Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

Novelist Owen Quine has gone missing.  His wife comes to detective Comoran Strike.  She wants Comoran to find him and bring him home.  Quine goes away periodically, but always returns and this time he hasn't.  They have a daughter with special needs and Quine knows only he can produce the money needed to keep the family afloat.

Strike takes the case and expects it to be an easy one.  But as he investigates, it becomes more complicated.  Quine has written a new novel, one in which he skewers many of the literary circle of England.  He has a mistress who is sure he is leaving his wife and child to be with her, an agent who seems to despise him and a publishing house that would be more than glad to drop him.  Every individual thinly disguised in the book would be glad to see him disappear for good.  When Strike discovers Quine's body and realizes that he has been killed in a parody of the novel, the race is on to discover the murderer.

The reader also learns more about the personal lives of Strike and his assistant, Robin Ellacott.  Strike is a former soldier who has been left with an artificial leg and investigative skills from his time in the military.  Huge and focused, he is considered without social skills yet has friends in every circle who would do anything for him.  Robin, his assistant, is about to get married and starting to wonder if that is the right course for her, or if it would be more fulfilling to become an investigator herself.  Together the two work through the lengthy suspect list to discover who killed Quine.

This is the second Comoran Strike book and it is equally as delightful as the first.  In the worst-kept secret in the literary world, Robert Galbraith is the pseudonym of J.K. Rowling, and she delivers the plotting and characterization that made her famous as an author.  The reader finishes the book eager to read the next installment in the series.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Girls On Fire by Robin Wasserman

You remember teenage friendships.  That fierce cleaving to another person, the two of you against the world, united against anyone or anything that would dampen your dreams or try to make the two of you ordinary.  That's how it was when Lacey and Dex found each other.

Dex, who everyone else knew as Hannah Dexter, was the ignored girl.  Her parents were on the fringes of the social life in their small town, but somehow Hannah was the one always left out, always made fun of when someone actually noticed her.  She drifted through school trying to be invisible.  She was the good girl at home although her parents wanted her to be popular.

Lacey was the rebel.  Raised by a single mom who was always working or out with various boyfriends, she grew up doing whatever she wanted.  She hung out with undesirable boys, drank and did drugs, and learned about sex way too early.  When her mom finds and marries a born-again Christian with a mean streak and has a baby with him, Lacey is uprooted and moved to small town Battle Creek, Michigan.

Dex can't believe it when Lacey talks to her in the bathroom one day after a brutal encounter with the queen bee of their high school.  It's even more unbelievable when she takes her out in her car and they start to learn about each other.  Soon, it is them against the world and Dex learns about life and what is real.  There is nothing but Lacey and the united front the two of them present to the world.  But fairy tales aren't real and soon hidden secrets start to crack the foundation of their friendship.  How far will one go to continue to live in the exclusive world of the other?

Robin Wasserman has written a fierce, raw novel that will strike an instant chord in all those who grew up on the fringes.  The fringes of high school popularity, of boys and parties and being desired.  Who wake up with white-hot anger growling right beneath the surface as they go through the halls of their school, who pretend it doesn't matter and pretend they are normal for their parents and teachers.  Who if they are lucky emerge on the other side and go out into life and wrest from it what they want.  Who if they are unlucky fall deeper into dependence on the other person in their world and let that dependence take them down into actions they would never have done alone.  This book is recommended for young adult readers and for mothers raising daughters.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Booksie's Shelves, May 20, 2016

It's a week of lasts in our house.  Last prom, last chorus concert, last awards ceremony, last day of high school and last dance recital!  I unplugged and threw away my alarm clock yesterday as I no longer have to get up on someone else's schedule.  My favorite time to read is in the morning in bed but I only got to do it on the weekends.  Now I can do it anytime.  The sadness of my daughter graduating and moving on to college is setting in, but I'm excited as she moves on to the next stage in her life.  She got the AP English award this year, so she's on the right track with reading!  Here's the books that I got recently:

1.  Auntie Poldi And The Sicilian Lions, Mario Giordano, mystery, sent by publisher
2.  The View From The Cheap Seats, Neil Gaiman, nonfiction, sent by publisher
3.  Orchard, Jack Bailey, historical fiction, sent by publisher
4.  I Do It With The Lights On, Whitney Thore, nonfiction, sent by publisher
5.  Behind Closed Doors, B.A. Paris, thriller, won in contest
6.  Red Platoon, Clinton Romesha, nonfiction, sent by publisher
7.  The Mother, Yvvette Edwards, literary fiction, sent for book tour
8.  Monsters:  A Love Story, Liz Kay, contempory fiction, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  The Silkworm, Robert Galbraith, Kindle Fire
2.  Lady Cop Makes Trouble, Amy Stewart, Kindle
3.  The Lore Of The Evermen, James Maxwell, audio
4.  The Portable Veblen, Elizabeth Mckensie, paperback
5.  Murder At Breakfast, Beth Gutcheon, paperback
6.  Lexicon, Max Barry, hardcover
7.  A Dance With Dragons, George R. R. Martin, hardcover

Happy Reading!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Dream Lover by Elizabeth Berg

Aurore Dupin is a typical French woman of the nobility in the early to mid 1880's.  She was raised by her grandmother after her father died when she was young and her mother went to Paris to live her life.  She was educated in the arts and sciences by a tutor who lived on the estate and learned to ride, make conversation and all the social graces.  Yet Aurore was not a happy child.  She felt deserted by her mother who had agreed to leave Aurore behind with her grandmother in exchange for the money to live as she chose.

When Aurore grew up, she was faced with marriage and all the disadvantages that imposed on a woman of the time.  She married a man and had high hopes, but the marriage soon evolved into a prison with him controlling all of her fortune and her estate.  He was brutish and lived only to hunt and have other women.  Her only joy was in her children, Maurice and Solange.

Finally, the marriage became more than she could bear and she went to Paris after agreeing to a separation with her husband.  There she started to write and explore other relationships.  She found a community of like people, artists and writers and musicians.  One of her first jobs was a theatre critic and she began to wear men's clothing in order to obtain the cheap seats they were allowed to buy.  Soon she was also using a man's name, the none under which she lived for the rest of her life.  That name was George Sand.

Over the years, Sand became famous for her writing and for her passionate love affairs.  She loved men who depended on her to support them both and inevitably, the affairs ended badly.  She desperately loved a famous actress of the time, but the other woman was not interested in that kind of relationship.  Her most famous and long-lasting love affair was with Frederick Chopin.  That relationship lasted almost a decade.  She was friends with Flaubert, Balzac, Liszt, Eugene Delacroix and a host of other individuals in the arts.  Yet she always searched and was disappointed in love.

Elizabeth Berg has written a novel about George Sand that will introduce this great writer to the reader who has always been interested in learning more about this influential writer who forged the path for women's independence to pursue what gave them joy.  She uses some of Sand's letters and those she received to illustrate the tempestuous personality that moved Sand onward, constantly pursuing the right to live life as she wanted.  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Death At Breakfast by Beth Gutcheon

Now that they are retired, two old friends decide they would make good traveling companions.  Maggie Detweiler was the head of a prestigious private school while her old friend, Hope Babbin is a wealthy socialite.  Eager to test their compatibility, they sign up for a cooking school at a quaint Maine inn and head off.  The surroundings are wonderful and the cooking school is marvelous.  Everything is proceeding satisfactorily when trouble arrives in the form of obnoxious guests.

Alexander and Lisa Antippas are loud and obnoxious, using their wealth to bully others and make demands of everyone around while constantly fighting.  Lisa's sister, Gloria, an actress, accompanies them.  They are the kind of guest whom everyone notices and clears out of the room for, murmuring to each other about how unpleasant they are.  After a family tragedy strikes, the other guests try to make allowances but it is difficult to find empathy for such obnoxious people.

The tension mounts when Alexander's body is discovered.  The deputy sheriff arrives, and to everyone's surprise, turns out to be Hope's long estranged son.  Buster Babbin has floundered a bit in life, but has to his own surprise, found his standing in this small town where a sheriff is more of a community representative than a hardcore law and order person.  He starts to investigate, but Alexander's wealth and power insure that the state investigators turn up and try to take over.  Can Buster, with the help of Maggie and Hope, solve the mystery?

Beth Gutcheon has written a charming first entry in a new detective series.  The two women bring years of experience with observing human nature mixed with wry humor while Buster reveals hidden depths.  The reader will be interested in how events play out and close the back cover with a feeling of satisfaction.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Body In The Wardrobe by Katherine Hall Page

This should be an ecstatic time in attorney Sophie Maxwell's life.  She has just moved to Savannah after marrying the love of her life, Will.  She quickly finds a job and the couple start house hunting.  Sophie starts to get comfortable in Savannah with its love of parties, wonderful weather, friendly people and lots of preserved history.  But all is not perfect.  There's an ex-girlfriend on the scene who hints that maybe Sophie doesn't know all she thinks she does about Will.  Will does seem to have secrets, as do many of his wealthy, well-connected family.  His job takes him out of town, leaving Sophie on her own.  The worst is when she opens the wardrobe in her bedroom one night and a man's body falls out.  By the time she summons help, the body is gone.  Did she imagine it as everyone wants her to think?

Her best friend, Faith Fairchild, a minister's wife and caterer in New England, has her own problems.  A neighbor seems to have a problem that is straining her health, but won't share her burden.  Faith's husband is thinking about a career change which would mean a family move.  Worst, her teenage daughter is having issues at school that are changing her sunny personality.  The two friends commiserate over the phone, but the problems keep them from getting together in person.  Can everything be resolved?

This is the twenty-third mystery in the Faith Fairchild series.  Fans of the series will enjoy another visit with Faith, while becoming acquainted with her new heroine, Sophie.  There is lots of history, food  and city tidbits about Savannah and of course, recipes from Faith's catering business.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Devil's Harbor by Alex Gilly

Nick Finn isn't sure exactly when his life went off the rails.  Was it the night he and his brother-in-law, working their shift as Marine Interdiction Agents for Customs and Border Protection, intercept a suspicious boat with tragic consequences?  Was it the day they found a teenage boy floating in the channel, his legs gone in a shark attack?  Or was it the day Finn decides to take another drink after months on the wagon?

Whichever was the decision point, Finn is now faced with issues.  His wife, Mona, has left him.  His job is in jeopardy as he faces an investigation into what happened on the water that night.  Worse, as he tries to find out what is really happening, he stumbles into a plot that is sickening and far beyond anything he ever expected having to deal with.

Alex Gilly's debut novel is a fast-paced thriller that will keep readers going until the last page.  Full of surprises and twists and turns, the reader will not only be surprised but educated about the work of Customs on the seas surrounding us and the drug cartels they battle.  This book is recommended for thriller readers.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Booksie's Shelves, May 7, 2016

We're well into May and what a busy month it's turning out to be.  Lots of events happening for the last time with a daughter graduating high school and leaving her dance studio after fourteen years.  Two weeks till her last dance recital and three weeks till graduation!  I'm trying to be supportive and get things done around the house.  I finished The Fireman by Joe Hill which I absolutely loved, and Free Men by Katy Simpson Smith, a great historical from the late 1700's in rural Alabama.  Here's the books that have come into the house since my last post:

1.  Discovering You, Brenda Novak, romance, sent by publisher
2.  Pretty Girls, Karin Slaughter, mystery, sent by publisher
3.  A World Between, Robert Herzog, science fiction, sent by publisher
4.  A Brief History Of Seven Killings, Marlon James, historical/literary, purchased
5.  Lost And Gone Forever, Alex Grecian, mystery, sent by publisher
6.  Night Life, David C. Taylor, thriller, sent by publisher
7.  Night Work, David C. Taylor, thriller, sent by publisher
8.  Finding Fontainebleau, Thad Carhart, memoir, sent by publisher
9.  Sunborn Rising, Aaron Safronoff, fantasy, sent by publisher
10.  Death At Breakfast, Beth Gutcheon, mystery, sent for book tour
11.  Girls On Fire, Robin Wasserman, literary fiction, sent for book tour
12.  Lillian On Life, Alison Lester, historical fiction, sent by publisher
13.  Aunt Dimity And The Buried Treasure, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  The Silkworm, Robert Galbraith, Kindle Fire
2.  Lady Cop Makes Trouble, Amy Stewart, Kindle
3.  The Lore Of The Evermen, James Maxwell, audio
4.  The Dream Lover, Elizabeth Berg, hardcover
5.  Devil's Harbour, Alex Gilly, hardcover
6.  Lexicon, Max Barry, hardcover
7.  A Dance With Dragons, George R. R. Martin, hardcover

Happy Reading!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Free Men by Katy Simpson Smith

Three men come together in 1788 in the rural country of what would become the state of Alabama.  Bob is a slave who has decided in his thirties that there must be something more and has decided to run away and make another life out in the Western territories.  Istillicha, a Creek Indian, has been ousted from his tribe and what everyone expected would be his place of leadership.  His woman and his silver have both been stolen from him.  Cat is a young white man who seems lost most days.  He has spent his life trying to fit in and find someone to love him to little avail.

Brought together by chance, the three men travel together to help each other.  Everything changes when they encounter a group of men on the roadway.  The three are worried that the men might take back tales of seeing them; each of them wanted elsewhere for various reasons.  Even more damning, the men have sacks full of silver coins that clatter and clang and give their location away.  That night, the three men creep into the camping place of the group and start to steal the money.  When the men awake and give fight, things escalate until all are dead and the three men are now wanted for murder.

Le Clere is a tracker.  He has come to America from France to learn about what makes men do the things they do.  He is hired by the Creek chief of Istillicha's tribe to find him.  He quickly picks up the men's trail and finds himself following them rather than capturing them.  He is fascinated by the makeshift friendships and commonality that seems to bind the three men, unknown to each other a week ago, together in common purpose.

Katy Simpson Smith has a PhD in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Her devotion to research and to portraying the average individuals that settled America is on full display in this novel as she explores the nature of freedom, friendship and hope in desperate situations.  This book is recommended for readers of historical and literary fiction.

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Wages Of Sin by Nancy Allen

The murder is a brutal one.  Jesse Dent is eight months pregnant.  Her live-in boyfriend and the father of the baby is arrested for the crime.  The main witness is Jesse's six year old daughter Ivy.  The police in McDown County, Missouri,  know the Dent household well; they have been called to it multiple times for domestic abuse.  Now the worst has happened.

The county prosecutor, a frosty woman named Madeline Thompson, has promised to not only convict the boyfriend, but get a death penalty as the sentence.  Thompson's main assistant cannot help as he witnessed some of Jesse's abuse; her next choice won't work on a death penalty case.  That means the Elsie Arnold is next up as Thompson's co-counsel.

Elsie isn't sure that she supports the death sentence either, but when she thinks about the abuse Dent underwent, she is swayed in favor of it.  Elsie dates the local police homicide chief and she knows how bad the abuse they saw was.  She is put in charge of shepherding little Ivy Dent's testimony, and as the trial gets closer, she starts to realise that Ivy may be in danger.  Can Elsie help win the case while protecting Ivy?

Nancy Allen served as a trial lawyer in Missouri as well as the Assistant Attorney General there.  She now teaches law at Missouri State University.  She knows the inside track of how a murder trial is conducted, and the ethical hesitations attorneys may face.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.