Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Bogman by R.I. Olufsen

When a mummified foot is found in a Danish bog, it's unclear at first whether the police or archaeologists are needed.  As more bones are found and examined, it's clear that this was a young male in his twenties and that the death occurred about fifteen years before.  So the police are in charge and are faced with what looks like an impossible task.  They don't have an identity and with the passage of time it seems unlikely that they will be able to reconstruct the crime.

The case is given to Chief Inspector Tobias Lange.  He is a veteran and in his forties.  His team is skilled and they unearth enough clues to determine that the man was probably an eco-warrier.  The main clue to his identity is a silver bracelet found with the silversmith's initials inside.  After tracing her to Lapland, they discover she remembers the bracelet well and the young couple that had it made.  Now they have a name for the woman and at least a first name for the man.

The investigation moves to an exploration of the groups that meet to protest building that affects the environment and various endangered species.  This hits close to home for CI Lange, as he has a college age daughter who is involved in such a group.  As he delves deeper, the case gets more involved when more bones are discovered in another location.  Can this crime from the past be solved?

This appears to be the debut novel in this series or perhaps just the first translated for English readers.  I hope that there will be more in the series.  The protagonist is a likeable man, determined to solve crimes but also involved in his own life and that of his family.  The book strikes the right note in showing enough police procedure without getting stuck in details.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Blood On The Tongue by Stephen Booth

Winter is always a challenging time for the police in Edendale, Derbyshire.  The blizzards and chilling winds make the bleak landscapes and twisting roads even more difficult to traverse and investigate in.  But crime always goes on, regardless of the weather and the Edendale police have several cases in play.

A young woman is found buried in the snow.  At first it appears she just got tired and lay down and was killed by exposure but the post mortem reveals bruises that are evidence of a beating.  The case is reclassified as a murder and even more critically, it appears she had a young baby who is now missing.

Then a man's body is discovered when a snowplow hits it.  Again, it appears to be a murder and the police don't even know who he is.  His clothing shows a well-dressed man who should have been missed.  Why isn't someone looking for him?

Then another strange event distracts attention from the recent murders.  A woman has traveled to Derbyshire from Canada.  She identifies herself as the granddaughter of a military pilot who crashed his plane into the mountains during WW II.  All aboard were killed except for one Polish crew member and the pilot who supposedly survived only to vanish.  He is blamed for the wreck and his granddaughter has come to clear his name.  She is very determined but the police are already overwhelmed with work.  She tries to enlist Ben in her search but his superiors have already forbidden anyone to help with the police force already spread thin.

When the cases all start to look as if they are connected, the police scramble to find out what all three have in common.  Ben is the hometown boy who knows everyone and who is a town favorite.  But his superiors, including Diane Fry, see him as a man who is easily distracted from the orders he is given.  Will Ben's obstinate nature help to solve the crimes or is standard police procedure the way to go?

This is the third in the Cooper and Fry mystery series.  In this one, Diane has just gotten the promotion that everyone assumed would go to Ben and is now his boss.  This ratchets up the interplay between the two who come at every problem in a diametrically opposed fashion.  Readers of the series will enjoy this further case and the unfolding of the relationship between the two.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

East Of Eden by John Steinbeck

East Of Eden is a moral fable played out as the American Dream.  It is set in the Salinas Valley of California in the late 1800's to around the time of World War I.  It follows the life of the Trask family.  Adam Trask came to California after growing up in the Northeast.  He was the son of a famous military man who favored his other son, Charles, over Adam.  The boys grew up in a state of rivalry that they never managed to get over.  When Adam married Cathy, a woman who showed up on their doorstep, he had to leave when Charles would not accept her.

Adam and Cathy moved to California where Adam, a rich man, bought a large farm.  Cathy had never loved Adam as she had never loved anyone.  She used him to escape a situation.  The couple had twins and as soon as she was able, she left Adam and moved out.  Cathy became a whore and later the madam of the most infamous brothel in town.  Adam was crushed, more or less ignoring his sons, Aaron and Caleb.  The family's servant, Lee, basically raised and loved the boys.

Aaron and Caleb played out the same sibling rivalry as Adam, never learning from his own upbringing, played obvious favorites.  Aaron was blonde and everyone loved him for his sunny disposition and good behaviour.  Caleb was brunette, full of contradictions and a more complex child whose let his bad side emerge sometimes.  The boys loved each other yet Caleb would sometimes hurt Aaron just because he could.  The story ends with a major confrontation that had far-reaching consequences.

This is considered one of Steinbeck's master works.  The retelling of the old Cain and Abel story from the Bible relocated to America touches the American reader as it was intended to.  The story is full of Steinbeck's identification with the working class and his belief that man must make his own moral choices in life.  Cathy is one of the most memorable villains in literature.  The reader must make their own choice of who will have their sympathy, Caleb or Aaron.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Babel Tower by A.S. Byatt

Babel Tower is an exploration of England in the 1960's, when so many things in society changed.  It focuses on two plots.  The first is the story of Frederica.  She had been an intellectual child who went to Cambridge when that was still not the norm and became very popular and the center of attention of a group of young men.  Afterwards, rather than marrying one of them and becoming an author as everyone expected, she instead married a man from the landed gentry, Nigel.  Her sister had died in a freak accident and she wanted a complete break from what she had known.  The couple had a son, Leo.  But country life in a house full of Nigel's relatives soon palled.   Frederica felt stifled and that her intellectual life was stymied.  When she met her old crowd by happenstance, things came to a head.  Nigel forbade her to see them and when she didn't agree, started to physically abuse her.  She fled in the night, taking Leo with her.

Nigel insists he wants her back and storms around trying to find her and terrorizing her friends and family.  The book explores the themes of women who want to work outside the home, the difficulty of doing so as a single mother, spousal abuse, society's changing mores about women, religion, sex, education, the best environment for a child and work.

The other subplot is about freedom in literature and the changing setting of society and what it will accept in the name of freedom of expression.  It revolves around a novel written by a thoroughly unpleasant man named Jude Mason.  The novel is about a dystopian society that falls into one of sexual excesses and cruelty and is considered obscene and charged as such.  There is a trial in which the limits of society are explored.  The Moors Murders case of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley serves as backdrop for this case.  It was the most prominent child murder case of its time and many considered it a bellwether of how society changes were taking the world into dark, wretched places.

This is a huge novel that attempts to explain all of life in a specific time period.  Readers may or may not like Frederica who is not a very sympathetic character but she is a model of how society has changed in considering a women's role.  Most facets of society are portrayed along with the changes the sixties brought to each.  The author, A.S. Byatt, won the Booker Prize for her novel Possession and that intellect and ability to explore society is a real reason for her success.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Friday, June 16, 2017

In The Name Of The Family by Sarah Dunant

Few family names reverberate through history like that of the Borgias of Italy.  The head of the family is Rodrigo Borgia, a Spanish Cardinal who comes to Rome and rises to become Pope Alexander VI.  He delights in the machinations of the Church and in his illegitimate children whom he disdains to hide.  Instead they are given prominent places in society.  His first son, Juan, is assassinated, a crime that marks Rodrigo's life ever after.  Cesare is a former Cardinal who turns instead to military matters, conquering city after city in the Borgia's quest to extend their power.  His daughter, Lucrezia, is used to solidify the family's power and influence through marriage.  She is married three times by the time she is twenty-two.

This novel follows the family in the last year of their power, 1502.  Lucrezia has just become the Duchess of Urbino, her husband Alfonso much the same kind of man as her brother Cesare.  Cesare becomes increasingly erratic as he pursues a campaign of conquest, perhaps as the aftermath of what is known as the French pox.  There is no alliance he won't make or break as it suits him, and both he and Pope make sure their enemies come to a bloody end.  Pope Alexander is at the end of his life and concerned about his legacy.  Finally, an outsider is also part of the story.  Niccolo Machiavelli is a diplomat from Florence who is sent to the court in Rome to discover what he can of the Borgia plans and how his city can best position itself.  He is fascinated by the Borgias, later basing his most famous book, The Prince, on Cesare.

Yet Dunant is interested in not just wars and betrayals but the life of women.  Lucrezia is maligned throughout Italy as a courtesan and faithless wanton woman, but the reality is closer to that of a woman used as most women were in titled families, as a pawn to consolidate power.  Her life in a forced marriage is explored as is the relationships within the family she married into, and her struggles to produce an heir.  She loves her father and brother but fate moves her far away from them where she rarely gets to see them and must carve out a life for herself.

Sarah Dunant is considered one of the finest names working in historical fiction today.  She is fascinated with Renaissance Italy and the powerful families that battle for supremacy.  Yet she also takes time to examine everyday life.  The influence of sickness, the fevers that annually take scores of lives and the new disease of syphilis, or French pox, is explored.  The interplay between the powerful families and the Church is discussed.  She skillfully dissects the connections between families and the alliances and betrayals that made the Borgia family name infamous.  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

White Fur by Jardine Libaire

Her name is Elise Perez.  His is Jamey Hyde.  She is a mix of cultures and races, brought up in housing projects where she had to scrap for everything she had.  He grew up in Long Island mansions, Vail and Europe vacations, Manhattan townhouses.  She grew up with a single mother who had her at sixteen and half-siblings from various men her mother lives with.  He grew up the scion of an investment banking family with a famous actress mother.  They couldn't be more dissimilar.

Jamey is in New Haven attending Yale and living with his best friend who he has known his entire life.  Elise is in New Haven because that's where she ended up as she drifted away from Bridgeport, Connecticut looking for something, anything and living with a gay man who found her sleeping rough on the street and took her in.  They are from different worlds and should have nothing in common.  And yet, and yet.  There is an immediate spark, an almost visceral attraction.  Jamey has everything but has never felt that anyone really saw him.  Elise has nothing but she knows about love and sees Jamey behind his facade for the man he really is.

Soon they are spending every moment together.  Everyone they know is appalled.  His friends don't know what to make of her and suspect that she is sizing him up to rob his apartment.  Her friends suspect that nothing good can come from this, that Jamey is just slumming and will break Elise's heart.  His family is simply appalled.  Elise is like nothing they could have expected and the difference is more than they can accept.  They try various methods of breaking the two apart, things that have always worked, threats of money being cut off and scandals that will shame the entire clan.  Nothing matters.  The love between Jamey and Elise is so incandescent that it outshines every difference, every obstacle.  Or does it?

Jardine Libraire has written a modern love story that burns it's way into the reader's mind.  Elise and Jamey are characters who will not be easily forgotten and their love is the memory each of us has about the first time we really, really fell into love.  This is Jardine Libaire's second novel.  She attended the University of Michigan's MFA program where she received the Hopwood Award.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and anyone who wants to remember how love feels.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Booksie's Shelves, June 13, 2017

Mid-June already and summer is heating up.  We just got back from a lovely wedding and got to see family and friends again which is always fun.  I've been busy sprucing up the entertainment room, buying a new couch and finally getting rid of one fondly referred to as The Vomit Couch from our cat's loving attentions over the years.  I've read some great books lately and ready for more great reads!  Here's what's come through the door lately:

1.  A Canticle For Leibowitz, Walter Miller, sci-fi/fantasy, purchased
2.  The Offering, Grace McCleen, literary fiction, purchased
3.  The Confusion Of Languages, Siobhan Fallon, literary fiction, sent by publisher
4.  The Sport Of Kings, C.E. Morgan, literary fiction, purchased
5.  Emma In The Night, Wendy Walker, suspense, won in contest
6.  The Bones Of The Earth, Rachel Dunne, fantasy, sent by publisher
7.  Under Majordomo Minor, Patrick DeWitt, literary fiction, purchased
8.  In The Cold Dark Ground, Stuart MacBride, mystery, purchased

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  Commonwealth, Anne Patchett, audio
2.  Blood On The Tongue, Stephen Booth, Kindle Fire
3.  East Of Eden, John Steinbeck, paperback
4.  Babel Tower, A.S. Byatt, hardback
5.  White Fur, Jardine Libaire, paperback
6.  In The Name Of The Family, Sarah Dunant, paperback
7.  The Lesser Bohemians, Eimear McBride, paperback

Happy Reading!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

Dark days have fallen on the city of Alt Coulumb.  Kos, the Fire God who keeps the city alive, has died.  An influential law firm is called upon to figure out what killed him and what can be done going forward.  Elayne Kevarian is the law partner sent to head up the case.  She chooses Tara Abernathy as her associate.  This will be Tara's first case but Kevarian has high hopes for her although her past is shaky.  Tara was expelled from the Hidden Schools where all Craftsmen are trained.   She dared to go up against a powerful professor there and expose his corruption but as often happens when novice goes against entrenched power, she lost.

How did Kos die?  It appears that too much power was drained from him.  As with most gods, Kos was involved in a series of contracts selling off his excess power.  Elayne and Tara must go through all his contracts and determine if something was wrong in one of them and if they underlie his death.  To do so, they must draw on allies.  Abelard is a young priest who was the one on duty when Kos died and who discovered it.  He is in the service of the Cardinal and the entire religious hierarachy.  Another ally is the vampire pirate who brings them to the city and who seems to have knowledge of the various contracts that Kos was involved in.

But there are enemies as well.  Cat is part of Justice, the group that sees that all is well in the city and which punishes wrongdoers.  They don't trust Tara and her investigation.  Then there are the gargoyles who believe both Justice and Tara are their enemies.  They serve a goddess who used to rule in Alt Columb but who disappeared eons ago.  Most deadly is the opposing counsel in the court case.  It turns out to be Professor Denovo who is the professor Tara battled in academia only to be bested by him.  The stakes this time are much higher.  Can she prevail?

This is the first novel in the Craft series and Max Gladstone's debut novel.  It shakes up fantasy by borrowing from several genres and adding in new twists such as the entire legal overlay, the concept of gods that can die and the explanation for creatures such as gargoyles and vampires. There are alliances and betrayals and one can never be quite sure what is happening.   It is a complex world without being overwhelming and the many layers provide Gladstone with lots of room for surprising twists and turns.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers.

Monday, June 5, 2017

A Dark So Deadly by Stuart MacBride

Scotland Police has a long proud history of competent officers working in concert to solve crimes and keep the city and countryside safe.  Then there is the Misfit Mob, a collection of officers that for various reasons have been shunted to the side and work on nonessential cases.  There is Detective Constable Callum MacGregor who had a promising career until his girlfriend messed up a crime scene and he took the blame for her, leaving most people sure he was a bribe taker.  DC Rosalind Franklin is a touchy feminist who is quick to believe that most men don't give her credit and only want her around for her body.  DC John Watt is a curmudgeon who no one wants to work with.  Detective Sargent Dotty Hodgkin is in the unit as she now rides a wheelchair after a work-related accident.  DS Andrew MacAdams is dying of cancer but hiding the truth from his family and doctors.  Finally, DCI Malcomson, or 'Mother', has been shunted to the group to recuperate from her own health issues.

Callum is called to a nuisance case.  Someone has found something strange at the dump.  When he arrives, it turns out to be a body, but one that is mummified.  He is put on the job of calling all the local museums and science organizations to see if it is theirs.  But the autopsy shows that the corpse is recent and soon other mummies start showing up; bodies that have been brined and then smoked like fish.  The Misfit Mob retains the case as all the others are overloaded, although no one expects much from them.

Concurrently, there are strange incidents regarding Callum's own past.  He was deserted at five years old, his mother, father and twin brother disappearing at a rest stop on the way home from a family vacation.  He grew up in a series of care homes, each more devious and cruel than the next.  His family's case has never been solved and as best he can tell, not given very high priority or worked on very hard.  There seems to be some movement to cracking the shell of neglect and inattention the case received as it gets linked to a more current case.  Can Callum discover the truth about his past as he works on the murder case?

Stuart MacBride is one of the most famous mystery writers working today.  His prime character is DC Logan McRae and he has an extensive series of books about Logan, each a success.  This book starts a new series, or at least readers can hope it does.  These characters sing and meld into a hopelessly inept group that somehow manages to do everything right.  The breezy style and 'just get on with it' mantra is exhilarating.   The reader is carried along with twists and turns where least expected.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

A Spool Of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

The Whitshank family is a typical Baltimore family, one of blue-collar workers whose hard work has brought them success.  Red is the head of his own construction firm while Abby was a social worker.  Their four children are grown now and Abby and Red are slowing down as they age into their sixties.  Although the children are grown, that doesn't mean there are no more sibling issues.  There are resentments about who is doing more, which child was loved most, and who will help with their parents as everyone realizes that the couple may not be able to live alone much longer.

The novel veers back and forth in time over the family's ages.  We get the backstory of Red's parents and how they overcame a scandal and the Depression to come to Baltimore from the hill country to carve out a living.  We learn how Abby and Red fell in love.  We learn that even with decades of marriage, there are still secrets in the family that threaten its stability as they are revealed.  We also learn about the fourth generation of Whitshanks who are Red and Abby's grandchildren.

Anne Tyler is a recognized master at character development.  Almost all of her books are set in Baltimore and most unravel the complexities of family life and the relationships that both sustain and threaten us.  We see how families react to various events, how they are formed and what pressures can split them apart.  A Spool Of Blue Thread was a Man Booker nominee as well as an Orange Prize nominee.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and those interested in families and their relationships.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Smoke by Dan Vyelta

In England, the reign of Smoke has lasted 300 years.  It is a portrayal of sin; whenever someone has a sinful thought or deed, smoke pours from every orifice on their body.  The rich and powerful don't smoke, or so one would think.  They send their children at a young age to boarding schools where they are punished and manipulated until they can control their tendency to smoke.

Boarding school is where Charlie and Thomas meet.  One is the son of a powerful aristocratic family, the other a scholarship student whose family was wrecked when his father got into a bar brawl and killed a man.  Unlike in every way, somehow they become best friends.  They unite against the brutality of the head boy, Julius.  Charlie is a good boy and sure that the way society is set up is the best.  Thomas has a dark streak he fights against.  Slowly, they start to realize that perhaps Smoke is not the way the world is supposed to work.  Things they see on a class visit to London (The Great Smoke) make them question why the lower classes must be consumed in sin and smoke while the upper classes rise above all the poverty and crime.  Rumors they hear about how England was before the Smoke and how other countries still exist without it make them more curious and determined to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Over break, they visit the country estate of a wealthy family where they hope to pick up some answers.  They meet the daughter of the family and both boys develop a fascination for her.  They start to discover that the family is the centerpiece of a resistance to the Smoke society; the father driven mad by his studies, the mother drawn into a vast conspiracy to bring down Smoke.  Unfortunately, it turns out Julius is the mother's first son although he has been raised by his father elsewhere.  When he comes for a visit, he pits himself against the two boys and his half-sister and violence ensues.  When the three flee, Julius sets himself as their punisher and starts to track them.  Can the three elude Julius and the forces of Smoke long enough to discover the truth

Smoke is a fascinating novel.  Vyelta creates a Dicksonian-like environment of downtrodden poor against privileged rich.  His world building is first rate and the reader is transported to the vile underground where crime and poverty mix to create an atmosphere of fear but one where people can still be kind and generous.  The tension between the three main characters is intriguing, and the reader is torn between supporting the simple kindness of Charlie or the darker interesting personality of Thomas.  There is political intrigue and the eternal battle between good and evil.  This book is recommended for readers of fantasy.

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Narrows by Michael Connelly

Harry Bosch has retired and it's not sitting well.  Police work is what he knows and what he does best.  When the wife of an old friend calls him he is ready to listen.  Her husband has recently died and she wants Harry to look into it.  Harry knew him from his years in the police force and the friend's work on The Poet serial killer case.  At first Harry believes the death was natural but as he looks into it, he starts to realize that something is amiss.

Rachel Bolling, FBI agent, is also at loose ends.  After her work on The Poet case and the scandal that attached to her that rose from that case, she has been marking time in North Dakota.  When she gets a call to join a team in Nevada that has recently unearthed six male bodies, she knows The Poet has reemerged.  He has left clues that point directly to Rachel and it is clear that he regards their relationship as unfinished.

As Harry works his case, he finds his friend made a mysterious trip to Las Vega before he died.  That and other things takes Harry directly to the burial site where he finds a huge FBI contingent working the case and definitely not pleased to see him.  He is assigned to Rachel to babysit and as the two compare notes, it becomes clear that the two cases have merged and that Harry's friend was perhaps the first victim in this current run of deaths attributable to The Poet.

This was Connelly's fourteenth novel and the tenth in the Harry Bosch series.  Readers will be happy to observe Bosch working a case, this time as a retired detective who has recently discovered he has a daughter and questioning what the rest of his life should consist of.  The tension between Walling and Bosch is interesting and the climax of the novel is stunning.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

World, Chase Me Down

Years before the famous Lindbergh kidnapping in 1932, there was a famous kidnapping case in Omaha, Nebraska.  Pat Crowe and an accomplice kidnapped the sixteen year old son of the man at the head of the meat industry in Nebraska, Edward Cudahy, in 1900.  Edward Cudahy, Jr. was returned home unharmed after the payment of the first successful ransom attempt in the United States.

Crowe had worked for Cudahy but been fired.  He attempted to open and run a butcher shop but that had also been forced closed by Cudahy.  After the crime, Crowe was quickly identified and soon became the most wanted man in America.  Harried from city to town to the open spaces, he was never able to stay in one place for long.  Even when he went overseas, the first thing he saw was a wanted poster with his name on it.  During his flight, he robbed banks and trains, at first with his accomplice.  That man was killed out West and after that Crowe traveled alone.

Years later, he walked into a police station and gave himself up.  His trial was a sensation.  His lawyer portrayed Crowe as a modern-day Robin Hood and Cudahy as a man determined to retain his wealth and power by ruthlessly stealing money from his workers and doing everything he could to destroy any competition.  Crowe was set free by a jury that was influenced by this tactic and the massive support Crowe enjoyed with the public.

Andrew Hilleman, in this debut novel, follows the life and crimes of Pat Crowe and his travels throughout the world after his crime.  Crowe was one of the most famous criminals of his time yet almost no one knows about him today.  This is a work of fiction built around the facts of the crime and what is known of Crowe's life and displays a sympathetic portrayal of the man that does gloss over his subsequent life of crime.  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Brick by Conrad Jones

Liverpool is in the midst of a gang war between two rival gangs, each determined to control the flood of drugs into the city.  When one gang steals a shipment of drugs from the other, it sets the scene for a war.

Bryn is a fourteen year old boy, trying to concentrate on his education and find a way to escape the life of poverty his family lives.  He idolizes his two older brothers and worries about his parents who seem resigned to their lives.  He is a good kid.  One day while taking his dog for a walk in the local park, he has an encounter with a man who seems to take exception with his dog.  The two have words and Bryn moves on, never thinking the encounter might escalate beyond words.

But escalate it does.  The man is a member of one of the drug gangs.  He calls in reinforcements and soon a younger, stronger man arrives to teach Bryn a lesson.  He chases him down in the park and starts to attack him, brutually beating him.  During the fight, Bryn reaches out, finds a brick and hits the man, instantly killing him.  Far from being relieved, Bryn is horrified at what has happened and scared by the violence he has encountered.  The disastrous situation becomes even worse as it turns out the dead man is the son of the leader of one of the drug gangs.  Now Bryn and his entire family are in the sights of the gang as the leader is determined to get revenge.

DI Braddick leads the Liverpool Major Investigation Team.  They are investigating the conflict between the two gangs and the murders that have occurred when the incident with Bryn happens.  Now they must also try to protect him and his family while unraveling the intricacies of the drug rivalry and the betrayals and brutality their war brings to them and the city itself.

Conrad Jones has written a gritty police procedural that is not for the faint-hearted.  He portrays the inhumanity found in the drug world in which any man's life is considered fodder in an intricate game of betrayal and torture as each group attempts to reign supreme.  Jones's own life has been affected by the violence of organized groups and his experiences play out in his books.  The betrayals and violence come fast and hard, taking the reader on a heartstopping tour of man's inhumanity when the respect for life has disappeared.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki

It seems like a normal encounter played out over and over.  Lady Daniels is an aspiring writer, living in Southern California.  She wants to hire a nanny to watch her two year old son while she writes.  She is newly separated from her husband and determined to have success in this new arena.  S is a recently graduated college student who is looking for a live-in nanny job for a while until she decides what to do.  They quickly come to an agreement and S moves into the guest house.

But below the normal surface, each woman has secrets to hide.  Lady has never resolved her feelings about her older son.  Seth is eighteen and is mute.  He spoke one word as a toddler then never again tried and over the years lost the ability to do so.  He is now an angry teen, still attached to his stepfather who has moved out at Lady's request and trying to define his own life.  Lady is also trying to find her first love, Seth's father.  She tells herself it is to find him closure but it is unsure if that is the truth.

S also has her own secrets.  She has come to Los Angeles after a disastrous art project left her scorned in her prior city.  Her real name is Esther but she is determined to cast off all ties to her past and reinvent herself.  She comes to Lady's house in the midst of another art plan; she has deliberately made herself unattractive as she slips into an alternate persona.  She is intrigued with Seth and they are drawn together.  But even more, she is drawn to Lady when she realizes that Lady is one of a group of women made famous by the art of Kit Daniels.  Lady hides the evidence of her former self as she feels taken advantage of by Kit, who has ended up being her sister-in-law.

As the summer progresses, the two women are drawn to each other and soon have a friendship that brings them ever closer.  But a friendship cannot survive on deceit and lies and that is what each is feeding the other.  The summer starts to spiral out of control to a climatic end that will change everything in everyone's lives going forward.

Edan Lepucki shot to prominence in the literary world with the publication of her debut novel, California.  Her work has appeared in various magazines and she is an instructor in the UCLA Extension program.   This is her second novel and it explores the worlds of friendship and of duplicity and the corrosive effect of secrets on relationships.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Booksie's Shelves, May 24, 2017

It's hard to believe it's already the end of May.  Graduations are happening all over.  In our house, it's a week of recuperation.  My daughter had all four wisdom teeth out yesterday.  This will be a quiet week with lots of reading time.  She just finished a very successful freshman year at college so I'm really proud of her.  Like my son, she is also a reader.  So glad to have two readers to carry on the tradition!  Here's what's come through the door recently:

1.  The Glorious Heresies, Lisa McInerney, literary fiction, purchased
2.  Before We Visit The Goddess, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, literary fiction, sent by publisher
3.  Hum If You Don't Know The Words, Bianca Marais, literary fiction, sent by publisher
4.  Agrathias, Conor Nicholl, fantasy, sent by author
5.  At Hawthorne Time, Melissa Harrison, literary fiction, purchased
6.  Reunion, Carl Brookins, mystery, sent by publisher
7.  Deadmen Walking, Sherrilyn Kenyon, fantasy, sent by publisher
8.  A Canticle For Leibowitz, Walter Miller, fantasy, purchased
9.  The Prey Of Gods, Nicky Drayden, fantasy, sent by publisher
10.  White Fur, Jardine Libaire, literary fiction, sent for book tour
11,  The Last Train, Michael Pronko, mystery, sent by author
12.  The Separatists, Lis Wiehl, thriller, sent by publisher
13.  Touch, Courtney Maum, literary fiction, sent by publisher
14.  The Scribe Of Siena, Melodie Winawer, historical fiction, sent by publisher
15.  Mad, Chloe Esposito, literary fiction, sent by publisher
16.  Sleeping Giants, Sylvain Neuvel, sci/fi/fantasy, sent by Curled Up With A Good Book
17.  Everybody's Fool, Richard Russo, literary fiction, sent by Curled Up With A Good Book
18.  Mothering Sunday, Graham Swift, literary fiction, sent by Curled Up With A Good Book
19.  In The Name Of The Family, Sarah Dunant, historical fiction, sent by Curled Up
20.  Waking Gods, Sylvain Neuvel, sci/fi/fantasy, sent by Curled Up With A Good Book
21.  The Old Man, Thomas Perry, mystery, sent by Curled Up With A Good Book

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  World Chase Me Down, Andrew Hillerman, paperback

2.  Dissident Gardens, Jonathan Lethem, Kindle
Mr. Splitfoot, Samantha Hunt,  Kindle Fire

4. The Lesser Bohemians, Eimear McBride, paperback
5.  Perfect Prey, Laura Salters, Kindle Fire
6.  Gone Without A Trace, Mary Torjussen, Kindle Fire
7.  The Narrows, Michael Connelly, hardback
8.  Woman No. 17, Eden Luposki, hardback
9.  A Dark So Deadly, Stuart MacBride, Kindle Fire
10.  Wolf Hall, Hillary Mantel, hardback
11.  Smoke, Dan Vyleta,  Kindle Fire

Happy Reading!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Killing Room by Richard Montanari

Detectives Jessica Balzano and Kevin Byrne have a good partnership in the Philadelphia Police Department despite their differences.  Outside of the obvious gender difference, Byrne is a veteran, old of the oldest detectives still working, while Jessica is much younger.  Jessica is happily married with kids, while Byrne lives alone, his daughter already grown and gone.  Yet the respect they have for each other makes them a good pair to investigate the grisly crimes they encounter.

Jessica gets the call.  A voice she doesn't recognize predicts deaths; one for each of seven churches.  She is tempted to ignore the call as a crank call when the report comes in.  A man has been found in the basement of a deserted church.  His death is gruesome and has ritual aspects.  As she and Byrne investigate, more deaths occur.  Each murder is committed in the basement of a deserted, abandoned church and each victim has a criminal record.  As the deaths pile up, can the detectives uncover the killer before the plan is complete?

Richard Montanri has written several criminal series.  This is the sixth novel in the Balzano/Byrne series.  The connection between two widely disparate individuals who have found a way to work effectively as partners is compelling.  The reader is taken inside the world of investigations and watches the race against time as the crime is investigated.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Conspiracy Club by Jonathan Kellerman

When Dr. Jeremy Carrier is befriended by Dr. Arthur Chess, it seems a normal course of events.  Both are doctors at the same hospital.  Jeremy is a psychologist and Chess is a pathologist.  They share a love of reading and soon start to have discussions about life and philosophy.  Carrier is reeling from the kidnapping and murder of his girlfriend a few months before and isn't really letting anyone into his circle, but he is intrigued by Dr. Chess.

That intrigue deepens when Chess invites him out to dinner one night.  They go to an exquisite dining club where all the other participants at the dinner are older people who have been very successful in their lives.  The talk once again turns to philosophy; specifically, the origin of evil and how it should be handled.

Soon afterward, Dr. Chess leaves on an extended vacation.  Jeremy starts to get postcards from him from all over the world.  At the same time, he gets strange interoffice mail.  These mailing start to lead him in the direction of a series of murders, always women and always murdered with surgical precision.  The final mailing outlines the case of a murderer who was caught decades ago but whose crimes seem to be related.  Can Jeremy solve the case before his new girlfriend is affected?

Fans of Jonathan Kellerman will be interested to read this stand-alone novel that does not focus on his main protagonist, Alex Delaware.  Both main characters are in the medical field and use their experience and skills in psychology to delve into the motivations of criminals.  The mystery unfolds at a slow pace and there is an unexpected twist at the end.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Buried Book by D.M. Pulley

When nine-year old Jasper Leary's mom tells him to pack up as they are going to visit his uncle Leo on his farm, Jasper is excited.  He likes his cousin Wayne and all the animals on the farm.  His excitement turns to worry when his mother leaves, telling him to be good and that she'll see him soon.

As days and then weeks go by, no one wants to talk about his mom.  He helps out on the farm and enjoys visits with his dad on the weekends but wants to know what is happening, where his mother is, and when he will return to Detroit and his life.  He starts to learn things about his mother as she was growing up.  She is the black sheep of the family and brought them disgrace and misery with her running around and her bad reputation.  Apparently she even burned down the family home.  Desperate to learn more about her, Jasper explores the ruins of the house and finds a book.  He is excited to discover that it is his mother's diary.

He starts to read it and soon finds that she was mixed up in bad things.  Jasper is determined to find the answers for himself and soon his journey takes him deep in the world of crime, bootlegging, drugs and a nearby Indian reservation.  Along the way he realizes that there are few, if any, grownups he can trust, and he becomes more and more determined to find out where his mother is and if she is ever coming back.  Can Jasper find his answers before evil finds him?

D.M. Pulley has written an interesting mystery about rural life in the 1950's.  Jasper is more naive than a child today would be.  His unquestioning acceptance of the adults in his life and his determination to find the answers that are being kept from him make him a memorable character.  The gradual revealing of the mystery and the realistic ending make this a satisfying read.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Overlook by Michael Connelly

The call comes in one evening.  A body has been found at The Overlook, a place where tourists can stop and look out at the lights of the city.  When Detective Harry Bosch gets to the scene he finds that the victim is Stanley Kent, a doctor and that he has been shot in the back of the head, execution style.  When they go to his house, further terror is discovered.  His wife is found in the bedroom, naked and tied up.

She tells a story of two intruders breaking in and forcing her to strip, tying her up, then taking pictures.  When the detectives hear that, they check and find that the pictures were sent to her husband along with instructions to meet them at the overlook.  But what did they want?  There wasn't a demand for money.  Instead the criminals wanted something far more dangerous.  For Dr. Kent worked with nuclear medicine and was around radioactive substances daily.  They want him to bring cesium and from that a dirty bomb can be created.

The case has suddenly gotten much bigger.  The FBI is called in and they try to take control and push the LAPD to the side.  Harry has another issue.  His former lover, FBI Agent Rachel Walling, is also assigned to the case and she hasn't forgiven Harry for their breakup.  Harry isn't about to be pushed aside.  While the FBI considers the terrorist threat the most critical, Harry is determined to solve the murder that took the life of Dr. Kent.  Can he solve the case while fighting off the federal agency?

This is the thirteenth novel in the Harry Bosch series.  Harry is not a cuddly detective.  He is a hard man, unafraid of anyone and adamant about solving the cases he is assigned.  His personal creed is that everyone matters and no case is more important than another, a bedrock tenet that came from his mother's murder when he was a child.  Readers familiar with Bosch will be interested to read another case and those new to him will be intrigued by his personality and the look into police procedure.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Reserved For The Cat by Mercedes Lackey

Ninette Dupond is a ballerina with the Paris Opera Ballet.  Not a headliner yet, but she is steadily working her way up the ranks.  That is, until she gets a review that puts the star ballerina's nose out of joint.  The star insists that Ninette be fired and the administration does what the star wants.  Ninette finds herself alone with no job and no money.

She casts about for work but finds none.  There seems to be no recourse except to become a woman who lives off men.  But then the stray cat who showed up a while back begins talking to Ninette.  At first she is sure she is crazy but the cat insists he has a way out of her predicament.  Soon she is on a train to a destination she knows nothing of with a ticket the cat has stolen.  Next is a channel crossing and she ends up in Blackpool, England.

The cat has plans.  He is in fact an Elemental Spirit who has taken on the task of protecting Ninette.  He knows that there is a music hall in Blackpool that is run by an Elemental Master and he feels that Ninette would be a success working there and safe with that much power around her.  He comes up with the idea of Ninette impersonating a fairly well-known Russian ballerina named Nina Tchereslavsky.  Since no one in Blackpool is that interested in Russian ballet, it seems logical that Ninette is Nina.  When the owner sees Ninette dance, he sees how good she is and decides she is just the person to help him move forward with a new form of entertainment he has been planning.  Things go well, with Ninette becoming a star attraction.  Then trouble starts to occur.  The real Nina Tchereslavsky finds out about her imposter and is determined to put things straight.  Even worse, it turns out that she is also an Elemental and an evil one.  Now Ninette is her sworn enemy and she is determined to destroy her.

This is the fifth novel in Mercedes Lackey's Elemental Masters series.  Each novel retells a familiar fairy tale, in this case it is that of the cat that manages to outwit all of his enemies.  Lackey is well known in the fantasy world, having written over one hundred and fifty novels.  This was my first read of a book by her, and I was interested to see what her writing was like.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Under Cover Of The Night by Diane Fanning

Jocelyn and Wesley Earnest seemed like a typical couple.  Both were professionals, athletic and well-liked by those around them.  Jocelyn was a manager at a finance company and Wesley was a school administrator.  They loved to go fishing and camping and hang out with friends.  From the outside, they seemed to have a good life.  But trouble was brewing under the surface and in the early 2000's, they separated and later filed for divorce.  Jocelyn stayed in the family home in Forest, Virginia, while Wesley got possession of the million dollar home they were building on Smith Mountain Lake, although he actually was living at the Virginia coast near the high school he worked at.

Then in December of 2007, tragedy struck.  Jocelyn was looking forward to leaving town and spending the holidays with her family.  When her friends and work couldn't contact her, one of her friends went to her house and made a horrific discovery.  Jocelyn was lying on the floor dead, the victim of a gunshot wound.  When the police arrived, they noted a suicide note.  But the investigation quickly showed that this was not a suicide but a murder.  The prime suspect and the person arrested was Wesley Earnest.

The book follows Earnest's trial.  It ended in a mistrial through a mistake made in the juror room.  The prosecutors in Bedford County, Virginia, retried.  The evidence showed that Wesley was a self-centered man, determined to have his own way.  He resented the fact that Jocelyn was moving on and that she was in much better financial shape than he was.  He had a new relationship but couldn't get past the fact that Jocelyn had moved on.  The evidence hinged on things like a fingerprint on the false suicide note, lies that Wesley had told everyone around him, a suspicious borrowing of a friend's vehicle, and the manipulations of those around him that he continued even from the jail.  Wesley was convicted and given life without parole.  He is currently serving that sentence.

Diane Fanning is considered one of the premier true crime authors currently working.  She has covered cases like that of Tommy Lynn Sells, a serial killer who killed across the country for more than two decades and who was brought to justice by the testimony of a ten-year old girl who survived an attack.  She and her work has been featured on such shows as 48 Hours, Deadly Women, 20/20, Court TV and the Discovery Channel along with various network news shows.  She is also the author of several fiction series, including one that focuses on the work of the women of Oak Ridge, Tennessee during WWII.   This book is recommended for readers of true crime.

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Autograph Man by Zadie Smith

Alex-Li Tandem is a bundle of contradictions.  He is a Chinese man on his father's side and Jewish on his mother's.  He lives in London and makes his living finding and selling autographs.  His best friends are all guys he met at a ball game the last day of his father's life, when he was twelve.  Mark grew up to be a rabbi and he feels it is his mission to bring Alex into the fold.  Joseph was the person who first collected autographs and shared his love with Alex, then went into the insurance field when he was grown.  Adam lives for religion; he doesn't work but spends his days smoking dope and interacting with philosophy and religion.  His sister, Esther, is Alex's girlfriend and has been for a decade.  Alex lives in London as do all his friends.

Alex's obsession is the actress Kitty Alexander, an almost forgotten star of the forties.  She has been a recluse for years and Alex has tried to get her autograph for most of his life, writing her almost every week since he was thirteen.  She is his Moby Dick, his obsession.  He knows it is unlikely that he will ever find her autograph but hope springs eternal.

At a huge autograph show in New York, things start to happen.  He is on the outs with Esther, having cheated on her with a woman from the autograph world.  At the show, he meets and hangs out with a beautiful woman famous for her time in porn movies.  He broods over the fact that Adam and Mark both expect him to have a Kaddish ceremony for his father on the thirteenth anniversary of his death, coming up in the next week.  Unbelievably, right before he leaves London he receives an autograph in the mail from Kitty Alexander and when he realizes she is right there in New York, he vows to find a way to meet her.  Can Alex straighten out his tangled relationships and obligations?

The Autograph Man is Zadie Smith's second novel, written after the success of her first, White Teeth.  It explores the concepts of friendship, of familial obligations and the difficulty of finding one's life work and dedicating the time and energy to make it a success.  Readers will find themselves drawn to Alex as he bumbles through life as his kindness and desire to make the world better for all the people he knows shines through.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Bitter Lemons by Lawrence Durrell

Bitter Lemons is Lawrence Durrell's account of his time on Cyprus between 1953 and 1956.  Durrell is best known for his literary success The Alexandria Quartet, but he was also a man about town, a government representative and someone who loved to get to the heart of a country.  He wanted to know the average citizens of the places he lived and met these simple folks with an understanding that made him popular and loved wherever he went.

The first half of the book covers Durrell's purchase and renovation of a villa in the Cyprus hills.  Readers will delight in the recounting of how a purchase is made and all the characters involved in the sale of a property.  The character descriptions of the various people he meets in the village and of those who came to do the work needed to make his house habitable are intriguing.  His love for the people of Cyprus shines through as well as his love of the island himself.  The descriptions of the gorgeous views and all the plant life available are stunning and the reader feels as if they were there also looking at hills covered with flowers, smelling the scents of lemons and wild flowers.

The second half of the book is more serious.  Durrell becomes the press advisor for the government when it becomes apparent that he will need more money to stay on the island.  This was the critical time in which the British were starting to realize that they would probably be helping Cyprus become a free nation.  The issue at hand, however, was the fact that the island was inhabited by large contingents of Greek and Turkish citizens and each wanted different things in a free Cyprus.  Durrell covers the failing efforts of the British administration to resolve things.  As government negotiations failed, armed resistance started up.  Soon family was fighting against family, young men were leaving school to fight as freedom fighters, and people started to die as bombs and assassinations occurred.  Durrell knew it was time to move on when one of his oldest friends there, a teacher, was killed one evening.

The Durrell family is undergoing a renaissance with the recent PBS adaption of their lives.  Gerald, the biologist, has a series of books about the animals he loved so dearly and most of those have been reissued.  Many were aware of Lawrence's master series which has been called the best exploration of modern love and an intriguing portrait of the Egyptian and Middle East cultures.  Readers of those volumes will enjoy this look at another portion of Durrell's life, and those new to him will enjoy getting to know him and being exposed to his luminous, marvelous prose.  This book is recommended to memoir readers and those interested in Durrell's life and adventures.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Losing The Light by Andrea Dunlop

Brooke Thompson is an ordinary girl from an ordinary small city in California.  She longs for something more, something better.  College is her first taste of getting away but she doesn't really fit in.  She watches the other girls in envy, especially the tall, blonde, athletic girls that are always in the midst of every social occasion and who seem to know how to fit in effortlessly.  She knows she won't be part of their circles.  Brooke drifts through her year but when she gets involved in a scandal, the college offers her a year abroad in France.

She goes to France, determined to remake herself and become the person who gets the kind of life she's imagined.  She is surprised to find one of the other students is a girl from her college, Sophie, who was always one of the golden girls.  Sophie is bright and beautiful and popular and Brooke can't believe it when she is singled out by Sophie to be her best friend in France.  But the friendship seems real and soon the two girls are totally entwined.  They are determined to become as French as they can and ignore all the other American students in their program, spending their time together and plotting a future where they leave their pasts and live forever in France.

They meet a French friend, Veronique, through the program and soon they are part of her circle.  She is an actress and is surrounded with other friends in the arts.  There are artists, writers, sculptors and the girls feel that they can fit right in.  They meet Veronique's cousin and are fascinated by Alex who is a successful photographer.  Soon the two become three as they spend more and more time with Alex at his grandmother's house and then at his villa at the beach.  Alex has everything they ever wanted and he seems willing to share it all with them.  Can two ever truly become three?  As the two girls are drawn deeper into Alex's life, it all rushes to a tragedy that will tear their lives apart.

Andrea Dunlop has written a novel that will touch the memories and hearts of readers.  We each remember that first friendship that seemed would never change, one in which two people trust each other without reserve and share everything.  We all remember the first obsessive love we have, where every minute is consumed with the wonder of that person wanting us in return and the heady stuff of sexual obsession.  For most of us, these are pleasant memories but for a few, they are disastrous.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Beach House Cookbook by Mary Kay Andrews

Summer is coming and most are ready for vacation days and breezy, family meals.  Mary Kay Andrews, beloved author of southern charm novels, has created a cookbook for just such scenarios.  As a resident of Atlanta, Georgia, Andrews knows a thing or two about the topic and has created a book that is gorgeous to look at and full of recipes that feature fresh ingredients.

The book is organized by time of year with chapters such as Summer Solstice Dinner, Lazy Weekend Brunch, After A Day At The Beach and Souper Supper.  Each chapter contains recipes for a full meal.  For example, the Summer Solstice Dinner has recipes for James T's Secret Iced Tea, Zucchini Vichyssoise, Beyond The Grave Chicken Salad, Tomato Pie, Ritualistic Pimento Cheese and Trailer Trash Dessert.  Each recipe has a short blurb from Andrews explaining how she uses the dish or cooking tricks she uses preparing it.  One of the first dishes I'll be trying is Corn And Crab Chowder.   This one looks delicious.

Very few of the soups I make hew closely to a written recipe—especially when we’re at the beach, where I might not have all the ingredients my recipe calls for on hand. This corn and crab chowder is a good example. Sometimes I leave the potatoes out if I don’t have any. Sometimes I substitute cream or whole milk for the half-and-half, and sometimes I use frozen corn—I like the kind that comes frozen in a tube—but in the summer, I prefer to use fresh corn. I do always use crab; usually claw meat, since in a soup you really can’t distinguish lump from claw. And I love the deep flavor the shot of sherry adds at the end. If you like a thicker chowder, whisk 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour with 2 tablespoons half-and-half and stir it into the soup at the end, before adding the sherry. Simmer for 5 minutes to thicken.
1 Tbsp. olive oil, plus extra as needed
2 slices bacon
2 large shallots, minced
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
6 small red potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 cups fresh corn kernels (about 8 ears)
1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half
1 lb. crabmeat, picked over
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 tsp. sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Chopped chives for garnish
1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat, add the bacon, and cook for 8 minutes, or until crisp. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain, and reserve the drippings in the pot. Chop the bacon.
2. Sauté the shallots and bell pepper in the bacon drippings for 3 minutes, or until tender, adding more oil if there aren’t enough drippings. Add the potatoes and sauté for 5 minutes.
3. Stir in the corn, broth, and half-and-half and simmer over medium-low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender. Stir in the crabmeat and cook 5 minutes longer. Remove from the heat, stir in the sherry and salt and season with the pepper to taste. Garnish with the bacon and chives. Serve.

With Mother's Day coming up, this would be a great selection for the cook on your list.  Any cook would be excited to read and use these recipes by one of the South's greatest treasures.  

Saturday, April 29, 2017

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Shadow sits in prison waiting on the day he can go back home to his wife and his life.  His time is about up but he is released early when his wife and his best friend are killed in a car accident.  Broken and disbelieving, he returns home only to find out that they have betrayed him and had been having an affair.  With the only thing that sustained him gone, Shadow hits the road, adrift and wounded.

He isn't sure where he will go but soon he meets a man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday.  Mr. Wednesday is a con man, a rogue, and he seems to know much more about Shadow and his life that anyone should.  He offers Shadow a job as his helper, chauffeur, bodyguard, whatever he needs someone to do.  Shadow sees no reason not to accept  and the two men hit the road.

They go on a massive road trip, visiting all Mr. Wednesday's friends.  As the trip progresses, it becomes apparent that Mr. Wednesday and his friends aren't normal people.  In fact, they aren't people at all, but the old gods from every culture.  Mr. Wednesday is their leader and he is rounding them up to battle.  A war is brewing with the new gods of technology and government intervention, a war for the soul of America.

Neil Gaiman wrote American Gods ten years ago and it became an instant classic.  It won the Hugo and Nebula awards that year and catapulted Gaiman into the stratosphere of the science fiction/fantasy genre.  It is about to be released as a series on Starz and expected to be a huge hit.  It is the kind of book that once one is finished, one wonders why they hadn't already read it.  The themes of mythology, good against evil and what is wrong with modern culture strike a note that creates a receptive audience.  It is, simply, a masterpiece of fantasy and is recommended not only for fantasy/science fiction readers but for every reader.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Gone Without A Trace by Mary Torjussen

Hannah Monroe is riding high.  She has just been to a very successful conference at which her supervisors have made it clear to her that she is on the road to promotions and further success at her company.  She can't wait to get home and share the news with her boyfriend, Matt.  She is so excited she stops to get some champagne to celebrate but when she pulls into her driveway, the house is dark.  Disappointed that she has beaten Matt home, she opens the door and all normalcy goes out as she goes in.

Inside, something is wrong.  The first thing she notices is that the big pictures that hung in the entryway are missing.  As she goes further in, she sees that the big-screen tv which was Matt's pride and joy is missing as well, although oddly, the old tv it replaced is back there.  As she looks around, she sees other things missing and she starts to realise that only Matt's things are gone.  Unable to understand at first, she looks further and further and finally the truth sinks in.  Matt is gone.  He has left her without a word of explanation.  Frantically, she looks through her phone only to see that all her pictures of Matt and her messages to him are gone.  The same is true on her computer.  No pictures, no emails.  He has wiped himself from her life.

Hannah's world falls apart.  She tells her best friend, Katie, but Katie is absorbed in her own life with her own boyfriend and career.   Hannah doesn't tell her family at first as her parents have a troubled marriage and she tries to avoid saying anything personal around them.  She tries to find Matt.  As she does so, the realization that this was a fully planned operation becomes apparent.  He has quit his job.  Even his mother has moved away with no forwarding address.

Soon Hannah's days become chaotic as she determines to find Matt, no matter what.  She is sure that if she can only talk to him, she can figure out how to get him back.  Her work begins to suffer as she spends her days worried less about her accounts and more about chasing down any clue she has.  Her health and appearance suffer as she skips most meals and drinks herself to sleep on the nights she even does sleep.  Soon her whole life is in jeopardy.  Will she give up the search or find a way to rescue Matt from wherever he has disappeared to?

Mary Torjussen has written a suspense novel that will ring true to Type A personalities and to those who have gone through the heartbreak of someone loved who decides unexpectedly to break things off.  There is the realization, the slow acceptance that nothing will ever be the same again.  For most people that is followed by a rebuilding of one's life, but for Hannah and those like her, it becomes an obsession that they can't let go.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Booksie's Shelves, April 26, 2017

It's almost the end of April.  My college freshman will be home this weekend for the summer, one year of college already completed.  We have a busy summer planned and I'm sure it will fly by the same way.  I

I've also been caught up in the throes of prescription hell.  My insurance company contracted with a new company this year to handle prescriptions.  It's called CVS Caremark and apparently their modus operendi is to deny drugs whenever they can.  Like many people, I have dry eyes and mine are severe.  I depend on Restatsis and expensive compounded eyedrops to be able to function.  Last week I was able to run out so called in a refill (I still had five refills).  The pharmacy told me the insurance wouldn't approve the payment without a doctor reauthorization.  No problem.  I called the doctor's office to be sure they were on top of the situation and they had already sent in the paperwork.  A few days go by and nothing.  They sent it again.  Nothing.  Caremark insists they have received nothing.  I get to a resolution specialist and they call the doctor.  The doctor sends everything a third time and tries to call in person but had to give up after being on hold for thirty minutes.  So today I'll be back on the phone but I'm going to start calling state agencies and seeing what can be done.  Try to avoid Caremark in your life if possible.

It's also rained for three days which makes for good reading weather.  Here's what's come through the doors:

1. Official And Doubtful, Ajay Close, literary fiction, purchased
2.  'Round Midnight, Laura McBride, literary fiction, won online
3.  Tornado Weather, Deborah E. Kennedy, suspense, won online
4.  Woman No. 17, Edan Lepucki, suspense, sent for book tour
5.  Rich People Problems, Kevin Kwan, literary fiction, won online
6.  Crossing The Street, Molly D. Campbell, literary fiction, sent by publisher
7.  The Improbability Of Love, Hannah Rothschild, literary fiction, purchased
8.  The Sinking Of The Angie Piper, Chris Riley, literary fiction, sent by author
9.  The Fallen, Eric Van Lustbader, thriller, sent by publisher
10.  Marlena, Julie Buntin, literary fiction, sent by publisher
11.  Bernie And The Wizards, Steve LeBel, fantasy, sent by author
12.  The Resurrection Of Joan Ashby, Cherise Wolas, literary fiction, won online
13.  Grief Cottage, Gail Godwin, literary fiction, sent by publisher
14.  The Beach House Cookbook, Mary Kay Andrews, nonfiction, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  American Gods, Neil Gaiman, paperback
2.  Dissident Gardens, Jonathan Lethem, Kindle
Mr. Splitfoot, Samantha Hunt,  Kindle Fire

4. The Lesser Bohemians, Eimear McBride, paperback
5.  Perfect Prey, Laura Salters, Kindle Fire
6.  Gone Without A Trace, Mary Torjussen, Kindle Fire
7.  The Buried Book, D.M. Pulley, audio
8.  Under Cover Of The Night, Diane Fanning, paperback
9.  Bitter Lemons, Lawrence Durrell, paperback
10.  Wolf Hall, Hillary Mantel, hardback

11.  Smoke, Dan Vyleta,  Kindle Fire

Happy Reading

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Secrets Of Death by Stephen Booth

The Peak District in rural England is recognized as one of the most beautiful places on Earth to contemplate nature.  That means that summer is tourist season there, with all the hassles that come with an enormous influx of people in a place that is fairly quiet the rest of the year.  It's always a busy time for the Derbyshire Police Department and DI Ben Cooper and his team.  But this year something is new and it isn't natural at all.

There has been been a significant uptick in suicides with the individuals going to tourist areas for their last moments.  There doesn't seem to be anything connecting the individuals.  They don't seem to have known each other.   The methods used differ, an asphyxiation by gas, a jump, slit wrists, gunshot and an overdose but the proximity of their deaths means that they get noticed and considered as a group.  Most are men with one woman so even gender is not a connecting factor.  Yet Cooper and his team and more importantly, his superiors, feel that the deaths are connected somehow.  There is major concern that the trend, if not stopped, will impact the region's tourist trade and thus its entire economic reality.

Meanwhile, in the nearest large city Nottingham, Cooper's former partner, Diane Fry, has issues of her own.  She left Derbyshire, desperate to get to the city and more bustle and less personal contact.  While Ben has made DI, Diane's abrasive personality and impulsive disregard for police protocols has kept her at the sergeant level.  She is involved in a long-term investigation of a man suspected of a series of murders of young women.  When he becomes one of the suicide cases Ben's team is investigating, the two investigations merge and the former partners are thrown back together.  The tensions that drove them apart still exist, although each respects the instincts that make a good investigator.

This is the sixteenth novel in the Cooper and Fry series.  The tension comes from the relationship between the two individuals and the difference in their investigating styles.  There is much in their relationship and lives that is referenced in this novel, but it also reads well as a stand-alone for those who are new to the series.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams

When Arthur Dent is whisked off the planet mere seconds before it is destroyed forever, he couldn't help but think this was the strangest thing that would ever happen to him.  Little did he know, it was just the beginning of a journey that would constantly amaze him and turn every concept of life he thought he was sure of upside down.  He is accompanied by his friend, Ford Perfect, an out-of-work actor.  Or at least Arthur always knew Ford as such.  It turns out he has been on Earth for fifteen years as a researcher for the publication A Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, and isn't even human as we know humans.

Soon Arthur meets other inhabitants of the new, strange world he has been thrust into.  There is the two-headed rapscallion Zaphod Beeblebrox, who by the way, happens to be president of the galaxy.  His girlfriend, Trillian, turns out to be a girl Arthur had met at a party and hoped to pick up before Zaphod had shown up and whisked her away.  There is the ancient man who builds worlds and is especially fond of his fjords.  Then there is Marvin, an advanced robot who is cognizant enough to be constantly depressed and glum.  Together they set out to find the answers to those questions men are apt to spend hours debating, Why are we here?  What is the point of existence?  Why, why, why?

This is one of iconic books of science fiction.  Adams created an entire industry when the characters in this universe occurred to him and he wove them into a novel.  It is light and funny while also tackling the eternal questions philosophers have been debating since the dawn of time.  The characters are endearing and readers will recognize lines that have endured and made their way into everyday conversation.  This book is recommended for readers of science fiction.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Pitch Black by Alex Grey

Returning from vacation, Chief Inspector Lorimer walks right back into a murder investigation.  The new midfielder on the local football club, brought in to facilitate the club's return to the Premier League, is found stabbed to death in his home.  His wife is arrested and most people feel that's that.  A sad story but nothing more.  Lorimer is not so sure after meeting the woman but all the evidence is there so he puts his misgivings aside.

Then the newest addition to the club, a flashy player whose penchant for off-pitch shenanigans make him a press favorite, is also murdered.  Is this just bad luck for Kelvin Football Club?  When a referee is gunned down in his driveway after a game with unpopular calls, the press goes wild with speculation about a serial killer with a fixation on the Kelvin club.  As Lorimer investigates, he uncovers an organization in the midst of chaos, with an owner who is unlikeable and perhaps criminal and players who are now worried about doing the thing they love most, playing football.

Grey's Chief Inspector Lorimer is an interesting protagonist.  He and his wife Maggie have a strong marriage and he understands how she is his refuge and anchor.  He spends time not only solving the crimes he is assigned, but helping the men under him progress in their own careers.  He works with a supervisor that he despises and one who got the promotion everyone expected to be his.  All in all, he is a full-featured man rather than a cardboard cutout as the police in mysteries are often portrayed.  The mystery is satisfactory and the reader finishes the book ready to seek out another in the series.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Beauty Of The End by Debbie Howells

Noah is alone when he gets the call.  That's not surprising; Noah is usually alone.  He gave up his career as a lawyer and now lives in a remote cottage where he writes books about the criminal mind.  He doesn't have friends where he lives and really has no interest in anyone from his former days.

The call is from Will, his best friend growing up.  They fell out years ago over a woman and Noah hasn't talked with him since.   They both loved April, the mysterious girl who came to their school when they were all teenagers and who Noah never gave up on.  He found her again after she left the village where they all grew up  April and Noah were to be married but she left him right before the wedding.  The next time he heard from her, she was engaged to Will.

Now Will is a famous doctor and he is calling from the hospital.  April has just been brought in.  She is in a coma after an overdose and worse, she is a suspect in a murder.  The victim is her stepfather, the man who abused her growing up.  Noah knows he has to go and see what he can do to help.  Was April the person the police believed her to be or a victim who had spent her life running from her past?  As he delves into April's recent life, he starts to discover things he never knew.  Can Noah discover the truth about what happened?

Debbie Howells has written a brooding mystery that slowly reveals the truth about the three adults who started their journey together as teenagers.  Noah peels back layer upon layer of deceit and he realises that he never knew April at all.  The reader is encouraged to examine their own life and relationships and attempt to see if new eyes can explain things in the past that never made sense.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.