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Gail Cooke (TX, USA)
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Art of Sleeping Alone: Why One French Woman Gave Up Sex
Art of Sleeping Alone: Why One French Woman Gave Up Sex
by Sophie Fontanel
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.39

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars FRANK, PROVOCATIVE, BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN, 12 Sep 2013
Frank, perhaps a tad shocking, beautifully written Sophie Fontanel's memoir The Art Of Sleeping Alone is a can't-stop-reading memoir. In a series of vignettes Fontanel tells us why she abruptly gave up sex, the reactions of others to this surprising decision, and insights into societal expectations. That's quite a bit for 151 pages but this author carries it off with aplomb.

Perhaps we needed a French woman to openly discuss this subject, whatever the case the translation of her first book to be published is unputdownable. Fontanel's observations and insights are sure, straight to the point, expressed in style. (And why not? She's an editor at Elle France.)

This chronicle of her experiences may well be a touchstone for those who also might decide to do things differently. Her admissions will be valued by young women and perhaps empowering to some. As Fontanel has written, "Those who set themselves free have the whole universe before them."

When she met her lover to tell him of her decision he was disbelieving. He saw her shining face, dancing eyes and could only conclude that she had fallen in love with another. Her decision was surely a puzzlement to many. She remembers this with poignancy and humor.

A woman friend disapproved of her appearance, thinking she should dress more attractively, we assume to interest a man. The woman especially disliked Fontanel's flat-heeled boots. The author didn't have the heart to tell her that these were the same style boots Chanel had worn, they were bespoke and she had to wait nine months for them.

And so it went in Fontanel's remarkable journey. Written with intelligence and flair you won't want to miss The Art Of Sleeping Alone - promise your next book discussion group won't be a dull one.

= Gail Cooke


Hearts of Sand (Gregor Demarkian Novels)
Hearts of Sand (Gregor Demarkian Novels)
by Jane Haddam
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.38

4.0 out of 5 stars A CRAFTY PUZZLER STARRING GREGOR DEMARKIAN, 10 Sep 2013
Who wouldn't want to be the girl who has everything? Chapin Waring had it all. She was a debutante living in the affluent community of Alwych, Connecticut. Surely she would follow the rosy path of a very privileged young woman - go the right school, meet the ideal (and probably wealthy) man, marry him and live richly ever after. Alwych was a place where mansions were the usual form of abode, there was a proper school for the young ones and a luxurious club for the adults. Waspy, wealthy folks always did the right and expected thing.

Well, leave it to the creative mind of Jane Haddam who is known for her crafty puzzlers to bring us another intriguing mystery with Hearts Of Sand. Debutante Chapin seems to prefer robbing banks to doing the right thing. Not only robbing but doing it violently, leaving inert bodies behind her. What a blight this was on Alwych and the Waring family! Chapin is not caught - in fact she simply disappears.

You know what they say about a bad penny and Chapin appears to be a very bad one - she appears in Alwych some 30 years later. But it's a short stay as she's found stabbed to death in her family's old home. This is almost as much of a shock to the community as were her crimes.

The local police are stymied and so turn to the estimable detective Gregor Demarkian. This is a fellow who is both brilliant and persistent - it may take him a little time but he'll get to the bottom of this. Surely the murder could have no connection to 30-year-old bank robberies....or could it?

Once again Jane Haddam has given us a fresh, sharply plotted mystery. Enjoy!

- Gail Cooke


A Question of Honor (Bess Crawford Mysteries)
A Question of Honor (Bess Crawford Mysteries)
by Charles Todd
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.62

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A STELLAR OFFERING IN THIS SERIES, 29 Aug 2013
While there are certainly a number of worthy books to be read I try never to miss a Bess Crawford mystery by a redoubtable pseudonymous mother/son writing team. With Bess they've created an admirable character, one with the greatest integrity and also very human. She is a battlefield nurse serving during World War I and also an amateur detective or "sleuth" as she might put it. The authors are adept at describing the horrors of war, the terrors of trench warfare and the tolls taken on soldiers. They are equally skilled at noting Bess's thoughts and perceptions which continue to give readers insights into their heroine.

With the fifth in the Bess Crawford series, A Question Of Honor, we see more of Bess's early life in India where she lived with her father, a colonel in the British army. The story begins in 1908 when Bess was fifteen and takes us to England and France in 1918. More often than not at that time officers would send their children home to be educated. Unfortunately for one family stationed in India they receive word that their daughter, Alice, died of typhoid in England. Of course, her mother is overwrought and since her husband cannot get leave she is accompanied to England by an officer who had planned to go there, one Thomas Wade.

After Wade returns to duty he flees from the military police who accuse him not only of murdering a family while he was in England but his own parents in Agra, India. Wade escapes capture until finally a report of his death is received.

Fast forward to wartime on the front where Bess listens to a dying soldier who confides in her - he shares a secret with her, shocking news relating to Thomas Wade. It begins to seem that the past is not buried after all. Knowing Bess she will search for answers and eventually find them.

A Question Of Honor is one more stellar offering in this series. Don't miss it!

- Gail Cooke


Custer's Last Battle: Red Hawk's Account of the Battle of the Little Bighorn
Custer's Last Battle: Red Hawk's Account of the Battle of the Little Bighorn
by Joe Medicine Crow
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.78

5.0 out of 5 stars TRUTHFULLY TOLD, BEAUTIFULLY ILLUSTRATED, 23 Aug 2013
What an enlightening and entertaining addition to any young person's library! This recent edition of Custer's Last Battle: Red Hawk's Account of the Battle of the Little Bighorn holds the nearest account of what actually happened as we're apt to find. As the author states, "...the account is fiction, but told in the manner of the published accounts of Indian people who had taken part in the battle."

Also included in this edition is a Foreword by Joe Medicine Crow, the former Crow tribal historian whose grandfather was one of Custer's own scouts. He wrote the Foreword when he was 98 years old so he had the opportunity to meet many survivors of the Custer battle. He spoke directly with the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Sioux, and Crowe scouts who were at the battle. History has never been so authentic, so alive!

In addition, for the first time the "illustrations are in glorious digitalized color, scanned from the original artwork housed among the collections in the South Dakota Art Museum." They are amazing, full and double page art work in brilliant hues.

Those who read this book will never again think of Custer's battle in the sanitized retelling that we often hear. Custer's Last Battle is an estimable work, one that will be passed from one generation to the next. Don't miss it!

- Gail Cooke


The Good Thief's Guide to Berlin (Good Thief's Guides)
The Good Thief's Guide to Berlin (Good Thief's Guides)
by Chris Ewan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.32

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars CHARLIE HOWARD IS AT IT AGAIN, 21 Aug 2013
Like some smiles in your mystery? There are quite a few to be found in The Good Thief's Guide To Berlin, another masterful blend of mirth and mystery in Chris Ewan's Good Thief series. Seldom has a fellow with such a distinctly larcenous bent been as likable as novelist/thief Charlie Howard. He's self-effacing (always good for a chuckle), clever and ofttimes foolhardy - this time in rainy Berlin.

The Good Thief series not only boasts intriguing characters but painterly descriptions of settings, witty aside to cover almost any situation, and well honed plots. Now, Charlie has one guiding principle - "Don't Get Caught." Plus, he has a list of rules such as he doesn't leave a mess after breaking in, doesn't steal anything of sentimental value, etc. And this time out he needs to add a new rule - "Don't admire the view."

At the behest of his agent, Victoria Newbury, Charlie is supposed to be working on his next novel. Instead he's taken on a new client, in part because he believes he's doing a service for the British government. This is a rather complex case - a British embassy representative is offering him a tidy sum to retrieve something that he's unable to describe, simply saying
You'll know it when you see it." Charlie is supposed to search the homes of four people, each of whom may have the valued object.

The first apartment he enters seems to hold nothing of value. But as Charlie was in the habit of smoking and staring out a window when he "was feeling thoroughly vexed" he almost did just that save for the fact that he never smoked inside a place he had broken into. So he simply stared out a window and saw a murder being committed across the way. What to do? He placed an anonymous call to the police then was thoroughly baffled when he saw them come out of the building without a corpse or a suspected murderer.

This haunts him until he and Veronica are confronted by those who would stop at nothing to take what they believe Charlie has. Plus, he has three more places to search. There's never a dull moment in The Good Thief's Guide to Berlin and never a lack of humor. Enjoy!

= Gail Cooke


Sea Creatures
Sea Creatures
by Susanna Daniel
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.38

4.0 out of 5 stars HOW COMPLEX THE HUMAN HEART, 19 Aug 2013
This review is from: Sea Creatures (Hardcover)
Born and raised in Miami, Florida author Susanna Daniel knows that territory well as was seen in her prize winning debut novel, Stiltsville, and is presented again in Sea Creatures. Her descriptions of the surrounding waters are beautifully done, especially the scenes that occur underwater. For this reader those portions of her novel were the most enjoyable as the focus of her story is a disintegrating marriage and the adversities faced by wife/mother, Georgia Quillian.

What once began as a promising life together slowly begins to unravel when husband, Graham's rare sleeping disorder, parasomnia, scuttles his chances for ever receiving tenure at Northwestern where he is a professor. Evidently parasomnia is not a minor disorder as it causes him to awaken at night and do things he would ordinarily not do, such as knocking on the door of a neighbor's house in the middle of the night or throwing himself through a window. All of this is more than unsettling but Georgia does not seem to realize that he might not only be a danger to himself but to her and Frankie, their three-year-old son who refuses to speak.

At the same time that Graham's tenure is denied Georgia's consulting business goes belly up. However, an old associate soon offers Graham a job at the Rosensteil School of Marine and Atmospheric Science in Georgia's hometown of Miami. So, the couple decides to try to start anew and move with their son move to Coral Gables. They make their home in an old houseboat they have purchased, tying it up to the dock behind the home of Georgia's father and his second wife.

The couple's relationship does not improve, and soon Georgia takes a part=time job for a recluse, Charlie Hicks, who lives in a stilt house on Biscayne Bay. After personal tragedy Charlie has sought to escape from the world. However, the arrival of Georgia and Frankie brings a modicum of healing to all three of them. Unfortunately, that feeling of well-being is not to last. Sea Creatures is a beautifully haunting novel enriched by the author's vivid descriptions of Florida.

Gail Cooke


Tell Me
Tell Me
by Lisa Jackson
Edition: MP3 CD
Price: £12.82

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars SAVED BY THE NARRATOR, 15 Aug 2013
This review is from: Tell Me (MP3 CD)
As a former child actor Julia Whelan brings a ton of experience to her TV roles and audio narrations. She's an Earphones Award winner and rightly so. I found her work particularly impressive in Tell Me by Lisa Jackson because for this listener/reader Jackson's prose tends at times to ramble yet Whelan's sparked delivery brought the story right along.

Jackson fans will welcome her third romantic/suspense novel set in Savannah, Georgia. The story opens with a shocker - one of the most despised women imaginable is about to taste freedom. Some 2 decades ago Blondell O'Henry was tried and convicted of cold bloodedly killing her older daughter and wounding her two other children. It was the prosecution's claim that she wanted to be rid of them to be with her lover. Her children had testified against her but recently her son, Niall, recanted his testimony which sabotaged the whole case.

For professional and personal reasons reporter Nikki Gillette wants to know the truth. It seems that Amity, Blondell's daughter had once been Nikki's friend. Further, on the night Amity died she had asked Nikki to meet her - Nikki ignored Amity's request and the secret she had to tell. It seems that most of Savannah had been involved in this once headline crime - Nikki's uncle was instrumental in saving Blondell from the death penalty. Gossips claim he was one of her many lovers.

Detective Pierce Reed, Nikki's fiancé, has been instructed to review the evidence. He worries not only for Nikki's safety but that she may be muddying the case because of her persistent digging into it. Then suddenly there is more murder. Could a killer still be at large?

- Gail Cooke


Klorane Nettle Sebo-Regulating Dry Shampoo 150ml
Klorane Nettle Sebo-Regulating Dry Shampoo 150ml
Offered by Medideals
Price: £7.53

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars DOES THE TRICK - EVEN IN TEXAS!, 12 Aug 2013
Many of us have one or a handful of items that we absolutely must have at home, at the office or on vacation. Perhaps it's a favorite moisturizer or lipstick. I, too, have one of these lists and heading it is Klorane Dry Shampoo with Nettle.

Living in Texas where summer temps hover around 105 I once found myself shampooing every night and sometimes again before going out in the evening. I even turned down some tempting invitations with "Sorry, I have to wash my hair." While my hair is not excessively oily normal perspiration in these temps left it limp and me heading for the shower. I'm homebound no more thanks to this dry shampoo.

Seems the Nettle a flower found in Portugal contains compounds that inhibit the activity of the enzyme involved in the production of natural oil. Scientific explanations are a bit beyond me, but what I do know is that this shampoo banishes any traces of oil in a flash. Simply spray on, leave in for two minutes, brush through and presto - fresh clean hair with added volume.

For me now it's yes to those last minute invites - thank you Klorane!


Brewster [ BREWSTER ] Slouka, Mark ( Author ) Hardcover Aug-05-13
Brewster [ BREWSTER ] Slouka, Mark ( Author ) Hardcover Aug-05-13
by Mark Slouka
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars POWERFUL AND AUTHENTIC - AN AMAZING NOVEL, 10 Aug 2013
An amazing novel penned with beautiful economy Brewster resonates with struggle, pain, love and courage. It is one of the few novels that will remain with me for some time to come. For lack of a better description it may be called a coming-of-age story but that fails to note its power and authenticity. Mark Slouka (Lost Lake Stories) writes with his heart.

Welcome to 1968 where Vietnam is very much on the minds of high school seniors, tension is in the air, and there's a youthful migration to California where everything is possible. However, there's not much promise in the blue-collar town of Brewster, New York, where four teenagers form a friendship.

Jon Mosher, the son of German-Jewish immigrant parents, tells the story. His family moved to Brewster because it was cheap, a place where his father could open a shoe store. That was to matter little after the accidental death of his younger brother, a tragedy that froze his parents into continuing grief. His mother blamed Jon for the young boys death, one is hard press ed to understand why. But his home becomes a place of gloomy silence with his brother's room untouched as if he might come home at any minute.

Although intelligent, Jon' teachers find him moody, uncooperative, a trouble maker. All feel that way save for one who sees potential in him and urges him to join the track team. It is in running that Jon is able to dissipate a portion of his pain.

Usually a loner Jon meets and befriends Ray Cappicciano, a real scrapper who knows how to use his fists. He's a bit of a legend around school usually appearing a bit battered, bruising he claimed to have earned fighting in underground clubs to make money to help out at home, such as it is. Deserted by his mother and step-mother Ray lives with his ex-cop father and baby brother in a dingy, rundown house. His home is described, "In Brewster there was no other side of the tracks; if there was, Ray would have lived there." It is only later that we learn of Ray's father's sadism and his World War II collection of Nazi body parts.

The two boys become close and both fall for a new student - Karen, whose caring family is light years away from either of theirs. It is Ray that she chooses; he is the love of her life although the three will always be friends along with Frank Krapinski, a devout Christian. An unlikely quartet but loyal to one another.

Their lives are dramatically altered when Ray comes to school even more battered than ever. Events spiral downward rapidly as Jon doesn't hesitate to try to help the best friend he has in the world.

As unflinchingly real as the story is the ending is an unexpected sledgehammer blow. You'll not forget Brewster.

- Gail Cooke


True Love (Nantucket Brides Trilogy)
True Love (Nantucket Brides Trilogy)
by Jude Deveraux
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £25.57

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ROMANCE SPICED WITH MYSTERY, 7 Aug 2013
Like a little mystery mixed with your romance? Of course, so one of the best summer listens is Jude Deveraux's initial offering in a new series - the Nantucket Brides trilogy. Just the thought of a wedding on beautiful Nantucket was enough to make me grab my earphones!
And I was enthralled by both the plot and the stellar narration by award-winning producer, narrator and writer Tavia Gilbert. By turns her easy listening voice resonates with regret, apprehension, love plus all of the emotions experienced in True Love.

On the verge of finishing school Alix Madsen received a rather odd bequest from the late Adelaide Kingsley - the use of her nineteenth century Nantucket house for one year. But, why only one year? Nevertheless, Alix accepts the bequest in part to get over a painful breakup and also to plan her best friend's perfect wedding.

However, she soon finds that Kingsley House harbors some secrets of its own, and she meets handsome-and-he-knows-it architect Jared Montgomery who is living in the property's guesthouse. Unbeknownst to Alix he's there to look after her. Little do they know the impact a 200-year-old event will have on them.

As the wedding nears one senses that perhaps the departed are reappearing in contemporary bodies. A little reincarnation twist adds even more spice to an already delicious summer listen. Enjoy!

- Gail Cooke


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