Saturday, September 24, 2016

LITTLE MISS MUFFET AND STARBUCKS

"Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet
With only a spider to talk to,
But he was terse
And even worse
There was no Starbucks to walk to." - GC

KENYA'S ART by Linda Trice; Illustrated by Hazel Mitchell




    Spring vacation from school is usually a fun time for youngsters and so it was with Kenya.  However, this year Kenya’s teacher Mrs. Garcia had given her class an assignment - to report on what they did during spring vacation. 

    However, Kenya is growing a bit concerned as she runs into classmates and they tell her what they have done - The twins had taught their puppy to sit, Noah took music lessons and so it went.  But when Kenya was asked what she had done her reply was a quiet “Nothing.” 

    When she told her Dad what the problem was he suggested they go to the museum and she can tell the class what she learned.  Kenya never dreamed it would be so exciting until she saw the recycling exhibit with the slogan “Recycle!  Reuse!  Make Art!”

    Young readers may well be surprised by what Kenya does with toys she doesn’t play with any more.  And, Mrs. Garcia was delighted.

    More than a fun story to read Kenya’s Art may well encourage young folks to explore their creativity and see what they can do with objects that some might throw away.

SO SAY THE FALLEN BY STUART NEVILLE

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    One of ace writer Stuart Neville's most complex, tough and endearing characters returns - DCI Serena Flanagan.  She already has a plateful of problems - she's in mandatory therapy due to a recent case that went awry, her husband has not yet forgiven her for letting her career come to close to their home.  He wants her to give up her job to save their marriage.  She fears if she doesn't do this she'll lose her two children.  However, Serena can no more give up being a cop than she can stop breathing.

    In the midst of this personal turmoil she gets an early morning go to the scene of a sudden death.   Henry Garrick, the owner of a greatly successful Belfast car dealership has apparently taken his own life.  And why would anyone be surprised?  Some months before Henry had been involved in an auto accident that left him maimed and bedridden.  Unable to care for himself he has lain in his bed cared for by his nurse and his wife, Roberta, for an onerous period of time.  Taking morphine for release from this existence seems to make perfect sense.  To everyone that is except Serena.

    Initially just two things make her unwilling to accept the preliminary finding of suicide - the placement of a photograph by Henry's bed and the cheerful optimism that his nurse said she admired in him.  The Rev. Peter McKay has been a close friend of the Garricks and as her own marriage seems about to fail Serena confides in him and asks for his spiritual advice.  Little does she know that McKay's own personal life is as fragile as hers.

    With what she feels is an ultimatum coming from her husband,  little help from her boss and a warning from a local politician to stop harassing Roberta Serena stubbornly presses on in her investigation.  What she discovers will shock and surprise - all of which makes for a terrific dark thriller.  Stuart Neville is at the top of his game!

Monday, September 19, 2016

AROUND AMERICA TO WIN THE VOTE by Mara Rockliff; Illustrated by Hadley Hooper





    Timely, lively and true this is the story of Nell Richardson and Alice Burke who took a five month, 10,000 mile journey to draw attention to women’s voting rights.  They left New York in 1916 in a yellow Saxon runabout toting a tiny typewriter, an equally small sewing machine, and a wee black kitten with a yellow ribbon tied around his neck (yellow being the suffrage movement’s signature color).

    The women travel south and then west, across Texas to California.  A double page map charts their extraordinary journey.  Happenings in their travel are drawn from contemporary newspaper accounts - such as a daunting blizzard, dodging bullets at the Mexican border, joining a circus parade in Georgia, pushing their stuck car out of the mud and more.  All are a tribute to the stamina and perseverance of these woman. 

    Hadley Hooper’s sun-washed illustrations perfectly capture the adventure and time with not only the dress but locations and events.  While Around America To Win the Vote is recommended for 5 to 8 year olds parents will also find it fascinating. 

    Highly recommended!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

RAZOR GIRL by Carl Hiaasen Audio Edition




His stories have been referred to as “fierce, funny, and Floridian” - how true!  Carl Hiaasen’s novel are ridiculously absurd and absolutely hilarious in other words for this reader irresistible.  He does it again with Razor Girl in which we meet an addition to his casts of outlandish and addled characters Merry Mansfield a.k.a. Razor Girl.

    The story opens with a small collision - Merry intentionally rear ends a car driven by TV talent agent Lane Coolman.  When Coolman gets out of his recently dented rented car to see who has done the damage he finds Merry calmly shaving her bikini area.  Of course, this catches his attention and he offers her a ride which results in him being kidnaped by her crooked employer.  As it turns out he is only one of some who have fallen victim to Merry and her partner Zeto’s kidnap-for-hire business.  Sounds like a reasonable endeavor unless you grab the wrong guy which Merry did.  Coolman was mistaken for contractor Martin Trebeaux who tried to make a dishonest living by moving sand from one beach to another which ired the Calzone crime family capo Dominick “Big Noogie” Aeola.

    Meanwhile since Coolman is still kidnaped he can’t be there for his client Buck Nance, star of Bayou Brethren, who is slated for a personal appearance at the Parched Pirate.  Without Coolman by his side Buck goes on a tear about racism that causes a demonstration that sends Buck running, although he still has the loyalty of Benny Krill, a murder prone racist who wants to join Buck’s show. 

        Coolman does manage to escape from Merry and Zeto which puts him (and the listener) in Key West where we find lawyer Brock Richardson whose fiancee loses the $200,000 ring he didn’t think to have resized when his fatter former fiancee returned it to him.  Brock’s neighbor, health inspector Andrew Yancy, finds the ring and hides it hoping that a long search for the diamond will impede Brock’s plan to build a McMansion that would block Yancy’s sea view.  Only Hiaasen!

    Now, how all of this works together to create a total laugh fest you’ll just have to listen to find out.  The world would be a much sadder place were it not for Carl Hiaasen and kudos to John Rubenstein for delivering a superb reading of my latest favorite book.

    Enjoy - no doubt you will!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

CLOSED CASKET by Sophie Hannah





    In the admiring and capable hands of Sophie Hannah (The Monogram Murders, 2014) Hercule Poirot is back!  This time he has received a surprising and puzzling invitation to attend a house party hosted by Lady Athelinda Playford, a popular Irish author of children’s mysteries.  Scotland Yard detective Edward Catchpool has received the same invitation and is equally puzzled.  Nonetheless neither would refuse the chance to spend a week at Lady Playford’s sumptuous estate, Lillieoak, in County Cork.

    Upon arrival they’re greeted by Hatton, the butler, who is seemingly in pain when he speaks as if he needed to say more but cannot.  Now, this is not an intimate gathering as there are a number of folks - Joseph Scotcher, Lady Playford’s secretary who is in a wheelchair as he suffers from Bright’s disease and has not long to live, Viscount Harry Playford, his wife, Dorothy, his older sister, Claudia, and her fiancĂ©, pathologist Randall Kimpton, the heavyset Mr. Rolfe who has digestive problems, and Sophie Bourlet who is Scotcher’s nurse.  When dinner is finally served all sit in astonishment as Lady Playford announces that she has drawn up a new will and is leaving her entire estate to Scotcher.  Thus, of course, disinheriting all of her family in favor of a man who is deathly ill with only a short while to live.

    However, in a rapid turn of events Lady Playford’s offspring are re-inherited when only a few hours later Scotcher is found brutally murdered.  One person claims to have actually seen the killing.   Enter Inspector Arthur Congee who is a bit of a know-it-all bully and announces that the investigation will be done his way with no interference.  This precedes a number of surprises revealing that Scotcher was not who anyone thought he was.

    For this reader even the entertaining repartee tended to grow a bit tedious as Poirot and Catchpool doggedly worked to solve the case and carry us to a rather improbable ending.  Closed Casket is sanctioned by the Agatha Christie estate and her fans will welcome it while I await Poirot and Catchpool’s next adventure.

    Enjoy!

A NIGHT IN WITH MARILYN MONROE by Lucy Holliday




    Since this title was billed as “the hilarious follow-up to A Night with Audrey Hepburn” and I was unfamiliar with that title I had no idea in the world what was coming.  What came is a perfect “girlie” book - a frothy cocktail of fantasy and fun.  It’s a perfect beach read - take it to the shore, suspend belief, and  know that skipping a page or three may make you lose a few laughs but you can easily catch up with the plot.

    Libby Lomax is a struggling young actress who isn’t really sure that she wants to be an actress.  She has a tendency to live in the shadow of her younger sister, Cass.  Readers can catch up with what’s going on in the lives of the central characters with a series of “What’s up” messages on the first few pages.  Libby’s good friend, Ollie, who is about to open a restaurant escorts her to her father’s wedding.  She’s still recovering from a disastrous affair with handsome Dillon O’Hara whom she believed to be Mr. Right only to find out he couldn’t even be a true steady boyfriend.  Nonetheless she believes she may have found the perfect man in Adam who is polite, extremely thoughtful and appears to care deeply about her well-being.

    And then there is her old Chesterfield sofa that was once visited by Audrey Hepburn and is now suddenly holding the “perfect bottom” of Marilyn Monroe.  Libby’s not at all sure that Marilyn is the right person to be giving her romantic advice, but since she hasn’t done too well on her own, why not?

    Along the way Libby finds herself in a few unbelievable but laugh provoking situations, and also perhaps learning what is really important in life.

    Enjoy!