217 Following

Linda Hilton

Reader, Writer, Merciless Reviewer and Incurable Romantic

Currently reading

All the President's Men
Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward
Women's Gothic and Romantic Fiction: A Reference Guide (American Popular Culture)
Kay Mussell
Progress: 17/157 pages
The Looking-Glass Portrait
Linda Hilton
Really Neat Rocks: A casual introduction to the rocks & gems of Arizona and the lapidary arts
Linda Hilton
Progress: 61/61 pages
Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith
Jon Krakauer
The Power of Myth
Joseph Campbell, Bill Moyers
Progress: 20 %

Just for the cover

To Burn Again Brightly - Joyce Verrette

I think I have a scan of the wrap-around on the other computer.  If so, I'll post it later.





BL-opoly - #24 - Take the Jungle Cruise!

Rolled 3 + 6 = 9 = landed on Adventureland #24


A book set in Asia or Africa, or has an exotic animal on the cover.


I'm going to have to do some searching.  I have a lot of historical romances set in Asia -- Joyce Verrette's To Burn Again Brightly with one of the most gorgeous covers ever, Susannah Leigh's Moonwind, and others -- but I'd like to find something written by an Asian or African writer.  So I'll get back to you on this one.



BL-opoly - Free Friday #1 -- All the President's Men

All the President's Men - Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward

I've had this one sitting on the family room bookcase for I don't know how long.  Even though I know the "story" -- I remember when it all happened -- I've never read the book, or seen the movie.


I had another book picked out last night for the Free Friday event, but The Crafstman proved to be one of those books I need to read with a pad of little Post-its to mark the important passages.  Sociology, arts and crafts, and political theory are not the stuff for relaxing week-end reading!


But there sat the Bernstein and Woodward book, and with the anniversary of the Watergate break-in being this week, I thought I'd go in a different direction.  I only read 30 pages before I started falling asleep, but I was seriously hooked.  The projects planned for this week-end while the BF is out of town may get shoved aside in favor of reading. It's going to be too hot to do anything outside. . . .

Should've saved my time instead

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt - Beth Hoffman, Jenna Lamia

One of the things that drew me to the Booklikes-opoly game was the opportunity to expand some of my reading horizons, especially with all the thousands of books I have.


Some of the books have been monstrous disappointments.  Others have been so-so.  And a few have been truly wonderful.


Saving Ceecee Honeycutt falls in the so-so category.


I bumped it up from the two-star rating I had originally intended only because the author redeemed some of the earlier issues I had with the book, but in some ways I was tempted to knock it down a star rather than up.


Ceecee is twelve years old.  Her mother is seriously mentally ill, her much older father is absent for long stretches of time.  After years of being the caregiver for her mother, Ceecee is without friends, without family, without childhood.  When her mother dies, Ceecee is bundled off to live with her great-aunt Tootie in Savannah, Georgia, which is a whole different world from Willoughby, Ohio.


The reader presumes the story is being told after-the-fact and that Ceecee is now an adult looking back on her childhood.  It isn't until maybe two-thirds of the way through the book that the child Ceecee -- her real name is Cecelia Rose -- breaks down emotionally to confront all her traumas.  And it's a pretty serious breakdown.


This is a better story than the silliness of the two Sarah Addison Allen books I read earlier this summer, but I came away with a similar sense of unreality.  Maybe current 2017 events are affecting my reading experience of a book that's set in the 1967 Deep South.


The Savannah, Georgia, of this book is spiritually unchanged from the Atlanta of Gone with the Wind.  All the white ladies are sweet and polite -- and rich -- and the black help are uncomplaining and grateful.  And Ceecee is innocently unaware of everything.  Even when one of the white ladies is revealed to be a racist, she's such an over-the-top caricature that she's unbelievable, laughable, not taken seriously.


No sense of time or place infuses this book, and all the little problems are neatly and easily solved.  There's no tension or drama; there's more nail-biting in one of the Nancy Drew mysteries Ceecee loves.  It's also not a novel that invokes any feminist principles, despite the almost all-female cast.


Sadly, several small stories within this are left hanging.  Was the hatpin just junk jewelry, or was the red stone a ruby or even a garnet?  What happened to the diamond necklace?  What happened to the jewelry store? 


Another aspect of the book that bothered me was that it's a story of a twelve-year-old girl but written obviously for adult readers.  Had there been some reflections from the adult Ceecee or some epilogue that showed how all this affected her as she grew up, I might have found it more to my liking.  But at my age, I'm not all that interested in reading about twelve-year-olds whose lives go miraculously from rags to riches without any deeper development.



Reading progress update: I've read 306 out of 306 pages.

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt - Beth Hoffman

Full review to follow, as I'm too tired to write it now.  And I want to start my Friday free choice book while it's still Friday.


Overall, it wasn't a bad book, but it wasn't all that good either.  Or maybe it was just too sugary sweet.


Reading progress update: I've read 112 out of 306 pages.

— feeling what?!?
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt - Beth Hoffman

Maybe I need to stop thinking about these books so much.



So 12-year-old Ceecee has gone to live with her great aunt Tootie in Savannah.  They drive to visit Tootie's sister Lucille, who runs the family's jewelry store.  Ceecee meets Aunt Lu's lifelong friend Rosa.


Ceecee has never had any friends at all, other than her neighbor, elderly Mrs. Odell.  Even though Ceecee wonders if she will ever have a lifelong fried like Rosa, she doesn't do much wondering about going to school in the fall, meeting young people her own age, and so on.  She's surrounded by older women, it's 1967, and she seems to have no clue what's going on in the world around her.


Even if she had no friends at her school in Ohio, wouldn't she have had some hints about things like the Beatles, the Vietnam war, the whole youth culture, and so on? 


I found this very striking, and not natural.


But worse was that when Aunt Lu DIES just two weeks later, Ceecee (via author Hoffman) devotes only two pages to it! 

(show spoiler)




Reading progress update: I've read 57 out of 306 pages.

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt - Beth Hoffman

Easy, pleasant reading, but completely lacking in depth. Characters lack dimension, and there's not much that evokes the 1960s time period.  At least not yet.

BL-opoly #16 -Route 66

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt - Beth Hoffman, Jenna Lamia

I couldn't find anything set in one of those states that I really wanted to read, so since this as 306 pages, I'll go with it.

Friends of the Library and the Honesty Box

I swore I wouldn't even look at the books in the sale room, the one you have to walk through to get from the door to the check-out desk.  I swore I wouldn't.


But I did.


Three books at 75 cents each.


I didn't want to mess around digging a quarter out of the bottom of my purse, so I slipped three singles into the Honest Box and called it good.  I always round up.


Not on my wish list

A Gift of Ghosts - Sarah Wynde

Disclosure -- I obtained the Kindle edition of this book when it was offered free on Amazon.  I do not know the author, nor have I ever had any communication with her about this book or any other matter.


Trigger warnings, just in case:

Deaths of children, child abuse, suicide, abortion

(show spoiler)


The book started out fine.  Akira Malone, physics professor, has jeopardized her academic standing with a paragraph in a research paper, in which she suggests ghosts may be a form of energy.  She's now looking for another job, and lands one with a bizarre research facility, General Directions, in the small town of Tassamara, Florida.


Tassamara is a "quirky" little town, where most of the residents are "quirky," too.


Akira's quirk is that she can see ghosts.  And there seem to be a lot of them in Tassamara.  There's one in the rental car, for crying out loud!


I thought this was going to be a light, fun read.  The writing was competent, if sometimes a little heavy on the telling and light on the showing, but it wasn't horrible.  Akira was a likable character, and she didn't do stupid things just for the sake of the story.


Her boss at GD is Zane Latimer, the usual gorgeous hunk.  He didn't seem quite as well developed at Akira, but I could live with that in a fluff book.


Unfortunately, A Gift of Ghosts didn't stay fluffy.


The ghost haunting Akira's rental car -- which she ends up leasing when she moves to Florida to take the job -- is of a 15-year-old boy.  I had a bad feeling about that right away. 


There are four more ghosts at the house she rents: an older man, a young woman who loves television and parties, and two little boys who play in the back yard.  I had more bad feelings about the boys.


General Directions is owned by Zane and his siblings and his father, Max.  Each of them has a "gift," too.  Akira sees ghosts, but Zane can find things; his older brother Lucas reads minds; one of his sisters can see the future; and so on.  Zane is frequently contacted by police and other investigative bodies to find missing things, like stolen property.  Sometimes he's asked to find missing people.


The whole book took a very dark turn when Zane takes on a case of a missing toddler and his father. 

Instead of his "gift" helping to resolve the mystery and return the boy to his grieving mother, Zane's inability to locate the boy suggests that the boy is dead, and points to the father as the killer.  Akira steps in because she can see the boy's ghost.  Well, at least it wasn't murder, but the father's death is suicide and the whole episode altered my whole attitude toward the book.

(show spoiler)

Of course the relationship between Akira and Zane becomes insta-lust, which didn't add anything to the story because there was no tension in the relationship.  No complications, no nothing.


About the time they started having super-duper sex, I realized there wasn't a whole lot of emotional development in the book.  There were plenty of opportunities for it, but the characters didn't seem to react appropriately to what seemed to be highly charged situations. 

For example, the ghost in the car, Dillon, is Zane's nephew, who died of a drug overdose, apparently.  But there doesn't seem to be much grieving or reaction, or even soul-searching about what went wrong.

(show spoiler)

  So when another of the many ghosts in the book --

Zane's mother, Dillon's grandmother, who died of a stroke after Dillon's death

(show spoiler)

-- went into emotional overdrive and threatened Akira's life, I went into eye-roll overdrive.


I also found the ghostly debate over whether or not someone who had aborted -- or at least tried to abort -- an unwanted pregnancy could be forgiven by God and go to heaven rather than burn in hell to be a completely unnecessary distraction.


So it was a good start that kind of went in a lot of wrong directions, at least for me.  I finished it, but I did skim quite a bit through about the last 20%.


BL-opoly Small town setting, 211 pages.  $3.00

BL-opoly - Carsland #16 -- Route 66

Roll 1 + 5 = Space 16, Carsland Route 66.


I haven't picked a book yet,  Maybe tomorrow.

review to come

A Gift of Ghosts  - Sarah Wynde

I finished this, but it turned out not to be as light as I had hoped. Quite a few triggers


Review, rating, and warnings tomorrow or . . . . soon.

Reading progress update: I've read 9%.

A Gift of Ghosts  - Sarah Wynde

Light, pleasant, competent writing so that I'm not reaching for a red pen every half second.

BL-opoly - Mainstreet #10 - Takes place in a small town

I think this is the last of my Memorial Day week-end extra rolls.


One of my (many) Kindle freebies, A Gift of Ghosts is set in Tassamara, Florida, described as "a quirky little town."


So far, I know the main character, Dr. Akira Malone is a physics professor who sees ghosts.


I need something light after The Tunnels.

Reading progress update: I've read 382 out of 382 pages.

The Tunnels: Escapes Under the Berlin Wall-and the Historic Films the JFK White House Tried to Kill - Greg Mitchell

Disclosure: I do not personally know the author, Greg Mitchell, but I do follow him on Twitter and have had a very few direct exchanges with him.  Through one of those, I won a copy of this book.  So this was a free copy, but not in any way connected to my reviewing it.  I'm not sure Mr. Mitchell is even aware that I occasionally review books at all.

I have read two of his previous books, Hiroshima in America: A Half-Century of Denial, written with Robert Jay Lifton, and Atomic Cover-up: Two Soldiers, Hiroshima & Nagasaki, and the Greatest Movie Never Made.

The Berlin Wall went up a couple months before I turned thirteen, just before I entered the eighth grade.  I remember the event dominating the news.  Much of my mother's family was German, and from an area that was then in East Germany, so there was a personal, if distant, connection.  We watched the news on television every night, and the fifteen-minute broadcast at noon on the local Chicago station.  And my parents subscribed to the major pictorial news magazines, Life and Look, which often featured articles about Germany and Berlin, especially after the Wall.  I knew about the death of young Peter Fechter, killed trying to escape.

Somewhere in my consciousness all these years was probably a memory, too, of reports of successful escapes, including through tunnels, but it wasn't a memory I could easily call up.  Therefore I went into the reading of The Tunnels with only the most essential, but essentially superficial, background information.

The opening chapters of Mitchell's book expand on that background as well as introduce the main characters – the diggers and the refugees.  But as the story proceeds, others emerge on the stage – reporters, informants, politicians.  The narrative acquires a context beyond the tunnel, beyond the Wall, beyond Berlin.

Without that context, this is a thrilling escape adventure.  With that context, this becomes a powerful commentary on the human spirit in its greatest and weakest moments.

During that summer of 1962, when a small group of young men began the tunnel under Bernauerstrasse, international events were heading on a collision course that seemingly had no connection to the dirt and mud and risks.  

An NBC news crew had quietly, almost secretly, filmed some of the construction of this tunnel, intending to present the result as a documentary for U.S. television.  There was, however, opposition from the government, and by the time the program was scheduled to air in the fall of 1962, political tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union were escalating over the deployment of missiles in Cuba.  Though there were American forces in West Germany, and even in Berlin – an isolated city surrounded by Soviet-controlled East Germany – Cuba was closer to the U.S. mainland by thousands of miles.  And there were those in the administration of John F. Kennedy who were willing to write off Berlin -- in the form of a nuclear war -- in exchange for keeping those missiles out of Cuba.

The governmental machinations exposed in The Tunnels are not pretty.  They're a stark contrast to JFK's Ich bin ein Berliner speech of the following June, delivered to 450,000 cheering, adoring Germans.

There is much in The Tunnels that applies to our current international political scene.  The book was published in October 2016, on the eve of, well, you know what.  And the final pages reference walls in general and in particular.  One passage, however, may be more poignant than all the rest.

Under Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany remains one of America's close allies but its citizens, according to opinion polls, harbor deep ambivalence about the United States.  To a significant extent, the country is still divided politically, with a surprising level of anti-democratic feeling (and opposition to new immigrants) in the former East and plenty of left-wing sentiment in the old West.  Peter Schneider, a well-known German journalist and author (one of his books is The Wall Jumper) told a New Yorker writer that Americans in the Cold War era "created a model of a savior, ad now we find by looking at you that you are not perfect at all – much less, you are actually corrupt, you are terrible businessmen, you have no ideals anymore."

Angela Merkel, who was born in East Germany, is now sometimes referred to as the leader of the free world, a title formerly claimed by the president of the United States.

The 90-minute documentary produced by NBC and aired in December 1962 went on to win three Emmy awards in May 1963, including Program of the Year, the first documentary to do so.  The Tunnel is available online.  I watched it just after finishing the book; it is well worth your time.

There are many worthwhile quotes in this book, in addition to the passage I reproduced above, that remain as relevant to 2017 as to 1962.  After The Tunnel finally reached American audiences and was deemed "nothing short of a triumph" based on both reviews and ratings,

[Producer Reuven Frank] was troubled that he still didn't understand exactly why the Kennedy administration had fought [the film] with such vehemence.  Frank realized, not for the first time but now most profoundly, how painfully vulnerable to pressure the America media remained when it came to the reporting of sensitive issues.  "Anyone with half a brain," as he once put it, "can make it impossible," or nearly so.

Reading progress update: I've read 266 out of 320 pages.

The Tunnels: Escapes Under the Berlin Wall-and the Historic Films the JFK White House Tried to Kill - Greg Mitchell

I only quit reading at 11:30 last night because I knew I had to be up very early to catch the cool temperatures and rising sun no later than 5:00 a.m.  Otherwise, I'd have read until I finished it.  Now that I've taken care of those essential early chores, I can go back to reading.


It's tempting to skip some of the background, the non-digging narrative, and just stick with the tunneling, but to do so is to lose the ultimate context, especially its poignant relevance to the current human situation.


A superb and timely book. 


More details to come.