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"Vanilla Ride", Joe Landsdale's next Hap and Leonard book after "Captains Outrageous", was a good deal shorter, but still packed a punch. The premise is familiar: Marvin asks Hap and Leonard to help him rescue his granddaughter from an abusive drug dealer (remember how well it worked out when they rescued Brett's daughter Tillie from her abusive pimp? Yeah...) Hap and Leonard are able to get Gadget (yes, Gadget. I know) away but in the process piss off the Dixie Mafia. They send a hit woman out for them, known only as Vanilla Ride. Sure, okay. For the moment, Hap and Leonard are okay, but I think it will only be a matter of time before Vanilla Ride shows up again...

Sheila Tate was Mrs. Reagan's press secretary during the first four years of Ronald Reagan's presidency, and was able to give us an insider's look as to how official business is done in the East Wing. State dinners, her Just Say No campaign, Sheila helped manage all that. She wanted to share her good memories, since Nancy had a reputation of being a big overbearing and a "dragon lady". It was a sweet resemblance.

I *almost* didn't bother to read "The Case for Jamie", since I hated "Last of August" so much. But I did love the first one, "A Study in Charlotte", and I hoped the series would end on a good note, so I gave it a shot. It wasn't too bad. Definitely better than the second one, but not as good as the first. At least it wasn't as complicated. Jamie is back at Sherringford boarding school, he hasn't seen Charlotte Holmes in a year, not since her brother, Milo, killed August and Charlotte took the fall. He's dating Elizabeth, and playing rugby, and working hard to get into a good college. He still has the occasional panic attack, but he's doing better. It switched back and forth between Jamie and Charlotte's POVs: Charlotte is trying to smoke out Lucien, August's evil older brother. The ending was nice, not too "all tied up in a neat bow".

And finally, a sad note. My little puppy dog, Siddalee, passed away on Monday. She was a sweet, funny little dog, and we'll all miss her a lot. RIP, Sidda.

Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of England during WWII, and King George VI, had a friendly relationship, but a complicated one. They were very different people, with different ways of doing things, yet they had to find a way to work together to defeat Hitler. I'm sorry King George died so young, he sounds like he was a kind, generous, brave man who truly did the best he could for his country. Churchill has always fascinated me, but there's so much out there about him I hardly know where to begin. This book was a nice little introduction to his character, and maybe someday I'll get up the courage to tackle one of those doorstopper biographies about him :)

I had "Prince Philip" sent over from another branch, and when it came in my coworker gave it to me and said: "boy, he's a handsome fellow, isn't he?". Yes, yes he was. This bio covered Philip's early years, from birth until his wife's coronation. Philip was the last child of five children, the only boy. His father was run out of Greece, where he was in line for the throne, when Philip was just an infant. They spent his childhood bouncing around Europe, basically homeless. His mother had mental health issues and was hospitalized, his father took off to go live in Monte Carlo with his mistress. Philip was in school, and over his holidays he would go to various relatives' homes, never having a stable home of his own to look forward to, which was why when he and Elizabeth had to give up Clarence House when she became Queen it was so heartbreaking for him. He sounds like he was pretty stoic about the whole thing: growing up royal but poor. People enjoyed having him around because he was fun and outgoing and charming. The fact that he didn't have the right clothes or a name didn't seem to bother him, at least not outwardly. It was very good, I enjoyed it.

I enjoyed Christopher Moore's latest, "Noir", as well, it was (typical of Moore) funny and off-beat and quirky. Set in San Francisco in 1947, Sammy is a bartender with a bum foot who meets a gorgeous girl named Stilton (yes, like the cheese). Lots of strange adventures ensued. I can't sum it up without giving too much away, but there was an alien from Roswell, a deadly black mamba, and a foul mouthed kid all wrapped up in it.

I discovered James Dean as a teenager and became enchanted by him, and watched the three movies he starred in multiple times. I haven't watched "East of Eden" or "Rebel without a Cause" in years, but I have watched "Giant", because, well, Texas :) And Elizabeth Taylor, and Rock Hudson, and oil barons and yeah. As a kid, that's what I thought Texas was like--sprawling mansions on million acre ranches, cowboys, oil derricks. Don Graham's book was lots of fun and talked about the five major players of the film: Taylor, Hudson, and Dean along with director George Stevens and book author Edna Ferber. The lion's portion of the book was devoted to James Dean, which seems fair, since he stole the movie (through his acting and managing to get himself killed before it was finished). He discussed the importance of the movie today, how its legacy has endured. Now I really want to rewatch "Giant", but alas, I have too many books to read at the moment!

I was super disappointed with Joyce Carol Oates' latest collection of short stories, "Beautiful Days". Partially my fault: I got most of the way through then, then had a ton of other books I had to read, discovered "The Crown" on Netflix, and got distracted so I kept renewing it. It took me nine weeks to finish it, by which time I just didn't care anymore. Sad to say, I can't really remember any of the earlier stories, they just didn't stick with me, and the ones I just read were pretty dull.

The cover of this book is completely inaccurate, that scene never happened. Someone died in a pool, but it was a man.
At any rate :) Hap is in a bit of a rut. His relationship with Brett has cooled since he and Leonard helped rescue Tillie. He's working at a chicken processing plant as a security guard, and one night while leaving work he stops a man who is attacking a young teenage girl. Turns out the girl's father is the wealthy owner of the chicken plant, and he gives Hap $100,000 (Hap protests that he didn't do it for the money, and Charlie talks him into accepting it so as not to hurt the father's pride) and gives Hap and Leonard a one month paid vacation from the plant. Leonard's new boyfriend, John, convinces them they should take a cruise. They cheap out though, and end up on a real tub. Their vacation gets even worse when they miss the shuttle back to their boat after an excursion to a Mexican village, and are stranded there. Leonard is stabbed during a mugging attempt, and an old man named Ferdinand rescues them and takes them on his fishing boat.
That was only about halfway through the book, if you can believe it. It was dense. Very, very good though. The worst part was that Charlie was murdered, after being mistaken for Hap. That made me cry, I liked Charlie.

I am totally obsessed with the Netflix show "The Crown" (fair warning: there are probably going to be a lot of books about the royal family in the upcoming weeks). This was a companion guide which helped separate fact from fiction on the show, along with pictures of the actors and the real life people they portray. It was a fun, quick read and I'm hoping they do it for every season of the show. This one just covered the first season.
Max Allan Collins polished up a few of Mickey's manuscripts to publish for the 100th anniversary of his birthday. This book contained two novellas, an early one and his "last" one. The first was the early Spillane, called "A Bullet For Satisfaction". A cop named Rod gets a little too close to discovering the truth about the Syndicate and their hold on his small town, and is fired for his trouble. He continues investigating, though, determined to bring the corruption to an end. "The Last Stand" was really different, but I enjoyed it. Set after 2001, a pilot named Joe crashes in the desert on an Indian reservation and is rescued by Pete. Pete takes him home and introduces him to his gorgeous sister, Running Fox. Joe and Running Fox fall for each other, but there's the little matter of a mineral deposit the government (and the bad guys) are keen to get their hands on and Joe knows where to find. Both were great, fun reads. I'm going to be sad when Collins runs out of Spillane's manuscripts to publish.

And finally, "The Flight Attendant" by Chris Bohjalian. Cassie is a flight attendant (shocking, I know! who would have guessed with that title?!) who makes terrible decisions. Like, horrible, awful, stupid, forehead slapping "why the $#@! did you do that?!" sort of decisions. She's an alcoholic who won't admit she has a drinking problem. She goes out binge drinking and sleeps with random guys as a matter of course. She wakes up one morning in Dubai after a night of hard drinking and finds her bed mate, Alex, murdered next to her. She panics, dives out of bed and rushes back to her own hotel, eager to get out of Dubai and back home before the body is found (okay, so that was a smart decision. It was her last one). She's *pretty* sure she didn't kill him in her blacked out state, but who knows? She hires an attorney who gives her excellent advise that she promptly ignores.
You know who Cassie reminded me of? My dad. My dad makes the dumbest decisions on the planet and yet always manages to come up smelling like roses. If I were Cassie, the ending wouldn't have been nearly as happy as it was. It kind of irritated me, because it always irritates me when stupid people make stupid mistakes and still end up okay in the end, I mean, if you make a bad decision and learn from it and DON'T DO IT AGAIN that's one thing, but if you persist in being dumb and everything still turns out okay for you, it's kind of frustrating. Oh well. It sounds like I didn't enjoy the book, but I really did, it was, as usual for Bohjalian, well written and entertaining. I'm just jealous I'm not as lucky :)

Rumble Tumble

Brett finds out her daughter, Tillie, who is a prostitute, is in a really bad situation, trapped on a remote ranch in Mexico, servicing a rough bunch of biker gang members. Hap offers to help extract Tillie, and of course Leonard has to go along for the ride. Things get messy, but they do manage to get out mostly intact and with Tillie, although they do leave behind a bunch of people who don't fare as well.

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