Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Sign Of The Book by John Dunning

Life is different these days for Cliff Janeway.  He gave up his career as a police detective and has reinvented himself as a bookseller, a trader and seller of rare books.  The book store is humming along as is his love life with his girlfriend, Erin D'Angelo, a lawyer.  He's about as content as he can remember being.

Then Erin comes to the bookstore, obviously upset.  When she decides to tell him what's wrong, he hears a story about betrayal and first love.  Erin had been engaged to a man, Bobby Marshall.  The engagement ended when Marshall and her best friend, Laura, had an affair.  Erin cut them both from her life and the two married.  She hasn't had any contact for over a decade when Laura's lawyer calls.  Bobby has been murdered and Laura has been arrested.  She wants Erin to come and defend her. 

Erin is torn.  Laura is planning to pay for her defense with the rare book collection Bobby had amassed and Erin asks Cliff to drive to Laura's town, check out the collection and see what the facts are in the case.  Once he reports back, Erin will decide if her former friendship is an obligation to defend Laura and dredge up old memories.

Janeway drives to the small Colorado town where the Marshalls have been living.  He encounters a small town mentality that has already convicted Laura, antagonistic law enforcement and a book collection that surpasses all his expectations.  There are already unscrupulous book dealers circling around.  Erin decides she must come to Laura's rescue.  Can she save her old friend?

This is the fourth in the Cliff Janeway mystery series.  Cliff is an interesting detective, mixing knowledge of legal investigation and books.  The mystery moves along quickly with interesting twists and turns.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Times are difficult in 1922 England.  Many of the nation's young men have been killed in the World War and its trenches, leaving their families to carry on as best they can, holding on to lifestyles from before the war with reduced incomes.  That is the case with the Wray family.  The two sons have been killed and the father dies of grief and illness, leaving Frances Wray, 26, to look after her widowed mother and support them.  Gone are the days of servants, and Frances spends her days scouring the floors, figuring out bills, cooking meals and trying to entertain her mother.  She sees nothing ahead but more years of this.

Finally, their monetary reserves are gone and something has to be done.  They do a bit of renovation and advertise a suite for rent in their upstairs.  This is a drastic step, as they are very private people but money must be found somewhere.  A young married couple, Len and Lillian Barber, take the rooms.  They are not the kind of people the Wrays would have ever chosen to associate with; young and full of life, boisterous and louder than they expected.  Soon their upstairs suite is filled with furnishings that are cheap and a bit tawdry. 

Yet, as the weeks go by, a friendship emerges between Frances and Lillian.  As they get closer, Lillian reveals that all is not well in her marriage to Len.  It was a hasty arrangement that doesn't have much love in it, yet Len is jealous of anyone who pays attention to Lillian.  She socializes only with her family and Frances, yet the jibes and sarcasm from Len is unrelenting.  The tension in the house mounts between Len and Lillian and the Wrays and the Barbers.  When something horrendous happens, it seems inevitable.

No one does setting and characters like Sarah Waters.  She has created a stifling atmosphere in which the smallest turn of phrase or gesture is magnified, and in which the brooding resentments that arise rush headlong to disaster.  This book gives insight into the aftermath of war that is often overlooked and into the social structure of the country that held individuals in a straitjacket of conformity.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mantel

Where were you when the world changed forever?  Kirsten Raymonde was eight years old and a child actress.  She is on stage in a production of King Lear when the main character, played by legendary actor, Arthur Leander, collapses and dies.  Jeevan Chaudhary, an EMT in training, is in the stage and attempts to give Arthur CPR.  Arthur's best friend, Clark Thompson, has sold out his artistic yearnings long ago and is now a management consultant.

What changes the world?  A disease with an innocent sounding name, the Georgia Flu.  But it's not mild and sunny; instead it is the most virulent strain of flu seen.  The survival rate?  One percent.  In a matter of days, ninety-nine percent of the world's population is gone.  Then everything else goes.  Flight, the Internet, communications, grocery stores, everything gone, gone, gone.  All that is left are the survivors, attempting to find ways to manage what life is left to them.

Kirsten joins a group of artists who move from settlement to settlement, called the Traveling Symphony.  Jeevan is now a settlement's nearest thing to a doctor, although the rigors of post-antibiotic and pain medicine surgery is daunting.  Clark was one of a group of people who were on the last flights, diverted to a small airport where they have been living for twenty years now.  In addition to being survivors, they are connected by a small comic series, Station Eleven, created by Arthur's first wife, about the rigors of living in a post-trauma world.  Once entertainment, the series is now inspiration.

The three come together to fight a threat, a Prophet who believes only he is right, and that everyone else must do what he commands.  As they do so, they continue to struggle towards a new life that can replace the one they lost.

Emily St. John Mantel is one of the best of the new novelists, and this is probably her breakout book.  Her writing is calm, moving on inevitably, taking the reader along.  Not a word is extra and the pace moves the story along quickly.  Her vision of what the world would look like after a disaster and how the survivors would interact and build something new is inspiring as well as chilling.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction as well as science fiction fans.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Year's Best Science Fiction And Fantasy, 2012 Edition, edited by Jonathan Strahan

Jonathan Strahan is known for his ability to select and collect the year's best stories in the genres of science fiction and fantasy.  He has done several of these volumes, and the 2012 edition is one of his best.  This is a long work, at 643 pages.  It includes established authors as well as new voices.  There is a good mix of male and female voices, as well as authors from diverse cultures.

The authors are: Jonathan Carroll, Neil Gaiman, E. Lily Yu, Caitlin Kiernan, Karen Joy Fowler, Catherynne Valente, A.N. Owomoyela, Geoff Ryman, Hannu Rajaniemi, Paul McCauley, Peter Watts, Nalo Hopkinson, K.J. Parker, Kelly Link, Cory Doctorow, Michael Swanwick, M. Rickert, Ken Liu, Dylan Horrocks, Maureen McHugh, Peter Beagle, Jeffrey Ford, Stephen Baxter, Robert Reed, Robert Shearman, Bruce Sterling, Margo Lanagan, Libby Bray, Nnedi Okorafor, Ian McDonald, Kij Johnson and Ellen Klagesti.

In addition to diverse voices, Strahan has included an interesting mix of fantasy and science fiction.  Some is science fiction written for the engineer and mathematician reader; some are dragon stories for fans of fantasies.  Some stories are very short while others are novella length.  My personal favorite was the one by Libby Bray in which a group of wild women banded together as thieves similar to Sundance and the Kid.  Every reader in these genres will find a story to love.  This book is recommended for readers of science fiction and fantasy as well as those who enjoy anthologies and discovering new authors.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Booksie's Shelves, December 22, 2014

It's the last post of books received for 2014! It's hard to believe another blogging year has come and gone.  Here's to all the great books of 2014 and the great books yet to come in 2015.  The following have come through the door:

1.  Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel, literary fiction, sent from Paperbackswap
2.  Principles Of Navigation, Lynn Sloan, literary fiction, sent for book tour
3.  Border Songs, Jim Lynch, literary fiction, sent from Paperbackswap
4.  The Iris Fan, Laura Joh Rowland, historical fiction, sent for book tour
5.  So Much For That, Lionel Shriver, literary fiction, sent from Paperbackswap
6.  The Wednesday Group, Sylvia True, sent by publisher
7.  The Devil You Know, Elisabeth de Mariaffi, mystery, sent by publisher
8.  The Body Snatchers Affair, Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini, mystery, sent by publisher
9.  At The Water's Edge, Sara Gruen, historical fiction, sent by publisher
10.  The Reawakening, Aric Carter, fantasy, sent by author
11.  The Secret Wisdom Of The Earth, Christopher Scotton, literary fiction, sent by publisher
12.  Fifty Mice, Daniel Pyne, mystery, sent by publisher
13.  The Gods Of Second Chances, Dan Berne, literary fiction, sent by publisher
14.  The Year Of Dan Palace, Chris Jane, literary fiction, sent by author
15.  Saving Grace, Jane Green, literary fiction, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm currently reading:

1.  The Innovators, Walter Issacson, Kindle
2.  Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter, paperback
3.  Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel, hardback
4.  The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner, Kindle Fire
5.  The Book Of Unknown Americans, Cristina Henriquez, paperback
6.  What Has Become Of You, Jan Watson, hardback
7.  The Rise And Fall Of Great Powers, Tom Rachman, paperback
8.  The Paying Guests, Sarah Waters, Kindle Fire
9.  The Black Country, Alex Grecian, paperback
10.  Mrs. Poe, Lynn Cullen, paperback
11.  The Perfect Stranger, Wendy Corsi Staub, paperback
12.  The Orchid Affair, Lauren Willig, hardback
13.  The Killer Next Door, Alex Marwood, paperback
14.  Rescue, Anita Shreve, hardback
15.  Traitor's Blade, Sebastien de Castell, paperback
16.  The Sign Of The Book, John Dunning, hardback

Happy Reading!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Murder At The Book Group by Maggie King

When Hazel and Carlene become unhappy with the library's bookgroup, they decide to start their own.  They start a book group focusing on mysteries, taking turns hosting the club at the member's houses.  Most of their members are close friends or relatives and the group is a big success.  But this evening is different.  For some reason, Carlene is worked up, tearing a book to shreds.  That kind of attitude is one of the reasons the members didn't like the other group, so everyone is surprised and put off. 

The moment passes and the group moves on to a discussion of poisoning in books, specifically cyanide poisoning.  During the refreshment period, Carlene seems fine, serving the members food and drink, having her own special tea.  She asks to speak to Hazel in her office so the two leave for a moment.  Or so Hazel thinks.  Instead, Carlene collapses and dies before Hazel's eyes.  The verdict?  Cyanide poisoning.  Who did it?  The police believe it is suicide, as a note is found.

Hazel decides that she is in the best position to find out what really happened.  She and her cousin Lucy start to talk with everyone at the meeting and everyone who knew Carlene.  They quickly discover that she was not the reserved woman she seemed to be, but a woman who loved sex and who was not choosy about partners, taking husbands and boyfriends regardless of who else they were with.  She had affairs with co-workers and sons of friends, with strangers, with almost anyone.  Can Hazel and Lucy find out who was mad enough to take revenge?

Maggie King has written a mystery that seems more realistic than most mysteries.  The novel would be in the cozy category, with a cast of characters who each have a secret to hide.  King captures the inter-relationships that arise when people marry multiple times, and the way that a mystery can tear apart a social group.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

Mabel Dagmar is sure someone has made a mistake.  She's a dowdy, scholarship student at her East Coast college, her parents and their dry-cleaning shop thousands of miles away back in Oregon.  Somehow she has ended up with Genevra Winslow for a roommate.  Genevra, or Ev, is gorgeous, smart, popular and very rich.  She knows how to handle any situation and cares not a whit for the rules and regulations of society.  Needless to say, the two girls have nothing in common.

But living together tends to eventually lead to friendships.  After Ev has a situation in which she needs a friend, the two girls become close.  So close that at the end of the year, Ev invites Mabel to spend the summer at the Winslow summer enclave; a family tradition that goes back more than a century.  Mabel is entranced and excited; she falls headlong in love with the entire Winslow family and all the tradition and entitlement that huge family wealth seems to bring with it.

But as the summer goes on, Mabel starts to question the pleasant life into which she has landed.  There are family secrets that are kept by everyone to insure that life goes on as it always has.  Family comes first and everything else is a distant second.  When Mabel discovers one of the biggest family secrets of all, she must choose between what she knows is right and what her heart desires.  She discovers that doing the right thing could even expose her own secrets and she must decide what is most important to her in life.

Miranda Beverly-Whittemore has written an intriguing family saga, one that draws the reader into the privileged world of the wealthy.  There is love, sex, intrigue, art, secrets, family relationships, betrayals and the realization that one is never an adult until they put aside the childish view of the world we grow up with.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and those who enjoy family sagas.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Hidden Ones by Nancy Madore

Nadia Adeine seems to have it all as the CEO of a rescue organization devoted to helping those whose lives are ruined by disasters.  On top of her work, she is beautiful and well off financially.  But none of those things mean much when Nadia finds herself kidnapped by a secret society, one that stretches back centuries to that of the Essenes.

The men who kidnapped her believe that Nadia is the embodiment of evil.  They believe in the Biblical stories of the angels set to watch the earth, and the children they sired, the Nephilim, when they couldn't resist the women of Earth.  The Nephilim were giants, much more powerful and intelligent than those around them.  They were able to advance the lives of ancient civilizations.  But like many powerful individuals, over time their good turned to evil as they insisted on remaining in control.  The angels were sent to find and destroy all the Nephilim.  The Nephilim didn't want to go, and as they were killed, their souls did not move on, but roamed the Earth, searching for bodies they could inhabit.  They became known as djinn or demons.

The kidnappers believe Nadia is the human embodiment of a famous, strong djinn named Lilith.  They also believe that Lilith and others like her are about to launch a terrorist attack that will decimate the West.  Can Nadia convince them she isn't who they think she is in time for them to work together to foil the attack?

The Hidden Ones is the first book in a planned trilogy by Nancy Madore.  Her interest in history and mythology has led her to write this series.  The book is compelling as well as interesting, making it difficult to put down.  The reader is drawn into the world inhabited by the Nephilim, and unable to leave without finding out what happens next.  This book is recommended for readers of Christian literature, and fans of mythology.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sold For Endless Rue by Madeleine E. Robins

Life is hard in thirteenth century Italy, and especially for women, subject to the whims of any man in their orbit.  Laura is a slave girl, captured and enslaved by the men who killed her family.  Breaking free, Laura finds refuge with a woman healer who lives alone.  Crescia takes in Laura and acts as her mentor while shielding her from the slaver who searches for her.

Laura is interested in the healing Crescia does and as the years go by, the two manage to even get her an education and entry into the famed medical school in Salerno.  Laura becomes one of the few female physicians, renowned for her skill.  Her only regret is that she has no husband or child.

Laura leaves Salerno and moves elsewhere to make her career.  When a couple moves in next door, Laura befriends the wife and shepherds her through her first pregnancy.  But her motives are not beneficent; instead she claims the baby as her own in order to shield the husband from charges of thievery.

Laura takes the baby, a girl she names Bieta, back home to Salerno.  She is determined to protect Bieta from everything she has endured and to help her to also become a physician.  But Laura forgets the lesson learned from fairy tales.  Fate will have its way, regardless of human interference.

Madeleine Robins has created a retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale and set it in medieval Italy and a historical novel of women's lives.  Laura is a strong woman, sometimes headstrong in her determination to wrest a life for herself and do the work she loves.  Her major flaw is that she is blindsided by the effort it took to win her life and unable to see that each person must follow their own dream, not that of someone else.  This book is recommended both for readers of historical fiction and those interested in retelling of familiar old tales.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz

Why are we so fascinated by Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick, Dr. Watson?  Countless movies, television shows and books have been written about this character.  Whether it is the old atmospheric movies starring Basil Rathbone or the newer ones starring Robert Downey, Jr., the television series such as the British Sherlock starring the irrepressible Benedict Cumberbatch or the American show Elementary featuring Jonny Lee Miller as the detective, we can't get enough of this character.  There are books written studying the phenomena and even books that claim to help you 'think like Sherlock Holmes'.  We love this character.

Anthony Horowitz has been authorized by the Doyle family to continue the series and give the reader new Sherlock stories.  Moriarty is his second Holmes novel after the success of the first, The House Of Silk.  In this novel, the story revolves about what happens after the climatic scene at Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland when Sherlock and Moriarity tumble over the falls and are swallowed up by the mist. 

With the death of the two adversaries, a vacuum exists and we all know how nature views a vacuum.  Soon, another crime mastermind emerges and wrecks havoc in London.  Two detectives pair up to attempt to bring this new criminal to justice.  Frederick Chase is an American Pinkerton detective while Athelney Jones works at Scotland Yard and helped Sherlock on some cases.  Together they attempt to use the precepts they learned from Sherlock to solve the most infamous case since his fateful fall.

Horowitz has written a novel that will be must reading for Sherlock Holmes fans.  There are twists and turns and plot secrets but all along the motto remains the same; the most famous Sherlock maxim: "when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."  I've always been a huge fan as are many IT employees.  Holmes' use of logic over emotion and rationality as king is a huge attraction.  This book is recommended both for diehard Holmes fans and for mystery readers new to the characters.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

A fifteen-year old teenager, Holly Sykes, runs away from home.  Her parents disapprove of her boyfriend and she is ready to chuck school and everything else for him.  When she discovers that he is not as entranced with her, she takes off to show everyone how much they will miss her.  Holly isn't your normal English teenager.  She has always been the one who knows a little too much; psychic phenomena surround her.  Holly isn't sure if the voices she hears are real, but she knows she hears them.

When Holly returns home after a weekend on her own, it is to a changed world.  Her family has been disrupted and things will never return to normal.  Holly is also changed and as she becomes an adult, she enters the life of various individuals, who are also changed by meeting her.  These individuals return throughout her life, with actions in one decade echoing and returning in later ones.  Holly is the nucleus; the focus of two groups of mystics; one who wants to help humanity while another wishes only to prey upon it.  Both regard Holly as a pivotal player in the fight for dominance.

David Mitchell is one of the finest novelists working today.  His prose is always entrancing; the reader led along only to be surprised at the destination at which they arrive.  This is his first entry into fantasy, although some would put his novel Cloud Atlas in that category.  Like that novel, this one depends on interrelated stories and relationships to advance the narrative and the reader is not disappointed at the end result.  This book has been longlisted for the Mann Booker Prize for 2014 and is a highly original work.  It is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The River Of Souls by Robert McCammon

In 1703, there is more scope in society for a man such as Matthew Corbett.  Matthew is what he calls a 'problem-solver', someone who those in need can turn to when life has thrown them a curve ball.  As the novel begins, Corbett is given an easy assignment.  A rich man in Charles Town, South Carolina, wants to hire Corbett to escort his daughter to a local ball.  Corbett, at loose ends after a difficult assignment, agrees since it seems a good break from his usual strenuous work, although he expects that the daughter must be very unattractive indeed if her father is reduced to hiring out of towners to escort her.

When Corbett meets the young lady, he is astonished to find that she is gorgeous.  They go to the ball, where he discovers the reason she needs a paid escort.  A local man, huge and unsocial, has decided that he will marry the rich debutante and challenges anyone who escorts her to a duel.  Matthew defeats this man, Magnus Muldoon, in a duel of wits as he realizes that the lady enjoys the attention way too much and there is no reason for bloodshed.

But blood is shed.  The daughter of a local plantation owner is murdered, and a slave is suspected.  The slave, along with his father and brother, have run away.  The plantation owner sets a reward for their return, one so high that an entire group of trackers and local men start after them.  They quickly see that the slaves have run away up the local Solstice River, which is known as The River Of Souls and is widely suspected of being cursed.  Matthew teams up with Muldoon, who he has befriended after the dance fiasco.

This starts an adventure that quickly turns Corbett's easy trip into a nightmare.  The group encounters aggressive Indians, snakes, alligators, quicksand, impenetrable bush, and a terror known as the Soul Cryer.  Then there is the human treachery and greed to content with.  Men start to drop and soon Corbett and Muldoon wonder if they will ever leave the River Of Souls alive.

This is the fifth book in Robert McCammon's Matthew Corbett series.  Matthew is an unusual man who lives by his wits but isn't afraid to get physical when needed.  Characters from the earlier books make an appearance but don't affect the reader's ability to read this novel as a stand-alone.  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction or suspense. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Booksie's Shelves, December 3, 2014

December already!  It's hard to believe 2014 is almost over but it's been a year full of great reading.  For the first time I can remember, I'm not requesting any books this year.  I'm overwhelmed with the stacks already here and need to make a major dent in what I already own. At last count, I have around 6500 books in my physical library and about 1500 ebooks so it's time to start widdling the stacks down. I read and review everything I accept, but have become more selective in what I accept since the early days of blogging.  On the other hand, I have just joined the Kindle Unlimited program once I realized that some of the books were audio and that I could listen to them while I exercise.  I'd been going to the library to get audiobooks, and really, that is like setting a child loose in a toy shop so the Kindle Unlimited option will work better for me.  Here's what's come through the door lately:

1.  Grown Ups, Robin Antalek, women's literature, sent by publisher
2.  Hush Hush, Laura Lippman, mystery, sent by publisher
3.  The Kind Worth Killing, Peter Swanson, mystery, sent by publisher
4.  The Wilderness Of Ruin, Roseanne Montillo, mystery, sent by publisher
5.  The Fragile World, Paula DeBoard, literary fiction, sent by a friend
6.  Everlasting Lane, Andrew Lovett, literary fiction, sent by publisher
7.  The Barter, Siobhan Adcock, suspense, sent by publisher
8.  Well In Time, Suzan Still, historical fiction, sent by author
9.  Alphabet House, Jussi Adler-Olsen, mystery, sent by publisher
10.  Lost And Found, Brooke Davis, literary fiction, sent by publisher
11.  The Pocket Atlas Of Remote Islands, Judith Schalansky, travel and reference, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm currently reading:

1.  The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of The Year, Volume 6, various, Kindle
2.  Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter, paperback
3. The River Of Souls, Robert McCammon, paperback
4.  The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner, Kindle Fire
5.  Sold For Endless Rue, Madeleine Robins, hardback
6.  The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell, hardback
7.  The Rise And Fall Of Great Powers, Tom Rachman, paperback
8.  The Paying Guests, Sarah Waters, Kindle Fire
9.  Bittersweet, Miranda Beverly-Whitemore, paperback
10.  The Hidden Ones, Nancy Madore, paperback
11.  The Perfect Stranger, Wendy Corsi Staub, paperback
12.  The Orchid Affair, Lauren Willig, hardback

 Happy Reading!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Maze by Catherine Coulter

The String Killer is a serial killer who walks his victims through a maze and kills them when they reach the center.  Seven years ago, he killed seven women in San Francisco, then stopped.  Now he has struck again, but in Boston this time.

New FBI Agent Lacey Sherlock has a special interest in The String Killer.  His last victim in San Francisco was her beloved half-sister, Belinda, and she is determined to track him down and make him pay for her crimes.  Although she was a budding concert pianist, she changed her major and took degrees in criminal psychology and forensics, readying herself for the task of tracking the killer.  She joins the FBI and catches the eye of the chief of a new computer division that focuses on using technology to discern patterns to catch serial killers.  She is assigned to the new division, and uses it to continue her research into the man who changed her life forever.

When the killer returns to killing, Lacey has a chance to track him down.  But this is a wily killer.  Will she be able to capture him before he captures and kills her?

Catherine Coulter has written an engaging mystery that keeps the reader interested.  The killer is diabolical, the plot fast-paced.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, November 28, 2014

The French Executioner by C. C. Humphreys

Jean Rombaud is renowned for his skill as an executioner.  His services are called in when the person to be executed is shown some mercy, for his stroke is sure and strong and there is no suffering as in the many botched executions.  He is called to England to serve as the executioner for the English queen, Anne Boleyn.

Jean goes to visit Anne the night before the execution to reassure her.  He finds her stoic and ready for her death, but she has one request.  She asks that he take her hand with its famous six fingers at the same time he takes her head.  She wants him to take it to Europe and bury it at a sacred crossroads in France.  Jean agrees and with his oath, starts a journey that will take months and more from him than he ever imagined.

For this is no easy mission.  There are other forces who want the hand for themselves and the magical powers they believe it contains.  Jean assembles a group of friends who bind to each other and fight together to reach the goal.  There is Fuggar, the son of a famous German banking family, exiled from them in disgrace.  Haakon is a Norse mercenary who has fought with Jean on other battlegrounds.  Januc is a Muslim fighter who has survived many battles.  Beck is a Jewish youth who is determined to rescue her father from the courts of the evil religious Cardinal, Cibo.  Cibo wants the hand for its magical powers and is determined to do anything to capture it.

C. C. Humphreys never disappoints.  His tales are always full of great characters and tons of action.  He is a storyteller who sweeps the reader up and takes them on a magical ride.  The reader visits debauched religious courts, a town under the curse of Saint Anthony's fire, a siege, the galley on a pirate ship and many other adventures.  The action is underwritten by the love between the group that Jean assembles.  This is absolutely one of my favorite books of 2014.  This book is recommended for readers of fantasy and those who enjoy historical action literature.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Rule Of Nine by Steve Martini

San Diego lawyer Paul Madriani seems to draw trouble.  Months ago, he was drawn into the hunt for a near-miss nuclear device at a naval base.  The authorities weren't convinced Madriani wasn't involved and the time afterwards put him and his law practice into limbo as he was interviewed over and over again.  He was finally exonerated, but not before the media got his name and his life became media hell with reporters staked out at his home and work.  He was forced to suspend his law practice and live in a safe house provided by the federal authorities.  He also drew the attention of a hitman known as Liquidia, who knows Madriani saw him and could identify him.

Finally, things are settling down.  Madriani is able to return home and reopen his practice.  His daughter is living with him rather than out on her own as many girls her age do.  Then things start up again.  An intern in Washington is killed and his father comes to see Madriani as his name turned up in the investigation.  As Madriani puts the pieces together with the help of his investigator, he starts to hear the name Thorn.  Thorn is a weapons dealer, willing and able to sell his goods to the highest bidder regardless of what they plan to do with them.  He is connected with Liquidia and it becomes clear that Madriani is again a target.

The lawyer sends his daughter away to a safe place and then hits the road with Herman, his investigator.  They join forces with Jocelyn, a weapons control expert, who has the political connections to get information the lawyer can't get on his own.  The three uncover a plot that will rattle the entire country if successful.  It's a race against time to thwart the plot, while trying to evade the sure death that Liquidia is determined to mete out.

This is the eleventh novel in the Paul Madriani series, and thriller readers will be glad to read it and anxious for the twelfth.  Martini's legal background makes the action and research realistic.  He has practiced law in both state and federal courts as well as serving as an administrative law judge.  The plot is readily followed yet sophisticated and connected to recent events to add another level of suspense.  This book is recommended for readers of thrillers. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Mortom by Erik Therme

Andy Crowl hasn't been to Mortom for years.  His aunt Mary and cousin Craig live there, but the small town doesn't have anything to attract a young man, and he isn't really close with his relatives.  Craig used to spend time in the summers with Andy's family, but about the only thing they had in common was their attraction to puzzles and their skill in unraveling them. 

It's a shock when Craig is found drowned in the lake surrounding Mortom.  It's even more of a shock when Andy finds out that Craig left everything he owned, his house, his belongings, his bank accounts to Andy.  Why would he do that?  Why cut his mother out of his will?

Andy and his sister Kate come to town to settle the estate and sign all the necessary papers.  When he does, Andy discovers that his cousin Craig has left one more thing, a puzzle for Andy that seems to promise a treasure at the end of the hunt.  A puzzle that has a timeline; four days, and a suggestion that bad things will occur if the puzzle isn't solved in time.  Has Craig left a blessing or a curse?

Mortom is Erik Therme's debut novel and readers will be interested to follow his career and see what he does next.  He has created a chilling atmosphere that delves beneath the secrets a small town harbors; recreating a place where everyone knows everyone's business and no one tells an outsider anything.  The story has the timeline of the puzzle to propel the action and the reader can't help but wonder if Andy and his sister will solve the mystery in time.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Booksie's Shelves, November 16, 2014

The calendar may say fall, but cold weather has arrived in North Carolina.  Our temps yesterday morning were in the mid-20's and that's very cold for us.  It felt even colder as my husband was running his first 5K and we were outside for about three hours.  He did great and I'm so proud of him?  Now we're home and with nothing but cold weather it's time for reading.  Here's what's come through the door lately:

1.  Flesh And Blood, Patricia Cornwell, mystery, sent by publisher
2,  One Step Too Far, Tina Seskis, mystery, sent by publisher
3.  The Pocket Wife, Susan Crawford, mystery, sent by publisher
4.  Wildalone, Krassi Zourkova, mystery, sent by publisher
5.  Those Who Remain, Ruth Crocker, historical fiction, sent by publisher
6.  A Tree Born Crooked, Steph Post, mystery, sent by author
7.  A Certain Justice, P.D. James, mystery, from bring-one, take-one shelves at Sports Center
8.  Blue Labyrinth, Preston & Child, mystery, sent by publisher
9.  The Maruaders, Tom Cooper, suspense, Shelf Awareness win
10.  Murder At The Book Group, Maggie King, mystery, sent by publisher
11.  The Shadow Of His Wings, Bruce Fergusson, fantasy, bought
12.  The Mace Of Souls, Bruce Fergusson, fantasy, sent by author
13.  Custer's Gold, John Lubetkin, historical fiction, sent by author
14.  Neurotic November, Barbara Levenson, mystery, sent by publisher
15.  Palm Beach Nasty, Tom Turner, mystery, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm currently reading:

1.  The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of The Year, Volume 6, various, Kindle
2.  Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter, paperback
3.  The Rule Of Nine, Steve Martini, hardback
4.  The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner, Kindle Fire
5.  Sold For Endless Rue, Madeleine Robins, hardback
6.  New York, Edward Rutherfurd, paperback
7.  The Rise And Fall Of Great Powers, Tom Rachman, paperback
8.  The Paying Guests, Sarah Waters, Kindle Fire
9.  Bittersweet, Miranda Beverly-Whitemore, paperback
10.  The Hidden Ones, Nancy Madore, paperback
11.  The Queen's Executioner, C.C. Humphries, paperback

Happy Reading!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Perfidia by James Ellroy

The time is December 1941.  Specifically, December 6th, the day before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor to December 29th.  The place is Los Angeles, a city built on diverse populations, Tinseltown, law enforcement and criminal schemes. 

A Japanese family has been murdered.  Husband, wife, son and daughter, all killed and made to appear as a ritual Japanese suicide.  The police investigate but much more than a murder is involved.  There are land grabs, Japanese internments, patriotism, Fifth Column traitors, the world of boxing, fascists and criminals, tong wars, opium, movie stars, religion and eugenic manipulation.

The main characters are these:  William Parker and Dudley Smith are both policemen.  They are rivals to replace the chief when he retires in a few years.  Hideo Ashida is a Japanese policeman who has insights into the crime and switches allegiances between the two men depending on who can protect him and his family from arrest and internment.  Ashida is Dr. Ashida and is one of the first forensic policeman who can solve crimes from the evidence left.  Kay Lake is a twenty-one year old Midwestern girl who came to Los Angeles to act but found herself acting roles in men's fantasies instead. 

James Ellroy has written a compelling novel that outlines the city right after the start of World War II.  This is not a city and a police force to be glorified.  It is a city and police force mired in crime and double-dealing and betrayal.  Nothing is too sacred to be sacrificed on the alter of greed and self-aggrandizement.  The book seems to spin out of control but Ellroy keeps a master's hand on the narrative, bringing it to a conclusion that few readers will see coming.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and those who enjoy noir literature. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Us by David Nicholls

Douglas Petersen is doing fine for a man in his early fifties.  He is married to his beautiful Connie, the woman he never thought he would be able to even date, much less marry and have children with.  He loves her as much as the day they married.  He has one son, Albie, who is about to go off to college.  He has a job he likes in his field of biochemistry.

Of course, nothing is perfect.  His job isn't as much fun now that he is in management rather than down in the trenches.  He loves Albie immeasurably, but can't seem to get along with him.  They seem to argue a lot about Albie's choices, or nonchoices, as Douglas sees them.  Connie seems a bit distant but he knows she is worried about the empty nest next year.

So Douglas is blindsided when Connie wakes him up one night to tell him she is thinking of leaving him.  She's not sure yet and it won't happen tomorrow, but she might leave him once Albie takes off to college.  In the meantime, they should use their last summer as a family to go on a Grand Tour, to take Albie to all the spots in Europe everyone should see.  Reeling, Douglas agrees.  Secretly, he thinks this can be his last chance, to make a connection with Albie and to win Connie back.

Off the family goes to explore and find themselves.  They are the typical tourists.  Douglas has planned everything down to the last detail and has the guidebooks memorized.  Connie is insistent on having fun and being spontaneous.  Albie is the sullen teenager accompanying parents that is a common sight on family vacations.  Will it go well?  Can Douglas prove that his family should stay together and that their love is more important than life circumstances?

David Nicholls has written a charming novel that will strike home with readers.  His attempts to deal with changing life circumstances is a journey that each of us will make.  His is the story of the one in the relationship who loves more.  In every partnership, there is one who was the pursued and one who did the chasing.  Most marriages are built on the hidden premise that one is loved more and the other spends time spoiling and catering to them.  The reader can't help but feel along with Douglas and his dogged determination to do whatever it takes to keep his family intact.  His steady love and reserved humor makes an impact that will not be soon forgotten.  This book is longlisted for the Mann Booker prize this year and it is easy to see why.  Nicholls has gotten the mix just right as he delves into relationships with characters that everyone will recognize.  I loved this book and it is definitely in my personal top ten for the year.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and those interested in changing relationships and the nature of love.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

Stanislas Cordova is an enigmatic, celebrated movie director.  His films reach into the minds and psyches of those who watch them, leaving them forever changed.  In fact, his movies have such unsettling aftereffects that they are banned from general release.  The films are shown at secret screenings, with only a select few fans as their audience. But the talk of what is seen is always present and always leaves those hearing about it uneasy.

Scott McGrath is a respected investigative reporter.  When he becomes obsessed with Cordova and makes a public accusation about him that he cannot prove, his career is tarnished and he sees that he was caught in a trap where the rumor was fed to him. There were always rumors of dark deeds that were the basis for the Cordova movie success.   Unfortunately, McGrath took the bait of a rumor he had no proof about and now has no job and his marriage is over.

Then the news hits.  Cordova's daughter, Ashley, is found dead, an apparent suicide at age 24.  Ashley grew up with her reclusive father, tucked away on his upstate New York estate where he spends all his time, even making his films there.  Ashley is a child prodigy, making a piano debut at twelve that stunned the musical world.  She gave it all up at sixteen as she was poised for a world tour and became as reclusive as her father.  Now she is dead.

Scott McGrath feels the same tug as he did before.  He feels the need to discover what would make Ashley do this deed.  Can the fault be laid at her father's door?  As he starts to investigate, he encounters two unlikely helpers.  Hopper met Ashley at sixteen and fell in love with her, although he hasn't seen her for years.  Nora came to New York to be an actress, and moves in with Scott to help him in his research.  Together, they start to uncover layer after layer of secrecy and intrigue.  Can they solve the mystery of what went wrong and if it is related to Cordova's career?

Marisha Pessl has written a heart stopping thriller that compels the reader to enter the mysterious world of Stanislas Cordova.  As each layer of intrigue is uncovered, what the reader believes has happened is twisted and when seen in a new light, leaves them reeling at the realization of how wrong their earlier interpretation was.  This book will be remembered long after the last page is read.  It is recommended for readers of literary fiction and mystery readers.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Glimpsing Heaven by Judy Bachrach

Several years ago, if one asked Judy Bachrach what her greatest fear was, the answer would be swift and sure.  Death, not being, the end of existence.  Her mother had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's and she knew her time was short.  Bachrach volunteered in a hospice center, but it didn't give her the answers she sought.  As an investigative reporter, she decided to research the subject of death and went to the prime source, those who had clinically died and returned.

These individuals don't use the term 'near-death experiences'.  Instead, they call themselves Experiencers.  They weren't near death, they had died.  Some were in hospitals and declared clinically dead.  Some drowned or were hit by lighting and stopped breathing.  Some were old, some young.  Some were religious, others were atheists.  There was a common experience among them.

The overwhelming experience each experienced was bliss; the realization that everything in the universe is connected, that we continue as ourselves after this life, and that everything has a purpose.  Some reported seeing a wonderful light; others reported meeting those they loved who had died before them or meeting someone wise and full of all knowledge.  Some underwent a life review.  All were glad to be in this new place, and hesitant when they were told they must return.  When they returned to their bodies and life, many could recite details of things they could not have seen or heard but somehow had. 

The Experiencers were changed by their journey.  Many left jobs they had loved and strived in before, as what was important to them changed.  Many divorced as their mates could not accept their new reality or the changes they underwent.  A significant percentage returned with unexplained powers such as healing or the ability to see things or know things without being told.  The one commonality was that none returned with any fear of death.  They don't want to die before their time but are sure that they will be ready and that it will be a new experience when their time comes.

Judy Bachrach is an investigative reporter on international affairs, and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair.  She spent several years interviewing the Experiencers and those in the medical field who are working on this field of study.  There are respected doctors and tenured professors who study this common experience and the feeling is that humanity is about to peel back the layers of death to find what really occurs.  For example, brain cells are alive for hours after death has been declared.  Glimpsing Heaven is a fascinating overview of the subject, and those searching or grieving will find comfort in its page.  This book is recommended for anyone interested in the human experience and what it means to be human.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Swing State by Michael Fournier

Armbrister, New Hampshire, isn't doing well in this economy.  Most of the men in town worked in the mills, but the mill work went overseas and the mills closed down one by one.  There wasn't much else in the way of work; not much construction when no one could afford to buy, not many restaurants when eating at home was cheaper.  Stores closed down and the people of the town struggled to make it from month to month.

Three young residents typify the population.  Royal finished high school but with bad grades that meant no college for him.  He joined the military, went to Afghanistan and is back in town when an injury sent him home.  He's willing to work but can't find a job.  He's getting by playing pool for money and spending days in the library to keep warm.

Dixon's brother is the town's star athlete, the one everyone says has a chance to make it to the pros.  The college recruiters are visiting.  Dixon's family just wants to be sure she doesn't mess up his chances with her juvenile delinquency and her reputation for getting high and maybe being too friendly with the guys.

Zachariah is the fat kid.  He used to be one of the guys, on the soccer team and part of the gang, but after he had an embarrassing incident, everyone dropped him and now he's the kid no one wants to talk with.  No one except those who want to torment him, like Dixon.  Even his father, who lives for Armbrister football, beats him.  Zach knows he needs to find a way to escape.  He spends his days baking and working on game shows that he hopes will take him to another life.

Michael Fournier has written two novels.  He is founder and co-editor of Cabildo Quarterly, a literary journal.  His writing has appeared in the Oxford American, Vice, Pitchfork and the Boston Globe.  He lives in western Massachusetts.

Swing State explores what happens to a town and those who live there when the jobs dry up and everyone is struggling to get by.  The characters try different strategies, but only the rare individual manages to carve out a life that is satisfying.  But these are strong individuals and they keep trying, refusing to give up and accept that their lives will never be better.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and those interested in other's lives and how they handle the obstacles life gives them. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Booksie's Shelves, October 25, 2014

October is almost over and the mornings are getting cooler.  It's about time for my annual drive alone for a day in the mountains, where I can watch the colors and stop whenever and wherever I choose.  All of us need some solitude in our lives along with the hustle and bustle of others.  I think readers value solitude more than others as most of us are never happier than sitting somewhere reading by ourselves.  Here's what came through the door lately:

1.  Singing To A Bulldog, Anson Williams, memoir, sent by publisher
2.  Heart Of Stone, Debra Mullins, fantasy, sent by publisher
3.  Apache Courage, Cynthia Darling, mystery, sent by publisher
4.  Power And Passion, Kay Tejani, women's fiction, sent by publisher
5.  Glimpsing Heaven, Judy Bachrach, nonfiction, sent for book tour
6.  Risky Undertaking, Mark De Castrique, mystery, sent by publisher
7.  Mr. Samuel's Penny, Treva Melvin, mystery, sent by publisher
8.  The Paris Winter, Imogen Robertson, historical fiction, sent by publisher
9.  Lizzie And Jane, Katherine Reay, women's fiction, sent by publisher
10.  Barracuda, Christos Tsiolkas, literary fiction, sent by publisher
11.  Umbrella, Will Self, literary fiction, sent from Paperbackswap
12.  Pass On The Cup Of Dreams, Bruce Fergusson, fantasy, sent by author
13.  More Awesome Than Money, Jim Dwyer, nonfiction, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm currently reading:

1.  The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of The Year, Volume 6, various, Kindle
2.  Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter, paperback
3.  The Rule Of Nine, Steve Martini, hardback
4.  The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner, Kindle Fire
5.  Sold For Endless Rue, Madeleine Robins, hardback
6.  New York, Edward Rutherfurd, paperback
7.  The Rise And Fall Of Great Powers, Tom Rachman, paperback
8.  The Paying Guests, Sarah Waters, Kindle Fire
9.  Perfidia, James Ellroy, hardback
10.  Night Film, Marisha Pessl, paperback
11. Swing State, Michael Fournier, paperback
12.  Bittersweet, Miranda Beverly-Whitemore, paperback
13.  The Hidden Ones, Nancy Madore, paperback
14.  Glimpsing Heaven, Judy Bachrach, hardback

Happy Reading!

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

This is definitely not the high point of Detective Cormoran Strike's life.  A former military investigator who lost his leg in Afghanistan, Strike has returned to London and opened a detective agency.  Things have not been going that well, and money is tight.  Make that more than tight; Strike is broke.  To top everything off, he and his long-term girlfriend have just broken up, so add having no home to the mix. 

Things appear to be looking up when John Bristow shows up looking for an investigator.  John is wealthy and wants someone to look into his adopted sister's death.  That sister was supermodel Lula Landry and three months ago she fell to her death from the balcony of her apartment in an expensive, high security building.  The verdict was suicide and Bristow just doesn't believe it.  He wants Strike to check everything and see if the verdict is correct.  Strike was a schoolboy friend of Bristow's brother so he thought of him first.

Strike is pessimistic that anything was missed in the first investigation as it was of such a high profile individual, but he is willing to try.  His temporary secretary, Robin, is fascinated with the entire detection field of work and helps where she can.  Strike's investigation takes him into the worlds of rock, movie making, high-end legal firms, peerages and also into drug-addicted individuals, freeloaders and paparazzi.  Can he separate the flash from the truth and find out what sent Lula to her death?

The worst kept secret in publishing is that Robert Galbraith is in fact J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame.  Her ability to tell a tale is evident here, along with a facility for quickly painting the personalities of her characters.  The novel has an interesting investigation with an ending many won't see coming.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Certainty by Victor Bevine

Newport, Rhode Island, transformed during World War I.  Always a training center for the Navy, the sailor population exploded topping twenty-five thousand men, up from the normal five thousand.  As the war came to a close, those men who had escaped death in the war had to face the pandemic Spanish flu and many died.  Then there was the boredom of demobilization, waiting to be discharged and trying to find ways to occupy the time.

With so many unattached men, crime exploded.  Prostitution and drinking were common.  The crime the Navy found the most disturbing was gay sex, although it wasn't called gay at the time, but depraved, unnatural and an indication that a man had no moral fiber.  Determined to stop the crime, the Navy set up an investigative team to discover those engaged in it.  The team were sailors who were tricked or agreed for the perks to entice other men to engage in sex, and then to turn them in to military justice.

Caught up in this witch hunt was a local clergyman, Samuel Kent.  Reverend Kent was beloved for his work ministering to those sick and dying of the flu, and for his unending kindness to all he met.  But when he was lured into the trap, the government was quick to try to make an example of him.  A local attorney, William Bartlett, agreed to represent the reverend and his faith in  the man's innocence made him willing to take on what was considered an unsavory case.

Victor Bevine has written a compelling novel that outlines the true events that became known as the Newport Navy Vice Scandal of 1919.  Franklin Roosevelt was an Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and many regard the court cases as his darkest decision and hour.  It is difficult to realize that it was less than a hundred years ago that gay sex was considered so wrong and those who were different were ostracized and penalized for who they chose to love.  Many readers will only have experienced the more tolerant atmosphere found today, and reading about these cases will seem unbelievable.  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction and those interested in a dark side of the American experience. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Olde School by Selah Janel

Paddlelump Stonemonger is not your average troll.  Sure, he is eight feet tall, built like a tree and fearsome to look upon.  He does have a bridge where he charges tolls.  But Paddlelump is a modern troll.  He uses his laptop to keep his accounts, and hires a goblin lawyer to watch his business interests. 

Paddlelump is mild-mannered.  In fact, he is so laid back that people tend to take advantage of him.  He is one of the wealthiest beings in Kingdom City and everyone wants some of his money. Even his maid is taking advantage of him, taking his money, refusing to clean the house and leaving early and coming late.  His watchbird, Clyde, is sarcastic about Padd's strength and character.   His friends, more traditional trolls, worry about him and want him to just 'troll up'.

Things are changing in Kingdom City.  Under the rule of High King Thadd, all creatures, trolls, ogres, humans, elves, brownies, fairies and anything else, have learned to live and work together.  Now, suddenly, all seemed to be scheming against each other, willing to do anything for an advantage.  Paddlelump seems to be a target, with low-level princes suddenly appearing and trying to kill him, willing to do that to win a princess' love; a princess they have only met online.

Then people start going missing, and the signs point to the Forest on the other side of Padd's bridge, the forest he owns.  When Paddlelump goes to investigate, he finds something so vile and horrendous that he can't believe it.  He also finds King Thadd who gives Paddlelump a quest to fulfill.  Can Padd fulfill the quest and save the kingdom?

Selah Janel has written a charming modern fantasy that turns the tradition on its head.  Paddlelump is a hero everyone can relate to, a troll with a heart of gold who isn't sure he is up to the demands life places on him.  Readers will be charmed by him and cheer him on as he attempts to follow his quest and save his town and friends. The mix of modern technology and attitudes with traditional magical creatures is well done.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers and can be read by young readers as well.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Lost Tribe Of Coney Island by Claire Prentice

At the St. Louis Exposition of 1904, the runaway favorite exhibit was one dedicated to the native tribesmen of the Philippines, the Igorrotes.  People flocked to see another culture, one markedly different from their own.  When the exposition was over and the tribesmen returned to their own country, they had marvelous tales to tell of the wonders they had seen in America, things and luxuries unimaginable to those who had stayed behind.

Spurred by the success of the exhibit, Dr. Truman Hunt proposed to put together a commercial exhibit of the tribesmen at an amusement park, Luna Park at Coney Island.  There were many Igorrote volunteers, eager for a chance at adventure and financial gain.  Forty-nine men, women and children 'signed' contracts agreeing to be in the exhibit for one year.  They were to be paid ten dollars a month each (a princely sum at the time) and also get money from the sale of items they made. 

Hunt had a history in the Philippines.  Originally brought there by the army, he stayed on after the war and soon had a reputation for his medical care of the tribes.  He established a hospital for cholera, and worked tirelessly to improve the health of the native people.  He was highly regarded by the tribe and those he met in the government and easily obtained the permits he needed to start his grand commercial adventure.

His plan worked marvelously.  The Igorrotes were the hit of the season.  Hordes of people flocked to see them and their recreation of their native villages and culture.  Hunt took in hundreds of thousands of dollars, a fortune indeed at that time. 

But as time went on, things turned bad for the Igorrotes.  They were confined to their exhibit area, and the shows they put on was a poor substitute for people used to roaming their habitat, being busy all day.  The sensationalist aspects of their culture, such as head-hunting and eating dogs was emphasized.  Their native dress, very minimal coverage of their bodies, was titillating and drew in crowds.  Worse, they were split up into groups, sent all over to different parks and fairs, often living in squalid conditions.  The pay they were promised never materialized, and the year they agreed to came and went. 

The government learned of the scandal and were determined to help the tribe, but Dr. Hunt was a wily character, moving the tribesmen around and using his network of spies and well-wishers to evade the police.  Could the government return dignity to this tribe treated so shabbily?

Claire Prentice has written an engaging book about a time almost unimaginable in today's modern world, when gaping at those different was considered acceptable and the native was stripped of their native dignity and their ignorance of the modern world used to betray and control them.  Readers interested in history will enjoy this story and the look at America at the turn of the 19th century. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Sharp Hook Of Love by Sherry Jones

The Sharp Hook Of Love tells the famous story of Heloise and Abelard in Paris in 1115, and the scandalous love that made them famous and brought them ruin.  Abelard was a canon, a famous teacher and philosopher who gave up his claim to nobility to pursue a life of the mind.  He was renowned throughout France for his writing and much beloved in Paris for his wit and looks.

Heloise was also a scholar, a rare thing in that day and age for a woman.  She was raised in Argenteuil Convent, left there by her mother who had her as an unmarried woman.  She left in her late teens to live with her uncle, Canon Fulbert, in Paris.  He wanted to use Heloise's beauty and scholarship to advance his own career. 

The stage for tragedy was set when Abelard agreed to become Heloise's tutor.  He moved into Canon Fulbert's house to facilitate her learning and a love affair ensued.  When they were discovered, Fulbert was enraged.  By then, Heloise was pregnant and Abelard arranged to send her to Brittany to his family for her confinement. 

When she returned to Paris, the pair had a secret wedding to appease Fulbert.  When rumors of their marriage leaked out, Abelard had Heloise return to the convent.  He was not allowed to marry as a canon and put his career ahead of his love.  The affair ended in tragedy for all.

Sherry Jones (pictured at right) has written a novel that explores the role that women had in medieval Europe.  They had little if any freedom and their choices were always made by the men in their lives.  Men were free to corrupt and then put aside women, which substantiated the idea that women had to make men commit to marriage to remain safe.  Women had no role in intellectual affairs, except for some women who had risen to head religious orders. 

For more information and additional reviews of this book, you can go to  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Death Box by J.A. Kerley

Detective Carson Ryder is at the top of his profession, a detective whose specialty is the detection and capture of serial killers.  When he decides to leave his home in Mobile, Alabama, he is quickly offered a job in Miami.  He barely gets into town when his services are needed as a horrific discovery has been made.  An old cistern on deserted land has been found.  In it is a solid column of concrete.  Concrete mixed with bodies, their final resting place a frieze of torture and death.

Ryder starts the investigation.  His new teammates want nothing to do with him, as they are less than impressed with this new guy in town.  Ryder teams up with a new junior detective, Ziggy Gershwin.  As the bodies are chipped from the concrete column, it appears that they are all Latin Americans.  Is this gang warfare? 

As the investigation continues, Ryder and Gershwin discover that this is not gang warfare.  Instead it is human trafficking, and the women brought here are then forced into prostitution.  They are horrified to discover the extent of this sordid practice, and determined to break up the ring and solve the murders.  Their only chance is a woman who has managed to run away from the traffickers, Leala.  But Leala has been trained to be as frightened of the police as the men who stole her and it is difficult to persuade her that the police are there to help.  Even worse, there is a price on her head and every lowlife in the city is scouring the streets to find her.  Can Carson and Ziggy find her first?

This is the tenth novel in the Carson Ryder series.  Fans of the series will welcome another Ryder adventure with a new locale and supporting characters.  Those who are new to the series will be able to quickly pick up the pace and become fans.  The action is fast paced and the reader finds themselves quickly turning the pages to see how everything turns out.  This box is recommended for mystery lovers.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Booksie's Shelves, October 3, 2014

October is here and fall can't be denied!  It's time for pumpkins, blazing fall colors and cooler weather.  Perfect reading weather and I've been busy getting books to read.  Here's what's come through the door:

1.  First Impressions, Charlie Lovett, mystery, sent by publisher
2.  Blond Cargo, John Lansing, mystery, sent by publisher
3.  The Monogram Murders, Sophie Hannah, sent by publisher
4.  Hieroglyph, Neal Stephenson, anthology, sent by publisher
5.  Hanging Hill, Mo Hayder, mystery, take-one shelf at Sports Center
6.  Rooms, Lauren Oliver, literary fiction, sent by publisher
7.  Down Solo, Earl Javorsky, mystery, sent by publisher
8.  The Killer Next Door, Alex Marwood, mystery, sent by publisher
9.  Moriarty, Anthony Horowitz, mystery, sent for book tour
10.  The Vineyard, Michael Hurley, literary fiction, sent by author

Here's what I'm currently reading:

1.  The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of The Year, Volume 6, various, Kindle
2.  Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter, paperback
3.  The Rule Of Nine, Steve Martini, hardback
4.  The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner, Kindle Fire
5.  Sold For Endless Rue, Madeleine Robins, hardback
6.  New York, Edward Rutherfurd, paperback
7.  The Rise And Fall Of Great Powers, Tom Rachman, paperback
8.  The Paying Guests, Sarah Waters, Kindle Fire
9.  The Death Box, J.A. Kerley, paperback
10.  Night Film, Marisha Pessl, paperback
11.  The Sharp Hook Of Love, Sherry Jones, paperback
12.  Bittersweet, Miranda Beverly-Whitemore, paperback
13.  The Hidden Ones, Nancy Madore, paperback
14.  The Lost Tribe Of Coney Island, Claire Prentice, paperback

 Happy Reading!

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Silent Wife by A.S.A Harrison

Jodi and Todd have what looks like a dream life.  They live in a lakefront condo in Chicago.  He is an entreprenuer, a real estate developer and contractor.  She works from their home part-time as a psychologist, her patients limited to those who are stuck in their lives and need help moving forward.  Their lives are measured and routine, restful and full of peace.

Except.  Except that Todd is a serial adulterer.  Except that Jodi denies that there is an issue.  Except that Todd is bored with the peaceful routine.  Except that Jodi doesn't know what to do except continue to do what she has always done even though it isn't working anymore. 

Then the routine changes.  Todd's latest girlfriend is more serious than the others; he credits her with pulling him out of a midlife crisis.  Soon she is pushing him to leave Jodi and move in with her.  As usual, Todd says nothing at home, letting Jodi spoil him and enjoying the creature comforts she provides in their home.  Finally, when he can balance no longer, he makes his choice and sets a disaster in motion.

A.S.A. Harrison has written a chilling narrative of what goes on below the surface in a marriage.  It's common knowledge that you can never understand a relationship from the outside; Harrison delves deeply inside.  She shows how denial can be as great a relationship issue as more overt ones are.  The reader is swept along, step by step, to tragedy.  This book is recommended to mystery and women literature readers.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

O, Africa! by Andrew Lewis Conn

The year is 1928, and the Grand brothers are at the peak of their movie-making careers in silent films, although there is trouble on the horizon with the ever-increasing number of talkies being made.  Micah is the idea man; extroverted, full of vision, always looking to cut a deal.  He serves as the movies' director.  His twin, Izzy, is his opposite.  He works behind the scenes, cutting and splicing the scenes together to use film to create a story.  He is shy, socially awkward and gay, none of which encourages him to move into the limelight.

Their producer, outside of insisting talkies are just a fad, has other business failings and soon the company is on the verge of collapse.  The producer, Marblestone, has an idea.  He'll send the Grand brothers to Africa to film their latest silent comedy and while they are there, they can shoot film stock he can sell to other companies to avoid bankruptcy.  The brothers aren't interested, but when Micah gets himself into trouble trying to bamboozle a set of Harlem gambling crime lords, they decide maybe Africa is the place to be.

The brothers discover many things about themselves in Africa.  In addition to the silent comedy, they shoot footage of a script given to them by the gamblers that shows the capture and migration of Africans to be slaves in America.  Micah is drawn to the king of the village they go to, and spends his time learning from him.  Izzy falls in love and is loved back, a stupendous discovery that is life-altering.  Their idyll is ended with a tragedy, and the brothers are left to return to America and attempt to pick back up the pieces of their lives.

Andrew Lewis Conn has written a sprawling novel that explores the worlds of silent film-making, the heady, early days of Hollywood, the issues of racial prejudice, the validity of marriage and love relationships, gender inequality, the lives of Africans in the time period and how they differed from African Americans as well as the messages we learn about ourselves while viewing films.  The characters are interesting and unique and the reader turns the last page with much to ponder.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Penny For The Hangman by Tom Savage

Fifty years ago, a crime shook the island of St. Thomas to its core.  Two teenage boys, friends and sons of two of the island's most influential families, were convicted of murder.  Not just any murder.  Both sets of parents were killed at a dinner they were having together as well as the maid working at the house that evening.  The boys were unrepentant and quickly convicted and sent to separate prisons on the mainland for decades. 

Now, a movie has been made to acknowledge the fiftieth anniversary of the crime.  No one knows what happened to the boys once they were released from their separate prisons.  Did they meet up again afterward?  Were they rehabilitated?  Are they living lives of poverty or lives of ease?  No one knows, but Karen Tyler may have the chance to find out.

Karen, a magazine reporter, has what could be the scoop of a lifetime.  She is contacted by a mystery individual who asks her to come to St. Thomas to get the inside story of what really happened fifty years ago.  Karen is eager to make her mark as a journalist, and quickly accepts the offer.  She believes her mystery man is one of the killers and she can't wait for the interview of a lifetime.  The question is:  whose lifetime? 

Tom Savage has written a compelling mystery that brings memories of some of the famous teenage killers of the sixties; those like Leopold and Loeb and the men who were convicted of the crimes written about in Truman Capote's masterpiece, In Cold Blood.  The action is nonstop and the reader is thrown in and towed along in the aftermath of the crime.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Steady Running Of The Hour by Justin Go

Just as Tristan Campbell graduates college, he receives a letter with a phone number that may change his life.  The number is that of an English law firm, and they want to pay his way to London to talk with him about something possibly advantageous.  At loose ends, the decision to go is  not difficult.

When Tristan meets with the lawyers, they tell him a fantastic tale.  He may be the recipient of a large fortune through his maternal grandmother who he remembers slightly.  Although she was presented to the world with one set of parents, it could instead be that she was raised by the sister of the real mother, Imogene Soames-Andersson.  Imogene had a brief affair with Ashley Walsingham, who was later killed in a mountaineering expedition to be the first men to conquer Everest.  Before he left, he left his money to Imogene although she had disappeared and he didn't know where she was.  If she couldn't receive the money, it was to go to her descendants if they came forward to claim in in a specific frame of time.  After that, the money would instead go to various charities.

Tristan is amazed but there is more news.  Although there are suggestions that he is the descendant of Imogene and Ashley, there is no documented proof.  He must discover such proof to claim the fortune.  He has two months to do so before the fortune reverts to the charities.

Tristan sets off to see if he can discover anything.  His college degree was in history and he knows about the time period of the affair; right in the middle of World War I.  It took place immediately before Ashley was shipped to France to the Soammes battlegrounds.  His quest takes him from place to place; English document repositories, the battlegrounds Ashley was stationed at, Germany, and Iceland.  He makes some amazing discoveries, but none seem enough to be definite proof.  Can Tristan find out the truth about Ashley and Imogene?

Justin Go has written an intriguing tale that those interested in puzzles and in family genealogy will find of interest.  Along the way, the reader learns about the trenches of World War I and the expeditions where men attempted to conquer Mount Everest.  Those passages are especially well-researched.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.