The Tapestry of Fortunes is a blend of humor, wisdom, education and friendship that I found delightful. Cecilia has just lost her best friend to a fast-moving cancer. Penny had been the one to motivate and help Cecilia to know herself. Now she finds that Penny is still speaking to her in subtle ways and she followes her advice to slow down and seek changes. She puts her career aside, sells her home and furnishings and finds a group of women to share a home and a road trip. Cecilia receives a postcard from a former boy friend just home from Tahiti, and weighs the risks of reconnecting knowing how much they have changed. This beautifully written novel is a sensitive and hopeful story of women supporting each other through life’s trials.
Little Bertie visits the home of a playmate and discovers the grass is greener in Ranald Braveheart MacPherson’s home Bertie can eat as much chocolate cake as the wants at the MacPherson home. Ranald suggests that Bertie might find new parents if he puts himself up for adoption on eBay, and Ranald can help since he knows his Dad’s computer password. Meanwhile Matthew and Elspeth bring their triplet sons home and find their new life impossible to manage until an au pair arrives. Domenica and Angus are responsible for selling Antonia’s next door apartment as she has decided to join a nunnery in Italy. They must make the difficult decision of where to live after their marriage. Who will give up their current home and all the comforts they had while they were single? Bertie Plays the Blues is number seven in the 44 Scotland Street series by Alexander McCall-Smith. The fun continues as we commiserate with Bertie regarding his impossible mother and enjoy the many problems that seem to be insurmountable for the quirky characters on 44 Scotland street in Edinburgh.
In her latest romantic suspense, Nora Roberts takes us to Whiskey Beach, an idyllic village on the ocean, outside of Boston. Attorney Eli Landon has been accused of murdering his wife, but without enough evidence, prosecutors are unable to charge him with the crime. Harassed by police and the media, fired from his job and depressed, Eli heads to Whiskey Beach and his family home Bluff House. The most recent resident was his grandmother, who is recovering from serious injuries from a fall in the house, but Landons have lived in the huge old house since the 1700′s. Eli meets the quirky and beautiful Abra–a local woman who teaches yoga, is a housekeeper and cook and a jack-of-all-trades in the village. Abra and Eli slowly develop a relationship and Abra encourages Eli to fight back–to regain his confidence, believe in himself and his new writing career and to try to prove his innocence. On the hunt for his wife’s murderer, they discover the stories of hidden treasure and try to solve the mysteries of an unknown attacker and the murder of a private investigator. Likeable characters, a plot with twists and turns, an intriguing mystery and a sweet romance combine to make this another winning story by Nora Roberts.
In his new crime thriller, Suspect, Robert Crais introduces two characters who are traumatized and in need of a partner. Scott James is a police detective who was involved in a shoot out that left him severely wounded and his partner dead. Maggie is a German Shepherd and a marine bomb dog who was injured in the line of duty when her handler was killed by a bomber in Afghanistan. They become partners when Scott is accepted into the canine unit of the LAPD. Each comes to rely on the other as they cope with nagging injuries and PTSD and have to learn to trust each other. As Scott goes through the canine unit training, he also is investigating his own shooting and trying to determine who killed his partner. He encounters corruption, greed and murder and he and Maggie must learn to protect each other in order to survive. This is a gripping, fast-paced mystery with well-drawn characters and a complex plot. The connection between Scott and Maggie is touching and their eventual dependence on each other provides a poignant aspect to the story–a tale that grips the reader from the first page! Hopefully there will be more stories about Scott and Maggie as they work together.
The first novel of Irish journalist, Kathleen MacMahon is a compelling love story that hints at a tragic end almost from the start. Addie is an unemployed architect that designs dream swimming pools, takes daily swims with her dog, and cares for her recently injured father, a self-important surgeon. An American banker, Bruno, who is divorced and just finding himeself unemployed after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, travels to Ireland to research his family tree and locate Irish cousins. The two second cousins meet and begin a romance in 2008 against the backdrop of the presidential elections. (Bruno vows that he won’t return if Obama doesn’t win). As they spend their time traveling around Ireland, adjusting to each other’s cultural differences and meeting family and friends, Addie is ignoring a pain that her sister keeps nagging her about. In This is How It Ends, lighthearted banter, interesting characters, challenging times all unite to create a memorable story that keeps begging to be read.
Weaving together three subplots from different times, Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles is the story of an author’s life and events he has experienced over an interval of several years. One strand involves his present day life on an unnamed Caribbean island and the tolls of living in a drunken blur. Another storyline details his memories of his father’s battle with cancer. The third plotline focuses on the woman he loves and their past relationship. This book was an enjoyable read, interesting from the beginning. Currie’s eclectic style works well as he bounces from one thought to the next. I recommend this book to readers looking for a bit of adventure and constant entertainment.
For much of his life, Nathan Steen has carried 6 small red stones in his pocket each day, transferring them one at a time from one pocket to the other as he does a good deed and hoping that at the end of the day he has moved all 6 stones. When he stops to help a stranded motorist, Nathan is killed in a tragic accident. As his family copes with grief and heartbreak, Nathan’s wife Halley discovers emails in her husband’s work email sent by a woman from his past. As Halley and her son Ty struggle with their anger and disappointment, daughter Alice maintains her faith in the goodness of her father. As each character tells their story from their perspective, secrets and lies are discovered and Nathan’s motivations are revealed. Many topics are touched upon by the characters, including bullying and abuse. The One Good Thing is a story that illustrates the strength of families, of providing a good example to our children and of the repercussions of the choices that we all make every day–a touching and inspirational portrait of the lasting effects of kindness.
Ghostman is the first novel for author Roger Hobbs, and he is off to an amazing start! This riveting crime novel takes place in the shadowy underworld of Atlantic City. The main character–sometimes called Jack–is a criminal who lives off the grid, hiding behind disguises, with no one who knows his real identity and with only a few people able to contact him. One of those is Marcus, a man who orchestrates robberies involving millions of dollars. Jack is indebted to Marcus for a bungled robbery several years before, and Marcus asks Jack to go to Atlantic City and recover millions of dollars stolen in another botched robbery of a casino. Jack must contend with a FBI investigation and a local drug lord, and must rely on all of his abilities to survive this case. The Atlantic City story alternates with Jack’s memory of the robbery in Kuala Lumpur that went awry. This is a riveting, fast-paced, gritty novel with a unique, complex main character and a plot filled with twists and turns.
Lifelong family secrets are revealed through a series of letters which arrive along with condolence notes in this novel written by French novelist Helene Gremillon. Camille, a single woman in her thirties has just lost her mother and has recently found herself to be pregnant. She begins receiving long, unsigned letters telling a story that she knows nothing about. As they continue to arrive she learns of a previous war time love triangle. Wealthy Monsieur and Madame M cannot conceive a child. Madame M is deperate to have a baby, and the wartime efforts are pushing all women to have children. She befriends a teenage girl of lower class and helps provide the necessary art supplies that Annie needs to encourage her creativity. Annie becomes so close to Madame M that she empathizes with her to the point of offering to have her child.
This dark tale of love gone wrong jumps between the present and the past with many twists and involved secrets. Camille begins to guess that these letters may involve her much more deeply than she wants to know in The Confidant.
Molly Hagan is a 40 year old mother with a 6 year old son and a husband–soon to be ex-husband, who dumped her for a younger woman. He has lost his job and has fallen behind in his child support payments, forcing Molly to look for work after being a stay-at-home Mom for several years. Feeling insecure about her abilities, her age, her skills and her body, Megan takes a job offered by a friend as a copy writer, designing the menu and name for a new bakery near the New York Public Library. The owners want a tie in with books, and Molly uses her ability to create puns as a source for the name of the bakery–Vanity Fare. Molly is a wonderfully written character and we see her change and grow through the book, becoming more confident in who she is and what she wants out of life. Molly’s circle of friends and supporters are likeable characters and are well-drawn. There is romance and humor, and the names for the baked goods at the bakery–”Tart of Darkness”, “Of Mousse and Men” for example, are tied to literary references. This is a delightful story, filled with fun, descriptions of wonderful desserts and starring a woman who struggles to turn into the person she aspires to be.
Manhattan Public Library
What are the ten best Western films of all time? Well, that depends on who you ask. You can find many lists of top Western films on the Web, but Classic Western Films no two lists will include the same films. Gayot.com, Reelz.com, Amctv.com, IGN.com, the American Film Institute, the Internet Movie Database, Rotten Tomatoes, and many other websites have their own opinions on which are the best Westerns. Since there doesn’t seem to be any consensus among the experts, I’ve come up with my own list of favorite Westerns. My own top ten, in no particular order, are:
“The Magnificent Seven,” 1960, directed by John Sturges. In this western remake of Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai,” seven American gunmen take on the job of defending a Mexican village against marauding bandits. Elmer Bernstein composed the film’s iconic theme music, later used in commercials for Marlboro cigarettes. The film stars Steve McQueen, Yul Brynner, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, and Eli Wallach to name a few.
“The Searchers,” 1956, directed by John Ford. Based on the novel by Alan Le May, the film stars John Wayne as a middle-aged Civil War veteran who spends years looking for his niece (Natalie Wood), who has been abducted by Comanches. Major themes running through the film are the issues of racism and genocide towards Native Americans.
“Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” 1969, directed by George Roy Hill. Loosely based on actual events, the film tells the story of outlaws Robert Leroy Parker, aka Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman), and the Henry Longabaugh, the Sundance Kid (Robert Redford).
“The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” 1966, directed by Sergio Leone. One of the “Spaghetti Westerns,” filmed in Italy and Spain, the plot revolves around three gunslingers competing to find a fortune in buried Confederate gold: Blondie, The Good (Clint Eastwood); Angel Eyes, The Bad (Lee Van Cleef); and Tuco, The Ugly (Eli Wallach). Ennio Morricone composed the recognizable and haunting film score.
“The Oxbow Incident,” 1943, directed by William Wellman, and starring Henry Fonda. Based on the novel of the same name by Walter Van Tilburg Clark, the film explores the theme of mob justice and vigilante law as two drifters are drawn into a lynch mob to find and hang three men presumed to be rustlers and the killers of a local man.
“Shane,” 1953, directed by George Stevens. Based on the novel by Jack Shaefer, with a screenplay by Western author A.B. Guthrie, the film tells the story of Shane, a drifter and reluctant gunslinger. Shane (Alan Ladd) stumbles into an isolated valley in Wyoming and becomes embroiled in a land conflict between a homesteader and a ruthless cattle boss.
“True Grit,” 2010, directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. A remake of another classic Western from 1969, “True Grit” directed by Henry Hathaway, and based on the novel by Charles Portis. Fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross hires Deputy U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne in the original; Jeff Bridges in the remake) to bring her father’s murderer to justice.
“Unforgiven,”1992, directed by and starring Clint Eastwood. A dark Western that deals frankly with the uglier aspects of violence and the myth of the Old West. The film tells the story of William Munny, an aging outlaw and killer who takes on one more job years after he had hung up his guns and turned to farming.
“Little Big Man,” 1970, directed by Arthur Penn, and based on the novel by Thomas Berger. At age 121, Jack Crabb (played by Dustin Hoffman) recounts the story of his life, including capture by the Cheyennes and participation in the Little Bighorn fight against George Armstrong Custer.
And last but not least, “Blazing Saddles,” 1974, directed by Mel Brooks, because it’s always fun to spoof the things you love. The campfire scene alone qualifies this film as “classic.” This film satirizes the racism obscured by myth-making Hollywood accounts of the American West, with the hero being a black sheriff in an all-white town.
All of my top ten appear on one or more lists of best Westerns. Most of these titles are available in DVD format at Manhattan Public Library.
Julie Kibler has written a debut novel that won my heart. I could not put this tragic love story down without continuing to dwell on the power of love and the tragedy of racial discrimination. In the south during the 1930′s, a wealthy white doctor’s daughter, Isabelle, falls in love with the handsome black son of their family maid. This story combines two time periods as years later now ninty year old Isabelle, asks her young black hairdresser, Dorrie, to drive her to a funeral 1000 miles from their homes. The two women share their troubled family stories with Isabelles secrets unfolding at the same time Dorrie’s teenage son calls with his own life changing problems. Calling Me Home kept me mesmerized till the very end. I hope for more by Julie Kibler!
Something just didn’t add up as I read this story, I knew there was a mystery lurking in the background, but I wasn’t sure what it was or why. Secrets were behind every turn. Willa Jackson had just moved back to Walls of Water, North Carolina. Her grandmother, Georgie Jackson, was in the nursing home there and seemed to be worried about peaches.
Paxton Osgood, now lived in The Blueridge Madam mansion, which at one time had belonged to the Jackson family. Paxton’s grandmother, Agatha Osgood, was Georgie’s best friend. Paxton decided to have a grand party to celebrate the social woman’s group that Agatha and Georgie had started years ago. Willa wasn’t interested in the event to honor both grandmothers, but when the peach tree was taken out and a skeleton was found, the secrets come out. Then we find out about the traveling salesman, Tucker Devlin, who had worked his charms on the town when Agatha and Georgie were young women. By the end of the book, both Willa and Paxton fall in love, secrets are unraveled, and everyone lives happily ever after.
C. J. Box’s complex and likeable character Joe Pickett returns in this latest novel by Box, Breaking Point. Pickett is a Wyoming Game warden, responsible for a huge area in the state, a job which regularly takes him away from his family and places him in danger often, but is a job that he loves as well. In this latest addition to the series, Pickett becomes involved in a dispute between a landowner and the EPA, which escalates into a manhunt, wild fire and government interference in local responsibilities. Box has written another fast-paced thriller, with perfect character development and a sense of place and community in and around the small town of Saddlestring, Wyoming. Joe Pickett is a character we come to care about in this series–an honest family man trying to do a responsible and fair job for his family, for his community and as a game warden and often finding himself in the middle of situations that he neither wants to be involved in or that he has created. Start this award-winning mystery series at the beginning with Open Season.
Manhattan had the privilege of a visit by Kent Haruf in 2006 for our first One Book/ One Community Read. His novel Plainsong was a finalist for the National Book Award and was adapted into a Hallmark Hall of Fame television movie in 2004. Many in Manhattan delighted in meeting the author and reveled in his engaging talks. Fast forward to this year and find Kent’s newest novel destined for a prestigious award. Benediction is set once again on the eastern high plains of Colorado in the small town of Holt. Dad Lewis has just been given the death sentence of a cancer diagnosis. His daughter comes home to help her mother, Mary, care for him, but his distant son is no longer a part of their lives. The secondary characters in the story all have issues and lives that are familiar to all of us. I found his latest book to be captivating and poignant as it drew me into a story that came so close to my personal experiences with my mother’s recent death. We all can feel the pathos of loss as none of us escape life’s sad transitions. Read Benediction also for the love shown to a small girl being raised by her grandmother and the hilarious skinny dipping scene.