Wednesday, July 29, 2015

AWOL On The Appalachian Trail by David Miller


In 2003, frustrated with his software engineering job and bored with his life in general, David Miller made a decision.  After consulting with his wife who would be left alone with their three children and getting her support, Miller quit his job and dedicated the next half year to hiking the entirety of the Appalachian Trail, all 2, 172 miles of it.

The trail runs from Georgia to Maine when hiking northward as most travelers tend to do.  Those who complete the entire journey are called through hikers.  Miller gives the reader a day by day description of the life of a through hiker. 

There were beautiful scenic views, stupendous wildlife and many new friends met along the way.  There was also pain, boredom at times and discouragement.  Miller wore out six pairs of hiking shoes on the trip.  He had a bad sprained ankle, an infected foot from a blister that went septic and lost multiple toenails.  He lost an enormous amount of his pre-hike body weight.

What he gained was a new perspective on life and a sense of accomplishment at reaching the goal he had set for himself.  At the end of the hike, he found himself more likely to take chances in his life and much less attached to material things.   He was more outgoing and more patient.  He made friends that still check in with him years later.

I listened to this book while walking at the gym which was probably the perfect place for it as it made the miles I was walking seem more relevant.  Having retired from an IT job and married to another IT person, I could relate to Miller's job frustrations and desire to break away from the office life to experience more and different things.  This book is recommended for nonfiction readers, anyone contemplating the A.T. hike, and anyone interested in life challenges. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Kitchens Of The Great Midwest


Eva Thorvald is a very lucky young woman.  Born to a father who is a chef and a mother who is a wine expert, Eva is born with a miraculous palate and an innate ability to cook wonderful food.  The fact that she is raised in poverty and ostracized at her middle school has no effect on her abilities.  She seeks out mentors and some of the best known and talented chefs in the various towns Eva and her father live in take her under their wing.

In Kitchens Of The Great Midwest, the reader follows Eva in her trip from kitchen to kitchen.  Wherever she goes, everyone loves her food and everyone loves Eva, recognizing her as a special person.  Although she may leave people after a short while, each is affected for life through knowing her.

The food is the thing, and it must be fresh and local.  Eva rides the crest of the farm to table food movement and when she needs to, grows her own ingredients.  Each chapter is organized around one dish and tells its backstory, the circumstances surrounding Eva's use of the recipe and how its effect echoes down the years. 

Kitchens Of The Great Midwest has already won accolades.  It is an August Indie Next pick.  The American Booksellers Association has chosen it as an 'Indies Introduce' pick.  It's the number one pick of LibraryReads for July, and is the Penguin Random House 'Title Wave Pick.'  Each organization recognizes it's potential for success with an original story, interesting characters, its interweaving of those characters to make up Eva's life and the documentation of the foodie movement.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and for foodies everywhere. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Winter Family by Clifford Jackman


They rode together, dependent on each other's skills with a gun to survive.  The men came from everywhere, forged into a group in the maelstrom that was the Civil War and especially the atrocities of Sherman's March in Georgia.  Powerful men who were willing to do anything to gain an objective; their skills were desirable in the final days of the war and the things they did forged them into a group that would stay together for years.

After the war, when things returned to normal, those actions were condemned as were the men.  But there are always men who need others to do their dirty work and the group never lacked for work.  They were led by Augustus Winter, a man with yellow eyes and hair so white it looked like snow.  There was nothing he feared and nothing he would not do, and men everywhere feared his name.

The men worked against the Klan and those who would derail the Reconstruction.  They were lured to Chicago to help in the elections by those who wanted to win the city and promised pardons to those who were willing to help.  As those promises were broken, the group kept moving westward to open plains and room to roam and became out and out criminals, robbing banks and trains.

Clifford Jackman has written a brutal, honest book about the men who do the deeds not spoken of or claimed in wars and settling land.  The men were loyal to each other, but unemotional about the life or death of any one man.  Jackman explores what it means to be such a man and what drives the creation of someone willing to do horrific acts.  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction and those interested in the West and its settlement.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Long And Faraway Gone by Lou Berney


They are both stuck in the past of Oklahoma City, mired in the violence that shook their lives twenty-five years ago.  Wyatt was a fifteen year old working his first job; an usher in the local movie theatre.  He is the only survivor when armed men break in at closing and kill everyone else during a robbery.  Five people gone in a minute, leaving him to wonder why he was spared.  Juliana lost her beloved older sister that same year.  She left Juliana at the state fair for what she said was 'just a minute' and never returned.  No sign of her was ever found.

Neither have really been able to move on.  Wyatt is now a private investigator, moving around the country solving other people's crimes.  This summer is his first time back in the city since he left at eighteen.  Juliana is still in Oklahoma City, afraid to leave in case some news of her sister should emerge.  Neither has been able to move on, mired in the past and unable to move past the huge event that changed the bedrock of their lives.  Relationships have been transitory as who can be counted on to stay?  Jobs are just something to get money to live and easily jettisoned when something else comes up. 

A job brings Wyatt back to the city and both individuals take steps to solve the crimes that have defined them.  The novel moves back and forth between their stories.  One might expect that they meet and work together, but this is not that kind of story.  Instead, it is the bleak story of how crime affects an individual, one moment's violence changing a life forever. 

Lou Berney teaches writing at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma City University.  He is a television and film screenwriter.  His two previous books have both been nominated for awards such as The Barry and The Edgar Award.  His ability to draw in the reader and show the real effects of crime makes this novel stand out.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang by Chelsea Handler

I don't watch the E! cable channel so I had never seen or read anything by Chelsea Handler.  This book should come with a warning.  I was stared at in various places such as poolside and the local Panera's when I burst out in laughter that could not be contained as Handler detailed various incidents in her life.

Chelsea details stories about her childhood, her relationship with her siblings, how the family deals with an aging father who is, to put it mildly, embarrassing, and her partner and friends.  She details various practical jokes that she plays on those around her.  The stories are full of sex, drinking, drugs, etc.  What shines through, is her complete loyalty and determination to make the lives of those around her better.

This is an entertaining book that reads quickly and leaves the reader determined to seek out more of Handler's work.  Each episode is funnier than the last and the entire book is totally entertaining.  Warning; this is not a book for young readers; there is lots of sex, drinking and drugs.  This book is recommended for those looking for a quick, entertaining read.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Beautiful Death by Fiona McIntosh

Bodies are turning up in London.  Their condition is particularly repellent; the faces have been completely removed along with their kidneys.  Is this a psychopath?  Someone selling organs on the black market? 

DCI Jack Hawksworth is called upon to head up the team investigating the case.  He pulls together members such as Kate, who have worked with him before, and a translator since several of the bodies appear to have been those of illegal immigrants.  But Jack is blindsided the moment he takes over the case.  The latest victim is his lover, Lily.  Their romance has been brief and fated to end soon as Lily is about to marry the man her Chinese family has selected for her.  But Jack and Lily's affair blazed hotly, and he is heartstruck when he recognizes her body on the coroner's table.

The murders continue to pile up and the pressure on the team to produce results increases accordingly.  Can they find out who is committing these murders in time to save more victims?

This is the second in the Jack Hawksworth series.  The pace is brisk but the police procedures are well researched and documented.  There is a twist at the end that most won't see coming.  This is the first mystery I've read by McIntosh, although I've read and loved some of her fantasy before.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Booksie's Shelves, July 18, 2015


Summer marches on, and the heat and humidity have settled in.  North Carolina is sweltering and it is a chore to walk out the door.  Luckily, that makes wonderful reading days.  I scored a major reading triumph this week.  I got an ARC of Salman Rushdie's new novel.  As he is my favorite author, I'm very excited about this one.  Here's what's come through the door this week:

1.  The Summer Of Good Intentions, Wendy Francis, literary fiction, sent by publisher
2.  The Toy Taker, Luke Delaney, mystery, sent by publisher
3.  A Trick I Learned From Dead Men, Kitty Aldridge, literary fiction, purchased
4.  Lum, Libby Ware, literary fiction, sent by publisher
5.  I'm Not Her, Cara Sue Achterberg, mystery, sent by publisher
6.  A Slice Of Quietude, Sharon Cho, fantasy, sent by author
7.  The Kills, Richard House, literary fiction, purchased
8.  The Forrests, Emily Perkins, literary fiction, purchased
9.  The Curse Of Crow Hollow, Billy Coffey, suspense, Shelf Awareness win
10.  My Townie Heart, Diana Sperrazza, literary fiction, sent by publisher
11.  The Woman Who Stole My Life, Marian Keyes, literary fiction, sent by publisher
12.  Woman With A Secret, Sophie Hannah, mystery, sent by publisher
13.  Karma Deception And A Pair Of Red Ferraris, Elaine Taylor, memoir, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm currently reading:

1.  Cartwheel, Jennifer duBois, Kindle
2.  A Dance For Dragons, George R. R. Martin, hardback
4.  Barracuda, Christos Tsiolkas, hardback
5.  Blood Moon, Alexandra Sokoloff,  paperback
6.  The Orchid Affair, Lauren Willig, hardback
7. The Winter Family, Clifford Jackman,  hardback
8.  Mystery Walk, Robert McCammon, Kindle Fire
9.  AWOL On The Appalachian Trail, David Miller,  audio
10.  One Evil Act, Elizabeth George, hardback
11.  Meet Me In Atlantis, Mark Adams, paperback
12.  The Long And Faraway Gone, Lou Berney, paperback
13.  Beautiful Death, Fiona McIntosh, Kindle Fire
14.  The Devil In The Marshalsea, Antonia Hodgson, paperback

 Happy Reading!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison




Maia has been an outcast for his entire life.  One wouldn't think of an emperor's son as an outcast, but Maia's father is the elven Emperor, and he is half Goblin.  His father married his mother out of political strategy, and never loved her.  He sent her away and Maia only saw his father once in his lifetime.  That once, his father made it abundantly clear that he had no feelings for Maia.  Maia's mother died when he was eight and rather than bringing him back to court, the emperor left him at a remote court with only a traitorous cousin as his guardian.  His guardian was cruel and made it clear that he disliked Maia every day.

But now, something miraculous has happened.  The emperor and his three sons, all older than Maia, and before him in the line of succession, have been killed in an airship accident.  Maia, the ignored, the one who never expected anything, is the new emperor.  He doesn't want the job and is woefully unprepared.  He is barely old enough to be emperor, and his youth and ignorance of court procedures is glaringly obvious.  But the lines of succession are clear and before he knows it, he is installed on the throne, his every word law and his every moment guarded.

Maia treads carefully, learning about the land he now rules and its culture and procedures.  Yet his innate kindness shines through and he reaches out to those who have never had a voice; servants, his guards, women of the court who want something more than marriage and children.  Some are pleased with this new emperor's way of doing things, some are appalled.  Maia is in danger that someone will find a way to wrest the throne from him before he learns enough to safeguard it. 

Katherine Addison has created a wonderful character in Maia.  The reader can emphasize with his incredulity at his change in station, and warm to his attempts to reach out and connect with those he rules.  The plots against him are numerous, and watching him maneuver the pitfalls of loyalty and other's ambitions is compelling.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Secret Garden and Don Quixote by Jennifer Adams


Up today are two charming board books for toddlers.  Both are by the partnership of Jennifer Adams and Alison Oliver.  The words are supplied by Jennifer while Alison does the artwork.  The Don Quixote is a Spanish language primer.  On each page set, a word relating to the novel is given in English on the left and in Spanish on the right.  Examples include windmills, friend, and horse.


In The Secret Garden, each set of pages has a different beautiful flower drawing, with an accompanying quote on the opposite page.  Each set is done in a different color, and the entire effect is of color and movement.  It is full of the reasons we grow and love flowers.


Either or both of these board books will provide hours of fun for toddlers, while also teaching vocabulary and picture recognition.  The pair have an entire series of what they call BabyLit.  Other titles in the series include Huckleberry Finn, Pride and Prejudice, the Jungle Book, Moby Dick and Frankenstein.  These are fun and entertaining books and are recommended for anyone who has a toddler.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Author Feature: Simone Pond



I'm starting a new feature here at Booksie's Blog.  Periodically, I'll profile an author and have them talk about their books.  The first author is Simone Pond.  Here's her biography:

Simone Pond is an award-winning author of dystopian fiction. Her current series includes The City Center, The New Agenda, The Mainframe, and The Torrent. She also has a short story series called Voices of the Apocalypse.

She grew up in Kensington, Maryland - a small town just outside of Washington D.C. As a young girl, she loved writing in her journal and making up stories, but after reading S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders, everything changed. Amazed that a woman could write so convincingly from a teenage boy's perspective, Pond became determined to become a writer as well.
 
She currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and Boston Terrier, Winnie.  She blogs at Simone Says
 
Simone's thoughts on writing:
 
Sometimes it gets lonely sitting around all day writing. My little Boston Terrier, Winnie, has been by my feet the entire time I was writing the New Agenda book series. She’s been a support system and comic relief. I love spending time in my novels with my characters, but it’s nice to have a living, breathing counterpart by my side, or feet. While Winnie isn’t necessary contributing to my novels, she is a wonderful reminder when it’s time to take a bathroom break, or go outside to get some fresh air. She lets me know when it’s time to stop hunching over my laptop and pick up a toy and play.
 
Writing has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl. When I turned forty, I realized that I hadn’t done a very good job at following my heart. I stopped what I was doing and got serious about novel writing. I had to let go of a lot of preconceived notions, as well as a memoir that I had been working on for years. But once I let go of what was weighing me down, the words flowed fast and furiously.
 
Publishing has been one of the greatest joys of my life. I never had kids (besides Boston Terriers), so my books are like my babies. And now I have an entire family! I’m thrilled to share my New Agenda book series with the world.
 
It’s never too late to follow that voice inside that’s telling you what it needs to be happy. All it takes is a little courage and support.
 
And perhaps a Winnie.


About The Torrent, The Fourth In The New Agenda Series:

 

Grace has survived Chief Morray’s attempt to keep her trapped inside the mainframe, but at a terrible cost: leaving her mother behind. Giving up training at the academy in order to wait for Ava’s return. Grace wants to do the right thing, but it’s never that simple. While Ava struggles against Morray in the virtual reality, Grace is left alone in the real world to fight her own battles. There’s a new corrupt authority figure. A regional council to sway. A war to stop. And a promise to keep to a precious young soul. How can Grace save everyone, including herself?
 


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Sunrise by Victoria Hislop


Cyprus is a gorgeous Mediterranean country, and Famagusta it's most desirable tourist location.  There are high-end shops and every luxury a wealthy tourist could desire.  In this land of luxury, the most luxurious and sought-after destination was the Sunrise hotel.  Opened in 1970 by Savvas and Aphroditi Papacostas, it was a fairytale location.

But there was trouble brewing.  Both Turkey and Greece wanted Cyprus as part of their nation.  The Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots got along for the most part, but there was tension.  This was exacerbated by militant groups that wanted different things; some wanted independence from all other nations, some wanted to become part of Turkey and some wanted to become part of Greece.  In 1972, these partisan groups and their escalating tensions boiled over.  The result was war and the Turkish Army taking over the island.  In a matter of weeks, Famagusta went from the top of the heap to a deserted city behind wire barriers, its people having fled with just the clothes on their backs.

Hislop explores this recent disaster in her novel through the actions of three families.  The Papacostas were wealthy and prestigious.  The Ozkans and the Georgious families are working class, and indeed some members of the families worked at the Sunrise.  One family is Turkish Cypriot, one Greek Cypriot.  Each has sons that are caught up in the various fighting factions.  They are able to band together despite the fact that they are on differing sides to get through the worst of the war and its attendant hardships.  Readers will probably find this new territory.  Perhaps they have a vague recollection of Cyprus and its civil war, but this novel takes the reader into a place where those who have everything one day wake to nothing the next.  Each reader will question how they would respond to such a situation and whether they are prepared for calamity to strike.  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Booksie's Shelves, July 7, 2015


It's hard to believe summer is half over already!  The Booksie family has a few more summer vacation trips planned.  We haven't even been to the beach yet this summer, and in North Carolina, that's a heresy.  Then there are college visits to plan and relatives to visit.  Of course, all that traveling doesn't mean reading stops; the format just changes to emphasize more ebooks.  For some reason, I've gone on a book buying spree in the past few days, and we returned from Boston to find lots of book goodies. Here's what's come through the doors recently:

1.  The Undertaking, Audrey Magee, literary fiction, purchased
2.  Almost English, Charlotte Mendelson, literary fiction, purchased
3.  Devil's Harbor, Alex Gilly, mystery, sent by publisher
4.  The Facts Of Life And Death, Belinda Bauer, mystery, purchased
5.  Barbara The Slut, Lauren Holmes, anthology, Vine review book
6.  Trust Me, Earl Javorsky, mystery, sent by publisher
7.  Blind Justice, Ethan Cross, suspense, sent by publisher
8.  The Tears Of Dark Water, Corban Addison, literary fiction, sent by publisher
9.  The Star Side Of Bird Hill, Naomi Jackson, literary fiction, Vine review book
10. Jonesbridge, M.E. Parker, literary fiction, sent by publisher
11.  Orfeo, Richard Powers, literary fiction, purchased
12.  Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng, literary fiction, sent by publisher
13.  Kitchens Of The Great Midwest, J. Ryan Stradal, literary fiction, sent for book tour
14.  Five Star Billionaire, Tash Aw, literary fiction, purchased

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  Cartwheel, Jennifer duBois, Kindle
2.  A Dance For Dragons, George R. R. Martin, hardback
4.  Barracuda, Christos Tsiolkas, hardback
5.  Blood Moon, Alexandra Sokoloff,  paperback
6.  The Orchid Affair, Lauren Willig, hardback
7. The Winter Family, Clifford Jackman,  hardback
8.  Mystery Walk, Robert McCammon, Kindle Fire
9.  AWOL On The Appalachian Trail, David Miller,  audio
10.  One Evil Act, Elizabeth George, hardback
11.  Meet Me In Atlantis, Mark Adams, paperback
12.  The Stranger, Harlen Corben, paperback
13.  Beautiful Death, Fiona McIntosh, Kindle Fire
14.  The Devil In The Marshalsea, Antonia Hodgson, paperback
15.  The Sunrise, Victoria Hislop, paperback
16.  The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison, hardback

  Happy Reading!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Stranger by Harlan Coben


You go about your life, following your normal routines, seeing the same people and doing the same things.  It's a nice life, maybe not thrilling or breath-taking, but comfortable and enjoyable.  Then he appears.  The Stranger.  He sidles up to you, maybe in a store, a restaurant or a parking lot.  He talks for a few minutes and when he stops, your world has exploded and things will never be the same again.

That's what happened to Adam.  The Stranger comes up to him and tells him a secret about his wife, Corrine.  A secret that she'd never want him to know about.  A secret he doesn't know if he can forgive.  When he confronts Corrine, she refuses to discuss it and disappears, the only clue a text message saying she needs some time apart.

There are others who gets a visit from the Stranger also.  Maybe a high school senior with a big scholarship who cheated on a test.  Maybe a man whose marriage is a lie and is only there as a smokescreen to hide his true sexuality.  Maybe a parent whose child has done something horrendous that surely they never meant to do.  Regardless, he tells the secrets and then walks away.

Harlan Coben has created a situation that is both unimaginable and yet easy to believe in.  Adam is thrust into the role of a detective as he tries to find the Stranger and discover where Corrine has gone.  The reader feels the tension as clue after clue is revealed, and the number of lives that are touched by the Stranger's game mount up.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Panda Theory by Pascal Garnier


Gabriel drifts from town to town.  He makes friends easily, as he emphasizes with their problems and is always willing to do anything he can to help. His cooking skills are legendary and there is nothing he enjoys more than cooking for new friends.   He doesn't get emotionally involved, though.  That is the line he will not cross.

In this new town he finds himself in, he quickly makes friends.  The receptionist at the hotel is lonely and stuck in a dead-end job.  The owner of the cafĂ© is facing a difficult life with his wife getting ill and unable to care for their children.  A young couple is in love but can't seem to make things work.  Each turns to Gabriel for help and emotional support.

But Gabriel has secrets.  Terrible secrets from his past that slowly evolve.  When they do, each person will realize they never knew Gabriel at all.

Pascal Garnier is a well-known French writer.  He is known for his noir style, and is often compared to Georges Simeon.  Readers will find his style slyly revealing and a bit dark.  He slowly peels back the layers of an individual's character and shows that no one is easily known.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Innovators by Walter Issacson

Walter Issacson has written a masterful explanation of the rise of computing.  He covers both the hardware and the software side of things, concentrating on the people who made the advances that those after them built upon.  Some have called this approach a 'serial biography' and that is a good explanation for the writing style.  He begins with the individuals who came up with the theoretical idea of computing; using a machine to automate human tasks and perform calculations more quickly and with more precision than humans bring to jobs.  Some of these early pioneers include Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage.

He then moves to the hardware side of actually building machines that were capable of performing calculations.  Computers went from mechanical relays that had to be reset manually to digital relays or switches to transistors to chips.  Most of these advances were the result of teams of talented individuals with different skillsets in math and engineering.  Early programmers included individuals such as John von Neumann, Grace Hooper and Alan Turing.  They developed strategies such as looping and subroutines that allowed computers to handle intricate tasks in a straightforward manner.

The last third of the book covered material the reader will be more familiar with the rise of the Internet, the World Wide Web, blogs and wikis.  Men such as Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Tim Berner-Lee, J.C.R. Licklider, Alan Page and yes, even Al Gore are profiled as Issacson explores the Internet we all use each day.

Issacson is a former chairman of CNN and managing editor of Time magazine.  His professional skills in taking vast complicated subjects and refocusing them in a manner that is understandable to the average reader is evident in this work.  As an IT professional and teacher, I was familiar with the timelines and individuals, but Issacson brought them to life in a way that makes the material more personal and interesting.  He emphasizes the role that collaboration has played from the start of the field.  Each breakthrough was performed based on the work of those who came before, and often each breakthrough was the result of a team of people rather than a lone wolf laboring away in solitude.  He also emphasized that those who could not make the leap to commercialize their visions were forgotten and their work lost in time.  He talks about the future of computing when a human-machine partnership will become more and more of a reality.  This book is recommended for readers of nonfiction.  It will make the computer revolution both understandable and fun to read about. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Booksie's Shelves, July 2, 2015


July has rolled around and hopefully will be cooler than June was in North Carolina.  We've just returned from a fantastic trip to Boston where we ate, did the tourist thing and accompanied our daughter to a science and technology conference.  Not as much reading this past week while we were gone, but still books managed to make it in the door.  Here's what's come lately:

1.  Our Man In The Dark, Rashad Harrison, historical fiction, purchased
2.  Ingenious Pain, Andrew Miller, literary fiction, purchased
3.  Pure, Andrew Miller, literary fiction, purchased
4.  Jack Of Spades, Joyce Carol Oates, suspense, sent by publisher
5.  Forensics, Val McDermid, nonfiction, sent by publisher
6.  The Winter Family, Clifford Jackman, historical fiction, sent by publisher
7.  Old Man River, Paul Schneider, nonfiction, sent by publisher
8.  Where Women Are Kings, Christie Watson, literary fiction, sent by publisher
9.  The Tell-Tale Heart, Jill Dawson, literary fiction, sent by publisher
10.  The Painter, Peter Heller, literary fiction, sent by publisher
11.  The Dream Lover, Elizabeth Berg, literary fiction, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  The Innovators, Walter Issacson, Kindle
2.  A Dance For Dragons, George R. R. Martin, hardback
4.  Barracuda, Christos Tsiolkas, hardback
5.  Blood Moon, Alexandra Sokoloff,  paperback
6.  The Orchid Affair, Lauren Willig, hardback
7. Michael Jordan, A Life, Roland Lazenby, hardback
8.  Mystery Walk, Robert McCammon, Kindle Fire
9.  Enchantress, James Maxwell, audio
10.  One Evil Act, Elizabeth George, hardback
11.  Meet Me In Atlantis, Mark Adams, paperback
12.  The Stranger, Harlen Corben, paperback
13.  Emma And Otto And Russell And James, Emma Hooper, paperback

 Happy Reading!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Enchantress by James Maxwell


Ella and Miro, siblings, grow up as orphans in Altura.  Their background is a mystery, as the old soldier who serves as their guardian refuses to talk about their parents or their past.  The pair are poor but ambitious.  Ella spends years saving for the tuition to go to the Academy for Enchantments, while Miro is slated to be a soldier, perhaps even a Bladesinger if he is skilled enough.

Life is hard, but they have friends and their chosen work.  As they get older, thoughts turn to love.  Ella's best friend, Amber, is attracted to Miro, while Ella's heart has been captured by a charming stranger, Killian. 

Then things get complicated.  The various houses, each with it's own magical skills and lexicon, fall out and start to form alliances.  Soon the Emperor has declared war against those houses against him, which includes Altura.  Even worse, there is a shadowy figure behind the Emperor whose magical knowledge and skills make even an emperor's power seem trivial.

Can the houses stand against the massive armies controlled by the Emperor?  Not only outnumbered, Altura's lexicon has been stolen which will render all their magic unusable.  Ella leaves to try to track down the lexicon and return it while Miro goes off to war.  Will the two be successful and will they be reunited at some point?

James Maxwell has started a terrific fantasy series, The Everman Saga.  The characters are interesting and soon adopted by the reader.  The obstacles seem overwhelming and the use of magic in everyday life is fascinating.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Etta And Otto And Russell And James by Emma Hooper


Otto gets up one morning to find a note on the kitchen table from his eighty-three year old wife, Etta.  She has decided to go see the ocean before it's too late.  She is leaving him the truck and walking.  The only issue Otto can see is that by his calculations it's over 3,200 kilometers to the ocean.

Etta walks every day and camps every night.  Otto doesn't pursue her although the neighbor, Russell, who is Otto's best friend, comes and tries to talk her into returning.  Instead Otto stays home, writes her letters as he did during the war, and plans what they will do when Etta returns.

The novel moves back and forth between stories of Etta and Otto's childhoods, how they met and how they ended up together.  Russell was always in Otto's life, and when Etta came into his life, in hers also.  Etta and Otto were separated by the war and the reader learns what this means through their letters to each other.

As Etta walks, she becomes famous for her drive and determination.  She is joined by a coyote she names James who is her only companion.  As she goes through towns and villages, people come up to her, wanting only to touch her or have her take their keepsake to the ocean.  She moves on, never stopping, never hesitating.

Emma Hooper has written a beautiful tribute to what it means to belong with another individual.  We each have a song to sing in our lives and when someone else chooses to sing along with us, we are comforted and made strong.  She explores the issues of delayed gratification, of hidden talents and of the search for one's life meaning.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.


The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood


It's a run-down apartment building in London, where the rent is paid in cash and there are no receipts.  Everyone there has a reason they are there instead of somewhere nicer.  Cher is a teenage girl who has run away from the state supervised system.  Hossein is a refuge who has come to London to escape those who took over his country.  Collette is running from her past and the boss she stole from.  Vesta is there because she has never lived anywhere else and has a rent-controlled apartment that provides her shelter as an elderly woman all alone in the world.  Thomas can't seem to form a real relationship with a woman. 

They all have secrets in common.  Secrets and a distaste for the landlord.  The landlord doesn't live in the building; it's not grand enough for him.  He charges what he wants and according to how desperate he thinks each tenant is.  He is an obese, overbearing man who creeps around and feels that he can come and go in any apartment regardless of occupancy. 

As the weeks go by, it becomes clear that something is wrong in the house.  There's a horrible smell and the building's deterioration is accelerated.  The tenents form a common support group to take on the landlord.  What will it take to defeat him?

Alex Marwood has written a novel that gives the reader the creeps as well as having them be thankful for whatever shelter they currently have.  Secrets are revealed, evil is fought and the group tries to make everything work out for the best.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Michael Jordan The Life by Roland Lazenby


MJ.  His Airness.  Jordan Air.  Michael Jordan is arguably, the best basketball player that has ever laced up his shoes.  Fans all have favorite memories; his game-winning basket for the national title at UNC, the flu game, the jams, the high scores.  He is one of the most easily identifiable individuals in the world as his fame spread past the courts to advertising and the movies.  But who is this man?

Roland Lazenby has written a memoir biography of Michael Jordan.  He takes the reader through his childhood and the family structure and issues.  Jordan's time at the University of North Carolina and his relationship with coach Dean Smith is covered in depth as the reader learns how Jordan improved his game.  His time with the Chicago Bulls led to a long run as world champions and the reader sees how the offense set up there was perfect for Jordan both to shine as an individual and as a teammate.  His relationship with his teammates and his coaches is covered in detail, both during the good years and as the team came apart through player-management issues.

But this is not just a tribute book.  Jordan's negative influences are also covered. The family issues and conflicts were a spur to Jordan.  His competitive drive also led to gambling.  Of course, few can forget the murder of his father and how that affected Jordan, leading to him leaving basketball for two years and trying to become a professional baseball player.  The fact that Jordan's intense competitive drive made him less than supportive of teammates that weren't as talented or who didn't work as hard.  Jordan was a master trash-talker and rode others mercilessly when they didn't measure up to his standards.

At the end of the book, the reader is left with a complete picture of this complicated man.  Leaders are honored and adored, but few really understand the drive it takes to be the best.  To spur others to achieve greatness, often leaders are less than kind and often even cruel, and that is also a part of leadership.  Jordan has great athletic talent, an incredible energy and drive for success, loyalty to those he trusts, and has given the world moments that will always be remembered.  At our core, we all want 'to be like Mike'.  This book is recommended for sports fans and those interested in reading about how one individual finds the drive to compete and excel, until they are the best in the world.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Booksie's Shelves, June 23, 2015


North Carolina is in a heat wave.  Today is the tenth day of temperatures over 95 and it's miserable with the humidity we also have.  I scurry out early to run any necessary errands and do the gym stuff, then hibernate for the rest of the day.  That's good for reading!  Here's what's come through the door lately:

1.  Casanova, Andrew Miller, historical fiction, purchased.
2.  Girl Of My Dreams, Peter Davis, historical fiction, sent by publisher
3.  All The Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr, historical fiction, Paperbackswap
4.  Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, Ben Fountain, literary fiction, Paperbackswap
5.  Raven Black, Ann Cleeves, mystery, Paperbackswap
6.  Miss Emily, Nuala O'Connor, literary fiction, sent by publisher
7.  Ana Of California, Andi Teran, literary fiction, sent by publisher
8.  Broken Homes And Gardens, Rebecca Kelley, literary fiction, sent by publisher
9.  Summer Secrets, Jane Green, literary fiction, sent by publisher
10.  Ingenious Pain, Andrew Miller, literary fiction, purchased

I'm currently reading:

1.  The Innovators, Walter Issacson, Kindle
2.  A Dance For Dragons, George R. R. Martin, hardback
4.  Barracuda, Christos Tsiolkas, hardback
5.  Blood Moon, Alexandra Sokoloff,  paperback
6.  The Orchid Affair, Lauren Willig, hardback
7. Michael Jordan, A Life, Roland Lazenby, hardback
8.  Mystery Walk, Robert McCammon, Kindle Fire
9.  Enchantress, James Maxwell, audio
10.  One Evil Act, Elizabeth George, hardback
11.  Meet Me In Atlantis, Mark Adams, paperback
12.  The Stranger, Harlen Corben, paperback
13.  Emma And Otto And Russell And James, Emma Hooper, paperback

 Happy Reading!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Crazy Love You by Lisa Unger


Fatboy and Priss is one of the top comics and a major moneymaker.  Fatboy is an unattractive boy whose life is a mess and for whom nothing goes right.  Priss is a gorgeous girl who is his lover and best friend and who makes everything turn out right.  What it's readers don't know is that the story is straight from the author's life. 

When Ian was growing up in a small rural town, he was the kid with no friends.  His family was the subject of whispers after his mother killed his baby sister in a postpartum depression and was sent to a hospital for life.  Ian was ostracized and ignored and in response, he overate.  This led to being fat and having major acne issues.  He was the outcast, the one no one spoke to. 

Until he met Priss.  She was a gorgeous little girl who Ian ran across in the woods behind his house.  Priss didn't seem to have any friends either and they became each other's best friends.  Priss gave Ian everything, friendship, acceptance and love.  The problem was that no one else could see Priss.  The other problem was that Priss didn't like it when Ian was hurt, and did things that then were blamed on Ian.  Things like hurting people and setting fires.

When Ian grows up, his artistic talent got him accepted at an art school in New York City.  There he found the friends he'd never had, and more importantly, financial success with his comic story.  He meets Megan, a wonderful girl who seems to love him more than life itself.  That's great, except for the problem with Priss.  How will she accept becoming less than Ian's Number One? 

Unger has written an engaging suspense novel that draws the reader in.  Ian is easy to relate to as he tells his story of exclusion and social rejection, as most people have felt those emotions at least a time or two.  Priss is unbelievable, or is she?  There is a question of whether she really exists, and if so, why she has latched onto Ian.  Will she make his life better or cost him everything?  This book is recommended for suspense readers. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Subtle Bodies by Norman Rush


They were a clique at college, a group of boys trying to learn how to become men.  They were self-indulgent and condescending but built real friendships that have lasted for decades.  There were women and marriages, children and political disagreements along the way but the group gave them their first self-explanation and has remained with them, echoing down the years.

Now their leader, Douglas, has been killed in an accident, and the group is called together to come to his memorial.  Douglas has become the most famous of the group although no one is sure exactly what he does.  There is talk of him authenticating documents.  Rumors say intelligence agencies all over the globe are interested in his work.  He also married one of the world's great beauties, a European woman named Ida.

The group comes together for a sad reunion.  We see the events through the eyes of Ned and Nina who have come from the West.  Ned spends his time organizing for peace while Nina's main occupation is getting pregnant and having Ned's baby.  She is determined to advocate for Ned and helps him see the world and his old friends through a prism of understanding and acceptance.

Norman Rush has written several highly-acclaimed novels, including Mortals and Mating.  His ability to write dialogue so that the reader gets the personality of the character speaking is renowned and that ability is found in this novel as well.  It takes the reader on an exploration of friendship and how it changes and morphs over the years.  What do we owe the friends of our youth who helped us become the people we are?  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

This Body Of Death by Elizabeth George


A young woman has been murdered in a cemetery in London.  Jemima Hastings was a real go-getter, a woman who had a home and a business in rural Hampshire.  Six months ago without a word to anyone, she left her long-time partner and her business and moved to London.  If Gordon, her partner, knows why, he's not saying.  Her brother, Rob, is not happy about it and less so when Jemima talks about finding a new man.  She is rarely without a man, and most of them no well near as good as she believes them to be.

Isabelle Ardery is also in new surroundings.  She has been brought up from a provincial district to try out as the next department chief at Scotland Yard.  Isabelle has sacrificed a lot for this chance and she doesn't mean to let it pass without success.  Her team is less than impressed.  Her management style is brusque and they don't yet respect her decisions.  In her turn, she believes the team lax and far too likely to strike out on their own than work as a unified team.

Isabelle sees the biggest problem as their loyalty to a man who is no longer there, Inspector Thomas Lynley.  He is still on compassionate leave after the death of his wife.  Determined to make a success of this gift she has been given, Isabelle talks Lynley into returning on a limited basis to help her catch Jemima's killer.  Will he be a help or will his presence and the team's continued loyalty to him be a distraction?

This is the sixteenth Inspector Lynley mystery.  He remains one of the great characters in mystery writing, an earl who becomes a London inspector and follows the strictures of Scotland Yard.  He is cool and reserved, yet fiercely loyal to those he lets into his world.  His relationship with his team is fascinating, and the introduction of a new character is interesting.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Deadly Wandering by Matt Richtel

Most of us have fears about driving and being on the highway.  Everyone agrees that drinking while intoxicated is dangerous and wrong and the incidence of drunk driving has fallen.  In 1982, drunk drivers caused at least 21,000 fatalities.  By 2010, that number had fallen to around 10,000; a 50% drop.  Today, another preventable occurrence is driving the fatality numbers.  It is use of cell phones while driving, and more importantly, texting while driving.  A Deadly Wandering by Matt Richtel explores this phenomena and the science that tells us that it is a bad idea.

In 2006, a nineteen year old male named Reggie Shaw was on his way to work.  It was drizzling.  He drifted over the center line, hitting an oncoming car, which then spun out and hit another truck.  Both the men in that car were killed instantly.  The author follows the Shaw case through the years as it made its way through the court and as the truth emerged; Reggie was texting his girlfriend and his attention was distracted.

The book alternates between the legal and personal stories of those involved in the accident, and the science of attention and distraction.  Several scientists have made it their life work to study the incidence of distracted driving and the events that cause the most distraction.  They have discovered that everyone has two types of attention; top-down and bottom-up.  Most events can be classified as one or the other, but our modern technology is both, which is why it is so difficult to avoid an action most people recognize as bad.  Overwhelmedly, surveys show people disapprove of using cell phones while driving, especially for texting.  Yet, most also admit that they are at least infrequent users.  This book attempts to reconcile this disparity and talk about solutions.

Matt Richtel is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist.  A Deadly Wandering has been chosen as A Best Book Of The Year by the San Francisco Chronicle, the Christian Science Monitor, Kirkus Reviews and the Winnipeg Free Press.  It is an important book that all drivers should read and is especially relevant for parents of young drivers.  This book is recommended for nonfiction readers.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Booksie's Shelves, June 11, 2014


Summer is here, along with lots of heat which makes for long reading days.  We're in the throes of hopefully the final SAT and then ACT this weekend and my daughter is already reading books for her senior English class.  I'm about to explore the only dental procedure I've never had, an implant after a crown came off and the root is broken.  I'm nervous about this one.  Still, there are always books to take one's mind off one's woes.  Here's what's come through the door:

1.  Girl Underwater, Claire Kells, literary fiction, sent by publisher
2.  Ally Hughes Has Sex Sometimes, women's fiction, sent by publisher
3.  Taking Leaps And Finding Ghosts, Janet DeLee, mystery, sent by author
4.  Music For Wartime, Rebecca Makkai, anthology, sent by publisher
5.  The Sunrise, Victoria Hislop, literary fiction, sent for book tour
6.  Arm Of The Sphinx, Josiah Bancroft, fantasy, sent by author

I'm currently reading:

1.  The Innovators, Walter Issacson, Kindle
2.  A Dance For Dragons, George R. R. Martin, hardback
4.  Barracuda, Christos Tsiolkas, hardback
5.  Blood Moon, Alexandra Sokoloff,  paperback
6.  The Orchid Affair, Lauren Willig, hardback
7. Michael Jordan, A Life, Roland Lazenby, hardback
8.  Mystery Walk, Robert McCammon, Kindle Fire
9.  Enchantress, James Maxwell, audio
10.  One Evil Act, Elizabeth George, hardback
11.  Meet Me In Atlantis, Mark Adams, paperback
12.  Subtle Bodies, Norman Rush, paperback
13.  Emma And Otto And Russell And James, Emma Hooper, paperback

 Happy Reading!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Jesus Cow by Michael Perry

Swivel, Wisconsin is a quiet little village.  The sign at the city limits claims 562 residents, but that number is probably padded as people die off or move away.  For those who remain, it suits just fine.   They like their quiet town and knowing everyone in range.  Harley Jackson is one of these residents.  He grew up on a farm there and still keeps a few cows, even though his father had to sell off most of the farm to survive. 

But there are those who want things to change.  That includes the local developer, a man who gets his way by intimidation and money and who has targeted Harley's remaining acres to fulfill his dream of making Swivel a moneymaker development.  Harley's acres stand in his way of him owning the land around an interstate exit with its possibilities of fast-food restaurants and cheap hotels.

Then the miracle happens.  Harley's cow, Tina, gives birth to a calf on Christmas Eve.  The calf is born with markings that are the face of Jesus.  Everyone who sees it notices that immediately.  Harley's best friend says Harley should show the calf for money but Harley just wants to keep on living his quiet life.

But that isn't going to happen.  Word of the Jesus Cow gets out and soon there are flocks of people, vying to see the miracle and willing to pay to do so.  Harley and his new girlfriend must decide how to handle this bonanza, and their decisions make for a hilarious ride for the reader.

Michael Perry is known for his memoirs of life in rural America.  He is a former nurse and EMT who lives with his family on a small farm in a small town like Swivel where the way of life is rapidly disappearing.  This is his first fiction novel, and his gentle skewing of people and the rush of development is interesting as well as entertaining.  The reader will find himself firmly in Harley's camp as they read to see what will happen next.  This book is recommended for readers who are interested in small town life and an exploration of human nature. 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Missing And The Dead by Stuart MacBride


Acting Detective Inspector Logan McRae is feeling good as he heads into his annual evaluation.  He's just caught a killer in a lurid case that had the newspapers on the Aberdeen Police force's back.  Surely the department will recognize his worth and make him a Detective Inspector this time?  But instead of a promotion, McRae is headed a 'development opportunity'.  He is removed from the CID and put in charge of a rural Aberdeenshire police force.  Anything big or interesting is immediately taken over by the various police units.

Still, Logan gives it his best.  When not removing cattle from the road, he and his team are busy chasing drug dealers and ATM thieves.  Then the call police hate to get occurs.  A small girl is found dead, her head battered in.  Worse, she can't be identified.  The entire police force makes the case a top priority.  At the same time, child molesters are disappearing.  Are the cases related?  Add in the fact that moving towns hasn't made Inspector Steel disappear, that her wife Susan is pregnant again with Logan's child, and you have the ingredients for another McRae adventure.

This is the ninth Logan McRae police novel.  The reader cannot help but love Logan, who fights his way through the despair and horror of policing without losing his optimism and constant willingness to go forth into the fray.  The cases are always interesting, and MacBride does a magnificent job of tying everything together at the end.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.



Sunday, May 31, 2015

All I Have In This World by Michael Parker


They come together in Texas.  Both are searching, lost in their lives and hoping to find a way to a better place.  Maria has been fleeing a personal tragedy for years, drifting from town to town, job to job.  She has returned home to see if she can find out why she left and if there is anything left for her here.  Marcus has fled from North Carolina, where bad business decisions have left him penniless and desperate to find a new life.

They meet on a used car lot in West Texas.  Each is drawn to the same car, a sky-blue twenty-year old Buick Electra.  Impulsively, to prevent bidding each other up, they agree to buy the car together and share it.  Neither is sure if this arrangement will work but somehow it feels right.  Over the next few days, they form an alliance that helps each of them work through their personal issues and start to see the way forward to a new chapter in their lives.

Michael Parker writes novels that draw the reader in.  Usually they don't have big dramatic events but rather an accumulation of many small details that build a picture.  The writing seems easy and effortless, but each word is carefully chosen to take the reader further along on the journey.  Maria and Marcus's stories lead one to consider how we react to tragedies and the nature of forgiveness and moving on.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Blood-Drenched Beard by Daniel Galera


This novel opens with a scene between a young Brazilian man and his father, days before his father's death.  After his father dies, the man is adrift and at loose ends.  He has quarreled with his only brother.  His father told him a strange story about his grandfather.  He said the grandfather was an irritable man who people were afraid of.  He had gone to the seaside town of Garopaba to live but was feared and despised by the townspeople.  HIs father said his grandfather was killed one night at a dance, but no body was ever found.

The man decides to move to Garopaba himself to try to find out what really happened to his grandfather.  He is the exact image of his grandfather except for a beard, so he lets his grow out.  He is an athlete who has trained and participated in marathons.  He likes training people in running and swimming so living by the sea is perfect for him.  He takes his father's dog, Beta, and settles in, finding work as a swimming instructor.  The man has a neurological disease that prevents him from recognizing faces.  This issue makes his task even more difficult.

As the months pass, he makes friends in the town and falls in love.  He tries to determine what has happened to his grandfather, but no one is willing to talk about it or even acknowledge that the man ever lived there.  Will he be successful in his quest to determine the truth about his grandfather's life?

Daniel Galera is considered one of the best young Brazilian writers and was chosen by Granta as such in 2013.  The book was awarded the 2013 San Paulo Literature Prize.  The tone is unusual; it is languid but then incredible events occur.  It explores the themes of memory, of family ties and of forgiveness.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Booksie's Shelves, May 29, 2015


Memorial Day weekend is past and summer is officially started!  I hope everyone had a fun, relaxing time.  I spent mine in Raleigh shepherding two teenagers to an anime con.  There was perfect weather and I got three books finished!  Summer is starting out wonderfully for me.  I just found out this morning that my favorite author, Salman Rushdie, is releasing a new novel in September.  I can't wait!  In the meantime, here's what's come through the door:

1.  Midnight, Kevin Egan, mystery, purchased
2.  The Devil In The Marshalsea, Antonia Hodgson, historical mystery, purchased
3.  Tales Of A Hampton Sailor, NickCatalano, anthology, sent by publisher
4.  Paris Time Capsule, Ella Carey, literary fiction, sent by author
5.  The Angel In My Pocket, Sukey Forbes, memoir, sent by publisher
6.  The Library At Mount Char, Scott Hawkins, suspense, sent by publisher
7.  Tales Of The Zodiac: The Goat's Tale, P.J. Hetherhouse, fantasy, sent by author
8.  Center Of Gravity, Laura McNeill, literary fiction, sent by publisher
9.  Little Woman In Blue, Jeannine Atkins, historical fiction, sent by publisher
10.  Manhattan Mayhem, edited by Mary Higgins Clark, anthology, sent by publisher
11.  Let Me Die In His Footsteps, Lori Roy, suspense, sent by publisher
12.  Thank You, Goodnight, Andy Abramowitz, literary fiction, sent by publisher
13.  The Missing And The Dead, Stuart MacBride, mystery, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  The Innovators, Walter Issacson, Kindle
2.  A Dance For Dragons, George R. R. Martin, hardback
4.  Barracuda, Christos Tsiolkas, hardback
5.  Blood Moon, Alexandra Sokoloff,  paperback
6.  The Orchid Affair, Lauren Willig, hardback
7. Michael Jordan, A Life, Roland Lazenby, hardback
8.  Mystery Walk, Robert McCammon, Kindle Fire
9.  Enchantress, James Maxwell, audio
10.  Blood-Drenched Beard, Daniel Galera, paperback
11.  Meet Me In Atlantis, Mark Adams, paperback

  Happy Reading!