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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

BUSTER MIDNIGHT'S CAFE by Sandra Dallas



BUSTER MIDNIGHT’S CAFÉ  by Sandra Dallas
I just finished reading this very early book written by a very good author.  If Dallas were writing it today, it would be a better book. This one drags in places, gives us information we don’t need and glosses over information we do need. The ending is a bit ambiguous also. 
On the other hand this is a good book with interesting, believable characters. The story is true to the time setting, including some of the brands and slang words used. She uses humor to enliven what could be a very dreary story.  There are enough twists and turns to keep you reading through the “draggy” parts.  As she does in THE PERSIAN PICKLE CLUB, the “plot” doesn’t become obvious until near the end of the book.  That device works better five years later in PERSIAN PICKLE. It is interesting to see her try it out here.
3 of 5 stars

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

THE TESTAMENT by John Grisham



I started this book thinking “oh no, another bad will, lawyers fighting it out” book. I was wrong. This book is really a character study of two people: one selfless, powerless, kind, gentle, loving, astute; the other selfish, brutish, drunk, egotistical, powerful.  It is also about a land – beautiful, treacherous, unforgiving, abundant. When these forces meet, the story begins.
Grisham is a great storyteller; his characters are real, the situations are plausible, the tension is unending.  THE TESTAMENT has a clear message, told clearly in a powerful way.  This is a story that will stay with you.  I’m glad I read it and you will be too.
5 of 5 stars

Saturday, June 20, 2015

THE UNDERGROUND GIRLS OF KABUL by Jenny Nordberg



The life of girls who dress and act like boys for the benefit of their families is detailed in this well researched book. Most of the girls – called Bacha Posh – are turned into boys because the families do not have sons. Not having a son is an embarrassment to the family and a failure of a wife.  Because girls are kept inside the home and kept completely separate from the outside world, a family with no sons has no one to chaperone the women/girls of the family, no one to shop or run errands and no one to uphold the family’s honor.  Most bacha posh turn back into girls shortly before reaching puberty, marry and have children. But some find the return to being female in a strictly regulated, patriarchal society almost impossible to endure.
The family stories are compelling reading, especially that of Azita (herself once bacha posh) who is one of the few female parliamentarians in Afghanistan.  Azita is educated and had expected to become a professional before the Taliban and then the mullahs decreed a return to veiled and hidden women.  Married into a village family with an illiterate husband, the transition is difficult and only bearable when she is chosen to be a Member of Parliament in the reformed Afghanistan.  With 4 girls and no boys, Azita makes the decision to “save face” by turning her youngest daughter into a son. With the resurgence of strict Muslim adherence, her life and the life of her bacha posh daughter, again becomes constrained.
The final chapters of the book detail the psychological and legal repercussions of bacha posh as well as the world wide incidents of daughters being made into boys in patriarchal societies and times. These chapters drag a bit in an otherwise engrossing book.
4 of 5 stars

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

CINNAMON AND GUNPOWDER by Eli Brown



CINNAMON AND GUNPOWDER  by Eli Brown
Food and pirates works surprisingly well in this sometimes funny, sometimes scary, sometimes poignant tale of a kidnapped chef and the female pirate who keeps him ala Scherazade until he can no longer make a  meal that tantalizes her taste buds.  Of course the problem of missing ingredients (what pirate ship carries fresh herbs and truffles?) and a cramped and skimpy kitchen make his dilemma interesting.  Chef Owen and Pirate Hannah are clearly drawn characters you will like.  The supporting pirate crew is equally well drawn. Life aboard ship is made plain.
The plot also concerns the opium trade with China and the scoundrel British captains who control it. The enemy pirate – The Fox – turns out to be related to Hannah in more ways than one.  The final battles are tense with the final ‘winner” difficult to guess.  
A good outing for a debut author.  I look forward to his next book.
4 of 5 stars

ZOO by Patterson & Ledwwidge



ZOO  by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
If you shivered through THE BIRDS, you will have a panic attack reading ZOO. The premise of this one plot book is simple – the animals wake up one morning and realize they hate humans thanks to the manipulation of our environment by scientists and the inaction of Congress. 
The one person who sees the scope of the problem of seemingly unrelated animal attacks is the one fully formed character. Attila the chimp is also fairly nuanced. Everything else is pretty one note.  This is a quick, albeit terrifying, read.
Patterson has written better books. It will be interesting to see what the TV mini-series soon to come to our small screens will do to flesh out the skimpy plot/story.
3 of 5 stars

Thursday, June 11, 2015

SPEAKING IN BONES by Kathy Reichs



SPEAKING IN BONES  by Kathy Reichs
If you are looking for an intricately detailed mystery, this is the book for you. Starting with a cry from a confined and beaten woman seeking help to the final denouement, Reichs latest entry in the mystery/thriller genre will please her fans and garner new ones.
The plot in clearly laid out with enough red herrings and twists to keep you guessing.  The characters are well drawn. The romantic element will satisfy the fans familiar with the on again romance between the South Carolina forensic anthropologist and her Canadian cop co-worker/love interest.
The “amateur helpers” who seek the answers for the families of missing persons or just for their own “games” is a stimulating twist that introduces intriguing characters and situations.
5 of 5 stars