Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Degrees of Separation by Sue Henry

Jessie Arnold's knee was better and she was excited about the first snowfall of the year- she could finally take her dogs on a training run with the sled instead of the four wheeler. When she approached the dogs and put some of them in harness they were eager to pull the sled as they had been trained. The trails near Jessie's property had been checked for downed tree limbs and rocks so they used those and were having a good run. Until they ran over something- a body. Jessie notified Alex Jensen immediately and he called in the lab crew and another investigator to examine the crime scene. Soon they identified the shooting victim as Donny Thompson and roped off the area so they could continue sifting through leaves and underbrush for evidence. Later in the week someone shot at Alex's partner, Phil, which ran him off the road and put him in the hospital. A woman biker lost her brakes and flew off the road, losing her life when a tree stopped her. Alex was busy investigating all those incidents, talking to anyone who knew those who seemed to be involved. Since Donny had been shot so close to her home, Jessie wanted to help but Alex didn't want her too involved. Maxie from Homer called saying she would be in the area so Jessie picked her up in Anchorage. Maxie visited for several days during which time she helped Alex gain a different perspective on the investigation and she even had a ride in Jessie's dog sled.
I really enjoyed the way Sue Henry brings in Maxie and Stretch from another series and they fit so well with the characters and story. The story moves along and never lags so that I kept turning pages until the end.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Princess Benevolence of Montagne, aka "Ben," is spoiled and childish for her fifteen years. Still pampered by her parents, she reads only fairy stories, plays with dolls and makes mudpies. She has little to no self-control, is stubborn and wilfull, and is unable to focus on any task she is given. Then her world is destroyed. Her parents, her uncle and a royal guard went to visit her grandfather's tomb one morning. The bodies of her mother and uncle were brought back on carts. Her father and the guard were never found. Queen Sophia moves Ben, as the only surviving royal heir, into the castle and begins the long process of educating the unwilling girl in the ways of royalty. Lessons in deportment, dance, languages, dress, conversation, etiquette and more are suddenly filling Ben's life. She stubbornly refuses to learn. Meanwhile, Montagne's neighbor, Drachensbett, assumed the assassins of the royal family, are threatening war...or alliance through marriage. Their Prince Florian is about Ben's age. But the two take an instant dislike to each other. Drachensbett is determined to have the lands of Montagne one way or another.

Ben is not a likeable character in the beginning. She is interesting, however, and as the story progresses, so does her personality. There is lots of action and adventure and a bit of magic in this tale, and the writing style will sweep you into the midst of it all. With nods at traditional fairy tales, Murdock crafts a story unlike any other. Fans of strong female characters, the Princess Diaries, and Murdocks other books (Dairy Queen, The Off Season), will really enjoy this title.

Night Road by A.M. Jenkins

Gordon was a mistake. Now it's up to Cole and Sandor, Gordon's maker, to give the eighteen-year-old hemovore lessons in his new life. How to feed, how to survive, how to go unnoticed by the omni's. If Gordon doesn't learn his lessons well, he'll end up one of the heme that gets buried alive, conscious and aware but unable to leave the coffin. And if he refuses to learn, it may be Cole who puts him there.

This is not a typical vampire tale. There's no glamour or fantasy to this gritty story. Instead, it's a story of life on the road, trying to survive against the odds and against your will. It's also Cole's story as much as it is Gordon's, and is told from Cole's point of view. Fans of Twilight won't find much similarity, but will enjoy it anyway.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Boxer & the Spy by Robert B. Parker

Jason Green washed up on the beach. The media reported it as a suicide, implying that it was linked with traces of steroids in the teen's system. But Terry, Abby and a few others don't believe Jason took steroids, or that he took his own life. They start digging for information, which leads to threats of suspension from the sketchy principal and threats of a beating from the obviously over-steroided football player Kip. Terry and Abby don't give up, but they do get sneakier. As Terry spends his afternoons learning about boxing, and life, Abby sets up a spy network and coordinates reports from her "agents." Trusting only each other with the whole truth, the teens slowly get closer to the reason Jason died...and who killed him.

A fabulous book loaded with boxing action and spy thrills.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sisterchicks Go Brit! by Robin Jones Gunn

This is the latest book by Robin Jones Gunn in her Sisterchick series and it is a winner. (Each of these books is a little different since they have different main characters on holiday in places that are right for them.) In this story, Liz and Kellie have been friends for years and have been talking about dreams and wishes. Kellie's hobby is interior decorating. Liz's gift is shopping for bargains and her wish is to see Big Ben in London. Quite by chance or accident they were hired to decorate Opal's space at the retirement home. Opal is a petite woman with spunk and is the first at the home to step out of the usual decor and make her rooms her own. Others liked it so much that they followed her lead. Rather than pay money for the job, Opal gave Kellie and Liz airline tickets to England so they could be her companions and then enjoy their visit to her homeland. While palnning their trip Liz and Kellie each wrote down the top five places they most wanted to see in England. When they arrived they took Opal to her sister's House and received a big, or petite, surprise. Rose was Opal's twin who lived in a quaint house in Olney. Though the plan had been to return immediately to London, the twins convinced them to stay - for a couple days. Then they were misdirected enroute and landed in Oxford which had much to offer. It became clear that the trip which had been planned by dreams, desires and searching the Internet was being directed by God. Kellie and Liz were following His guideance and growing closer to Him while learning things about themselves and each other. When finally in London they got to their list. I don't want to tell you too much-I'll just say surprises abound up to the very end of the book for Liz, Kellie, Opal and Rose.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

The worms have taken over the Earth. It wasn't a loud invasion. There
was just a subtle shift. People started behaving...nicely...toward each
other. The news reports were bland. Wars stopped. A few humans figured
out what was going on and ran before they could be caught. Before an
insertion was performed. Hid out in deserted areas and scavenged for
food. Melanie is one of the hidden. She and her brother Jamie hide for
years before running into another human, Jared. Then Melanie sees her cousin on TV
while they're raiding a house for food. Thinking her cousin might still
be human, Melanie goes to the city to find her. That's when she's
caught and an insertion is performed. Melanie is relegated to the back
while Wanderer takes over her body. Melanie can only sit in Wanderer's
mind and talk to her, which is more than most humans can do after an
insertion. Melanie sends Wanderer memories of her life, her brother,
and Jared. And, eventually, Wanderer realizes that it's not only
Melanie in love with Jared, Melanie's body remembers that love. Between
the voice in her head and the body she's wearing, Wanderer has fallen
in love with Jared, too. Melanie and Wanderer begin to work together to
escape the Seeker who stalks them by finding the hiding place Melanie
is sure Jared and Jamie have retreated to. Will they escape the Seeker,
or lead her straight to the hideout? Will Jared know Melanie, or will
he see only the parasite that took over her body? Will true love win in
the end?

The Host is an amazing sci-fi story of love and
humanity. It is very different from Meyer's other published titles, but
it pulls the reader in just like her popular vampire series (Twilight, etc.). I was leery at first, but in the end I really enjoyed The Host and hope for more from this author.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Patriot's History of the United States: From Columbus's Great Discovery to the War on Terror, by Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen

In a day where history is viewed through two lenses, the "fault American first" lens, and blind patriotism through the other, Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen's book follows the birth and growth of America in a refreshingly objective and well-researched 800 pages.

Don't let the length scare you. A Patriot's History reads more like a novel than a "names and dates" history book. The book is arranged as America's journey toward and growth out of the written Constitution, with every government action interpreted by its level of constitutionality.

A Patriot's History also dispels some of the mythologizing of our founders and more celebrated presidents. From Andrew Jackson's midnight judicial appointments, to FDR's surprising view of the Constitution, to JFK's real level of interest in space exploration, Schweikart and Allen give us insight into just how "human" our country's heroes were.

Schweikart and Allen clearly explain how political, economic, military, and moral issues must all be wedded by a common compass, character, and painfully illustrate how both leaders of great character, but no political backbone and those with political genius, tarnished by immoral behavior, make for disastrous administrations

Reading this book during a presidential race and primary season made me realize that politicization of every issue is no modern invention. Journalists and media with less than noble agendas have existed since America's founding. Candidates pandering to special interest groups went on as we shipped our first furs overseas, and heated arguments during televised presidential debates pale in comparison to the physical violence, and some deaths, that occurred over political differences.

Yet America has survived even its worst mistakes because of the character of its people. Schweikart and Allen describe America as a place where people are "free to do anything, but expected to do the best thing".

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Cat Who Could Read Backwards by Lilian Jackson Braun

Jim Qwilleran needs a job. Though his training and preference is the crime beat, he'll take what he can get. That means being the new art writer for the Features section of the Daily Fluxion. Qwilleran knows beans about art, but in talking with local artists, gallery owners and bartenders, he learns one important thing very quickly - no one likes George Bonifield Mountclemens III, the current art critic for the Flux. He's considered arrogant, he gives scathing reviews, and he ruins careers. Except for a select few. When Qwilleran meets Mountclemens, he finds an arrogant, cultured, eccentric, reclusive man and his amazing Siamese cat, Koko, and forms a friendship with both.

Qwilleran settles into town (in an apartment owned by Mountclemens), meets with artists, and does feature stories for the Flux. He also stumbles onto a murder. Then another. And quickly, Qwilleran's instincts and experience have him sleuthing out the story...with the help of a rather amazing cat.

This was a fun read. Though it's a bit dated (written in 1966), the story holds up well even if the technology involved doesn't. There are 28 Cat Who novels so far, and I look forward to reading them all!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Rivers of Gold by Tracie Peterson

Miranda Colton survived the wrecking of a boat in October, 1898, in the Yukon. When she awoke she was being nursed back to health by a native woman named Nellie. The English gentleman who owned the cabin was Teddy Davenport, a botanist. It was months before Miranda could tell family and friends of her health and whereabouts since communications and transportation were quite primitive. While she was recuperating the mounties had contacted the family of another traveler,Grace, reporting her missing and dead. As a consequence, her husband had no hope for his life and he went to the Yukon to bring home his sister Miranda.
Karen, Grace and Leah were actually surviving in a tent with Grace ready to give birth any moment. She was unaware of the notice sent to her family by the mounties. We are accustomed to instant communications today with email and telephones. It must have been very frustrating to people not knowing about loved ones and not having any way to find out anytime soon.
Teddy found himself changing as he got to know Miranda and he also discovered that he did not want to lose her when she got well enough to travel. Before that time he wanted only to work on his book about plants of the Yukon. This sensation of concern and caring for another gave him a very different way of looking at life. His vast resources and connections came in handy when the search was made for Grace.
When Leah's brother was accused of murder it was imperative that the guilty party be found which meant all the friends searching and praying. He was accused because of what a few saw and didn't see. Quick judgement was made and only his friends believed him.
The decision to live in the Yukon came with a price. Sometimes people did not realize the price until difficulties began happening.