The Friends and Family

BOOK BLOG
 

Tenth page. List starts with the most recent at the top.  Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

Joy read: BREAKING DAWN by Stephenie Meyer
Mesmerizing, and very suspenseful. I don't want to talk about the plot, because almost anything would be a spoiler. I took BREAKING DAWN out with me yesterday morning for errands. I had barely started it then, but by the time I got home at the end of the day I was halfway through it (700+ pages). It was the reason I didn't sign onto the computer for the rest of the day, and again I didn't sleep until I finished it.
   Potential readers should bear in mind that the four books are one complete novel. I did find it possible to postpone reading the next book until it was going to be convenient to spend much of a day on it.
   I read the first chapter of MIDNIGHT SUN, up on Meyer's website. It is well polished and powerful. I am not going to read the pirated partial early draft of the book. I will buy the book and read it when the author considers it ready.

Joy read: ECLIPSE by Stephenie Meyer
Victoria's deadly hunt for Bella comes to a climax, forcing Bella, Edward, and Jacob to find a way to reconcile their love triangle. It is truly war now, no matter what alliances are formed.
  
I had to wait until vacation to read the rest of the series, because I read so late into the night with the first two.

Joy read: HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE by J.K. Rowling
After so many rereads, this is still sheer brilliant escapism.

Joy read: CARNAL INNOCENCE by Nora Roberts
Mississippi plantation: three heirs with nothing to do but laze around and let their money take care of them. Their small town is plagued by a serial slasher killing the daughters of the local families. A famous piano prodigy escaping her hectic life of performance tours moves into her grandmother's old house, just in time to find the third body. As of 1991 Roberts was developing a skill for character development.

Joy read: BRAZEN VIRTUE by Nora Roberts
This sequel to SACRED SINS shows how much Roberts learned between the two books about engaging the reader. Bestselling mystery author Grace McCabe loses her sister Kathy to a murderer. Kathy was supplementing her income by offering phone sex via Fantasy, Inc, and that is how her killer found her ... followed by other victims. The same team who solved SACRED SINS works this case, with Grace adding her inimitable style.
   Grace is the main POV character, an engaging and dedicated woman who has some characteristics Nora Roberts must have. The prolific-with-a-capital-p Roberts doesn't write about authors with writer's block. Her authors sit down and churn out a novel during snatched periods of time in the middle of the action, as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

Joy read: MISTRESS by Amanda Quick
Iphiginia Bright thinks the best way to track down a society blackmailer is to trick her way into society. The Earl of Masters, now out of the picture, is a likely sponsor. Viola... Mrs. Bright, former mistress of Marcus Cloud, Earl of Masters. Come to find out he isn't dead after all, so now Iphiginia has to work things out with him. While, of course, finding the blackmailer.
   I was attracted by the plot as described above, but unfortunately the romantic conflict for MISTRESS is based on both the main characters being stubbornly wrongheaded. You'd think the author was an ordinary romance writer. There's so much unused scope for character development between these intellectuals who refuse to accept Society's rules.

Carla read: THE BRENDAN VOYAGE by Tim Severin
Could the sixth-century Irish saint Brendan the Navigator really have sailed from Ireland to North America in a leather boat? In this enthralling book, Tim Severin tells the gripping story of his attempt to recreate the (legendary?) voyage. Review.

Carla read: THE KINGMAKING by Helen Hollick
The first of a trilogy telling the King Arthur story. The Kingmaking is set in 450-457 AD, as Arthur grows from an adolescent to a young man. When Uthr Pendragon is defeated in his attempt to claim the throne of Britain, his old friend and ally Cunedda of Gwynedd reveals young Arthur as his heir. The feisty Gwenhwyfar, daughter of Cunedda, pledges herself to Arthur and it seems their fates will be entwined. But the usurper king Vortigern and his spiteful daughter Winifred have other ideas, and Arthur and Gwenhwyfar find themselves embroiled in a tangled web of politics, war and murder. Review.

Joy read: SACRED SINS by Nora Roberts
Dr Tess Court, psychiatrist, is roped into consulting as a profiler in a series of killings that suggest religious mania. Detective Ben Paris doesn't want Tess involved, hates psychiatrists in general, and their mutual attraction leads them in directions neither of them would have chosen.
   One of Roberts' earlier works -- the difference is obvious. I can say that, while nowhere near as rich as her later romantic suspense, psychological authenticity makes SACRED SINS at least the equal of the standard for this genre. The events in the life of her teenaged patient are predictable, but that's because the combination of circumstances make those events inevitable. I don't think Roberts would have been so protective of Tess if she had written Joey's story later in her career. For me that's actually a plus. I like my heroes to be above suspicion.

Joy read: TRIBUTE by Nora Roberts
Cilla hated performing, but the women of her family started acting early, so she is a washed up ex-star by age 17. The real star of their family was her grandmother Janet Hardy, dead at 39 after a brilliant career. Cilla loves reviving old homes, and her grandmother's old farm is a perfect candidate. A tribute to the woman she sees in her dreams.
   It seems someone in their small town is holding Janet's sins against Cilla. If it wasn't for her handsome artist-writer neighbor, she could have been murdered. Another rich romantic suspense, especially enjoyable for Cilla's growth of character.

Joy read: CAROLINA MOON by Nora Roberts
Thoroughly involving life of Tory, a woman with an unwanted psychic awareness. It lead to beatings from her father and a smearing in the press from her fiance, but also at last to the killer of her childhood friend. Hope, Tory's 8 year old friend, clung to Tory in spite of the disapproval of Hope's rich mother; the one time Tory couldn't get to their illicit nighttime meeting place, she was forced instead to sense Hope's horrifying murder. Now Tory is back in town, setting up a classy houseware shop and determined to resolve her past. Hope's brother and sister are as much in need of resolution as she is.
   The sense of group camaraderie grows gradually, believably, and very warmly. I also loved Wade, the town vet. Yet another un-put-downable book.

Joy read: MURDER ON THE IDITAROD TRAIL by Sue Henry
Fully deserved the Anthony and MaCavity awards for Best First Mystery that it won in 1991. It has stayed in my memory as an awesome recreation of a deadly challenge and the mushers' responses. After watching the show on this year's heroic Iditarod race, I had to reread the book again.
   See this description of the volunteers who open the trail:
   "The snow machine drivers, dressed in layers of outerwear to repel the worst the Arctic can deliver, may cover the full thousand miles without a good night's sleep and with few hot meals. A bed becomes something they dreamed of once; a hot shower, only a memory. They develop shoulders the envy of linebackers. But when they try to explain the pale, empty nights on the ice of Norton Sound, or the northern lights so bright they reflect off the snow in the Farewell Burn, wistful looks come over their wind- and sunburned faces and they drift into silence or stammering attempts at description. Many come back year after year, addicted to the trail."

Joy read: ROOM WITH A CLUE by Kate Kingsbury
Pennyfoot Hotel is quite the rage in 1906, known as a place for the rich to retreat and have a good time discretely. Vindictive Lady Eleanor Danbury, planning to make trouble, takes a plunge to her death from the roof garden. Her husband, a poor man who married wealth, is the obvious suspect, but hotel owner Cecily doesn't believe it. Cecily is supported by her butler Baxter, her friend Madeline with the witchy reputation, and Phoebe whose love of extravagant shows gets out of hand when she rents a live python. The title ROOM WITH A CLUE is chosen because it's cute, even though it doesn't fit the plot. I sense a theme: This first book of the Pennyfoot Hotel series is cute but is more interested in its characters and action as puzzle pieces than as living people.

Joy read: PARADISE VALLEY by Robyn Carr
Rick is back, severely injured mind and body from the war in Iraq, forcing Liz to a difficult decision. Muriel puts Walt to the test -- can he handle the role of partner to a movie star? And we get an up-close-and-personal view of the marijuana grower who has been bedeviling Jack for several books. That character is something of a disappointment to me; he has been an excitingly mysterious figure up until now.
   Now I have to wait till next spring, when another Virgin River trilogy is due to come out, to find out what my friends are going to be doing.

Joy read: NEW MOON by Stephenie Meyers
Once started in a Twilight book, I have to finish it. Bella has so many tangled relationships in NEW MOON, creating so many fraught situations, that the intention of vampire Victoria to torture her to death seems almost mild. Her vampire friends the Cullens and her Native American friends the werewolves were born to destroy each other, and Bella can't bear to lose either of them. She does manage to save some lives, and have hers saved again, but the question remains... how can she reach her dearly-sought goal of eternal life with Edward?

Joy read: TWILIGHT by Stephenie Meyers
Who'da thunk that a teen vampire romance could be so fascinating? Meyer makes heroine Bella and her entire world not only real but part of us, blood, bone and visions.
   Bella moves to her father's rainy Washington town and finds herself mesmerized by an extraordinarily beautiful family of schoolmates -- especially Edward. As they fight their way through to each other, Bella learns that Edward's fascination with her is her greatest danger. Edward's family has ethics, but not all vampires do, and one of those chooses Bella as the target of his hunt. 

Joy read: ORACLE OF THE DEAD by John Maddox Roberts
Decius is having the time of his life traveling around Italy as Praetor Peregrinus, putting on counterfeit dignitas and judging cases in all the luxury towns. At the Temple of Apollo and Hecate, he becomes aware of the activities of a mass murderer. He is happy to focus on the mystery while he tries to ignore the threat posed by the impending clash between Caesar and Pompey. With Pompey in the district and Decius himself married to Caesar's niece, this isn't easy, but an arrow in his chest makes finding the conspirators imperative.
   I thought at first that ORACLE OF THE DEAD was too light even for this light series, but eventually the fun, excitement and intrigue jell for a satisfying read.

Joy read: PATHS OF EXILE by Carla Nayland
Eadwine's family is driven from their throne by a robber king. Supported by his friends and by the enemies of the cruel conqueror, Eadwine sets out to take vengeance and earn the rulership of his people. Review.

Joy read: TEMPTATION RIDGE by Robyn Carr
Vanessa's cousin Shelby comes to stay in Virgin River, to get over her mother's death and prepare for nursing school. Shelby and Luke are enraptured with each other at first sight, but Luke's ladykiller past and Shelby's youth make them a bad match, at least on paper. While they keep each other at a distance, even through their passionate nights, her uncle Walt and his movie star lady are happily carrying on and Vanessa goes to a significant wedding. Finally Cameron finds the right lady -- but she and Nikki have too much in common. Life goes on, with all its joys and tragedies. I always want to know more about the Virgin River people, and that means grabbing the next in the series. PARADISE VALLEY comes out in a couple of weeks.

Joy read: AMONG THE MAD by Jacqueline Winspear
Reading a Maisie Dobbs mystery always makes me happy. I love the tone of the series. In this one, Maisie has been co-opted by various government agencies to find a madman who threatens to kill large segments of London population -- all too credibly. Maisie uncovers some secrets that reflect poorly on the government, and she makes her contribution to remedying the situation.
Winspear's use of research impressed me. I wonder if Maisie is going to choose the new man she meets in this book.

Joy read: A PRESUMPTION OF DEATH by Jill Paton Walsh & Dorothy L. Sayers
Harriet and family, minus Peter, have settled for the duration of WWII in their country home in the village of Paggleham where Harriet grew up. An excessively flirtatious girl laborer is found dead during a practice air raid. The local police being busy with blackouts and food rationing offenses, Harriet is asked to find out what happened to Wicked Wendy. Until Peter gets home, she is lacking some essential pieces of the puzzle. It was rather fun to meet the Paggleham characters from BUSMAN'S HONEYMOON again, though no one can develop them like Sayers did.

Joy read: THRONES, DOMINATIONS by Dorothy L. Sayers & Jill Paton Walsh
A Dorothy Sayers idea developed by Jill Paton Walsh. Either Sayers did a lot of the writing, or Paton Walsh did a much better job of replicating Harriet and Peter's lives in London than she did for their country life in A PRESUMPTION OF DEATH. In THRONES, DOMINATIONS, I loved the dialogue and the character studies. The Harwells are notorious in London society for being indecently in love. The death of Mrs. Harwell exposes a tragedy in the classical sense: a sad ending made inevitable by character flaws. I loved reading this.

Joy read: HANGMAN'S HOLIDAY by Dorothy L. Sayers
Short stories, mostly featuring Sayers' predominant heroes Lord Peter Wimsey and Montague Egg. To me they were mostly fine, but there were two standouts.
In
The Incredible Elopement of Lord Peter Wimsey, Lord Peter comes to the aid of Professor Langley, who has discovered his former beloved in a degenerated condition, sequestered in Pyrenees with her physician husband. The gruesomeness of the story benefits from an intelligent drama.
The Man Who Knew How features neither detective, and like the other, this story depends on the volatile mix of two specific personalities.

Joy read: THE RECRUIT by Debra A. Kemp
Lin was the much-beaten, untamable slave of the sadistic Modred. Now she has been revealed as the legitimate daughter of King Arthur. She has no grounding in the behavior of fine ladies, but she has the opportunity to decide how to repay the cruelties of Modred and his family. Sequel to THE FIREBRAND, both books were EPPIE finalists. Review.

Joy read: AUDITION: A MEMOIR by Barbara Walters
From this book I learned a great respect for Barbara Walters. The people who still think of her as "Baba Wawa" should read this book and learn what is behind the smear job. Little as I approve of the determination of today's reporters to strip the civilization away from whomever they interview, I still respect what Walters did with her career. She was just as willing to strip herself down in this book.

Joy read: MY LORD DE BURGH by Deborah Simmons
Alas, a normal romance with a little supernatural thrown in. I hated Stephen de Burgh until Brighid transformed him. Brighid's attempt to adapt to a non-paranormal society is rather interesting. There is a companion book MY LADY DE BURGH, but I'm not going searching for it.

Joy read: THE NINE TAILORS by Dorothy L. Sayers
I've been watching all the miniseries made from Sayers' books. When I got to "The Nine Tailors" I simply had to reread the book. Sayers is a brilliant writer as well as a clever plotter. She is one of the best if you want a mystery you can't help but bury yourself in. Written 1934, so there is the additional inducement of a wonderful view of the England of those years. THE NINE TAILORS may also have the most unusual murderer in all of mysteries.

Joy read: KNAVE'S HONOR by Margaret Moore
1204 A.D. Outlaws raid the travelling party of Elizabeth of Averette, summoned home from King John's court. Reluctant as Lizette was to go home, she wouldn't have chosen to be kidnapped and held hostage. Good thing Finn was there -- common thief with the speech and manner of a nobleman and a chivalry to match. The two learn that Lizette's kidnapping is just one small part of a plot against the king. They must impersonate a lord and lady being recruited by the evil Lord Wimarc. The relationship of Lizette and Finn becomes passionate, but not especially graphic. The flaw in the plot was that Lizette's virginity (or potential lack of it) could have given away her secrets in more than one way, so the author evidently decided to ignore it and hope we wouldn't notice.

Carla read: MEN OF BRONZE by Scott Oden
Epic military adventure set in Egypt in 526 BC.  The power of Egypt has dwindled from the glory days of the god-kings, and now the army depends on foreign mercenaries (“Men of Bronze”).  When a key Greek mercenary commander turns traitor, the survival of Egypt depends on the loyal Phoenician general Hasdrabal Barca.  The conflict will test Barca’s military prowess to the limit – and force him to come to terms with the long-ago crime that scars his soul. Review.

Carla read: FAR AFTER GOLD by Jen Black
Set in a tenth-century Norse settlement on the north-west coast of Scotland, this historical romance tells the story of Emer, abducted from her home in the Hebrides and sold as a slave, Flane, the handsome Norse warrior who buys her, and Katla, the Norse chieftain's daughter who expects to marry Flane. Review.

Carla read: THE WHISPERING BELL by Brian Sellars
A complex tale of greed, jealousy, loyalty, betrayal and love set against a background of lead mining in the turbulent world of seventh-century England. Review.

Joy read: THE TALES OF BEEDLE THE BARD by J.K. Rowling
Very short, rather cute. Some of these 5 stories were referred to in the Harry Potter series, and other titles I didn't recognize. I found Professor Dumbledore's comments to be the most enjoyable part of the book, probably because I'm not child-age. Profits from book sales are going to a foundation for needy children.

Joy read: FORTUNE ISLAND by E.M. Schorb
Isolated on an island in the Outer Banks, Jessie knows few people and has never been to school. Her childhood is dogged by the horrible Reverend Cogburn, a fake preacher and many other worse things -- one of those worse things being Jessie's stepfather. FORTUNE ISLAND tells the story of her meeting with Ruth, come to the island to concentrate on her writing, and Jessie's too-fast introduction to civilization. Review.

Joy read: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink
The bare bones of this plot can never convey the consuming moods and complexities Schlink makes us face. 15 years old, Michael has an affair with a woman whose son is older than he is. Her beauty and the unexpressed love between them consume him, and through him, the reader. Suddenly she disappears, and Michael, changed forever, doesn't find her again until she is on trial for heinous crimes. What should he believe? What should he do about his complex knowledge of her? How should he feel? The theme is unconditional love: for or against? The author is for. The main character takes longer to make up his mind, and some readers (and some viewers of the movie) never get it. It takes a capacity for understanding and forgiveness to appreciate this book, and judging by the outcry, a vocal minority don't have those things. To me THE READER deserves every good review and every accolade it has been given.

Joy read: SAFETY FOR SAVVY SENIORS by Ron Smith
It looks to me like it will be a public service to publish this guide to safety for older folk. It touches everything from food to sex. Ron Smith is a senior advocate, still active in his 70s.

Joy read: GHOSTBLOOD by Pier Giorgio Pacifici
A Twin Worlds book. Ambitious military man Alric and outcast female rebel Elis saw each other once, and at that time the split in their paths was so dramatic that they could never have expected to meet again. Alric goes on to trick his way to the highest levels, and Elis literally falls into paradise. Their joining is horrifying to both -- and to the spider-souled emperor who witnesses it. But the gods will have their way.
   Pacifici writes beautifully, in a way that sweeps me up into another level of mind.

Joy read: DOWN BY THE RIVER by Robyn Carr
June is remarkably crabby for a woman who has been joined by the love of her life. But pregnancy will do that to you. Jim is helping not only June but other members of the community, a neighborly pebble whose rings spread out into the whole community. They also have a new pastor -- a beloved man with secrets. Eventually everyone is pitching in to help everyone else, and it makes a heartwarming read. Oh, and we finally solve the problem of Aunt Myra's husband, to my pleasure. Sadly, this is the last of the
Grace Valley books. I'm watching for the new Virgin River book, out in a few more days.

Joy read: JUST OVER THE MOUNTAIN by Robyn Carr
Book 2 in the Grace Valley trilogy. June's lover Jim is sent away on a new mission, and her high school boyfriend Chris chooses this time to come back to Grace Valley. What did she ever see in him? June wonders, but the the whole town including Chris seems intent on pushing them back together. Between Chris's twin teenaged sons and the mystery of June's Aunt Myrna's missing husband, June has plenty of distraction from missing Jim.

Joy read: DEEP IN THE VALLEY by Robyn Carr
Going back 9 years (that's publishing years) we see the village of Grace Valley, the over-the-mountains neighbor to Virgin River. I ordered the
Grace Valley trilogy on line when I ran out of Virgin River books. The anchor character is Dr. June Hudson, later to become the good friend of Mel, midwife of Virgin River. Here June is looking for a partner in her father-daughter medical clinic, and thinks Dr. John Stone may be too good to be true. On the other hand, she almost instantly trusts Jim, whom she meets from the wrong end of a gun. Carr explores various cases of abuse, and makes her community ask how much responsibility it should take. On the surface Robyn Carr's books are romances, but they have so much to them.

Joy read: SECOND CHANCE PASS by Robyn Carr
The newest Robyn Carr. I found it on the shelves while I was grocery shopping and started reading it the next day. It is mostly the story of Vanessa, the pregnant widow of marine Matt whom we met in WHISPERING ROCK, and Matt's best friend Paul. That plot pretty much resolves a little more than halfway through the book, but we still have the stories of Vanessa's best friend Nikki, Vanessa's father and the movie star, and a forest fire.

Joy read: CAKE IN THE HAT BOX by Arthur Upfield
Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte, half aborigine and half educated intellect, is a fascinating character. Arthur Upfield learned his craft and his characters while drifting from job to job over the continent of Australia over many years. I can't recommend this series enough. In this book, an unpleasant outback policeman is found dead in his jeep, and his aborigine tracker is missing. Bony becomes involved with a mysterious cattle family as he attempts to stop a native tribe bent on revenge. Kimberley Breen, cattle-driving beauty, is an especially compelling character.

Joy read: HOW: WHY HOW WE DO ANYTHING MEANS EVERYTHING... IN BUSINESS (AND IN LIFE) by Dov Seidman
It's nice to see a business book that takes the long view. Seidman sees the ultimate illogic of management solely by numbers, and the necessity of ethics when the internet exposes so much of what used to be hidden. But that's only the start. Review.

Joy read: JANE OF LANTERN HILL by L.M. Montgomery
The author of ANNE OF GREEN GABLES wrote a lot of other good books for girls, too. Jane finds herself shipped off to spend the summer with the father she never knew she had. She flowers as she learns to be her father's housekeeper, and finds a new way to deal with her crushing grandmother. Montgomery is a wonderful storyteller and this is a darling little story.

Carla read: THE HOUSE ON THE STRAND by Daphne du Maurier
Dick Young is at a loose end in his life, unhappily married and between jobs.  So when his lifelong friend offers him a house in Cornwall for the summer on condition that he tries out a mysterious new drug, Dick jumps at the chance of escape.  The drug capriciously transports him back in time to Cornwall in the 13th century, where he becomes absorbed in the story of the bewitching Isolda Carminowe and the previous owner of his house, Roger Kylmerth.  But his increasing obsession threatens his real-life family, his health and even his life. Review.

Carla read: THE BOLEYN INHERITANCE by Philippa Gregory
In 1539, three contrasting women dream of going to the English court.  Jane Boleyn is desperate to rebuild her fortune. Anne of Cleves yearns to make a good marriage to get away from her unpleasant family.  Katherine Howard, a giddy teenage sex kitten, wants to go to court for pretty dresses and handsome boys.  King Henry VIII’s matrimonial desires give all three women their wish, but it is not long before political faction-fighting and the capricious whims of a tyrannical king threaten all their lives. Review.

Carla read: THE LAST RAIDER by Douglas Reeman
Naval adventure set on board a German commerce raider in 1918, with a splendid feeling of authenticity and realism. Review.

Carla read: LORD OF SILVER by Alan Fisk
In 366 AD, the young warrior Austalis, son of a retired Roman soldier, sets out to explore the Roman Empire his father told him so much about. Seeking an education and a religion, he travels through Roman Britain to the capital, Londinium. There two religions offer to accept him, and when the rich and beautiful Lady Marcella agrees to marry him, it seems that Austalis has found all he could desire. But when his dreams are dashed at the last minute, he is left to plot a terrible revenge. Review.

Carla read: COUNT BOHEMOND by Alfred Duggan
Bohemond is the dispossessed son of a Norman adventurer in eleventh-century Italy.  In 1096 the First Crusade offers him an opportunity to carve out a landholding for himself in the East.  But success will require him to outwit the high-born Norman and Frankish nobles on the Crusade, and that may prove even more difficult than defeating the Turks on the battlefield. Review.

Joy read: A VIRGIN RIVER CHRISTMAS by Robyn Carr
I reread this because I wanted to get another look at the town characters, now that I knew their proper backgrounds. After the reread it's still my favorite contemporary novel of 2008.

Joy read: WHISPERING ROCK by Robyn Carr
The story of Mike, the cop of Virgin River, and Jack's sister Brie, recovering from a horrendous attack, is combined with a nasty series of date rapes in Virgin River. While Mike is tracking down the culprit, a new family moves to Virgin River and opens up new stories for the series. Mike's relationship with Brie is based on a warmth of understanding that women will love.

Joy read: SHELTER MOUNTAIN by Robyn Carr
Preacher, Jack's partner in the restaurant, is used to seeing himself as ugly and frightening to women. Terrified Paige and her son take shelter in the restaurant, but she is just as panicked by Preacher as she is by the husband she is running from. We pick up the lives of Mel, Jack and their Virgin River friends, with the focus on Paige's fight to learn faith in the future and in Preacher. Mel has her baby, Jack's sister Brie goes through big changes, and Ricky's romance goes through a crisis. The community cares for its own, in a heartwarming way.

Joy read: VIRGIN RIVER by Robyn Carr
Mel Monroe, ER nurse and midwife, can't stand her old life any longer. The murder of her beloved husband, incidental to a robbery, possesses every minute of every day. Transplanting to a small town seems at first to be a huge mistake, but Mel finds a sense of community here that was impossible in the war zone of a hospital she used to work in. In addition to Jack, an ex-marine who seems to father the whole town, Mel's biggest puzzle is how to relate to the marijuana growers, illegals who need medical help just like anyone else.
   The first book in the enthralling
Virgin River series, an extension of the Grace Valley series. Carr creates a warm small-town life that welcomes strangers -- unlikely behavior for a small town, but the idea of such a refuge is very engaging. I have this whole series and will have to go after the Grace Valley books.
   I have officially run out of space for new books. I'm going to have to read fast to make room for another delivery in January.

Joy read: THE RIVER KNOWS by Amanda Quick
It's getting to be a Christmas tradition. My sister gives me a new Amanda Quick and I read it on Christmas Day. The settings are vaguely Regency, but Quick has created her own world of intrepid women and dangerous men who pursue wrongdoers and share passionate love. As THE RIVER KNOWS opens, Louisa flees the scene of a murder that she committed. She and the scandalous Anthony Stalbridge investigate a wealthy man connected to the apparent suicides of two Society women.

Joy read: CHILDREN OF THE MIND by Orson Scott Card
Last of the
Ender series. The virus on Lusitania has been neutralized, but Congress has created conditions that make it impossible for the Congress fleet to be informed -- and convinced -- of the victory in time to stop the destruction of the planet. Jane's life must be saved and Ender must be made to want to live, so he can save Lusitania and keep the Hundred Worlds from doing something that would destroy its own soul.
   On my third time through this series, I am finally old enough that I can relate to this tired Ender. Before, I needed him to be the hero he had been in early life. Also, there are several not-quite-human personalities I wasn't able to relate to until now. At the end, my conclusion is that this whole series is a major achievement.

 Joy read: XENOCIDE by Orson Scott Card
The Congress fleet is on its way to destroy Lusitania. Their order was already sent to the fleet to disintegrate the planet. That's not just because of the rebellion of the Lusitanian humans who have formed a community with the other species. It's also because the virus that transformed the biosphere of the planet will probably be fatal to all life forms in the Hundred Worlds. Then the fleet disappears. The search of a brilliant girl on the planet Path for the missing fleet leads to the discovery of Lusitania's hidden ally Jane, who lives in the computer network of the Hundred Worlds. XENOCIDE has a complete interweaving of Ender's relations, Novinha's family, the pequeninos and buggers, and Jane, some of whom are expected to die sooner than others in the attack by Congress. Then there are the wisest inhabitants of Path, who aren't aware of their true relationship with Congress until Jane and Ender contact them.
   I have read this twice before, and this is the first time I haven't been put off by the two religious threads. The plot is still incomplete, so I'm on to the sequel.

Joy read: SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD by Orson Scott Card
I don't know how many times I've reread this. The story of the planet Lusitania, its human colonists and the native pequeninos, and the scientific family of Novhina, a woman for whom tragedy is a vicious circle. Ender comes to Speak the Dead, to tell the honest story of the life of Novinha's dead husband. From his perceptive Speaking comes an understanding between the two intelligent species, and the establishment of the one remaining Bugger queen in a new home. If only the Starways Congress were willing to permit this mingling of sapient species.
   Card achieved a nearly unprecedented honor. SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD and ENDER'S GAME both won the Hugo and Nebula awards in consecutive years. They are immensely deserving of it.

 Joy read: ENDER IN EXILE by Orson Scott Card
Card just wrote a new sequel, 10th book in Ender's universe but which immediately follows ENDER'S GAME. This young Ender is a dear character, but he has this problem with guilt. The book is mostly one story about Ender's position as governor of one of the new colonies, but adds a tag-on story at the end that brings Ender's state of mind to a head.

Joy read: SHADOW OF THE GIANT by Orson Scott Card
4th of the
Shadow series. An Emperor, a Caliph, and a goddess, all from Battle School, are the final contenders for power. Peter the Hegemon is making headway among the smaller nations, as their citizens begin to recognize that the Hegemony means peace and justice. But Bean's children offer the dire probability that the whole thing will start over again in the next generation.
   SHADOW OF THE GIANT shows the mopping up operation for the series, but lays the grounds for more if Card should decide to go back to it. The
Shadow series is basically one, intelligent, high-momentum novel, my favorite read of 2008.

Joy read: SHADOW PUPPETS by Orson Scott Card
3rd in the
Shadow series. There are several nations and a few people who believe they should control a united Earth. Peter Wiggin is Hegemon: he doesn't intend his office to remain an empty title for long. Achilles leaps from one protector to another, as each previous one discovers his psychopathic aims. China bursts its bounds again. India defends itself and then gets ambitious. The united Muslim world goes into jihad mode. Behind them each are the children of Battle School, their talents loosed. Bean, Petra, Peter, and companions are trying to pull the world back together, with a dagger already in their backs.

Joy read: SHADOW OF THE HEGEMON by Orson Scott Card
2nd in the
Shadow series. After Ender won the war against the Buggers, all his generals went home to Earth. Ender could never return to Earth, because his very presence would be seen as a weapon in the hands of whatever country could use him. All of the child generals are now at large -- for just as long as it takes for someone to kidnap them and use them as a military brain pool. Bean is the wily one left uncaptured. He and Ender's cunningly ambitious brother Peter can help each other minimize the inevitable wars.

Joy read: ENDER'S SHADOW by Orson Scott Card
15 years later Card wrote this parallel story to ENDER'S GAME. Bean was Ender's youngest and most brilliant general. This is his story, including his view of their time at Battle School. Review.

Joy read: ENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card
Mankind needs a genius war leader, because another species is on its way across space to annihilate us. The students at Battle School are children, because children are the most adaptable and creative. The military believes that Ender is the war leader they need, so they tweak the training games until no one could win them -- except Ender. Will they break down the brilliant, loveable Ender before the enemy even gets here? A deeply moving personal portrait, and a consideration of living ethics. Winner of both the Hugo and the Nebula awards.
   I wonder how many times I have read this, and how many more times I will read it in this lifetime. Back when I had read so few books that I could tell which I liked best, this was one of my two favorites.

Joy read: FIRST MEETINGS by Orson Scott Card
A kind of prequel to ENDER'S GAME, except that Ender's youthful father in the first two novellas could not have become the person he was in ENDER'S GAME. The 6-year-old in the first story couldn't even have become the college student in the second. Card does that often, make changes in his people when he uses them in more than one story. In any case, I found the book so fascinating that it took effort to make myself stop reading long enough to get up from the restaurant table and go home. The third of the stories is the original award-winning short story
Ender's Game, and the last one shows how Ender met Jane, the computer in the later Ender books.

Joy read: A DANGEROUS CLIMATE by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
The vampire Saint-Germain is on a diplomatic mission, to the Russia of Peter the Great where Saint Petersburg is being built.

  
Finally I allowed myself to read this book that has been tempting me from across the room ever since it arrived. It's time to get back to work after the death of my father, and this is a book of substance with much pleasure in the reading. Review.

Joy read: A VIRGIN RIVER CHRISTMAS by Robyn Carr
A young marine widow hunts for the best friend of her casualty husband. She finds Ian transformed into a frightening hermit, but nearby is the community of Virgin River, welcoming her and ready to welcome Ian if he is willing. Carr is writing a series about Virgin River. Based on this one book, with its warmth and emotional truth, I expect to enjoy the series.

Joy read: THE TWO MRS. ABBOTTS by D.E. Stevenson
A tale of community life in England during WWII. One Mrs Abbott has a pair of adorable children; the other has a dear friend as her home help and plays host to a regiment and some refugees from the London bombing. We see how it was among those left behind while the armies fought, and we also see tasteful romance while young couples attempt to make the best of their lives in such deprived circumstances. I'm told this is part of a series, which explains why I had a little trouble sorting out the family relationships.

Joy read: THE MASQUERADERS by Georgette Heyer
I hadn't read this one in quite a while, so I got to experience the enjoyable surprises over again. A brother and sister learned masquerading from their father, who has been so many different people that no one who knows him knows if he is now telling the truth at last. Pleasantly suspenseful with characters that live in the memory.

Joy read: THE RELUCTANT WIDOW by Georgette Heyer
One of my favorite Heyers, a most pleasant way to get the taste of the previous book out of my mind. A governess born of gentry finds herself trapped by the hatred of a traitor for his cousin, the upright Lord Carlyon. Review.

Joy read: BARREN CORN by Georgette Heyer
A tragedy, caused by a shop girl allowing herself to be persuaded to marry the nephew of a baron. Another book later suppressed by the author. I couldn't read it for long -- eventually I looked at the end and deciided not to put myself through it.

Joy read: PASTEL by Georgette Heyer
Frances expects to lose every man who is attracted to her as soon as he sees her sister Evelyn, and Oliver is no exception. For Evelyn he is an exception, though -- Oliver is her match in brilliance. Frances must watch them marry, and herself settle for her childhood friend Norman, who has been pursuing her unexcitingly for years. PASTEL is about Frances coming to terms with her kind of life.
   PASTEL was first published in 1929, according to Heyer's internet bibliography, and is very dated by its characters' discussions of Life, the Universe, and Everything. Its views of the proper roles of men and women especially must be read as a historical document, not as applicable to today's life. Heyer suppressed the book in later years.

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