Alexander McCall Smith’s Sunday Philosophy Club-Isabel Dalhousie 1

Overview: Isabel Dalhousie is the editor of a niche specific magazine. She’s also a spinster that has a faithful housekeeper, and a close relationship with her niece. There shouldn’t be anything that agitates her, especially at an orchestral concert. But, then that young man falls from the level above her. What’s an old editor to do?

Story Telling: This is advertised as a cozy mystery. However, this will be a matter of tastes.

Dislikes: Remember when I said that the mystery portion is a matter of tastes? Well, for someone who reads a lot of mysteries, this one won’t be as captivating as others. Isabel claims to be bothered by the man’s death, but she investigates it less than she worries about her niece’s love life.

Reader beware! There’s a fine line between match-making and lusting over another, and trying to live vicariously through a loved one. Mr. Smith dances dangerously close to the edge of that line at certain points. It could even be argued that he crossed that line a time or two.

Likes: There were so many good concepts here. Grace is a big one. She was willing to do whatever was needed, and capable to tell people what they needed to hear.

Favorite Character: It’s Grace.

Conclusion: This is definitely not for everyone. Try it, maybe you’ll have better luck with it.

Dean Koontz’s Odd Hours-Odd Thomas 4

Overview: Odd has moved from the Monastery to a small town named Magic Beach. His history as a fry cook has gotten himself a rather easy job as a cook for an elderly man. This gives him plenty of time to help Mr. Sinatra cross over. Too bad Odd is having nightmares about a petite woman and a red tide. Well there goes his vacation. How will Odd handle this one?

Story Telling: We have the fourth book in a paranormal thriller with this novel. Odd Thomas novels are written in first-person point-of-view. So if you don’t like this style, you might not want to read this one.

Dislikes: So many Americans didn’t understand what makes this nation great. We don’t need to agree completely with everyone else. Individualism is what allows us to succeed in life if you so choose.

Likes: We get to meet Annamarie in this novel. She was quite mysterious, but, you can place her if you know what to look for.

Odd was pretty stubborn. You’d have to be, to take on what he did. Blossom and Birdie was fun. Not to mention Hutch’s kindness was great, as was his loyalty to his friends.

Favorite Character: Birdie was willing to follow the Spirit wherever it leads. And Hutch was willing to fight through the fears he had spent years dealing with.

Favorite Scene: One word needed: PolterFrank! That was beautiful.

Favorite Quote: In regards to PolterFrank. “I didn’t say Rod Stewart. He said Rod Stewart.”

Conclusion: This is a terrific addition to the Odd Thomas series. Enjoy it as a fun addition to your paranormal library.

L. Frank Baum’s The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus

Overview: We’ve all seen him. Every year at the malls, stores, parades and more. Santa Claus, the jolly old man who lives for the happiness of children all over the world. But, how did he come to be? How does he make his great journey in just one night? This book seeks to answer these questions.

Story Telling: This is more of a folk tale than a fairy tale, though elements of both can be found here.

Likes: We have a story that honors the adoptive parents. Necile acted like a mother, even when she found that her baby grew way too fast for her.

Also, Mr. Baum seems to have remembered the important role of conflict in stories here. Making this one a strong addition to his works.

Favorite Character: That would be Necile. She was warned about how humans aged, but she still decided to help. And like any good mother, she gave her son good advice, when he needed it the most.

Favorite Quote: Our quote comes pretty far into the tale this time. “ But it is the Law that while Evil, unopposed, may accomplish terrible deeds, the powers of Good can never be overthrown when opposed to Evil.”

Favorite Scene: It would be when Necile sought Ak’s advice concerning the impending doom of her child.

Conclusion: I enjoyed this work of Mr. Baum’s much more than “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” If you have a chance to read just one book by Mr. Baum, pick this one. Enjoy it with your family.

Louise Penny’s Kingdom of the Blind-Armand Gamache 14

Overview: Chief Inspector Gamache has an interesting project during his current suspension. He along with two others are the liquidators of an elderly woman’s will. None of them seem to have any connection to the late Mrs. Baumgartner. The will is odd, considering where they met for the reading. Between this will, and Chief Inspector Gamache’s plans for finding the drugs missing from the evidence locker, this suspension might be fun.

Story Telling: We have a foreign mystery series with Gamache here. His series takes place in French Canada. It reminds me more of a cozy mystery.

Dislikes: My only problem with this story is more of my fault. I’ve run across Mrs. Penny’s works fairly recently. As such, I felt a little behind with some of the characters.

Likes: Gamache has a way of working out theories with his team. Destructing your theory can show you where all the holes are rather fast.

And there were quite a few situations that anyone who works with a child can appreciate.

Favorite Character: It would be Stephen Horowitz.

Favorite Scene: It’s both dinner scenes with Mr. Horowitz.

Favorite Quote: It’s rather far into the book this time. During a conversation with Jean-Guy, Gamache says “No, no. I understand. I really do, Jean-Guy. You have a family and it comes first.”

Conclusion: This was a fun read. I just wonder how much more fun it would have been, if I’d started from the beginning. Enjoy the ride.

Robert M. Edsel’s Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis-The Monuments Men 2

Overview: Everyone is taught two things about World War II. One is the Holocaust, and the other is that Italy and Mussolini, was Germany’s ally. What we don’t learn is that most of the Italians held no love for either fascism, nor Hitler. They just wanted to protect their national treasure. And Hitler fancied himself as a supreme art critic. It a piece didn’t speak to him, it wasn’t art. If the artist wasn’t of the ‘superior’ race, then the piece wasn’t art. So, how much art did Italy lose?

Story Telling: Once again, we have a historical account with this book. Like its predecessor, this one involves Germany’s art thefts. It’s just in a different theater this time.

Dislikes: It’s never pleasant to read about mass executions. Germany seemed to be both very good at them, and relish the actions.

And I believe that Wolff god off way too easy. None of his actions in the final days of the war seemed to be repentant for the actions that he took prior to the end.

Likes: Several people worked together for what they saw as right. And honestly, who could blame Poggi for his actions during that time?

Favorite Character: That would be Mr. Deane Keller. He found that fine line between worrying about the monuments and caring for the human lives around them.

Conclusion: This is a valuable educational source. History really isn’t just black and white. The shades of grey included can help us prevent similar problems today. Give this one a try!

Robert M. Edsel and Bret Witter’s The Monuments Men

Overview: Everyone has heard of the atrocities that Hitler set into action against the Jews of Europe. Much less known is the atrocities committed against the so-called undesirables such as the mentally impaired, homosexuals, the Romani, and, of course, enemies of the state. Even less known is the fact that Hitler fancied himself as an art aficionado. Needless to say, many of the countries that Germany invaded lost their pieces of cultural significance. This is the story of those who sought to return those pieces to their home countries.

Story Telling: This is more of a memoir style of historical book. We have a few letters, and notes from the war. But this isn’t a fast read.

Dislikes: Every time that I hear about Nazi Germany, the worse they seem to get. This is no exception.

Likes: We did handle the search for the artwork in the best way possible. At least, we didn’t value the artwork over people’s lives.

Favorite Scenes: That would be the letters home.

Conclusion: This is a fascinating read. Enjoy it for the educational purpose.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents Stories for Late at Night

Overview: Mr. Hitchcock is better known for his movies such as “Psycho” and “The Birds.” But, that doesn’t mean that he didn’t enjoy a good story now and then. This book has a collection of suspenseful, bordering on horror, stories, novellas, and one novel, for our enjoyment.

Story Telling: This is an anthology work. But, take notice of the presenter. The stories will have some rather dark themes.

Dislikes: That would be ‘The Ash Tree.’ I’d tell you why, but that would spoil the story for you.

Likes: There were several good stories in this collection. Some of them involved rather karmic twists at times.

Favorite Stories: “A Cry from the Penthouse” and “The Iron Gates” were the best stories in my opinion.

Conclusion: If you don’t care much for Mr. Hitchcock’s film work, you might want to skip this book. But if you like twists and a horror bent to your suspenseful stories, give this collection a try.

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Leonardo’s Notebooks

Overview: What better way is there to learn how to be an artist, than by learning from one of the old “masters”? Leonardo Da Vinci made his name during the Renaissance age. Now, granted, while we are four or five centuries past that time period, at least. Is there anything that he can teach the artists of this age?

Story Telling: These writings were put together by Mr. Da Vinci. Most were for his own remembrance, some were for his students, while others were for study, and some were to satisfy his curiosity. Needless to say, we can call this an artist’s memoir.

Dislikes: You have to bear in mind that Mr. Da Vinci lived at a time when he had to make his own art supplies. And he was left-handed as well. At that time, such a thing was seen as the sign of the devil. Hiding so much, leaves a sense of superiority…arrogance…I’m not sure what you would call it. It can be a turn-off, at the best of time.

Likes: Many of his tips are helpful. As well, the sketches show you how his mind worked.

Conclusion: If you are interested in biographical writings, or are just interested in art as a career path, try this book. You just might find some of the tips to be helpful.

Harlan Corben’s Live Wire-Myron Bolitar 10

Overview: Myron Bolitar is–technically speaking–a sports’ agent and a lawyer. This does not stop him from trying to solve some of his clients’ problems. Case in point: Suzze T, a former tennis champion and soon to be mother, needs Myron to find her husband. He just didn’t expect to see someone from his past while doing so.

Story Telling: We have a mystery with a semi-professional this time around.

Dislikes: What a bunch of liars! This whole story was one lie on top of another. These things only grow the more they are used.

And the ending kind of ruined the story for my tastes.

Likes: Big Cyndi is…colorful, to say the least. And she’s rather creative.

Myron does try to do the right thing. Too bad that it cost him so much.

Favorite Character: That would be Big Cyndi.

Favorite Quote: “The ugliest truth, a friend once told Myron, is still better than the prettiest of lies.” Too bad the story didn’t live up to that sentiment.

Favorite Scene: Big Cyndi showing off her sewing skills via the bridesmaid dresses will definitely stick with you.

Conclusion: The ride was fun for the most part. Maybe I should have caught up with the older novels first.

Inherit the Dead

Overview: Can twenty different authors manage to tell a seamless story? We are about to find out. You see, Perry Christos has been hired by an elderly woman. She wants to find her estranged daughter. It seems like a rather straight-forward case doesn’t it? But, where would the fun be in that?

Story Telling: This is a detective novel. In fact, the forward refers to it as a noir novel.

Dislikes: This book has some pretty dark spots. That probably comes from the noir aspect, and this was my introduction to the sub-genre. But really, did Perry’s wife have to treat him like that? She didn’t even wait for both sides of the story when he was accused of impropriety as an officer of the law.

Likes: The story runs smoothly. The authors’ individual voices didn’t even clue you in when there was a switch. You have to rely on the chapter headings to know who’s writing at any given time.

And Perry was able to work with just about anyone to get one more step further along in the case.

Favorite Character: Out of all of the novels that I’ve read, there aren’t many characters as honorable as Perry Christos. He just has a way of keeping his head in the game.

Favorite Scene: This one would be when Perry is watching his daughter’s play rehearsal.

Conclusion: This was a fun story. Enjoy the ride along with Perry. I’m not so sure about noir novels though.