Monthly Archives: November 2018

The Fox

Day of the Jackal is one of my all-time favorite books. I literally could not put it down. Unfortunately for Frederick Forsyth, every book of his gets compared to Day of the Jackal. In recent years, some have lived up to it and some have not. Unfortunately, The Fox does not.

The Fox is about a boy (young man) with Asperger’s Syndrome, who happens to be a computer genius. A boy who can hack into literally any computer he wants. He comes to the attention of the British government because he hacked into the NSA and the CIA. The Americans want to extradite him, but the Brits come up with a plan. Let the boy stay in the UK and let him be put to use as a hacker for the good guys against the bad guys – Russia, Iran, and North Korea. It’s a good premise.

There are a lot of people who want the boy dead. And the Brits go to great lengths to protect him. The question is whether they will be successful.

I really wanted to like this book more than I did. It just missed the mark. My major complaint is that it jumped around a lot. You move from Russia, to England, to the U.S., to North Korea. There is also too much telling and not enough showing. Forsyth assumes that readers will be okay with being told things in a cryptic manner and being left to assume facts never given. It just didn’t work for me.

The book is not bad. It’s a solid thriller. It just didn’t hit the right notes with me.

I won this book from Goodreads and received no other compensation in exchange for this review. The opinions expressed herein are mine and mine alone.

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Boxes and Boxes of Books

My husband says I hoard books. He tried (emphasis on tried) to implement a “for everyone that comes in, one goes out” rule, but that was met with derision and contempt. I came home from work a couple of weeks ago to find that my husband had bought boxes at U-Haul. With the leftovers, he wanted me to box up some books. Most of the bookshelves in the house were double-stacked and I think it was driving him nuts. So I boxed up the ones I have read to make room for the ones I have not. There are three boxes in the living room and two in the bedroom.

I do not, as a general rule, like to get rid of books. Unless I own more than one copy of legitimately hated it. I do reread, but not as often as I’d like. My tbr pile has grown exponentially and I fear I won’t get to all of them. But I will try. My husband doesn’t understand this. He’s not a reader.

I live in a home with people who aren’t readers. I tried to make my son one, but it never took. My daughter does sometimes, but she has processing disorders and learning delays that make it difficult for her. So living in a house without fellow readers puts me at a disadvantage because they don’t understand my attachment to the books. I have always loved to read. Books were friends when I had none, escape when I needed one, and a source of knowledge and adventure. I can’t imagine not being a reader, though I’m sure my husband would love if I did.

My husband is a neat-nick. He doesn’t like clutter. For the most part, I don’t mind certain types of clutter – books being the best example. I don’t mind piles. I don’t mind double-stacked shelves. I don’t mind having to dust them – okay that’s a lie. I HATE dusting, but I do it. I like having books. I’m not the most creative shelver. I don’t have them sorted by color. They are basically divided between fiction and nonfiction and by subject, then alphabetical by author. I almost always know where a particular book is. Except for the boxes in the garage. I started to tape a list on each box when I had to open it to look for a book, but there are still some boxes without lists.

It actually pains me that I have boxes of books and no place to put them. One day, I will live in a house with enough shelves to hold all my books. I won’t have to go out to the garage and read fading lists on each box containing books. One day, it will happen. Until then, I will keep my books in boxes and tape an inventory list to each box.

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The Best Books I Read This Year

It’s that time of the year – the end of year lists. The best of this and that. Movies, books, music. Critics line up to tell you what they liked (and sometimes, what they didn’t). I thought I would join the crowd and write about the best 21 books I read this year. To date, I have read 127 books. I went through the list (yes, I keep lists) and picked my favorites without counting. When I was done, I had 21 books on the list. So, without further adieu, here is my list.

Agent in Place by Mark Greaney – The Grey Man. I love him. If you read this blog with any regularity, you know I love a good thriller/spy novel. The Grey Man is one of my favorite characters. I love Mark Greaney because he puts Court in these horrible, untenable positions and you think there’s no way out. But there is always a way out for Court. I like Court better than James Bond. Better than Scot Harvath. Better than Pike Logan. Don’t get me wrong, I love all those characters. But I like Court more because he’s more human. He admits his shortcomings. If you haven’t read any Grey Man, I highly recommend him. Agent in Place is probably my favorite because it moves so fast and is so good.

I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara– from the Grey Man to the Golden State Killer. Having lived in California almost all my life, I was stunned to realize there was a serial killer in the 70s and 80s that I knew NOTHING about. One of my besties lived in Visalia when the Visalia Ransacker (considered to be the Golden State Killer at the very beginning) was active. This book was so good and freaky and scary.

The Fox Hunt by Mohammad Al Samawi – From the Golden State Killer to Yemen. Mohammad was born and raised in Yemen. He was a devout Muslim until he met a Christian professor. They exchanged gifts (Mohammad gave the professor a Quran and the professor gave Mohammad a Bible) and the gift changed Mohammad’s life. He embarked on a mission of peace-making. He wanted all people to get along. He was forced to flee Yemen at the beginning of the civil war. The book tells a compelling story and stayed with me for a long time.

How Hard Can It Be by Allison Pearson – A middle-aged Brit tries to navigate a mid-life crisis husband, ill parents, surly teenagers, and re-entry into the job force. Laugh-out-loud funny. And real. I loved this book.

Warning Light by David Ricciardi– Spy novel number two. An origin story. Zac Miller end up in Iran and on the run for his life. MacGyver meets James Bond. I found this book thrilling from the get. Some people didn’t. But I did love it.

Rising Out Of Hatred by Eli Saslow – What happens when the heir-apparent to the White Nationalist movement in the United States goes to college and realizes that his entire belief system is wrong? That is the premise of this book. And it’s probably the most important book I read this year. I have recommended this book about 100 times. I will keep recommending it. You want to know how Donald Trump got elected? Read this book. Scary, scary stuff.

The Word Is Murder by Anthony Horowitz – This book is genius. A writer named Anthony Horowitz is shadowing a cop, investigating the murder of a celebrity. Fact meets fiction. This book is spectacular. I kept having to google names to see who was real and who was a figment of Horowitz’s imagination. Brilliant.

November Road by Lou Berney – I got hipped to Lou Berney from Don Winslow. I follow Winslow on Twitter and he raved about this book. Then, I won a copy. THE BEST BOOK I READ THIS YEAR. Hands down. It’s a about a mobster, running from his boss, after unwittingly being an accomplice to the Kennedy Assassination. It’s about a woman and her daughters leaving their small life and imaging something better. Lou Berney has a gift and you can experience it by reading November Road. It’s lyrical and beautiful.

Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon – A book that is a mystery and a meditation on aging. A supposedly long dead man comes back. A woman is convinced he killed someone a long time ago. But her memory issues and being in an assisted living community are hampering her ability to solve the mystery. You will get to a conclusion and the mystery will be solved, but at what cost? An engrossing book.

Light It Up/Burning Bright/The Drifter by Nick Petrie– I discovered Peter Ash this year and I’m glad I did. I won a copy of Light It Up, the latest in the series. Peter has a form of PTSD that causes him to become extremely claustrophobic. He cannot be indoors for very long.  Peter is a stand-up guy who will go to the ends of the Earth for his friends, and even people he doesn’t really know. These are really good books.

Measure of Darkness by Johnathon and Jesse Kellerman – Clay Edison, book two. I won and read the first book (Crime Scene) last year. I like Clay. He’s human and basically a good dude. There is a shooting at a party in Oakland, but one victim is unidentified and not shot as a result of the violence at the party. Clay goes on a quest to find out who she is and what happened to her. A really good mystery.

The Heart Between Us by Lindsay Harrel – Megan and Crystal are twins. Megan has a heart transplant. She and Crystal drift apart. Megan has a friend who also received a heart transplant, Caleb. She stood Caleb up and did not move to London to work with him because she was afraid. Then she meets the parents of her heart donor and decides to complete the girl’s bucket list. The book is a story about living and redemption and relationships. It is well-written and touching.

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks – Jessica Ferris signs up for a mysterious study because she needs money. Her life unravels as a result. This book doesn’t come out until January, 2019. I’m putting it on my list because I read it months ago and it is a spine-tingling thriller with some excellent plot twists. These authors also wrote The Wife Between Us, another twisty thriller. I mention this because, unlike other authors who write thrillers, Hendricks makes each one original and interesting. And worth reading.

Trust Me by Hank Ryan Phillipe – A journalist is covering the trial of a woman who supposedly killed her daughter. The case mirrors Casey Anthony and that case is mentioned in the book. A really, really good, tightly wound thriller that kept me guessing until the very end.

Rocket Men by Robert Kurson – The story of the Apollo 8 mission that flew around the moon Christmas, 1968. A thrilling true story. This book was absolutely fascinating. Kurson manages to discuss the lives of the three astronauts, the space race, and the events that occurred in 1968, causing a deep divide in this nation. I loved this book. It is well-written and entertaining.

The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton – As much as Rocket Men was uplifting, The Sun Does Shine is rage-inducing. Anthony Ray Hinton spent 21 years on Death Row in Alabama for a crime he couldn’t have committed. Anthony’s faith, his best friend, and his mother kept him sane. Bryan Stevenson at the Equal Justice Initiative took on Anthony’s case and ultimately win his release. This book should be a must read for everyone.

Loot by Aaron Elkins – an art theft mystery set in WWII and today. This book is a mystery that is truly mysterious. A truck of looted art disappeared during WWII. A Boston pawn shop owner gets a Velasquez painting that turns out to be from the missing truck. The pawn shop owner calls his art historian friend and then the pawn shop owner is killed and the art historian attacked. These acts set off a chase through Europe and Russia to find the rest of the missing art. I read this book in one sitting and it was fantastic.

Other People’s Houses by Abbi Waxman – I loved this book. Part chick lit, part hilarious story, the book follows four families who live on the same block in Los Angeles. I totally identified with the characters and the book reads with ease. I loved it.

The Library Book by Susan Orlean – She writes about the fire at the Los Angeles County Public Library on April 29, 1986. Don’t remember it? That’s because Chernobyl was the prior day. The news cycle was dominated by the nuclear meltdown and the LA County Library Fire was relegated to the back pages. More than 400,000 books burned. 700,000 more were damaged. 51 firefighters were injured fighting the fire. Orlean tells the story of the fire, but also of the Los Angeles County Public Library. It is an engrossing tale.

So, there you have it. The 21 best books I have read this year. I hope that you have found some new authors and some good reads.

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The Library Book

On April 29, 1986, a massive fire started at the main branch of the Los Angeles County Public Library. 400,000 books were destroyed. Another 700,000 were damaged. Priceless collections of maps, autographs, and other items were lost. Fifty firefighters were injured fighting the massive fire. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of water were used to douse the flames. Sawdust and plastic sheeting by the mile were used to protect other books. The LAFD ultimately determined the fire was an arson. They even identified a suspect. But no one was arrested. And to this day, experts are no longer convinced it was an arson. Susan Orlean tells this story – and the larger story of the founding and running of the Los Angeles County Public Library in The Library Book.

Full disclosure – I am a book nerd. I love to read. I read books about books. I read about libraries and librarians. It’s like I missed my calling. What I loved about this book was not just the mystery of who would set fire to the library, but the way Susan Orlean tells the story of the library. I was unaware of the segregated way the library was run (men only, thank you very much). Throughout my childhood, librarians were almost exclusively female and I just assumed they ran them as well. In LA, that wasn’t the case. Susan Orlean shows, instead of telling. I love her storytelling. Even when I thought, at times, the book veered way off course, she always managed to bring it back on course.

This book is an ode to libraries, books, and all the people who depend on and use libraries for all sorts of things. For those of you who feel that libraries are overrated or have outlived their usefulness in today’s digital age, read this book. If it doesn’t change your mind, nothing will. The story is engrossing and interesting.

I listened to the audio book, which the author reads. I found her to be an engaging narrator and the book translated well to audio. If you love libraries and books and characters, you will love this book.

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