Thursday, January 27, 2022

Written In Bone by Sue Black

 

The author, Dame Sue Black, is a forensic anthropologist who works in Scotland.  In this nonfiction book, Black takes the reader through her work and reveals what the bones can tell about a person and the manner of their death.  She starts at the top with the skull and goes down the body, using real-life cases to illustrate ways that specific bones were used to unravel mysteries.

Black has worked on cases all over the world.  She details her work on an Italian serial killer case, The Monster Of Terrazzo.  This case has an interesting side story.  Dame Black was asked to take the two heads of the victims back to her laboratory for additional work.  She carried the heads on a commercial flight in her hand luggage and her dry retelling of going through customs with this case and what the inspector's reaction would have been to a search is priceless.  She also worked on a case involving a serial killer from Thailand and identified victims of Scottish killer Dennis Nilsen.

She has also worked extensively in war crimes, identifying victims and providing evidence to bring perpetrators to justice.  She was awarded an OBE for her work in Kosovo in 2001.  She worked in Thailand after the tsunami in 2004.  She also worked proving torture in victims arrested for political crimes after the Arab Spring uprising.

Another major interest of Black is child sexual abuse.  She works on finding ways to identify the predators and bring them to justice.  Using pictures captured in pedophile cases, she is able to identify other abusers.  Her work with others in this project has resulted in 30 life sentences and over 400 years of prison time for those convicted.  This book details one of the roots of her interest in this area; the fact that she herself was a victim of childhood sexual abuse.

Readers interested in forensic anthropology and true crime cases will find this book fascinating. It combines the scientific facts with interesting examples from the author's personal work.   I listened to it and the author was also the narrator and did a wonderful job explaining her work and outlining all the cases she has worked on.  Dame Sue Black has more awards from both law enforcement and the Scottish government as well as academia than I have time to list.  She is an accomplished woman who has made her interest into an astonishing career.  This book is recommended for nonfiction readers.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Infinite by Brian Freeman

 

Dylan Moran's life couldn't be much worse than it is at the moment.  His wife, Karly, was recently killed in a car accident while Dylan was driving, drowned in their trapped car that Dylan barely escaped.  He had met her after another accident, one in which his best friend had died.  That's a lot of trauma to handle.  Dylan is desperate to find a way to process all that has happened, especially the part he hasn't told anyone.  After the accident, he saw something unreal; he saw himself in the crowd of bystanders.  Not someone who looked like him, him in the flesh.

Dylan goes to see a therapist.  She introduces himself to the concept of alternate worlds and suggests that the man he saw may have come from such a place.  Dylan is skeptical but agrees to try the therapy.  He is transported to another world and realizes that there is an alternate world created by each decision he makes.  There are multiple alternative worlds and multiple versions of himself.  Most of them he isn't interested in; they are boring men just plodding through their existences.  But there is the man he saw after the accident and he knows this man he must engage.  The other Dylan is a killer and his only desire is to kill more people and pin the crimes on Dylan in his world.  

As Dylan fights to find and put a stop to his alternate, he finds pieces of the traumatic world he has left.  He finds out the secrets behind Karly's distance before the accident, the reason his friend was killed, and his own possible life choices that would result in very different lives.  He is slowly healing but as he pursues his doppelganger, it is clear that it will be a kill or be killed scenario. Which Dylan will survive?

This is a novel that requires the reader to have a strong ability to suspend disbelief.  The idea of alternative worlds with alternates created by every decision is a new concept to many and may not be believable to them.   Dylan is also a character it is difficult to have empathy for, his life a series of selfish decisions that bring him an unfulfilled life.  Yet the author finds a way to end the book in a manner that provides hope going forward.  This book is recommended for thriller readers.

Monday, January 24, 2022

The Book Of Form And Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki

 


This book is told from the viewpoints of two narrators.  Benny is a young teenage boy.  His is in deep grief as his world was torn apart two years ago when his father died.  Kanji was a jazz musician and spent hours each day with Benny who idolized him.  When Kanji is killed in the alley outside their home, run over as he lay in a drugged stupor, everything changes.  Benny becomes estranged from the world, unconnected from a place that brings nothing but pain and fear.

The other narrator is the book that tells the story of Benny's life.  Along with Benny's story, it tells the story of books themselves, what they think, their hopes and fears and dreams.  Benny now lives with his mother Annabelle.  She has a marginal job tracking news stories for various clients.  Her employer requires her to achieve the sources so their house is crammed full of bags and boxes of old newspapers and magazines.  Add that to Annabelle's penchant for saving everything and a hoarding situation has developed.

Benny's life continues to deteriorate.  He is an outcast at school.  Soon he starts to hear voices, not voices of people but those of  objects.  He hides this new development as best as he can but it is clear he is struggling and he ends up in a pediatric psychiatric ward.  There he meets a teenage girl who he is fascinated with but who has many issues of her own.  Can all these damaged people find a way to exist without pain?

Ruth Ozeki writes literary novels that explore the corners of normality.  She has studied Buddhism for many years and that belief system infuses these pages.  The reader will be drawn into Benny's world and yearn for a world in which he and Annabelle learn to thrive rather than barely survive.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Sick Puppy by Carol Hiaasen

 

Twilly Spree has a goal in life.  Florida born and bred, he has devoted his life and wealth to saving the environment from the developers like his father who want to pave over every inch of land, especially if it is oceanfront and make the entire state a conclave of gated golf communities.  

Palmer Stoat has the opposite goal.  He is a lobbyist and as such, is always on the side of wealthy developers.  He has an in with the governor and when one of his buddies, a former drug dealer turned developer, wants to turn a pristine uninhabited island into a golf community, Palmer is the man to intercede with the governor and legislature.  In order for the island to be developed, it's rickety bridge to the mainland needs to be replaced with a big concrete monstrosity and that's Palmer's forte.

Twilly and Palmer are never going to be best friends, but events conspire to turn them into enemies.  Twilly sees Palmer carelessly littering from his car and it makes him livid.  He follows him, learns all about him and finally breaks into his home and abducts his labrador dog.  While negotiating for its return, Twilly also takes Palmer's wife, who is about done with Palmer and very interested in Twilly.  Palmer has influential friends but Twilly is about to get an ally in Skink, who used to be governor and now lives wild and free in the brush.  Who will win this battle?

Carl Hiaasen is a native Floridian himself and the ecological message scattered throughout the humorous narrative is his personal belief.  He is a journalist and has written seven Skink novels.  Readers will enjoy the skewering of the rich and powerful and the humor scattered throughout the book.  This book is recommended for thriller readers who also want a good laugh.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Sleepless by Romy Hausmann

 

Nadja grew up as the neglected child of a prostitute.  When her mother is found murdered, Nadja doesn't really understand what is going on as the police question her and before she knows it she is picked out as the scapegoat for her mother's death.  That protects all the influential men in the town who were customers.  Nadja is sent to prison for several years as a child offender.

But those days are behind her.  Now she is out and living her life as normal people do.  She has a job and likes her boss who is kind to her.  She has a few friends and a life where she can go where she wants and do anything that appeals to her.  Nadja is fairly content until the day Laura comes to her.

Laura was Nadja's first friend when she came to her job.  That continued until Laura caught the eye of the boss and soon married him and left the workforce.  Now Laura is distraught and begs Nadja to help her.  Nadja agrees of course.  But when Laura takes her to her house, Nadja finds the dead body of Laura's lover on the floor.  Laura begs Nadja to help her hide the body.

Nadja agrees and the two women take the body to a lodge deep in the forest.  But Nadja discovers that her past has come back to haunt her and that she is being set up as the victim to take the blame again for a crime she did not commit.  Will this be the same as all those years ago?

Romy Hausmann is a German author whose debut novel, Dear Child, became a runaway bestseller.  This is her second novel.  The reader will sympathize with Nadja.  The plot contains many twists and turns and it goes back and forth in time, some of which can confuse the reader.  There is a separate thread about another woman who is found dead in the forest also and it takes quite a while to reconcile the two plotlines.  This book is recommended for thriller readers.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Before The Poison by Peter Robinson

 


Chris Lowndes has moved back home to Yorkshire.  Chris has been in the United States for over thirty years and made his career writing the music for movies, a very successful career.  After the death of his beloved wife, he feels that he needs a change and buys a home in a remote Yorkshire village without viewing it.

After he takes possession, he has a chance to explore the house he has bought.  There is a huge family portrait hanging in the foyer, a man, his wife and their young son.  Chris learns that this was the family who lived there before him, a doctor named Earnest Arthur Fox, his wife Grace and their son.  What he hadn't expected to learn, Grace was convicted of Fox's murder by poison and hanged, one of the last individuals to undergo capital punishment in that location.

The more Chris learns about the family, the more drawn he feels to Grace.  She was also a musician and has left her grand piano behind in the house.  She was known as a nurse, a gracious lady who was kind to all.  What brought about her murder trial?  It turns out that Grace had an affair with a young man, years younger and the affair said the prosecution was her motive.  The conservative jury was ready to believe that and she was convicted.

Chris isn't that sure.  He starts to poke around, looking for those who were around thirty years before when the murder and trail occurred.  He manages to locate the young artist with whom Grace had the affair, and relatives of Grace's son.  He is soon obsessed with the case.  Was Grace innocent of the crime?

Most readers know Peter Robinson for his Inspector Alan Banks series.  This mystery does not fit in that series but is a stand alone.  Readers will be drawn into Chris' investigation and surprised to hear his backstory.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood

 

This anthology, released in 2014, contains nine stories by Margaret Atwood.  I've never read anything by this author that was less than stellar and these stories continue that trend.  The first three stories in the collection are linked; the story of an author who started a fantasy land to support her poet boyfriend.  The couple split up and the author went on to become a famous author on the scale of George R. R. Martin and his Games Of Throne.  The second story in this series is about the poet who let the author go through his misogynic personality and his life thereafter and the third follows the life of his last wife.

The title story tells the story of a woman who has killed her first four husbands.  She is currently on an Artic cruise when she discovers one of her shipmates is the boy, now man, who humiliated her in high school and she starts to plan his murder as well.  This story was written by Atwood while she was actually on such a cruise to entertain her fellow passengers.

One of my favorite stories was The Dead Hand Loves You.  It is about a famous author who made a contract as a young student that has ruled his life.  He was destitute, sharing a house with three other students.  He couldn't come up with his share of the rent but agreed to a contract that the four would share as equal partners in the money from the book he is writing.  Much to all their surprise, the book is a major hit that has spun off other money making ventures such as films and tv series and the author and his partners all end up wealthy.  The author can't help but regret the contract as the others profit from his work.  All of the stories are first rate and this anthology is highly recommended for short story readers.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Geographies Of The Heart by Caitlin Hamilton Summie

 

Sarah Macmillian is the anchor of her family.  She is the one who always has time for each member, giving everyone time and attention.  She is married to Al, a religion professor at the local college. They have a daughter whom both adore. Sarah has a sister, Glennie, whose career as a doctor is all consuming.  Her parents live close by and so do her grandparents.  Sarah is the caretaker for everyone, the person who gives time and attention to each person's needs.  But who takes care of Sarah?

This novel explores the foundation of our lives, the families that nurture and sustain us but also can serve as the biggest frustration in our lives.  Sarah always thought she and Glennie could never be separated, but time and careers and outside obligations have pushed them apart and soon Sarah's main thought when she thinks about Glennie is anger that Glennie doesn't spend the same amount of time with the family that she does.  Al is a genial man but as time goes on, life starts to grind him down; his touchstone is Sarah for whom his love is steadfast. As time moves on, the family has to change as the grandparents continue their aging process until they take the next step, death.  Sarah must redefine herself to accommodate the changing family dynamics.

This is one of the best novels I've read.  The author gets it all, love, resentment, family loyalty, connections, marriages and the work they take, sibling and parental relationships.  I was captured from the first pages and could barely tear myself away from the story of Sarah's family.  The story feels warm and loving but authentic, showing the weaknesses that can tear at family relationships when the load is unevenly distributed.  I read the author's first book, an anthology.  Several of those stories find their way into this novel but here the voice is so much stronger, the lessons and power of the family story so much more clearly defined.  I hope this book gets the recognition it deserves as it is definitely one of my favorite novels I've read recently.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and those who want to understand more about the family relationships that sustain us and tear us apart. 

Monday, January 17, 2022

Gideon The Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

 


The call has come out from the Emperor.  He has called to the ruling bone witch of each of the other eight houses to gather at his capital to compete in a battle to the death.  Each world is ruled by a bone witch who is a necromancer and the Ninth House is ruled by Harrowhark Nonagesimus.  She is just a teenager in age but one of the most skilled necromancers anywhere and a leading contender to win the competition.

There is one other caveat.  Each house and bone witch must be accompanied by their cavalier, a swordsman or swordswoman extraordinaire.  Gideon is such a cavalier, her swordwork almost unbelievable.  She has been raised as a captive in the Ninth House and longs only to escape and join the military.  She and Harrowhark have been enemies for their entire lives but Harrowhark needs Gideon now to accompany her.  Gideon agrees to go, thinking she will find a way to escape while there.

As all the necromancers and cavaliers assemble at the Emperor's castle, the rules are laid out.  There can be only one winner and that winner will become immortal as is the Emperor.  But the competition is full of politics and betrayal with death around every corner.  Gideon and Harrowhark must find a way to work together in order to come out alive on the other end. 

This is the first novel in the Locked Tomb series.  It was a finalist for the 2020 Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy awards and won the 2020 Locus and Crawford Awards.  It was named a Best Book of 2019 by such organizations as NPR, Amazon, Shelf Awareness and the New York Public Library.  The novel has complex worldbuilding and even the secondary characters are fully developed.  The central theme is the enmity between Gideon and Harrowhark and how these sworn enemies learn to work together towards a common goal.  It is full of sorcery, swordfights and mystery as well as developing characters who fight the common stereotypes of gender, race and sexuality.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers. 

Thursday, January 13, 2022

The Family Plot by Cherie Priest

 

Chuck Dutton can't believe his ears when the woman walks into his office at Music City Salvage.  It's a family business but times have been hard lately.  The woman is offering Chuck the rights to salvage anything he wants from her family mansion before it is razed to the ground in two weeks.  There are architectural details like tiled fireplaces and stained glass windows, hardwoods, cooper roofs and even furniture.  There are two outbuildings that have been locked up and untouched for decades.  He quickly writes her a check before she can change her mind.

Chuck needs to stay behind to run the business so his daughter, Dahlia, heads up the salvage team.  There's her brother Bobby and his son, Gabe plus a new hire named Brad.  The team plans to camp out in the old house as they strip everything and Chuck will come up on the last day to help drive everything back to the yard.

But there's something the owner left out.  Actually several somethings.  There are ghosts which the team starts seeing the first day.  There's a World War I soldier.  A young boy is in the attic.  There's a Southern lady who hangs out in her bedroom which is always locked except in the middle of the night.  And there's an evil spirit, an angry woman who wants them gone and will do anything she can to make that wish come true.

As the days pass, the attacks from the spirits intensify, both in frequency and attack strength.  Dahlia does what she can to find out the history of the family and soon has an idea of what is causing the anger and violence.  But can the team finish before they are finished off by the spirits?

Cherie Priest is an established author in the horror genre.  The reader will be drawn in by the unfolding of the family history and by the current relationships in the Dutton family.  The suspense builds unrelentingly and ends with a bone-chilling attack.  This book is recommended for horror readers.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

True Crime Story by Joseph Knox

 

Seven years ago, Zoe Nolan disappeared.  She walked out of her dorm suite during a party after publicly fighting with her boyfriend.  Since that night nothing has been heard of her and the case has gone cold.  But now someone is taking notice.  Eve Mitchell has heard about the case and is making it the centerpiece of her new book.  She has been interviewing the police involved as well as family and friends.  She sends her book in chapters as she finishes them to her mentor and friend, Joseph.  He gives her advice which she blithely ignores as she writes the book her way.

Zoe was eighteen and had been at university for only a couple of months.  She was a singer and her family had always considered her destined for fame and fortune.  Her twin sister, Kim, always felt left out of the family and does whatever she can to distinguish herself from Zoe.  She is appalled when Zoe decides to come to the university Kim has picked for herself to get away, and even more appalled when her father arranges for the girls to share a dorm suite.  

The story of Zoe's disappearance is told in bits and pieces from various sources.  There is the boyfriend, a rich kid who wasn't really that interested in Zoe.  There is the Muslim boy who is victimized for his differences.  There is the over helpful guy who is always there whether anyone wanted him there or not.  There is the Oriental roommate who loves drama and finds Zoe to be a rich source of it.  There is the professor who may or may not have been in Zoe's life as more than a professor.  There is her overbearing father and mousy mother.  Each has a piece of the story and as Eve puts it together, danger seems to be coming for her.  Can she solve the mystery?

This is a fascinating novel that breaks the rules.  It is told from multiple viewpoints, a book within a book and it is up to the reader to decide what is true and what is false.  There are discoveries and there are unreliable narrators.  Through it all, the reader starts to glimpse what may have happened that night to Zoe.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Monday, January 10, 2022

A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum

 


Three generations of Palestinian women's experiences within their families make up this novel.  Isra was living her life in Palestine when she was betrothed by her family to Adam and within weeks, sent to the United States to make her life with him and his family.  Adam is the oldest son and works all day in the stores the family owns.  Isra is left to work in the house; making the basement apartment they have in his parent's house clean and inviting, cooking, cleaning and doing whatever her mother-in-law, Fareeda, asks and as the children come, being a mother.  Isra has four children, all girls.  The culture is to blame the woman for the sex of the child with no weight being given to the scientific knowledge that the father determines a child's gender.

Fareeda is never content.  She immigrated to the United States with her husband, fleeing the Palestinian refugee camp they were forced into when their family lost their home and fortune during one of the wars with Israel.  She has given her husband three sons, all who live with them with their wives and children and one daughter, Sarah.  Fareeda is determined that since her life was hard, she will pass that down to her daughter and daughters-in-law.  Her sharp tongue and constant recital of how each woman has disappointed them all fills their days and quashes their dreams.

Deya is about to graduate high school.  She is Isra and Adam's oldest daughter although she barely remembers them.  All she knows is that they both died when she was little, leaving her and her three sisters to be raised by Fareeda.  Fareeda is determined to force Deya into an early marriage as all the other women have done but Deya is determined to go to college.  She does not want the life of her mother and grandmother, aunts and cousins whose lives consist of cooking, cleaning, raising children and being beaten by their husbands as their outlet for disappointments.

This book received a lot of awards.  It was a New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice book as well as a USA Today Best Book Of The Week.  It was named a finalist by the Goodreads Choice Awards both as Best Fiction and Best Debut.  It is a difficult book to read, the claustrophobic lives of the women hard for most women to imagine.  The presentation of domestic abuse in many Muslim households has been fraught with controversy.  But this is an important book to read for those interested in diversity, for learning about lives that are normal in other cultures yet so far from the reader's everyday experience.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

 

One of the most interesting activities at the Coopers Chase Retirement Village is the Thursday Murder Club.  Other residents may enjoy their knitting clubs or military history clubs, but this one involves studying and trying to solve various cold cases the police were never able to close.  It was started by a retired police officer, Penny, and her best friend, Elizabeth who had been a spy for the government.  Penny is now in a coma but the club goes on.  In addition to Elizabeth, there is Ibrahim who was a psychiatrist, Ron who was a famous labor leader and Joyce a retired nurse.

But now the stakes have been raised.  The owner of Coopers Chase is planning to expand the village to a new section.  To do so, everyone expects that he will be using the same contractor he used for the original village but the owner cuts him out in favor of cheaper labor.  When the contractor is found murdered later the same day, the police are sure it relates to the falling out and the Murder Club is sure they can solve the case.  As more murders occur, can they safely find the solution before they come into the killer's focus?

This is the first book in a massively successful series.  I hesitated to read it for a while as it was getting so much buzz but I'm so glad I did.  I fell in love with the characters and the tone of the writing in the first chapter and loved them all until the end.  There are lots of twists and turns and many enjoyable characters, both in the police force, other residents, and peripheral characters who become more important as the book progresses.  This novel is a joy to read and I'll definitely be moving on to the next one soon.  This book is recommended for cozy mystery readers.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Beyond Reach by Karin Slaughter

 

Detective Lena Adams uses her day off to drive back to her hometown.  She has received a call from a childhood friend telling her she needs to check on her uncle.  Lena's uncle raised her and her sister because there was no one else but he was an addict and Lena doesn't have fond memories of it.  He got clean years ago but when Lena gets there, she finds that he has relapsed and is near death.

Police Chief Jeffrey Tolliver gets a call the next morning telling him that his detective has been arrested.  No more information is forthcoming so he decides he needs to drive the hundred miles there to find out what is going on.  His wife, Sarah, goes with him.  Sarah is a doctor, the town pediatrician and is currently embroiled in a lawsuit over a young boy who died of leukemia.

When the two get there, they find almost no information except that Lena is in the hospital.  Apparently she was arrested at the scene of a death and it is unclear if she is involved.  Lena escapes from the hospital while Sarah is in her room and thus the couple feels they must stay and find out what is going on.  The local police chief is a very young man and Jeffrey doesn't feel that he knows enough to figure out what is going on.

It soon emerges that the town is awash with drugs and white power groups.  Did Lena get too close to the truth?  Are the local police involved?  As more bodies show up, Jeffrey and Sarah realize they are racing against time.  Can they solve the mystery and get Lena back home?

This is the sixth and final novel in the Grant County series.  Jeffrey and Sarah are remarried and now realize that each is the only one for the other.  Characters from the previous novels in the series show up in this one and it is best to read the series in order.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Monsters: A Love Story by Liz Kay

 


Stacy Lane is in a hard place in her life.  Her husband has been killed in a car accident recently, and although he left her and her two young sons financially independent, money doesn't make the grieving go away.  Stacy had moved to Nebraska with her husband's job and is now living there without him and finds that her feminist, poet personality doesn't always jibe with those of her neighbors.  Her sister lives there and is her main social outlet.  Mainly, she endures life, making sure she does what she can to ease her son's grief and maintaining their lives.

Then something amazing happens.  Her agent calls and says an option for a movie has been put on her most recent book of poetry.  Stacy is astonished and even more when she finds out that it has been optioned by Tommy DeMarco.  A perennial favorite on the Most Sexy Man Alive lists, she had never thought of Tommy DeMarco as someone who would be a fan of her poetry.  He is mostly known for dating copious amounts of women, never sticking with one for more than a few weeks.  But optioned the book has been and the company wants her to fly out to get the process of turning her poems into a movie started.

Thus starts two years of making a movie, through fights about the movie's directions, meeting the producer, fighting with the rewrite man, making friendships with the cast.  Then there's Tommy.  Stacy starts sleeping with him early on, but they both agree it is nothing more than the sex which is only on the occasional trips Stacy takes to work on the film.  Tommy is still out there with other women all the time while Stacy starts to date a doctor and think about her future.  Yet, Stacy forms a close relationship with Tommy's daughter and he does the same with her two sons.  Each calls the other whenever they need to talk about something in their lives.  The attraction and chemistry are overwhelming.  Can it ever go anywhere?

Liz Kay has written a book that many won't like.  Stacy is sarcastic and full of profanity.  Tommy is charming but not someone you wouldn't ever expect loyalty from.  Their constant stops and starts along with their behavior towards each other and those around them is often appalling.  Yet somewhere along the way, the reader realizes that they are pulling for this relationship to thrive and survive.  This book is recommended for readers of women's fiction. 

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Nottingham by Nathan Makaryk

 

The year is 1191, the time of the Crusades.  King Richard is half the world away, leaving his country with a dearth of leadership and impoverished by the massive funds needed to support the overseas campaigns.  Robin and Will, battleground friends, come home to Nottingham to try to find out what has become of a shipment of arms sorely needed overseas.  What they find will change their lives forever.

As the king calls for more money, that demand falls on the nobles, They in turn try to raise the money from their serfs and servants, causing hunger and misery.  These individuals on the bottom of the heap are starting to think about fighting back.  Some have run away and gathered in Sherwood Forest where they have become highwaymen to support themselves.  These are the folks who have stolen the arms shipments.

When Robin and Will meet up with the forest folk, a skirmish ensues and Robin is wounded.  Will escapes back to Nottingham while Robin remains behind in the forest and soon becomes the leader.  Now the two former friends are pitted against each other.  Each pursues their goals, being forced into actions they never thought they would do.  Along with them, others aligned with them suffer.  Arable is a servant girl who had been Will's lover before he joined the army while Marion was a lady who had been in love with Robin.  Both will play a part in the struggles to come.  Guy is the leader of the guard that protects Nottingham which makes him an enemy of the folk in the forest.  Along with Robin, these include Will Scarlet and his woman, Elena, along with John Little and the Friar.  Which of the two groups will succeed?

This is a debut novel which is difficult to believe.  It is an epic retelling of the Robin Hood story most are familiar with but it is a retelling that changes the viewpoints of the reader.  There is a second book in this series, Lionhearts, that readers will want to check into after finishing this one.  Nathan Makaryk is a writer and playwright and the novels are based on his plays about the Robin Hood legend.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers as well as those interested in the Crusades period.  

Sunday, January 2, 2022

The Furies by Katie Lowe

 

Violet's life changes forever when she is fifteen when her father and little sister are killed in a car accident.  Although her mother is still there, she has checked out of life and spends her days drinking and watching tv until she passes out.  Violet takes herself out of the public school she has been attending.  When the insurance settlement comes through, all of a sudden there is money.  Violet will now be going to the local private school which is considered a sign of prosperity and a doorway to upper class privilege.

Although bright, Violet doesn't fit in with the other girls, most of whom have known each other since birth.  So Violet is thrilled when Robin, a girl with flaming red hair, makes friendship overtures.  Soon Violet is in the clique that includes Robin, Alex and Grace.  The fact that they are all considered outside the pale doesn't seem to matter.

The girls are picked out by their art teacher for special classes and they come to believe in the ancient Greek myths with their monsters and penchant for revenge.  The girls feel that they know people who deserve a comeuppance and start to perform rituals to bring down revenge on them.  When a boy who they targeted in their rituals has a car accident, they are sure they have brought The Furies to life and that they hold others in the palm of their hands.  

Another girl had been in the clique but gone missing and is presumed dead.  The girls are determined to find out what happened to her and to avenge her death.  Can they be successful or will the evil they are playing with turn around and bite them?

This is a young adult debut novel.  I don't read much young adult and this novel hardened that resolve.  The tone of the book is one of teenage angst and can often seem whiny.  Why does no one get counseling for a girl who has lost most of her family?  Why can't teachers and parents notice that their teenage girls are coming home drunk or drugged, that they are rarely attending classes?  I couldn't suspend my disbelief long enough to enjoy the storyline but those interested in young adult novels may find this one to be right in their comfort zone.  

Friday, December 31, 2021

Booksie's 2021 Year In Review

 


Another year is gone.  For some reason, 2021 just didn't make much of a mark on my memory; it seemed to fly by without much going on.  For much of it, we stayed at home due to the pandemic but we did venture out a bit.  We went to Sanibel Island in April, and have gotten to visit our son, DIL and grandkids a couple of times this year.  That was especially welcome as we didn't see them for eighteen months prior.  I'm in three bookclubs and while they were mostly online, we have started to meet in person for one of them and another occasionally.  I've still been reading quite a lot.  I finished 195 books this year.  Reading goals I've met or making progress on:

1.  Reading from my own shelves.  Pretty much except for book club choices, I've read from my shelves and I'm slowly but surely whittling my collection down.

2.  Reading anthologies.  I always have one going and will for many more months.  I think I've found around another dozen on my shelves so this will be another goal for 2022.

3.  Working on the Wheel Of Time series.  I'm on book eleven now so hopefully will finish this year.

4.  Listening to more audiobooks.  I listened to 36 audiobooks this year.

5.  Reading more nonfiction.  I read 19 nonfiction books this year.

Here are the books I read that I liked the best:

  1. Underland by Robert MacFarland
  2. I Am Pilgrim, Terry Hayes
  3. All The King's Men, Robert Penn Warren
  4. Girl, Woman, Other, Bernadine Evaristo
  5. Winter's Heart, Robert Jordan
  6. The Coffin Maker's Garden, Stuart MacBride
  7. The Quiet Boy, Ben Winters
  8. The Blacktongue Thief, Christopher Buehlman
  9. The Window Seat, Aminatta Forna
  10. The Golfinch, Donna Tartt
  11. The Painter, Peter Heller
  12. Nottingham, Nathan Makaryk
My goals for 2022:
  1. Continue to read from my own shelves and donate what I've read
  2. Finish the Wheel Of Time series by Robert Jordan
  3. Always have an anthology going
  4. Read all of Karin Slaughter's books in order
  5. Read at least four classics
Happy Reading for 2022!

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Dark Roads by Chevy Stevens

 

In British Colombia, there is a highway named the Cold Creek Highway.  Along it's length, girls and women have disappeared for years with no closure.  Sometimes their bodies are found, sometimes not.  Some were hitchhikers, some were women who accepted a ride with the wrong person.  To those in the area, it seems that law enforcement has just thrown up their hands and quit trying to find out what is happening.

Hailey McBride could be one of those missing women.  A year ago, she lived with her dad but after his death in a road accident, she has gone to live with her aunt.  Unfortunately, her aunt is married to a local law officer and he has made it his life mission to manage every moment of Hailey's life.  He wants to pick her friends, decide when she can leave the house, be into her social media accounts, listen to all her phone calls.  At first he is irritating but when she discovers that his obsession has tipped over into taking pictures of her unawares, pictures in her bedroom and bathroom, she knows she needs to get away.  With the help of her friend, Johnny, she runs away and holes up in a hunter's cabin that is remote from the town.  Everyone in town assumes that the Cold Creek killer has claimed another victim. 

But the deaths keep coming.  Hailey finds the body of Amber, who was her friend and maybe more.  All she can do is call the discovery of the body in, fearing that her uncle is behind Amber's death.  Now, Amber's sister, Beth, has come to town determined to find the answers that law enforcement can't or won't.  Is Beth now in danger as well?

Chevy Stevens has written a taut, engaging tale.  The Cold Creek Highway exists and the tale of missing and murdered women, mostly indigenous is true.  The story is told through the voices of Hailey and Beth and once the two young women meet, events rush towards a surprising denouement. I listened to this novel and the narrator, Brittany Pressley, has narrated over a hundred books.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

2014 The Best American Mystery Stories edited by Laura Lippman

 

This anthology of mystery stories offers the best from 2014, as edited by Laura Lippman.  The authors include those familiar to most mystery readers as well as lesser-known individuals.  Authors include Megan Abbott, Daniel Alarcon, Jim Allyn, Jodi Angel, Russell Banks, James Lee Burke, Patricia Engel, Ernest Finney, Roxane Gay, Michelle Butler Hallett, Charlaine Harris, Joseph Heller, David Ingram, Ed Kurtz, Matthew Neill Null, Annie Proulx, Scott Loring Sanders, Nancy Pauline Simpson, Dennis Tafoya and Laura Van Den Berg.

My favorite story was Antarctica by Van Den Berg.  A woman has gone to Antarctica after receiving notification that her brother, a scientist, has been involved in an accident there and is presumed dead.  Due to the remoteness of the location, she stays at a neighboring scientific station and talks to those who knew her brother.  As she reflects on his death, she is reminded of the guilty secret she carried for years, the knowledge of a crime against his wife in her childhood that played a part in her disappearance years later as an adult.  

After all the stories, there was a nice feature.  Each author talked about the genesis of the story and why they loved it.  It was quite interesting to read about how authors get their ideas and how those ideas evolve into stories where the author can rearrange facts to make the situation make sense to them.  This book is part of an annual series and anthology readers should seek these out.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Intimacies by Katie Kitamura

 


An interpreter has come to work at the Hague International Court.  She seems adrift in all ways.  A native of New York, after her father's death, her mother returned to Singapore, where the interpreter felt no ties.  She is pleasant with her co-workers but not close to any of them.  She has made one friend, Jana, who is in charge of an art museum.  While at a galley opening, she meets Adriaan and becomes his lover although he is married and separated; there is no telling if the marriage will end or if the partners will reconcile.  At work, she has been assigned to interpret for a case of war crimes against a former African President who is accused of genocide.  The man seems to pick her out and want some sort of relationship although she doesn't know what.

As time goes on, she meets another woman through Jana, an art professor.  This woman has a brother who was assaulted on the street in front of Jana's building and beaten severely.  Without meaning to, the interpreter learns a secret about this man and wonders if she should reveal it to his family.  

This novel has garnered much praise.  It was nominated as a New York Times Top 10 Book of 2021 and longlisted for the 2021 National Book Award in Fiction.  My biggest question was the title.  The main character seems as far from intimacy in all aspects of her life as any character I've encountered.  All the relationships seem tenuous and as likely to end as to endure.  Readers will be interested to read about the inner workings of the International Court and to figure out along with the interpreter where her life will lead next.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Talking To Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

 

In this book, Malcolm Gladwell discusses the research into how we discern truthfulness or falsehood when talking to others.  He has gathered the research into this topic into an easily readable discussion, incorporating interesting examples.  Some of those include how easily the national intelligence agencies are fooled for years by double agents and how Hitler's nature and intentions were misread by national leaders.  He discusses crime cases where truth is of utmost importance but we find it difficult to distinguish truth from lies.  Some of these cases include campus sexual assaults, the Amanda Knox trial, the pedophile scandal of Penn State and the death of Sandra Bland after a traffic stop.  

One of the issues Gladwell discusses is the insistence of truth.  When in doubt about whether someone is telling us the truth, the normal act is to default to the idea that the person is telling the truth.  We believe that we can read truthfulness from facial expressions yet in studies both judges and law enforcement officers fail miserably at telling the truth about people from those clues.  We don't take into account the idea of coupling; that truth is tied to a specific situation and may be different in other ones.  

This is an interesting book on an intriguing topic.  Gladwell has a knack for gathering research and then presenting material in an easily digested format.  His books are readable and while not scientifically exhaustive, they introduce topics to those interested and give them a base from which to pursue further and deeper studies on topics that they are interested in.  This book is recommended for nonfiction readers who are interested in communication.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Dark Mirror by Barry Maitland

 

It's a typical day in the sedate Reading Room of the London Library.  But the calm is shattered when a young graduate student, Marion Summers, experiences a seizure and dies.  What could have caused a young healthy woman to die so dramatically?  The medical examiner is able to provide the answer; arsenic poisoning.

Marion was working on a thesis about the art world and the use of poisons in the paints and in the lives of the artists and their wives and lovers.  The academic who is supervising her work disagrees with her ideas and they are in conflict.  Can he be the one who poisoned her?  Marion comes from a poor background but lives in a luxurious apartment.  How did she finance that?  Her stepfather is also a suspect as he has a record of violence.  

Detective Inspector Kathy Kolla has been recently promoted and wants to successfully solve this case.  But when one of the suspects with connections reports her for harassing behavior, the case is given to her supervisor, DCI David Brock.  Kathy continues to run down leads in the case, sure that she is getting close to the answer.  As more women start to die from the same arsenic poisoning, can she or Brock get the answers before the killer strikes again?

This is the tenth novel in the Kolla and Brock series.  Long-time readers of the series will be interested in this latest case and in Kolla's professional rise.  Readers will learn about the pre-Raphaelite period of art and all the scandals in that sector, as well as gaining knowledge about poisoning cases.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy

 

Inty Flynn has arrived in a remote Scottish village with a team of scientists.  The group is there to work on reintroducing wolves back into the environment.  Inty has worked on similar projects in Alaska and Yellowstone and is a wolf expert.  She expects resentment and fear from the people living there, most of whom are sheep farmers and she is not disappointed.  The people are adamantly against bringing wolves into their lives.  Intry tells them about the ways that wolves improve the wild.  Predators are necessary to keep the animals that graze down, so that they don't eat all the young growth of trees and so that the weak and old are taken from the herds.  But the populace just expects that the wolves will kill their livestock and present a danger to humans, even though Inty has explained that wolves are shy creatures, afraid and leery of humans.

Along with her knowledge, Inty has brought her twin sister, Aggie.  Aggie doesn't go out, her mind shattered by a marriage when her husband regarded her as his property and enforced that belief with his fists.  The women have fled from him and Aggie's greatest fear is that he will track them down and force his way back into their lives.  She only trusts Inty as she and Inty have always lived together and been there for each other.  Most people don't even know that Inty has a sister.

As time goes on, Inty starts a relationship with the local police chief, Duncan.  Duncan also has a history with violence but Inty slowly starts to believe that she might have a future with him.  At least, until Stuart is killed.  He is a local farmer, vocal against the wolf project and furious with Inty as she has outed him as a wifebeater.  When he is killed, Inty knows that the town will think the wolves were responsible and she is right.  Can Inty protect those she loves, Aggies and the wolves?

I listened to this book and it was a great choice.  The prose is slow and haunting and the narrator reflected that.  I had time to settle in and imagine myself in the remote Scottish highlands, to feel the love Inty had for her sister and the wolves and to feel the fear that Inty feels as she comes to believe that everything she loves will be taken from her.  Along the way, I learned quite a bit about wolves and their place in the ecology of a forest.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Booksie's Shelves, December 23, 2021

 


Two days until Christmas!  A week left in 2021 as we race towards 2022.  We've had a warm winter here in North Carolina so far.  DH and I took a trip to Georgia last weekend to visit our son, DIL and the grandkids for Christmas.  The actual day will be a quiet one with us plus our daughter.  I'll be up early making the sausage balls that are one of our Christmas traditions then lots of present opening.  I've already received some books for Christmas from my reading son so I'm ahead of the game.  I'll be posting a year-end wrapup of my 2021 reading in a few days.  In the meantime, here's what has come through the door lately:

  1. The Removed, Brandon Hobson, diverse voices, purchased
  2. Simon The Fiddler, Paulette Jiles, literary fiction, gift
  3. Talking To Strangers, Malcolm Gladwell, nonfiction, gift
  4. I Am Not Who You Think I Am, Eric Rickstad, thriller, gift
  5. The Water Cure, Sophie Mackintosh, literary fiction, purchased
  6. The Long Take, Robin Robertson, literary fiction, purchased
  7. Geographics Of The Heart, Caitlin Hamilton Summie, literary fiction, sent by author
  8. Believing The Lie, Elizabeth George, mystery, purchased
  9. Resurrection Men, Ian Rankin, mystery, purchased
  10. Space Opera, Catherynne Valente, science fiction, purchased
  11. Exit West, Mohsin Hamid, literary fiction, purchased
  12. Sundial, Catriona Ward, thriller, sent by publisher
  13. The Resting Place, Camilla Sten, mystery, sent by publisher
I bought these ebooks:

  1. Empire Of Black And Gold, Adrian Tchaikovsky, science fiction
  2. Dangerous To Know, K.T. Davis, fantasy
  3. Empire Of Wild, Cherie Dimaline, fantasy
  4. Mongrels, Stephen Graham Jones, horror
  5. The Doors Of Eden, Adrian Tchaikovsky, science fiction
  6. Bitter Orange, Claire Fuller, literary fiction
  7. Bright Girls, Clare Chambers, women's fiction
  8. Still Lives, Maria Hummel, mystery
  9. The Stand, Stephen King, horror
  10. The Cold Nowhere, Brian Freeman, mystery
  11. Magpie Lane, Lucy Atkins, mystery
  12. Tyrant's Throne, Sebastian de Castell, fantasy
  13. Truth Or Dare, M. J. Arlidge, mystery
  14. The Children Of Jocasta, Natalie Haynes, literary fiction
  15. 56 Days, Catherine Ryan Howard, mystery
  16. New Spring, Robert Jordan, fantasy
  17. The Galaxy, And The Ground Within, Becky Chambers, science fiction
  18. The Story Of The Lost Child, Elena Ferrante, literary fiction
  19. I: The Creation Of A Serial Killer, Jack Olsen, true crime
  20. Spine Of The Dragon, Kevin Anderson, fantasy
  21. Spoken Bones, N. C. Lewis, mystery
  22. Murder At Teal's Pond, David Bushman, mystery
  23. The Spires, Kate Moretti, mystery
  24. The Whitstable Pearl Mystery, Julie Wassmer, mystery
  25. Bleeders, Anthony Bruno, mystery
  26. The Body Scout, Lincoln Michel, science fiction
  27. The Sun Casts No Shadow, Mark Richardson, science fiction
  28. Where The Truth Lies, M J Lee, mystery
  29. An Ignorant Witch, E M Graham, fantasy
  30. Hurricane Season, Fernanda Melchor, literary fiction
  31. The Unbroken, C.L. Clark, fantasy
  32. For The Wolf, Hannah Witten, fantasy
  33. The Seven Visitations Of Sydney Burgess, Andy Marino, horror
  34. Sistersong, Lucy Holland, fantasy
  35. Grave Peril, Jim Butcher, science fiction
  36. No Gods, No Monsters, Cadwell Turnbull, fantasy
  37. The Darkest Evening, Ann Cleeves, mystery
  38. Knightmare Arcanist, Shami Stovall, fantasy
  39. A Small Town, Thomas Perry, mystery
  40. Tell Me The Truth, Matthew Ferrell, mystery
  41. The Recent East, Thomas Gratten, literary fiction
  42. Girl Missing, Kate Gable, mystery
  43. Girl Lost, Kate Gable, mystery
  44. American Sherlock, Kate Dawson, nonfiction
  45. Palace Of The Drowned, Christine Mangan, literary fiction
  46. Queen Of Shadows, Sarah Maas, fantasy
  47. Empire Of Storms, Sarah Maas, fantasy
Here's what I'm reading:
  1. Talking To Strangers, Malcolm Gladwell, nonfiction
  2. The Night Swim, Megan Goldin, mystery
  3. True Crime Story, Joseph Knox, true crime
  4. Best Mystery 2014, various, anthology
  5. A Woman Is No Man, Etaf Rum, literary fiction
  6. Nottingham, Nathan Makaryk, literary fiction
Happy Reading!


Thursday, December 23, 2021

When A Killer Calls by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker

 

May 31, 1985 and Shari Smith had it all.  It was two days before her high school graduation near Columbia, South Carolina and she was to sing the national anthem before the ceremony.  Her high school class was going on a trip to a tropical island after graduation.  She was planning to live in Charlotte for the summer and with her sister, Dawn, perform at Carowinds.  Shari had a boyfriend and a loving family.

But none of those plans came to fruition.  On her way home, Shari stopped at the bottom of the driveway to get the family's mail.  That's where her father found the car minutes later, door open, engine running.  There were footprints leading to the mailbox but none returning.  

Despite the police being called immediately there was no sign of Shari.  But then the calls started.  The man on the other end admitted to having Shari and instructed her family to expect a letter.  When the letter arrived the next day, it was titled Last Will And Testament and Shari had written it as a love letter to her family.  She knew she was about to be murdered and wanted to reassure her family and urge them to move past her death.  Lawmen had never seen such a thing.  The FBI was called in to assist in finding the man who took Shari.

John Douglas was the head of the FBI profiling unit.  He and a co-worker had invented the system of criminal profiling by spending time going from prison to prison interviewing killers.  He had worked on the cases of the Atlanta child murders, the Green River Killer and many other well known cases.  He flew to South Carolina and worked on a profile with the local law establishment.  His profile gave the police a way to narrow down their search.  In the meantime, the man who kidnapped Shari continued to call, asking to speak to either Shari's mother or her sister, Dawn.  He seemed to revel in the pain and anguish these calls produced.

After a week, Shari's body was found where the killer had directed Dawn to tell the police it would be.  Then another tragedy.  Nine year old Debra May Helmick was kidnapped from her front yard with her little brother watching.  A week later her body was also found.  Soon afterward, forensic evidence helped the police narrow their search and arrest the killer, Larry Gene Bell.

I read everything John Douglas and Mark Olshaker write.  There can be no more authoritative voice in the world of finding killers than John Douglas.  His books portray the process by which such killers are found as well as the effect such a hunt has on the men and women we have charged with doing so.  This book follows through Bell's trails and gives updates on the various people in the book.  It is recommended for readers of true crime.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney

 


Adam and Amelia Wright are celebrating their wedding anniversary.  If they ever needed to celebrate, it's this year.  They have been slowly drifting apart until they are like two people stranded on separate ice floes that are moving further away from each other day by day.  Adam is a scriptwriter, rewriting other people's works for the movies.  He has had ambitions to write his own novels but can't really find the time with all the work he takes on.  He also has the condition of face blindness where he can't recognize anyone by their face, even his wife.  Amelia works at a dog rescue where she can share the love she can't give a child as they haven't been able to have children.

When Amelia gets an email saying that she has won a weekend away in a giveaway, they decide this is the perfect opportunity to get away and rediscover each other.  The location is a remote repurposed church up in the Scottish highlands.  They are glad to get away but when they arrive they start to wonder.  The church is fairly dilapidated and it is very remote with no other houses or towns around.  Inside it is dusty and cold and there is little sign they are expected.  They eventually find a note saying there are frozen meals and a cellar full of wine and they decide to make do.  However, they aren't prepared for the power to go out while they are down in the cellar, making it difficult to find their way back upstairs.  Worse, they seem to be catching glimpses of someone outside and their dog barks periodically as if he is aware of a stranger as well.  What is the story?

Alice Feeney has written a taut tale of love gone astray, betrayals both professionally and personally and a quest for revenge that has taken years to plan.  The secrets are revealed in turn, each one totally reframing the story and what the reader believes about the couple.  Alice Feeney is an author and journalist with books that are optioned for tv series.  She knows exactly how much to reveal and when to raise the tension and surprise the reader at every turn.  This book is recommended for thriller readers.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

The Husbands by Chandler Baker

 

Most women would envy Nora Spangler.  She is a successful attorney with a loving husband, a software designer.  The couple have a young daughter and Nora is pregnant with their second child.  They are looking for a new house as their family expands.  

But Nora doesn't necessarily feel like someone who others should envy.  She has all that but it seems like she is always running a hundred miles an hour to keep all the parts of her life going.  She works long hours but still there is a suggestion at her law firm that she should be able to drop everything and work late or on weekends whenever the firm finds it necessary, which is often.  Her daughter loves her school but school means monitoring projects, packing lunches, making sure there is a new cute outfit ready each day.  The house still has to be cleaned, laundry has to be done, cooking the meals and cleaning up is a daily chore and then there are the other items such as grocery shopping, doctors' visits, dentist, playdates, birthday parties, school trips and parties.  The list goes on and on.  Dylan would say he helps and he does but the responsibility falls mainly on Nora.

The couple finds a great house in a subdivision called Dynasty Ranch.  The house is great but Nora is even more impressed with the women she meets from the neighborhood.  They are all highly successful, doctors, CEOs, and other professionals.  Yet they seem calm and happy and they all have highly supportive husbands who take on an equal share of the second shit work if not the majority of it.  Nora wonders how did they come to this arrangement?  As she gets to know the women better, she realizes that this lifestyle is the one she wants.  Or is it?  

Chandler Baker has written a story that reverses the well known book, The Stepford Wives.  The tension in the book builds slowly, from Nora meeting the other women to envying them to finally fearing them.  Baker taps into the resentment that most married women with families feel; that they are shouldering the majority of the household work while men come home to relax, and that something needs to change in their lives.  Many readers will be surprised at the book's ending and final twists.  This book is recommended for thriller readers.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

The Darlings by Cristina Alger

 

Carter Darling is a billionaire financier, head of his own hedge fund.  As he moves closer to retirement, he is pleased with his life and what he has accomplished and done for his two daughters, Merrill and Lily.  Both of his son-in-laws are employed at his firm.  Paul, married to Merrill, has just come on two months ago as corporate general attorney when his former firm went under.

But things are about to change drastically.  One of Carter's best friends, Morty, who ran one of Carter's funds, is suddenly in the news.  Apparently his great investment success is due not to Morty's acumen but to a Ponzi scheme.  As friends, Carter has not been as diligent in overseeing Morty as he should have been.  Morty's car was found on a bridge with the doors open and no sign of Morty, a presumed suicide.  Since Morty is not around to pay for his sins, the SEC will be looking for a scapegoat.  Carter may be the best one for the job.

But Carter won't go down without a fight.  He rallies his family around him and hires a PR firm who specialize in cutting deals behind the scene.  He demands family loyalty but is he willing to give it back?  How far will he go to save himself?

This is Cristina Alger's debut novel and she writes about a world she knows.  She is both an attorney and a former analyst at Goldman, Sachs.  Alger portrays a cutthroat world where betrayals are the coin of the realm and where family and power is all.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Man Of War by Charlie Schroeder

 


Charlie Schroeder, a writer, pubic radio producer and actor, had an idea.  He wondered what made people, mostly men, want to reenact battles from various wars?  Charlie is a progressive and he expected that most of the people he would meet would be conservative if not far rightwing.  But he set out to find out what drives the whole genre of reenactment.

Over the year he spent doing this, he flew over thirty thousand miles and drove over five thousand.  He found groups in all areas of the country and they reenacted battles from many wars.  Charlie participated in ten reenactments.  There were the Romans, Civil War, Revolutionary War, Nazis, the French and Indian War, Vikings, rowers in bateaus and Vietnam.  To end his time, Charlie even devised and carried out his own reenactment in California; that of the monk who founded the majority of the Spanish missions back in the 1700's.

What he found were people who had a reverence for history, for learning how their ancestors lived and worked and what they found compelling enough to fight for.  He found that most were very generous with their time and knowledge but that there were some racists as well as historians.  Overall, he found it a fascinating experience that he was glad to have experienced.  This book is recommended for nonfiction readers.