Monday, October 14, 2019

Knife by Jo Nesbo

Things are not going well for Harry Hole.  He's back drinking again.  Rakel, the love of his life, has kicked him out and without her and Oleg, their son, there's just not much he cares about, least of all taking care of himself.  He's working on cold cases for the police department as the only thing Harry is good at is detective work.  A serial rapist and maybe murderer who Harry put away is back on the streets after being released and Harry is sure that this man cannot change his ways.  He wants to find the man and convict him of new crimes so that he cannot hurt more women.

But bad can go to worse and that's often the case for Harry.  He wakes up from a drunken stupor to a nightmare he could never ever imagine.  Someone he loves has been taken from him and he knows that the last thing he will ever do is find the culprit who committed the crime.  After he does, he doesn't care what happens to him if he ever did. 

This is the twelfth Harry Hole mystery.  Fans will rush to pick up this newest story in Harry's career but be careful.  If you love Harry, this novel will rip out your heart.  There are few detective series that I believe have to be read in order, but this is one.  This latest installment in Harry's life is one that no one would expect and it can be hard reading.  But it is satisfying and after lots of twists and turns, the answers will be comforting.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Blood Work by Michael Connelly

Terry McCaleb knows he's a lucky man.  A former FBI agent, he had to give up that work when his heart developed issues.  He waited two years for a transplant and it was iffy whether one would come in time as he had a rare blood type that made a match almost impossible.  But with weeks to go, Terry got his new heart and now he must make a new life post transplant. 

Terry is restoring the boat left to him by his father, transferring the painstaking detail work of restoration for the detailed investigation and analysis his job required as he tracked down the worst of the worst, the serial killers.  His health regimen takes an enormous part of his day, taking meds, tracking his temperature, going on doctor follow up visits.  It's a different life but Terry is thankful for it.

Then Graciella Rivers appears one day.  She tells Terry about her sister, Gloria, and the murder that took her life.  It's a murder that hasn't been solved and a murder that is tied forever to Terry.  Gloria was the person whose heart was transplanted into Terry.  Without her death, Terry would not be living.  When Graciella asks him to look into Gloria's murder, there is an obligation he feels that won't let him put her off.

As Terry starts to look into things, he immediately encounters resistance form the Los Angles police who regard him as nothing more than another civilian.  He does have some contacts, such as Jay, a female officer whose career was jumpstarted by an investigation Terry helped her with when he was FBI.  She, at least, is willing to listen to him.  As the days go by, Terry and Jay are able to tie Gloria's murder to at least two others and they realize that another serial killer is on the loose.  Can Terry find a way to uncover this killer?

This is the first book featuring Terry McCaleb and Connelly has created an interesting character as always.  Terry is torn in many directions, his former skills making his ability to turn his back on the case impossible but his health demanding all his attention.  The killer is shadowy and the book focuses much more on the investigation and the emotions of those touched by murder.  This book won several awards such as the McCavity Award for Best Mystery and the Anthony Award for Best Novel.  It is recommended for mystery readers.

Monday, October 7, 2019

The Chain by Adrian McKinty

Rachel O'Neill thought she had already had her ration of bad luck.  She had just gone through cancer treatment and her immature husband who she had put through school had divorced her.  That thought was before the call.

Rachel gets a call telling her that she is now part of The Chain.  Her daughter, Kylie, has been kidnapped and will be killed unless Rachel completes her tasks.  First she must pay ransom.  That's the easy part.  Than she must kidnap another family's child and only when that child is successfully in the chain will her daughter be released. 

How can she do this?  She is broke so how will she get the money?  Of course, she is told not to call the police or anyone else because Kylie will also be killed if Rachel breaks the confidentiality of the Chain.  Even if she gets the money, can she really bring herself to kidnap another child?  Threaten that child's parents that she will kill the child if instructions are not followed?  Be convincing?  How can she?  How can she not?

Adrian McKinty has written an original thriller that every parent can just imagine happening to them.  Although the ending has an impossibility that took away from the book, the premise and the execution of the plot is first rate.  McKinty has made his name writing detective series and this novel breaks from that and puts the spotlight on the victim instead.  This book is recommended for mystery/thriller readers.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Tangerine by Christine Mangan

They are the best of friends, Alice Morgan and Lucy Shipley.  They are close as only two roommates in college can get, both strangers but finding friendship and a feeling of family with each other.  Alice comes from money but is a fragile child whose parents died in an accident and who has been raised by a brusque aunt who never wanted children.  Lucy has fought hard to escape her childhood poverty and make a better life for herself than any of her relatives had.  Soon they are inseparable and make plans to build lives together after college and to never be apart.

But those are childish plans.  When Alice meets a man who woos her, she is torn away and starts to build a life on her own.  Lucy can't believe it and is furious.  She starts to treat Alice horribly, making her doubt her memories and attempting to make her feel guilty enough that she will leave the man and come back to her solitary friendship with Lucy.  She isn't making much headway with Alice until the accident that changes Alice's life again.

Now Alice is making yet another life.  She has hastily met and married a man who has taken her away to Tangier.  He is in his element there, scheming and partying with the other expatriates but Alice is lost and lonely.  But she isn't lonely enough that she is anything but shocked when she opens her door and finds Lucy on the doorstep.  How did she track Alice down?  What does she want?  What will she do to get her way?

Mangan has written a study on feminine friendships and the ways that jealousy and single mindedness can wreck a relationship.  Many readers will remember a time when they were involved in the same kind of close knit relationship.  But for most of us, that time is early adolescence and the friendship either matures and grows or is discarded along the way.  Mangan explores what happens when one party will do anything to keep the other in a strangling hold through emotional blackmail.  The atmosphere is one of the book's strengths and this debut novel makes Mangan an author to be watched.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and mysteries.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Booksie's Shelves, October 1, 2019

It's October although apparently this year North Carolina didn't get the message about cooler fall temperatures.  It's supposed to be a hot, muggy 95 or 96 the rest of the week.  Fleeing the hot temperatures, DH and I went north a few weeks ago and visited northern New York.  Neither of us had seen Niagara Falls and it was just an awesome sight, so much better than I had expected.  I've been visiting the library quite a bit this past month and then I found the prior year lists of the Women's National Book Association and I've been on a bit of a buying spree.  Here's what's come through the door lately:

1.  Big Lies In A Small Town, Diane Chamberlain, literary fiction, won in contest
2.  The Hearts Of Men, Nickolas Butler, literary fiction, purchased
3.  Cost, Roxana Robinson, literary fiction, purchased
4.  Appassionata, Eva Hoffman, literary fiction, purchased
5.  While I'm Falling, Laura Moriarty, literary fiction, purchased
6.  The Secret Diaries Of Charlotte Bronte, Syrie James, literary fiction, purchased
7.  The Giver Of Star, Jojo Moyes, literary fiction, sent by publisher
8.  The House On Fortune Street, Margot Livesey, literary fiction, purchased
9.  Savage Appetites, Rachel Monroe, true crime, sent by publisher
10.  What You See, Hank Phillippi Ryan, mystery, won in contest
11.  At Death's Door, Sherrilyn Kenyon, fantasy, sent by publisher
12.  Kill Zone, Kevin Anderson/Doug Beason, thriller, sent by publisher
13.  The Last Book Party, Karen Dukess, literary fiction, sent by publisher
14.  Mink River, Brian Doyle, literary fiction, purchased
15.  Just Watch Me, Jeff Lindsay, mystery, won in contest
16.  The Secret Guests, Benjamin Black, literary fiction, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  The Unconsoled, Kazuo Ishiguro, hardback
2.  The Chain, Adrian McKinty, hardback
3.  Blood Work, Michael Connelley, audio
4.  Tangerine, Christine Mangan, Kindle Fire
5.  Blackfish City, Sam Miller, Kindle Fire
6.  Quichotte, Salman Rushdie, Kindle Fire

Happy Reading!

Monday, September 30, 2019

Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan

A group of college kids visit the ruins of an old prison for fun one day.  There is Tripper, the everything guy who had it all; looks, money and charm.  Quentin was a dreamer and all the girls loved him, especially Rachel.  Maisie was a former girlfriend of Tripper's and had brought along her young brother.  Casey and Wailer had just gotten married the night before; Casey an overweight man with an enormous heart and Wailer was exotic with her foreign background.  Their old classics teacher was accompanying them as well.  The day ended in tragedy with Wailer missing and the police suspecting that she was killed but no body was ever found.

It's thirty years later and the book picks the group's stories back up.  During a renovation, Wailer's body is finally found and the police are determined to get answers.  None of the group is where they thought they'd end up.  Trapper is a lawyer with a child off to college and a failing marriage.  Casey is wealthy and has a chain of restaurants specializing in comfort food.  Maisie has spent her life taking care of her brother, Ben, who never recovered from the trauma of that day.  Rachel is a teacher and bored.  And Quentin is the biggest surprise of all.  The group thinks he is dead and he is, in a way.  After that day, he finally found the courage to fake his death and run away to transform as Judith.  Judith has a husband and family she's never told about her past and has much to lose if the truth comes out.  Who killed Wailer?

Boylan has written an intriguing mystery that has interesting characters.  The only flaw is that the book seems to be mostly a vehicle for discussing the transgender experience as that is also the author's experience.  This may be intrusive for some readers who are looking just for a mystery.  For most though, the novel will stand as an interesting read with characters who are relatable.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan

This is the second novel in the Wheel Of Time series.  In this one, Rand and his friends, Mat and Perrin are off to find The Great Horn of Valere.  They had turned it over so that it could be sent off and secured but it is stolen but a Darkfriend.  The Horn can call back the great dead warriors from the past so it is a legend and a very valuable item that should never be in the possession of those on the Dark Side.  Along with the Horn is the dagger that is needed to save Mat's life.

Egwene and Nynaeve are in Tar Valon where they are starting their training to be full fledged Aes Sedai.  The queen's daughter, Elayne, and Min, who can read an individual's future are there also.  When Egwene and Nynaeve are told that Rand and the others are in terrible danger and that only they can save them, they immediately break their training and set off.  It is nothing but a horrible trick, however, and they end up in the land of the Seanchan, where Aes Sedai are captured and leashed, forced to do only what their masters command. 

Rand is still fighting the fact that he can channel and he desperately tries to find a way to hold off this power and the title of the Dragon Reborn that Moraine has revealed to him.  Can he find a way to protect all of his friends and fight for the good without accessing this power that may kill him?

Fans of the series will find that this one moves more quickly than the first which had to be concerned with world building.  Rand and the others are coming more into their true natures as their trip moves them to accept what part they must play in the world for it to survive.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

The Whore's Child by Richard Russo

When I think of Richard Russo, I think of upper New York and towns that are struggling after the factories have shut down.  He writes about everyday folks, folks who just go out and work to put food on the table and who are happy to have the occasional treat.  After reading this anthology, I need to rethink Russo and acknowledge his deft way of drawing a character with no words wasted.  This volume has seven stories and each is a gem.

In my favorite story, The Mysteries Of Linwood Hart, a nine year old boy deals with his father moving out.  He tries to understand what broke up the marriage, why his father doesn't get along with his own family and why his mother is determined to change him.  Linwood is playing baseball for the first year and his coach also seems to be auditioning for the job of stepfather. 

The title story is about a former nun who is in a creative writing class.  Her first sentences in her stories are killer openings and the class soon realizes they don't know her or the inner workings of the faith that she has served at all.  In another story, a man visits the artist who his wife had a long term affair with after her death.  In Joy Ride, another child goes with his mother on an extended road trip when she apparently decides that her life as a wife and mother just isn't working out.

Each story is a gem that explores the inner life of ordinary people and helps the reader acknowledge the special qualities that each of us has.  Russo is at times laugh out loud funny and sometimes poignant or even outright sad.  But at the end of each story, the reader will be wiser about human nature.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

Jack is in trouble.  A pirate of drugs, she uses her background and education to reverse engineer popular drugs and make them available for much cheaper to the population who can't afford them.  But this latest reverse engineer has gone deadly.  She reversed a popular productivity drug and now users are becoming addicted, unable to leave their work for anything else, not food not home not rest.  Scores are being hospitalized and some are dying.  Jack needs to fix this fast.  She takes her pirate spaceship down and revisits the labs she started in where she can get help.  She takes along Threezed, a slave she ended up with when she killed his master for trying to steal her ship.

Paladin is a semi-autonomous robot.  She works with Eliasz, a human intelligence agent who seems to have a past that won't let him live in the present and a fondness for Paladin that seems to cross the barriers between human and machine.  Their assignment is to find Jack and stop her by whatever means necessary. 

Annalee Newitz has created an interesting exploration of what it means to be human and outlines some of the new dilemmas we will face as artificial intelligence becomes viable.  Her world is set in 2144, not an impossible leap of the imagination. Jack is a sympathetic character as she tries to liberate drugs that can improve lives but Paladin is also sympathetic as she explores what it means to be human and to maybe one day have free will to do what she chooses.  Newitz writes extensively both fiction and nonfiction about the intersection that is outlined in this book and has a background that includes an MIT science journalism fellowship, a career as a policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a PhD from Berkeley.  This book is recommended for science fiction readers.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Danny Conroy knows well who the most important person in his life is.  It's his older sister, Maeve.  His father, Cyril, is a self-made man, someone who moved up from the poverty he was raised in to remake himself as a wealthy man dealing in real estate.  His first big deal once he struck it rich was to buy Dutch House, a fabulous house in the Philadelphia suburbs, built by a magnate and on the market with everything inside, clothes, furniture, kitchen settings, photographs, etc.  He buys this house and then surprises his wife with it.

She is definitely surprised.  She had planned to become a nun until Cyril talked her out of it halfway through her novice time.  She is appalled by the showy house and cannot get used to it.  She only wants to help others and slowly she moves away from the family, going back to the convent and staying for longer and longer periods of time, working with the poor.  Finally, when Maeve is a preteen and Danny around four, she leaves forever, running off to India.  At that point, Maeve becomes even more of a mother figure for Danny and his life revolves around her.

Cyril decides to remarry.  Andrea is younger than Cyril by several decades and she comes with two little girls.  The war between her, Maeve and the household staff is immediate and unrelenting.  Andrea is determined to remake everything in the house and their lives to suit herself and they all feel that they were doing just fine without her and her ideas.  When Cyril dies unexpectedly, Andrea has her chance.  She kicks out Danny who is fifteen at the time.  He moves into Maeve's apartment and they soon realize that Andrea gets everything and that they have gone from wealth to poverty except for an educational trust that will pay for Danny's college.

Over the years, Danny and Maeve's lives seem stuck in the rut of this injustice.  Although Danny marries and has children, Maeve seems stuck in the same place, same little house, same little job.  They are the most important person to each other no matter what else happens.  Marriages, children, jobs, careers, nothing outweighs the tie between the two and the horrible thing that happened to them.

Ann Patchett is an automatic read for me.  She seems interested these days in family relationships as this book and her last, Commonwealth, explore the various ways that families exist and what they mean to the members inside them.  Danny and Maeve are interesting characters and it is hard to see them stuck in the injustice that was done to them when they were just starting out.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

There There by Tommy Orange

The reader is introduced to a group of individuals whose lives paint the current Native American experience.  There are Jacqui Red Feather and Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield, who are sisters, born to the same mother but with different fathers.  They are taken by their mother to the Native American takeover of Alcatraz in the 70's, where they live for a while with others.  While there, Jacqui is raped and is pregnant with a daughter she gives up for adoption.  This is Blue.  Tony is the victim of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and bears the mark of it on his features for the world to see.  Orvil and Lony and Loother are Jacqui's grandsons, being raised by Opal and whom she never sees.  Harvey is the emcee of various powwows, and now one is coming to Oakland where most of the characters live.

As the powwow gets closer, the characters interact in various ways.  Orvil is not sure what it means to be Native American but he wants to know and is there to dance.  He has learned the dances from YouTube, not from an older man or tribe.  Jacqui comes with Harvey who is also expecting to meet his son Edwin who has found him online.  A different group has decided that this would be the perfect venue to rob and has printed out plastic guns and comes prepared to do whatever it takes to get the money they are sure is there.

All these characters collide at the powwow in a mixture of discovery and tragedy.  As some discover family ties, others act out their rage and sense of hopelessness.  All along we see the effect of poverty, drug and alcohol addiction, lack of opportunity and education.  This is a debut novel by an author who is himself an enrolled member of both the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes.  It is recommended by those who wish to learn about the Native American modern experience and readers of literary fiction.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Three Graves Full by Jamie Mason

Imagine that you kind of accidentally killed a man in your living room.  You know it's not really your fault, but then again, would the police see it that way?  So you bury it in the back yard and try to regain the life you had before.  That's Jason Getty's situation.  He came to town after his wife died and left him some money.  He didn't really know anyone and he's a shy man who is easily swayed or even bullied by others.  When a charming sociopath takes a favor Jason did for him to establish a relationship where he came and took from Jason all the time, Jason doesn't know what to do and it ended in death.

Now imagine this.  When you bought your house, no one told you that a scandal had occurred there.  The wife of the family had just up and left one day, leaving behind her husband.  Except she didn't leave.  It turns out that she and the man she was having an affair with were surprised one day and now are on either side of the house, guarding it in death.

When the police learn about the deaths from the brother of the man who was married to the woman, they come to the house and quickly locate the graves of the two.  Jason, of course, never knew he was living between two bodies and now there's the added complication that he'll need to move the body he planted in the backyard before the police find that one as well.  But things never go smoothly for Jason.  Before the night is over, he is caught up in a live and death struggle along with the fiance of the buried man, the brother who killed them both and a police detective that has gotten suspicious.  How it will all turn out is anyone's guess.

Jamie Mason has written an engaging mystery with believable characters caught up in unimaginable circumstances.  This is Mason's debut novel and it was well received and reviewed.  On a personal note, I met Mrs. Mason at an author's lunch and was thrilled to hear about her process and her take on the book.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

A Mercy by Toni Morrison

It is the 1680's in the United States.  A farmer/trader has carved out a smallholding for himself, after starting in poverty.  He advertises for a wife and is pleasantly surprised with the young, beautiful woman who arrives.  As he is on the road so much, he needs servants to help her run his farm while he is gone.  He doesn't like having male servants, so he has three female ones.

Lina is the oldest, a woman who came to him after being misused in her prior life.  She has no desire for marriage or a man and is devoted to her mistress and Sir as he is known.  The mistress starts off very remote to Lina but as they are left on their own so much and as Lina helps her through her pregnancies and births, and as she grieves with the mistress over the deaths of all her children, they become close.

Sorrow is someone no one knows much about.  She is a white woman who grew up on her father's boat and after he died, was cast ashore with no idea how to survive.  She ended up at Sir's estate after the sons of her rescuers were taking too much interest in her.  Most consider Sorrow to be mentally challenged but she sees the world around her through a different filter than others do. 

Florens is the newest member, a slave girl who Sir accepted as partial payment of a loan rashly given to a plantation owner.  She is only six when she arrives; her mother having pushed her forward when Sir looked over the possible individuals the plantation owner was willing to give up.  Florens is attached to Lina, who sees Florens as the child she'll never have.  The mistress accepts her but also resents having this living child while her own have all died. 

A crisis occurs when smallpox attacks the farm.  Sir is in the process of having a big stately house built.  The pox spreads quickly through the farm's occupants, and it is decided that only the blacksmith who came to build the gates has a chance of healing everyone.  Florens is dispatched on her own to find him and bring him back, even though Lina distrusts him as she suspects that Florens has become infatuated with him.

Morrison has written a haunting tale that not only describes daily life in the time period with owners, indentured servants, slaves and children taken in after death removes their parents.  Slavery is shown for its cruelty and for the sacrifice that slave women often took; pushing their children forward to be taken out of cruel situations when they believe another situation might be better.  Of course the children see it only as rejection and many spend their lives trying to replace that motherly love and the sense of trust that is snatched away.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Monday, September 9, 2019

American Predator by Maureen Callahan

The police and FBI had never seen a killer like Israel Keyes.  Most of their tried and true procedures just didn't work when tracking someone like him.  Keyes killed indiscriminately across the United States and possibly Canada.  He killed young, old, male, female.  He didn't kill anyone he knew; he just randomly found someone when he decided it was time to hunt.  Keyes had been serious about killing for years.  He traveled extensively and buried kill caches across many states, and then might not return for years.  The caches held things like guns, restraints, money, etc.  Those who knew him in Anchorage, Alaska, where he lived the longest, had no idea of his hidden side.  He was a contractor who did meticulous work to perfecting standards.  Even more strange, he had a young daughter who was the most important person in the world to him.

Keyes was raised in various extremist religious cults and many suspected abuse of the ten children in his family although none was ever proved.  He joined the military to perfect his killing ability and was well regarded there.  He lived on an Indian reservation for several years then moved to Alaska.  He was caught after one of his only sloppy kills.  He abducted and killed a young woman in Anchorage, Samantha Koenig.  He was caught when he started using her debit card while traveling in Texas.

Although he confessed the first interview to Koenig's murder, the FBI and police personnel interviewing him knew he had many more stories to tell.  Keyes wanted to be in control of the interviews and his main requirement was that those in charge help him get an early death penalty; he did not want to stay in jail the rest of his life and expose his daughter to the publicity his crimes  would create.  He eventually confessed to killing a couple in New Hampshire and hinted at many other kills before he decided those in charge weren't taking his requirements seriously.  He killed himself before telling everything that police had hoped to get.  Police have tied him to at least eleven murders and expect that there are many more they don't know about and now never will.  He is unique in his skill and coldblooded approach to killing.  This book is recommended for readers of true crime.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

The Widows Of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

In 1921, in Bombay, India, Perveen Mistry is a groundbreaker.  She is the first woman to practice law, although she isn't allowed to argue cases in court.  She works in Mistry Law, her father's firm, on civil cases and documents such as wills and contracts.  Perveen wasn't always a groundbreaker.  She had an early marriage that turned into a nightmare after she married the man and went to live with his family in Calcutta.  After managing to break free of him, she ended up going to Oxford for three years, getting her law degree.  Her family and especially her father, has always supported her dreams.

Perveen is faced with a vexing case.  A longtime client of the firm, Mr. Omar Farid, has died.  He was a Muslim man and left behind three wives who live in seclusion plus various children.  A man who worked for his firm has been appointed their guardian and has presented papers that would turn over each wife's financial legacy to his control.  Perveen worries that this is a case of compulsion and since the wives cannot speak to men, she is allowed to go talk with them.

She finds that the women are treated differently.  The first wife, Razia, was left land on which the company's buildings were located.  The second wife, Sakina, was left valuable jewelry.  The third, who was married to Omar for only a short time and who came from the city's entertainment section, was left only her musical instruments.  Perveen finds that the women know very little about their husband's estate, and what was left to each one.  Worse, she finds that the guardian is very abrupt and condescending and he has total control over the women.  He can marry them off to other men, force them to hand over their possessions and make their lives miserable.  Perveen is determined to help the women but before she can make headway, the estate agent is murdered in the house.  Were one of the wives responsible or did someone come in and do the crime?

Sujata Massey has written an entertaining tale that gives the reader insight into India and its customs in the 1920's, all the different religions and their rules, and above all, the restricted lives that women were forced to lead during the time.  Perveen is intelligent but even as a professional woman is so sheltered that her efforts to solve the crime are thwarted over and over.  Her final success is one that many readers won't expect.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Mostly Void, Partially Stars by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor

This book is from the Welcome to Night Vale universe.  It covers the show from the pilot episode to episode twenty-five.  The first season of the podcast was the first ten episodes and took place from March to July 2016.  After a short hiatus, the podcast returned in April 2017.

For each episode, the entire script is given, although those who only read and don't listen miss the background music that is an important part.  Before each episode, the authors talk about what they were thinking as they wrote it and what caused specific events or characters to be introduced. 

Night Vale fans will recognize their favorites; the angels who might not be real, the man in the Indian headdress, the hapless interns, Cecil is the narrator, the man whose nightly broadcast keeps the town together and informed.  We meet his crush, Carlos, a man of science and of course those menacing librarians cannot be contained and may break into any episode.  Night Vale is a place of many dangers but these dangers are considered everyday events there and only merit the briefest of mentions.

Night Vale fans will enjoy the back story for what has become such a successful venture and those who wonder what all the fuss is about will be able to get in on the phenomenon from the beginning.  This book is recommended for sci fi/fantasy readers.

Monday, September 2, 2019

The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

When all hope disappears for finding a lost child, there is Naomi.  Parents find her through word of mouth; she is a legend in the field.  She only takes one case at a time and spends whatever time is necessary until there is a result.  She has found children missing for years; she has found bodies returned to grieving parents.  She is unstoppable and has tunnel vision until she reaches resolution.  What parents don't know is that Naomi was a lost child herself.

Madison Culver has been missing for three years.  Her parents turned their backs for one minute on a family Christmas tree expedition in the forest and she was gone.   No one believes she is alive.  The weather was horrible that day and winter was brutal.  No body has been found.  Naomi agrees to take the case.

What Naomi can remember of her life begins the night she escaped.  She came running out of the dark to a migrant campfire, naked, in shock and unable to remember what she was running from.  She was around nine although her birthday was lost in the clouds that shroud her past.  She knows only two things; that her name is Naomi and that her mother is dead.  She is taken to a wonderful foster mother where another child lives also.  He is around Naomi's age and becomes the only friend of her childhood; the only one she tells her secrets to.

As Naomi searches for Madison, she meets the people of the remote area in Oregon where the child was missing.  She is not welcomed and as she searches, she starts to uncover local secrets.  There is a ranger who worries about her who also searches for those missing in his area and a policeman who serves as a resource for Naomi.  She uses their help but gets close to no one. 

Rene Denfeld has created a compelling character in Naomi.  Her own story lends authority to her searching as she is, in a way, always searching for herself, and for the child who she starts to remember running with her that night.  Naomi has seen the worst in human nature and yet she perseveres to give the lost children a voice and a way home.  This book is recommended for thriller readers.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian

When Cassie Bowden wakes up she is disoriented.  That's not anything new; as a woman who drinks too much she is used to waking up in unfamiliar rooms, often with a man she barely remembers.  As a flight attendant, she often can't even immediately place the city she is in. 

But something is even stranger this morning.  As she tries to orient herself, she realises something is very wrong.  There's a smell and a feel around her she has never experienced.  As the fog lifts, she sees the charming hedge fund manager, Alexander, she spent the night with.  But this is Alexander covered in a cascade of blood; his throat slashed.  What could she have done?

Cassie manages to get herself together, leave the hotel room and make it back to her own hotel before the flight out of Dubai leaves.  She is full of questions.  Could she have done it?  Why doesn't she remember?  Who was the woman who came by to have a drink with them?  How can she get by and keep the secret?

Inevitably, the story emerges.  Cassie is caught between her job and the police investigation.  The FBI are called in as the victim is an American in a foreign land.  Worse, it turns out the woman who Cassie barely remembers was an assassin.  That woman, Elena, is in trouble herself for not killing Cassie at the same time she killed Alexander.  Cassie is left to wonder who will get her first, Elena or the law?

Bohjalian has written an engaging premise and opening chapter for this book.  The reader cannot help but imagine what that scene must have been like and what they would have done in Cassie's place.  But, at least for me, I found Cassie's lack of personal engagement with others and her selfish self-destruction offputting enough that I had a hard time relating to her.  This book is recommended for thriller readers.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli

A family comes together after the man and woman meet at work.  Both are audio documentarians and work at archiving sounds of the city that could disappear.  Both have a child from a previous relationship so the new family has a husband, wife, son and daughter.  They are a close family.  As time goes by, the husband becomes interested in the Apaches and how their tribe disappeared.  He tells the children stories of chiefs live Geronimo and Cochise.  The wife becomes interested in the concept of lost children due to the immigration crisis at the southern border.  A friend of theirs has two daughters who have traveled alone to find their mother and who have been seized by the authorities.

But as time goes by a distance starts to grow.  The husband informs his wife that he wants to take an extended family road trip from their New York City home to the Southwest.  He wants to visit the former Apache lands and the things left from the tribe.  He then informs her that his project will take a long time, at least a year maybe more.

Unsure what this means for the family, they take off on a road trip.  The children are close and as the days go by, the family learns about America as they travel, give each other nicknames as the Indians gave each other names that reflected the person's interests and skills.  The parents grow more and more distant but the children are oblivious as children often are.  Everything comes to a head when their friend's children become lost and their own children decide to leave to try to find the little girls wandering in the desert.

This is an interesting take on the immigration issues that are facing our country as well as others.  It talks about alienation, what it means to be a family and what one is willing to give up in order to be with those one loves.  It raises the issue of whether work or family should be the paramount force and which will need to be compromised in order to have both.  This book is a Booker nominee and is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Hush Hush by Laura Lippman

One hot summer day a decade ago, mother Melisandre Harris Dawes, went out to run errands.  Her two toddler daughters were at nursery school, taken by their nanny.  She took the baby with her on her errands.  And on that hot summer day, she got out, sat under a shade tree while her baby sat in the car in the sun and baked to death.

The publicity was instant and derogatory.  How could a mother forget her baby?  Did Melisandre kill her baby on purpose?  Did she have postpartum depression?  How should she be punished?  In the end, Melisandre was hospitalized for a while, then upon release, went overseas to live with relatives.  She hasn't seen the surviving girls or had any kind of contact for over ten years.

But suddenly, she is back in Baltimore.  She is starring in a documentary about the case, done by a woman filmmaker who needs the film to be a success to get her career back on track.  Melisandre wants contact with her daughters, but her ex-husband refuses.  He is remarried with another baby and doesn't want her rocking the boat.

Tess Monaghan, former journalist and now private investigator, remembers the story vividly.  Now that Tess is a mother, she views Melisandre's actions through a different filter.  She is hired by her uncle who is also Melisandre's attorney, to determine her security needs and serve as a bodyguard of sorts.  At first Tess doesn't think it is necessary but when those around Melisandre start to have accidents she knows something big is going on.  Soon the ex husband is killed and Melisandre is the prime suspect.  Can Tess find the truth?

Laura Lippman is a successful mystery author, usually setting her books in her home locale of Baltimore and surrounding areas.  Tess Monaghan is a recurring figure and this is Lippman's twelfth book in the series about Tess.  The reader is drawn into the family conflict and is also interested to read about Tess's own domestic life.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

August 15, 1947.  This is the date of India's independence from Britain.  It is also the birthdate of a thousand 'midnight's children', those children born on the exact moment of India's creation.  Their lives are tied to that of their mother country and reflect what is going on in the world around them.  Each child receives a special gift.  One can time travel, one change genders at will, another knows all about spells and potions.  Two of the babies are born in the same hospital.  Saleem Sinai and Shiva.  One is from a poor Hindu family, the other from a wealthy Muslim one.  A nanny who is there swaps the children.  The wealthy heir is sent to the slums to grow up poor and desperate.  Saleem is sent to the wealthy family and given everything he needs and desires.  He has the gift of telepathy and can psychically contact the others.  He creates a midnight's children congress which meets every night.

But things are not easy in India.  First, Pakistan demands it's own independence.  When Saleem is a teenager, the deceit of his nanny is revealed and he is unmasked as a fraud.  His family loves him though so not much is done.  The family moves to Pakistan and over the years, Saleem experiences the horrors the world is going through; war, poverty, repression, political torture, etc.  The other child, Shiva, grows up to embody his namesake, The Destroyer, and rises to fame in the military, killing those who oppose the government.  How will the story end of these two men, twinned at birth and now opposite in every way?

This novel is Salman Rushdie's crowning jewel.  It won the Booker in 1981 and then won the Booker of Bookers later, which was selected by readers.  It is a huge analogy of freedom and repression, opposite sides of the coin.  The writing is lavish and imaginative, a waterfall of images and comedy and tragedy that spews forward until the reader must give way to it and accept it all.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Eye Of The World by Robert Jordan

Three young men are growing up happily in their small village.   Little do they know that their contentment will be short lived.  In one night, Trollocs descent on their village and it becomes apparent that The Dark One has sent them to bring the three to him. 

Luckily, the three (Rand Al-Thor, Mat and Perrin) have help at hand.  Moiraine, an Aes Sedai or magical lady and her protector, Lan, are close at hand to diagnose the issue and help the three escape.  Along with them go Egwene, a village girl who Rand is attracted to and Nynaeve, the Village Wisdom.  The band travels as quickly as possible but are followed by the minions of The Dark One at every turn.  Along the way, the group picks up Loial, an Ogre who is a giant who understands the life of trees.  They continue their mission until Rand finally is caught in a fight with The Dark One, a fight for the survival of the world.

This is book one in the epic Wheel Of Time series.  As is common with many first novels in a series, much time is spent world building and setting up the characters and their traits.  I've been promising my son for years that I'd read this series as it is his favorite and the first book was worth the read.  This book is recommended for epic fantasy readers.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Booksie's Shelves, August 22, 2019

I don't know about where you are, but here in North Carolina it is hot, hot, hot.  With high humidity and temperatures in the high nineties, all you can do is hunker down and wait for a cool front to come and make things better.  Since house time equals lots of reading time, I'm ok with it. We decided to replace our thirteen year old refrigerator this week so the new one is bigger but its taking me a while to adjust to it.   My chrysanthemum has come back and is blooming merrily and I'm thinking about putting my fall wreath on the front door to try to hasten things along.  Regardless of weather, the books keep rolling in.  Here's what's made it through the door (i.e., physical copies instead of the daily onslaught of ebooks):

1.  The Voluptuous Delights Of Peanut Butter And Jam, Lauren Liebenberg, literary fiction, bought
2.  Monster Love, Carol Topolsi, literary fiction, purchased
3.  Hope Farm, Peggy Frew, literary fiction, gift
4.  Love And Death In The Sunshine State, Cutter Wood, true crime, gift
5.  The Room Of Lost Things, Stella Duffy, literary fiction, purchased
6.  Sorry, Gail Jones, literary fiction, purchased
7.  Paper Chains, Nicola Moriarty, literary fiction, sent by publisher
8.  Do You Mind If I Cancel?, Gary Janetti, memoir, sent by publisher
9.  Critical Injuries, Joan Barfoot, literary fiction, purchased
10.  After The Eclipse, Sarah Perry, memoir, purchased
11.  Nottingham, Nathan Makaryk, fantasy, sent by publisher
12.  29 Seconds, T.M. Logan, thriller, won in contest
13.  Pat Conroy, Our Lifelong Friendship, Bernie Schein, memoir, won in contest
14.  Th1rt3en, Steve Cavanagh, thriller, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  The Lost Children Archive, Valeria Luiselli, hardback
2.  The Child Finder, Rene Denfield, Kindle Fire
3.  Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie, paperback
4.  Hush, Laura Lippman, paperback
5.  The Flight Attendant, Chris Bohjalian, Kindle Fire
6.  The Dutch House, Ann Patchett, Kindle Fire
7.  Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain, hardback

Happy Reading!

Monday, August 19, 2019

This Poison Will Remain by Fred Vargas

There's a sensational story in the media in the South of France.  Three elderly men have died in recent weeks, all from the bite of the recluse spider.  How could that be?  The recluse spider is a loner, hiding in the most remote, darkest corners and its only interest in humans is to hide from them.  Moreover, unlike the American version, the recluse spider's bite is not that dangerous, definitely not life-threatening.  But the facts remain; three men, all dead, all bitten by a recluse in the days before their death.

Inspector Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg doesn't believe the hype.  He suspects that something more is going on.  After research, he discovers two things.  The men all knew each other; in fact, they grew up together in an orphanage.  Secondly, in order for a death by recluse venom, it would take scores of recluses all biting at one time in concert.  He knows that is not something that would have happened, so there must be something else going on.

Adamsberg has help tracking down the truth.  There are police in his department that would do anything, believe anything that Adamsberg says and they are as determined as he to find the truth.  There's an elderly lady  he meets who knows the victims and knows about recluses and even gives him a specimen.  There's a scientist in the local museum and a forensic psychologist who has ideas to move the investigation along.  But Adamsberg has obstacles also.  There is dissent in his own department with his right hand man opposed to his ideas.  There is an incident in his own background that keeps him from thinking clearly.  As the days go by, more victims are discovered.  Can Adamsberg discover the truth?

Fred Vargas is a French woman, born in Paris who is an archaeologist and historian.  Her background is seen clearly in her mysteries which are complex and draw on the past and science.  This is the seventh novel in the Adamsberg series.  Readers will be interested to see the differences in police procedure in France as opposed to the more familiar English and American police departments.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

As the days go by, more victims are discovered.  Can Adamsberg find the truth?

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.