Monday, July 25, 2016

The Bat by Jo Nesbo


Fans of Jo Nesbo and his flawed detective, Oslo Police Inspector Harry Hole, will be thrilled to read this first entry in the series.  Harry is sent to Australia to help investigate the murder of a Norwegian woman there.  Unsaid is the fact that the police in Oslo are sending Harry to evaluate his fitness as he has just been involved in a major scandal.  Is he worth retrieving for his brilliant mind and ability to close cases others can't or is he just too much of a risk?

Hole is told by the Australian police that he is there to observe and just add an international flavor to the investigation.  He is paired with an Australian detective, Andrew Kensington, who is also considered to be a detective who works outside the system.  Andrew is one of the first Aboriginal detectives and introduces Harry to the non-tourist Sydney, one of boxers, prostitutes, circus performers, alcoholic natives and other characters living on the fringe.

As the case progresses, Harry realizes that this murder is not a stand-alone but one in a series of murders of blonde women.  There appears to be a serial killer at work, one who has gone unnoticed and undetected for his string of murders.  Harry and Andrew set to work, although in unconventional ways.  Along the way, we discover more of Harry's backstory and are dismayed to see him starting the pattern of resorting to an alcoholic spree that threatens to end his career.

Those who read the Harry Hole books are seldom content with reading just one.  Harry is one of the most interesting detective characters in the genre, a flawed man with a talent for detection but none for making his own life a success.  Readers cheer for him while knowing that despair and drink are probably in the works.  This first novel in the series outlines the broad strokes of the series that are later refined as Harry emerges as a character.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Black Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin


At sixteen, Tessa Cartwright's life is irrevocably changed.  She is found in a field with a recently killed girl and the bones of several others.  Around them is a field full of black eyed susans and the girls are forever after known as the Susans.  The police soon arrest a man and Tessa's testimony helps put him on death row.

So much was taken from her that night.  Her ability to trust others.  Her sight for many months as her brain refused to see anything more.  Even her best friend as they fought bitterly over the trial and the part each played in it.

Now it is eighteen years later.  The man on death row is about to be executed.  Tessa has carved out a life for herself as a builder of other's ideas.  She has a daughter of her own who she loves fiercely.  And she wonders if the killer is not safely on death row but still stalking her.  There are signs that he is still on the prowl and interested in her and her daughter.

Desperate to determine if her earlier testimony was right, she turns to the lawyers fighting to exonerate the man about to die for the Black Susan murders.  She agrees after all these years to undergo hypnosis and to reveal her drawings created right after her rescue.  Will this give the lawyers enough ammunition to stop the execution?  If the wrong man is imprisoned, will this make him determined to finish the job he didn't complete all those years ago?

Julia Heaberlin has written a fast-paced, thrilling story of a long-ago crime and the fallout of that act.  Tessa is a believable heroine, determined to do what is right but unable to even trust her own memory.  The reader is drawn along cheering for Tessa and determined to find out what happened all those years ago.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Throw Away Girls by Jennifer Vaughn


Someone is stalking the sex clubs of Los Angeles.  The ones that test the edges, where pain and pleasure are intertwined.  Three women have been found dead in these clubs, a message that calls them Throw Away Girls left in their blood.

Jaycee Wilder, a local news correspondent, starts covering the case.  At first she sees it as a vehicle to spur her career upward, but she soon becomes emphatic with the victims.  While they died following a dangerous path, they were more than their sexuality.  They were daughters, mothers, teachers and were felled at the height of their youth and beauty.

Jaycee becomes determined to catch the killer.  She forms an attachment with the lead detective, Barton and hopes to use him to get exclusives and leads to her own investigation.  Barton warns her against trying to investigate.  Her boyfriend, Van, and her cameraman, Ben, also try to dissuade her but Jaycee is adamant.  She is determined to uncover the serial killer who is taking the lives of Los Angeles women.  But as she's been warned, this is a dangerous path.  With her public coverage of the case, she soon is in the killer's focus and he starts a deadly cat and mouse game with her.  Can Jaycee uncover the killer before he makes her his next victim?

Jennifer Vaughn is a well-known newscaster in New England, the recipient of many awards and several Emmy nominations.  She knows the world of a TV reporter inside and out and that expertise is clear in the novel.  Readers will emphasize with Jaycee as she learns to look beyond her own ambition to helping those without a voice.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Booksie's Shelves, July 13, 2016


Summer is here in full swing, with heat and humidity to spare.  It's good weather for staying inside and reading.  We've just returned from a trip up north (Massachusetts) for a week and getting ready for a trip to Hilton Head Island soon.  In between, preparations go on for our college freshman to move out in August.  I'm in the midst of a lot of books and of course, more have arrived.  Here's what's come through the door lately:

1.  The Nest, Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, literary fiction, library
2.  Girl In The Afternoon, Serena Burdick, literary fiction, sent by publisher
3.  The Kraken Sea, E. Catherine Tobler, fantasy, sent by publisher
4.  White Bone, Ridley Pearson, thriller, sent by publisher
5.  Making A Killing, John Hart, mystery, sent by publisher
6.  The Runaway Wife, Elizabeth Birkelund, literary fiction, sent by publisher
7.  Barkskins, Annie Proulx, literary fiction, purchased

Here's what I'm currently reading:

1.  The Maid's Version, Daniel Woodrell, Kindle Fire
2.  The Man In The Monster, Martha Elliot, Kindle
3.  A Dance With Dragons, George R. R. Martin, hardback
4.  The Lore Of The Evermen, James Maxwell, audio
5.  Throw-Away Girls, Jennifer Vaughn, paperback
6.  The Bird Eater, Ania Ahlborn, audio

7.  Delivering Virtue, Brian Kindall, paperback

Happy Reading!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney


They have lived their lives in anticipation.  There are four Plumb children and each has taken a different path through life.  Leo is the eldest and is a charming, manipulative man who made a fortune early in his career with an online magazine that was a path breaker.  Jack runs an antique store and has recently married his longtime partner, Walker.  Bea is an author who showed great early promise but has produced nothing in years.  Melody is the baby and lives the most conventional life with her family in the suburbs.  She has twins who are about to head off to college and they consume all her energies.

In the background of each life was always 'the nest'.  This is their nickname for the trust that their father left.  It will be paid out when Melody turns forty and they have all planned their lives around the substantial amount each will get then.  No matter what poor decisions they might make, they rested easy in the knowledge that the nest was there to save them.

Then disaster occurs.  An event happens that depletes the nest and each person is now thrown back on their own devices.  They must decide if they will pull together as a family in a new way or each go off on a separate path, alone.  The loss redefines each person, highlighting mistakes yet freeing them from past expectations.

Sweeney has written an engaging tale that follows the life paths of the four siblings.  The family interactions play out along with the typical life choices that define each person's life.  Each individual's character is tested as they must change their life plans to accommodate a new reality.  This book is recommended for family relationship readers.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Mothers, Tell Your Daughters by Bonnie Jo Campbell


I've wanted to read Bonnie Jo Campbell for several years now.  She is considered one of the strongest voices in new American authors, and documents the poorer side of American society.  The people she writes about are not the soccer moms or the wealthy country club set.  Instead, she writes of those who work blue collar jobs when they can get them, who grab what joy they can find in the world regardless of opinion, and those whose lives often don't work out as they had hoped.

In this anthology of sixteen stories, Campbell explores what it means to be a woman from all sides.  There are stories about a pregnant woman at her shower worrying about how to safeguard her new baby and one about a woman who has been a caretaker to her elderly parents for a decade and who is now exploring life on her own.  One woman thinks a stray dog is her ex-boyfriend come back to try to make things right.  One woman finds love in her sixties long after she thought all chance of romance was over.

In the title story, Campbell makes this statement about the relationship between mothers and daughters:

'You should've had a daughter of your own.  That would've been a bone for you to chew on all your life.  I guarantee, though, you wouldn't win any award for raising a daughter.  Hell, if had a daughter, she'd probably admire me, for my toughness and the way I like to laugh and party, for the way I've never given up, for my knowing how to break horses and grow vegetables and bale hay, and the way I overlook nonsense and small troubles.  If you'd had a daughter, you'd be more forgiving of what people do.  You think I've failed you, Sis?  Well, my ma failed me, too.  She let herself get locked in the nuthouse.  And you would've failed your own daughter if you had one.  That's women's studies.'

Every mother alive recognizes herself in these words.  We all have such high hopes when we have children but we all fail our children in some ways.  If we're tough and raise independent children, we were too unemotional.  If we are totally supportive and involved, we're spoiling our child.  No matter how many things you do, your child will always remember the one you forgot to do.  Yet even when we feel we fail, we are the touchstone for our children and how they view society.  Campbell is a master of exploring this territory of how women fit into the world and their families.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Not Dead Enough by Peter James

There's a serial killer on the loose in Brighton, England.  Socialite Katie Bishop has been found murdered in her home, left to be found in bizarre circumstances.  Her husband, Brian Bishop, owner of a very successful software company, is of course the main suspect.  When his girlfriend is found days later also murdered and in the same bizarre circumstances, the net tightens around him and he is charged with murder.

Detective Roy Grace heads up the investigation.  He is in charge of a team of detectives and his career is headed in the right direction.  He has adjusted to the disappearance of his wife nine years before and has recently been seeing a new woman.  This adjustment is challenged when an old friend returns from holiday and states that he has seen Roy's wife while in Munich.

There are currently eight novels in the Detective Grace series.  This one is the third.  It is a good mix of police procedural and character development with all the safeguards and procedural steps that are followed in an investigation being fully explained.  James is considered one of the foremost crime writers working and one of England's finest.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware


Lenora Shaw is surprised by the invitation.  She and Clare had been best friends in elementary and high school but haven't seen each other in a decade and have totally lost track of each other.  Lenora tends to be reclusive, staying in her apartment writing crime thrillers and is happy with her life.  But now here's this invitation to Clare's hen or bachelorette party.  Nora doesn't even know who Clare is marrying and she didn't get an invitation to the wedding.  She's tempted to ignore it, but her other high school buddy, Nina, contacts her to say she is also invited and they should go together. Nora reluctantly agrees to go.

The party is being held in winter at a remote house owned by the party's host's aunt.  The house has huge glass windows everywhere and is nestled in the woods.  At night, all those windows make the setting like a stage as those within are easily seen from the outside; their every movement followed.

The other guests are new to Nora and Nina.  Flo, who is giving the party, constantly reminds everyone she is 'Clare's best friend'.  She seems insecure and needy, jealous of any attention the others receive.  Tom is a playwright and successful in the theatre scene.  Melanie is a new mother who has left her baby behind for the first time ever and is miserable.  Then there is Clare, charismatic, witty, yet ruthlessly cruel and determined to have her own way.  The groom's identity is the first surprise to Nora, and there are others.  The house is gloomy, the party participants mismatched and when the phone lines go down, the setting begins to feel malicious.

This is a debut novel that has gotten a ton of buzz.  It is an NPR Best Book Of The Year for 2015, as well as a Shelf Awareness Best Book.  Publishers Weekly named it as a 'Top Ten Mysteries and Thrillers' entry.  It has already been optioned for a major movie release.  Readers will enjoy the quick read, although those who are confirmed mystery readers will find the clues fairly simple and the events easy to predict.  The pace is fast and the foreboding done well.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Booksie's Shelves, June 23, 2016


June is almost over and summer is in full swing.  Here in NC, a temperature of 99 is predicted for today.  We're in full college preparation mode, having been to orientation last week where I walked six miles in two days in a heat index of 104.  How many weeks till fall?  Still, it is good reading weather as it's time to hunker down inside until fall comes with cooler temperatures. I received book certificates from both Barnes and Nobles and Amazon this week in the Apple settlement so I have plans to make for spending it.  What new books or older books I've held off on will be winging my way shortly?   Here's what's come through the door recently:

1.  Jonathon Unleashed, Meg Rosoff, literary fiction, sent by publisher
2.  The Gods Of Guilt, Michael Connelly, mystery, purchased
3.  Dust, Martha Grimes, mystery, purchased
4.  Cassowary Hill, David de Vaux, literary fiction, sent by publisher
5.  You Will Know Me, Megan Abbott, literary fiction, sent by publisher
6.  Twain's End, Lynn Cullen, historical fiction, purchased
7.  The Monster's Daughter, Michelle Pretorius, literary fiction, sent for blog tour
8.  The Innocents, Ace Atkins, mystery, sent by publisher
9.  Song Of The Deep, Brain Hastings, children's literature, sent by publisher
10.  The Singles Game, Lauren Weisberger, literary fiction, sent by publisher
11.  Bukowski In A Sundress, Kim Addonizio, essays, sent by publisher
12.  Throw Away Girls, Jennifer Vaughn, mystery, sent by publisher
13.  The Genesis Of Quave, John Parnell, sci-fi, sent by author
14.  Oreads, John Lavelle, historical fiction, sent by author
15.  Too Close To The Edge, Pascal Garnier, literary fiction, sent by publisher
16.  Living Large In Our Little House, Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell, nonfiction, sent by publisher
17.  Champion Of The World, Chad Dundas, literary fiction, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm currently reading:

1.  The Maid's Version, Daniel Woodrell, Kindle Fire
2.  The Man In The Monster, Martha Elliot, Kindle
3.  A Dance With Dragons, George R. R. Martin, hardback
4.  The Lore Of The Evermen, James Maxwell, audio
5.  Not Dead Enough, Peter James, paperback
6.  Mothers, Tell Your Daughters, Bonnie Campbell, paperback
7.  The Bird Eater, Ania Ahlborn, audio

8.  Delivering Virtue, Brian Kindall, paperback

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Drop In The Ocean by Jenni Ogden


Dr. Anna Fergusson has come to age fifty as an introverted career woman.  She has few friends, really only one she opens up to.  She oversees a lab studying Huntington's Disease, a terminal, crippling neurological disorder, but the work has become routine and the team is basically skating on past discoveries.  She has no love life after an early love affair left her brokenhearted.  There is no family.  Her father died when she was young while her mother lives in another country and Anna has only seen her a few times in the past decade.

Then the unimaginable occurs.  Anna's research grant to continue the lab is denied.  She is faced with dismantling the lab, letting go all her research associates and finding something new to do with her life.  It is totally overwhelming.  Seeking refuge, she agrees to a caretaker job for a year on a remote Australian island overseeing a campground.  There are few people there, the island a home to thousands of birds and huge sea turtles but that suits Anna just fine.

As she adjusts to the island, Anna's hard shell starts to open a bit.  The few people on the island are friendly and have made a family of sorts out of necessity.  They open their circle and invite her in.  Pat is an older woman who helps Anna get over her fear of snorkeling.  Living right on the Great Barrier Reef, the ability to snorkel opens up her life tremendously.  There there is Tom.  Tom is a research associate studying the great turtles.  Anna starts to help him tag the turtles as they come ashore to lay eggs and count them.  The hardships that these turtles go through to fulfill their imperative to survive is impressive.  Tom is a decade younger than Anna, but as the weeks go by, their friendship starts to turn to love.

Over Anna's year on the island, she comes out of her own shell to accept the friendship and love she finds there.  She helps others work through the difficulties they undergo and focuses on others for the first time in her life.  When a visitor comes to the island who has Huntington's Disease, she learns to understand the human dimensions of the illness she studied for so many years.

Jenni Ogen has written a hauntingly beautiful tale about how in life it is never too late to open oneself to joy, friendship and love.  It only takes willingness to focus outside yourself and to worry about others and share in their delights while helping them through challenges.  The reader cannot help but pull for Anna, delighted that she is finally claiming the life that was waiting for her.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Gone by Mo Hayder


Someone is taking young girls.  He runs up as their mothers are about to drive off in a Santa mask and takes the girl along with the car.  So far, four girls have been taken with no real progress being made on the case.  He released two for reasons of his own, but the others are missing, their parents in agony.

Detective Jack Caffery heads up the case.  This one is personal to him, as his own brother disappeared thirty years ago and was never found.  It drove Caffery into police work and makes him the haunted, driven man that he is.  That makes him a successful detective while it takes its toll on his body and spirit.

One of those searching for the girls is Flea Marley, a police diver who heads up the search and rescue team.  She has a feeling about an abandoned canal, part of which is a tunnel, that is near where one of the parents' cars is found.  The police mount an intensive search but nothing is found and Flea is chastised for wasting resources on a hunch.  Her next hunch takes her on a solo search as she doesn't want to be wrong again and soon she is also in trouble.

The case progresses slowly and it seems the kidnapper is always one step ahead of the police.  Jack even consults a strange figure, The Walking Man, who has walked the countryside for years and seems to always know something or have a way of framing problems that stirs Jack's instincts.  The Walking Man also lost a daughter many years ago and searches constantly for clues about her fate.

This is the fifth in the Jack Caffery mystery series.  Readers will be entranced by Hayder's involved plotting and the views into the detectives' motives and problems.  The plot twists are exciting and come as a surprise to the reader.  This is one of the best detective series to be found.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Infidel Stain by M. J. Carter


It is 1841.  Jeremiah Blake and William Avery, who met and worked together in India, have both returned to England but haven't seen each other in three years.  Avery, now a gentleman with a wife and baby on the way, goes to London when he receives a message from Blake asking him to come.  He finds Blake, much the worst for wear, living in the slums of London and scratching out a small living by being a private investigator.

Blake's newest case has him needing help and he turns to Avery.  A Lord has approached him about investigating a series of murders.  Several men who run printing presses have been killed in grisly fashion.  The newly formed police force doesn't seem that interested in solving the case.  As Blake and Avery investigate, they determine that the printers were not only of the normal sort, but all had a sideline in pornography.  Even more telling, all seem to have known each other twenty years ago in the revolutionary movement now known as the Chartists, who are determined to win the vote for all men.

The bodies continue to mount up.  Informers are bountiful and it is difficult to make any headway.  The pair befriend a young girl who sells on the street and her brother, who has been falsely accused and headed for transportation to Australia.  Can they save this small family along with solving the murders?

This is the second case in the Blake and Avery series.  As with the first, the interest lies not only in the narrative but in the meticulously researched history that brings a Victorian environment alive.  The interplay between Blake and Avery is also interesting, each needing the other but very different in their understanding of the world and how they fit into it.  This book is recommended for mystery readers as well as historical fiction ones.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Missoula by Jon Krakauer


If you are sending a teenage daughter to college this fall, your biggest fear shouldn't be whether she'll make friends or how she'll handle adult responsibilities.  Rape, particularly acquaintance rape, is prevalent on college campuses.  This isn't attacking someone in the dark as they are walking home.  This is someone you've met who won't take your no as an answer and keeps pushing for sex.  This is having too much to drink and waking up to find someone having sex with you that you didn't agree to.  This is someone you thought of as a friend suddenly doing something you never saw coming.

Jon Krakauer examines the issue of college rapes/unwanted sexual attacks through the lens of one college town, Missoula, Montana.  The university is the biggest entity in the town and the football team, the Grizzlies, one of the main social outlets.  He examines three cases in depth.  The first is a woman who goes to a party at the home of a man who she has considered a friend her entire life.  There has never been anything romantic between them.  She wakes up to find him having sex with her.  The second is a woman who gets drunk and then asks a man she just met up to her dorm room.  Although once she gets there she refuses sex, he pushes himself on her anyway.  The final case is that of a woman who gets to know the quarterback of the football team and invites him over to watch a movie.  Instead, he rapes her with people in the next room. 

All of these women struggled with what happened to them, unable to believe it.  None went to the police right away, but all eventually did.  The cases went through college procedures for reported rapes and then moved on to the courts.  One man was found guilty, one was found not guilty.  In all cases, the aftermath was as horrific for the women as the actual event.

This is an issue that looms large in today's society.  Young people, sometimes entitled, who have their first taste of adult independence and maybe their first experiences with alcohol and drugs, don't always have the ability to handle situations that lead to rape.  Add in sports adulation and institutions that don't take the problem seriously and it is a cauldron of seething sexuality out of control.  This is an important book.  It is recommended for anyone who is or has a daughter at college.


Monday, June 6, 2016

Lexicon by Max Barry


Emily is a street kid making money scanning tourists with three card monte when she is plucked out of her life and given an opportunity of a lifetime.  She is picked for training by a shadowy organization that knows how to control people by language.  The best of the school's graduates are known as poets for their mastery of language.  Emily is one of these.

Wil is kidnapped at the end of a flight at the airport by two men.  He has no idea what they want but soon he is caught in the middle of a frantic chase, gunfights and murder.  The remaining kidnapper is called Elliot, and he lets out enough information that Wil realizes that people think he has a secret buried in his brain and they are willing to do anything to get it.

Broken Hill, Australia, is a ghost town, barricaded and off-limits.  A former mining town, three years ago it was the scene of an industrial accident so bad that everyone in town died.  The government maintains a barricade that keeps everyone out as exposure will still kill.  At least that's the official word the poets have put out.  What's the reality?

Australian author Max Barry has written a highly original novel that explores the power of words while plumbing the depths an organization will go to for power and control.  The characters are former poets, Eliot, Wolff, Yeats, Plath and it is jarring to see such names do such horrendous deeds.  The pace is fast and the story is revealed in glimpses and flashbacks the reader must tie together.  It was released in 2013 to acclaim, garnering the Amazon Best Science And Fantasy Pick of 2013, a Kirkus Ten Best Novels For Summer Reading 2013 and a host of other awards.  This book is recommended for thriller readers.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Booksie's Shelves, June 5, 2016

I read a pitiful seven books in May.  I was consumed all month with a myriad of tasks associated with a high school graduation, a last dance recital, college math placement exam, last chorus concert and getting ready for company.  We had a glorious graduation and we're all ready for the next step in June when we go to my daughter's college (University of South Carolina) for orientation.  In the midst of all this, I decided I needed to weed out some books, mainly so the company coming wouldn't see all the out of control stacks.  Here's a picture of some of the books before their journey to Goodwill.
In all, I took 356 books to Goodwill, and another dozen are headed to the gym where we have a leave one, take one bookshelf.  I have more weeding out to do, and then hopefully more time for reading instead of manipulating the teetering piles.

Here's what's come through the door lately:

1.  The Far Empty, J. Todd Scott, mystery, sent by publisher
2.  Blue Nile, Virginia Morell, travel, from gym bookshelf
3.  The Whale, Mark Beauregard, literary fiction, sent by publisher
4.  Did You Ever Have A Family, Bill Clegg, purchased
5.  Someone Must Die, Sharon Potts, mystery, sent by publisher
6.  Brain Storm, Elaine Viets, mystery, sent by publisher
7.  The Mermaid's Secret, Katie Schickel, fantasy, sent by publisher
8.  Under The Harrow, Flynn Berry, mystery, sent by publisher
9.  The God Wave, Patrick Hemstreet, thriller, sent by publisher
10.  The Light Of Paris, Eleanor Brown, literary fiction, sent by publisher
11.  All The Time In The World, Caroline Angell, literary fiction, sent by publisher
12.  The Secrets She Kept, Brenda Novak, mystery, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm currently reading:
1.  The Maid's Version, Daniel Woodrell, Kindle Fire
2.  The Man In The Monster, Martha Elliot, Kindle
3.  The Infidel Stain, M.J. Carter, paperback
4.  The Lore Of The Evermen, James Maxwell, audio
5.  A Drop In The Ocean, Jenni Ogden, paperback
6.  Gone, Mo Hayder, hardcover
7.  The Bird Eater, Ania Ahlborn, audio

Happy Reading!


Saturday, June 4, 2016

Lady Cop Makes Trouble by Amy Stewart


Constance Kopp is one of the first lady deputy sheriffs in the United States.  Her two sisters, who pursue more ladylike vocations are not pleased and Constance is not a big hit with the male deputies either.  But Sheriff Heath is a man with vision and he sees the places where a woman deputy can do things more easily than a man could.  He insists on keeping Constance employed, even when his wife gets her nose out of joint because he is spending so much time with her.

But Sheriff Heath's vision is questioned when Constance makes a huge mistake.  She is guarding a prisoner who has been sent to the hospital for observation when he tricks her and escapes.  The prisoner is a doctor who uses his knowledge to trick patients and steal their money rather than heal them.  When he escapes, the world and all its judgement comes pouring down on Constance.

Undeterred and desperate to make things right, Constance starts her own investigation.  Her discoveries take her to New York City and Albany where she finds other doctors who are involved.  She also realises the man's family members are helping him hide so she keeps them under surveillance.  Can Constance find the fugitive before Sheriff Heath loses his job?

This is the second story in the Kopp sisters series.  The novels are based on true characters and Stewart faithfully portrays the history and characteristics of law enforcement in the early 1900's when women were just starting to make their mark.  This book is recommended for mystery and historical fiction readers.  

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie


In Palo Alto, a young couple has met, fallen in love and is preparing to marry.   Paul is a brilliant neurologist who has research grants and has invented a device that has the potential to save lives in the military field, or at any accident scene.  His career looks bright.  Veblen is not as career oriented.  In fact, she is adrift.  She works as a temp while pursuing her interests.  One of these is translating Norwegian, which is not actually a high demand language.  Another is her semi-famous forbear, Thorstein Veblen, an economist who eschewed material goods and coined the term 'conspicuous consumption'.  Love of animals, especially squirrels is yet another Veblen obsession.

Each came from a problematic family.  Veblen's mother is narcissistic and demands all the family's attention for her myriad imagined illnesses.  The main thing she taught Veblen was that Veblen's needs and desires were always to be second to those of her mother.  Paul's family was consumed with the care of a child with special needs and Paul felt adrift and neglected.  His family were hippies, full of peace and love and lots of drugs, and Paul is organized and straight-laced in opposition.

As Veblen and Paul start to plan their wedding, their opposing viewpoints of the world emerge.  Soon they start to wonder if the other is too different and too strange to ever have a successful relationship.  It takes a crisis before their questions are answered and they resolve the differences that can tear them apart.

Elizabeth McKenzie has written a charming picture of modern mores and relationships.  Veblen is a free spirit who has broken free of a suffocating family, while Paul has attained the success and prestige he never got as a child.  Together they illustrate what it means to be in love as a millennial.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and those interested in relationships.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Mother by Yvvette Edwards


We meet Marcia on one of the worst days of her life.  It is the opening trial day for the boy who murdered her only son, Ryan.  Ryan was sixteen years old when this boy ran up to him at a football training field in London and stabbed him repeatedly.  Now he is on trial and Marcia is determined to be their every day.  She wants to find out why anyone would do such a thing.

Marcia's life has been hell for the last eight months since the murder.  She is by turns angry, depressed and barely gets through the days.  Nights go by on a mixture of vodka and sleeping pills.  Her marriage is at a breaking point; her husband muted by the tragedy.   Her friends and remaining family try to be supportive but no one can really relate to what she is going through.

As the trial goes on, Marcia sees that the young man on trial has no remorse.  He doesn't seem to feel anything for anyone and she wonders what his life would have to have been like to turn him into this unfeeling automaton.  A young girl is his alibi and it is the same girl that Ryan brought home once.  Marcia had disapproved as the girl was street-wise and not the kind of girl she always thought Ryan would eventually be interested in.  Now it appears that Ryan's death may have been caused by his interest in her since the other boy has also been with her.

Unfortunately, most of us know someone in Marcia's shoes as we get older.  These are parents who have lost their children, whether to accidents, sickness or violence.  It is unimaginable pain and the fact that it is unimaginable makes it difficult to be the friend they need at this time.  Edwards has ripped aside the barrier and shown us what is going on in the minds and hearts of our friends who are dealing with this horror.  She also takes the time to emphasize with the killer and his circumstances, raising questions about what we owe to those less fortunate and how we can change things to possibly avoid further tragedies.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers and for anyone with a friend in this circumstance.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

Novelist Owen Quine has gone missing.  His wife comes to detective Comoran Strike.  She wants Comoran to find him and bring him home.  Quine goes away periodically, but always returns and this time he hasn't.  They have a daughter with special needs and Quine knows only he can produce the money needed to keep the family afloat.

Strike takes the case and expects it to be an easy one.  But as he investigates, it becomes more complicated.  Quine has written a new novel, one in which he skewers many of the literary circle of England.  He has a mistress who is sure he is leaving his wife and child to be with her, an agent who seems to despise him and a publishing house that would be more than glad to drop him.  Every individual thinly disguised in the book would be glad to see him disappear for good.  When Strike discovers Quine's body and realizes that he has been killed in a parody of the novel, the race is on to discover the murderer.

The reader also learns more about the personal lives of Strike and his assistant, Robin Ellacott.  Strike is a former soldier who has been left with an artificial leg and investigative skills from his time in the military.  Huge and focused, he is considered without social skills yet has friends in every circle who would do anything for him.  Robin, his assistant, is about to get married and starting to wonder if that is the right course for her, or if it would be more fulfilling to become an investigator herself.  Together the two work through the lengthy suspect list to discover who killed Quine.

This is the second Comoran Strike book and it is equally as delightful as the first.  In the worst-kept secret in the literary world, Robert Galbraith is the pseudonym of J.K. Rowling, and she delivers the plotting and characterization that made her famous as an author.  The reader finishes the book eager to read the next installment in the series.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Girls On Fire by Robin Wasserman


You remember teenage friendships.  That fierce cleaving to another person, the two of you against the world, united against anyone or anything that would dampen your dreams or try to make the two of you ordinary.  That's how it was when Lacey and Dex found each other.

Dex, who everyone else knew as Hannah Dexter, was the ignored girl.  Her parents were on the fringes of the social life in their small town, but somehow Hannah was the one always left out, always made fun of when someone actually noticed her.  She drifted through school trying to be invisible.  She was the good girl at home although her parents wanted her to be popular.

Lacey was the rebel.  Raised by a single mom who was always working or out with various boyfriends, she grew up doing whatever she wanted.  She hung out with undesirable boys, drank and did drugs, and learned about sex way too early.  When her mom finds and marries a born-again Christian with a mean streak and has a baby with him, Lacey is uprooted and moved to small town Battle Creek, Michigan.

Dex can't believe it when Lacey talks to her in the bathroom one day after a brutal encounter with the queen bee of their high school.  It's even more unbelievable when she takes her out in her car and they start to learn about each other.  Soon, it is them against the world and Dex learns about life and what is real.  There is nothing but Lacey and the united front the two of them present to the world.  But fairy tales aren't real and soon hidden secrets start to crack the foundation of their friendship.  How far will one go to continue to live in the exclusive world of the other?

Robin Wasserman has written a fierce, raw novel that will strike an instant chord in all those who grew up on the fringes.  The fringes of high school popularity, of boys and parties and being desired.  Who wake up with white-hot anger growling right beneath the surface as they go through the halls of their school, who pretend it doesn't matter and pretend they are normal for their parents and teachers.  Who if they are lucky emerge on the other side and go out into life and wrest from it what they want.  Who if they are unlucky fall deeper into dependence on the other person in their world and let that dependence take them down into actions they would never have done alone.  This book is recommended for young adult readers and for mothers raising daughters.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Booksie's Shelves, May 20, 2016


It's a week of lasts in our house.  Last prom, last chorus concert, last awards ceremony, last day of high school and last dance recital!  I unplugged and threw away my alarm clock yesterday as I no longer have to get up on someone else's schedule.  My favorite time to read is in the morning in bed but I only got to do it on the weekends.  Now I can do it anytime.  The sadness of my daughter graduating and moving on to college is setting in, but I'm excited as she moves on to the next stage in her life.  She got the AP English award this year, so she's on the right track with reading!  Here's the books that I got recently:

1.  Auntie Poldi And The Sicilian Lions, Mario Giordano, mystery, sent by publisher
2.  The View From The Cheap Seats, Neil Gaiman, nonfiction, sent by publisher
3.  Orchard, Jack Bailey, historical fiction, sent by publisher
4.  I Do It With The Lights On, Whitney Thore, nonfiction, sent by publisher
5.  Behind Closed Doors, B.A. Paris, thriller, won in contest
6.  Red Platoon, Clinton Romesha, nonfiction, sent by publisher
7.  The Mother, Yvvette Edwards, literary fiction, sent for book tour
8.  Monsters:  A Love Story, Liz Kay, contempory fiction, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  The Silkworm, Robert Galbraith, Kindle Fire
2.  Lady Cop Makes Trouble, Amy Stewart, Kindle
3.  The Lore Of The Evermen, James Maxwell, audio
4.  The Portable Veblen, Elizabeth Mckensie, paperback
5.  Murder At Breakfast, Beth Gutcheon, paperback
6.  Lexicon, Max Barry, hardcover
7.  A Dance With Dragons, George R. R. Martin, hardcover

Happy Reading!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Dream Lover by Elizabeth Berg


Aurore Dupin is a typical French woman of the nobility in the early to mid 1880's.  She was raised by her grandmother after her father died when she was young and her mother went to Paris to live her life.  She was educated in the arts and sciences by a tutor who lived on the estate and learned to ride, make conversation and all the social graces.  Yet Aurore was not a happy child.  She felt deserted by her mother who had agreed to leave Aurore behind with her grandmother in exchange for the money to live as she chose.

When Aurore grew up, she was faced with marriage and all the disadvantages that imposed on a woman of the time.  She married a man and had high hopes, but the marriage soon evolved into a prison with him controlling all of her fortune and her estate.  He was brutish and lived only to hunt and have other women.  Her only joy was in her children, Maurice and Solange.

Finally, the marriage became more than she could bear and she went to Paris after agreeing to a separation with her husband.  There she started to write and explore other relationships.  She found a community of like people, artists and writers and musicians.  One of her first jobs was a theatre critic and she began to wear men's clothing in order to obtain the cheap seats they were allowed to buy.  Soon she was also using a man's name, the none under which she lived for the rest of her life.  That name was George Sand.

Over the years, Sand became famous for her writing and for her passionate love affairs.  She loved men who depended on her to support them both and inevitably, the affairs ended badly.  She desperately loved a famous actress of the time, but the other woman was not interested in that kind of relationship.  Her most famous and long-lasting love affair was with Frederick Chopin.  That relationship lasted almost a decade.  She was friends with Flaubert, Balzac, Liszt, Eugene Delacroix and a host of other individuals in the arts.  Yet she always searched and was disappointed in love.

Elizabeth Berg has written a novel about George Sand that will introduce this great writer to the reader who has always been interested in learning more about this influential writer who forged the path for women's independence to pursue what gave them joy.  She uses some of Sand's letters and those she received to illustrate the tempestuous personality that moved Sand onward, constantly pursuing the right to live life as she wanted.  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Death At Breakfast by Beth Gutcheon


Now that they are retired, two old friends decide they would make good traveling companions.  Maggie Detweiler was the head of a prestigious private school while her old friend, Hope Babbin is a wealthy socialite.  Eager to test their compatibility, they sign up for a cooking school at a quaint Maine inn and head off.  The surroundings are wonderful and the cooking school is marvelous.  Everything is proceeding satisfactorily when trouble arrives in the form of obnoxious guests.

Alexander and Lisa Antippas are loud and obnoxious, using their wealth to bully others and make demands of everyone around while constantly fighting.  Lisa's sister, Gloria, an actress, accompanies them.  They are the kind of guest whom everyone notices and clears out of the room for, murmuring to each other about how unpleasant they are.  After a family tragedy strikes, the other guests try to make allowances but it is difficult to find empathy for such obnoxious people.

The tension mounts when Alexander's body is discovered.  The deputy sheriff arrives, and to everyone's surprise, turns out to be Hope's long estranged son.  Buster Babbin has floundered a bit in life, but has to his own surprise, found his standing in this small town where a sheriff is more of a community representative than a hardcore law and order person.  He starts to investigate, but Alexander's wealth and power insure that the state investigators turn up and try to take over.  Can Buster, with the help of Maggie and Hope, solve the mystery?

Beth Gutcheon has written a charming first entry in a new detective series.  The two women bring years of experience with observing human nature mixed with wry humor while Buster reveals hidden depths.  The reader will be interested in how events play out and close the back cover with a feeling of satisfaction.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Body In The Wardrobe by Katherine Hall Page

This should be an ecstatic time in attorney Sophie Maxwell's life.  She has just moved to Savannah after marrying the love of her life, Will.  She quickly finds a job and the couple start house hunting.  Sophie starts to get comfortable in Savannah with its love of parties, wonderful weather, friendly people and lots of preserved history.  But all is not perfect.  There's an ex-girlfriend on the scene who hints that maybe Sophie doesn't know all she thinks she does about Will.  Will does seem to have secrets, as do many of his wealthy, well-connected family.  His job takes him out of town, leaving Sophie on her own.  The worst is when she opens the wardrobe in her bedroom one night and a man's body falls out.  By the time she summons help, the body is gone.  Did she imagine it as everyone wants her to think?

Her best friend, Faith Fairchild, a minister's wife and caterer in New England, has her own problems.  A neighbor seems to have a problem that is straining her health, but won't share her burden.  Faith's husband is thinking about a career change which would mean a family move.  Worst, her teenage daughter is having issues at school that are changing her sunny personality.  The two friends commiserate over the phone, but the problems keep them from getting together in person.  Can everything be resolved?

This is the twenty-third mystery in the Faith Fairchild series.  Fans of the series will enjoy another visit with Faith, while becoming acquainted with her new heroine, Sophie.  There is lots of history, food  and city tidbits about Savannah and of course, recipes from Faith's catering business.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Devil's Harbor by Alex Gilly


Nick Finn isn't sure exactly when his life went off the rails.  Was it the night he and his brother-in-law, working their shift as Marine Interdiction Agents for Customs and Border Protection, intercept a suspicious boat with tragic consequences?  Was it the day they found a teenage boy floating in the channel, his legs gone in a shark attack?  Or was it the day Finn decides to take another drink after months on the wagon?

Whichever was the decision point, Finn is now faced with issues.  His wife, Mona, has left him.  His job is in jeopardy as he faces an investigation into what happened on the water that night.  Worse, as he tries to find out what is really happening, he stumbles into a plot that is sickening and far beyond anything he ever expected having to deal with.

Alex Gilly's debut novel is a fast-paced thriller that will keep readers going until the last page.  Full of surprises and twists and turns, the reader will not only be surprised but educated about the work of Customs on the seas surrounding us and the drug cartels they battle.  This book is recommended for thriller readers.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Booksie's Shelves, May 7, 2016

We're well into May and what a busy month it's turning out to be.  Lots of events happening for the last time with a daughter graduating high school and leaving her dance studio after fourteen years.  Two weeks till her last dance recital and three weeks till graduation!  I'm trying to be supportive and get things done around the house.  I finished The Fireman by Joe Hill which I absolutely loved, and Free Men by Katy Simpson Smith, a great historical from the late 1700's in rural Alabama.  Here's the books that have come into the house since my last post:

1.  Discovering You, Brenda Novak, romance, sent by publisher
2.  Pretty Girls, Karin Slaughter, mystery, sent by publisher
3.  A World Between, Robert Herzog, science fiction, sent by publisher
4.  A Brief History Of Seven Killings, Marlon James, historical/literary, purchased
5.  Lost And Gone Forever, Alex Grecian, mystery, sent by publisher
6.  Night Life, David C. Taylor, thriller, sent by publisher
7.  Night Work, David C. Taylor, thriller, sent by publisher
8.  Finding Fontainebleau, Thad Carhart, memoir, sent by publisher
9.  Sunborn Rising, Aaron Safronoff, fantasy, sent by publisher
10.  Death At Breakfast, Beth Gutcheon, mystery, sent for book tour
11.  Girls On Fire, Robin Wasserman, literary fiction, sent for book tour
12.  Lillian On Life, Alison Lester, historical fiction, sent by publisher
13.  Aunt Dimity And The Buried Treasure, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  The Silkworm, Robert Galbraith, Kindle Fire
2.  Lady Cop Makes Trouble, Amy Stewart, Kindle
3.  The Lore Of The Evermen, James Maxwell, audio
4.  The Dream Lover, Elizabeth Berg, hardcover
5.  Devil's Harbour, Alex Gilly, hardcover
6.  Lexicon, Max Barry, hardcover
7.  A Dance With Dragons, George R. R. Martin, hardcover

Happy Reading!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Free Men by Katy Simpson Smith


Three men come together in 1788 in the rural country of what would become the state of Alabama.  Bob is a slave who has decided in his thirties that there must be something more and has decided to run away and make another life out in the Western territories.  Istillicha, a Creek Indian, has been ousted from his tribe and what everyone expected would be his place of leadership.  His woman and his silver have both been stolen from him.  Cat is a young white man who seems lost most days.  He has spent his life trying to fit in and find someone to love him to little avail.

Brought together by chance, the three men travel together to help each other.  Everything changes when they encounter a group of men on the roadway.  The three are worried that the men might take back tales of seeing them; each of them wanted elsewhere for various reasons.  Even more damning, the men have sacks full of silver coins that clatter and clang and give their location away.  That night, the three men creep into the camping place of the group and start to steal the money.  When the men awake and give fight, things escalate until all are dead and the three men are now wanted for murder.

Le Clere is a tracker.  He has come to America from France to learn about what makes men do the things they do.  He is hired by the Creek chief of Istillicha's tribe to find him.  He quickly picks up the men's trail and finds himself following them rather than capturing them.  He is fascinated by the makeshift friendships and commonality that seems to bind the three men, unknown to each other a week ago, together in common purpose.

Katy Simpson Smith has a PhD in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Her devotion to research and to portraying the average individuals that settled America is on full display in this novel as she explores the nature of freedom, friendship and hope in desperate situations.  This book is recommended for readers of historical and literary fiction.

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Wages Of Sin by Nancy Allen


The murder is a brutal one.  Jesse Dent is eight months pregnant.  Her live-in boyfriend and the father of the baby is arrested for the crime.  The main witness is Jesse's six year old daughter Ivy.  The police in McDown County, Missouri,  know the Dent household well; they have been called to it multiple times for domestic abuse.  Now the worst has happened.

The county prosecutor, a frosty woman named Madeline Thompson, has promised to not only convict the boyfriend, but get a death penalty as the sentence.  Thompson's main assistant cannot help as he witnessed some of Jesse's abuse; her next choice won't work on a death penalty case.  That means the Elsie Arnold is next up as Thompson's co-counsel.

Elsie isn't sure that she supports the death sentence either, but when she thinks about the abuse Dent underwent, she is swayed in favor of it.  Elsie dates the local police homicide chief and she knows how bad the abuse they saw was.  She is put in charge of shepherding little Ivy Dent's testimony, and as the trial gets closer, she starts to realise that Ivy may be in danger.  Can Elsie help win the case while protecting Ivy?

Nancy Allen served as a trial lawyer in Missouri as well as the Assistant Attorney General there.  She now teaches law at Missouri State University.  She knows the inside track of how a murder trial is conducted, and the ethical hesitations attorneys may face.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Fireman by Joe Hill


At first, no one knew what was happening.  People started to get a tracery of images on their skin, black and gold, almost like lace. At first, people called it dragonscale and were not that concerned.  But when the lacework started to smolder and then erupt into full flames that killed the host, reality set in.  Draco Incendia Trychophyton was a virus like none ever seen.  Thousands, then millions were infected.  Entire states were burned.  Society broke down as the power grids failed and food was hard to find.  Those not infected did anything they could to avoid those who were.

Harper Grayson is one of the unlucky ones.  Her work as a nurse put her in daily contact with those infected and soon she was also.  Her husband, Jakob, showed his true colors by revealing his hate of her for having the disease and his anger that she could have exposed him.  He leaves her, after failing to convince her that a mutual suicide would be the best choice.  But Harper has a reason to try to live; she has just found out she is pregnant.

Reeling, she leaves her house and all she knows.  She wanders until she finds a refuge, a camp of those with dragonscale who have found a way to keep the virus from erupting and burning those infected with it.  The camp is run by a kindly man known as the Father and protected by a mythical figure called The Fireman.  He has learned to control dragonscale and bend it to his will.  He fights against those who would do anything to destroy those infected.  Can this camp of individuals find a way to survive in a world determined to stamp them out?  Can they manage to live in peace or will power struggles cleave them into factions and cliques fighting for control?

Joe Hill has created a novel that touches readers' lives.  With the reality of the Ebola and Zika viruses and constant scares about bird flu and swine flu, most people are convinced of the inevitability of a virus that will sweep the world and wipe out millions of people.  The Fireman is a remote, scary figure that is not soon forgotten.  In Harper, he has created a heroine who is so full of common sense and practicality that she is instantly likable.  One can't help but continue to read to find out who, if anyone, survives.  This book is recommended for readers of dystopian novels and thriller fans.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Strange Bodies by Marcel Theroux


This novel opens with a prologue by a woman who has just had an encounter with a long-ago boyfriend.  She is glad to see him until she remembers that she read of his death in a motor accident several months before.  Yet he is definitely the man she remembers.  He knows the little ancedotes of their relationship, what they were eating when an event occurred, the weather when they were on an outing, conversations they had when alone.  His name is Nicolas Slopen and he gives no explanation for the fact that he is considered dead.  He leaves her with a flash drive and when it is opened, a strange story unravels.

Dr. Nicolas Slopen is an academic; his specialty the life of Samuel Johnson as documented by his cohort, Boswell.  Slopen is intrigued when he is approached by a rich musician who has taken up the hobby of acquiring first editions and literary trophies.  The man has a packet of letters he wants Slopen to authenticate as the work of Johnson.  At first glance, the letters seem authentic but are totally unknown in the history of Johnson's life and work.  Excited about perhaps finding a new trove of work, Slopen asks to see the originals.  When he does, he falls into a rabbit hole of intrigue and hubris the like of which can hardly be imagined.

Slopen's explorations in the matter take him from London to Russia to a madhouse.  He is befriended by a mysterious Russian woman named Vera and her bodyguard.  They live in London in a house where they care for Vera's brother, who is the passkey into a mystery that can hardly be believed.  Nicholas is drawn further and further into the mystery until he is totally changed.

Theroux has written a highly original novel that questions what makes us human.  His novel Far North was a finalist for the National Book Award and the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction.  This book with its questions about personality and the foundation of human experience will remain with the reader as each person answers the questions of what it means to be a person.  This book is recommended for science fiction and philosophical readers.