Monday, March 2, 2015

What The Fly Saw by Frankie Bailey

Albany, New York, is well served by the detective team of Hannah McCabe and Mike Baxter, who have been partners for around four months.  Their latest case is one that is especially difficult.  A local undertaker, Kevin Novak, is found dead in the basement of his funeral home, shot with his own crossbow.  His wife and children report that he has been distant and upset lately but no one seems to know why, or at least no one who will talk to the detectives.

There are lots of suspects.  Both his pastor and the psychologist that is on call to the local megachurch where Novak was a member seem to know things about the victim they aren't willing to talk to the police about.  Olive Cooper is a local town matriarch, rich and elderly.  She introduces Kevin to a new lady in town, who claims to be a spiritualist.  Olive suggests that Kevin would benefit from attending a séance but he wants no part of it.  On the fringes is a tycoon and his assistant, friends of Cooper's, who were also part of Hannah's biggest case to date, a woman who killed without mercy and is waiting execution.  As the days go on, Hannah and Mike are getting closer to an answer but the suspects are starting to be targeted themselves.  Can they solve the murder before someone else dies?

Frankie Bailey is a professor in the School of Criminal Justice, SUNY.  She is a past president of Sisters in Crime and a part vice-president of Mystery Writers of America.  In this novel, she continues the development of detective McCabe and sets an intriguing puzzle to be solved.  The mystery is set in the future and mention is made of technology not yet available to help the police; this is especially well-done.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Illusionists by Rosie Thomas

Love of the theatre brought them together.  There was Devil Wix, handsome and charming and full of ambition to own the best magical show in London.  Carlo Bonomi was his magical act partner, an ill-tempered dwarf who Devil met when he saw Carlo using his skills to pickpocket in a crowd.  Jason Button is Devil's childhood friend and rival.  Heinrich Bayer is a scientist and inventor, fascinated with the art of automata; his favorite a lifesize dancing doll.  Then there is Eliza Dunlop.  She isn't content with the staid life of a lady in Victorian England.  She starts as an artists' model but when she meets the men she sees a way to fulfill her dreams of being an actress.  Together they start as acts at the Palmyra Theatre.

Devil isn't content to be just an act.  The owner is mercenary and grasping and Devil is determined to take the Palmyra from him and make it what it should be, rather than just another second-rate theatre.  He finds a way to oust the owner and then the group becomes the new owners and the Palmyra becomes the premier theatre destination for magical acts.  Over the years, players come and go but the group remains the driving force behind the theatre's success.

But nature abhors a stasis and fissures start to work below the theatre's veneer.  All of the men are in love with Eliza in various ways, but she can give her favors to only one.  The resulting tension starts to show up other ways in which the troupe is at odds and the everyday jealousies and slights of theatre life start to loom large.  Can the group overcome the tensions and rivalries to continue the tradition of excellence that makes the Palmyra the premiere theatre?

Rosie Thomas has written a historical fiction that explores life in Victorian England.  The love of theatre and showmanship is contrasted with the social rigidity of that society and the group's tensions and disagreements propel the action over the years.  The characters are unforgettable and the reader is swept along with a birds-eye view of the backstage life of a theatre.  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Booksie's Shelves, February 24, 2015



After not much winter this year, cold weather, snow and ice has hit North Carolina.  School was out two days last week and again today for a surprise snowstorm.  More is called for later this week with more snow days possible.  Although any day is a good reading day, snow days are especially good for reading.  Here in the South, you take your life in your hand if you attempt to drive anywhere so the day is spent huddled under blankets, reading and traveling in the mind.

Here's the most recent additions to Booksie's shelves:

1.  Corsican Justice, Bluette Matthey, mystery, sent by author
2.  Abbuzzo Intrigue, Bluette Matthey, mystery, sent by author
3.  Lamb, Bonnie Nadzam, literary fiction, Paperbackswap
4.  On Your Case, Lisa Green, nonfiction, sent by publisher
5.  Where They Found Her, Kimberly McCreight, mystery, sent for book tour
6.  Chinese Turkestan, Ryan Pyle, nonfiction/photography, sent by publisher
7.  The Turnip Princess, Franz Von Schonwerth, literary fiction, sent by publisher
8.  Night Is The Hunter, Steven Gore, mystery, sent by publisher
9.  Forgiving Maximo Rothman, A.J. Sidransky, mystery, sent by publisher
10.  Just You Wait, Jane Tesh, mystery, sent by publisher
11.  The Daddy Diaries, Joshua Braff, literary fiction, sent by publisher
12.  Dark City Lights, Lawrence Block, anthology, sent by publisher
13.  Small Mercies, Eddie Joyce, literary fiction, sent by publisher
14.  Prince Of Thrones, Mark Lawrence, fantasy, Paperbackswap
15.  False Tongues, Kate Charles, mystery, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm reading these days:

1.  The Innovators, Walter Issacson, Kindle
2.  Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter, paperback
3.  A Clash Of Kings, George R. R. Martin, hardback
4.  Barracuda, Christos Tsiolkas, hardback
5.  The Rise And Fall Of Great Powers, Tom Rachman, paperback
6.  The Illusionists, Rosie Thomas, paperback
7.  The Black Country, Alex Grecian, paperback
8.  Mrs. Poe, Lynn Cullen, paperback
9.  Love By The Book, Melissa Pimentel, paperback
10.  The Orchid Affair, Lauren Willig, hardback
11.  Principles Of Navigation, Lynn Sloan, paperback
12.  Rescue, Anita Shreve, hardback
13.  What The Fly Saw,  Frankie Bailey, Kindle Fire

Happy Reading!



Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Rubbernecker by Belinda Bauer


Patrick Fort just wants to know.  As a young man with Asperger's Syndrome, he has a total focus and perseverance when he has a question.  And he has one of the biggest questions of all:  what is death and what causes it?  He has been obsessed with the question since his father died when he was younger and has tried various methods to satisfy his curiosity.

Now he may have the answer.  He has been admitted to college and to an anatomy class.  Although the rest of his classmates are all headed to medical degrees, Patrick has no interest in that.  He is just interested in the dissection they will be doing of a human corpse for his research.  He is sure that the answer has to be somewhere in the work they will be doing over the next few months.

In some ways, Patrick is the ideal candidate for this work.  He is unemotional and none of the dissection bothers him. His work is clean and methodical and he is even in the running for the semester's top prize.   In others, he is definitely the odd duck.  His literal way of looking at the world confuses his lab partners, and of course, he has no concept of teamwork. 

But as the weeks go by, Patrick becomes consumed with what he is sure has occurred.  Part of the work includes making a diagnosis of what killed the subjects.  Most are easy to diagnose as either cancer or heart disease makes up the majority of cases.  But No. 19, Patrick's body, is not easy to diagnose.  When Patrick decides 19 has been murdered, the groundwork is laid for a colossal  disaster.

Belinda Bauer is one of the best of the younger generation of mystery writers.  Her books are dark yet touch the reader as they explore the inner thoughts of those individuals who just don't fit in the mainstream.  Patrick's actions seem inevitable and the reader cheers him on even as things go awry.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Rough Country by John Sandford

Detective Virgil Flowers has been called to the lake country of Minnesota.  Unfortunately, it's not to indulge in his love, fishing, but to investigate a murder.  One of the fancier resorts in the area has reported a guest missing who went out in a kayak the evening before to watch the eagles and never returned.  She is found shot and killed and the case is beyond the resources of the local police.

Virgil starts his investigation and finds lots of suspects.  The resort is a female only one, and it turns out that it has a reputation for being a gathering place for lesbians.  Is the victim's sexuality the driving force behind the hate that killed her?  Or was it her plan to buy the resort herself as a retreat from running a competitive marketing agency?  Was it her interest in a local country band with a singer who is ready to do anything to make it big?

Suspects are plentiful.  The victim had a relationship with the singer, Wendy, and that didn't set well with Wendy's current lover.  There was a former lover of Wendy's who also had her eye on the resort as an investment opportunity.  There were employees of the marketing firm who knew that the owner was planning a massive layoff and that some of them would lose a job that would be hard to replace.  Then there is the singer's family.  They have a local reputation.  The mother ran off years ago with a lover, leaving her husband and children behind.  The father raised the children and is very protective of them.  Plans to help his daughter leave the country behind for a show business career don't set well with him.  Can Virgil sort through all the suspects and find the killer before more people are targeted?

This is the third Virgil Flowers mystery Sandford has written.  Readers who love his Lucas Davenport mysteries will also enjoy Flowers.  He is not as intense and driven as Davenport, who is his boss.  Instead this former preacher's kid is charming and open and always ready for a romantic encounter.  This book is recommended for mystery lovers.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai


The house, or mansion, has set in the country long enough that it seems to have always been there.  It was built by a tycoon for his wife who died a mysterious death there.  Over the years, it has been various things; a refuge for those fleeing scandal, an artists' colony, and a treasure to be guarded.

In The Hundred Year House, Rebecca Makkai peels back the layers of history that surround the house, excavating the secrets and connections that make up it's life.  She starts with it's most recent history, where the wealthy owner currently in residence is the granddaughter of the man who built it.  She lives her life as lady of the manor, rarely interacting with the people of the surrounding town.  She has given the coach house to her daughter and son-in-law.  She is a professor in the local college; he is writing a biography of a poet who lived there during the artist colony days.  The couple is joined by another one, who are the offspring of the owner's second husband, and the dynamic of the two couples propel this part of the story.

Going back a generation, we learn the story of the artists who lived there making art.  There were poets and painters, dancers and sculptors, all living and loving together.  They had a good run of things for a decade or more, until the owning family decides to take the house back. 

Going back another generation, we learn the secrets of the family that built the house and the story behind the mysterious death of the woman the house was built for.  Violet has left little mark on history, except as the subject of a striking portrait and as the rumor of a ghost that haunts the house over the years.

Makkai has created a fascinating book that uses surprising connections to tie together the generations of the house.  Characters play their part on the stage and withdraw, sometimes to reappear in different guises.  The secrets of one incarnation serve as the treasure hunt for the next, as the stories are all laid bare over time.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Forgetting Place by John Burley


Dr. Lise Shields has been a psychiatrist for five years at the state correctional facility where perpetrators of the state's most heinous crimes have been committed.  Her job is stressful and grueling but she has come to think of the hospital as a sanctuary where the staff is like family.  She is totally committed to her patients and helping them where she can, although the truth is that most will never leave or get better in a conventional sense.

When she gets a new patient named Jason, something is different.  For some reason, he is there without the normal paperwork.  Her boss is reluctant to talk about Jason or explain why he isn't like the other patients.  He is there for killing his lover but as Lise gets to know him she comes to believe that he is not guilty of the crime but is either falsely accused or covering for someone else.

Lise is determined to help Jason but her efforts prove useless.  Soon she is faced with the choice of remaining in a professional relationship and just chalking him up as one of the patients who can't be helped, or putting her career and everything she has worked so hard for on the line.  What will she choose?

John Burley has written a fascinating thriller.  It looks at the world of the colliding fields of medicine and law and explored what happens when the perpetrator of a crime is mentally ill.  Burley is a physician himself, serving as an emergency room physician while writing as a second career.  His insight into the field adds realism to his portrayal.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Principles Of Navigation by Lynn Sloan

Alice and Rolly Becotte are young professionals, married and living in the Midwest where they'd moved after college for Rolly's job.  He is an art professor at the local college while working on his sculpture on the side.  She is a reporter on a small local paper which means she covers farm news, local festivals and events and everything else that comes along.

Rolly is about to break out in his career and is very focused on his work.  He has a show lined up and his sabbatical will take them to Norway for a year.  Alice is focused not on her career but on her dream of having a family.  More than anything, she wants to be pregnant with their first baby.

As the months roll by, the difference in focus and motivation starts to create fissures in their relationship.  Rolly feels that Alice is tying him down and sees a family as the beginning of the end of his artistic vision and work.  Alice resents Rolly for not wanting what she does and not being willing to commit to a family.  Soon each is caught up in strategies to get what they want and the anger and resentment start to crack the solidness of their marriage.

Lynn Sloan has written a hauntingly beautiful tale of what happens to relationships even when both parties are in love but the pair are not focused on the same goals.  The reader is caught between the two protagonists, able to see each's point of view and heartsick at the choices they make as time rolls on.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction as well as women's literature and anyone interested in marriage and what makes it succeed or fail.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Love By The Book by Melissa Pimentel


How can it be so hard to find a man to date and have great sex with when you don't want any attachments?  That's the dilemma Lauren Cunningham has.  She has left her home and family in Maine to live life as a carefree single woman in her dream job in London.  Lauren thought the whole single London scene would be full of dreamy Englishmen and variety would be the spice of life.  Alas, while she has met a few men, none fit her criteria for long-term sex partners.

So Lauren decides to take a systematic approach.  She decides that she will spend the next year devoting each month to a different dating advice manual.  She goes from being celibate for a month to the advice of a high priced call girl.  She tries being aloof from men and being totally available.  She enters the world of online dating.  She visits old loves and meets new ones.  But, nothing seems to work or at least not for long.  Will Lauren ever meet the man of her dreams?

Fans of Jill Mansell will enjoy this light romantic romp as it is written in the same breezy style with the same self-effacing humor.  It allows those who are already in long-term relationships to reminisce while giving hope to those still on the hunt for a romantic relationship.  It is a particularly appropriate read here in the days leading up to Valentine's Day when we question what love is and why we want someone else to spend our days with.  This book is recommended for readers of chick lit and those interested in a light, interesting read.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Booksie's Shelves, February 6, 2015



Lots of exciting books have arrived.  Now if I could just tear myself away from Netflix, Amazon Prime and my DVR, I'd get a lot more reading done.  I've been fascinated by both Blue Bloods and Grey's Anatomy recently and my reading has suffered.  I've read three books so far in February and have about a dozen started in various formats and on various devices.  Here's what's come in recently:

1.  Life From Scratch, Sasha Martin, memoir, sent for book tour
2.  Fiercombe Manor, Kate Riordan, historical fiction, sent for book tour
3.  Noise, Brett Garcia Rose, mystery/horror, sent by publisher
4.  The World Before Us, Aislinn Hunter, mystery, sent by publisher
5.  World Gone By, Dennis Lehane, mystery, sent for book tour
6.  Shady Cross, James Hankins, mystery, sent for book tour
7.  The Stranger, Harlen Coben, mystery, sent by publisher
8.  The Death Of Fidel Perez, literary fiction, gift from friend
9.  Bleeding Edge, Thomas Pynchon, literary fiction, purchased
10.  Ram-2050, Joan Roughgarden, sci-fi, sent by publisher
11.  Trigger Warning, Neil Gaiman, anthology, sent by publisher
12.  Behind Closed Doors, Elizabeth Haynes, mystery, sent for book tour

Here's what I'm currently reading:

1.  The Innovators, Walter Issacson, Kindle
2.  Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter, paperback
3.  A Clash Of Kings, George R. R. Martin, hardback
4.  Barracuda, Christos Tsiolkas, hardback
5.  The Rise And Fall Of Great Powers, Tom Rachman, paperback
6.  The Illusionists, Rosie Thomas, paperback
7.  The Black Country, Alex Grecian, paperback
8.  Mrs. Poe, Lynn Cullen, paperback
9.  Love By The Book, Melissa Pimentel, paperback
10.  The Orchid Affair, Lauren Willig, hardback
11.  Principles Of Navigation, Lynn Sloan, paperback
12.  Rescue, Anita Shreve, hardback
13.  Rubbernecker, Belinda Bauer, Kindle Fire

Happy Reading!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Those Rosy Hours At Mazandaran by Marion Grace Woolley

As the Shah's eldest daughter, Afshar has advantages.  She is granted deference and obedience from those around her.  She is showered with gifts and luxurious clothes.  But there are also disadvantages.  The harem is full of the Shah's wives, each vying for his attention for themselves and their children, each plotting and scheming to get rid of other wives and their progeny who might be favored over their own children.  Add to that the political alliances in court and Afshar's world is a delicate, dangerous one.

But she never doubts the Shah's love.  After a trip, he returns with one of her greatest wishes; a circus.  Everyone is enthralled with the elephants, tigers, jugglers and acrobats but no one more than Afshar.  She longs for the freedom the circus performers have and the easy camaraderie that they share in their tents.

The star of the circus is the chief magician, Vachon. Vachon can create illusions that are miraculous.  There is an air of mystery about him as well as he always hides behind a mask.  That covers his deformity, the horrible face that he was born with and that sent him out into the world to make his own way as a child.  Vachon and Afshar become secret friends as they come to realize that they share dark interests that neither can pursue alone.

Woolley has written a dark historical novel that is full of intrigue, cruelty and revenge.  It poses the question about what one would do for love and whether love is possible or whether it will always be haunted by the spectre of betrayal.  This book is written for readers of historical fiction, fantasy and horror. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Grown Ups by Robin Antalek



When you're fifteen, you think what you know will last forever.  That's the way it was for a group of friends growing up in the Northeast, with mothers who stayed at home and fathers who took the train to the city to work each day, leaving the kids to form their own families with each other.  Together they explored friendship, sex, drinking, loyalty, betrayals and family secrets.  With all they've gone through, surely nothing can ever change?

There's Suzie who starts a relationship with Sam that summer while her family implodes.  When they move away suddenly at the end of the summer, she throws out a bomb that can explode the entire neighborhood.  Sam, ever protective of those he loves, works quickly to avoid the consequences her act could have.  Sam never feels sure of where he fits in.  His big brother, Michael, is the one who has it all together, off at college and studying to be a doctor.  Bella, Suzi's best friend, is heartbroken when Suzi leaves, but knows it could give her a chance with Sam who she has had a secret crush on.

As the years go by, the issues continue to emerge.  Sam and Michael's mother left their father the day that Suzi's family left the neighborhood and is now living in New England with a partner raising goats.  Their father has raised them and is starting to find ways to live without his wife.  Michael is now a doctor, always tired and pressured.  In a surprising move, he has started a relationship with Suzi, who he ran into at college.  Bella, after her broken relationship with Sam, is working as a teacher and living with a poet.  Sam is drifting, never able to commit to a job or a relationship.

Antalek has written a novel about what it means to have a group of friends who are friends for life, and how families can both destroy and save us.  The characters spend their teens and early twenties searching for the loves and careers that will sustain them for the rest of their lives.  Readers will find at least one character they can relate to as there are so many different ways of adjusting to all that life can bring.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and those interested in reading about family relationships.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Last Breath by Kimberly Belle


Gia Andrews hasn't been home to Tennessee in years.  She tells everyone it's because she is out saving the world as a humanitarian aid worker, moving from disaster to disaster, saving lives and bringing relief.  That is all true, but the bigger truth is that she hasn't been home because she feels she has no home after the disaster that struck her own family.

Gia, as the youngest sibling, was the only one left at home when her stepmother was brutally murdered.  To complete the horror, her beloved father, the kindly town pharmacist, is arrested, tried and convicted of the crime.  He has been in jail for the last sixteen years, alone and still protesting his innocence.  Neither Gia nor her older sister or brother has visited or written him, believing in the facts laid out at the trial.

Now her father is headed home, not on parole but with a death sentence.  He is in the last stages of cancer and her uncle, the family head, makes it clear that all three siblings are expected to be there.  Gia reluctantly goes home and sees her father again.  It is the hardest thing she has ever done.

But then, she meets an author who is writing a book about the case and who believes her father was falsely convicted, just as he has always insisted.  Gia starts to look into the case and things just don't add up as she uncovers family secrets.  Along the way, she meets the new guy in town, who is running the local bar and restaurant, Jake, who believes in her and her attempts to finally uncover the truth.

Kimberly Belle has written a story of family loyalty and betrayal that will strike a chord in most readers.  Are there truly acts that are unforgivable, or do we owe those in our family unwavering support?  Can one live with the truth and continue to move on with the burden of family secrets revealed?  Readers will be interested in finding out Belle's answers to these questions.  This book is recommended for readers of family sagas and those interested in redemption and family dynamic.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

There are an estimated 40,000 bodies in the United States that are unidentified, with 4000 new cases added annually.  These are runaways, murder victims taken out of state, homeless individuals, or those who dropped out so long ago that no one notices when they aren't in the area anymore.  While the police attempt to identify them so that their cases can be closed and their families notified, often the case goes cold if the identification is not easily made.
 
Deborah Halber, a science writer, provides a spotlight into the world of online sleuthing.  Individuals pore over missing person files and files of unidentified bodies, hoping to find a commonality that will allow them to make a match and provide a name to the remains.  She outlines both the process, the individuals involved and some famous cases that have been solved.  Several cases such as The Tent Girl and The Lady On The Dunes are followed throughout the book. 
 
Some of the online sleuths are former law enforcement, determined to solve a cold case that still haunts them.  Others have a missing person in their own family that they are determined to find.  Yet others are compelled to do this work for no identifiable reason other than the thrill of the chase and the ability to bring closure to others.  The sleuths help each other, but also are adversaries as they race to make an identification.  A star today is a scapegoat tomorrow, and those in leadership positions at famous websites like The Doe Network are not immune from interpersonal conflicts.
 
Halber has written a fascinating look at a world that most of us don't even know exist.  I know I was surprised to see a famous online sleuth profiled who lived within twenty miles of my house, yet I had never heard of her or the cases in my area she had worked on.  Halber outlines the issues, the individuals involved and famous cases that were solved with the help of the sleuths.  This book is recommended for readers of true crime and those interested in how the Internet changes every task it is involved in.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Cut And Run by Traci Hohenstein


When Rachel Scott's three year old daughter, Mallory, was abducted from her front lawn, Rachel thought her world would end.  Five years have passed and there is still no good clue about Mallory's whereabouts.  In that time, Rachel and her husband divorced as many parents facing tragedy do.  Determined to fight on and find Mallory, Rachel and a partner have started a missing person company, Florida Omni Search.

Rachel is called to Louisiana by her chief investigator, Red Cooper.  He has been heading up an investigation into what happened to the O'Malley family and needs her help.  Matt O'Malley, his wife, Erin and their two children disappeared on their way back from soccer practice.  A few days later, Matt is discovered at a truck stop with a brain injury that affects his memory.  There is no word about what has happened to his wife and children.

Rachel and Red look into the O'Malley family background.  At first glance, they are the all-American family.  Matt runs a bail bondsman business with his brother while Erin is an artist.  The children are doing well in school and athletics.  But as the investigation delves deeper, hidden family secrets start to emerge.  Are they the cause of the disappearance?  Can Rachel and Red find the family in time?

This is the third book in the Rachel Scott series.  While the book deals with another investigation, the central motivation of finding Mallory is never far away.  The reader is intrigued with the present mystery and on Rachel's side as she fights to find her daughter.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Changing The Conversation by Dana Caspersen


Everyone has conflict in their lives, whether it is with a significant other, children, co-workers, strangers or supervisors.  Changing The Conversation explains how we might work through conflicts more effectively by changing the ways we communicate in them.  The first instinct is to state one's position, then concentrate on counter-arguments to points put forward by the other person.  However if one can listen and understand the focus of the disagreement, odds of a resolution that is satisfactory to each party are increased.

The book is organized around seventeen principles of conflict resolution.  These seventeen principles are grouped into three main areas.  The first, Facilitate Listening And Speaking deals with areas like resisting the urge to attack, defining what is important to each party in the disagreement, acknowledging emotions, making fact-based observations rather than evaluations and testing the assumptions you've made by listening.  The second, Change The Conversation, focuses on areas such as figuring out what's happening rather than focusing on fault, being curious, and stopping if you are making things worse.  The third, Look For Ways Forward, talks about assuming undiscovered options exist, being explicit about agreements and planning for future conflict. 

The text is laid out in concise words, giving examples of how a principle might play out.  For example, under the Acknowledge Emotions, one scenario is acknowledging the other party's emotions.  The unhelpful way to express this might be:  "What are you acting all upset about?  What did I do wrong now?"  while a better way might be:  "You seem frustrated.  Is it because you were expecting me to do something differently?"  Multiple examples are given of restating ideas in a manner that pushes the conversation forward rather than stalling it in anger and confrontation.

Dana Caspersen has a degree in conflict studies and mediation.  She works as a mediator, teacher and creator of public dialogue processes.  Readers can quickly read though this book and discover new and better ways of handling conflicts and then keep it nearby as a reference in the future.  This book is recommended for parents, employers and employees and those in relationships.  It is a book that can help anyone if the principles stated are taken seriously and acted upon.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Palm Beach Nasty by Tom Turner

Charlie Crawford was a top-notch detective in New York City.  He brought down several famous killers, including a serial killer and the newspapers loved him.  But he burned out and has moved to Palm Beach where crime is not so brutal.  His partner, Ott, is another career detective who has moved down from Cleveland.  They enjoy their easier jobs and the great weather but do miss a good murder now and then.

That is quickly changed when they find themselves facing two murders.  One is a young man who is found hanged in the park.  The other is a woman in her forties who works at the most prestigious country club in town.  Could the two murders be connected?

There are also two possible suspects.  One is a billionaire who enjoys using his money to control everyone around him while he does whatever he wants.  The other is a con man who uses his charms and good lucks to get what he wants from those he meets.  Which of them is responsible?

Tom Turner has written an engaging mystery that will keep readers turning the pages.  Readers get a look into the lifestyles of the rich and famous and how crime works when those involved have millions to protect or lose.  Crawford is interesting without being overly quirky.  The crimes are believable and the partners work well together.  Palm Beach Nasty is a debut novel in the series with two others already written.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Booksie's Shelves, January 24, 2015


It's been a busy week in reading at the Booksie household.  I'm halfway through the second enormous book in the Song of Fire And Ice series by George R. R. Martin.  Even more exciting, I got a gift certificate to Amazon and picked up some books I've had my eye on.  I got a couple by William Vollmann, who is one of my favorite authors, and the next biography of Michael Jordan.  Add in some new ones sent by publishers and I'm set for the next few weeks.  On Sunday, January 25th, I'm headed with a friend to an author event where a different author comes to your table every ten minutes or so for a meet and greet and Q&A.  We went last year and had a blast so I'm excited to go this year as well.  Here's what's come through the door lately:

1.  The Burgess Boys, Elizabeth Strout, literary fiction, purchased
2.  Last Stories And Other Stories, William Vollmann, anthology, purchased
3.  The Royal Family, William Vollmann, literary fiction, purchased
4.  Throw Like A Woman, Susan Petrone, literary fiction, sent by author
5.  Michael Jordan, The Life, Roland Lazenby, biography, purchased
6.  The Long And Faraway Gone, Lou Berney, mystery, sent by publisher
7.  West Of Sunset, Stewart O'Nan, literary fiction, sent by publisher
8.  Plus One, Christopher Noxon, literary fiction, sent by publisher
9.  Those Rosy Hours At Mazandaran, Marion Grace Woolley, historical fiction, sent by publisher
10.  The Impossible Lives Of Greta Wells, Andrew Sean Greer, literary fiction, Paperbackswap
11.  Black Diamonds, Catherine Bailey, nonfiction, sent by publisher
12.  Crazy Love You, Lisa Unger, mystery, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm currently reading:

1.  The Innovators, Walter Issacson, Kindle
2.  Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter, paperback
3.  A Clash Of Kings, George R. R. Martin, paperback
4.  The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner, Kindle Fire
5.  Barracuda, Christos Tsiolkas, hardback
7.  The Rise And Fall Of Great Powers, Tom Rachman, paperback
8.  The Illusionists, Rosie Thomas, paperback
9.  The Black Country, Alex Grecian, paperback
10.  Mrs. Poe, Lynn Cullen, paperback
11.  Palm Beach Nasty, Tom Turner, paperback
12.  The Orchid Affair, Lauren Willig, hardback
13.  The Killer Next Door, Alex Marwood, paperback
14.  Rescue, Anita Shreve, hardback
15.  Traitor's Blade, Sebastien de Castell, paperback
 16.  The Skeleton Crew, Debrorah Halber, Kindle Fire

Happy Reading!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

My Father's Wives by Mike Greenberg

Jonathan Sweetwater is the son of one of America's most famous and beloved Senators, Percy Sweetwater.  Not that he'd ever found it an advantage.  Percy left Jonathan and his mother shortly after Jonathan's ninth birthday, and the two didn't have a relationship after that.  Percy went on to marry five more times before his death.

Jonathan grew up determined to never be anything like his father.  He is a successful businessman.  His marriage to Claire and his two children make up his life and he is the quintessential family man.  At least, that's what he thought until a chance encounter makes him wonder if he has been fooled for years.

Jonathan sets out on a quest to determine what is important to him.  He is determined to put his feelings for his father to rest, and decides to go meet each of the wives to get a fix on what Percy Sweetwater was really like.  There is a doctor, a secretary, a dancer, a model and a psychiatrist.  They are all very different and live all over the world.  As Jonathan travels from place to place, he learns more about his father and more importantly, more about himself.

Mike Greenberg has written a novel that explores the question of what we're here for and what is important in our lives.  We are all shaped by our childhood experiences, and the relationships we form with our parents are essential in determining our adult lives.  Greenberg has created a character in Jonathan that readers will be interested in, and his quest leads to an end each of us can relate to.  This book is recommended for readers of family fiction and those interested in coming of age stories, no matter how long it takes to come of age.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Lost And Found by Brooke Davis


Millie Bird may only be seven years old, but she knows some things.  She knows that kindness takes you farther than meanness.  She knows you judge people by how they treat you, not by how they look.  And she knows about dead things.  She's seen dead bugs, birds and pets and most recently, her dad.

Karl the Touch Typist is eighty-seven.  He's broken out of the nursing home where he was sent and is out on his own, although the police are searching for him.  He used to type love notes on his wife, Evie's skin, but now that she is gone, he types them into the air.  He finds Millie and becomes her champion.

Agatha Pantha is eighty-two and a hermit in her house since her husband, Ron, died seven years ago.  There's nothing that can lure her out of her isolation, not until she notices Millie and realizes she needs a friend.

When Millie's mother decides she needs a new life and leaves Millie behind in a department store, the three unit into a team, determined to reunite Millie with her mother.  Their adventures expose them to interesting people and help them through the grief each feels.

Brooke Davis has written an interesting novel that deals with grief, but not in a heavy manner.  The prose is light and cheery and the reader soon realizes that they are cheering on this unlikely trio.  This book is recommended for those dealing with life changes and readers of literary fiction.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Game Of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

Is there anyone left who hasn't heard of this novel; the first tome in the massively successful Song Of Fire And Ice series by George R. R. Martin?  This first novel was released in 1996 and I read it shortly thereafter.  I have all five novels but stopped reading after the third, as I wanted to wait and read the entire series.  As with most Martin fans, I've given up on that happening and decided I needed to read the series now before the HBO screen adaptation overtook my progress.

For anyone who doesn't know, The Land Of The Seven Kingdoms is the world that Martin has created.  Various Houses vie for power.  There is the Stark family of Winterfell.  It is ruled by Ned and his wife Cat with their five children; Robb, Sansa, Anya, Brandon and Rickon.  The King is from the Baratheon family, and King Robert is Ned's old friend.  He has two brothers, Stannis and Renly and is married to Cersei.  Their son Joffrey will inherit the throne after Robert's demise.  Cersei is from the Lannister family.  Tywin Lannister is the richest man in the world and his three children are Jaime, Cersei and Tyrion.  Daenerys is the last heir of the once powerful Targaryens, now in exile.  Then there are the Rangers of the Wall, who serve to protect all houses and men from that that lies beyond.  Stark's bastard son, Jon Snow, serves at the Wall.  There are other houses, less influential than these main ones and pledging allegiance to one of them.

The houses clash and war erupts with the death of Robert Baratheon.  There is betrayal and stunning acts of violence, treachery, lies and layer upon layer of secrets.  The reader is continually surprised and shocked at what occurs as the story unfolds.  It is even harder to read as a reread, as one knows the horrible things that will happen and reading slows as the individual gets closer and closer to various tragedies.  This series is an amazing achievement, one of the landmark series that all fantasy must be compared to and recommended for all fantasy readers and any reader willing to suspend time and enter the Game Of Thrones.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Perfect Stranger by Wendy Corsi Staub

Every cloud has a silver lining.  The women who've come to know each other via their blogs often think of that saying and agree.  They are very different women; middle-aged and young, from all over the country, stay at home moms and career women and those without children.  But they all have something in common:  breast cancer.

Each has discovered the lifesaving support group of breast cancer survivors and those making the journey.  They share their stories, their emotions, tips for surviving the various treatments, and all the things they never tell their families and friends who aren't in the breast cancer club.  No one who has not walked in their shoes will ever understand exactly their journey and how it makes them feel.

There is Landry, a stay-at-home Southern belle living in Mississippi, with her lawyer husband and two teenagers.   Meredith's children are grown but that means she has the joy of grandchildren who visit often.  Kay never married and made her livelihood as a prison guard.  Elena is a thirty-year-old kindergarten teacher from Illinois.  No one is exactly sure where Jaycee lives or what she does, but even those who don't share everything are welcome to join the club and take solace there.

Then tragedy strikes.  Not the tragedy they are used to when one of the club loses the battle and dies of illness.  Meredith is struck down in her own home by a murderer who leaves her dead body behind.  The women are horrified and can't believe the fates would allow such a thing to happen.  They come together to attend the funeral and in the process meet each other for the first time. 

They feel an instant connection, although there is always a little nagging voice that tells them that they really don't know anything about each other.  Has everyone told the truth or is one of them hiding back gathering intimate details about the women's lives in order to target them?  The police don't know who may have killed Meredith, and the women aren't sure who to trust.

Staub has tapped into the fear of strangers that we all feel along with a portrayal of how personal issues can make someone in the virtual world seem like a long-lost friend.  This fear is somewhat overblown as many have met friends and mates that started out as virtual friends with no ill effects.  I found the book interesting as I've made many friends in the virtual world and later met them and added them to my friends list.  I'm also a breast cancer survivor so that part of the story also resonated with me.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Booksie's Shelves, January 10, 2015



It's cold here in N.C., which of course isn't the same as saying it's cold here in Minnesota, but then again, one lives in the South so they don't have to say the things those surviving Northern winters say.  This is the first Booksie's Shelves of 2015.  I've been reading a lot, but then again, it's also playoff season for the NFL and college basketball is in full swing. I've been reading a lot of my personal library books as well as mixing in newly published books sent for book tours and review.  One of my reading goals for 2015 is to read some of the big fantasy series I've got here but never had time to read.  I'm starting with a reread of George R. R. Martin's A Game Of Thrones series, as I never got to book four and five since I was waiting for the rest of the series.  Since I'm not sure when those books will arrive, I'm immersing myself back in the series. 

Here's a list of the new physical books I've added:

1.  Love By The Book, Melissa Pimentel, mystery, sent by publisher
2.  The Rosie Effect, Graeme Simsion, literary fiction, sent by publisher
3.  Changing The Conversation, Dana Caspersen, nonfiction, sent for book tour
4.  Dying For The Past, T.J. O'Connor, mystery, sent by publisher
5.  Last Words, Rich Zahradnik, mystery, sent by publisher
6.  The Orphan Sky, Ella Leya, historical fiction, sent by publisher
7.  The Forgetting Place, John Burley, mystery, sent for book tour
8.  My Father's Wives, Mike Greenburg, literary fiction, sent for book tour
9.  The Like Switch, Jack Schafer, nonfiction, sent by publisher
10.  Unbecoming, Rebecca Scherm, literary fiction, sent by publisher
11.  The Last Breath, Kimberly Belle, literary fiction, sent for book tour

Here's what I'm currently reading:

1.  The Innovators, Walter Issacson, Kindle
2.  Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter, paperback
3.  A Game Of Thrones, George R. R. Martin, paperback
4.  The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner, Kindle Fire
5.  Barracuda, Christos Tsiolkas, hardback
7.  The Rise And Fall Of Great Powers, Tom Rachman, paperback
8.  The Illusionists, Rosie Thomas, paperback
9.  The Black Country, Alex Grecian, paperback
10.  Mrs. Poe, Lynn Cullen, paperback
11.  The Perfect Stranger, Wendy Corsi Staub, paperback
12.  The Orchid Affair, Lauren Willig, hardback
13.  The Killer Next Door, Alex Marwood, paperback
14.  Rescue, Anita Shreve, hardback
15.  Traitor's Blade, Sebastien de Castell, paperback
 16.  The Skeleton Crew, Debrorah Halber, Kindle Fire

Happy Reading!


Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Iris Fan by Laura Joh Rowland

The last four years have been disastrous for Sano Ichiro, a samuri in the 1709 court of his shogun, the ruler of Japan.  During this time, he has been demoted from the court's chief investigator of crimes to a lowly foot patrol soldier, as his enemies manage to foil his attempts to reveal their crimes.  Each time he fails to bring the truth forward, his livelihood is reduced again.  Even more wrenching, he sees the discord his stubborn insistence on the truth has brought to his family.  His wife, Reiko, formerly a partner in his investigations, is furious with him and the poverty he has brought to the family.  Their children are blocked from good jobs or advantageous marriages, and one false step can mean that the whole family will lose their lives.

Then an unimaginable crime occurs. Someone slips into the shogun's sleeping chamber and stabs him with a fan, a fan with razor-sharp folds.  Who could have done such a horrible crime?  There are two contenders for the shogun's position when he dies.  Yanagisawa and Lord Ienobu are rivals for the position, Ienobu for himself and Yanagiasawa for his son.  Unfortunately, both are Sano's enemies, as he has tried to bring their crimes over the years to light.  They form an uneasy alliance and are both displeased when Sano is brought back to the castle and restored as the Chief Investigator.  Can he solve the crime before the shogun dies?  If he doesn't find a way to reveal the assassin, one of his enemies will ascend to power and the first act will be revenge on Sano and his family.

Laura Joh Rowland has written a series of feudal Japan that has enthralled readers for many novels.  This is the eighteenth book in the series and the ending one.  The cruelty and constantly shifting alliances and betrayals that make up the court are stunning.  Everyone seems to be out for themselves, yet profess to follow the Bushido way of honor.  This book is recommended for both mystery readers and readers of historical fiction.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Storied Life Of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin


Things can't get much worse for A.J. Fikry.  He married his college sweetheart and they opted out of graduate school to open a bookstore on a New England island.  Their life was satisfying, but that all ended when Fikry's wife is killed in an auto accident, leaving him to run the bookstore while grieving.  He barely makes it through the days, going home to drink himself into oblivion at night.  While drunk one night, his prize possession, a first edition of Edgar Allen Poe's book of poetry, Tamerlane, is stolen.  This is a real blow as it was his nest egg, a book worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Then something surprising and unlikely happens.  A.J. returns to the bookstore one day to find that someone has left a small child in the bookstore with a note saying that the mother can't raise her and thinks being raised in a bookstore would be the best thing ever for a child.  A.J. has no interest in having a child, but agrees to keep the little girl for a weekend since the social service representative won't be able to get over to the island until the next week.  By the time she comes, A.J. has changed his mind and ends up adopting Maya. 

The book continues to chronicle A.J. and Maya's life together over the following years, as they learn to live together, Maya starts school, A.J. comes out of his introversion and becomes a community member.  The bookstore starts to do well as Fikry becomes more entwined in the island's life. Throughout the years, A.J. writes about his favorite books and tells Maya which ones he believes she will like as she grows as a reader and writer.

Gabrielle Zevin has written a heart touching novel made for readers.  It celebrates the reading life and attempts to demonstrate the large part that books play in the lives of readers.  As the book progresses, one finds oneself cheering for A.J. and Maya and the lives they are building.  This book is recommended for readers and those who enjoy literary fiction.

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Cabinet Of Curiousities by Douglas Preston/Lincoln Child


Nora Kelly is surprised to come into her office at the Museum Of Natural History and find a stranger there.  She is even more surprised when he introduces himself as FBI Agent Pendergast and states that he needs her help.  During construction, an old tunnel has been found under a building.  The tunnel is full of bricked up skeletons; thirty-six of them. 

Kelly and Pendergast go to the scene and examine the remains before the construction owner has them thrown out and removes all the bodies so that his new building can proceed on schedule.  Each is the body of a young man or woman from at least a hundred years before.  Each has been operated on, with the excision site being the lower back and spinal cord.  Each has been murdered.

Kelly isn't sure why this is so important to Pendergast but starts to understand quickly.  A copycat killer has emerged and is killing modern victims in the same manner that the older bodies were killed.  As they research the case, a strange motive emerges.  Apparently, both the older murderer and the younger believe they have found a way to extend human life which requires the sacrifice of humans.  Can Pendergast and Kelly, along with reported William Smithback, solve the mystery before more bodies are found?

This is book three in the popular Agent Pendergast series.  The authors work together to provide a tale that is strange but believable with overtones of paranormal events.  The interplay between Kelly and Smithback and the revealing of Pendergast's mysterious family background and unorthodox methods keeps the reader turning the pages.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Book Of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

What would it take to make you leave everything you know and love behind to start over somewhere else?  Your family, your friends, your house, your language, all you know and love and that makes up your identity.  It must be either overwhelming difficulty where you are or the hope of an amazing opportunity somewhere else.  In The Book Of Unknown Americans, Cristina Henriquez introduces the reader to characters who have made this decision.

There is the Rivera family.  Arturo is a business owner in Mexico.  When his daughter is injured and needs special schooling, he gives up his business and moves his wife and daughter to the United States, where he is now a mushroom picker, spending his days in a dark room, thrusting his hand over and over into the dirt to search out and retrieve mushrooms.  He daughter Maribel slowly starts to get better as the months go by and her school helps her retrieve her former skills.

The Toro family lives in the same apartment complex.  They came from Panama and the dad works as a breakfast cook in a diner.  Mayor is the youngest son, always trying to live up to the reputation of his big brother, who won a soccer scholarship to college.  When he sees Maribel in the local Dollar Tree, he is struck by her beauty.  As the families become friends and the two teenagers get to know each other, Mayor and Maribel fall in love.  Their families do not approve and attempt to keep the two apart.  This relationship and the fallout from it make up the mainspring of the novel.

Henriquez has written a book that will open readers eyes to the lives of our most prevalent minority, that of the Hispanic population, although their immigrant stories ring true from those who come from other countries as well.  She deftly outlines the difficulties of starting over in a land where you must struggle to support yourself, to even make yourself understood.  The incredible hope in a better future it takes to start over is demonstrated, along with the difficulties.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and those interested in the changing population in the United States.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Sign Of The Book by John Dunning


Life is different these days for Cliff Janeway.  He gave up his career as a police detective and has reinvented himself as a bookseller, a trader and seller of rare books.  The book store is humming along as is his love life with his girlfriend, Erin D'Angelo, a lawyer.  He's about as content as he can remember being.

Then Erin comes to the bookstore, obviously upset.  When she decides to tell him what's wrong, he hears a story about betrayal and first love.  Erin had been engaged to a man, Bobby Marshall.  The engagement ended when Marshall and her best friend, Laura, had an affair.  Erin cut them both from her life and the two married.  She hasn't had any contact for over a decade when Laura's lawyer calls.  Bobby has been murdered and Laura has been arrested.  She wants Erin to come and defend her. 

Erin is torn.  Laura is planning to pay for her defense with the rare book collection Bobby had amassed and Erin asks Cliff to drive to Laura's town, check out the collection and see what the facts are in the case.  Once he reports back, Erin will decide if her former friendship is an obligation to defend Laura and dredge up old memories.

Janeway drives to the small Colorado town where the Marshalls have been living.  He encounters a small town mentality that has already convicted Laura, antagonistic law enforcement and a book collection that surpasses all his expectations.  There are already unscrupulous book dealers circling around.  Erin decides she must come to Laura's rescue.  Can she save her old friend?

This is the fourth in the Cliff Janeway mystery series.  Cliff is an interesting detective, mixing knowledge of legal investigation and books.  The mystery moves along quickly with interesting twists and turns.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters


Times are difficult in 1922 England.  Many of the nation's young men have been killed in the World War and its trenches, leaving their families to carry on as best they can, holding on to lifestyles from before the war with reduced incomes.  That is the case with the Wray family.  The two sons have been killed and the father dies of grief and illness, leaving Frances Wray, 26, to look after her widowed mother and support them.  Gone are the days of servants, and Frances spends her days scouring the floors, figuring out bills, cooking meals and trying to entertain her mother.  She sees nothing ahead but more years of this.

Finally, their monetary reserves are gone and something has to be done.  They do a bit of renovation and advertise a suite for rent in their upstairs.  This is a drastic step, as they are very private people but money must be found somewhere.  A young married couple, Len and Lillian Barber, take the rooms.  They are not the kind of people the Wrays would have ever chosen to associate with; young and full of life, boisterous and louder than they expected.  Soon their upstairs suite is filled with furnishings that are cheap and a bit tawdry. 

Yet, as the weeks go by, a friendship emerges between Frances and Lillian.  As they get closer, Lillian reveals that all is not well in her marriage to Len.  It was a hasty arrangement that doesn't have much love in it, yet Len is jealous of anyone who pays attention to Lillian.  She socializes only with her family and Frances, yet the jibes and sarcasm from Len is unrelenting.  The tension in the house mounts between Len and Lillian and the Wrays and the Barbers.  When something horrendous happens, it seems inevitable.

No one does setting and characters like Sarah Waters.  She has created a stifling atmosphere in which the smallest turn of phrase or gesture is magnified, and in which the brooding resentments that arise rush headlong to disaster.  This book gives insight into the aftermath of war that is often overlooked and into the social structure of the country that held individuals in a straitjacket of conformity.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mantel

Where were you when the world changed forever?  Kirsten Raymonde was eight years old and a child actress.  She is on stage in a production of King Lear when the main character, played by legendary actor, Arthur Leander, collapses and dies.  Jeevan Chaudhary, an EMT in training, is in the stage and attempts to give Arthur CPR.  Arthur's best friend, Clark Thompson, has sold out his artistic yearnings long ago and is now a management consultant.

What changes the world?  A disease with an innocent sounding name, the Georgia Flu.  But it's not mild and sunny; instead it is the most virulent strain of flu seen.  The survival rate?  One percent.  In a matter of days, ninety-nine percent of the world's population is gone.  Then everything else goes.  Flight, the Internet, communications, grocery stores, everything gone, gone, gone.  All that is left are the survivors, attempting to find ways to manage what life is left to them.

Kirsten joins a group of artists who move from settlement to settlement, called the Traveling Symphony.  Jeevan is now a settlement's nearest thing to a doctor, although the rigors of post-antibiotic and pain medicine surgery is daunting.  Clark was one of a group of people who were on the last flights, diverted to a small airport where they have been living for twenty years now.  In addition to being survivors, they are connected by a small comic series, Station Eleven, created by Arthur's first wife, about the rigors of living in a post-trauma world.  Once entertainment, the series is now inspiration.

The three come together to fight a threat, a Prophet who believes only he is right, and that everyone else must do what he commands.  As they do so, they continue to struggle towards a new life that can replace the one they lost.

Emily St. John Mantel is one of the best of the new novelists, and this is probably her breakout book.  Her writing is calm, moving on inevitably, taking the reader along.  Not a word is extra and the pace moves the story along quickly.  Her vision of what the world would look like after a disaster and how the survivors would interact and build something new is inspiring as well as chilling.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction as well as science fiction fans.