Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Follow Me Down by Sherri Smith


Growing up, Mia Haas couldn't wait to get away from her small farming community in North Dakota.  Raised by a narcissistic, alcoholic mother and with few friends at school, the only bright spot in her life was her twin brother, Lucas.   He was the town's golden boy, handsome and a hockey star.   Once she graduated, she ran as fast as she could to college and then to a city life as a pharmacist.  Her brother had a harder time settling down as he always thought he'd play professional hockey, but after realizing that wouldn't happen, he eventually returned to their town where he seemed to be happy teaching English at the local high school and coaching the soccer team.  Their mother, who had never recovered from a car accident in the kid's senior year, still lived there in assisted living, but might or might not recognize them from day to day.

Mia's life is better, although she is starting to get bored with her job.  Then she gets the call.  Her brother is missing.  Mia drops everything and heads to North Dakota.  When she gets there, it is a nightmare.  Lucas is not just missing.  He is the prime suspect in the murder of a beautiful high school girl, the daughter of the richest and most influential family in town. Even worse he is suspected of having a relationship with the girl who seemed to have a crush on him.  Mia can't believe any of that and she is determined to stay until she can find her brother and help him refute the charges.  Mia is the only person who seems to worry that something might have also happened to Lucas.

There doesn't seem to be much hard evidence, but the rumors and gossip that drove Mia away are in full force.  Could any of it be true?  Lucas had always been the one the town loved, his good looks and athletic ability making him a hometown hero, but now everyone seems to be against him.  Mia starts to look for other suspects.  Joanna wasn't the perfect girl everyone had thought her.  She had a boyfriend who was the local drug dealer.  She was in constant conflict with her mother, who was living her own dreams of becoming a dancer through Joanna.  But there are plenty of people ready to believe anything about Lucas.  The local sheriff has disliked him since their mother's accident, when Lucas was adamant that law enforcement wasn't getting the true story of what caused their mother to crash.  His former best friend married Lucas' old girlfriend, the girlfriend that couldn't believe it when Lucas and she broke up and who stalked him for months.  The press, sensing a juicy story, are out in full force, printing any rumor they can find.  These people are all too ready to believe the worst about him.  Mia is frantic to find him as she thinks Lucas could be in danger somewhere or murdered along with Joanna.  Can she find him when the police and the whole town seem to be against her?

Sherri Smith has written a taut, fascinating look at small-town life and how the roles never seem to change.  Those with money and good looks lead a charmed life at the expense of those around them.  People are assigned a value and place in society early on and it is almost impossible to change the community's assignment.  As Mia faces down the prejudice and smugness of a town ready for Lucas to get his comeuppance, she remembers why she couldn't wait to leave.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Booksie's Shelves, March 19, 2017


It's mid-March already!  Time for St. Patrick's day and March Madness.  My Tarheels are in the tournament and I hope will have a great run.  After weeks of warm weather, it's now cool and damp and very unencouraging as far as venturing out.  I think I'll spend this week getting my taxes ready and reading.  Here's what's come through the door lately:

1.  A Shattered Circle, Kevin Egan, mystery, sent by publisher
2.  The Velveteen Daughter, Laurel Davis Huber, biography, sent by publisher
3.  To Lay To Rest Our Ghosts, Caitlin Hamilton Summie, anthology, sent by publisher
4.  The Curse Of La Fontaine, M.L. Longworth, mystery, sent by publisher
5.  Beauty And The Beast, Penguin Classics, anthology, sent by publisher
6.  The Widow's House, Carol Goodman, suspense, sent for book tour
7.  Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman, anthology, purchased
8.  Gateway To Everywhere, Ernest Frankel, historical fiction, sent by publisher
9.  The Lost Book Of The Grail, Charlie Lovett, thriller, sent by publisher
10.  Mongrels, Stephen Graham Jones, literary fiction, sent by publisher
11.  Duplicity, Jane Haseldine, mystery, sent for book tour
12.  The Book Of Polly, Kathy Hepinstall, literary fiction, sent by publisher
13.  The Skill Of Our Hands, Steven Brust/Skyler White, fantasy, sent by publisher
14.  Follow Me Down, Sherri Smith, suspense, sent for book tour
15.  Hide Me Among The Graves, Tim Powers, fantasy, purchased
16.  The Familiar, Vol I, Mark Danielewski, literary fiction, purchased
17.  Chemistry, Weike Wang, literary fiction, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  What Comes Next, John Katzenbach, paperback

2.  Dissident Gardens, Jonathan Lethem, Kindle
3.  
Mr. Splitfoot, Samantha Hunt,  Kindle Fire

4. The Lesser Bohemians, Eimear McBride, paperback
5.  Perfect Prey, Laura Salters, Kindle Fire
6.  Death Of A River Guide, Richard Flanagan, Kindle Fire
7.  The Buried Book, D.M. Pulley, audio
8.  Barkskins, Annie Proulx, hardback
9.  Bitter Lemons, Lawrence Durrell, paperback
10.  Wolf Hall, Hillary Mantel, hardback

11.  Smoke, Dan Vyleta,  Kindle Fire

Happy Reading
!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

What Comes Next by John Katzenbach


Jennifer is running away from home.  The sixteen year old can't endure another day of her mother living with her horrible step-father or the school where she has no friends.  As she strides towards the bus station, her world is abruptly ended when a van stops and she is yanked off the street.  Her captors are a couple, young people whose minds are in total sync.  Michael is a computer whiz who thinks of himself as a star in the online world.  Linda is a business woman who thinks act is fine but only if there's money to be made.  Together they make a murderous, sociopathic pair.

When Jennifer's absence is noticed, Terri, the detective who catches the call, isn't sure what to think.  She has been to Jennifer's house two other times when the teenager ran away.  Isn't this just one more attempt, perhaps a successful one this time?  When a retired psychology professor comes forward and says he saw the abduction, she starts to believe it could be true.  But her police routines and procedures show no clue as to what as happened to Jennifer.

Jennifer is now know as #4.  She is confined in a basement with her every move captured on a camera and broadcast on the Internet.  Her captors sell subscriptions on the darkest parts of the Internet to those who are fascinated by the thought of a helpless girl confined and condemned to endure whatever her captors want to do to her.  The subscription is interactive so that the viewers can post suggestions or bet on when various acts might occur.  As the number implies, Jennifer is not the couple's first victim and the first three are all dead.

Jennifer's only chance is a strange trio of people.  Professor Adrian Thomas is recently retired, a former psychology professor who spent his life experimenting and observing the far reaches of the mind.  He has, however, just gotten the news that he has a neurological condition that will quickly take his mind and reasoning from him.  Detective Terri Cross is willing to help but burdened with too many cases and too little time.  Finally, there is the man who is a sexual offender himself but who the professor convinces to be his guide through the hidden, forbidden parts of the Internet.  Can this unlikely trio get to Jennifer before her time is up?

John Katzenbach has long been recognized as one of the masters of psychological suspense working today.   This novel is one of his best efforts.  The action moves inevitably to a gruesome end with the tension tightening and tightening until the reader both dreads and is compelled to continue reading to see what occurs.  This book is recommended for mystery and suspense readers.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Lies Of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch


All Locke remembers is the street.  First he was part of a ragtag group of kids who were street urchins, pickpockets and thieves for the Thieftaker.  When he proved too intractable for the Thieftaker to handle, he was sold to Father Chains, also known as The Eyeless Father.  By day, Chains sat in front of his temple, chained and begging.  But as soon as night fell, he threw off his chains and eye bandages and showed his true colors, as the leader of a group of misfits known as The Gentlemen Bastards.  Chains raised this group of boys to be smart thieves, fearless in guile and fighting.  There are the twins, Locke and Jean.  They were taught to be thieves, yes, but they were also given an education and taught languages, how to cook and appreciate fine things and how to appear as gentlemen.  Most of all they were taught to be brothers forever, to look out for each other first and always.

Fast forward a decade or so.  Locke is now grown and the head of the group.  He is not the biggest, in fact he is fairly scrawny.  But he is brilliant and fearless.  Jean has grown to be the most feared warrior of the group, unbeatable in battle.  The twins are inseparable and loyal.  A fifth Bastard has been added.  Bug is the group's newest apprentice, learning everything he can about how to steal and prosper.

Locke is involved in a massive scam.  He is posing as a gentleman and scamming one of Camorr's finest noble families out of their fortune.   In the midst of this, he gets caught up in a battle royale between the current head of the city's underground society and a newcomer determined to take control.  Both expect Locke's loyalty and help.  Then there is the small matter of the head of the city's justice having Locke square in her sights as well.  Can Locke and the Gentlemen Bastards maneuver between all these enemies to gain their fortune and live another day?

This is one of the best books I've read in the fantasy genre.  Whenever I think about the fact that this is a debut novel, it is almost unbelievable.  Lynch has created a wonderful world, reminiscent of old Renaissance crime-ridden cities mixed with Dickensian-like characters and intricate plotting.  The reader cannot help but love Locke and the other Gentlemen Bastards, even though they are not of the side or truth and light.  Under their criminal veneer, their basic goodness and unending loyalty to each other is intriguing.  This is the first in a trilogy of adventures, and readers will close the last page ready to buy and read the next.  This book is recommended for readers of fantasy.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel


Lane Roanoke's mother dies when Lane is almost sixteen.  She is sent to her grandparents to live, the grandparents she has never met and whom her mother would never discuss.  They live in Kansas, a place totally dissimilar to the New York city streets Lane has grown up on.  When she gets there, she finds that the Roanokes are the premier family of the area, known for their riches and the beautiful Roanoke girls.  She finds a friend in her cousin Allegra, who has always lived there.

Lane slowly learns to adjust and starts to trust that she now has a family, one that loves her.  Her mother had never been happy and never really was a mother to her.  Lane doesn't know why but it was the only evidence of family she ever had.  Here, her grandparents are interested in her every move and love her unconditionally, especially her handsome grandfather.  Lane and Allegra become fast friends and as the weeks go by she meets other teens, including Tommy who is Allegra's boyfriend and Cooper, whose every look makes Lane feel things she has never felt before.

But there are secrets hiding in the Roanoke family.  Allegra and Lane are the only ones of their generation even though there were three sisters.  All are now dead or disappeared.  Even going back a generation, there are stories of women who died too early.  What is going on?  Why is the family both admired and feared in the town?  As the summer goes on, Lane starts to find out the secrets that underlie the family's facade and when the worst secret becomes evident, she becomes another Roanoke girl that disappears.  She packs a suitcase and hitchhikes away, never to return.

But now it is a decade later.  Allegra has gone missing and her grandfather calls her, asking for her help.  As much as Lane dreads going back, she feels that she owes it to Allegra to help find her while there is still time.  Nothing has changed.  The house is the same, her grandparents are the same, and even Tommy and Cooper are the same.  The only things that have changed are the fact that Allegra has disappeared and the willingness of Lane to blow up all the secrets to find her.  Can she recover Allegra and make amends?

Amy Engel has written a tense, compelling narrative both of a teen girl slowly discovering a horrible secret about her family and that of a grown woman determined to do what is best for the cousin she left behind.  It displays the insidious nature of secrets and how they can damage individuals for years, even decades and once again, shows the reader that those who seem the most fortunate may be plagued by misfortunes others can only glimpse.  This book is recommended for readers of mystery novels and readers of young adult novels who are ready for a more mature book.

Monday, March 6, 2017

City Of Bones by Michael Connelly


It's New Year's Day but that doesn't mean much to Detective Harry Bosch.  He's working anyway, holiday or not.  In fact, he catches a case when a man walking his dog reports that the dog has come back with a human bone.  The man is a doctor and insists he knows what a human bone looks like.  Harry goes out to see and looking around, finds the dump site and several other bones.

When the scene of crime technicians are through, the collected bones are sent to the medical examiner.  His report is that the bones are those of a young teen boy, probably twelve to thirteen.  Cause of death is blunt force trauma to the head.  Even more disturbing, the bones tell a story of continued child abuse with multiple fractures all over the boy's body.  Harry and his partner are determined to bring the boy's killer to justice even if this is a twenty-year old cold case.

Of course, things are never that simple.  Harry has met a new woman, a rookie cop who comes to the crime scene.  He knows it's probably not a good idea to get involved with someone from work but she's hard to resist.  Then there are his superiors who have always regarded Harry as a loner and a trouble-maker even if he is one of the best detectives the LAPD has.  There's always plenty of office politics to interfere in Bosch's cases.

Michael Connelly is one of the stellar names in police procedurals.  He has written over twenty Harry Bosch novels and Bosch is one of the detectives mystery readers recognize.  The character has even had an Amazon Prime TV series made to follow Harry's cases.  City Of Bones is the eighth Bosch novel and the one that Season One is based on.  Connelly is a solid writer and gives insight into a police detective's job and all the other factors that complicate an investigation.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Stress Of Her Regard by Tim Powers


It is the Romantic Era in England.  Dr. Michael Crawford stops at an inn the night before his marriage to the beautiful Julia.  He and his friends have a typical bachelor party and on his way to bed, inebriated, he takes his fiance's wedding ring out of his pocket and slips on the finger of a statue of a woman.  When he comes to the next morning, he rushes down to the yard but the statue is nowhere to be found.  He buys a substitute ring from the innkeeper and rides on to his wedding.  That night, he sleeps heavily after his honeymoon night with Julia.  He awakes the next morning to a horrific sight.  Julia has been murdered during the night and not just murdered but brutally torn apart.  He flees the room in horror and as he realises that he is the prime suspect, flees England also.

He comes to discover that he is the victim of the Nephelim, a race of vampires and stone creatures that crave human interaction.  He moves across Europe, helped by others in his same predicament.  Some are like him, brought into the realm of the creature's desires by fate or a foolish act.  Some seek the Nephelim out for their ability to become Muses and grant the victim marvelous powers of creation.  As he moves about, he encounters famous poets such as John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron, all men desired by the nephelim.  They started by seeking them out for their ability to help them write poetry but end by being willing to do anything to break free of their insidious powers.  Crawford and his companion, who is Julia's twin sister, work with the men to break the control the vampire/Nephelims have over all their lives.  Can they be successful?

Tim Powers is one of the legendary names of fantasy.  He has won the Phillip K. Kick Memorial Award twice and the World Fantasy Award three times.  His most accessible work, On Stranger Tides, was the basis for the highly successful Pirates Of The Caribbean movies.  His trademark is lush language that outlines a historical venue that slowly turns horrific.  His research of the history on which he bases his novels is supreme and the reader is totally absorbed in his narrative.  I listened to this book over several weeks as I was on my daily walk and it was always a fascinating experience.  This book is recommended for fantasy and horror readers.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Last Days Of Night by Graham Moore


The year is 1888.  Gas lamps illuminate the night but change is coming.  Thomas Edison has invented the electric light bulb, or has he?  George Westinghouse has a competing light bulb and the two are locked in a epic patent lawsuit; the winner assured of a massive fortune.  Edison's invention uses direct current while Westinghouse's uses alternating current.  Which will win out in the marketplace and more importantly, in the courts?

Westinghouse is up against one of the most famous men in the country.  Edison is not only widely known and revered but has the backing of some of the most powerful men in the country such as the financier J. P. Morgan.  Westinghouse finds it difficult to find an attorney willing to take on such behemoths of industry and influence.  Most law firms turn him down until he meets a young man, just out of law school but considered a prodigy.

Paul Cravath is only twenty-six years old.  He takes the case but is soon consumed by it and Westinghouse is his only client.  Edison has sued Westinghouse across the country in multiple courts.  As the two fight the epic legal battle, Cravath is exposed to locales and individuals he never expected to see as the son of educators from Tennessee.  Outside of the two businessmen, he meets and befriends others.  Nikola Tesla is a brilliant inventor from Europe who cares nothing about the financial stakes as his only interest is in inventing things never seen before.  Agnes Huntington is a renowned singer who has entry into the parties and meetings of what is considered top society.  Paul Cravath is a novice in this environment, but his ingenuity and legal brilliance insures that his name will survive.

Graham Moore is a successful young novelist, similar in early success to Paul Cravath.  He won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay for his work on The Imitation Game.  His first novel, The Sherlockian, was an Amazon Best Book of December 2010 and The Last Days Of Night was an Amazon Best Book of August 2016.  His forte is taking events and personalities from the past and writing an engaging tale that interests and educates the reader.  What could be a dull recounting of facts is instead an intriguing tale of shifting alliances, legal maneuvers, a retelling of famous lives and a fascinating adventure.  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction.