Friday, January 30, 2015

Cut And Run by Traci Hohenstein

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Changing The Conversation by Dana Caspersen

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Palm Beach Nasty by Tom Turner

Charlie Crawford was a top-notch detective in New York City.  He brought down several famous killers, including a serial killer and the newspapers loved him.  But he burned out and has moved to Palm Beach where crime is not so brutal.  His partner, Ott, is another career detective who has moved down from Cleveland.  They enjoy their easier jobs and the great weather but do miss a good murder now and then.

That is quickly changed when they find themselves facing two murders.  One is a young man who is found hanged in the park.  The other is a woman in her forties who works at the most prestigious country club in town.  Could the two murders be connected?

There are also two possible suspects.  One is a billionaire who enjoys using his money to control everyone around him while he does whatever he wants.  The other is a con man who uses his charms and good lucks to get what he wants from those he meets.  Which of them is responsible?

Tom Turner has written an engaging mystery that will keep readers turning the pages.  Readers get a look into the lifestyles of the rich and famous and how crime works when those involved have millions to protect or lose.  Crawford is interesting without being overly quirky.  The crimes are believable and the partners work well together.  Palm Beach Nasty is a debut novel in the series with two others already written.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Booksie's Shelves, January 24, 2015

It's been a busy week in reading at the Booksie household.  I'm halfway through the second enormous book in the Song of Fire And Ice series by George R. R. Martin.  Even more exciting, I got a gift certificate to Amazon and picked up some books I've had my eye on.  I got a couple by William Vollmann, who is one of my favorite authors, and the next biography of Michael Jordan.  Add in some new ones sent by publishers and I'm set for the next few weeks.  On Sunday, January 25th, I'm headed with a friend to an author event where a different author comes to your table every ten minutes or so for a meet and greet and Q&A.  We went last year and had a blast so I'm excited to go this year as well.  Here's what's come through the door lately:

1.  The Burgess Boys, Elizabeth Strout, literary fiction, purchased
2.  Last Stories And Other Stories, William Vollmann, anthology, purchased
3.  The Royal Family, William Vollmann, literary fiction, purchased
4.  Throw Like A Woman, Susan Petrone, literary fiction, sent by author
5.  Michael Jordan, The Life, Roland Lazenby, biography, purchased
6.  The Long And Faraway Gone, Lou Berney, mystery, sent by publisher
7.  West Of Sunset, Stewart O'Nan, literary fiction, sent by publisher
8.  Plus One, Christopher Noxon, literary fiction, sent by publisher
9.  Those Rosy Hours At Mazandaran, Marion Grace Woolley, historical fiction, sent by publisher
10.  The Impossible Lives Of Greta Wells, Andrew Sean Greer, literary fiction, Paperbackswap
11.  Black Diamonds, Catherine Bailey, nonfiction, sent by publisher
12.  Crazy Love You, Lisa Unger, mystery, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm currently reading:

1.  The Innovators, Walter Issacson, Kindle
2.  Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter, paperback
3.  A Clash Of Kings, George R. R. Martin, paperback
4.  The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner, Kindle Fire
5.  Barracuda, Christos Tsiolkas, hardback
7.  The Rise And Fall Of Great Powers, Tom Rachman, paperback
8.  The Illusionists, Rosie Thomas, paperback
9.  The Black Country, Alex Grecian, paperback
10.  Mrs. Poe, Lynn Cullen, paperback
11.  Palm Beach Nasty, Tom Turner, paperback
12.  The Orchid Affair, Lauren Willig, hardback
13.  The Killer Next Door, Alex Marwood, paperback
14.  Rescue, Anita Shreve, hardback
15.  Traitor's Blade, Sebastien de Castell, paperback
 16.  The Skeleton Crew, Debrorah Halber, Kindle Fire

Happy Reading!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

My Father's Wives by Mike Greenberg

Jonathan Sweetwater is the son of one of America's most famous and beloved Senators, Percy Sweetwater.  Not that he'd ever found it an advantage.  Percy left Jonathan and his mother shortly after Jonathan's ninth birthday, and the two didn't have a relationship after that.  Percy went on to marry five more times before his death.

Jonathan grew up determined to never be anything like his father.  He is a successful businessman.  His marriage to Claire and his two children make up his life and he is the quintessential family man.  At least, that's what he thought until a chance encounter makes him wonder if he has been fooled for years.

Jonathan sets out on a quest to determine what is important to him.  He is determined to put his feelings for his father to rest, and decides to go meet each of the wives to get a fix on what Percy Sweetwater was really like.  There is a doctor, a secretary, a dancer, a model and a psychiatrist.  They are all very different and live all over the world.  As Jonathan travels from place to place, he learns more about his father and more importantly, more about himself.

Mike Greenberg has written a novel that explores the question of what we're here for and what is important in our lives.  We are all shaped by our childhood experiences, and the relationships we form with our parents are essential in determining our adult lives.  Greenberg has created a character in Jonathan that readers will be interested in, and his quest leads to an end each of us can relate to.  This book is recommended for readers of family fiction and those interested in coming of age stories, no matter how long it takes to come of age.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Lost And Found by Brooke Davis

Millie Bird may only be seven years old, but she knows some things.  She knows that kindness takes you farther than meanness.  She knows you judge people by how they treat you, not by how they look.  And she knows about dead things.  She's seen dead bugs, birds and pets and most recently, her dad.

Karl the Touch Typist is eighty-seven.  He's broken out of the nursing home where he was sent and is out on his own, although the police are searching for him.  He used to type love notes on his wife, Evie's skin, but now that she is gone, he types them into the air.  He finds Millie and becomes her champion.

Agatha Pantha is eighty-two and a hermit in her house since her husband, Ron, died seven years ago.  There's nothing that can lure her out of her isolation, not until she notices Millie and realizes she needs a friend.

When Millie's mother decides she needs a new life and leaves Millie behind in a department store, the three unit into a team, determined to reunite Millie with her mother.  Their adventures expose them to interesting people and help them through the grief each feels.

Brooke Davis has written an interesting novel that deals with grief, but not in a heavy manner.  The prose is light and cheery and the reader soon realizes that they are cheering on this unlikely trio.  This book is recommended for those dealing with life changes and readers of literary fiction.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Game Of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

Is there anyone left who hasn't heard of this novel; the first tome in the massively successful Song Of Fire And Ice series by George R. R. Martin?  This first novel was released in 1996 and I read it shortly thereafter.  I have all five novels but stopped reading after the third, as I wanted to wait and read the entire series.  As with most Martin fans, I've given up on that happening and decided I needed to read the series now before the HBO screen adaptation overtook my progress.

For anyone who doesn't know, The Land Of The Seven Kingdoms is the world that Martin has created.  Various Houses vie for power.  There is the Stark family of Winterfell.  It is ruled by Ned and his wife Cat with their five children; Robb, Sansa, Anya, Brandon and Rickon.  The King is from the Baratheon family, and King Robert is Ned's old friend.  He has two brothers, Stannis and Renly and is married to Cersei.  Their son Joffrey will inherit the throne after Robert's demise.  Cersei is from the Lannister family.  Tywin Lannister is the richest man in the world and his three children are Jaime, Cersei and Tyrion.  Daenerys is the last heir of the once powerful Targaryens, now in exile.  Then there are the Rangers of the Wall, who serve to protect all houses and men from that that lies beyond.  Stark's bastard son, Jon Snow, serves at the Wall.  There are other houses, less influential than these main ones and pledging allegiance to one of them.

The houses clash and war erupts with the death of Robert Baratheon.  There is betrayal and stunning acts of violence, treachery, lies and layer upon layer of secrets.  The reader is continually surprised and shocked at what occurs as the story unfolds.  It is even harder to read as a reread, as one knows the horrible things that will happen and reading slows as the individual gets closer and closer to various tragedies.  This series is an amazing achievement, one of the landmark series that all fantasy must be compared to and recommended for all fantasy readers and any reader willing to suspend time and enter the Game Of Thrones.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Perfect Stranger by Wendy Corsi Staub

Every cloud has a silver lining.  The women who've come to know each other via their blogs often think of that saying and agree.  They are very different women; middle-aged and young, from all over the country, stay at home moms and career women and those without children.  But they all have something in common:  breast cancer.

Each has discovered the lifesaving support group of breast cancer survivors and those making the journey.  They share their stories, their emotions, tips for surviving the various treatments, and all the things they never tell their families and friends who aren't in the breast cancer club.  No one who has not walked in their shoes will ever understand exactly their journey and how it makes them feel.

There is Landry, a stay-at-home Southern belle living in Mississippi, with her lawyer husband and two teenagers.   Meredith's children are grown but that means she has the joy of grandchildren who visit often.  Kay never married and made her livelihood as a prison guard.  Elena is a thirty-year-old kindergarten teacher from Illinois.  No one is exactly sure where Jaycee lives or what she does, but even those who don't share everything are welcome to join the club and take solace there.

Then tragedy strikes.  Not the tragedy they are used to when one of the club loses the battle and dies of illness.  Meredith is struck down in her own home by a murderer who leaves her dead body behind.  The women are horrified and can't believe the fates would allow such a thing to happen.  They come together to attend the funeral and in the process meet each other for the first time. 

They feel an instant connection, although there is always a little nagging voice that tells them that they really don't know anything about each other.  Has everyone told the truth or is one of them hiding back gathering intimate details about the women's lives in order to target them?  The police don't know who may have killed Meredith, and the women aren't sure who to trust.

Staub has tapped into the fear of strangers that we all feel along with a portrayal of how personal issues can make someone in the virtual world seem like a long-lost friend.  This fear is somewhat overblown as many have met friends and mates that started out as virtual friends with no ill effects.  I found the book interesting as I've made many friends in the virtual world and later met them and added them to my friends list.  I'm also a breast cancer survivor so that part of the story also resonated with me.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Booksie's Shelves, January 10, 2015

It's cold here in N.C., which of course isn't the same as saying it's cold here in Minnesota, but then again, one lives in the South so they don't have to say the things those surviving Northern winters say.  This is the first Booksie's Shelves of 2015.  I've been reading a lot, but then again, it's also playoff season for the NFL and college basketball is in full swing. I've been reading a lot of my personal library books as well as mixing in newly published books sent for book tours and review.  One of my reading goals for 2015 is to read some of the big fantasy series I've got here but never had time to read.  I'm starting with a reread of George R. R. Martin's A Game Of Thrones series, as I never got to book four and five since I was waiting for the rest of the series.  Since I'm not sure when those books will arrive, I'm immersing myself back in the series. 

Here's a list of the new physical books I've added:

1.  Love By The Book, Melissa Pimentel, mystery, sent by publisher
2.  The Rosie Effect, Graeme Simsion, literary fiction, sent by publisher
3.  Changing The Conversation, Dana Caspersen, nonfiction, sent for book tour
4.  Dying For The Past, T.J. O'Connor, mystery, sent by publisher
5.  Last Words, Rich Zahradnik, mystery, sent by publisher
6.  The Orphan Sky, Ella Leya, historical fiction, sent by publisher
7.  The Forgetting Place, John Burley, mystery, sent for book tour
8.  My Father's Wives, Mike Greenburg, literary fiction, sent for book tour
9.  The Like Switch, Jack Schafer, nonfiction, sent by publisher
10.  Unbecoming, Rebecca Scherm, literary fiction, sent by publisher
11.  The Last Breath, Kimberly Belle, literary fiction, sent for book tour

Here's what I'm currently reading:

1.  The Innovators, Walter Issacson, Kindle
2.  Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter, paperback
3.  A Game Of Thrones, George R. R. Martin, paperback
4.  The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner, Kindle Fire
5.  Barracuda, Christos Tsiolkas, hardback
7.  The Rise And Fall Of Great Powers, Tom Rachman, paperback
8.  The Illusionists, Rosie Thomas, paperback
9.  The Black Country, Alex Grecian, paperback
10.  Mrs. Poe, Lynn Cullen, paperback
11.  The Perfect Stranger, Wendy Corsi Staub, paperback
12.  The Orchid Affair, Lauren Willig, hardback
13.  The Killer Next Door, Alex Marwood, paperback
14.  Rescue, Anita Shreve, hardback
15.  Traitor's Blade, Sebastien de Castell, paperback
 16.  The Skeleton Crew, Debrorah Halber, Kindle Fire

Happy Reading!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Iris Fan by Laura Joh Rowland

The last four years have been disastrous for Sano Ichiro, a samuri in the 1709 court of his shogun, the ruler of Japan.  During this time, he has been demoted from the court's chief investigator of crimes to a lowly foot patrol soldier, as his enemies manage to foil his attempts to reveal their crimes.  Each time he fails to bring the truth forward, his livelihood is reduced again.  Even more wrenching, he sees the discord his stubborn insistence on the truth has brought to his family.  His wife, Reiko, formerly a partner in his investigations, is furious with him and the poverty he has brought to the family.  Their children are blocked from good jobs or advantageous marriages, and one false step can mean that the whole family will lose their lives.

Then an unimaginable crime occurs. Someone slips into the shogun's sleeping chamber and stabs him with a fan, a fan with razor-sharp folds.  Who could have done such a horrible crime?  There are two contenders for the shogun's position when he dies.  Yanagisawa and Lord Ienobu are rivals for the position, Ienobu for himself and Yanagiasawa for his son.  Unfortunately, both are Sano's enemies, as he has tried to bring their crimes over the years to light.  They form an uneasy alliance and are both displeased when Sano is brought back to the castle and restored as the Chief Investigator.  Can he solve the crime before the shogun dies?  If he doesn't find a way to reveal the assassin, one of his enemies will ascend to power and the first act will be revenge on Sano and his family.

Laura Joh Rowland has written a series of feudal Japan that has enthralled readers for many novels.  This is the eighteenth book in the series and the ending one.  The cruelty and constantly shifting alliances and betrayals that make up the court are stunning.  Everyone seems to be out for themselves, yet profess to follow the Bushido way of honor.  This book is recommended for both mystery readers and readers of historical fiction.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Storied Life Of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Things can't get much worse for A.J. Fikry.  He married his college sweetheart and they opted out of graduate school to open a bookstore on a New England island.  Their life was satisfying, but that all ended when Fikry's wife is killed in an auto accident, leaving him to run the bookstore while grieving.  He barely makes it through the days, going home to drink himself into oblivion at night.  While drunk one night, his prize possession, a first edition of Edgar Allen Poe's book of poetry, Tamerlane, is stolen.  This is a real blow as it was his nest egg, a book worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Then something surprising and unlikely happens.  A.J. returns to the bookstore one day to find that someone has left a small child in the bookstore with a note saying that the mother can't raise her and thinks being raised in a bookstore would be the best thing ever for a child.  A.J. has no interest in having a child, but agrees to keep the little girl for a weekend since the social service representative won't be able to get over to the island until the next week.  By the time she comes, A.J. has changed his mind and ends up adopting Maya. 

The book continues to chronicle A.J. and Maya's life together over the following years, as they learn to live together, Maya starts school, A.J. comes out of his introversion and becomes a community member.  The bookstore starts to do well as Fikry becomes more entwined in the island's life. Throughout the years, A.J. writes about his favorite books and tells Maya which ones he believes she will like as she grows as a reader and writer.

Gabrielle Zevin has written a heart touching novel made for readers.  It celebrates the reading life and attempts to demonstrate the large part that books play in the lives of readers.  As the book progresses, one finds oneself cheering for A.J. and Maya and the lives they are building.  This book is recommended for readers and those who enjoy literary fiction.

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Cabinet Of Curiousities by Douglas Preston/Lincoln Child

Nora Kelly is surprised to come into her office at the Museum Of Natural History and find a stranger there.  She is even more surprised when he introduces himself as FBI Agent Pendergast and states that he needs her help.  During construction, an old tunnel has been found under a building.  The tunnel is full of bricked up skeletons; thirty-six of them. 

Kelly and Pendergast go to the scene and examine the remains before the construction owner has them thrown out and removes all the bodies so that his new building can proceed on schedule.  Each is the body of a young man or woman from at least a hundred years before.  Each has been operated on, with the excision site being the lower back and spinal cord.  Each has been murdered.

Kelly isn't sure why this is so important to Pendergast but starts to understand quickly.  A copycat killer has emerged and is killing modern victims in the same manner that the older bodies were killed.  As they research the case, a strange motive emerges.  Apparently, both the older murderer and the younger believe they have found a way to extend human life which requires the sacrifice of humans.  Can Pendergast and Kelly, along with reported William Smithback, solve the mystery before more bodies are found?

This is book three in the popular Agent Pendergast series.  The authors work together to provide a tale that is strange but believable with overtones of paranormal events.  The interplay between Kelly and Smithback and the revealing of Pendergast's mysterious family background and unorthodox methods keeps the reader turning the pages.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Book Of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

What would it take to make you leave everything you know and love behind to start over somewhere else?  Your family, your friends, your house, your language, all you know and love and that makes up your identity.  It must be either overwhelming difficulty where you are or the hope of an amazing opportunity somewhere else.  In The Book Of Unknown Americans, Cristina Henriquez introduces the reader to characters who have made this decision.

There is the Rivera family.  Arturo is a business owner in Mexico.  When his daughter is injured and needs special schooling, he gives up his business and moves his wife and daughter to the United States, where he is now a mushroom picker, spending his days in a dark room, thrusting his hand over and over into the dirt to search out and retrieve mushrooms.  He daughter Maribel slowly starts to get better as the months go by and her school helps her retrieve her former skills.

The Toro family lives in the same apartment complex.  They came from Panama and the dad works as a breakfast cook in a diner.  Mayor is the youngest son, always trying to live up to the reputation of his big brother, who won a soccer scholarship to college.  When he sees Maribel in the local Dollar Tree, he is struck by her beauty.  As the families become friends and the two teenagers get to know each other, Mayor and Maribel fall in love.  Their families do not approve and attempt to keep the two apart.  This relationship and the fallout from it make up the mainspring of the novel.

Henriquez has written a book that will open readers eyes to the lives of our most prevalent minority, that of the Hispanic population, although their immigrant stories ring true from those who come from other countries as well.  She deftly outlines the difficulties of starting over in a land where you must struggle to support yourself, to even make yourself understood.  The incredible hope in a better future it takes to start over is demonstrated, along with the difficulties.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and those interested in the changing population in the United States.