20. The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larrson
In this is the second book of the Millennium trilogy, Mikael Blomkvist is back to work at Millennium, working with a stellar journalist who threatens to expose police officers and other higher-ups involved in a sex-trafficking ring. Lisbeth Salander, who has kept her distance from Blomkvist for nearly a year, has secretly relocated to an upper-class apartment. After the journalist and his girlfriend, who is also working on uncovering the sex-trafficking ring, are brutally murdered, Salander is the prime suspect. Knowing what kind of person Salander is, Blomkvist can't believe she's guilty. He reestablishes contact with her and races against time to put the pieces of the puzzle together - not just to prove her innocence, but to save her life.
This book was just as gripping as the first one, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Though I found parts of it to be boring, the story generally flowed quickly and was full of twists and turns. Parts of the ending were a little predictable, and the readers are left hanging as the second book ends. It makes reading the third installment almost a necessity.
Unfortunately I'll have to wait a while before I can read The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. It won't be released until later this month, and since it's not a book I'd buy (see the note on the unsavory themes in the first book), I'll have to wait for my library to get it. I'm number 15 on the list, so depending on when it comes in, maybe I won't have to wait too long.
21. Miss Julia Delivers the Goods by Ann B. Ross
This is the 10th book in the Miss Julia series. Hazel Marie goes to Miss Julia after she gets so worried about her health she thinks she's dying. After Miss Julia gets her to a doctor, she is horrified to find out that Hazel Marie is pregnant. The worst part of it is that she's not married. And to make matters even worse, Hazel Marie informs her that she broke things off with Mr. Pickens and that he's not to be told about her situation. To top it off, Hazel Marie is threatening to leave town and possibly take Lloyd with her. Miss Julia can't bear the thought of losing Lloyd or Hazel Marie, so she takes it upon herself to come up with a plan to put everything right. A break-in at Sam's house/office prompts the return of Mr. Pickens, and Miss Julia is beside herself with worry about how things will work out. Unable to stand the lack of progress between Mr. Pickens and Hazel Marie, Miss Julia takes matters into her own hands.
The Miss Julia books are one of my guilty pleasures. The characters are fun, and Miss Julia always gets into some sort of trouble while she's trying to sort out trouble of another kind. The situations, while far-fetched, are always humorous, and I often find myself laughing out loud. I'd love to see these books made into a movie or series. I can easily see Shirley McClain in the lead role.
22. Miss Julia Renews Her Vows by Ann B. Ross
In this 11th book of the Miss Julia series, she and Sam have been invited by Pastor Ledbetter to take part in a marriage workshop at the church. Once Miss Julia finds out Dr. Fred Fowler will be leading the sessions, she does everything she can to avoid going. Her "illness" keeps her home from the sessions, but it also worries Sam, Lilian, and Lloyd. When Francie Pitts returns to town, widowed for the 5th time and looking for husband number 6, she frets over Miss Julia's poor health and sets her sights on Sam. Not one to take anything lying down, Miss Julia rebounds from her sick bed to take matters into her own hands. Again.
23. Mr. Monk Is Miserable by Lee Goldberg
Immediately following Mr. Monk Goes to Germany, this book finds Natalie blackmailing Monk into taking a vacation in Paris. Things start off on the wrong foot for Natalie when Monk solves a murder that happened on their flight. After things get settled, Natalie leads Monk on a tour of the sewers of Paris and the catacombs. While looking at the piles and piles of bones, Monk discovers a skull that's a recent addition - and a victim of murder. As Natalie fights to enjoy her vacation, Monk ends up pulling her into two murder investigations - and an adventure in Paris that's beyond her wildest dreams.
Mr. Monk Is Miserable is the 7th book in the series. Since the television series ended, I'm not sure how many more books will be published, but there are at least two more that follow it.
The Monk books are another of my guilty pleasures. These make me laugh out loud, so I have to be careful if I'm reading in public.
24. The Time of My Life by Patrick Swayze & Lisa Niemi
After being diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer, Swayze wondered if his life meant anything. With his wife of more than 30 years, he wrote this incredible memoir that gives insight into the real man behind the many powerful Hollywood roles.
Swayze always felt pressure to achieve a lot, and to do it well. From high school football to gymnastics to dancing, Swayze was on the rise to stardom. Unfortunately injuries prevented him from achieving each of those dreams. With a determined spirit, he pushed on from one thing to the next.
As an actor, Swayze worked to be better with each role, to learn everything he could to make his character real. In his memoir, he provides a behind-the-scenes look at life on a set. He shares his experiences in Namibia, India, and other places he filmed. He recounts the horrors of incidents that nearly took his life.
One surprising theme that played through the book was Swayze's lack of self-confidence. None of that ever showed through in his work, but he dealt with those demons in every aspect of his life: his dashed dreams, his hopes, his love for Lisa, his acting.
Swayze also had a fighting spirit, which carried him through 20 months of surviving cancer after his initial diagnosis.
Thankfully, the photos in the book never reveal the toll cancer took on his body. I saw some internet pictures of him a little over a year after his diagnosis and he was just a shell of the man he had been. Better to remember him as he had been in his prime.
I was never bored by the material in this book. I came to appreciate all his hard work even more, and it makes me want to go back and watch some of his movies again.