Sunday, January 15, 2017

IN THE UNLIKELY EVENT by Judy Blume Audio Edition

     Surely a perfect title for beloved author Judy Blume’s latest adult novel.  What could possibly be more unlikely than three fatal plane crashes hitting Elizabeth, N.J.?  But, the tragedy did actually occur in 1952, and Elizabeth is Blume’s hometown.  At that time she was a teenager and remembers well not only the event but the aftershocks.  So, she has woven an unforgettable story using facts about the disaster and imagining three generations of a family as they try to come to terms with the unthinkable.  As she does this we are brought back to the 1950s via Nat King Cole singing Unforgettable, girls trying to emulate Elizabeth Taylor, the A bomb and, of course, young love.

It is 1987 when the story opens and Miri Ammerman returns to Elizabeth for a commemorative ceremony, which brings back memories of the tragedy and the year she was 15.
We view that year via several perspectives - Miri, her single mother, her grandmother, a beloved uncle, her best friend, Natalie.  It was a dreadful year for Miri in more ways than one as her uncle receives accolades for his coverage of the crashes in the local newspaper, but when Miri writes about it at school she winds up in the principal’s office.

The disaster brings many unexpected developments such as changing relationships, and the various ways in which people and the community as a whole try to cope.

In The Unlikely Event is another winner from Blume, filled with her characteristic warmth and understanding.   Her story is enriched even further by an accomplished reading by Kathleen McInerney who has performed in New York City and throughout the U.S. in both classical and contemporary theater.

- Gail Cooke

Friday, January 13, 2017

SLEEPING DOGS by Thomas Mogford

    For this reader international crime fiction is some of the best reading around.  This is especially true when the author not only vividly paints settings, in this case Corfu, but also imagines how the various regions have affected the personalities and demeanors of the characters.  The result is fascinating reading and Thomas Mogford does this in spades with the fourth installment of his Spike Sanguinetti series.

    When the story opens Spike is at a low ebb - his law practice is in financial trouble, he continues to be deeply affected by the loss of a woman he loved, and he appears to be responsible for the welfare of an orphan boy.  If anyone needs a vacation he does, and that comes in the form of an invitation from his law partner, Peter Galliano, to come to Corfu.  Peter is recovering there from an injury, and Spike’s father is included in the invitation plus Detective Sergeant Jessica Navarro will be there.  Who could resist?  Spike may well wish he did.

    Shortly after arriving Spike and others are invited to take part in festivities celebrating a remarkable archeological discovery by Peter’s wealthy neighbor, Sir Leo Hoffman.  The groups visit to the excavations take a dark turn when a dead body is found there.  A local man is quickly, too quickly, arrested for the murder and Spike takes on his defense assisted by the beauteous Jessica.

    What they find would be enough to daunt the strongest - their lives are imperiled as they discover secrets, age-old rivalries and a mass of political corruption.  Not good news for Spike and Jessica but intriguing reading for us.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

BELOW THE BELT by Stuart Woods Audio Edition

As a happy, dedicated audio book listener I have recently begun checking not only titles but also narrators, and if I see Tony Roberts name I know I’m in for some really satisfying hours of listening.  Roberts is a talented actor who has twice been nominated for a Tony Award and has appeared in a number of films.  He brings experience and excellence to his narration of the latest Stone Barrington adventure.  You’ll enjoy!

As many know Stone is an intelligent, resourceful New York lawyer who is not afraid to tackle the toughest case or in this instance do a favor for a friend.  Happy, relaxed in the home he has just bought in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Stone is asked by his friend Will Lee, a former U.S. president, to simply drive into the local mountains and retrieve a briefcase holding a retired CIA agent’s memoir full of secrets that might well rock the world.  Then he is to deliver the case to Will at the Santa Fe Opera following the evening’s performance.  Well, the best laid plans....a rock slide on the road down keeps Stone from the Opera.

One person who would suffer if the contents of the briefcase are revealed is ambitious Nelson  Knott  who is thinking about running for the presidency - he has a host of rich backers who will do whatever it takes to get Knott elected.  It seems that Knott isn’t the only person with an interest in the briefcase and any one of them wouldn’t stop at eliminating Stone to get it.

As is his wont Stuart Woods is a master at building suspense until the very end and he shines in Below The Belt, the 40th Stone Barrington novel.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


A stunning debut!  Susan Rivers has done what many may have deemed impossible -
she has given us a mesmerizing story that comes to terms with the legacy of slavery in the United
States, the struggles only endured by women, and the immutable power of love.

The Second Mrs. Hockaday is the story of 17-year-old Placidia, a well brought up young
woman who quickly marries a Confederate soldier, Major Gryffith Hockaday.  She is told by her father that the soldier has an untarnished reputation and he wants her to be cared for when he is gone.  Repeating her  vows with faith in their shared future Placidia is challenged when but a few days later her husband must return to service in the Civil War and she is left alone to care for Charlie, his two-year-old child.  She must also manage his slaves and oversee and defend his 300 hundred acre farm in rural South Carolina.

The years ahead hold a terrifying tale of survival as she battles crop failures, inclement weather, caring for the livestock, disloyal slaves, isolation, thievery, and the unthinkable.   Just the task of putting up enough food to last a winter seemed insurmountable.  There were those who knew when a woman was alone during wartime and
would take every advantage of her.

Two years pass and when her husband returns he brings a case against Placidia, accusing her of giving birth to a child and murdering the baby in his absence.  What happened to Placidia in the time she was left  to take care of herself is told in a series of diary-like entries.

Rivers is an accomplished writer and has successfully, beautifully captured the  challenges and courage of Southern women without their husbands during the Civil War.  She says she was inspired by actual events from 1865 which she found in her local library.  Whatever the case, Rivers has given us a mesmerizing story of courage, determination and love.

Don’t miss it!

Saturday, December 31, 2016


          "In order to improve me
           It would behoove me
          To make resolutions on this date,
          But as I reflect
          I've yet to effect
         Those made in 2008."

                                                 HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!

Monday, December 26, 2016


Youngsters will quickly relate to this story because each one of them has probably felt like Charlie at one time or another - summer vacation, lonely and bored.  However Ted Kooser has created a warm tale with a tad of mystery that young ones will find enchanting.  He was the U.S. Poet Laureate from 2004 - 2006, and many will find a rhythm in his prose as he describes Charlie’s summer adventure.       

    Every summer Charlie visits his grandparents’ farm while his parents go on his vacation.
We all know that running a farm is a busy task, so Charlie spent much of his time alone.  He amused himself by playing along a stream that ran through the valley - he caught tadpoles, maybe a baby turtle.  There was also an old bridge that crossed the stream and Charlie often tossed stones into the water from that bridge.

    Then one day he found that if he hit the bridge railing with a good size stone the entire bridge rang like a bell.  That sound went down the entire valley and in a little while it came back but sounding different, faint but distinctly different.  Charlie thought it was just an echo.  Then another day when he hit the railing an echo came back and then a second sound just like the first time.

    He told his grand mother what had happened and she said it was probably an echo of the echo.  Charlie didn’t think so; was someone answering his ring with one of their own?  There’s nothing better than a good mystery when you’re lonely and bored.       

    Barry Root’s watercolor paintings are as always a pleasure to behold and add greatly to the atmosphere created by the text.


THE GIRL FROM SUMMER HILL by Jude Devereaux Audio Edition

Whew! A bit steamy?  Over the top?  Yes, and you’ll love it.  This play-off on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is the introduction to romance writer Jude Devereaux’s latest trilogy set in the mountains of Virginia

    Acacia “Casey” Reddick is relieved to say goodbye to her exhausting job as chef of a luxe Washington, D.C. restaurant and retreat to peaceful Summer Hill, Virginia and Tattwell Plantation where she’s been hired to cook for the cast and crew of a theater production of Austen’s novel.  She’s hardly settled in when she finds a naked man in the shower of the guest house she’s renting.  Not any man, of course, it’s great looking actor Tate Landers whom women adore.  Casey has seen none of his films and assumes he’s a trespasser.  Tate on the other hand assumes Casey is a star struck fan who has followed him there.  This does not bode for a friendly relationship!  Casey does not in any way see what all the girls in town are falling head over heels for.

    Then when they’re both cast in the stage production of Pride and Prejudice it allows them to continue their feuding as Lizzie and Darcy.  Now, since this is a Jude Devereaux most of us know what’s coming next, but what a romp it is getting there!  Casey knows she is attracted to Tate yet isn’t used to trusting her emotions.  And, what Tate is used to is getting what he wants.

    Emily Rankin delivers a winning reading of the tale which allows her to verbally skip between Regency England and the 21st century.    Enjoy!