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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Dick Cole's War by Dennis R. Okerstrom

Dick Cole's War by Dennis R. Okerstrom was a gift from my son-in-law and personally inscribed by Dick Cole, the last of the famous Doolittle Raiders, who was at Barksdale Air Force Base recently.  Even at 102, Cole was signing copies of Okerstrom's book.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and learned a great deal, not only about the famous Tokyo Raid with pilot Jimmy Doolittle and co-pilot Dick Cole, but about Hump Pilots, the CBI (China, Burma, India theater), the Air Commandos--and much more.

One poignant moment occurs when on Dec. 7, Cole writes his mother to say that he won't be home for Christmas after all.   No need to say why leave has been canceled.
The problem with letters was a consistent one throughout the war.  Longed for and appreciated and re-read, but not timely.  Even today, it takes about 3 weeks for my letters to Melody to arrive in Singapore.  As much as servicemen longed for word from home, letters took a long time and sometimes arrived out of order.  Nevertheless, the letters to and from home are an important documentation of the war.

As we often note when reading history, authors can take a fascinating event or period and suck the life out of it, or as Okerstrom does, pull you in and make you feel a part of the historical drama.  

You can't see all of the pages I marked, but you can probably tell that I'd have trouble trying to include all of the information that gripped my interest in the pic I took of my copy--before I quit even trying to flag all the parts that intrigued me.  

Following Dick Cole is an ideal way to look at the war in the Pacific and Asia because he was involved in so many important missions during the war--his first was the Doolittle Raid over Tokyo, but his time as a hump pilot and as an air commando part of Project 9 were also critically important roles.  The information about the gliders was just one amazing element.

I knew very little about this portion of WWII, and so I would frequently be stunned at the difficulties and complications involved.  

My admiration for the men involved and for Dennis R. Okerstrom for making the book such an informative and engrossing read is immense.

Dick Cole's War should be on the list for anyone interested in WWII and the Pacific arena.  

Nonfiction.  2015.  336 pages.

Below is the front of the postcard I made for Chris as a thank you note--the message and correct postage are on the other side.  I was pleased to have a few stamps that featured planes even if they were only for air mail.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Crossing the Line by Kerry Wilkinson

NetGalley has offered two of Kerry Wilkinson's stand-alone psychological suspense novels that I read and enjoyed.  I didn't review Two Sisters here, but I did review The Girl Who Came Back. When I realized that Wilkinson's police procedurals featuring DS Jessica Daniel were available through Kindle Unlimited, I went through them like candy.

There are ten books in this UK series, and Crossing the Line, is the eighth installment here in the U.S.  

I like the complex characters who become more fully developed and interesting with each new book and the skillful and well-thought out plots that are fresh and original.  Oh, and I should not fail to mention the dialog that feels natural and is often cleverly amusing. 

Although the books can be read as stand-alones, this is a series that benefits from seeing how the dynamic of each plot influences and alters the characters.  The series gains strength as Jessica evolves and adapts to each experience.  The changes in the secondary characters are less profound, but they, too, feel rounded and genuine.

Twenty-five ago, the Stretford Slasher was convicted.  When he dies in prison, the media note the occasion, but then several apparently random acts of violence occur in broad daylight that evoke some of the fear experienced twenty-five years earlier.  The attacks are violent, but not deadly, and the police have difficulty making any connections between the targets--except for the fact that they are all disagreeable bullies.  There are a couple of other secondary story lines as well that keep the pace moving.

While the book can function in isolation, it is the way the books build, one on another, that makes this series so interesting.  I can't wait for the next one.  

Read in Oct.; blog review scheduled for November 27.


Crime/Police Procedural.  Dec. 12, 2017.  Print length:  300 pages.

Monday, November 20, 2017

First Bookplate and a Few Recent Reads

The first known printed bookplate and other examples of early proof of ownership.

It isn't that I haven't been reading, but most of my books are from NetGalley and won't be published until 2018, so I hold reviews.

Look for Me by Lisa Gardner   (I like the D.D. Warren books that I've read and was pleased that Flora Dane was back in this one!)

The Undertaker's Daughter by Sara Blaedel  (I've only read one of Blaedel's Louise Rick series, and I enjoyed it.  But this is a stand-alone and this one takes place in the states, and I liked it even better.)

City of Endless Night by Preston & Child.  (You know--Special Agent Pendergast and all kinds of weirdness.  I may be getting a little tired of this series, but can never resist seeing what is happening to these characters--the ones who survive, that is.)

SINthetic by  J.T. Nichols.  (Synths were created to perform all the jobs humans despise; they have no rights; they are disposable.  This one is pretty dark, but makes you think.)

I saw this quote recently and it certainly struck a chord with me:

Warning-- Dates on calendar are closer than they appear.

Ready for Thanksgiving?

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

The Whispering Room by Dean Koontz

I haven't read a Dean Koontz novel in years, but the blurb for The Whispering Room (Jane Hawk #2) caught my attention.  Although I have not read The Silent Corner, which precedes TWR, Koontz includes enough background to make this an easy read.

TWR is a fast-paced, action-driven novel about conspiracies,
hi-jacked science, nanotechnology, and the lack of privacy that is now an ever-present part of the human condition.

Jane Hawk is a rogue FBI agent on the run, pursued by the very agencies people believe can keep them safe.  The conspiracy involves the mega-wealthy and has devotees in many branches of government.  Jane finds it difficult to find trustworthy allies; she has a few who are willing to protect her son and provide aide, but she needs someone who can expose the conspiracy.  

Jane finds an unexpected ally in Luther Tillman, sheriff of a small town that has just experienced a deadly suicide attack.  Luther can't understand why 40-year-old Cora suddenly becomes... not only willing to commit suicide, but willing to take dozens of innocents with her.  After a government agent shuts down the investigation and Cora's house is burned down, Luther begins reading Cora's journals. Cora's repeated phrases about a spider in her brain and the phrase "Play Manchurian with me" set Luther on his own investigation.

Suicides, nanotechnology, and mind-control?

Is it scary?  Yes.  Believable?  I'm not sure, but science can always be abused, and there are always people who think they know what is best for others.  In a world where technology reveals everything about an individual's personal and financial life and there is no way to go completely off-grid because one way or another technology will find you, what if the next step is nanotechnology implanted in your brain? 

Not a book of any depth, no fully developed characters, plenty of violence--The Whispering Room is guaranteed to make readers uneasy.  TWR must be read for what it is--action and suspense, combined with paranoia-inducing fears about the future.

Koontz' clever use of The Manchurian Candidate was my favorite part of the novel.  

Read in Sept.  Blog review scheduled for Nov. 8
P.S.  I came back to this scheduled review after reading an interview with Franklin Foer about his new book World Without Mind.  Here is an excerpt from the interview:

Franklin Foer: Let’s get apocalyptic. I worry that we’re headed to a world of total surveillance—and that the presence of watchful eyes will inhibit us from thinking original, subversive thoughts. I worry that we’re outsourcing too many of our mental activities to machines—and these machines are run by a small handful of monopolistic corporations. I worry that we’re creating an economy that squeezes producers of knowledge—the journalists, the novelists, the essayists, who produce the words that help us make sense of the world. I worry that the big technology companies use their surveillance of us to create a portrait of our mind, and that they exploit their intimate knowledge of us to keep us clicking and watching. In short, I worry that we’re headed to a world without contemplation, a world lacking in originality and depth.

Check here for another interview with Mr. Foer.  

 While Mr. Foer's argument is not quite the same as the novel's premise, it is interesting.  Some of Foer's concerns have bothered us me for some time, but we I have become pretty cocooned by Amazon, FB, and Google, relying on Google daily.  It is difficult to let go of the conveniences provided...right?  

Read in Sept.  Blog review scheduled for Nov. 8.

NetGalley/Random House

Techno-thriller.  Nov. 21, 2017.  Print length:  528 pages.  

Monday, November 06, 2017

The Perfect Victim by Corrie Jackson

Sophie Kent is a journalist whose friend and colleague Charlie Swift is a murder suspect.  Charlie and his wife Emily appear to be a loving couple, and Emily, whose blog and instagram sites have a huge following, wants their marriage to be as perfect-picture as her fantasy.  

Sophie desperately wants Charlie to be innocent, but as he fails to come forward and details accumulate, both Sophie, friend and confidante, and Emily, the steadfast wife, begin to see fault-lines opening everywhere.

Intense and suspenseful, I didn't see where this one was going and had a number of surprises along the way.  Corrie Jackson deftly moves back and forth from the present, to the weeks before the murder, and to Charlie's childhood.  This could have been complicated and confusing, but somehow worked.  

The Perfect Victim keeps you wondering exactly who the perfect victim is.   I changed my mind more than once.  Jackson's twists and turns kept me enthralled.

NetGalley/Bonnier Zaffre

Crime/Psychological Suspense.  Nov. 16, 2017.  Print length:  448 pages.

Sunday, November 05, 2017


Sometimes serendipity is a quiet coincidence, followed by another coincidence.  Sometimes it snowballs.

I recently read I Know My Name by C.J. Cooke in which four-year-old Max wears Gruffalo pajamas and insists that his father read him The Gruffalo each night.  (I Know My Name is a psychological mystery, not a children's book.)  

I am always intrigued with the titles and illustrations of children's books that I see on various blogs and on book review sites.  Gruffalo sounded familiar, but I had no picture of a Gruffalo in mind, I just liked the kid in his favorite pajamas who loved the book.  So I looked up The Gruffalo, written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler.

A day or so later, I was looking at postage stamps that intrigued me (I love mail art and whimsical stamps).  I saw the following bird stamp on Pinterest, which led me to this article.    Axel Scheffler had created the delightful images for The Royal Mail's 2012 Christmas Stamps!

Huh?  Axek Scheffler illustrated Julia Donaldson's The Gruffalo!  The stamps I'd found were serendipitously connected to a small detail in a recent novel.  

Then a couple of days later, I was looking at the article again and checked Axel Scheffler's website and discovered he had illustrated a cover for T.S. Eliot's Ole Possum's Book of Practical Cats, one of my favorite books of all time.

My copy is the one illustrated by Edward Gorey, but I love Scheffler's version as well.  So...I looked at other Scheffler books and found that I had a copy of Room on the Broom, also written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Scheffler.  I bought a copy of Room on the Broom for Bryce Eleanor about five or six years ago.  I had it out for Halloween as inspiration for October mail art, but didn't use it.  Maybe I will next year, after finding all these serendipitous connections.

And since I love letters, postage stamps, and mail art, I think I want to read about Postman Bear, too!   

Without ever paying attention to the name of the illustrator, 
I have consistently been attracted to Alex Scheffler's art.  

Saturday, November 04, 2017

The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross by Lisa Tuttle

The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross is the second in the Jesperson & Lane series.  The first in the series (The Curious Case of the Somnambulist & the Psychic Thief reviewed here) had a great set-up, and I remember being pleased and expectant as I read the first few pages, but I ended up being disappointed.  "Maybe," I thought, "the next one will be better.  The author will have a sense of direction and the characters will emerge as more than pawns."

Alas, not so.  Once again, an interesting beginning full of all  kinds of possibilities and intriguing characters.  Once again, a failure to take advantage of what worked and instead taking a ridiculous direction that seemed almost a spur-of-the-moment inclusion.

Jesperson is controlling, holding back information and failing to keep Lane fully apprised of his theories or knowledge.  Lane is ostensibly a partner in this psychic detective agency, but her purpose is largely to give a first person account of the cases they encounter.  Rather than a partner as indicated on the calling card--Lane is a sort of attendant, even though her role in events is more detailed.

The best characters in the book, the ones with such potential, are the three sisters at Wayside Cross.

Read in August; blog review scheduled for Nov. 4.

NetGalley/Random House

Mystery/Supernatural.  Nov. 28, 2017.  

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

The Forsaken Throne by Jeff Wheeler

The Forsaken Throne is book 6 in the Kingfountain series by Jeff Wheeler.   The books all combine magic and adventure, complex characters, and re-imaginings  of British history and myth.

I've enjoyed each and every book in the series and was especially happy in this concluding installment to find one of the issues that bothered me at the end of the previous book has been resolved to my satisfaction.

The Forsaken Throne also makes connections to the Muirwood and Mirrowen series that prove interesting.  I read and enjoyed the first two books in the Mirrowen series several years ago.

Jeff Wheeler's world-building and character development in this series had me devouring each new entry like Halloween candy.

Read in September; blog review scheduled for Nov. 1


Fantasy.  Nov. 14, 2017.  Print length:  332 pages.