Monday, May 2, 2016

The Wages Of Sin by Nancy Allen

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Fireman by Joe Hill

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Strange Bodies by Marcel Theroux

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The House Of Rumour by Jake Arnott

Jake Arnott is one of Britain's best novelists.  His books have a huge fan following and several have been made into major TV dramas.  In The House Of Rumour, he takes the reader on an intriguing journey through the twentieth century as he attempts to reconcile the nature of the world with the glimpses of other worlds each of us instinctively feels.

The reader is taken through the early stages of rocket propulsion, the rise of the hippie cults and philosophies in the sixties and seventies, the spy games that went on below the surface in World War II, the rise of science fiction, Jonestown, the heyday of B-movies about alien abductions, the Cuban revolution and the later raft migration of those revolutionaries to Florida, the long mysterious story of Rudolph Hess and the study of the occult.  These worlds are seen through the unifying thread of the story of Larry Zagorski, a young boy fascinated by the emerging science fiction scene, who went on to fight in World War II as a fighter pilot, and returned to make a living writing fiction and working for movies.  Larry was at the fringes of many of these stories and spent his life trying to work out what was reality and what was just the appearance.  Is this world merely a hologram or a figment of someone's imagination?

Arnott has created a fascinating look at the nature of the world through the myriad stories that he weaves together in this novel.  He is reminiscent of David Mitchell, Don Delillo, and John Barth as he creates a world that the reader will be mesmerized by.  The book could have used some editing as some threads seem to go on too long or not entirely mesh with others, but this is a masterpiece of literature that the reader will not soon forget.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and those interested in the nature of the world.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Innocent by Harlan Coben

Matt Hunter expected his life to be successful but routine.  That plan changed forever the night he tried to break up a bar fight and another boy died.  Matt was sent to prison and his life changed from his early hopes and dreams.

Now Matt has been out for a while and things are looking up.  He has a job as a paralegal, a step down from his plan to be a lawyer but one for which he is grateful.  His brother arranged it at his law firm.  Most importantly, Matt has Olivia.  She was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen and he could hardly believe it when she fell in love with him and agreed to marriage.  Now Olivia is expecting and they are closing on a house in the suburbs.

But Matt's life has taught him one thing.  That is the fact that the best laid plans can go astray in a moment.  Matt's next moment occurs when he gets a strange image and video on his camera from Olivia.  He is faced with the realization that his marriage may be based on secrets and lies.  Can he find his way through a maze of untruth and find reality before his life explodes again?

Harlan Coben cannot write a bad mystery.  The reader emphasizes with Matt and wishes him the best.  As the plot unfolds, the tension mounts and it is hard to believe that things will ever have a happy ending.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Booksie's Shelves, April 22, 2016

April is coming to a close, although I surely don't know how.  The days are getting longer and warmer and hopefully I'm through with traveling for a while.  We went to the University of South Carolina in Columbia last weekend for Admitted Students events for our daughter who will be attending this fall.  It is such a warm, student-centered environment that I hope will launch her into a successful adulthood.  We even found a California Dreaming restaurant, one of my favorites, a block off campus.  I've been buying a lot of books lately, filling in my list of Booker and Bailey's Prize nominees.  Here's what's come through the door:

1.  Dinner With Edward, Isabel Vincent, memoir, sent by publisher
2.  City Of Secrets, Stewart O'Nan, historical fiction, sent by publisher
3.  Narcopolis, Jeet Thayil, literary fiction, purchased
4.  Reckoning And Ruin, Tina Whittle, mystery, sent by publisher
5.  Eleven Days, Lea Carpenter, literary fiction, purchased
6.  Almost English, Charlotte Mendelson, literary fiction, purchased
7.  To Rise Again At A Decent Hour, Joshua Ferris, literary fiction, purchased
8.  Sugarland, Martha Conway, mystery, sent by publisher
9.  The Body In The Wardrobe, Katherine Hall Page, mystery, sent for book tour
10.  The Spinning Heart, Donal Ryan, literary fiction, purchased
11.  Reader, I Married Him, Tracy Chevalier, anthology, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm reading:
1.  Lexicon, Max Barry, hardback
2.  The House Of Rumor, Jake Arnott, audio
3.  Lady Cop Makes Trouble, Amy Stewart, Kindle
4.  Strange Bodies, Marcel Theroux, hardback
5.  The Innocent, Harlen Coben, hardback
6.  The Fireman, Joe Hill, Kindle Fire
7.  The Lore Of The Evermen, James Maxwell, audio
8.  A Dance With Dragons, George R. R. Martin, hardback

Happy Reading!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Small Backs Of Children by Lidia Yuknavitch

It was an award-winning photo, one that was instantly recognizable and that defined a war.  It was shot in Eastern Europe in one of the wars that was fought so long that people forgot there was even a war going on.  It caught a young girl in mid-flight as she was flung out of her house which was exploding after a direct mortar hit.  Her blonde hair haloed her head and she seemed to emerge from the picture, asking for help and recognition.  She disappeared as she had emerged, into the war torn country.  No one knew who she was, where she went or if she was dead or alive.

In America, the photographer won prizes and launched her successful career.  She sent a copy to her first love, a writer.  The writer had been married to a famous painter, but was now married to a filmmaker.  Her brother was a successful playwright.   Another friend was known far and wide for her poetry.  Each of them was affected by the photograph, but none as viscerally as the writer.  She had just had a stillborn daughter and was having a difficult time adjusting to the world without her child.

These artistic individuals came up with a plan to help the writer recover.  They decided that they would find the girl in the picture and bring her to America.  They hoped that giving the girl a second chance at life would help the writer to also find her way back to life.  Undeterred by the difficulties, they came up with a plan that would allow them to find the child and smuggle her into the country.

This book was is gripping.  It bursts into the reader's mind and refuses to let go until the last page.  It turns thoughts of bodies and love, violence, relationships, war and art on their heads and shows them in differing ways.  The sex and violence are raw and this book is probably not for everyone.  But it is one of the most important books I've read and it will stay with me for quite a while.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and those who want to know how the world works and how people fit into it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Booksie's Shelves, April 13, 2016

I've been traveling and not through yet!  My daughter is a huge Elvis fan (not sure how the daughter of hard rockers is so retro) so we went to Memphis for spring break and toured Graceland.  Then a few days later, DH and I headed to Georgia to see all the grandkids.  We took the boys to Legoland and then our four year old granddaughter to the movies and babysat all four.  Home this week then off to Columbia for a college weekend with our daughter.

Reading, I've been to the swampland around the Dismal Swamp with Lincoln Rhyme, the quadriplegic detective, spent time with the Beatles in an alternative world and I'm on a wild ride in The House of Rumors that has me with British spies, sci-fi writers, Nazi traitors, Cuban revolutionaries, and in cults that believe in aliens.  There's always a new world to explore in books.  Here's what's come through the door:

1.  The Girls, Emma Cline, literary fiction, sent by publisher
2.  The Moor's Account, Laila Lalami, literary fiction, purchased
3.  A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara, literary fiction, purchased
4.  Forest Park, Valerie Davisson, mystery, sent by publisher
5.  Where We Fall, Rochelle Weinstein, literary fiction, sent by publisher
6.  The Whole World, Emily Winslow, mystery, purchased
7.  The Weekenders, Mary Kay Andrews, sent by publisher
8.  Kill Me Again, Rachel Abbott, mystery, sent by author
9.  History Of The Rain, Niall Williams, literary fiction, purchased
10.  The Lives Of Others, Neel Mukherjee, literary fiction, purchased
11.  A Shadow All Of Light, Fred Chappell, fantasy, sent by publisher
12.  The Luckiest Girl Alive, Jessica Knoll, memoir, sent by publisher
13.  One Flew Over The Banyan Tree, Alan Jansen, literary fiction, sent by publisher
14.  Drafter, Kim Harrison, thriller, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  Lexicon, Max Barry, hardback
2.  The House Of Rumor, Jake Arnott, audio
3.  Lady Cop Makes Trouble, Amy Stewart, Kindle
4.  The Small Backs Of Children, Lidia Yuknavich, hardback
5.  The Innocent, Harlen Coben, hardback
6.  The Lore Of The Evermen, James Maxwell, audio
7.  A Dance With Dragons, George R. R. Martin, hardback

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Death And Life Of Mal Evans by Peter Lee

In this alternate reality novel, Mal Evans, assistant to the Beatles for many years, lies dying in an LA apartment.  He has been shot by a police officer who mistook Evans air pistol for a gun.  As he lies on the floor, his life fading away, his last sight is of that police officer.

When he awakes, it is in England, and the time has regressed to five years ago.  He heads to the recording studio, and it is all as it has been back then.  Mal realises that he has the opportunity to get the band to never break up and for them to release more great music and avoid the downward spiral each encountered after the Beatles disbanded.

Beatle fans will be interested in this insider look at what it was like day after day living and working with the Beatles.  Mal Evans is a real person, although few know his name.  He did die in LA in an encounter with the police.  He was there day after day with the Fab Four and knew them and their secrets better than almost anyone.  Peter Lee has taken that insider knowledge to imagine a different story, one that works better for Beatles fans.  This book is recommended for music lovers and readers who enjoy alternate reality novels.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Empty Chair by Jeffrey Deaver

Lincoln Rhyme, renowned forensic criminalist and a quadriplegic, has come from New York City where he knows the environment to North Carolina, a massive culture and environmental shift.  He has come to a notable medical center where promising surgery has been done on others in his condition with some improvements in their quality of life.  Of course, with his condition, he never travels alone.  He is accompanied by his partner and lover, Amelia Sachs and his constant medical assistant, Thomas.

While he is waiting through the pre-surgical tests and scheduling, the local sheriff turns up.  He has heard that the famous Lincoln Rhyme is in town and he needs help.  Two women have been kidnapped and a man has been killed.  The whole town is sure they know who the culprit is.  Garrett Hanlon is a sixteen year old boy, known as Insect Boy, for his fascination with insects.  He is an orphan, his family having been killed in a car accident.  His time in foster care has not been pleasant and he is suspected of many crimes in the area.  Now he has disappeared with both a young college student who was on a historical dig and a nurse who was also in the area.  Local law enforcement feels they need more expertise to solve a crime this complicated and they prevail on Lincoln.  Restless as he waits for treatment, he agrees to give the local police force his assistance.

Rhyme is at a disadvantage.  He has left behind his lab, where he has every forensic instrument he could ever need.  His expertise in in items found in a city, not a rural North Carolina town with bogs and swamps and flora and fauna he has never encountered.  Amelia heads up a search team and as she and the deputies go in pursuit, things get more complicated than either Rhyme or Sachs could ever have imagined.

This is the third novel in the Lincoln Rhyme series.  Rhyme is one of the most fascinating detectives currently being written about and the reader is easily drawn back into the world of forensic science and its role in solving impossible cases.  There are plenty of the twists and turns Deaver fans have come to expect and a surprising ending.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Murderer's Daughter by Jonathan Kellerman

Grace Blades has not had an easy life.  She started out as the only child of violent drug addicts who either ignored her or beat her.  When she was five, she witnessed their grisly murder-suicide, leaving her orphaned and an immediate candidate for the foster care system.  She bounced around from house to house, interacting as little as possible and being ignored at most of them since she was quiet and no trouble.  Grace's saving characteristic was her intelligence.  She scored in the genius ranks and attracted the attention of mentors as she got older.  Grace ended up being a psychologist and her specialty is working with those impacted by violence.

One day she gets a huge shock.  She has a new patient and when he walks in, she realizes that she has met him before.  They were both at a foster home together.  He hints about his reasons for seeking treatment and they fall into Grace's specialty but neither of them are comfortable and he leaves without committing to continuing.  Grace learns the next day that he was killed after he left her office.

Soon it is obvious that Grace is being followed and someone seems to have her in their sights.  She believes the only way to save herself is to find out what happened to her patient and if it related to the time they spent together as children.  As she races against time to discover his secrets, she starts to uncover a vicious killer's trail.

This novel is a departure from Kellerman's usual mystery novels that focus on Dr. Alex Delaware and his police friend Milo.  Grace is a less sympathetic character than Delaware but the reader feels that they can get further into Grace's mind and motivations, increasing the interest in her mystery.  It will be interesting to see if this is just a standalone for Kellerman or if he plans to develop Grace as character in other novels.  This book is recommended for readers of mystery novels.

Two Years Eight Months And Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie

What if we have never understood the basic underpinnings of our world and what causes events to happen?  What if we're really descendents of the jinn, or as the Western world calls them, genies?  This is the premise of Two Years Eight Months And Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie.

The title is not just a whim of the author.  It is the time it takes to reach a thousand and one nights, which is one of the most enduring legends of all time, how a woman outsmarted a cruel despot and saved herself by telling him stories for all those nights yet leaving him each night with a cliffhanger so that he always wanted to hear more.

Long ago, the jinn moved freely between Earth and their own land, having little interaction with humans and caring little for them. Occasionally one was entrapped and if rescued by a human, granted him wishes but overall there was separation between the two races.  Everything changed when Dunia, a female jinn and daughter of the mighty emperor, came to Earth and fell in love with a philosopher and married him.  Their descendants populated the world over the thousands of years after this event.  Dunia went back to the jinn land and the portal between the worlds closed.

Then the time of strangeness occurred.  The portal opened and the jinn were free to come to Earth.  Four jinn who hated the humans and were Dunia's enemies came through and in a war with her, created mayhem on the land.  They used humans to spread their hate and cruelty and from this terrorism was born.  Dunia's descendants fought against the evil jinn for dominance of the land.

Salman Rushdie is my favorite novelist and this novel did not disappoint.  It is a lyrical, bawdy, wide-ranging story that explores themes such as the endurance of love, the underpinnings of evil, the positive side of being different and the power of story and language.  It ranges across centuries and exposes readers to a new way of experiencing the world.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Path Of The Storm by James Maxwell

Two years after the end of the war against the Houses, the Empire is at peace but hardly thriving.  Essence, the substance that fueled all magic and on which the economy and everyday life was built, has been destroyed in the war.  Ervin Everstone, the wizard, is working on rebuilding the machines that create essence but it is a slow job.

Personally though, things are going well for the brother and sister responsible for saving the world during the war.  Ella is a respected enchantress while her brother Miro is the commander of the army.  Miro is about to wed his long-time love, Amber, who is also Ella's best friend.  But tragedy strikes on the day of the wedding and soon the trio are separated again as they leave home to try to right the imbalances that are tearing their world apart.  As the days go by, they start to realise that things are worse than anyone could ever have imagined.  For an Everman, those creatures who once strode the Earth and ruled it before they were sent to another world so that humans could live, has found a way through the seal.  He is determined to bring over all the other Evermen so that they can once again rule the world.

This is the third book in the Everman series.  Maxwell remains a fantasy novelist well worth reading and the reader will want to find out what is next for these characters and this world.  In many ways, it lays the foundation for the fourth and final book in the series, but many exciting things happen in this one also.  More of the backstory of the world is told, along with expanding the stories of the individual characters.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers.

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

Dr. Faraday, who is a doctor practicing in Britain in the 1940's, has done well for himself.  He was born into a working class family; his mother a maid at the local gentry's house.  That house, known as The Hundreds, was the epitome of luxury and mystery to a young boy.  When he was taken inside by his mother one day, he marveled at the glorious items he saw there and never forgot it.

But in post-war Britain, The Hundreds and the Ayres family, owners and residents for more than two hundred years, are not doing well.  The father has died and much of his fortune was taken by death duties.  Roderick, the son, was a pilot in the war where he was injured and significantly scarred.  Mrs. Ayres was determined to nurse him within the family and calls the daughter, Caroline, home to help.  With little money and no resources, the house begins to deteriorate and the upkeep and maintenance of the family heritage is obviously beyond Roderick.  He gets more exhausted and paler day by day as the large load of responsibility that has fallen on him grinds him down.

Dr. Faraday is called in as a doctor and soon becomes one of the few outsiders who visits the mansion.  He is dismayed to see the house falling apart and the family suffering from the lack of money.  He is even more dismayed as the family starts to fall apart physically from the strain of trying to maintain all they own.  Even worse, each one starts to believe that there is an evil within the house itself that is determined to drive them out.  That kind of talk is nonsense, or is it?

Sarah Waters is a master of the foreboding that illustrates when things are going horribly well.  Each small incident can be explained by itself, but as one follows on another, it is obvious that things are not right.  She has won the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year award, and several of her novels have been nominated for the Man Booker Prize and the Orange Prize (now Bailey's).  This book is recommended for readers of suspense and literary fiction.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Booksie's Bookshelves, March 20, 2016

It's the first day of spring!  NC has been in the 70's last week, although our weekend is cooler than that.  My Kindle Fire died last week and I bought a new one which came this week.  It's improved, I think, and they fixed the design flaw on my old one that drove me nuts.  It's not been that long since I posted a Booksie's Bookshelves but enough books have arrived that I need to do another one.  I'm in the middle of several interesting books but things keep taking time away from reading.  Between helping a senior fill out all the forms for college, an older dog who had a tooth get infected, March madness basketball and planning for several upcoming trips, I've been doing more busywork and less time reading.  Here is what's come through the door:

1.  The Prelapsarians, John Gaiserich, fantasy, sent by publisher
2.  The Wander Society, Keri Smith, nonfiction, sent by publisher
3.  Battlestorm, Susan Krinard, fantasy, sent by publisher
4.  The Last Girl, Joe Hart, fantasy, sent by publisher
5.  Floodgate, Johnny Shaw, mystery, sent by publisher
6.  Hard Red Spring, Kelly Kerney, historical fiction, sent by publisher
7.  Lily And The Octopus, Steven Rowley, literary fiction, sent by publisher
8.  A Necessary Evil, Holly Brown, suspense, sent by publisher
9.  No Cure For Love, Peter Robinson, mystery, sent by publisher
10.  The Genius Of Birds, Jennifer Ackerman, nonfiction, won in contest
11.  The Girl From Home, Adam Mitzner, suspense, sent by publisher
12.  The Marlowe Papers, Ros Barber, poetry, purchased
13.  The Bear, Claire Cameron, literary fiction, purchased
14.  The Conjurers, David Waid, fantasy, sent by author
15.  Mateship With Birds, Carrie Tiffany, literary fiction, purchased
16.  From A Broken Land, William R. Herr, fantasy, sent by publisher
17.  Saladin, John Man, nonfiction, sent by review site
18.  We Love You, Charlie Freeman, Kaitlyn Greenidge, literary fiction, sent by review site
19.  The Doll-Master, Joyce Carol Oates, anthology, sent by review site
20.  God Help The Child, Toni Morrison, literary fiction, sent by review site
21.  Queen Of The Night, Alexander Chee, historical fiction, sent by review site
22.  Breakdown, Jonathan Kellerman, mystery, sent by review site
23.  The Ex, Alafair Burke, mystery, sent by review site

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  The Little Stranger, Sarah Waters, hardback
2.  The Murderer's Daughter, Jonathan Kellerman, hardback
3.  Lexicon, Max Barry, hardback
4.  The Empty Chair, Jeffrey Deaver, Kindle
5.  The Path Of The Storm, James Maxwell, Kindle Fire
6.  The Maid's Version, Daniel Woodrell, Kindle Fire
7.  The House Of Rumor, Jake Arnott, audio
8.  Two Years Eight Months And Twenty-Eight Nights, Salman Rushdie, hardback

Happy Reading!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Dead Student by John Katzenbach

Timothy Warner wakes up on his ninety-ninth day of sobriety, unsure if he will make it to one hundred.  Moth, his nickname, calls his uncle Ed.  Ed is a psychiatrist who acts as Moth's father figure and more importantly, he is a recovering alcoholic with years of sobriety.  Moth knows if anyone can help him through the day, it's Ed.  They make a plan to meet at their usual AA meeting at suppertime after Ed's workday is done and Moth's classes are over.  But Ed is not there.  After the meeting, Moth rides over to Ed's office to see what held him up.  He finds Ed seated at his desk, his head in a pool of blood.

The police say its suicide, but Moth knows that can't be true.  Unsure who to turn to or who he can trust, he turns to a girlfriend from years ago, his high school sweetheart, Andrea, or Andy, as he calls her.  Andy is home from college, caught up in her own life drama, but she listens to Moth and as he attempts to find out what happened, helps him.

In the background is Student#5, a cunning, cold man who has held a grudge for decades against Ed and the rest of a group of men who knew each other.  He believes the group has done him a terrible wrong and has spent his life training and planning to kill them each.  His plan is almost complete; his crimes over the years never detected by police since he makes them look like accidents or suicides.  But he hasn't planned on Moth and Andy, or Susan, the prosecutor from Moth and Ed's AA group who helps them.  Can this group of amateurs track down the killer before he kills again?  Before he kills them?

John Katzenbach has been a master of the psychological thriller for years and is at the top of his game.  His characters are believable, their plans full of holes and mistakes a person unused to crime would make.  The reader is drawn into Moth's world and can't help but hope that he and Andy can survive and come to a resolution.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Booksie's Bookshelves, March 9, 2016

March already and things are looking up!  After a month on Restatsis, my dry eyes are finally improving and I can read a bit more.  I have entire days now where my eyes don't hurt and don't go blurry with all text 'grayed out'.  This has been a really frustrating time for me as reading is one of my priorities.

It's almost time for March Madness!  My UNC Tarheels won the ACC title this year, and finished with a win over Duke, so while I'd love them to go deep in the tournament, it's been a very successful year already.

We've made a college decision and my daughter will be attending University of South Carolina in the fall.  They are a laid-back, welcoming campus where everyone we met really seemed to understand and be supportive of students so we feel good about this.  I love Columbia and look forward to seeing more of it as she lives there the next couple of years.

But on to the books!  Here's what's come through the door lately:

1.  Lacy Eye, Jessica Treadway, mystery, sent by publisher
2.  Jane Steele, Lyndsay Faye, mystery, sent by publisher
3.  Stand Your Ground, Raeder Lomax, thriller, sent by publisher
4.  Private Citizens, Tony Tulathimutte, literary fiction, sent by publisher
5.  Noah's Wife, Lindsay Starck, literary fiction, won in contest
6.  Two If By Sea, Jacquelyn Mitchard, literary fiction, sent by publisher
7.  The Clockwork Dagger, Beth Cato, fantasy, sent by publisher
8.  The Clockwork Crown, Beth Cato, fantasy, sent by publisher
9.  The Children, Ann Leary, literary fiction, won in contest
10.  Twisted River, Siobhan MacDonald, mystery, sent by publisher
11.  The Dark Room, Minette Walters, mystery, purchased

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  The Dead Student, Jon Katzenbach, paperback
2. The Little Stranger, Sarah Waters, hardback
3.  Lexicon, Max Barry, hardback
4.  The Empty Chair, Jeffrey Deaver, Kindle
5.  The Path Of The Storm, James Maxwell, Kindle Fire
6.  The Maid's Version, Daniel Woodrell, Kindle Fire
7.  The House Of Rumor, Jake Arnott, audio

Happy reading!

Friday, March 4, 2016

A Crucible Of Souls by Mitchell Hogan

Caldan is raised on an island monastery after his entire family is brutally murdered.  He doesn't remember much about it and has accepted the monastery as his home.  He is shocked when the monks tell him his time there is finished after he gets into a fight with one of the wealthy students whose families money keeps the school going.  Before he leaves, they tell Caldan what they know of his family and give him two trinkets that came to the island with him.  Trinkets are incredibly rare, often magical and worth a fortune.

Caldan makes his way to the city of Anasoma.  He searches about for a way to make a living and is finally accepted as an apprentice at the Sorcerers Guild.  There his innate talent at crafting and magical spells moves him forward quickly.  He also has a friend from his trip to the city, Miranda, who he sees when he can.  He hopes to find out from the Sorcerers more about his family and the trinkets they passed down to him.

Those hopes are cut short when invaders take over Anasoma.  The Indryalla practice a different sort of sorcery.  Instead of working for good, their magic is coercive and used to conquer while pushing aside every obstacle they face.  Their main goal in the city is the Sorcerers Guild as it contains the only people capable of mounting any kind of resistance.  Can Caldan and his friends escape and can he find others who will band together to fight this evil?

Hogan has written a strong beginning novel in this fantasy tale.  The world he has constructed depends on magic and the ever present battle between good and evil rages on.  The reader is interested in learning the truth about Caldan and what will happen to him and his land.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Mystery Walk by Robert McCammon

Billy Creedmore lives in a small rural Southern town with his parents.  He is shunned by the other children and his family is shunned by the town.  His mother is called a witch for her ability to help the dead.  Townspeople call on her when she is needed but stay far away from her otherwise.  When the family of Billy's best friend is murdered, he feels a strange calling to enter their house.  Their spirits are shocked and can't cross over.  There Billy discovers his life calling.  He also has the ability to help those who can't cross over do so.

Wayne Falconer leads a very different life.  His family is wealthy where Billy's is dirt poor.  He is the son of a famous evangelist and spends his summers traveling with the crusade.  One night his father discovers Wayne's talent; he can heal the sick.  Or at least it seems that way.  Wayne becomes famous as the sick and dying flock to him to be healed.  Everyone believes in him, except for Ramona Creedmore and her son.  When they come to the crusade, they see through Wayne and see that he can heal no one.

Thus begins a rivalry between the two boys that continues as they grow up.  Each has a talent.  Each is learning how to use and shape it and wondering how their lives should revolve around it.  Each fears the other and the Shape Changer, a beast that comes to them in dreams and tells them how it will kill them and eat their souls.  When they are grown, they meet again and must discover family secrets and what is the truth about their powers.  They must unite to fight the Shape Changer and hopefully defeat him once and for all.

Robert McCammon has a talent for writing books that are compelling and keep the reader turning the pages to discover what happens next.  This book is considered a mystery/horror classic and readers will be interested to see which boy can rise to defeat the forces aligned against them both.   It is recommended for mystery and horror readers.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Incarnations by Susan Barker

Driver Wang is a taxi driver in Beijing.  He lives a typical working man's life.  His wife works in a massage parlor.  They live in a small apartment with their one child, a daughter.  Money is tight but there is enough.  He is contented with his life, or at least he is until the letters start coming.

The first letter is left in his taxi.  It claims that he and the letter writer are both individuals who reincarnate and that their lives have been entwined for hundreds of years.  Soon the letters start to tell the tales of past lives that the two have shared, sometimes as lovers, sometimes as friends, sometimes as enemies.  There is sharing but betrayal, rejection and acceptance.  Past lives include a slave of Genghis Khan, a concubine of the Imperial Emperor, a fisherman during the Opium Wars, a spirit guide marriage and teenage girls during the Red Guard days of the Cultural Revolution.  In each life, the two die together, usually through some sort of betrayal.

The letters unsettle Wang.  He is even more disoriented when he runs into an old friend, one who brought him nothing but misery in their friendship.  Is this old friend the letter writer?  What is his intent?  Is it the destruction of Wang's marriage or something else?

Susan Barker is an English writer with a Malaysian mother.  She lived in Beijing for several years after graduation for research while writing this novel.  It spans the centuries and tells the stories of China's history through the lives of those in each time period.  Along with the historical sweep and epic tales is the mystery Wang must solve and its effect on him.  This book received a lot of recognition.  It was a New York Times Notable Book of 2015 as well as a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2015.  The reader will be entranced and swept along.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

13 Ways Of Looking At A Fat Girl by Mona Awad

Mona Awad has captured every woman's feelings about her body in various stages through following Elizabeth over the years.  Lizzie starts as a young girl who is fat as she is starting her relationship with men.  Since she is not desirable to them, she lets them take liberties she probably wouldn't otherwise.  She forms relationships online and tries not to have to send pictures.

Once she meets Tom online, she decides before they meet in person to lose weight.  That starts a years long fight with her weight, where every ounce of food is measured and weighed.  Long grueling workouts are undertaken.  The weight slowly comes off, but the price is unwavering vigilance and continuance of her spartan lifestyle.  Her weight is the consuming battle of her life and she changes her relationships and even her name depending on the numbers on her scale.

Awad knows this territory.  She talks about how women view clothes and the shame of having to buy larger sizes.  She deals with how weight impacts women's friendships with each other.  She knows how it is an overwhelming part of romantic relationships and how those who struggle with their weight are supposed to be grateful for whatever romantic interest is shown to them.  She deals with the shame of giving up and gaining back weight that took months to take off.

Is there a woman who doesn't struggle with weight?  Most women feel they are too large or too small.  They feel that their lives would be better if they could only lose weight or gain it.  They spend enormous amounts of time and energy dealing with this one issue.  As such, women can relate to this anthology of thirteen stories that follows Lizzie throughout her life.  Awad has an MFA in fiction from Brown University.  This talented debut introduces a fresh new voice to literary fiction.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Cellar by Minette Walters

When the Songoli family moves to London, they have a secret.  In addition to their two sons, there is another member in the family who no one knows about.  Yetunde, the wife, made a trip to an orphanage before they left.  There she claimed a young girl, saying that she was the girl's aunt.  The truth is much more sinister.

Muna, the girl, has been taken in order to be the family's slave.  She is forced to clean and cook all day, her only refuge a stained, ragged mattress in the cellar with no light or heat.  She is beaten regularly by the wife and later, as they grow older, by both the boys.  She is abused sexually by the husband.  She is not allowed to have any schooling, or even to speak.

But things have a way of changing.  When the family's younger son goes missing and the police come to the house to investigate, things take a turn for the better for Muna.  She is moved upstairs into her own bedroom and claimed as the family's daughter.  They need Muna to validate their stories so slowly fall into her debt.  As the weeks go by, the family starts to realise how strong Muna really is and the lengths she will go to as she wrecks her revenge.

Minette Walter is one of the finest mystery and suspense novelists working.  Her books have layer with the story being told prosaically and then a lower level where evil things dart about and where the lies of the top layer are slowly peeled back and revealed.  Her sense of timing is immaculate and the reader is never disappointed when the story is finished.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Kindness by Polly Samson

Julian had a stellar academic career ahead of him.  But he threw that all away once he met Julia.  It was an instantaneous connection and he couldn't imagine anything he'd ever want more.  They scrape by and things get better as time goes on.  Julian becomes an author of children's books and Julia becomes a landscape architecture.  They have a child, Mira, who is the center of their existence.  When Firdaws, Julian's ancestral home, comes on the market, they even find a way to purchase it and move there.

But paradise rarely lasts.  It all falls apart when Mira is diagnosed with a life-altering disease and it isn't clear whether she will even survive.  The two turn to anything that will help them through and do things that are unforgivable in a relationship.  They split and Julian removes all traces of Julia and Mira from Firdaws.  His family and friends rally around him to help him get through the breakup and the loss of all he holds dear.

Samson has written a book that slowly uncurls and reveals the dark secrets that tear families apart.  As the reader discovers each secret, it becomes clear how little communication Julia and Julian ever had and how the secrets have ruined any chance they ever had together.  Each secret is as surprising to the reader as to the people learning them for the first time.  Samson is an English author and not well known here in the States.  Those that read The Kindness will make sure that she becomes more well read as her books become available here.  This book is recommended for readers about family relationships and those who prefer literary fiction.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Booksie's Shelves, Februrary 19, 2016

A huge number of books have come through the door in the past few weeks.  I'm making a little progress in my dry eye problem, so have had some success in reading and finished several books this week.  Here in NC we had what we hope was the last blast from winter this week and it was frustrating not to spend a snow day with a good book. At least I can walk tv so hopefully I'll see a victory for my Tarheels playing Duke tonight.   Here's the newest additions:

1.  The Taxidermist's Daughter, Kate Mosse, literary fiction, sent by publisher
2.  The Madwomen Upstairs, Catherine Lowell, literary fiction, sent by publisher
3.  H is For Hawk, Helen Macdonald, memoir, purchased
4.  War Of The Encyclopaedists, Christopher Robinson and Gavin Kovitt, literary fiction, purchased
5   The Girl Who Stayed, Tanya Crosby, literary fiction, sent by publisher
6.  The Miracle Girl, Andrew Roe, literary fiction, sent by publisher
7.  The Pocket Wife, Susan Crawford, suspense, sent by publisher
8.  The Last Days Of Magic, Mark Tompkins, fantasy, sent by publisher
9.  Blood Infernal, James Rollins, suspense, sent by publisher
10.  Black Rabbit Hall, Eve Chase, suspense, sent by publisher
11.  Why We Came To The City, Kristopher Jansma, literary fiction, sent by publisher
12.  Sex With Shakespeare, Jillian Keenan, literary fiction, sent by publisher
13.  Mongrels, Stephen Graham Jones, fantasy, sent by publisher
14.  Speakers Of The Dead, J. Aaron Sanders, mystery, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  The Kindness, Polly Sampson, paperback
2.  The Empty Chair, Jeffrey Deaver, Kindle
3.  The Path Of The Storm, James Maxwell, Kindle Fire
4.  Mystery Walk, Robert McCammon, Kindle Fire
5.  Shockwave, John Sandford, paperback
6.  Lexicon, Max Barry, hardback
7.  The Maid's Version, Daniel Woodrell, Kindle Fire
8.  The House Of Rumour, Jake Arnott, audio
9.  A Crucible Of Souls, Mitchell Hogan, paperback

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Thorn Jack by Katherine Harbour

After her sister Lily Rose's death, Finn Sullivan and her father can't stay in San Francisco any longer.  They flee to Fair Hollow, New York, the same upstate town where her father was raised and where he is offered a job at the local college.  Finn attempts to start a new chapter in her life.  She attends college and meets two friends, Sylvie and Christy.

But Fair Hollow seems to have secrets.  Long a haunt of movie makers, the town seems full of beautiful people and dramatic happenings.  The most beautiful are the Fata family, extremely wealthy and consisting of a large clan of both men and women.  They don't seem to have to work and spend a lot of time having parties and exploring the deserted mansions from Fair Hollows time as a haven for wealthy families.

Finn is curious about the Fatas, and especially when she meets Jack Fata.  He is impossibly gorgeous, irresistibly mysterious, and for some reason, he seems interested in Finn.  She seems to run into him everywhere.  Sometimes he pushes her away and then he pulls her back.  She doesn't know what to think, but she knows she is falling in love.

But that's not a good idea.  For the Fata family is mysterious for a reason.  They have secrets going back centuries and they don't take kindly to newcomers.  As Finn gets closer to their secrets, she starts to realise that she has fallen into a danger even more fatal than the one that stole her sister.  Can she break free and can she take Jack from his family?

This is the first of a trilogy about The People Of Nothing And The Night.  It is lushly written and the tension builds very slowly.  The reader sees Finn's danger long before she does, but is helpless to do anything more than read as she is entwined further and further into the Fata family mysteries.  This book is recommended for young adults and those interested in suspense fantasy novels.

Friday, February 12, 2016

The Ramblers by Aidan Donnelley Rowley

They should be fabulously happy.  Clio, Sarah and Tate all live in New York City and have found professional success.  Yet each is stumbling in life, their professional success not mirrored in their personal lives.

Clio was the scholarship girl in an Ivy League university.  Her middle-class parents didn't bode well for her fitting in with her classmates from fabulous, wealthy families.  Clio also has childhood secrets that she wanted to hide and that even in her mid-thirties keep her from forming a committed relationship.  She has been seeing Henry, a charming Irish man who has just opened a successful hotel in midtown Manhattan.  He's ready for commitment but Clio just can't make the leap.

Sarah comes from old money.  She lives in an apartment right off Central Park, a college graduation gift from her parents, who live in the same building, as does her sister.  Clio was her college roommate and still lives with her, each hesitant to live on their own.  Sarah's younger sister is getting married in a week, a fact that fills her with envy.  She thought she had met the love of her life, but he crushed her by leaving her before their marriage.  Sarah has created her own business, but the fact that she had to get the money to do so from her father still gnaws at her.

Tate, with a college friend, created an app that they sold for millions.  At the same time, his marriage imploded and he is left without work or love.  He thinks he would like to pursue his lifelong fascination with photography.  He meets Sarah at a Yale alumni game, and although they weren't friends in college, they have an immediate connection.

Aidan Rowley knows the subject area she is writing about.  She lives in New York with her family.  She is a graduate of Yale and Columbia Law School.  She understands the difficulty in finding one's way in both personal and professional arenas, and how one must make a conscious decision to be happy.  Readers will be invested in all three character's lives and decision points, although they may question why these difficulties weren't resolved before the characters' mid-thirties.  This book is recommended for readers interested in relationships and life struggles.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Blood Moon by Alexandra Sokoloff

FBI Special Agent Mathew Roarke is on a manhunt for a killer who has escaped the best efforts of law enforcement for years; in fact, no one even suspected the killer until recently.  One of the main reasons is that this killer is a woman, a rarity most law enforcement specialists never see.  Cara Lindstrom is a survivor.  As a small child, she survived a brutal attack that killed her entire family.  The killer cut Cara's throat, but she survived, the only witness to his wanton destruction.  Sent to the social services mill, she disappeared when she became an adult, but she didn't leave to live a quiet life.  Instead, the hunted has become the huntress, killing men who use and hurt women.  Roarke is drawn to her, each encounter he has with her leaving him more confused.  He knows she is a killer but can't help but have some sympathy for her.

Now Roarke is on the hunt to put Cara behind bars.  He comes up with the idea of pretending that the killer who destroyed her family is back at work and has his staff find a recent family massacre.  The problem is that when they go to the most recent example, it appears that it is indeed the work of the man who destroyed Cara's family twenty-five years ago.  Can that be true?  Can someone that sick, that depraved, just stop killing for several decades?

As the FBI becomes more certain that the original killer is indeed back at work, Roarke and his team switch focus to track down this man who has destroyed multiple families.  In the process, Roarke knows that he is also getting closer to Cara.  Will he be able to put her behind bars?

Alexandra Sokoloff is writing some of the best suspense done today.  Her plotting is intricate and involved, drawing the reader in further and further into the world of psychotic killers and that of the law enforcement personnel who dedicate their lives to tracking and putting away such killers.  The interplay of emotions between Roarke and Cara as each is in turn, the hunted and the hunter, is mesmerizing.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Road To Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson is known for his travel books.  Probably the one that most people remember is Notes From A Small Island, which was his impressions of his adopted homeland, Great Britain.  It was released in 2001.  Twenty-five years later, his family is grown and he is a famous author.  He still lives in England and decided to revisit places he saw then and visit new ones to get a sense of what has changed.

He visits the entirety of the island, from the big cities to the small villages, from the remote north to the little coastal towns to the more populous southern areas.  What he finds is that many things have remained the same while overall the country has gotten poorer, less well-educated and has less interest in the historical places that surround them.  Many of the former tourist areas are now struggling as people can just as inexpensively visit overseas.  Much of the industry has also closed, fleeing for cheaper areas in which to operate.  The population has changed with more immigrants than when he arrived, himself an immigrant as he points out.

What bothers him?  The historical areas that don't get the attention they should or the funding to remain available to the public.  The trashing of the common areas as common politeness seems to diminish.  The areas that are harder rather than easier to travel to as train and bus lines close due to lack of profits.  The closing of village shops as large superstores move in, often to move out again a few years later, leaving the area destitute of shopping choices.  The towns that now feel dangerous at night as gangs have taken over.

What does he like?  The absolute natural beauty of the land.  The amazing number of historical places that England and the other areas have, many of which are forgotten and unvisited.  The amazing higher education system, where England has 1% of the world's population and 11% of the world's most highly ranked universities.  The sheer fortitude and perseverance of the British people, pleased with what they have and disinclined to grumble about what life hands them.

Bryson has written about many places over the years.  He and Paul Theroux are my two favorite travel writers and I've read almost everything they have written.  Both are revisiting places as they get older, Bryson with Britain and Theroux with Africa.  Both seem discouraged at how their favorite places have changed, and how the world seems poorer and more difficult than it did years ago.  The interesting thing is how much of this is due to natural aging and the loss of optimism the young have, and how much is verifiable fact.  Bryson fans will enjoy this book and those new to him will probably seek out his other books as he is addictive.  This book is recommended to readers of travel writing and those interested in visiting England.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Booksie's Shelves, February 6, 2016

Already February!  We've had our annual snow here in North Carolina and we're all done with winter and ready for spring.  My eyes are getting a little better and I've been reading more.  Our daughter is down to the time of choosing a college.  She applied to five colleges and got accepted at all five, now to make the big decision.  Outside of all that, books continue to show up.  Here's what's come through the door lately:

1.  Imagine That, Mark Fins, literary fiction, sent by publisher
2.  The Buried Giant, Kazuo Ishiguro, literary fiction, published
3.  Blood Of Innocents, Mitchell Hogan, fantasy, sent by publisher
4.  13 Ways Of Looking At A Fat Girl, Mona Awad, literary fiction, sent by publisher
5.  Why They Run The Way They Do, Susan Perabo, anthology, sent by publisher
6.  Why We Snap, R. Douglas Fields, nonfiction, sent by publisher
7.  The Passentger, Lisa Lutz, mystery, sent by publisher
8.  Welcome Thieves, Sean Beaudoin, anthology, sent by publisher
9.  The Arrangement, Ashley Warlick, literary fiction, sent by publisher
10.  River Road, Carol Goodman, mystery, sent by publisher
11.  The Daylight Marriage, Heidi Pitlor, literary fiction, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  Blood Moon, Alexandra Sokoloff, paperback
2.  The Path Of The Storm, James Maxwell, Kindle Fire
3.  The Kindness, Polly Sampson, paperback
4.  The Empty Chair, Jeffrey Deaver, Kindle
5.  Shockwave, John Sandford, paperback
6.  Lexicon, Max Barry, hardback
7.  Thorn Jack, Katherine Harbour, audio
8.  The Maid's Version, Daniel Woodrell, Kindle Fire

Happy Reading!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee

Living in Hong Kong as an expatriate is living a charmed life.  The husbands (and it's mostly husbands who work) are given lots of enticements to uproot their families and move abroad for a stint away from the mainland.  Travel allowances for the family to go back to America in business class twice a year, a housing allowance that means no housing costs, a membership to the country club, schooling allowances for the children.  Everyone has servants, a driver, a nanny, a maid.  The wives don't usually work but live a life of shopping, visiting with friends and going to the club.  It is an artificial life at times, with your friends the other people you see and the endless round of socializing.  It is reminiscent of a summer camp or college days, times when one is surrounded only by those in the same general life situation.  You share intimate things with them, but once their time is over and they disappear, they also disappear from your life.

Three women's lives are twisted together in the latest round of expatriates.  Margaret had it all, a loving husband, three beautiful children until the family went abroad for a family vacation and met a horrific family tragedy.  Hiliary and her husband are trying for a child but it isn't going well and they are looking into adoption.  At least until her husband leaves her, alone and adrift.  Mercy is the youngest, a graduate from Columbia University who can't quite seem to make a go of it after college.  Everyone knows everyone in Hong Kong, at least in the expatriate community, so all three woman know, or at least are aware of, each other.  How their lives entwine in the disasters and reincarnation of each life is the life exploration Lee displays.

Lee knows what she is writing about.  She and her husband spent ten years in Hong Kong in the expatriate community.  She was born and raised in Hong Kong so is very familiar with the area as well as the expatriate community.  Her ability to deftly dig into the lives of these women and show how they adjust to an unfamiliar world is stellar.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and those interested in exploring how people's lives mesh and how one moves on from life tragedies.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

It's a routine extended space flight.  The astronauts on the space station are ready for an extended work assignment of a year or more.  But when an event causes the moon to explode, everything known becomes unknown.  Astronomers quickly realise that the debris from the moon explosion will inevitably cause the destruction of the Earth's atmosphere and thus the destruction of all life on Earth.

The expected time frame is two years and the best and brightest minds try to come up with a plan for the human race to continue.  Obviously, the best hope is space and soon every spaceship available is put into service taking up supplies, scientific knowledge and those lucky few deemed important to the human race's continued existence.  The inevitable happens and all those on Earth's surface are soon gone.  There are several thousand inhabitants in space, surely enough to continue.  However, the human characteristics of power attainment and subterfuge create a situation in which after several years, only a handful of humans survive.

Five thousand years later, those humans have survived and thrived with a sophisticated technological society and several billion inhabitants in space.  Plans are moving ahead to solve the problems of the Earth after the land destruction and new plants and animals are stocked there once the atmosphere is stable.  This is to support the eventual return of humans to Earth.  But as the plans progress, it becomes clear that there are surprises in store on Earth and that the story has other chapters yet to be written.

Neal Stephenson writes novels which explore large ideas and Seveneves is no different.  The reader is forced to consider what would be essential in a worldwide disaster and what characteristics would allow the human race to survive.  The ability to cooperate in order to survive and even thrive is explored as is the need for flexibility to handle whatever situations may evolve.  This book is recommended for readers of science fiction and those interested in survival thinking.