Category Archives: Throwback Thursday

REVIEW: Dead Drop by Jesse Miles

Dead Drop by Jesse Miles

Detectives. Investigators. Finder-outers of stuff! From Sherlock Holmes to Scooby Doo, everyone can find some type of mystery solver that they enjoy reading about. You do enjoy detective-y books, don’t you? I certainly do! This week I’m reading one of the best ones I’ve seen in a while. It’s called Dead Drop by Jesse Miles and was just released last month.

Jack Salvo is a private investigator in Los Angeles, he also teaches philosophy at the community college. Wait a second-a P.I. teaching philosophy, now that is a new twist to the old hard-boiled detective stories! This book starts out with Jack taking on an embezzling case that morphs into a whole ‘nother thing real quick. The whole story just keeps spinning and going while the reader is hanging on for a great ride!

I really liked the sparse writing style-there isn’t that much ‘extra stuff’, it’s all very pared down and we get the meat of the story without all the filler. The philosophy is woven into the plot in a very believable way that enhances the story and gives us a much better idea of Jack and what makes him tick.

This was a good book and I hope there will be more from the author. I received a copy of the book-the review is my own opinion.


Throwback Thursday

Welcome to Throwback Thursday.  Walk down memory lane with me as we remember the Sunday paper with those colorful comics.  Remember how the top one on the first page was always Peanuts?

That’s because it was the best!!  I just found out there are three new CHARLIE BROWN books.  They are brand new adventures that introduce the Peanuts gang to inventors, adventurers and humanitarians. They also include activity pages!!

Regenery Publishing has done a terrific job combining our old favorite Peanuts in an entertaining and educational new way. These are just released on 9/29 and perfect for Christmas gift books-yep, I went there!!  Every kid “OTTER” be reading these books on Christmas morning!!


Coming up tomorrow: First Chapter Friday!! You don’t want to miss that!!

Throwback Thursday-First Chapters

We all get in reading slumps.  Nothing sounds good or the first chapter fails to ‘grab’ us.  Our kids are the same way-and with kids, we have to give them something GREAT so they will get hooked on reading and never stop.

Throwback Thursday this week is a look back at the first chapters of some wonderful books from the past that I somehow missed when they were first released.  Three super good selections your kiddos “Otter” be reading!!

HootHoot by Carl Hiaasen

Carl Hiaasen is one of my favorite authors and Hoot is everything you expect in his books but for kids.  There is a great pro-ecology message in this one and the characters are every bit as quirky as in Hiaasen’s more …ahem…adult books. Teenagers try to stop the construction of a pancake house and save a colony of owls.  The first chapter of this Newberry Award winner has caught me up in the story and I can’t wait to get back to it to finish!

Disney After Dark (The Kingdom Keepers, #1)

Disney After Dark, Kingdom Keepers #1 by Ridley Pearson

Oh, the first chapter of this one knocked my socks off!  What a plot idea-you get a job at Disney (Yay) and then you find out you are a holographic projection model/Disney guide.  This cool job turns ugly soon as Disney villains plot to overthrow the system.  Our hero, Finn, and his friends must save the day.  Another book that my kids will be up late finishing-and there are seven books in this series for them to enjoy.

The Watsons Go To Birmingham 1963The Watsons Go To Birmingham 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

The first chapter of this multi-award winning book introduces us to the Watson family.  They are warm, loving and funny.  They are also preparing to take a family trip from Flint, Michigan to Birmingham, Alabama to visit Grandma.  So that would be a fun book right there.

The twist is the Watson’s are black, the year is 1963; and 16th Street Baptist Church is going to be bombed by white supremacists, burning four young girls to death.  Adult themes but told for older children-some reviews cite language and too much ‘adult’ detail.  I will definitely finish this one before I let the kids read it.

I wonder what is on your ‘missed’ list?  Stop back tomorrow for some Friday fun as we get ready to READ ALL WEEKEND!!!

Throwback Thursday

Step into the wayback machine as we groove on back to the swinging 60’s, man..the 1860’s!  WHAT?!!  What kind of crazy bookness is this?  Chill, baby, I got you on this!  Now, saddle up and let’s ride into a few great books that you ‘Otter’ be reading!!


Shot All to Hell by Mark Lee Gardner

This was one of my 5-star reads from last year.  Engrossing and well told-an exhaustive recounting of the Northfield Raid by the James/Younger gang and their amazing escape.  I enjoyed this book so much because it’s not just a retelling of the same old-same old story.  Gardner gives great details about other players in the drama:  detectives, victims and even children impacted by this shocking crime.  My only criticism of the book was the teeny tiny map-but I had to really get nitpicky to even say that!  This is a great book that everyone with an interest in the Old West should read.

jessejames last rebel

Jesse James Last Rebel of the Civil War by T. J. Stiles

Do you enjoy super detailed and well-researched non-fiction?  Stiles goes into every little detail and nuance of Jesse James in this huge (528 pages!!) book.  No part of his life & times is left out-early days, Civil War & bushwhacker days, Outlaw days and untimely death at the hands of a ‘friend’.  The book begins with Jesse’s parents as they move to Missouri so it takes a while to get to the meat of the book-but that’s ok.  All that back story brings Jesse to life in a way not usually found in biographies.  I gave this one 4 stars and it’s another one I recommend to Civil War and/or ‘outlaw’ history buffs.  Well worth reading.


Destiny of the Republic; A Story of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard

I’ve had this one on my to-read list for a while.  It’s the story of President James A. Garfield from the assassins bullet until his death.  As Garfield fought for his life, history happened:  Alexander Graham Bell designed a metal detector to search for the bullet and Garfield was kept cool by the world’s first air conditioner.  Lots of interesting stuff and I need to move this book closer to the top of my reading pile.


Bloody Crimes; The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln’s Corpse by James Swanson

I had previously read Swanson’s earlier work:  Manhunt; The 12 Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer and thought it was fabulous.  This book is the follow up to that book as Confederate President Jefferson Davis is thought to be behind the assassination. With a $100,000 bounty on Davis’s head and chased by Union Cavalry, his story is intertwined with the spectacle that is the journey of Lincoln’s corpse-a 1600 mile odyssey home to Springfield.  I know from the Manhunt book that Swanson is an excellent story teller and this is another book that needs to be moved closer to the top of the stack.

So, cool cats, our journey to Throwback Thursday is complete.  What will grab your reading interest this week?


Ah, Throwback Thursday is here again.  Join me on a trip to the (far distant) past of my childhood and some favorite books I read over & over and think you should, too:

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner.

There are almost 150 books in this series, from the original books back in the 1920’s through various authors into 2014.  The Alden children are orphans: Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny.  They live for a time in a railroad boxcar, hence the series title.  They and their dog, Watch (love this!) have various adventures, solve some very sweet little mysteries, meet lovely people and find their way to their grandfather, James Alden.  I loved these books as a child and they stand the test of time very well. Wonderful to read to your little ones or to re-read for yourself!

Encyclopedia Brown by Donald J. Sobol

I think every fan of Scooby-Doo read these books first.  Encyclopedia Brown was a smart kid who opened a detective agency in his garage and offered to solve mystery cases for “25 cents per day, plus expenses”, his slogan was “No case too small”!  His helper is his friend Sally.  The nemesis is Bugs Meany and his gang the Tigers.  Lots of fun mysteries, nothing violent or bloody-mostly scams and con artist stuff.  Highly recommended.


Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene

Would any list of favorite series be complete without Nancy?!  There are probably over 200 books in various Nancy Drew series’:  from “The Secret of the Old Clock” in 1930 to the latest incarnation of Nancy Drew Papercutz graphic novels.  Nancy always stumbles into some kind of a puzzling mystery to solve.  Her friends Bess & George are happy to come along for the ride as does hunka hunka perfect boyfriend Ned.  Some of the mysteries were ahead of their time in dealing with intense situations like putting the girls in very dangerous situations …gasp… but everything is always wrapped up with no loose ends.  The companion series of The Hardy Boys is also consistently good over the years.  I think guys & gals would enjoy both series.


A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Oh, how I loved this series!  Dear Meg and Charles Wallace and of course Fortinbras the dog.  Mrs. Whatsit is the eccentric neighbor that knows more than she tells about Meg’s father, a very famous physicist who mysteriously disappears.  A rescue mission is begun that leads the children down some dark parts of the universe in a battle between good and evil.   Very heavy stuff for the 1960’s!  There are five books in the series and while they do work as stand-alones, reading them in order gives the best full immersion reading experience.

So, my Throwback Thursday list of favorites from my childhood.  What did you read growing up? Anything you still read from time to time?  Tomorrow is Funday Friday-see you then!!


Throwback Thursday this week unveils the Top 5 of my 5-star reads so far for 2014 and showcases two of my favorite books of all time (the “throwbacks” for this Thursday-see what I did there?!!).

So with no further ado, here is the list:

#5 The Martian by Andy Weir

I love science fiction but there is a reason I didn’t rush right out to see Gravity when it hit theaters:  this book.  No way could that movie be a better story than The Martian.

Mark Watney is an astronaut, one of the first to ever walk on Mars.  Then a freak dust storm rips his suit and hurls him into a nightmare.  Sure that he is dead and his body unrecoverable, his crew abandons the mission and leaves him behind to return to Earth.  In the meantime, Mark is alive!  Now he is stranded on Mars with no way to communicate with Earth; but no matter because his food will run out before any kind of rescue mission could save him.

This is where the book turns into a nail biting, race against the odds to save Mark and bring him home.  Remember the TV show MacGyver?  Mark Watney could give him a run for his money for sheer ingenuity and using whatever he can find to cobble together some of the nuttiest things that may actually work to get him off that red rock.  The cast of characters is slim so we can focus on Mark but they are all excellently written.  There are also a few info dumps and some mathy/sciency places that I couldn’t follow but no worries, this book is so good it should be, WILL be the next Hollywood blockbuster.

#4 Help for the Haunted by John Searles

I just reviewed this book on July 28th.  So scary-but it was all in my mind!  Searles takes familiar paranormal props like dolls and lets the readers imagination paint itself a spooky picture that is far scarier than if he had written ‘BOO, scary doll’ on the page!


#3 Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Verity is my #1 favorite book I have read for the first time this year.  Wein gives us a story ripped from the past.  1943, a British spy parachutes into France and is captured by the Gestapo.  The pilot crashes and the twist is they are women and best friends.  So many twists & turns as the story shifts from the perspective of the spy to the pilot.  The spy is tortured (graphically at times) and forced to give up military secrets.  The pilot is trying to get out of France alive and get back to England, and saving the spy if she can.  I’m not ashamed to say that I cried in a few places.  This is a fiction book but I honestly believed every word of it actually happened.  Wein is one of my new favorite authors and has another book out similar to this one called Rose Under Fire that tells a similar story about a captured American in a Nazi concentration camp.  Heavy subject matter in both books but Wein writes the tightrope between good & evil very well.  Highly recommended!!

#2 Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

I re-read Lonesome Dove every two or three years.  There is a movie, haven’t watched it.  The book is enough.  It is a very simple story of a cattle drive from Texas to Montana.   They don’t give Pulitzer Prizes for ‘simple’ so when you open this book you will get more than you bargained for.  There are relationships, death, love, larger than life characters, heroes, and flawed people doing the best they can.  If it was just the story of a cattle drive it’s a good book-Lonesome Dove is a GREAT book.


#1 To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

If Lonesome Dove is a GREAT book-Mockingbird is more greater!  Another Pulitzer winner, it is on the surface a simple book, but deep down it is so complex I will take me a hundred readings to even have a small hint of all the nuances & bits that make up the story.  Scout, Jem & Dil along with Atticus & Boo Radley are the most perfectly drawn characters I’ve ever read.  No need for ten paragraphs, with just a sentence or two, Harper Lee conveys all we need to know about these folks.  This book is so good and touched me so deeply, I can’t even write a coherent reason for you to read it.  It is the first and only book I have ever, and I mean EVER, read for the first time and immediately turned back to page one and started all over again.  There is just something about it that, I don’t know, just let me say this:  trust me, go get a copy and read it.

So there we have it-the Top 5 of my 5-star reads so far for 2014.  It’s only July so we shall see in December if there are any changes in the lineup!  I’m working on a list of my 2-star reads just to give some perspective; that will be on the blog next week.  Tomorrow is Friday Funday-stop back for some ideas for fun books to read over the weekend!!


Throwback Thursday

In honor of Throwback Thursday, I ‘threw’ back to the best book ever written and did a re-read of To Kill A Mockingbird.  Now available as an eBook so there is NO EXCUSE for not reading it immediately!!  

I didn’t read Mockingbird in high school, in fact it was just two years ago that I picked up my first copy. It blew my mind.   How was this book out there and I had never read it?  Now I find myself willing to take more chances with books, I’m more open to reading “the classics” and I am reading not just more books but better books.  I hope you will read Mockingbird.  It may not change your life but it will be an enjoyable read.  This is the review I posted after I read it for the first time.  

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
5 stars

The best book I’ve ever read. I finished it and turned to the first page and started reading it over again. I want to see the movie, read the Cliff’s Notes, download the study guides and tell every person I see today to stop what they’re doing and sit down and read this book! 

It’s not a “coming-of-age” novel or a “crime” tale, “a civil rights” saga or “loaded with Southern charm from a bygone age”; except that it is-it’s all that and more and I want to read it over & over until I can recite pages of it and go to Alabama again and try to find Maycomb in every little town. I want to walk up to a man and gently say, “hey, Boo”. Oh my Lord, this book is good!! 

Stop what you are doing and read it, right now.

Vanessa Fernandez Fitness

mom of four / fitness coach / business mentor

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