Friday, November 29, 2013
But it isn't easy to reach Mueller. She disappears shortly after Sarah meets her, and sends Sarah cryptic messages outlining her demands for working on Pollina's case. Sarah has allies in Vienna. Max is the love of her life, a modern day prince who she let go when their lives took different paths. Nico is a dwarf and not only a dwarf, but one who has already lived four hundred years and is immortal. Can this group of friends solve the mysteries and give the scientist the things she desires in time to help their friend, Pollina?
Magnus Flyte has written an engaging novel that adroitly mixes fantasy and history, along with musicology, the Lipizzaner stallions, time-travel, descendants of the Hapsburg empire, and alchemy. Sarah is a strong female character, and willing to do whatever is necessary to meet her goals. This is the second book in a series, but works well as a stand-alone novel. The first in the series, City Of Dark Magic, introduces the reader to Sarah, Max and Nico. This further adventure of the trio will deepen their successful entry into the reader's imagination. This book is recommended for fantasy readers and those interested in history with a twist of whimsy.
Thursday, November 28, 2013
Catherine Strayed is living in such a town. She works in a bookstore and works through the grief of losing her husband, Wyatt, a talented novelist. Wyatt's novel was groundbreaking, but killed upon birth by an influential critic, Henry Swallow. With the death of his novel's success came the death of Wyatt's career, and Catherine watched him struggle and finally give up. The final blow was Henry's move to the college where Wyatt worked and the realization that he had to see him and work with him each day.
Everything changes when Antonia Lively blows into town. She is the latest celebrity novelist, her debut hailed by everyone. It doesn't hurt that she's Henry's latest protégé, and he can use his influence to move her career forward. Her novel explores her own family's tragic history, and she sees nothing wrong with using such personal material. Isn't that what novelists do?
The summer progresses with Catherine being drawn further into Henry and Antonia's lives. There are so many motives and old stories intertwined that it is unclear who loves who and who are mortal enemies. What neither Henry or Catherine know is that Antonia has determined what her next novel will explore and that is the complicated relationship that Wyatt, Catherine and Henry all had with each other. Will this new excavation of pain prove fatal to Antonia?
David Samuel Levinson has written a complicated, plot-twisting novel that is sure to keep the reader turning pages. The reader is as enthralled with the twist and turns of these individual's relationships as Antonia is, and it is impossible to turn away from the tragedy it is clear is coming. This book is recommended for readers interested in authors' lives and those who love books about relationships.
Monday, November 25, 2013
Ellie Hathaway lives a quiet life in Berriwood, Cornwall. She had married late to her husband, John, but life with him was sweet. She lived a life of preplanned routine, gardening, going to various village functions, spending time with her best friend, Dianne. That all changed the night John went out to walk the dog and didn't return, the victim of a hit and run driver.
John leaves Ellie very well off. Needing a change in her life, she is an easy prey for Gabriel Cole, the founder of The Hope Foundation, a charity Dianne fund raises for. He offers Ellie a position as the teacher at the African school the foundation maintains, in return for her financial support of the charity. Desperate for a change, Ellie agrees and flies off to a new life in Africa.
Once there, she settles into her new life. She loves the school and all the children there, although she had not realized how destitute the area was or how much poverty affected the lives of all who lived there. She makes friends in the area. First are Promise and Sulieman, native teachers at the school. Soon she meets Marc and Pax, cousins who are native-born although white. She soon develops a romantic interest in Marc, which he returns.
But all is not well. The longer Ellie is in Africa, the more suspicious she is of Gabriel. His stories don't seem to add up. The school constantly needs money, while he lives in a mansion. There are differing stories about what happened to his wife. Then there are the women. It seems that there is a woman wherever you turn who Gabriel is stringing along, either for money or sex or both.
As Ellie starts to add up her suspicions against Gabriel, the country explodes. A new President takes over, and immediately starts to wreck havoc and take revenge against those who oppose him. Soon civil war erupts, and life is not safe, especially for the foreigners who have come to the country. Will Ellie survive her new life?
Wendy Unsworth has written a fascinating tale of Africa and how easy it is to be taken in when one wants to change their life. She has lived in several African countries so the surroundings she creates in the story ring true. Another major strength is the creation of Gabriel, a con man extraordinaire. Reading the book, it becomes clear to the reader how easily an average person who lives their life as morally as possible can be tricked and scammed by someone who doesn't share their moral outlook. Readers will enjoy the trip to another land, and the neat resolution of all the threads of the story in the end. This book is recommended for readers interested in other cultures.
Sunday, November 24, 2013
McParland was an Irish immigrant, who came to the United States with his brother. After trying several occupations, he realized that his talents were best used as an investigator. At this time, the private detective had as much power as did the police, and often handled cases that were beyond the resources of local law enforcement. McParland parleyed his first big case into national fame and then rose in the ranks of the agency. He remained a detective for the rest of his life.
The book is broken into three sections, each featuring one of the large cases McParland worked on. Each case took months or even years of effort to bring the criminals to justice. The first case was that of the coal miners in Pennsylvania. The miners were attempting to start the first union to represent the working men against the owners of the mines. Most miners were Irish, especially those involved in the secret organization called the Molly Maguires. The mine owners wanted to break up the Maguires, as they suspected them of crimes such as intimidation, thievery and even murder. McParland was sent in undercover to learn the inner workings of the Maguires and to help control them. He spent months in this nerve-wracking occupation, playing each side against the other while learning the innermost secrets of the organization. When he left the organization, he was key in the many trials that accused Maguire leaders of organized murders and maimings. This case was so sensational that McParland's name became known across the country, and he became the epitome of law and justice in the 1870's.
McParland was too notorious after this to work again in the East, so the company moved him out to a Western office, where he soon became one of the main managers. Under his management, the second big case occurred. The Pinkerton's were hired to track and catch the Hole In The Wall Gang, better known today as Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. Their organization of loosely joined outlaws terrorized the West, robbing banks and trains and murdering those who got in their way. While the main individuals escaped to South America, McParlane's investigation succeeded in breaking the back of the gang and bringing most of the men to justice.
After this, McParland returned to his roots and worked on the case of the miners attempting to organize in Colorado and Idaho. The same tactics as he had seen in Pennsylvania were taking place, with murders and beatings commonplace. The job increased in prominence when a former governor of Idaho, Frank Steunenberg, was assassinated. McParland again used his tactics of coercing confessions from those in the mining organizations against the leaders, as he had done in Pennsylvania.
McParland's fame, or notoriety, helped define what a private detective was, and what role he could play in society. Most saw McParland as a hero, who used whatever means were available to crush organizations that terrorized entire states, and that local law enforcement were often powerless against. Yet, those on the opposite side saw him as a traitor and a rat, an informer of the worst sort, who would stop at nothing to gain his wins. These two opposing viewpoints are still prevalent today, depending on one's view of the labor wars.
Beau Riffenburgh has written a meticulously researched history of James McParland, and the large cases that consumed the country as law enforcement became stronger and the unions and the capitalists fought their battles. The reader is given all the facts and left to make their own decision on whether McParland is a hero or a horror. This book is recommended for history lovers and for those interested in the law enforcement occupation.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
That all changes one day when a teenage boy goes missing and is found killed in the woods. Not just killed, but brutally mutilated. Ben is drawn into the case since he has to do the autopsy, and he can't stop seeing the horrors inflicted on this child. He becomes defensive, wanting his wife to take the boys and leave town but she convinces him this was a random act that won't reoccur.
Until it does. The next victim is a girl whose attack is also savage, although she barely escapes with her life. Her parents are close friends with the Stevensons, drawing them even further into the investigation. A suspect is located but escapes the police. The town starts to change, with fewer people outside and everyone starting to look askance at their neighbors. Trust is starting to dissipate, and there are murmurs against those heading up the investigation.
John Burley has written a chilling look at how quickly our everyday routine lives can change and how quickly neighbor can be set against neighbor. He explores the parental responsibility in such a situation and how differing parental styles can create stress in a marriage. The reader is caught up in a situation that he can barely imagine, and yet can imagine only too well. This book is recommended for mystery lovers.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
1. Still Life With Bread Crumbs, Anna Quindlen, Shelf Awareness book
2. The Housemaid's Daughter, Barbara Mutch, Shelf Awareness book
3. Psychotherapy Of Character, Robert Berezin, sent by author
4. This Dark Road To Mercy, Wiley Cash, sent by publisher
5. After I'm Gone, Laura Lippman, sent by publisher
6. Princesses Behaving Badly, Linda Rodriguez McRobbie, sent by publisher
7. Commodore, Simon Sobo, sent by publisher
8. Neope's War, Tod Langley, sent by publisher
9. Little Failure, Gary Shteyngart, Shelf Awareness book
10. Philida, Andre Brink, Paperbackswap book
11. The Black Isle, Sandi Tan, Paperbackswap book
12. Day For Night, Frederick Reiken, Paperbackswap book
13. Organized To Death, Jan Christensen, sent by author
14. The Book Of Jonah, Joshua Max Feldman, sent by publisher
I'm especially excited to have received Neope's War by Tod Langley. This is the final book in his The Erinia Saga and I've read and reviewed the first two. Add to that, Tod is a super nice guy and you'll see why I can't wait to read this one!
Sunday, November 17, 2013
It is clear fairly quickly that Kate was the reason for their marriage; the glue that held it together. Susan goes home to her family for a visit soon afterwards, and never returns. Charlie is left to himself, to endlessly replay the shining moments he shared with Kate and to experience the fathomless grief that overwhelms him. Work falls by the wayside first. Then he falls into addiction as he attempts to get past the rock that crushes him, the fact that stares him in the face every moment he is awake.
Soon Charlie spends his nights wandering the towns, walking miles in an attempt to recreate past moments of happiness and to avoid remembering the hell his life has become. He takes no care of himself and is soon gaunt and unkempt. As the year progresses, he falls further and further outside his previous existence, as he tries to chase down the meaning of what has occurred and how he can ever start to live life again.
Paul Harding is that rare author who strikes gold with his debut novel. Tinkers won the Pulitzer Prize the year it was published, and was an American Library Association Notable Book. Harding won the Pen/Robert Bingham Fellowship For Writers. In this second novel, he returns to the New England environment and the family of that book; Charlie is the grandson of the protagonist of Tinkers.
Readers will be taken into the intimate, soul-wrenching events that occur after the death of a child. It is a harrowing read at times, but tells the truth of those parents who have lost their child. There is no grief that can compare, and that grief is a greedy one. In addition to the child, it can eat up marriages, jobs, health, and the will to live. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction, and those who want to know what this life event is like from the raw inside.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Woe has befallen Owen Wedgwood. It is 1819, and he has just been kidnapped by the notorious female pirate, Hannah Mabbot, the redheaded scourge of the seas. A sworn enemy of his employer, Lord Ramsey, and the Pendleton Trading Company, Mabbot has made it her task to plunder and sink every trade ship of the company she encounters. Now she has captured Ramsey and his crew, and wastes no time executing them all. All except Wedgwood, Ramsey's famous chef. To him, Mabbot makes a deal. She will keep him alive for as long as he makes her a gourmet meal once a week.
Thus begins the story of the pirate and the chef. As the days turn into weeks and then months, Owen's initial fear and loathing of Mabbot turns into something more like admiration. She does have the love and loyalty of her crew, and it isn't an easy job to win the hearts of a pirate crew. She does love his food. Who wouldn't? Here is the description of one meal:
"Three courses," I announced. "Herring pate with rosemary on walnut bread. Tea-smoked eel ravioli seared with caramelized garlic and bay leaf. As as touché finale, rum-poached figs stuffed with Pilfered Blue cheese and drizzled with honey."
As time goes by, Owen makes grudging friendships with the pirates and learns more of Mabbot's story. Rather than being a miscreant out solely for treasure and impelled by greed, she fights Ramsey's company due to their trade in opium and the lives they destroy with this trade. She also fights Ramsey for the Brass Fox, the only other pirate feared and admired as she is. They both want to find the Fox and win him to their side in their war.
Eli Brown has written a lilting, adventurous tale of pirates and treasure, of loyalty and treachery, of food and friendship and a different way of life. The characters are larger than life, and the reader is drawn into their world, fascinated by this glimpse into another way of life. This book is recommended for readers interested in adventure and those looking for a book that is just plain fun. For above all, Brown has created a fun tale that will leave the reader smiling as they close the book for the last time.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
The stories are horrendous. There is Mr. Stan, a journalist who was born afflicted with a crippling disease. Almost the only part of his body unaffected were his beautiful hands and his active mind. When he is arrested and held by the government, his torturers ruined his hands, beating them with hammers until they are nothing more than stumps. Mustapha is grateful for the shelter, but he misses the family he has left behind so badly that he spends many days in his room, too depressed to interact with others. Agnes, a photojournalist, has escaped at great personal cost, and of course the atrocities visited on women differ from those meted out to men, including sexual abuse.
All are grateful to have found the House of Journalists, and its freedom. But are they really free here? Their days are structured by the rules and regulations of the House, and their stories are co-opted by those who would use them for their own purposes. There is Julian, who created the House and now rules it with an iron fist. There is Edward Crumb, a liberal novelist who sees the chance to use these stories for his next big book.
Tim Finch has written an interesting look at the refugee issue that explores this problem from all sides. The stories are compelling, but before a refugee is granted a permanent stay, the validity of that story must be decided on by a committee who grants extension, or deports the individual before them. The refugees are grateful, but also realize the freedoms they are giving up to be sheltered by others. This book is recommended for readers interested in the world and how political wars and governments shifts can impact the population of those living there, and what those of us lucky enough to avoid such titanic shifts owe to those caught up in this nightmare.
Sunday, November 10, 2013
Ann Patchett is known these days as the voice of the independent bookseller after opening a successful bookstore in Nashville. She claims that title with pride, but of course, she is also one of this country's preeminent novelists. In This Is The Story Of A Happy Marriage, Patchett lets the reader into her life. The book is a collection of essays she has written at various times, and is an exploration of her life.
One of the early essays is titled The Getaway Car. In it, Patchett explores her writing life; how she learned to write by starting with short stories, the mentors she had such as Allen Gurganus and Grace Paley, and the friends she made such as Elizabeth McCraken who sustained her as she found her writing voice. She talks about her time in education, both on the undergraduate level and in a MFA program. Along with these memories, she dispenses writing advice to those interested in becoming authors; what worked for her and what she has found unhelpful.
Other essays explore her childhood in Tennessee, her first disastrous marriage, the jobs she took in order to support herself as she got established as a writer, and her family relationships. She discusses the love she has for her mother and father and the great influence her grandmother had on her life. Patchett writes about her successful second marriage. She also writes about one of the other loves of her life, her dog.
In 2006, Patchett's book about her friendship with Lucy Grealy was chosen as the freshman required read at Clemson University in South Carolina. Lucy was also a writer, and her life was marked by her childhood bout with cancer, and the years of surgery and chemotherapy that cured her, but only after disfiguring her severely. After her death, Patchett wrote the book Truth And Beauty to memorialize Lucy's life. Fundamentalists in South Carolina disapproved of the book which had sex and drugs in it, and attempted to get Clemson to rescind the selection and ban Patchett from the campus. She writes about this time in her life, and the convocation speech she gave to that freshman class. It is a stirring indictment of ignorance and how a writer should respond to such criticism.
This book is highly recommended for both readers and writers. What shines through is Patchett's true vocation as an author; one that she was willing to make any sacrifice for. It is interesting to note the loyalty she gives to anything she takes up; her family, her pet, her marriage, her friends, even her city of Nashville, Tennessee. It is rewarding for readers to hear about the authors she thinks are good authors, and validating for those who also appreciate them. The reader will finish this book with a new appreciation for Patchett and her mark on American literature.
Saturday, November 9, 2013
Miranda can't seem to catch a break. She's the lowest rung on the totem pole in Fenn's successful hair salon, mostly stocking shelves and washing hair when she knows she could be a great hair stylist. She can't afford a place of her own, but luckily has found accommodations with an older woman who needs some help about her place. Her best friend, Chloe, has just had her husband walk out when hears the news that Chloe is pregnant. Worst of all, Miranda can't find her own true love.
Then things seem to change. She meets and falls for Greg, who seems to be the man of her dreams. He even asks her to marry him and gives her a ring. The thing is, he is the cad that just walked out on Chloe, and when that comes to light, obviously the relationship is over. Miranda meets other men, some attractive, some not, some interested, some not, and continues seeking for the true love that will change her life.
Jill Mansell cannot write a bad book. Her novels are the ultimate feel-good, picker-upper books when one needs some relief from the unending drama of heavier novels. The characters are always engaging and endearing. The plots are complicated, yet all seems to end up well, with the good guys always triumphing in the end. Readers will turn the last page with a smile on their face, satisfied that all has worked out for the best. This book is recommended for readers who enjoy a light optimistic read which leaves them feeling that all is right with the world.
Thursday, November 7, 2013
And yet. It would be foolish to say Harry didn't miss the department and active investigations. When you are the best at something, it's hard to put it down. He still has secrets and enemies more than ready to reveal them if he comes back. How he manages to make enemies of people like the Chief of Police and his right-hand man is hard to understand for those who don't know him.
Then the unimaginable happens. Police are being targeted and killed. Not just shot in the commission of a crime, but lured to the scene of former murders and killed in an imitation of the previous crime. No one who knows and loves Harry wants to pull him back, but when they are stumped, it just is inevitable to ask. Harry resists, but as the crimes start striking closer and closer to him and targeting his former friends and colleagues, he is pulled back into the investigation.
This is the tenth Harry Hole mystery, and the reader turns the last page eager and impatient for the next. Jo Nesbo is at the top of the crime writers' game. His lead character is distinct yet believable, and his loyalty to those he loves is admirable. The crimes are unusual and the solutions always a surprise. This book is recommended for mystery lovers.
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Now imagine that you are in a courtroom. The crime? A young high school teacher is on trial for sexual crimes against a teenager. Your teenager, your bright golden girl. Now imagine she walks into the courtroom and instead of sitting with you and your husband, marches over and sits behind the defendant, showing the entire court that she is on his side, and that she insists they are in love. He insists that it never happened, that your daughter had a wildly inappropriate crush on him and made advances but that he never responded.
This is the nightmare that Kristina Riggle serves up in The Whole Golden World. She explores the feelings of all affected. Seventeen-year-old Morgan Monetti is determined to stand by the man the world thinks has ruined her life. The family must move from a typical life with friendships in a small town taken for granted, to a life where whispers and comments about them are the norm. The family of the teacher, TJ Hill, are also affected, so embarrassed and shamed that they want to disappear. Except for his wife, Rain, who also believes in him and is determined to stand by him.
Readers of family dramas and parents will find this novel riveting. As much as one wants to believe it could never happen to them, Riggle makes it plain that it could happen to anyone when circumstances line up perfectly for disaster. Morgan feels neglected in her family, looked over in favor of her brothers. TJ is struggling in his first year of teaching calculus and as his marriage is strained by everyday events, looks elsewhere for validation. His wife is determined to make her marriage work and have the family she always dreamed of. All must look inside themselves to discover what led to this place and how to move on from it. This book is recommended for those interested in family dynamics and how to survive a tragedy.
Friday, November 1, 2013
This week was an explosion of books! Most were either Vine review books from Amazon or review books for the site Curled Up With A Good Book. I've got my work cut out for me!
1. The Republic Of Thieves, Scott Lynch, Vine
2. The Explanation For Everything, Lauren Grodstein, Vine
3. Guests On Earth, Lee Smith, Vine
4. The Kept, James Scott, Vine
5. 30 Days In Sydney, Peter Carey, Paperback Swap
6. The Child's Child, Barbara Vine, Paperback Swap
7. The Mirrored World, Debra Dean, Curled Up With A Good Book
8. The Kill Room, Jeffrey Deaver, Curled Up With A Good Book
9. The Small Hand And Dolly, Susan Hill, Curled Up With A Good Book
10. Steelheart, Brandon Sanderson, Curled Up With A Good Book
11. Field Notes From A Hidden City, Esther Woolfson, Curled Up With A Good Book
12. Best Food Writing 2013, Holly Hughes, Curled Up With A Good Book
13. Farthing, Jo Walton, Curled Up With A Good Book
14. The Bones Of Paris, Laurie R. King, Curled Up With A Good Book
15. Under The Wide And Starry Sky, Nancy Horan, Curled Up With A Good Book
16. Our Picnics In The Sun, Morag Joss, Curled Up With A Good Book
17. Ghosts Know, Ramsey Campbell, Curled Up With A Good Book
18. City Of Lost Dreams, Magnus Flyte, sent by publisher
19. The Deepest Secret, Carla Buckley, sent by publisher
20. The Family, David Laskin, sent by publisher
21. Surviving 26th Street, Carol June Stover, sent by author
22. Andrew's Brain, E.L. Doctorow, sent by publisher
23. The Last Enchantments, Charles Finch, sent by publisher
24. Darshan, Amrit Chima, sent by author
25. White Fire, Preston & Child, sent by publisher
Visit in the coming weeks and months for reviews!