Thursday, June 23, 2016

Booksie's Shelves, June 23, 2016

June is almost over and summer is in full swing.  Here in NC, a temperature of 99 is predicted for today.  We're in full college preparation mode, having been to orientation last week where I walked six miles in two days in a heat index of 104.  How many weeks till fall?  Still, it is good reading weather as it's time to hunker down inside until fall comes with cooler temperatures. I received book certificates from both Barnes and Nobles and Amazon this week in the Apple settlement so I have plans to make for spending it.  What new books or older books I've held off on will be winging my way shortly?   Here's what's come through the door recently:

1.  Jonathon Unleashed, Meg Rosoff, literary fiction, sent by publisher
2.  The Gods Of Guilt, Michael Connelly, mystery, purchased
3.  Dust, Martha Grimes, mystery, purchased
4.  Cassowary Hill, David de Vaux, literary fiction, sent by publisher
5.  You Will Know Me, Megan Abbott, literary fiction, sent by publisher
6.  Twain's End, Lynn Cullen, historical fiction, purchased
7.  The Monster's Daughter, Michelle Pretorius, literary fiction, sent for blog tour
8.  The Innocents, Ace Atkins, mystery, sent by publisher
9.  Song Of The Deep, Brain Hastings, children's literature, sent by publisher
10.  The Singles Game, Lauren Weisberger, literary fiction, sent by publisher
11.  Bukowski In A Sundress, Kim Addonizio, essays, sent by publisher
12.  Throw Away Girls, Jennifer Vaughn, mystery, sent by publisher
13.  The Genesis Of Quave, John Parnell, sci-fi, sent by author
14.  Oreads, John Lavelle, historical fiction, sent by author
15.  Too Close To The Edge, Pascal Garnier, literary fiction, sent by publisher
16.  Living Large In Our Little House, Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell, nonfiction, sent by publisher
17.  Champion Of The World, Chad Dundas, literary fiction, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm currently reading:

1.  The Maid's Version, Daniel Woodrell, Kindle Fire
2.  The Man In The Monster, Martha Elliot, Kindle
3.  A Dance With Dragons, George R. R. Martin, hardback
4.  The Lore Of The Evermen, James Maxwell, audio
5.  Not Dead Enough, Peter James, paperback
6.  Mothers, Tell Your Daughters, Bonnie Campbell, paperback
7.  The Bird Eater, Ania Ahlborn, audio

8.  Delivering Virtue, Brian Kindall, paperback

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Drop In The Ocean by Jenni Ogden

Dr. Anna Fergusson has come to age fifty as an introverted career woman.  She has few friends, really only one she opens up to.  She oversees a lab studying Huntington's Disease, a terminal, crippling neurological disorder, but the work has become routine and the team is basically skating on past discoveries.  She has no love life after an early love affair left her brokenhearted.  There is no family.  Her father died when she was young while her mother lives in another country and Anna has only seen her a few times in the past decade.

Then the unimaginable occurs.  Anna's research grant to continue the lab is denied.  She is faced with dismantling the lab, letting go all her research associates and finding something new to do with her life.  It is totally overwhelming.  Seeking refuge, she agrees to a caretaker job for a year on a remote Australian island overseeing a campground.  There are few people there, the island a home to thousands of birds and huge sea turtles but that suits Anna just fine.

As she adjusts to the island, Anna's hard shell starts to open a bit.  The few people on the island are friendly and have made a family of sorts out of necessity.  They open their circle and invite her in.  Pat is an older woman who helps Anna get over her fear of snorkeling.  Living right on the Great Barrier Reef, the ability to snorkel opens up her life tremendously.  There there is Tom.  Tom is a research associate studying the great turtles.  Anna starts to help him tag the turtles as they come ashore to lay eggs and count them.  The hardships that these turtles go through to fulfill their imperative to survive is impressive.  Tom is a decade younger than Anna, but as the weeks go by, their friendship starts to turn to love.

Over Anna's year on the island, she comes out of her own shell to accept the friendship and love she finds there.  She helps others work through the difficulties they undergo and focuses on others for the first time in her life.  When a visitor comes to the island who has Huntington's Disease, she learns to understand the human dimensions of the illness she studied for so many years.

Jenni Ogen has written a hauntingly beautiful tale about how in life it is never too late to open oneself to joy, friendship and love.  It only takes willingness to focus outside yourself and to worry about others and share in their delights while helping them through challenges.  The reader cannot help but pull for Anna, delighted that she is finally claiming the life that was waiting for her.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Gone by Mo Hayder

Someone is taking young girls.  He runs up as their mothers are about to drive off in a Santa mask and takes the girl along with the car.  So far, four girls have been taken with no real progress being made on the case.  He released two for reasons of his own, but the others are missing, their parents in agony.

Detective Jack Caffery heads up the case.  This one is personal to him, as his own brother disappeared thirty years ago and was never found.  It drove Caffery into police work and makes him the haunted, driven man that he is.  That makes him a successful detective while it takes its toll on his body and spirit.

One of those searching for the girls is Flea Marley, a police diver who heads up the search and rescue team.  She has a feeling about an abandoned canal, part of which is a tunnel, that is near where one of the parents' cars is found.  The police mount an intensive search but nothing is found and Flea is chastised for wasting resources on a hunch.  Her next hunch takes her on a solo search as she doesn't want to be wrong again and soon she is also in trouble.

The case progresses slowly and it seems the kidnapper is always one step ahead of the police.  Jack even consults a strange figure, The Walking Man, who has walked the countryside for years and seems to always know something or have a way of framing problems that stirs Jack's instincts.  The Walking Man also lost a daughter many years ago and searches constantly for clues about her fate.

This is the fifth in the Jack Caffery mystery series.  Readers will be entranced by Hayder's involved plotting and the views into the detectives' motives and problems.  The plot twists are exciting and come as a surprise to the reader.  This is one of the best detective series to be found.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Infidel Stain by M. J. Carter

It is 1841.  Jeremiah Blake and William Avery, who met and worked together in India, have both returned to England but haven't seen each other in three years.  Avery, now a gentleman with a wife and baby on the way, goes to London when he receives a message from Blake asking him to come.  He finds Blake, much the worst for wear, living in the slums of London and scratching out a small living by being a private investigator.

Blake's newest case has him needing help and he turns to Avery.  A Lord has approached him about investigating a series of murders.  Several men who run printing presses have been killed in grisly fashion.  The newly formed police force doesn't seem that interested in solving the case.  As Blake and Avery investigate, they determine that the printers were not only of the normal sort, but all had a sideline in pornography.  Even more telling, all seem to have known each other twenty years ago in the revolutionary movement now known as the Chartists, who are determined to win the vote for all men.

The bodies continue to mount up.  Informers are bountiful and it is difficult to make any headway.  The pair befriend a young girl who sells on the street and her brother, who has been falsely accused and headed for transportation to Australia.  Can they save this small family along with solving the murders?

This is the second case in the Blake and Avery series.  As with the first, the interest lies not only in the narrative but in the meticulously researched history that brings a Victorian environment alive.  The interplay between Blake and Avery is also interesting, each needing the other but very different in their understanding of the world and how they fit into it.  This book is recommended for mystery readers as well as historical fiction ones.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Missoula by Jon Krakauer

If you are sending a teenage daughter to college this fall, your biggest fear shouldn't be whether she'll make friends or how she'll handle adult responsibilities.  Rape, particularly acquaintance rape, is prevalent on college campuses.  This isn't attacking someone in the dark as they are walking home.  This is someone you've met who won't take your no as an answer and keeps pushing for sex.  This is having too much to drink and waking up to find someone having sex with you that you didn't agree to.  This is someone you thought of as a friend suddenly doing something you never saw coming.

Jon Krakauer examines the issue of college rapes/unwanted sexual attacks through the lens of one college town, Missoula, Montana.  The university is the biggest entity in the town and the football team, the Grizzlies, one of the main social outlets.  He examines three cases in depth.  The first is a woman who goes to a party at the home of a man who she has considered a friend her entire life.  There has never been anything romantic between them.  She wakes up to find him having sex with her.  The second is a woman who gets drunk and then asks a man she just met up to her dorm room.  Although once she gets there she refuses sex, he pushes himself on her anyway.  The final case is that of a woman who gets to know the quarterback of the football team and invites him over to watch a movie.  Instead, he rapes her with people in the next room. 

All of these women struggled with what happened to them, unable to believe it.  None went to the police right away, but all eventually did.  The cases went through college procedures for reported rapes and then moved on to the courts.  One man was found guilty, one was found not guilty.  In all cases, the aftermath was as horrific for the women as the actual event.

This is an issue that looms large in today's society.  Young people, sometimes entitled, who have their first taste of adult independence and maybe their first experiences with alcohol and drugs, don't always have the ability to handle situations that lead to rape.  Add in sports adulation and institutions that don't take the problem seriously and it is a cauldron of seething sexuality out of control.  This is an important book.  It is recommended for anyone who is or has a daughter at college.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Lexicon by Max Barry

Emily is a street kid making money scanning tourists with three card monte when she is plucked out of her life and given an opportunity of a lifetime.  She is picked for training by a shadowy organization that knows how to control people by language.  The best of the school's graduates are known as poets for their mastery of language.  Emily is one of these.

Wil is kidnapped at the end of a flight at the airport by two men.  He has no idea what they want but soon he is caught in the middle of a frantic chase, gunfights and murder.  The remaining kidnapper is called Elliot, and he lets out enough information that Wil realizes that people think he has a secret buried in his brain and they are willing to do anything to get it.

Broken Hill, Australia, is a ghost town, barricaded and off-limits.  A former mining town, three years ago it was the scene of an industrial accident so bad that everyone in town died.  The government maintains a barricade that keeps everyone out as exposure will still kill.  At least that's the official word the poets have put out.  What's the reality?

Australian author Max Barry has written a highly original novel that explores the power of words while plumbing the depths an organization will go to for power and control.  The characters are former poets, Eliot, Wolff, Yeats, Plath and it is jarring to see such names do such horrendous deeds.  The pace is fast and the story is revealed in glimpses and flashbacks the reader must tie together.  It was released in 2013 to acclaim, garnering the Amazon Best Science And Fantasy Pick of 2013, a Kirkus Ten Best Novels For Summer Reading 2013 and a host of other awards.  This book is recommended for thriller readers.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Booksie's Shelves, June 5, 2016

I read a pitiful seven books in May.  I was consumed all month with a myriad of tasks associated with a high school graduation, a last dance recital, college math placement exam, last chorus concert and getting ready for company.  We had a glorious graduation and we're all ready for the next step in June when we go to my daughter's college (University of South Carolina) for orientation.  In the midst of all this, I decided I needed to weed out some books, mainly so the company coming wouldn't see all the out of control stacks.  Here's a picture of some of the books before their journey to Goodwill.
In all, I took 356 books to Goodwill, and another dozen are headed to the gym where we have a leave one, take one bookshelf.  I have more weeding out to do, and then hopefully more time for reading instead of manipulating the teetering piles.

Here's what's come through the door lately:

1.  The Far Empty, J. Todd Scott, mystery, sent by publisher
2.  Blue Nile, Virginia Morell, travel, from gym bookshelf
3.  The Whale, Mark Beauregard, literary fiction, sent by publisher
4.  Did You Ever Have A Family, Bill Clegg, purchased
5.  Someone Must Die, Sharon Potts, mystery, sent by publisher
6.  Brain Storm, Elaine Viets, mystery, sent by publisher
7.  The Mermaid's Secret, Katie Schickel, fantasy, sent by publisher
8.  Under The Harrow, Flynn Berry, mystery, sent by publisher
9.  The God Wave, Patrick Hemstreet, thriller, sent by publisher
10.  The Light Of Paris, Eleanor Brown, literary fiction, sent by publisher
11.  All The Time In The World, Caroline Angell, literary fiction, sent by publisher
12.  The Secrets She Kept, Brenda Novak, mystery, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm currently reading:
1.  The Maid's Version, Daniel Woodrell, Kindle Fire
2.  The Man In The Monster, Martha Elliot, Kindle
3.  The Infidel Stain, M.J. Carter, paperback
4.  The Lore Of The Evermen, James Maxwell, audio
5.  A Drop In The Ocean, Jenni Ogden, paperback
6.  Gone, Mo Hayder, hardcover
7.  The Bird Eater, Ania Ahlborn, audio

Happy Reading!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Lady Cop Makes Trouble by Amy Stewart

Constance Kopp is one of the first lady deputy sheriffs in the United States.  Her two sisters, who pursue more ladylike vocations are not pleased and Constance is not a big hit with the male deputies either.  But Sheriff Heath is a man with vision and he sees the places where a woman deputy can do things more easily than a man could.  He insists on keeping Constance employed, even when his wife gets her nose out of joint because he is spending so much time with her.

But Sheriff Heath's vision is questioned when Constance makes a huge mistake.  She is guarding a prisoner who has been sent to the hospital for observation when he tricks her and escapes.  The prisoner is a doctor who uses his knowledge to trick patients and steal their money rather than heal them.  When he escapes, the world and all its judgement comes pouring down on Constance.

Undeterred and desperate to make things right, Constance starts her own investigation.  Her discoveries take her to New York City and Albany where she finds other doctors who are involved.  She also realises the man's family members are helping him hide so she keeps them under surveillance.  Can Constance find the fugitive before Sheriff Heath loses his job?

This is the second story in the Kopp sisters series.  The novels are based on true characters and Stewart faithfully portrays the history and characteristics of law enforcement in the early 1900's when women were just starting to make their mark.  This book is recommended for mystery and historical fiction readers.  

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie

In Palo Alto, a young couple has met, fallen in love and is preparing to marry.   Paul is a brilliant neurologist who has research grants and has invented a device that has the potential to save lives in the military field, or at any accident scene.  His career looks bright.  Veblen is not as career oriented.  In fact, she is adrift.  She works as a temp while pursuing her interests.  One of these is translating Norwegian, which is not actually a high demand language.  Another is her semi-famous forbear, Thorstein Veblen, an economist who eschewed material goods and coined the term 'conspicuous consumption'.  Love of animals, especially squirrels is yet another Veblen obsession.

Each came from a problematic family.  Veblen's mother is narcissistic and demands all the family's attention for her myriad imagined illnesses.  The main thing she taught Veblen was that Veblen's needs and desires were always to be second to those of her mother.  Paul's family was consumed with the care of a child with special needs and Paul felt adrift and neglected.  His family were hippies, full of peace and love and lots of drugs, and Paul is organized and straight-laced in opposition.

As Veblen and Paul start to plan their wedding, their opposing viewpoints of the world emerge.  Soon they start to wonder if the other is too different and too strange to ever have a successful relationship.  It takes a crisis before their questions are answered and they resolve the differences that can tear them apart.

Elizabeth McKenzie has written a charming picture of modern mores and relationships.  Veblen is a free spirit who has broken free of a suffocating family, while Paul has attained the success and prestige he never got as a child.  Together they illustrate what it means to be in love as a millennial.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and those interested in relationships.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Mother by Yvvette Edwards

We meet Marcia on one of the worst days of her life.  It is the opening trial day for the boy who murdered her only son, Ryan.  Ryan was sixteen years old when this boy ran up to him at a football training field in London and stabbed him repeatedly.  Now he is on trial and Marcia is determined to be their every day.  She wants to find out why anyone would do such a thing.

Marcia's life has been hell for the last eight months since the murder.  She is by turns angry, depressed and barely gets through the days.  Nights go by on a mixture of vodka and sleeping pills.  Her marriage is at a breaking point; her husband muted by the tragedy.   Her friends and remaining family try to be supportive but no one can really relate to what she is going through.

As the trial goes on, Marcia sees that the young man on trial has no remorse.  He doesn't seem to feel anything for anyone and she wonders what his life would have to have been like to turn him into this unfeeling automaton.  A young girl is his alibi and it is the same girl that Ryan brought home once.  Marcia had disapproved as the girl was street-wise and not the kind of girl she always thought Ryan would eventually be interested in.  Now it appears that Ryan's death may have been caused by his interest in her since the other boy has also been with her.

Unfortunately, most of us know someone in Marcia's shoes as we get older.  These are parents who have lost their children, whether to accidents, sickness or violence.  It is unimaginable pain and the fact that it is unimaginable makes it difficult to be the friend they need at this time.  Edwards has ripped aside the barrier and shown us what is going on in the minds and hearts of our friends who are dealing with this horror.  She also takes the time to emphasize with the killer and his circumstances, raising questions about what we owe to those less fortunate and how we can change things to possibly avoid further tragedies.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers and for anyone with a friend in this circumstance.