Category Archives: Fourth Tuesday Book Club Books

The Last Child

the last childby John Hart

John Hart is a writer who describes himself as a “recovering” attorney who lives in North Carolina, the site of his novels.  Although he is currently not practicing law, his experience in our criminal justice system benefits his writing.  He has received praise as a writer who can bring his characters to life, making them very real to the reader.  His thrillers keep us on the edge of our seats, unable to put his work down.  In the book “The Last Child,” Hart mixes a boyhood adventure much like Huckleberry Finn’s with a modern mystery of missing children and serves us a winner of a story.

The hero of the book, Johnny Merrimon, is a 13-year-old boy who had lived in a very happy and strong family.  This changed a year ago when his sister disappeared.  Johnny still will not accept that she might be dead.  His family has been devastated.  Johnny’s father has disappeared, apparently absorbing blame for not being on time to pick up his daughter.  His mother feels guilty and changes her entire life-style, having lost two of her loves- her daughter and her husband.  She uses drugs and alcohol to dull the pain.  The result is that she loses touch with her son.  Both Johnny and his mother are abused by the town’s rich and influential power figure.  Johnny fights back the only way he knows how.  He spends his every moment and all of his energy to find the sister—the twin sister he has lost.  Clyde Hunt, the troubled police detective, is always there, still trying to solve the mystery, which has devastated him and his family, too.  Now the town cringes in fear.  Another young girl has gone missing.

Before long there are dead bodies and twists and turns that keep the reader both guessing and involved.  Hart’s book is full of action and suspense.  There is little time to rest, or to put this exciting book down—which you certainly won’t.  Our book club gave this book the highest rating of any book we have read.  I highly recommend it to both mystery lovers and to anyone who enjoys a fast-paced, exciting story.

Key Ideas from different club members:

I really liked the characters; Well-written; Like 2 books in 1; Wonderful page-turner!  Loved it; Nice read; Fantastic!  Suspense and drama all wrapped up into one; Kept you reading and guessing; Couldn’t predict the ending; Keeps you guessing till the end; Fabulous book!

The Club Members rating of this book:

Pat Gombita, Pat Kuna, Sharon Shaffer, Julie Shultz, Bill Simmons, Helen Skalski, Deb Stewart, Barb Swanson, and Linda Troll

Club’s Average Rating:  4.9 of 5       Rating Range:  4 to 5

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Crime, Family, Fourth Tuesday Book Club Books, Murder, Mystery

The Dirty Duck

by Martha Grimes

dirty duckThis month our book club decided to read works by Martha Grimes. She was born in Pittsburgh on May 2, 1931. Her   father was the city solicitor and her mother owned the Mountain Lake Hotel in western Maryland. Grimes and her brother spent summers in the country at their mother’s hotel (it was torn down in 1967). Grimes received her bachelors and masters degrees from the University of Maryland and taught in a number of places, including Frostburg State University. Most of Grimes’ novels fall in the subdivision of mysteries sometimes called “cozies.” Her most famous character is Richard Jury, a detective from Scotland Yard. Each of the 22 Jury mysteries are named after a pub, usually found in England. The Dirty Duck is the 4th in the Jury series.

Superintendent Richard Jury must find a serial killer who is targeting Americans from a group touring England. The murderer leaves behind lines of poetry after slashing his victims. Jury must also deal with another possible crime. One of the tourists is James Farraday, a millionaire widower from Maryland, who’s 9 year old boy, Jimmy, has disappeared. Farraday demands that Scotland Yard take over this case from the local police, too. Jury is helped by his friend, Melrose Plant, a rich aristocrat. Children often play an important role in the Jury stories, as in this one with the possible kidnapping of Jimmy. The discussion with Jimmy’s teenage sister, Penny, shows that Superintendent Jury has a good rapport with children.
It is recommended that you read the Jury series in order, with the earlier mysteries first. The characters change and develop. Events often build on things that happened in previous books. It is easier to follow and less confusing if you get to know the characters along the way. Grimes is a fabulous writer who uses the English language very effectively. Her stories are often complex, containing a large number of colorful characters, which makes it harder to casually follow events. Martha Grimes is a thinking person’s author. The Dirty Duck is an outstanding example of one of her early books. I would strongly recommend her to anyone who enjoys a good mystery.

Other books by Martha Grimes read by the book club:
Richard Jury books: Dust (#21), Lamorna Wink (#15), The Old Wine Shades (#20), The Horse You Came In On (#11) and The Old Silent (#10)
Other books: Foul MatterThe Way of the FishesDakota and Hotel Paradise
Book club members who read Martha Grimes:
Pat Kuna, Donna Norseen, Sharon Shaffer, Bill Simmons, Deb Stewart, Barbara Swanson, Linda Troll, and Rae Ann Weaver

 

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Fourth Tuesday Book Club Books, Murder, Mystery, Strong Sense of Place, Travel, Writers

Books from the New York Times Best Seller’s List January 2014

  How Lucky You Can Be by Buster Olney

Where can you find a good book when you are looking for one?  The library has hundreds of books, but which one should you choose?  One option is to read reviews (like this one) or to wander through book lists, like the New York Times.  This will give you a good idea of what books are being read and enjoyed by others.  Our club decided to pick books from some of these lists.

​The book How Lucky You Can Be was written by Buster Olney, an ESPN announcer.  It is subtitled “The Story of Coach Don Meyer.”  Coach Meyer is the most famous coach that you never heard of… but other basketball coaches around the country know about him.  He devoted himself not only to his teams but also to teaching the art of coaching to anyone interested in the game he loved.  This is much more than a sports story.  It is the story of a dedicated man who at times neglected his family to achieve greatness in his field, passing the legendary Bobby Knight in career wins with over 903 victories, the most by any coach in history at that time.  It took a tragedy for him to express the love he had for his family — wife, children, and his players.

​ Don Meyer had been a college player at Northern Colorado and a head coach for years at David Lipscomb College and Northern State University.  His success was tremendous, but this story really begins on a lonely stretch of two-land road in South Dakota.  While leading a caravan of cars, taking his players on a team-building retreat, Meyer fell asleep at the wheel.  His car veered into an oncoming tractor-trailer truck.  The Coach was crushed, and it was feared that he would die from his injuries.  At the hospital, doctors prepared his wife because they were certain he would not make it through the surgery.  After five hours, Meyer survived but lost part of a leg, his spleen, and had numerous other injuries.  Meyer said that the accident was the best thing that could have happened to him.  He equated it with an angel providing him with a message.  The doctors found that Meyer had terminal cancer.

​ The story describes how this driven coach, who did not want to give up coaching basketball, rose to face the greatest challenge of his life.  He reassessed his life and his relationships.  His three adult children describe the changes that he under went.  Meyer now expressed himself, particularly his emotional self.  He did not hold back telling his children, his wife, or his players how much he loved them.  This tragedy actually has made their family even closer.  This is the story of a man who’s belief in God, his religion, his family, and his team— both coaches and players– gave him the strength to come back to coaching and to fight the lose of a leg and the cancer.  This would be the toughest battle of his life.

I recommend this book wholeheartedly, not only for basketball fans, as an inspirational story of a man fighting to overcome tremendous odds.  (5 of 5)

Other books from book lists rated by different club members:

Mr. Ives’ Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos

Part love story, part meditation on finding spiritual peace in the midst of crisis.  It is a beautifully written, tender and passionate story of a man trying to put his life in perspective.  (4 of 5)

  Eats, Shoots, and Leaves by Lynne Truss

A funny, informative nonfiction book with excellent examples of misused punctuation. (5 of 5)

  The Hundred Year-Old Man by Jonas Jonasson

The story spans the 20th century with a character similar to Forest Gump.  (4 of 5)

 The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

Multiple story lines and strong women tell the story of World War II.  (5 of 5)

    Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross

Thought provoking historic novel about women being held back by authoritive men.  (4 of 5)

     Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Published in 1932, a thought  provoking novel anticipates developments that have profoundly changed society.  (4.5 of 5)

 The Christmas Train by David Baldacci

This tale shows how we do get second chances to fulfill our deepest hopes and dreams, especially during the season of miracles.  (5 of 5)

 God is not Mad at You by Joyce Meyer

A book that explains the relationship between God and man.  (5 of 5)

     Duck the Halls by Donna Andrews

‘Tis the season to be jolly – a funny novel with a heroine who rounds up stray animals of all sorts as well as a killer.  Duck the Halls! (5 of 5)

    Nighttime is My Time by Mary Higgins Clark

A riveting novel of psychological suspense that depicts the mind of a killer. (4 of 5)

The Club Members rating these books:

Pat Gombita, Mona Herrell, Pat Kuna, Lee Ann Schrock, Julie Shultz, Bill Simmons, Deb Stewart, Barb Swanson, Linda Troll, Patti Tullis and Rae Ann Weaver

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Adult Non-Fiction, Biography, Crime, Fourth Tuesday Book Club Books, Historical, History, Humor, Inspirational, Inspirational, Murder, Mystery, Personal Insights, Religion, Sports, Sports/Entertainment

Green River, Running Red: The Real Story of the Green River Killer–America’s Deadliest Serial Murderer

green river running redby Ann Rule

 Reviewed by The Fourth Tuesday and Mystery Book Club

            We all have a book on a bookshelf that is collecting dust.  It calls to us, and we want to pull it   down and read it.  A variety of reasons keep it on that shelf.  We have been too busy, we have to read something else, or we are just too tired to read right now… maybe tomorrow.  Our club decided to dust off those books and share with others what we finally found.

Ann Rule is famous for writing about true crime.  Her two most well known books tell of her work with the police in her backyard of Seattle, Washington.  Her personal knowledge and contact with the serial killers in both cases makes her books very personal accounts.  This book presents the facts and emotions around the “Green River Killer,” perhaps the most prolific serial killer in history.  He is serving 48 life sentences in prison.  This serial killer recently took part in an interview with the media admitting that he has killed nearly twice as many women as are now credited to him over a period of nearly two decades.

The author dedicated a large portion of the book to the young women that the Green River Killer murdered.  This means that the reader must spend a great deal of time learning about dozens of the Green River victims.  Rule describes their lives, included the rejection, the abuse, and often the sadness that drove most of them to prostitution.  A missing or murdered prostitute does not create as much urgency in a community that another type of murder might.

Although the book jumps back and forth between the victims, creating accounts that are somewhat confusing, the author deals with each individual–both victim and perpetrator—fairly.  It is sad and amazing that such a horrible killing machine actually existed.  This book is eye opening in many ways and an interesting true crime read.  I would recommend it.  (4.5 of 5)

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Filed under Adult Non-Fiction, Fourth Tuesday Book Club Books, Mystery, Tragic Events

The Accidental Bestseller

 accidental bestsellerby Wendy Wax

Reviewed by the Fourth Tuesday and Mystery Book Club

This book describes the behind the scenes process of writing and publishing a book in the highly competitive New York publishing market.  That, however, is not what the story is really about.  It is about four women.  They meet at their very first writers’ conference, become close friends, and are still close a decade later.  Kendall Aims, whose marriage is in shambles, is facing a deadline and hides in a mountain cabin to avoid distractions.  She also faces writer’s block—no ideas.  Her friends come to the rescue.  Each one writes a portion of the novel, incorporating secret aspects of their own lives.  Mallory St. James is a workaholic.  Tanya Mason is a single mom who works at juggling two jobs, two kids and multiple deadlines.  Faye Truett is married to a famous televangelist.  She has financed their lives and his religious work by secretly writing “inspirational romances.”  Each of the four writers bases their part of the book on their secret lives.  They help Kendall meet her deadline and more.  Her once promising writing career, recently on the skids, is reborn.  The friends’ joint effort, much to their surprise and concern, becomes a massive bestseller.  The secret writers implore Kendall to take full credit as the author for fear of exposing their personal lives. 

            This is a very entertaining book, perhaps it is too easy to guess what will happen next, perhaps it is a bit too long, but it is a novel that is a good light read.  It is fast paced, well plotted and well written.  The book also has a satisfying conclusion.  It is enjoyable and worthy of your time.  “The Accidental Bestseller” is a bestseller.  It is rated very high and is highly recommended by the club members who read it.

Key Ideas from different club members

 Enjoyable read, perfect for summer;  Great friendships;  Provided great insight into the writing and publishing world;  Writing industry very cutthroat;  Would like to see a sequel, to find out what happened to each of the writers;  I’d like to read the book that the friends wrote;  “Page turner chick book”;  Enjoyed book and characters, liked knowing the outcome of each author’s life;  Couldn’t put it down.   

The Club Members rating this book:

Linda Bowman, Pat Kuna, Helen Skalski, Linda Troll, Rae Ann Weaver, (Sharon Shaffer, and William Simmons)

Club’s Average Rating: 4.5 of 5                Rating Range: 4 to 5

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Fourth Tuesday Book Club Books

I’ll Walk Alone

I'll Walk Alone

by Mary Higgins Clark

Reviewed by The Fourth Tuesday and Mystery Book Club

Your child has been kidnapped.  He has disappeared and no evidence of him—dead or alive—has been uncovered.  Would your family and friends support you or blame you for the crime?  Would they suspect that you kidnapped your own son?  How would their views change if a photo surfaced that showed you taking the baby?

Mary Higgins Clark is the queen of suspense novels.  “I’ll Walk Alone” deals with the kidnapping of a three-year-old boy while his young babysitter dozed on the grass near the napping child.  His mother is a gifted and beautiful interior designer who is struggling to make her business successful.  She claimed that she was at the home of a wealthy client when the crime took place.  The mother, Zan Moreland, was initially viewed as the brave parent who never gives up hope that her only child will be found alive.  Time passes by with no evidence of the missing boy.  Two years with no sightings or physical evidence to indicate that he might be alive or dead.  Then a picture is uncovered from an event in the park that shows Zan taking her son from the stroller.  Everything changes.  She is no longer admired.  Her former husband, the father of the missing child, turns on her.  It appears that her identity has been stolen or that she is behaving irrationally.  Zan’s friends and even Zan herself begins to worry about her sanity.

The author brings back Alvirah Meehan, the lottery winner and amateur detective, from an earlier novel and introduces some compelling new characters.  Father O’Brien struggles with a confession that he feels compelled to honor as private but realizes that it might help solve the crime.  It also places his life in danger.  Clark’s storytelling is at its best in this exciting tale with many twists and turns.  You will not be able to put it down until you reach the dramatic and surprising ending.

All of the members of our club rated this book very high and recommend it strongly.  Many of the members are already reading more of Mary Higgins Clark’s books and enjoying them.

Key Ideas from different club members:

An easy read and enjoyable; was a real page turner; many twists and turns; puzzling until the end; kept me guessing; do not read many mysteries but was pulled in completely by this one; great, surprising ending; loved the characters; intriguing suspense; really enjoyed it; excellent; Clark is a great story teller; already have read 2 more of her books.

The Club Members rating this book:

Pat Gombita, Mona Herrell, Pat Kuna, Lee Ann Schrock, Sharon Shaffer, Julie Shultz, Bill Simmons, Lynn Simmons, Helen Skalski, Deb Stewart, Barb Swanson, Linda Troll, and Rae Ann Weaver

Club’s Average Rating:  4.6 of 5       Rating Range:  4 to 5

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September 20, 2013 · 6:01 pm

The House at Sugar Beach

the house at sugar beach

by Helene Cooper

Reviewed by The Fourth Tuesday and Mystery Book Club    

The author of this autobiography is Helene Cooper, the White House correspondent for the New York Times.  She was born in Monrovia, Liberia, and lived in a privileged class.  Her home was a 22-room mansion at Sugar Beach.  Living by the sea, with her parents, her sister Marlene, and her foster sister Eunice, provided an idyllic existence of wealth and privilege.  Their fall from grace occurred when President Tolbert and his entire cabinet were executed, and the government was seized in a coup.  The author’s class, called the “Congo” class, was now on the run.  Her family fled to America for safety.  Eunice, her foster sister and close friend, belonged to the Bassa tribe and chose to stay behind.  Cooper went from high school to college, fell in love with journalism, and developed a career in which she traveled and reported on everything, except Africa.  Although she missed the sister they left behind, she made no attempt to contact her.

            The first part of the book talks about the history of Liberia and Cooper’s own family history.  It also introduces her family and friends, explaining how her view of the world changed when the coup took place.  Her mother, Mommee, was a strong figure in her life.  Mommee had “gumption” and helped her family survive the roving bands of soldiers, or more correctly thieves and rapists.  Her mother made a deal with a gang, allowing the soldiers to rape her if they would allow her daughters to be left in safety. 

Cooper then describes coming to America and her experience in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1980.  This was the first time she attended a public school system, and she was “the girl from Africa.”  Eventually, her father got an accounting job in Greensboro, North Carolina.  She became involved in her school Journalism class after being inspired by reading “All the President’s Men.”  At first she wrote reviews of TV shows.  She also became involved in the school’s “High IQ Team,” similar to current Scholastic Quiz teams.  She was accepted at the University of North Carolina in 1983, and, of course, majored in journalism. 

Throughout her new life in America, her family maintained their ties with Africa.  Her father, who had a drinking problem, experienced a difficult time making it here, so he headed back to Africa where he would be “a bigger fish in the small pond of Liberia” rather than “trying to swim upstream in the United States.”  Cooper, however, did not go back.  She would not communicate with her sister, Eunice.  It took a near-death experience while she was reporting on the Iraqi War to make her realize that she had unfinished business in Liberia.  The last part of the book describes her reunion with Eunice and with her family’s culture.         

Key Ideas from different club members

 Tells about the history of Liberia, interesting that it was settled by American slaves; Interesting story of the family’s struggle during the civil war; Very informative; Her language was a bit difficult to understand; Horrific and deplorable living conditions seen through the eyes of a young girl; Not easy to get into this book; Disappointed; Some parts were just boring; Thought there would be more about her life as a reporter; Slow; Easy to put down and not pick back up.

The Club Members Rating of this Book: 

Linda Bowman, Pat Gombita, Mona Herell, Pat Kuna, Lee Ann Schrock, William Simmons, Helen Skalski, Barbara Swanson, and Linda Troll

 Club’s Average Rating: 2.5 of 5           Rating Range:  2.5 to 4   

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Filed under Adult Non-Fiction, Autobiography, Fourth Tuesday Book Club Books