Steve's Reviews

I first met Nancy when she was the manager of the highest grossing (per square foot) B. Dalton store in the country and I was still in the midst of a 40+ year banking and investments career. She introduced me to many authors that rekindled my love of reading. Spending a lot of time on airplanes (or waiting for them) was made a lot easier with my new "friends." I am now retired and split time between Florida and Indiana with reading and golf competing for my time. I have nine grandchildren and most of them are readers as well - one of my favorite things to do is take them to our local bookstore and turn them loose!

The Great Alone                                           

 Author:  Kristin Hannah                     Fiction                     

Ernt Allbright fought in the Vietnam War, was a POW, and has now returned to his wife, Cora, and daughter, Leni, a changed man. He cannot hold a job and his psyche is fragile. So he makes a decision to move his family to Alaska when one of his army buddies leaves him some remote land. It is 1974 and Alaska is the last American frontier. Kaneq is remote to say the least, but is a community of strong, independent men and women who will help this totally unprepared family to deal with the rigors of living off the grid - no electricity, no running water, no food. Winter in Alaska is brutal to say the least - and the long nights soon affect Ernt as his fragile state-of-mind deteriorates into abuse - both mental and physical. Over the next four years, the family learns how to cope with the Alaskan climate, and with each other. To maintain some semblance of sanity, Ernt is forced to take a job on the pipeline construction taking place on the North Slope where he earns much needed money and gives much need relief to his family during the winter months. Leni, meanwhile, attends school and befriends Matthew Walker, son of perhaps the wealthiest Kaneq residents and their relationship evolves through their high school years. When Ernt is back home, he has befriended a neighbor who thinks like him - conspiracy, government abuse, nuclear war, etc. are why they have come here - and their drinking and abrasiveness create even more stress. Kristin Hannah has given us an unforgettable cast of characters with insight into the fragility of human life as well as its resiliency in the face of enormous physical and mental challenges. The description of the Alaskan landscape is wonderful - particularly if you have ever had the opportunity to visit there - its vastness, its remoteness, its beauty. A wonderful read despite some of the disturbing human topics that underlie the story.

The Suspect                                    

 Author:  Michael Robotham                                   Mystery

This is the first book in Robotham’s Joe O’Loughlin series (which will number 9 books this summer). I had read the 6th book in the series (based on a glowing review from our own Nancy!) and decided to go back to the beginning. And right off the bat, I will tell you it was a great decision. Joe O’Loughlin is a well known psychologist in London who has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. While not in denial, his reaction to the diagnosis, which has been delivered by his life-long friend, Jock, is interesting, indeed. One of his patients is Bobby Moran, a difficult patient at best. He tends to skip appointments, show up late, or show up when not expected. O'Loughlin thinks he understands Bobby but is frustrated in getting his patient to improve his condition. He is also called into a high profile murder investigation led by Detective Victor Ruiz. O'Loughlin realizes that the victim is one of his former patients who had accused him of misconduct several years earlier. When he doesn't disclose this fact right away, he tumbles into the sights of the detective as well as the killer. Joe has his suspicions, but how can he prove them? This book captured my attention right off the bat and kept it all the way to the surprise conclusion. Robotham has moved up in my reading queue.

The Innocent                                           

 Author:  David Baldacci                           Fiction             

This is the first book in Baldacci’s Will Robie series. Robie is nothing more than a hitman for the government. In fact, the book opens with a description for one of his jobs. But his next assignment goes terribly wrong. He is supposed to kill a woman in her Washington DC home, it when the time comes to execute, he hesitates. There is something wrong with this picture. But before he can figure out what is going on, the woman is killed by a backup assassin. Leaving the scene, he crosses paths with Julie, a fourteen-year-old runaway from an abusive foster home. She has witnessed the murder of her parents and Robie senses that those killings are part of a much larger conspiracy. Working with Special Agent Nikki Vance of the FBI, Robie must uncover a very complicated case. For whatever reason, I suspected a part of the final answer early on. And the premise of a precocious fourteen-year-old teaming up with a veteran operative seems far fetched. But the story races along and really keeps your interest. Looking forward to the second book in the series as Baldaaci continues to be one of my favorite thriller authors.


Skeletons at the Feast                       

 Author:  Chris Bohjalian                    Fiction          

Set in the last months of WWII, this is a moving story about a German family, the Emmerichs, from Prussia. Their home in Germany became part of Poland after WWI and then back to Germany after the onset of WWII. But now, they must leave their beloved farm as Nazi control is ending in the face of the Russian army moving westward. The last of the male members of the family, father and brother, are conscripted and Mutti (mother), Anna (daughter), and Theo (young son) must begin their journey to the west. They are accompanied by Callum, a POW from Scotland who had been “assigned” to the farm to help with the chores as there are no men who have not been conscripted. Anna has fallen in love with Callum, but their relationship obviously must remain a secret. Along the way, they are joined by Manfred, a corporal in the Wehrmacht, but he has his own secret. This unlikely group loads up their wagons and begins a terrifying walk that will last throughout the winter of 1944-45. Their journey will test their physical limits as well as challenge the family’s belief in the Nazi regime. With excellent character development, Bohjalian has once again written a story that will make you think about the atrocities of the war, and what, if anything, the German populace understood about them. A fabulous read.



A Man Called Ove                       

 Author:  Fredrik Backman               Fiction                     

Ove is a 59 year old Swede who is, to say the least, a curmudgeon. He follows strict routines in so many facets of his life - getting up and inspecting the neighborhood, being sure that all the rules in his neighborhood are obeyed, and more. And he is a man of few, very few, words, and when he does speak, it is more often than not shouting. We really get to see all of this when Parvaneh, a pregnant Iranian, her inept husband, Patrick, and their two children move into his neighborhood, announcing themselves by knocking over Ove’s mailbox with their trailer. Thus begins a story about a man who on the outside appears to be unlikeable but on the inside is someone else. Each chapter deals with Ove’s day to day life and how he reacts whilst there are two backstories interwoven - the first an incredible love story of his relationship with his wife of 40 years, Sonja; the second, the ongoing love/hate relationship with his neighbor of those 40 years, Rune. As I read on, I couldn’t help but shake my head at his complicated, yet simple man. Just a delightful read.



The Fault in Our Stars                       

 Author:  John Green                         Fiction                     

Hazel Grace Lancaster is a 16 year old cancer survivor, or better stated, she is terminal but medicine has extended her life against all odds. At her Cancer Kids Support Group at a local church, she meets Augustus Waters, another teenage survivor, and thus begins a beautiful story of teenage love, although both these teens are wise beyond their years. Hazel introduces Augustus (Gus) to her favorite book, An Imperial Affliction, which of course is about a child with cancer, but was written by a old curmudgeon who has moved to Amsterdam. This book becomes their bond and becomes the story behind their relationship. I don’t want to give any spoilers, so I will leave it at that. A wonderful, well-written story that is filled with humor and tragedy.



The Hit                                                        

 Author:  David Baldacci                   Fiction                     

This is the first book in Baldacci’s Will Robie series. Robie is a highly skilled assassin working for clandestine services of the US government. Jessica Reel is also a highly skilled assassin, also working for the government. When two members of the agency, one a handler and the other the number 2 ranking person, are killed, Jessica is suspected of having gone rogue and Robie is tasked with bringing her in. But all is not as it seems. Robie realizes that there is something much bigger and much more sinister going on. A much bigger threat is facing the government and the world and he must navigate these turbulent waters. One thing about reading this type of book-since you know it is a series, you know the main character has to survive so the only questions are how does he do it and how often. Nonetheless Baldacci is a good storyteller and up there with the best in this genre.