Sunday, June 28, 2015

Enchantress by James Maxwell

Ella and Miro, siblings, grow up as orphans in Altura.  Their background is a mystery, as the old soldier who serves as their guardian refuses to talk about their parents or their past.  The pair are poor but ambitious.  Ella spends years saving for the tuition to go to the Academy for Enchantments, while Miro is slated to be a soldier, perhaps even a Bladesinger if he is skilled enough.

Life is hard, but they have friends and their chosen work.  As they get older, thoughts turn to love.  Ella's best friend, Amber, is attracted to Miro, while Ella's heart has been captured by a charming stranger, Killian. 

Then things get complicated.  The various houses, each with it's own magical skills and lexicon, fall out and start to form alliances.  Soon the Emperor has declared war against those houses against him, which includes Altura.  Even worse, there is a shadowy figure behind the Emperor whose magical knowledge and skills make even an emperor's power seem trivial.

Can the houses stand against the massive armies controlled by the Emperor?  Not only outnumbered, Altura's lexicon has been stolen which will render all their magic unusable.  Ella leaves to try to track down the lexicon and return it while Miro goes off to war.  Will the two be successful and will they be reunited at some point?

James Maxwell has started a terrific fantasy series, The Everman Saga.  The characters are interesting and soon adopted by the reader.  The obstacles seem overwhelming and the use of magic in everyday life is fascinating.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Etta And Otto And Russell And James by Emma Hooper

Otto gets up one morning to find a note on the kitchen table from his eighty-three year old wife, Etta.  She has decided to go see the ocean before it's too late.  She is leaving him the truck and walking.  The only issue Otto can see is that by his calculations it's over 3,200 kilometers to the ocean.

Etta walks every day and camps every night.  Otto doesn't pursue her although the neighbor, Russell, who is Otto's best friend, comes and tries to talk her into returning.  Instead Otto stays home, writes her letters as he did during the war, and plans what they will do when Etta returns.

The novel moves back and forth between stories of Etta and Otto's childhoods, how they met and how they ended up together.  Russell was always in Otto's life, and when Etta came into his life, in hers also.  Etta and Otto were separated by the war and the reader learns what this means through their letters to each other.

As Etta walks, she becomes famous for her drive and determination.  She is joined by a coyote she names James who is her only companion.  As she goes through towns and villages, people come up to her, wanting only to touch her or have her take their keepsake to the ocean.  She moves on, never stopping, never hesitating.

Emma Hooper has written a beautiful tribute to what it means to belong with another individual.  We each have a song to sing in our lives and when someone else chooses to sing along with us, we are comforted and made strong.  She explores the issues of delayed gratification, of hidden talents and of the search for one's life meaning.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood

It's a run-down apartment building in London, where the rent is paid in cash and there are no receipts.  Everyone there has a reason they are there instead of somewhere nicer.  Cher is a teenage girl who has run away from the state supervised system.  Hossein is a refuge who has come to London to escape those who took over his country.  Collette is running from her past and the boss she stole from.  Vesta is there because she has never lived anywhere else and has a rent-controlled apartment that provides her shelter as an elderly woman all alone in the world.  Thomas can't seem to form a real relationship with a woman. 

They all have secrets in common.  Secrets and a distaste for the landlord.  The landlord doesn't live in the building; it's not grand enough for him.  He charges what he wants and according to how desperate he thinks each tenant is.  He is an obese, overbearing man who creeps around and feels that he can come and go in any apartment regardless of occupancy. 

As the weeks go by, it becomes clear that something is wrong in the house.  There's a horrible smell and the building's deterioration is accelerated.  The tenents form a common support group to take on the landlord.  What will it take to defeat him?

Alex Marwood has written a novel that gives the reader the creeps as well as having them be thankful for whatever shelter they currently have.  Secrets are revealed, evil is fought and the group tries to make everything work out for the best.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Michael Jordan The Life by Roland Lazenby

MJ.  His Airness.  Jordan Air.  Michael Jordan is arguably, the best basketball player that has ever laced up his shoes.  Fans all have favorite memories; his game-winning basket for the national title at UNC, the flu game, the jams, the high scores.  He is one of the most easily identifiable individuals in the world as his fame spread past the courts to advertising and the movies.  But who is this man?

Roland Lazenby has written a memoir biography of Michael Jordan.  He takes the reader through his childhood and the family structure and issues.  Jordan's time at the University of North Carolina and his relationship with coach Dean Smith is covered in depth as the reader learns how Jordan improved his game.  His time with the Chicago Bulls led to a long run as world champions and the reader sees how the offense set up there was perfect for Jordan both to shine as an individual and as a teammate.  His relationship with his teammates and his coaches is covered in detail, both during the good years and as the team came apart through player-management issues.

But this is not just a tribute book.  Jordan's negative influences are also covered. The family issues and conflicts were a spur to Jordan.  His competitive drive also led to gambling.  Of course, few can forget the murder of his father and how that affected Jordan, leading to him leaving basketball for two years and trying to become a professional baseball player.  The fact that Jordan's intense competitive drive made him less than supportive of teammates that weren't as talented or who didn't work as hard.  Jordan was a master trash-talker and rode others mercilessly when they didn't measure up to his standards.

At the end of the book, the reader is left with a complete picture of this complicated man.  Leaders are honored and adored, but few really understand the drive it takes to be the best.  To spur others to achieve greatness, often leaders are less than kind and often even cruel, and that is also a part of leadership.  Jordan has great athletic talent, an incredible energy and drive for success, loyalty to those he trusts, and has given the world moments that will always be remembered.  At our core, we all want 'to be like Mike'.  This book is recommended for sports fans and those interested in reading about how one individual finds the drive to compete and excel, until they are the best in the world.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Booksie's Shelves, June 23, 2015

North Carolina is in a heat wave.  Today is the tenth day of temperatures over 95 and it's miserable with the humidity we also have.  I scurry out early to run any necessary errands and do the gym stuff, then hibernate for the rest of the day.  That's good for reading!  Here's what's come through the door lately:

1.  Casanova, Andrew Miller, historical fiction, purchased.
2.  Girl Of My Dreams, Peter Davis, historical fiction, sent by publisher
3.  All The Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr, historical fiction, Paperbackswap
4.  Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, Ben Fountain, literary fiction, Paperbackswap
5.  Raven Black, Ann Cleeves, mystery, Paperbackswap
6.  Miss Emily, Nuala O'Connor, literary fiction, sent by publisher
7.  Ana Of California, Andi Teran, literary fiction, sent by publisher
8.  Broken Homes And Gardens, Rebecca Kelley, literary fiction, sent by publisher
9.  Summer Secrets, Jane Green, literary fiction, sent by publisher
10.  Ingenious Pain, Andrew Miller, literary fiction, purchased

I'm currently reading:

1.  The Innovators, Walter Issacson, Kindle
2.  A Dance For Dragons, George R. R. Martin, hardback
4.  Barracuda, Christos Tsiolkas, hardback
5.  Blood Moon, Alexandra Sokoloff,  paperback
6.  The Orchid Affair, Lauren Willig, hardback
7. Michael Jordan, A Life, Roland Lazenby, hardback
8.  Mystery Walk, Robert McCammon, Kindle Fire
9.  Enchantress, James Maxwell, audio
10.  One Evil Act, Elizabeth George, hardback
11.  Meet Me In Atlantis, Mark Adams, paperback
12.  The Stranger, Harlen Corben, paperback
13.  Emma And Otto And Russell And James, Emma Hooper, paperback

 Happy Reading!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Crazy Love You by Lisa Unger

Fatboy and Priss is one of the top comics and a major moneymaker.  Fatboy is an unattractive boy whose life is a mess and for whom nothing goes right.  Priss is a gorgeous girl who is his lover and best friend and who makes everything turn out right.  What it's readers don't know is that the story is straight from the author's life. 

When Ian was growing up in a small rural town, he was the kid with no friends.  His family was the subject of whispers after his mother killed his baby sister in a postpartum depression and was sent to a hospital for life.  Ian was ostracized and ignored and in response, he overate.  This led to being fat and having major acne issues.  He was the outcast, the one no one spoke to. 

Until he met Priss.  She was a gorgeous little girl who Ian ran across in the woods behind his house.  Priss didn't seem to have any friends either and they became each other's best friends.  Priss gave Ian everything, friendship, acceptance and love.  The problem was that no one else could see Priss.  The other problem was that Priss didn't like it when Ian was hurt, and did things that then were blamed on Ian.  Things like hurting people and setting fires.

When Ian grows up, his artistic talent got him accepted at an art school in New York City.  There he found the friends he'd never had, and more importantly, financial success with his comic story.  He meets Megan, a wonderful girl who seems to love him more than life itself.  That's great, except for the problem with Priss.  How will she accept becoming less than Ian's Number One? 

Unger has written an engaging suspense novel that draws the reader in.  Ian is easy to relate to as he tells his story of exclusion and social rejection, as most people have felt those emotions at least a time or two.  Priss is unbelievable, or is she?  There is a question of whether she really exists, and if so, why she has latched onto Ian.  Will she make his life better or cost him everything?  This book is recommended for suspense readers. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Subtle Bodies by Norman Rush

They were a clique at college, a group of boys trying to learn how to become men.  They were self-indulgent and condescending but built real friendships that have lasted for decades.  There were women and marriages, children and political disagreements along the way but the group gave them their first self-explanation and has remained with them, echoing down the years.

Now their leader, Douglas, has been killed in an accident, and the group is called together to come to his memorial.  Douglas has become the most famous of the group although no one is sure exactly what he does.  There is talk of him authenticating documents.  Rumors say intelligence agencies all over the globe are interested in his work.  He also married one of the world's great beauties, a European woman named Ida.

The group comes together for a sad reunion.  We see the events through the eyes of Ned and Nina who have come from the West.  Ned spends his time organizing for peace while Nina's main occupation is getting pregnant and having Ned's baby.  She is determined to advocate for Ned and helps him see the world and his old friends through a prism of understanding and acceptance.

Norman Rush has written several highly-acclaimed novels, including Mortals and Mating.  His ability to write dialogue so that the reader gets the personality of the character speaking is renowned and that ability is found in this novel as well.  It takes the reader on an exploration of friendship and how it changes and morphs over the years.  What do we owe the friends of our youth who helped us become the people we are?  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

This Body Of Death by Elizabeth George

A young woman has been murdered in a cemetery in London.  Jemima Hastings was a real go-getter, a woman who had a home and a business in rural Hampshire.  Six months ago without a word to anyone, she left her long-time partner and her business and moved to London.  If Gordon, her partner, knows why, he's not saying.  Her brother, Rob, is not happy about it and less so when Jemima talks about finding a new man.  She is rarely without a man, and most of them no well near as good as she believes them to be.

Isabelle Ardery is also in new surroundings.  She has been brought up from a provincial district to try out as the next department chief at Scotland Yard.  Isabelle has sacrificed a lot for this chance and she doesn't mean to let it pass without success.  Her team is less than impressed.  Her management style is brusque and they don't yet respect her decisions.  In her turn, she believes the team lax and far too likely to strike out on their own than work as a unified team.

Isabelle sees the biggest problem as their loyalty to a man who is no longer there, Inspector Thomas Lynley.  He is still on compassionate leave after the death of his wife.  Determined to make a success of this gift she has been given, Isabelle talks Lynley into returning on a limited basis to help her catch Jemima's killer.  Will he be a help or will his presence and the team's continued loyalty to him be a distraction?

This is the sixteenth Inspector Lynley mystery.  He remains one of the great characters in mystery writing, an earl who becomes a London inspector and follows the strictures of Scotland Yard.  He is cool and reserved, yet fiercely loyal to those he lets into his world.  His relationship with his team is fascinating, and the introduction of a new character is interesting.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Deadly Wandering by Matt Richtel

Most of us have fears about driving and being on the highway.  Everyone agrees that drinking while intoxicated is dangerous and wrong and the incidence of drunk driving has fallen.  In 1982, drunk drivers caused at least 21,000 fatalities.  By 2010, that number had fallen to around 10,000; a 50% drop.  Today, another preventable occurrence is driving the fatality numbers.  It is use of cell phones while driving, and more importantly, texting while driving.  A Deadly Wandering by Matt Richtel explores this phenomena and the science that tells us that it is a bad idea.

In 2006, a nineteen year old male named Reggie Shaw was on his way to work.  It was drizzling.  He drifted over the center line, hitting an oncoming car, which then spun out and hit another truck.  Both the men in that car were killed instantly.  The author follows the Shaw case through the years as it made its way through the court and as the truth emerged; Reggie was texting his girlfriend and his attention was distracted.

The book alternates between the legal and personal stories of those involved in the accident, and the science of attention and distraction.  Several scientists have made it their life work to study the incidence of distracted driving and the events that cause the most distraction.  They have discovered that everyone has two types of attention; top-down and bottom-up.  Most events can be classified as one or the other, but our modern technology is both, which is why it is so difficult to avoid an action most people recognize as bad.  Overwhelmedly, surveys show people disapprove of using cell phones while driving, especially for texting.  Yet, most also admit that they are at least infrequent users.  This book attempts to reconcile this disparity and talk about solutions.

Matt Richtel is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist.  A Deadly Wandering has been chosen as A Best Book Of The Year by the San Francisco Chronicle, the Christian Science Monitor, Kirkus Reviews and the Winnipeg Free Press.  It is an important book that all drivers should read and is especially relevant for parents of young drivers.  This book is recommended for nonfiction readers.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Booksie's Shelves, June 11, 2014

Summer is here, along with lots of heat which makes for long reading days.  We're in the throes of hopefully the final SAT and then ACT this weekend and my daughter is already reading books for her senior English class.  I'm about to explore the only dental procedure I've never had, an implant after a crown came off and the root is broken.  I'm nervous about this one.  Still, there are always books to take one's mind off one's woes.  Here's what's come through the door:

1.  Girl Underwater, Claire Kells, literary fiction, sent by publisher
2.  Ally Hughes Has Sex Sometimes, women's fiction, sent by publisher
3.  Taking Leaps And Finding Ghosts, Janet DeLee, mystery, sent by author
4.  Music For Wartime, Rebecca Makkai, anthology, sent by publisher
5.  The Sunrise, Victoria Hislop, literary fiction, sent for book tour
6.  Arm Of The Sphinx, Josiah Bancroft, fantasy, sent by author

I'm currently reading:

1.  The Innovators, Walter Issacson, Kindle
2.  A Dance For Dragons, George R. R. Martin, hardback
4.  Barracuda, Christos Tsiolkas, hardback
5.  Blood Moon, Alexandra Sokoloff,  paperback
6.  The Orchid Affair, Lauren Willig, hardback
7. Michael Jordan, A Life, Roland Lazenby, hardback
8.  Mystery Walk, Robert McCammon, Kindle Fire
9.  Enchantress, James Maxwell, audio
10.  One Evil Act, Elizabeth George, hardback
11.  Meet Me In Atlantis, Mark Adams, paperback
12.  Subtle Bodies, Norman Rush, paperback
13.  Emma And Otto And Russell And James, Emma Hooper, paperback

 Happy Reading!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Jesus Cow by Michael Perry

Swivel, Wisconsin is a quiet little village.  The sign at the city limits claims 562 residents, but that number is probably padded as people die off or move away.  For those who remain, it suits just fine.   They like their quiet town and knowing everyone in range.  Harley Jackson is one of these residents.  He grew up on a farm there and still keeps a few cows, even though his father had to sell off most of the farm to survive. 

But there are those who want things to change.  That includes the local developer, a man who gets his way by intimidation and money and who has targeted Harley's remaining acres to fulfill his dream of making Swivel a moneymaker development.  Harley's acres stand in his way of him owning the land around an interstate exit with its possibilities of fast-food restaurants and cheap hotels.

Then the miracle happens.  Harley's cow, Tina, gives birth to a calf on Christmas Eve.  The calf is born with markings that are the face of Jesus.  Everyone who sees it notices that immediately.  Harley's best friend says Harley should show the calf for money but Harley just wants to keep on living his quiet life.

But that isn't going to happen.  Word of the Jesus Cow gets out and soon there are flocks of people, vying to see the miracle and willing to pay to do so.  Harley and his new girlfriend must decide how to handle this bonanza, and their decisions make for a hilarious ride for the reader.

Michael Perry is known for his memoirs of life in rural America.  He is a former nurse and EMT who lives with his family on a small farm in a small town like Swivel where the way of life is rapidly disappearing.  This is his first fiction novel, and his gentle skewing of people and the rush of development is interesting as well as entertaining.  The reader will find himself firmly in Harley's camp as they read to see what will happen next.  This book is recommended for readers who are interested in small town life and an exploration of human nature. 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Missing And The Dead by Stuart MacBride

Acting Detective Inspector Logan McRae is feeling good as he heads into his annual evaluation.  He's just caught a killer in a lurid case that had the newspapers on the Aberdeen Police force's back.  Surely the department will recognize his worth and make him a Detective Inspector this time?  But instead of a promotion, McRae is headed a 'development opportunity'.  He is removed from the CID and put in charge of a rural Aberdeenshire police force.  Anything big or interesting is immediately taken over by the various police units.

Still, Logan gives it his best.  When not removing cattle from the road, he and his team are busy chasing drug dealers and ATM thieves.  Then the call police hate to get occurs.  A small girl is found dead, her head battered in.  Worse, she can't be identified.  The entire police force makes the case a top priority.  At the same time, child molesters are disappearing.  Are the cases related?  Add in the fact that moving towns hasn't made Inspector Steel disappear, that her wife Susan is pregnant again with Logan's child, and you have the ingredients for another McRae adventure.

This is the ninth Logan McRae police novel.  The reader cannot help but love Logan, who fights his way through the despair and horror of policing without losing his optimism and constant willingness to go forth into the fray.  The cases are always interesting, and MacBride does a magnificent job of tying everything together at the end.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.