Sunday, August 30, 2015

Cartwheel by Jennifer duBois


Life is opening up for Lily Hayes.   She is twenty-one and headed to Buenos Aires for a college study abroad program.  Lily is instantly entranced by the city; it's food, it's history and people, it's culture.  She's not fond of her roommate, Katy, who Lily finds boring and a stick-in-the-mud.  But Lily soon has a boyfriend, Sebastian, and things are great.

Great until the night it all happens.  Katy is found dead in their room, stabbed repeatedly.  Lily says she was next door with Sebastian when it happened and he agrees but as the police investigate, her story doesn't seem likely.  Then it happens.  While waiting at the police station between interrogations, Lily, who has been left in a room alone, does a cartwheel.  An everyday, routine cartwheel.  A cartwheel that is taped and released to a worldwide audience who instantly condemns Lily in the court of public opinion for doing such a lighthearted stunt in such a serious situation.

Lily is arrested and jailed.  Her parents, professors in the United States, take turns coming to Buenos Aires and visiting her.  They don't believe Lily did such a brutal murder but as the weeks go by, doubt begins to creep in.  What really happened that night?  Did they unwittingly raise a monster?

The novel clearly takes the Amanda Knox murder trial in Italy as its starting point but duBois delves deep into all players lives.  Was Lily the superficial, self-absorbed young adult she appears to be?  What is Sebastian's role in the case?   There are rumors he had romantic ties to both the girls. How is the investigating prosecutor's view of the crime affected by his own struggling marriage?   How is a parent to come to terms with the possibility that they may have raised a monster?  As the book progresses, the reader is forced to confront the moral dilemmas outlined and come to a personal decision about each of them.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Booksie's Shelves, August 28, 2015


School has started, and I have a senior this year.  It's hard to believe that this child who was our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary surprise is now getting ready to apply to colleges.  It's also the start of our family's annual birthday round.  In the next month, we have my husband, my son, my daughter-in-law and two grandchildren's birthdays.  In addition, my son and his wife have their anniversary.  It's a busy time of year for sure, but there's always time for reading.

Here's what's come through the door:

1.  The Invisibles, Cecilia Galante, literary fiction, sent by publisher
2.  The Girl From The Garden, Parnaz Foroutan, literary fiction, sent by publisher
3.  Sometimes The Wolf, Urban Waite, mystery, sent by publisher
4.  The Sparrow Sisters, Ellen Herrick, literary fiction, sent for book tour
5.  Live To Air, Jeffrey Diamond, mystery, sent by publisher
6.  Harrington's Valley, Darrel Rachel, historical fiction, sent by author
7.  Never Look Down, Warren Easley, mystery, sent by publisher
8.  Dragon Heart, Cecelia Holland, fantasy, sent for book tour

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  The Hidden Relic, James Maxwell, Kindle Fire
2.  When The Game Was Ours, Larry Bird/Magic Johnson, audio
3.  A Brave Man Seven Stories Tall, Will Chancellor, Kindle
4.  The Secret Wisdom Of The Earth, Christopher Scotton, hardback
5.  The Devil In The Marshalsea, Antonia Hodgson, paperback
6.  Meet Me In Atlantis, Mark Adams, paperback
7.  The Moral Lives Of Animals, Dale Peterson, hardback
8.  Mystery Walk, Robert McCammon, Kindle Fire

Happy Reading!





Thursday, August 27, 2015

Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi


In many ways, an author has complete control over his characters.  The character is given life by the author, given whatever traits the author desires and every move and action is controlled by the author's whims.  Helen Oyeyemi explores this relationship in her novel Mr. Fox.

Mr. Fox is a novelist who specializes in creating female characters who he then plots horrible deaths for.  Each woman lives for a brief spell on the pages, then her existence is quashed by his whims.  His wife, Daphne, has concerns about this but reconciles herself to it, as she has to his many other whims. 

All changes when he creates Mary Foxe.  This character refuses to be controlled by Mr. Fox's creative genius.  She comes to life and interacts with him and even with his wife.  Mr. Fox is enthralled with her although he still intends the same end. 

In a series of stories, Oyeyemi explores this Bluebeard relationship between an author and his characters.  It is an interesting twist and a fascinating exploration of the writing process and how real the author's creations can come to be.  The reader will be entranced, appalled, excited and intrigued as the novelist, his wife and his literary creation intertwine in various ways.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and gets at the crux of why individuals write and why others read their creations. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Vanished by Kendra Elliot

It's shaping up to be a bad day for Mason Callahan of the Oregon Police Major Crimes Unit.  One of his confidential informants has been found murdered.  Callahan had worked with her for years and had gotten closer than he usually did.  Then his phone lights up with calls from his ex-wife.  Her second husband's daughter, 11 year old Henley, has disappeared on the way to school, only a few days before Christmas.

Callahan goes to their house and things look bad.  Henley left for the bus stop a few doors down but never got that far.  The FBI has already been called in along with squads of local police.  Callahan calls his boss and takes some personal time in order to help the family.  He agrees to be their conduit to law enforcement and their press contact.  He moves into his ex-wive's home along with an FBI agent, Ava McLane, who is the FBI's family contact and support.  Callahan's son is there, home for Christmas from college.  The family also has two smaller children, who are sent to their grandparents house.

The hours go by and Henley is not found.  Then strange things start to happen to Callahan.  Evidence is found in the murdered informant's house that ties him to the crime scene.  His dog is missing.  It becomes clear that his son, Jake, was also targeted for kidnapping earlier but the attempt had failed.  Is someone after Mason?  Is it personal or just another way to torment the family?

Elliot has created a tense novel with several mysteries going on, all of which are satisfactorily tied together by the end of the book.  The two embedded detectives, McLane and Callahan, are attracted to each other and their growing desires add another dimension to the mystery.  Each has personal issues to work out and are leary of trusting others.  This book is part of a series and the first McLane/Callahan book.  It is recommended for mystery readers.

Monday, August 24, 2015

A Tree Born Crooked by Steph Post


James Hart has come home to Florida.  Not the ritzy tourist areas of Florida, but rural Florida where nothing much goes on and farming is still the best way to make a living.  It can't be said he is welcomed home with open arms.  His mother didn't bother to call when his father died and he is arriving two weeks after the death.  They didn't wait for him to have the funeral.

His little brother Rabbit has gotten mixed up with their good for nothing cousin Delmore.  Delmore is finally out of the penitentiary and he has big plans for a big score.  Rabbit, who was a high school athletic hero but has done nothing since is all for the big score.  James tries to talk them out of the plan but he realizes he can do nothing.

He isn't surprised when Rabbit calls in a panic when things go wrong.  Should he leave the two to their fate or try to save Rabbit from his stupidity?  The local bartender has also gotten caught up in the problem, and James has an eye for the bartender's daughter.  Together, James, Marlena and Rabbit take off on a road trip to try to salvage the situation.  It's a quest with no heroic goal or plans, just an attempt to stay alive.

Steph Post has written a gritty noir novel that explores the Florida most people never see.  She gets the frustration and resignation of those who scratch out a living and don't have much to dream about.  The reader isn't sure whether they should be cheering for James and his family or turning away in disgust.  Post focuses on the obligations family create, even when you know your family isn't that much to brag about and may even be actively sorry.  This book is recommended for mystery/thriller readers. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Orchid Affair by Lauren Willig


Being orphaned at sixteen in the early 1800's was no picnic for a young lady.  That's exactly the predicament Laura Grey finds herself in.  Sixteen years later, she has crushed down any hope of love and marriage and instead goes from wealthy house to house, serving as a children's governess.  Unnoticed by those she serves yet a step above the other household help, she lives a lonely life.  That must be why she agrees when drafted by the infamous Pink Carnation to become a spy for England.

After training, she is placed in the household of French government worker Andre Jauoen.  Jauoen serves as the assistant Minister Of Police.  Grey is to find out what goes on in the police department having to do with government affairs.  The group she works for is plotting a return to the French throne of one of the royal family displaced by the French Revolution and Napoleon Bonaparte.  Laura trends lightly but finds her job increasingly difficult when she starts to have feelings for her employer and the two children she is entrusted with. 

When Jauoen is surprisingly revealed to be working on the same side but exposed, the pair along with the two children, nursery maid and a portrait artist who Jauoen saves are forced to flee.   Can they make it back to England before being captured and executed as enemies of the government?  Can the love that springs up between the two have a chance at success?

Willig has written an engaging, frothy romance that is perfect for a few hours of escape into a more exciting world.  The romance between the governess and her employee is a well-known plot device but Willig does it proud.  The reader learns some French history along with their love story.  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction and for romance readers.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud


Everyone knows a woman upstairs.  She has an apartment on the second or third floor and is a quiet respectable neighbor.  She has a job, perhaps a nurse or teacher or working in an office.  There don't seem to be many friends around or a love interest.  She is the woman who is easy to ignore, the one who may be included in social outings but is not the first one to be invited.  She is pleasant but unremarkable.

Nora Eldridge is that woman.  She wanted to be an artist and showed talent, but ended up getting a teaching degree and has taught third grade for a decade.  There were lovers but marriage just never seemed to happen.  She is the dutiful daughter, the easy-going teacher, the woman who is unnoticed. 

But under her pleasant fa├žade, Nora is consumed with anger.  She did want things in her life and is not content with how things have turned out.  When she gets a charming child in her classroom and then meets his sophisticated parents, she begins to believe her life can still change.  Sirena is an artist and she and Nora rent a studio together.  Nora helps Sirena with her art and soon is a family friend.  She babysits the child from her class.  Sirena's husband is a visiting professor who is well-known in academic circles.  They have what seems to be a charmed life and Nora is entranced with each member of the family.  Can this be the turnaround point of her own life?

Claire Messud has given a voice to the overlooked women we all know.  She understands the rage that lives under the pleasant surface, the rage that women feel when they subsume their dreams to take care of others.  She explores the subjects of alienation, friendship, what one will sacrifice to achieve a dream and how life will go on with or without one making their mark.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Booksie's Shelves, August 17, 2015


Summer is winding down and the heat and humidity will be leaving at last.  School is starting with its hopes of new beginnings. There are always lots of new books on the market.   My daughter will be a senior this year with all that brings, college applications and senior trips. My son's birthday is soon and like me, he loves to get new books for birthday presents, along with a special dinner of Mom's chicken casserole.  I've got the new Neal Stevenson, Seveneves, on the way to him along with a sci-fi surprise book.   This past week, I got an anthology of stories by William Vollmann, one of my favorite authors along with lots of new books.  Here's what's come through the door:

1.  Last Stories And Other Stories, William Vollmann, anthology, purchased
2.  This Is The Water, Yannick Murphy, literary fiction, Vine review book
3.  Mrs. Queen Takes The Train, William Kuhn, literary fiction, purchased
4.  Zeroes, Chuck Wendig, thriller, sent by publisher
5.  The Guilty One, Sophie Littlefield, mystery, sent by publisher
6.  The Gap Of Time, Jeanette Winterson, literary fiction, sent by publisher
7.  A Window Opens, Elisabeth Egan, literary fiction, sent by publisher
8.  The Hanging Girl, Jussi Adler-Olsen, mystery, sent by publisher
9.  Vanished, Elizabeth Heiter, mystery, Vine review book

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  The Hidden Relic, James Maxwell, Kindle Fire
2.  Cartwheel, Jennifer duBois, Kindle
3.  Vanished, Kendra Elliot, audio
4.  The Orchid Affair, Lauren Willig, hardback
5.  Mystery Walk, Robert McCammon, Kindle Fire
6.  Meet Me In Atlantis, Mark Adams, paperback
7.  The Devil In The Marshalsea, Antonia Hodgson, paperback
8.  The Woman Upstairs, Claire Messud, paperback
9.  A Tree Born Crooked, Steph Post, paperback
10.  The Moral Lives Of Animals, Dale Peterson, hardback

Happy Reading!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Not In The Flesh by Ruth Rendell


When the dog's owner sees his dog digging furiously he is excited.  Perhaps it is a truffle for which he can get money.  He is not excited when he investigates further and realizes what the dog has actually dug up--a human hand.

The local Kingsmarkham, Sussex police, led by Chief Inspector Wexford, first have to identify the body.  The medical examiner finds it is a male who has been dead for at least a decade.  Further investigation determines that the field in which the corpse has been found had a trench dug in it eleven years ago.  Who went missing in the area during that time period?

The local residents aren't much help.  Many are elderly and insist they have no memory of that time period.  Some have moved away to retirement homes elsewhere.  Those who are left are suspicious of strangers and not inclined to help the police.  When a second male body turns up in an abandoned house of the same lot, Wexford is determine to find out who these men were and who is responsible for leaving them where they were found.  Will he be successful?

Ruth Rendell has written an entire series of Chief Inspector Wexford police procedurals.  This is the twenty-first book in the series and fans will delight in another visit with the Sussex police team.  The mystery is complex and the unraveling will delight fans of police procedural mysteries.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Author Feature: Evette Davis





Evette Davis leads a busy life in San Francisco.  She serves on the board of Litquake, the city's annual literary festival.  She raises her daughter while serving as the CEO of her own PR firm and of course, writing novels.  In 2014, she even started her own publishing imprint, Flesh and Bone.  I was lucky enough to have Evette muse about her writing process:

They say, “write what you know,” and maybe because I’m one of the few women working in public affairs and politics in San Francisco and the Bay Area, I’m naturally drawn to the idea of what it means to be a female leader.  

As leaders, women face all kinds of challenges related to expressing their emotions, physical appearance, confidence and mental endurance. I’m not sure I ever want or intend to come to some set of final conclusions, but I enjoy taking the characters in my novels through their paces to examine these ideas more fully.  Fiction is a wonderful place to bend the rules (and time) to manipulate social themes.   

I‘m working on a novel now, for example, set in a mildly dystopian future that features a character named River who’s a veteran from a series of wars in the Middle East against ISIS and a widow. Her husband committed suicide, leaving her financially strapped and working as a truck driver in the far reaches of North Dakota to pay off her debts.   

The book takes place several years after River’s father has died, forcing her to join the Army in order to save her home from foreclosure. His death forces her to abruptly abandon her hopes and wishes. She’s forced to kill off the girl she once was to survive being in combat and emerges as a very tough, guarded woman. By the time 48 States opens, River is living in a cheap motel and sleeping with a loaded Glock by her bedside. She’s resigned herself to being the fixer, the one that always takes care of things and has given up hope of finding happiness.  And so she would have remained, were it not for a chance encounter one night with fugitive in desperate need of her help.  

Their meeting disrupts her existence and puts her life in danger, but it also demolishes this hard shell she’s had around her emotions. I’m still working on the resolution of the story, but the book is about how she finds the courage to be vulnerable and still be in control of her life.  There are other women in the book too, including a president of the Unites States and a terrorist who is central to the book’s conclusion. In their own way, each of these women has to deal with their longings, their responsibilities and the reality of the situation and find their right path.  It’s exciting as a writer to see how it unfolds.  

The opportunity to work with an agent on 48 States prompted me to delay finishing a trilogy I began a few years ago and self-published on an imprint I founded called Flesh & Bone Publishing. The Dark Horse series is an experiment in urban political science fiction (ok, I made up that genre) - with a female protagonist named Olivia as the central character.  Olivia is the unknowing heir of a powerful witch and leader of a secret supernatural society that controls the fate of mankind. She’s unknowingly drawn into this shadowy world of politics and witchcraft and has to decide whether to follow her destiny as others dictate it, or to make it herself.  The inaugural title Woman King is a direct commentary on how women derive their power, since as a queen she would have married into it versus simply being appointed or chosen.  The third installment, which I hope to complete in the next two years, will see Olivia help elect a woman president of the United States and decide what she wants to do with her life.  

I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.
 
If you're interested in seeing how it turns out, here are the two current books in the trilogy:
 










   

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Star Side Of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson

Barbados is nothing like Brooklyn, New York.  Sisters Dionne and Phaedra, sixteen and ten, are not thrilled when they are sent for the summer to live with their maternal grandmother, Hyacinth.  Yet even they realize that things are not going well for their mother, Avila, who spends her time lying in bed staring into space or disappearing for days. 

The girls slowly start to explore Barbados, and the Bird Hill neighborhood where their family has lived for decades.  Fashion and styles are different here, and Dionne has some cachet as the representative of New York fashion.  The girls must make new friends.  Outsiders here because of growing up elsewhere, they are familiar with outsider status as their mother's difficulties never allowed them to be on the inside in New York either.  Slowly, the girls start to form relationships with the people around them.  They grow to appreciate their thorny grandmother and follow her rules which are much more strict in some ways and incredibly lenient in others.  Hyacinth feels she is too old to try to make the girls hew to some line and she also knows it never worked with their mother, who left Barbados with the girls' father as soon as she was old enough to do so. 

Naomi Jackson has written a lyrical family novel that explores the tentacles that family relationships stake out in our lives.  The reader is transported to Barbados. Poverty is rampant so that the stigma is lessened. A strong religious base makes up the main social network, while medicine is still that of  women who know herbs and superstition and past lore makes up the daily life and baseline knowledge.  There are colorful festivals, sexual escapades and always, the taint of slavery which tore families apart and made the people appreciate family above all else.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Toy Taker by Luke Delaney


Every parent can relate to this nightmare.  You put your child to bed, perhaps watching as they fall asleep.  You might check on them several times before you go to bed yourself as the lure of their innocent sleep draws you.  Then you wake up the next morning and find your child gone.  No clues, no way to know who has your baby.  The police come but it is obvious that they are stumped and have no real clues to track down your child and their kidnapper.

This is the nightmare that is taking over London's poshest neighborhoods.  The child is put to bed and then just not there in the morning.  No sound awoke the parents and nothing else is missing.  Just an empty bed and then empty dreams of promised happiness.  First it is George, whose parents are locked in an unhappy marriage. Then it is Bailey, the daughter of parent whose success has surprised even them.  As the days go by, more children are taken with no clue and no apparent way to track the kidnapper. 

Detective Sean Corrigan is back at work after he and his team have successfully tracked down a serial killer.  His work has been noticed and he and the team are now designated as the Special Investigations team and have been moved to Scotland Yard.  Most people would be thrilled, but Corrigan is less than entranced.  His success comes from his gift to meld his mind with that of the criminals he tracks.  Now with the added bustle of headquarters, a troubled marriage, internal office politics and being his superiors' stepping stone to further success, the noise around him has him blocked from his own abilities to track killers.  Can he find a way to stop the bustle and noise around him long enough to discover who is taking children?

Luke Delaney is a policeman himself and worked with the English police for many years.  His intimate knowledge of police procedure and how cases are handled and managed is evident in this novel.  His character Sean Corrigan is a high flyer who isn't interested in the administrative roles the top brass seems determined to promote him too.  Instead, he needs to be close to the crime in order to make the intuitive leaps that keep him as the most successful detective in the department.  The reader is fascinated as the case unfolds and Corrigan does what he is born to do.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Angel In My Pocket by Sukey Forbes


Anyone looking at their lives would consider them blessed.  Part of the oldest New England blueblood families, wealthy, and blessed with three beautiful children, Sukey Forbes had it all.  Her ancestors included not only the Forbes family, but one of her direct ancestors was Ralph Waldo Emerson.  They had houses and not a summer cottage, but a summer island, which was the family enclave and where traditions such as sailing, horseback riding, hiking and fishing were considered normal activities.

Then when she was six, the middle child, Charlotte, died.  She was fine one day and gone, inexplicably the next.  Forbes was left with the realization that no one is safe and no life is blessed to the extent that they are protected from disaster.  This book explores what life was like for her afterwards and how she worked through her grief.  Her background hemmed her in as a lifetime of being stoic and unemotional was a barrier between her and the grief work she needed to do.  She took comfort in the support of family and friends, and from the stories of her ancestors.  Emerson, for example, also lost a beloved child at age six, his namesake son.

Nothing really helped.  Not religious before, she could not take comfort in religion which to her seemed full of promises with no evidence of reality.  After a year or more of grieving and working through various counseling groups, she found something that opened the door to recovery.  She met with a medium that knew her story without being told and that gave insight into where Charlotte was now and how she was doing.  Although she knew others would not believe her, she found comfort there and continued to work with a medium as she emerged slowly from her overpowering grief.

This is a beautiful book.  Every parent's worst fear is the death of their child, yet many of us are called to walk this painful road.  Forbes exploration of the landscape of grief could be helpful to others just starting on this journey that never really ends, and that seems impossible to walk.  Her portrayal of a life afterwards that will never be the same but can be rewarding in time is a useful message.  This book is recommended for readers of memoirs and for those who have also lost a child. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Woman With A Secret by Sophie Hannah


Damon Blundy has been murdered.  Since he is a famous columnist and widely known, the police are under added pressure to solve his murder.  Who could have killed him?  Blundy was one of those opinion shapers who seemed to thrive on saying anything outrageous as long as it kept him in the limelight.  His notoriety was similar to that of an Ann Coulter or Michael Moore in the United States.  Love him or hate him, he was indifferent, but just be aware of him.

With such a controversial figure, the police have multiple possible suspects.  Was it one of his ex-wives, who had been skewered in his columns repeatedly?  Was it the disgraced athlete who was banned from professional sports for taking performance-enhancing drugs?  The author who Blundy seemed to have singled out for scathing reviews?  The female politician whose numerous affairs and maternal instincts Blundy had publicized?

Or was it someone who didn't even know him; someone who read his column daily and fancied themselves a fan?  The police noticed a woman whose sheer number of comments and support of Blundy made her stand out.  When they find she has recently moved to Blundy's town and is seen by police on the CCTV camera footage the day of the murder, she moves to the top of their list.  Is she a valid suspect or are her own secrets wasting valuable investigative time?

Sophie Hannah has written a compelling mystery that asks us what is the effect of living with secrets?  We all have them.  Are they always corrosive to our lives and relationships, or do they add a needed pressure valve that allows us to interact with others?  As the police peel back layers upon layers of lies and deception, the reader is pulled along to the surprising conclusion.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Booksie's Shelves, August 2, 2015


Another hot summer month has come and gone, none too soon for me.  Each year I dislike summer's heat and humidity a bit more.  It does help with reading to be cooped up in the house for days however. 

One thing that doesn't help are smoke alarms.  Mr. Booksie, for some unknown engineer's reason, has salted the ceiling liberally with smoke detectors.  We have four upstairs.  One was removed this week by my daughter when it decided to start beeping every minute or so.  The main one in the hall likes to go off randomly.  This morning it was at 3:30, ruining sleep for the night.  I hate this device with a passion.

Here's what's come through the door lately:

1.  Orhan's Inheritance, Aline Ohanesian, historical fiction, sent by publisher
2.  Brutal Youth, Anthony Breznican, literary fiction, purchased
3.  Stem Cell Battles, Don Reed, nonfiction, sent by author
4.  Pretending To Dance, Diane Chamberlain, suspense, Shelf Awareness
5.  Murder In Palm Beach, Bob Brink, true crime, sent by author
6.  The Witch Of Lime Street, David Jaher, historical fiction, Shelf Awareness
7.  The Wild Girl, Kate Forsyth, historical fiction, sent by publisher
8. The Lower River, Paul Theroux, literary fiction, purchased
9.  Movie Star By Lizzie Pepper, Hilary Liftin, literary fiction, sent by publisher
10.  Saving Sophie, Ronald Balson, mystery, Shelf Awareness
11.  Bright Lines, Tanwi Nandini Islam, literary fiction, sent by publisher
12.  In The Language Of Miracles, Rajia Hassib, literary fiction, sent by publisher
13.  Dark Horse, Evette Davis, fantasy, sent by author
14.  Boxes, Pascal Garnier, mystery, sent by publisher
15.  The New World, Andrew Motion, historical fiction, Vine review book
16.  The Walk Home, Rachel Seiffert, literary fiction, Vine review book

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  The Hidden Relic, James Maxwell, Kindle Fire
2.  Cartwheel, Jennifer duBois, Kindle
3.  Vanished, Kendra Elliot, audio
4.  The Orchid Affair, Lauren Willig, hardback
5.  Mystery Walk, Robert McCammon, Kindle Fire
6.  Meet Me In Atlantis, Mark Adams, paperback
7.  The Devil In The Marshalsea, Antonia Hodgson, paperback
8.  Barbara The Slut And Other People, Lauren Holmes, paperback
9.  The Star Side Of Bird Hill, Naomi Jackson, paperback
10.  The Moral Lives Of Animals, Dale Peterson, hardback

Happy Reading!


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Barbara The Slut And Other People by Lauren Holmes


In this debut anthology of stories, newcomer Lauren Holmes explores the boundaries of family, friends, relationships and what it means to be young in 2015.  She deftly portrays the murky territory of friendship, dating, sex, family relationships, short-term arrangements and the difficulty of starting your life when you are young.

In the title story, Barbara The Slut, a young girl in high school likes sex, although she has a rule about no more than once with the same guy as she is out of there in the fall when college starts.  She is shunned and ridiculed, but the boys still seek her out.  She doesn't really care about any of them.  Her focus is on her new life at Princeton in the fall and her younger brother who depends on her.

In How Am I Supposed To Talk With You? a young woman goes to visit her mother who she hasn't seen in years.  It explores the difficulties in sustaining such a relationship and the hurts and failed expectations.  Mike Anonymous portrays the stunning damage that one night of passion can bring.  I Will Crawl To Raleigh If I Have To describes the end of a romantic relationship and the difficulties family vacations can bring.  Desert Hearts is about the difficulty of starting an independent life after school when one is searching for love and a career.  Pearl And The Swiss Guy Fall In Love explores the start of a love affair and how it can quickly go bad through boredom and failed expectations.

These people are not optimistic, bubbly and happy.  They are clawing their way to lives that fulfill them even though they are constantly sent on detours.  They learn to navigate their own and others expectations although they also sometimes fail.  Although this book sounds bleak, it wasn't at all.  Holmes affection for her characters makes them likeable even when they are struggling.  This book is recommended for readers of short stories and those interested in the emotional landscape of the young.