Thursday, March 29, 2012

23. The Year the Lights Came On by Terry Kay

This is my second book by Terry Kay and I love the way he writes.  You are present as he tells about a rural Georgia town in 1947 and the life of the young boys living there.  There is a definite division between the people on each side of Highway 17; and it creates great tension at the school between Colin's group, Our Side, and the Highway 17 gang led by Dupree Hixon.  Eleven-year-old Colin has a great bunch of friends including his older brother, Wesley, who is a natural leader, and Freeman Boyd, a wild child who knows the swamp better than any one else around.  Wesley figures out the main difference between the two groups is that they have electricity.  The knowledge that soon the Rural Electrification Administration would be running lines to the rest of the county leaves Our Side feeling a bit smug about their secret.  Kay creates a great story about an era when things were simpler but harder, more innocent and also about how progress in the shape of electricity changed the culture and lives of the people involved.  I find that I really enjoy coming-of-age stories of young teenage boys set in bygone times.  I can't remember reading similar stories involving girls.  Why is that?  If you want to read a well-written book with a great story, pick this one or even another Kay book, The Valley of Lights (not a series).  Rating:  4.75

Sunday, March 25, 2012

22. April Fool Dead by Carolyn Hart

I love the "Death on Demand Mystery" series.  Annie Darling owns her own mystery bookstore called Death on Demand located on a South Carolina small island.  It's amazing how many murders there are on this island and Annie gets involved in each one.  The mysteries themselves are pretty fluffy.  The fun is in the characters, especially with Annie and her gorgeous husband, Max.  That relationship is sheer enjoyment.  I also enjoy the contests that Annie hosts at her bookstore.  Each month she commissions a set of five pictures that depict different mysteries.  Annie is also always discussing different books that make the reader want to go out and read them.  If you love mysteries, these books will give you lots of ideas of ones to check out.  In this  particular mystery,  Annie creates a contest advertising an upcoming book signing and puts flyers around the island.  Someone creates similar flyers, only they are targeting actual residents of the island.  Soon a school teacher is shot in her home and a student is pushed off a pier and drowns.  Through it all is Laurel, Max' ethereal mother, who drifts in and out and helps the police end a drug-running operation.  There is too much going on and the mystery wraps up too neatly.  Even so, I enjoyed the book as much as the rest of the series.  Annie and Max are just a great couple to read about.  Rating:  4

Saturday, March 24, 2012

21. Summer of Light by W Dale Cramer

Mick Brannigan is happy with his life as a construction worker, husband and father of three.  It's true that his youngest, four-year-old Dylan, is suffering from a condition making it difficult for him to process his sensory perceptions causing behaviorial problems.  Fate seems to take a hand in Mick's life when he loses his job and becomes the primary caretaker for Dylan and the other two children.  He takes on odd jobs around the neighborhood, cutting down a tree which falls into a house, destroying it and the chainsaw borrowed from another neighbor.  He has a freak accident and drives his car into a pond.  One things leads to another; but through it all he helps Dylan learn to deal with his condition, finds another vocation and develops faith in a God who does know what is happening in our lives.  The religious message is not heavy handed at all.  I truly enjoyed the humor in this story and how Mick deals with his frustrations and the growth in his life.  Rating:  5

20. The Stargazey by Martha Grimes

I have always enjoyed Martha Grimes's Richard Jury series.  Richard is a New Scotland Yard superintendent who surrounds himself with a fascinating set of friends.  My favorite is Melrose Plant, an many-titled peer of the realm who has renounced his titles unless it is useful while helping Jury solve his cases.  The book has just the right blend of mystery, suspense and humor.  I'm not going to go into the plot itself.  I just recommend any Richard Jury book.  Rating:  4.25

19. Cheerful Money by Tad Friend

Tad Friend comes from a long line of Wasps  and this book explains what that means as he tells his life story.  The reader gets to know his illustrious ancestors and how Wasps dominated American life for many centuries. 

From back cover:
"As a young man, Tad noticed that his family tree, for all its glories, was full of alcoholics, depressives, and reckless eccentrics.  Yet his identity had already been shaped by the family's age-old traditions and expectations.  Part memoir, part family history, and part cultural study of the long swoon of the  American Wasp, Cheerful Money is captivating examination of a cultural crack-up and a man trying to escape its wreckage."

I found this book very interesting and educational.  It was fun to read about America's oldest families and the changes they have gone through in the last fifty years.  Rating:  3.75