Thursday, 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
Monday, February 11, 2019
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Wednesday, January 9, 2019
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
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
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.
Monday, December 31, 2018
When journalist Ross Hunter opens his door, he didn't expect to find an older man who insisted he had to talk to him. When he invited him in, he definitely didn't expect the man to tell him that he had the key to absolute proof that God existed and that he needed Ross to help him publicize the news.
Ross is leery but after talking to others and researching the man's background, he agrees to at least check out the first clue the man presents him. He does so and finds the coordinates for an amazing treasure, a cup buried in a hidden chamber on a religious site that could be the actual Holy Grail. Soon the chase takes Ross around the world to other countries chasing more artifacts and trying to find out the truth.
But there are those who don't want him to succeed. Representatives of many of the world's oldest established religions want to either buy the proof or find a way to suppress it. Businesses chime in, hoping to make a fortune off Christians who will buy anything associated with their Savior. There are break-ins and frightening messages and soon, several murders as those against the possibility pull out all the stops to keep Ross from finding the truth. Can he push through to the truth?
Peter James is known for his mysteries starring Detective Roy Grace. This is a different theme for him and the reader is hurtled around the world as Ross attempts to solve the mystery and decipher the way his own life will work out going forward. Readers may feel that the book is a bit repetitive as it seems to take Ross quite a bit of time to figure out that he is in danger and decide what to do but the ending is thought provoking. This book is recommended for readers of thrillers with a religious or historical background.
Sunday, December 30, 2018
In her third novel, Jesmyn Ward portrays a poor family in rural Mississippi. The family is African-American. Living in the house are the grandfather, who is the patriarch of the family and his wife. Their daughter, Leonie, lives there off and on, disappearing for days on end either working or doing drugs. Her two children, Jojo and Kayla, regard the grandparents as their parents and have little regard for Leonie. Finally, their father, Michael, shows up occasionally. Michael comes from the white family that lives next door. He and Leonie haven't married but have the two children. They can't live with each other or without each other and have a tumultuous relationship. As the book opens, Michael is about to be released from prison.
Jojo is thirteen and trying to learn all he can about being a man. His hero is his grandfather and he tries to be just like him. His white grandfather will have nothing to do with him even living as closely as he does due to Jojo and Kayla's black heritage. Jojo learns to be a man though stories. There are the stories of his uncle, Given, who was killed by a member of Michael's family. There are the stories that his grandfather tells of him time at Parchman prison, back when it used the prisoners as the next thing to slaves. There are the stories about the boy his own age caught up in Parchman, Richie, and his relationship to Jojo's grandfather.
Jesmyn Ward has given the reader an intimate look into the lives of this family and the hurt and love still caught up in racial relations in the United States. Most of the individuals in the novel are just doing the best they can to get by, often hurting those around them as they try to make a life they can live with. It is an indictment not only of the state of racial relations but the poverty that exists in the United States and that most people have little experience of. This book was a winner of the National Book Award, (Ward's second win of this prize) and a New York Times Top 10 Notable Book. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.
Thursday, December 27, 2018
1. Unsheltered, Barbara Kingsolver, literary fiction, a gift
2. The Witch Elm, Tana French, mystery, a gift
3. Delicate Edible Birds, Lauren Groff, anthology, purchased
4. Where The Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens, purchased
5. The Perilous Adventures Of The Cowboy King, Jerome Charyn, historical fiction, book tour
6. The Feral Detective, Jonathan Lethem, mystery, purchased
7. Murder Once Removed, S.C. Perkins, mystery, sent by publisher
8. The Death Of Mrs. Westaway, Ruth Ware, mystery, gifted
9. The Night Before, Wendy Walker, mystery, won in contest
10. Becoming Mrs. Lewis, Patti Callahan, literary fiction, sent by publisher
11. If, Then, Kate Hope Day, literary fiction, won in contest
12. Manhattan Beach, Jennifer Egan, literary fiction, purchased
13. The Complete Sherlock Holmes, read by Stephen Fry, anthology, purchased
14. The Female Persuasion, Meg Woltizer, literary fiction, purchased.
Here's what I'm reading:
1. Rembrandt's Eyes, Simon Schama, hardcover
2. Autonomous, Annalee Newitz, Kindle Fire
3. Sing, Unburied Sing, Jasmyn Ward, hardcover
4. Absolute Proof, Peter James, audio
5. Foundryside, Robert Jackson Bennett, Kindle Fire
6. The Children's Crusade, Ann Packer, hardcover
7. The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton, Kindle Fire
8. Quietus, Vivian Shilling, paperback
9. The Monster In The Box, Ruth Rendell, hardback
10. Cold Granite, Stuart MacBride, hardcover
11. Sunstroke, Jesse Kellerman, hardcover
Wednesday, December 26, 2018
Ella lives a very restricted life. She goes to work, works all day without socializing with her co-workers, rides her bike home where she spends her evenings alone, reading or doing embroidery. She wants more but knows the scandal in her past prohibits that. For all she knows, she is wanted by the police and if she isn't, she wants to stay under the radar so that she isn't.
Then it happens. On the way home one dark, rainy night, a van comes out of nowhere and the next thing Ella remembers is waking up in the hospital where she is informed of her injuries and the lengthy recuperation she'll need. But don't worry, the nurses tell her. Your husband can take care of you. With that, Ella raises her eyes and sees a face she never thought she'd see again, a face she thought she had killed one night all those years ago.
Although she denies being married to him, her objections are seen as part of her injuries and as soon as she is ready, she is sent off with the man she dreads seeing more than anyone. Jacob has done everything to make sure his second chance at a life with Ella will work; he has bought a new house and furnished it with everything they need, including a security system that works to keep Ella prisoner during the days while he works. He even makes friends with the neighbors to keep up the facade. Ella realizes that it does no good to make waves and decides she will have to escape by her own wits. Can she do that before her past catches up?
Samantha Hayes has written a psychological thriller that will make the reader squirm. It is an impossible situation but is laid out in a way that makes it imaginable, although revolting. Ella is determined to save herself no matter what happens and the introduction of a co-worker who has missed her and wants to help adds another dimension. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Monday, December 24, 2018
We meet Tooly Zylberberg as an adult. She runs an independent bookstore in Wales. To say that Tooly had an unconventional upbringing would be an understatement. She remembers living in Hong Kong with her father, Paul, who loves birds and computers and doesn't seem to know what to do with her. She is spirited away by Sarah, a free spirit who claims to love Tooly more than anything in the world while ignoring her for days on end; the last person one would trust to raise a child. In actuality, Tooly spends her days with Humphrey, an elderly Russian man who loves books and Tooley and not much else, who cannot give a straightforward account of his life and looks at the world askew, a viewpoint he shares with her. Then there is Venn. Venn is a charismatic man who all the others revolve around. He travels the world, making friends quickly, then leaving them when they discover that he isn't who he seemed to be and that his real mission was to con them out of their money. Tooley grows up around these people, not attending school and learning mostly how to remain separate from others and to use them for her own gains.
When a former boyfriend tracks Tooly down over Facebook and informs her that her father (as friends think Humphrey is) has fallen on bad times, Tooley decides that it is time to discover the truth about her life. She flies to the United States and indeed, finds Humphrey in a bad way, living in a decrepit rooming house and rarely leaving his room. She tracks down Paul and Sarah and finds out their piece of her story. It is only when she reunites with these companions of her youth that she comes to realize that the stories she has believed all her life were false and that the truth of how she came to be an adult is largely based on ideas she generated as a young girl adrift in the world. Will she be able to find the truth at last?
This is a wonderful novel and will be in the top five of the year for me. It is filled with marvelous characters and the reader is entranced with Tooley's journey to find her truth. The reality of her life is so different from what she has always believed that one must reexamine their own truths to see if memory and childhood explanations have hidden truths for years. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.
Tuesday, December 18, 2018
When Lucas Davenport's daughter, Lettie, meets two Travellers in San Francisco, he doesn't think much about it. Lettie had listened to them playing music, and when they weren't getting much money for their mediocre performance, offered to buy them a meal. They accepted and she talked with them a while about their lives traveling the country, making it by doing whatever they could to keep going. She gave them contact information and told them she was about to head home for the summer to Minnesota and if they ever got there to give her a call, never expecting to hear from them again.
But she does. She gets a call from the woman, Skye, who is distraught. Her partner, Henry, had disappeared while they were out West. He didn't show up at their agreed meeting place and she's heard rumors that he got caught up with a group headed by a shadowy figure who calls himself Pilate. Pilate has a group who follows him and travels with him, dealing drugs and women and committing violence for the fun of it. Skye is afraid that the group may have harmed Henry. Lettie fronts Skye the money to get to Minnesota and introduces her to Lucas.
At first Lucas is wary but soon realizes that the group may be in Minnesota or the neighboring states and that they are involved in several gory murders. Now they are in his territory and even worse, are on the periphery of his daughter's life and perhaps she is in danger from them. Can Lucas pull together the resources of several states in order to capture this modern Charles Mason and his followers?
This is the twenty-fifth book in the Prey series. Lucas is getting older and less likely to care about the rules of the bureaucrats he works for. Some of the more recent books in the series have seemed a bit cookie cutter but this one is intriguing and a real page-turner. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Sunday, December 16, 2018
When Father Spurlock is approached in his church by the young woman, he suspects that she might be one of the street people who come there for help. She has come for help but he cannot provide what she needs. The woman seems to think that he has something for her, some papers she needs. When he states that he has no knowledge of any papers, she disappears with no way to contact her again.
Several days later, Spurlock does receive papers. It is the papers of a psychoanalyst named Daniel Abend and it is a confession of his life and that of his daughter. Abend has recently had a patient commit suicide; one that he thought he had helped. Father Spurlock had performed the eulogy at the young woman's funeral and that is where Abend meets him and decides that he is the person who can help him in his time of need.
For it turns out that Abend's patient had not committed suicide but been murdered, and worse, that the person responsible may have Abend's daughter who left home as a young woman. The story is revealed slowly, over months, to Abend, and as he gets a clearer picture, it becomes evident that he has an enemy. This enemy has harbored hate for Abend for many years and is determined to get revenge. In order to protect his child, Abend is forced to relive his own youth and the mistakes that were made in it and to understand how those mistakes are coming back to impact his life. Can he resolve the issues in time to save his daughter?
DeSales Harrison has written a debut novel that will resonate with readers long after the last page is turned. The mystery is slowly revealed, ratcheting up the suspense with each new revelation. Harrison himself studied psychoanalysis as a student and is currently a professor of poetry and the director of the creative writing program at Oberlin College. He has written a novel that readers will not soon forget. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and psychological suspense.
Friday, December 14, 2018
In this anthology of fourteen stories, Frederick Busch explores how individuals deal with the missing parts of their lives, whether they attempt to rediscover it, to move past it, to be crushed by it or to move on to discover something else to take its place. In the first story, From The New World, a man deals with the fact that his family will never accept the woman he loves and will try to control him even from beyond the grave through their money and influence. In the last story, To The Hoop, he deals with a man and his son who are dealing with the aftermath of their mother and wife committing suicide and choosing to leave them. Between, the dozen stories talk about loneliness, the aching to belong and the lengths individuals will go to in order to fill the voids in their lives.
Frederick Busch is known as an author's author; he is respected by those who know writing and are amazed at his ability to eloquently outline the human condition. He has written several anthologies and several novels such as The Night Inspector or Girls. This fifth book of stories is dedicated to Reynolds Price, another author who falls in the same category of a writer admired by other writers. Busch was a professor of literature at Colgate University and a winner of the 1991 PEN/Malamud Award for short stories. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.
Tuesday, December 11, 2018
Life is hard for Hector and Lilia in Oaxaca, in southern Mexico. Hector works long hours at a physically tasking job in order to provide them a living. Lilia looks after their toddler and is about to give birth again. She works as a potter as the women in her family always have in order to make a little more money. It's a hard life, not the one the pair had dreamed of as young lovers and then a young married couple.
Their dream was to go to the United States, where work was more plentiful and the money was much better. Hector went first and found a job in South Carolina which was too far away for him to visit. Lilia decided to follow him but when she reached the border her coyote said that he wouldn't take her across with her baby, Alexandra. Instead, he would take her and his friend, a woman, would take the baby and meet them across the river. Lilia didn't like the plan but had no other resources so reluctantly agreed. She made it across the river by swimming but the woman never came to the agreed meeting place. When Hector met up with her, they spent frantic days searching but there was no word and no trace of their baby. They reluctantly moved on to South Carolina to make money to extend their search. They were ultimately arrested and deported back to Mexico.
The loss carved a hole in their marriage. It was almost impossible for Hector to forgive Lilia for her foolishness that had cost them their child. Now, with a son and another baby about to be born, they have reached an equilibrium in their marriage. It isn't the same as it was when they were young, but it has its joys along with its difficulties.
Then a miracle occurs. They find the man who arranged their passage with the coyote. The coyote was killed in a car wreck so there can be no answers from him about their Alexandra but they discover that a woman and a baby were also in the wreck. The woman was also killed but the baby survived. Was that woman the one Lilia trusted with Alexandra? Did Alexandra survive and if so, where was she now? Hector immediately prepares for a journey to find out what happened three years ago and if Alexandra is still alive to rejoin their family. He leaves Lilia, heavily pregnant, behind as they search for the missing piece of their family. Will they be successful?
Michel Stone has written a moving account of why families immigrate and the perils they face as they do it without the legal protections that exist for legal immigrants. Those who come illegally are at the mercy of whomever they meet, to provide work, to keep their secrets, to not cheat them or take too much from them. Sometimes, tragedies occur and may rip families apart. The reader feels for Hector and Lilia and their child who is torn from them. This book is recommended for readers interested in current events.
Saturday, December 8, 2018
Things are different for Quinn Colson this time around at home in Jericho, Mississippi. Colson has been in and out of the Army serving as a Ranger for a decade, reupping whenever home causes issues. The last time Quinn was home, he was the Sheriff but he lost in the reelection. He's thinking about going back to Iraq but as a contractor this time. But things are pretty hot at home also and he's got to decide if he'll stay and help out there or go back overseas.
The new sheriff is a woman, Lillie Virgil. She seems to have things under control or at least until Fannie Hathcock moves into town and takes over the local nude bar. She uses a motorcycle gang to serve as enforcement and the whole scene is getting out of control. When a former high school cheerleader is found murdered gruesomely after a short stint at Fannie's place, tempers run high and Lillie finds she needs help and offers Quinn a job as deputy. Together they try to find out what happened that night to the girl and who was behind it.
This is the sixth novel in the Quinn Colson case. Readers will appreciate him; he is a salt of the earth, decent man who takes care of others and does what he can to make his country better, whether its serving in the military or helping out back home. Colson has issues but they don't stop the reader from liking him. The mystery of what happened to the cheerleader is interesting and the bigger crime that is uncovered in the process is surprising. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Wednesday, December 5, 2018
Darby McCormick is a typical teenage girl, at least until that day in the woods. Darby and her friends, Stacy and Melanie, are headed for their party place when they come across a man killing a woman. They escape, but somehow the killer tracks them and before everything is over, Stacy is killed and Melanie is kidnapped. Somehow, Darby manages to escape her friends' fate.
Twenty-five years later, Darby is now a criminologist with a doctorate in forensic investigation. Her work gives her a way to silence the fears left behind from the trauma in her past. That is, until another girl is kidnapped the way Melanie was. Determined to find this girl, Darby, her partner Coop and the FBI soon determine that the case is bigger than one girl. In fact, this is a serial killer the FBI has long called The Traveller, and he is responsible for murders going back thirty years. In fact, it becomes apparent that he was the man from Darby's past, although another man was held responsible for those crimes. Can Darby find the killer and put her past behind her?
This is the first in a series of eight thrillers starring Darby McCormick. Although the formula is now common, with shows like Criminal Minds and podcasts and documentaries about true crime, its commonness does not take away its power to terrify. This is a chilling book about a diabolical killer and the reader will be compelled to turn the pages until the resolution is complete. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Monday, December 3, 2018
Alex Morrow's job as a homicide detective in Scotland is difficult enough. But working the job while being pregnant with twins is another level of difficulty. Alex is about to go out on maternity leave but the call comes in of a murder so she goes out to investigate what may be her last case before she leaves for the break.
It's a horrific crime. A young woman, home to settle her recently deceased mother's estate, has been found in her childhood home. The victim of an apparent home invasion, she has been brutally beaten to death. Alex and her staff find some clues to go on, but when it is discovered that the woman made the money to care for her mother through prostitution, sympathy for her and interest in her case decreases. Alex knows that's not fair but its life.
In addition to working the crime, Alex is especially challenged by this crime. Interviewing witnesses brings her back to her childhood and her childhood friends. Alex got out of the projects; most of her friends did not. Even more troubling, the gangster brother she has distanced herself from is back in her life, asking for favors. Can she balance all these issues while providing justice for the victim?
This is the second in the Alex Morrow series by Mina. Readers will be drawn to Alex and the way she is singularly engaged in the work she has chosen. Mina uses the novel to make points about family dysfunction and how our pasts influence our presents. This is more of a police procedural than a mystery and its always interesting to see how police work is done in different locales. This book is recommended for mystery readers.
Saturday, December 1, 2018
In this anthology of twelve stories, Sean Beaudoin explores everyday life from an offbeat, darker point of view. Beaudoin made his mark writing YA novels but these stories show that he is an expert at working his way into adult minds and minds that aren't the ordinary ones. These are minds at the edge of society and the situations he narrates are not your everyday normal occurrences.
In And Now Let's Have Some Fun, the reader is transported into the world of professional boxing. In D.C. Metro, we meet Penny, who is renting a room and trying to go straight but who falls back into destructive habits she can't seem to escape. Exposure is about a tenement apartment house and its inhabitants. The Rescues take us inside the world of a collegiate lacrosse player after he has sacrificed his body for his sport and is left at an early age to figure out the rest of his life. In each story, there is an offbeat aspect but also a human commonality that lets the reader feel that we are truly all connected, that there are emotions and experiences we all can relate to. This book is recommended for literary fiction and anthology readers.
Tuesday, November 27, 2018
All Martin Anderson wants is what he doesn't have. Yes, he has a beautiful wife, but the neighbor's wive is more enticing. Yes, he has a business where he sells planes and an ocean cruiser and a racehorse but he desperately needs money. He's sure he is going broke, that everyone is always talking about him, that there is something out there, just out of reach, that will finally satisfy him.
When his horse trainer approaches him with a get rich quick plan, Martin is ready to listen. The business isn't doing that well in the oil crisis of the 1970's, and Martin just needs a cash infusion to ride it out until things get better. His partner, Val, has just the thing. The DEA is cracking down on heroin brought in from Mexico. The border checkpoints are getting harder and harder to get product through. But Martin could fly down, load up the heroin and bring it back. He doesn't need to do anything else and he can make five thousand for every trip. Martin isn't sure but then agrees. What can go wrong?
Apparently, lots can go wrong. Martin is consumed with guilt about his role, sure that the police will show up any day. When a DEA agent does show up, to ask about a plane he sold a few months before, Martin is thrown into a panic. His marriage is having issues and his son isn't sure Martin is the hero he has always thought he was. Can he pull it out before everything is lost?
David Anthony has written an engaging debut novel. Martin is a character who the reader knows is doing wrong but can't help emphasizing with and liking. The drama goes slowly from event to event until it is snowballing down the cliff, taking the reader along. Although the situations are dire, humor is found throughout and Martin, the ultimate Everyman, gets the reader's sympathy. This book is recommended for thriller readers.
Sunday, November 25, 2018
Inspired by my resolution to read more classic novels and by the fact that the author Henry Miller played a part in this season's Durrells in Corfu PBS series, I pulled this novel off my shelf one afternoon. An account of Miller's life in Paris after deciding that the United States was soul deadening, it was banned in this country for thirty years due to its explicit, sexual nature.
For many people, Miller does not come off well. He is broke, his days spent roaming the sidewalk cafes and poor hotels searching for friends who might buy him a meal. His friends are mostly in the same straits; searching for food, money and of course sex. Miller has left his wife behind in the States and the fact that he is married has no effect on his constant searching for women. He and his friends have little regard for the women they sleep with, describing them in crude terms and treating them with little regard.
Although one may not have wanted Miller as a friend, his ability as an author jumps off the page. The writing is vibrant and immediate and the reader is transported to a Paris the tourists don't see. It is one of poverty but freedom, the freedom to make a life that is what an artist needs. It describes men and women who are willing to live in poverty to have the freedom to carve out lives that matter, that allow them to freely express who they are. It is obvious why this novel is considered one of the classics of literature and the language and attitudes don't seem any worse than much of what is commonplace in books and movies today. This book is recommended for literary readers.
Saturday, November 24, 2018
They make a strange couple. Kathleen Doyle is a sheltered, Irish Catholic girl who joined the police but retained her innocence. Chief Inspector Michael Sinclair is also Lord Acton, one of England's wealthiest heirs. They work together on the London police force and when Acton sees Doyle one day, he instantly falls in love with her. He is actually obsessed with her and quickly convinces her that they must marry. Now each is famous in their own way. Acton has long been a darling of the press, his aristocratic background a major story in every situation. Kathleen becomes a media darling when she jumps from a bridge to save her partner from drowning.
A new case has come to light. There is apparently a serial killer at work, one who has gone undetected for a while. His victims follow no pattern of race, gender, social class or means of execution so there has been no connection. Doyle, who Acton has put on working cold cases to keep her safe, makes the connection that each of the victims were individuals who had committed a crime themselves and escaped without legal consequence. There is a vigilante on the loose.
In the meantime, Acton's actions have made him a target for a shadowy figure. He has, at times, taken the law into his own hands, and is, in fact, a vigilante who has killed before himself. Now there is apparently a plot to get back at him and he has plenty of secrets to hide. Can Doyle solve the murders while discovering how to save her husband?
This novel is the third in the Doyle and Acton series. The characters are interesting but there are serious flaws in them. It is hard to engage with a policeman who decides that the laws don't apply to him and who takes the lives of others when he decides it is best. The worst thing that can be said about the characters is the author's insistence that everyone who meets either of them immediately falls permanently in love with them. For Doyle, that is her partner, a shadowy figure mixed up in the plot against her husband and of course, her husband. For Acton, it includes a journalist, a former lover at his ancestral home and every woman who comes in contact with him. The couple have constant sex, several times daily, and yet constantly question if each other really loves them. These flaws, if corrected, would make this a more engaging series. This book is recommended for mystery readers.