Saturday, April 29, 2017

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Shadow sits in prison waiting on the day he can go back home to his wife and his life.  His time is about up but he is released early when his wife and his best friend are killed in a car accident.  Broken and disbelieving, he returns home only to find out that they have betrayed him and had been having an affair.  With the only thing that sustained him gone, Shadow hits the road, adrift and wounded.

He isn't sure where he will go but soon he meets a man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday.  Mr. Wednesday is a con man, a rogue, and he seems to know much more about Shadow and his life that anyone should.  He offers Shadow a job as his helper, chauffeur, bodyguard, whatever he needs someone to do.  Shadow sees no reason not to accept  and the two men hit the road.

They go on a massive road trip, visiting all Mr. Wednesday's friends.  As the trip progresses, it becomes apparent that Mr. Wednesday and his friends aren't normal people.  In fact, they aren't people at all, but the old gods from every culture.  Mr. Wednesday is their leader and he is rounding them up to battle.  A war is brewing with the new gods of technology and government intervention, a war for the soul of America.

Neil Gaiman wrote American Gods ten years ago and it became an instant classic.  It won the Hugo and Nebula awards that year and catapulted Gaiman into the stratosphere of the science fiction/fantasy genre.  It is about to be released as a series on Starz and expected to be a huge hit.  It is the kind of book that once one is finished, one wonders why they hadn't already read it.  The themes of mythology, good against evil and what is wrong with modern culture strike a note that creates a receptive audience.  It is, simply, a masterpiece of fantasy and is recommended not only for fantasy/science fiction readers but for every reader.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Gone Without A Trace by Mary Torjussen

Hannah Monroe is riding high.  She has just been to a very successful conference at which her supervisors have made it clear to her that she is on the road to promotions and further success at her company.  She can't wait to get home and share the news with her boyfriend, Matt.  She is so excited she stops to get some champagne to celebrate but when she pulls into her driveway, the house is dark.  Disappointed that she has beaten Matt home, she opens the door and all normalcy goes out as she goes in.

Inside, something is wrong.  The first thing she notices is that the big pictures that hung in the entryway are missing.  As she goes further in, she sees that the big-screen tv which was Matt's pride and joy is missing as well, although oddly, the old tv it replaced is back there.  As she looks around, she sees other things missing and she starts to realise that only Matt's things are gone.  Unable to understand at first, she looks further and further and finally the truth sinks in.  Matt is gone.  He has left her without a word of explanation.  Frantically, she looks through her phone only to see that all her pictures of Matt and her messages to him are gone.  The same is true on her computer.  No pictures, no emails.  He has wiped himself from her life.

Hannah's world falls apart.  She tells her best friend, Katie, but Katie is absorbed in her own life with her own boyfriend and career.   Hannah doesn't tell her family at first as her parents have a troubled marriage and she tries to avoid saying anything personal around them.  She tries to find Matt.  As she does so, the realization that this was a fully planned operation becomes apparent.  He has quit his job.  Even his mother has moved away with no forwarding address.

Soon Hannah's days become chaotic as she determines to find Matt, no matter what.  She is sure that if she can only talk to him, she can figure out how to get him back.  Her work begins to suffer as she spends her days worried less about her accounts and more about chasing down any clue she has.  Her health and appearance suffer as she skips most meals and drinks herself to sleep on the nights she even does sleep.  Soon her whole life is in jeopardy.  Will she give up the search or find a way to rescue Matt from wherever he has disappeared to?

Mary Torjussen has written a suspense novel that will ring true to Type A personalities and to those who have gone through the heartbreak of someone loved who decides unexpectedly to break things off.  There is the realization, the slow acceptance that nothing will ever be the same again.  For most people that is followed by a rebuilding of one's life, but for Hannah and those like her, it becomes an obsession that they can't let go.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Booksie's Shelves, April 26, 2017

It's almost the end of April.  My college freshman will be home this weekend for the summer, one year of college already completed.  We have a busy summer planned and I'm sure it will fly by the same way.  I

I've also been caught up in the throes of prescription hell.  My insurance company contracted with a new company this year to handle prescriptions.  It's called CVS Caremark and apparently their modus operendi is to deny drugs whenever they can.  Like many people, I have dry eyes and mine are severe.  I depend on Restatsis and expensive compounded eyedrops to be able to function.  Last week I was able to run out so called in a refill (I still had five refills).  The pharmacy told me the insurance wouldn't approve the payment without a doctor reauthorization.  No problem.  I called the doctor's office to be sure they were on top of the situation and they had already sent in the paperwork.  A few days go by and nothing.  They sent it again.  Nothing.  Caremark insists they have received nothing.  I get to a resolution specialist and they call the doctor.  The doctor sends everything a third time and tries to call in person but had to give up after being on hold for thirty minutes.  So today I'll be back on the phone but I'm going to start calling state agencies and seeing what can be done.  Try to avoid Caremark in your life if possible.

It's also rained for three days which makes for good reading weather.  Here's what's come through the doors:

1. Official And Doubtful, Ajay Close, literary fiction, purchased
2.  'Round Midnight, Laura McBride, literary fiction, won online
3.  Tornado Weather, Deborah E. Kennedy, suspense, won online
4.  Woman No. 17, Edan Lepucki, suspense, sent for book tour
5.  Rich People Problems, Kevin Kwan, literary fiction, won online
6.  Crossing The Street, Molly D. Campbell, literary fiction, sent by publisher
7.  The Improbability Of Love, Hannah Rothschild, literary fiction, purchased
8.  The Sinking Of The Angie Piper, Chris Riley, literary fiction, sent by author
9.  The Fallen, Eric Van Lustbader, thriller, sent by publisher
10.  Marlena, Julie Buntin, literary fiction, sent by publisher
11.  Bernie And The Wizards, Steve LeBel, fantasy, sent by author
12.  The Resurrection Of Joan Ashby, Cherise Wolas, literary fiction, won online
13.  Grief Cottage, Gail Godwin, literary fiction, sent by publisher
14.  The Beach House Cookbook, Mary Kay Andrews, nonfiction, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  American Gods, Neil Gaiman, paperback
2.  Dissident Gardens, Jonathan Lethem, Kindle
Mr. Splitfoot, Samantha Hunt,  Kindle Fire

4. The Lesser Bohemians, Eimear McBride, paperback
5.  Perfect Prey, Laura Salters, Kindle Fire
6.  Gone Without A Trace, Mary Torjussen, Kindle Fire
7.  The Buried Book, D.M. Pulley, audio
8.  Under Cover Of The Night, Diane Fanning, paperback
9.  Bitter Lemons, Lawrence Durrell, paperback
10.  Wolf Hall, Hillary Mantel, hardback

11.  Smoke, Dan Vyleta,  Kindle Fire

Happy Reading

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Secrets Of Death by Stephen Booth

The Peak District in rural England is recognized as one of the most beautiful places on Earth to contemplate nature.  That means that summer is tourist season there, with all the hassles that come with an enormous influx of people in a place that is fairly quiet the rest of the year.  It's always a busy time for the Derbyshire Police Department and DI Ben Cooper and his team.  But this year something is new and it isn't natural at all.

There has been been a significant uptick in suicides with the individuals going to tourist areas for their last moments.  There doesn't seem to be anything connecting the individuals.  They don't seem to have known each other.   The methods used differ, an asphyxiation by gas, a jump, slit wrists, gunshot and an overdose but the proximity of their deaths means that they get noticed and considered as a group.  Most are men with one woman so even gender is not a connecting factor.  Yet Cooper and his team and more importantly, his superiors, feel that the deaths are connected somehow.  There is major concern that the trend, if not stopped, will impact the region's tourist trade and thus its entire economic reality.

Meanwhile, in the nearest large city Nottingham, Cooper's former partner, Diane Fry, has issues of her own.  She left Derbyshire, desperate to get to the city and more bustle and less personal contact.  While Ben has made DI, Diane's abrasive personality and impulsive disregard for police protocols has kept her at the sergeant level.  She is involved in a long-term investigation of a man suspected of a series of murders of young women.  When he becomes one of the suicide cases Ben's team is investigating, the two investigations merge and the former partners are thrown back together.  The tensions that drove them apart still exist, although each respects the instincts that make a good investigator.

This is the sixteenth novel in the Cooper and Fry series.  The tension comes from the relationship between the two individuals and the difference in their investigating styles.  There is much in their relationship and lives that is referenced in this novel, but it also reads well as a stand-alone for those who are new to the series.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams

When Arthur Dent is whisked off the planet mere seconds before it is destroyed forever, he couldn't help but think this was the strangest thing that would ever happen to him.  Little did he know, it was just the beginning of a journey that would constantly amaze him and turn every concept of life he thought he was sure of upside down.  He is accompanied by his friend, Ford Perfect, an out-of-work actor.  Or at least Arthur always knew Ford as such.  It turns out he has been on Earth for fifteen years as a researcher for the publication A Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, and isn't even human as we know humans.

Soon Arthur meets other inhabitants of the new, strange world he has been thrust into.  There is the two-headed rapscallion Zaphod Beeblebrox, who by the way, happens to be president of the galaxy.  His girlfriend, Trillian, turns out to be a girl Arthur had met at a party and hoped to pick up before Zaphod had shown up and whisked her away.  There is the ancient man who builds worlds and is especially fond of his fjords.  Then there is Marvin, an advanced robot who is cognizant enough to be constantly depressed and glum.  Together they set out to find the answers to those questions men are apt to spend hours debating, Why are we here?  What is the point of existence?  Why, why, why?

This is one of iconic books of science fiction.  Adams created an entire industry when the characters in this universe occurred to him and he wove them into a novel.  It is light and funny while also tackling the eternal questions philosophers have been debating since the dawn of time.  The characters are endearing and readers will recognize lines that have endured and made their way into everyday conversation.  This book is recommended for readers of science fiction.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Pitch Black by Alex Grey

Returning from vacation, Chief Inspector Lorimer walks right back into a murder investigation.  The new midfielder on the local football club, brought in to facilitate the club's return to the Premier League, is found stabbed to death in his home.  His wife is arrested and most people feel that's that.  A sad story but nothing more.  Lorimer is not so sure after meeting the woman but all the evidence is there so he puts his misgivings aside.

Then the newest addition to the club, a flashy player whose penchant for off-pitch shenanigans make him a press favorite, is also murdered.  Is this just bad luck for Kelvin Football Club?  When a referee is gunned down in his driveway after a game with unpopular calls, the press goes wild with speculation about a serial killer with a fixation on the Kelvin club.  As Lorimer investigates, he uncovers an organization in the midst of chaos, with an owner who is unlikeable and perhaps criminal and players who are now worried about doing the thing they love most, playing football.

Grey's Chief Inspector Lorimer is an interesting protagonist.  He and his wife Maggie have a strong marriage and he understands how she is his refuge and anchor.  He spends time not only solving the crimes he is assigned, but helping the men under him progress in their own careers.  He works with a supervisor that he despises and one who got the promotion everyone expected to be his.  All in all, he is a full-featured man rather than a cardboard cutout as the police in mysteries are often portrayed.  The mystery is satisfactory and the reader finishes the book ready to seek out another in the series.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Beauty Of The End by Debbie Howells

Noah is alone when he gets the call.  That's not surprising; Noah is usually alone.  He gave up his career as a lawyer and now lives in a remote cottage where he writes books about the criminal mind.  He doesn't have friends where he lives and really has no interest in anyone from his former days.

The call is from Will, his best friend growing up.  They fell out years ago over a woman and Noah hasn't talked with him since.   They both loved April, the mysterious girl who came to their school when they were all teenagers and who Noah never gave up on.  He found her again after she left the village where they all grew up  April and Noah were to be married but she left him right before the wedding.  The next time he heard from her, she was engaged to Will.

Now Will is a famous doctor and he is calling from the hospital.  April has just been brought in.  She is in a coma after an overdose and worse, she is a suspect in a murder.  The victim is her stepfather, the man who abused her growing up.  Noah knows he has to go and see what he can do to help.  Was April the person the police believed her to be or a victim who had spent her life running from her past?  As he delves into April's recent life, he starts to discover things he never knew.  Can Noah discover the truth about what happened?

Debbie Howells has written a brooding mystery that slowly reveals the truth about the three adults who started their journey together as teenagers.  Noah peels back layer upon layer of deceit and he realises that he never knew April at all.  The reader is encouraged to examine their own life and relationships and attempt to see if new eyes can explain things in the past that never made sense.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Booksie's Shelves, April 7, 2017

April is here and spring is in full flower.  I love seeing all the dogwoods and azaelas blooming and the skies turning bright and Carolina Blue.  Speaking of Carolina, we just won the national championship and of course, I've watched and cheered on the team all the way.  This year was particularly interesting as the Gamecocks (from USC where my daughter is attending) made it to the Final Four as well as the Tarheels (where my son went).  I was glad not to have the two face off for the championship.  This is also a birthday month in our house with both my daughter and me having our days this month.  That means lots of lots of books coming in, as both of our favorite gifts are books.  All in all, it's been a great month.  Here's what's come through the door lately:

1.  Age Of Myth, Michael J. Sullivan, fantasy, purchased
2.  The Futures, Anna Pitoniak, literary fiction, sent by publisher
3.  Secrets Of Death, Stephen Booth, mystery, sent for book tour
4.  The Breakdown, B.A. Paris, suspense, won online
5.  The Day I Died, Lori Rader-Day, mystery, sent by publisher
6.  American Gods, Neil Gaiman, fantasy, sent by publisher
7.  Marion Hatley, Beth Castrodale, literary fiction, sent by author
8.  Girl At War, Sara Novic, literary fiction, purchased
9.  Reserved For The Cat, Mercedes Lackey, fantasy, purchased
10.  The Mare, Mary Gaitskill, literary fiction, purchased
11.  Shadow Man, Alan Drew, mystery, sent by publisher
12.  The Librarians And The Mother Goose Chase, Greg Cox, fantasy, sent by publisher
13.  No One But You, Brenda Novak, romance, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  Pitch Black, Alex Gray, Kindle Fire

2.  Dissident Gardens, Jonathan Lethem, Kindle
Mr. Splitfoot, Samantha Hunt,  Kindle Fire

4. The Lesser Bohemians, Eimear McBride, paperback
5.  Perfect Prey, Laura Salters, Kindle Fire
6.  Wolf In White Van, John Darnielle, paperback
7.  The Buried Book, D.M. Pulley, audio
8.  Under Cover Of The Night, Diane Fanning, paperback
9.  Bitter Lemons, Lawrence Durrell, paperback
10.  Wolf Hall, Hillary Mantel, hardback

11.  Smoke, Dan Vyleta,  Kindle Fire

Happy Reading

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Barkskins by Annie Proulx

In 1693 two Frenchmen, faced with lives of poverty and hopelessness in France, come to the new territory of America as indentured servants.  Their names are Rene Sel and Charles Duquet and their destinies and that of their descendants will be linked for centuries.  They are put to work as 'barkskins' or loggers.  The forest is omnipresent and the forces of civilization want the land for farming.  The work is brutal and their master is a cruel one.  They soon regret their choice.  Sel stays and over time is released and marries a Mi'kmaw woman.  Duquet runs away and becomes a fur trapper.  After some success, he decides that that trade has limited opportunities and he becomes a timber salesman.

Duquet is an instinctive businessman and his company thrives.  He goes overseas, on the long trip to China several times to trade timber for their goods and to Europe.  While in Europe, he seeks out others in the timber trade and after consideration, marries into a wealthy Dutch timber family.  He changes his name to Duke and over the years the Duke Timber company becomes successful and its founding family immensely wealthy.  They move operations from the East Coast to Chicago but constantly seek out new timber resources, in the Pacific Northwest, in New Zealand and South America.

Sel's descendants do not do as well.  Shunned by both cultures, they live in a shadowy space between.  The Indian culture is dying out as their land is appropriated by the colonists and the forests on which they depend are harvested.  Forests are considered to be resources that can't disappear but over the years that proves to be untrue.  The forests are tamed and disappear.  Most of the wood isn't even used as settlers just burn off massive acreage to start their farms.  Once cut, the forests cannot be quickly rejuvenated, even when the timber industry starts to see their folly.  The work is challenging and dangerous and those who call themselves barkskins often lead short, brutal lives.

Annie Proulx is a master author.  She has won the Pultizer Prize for Fiction.  Barkskins has been chosen as a Bailey's Prize for Women's Literature longlist, a New York Times Notable Book and a finalist for the Kirkus Prize for Best Novel.  Her multigenerational story of the Duke and Sel families and how the two interact over the years catches the reader's interest while educating about the depletion of our timber and the many uses timber can provide besides their use in construction.  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Duplicity by Jane Haseldine

Julia Gooden is a journalist on the newspaper in Detroit.  She is also a wife and mother to two sons.  Her life is a balancing act like that of most working moms but hers is perhaps a bit more challenging.  Her husband, David, is an assistant D. A. and the line between being partners and that of maintaining a professional distance is a fine one.  Add on the fact that Julia and David are recently back together after a separation and it's easy to see that her marriage is a potential source of discord as they try to define borders while rebuilding trust.

David is in one of the biggest cases of his career.  He is prosecuting Nick Rossi, a local gangster who controls much of the drug traffic along with other criminal enterprises.  It is a high profile case and one that is potentially dangerous for David and the whole family as retaliation against law enforcement is not out of the question for the Rossi crime syndicate.  Julia is covering the case for her newspaper, an assignment she had to fight for due to the inherent potential for accusations of favoritism.

As she goes to the court one day, Julia is distracted.  Her elder son, six, is on his way there on a school field trip, and she is trying to coordinate covering the trial with meeting his class during the lunch break to help shepherd them through the courthouse.  The court is tense that day as David reveals in the trial that he has a new witness, one of Rossi's former associates who will blow the case wide open.  Julia is in the foyer waiting on her son's bus when a bomb goes off in an apparent attempt to assassinate the witness.  Her son hasn't yet arrived but David is not that lucky.  He is caught in the blast along with the judge and both are rushed to the hospital along with the other victims.

Julia is determined to find out who planted the bomb and to find the evidence that will put Rossi away for good.   As she delves into his empire, she starts to discover that nothing she thought she knew was right and that the very foundation of her own life is unstable.  She works in partnership with two local policemen she has known for years and their efforts take them further and further into the mysteries that underlie Nick Rossi's life.

Jane Haseldine's second Julia Gooden mystery is a fast-paced and interesting read.  Julia is impetuous and haunted by a childhood that she is determined to put in the past.  Her balancing act between being a mother, wife and professional will ring true to many women.  Her struggle to find a way to trust others after her past is compelling.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.