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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

IN THE KINGDOM OF MEN by Kim Barnes



IN THE KINGDOM OF MEN   by Kim Barnes
One of my friends lived in an ARAMCO compound during the 1960’s.  The life depicted in THE KINGDOM OF MEN is much as she described it. Gin is running from a constricted life with a fundamentalist grandfather and finds herself living in the even more constricted fundamentalist Saudi kingdom. Even though she and her husband are living in luxurious surroundings, life for Gin is boring and racist for her husband. 
By befriending both her driver and her houseboy Gin is in violation of  both ARAMCO and Kingdom policies. Mason in attempting to live the ideals of Martin Luther King also violates policy and then uncovers greed and corruption.  Both find themselves in fear for their lives and those of their friends. Although the ending is unsatisfying, the novel as a whole is worthwhile.
An interesting story with characters you like (and dislike) teaches a fair amount of history of the Kingdom and oil.  Book groups will discuss fundamentalist religions, ethnic differences, the position of women in society, dealing with boredom, whistle blowers and company corruption, Americans in foreign societies, interactions between men and women and the price of gas.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

ALL MY MONEY SAYS IS BYE BYE by Ruth Judy



ALL MY MONEY SAYS IS BYE BYE   by Ruth Judy
A cozy mystery with a plot that will keep you guessing and filled with likeable characters, ALL My MONEY SAYS IS BYE BYE is written in a difficult to manage voice. Each chapter presents the omniscient voice of a different character, but the novel succeeds with only a few miss steps. Sue, an apprentice detective; Corrine, a stroke survivor recovering in a nursing home; and Kyle, a college student with detective aspirations, are the lead characters surrounding by a bevy of nursing home residents, nurses, real detectives and police and, of course, the perpetrators of crime.  

The various residents of GH (Golden Harvest Nursing home) are presented with warmth and respect even as their challenges with infirmity are clear. Sue, a recent widow of a certain age, is endearingly flawed and persistent.  Kyle is impetuous and enthusiastic even when wrong and sure of himself as only the young can be. Corrine is an interesting mix of helplessness and grit.

Devotees of cozies will find themselves looking forward to the next outing of this new voice in the genre.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Rivka's War by Marilyn Oser



RIVKA’S WAR  by Marilyn Oser
This book should have been really interesting. What is not to like – a teenage girl leaves her prosperous home to “save” her brother from the influence of the Bolsheviks in 1914 and ends up joining the Russian Army in the first all-girl battalion and becomes the companion of a notorious counter revolutionary fleeing for her life. Eventually Rivka finds her way to Palestine.
Except, it just wasn’t very engaging.  Rivka was not very sympathetic. She seemed to have no real reason for joining the army.  Her brother had no reason for becoming a Bolshevik, just as he never gave a reason for failing to commit to his Jewish faith after his triumph of a BarMitzvah.  Yashka, the counter revolutionary beloved by “her girls” was not at all likeable. I didn’t care if she lived or died and certainly wouldn’t have joined her army. 
There was a lot of history, but it was boring!  There are a lot better books out there. I’ll read them!  The one episode that was interesting was with Dudie, the child Rivka “adopts” but is taken from her. Too bad more of the book didn’t involve his story!

FIVE DAYS AT MEMORIAL by Sheri Fink



FIVE DAYS AT MEMORIAL    by Sheri Fink

FIVE DAYS AT MEMORIAL is two books in one. The first relates, through the eyes of those present, the happenings at Memorial Hospital during and after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, Louisiana. The nurses, doctors, visitors and patients tell their stories as they happened with the result that it is sometimes difficult to follow the time line of events as the story shifts from floor to floor and person to person.   Nonetheless the horror and fear is palpable as the storm rages and then as flood waters rise trapping those in the hospital for five days of increasing confusion and deprivation.  No one appears in charge. No one appears to aid those trapped. Help is not on the way.  Decisions are made and rescinded. Offers of help are sent,  but do not arrive. 
When help finally does arrive, many of the patients are dead and fingers begin to point.
The second part of the book covers the investigations into the allegations of murder or, more charitably, euthanasia, the resultant trial and the aftermath of the verdicts. FIVE DAYS is chilling reading, all the more so because of Fink’s straight forward reporting style.  She makes no conclusions of her own, simply letting the participants words and actions speak. 
Book groups will find many topics for discussion including euthanasia, DNR directives, patient/doctor relations, decision making in times of extreme distress, preparedness for disaster and governmental readiness.

Monday, August 12, 2013

SIEGE: Who Will Survive by Simon Kernick




Thriller is an understatement for this fast paced, action-loaded novel with appealing characters and a tight plot.  You learn enough about the main characters (Arley, Elena, Abby, Scope, Martin and bad guys, Fox, Wolf, Bear and Cat) to care about who survives and who doesn’t.  The story is plausible and works on the several levels and plot lines while keeping you guessing until the very end. The chapters are very short and generally end with a cliffhanger so you keep reading long after you tell yourself “just one more chapter.”
Unusually well written for the genre, SIEGE is still filled with a high body count and numerous episodes of mayhem.  Set in a posh London hotel, the book involves M15, a highly trained assault force, a police commander who has been coerced into aiding the enemy, a dying man and a killer along with the many civilians who are caught in the midst of a terrorist’s plot.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A COOKBOOK CONSPIRACY by Kate Carlisle




Once you have suspended credulity, this is a fun read.  The twists and turns continue almost to the last page when you discover who has committed the murderers. In between you will meet a bevy of cooks, two handsome Brits (one a former spy, or is he still a spy?), a mother who is a witch and several police officers (who don’t solve the crime). Bookbinder extraordinaire Brooklyn and her chef sister Savannah are alternately the chief suspects and the chief crime solvers. 
Discovering why they have the names they do is just one of laugh out loud episodes in this quick read.  A good book for a lazy afternoon or two, this engaging mystery filled with likeable characters will keep you guessing through two mysteries in this continuation of the Bibliophile mystery series.
Book groups may want to do some research in Revolutionary War era spies, chat about food, try a recipe or two and talk about police procedures.