Thursday, August 8, 2019

In Our Mad And Furious City by Guy Gunaratne

In present day London, tensions are high after a police officer is killed on the street by a young man of color.  This novel follows the life of various characters in the aftermath of this occurrence.  Most live in public housing which is known as the estates and most are attempting to make a better life for themselves and for their families.

There is Selvon who is the athlete.  He has his eye on making the Olympic team and spends his days training, running, boxing, playing football with his friends.  His parents are Jamaican immigrants.  Caroline is a middle-aged woman who came to London from Ireland when her family got mixed up in IRA politics and sent her away to avoid any trouble.  Ardan is Caroline's son and is small and shy.  Few know that he is intensely interested in grime music, the next generation of hip hop or rap and has an amazing skill for generating songs.   Yusuf is Muslim.  His father was the Iman and moderate but was recently killed in a car accident.  The new Iman is strict and determined to bring all the members of his congregation under his control.  He has plans for Yusuf and his brother that Yusuf wants to avoid; he just wants to hang with his friends and go to school.  Finally, there is Nelson, Selvon's father who came to England as a young man and is caught up in the first racial tension with the bully boys who don't want anyone coming to their country if they are a different nationality or color or culture.

This is a vibrant, interesting novel.  The writing is fresh and brash and the reader will take a while to settle into the new words and phrases which are unfamiliar to them.  But the characters are real, struggling to make a life that is fulfilling and going about it in different ways.  Without preaching, the message comes through strongly that only by accepting others will we all move forward.  This book was longlisted for the Booker Prize and readers will be glad to be introduced to this fresh new voice.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Evil Beside Her by Kathryn Casey

The Bergstrom marriage was never a great one.  Linda was guilted by James into dating him and not breaking up.  When he joined the Navy and wanted to get married, Linda decided to go along.  Things weren't great in her family and maybe getting out of town was the right thing to do.  The two moved to Bangor, Washington where James was assigned to work on a Trident submarine. 

Things went from blah to bad.  James started to show a temper and was very possessive of Linda and her time.  They didn't have friends since James was jealous of everyone around her.  And he had started to ask her to do things she wasn't comfortable with; things like letting him tie her up in the bedroom.  At first just her hands, then her legs and a gag were added.  When she refused, James would storm out of the apartment.

Soon, Linda lived only for the months that James would be out on the Trident.  Those were months where she could have girlfriends, do whatever pleased her with her time and just relax.  Life with James was a lot of things but relaxing was never one of them.  Whenever James returned to land, the entire cycle of jealousy and possession started back up.  Soon there was physical violence added.

James left the service early at the Navy's request and the two moved back to Texas.  By now Linda realized she had married a very sick man and the rapes that started occurring whenever he was around were not happenstance.  How could she end the cycle of violence?

This case happened in the late 1980's and early 1990's.  I can only hope that the police would be more responsive in such a case now.  Linda told the police early and often of her suspicions of James.  Several of the police she talked with believed her but others either brushed her off or said she could not testify against him.  James managed to terrify women for months in several locations, raping some and attempting to rape others.  This book outlines the difficulty both of identifying and then prosecuting men like James, and is recommended for true crime readers.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Euphoria by Lily King

In the 1930's three young anthropologists meet in the wilds of New Guinea and never afterwards is the same.  Andrew Bankson is from England.  He has been in the field for several years, fleeing a home where there is no freedom and where both of his brothers have died.  He meets an American couple, Nell and Fen.  Fen he has met before for a short time in their academic careers.  Nell has already found fame with the publication of her first book.

Andrew is immediately smitten with Nell.  In his eyes, she is beautiful and wise and he is so taken back by his attraction to her that he can barely speak..  But Nell and Fen are married, as unlikely as their union seems.  They are very opposite characters, even in their work.  Nell likes to sit and observe, making copious notes about everything she sees; slowly evolving a worldview of the culture she is studying.  Fen becomes the culture; going out hunting with the men, disappearing for days on end and entering their rituals.  He has even indulged in their ceremony of cannibalism.  He is also envious of Nell's success and finds ways to sabotage her work.  He hides discoveries from her.  He breaks her thing; her glasses and her typewriter.  He is disparaging of her both personally and professionally.  Yet each still is tied to the other by attraction and love.

Fen and Nell are fleeing their lives with a tribe that turned dangerous for them.  Andrew helps them find another tribe to study, one that is close enough to his own tribe of study that he can visit.  Slowly, he works his way into their lives.  He finds it harder and harder to hide his interest in Nell and Fen knows that Nell is also attracted to him.  As a group, they make seminal discoveries and create structural guidelines that will rock their field of study.  But individually, none can see where these relationships will go or what the end result of their meeting will be.

This was a Best Book for such publications as NPR, New York Times Review, Time, the Guardian, Publisher's Weekly and others.  It was the winner of the 2014 Kirkus Prize as well as a finalist for the National Book Award Critic's Circle Award.  It is loosely based on the life of Margaret Mead and her seminal work on the Pacific Tribes.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Here Be Dragons by Sharon Bolton

Detective Inspector Mark Joesbury of the Scotland Yard Covert Operations Unit, has a new assignment.  He is working undercover to gain information about a terrorist group operating under the radar.  As he works his way into their confidence, he discovers that there is a plot to create havoc in the midst of London, on the Thames River.  The plot seems focused around Westminster Bridge and the House of Parliament.  The American President is soon to come on a state visit and it appears that the time frame will put the plot going into high gear then.

Mark is able to gain the terrorist's confidence due to his knowledge of the river having come from a family that grew up on it.  He knows boats inside and out and it appears that boats are a big part of the plan.  As the time grows closer, Mark still doesn't have details of the operation but the ante is upped when the gang manages to capture DC Lacey Flint.  Not only is she useful for propaganda purposes, but she is Mark's girlfriend.  Can he foil the plot and save Lacey?

The book is mislabeled on Amazon.  I bought it because I discovered Sharon Bolton this year and have loved the novels I've read.  The book was listed as 400 pages but in reality it is not a novel but a novella and is around 97 pages.  The crisp planning and intricate details that characterize Bolton's writing don't have a big enough frame to come into play in this shorter work.  I was disappointed in it and would only recommend it to those who understand going in that it is a novella. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Alice Berenson loved her husband, Gabriel, totally and unreservedly.  They were a perfect match.  Gabriel was a society photographer and Alice painted so they shared the artistic viewpoint and understood the important of creation each needed in their lives.  They were both successful and Alice came from money so they lived in a gorgeous house and had everything material they desired.  Why then, did Alice wait one night and shoot Gabriel five times in the face?

Since the discovery of Gabriel's body, Alice has never spoken.  She had a long history of an unstable mind and even previous suicide attempts.  Most people thought it was bound to happen but no one knew what could have caused it that night.  Now, Alice has been in the hospital for over six years and has never once spoken a word

Theo Faber is a criminal psychologist and he finds himself fascinated with the case.  He has practiced for several years at Broadmoor so he knows the criminal mind.  He has devoured every word in the press about Alice and Gabriel and feels that somehow, he could find the key to unlock Alice's silence.  When a job opens at the private hospital where Alice resides, he jumps at the chance and is hired.  Can he convince Alice to speak?

This is the buzz book of the year in the mystery genre.  It is Michaelides's debut novel and to have one so successful is quite an achievement.  He studied at Cambridge and the Los Angles Institute of Screenwriting.  The book draws the reader in and the action is fast-paced enough to keep interest.  Few will expect or anticipate the novel's ending.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Monday, July 29, 2019

This Far Isn't Far Enough by Lynn Sloan

In these fourteen short stories, Lynn Sloan invites the reader into her thoughts about life and delights and surprises them.  I don't read anthologies that often as they are often repetitive; each story showing another take on events that ends up being much like the story before and the story after.  That's not true of Sloan's work.  Each story stands on its own as a separate jewel, displaying a quirky twist that the reader rarely sees coming.

In Nature Rules, a woman who has withdrawn from life and all its demands on her is pulled back into her children's lives in a crisis.  In Near Miss, a painter must decide between his wife and a potential child and his freedom to pursue other women.  In Ollie's Back, a chef is trying to make a comeback after an investor ruined his restaurant.  These are just three of the stories but each is fresh and engaging.  This book is recommended for readers interested in choices made by individuals and the fallout from those decisions.

Friday, July 26, 2019

All's That's Dead by Stuart MacBride

It's back to work for Inspector Logan McRae.  He's been out on sick leave after his last case ended in him getting almost killed.  Seriously almost killed as in he's been off on sick leave for a year.  He returns hoping for a nice quiet entry back in but that's not likely in crime-ridden Scotland. 

The national past time these days is deciding if one is for or against Scotland leaving the Union and becoming a stand alone nation.  There is lots of rhetoric on both sides and things have been heating up.  Now someone is determined to make a point.  Proponents of staying in the Union are being kidnapped and mutilated; their body parts sent to various media outlets to publicize that the alt-right proponents of Scottish freedom are determined to punish those with differing opinions.

Logan is still in the equivalent of the Internal Affairs department, the price for being promoted.  The case is under the supervision of Detective King but he has his own problems.  Back when he was a teenager, he flirted with the alt-right faction to impress a girl and his secret is about to be exposed.  Due to the potential bad press, Logan is assigned to the case as well and not only will be working with King but his old boss, Detective Steel, who was demoted and sidekicks like Renny and Tufty.  Can they find the culprits before more men are killed?

This is the twelfth Logan McRae novel.  I love this series and anything Stuart MacBride writes is an automatic buy for me.  But the novels aren't for everyone as they are violent and there's a lot of black humor.  It's the kind of humor that lets someone work for the police where they are daily exposed to the worst that men can do.  The foibles of both the criminals and the police are on full display and those of sensitive natures may not enjoy this.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Witch Elm by Tana French

Toby has always led a charmed life.  Born into a wealthy family, good-looking with an easygoing personality that attracts others, he sailed through school and into an engaging first career job.  He has a gorgeous girlfriend who he's crazy about and good friends.  He has a solid background and a safety net most would envy.  He's got it all.

Until.  Until he gets into a scandal at work that could jeopardize his career.  Until he wakes up one night to discover burglars in his apartment and who leave him badly beaten and hospitalized.  As he recuperates, he realizes that he is worse off than most realize; his mind not as sharp and subject to nervous starts and fuzzy thinking.  Until he gets the news that his favorite uncle is dying.

Toby, after a family conference, moves in with his uncle, Hugo, who has reached a point where he shouldn't be left alone.  His girlfriend, Melissa, moves in as well and soon things seem to be turning out better than expected.  Both men have a safe place to deal with their physical issues and the company does them both good.  Until.  Until at a family party, Toby's nephew decides to climb a massive tree in the backyard and manages to dislodge something that incredibly, turns out to be a human skull.

Suddenly, all the progress comes to a halt.  The police are suddenly there, everywhere, and when it turns out that the body is someone the family knew, suspicious of them all.  Toby quizzes those around him and it slowly emerges that his memories of the past are not as accurate as he always thought and that he missed much of what was happening around him.  His very self-image is shaken as he starts to see the difference from his self-portrayal and the viewpoint of others.  Can the murderer be found before it tears the family apart?

Tana French has taken the mantle from Elizabeth George for lengthy mysteries that probe personalities and slowly reveal the evil that has remained hidden.  Her characters are memorable and the story is always plausible.  The novel was a New York Times Notable Book of 2018 and on the best of lists for such organizations as NPR, Lithub, Amazon, Slate, Vox and others.  This book is recommended for mystery lovers.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Booksie's Shelves, July 23, 2019

July is close to over and I'm finally back to a place where I can read, hopefully.  This summer has been one of family visits as we spent a lot of time with our four grandkids.  First we had the two girls, then two weeks later, all four grandkids, then two weeks later, the two boys.  It's wonderful to have the time to spend with the kids without parents and expectations; just a week of fun and expeditions and shared routines that are just ours.  But, there's not a lot of reading time!  I'm looking forward to recharging and spending more time reading.  Here's what's come through the door lately:

1.  Insidious Intent, Val McDermid, mystery, purchased
2.  Meeting The English, Kate Clanchy, literary fiction, purchased
3.  Pieces Of Her, Karin Slaughter, mystery, sent by publisher
4.  Sleeping In The Ground, Peter Robinson, purchased
5.  Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk, literary fiction, purchased
6.  Astounding, Alec Nevala-Lee, anthology, sent by publisher
7.  Rhyming Rings, David Gemmell, fantasy, purchased
8.  The Enchanted, Rene Denfeld, literary fiction, purchased
9.  Sarah Thornhill, Kate Grenville, literary fiction, purchased
10.  The Water Dancer, Ta-Nehisi Coates, fantasy, sent by publisher
11.  The Bowness Bequest, Rebecca Tope, mystery, purchased
12.  The Sisters Chase, Sarah Healy, literary fiction, purchased
13.  The Dream Daughter, Diane Chamberlain, literary fiction, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  The Eye Of The World, Robert Jordan, audio
2.  The Witch Elm, Tana French, hardback
3.  The Silent Patient, Alex Michaelides, hardback
4.  Quichotte, Salman Rushdie, Kindle Fire
5.  The Flight Attendant, Chris Bojalian, Kindle Fire
6.  Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain, hardback
7.  Mostly Void, Partially Stars, Joseph Fink/Jeffrey Cranor, paperback
8.  All That's Dead, Stuart MacBride, Kindle Fire

9.  Evil Beside Her, Kathryn Casey, paperback
10.  This Far Isn't Far Enough, Lynn Sloan, paperback

Happy Reading!

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Melmoth by Sarah Perry

Men have known of her for centuries.  Her existence is whispered about in cities and small villages worldwide.  She is Melmoth, the woman who witnesses sin.  Cursed by her own sin, she must forever wander the Earth, witnessing the sins of others, begging them to accompany her on her endless travels.  Has someone betrayed a neighbor during a war?  Melmoth is there.  Made a choice that ended in someone's death or destruction?  You can expect a visit from Melmoth.

Now, she is in Prague, witnessing the sins various people believed they have hidden forever.  There is Hoffman, who has a story of sin from Cairo.  Karel Prazan remembers his own earlier sins before he became a famous inventor and husband to his lovely wife.  Helen Franklin has lived punishing herself for twenty years for a sin in her early youth.  Then there is Prazan's wife, the elderly woman Helen rents a room from and the young health worker who suddenly appears in the Prazan's life.  All are due visits from Melmoth.

The main characters all meet in the Prague central library.  As their friendships progress, Hoffman shares the story of Melmoth with Prazan and he with Franklin.  Soon, each is aware of a shadowy figure, someone always just out of sight but always, inexorably there.  Watching.  Waiting.  To what end?

Sarah Perry burst onto the literary fiction stage with the release of her second novel, The Essex Serpent.  Fans of that novel will also enjoy Melmoth as it has the same genre of writing; that of a Victorian horror or suspense novel.  Melmoth creeps along the perimeter of the novel, only glimpsed but always present.  The reader will want to read on to discover the sins of the various characters and the resolution of this story.  This novel is recommended for literary fiction and horror readers.

Monday, July 8, 2019

The Sentence Is Death by Anthony Horowitz

In the second of the cases of Anthony Horowitz and former Scotland Yard detective Daniel Hawthorne, the case seems fairly easy at first.  A prominent divorce lawyer, Richard Pryce, is found murdered in his house, bludgeoned and then stabbed with a very expensive bottle of wine.  Pryce had just finished a case where a billionaire real estate developer had divorced his wife, an author of obscure literary fiction novels.  She had come out on the losing side and had expressed her fury at Pryce by pouring wine over his head in a restaurant and stating that he should be glad it wasn't a bottle.  Now he has been murdered by that very method.

But is the novelist his only enemy?  Soon it is revealed that his husband has been having an affair, and Pryce was talking about changing his will.  It also emerges that Pryce and two school friends had been caught in a horrific caving accident six years before; an accident from which one of the men never emerged.  Is Pryce's death tied to this accident?  It turns out that the other survivor died the day before Pryce in suspicious circumstances also.

Hawthorne, of course, is being Hawthorne, refusing to tell Horowitz anything he thinks and delighting in keeping him in the dark.  That's usually just depressing but this time it's dangerous.  The detectives nominally in charge of the case are furious about Horowitz and Hawthorne being called in and are determined to take all the blame.  The women in charge targets Horowitz and demands he tell her everything they do.  She has the ability to cause havoc in Horowitz's professional life and he isn't sure what to do.  Can the crime be solved?

This is a delightful novel, an interesting change of pace from the usual detective series.  The interplay between Horowitz and Hawthorne is always interesting and the tidbits about Horowitz's life are fascinating; his TV series, his various novel series, etc.  Hawthorne is still very reserved about his personal life, but a few more details emerge in the novel.  The reader is left with a satisfying mystery and the hope that more cases in this series will appear.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

How To Read A Book by Kwame Alexander

In this book for toddlers and young readers, Kwame Alexander and Melissa Sweet have teamed up to make reading as enticing as could be.  The colors are vibrant and the patterns amazing, making the point that reading is a wonderful, fun activity for anyone to engage in.

Kwame Alexander has focused his authorship on creating books that encourage young readers.  He has won a John Newbery medal and the Coretta Scott King Author Award.  His work ranges from focusing on the youngest readers up to the young adult reader.  Whatever the audience, he touches the reader and makes them feel less alone in the world.

The illustrator for this book, Melissa Sweet, is famous in her own right.  She has won two Caldecott Awards for illustration and has written and written four books herself, while her career as an illustrator includes over 100 books.  She is also a New York Times Bestselling author.  Her vibrant use of color and patterns make this book inviting and one that will be requested over and over again.

Monday, July 1, 2019

I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman

Eliza Benedict has a life she loves.   After several years in London, her husband has recently taken a job back in the States and the family has moved back to where Eliza grew up.  Eliza has her ideal life, being a wife and a mother to her two children. 

But all is not as wonderful as it seems on first glance.  Decades ago, when Eliza was fifteen and known as Elizabeth, a tragedy occurred that separated her family's life into before and after the event.  Elizabeth stumbled on a killer and he kidnapped her, knowing that she saw too much for him to let her go.  He kept her for several months and she grew to know Walter Bowman better than she knew anyone else in her life.  She was reunited with her parents after Walter killed one more girl and was caught.  Her testimony put him on death row, where he has remained for all these years.

Until now.  Suddenly all his appeals are exhausted and the entire nightmare is coming up again.  Eliza, who never has told anyone except her husband about the event, is shocked when she gets a letter from Walter, letting her know he knows exactly where she is.  What does he want?  He isn't the only one who wants things from Eliza.  There is a woman on Walter's side, his advocate, and she seems unbalanced and willing to do anything to get Eliza to fill Walter's requests.  There is the mother of the last victim, who resents Eliza for living and wants to be sure she doesn't do anything to help Walter.  The only person who isn't sure what they want is Eliza. 

Laura Lippman worked as a journalist for the Baltimore Sun before she started writing crime novels.  Her second career as a novelist has been a successful one, and she has won both the Edgar and the Anthony for her work.  Her novels center on the Baltimore area and she seamlessly gets into the heads of those women she writes about; women who face life and death dilemmas through no fault of their own.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Booksie's Shelves, June 30, 2019

It's halfway through the reading year!  So far, I've read 59 books this year.  My goal is 125 so I'll have to get busy to meet that.  My reading took a hit about six weeks ago when my husband retired.  He goes, goes, goes all day and doesn't understand that I usually spend a couple of hours just sitting and reading.  The other hit to my reading is an enjoyable one, being Nana Sandie.  We had the two grand girls for a week, next week my son and all four kids are coming and two weeks later, the two grandsons will be at Camp Nana and Papa.  I'm usually so tired by the end of the day that I fall into bed without getting my reading time.

I hadn't been getting that many books in the mail lately, but for some reason, this week was very different.  I got seven books in two days and six the week or so before.  Here's what's come through the door:

1.  A Good Neighborhood, Therese Anne Fowler, literary fiction, won in contest
2.  How To Read A Book, Kwame Alexander, children's literature, sent by publisher
3.  The Nanny, Gilly Macmillan, suspense, sent by publisher
4.  Out Of Darkness, Shining Light, Petina Gappah, literary fiction, won in contest
5.  Tell Me Who We Were, Kate McQuade, literary fiction, sent by publisher
6.  After The Flood, Kassandra Montag, literary fiction, sent by publisher
7.  Eagle And Crane, Suzanne Rindell, historical fiction, sent by publisher
8.  Grand Union, Zadie Smith, anthology, won in contest
9.  The Dearly Beloved, Cara Wall, literary fiction, sent by publisher
10.  Protect The Prince, Jennifer Estep, fantasy, sent by publisher
11.  Home For Erring And Outcast Girls, Julie Kibler, historical fiction, won in contest
12.  Dominicana, Angie Cruz, literary fiction, won in contest
13.  The Orphan's Song, Lauren Kate, literary fiction, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  The Eye Of The World, Robert Jordan, audio
2.  The Witch Elm, Tana French, hardback
3.  The Sentence Is Death, Anthony Horowitz, hardback
4.  Quichotte, Salman Rushdie, Kindle Fire
5.  The Flight Attendant, Chris Bojalian, Kindle Fire
6.  Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain, hardback
7.  Mostly Void, Partially Stars, Joseph Fink/Jeffrey Cranor, paperback
8.  All That's Dead, Stuart MacBride, Kindle Fire

Happy Reading!

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Lost And Wanted by Nell Freudenberger

Helen Clapp is one of the most prominent figures in physics; her work on five-dimensional time has garnered her fame and a tenured professorship at MIT.  In addition to her scholarly work, she has written a series of books about various physics topics aimed at the more popular market that has brought her more notoriety and money.  Helen is single but has an eight-year old son named Jack; a son she had herself through a donor program.  She doesn't have a romantic interest at the moment; her best friend, former lover and co-worker has moved to Texas to work on the supercollider there.

As the novel opens, Helen receives word that her best friend, Charlie (short for Charlotte) has died.  Charlies had lupus and has chosen to end her own life rather than wait for the indignities that would come with a protracted end of life.  Helen isn't sure how she feels about this as she and Charlie had lost touch a bit in the last years as life got busy for each of them and Charlie and her family were in California rather than the East Coast.

Now, Helen has to deal with several issues.  There is the grief she feels for the loss of Charlie.  Charlie's husband and daughter are in Massachusetts with Charlie's parents for a while and then come to stay in the apartment Helen rents out.  Her former lover also returns to her area, but with a fiance/wife firmly in tow.  Helen is left to work out what her life has meant to this point and where she wants to go in the future.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Buried On The Fens by Joy Ellis

Detective Nikki Galena and her team are investigating two murders in their area.  The first was the vicious murder of a prominent local businesswoman; a brutal murder with no real clues left behind.  While investigating that, the team gets a report of another body found but this one is much different.  While getting ready to renovate the local church, a body is discovered in the graveyard.  This burial was unauthorized and the body is about thirty years old.

The body is identified as a man from the village of Quentin Eaudyke, a man missing for twenty years and a man hated by his neighbors.  Gerald Hammond, the victim, was suspected of being the man who terrorized and abused several local children, and then was later suspected of killing and hiding the boy of his own child, a daughter.  No one cared when he went missing and it was assumed he drowned and his body washed out to sea.  Now the story is revealed that he was himself murdered and hidden away.

As the investigation proceeds, the businesswoman was found to be a member of a local private club, one made up of women who came together both for business networking and because they were lesbians.  The group was kept under the radar due to the prejudice gay women still encountered.  The daughter of a member is the next woman to be murdered and the police become focused on the club.  As they investigate, the two murder inquiries start to blend and it becomes apparent that the same person is involved in both.  Apparently, the murdered is not through and it becomes a race against time.  Will the police solve the case before more murders occur?

This is the seventh novel in the Nikki Galena series.  Galena has mellowed over time, having put to rest many of her own personal demons.  She has built a strong team who work well together and whose talents merge nicely.  Readers will enjoy watching the team solve another case and the interplay between the team members.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Flannery O'Connor The Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor

This extensive collection brings together all the stories of Flannery O'Connor.  Those who follow literature are familiar with her name and possibly her story.  She was born and raised in Georgia; her life spanning from the late 1920's to the mid 1960-s.  She got her MFA from the Iowa Writer's Workshop where she made connections such as Robert Penn Warren and Andrew Lytle, who was the editor of the Sewanee Review, an important showcase for literature.  After she was diagnosed with the lupus that killed her father, she moved back to Georgia where she lived and worked until her death. 

O'Connor is known for her short stories and readers will be familiar with the titles of many of these such as A Good Man Is Hard To Find, Everything That Rises Must Converge  and The Lame Shall Enter First.  The central issue of O'Connor's life was her Catholic faith and the stories are based in that although they are not overtly religious.  Instead, they are a reflection of the way humanity was perceived by O'Connor and then twisted to an extreme to make a point.  The characters are often grotesque and rarely does anything positive or even stable happen to them.  Instead, the stories tend to end on a negative note where hopes are dashed and everything is doomed.  They focus on the worst in human nature and racism and evil are a major focus.

O'Connor is considered an important writer and I'm glad to have finally gotten around to reading her work.  However, I was surprised to find that I didn't care for them much if at all.  I'm a very optimistic person and reading such negative work that constantly focuses on racial epitaphs and assuming a common viewpoint that other races are less than the ones in power gets overwhelming quickly.  Every story ends on a negative note and this collection took me many weeks to read as I had to have spacing between the stories.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon

Michael Chabon gives readers an alternative history in this novel.  The premise is that in 1948, countries around the world designated areas specifically for Jewish refugees.  The United States's Jewish portion is Sitka, Alaska, and the refugees have been there for several decades.  Now, due to bureaucratic red tape, the program has been discontinued and the Yiddish community will lose their lands in two months.  There is much dismay and families are planning their futures; many relocating to other countries.

Meyer Landsman is making no plans.  He is a policeman in a department that will be out of business in two months.  His superiors only want him to close his open cases, no matter how or if the right solution has been found.  Meyer is a natural detective but he's been on a low for several years since his wife, Bina, left him.  Now he spends his days drinking and doing as little as he can.

But perhaps its time for a change.  A man is killer; shot in the same hotel where Meyer has been living.  Although Landsman is told not to worry too much about it, he is offended that the man, for whom he has a fellow feeling, would not get justice.  As he works the case, he realizes that the victim is a famous man within the Yiddish community.  The son of the most powerful rabbi, he was considered a genius and miracle worker as a boy.  The pressure was too great and he ran away, ending his life as an addict in a run down hotel.  Landsman wants something better for him.

The case gets more complicated.  Landsman gets a new boss to oversee the shutdown of the department, and horror of horrors, it is his ex-wife.  His partner, who is his cousin, is Berko, a large half Indian, half Jewish man who just wants to get along.  Landsman uncovers layers of intrigue in the Yiddish community with a group of fanatics who want to reclaim their hero to help them take back Jerusalem.  Can Landsman bring justice in this last case?

I'm a huge fan of Michael Chabon and have read several of his  novels.   This novel won the 2008 Huge Award for Best Novel, due to its alternative history setting.  It can also be read as a mystery in the noir category, or for the exploration of Jewish culture.  The reader will cheer on Landsman as he fights for justice against all odds.  This book is recommended for literary fiction as well as mystery and sci fi readers.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells

Moon is a shape shifter.  For many years, he has wandered solitary, never finding anyone else like himself.  He has lived with various communities over the years but always ends up sent away as he doesn't fit in.  He can fly and the creatures called The Fell also fly so many communities push away anyone they suspect could be part of that despicable, war-mongering crowd.

As the novel opens, Moon has once again been pushed out of a community.  The woman he lived with saw him shifting shapes one night and poisons him, rendering him unconscious so that the warriors of the tribe can gather and chain him up in the forest.  As he tries to determine what to do, he is suddenly rescued by a large flying creature.  Stone is a shape shifter as well and he is the first creature like Moon that Moon has ever met.  Stone can fill in some of the holes in Moon's understanding of his background and invites him to come with him to his clan.

Moon agrees but when he arrives, is not sure he made the right decision.  He is amazed and pleased to find so many other creatures like him but all is not rosy.  He has arrived just as the colony is facing a threat to their very existence; The Fell have discovered them and will soon try to destroy them as they have so many other communities.  Even within the colony, there are those who welcome Moon and those who adamantly do not; jealous of the attention he is given by the queens of the colony.  What will the future bring for Moon?

This is the first book of the Raksura series by Wells.  She has created a fearsome enemy in The Fell, a tribe that seems to delight in nothing but violence and indiscriminate killing.  Moon is a character clouded in mystery as he lost his family as a youngster and doesn't know his own history or that of his people.  The reader will be inclined to read further to determine what happens in this new world.  This book is recommended for fantasy/sci fi readers.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Sunday Silence by Nicci French

Dr. Frieda Klein is a psychologist.  Her gifts have helped many people, including the police in several crime investigations but there is a huge segment of the police who consider her a fraud.  Freida was mixed up in the hunt for a serial killer, Dean Reeve seven years ago.  The police believe that Dean died at the end of that investigation.  Freida knows he didn't but can't convince those who think she is just imagining that he is still alive.

For seven years, Freida has felt Dean in the shadows, watching over her and occasionally protecting her.  It seems that he has decided that no one can harm her except himself, and he is willing to do whatever it takes to assert his superiority.  Now, a body has been discovered under the floorboards of Freida's house.  It is the body of a police officer who believed her and was tracking Dean down. 

As the weeks go on, it appears that Dean is tipping over into hostility.  Freida is still not personally attacked, but those around her she cares about are targeted.  Her niece, her sister-in-law, her mentor and friend, a former student, an immigrant and his son, all feel the wrath of the unseen monster.  Yet as the weeks go on, it appears that this may not be Dean's work at all.  Does he have a copycat or a rival?

This is the seventh Freida Klein novel and the suspense that characterizes the series is in top form in this edition.  Freida must decide how to catch the killer in the shadows and what she must do in order to protect those she loves.  The reader will go along on the nerve-wracking journey that surrounds Freida and cheer her on as she fights back against the evil surrounding her.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens

Joe Talbert is not crazy about the English assignment he's been given.  It's a semester long assignment and he has to write a memoir of someone's life.  Joe has enough on his plate.  Money is desperately tight so he is always scrimping and saving so that he can afford college on his own, working nights as a bouncer in a bar and never knowing when he will get called back home.  Home is an erratic mother who is promiscuous and a partier, who will go out of town with a boyfriend and leave Joe's autistic brother, Jeremy, to fend for himself.

But an assignment is an assignment so he heads to a local nursing home to interview his subject.  He has been given Carl Iverson.  Joe is shocked to find out that Carl has just been released from prison after many years as he is in the last stages of cancer and the state has decided he can die in the nursing home.  He was imprisoned for raping and killing a young teenage girl.  Joe is loath to meet him but finds him not as intimidating as he feared.  Instead he is a sick old man but one who, as Joe delves into his story, may be innocent of the crime he has served his life in jail for.

As Joe starts to suspect that Carl was framed, things begin to happen.  Most of the girl's family and friends still live in town and none of them are pleased that the story is being looked at again.  As Joe gets closer to the truth, he becomes a danger to the true killer.  Will he find out the truth before someone puts an end to him?

This is a debut novel and a very strong one.  Joe is a likeable protagonist; his social conscience and his determination to make the world a better place are strong characteristics.  Joe's love for his brother and his refusal to cast him aside make for a good secondary plotline, as does his budding romance with the girl down the hall.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Bloodshot by Stuart MacBride

Things don't get easier for Aberdeen's Detective Sergeant Logan McRae.  He's working three cases, any of which could drive a sane man mad.  There's the porn star, dropped off at death's door at the hospital where he promptly died.  There's the open and shut case of a pensioner stabbed to death in a robbery by an eight year who leads a shoplifting/robbery gang.  Then there's the case of Robbie Macintyre.

Robbie is the star of the local football club and a media darling.  The tv and papers idolize him for his prowess on the field and his showy lifestyle with his mansion, high end cars and flashy women.  There's only one problem; Aberdeen police are convinced he's the rapist that is targeting women alone at night, each incident getting more vicious.  McRae's girlfriend, Jackie Watson, takes Macintyre down disguised as a potential victim.  But Hissing Sid, Aberdeen's pre-eminant lawyer, gets Macintyre released and expects an apology for the outrage of charging him.

Making matters even worse are McRae's boss.  Detective Inspector Roberta Steel is the talk of the station for her wild ways and inclination to have her subordinates do her job.  With the Macintyre debacle, DI Insch is in disgrace and put under Steel temporarily, not a mood inclined to improve his mood.  McRae is loaned out to Insch, but it's not like Steel is letting him go.  Now he has two demanding DI's to work for.

This is the third novel in the popular Logan McRae series.  The action is fast and furious, coupled with a dark sense of humor typical of Scottish writing.  Logan is a good guy, forever put down by circumstances but finding a way to get his job done regardless of circumstance.  The various plot lines resolve successfully and satisfactorily as the reader ends another tale of Aberdeen policing, eager for the next.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

In Her Bones by Kate Moretti

Edie Beckett is trying to live under the radar, not an easy task when you are the daughter of Lilith Wade.  Lilith is famous for being one of the few female serial killers.  She stabbed six people to death over a period of a few years while Edie and her brother, Dylan, were teenagers.  Everyone knows about Lilith and no one believes Edie didn't know what was going on.  But Edie's father made sure of that.  He knew Lilith had major mental issues so the children lived with him only visiting Lilith when their father thought she was stable. 

A recent tell-all book about Lilith is making her story a big hit again.  Edie works a dead end job as she tries to live her life quietly.  She has had issues with alcohol and is trying to make a go of things.  Secretly, she spends hours tracking the surviving families of Lilith's victims.  Edie isn't sure why she is so obsessed with these people, but they are her major interest in life.

Things take a horrific turn one evening.  Edie meets one of the survivors in a bar; his wife was Lilith's last victim.  Somehow she finds herself heading home with him and spending the night in his apartment.  She leaves early the next morning already regretting the night before.  Imagine her regret and shock when it turns out that he is killed immediately after she leaves and of course Edie is the prime suspect.  She immediately goes underground, determined to find the real killer while the police are searching for her.  Can she overcome her background to save her life?

Kate Moretti has written a suspenseful tale that allows the reader to imagine the life Edie lives as the daughter of an infamous mother.  The reader can't help but pull for Edie, even as she continues to make mistakes that seem to steer her further and further from the normality she craves.  The surrounding characters are interesting as well; the brother who has married and has a child now, the police detective who has a fatherly feeling for Edie and the man who loves her no matter what she does to push him away.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, May 31, 2019

The Shadow Of Death by Philip Ginsburg

Things were changing in the early 1980's in the Connecticut River Valley.  The River went between two states, New Hampshire and Vermont and was made up of small towns and people used to a rural life.  But outside life was intruding.  City dwellers were moving out to escape the high prices and crime of the big cities.  Instead of everyone knowing everyone else, now families came and went and one encountered many strangers each day.  Soon, things would change even more as young girls and women started to disappear, found later dead.

At first it was young girls, girls who were walking along the small highways or even hitchhiking, which was more common then.  At first, the cases seemed unrelated but as the total number started to climb, the similarities between the cases were more noticeable and soon the police and the general public realized that one person was responsible.  After much investigation, a young man named Gary Schaefer was arrested and imprisoned.

But the cases did not stop.  Women alone in cars along the highways were still being grabbed up, their bodies found months later.  One woman was last seen talking on a public pay phone outside a store.  Another was taken from a rest stop one snowy evening returning from a ski trip.  One was killed in her house minutes before her husband returned; an outlier but the house was impossible not to see and its occupants were basically living in a fishbowl.  These women were older than the first group of victims and as unbelievable as it might seem, it became clear that this small rural area had another serial killer working the roads.  This one was never caught although there were various suspects over the years.

Readers of true crime will find this book fascinating.  It is not one of the most publicized cases so it will be new to most people.  Although the second killer was never found, the story of the investigation, the families of the victims and the police who worked the case are interesting.  It is a good viewpoint into what a case was like as the notion of serial killers was just making its way into the mindset of the country.  I found this book especially interesting because of one investigator.  It was a psychiatrist named John Philpin, who was one of the earlier individuals doing what the FBI was to later make so famous in books and TV shows, building a psychological profile of the killer that could be used to identify and capture the killer.  I was in an email group with John years ago and to read about his early career was satisfying.  This book is recommended for readers of true crime.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Monk Of Mokha by Dave Eggers

According to history, coffee was first discovered by a shepherd in Yemen, Africa, when he noticed that his sheep seemed to be way too energetic.  He realized they were chewing berries and after investigation, found a way to make the beans in the berries into coffee.  The drink spread rapidly and was soon a major crop in Yemen and protected from exportation.  Over time, the Dutch smuggled it to the island of Java and then later it was smuggled again to South America.  Now coffee is the premier drink of the world but almost no Yemen farmers grow it.  Over time, they rotated out of coffee to growing qat, a plant that can be chewed to induce euphoria.

Recently, a young man living in the United States with a Yeman background, Mokhtar Alkhanshali discovered all this history and decided that bringing Yemeni coffee back to prominence would be his life work.  He had spent time in Yemen as a child with his grandfather and wanted to give back to his country.  He had no experience in business, no contacts in the coffee world and no real idea how to create his dream.  But he found ways to move ahead.  He attended every event having to do with coffee, visited coffee farms and processing plants and learned the process of taking a plant from berry to bean to coffee.  He became a coffee judge.  Finally, he was ready to go back to Yemen.

Once there, he again started his journey of exploration and learning.  He visited the few farmers still growing coffee.  Due to poor processing, the native coffee was now graded low and the farmers received little money for their product.  He taught the correct processes to those interested with the promise of much greater money in the future for their crop.

Finally, he was ready to achieve his goal.  He had tons of product and now needed a way to get it to market.  Unfortunately, Yemen was not a placid place but one torn by war between rival factions and Mokhtar and his partner found themselves unable to get out of the country in order to attend the coffee conference that would establish the new Yemen coffee.  After many trials, armed confrontations, arrests and last minute miracles, Mokhtar escaped Yemen, returned to the United States and successfully introduced high grade Yemen coffee.

This was an interesting book written about a young man who should have failed a thousand times over but who persisted and finally, after years of preparation and work, managed to achieve his goal.  Readers will discover the history of coffee and the political and economic realities of life in Yemen.  This book is recommended for nonfiction readers.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Booksie's Shelves, May 25, 2019

It's Memorial Day Weekend and I wish everyone a restful time while sending appreciation to those who the holiday celebrates.  We started our weekend off with a bang, going to Durham to see the delightful play, Hello Dolly.  Betty Buckley is 72 but she can still command the stage and the dancing and choreography was amazing.  We got home very late and have spent most of today recuperating from the shortened sleep we got.  Tomorrow we are going to a neighbor's cookout and I'll be making broccoli salad to take.

A few weekends ago, I went to the library to pick up a reserve book and fell into a library book sale.  Most of what I bought were books in either the Michael Connelly Bosch series or the Jonathan Kellerman Alex Delaware series as one of my goals this year is to catch up and get current on each.  One of my favorite mystery authors, Stuart MacBride, just released his latest and I've been fighting the urge to buy it right away.  Here's what has been successful in coming through the door:

1.  The Good Sister, Gillian McAllister, thriller, sent by publisher
2.  Degrees Of Difficulty, Julie Justicz, literary fiction, sent by publicist
3.  The Drop, Michael Connelly, mystery, purchased
4.  The Closers, Michael Connelly, mystery, purchased
5.  Once A Liar, A.F. Brady, thriller, sent by publisher
6.  The Furies, Katie Lowe, thriller, won in contest
7.  Merivel, Rose Tremian, historical fiction, purchased
8.  Dr. Death, Jonathan Kellerman, mystery, purchased
9.  Therapy, Jonathan Kellerman, mystery, purchased
10.  Survival Of The Fittest, Jonathan Kellerman, mystery, purchased

Here's what I'm reading:

1. The Monk Of Mokta, Dave Eggers, hardback
2.  Witch Elm, Tana French, hardback
3.  Flannery O'Connor, The Collected Stories, paperback
4.  The Truth-Tellers Lie, Sophie Hannah, paperback
5.  In Her Bones, Kate Moretti, Kindle Fire
6.  The Eye Of The World, Robert Jordan, audible
7.  The Shadow Of Death, Phillip Ginsberg, hardback

8.  Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain, hardback

Happy Reading!

Saturday, May 25, 2019

The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French

If you are a half-orc, life doesn't get better than riding with the Grey Bastards.  Friends Jackal, Oats and Fetching grew up together in the orphanage and become members at the same time.  The groups are necessary to protect The Lots, the lands that were granted to the half-orcs after the Great War.  Their purpose is to act as a safeguard and buffer to keep the orcs from invading and to border on the Elven lands.  It's a life of duty, hard-riding mounted on hogs to patrol the land and frequent battles with various invaders.  There are other groups, but everyone knows the Bastards are the best.

But all is not good.  The group's leader has been in power for many, many years and some question if he is still capable of leading the group.  Jackal is one of those and is interested in leading himself.  But to challenge the leader can easily lead to death or banishment and he's not sure he has the votes to win.  Recently, a new half-orc has shown up.  He seems to be a wizard and while he professes friendship and support for Jackal, Jack isn't sure if he can trust him or what his real story is.  There seem to be lots of power struggles and machinations throughout the world and it takes a smart, dedicated guy to survive and thrive.  What will come next?

Jonathan French has created an interesting world that arrives fully fleshed out and a hero in Jackal that will engage the reader's interest and sympathy.  The battle scenes are frequent and well done, and the issues of friendship and loyalty are explored.  The language and sex scenes are not PG, but all in all this first novel in an anticipated series has burst upon the fantasy world and I, for one, can't wait to read more about this world.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Prairie Fever by Michael Parker

The Stewart family is living in Lone Wolf, Oklahoma, in the early 1900's and the living is hard.  The prairie stretches forever, but it's not necessarily easy farming land.  The winters are brutal with biting winds and blizzards that blow up out of nowhere.  The family has lost two small sons to 'prairie fever' or typhoid and only the daughters are left.  Lorena is seventeen and Elise is fifteen.  They feel alone in the world; their mother has never recovered from their brothers' deaths and their father is a big talker, little action buffoon who drags them from state to state on whatever whims move him along.

Every day the two sisters saddle up Sandy, their horse, and ride the miles into town to school.  Their teacher is Gus McQueen, a man just a few years older than them and with little education or aptitude for teaching although kind and interesting.  Lorena is organized and focused, the best student in school as well as the most beautiful.  Elise is different; she sees the world through dreams and odd takes on common views.  Most don't understand her or the depth of her feelings for those she loves.

When Gus and Lorena ride out in a blizzard to go after Elise who has taken off on what seems to her a necessary adventure, things change.  They rescue Elise right before death and Gus' relationship with the girls changes forever.  He and Lorena become a couple, but down the road, he ends up falling in love and marrying Elise instead; an act that creates a lifelong rift between the two sisters. 

Michael Parker has a talent for bringing characters to life and leaving readers not only interested in other times and the difficulties people had then, but with lifelong friends in their minds.  No one reading about Elise will forget her quickly and the stories of life in those earlier times shows starkly the difficulties of communication and how distance meant something back then that it doesn't mean in our hurried world.  The story unfolds slowly giving the reader time to sink into the time period and get to know each character.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor

Somewhere in the desert, in the American Southwest, is the town of Night Vale.  That's the opening for many small towns but Night Vale is different.  Really different.  There are widespread government conspiracies, rapacious librarians, angels and time just doesn't work right there.  Donations to various community fundraisers are compulsory and taken from one's bank account.  Your child may be a teenager one day, a giant moth the next and perhaps a sloth or a skink the next.

When Diane's son goes missing, she knows she has to do something to find him.  Should she join forces with Jackie, a perpetual nineteen-year old who runs the pawn shop and seems to hate her?  Why is Troy, her son Josh's biological father, back in town?  He left when Diane found out she was pregnant sixteen years ago.  Why is her job in jeopardy after years of running the company's database?  Why doesn't anyone else at her job remember Evan who worked there for years but seems to have disappeared?  What is the force that seems to be drawing everyone to King City and how do you get there?

These are all questions that need answers and so, forgetting their dislike of each other, Diane and Jackie make plans to work together to solve the mysteries surrounding them.  In the process, they will each discover things about themselves and their locale that are astonishing but commonplace in this strange town.

Welcome to Night Vale started as a podcast.  It has turned into a massive conglomerate, with podcasts, merchandise, books, live shows, etc.  It's mix of whimsy and nonsense has created a cult following that is difficult for those who don't get it to understand.  The target audience is probably teenagers to early twenties but any age with the right mindset could enjoy it and become an aficionado.  This book is recommended for sci fi/fantasy readers.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Ally Hughes Has Sex Sometimes by Jules Moulin

Ally Hughes turned 41 recently.  She is happy enough.  She has her daughter, Lizzie, 20, who is bright, gorgeous and determined to make it as an actress.  She has her career, a tenured professor at Brown University in Female Studies.  She has friends and baking and reading.  What she doesn't have is a man.  Oh, there is Ted, a rich man who is always available for a dinner date or to serve as a plus one but there isn't much of a spark with him plus Lizzie hates him. 

It's not like Ally has burned up the sheets anytime in her life.  There was the one-night stand in her freshman year at college that produced Lizzie nine months later.  Then there was Jake.  Jake showed up in her class as a presence she was aware of in the back row.  He wrote huge papers that she graded down for exceeding length.  In fact, as the end of the semester loomed, he is about to fail.  He shows up at her door to ask for leniency which she gives him.  Then he stays to help out as Ally's handyman has once again disappeared on an appointment.  Ally needs a handyman that weekend as Lizzie is about to turn ten and she needs to put together her birthday present, a new bed while Lizzie is off visiting her grandmother.  What she never expected was a weekend of passionate, riotous sex or Jake's declarations of love.

Fast forward ten years.  Lizzie is determined to make it as an actress, an occupation that mostly consists of auditions although she gets a line in movies or shows every so often.  She volunteers Ally to cook dinner for the star of her newest movie, Noah.  Imagine Ally's surprise when Noah shows up and turns out to be Jake and the attraction is still there.  Will Ally act on it and seize some happiness in her life finally?

This is Jules Moulin's debut novel although not her debut writing job.  She spent several years working as a writer on hit shows like Party Of Five and The West Wing.  In Ally, she has created a woman who is finally waking up to the fact that our lives are what we choose to make of them and that we don't have to settle but can instead hold out for our dreams.  This book is recommended for romance and women's fiction readers.