The Dark Labyrinth

Lawrence Durrell


It took me two attempts to finish this book, and I wouldn’t have finished it the second time if it didn’t fill a block in my Book Bingo card (published in the year you were born). Maybe I would have been better off with The Diary of Anne Frank after all.

The set-up is given right at the beginning: an ill-assorted bunch of tourists are trapped in a labyrinth by a cave-in. This is followed by flashbacks telling the history of the people, in more depth than is interesting. In fact, by the time came for the cave-in, I couldn’t have cared less if all of them had been smooshed. Some survived and some didn’t, and it didn’t much matter to me which category each character fell into. The only way I could finish this book was by skimming over most of the description.

I don’t think the author was any more interested in his characters than I was.


MaddAddam Trilogy

Margaret Atwood


I love Margaret Atwood and have ever since my book club choose her Alias Grace as a selection several years ago. I’ve been a fangrrl ever since. Aside from The Blind Assassin, which I found baffling, I have loved everything I have ever read by her. One of my favorites is the MaddAddam trilogy, which I just finished binge-reading, along with Handmaid’s Tale, which I haven’t finished yet. I chose the cover from The Year of the Flood because it is my favorite of the three. I have read it five times and listened to it  on audible once. I enjoyed the audible version so much, I bought a copy. It is just that good. Hearing the God’s Gardeners’ hymn set to music enriches the experience so much. They sound so like the horrible Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) played today in the megachurches, that I am sure Atwood is taking a sly poke at them.

The first time I read Oryx & Crake, I didn’t much care for it. It seem too short, as if there was more to the story. It just stopped, rather than coming to an end. Of course, I didn’t know at the time that Atwood was planning a trilogy. Read as the opening book, it makes sense. It gives us a background for the major characters and lays the background for the events to come in The Year of the Flood. The final volume, MaddAddam, wraps everything up and answers the question of what happens to the characters in The Year of the Flood.

I can’t think of a more satisfying reading experience. It’s Atwood at her best, and that’s very good indeed.

Mischief and the Masters

Cherise Sinclair


I like Cherise Sinclair, but I feel she has run out of gas with this one. All the other subs have been paired off with Masters, with only Uzuri left. Sinclair tried to make her attractive, but she just wasn’t funny. The backstory of a stalker was boring and better done with previous subs. He wasn’t scary and Uzuri was just annoying. I get the sense that there won’t be any more Shadowlands stories, unless Sinclair gives us Holt’s story. He’s the only Master who isn’t married. I don’t know who he is going to marry because we have run out of subs.

Even the sex scenes seem tired and repetitive.


Hrolf Kraki’s Saga

Poul Anderson


This retelling of the Danish Sagas by Poul Anderson is very true to the original, even to the point of starting generations before the title character comes on the scene. No one lives in a vacuum and one hero’s life has roots in the past.

Generations of betrayals and heroics led up to the point where Hrolf appears, and they all have a part in making his destiny. Our benefit is having someone like Poul Anderson to make the legends accessible to our time. I confess, though, that I liked Three Hearts and Three Lions better.

Blood Bones and Butter

Gabrielle Hamilton


Humble people who are afraid to take a chance usually don’t run successful restaurants in New York. Humble women don’t stand a chance. Talented, opinionated, self-reliant people like Gabrielle Hamilton have a chance if they have the talent to back it up, and she has it in spades.

Step by step through her unlikely life, she carries us along on her journey to top chef of Prune restaurant in NYC. Along the way we learn what it takes to be a chef and way they make such lousy spouses. Driven by their desire to excel, and the demands of their profession, they are married to the restaurant with little time or energy left over for people.

This lively account of her life shows the price she pays and whether she thinks it is worth it. Lively, honest and fascinating, it give a glimpse into the life of a top chef.

The Accidental Tourist

Anne Tyler


I had heard the name from the movie starring William Hurt and Geena Davis and that is about all. So when it turned up for $1.99, I decided to give it a chance. Boy, did I get my money’s worth.

When Macon Leary’s son is killed in a burger joint robbery, his life comes to an end. Frozen within himself he mechanically goes through the motions of living, but he is dead inside. Unable to give or take comfort from his wife, his marriage falls apart. He is left to live alone with his rituals and a vicious and uncontrolled dog, Edward. He pulls further and further into himself. When the dog hospital refuses to board Edward so Macon can travel to England to write another of his dreary guidebooks for business travelers who want to feel they never left home, he is forced to find an alternative. On impulse, he chooses the Meow-Bow Animal Hospital, and his life is never the same.

He meets Muriel, the dog trainer, and she turns his life upside-down. She is everything he isn’t: spontaneous, free, happy-go-lucky.

How their relationship develops and how he finds himself breaking out of his dreary routine against himself, supplies with bulk of the novel. Rich in observation and free of the usual romance tropes, this delightful novel delights and entertains at every turn. Highly recommended.


Murray Pittok


I was part of the great unwashed who believed Culloden was a battle between hordes of poorly trained highlanders up against well-drilled and well-equipped British soldiers. I had an excuse for this that doesn’t involve novels. I watch an episode of the television show You Are There, which portrayed important historical events as if they were actually happening and being reported by Walter Cronkite on site interviewing participants. It was riveting, and though I must have watched several episodes it is the Battle of Culloden I remember best.

This book was a revelation to me, especially the second half. Pittock described the effect of the battle on the attitude of the British and the Scottish people for years to come. He uses examples of art to show how public opinion was formed, not by historical accounts, but by sentimental and inaccurate paintings.

This was a fascinating account of the battle and its aftermath that changed my thinking about this important battle.


Brian O’Connor


I suppose the author is sick of being compared to Dick Francis, but there are worse authors to be compared to. His main character seems to be lacking to masochism gene that is such a prominent element in Francis’ characters. This guy knows how to enjoy himself.

A workmanlike murder mystery, but for me the attraction is the life of professional jockey and the horses. I would read another Brian O’Connor book with equal enjoyment if horses were at the center of it.

The Lords of Arcadia

R. Lee Smith

#1: The Care and Feeding of Griffins

#2: The Wizard in the Woods

#3: The Roads of Taryn MacTavish

#4: The Army of Mab

The Care and Feeding of Griffins (Lords of Arcadia Book 1) by [Smith, R. Lee]

Damn you R. Lee Smith! Is every book you write a compulsive page-turner? Lucky for me I started this series at a time when I had no commitments and could devote all my time to reading.  When I was not reading, I was thinking about getting back to the books to find out what happened next. Now that I know what happens next, I can reread the books, slowly savoring the character development and descriptions.

I have listed these books in one review because they are essentially one story, starting with Taryn’s finding a griffin egg as a child. When the egg hatches, she is at a loss to know how to care for it. Her search for knowledge eventually leads her to another world. She finds mythical creatures such as minotaurs, wizards, and centaurs, only they are fiercely protective of their land and not friendly to humans.

As she struggles to survive, protect her griffin, and learn how to survive in this strange world, she comes to a deeper understanding of herself and her place in this world.

The themes I have come to recognize in Smith’s works are all there: a heroine in an unfriendly world, beauty-and-the-beast, and the importance of sex as a means of communication.

By the end I was exhausted and sorry the story had come to an end.