Book List: The Boy by Tami Hoag

June 20, 2019

In Book List, ordinary reader Linda McDonald, shares book reviews of her latest reads. She has read her entire life and is a writer, who wishes now she’d kept a list all her life of the books she’s read.

I’ve read Tami Hoag’s books for years, although it had been a while since the last one. As I hurried into the library a week or so ago to pick up a book on hold, The Boy, was marked as a “Lucky Day Book.” Something our library does with newer or popular books. You’re in luck – here’s one you can check out, but you cannot renew it. They still gave me three weeks to ready … which I did not need because this is such a ‘page turner’!

Spoiler alert: Hoag knows how to weave a story, and this one has several subplots. It is fiction but still a sad story because it involves children. The outcomes aren’t good for several of them.

The story is set in a small Louisiana parish and of course she included the requisite corruption. In this story, rather than elected officials, it’s a couple of law enforcement officers who go rogue. The hero and heroine of the book, however, are good, trustworthy law enforcement officers, which pleased me.

Hoag also showcases the impeccable manners of a true Southern belle. Louisiana is as deep south as anywhere, and her depiction is accurate. The only thing missing was the sugar-wrapped, insincere, “Bless her/his little heart.”

One of my favorite parts was the brief glossary of French expressions and words that Cajuns apparently still use down in the bayou. French is a beautiful language that makes even swear words glamorous. Blend it with a good ol’ Louisiana boy’s Cajun dialect and you can feel the Gulf’s humidity as you read.

It’s long, nearly 480 pages, but an easy read. Purely entertainment. If you seek literature, this isn’t the book for you. A good book for a vacation or summer weekend by a lake or pool, this is the one for you.

Book Details

Book: The Boy
Author: Tami Hoag
Published: 2018
Publisher: Dutton, and imprint of Penguin Random House
ISBN: ISBN: 9781101985397
Read: June 2019



Book List: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

June 6, 2019

In Book List, ordinary reader Linda McDonald, shares book reviews of her latest reads. She has read her entire life and is a writer, who wishes now she’d kept a list all her life of the books she’s read.

It may be that I just don’t get this book. I know it’s all the buzz now, thanks in part to the Hulu TV series that I haven’t yet seen. I thought I followed and understood the book’s premise, but the ending threw me. I didn’t care for the ending, which of course then spoiled the entire book for me. I found it a bit slow to get into in the beginning, which may prevent some people from reading on.

Somewhat on the heels of my read of “VOX,” (which I’ll review soon), this one scared me, too. We have heard about the abortion rights protests where women dressed in the Handmaid’s garb. This story, like “VOX,” almost foreshadows today’s political happenings related to women’s rights. The frightening aspect to me of each book was the parallel I saw between these works of fiction and how the fiction could become reality for women in the US if we don’t rein in these moronic men (mostly) who continue to legislate away women’s rights.

Alas, I digress; however, that perspective is what kept me in “The Handmaid’s Tale.” It is told in the voice of one Handmaid, Offred – as in Of Fred, the Commander with whom she’s been paired to produce a baby for him and his wife. As Atwood writes, the Commanders f**k the Handmaids. It is supposed to be mechanical and meant only to procreate after some disastrous acts that aren’t ever outlined, nearly wiped out women. At least as I understood it.

Offred remembers the way it used to be, which other girls soon won’t. She longs for love with her paramour from the past and their daughter. Soon she discovers that these men, the Commanders, who led the way to build this lunacy, miss the old ways, too. They miss the ‘ladies of the night,’ conversations and time with women, women who adorn themselves in alluring attire and make up. All now outlawed, yet, Offred’s Commander shows her – lets her experience – that it all still exists. None of that screams ‘women’s rights’ either.

No spoiler alerts so I won’t opine about what happened in the end. My interpretation could be quite wrong and far from what Atwood intended. Nonetheless, I was disappointed.

She has gained much acclaim and it is not my place to diminish that. According to Wikipedia and Amazon, Atwood’s sequel novel, The Testaments, will be out Sept. 19, 2019. I suppose I will need to read it to see if puzzle pieces fall in place for me.

Not a book club person, nor really interested in one, I believe this would be a stimulating book to read and discuss in a religion/philosophy/literature/all the above class. Both it and “VOX” have clobbered me on the head to turn my attention to what’s happening around me in the US. The two stories are extreme, I hope and pray, yet we must not sit back and let a small group of egotistical, hypocritical prigs send women’s rights backward by a century or more.

Book Details

Book: The Handmaid’s Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Published: 1986
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
ISBN: ISBN-10: 038549081X; ISBN-13: 978-0385490818
Read: June 2019







Book List: A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron

May 28, 2019

In Book List, ordinary reader Linda McDonald, shares book reviews of her latest reads. She has read her entire life and is a writer, who wishes now she’d kept a list all her life of the books she’s read.

This is not a book I could read. Full disclosure, I read the first 25 pages and roughly the last 25 pages. While I call this a book review, I did not read the entire book.

I found it difficult to read because of the way it’s written – entirely in the dog’s voice – even though I understand that many loved it. It’s possible, maybe, this is one of those rare exceptions when I would like the movie better than the book.

Unfortunately, with “A Dog’s Purpose,” I had to break my 100-page rule, enacted when I read “Life of Pi” years ago. I struggled with “Life of Pi” until I hit Page 100 and then it took off for me. Since then, I have tried to give most books 100 pages before I give up but I could not imagine 100 pages of “A Dog’s Purpose.”

I have been known to jump to the end of books if the beginning hasn’t grabbed me. If the ending intrigues, I will continue to read the book. That was my hope when I jumped to the end of this one, which grabbed me enough to back up 25 or so pages. While the story then took a sweet turn and did bring to closure the dog’s purpose, it was too little, too late for me.

The purpose, as Cameron described it, I understood as a dog owner (several dogs so far in my life, most of whom have passed) and found to be true.

Page 305 of 306, says:

“The job of a good dog was ultimately to be with them [their people], remaining by their sides no matter what course their lives might take. All I could do now was offer him comfort, the assurance that as he left this life he was not alone but rather was tended by the dog who loved him more than anything in the whole world.”

I’ve been on that side of it just once. I believe my stepdad’s little dog wanted to do just that as he passed. I know our current dogs would want to do that for us.

Still, the story told by the dog struck me as juvenile. I felt like it could have been a children’s book instead, which would have made it much shorter. A plus for this reader.

Overall, the premise of the book is genuine and worthy. It was just painful and impossible for me to read the dog’s voice for 306 pages. Sadly, I bought the book for my husband as a little Christmas stocking gift and he so far has read only 25 pages. I won’t be able to encourage him to read on.

Book Details

Book: A Dog’s Purpose
Author: W. Bruce Cameron
Published: 2010
Publisher: A Forge Book, Macmillan Publishing Group
ISBN: 978-0-7653-8810-0
Read: May 2019

Book List: Skinny Dip by Carl Hiassen

May 13, 2019

In Book List, ordinary reader Linda McDonald, shares book reviews of her latest reads. She has read her entire life and is a writer, who wishes now she’d kept a list all her life of the books she’s read.

During my 16 years in Florida, I discovered journalist Carl Hiaasen, an insightful, practical and skilled writer. I also knew he’d authored books, but I hadn’t read them. Call it coincidence, or fate, I found his book, Skinny Dip, in late 2018.

Skinny Dip is a work of fiction, and outlandish fiction it is. For me, the outlandishness is what makes the book humorous and entertaining, although in a couple instances, Hiassen almost pushes too far. It all takes place in South Florida. If I learned nothing while I was in Florida, I did learn that South Florida is crazy land. Anything goes and people are cutthroat.

Early in Skinny Dip, we learn that a main character, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office detective wants to move home … back to Minneapolis. I recently moved to Minneapolis, which for a North Dakota native was almost like going home. Like Detective Rolvaag, I wanted to be closer to extended family. Hiaasen does an accurate job throughout the book to contrast the two areas of the country that are as different as, well, north and south.

The story is about a schmuck of a husband who takes his wife on a cruise for their two-year wedding anniversary. Sadly for her, he wants it to be their last anniversary and he tosses her overboard.

I’d like to think that what happens to her is pure fiction but knowing Hiaasen’s Florida journalism career and the whole “Florida man” phenomenon, it is possible a real story inspired Hiassen. The wife, Joey, survives because she was a successful college swimmer and she catches a lift on a floating bale of Jamaican pot.

The pot bale carries her to an ex-cop who lives with only his Doberman on an island. He nurses Joey to physical recovery, and then the hilarity and romance ensue. Along with the outlandishness.

For example, the schmuck, Chaz, – who by the way claims to hold a PhD in biology, specifically wetlands ecology – is an idiot. If not for his villainous side, I could see Jerry Lewis playing him in the movie. Chaz can’t seem to get the killing thing right and bumbles as clumsily as Jerry Lewis did in every film.

Naturally, Chaz has some bad friends, one with a lot of money who is used to everything going his way. Chaz believes he is smarter than them and continues his buffoonish struggles amid the spreading web of lies he creates.

The law enforcement side of the book may be a bit farfetched, but for this particular story, it works, I think. It adds another layer of subtle humor that I enjoyed. Detective Rolvaag’s Scandinavian roots show in his quiet, stoic and somewhat skeptical demeanor. Hiaasen also recognizes the ‘only in Florida crazy’ for what it is.

However, it rings true to Florida when the sheriff from the next county calls the Broward County sheriff after Rolvaag interviews Chaz’s rich friend. Friends in high places that help other friends with money out of jams is the norm in Florida.

Despite his ‘bereaved widower’ status, Chaz seeks romantic escapades as consolation. His guilty conscience proves to get the better of him on that front. Back on the island, Joey and her savior, Mick, try to determine Chaz’s motive and plot her revenge. Fortunately for them, Joey has truckloads of money thanks to a family inheritance. Her equally rich brother, joins them and contributes to the fun.

I enjoyed the romance, the silliness of the situations, along with Hiaasen’s rich use of vocabulary. He also shows his journalism roots as he briefly reports on the state of Florida’s Everglades, which has only worsened since 2004, when Skinny Dip published. As summer approaches, this would make a good beach read.

Book Details

  • Book:                    Skinny Dip
  • Author:                Carl Hiaasen
  • Published:           2004
  • Published:           Warner Books
  • ISBN:                     0-446-69556-4
  • Read:                    April 2019

Borderline respect

January 9, 2019

3statesRecently, I moved for the fourth time in 16 years. The moves took my family and me to three different states and four different cities. One was a move across town, which led to discoveries much like a move to a new city can bring.

We were able to do this – in this land of the free and home of the brave – because none of our states have enacted border walls. That does not mean we didn’t have to comply with new laws and requirements to legally live in our new state; we did. They’re different in all states.

Some of those regulations (especially in our last move) are expensive. They have time limits, that is, you must complete them within a pre-established period of time. For example, in my new state, I had to get a new driver license and license plates within 60 days. These are not extreme demands. If I want to embed in this new place, new home, I must do so lawfully. If I choose not to do so, it is the state’s right to take action against me.

Notice the parallels? If I wanted to move into the US from another country, I may or may not have the option to do so. This country, founded by only immigrants, has decided that we don’t have enough room for more. Those who are not like us are not welcome. Whatever “like us” means since Americans are already a diverse people.

I can tell you that when I moved from the north to south, I was significantly unlike the native southerners. We didn’t even talk the same thanks to different dialects, nor was our language exactly the same. Pop or soda? Pen or pin? La-fay-ETTE or Luh-FAY-et? Shopping cart or buggy?

They didn’t kick me out because I was different. They embraced me, and we exchanged stories about our different cultures and weather extremes.

Had I not complied with the requirements and cultural norms, my positive experience would have been short-lived. The greatest parallel I see is that if as a country we enforced the immigration laws of record, we could continue to be the “land of the free and home of the brave” with new, happy citizens here and ready to contribute to this creative country.

It requires bravery to move to a new state – or country – thousands of miles from your family, friends and familiar surroundings. My goal was not to leave corruption, violence and danger behind, which is the goal of so many immigrants. Nonetheless, it is incumbent on them and me to follow the new laws.

No wall necessary. No additional taxpayer dollars necessary. Social service groups and nonprofits can still assist immigrants as they assimilate and hey, could even help fund the costs of legal immigration for them. From there, we will continue to be the ‘melting pot of the world.’


Love. Dance. Be kind.

February 17, 2018

Love. Dance. Be kind. That sums up, for me, Ellen DeGeneres. Years ago, I loved her sitcom. Maybe it was my age then, late 20s, that made me not pick up on the big deal her coming out was. I was young, sheltered and naïve. I also was young with a ‘live and let live’ philosophy. I realized later how much that cost her in her career, yet still it didn’t have a direct impact on my personally.

We are close to the same age. I’m two years younger, so we grew up in the same era. But in vastly different places – she in Louisiana, I in North Dakota – and with distinct experiences.

Fifteen years or so ago, she launched her talk show. I freelanced then so in my home office, I could turn on my TV at 4 p.m. and close out my work day with Ellen entertainment in the background.

She is funny! I mean ROFLMAO-funny! In the silliest of ways. That is what I loved most right away. I’m not naturally funny, which is in part why it attracts me when I see it in others. I have one friend who I think is as funny as Ellen. Interestingly, their birthdays are one day apart (he is five years older than her).

Early in her show, she wrapped up her opening monologues in a dance with the audience. She pulls off dorky dancing to make it look cool. But unlike the popular kids back in high school (or still today), she never made me feel intimidated or untalented. To see her dance is to feel joy. To think, “Carpe Diem” – Seize the Day.

Soon, I also began to see her kindness and generosity, to both people and animals. Oh, how she loves animals. She reminds me of my daughter in that. Their love of creatures represents the depth, and the fragility, of their hearts.

They love so deeply and hurt as deeply when they see injustices. Their hearts crack whenever they feel hurt or when they see others (human or animal) hurt.

Ellen recognizes the position she eventually attained in her career that enables her to be generous to others. Her acts are heartwarming and as I watched her show, I saw on her face how genuine she is in her compassion.

Her sense of humor, I suppose, also makes her a prankster. Since I was a dork when I grew up, I’m not so keen on the pranks … but she does make them funny to watch. And I know, none of us should take ourselves too seriously.

She loves her momma. As I understand it, her momma stood by her through all her ups and downs. Loved – and liked – her for who she is, even if it’s different than momma. I try to be that momma for my daughter, and it is not the momma I have.

Love. Kindness. Laugh at yourself. Dance. Enjoy the cute babies and the funny animals. Give what you can to help others – a smile may be enough.

I think she cannot make me funny but I sure wanted to go be part of her writing team. Still do. Funny and creative beget funny and creative. I must surround myself with those kinds of influences to help myself achieve all I can and should achieve.

Thank you, Ellen. You are one of the role models America needs. I believe you try to see people from the inside out – to who they really are – which is what I also try to do.

© Linda McDonald 2018


American pride

September 26, 2017

AmericanFlagFor more of my life so far than not, I was never a sports fan. Then nearly 21 years ago, I married an avid sports fan and lifelong athlete. About 12 years ago, my husband’s love of sports and the rise of Tim Tebow (University of Florida) as a hometown celebrity in the Jacksonville area where we lived then, brought me to sports.

Before that, however, the one thing I did love about sports events was the roar of the crowd as our United States’ national anthem ended. That enthusiasm – yes, for both the musician/signer and the game’s start – is unmatched by any other venue.

Given recent national events (thank you very much #POTUS – read, sarcasm font), my fear is now that in typical American extremism fashion, we’ll move to no more national anthem performances or military jet flyovers at these events. That would break my heart.

America is not perfect. We are apparently slow learners when you look at our ongoing racial tension. In the greatest country on Earth, we have children and families who go to bed hungry each night. Gun violence is out of control and crime rates should embarrass and concern us all. Each one of us, should be better than that.

Right now, what I see and hear, is pouting and juvenile behavior on both sides. I don’t believe this tantrum will not result in positive change on any serious issues in our country. Kneel if you like, stay in the locker room, stand with your hand on your heart because, thank God, other Americans have been and continue to be willing to fight for our freedom to express our views.

For angry fans, I ask you to think about games you’ve attended and how many in the crowd also ‘disrespected’ America because they were buying a beer, chatting with their friends or otherwise also ignoring the national anthem. My guess is that most of us truly have no right to cast stones at the individuals now who choose to take other actions during the anthem.

I like this opinion piece statement from Martin E. Dempsey, retired Army general, Duke University Rubenstein Fellow and chairman of the J. NBA Leadership Council. “For those who don’t like standing because they disagree with what America has done, stand and pay it forward for what you think America should do. Then, as the last echoes of the anthem fade away, go back to arguing for change from that foundation of promise that is the national anthem.”

So, drop it and move on, please. If you are in a position with money and a celebrity-level platform, use it to effect real and positive change that continue to make our country great and greater. If you don’t have those resources, effect change from where you are in the ways you are able. Together, in our diversity when we remain civil and courteous, we are great.