Tuesday, September 28, 2021

The Crossroads Of Twilight by Robert Jordan

 

This is the tenth novel in the Wheel Of Time series and it feels like a novel where Jordan caught his breath and set the stage for the climatic novels that would follow.  The band of individuals who left the Two Rivers so long ago are all separated although tied together in their minds by fate.  Each is pursuing their own destiny in this edition of the story.

Perrin is distraught as his wife, Faile, who he loves more than life itself, has been kidnapped.  He has been tracking her kidnappers for days and is finally in striking distance of the captors but dismayed to discover their numbers.  Will he have to align with enemies in order to have a chance to save her?

Egwene, the true Amyrlim of the Aes Sedai, is gathered with her army outside the White Tower.  She is trying to dislodge the false Amyrlim without leaving the Aes Sedai totally decimated and weakened since they are the hope of helping Rand heal the world.  She is considering the radical step of aligning with the Asha'man, the male half of the Aes Sedai so that they can be controlled and play their part in the final conflict to come.

Mat has taken the Daughter Of The Nine Moons, the Seanchan Empress, with him on the road.  At first it was to prevent her raising the alarm when he freed several Aes Sedai but his fate tells the story that this will be his wife one day.  It seems unlikely as she alternately scorns and intrigues him and he is determined to escape all the follows him and trust his luck.

Elayne is in Andor.  She does not yet have the Lion Throne that should be hers but is maneuvering in order to claim it.  She is also pregnant with Rand's twins but few know that story.  Can she secure her throne?

Rand is not in this novel very much but when he is, he plays a huge role.  He has done something no one thought could ever be possible and cleaned the male half of The Power from its taint.  Now Asha'man will not go mad by channeling but his accomplishment doesn't change the fact that he is surrounded by enemies wherever he turns.

This book is recommended for fantasy readers.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Typical by Padgett Powell

 

This slim anthology of stories was published in 1991.  Powell is probably best known for his novel, Edisto, published in 1984 and a finalist for the National Book Award.  These stories reflect his focus on life in the South although many are character sketches that could occur anywhere.  

The collection starts with longer stories; the book title Typical, Letter From A Dogfighter's Aunt, Deceased, and Irony.  The bulk of the book showcases very short stories, often no more than a page and a half.  The last story, titled The Winnowing Of Mrs Schuping, returns to the longer form and is my personal favorite.

Powell is highly praised by his peers but his stories might not find a wide audience in the general reader population.  The stories are full of irony and surrealism that makes them less approachable than many anthologies.  The shortness of many of the stories can leave the reader wanting more.  This book is recommended for anthology readers and those interested in exploration of the short story format.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Everything Here Is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee

 


Miranda and Lucia are the daughters of a Chinese immigrant.  Miranda is the older sister, born in China while Lucia came to America in her mother's womb and was born as an American citizen.  Their mother had to work many jobs to support them and Miranda served as a second mother to Lucia for years.  Due to these roles, Miranda has always been the stable responsible sibling while Lucia was carefree and impulsive, a free spirit who did whatever felt best at the moment.

The first problem came when Lucia was about to enter her twenties.  The carefree antics start to tip over the line towards mania.  She begins to hear voices, what she calls her snakes.  Miranda and her mother see that Lucia needs help but she resists it until she has a full blown breakdown and has to be hospitalized.

Thus starts the rest of the sisters' lives.  Miranda spends her time trying to convince Lucia to stay on medications and live responsibly.  Lucia makes an impulsive marriage, then leaves her husband to have another man's baby.  The birth of her baby causes another breakdown.  By now Miranda has married and moved overseas so the responsibility for overseeing Lucia falls to her husband, Manny, who is unprepared for such a responsibility.  An undocumented immigrant from Central America, he takes Lucia and the baby back home where he has family and no worries about being deported and the family lives there as their daughter grows.  

Mira Lee has written a heartbreaking yet sensitive novel about mental illness, the stigma it carries and the lives it tears apart.  Those around Lucia feel compelled to try to oversee her behavior which leaves Lucia feeling trapped and resentful.  Can a person suffering from mental illness be left to make their own decisions and where is the line where those who love them must step in to prevent catastrophe?  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

The Night Ferry by Michael Robotham

 

Detective Alisha Barba is facing a lot of things at work.  A year ago, she didn't know if she would ever walk again after a struggle with a suspect went badly and she ended up in the hospital with multiple back bone breaks.  Her parents hate her job and her new supervisor is making noises about transferring her to a desk job.  Her boyfriend, who is also a detective, is starting to talk about marriage which petrifies Alisha.  The last thing she needs is a high school reunion.

But she decides to go when her best friend from those days, Cate, sends her a message begging her to come.  She hasn't spoken to Cate for ten years although they had been inseparable.  But a friendship betrayal put paid to their friendship and now Cate is reaching out.  Alisha goes to the event and is shocked to find her old friend heavily pregnant.  Before she can find out what Cate wants from her, Cate and her husband are mowed down by a hit and run driver and killed.  

Cate's death is just the first shock.  It turns out that she is not pregnant at all but wearing a device to make her appear so.  As Alisha starts to investigate, she discovers that Cate was infertile but desperate for a baby and willing to do whatever it takes to get one.  The investigation takes Alisha to Amsterdam where she uncovers a trade in sexual exploitation and slavery as well as baby marketing.  Cate had multiple failed IVF attempts but had her last two embryos sent to Amsterdam where they were implanted in a female refugee as the price for her freedom.  Can Alisha find Cate's babies?  Can she stop this horrific network of human trafficking?

Michael Robotham is a master at the thriller genre.  I've been reading his books for many many years and always expect a wonderful read.  I was not disappointed as this book was thrilling while shedding light on another horrible example of human exploitation of other humans.  Alisha with her Sikh background is an interesting character who has played a role in other Robotham novels.  This book is recommended for thriller readers. 

Monday, September 20, 2021

The Dead Husband by Carter Wilson

 

Rose Yates moves back home with her young son after the unexpected death of her husband to a drug overdose.  Since she is a mystery author, Rose figures she can live anywhere and perhaps it's time that her family gets to know her son, Max.  But soon after she arrives, she starts to wonder what ever possessed her to make this decision.  Her father is still the wealthy tyrant who expects everyone in the family to obey him at all times while her sister is still cruel and cutting as is her daughter, Max's new playmate.  Rose had run from this home years ago after a family tragedy and she knows in her gut that coming home was a mistake. 

It turns out to be more of a mistake than she could have expected.  The tendrils of the long ago tragedy seem to be coming to life while Rose has captured the attention of a detective from her old hometown.  Detective Colin Pearson becomes suspicious of Rose after reading her most recent mystery.  In it, the husband in the story is murdered while his wife, the murderer, is able to pass the death off as an overdose.  Did Rose write the book as a subconscious confession?  Is this what happened to her husband?

Colin decides he needs to interview Rose.  She is initially willing to talk to him but as he returns again and again, Rose cuts him off.  This makes his suspicions grow and as things back home go badly he becomes more and more determined to use Rose to make his career a success.  Rose decides to leave the town again but things spin rapidly out of control.  Will the truth emerge this time?

Carter Wilson is known for writing compelling psychological thrillers.  In this novel, the reader is drawn into Rose's life and the way she keeps fighting back against the blows life constantly throws in her existence.  I listened to this novel and the narrator was perfect, conveying the increasing tension as old traumas emerge to demand attention.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

The Fifth Elephant by Terry Prachett

 


Sam Vimes is doing exactly what he wants, serving as Commander of the Night Watch in Ankh-Morpork.  But he did marry Lady Sybil and as such is now part of the royalty.  Due to this, he is sent to Uberwald to attend the coronation of the dwarf new Low King, an event that has the potential for many issues as there are charges of theft of royal artifacts and attempted assassinations.  Sam doesn't want to go but Lady Sybil has already packed so off they go.

Some of the Night Watch goes along.  There is Cheery Littlebottom, a transgender dwarf, scorned by the dwarves in Uberwald.  Angua has gone ahead of them.  As a werewolf, she is worried about her brother who will kill anything in his path.  Gavin, king of the wolves, is attracted to Angua as is Captain Carrot, a six-foot dwarf.  Gaspode is a talking dog who feels that he is six foot tall also and lives his life as if he was rather than being a very small terrier.

Sam finds lots of dissension in Uberwald.  There are three factions of dwarves and the proposed Low King is a compromise between them so has little true support.  Along with the werewolves, there are influential vampires, the reigning authority among them being one of Lady Sybil's former classmates when they were girls.  There are kidnappings, murder, theft and lots of other crimes that need solving, even if Sam is not there as a policeman.  Will it all come right in the end?

This is the twenty-fourth novel in the Discworld series.  It is fun and full of wonderful characters and events.  While the plot gets complicated, all is resolved satisfactorily in the end.  Sam Vimes is a marvelous character and readers will fall in love with him.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers.

Friday, September 17, 2021

The Therapist by B.A. Paris

 

When Alice and Leo meet, Alice wants to take it slow.  She hasn't had a relationship with a man in several years plus it will be a long distance one since Leo lives in London and she lives an hour or so away.  Alice is a therapist and leaving her clients behind would be a wrench.  But the relationship seems to work out and thrive and after a while, the couple starts looking at houses.  It's almost unbelievable when they find a marvelous house in a gated community that is everything they would ever want.  They buy it and move in.

Leo still has to travel for his work so Alice is left there to meet the neighbors and start a new life.  She notices that some of the neighbors are very standoffish and she wonders what she could have done to attract that.  Slowly the secret emerges.  There was a murder in their wonderful new house which is why the price was so low.  While Alice is reeling from this discovery, she makes a worse one.  Leo knew all about the murder and just didn't tell her so that she would agree to move and live there with him.

Alice is appalled and unsure about the future of her relationship.  She decides that she will discover the truth about the murder and the couple who lived there before.  Obviously they had relationships with her neighbors and she needs to know what those were.  As Alice starts to delve into the past, she begins to encounter resistance from the neighbors and spooky things around her house.  Did she really hear someone moving around the house during the night?  Have things disappeared and other things appeared?  What other secrets does she not know?

B.A. Paris has written an unsettling portrayal of upper class suburbia.  There are many layers of secrets and betrayals.  I had a hard time sympathizing with Alice.  She seemed incredibly naive and obtuse for someone who supposedly made her living 

Thursday, September 16, 2021

The Good Sister by Gillian McAllister

 

Martha is overwhelmed.  She never thought she would be able to realize her dream and start an overseas charity to help the refugee children who needed so much but things fell into place and suddenly everything is happening.  She gets a huge grant and really needs to be overseas on the ground to get things started but there's an issue.  Martha has just had a baby, Layla.

Martha's husband Scott is an IT consultant with a busy schedule also that has him traveling.  Layla is a demanding baby with colic who can cry for hours and often does, leaving Martha completely drained.  She needs help but who can she trust?  When her sister Becky offers to quit her minimum wage job and become Layla's nanny, Martha and Scott jump at the chance.  Who could they ever trust more than Becky?

But at age nine months, on a night when both Martha and Scott were traveling, Layla doesn't wake up one morning.  Becky can't account for every minute of the night before and her actions and soon she is charged with Layla's murder since the autopsy shows that it was not a natural death.  Could this be?  Could Martha's sister have done this thing?  As the trial progresses, Martha remains sure that the truth will emerge and that Becky will be found innocent but as Becky's secrets are dragged out into the light, it starts to appear more likely that Becky is indeed guilty.  Can Martha ever forgive her?  Can she forgive herself?

Gillian McAllister has written a page turner that strikes at the fear of every parent.  How can you protect your child?  Who can you trust to love them?  Will anyone be as careful with them as you would be?  McAllister has written about the fears and loyalties that can tear a close family apart and how when tragedy strikes it is difficult to ascertain the truth.  This novel is recommended for women's fiction readers.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Booksie's Shelves, September 14, 2021

 


The calendar says that summer is waning but here in the South where wearing shorts on Thanksgiving is a common occurance it's hard to tell.  But the days are getting shorter and soon the heat won't be oppressive.  Leaves will turn and then fall and we will move into the autumn and winter.   In the nation, covid rages on with the Delta variant spiking numbers again.  My husband and I got our vaccinations back in late January and early February but we both got breakthrough cases.  Due to our vaccinations, both cases were fairly mild although my husband was sicker than me.  My case was never much more than a bad cold and boredom at isolating in my bedroom for ten days to try to insure my daughter didn't get it.  Still, lots of time for reading and I've been busy.  Here's what's come through the door:

  1. Honor, Thrity Umrigar, literary fiction, won in contest
  2. Those Across The River, Christopher Buehlman, horror, purchased
  3. Wish You Were Here, Jodi Picoult, literary fiction, sent by publisher
  4. Hello, Transcriber, Hannah Morrissey, literary fiction, sent by publisher
  5. Apples Never Fall, Liane Moriarty, literary fiction, sent by publisher
  6. Ghost Wall, Sarah Moss, literary fiction, purchased
  7. The Mermaid And Mrs. Hancock, Imogen Hermes Gowar, literary fiction, purchased
  8. Number One Chinese Restaurant, Lillian Li, literary fiction, purchased
  9. Fleishman Is In Trouble, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, literary fiction, purchased
Here are the ebooks I've purchased:
  1. Piranasi, Susanna Clarke, literary fiction
  2. No Good Deeds, Laura Lippman, mystery
  3. Under The Pendulum Sun, Jeannette Ng, fantasy
  4. A Room Full Of Bones, Elly Griffiths, mystery
  5. The Forty Rules Of Love, Elif Shafek, literary fiction
  6. Crack Down, Val McDermid, mystery
  7. Clean Break, Val McDermid, mystery
  8. The Golden Rule, Amanda Craig, legal thriller
  9. Child Of The Night Guild, Andy Peloquin, fantasy
  10. The Informant, Thomas Perry, mystery
  11. All Adults Here, Emma Straub, literary fiction
  12. The Hunting Party, Lucy Foley, mystery
  13. Less, Andrew Sean Greer, literary fiction
  14. The Things We Do For Love, Kristin Hannah, literary fiction
  15. A Familiar Sight, Brianna Labuskes, mystery
  16. A Better Man, Louise Penny, mystery
  17. Splinter The Silence, Val McDermid, mystery
  18. Janesville, Amy Goldstein, nonfiction
  19. Bloody Genius, John Sandford, mystery
  20. Serpentine, Jonathan Kellerman, mystery
  21. Perfect, Rachel Joyce, literary fiction
  22. Spirit Of A Kyrie, T.L. Rese, fantasy
  23. How We Disappeared, Jing-Jing Lee, literary fiction
  24. The Warmth Of Other Suns, Isabel Wilkinson, nonfiction
  25. Entangled Life, Merlin Sheldrake, nonfiction
  26. These Toxic Things, Rachel Howzell Hall, mystery
  27. Fidelity, Thomas Perry, mystery
  28. Purple Hibiscus, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi, literary fiction
  29. Tantamount, Blain Pardoe, true crime
  30. A Town Called Solace, Mary Lawson, literary fiction
  31. Winter Counts, David Weiden, mystery
  32. Red Country, Joe Abercrombie, fantasy
  33. The Shadow Of The Gods, John Gwynne, fantasy
  34. The Keeper Of Happy Endings, Barbara Davis, literary fiction
  35. Ball Lightning, Cixin Liu, science fiction
  36. Fool Moon, Jim Butcher, science fiction
  37. Snuff, Terry Patchett, fantasy
Here's what I'm reading:
  1. Typical, Padgett Powell, anthology
  2. Night Ferry, Michael Robothom, mystery
  3. Everything Here Is Beautiful, Mira Lee, literary fiction
  4. Behind Her Eyes, Sarah Pinborough, mystery
  5. Crossroads Of Twilight, Robert Jordan, fantasy
  6. The Moonflower Murders, Anthony Horowitz, mystery
  7. The Dead Husband, Carter Wilson, mystery
  8. Gospel, Wilton Barnhardt, literary fiction
Happy Reading!

Monday, September 13, 2021

Beautiful World, Where Are You? by Sally Rooney

 

In this new novel, Sally Rooney follows a group of friends.  Alice and Eileen are best friends and have been from college.  Alice has struck it big with her first novel and is now courted by the literary world.  Far from being excited about it, she has had a breakdown and is recovering.  Eileen has worked at various entry level jobs in publishing since university.  She dated a man for several years and is still grieving the end of their relationship.  She is flirting with Simon, someone she knew growing up and who is a bit older.  The timing has never been right for them to be involved romantically but maybe it is now?

This first chapter draws the reader in quickly.  The characters are mysterious but fighting to figure out their lives and are typical of young people in their late twenties.  They aren't sure of their work, their attraction to others and what their lives will look like in the future.  Fans of Rooney's earlier novels will be excited to read this new one.  Overall, though, I found it a bit unsettling.  These characters are quick to engage in sex with partners but then find it impossible to make real connections with them, hesitant to assume that the sex means anything in relation to an ongoing relationship.  It just seemed very sad to me.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and those interested in those searching to find their way in the world.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Secrets Of Death by Stephen Booth

 


The Peaks District is known for its beauty and wonderful towns such as Derbyshire and Nottingham.  Tourists flock to view the beauty and hike on the miles of nature trails.  DI Ben Cooper is used to the tourist influx every summer but not what this summer has brought.  All of a sudden, suicides are being found all over the district and the terms suicide tourist is being bandied about.

This won't do and Cooper's superiors want him to look into it and see what, if anything, can be done.  The victims vary in age and gender and in methods of death.  There have been leaps from bridges, drug overdoses, slit wrists and asphyxiation.  What could possibly tie these deaths together?  But shockingly, Ben finds a common thread.  Each of the suicide victims has a card in their possession, a black card embossed with the phrase Secrets Of Death.

In the past, Ben would have been working with Diane Fry, his colleague with whom he had an uneasy work relationship.  But Diane has been transferred to Nottingham to the Major Crime division and is no longer a worry to him.  Until she reappears telling Ben that his latest victim was also one of the Major Crime's suspects in three womens' deaths.  What is the cord that binds these cases?

This is the sixteenth Cooper and Fry novel in the series.  Ben has had some personal setbacks and is just pulling himself out of a personal depression.  He meets several women who make him think about getting back into the dating game although he hasn't done so yet.  The relationship between Ben and Diane is fraught with tension and disconnects as always which makes the book more interesting.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Humankind by Rutger Bregman

 

The author of this book sets out the premise that humans are not the murderous individuals motivated by hate and fear that is a common perception.  Instead, he believes that humans are basically kind and in fact are hard-wired to help each other and behave in each other's best interests.  

This point is made by exploring several examples of bad behavior and seeing how wrong the stories are.  The first is the contrasting of a real life Lord Of The Flies scenario vs the one in the novel.  The novel has the stranded boys turning into misanthropes who hunt each other down to hurt and eventually kill.  It is contrasted with a real life group of boys who were stranded on an island for months.  They were found to have continued their friendships, found ways to handle conflicts without violence and validate each other.  Other stories include the Kitty Genovese murder case, the Stanford Experiment which supposedly showed people will revert to cruelty when given power over others.  Both are shown to have been reported incorrectly and that the lessons to be taken away are diametrically opposed to the legends.

One statistic that really struck me was the low proportion of soldiers who actually fire their weapons.  Instead they don't fire or fire over the heads of their enemies.  The point is made that the majority of casualties are done by those who don't really see their opponents; situations like bombers who don't see those they unleash destruction on.  

This is a fascinating book.  The author ends with examples of things that could be different if society acknowledged the best rather than the worst in people.  Examples are given of different ways of schooling or running prisons.  This book is fascinating and life affirming.  It is recommended for nonfiction readers.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

The Clockwork Dagger by Beth Cato

 

Octavia Leander is about to start her adult life.  An orphan, she was rescued from the streets and raised in Miss Percival's school for healers.  It turns out that Octavia is extremely gifted in her service to the Lady of the Tree and one of the most successful healers to be found in decades.  She is off to her first job in a village that has many victims of a recent war and famine.  

Octavia boards her first airship in order to get to her new location.  She is given a cabin with a middle-aged lady who is cordial but a bit mothering and nosy.  Octavia is uneasy with the airship technology but fascinated as well.  She meets an airship employee, Alonzo Garrett, who seems interested in her and who wants to help her.  There are several other men on the ship who are also interested and Octavia is not sure their interest is positive.  

That feeling is right.  As the journey progresses, Octavia is attacked as is her roommate.  Someone wants to prevent her from reaching her destination.  With Alonzo on her side, Octavia is able to avoid the attacks.  Can she find out what is going on?

This is the first novel in the Clockwork series and is written for a young adult audience.  Octavia is a feminist and her abilities allow her to avoid disaster and make her way in a threatening world.  The novel was a Locus Award finalist for Best First Novel in 2015.  Readers will be interested in Octavia and her message of strong feminist power.  This book is recommended for fantasy and young adult readers.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

All Lies by Andrew Cunningham

 


Del Honeycutt leads a boring life.  He lives in rural New York in the same apartment for years.  He has a job that's so boring that he can't even tell people what he does for a living.  He hasn't had a girlfriend for a couple of years.  But that's all going to change.  He has decided to move into the world of online dating.  

His first foray isn't that successful.  The woman he meets seems overly interested in his family, grilling him about his parents and grandparents.  She seems to lose all interest when Del doesn't know much about them and leaves shortly thereafter.  He writes it off as just the weirdness one finds on the net but has to reevaluate when the woman turns up dead a few days later.  Now the police are involved and they want to know what Del knows which is a big fat nothing.

Del is contacted by the woman's sister who turns out to be mystery writer Sabrina Spencer.  Together they figure out that the murder traces back to a crime committed by Del's grandfather and his cohorts and tied to an art heist.  But there are other people who have also figured that out and they will stop at nothing to find the answers.  Can Del and Sabrina solve the crime before they are killed?

This is the first in what is currently a five novel series.  The characters are very likeable and the reader will be pulling for Del and Sabrina.  They fall in love and their love story is an intriguing secondary story to the crime investigation.  I plan to read more in this series.  This novel is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, September 3, 2021

The Window Seat by Aminatta Forna

 

This book is a collection of autobiographical essays by Aminatta Forna.  She is not only an author with books such as The Hired Man and Memory Of Love but a professor of writing in various universities throughout the world.  Forna has led a fascinating life.  Her childhood was spent in various countries.  Her father was executed as a revolutionary in Sierra Leon during the period when various African countries were establishing their independence from colonial rule.  Her stepfather was a diplomat so she and her brother grew up in various embassies in such locations as Iran, Zambia and Thailand.  Her mother was Scottish and she also spent time as a child in Scotland.  The first part of this collection are stories from her childhood and these events.

The latter part of the collection are more reaction pieces to various topics that she has an interest in.  She has a real love for animals that comes through in these pieces.  Topics she covers include the inauguration of Donald Trump, various dogs she has owned and the street dogs in Africa, suffering from insomnia, the experience of being a woman and dealing with men's catcalls and attempts to belittle based on gender, chimpanzees kept as pets or used in testing, peanut butter and wildlife she has encountered, especially foxes and coyotes; the foxes in England and the coyotes in various locations in the United States.  I listened to this book and Forna was the narrator.  Often having the author as the narrator is not a good choice but Forna was an excellent narrator and having her own voice narrating her life experiences was a fabulous choice.

I can highly recommend this book.  Forna is an amazing author and I can't imagine anything she would write that I wouldn't find fascinating.  She is determined to live life on her terms and to live a full life and the reader is blessed to be able to share this part of her life with her.  This book is recommended for readers of memoirs and essays.  

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Faithless by Karin Slaughter


 When Sara Linton and Jeffrey Tolliver go for a walk in the woods around Sara's parents' house, they don't expect it to end in horror.  But it does.  Jeffrey tripped over something and they realize it is a pipe.  The pipe leads to a coffin buried in the earth and a young girl who has been buried alive and is now dead.  

The two are used to seeing dead bodies.  Jeffrey is the police chief in this small Southern town and Sara the coroner.  But this is a particularly gruesome death.  Who is this girl?  Who hated her enough to do this?  As the investigation progresses, it turns out that the girl did not suffocate.  Instead someone sent cyanide down the pipe and poisoned her.  She is part of a religious family that runs a large farm that grows soy and employs ex-cons and drifters.  Did one of them do this?  Was it part of the family?  The family sends off cult vibes and Jeffrey isn't sure what they would do.  Can the two find the answer before more girls are killed?

This is the fifth of the six novels in the Grant County series.  The crime is arresting and the investigation is interesting.  Jeffrey and Sara are in an on again, off again relationship, moving through marriage, estrangement and reengagement.  A secondary character, Lena, is a detective in the force who faces many issues from her own past and she is featured again in this novel.  Readers will be caught up in the action and horror that only Karin Slaughter can deliver.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Reputation by Sara Shepard

 


Things are not going well at Aldrich University.  A hacker has broken into the university's servers and has released an easily searched database of all the emails of each student, administrator, faculty and staff as well as the medical personnel attached to the university.  This leads to revelations of many scandals and gossip runs wild.  The ante is upped when Dr. Greg Strasser is found murdered in his kitchen the night of the Aldrich annual fundraising gala.  Strasser is married to the university president's daughter, Kit Manning, the main fundraiser.  Did she kill him?

Greg had been revealed as having a torrid affair.  Kit doesn't remember coming home that night from the fundraiser just finding Greg.  Although she didn't drink at fundraising events, that night she had in order to face down the gossips whispering about Greg.  But Kit isn't the only suspect.  There is Laura, a nurse whose newborn baby has Greg's piercing blue eyes.  Kit's daughters are acting strangely.  Willa, Kit's sister and a scandal journalist comes home to support her sister and investigate the mystery but she has secrets of her own.  There is Raina, a student who worked as the university president's assistant and who has befriended Kit's daughter.  She seems to have some connection to Greg as well.  Then there are the men whose wives, daughters and girlfriends have been seduced by Greg.  

This twisty tale of gossip, backstabbing and secrets is a real pageturner.  There are multiple characters and the story is told in turn from each character's point of view.  Everyone has a secret they don't want revealed and the hack puts all those tawdry actions out in full view of all.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Dead Of Winter by Stephen Mack Jones


 August Snow is a native Detroit guy.  A former policeman, Snow is now retired and a millionaire due to a civil settlement leading from an injury on the job.  Snow grew up in Mexicantown and one of his favorite places was Authentico Foods.  Ronaldo Ochoa, the founder of Authentico was a friend from back when the restaurant was just starting.  Now the restaurant has morphed into a company that supplies tortillas to restaurants throughout the area.

Ochoa asks Snow to come meet him.  To Snow's surprise, Ochoa asks Snow to buy his company.  Ochoa is older and ill and wants to assure that his company will survive to provide for his family.  He has been approached by a shadowy figure to buy him out and Ochoa fears that the proposed purchaser wants to raze the company and develop the area for the professionals who are starting to return to Detroit.  Snow isn't interested in buying but agrees to look around.

As he investigates, Snow starts to see that what Ochoa had feared is true and that violence isn't out of the question for the people behind the offer.  Soon Snow and his friends are caught up in a maelstrom of violence with assassins gunning for them.  Can Snow unravel the business and those behind it before he and his friends are killed?

This is the third August Snow novel.  Readers may find the violence a bit over the top and the lack of police follow-up after multiple killings is a sticking point.  Outside of that, the author explores the topic of gentrification in a realistic manner with the results of such development on those who already live in the area and who are forced out.  It is an interesting viewpoint from a detective of color and one whose roots in the black and Hispanic communities are deep.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

A Darker Domain by Val McDermid

 

Detective Karen Pirie is in limbo at the police station.  She headed up the case that sent the former superintendent of the station to jail for murder and has now been shunted aside as the head of the Cold Care Review Team.  Her new supervisor is not sure what to make of her but he knows he doesn't like what he sees.  Unfortunately, he has to depend on her when two cases show up at the same time.

Back in 1984, a sensational case happened in this rural locality.  The daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Scotland, Sir Broderick Maclennan Grant, was kidnapped along with her infant son.  During the ransom payoff things went badly and the daughter was killed, her son never found.  Now new evidence has shown up in the case and it has landed in Pirie's lap.

At the same time another cold case from the same time period has been reported.  Misha Gibson shows up at the police station to report her father missing.  Not unusual except that he went missing twenty-two years before and this is the first report filed.  Misha's mother always assumed Mick Prentice ran out on the marriage and his daughter and they learned to live with that.  His best friend went missing at the same time and it was during the coal strikes when society was disordered.  They figured Mick just upped stakes and went to find a better life somewhere else but now Misha's son is sick and needs a blood donor to have a chance at getting better so Misha wants him found.  Can Karen juggle the two cases and solve them both?

This is the second Karen Pirie novel in the series.  She is an interesting character, a confident woman who isn't described as the most attractive woman anyone has ever seen but the average woman most of us are used to seeing in daily life.  Pirie is intelligent and insightful and has the determination and force to follow a case from start to finish no matter the price she has to pay with her superiors in order to get to the solution.  As such, she is a breath of fresh air.  The cases are intriguing and the resolution is satisfactory.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Runner by Thomas Perry

 


Jane Whitfield has retired from her work helping people disappear.  These days she leads the life of a surgeon's wife in upper New York, volunteering at the hospital and living her life.  But when the girl comes to her begging for help, Jane decides that maybe she needs to do one last job.  The fact that there is an explosion at the hospital minutes later with the people searching for Christine responsible makes her decision a reality.  She grabs Christine and off they go.

This will be a hard job.  Christine is pregnant.  Her boyfriend wants her back because his wealthy parent will cut him off unless he can produce a grandchild.  Unfortunately, Christine also knows about his unlawful deals and can send him to jail if word gets out.  He sends six people to track her down and bring her home. The six are professional finders and they make it clear early on that they will stop at nothing to bring Christine back.  What they hadn't counted on was that Jane is just as determined and will whatever it takes to help Christine escape to a new life.

This is the sixth novel in the Jane Whitfield series.  Thomas Perry is one of my favorite authors.  His tight plotting and his knowledge of all the details that would have to be attended to in order for a person to escape their life is fascinating.  Jane is an enigma; a woman who will stop at literally nothing in order to help those who must flee for their lives.  What motivates her to put her life at such risk?  How many times can she do this successfully?  This book is recommended for thriller readers.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

The Demi-Monde Winter by Rod Rees

 

The Demi-Monde is a computer virtual reality game created to train the military.  It is the most elaborate game ever developed with millions of characters, most of whom are programmed to be vicious and desperate for power.  The world is broken into sectors which are based on reality so there are sectors for England, Europe, the far East, Russia and other geographical regions.  The cultures in each sector is distinct with some having male dominated cultures, other women dominated, some futuristic, some caught up in Victorian times.  The worst villains in history are leaders in these sectors.

Somehow, the President's daughter has been transported into the game.  The government is tasked with getting her back to reality and they recruit Ella to head up the mission.  Ella is a college student just looking for a way to finance her studies and the five million dollar payday is just what she is looking for.  Whether she would agree if she knew what was facing her is another story.

Once inserted, Ella find some allies to help her.  The main one is a magician who can get into any place and who agrees to use Ella as his assistant.  That requires her to play various things such as a magician's assistant and a voodoo queen.  The two manage to find the President's daughter who is a spoiled brat.  Can they now get her back while the Demi-monde is about to break into a war to rival that of World War II?

This is the first novel of four in this series.  The world building is elaborate and detailed and the use of historical characters is interesting.  There are many characters and each is given a full backstory.  The interplay of these characters fuels the novel along with the main mission.  This book is recommended for sci fi readers.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides

 

Mariana Andros goes to Cambridge to be with her niece Zoe when Zoe's friend is found murdered.  A therapist, Mariana worries about Zoe's mental health after the death.  They are both still grieving the recent death of Mariana's husband.  Simon and Mariana raised Zoe after the death of her parents in an accident.  Zoe has more experience with loss than most her age and Mariana worries that this death may be more than Zoe can handle.

Zoe's friend is just the first.  There is a group of young women who flock around a charismatic professor, Edward Fosca.  After observing him, Mariana is convinced he is the murderer and sets out to prove it.  The police are not convinced, viewing Mariana as an amateur who doesn't have any proof to back up her theories.  They are right but Mariana is convinced her training has given her the ability to diagnose Fosca as a psychopath.  As the murders continue, can Mariana get the proof she needs?

This is Alex Micahelides' second novel.  Like his successful first novel, The Patient, it is based in the world of psychological practice.  As Mariana attempts to prove her theory, she finds that she has put herself in danger, drawing attention from the killer.  I'm not sure that universities would allow the kind of female adulation of a male professor that the book documents or that the police would give Mariana even the amount of attention she gets in the book for her theories.  Those two elements don't ring true for me but work in the book to build tension.  This book is recommended for thriller readers. 

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Cat And Mouse by James Patterson

 


Detective Alex Cross is more challenged than ever in this novel.  He is faced with two separate serial killers on the loose and the cases need his insights.  Gary Soneji, the killer Alex caught and put away for life has escaped and is on the loose.  He knows he will be caught again but he is determined to cause as much havoc as he can before then and killing Cross is definitely on his list.  At the same time, there is a killer in Europe who has claimed more than a dozen victims.  He is known as Mr. Smith and one of the FBI's top consultants wants Cross's help on that case.  He agrees to help Cross catch Soneji if Cross will help with the Mr. Smith case.  Another factor is that Cross has fallen in love.  He is starting a relationship with the principal of his children's school and worries that his job will make that relationship difficult to sustain.

The defining characteristic of Patterson's novels is pace.  He writes at a breakthroat pace with short chapters that rush the reader along on a roller coaster ride.  Alex Cross is an intriguing character and readers will be interested in reading about how his mind works.  There are lots of interesting characters around him in his family and friends and plenty of twists and turns to surprise the reader.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Mechanical Animals edited by Selena Chambers

 

In this anthology, all the stories are about mechanical animals and how such entities fit into our everyday world.  Although one might think this is a recent idea with the advent of robots and AI, it is a surprising mix of the modern and older stories as the idea has fascinated the imagination of scientists and authors for decades.

Authors in this anthology include Jess Nevins, Tessa Kum, Delia Sherman, Maurice Broaddus and Sarah Hans, Lauren Beukes, Jesse Bullington, An Owomoyela, Stephen Graham Jones, Hans Christian Andersen, Molly Tanzer, Aliette de Bodard, Nick Mamatas, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Kat Howard, Michael Cisco, Adrian Van Young, Robert Toombs, Joseph S. Pulver, Jr, Alistair Rennie, Jules Verne, Caroline Yoachim and Carrie Vaughn.

My favorite story was Closer To The Sky by Carrie Vaughn.  It is about a family on the frontier.  The young daughter of the family has been gifted a mechanical horse by her uncle who is an inventor and this horse is her original living horse who has been retrofitted by the uncle after an accident that should have taken its life.  The horse allows the girl to outwit a gang of outlaws and one of lawmen who all want to find her uncle's workshop and control his inventions going forward.  The horse saves her life out of love and the girl ends the story by vowing to learn her uncle's knowledge in order to keep her beloved companion in good stead going forward.  This book is recommended for science fiction readers.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

The Archer by Shruti Swamy

 

From the moment Vidya sees the dance form known as Kathak, she knows what she was meant to do with her life.  She is living in the in Bombay with her father and younger brother, her mother having died.  She is expected to run the household, cook, shop and clean but she knows there is more to her life than this.  She manages to study hard enough to get a scholarship to a school of engineering.

While she is studying to get her degree, it is her secondary priority.  Her first is always Kathak.  She practices for hours daily and goes for lessons with a renowned teacher several times a week.  The teacher encourages her to devote her life to dance and Vidya is glad to.

But life intervenes.  Moving forward, the reader encounters Vidya as a young wife, her husband another artist.  His media is photography.  He comes from a very wealthy family which has disowned him for marrying Vidya but the couple is happy.  When Vidya becomes pregnant, the family is willing to take her in.  Vidya wonders which she will put first, her child or her art?

This Swamy's first novel as her first publication was an anthology.  The text is poetic and dreamy as Vidya describes her feelings for her art, her friendships, her love for her husband and her child.  The message seems to be that each person must find the one thing in life that will bring them the most joy.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

 


In this novel, Elizabeth Strout takes the reader again to the small town of Crosby, Maine and one of the most memorable inhabitants, Olive Kitteridge.  Olive is still the person she always was, quick to say whatever is on her mind and surprising to those around her.  She is older now and life has changed.  Olive's husband Henry has died and she is a widow.  But things change and Olive meets Jack, a retired Harvard professor and they fall in love and marry.  

The novel is a collection of stories about those who live in Crosby and their relationships to Olive.  There is the woman fighting cancer whose friends ignore her because they don't know what to say yet Olive steps in and visits and gives the woman space to say the forbidden things that are preying on her mind.  There is the teenager who is cleaning houses to make enough money to get out of town and who develops a strange relationship with the husband of one of her employers.  The reader gets to find out what is going on with the Burgess brothers, another of Strout's novels.  

Throughout the novel, Olive is the blunt woman who many turn away from and who always speaks her mind.  She isn't sure if her only son likes her although she knows he loves her.  She can show amazing kindness but is also quick to bring her friends and acquaintances to task when she sees them straying.  Those who liked the first novel, Olive Kitteridge, will enjoy returning to Olive's life and hearing more about this unique individual.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

The Dirty South by John Connolly

 

Another dead girl has been found in Burdon County, Arkansas.  That makes three in five years, all killed in the same brutal way with the same mutilations.  All are young African-American women, teenagers.  Cargill police chief Evander Griffin is determined that this murder will not get swept under the rug like the last one did.  Burdon County is up for a huge investment by a multinational company and it was deemed unadvisable to have a murderer around the last time so the death had been classified as an accident although everyone knew it wasn't one at all.

Griffin hears that there is a new guy hanging around in a bar, asking questions about the dead women.  He goes to talk with the man but his attitude is irritating and Griffin ends up taking him in and putting him in a jail cell while he checks him out.  The man is Charley Parker.  He is a New York City ex-cop, having left when the tragedy hit.  His wife and child were murdered and Parker now spends his time searching for their killer.  Griffin feels that Parker could help them find their killer and after some thought, Parker agrees.

There are plenty of suspects.  There is the Cade family who run the county.  Pappy Cade is getting older and determined that the business deal that will make Burdon County rich will be his legacy.  His older son, Jurel is an investigator with the county police while his daughter handles the politics at the state capital.  His youngest son is considered the family's weak link.  There are drug dealers and meth cookers, strip joint owners and disreputable preachers, all lining up to make money from the deal if it happens.  Which of them is killing off young women?

This is a prequel novel in the Charley Parker series although it is the nineteenth in the series.  It explores what made Parker the man he is and why he feels compelled to seek out the evil found in the world.  Some of the characterizations of the small town grifters and power hungry are a bit trite but overall the novel is a satisfactory chapter in the series and gives readers a deeper understanding of Parker.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.



Saturday, August 14, 2021

The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman

 

It's not what he'd dreamed of but Kinch Na Shannack finds himself in a forest by the highway waiting on someone to rob.  He needs to pay the Takers Guild for his education.  All that education on stealing, lying, robbing and how to tell a tattoo that contains a spell needs to be paid for and Kinch has no other way to find the money.  But sometimes you are lucky and sometimes not.  Kinch and his cohorts rush out to rob a company only to find it contains a female knight, Galva.  She makes short work of Kinch's crew but at the end of the fight, the two decide to travel a bit together.  Galva is searching for her queen, rumored to be in giant country and she is willing to spare Kinch's life in exchange for his help.

Thus starts an epic quest.  There are dangers aplenty.  Goblins abound and there is nothing they like more than a dinner of human flesh.  Krakens kill everything in their path indiscriminately.  Giants are not jolly folk but terrifying behemoths who can kill with a swat.  Witches abound, including one called Deadlegs who lost her legs in a fight and now gets around by hacking off the legs of her dead enemies and using them until they rot past use. A blind cat takes Kinch as her soulmate.   Kinch is alternately terrified and amazed, falling in love or fighting for his life.  

I listened to this novel and it was wonderful.  The author, Christopher Buehlman, was also the narrator and his accented narration was perfect.  It is one of the few books I'd love to listen to again just to hear his voice some more.  There are songs interspersed throughout and they are done well also.  

This book is a five star rating for me.  It's one of the best fantasy books I've read lately and I read a lot of fantasy.  It is humorous and thrilling by turns.  Kinch is a thief and a rascal but his exploits hide a heart of gold.  The book is getting a lot of positive buzz with accolades such as editor's choice for Best Books of 2021 in the fantasy genre.  It is the first of a proposed trilogy and the reader will finish the last page desperate to read the next.  This book is highly recommended for fantasy readers. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Midnight In Peking by Paul French

 


January 8, 1937.  It is a cold and bitter night in the city of Peking.  The Chinese inhabitants are uneasy as the Japanese Army is inching its way ever closer to the city with its motto of kill and burn all.  The Foreign Legation of British, French and other countries has fewer and fewer inhabitants as they flee back to their own countries.  A young British girl, Pamela Werner, 19, is missing.  She left the night before to go skating with some friends and never returned.

But she is no longer missing.  Her body is found on the outskirts of the Legation near what is known as the Fox Towers. She has been brutally murdered and the body mutilated with its heart and other organs cut out and missing.  Pamela is the daughter of a former British consul.  The Peking police know that this will be a massive case with political implications.

Two detectives are assigned to the case.  Inspector Dennis is brought in from Shanghai to head up the British investigation while Inspector Han is in charge of the Chinese one.  Although they are to cooperate, it is soon clear that there are political forces which do not want the case solved as it may reflect poorly on the city and its inhabitants.  

There are multiple suspects.  Pamela's former headmaster has rumors of possible pediphile leanings.  A rickshaw operator has been found with a bloody rickshaw.  Pamela was dating many boys, both British and Chinese.  There is talk of a secret club of British men who run parties where young girls are paid to dance naked.  Who has killed Pamela and will the powers that be let the case be solved?

Paul French has discovered and written an in-depth exploration of this case.  He lived and worked in Shanghai for many years as a journalist and his writing skills are on full display.  The book won an Edgar Award for best nonfiction as well as a Crime Writers Dagger for nonfiction.  The case with its intricate layers of political maneuverings is fascinating for readers of true crime and is recommended for them.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Klara And The Sun by Kazuo Ishiguru

 

Klara is an AF or Artificial Friend.  She spends her days in the store window display waiting for a parent to choose her as a companion to their child. When Josie picks her from all the other AFs, Klara is excited.  She goes home with Josie and her mother and fits into the routine of the household.

Josie is pretty much always at home.  She is sickly perhaps as a result of being 'lifted' which is the term for genetic modification to give children advantages.  Klara, of course, being entirely artificial, is more intelligent but since she lacks the emotional responses of a human, filters everything through her logic base and misses much.  One example is that since Klara is solar powered, she believes that the sun is a god.  As Josie becomes sicker, Klara attempts to make a deal with the sun whom she believes can heal Josie.  She also doesn't get the emotional interactions between Josie and her mother or the mother and the neighbors.  Rick, the neighbor boy, is Josie's main friend outside of Klara.  He is not lifted and there is a stark difference between the anticipated futures for the two children.

This book is a Booker longlist nomination.  It is written in a very flat, unemotional way as that is the way that Klara, who is the narrator, views the world but which makes it more challenging for readers to engage with.  Ishiguru explores what artificial intelligence will mean for our world when humans are perhaps not needed to run things.  What will that mean for relationships and for the economy?  Will humans come to be seen as replaceable commodities?  Can a child be replaced by an artificial friend for those who can't have children?  There are lots of questions to ponder yet the unemotional narration makes it more difficult for readers to embrace this work.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.