Friday, October 20, 2017
Almost the end of October already! I love the fall and all it brings. Tomorrow I'm going to a make your own glass pumpkin workshop and very excited about that. The days are turning colder and the leaves are starting to turn. I've been to two book club meetings this week, one for mystery books and one for fantasy/sci fi. I also had a wonderful outing on Monday. I went to the Women's National Book Association Charlotte Chapter's Bibliofeast where you got to meet eight different authors. All were interesting but the best for me was meeting an online friend who is now an author, Caitlin Hamilton Summie. It is fascinating to hear about all the research that goes into a book and how much work with many rewrites and edits. If you ever think people just dash a book off, think again!
Here's what's come through the door:
1. Tell The Wolves I'm Home, Carol Rifka Brunt, literary fiction, purchased
2. Mothers Of Sparta, Dawn Davies, memoir, sent for review
3. Broken Prey, John Sandford, mystery, purchased
4. Dinosaur In A Haystack, Stephen Jay Gould, nonfiction, purchased
5. Hello To The Cannibals, Richard Bausch, literary fiction, purchased
6. Three Drops Of Blood And A Cloud Of Cocaine, Quentin Mouron, thriller, sent for review
7. Dead Deal, W.J. Evans, mystery, sent for review
8. This Far Isn't Far Enough, Lynn Sloan, anthology, sent for review
9. The Gustav Sonata, Rose Tremaine, literary fiction, purchased
10. The Children's Crusade, Ann Packer, literary fiction, purchased
11. American Wolf, Nate Blakeslee, nonfiction, sent for review
12. Breach Of Containment, Elizabeth Bonesteel, science fiction, sent for review
13. Picnic At Hanging Rock, Joan Lindsay, literary fiction, sent for review
14. A Plague Of Giants, Kevin Hearne, fantasy, sent for review
15. Living The Dream, Lauren Berry, women's lit, sent for review
Here's what I'm reading:
1. Where Memories Lie, Deborah Crombie, paperback
2. Prey Of Gods, Nicky Drayden, paperback
3. Delia's Shadow, Jaime Lee Moyer, hardback
4. Orfeo, Richard Powers, hardback
5. Golden House, Salman Rushdie, Kindle Fire
6. The Riverman, Alex Gray, Kindle Fire
7. Beloved, Toni Morrison, paperback
8. The Fifth Woman, Kurt Wallander, Kindle
9. Commonwealth, Ann Pachett, audio
Thursday, October 19, 2017
Sonny Lofthus has spent more than half of his life in prison. He was a popular student, a wrestler winning awards, when he came home to find the father he idolized dead by his own hand, a suicide note confessing to being a corrupt policeman. Sonny and his mother go into tailspins as their grief overwhelms them and after his mother's death, Sonny becomes a heroin addict. Desperate to ensure a steady supply of drugs and caring little about his life, he confesses to two murders for Oslo's top crime lord, The Twin, and is sentenced to life in prison. He is relatively happy there as he is guaranteed a steady supply of drugs. He becomes an icon, the man who listens to everyone's sins and forgives them, no matter how heinous.
Sonny's life changes after eighteen years when a long-time inmate comes to him for confession before his death. He confesses that Sonny's dad was not corrupt, that instead he was investigating the corruption in the police force and that he was forced to write the suicide note before he was murdered. This wakes Sonny from his years long stupor and he determines to find out who killed his father and make them pay.
Escaping from prison, Sonny soon makes a major stir in Oslo. He starts at the bottom of the Twin's organization, working his way up and extracting confessions. But now instead of forgiving he kills the men involved in taking everything from him. This is no clandestine operation. Both the police and the criminals know who is responsible for this wave of destruction. Inspector Simon Kefas is put in charge of finding Sonny. He was Sonny's dad's best friend and wants to find Sonny before The Twin finds and kills him. Who will emerge victorious in their quest; Sonny, The Twin or Kefas?
Jo Nesbo is known for his Harry Hole series. This is a stand alone novel although Sonny has similarities to Harry. Both are flawed men, driven by addictions they entered to deal with the horrible blows life has dealt them. Both have an inner goodness that allows them to do anything in order to set their worlds right and both pay the price in remorse and a sickness at what their mission extracts from them. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
In the depths of rural Russia, winter comes early and stays late. Vasilisa is the daughter of the local landowner and her mother is royalty. She dies in childbirth having Vasilisa so she is raised by the nurse/housekeeper. From her, she learns all the old tales of folklore and about all the benevolent creatures that guard those who feed and accommodate them.
Vasilisa's father goes to the capital to find another wife. On his journey home, he encounters a man who saves him from danger and gives him a necklace for his beautiful daughter. The father is unsure if this is something he wants to do but feels trapped. On his return with his new wife, life becomes different and unhappy for Vasilisa. Her new stepmother is very religious and brings in a stern priest who declares that everyone is doomed unless they give up their old superstitions. She also tries to tame Vasilisa who is a tomboy, roaming the forests and riding horses like a man.
The priest is determined to break Vasilisa as she is the source of strength for those who oppose him. Much of his determination is his intense attraction to her, which he turns into a belief that she has trapped him with magic. He declares her evil but when the evil figures of the past come to take the entire village, only Visilisa may have the strength and knowledge to save her family and friends.
This is a debut novel that introduces a stunning new talent. Arden's book weaves an enchanting tale full of Russian folklore, good and evil, lust and love. The villains are bloodcurdling and life is hard. Visilisa is a strong woman who refuses to be tamed but who is willing to do anything for the family she loves. This book is recommended for fantasy and literary fiction readers.
Thursday, October 12, 2017
Private detective Jackson Brodie is surrounded by missing or killed young women as he ponders the meaning of being a father and as his ex-wife threatens to take his eight year old daughter to another country. All his cases at the moment revolve around this theme.
Several decades ago, three year old Olivia disappeared from her back yard where she was sleeping outside in a tent with her sister. No real clues were ever found. Now surviving sisters Amelia and Julia have come home to bury their father and uncover a clue that they believe Jackson can use to discover what happened to Olivia all those years ago.
Laura was a young woman who was about to head off to college. Her last summer home she is to work in her father's office but is brutally killed her first day on the job. She was the joy of her father's life and even ten years later, he is determined to find the killer and turns to Jackson.
A young woman marries too early at eighteen and has a baby. Being a perfectionist, she is quickly overwhelmed with no help and a touch of postpartum depression. In a fit of rage one day, she kills her husband, leaving the baby to go to uncaring relatives. That girl ran away and is now missing but her sister wants Jackson to track her down.
In the midst of all these cases, Jackson helps an old lady who keeps lots of cats as she has no one else to call on. She is a neighbor of the family of Olivia, the missing toddler. Can Jackson solve the mysteries surrounding all these women?
This is the first novel in the Jackson Brodie case. Jackson is a former military man and policeman who is kind but can't seem to figure out women or how to live with them. He has a tormented childhood history himself that has focused his life choices and made him realize how valuable life is and how quickly it can be snatched away. He is an interesting character and the reader will want to read more about him. This book is recommended for both mystery and literary fiction readers.
Tuesday, October 10, 2017
England in the 1520's was a country in turmoil. Henry VIII was the king but has failed in one of his main duties; providing a male heir to continue his dynasty after his death. He married his brother's widow, Katherine from Spain, but the marriage has produced no male heirs. As he nears his late thirties, he becomes restless and Anne Boleyn, a lady in his court, catches his eye. As he becomes more and more entranced with her, he determines that he will put aside his wife and make Anne his queen instead. But how is this to be accomplished? He puts his main advisor, Cardinal Wolsey to the task of requesting an annulment of his marriage from the Pope.
When the Pope refuses to grant the annulment, chaos erupts. Henry decides to break with the Church and marry Anne anyway. Wolsey is stripped of his possessions and sent to exile and later killed for his failures. His staff remains loyal to him and none is more loyal than Thomas Cromwell. Thomas was not born to a noble family. He was a blacksmith's son who has made his way up in society by sheer effort and intelligence. He spends time in Europe as a soldier and then makes his fortune in importing fabrics and other goods. He is fiercely loyal to Wolsey and when his mentor is disgraced and killed, he is determined to bring that same ruin on the individuals who oversaw Wolsey's ruin.
Henry likes Cromwell, as do many people. Fiercely loyal and ruthless, he is also charming. He sees the conspiracies of royal life and can thread his way between them, always pursuing his ultimate goals. He pushes through various laws to support Henry's desires and mentors many young people in his household. But more than anything, he works to ruin those who cross him and who dare to stand in the way of the king's desires.
There is little new that could be said about Wolf Hall. Winner of the 2009 Booker Prize, along with other literary awards, this novel has been praised as a fascinating new look at one of the most written about periods in English history. Many know little about Cromwell and his place in this drama, and Mantel brings him to life in such a way that the common opinion of him is set on its head. This is an excellent book and one that richly deserved its accolades. This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction and those interested in character delineation.
Monday, October 9, 2017
It's no surprise to Harry Bosch to get a call late at night; that's an everyday occurrence for a homicide detective. But he is surprised to get a call to a murder scene that's not in his normal turf. Two murders have occurred at the city's quaint trolley system called Angels Flight. One of the victims is a cleaning woman but the other is the reason Harry has gotten the call. Howard Elias is a lawyer and a lawyer that has made his reputation and caseload representing those who have an issue with the LAPD. He has been in the middle of numerous cases suing the department and is in the midst of one now that has gone tons of press.
Several years ago, the daughter of a rich and powerful family was kidnapped and found murdered several days later. The LAPD found physical evidence pointing to a former convict and focused on him. After he is found innocent at his trial, he has filed a case with the help of Elias stating that he was tortured during his interrogation and that the LAPD never really investigated the case and that the killer is still out there. That case is about to go to court and the top brass are worried that Elias' murder could reignite the riots that tore Los Angeles apart before.
On top of the political nature of the case, Bosch has other issues. His new marriage appears to be breaking up and he doesn't even have time to worry about it. One of his ex-partners is involved in the case Elias is bringing to court but Bosch is convinced he could never be involved in anything wrong. Add in a group brought in from Internal Affairs and a partnership with the FBI on this case and Bosch knows it will be one of the most challenging of his career.
This is the sixth novel in the Harry Bosch series. Connelly's genius as a crime writer is that he lays out the day to day procedure of a real police case, something he learned during his time covering the crime beat as a reporter. His detectives don't make wild assumptions and break all rules of evidence to get their suspect. Instead, they follow a laid out path that the reader can easily follow. He also is a master at writing about the political atmosphere that the police must do their work in. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Saturday, October 7, 2017
Turtle Alveston is fourteen and she could kill you as easily as look at you. Turtle lives in the Pacific Northwest far back in the woods with her survivalist father, Martin. He has trained her to shoot a gun with sharpshooter accuracy. She can use a knife, live for days in the wild and needs no one. Martin has taught her to distrust everyone, telling her that they only want to take her away from the only life she's known.
Martin has spent her life making her totally dependent on him. He has abused her physically, emotionally and sexually, telling her that only he loves her and that only he can protect her. Turtle has no self-esteem, growing up in a world where women and everything about them is belittled. She is isolated although she does go to school as Martin knows she could be taken away if he doesn't send her. But she has no friends there and barely tries. What is important is Martin and pleasing him for she is his darling, his absolute darling.
Then it happens. While out in the woods one day, she meets Jacob and his friend. They were going camping but are lost and have no skills to survive in the wild. For some reason, Turtle approaches them and helps them make a campsite and stays with them that night. It opens an entire new world to her, one that she realises Martin will never tolerate but one that she wants. She continues to see Jacob until Martin finds out and she has to give him up. Events mount up until she realises that she will have to choose between living her life as Martin's darling or joining the real world. Can she break away from everything she has been taught?
Turtle is a character like no other I've read about. She bursts onto the pages and into the reader's mind, never to depart. This book is getting enormous buzz and it should. It is easily the best book I've read this year. The back cover blurbs are from authors such as Celeste Ng, Stephen King and Phil Klay. This is a debut novel although that is hard to believe. Tallent mixes stark horror with such poetic language that the reader is transported into Turtle's world. This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.
Thursday, October 5, 2017
Richard Mayhew has come to London for a new job. Although he doesn't know the city or anyone there, he's sure that this is the right step to move his career forward. Three years later, he has gotten to know London as only someone who lives there can. His career is moving along nicely and he has acquired a beautiful girlfriend named Jessica. Jessica is also a bit horrifying as she saw him as 'someone with potential' and is determined to make a success of him.
Going home one day, he comes across a girl bleeding and sitting, exhausted, on the sidewalk. He stops to help her and before he knows it, he is thrust into an underground labyrinth he had no idea existed. The girl is named Door and she explains the world they have entered, Neverwhere. In this land, Door is a noblewoman. Her family has been murdered and the entire kingdom is in peril from two of the scariest assassins to ever live. Mayhew decides to help Door as he's a good guy plus it is the only way he can ever return to his own life. They encounter beasts, villains, and whimsical creatures as they go on their quest to restore Neverwhere to its original state. Will they be successful?
Neverwhere is the novel that led most readers to first fall in love with Neil Gaiman as an author. It was a totally original work that mixed the most horrific villains and events with whimsy and a belief that good will eventually triumph. One thing I've grown to admire in Gaiman is his absolute confidence and belief in his vision of a story. This novel grew out of a TV series he was writing and working on. As each scene he loved was cut, he was determined to retain it by putting it in a book and thus, Neverwhere was created. In this anniversary edition, Gaiman's visions are given further form in black and white illustrations by Chris Riddell, an illustrator whose many awards include being named as the Waterstones Children's Laureate. Gaiman has won many literary awards, including both the Carnegie and Newberry for the same work. For those who have never read this novel, you are in for an adventure. This book is recommended for fantasy readers.
Tuesday, October 3, 2017
A happenstance find brings Lucas Davenport to one of his most chilling cases ever. A teenage couple stumble on a burial plot and by the time Lucas is called in, there are fifteen bodies and counting. Fifteen women who have been murdered, apparently one or two a year, meaning the predator has been at it for years. All in a tiny town where everyone knows everyone else. Someone has been hiding a murderous mind behind a smiling face for years.
He will have to work with local police without his usual team with him. All of them are working other cases that have them out of touch or out of the state entirely. Lucas meets the local sheriff's representative, a tough woman named Matteson. She works with Lucas to solve the murders. When one of the state police is killed himself, the entire case rackets up another notch. Is there anyway to stop this killer?
This is the twenty-four novel in the Lucas Davenport series. This one was particularly good with a chilling villain and a new character who is believable. Davenport leans on his co-workers more in this novel, which is more lifelike as a murder case is almost always a job of teamwork. But Lucas' intuition and flashes of knowledge come through along with his toughness and willingness to do anything to bring the killer to justice. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Saturday, September 30, 2017
Things are even more chaotic than usual in Aberdeen, Scotland and Sergeant Logan McRae is right in the middle, torn between conflicting factions that all want a piece of him. The overlord of crime is dying and for some reason, he has picked Logan out as his successor and wants to leave him a fortune. Of course he doesn't care that the police would look unkindly on a policeman who gets money from organized crime. A businessman has been found murdered in the same fashion as several others and the case brings on the big guns of the force all hoping for glory; McRae's old boss, Roberta Steel, takes over the case and drafts Logan on her team and a Superintendent from the location of the other murders has also worked her way onto the team and seems to instantly dislike him. Then there is the fact that the nursing home insists that it's time that he release his girlfriend from the five year coma she has been in.
In the midst of negotiating these choppy waters, Logan is called into Professional Standards, where he has spent time on the carpet over the years. But this time is worse. They suspect that Steel has used her position to frame a criminal and they want Logan to find out what's going on and testify against her. Can he really go against the woman he's worked with for years, even if she has been a thorn in his side for all that time?
This is the tenth Logan McRae novel and fans of the series are always ready to spend time with him. All Logan wants is peace and quiet but his expertise and flashes of intuition have always made him a star in the service. Now add in the fact that even organized crime recognizes his skills and you have Logan torn in a thousand directions. This book is recommended for mystery readers who will wait anxiously for Logan's next appearance.
Thursday, September 28, 2017
They were The Amazing Telemachus Family and in the 60's they were poised to make it big. Teddy, the patriarch and Mo, the mother, met when the government was exploring the use of psychics in the Cold War against Russia. Mo was the real deal and Teddy was the consummate con man. They fell in love and married and the kids came along. Irene was a human lie detector who could sense if someone was lying. Frankie could move things with his mind while Buddy could tell the future. But after a televised debacle, the family never made it big.
Decades later, things aren't going so well. Mo died when the kids were still small, her talent no match for cancer. Teddy's career as a card shark vanished when he got mixed up with a mob figure who turned on him. Irene can't keep a job or a relationship as there is falsehood all around and she sees it every time. Frankie hasn't moved anything with his mind in years and now doubts if he ever really did. Buddy has never moved out, rarely speaks and spends his days building contraptions in the house and yard. What happened?
But Teddy never gives up. He meets Gabriella in the supermarket and falls in love. The fact that she is married and to the son of the mobster who was his enemy is a minor setback. Frankie has a scheme to get back the money he lost and pay off the mob he borrowed from. Irene's son Matty seems to have inherited Mo's talent and is just now realizing he can teleport wherever he wants to go. When the mob comes after the family for all their annoyances, can they pull together one last time to save the family?
Daryl Gregory has written an engaging tale that stretches across the decades and has the reader cheering for them to finally break out and make a difference. The characters are convincing and the slow reveal of their love and ability to pull together makes for a charming read. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.
Monday, September 25, 2017
Unbelievably, Preacher has now been granted parole. He calls Rath to taunt him, to remind him that he has returned to this same small Maine town, and to threaten to make himself known to Rachel who is now attending college nearly. He claims that Rachel is actually his daughter and that he wants to claim her as his own.
Rath is determined to prevent Preacher from getting anywhere near Rachel. Over the years, he has gone back to detecting on a consultant basis when the crime was too much for the small law enforcement office in the town. He agrees once again to return until Preacher can be sent back to prison. Some murders of young girls have occurred and more have occurred over the border in Canada. Everyone suspected that Preacher had been active with more murders than had ever been tied to him. Is this his chance to rid himself and his daughter of their nemesis?
This is the third novel in the Frank Rath/Sonja Test police series. The central fact of the series is the horrific murders of Preacher and he is the kind of character that keeps one awake at night. The pace is breathless, the chapters short and choppy, racketing up the tension from page to page. This is a series I'll continue to follow. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Wednesday, September 20, 2017
It's a new experience for Dr. Tony Hill. He is laid up in the hospital after surviving an attack by a patient at the mental hospital in which he works. Having taken an ax blow to the knee, he is not going anywhere for the next while. But crime goes on regardless. Bradfield police are in the spotlight as they attempt to solve the murder of Robbie Bishop. Bishop is a local lad who has made it into the big time of a professional football team where he is the star. When he is poisoned by ricin and dies, no one knows who would have done this.
Chief Inspector Carol Jordan is in charge of the Bishop investigation. She visits Tony when she can as they have been friends for many years. But being friends doesn't mean they never disagree. When Tony insists that he believes a serial killer is at work, Carol puts his theory aside, assuming that he is seeing conspiracy where none exists, due to drugs and boredom. When Tony finds more cases of poison, she starts to agree that they have a serial poisoner on their patch.
While the investigation is in play a horrific event occurs. The football stadium where Robbie played is blown up and it appears to be a case of terrorism. Carol and her team are adamant that everything else must take second place as the case of thirty-four deaths takes priority. However, the country's anti-terrorism unit arrives and takes over the bombing, causing hard feelings wherever they go.
This is the fifth Jordan/Hill novel in this series. McDermid has not settled for a conventional romantic relationship between her two protagonists as each has a lot of personal baggage and challenging careers they put first in their lives. The complex mystery and its unfolding keeps the reader's attention until all is solved. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Sunday, September 17, 2017
Mid-September and fall is starting to arrive. The temperatures are not as high and the humidity has taken a break. The early trees have started to turn and mums are at every store. Football is back, both college and professional and I spend a LOT of time watching football. In our family, September is the month of celebrations. In the span of three weeks, we have my husband's birthday, my son, daughter-in-law and two of the grandkids along with my son's anniversary. It does heighten the sense that we live so far away but I'm grateful for the times we share with them. I've been using the library which I have no business doing with all the books here but it's hard to go and not pick up a book or three. Here's what has come through the door lately:
1. The Welcome Home Diner, Peggy Lampman, women's lit, sent for book tour
2. A Woman Is A Woman Until She Is A Mother, Anna Prushinskaya, essays, sent by publicist
3. The Names Of Dead Girls, Eric Rickstad, mystery, sent for book tour
4. Good Me Bad Me, Ali Land, thriller, sent by publicist
5. Call Of Fire, Beth Cato, fantasy, sent by publicist
6. The Flying Man, Roopa Farooki, literary fiction, purchased
7. Eileen, Ottessa Moshfegh, literary fiction, purchased
8. Ban This Book, Alan Gratz, literary fiction, sent by publicist
Here's what I'm reading:
1. Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel, hardback
2. In The Cold Dark Ground, Stuart McBride, paperback
3. Spoonbenders, Darryl Gregory, hardback
4. The Names Of Dead Girls, Eric Rickstad, paperback
5. Beneath The Bleeding, Val McDermid, audio
6. Golden House, Salman Rushdie, Kindle Fire
7. The Bear And The Nightengale, Katherine Arden, Kindle Fire
Saturday, September 16, 2017
The facts are grim and undeniable. In the first week of February, 1992, in the rural town of Iowa, Louisiana, Jeremy Guillory, six, goes next door to see if his buddy can come out and play. The man who comes to the door, Ricky Langley, tells Jeremy that his buddy is gone but will be back soon. Does he want to come in and wait? Jeremy knows Ricky who rents a room from his buddy's parents and who has babysat for him and the couple's children so he goes in.
Later that day his mother, Lorilei, goes out and calls Jeremy to come in for supper. He doesn't respond, so she goes next door. Ricky comes to the door and tells her he hasn't seen Jeremy. She goes to her brother's house close by but they haven't seen Jeremy either so they call the police. A massive search ensues, lasting for three days. But the search will find nothing because Ricky Langley killed Jeremy in the first minutes after he entered the house. He stored his body in his bedroom closet, wrapped in blankets and a garbage bag.
Years later, Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich comes to Louisiana as an intern at a firm that handles Death Row appeals. The case she is given to help with is that of Ricky Langley who was sentenced to death at his trial for the murder of Jeremy Guillory. Although she has spent her life opposing the death penalty, she is amazed to find that her overwhelming response is to agree with the verdict and wish for the death penalty to be applied. What causes this emotion which seems to contradict her core beliefs?
The author then delves into the backstory of both Ricky and her own family. The central truth of her childhood is that she was molested for several years by her maternal grandfather, abuse that her family denied and shoved away. That denial shaped her childhood and made her determined to find another life that the one she had led to that point. She was also traumatized when she found out that she wasn't a twin, but a triplet with one sibling that didn't survive for long and wasn't mentioned in the family. Ricky's childhood started with a family tragedy; a car wreck that killed two of his siblings and put his mother in the hospital for months in a full body cast. On a home visit, she is somehow impregnated and that was Ricky. No one believed it was possible so his mother continued to receive massive amounts of medicine and painkillers. The doctors wanted to terminate the pregnancy when it was finally discovered as they thought there was a high chance of birth defects but the parents refused and Ricky was born. Was this the reason that he started molesting children when he was nine or ten? No one will ever know. Ricky was always a strange child who didn't have friends and was the odd one out in the family dynamic.
Ricky's first trial is overturned and he actually receives three trials before he is finally sentenced to life in prison. The author follows the trials and the surprising fact that Jeremy's mother testified for the defense in the second trial because she didn't want the death penalty. As the author uncovers more and more of Ricky's troubled life, she also delves into her own family's troubled lives and states the question of how do we fix the point in time when a story begins? With Ricky, did the story start when he murdered Jeremy or did it start when he was born with so many counts against him? How responsible was he as he asked for help multiple times that he didn't receive?
This is a chilling book that raises many questions for the reader. How do we overcome tragic events in our lives? Can we push the damage aside and emerge whole? What is the role of choice, or more simply, nature vs. nurture? This is a compelling memoir that will leave the reader thinking about these issues long after the last page is turned. This book is recommended for true crime readers as well as those interested in memoirs about overcoming obstacles.
Thursday, September 14, 2017
Things are chaotic as usual in Department Q of the Danish Police. Detective Carl Morck, who has turned his disgrace and banishment to the basement as the man in charge of cold cases, is torn between two women. Assad, his assistant with the air of mystery, has just returned from a case that left him injured and in need of rehabilitation. Rose, the cranky secretary who wants to be an investigator also, has taken up with a young detective who is clueless but has connections upstairs. Worst of all, the head of the detective bureau is leaving and his replacement has never liked Carl at all. His first act is to send Gordon, the clueless one, down to be a new member of Department Q and to report back to him everything Carl and the crew are doing.
Marco Jameson is a fifteen year old boy who wants more. More than his life as a con man and thief, part of a gypsy crew that is let off downtown each morning to pick pockets and steal from anyone they can. His uncle, Zola, is the head of the clan but that blood relation means nothing to him. He views everyone as mere tools to help him get more money. He even cripples one of the young girls in the crew to make her a suitable beggar. When Marco stumbles upon the grave of a man he is sure Zola has killed, he sees his chance. He runs away and tries to find a way to contact the police.
In the meantime, Carl is caught up in a case involving a missing man. The man had gone on a trip for his bank to Africa where they were administering a grant to provide aid. But his trip had gone sour and he had returned a day later and then disappeared. What happened to him and why was he gone? Carl works the case and suddenly it becomes clear that Marco holds the key. Department Q springs into action to find Marco but it's soon clear they are not the only ones trying to find him. The others want nothing more than to kill this inconvenient witness. Can Carl and crew find Marco before his enemies can?
This is the fifth novel in the Department Q series. Carl, Assad and Rose are the same supposedly incompetent investigators that manage to solve the cases that everyone else has given up on through sheer determination and spite. The addition of Gordon, whose youth, naivete and attraction to Rose define him, is a development that can provide new avenues for the group. This book is recommended for readers of mystery novels.
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Imagine the world if Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated before the Civil War. This is the world of Underground Airlines. In this alternate world, no war happened. In order to honor Lincoln's desire for a united America, a compromise is hammered out in Congress with slavery remaining an option.
Move forward to the present. Slavery is now down to four states, known as The Hard Four. The rest of the country abhors what is going on there and refuses to buy products from those states, although foreign markets have no such reluctance. In forty-six states, African-Americans are free to live a life like anyone else, to work the job they want, live where they want, love and marry whom they choose. In four states, by luck of the draw, their brothers and sisters have none of those possibilities.
The reader joins the story as Victor has received his latest assignment. He is a man who spends his life capturing runaway slaves, knowing that they will be returned to servitude. Almost unbelievably, Victor is himself a former runaway. He is invaluable to the Marshals whose job it is to capture those who have escaped as he can work his way inside the underground organizations set up to aid escape. Why would he do this? Because it is the only way he is allowed to remain free or semi-free, a tool with an implanted tracking device.
Victor's latest assignment is Jackdaw. He gets the scent and is fairly sure that he will be successful in finding him and exposing another network. But something is wrong, something is different about this assignment. As he discovers what is going on, Victor sees an opportunity to finally break free of his job and live the life he always wanted.
This novel has received a lot of praise. It was a Goodreads Choice finalist as well as being named one of the Best Books of 2016 by outlets such as NPR, Kirkus Reviews, Amazon and Publisher's Weekly. Winter's depiction of this alternate history slowly reveals layer after layer of the pain and degradation that slavery inflicts on its victims. It is especially timely today when racist organizations seem to be mounting an attempt to become strong and viable. This book is recommended for science fiction readers as well as literary readers.
Saturday, September 9, 2017
They call him The Composer. He kills in a way designed to extract the maximum amount of unique sounds from the victim and his surroundings. His method of execution always involves a noose in some manner and usually some form of extended suffering for the victim.
The timing couldn't be worse for Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs. After years together, they are finally about to be married. This is a far cry from back when Rhyme was the head of Forensics for the NYPD and Amelia just another cop. After the accident that left Rhyme a quadriplic, he had to refocus his life and the thing that took the longest in his recovery was believing that there was any way romance could still be a part of his life.
The two manage to almost catch The Composer and save his latest victim. Fearing Amelia whom he calls Artemis after the beautiful huntress of mythology, The Composer decides to change locations. Soon, stories of similiar victims start to emerge from Italy, Naples to be exact. The entire Rhyme household picks up and moves their detecting activities to Italy. They have to fight Italian politics and turf wars as well. Amelia finds a new sidekick in a forestry agent who has wanted to move over to the police. Can this crew find The Composer before he writes his next murderous composition?
This is the thirteenth novel in the Lincoln Rhyme series. This one was not my favorite and the plotting seemed a bit looser than in earlier books in the series. Still, Deaver is a master writer and this one is a page-turner as are all his novels. This book is recommended for mystery writers.
Friday, September 8, 2017
A few weeks ago, I reviewed the amazing debut anthology of Caitlin Hamilton Summie. Here's a brief piece about her journey as a writer:
I started “writing” when I was small. My mother tells me that I’d bring stories to her to read, scribbles across a page, before I even knew how to actually form letters, so she’d ask me to “read” my stories to her.
I was a storyteller even then, and even at that age I was always taken seriously by my parents. No condescension, no laughter.
I remembered their treatment when I stepped in to teach my first and only college class, a semester of creative writing. I’d been told not to expect much from my students, but I knew how I had been once. On my first day in class, I began by asking, “How many of you have written a novel?” Three hands shot up.
Family support is so critical to the budding artist. Institutional respect is as well.
Given the respect I received from my parents, it’s no great leap to see the rest: the novella at age 13, two novels completed before age 18. Perhaps the greatest leap then is the first book at age 48, pleasantly late.
But so much in my life has been late. Among the last to be married. Mother at 37. I seem to squeak in under the wire. The stories in my collection, some written as along ago as 1992 and taken out to be dusted off and tweaked, have been waiting for their moment to emerge to the public.
Maybe the story of my publishing journey will give other yet-to-be-published writers hope. Maybe it will remind teachers not to assume. Maybe it will remind parents how important it is to simply support.
Some things are worth waiting for. My whole family is celebrating my first book with me, not only my mother and my father, but also my husband and my son and my daughter, all of whom, like me, waited, hoping. I still remember the look on my son’s face when I announced I had had a short story accepted. Was it relief? I believe so. I remember the small smile of pride on my husband’s face when he realized my book had been accepted. I still remember the way my young daughter listened with great seriousness and yes, respect, as I talked about my writing. She knew I was entrusting a hope to her.
On publication date, oh, our celebration will be joyous.
Sunday, September 3, 2017
Nine people get on a private jet for a short half-hour trip. Four are a family; the father the head of a news channel, the wife staying home with the children who are a girl who is nine and a son, four. The father is the person who owns the plane. Two are a couple who knows the family. The husband of this couple is big in investment banking and maybe about to be indicted for shady practises. Then there are the crew; pilot, co-pilot and stewardess. There is security man who travels with the family at all time due to threats. Then there is Scott, a painter who has met the wife and taken her last-minute invitation to ride with them and avoid the ferry.
Just a quick trip. But sixteen minutes out, something goes wrong and the world changes forever. The plane crashes. Scott somehow survives and after minutes of searching, finds that the son has also survived. He manages to get them both to shore by swimming all night with the boy on his back. A hero, everyone says.
Now the craziness begins. No one is sure what happened, not even Scott. His memories are piecemeal and come in small flashes. Several government agencies are involved in the investigation and without the plane and bodies, their work is just guesswork also. With the father being a huge media presence, there is even more publicity and press than would usually happen. With no facts to be had, speculation and rumors are rampant. Will the truth emerge?
Noah Hawley has written an amazingly readable novel. It received the Edgar Award for 2017 for the Best Novel as well as the 2017 Thrillers Award for Best Novel. Most readers will know the author best as the creator of the hit TV series, Fargo. The interplay of the characters and slow revealing of the mystery through the backstory of each individual character draws out the tension and suspense. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Monday, August 28, 2017
When she meets Malcolm at a party, she is attracted but that's all. They kiss but he is off the next day for an overseas job that will last two years. The two write while he is gone, but Joanna meets another man and moves in with him. She never stops thinking about Malcolm though or writing to him.
When Malcolm returns they settle into a strange relationship. There is no denying the attraction they have for each other, but Joanna is adamant that they are just friends. Friends last, lovers don't. They each drift into and out of relationships but are always in each other's lives. Will Joanna ever admit to the love she feels for Malcolm?
This debut novel is charming. It will ring true with many Millenials. Joanna and Malcolm don't settle for the established norms of life, education then a settled job then marriage and children. They make their own way in life and that includes living their own definitions of love. Both characters are well-drawn and endearing even when the reader wants to shake them to make them see how much they mean to each other. This book is recommended for readers of romance and character studies.
Saturday, August 26, 2017
A sudden moment of violence on an Idaho mountaintop reverberates through the years. Will and Jenny have two little girls, May and June. Afterwards, their lives will never be the same and we follow their stories for decades.
Will is cursed with a family history of early dementia and death in the early fifties if his life follows that of his father and grandfather. He and Jenny moved to Idaho from the plains as they couldn't think of anywhere more different than the environment in which they grew up. After the violence, the couple divorce. Will later marries his piano teacher, Ann.
Jenny spends the following decades in prison. She is as appalled by her actions as everyone else, and doesn't speak to others. She spends five years living by herself and spends her days scrubbing floors. She is convinced she doesn't deserve to have anything go her way again in her life, even things as small as food choices or work assignments. Years later, she develops a friend, her cellmate Elizabeth.
Ann lives with Will for the rest of his life. He doesn't speak about the tragedy and she is left to ferret out clues to figure out what happened that day. Her imaginings are sometimes on point, sometimes just that; figments of her imagination. Will is the love of her life and there is nothing she won't do if she thinks it will bring him a moment of happiness.
A winner of the O'Henry Award in 2015, this startlingly beautiful novel is Ruskovich's debut. The language is haunting and beautiful. A small example: 'Outside, the coyotes' howls bore tunnels through the frozen silence. The ravens in the trees anticipate the spring, when they will nudge their weakest from their nests, this act already in their hearts, as if already committed. The garter snakes, deep in the ground, hibernate alert. Bodies cold, unmoving; minds twitching, hot. So many secret, coiled wills, a million centers spiraling out, colliding into a clap of silence that is this very moment in the house, the beautiful oblivion in which they love each other.' This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.v
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Three years ago, Hanna had a wonderful life. A loving husband, two girls and a job she loved. Then things went awry. The older daughter, Iris, was doing fine, married with Hanna's first grandchild. Dawn, the younger daughter, had always been awkward. But Hanna was optimistic when she went off to college that she would finally find herself and make new friends in her new environment. When Dawn comes home, her parents are thrilled. That is, until they meet the boyfriend she is bringing home with her. Rud is good-looking but there is something sketchy about him and they definitely don't like the way Dawn idolizes him.
After a heated argument, the couple stalk off. Hanna and Joe, her husband, agree that he is not the right man for Dawn. But that is their last agreement. That night, they are savagely attacked in their bedroom. Joe is killed and Hanna survives, although she is left for dead. The police quickly hone in on Rud and he is found guilty and sent to jail. Town sentiment is that Dawn was also involved but Hanna will hear nothing of it.
Three years later, Hanna has put her life back together as best she can. After several operations, she is back at work although still damaged so that strangers stare at her. She still doesn't remember much about the night of the attack but she is fine with that. She has a good relationship with Iris, although Iris believes the talk that Dawn was involved and refuses to have anything to do with her. Dawn moved away and has been living out west.
Then another nightmare. Rud has won the right to an appeal and his case will be retried. At the same time, Dawn calls Hanna and asks if she can come home. Hanna agrees immediately as she still believes in Dawn even though Dawn still believes that Rud was innocent of the charges and hopes to reunite with him. But as Dawn moves in, Hanna starts to remember more and more about that night. Will she survive her memories?
Jessica Treadway has written a haunting tale about parents and their children. We all want the best for our children and hesitate to identify characteristics and deficits that may cause them trouble. Those who say anything negative about a child are quickly cut off so that the parent can remain in denial and hope that things will turn around. This book is recommended for suspense readers and those who wonder about someone close to them.
Monday, August 21, 2017
Tracy Crosswhite has been waiting for twenty years to get this call. A grave has been found and all indications are that her sister's body lies within it. Her sister Sarah disappeared twenty years ago after a shooting competition they both competed in. Tracy left with her boyfriend to go to dinner and Sarah left in Tracy's truck. The truck was found on a remote road but no sign of Sarah was ever found. The entire town searched for weeks with no result. A man was tried and convicted and has remained in prison for years but he refused to tell anyone where Sarah's body could be found. Tracy changed her life afterward. She gave up a career as a teacher to become a police officer and is now a homicide detective.
Tracy doesn't believe that the man in jail for Sarah's murder is the real criminal. She has investigated the case for years and believes that Edward House was falsely convicted due to his reputation and being an ex-con. When the body reveals new clues, she is more convinced than ever that she is correct. At Sarah's funeral, she meets up again with a childhood friend who has returned to their small town and is a lawyer. Together the two plan a way to free House and start the investigation again to find the real killer. But plans like this are full of pitfalls and as the case progresses, secrets that have remained hidden for decades start to emerge. Will Tracy regret her decision?
Robert Dugoni is the author of several popular mystery series. This novel is the first in the Tracy Crosswhite series. He has won numerous awards for his work. His exploration of the fallout from a murder, not only in the family but in the entire town and his twists of the original investigation make this novel a page-turner. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Sunday, August 20, 2017
They meet at Berkeley one fall. D'aron is white and from the rural South, Braggsville, Georgia to be exact. He has escaped to what he expects will be his new life. His roommate, Louis, is Malaysian and a stand-up comic in his spare time. He is local and has family nearby. Candice is a typical corn-fed Midwestern blonde girl, who never met a liberal cause she didn't love. Charlie is an inner-city black man who escaped because of his athletic ability but who has shed that life now that he has made it to college. They find something in each other and before long, are inseparable. They call themselves '4 Little Indians'.
Their lives change when they take an Alternative History class. Their professor is talking one day about historical reenactments when D'aron volunteers that his town has an annual Civil War reenactment. That spurs a lively discussion and eventually the four plan a class project. They will go to D'aron's town and recreate a slave lynching during the reenactment. They don't really consider what will happen.
The time comes and the four travel to the South. D'aron is half nervous about how they will perceive his town and background and half pleased that they have all come home with him to visit. He takes them around local landmarks and his family has a huge barbecue cookout where they meet half the town; not hard when the town has 712 citizens. But somehow D'aron's parents realize that he is up to something and his father forbids him to participate. Charlie has also had second thoughts when he gets to the South and thinks about the history of black people. They decide to pull out of the plan but Candice and Louis decide to go on. When the day ends in tragedy, no one objective could be surprised.
This book has received terrific feedback. It was longlisted for both the 2015 National Book Award and the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. It was named one of the Best Books of 2015 by such organizations as NPR, The Washington Post, Time and the Huffington Post. Johnson explores the state of race relations in modern America, a timely topic as has been recently demonstrated by events. He also explores the foibles of the liberal movement in colleges and how young people can be swayed into actions that affect them their entire life while those who influence them remain untouched. It explores the way people can bond together from disparate backgrounds. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and those interested in how we can all live together.
Tuesday, August 15, 2017
In this debut book, Caitlin Hamilton Summie uses the medium of the short story to explore the important junction points of lives. There is the man who waits in the hospital for his son to be born. A young girl from a middle-class background finds herself living in Alphabet City in New York, adrift from all she knows about life and relationships. A woman remembers a snowstorm and how shepherding schoolchildren to safety allowed her to find her adult strength and know she was up to the task of parenting. A grandfather dies and sisters discover the fault line in their sisterhood and the resentment when a family member grows in a way that is unanticipated. A woman decides to write down her family's history and finds the story of the sister who was written out of the family memories. One story picks up on a story related earlier, of sisters who have drifted apart but who are redefining what they mean to each other.
The character definitions are clear; the reader can picture the individuals who are portrayed and recognize their characteristics in other people they have known. The descriptions are luminous, taking the reader to the place in which the story is set. One example, 'My father grabbed me by the hand, and we jogged across the yard. The night air was cold. Subzero temperatures slapped me awake. Our boots crunched the snow as we ran. I will remember this always, this jog to the barn in the middle of the night with only the light of the stars.'
Caitlin earned her MFA With Distinction from Colorado State University. Since then her stories have been published in various places but the reader will be glad to find them collected into one book. Her deft writing explores what family means, how we love and how we let others down but as we keep trying to connect, find each other again and again. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and those interested in how we all relate to each other.
Everyone knows the story. A royal couple, after years of longing, have a beautiful baby girl. All their subjects and the fairies and woodland creatures come to celebrate the birth. But one evil fairy, miffed that her invitation didn't come, storms the party and curses the baby to prick her finger and fall asleep forever.
In this imaginative retelling, Robin McKinley gives an alternative story. When the evil fairy, Pernicia, casts her spell, a fairy named Katriona is there. She won the lottery in her distant, small village to come to the name day of the new infant. She takes the baby in that moment of the curse and returns with it to her village. The trip takes weeks and the two are helped along their journey by the wild animals they encounter; the female badgers and rabbits and foxes providing the milk a baby must have.
The baby, Briar-Rose, is raised by Kat and her mother. They give a story about it being the baby of a distant cousin who needs a home. Rosie grows up in the village with no idea about the royal blood she carries in her veins. Instead, she becomes a horse vet as she has the ability to talk with all the animals she encounters. It's a good life, surrounded by love and joy but has the ruse worked? Will Rosie escape the curse laid on the babe twenty-one years ago?
This is a joyful book, full of spells and coincidences that turn out to push the story along. Rosie is no wilting sheltered princess. Instead she is a woman who knows her own mind and knows how to fight when it is needed. Robin McKinley has written several fairy tale retelling novels. She has won the Newberry Award for young adult fiction along with other awards. This book is recommended for fantasy readers.
Saturday, August 12, 2017
Paul has always been there for Claire. He is a successful architect and she has never had to work. Instead she has led the typical successful suburban life with tennis and shopping. He came into her life back in college where she was still reeling from the disappearance of her sister, Julie, a few years before. Julie was never found and her loss tore Claire's family apart. Her parents divorced and her sister Lydia escaped into drugs and terrible men. But Paul took her away from all that and gave her a wonderful life.
Then tragedy strikes again. On the way from a restaurant to their car, the couple is attacked in an alley. Claire survives but Paul is knifed and loses his life while trying to save her. In the days after, Claire is reeling and unable to fathom how she will ever move on. Then she opens a computer file on Paul's computer and life will never be the same. Apparently her wonderful husband hid lots of secrets and none of them are good. Soon Claire is pushed into the fight of her life as she attempts to solve the mystery of what Paul was up to and to put her shattered family back together.
Karin Slaughter is one of the stars on the mystery/thriller scene these days. Her plots are compelling and she can make the most unusual events seem inevitable. Claire isn't an ordinary heroine; when the reader meets her she is dependent and spoiled, thinking only of herself. Watching her rise above her decades old stupor to do something to help others is empowering and the reader is firmly on Claire's side. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Friday, August 11, 2017
In his third novel, Salman Rushdie explores the history and political manuverings of Pakistan at the time of its creation in the partitioning of it from India. He does so through the lives of several Pakistani families. Omar Khayyam Shakil is an obese doctor who was born of three reclusive sisters (no one ever knew which was the biological mother) and raised in seclusion until he rebelled and fought his way out of his background. Raza Hyder is a soldier whose two daughters bring him nothing but confusion and shame while Iskander Harappa is a politician and playboy who is friends with both the others.
The theme of the novel is shame and how it affects the people and country of Pakistan and how religion influences every act and relationship. As Rushdie writes, 'We who have grown up on a diet of honour and shame can still grasp what must seem unthinkable to peoples living in the aftermath of the death of God and of tragedy; that men will sacrifice their dearest love on the implacable altars of their pride. Between shame and shamelessness lies the axis upon which we turn; meteorological conditions at both these poles are of the most extreme, ferocious type. Shamelessness, shame: the roots of violence.'
The families history intertwines. Iskander Harappa is a notorious playboy who is accompanied on his debachuery by Shakil. When Harappa decides to put his wild ways away, he becomes the country's ruler and employs Hyder to maintain order. Hyder has two daughters. The oldest, Sufiya, is simple, her life forever changed by a fever she survived when she was a toddler. Shakil meets Sufiya and becomes obsessed with her. He offers Hyder a marriage contract. The family is appalled that this obese, debauched man thirty years older wants to marry their daughter, but in the end, decide that he is her only chance at a marriage and having someone to provide for her. They hide the fact that this simple girl is also capable of murderous impulses. Hyder eventually overthrows Harappa and becomes the ruler himself. All these events are mirrored in the history of the country and the eruptions of violence and shame that go into making a country.
This novel was written after Midnight's Children, which explored the history of India in the same fashion. The author was influenced to write this book after reading about an 'honor killing'; a man who knifed his own daughter to death to avenge what he saw as a blot on the family honor. Rushdie is a master of allegory, creating individuals who portray the forces that sweep nations and influence its history. The language is poetic even when writing of tragic, horrible events. This book is recommended for literary readers.
Wednesday, August 9, 2017
August is well underway. College kids are returning to their campuses and younger kids are starting another year of school. That has to mean fall is coming, right? I can't wait for football, cooler temperatures and a slower schedule. A new kitty has been showing up at our house in the past few weeks. Our reigning cat, Queen Lulu, seems to think the new one is okay so we may take it in. Our neighborhood seems to be one where animals get dropped off. This one is between houses so I'll have to ask the neighbors if anyone has actually claimed it before I load it up and take it to the vet. Here's what's come through the door lately:
1. The Wife Between Us, Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, thriller, won online
2. Charlatans, Robin Cook, medical mystery, sent by publisher
3. The Room Of White Fire, T. Jefferson Parker, thriller, sent by publisher
4. Delia's Crossing, V.C. Andrews, women's fiction, sent by publisher
5. Gone To Dust, Matt Goldman, mystery, sent by publisher
6. Pretty Ugly, Sean Hillen, fantasy/sci fi, sent by publisher
7. Kindle's End, Robin McKinley, fantasy/sci/fi, purchased
8. The Lucky Ones, Mark Edwards, mystery, sent by publisher
9. Hope And Change Are Highly Overrated, Tom Starita, literary fiction, sent by author
10. Only, Parker Sinclair, fantasy, sent by publisher
11. The Portable Nineteenth-Century African American Women Writers, Hollis Robbins/Henry Louis Gates, Jr., nonfiction, sent by publisher
Here's what I'm reading:
1. The Bear And The Nightengale, Katherine Arden, Kindle Fire
2. Zodiac, Neal Stephenson, Kindle Fire
3. Pretty Girls, Karin Slaughter, paperback
4. My Sister's Grave, Robert Dugoni, audio
5. The Golden House, Salman Rushdie, Kindle Fire
6. Lacy Eye, Jessica Treadway, paperback
7. Shame, Salman Rushdie, paperback
8. To Lay To Rest Our Ghosts, Caitlin Hamilton Summie, paperback
9. Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman, hardback
10. The Jury Returns, Louis Nizer, hardback
Monday, August 7, 2017
Detective Jack Caffery is called in once the couple is discovered. A man and his wife, imprisoned in their house for days, beaten and left to die of hunger and dehydration. Even worse, they have a young son and he is no where to be found. As the police search for the boy, they find nothing and have to wait until the parents are able to talk. By the time they find him, he is dead.
Caffery has an incident in his own past that makes working on cases like this even more painful than for the other officers. His older brother, Ewan, was abducted when he was nine and never found. The police suspected a neighbor but no proof was found and the man was never arrested. Jack grew up in the house across the tracks from the probably abductor and killer of his brother. He will never be able to give up the case until he finds out the truth about what happened that day years ago.
Caffery's pain seems to give him an insight into the kind of mind that could commit such crimes. That's a good thing as everyone is convinced that this type of killer will strike again. Caffery finds a related older case that no one else connected until now and it sends him on the trail of what he suspects is the next family to fall under the killer's eye. Can he discover the identity before it is too late?
This is the second in the Jack Caffery novels. Readers will be fascinated by the character of Jack and his need to find a way to put to bed the truths that have haunted him his entire life. Jack's insights and abilities to go the extra mile to discover what has happened makes for a riveting novel. This book is recommended for mystery readers.