Saturday, April 18, 2015

Roadside Crosses by Jeffrey Deaver

They are, unfortunately, a common sight.  Roadside crosses, covered with flowers and stuffed animals, that mark the spot where a loved one has met death.  Some are temporary while others are maintained carefully and lovingly for years.  Each tell the story of dreams crushed and lives snuffed out.

But in the Monterey Peninsula, these crosses have taken a more sinister turn.  After a teenage wreck in which several popular girls are killed, the community's ire and scorn are heaped upon the teen driver, a gamer outcast named Travis.  No one can understand what a guy like that was doing driving the car of one of the most popular girls, or how he's been allowed to walk free after the wreck.  Sentiment is against him and the readers of the area's most popular blog have plenty to say about Travis and his family.  He is despised, scorned and ridiculed. 

Then new roadside crosses start to appear.  These are different from the usual memorials though.  They don't give the names and dates of those who have died.  Instead, they predict death and give the names of those who have used the blog to heap scorn on Travis.  After their cross is planted, the individuals named are murdered.  A huge manhunt for Travis is started, but he has disappeared.

CBI kinetic expert Kathryn Dance heads up the murder investigation.  She is helped by Deputy Michael O'Neil and local computer expert Jonathan Boling.  Together they try to track Travis through the world of online gaming to determine his next moves and stop the trail of death marked by crosses.

Kathryn Dance is Jeffry Deaver's alternate mystery sleuth.  This is the third novel to feature Dance and readers will be interested in her use of the science of kinetics to unravel suspect duplicity.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight

The residents of Ridgedale have woken up to a startling news story.  A body has been found by the Ellis Bridge, near the woods where students go to party and adjacent to the local college campus.  As the story unfolds, it becomes more shocking.  The body is a baby, probably a newborn, although the police aren't releasing much information.  The town, which prides itself on its low crime rate and great educational opportunities, becomes a beehive of rumors. 

Is this another sad case of a teenager who has delivered a baby her parents don't know about and an attempt to hide the result?  Is it the case of a mother and baby who have been killed and the mother's body is yet to be discovered?  Is it related to the town's last criminal death which happened eighteen years before in the same location and was written off as the result of teenage partying and a drunken accident?

The residents react differently, depending on their backgrounds.  Molly is a new reporter, starting over in a new career and town after she and her husband's second baby is stillborn.  Brenda is the queen bee, with the perfect family and married to the police chief.  Her daughter Hannah is also a perfect teenager, who spends her spare time tutoring. One of her assignments is Sandy, who has dropped out of high school to get a job.  Sandy's mom, Jenna, is the girl everyone talked about in high school.  She has brought Sandy back to Ridgedale where she hopes they can get out of poverty.  When the Wall Street finance firms cut back and Stella lost her job and shortly thereafter her husband, she decided to get out of the workforce and try a life of stay-at-home mom.

The story is assigned to Molly.  As she digs into the assignment, she starts to uncover secrets that the town and the individuals involved hoped would never surface.  The baby's death serves as a lens that highlights all the things swept under rugs and relegated to whispers.  Can Molly find out whose baby was left in the woods, and does the town want her to?

Kimberly McCreight has written a book that uses a crime to explore the way women live their lives.  Some are career women, some are housewives.  Some are happily married, some divorced and some floating from man to man.  Each must find a way to live in the town society, which likes to highlight positive things and hide negative ones deeply under the surface.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Behind Closed Doors by Elizabeth Haynes

Ten years ago, fifteen-year-old Scarlett Rainsford disappeared while on a family vacation in Greece.  It was unclear if she was kidnapped or whether she ran away.  No body was ever found and given the difficulties of coordinating with another country, the case went cold.  The family was of little help and seemed strange.  The father was controlling and the mother seemed childish.  The younger sister was very high strung and seemed to have mental issues. 

It was one of the first cases of Detective Lou Smith's career, and she was frustrated and disappointed when the case wasn't solved or any clues developed that led to any conclusions.  Now, Lou has been promoted and as the head of a team, handles multiple cases.  Yet when she hears that Scarlett has been found, alive and well and back in England, she finds time to get involved in the case.

Scarlett was kidnapped all those years ago.  She was forced into prostitution and spent years in various dingy apartments, forced to please men and turn the money over to the pimps.  She had no friends, as girls came and went, and most were too tired and shell-shocked to try to form friendships.  Scarlett was constantly watched, beat up, and given new names periodically.  After a decade, she managed to get away and make her way back to England.

Lou and her team work with the police on the task force on sex trafficking.  There are other connections.  Scarlett had been working in one of the establishments of the local crime boss.  Was this just the only job someone without papers or an education could get, or was Scarlett involved in his crimes?  There seems to be a rivalry heating up in the underworld, and Scarlett seems to know about this.  Then there is her family.  They don't seem that excited or interested in Scarlett's return.  Why aren't they rushing to her side and her defense?

Elizabeth Haynes is a former police intelligence analyst.  This is her fifth novel, and the second one with Detective Lou Smith.  Her former occupation leads authenticity to the novel, giving the reader valuable insight into the real workings of a police investigation.  The book also highlights the horrific world of sex trafficking, a real problem throughout the world, and one that is a top issue for feminists and other women.  This book is recommended for mystery readers who enjoy police procedurals.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Birthdays For The Dead by Stuart MacBride

Scotland has a diabolical serial killer on the loose.  Dubbed The Birthday Boy by the press, he kidnaps young girls right before their thirteenth birthday.  They are never seen again, but each year on their birthday, the grieving parents receive a birthday card.  The card contains a photograph of their daughter bound to a chair.  Each year the girl is shown with signs of more torture, until on the fifth year she is shown dead.

Detective Constable Ash Henderson has been on the case since the start.  He has been demoted due to a mistake in the case that sent his superior officer to jail, and that broke the spirit of the case's forensic officer.  Ash knows more about the killer and the case than anyone, but he has secrets.  No one knows that five years ago his own daughter, Rebecca, was taken, and that Ash and his ex-wife receive the birthday cards each year.  This will be the year her death is shown, and Ash is determined to find the killer.  He has kept Rebecca's capture a secret from the police and everyone else so that he won't be taken off the case.

Things seem to be changing in the investigation.  There are signs the killer is escalating.  Ash gets a new ally in his hunt, a young forensic psychiatrist, Alice MacDonald.  She has demons of her own, but quickly bonds to Henderson.  Together they fight to find the killer before the latest victim is killed.

This is the first novel in the Ash Henderson series.  He is a violent man, but a man whose violence is done in the name of helping those he loves and catching the most evil humans who stalk the land.  Readers who came to know Stuart MacBride from the Detective Logan novels will find Ash a darker man, driven by demons that few can imagine.  MacBride's signature black humor is still to be found and his pacing and twists and turns will prove this is another stellar series.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Fiercombe Manor by Kate Riordan

In 1933, Alice's story is a common one.  Young and naïve, she fell for the admiration of an older, married man.  Inexperienced at love, she believed him when he said his marriage was a farce and that he would divorce his wife and instead marry Alice.  When she gets pregnant, he vanishes and Alice's reputation is on the line.  Her parents are aghast and worried that she has ruined her entire life.  They concoct a story of a hasty marriage where the bridegroom was killed shortly thereafter in an accident, and shuffle her off to her mother's hometown village to wait out the months till the baby's arrival. 

Alice's mother had a best friend who is now the housekeeper at the local estate, Fiercombe Manor.  She agrees that Alice can stay at the manor until the baby comes and help out around the estate.  But since the estate owners now live overseas, returning to the estate infrequently, there is little to do and Alice has lots of time on her hands.  She becomes interested in the history of the manor and of the beautiful Elizabeth, of whom rumors abound.  Elizabeth had been the mistress thirty years before, and married to the headstrong master, Edward.  Edward had hated the manor, thinking it old and inconvenient and had built a new, huge house nearby where the couple lived.  No one seemed to know what happened to the family and even the new house had disappeared, while the heirs went back to the manor to live.

As Alice delves into Elizabeth's history, she starts to feel a connection between them.  For Elizabeth was pregnant the last summer that there is word about her.  Then nothing.  She finds that the couple had a small daughter, but continued to try to have an heir.  Elizabeth had issues with pregnancy and had lost several babies.  Alice can't help but feel that they are connected by their pregnancies.  When Alice meets the young heir to the estate, Thomas, and they begin a friendship, she finds more of the pieces of the mystery.  What is Elizabeth's story and what will Alice's life story turn out to be?

This book is reminiscent of the superstitions and horrors that used to attend pregnancy.  Girls who became pregnant outside of marriage were scorned and humiliated, forced into early marriages with little chance of success or sent off to have their child, which was then taken from them.  Women who were married and pregnant were also surrounded with mystery, spending the last days in seclusion and sent to asylums for months for treatments when they had postpartum depression.  They were considered suicidal, starved and deprived of their children, and given barbaric treatments such as electric shock.  This book reminds the current generation of the struggles of their ancestors.  Today, when having a child outside of marriage is not considered the end of the world and postpartum depression is recognized and treated effectively, women can only imagine the horrors pregnancy could bring to their ancestors.  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Booksie's Shelves, March 31, 2015

We've had a week of chilly, rainy days here in NC, but spring has now arrived with warm, sunny days and glorious flowering trees and flowers.  I think everyone's mood lifts when the outdoors is so beautiful.  I've been reading away.  Here's the newest books that have arrived:

1.  The Home Place, Carrie La Seur, literary fiction, sent by publisher
2.  Aunt Dimity And The Summer King, Nancy Atherton, mystery, sent by publisher
3.  Snapper, Brian Kimberling, literary fiction, Paperbackswap
4.  Read Bottom Up, Neel Shah, literary fiction, sent for book tour
5.  Subtle Bodies, Norman Rush, literary fiction, Amazon Vine review book
6.  The Fixer, Joseph Finder, mystery, sent by publisher
7.  The Golden Age Of Murder, Martin Edwards, nonfiction, sent for book tour
8.  Silver Apples Of The Moon, Rebecca James, literary fiction, sent by author
9.  Everybody Rise, Stephanie Clifford, literary fiction, won at Shelf Awareness
10.  Phenomenal, Leigh Ann Henion, travel, sent by publisher
11.  A God In Ruins, Kate Atkinson, literary fiction, sent by publisher
12.  A Scourge Of Vipers, Bruce DeSilva, mystery, sent by publisher
13.  A Tender Struggle, Krista Bremer, literary fiction, sent by publisher
14.  In The Dark Places, Peter Robinson, mystery, sent by publisher
15.  Orhan's Inheritance, Aline Ohanesian, historical fiction, sent by publisher
16.  Beach Town, Mary Kay Andrews, literary fiction, sent by publisher
17.  Missing, Sam Hawken, mystery, sent by publisher
18.  The Panda Theory, Pascal Garnier, mystery, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm currently reading:

1.  The Innovators, Walter Issacson, Kindle
2.  Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter, paperback
3.  A Feast For Crows, George R. R. Martin, hardback
4.  Barracuda, Christos Tsiolkas, hardback
5.  The Rise And Fall Of Great Powers, Tom Rachman, paperback
6.  Roadside Crosses, Jeffrey Deaver, hardback
7.  The Black Country, Alex Grecian, paperback
8.  All I Have In This World, Michael Parker, paperback
9.  Fiercombe Manor, Kate Riordan, paperback
10.  The Orchid Affair, Lauren Willig, hardback
11. Michael Jordan, A Life, Roland Lazenby, hardback
12.  Rescue, Anita Shreve, hardback
13.  Birthdays For The Dead, Stuart McBride,  Kindle Fire
14  Careless In Red, Elizabeth George, hardback

 Happy Reading!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Girl Next Door by Ruth Rendell

At the end of World War II, a group of English children met to play in what they called the tunnels.  It was really a house foundation that had been dug out and then deserted as construction ground to a halt with laborers off to war, but to a group of kids it was a playground come true.  Deserted with no adults to interfere, the tunnels served as a location to make friends and tell secrets. Finally, one of the fathers found their hideout and ran them off, as adults would, but the friendships begun there would survive.

Now, sixty years later, the group comes back together due to a gruesome discovery.  The foundation was excavated as new construction was started, and a small biscuit tin was found.  Inside the tin were the bones of two hands, one female, one male.  Who had lost their hands and why were the rest of the bodies never found?

The group searched each other out and reunited to see if they could come up with answers.  Some of them had died, of course, and those left were now in their seventies and seeing the end of their own lives.  Secrets were no longer worth keeping, and together they were able to piece together actions that had seemed opaque long ago without the background to interpret them.  As they talked, they discovered relatives that had gone missing and been put down to wartime dislocations.  Were these the couple whose hands had been discovered?

But coming together changed the group.  Some came together as lovers, breaking up long-time marriages in an attempt to find long-lost happiness.  Some discovered that they still could find friendship and ways to be happy.  Some discovered that their worst fears were true and the monsters they thought were childhood fancies were very real indeed.

Ruth Rendell is one of the brightest stars in the mystery genre.  Her career has spanned fifty years and more than sixty books.  She has won three Edgar Awards and made a member of the House Of Lords in England.  Readers will find this book as interesting as those that have come before.  It is recommended for mystery readers and those interested in how age changes us yet leaves us the same.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Shady Cross by James Hankins

Stokes is not a good guy, but he'd claim he was not the worst.  Sure, he couldn't hack the nine to five world and had made his living as a petty crook.  He walked out on his wife and baby daughter.  Maybe he made his living as a while as an enforcer for the big boss in Shady Cross.  Maybe he had even gotten in some scuffles that resulted in hospitalizations or funeral homes.

Stokes can't believe his luck when, after a wreck (that he may have caused, but who's ever sure about things like that?) he discovers the other driver dead but a backpack full of money in his car.  Thousands upon thousands of dollars and who could use it more than Stokes?  He could get out of town and make a new life for himself.

But then he answers the guy's cell phone.  On the other end is a little girl crying and saying, "Daddy, are you bringing the money?  They say I can come home if you bring them the money."  What should he do?  On the one hand, a chance for a new life for himself; on the other a chance to save a little girl he'd never met. 

James Hankins sets up this scenario as the introduction to one of the most thrilling, fast-paced novels I've read in months.  The reader is repulsed by Stokes, but on the other hand, as the book unfolds, can't help but to start pulling for him.  Stokes encounters twists and turns and defeat on every front as he races the clock to the kidnappers' deadline.  The reader is pulled along on the nerve-wracking ride, unsure how Stokes will handle each new obstacle.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Life From Scratch by Sasha Martin

Sasha Martin is the author of a successful foodie blog, Global Table Adventure.  When she was approached with the idea of turning her blog into a book, she thought it would be an easy endeavor.  Instead, she quickly realized that in order for her book to be meaningful, she would have to describe how she came to love food in all its various combinations, and in order to do that, she would have to talk about her own life.  That was something Sasha didn't want to do.

Sasha had a rough childhood.  She and her brother, Michael, spent their early years with their mother in a small apartment in Queens.  There was never much money but there was love and creativity and food, lots of food.  Food was never to be wasted so her mother invented countless ways to make the food budget stretch with lots of ways to use leftovers.  But there were also food celebrations; marvelous family desserts that they might have to save up for months to purchase the ingredients for. 

As Sasha got into school, life became harder and harder for her mother to maneuver on her own.  Soon, the school personnel were reporting the family to Social Services and the children entered the system and a series of foster families, many of which were horrid.  In order to rescue her children, the mother made a huge sacrifice and gave the children to a family friend to raise.  The new family moved frequently due to the father's job, so Sasha and her brother had not only lost their original family but never had a place to call their own that wouldn't be snatched out from under them at a moment's notice.

Once through college, Sasha started an odyssey to discover her life's work.  She worked as a web designer, in marketing, went to cooking school and basically knocked around.  When she ended up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on an internship, something felt right and she made the city her home.  She found a husband and soon had a child.  Determined to give her child the kind of warm, loving childhood she always wanted, she searched for a project.  She came up with the idea of cooking her way around the world, cooking the traditional recipes of every country in the world using original recipes.  The project would take four years and the blog grew from this project.  In the process, Sasha not only created a successful blog, but a new way of connecting with her family and her community.  This is the story she shares.

Each chapter in the book ends with a recipe.  Some of these are family traditions, and some are recipes from various places in the world.  Some are quick meals made from leftover ingredients, while some take days to prepare.  Each shows the love Sasha has for food, and for the connections food helps us make with others.  This book is recommended for readers of memoirs and for foodies. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Mystery Writers Of America Cookbook, edited by Kate White

Mystery readers will be enchanted with the latest idea from the Mystery Writers of America.  They've rounded up over one hundred of the best mystery writers now working and asked each to contribute a recipe.  The resulting collection was then edited and put together by Kate White, who is also a mystery writer.  Food and mysteries go together like bacon and eggs.  Think of all the poisoned dinners that are plot devices, the muffins and subs eaten on stakeouts, and the gourmet detectives such as Nero Wolfe that have entertained the reader.  There is even a subgenre of mysteries, the culinary mysteries, which give the reader a mystery and recipes to match the action.

The book is divided into the following categories:  breakfast, appetizers, soups and salads, entrees, side dishes, cocktails and desserts.  The list of contributing authors include the who's who of mystery writers: Frankie Y. Bailey (see review of What The Fly Saw), Alafaire Burke, Lorenzo Carcaterra, Lee Child, Mary Higgins Clark, Harlen Coben, Thomas H. Cook (see reviews of Peril, Blood Innocents and The Cloud Of Unknowing), Diane Mott Davidson, Nelson DeMille, Hallie Ephron (see review of There Was An Old Woman), Linda Fairstein(see review of The Prosecution Rests), Lyndsay Faye(see review of The Gods Of Gotham), Joseph Finder, Gillian Flynn, Sue Grafton, Carolyn Hart, Peter James, J.A. Jance, Laurie R. King(see review of A Darker Place), Laura Lippman(see review of Life Sentences), Margaret Maron, Brad Meltzer, David Morrell, Marcia Muller, Katherine Hall Page, Sara Paretsky, James Patterson, Louise Penny, Kathy Reichs, Lisa Scottoline, Karin Slaughter, Wendy Corsi Staub(see review of The Perfect Stranger), Scott Turow, Lisa Unger, Jacqueline Winspear and Ben Winters, as well as many others. 

Each recipe has an interesting article with it from the author telling how it relates to their series or protagonists.  The recipe themselves are easy to follow and written as real cooks cook rather than the more formal recipes often found in cookbooks.  There are also gorgeous full-color photographs of many of the dishes. 

The Mystery Writers of America is dedicated to all things mystery, and is composed of mystery writers, aspiring authors, fans and publishing professionals in the genre.  It conducts the annual Edgar Awards, named for Edgar Allen Poe and considered the premiere award in the mystery field.  It also has programs to encourage kids to read, and scholarships for writers.  It was founded in 1945.  All proceeds from the book go to MWA to support their work.  This book is recommended for mystery readers and cooks alike. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Stolen Prey by John Sandford

Lucas Davenport has seen a lot of murder scenes in his years with the Minnesota state police.  But he hasn't seen many as bad as this one.  An entire family, father, mother, young son and daughter, have been brutally murdered and left in their home.  The family owns a software business, hardly the kind of thing that arouses a lot of criminal interest.  Or does it?  Something about the carnage reminds Lucas of the brutal murders associated with Mexican drug lords.

As the investigator deepens, there appears to be some connection.  Several Mexican men were noticed near the crime scene.  It starts to look as if the company was being used to launder drug money with apparently something going very wrong.  Lucas reaches out to other agencies, federal ones as well as contacts in the Mexican police.  Mexico sends one of their top policemen to help with the investigation.  Soon, it appears that local banks are also involved as their accounts may have been used to finance the money laundering.  More bodies start to show up as the drug lords follow their scorched earth policy trying to find their missing money.  Can Lucas and his crew find the killers before the body count climbs even higher?

Readers of John Sandford will know what they are getting when they open the pages of this novel.  This is the twenty-second Lucas Davenport mystery and loyal readers have followed his cases for years.  Sandford has a good mix of solid police procedural and the occasional rogue steps outside procedure that can advance a stalled investigation.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Booksie's Shelves, March 12, 2015

Spring has sprung in North Carolina and none too soon!  Everywhere you look you see brave daffodils and crocuses peeping from the yards, survivors of a cold February.  The birds are back and the backyards are a cacophony of birdsongs, each shouting it's happiness to be here in North Carolina in the spring.  The ACC Tournament is in Greensboro, where it belongs, and all is right in the basketball world, even with the inclusion of the new teams in the ACC, which I for one, don't think belong here.  Ah well, the other sure sign of spring is new spring books and they have been sprouting in abundance the past few weeks!  So many great books have arrived on my doorstep that I'm excited about getting to them.  Here's what I've acquired lately:

1.  I Am Radar, Reif Larsen, literary fiction, sent by publisher
2.  Meet Me In Atlantis, Mark Adams, nonfiction, sent by publisher
3.  Sardar, Abdullah Sharif, history/memoir, sent by publisher
4.  Stranger Child, Rachel Abbott, mystery, sent by publisher
5.  The Daughter, Jane Shemilt, mystery, sent by publisher
6.  Killer, Come Hither, Louis Begley, literary fiction, Amazon Vine
7.  Adapt, Edward Freeland, thriller, sent by publisher
8.  Bettyville, George Hodgman, memoir, sent by publisher
9.  The Year My Mother Came Back, Alice Eve Cohen, literary fiction, sent by publisher
10.  Reluctantly Charmed, Ellie O'Neill, literary fiction, sent by publisher
11.  Night Night, Sleep Tight, Hallie Ephron, mystery, sent by publisher
12.  The Poser, Jacob Rubin, literary fiction, sent by publisher
13.  Prince Of Thorns, Mark Lawrence, fantasy, Paperbackswap
14.  A Small Indiscretion, Jan Ellison, literary fiction, sent by publisher
15.  The Mystery Writers Of America Cookbook, Kate White, cookbook, sent by publisher
16.  Blood-Drenched Beard, Daniel Galera, historical fiction, Amazon Vine
17.  Harm's Way, Alex Barclay, mystery, sent by publisher
18.  We'll Always Have Paris, Jennifer Coburn, memoir, sent by author
19.  Etta And Otto And Russell And James, Emma Hooper, literary fiction, Amazon Vine
20.  Lacy Eye, Jessica Treadway, mystery, won on Shelf Awareness
21.  Amherst, William Nicholson, historical fiction, sent by publisher
22.  The Dead Lands, Benjamin Percy, mystery, won on Shelf Awareness

Here's what I'm currently reading:

1.  The Innovators, Walter Issacson, Kindle
2.  Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter, paperback
3.  A Clash Of Kings, George R. R. Martin, hardback
4.  Barracuda, Christos Tsiolkas, hardback
5.  The Rise And Fall Of Great Powers, Tom Rachman, paperback
6.  Roadside Crosses, Jeffrey Deaver, hardback
7.  The Black Country, Alex Grecian, paperback
8.  Mrs. Poe, Lynn Cullen, paperback
9.  Love By The Book, Melissa Pimentel, paperback
10.  The Orchid Affair, Lauren Willig, hardback
11.  Principles Of Navigation, Lynn Sloan, paperback
12.  Rescue, Anita Shreve, hardback
13.  Birthdays For The Dead, Stuart McBride,  Kindle Fire
14  Life From Scratch, Sasha Martin, hardback

 Happy Reading!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

World Gone By by Dennis Lehane

Ten years ago, Joe Coughlin ran the Mob in Tampa and Cuba.  He gave up that position after his wife was murdered, and these days, serves as an advisor or consigliore, to the Bartolo crime family.  Joe grew up with these guys and counts the current boss, Dion, as his brother.  Joe spends his days taking care of his businesses which have been impacted as the rest of the country has during World War II.  Many of the men he worked with have gone to war, and the crime world is as impacted as the rest of American society.

Still, Joe is content for the most part.  He raises his son, Tomas, who he loves more than anything in the world.  He has a woman in his life, even though he must keep her a secret.  Then, in the space of a few weeks everything changes.  Joe starts to see a vision, a boy who bears a family resemblance to his own family.  What is this vision, and what does it mean?  There are rumors that someone is thinking about trying to take over from Dion, that Dion is slipping.  Then there is the rumor that a contract has been placed on Joe's own life.  Everyone loves Joe.  Who could be doing such a thing?

Have you ever seen someone peel an apple who starts at one end and effortlessly cuts the skin off in one long, graceful peel?  That vision came to me repeatedly as I read Lehane's latest book.  He effortlessly spins a tale that unfolds with inevitability and that skewers the world of the gangster.  It is a world full of loyalties and betrayals, a world where family is respected above all yet men do not hesitate to make women and children widows and orphans, where a man is on top of the world one day and staring up at the sky with lifeless eyes the next.  It is a brutal world whose appeal the reader can catch a glimpse of through Lehane's masterful portrayal.  This book is recommended for mystery readers. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

A Dark Mind by T.R. Ragan

Sacramento is being targeted by a serial killer.  Dubbed the Lovebird Killer, he kidnaps couples in love and then kills them in horrific ways.  Sometimes the couple is married, sometimes they are just in love.  Regardless, the killer delights in increasing their torture by testing how much they are willing to sacrifice for their love.  One man escaped several years ago although his girlfriend never made it out.  What little the police and the FBI know comes from his experience.

Lizzy Gardner, a private investigator, knows about serial killers.  She was kidnapped by one when she was seventeen and spent months in his captivity before escaping and helping the police catch him and put an end to his trail of misery.  She becomes embroiled in this new killer's case in several ways.  She is living with an FBI agent, Jared, who is assigned to the case.  One of the victim couples had recently hired Lizzy to do a workers compensation investigation which was interrupted when the wife was kidnapped and brutally killer, her husband falsely accused of the murder.  Lizzy and her two assistants, Hayley and Jessica, start to use their expertise to help the police track down this killer.  Can the Lovebird Killer be stopped before more couples die?

T. R. Ragan has written a series of Lizzy Gardner mysteries.  This is the third in the series but can be read as a stand-alone.  One effective technique is that each chapter begins with a quote from a real serial killer, most of whom the reader will recognize.  The characters are interesting and the plot moves quickly enough to keep the reader's interest.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Monday, March 2, 2015

What The Fly Saw by Frankie Bailey

Albany, New York, is well served by the detective team of Hannah McCabe and Mike Baxter, who have been partners for around four months.  Their latest case is one that is especially difficult.  A local undertaker, Kevin Novak, is found dead in the basement of his funeral home, shot with his own crossbow.  His wife and children report that he has been distant and upset lately but no one seems to know why, or at least no one who will talk to the detectives.

There are lots of suspects.  Both his pastor and the psychologist that is on call to the local megachurch where Novak was a member seem to know things about the victim they aren't willing to talk to the police about.  Olive Cooper is a local town matriarch, rich and elderly.  She introduces Kevin to a new lady in town, who claims to be a spiritualist.  Olive suggests that Kevin would benefit from attending a séance but he wants no part of it.  On the fringes is a tycoon and his assistant, friends of Cooper's, who were also part of Hannah's biggest case to date, a woman who killed without mercy and is waiting execution.  As the days go on, Hannah and Mike are getting closer to an answer but the suspects are starting to be targeted themselves.  Can they solve the murder before someone else dies?

Frankie Bailey is a professor in the School of Criminal Justice, SUNY.  She is a past president of Sisters in Crime and a part vice-president of Mystery Writers of America.  In this novel, she continues the development of detective McCabe and sets an intriguing puzzle to be solved.  The mystery is set in the future and mention is made of technology not yet available to help the police; this is especially well-done.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Illusionists by Rosie Thomas

Love of the theatre brought them together.  There was Devil Wix, handsome and charming and full of ambition to own the best magical show in London.  Carlo Bonomi was his magical act partner, an ill-tempered dwarf who Devil met when he saw Carlo using his skills to pickpocket in a crowd.  Jason Button is Devil's childhood friend and rival.  Heinrich Bayer is a scientist and inventor, fascinated with the art of automata; his favorite a lifesize dancing doll.  Then there is Eliza Dunlop.  She isn't content with the staid life of a lady in Victorian England.  She starts as an artists' model but when she meets the men she sees a way to fulfill her dreams of being an actress.  Together they start as acts at the Palmyra Theatre.

Devil isn't content to be just an act.  The owner is mercenary and grasping and Devil is determined to take the Palmyra from him and make it what it should be, rather than just another second-rate theatre.  He finds a way to oust the owner and then the group becomes the new owners and the Palmyra becomes the premier theatre destination for magical acts.  Over the years, players come and go but the group remains the driving force behind the theatre's success.

But nature abhors a stasis and fissures start to work below the theatre's veneer.  All of the men are in love with Eliza in various ways, but she can give her favors to only one.  The resulting tension starts to show up other ways in which the troupe is at odds and the everyday jealousies and slights of theatre life start to loom large.  Can the group overcome the tensions and rivalries to continue the tradition of excellence that makes the Palmyra the premiere theatre?

Rosie Thomas has written a historical fiction that explores life in Victorian England.  The love of theatre and showmanship is contrasted with the social rigidity of that society and the group's tensions and disagreements propel the action over the years.  The characters are unforgettable and the reader is swept along with a birds-eye view of the backstage life of a theatre.  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Booksie's Shelves, February 24, 2015

After not much winter this year, cold weather, snow and ice has hit North Carolina.  School was out two days last week and again today for a surprise snowstorm.  More is called for later this week with more snow days possible.  Although any day is a good reading day, snow days are especially good for reading.  Here in the South, you take your life in your hand if you attempt to drive anywhere so the day is spent huddled under blankets, reading and traveling in the mind.

Here's the most recent additions to Booksie's shelves:

1.  Corsican Justice, Bluette Matthey, mystery, sent by author
2.  Abbuzzo Intrigue, Bluette Matthey, mystery, sent by author
3.  Lamb, Bonnie Nadzam, literary fiction, Paperbackswap
4.  On Your Case, Lisa Green, nonfiction, sent by publisher
5.  Where They Found Her, Kimberly McCreight, mystery, sent for book tour
6.  Chinese Turkestan, Ryan Pyle, nonfiction/photography, sent by publisher
7.  The Turnip Princess, Franz Von Schonwerth, literary fiction, sent by publisher
8.  Night Is The Hunter, Steven Gore, mystery, sent by publisher
9.  Forgiving Maximo Rothman, A.J. Sidransky, mystery, sent by publisher
10.  Just You Wait, Jane Tesh, mystery, sent by publisher
11.  The Daddy Diaries, Joshua Braff, literary fiction, sent by publisher
12.  Dark City Lights, Lawrence Block, anthology, sent by publisher
13.  Small Mercies, Eddie Joyce, literary fiction, sent by publisher
14.  Prince Of Thrones, Mark Lawrence, fantasy, Paperbackswap
15.  False Tongues, Kate Charles, mystery, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm reading these days:

1.  The Innovators, Walter Issacson, Kindle
2.  Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter, paperback
3.  A Clash Of Kings, George R. R. Martin, hardback
4.  Barracuda, Christos Tsiolkas, hardback
5.  The Rise And Fall Of Great Powers, Tom Rachman, paperback
6.  The Illusionists, Rosie Thomas, paperback
7.  The Black Country, Alex Grecian, paperback
8.  Mrs. Poe, Lynn Cullen, paperback
9.  Love By The Book, Melissa Pimentel, paperback
10.  The Orchid Affair, Lauren Willig, hardback
11.  Principles Of Navigation, Lynn Sloan, paperback
12.  Rescue, Anita Shreve, hardback
13.  What The Fly Saw,  Frankie Bailey, Kindle Fire

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Rubbernecker by Belinda Bauer

Patrick Fort just wants to know.  As a young man with Asperger's Syndrome, he has a total focus and perseverance when he has a question.  And he has one of the biggest questions of all:  what is death and what causes it?  He has been obsessed with the question since his father died when he was younger and has tried various methods to satisfy his curiosity.

Now he may have the answer.  He has been admitted to college and to an anatomy class.  Although the rest of his classmates are all headed to medical degrees, Patrick has no interest in that.  He is just interested in the dissection they will be doing of a human corpse for his research.  He is sure that the answer has to be somewhere in the work they will be doing over the next few months.

In some ways, Patrick is the ideal candidate for this work.  He is unemotional and none of the dissection bothers him. His work is clean and methodical and he is even in the running for the semester's top prize.   In others, he is definitely the odd duck.  His literal way of looking at the world confuses his lab partners, and of course, he has no concept of teamwork. 

But as the weeks go by, Patrick becomes consumed with what he is sure has occurred.  Part of the work includes making a diagnosis of what killed the subjects.  Most are easy to diagnose as either cancer or heart disease makes up the majority of cases.  But No. 19, Patrick's body, is not easy to diagnose.  When Patrick decides 19 has been murdered, the groundwork is laid for a colossal  disaster.

Belinda Bauer is one of the best of the younger generation of mystery writers.  Her books are dark yet touch the reader as they explore the inner thoughts of those individuals who just don't fit in the mainstream.  Patrick's actions seem inevitable and the reader cheers him on even as things go awry.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Rough Country by John Sandford

Detective Virgil Flowers has been called to the lake country of Minnesota.  Unfortunately, it's not to indulge in his love, fishing, but to investigate a murder.  One of the fancier resorts in the area has reported a guest missing who went out in a kayak the evening before to watch the eagles and never returned.  She is found shot and killed and the case is beyond the resources of the local police.

Virgil starts his investigation and finds lots of suspects.  The resort is a female only one, and it turns out that it has a reputation for being a gathering place for lesbians.  Is the victim's sexuality the driving force behind the hate that killed her?  Or was it her plan to buy the resort herself as a retreat from running a competitive marketing agency?  Was it her interest in a local country band with a singer who is ready to do anything to make it big?

Suspects are plentiful.  The victim had a relationship with the singer, Wendy, and that didn't set well with Wendy's current lover.  There was a former lover of Wendy's who also had her eye on the resort as an investment opportunity.  There were employees of the marketing firm who knew that the owner was planning a massive layoff and that some of them would lose a job that would be hard to replace.  Then there is the singer's family.  They have a local reputation.  The mother ran off years ago with a lover, leaving her husband and children behind.  The father raised the children and is very protective of them.  Plans to help his daughter leave the country behind for a show business career don't set well with him.  Can Virgil sort through all the suspects and find the killer before more people are targeted?

This is the third Virgil Flowers mystery Sandford has written.  Readers who love his Lucas Davenport mysteries will also enjoy Flowers.  He is not as intense and driven as Davenport, who is his boss.  Instead this former preacher's kid is charming and open and always ready for a romantic encounter.  This book is recommended for mystery lovers.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai

The house, or mansion, has set in the country long enough that it seems to have always been there.  It was built by a tycoon for his wife who died a mysterious death there.  Over the years, it has been various things; a refuge for those fleeing scandal, an artists' colony, and a treasure to be guarded.

In The Hundred Year House, Rebecca Makkai peels back the layers of history that surround the house, excavating the secrets and connections that make up it's life.  She starts with it's most recent history, where the wealthy owner currently in residence is the granddaughter of the man who built it.  She lives her life as lady of the manor, rarely interacting with the people of the surrounding town.  She has given the coach house to her daughter and son-in-law.  She is a professor in the local college; he is writing a biography of a poet who lived there during the artist colony days.  The couple is joined by another one, who are the offspring of the owner's second husband, and the dynamic of the two couples propel this part of the story.

Going back a generation, we learn the story of the artists who lived there making art.  There were poets and painters, dancers and sculptors, all living and loving together.  They had a good run of things for a decade or more, until the owning family decides to take the house back. 

Going back another generation, we learn the secrets of the family that built the house and the story behind the mysterious death of the woman the house was built for.  Violet has left little mark on history, except as the subject of a striking portrait and as the rumor of a ghost that haunts the house over the years.

Makkai has created a fascinating book that uses surprising connections to tie together the generations of the house.  Characters play their part on the stage and withdraw, sometimes to reappear in different guises.  The secrets of one incarnation serve as the treasure hunt for the next, as the stories are all laid bare over time.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Forgetting Place by John Burley

Dr. Lise Shields has been a psychiatrist for five years at the state correctional facility where perpetrators of the state's most heinous crimes have been committed.  Her job is stressful and grueling but she has come to think of the hospital as a sanctuary where the staff is like family.  She is totally committed to her patients and helping them where she can, although the truth is that most will never leave or get better in a conventional sense.

When she gets a new patient named Jason, something is different.  For some reason, he is there without the normal paperwork.  Her boss is reluctant to talk about Jason or explain why he isn't like the other patients.  He is there for killing his lover but as Lise gets to know him she comes to believe that he is not guilty of the crime but is either falsely accused or covering for someone else.

Lise is determined to help Jason but her efforts prove useless.  Soon she is faced with the choice of remaining in a professional relationship and just chalking him up as one of the patients who can't be helped, or putting her career and everything she has worked so hard for on the line.  What will she choose?

John Burley has written a fascinating thriller.  It looks at the world of the colliding fields of medicine and law and explored what happens when the perpetrator of a crime is mentally ill.  Burley is a physician himself, serving as an emergency room physician while writing as a second career.  His insight into the field adds realism to his portrayal.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Principles Of Navigation by Lynn Sloan

Alice and Rolly Becotte are young professionals, married and living in the Midwest where they'd moved after college for Rolly's job.  He is an art professor at the local college while working on his sculpture on the side.  She is a reporter on a small local paper which means she covers farm news, local festivals and events and everything else that comes along.

Rolly is about to break out in his career and is very focused on his work.  He has a show lined up and his sabbatical will take them to Norway for a year.  Alice is focused not on her career but on her dream of having a family.  More than anything, she wants to be pregnant with their first baby.

As the months roll by, the difference in focus and motivation starts to create fissures in their relationship.  Rolly feels that Alice is tying him down and sees a family as the beginning of the end of his artistic vision and work.  Alice resents Rolly for not wanting what she does and not being willing to commit to a family.  Soon each is caught up in strategies to get what they want and the anger and resentment start to crack the solidness of their marriage.

Lynn Sloan has written a hauntingly beautiful tale of what happens to relationships even when both parties are in love but the pair are not focused on the same goals.  The reader is caught between the two protagonists, able to see each's point of view and heartsick at the choices they make as time rolls on.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction as well as women's literature and anyone interested in marriage and what makes it succeed or fail.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Love By The Book by Melissa Pimentel

How can it be so hard to find a man to date and have great sex with when you don't want any attachments?  That's the dilemma Lauren Cunningham has.  She has left her home and family in Maine to live life as a carefree single woman in her dream job in London.  Lauren thought the whole single London scene would be full of dreamy Englishmen and variety would be the spice of life.  Alas, while she has met a few men, none fit her criteria for long-term sex partners.

So Lauren decides to take a systematic approach.  She decides that she will spend the next year devoting each month to a different dating advice manual.  She goes from being celibate for a month to the advice of a high priced call girl.  She tries being aloof from men and being totally available.  She enters the world of online dating.  She visits old loves and meets new ones.  But, nothing seems to work or at least not for long.  Will Lauren ever meet the man of her dreams?

Fans of Jill Mansell will enjoy this light romantic romp as it is written in the same breezy style with the same self-effacing humor.  It allows those who are already in long-term relationships to reminisce while giving hope to those still on the hunt for a romantic relationship.  It is a particularly appropriate read here in the days leading up to Valentine's Day when we question what love is and why we want someone else to spend our days with.  This book is recommended for readers of chick lit and those interested in a light, interesting read.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Booksie's Shelves, February 6, 2015

Lots of exciting books have arrived.  Now if I could just tear myself away from Netflix, Amazon Prime and my DVR, I'd get a lot more reading done.  I've been fascinated by both Blue Bloods and Grey's Anatomy recently and my reading has suffered.  I've read three books so far in February and have about a dozen started in various formats and on various devices.  Here's what's come in recently:

1.  Life From Scratch, Sasha Martin, memoir, sent for book tour
2.  Fiercombe Manor, Kate Riordan, historical fiction, sent for book tour
3.  Noise, Brett Garcia Rose, mystery/horror, sent by publisher
4.  The World Before Us, Aislinn Hunter, mystery, sent by publisher
5.  World Gone By, Dennis Lehane, mystery, sent for book tour
6.  Shady Cross, James Hankins, mystery, sent for book tour
7.  The Stranger, Harlen Coben, mystery, sent by publisher
8.  The Death Of Fidel Perez, literary fiction, gift from friend
9.  Bleeding Edge, Thomas Pynchon, literary fiction, purchased
10.  Ram-2050, Joan Roughgarden, sci-fi, sent by publisher
11.  Trigger Warning, Neil Gaiman, anthology, sent by publisher
12.  Behind Closed Doors, Elizabeth Haynes, mystery, sent for book tour

Here's what I'm currently reading:

1.  The Innovators, Walter Issacson, Kindle
2.  Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter, paperback
3.  A Clash Of Kings, George R. R. Martin, hardback
4.  Barracuda, Christos Tsiolkas, hardback
5.  The Rise And Fall Of Great Powers, Tom Rachman, paperback
6.  The Illusionists, Rosie Thomas, paperback
7.  The Black Country, Alex Grecian, paperback
8.  Mrs. Poe, Lynn Cullen, paperback
9.  Love By The Book, Melissa Pimentel, paperback
10.  The Orchid Affair, Lauren Willig, hardback
11.  Principles Of Navigation, Lynn Sloan, paperback
12.  Rescue, Anita Shreve, hardback
13.  Rubbernecker, Belinda Bauer, Kindle Fire

Happy Reading!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Those Rosy Hours At Mazandaran by Marion Grace Woolley

As the Shah's eldest daughter, Afshar has advantages.  She is granted deference and obedience from those around her.  She is showered with gifts and luxurious clothes.  But there are also disadvantages.  The harem is full of the Shah's wives, each vying for his attention for themselves and their children, each plotting and scheming to get rid of other wives and their progeny who might be favored over their own children.  Add to that the political alliances in court and Afshar's world is a delicate, dangerous one.

But she never doubts the Shah's love.  After a trip, he returns with one of her greatest wishes; a circus.  Everyone is enthralled with the elephants, tigers, jugglers and acrobats but no one more than Afshar.  She longs for the freedom the circus performers have and the easy camaraderie that they share in their tents.

The star of the circus is the chief magician, Vachon. Vachon can create illusions that are miraculous.  There is an air of mystery about him as well as he always hides behind a mask.  That covers his deformity, the horrible face that he was born with and that sent him out into the world to make his own way as a child.  Vachon and Afshar become secret friends as they come to realize that they share dark interests that neither can pursue alone.

Woolley has written a dark historical novel that is full of intrigue, cruelty and revenge.  It poses the question about what one would do for love and whether love is possible or whether it will always be haunted by the spectre of betrayal.  This book is written for readers of historical fiction, fantasy and horror. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Grown Ups by Robin Antalek

When you're fifteen, you think what you know will last forever.  That's the way it was for a group of friends growing up in the Northeast, with mothers who stayed at home and fathers who took the train to the city to work each day, leaving the kids to form their own families with each other.  Together they explored friendship, sex, drinking, loyalty, betrayals and family secrets.  With all they've gone through, surely nothing can ever change?

There's Suzie who starts a relationship with Sam that summer while her family implodes.  When they move away suddenly at the end of the summer, she throws out a bomb that can explode the entire neighborhood.  Sam, ever protective of those he loves, works quickly to avoid the consequences her act could have.  Sam never feels sure of where he fits in.  His big brother, Michael, is the one who has it all together, off at college and studying to be a doctor.  Bella, Suzi's best friend, is heartbroken when Suzi leaves, but knows it could give her a chance with Sam who she has had a secret crush on.

As the years go by, the issues continue to emerge.  Sam and Michael's mother left their father the day that Suzi's family left the neighborhood and is now living in New England with a partner raising goats.  Their father has raised them and is starting to find ways to live without his wife.  Michael is now a doctor, always tired and pressured.  In a surprising move, he has started a relationship with Suzi, who he ran into at college.  Bella, after her broken relationship with Sam, is working as a teacher and living with a poet.  Sam is drifting, never able to commit to a job or a relationship.

Antalek has written a novel about what it means to have a group of friends who are friends for life, and how families can both destroy and save us.  The characters spend their teens and early twenties searching for the loves and careers that will sustain them for the rest of their lives.  Readers will find at least one character they can relate to as there are so many different ways of adjusting to all that life can bring.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and those interested in reading about family relationships.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Last Breath by Kimberly Belle

Gia Andrews hasn't been home to Tennessee in years.  She tells everyone it's because she is out saving the world as a humanitarian aid worker, moving from disaster to disaster, saving lives and bringing relief.  That is all true, but the bigger truth is that she hasn't been home because she feels she has no home after the disaster that struck her own family.

Gia, as the youngest sibling, was the only one left at home when her stepmother was brutally murdered.  To complete the horror, her beloved father, the kindly town pharmacist, is arrested, tried and convicted of the crime.  He has been in jail for the last sixteen years, alone and still protesting his innocence.  Neither Gia nor her older sister or brother has visited or written him, believing in the facts laid out at the trial.

Now her father is headed home, not on parole but with a death sentence.  He is in the last stages of cancer and her uncle, the family head, makes it clear that all three siblings are expected to be there.  Gia reluctantly goes home and sees her father again.  It is the hardest thing she has ever done.

But then, she meets an author who is writing a book about the case and who believes her father was falsely convicted, just as he has always insisted.  Gia starts to look into the case and things just don't add up as she uncovers family secrets.  Along the way, she meets the new guy in town, who is running the local bar and restaurant, Jake, who believes in her and her attempts to finally uncover the truth.

Kimberly Belle has written a story of family loyalty and betrayal that will strike a chord in most readers.  Are there truly acts that are unforgivable, or do we owe those in our family unwavering support?  Can one live with the truth and continue to move on with the burden of family secrets revealed?  Readers will be interested in finding out Belle's answers to these questions.  This book is recommended for readers of family sagas and those interested in redemption and family dynamic.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

There are an estimated 40,000 bodies in the United States that are unidentified, with 4000 new cases added annually.  These are runaways, murder victims taken out of state, homeless individuals, or those who dropped out so long ago that no one notices when they aren't in the area anymore.  While the police attempt to identify them so that their cases can be closed and their families notified, often the case goes cold if the identification is not easily made.
Deborah Halber, a science writer, provides a spotlight into the world of online sleuthing.  Individuals pore over missing person files and files of unidentified bodies, hoping to find a commonality that will allow them to make a match and provide a name to the remains.  She outlines both the process, the individuals involved and some famous cases that have been solved.  Several cases such as The Tent Girl and The Lady On The Dunes are followed throughout the book. 
Some of the online sleuths are former law enforcement, determined to solve a cold case that still haunts them.  Others have a missing person in their own family that they are determined to find.  Yet others are compelled to do this work for no identifiable reason other than the thrill of the chase and the ability to bring closure to others.  The sleuths help each other, but also are adversaries as they race to make an identification.  A star today is a scapegoat tomorrow, and those in leadership positions at famous websites like The Doe Network are not immune from interpersonal conflicts.
Halber has written a fascinating look at a world that most of us don't even know exist.  I know I was surprised to see a famous online sleuth profiled who lived within twenty miles of my house, yet I had never heard of her or the cases in my area she had worked on.  Halber outlines the issues, the individuals involved and famous cases that were solved with the help of the sleuths.  This book is recommended for readers of true crime and those interested in how the Internet changes every task it is involved in.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Cut And Run by Traci Hohenstein

When Rachel Scott's three year old daughter, Mallory, was abducted from her front lawn, Rachel thought her world would end.  Five years have passed and there is still no good clue about Mallory's whereabouts.  In that time, Rachel and her husband divorced as many parents facing tragedy do.  Determined to fight on and find Mallory, Rachel and a partner have started a missing person company, Florida Omni Search.

Rachel is called to Louisiana by her chief investigator, Red Cooper.  He has been heading up an investigation into what happened to the O'Malley family and needs her help.  Matt O'Malley, his wife, Erin and their two children disappeared on their way back from soccer practice.  A few days later, Matt is discovered at a truck stop with a brain injury that affects his memory.  There is no word about what has happened to his wife and children.

Rachel and Red look into the O'Malley family background.  At first glance, they are the all-American family.  Matt runs a bail bondsman business with his brother while Erin is an artist.  The children are doing well in school and athletics.  But as the investigation delves deeper, hidden family secrets start to emerge.  Are they the cause of the disappearance?  Can Rachel and Red find the family in time?

This is the third book in the Rachel Scott series.  While the book deals with another investigation, the central motivation of finding Mallory is never far away.  The reader is intrigued with the present mystery and on Rachel's side as she fights to find her daughter.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Changing The Conversation by Dana Caspersen

Everyone has conflict in their lives, whether it is with a significant other, children, co-workers, strangers or supervisors.  Changing The Conversation explains how we might work through conflicts more effectively by changing the ways we communicate in them.  The first instinct is to state one's position, then concentrate on counter-arguments to points put forward by the other person.  However if one can listen and understand the focus of the disagreement, odds of a resolution that is satisfactory to each party are increased.

The book is organized around seventeen principles of conflict resolution.  These seventeen principles are grouped into three main areas.  The first, Facilitate Listening And Speaking deals with areas like resisting the urge to attack, defining what is important to each party in the disagreement, acknowledging emotions, making fact-based observations rather than evaluations and testing the assumptions you've made by listening.  The second, Change The Conversation, focuses on areas such as figuring out what's happening rather than focusing on fault, being curious, and stopping if you are making things worse.  The third, Look For Ways Forward, talks about assuming undiscovered options exist, being explicit about agreements and planning for future conflict. 

The text is laid out in concise words, giving examples of how a principle might play out.  For example, under the Acknowledge Emotions, one scenario is acknowledging the other party's emotions.  The unhelpful way to express this might be:  "What are you acting all upset about?  What did I do wrong now?"  while a better way might be:  "You seem frustrated.  Is it because you were expecting me to do something differently?"  Multiple examples are given of restating ideas in a manner that pushes the conversation forward rather than stalling it in anger and confrontation.

Dana Caspersen has a degree in conflict studies and mediation.  She works as a mediator, teacher and creator of public dialogue processes.  Readers can quickly read though this book and discover new and better ways of handling conflicts and then keep it nearby as a reference in the future.  This book is recommended for parents, employers and employees and those in relationships.  It is a book that can help anyone if the principles stated are taken seriously and acted upon.