Monday, November 20, 2017

Radio Free Vermont

Radio Free Vermont: A Fable of Resistance by Bill McKibben, 224 pages

Vern Barclay is your average local talk radio host, discussing high school sports scores, the unseasonably warm weather, updates on the local news, you know the drill. But then his station (the last independent station in Vermont!) is purchased by an out-of-state conglomerate, he's forced to cover the opening of a Wal-mart, and the next thing you know, he's a fugitive from the law, spearheading the shop local movement to end all movements (and eventually a secession movement) through the website, podcasts, and occasional broadcast of Radio Free Vermont.

McKibben has given us a creative, fun way to look at resistance in the current political climate, and I thank him for that wholeheartedly. I loved the characters he created (particularly Perry? The computer whiz who ends each sentence with a question mark?), and the excellent ways they find to stick it to the man. One of my favorites of the year.

Lost City of the Monkey God

Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story by Douglas Preston  326  pp.

It's not often you find a nonfiction page turner but this one was for me. In 2012, Douglas Preston traveled to Honduras as part of expedition to search for the mysterious Ciudad Blanca "White City" the subject of legends of an ancient Mayan metropolis called the Lost City of the Monkey God, deep in the Central American rain forest. Preston was on the expedition to document it for National Geographic. The expedition was a treacherous one with torrential rains, waist deep mud, disease carrying biting insects, and the deadly fer-de-lance viper. With the help of advanced laser technology the city was located and secured against looters with the assistance of the new Honduran government. After returning and reporting their findings including some speculation on how and why the city was abandoned. After their return the scientists and archaeologists came under attack from a faction of their peers for a variety of mostly unfounded accusations. But the worst was yet to come when Preston and most of the expedition members are afflicted with leishmaniasis, an insect-born parasite that eats flesh. With varieties of treatments, most recovered and were able to return to the site in 2016. The scariest part of the whole book is the information that this once tropical disease is spreading northward with the assistance of Global Warming. Preston's descriptions of the treacherous journey and the its aftermath make this nonfiction book read like a novel but is factual and in no way related to the Pendergast series written by Preston and Lincoln Child.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Five-carat soul

Five-carat soul / James McBride, read by Arthur Morey, Nile Bullock, Prentice Onayemi and Dominic Hoffman, 308 pgs.

These short stories are really great.  I especially loved the ones set in the zoo that were narrated by a lion.  The animals are the "higher order" and people are "smelly ones."  There are a lot of rules among the higher orders and a communication among all called "thought speak."  But really, you can't go wrong with any of these fabulous stories.  I listened to the audio book which was worth the time.


Friday, November 17, 2017

Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson  599 pp.

Walter Isaacson writes detailed biographies of highly intelligent people. I previously read/listened to his books on Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin. While I enjoyed those two, this one on Leonardo is my favorite. What is obvious in the book is that Leonardo's entire life was focused by his curiosity. His works of art were preceded by detailed examinations of anatomy, light and shadow, and perspective. His insatiable curiosity often caused him to leave paintings incomplete or never get them to those who commissioned them because he continued to make changes based on his scientific investigations including his many autopsies of cadavers. While his procrastination frequently caused problems with the patrons who supported him, his talent and reputation meant he was never without a rich and powerful patron for long. Included with the audiobook is a .pdf of the illustrations in the book which are referred to by number in the text including paintings, sketches, and schematics made by Leonardo and others. There is so much information in this book but it is very accessible to readers without knowledge of art and engineering. This one is well worth the time to read and/or listen to it.

TEOTFW

The end of the fucking world / Charles Forsman, 176 pgs.

James and Alyssa are two disgruntled teens.  They might be in love or maybe just hanging out because it is convenient.  James pretty quickly outs himself as a bit of a sociopath.  He is mean to animals, he sticks his hand down the garbage disposal, things continue to be more violent.  He is basically a person who does not feel.  Alyssa kind of ignores the signs and behavior but things eventually get out of hand.  There are no lovable characters here...heck, there aren't even any likable characters.  The art is simple so the violence isn't too graphic.  Not sure who I would recommend this book to but I don't regret reading it.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Reincarnation Blues

Reincarnation Blues / Michael Poore, read by Mark Bramhall, 371 pgs.

Milo has been reincarnated 9,995 times when he finds out there is a hard limit on how many times one can live and he is closing in on it.  The pressure is on to achieve "perfection" and move onto post death status as "oversoul."  He starts being more serious about what he accomplishes in his remaining lives.  Will he achieve perfection?  This book is really interesting and we see Milo in many different incarnations, back in forth through time.  A fun story that is well read by Mark Bramhall.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn / Mark Twain, read by Robin Field,  336 p.

We all know the story of Huck, Jim, Tom, et al., and that great big brown river that rolls them south.  I was surprised at how engaging and funny the story remained.  It's great road trip material, and ably read by Robin Field.

LaRose

LaRose: a Novel / Louise Erdrich,  read (gorgeously) by the author, 373 p.

A beautiful 'wow' of a novel from a writer fully in command of her craft.  LaRose is a 5 year old boy when a terrible accident occurs, linking two families straddling the border of the Ojibwe reservation and rural North Dakota. In an attempt to heal the rift created by the accident, a plan emerges: LaRose will become son to both families involved in the tragedy.  This seemingly impossible solution, rooted in old Ojibwe ways, plays out across several years and touches many lives: LaRose's two sets of parents, his many siblings, and their extended families.  Great storytelling and especially noteworthy for the pitch-perfect detail.  While listening I felt like I could smell the meat stews, see LaRose's sisters applying nail polish, and hear the thwack of the volleyball as his sisters play in a high-stakes tournament.  The author presents characters who are deeply flawed but never judged.

The misfortune of Marion Palm

The misfortune of Marion Palm / Emily Culliton, 283 pgs.

Marion Palm lives a pretty good life with her husband Nathan and their two daughters.  What isn't known to anyone but her is that she is financing this life by embezzling from the school where she works.  This also happens to be the school that her children attend.  When word comes down of an audit, Marion goes on the lam.  She leaves her husband and kids but doesn't go far...she ends up renting a room from a Russian woman who employs her to clean apartments.  Pretty soon, she is stealing again.  Meanwhile, life at her old home is kind of falling apart.  How are things going to turn out for this odd family?  An interesting debut novel.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Kristin Lavransdatter 1, The Bridal Wreath

The Bridal Wreath / Sigrid Undset, trans. Charles Archer and J.S. Scott, 283 p.

The first novel in a trilogy by the 1928 winner of the Nobel Prize, in which the life of a medieval Norwegian woman is traced from birth to death.  The Bridal Wreath tells the story of Kristin's childhood to her marriage.  The novel is rich with detail of daily life on a Norwegian farm in the 14th century, and the landscape described is spectacular.  Readers who enjoy medieval historical fiction will almost certainly enjoy this; Undset's knowledge of the period seems so thorough that through descriptions of clothing, food, cooking, social events, and religious ritual, the reader is fully immersed.  But make no mistake: the Bridal Wreath is first and foremost a novel about sex.  Greed, hunger, fear, and faith drive the plots of many novels, but the arc of Kristin's adolescent life is directed by sexual drive, both her own and that of those around her.  The prose style as translated by Archer and Scott was a bit tough going; I'd really like to take a look at the new translation by Tiina Nunnally, translator of Camilla Lackberg, Mari Jungstedt, and other Scandinavian thriller writers.

Catching Fire

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, 391 pages

In this sequel to The Hunger Games, Katniss finds herself readjusting to life outside the arena — struggling to sort out her feelings for Gale and Peeta, struggling with survivor's guilt, struggling to protect her family and friends from the government (which saw her final moves in the arena as an act of rebellion). In short, she's struggling. And guess what? It's not going to get any easier. This book ends on a cliffhanger, leading directly into Mockingjay, so I'll shortly be (re)reading that one too. These books are so good and so gripping.

The Dark Flood Rises

The Dark Flood Rises:a Novel / Margaret Drabble, read by Anna Bentinck, 327 p.

I have come to love Margaret Drabble's novels; previously I've blogged about The MillstoneThe Witch of Exmoor, and others, and Linda wrote an earlier review of this title.  In Drabble's novels, very little happens, but in recounting her characters inner thoughts, it seems as though the world is explained, somehow; it all makes sense.

Here we have Fran Stubbs, an energetic 70-something who drives all over England examining care homes for the elderly and helping them optimize conditions for their residents.  As she drives back and forth to her meetings in a perilously rainy English February, her son is in the Canary Islands visiting friends who are also grappling with end-of-life issues.  While Lanzarote, Canary Islands, sounds nearly like paradise, its residents still grow old, fall, have strokes, and die.  Meanwhile, Fran has a friend dying of cancer in London, and another embarking on new scholarly adventures in a deluxe assisted-living facility in Cambridge.  Sounds depressing, but for a glass-half-empty person like me, it was just brilliant. 


The First Day: a Novel

The First Day: a Novel / Phil Harrison, 214 p.

Samuel and Anna meet in Belfast and fall into an intense love affair.  The problem is that Sam is married, has three children, and is a charismatic minister.  A lot of what happens to the characters here is predictable; what's not obvious at first is just how damaging the fallout will be, and how that damage will continue to play out over many years.  Suspenseful and sinister, and definitely engaging for a short read.  The religious elements were thoughtful if occasionally overwrought.

Bury your dead, by Louise Penny



In this sixth of Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache mysteries, she adroitly keeps three plots up in the air like an expert juggler.  The first is left over from the previous book which was set in the magical village of Three Pines near the Vermont border.  The second is in Quebec City during a winter festival, where an archeologist obsessed with finding Quebec’s founder Samuel Champlain’s final resting place is murdered in the basement of an English language library.  The third is set in the same area, but back in the mid-1800s.  As if this wasn’t enough, in a fourth plot, we gradually learn what has happened to the Chief Inspector and his assistant, Jean Guy Beauvoir, since we last encountered them that has left both physically and mentally wounded.  A tour de force.  371 pp.

Jade Dragon Mountain, by Elsa Hart



This is the first of Hart’s two (so far) mysteries featuring Li Du, an imperial librarian in China in the early 1700s.  He has been exiled by the emperor, the second in the line of Manchu emperors, and is wandering towards the Tibet to leave the country.  Entering the town of Dayan, the older name for present-day Lijiang on China’s southwest border, he is surprised to learn that the emperor himself is also on the way to this far-flung frontier town to celebrate the spring festival and bring forth an eclipse of the sun.  Jesuits, able astronomers and virtually the only Westerners allowed in China at that time, have tipped the Emperor off to the event and he seeks to consolidate his power with this display of commanding the heavens.  In Dayan, Li Du pays a visit to his cousin, who is the magistrate there and is eager to impress the emperor with his preparations for this grand display and earn a position closer to the Imperial City.  His consort has designs of her own.  Also angling for access to power is a representative of the East India Company who wants to discredit the Jesuits and gain influence in this hidden kingdom.  A murder occurs and Li Du is drawn into the complex situation.  Hart, who will discuss her Li Du mysteries at the April Friends of the Library meeting, has lived in many interesting parts of the world and wrote this novel in Lijiang.  It is a fascinating and well-written book about a time, place, and culture I knew little about.  I look forward to reading her second book and to hearing her speak.  321 pp.

The girl who takes an eye for an eye

The girl who takes an eye for an eye / David Lagercrantz, translated by George Goulding, 347 pgs.

Lisbeth Salander is always the focus of these books but in this one, other characters take the lead.  Still gathering information about why her childhood took such a turn, Lisbeth, Mikael Blomkvist and Holger Palmgren discover the sordid details of an experiment that lead to the separation of twins to observe their development. 

Maybe its because the thing I most like reading about Lisbeth kicking someone's ass that my favorite story line is the one with her serving time in prison and defending an abused Bangladeshi prisoner.  Lisbeth is not a fan of sitting by while the stong abuse the weak.  She still lives by the maxim, "First you find out the truth. Then you take revenge."  She takes revenge on Benito, a bullying psychopath devoid of the ability to care about others. 

Will Benito carry out her threats of retaliation?  Will Lisbeth find herself in a difficult situation? Will we wonder, even for a minute, if she can take care of business?  Meh, not really but still enjoyed the action and the revealing psychological experimentation by the government.

Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders  341 pp.

I listened to the audiobook of this Booker Prize winning book and I agree with most of Kara's review. The full cast recording brought the characters to life although I keep thinking I should go back and listen again to allay some of the confusion I felt and to identify the people who voiced them. My recurring thought on the dialogue and interplay between the spirit characters in the cemetery was "If it's really like that in a cemetery I'm glad my plans don't include one."

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Right Side

The Right Side by Spencer Quinn, 323 pages (2017)

I've read and relished Spencer Quinn's Chet and Bernie mysteries, but I wasn't prepared for the mood switch in his newest book, The Right Side.  LeAnne Hogan, a soldier who was badly hurt in a bombing in Afghanistan when she was nearing the end of her deployment, is struggling with her injuries, both physical and psychological.  When the book opens, she is in full rebellion at Walter Reed VA Hospital, rejecting her prosthetic eye as well as her psychological consultations.  It is an understatement to say that LeAnne is not lovable as she fights off everyone around her, unable to trust even her mother.  Her abrasiveness repels me, but as she flees Walter Reed without telling anyone, her story is too compelling to put down.

Flashbacks ping us around in her life and include bits of her childhood, her athletic abilities, her acceptance into West Point, and her father's death.  We bounce around in her head, feeling the post-traumatic stress as she tries to get a handle on where she is and what happened during her last assignment in Afghanistan.  Along the way, a dog adheres to her, in spite of the fact that she is decidedly not a dog lover, as she travels across the country in an attempt to find the answers in her life.

Strange Weather

Strange Weather: Four Short Novels by Joe Hill, 432 pages

In this collection of novellas, Hill offers up, yes, some strange weather, but also four wildly different types of horror. The first novella, "Snapshot," centers on a woman whose memory loss may not be due the natural causes everyone assumes it to be; the third, "Aloft," hits those of us with a fear of heights...and the unknown; and the fourth, "Rain," takes the book title most seriously, with sudden and deadly precipitation.

But it's the second story, "Loaded," that I found most chilling. While the others all include some supernatural (or at least super-weird) element, "Loaded" centers on something that is not only plausible, but probable in modern America: a shooting in a mall that just keeps getting worse. It's tightly woven, masterfully brutal, and will send chills down my spine for ages.

All in all, an excellent collection.

The Bungalow Mystery

The Bungalow Mystery by Carolyn Keene, 192 pages

In her third mystery, Nancy Drew must simultaneously help out a new friend with atrocious new foster parents while assisting her father as he investigates securities that are missing from a local bank. As we're beginning to expect from these mysteries, the stories are intertwined, and Nancy once again finds herself in peril as she sleuths. My son liked this one, though not as much as its predecessor, The Hidden Staircase. That, however, won't stop us from moving on to the fourth book.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

How to find love in a bookshop

How to find love in a bookshop / Veronica Henry, read by Fiona Hardingham, 340 pages.


Emilia returns home as her father is dying.  He was a beloved small town bookseller and she is determined to take over the family business.  As people around her discover one another and work towards lasting, loving relationships, she discovers the store is in some financial trouble.  While she is falling in love, the store is damaged by an accidental flood and she loses hope and arranges to sell the store.  Not for one minute do you really believe this will happen.  This is the kind of book where, despite some bumps along the way, everything turns out as your hope it will. The winding road to the destiny is enjoyable.  The audio version is well done.

Woolly

Woolly: the true story of the quest to revive one of history's most iconic extinct creatures / Ben Mezrich, 293 pgs.

I was fascinated by this book, telling of the team of young scientist who are trying to genetically engineer the return of the Woolly Mammoth.  We learn about several different areas of research, not the least is a discovery about climate change and how to correct some of the problems humans have created.  Fear not, there are a lot of ethical issues involved in this type of science and the book covers the topic. And YES, they all have seen/read Jurassic Park.  My only complaint would be that some areas could have used a harder look.

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Netanyahu Years

The Netanyahu Years by Ben Kaspit, 506 pages.
Benjamin Netanyahu's grandfather, Nathan Milekowsky, was born in Lithuania in the 1880s. At first an admirer of Herzl, Milekowsky later joined the Jewish Revisionist Movement and spoke to Jews throughout Europe about reclaiming Israel. He also changed his last name.His son, Benzion, became a something of an academic and something of a right-wing political activist. Living in Israel, New York, Philadelphia, and then back in Israel, Benzion and his wife Cela had three sons, their oldest, Yoni; their youngest, Iddo; and their middle child, the subject of this strange book, Benjamin Netanyahu. Okay, it's an interesting book, with lots of interesting "facts," and comments. There's an engaging arc presented, Bibi's stint as a soldier, his time in New York, and then his complicated political career. It's just when you check the back of the book there's not a lot in the way of sources, so it seems possible that it's just a big gossip fest. I didn't like what the author had to say about Obama, anyway, so I was okay dismissing the book overall.

It's Okay To Laugh (Crying Is Cool Too): A Memoir

It's Okay To Laugh (Crying Is Cool Too): A Memoir by Nora McInerny Purmort, 274 pages.

Purmort, who has written for the Huffington Post, Elle.com, and Cosmopolitan.com, among others, tells a devastatingly sad story in a devastatingly funny way. She is hilarious in recounting her life, despite a miscarriage and the loss of both her father and her husband, all within a matter of weeks. She describes her relationship with Aaron, the man she married after he discovered that he had a brain tumor, in very loving terms. They shared an outlook on life that was a bit absurd and they did their best to enjoy the time that had together, all the while hoping that they would catch a few breaks and have a little bit more time. Especially after their son, Ralph, was born. Purmort is seemingly aware of every one of her own flaws, but she does her best to forgive herself for them and use those faults as grist for her humor mill. She takes a perverse pleasure in the skewering of  her problems; with alcohol, with her parents, with every relationship she had before her relationship with Aaron, and with every bit of her tall, self-conscious, gawky self.  This book is a sad sort of joy to read or to listen to. The audiobook is narrated by the author.

The Devil in the Kitchen

The Devil in the Kitchen: Sex, Pain, Madness, and the Making of a Great Chef by Marco Pierre White  244 pp.

I never heard of Marco Pierre White until I got this book for a couple bucks on sale at Audible. It turns out that White was both the youngest and the first British chef to earn three Michelin stars for his work in various restaurants in England. He is also a television personality in Great Britain having been on the British version of "Hell's Kitchen" and other food related shows including ones in the U.S. Born to an English father, also a chef, and an Italian mother, White grew up in Leeds, West Yorkshire. After leaving school before graduating and leaving home because he didn't want to deal with a new stepmother, White began working in restaurant kitchens, working his way up to high end establishments through hutzpah, talent, and sheer hard work to some of the best restaurants in England. Along the way he earned his Michelin stars, worked with chefs like Mario Batali and Gordon Ramsey, and opened his own restaurants, one in partnership with actor Michael Caine. The books ends at his retirement from being a working chef in 1999. White is a self-proclaimed workaholic who decided it was time to actually spend some time with his family. He is brutally honest in this book about his fits of temper, wild life which did not include the drug use of many other celebrity chefs, and obsession with creating perfect meals.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Maltese Falcon

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett  217 pp.

Once again, my familiarity with Hammet's work is through the movies. In spite of all the times I have watched the classic Bogart film, I never read the book until now. If you have never seen the movie, it's the story of a Private Investigator (Sam Spade) who is hired to find a mysterious statuette of a jewel studded falcon. All I kept thinking is the dialogue suited Humphrey Bogart perfectly. However, the character Brigid O'Shaughnessy is much younger in the novel than the 35 year old Mary Astor who played her in the film. Part of the characterization in the novel that was left out of the film is the stereotypical homosexuality of Joel Cairo who was played by Peter Lorre. I didn't care for this book as much as Hammett's The Thin Man but as a genre book it is fine.

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, 374 pages

In this dystopian blockbuster of a novel, North America is now Panem, separated into 12 highly controlled districts and the Capital, which controls them. Each year, two teenagers are plucked from each district and forced to fight in the Hunger Games to the death until only one remains. This year, it's Katniss Everdeen, a girl with a rebellious streak, who finds herself in the arena, and the viewers of this year's Hunger Games will see things they've never seen before.

I've read this book several times before, and it seems the cynicism and social commentary get sharper each time. An excellent novel, though not particularly a cheery one.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Three Floors Up

Three Floors up: a Novel / Eshkol Nevo, trans. Sondra Silverston, 283 p.

Three apartments, one on top of the other, three lightly intertwined novellas set in a Tel Aviv suburb.  In each apartment a family is in trouble: infidelity, mental illness, and parent-child estrangement haunt the ground, second and third floors, respectively.  But all three stories use the same frame, that of the main character spilling her guts to an unseen second party.  Very well-told and engrossing reading.  If occasionally the stories feel too neat, that is a minor fault in an entertaining volume.  Very nice slice of Israeli life.

Five Came Back

Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War by Mark Harris  511 pp.

While many in Hollywood found ways to support the home front in World War II, five of its top movie directors entered the military and took on the frequently dangerous job of documenting the war. John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens were all famous in their field for award winning films. As members of the Army, Air Corps, and Navy each was tasked with filming the fighting, the destructive aftermath of battles, the amazing work of the bomber and fighter pilots, and the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps. Frequently these men were in harm's way. There were often fights with the powers in charge over what they could and could not include in the films they made with Huston having the most difficulty over the controversial films he made. Capra spent the bulk of the war supervising the production of the "Why We Fight" series. Ford, Stevens, and Wyler suffered some form of what we now call PTSD after their experiences. Stevens (understandably) never got over what he saw in the concentration camps. Ford and Wyler both suffered physical injuries and Wyler lost most of his hearing from exposure to the loud noise while filming in a P-47 Thunderbolt. This book was interesting, if dry in spots. There is much revealing about the personalities of these men with Capra and Ford coming off as the worst of the five for their arrogance and bigotry. 

Monday, November 6, 2017

Black Panther: A Nation under Our Feet, Vol. 1

Black Panther: A Nation under Our Feet, Vol. 1 by Ta'Nehisi Coates, 144 pages.

I read this because Coates wrote it. I am not into super-hero comics all that much, but this was better than almost all that I have read. I look forward to reading the rest of the series. I read this a while ago and don't remember anything about it really, though I blame myself and my total lack of interest in the whole superhero comic book thing. I checked volume one and volume two out for my kids, hoping that they would read them, but I don't think they did.


Treasure Island

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, 234 pages

Avast, ye landlubbers! Sit yerselfs down fer a tale o' gentlemen o' fortune huntin' for a stash o' dubloons! But beware the squalls and sperrits!

OK, I can't do that anymore. This is the quintessential tale of a treasure-hunting sea voyage filled with double-crossing rum-filled pirates, a map where X marks the spot, a chatty parrot, and the legendary Long John Silver. I'd never read the story before, but I loved it. It checks all the boxes for a piratical adventure. Highly recommend it.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Circus Mirandus

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley  292 pp.

I re-read this in preparation for the Treehouse Book Club. It's the story of Micah whose dying grandfather needs a miracle. As a child Grandpa Ephraim was promised a miracle by the  "Lightbender" at the magical Circus Mirandus but he chose to save it instead of using it immediately. Now he wants the Lightbender to honor his promise but the Lightbender is trying to renege It's up to Micah, with his friend Jenny in two, to visit the magical circus and convince the Lightbender to keep his promise behind the back of Aunt Gertrudis, Ephraim's unpleasant sister. The strangeness of the circus in the story brought to mind The Night Circus.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

October totals!


Christa  14/3862
Jan  1/307
Kara  10/3289
Karen C.  11/3853
Karen Y.  1/324
Kathleen  8/2075
Linda  3/857
Patrick  2/623

Totals  50/15,190

Welcome to our new bloggers, Jan and Karen Y.! And just a reminder of our wild card categories: books featuring pirates and books with names in the titles.

Seven Days of Us

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak, 358 pages

Dr. Olivia Birch is headed home for Christmas after several weeks in Liberia treating victims of the deadly and easily spread Haag virus. Her proximity to the infectious disease means that Olivia's parents, Andrew and Emma, and her younger sister, Phoebe, must hunker down with her in quarantine at their country manor home for a full week. But just before the quarantine begins Andrew hears from the illegitimate son he never knew he had; Emma is diagnosed with cancer; and the self-absorbed Phoebe gets engaged to her equally obnoxious boyfriend. Mix those well, throw in forced Christmas traditions, and stir in a heaping pile of cabin fever, and watch as the festive family implodes.

This is an excellent story of family dysfunction, perfect for holiday reading. It's a quick, easy, fun read, with just the right amount of examination of familial relationships.