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Showing posts from December, 2016

A Perfect Stranger, by Danielle Steel (1981)

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I've never been in love, but I'm not the least bit averse to the idea. Not for myself, of course. At 51, that flat-bottomed skiff has set sail. But I've seen couples clearly in love and it warms my heart. Romantic love is a rare and precious thing and I wish those who've found it all the joy and blessings I can muster. I'm also not averse to reading romance fiction. Some of it, such as McCullough's The Ladies of Missalonghi, is not only a good story but well written.

Having heard so much about the famous romance author Danielle Steel, I decided to seek out her work at my local used book store. When I saw this novel for a nickel in the bargain bin, my heart grabbed a jump rope and skipped all the way down the block, singing Lydia the Tattooed Lady, figuratively of course.

Granted, I've read only a handful of romance novels so far, but Penny Jordan's Marriage Without Love is decent, A Perfect Choice by Laura Parker, which I read years ago, is certainly se…

marriage without love, Penny Jordan (1981)

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This is probably only the second Harlequin Romance I've read, and I'm reminded of a behind the scenes special about the writers of the hit TV show 24 who took pride in the criticism leveled against a nighttime soap they wrote decades before called Knott's Landing. They quoted the critic as having written, “Dumb but never dull.” That sums up this novel.

Enter Briony, a bitter but beautiful young secretary dumped by a reporter named Kieron, who, we’re given to understand through a series of flashbacks, had briefly dated and slept with Briony in order to acquire a scoop from her about Briony’s roommate's brother (a wanted criminal in hiding). Kieron then left Briony, presumably without calling, leaving a note or a forwarding address. When his story hits the paper, Briony is indignant. Understandably, she’s convinced Kieron merely used her. Briony’s roommate’s brother is arrested; furious, Briony’s roommate kicks her out of the apartment.

Unbeknownst to Kieron, one of thei…

The Cat Who Saw Stars, Lilian Jackson Braun (1998)

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This marks the tenth The Cat Who … novel I've read, and because the quality of these tales generally varies from great to garbage, I've decided to call it quits with the series. The problem is I never know whether I'll be treated to a well written who dun it or an utter dud. One novel might deliver on a classic murder mystery with the added bonus of a quirky moonlighting detective and his enigmatic cats. The standard fare from Braun. These follow a well-established and welcome formula: someone dies; foul play is suspected; and whether prodded by an inexplicable bristling sensation along his mustache or by the prescient behavior of his Siamese cat Koko, our beloved sleuth Qwilleran sets to work on solving the case. This develops into well plotted scenes, intriguing suspects, and a satisfying finish.
The next novel, however, might read like a journal adaptation by an octogenarian chronicling her fervor for food, fashion, felines, and fellowship. The problem with the latter is…

Why Do We Say It? The Stories Behind the Words, Expressions and Clichés We Use, Castle Books (1985)

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Being a lover of words, I've often wondered about the origins of certain terms and expressions I've heard throughout my life, and for years I'd sought out books that expounded on them. Bon mots, adages, idioms, that sort of stuff has intrigued me for as long as I can recall. This book is the closest I've come to that kind of thing.

In this book, we find quite a few curious, sometimes amusing, tales about how some of these words and sayings allegedly came about. Some expressions, such as 'Learn By Heart' (or as I've often heard it said, 'I know it by heart'), as well as 'Learn by Rote' date back to antiquity. Others, such as 'quiz,' and 'Flash in the Pan,' are only a few hundred years old. Some terms and expressions are corruptions of their original, such as 'Nuts in May,' which was initially 'knots in May' as in 'sprigs of flowers,' which do come out in May. A few I knew: Carry Coals to Newcastle, Doub…

The Ladies of Missalonghi, Colleen McCullough (1987)

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McCullough is the author of The Thorn Birds, which became a TV special many years ago. I think I was a teen at the time. I didn't watch it. I haven't read the novel yet, either. Ladies is quite good. Twenty pages shy of 200 and centered round a protagonist who desires above all else to get married, this qualifies as a romance, a genre to which I've only recently devoted more of my reading time. But the fine writing, endearing characters, tasteful love scenes, and absorbing happenings kept me turning the pages. For one, the writing is exquisite; the characters are often witty, and I found myself laughing out loud in a few spots. The twist at the end was both strange and unexpected, but because it was treated so well, I not only bought into it, I found it moving, too. I plan to read more from her. Five out of five stars. PG-13

Silas Marner, George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans Cross), Afterward by Walter Allen (1861)

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Early in the story, Silas Marner, a poor weaver accused of a crime he didn't commit, is ostracized by his fellow church friends and decides to move away from his home town to establish himself elsewhere. 
Having lost his faith in both God and humanity, he sustains himself for years by weaving and selling his goods in his new, adopted country, all the while saving most of his earnings until accumulating a hefty hoard.
Silas’ new neighbors consider him a misanthrope. And for good reason. His sole purpose is to accumulate wealth from his weaving and, apart from occasionally interacting with the patrons who commissioned his services, he keeps to himself. His accumulated wealth is his everything. Nightly he extracts his earnings from bags he stashes in a cubbyhole in his house and eagerly counts the coins.
Until one night when he steps outside and his house is robbed. Silas is devastated. That same night, however, minutes later in fact, he confronts an orphan child of two on all fours at…

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Philosophy, 2nd Edition, Jay Stevenson, Ph.D

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A good summary of the history of philosophy, the key philosophers, when they lived, and their ideas. Ironically, this is my only complaint. The word guide is in the title of the book. Yet this is not a guide to philosophy but rather a summary of the history of philosophy. The book chronicles the contributions of philosophers; it doesn’t explore the philosophical ideas themselves. Which is fine. I still enjoyed it. Just somewhat misleading. Four out of five stars.