legions of readers can hardly be blamed for wanting more of the character, and hopefully of Hall. Let’s pray that we get at least half a loaf in the future.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II
When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II
by Molly Guptill Manning
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.95
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4.0 out of 5 stars A behind-the-scenes look at the war from an unusual perspective --- the morale of the American troops., December 15, 2014
When you are crowded on a troop ship on a six-day ocean voyage that will take you to a war zone, what is an excellent way to spend your time? If you are on a remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, how do you amuse yourself? If you are flat on your back in a military hospital, how do you keep from being bored and lonely? To be transported, if only for a little while, from your homesickness, anxiety and boredom to the world of books is a wonderful getaway. That is exactly what books did for the men who fought in World War ll.

The enemy banned and burned books, squashing personal freedom and thought in the countries that they stormed, devastated and controlled. Americans were appalled by this philosophy and lack of freedom. War is partly about a clash of ideas and ideals. Nowhere was this more apparent than in how books were perceived by either side.

WHEN BOOKS WENT TO WAR is a behind-the-scenes look at the war from an unusual perspective --- the morale of the American troops. The GIs were loaded down with heavy and cumbersome yet vitally important gear. But what about lightweight books that are small enough to be tucked in a hip pocket? That would be just the ticket, but it took a long time and a huge amount of effort to make this program a reality. Molly Guptill Manning’s book describes in great detail how these wonderful tiny books came about. At first, there were book drives for the servicemen, but many of the donated books were unsuitable. What soldier wants to read a book about knitting? And hardcovers weren't practical; they took up too much precious space and were awkward to carry around.

Through much effort and dedication on the part of many individuals and groups, what finally came about were ASEs --- very small, lightweight books that could be pulled out of one's hip pocket and be read during snatches of free time. They could be traded and, in fact, were, and read until the slim pages literally fell apart. Even General Eisenhower was known to read westerns when he could snatch a few free minutes from his wartime duties.

The men read for entertainment, escape, knowledge and pure pleasure. What did they read? A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN by Betty Smith was a favorite. She received a lot of fan mail from them because it gave them a glimpse of ordinary daily life and of home. A novel that had not received much attention, THE GREAT GATSBY became very popular because of the ASE program. The men read biographies, novels, westerns and many other genres, and since there were eventually 1,200 titles printed, they could even carry around works by Mark Twain and Shakespeare. A racy novel that was popular during that time, FOREVER AMBER, also kept them turning pages.

Two different philosophies --- one that banned books and suppressed individual thought and one that encouraged freedom of speech in all its many forms --- were certainly apparent during World War ll. Who knew that a stack of books (or a lack of them) could make such a huge difference?

Reviewed by Carole Turner.

Havana Storm (Dirk Pitt Adventure)
Havana Storm (Dirk Pitt Adventure)
by Clive Cussler
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.61
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4.0 out of 5 stars Current oceanography, ancient discoveries & the stubborn refusal of the Pitt family to overcome tragedy make for a magical read, December 15, 2014
HAVANA STORM is Book 23 in the bestselling adventure series starring Dirk Pitt. Clive Cussler and his son, Dirk, collaborate with a rapidly moving story that barely allows the reader to breathe between chapters.

Off the coast of Havana, Cuba, in 1898, a Cuban oarsman rows his passenger to the safety of a large battleship, the USS Maine, carrying their cargo to safety. Dr. Ellsworth Boyd, a Yale University professor and researcher, carefully guarded his thick wooden crate from capture by the Spanish militia, who wished to confiscate his find. Instead, he boarded the USS Maine and found safety with the Americans. That night, Boyd, unable to sleep, strolls alongside the outer deck when he sees a fishing skiff towing a raft or crate, bumping it into the bow of the Maine. A geyser of water sprays near the bow, followed by a titanic explosion. Before Boyd can reorient himself, he watches three men leap aboard the deck. He limps back to his crated relic, hoists a shovel for protection, and lands a blow on one of the trio, but is shot by Rodriguez, their leader. Boyd’s last is of his stolen crate, wedged on the enemy’s aft deck, steaming toward the harbor entrance.

A century later, 20 miles off the coast of Jamaica, a native fisherman and his nephew right their small vessel, the Javina, following a deep underwater rumble that causes a thunderous wave to lift them upward. Three vessels bear toward them: a large exploration ship, an orange crew boat and an ocean barge. The young fisherman confronts them about killing the tuna, but crewmen from the larger ship fire 40 mm grenades onto their open deck, fire soon vaporizing its wheelhouse, and then sinking the old Javina.

A month later, in July 2016, Dirk Pitt, Director of the National Underwater and Marine Agency, receives word from his team mapping activity in the Caribbean that a growing dead zone has developed, crossing zones from northwest of Jamaica, past the Cayman Islands to near the western tip of Cuba. Chemical runoff from the Mississippi River basin creates explosive growth of algae that depletes oxygen levels and kills marine life. Widespread dead zones have recently popped up. The disturbances could signal a larger environmental hazard than the BP oil spills not long ago.

Early into the book, the Cusslers introduce an entire cast of characters --- some major, others minor --- but each with a role toward bringing evidence to a satisfying conclusion. Pitt’s grown twins, Dirk and Summer, marine specialists in their own right, are diving off the coast of Mexico. Dr. Eduardo Madero, anthropology professor at the University of Veracruz, invites them to explore a partially excavated seafloor site he is working. Coming to the surface, Summer bumps across a rock ledge and scoops up a ceramic container, which she hands to Dr. Madero. Had she discovered an old box of cigars? Scraping away silt, Madero reveals a bright green pattern of inlaid blue and green stones in the shape of a bird. The blue hummingbird is significant to the ancient Nahuatl tribe, the box top opening to reveal ancient pages of a codex. When interpreted, it tells a story of ancient warriors traveling over water in a dugout longboat to hide a stone fragment from Spanish conquistadores. The route they took ended near Tula, in a cave long covered by water when the Zimapan Dam was built in the 1990s.

Soon the twins travel to the area depicted in the codex, dive into deep waters under a high bluff, beneath which wash waters stream into a large reservoir. They drop into an ancient fire pit, open to them through rocky juttings in a cave. Beneath the ash, Summer uncovers a large stone with the carved head of a bird surrounded by stylized glyphs from the codex, an ancient Aztecc stone.

Summer and Dirk are called on to join the NUMA crew to help their father identify the sources of the mysterious dead zones increasingly found in international waters. Reluctant to leave the Mexican sites, they plan to return later to aid Dr. Madero in his digs. But now, duty calls to far-flung dangers near Havana and closer association with Cuban militants then ever anticipated.

Underwater exploration for oil, kidnap, murder and violence on the high seas are the monster difficulties faced by the entire Pitt family, NUMA crews and piracy when the stakes are high for both the Cuban and American governments. Harmless water-sampling by Pitt’s scientists leads to encounters with bloodthirsty men whose greed surpasses reality. Castro’s brother, Raoul, even becomes a player when the pieces fit together.

Incredible story-crafting brings multiple messy plots together. Present-day oceanography, ancient archaeological discoveries and the stubborn refusal of the Pitt family to overcome tragedy make for a magical read for Clive Cussler fans.

Reviewed by Judy Gigstad.

A New York Christmas: A Novel
A New York Christmas: A Novel
by Anne Perry
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $9.00
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4.0 out of 5 stars A quick and meaningful read that surely will add some Christmas spirit and hope into your holiday season., December 15, 2014
For fans of Anne Perry and her delightful Victorian Era novels, the Christmas holiday is not official until her new seasonal mystery is released. For the 11th straight year, readers will be pleased to know that they can add another Christmas-inspired mystery novel to their holiday wish list.

Perry is best known for her two recurring mystery series --- one involving Charlotte and Thomas Pitt and the other featuring William Monk. Over the course of her 11 prior Christmas mysteries, she has utilized both her mainstay characters and several peripheral protagonists to tell these seasonal stories.

A NEW YORK CHRISTMAS is no different as the central character is 23-year-old Jemima Pitt, Charlotte and Thomas’ daughter. Jemima is accompanying a female acquaintance of hers, Delphinia Cardew, to New York, where she is engaged to marry the well-to-do Brent Albright. This transatlantic crossing will mark the first Anne Perry holiday mystery to be set in the United States.

The main shadow looming over the upcoming nuptials is Maria Cardew, the outcast and estranged mother of Delphinia. Fear has overcome Delphinia and the Albrights that Maria may arrive and spoil their happy occasion. Jemima does not understand exactly what Maria did to be exiled from Delphinia's life --- but she is about to find out soon.

The year is 1904, and the United States is a fast-growing nation still trying to get over the Civil War that seems to be fresh in everyone's mind. This fact will come back to haunt the novel in unexpected ways. While Jemima and Delphinia are being shown around town by Harley Albright --- Brent's outgoing brother --- Jemima and Brent swear that they see Maria in the crowd.

Harley and Jemima plan to deal with Maria and are determined to find out where she is staying. They eventually track her down to an apartment house in midtown, and Jemima heads up to her room. Much to her surprise, she finds the woman dead in her own bed. Harley enters moments later and is equally shocked by the finding. He also begins to look at Jemima in a different way. Once the police arrive, led by a young officer named Patrick Flannery, they suspect foul play, and Jemima is directly in their crosshairs as the prime suspect.

How will Jemima, now seemingly alone in a strange country, convince Delphinia that she has nothing to do with Maria's death while at the same time trying to persuade the police to continue to investigate and locate the true murderer? Understanding that this is an Anne Perry novel will clue readers into the fact that nothing may be as it appears on the surface, and political and social values will definitely come into play.

A NEW YORK CHRISTMAS is not imbued with the typical splendor of the season. Rather, the fact that the holiday is looming in the background provides Jemima with the hope that everything will turn out all right, and she will be able to spend the holiday with family and friends instead of in prison as a murder suspect. This is a quick and meaningful read that surely will add some Christmas spirit and hope into your holiday season.

Reviewed by Ray Palen.

There Was a Little Girl: The Real Story of My Mother and Me
There Was a Little Girl: The Real Story of My Mother and Me
by Brooke Shields
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.25
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4.0 out of 5 stars I feel like I have a much better understanding of Brooke through her relationship with her beloved mother., December 15, 2014
When Brooke Shields read her mother’s obituary in the New York Times, she was upset by the way the writer portrayed Teri, who, even Brooke admits, made many mistakes along the way. As a result, Brooke has penned THERE WAS A LITTLE GIRL to set the record straight and tell her story her way. Thankfully, she doesn’t pull any punches or sugarcoat the details of life with an alcoholic mother.

Brooke has accomplished a great deal in her lifetime. She has been a model, the star in commercials, a Broadway performer, an actress on TV and in the movies, an author, a wife (twice) and a mother (twice). Her most important role, though, may have been assuming the responsibilities of caring for her alcoholic mother. At a time when a young girl needs her mother for support, Brooke found the roles reversed as she spent years essentially being a caretaker to Teri.

Despite such a major obstacle, Brooke has led an interesting life. Her father, Frank, came from a privileged and aristocratic background, while her mother was born and raised in a poor family in Newark, New Jersey. Her parents were married briefly, but divorced before Brooke’s first birthday. Brooke lived with Teri but visited her father quite often. Frank remarried, and she formed a bond with her stepfamily. The contrast between the lifestyles of her parents was enormous. While her father’s family lived in luxury in the South Hamptons, she and her mother struggled in a small apartment in New York. But somehow Brooke managed to feel comfortable in both environments.

Things improved when Brooke was able to earn more money through her acting roles. But she continued to cope with her mother’s illness, and did so until Teri’s death in 2012. She still struggles with the memories and the “what ifs.”

I was eager to read Brooke Shields’ story as she was a mega-popular celebrity when I was a teenager and we’re just a couple of years apart. I clearly remember her starring role in Blue Lagoon, as well as some of her Calvin Klein commercials. Though she tends to ramble a bit, Brooke boasts an easy-to-read writing style. Thanks to THERE WAS A LITTLE GIRL, I feel like I have a much better understanding of her --- the life she has led and the showbiz career she has enjoyed --- through her relationship with her beloved mother, whose spirit will live on forever in Brooke’s heart.

Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 15, 2014 9:26 PM PST

by Anthony Horowitz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.86
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This mystery moves along at frightening speed and is a worthy entry in the continuing saga created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle., December 15, 2014
This review is from: Moriarty (Hardcover)
"Does anyone really believe what happened at the Reichenbach Falls?"

To some, this question will not have any special meaning. However, for fans of the immortal Sherlock Holmes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's canon of Holmes tales that continue to inspire imitation today, this question will allow them to reflect fondly on one of the most pivotal moments in the history of this fictional detective.

Allegedly, both Sherlock Holmes and his nemesis, Professor James Moriarty, plunged to their deaths at the Swiss waterfall known as the Reichenbach Falls. Fans realize that Holmes did not die but rather disappeared from sight for three years. Doyle's intention was to kill off his most famous character and move on to other tales. It was only due to the outpouring of rage from fans around the world that Doyle eventually revived Holmes and continued his stories.

The fate of Moriarty is not nearly as clear. Most feel he did indeed perish in the aftermath of his famous fall with Holmes. In Anthony Horowitz’s latest novel, MORIARTY, the action picks up just days after the Reichenbach Falls incident. Horowitz has visited this territory before as his previous novel, THE HOUSE OF SILK, was a Sherlock Holmes adventure. Horowitz's bio indicates that he may have committed more fictional murders than any other living author. In addition to his fiction work in print, he has achieved fame as the TV screenwriter of such series as “Midsomer Murders,” “Foyle's War” and various episodes of “Poirot.”

MORIARTY is voiced by a new narrator to the Holmes series: American Pinkerton agent Frederick Chase, who has arrived in London hot on the heels of a dangerous criminal mastermind known only as Clarence Devereaux. Word has it that Devereaux has traveled to the UK to fill the void left by Moriarty’s death. While no body has turned up for Holmes, there is one that appears to be Moriarty's as the water-sodden corpse had a letter of his in its coat pocket.

Chase has teamed up with Scotland Yard Detective Athelney Jones, who has competed with and against Holmes on previous cases. Chase and Jones get along well enough, but their pursuit of Devereaux has them running in circles. Brutal murders --- some involving groups of people --- are left in the wake of Devereaux and his criminal associates. Every time Chase and Jones get near to the truth, they are thwarted.

When an attack at Scotland Yard, apparently intended for Jones, rocks the area, it looks like the law is no match for this new evil. A visit to the U.S. legation, under the leadership of the late President Abraham Lincoln's eldest son, Robert, shows that Devereaux may be using the embassy for asylum --- even though none there claim to actually know the man. It is only when Jones' young daughter is kidnapped that he and Chase are impelled to square off against the faceless Devereaux. None will be the same after this confrontation.

While reading MORIARTY, it is easy to become so engaged in the tale that you forget the fact that the title character is nowhere to be seen. Or could he actually be operating right under everyone's nose? In the nimble hands of Anthony Horowitz, this mystery moves along at frightening speed and is a worthy entry in the continuing saga involving characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The novel wraps up with a serialized Strand Magazine story penned by Dr. John B. Watson, in which we get to enjoy a case worked by both Holmes and Jones that will portend the events within the book’s pages.

Reviewed by Ray Palen.

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