October 2003
Book Reviews by Meg Wood

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  • (10/28) A Blind Eye by G. M. Ford.

    Entertaining thriller featuring Ford regular, true-crime writer Frank Corso. Corso and ex-girlfriend Meg Dougherty are on the run from the Texas authorities, who want to hold Frank as a material witness (even though he didn't see anything). Fleeing from the cops, they rent a car and try to drive through an icy blizzard. Instead of escaping, though, they end up in a ditch. Miraculously, they manage to stumble through the blinding snow to a deserted farmhouse nearby, where they are able to take shelter and wait out the storm.

    The next day, Frank heads to the barn in search of wood for the fire and finds the mummified corpses of an entire family buried under the floorboards.

    Now, here's where things become slightly hard to believe -- several sets of cops end up capturing Corso, only to release him again so he can continue to investigate the murder of the family. Why even the Feds would let a true crime writer run the investigation, even after it becomes clear that the bad guys are violent sociopaths who kill everyone who gets in their way, kind of boggles. But the plot and characters were so enthralling it was hard to hold this and a few other plot problems against the book. Instead, I found this one pretty hard to put down, and pretty satisfying by the end. I'll definitely look for others in the series -- if only to see if some of the earlier ones describe Dougherty's tattoos in a little more detail! Recommended, just don't think too much while you're reading.
    [MYSTERY]

  • (10/23) Food and Loathing by Betsy Lerner.

    Memoir of Lerner's youth spent battling a severe food addiction that almost cost her her life. As a teen, her crappy, stupid, nasty, sadistic therapist who ought to have his license revoked immediately, made her think all her problems were "in her head," that she was merely "crying wolf" and trying to get attention. That being thin was something she could have, if only she would control herself and get a grip. But despite her involvement with Overeaters Anonymous and the success she had with their program initially, by the time Betsy gets to college, she is bingeing or starving at all times, gaining and losing and gaining, and tormenting herself constantly with self-loathing and self-hatred. She finally spirals into suicidal depression and ends up in a psychiatric institute, where, after six months of counseling with a young doctor, she ultimately begins to take the first steps towards unraveling this dual legacy of compulsion and sorrow. It is not until a few years after that that Betsy finally receives an accurate diagnosis for her problem -- bipolar disease -- and gets put on lithium, which eventually manages to stabilize her for good. And though Betsy's problems with food and loathing are extraordinarily more severe than mine have ever been, I really related to a lot of the things she had to say in this book. It's a very honest, gut-wrenching story of a girl who could not love herself unless she was thin -- something I think almost every woman in today's society can relate to in some ways -- and reading it was a real revelation for me. Highly recommended!
    [NON-FICTION]

  • (10/21) Fiddle Dee Death by Caroline Cousins.

    Quaint, cheerful mystery about three Southern belle cousins who have decided to spend Christmas together on Indigo Island, South Carolina, where they grew up. There, the family owns a large, historical plantation, and while the cousins are exploring it anew one afternoon, they wander into the attic and stumble across a dead body. Being a bit on the goofy, meddling side, they can't resist doing some sleuthing, even while the town sheriff is begging them to stay out of it and they are being shot at by someone anxious to keep them from finding any more clues. The mystery is really secondary to the story, though, which is really more focused on the cousins, their funny antics and Southern charm, and a burgeoning romance between one of them and the sheriff himself. This is a light, easygoing kind of book -- perfect for a rainy weekend, and lots of fun. I'll probably look for others by Cousins (who is actually three women -- three cousins who all live in the South together!).
    [MYSTERY]

  • (10/19) Corpse: Nature, Forensics, and the Struggle to Pinpoint Time of Death by Jessica Snyder Sachs.

    This is an extremely well-written and interesting look at the history and science behind the determinance of time of death. Sachs adeptly describes not only the techniques that crime fighters use to read the signs of a post-mortem body, but the way those techniques developed over time. Despite the fact that TV makes it look easy, it's actually nearly impossible to be certain about time of death. But with each passing year, forensic scientists grow closer and closer to finding an accurate method, using everything from stomach content analysis, to entomology, to a measurement of enzymes in eye fluids. All science geeks interested in forensics will find this book fascinating. Recommended!
    [NONFICTION]

  • (10/17) Exit Wounds by J.A. Jance.

    The latest in Jance's Joanna Brady series, this one has Sheriff Brady on the trail of a man who has killed three women and seventeen dogs. The trail takes her through two countries and one very bizarre religious cult, and finally down to a heart-wrenching story of child abuse. All the while, Joanna's personal life grows more and more complicated, as her race for reelection heats up and she discovers her family is going to have another mouth to feed soon.

    Another entertaining, fast-paced installment in a delightful mystery series. If you haven't discovered JA Jance yet, get hot! Recommended!
    [MYSTERY]

  • (10/13) Love Comes Softly by Janette Oke.

    Extremely sweet novel set in the "Little House on the Prairie" era about a young woman named Marty who heads out West with her husband Clem, only to lose him in an accident as soon as they get there. Penniless, a grieving Marty realizes she's trapped. She can't get back home and she has only a broken wagon and a few possessions to her name. So, when a young widower (Clark) approaches her and offers her a deal (marry me and help me raise my toddler daughter, and if you're still unhappy come spring, I'll pay your fare home), she can't help but agree.

    Both of them come into the relationship grieving for someone else, and as a result, the marriage gets off to a rocky start. But as the winter settles in and Marty gets used to her new life, the couple begins to relax. When spring finally arrives, Marty realizes her feelings for Clark have changed. And if Clark feels the same, then maybe going home isn't what she wants after all. Maybe she IS home.

    This novel is a bit on the religious side, but it's very subtle and not intrusive, and the rest of it is just darn sweet. All fans of novels set in the pioneer days will enjoy this one, and I'll probably look for the others in this series soon too. Recommended!
    [FICTION]

  • (10/10) Partner in Crime by JA Jance.

    Readers of Jance's two mystery series -- the one featuring Arizona sheriff Joanna Brady and the one featuring Seattle detective J.P. Beaumont -- will have a great time with this one, in which the two characters end up working together on a case involving the murder of a young woman in the Witness Protection Program. I especially loved that Jance kept the narrative styles for the two series in place here as well -- Brady's sections are in the third person, and Beau's in the first. That was a nice touch. The two characters are wildly different and it was very entertaining to finally get to see them meet. Oh, and the mystery plot was a good one too! Recommended!
    [MYSTERY]

  • (10/3) The Officer's Ward by Mark Dugain.

    In autumn 1914, on one of the first days of the fighting, Adrien Fournier, a lieutenant in the French army, is hit in the face with a mortar shell. His injuries are severe and he is immediately sent to a hospital at Val-de-Grace outside of Paris -- the first patient in a special ward without mirrors for soldiers with severe maxillofacial injuries.

    Horribly disfigured, Adrien is forced to sit out the rest of the war in the hospital, as the surgeons operate over and over again to try to reconstruct his face. There he meets three other men and one woman, all with the same type and extent of injury. Between bouts of painful procedures and despair, the five of them form a special bond -- a club for the faceless, the invisible, the grotesque.

    And ultimately, these five officers make it their mission to keep fighting the war from their beds by working to help keep others in their same situation from letting the Germans slaughter their will to live. In only a few months, they manage to halt the suicides of multiple other patients, and after years of sticking together, all end up leaving the hospital with a whopping pile of self-esteem. Their lives seemed over when they first met, but thirty years of friendship later, they are all married with families -- having learned the lesson that hope and humanity can take one a lot further in this world than outward appearances.

    This novel is a mere 136 pages long, but it's simplicity only makes its story that much more intense. It is a wonderful, funny, unforgettable novel and I highly, highly recommend it!
    [FICTION]


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