Thursday, August 28, 2014

Booksie's Shelves, August 28, 2014

With the Labor Day weekend approaching, it's time to say goodbye to summer, although here in NC it will be warm for at least another month or so.  Still, summer is waning and fall is approaching with its glorious colors and refreshing weather.  As I evaluate the summer, I've faced a truth that I need to get rid of some of the more than 7000 books currently sharing this house with me. While I've read 94 books so far this year, there is no physical way I'll ever be able to read all the books that are here, weighing down my shelves.   I've started weeding out books, taking them to donation centers, giving them to friends and saying goodbye.  Some are volumes I thought I might reread but realize I'll probably never get to.  Some, unfortunately, are review books I accepted years ago that have languished on my shelves.  Perhaps someone else will find them and love them as they are meant to be loved. 

I'm concentrating on the newer books here waiting on review and the books I've bought because I wanted to read them.  Here's what's come through the door lately:

1.  The Sharp Hook Of Love, Sherry Jones, historical fiction, sent for book tour
2.  The Mathematician's Shiva, Stuart Rojstaczer, literary fiction, sent by publisher
3.  Sister Eve, Private Eye, Lynne Hinton, mystery, sent by publisher
4.  The Flight Of Gemma Hardy, Margot Livesey, literary fiction, Paperbackswap
5.  Poisoned, Steve Shukis, true crime, sent by friend
6.  Bitter Greens, Kate Forsyth, fantasy, sent by friend
7.  We Are Not Ourselves, Matthew Thomas, literary fiction, sent by publisher
8.  Certainty, Victor Bevine, literary fiction, sent for book tour
9.  The Prize, Daniel Yergin, nonfiction, sent by publisher
10.  Jaya Nepal!, Martin David Hughes, literary fiction, sent by publisher
11.  The Secret Place, Tana French, mystery, sent by publisher
12.  The Hidden Ones, Nancy Madore, fantasy, sent by author
13.  Power Of Gods, Nancy Madore, fantasy, sent by author
14.  Masquerade, Nancy Madore, fantasy, sent by author

Here's what I'm reading now:

1.  Advent Of A Mystery, mystery, Kindle
2.  I Am China, Xiaolu Guo, paperback
3.  The Steady Running Of The Hour, Justin Go, hardback
4.  The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner, Kindle Fire
5.  The Fever, Megan Abbott, hardback
6.  New York, Edward Rutherfurd, paperback
7.  Red 1-2-3, John Katenback, hardback
8.  The Weight Of Blood, Laura McHugh,  paperback
9.  The Secret Place, Tana French, hardback

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Scrivener's Tale by Fiona McIntosh

Morgravia and it's ruler, Queen Florentyna, are in peril.  A demon, Cyricus, has been entrapped in the Void for many centuries.  But demons are cunning and one fueled by revenge can never be considered defeated while life remains.

Now Cyricus has broken free of the Void and he is planning to destroy all those who sent him there.  That includes all of the kingdom Morgravia, it's ruler, and all its allies.  Who can stand against such a powerful foe?

Those that sent Cyricus into the void have always known he might return and have made their plans.  A Triad of powerful individuals are the only hope the world has.  The Triad is made of three men who have never met each other, yet whose lives are entwined from their first breath.  Each has been created with skills will be necessary in the fight against the demon, although none have heard about the demon who threatens the entire world and their part in the fight.

Gabriel lives in Paris, a psychologist who can build worlds with his mind.  Cassien is a soldier above all else; an assassin raised by a Brotherhood dedicated to saving the land.  Hamelyn, the youngest, is in some ways the strongest.  He sees the connections and provides the links between the individuals who must work together to save the world.  Queen Florenyna and the neighboring monarch, King Tamas, join with the triad to combat the evil that seeks to destroy all it encounters.

Fiona McIntosh has written a stunning fantasy novel.  The world building and characterizations are superb, as is the plotting.  The pacing starts slowly, then rushes to a magnificent climax.  The characters and readers discover the secrets hidden in this world together as the story unfolds.  Those readers who have not encountered McIntosh before will turn the last page and then immediately look for more of her work.  This book is recommended for fantasy lovers.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good by Kathleen Flinn

Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good is Kathleen Flinn's memoir of growing up in a large family in Michigan.  There were five children and not much money but there was always love, fun and family.  And food.  When their parents didn't have money to buy the children presents, they devised a novel treat.  On your birthday, you got to pick the menu for breakfast, lunch and supper.  In a family that revered food as the Flinn family did, this was a big deal.

Family was always present.  In today's society, with families far-flung, many of us don't get to know the solace of having grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins near-by.  These close-knit families provided a support system that insured that a child left out of playgroups at school was always surrounded by someone who treasured them.   There was always room in crowded houses to take in a cousin that was orphaned or needed a place to live for a few months. 

Flinn knows the love stories of all the grandparents and of her parents.  She tells these lovingly, letting the reader see how strong marriages made burdens easier to bear.  There were less than stellar branches on the family tree also, and Flinn tells their stories and how they impacted others in the family such as children. 

Money was often short.  Hand-me-downs and thrift store purchases made up the children's wardrobes and they were teased at school.  There were no fancy toys to play with, but there was always love.  The children grew up knowing how to work and how to get what you wanted in life by working for it.

Above all, there was food.  The family had large gardens, and picked the fruits and berries surrounding them.  The men hunted and the family fished on vacations.  After each chapter, there is a family recipe with the story behind it and cooking tips.  No one went hungry, and the food was cooked from scratch.  One of the funniest stories was about the time the women picked out TV dinners as a treat, and their reaction when the dinners were complete and it was time to eat them.

Kathleen Flinn's writing has been featured in many venues, including Elle, People, Bon Appetit, The Wall Street Journal, PBS, The Christian Monitor and CBS Morning News.  Her book, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School, was a 2012 Book of the Year by the American Society of Journalists and Authors.  In this memoir, she lets the reader into a life enriched by family, fun and food.  This book is recommended for readers who enjoy memoirs and those interested in cooking. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Ghost In The Electric Blue Suit by Graham Joyce

David Barwise is a college student on summer vacation in England in 1976.  He decides rather than going home and spending the summer with his parents, he will go to the small coastal town of Skegness and find a job. Money and independence are prime motivators, but there is also the fact that he has found a picture of his birth father in the town.  The topic of his father was always forbidden so he hopes to find out something about him. 

David manages to get hired as an employee at one of the resorts.  This isn't a resort with glitz and glamour; instead it is the kind of resort Americans used to find in the Catskills; a place where a family could go for a week with activities planned like Most Glamorous Grandmother, bingo and treasure hunts for the kids.  The kind of place with corny shows with second-rate magicians, dancers who aren't quite first-rate and singers who specialize in older songs.

David works hard and seems to be well-liked by the staff.  He enjoys the place at least at first before the strange events start to take place.  Wherever he goes, he occasionally sees two figures that strike a chill in his heart.  The figures are a man and small son, with the man wearing a blue suit.  They look at David with eyes of clear glass and disappear as he blinks.  Is he really seeing something or is he imagining it?

Adding to his stress are the situations he finds himself drawn into.  There are National Front devotees among the employees and they try to draw David into their political agenda of hate for refugees and anyone not 'real English'.  He gets drawn into the middle of an abusive marriage as he is attracted to the wife, Terri, and as the husband, Colin, takes an interest in him, perhaps because he suspects there is something going on between David and Terri.  When Terri disappears and the police arrive, the stress mounts until David realizes he must solve the mysteries that surround him.

Graham Joyce has quietly been making a name for himself for the past few years.  An English writer, his work is gaining fame and popularity elsewhere with authors such as Stephen King, Peter Straub, and Jonathan Lethem counted among his fans. He walks a line between the genres of fantasy and mystery, drawing the reader along on his path. This book is recommended for fantasy and horror readers.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar

Maggie has a good life.  She is a psychologist with a thriving practice and a happy marriage to her Indian husband, Sudhir, a mathematics professor at a small college.  She is distant from her birth family but has a wide circle of friends.

Lakshmi is an Indian immigrant, a woman who came to America with her Indian husband in an arranged marriage.  She expected love to slowly grow but six years have passed and they are still basically strangers.  When she can no longer bear the loneliness and solitude of her life, she tries to commit suicide and is hospitalized.  Her case is assigned to Maggie.

Maggie sees a spark in Lakshmi and flashes of intelligence and perseverance and she quickly feels a bond with her.  Both are married to Indian men and both lost their mothers as young women.  Maggie treats her for the short hospital stay and then exerts her medical authority to get Lakshmi into her private practice when her husband would ignore her issues.  Maggie offers to treat Lakshmi for free, which she knows is not standard practice but perhaps necessary to get past the husband's disapproval.

As the weeks and months go by, the women become friends.  Maggie and Sudhir help Lakshmi become independent and start a business on her own.  But each woman is hiding a secret and as they learn each other's most private thoughts and actions, the bond creates the opportunity for betrayal. 

Thrity Umrigar has written a novel that explores the themes of friendship, devotion and betrayal.  What do we need in a marriage or a friendship?  Are there actions that can't be forgiven, that cross the line of allowable mistakes?  Readers will end the novel with much to think about as they review their own lives in the light of Maggie and Lakshmi's relationships.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Bully Of Order by Brian Hart

Brian Hart has written a novel about life in the Pacific Northwest as it is settled by Americans moving ever westward.  But this is not the west of Bonanza.  This is the west of Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian, of the west shown on the popular TV show, Hell On Wheels.  This is a west where life is cheap and death comes at the drop of a hat.

The Ellstrom brothers have come to make their fortune.  The town where they settle is built on lumber and the mill that planes the boards.  They also try farming, logging and even a trip to Alaska.  Each of the two brothers has a son and Jacob has a wife willing to live under the primitive conditions found there.  Life is hard and brutality reigns.  Those who are strongest and willing to take what they want gain the riches to be found.

A sudden act of violence and a dark family secret tears the Ellstrom family apart.  One son falls in love with the daughter of the mill's owner, and he is not about to have his child link up with a poor man.  The struggle over the woman leads to disastrous consequences and fuels the novel's action.

Hart has written a searing indictment of what it really meant to settle uncivilized areas and how the Northwest was really created.  It is a tale of violence and random kindnesses, of men and women fighting against the environment and often failing to connect with each other as the battle wore them out.  It is a stunning work and readers won't soon forget it.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Booksie's Shelves, August 17, 2014

It's hard to believe summer vacation is over.  My daughter has started back to school and somehow she is a junior this year, unbelievable.  I was feeling lonely and deserted when a big box of review books showed up on the doorstep and that always makes me feel better.  School time is back to schedules but it also frees up more reading time and that is always a good thing.  Here's the most recent books I've added:

1.  The First Mrs. Rochester And Her Husband, M.C. Smith, literary fiction, sent by author
2.  A Dancer In The Dust, Thomas H. Cook, mystery, sent by Curled Up With A Good Book
3.  Night Film, Marisha Pessl, mystery, sent by Curled Up With a Good Book
4.  That Night, Chevy Stevens, mystery, sent by Curled Up With A Good Book
5.  Seven For A Secret, Lyndsay Faye, mystery, sent by Curled Up With A Good Book
6.  American Woman, Robert Pobi, mystery, sent by Curled Up With A Good Book
7.  Strange Country, Deborah Coates, fantasy, sent by Curled Up With A Good Book
8.  The Girls At The Kingfisher Club, Genevieve Valentine, literary fiction sent by Curled Up
9.  That Summer, Lauren Willig, literary fiction, sent by Curled Up With A Good Book
10.  We Are Called To Rise, Laura McBride, literary fiction, sent by Curled Up With A Good Book
11.  The Color Of Fire, Ann Rinaldi, historical fiction, sent by a friend
12.  This Is The Water, Yannick Murphy, mystery, sent by a friend
13.  The Map Thief, Michael Blanding, nonfiction, sent by a friend
14.  Island Of Wings, Karin Altenberg, literary fiction, Paperbackswap
15.  The Light Between Oceans, M.L. Stedman, literary fiction, Paperbackswap
16.  The Chaperone, Laura Moriarty, literary fiction, picked up at bring one, leave one bookshelf
17.  One Of Us, Tawni O'Dell, literary fiction, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm currently reading:

1.  Advent Of A Mystery, mystery, Kindle
2.  The Story House, Thrity Umigar paperback
3.  Blind Eye, Stuart MacBride, hardback
4.  The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner, Kindle Fire
5.  The Fever, Megan Abbott, hardback
6.  New York, Edward Rutherfurd, paperback
7.  The Ghost In The Electric Blue Suit, Graham Joyce, paperback
8.  The Weight Of Blood, Laura McHugh,  paperback
9.  The Scrivner's Tale, Fiona McIntosh, paperback

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Skin Collector by Jeffery Deaver

Another serial killer is targeting New York City.  He kidnaps his victims, takes them underground into sub-basements and tunnels, then kills them by tattooing them not with ink but with various poisons. The tattoos, which are a series of numeric words,  seem to be sending a message to whomever is bright enough to decipher it.   Lincoln Rhyme, the quadriplegic forensic scientist who consults with the New York Police, knows as soon as he hears about the first victim that this is a case only he and his team can solve.

The team consists of Rhyme, Amelia Sachs who is a policewoman and Lincoln's lover, Ron Pulaski who is the newest member of the team, and various other individuals who are at the top of their fields.  One thing the team discovers early on is that the killer has stolen a copy of the chapter in a true crime book that outlines Lincoln's first famous case; that of The Bone Collector.  That was the case that pulled him out of the despair he felt after his accident left him disabled, and that brought him and Amelia together.  Is the killer studying that case in order to understand how Rhyme works and what makes him the best investigator in the city? 

As the incidents mount and the kill total climbs, the team races to stop the killer before he can finish his plan.  They are able to stop some of his attacks by figuring out where he will strike next.  The stakes are raised as the killer starts to target the individuals on the team.  Now they must watch their own backs as they try to move forward in the investigation.  As in most Deaver novels, there are plenty of twists and turns, enough to keep the reader off-balance.  The killer is a chilling individual and a look into his mind makes the most hardy reader shiver.  The book ends with a satisfactory conclusion and everything is explained in a way that makes it all seem obvious.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Flesh House by Stuart MacBride

Eight years ago, a serial killer made Aberdeen a terrified city.  He kidnapped couples from their houses, leaving behind copious amounts of blood, then took the couples to another location where he killed them and butchered the bodies.  'The Flesher' was captured and put in jail, only to be released eight years later on a legal technicality.

Now, butchered bodies are showing up again, and the human flesh has made it's way into the human food chain as human remains are found in a butcher shop.  The men who found The Flesher the first time aren't all available; some have retired or been taken off the force for illness.   This time, DS Logan McRae is put on the case along with DI Insch, who was one of the prime investigators last time around.  He is convinced the man they caught and put in jail eight years ago is the same killer this time around, and is determined to catch him and put him back in jail.  As the investigation veers into a personal vendetta against the police, they are given even more of a motive to catch the killer and end the mayhem.

This is the fourth DS Logan McRae novel and fans of Stuart MacBride will rejoice in another case that features him.  As always, the action is non-stop.  It is a great police procedural, showing the ins and outs of the investigation, the hardship of the police career, and the everyday trials and tribulations a policeman has.  McRae has that spark of investigative genius that allows him to see through the routine to the solution, and the ability to do the hard work that breaks crime mysteries.  This book is recommended for mystery lovers.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker

Marcus Goldman is this year's celeb author.  His first book was a meteor, soaring to the top of the bestseller list and bringing him fame and fortune.  But now it's a year later and the words aren't flowing; in fact, he has a huge case of writer's block and his agent and publisher aren't happy.  He turns, as he as his entire adult life, to his mentor and best friend, the renowned author Harry Quebert.

Harry picked out Marcus in college when Marcus was his favorite author and mentored him through the writing of his novel.  Harry's first novel had propelled him to the heights of literary success where he stayed.  A kind, generous man, Marcus has always wondered why Harry didn't have a family, a lover, or many friends.  He finds out when a body is found buried in Harry's yard and Harry is accused of the murder thirty years before of his lover, Nola Kellergan.  Even worse, Nola was only fifteen years old when she was killed.

Harry admits to the affair but denies having killed her.  Marcus is repulsed, but determined to be there for his mentor, as Harry has always been there for him.  He decides to investigate the murder himself since he feels that the police have stopped looking once they decide that Harry has done it.  As Marcus starts to talk to people in town, it becomes obvious that his is not a popular move.  Everyone is sure that Harry did it, and he is now a pariah.  Marcus starts to find notes telling him to get out of town and they make him even more determined to find out the truth about what happened that night thirty years before.

Joel Dicker has written an engaging mystery that is a real page-turner.  The novel won several prestigious French literary awards and was a runaway best seller.  Readers will have to examine their own thoughts about love and fame, and whether a relationship can exist between two people divided by age.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

France On The Brink by Jonathan Fenby

Jonathan Fenby has covered France and its government and economy for fifty years.  When the first edition of this book was released in 2000, it was a New York Times Book Of The Year.  This second edition, written fourteen years later, updates the original book and looks at the current state of France.

Like many countries, France is struggling in the modern world with the globalization of economies.  The number of individuals making their living on farms has decreased dramatically, and with that comes the struggle of villages and small towns.  There are less manufacturing jobs, and one quarter of those employed work in government jobs.  Unemployment is high and seems intractable.  The government has given benefits such as the thirty-five hour workweek and then struggles to deal with the fallout of such policies as money to pay for them becomes scarcer.

The political landscape seems full of politicians who promise change and hope but then cannot deliver.  Power moves from the conservative to the liberal but neither seems able to make a difference that the population can embrace.  Fenby goes into great detail about the power struggles for the last fifteen years and the Presidents such as Chirac, Sarkozy and Hollande.  Each is elected to great fanfare and then within months their approval ratings start to slip until they are defeated by the next politician to promise solutions.

Readers interested in France will find much of interest in this work.  Fenby talks about the rise of ultra-right which bases its platform on anti-immigration policies as well as the food France is known for and the scandals that seem to be everyday fare.  He covers the war years and France's treatment of the Jews in that time period.  He talks about how the national symbols of France seem to be disappearing as it tries to reinvent itself to remain viable in the modern economy.  In his long career covering France, Fenby worked as the bureau chief in France for the Economist and Reuters.  He is married to a Frenchwoman and was made a Chevalier of the French Order Of Merit in 1990.  This book is recommended for history readers and those interested in the world around them.

You can read more about the book and others' reactions here

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Booksie's Shelves, August 5, 2014

How is it August already?  One of my reading goals for the year is to reread the Game Of Thrones series and I haven't even started yet?  Then there was the reread/new read of Stephen Donaldson's epic series with thirteen books, catching up on all those weighty Elizabeth George mysteries, and....

Recently, I've been snowbound in the mountains at a prince's party to pick a bride, growing up in a planned neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, in Aberdeen, Scotland fighting crime and visiting the art world as an artist who can't get respect.  Currently, I'm reading about the cultural, economic and social aspects of France, in the midst of a literary scandal when a great author is accused of murdering his underage lover, in the forests of a Japanese prison camp in World War II and back in Aberdeen as I continue to devour anything Stuart MacBride has written. 

Here's the new books that have arrived:

1.  The Selection, Kiera Cass, literary fiction, sent from Paperbackswap
2.  Snow And Shadow, Dorothy Tse, anthology, sent by publisher
3.  Black Ice, Susan Krinard, fantasy, sent by publisher
4.  The Other Typist, Suzanne Rindell, literary fiction, sent from Paperbackswap
5.  Death By Hitchcock, Elissa Grodin, mystery, sent by publisher
6.  The Story Hour, Thrity Umirigar literary fiction, sent for book tour
7.  Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good, Kathleen Flinn, memoir, sent for book tour
8.  Solsbury Hill, Susan Wyler, literary fiction, sent by friend
9.  No Man's Nightingale, Ruth Rendell, mystery, sent from Paperbackswap
10.  The Objects Of Her Affection, Sonya Cobb, mystery, sent by publisher
11.  The Devil's Quota, Tom Avitabile, mystery, sent by publisher
12.  The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton, historical fiction, sent by publisher
13.  In The Shadow Of The Banyan, Vaddey Ratner, from bring one, take one shelf at gym
14.  The Darkest Hour, Tony Schumacher, mystery, sent by publisher
15.  The Death Of Santini, Pat Conroy, memoir, Goodwill store

Here's the list of what I'm currently reading:

1.  Advent Of A Mystery, mystery, Kindle
2.  France On The Brink, Jonathan Fenby, paperback
3.  Flesh House, Stuart MacBride, hardback
4.  The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner, Kindle Fire
5.  The Fever, Megan Abbott, hardback
6.  New York, Edward Rutherfurd, paperback
7.  The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair, Joel Dicker, paperback
8.  The Narrow Road To The Deep North, Richard Flanagan, paperback
9.  The Scrivner's Tale, Fiona McIntosh, paperback

Happy Reading!

Friday, August 1, 2014

I Adored A Lord by Katharine Ashe

Ravenna Caulfield has had an unconventional life.  Living in an orphanage as a small child with her two sisters, all three were adopted by a rural pastor.  Although most women in 1800's England lead a structured, restrictive life, Ravenna could not do that.  She spent her time roaming out of doors, accompanied by her best friend, her dog.  Along the way, she learned how to take care of animals and then humans from those around her.  At seventeen, she hires herself out to a nobleman to take care of his dogs.

Things are fine in her life until one of her sisters married a duke.  The lord she worked for said he could not employ the sister of a duchess as a servant, and her sister wants her to start living in the new world she has attained.  When a young prince throws a house party in the mountains in Europe in order to find a wife, Ravenna is invited and accompanied by her employer.  She has no interest in living among royalty and does not fit in.

She escapes to the stables where she feels comfortable but even that refuge is denied her when she is followed by Lord Vitor Courtenay, brother to both the prince and an English Lord.  He gives Ravenna he first kiss; she responds by fighting him off and fleeing.  Thus begins a game of invitation and retreat, of drawing closer and springing apart.

The stakes are increased when one of the house party is found murdered.  Due to the party being snowbound, there is no competent law to investigate and Vitor and Ravenna are determined to solve the mystery.  Can they solve it before more victims are killed?  Will they resist the attraction between them or leap the bounds of class to be together?

Readers of romantic fiction will become fast fans of Katharine Caulfield.  Her characters are well-drawn and the pace is fast enough to draw the reader along.  The romantic scenes are compelling and the reader develops an interest in Ravenna and what will become of her.  This book is recommended for readers of historical romantic fiction.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Marine Park by Mark Chiusano

Marine Park is a neighborhood in Brooklyn, and the location of the largest public park in the borough.  It is the home to middle class families; storeowners, firemen, policemen, and those who just seemed to end up there.

Mark Chiusano has written an anthology of stories about those who live in this neighborhood and what it means to be from there.  The majority of the stories focus on one family, with two sons, Jamison and Lorris, a father who is a driving instructor and a mother who is the school secretary.  The stories weave in and out of their lives, starting when the boys are young and following them as they grow up.  Other families and residents of the area star in other stories in the collection.

'They had lived alone together for many years...'  This is the opening phase from the story Vincent and Aurora.  Those seven words sketch quickly the status of a marriage where there is no true communion.  Many of the stories have this quick shorthand turn of phase that quickly illumines the topic being discussed.

There are stories about relationships, about kids growing up and finding their lives' work, about sports and how they define one, about how our neighborhood can define us and how we relate to others who live nearby.  The author has the ability to bring the reader into his world and give him food for thought.

Mark Chiusano received the Hoopes Prize at Harvard for outstanding undergraduate fiction.  His stories have appeared in the Harvard Review, Narrative, Guernica, Tin House and Paris Review Daily.  He was raised in Brooklyn and now works as an associate editor at Vintage.  This book is recommended for readers who enjoy short stories and those interested in a sense of place and self.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Song For The Dying by Stuart MacBride

Eight years ago Ash Henderson was caught up in the investigation to find a heinous killer, The Inside Man.  This killer kidnapped women, cut them open and sewed them back up with a doll inside them.  Ash came close to capturing him, but was injured in the chase and the killer escaped. 

Eight years ago Ash had a career, a marriage and a family.  Now all is gone.  His career ended when he was kicked off the police force, his marriage ended when his own daughter was kidnapped and killed.  He is now an inmate, the toy of a psychotic woman high up in the crime organization that runs the city.  She makes sure he never gets parole by sending other inmates to attack Ash days before his hearings; attacks that he has to defend himself in to save himself but that make him look violent and not a candidate for parole.

Now the Inside Man has returned, and the lead investigator pulls strings to have Ash released from prison.  He is hired as a consultant to the investigation and along with a young psychologist, Alice, and his former mate, Shifty, he tries to catch the killer before he can take more victims.  Can they catch the killer this time around?

Stuart MacBride is one of the premier mystery authors working today.  His characters ring true as they make their way through the violent criminal culture, and they manage to get justice out of the horrors they encounter daily.  His pace is breathtaking and the reader is swept up in the investigation.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt

Harriet Burden is an artist.  Married to one of New York's most famous gallery owners, she feels her own art is neglected by her husband's refusal to show her work.  It also goes unnoticed by other galleries, her name just an add-on to her husband's fame.  After his death, Harriet decides that she will make a name for herself and prove society wrong in its preference for male artists at the same time.  She hatches a plot to display her work under the name of various male artists.  She uses three men at different showings, or does she?

The Blazing World is Siri Hustvedt's exploration of the art world as well as the question of gender differences, the formation of personality and the difficulty of trusting one's perceptions.  Told after Harriet's death, the novel unfolds through a series of documents.  There are Harriet's extensive journals, interviews with her children, lover and the men who she chose for her ploy, articles in art magazines, etc.  A picture emerges of how Harriet's personality was formed and the different ways she was viewed by those she surrounded herself with.  The reader is left to decide if Harriet really created the works she claimed she had done and then masked by using men to front for her in shows.  Was this real and Harriet a true artist not given her due?  Or was this false, a strange plea for recognition by an artist not judged worthy of acclaim?

Readers will be drawn into this world.  Harriet takes her inspiration from the medieval writer, Margaret Cavendish, who wrote the original The Blazing World, and whose work was never given the recognition it deserved.  Questions of whether the world is still male-centric, whether women can ever be given true recognition outside of the roles of mother and wife, and what role perception plays in exposing reality must be decided by each individual reading this material.  The book is a tour-de-force and readers won't be surprised that it is a long-list nomination for the 2014 Mann Booker Prize.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Spook Lights Affair by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini

In 1895, female detectives were not common in San Francisco.  That's one of the things that made the detective agency of Sabina Carpenter and John Quincannon so notable.  The other was the success that they had solving the troubling cases that come to them.  That successful reputation is put on the line when they take on cases that leave their expertise in doubt.

Sabina has been hired as to watch over the debutante of the season, Virginia St. Clair, during her coming out parties.  She should make a stellar marriage, and her affection for a lowly clerk is putting that goal in doubt.  Sabina is to watch over her and make sure Marcus, the clerk, gets nowhere in his pursuit of the heiress.  During her first debutante ball, however, Virginia leaves the dance.  Sabina follows her through the grounds in the dark, only to arrive at the cliffs on which the mansion is situated in time to see her client jump off to her death.  Even more stunning than the girl's suicide is the disappearance of her body.  For while the trail of her fall is clear to see, her body is nowhere to be found.  Sabina is accused of incompetence.

John, in the meantime, has taken on the task of finding the money stolen in a Wells Fargo bank robbery.  The agency will receive ten percent of the money stolen if he recovers it, a handsome reward.  He discovers the gang most likely to have committed the crime, but the case goes nowhere as the robbers are killed off one by one by somebody.  In frustration, John takes on a case where a new oceanside neighborhood is being disturbed by what seems to be a ghost.  Soon the partners find that all three cases are tied together and that to solve any of them, all of them must be solved.

Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini are recognized stars in the mystery field.  Married for many years, both have been recognized for their mystery series.  Muller created one of the first female detectives, Sharon McCone.  She received the Mystery Writers of America's Grand Master Award in 2005.  Her husband, Pronzini, creator of the Nameless Detective series, received the Grand Master Award in 2008.  Each has a devoted fan following and readers of this combination mystery will be rewarded with the work of two masters at the top of their game.  This book is recommended for mystery readers, especially those who enjoy historical mysteries. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Booksie's Shelves, July 25, 2014

Back from the beach and to real life.  I've been exploring the art world and gender issues in Siri Hustvelt's The Blazing World, back in Aberdeen, Scotland with Stuart MacBride fighting crime, in the jungles of World War II building a railroad with Richard Flanagan in his The Narrow Road To The Deep North, and with Emily Arsenault in her What Strange Creatures.  Great books have been coming in.  Here's the list:

1.  The Hundred-Year House, Rebecca Makkai, literary fiction, sent by publisher
2.  Dear Daughter, Elizabeth Little, mystery, sent by publisher
3.  The Marco Effect, Jussi Adler-Olsen, mystery, sent by publisher
4.  The Magician's Land, Lev Grossman, fantasy, gift from friend
5.  The Lost Tribe Of Coney Island, Claire Prentice, nonfiction, sent for book tour
6.  The Splintered Kingdom, James Aitcheson, fantasy, sent by publisher
7.  The House Of The Four Winds, Mercedes Lackey/James Mallory, fantasy, sent by publisher
8.  Death's Witness, Paul Batista, mystery, sent by publisher
9.  Dead Wrong, Allen Wyler, mystery, sent by publisher
10.  France On The Brink, Jonathan Fenby, nonfiction, sent for book tour
11. California, Edan Lepucki, literary fiction, sent by friend
12.  Band Of Giants, Jack Kelly, history, won in contest
13.  The Dunning Man, Kevin Fortuna, anthology, sent by publisher
14.  Island Fog, John Vanderslice, anthology, sent by author
15.  Further Out Than You Thought, Michaela Carter, literary fiction, sent by publisher
16.  Desire Lines, Christina Baker Kline, literary fiction, sent by publisher

Here's the list of what I'm currently reading:

1.  Advent Of A Mystery, mystery, Kindle
2.  The Blazing World, Siri Hustvedt, Kindle
3.  I Adored A Lord, Katherine Ashe, Kindle
4.  The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner, Kindle Fire
5.  The Fever, Megan Abbott, hardback
6.  The Spook Lights Affair, Marcia Mueller/Bill Pronzini, hardback
7.  A Song For The Dying, Stuart MacBride, hardback
8.  The Narrow Road To The Deep North, Richard Flanagan, paperback
9.  The Scrivner's Tale, Fiona McIntosh, paperback
10.  Marine Park, Mark Chiusano, paperback

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What Strange Creatures by Emily Arsenault

The Battle family knows how to handle disappointments.  Of course they do, they've encountered so many of them.  Jeff, who has a genius IQ, has never gotten going in life.  He has worked a series of dead-end jobs and drinks a lot.  Theresa, his sister, has spent years working on a dissertation on a medieval female religious hysteric, her marriage dissolved and her years working as a copywriter for a candle company mounting.  She lives alone surrounded by her pets.

Teresa worries about Jeff so when he asks her to pet sit his latest girlfriend's dog for the weekend she agrees.  She doesn't really care for Kim, but if it makes her brother's life easier, she is agreeable.  Kim is going home to visit her family but then she doesn't return, and upon inquiry, she never went home at all.  No one seems to know where she is and then days later, her body is discovered in a town where she seemed to have no connection.

That's horrible but what is worse is that Jeff is arrested and charged with Kim's murder.  The Battle family rallies round, but don't seem to have any positive ideas about how to help Jeff.  Theresa decides that she needs to investigate Kim and what she was doing in the last days of her life since the police seem to have stopped the investigation with Jeff's arrest.

As she delves into Kim's last weeks, she discovers a strange crew of acquaintances.  There's Kyle, who was Kim's first lover and who has remained in her life.  Nathan worked with Kim and is a strange guy with a penchant for snakes and mysticism.  Zack is a former teacher of Kim and Jeff's; his class on memoir writing where the two met.  Then there is Missy who knows many of Kim's secrets stretching all the way back to childhood. 

Emily Arsenault has written an engaging novel about the intricacies of families and what they will do to support each other.  Theresa is a memorable character.  At one moment she seems full of self-knowledge but at the next unable to act on the knowledge she has to carve out a satisfactory life.  The mystery about what Kim was up to is interesting enough to keep the reader going.  This book is recommended for mystery readers and those interested in family relationships and stalled lives. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Broken Skin by Stuart MacBride

In the third DS Logan McRae crime novel, things are about the same in Aberdeen as criminals never seem to take a break.  Someone has dumped a body outside Emergency and the investigation takes the police force inside the seedy world of BSMD.  Logan's trying to find an eight year old killer and finding him elusive.  Then there is a serial rapist who is escalating and getting more and more violent with each new victim.  There's evidence that the rapist might be Aberdeen's star football (soccer) player and charging him will make the police even more unpopular.

Logan's personal life is also still complicated.  Logan is still torn between two bosses as both DI Steele and DI Insch think they should have all Logan's time as they compete against each other to have the best crime solve rates.  Logan is still living with Jackie Watson but Jackie was used as bait in the footballer's case and is determined to prove him guilty no matter what it takes.  One of Logan's contacts is determined that she should be dating him instead of Jackie and he's tempted.

Balancing all these threads and weaving them into a satisfactory resolution is what makes Stuart MacBride one of the best crime writers working today.  Logan is a compelling character and the reader is caught up in his cases and firmly on Logan's side in his day to day battles.  Aberdeen Police are portrayed as hard working and hard playing, their daily lives served up with a splash of morbid humor.  This book is recommended for mystery fans.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Book Of Life by Deborah Harkness

In this concluding book of the trilogy, Diana Bishop and Matthew De Claremont have returned to the present from the past. Diana is pregnant with twins although that shouldn't be possible. For Diana is a witch and Matthew is a vampire and such an unlikely pairing should not be able to reproduce.

But there are bigger issues. Matthew decides to break away from the De Claremont family and start a branch of his own. He is fighting to control his own illness, the blood rage that afflicts some vampires. Worst of all, his son Benjamin has declared war on the family and is killing anyone Matthew holds dear.  Matthew knows Benjamin's goal is to capture and kill Diana.

But Matthew and Diana are not without weapons. Diana has one of the lost pages from the legendary Book Of Life. If they can locate the book, they might have the key to defeat their enemies and overcome the stigma of two different species mating. With a support team made of scientists, witches and vampires they set out on their quest to find the book.

Harmless has written a satisfactory conclusion to her series. Fans will enjoy returning to Matthew and Diana's world and will cheer them on. Then author treads the fine line that separates fantasy from farce and makes her world and the fantastical events believable. This book is recommended for readers of fantasy and paranormal books.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

They don't have time for a new relationship.  Each is facing big troubles.  Ed is one of the newly rich, a software developer who has struck it rich writing software.  To avoid the business side, he sold the company to another firm and is now facing jail for what the police are calling insider trading.  To Ed, it was just a way to get an unsatisfactory situation with a woman out of the way, but the law doesn't see it that way.  

Jess is one of the struggling poor, especially since her husband walked out two years before saying he just couldn't cope.  He left his son by a former marriage, Nicky, who is routinely getting bet up for being a goth kid who is sensitive and doesn't fit in.  It's even less likely that Tanzie will fit in when she gets to high school next year.  She is a math whiz and young for her age.  Jess can already see the mean girls circling and knows that Tanzie's sweet spirit will be crushed.  Then there is Norman, the biggest, smelliest dog in the world.  Jess is working two jobs to barely keep things afloat.  One of her customers is Ed, and she's not impressed with him at all.

Then a miracle happens.  A local private school offers Tanzie a place for the next year due to her math ability, or at least they have a place if Jess can come up with what is a fortune to her.  She hears about a math contest in Scotland with a prize that would pay Tanzie's school fees, if she can only get her there.  Destitute, she tries to drive a car her husband left behind and doesn't even make it out of town before the police pull her over.  Luckily, Ed comes along and for some reason he doesn't even understand himself, offers to take the whole crew to Scotland.  Can they make it in time and will Tanzie win the competition?

Jojo Moyes has written a charming tale full of love and the power of optimism.  Jess is a mother lion, proud and determined to do whatever it takes to save her kids.  Ed is a man with a good heart but who hasn't quite grown up.  The story of the relationship that develops is charming and the reader will close the book with their faith in good things happening to good people enforced.  This book is recommended to readers who enjoy women's literature and those in need of some sunshine in their lives. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Booksie's Shelves, July 12, 2014

This past week has been an exciting reading adventure.  I went to Neverland to learn about Captain Hook's side of things in the battle with Peter Pan, followed a police investigation into a serial murder in London, time traveled with a man frozen in an iceberg for a hundred years then brought back to life, and followed the case of a lonely hearts killer in West Virginia.   As good as this week's reading was, the books that arrived show promise of even more exciting tales.  Here's what came through the door:

1.  Marine Park, Mark Chisusano, anthology, sent by publisher
2.  Sweetshop Of Dreams, Jenny Colgan, woman's fiction, sent by publisher
3.  The Perfect Stranger, Wendy Corsi Staub, mystery, sent by publisher
4.  Fractured Legacy, Charles Neff, mystery, sent by publisher
5.  The Death Box, J.A. Kerley, mystery, sent by publisher
6.  Stalkers, Paul Finch, mystery, sent by publisher
7.  Escape From Differe, Mikelyn Bolden, fantasy, sent by author
8.  Dead Float, Warren Easley, mystery, sent by publisher
9.  Double Whammy, Gretchen Archer, mystery, sent by publisher
10.  Double Dip, Gretchen Archer, mystery, sent by publisher
11.  Traitor's Blade, Sebastian De Castell, sent by publisher
12.  Skin Of The Wolf, Sam Cabot, thriller, sent by publisher

Here's the list of what I'm currently reading:

1.  Advent Of A Mystery, mystery, Kindle
2.  One Plus One, Jojo Myers, hardback
3.  The Book Of Life, Deborah Harkness, hardback
4.  The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner, Kindle Fire
5.  Broken Skin, Stuart MacBride, Kindle Fire
6.  The Spook Lights Affair, Marcia Mueller/Bill Pronzini, hardback
7.  A Song For The Dying, Stuart MacBride, hardback
8.  The Narrow Road To The Deep North, Richard Flanagan, paperback
9.  The Scrivner's Tale, Fiona McIntosh, paperback

Thursday, July 10, 2014

What Came Before He Shot Her by Elizabeth George

Elizabeth George has had a successful career with her novels centering on the London police and particularly the career of Thomas Lynley.  There are twelve Lynley novels before this one, and readers delight in the intricate detailing of crime and the procedures used by the police to solve them, as well as the relationships Lynley builds both professionally and personally.  At the end of the twelfth book, With No One As Witness, George creates a stunning climax when Lynley's wife is murdered on their doorstep.  Readers were aghast, unsure why an author would write such a dramatic and unexpected conclusion.

In her thirteenth novel, What Came Before He Shot Her, George explores the societal factors that inevitably led to the murder.  Three siblings are left with their grandmother when their father is killed and their mother hospitalized for mental illness.  Tiring of her responsibility, the grandmother leaves London for Jamaica and dumps the children on their aunt.  Kendra, the aunt, has no idea what to do with these children.  Ness, the sister, is fifteen.  Her oldest brother, Joel, is eleven and the youngest boy, Toby, is seven.  Each has multiple issues that precludes a successful life for them.

The book follows the children's lives as they attempt to adjust to Kendra's house.  Ness immediately moves into the street life, mixing with girl gangs and hoodlums.  Joel is determined to take care of Toby, who has mental health issues of his own, but is unable to carve out a place of safety for them.  He is slowly drawn into the life around him, where individuals are forced to join one side or the other for protection. 

Many of George's fans were lost when she made her decision to have Inspector Lynley's wife killed.  They couldn't bear to revisit the pain that decision brought to them and were in no mood to hear about any explanation.  Yet George forged ahead and wrote this book to explain the reasons that crime occurs and how society fails those least able to make their own way in the world.  This book is recommended for fans of George's prior novels and will help them reconcile her decision and enjoy the series again. 

The Keeper by Luke Delaney

Detective Inspector Sean Corrigan gets the 'special cases'.  His own background as an abused child has left him sensitive to those whose warped minds lead them to commit horrific crimes.  He can visualize the crime scenes and get into the killer's mind, inching closer and closer until he knows their identity and the best way to catch and stop them.

Louise Russell has gone missing.  At first it doesn't seem like a case for Corrigan and his team, but soon there is the discovery of a body and it becomes clear that Louise is not the first woman who has been captured.  Someone out there is taking women from their homes, women with short brown hair and gleaming green eyes.  He keeps them for about a week then discards them when he is done.  Louise is just the latest in his game.  Can Sean and his team find her before her time is up?

Luke Delaney has created a compelling hero in Sean Corrigan.  His ability to use his own pain to form bonds with the most repulsive characters imaginable to save the innocent from their wretched compulsions is striking.  Along with the special talents Corrigan brings to an investigation, the reader is also brought into the inside of police procedure.  The bravery and dedication of those prepared to serve and protect are highlighted and the tale is finished with the feeling that the world is a better place for those who are willing to give so much for others.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen

We all know the story of Peter Pan.  He's the original wild boy, the boy who won't grow up and brings a collection of children to his land of innocence, Neverland.  He fights the good fight against the evil Captain Hook, aided by the Indians and the fairies who also live in Neverland.  He is joy and the promise that you can have it all if you only believe.

But we've never heard Captain Hook's side of the story until now.  In Alias Hook, Liz Jensen brings us Hook's backstory.  He is born the son of wealth in London, educated and raised to be a noble.  He becomes a pirate out of the need to escape when he is captured while going to oversee his father's holdings on Jamaica.  He spends time in prisons and working in gold mines, and after betraying his lady love, a Caribbean witch, is cursed to spend eternity in Neverland.  He is always defeated by Peter and can never die, which means he dies a thousand deaths and must watch his crews be constantly defeated and killed.  Everyone there is his enemy, Peter and his boys, the fairies and the Indians.  He sees Peter, or Pan as he calls him, differently, a cruel, spoiled boy who will do anything to get his way and who rules Neverland with an iron fist.  Nothing and no one can survive there without Pan's agreement.

Or at least that's the way it's always been.  Then one day, Hook finds something amazing.  He finds someone lost, which is common and how he gets his crews.  But this is a woman.  A woman?  Pan will never allow a grown woman in his paradise, but here she is.  How did she get there?  What is her purpose?  Is this a crack in Pan's control?  Perhaps Hook can widen this crack and exploit it to find his way out of Neverland forever.

The woman is named Stella Parrish, and she is no meek and mild woman.  She is strong, lusty and determined to get what she wants.  As time goes on, Stella and Hook form a partnership that they believe will be eternal.  It will take everything they can do and everyone's help, even Hook's enemies,  to break Pan's spell and leave Neverland behind.

Liz Jensen has written a cunning, charming recreation of Neverland.  This is a seriously wonderful book.  It is a retelling of a tale we thought we knew everything about, a tale of self-discovery and love, of discovering that there is more in the world than what we thought we had to settle for.  Love can change us in mysterious ways, making us more than we thought we were or could be.  This book is recommended for fantasy lovers and readers interested in reading a book that makes us believe in ourselves.  I can hardly wait to see what Lisa Jensen will do next. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Quiet Dell by Jayne Anne Phillips

The year is 1931 and while life moves more slowly, human beings are always the same.  Astra Eicher, a young widow living in Chicago with her three children, is haunted by financial troubles.  She thinks she has found the answer when she joins a matrimonial bureau and starts to correspond with an eloquent man named Harry Powers.  He says he is rich and looking for a wife to share his good fortune.
He asks Astra to marry him without the two ever meeting.

Unfortunately, Harry Powers is one of the many false names of a scam artist who is writing women all over the country.  After finally meeting the women, he kills them and takes their money and possessions, netting little as these are not wealthy women.  In Astra's case, he kills her and then returns to the family home to retrieve the children who he also kills.  Harry Power is finally indicted for murder for his last victim, the woman after Astra.

Emily Thornhill is one of the few female journalists for the Chicago press.  She is drawn to the story of Harry Powers.  What made him so appealing to women?  Why did he kill them once he had conned them out of their meager possessions?  More importantly, how many women are victims not yet identified?  She is drawn into the story and is compelled to find out Powers' secrets and those of the women he betrayed.

Jayne Anne Phillips has written an interesting book based on a true case.  Harry Powers, born Herman Drenth, lived and had his murder chamber in Quiet Dell, West Virginia.  He is suspected of as many as fifty murders.  He lured his victims through the use of matrimonial bureaus and flowery missives, luring them to his garage in Quiet Dell, which he had outfitted with basement cells.  Phillips spends less time on the gory details of the case than the emotional fallout and how those involved in the case handle the realization of Powers' crimes.  She accurately recreates the feel of the Midwest in the 1930's.  This book is recommended for fans of true crime and historical fiction. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Curiosity by Stephen P. Kiernan

On a scientific expedition, researchers find a core of what they call hard-ice in a massive iceberg.  These scientists are gathering specimens, usually krill or shrimp, which have been frozen, and experimenting on reviving them, sometimes after long periods of freezing.  Now they have found a huge vein of ice and what appears to be a large mammal frozen there.  They expect to find a seal or a walrus, but what they find instead is a man, frozen solid.

After freeing him from the ice, he is transported back to their institute, where the same regimen is carried out, and the man is reanimated.  This is Jeremiah Rice, who went to sea and was swept overboard in 1906.  He has been encased in ice.  Although the experiment is successful, there is a world of difference between reanimating shrimp and a man.

Rice remembers his life before, his love of his wife and child.  He remembers his former occupation as a judge and what occurred those hundred years before.  He is amazed, startled and a little taken aback at how the world has progressed and the miracles that are commonplace in the modern world.  He struggles to understand what is around him and to establish relationships with the people he meets.

Everyone he meets has an agenda and not all are benign to him.  There is Cartage, who runs the institute and sees this project as his route to fame and fortune.  There is Dixon who is the journalist assigned to the project and is willing to ride it to his own measure of fame.  Then there is Dr. Kate Philo.  The head of the recovery project, she develops the closest relationship with Jeremiah and starts to question the validity of the project and what it is trying to accomplish. 

Can we come back and live a second life?  Would we want to, even if it's possible?  What are the things that are most important in a life?  These are some of the questions Stephen Kiernan asks in this poignant novel that sweeps the reader into a sea of inquiries that each must answer for himself.  The reader is entranced by the emerging relationship between Jeremiah and Kate and what the outcome will be.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and those interested in time travel and science. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Dying Light by Stuart MacBride

Things are never placid in the homicide department of the Aberdeen police department.  Sergeant Logan McRae has been shunted to the 'screw-up squad' after some unfortunate events on his last case.  He's reporting to DI Steel, who rides him hard and takes the credit for his accomplishments.  His old boss, DI Inche hasn't given him up and expects Logan to help on his cases also.  Add in trying to have a relationship with one of his co-workers, Jackie, and Logan's life is busy and chaotic.

The murders just keep coming.  Someone is picking up prostitutes, beating them and murdering them.  Six so far have been killed.  Then there's the woman who calls or comes in each day to see if anyone has found her missing husband.  Add in an arsonist who is now killing the people who live in the apartments and houses he picks out to burn, and there's not enough time to get to everything.

Throughout it all, McRae manages to solve cases while balancing the needs of his bosses and those of his friends and lover.  Stuart MacBride has created such an interesting character in Logan McRae that the reader can barely stand to put down the book at intervals to go on with their own lives.  It is imperative to read further and find out how Logan will solve the cases and resolve his personal issues.  The tone is not brutal even though it is talking about brutal events.  Rather it is full of the dark humor found in jobs that require its employees to see things most of us can't even imagine.  This is the second book in the Logan McRae series and is recommended for mystery lovers.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Sweet Tooth by Tim Anderson

It's the late eighties, and Tim Anderson is a typical high-schooler growing up in the South, specially Raleigh, North Carolina.  Typical that is, except for two things.  First, Tim is gay and hasn't told anyone yet.  He is trapped in the South, sure that there is an accepting, happy gay world out there somewhere if he can just get out and get to it.  Second, on a church trip to summer camp, Tim gets extremely sick and is rushed to the hospital where he is diagnosed with Type I diabetes.

How Tim handles these two facts are the basis for this humorous memoir.  Tim uses the format of starting each chapter with a recounting of a diabetic episode.  He is prone to low sugar plunges where he must have something sweet to counteract the effects.  After each of these tales, he talks about a different part of his life growing up.

Tim talks about going to high school, feeling like an outcast.  He talks about big high school parties with lots of drinking and drugs.  He starts at a small college, sure that it has a large gay population, then transfers a year later to a bigger one.  He studies a year abroad.  Throughout it all, he searches for acceptance and romance.  The reader learns about his life as well as about diabetes.

Anderson is the author of Time In Tokyo: The Gaijin Diaries.  He also writes young adult historical fiction under the name T. Neill Anderson and blogs at  His account of his life will find two audiences.  Those who also have diabetes will enjoy reading about how he learns to manage his illness.  Young gay adults struggling with coming out about this central truth of their lives will like reading about Tim's struggles and how he managed to end up with a successful life that is satisfying. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Booksie's Shelves, June 23, 2014

It's hot and muggy in North Carolina.  Summer days are best spent with an early morning trip to the gym, then home to read and veg out.  This past week I've visited rural Montana in Fourth of July Creek, gone to England with What Came Before He Shot Her, and spent time in Aberdeen solving mysteries with Stuart MacBride.  Of course, new books came to take their places on my shelves.  Here's the list:

1.  The Insanity Plea, Larry Thompson, mystery, sent by author
2.  Vertigo 42, Martha Grimes, mystery, sent by publisher
3.  The Story Of Land And Sea, Katy Simpson Smith, literary fiction, gift from friend
4.  Perfectly Miserable, Sarah Payne Stuart, memoir, sent by publisher
5.  Queen Of America, Luis Alberto Urrea, literary fiction, Paperbackswap
6.  Gold Digger, Frances Fyfield, mystery, sent by publisher
7.  A Song For The Dying, Stuart MacBride, mystery, sent by publisher
8.  Alias Hook, Lisa Jensen, fantasy, sent by publisher
9.  What It Was Like, Peter Seth, literary fiction, sent by publisher
10.  World Of Trouble, Ben Winters, fantasy, sent by publisher
11.  The Signature Of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert, literary fiction, sent by publisher
12.  The Fever, Megan Abbott, young adult, sent by publisher
13.  The Book Of Life, Deborah Harkness, fantasy, sent by publisher
14.  The Lighthouse, Alison Moore, Paperbackswap
15.  I Am Pilgrim, Terry Hayes, thriller, gift from friend
16.  Daring My Passages, Gail Sheehy, memoir, sent by publisher
17.  Winter At Death's Hotel, Kenneth Cameron, mystery, gift from friend
18.  One Plus One, Jojo Moyes, literary fiction, sent by publisher

Here's the books I'm working on:

1.  The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton, reading on Kindle
2.  The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner, reading on Kindle Fire
3.  The Orphan Master's Son, Adam Johnson, hardback
4.  What Came Before He Shot Her, Elizabeth George, hardback
5.  The Sign Of The Book, John Dunning, hardback
6.  A Necessary End, Peter Robinson, paperback
7.  The Silent Wife, A.S.A. Harrison, paperback
8.  Sweet Tooth, Tim Anderson, paperback
9.  Compulsion, Jonathan Kellerman, paperback
10.  The Spook Lights Affair, Marica Muller/Bill Pronzini, hardback
11.  Dying Light, Stuart MacBride, reading on Kindle Fire