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!

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Iron Lake by William Kent Krueger


Things haven't been the same for Cork O'Connor since that day at the lake when a protest went bad and he ended up shooting a man who came to kill others.  After that incident, in which a man from the local Indian tribe who Cork considered a father was killed, he lost his job as the sheriff of the small Minnesota town in which he lived.  After the loss of his job and his friend, nothing seemed to make sense and he soon lost his marriage as well.  He isn't sure he really loves his wife, Jo, but he knows he wants to be back in his children's lives.  In short, he isn't sure where life will take him next.

When a local judge is found dead in his office and a young man is discovered missing on the same day, something stirs in Cork.  Although the judge's death is ruled a suicide, Cork isn't sure that's the truth.  The judge had a reputation as being just on the edge of corruption, and his son is the newly elected Senator from the area.  He also is Cork's wife's lover.

Cork starts to look into the incident, and soon finds more than he ever would have expected.  Before things are done, there is a blackmail ring, white supremacists trying to force their ideas on the local population, money scams at the local Indian casino and maybe a couple of murders.  Cork keeps digging even after he is warned off.  Can he find the truth and regain his purpose in life?

The Cork O'Connor series is one of the best in the genre with over eighteen novels so far.  William Kent Krueger writes so descriptively that even those who have never visited the North and its lakes get a real feel for the area.  The mysteries are satisfyingly tied together and the characters introduced form a firm basis for the following novels in the series.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The Serial Dater's Shopping List by Morgen Bailey


This is a novel I'll be reviewing soon.  In the meantime, I am lucky enough to be able to share a guest post from Morgen Bailey about her writing:


I wrote my third novel, The Serial Dater’s Shopping List, for NaNoWriMo (www.nanowrimo.org) 2009. It ended up being a 115,640-word first draft, written with three days to spare! I took a year to edit (and re-edit) it down to just over 100,000 words.
In November 2018 and half of January this year, I wrote the first draft of the follow-up, The Serial Dieter’s Shopping List, which has Izzy’s sidekick, health and beauty columnist Donna, set with the task of eating thirty-one under-five-hundred-calorie dishes in thirty-one days. As if that wasn’t complicated enough, she’s sent to the sister newspaper at Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, not far from where I grew up so semi-familiar territory. She works there during the week but stays with her wacky mother, Lesley, in nearby Tring, where my mum lives.
They say to write what you know and while my knowledge influences my writing, I obviously have to do my research. If I’m in a hurry I put ‘CHECK THIS’ or if I get stuck, I put ‘MORE HERE’ then move to another part of the novel so that when I’ve finished the first draft, I can go back to the ‘check this’es and ‘more here’s.
There are generally two types of authors: plotters and pantsers. I’ve interviewed over 700 authors for my blog and most say they are pantsers. That is that they get an idea (however vague) and run with it, seeing ‘what happens’. I was the same for The Serial Dater. I had a list of male characters, some as simple as ‘Cling film on his arm, just had tattoo done, hides from mum as still lives at home’ – we all know someone who should have moved out years ago, and I set Izzy to meet them all. Most of my characters are non-experts so I don’t have too far a stretch and too much research to do.
I have a wonderful array of beta readers (I’m always looking for more) who tell me where I need to change something and (hopefully) what works. While The Serial Dater was fairly fresh in my mind, I needed The Serial Dieter to be different and the feedback I’ve had so far is that it is… but perhaps too different. Having Donna as the main character rather than Izzy, who is me (my brother calls The Serial Dater my autobiography!), I needed to ensure that I wasn’t rewriting her. It seems to have worked except that Lesley, her mother, actually ended up more quirky than Donna whereas Donna was the quirky one in the first book. So one of my tasks as I go back through The Serial Dieter is to give her more oomph. There’s a love triangle in this book and she’s tempted by a new colleague as her currently relationship (you find out who she’s with in The Serial Dater) has hit a sticky patch.
Try to write every day. 300 words a day would get you a staggering 100,000 words in a year (109,500 actually, 109,800 in a leap year) so easily a novel. If you don’t have that much time then 100 words a day would get you 36,500 – that’s half a standard James Patterson novel or a whole novella.
Also, don’t worry if you’re not happy with your first draft. You can edit a first draft whereas you can’t edit a blank page. Join a local writing group. Hopefully they’ll be firm but fair and help you see where you’re going wrong… and right!

Morgen’s website is http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com and email is morgen@morgenbailey.com. She is morgenwriteruk on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook where she also runs a free mentoring group on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/morgensmondaymentorship. She’s happy to hear from anyone interested in writing and / or reading. Morgen makes a point of the ‘Morgen with an E’ because MorgAn Baileys include a rocket scientist (female) and male: athlete, Green politician, basketball player, and transsexual porn star!


Monday, March 11, 2019

The Lower River by Paul Theroux


Ellis Hock spent four years in Malawi, Africa, as a young man.  He lived in a remote village, not seeing another white man for weeks or even months.  With the help of the villagers, he built a school and he and an African woman educated the youth of the village.  The work was hard but fulfilling and Ellis was at peace.  He was known as 'The Snake Man' as he had an affinity for capturing snakes, poisonous or not.  Then Ellis moved back home to America.  He married and spent his working years running a high-end men's wear store.

When he gets older, things have changed.  The relaxed mood in American business wear means that there is less and less call for a high end store.  He finally sells it off, and then tries to decide what to do for his retirement.  His marriage had already failed and his ex-wife has his house.  Their only child is grown and married and her only concern is that he give her 'her due' now instead of her having to wait until he dies to get an inheritance.

Looking around, Hock sees little to keep him in America.  He decides to return to the happy place of his youth and to the work that was so sustaining.  He cashes out all his assets and returns to Africa.  He finds a man who will take him to the small village he lived in before.  Soon he is on his way, visions of happiness ahead of him.

But happiness is not what he finds.  He finds a village mired again in poverty, with no jobs and little food.  The school fell into disrepair years ago and no one is interested in rebuilding it.  The inhabitants seem to welcome him at first, but he soon realizes that what they are welcoming is his money and that they are determined not to let him leave without transferring it from him to themselves.  Soon he is a virtual prisoner, with only the granddaughter of his former co-worker and a misfit of the village as companions.  His every attempt to leave is thwarted until he finally gives up and accepts that this will be the place of his death.

Paul Theroux is known for his travel writing.  His early adventures spoke of his great railroad trips through such places as China, Britain, the Mediterranean, Siberia and many other places.  Readers thrilled at his authentic portrayal of the places he visited, warts and all.  But things have changed in the world to his mind.  He despairs of the fact that local cultures are wiped out at the thought of being like the modern industrial nations.  He sees that the people of these regions are giving up their traditional ways not for progress but for massive poverty.  The only people who seem to have gained are those few at the top who plunder the vast mineral resources and skim off the dollars in aid that enter the country.  In 2014, he wrote The Last Train To Zona Verde, where he returned to the Africa he lived in as a young man for six years.  What he loved then was gone and he saw poverty and restlessness everywhere he went.  The Lower River is a fictional exploration of these same themes and one can see the agony he feels for how the world has changed.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson



Shandi Pierce didn't believe in love at first sight.  That was before she instantly fell in love with William Ashe.  Shandi has enough things going on in her life.  She is a single mom with a three year old son, Nathan.  Working on her degree, she decides that commuting from her home an hour away is just too draining, so she is about to move into her father's condo in Atlanta to cut down on that stress.  Her mother and father divorced years ago, but the rancor and anger never dissipated over the years, with Shandi stuck firmly in the middle. 

Almost to her new digs, Shandi and her best friend, Walcott stop for gas.  Shandi and Nathan go inside to get something to drink.  They are there when a skinny, hopped-up man comes in with a gun and announces that this is a robbery.  Without thinking, William steps between the man and Nathan and Shandi's heart is stolen just like that.  When William manages to extricate the hostages in the gas station store without any of them being injured, she is even more impressed.

William has his own issues.  He is a brilliant man, who is a scientist and works in a genetics lab.  He is also autistic and caught up in the recent past, where he had a wife he adored and a little girl.  Both were snatched away in a car accident and he is grieving and trying to figure out how to live again.  Are Shandi and Nathan the answer?

Joshilyn Jackson has written an engaging novel that makes the reader think about life and love and how we're all in this thing called life together.  The characters are memorable and the romance is subtle enough that it keeps the reader guessing.  The characteristics of romantic love are probed but parental love is also a major theme.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Friday, March 8, 2019

A Serpent's Tooth by Craig Johnson


Things are never dull for Sheriff Walt Longmire in Absaroka County.  There's talk of an offshoot Morman fundamentalist cult spread out over several counties.  Up till now, there hasn't been anything concrete to worry about but that's about to change, it seems.

Cord Lynear is one of the 'lost boys' pushed out of the cult as he becomes near adult age.  Son of the local cult leader, he is sixteen and has no way to support himself or even know much about the mechanics of day to day living.  Longmire has him in the county jail for safekeeping after a couple of complaints, but a longer term solution needs to be found.  When an elderly man shows up and claims to be Cord's guardian, it muddies the water even further. The man claims to have known Joseph Smith himself and to be over two hundred years old.  Whoever he is, he seems determined to attach himself to Cord.

When Walt, his friend Henry Standing Bear and his deputy, Victoria Moretti, try to go talk with the cult leaders, they are turned away by armed men at the gate.  As they investigate further, there's talk of big oil and a plot to hijack an oil pipeline along with possible CIA connections.  Is this something that will have to be dealt with?

This series of novels by Craig Johnson is, of course, the foundation for the TV series Longmire.  The characters are a bit different in the novels.  Henry Standing Bear is a much more physical presence, much more menacing.  Victoria is also more hard-boiled and there is no doubt of a sexual relationship between she and Walt.  Fans of the show will enjoy this series, of which this book is the ninth.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Technologists by Matthew Pearl


The year is 1868 and the location is Boston where an experiment in academia is happening.  The Massachusetts Institute for Technology is about to graduate its initial class.  Dedicated to science and using it to solve society's issues, the institute is not without controversy, mainly from those who think education should only be of the liberal arts as in that university across the river, Harvard.

Adding to the controversy is MIT's policy of taking talented student whatever their circumstances.  There are young men there from wealthy families like Robert Richards and Edwin Hoyt, who vie for the top of the academic lists.  But there are also men like Marcus Mansfield, a factory worker fresh back from the Civil War who is there on a scholarship.  Even more controversial, Ellen Swallow is the first woman admitted.  She is determined to make her way as a scientist even if her dream is considered scandalous.

Outside of the controversy about their curriculum and admitting practises, bigger problems face MIT.  Someone is using science to create a series of disasters; all the ships in the harbor simultaneously sinking; glass melting on buildings causing mayhem and human damage.  The group of students realized that these are man made disasters and that their purpose is to create sentiment against the university.  Can they find the culprit before more damage is done?

Matthew Pearl has made his mark writing books set in this time period.  He is known for such novels as The Dante Club, The Last Dickens and The Poe Shadow.  This novel is based on fact and many of the actual men who created MIT as well as some actual inaugural students are used here.  This book is recommended for readers of historical mysteries. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The Word Is Murder by Anthony Horowitz


Anthony Horowitz has turned the detective story upside down with this imaginative telling of the murder investigation of Diana Cowper's murder.  Diana, an older woman, leaves her house one day on an errand.  She calmly goes to a funeral director's office and lays out and pays for her own funeral.  It's not unusual to preplan your funeral; TV ads suggest it almost daily, but what is unusual is that Diana's life ends that day.  She is brutally murdered in her house later that day.

Hororwitz is casting about for his next project when he is contacted by a man he knows but has little use for.  Detective Daniel Hawthorne was a man Horowitz met on the set of one of his projects.  He served as a consultant to the directors of that film as he was a former London detective and brilliant at it.  However useful he was, Horowitz had never liked him as Hawthorne is secretive, dismissive of others and rude.  He is surprised when Hawthorne asks him to lunch to discuss something and more surprised at his suggestion.  Hawthorne wants a partnership with Horowitz in which Horowitz will document Hawthorne's investigation of the murder as it occurs.   Hawthorne is sure it will be a big success but Horowitz is less convinced.  But it is intriguing to imagine being on the inside of a murder investigation so he agrees.

Diane Cowper seems like an unlikely candidate for murder but she does have skeletons in her closet.  Years before, she was involved in a tragedy.  She was the driver when nine year old twins dashed out in front of her car.  One was killed and the other was severely injured.  Is this a grudge killing?  Diana also has a famous son; a man who trained as an actor and is now a big star in Hollywood.  When he reluctantly comes home, will the detectives find out that he is involved somehow? 

The case twists and turns and Horowitz faithfully documents every incident, along with his thoughts.  The two men don't become closer; if anything, their contempt for each other grows as the case goes on.  Hawthorne is secretive and dismissive of Horowitz's conclusions and the reader becomes more and more furious of Horowitz's behalf.  But are they getting closer to solving the murder?

Horowitz has created an interesting take on the detective novel.  He is, of course, a highly successful author in the world of murder mysteries.  Both Midsomer Murders and Foyle's War are series that he created and the reader sees into that world, as well as the life of an author.  The reader gets every clue that the men have and are as surprised as Horowitz at every turn at what the facts really mean.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Little Fires Everywhere by Celestine Ng


The Richardson family is the perfect family as defined in Shaker Heights, Ohio.  Shaker Heights was a planned community and every aspect of life is defined in advance.  Mrs. Richardson is a part-time journalist while Mr. Richardson is a lawyer.  They have four children, who are all in high school.  Lexie is a senior, already accepted to Yale for next year.  She is popular in high school and hangs with the popular clique; an 'it' girl.  Trip is good-looking and athletic, a hit with the girls.  Moody is the sensitive brother who is more into poetry and songs than the playing field.  Izzy is the baby and a rebel who refuses to believe that nothing can be done about the injustices she sees around her.  All in all, the family has a perfect life where no one is questioning much.

That all changes when Mrs. Richardson rents her apartment to a new family.  Mia is an artist whose camera work is everything to her.  Her daughter Pearl is brilliant although their lifestyle hasn't allowed her to feature that strength as much as if she had always attended the same schools.  Instead, the pair leads a nomadic life, moving into a community until Mia feels she has exhausted the creative spark there, then packing up and moving on.  That means Pearl has not had a stable academic life, or friends or most of the experiences most of her peers have.  Mia has promised that this move will be one that Pearl can stick with until she finishes high school and Pearl is excited at the prospect.

Soon the two families lives are entwined.  Pearl is fascinated with the Richardson family and they with her.  She is Moody's first serious crush.  Pearl idolizes Lexie and is attracted to Trip.  On the other hand, Izzy is fascinated with Mia and her in dependant life and starts working as her assistant.  Mrs. Richardson offers Mia a job cleaning and cooking for the Richardsons and Mia can't find a way to refuse and anyway feels it is an opportunity to keep an eye on Pearl.

When a situation arises in the town that divides it, the lives of these two families are affected.  A local family is in the process of adopting a baby who was surrendered by her mother who is a recent Chinese immigrant.  When she recovers from the illness and inability to acclimate to her life situation, the mother wants her baby back.  Soon the two sides are in court, fighting about who would be the best parent for the baby.  Everyone in town has an opinion and the Richardsons and the Warrens are on opposite sides.  Mrs. Richardson is outraged that Mia is taking the birth mother's side and decides to investigate Mia's background.  Will she discover something scandalous?

Celestine Ng grew up in Shaker Heights herself so understands the environment.  Her clear portrayal of each of the characters in the book allows the reader to visualize each one and decide where their sympathies lie.  The plot twists are revealed slowly enough that they all seem natural.  The novel was named a Best Book by such sources as NPR, Audible, The Washington Post, Esquire, Kirkus Reviews, Entertainment Weekly, People and many others.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Lethal White by Robert Galbraith


Things aren't going the way Robin Ellacott expected.  Her marriage of less than a year is faltering; the result of her realizing right before the wedding that she didn't really love him anymore.   She had felt a sense of obligation to him and to her parents and gone through with it but you can't force love.  That just leaves her job and things aren't going that well there either.  Her last big job at the detective agency had resulted in her facing down a killer and being attacked; now she is having panic attacks.  There is also a strain in her relationship with her partner, Comoran Strike.  A distance has crept into their working relationship and nothing really feels right to her.

But regardless of feelings, the cases come in.  The latest two cases may be related somehow.  A young man in the midst of what seems to be a psychotic break comes to the office and tells Strike of a murder he witnesses years ago as a child that he has never been able to put aside as everyone around him tells him it never happened.  A government minister, whose estate the young man grew up on, has coincidentally come to Strike for help.  He is being blackmailed and he doesn't know who the blackmailer is.  Can Strike and Robin help?

Robin agrees to go undercover, to pose as the minister's newest secretary.  They find plenty of suspects.  The man is in a loveless marriage, his third which is about to fall apart.  One of his sons has been killed in the military while the one left behind is freshly out of prison after killing a young mother in a hit and run accident.  There is a left-wing radical who is out to get him and who is the psychotic man's older brother.  Finally, there is political in-fighting with a minister just down the hallway leading the opposition.  When the minister is killed, Strike and Robin are faced with a complicated case.

This is the fourth installment in the Comoran Strike series.  The mystery is enticing and complex but the reader falls in love with the characters and the relationship that is always about to burst into a full-fledged love between Comoran and Robin.  There are plenty of thorny personal issues facing both of them and a new character joins the agency.  The book is set both in the political arena and the world of horse racing and the country life that surrounds horses.  This book is recommended to mystery readers.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

American Hippo by Sarah Gailey


Imagine a world in which the United States decided to have a massive hippopotamus breeding program to provide food and transport.  Soon, hippos are the main way for people to travel and a whole industry is built on the backs of hippo farms, hippo trading, etc.  Over the years, some hippos escape and soon there are pods of feral hippos, one of the most dangerous animals on earth when they are on the warpath.  It may be hard for you to imagine, but Sarah Gailey has done it for you.  Along with the hippos, she has a group of interesting characters; a rogue group who fights hippos and also steals a bit.

There is Adelia, one of the most proficient assassins known to man.  She is also hugely pregnant when we first meet her.  Winslow Houndstooth is the leader of the gang, a man reminiscent of Brent Maverick, charming and well-dressed.  In the first adventure we read, he has been contracted to blow the Harriet Dam so that the pods of feral hippos clotted above it will escape and the Mississippi can be used again for trade and travel.  The best demolition expert in the world is Hero, who is also a master poisoner.  Finally, Archie is a large woman whose expertise is with a huge hammer which shatters skulls.  She is in love with a straight-laced Marshall, which has its own issues.

This book is composed of two novellas, River Of Teeth and Taste Of Marrow, along with two stories, Nine And A Half and Worth Her Weight In Gold.  The reader will be amazed at Gailey's world building and the book falls solidly in the fantasy genre of alt history.  She uses diverse characters with interesting gender roles, sexual identities and one character who identifies as two entities, as does everyone else.  The writing is breezy and graphic at times, but this is a rollicking adventure it would be a shame to miss.  This book is recommended for readers of science fiction/fantasy. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Blind River by Ben Follows


FBI Agent Curtis Mackley never expected to be back in Blind River.  After the disappearance of his older brother and his own role in putting the local kingpin into prison, he had left and had little contact with his remaining family.  His father had been the sheriff and his sister works for the police department there still.

When he is informed that the police department has requested FBI assistance in a series of teenage girl disappearances, he tries to get his boss to send someone else.  But his boss is determined that Curtis' local knowledge might be helpful so Curtis and his partner, Frankie Lassiter, are soon are their way.

They arrive to find a town in panic mode.  Four teenage girls have disappeared in a few weeks time and there has been no trace of them since.  Curtis uses his connections to get an interview with the man he put in prison, a man who claims to know exactly who is taking the girls and a man still filled with hatred for Curtis.  He refuses to give Curtis any knowledge and Curtis is forced back on his local knowledge as he searches for the girls.  Can he find the culprit before more girls disappear?

This is a debut novel for Follows but it has received a lot of reader attention.  The story is full of twists and turns and even veteran detective story readers will be surprised a time or two.  There are some unbelievable elements such as this much crime in what is little more than a small town but overall it is an interesting look at a man's dilemma as he seeks to put his background behind him.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Where It Hurts by Reed Farrel Coleman


Gus Murphy is settled into his new normal.  He'll never have the old normal back, wife, kids, a house in the suburbs and a job he liked and was good at.  All that went away when his teenage son left the house one morning and died before Gus saw him again.  After that, things fell away.  The weight of mourning killed his marriage.  Along with the end of that went the house.  The job followed soon after, his grief expressing itself in drinking and lack of caring.

Gus's new normal is simple.  He works for a hotel where he also lives.  He is the shuttle driver, taking folks to and from the airport and he also serves as a security consultant.  He doesn't get to know people and his job requires nothing of him.  That he can handle.

Until the day Gus gets a visitor.  Tommy Delcamino is an ex-con, one that Gus put away in the past.  Tommy comes to ask Gus a favor.  Tommy's son was murdered three weeks ago and he is sure that the police are not trying that hard to solve the murder.  Gus turns him down but reconsiders when Tommy is also killed soon after coming to Gus.  Can Gus find it within himself to be able to solve these murders?  More importantly, does he even want to?

Reed Farrell Coleman is a solid mystery writer.  His brand of mystery features noir characters and is more hard-boiled than some.  He has been nominated three times for the Edgar award and has won the Shamus award for Best PI Novel three times, along with other awards and prizes.  He has also been contracted to continue the Spenser novels in the series started by Robert Parker.  This novel is the first in his new series featuring Gus Murphy.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Booksie's Shelves, February 14, 2019


It's halfway through February and winter is slowly losing its grip here in the South.  We had several days of temperatures in the seventies and my daffodils are about to bloom.  There are flowering trees on the sides of the roads and spring is about to explode.  I've been reading and catching up on TV series.  I'm working on healing the beginning stages of plantar fasciastis so I'm only rowing and doing the weight machines at the gym, which makes for a much shorter time there.  But things are going well and I hope to restart my regular routine in two weeks after a trip I've got planned.  Here's what's come through the door lately:

1.  Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng, literary fiction, purchased
2.  Make Me A City, Jonathan Carr, literary fiction, sent by publisher
3.  Judgment, Joseph Finder, thriller, sent by publisher
4.  Everything Here Is Beautiful, Mira T. Lee, literary fiction, sent by publisher
5.  The Merry Spinster, Mallory Ortberg, anthology, sent by publisher
6.  The Lieutenant, Kate Grenville, historical fiction, purchased
7.  The Cassandra, Sharm Shields, literary fiction, sent by publisher
8.  Three Eves, Sylvia Day, fantasy, sent by publisher
9.  FKA USA, Reed King, literary fiction, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  Rembrandt's Eyes, Simon Schama, hardcover
2.  Autonomous, Annalee Newitz, Kindle Fire
3.  A Serpent's Tooth, Craig Johnson, hardcover
4.  Lethal White, Robert Galbraith, audio
5.  The Children's Crusade, Ann Packer, hardcover

6.  There But For The, Ali Smith, paperback
7.  Flannery O'Connor The Collected Stories, paperback

8.  The Technologists, Matthew Pearl, paperback
9.  The Lower River, Paul Theroux, paperback
10.  American Hippo, Sarah Gailey, Kindle Fire
11.  Blind River, Ben Follows, Kindle Fire

Happy Reading!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Real World by Natsuo Kirino


It's a normal morning in Tokoyo for Ninna Hori.  It's very hot and she's hurrying, as usual, to make it in time to her cram school which she attends during school vacations to make sure she can get into college.  She thinks she hears something crash in the house next door but doesn't do anything about it.  Although they are her neighbors, there's no neighborly feeling between the two families.  There is the married couple who seem to put on airs and their teenage son, whom Ninna has nicknamed The Worm.  She sees him periodically but he's never said a word to her.  He is supposed to be brilliant, or at least that's the story his mother tells everyone.

As Ninna heads to the subway station, she sees Worm, and he even speaks to her.  She asks him about the crash but he says all is well.  Ninna heads on to school and as the day goes on, discovers her phone is missing.  She assumes she left it at home in her hurry.  When she gets back to the train station, though, her bike is also missing.

She gets a call and then realizes that Worm has stolen both items from her.  More than that, he has a huge secret; before leaving home he killed his mother.  Ninna calls her three close friends and tells them all about it but soon Worm is calling each of them as well.  The friends seem intrigued and soon they are helping Worm in his escape.  There is Yuzan, who is struggling with the fact that she is gay and wondering how to come out to her family and friends.  Kirarin is the happy go lucky member of the group, but internally she feels excluded by the secrets she hides about going clubbing and hooking up with strangers.  Terauchi is the brains of the group but feels remote from the rest of her friends and her family due to a family situation she can't resolve.  As Worm attempts to hide out and escape, the alienation and angst that each of the girls also fights becomes a microcosm of teenage years.

Natsuo Kirino is a popular mystery novelist in Japan.  She has won six of the country's most prestigious literary awards and as her work has been translated into nineteen languages, she has garnered other awards, such as an Edgar nomination.  She provides a light into the alienation and worry that faces those in Japanese society and the reaching for connection that often seems to go unanswered.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton


It was a shocking tragedy.  Two young boys, seven and five, were waiting in a car when somehow, they knocked it into gear and it went over the cliffs, taking them to their death.  It's the kind of thing you never get over.

Catrin Quinn has never gotten over it.  Three years ago, those were her sons and their deaths took her life along with it.  Afterward, everything else went.  Her marriage was one of the casualties as you can't be married to a ghost.  She was pregnant and her child was stillborn from the shock.  Her best friend was no help; she was in charge of the children and let them be killed during her inattention.

Although three years are past, it is like yesterday for Catrin.  She spends her days and nights plotting how she can ruin Rachel's life, her former best friend as she ruined Catrin's.  Now children are starting to disappear on the island where they live, boys who all look like Catrin's lost sons.  Soon the fingers of suspicions are pointing at her. 

This was a new author for me and I turned the last page with a raging desire to go out and buy everything she ever wrote.  Everything was perfect about this book.  The tension was indescribable and I'd have to put the book down occasionally and come back to my humdrum life for a few minutes.  It was set in a place I didn't know much about, the Falkland Islands, and I enjoyed getting to know more about this locale.  The characters were finely drawn and I felt as if I knew them all.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick


Ralph Truitt is a wealthy man, the wealthiest man in his Minnesota town in the early 1900's.  Now, as he enters his older years, he is ready to change his solitary status and has placed an advertisement near and far in the newspapers asking for a 'reliable wife'.  He chooses Catherine Land, whose reply shows a picture of a plain woman who states she is simple and honest.

But the lies start immediately.  Ralph doesn't want a wife to share his life; he is looking for a woman who can help him retrieve his estranged son.  Catherine isn't the plain woman of the picture she sent; she is an amazingly beautiful woman who knew her looks would scare off anyone who felt the need to advertise for a wife.

Somehow, these two strike a bargain.  Ralph tells her his life story, how he had married abroad to a young Italian wife and how that wife had betrayed him, leaving him without a marriage or children.  Catherine tells him just enough of her background, weaving a lie of missionary upbringing with the reality of her life before as a prostitute.  She is here now only to fleece a rich husband, willing to do whatever it takes to end up a wealthy woman.  But neither had planned what happened; a life where they fell in love and became everything to each other.

Robert Goolrick has written a groundbreaking novel that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat.  The story winds through plush environments of wealth, contrasted with the bleak, bitter winter of snow and ice.  Through all the difficulties, love insists on breaking through and providing a life to two people who never expected it.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

In A House Of Lies by Ian Rankin


Six years ago private investigator Stuart Bloom went missing.  Despite an intensive search and investigation no clues emerged to his disappearance.  The police took a public relations hit as the case was a newsworthy one.  Bloom was involved in a dispute between two prominent wealthy men and there were those who suspected the men were pulling strings to cripple the investigation.  Bloom was gay and his partner's father was a murder investigator in another district and that brought its own publicity and calls of favoritism. 

Now, a car has been discovered in a forest and Bloom's body has been found in the trunk with the ankles handcuffed together.  The forest had belonged to one of the wealthy men, a filmmaker, and now belonged to the other who had bought it as the first man's influence waned and he had to sell assets.  Had it been there all along and the police just missed it?

Now the entire former police investigation is under scrutiny.  Most of the men involved are now retired but that doesn't stop the inquiry.  Inspector John Rebus was one of the men involved in the original investigation and he finds ways to insert himself into this one.  One of his mentees, Siobhan Clarke, is one the investigation and feeds him information.  Malcolm Fox, part of the unit who investigates police inquiries from the inside, is also forwarded over to the investigation.  Will the crime be solved and will careers be damaged due to the first investigation?

Ian Rankin is one of the foremost crime novelists working in Scotland today.  His books are models of police procedurals with strong characters who the reader learns to respect in various cases.  He has a knack for outlining the way that human nature will always insert itself between the police rules and regulations; there are always people who are looking to get ahead, those willing to use a case to pay back a slight or to curry favor with those who can do them good; those investigators who aren't giving their job their all due to personal situations or laziness or just incompetence.  He portrays the give and take of an investigation and the myriad levels of obligations and favors that the best policemen know how to manipulate to solve a crime.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Invisible by James Patterson/David Ellis


Emmy Dockery knows she is right, although no one seems to believe her.  She is currently on leave from her job as a research analyst with the FBI.  It's compassionate leave as her sister was killed in a fire and Emmy is grieving her.  There is also the small matter of her boss trying to push her out after she refused his advances and the leave is all about that also. 

Emmy knows what no one else does; her sister's murder was no accident.  She uses her time off to research other arsons that started the same way and soon finds a horrific pattern.  There have been multiple cases over the past few years of fires that didn't fit the normal arson patterns but do fit each other in their particulars.  The victims all had a fire with the bedroom as the point of origin with an overturned candle the source.  All of the victims were lying in their beds. 

Emmy can't convince anyone at work so she decides to go about it another way.  She contacts her ex-fiance, Bookman, who is retired from his work as a highly regarded field agent.  Books left the FBI after Emmy cancelled their wedding and they haven't been in contact.  But she manages to convince him that she is right and he manages to convince the Director that there is something worth investigating and that he should head up a task force, one that has Emmy front and center.  Although they have discovered the pattern of the arsons, can they discover the man behind them before he kills again?

This novel is a fast-paced thriller that will keep the reader turning the pages.  I haven't read a Patterson novel in several years after he started collaborating with other authors and writing novels with short chapters.  But this novel reminded me of why Patterson is such a popular novelist.  The action is fast and furious and there are enough surprises and plot twists to keep things moving along at a fast pace.  This book is recommended for thriller readers.

Monday, January 28, 2019

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai


In this compelling novel, Rebecca Makkai documents the story of the AIDS epidemic of the 1980's.  Her version is set in Chicago.  Yale is the development director for an art galley associated with a college.  Fiona is the little sister of Nico, one of the first of the group of gay friends to die and she is considered everyone's little sister.  Yale is in a committed relationship with Charlie and he is about to score the coup of his career.  Fiona has mentioned him to her great aunt who is dying.  The aunt lived in Paris in her youth, in the 1920's and knew and modeled for many of the great artists of that time.  She wants to donate her collection so that it can finally be seen, and Yale quickly realizes that this donation will make his career as it is more important than anyone expected. 

But all is not well.  In his extended group, men start to get sick and then die.  Soon the disease is hitting those close to him and the group learns the grim statistics and the curve of dying.  Friendships are tested and families are often not ready to face the fact that this disease not only kills but exposes the gay lifestyle at a time when it was not readily accepted except in the large cities such as Chicago where this novel is set.

The book alternates chapters between the 1980's in Chicago and modern day Paris.  Fiona is now a middle-aged woman and has come to Paris to attempt to find her estranged daughter and perhaps a granddaughter which she has heard rumors of.  She arrives in time to be exposed to the terrorist attacks.  Being there makes her think back to the days in Chicago and all the losses she knew then.  But there is still hope in her life.

This book received a lot of attention.  It was a finalist for the National Book Award and one of the 10 Best Books Of The Year for the New York Times as well as other awards.   Readers who are older will be instantly transported back to remember those times and how the virus exploded into consciousness and how afraid the average person was of the disease and those who got it.  Readers who are younger will get a real appreciation for this mind-changing event and how it was a defining issue for gay men in particular.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Quietus by Vivian Schilling


Kylie O'Rouke can't believe that tragedy has hit her family again.  When she was a child in Savannah, Georgia, her mother and younger brother were killed in a car crash.  A few years later, her older brother overdosed as a result of that accident and losing his family.  When she met and married Jack, she felt like her luck was finally turning.

Now, she and Jack and her best friend Amelia and her husband are facing death again.  After a two week vacation, they are returning to Boston and get a ride on a private jet, rented by a group of lawyers desperate to get back that night.  Now that jet is caught in a snowstorm and is about to go down.  Surely, the gods won't allow such a thing to happen again.  But happen it does.  All aboard die, except Kylie, Jack, Amelia, her husband, Dix, and one of the lawyers who had insisted on flying in that horrible weather.

After a stay in the hospital, Kylie and Jack are released back to their lives, restoring old historical buildings in Boston.  Things seem fine but it's soon apparent that they are not.  The strain of survivor guilt follows the pair and soon Jack is drinking heavily again and gambling.  Kylie and Jack's brother try to pull him out of his funk, but he seems caught up in it.  Soon Kylie begins to see a figure following her at odd times, and that figure turns into a man, a man who seems familiar and compelling to her.  Kylie has multiple encounters with him and then recovers a childhood memory that is so horrific that she has repressed it her entire adult life.  Now she believes that she and her friends were meant to die on that plane and that this apparition is from the afterlife to bring her there since she has exceeded her natural lifetime.

Everyone around her insists that she is wrong and that she needs medical help, but Kylie is convinced of her truth.  She spirals out of control and as she does, tragedies pile up over and over in her life.  Will Kylie manage to survive against what she believes is a predetermined fate?

Vivian Schilling has written a haunting and suspenseful novel that will take the reader into a mindset that the reader must decide is either one of truth and horror, or one that is self-imposed and clinically disturbed.  The events pile on until the reader is as frantic as Kylie to do anything to make the horror stop.  Schilling is a filmmaker as well as a novelist and that background gives her the insight to make the story visually compelling in the reader's mind.  This book is recommended for readers of horror and suspense novels.

Monday, January 21, 2019

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton


Walter Moody has come to New Zealand to seek his fortune in the gold rush as many others have in 1866.  He has come to the remote coast when the latest gold strike has been reported; a place where ships fight to land their passengers and many ships are broken in the attempt.  Those who manage to get ashore find a small town struggling to provide the accoutrements of civilization and to make a living, either as a miner or as someone who provides a service to the miners.

Moody has arrived at an interesting time.  There are several events that seem to affect many of the people he meets.  A hermit has died, perhaps minutes after a local politician who has come to the town overland to publicize that route has stopped in his home.  A fortune is found in the hermit's cabin and the ownership of that fortune is soon hotly disputed.  A lovely prostitute is found in the road near death's door, victim of the opium that is rampant in the camps.  Her supplier is either the Chinaman who runs an opium den or the pharmacist who sells the drug wholesale.  Soon an unsuspected wife of the hermit arrives to claim his fortune but perhaps that fortune is not really his.  The wealthiest man in town has gone missing at the same time and as the days and weeks go by, he is soon believed to be dead.  There is evidence of identity fraud and someone scheming to get rich at the expense of others. 

Through it all, there is human frailty and emotions.  There are men who have hidden secrets about their family and those who are attempting to form new families.  There are romantic partnerships, some which seem to be forged in love and others in an attempt to join forces to gain an end.  There are friendships made and struck down; men who have come to impose their will on the land and others and men who have come to make a new start.  Always there is the gold, the gold that fuels dreams and schemes, that makes men do things they never thought they would. 

This novel won the Man Booker Prize in 2013.  It deserved the prize on many levels.  It is an interesting history of New Zealand and the gold strikes that help build the nation.  It has an interesting structure, with a zodiac reference to each chapter and a plot that is backloaded with explanations coming at the end.  The myriad storylines merge cunningly and leave the reader with a sense of resolution.  Finally, the author demonstrates without lecturing that striving for gold and fortune is a fool's folly; that love and friendship are the true gold in life.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Perilous Adventures Of The Cowboy King


This historical novel relates the life of Theodore Roosevelt, nicknamed The Cowboy King, from his childhood until he takes office as President.  Roosevelt grew up a sickly child; his hero was his father known as Braveheart, who fought for those who were poor and persecuted.  As Roosevelt grew, he incorporated many of his father's ideals.  He couldn't abide to see those who were victimized by the wealthy, those despised because they didn't have the ability to be educated and make it in the upper crust.

Roosevelt moved from occupation to occupation in his early years.  He went out West where he fought for the ranchers.  He was one of the early police commissioners in New York, where he rooted out corruption.  He was an Undersecretary of the Navy.  From there, he found the role that defined his life.  He raised a regiment of volunteers to go to Cuba and fight the Spanish overlords who ruled the natives.  This regiment was the Rough Riders, and their battle of San Juan Hill gave Roosevelt the identity he had the rest of his life.

After that war, Roosevelt soon found himself being elected as the Governor of New York, then on to be nominated and elected as the Vice President under President McKinley.  When McKinley was assassinated, Roosevelt became President and there the novel ends.

Along the way, Charyn explores Roosevelt's character.  Written in first person narrative, the reader comes to know Theodore through his words, actions and thoughts rather than through the words of others.  He is a man fiercely devoted to those he takes on.  His first wife died in childbirth, leaving him with a daughter, Alice.  His second wife, a childhood friend, gave him five more children.  He was protective of his brood.  But he also had a second family; those men who served with him in Cuba.  He spent the rest of his life tied to each and every Rough Rider; helping them whenever he could as they readjusted to civilian life.  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Booksie's Shelves, January 11, 2019


It's a new year and of course, there are so many books to look forward to.  In 2018, I read 129 books.  Of those, the ones I rated highest were:

1.  The Rise And Fall Of Great Powers by Tom Rachman
2.  All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
3.  Dark Saturday by Nicci French
4.  Oscar And Lucinda by Peter Carey
5.  Cryptonomicon by Neal Stevenson
6.  Circe by Madeline Miller
7.  Possession by A. S. Byatt
8.  The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker

To celebrate the beginning of another year, I bought books.  I made a shipment from Book Depository for some books from overseas authors and then I stopped in and bought some more at a local bookstore.  Here's what's come through the door:

1.  The Noise Of Time, Julian Barnes, literary fiction, purchased
2.  The Girls In The Picture, Melanie Benjamin, historical fiction, sent by publisher
3.  John Crow's Devil, Marlon James, literary fiction, purchased
4.  Milkman, Anna Burns, literary fiction, purchased
5.  Rivers Of London, Ben Aaronovich, literary fiction, purchased
6.  English Animals, Laura Kaye, literary fiction, purchased
7.  Golden Hill, Francis Spufford, historical fiction, purchased
8.  Man V. Nature, Diane Cook, anthology, purchased
9.  Disclaimer, Renee Knight, mystery, purchased
10.  The Rook, Daniel O'Malley, thriller, purchased
11  The Child, Fiona Barton, thriller, purchased
12.  Visitation Street, Ivy Pochoda, mystery, purchased
13.  The Trespasser, Tana French, mystery, purchased
14.  Moonglow, Michael Chabon, literary fiction, purchased
15.  LaRose, Louise Erdrich, literary fiction, purchased
16.  The Wrong Side Of Goodbye, Michael Connelly, mystery, purchased
17.  Sycamore, Bryan Chancellor, mystery, purchased
18.  The Past, Tessa Hadley, literary fiction, purchased

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  Rembrandt's Eyes, Simon Schama, hardcover
2.  Autonomous, Annalee Newitz, Kindle Fire
3.  The Perilous Adventures Of Cowboy King, Jerome Charyn, hardcover
4.  Lethal White, Robert Galbraith, audio
5.  The Children's Crusade, Ann Packer, hardcover

6.  There But For The, Ali Smith, paperback
7.  The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton, Kindle Fire
8.  Quietus, Vivian Shilling, paperback


Happy Reading!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett


Sancia Grado is a thief.  She lives in Foundryside, a slum which is home to all those considered not worthy of living in the gated merchant enclaves that make up most of the city Tevanne.  Sancia wasn't always a thief, although she has a hard time remembering her life before being one.  She knows that she was a slave on one of the plantations and she remembers pain and fire. 

Sancia has talents that the average person does not.  She can touch things like walls and receive data, knowing where the weak spots and footballs are.  This ability is the reason she is known in Tevanne as the master thief to hire if the job is difficult.  Sancia is hired to steal a small box for an enormous sum.  She accomplishes the task and that is where her life change begins.

What she has stolen is an artifact of the old masters.  It is a key and it begins to talk to her, introducing itself as Clef and telling her about its ability.  Clef can open any door.  Most doors are sealed by magic as magic is the ingredient on which all the great merchant houses are built.  The houses employ scrivers who have the ability to program inanimate objects and change their properties.  Clef can talk to the object and find the weakness in its program that allows him to change its function. 

Sancia soon realizes that she has an object that is in high demand, one that others will kill to obtain.  Clef is the necessary piece that will allow the unlocking of all the knowledge of the old masters, and the ability to force every individual to the powerholder's will.  She must form an alliance with unlikely allies such as Gregor, a soldier born to the elite class who wants to bring justice to Trevanne, and Orso and Berenice, scrivers employed by the house Gregor comes from.  Can this group thwart the plans of those who want to enslave humanity?

Robert Jackson Bennett is considered one of the best young fantasy writers.  He has twice won the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel.  He has won an Edgar for Best Paperback Original and a Philip K. Dick Citation Of Excellence.  This novel is the beginning of a new trilogy.  The plot is intriguing but the main interest comes from the characters who populate his world.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Sunstroke by Jesse Kellerman


When Gloria Mendez gets the call from her boss, she is concerned.  As far as she knew, Carl had gone for a vacation, giving her time off as well as his secretary.  But his message says that he is in trouble and even worse, she didn't get the message immediately so she has no idea where he is or what has happened to him.

Gloria is thirty-six, a divorcee with a policeman ex-husband.  She has worked for Carl for several years and always felt that a romance would eventually happen with them.  There has never been any overt action by Carl that would make one believe that but self-delusion is common and Gloria couldn't believe that her crush wouldn't one day lead to a relationship between them.

Now she feels that she needs to go find Carl.  He has no one else and she feels responsible.  She goes to Mexico which was his destination but finds little answer except that he has died in a car crash.  She is sent home by a disreputable law officer with a vase of his cremated ashes.  When she gets home, however, she discovers that the urn doesn't contain human remains.  Then a mysterious stranger shows up and he is also looking for Carl.  They decide to join forces and as they search, Gloria learns things about Carl she would never have suspected.  But will her new knowledge help her find him?

This is the debut novel for Jesse Kellerman.  He comes from a writing family; his father and mother, Jonathan and Faye Kellerman, are both writers in the mystery genre.  Prior to this novel, Jesse Kellerman has written plays and found success in that field.  Readers will be interested to read his first entry into the mystery genre.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Monster In The Box by Ruth Rendell


Walking around town one day, Chief Inspector Wexford sees someone he never expected to see again.  Thirty years before, he was a raw policeman, new to everything.  When he attended his first murder, a woman who was strangled, he saw a man on the street who gazed at him with a challenge in his eyes.  That man was Eric Targo.  When Wexford was assigned to get his statement, Targo was smug and condescending and somehow Wexford knew he had done the murder.  He reported his suspicions but there was no motive or proof tying Targo to the crime and he was never charged.

Afterward Targo moved to another town but Wexford kept an eye on him over the years.  Targo didn't seem to like people very much but he loved animals and always had a dog.  He ran kennels and was involved in dog breeding.  He went through women fairly quickly.  There were several other unexplained and uncharged murders in the towns Targo lived in but no one seemed to find him a suspect.  Wexford, however, continued to think of him as the monster who got away.

Now Targo is back in his town and is again his responsibility,  When there is a new murder surrounding him, Wexford is sure Targo is back to his old crimes.    Can Wexford bring him to justice at the end of his career to come full circle from the beginning of his career? 

This is the 22nd Inspector Wexford novel.  Ruth Rendell is a master of suspense and Wexford is her most successful character.  He is a policeman who has risen through the ranks, not gifted with superpowers but an insight into human behavior and a reliance on police procedure.  He sees things in behavior that often escapes others and his deductions often prove to be true when no one else can see what he sees.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.