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Cat & Mouse

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More "unspeakable acts" performed by unstoppable evil serial killers. Fortunately Alex Cross is on the case. Decent page turner, but nothing outstanding.
Coraline

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What on earth is all the fuss about? This book is hardly original in plot, and in the "terror department" it's highly overrated. I didn't think much of this type of book when I was a child; I think even less of it as an adult. On the cover, Philip Pullman blurbs, "Rise to your feet and applaud: Coraline is the real thing." Oh really? Give me an example of the fake thing and then maybe we'll discuss it.This is good vs evil, blah, blah, blah. I gave it one star because no stars wasn't an option.
Prayers for the Assassin: A Novel

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This story opens in Seattle in the year 2040. Part of America has become The Islamic Republic of America; the rest of it has become the Bible Belt. There has been a second Civil War, and this time around the North won again, but the South refuses to knuckle under to the tyranny of the Islamic Republic. They may have to live with imposed sanctions, but, for them, it's better than living under the rule of an Islamic empire with so many rules and so many harsh punishments.This is a clever idea, and for most of the book it works. It's not all completely realistic, but there's plenty of danger, treachery, twists, and turns to make the story interesting, often riveting, reading. At some point, though, I stopped caring about the plot and how it would resolve itself. I think that's the trouble with most books of this type that base everything upon the super powers of the protagonists. Eventually it all becomes rather anticlimactic.
How to Knit Socks: Three Methods Made Easy

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Knitting socks seems to be the craze among knitters, so I finally allowed that bug to bite me, and I got this book to help get me through knitting on double pointed needles as well as exploring other ways to knit socks. The book told me exactly what I wanted to know with good instructions and detailed pictures. I'd recommend it to sock knitting novices, but maybe advanced knitters would benefit from the extra technique points.
The Messenger of Magnolia Street: A Novel

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Something is wrong in Shibboleth, the home of Nehemiah, Billy, and Trice, currently young adults but raised together from childhood. Nehemiah left Shibboleth after the death of his mother and went to Washington, DC to build a successful career for himself. One night Billy and Trice show up at Nehemiah's door to tell him he is needed in Shibboleth because something is seriously wrong, and Nehemiah must go back there to make everything right again.When Nehemiah returns, he finds that Shibboleth is not as he remembered it. The town is drying up, and the inhabitants seem unable to cope with that fact, nor can they arrive at solutions to prevent further decay. It is up to Nehemiah, Billy, and Trice to find a way to save their home town. All they really have on their side to do this is faith and hope. They have no idea if that will be enough.River Jordan has a gift for writing beautiful, elegant prose that is difficult, if not impossible, to put down. She has a way of defining her characters and situations as though she's sitting right there beside you on the front porch swing explaining her story as you hang onto every word. Her characters have depth, and each of them is unique in how they view themselves and their surroundings.Best of all, The Messenger of Magnolia Street is a book to be kept and re-read. It is a novel of love and hope; of good vs evil; of the power of the human spirit. It is exactly what I would have expected from someone named "River Jordan".
Take Your Shirt Off and Cry: A Memoir of Near-Fame Experiences

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Interesting and informative look at how difficult, frustrating, and often demoralizing it is to try to become part of the entertainment industry. Nancy Balbirer views this process from more than one side. She talks about her friends and how they struggled with trying to get that one role that will make them a household name; she also talks about her own experience with rejection as well as one particularly nasty experience with betrayal on her own journey to make it in the industry.
There were many times while I read this book when I wondered why someone would put herself through the often discouraging task of trying to earn a living as a working actor. I also wondered why it never seemed to occur to Balbirer while she was experiencing her own less than rewarding experiences in this profession that the people with whom she surrounded herself were no better off than she was. Balbirer paints such a vivid picture of very needy, very dysfunctional people all reaching and, for the most part, failing to reach their goals long term. From that point of view, Take Off Your Shirt And Cry makes a very good case for finding other, less self-defeating, ways of expressing artistic talent. But at the same time, while Balbirer is making that case she's also talking about her subject as though it's the most normal thing in the world to keep beating her head against a brick wall to attain the recognition she craves even though she occasionally recognizes that it would feel very good to stop.
I enjoyed reading this book because it was interesting to me to learn more about what it takes to become successful at a vocation I'd never given much thought to. I wouldn't have the patience or stability to take all that rejection and chalk it off to a hazard of the job description; Balbirer did a good job of explaining why some people can do that and survive with a fair amount of self-esteem intact.
Morning, Noon and Night

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It's a shame. really. Sidney Sheldon once wrote page turners like no one else. His books were quite un-put-downable, and I was willing to buy them upon publication without having any idea what they were about. Times have changed. At some point Sheldon stopped producing top-notch novels. I believe he must have developed a template into which he simply plugged in names and events different from those he used last time around. Morning, Noon, and Night is still a page turner, but there are no surprises and the plot is barely above that above what a third grade student might write for composition class.If I want to read any Sheldon in the future, I'll go back and reread some of his best efforts and pass on his most recent disappointments.
Snobs: A Novel

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I love books about the British social classes, so of course this story about a woman who marries for the status she will receive when she becomes a member of her husband's upper crust family was right down my alley. I particularly enjoyed the way in which Fellowes wrote his story. He wanted the reader to understand the way in which the titled British elite think of themselves and others. His explanations of the etiquette and behavior of those who have vs those who have not were often amusing and certainly entertaining. However, Fellowes did not lose sight of the fact that an entire class of people honestly do live as those he describes in this novel, and that they have problems and the occasional moral dilemma just like the rest of us do. In this particular case, a woman has to decide how she will spend what she knows will be a boring life no matter what choices she makes for herself. While there may be humor in how seriously the gentry takes itself, for this particular woman there's also a bit of sadness that envelopes her painfully shallow life. Because I enjoy this kind of story and this particular subject, it was hard for me to put the book down; but I believe Snobs has a good enough story to appeal to anyone who wants to read about how "the other half" lives.
The Condition: A Novel

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Reading a Jennifer Haigh novel is like being invited into the living room of a family so you can learn all about them by unobtrusively observing them. This process begins from the outside in, but by the end of your visit, you've come to know these people from the inside out. It's not necessary to ask lots of questions, because, if you're patient, all will eventually be revealed. You may not always like the way some family issues are resolved, but the ending to the time you've spent with them is satisfying.That is how Jennifer Haigh unfolds her story about the McKotches: Frank, the father, Paulette, the mother, and their children, Billy, Gwen, and Scott. We're introduced to them at a typical family summer vacation when the McKotch offspring are all children, and the parents are, if not completely happily married, at least comfortably so. And then we become aware of "The Condition" at the center of this novel's story. Gwen McKotch is diagnosed with Turner's Syndrome, a genetic condition that prevents her body from maturing. Gwen's father, a scientist, wants to explore every avenue available to treat his daughter for a condition that can never be cured. Gwen's mother views Frank's approach to Gwen's medical condition almost as though it is a betrayal of his paternal duties. Since he was the one who noticed Gwen had a problem in the first place and wanted to face it head-on, Paulette takes the position that he might as well have created the condition. The marriage, and the family as well, does not survive the stress these opposing views put upon them as we discover when the book takes us 20 years beyond the original diagnosis.It doesn't take long before it becomes evident that Turner's Syndrome is not the only "condition" with which the McKotches are living. Each family member has his or her own personal condition that is easily blamed on the turmoil caused by the Turner's diagnosis, but in fact is something quite apart from the medical circumstances Gwen faced over the intervening years. As more and more information is revealed about the family, it's clear that with or without Gwen's illness, this family was going to have to face more than one Condition imposed upon each of its members. It is fascinating to watch how Haigh approaches each of her characters' problems. For me, it was most interesting to witness how each of the family members came to realize at some point how communication between those we love could avert so much of the hurt, confusion, resentment, and misunderstanding that occur because we usually draw our own conclusions and form lifelong patterns of behavior based upon scant factual knowledge. It is sad to finally see that 20 or more years worth of time could have been spent much more happily if people had been more honest with themselves and with each other. That's a life lesson from which most of us could benefit.This is Jennifer Haigh's third novel. She's also written Baker Towers, and the award winning Mrs Kimble. I would recommend any of her novels to those who enjoy characters as vividly drawn as people we actually know with life stories that are genuine and often make us reflect upon our own experiences or those of people close to us. I look forward with great anticipation to the next Jennifer Haigh novel. I'll be first in line at the bookstore.
All the Queen's Men

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If espionage really takes place the way Linda Howard writes it in this novel, then it's no wonder the CIA had everything wrong about Saddam Hussein. The first half of the book is okay, but after that it goes steadily downhill into an ending that had me laughing so hard I could barely turn the pages. Maybe people would enjoy this as a beach read, but don't quote me on that.
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