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.