Wednesday, April 30, 2014
The separation is tough, but Miles discovers not as bad as he had feared. The family settles back into a new configuration, but Miles worries about his mother, Irene, or Mims, as he calls her. Above all else, he wants Mims to be happy so he is glad when she finds a suitor, a mysterious jogger named Eli who is in the same scientific world his mother inhabits.
The reader follows Miles to adulthood. His spying increases to snooping in his mother's room, tapping the phone and even hiring a private detective. He and his best friend Hector are determined to find out all the secrets, but then have no idea what to do with their knowledge. They discover things that they should never know and must determine what to do when they encounter real evil in the world.
Mona Simpson has created a character in Miles that the reader will long remember. He is a typical kid, a little overweight, a little dorky, not sure of himself or his place in the world, but with a heart of gold. Above all else, he loves his family and friends and only wants the best for them. He is unsure how to protect everyone and learns the life lesson that we can't control everything sooner than his peers. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and those interested in family relationships.
Monday, April 28, 2014
They came together in their twenties, each eager to make their way in the world of English theatre. Luke Kanowski has come to London from his little English town, not sure how he will work his way into the world of theatre, but knowing that he must. Luke has written for years and has a box full of plays. He meets his two best friends, Paul Driscoll and Leigh Radley, who are also fighting for a chance to make it in the world. Paul is a producer. He knows he doesn't have creative talent but has a feel for what works and what doesn't on stage. Leigh hopes to direct, but fills in the time doing stage management.
Luke feels at home with Paul and Leigh and they all live together in a small flat. Paul and Leigh are a couple and Luke is with family when he is with them. As time goes on, the trio start to have success as Luke's plays are commissioned and put on stage. Paul, of course, is involved in their production and Leigh keeps everyone sane. Then Luke meets Nina. Nina is an actress, never sure of her talent. She is married to Tony, who is manipulative and cold, but as soon as she and Luke meet, the fireworks explode. Luke must have her, regardless of what it takes. Soon it takes everything.
Sadie Jones has written a breathtaking novel that keeps the reader turning pages. Everything is there; friendship, love, romance, betrayal, forgiveness and hate. The reader is drawn into the lives of these friends and must read on to see if their lives can work out as the years conspire to take things from them. Sadie Jones was a finalist for the Orange Prize for Fiction with her novel, The Outcast, which also won the Costa First Novel Award. Fallout will also probably be nominated for awards as it is a book that cannot be ignored. Jones captures the creative urge and what individuals will sacrifice for the chance to be part of a creative world. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.
Saturday, April 26, 2014
In The Small Hand, a businessman is early for an appointment and lost in the English countryside. He finds a magnificent house in the country, obviously deserted and falling to ruin. Curious, he strolls through the grounds and near one of the reflecting ponds, it happens. He feels a small hand creep into his but there is no one visible. Unimaginative, he is surer than anything that this has truly occurred and he leaves the site, thinking to lose the sensation. But the hand is not so easily deterred.
In Dolly, two cousins, children of feuding sisters, are sent to spend the summer with an older aunt. None of the individuals have ever met the others. Edward is a solid little boy, prone to think that things tend to work themselves out for the best and very polite. Leonora is like her mercurial mother, beautiful, spoiled with a vicious temper. Both children are eight and being shipped to the country to spend the summer in a remote house with an aunt one has never met is hardly a child's dream of a perfect summer. Edward makes the best of it, exploring the grounds, working puzzles and reading. Leonora is furious to be there and makes sure everyone knows it. She has set her desire on a particular doll, and when the aunt gives her a doll that is a different one, she throws a tantrum that is shocking to everyone. Her mother soon changes her mind and retrieves Leonora and the tantrum is forgotten with her departure. Or is it?
Susan Hill has the ability to write brooding, haunting stories that remain with the reader long after the back cover is closed. She doesn't use the in-your-face technique often found in horror stories. Instead, she writes of misty tendrils that take hold in the mind, slowing conquering that territory until the mind is consumed with horror. This book is recommended for suspense readers.
Thursday, April 24, 2014
Oscar Williams has transformed himself from the coalman's son who spent his days making deliveries to Dayton, Ohio's finest homes to a cattleman in Galveston, Texas. Catherine Wainwright comes from one of those fine homes, and she goes to college and becomes a pianist, performing in concert halls and at small private gatherings.
But life has a way of turning when things are going well. Oscar's wife sickens and dies, leaving him with a four year son to raise. Catherine is shunned by society when she makes an unfortunate association. Both desperate, they renew their slight acquaintance through letters and soon Catherine finds herself agreeing to move to Galveston and marry Oscar.
Life there is very different from what she has known in the society residences she grew up in and frequented. There is no electricity or inside bathroom and she knows nothing about cooking or keeping house or caring for small children. As she starts to grope her way to success in this new life, her music draws she and Oscar together into a unit and both find love. Love that can be short-lived in this new, harsher environment, where disease is always present and the land itself is a small island fighting for its own survival from storms and harsh weather.
Ann Weisgarber has written a fascinating look at life in the 1900's. The reader is caught up in the culture that exists with its strictures placed on women. Yet love finds a way in the harsher environments as individuals strive to find someone they belong to and with. This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction and those who long for a great love story.
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
In this third and concluding novel of the Erinia Saga, things are grim for the world. The evil monarch, Ferral, has gained even more power over his neighbors, using his Deathmarch Army to conquer the lands around him. His demon, who used to be the beautiful priestess Neope, has taken control of the Army and is determined to totally annihilate everyone she encounters. Ferral has discovered the location of even more ancient scrolls that will allow him to totally subjugate the world or even destroy it in its present form.
A few brave leaders still oppose him. King Kristian has managed to rescue his betrothed princess, Allisia. Together they rally the few survivors of their land, Erinia, to fight the evil. Cairn, an ancient swordmaster, vows revenge on Ferral for his treatment of his former lover. Mikhal has some connection to the demon woman he cannot deny although he doesn't understand it. He vows to discover the nature of his connection and use it to destroy her. Can the overnumbered and outmaneuvered allies bring down the most powerful ruler the world has seen?
Tod Langley has written a satisfying conclusion to the Erinia Saga. This third book is the strongest in the trilogy and the growth of Langley as an author is evident throughout. Langley's own background makes the action believable. He served in the Army with several assignments in support of the War On Terror, and has served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, both as an infantryman and a security consultant. His knowledge makes the battle scenes very believable with strategy and insights not normally found. The book will leave the reader wishing there was more about King Kristian and Queen Allisia, and eager for Langley's next novel. This book is recommended for fantasy readers.
Monday, April 21, 2014
Things get worse. Determined to get done with the job as quickly as possible, Dinah goes in early to the offices to hang prints. She sees an open office door and investigating, discovers the body of a woman. Bad enough, but it soon becomes clear that as the person who discovered the body, Dinah is a suspect in the woman's murder. DDD&W is more than happy to try to throw Dinah under the bus and direct the police away from their employees and corporate actions.
Dinah and her family and friends go into high gear to try to clear her. She has a formidable team. Her husband is the product of a very rich, very connected family. Her cousin, Coleman, is a one-woman dynamo. Coleman has made her art magazine very successful and just started a second magazine. She knows everyone in the city. Rob is a former policeman who is now a consultant on art crimes throughout the world. Can this team find the murderer before Dinah is falsely arrested?
This is the second Coleman and Dinah Greene mystery. Reba White Williams is very familiar with the art world she writes about. She and her husband created what is considered the finest American art print collection of American artists, and then they split it into smaller collections that they loaned out to museums. Her female creations are interesting characters, and the reader gets a glimpse into how the art world and the world of interlocked Manhattan connections work. This book is recommended for mystery lovers.
Saturday, April 19, 2014
Now Buffalo is on terror alert again. While being transported to another location, the Hangman has escaped. The top priority is finding him before he can get away or worse, start claiming new victims. Every police resource is thrown at the case, including the talents of star detective, Abbie Kearny. Kearny, who is the daughter of a respected former detective, was not in Buffalo at the time of the original murders and can provide a fresh eye.
One is soon needed. A new teenage victim is found within a day. Soon other disappearances start to occur and the tension is racketed up hour by hour. Abbie is desperate to find a clue that might help her discover Flynn's hideout. She turns to the Network, the informal collaboration of police and city employees that work behind the scenes and keep things running, playing outside the rules.
Stephan Talty has written a taut, compelling novel. The Hangman is a memorable villain and Kearny's investigation is full of surprises and twists. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Friday, April 18, 2014
Madame Mallory is the terror of the town. She gets first choice at the farmers market and the butchers, and a meal in her restaurant is formal and follows specific rules. She is appalled when the Haji family decides to open an informal, loud, spicy Indian restaurant across the street. However, when she goes there and actually eats, she realizes that Hassan is that rare find, a natural chef.
She extends an offer to the Haji family to take Hassan in and train him. He makes the hundred-foot journey over to her world, and his life journey is set. Hassan learns all he can from Madame Mallory, then strikes out on his own in Paris.
Richard Morais has written an entertaining tale that will delight foodies and those readers interested in family sagas. The book is full of stories about food and all that goes into running a successful restaurant. The food is lovingly described, and the reader feels full and satisfied after reading this volume. This book is recommended for readers who enjoy food and reading about it.
Thursday, April 17, 2014
I just got back from a week in my favorite city, New York, where I went to Broadway plays and spent hours in art museums. So good for the soul! I had my birthday while I was there, so I celebrated when I returned by buying a stack of books this week. I love chunksters so that's mainly what I got. Here's what came through the door recently:
1. Back to Blood, Tom Wolfe, literary fiction, purchased
2. Towers Of Midnight, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, fantasy, purchased
3. The Last Stand, Nathaniel Philbrick, non-fiction, purchased
4. The Hunter, John Lescroart, mystery, purchased
5. Rome, Robert Hughes, non-fiction, purchased
6. The Pearl That Broke It's Shell, Nadia Hashimi, literary fiction, sent by publisher
7. White Coat And Sneakers, Hillary Chollet, memoir, sent by author
8. The Drummer's Widow, Joanna Fitzpatrick, literary fiction, sent by publisher
9. Hollow Ground, Natalie Harnett, historical fiction, sent by publisher
Here's what I'm working on reading:
1. The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton, reading on Kindle
2. The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner, reading on Kindle Fire
3. The Orphan Master's Son, Adam Johnson, hardback
4. Neope's War, Tod Langley, paperback
5. A March Of Folly, Barbara Tuchman, hardback
6. A Necessary End, Peter Robinson, paperback
7. Small Hand And Dolly, Susan Hill, paperback
8. Cold Granite, Stuart MacBride, reading on Kindle Fire
Here's a hope for great reading for all!
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
The eleven stories in Incendiary Girls challenge the reader to explore parts of the human brain and human emotions they rarely think of. The stories contain fantastical elements; a lover who changes into a camel, a man who unknowingly contained male and female anatomies and is now pregnant, a Death Angel who is pleased to wrongly predict an early death. The stories also contain references to medical knowledge. Many of the narrators either are studying medicine or interact with medical surroundings.
What the reader experiences is an exploration of how humans react in extraordinary circumstances. Even in extremis, we tend to reach out and search for connection with those around us who can help us weather difficulties. Most of the characters reach resolution in some way, either by overcoming the circumstances they encounter or by accepting that their lives have changed and things will be different from the norms they have lived with.
Kodi Scheer teaches writing at the University of Michigan. Her stories have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the Iowa Review and other publications. She has won the Dzanc Prize for Excellence in Literary Fiction and Community Service. Readers who read these stories will be challenged and enriched by human experiences not commonly encountered but that explore human limits. This book is recommended for anthology readers and those interested in the human experience.
Monday, April 14, 2014
Then another murder is reported, and Kate is given the opportunity to be the officer in charge. This is her first chance to be the lead investigator and she is determined to do everything correctly this time. The problem is that she recognizes the victim and then hides that fact from her commanding officer. Unfortunately, that's not the end of the bad news. As the days pass, more bodies are discovered and it becomes apparent that there is a serial killer on the loose, who has now progressed to a spree killer. All the murder victims seem to be unrelated, although there is a religious theme running through the murders.
As Kate tries to put the pieces together, she also struggles with her private life. She has concentrated exclusively on her career and she doesn't have anyone to share her life with. Can she carve out time for a love interest and still be effective? What is more important to her?
Mari Hannah has written a compelling police procedural murder mystery. Kate is ambitious and driven, but is starting to realize the price she is paying for that ambition. The killer is clever and there is a drumbeat of suspense as the bodies start to add up. This book is recommended for mystery lovers.
David Parrish is a war veteran who has returned home. He tries to maintain a family life with his wife Helene and their son, Samuel. It eats at him that Samuel, who is very bright, will never know life as he did, with all the technological advances that brought the world to anyone's doorstep. Instead, they farm as best they can, rediscovering the old methods of intensive farming that used to be the norm. There are rumors about scavengers who roam aimlessly, trying to steal what they can regardless of who it belongs to.
David does what he can to help those around him. This sometimes creates tension with Helene, but it is the only way he knows to live. If someone needs help with a roof or fields, David is there. He takes in a family to help on the farm, who were in danger of starvation, and finds a true friend in the father.
Then, everything changes. A child in the community is murdered, gunned down for no reason. People draw back into their own enclaves, fearful of those around them. David is determined to discover who would do such a horrendous act, and bring those responsible to justice.
Eric Shonkwiler received his MFA from The University of California Riverside. His work has appeared in publications such as The Los Angles Review Of Books, The Millions, Fiddleblack Magazine and Midwestern Gothic. This is his debut novel and the writing is so strong and clear that its power cannot be denied. The book questions what a man should do to save his family, and how far we should go to be good neighbors. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and is a strong contender for the best book I've read this year. Eric Shonkiwiler is an author to watch.
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
I was lucky enough to receive this guest post from the author of Black Chalk, which I reviewed yesterday. Christopher Yates writes about alcohol, which plays a large role in the story. Here's his post:
Boozing and Musings, One Writer’s View
My debut novel, Black Chalk, features an unreliable narrator—unreliable for several reasons, which I hope you’ll want to unearth for yourselves. But one of the major reasons for the narrator’s unreliability is whisky.
Whisky is the drink of choice of my apparent narrator who, being a hermit, orders all his liquor online.
And of course there has long been much made of writers and their not infrequent reliance on addictive substances, with alcohol being by far the most popular choice.
In Black Chalk, one of my characters lends a book of Raymond Carver short stories to a friend and then proceeds to say: “He was an alcoholic. All of the best American writers were. Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck. Hemingway, obviously. Hemingway was king of the writer drunks. Cheever and Carver. Truman Capote. You go back a bit further and you’ve got Poe and Melville.”
Why is this? Well, speaking from my own perspective (I am a writer and British, which gives me two reasons to enjoy a drink), I consider alcohol my reset button at the end of the day. And the boozing patterns of most drinking writers tend to be remarkably similar—
You don’t drink while you write. Never drink while you write. (Hemingway refuted the idea that he drank while he wrote. He said Faulkner drank sometimes while he wrote: “I can tell right in the middle of a page when he’s had his first one”.) But you wake up early, sometimes a little foggy, you slide into the new day, your dreams still half-alive in your head, the previous night’s alcohol still jiggling the ideas in your head, and that’s when you start to write.
And I find writing mentally quite exhausting. I start at around 10 in the morning and only very rarely can I keep going beyond 2 or 3 in the afternoon. Does that sometimes feel indulgent or lazy? Of course—because this is writing, it’s not coal-mining or construction work. But the truth is, once I’ve written about 500 words, the drop-off in quality is rapid and extreme.
So once I’m done writing, I run errands—walking the dog, laundry, grocery shopping, emailing my editor/agent/publicity people/mother, writing blog pieces like this one, washing last night’s dishes, compiling puzzles (my other job, but that’s another story)…
And then comes the evening. The evening is for cooking (something I love), accompanied by my first beer, and then eating, drinking some wine, chatting with my wife, maybe a night-cap. All of this helps me relax after the arduous mental strain of 500 words, that peculiarly strange task of making stuff up. As I said, alcohol is my reset button at the end of the day.
None of this is to say that you have to drink to be a writer. Often I wish I didn’t. Am I going to stop? No. Writing is something exceptionally fragile, you can lose your ability to do it so easily that I intend to stick to my routine. And alcohol is part of my groove, for better or worse. (For better.)
I will leave you with another line from the “king of the writer drunks”, Hemingway. It’s something he wrote in a letter to a Russian translator and critic, Ivan Kashkin, that makes complete sense to me.
“When you work hard all day with your head and know you must work again the next day what else can change your ideas and make them run on a different plane like whisky?”
Monday, April 7, 2014
On club day, the group meets a club that seems intriguing. The club is meant to promote games, mainly role-playing ones. Chad and Jolyon come up with a game that the club agrees to sponsor. It is an offshoot of Truth or Dare. There will be a round once a week. The person who loses will choose a challenge, or set of challenges if the loss is a big one. The challenges are things that have been specifically chosen by the group for that person, based on their personality. Who knows better than friends what will be difficult for someone to do? Everyone puts in a thousand pounds. If a player refuses a challenge they are out of the game and lose their stake. The last person wins all the money plus an additional ten thousand pounds put up by the supervising club.
At first the game is mild with challenges like standing up at supper and singing. Mildly embarrassing but nothing earthshattering. That changes as the weeks go by and the group dynamic starts to change. Close-knit friends start to look at each other with suspicion. As the challenges get harder and more humiliating, they lead to consequences that no one in the group anticipated before the game started.
Christopher Yates has written a compelling, dark mystery that will have the reader constantly on edge. There are twists and countertwists. Alliances are formed and broken and the game follows the group in ways no one could have anticipated. This book is recommended highly for mystery lovers and those interested in psychological suspense.
Saturday, April 5, 2014
But sometimes things seem to be meant to be. A woman in Freida's neighborhood, Ruth Lennox, is found murdered in her home. The police first believe it is a routine robbery gone bad, but as they investigate, a layer of lies and secrets begins to emerge. The woman's children are acquaintances of Freida's niece, and she brings them to Freida as they grapple with their grief and disbelief.
Then Freida starts another quest. She hears a story that she can't just put away. It tickles at the edges of her mind, and she tries to find the girl the story originates with. Soon, with an unlikely ally, she realizes that there could be a serial killer who has operated without discovery for years. Can Freida solve the various murders or should she turn her back on crime and focus on her own recovery?
This is the third mystery in the Freida Klein series by Nicci French, and readers who read the first two have been eagerly anticipating this one. Klein is very different from the normal detective, brought into cases against her will by her drive to help others and her ability to see beyond the apparent to the hidden. The pace is slow at first, but soon the reader realizes that the slow pace just increases the tension that creeps in on every page. It leads to a stunning conclusion that won't be soon forgotten. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Thursday, April 3, 2014
March has been a good reading month. I've read some great mysteries this month and now fantasy and historical fiction are calling my name. Here's what's come through the door recently:
1. China Dolls, Lisa See, historical fiction, won in contest
2. Fallout, Sadie Jones, historical fiction, sent for book tour
3. That Summer, Lauren Willig, literary fiction, won in contest
4. The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison, fantasy, sent by publisher
5. Monday, Monday, Elizabeth Crook, contempory fiction, sent by publisher
6. Send Off For A Snitch, KM Rockwood, mystery, sent by author
7. Shoggoths In Bloom, Elizabeth Bear, won in Worldbuilders raffle
8. Running With The Pack, edited by Ekaterina Sedia, anthology, won in Worldbuilders raffle
9. My Accidental Jihad, Krista Bremer, memoir, sent by publisher
10. In Accord, Kristin Chambers, contemporary fiction, sent by publisher
Here's what I'm reading:
1. The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton, reading on Kindle
2. The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner, reading on Kindle Fire
3. The Orphan Master's Son, Adam Johnson, hardback
4. Rivers, Michael Farris Smith, hardback
5. A March Of Folly, Barbara Tuchman, hardback
6. A Necessary End, Peter Robinson, paperback
7. Waiting For Wednesday, Nicci French, hardback
8. The Murder Wall, Mari Hannah, reading on Kindle Fire
9. The Silent Wife, A.S.A. Harrison, paperback
10. The Hundred-Foot Journey, Richard Morais, paperback
Good reading to all till the next time!
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
The book is divided into chapters that correspond to his visits to the patch. He examines everything he sees and hears. The reader learns about songbirds, mushrooms, how plants reproduce, why certain plants bloom in the spring, ticks, microscopic animals, trees, fungi and how the climate changes throughout the year structures the life available for observation. The reader will pick up tidbits of knowledge in each chapter as well as an overarching view of the entire interrelated ecosystem. For example, half of all songbirds who do not migrate will die in the winter due to the inability to find enough food to convert into heat. That is one observation that stuck with me, but every chapter will provide new insights into the world that surrounds us.
The book has been recognized as one of the best in this genre. It was a Finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Nonfiction. It was the Winner of the 2013 Reed Environmental Writing Award, and the Winner of the 2012 National Outdoor Book Award for National Historical Literature. Readers will find the book fascinating and a microscope into the workings of the world mostly unknown to the average person. This book is recommended for readers of nonfiction and those interested in the natural world.