Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Starlite Drive-in by Marjorie Reynolds

Callie Anne wasn’t looking forward to yet another boring summer at the drive-in theater her father managed, but was it really going to be boring?

Callie Anne was pleasantly surprised that this summer was completely unlike any other summer once Memphis arrived.  She was twelve, and Memphis was a drifter that had been hired to help her father with some of the chores at the drive-in.  Callie Anne was enamored by Memphis, but didn't like how he seemed to care for her mother more than he cared for her.  He was always polite to Callie Anne and her much nicer than her father who was gruff and condescending to them both. 

The book centers on Callie Anne and her life with her domineering father and agoraphobic mother.  Callie Anne is an endearing, innocent, tomboyish character and is the story's narrator.  

Through the author's skill, you can feel Callie Anne’s emotions when things happen to her...things that were caused either by her father's cruelty or from her mother's fears of venturing outside the house.   

Descriptions of the characters, their feelings, and every day events are very vivid and at times gripping.  It is an enticing read that took me back to the time of drive-in movies and stay-at-home moms. 

Callie Anne's mother, Teal, is a pathetic woman that you can't feel anything but sorrow for.  She won't leave the house because of her fears, and her husband, Claude, is always critical to the point of being cruel to her. 

Claude is not a likeable person at will want to put him in his place.  Memphis is a likeable character and brings a different component to the story....sweetness but wariness on the part of the reader.  A few minor folks appear at times and add that extra touch needed to round out certain scenes.  Aunt Bliss was Teal's rough sister and Virgil was the concession stand worker.  Both Aunt Bliss and Virgil helped add essence to the story and to Callie Anne's character.

The book is a quick, nostalgic read that begins in Callie Anne’s adult life during a police investigation occurring on the drive-in’s property and then shifts to Callie Anne’s childhood.  Her childhood is the main focus of the book, and is the connection to the opening pages.   

I truly enjoyed the book's theme, the characters, and the storyline.  The storyline was indeed interesting because it combined bitter and sweet, nostalgia, childhood fears, suspense, innocence of the era, and misfortune on each character's part each in his/her way.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Welcome to Fred by Brad Whittington

What a refreshing, inspirational book with many amusing situations that anyone will be able to relate to.  Welcome to Fred, which is a town in Texas, allows the reader to follow Mark Cloud through the years, the different towns his family lived in, the pain of being the new kid in town, the “mark” of being a PK…Preacher’s Kid, and his need as every teenager of trying to fit in.  

The main focus of the book is on Mark and his escapades with Mark as the narrator.

Mark is a precocious character full of life and energy.  He meets a friend named M on their first move, and they share adventures together....he lamented that he never found a friend like M ever again.  They share their knowledge of the Bible, secret visits to a homeless woman, and their love of reading.  The adventures he and M shared were described in detail, and the character descriptions are wonderful.
  The book is filled with great stories and adventures that pertain to everyday life.   It is a quick read and keeps your interest.

Mr. Whittington did a very nice job of developing the story, and he will make you think about everyday things while giving them a new meaning for you. 

If you need a book that will lift your spirits, make you think, appreciate everyday occurrences and life itself, and also make you laugh, please take the time to read Welcome to Fred.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Wicked Wives by Gus Pelagatti

 This book has been placed on my all-time favorites list.  
To purchase from Amazon, click on the book cover.

 A true story from Philadelphia in 1938 that puzzled the police. 

Lovers, drugs, gangs, the mafia, secret meetings, big insurance policies, dead husbands….that is what the Wicked Wives were made of.

These wives had many things in common and one of them was planning how to murder their husbands and not get caught so they could collect the insurance money. All this resulted in one dead husband after another, and the doctor listed the deaths from a rampant bout of pneumonia occurring in the city of Philadelphia. The wicked wives were not alone in the planning, though. The mastermind of the wicked wives’ plots was Giorgio…a tailor who was only out for himself and who had women wrapped around his lies.

The book is filled with corruption and “seedy” dealings and characters. It is very character-driven with each character more interesting than the next. Despite their flaws and wicked ways, every character made you want to learn more about their past. You won’t hate any of the characters….you will want to learn why and how they turned out the way they did. They actually are quite an interesting mix.

The character descriptions were outstanding. Each of the wicked wives came packed with a lot of interesting details and mischief. The wives are mostly well-to-do, bored and unsavory underneath, but you can’t put the book down because you will want to find out what they are up to next. There actually is a “wives” club with a leader named The Lady in Black. She is always disguised and no one will reveal who she is, but you do find out in the end…AND…you will be surprised. The male characters are also colorful, humorous, mostly Italian, and deadly. All the characters are based on real-life people.

The book is a mix of history and personal lives. If you are a history buff, you will definitely want to research this era. The police work, the courts, and the way medical advice and “doctoring” was done will definitely be of interest.

The main characters Lillian and Giorgio are quite a pair. Lillian always gets her man/men. She even has an affair with her uncle before and after her husband’s demise. Giorgio is a gigolo who won’t stop with one woman. He has a past of ruthless killings. Since he is Sicilian, he states that he won’t kiss and tell nor will he “rat” on anyone. He keeps everyone anonymous…his women and his deeds.

The good guys are far and few in between. Even the police are corrupt except for Tom Rossi, who was Giorgio’s childhood friend. They both suffered ethnic slurs and tormenting as they grew up, but Tom made something of himself….he actually became the Assistant D.A. Tom was an honest District Attorney and had a girlfriend who became quite an interesting person in the Philly Poison Ring and in her connection with the wicked wives.

Uncle Bill Evans, was a cop on the take and was always doing underhanded things to make himself look good and to protect himself and Lillian. He gave Tom a lot of trouble because of his girlfriend and because Tom was interfering with the investigation of the death of Lillian’s husband.

This book was very well written and fast-paced. I really enjoyed this book despite all the corruption and “seedy” things going on. It definitely held my interest especially because of the depth of the characters, but also because of the subject matter, the time in history, the humor, and how people lie and commit horrible acts for money and love. I highly recommend reading this book if you are a history buff and/or of Italian descent. This would make a fantastic movie.  5/5

Sunday, December 11, 2011

City of Whispers by Marcia Muller

To purchase the book from Amazon, please click on the cover.


What could he have done now?  Where has he been?  Why does he show up when he needs something and then not allow us to know where he is? 

Those were questions Shar asked herself after she received an e-mail from her constantly absent half-brother, Darcy.   She always helped him out, but she couldn't help if she couldn't find him.  She was worried that this time he was truly in deep trouble.

The story takes place in San Francisco in wealthy neighborhoods and also in squalor.  You can guess where they were looking for Darcy.  The book centered on the search for Darcy and also on his role in the murder of Gaby.  His return to the city prompted the re-investigation of Gaby's murder.

The chapters were divided into the book’s characters describing each character's role in the search for Darcy.  Luckily Shar and her co-workers were good at detective work.   

Each suspect in the murder had something to hide and each suspect kept quiet.  Gaby had been dead for two years, and opening up the investigation caused those involved to become alarmed and to hide more secrets and cover up what happened with more murders.  There were some characters who you would readily suspect and others that will surprise you.  The characters were likable, and they all had their secrets….”Secrets, damned secrets.”  Page 193   According to Sharon, secrets were the root of all evil….she even had some of her own.

This is the first Sharon McCone mystery I have read.  Not bad, but not a gripper.  

The author, Marcia Muller, has a good writing style, and I liked how she set up each chapter.  It became more gripping toward the end.  I would not be opposed to reading more of Ms. Muller’s work. 4/5

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Child of Eynhallow by Anne Kinsey

Being an outcast isn't pleasant.  Being an outcast in twelfth-century England is twice as bad. 
Isabel Cole was an outcast from the beginning of her life and had to deal with many things alone.  She didn't know about her family's life before she was born, but the villagers had their ideas. 

Isabel had to endure unpleasant half-brothers. She had to endure a father who never smiled except at his sons; and she had to endure life in a convent.  Isabel was an outstanding student at the convent and learned to read and to become a lady.  She  visited her village at times on her few hours of free time. 

When Isabel was in the village, she always wondered why the woman labeled as a witch smiled at her whenever she saw her.  Isabel found out why she smiled at her....she was related to this woman. The woman was the sister of Isabel's grandmother, and her name was Alis.

One night after Isabel escaped from the convent and went to see Alis, Alis gave Isabel the details of their family history.  The story describing these women and how their difficult lives and their herbal cures, which were defined by the village people as witchcraft, was quite intriguing.  In fact, each of the book's characters, the men included, was interesting.

The way of thinking during the twelfth century is quite different in terms of religion, unmarried women, and specifically witchcraft.  Anne Kinsey takes the reader through the lives of Mara, Alis, Nan, and Isabel, and ends in the present with Isabel's life.  Learning about their complicated, different lives as twelfth-century women kept me turning the pages.

The book also kept my attention because of the time period, because it was set in Scotland and northern England, and of course because of the storyline.  I totally enjoyed the descriptions of the Scottish mainland and the islands.  I always enjoy reading about Medieval times and how people lived and worked.

 Anne Kinsey has a great way of writing that draws you in.  She is very descriptive, and she weaves you into the story.  You feel as though you have put yourself in the scenes and also into the characters' hearts.  From her descriptions, you will take on the emotions of every character.

 Her writing style will keep you interested and anxiously waiting to learn more about the family, their daily life, and how the generations all came about.  It is an enjoyable, distinctive read.  Don't miss out on this book. 5/5