Wednesday, July 26, 2017
Eilis is an eighteen year old girl, newly arrived in London from Ireland, there to study acting. Stephen is an established actor who is nearing forty. They meet one night in a pub and Eilis goes home with Stephen and sleeps with him; her first time ever. She expects that it will be a one time thing and he does also. But they are drawn to each other and keep running into each other. Each time they meet, they end up together for another night.
As the weeks and months go by, they fall deeply in love. But these are not two dewy-eyed lovers. Each is deeply flawed and battered by their prior family lives. They have been touched by abuse, drug addictions, poverty, loss of other loves and despair of ever having their careers take off. Yet they cannot stay apart and they confide in each other and slowly start to mend each others' souls.
This is Eimear McBride's second novel. Her first, A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing, won the Bailey's Fiction Prize as well as the Goldsmith's Prize. This novel was also nominated as a Bailey's Fiction for the 2017 year as well as shortlisted for the Goldsmith's Prize. McBride captures exactly the overwhelming nature of love, especially first love. She explores its power to break a person and to mend them and bring them to a healthy life. This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.
Friday, July 21, 2017
It's the kind of place one dreams about when longing to get away. Porto Vergogna is a small fishing village in Italy. There are a handful of houses, a place for the fisherman to cast off from and return to daily and a hotel, the Adequate View. Pasquale is the new owner of the hotel, his father having recently died. He has returned from school in Florence to take over the family business and he is full of plans to make this decrepit hotel a tourist attraction. His dream is to attract American tourists as everyone knows that is the measure of success.
It is a miracle when the boat approaches. An American tourist! Not only an American, but an American movie actresss! Dee Moray is in Italy as a cast member in the blockbuster Cleopatra, a movie that is making headlines even before it is finished as the press can't get enough of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and their on-again, off-again love affair that is just starting. Dee has been sent here by one of the movie administrators. She is very ill and is waiting there for her lover to come and help her through the illness.
Thus starts a novel that is a delight to read. It moves across time from 1962 to the present, across continents from Italy to America to London. Along the way are famous actors, Italian dreamers, and the men and women who come to Hollywood to try to make dreams come true. It is about love and dreams and how we sometimes settle or find the fulfillment of our dreams in unexpected ways. Above all, we are entranced with the characters we meet and the adventures they take us on. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.
Thursday, July 20, 2017
Everyone wants to be Ani FaNelli. She works on a glamorous New York magazine and lives the life of a New York professional. She is engaged to be married to a man who comes from old money and who works on Wall Street. Her clothes are exquisite. She has come far from the days when she was Tiffani LaNelli, a scholarship student at a prestigious school that was her ticket out of a middle class world to the one she envied and was determined to be a part of. Surely she is the luckiest girl alive.
But Ani has a secret most people have no idea of. Her time at that prestigious school included a horrific event that changed lives and marred its reputation. Ani was right in the middle of it and now a television producer is making a documentary about it and wants Ani to be a part of it. She is torn. Should she just continue as she is, envied by others who don't know anything about her true self or should she take the chance at vindication and validation the documentary offers?
Jessica Knoll has written a chilling novel. Ani is that perfect girl that most women would give anything to be. The fact that she has to deny everything about herself in order to be that perfect woman is a trade off that she has been willing to make but that now tugs at her more and more insistently. Knoll has worked as an editor at top women's magazines herself and knows the subject she writes about. This book is recommended for thriller readers.
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Lucas Davenport has left the police but he definitely hasn't lost his skills or his contacts. A man can only be retired so long and he didn't retire because he stopped loving what he did; he retired because he couldn't stand the bureaucracy any more. Lucas has been building a cabin and that has taken lots of time but the cabin is almost done when he gets the call.
The governor is an old friend and is thinking about running for President. He is doing the Iowa rounds where his real hope is to make enough of a showing that he is considered for Vice President when all is said and done. The front runner is a woman and there are rumors that someone is going to try to do her harm. Time to call in Lucas.
Lucas takes the nebulous rumors and starts to investigate. The issue seems to start with some of the disgruntled farm movements and some of them are fairly radical. The governor remembers seeing a woman with white hair, a bit heavy-set and her son, a tall man with striking gray eyes. They gave him a whiff of wildness, a shiver that all was not well.
Lucas and various law enforcement agencies take on the task of finding the people who want to do harm. The kicker? They have three days before the candidates go to the Iowa State Fair, a venue with thousands of people and an assassin's dream location. Everything is convinced that if something is going to happen, it will happen there. Can they find the radicals before the deadline?
This is the twenty-sixth Prey novel featuring Lucas Davenport. I've loved this series and Lucas but this one felt a bit tired, a bit too pat. The way everything fell into place so quickly just didn't seem realistic and having worked in state government, I know things don't work that quickly; it takes a long time to get everyone focused and moving in the same direction. I think the series may be working itself to an end which is a shame. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Monday, July 17, 2017
It's been a busy July. We just got back from a trip to the beach. Super hot but the beach is always beautiful. DH and I are headed out this weekend to see the touring production of "The King And I" so I've very excited about that. I read a lot at the beach and since I don't do summer, I've been staying inside and reading quite a bit. In a overworked moment while loading the car to leave, I left my Kindle Fire behind at the beach but will retrieve it when my neighbors go there eventually. It is a loss as I was in the middle of several books on it. I also bought seven books at Audible this morning in their $4.95 sale. Here's what's come through the door:
1. Follow Me Down, Shelby Foote, nonfiction, sent by a friend
2. Mister Monkey, Francine Prose, literary fiction, sent by a friend
3. Shadow Man, Alan Drew, mystery, sent by a friend
4. Athenian Blue, Pol Koutsakis, mystery, sent by publisher
5. Anatomy Of A Scandal, Sarah Vaughan, mystery, won online
6. All We Shall Know, Donal Ryan, literary fiction, sent by publisher
7. The Hawkweed Prophecy, Irena Brignull, fantasy, sent by publisher
8. In The Shadow Of The Gods, Rachel Dunne, fantasy, purchased
9. A Hundred Thousand Worlds, Bob Proehl, literary fiction, sent by publisher
Here's what I'm reading:
1. The Bear And The Nightengale, Katherine Arden, Kindle Fire
2. Zodiac, Neal Stephenson, Kindle Fire
3. Luckiest Girl Alive, Jessica Kroll, paperback
4. My Sister's Grave, Robert Dugoni, audio
5. The Golden House, Salman Rushdie, Kindle Fire
6. The Lesser Bohemians, Eimear McBride, paperback
7. The Last Empire, Gore Vidal, paperback
8. Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walters, paperback
9. Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman, hardback
Saturday, July 15, 2017
He is pleased when circumstances allow him to meet a relative. He stops to help a man who seems in need of assistance and it turns out to be his own cousin, Lukasz Kaminski. Their grandfathers were brothers, but Lukasz's branch of the family stayed behind. He is now a respected journalist but Adam is meeting him at the worst juncture of his life. His daughter, Basia, has committed suicide a few weeks before. Lukasz insists that it cannot be suicide and then is attacked and his apartment broken into. Is all this coincidence?
He asks Adam for help in unraveling the mystery. Basia had just started a job in government and Lukasz believes she uncovered something that caused her death. Adam is hesitant but when he sees how his cousin is ignored and pushed away at every turn, he cannot help but want to help. As the two men start to get answers their own lives start to be in danger. The tour guide, Sylvia, is also drawn in as she and Adam are starting a romance.
This is the first novel in the Adam Kaminski series. It gives a good overview of Poland and its current situation as it tries to recover from the war and then the stifling rule of Communism. It seems a bit unlikely that Adam and Lukasz are able to make so much progress in a few short days, but overall the plot is satisfactory and readers will get not only a mystery but a history lesson. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Thursday, July 13, 2017
Out in the desert, a young would-be monk labors. He is on a mission for his monastery, a week of fasting and privation that all initiates must go through. As he works to create a shelter for the coming night, he sees a traveler approaching. No one travels the desert so he is filled with fear. The man approaches. He is a skinny old man, barely dressed and ready to fight anyone who he sees. He threatens the young man, then after a while, helps him by marking a stone to finish his shelter. After he leaves, the initiate removes the stone he has marked and finishes his shelter. Removing the stone creates a landslide and steps are revealed.
What has been buried is the entrance to a bomb shelter, for this is the age after the world has gone through nuclear annihilation. Few people remain and those that do mistrust each other. Roaming tribes kill everything in their path and intellectuals are disdained as they were the ones who created the bombs that ruined civilization. As the initiate explores, he finds a box with fragments of writing. Even more amazing, the fragments carry the name of Leibowitz, who is the man for whom the monastery exists. For these monks are charged with preserving what little writing and knowledge exists. They bury barrels of writing material in remote places and copy the words of existing manuscripts, even when they have no idea what the words mean.
What follows is a bleak exhibit of humanity. The reader sees the world through the eyes of time. Over the centuries, men start to value knowledge again. They rediscover the natural principles that underlie all progress, and painstakingly, over centuries, civilization rebuilds to the point that sophisticated machines and computers once again exist. Yet, every time progress is made, it is accompanied by the human nature that cannot help but tear it down again.
This novel is considered a classic of science fiction. It demonstrates a fear of learning and an underlying negativity about human nature. Yet, along with the bleakness, there is always a tendril of hope, someone who risks all in order to learn and spread knowledge. This book is recommended for science fiction readers.
Thursday, July 6, 2017
Harry Bosch is caught up in a sensational trial. A movie director has killed a star during rough sex and Harry was both the arresting officer and the star witness at his trial. It has everything needed to draw media attention and the news reporters and television anchors are out in force. Bosch and the prosecutors believe the defendant has killed other women the same way but only have enough evidence to try him on this case.
Terry McCaleb couldn't be more opposite in his life choices. A former FBI profiler, he retired when his health took a serious turn and now runs a charter service for weekend fishermen. He has remarried and has a son and newborn daughter. His focus is on his job and family or at least until a former colleague on the LAPD asks his help in reviewing a murder case.
McCaleb can't resist. His skills haven't rusted and he misses his old life more than he allows himself to admit. As he works on his case, he is surprised to find that his path crosses that of Bosch whom he knew slightly in his former life. As the cases both continue, the two detectives find that there is more and more overlap between their work and they find themselves at odds. Who will wrap up their case and how will it affect the other man?
This is the seventh book in the Harry Bosch series and the one that serves as the basis for the third season of the Bosch series on Amazon Prime. The book follows the police procedural format of the other Bosch cases. The interplay between the two men and their take on law enforcement adds to the inherent drama of the murder cases being investigated. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Tuesday, July 4, 2017
His name is Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, recipient of the Order Of Saint Andrew, member of the Jockey Club, Master of the Hunt. He left Russia as a young man after an incident with an officer who broke his sister's heart. He returned with the fall of the Tsar to arrange the safe passage of his grandmother out of the country. Now in 1922, he has been called to account by a government committee for the crime of authoring a politically questionable poem. The outcome is house arrest at the Metropole, the famous hotel where he is currently living in an opulent suite.
And there he remains. The months go by, then the years and soon the decades. A young man of twenty-two, he comes to manhood within the confines of the hotel and lives his adult life there. But his early upbringing as a gentleman serves him well. He makes friends with various staff members. He has routines that help to define his days. He makes surprising new friendships that last over the years and that bring love and laughter into his life. Through his constrained life, the reader sees the constraints that define Russia during the Communist era and the privations that the average person endures.
Amor Towles has created a memorable character whose life serves as an example to us all. His grace and joy in life is contagious and his ability to never let his circumstances define his essential core is endearing. The reader is left with the impression that this is a man who anyone would be thrilled to know and to spend time with. As the last page is turned, the reader is left uplifted and satisfied with the story and how things turn out for Rostov. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.
Saturday, July 1, 2017
Is Dustin Tillman the unluckiest man in the world? One might think so. He comes from a horrific childhood. One morning he and his cousins woke up in their backyard from a camping night and went inside only to find both his and their parents brutally slaughtered. Dustin's adopted brother, Rusty, who is into Goth and dealing drugs, is the police's first suspect. When Dustin tells the things Rusty has done to him, Rusty is arrested and sent for trial. Dustin and his cousin are the main witnesses against him and Rusty is sent to prison for life.
Fast forward to adulthood. Dustin has reinvented himself and is now a psychologist living a normal family life in the suburbs. His wife is a lawyer and his two sons are healthy and happy. Then tragedy strikes again. His wife gets ill and passes away. The family can't move beyond their grief and fall apart. The older son goes off to college and Dustin and his younger son rattle around their house, rarely speaking and never communicating when they do.
Then Dustin hears the news. Rusty is being released after an Innocence Project has taken his case. It turns out that there was never any forensic evidence. Rusty was convicted in an atmosphere of societal worry about teenage kids and satanic cults, like the Memphis Three. Now thirty years later, he is coming out of prison and its unsure what he plans to do next.
In Dustin's own city, there is another troubling issue. One of his patients is a former policeman who has been sent for psychological help. Yet he is less interested in his own problems than in a case he believes he has found. Teenage college boys are being found in bodies of water. The cases seem similar; they go out drinking with their friends, disappear and are found drowned later. Most of the cases are classified as accidents or suicides. Yet the patient believes there is a serial killer out there and draws Dustin into his belief system. Soon Dustin is helping in the 'investigation' and neglecting everything else.
This is a haunting book. It starts slowly, portraying a normal family. Tendrils of menace float up occasionally, leaving the reader uneasy. Then the hits start to come faster and faster as one is drawn into the realization that Dustin has been removed from reality his entire life and that he is the ultimate unreliable narrator. The book is like a ride down a snowy hill on a sled. At first nothing much happens and then the reader is riding pell-mell to an inevitable end. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Tuesday, June 27, 2017
When a mummified foot is found in a Danish bog, it's unclear at first whether the police or archaeologists are needed. As more bones are found and examined, it's clear that this was a young male in his twenties and that the death occurred about fifteen years before. So the police are in charge and are faced with what looks like an impossible task. They don't have an identity and with the passage of time it seems unlikely that they will be able to reconstruct the crime.
The case is given to Chief Inspector Tobias Lange. He is a veteran and in his forties. His team is skilled and they unearth enough clues to determine that the man was probably an eco-warrier. The main clue to his identity is a silver bracelet found with the silversmith's initials inside. After tracing her to Lapland, they discover she remembers the bracelet well and the young couple that had it made. Now they have a name for the woman and at least a first name for the man.
The investigation moves to an exploration of the groups that meet to protest building that affects the environment and various endangered species. This hits close to home for CI Lange, as he has a college age daughter who is involved in such a group. As he delves deeper, the case gets more involved when more bones are discovered in another location. Can this crime from the past be solved?
This appears to be the debut novel in this series or perhaps just the first translated for English readers. I hope that there will be more in the series. The protagonist is a likeable man, determined to solve crimes but also involved in his own life and that of his family. The book strikes the right note in showing enough police procedure without getting stuck in details. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Monday, June 26, 2017
Winter is always a challenging time for the police in Edendale, Derbyshire. The blizzards and chilling winds make the bleak landscapes and twisting roads even more difficult to traverse and investigate in. But crime always goes on, regardless of the weather and the Edendale police have several cases in play.
A young woman is found buried in the snow. At first it appears she just got tired and lay down and was killed by exposure but the post mortem reveals bruises that are evidence of a beating. The case is reclassified as a murder and even more critically, it appears she had a young baby who is now missing.
Then a man's body is discovered when a snowplow hits it. Again, it appears to be a murder and the police don't even know who he is. His clothing shows a well-dressed man who should have been missed. Why isn't someone looking for him?
Then another strange event distracts attention from the recent murders. A woman has traveled to Derbyshire from Canada. She identifies herself as the granddaughter of a military pilot who crashed his plane into the mountains during WW II. All aboard were killed except for one Polish crew member and the pilot who supposedly survived only to vanish. He is blamed for the wreck and his granddaughter has come to clear his name. She is very determined but the police are already overwhelmed with work. She tries to enlist Ben in her search but his superiors have already forbidden anyone to help with the police force already spread thin.
When the cases all start to look as if they are connected, the police scramble to find out what all three have in common. Ben is the hometown boy who knows everyone and who is a town favorite. But his superiors, including Diane Fry, see him as a man who is easily distracted from the orders he is given. Will Ben's obstinate nature help to solve the crimes or is standard police procedure the way to go?
This is the third in the Cooper and Fry mystery series. In this one, Diane has just gotten the promotion that everyone assumed would go to Ben and is now his boss. This ratchets up the interplay between the two who come at every problem in a diametrically opposed fashion. Readers of the series will enjoy this further case and the unfolding of the relationship between the two. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Wednesday, June 21, 2017
East Of Eden is a moral fable played out as the American Dream. It is set in the Salinas Valley of California in the late 1800's to around the time of World War I. It follows the life of the Trask family. Adam Trask came to California after growing up in the Northeast. He was the son of a famous military man who favored his other son, Charles, over Adam. The boys grew up in a state of rivalry that they never managed to get over. When Adam married Cathy, a woman who showed up on their doorstep, he had to leave when Charles would not accept her.
Adam and Cathy moved to California where Adam, a rich man, bought a large farm. Cathy had never loved Adam as she had never loved anyone. She used him to escape a situation. The couple had twins and as soon as she was able, she left Adam and moved out. Cathy became a whore and later the madam of the most infamous brothel in town. Adam was crushed, more or less ignoring his sons, Aaron and Caleb. The family's servant, Lee, basically raised and loved the boys.
Aaron and Caleb played out the same sibling rivalry as Adam, never learning from his own upbringing, played obvious favorites. Aaron was blonde and everyone loved him for his sunny disposition and good behaviour. Caleb was brunette, full of contradictions and a more complex child whose let his bad side emerge sometimes. The boys loved each other yet Caleb would sometimes hurt Aaron just because he could. The story ends with a major confrontation that had far-reaching consequences.
This is considered one of Steinbeck's master works. The retelling of the old Cain and Abel story from the Bible relocated to America touches the American reader as it was intended to. The story is full of Steinbeck's identification with the working class and his belief that man must make his own moral choices in life. Cathy is one of the most memorable villains in literature. The reader must make their own choice of who will have their sympathy, Caleb or Aaron. This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.
Monday, June 19, 2017
Babel Tower is an exploration of England in the 1960's, when so many things in society changed. It focuses on two plots. The first is the story of Frederica. She had been an intellectual child who went to Cambridge when that was still not the norm and became very popular and the center of attention of a group of young men. Afterwards, rather than marrying one of them and becoming an author as everyone expected, she instead married a man from the landed gentry, Nigel. Her sister had died in a freak accident and she wanted a complete break from what she had known. The couple had a son, Leo. But country life in a house full of Nigel's relatives soon palled. Frederica felt stifled and that her intellectual life was stymied. When she met her old crowd by happenstance, things came to a head. Nigel forbade her to see them and when she didn't agree, started to physically abuse her. She fled in the night, taking Leo with her.
Nigel insists he wants her back and storms around trying to find her and terrorizing her friends and family. The book explores the themes of women who want to work outside the home, the difficulty of doing so as a single mother, spousal abuse, society's changing mores about women, religion, sex, education, the best environment for a child and work.
The other subplot is about freedom in literature and the changing setting of society and what it will accept in the name of freedom of expression. It revolves around a novel written by a thoroughly unpleasant man named Jude Mason. The novel is about a dystopian society that falls into one of sexual excesses and cruelty and is considered obscene and charged as such. There is a trial in which the limits of society are explored. The Moors Murders case of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley serves as backdrop for this case. It was the most prominent child murder case of its time and many considered it a bellwether of how society changes were taking the world into dark, wretched places.
This is a huge novel that attempts to explain all of life in a specific time period. Readers may or may not like Frederica who is not a very sympathetic character but she is a model of how society has changed in considering a women's role. Most facets of society are portrayed along with the changes the sixties brought to each. The author, A.S. Byatt, won the Booker Prize for her novel Possession and that intellect and ability to explore society is a real reason for her success. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.
Friday, June 16, 2017
Few family names reverberate through history like that of the Borgias of Italy. The head of the family is Rodrigo Borgia, a Spanish Cardinal who comes to Rome and rises to become Pope Alexander VI. He delights in the machinations of the Church and in his illegitimate children whom he disdains to hide. Instead they are given prominent places in society. His first son, Juan, is assassinated, a crime that marks Rodrigo's life ever after. Cesare is a former Cardinal who turns instead to military matters, conquering city after city in the Borgia's quest to extend their power. His daughter, Lucrezia, is used to solidify the family's power and influence through marriage. She is married three times by the time she is twenty-two.
This novel follows the family in the last year of their power, 1502. Lucrezia has just become the Duchess of Urbino, her husband Alfonso much the same kind of man as her brother Cesare. Cesare becomes increasingly erratic as he pursues a campaign of conquest, perhaps as the aftermath of what is known as the French pox. There is no alliance he won't make or break as it suits him, and both he and Pope make sure their enemies come to a bloody end. Pope Alexander is at the end of his life and concerned about his legacy. Finally, an outsider is also part of the story. Niccolo Machiavelli is a diplomat from Florence who is sent to the court in Rome to discover what he can of the Borgia plans and how his city can best position itself. He is fascinated by the Borgias, later basing his most famous book, The Prince, on Cesare.
Yet Dunant is interested in not just wars and betrayals but the life of women. Lucrezia is maligned throughout Italy as a courtesan and faithless wanton woman, but the reality is closer to that of a woman used as most women were in titled families, as a pawn to consolidate power. Her life in a forced marriage is explored as is the relationships within the family she married into, and her struggles to produce an heir. She loves her father and brother but fate moves her far away from them where she rarely gets to see them and must carve out a life for herself.
Sarah Dunant is considered one of the finest names working in historical fiction today. She is fascinated with Renaissance Italy and the powerful families that battle for supremacy. Yet she also takes time to examine everyday life. The influence of sickness, the fevers that annually take scores of lives and the new disease of syphilis, or French pox, is explored. The interplay between the powerful families and the Church is discussed. She skillfully dissects the connections between families and the alliances and betrayals that made the Borgia family name infamous. This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction.
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Her name is Elise Perez. His is Jamey Hyde. She is a mix of cultures and races, brought up in housing projects where she had to scrap for everything she had. He grew up in Long Island mansions, Vail and Europe vacations, Manhattan townhouses. She grew up with a single mother who had her at sixteen and half-siblings from various men her mother lives with. He grew up the scion of an investment banking family with a famous actress mother. They couldn't be more dissimilar.
Jamey is in New Haven attending Yale and living with his best friend who he has known his entire life. Elise is in New Haven because that's where she ended up as she drifted away from Bridgeport, Connecticut looking for something, anything and living with a gay man who found her sleeping rough on the street and took her in. They are from different worlds and should have nothing in common. And yet, and yet. There is an immediate spark, an almost visceral attraction. Jamey has everything but has never felt that anyone really saw him. Elise has nothing but she knows about love and sees Jamey behind his facade for the man he really is.
Soon they are spending every moment together. Everyone they know is appalled. His friends don't know what to make of her and suspect that she is sizing him up to rob his apartment. Her friends suspect that nothing good can come from this, that Jamey is just slumming and will break Elise's heart. His family is simply appalled. Elise is like nothing they could have expected and the difference is more than they can accept. They try various methods of breaking the two apart, things that have always worked, threats of money being cut off and scandals that will shame the entire clan. Nothing matters. The love between Jamey and Elise is so incandescent that it outshines every difference, every obstacle. Or does it?
Jardine Libraire has written a modern love story that burns it's way into the reader's mind. Elise and Jamey are characters who will not be easily forgotten and their love is the memory each of us has about the first time we really, really fell into love. This is Jardine Libaire's second novel. She attended the University of Michigan's MFA program where she received the Hopwood Award. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and anyone who wants to remember how love feels.
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
1. A Canticle For Leibowitz, Walter Miller, sci-fi/fantasy, purchased
2. The Offering, Grace McCleen, literary fiction, purchased
3. The Confusion Of Languages, Siobhan Fallon, literary fiction, sent by publisher
4. The Sport Of Kings, C.E. Morgan, literary fiction, purchased
5. Emma In The Night, Wendy Walker, suspense, won in contest
6. The Bones Of The Earth, Rachel Dunne, fantasy, sent by publisher
7. Under Majordomo Minor, Patrick DeWitt, literary fiction, purchased
8. In The Cold Dark Ground, Stuart MacBride, mystery, purchased
Here's what I'm reading:
1. Commonwealth, Anne Patchett, audio
2. Blood On The Tongue, Stephen Booth, Kindle Fire
3. East Of Eden, John Steinbeck, paperback
4. Babel Tower, A.S. Byatt, hardback
5. White Fur, Jardine Libaire, paperback
6. In The Name Of The Family, Sarah Dunant, paperback
7. The Lesser Bohemians, Eimear McBride, paperback
Monday, June 12, 2017
Dark days have fallen on the city of Alt Coulumb. Kos, the Fire God who keeps the city alive, has died. An influential law firm is called upon to figure out what killed him and what can be done going forward. Elayne Kevarian is the law partner sent to head up the case. She chooses Tara Abernathy as her associate. This will be Tara's first case but Kevarian has high hopes for her although her past is shaky. Tara was expelled from the Hidden Schools where all Craftsmen are trained. She dared to go up against a powerful professor there and expose his corruption but as often happens when novice goes against entrenched power, she lost.
How did Kos die? It appears that too much power was drained from him. As with most gods, Kos was involved in a series of contracts selling off his excess power. Elayne and Tara must go through all his contracts and determine if something was wrong in one of them and if they underlie his death. To do so, they must draw on allies. Abelard is a young priest who was the one on duty when Kos died and who discovered it. He is in the service of the Cardinal and the entire religious hierarachy. Another ally is the vampire pirate who brings them to the city and who seems to have knowledge of the various contracts that Kos was involved in.
But there are enemies as well. Cat is part of Justice, the group that sees that all is well in the city and which punishes wrongdoers. They don't trust Tara and her investigation. Then there are the gargoyles who believe both Justice and Tara are their enemies. They serve a goddess who used to rule in Alt Columb but who disappeared eons ago. Most deadly is the opposing counsel in the court case. It turns out to be Professor Denovo who is the professor Tara battled in academia only to be bested by him. The stakes this time are much higher. Can she prevail?
This is the first novel in the Craft series and Max Gladstone's debut novel. It shakes up fantasy by borrowing from several genres and adding in new twists such as the entire legal overlay, the concept of gods that can die and the explanation for creatures such as gargoyles and vampires. There are alliances and betrayals and one can never be quite sure what is happening. It is a complex world without being overwhelming and the many layers provide Gladstone with lots of room for surprising twists and turns. This book is recommended for fantasy readers.
Monday, June 5, 2017
Scotland Police has a long proud history of competent officers working in concert to solve crimes and keep the city and countryside safe. Then there is the Misfit Mob, a collection of officers that for various reasons have been shunted to the side and work on nonessential cases. There is Detective Constable Callum MacGregor who had a promising career until his girlfriend messed up a crime scene and he took the blame for her, leaving most people sure he was a bribe taker. DC Rosalind Franklin is a touchy feminist who is quick to believe that most men don't give her credit and only want her around for her body. DC John Watt is a curmudgeon who no one wants to work with. Detective Sargent Dotty Hodgkin is in the unit as she now rides a wheelchair after a work-related accident. DS Andrew MacAdams is dying of cancer but hiding the truth from his family and doctors. Finally, DCI Malcomson, or 'Mother', has been shunted to the group to recuperate from her own health issues.
Callum is called to a nuisance case. Someone has found something strange at the dump. When he arrives, it turns out to be a body, but one that is mummified. He is put on the job of calling all the local museums and science organizations to see if it is theirs. But the autopsy shows that the corpse is recent and soon other mummies start showing up; bodies that have been brined and then smoked like fish. The Misfit Mob retains the case as all the others are overloaded, although no one expects much from them.
Concurrently, there are strange incidents regarding Callum's own past. He was deserted at five years old, his mother, father and twin brother disappearing at a rest stop on the way home from a family vacation. He grew up in a series of care homes, each more devious and cruel than the next. His family's case has never been solved and as best he can tell, not given very high priority or worked on very hard. There seems to be some movement to cracking the shell of neglect and inattention the case received as it gets linked to a more current case. Can Callum discover the truth about his past as he works on the murder case?
Stuart MacBride is one of the most famous mystery writers working today. His prime character is DC Logan McRae and he has an extensive series of books about Logan, each a success. This book starts a new series, or at least readers can hope it does. These characters sing and meld into a hopelessly inept group that somehow manages to do everything right. The breezy style and 'just get on with it' mantra is exhilarating. The reader is carried along with twists and turns where least expected. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Thursday, June 1, 2017
The Whitshank family is a typical Baltimore family, one of blue-collar workers whose hard work has brought them success. Red is the head of his own construction firm while Abby was a social worker. Their four children are grown now and Abby and Red are slowing down as they age into their sixties. Although the children are grown, that doesn't mean there are no more sibling issues. There are resentments about who is doing more, which child was loved most, and who will help with their parents as everyone realizes that the couple may not be able to live alone much longer.
The novel veers back and forth in time over the family's ages. We get the backstory of Red's parents and how they overcame a scandal and the Depression to come to Baltimore from the hill country to carve out a living. We learn how Abby and Red fell in love. We learn that even with decades of marriage, there are still secrets in the family that threaten its stability as they are revealed. We also learn about the fourth generation of Whitshanks who are Red and Abby's grandchildren.
Anne Tyler is a recognized master at character development. Almost all of her books are set in Baltimore and most unravel the complexities of family life and the relationships that both sustain and threaten us. We see how families react to various events, how they are formed and what pressures can split them apart. A Spool Of Blue Thread was a Man Booker nominee as well as an Orange Prize nominee. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and those interested in families and their relationships.
Tuesday, May 30, 2017
In England, the reign of Smoke has lasted 300 years. It is a portrayal of sin; whenever someone has a sinful thought or deed, smoke pours from every orifice on their body. The rich and powerful don't smoke, or so one would think. They send their children at a young age to boarding schools where they are punished and manipulated until they can control their tendency to smoke.
Boarding school is where Charlie and Thomas meet. One is the son of a powerful aristocratic family, the other a scholarship student whose family was wrecked when his father got into a bar brawl and killed a man. Unlike in every way, somehow they become best friends. They unite against the brutality of the head boy, Julius. Charlie is a good boy and sure that the way society is set up is the best. Thomas has a dark streak he fights against. Slowly, they start to realize that perhaps Smoke is not the way the world is supposed to work. Things they see on a class visit to London (The Great Smoke) make them question why the lower classes must be consumed in sin and smoke while the upper classes rise above all the poverty and crime. Rumors they hear about how England was before the Smoke and how other countries still exist without it make them more curious and determined to get to the bottom of the mystery.
Over break, they visit the country estate of a wealthy family where they hope to pick up some answers. They meet the daughter of the family and both boys develop a fascination for her. They start to discover that the family is the centerpiece of a resistance to the Smoke society; the father driven mad by his studies, the mother drawn into a vast conspiracy to bring down Smoke. Unfortunately, it turns out Julius is the mother's first son although he has been raised by his father elsewhere. When he comes for a visit, he pits himself against the two boys and his half-sister and violence ensues. When the three flee, Julius sets himself as their punisher and starts to track them. Can the three elude Julius and the forces of Smoke long enough to discover the truth
Smoke is a fascinating novel. Vyelta creates a Dicksonian-like environment of downtrodden poor against privileged rich. His world building is first rate and the reader is transported to the vile underground where crime and poverty mix to create an atmosphere of fear but one where people can still be kind and generous. The tension between the three main characters is intriguing, and the reader is torn between supporting the simple kindness of Charlie or the darker interesting personality of Thomas. There is political intrigue and the eternal battle between good and evil. This book is recommended for readers of fantasy.
Monday, May 29, 2017
Harry Bosch has retired and it's not sitting well. Police work is what he knows and what he does best. When the wife of an old friend calls him he is ready to listen. Her husband has recently died and she wants Harry to look into it. Harry knew him from his years in the police force and the friend's work on The Poet serial killer case. At first Harry believes the death was natural but as he looks into it, he starts to realize that something is amiss.
Rachel Bolling, FBI agent, is also at loose ends. After her work on The Poet case and the scandal that attached to her that rose from that case, she has been marking time in North Dakota. When she gets a call to join a team in Nevada that has recently unearthed six male bodies, she knows The Poet has reemerged. He has left clues that point directly to Rachel and it is clear that he regards their relationship as unfinished.
As Harry works his case, he finds his friend made a mysterious trip to Las Vega before he died. That and other things takes Harry directly to the burial site where he finds a huge FBI contingent working the case and definitely not pleased to see him. He is assigned to Rachel to babysit and as the two compare notes, it becomes clear that the two cases have merged and that Harry's friend was perhaps the first victim in this current run of deaths attributable to The Poet.
This was Connelly's fourteenth novel and the tenth in the Harry Bosch series. Readers will be happy to observe Bosch working a case, this time as a retired detective who has recently discovered he has a daughter and questioning what the rest of his life should consist of. The tension between Walling and Bosch is interesting and the climax of the novel is stunning. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Sunday, May 28, 2017
Years before the famous Lindbergh kidnapping in 1932, there was a famous kidnapping case in Omaha, Nebraska. Pat Crowe and an accomplice kidnapped the sixteen year old son of the man at the head of the meat industry in Nebraska, Edward Cudahy, in 1900. Edward Cudahy, Jr. was returned home unharmed after the payment of the first successful ransom attempt in the United States.
Crowe had worked for Cudahy but been fired. He attempted to open and run a butcher shop but that had also been forced closed by Cudahy. After the crime, Crowe was quickly identified and soon became the most wanted man in America. Harried from city to town to the open spaces, he was never able to stay in one place for long. Even when he went overseas, the first thing he saw was a wanted poster with his name on it. During his flight, he robbed banks and trains, at first with his accomplice. That man was killed out West and after that Crowe traveled alone.
Years later, he walked into a police station and gave himself up. His trial was a sensation. His lawyer portrayed Crowe as a modern-day Robin Hood and Cudahy as a man determined to retain his wealth and power by ruthlessly stealing money from his workers and doing everything he could to destroy any competition. Crowe was set free by a jury that was influenced by this tactic and the massive support Crowe enjoyed with the public.
Andrew Hilleman, in this debut novel, follows the life and crimes of Pat Crowe and his travels throughout the world after his crime. Crowe was one of the most famous criminals of his time yet almost no one knows about him today. This is a work of fiction built around the facts of the crime and what is known of Crowe's life and displays a sympathetic portrayal of the man that does gloss over his subsequent life of crime. This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction.
Friday, May 26, 2017
Liverpool is in the midst of a gang war between two rival gangs, each determined to control the flood of drugs into the city. When one gang steals a shipment of drugs from the other, it sets the scene for a war.
Bryn is a fourteen year old boy, trying to concentrate on his education and find a way to escape the life of poverty his family lives. He idolizes his two older brothers and worries about his parents who seem resigned to their lives. He is a good kid. One day while taking his dog for a walk in the local park, he has an encounter with a man who seems to take exception with his dog. The two have words and Bryn moves on, never thinking the encounter might escalate beyond words.
But escalate it does. The man is a member of one of the drug gangs. He calls in reinforcements and soon a younger, stronger man arrives to teach Bryn a lesson. He chases him down in the park and starts to attack him, brutually beating him. During the fight, Bryn reaches out, finds a brick and hits the man, instantly killing him. Far from being relieved, Bryn is horrified at what has happened and scared by the violence he has encountered. The disastrous situation becomes even worse as it turns out the dead man is the son of the leader of one of the drug gangs. Now Bryn and his entire family are in the sights of the gang as the leader is determined to get revenge.
DI Braddick leads the Liverpool Major Investigation Team. They are investigating the conflict between the two gangs and the murders that have occurred when the incident with Bryn happens. Now they must also try to protect him and his family while unraveling the intricacies of the drug rivalry and the betrayals and brutality their war brings to them and the city itself.
Conrad Jones has written a gritty police procedural that is not for the faint-hearted. He portrays the inhumanity found in the drug world in which any man's life is considered fodder in an intricate game of betrayal and torture as each group attempts to reign supreme. Jones's own life has been affected by the violence of organized groups and his experiences play out in his books. The betrayals and violence come fast and hard, taking the reader on a heartstopping tour of man's inhumanity when the respect for life has disappeared. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Thursday, May 25, 2017
It seems like a normal encounter played out over and over. Lady Daniels is an aspiring writer, living in Southern California. She wants to hire a nanny to watch her two year old son while she writes. She is newly separated from her husband and determined to have success in this new arena. S is a recently graduated college student who is looking for a live-in nanny job for a while until she decides what to do. They quickly come to an agreement and S moves into the guest house.
But below the normal surface, each woman has secrets to hide. Lady has never resolved her feelings about her older son. Seth is eighteen and is mute. He spoke one word as a toddler then never again tried and over the years lost the ability to do so. He is now an angry teen, still attached to his stepfather who has moved out at Lady's request and trying to define his own life. Lady is also trying to find her first love, Seth's father. She tells herself it is to find him closure but it is unsure if that is the truth.
S also has her own secrets. She has come to Los Angeles after a disastrous art project left her scorned in her prior city. Her real name is Esther but she is determined to cast off all ties to her past and reinvent herself. She comes to Lady's house in the midst of another art plan; she has deliberately made herself unattractive as she slips into an alternate persona. She is intrigued with Seth and they are drawn together. But even more, she is drawn to Lady when she realizes that Lady is one of a group of women made famous by the art of Kit Daniels. Lady hides the evidence of her former self as she feels taken advantage of by Kit, who has ended up being her sister-in-law.
As the summer progresses, the two women are drawn to each other and soon have a friendship that brings them ever closer. But a friendship cannot survive on deceit and lies and that is what each is feeding the other. The summer starts to spiral out of control to a climatic end that will change everything in everyone's lives going forward.
Edan Lepucki shot to prominence in the literary world with the publication of her debut novel, California. Her work has appeared in various magazines and she is an instructor in the UCLA Extension program. This is her second novel and it explores the worlds of friendship and of duplicity and the corrosive effect of secrets on relationships. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
It's hard to believe it's already the end of May. Graduations are happening all over. In our house, it's a week of recuperation. My daughter had all four wisdom teeth out yesterday. This will be a quiet week with lots of reading time. She just finished a very successful freshman year at college so I'm really proud of her. Like my son, she is also a reader. So glad to have two readers to carry on the tradition! Here's what's come through the door recently:
1. The Glorious Heresies, Lisa McInerney, literary fiction, purchased
2. Before We Visit The Goddess, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, literary fiction, sent by publisher
3. Hum If You Don't Know The Words, Bianca Marais, literary fiction, sent by publisher
4. Agrathias, Conor Nicholl, fantasy, sent by author
5. At Hawthorne Time, Melissa Harrison, literary fiction, purchased
6. Reunion, Carl Brookins, mystery, sent by publisher
7. Deadmen Walking, Sherrilyn Kenyon, fantasy, sent by publisher
8. A Canticle For Leibowitz, Walter Miller, fantasy, purchased
9. The Prey Of Gods, Nicky Drayden, fantasy, sent by publisher
10. White Fur, Jardine Libaire, literary fiction, sent for book tour
11, The Last Train, Michael Pronko, mystery, sent by author
12. The Separatists, Lis Wiehl, thriller, sent by publisher
13. Touch, Courtney Maum, literary fiction, sent by publisher
14. The Scribe Of Siena, Melodie Winawer, historical fiction, sent by publisher
15. Mad, Chloe Esposito, literary fiction, sent by publisher
16. Sleeping Giants, Sylvain Neuvel, sci/fi/fantasy, sent by Curled Up With A Good Book
17. Everybody's Fool, Richard Russo, literary fiction, sent by Curled Up With A Good Book
18. Mothering Sunday, Graham Swift, literary fiction, sent by Curled Up With A Good Book
19. In The Name Of The Family, Sarah Dunant, historical fiction, sent by Curled Up
20. Waking Gods, Sylvain Neuvel, sci/fi/fantasy, sent by Curled Up With A Good Book
21. The Old Man, Thomas Perry, mystery, sent by Curled Up With A Good Book
Here's what I'm reading:
1. World Chase Me Down, Andrew Hillerman, paperback
2. Dissident Gardens, Jonathan Lethem, Kindle
3. Mr. Splitfoot, Samantha Hunt, Kindle Fire
4. The Lesser Bohemians, Eimear McBride, paperback
5. Perfect Prey, Laura Salters, Kindle Fire
6. Gone Without A Trace, Mary Torjussen, Kindle Fire
7. The Narrows, Michael Connelly, hardback
8. Woman No. 17, Eden Luposki, hardback
9. A Dark So Deadly, Stuart MacBride, Kindle Fire
10. Wolf Hall, Hillary Mantel, hardback
11. Smoke, Dan Vyleta, Kindle Fire
Sunday, May 21, 2017
Detectives Jessica Balzano and Kevin Byrne have a good partnership in the Philadelphia Police Department despite their differences. Outside of the obvious gender difference, Byrne is a veteran, old of the oldest detectives still working, while Jessica is much younger. Jessica is happily married with kids, while Byrne lives alone, his daughter already grown and gone. Yet the respect they have for each other makes them a good pair to investigate the grisly crimes they encounter.
Jessica gets the call. A voice she doesn't recognize predicts deaths; one for each of seven churches. She is tempted to ignore the call as a crank call when the report comes in. A man has been found in the basement of a deserted church. His death is gruesome and has ritual aspects. As she and Byrne investigate, more deaths occur. Each murder is committed in the basement of a deserted, abandoned church and each victim has a criminal record. As the deaths pile up, can the detectives uncover the killer before the plan is complete?
Richard Montanri has written several criminal series. This is the sixth novel in the Balzano/Byrne series. The connection between two widely disparate individuals who have found a way to work effectively as partners is compelling. The reader is taken inside the world of investigations and watches the race against time as the crime is investigated. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Saturday, May 20, 2017
When Dr. Jeremy Carrier is befriended by Dr. Arthur Chess, it seems a normal course of events. Both are doctors at the same hospital. Jeremy is a psychologist and Chess is a pathologist. They share a love of reading and soon start to have discussions about life and philosophy. Carrier is reeling from the kidnapping and murder of his girlfriend a few months before and isn't really letting anyone into his circle, but he is intrigued by Dr. Chess.
That intrigue deepens when Chess invites him out to dinner one night. They go to an exquisite dining club where all the other participants at the dinner are older people who have been very successful in their lives. The talk once again turns to philosophy; specifically, the origin of evil and how it should be handled.
Soon afterward, Dr. Chess leaves on an extended vacation. Jeremy starts to get postcards from him from all over the world. At the same time, he gets strange interoffice mail. These mailing start to lead him in the direction of a series of murders, always women and always murdered with surgical precision. The final mailing outlines the case of a murderer who was caught decades ago but whose crimes seem to be related. Can Jeremy solve the case before his new girlfriend is affected?
Fans of Jonathan Kellerman will be interested to read this stand-alone novel that does not focus on his main protagonist, Alex Delaware. Both main characters are in the medical field and use their experience and skills in psychology to delve into the motivations of criminals. The mystery unfolds at a slow pace and there is an unexpected twist at the end. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
When nine-year old Jasper Leary's mom tells him to pack up as they are going to visit his uncle Leo on his farm, Jasper is excited. He likes his cousin Wayne and all the animals on the farm. His excitement turns to worry when his mother leaves, telling him to be good and that she'll see him soon.
As days and then weeks go by, no one wants to talk about his mom. He helps out on the farm and enjoys visits with his dad on the weekends but wants to know what is happening, where his mother is, and when he will return to Detroit and his life. He starts to learn things about his mother as she was growing up. She is the black sheep of the family and brought them disgrace and misery with her running around and her bad reputation. Apparently she even burned down the family home. Desperate to learn more about her, Jasper explores the ruins of the house and finds a book. He is excited to discover that it is his mother's diary.
He starts to read it and soon finds that she was mixed up in bad things. Jasper is determined to find the answers for himself and soon his journey takes him deep in the world of crime, bootlegging, drugs and a nearby Indian reservation. Along the way he realizes that there are few, if any, grownups he can trust, and he becomes more and more determined to find out where his mother is and if she is ever coming back. Can Jasper find his answers before evil finds him?
D.M. Pulley has written an interesting mystery about rural life in the 1950's. Jasper is more naive than a child today would be. His unquestioning acceptance of the adults in his life and his determination to find the answers that are being kept from him make him a memorable character. The gradual revealing of the mystery and the realistic ending make this a satisfying read. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Monday, May 15, 2017
The call comes in one evening. A body has been found at The Overlook, a place where tourists can stop and look out at the lights of the city. When Detective Harry Bosch gets to the scene he finds that the victim is Stanley Kent, a doctor and that he has been shot in the back of the head, execution style. When they go to his house, further terror is discovered. His wife is found in the bedroom, naked and tied up.
She tells a story of two intruders breaking in and forcing her to strip, tying her up, then taking pictures. When the detectives hear that, they check and find that the pictures were sent to her husband along with instructions to meet them at the overlook. But what did they want? There wasn't a demand for money. Instead the criminals wanted something far more dangerous. For Dr. Kent worked with nuclear medicine and was around radioactive substances daily. They want him to bring cesium and from that a dirty bomb can be created.
The case has suddenly gotten much bigger. The FBI is called in and they try to take control and push the LAPD to the side. Harry has another issue. His former lover, FBI Agent Rachel Walling, is also assigned to the case and she hasn't forgiven Harry for their breakup. Harry isn't about to be pushed aside. While the FBI considers the terrorist threat the most critical, Harry is determined to solve the murder that took the life of Dr. Kent. Can he solve the case while fighting off the federal agency?
This is the thirteenth novel in the Harry Bosch series. Harry is not a cuddly detective. He is a hard man, unafraid of anyone and adamant about solving the cases he is assigned. His personal creed is that everyone matters and no case is more important than another, a bedrock tenet that came from his mother's murder when he was a child. Readers familiar with Bosch will be interested to read another case and those new to him will be intrigued by his personality and the look into police procedure. This book is recommended for mystery readers.