Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Booksie's Shelves, December 30, 2015

Here's the last Booksie's Shelves for 2015!  Since it is after Christmas, it's a huge list.  I ask for books, people give me books, then I'm shopping for books for other people and see ones I can't live without.  All in all, it's always a Booksie Christmas.  Here's the recent additions:

1.  Island Of Wings, Karin Altenberg, literary fiction, purchased
2.  Skin, Mo Hayder, mystery, purchased
3.  Gone, Mo Hayder, mystery, purchased
4.  The Dogs Of Littlefield, Suzanne Berne, literary fiction, sent by publisher
5.  If I Run, Terri Blackstock, mystery, sent by publisher
6.  The Treatment, Mo Hayder, mystery, purchased
7.  Reasons She Goes To The Woods, Deborah Kay Davies, literary fiction, purchased
8.  A Drop In The Ocean, Jenni Ogden, literary fiction, sent by publisher
9.  Atlantic, Simon Winchester, nonfiction, purchased
10.  What She Left, T.R. Richmond, mystery, sent by publisher
11.  Be Frank With Me, Julia Claiborne Johnson, literary fiction, sent by publisher
12.  Incarnations, Susan Barker, literary fiction, purchased
13.  The Expatriates, Janice Y.K. Lee, literary fiction, sent by publisher
14.  May We Be Forgiven, A.M. Homes, literary fiction, purchased
15.  The Blue Book, A.L. Kennedy, literary fiction, purchased
16.  Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, Salman Rushdie, literary fiction, gift
17.  City On Fire, Garth Hallberg, literary fiction, gift
18.  The Borrower, Rebecca Makkai, literary fiction, Paperbackswap
19.  My Fat Dad, Dawn Lerman, memoir, sent by author
20.  A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing, Eimear McBride, literary fiction, purchased
21.  Desert City Diva, Cory Fayman, mystery, sent by publisher
22.  The Red Book, Deborah Kogan, literary fiction, purchased
23.  The Seas, Samantha Hunt, literary fiction, purchased

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  The Maid's Version, Daniel Woodrell, Kindle Fire
2.  The Path Of The Storm, James Maxwell, Kindle Fire
3.  A Brave Man Seven Stories Tall, Will Chancellor, Kindle
4.  Mystery Walk, Robert McCammon, Kindle Fire
5.  Seveneves, Neal Stephenson, hardback
6.  The Tears Of Dark Water, Corban Addison, paperback
7.  Thorn Jack, Katherine Harbour, audio
8.  The Road To Little Dribbling, Bill Bryson, Kindle Fire

Here's to a great reading 2016!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Harvest Man by Alex Grecian

It's 1890 in London and the Scotland Yard Murder Squad is still finding its way.  Their consulting physician is excited about a way to identify criminals by the marks their fingers leave behind and he also has ideas about how to keep a crime scene untouched until he can get there.

Life has also moved on for the detectives in the Squad.  Walter Day is still recovering from the search for Jack the Ripper that almost killed him and left him with a significant injury.  His wife, Claire, has had twin girls and his in-laws have moved in to supervise, bringing a staff.  He doesn't have a moment's peace.  His sergent, Nevile Hammersmith, has even more problems.  A pure policeman who can see what needs to be done and who doesn't worry about the rules and procedures, he has also been left injured and also dismissed from the force.  He is bereft without his work as a policeman as it is what he was born to do.

Of course, crime never stops.  There is a new serial killer, nicknamed The Harvest Man, stalking the streets.  He breaks into houses and kills married couples by slicing off their faces.  There is a Ripper copycat prowling the nights.  The real Jack is still in the shadows although the official word is that he is dead.  He is very much alive and totally focused on Inspector Day, the only man to ever prove a challenge to him.

This is the fourth book in this delightful Victorian series.  Grecian has spun a complex tale that resolves satisfactorily.  Even more, his cast of characters is one that the reader comes to care about and wait eagerly for the next installment in their lives.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Music For Wartime by Rebecca Makkai

The short story is one of the most challenging formats.  In a novel, an author can sprawl a bit, can even get lost for a while before coming back to their main point.  In a short story, every word is essential and the structuring must be tight.  Rebecca Makkai is a master of the short story, with entries in four consecutive editions of The Best American Short Stories.  In Music For Wartime, she brings together seventeen stories written over thirteen years in her debut anthology.

Each story explores a person facing an event that will change them.  In one, a traveling circus dies in a small town and the struggle to get it buried tests the faith of the town's pastor.  In another, a renowned cellist returns home to find a memorial to a traffic accident has taken over her lawn, as she herself is working through her own attempts to make her life memorable.  A woman finds her fiance has a double life when he is killed with his other lover and in her struggle to understand, she finds another couple whose love is unimaginable.  A young boy plays a duet in his family's apartment with a famous pianist who has been imprisoned for years by a totalitarian government.

Each story is luminous and each is a perfect gem.  The stories vary in length from a page or two to more than thirty pages, yet each seems the correct length.  Makkai has written two acclaimed novels, The Borrowers and The Hundred Year House.  But she got her start in short fiction and this collection demonstrates to the reader the range and mastery she brings to it.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and those interested in the short story.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis

Emily has left her home.  She had a perfect life, a handsome husband who loved her madly, a gorgeous toddler, a dream house, even a new puppy. What could have forced her from this haven?  Emily had always been the good twin; her sister Caroline a chaotic individual who stumbled from crisis to crisis.  Now Emily has disappeared and no one can imagine where she has gone.

As it turns out, it is amazingly easy to disappear.  Emily goes to London and before a week is out, she has a new place to live, courtesy of the newspaper ads  and a new job, courtesy of a temp agency.  Her only disguise is going by her first rather than her middle name.  Since her maiden name was common, she can even use her passport as identification so there is no problem setting up a bank account, etc.

Her husband, Ben, is desolate.  Why did she go?  Where did she go?  It turns out the police are not very interested in helping a husband locate a wife who decides to disappear.  Ben searches as best he can then with the help of his parents, moves on with taking care of the house and those left behind.  Will these two ever find their way back to each other?

Tina Seskis has written a suspenseful novel that slowly and tantalizingly reveals the mystery behind Emily and Ben's life.  I must admit my heart sank when I realised it was a good twin, evil twin plot line, but this one has been well-done, the inevitable comparisons done deftly.  The reader is caught up in Emily's successful escape and left wondering if they could ever do the same.  This novel is recommended for readers of thrillers.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Handless Maiden by Dorothy Black Crow

Joanna Joe, a Lakota woman, has been killed, her body dumped in a ditch on the reservation and its hands chopped off.  Worse, before the men can retrieve the body to arrange proper burial, it is taken off by the federal and local law enforcement authorities and buried in a pauper's grave.  To rest, the body must be buried on Indian land and reunited with its hands.

Alex Turning Hawk is a medicine man in training.  He is newly married to Tate, an Indian woman who was raised in the white world and is struggling to learn and obey the tribal ways.  They decide that they must find out who murdered Joanna and retrieve her to give her final honors.  In order to do so, Alex leaves to go undercover in town, leaving Tate to protect their homestead on the reservation.

As they each attempt to find the truth in their separate ways, they encounter many other players.  There are the AIM warriors, determined to bring back the honor of Indian ways.  There are the federal authorities, who often seem to be at cross-purposes from those of the Lakota, even active enemies at times.  Alex goes undercover as one of the Indian stereotypes; the drunken Indian wino and lives among those unfortunates in town.  He learns the lessons they have to teach while moving his investigation forward.  Tate works on the reservation, finding that all of her Lakota friends may not be friends after all.  There are rumors of a federal informer; a spy, and if true, this person may be tied to the murder.  Who can Tate trust?  Can the two find the truth of what happened to Joanna Joe?

Dorothy Black Crow has written a murder mystery steeped in the lore and traditions of the Lakota tribe.  Readers will learn more about the Lakota from this novel than from many history books, written by outsiders.  Each page draws the reader deeper and deeper into another world, where living close to the land and giving honor to each individual is key. The Handless Maiden is the first in a series of books about Alex Turning Hawk and his wife, Tate.   This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Booksie's Shelves, December 11, 2015

It's December, two weeks from Christmas.  With all the hustle and bustle of getting ready, reading has been taking a back seat.  A huge dry eye flareup has also impacted my ability to read.  But I have new medications and hope for that and after the holiday, I hope 2016 is a major reading year!  In our family, everyone gives and gets books, so there will be a long list of books that have joined my library after the holiday.  In the meantime, here's what's come through the door lately:

1.  The Life And Adventures Of Santa Claus, L. Frank Baum, children's book, sent by publisher
2.  Descent, Tim Johnston, thriller, sent by publisher
3.  In The Company Of Sherlock Holmes, edited by Laurie King, anthology, sent by publisher
4.  The Penguin Lessons, Tom Mitchell, memoir, sent by publisher
5.  The Bone Labyrinth, James Rollins, thriller, sent by publisher
6.  The Jericho River, David Tollen, historical fiction, sent by publisher
7.  One Step Too Far, Tina Seskis, mystery, sent for book tour
8.  Perfectly Broken, Robert Burke Warren, mystery, sent by publisher
9.  Only Love Can Break Your Heart, Ed Tarkington, literary fiction, sent by publisher
10.  The Dead Student, John Katzenback, mystery, sent by Curled Up With A Good Book
11.  The Small Backs Of Children, Lidia Yuknavitch, literary fiction, sent by Curled Up
12.  Genghis Khan, Frank McLynn, nonfiction, sent by Curled Up
13.  The Cellar, Minette Walters, mystery, sent by Curled Up
14.  Wolf In White Van, John Darnielle, literary fiction, sent by Curled Up
15.  The Day Of Atonement, David Liss, historical fiction, sent by Curled Up
16.  The Murderer's Daughter, Jonathan Kellerman, sent by Curled Up
17.  The Sleeping King, Cindy Dees, fantasy, sent by Curled Up

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  The Maid's Version, Daniel Woodrell, Kindle Fire
2.  The Path Of The Storm, James Maxwell, Kindle Fire
3.  A Brave Man Seven Stories Tall, Will Chancellor, Kindle
4.  Mystery Walk, Robert McCammon, Kindle Fire
5.  The Handless Maiden, Dorothy Black Crow, paperback
6.  Music For Wartime, Rebecca Makkai, hardback
7.  Thorn Jack, Katherine Harbour, audio

Happy Reading!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Church Of Marvels by Leslie Parry

In the New York City of 1895, life was not easy for anyone, and especially for women on their own.  But some women found a way to handle the strictures society placed on them.  One of these women was Friendship Willingbird Church.  She created and ran a Coney Island sideshow called The Church Of Marvels.  She and her acts, some gymnasts and stage assistants like her twins, others sideshow acts, created a world of marvels for the viewers.  When it caught fire and burned to the ground, killing Friendship in the process, a quilt of interconnected events started that brought many other individuals together.

The first event was the separation of the Church twins, Belle and Odile.  After the fire, Belle had gone into a depression and then left, leaving no word of where she could be found.  At first, Odile accepted Belle's departure but as the months went by, she resolved to find her.  At a time when going from the Island to the city was a major trip, this was a momentous decision.

In the city, other events were occurring.  Sylvan, a young man who cleaned night soil from privies, had a life-changing occurrence happen when he discovered a baby in one of the outhouses he was cleaning.  Although the rest of the gang told him to just leave her there, he took the baby home and decided to raise her.

Another young woman, Alphie, awakes to find herself in a nightmare.  She has gone afoul of her mother in law, and has been shipped off to an insane asylum where there is no hope of kindness or even basic care.  There is no one who will listen to her explanations of how she got there or to believe anything she said.  All that was desired was instant obedience to any command, and any deviation led to abuse.  Alphie and another inmate plot to escape and manage to do so, heading back to the city.

With all the players in place, the reader starts to make the connections that prove all of these individuals are bonded in various ways, and that each of them plays a part in the others' lives.  This unfolding of a complex plot that once revealed, seems inevitable, is one of the things that makes this novel such a successful debut novel.

Leslie Parry is a graduate of the famous Iowa Writers' Workshop.  Her short stories have appeared in publications such as The Virginia Quarterly Review, The Missouri and Cincinnati Reviews, and The Pen/O'Henry Prize Stories.  This debut novel has received much praise from the literary world and can be found on many Best of 2015 lists.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and anyone willing to be amazed.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Silent Girls by Eric Rickstad

Frank Rath lives a quiet life in rural Vermont, and that's fine with him.  Years ago he was a police inspector.  That life ended when his sister and brother-in-law were killed by a serial killer, leaving him to raise his infant niece.  He gave up the police force and became a private investigator with its better hours and safer daily work.

But seventeen years later, things are changing.  His daughter, Rachel, is now grown and off at college, where he can't provide a daily shield of protection.  His days now are lonely as he lives by himself and adjusts to a new way of living.  He gets word that the killer, Preacher as he is known in the press, is unimaginably up for parole despite the crimes he committed.  And girls are starting to disappear.

The local police chief comes to Rath when a beautiful girl disappears after her shift at work, her car found abandoned on the side of the road.  He needs Rath's expertise as his officers don't have the knowledge or experience to handle a case that quickly grows larger.  As the investigation proceeds, other lost girls in this small area come to light.  Is there another serial killer among them?

Eric Rickstad has penned a haunting crime fiction, one that proves that gritty crime writing doesn't only belong in a city setting.  Rath is a man tied to the past and one who tries fruitlessly to protect his daughter from the dangerous world as she fights to stand alone.  What is the line between protecting someone and scaring them needlessly?  His expertise and determination move the investigation forward so that the people of rural Vermont can know the truth about their daughters and what has happened.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Precious One by Marisa De Los Santos

At seventeen, Wilson Cleary had the ability to devastate his daughter, Taisy.  He was never a warm man and she spent a lot of time working for his approval.  But at seventeen, when their family broke up, he cut her, her mother and her brother completely out of his life.  There was one visit; for them to meet the new baby he had with his new wife but outside of that, not a word, not a visit, not a card or phone call.

Until now.  Wilson has had a heart attack and in the aftermath, he calls Taisy.  She is now thirty-five and has a career as a ghostwriter.  He asks her to come to his house and when there, he asks if he can hire her to write his intellectual life story.  Although this prospect is not appealing, something keeps Taisy there.  Her baby half-sister, Willow, is now the same age that Taisy was when everything went askew.  There is unfinished business with her old love, Ben, who is also back in town.  Maybe it's time to finally put the ghosts to rest and to reclaim her life.

Marisa de los Santos has written a lovely book, a book that makes the reader a better person.  It is told by Taisy and Willow in alternating chapters.  As the book unfolds, the reader sees the glacial moving together that changes the sisters from implacable enemies into loving supportive family.  Many families have schisms and grudges that result in remoteness.  In this season, it is heartwarming to read a tale in which the participants fight the odds to reclaim the closeness that is a family's due.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and for those interested in relationships.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Identity by Ingrid Thoft

Fina Ludlow is an unexpected private investigator.  Most investigators are male and few have a family background of a wealthy law firm.  But Fina is good at her job and is willing to take the risks inherent in the profession.

Renata Sanchez comes to the law firm with a potential lawsuit.  Seventeen years ago, Renata chose artificial insemination as her method for becoming a mother.  Now as her child becomes an adult she wants to know who her donor was for medical reasons.  She signed confidentiality agreements at the time but now wants to put those aside and find out who the man was.  Fina's father agrees to take on the case and Fina is given the job of finding the donor.

Her search is successful and the donor turns out to be a wealthy man who is one of Boston's most prominent philantrophists.  It also turns out that he was the donor for other babies and suddenly Renata's daughter has half brothers and sisters she never knew about.  Before anything can move forward though, the donor is brutally murdered.  Fina is hired by the donor's son and heir to see what she can find out.

As the case unfolds, Fina is targeted and meets with physical violence.  Her niece is threatened as well.  This makes Fina more determined than ever to find the culprit.  In the midst of handling the investigation, she is also working through a family issue and helping out a friend with a side issue.  But her focus is on finding the murderer regardless of where the investigation leads.

Mystery readers will love Fina with her mix of bravery and independence.  ABC has commissioned the series as a new TV series, and Fina will play well on television.  The background of family entanglements and Fina's determination when she has a case make her an engaging character.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.