Friday, March 25, 2016

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

Dr. Faraday, who is a doctor practicing in Britain in the 1940's, has done well for himself.  He was born into a working class family; his mother a maid at the local gentry's house.  That house, known as The Hundreds, was the epitome of luxury and mystery to a young boy.  When he was taken inside by his mother one day, he marveled at the glorious items he saw there and never forgot it.

But in post-war Britain, The Hundreds and the Ayres family, owners and residents for more than two hundred years, are not doing well.  The father has died and much of his fortune was taken by death duties.  Roderick, the son, was a pilot in the war where he was injured and significantly scarred.  Mrs. Ayres was determined to nurse him within the family and calls the daughter, Caroline, home to help.  With little money and no resources, the house begins to deteriorate and the upkeep and maintenance of the family heritage is obviously beyond Roderick.  He gets more exhausted and paler day by day as the large load of responsibility that has fallen on him grinds him down.

Dr. Faraday is called in as a doctor and soon becomes one of the few outsiders who visits the mansion.  He is dismayed to see the house falling apart and the family suffering from the lack of money.  He is even more dismayed as the family starts to fall apart physically from the strain of trying to maintain all they own.  Even worse, each one starts to believe that there is an evil within the house itself that is determined to drive them out.  That kind of talk is nonsense, or is it?

Sarah Waters is a master of the foreboding that illustrates when things are going horribly well.  Each small incident can be explained by itself, but as one follows on another, it is obvious that things are not right.  She has won the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year award, and several of her novels have been nominated for the Man Booker Prize and the Orange Prize (now Bailey's).  This book is recommended for readers of suspense and literary fiction.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Booksie's Bookshelves, March 20, 2016

It's the first day of spring!  NC has been in the 70's last week, although our weekend is cooler than that.  My Kindle Fire died last week and I bought a new one which came this week.  It's improved, I think, and they fixed the design flaw on my old one that drove me nuts.  It's not been that long since I posted a Booksie's Bookshelves but enough books have arrived that I need to do another one.  I'm in the middle of several interesting books but things keep taking time away from reading.  Between helping a senior fill out all the forms for college, an older dog who had a tooth get infected, March madness basketball and planning for several upcoming trips, I've been doing more busywork and less time reading.  Here is what's come through the door:

1.  The Prelapsarians, John Gaiserich, fantasy, sent by publisher
2.  The Wander Society, Keri Smith, nonfiction, sent by publisher
3.  Battlestorm, Susan Krinard, fantasy, sent by publisher
4.  The Last Girl, Joe Hart, fantasy, sent by publisher
5.  Floodgate, Johnny Shaw, mystery, sent by publisher
6.  Hard Red Spring, Kelly Kerney, historical fiction, sent by publisher
7.  Lily And The Octopus, Steven Rowley, literary fiction, sent by publisher
8.  A Necessary Evil, Holly Brown, suspense, sent by publisher
9.  No Cure For Love, Peter Robinson, mystery, sent by publisher
10.  The Genius Of Birds, Jennifer Ackerman, nonfiction, won in contest
11.  The Girl From Home, Adam Mitzner, suspense, sent by publisher
12.  The Marlowe Papers, Ros Barber, poetry, purchased
13.  The Bear, Claire Cameron, literary fiction, purchased
14.  The Conjurers, David Waid, fantasy, sent by author
15.  Mateship With Birds, Carrie Tiffany, literary fiction, purchased
16.  From A Broken Land, William R. Herr, fantasy, sent by publisher
17.  Saladin, John Man, nonfiction, sent by review site
18.  We Love You, Charlie Freeman, Kaitlyn Greenidge, literary fiction, sent by review site
19.  The Doll-Master, Joyce Carol Oates, anthology, sent by review site
20.  God Help The Child, Toni Morrison, literary fiction, sent by review site
21.  Queen Of The Night, Alexander Chee, historical fiction, sent by review site
22.  Breakdown, Jonathan Kellerman, mystery, sent by review site
23.  The Ex, Alafair Burke, mystery, sent by review site

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  The Little Stranger, Sarah Waters, hardback
2.  The Murderer's Daughter, Jonathan Kellerman, hardback
3.  Lexicon, Max Barry, hardback
4.  The Empty Chair, Jeffrey Deaver, Kindle
5.  The Path Of The Storm, James Maxwell, Kindle Fire
6.  The Maid's Version, Daniel Woodrell, Kindle Fire
7.  The House Of Rumor, Jake Arnott, audio
8.  Two Years Eight Months And Twenty-Eight Nights, Salman Rushdie, hardback

Happy Reading!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Dead Student by John Katzenbach

Timothy Warner wakes up on his ninety-ninth day of sobriety, unsure if he will make it to one hundred.  Moth, his nickname, calls his uncle Ed.  Ed is a psychiatrist who acts as Moth's father figure and more importantly, he is a recovering alcoholic with years of sobriety.  Moth knows if anyone can help him through the day, it's Ed.  They make a plan to meet at their usual AA meeting at suppertime after Ed's workday is done and Moth's classes are over.  But Ed is not there.  After the meeting, Moth rides over to Ed's office to see what held him up.  He finds Ed seated at his desk, his head in a pool of blood.

The police say its suicide, but Moth knows that can't be true.  Unsure who to turn to or who he can trust, he turns to a girlfriend from years ago, his high school sweetheart, Andrea, or Andy, as he calls her.  Andy is home from college, caught up in her own life drama, but she listens to Moth and as he attempts to find out what happened, helps him.

In the background is Student#5, a cunning, cold man who has held a grudge for decades against Ed and the rest of a group of men who knew each other.  He believes the group has done him a terrible wrong and has spent his life training and planning to kill them each.  His plan is almost complete; his crimes over the years never detected by police since he makes them look like accidents or suicides.  But he hasn't planned on Moth and Andy, or Susan, the prosecutor from Moth and Ed's AA group who helps them.  Can this group of amateurs track down the killer before he kills again?  Before he kills them?

John Katzenbach has been a master of the psychological thriller for years and is at the top of his game.  His characters are believable, their plans full of holes and mistakes a person unused to crime would make.  The reader is drawn into Moth's world and can't help but hope that he and Andy can survive and come to a resolution.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Booksie's Bookshelves, March 9, 2016

March already and things are looking up!  After a month on Restatsis, my dry eyes are finally improving and I can read a bit more.  I have entire days now where my eyes don't hurt and don't go blurry with all text 'grayed out'.  This has been a really frustrating time for me as reading is one of my priorities.

It's almost time for March Madness!  My UNC Tarheels won the ACC title this year, and finished with a win over Duke, so while I'd love them to go deep in the tournament, it's been a very successful year already.

We've made a college decision and my daughter will be attending University of South Carolina in the fall.  They are a laid-back, welcoming campus where everyone we met really seemed to understand and be supportive of students so we feel good about this.  I love Columbia and look forward to seeing more of it as she lives there the next couple of years.

But on to the books!  Here's what's come through the door lately:

1.  Lacy Eye, Jessica Treadway, mystery, sent by publisher
2.  Jane Steele, Lyndsay Faye, mystery, sent by publisher
3.  Stand Your Ground, Raeder Lomax, thriller, sent by publisher
4.  Private Citizens, Tony Tulathimutte, literary fiction, sent by publisher
5.  Noah's Wife, Lindsay Starck, literary fiction, won in contest
6.  Two If By Sea, Jacquelyn Mitchard, literary fiction, sent by publisher
7.  The Clockwork Dagger, Beth Cato, fantasy, sent by publisher
8.  The Clockwork Crown, Beth Cato, fantasy, sent by publisher
9.  The Children, Ann Leary, literary fiction, won in contest
10.  Twisted River, Siobhan MacDonald, mystery, sent by publisher
11.  The Dark Room, Minette Walters, mystery, purchased

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  The Dead Student, Jon Katzenbach, paperback
2. The Little Stranger, Sarah Waters, hardback
3.  Lexicon, Max Barry, hardback
4.  The Empty Chair, Jeffrey Deaver, Kindle
5.  The Path Of The Storm, James Maxwell, Kindle Fire
6.  The Maid's Version, Daniel Woodrell, Kindle Fire
7.  The House Of Rumor, Jake Arnott, audio

Happy reading!

Friday, March 4, 2016

A Crucible Of Souls by Mitchell Hogan

Caldan is raised on an island monastery after his entire family is brutally murdered.  He doesn't remember much about it and has accepted the monastery as his home.  He is shocked when the monks tell him his time there is finished after he gets into a fight with one of the wealthy students whose families money keeps the school going.  Before he leaves, they tell Caldan what they know of his family and give him two trinkets that came to the island with him.  Trinkets are incredibly rare, often magical and worth a fortune.

Caldan makes his way to the city of Anasoma.  He searches about for a way to make a living and is finally accepted as an apprentice at the Sorcerers Guild.  There his innate talent at crafting and magical spells moves him forward quickly.  He also has a friend from his trip to the city, Miranda, who he sees when he can.  He hopes to find out from the Sorcerers more about his family and the trinkets they passed down to him.

Those hopes are cut short when invaders take over Anasoma.  The Indryalla practice a different sort of sorcery.  Instead of working for good, their magic is coercive and used to conquer while pushing aside every obstacle they face.  Their main goal in the city is the Sorcerers Guild as it contains the only people capable of mounting any kind of resistance.  Can Caldan and his friends escape and can he find others who will band together to fight this evil?

Hogan has written a strong beginning novel in this fantasy tale.  The world he has constructed depends on magic and the ever present battle between good and evil rages on.  The reader is interested in learning the truth about Caldan and what will happen to him and his land.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Mystery Walk by Robert McCammon

Billy Creedmore lives in a small rural Southern town with his parents.  He is shunned by the other children and his family is shunned by the town.  His mother is called a witch for her ability to help the dead.  Townspeople call on her when she is needed but stay far away from her otherwise.  When the family of Billy's best friend is murdered, he feels a strange calling to enter their house.  Their spirits are shocked and can't cross over.  There Billy discovers his life calling.  He also has the ability to help those who can't cross over do so.

Wayne Falconer leads a very different life.  His family is wealthy where Billy's is dirt poor.  He is the son of a famous evangelist and spends his summers traveling with the crusade.  One night his father discovers Wayne's talent; he can heal the sick.  Or at least it seems that way.  Wayne becomes famous as the sick and dying flock to him to be healed.  Everyone believes in him, except for Ramona Creedmore and her son.  When they come to the crusade, they see through Wayne and see that he can heal no one.

Thus begins a rivalry between the two boys that continues as they grow up.  Each has a talent.  Each is learning how to use and shape it and wondering how their lives should revolve around it.  Each fears the other and the Shape Changer, a beast that comes to them in dreams and tells them how it will kill them and eat their souls.  When they are grown, they meet again and must discover family secrets and what is the truth about their powers.  They must unite to fight the Shape Changer and hopefully defeat him once and for all.

Robert McCammon has a talent for writing books that are compelling and keep the reader turning the pages to discover what happens next.  This book is considered a mystery/horror classic and readers will be interested to see which boy can rise to defeat the forces aligned against them both.   It is recommended for mystery and horror readers.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Incarnations by Susan Barker

Driver Wang is a taxi driver in Beijing.  He lives a typical working man's life.  His wife works in a massage parlor.  They live in a small apartment with their one child, a daughter.  Money is tight but there is enough.  He is contented with his life, or at least he is until the letters start coming.

The first letter is left in his taxi.  It claims that he and the letter writer are both individuals who reincarnate and that their lives have been entwined for hundreds of years.  Soon the letters start to tell the tales of past lives that the two have shared, sometimes as lovers, sometimes as friends, sometimes as enemies.  There is sharing but betrayal, rejection and acceptance.  Past lives include a slave of Genghis Khan, a concubine of the Imperial Emperor, a fisherman during the Opium Wars, a spirit guide marriage and teenage girls during the Red Guard days of the Cultural Revolution.  In each life, the two die together, usually through some sort of betrayal.

The letters unsettle Wang.  He is even more disoriented when he runs into an old friend, one who brought him nothing but misery in their friendship.  Is this old friend the letter writer?  What is his intent?  Is it the destruction of Wang's marriage or something else?

Susan Barker is an English writer with a Malaysian mother.  She lived in Beijing for several years after graduation for research while writing this novel.  It spans the centuries and tells the stories of China's history through the lives of those in each time period.  Along with the historical sweep and epic tales is the mystery Wang must solve and its effect on him.  This book received a lot of recognition.  It was a New York Times Notable Book of 2015 as well as a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2015.  The reader will be entranced and swept along.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.