Monday, June 24, 2019

Flannery O'Connor The Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor


This extensive collection brings together all the stories of Flannery O'Connor.  Those who follow literature are familiar with her name and possibly her story.  She was born and raised in Georgia; her life spanning from the late 1920's to the mid 1960-s.  She got her MFA from the Iowa Writer's Workshop where she made connections such as Robert Penn Warren and Andrew Lytle, who was the editor of the Sewanee Review, an important showcase for literature.  After she was diagnosed with the lupus that killed her father, she moved back to Georgia where she lived and worked until her death. 

O'Connor is known for her short stories and readers will be familiar with the titles of many of these such as A Good Man Is Hard To Find, Everything That Rises Must Converge  and The Lame Shall Enter First.  The central issue of O'Connor's life was her Catholic faith and the stories are based in that although they are not overtly religious.  Instead, they are a reflection of the way humanity was perceived by O'Connor and then twisted to an extreme to make a point.  The characters are often grotesque and rarely does anything positive or even stable happen to them.  Instead, the stories tend to end on a negative note where hopes are dashed and everything is doomed.  They focus on the worst in human nature and racism and evil are a major focus.

O'Connor is considered an important writer and I'm glad to have finally gotten around to reading her work.  However, I was surprised to find that I didn't care for them much if at all.  I'm a very optimistic person and reading such negative work that constantly focuses on racial epitaphs and assuming a common viewpoint that other races are less than the ones in power gets overwhelming quickly.  Every story ends on a negative note and this collection took me many weeks to read as I had to have spacing between the stories.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon


Michael Chabon gives readers an alternative history in this novel.  The premise is that in 1948, countries around the world designated areas specifically for Jewish refugees.  The United States's Jewish portion is Sitka, Alaska, and the refugees have been there for several decades.  Now, due to bureaucratic red tape, the program has been discontinued and the Yiddish community will lose their lands in two months.  There is much dismay and families are planning their futures; many relocating to other countries.

Meyer Landsman is making no plans.  He is a policeman in a department that will be out of business in two months.  His superiors only want him to close his open cases, no matter how or if the right solution has been found.  Meyer is a natural detective but he's been on a low for several years since his wife, Bina, left him.  Now he spends his days drinking and doing as little as he can.

But perhaps its time for a change.  A man is killer; shot in the same hotel where Meyer has been living.  Although Landsman is told not to worry too much about it, he is offended that the man, for whom he has a fellow feeling, would not get justice.  As he works the case, he realizes that the victim is a famous man within the Yiddish community.  The son of the most powerful rabbi, he was considered a genius and miracle worker as a boy.  The pressure was too great and he ran away, ending his life as an addict in a run down hotel.  Landsman wants something better for him.

The case gets more complicated.  Landsman gets a new boss to oversee the shutdown of the department, and horror of horrors, it is his ex-wife.  His partner, who is his cousin, is Berko, a large half Indian, half Jewish man who just wants to get along.  Landsman uncovers layers of intrigue in the Yiddish community with a group of fanatics who want to reclaim their hero to help them take back Jerusalem.  Can Landsman bring justice in this last case?

I'm a huge fan of Michael Chabon and have read several of his  novels.   This novel won the 2008 Huge Award for Best Novel, due to its alternative history setting.  It can also be read as a mystery in the noir category, or for the exploration of Jewish culture.  The reader will cheer on Landsman as he fights for justice against all odds.  This book is recommended for literary fiction as well as mystery and sci fi readers.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells


Moon is a shape shifter.  For many years, he has wandered solitary, never finding anyone else like himself.  He has lived with various communities over the years but always ends up sent away as he doesn't fit in.  He can fly and the creatures called The Fell also fly so many communities push away anyone they suspect could be part of that despicable, war-mongering crowd.

As the novel opens, Moon has once again been pushed out of a community.  The woman he lived with saw him shifting shapes one night and poisons him, rendering him unconscious so that the warriors of the tribe can gather and chain him up in the forest.  As he tries to determine what to do, he is suddenly rescued by a large flying creature.  Stone is a shape shifter as well and he is the first creature like Moon that Moon has ever met.  Stone can fill in some of the holes in Moon's understanding of his background and invites him to come with him to his clan.

Moon agrees but when he arrives, is not sure he made the right decision.  He is amazed and pleased to find so many other creatures like him but all is not rosy.  He has arrived just as the colony is facing a threat to their very existence; The Fell have discovered them and will soon try to destroy them as they have so many other communities.  Even within the colony, there are those who welcome Moon and those who adamantly do not; jealous of the attention he is given by the queens of the colony.  What will the future bring for Moon?

This is the first book of the Raksura series by Wells.  She has created a fearsome enemy in The Fell, a tribe that seems to delight in nothing but violence and indiscriminate killing.  Moon is a character clouded in mystery as he lost his family as a youngster and doesn't know his own history or that of his people.  The reader will be inclined to read further to determine what happens in this new world.  This book is recommended for fantasy/sci fi readers.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Sunday Silence by Nicci French



Dr. Frieda Klein is a psychologist.  Her gifts have helped many people, including the police in several crime investigations but there is a huge segment of the police who consider her a fraud.  Freida was mixed up in the hunt for a serial killer, Dean Reeve seven years ago.  The police believe that Dean died at the end of that investigation.  Freida knows he didn't but can't convince those who think she is just imagining that he is still alive.

For seven years, Freida has felt Dean in the shadows, watching over her and occasionally protecting her.  It seems that he has decided that no one can harm her except himself, and he is willing to do whatever it takes to assert his superiority.  Now, a body has been discovered under the floorboards of Freida's house.  It is the body of a police officer who believed her and was tracking Dean down. 

As the weeks go on, it appears that Dean is tipping over into hostility.  Freida is still not personally attacked, but those around her she cares about are targeted.  Her niece, her sister-in-law, her mentor and friend, a former student, an immigrant and his son, all feel the wrath of the unseen monster.  Yet as the weeks go on, it appears that this may not be Dean's work at all.  Does he have a copycat or a rival?

This is the seventh Freida Klein novel and the suspense that characterizes the series is in top form in this edition.  Freida must decide how to catch the killer in the shadows and what she must do in order to protect those she loves.  The reader will go along on the nerve-wracking journey that surrounds Freida and cheer her on as she fights back against the evil surrounding her.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens


Joe Talbert is not crazy about the English assignment he's been given.  It's a semester long assignment and he has to write a memoir of someone's life.  Joe has enough on his plate.  Money is desperately tight so he is always scrimping and saving so that he can afford college on his own, working nights as a bouncer in a bar and never knowing when he will get called back home.  Home is an erratic mother who is promiscuous and a partier, who will go out of town with a boyfriend and leave Joe's autistic brother, Jeremy, to fend for himself.

But an assignment is an assignment so he heads to a local nursing home to interview his subject.  He has been given Carl Iverson.  Joe is shocked to find out that Carl has just been released from prison after many years as he is in the last stages of cancer and the state has decided he can die in the nursing home.  He was imprisoned for raping and killing a young teenage girl.  Joe is loath to meet him but finds him not as intimidating as he feared.  Instead he is a sick old man but one who, as Joe delves into his story, may be innocent of the crime he has served his life in jail for.

As Joe starts to suspect that Carl was framed, things begin to happen.  Most of the girl's family and friends still live in town and none of them are pleased that the story is being looked at again.  As Joe gets closer to the truth, he becomes a danger to the true killer.  Will he find out the truth before someone puts an end to him?

This is a debut novel and a very strong one.  Joe is a likeable protagonist; his social conscience and his determination to make the world a better place are strong characteristics.  Joe's love for his brother and his refusal to cast him aside make for a good secondary plotline, as does his budding romance with the girl down the hall.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Bloodshot by Stuart MacBride


Things don't get easier for Aberdeen's Detective Sergeant Logan McRae.  He's working three cases, any of which could drive a sane man mad.  There's the porn star, dropped off at death's door at the hospital where he promptly died.  There's the open and shut case of a pensioner stabbed to death in a robbery by an eight year who leads a shoplifting/robbery gang.  Then there's the case of Robbie Macintyre.

Robbie is the star of the local football club and a media darling.  The tv and papers idolize him for his prowess on the field and his showy lifestyle with his mansion, high end cars and flashy women.  There's only one problem; Aberdeen police are convinced he's the rapist that is targeting women alone at night, each incident getting more vicious.  McRae's girlfriend, Jackie Watson, takes Macintyre down disguised as a potential victim.  But Hissing Sid, Aberdeen's pre-eminant lawyer, gets Macintyre released and expects an apology for the outrage of charging him.

Making matters even worse are McRae's boss.  Detective Inspector Roberta Steel is the talk of the station for her wild ways and inclination to have her subordinates do her job.  With the Macintyre debacle, DI Insch is in disgrace and put under Steel temporarily, not a mood inclined to improve his mood.  McRae is loaned out to Insch, but it's not like Steel is letting him go.  Now he has two demanding DI's to work for.

This is the third novel in the popular Logan McRae series.  The action is fast and furious, coupled with a dark sense of humor typical of Scottish writing.  Logan is a good guy, forever put down by circumstances but finding a way to get his job done regardless of circumstance.  The various plot lines resolve successfully and satisfactorily as the reader ends another tale of Aberdeen policing, eager for the next.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

In Her Bones by Kate Moretti



Edie Beckett is trying to live under the radar, not an easy task when you are the daughter of Lilith Wade.  Lilith is famous for being one of the few female serial killers.  She stabbed six people to death over a period of a few years while Edie and her brother, Dylan, were teenagers.  Everyone knows about Lilith and no one believes Edie didn't know what was going on.  But Edie's father made sure of that.  He knew Lilith had major mental issues so the children lived with him only visiting Lilith when their father thought she was stable. 

A recent tell-all book about Lilith is making her story a big hit again.  Edie works a dead end job as she tries to live her life quietly.  She has had issues with alcohol and is trying to make a go of things.  Secretly, she spends hours tracking the surviving families of Lilith's victims.  Edie isn't sure why she is so obsessed with these people, but they are her major interest in life.

Things take a horrific turn one evening.  Edie meets one of the survivors in a bar; his wife was Lilith's last victim.  Somehow she finds herself heading home with him and spending the night in his apartment.  She leaves early the next morning already regretting the night before.  Imagine her regret and shock when it turns out that he is killed immediately after she leaves and of course Edie is the prime suspect.  She immediately goes underground, determined to find the real killer while the police are searching for her.  Can she overcome her background to save her life?

Kate Moretti has written a suspenseful tale that allows the reader to imagine the life Edie lives as the daughter of an infamous mother.  The reader can't help but pull for Edie, even as she continues to make mistakes that seem to steer her further and further from the normality she craves.  The surrounding characters are interesting as well; the brother who has married and has a child now, the police detective who has a fatherly feeling for Edie and the man who loves her no matter what she does to push him away.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, May 31, 2019

The Shadow Of Death by Philip Ginsburg


Things were changing in the early 1980's in the Connecticut River Valley.  The River went between two states, New Hampshire and Vermont and was made up of small towns and people used to a rural life.  But outside life was intruding.  City dwellers were moving out to escape the high prices and crime of the big cities.  Instead of everyone knowing everyone else, now families came and went and one encountered many strangers each day.  Soon, things would change even more as young girls and women started to disappear, found later dead.

At first it was young girls, girls who were walking along the small highways or even hitchhiking, which was more common then.  At first, the cases seemed unrelated but as the total number started to climb, the similarities between the cases were more noticeable and soon the police and the general public realized that one person was responsible.  After much investigation, a young man named Gary Schaefer was arrested and imprisoned.

But the cases did not stop.  Women alone in cars along the highways were still being grabbed up, their bodies found months later.  One woman was last seen talking on a public pay phone outside a store.  Another was taken from a rest stop one snowy evening returning from a ski trip.  One was killed in her house minutes before her husband returned; an outlier but the house was impossible not to see and its occupants were basically living in a fishbowl.  These women were older than the first group of victims and as unbelievable as it might seem, it became clear that this small rural area had another serial killer working the roads.  This one was never caught although there were various suspects over the years.

Readers of true crime will find this book fascinating.  It is not one of the most publicized cases so it will be new to most people.  Although the second killer was never found, the story of the investigation, the families of the victims and the police who worked the case are interesting.  It is a good viewpoint into what a case was like as the notion of serial killers was just making its way into the mindset of the country.  I found this book especially interesting because of one investigator.  It was a psychiatrist named John Philpin, who was one of the earlier individuals doing what the FBI was to later make so famous in books and TV shows, building a psychological profile of the killer that could be used to identify and capture the killer.  I was in an email group with John years ago and to read about his early career was satisfying.  This book is recommended for readers of true crime.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Monk Of Mokha by Dave Eggers


According to history, coffee was first discovered by a shepherd in Yemen, Africa, when he noticed that his sheep seemed to be way too energetic.  He realized they were chewing berries and after investigation, found a way to make the beans in the berries into coffee.  The drink spread rapidly and was soon a major crop in Yemen and protected from exportation.  Over time, the Dutch smuggled it to the island of Java and then later it was smuggled again to South America.  Now coffee is the premier drink of the world but almost no Yemen farmers grow it.  Over time, they rotated out of coffee to growing qat, a plant that can be chewed to induce euphoria.

Recently, a young man living in the United States with a Yeman background, Mokhtar Alkhanshali discovered all this history and decided that bringing Yemeni coffee back to prominence would be his life work.  He had spent time in Yemen as a child with his grandfather and wanted to give back to his country.  He had no experience in business, no contacts in the coffee world and no real idea how to create his dream.  But he found ways to move ahead.  He attended every event having to do with coffee, visited coffee farms and processing plants and learned the process of taking a plant from berry to bean to coffee.  He became a coffee judge.  Finally, he was ready to go back to Yemen.

Once there, he again started his journey of exploration and learning.  He visited the few farmers still growing coffee.  Due to poor processing, the native coffee was now graded low and the farmers received little money for their product.  He taught the correct processes to those interested with the promise of much greater money in the future for their crop.

Finally, he was ready to achieve his goal.  He had tons of product and now needed a way to get it to market.  Unfortunately, Yemen was not a placid place but one torn by war between rival factions and Mokhtar and his partner found themselves unable to get out of the country in order to attend the coffee conference that would establish the new Yemen coffee.  After many trials, armed confrontations, arrests and last minute miracles, Mokhtar escaped Yemen, returned to the United States and successfully introduced high grade Yemen coffee.

This was an interesting book written about a young man who should have failed a thousand times over but who persisted and finally, after years of preparation and work, managed to achieve his goal.  Readers will discover the history of coffee and the political and economic realities of life in Yemen.  This book is recommended for nonfiction readers.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Booksie's Shelves, May 25, 2019


It's Memorial Day Weekend and I wish everyone a restful time while sending appreciation to those who the holiday celebrates.  We started our weekend off with a bang, going to Durham to see the delightful play, Hello Dolly.  Betty Buckley is 72 but she can still command the stage and the dancing and choreography was amazing.  We got home very late and have spent most of today recuperating from the shortened sleep we got.  Tomorrow we are going to a neighbor's cookout and I'll be making broccoli salad to take.

A few weekends ago, I went to the library to pick up a reserve book and fell into a library book sale.  Most of what I bought were books in either the Michael Connelly Bosch series or the Jonathan Kellerman Alex Delaware series as one of my goals this year is to catch up and get current on each.  One of my favorite mystery authors, Stuart MacBride, just released his latest and I've been fighting the urge to buy it right away.  Here's what has been successful in coming through the door:

1.  The Good Sister, Gillian McAllister, thriller, sent by publisher
2.  Degrees Of Difficulty, Julie Justicz, literary fiction, sent by publicist
3.  The Drop, Michael Connelly, mystery, purchased
4.  The Closers, Michael Connelly, mystery, purchased
5.  Once A Liar, A.F. Brady, thriller, sent by publisher
6.  The Furies, Katie Lowe, thriller, won in contest
7.  Merivel, Rose Tremian, historical fiction, purchased
8.  Dr. Death, Jonathan Kellerman, mystery, purchased
9.  Therapy, Jonathan Kellerman, mystery, purchased
10.  Survival Of The Fittest, Jonathan Kellerman, mystery, purchased

Here's what I'm reading:

1. The Monk Of Mokta, Dave Eggers, hardback
2.  Witch Elm, Tana French, hardback
3.  Flannery O'Connor, The Collected Stories, paperback
4.  The Truth-Tellers Lie, Sophie Hannah, paperback
5.  In Her Bones, Kate Moretti, Kindle Fire
6.  The Eye Of The World, Robert Jordan, audible
7.  The Shadow Of Death, Phillip Ginsberg, hardback

8.  Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain, hardback


Happy Reading!


Saturday, May 25, 2019

The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French


If you are a half-orc, life doesn't get better than riding with the Grey Bastards.  Friends Jackal, Oats and Fetching grew up together in the orphanage and become members at the same time.  The groups are necessary to protect The Lots, the lands that were granted to the half-orcs after the Great War.  Their purpose is to act as a safeguard and buffer to keep the orcs from invading and to border on the Elven lands.  It's a life of duty, hard-riding mounted on hogs to patrol the land and frequent battles with various invaders.  There are other groups, but everyone knows the Bastards are the best.

But all is not good.  The group's leader has been in power for many, many years and some question if he is still capable of leading the group.  Jackal is one of those and is interested in leading himself.  But to challenge the leader can easily lead to death or banishment and he's not sure he has the votes to win.  Recently, a new half-orc has shown up.  He seems to be a wizard and while he professes friendship and support for Jackal, Jack isn't sure if he can trust him or what his real story is.  There seem to be lots of power struggles and machinations throughout the world and it takes a smart, dedicated guy to survive and thrive.  What will come next?

Jonathan French has created an interesting world that arrives fully fleshed out and a hero in Jackal that will engage the reader's interest and sympathy.  The battle scenes are frequent and well done, and the issues of friendship and loyalty are explored.  The language and sex scenes are not PG, but all in all this first novel in an anticipated series has burst upon the fantasy world and I, for one, can't wait to read more about this world.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers.


Monday, May 20, 2019

Prairie Fever by Michael Parker


The Stewart family is living in Lone Wolf, Oklahoma, in the early 1900's and the living is hard.  The prairie stretches forever, but it's not necessarily easy farming land.  The winters are brutal with biting winds and blizzards that blow up out of nowhere.  The family has lost two small sons to 'prairie fever' or typhoid and only the daughters are left.  Lorena is seventeen and Elise is fifteen.  They feel alone in the world; their mother has never recovered from their brothers' deaths and their father is a big talker, little action buffoon who drags them from state to state on whatever whims move him along.

Every day the two sisters saddle up Sandy, their horse, and ride the miles into town to school.  Their teacher is Gus McQueen, a man just a few years older than them and with little education or aptitude for teaching although kind and interesting.  Lorena is organized and focused, the best student in school as well as the most beautiful.  Elise is different; she sees the world through dreams and odd takes on common views.  Most don't understand her or the depth of her feelings for those she loves.

When Gus and Lorena ride out in a blizzard to go after Elise who has taken off on what seems to her a necessary adventure, things change.  They rescue Elise right before death and Gus' relationship with the girls changes forever.  He and Lorena become a couple, but down the road, he ends up falling in love and marrying Elise instead; an act that creates a lifelong rift between the two sisters. 

Michael Parker has a talent for bringing characters to life and leaving readers not only interested in other times and the difficulties people had then, but with lifelong friends in their minds.  No one reading about Elise will forget her quickly and the stories of life in those earlier times shows starkly the difficulties of communication and how distance meant something back then that it doesn't mean in our hurried world.  The story unfolds slowly giving the reader time to sink into the time period and get to know each character.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor


Somewhere in the desert, in the American Southwest, is the town of Night Vale.  That's the opening for many small towns but Night Vale is different.  Really different.  There are widespread government conspiracies, rapacious librarians, angels and time just doesn't work right there.  Donations to various community fundraisers are compulsory and taken from one's bank account.  Your child may be a teenager one day, a giant moth the next and perhaps a sloth or a skink the next.

When Diane's son goes missing, she knows she has to do something to find him.  Should she join forces with Jackie, a perpetual nineteen-year old who runs the pawn shop and seems to hate her?  Why is Troy, her son Josh's biological father, back in town?  He left when Diane found out she was pregnant sixteen years ago.  Why is her job in jeopardy after years of running the company's database?  Why doesn't anyone else at her job remember Evan who worked there for years but seems to have disappeared?  What is the force that seems to be drawing everyone to King City and how do you get there?

These are all questions that need answers and so, forgetting their dislike of each other, Diane and Jackie make plans to work together to solve the mysteries surrounding them.  In the process, they will each discover things about themselves and their locale that are astonishing but commonplace in this strange town.

Welcome to Night Vale started as a podcast.  It has turned into a massive conglomerate, with podcasts, merchandise, books, live shows, etc.  It's mix of whimsy and nonsense has created a cult following that is difficult for those who don't get it to understand.  The target audience is probably teenagers to early twenties but any age with the right mindset could enjoy it and become an aficionado.  This book is recommended for sci fi/fantasy readers.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Ally Hughes Has Sex Sometimes by Jules Moulin



Ally Hughes turned 41 recently.  She is happy enough.  She has her daughter, Lizzie, 20, who is bright, gorgeous and determined to make it as an actress.  She has her career, a tenured professor at Brown University in Female Studies.  She has friends and baking and reading.  What she doesn't have is a man.  Oh, there is Ted, a rich man who is always available for a dinner date or to serve as a plus one but there isn't much of a spark with him plus Lizzie hates him. 

It's not like Ally has burned up the sheets anytime in her life.  There was the one-night stand in her freshman year at college that produced Lizzie nine months later.  Then there was Jake.  Jake showed up in her class as a presence she was aware of in the back row.  He wrote huge papers that she graded down for exceeding length.  In fact, as the end of the semester loomed, he is about to fail.  He shows up at her door to ask for leniency which she gives him.  Then he stays to help out as Ally's handyman has once again disappeared on an appointment.  Ally needs a handyman that weekend as Lizzie is about to turn ten and she needs to put together her birthday present, a new bed while Lizzie is off visiting her grandmother.  What she never expected was a weekend of passionate, riotous sex or Jake's declarations of love.

Fast forward ten years.  Lizzie is determined to make it as an actress, an occupation that mostly consists of auditions although she gets a line in movies or shows every so often.  She volunteers Ally to cook dinner for the star of her newest movie, Noah.  Imagine Ally's surprise when Noah shows up and turns out to be Jake and the attraction is still there.  Will Ally act on it and seize some happiness in her life finally?

This is Jules Moulin's debut novel although not her debut writing job.  She spent several years working as a writer on hit shows like Party Of Five and The West Wing.  In Ally, she has created a woman who is finally waking up to the fact that our lives are what we choose to make of them and that we don't have to settle but can instead hold out for our dreams.  This book is recommended for romance and women's fiction readers.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The Rope by Nevada Barr


She wakes slowly.  Something is not right.  Her head is pounding and her body feels weird.  Where exactly is she?  What was she doing?  As she starts to wake more fully, Anna Pigeon realizes that she is not in good shape.  Her head is bleeding from an injury.  She is hot and thirsty.  She is alone.  She is naked.  She is in a pit in the desert and she has no idea how she got there.

As the hours pass, Anna starts to put her situation together.  She had come to the National Park, fleeing New York and her career as a stage manager after a personal tragedy.  Her work is not glamorous but it's hard and occupies her mind and body and that's all she requires.  She had gone out on her day off for a hike and come across three men attacking another woman.  Apparently, they are the culprits who are responsible for her current situation.

As the hours and then days pass, Anna's reserves of strength and courage are taxed to the max.  Can she survive this?  How?  Are her captors coming back and which is worse, their return or their absence?  They are hundreds of pits in the landscape and no one knew she was going hiking so no one has any idea where to look.

This is the book that introduces Anna Pigeon and her career as a park ranger to the reading public.  However, it is the seventeenth book in the series, written after the phenomenal success of the series as readers wanted to know more about Anna and what brought her to her job.  The action is fast and furious and the reader cannot help but wonder how they would fare in a similar situation.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Monday, May 6, 2019

The Memory Of Love by Linda Olsson


Now in her fifties, Marion Flint finds herself alone in a coastal town in New Zealand.  She is a doctor and practiced for many years, but now only works part-time.  In her past, she was married for a time, but the marriage came to seem an empty shell and she fled it and her London home for New Zealand.

Marion's childhood was dysfunctional and left her with difficulty in forming attachments and relationships.  She spends her days walking the coastline, collecting treasures that she turns into art.  Everything changes when she meets Ika, a young boy or around nine.  He starts showing up occasionally at her home and she feels an interest in him.  When she realizes that his home life is not ideal, in fact, perhaps dangerous, it starts two processes. 

First, she starts to take steps to rescue Ika from his home and to help him flower despite his own difficulties.  But, having Ika around also takes Marion back to her past.  She starts to review the memories that she has repressed for decades and to slowly start to put them into a united focus and to forgive those who inhabited her past.  Will doing so help her create a more balanced life?

Linda Olsson has created a quiet book that has emotional depth that the reader slowly uncovers as they get to know Marion.  Her struggles and attempts to change herself in her middle years, leading to her older stages, is noteworthy.  Readers will be drawn into her struggles and cheer for her to overcome the adversity that has stunted her life until now.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Booksie's Shelves, May 4, 2019


Spring is finally here!  In North Carolina, that means azealeas are blooming everywhere along with dogwoods and daises on the side of the roads.  My husband retired about two weeks ago so my biggest challenge is adjusting to that.  His job was in another city so for thirteen years he had an apartment and came home on the weekends so adjusting to someone else in the house every day is quite different.  My reading and gym time have gone way down.  Here's what's made it through the door lately:

1.  After The End, Clare Mackintosh, literary fiction, sent by publisher
2.  Sunset Beach, Mary Kay Andrews, women's fiction, sent by publisher
3.  The Never Game, Jeffery Deaver, mystery, sent by publisher
4.  The Crossing Places, Elly Griffiths, mystery, won in contest
5.  Nottingham, Nathan Makaryk, historical fiction, won in contest
6.  The Lazarus Files, Matthew McGough, nonfiction, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm reading:

1. The Memory Of Love, Linda Olsson, paperback
2.  The Rope, Nevada Barr, hardback
3.  Flannery O'Connor, The Collected Stories, paperback
4.  The Truth-Tellers Lie, Sophie Hannah, paperback
5.  In Her Bones, Kate Moretti, Kindle Fire
6.  The Eye Of The World, Robert Jordan, audible
7.  Ally Hughes Has Sex Sometimes, Jules Moulin, paperback

Happy Reading!





Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Wrong Side Of Goodbye by Michael Connelly



After years of battling the LAPD administration, Harry Bosch is no longer an LAPD homicide detective.  He has been forced into retirement and has a lawsuit pending against them.  Retirement isn't something he wanted and he soon realizes he needs to keep busy.  Harry gets a private investigator's license and he also starts volunteering as a reserve officer in a small town nearby.  Soon both jobs involve him in complex cases.

Bosch is approached in his private investigator's role by a man who made billions in the aviation business.  Old and sick, the man has unfinished business.  Years before when he was just 18, he had gotten his girlfriend pregnant but has no idea what happened after that as his family managed to separate them.  He now wants Harry to find out what happened and if he actually has an heir to his fortune out in the world.

At the same time, Harry is caught up in a serial rapist case.  The man cuts the screens of his victim's houses and enters where he rapes the woman inside.  His victims are Hispanic and it seems that he has stalked them beforehand.  Harry recognizes that there is a pattern and starts looking for other cases, which he soon finds.  The man seems to be escalating and the police feel he can easily become a killer soon.  Can he help his new partners find this criminal before he strikes again?

This is the nineteenth Harry Bosch novel.  The serial rapist case seems to be loosely based on the Golden State Killer case.  Bosch is still defining law enforcement in his own determined fashion and he manages to work through obstacles that leave other people stymied.  Bosch fans will enjoy these new adventures that are keeping Bosch busy even after his time with the LAPD has ended.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

The Lauras by Sara Taylor


It's another night of fights in Alex's house.  But this time ends differently.  As Alex's mother storms out the door, she stops and pulls Alex out to the car also.  Off they drive into the night, and Alex doesn't know where they are going.  That's not different.  Alex's mother isn't big on talking or sharing plans.

As they drive over the next few days, it appears there is a plan.  Alex's mother is revisiting her younger days and the people that affected her then, either for good or evil.  Some are friends she made many years ago and she revisits them, renewing friendships.  Some are those who treated her badly and she confronts them.  Rarely does Alex know much about what draws her to these people although she usually shares a bit afterwards.

Alex doesn't know how long this will be and misses home.  At fourteen, Alex isn't sure of a lot of things.  Like how life will turn out, or even what gender will work.  As the weeks and months go by, Alex begins to grow up and make decisions.  There are friends to make and places to visit.  There is a father to reunite with.  Will his mother ever share her whole story?

Sara Taylor explores the parent-child bond in this dysfunctional family story.  The mother seems rootless and self-centered, willing to tear her child apart from the father and to drag her child along as she chases her past.  The whole theme of the gender confusion of the child seems a bit clumsy also and makes the book more difficult to bond with.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout


Feeling hummed in and claustrophobic in their home town of Shirley Falls, Maine, both of the Burgess men have ended up instead in New York City.  Jim is the star of the family, a lawyer whose defense work in a trial as publicized as that of the O.J. Simpson trial, made his reputation.  These days he's a partner in a huge New York law firm, serving the wealthy.  Bob has never really made a mark in life.  An early tragedy changed his life forever, leaving him unable to forget but still full of love for others.  He works as a public defender, living in a small apartment and spending his days aimlessly when he isn't working.

But its time to rally the wagons.  Their nephew, Zach, has been arrested.  Son of Bob's twin sister, Susan, he is accused of throwing a pig's head into a Muslim place of worship.  Zach is a lost soul, no friends, no real life outside of a menial job and whatever he does in his bedroom.  Susan reaches out to her brothers to help.  Even though neither wants to go back to Maine, the pull of family is strong.

Bob goes first and tries to build a relationship with Zach.  Jim comes later and uses his influence to talk to those in power and try to get the charges dismissed.  But the Somali refugees worshipping that day were terrified and are now furious.  There is talk of adding federal hate crime charges.  As the Burgess family unites to try to work out the situation, their past lives are relived as they start to learn the truths that the family has always kept hidden.

Elizabeth Strout is a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist.  In this novel, she explores family dynamics and how relationships are difficult to change, even when they are not sustaining.  She allows the reader to get an in depth view of each man's personality and the realization that all is not as it seems on the surface.  She explores the power of love and forgiveness, but also the need to hold others accountable.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Force Of Nature by Jane Harper


In this second Aaron Falk police procedural, Aaron has transferred to a corporate fraud division.  He and his new partner, Carmen, are working with an insider to uncover corporate fraud in a large company run by the Bailey family.  Falk is surprised to get a midnight call from the insider, Alice Russell, indicating that she is in trouble.  He discovers that she is off on a corporate bonding exercise in the wilderness.  When he investigates further, he is shocked to hear that Alice is missing.

There were five women in the group, given the task of surviving for a weekend by themselves.  Four of the women have made it out, although off the track of where they should have been located.  The women are in bad shape, one with a head wound, another having been snake-bit.  Jill Bailey is one of the executives of the company, a family member who never really had any other career options than the family business.  Brea and Beth are twenty-something twins, Brea an executive assistant to Alice and Beth working in the data department.  Lauren has known Alice for years as they went to the same boarding school and have daughters now that also attend it.

Although there is civility among the women in the office, it soon breaks down in the bush.  Once they stray from the path and become lost, rivalries and disagreements become rampant.  They argue about what to do and who will lead them.  Now four have returned and one has not.  Can Alice be found before something happens?  Has her insider work with the police been discovered?

This is the second novel in the Aaron Falk series.  It is another interesting peek into Australian culture and the landscape that seems to so intimately affect Australians with their can-do attitudes.  Aaron is still working out what his first case meant to him and how he has changed while Carmen provides good-natured guidance.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Murder Room by Michael Capuzzo


In 1990, three men involved in law enforcement met over lunch and laid out the idea of a group devoted to helping police forces solve cold crimes.  From that meeting, the Vidocq Society, named after a French real-life detective many believe was the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes.  The Society meets once a month over lunch and cases are brought up and discussed, giving the requesting law enforcement agency new avenues to investigate and new insights.  The society is still active; it accepts cases only for law enforcement.  Membership is by invitation only and is kept to 82 experts.

The book focuses on the three men who created the society.  William Fleisher was the person who was the driving force behind the group and performed most of the administrative tasks.  A customs agent who started as a policeman, working up to being a homicide detective, William saw the gap that experts in various fields that touched law enforcement could provide to detectives stumped on cases.  One of those experts was Frank Bender.  Frank never served as a policeman but was integral in solving many cases.  His expertise was recreating faces from skulls so that victims could be identified; often the stumbling block in a cold case.  The third man was Richard Walter who served for years as a forensic psychiatrist in asylums and prisons.  He has spent his life looking at the worst men can do and is considered one of the world's experts in evil.

The book is interesting not only for the look into the Society and these three men, but the insight into various cases.  Some are familiar cases, such as John List, who annihilated his entire family and was caught decades later.  Others are cases that are less familiar such as the Roger Scott Dunn case in Texas.  Dunn was killed by his live-in girlfriend and an accomplice over several days after he tried to break up with the girlfriend, Leisha Hamilton.  She is a prime example of the power anger killer that Richard Walter considers the worst of all criminal types.  There are many other cases as well and the reader will discover a wealth of information about criminal cases and the men and women who solve them.  This book is recommended to true crime readers.

Friday, April 19, 2019

The Accidental Alchemist by Gigi Pandian


Zoe Faust has moved to Portland, Oregon for a new start.  As someone who drank a magic elixir and has eternal life, she is a veteran of moving.  She moves often so that the people she meets won't start to wonder why she isn't aging.  Zoe is an herbalist and worked at one time in alchemy.  She gave up the study of alchemy after some events occurred due to her knowledge.

Now she is ready for a fresh start.  But things aren't looking good in that direction.  On her first day in her new house, the handyman she has hired to help her make it habitable is found dead on her front porch, poisoned.  Her house and belongings have been broken into and the artifacts she has been selling to support herself have been stolen.  She meets a group of teenagers who tells her that her house is known as the haunted house.  Even more unlikely, Zoe is amazed to discover that a gargoyle statue in one of her crates is alive and functional.  His name is Dorian and he has an issue that only Dorian can help with.  Can Dorian find the murderer and help Dorian break the spell that threatens his life?

This is the first novel in this series by Gigi Pandian.  There are three others in the series.  Readers will be interested to see if Zoe is successful in solving the mysteries that surround her and if she can establish a new life in Portland.  She meets a potential love interest and whether or not that continues is also of interest.  This book is recommended for mystery and fantasy readers.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Fell Of Dark by Reginald Hill


When Harry Bentink decides to go on a hiking vacation with his best friend from college, he had several reasons.  First, his friend, Peter Thorne, had just been through a rough patch in which he had lost his job and then ended up hospitalized for a nervous breakdown.  Second, Harry's marriage is in trouble and some distance seems like a good idea.

Things start off well.  Peter seems better and the company and travel bring him joy.  But things take a major turn for the worst when two girls are raped and murdered on the trail and the two men have been seen talking with them shortly before the crime.  Now the pair are under suspicion and Harry is astounded to hear that Peter has confessed to the crimes.  He is sure that Peter's confession is nothing more than a way to avoid the stress of interrogation but Harry isn't about to confess to something he hasn't done.  He escapes from the police station and decides to investigate the crime himself, all while eluding the police search for him.  Can he find the killer and retrieve his friendship with Peter?

I'm a huge Reginald Hill fan.  His Dalziel and Pascoe series is one of the best in the mystery genre of partnership mysteries.  But this novel was one of Hill's weaker efforts.  The killer's identity is easily guessed and the wit and humor in his other novels is missing.  On top of that, every woman Harry meets is apparently desperate to have sex with him which adds another layer of incredibility to the effort.  This book is written for mystery readers.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Whose Body by Dorothy Sayers


Lord Peter Wimsey is about to head out to an auction on rare books when his mother calls.  She wants him to pop around to the home of a man called Thipps who is involved in restoring the local church.  It seems there is a spot of bother in the Thipps household.  When Thipps awoke and went into the bathroom to get ready for the day, he found it already occupied.  There was a nude male body in the bathtub, with only a pair of pinze-nez spectacles.  Thipps had never seen him before but that didn't stop the local police from accusing and then arresting him.

At the same time, a rich Jewish banker has gone missing.  The man controlled entire industries such as oil or railroads.  Wimsey is called into this case as well since his mother, of course, knew the family.  After all, all the best families knew each other and each other's histories by heart. 

Wimsey, who came back from World War I shell-shocked is interested enough to look into the cases.  He is assisted by his butler, who was his Sergeant in the war, and by the local police inspector who Wimsey trusts.  Can the trio solve the mysteries?

Whose Body is the first of the Lord Wimsey mysteries.  The main character is likeable even if he represents a way of life that has faded from the limelight, one in which everyone knew everyone and the rich are just assumed to have the right to a life of idleness and doing whatever pleases them for the moment just because they are born into the right family.  Wimsey himself is self-effacing and the reader is often brought up short by his insights.  This book is recommended for mystery readers. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The Girl Who Played With Fire by Steig Larsson


Things are going better in Lisbeth Salander's life these days.  After her work with the journalist Mikael Blomkvist that resulted in the expose of a major criminal, she finds herself wealthy due to her hacking skills.  She leaves Sweden for a year, traveling around the world.  When she returns, she buys an expensive apartment and renews contact with the few people she allows into her world.

But things never go well for Salandar very long.  Two people are murdered, a journalist and his girlfriend.  They are about to expose a major sex trafficking ring in Sweden with their vehicle Blomkvist's magazine, Millennium.  The same night, a lawyer is also murdered.  Blomkvist believes the murders are tied to the expose but the police have other ideas.  The murder weapon is left on the scene, and it has Salandar's fingerprints on it. 

Suddenly, she is the most wanted person in Sweden.  The police storm every place she is associated with and bring in every person she is known to have associated with.  Her picture and her life story are splattered across every news outlet.  Even worse, not only the police but individuals from her past are trying to find Salandar.  Can she escape her pursuers long enough to solve the case and will this bring Salandar and Blomkvist back into each other's lives?

The trilogy of novels featuring Salandar were a huge hit.  This one is the second in the series and the reader will be drawn into Salandar's world.  More of Salandar's background is revealed here and there is exposure to the world of computer hacking as well as the inside workings of a media outlet.  It is also an intricate police procedural.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Daisy In Chains by Sharon Bolton


Four women have been murdered.  All were young, all were lured away and all were women who were obese.  After an intensive investigation, a young, charismatic surgeon is arrested and convicted.  Hamish Wolfe had been known to date overweight women in college and some even hinted that he was in a club that made a practice of it in order to ridicule them.

Maggie Rose is a lawyer and true crime writer.  Her specialty is reversing the convictions of killers and she has had success with several men, now free through her work.  Hamish and the people who still support him contact her to work on his behalf but she is not convinced.  Does his story hold water?  Were the women really targeted due to their size?  The detective inspector who headed up the investigation is solidly against her taking on the case.  He seems to be attracted to her as does Hamish.  What will Maggie do?

I've only recently discovered Sharon Bolton and can only wonder how this marvelous suspense writer has escaped my notice for so long.  The twists and turns in this novel will definitely keep the reader busy and the pace is brisk, moving the story along.  There seems to be a real interest recently in examining whether murder convictions are solid with some infamous cases getting lots of press, and even a new television series about the premise.  This novel is an interesting take on that phenomena and is recommended for mystery readers.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain


Ivy is only fifteen but she is the glue that holds her family together.  Her folk are sharecroppers on a tobacco farm.  Her father was killed in a farming accident and her mother had a psychotic break afterwards and is in the state mental hospital.  She lives with her grandmother, whose health is not good, and her sister who is beautiful but mentally challenged.  Mary Ella, the sister, has already had a baby, a gorgeous little boy who is perhaps mentally challenged as well.

Jane is a new social worker.  She is newly married to a doctor who is just starting his practice and they have a lot of divergent ideas.  He really doesn't want Jane to work but she wants to use her education.  She is on birth control but dares not tell him as he wants a family right away.  He thought he was getting a country club, Junior League type of woman instead of a social worker who wears her heart on her sleeve.

Jane is given Ivy's family as part of her case load.  She is appalled to learn that Mary Ella was sterilized by the state at the time she gave birth and even worse, that she was never told that.  Now, Ivy is pregnant and Jane's supervisors want to have her sterilized as well.  Jane disagrees and can't imagine recommending it even if everyone else she knows thinks it would be best.  Can these two find a way to move forward?

This is the novelization of a real Eugenics Sterilization Program that occurred in North Carolina from 1929 to 1975.  Thousands of women were sterilized, predominantly those women of color and then those who society considered marginal due to physical or mental handicaps.  Diane Chamberlain has captured the lives of both of these women and the cultural environment that the book is set in.  Her portrayal of these characters outlines the problems and solutions of the time and will provide plenty of food for thought. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Little Deaths by Emma Flint


1965 in Queens, New York.  Ruth Malone is trying to make it as a single mother after her divorce. But times are hard.  Ruth is the kind of woman men notice, most men notice.  Men want her and she wants them back.  There's Frank, her ex, who thinks they will get back together.  There's Lou, the local connected businessman who's interested and knows how to treat a woman.  There's Johnny, an ex-cop whose drinking has cost him his job.  And there's the anonymous others, the ones Ruth loves for a night when she's feeling low.

One morning, she goes to the bedroom of her two children, Frankie Jr, five and Cindy, three.  But they aren't there.  It's unbelievable but Ruth knows she went out to walk the dog in the middle of the night.  Did someone get in then?  Did someone come through the window?  Where are her babies?

The case is given to Detective Devlin.  He has his own thoughts about Ruth and he thinks she is a loose woman who couldn't have loved her kids.  Probably resented them.  Maybe wanted to be free of them.  Could have taken the final step and gotten them out of her life.  When Cindy is found dead a few blocks away the same day and Frankie a week later in another location, Devlin is sure he knows the story.  It's a short walk from him making up his mind to making the evidence fit his theory.  Soon Ruth is right in his sights and on trial for the deaths of her children.  Is Detective Devlin right?

Emma Flint, a writer from London, has a longtime fascination with true crime cases.  This novel was a 2017 nominee for the Women's Prize for Fiction.  Flint has managed to capture the essence of New York in the summer and the expectations of women in the time period.  The reader is kept guessing who the culprit is, Ruth or someone else.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Killer Across The Table by John Douglas and Mark Ohshaker


It's not often you get to hear from the creator of a science or technique that changes how we view the world.  John Douglas is such a creator, the man who in his career with the FBI, created the terms serial killer, organized vs. disorganized killers, and who, with his colleagues, created a scale by which these killers could be categorized.  During his time with the agency, he worked on the cases everyone interested in true crime recognizes; The Green River Killer, Son Of Sam, BTK, Lake and Ng, and Ed Kemper.  In this book, Douglas opens his case files and with his co-author, uses four cases to talk more about the types of killers and how they can be differentiated.

The first case is Joseph McGowan.  He killed a seven-year old neighbor who came to his door to collect money for Girl Scout cookies.  McGowan was a local science teacher, a twenty-seven year old man who still lived with his mother.  Douglas included this case to talk about how a killer often chooses a victim in ways that seem unlikely; this was his neighbor and one would expect him to be suspected.  As with Kemper, McGowan had a domineering mother, who had broken up his engagement.  He needed to reinstate control over his environment and chose this method of doing so.  Although McGowan only had one victim, Douglas has been instrumental in keeping him from gaining parole, as he is sure McGowan would offend again.

Donald Harvey is one of a series of serial killers many don't consider.  He was a nurse's aide and probably killed close to a hundred people before he was caught.  This is common, as with Harold Shipman in Britain, who killed several hundred patients.  These medical killers are under the radar.  Their victims are the elderly and infirm, most of whom are expected to die anyhow, so their deaths don't seem surprising.  Unlike the killers who get press, there is nothing sensational about their crimes; they don't abduct victims and they don't have an issue with disposing bodies.  With most killers, there is an automatic recognition of murder and an immediate police investigation; those factors are not seen in these killers.  Harvey was also a charming man whose polite manners kept him from being suspected.

Joseph Kondo killed several victims over the years.  The unique factor in his case, to Douglas, was that he killed the children of people he was close to.  He never had any empathy for others, so to him these victims were just the easiest to gain control of.  He was the known friend of their parents, and in one case, even knew the safe word that the parents had taught their child to expect if they ever sent someone to get them.  This made finding his victims easy and he did not distance himself from the families or investigations afterward. 

The final killer was Todd Kohlkepp, who killed several times over a period of years in South Carolina.  This was the only case I had heard of, as it is recent and close to me.  Kohkepp killed four people in a motorcycle shop; the case went unsolved for over a decade.  Then he kidnapped over months, two couples he hired to help him clean up brush and outbuildings on a farm he owned.  He would immediately kill the men and then imprison the women.  One woman was killed after several months of captivity while the other was found in time by law enforcement.  Kohkepp was unusual in that he was well off, a real estate broker with his own agency and was highly intelligent.  He was also unusual because of his attempts after capture to work with Douglas to understand his motivations and what made him kill.

Readers who are interested in true crime, and whose interest lies in trying to understand how people can be so far out of the ordinary, will be fascinated by Douglas' discussion of these cases.  He constantly goes back to his scale and uses it as a framework in which every killer can be categorized.  It is a privilege just to be able to view how he looks at cases and how he was able to help so many police forces solve cases.  This book is recommended for true crime readers.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The Rook by Daniel O'Malley


Myfanwy Thomas awakes.  It is night, in a London park, this much she knows.  What she can't explain is why there are dead men all around her, each wearing latex gloves, or why she doesn't know who she is.  Leaving, she finds a letter in her pocket and what a strange letter it is.  It explains that she has awoken in the body of Myfanwy Thomas, who is an agent in a secret organization called The Chequay.  She makes her way to the location described and everyone there seems to know her.  She retreats to her apartment and finds more letters there, and thick files.

The Chequay is the secret organization that combats any supernatural occurrences that threaten Britain.  It has existed for centuries and is made up of many people who themselves have supernatural powers.  It turns out Myfanwy is one of these; she only has to touch someone to be able to control their bodies and minds.  She is a Rook in the organization, an administrator fairly high up.  Oh, and someone in the Chequay is trying to kill her.

In the following days, Myfanwy works in her new job, referring to the notes left behind by her former self.  She handles episodes like a centuries old dragon who is about to hatch and a fungus that takes over, subsuming everything and everyone in its path.  She tries to discover who is trying to kill her and take off Chequay.  Can she do it before her enemy is successful?

Daniel O'Malley has written a fast-paced thriller that takes the rider on an interesting ride if they can put their misgivings to one side.  The characterization of Myfanwy is well done and her voyage of self discovery moves the book along.  There is an enemy organization, known as The Grafters, who are diabolical and whose powers rival that of Chequay.  A second book in the series, Stiletto, explores this alternate organization more fully.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

The Ruin Of Kings by Jenn Lyon


Kihrin is a musician's son in the slums of Quur, living in a brothel; his days  filled singing in performances.  His nights are very different as he scales the roofs and breaks into the homes of the wealthy.  One night while robbing an empty house, he discovers it isn't empty at all, but overhears men plotting and planning and sees things he knows he shouldn't.  Kihrin escapes and doesn't think much about it except relief at what could have happened and didn't.

Or so he thinks.  A few days later, he is out in the marketplace when a demon appears; a demon who seems very interested in Kihrin.  The Emperor's men come and fight it off, but in the process, Kihrin is scooped up and taken into the house of D'Mon.  There he finds one of the men he saw plotting and is shocked beyond words when the man claims Kihrin as his long-lost son.  It's hard to believe but the man and the other members of the household have the same piercing blue eyes and blonde hair Kihrin has, the eyes his father could never explain.  Soon Kihrin is installed in house D'Mon but it isn't a fairy-tale ending.  The house is full of plans and betrayals, alliances and opposing enemies.  He finds a brother he comes to love and perhaps his mother, but everything is shrouded in layers of deceit and secrecy.  Before he can discover the truth, he is betrayed and sold into slavery.

Now on a galley ship, Kihrin's life is brutal.  When he escapes he is marooned on an island, where gods fight over him and a dragon insures his presence.  He learns more about witchcraft and the evil he left behind.  Can he find a way to get back and save the Empire?

This is a debut novel in a new series and comes with a lot of buzz.  Lyon has created interesting characters and a world that is both bleak and intricate, full of betrayals and love and plots.  The reader is brought into the world with little explanation and must piece together the clues to determine reality, the same as Kihrin.  It can get confusing at times, with characters coming back as other characters and almost no one being the person they appear to be at first, but the discovery is enthralling and readers will turn the last page ready for the sequel.  This book is recommended for epic fantasy readers.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Fury by Salman Rushdie


The year is 2000 and Professor Malilk Solanka has fled London for New York.  Solanka is a highly respected historian until a whim leads him to create a small doll.  The doll, Little Brain, is taken up by the culture and soon every child has one.  There are Little Brain tee shirts, mugs, books and soon a TV show that is wildly popular.  Solanka is thrilled with the money his creation brings, but it all soon sours.  He loses creative control and soon Little Brain is being used for all kinds of purposes which he doesn't agree with. 

The anger builds within him and one night he finds himself standing over his sleeping wife with a kitchen knife in hand.  Aghast at what his fury has almost wrought, he flees her and his small son and heads to New York to try to figure out what this fury means to him and how he can solve it.  But New York is full of fury also.  People walking the streets are sharp to each other and quick to take offense.  There is a serial killer on the loose and women are being discovered murdered.  The entire country is taking sides about the story of a Cuban boy who is being sent back to Cuba to live with his father rather than the refugees he is with in America.  The country is rich and expensive and everyone is hustling to gain the bucks necessary to live there.  Solanka searches for meaning and ways to conquer his fury but he is unsuccessful.

He meets Mila, a beautiful blonde woman who heads up a group of spoiled, rich techies who seem to do nothing but lounge on the steps of Solanka's building, but in reality are wizards at websites and the entire technical revolution.  He and Mila start a relationship but she is fighting her own fury; that of the wrongs done to her in childhood.  When he meets Neela, the gorgeous woman one of his friends is dating, he is consumed with desire and soon leaves everything to have her.  Neela also has her own furies, ones that originate in her home country and that will keep her from assimilating anywhere else.  Can Solanka fight his furies and find peace again in this life?

This is Rushdie's eighth novel and he has captured the New York that is rich and mindless, that roars on without necessarily considering the thoughts and feelings of those who inhabit her.  This is the pre-911 New York, the New York that is transitioning from the filthy Times Square to the commercialized, sanitized version that requires even more money today.  The tensions between the East and the West are hinted at although are not at the same pitch as in today's world.  Finally, the novel is an exploration of how each of us must explore our own thoughts and find resolution of the anger that can otherwise overwhelm us.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Rembrandt's Eyes by Simon Schama


Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn is considered by many to be the greatest painter ever.  Known to posterity only as Rembrandt,  his paintings were groundbreaking at the time and have come to be acknowledged as masterpieces.  Simon Schama has written an extensive and detail choked biography of this great man, and of his life and times.

He lived in Holland in the 1600's.  Growing up, the greatest artist in his area was Peter Paul Rubens, and Schama spends several hundred pages talking about Rubens and his life and work.  Since he was considered the best artist in the world, it is almost impossible to talk about Rembrandt without talking about his work in comparison with Rubens.  Rembrandt was influenced by him and his method of portraying reality but over the years, he developed new styles that varied from the extremely formal art of Rubens.  Rubens was rich and powerful and he painted the rich and powerful.  Rembrandt was more interested in the everyday and while he painted commissions of portraits of rich patrons, he also enjoyed painting the common folk he encountered in his daily life.  

Schama discusses everything.  The reader will learn of Dutch art, religion, food, political structures and wars, trade and how the city was organized, the work of the common man, the everyday life of an artist and many other topics as well as the expected life events that make up most biographies.  Every painting of Rembrandt is beautifully portrayed through wonderful color plates, and the reader gains an extensive understanding of what they are seeing through Schama's explanations of how texture and composition is used by the artist to achieve their goals.  There are also paintings of other artists of the period to serve as explanation of how Rembrandt's work was different and groundbreaking.  

Rembrandt's life was not easy.  As with most people then, life could be short and over quickly as plagues and various illnesses took many people in a moment.  Children were born but few survived to adulthood and wives and husbands could be healthy one day and dead a week later.  Rembrandt lost many children and several wives.  Financially, he rose from being a miller's son to being wealthy and respected, but he overextended and ended his life in poverty and disrepute.  

Simon Schama is the historian of our times.  His work is dense and fully immerses the reader in the time and details of the topic being discussed.  Schama has been an art critic for such organizations as The New Yorker and has taught history and art at institutions such as Harvard, Columbia and Oxford.  His work allows the average person to see the depth of meaning that art portrays and the myriad details that go into a priceless masterpiece.  This book is recommended for those interested in art or the time period of the 1600's.  

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer


The time has come to sell the family home for the Blair family.  Bill Blair had found the land in California with a spreading oak tree and knew immediately he wanted to build a house there and raise a family.  He marries Penny and while he pursues his career as a doctor, Penny is left to raise their four children. 

Robert is the oldest child and feels a great responsibility to serve as a model for the other children.  He grows up to follow in his father's footsteps as a doctor.  Rebecca, the only girl, is a psychiatrist.  She marries a much older man and spends a lot of time with the extended family as she doesn't have children of her own.  Ryan is the artistic child and is closest to Penny, who sees her life mission as art.  James is the youngest and is the black sheep of the family.  He is born a rambunctious child and taking care of him and providing for his needs starts the distance between Bill and Penny.  Bill tends to take a path with the children that is nurturing and that doesn't blame them for their behaviors.  Penny is overwhelmed by the children and full of resentment that caring for them interrupts her artistic visions.  Over the years, the parents grow further and further apart until Penny basically lives in her studio on the property, leaving Bill to handle the children.

Now with Bill dead for the past few years, it is time to think about disposing of the house.  Some of the children are for selling while others are not able to contemplate it.  James comes back to visit after years of separation and the siblings attempt to come together and make the decision.  The reader learns about each of their lives as the meetings progress and the issue is decided.

Ann Packer has ambitious plans for this novel.  It attempts to educate the reader about a time and place in American life where the vision of a family was different from today's, although it took place in the 1950's not hundreds of years ago.  At that time, the man was the breadwinner and the woman stayed home with a career of wife and mother.  Families were larger and notions of raising them very different from today.  The reader will be interested to learn how things were arranged then and will bring their own background to play as they determine if the Blair family was correct or misguided in their decisions.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Neon Prey by John Sandford


Lucas Davenport is working as a United States Marshal these days; one who gets to pick and choose his own cases.  He is reserved for the worst criminals, those who commit heinous crimes and are difficult to apprehend.  That's the case with Clayton Deese.  He's an enforcer for the local Mob in Louisiana who takes his work seriously and a step further.  After killing his target, he often caps it off by consuming parts of them. 

Lucas is called in and with two other Marshals, FBI agents and local police, he starts the manhunt.  Deese has left Louisiana, leaving behind around a dozen bodies buried on his property.  The hunt soon goes to Los Angeles, where Deese has hooked up with his cousin in a gang who robs the high income couples of that city.  With Deese's addition to the gang, the robberies get more brutal and victims start to be killed.  The police find their hideout but in the shoot out that follows, police are wounded and killed.

Feeling the hunt closing in, the entire gang, including one woman who is a girlfriend and getaway driver, head to Los Vegas.  There the gang tries to decide how to disappear long enough for the hunt to die down.  To do so, they need one more big score for enough funds to lie low for months.  Can Lucas and his team find and capture them before they get away?

This is the 29th novel in the Prey series.  Lucas is Lucas, regardless of age or venue and John Sandford has not written a Prey novel that wasn't heartstoppingly good.  Readers will enjoy the ride, even as they start to mourn what will someday soon be the end of this marvelous series.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Booksie's Bookshelves, March 15, 2019


March!  Spring has arrived and my back yard is full of daffodils and robins.  All the trees are blooming, including the horrific Bradford pears, the only plant I'm allergic to.  And of course, there is the basketball.  My team, the Carolina Tarheels, is riding high at the moment, but once you hit March, it's one and done so every game is super stressful.  Once the national collegiate tournament is over, I'm done with sports until the fall so that is sad, although it gives more reading time.  I've recently been getting more books at the library, which for someone with 12,000 books already on my shelves, is almost heresy.  In good news, I finished the epic Rembrandt's Eyes, by Simon Schama.  It was a relevatory history of the art world in the 1600's and I learned so much.  Here's what's come through the door lately:

1.  The Silver Kings, Stephen Deas, fantasy, purchased
2.  The Emperor Waltz, Philip Hensher, literary fiction, purchased
3.  The People On Privilege Hill, Jane Gardam, literary fiction, purchased
4.  The Craftsman, Sharon Bolton, mystery, purchased
5.  The Death Of An Owl, Paul Torday, literary fiction, purchased
6.  Last Friends, Jane Gardam, literary fiction, purchased
7.  Moon Over Soho, Ben Aaronovitch, mystery, purchased
8.  The Little Red Chairs, Edna O'Brien, literary fiction, purchased
9.  Crooked Heart, Lissa Evans, literary fiction, purchased
10.  The Editor, Steven Rowley, literary fiction, sent by publisher
11.  How Not To Die Alone, Richard Roper, literary fiction, sent by publisher
12.  Trust Exercise, Susan Choie, literary ficiton, sent by publisher
13.  Derby Day, D. J. Taylor, literary fiction, purchased
14.  The Poison Thread, Laura Purcell, historical mystery, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  The Lost Man, Jane Harper, audio
2.  Fury, Salman Rushdie, hardback
3.  Necessary Lies, Diane Chamberlain, paperback
4.  The Rook, Daniel O'Malley, hardback
5.  The Western Wind, Samantha Harvey, Kindle Fire
6.  The Ruin Of Kings, Jenn Lyons, hardback
7.  The Collected Stories, Flannery O'Connor, paperback
8.  The Killer Across The Table, John Douglas, Kindle Fire

Happy Reading!