Friday, December 29, 2017

Lockdown by Laurie R. King

It's Career Day at Guadalupe Middle School and tensions are running high.  Things have happened that make the school less than a restful place.  Last year, a girl was shot outside of school but she was a student and the cousin of the boy who shot her goes to the school also.  That trial is now going on.  A new sixth-grader, the daughter of the local car dealer, disappeared and no word has been heard of her.  Was she killed somewhere or did she run away?

There is a new principal who is trying to turn the school around.  Linda comes from the Midwest, a strange match with her mainly Hispanic students, but seems to be making progress in helping the school.  Her husband Gordon is English and a bit of a mystery.  He helps out along with Tio, the janitor and Coach, a retired educator who has come back to help out.  Olivia is the local policewoman who watches over the town which means she is worried about the school as well.  Together they all try to help the students who have issues and keep things simmering under the surface instead of breaking out.

The students have shifting alliances and moods.  There is Brendan who is broodingly handsome and a basketball star but who is obviously troubled and seems to be ready to blow.  Sophia is the sister of the girl who was killed last year and is just starting to emerge from a cloud of grief.  Her best friend, Mina, has come to the area with her Iranian parents who are always worried about her security.  Nick was the missing girl's best friend and he has been lost without her and has started a viral campaign against her father.  All while these kids are supposed to be getting an education.  Will the school blow before Career Day is ended?

Laurie R. King has written many well-received mysteries.  Her series about Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell has been a major best seller.  She has four novels in a series featuring a female detective, Kate Martinelli.  This book is a stand alone but her ability to set a tense atmosphere and move the action along to a chilling climax is well demonstrated.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Now We Are Dead by Stuart MacBride

Detective Chief Inspector Roberta Steele, who has been the terror of the police force for years, has been demoted down to a Detective Sergeant.  This occurred when she planted evidence against Jack Wallace who she knew was guilty of rape but could not prove her case.  Now she has a new team and her caseload consists of bringing to justice shoplifters and other petty criminals.  Her main sidekick is Tufty, a young policeman who is interested in physics and finding a girlfriend.

But Steele has not given up putting Wallace away.  Right now he has the upper hand, filing complaints against her whenever she encounters him and the administration is on his side and has forbidden her to be anywhere near him.  But the rapes are continuing and she knows, just knows, that he is behind them all. 

Otherwise, her cases are varied.  An old lady is being terrorized by a loan shark after she borrowed money to get her pet dog to the vet.  A toddler is left for several days in an apartment when his mother overdoses on drugs.  Two other young children are found in a thieve's den where they are being trained to become thieves themselves.  It often seems that there is no way to stem the rising tide of crime but Steele is determined not to give up.  But can she make a difference before Wallace comes to take everything she holds dear?

Roberta Steele is one of the most memorable characters in crime fiction.  Although she is obnoxious and loud, a heart of gold beats underneath the rough exterior.  MacBride's ability to mix violent crime and a bit of humor that a policeman must have in order to survive is unparalleled and the reason his star shines so brightly in this genre.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Borne by Jeff Vandermeer

Rachel and Wick live in the City, although living is a very different proposition from what it was six years ago when the Company failed.  Now everyone must be considered an enemy and a residence must be hidden and provided with plenty of traps to catch would-be intruders.  There are no government services, no money and no civilization as most would consider it.  There are only power factions and a demand that everyone pick a side.  Rachel is a scavenger and brings home to Wick the food and technology she finds.  Wick is a scientist and can still create protein and items that help people survive, like medicine bugs or items that fight.

The Company was a biotech one, and when it got out of control, bad things happened.  They engineered bits of life and when those lives got too big to handle, they were released.  The biggest is Mord, a bear-like being that is stories high, huge yet able to fly.   He is psychotic from what was done to him and spends his days looking for anything to kill.  He is the defining element of this world.  There is also The Magician, a woman who knows enough secrets that she is sure she can defeat Mord and restore society, with her as ruler of course.

One day while scavenging, Rachel comes across Mord sleeping and crawls up on his fur.  Most scavengers would never have the courage to do that and Mord tends to have interesting things stuck in his fur.  That's the case this day as Rachel finds a small anemone-like item with beautiful colors.  She sticks it in her bag and takes it home.  For some reason she doesn't share it with Wick but keeps it.  As the days go by, it starts to grow and soon she is finding it in places she didn't leave it.  Finally, one day it speaks and she realises it is a sentient being.  As the days, weeks and months go by, Rachel thinks of Borne, which is the name she gives it, as her child and she nurtures and teaches him.  Wick is adamantly opposed as he believes Borne is a monster that Rachel hasn't seen the truth of.  Who is correct and what will happen if Rachel has brought in an entity that could destroy the world they tentatively inhabit?

Jeff Vandermeer is one of the shining stars of the sci fi/fantasy world and his novels tend to be dsytopian.  He writes of the fine line between the wonders of science and the horrors that can be released when humans err on their knowledge of the consequences they can unleash.  His Southern trilogy is considered a modern masterpiece, and this novel continues his themes and his readability.  This book is recommended for sci fi/fantasy readers.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift

Mothering Sunday is the third Sunday before Easter.  It was originally a day on which individuals visited their original or 'mother' church.  Over the years, it became a day on which domestic servants were freed from service to go visit their families or do whatever pleased them.

The year is 1924 and we follow the day of Jane Fairchild on Mothering Day.  She is twenty-two and a maid in the home of the Nivens.  They are kind to her, even encouraging her desire to read and educate herself.  On this Mothering Day, the Nivens are off to lunch with their friends whose son and daughter are to be married in two weeks.

But Jane has other plans.  She has been involved in an affair with the son who is about to be married and whose house is next to that of the Nivens for seven years.  Today all the families involved are off at lunch and the two have his house to themselves.  The novel opens in the moments when they are through with sex and lying naked in his bed.  But he has other plans; he must meet his fiance for their own lunch.  Will this be his last time with Jane?  They have taught each other everything about sex over the years.  Is that all to come to an end?

The novel is told from the viewpoint of Jane decades later when she is an established and celebrated author.  She looks back at her first lover and at her life in those days and sees how far she has come in life since then.  Graham Swift has written nine novels and has been a successful author, winning both the Guardian Fiction Prize and the Booker.  This novel is intricate and delves into the lifestyle common in England in the days surrounding World War I where great families have large homes and there is an entire class of people 'in service' to them.  Is Jane being exploited or is she taking charge of her own life?  The reader must determine this and other questions about Jane as her life is slowly unfolded for examination.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Forgotten Violets by Martin Niewood

Meadow Noone is eighteen and unsure of what is happening.  Along with two friends, she was imprisoned in a cellar where unspeakable horror was the daily ration.  When the three escape, their only thought is to get far away.  As they run, they are captured by soldiers and taken to the nearby town of Thornbridge, where they are charged with a crime they know nothing of.

Desperate to free herself and banish the criminal acts attributed to her, the three align themselves with the ruling class of the town and go on a mission to help the townspeople.  When they return, they enjoy a brief minute of acclaim but more things are brewing.  There is a war with a neighboring town, and an internal group of terrorists whose loyalty could go to either side.  Meadow allows herself to become addicted to a strange fruit and those whose help she relies on seem to know more about her life and strange powers than she does herself.  Can Meadow discover the secrets of her own life and find a way forward?

This is a first novel by this author.  The story needed more explanation and the book should probably be longer in order for the author to build the world out so that the reader understands the setting and the plot.  The action is confusing as it seems like a montage of scenes that flash by with little explanation.  It appears that this may be the first of a series and if so, perhaps more explanation and fuller developed characters will come in the next book.  This book was written for the young adult fantasy market and its readers will come from those genres.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Golden House by Salman Rushdie

In an established neighborhood in New York City, a new family moves into a fabulous mansion.  They are the Goldens who are immigrants from abroad, maybe India, maybe the Middle East, the residents are not quite sure.  The father, Nero, is an obviously successful and powerful man even if his story is shrouded in mystery.  He has moved here with his three sons.  Petya is a brilliant man who is crippled by his insecurities and is rarely seen outside the house.  Apu is an artist and quickly makes his mark in artistic circles, knowing and loving everyone and anyone.  D is the youngest son, a half-brother to Petya and Apu.  He is racked by doubts about his identity and what course his life should take.

Rene is a resident of the neighborhood.  He is a young would-be filmmaker who has grown up there.  He is fascinated by the Golden family and decides to make a movie about them.  When his own parents are killed in an accident, he is invited into the Golden house and soon learns many of their secrets.  When Nero meets and marries an enigmatic Russian immigrant, Vasilia, Rene is right there and sees the same things about her that worry the sons.  

As the years go by, more secrets and tragedies unfold, not only for the family but in the country.  Those who live in this Greenwich Village neighborhood are typically liberal and they bemoan the direction the country is taking after the administration of President Obama.  Some are blase about the election; others see the conservative candidate as a madman who has evil intentions.  The Golden family also starts to unwind as ill events happen to them and their innate inclinations lead them on to tragedy. 

Salman Rushdie is one of today's most prominent novelists and any new novel by him is a joy.  This parable documents the path America is taking as seen through the eyes of the New York intelligentsia.  There are references to Greek mythology and topics such as sexual identity, the autistic spectrum, the film industry, the tragedy of wealth and the ability to reinvent oneself are explored.  Some have called this novel a modern Bonfire Of The Vanities and it was an Amazon Best Book of September 2017.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

In The Woods by Tana French

Twenty years ago in a Dublin suburb a tragedy occurred.  Three children, aged twelve, went into the neighboring woods where they played daily and didn't return.  Two were boys, one a girl.  When the search reached the woods, one boy, Adam Ryan, was found, terrorized with shoes full of blood and unable to speak.  The two other children were never found and Adam never regained his memory of what happened that day.

Adam's parents reinvented his life.  He was sent off to boarding school and his name became Rob instead of Adam.  He never told any of his new acquaintances where he came from and his parents moved so that he never saw the neighborhood again.  After a while of drifting, he becomes a policeman and after a couple of years is promoted to the Murder Squad.  Most people think he is English as he has the accent from his years of living there and looks the part. 

Now disaster has struck the same neighborhood again.  A twelve year old girl's body has been found.  It was left on an archaeological dig as a group frantically tries to dig up and preserve the past before a motorway is laid down.  Katherine Devlin is the daughter of a man heading up a group protesting the motorway.  She is a dancer and good enough that she is about to leave to attend the prestigious dance school in London.  Her body is found on an old alter.  Who would kill such a young girl?

Rob Ryan and his partner Cassie Maddox have a multitude of possibilities.  Was she the victim of a sex crime?  Was it someone who wanted to cripple her father's fight against the motorway?  Was there family discord?  Was this an adolescent fight that got out of hand?  Was one of the money men behind the road involved?  The detectives talked to everyone but nothing seems to break.  Items that seemed like possibilities ended in dead ends.  Can they find the killer?

In The Woods was Tana French's debut novel, and it launched her career as one of the mystery genre's brightest stars.  The characters of the detectives are fully explored with their own insecurities and foibles ruthlessly exposed.  The mystery is complex and the killer, when found, is a chilling individual the reader will not soon forget.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

It's post-Arthurian Britain and things are not going well.  Britons and Saxtons are vying to rule the land and there is an uneasy truce between the two factions.  Travelers must beware if they go beyond the confines of their own village as it is not easy to tell which group another traveler is from and whether they mean harm.

Yet travel is what the elderly couple Axl and Beatrice are determined to do.  They are not valued in their own village; in fact they are singled out for poor treatment.  They are not allowed even a candle at night to light their way in the communal dwellings.  They decide to go visit their son.

They set out and believe they know the way.  Yet they, like everyone else, can't really remember things.  Things that happened only the other day are lost in mist.  Even important things are difficult if not impossible to hold on to.  They really don't know exactly where their son is or why they haven't seen him in so long or if they quarreled.

As they travel, they meet others.  Some are monks who still offer hospitality to travelers.  They meet an old knight in rusty armor who claims to be Sir Gawain, friend of King Arthur and part of the Round Table.  He has outlived all his fellow knights of that time but continues to roam the countryside to do the things he believes Arthur taxed him with.  They meet a warrior from another part of the country who seems to have a secret mission and about whom dreadful stories are told of his fighting prowess.  They also meet a young boy who travels with them and the warrior as his village has thrust him out of its protection.  Together all these individuals grope their way towards their destiny through the blackness of their missing memories.  Will they be able to realize their goals?

Ishiguro is a celebrated novelist.  He won the Booker Prize in 1989 for The Remains Of The Day and this year (2017) he won the Nobel Prize in Literature for his work.  He explores the effects of memory and forgetfulness as a major theme and how we relate to each other through our own understanding of the world we inhabit.   Readers will find these themes expressed in The Buried Giant and will finish the novel sure that they have been reading the work of a master.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Booksie's Shelves, December 1, 2017

How in the heck did it get to be December 1st?  This year has sped by and now we're in the busy holiday season.  Our Thanksgiving was nontraditional, to say the least.  We decided to skip the cooking this year and go to a big hotel buffet.  The only problem was that by the time we got there, a family member was sick and couldn't go inside.  So we cancelled and went back home.  Since I hadn't planned on cooking, there was nothing to cook so my husband made a frozen pizza for his lunch and later we had bacon and eggs for supper.  Hopefully, our Christmas will be a bit more traditional.  I did complete a reading goal this year.  I read Moby Dick and loved it!  Hopefully in the coming year I'll get to more of the classics and chunksters on my own shelves.  I've been transistioning to electronic ARC's this year so there are fewer books coming in the door but here's what's come lately:

1.  Home Field, Hannah Gersen, literary fiction, purchased
2.  Peregrine Island, Diane B. Saxton, literary fiction, sent by publisher
3.  The Italian Party, Christina Lynch, literary fiction, won in a contest
4.  The Bitch Is Back, Cathi Hanauer, essays, sent by publisher
5.  Forgotten Violets, Martin Niewood, fantasy, sent for book tour
6.  All The Birds In The Sky, Charlie Jane Anders, fantasy, purchased
7.  The Missing, C.L. Taylor, suspense, sent by publisher
8.  This Far Isn't Far Enough, Lynn Sloan, anthology, sent by publisher
9.  The Man In The Crooked Hat, Harry Dolan, mystery, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  Career Of Evil, Robert Galbraith, audio
2.  The Buried Giant, Kazuo Ishiguro, paper
3.  You, Caroline Kepnes, paper
4.  The Jury Returns, Louis Nizer, hardback
5.  The Redeemer, Jo Nesbo, paper
6.  The Golden House, Salman Rushdie, Kindle Fire
7.  The Riverman, Alex Gray, Kindle Fire
8.  Astonish Me, Maggie Shipstead, Kindle
9.  The Abomination, Jonathan Holt, Kindle Fire
10.  Delia's Shadow, Jamie Lee Moyer, hardback

Happy Reading!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

One of my reading goals this year was to read more classics.  Back in the summer I read Bleak House by Dickens and enjoyed it immensely as I'm a big Dickens fan.  One day while scanning my shelves, Moby Dick seemed to jump out at me and I decided to give it a try.  I'd only heard negative things about it outside of English teachers who declared it a masterpiece but I decided this was the time.

What I never expected to find was how little of the book was about the epic battle between the whale and Captain Ahab.  In a book of around 550 pages, only the last 50 detailed that struggle although it was foreshadowed throughout.  The other thing I never expected was how much I enjoyed this novel.

If you ever wanted to know anything about whaling, this was your textbook.  The author spends pages detailing the types of whales, the skeletal features of whales, what whales ate, how they swam and their family lives.  He went into the same detail about the whaling industry, talking about what the sailors specifically did, what they ate, their relationships, their weapons, etc.  It is one of the most detailed looks at a topic I've ever seen examined.

Then there is the epic struggle.  No one who is a Type A can fail to relate to Captain Ahab.  That monomaniacal determination to win against all odds and no matter what the cost is what propels society forward and what leads to epic tragedies.  I didn't come away loving him, but boy did I relate to him. 

Bottom line is that it was definitely a wonderful reading experience.  This novel won't be for everyone but those who power through to the end will have a marvelous time.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction, those interested in the whaling industry and those struggling with control issues. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

American Wolf by Nate Blakeslee

In American Wolf, the reader is introduced to the wolf reestablishment program for wolves in Yellowstone Park.  Hunted almost to extinction, this program has been a success, bringing wolves back to their habitats throughout the Rockies in states such as Idaho, Wyoming and Montana.  While the program was a success with environmentalists who were heartened to see an ecosystem restored, it was greeted with anger and dismay by the ranchers who wanted the same land to graze their cattle and the hunters that felt that the wolves would threaten their livelihood of arranging elk hunts.

This controversy is illustrated through the life story of one particular wolf.  She was the alpha female of a pack and was known as O-Six for the year of her birth.  Park rangers and wolf-watchers followed her life from her infancy through her childhood to her mate selection and establishment of her own pack.  They watched as she hunted, fought off other wolves interested in her territory and as she successfully raised several litters of puppies.  She was a favorite of the watchers for her skill and grace and her intelligent creation of her pack.

But the book doesn't just talk about the individual wolves.  The author also explains the legal battles going on in court between those interested in saving the wolves and those who wanted to eradicate them.  He also explains the environmental benefits of the wolf introduction program.  While some say that it hurts the elk population, others talk of species that benefit.  For example, the beaver population exploded.  This happened because as the elk adjusted to the new predators and moved upward in the valleys, the willows they ate in the creeks had more chance of survival.  Since the willow is an important part of the beaver life, it helped more beaver to survive.  The coyote population was reduced to a more stable number as the wolves were the superior predators and as the coyote population lowered, that of small rodents who were their prey, rose. 

The author also talks about the humans involved.  He explores the work of specific park rangers, men who have dedicated their lives to rescuing and assisting wildlife.  He talks about the men and women who have made wolf-watching their life work, going out every day without fail to observe the wolves and make copious notes of their observations.  The arguments of hunters are examined along with an in-depth study of one specific hunter.  The reader will walk away from this book armed with an extensive knowledge of all sides of this compelling topic.  This book is recommended for readers of nature books and those interested in environmental topics.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

It all starts at a party in Los Angeles, California.  The Keatings are having a christening party for their younger daughter, Franny.  Everyone has come, a large contingent from the local Catholic church, tons of policemen who the dad, Fix Keating, works with, family members and even guys from the District Attorney's office.  It's a large party that spreads throughout the house and yard.  At the end of it, something has happened that will insure that things will never be the same.

Sometime during the party, Burt Cousins, a local D.A. meets Beverly Keating, the mother of the baby.  Sparks are apparent immediately and before the party is over, the two share a lingering kiss.  This kiss sparks a family tragedy as the two families are broken up.  Burt who has four children and Beverly, with her two girls, each divorce and they marry each other and move to Virginia.

There are now six children involved.  Over the years, they get to know each other and share summer vacations and irritation at their parents.  The novel follows each family over the decades.  Marriages come and go, there is a death that traumatizes everyone and the six children and their parents do a dance in which they come closer and then move farther apart, over and over.  When Franny is in her twenties she has an affair with a celebrated writer.  He takes the stories she has told him about her family and turns it into a successful novel that exposes all the family secrets and forms the basis of new relationships that are now built on truths long hidden.

Ann Patchett has a long history as a celebrated writer.  She has won both an Orange Prize for her novel Bel Canto and a PEN/Faulkner award.  Under her accomplished guidance, the reader learns about the Keating and Cousins families and how they are blended and torn asunder.  It is a paean to family and all the relationships that come from them.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

World-renowned mystery writer Alan Conway has finished his latest mystery.  That's the news that awakes book editor Susan Ryeland when she returns from a business trip.  She takes the manuscript home for the weekend and is soon thoroughly engrossed as she is a big fan of the series, although not necessarily the author himself.  She didn't hit it off to him so her partner has always handled him.  She gets to the end of the manuscript and realizes that the ending chapters are missing and there is no solution.  Ah well, some mistake must have happened and she'll get it straight on Monday.

Monday comes but there is no solution.  Instead, there is the shocking news that Conway has died in a fall at his home.  Susan's partner, Charles, gets a letter from Alan which is basically a suicide note and the police are ready to mark it down as one. 

But when Susan goes to Alan's house to look for the missing chapters, she starts to wonder if Alan has really killed himself or if someone else has done it.  The more she looks into his life, the more she realizes what a totally unpleasant person Alan is.  There are tons of suspects if its a murder; the boyfriend who was about to be pushed aside, the former wife and son who were shocked when Alan wanted a divorce to come out as gay, the neighbor who was involved in a dispute with Alan, the vicar who remembered him as a bully and the former student who claimed Alan stole his book idea.  With all the suspects, can it really be anything but murder?

Anthony Horowitz has written a stunningly good mystery novel.  The concept of writing a book within a book is unique and draws the reader in.  As Susan's investigation deepens, it soon appears that anyone who knew Alan had a reason to wish him gone.  The reader will turn the last pages satisfied to have resolved both the novel murder and the real-life one.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Flesh And Blood by Jonathan Kellerman

Dr. Alex Delaware remembers her.  She was one of his failures.  Lauren was a sullen teenager, forced into seeing him as a therapist by her parents.  She was totally uninterested in what he had to offer, coming late to appointments, leaving early and just quitting after a few sessions.  Underneath the attitude, Delaware sensed real issues that he'd have liked to help her explore but sometimes therapy is like that.

He saw Lauren one more time.  Having gone to a bachelor party, he was shocked to see her as part of the entertainment, dancing nearly nude for the jeering men greedily watching.  She showed up at his house a few days later, insisting on paying him in cash and bragging about how well she was doing.

Now Lauren has disappeared.  Her mother comes to Alex, asking him if he can help find her.  In the intervening years, Lauren seems to have matured.  She is going to college and working on a psychology degree.  Then one day she goes out the door, telling her roommate she would return shortly and never comes home.

As Alex and his friend on the police, Milo Sturgis, investigate, more questions than answers appear.  Lauren has significant investments and is paying for school herself.  Where did the money come from and does it have anything to do with her disappearance?  Is her disappearance linked to that of another beautiful blonde girl from the same university a year or so earlier?

This is the fifteenth Alex Delaware mystery.  Fans will be interested to read another of Alex's cases, although this one seems to have too many coincidences to hang together as well as others.  The interplay between Alex and Milo is always interesting; that between Alex and his long-time love, Robin, significantly less so.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Orfeo by Richard Powers

Peter Els has lived a life of music.  While he went to college to be a chemist, music was always large and came to be his major.  He is a composer and totally immersed in the musical world.  His friends are all musicians.  When he falls in love, it is with a musician.  Over the years, Peter has spent his time in bursts of creativity followed by fallow years when he fears the music has deserted him.  After his marriage fails and he loses his wife and daughter, he lives at times for years in isolation, emerging when his muse returns and he is in a creative cycle.

Now in his seventies, Els has a more serene life.  He spent his last working years as a music professor in a small liberal college and it was a content time for him.  He has taken back up his old interest in chemistry and created a home lab where he tickers with gene cells, wondering if their mathematical absolutism can be translated into music.  One day he opens his door to find police there.  With the rise of Homeland Security, his home lab had been noticed and when there is an outbreak of a disease no one can immediately diagnose, he comes under suspicion.

Alarmed by the visit and emotionally wrecked by the death of his longtime pet, Els is off-kilter and takes off, a move that again, makes him look more suspicious.  As he runs from the police, he retraces the steps and relationships of his past and the reader slowly learns what makes this man who lives in a world so far removed from what most of us experience, is all about.  His primeval need is to create and he sees music in everything around him.  He wants to use music to challenge, to push people past their normal barriers.

The twenty-four news cycle takes up the hunt for Els as he flees, having gained the nickname 'the biohazard Bach'.  Since he cares nothing for normal life and is used to solitude, he manages to evade the hunt as he moves from past icon to past relationship, always clarifying in his own mind the urge to create and share what he has learned.

Orfeo is a modern retelling of the myth of Orpheus.  It was a Man Booker nominee in 2014 as well as a National Book Award nominee.  It confirms the status of Richard Powers as one of our best modern novelists, one who is not afraid to take readers on a voyage of great thoughts and to challenge them.  In this work, the reader who is not musical gets a glimpse into what is so compelling about this world and about how creation is everything to those who inhabit it.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Living The Dream by Lauren Berry

Emma is a writer.  She knows she is; it is what feeds her soul.  But she spends her days as a 'creative' at a London marketing firm where they have high hopes for her talent and intuition but where she feels she is slowly dying.  Her boss is a joke whom she has to kowtow to on a daily basis and she only has one person there she considers a friend.  She has a blog with a small readership and she wants to take the next step but is paralyzed by the fear of striking out on her own.

Clementine has just returned to London from her college days in New York.  She got her degree in theatre and has a play that was well received by her professors.  She is working a dead end job in a bar while she shops her play around to various agents, hoping to make a breakthrough of all the piles of work they routinely get.  Best friends from their childhood, the two women support each other in matters of love, friendship and trying to carve out a career.

There are various men who come and go, are just passing encounters or desired relationships that never quite materialize.  There is the common friend who is about to get married so that the women get the full Bridezilla experience as she wends her way nearer her nuptials.  Above all, there is the deft touch of the author who makes these characters believable and ones that the reader is delighted to cheer on.

This is the author's first novel although not her first work.  She created a feminist 'zine Knockback and spends her time writing about the female experience.  Her work has been featured in English newspapers and magazines.  Readers will, at the end of this novel, hope that she will also continue to write novels as this first one is a delight.

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Hum And The Shiver by Alex Bledsoe

In a remote valley in rural Tennessee, a group of people live quietly, keeping to themselves and uninterested in contact with a bigger world.  Collectively, the group is known as the Tufa and rumors are spread about them.  All the Tufa have long, black, shiny hair, dark eyes that shine with light and are dark-complected.  The other thing known about them is that music plays an integral part in their lives and most of them are accomplished musicians.  Some say that when the first settlers made their way to the valley, the Tufa were already there in place.  Some say they have supernatural power.  But the Tufa don't say much at all. 

Things are stirred when one of their own is returned as a military hero.  Unlike most Tufa, Bronwyn Hyatt left and joined the army, serving in Iran.  When she is injured and rescued after killing ten of the enemy in an encounter, the nation wants to know more about her and how she did what she did.  She is returned with great fanfare, injured to the point where months of recuperation and rehabilitation will be necessary.  Or at least that's what conventional medicine would say.

The Hyatt family wants only to be left alone.  Chloe and Duncan have been married for many years, raising their children, Kell, Bronwyn and Aiden.  They don't want the fanfare surrounding Bronwyn's return.  They just want to return to their own ways.  Signs have been brewing that trouble is coming and they need their family to be intact and ready to face whatever is on the way.

Two outsiders come into the valley at the same time.  Don Swayback is a reporter, his career waning as he just hasn't been that interested in years.  He's heard family talk that he is related to the Tufa somewhere back in his history and that as well as Bronwyn's return sparks his interest.  Craig Chess is a total outsider.  He has been assigned to his first post after his ordination as a minister and he knows he has a tough road ahead trying to interest the Tufa in his religion.

As Bronwyn settles in with her family, trouble mounts.  Her wild boyfriend from before her military service is fresh out of prison and determined to get her back.  She is equally determined to resist him.  Is this the trouble that the omens are warning of?

Alex Bledsoe grew up in Tennessee so it is not unusual that he has chosen it as the locale of this fantasy series, currently at six novels with this one as the introduction to the Tufa clan.  The Hum And The Shiver was chosen as a Kirkus Best Novel in 2011, and the series continues to win praise.  This novel is recommended for readers of modern fantasy.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

Ceceila has it all.  A gorgeous husband, three healthy happy girls, a great house.  She is the head of the school parent organization, runs a home business that is thriving and is the queen of organizing.  Her house and life run on a right schedule and everyone envies her and how smooth her life proceeds.

Tess also has her own business.  She started an advertising firm with her husband and her best friend, who is her cousin.  Their talents were complementary and the business is producing quite a good income.  But Tess has just been handed a body blow.  Her husband and cousin have announced that they are so very sorry, they don't know how it happened, but they are in love and want to live together.

Rachel has no issues with relating to body blows.  Years ago her daughter was murdered on her sixteenth birthday.  The murderer has never been found, although Rachel has her suspicions about who might be the culprit.  She works as a secretary at the elementary school and has found solace in her son's new baby, a toddler who loves his grandmother. 

All these women are brought together when one of them opens a letter that should never have been opened.  It contains a secret that wasn't meant to be revealed until after the writer's death.  Now that it has come out in the open, it will affect each of these women and change their lives forever. 

Liane Moriarty has written a novel with three distinct plotlines that comes together in a complex fashion with everything resolved at the end.  Most female readers can relate to at least one of the women and most have known examples of each model.  It leads the reader to speculate on how they would handle such life-altering revelations and what strength they might have to face a crushing disclosure in their own lives.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Day I Died by Lori Rader-Day

Her name is Anna Winger.  Or at least that's her name in this town, one of a series of towns she has run to over the years.  Anna is hiding from her ex-husband, the man who beat her repeatedly and who she finally escaped from when she realized she was pregnant.  Now, thirteen years later, she has settled into a little town in Indiana with her teenage son, Joshua.  They are here for a while, all their belongings ready to pack up and flee at a moment's notice.

Anna makes her living on the computer.  She is a writing analyst and does work for large corporations vetting employees and for what she calls her 'lonelyhearts', women who want to know if the men they love are good and kind.  It is a profession that she fought to attain and one that allows her to support her family without personal entanglements.

But all that is about to change.  A two year old boy has disappeared in the small town Anna lives in.  Against her will, the police have her name from an FBI contact who steers corporate work her way, and they want to know what she can tell them from the note left behind.  Anna recognizes the writing of a woman who is also fleeing for her life and it draws her into the case against her best judgment.  Can she help find this child, or will looking for him cause her to lose her cover?  She is alternatively intrigued and repulsed by the sheriff heading up the investigation and senses that he might be the person that blows her cover forever.  Will she continue knowing the risks to herself?

Lori Rader-Day's writing has won several mystery awards, such as the Anthony Award for Best First Novel and the Mary Higgins Clark Award.  Her work has appeared in mystery magazines and she has written several other best selling mysteries.  In this novel, the reader is intrigued by the mystery in Anna's own background and is drawn into her life.  One can't help but hope for Anna to find more than she has managed to claw out of life so far and the novel is compelling for that reason.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Welcome Home Diner by Peggy Lampman

Two women, cousins decide to open their dream diner in Detroit and attempt to rejuvenate a distressed neighborhood.  Addie is driven, determined to match her life to the schedule she laid out for herself years ago and not willing to stop until she has everything she wants.  Sam is more laid-back, taking life as it comes.  She does the baking while Addie does the books and runs the front.  They hire neighborhood residents as kitchen and wait staff and their goal is to provide healthy, tasteful meals in the farm to table tradition so popular currently and to provide an alternative to the fast food choices the residents have now.

The two women grew up sharing summers on their Polish grandparents' farm, learning to cook from their grandmother.  She taught them the traditional Polish dishes handed down from generation to generation in their family.  Sam's parents were also farmers, former hippies who came back home to start their own farm and raise goats.  Addie's parents were more into money and influence and their marriage broke apart while Addie was still a young girl.  For both girls, the summers were beacons in their lives and strengthened the bond between them until they were more like sisters than cousins.

The diner is a huge undertaking but it seems that it is going to make it.  Then stresses start to hit.  The tables are crowded but it is white professionals that discover the diner and rave about it.  The neighborhood people they hoped to serve want no part of them, seeing them as interlopers.  They run afoul of a business that preys on new start ups and when they cut their contract, try to intimidate them.  Worst of all, they develop a mystery stalker who gives them bad reviews on social media, making outright lies about the diner such as their water is tainted or their food is underdone making customers sick.  Will the stresses they face and their differing personalities pull the women apart and put an end to their dream?

Peggy Lampman has written an entertaining tale about how to make a dream come true.  She doesn't sugarcoat the hard work that goes into it, or the difficulty of working with people unlike you towards a common goal.  The various cultures represented by the women and their employees as well as the traditional neighborhood are presented in a valuing way.  The love lives of the women, which match their basic personalities, are explored as well.  The book ends with some of the recipes talked about in the story of the diner.  This book is recommended for readers of women's literature as well as those who enjoy reading about food related topics.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

A little girl goes exploring in the woods and falls down in a hole.  When she is discovered, she is curled up on the surface of a giant hand.  The little girl grows up to be a scientist, and her crowning achievement is as the head of a group that is put together to explore the amazing metal hand she had discovered as a child.  The hand was excavated and discovered to be constructed of a rare metal and half the weight that it should be from what was known of the metal's characteristics.  Over time, other parts of the figure were discovered all over the world, and it is put together to form a massive woman robot.

Next comes the ability to study it and determine its purpose.  A team is assembled.  Rose Franklin is the scientist who originally found the hand and now heads up the research team.  A pair of pilots from the military are drafted into the program to actually enter and steer the robot.  The woman pilot is a strong personality who is a natural leader but who will break rules when she sees a way forward.  Her co-pilot is a man who is more ready to follow the rules.  Then there is a Canadian linguist graduate student who is brought in to decipher the symbols written on the robot.  Controlling them all is a shadowy figure whose name and purpose is never revealed.  They discover that the robot is capable of either saving or completely destroying the human race.  Which will it be?

This is a fascinating novel that is a quick read and is the first book in a trilogy.  The story is told through a series of interviews with the overseer and journal entries from the various individuals involved.  The interplay of personalities and the potential for either advancing civilization or destroying makes for an engaging read that is hard to put down.  This is a debut novel and a fascinating start for this author.  This book is recommended for science fiction readers.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Where Memories Lie by Deborah Crombie

Dr. Erika Rosenthal thought all the pain in her life was safely buried in the past.  She and her husband David had escaped from Nazi Germany in time to escape the concentration camps that killed so many of their family and friends.  They started over in London where both were academics, only to encounter grief again when David was murdered, a case that has gone unsolved for decades. 

Now pain has found Erika again.  She encounters a Sotheby catalog of an upcoming auction, and there it is.  One of the most anticipated offerings is a diamond brooch created by a famous Jewish jeweler.  That jeweler was Erika's father and the brooch was taken from her during her escape in a horrendous act. 

She goes to her friend, Detective Gemma James.  Gemma goes to the auction house to inquire where the brooch came from but encounters only subterfuge and claims of anonymity.  Gemma plans to investigate further, and her determination is increased when the woman she spoke with at the auction house is run down that night and killed.  That case is assigned to her domestic partner, Duncan Kincaid and his team.  Duncan works on this recent case while Gemma is determined to get to the bottom of the decades old mysteries of David's murder and what happened to the brooch.

This is the twelfth book in the Gemma James/Duncan Kincaid series.  It is a nice mix of police procedural and the domestic lives of police inspectors as they try to have family and friends.  Gemma has ongoing family issues that she needs to resolve but they don't keep her from working on the case that is so near to her friend.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Prey Of Gods by Nicky Drayden

Port Elizabeth in South Africa is booming.  The rise of bioengineering means an easier life for most people.  Each has his own personal assistant in the form of a robot.  Of course the animals of Africa have disappeared, but there are replacements which were engineered in labs and can recall the glory of the former animals.  In fact, some animals were engineered and reproduced so prolifically that the streets are overwhelmed with dik-diks roaming about interfering with traffic and harassing tourists.

But everything is not positive.  Underneath the facade of progress, a centuries-old demigoddess is shepherding her strength, feeding occasionally on humans and taking new energy and strength from their bodies.  It is unclear who can stand up to her but her plans include killing off the majority of humans who she sees as weak and superfluous and whose deaths make her ever stronger. 

Yet there are those who can oppose her.  Muzi is a teenager obsessed with rugby and perhaps falling in love with his best friend, but lately he is starting to feel that he can influence the thoughts and actions of others.  He has an innate connection with the personal robots around him and helps them cross into being individual functioning beings.  Riya Natrajan is a spoiled female superstar; her songs known far and wide and her fans obsessed with her, not knowing about her weaknesses and her hidden strengths she is herself just starting to realise.  Stoker is a politician whose dream has always been to be on the stage like his idol Riya and he is willing to give up politics for the chance to be her backup singer.  Then there is Nomvula, a little girl who may be the most powerful of all.  She is starting to discover the depth of her powers but is unsure if she is to use these powers for good or for evil. 

The battle is set and plays out in the arena of a superstar concert.  Thousands have arrived to hear the music but will they emerge unscathed?  Evil and good will struggle and everything will be on the line; the outcome uncertain at best.  Who will emerge victorious?

Nicky Drayden is a brilliant new voice on the science fiction/fantasy spectrum.  She is a system analyst herself so the parts about robots and artificial intelligence ring true.  She has found prior success as a short story author and her debut novel has also garnered praise from many quarters. The plotting and pace of the book, alternating each character's story while advancing the plot, makes for an exciting read.  This book is recommended for science fiction readers.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Booksie's Shelves, October 20, 2017

Almost the end of October already!  I love the fall and all it brings.  Tomorrow I'm going to a make your own glass pumpkin workshop and very excited about that.  The days are turning colder and the leaves are starting to turn.  I've been to two book club meetings this week, one for mystery books and one for fantasy/sci fi.  I also had a wonderful outing on Monday.  I went to the Women's National Book Association Charlotte Chapter's Bibliofeast where you got to meet eight different authors.  All were interesting but the best for me was meeting an online friend who is now an author, Caitlin Hamilton Summie.  It is fascinating to hear about all the research that goes into a book and how much work with many rewrites and edits.  If you ever think people just dash a book off, think again!

Here's what's come through the door:

1.  Tell The Wolves I'm Home, Carol Rifka Brunt, literary fiction, purchased
2.  Mothers Of Sparta, Dawn Davies, memoir, sent for review
3.  Broken Prey, John Sandford, mystery, purchased
4.  Dinosaur In A Haystack, Stephen Jay Gould, nonfiction, purchased
5.  Hello To The Cannibals, Richard Bausch, literary fiction, purchased
6.  Three Drops Of Blood And A Cloud Of Cocaine, Quentin Mouron, thriller, sent for review
7.  Dead Deal, W.J. Evans, mystery, sent for review
8.  This Far Isn't Far Enough, Lynn Sloan, anthology, sent for review
9.  The Gustav Sonata, Rose Tremaine, literary fiction, purchased
10.  The Children's Crusade, Ann Packer, literary fiction, purchased
11.  American Wolf, Nate Blakeslee, nonfiction, sent for review
12.  Breach Of Containment, Elizabeth Bonesteel, science fiction, sent for review
13.  Picnic At Hanging Rock, Joan Lindsay, literary fiction, sent for review
14.  A Plague Of Giants, Kevin Hearne, fantasy, sent for review
15.  Living The Dream, Lauren Berry, women's lit, sent for review

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  Where Memories Lie, Deborah Crombie, paperback
2.  Prey Of Gods, Nicky Drayden, paperback
3.  Delia's Shadow, Jaime Lee Moyer, hardback
4.  Orfeo, Richard Powers, hardback
5.  Golden House, Salman Rushdie, Kindle Fire
6.  The Riverman, Alex Gray, Kindle Fire
7.  Beloved, Toni Morrison, paperback
8.  The Fifth Woman, Kurt Wallander, Kindle
9.  Commonwealth, Ann Pachett, audio

Happy Reading!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Son by Jo Nesbo

Sonny Lofthus has spent more than half of his life in prison.  He was a popular student, a wrestler winning awards, when he came home to find the father he idolized dead by his own hand, a suicide note confessing to being a corrupt policeman.  Sonny and his mother go into tailspins as their grief overwhelms them and after his mother's death, Sonny becomes a heroin addict.  Desperate to ensure a steady supply of drugs and caring little about his life, he confesses to two murders for Oslo's top crime lord, The Twin, and is sentenced to life in prison.  He is relatively happy there as he is guaranteed a steady supply of drugs.  He becomes an icon, the man who listens to everyone's sins and forgives them, no matter how heinous.

Sonny's life changes after eighteen years when a long-time inmate comes to him for confession before his death.  He confesses that Sonny's dad was not corrupt, that instead he was investigating the corruption in the police force and that he was forced to write the suicide note before he was murdered.  This wakes Sonny from his years long stupor and he determines to find out who killed his father and make them pay. 

Escaping from prison, Sonny soon makes a major stir in Oslo.  He starts at the bottom of the Twin's organization, working his way up and extracting confessions.  But now instead of forgiving he kills the men involved in taking everything from him.  This is no clandestine operation.  Both the police and the criminals know who is responsible for this wave of destruction.  Inspector Simon Kefas is put in charge of finding Sonny.  He was Sonny's dad's best friend and wants to find Sonny before The Twin finds and kills him.  Who will emerge victorious in their quest; Sonny, The Twin or Kefas?

Jo Nesbo is known for his Harry Hole series.  This is a stand alone novel although Sonny has similarities to Harry.  Both are flawed men, driven by addictions they entered to deal with the horrible blows life has dealt them.  Both have an inner goodness that allows them to do anything in order to set their worlds right and both pay the price in remorse and a sickness at what their mission extracts from them.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Bear And The Nightingale by Katherine Arden

In the depths of rural Russia, winter comes early and stays late.  Vasilisa is the daughter of the local landowner and her mother is royalty.  She dies in childbirth having Vasilisa so she is raised by the nurse/housekeeper.  From her, she learns all the old tales of folklore and about all the benevolent creatures that guard those who feed and accommodate them.

Vasilisa's father goes to the capital to find another wife.  On his journey home, he encounters a man who saves him from danger and gives him a necklace for his beautiful daughter.  The father is unsure if this is something he wants to do but feels trapped.  On his return with his new wife, life becomes different and unhappy for Vasilisa.  Her new stepmother is very religious and brings in a stern priest who declares that everyone is doomed unless they give up their old superstitions.  She also tries to tame Vasilisa who is a tomboy, roaming the forests and riding horses like a man.

The priest is determined to break Vasilisa as she is the source of strength for those who oppose him.  Much of his determination is his intense attraction to her, which he turns into a belief that she has trapped him with magic.  He declares her evil but when the evil figures of the past come to take the entire village, only Visilisa may have the strength and knowledge to save her family and friends.

This is a debut novel that introduces a stunning new talent.  Arden's book weaves an enchanting tale full of Russian folklore, good and evil, lust and love.  The villains are bloodcurdling and life is hard.  Visilisa is a strong woman who refuses to be tamed but who is willing to do anything for the family she loves.  This book is recommended for fantasy and literary fiction readers.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson

Private detective Jackson Brodie is surrounded by missing or killed young women as he ponders the meaning of being a father and as his ex-wife threatens to take his eight year old daughter to another country.  All his cases at the moment revolve around this theme.

Several decades ago, three year old Olivia disappeared from her back yard where she was sleeping outside in a tent with her sister.  No real clues were ever found.  Now surviving sisters Amelia and Julia have come home to bury their father and uncover a clue that they believe Jackson can use to discover what happened to Olivia all those years ago.

Laura was a young woman who was about to head off to college.  Her last summer home she is to work in her father's office but is brutally killed her first day on the job.  She was the joy of her father's life and even ten years later, he is determined to find the killer and turns to Jackson.

A young woman marries too early at eighteen and has a baby.  Being a perfectionist, she is quickly overwhelmed with no help and a touch of postpartum depression.  In a fit of rage one day, she kills her husband, leaving the baby to go to uncaring relatives.  That girl ran away and is now missing but her sister wants Jackson to track her down. 

In the midst of all these cases, Jackson helps an old lady who keeps lots of cats as she has no one else to call on.  She is a neighbor of the family of Olivia, the missing toddler.  Can Jackson solve the mysteries surrounding all these women?

This is the first novel in the Jackson Brodie case.  Jackson is a former military man and policeman who is kind but can't seem to figure out women or how to live with them.  He has a tormented childhood history himself that has focused his life choices and made him realize how valuable life is and how quickly it can be snatched away.  He is an interesting character and the reader will want to read more about him.  This book is recommended for both mystery and literary fiction readers.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

England in the 1520's was a country in turmoil.  Henry VIII was the king but has failed in one of his main duties; providing a male heir to continue his dynasty after his death.  He married his brother's widow, Katherine from Spain, but the marriage has produced no male heirs.  As he nears his late thirties, he becomes restless and Anne Boleyn, a lady in his court, catches his eye.  As he becomes more and more entranced with her, he determines that he will put aside his wife and make Anne his queen instead.  But how is this to be accomplished?  He puts his main advisor, Cardinal Wolsey to the task of requesting an annulment of his marriage from the Pope.

When the Pope refuses to grant the annulment, chaos erupts.  Henry decides to break with the Church and marry Anne anyway.  Wolsey is stripped of his possessions and sent to exile and later killed for his failures.  His staff remains loyal to him and none is more loyal than Thomas Cromwell.  Thomas was not born to a noble family.  He was a blacksmith's son who has made his way up in society by sheer effort and intelligence.  He spends time in Europe as a soldier and then makes his fortune in importing fabrics and other goods.  He is fiercely loyal to Wolsey and when his mentor is disgraced and killed, he is determined to bring that same ruin on the individuals who oversaw Wolsey's ruin.

Henry likes Cromwell, as do many people.  Fiercely loyal and ruthless, he is also charming.  He sees the conspiracies of royal life and can thread his way between them, always pursuing his ultimate goals.  He pushes through various laws to support Henry's desires and mentors many young people in his household.  But more than anything, he works to ruin those who cross him and who dare to stand in the way of the king's desires.

There is little new that could be said about Wolf Hall.  Winner of the 2009 Booker Prize, along with other literary awards, this novel has been praised as a fascinating new look at one of the most written about periods in English history.  Many know little about Cromwell and his place in this drama, and Mantel brings him to life in such a way that the common opinion of him is set on its head.  This is an excellent book and one that richly deserved its accolades.  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction and those interested in character delineation. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Angels Flight by Michael Connelly

It's no surprise to Harry Bosch to get a call late at night; that's an everyday occurrence for a homicide detective.  But he is surprised to get a call to a murder scene that's not in his normal turf.  Two murders have occurred at the city's quaint trolley system called Angels Flight.  One of the victims is a cleaning woman but the other is the reason Harry has gotten the call.  Howard Elias is a lawyer and a lawyer that has made his reputation and caseload representing those who have an issue with the LAPD.  He has been in the middle of numerous cases suing the department and is in the midst of one now that has gone tons of press.

Several years ago, the daughter of a rich and powerful family was kidnapped and found murdered several days later.  The LAPD found physical evidence pointing to a former convict and focused on him.  After he is found innocent at his trial, he has filed a case with the help of Elias stating that he was tortured during his interrogation and that the LAPD never really investigated the case and that the killer is still out there.  That case is about to go to court and the top brass are worried that Elias' murder could reignite the riots that tore Los Angeles apart before.

On top of the political nature of the case, Bosch has other issues.  His new marriage appears to be breaking up and he doesn't even have time to worry about it.  One of his ex-partners is involved in the case Elias is bringing to court but Bosch is convinced he could never be involved in anything wrong.  Add in a group brought in from Internal Affairs and a partnership with the FBI on this case and Bosch knows it will be one of the most challenging of his career.

This is the sixth novel in the Harry Bosch series.  Connelly's genius as a crime writer is that he lays out the day to day procedure of a real police case, something he learned during his time covering the crime beat as a reporter.  His detectives don't make wild assumptions and break all rules of evidence to get their suspect.  Instead, they follow a laid out path that the reader can easily follow.  He also is a master at writing about the political atmosphere that the police must do their work in.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

Turtle Alveston is fourteen and she could kill you as easily as look at you.  Turtle lives in the Pacific Northwest far back in the woods with her survivalist father, Martin.  He has trained her to shoot a gun with sharpshooter accuracy.  She can use a knife, live for days in the wild and needs no one.  Martin has taught her to distrust everyone, telling her that they only want to take her away from the only life she's known.

Martin has spent her life making her totally dependent on him.  He has abused her physically, emotionally and sexually, telling her that only he loves her and that only he can protect her.  Turtle has no self-esteem, growing up in a world where women and everything about them is belittled.  She is isolated although she does go to school as Martin knows she could be taken away if he doesn't send her.  But she has no friends there and barely tries.  What is important is Martin and pleasing him for she is his darling, his absolute darling. 

Then it happens.  While out in the woods one day, she meets Jacob and his friend.  They were going camping but are lost and have no skills to survive in the wild.  For some reason, Turtle approaches them and helps them make a campsite and stays with them that night.  It opens an entire new world to her, one that she realises Martin will never tolerate but one that she wants.  She continues to see Jacob until Martin finds out and she has to give him up.  Events mount up until she realises that she will have to choose between living her life as Martin's darling or joining the real world.  Can she break away from everything she has been taught?

Turtle is a character like no other I've read about.  She bursts onto the pages and into the reader's mind, never to depart.  This book is getting enormous buzz and it should.  It is easily the best book I've read this year.  The back cover blurbs are from authors such as Celeste Ng, Stephen King and Phil Klay.  This is a debut novel although that is hard to believe.  Tallent mixes stark horror with such poetic language that the reader is transported into Turtle's world.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Richard Mayhew has come to London for a new job.  Although he doesn't know the city or anyone there, he's sure that this is the right step to move his career forward.  Three years later, he has gotten to know London as only someone who lives there can.  His career is moving along nicely and he has acquired a beautiful girlfriend named Jessica.  Jessica is also a bit horrifying as she saw him as 'someone with potential' and is determined to make a success of him.

Going home one day, he comes across a girl bleeding and sitting, exhausted, on the sidewalk.  He stops to help her and before he knows it, he is thrust into an underground labyrinth he had no idea existed.  The girl is named Door and she explains the world they have entered, Neverwhere.  In this land, Door is a noblewoman.  Her family has been murdered and the entire kingdom is in peril from two of the scariest assassins to ever live.  Mayhew decides to help Door as he's a good guy plus it is the only way he can ever return to his own life.  They encounter beasts, villains, and whimsical creatures as they go on their quest to restore Neverwhere to its original state.  Will they be successful?

Neverwhere is the novel that led most readers to first fall in love with Neil Gaiman as an author.  It was a totally original work that mixed the most horrific villains and events with whimsy and a belief that good will eventually triumph.  One thing I've grown to admire in Gaiman is his absolute confidence and belief in his vision of a story.  This novel grew out of a TV series he was writing and working on.  As each scene he loved was cut, he was determined to retain it by putting it in a book and thus, Neverwhere was created. In this anniversary edition, Gaiman's visions are given further form in black and white illustrations by Chris Riddell, an illustrator whose many awards include being named as the Waterstones Children's Laureate.  Gaiman has won many literary awards, including both the Carnegie and Newberry for the same work.   For those who have never read this novel, you are in for an adventure.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Field Of Prey by John Sandford

A happenstance find brings Lucas Davenport to one of his most chilling cases ever.  A teenage couple stumble on a burial plot and by the time Lucas is called in, there are fifteen bodies and counting.  Fifteen women who have been murdered, apparently one or two a year, meaning the predator has been at it for years.  All in a tiny town where everyone knows everyone else.  Someone has been hiding a murderous mind behind a smiling face for years. 

He will have to work with local police without his usual team with him.  All of them are working other cases that have them out of touch or out of the state entirely.  Lucas meets the local sheriff's representative, a tough woman named Matteson.  She works with Lucas to solve the murders.  When one of the state police is killed himself, the entire case rackets up another notch.  Is there anyway to stop this killer?

This is the twenty-four novel in the Lucas Davenport series.  This one was particularly good with a chilling villain and a new character who is believable.  Davenport leans on his co-workers more in this novel, which is more lifelike as a murder case is almost always a job of teamwork.  But Lucas' intuition and flashes of knowledge come through along with his toughness and willingness to do anything to bring the killer to justice.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

In The Cold Dark Ground by Stuart MacBride

Things are even more chaotic than usual in Aberdeen, Scotland and Sergeant Logan McRae is right in the middle, torn between conflicting factions that all want a piece of him.  The overlord of crime is dying and for some reason, he has picked Logan out as his successor and wants to leave him a fortune.  Of course he doesn't care that the police would look unkindly on a policeman who gets money from organized crime.  A businessman has been found murdered in the same fashion as several others and the case brings on the big guns of the force all hoping for glory; McRae's old boss, Roberta Steel, takes over the case and drafts Logan on her team and a Superintendent from the location of the other murders has also worked her way onto the team and seems to instantly dislike him.  Then there is the fact that the nursing home insists that it's time that he release his girlfriend from the five year coma she has been in.

In the midst of negotiating these choppy waters, Logan is called into Professional Standards, where he has spent time on the carpet over the years.  But this time is worse.  They suspect that Steel has used her position to frame a criminal and they want Logan to find out what's going on and testify against her.  Can he really go against the woman he's worked with for years, even if she has been a thorn in his side for all that time? 

This is the tenth Logan McRae novel and fans of the series are always ready to spend time with him.  All Logan wants is peace and quiet but his expertise and flashes of intuition have always made him a star in the service.  Now add in the fact that even organized crime recognizes his skills and you have Logan torn in a thousand directions.  This book is recommended for mystery readers who will wait anxiously for Logan's next appearance. 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory

They were The Amazing Telemachus Family and in the 60's they were poised to make it big.  Teddy, the patriarch and Mo, the mother, met when the government was exploring the use of psychics in the Cold War against Russia.  Mo was the real deal and Teddy was the consummate con man.  They fell in love and married and the kids came along.  Irene was a human lie detector who could sense if someone was lying.  Frankie could move things with his mind while Buddy could tell the future.  But after a televised debacle, the family never made it big.

Decades later, things aren't going so well.  Mo died when the kids were still small, her talent no match for cancer.  Teddy's career as a card shark vanished when he got mixed up with a mob figure who turned on him.  Irene can't keep a job or a relationship as there is falsehood all around and she sees it every time.  Frankie hasn't moved anything with his mind in years and now doubts if he ever really did.  Buddy has never moved out, rarely speaks and spends his days building contraptions in the house and yard.  What happened?

But Teddy never gives up.  He meets Gabriella in the supermarket and falls in love.  The fact that she is married and to the son of the mobster who was his enemy is a minor setback.  Frankie has a scheme to get back the money he lost and pay off the mob he borrowed from.  Irene's son Matty seems to have inherited Mo's talent and is just now realizing he can teleport wherever he wants to go.  When the mob comes after the family for all their annoyances, can they pull together one last time to save the family?

Daryl Gregory has written an engaging tale that stretches across the decades and has the reader cheering for them to finally break out and make a difference.  The characters are convincing and the slow reveal of their love and ability to pull together makes for a charming read.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.