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Caroline B Cooney

What Jayne’s Been Reading and Watching Recently

What Jayne’s Been Reading and Watching Recently

Most books that I finish get their own reviews but here are some that either I didn’t finish or I didn’t think warranted a separate review.

The Terrorist – Caroline Cooney / Fabulous writing. Intense, page turning, I was 50 pages into it before I even realized it when I finally came up for air. In this YA book, young Billy, who died from a terrorist bomb in London, is made memorable, in fact so memorable, that he seemed that way for a long time. As long as his family will miss him terribly, I suspect. They are stunned, disbelieving, in denial and full of rage. This leaps off the page as does his older sister Laura’s rage and determination to find the people who killed her brother. This is a powerful evocation of grief and loss and revenge. I’ve reviewed another Cooney book here that has romantic elements. B

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Mistletoe Kisses with the Billionaire – Shirley Jump / Confined by all the category conventions. I kept reading because there was one big difference and that is that the hero is the one who came back to the little town first and who seems like he’s more likely to stay. He’s the conscientious one to the heroine’s “I gotta get out of this place” persona which is the reverse of what I’m used to seeing but it’s still not enough to overcome every small town convention and a matchmaking grandmother. Sorry but I bailed at the 1/3 mark.

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Brooklyn Love – Yael Levy / 4 women who are followed through the ups and downs of searching for love and marriage in the world of Orthodox Jews in NYC. It expanded this world for me which is what I look for in new-to-me settings and situations. However, the ultimate fate of two out of the four women is – to say the least – a major downer. One finds happiness in her unexpected marriage, one looks to have found her Mr. Right, but the minute a scandal hits his family, one immediately tosses in the towel on the man she was all set to upend convention in order to marry and the last woman appears to be headed for a life of married living hell based on what we’ve seen of her fiance. Wow, way to end the story. D

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The Nabob’s Widow – Elsie Lee / When Elsie Lee’s name is mentioned, voices intone in hushed or squeeing reverence, “The Nabob’s Widow!!” Comments to a post here continued this tradition and I decided to finally readit and find out for myself how good it is. With that decision made, I headed to a couple of online USBs I have bookmarked and, taking a deep breath, began the search. I found a used paperback copy in pretty good shape for a price that didn’t make me wince too badly and clicked my way to a purchase. It arrived and I sat, reverently gazing at this Holy Grail of trad regencies. I hoped it would do for me what it appears to have done for so many others – turn me into one of those bouncing, happy readers who gush whenever the book is mentioned. Alas, the book falls into the category of “would have liked it better years ago.” Reading it now…I think my high expectations might have had a hand in why the 1/3 of this book that I managed to slog through did almost nothing for me.

I wanted to slap Dianthe. She’s like a pint-sized Mary Poppins – too perfect. Plus – call me a prude – but when I read a trad regency from the mid 1970s, I don’t expect to see the word c*nt used. Also, the Christmas celebration – complete with tree (which I thought wasn’t an English custom until after Prince Albert arrives in the early 1840s) is a minor annoyance. But what’s really the sand in my Vaseline is the fact that the hero’s sister’s son is mentioned – several times – as being the hero’s heir. Is his title one that can be held suo jure? Oh, and the cats. I’m a cat person, I grew up with Siamese but it didn’t take me long before I was sick of ‘em. I stopped at this point and conferred with Sunita who said it was doubtful that soldiering on would change my opinion much. With that I decided that I have too many other books to continue to waste my time and raise my blood pressure.

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The Duchess War / Courtney Milan – Since I’d never read any of her books and she’s such a favorite among my fellow reviewers, I figured I’d better get with the program. I started this book and immediately felt as if I’d been dropped into the ocean with no life preserver and the waves were crashing over me. Nevertheless, the set up for the hero and heroine to be pushed together was original and kept me going. Until I hit the scene where the heroine is urging her best friend to marry the cad who was looking into Minnie’s past just because Lydia needed to marry. This after Minnie spouted off statistics to Robert, the hero, about the percentage of unwed women in England and how she needed to marry. How depressing. The hero is an odd duck too spouting off information about political agitation in Leicester to an out of work worker’s organizer. WTF? I don’t mind nuggets of information but don’t just drop them in the story with a clunk. And all the SECRETS and mysteries and the “club” of left handed future heroes…. Sorry but I have too many other books to try and too little time already. DNF

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*****

A few things I watched recently:

Garrow’s Law and City of Vice are both UK productions set during the 18th century that explore historical personages and institutions. I knew almost nothing of 18th century English barrister William Garrow before starting this series but watching justice be meted out – or not – in cases based on actual ones in which he was involved is fascinating. I can certainly say that the juries are out for a whole lot shorter amount of time than the case I sat on. City of Vice tells the story of how the Bow Street Runners were founded by the Fielding Brothers in an effort to stamp out the rampant crime afflicting London. It is also supposed to be based on actual crimes and cases. Most of the crimes dealt with in both series seem to center on sex and violence so these are not series I would recommend if you’re looking for placid village cozies.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams – Werner Herzog takes us to the Chauvet Cave in France where some of the oldest cave paintings in human history were found. The documentary goes slightly off the rails when he attempts to wax rhapsodical about philosophy and “what ifs” but this wonderful glimpse of the beautiful images there is well worth sitting through that.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi – another documentary here. Do you like sushi? Watch this to see a master at his craft as he perfects the product he and his staff offer at his restaurant in Tokyo.

Top Secret Rosies: Female “Computers” of WWII – Here is the story of some unsung heroines of WWII who used their brains and mathematical skills to help win the war.

Ken Burns – Prohibition – Burns’ documentaries are hit or miss with me. I enjoyed this one though I could have done with fewer images of barrels of booze and beer being bashed. The recollections of those who lived through it are the best part.

REVIEW: A Friend at Midnight by Caroline B Cooney

REVIEW: A Friend at Midnight by Caroline B Cooney

Dear. Ms Cooney,

038573326701lzzzzzzzYour book got put in my Fictionwise Wish List a while back when I was suddenly overcome by the desire to check out Young Adult titles listed there. I was looking for something that wasn’t about cliques, or BFFs, or clothes or boyfriend problems.

Lily has settled into life in Connecticut after her parent’s divorce but it’s been harder on her eight-year-old brother Michael. After their mother remarries, her brother chooses to go live with his father in Washington, D.C., until the day he calls home from the Baltimore-Washington Airport where his father has abandoned him. Lily is home babysitting her baby stepbrother when she answers the phone. She has no idea the extent to which her faith in God will be tested. There is no choice for Lily. She will rescue Michael, but will she be able to rescue herself from the bitterness and anger she feels?

Yep, this description fit the bill. When Fictionwise offered their awesome filled micropay rebate, I loaded up on books including “A Friend at Midnight.”

When I decided to buy it, I completely missed the part of the blurb that makes the book sound much more like a teenage inspirational angst drama. Which is a good thing since that isn’t a good description of what’s here. Yes, there are scenes in church and Lily does have a fair amount of bitterness over what her no good, lousy, sh*t of a father did to her younger brother. But while in a way the whole aftermath is a test of faith for her, we the readers don’t get preached at or lectured to about it.

The relationship between Lily and her two younger brothers (full and step) is wonderful. Michael is the one devastated by his father’s rejection while Nathaniel shows the carefree innocence that only a two year old can manage to hang onto these days. Michael is forced to begin to grow up a lot sooner than he should have while Nathaniel views their one day adventure as a magical trip that he tries to get the grownups to believe he and Lily took.

Meanwhile, Lily is awed by the faith her brother shows that she’ll somehow get him out of the precarious mess his feckless father put him in and all the more determined to succeed because of it. After she pulls it off, she gives into Michael’s pleas to remain quiet since he doesn’t want the family and everyone to whom he bragged that he was going to live with his father to know what was said to him as his father basically pushed Michael out of his car. Eight year olds should never hear what was said to him.

And so Lily has to keep the truth bottled up – except for telling her best friend Amanda – and hope that Michael will return to being the daredevil eight year old he was before all this happened instead of remaining the quiet, mannered child who holds his hurt inside and somehow still longs for the father who doesn’t want him anymore.

Since the action is centered on the younger children of the family, their mother, stepfather and older college age sister are a little more like ciphers in comparison but that’s only because Lily, Michael and Nathaniel are so alive and vivid. Kells, their “dusty blue recliner kind of guy” stepfather is actually the one who notices much more than Lily would like. While older sister Reb – “please call me Rebecca now” – turns out to be the one who finally brings all the hurt and events of the past year out in the open.

What I really like about the book is that no one is perfect and, except for Dennis the asshole father, none are totally bad. I can understand why Michael still wants to spend time with the man who dropped him off at a major airport with no money or plane ticket. Nathaniel is a two year old who is subject to meltdowns when he’s tired. Reb, who knows nothing of what her father did, can’t understand why Lily loathes him. And Lily did such a good job covering her tracks and keeping mum that her mother doesn’t know to be furious with her ex, Dennis Rosetti, Scorpion Man.

The subtle humor kept me laughing throughout the story. Yes, the initial set up is exaggerated but once into the dynamics of the family, every thing felt more realistic. I sort of agree with their mother about Reb being ready to get married at nineteen but if she can’t wait until graduation, then Freddie – oh, what an awful last name – Crumb seems like a wonderful son-in-law.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started “A Friend at Midnight,” but what I got was wonderful. A-

~Jayne

This book can be purchased in paperback from Amazon or ebook format from the Sony Store.