Thursday, October 31, 2013
Now there is a murderer in the coastal town of Whitmouth. Whitmouth is a tourist town, cheap for those without the means to go overseas. It is a collection of take-away food, cheap amusements such as pubs and Funnland and the wax museum. Four women have been killed by the man the press is calling The Seaside Strangler.
This case will have far-reaching effects beyond that of the murder case itself. For the girls, who haven't seen each other since their trial, will both be drawn in. Annabel is now Amber Gordon, the head cleaner at Funnland. She spends her nights cleaning and has carved out a small life for herself, with a live-in boyfriend and two dogs to spend her affection on. Jade has done a bit better; she is now Kristy Lindsay, a journalist who is assigned to the case. Kristy has clawed her way into the middle class, with a husband, children and a respectable job.
The women run into each other in the course of the investigation, and realize the truth of who each one is. They have no desire to see each other again; each is a reminder of the worst day of their lives and all that they have fought to overcome. Yet circumstances force them together and before everything is over, they will have to decide if they are still the wicked girls or if they have learned a new way of living life.
Alex Marwood has written a suspenseful story that captures the reader at the first chapter and never lets go of them. The reader can emphasize with each of the women and with what is happening to them as the investigation pulls their lives out of control. It brings up the question of nature vs. nurture and how one can redeem an evil act. This book is recommended for suspense readers.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Shaken to the core, the family looks backward to see if they can determine what went wrong. Orion was the typical work obsessed husband and father, leaving most of the child care to Annie. Annie resented her long hours at home with three small children when she was consumed with her artistic vision. She is also haunted by her family background; her mother's early death and father's subsequent disappearance into a bottle, leaving Annie to be raised in foster families.
Slowly, over a series of scenes from the past, the secrets of the family are uncovered. Ariane, the elder daughter is a do-gooder who is letting her own life slip by as she tries to help others. Her twin, Andrew, doesn't seem able to maintain a relationship. The youngest, Marissa, is trying to become an actor to limited success. Their failure to thrive is explained as the reader learns the family secrets and what went on in their childhood, tainted by Annie's own miserable childhood.
Wally Lamb has written a fascinating exploration of what makes a family, what holds it together and what tears it apart. As more layers of family secrets are finally exposed, the family learns about each other in an unvarnished truth and how to find each other as adults. The book explores the many facets of love; marital love, the love of a parent for a child, and of children working out adult relationships between each other. It also details the unforeseen tragedies that can result from festering secrets. This book is recommended for readers interested in family relationships and how we can help, not hurt, those we love most.
Monday, October 28, 2013
They were the Lola Quartet, a group of Florida high school seniors who came together to make music. Their futures were bright as they finished their high school careers before venturing out into the world. Gavin is planning to escape the heat of Florida to his dream city of New York City to pursue journalism. Sasha is planning a life of books as she pursues a degree in literature. Daniel is planning a career in house construction. Jack, the best musician of them all, is taking his talent to college for a music degree. Then there is Anna, Gavin's girlfriend and Sasha's sister, who is always around on the periphery, kind of a wild child who will be staying behind for another year.
Ten years later, the dreams have not materialized. Gavin is a newspaper reporter until he commits a professional error that can't be forgiven and loses his job. Jack is mired in drug addiction. Daniel is now a policeman while Sasha is a waitress in an all night diner, recovering from out of control gambling. No one is really sure what happened to Anna, who disappeared after that summer. Some said she went to live with an aunt, some say she went out west, but no one is really sure exactly where she is or what happened to her.
All four are back in their small Florida town. Gavin's sister finds a picture in a house she is viewing in her role as a real estate agent. The little girl in the picture looks exactly like she and Gavin, and when she asks, the woman keeping the girl says her name is Chloe Montgomery. Montgomery is Anna's last name. Did Anna have Gavin's baby a decade ago without telling him?
This discovery fuels the rest of the novel. Gavin is determined to find Anna and Chloe to make sure they don't need anything from him. Daniel and Jack seem to know parts of the story, maybe even where Anna is, but won't tell him. Jack is too caught up in his drug dreams, while Daniel seems hostile. When Gavin finds Sasha, she starts to give him bits and pieces as he uses his investigative skills to extract the story of what happened all those years ago. Gavin's investigation puts a deadly plan in place, as it is misinterpreted by the players as a danger to the secret they've all been hiding for a decade.
Mandel has written a novel that explores the way life turns out so differently from what we had planned and expected as young adults. Dreams don't always come true, but there is comfort in ordinary lives as well. Early ties can turn into adult relationships that can provide sustenance, both material and emotional. Her strength is character development, and the reader inhabits the lives of all the main characters, understanding the motives that drive their actions and hoping for satisfactory resolutions. This book is recommended to readers of literary fiction and those interested in how lives twist and turn as we constantly reinvent ourselves.
Friday, October 25, 2013
Today is Christmas Eve. Today is my birthday. Today I am fifteen. Today I buried my parents in the backyard. Neither of them was beloved
This opening is one of the most startling beginnings I can remember. Marine has spent her childhood taking care of herself and her younger sister, Kelly. Their parents are drug addicts and it is never as important to provide for their children as it is to get the next fix. So when they die from their habits Marnie decides to just keep on taking care of her family and not risk being separated from her sister by the social services system.
Lennie is their next door neighbor, an elderly gay man whose partner has passed on. He realises that the girls are alone, and starts to have them over to feed them. Soon a new family has formed. Kelly thrives under the attention and Marnie starts to relax.
Unfortunately, things don't last. It turns out her dad had stolen money from the local drug dealer and he wants it back. The girls' grandfather shows up and wants them to move in with him although he is a stranger to them. Will the girls ever catch a break and find peace and a family to love?
Lisa O'Donnell has written a compelling novel about family and the lengths we will go to in order to feel we belong. Marnie is a tough, no nonsense heroine that the reader can't help but to cheer for. This book is recommended for readers ready for an uplifting book that will surprise and delight them.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Eventually, Matt goes back to work. Donny returns from Italy, and all returns to normal. Or at least that's how it seems at first. Then Matt gets the word from a FBI agent that the agency has information that the shooter who tried to kill him is coming back to finish the job. Matt will need all his skill and connections to make sure that the assassin isn't successful.
Marc Di Giacomo is a retired, highly decorated police detective who worked for a police department in an affluent community in New York. He draws on his real life experiences to show the reader what the daily life of a police detective is like, as well as the heart stopping terror it can provide at any moment. This book is recommended for readers who like hard-boiled mystery stories.
Last week was a slow week in books in, which is good as it means I'll get a chance to catch up a bit. Here's the weekly catch:
1. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Won from Shelf Awareness
2. The Blooding Of Jack Absolute by C.C. Humphries. Sent by publisher.
3. The Geek's Guide To Dating by Eric Smith. Sent by publisher.
4. Pinkerton's Greatest Detective by Beau Riffenburgh. Sent by publisher.
5. Theft by Peter Carey. Paperbackswap.
Here's what I'm reading this week:
1. In A Small Town by Marc Di Giacomo
2. The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
3. The Wicked Girls by Alec Garwood
4. The Death Of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell
5. The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel
6. The Palaver Tree by Wendy Unsworth
Saturday, October 19, 2013
Ben Cooper is the force's up and coming detective; a home town man familiar with the area and the people who live there. His almost assured promotion to Sargent is put in danger by the arrival of Diane Fry, a driven detective who comes to area determined to make her way up the police ranks as quickly as possible. The two detectives are teamed together but do not care for each other at all.
As the investigation progresses, a multitude of suspects emerge. There is the Vernon's gardener, a young man recently fired by Vernon and seen talking with Laura shortly before her disappearance. The elderly man who found the shoe that led to the body's discovery, Harry Dickinson, is one of a trio of men who have no love for the Vernons and harbor a grudge against the family. Graham Vernon has business associates who share secrets with him that they might kill to protect. There is a local boyfriend who the family wouldn't have approved of, had they known about him. All these suspects have Cooper and Fry spinning as they attempt to determine who killed Laura Vernon.
This is the first of the Cooper and Fry series, which currently numbers thirteen novels. It won the Barry Award for Best British Crime Novel and was a finalist for the Anthony Award for Best First Mystery. The interplay between Cooper and Fry and the British setting are interesting, and the crime story is revealed at a pace that keeps the reader turning the pages. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Friday, October 18, 2013
But years go by and the world turns, changing. The whales are gone, and the Rathbones have dwindled. Was it because the whales swam elsewhere? Was it because the Rathbone men brought the golden sisters of the Starks to live in their mansion, and loving them so much, ignored the sea? Was it because they abandoned the old ways?
Now, Mercy Rathbone is the only one left, she and her mother who waits endlessly for her father. She has an uncle, Mordecai who lives in the attic, studying ancient tomes and learning the lore of sailing. When a night of secrets breaks open, Mordecai and Mercy flee the Rathbone mansion, to sail in search of her father and to discover the truth of their family heritage.
Janice Clark has written a haunting, mystical, lilting novel of the whaling era and the men and women who made up a way of life. The characters are original and the reader won't forget them. As Mercy and Mordecai sail in search of their family's secrets, the reader is drawn along with them, eager to hear more about this family and how it lived. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction, and those who would learn about a way of life now extinct.
Thursday, October 17, 2013
Police pull over a van being driven erratically in the London borough of Hackney. Inside they find a woman's body and take the driver in for questioning. He realizes that he is definitely going down for the murder and starts to brag about other murders he has committed. He drops hints that one of his former victims may have been the station's most celebrated cold case; the kidnapping of a thirteen year old girl five years before.
Before more details can be extracted, the murderer, Oates, changes his mind and recants everything he has said. But the police inspector in charge, DCI Mike Lewis, believes the confessions and starts an inquiry into the possible other murders. His Chief Inspector, James Langdon, was the DCI in charge of the young girl's disappearance, and his ability to solve the case has been a nagging issue for him. Langdon is out on sick leave, but insists on being kept up to date on progress. He also brings in his best detective, DCI Anna Travis, to concentrate on the girl's case while the other case inquiries proceed. While there is some tension between Lewis and Travis, they soon realize that they need to work together as more and more layers of Oates crimes becomes apparent. They soon realize that this is no common murderer, but a serial killer who has victims going back several years to his credit.
This is the eighth Anna Travis novel written by Lynda La Plante. It is an engrossing police procedural, both pointing out the detailed investigation involved, and the constraints the police must work under. Bits of evidence that seem to point to guilt can be turned around as proof of innocence or police harassment that can free a suspect. The investigation is fascinating, and the interplay between the officers involved realistic. The murder suspect and the way his mind and actions are revealed layer by layer are extremely well done. This book is recommended for mystery lovers.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Julia, Sam and Marcus have all arrived at the college town, each bringing with them hopes and dreams as well as the baggage of their past lives. Each is a bit introverted, preferring their own company to that of the frantic parties and socializing that many freshman fall into. Julia and Marcus are both students, each with a musical background. Sam is something different. About to turn forty, he drifts from college town to college town, always searching for what he missed in his youth, and for a woman who can make him whole.
Both men fall in love with Julia. She is torn between them, and a rivalry develops. Marcus is sure Sam is bad news, and Sam is determined to keep Marcus from compromising his relationship with Julia. Things are tense and the atmosphere is not helped by a series of attacks on women on the campus. Both men accuse the other of being the rapist, and both try to get Julia to stop seeing the other. Is this a common rivalry or is one man correct in his assessment of the other as a threat?
Justin Kramon has written a taut, compelling thriller. The reader is introduced to the characters and then slowly incidents and bits of past history are revealed that make one wonder if their thoughts about each person are correct. By the end of the book, the reader is determined to discover who is doing what, and who can be trusted, if anyone. The themes are self-forgiveness for past mistakes, and learning to trust your own decisions. This book is recommended for thriller lovers who won't be disappointed in this believable step into a nightmare.
Friday, October 11, 2013
Verity Daniels comes into the agency with a big problem. Newly wealthy due to an inheritance, she has only lived in San Francisco a few months. She reports that she is being extorted by a man who calls and threatens her harm if she doesn't pay him money. Verity has no idea who it could be, or what they think they have on her. Runyon begins the case, putting traps on her phone and covering her on an attempt to deliver the money. No calls are coming in, or at least none that show up on the recorders and the drop-off is a no-show. Verity seems more interested in Jake than in her danger and things just aren't adding up.
When Jake decides to back off, Verity is incensed. She files an assault case against him and then a civil case against the agency. When she is murdered a few days later, the obvious suspect is Jake, who is arrested. Bill must return to work and try to find out what Verity's game was, and who could have wanted to kill her.
Bill Pronzini has been writing about Bill, better known as 'The Nameless Detective' for many years, and this is the latest in the series. Fans will be quick to obtain and read this novel, as the cast of characters are old friends. Those who have not yet been introduced to Pronzini's detectives have a treat in store. Pronzini has written thirty-five Nameless novels, mostly alone but some in collaboration with his wife, mystery writer Marcia Muller, and other collaborators. He is a Mystery Writers of America Grand Master and no one writes better about the life of a private investigator. This book is recommended for mystery fans.
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
This week's listing of new books that have managed to get in the door is skewed. I won a gift certificate on Amazon so ordered several new books there. Here's the list:
1. How Should A Person Be?, Sheila Heti, purchased
2. Mason's Retreat, Christopher Tilghman, purchased
3. Civilization, Niall Ferguson, purchased
4. The Right-Hand Shore, Christopher Tilghman, purchased
5. Tides Of War, Stella Tillyard, purchased
6. The Girl With A Clock For A Heart, Peter Swanson, sent by publisher
7. In And Out, Mat Coward, paperbackswap
8. Over And Under, Mat Coward, paperbackswap
9. Up And Down, Mat Coward paperbackswap
10. The Tale Of The Wulks, V.K. Green, sent by author
11. The Absence Of Mercy, John Burley, sent by publisher
12. Inferno, Dan Brown, sent by publisher
13. Police, Jo Nesbo, sent by Vine review program on Amazon
14. Prodigal Son, Debra Mullins, sent by publisher
Then the murders start. The first is a derelict who is necklaced--fitted with a tire over his head trapping his arms and then set alight. This scene is straight out of the movie. A local teenager, who is off her meds, is missing, and she is convinced she is the true witch finder. Is she responsible for the murder? As the cases progress, more murders occur and time is running out for McRae. Can he solve the cases before he is targeted himself?
Close To The Bone is the eighth Logan McRae novel, and fans will rejoice that he has returned. Those who start with this book will be fine, except for one thing: as soon as I turned the last page, I went out and bought the first three. The dialect and conversation between McRae and those he works with and encounters are sterling. McRae is a gritty hero with a good heart who works against time and those twists of fate that seem to occur regularly to solve the crimes that threaten his city. Fans of Reginald Hill will be reminded of his Dalziel and Pascoe series, except no one would ever accuse McRae of being bookish like Pascoe. This book is highly recommended for mystery readers.
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
America remained neutral for the first few years. There was, Pines argues, no real American incentive to enter as the United States never faced any danger from the war and had no reason to enter. Then slowly, as Woodrow Wilson moved further into his presidency, the tide shifted and America came to see itself as more aligned with France and Britain. This perception was created by extensive British propaganda, by America's increasing financial ties with Britain and France, and by one of the most effective American propaganda campaigns to be seen.
Finally, the momentum tipped and America entered the war. Although American troops never played a deciding role due to the amount of time it took to create a standing army and the logistical support necessary to put it overseas, the mere fact of one side getting millions of replacement troops while Germany had no way to compensate for their lost soldiers created a situation that ended the stalemate. When new offensives were put in place by Germany in anticipation and failed, and Britain managed to force Germany from their defenses, the war was soon over.
The peace that resulted was, it was argued, a calamity that laid the groundwork for World War II and the Cold War that came after that. The Treaty of Versailles was punitive in the extreme, forcing Germany to accept all blame, taking territory and natural resources and forcing exorbitant reparations on Germany. Although the U.S. tried to mediate the terms, France and Britain were determined to force the German government to accept every demand they made. This laid the groundwork for a weak German administration that fell prey to the appeal of fringe elements such as the Nazi Party.
Burton Pines has written a convincing, well-researched history that manages at the same time to be very understandable to the lay reader. He has a varied background that makes him an excellent person to write such a book. After majoring in history and teaching it in college, he moved to Time magazine where he was a reporter and later an editor. He then spent more than a decade in Washington where he supervised a group of policy experts. This book is recommended for readers interested in history and how decisions can have far-reaching consequences.
Sunday, October 6, 2013
Billy Moon follows the life of a grown-up Christopher Robin Milne, better known as the little boy in the Winnie the Pooh books. While his father made him famous with the books, as Christopher grew to an adult, he found himself disconnected from life and the expectations others had of him. They didn't see him as he was in reality; they saw the little boy from the books and expected him to be the same. When he was a small child, he called himself Billy Moon. As a man, he was married and ran a bookstore. This quote from the book demonstrates his remoteness from the life he led:
"Christopher had received scores of fan letters since he's opened the bookshop. Six-year-olds wrote him to ask about his bear. Adults who'd read his father's books when they were young wrote to ask the same questions. Everyone wanted pretty much the same thing, and Christopher couldn't give any answers. He didn't know how to find the Hundred Acre Wood, and he didn't know where childhood went to over the years, or why it was so difficult to feel real joy. He threw almost all of the letters away because they weren't for him at all, but were rally addressed to a boy Christopher's father had made up."
Gerrard Hand was a young revolutionary student in Paris. In 1968, he writes to Chris (as Christopher chose to be named) and asked him to come to France. Chris isn't sure why, but makes the journey. He arrives just in time to be caught up in the student revolution of 1968, where schools, factories and government offices are taken over by the students, who wish to create a more liberated world. Chris gets caught up in the revolution, almost by accident, and it allows him to define the difference between reality and expectation in his own life.
This is Douglas Lain's debut novel, and readers will find it to be an exploration of the world and how we perceive it. It explores the dichotomy between dreaming and lucidity, between liberation and the confines of expectations, between being free or just thinking about it. This book is recommended for readers of speculative fiction.
Saturday, October 5, 2013
100 Ghosts by Doogie Horner is a whimsical look at ghosts in cartoon format; the perfect book for fall as Halloween is just around the corner. Each page introduces the reader to another ghost; on one is the picture of the ghost while the facing page has the description or name.
Some of my favorites were a ghost as a lamp, an undercover cop, Marilyn Monroe and Charlie Brown, but in actuality, each page reveals a new take on ghosts that will have the reader smile or chuckle. This book is recommended for everyone; children will love it while adults will get enjoyment also.
Thursday, October 3, 2013
When Octavius is captured, Lilly sets forth on a quest to save him. But this is not a magical fairy tale; it is instead a dark, haunting tale reminiscent of the bleakest of the Grimm fairy tales. Lilly discovers who has Octavius; a circus master. He agrees to set him free if she can bring him a magical coat of illusions. This starts a chain of impossible tasks and an introduction to a myriad of strange folks. There is the tailor, who wants the body of her undead husband who was captured by a witch. The witch has been tricked of her skin, and wants it back. It is held by two bandits. Lilly, or Lyle as she becomes known as on the trail, lives with the bandits as their servant, never sure which act or look might send them into a murderous rage.
But there are compensations also. Lilly becomes strong with all the physical labor. She learns who to trust and who never to trust. She befriends an individual named Horace who has never known friendship before. When she completes her quest, she learns the hardest lesson of all. Sometimes even your best does not guarantee a happy ending.
S.M. Wheeler has written an amazing debut novel. The reader will fall in love on the first page with the languorous, haunting language. Lilly/Lyle is a character that one cannot help but cheer for as she/he navigates the various difficulties it takes to complete her quest. There are magical beings; witches, animals turned into humans, automata soldiers, kraken who are more human than the humans who capture it. This is one of the best fantasy novels of 2013; a true tour-de-force. This book is recommended for fantasy readers.
One thing that book bloggers learn early--there are almost an infinite number of books that are yearning to be read and reviewed! I get tons of books every week. I buy a lot, work with many publishers, and get invitations from authors. I'm a Vine reviewer for Amazon and a reviewer for Curled Up With A Good Book. I have way too many books, and don't accept everything I'm offered. One of my firm rules is that I will eventually read and review everything I accept. But that can take a while due to the sheer number of books rolling in. Regardless of my intentions, I can't really read more than a dozen or so books a month.
So, I've decided to start a new feature. Every week or so, I'll list the books that I've gotten that are joining the review pile. Then I'll write the review as normal once I've had a chance to read the book. That way, authors who have been kind enough to share their books with me but are patiently waiting for a review will at least get their books featured and my readers will know that the book has passed the first level of review with me--that of being accepted from the many that I'm offered. Without further ado, here's the books that came in this week:
1. Growing The Money Tree by John Svazic. Sent by author.
2. A Permanent Member Of The Family by Russell Banks. Sent by publisher.
3. The House Of Journalists by Tim Finch. An Amazon Vine reviewer book.
4. The Heavens Rise by Christopher Rice. Sent by publisher.
5. The Book Of Night Women by Marlon James. Paperback Swap book.
6. The Whole Golden World by Kristine Riggle. Sent by publisher.
7. Stone Cold Red Hot by Cath Staincliffe. Paperback Swap book.
8. The Peppered Moth by Margaret Drabble. Paperback Swap book.
9. Transgressions by Sarah Dunant. Paperback Swap book.
10 A Glass Of Blessings by Barbara Pym. Purchased on Kindle.
11. The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner. Purchased on Kindle.
12. The Wettest Country In The World by Matt Bondurant. Purchased on Kindle.
13. Cold Granite by Stuart MacBride. Purchased on Kindle.
13. Dying Light by Stuart MacBride. Purchased on Kindle.
14. Broken Skin by Stuart MacBride. Purchased on Kindle.
Whew! So if you are an author waiting for a review, take heart. I will get to you, but there are so many great books in the world that it may take a while.
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
One Sunday afternoon, everything changes. Joe's mother goes to her office to retrieve a file and doesn't come home when expected. When she manages to get home, it is obvious that she has been beaten and raped. Joe's world falls apart. His father, who Joe had admired, he now sees as weak, unable to protect his mother or wreak revenge on her attacker. His mother goes from the warm, loving fount of his security to a woman holed up in bedroom, not speaking for days on end.
As the days go by, it becomes clear to everyone around who committed this heinous act. But due to confusion about whether the rape occurred on Indian land, state land or federal land, the jurisdiction is unclear and the criminal is not arrested. Now Joe's family must deal with the fact that the man still walks among them, and that they might see him any day, any time they go out in public. Joe feels impelled to correct the situation, and as the summer draws to a close, his childhood also flees and he joins the world of men, where actions are final and change one forever.
Louise Erdrich has written a compelling novel that outlines the issues still facing the Native Americans. Small details catch at the reader's attention, such as the joy that is felt when a real grocery store opens and Native Americans can go grocery shopping like any other American. This book won the National Book Award for fiction. Readers will be caught up in Joe's life and his struggle to understand adult life and whether it means something different if you are a Native American. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction, and those interested in understanding more about the Native American culture.