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I wasn't crazy about the cover of Jen Lancaster's new book, "By the Numbers", but the story itself was great fun, probably the best fiction title she's written so far. Penny Sinclair is an actuary: she crunches numbers for an insurance company to figure out things like life expectancy and accidents. She's very good at her job, and she's worked hard so her kids can have a good life and never want for anything. She and her recently divorced husband, Chris, are putting together a wedding for their daughter, Kelsey, and once that's over Penny is selling their Queen Anne home and moving on with her life. She's very excited about her fresh start. Then Kelsey comes back from her honeymoon and moves back in, fighting with her new husband. Her other daughter, Jessica, took too many risks in New York, is broke, and now she needs a place to stay. And then Chris has an accident while zip lining with his new much younger girlfriend, who promptly dumps him and *he* needs a place to stay. Just when Penny thought she was finally going to get out, she gets pulled back in. It was so charming and funny and my God, her daughters were horrible. I would have drowned them.

Needing something good related to football in my life right now (ugh) I picked up Jeff Pearlman's new bio of the legendary Brett Favre. Pearlman wasn't out to write a fluff piece, he talks about all of Brett's shortcomings, how he was unfaithful to Deanna, how he drank too much and almost killed himself in that car wreck back in college. There was just something so magical about watching Brett play, when he was good, on fire, making the impossible throws into triple coverage and his receivers would still somehow manage to pop up with the ball for the touchdown. I mean, words can't describe it. I miss that so much, I miss watching him. There isn't anyone else who plays like Brett did. He's one of a kind. Of course he did stupid things (all those interceptions!) but he deserved to go out better than he did. I won't ever forgive Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson for forcing his hand about retirement and then not letting him come back and finish out his career as a Packer, like he should have. And if the Saints weren't a bunch of dirty players, then Brett could have gone on to a third Super Bowl and gotten his second ring like Peyton Manning did. I believe the Vikings could have done it, but the Saints set out to hurt him in that playoff game and by God, they did, it was painful to watch. Oh well. Brett's happy now, living the good life back home in Mississippi with his wife and girls and grandsons. I wish him a long and happy retirement.

Whenever I spend time at my parents' house, I tend to reread the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich. Mostly because my mother has them all and I don't :) So I reread the first one, which I hadn't read in quite some time, so I actually didn't remember how it ended. It was written in 1994, which was fun, it's almost like reading a historical fiction novel at this point. Having to find pay phones to make calls. An answering machine with actual tape plays a big role.
Then I read her latest, "Turbo Twenty-Three". It was pretty good. Ranger has agreed to look into the security shortfalls at Bogart's ice cream factory. He needs Stephanie to go undercover and see if she can sniff out any bad characters. Bogart thinks his rival, Mo Morris, is deliberately sabotaging him. Ice cream and an overnight trip to Disney World with Ranger equals a win.
I wasn't sure if I'd read Raymond Chandler's "The Lady in the Lake" before or not. I read a lot of noir books as a teen: Chandler and Cain and Hammett. This one didn't seem familiar, but again, I've read "One for the Money" at least three times within the last twenty years and didn't remember it. If I read "Lady in the Lake" it was close to twenty-five years ago, and only once. At any rate, it was really good. PI Philip Marlowe is hired by Derace Kingsley, a wealthy businessman whose wife ran off. Kingsley is fine with that, he doesn't want her back, he just wants to make sure she's okay. Crystal was last seen at their vacation cabin up in Crestline. There are a lot of different leads to follow, and Marlowe finds himself looking at the death of a doctor's wife that may or may not have been murder and may or may not tie into the disappearance of Crystal Kingsley, when another dead body turns up drowned in the lake by the Kingsley's vacation home. There was a heck of a lot going on in this book, but it was interesting.

First off, some mindless fluff from V. C. Andrews. For some reason online somewhere it said that "Sage's Eyes" was related in some way to FITA. Why I believe anything I read on the internet is a mystery :) It had nothing to do with Flowers, but it was still pretty good. Sage's parents have never hidden the fact that she is adopted from her. They are super overprotective of her, and at sixteen Sage is feeling very stifled. It's hard for her to make friends since she can't go to parties or sleep over or even go shopping with a group of friends. A new boy named Summer Dante transfers to Sage's school, and all the girls are gaga over him, apparently he's gorgeous (not the way the author described, but that's just me). Summer likes Sage, though, and starts pushing her to break her parents' stringent rules to see him.
I remember seeing Bryan Cranston on the X-Files way back when, and I loved "Malcolm in the Middle". He was so funny on that. I was very surprised at him in "Breaking Bad". I thought he did a marvelous job and what a different character from Hal! His bio was a quick read, and interesting. He grew up in So Cal, the child of two actors. He however planned to be a police officer, he went to school to study criminal justice. After a cross country motorcycle trip with his older brother, however, he had an epiphany and decided he didn't want to spend his life doing something he didn't love so he decided to pursue acting. I think it was the right decision :)



And finally, a Quarry book by Max Allan Collins. I love the Quarry books, they're such fun. It's 1972, and Quarry is hired to take out an African American preacher who fancies himself the next Martin Luther King Jr. Quarry's boss assures him it's not political or racial, that the preacher is just a bad mad who deals drugs and cheats on his wife. Quarry goes to St. Louis and infiltrates the coalition to elect McGovern as the next president, meeting the preacher and his subordinates. Quarry quickly discovers another hit man who has been hired to take out the preacher as well, and wonders if he's being double-crossed in some way.

I don't watch much reality TV, but I will admit a fondness for the house hunting/fixer upper shows. I especially love Chip and Joanna Gaines' show. They seem like such genuinely nice, down to earth, loving people and Chip is a riot. This was a fun book telling their story: how they met and fell in love and got married, how they started flipping houses together. It was a super quick read, but I enjoyed it.

"Pistols for Two" was a fun, quick read, a collection of short Regency romances by Georgette Heyer. I really enjoyed them.
"The Athena Project" by Brad Thor is one that was recommended to me by a friend who read it and really liked it. He was looking for a romance recommendation for a Reader's Advisory class he's taking in library school, and I suggested Georgette Heyer. He ended up liking it, so to be fair I read this one. It was certainly very interesting, there was just a lot going on and I probably didn't get everything out of it that I should have. A group of beautiful, elite female agents are in search of a machine that uses Nazi technology to "fax" (there's really no better word for it) people and weapons from one spot to another. It's fallen into the wrong hands, and the women have to get it. Not something I would have ever picked up and read on my own, so it was a learning experience. It was pretty fast paced, the action moved quickly.
I got "You Will Know Me" on hold at work and looked at it and said "why did I put this on hold?" I had zero recollection of doing so, and after reading what it was about I was even more perplexed. It certainly didn't seem like something I'd normally read, but I must have read a good review or someone recommended it. At any rate, I gave it a shot. Katie and Eric Knox's lives revolve around their sixteen year old daughter Devon's elite gymnastics career. Devon is poised to potentially go to the Olympics when a scandal rocks the gym she trains at. Coach T's niece, Hailey, is accused of hitting her boyfriend after he dies in a hit and run, a witness comes forward saying he saw Hailey's car at the scene. Katie's not quite sure what to believe when both Eric and Devon start acting strangely and keeping secrets from her. It wasn't bad. I thought it was going to end differently than it did, so I was a bit disappointed.

It took me awhile to get through this one. Not that it wasn't interesting, but it was...disjointed, I guess. It wasn't a cohesive story, just a collection of interviews various members of Fleetwood Mac have done over the years. There was quite a lot of repetition, I felt like maybe some different interviews could have been included to give a different bit of perspective on the band. I did like that he included an interview done about ten years ago with Peter Green, who left the band in the mid 1970s. It was interesting to hear how someone who used to be inside sees them from the outside.
I like what Sophie Hannah is doing with the character of Hercule Poirot. While I read all of Agatha Christie's Poirot mysteries, I never liked him as much as Miss Marple. I always felt that Poirot was over the top, almost a caricature of a person. Hannah has made him much more believable and toned him down some. This one was fun, even if I guessed (mostly) how it ended, something I could never do with Christie's originals.
Wealthy children's book writer Lady Playford calls a somewhat strange group of people to her estate in Ireland to announce she's changing her will. Instead of leaving her children each half, she's leaving everything to her sickly secretary, Joseph Scotcher. Scotcher isn't expected to live much longer, whereas Lady Playford is in the pink of health, so her dramatic announcement is met with puzzlement all around. Of course inviting Poirot and Scotland Yard detective Edward Catchpool suggests she's expecting a murder to take place, and it does, only not the one she's expecting.

I do so love Mike Hammer. This was a fun collection of short stories. Hammer seems to lend himself well to short stories, and Collins even said Spillane preferred writing novellas to full length novels. Most of them were pretty good but I enjoyed them all.

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