The Dog Who Came In From the Cold

The Dog who Came in from the Cold (Corduroy Mansions, #2)The Dog who Came in from the Cold by Alexander McCall Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As might be expected from the title, Freddie de la Hay, our Pimlico terrier living at Corduroy Mansions, finds himself on loan to MI6 for some espionage work. Fortunately, we know that whatever might befall, all will be well in the end. These characters are beginning to grow on me: Freddie, of course, and his owner William French -having turned 50 he is having a bit of a midlife crisis, especially where romance is concerned – Barbara Ragg, who seems to have found true love with the Scotsman she met in the last book, and escaped from her former lover Rupert, who covets her comfortable home – Berthia, the sensible sister of Terrence Moongrove, whose innocence and gullibility never fails to get him into trouble – Caroline and her “sensitive” friend James – is he gay or isn’t he? – and the mysterious and elusive Yeti. What all of them come to realize at the end is “There’s no place like home.”

Audiobook narrated by Simon Prebble.

Book description: In the elegantly crumbling mansion block in Pimlico called Corduroy Mansions, the comings and goings of the wonderfully motley crew of residents continue apace. A pair of New Age operators has determined that Terence Moongrove’s estate is the cosmologically correct place for their center for cosmological studies. Literary agent Barbara Ragg has decided to represent Autobiography of a Yeti, purportedly dictated to the author by the Abominable Snowman himself. And our small, furry, endlessly surprising canine hero Freddie de la Hay—belonging to failed oenophile William French—has been recruited by MI6 to infiltrate a Russian spy ring. Needless to say, the other denizens of Corduroy Mansions have issues of their own. But all of them will be addressed with the wit and insight into the foibles of the human condition that have become the hallmark of this peerless storyteller.

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Naked in Death

Naked in Death (In Death #1)Naked in Death by J.D. Robb
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3 stars for the first book of a series is pretty good. I wasn’t sure I was going to like this, since I’m not really a fan of romantic suspense. I like a good romance, and I don’t mind sex scenes in general. This book had two explicit scenes, and I could forgive them for telling us something about the emotional state of the characters. I can hope the author has toned it down in later books in the series, but it wasn’t enough to put me off reading more of them. Eve Dallas and Roarke are great characters, and I can see where some of the side characters like Feeney and Dr. Mira might be developed. I thought more of a mystery about whether Roarke was a good guy or a bad guy could have been made. The “who done it” was pretty clear rather early in the book. All in all, I liked the character building and the future setting was nicely done. I could see this being a successful TV series.

Book description: Eve Dallas is a police lieutenant in 2058 New York City hunting for a ruthless killer. In over ten years on the force, she’s seen it all—and knows her survival depends on her instincts. And she’s going against every warning telling her not to get involved with Roarke, an Irish billionaire—and a suspect in Eve’s murder investigation. But passion and seduction have rules of their own, and it’s up to Eve to take a chance in the arms of a man she knows nothing about—except the addictive hunger of needing his touch.

Small Great Things

Small Great ThingsSmall Great Things by Jodi Picoult
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Is this really a 5 star book? It had some flaws, and the ending was really not up to Picoult’s usual twist. Everything was tied up a little too neatly. BUT. Reading this while the events at Charlottesville unfolded (white supremacists came looking for trouble at the taking down of a Confederate statue, and one of them ran down the non-violent counter-protestors with his car) proved to be eerily timely. We read this for book club and every single person remarked that it really opened their eyes to the fact of white privilege and made them think and they felt their perspective had changed significantly because of this book. For that reason alone, I’ll give this 5 stars, or 6 or 7…. I had difficulty listening to this book at first. The parts narrated by Turk, the white supremacist father, made me physically ill. But please do persevere! As Ruth and Kennedy wrestle with the issues of race and racial equity, so will you.

Book description: Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?

Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.

Audiobook read by Audra McDonald with Cassandra Campbell and Ari Fliakos.

A Fall of Marigolds

A Fall of MarigoldsA Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars rounded up to 4. I liked the overall plot – two women, two tragedies a century apart, lots of parallels between the two, enough psychological drama to make it interesting, and the scarf to tie the two together. My problem with books like this, similar to At the Water’s Edge which I happened to finish the same day, is that it isn’t quite historical fiction – there just isn’t enough meat to it. The dual time frame is a plot device, nothing more. And it isn’t quite a love story. Basically it is about love, and loss, and moving on. The Welsh character could have been any nationality – it is inconsequential to the story. But since I am the “Welsh” Bookworm, I will add a little more about that. Andrew Gwynn and his brother Nigel: being American myself I can’t speak with any certainty, but those are not common Welsh forenames and especially for the turn of the century. The way the characters are written they are very English – despite some doubt about whether or not Andrew speaks English when we first meet him. There is also an inscription to his sons written by the father (Alistair Henry Gwynn) in the pattern book given to Andrew written in English. I certainly would have expected it to be in Welsh. But then Clara wouldn’t have been able to read it. Minor points certainly, and didn’t really detract from my enjoyment of the story.

So bottom line, a light, fluffy read, (despite the nature of the tragedies that frame the story.) A bit too “romancy” and not enough historical details to be a 5-star read. A good summer beach read.

Book decription: September 1911. On Ellis Island in New York Harbor, nurse Clara Wood cannot face returning to Manhattan, where the man she loved fell to his death in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. Then, while caring for a fevered immigrant whose own loss mirrors hers, she becomes intrigued by a name embroidered onto the scarf he carries…and finds herself caught in a dilemma that compels her to confront the truth about the assumptions she’s made. Will what she learns devastate her or free her?

September 2011. On Manhattan’s Upper West Side, widow Taryn Michaels has convinced herself that she is living fully, working in a charming specialty fabric store and raising her daughter alone. Then a long-lost photograph appears in a national magazine, and she is forced to relive the terrible day her husband died in the collapse of the World Trade Towers…the same day a stranger reached out and saved her. Will a chance reconnection and a century-old scarf open Taryn’s eyes to the larger forces at work in her life?

Palace of Treason

Palace of Treason (Dominika Egorova & Nathaniel Nash, #2)Palace of Treason by Jason Matthews

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book feels very much like a continuation of the first book, Red Sparrow. Even the recipes are continued at the end of each chapter. The title is a slang term for the Kremlin. It could possibly stand alone, but I would recommend reading in order. The first book was brilliant. This one feels not as tightly plotted. Some of the quirks of the characters, like Dominika’s synesthesia, are interesting, but this time around it seemed to have no bearing on the plot or her actions. Likewise, her ability to see the ghosts of dead friends. If there is a point to this, perhaps it will come out in the third book. Strong on characterization, insider knowledge, pacing, and humor. Warning for some readers – there is graphic sex and torture, and the action can be quite chilling at times.

Book description: Captain Dominika Egorova of the Russian Intelligence Service despises the oligarchs, crooks, and thugs of Putin’s Russia—but what no one knows is that she is also working for the CIA. Her “sparrow” training in the art of sexual espionage further complicates the mortal risks she must take, as does her love for her handler Nate Nash—a shared lust that is as dangerous as treason. As Dominika expertly dodges exposure, she deals with a murderously psychotic boss, survives an Iranian assassination attempt and attempts to rescue an arrested double agent—and thwart Putin’s threatening flirtations.

 

After You

After You (Me Before You, #2)After You by Jojo Moyes

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This sequel to Me Before You is every bit as good. But don’t expect it to be like Me Before You. Lou has changed. Will’s death left a hole in her heart that money and travel has not healed. Jojo Moyes gives us an unflinching look at love and loss, and how sometimes it takes a devastating accident, and to have our world turned upside down before we find how to move on. I loved all the zany characters and all their faults. I have half a mind to read everything else Jojo Moyes has ever written…

Book Description: Louisa Clark is no longer just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. After the transformative six months spent with Will Traynor, she is struggling without him. When an extraordinary accident forces Lou to return home to her family, she can’t help but feel she’s right back where she started. Her body heals, but Lou herself knows that she needs to be kick-started back to life. Which is how she ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On support group, who share insights, laughter, frustrations, and terrible cookies. They will also lead her to the strong, capable Sam Fielding—the paramedic, whose business is life and death, and the one man who might be able to understand her. Then a figure from Will’s past appears and hijacks all her plans, propelling her into a very different future. For Lou Clark, life after Will Traynor means learning to fall in love again, with all the risks that brings. But here Jojo Moyes gives us two families, as real as our own, whose joys and sorrows will touch you deeply, and where both changes and surprises await.

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Orphan Train

Orphan TrainOrphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another winner. Perhaps a bit too good to be true, happy-ever-after, but who cares? We all need a good Hallmark movie of a book now and then. My great-grandmother was sent to Canada at age 6 as one of the “Home Children” so this is a topic that interests me.

Book Description: Penobscot Indian Molly Ayer is close to “aging out” out of the foster care system. A community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping Molly out of juvie and worse. As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly learns that she and Vivian aren’t as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance. Molly discovers that she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her for her entire life—answers that will ultimately free them both. Rich in detail and epic in scope, Orphan Train is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, of unexpected friendship, and of the secrets we carry that keep us from finding out who we are.

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