Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Booksie's Shelves, March 31, 2015

We've had a week of chilly, rainy days here in NC, but spring has now arrived with warm, sunny days and glorious flowering trees and flowers.  I think everyone's mood lifts when the outdoors is so beautiful.  I've been reading away.  Here's the newest books that have arrived:

1.  The Home Place, Carrie La Seur, literary fiction, sent by publisher
2.  Aunt Dimity And The Summer King, Nancy Atherton, mystery, sent by publisher
3.  Snapper, Brian Kimberling, literary fiction, Paperbackswap
4.  Read Bottom Up, Neel Shah, literary fiction, sent for book tour
5.  Subtle Bodies, Norman Rush, literary fiction, Amazon Vine review book
6.  The Fixer, Joseph Finder, mystery, sent by publisher
7.  The Golden Age Of Murder, Martin Edwards, nonfiction, sent for book tour
8.  Silver Apples Of The Moon, Rebecca James, literary fiction, sent by author
9.  Everybody Rise, Stephanie Clifford, literary fiction, won at Shelf Awareness
10.  Phenomenal, Leigh Ann Henion, travel, sent by publisher
11.  A God In Ruins, Kate Atkinson, literary fiction, sent by publisher
12.  A Scourge Of Vipers, Bruce DeSilva, mystery, sent by publisher
13.  A Tender Struggle, Krista Bremer, literary fiction, sent by publisher
14.  In The Dark Places, Peter Robinson, mystery, sent by publisher
15.  Orhan's Inheritance, Aline Ohanesian, historical fiction, sent by publisher
16.  Beach Town, Mary Kay Andrews, literary fiction, sent by publisher
17.  Missing, Sam Hawken, mystery, sent by publisher
18.  The Panda Theory, Pascal Garnier, 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 Feast For Crows, George R. R. Martin, hardback
4.  Barracuda, Christos Tsiolkas, hardback
5.  The Rise And Fall Of Great Powers, Tom Rachman, paperback
6.  Roadside Crosses, Jeffrey Deaver, hardback
7.  The Black Country, Alex Grecian, paperback
8.  All I Have In This World, Michael Parker, paperback
9.  Fiercombe Manor, Kate Riordan, paperback
10.  The Orchid Affair, Lauren Willig, hardback
11. Michael Jordan, A Life, Roland Lazenby, hardback
12.  Rescue, Anita Shreve, hardback
13.  Birthdays For The Dead, Stuart McBride,  Kindle Fire
14  Careless In Red, Elizabeth George, hardback

 Happy Reading!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Girl Next Door by Ruth Rendell

At the end of World War II, a group of English children met to play in what they called the tunnels.  It was really a house foundation that had been dug out and then deserted as construction ground to a halt with laborers off to war, but to a group of kids it was a playground come true.  Deserted with no adults to interfere, the tunnels served as a location to make friends and tell secrets. Finally, one of the fathers found their hideout and ran them off, as adults would, but the friendships begun there would survive.

Now, sixty years later, the group comes back together due to a gruesome discovery.  The foundation was excavated as new construction was started, and a small biscuit tin was found.  Inside the tin were the bones of two hands, one female, one male.  Who had lost their hands and why were the rest of the bodies never found?

The group searched each other out and reunited to see if they could come up with answers.  Some of them had died, of course, and those left were now in their seventies and seeing the end of their own lives.  Secrets were no longer worth keeping, and together they were able to piece together actions that had seemed opaque long ago without the background to interpret them.  As they talked, they discovered relatives that had gone missing and been put down to wartime dislocations.  Were these the couple whose hands had been discovered?

But coming together changed the group.  Some came together as lovers, breaking up long-time marriages in an attempt to find long-lost happiness.  Some discovered that they still could find friendship and ways to be happy.  Some discovered that their worst fears were true and the monsters they thought were childhood fancies were very real indeed.

Ruth Rendell is one of the brightest stars in the mystery genre.  Her career has spanned fifty years and more than sixty books.  She has won three Edgar Awards and made a member of the House Of Lords in England.  Readers will find this book as interesting as those that have come before.  It is recommended for mystery readers and those interested in how age changes us yet leaves us the same.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Shady Cross by James Hankins

Stokes is not a good guy, but he'd claim he was not the worst.  Sure, he couldn't hack the nine to five world and had made his living as a petty crook.  He walked out on his wife and baby daughter.  Maybe he made his living as a while as an enforcer for the big boss in Shady Cross.  Maybe he had even gotten in some scuffles that resulted in hospitalizations or funeral homes.

Stokes can't believe his luck when, after a wreck (that he may have caused, but who's ever sure about things like that?) he discovers the other driver dead but a backpack full of money in his car.  Thousands upon thousands of dollars and who could use it more than Stokes?  He could get out of town and make a new life for himself.

But then he answers the guy's cell phone.  On the other end is a little girl crying and saying, "Daddy, are you bringing the money?  They say I can come home if you bring them the money."  What should he do?  On the one hand, a chance for a new life for himself; on the other a chance to save a little girl he'd never met. 

James Hankins sets up this scenario as the introduction to one of the most thrilling, fast-paced novels I've read in months.  The reader is repulsed by Stokes, but on the other hand, as the book unfolds, can't help but to start pulling for him.  Stokes encounters twists and turns and defeat on every front as he races the clock to the kidnappers' deadline.  The reader is pulled along on the nerve-wracking ride, unsure how Stokes will handle each new obstacle.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Life From Scratch by Sasha Martin

Sasha Martin is the author of a successful foodie blog, Global Table Adventure.  When she was approached with the idea of turning her blog into a book, she thought it would be an easy endeavor.  Instead, she quickly realized that in order for her book to be meaningful, she would have to describe how she came to love food in all its various combinations, and in order to do that, she would have to talk about her own life.  That was something Sasha didn't want to do.

Sasha had a rough childhood.  She and her brother, Michael, spent their early years with their mother in a small apartment in Queens.  There was never much money but there was love and creativity and food, lots of food.  Food was never to be wasted so her mother invented countless ways to make the food budget stretch with lots of ways to use leftovers.  But there were also food celebrations; marvelous family desserts that they might have to save up for months to purchase the ingredients for. 

As Sasha got into school, life became harder and harder for her mother to maneuver on her own.  Soon, the school personnel were reporting the family to Social Services and the children entered the system and a series of foster families, many of which were horrid.  In order to rescue her children, the mother made a huge sacrifice and gave the children to a family friend to raise.  The new family moved frequently due to the father's job, so Sasha and her brother had not only lost their original family but never had a place to call their own that wouldn't be snatched out from under them at a moment's notice.

Once through college, Sasha started an odyssey to discover her life's work.  She worked as a web designer, in marketing, went to cooking school and basically knocked around.  When she ended up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on an internship, something felt right and she made the city her home.  She found a husband and soon had a child.  Determined to give her child the kind of warm, loving childhood she always wanted, she searched for a project.  She came up with the idea of cooking her way around the world, cooking the traditional recipes of every country in the world using original recipes.  The project would take four years and the blog grew from this project.  In the process, Sasha not only created a successful blog, but a new way of connecting with her family and her community.  This is the story she shares.

Each chapter in the book ends with a recipe.  Some of these are family traditions, and some are recipes from various places in the world.  Some are quick meals made from leftover ingredients, while some take days to prepare.  Each shows the love Sasha has for food, and for the connections food helps us make with others.  This book is recommended for readers of memoirs and for foodies. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Mystery Writers Of America Cookbook, edited by Kate White

Mystery readers will be enchanted with the latest idea from the Mystery Writers of America.  They've rounded up over one hundred of the best mystery writers now working and asked each to contribute a recipe.  The resulting collection was then edited and put together by Kate White, who is also a mystery writer.  Food and mysteries go together like bacon and eggs.  Think of all the poisoned dinners that are plot devices, the muffins and subs eaten on stakeouts, and the gourmet detectives such as Nero Wolfe that have entertained the reader.  There is even a subgenre of mysteries, the culinary mysteries, which give the reader a mystery and recipes to match the action.

The book is divided into the following categories:  breakfast, appetizers, soups and salads, entrees, side dishes, cocktails and desserts.  The list of contributing authors include the who's who of mystery writers: Frankie Y. Bailey (see review of What The Fly Saw), Alafaire Burke, Lorenzo Carcaterra, Lee Child, Mary Higgins Clark, Harlen Coben, Thomas H. Cook (see reviews of Peril, Blood Innocents and The Cloud Of Unknowing), Diane Mott Davidson, Nelson DeMille, Hallie Ephron (see review of There Was An Old Woman), Linda Fairstein(see review of The Prosecution Rests), Lyndsay Faye(see review of The Gods Of Gotham), Joseph Finder, Gillian Flynn, Sue Grafton, Carolyn Hart, Peter James, J.A. Jance, Laurie R. King(see review of A Darker Place), Laura Lippman(see review of Life Sentences), Margaret Maron, Brad Meltzer, David Morrell, Marcia Muller, Katherine Hall Page, Sara Paretsky, James Patterson, Louise Penny, Kathy Reichs, Lisa Scottoline, Karin Slaughter, Wendy Corsi Staub(see review of The Perfect Stranger), Scott Turow, Lisa Unger, Jacqueline Winspear and Ben Winters, as well as many others. 

Each recipe has an interesting article with it from the author telling how it relates to their series or protagonists.  The recipe themselves are easy to follow and written as real cooks cook rather than the more formal recipes often found in cookbooks.  There are also gorgeous full-color photographs of many of the dishes. 

The Mystery Writers of America is dedicated to all things mystery, and is composed of mystery writers, aspiring authors, fans and publishing professionals in the genre.  It conducts the annual Edgar Awards, named for Edgar Allen Poe and considered the premiere award in the mystery field.  It also has programs to encourage kids to read, and scholarships for writers.  It was founded in 1945.  All proceeds from the book go to MWA to support their work.  This book is recommended for mystery readers and cooks alike. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Stolen Prey by John Sandford

Lucas Davenport has seen a lot of murder scenes in his years with the Minnesota state police.  But he hasn't seen many as bad as this one.  An entire family, father, mother, young son and daughter, have been brutally murdered and left in their home.  The family owns a software business, hardly the kind of thing that arouses a lot of criminal interest.  Or does it?  Something about the carnage reminds Lucas of the brutal murders associated with Mexican drug lords.

As the investigator deepens, there appears to be some connection.  Several Mexican men were noticed near the crime scene.  It starts to look as if the company was being used to launder drug money with apparently something going very wrong.  Lucas reaches out to other agencies, federal ones as well as contacts in the Mexican police.  Mexico sends one of their top policemen to help with the investigation.  Soon, it appears that local banks are also involved as their accounts may have been used to finance the money laundering.  More bodies start to show up as the drug lords follow their scorched earth policy trying to find their missing money.  Can Lucas and his crew find the killers before the body count climbs even higher?

Readers of John Sandford will know what they are getting when they open the pages of this novel.  This is the twenty-second Lucas Davenport mystery and loyal readers have followed his cases for years.  Sandford has a good mix of solid police procedural and the occasional rogue steps outside procedure that can advance a stalled investigation.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Booksie's Shelves, March 12, 2015

Spring has sprung in North Carolina and none too soon!  Everywhere you look you see brave daffodils and crocuses peeping from the yards, survivors of a cold February.  The birds are back and the backyards are a cacophony of birdsongs, each shouting it's happiness to be here in North Carolina in the spring.  The ACC Tournament is in Greensboro, where it belongs, and all is right in the basketball world, even with the inclusion of the new teams in the ACC, which I for one, don't think belong here.  Ah well, the other sure sign of spring is new spring books and they have been sprouting in abundance the past few weeks!  So many great books have arrived on my doorstep that I'm excited about getting to them.  Here's what I've acquired lately:

1.  I Am Radar, Reif Larsen, literary fiction, sent by publisher
2.  Meet Me In Atlantis, Mark Adams, nonfiction, sent by publisher
3.  Sardar, Abdullah Sharif, history/memoir, sent by publisher
4.  Stranger Child, Rachel Abbott, mystery, sent by publisher
5.  The Daughter, Jane Shemilt, mystery, sent by publisher
6.  Killer, Come Hither, Louis Begley, literary fiction, Amazon Vine
7.  Adapt, Edward Freeland, thriller, sent by publisher
8.  Bettyville, George Hodgman, memoir, sent by publisher
9.  The Year My Mother Came Back, Alice Eve Cohen, literary fiction, sent by publisher
10.  Reluctantly Charmed, Ellie O'Neill, literary fiction, sent by publisher
11.  Night Night, Sleep Tight, Hallie Ephron, mystery, sent by publisher
12.  The Poser, Jacob Rubin, literary fiction, sent by publisher
13.  Prince Of Thorns, Mark Lawrence, fantasy, Paperbackswap
14.  A Small Indiscretion, Jan Ellison, literary fiction, sent by publisher
15.  The Mystery Writers Of America Cookbook, Kate White, cookbook, sent by publisher
16.  Blood-Drenched Beard, Daniel Galera, historical fiction, Amazon Vine
17.  Harm's Way, Alex Barclay, mystery, sent by publisher
18.  We'll Always Have Paris, Jennifer Coburn, memoir, sent by author
19.  Etta And Otto And Russell And James, Emma Hooper, literary fiction, Amazon Vine
20.  Lacy Eye, Jessica Treadway, mystery, won on Shelf Awareness
21.  Amherst, William Nicholson, historical fiction, sent by publisher
22.  The Dead Lands, Benjamin Percy, mystery, won on Shelf Awareness

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, hardback
4.  Barracuda, Christos Tsiolkas, hardback
5.  The Rise And Fall Of Great Powers, Tom Rachman, paperback
6.  Roadside Crosses, Jeffrey Deaver, hardback
7.  The Black Country, Alex Grecian, paperback
8.  Mrs. Poe, Lynn Cullen, paperback
9.  Love By The Book, Melissa Pimentel, paperback
10.  The Orchid Affair, Lauren Willig, hardback
11.  Principles Of Navigation, Lynn Sloan, paperback
12.  Rescue, Anita Shreve, hardback
13.  Birthdays For The Dead, Stuart McBride,  Kindle Fire
14  Life From Scratch, Sasha Martin, hardback

 Happy Reading!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

World Gone By by Dennis Lehane

Ten years ago, Joe Coughlin ran the Mob in Tampa and Cuba.  He gave up that position after his wife was murdered, and these days, serves as an advisor or consigliore, to the Bartolo crime family.  Joe grew up with these guys and counts the current boss, Dion, as his brother.  Joe spends his days taking care of his businesses which have been impacted as the rest of the country has during World War II.  Many of the men he worked with have gone to war, and the crime world is as impacted as the rest of American society.

Still, Joe is content for the most part.  He raises his son, Tomas, who he loves more than anything in the world.  He has a woman in his life, even though he must keep her a secret.  Then, in the space of a few weeks everything changes.  Joe starts to see a vision, a boy who bears a family resemblance to his own family.  What is this vision, and what does it mean?  There are rumors that someone is thinking about trying to take over from Dion, that Dion is slipping.  Then there is the rumor that a contract has been placed on Joe's own life.  Everyone loves Joe.  Who could be doing such a thing?

Have you ever seen someone peel an apple who starts at one end and effortlessly cuts the skin off in one long, graceful peel?  That vision came to me repeatedly as I read Lehane's latest book.  He effortlessly spins a tale that unfolds with inevitability and that skewers the world of the gangster.  It is a world full of loyalties and betrayals, a world where family is respected above all yet men do not hesitate to make women and children widows and orphans, where a man is on top of the world one day and staring up at the sky with lifeless eyes the next.  It is a brutal world whose appeal the reader can catch a glimpse of through Lehane's masterful portrayal.  This book is recommended for mystery readers. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

A Dark Mind by T.R. Ragan

Sacramento is being targeted by a serial killer.  Dubbed the Lovebird Killer, he kidnaps couples in love and then kills them in horrific ways.  Sometimes the couple is married, sometimes they are just in love.  Regardless, the killer delights in increasing their torture by testing how much they are willing to sacrifice for their love.  One man escaped several years ago although his girlfriend never made it out.  What little the police and the FBI know comes from his experience.

Lizzy Gardner, a private investigator, knows about serial killers.  She was kidnapped by one when she was seventeen and spent months in his captivity before escaping and helping the police catch him and put an end to his trail of misery.  She becomes embroiled in this new killer's case in several ways.  She is living with an FBI agent, Jared, who is assigned to the case.  One of the victim couples had recently hired Lizzy to do a workers compensation investigation which was interrupted when the wife was kidnapped and brutally killer, her husband falsely accused of the murder.  Lizzy and her two assistants, Hayley and Jessica, start to use their expertise to help the police track down this killer.  Can the Lovebird Killer be stopped before more couples die?

T. R. Ragan has written a series of Lizzy Gardner mysteries.  This is the third in the series but can be read as a stand-alone.  One effective technique is that each chapter begins with a quote from a real serial killer, most of whom the reader will recognize.  The characters are interesting and the plot moves quickly enough to keep the reader's interest.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Monday, March 2, 2015

What The Fly Saw by Frankie Bailey

Albany, New York, is well served by the detective team of Hannah McCabe and Mike Baxter, who have been partners for around four months.  Their latest case is one that is especially difficult.  A local undertaker, Kevin Novak, is found dead in the basement of his funeral home, shot with his own crossbow.  His wife and children report that he has been distant and upset lately but no one seems to know why, or at least no one who will talk to the detectives.

There are lots of suspects.  Both his pastor and the psychologist that is on call to the local megachurch where Novak was a member seem to know things about the victim they aren't willing to talk to the police about.  Olive Cooper is a local town matriarch, rich and elderly.  She introduces Kevin to a new lady in town, who claims to be a spiritualist.  Olive suggests that Kevin would benefit from attending a séance but he wants no part of it.  On the fringes is a tycoon and his assistant, friends of Cooper's, who were also part of Hannah's biggest case to date, a woman who killed without mercy and is waiting execution.  As the days go on, Hannah and Mike are getting closer to an answer but the suspects are starting to be targeted themselves.  Can they solve the murder before someone else dies?

Frankie Bailey is a professor in the School of Criminal Justice, SUNY.  She is a past president of Sisters in Crime and a part vice-president of Mystery Writers of America.  In this novel, she continues the development of detective McCabe and sets an intriguing puzzle to be solved.  The mystery is set in the future and mention is made of technology not yet available to help the police; this is especially well-done.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.