Thursday, May 27, 2010

"The Double Comfort Safari Club" by Andrew McCall Smith

Reading the books in this series is like visiting some distant relatives who are so relaxing to be around that you feel comfortable sitting down with them. After so many books the characters feel like old friends or family members and the descriptions of Botswana's landscape and people -- especially the traditional values loved by Precious Ramotswe -- are enjoyable to read.

The cases that come to the detective agency are not the usual mysteries but instead are often about human nature and are handled not with a gun or violence but a listening ear, a kind heart and a cup of tea. In this installment, there is a question of spousal infidelity, a man who has been taken advantage of by a scheming woman, and locating the unnamed beneficiary of a bequest. And a fiance's aunt who wants Mma Makutsi out of the picture.

Reading these books makes me happy.
I got this book from the library.

"Once A Spy" by Keith Thomson

What happens when a retired master spy gets Alzheimer’s? This is one of the most creative ideas for a spy novel I have seen. Charlie Clark has a bad relationship with his father and barely speaks to him. Charlie’s mother died when he was young. Charlie believes his father spent his entire career worked for a third-rate appliance company and resents all the things he missed in his childhood because of his father’s job and reluctance to do anything interesting. Now Charlie is a gambler in trouble with the Russian mob for his losses at the track and his father Drummond has memory loss problems.

Charlie gets a call to pick up his father who has wandered away from home and soon learns that nothing about his life is as he believed. Drummond’s job with the appliance company was a front: he spent his career as spy. The book is full of fast-moving action as Charlie and his father are running from people trying to kill them. Drummond alternates between confused forgetfulness and the skilled master spy he had been. And in between ducking bullets and trying to escape assassins, Charlie and Drummond rebuild their relationship.

I loved this book. The premise is creative and it was fun to read.

I got the book from the library.  Support your local library!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

"Bodily Harm" by Robert Dugoni

This is the second book I have read in the David Sloane series by Robert Dugoni. The plot stands alone but you will lose some character development/understanding if you haven’t read at least one of the earlier books in the series – I think there was more explanatory character background in "Wrongful Death" than in this book.

The plot of this book is almost more about revenge than about a legal case – it’s much darker emotionally than the earlier book – and that got in the way of the plot for me. I think the book would have been better if Sloane had been acting as a lawyer and not out of personal motivation, but that’s just my personal opinion. The other thing that bothered me is that some crucial plot points often didn’t seem plausible: that a wrongful death malpractice case went to trial before a toy was ready for market, that a manufacturer wouldn’t notice that toys sent out for market research came back broken (or that they’d notice the damage but not take any action), that a manufacturer would be highly secretive about a new product but send it out to individual homes for focus group testing (I’d expect focus group testing to be in a controlled environment), and mostly that safety concerns about a “bet the company” product would be treated so cavalierly.

Readers who like their legal thrillers to have plenty of thrills will appreciate this book – there is danger surrounding several of the characters and lots of action. I love legal thrillers and enjoyed this book despite my reservations so will continue to read this author, but it was not my favorite example of the genre.

Monday, May 3, 2010

"Plan B" by Pete Wilson is a "must read" when you hit hard times.

This book, as one might guess from the title, is about those times when our life doesn’t go the way we planned (and not in a positive direction) and we wonder why God allowed these bad things to happen to us. The author wrote it to help people in Plan B situations move past the feelings of crisis, see God in their circumstances, make peace with doubt, find hope, and learn how to find spiritual transformation out of shattered dreams.

I loved this book as much as I hated being in circumstances that made it essential reading for me. I feel like I have been in Plan B so long I’ve exhausted the alphabet letters for “plans” and am hitting Plan B for the second time. The day I received this book, I had gotten discouraging news about a job I really wanted (and thought could be the job God wanted for me). I sat down to read it and wept as I read because it addressed the discouragement and anxiety I was feeling about my situation.

There are a couple things you need to know about Plan B:

1. It is unabashedly Christian and Bible based. The author brings it back to God again and again.

2. There are no easy answers or magic pill. This isn’t a Christian version of “The Secret” and there is no secret promise in the Bible for you to pray and claim to get out of your Plan B circumstances. The author says he doesn’t know why these things happen, how long they’re going to last and if we will ever understand the reasons they did. But what he does do is turn our focus back to God.

For me, the most important parts in the beginning of the book were the descriptions of people in the Bible whose lives went into Plan B mode (David, Joseph, Job, Naomi, Mary & Martha) and how God was with them during those times. And about halfway through the book, the author turns the focus away from the devastating effect of Plan B events and toward God – what He did for us on the cross, the power and hope of the resurrection (and how God works in hopeless situations) and the transformation that can come from tragedy. It helped me and I expect I will re-read parts of it periodically until I get out of my Plan B situation.

If you are frustrated, discouraged, angry at God, anxious, or whatever emotion you might be feeling because your life isn’t going in the direction you expected, you should read this book.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for purposes of writing a review.  You can download sample chapters at: .