Monday, July 30, 2018

Indie Fantasy Readers

A new group has started on Facebook for those readers who love indie fantasy.  They are having a summer reading challenge to spotlight the novels and build membership.  Booksie rushed to join as soon as I heard as I love fantasy and always love to support the authors who bring us so many hours of joy.  There are great prizes and swag for the winners.  Winners are chosen from several tiers so if you read at a different rate or have a busy summer planned, you will still have a chance to win.  The link for the group is:

Good luck and good reading!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Grist Mill Road by Christopher Yates

Early adolescence is a strange time.  Boys are starting to be interested in girls.  Some have shot up while others still appear to be children.  Girls are starting to grow into their beauty and flexing their attraction muscles.  All are unsure of themselves, how they fit into the world and how to make their way forward.  This was the case with the three main characters in Christopher Yate's novel, Grist Mill Road

Patrick is the kid everyone knows; his father a popular figure around town who is going places.  He is still small and unsure where he fits in.  Hannah is the girl everyone wants to be.  She is acknowledged as the prettiest girl in the class but there is still an innocence there as she starts to want to explore love.  Her family is the richest in town.  Matthew is the class bad boy.  A year older than the rest and much bigger, his father is the town drunk who beats up his family to keep them in some imaginary line.  He and Patrick become friends when Matthew moves from New York City to tiny Grist Mill Road.  A year later, he and Hannah notice each other and sparks start to fly.  The three decide to hang out one afternoon.  At the end of it, a senseless crime has occurred that will mark the three for life and send them all in different directions.

Christopher Yates's first novel, Black Chalk, hit the mystery genre like a bomb.  This novel has the same ingredients; an intricate plot that twists and turns into areas the reader doesn't anticipate; compelling characters that work their way into the reader's brain, and a mystery that shocks as it is revealed.  This novel is also unlike the first which is the bane of second novels and can easily stand on its own, not depend on the first novel.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Blood Road by Stuart MacBride

Things should be looking up for Logan McRae.  Not only has he been promoted to Inspector at long last, but he actually has staff rather than being the low man on the totem pole.  He has a new girlfriend and his house renovations are coming along nicely.  Of course, he's now working in Professional Standards which is the equivalent of being a vampire in the police force but you can't have everything.

But McRae should know that good news doesn't last.  He is pulled back into the regular force when the body of DI Bell is discovered.  Everyone is shocked as they thought they buried him two years before.  Then another police body is discovered, this one a woman who was investigating the Bell case.  McRae is involved from the Standards side and when the rest of the force is short-staff due to a spate of recent child abductions, he must investigate the murders.  His pleas for additional help brings him the assignment of none other that his prior nemesis, Roberta Steele, now demoted back to the ranks and who must now work for Logan instead of bossing him around. 

Logan McRae is one of the most interesting detectives in a current series.  MacBride's patent humor in the face of horrific cases and his ability to portray the Scottish police as multi-dimensional characters is what makes this series such a delight with committed fans who wait eagerly for each novel in the series.  This one is the eleventh and fans will turn the last page already ready for the twelfth.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Murder On The Med by Peter Mayle

It should be a good month for billionaire Francis Pierre.  Of course, most months are good when you're a billionaire and have a gorgeous villa in Marseilles, France.  But Pierre's good friends, Sam Levitt and his fiance, Elena, are coming to visit for a few weeks and he is excited to see his friends.  Pierre plans outings and lots of sumptuous meals to share with them.  But there is a fly in the ointment.

A Russian tycoon, Oleg Nikita, lives on his yacht, sailing around the world and partaking of life's pleasures.  He is used to getting what he wants and unfortunately, he sees Pierre's villa and decides that is what he wants.  Nikita makes an offer for Pierre's home but Pierre isn't interested in selling, His interest now piqued even more, Nikita increases his offer but Pierre stands firm.

Nikita isn't used to the word no.  His past relationships are characterized by him emerging with what he wants and often the other person is left with nothing, sometimes not even his life.  Nikita has no problem with doing whatever it takes to win in every situation.  He decides he will have the villa no matter what and starts to plan Pierre's demise.  Sam, who is a veteran of tricky situations like this, takes matters into hand and starts to plan an intricate intrigue that will stop Nikita.  Will his plan work out to save Pierre and his villa?

Peter Mayle is known for his writing about his life in France and the lifestyles of the rich and famous.  His book, My Year In Provence, was a huge bestseller, staying on the bestseller lists for over three years.  His other novels also highlight the food and culture of his adopted homeland.  He wrote four Sam Levitt novels and readers will delight in a novel that is entertaining and informative.  This book is recommended for readers of thrillers and those interested in the area.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Once Upon A River by Bonnie Jo Campbell

Margo Crane is not suited for this world.  Sixteen and blessed or cursed with unearthly beauty, she lives with her father on the Stark River which feeds into the Kalamazoo.  She doesn't like the things of modern life.  What she likes is what her grandfather has taught her; the river life, fishing and hunting, making do with what you have and working for what you want.  Margo's mother couldn't take the poverty and the boredom and headed out a few years back.  There's rumors she isn't that far away but no one seems to know.  Margo doesn't speak much but loves all her family and is a crack shot, in fact a sharpshooter.

But tragedy follows her.  Men can't seem to leave her alone due to her beauty.  When a family disagreement over her blows up into a fight that leaves her father dead, Margo isn't sure what to do.  She can't live with her aunt and uncle who have been her second family because that's where the fight occurred and there is bad blood and she doesn't feel safe.

So Margo takes off in her grandfather's old boat which he left her when he died.  She drifts down and into the life of Brian who has been fascinated with her since he came to buy a deer from her father.  She is happy enough there but when Brian is sent to prison, she is once again adrift.  She ends up at Michael's, a man from elsewhere who lives on the river but isn't a riverman.  She makes attempts to find her mother but a letter sent to her when she hears where she might be only says it is not a good time to visit.  When another tragedy occurs, she leaves Michael's house and is on her own again, drifting and making her way.

There are other men, always entranced by Margo's beauty and not content until they possess her.  Margo takes what she can from each man, learning more about how to survive on her own and how to only give what she is ready to give.

Bonnie Jo Campbell is a writer who draws the reader in immediately.  Her novels have won praise including a National Book Finalist nomination for American Salvage.  She was made a Guggenheim Fellow in 2011 and teaches in the MFA program at Pacific University.   She lives with her husband in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  Her ability to write about those forgotten by society and those determined to live their lives outside the mainstream experience is the key to her success.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

When journalist Fiona Sheridan hears that the deserted Idlewild Hall is being renovated and will be reopened, she is appalled.  Everyone in town has always avoided the place and it has been closed since the 1950's.  Fiona has a personal reason for avoiding it.  Her only sister had been found murdered on its grounds twenty years ago, the death that tore apart her family and that has kept her from moving on in her personal life.

Back in the fifties, four roommates bonded together to survive Idlewild Hall.  Known as a boarding school for problem girls, there was little about learning that defined the place.  It was all about rules and punishments.  Of the four, Katie Winthrop was the clear leader.  She had been sent there after an incident with a boy left her bruised and bloody, her parents blaming her.  Cece was the illegitimate daughter of a rich man whose maid mother tried to drown her in shame.  Sylvia was a French refugee from World War II and the horrors that visited France.  Roberta was the closest to normal, a girl with good grades and athletic talent.  But she had viewed up close and personal the effects of PTSD on her favorite uncle and it had broken her.  Together they managed to survive and even thrive in a place where everyone believed the ghost of an unhappy girl stalked the halls.

Fiona is determined to use this renovation to finally find the truth about what happened the night her sister died and was left there.  She does this over the objections of her boyfriend, Jaime, a local police officer, son of the former chief.  The first day she visits the place with the son of the new owner, workmen find a body down in an abandoned well.  It appears to have been there for fifty years or more.  How does this body tie in with the school and with Fiona's sister?  Can she find the answers before the evil manages to find her?

Simone St. James writes in the paranormal realm with novels that are both gothic and mystery.  Her work has won awards such as the RITA Award from the romance genre and the Arthur Ellis Award from Canadian mystery writers.  Her forte is the deft characterizations she creates; strong women who manage to thrive in horrendous situations.  In this novel, the transition between the 1950's, the 1990's and present day are handled efficiently.  This book is recommended for readers of paranormal mysteries. 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Two Kinds Of Truth by Michael Connelly

Harry Bosch is retired from the Los Angeles Police Department but not from police work.  Unable to retire happily, he is now working part-time at the San Fernando Police Department, lending his expertise to their understaffed department.  While at work one day, he gets a visit from his past.  One of his old partners is now working cold cases.  The LAPD has created a Verdict Integrity division and one of Bosch's enemies is heading it up.  He has chosen to revisit the case of a man Bosch put on Death Row twenty years ago. 

The Integrity Team's evidence looks strong.  The main piece of evidence against the man is a necklace the victim always wore which Harry found hidden in the man's apartment.  The killer insists that Bosch planted the evidence.  Even worse, new forensic testing shows another man's semen on the victim's clothes.  The man has been granted a hearing on whether he should get another trial and the story is a front-page newspaper story.  If the killer prevails, Harry's entire career will be tainted and every case he worked will come into question.

In the meantime, his part-time job has heated up as well.  A pharmacist and his son are gunned down in their shop and it looks like an assassination.  Who would want to kill them?  Harry and his new team soon uncover a plot that makes the usual murder seem friendly and Harry goes undercover to solve the case.  Another ex-partner, Jerry Edgar, is involved in this one as well.

This is the twentieth novel in the Harry Bosch series.  Harry is not a necessarily friendly man but he is truthful and loyal to those he trusts.  He may bend the rules a bit but is determined to find the truth and put those who break the law away.  One of the most interesting things about this novel is the interplay with his ex-partners and the fact that the strong relationships Harry has built over time are what allows him to be successful.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Babes In The Wood by Ruth Rendell

It was a parent's worst nightmare.  The Dales were very protective parents, rarely going anywhere without the children.  Giles Dale was sixteen and his sister, Sophie was thirteen.  But when the parents had a chance at a weekend away in France, they took their chance.  One of the children's former teachers had agreed to come and stay with them so everything seemed fine.  But when the parents returned, the children and the woman staying with them had all disappeared.  What could have happened?

Chief Inspector Wexford had a job on his hands.  To complicate matters,  it had been raining for days and everything was flooded.  Roads were cut off and the police were busy helping people evacuate.  Everyone's first thought was that the trio had drowned, but Wexford had trouble believing it.  Even flooded, the waters were about four feet deep in the deepest flood areas and both the children could swim.  In fact, all three could have waded to safety.  But the search assumed the worst and valuable resources were diverted to search for the children and their babysitter along with her car.  Nothing was found.

Days went by and then weeks.  No sign of the three was found.  Finally, after weeks of frustration, the car was found miles away in a remote country estate which was deserted most of the year.  There was a body within.  It was Joanna Troy, the teacher who was staying with the children.  There was no sign of the children at all.

As the weeks and then months went by, Wexford and his team continued to search for the children and investigate what happened to Joanna.  Secrets started to emerge and relationships that had seemed solid now showed their cracks.  Would they ever find the truth?

This is the nineteenth Chief Wexford novel in the series.  He is an interesting character, a more cerebral man who has a skeptical outlook on life and who rarely believes that what is shown at first glance is all that it seems.  Ruth Rendell is, of course, acknowledged as one of the masters of the mystery genre and this novel does not disappoint.  The gradual unwinding of the mystery and the glimpses into the lives of the police involved are intriguing and the mystery's solution is one most will never see coming.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Golden Bats And Pink Pigeons by Gerald Durrell

PBS viewers have been introduced to the Durrell family by the series on their time in Corfu.  Gerald was the youngest child and his distinguishing characteristic was his love of animals, a love that was indulged by his mother in a way few children experience.  This was a love that formed his life and work. 

Golden Bats And Pink Pigeons is about Durrell's time on the island of Mauritius in the 1970's.  It was the home of the dodo, the most famous example of extinction, and still at that time was home to many animals, reptiles and birds found nowhere else on earth.  Durrell's focus as an adult was not just on exploring and finding such animals, but on his work as a biologist who ran a refuge in Jersey where endangered animals could be brought to breed in captivity until their numbers were such that they could be reintroduced to their native habitat.  This work is ongoing after Durrell's death.

In this work, there are chapters devoted to the various animals he and his crew captured to rescue in their four months in the area.  There is a chapter about the pink pigeons, one about various lizards and skinks they captured and another about bats.  There is a luminous chapter about the coral reefs surrounding the island and all the never-before seen fish and other inhabitants of it.  There is a chapter about the capture of boas.  All of this work occurred in uncomfortable if not dangerous environments and Durrell's time there left him weakened and ill.

Readers will be enthralled with his adventures and his humorous method of making light of misfortunes and hard work.  Durrell's delight in everything he saw and his passionate determination to rescue species on the verge of extinction shines through on every page.  This book is recommended for readers of nonfiction who enjoy travel books and those interested in the environment.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin

Rice Moore has found the perfect job for someone in his situation.  He is the caretaker on a remote setting in the Appalachian mountains; land owned by a Foundation that wants to preserve the pristine forest as it has always been.  Rice has a biology background and in addition to building a cabin, he spends his days making observations on the land, cataloging the plants and animals he encounters.  It's a far cry from the Mexican prison he spent time in after having drugs planted in his backpack.  That experience left him with scars and some dangerous enemies that would love to put an end to him. 

But things are never perfect.  Rice discovers that poachers are killing the preserve's black bears.  The paws and gallbladders are valuable commodities on the black market.  He decides that he will take on the task of stopping the poachers.  In the process he bumps up against local inhabitants who don't trust him as an outsider, a motorcycle gang and DEA agents that still believe he is a criminal.  He also meets the woman who had the job before him and hopes that perhaps a relationship might start there.  But danger surrounds him everywhere as his Mexican enemies get word of where he is adding to his local enemies.  Can Rice rebuild his life in the midst of chaos?

This is a debut novel for McLaughlin.  He grew up himself in the land he writes so beautifully about and holds both a law and MFA degree from the University of Virginia.  His characters are drawn well and the plotting is tight but above all, his love for the land and animals shines clear.  This book is being recommended as one of the best thrillers of the summer and it seems clear that McLaughlin has made an impressive start on his career.  This book is recommended for thriller readers.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Obsession by Jonathan Kellerman

Dr. Alex Delaware is surprised to hear from Tanya Bigelow.  Years ago, he successfully treated her as a little girl with OCD tendencies.  Now Tanya is nineteen and her problems are as grown up as she is.  Her aunt, Patty Bigelow, has recently died.  Patty was an ER nurse, very good at her job and very organized.  She stepped up and raised Tanya when her mother dropped her off as a two year old so she is the only mother Tanya remembers.  Before Patty died, she made a startling confession.  She started telling Tanya she had killed someone but died before she could give any details.  Was this the truth or was it the pain-filled fantasy of someone in the last minutes of life?

Delaware wants to help Tanya although he finds it hard to believe someone like Patty could have ever killed anyone.  He enlists the aid of his friend, Detective Milo Sturgis, and between the two of them they start to piece together Patty's life all those years ago.  Adding veracity to Patty's confession is the fact that one of the first people they talk to turns up dead days later.  They come to realize that Patty was telling the truth and that someone evil is stalking Tanya.  Can they find him before he finds Tanya?

This is the twenty-first novel in the Alex Delaware series.  It's one of my favorites as there is lots of action but little gore or violence for the sake of violence.  There is always a mystery and it is entertaining to watch as it unfolds.  The friendship between Alex and Milo is interesting and the ability for them to solve crimes with their mixture of orthodox police investigation and Alex's psychological insights is intriguing.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Shadow Tracer by Meg Gardiner

The day has come, as Sarah Keller knew it would.  For the past five years, she and her daughter Zoe have lived quietly in Oklahoma, far from her California home.  She fled there with Zoe when her sister, who is Zoe's real mother, was murdered by a religious cult.  When Zoe is in a bus accident and taken to the hospital, a fact that Sarah never knew is revealed.  She was given a microchip when she was a little baby and it reveals that Zoe's parents are not Sarah, which opens up a can of worms.

The police and social services are hesitant to turn Zoe back over to Sarah.  There is talk of putting her in the foster system until it can be determined whether or not Sarah is her legal guardian or a kidnapper.  Worse, the FBI are soon involved as they see Zoe and Sarah as their best bet to infiltrate and destroy the cult, which deals drugs for money to fuel their cult.  The cult also soon finds out what has occurred which sets their assassins on Sarah and Zoe's trail.

Sarah knows she must hit the road again.  Five years ago, she was helped by a US Marshal who sent her into hiding.  Now she reaches out for his help again.  Michael Lawless helped Sarah then without telling his superiors.  Will he risk his career to do so again?

Meg Gardiner has written a tense, jet-propelled thriller that will have the reader anxiously flipping pages to see what happens next.  Sarah is a real character, one that readers can imagine themselves being.  She is helped along the way by a woman who runs a skip-tracing operation, a nun who knows her way around guns and by Michael.  The villains are some of the scariest this reader has encountered and the maniacal determination of the FBI agent who is determined to bring Zoe in regardless of the cost in human life is implacable.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

First Person by Richard Flanagan

Things aren't going well for Tasmanian author Kif Kehlmann.  Married with a small child, he and his wife have just discovered that twins are on the way.  That is problematic when all the work Kif gets is part time and the mortgage is already difficult to meet.  Now Suzy can't work at all and things are getting tighter and tighter.  Kif is sure he is an author but in reality his first novel is still in the works.

As things get more desperate, Kif is contacted by his old buddy Ray.  Ray lives on the edge of society and it's never really wise to ask him exactly what he's doing these days for a living.  But this time Ray has an offer for Kif.  Ray has been working for Siegfried Heidl and Heidl is looking for a ghostwriter for his memoir.  Ray has suggested Kif.

Siegfried is Australia's disreputable con man, its Bernard Madoff.  He has skimmed approximately seven hundred million from the banks and is about to go to trial.  His life story has never been told and little is known about him.  When the publisher agrees to Kif as the ghostwriter, he packs up and takes off for what he thinks is his big break.

But it's not that easy.  Heidl can't bring himself to tell the truth, no matter the reason or the importance.  With a deadline looming, he refuses to answer any questions, even simple ones like where he was born or how his childhood was.  He spends his days talking on the phone and reading the newspapers, leaving Kif more and more confused and frustrated.  The publisher is pushing harder and harder and Kif starts to string together a few tidbits Heidl has let drop, padding the facts with more and more falsehood.  As the deadline fast approaches, Heidl gets further into Kif's soul and finally commits an act that will scar Kif forever.

This is Flanagan's newest novel.  It starts slow and the reader becomes as frustrated as Kif.  The final fourth of the novel flies and the reader is aghast at what occurs and how it plays out across the years.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.