Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Invisible by James Patterson/David Ellis

Emmy Dockery knows she is right, although no one seems to believe her.  She is currently on leave from her job as a research analyst with the FBI.  It's compassionate leave as her sister was killed in a fire and Emmy is grieving her.  There is also the small matter of her boss trying to push her out after she refused his advances and the leave is all about that also. 

Emmy knows what no one else does; her sister's murder was no accident.  She uses her time off to research other arsons that started the same way and soon finds a horrific pattern.  There have been multiple cases over the past few years of fires that didn't fit the normal arson patterns but do fit each other in their particulars.  The victims all had a fire with the bedroom as the point of origin with an overturned candle the source.  All of the victims were lying in their beds. 

Emmy can't convince anyone at work so she decides to go about it another way.  She contacts her ex-fiance, Bookman, who is retired from his work as a highly regarded field agent.  Books left the FBI after Emmy cancelled their wedding and they haven't been in contact.  But she manages to convince him that she is right and he manages to convince the Director that there is something worth investigating and that he should head up a task force, one that has Emmy front and center.  Although they have discovered the pattern of the arsons, can they discover the man behind them before he kills again?

This novel is a fast-paced thriller that will keep the reader turning the pages.  I haven't read a Patterson novel in several years after he started collaborating with other authors and writing novels with short chapters.  But this novel reminded me of why Patterson is such a popular novelist.  The action is fast and furious and there are enough surprises and plot twists to keep things moving along at a fast pace.  This book is recommended for thriller readers.

Monday, January 28, 2019

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

In this compelling novel, Rebecca Makkai documents the story of the AIDS epidemic of the 1980's.  Her version is set in Chicago.  Yale is the development director for an art galley associated with a college.  Fiona is the little sister of Nico, one of the first of the group of gay friends to die and she is considered everyone's little sister.  Yale is in a committed relationship with Charlie and he is about to score the coup of his career.  Fiona has mentioned him to her great aunt who is dying.  The aunt lived in Paris in her youth, in the 1920's and knew and modeled for many of the great artists of that time.  She wants to donate her collection so that it can finally be seen, and Yale quickly realizes that this donation will make his career as it is more important than anyone expected. 

But all is not well.  In his extended group, men start to get sick and then die.  Soon the disease is hitting those close to him and the group learns the grim statistics and the curve of dying.  Friendships are tested and families are often not ready to face the fact that this disease not only kills but exposes the gay lifestyle at a time when it was not readily accepted except in the large cities such as Chicago where this novel is set.

The book alternates chapters between the 1980's in Chicago and modern day Paris.  Fiona is now a middle-aged woman and has come to Paris to attempt to find her estranged daughter and perhaps a granddaughter which she has heard rumors of.  She arrives in time to be exposed to the terrorist attacks.  Being there makes her think back to the days in Chicago and all the losses she knew then.  But there is still hope in her life.

This book received a lot of attention.  It was a finalist for the National Book Award and one of the 10 Best Books Of The Year for the New York Times as well as other awards.   Readers who are older will be instantly transported back to remember those times and how the virus exploded into consciousness and how afraid the average person was of the disease and those who got it.  Readers who are younger will get a real appreciation for this mind-changing event and how it was a defining issue for gay men in particular.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Quietus by Vivian Schilling

Kylie O'Rouke can't believe that tragedy has hit her family again.  When she was a child in Savannah, Georgia, her mother and younger brother were killed in a car crash.  A few years later, her older brother overdosed as a result of that accident and losing his family.  When she met and married Jack, she felt like her luck was finally turning.

Now, she and Jack and her best friend Amelia and her husband are facing death again.  After a two week vacation, they are returning to Boston and get a ride on a private jet, rented by a group of lawyers desperate to get back that night.  Now that jet is caught in a snowstorm and is about to go down.  Surely, the gods won't allow such a thing to happen again.  But happen it does.  All aboard die, except Kylie, Jack, Amelia, her husband, Dix, and one of the lawyers who had insisted on flying in that horrible weather.

After a stay in the hospital, Kylie and Jack are released back to their lives, restoring old historical buildings in Boston.  Things seem fine but it's soon apparent that they are not.  The strain of survivor guilt follows the pair and soon Jack is drinking heavily again and gambling.  Kylie and Jack's brother try to pull him out of his funk, but he seems caught up in it.  Soon Kylie begins to see a figure following her at odd times, and that figure turns into a man, a man who seems familiar and compelling to her.  Kylie has multiple encounters with him and then recovers a childhood memory that is so horrific that she has repressed it her entire adult life.  Now she believes that she and her friends were meant to die on that plane and that this apparition is from the afterlife to bring her there since she has exceeded her natural lifetime.

Everyone around her insists that she is wrong and that she needs medical help, but Kylie is convinced of her truth.  She spirals out of control and as she does, tragedies pile up over and over in her life.  Will Kylie manage to survive against what she believes is a predetermined fate?

Vivian Schilling has written a haunting and suspenseful novel that will take the reader into a mindset that the reader must decide is either one of truth and horror, or one that is self-imposed and clinically disturbed.  The events pile on until the reader is as frantic as Kylie to do anything to make the horror stop.  Schilling is a filmmaker as well as a novelist and that background gives her the insight to make the story visually compelling in the reader's mind.  This book is recommended for readers of horror and suspense novels.

Monday, January 21, 2019

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

Walter Moody has come to New Zealand to seek his fortune in the gold rush as many others have in 1866.  He has come to the remote coast when the latest gold strike has been reported; a place where ships fight to land their passengers and many ships are broken in the attempt.  Those who manage to get ashore find a small town struggling to provide the accoutrements of civilization and to make a living, either as a miner or as someone who provides a service to the miners.

Moody has arrived at an interesting time.  There are several events that seem to affect many of the people he meets.  A hermit has died, perhaps minutes after a local politician who has come to the town overland to publicize that route has stopped in his home.  A fortune is found in the hermit's cabin and the ownership of that fortune is soon hotly disputed.  A lovely prostitute is found in the road near death's door, victim of the opium that is rampant in the camps.  Her supplier is either the Chinaman who runs an opium den or the pharmacist who sells the drug wholesale.  Soon an unsuspected wife of the hermit arrives to claim his fortune but perhaps that fortune is not really his.  The wealthiest man in town has gone missing at the same time and as the days and weeks go by, he is soon believed to be dead.  There is evidence of identity fraud and someone scheming to get rich at the expense of others. 

Through it all, there is human frailty and emotions.  There are men who have hidden secrets about their family and those who are attempting to form new families.  There are romantic partnerships, some which seem to be forged in love and others in an attempt to join forces to gain an end.  There are friendships made and struck down; men who have come to impose their will on the land and others and men who have come to make a new start.  Always there is the gold, the gold that fuels dreams and schemes, that makes men do things they never thought they would. 

This novel won the Man Booker Prize in 2013.  It deserved the prize on many levels.  It is an interesting history of New Zealand and the gold strikes that help build the nation.  It has an interesting structure, with a zodiac reference to each chapter and a plot that is backloaded with explanations coming at the end.  The myriad storylines merge cunningly and leave the reader with a sense of resolution.  Finally, the author demonstrates without lecturing that striving for gold and fortune is a fool's folly; that love and friendship are the true gold in life.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Perilous Adventures Of The Cowboy King

This historical novel relates the life of Theodore Roosevelt, nicknamed The Cowboy King, from his childhood until he takes office as President.  Roosevelt grew up a sickly child; his hero was his father known as Braveheart, who fought for those who were poor and persecuted.  As Roosevelt grew, he incorporated many of his father's ideals.  He couldn't abide to see those who were victimized by the wealthy, those despised because they didn't have the ability to be educated and make it in the upper crust.

Roosevelt moved from occupation to occupation in his early years.  He went out West where he fought for the ranchers.  He was one of the early police commissioners in New York, where he rooted out corruption.  He was an Undersecretary of the Navy.  From there, he found the role that defined his life.  He raised a regiment of volunteers to go to Cuba and fight the Spanish overlords who ruled the natives.  This regiment was the Rough Riders, and their battle of San Juan Hill gave Roosevelt the identity he had the rest of his life.

After that war, Roosevelt soon found himself being elected as the Governor of New York, then on to be nominated and elected as the Vice President under President McKinley.  When McKinley was assassinated, Roosevelt became President and there the novel ends.

Along the way, Charyn explores Roosevelt's character.  Written in first person narrative, the reader comes to know Theodore through his words, actions and thoughts rather than through the words of others.  He is a man fiercely devoted to those he takes on.  His first wife died in childbirth, leaving him with a daughter, Alice.  His second wife, a childhood friend, gave him five more children.  He was protective of his brood.  But he also had a second family; those men who served with him in Cuba.  He spent the rest of his life tied to each and every Rough Rider; helping them whenever he could as they readjusted to civilian life.  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Booksie's Shelves, January 11, 2019

It's a new year and of course, there are so many books to look forward to.  In 2018, I read 129 books.  Of those, the ones I rated highest were:

1.  The Rise And Fall Of Great Powers by Tom Rachman
2.  All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
3.  Dark Saturday by Nicci French
4.  Oscar And Lucinda by Peter Carey
5.  Cryptonomicon by Neal Stevenson
6.  Circe by Madeline Miller
7.  Possession by A. S. Byatt
8.  The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker

To celebrate the beginning of another year, I bought books.  I made a shipment from Book Depository for some books from overseas authors and then I stopped in and bought some more at a local bookstore.  Here's what's come through the door:

1.  The Noise Of Time, Julian Barnes, literary fiction, purchased
2.  The Girls In The Picture, Melanie Benjamin, historical fiction, sent by publisher
3.  John Crow's Devil, Marlon James, literary fiction, purchased
4.  Milkman, Anna Burns, literary fiction, purchased
5.  Rivers Of London, Ben Aaronovich, literary fiction, purchased
6.  English Animals, Laura Kaye, literary fiction, purchased
7.  Golden Hill, Francis Spufford, historical fiction, purchased
8.  Man V. Nature, Diane Cook, anthology, purchased
9.  Disclaimer, Renee Knight, mystery, purchased
10.  The Rook, Daniel O'Malley, thriller, purchased
11  The Child, Fiona Barton, thriller, purchased
12.  Visitation Street, Ivy Pochoda, mystery, purchased
13.  The Trespasser, Tana French, mystery, purchased
14.  Moonglow, Michael Chabon, literary fiction, purchased
15.  LaRose, Louise Erdrich, literary fiction, purchased
16.  The Wrong Side Of Goodbye, Michael Connelly, mystery, purchased
17.  Sycamore, Bryan Chancellor, mystery, purchased
18.  The Past, Tessa Hadley, literary fiction, purchased

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  Rembrandt's Eyes, Simon Schama, hardcover
2.  Autonomous, Annalee Newitz, Kindle Fire
3.  The Perilous Adventures Of Cowboy King, Jerome Charyn, hardcover
4.  Lethal White, Robert Galbraith, audio
5.  The Children's Crusade, Ann Packer, hardcover

6.  There But For The, Ali Smith, paperback
7.  The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton, Kindle Fire
8.  Quietus, Vivian Shilling, paperback

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

Sancia Grado is a thief.  She lives in Foundryside, a slum which is home to all those considered not worthy of living in the gated merchant enclaves that make up most of the city Tevanne.  Sancia wasn't always a thief, although she has a hard time remembering her life before being one.  She knows that she was a slave on one of the plantations and she remembers pain and fire. 

Sancia has talents that the average person does not.  She can touch things like walls and receive data, knowing where the weak spots and footballs are.  This ability is the reason she is known in Tevanne as the master thief to hire if the job is difficult.  Sancia is hired to steal a small box for an enormous sum.  She accomplishes the task and that is where her life change begins.

What she has stolen is an artifact of the old masters.  It is a key and it begins to talk to her, introducing itself as Clef and telling her about its ability.  Clef can open any door.  Most doors are sealed by magic as magic is the ingredient on which all the great merchant houses are built.  The houses employ scrivers who have the ability to program inanimate objects and change their properties.  Clef can talk to the object and find the weakness in its program that allows him to change its function. 

Sancia soon realizes that she has an object that is in high demand, one that others will kill to obtain.  Clef is the necessary piece that will allow the unlocking of all the knowledge of the old masters, and the ability to force every individual to the powerholder's will.  She must form an alliance with unlikely allies such as Gregor, a soldier born to the elite class who wants to bring justice to Trevanne, and Orso and Berenice, scrivers employed by the house Gregor comes from.  Can this group thwart the plans of those who want to enslave humanity?

Robert Jackson Bennett is considered one of the best young fantasy writers.  He has twice won the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel.  He has won an Edgar for Best Paperback Original and a Philip K. Dick Citation Of Excellence.  This novel is the beginning of a new trilogy.  The plot is intriguing but the main interest comes from the characters who populate his world.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Sunstroke by Jesse Kellerman

When Gloria Mendez gets the call from her boss, she is concerned.  As far as she knew, Carl had gone for a vacation, giving her time off as well as his secretary.  But his message says that he is in trouble and even worse, she didn't get the message immediately so she has no idea where he is or what has happened to him.

Gloria is thirty-six, a divorcee with a policeman ex-husband.  She has worked for Carl for several years and always felt that a romance would eventually happen with them.  There has never been any overt action by Carl that would make one believe that but self-delusion is common and Gloria couldn't believe that her crush wouldn't one day lead to a relationship between them.

Now she feels that she needs to go find Carl.  He has no one else and she feels responsible.  She goes to Mexico which was his destination but finds little answer except that he has died in a car crash.  She is sent home by a disreputable law officer with a vase of his cremated ashes.  When she gets home, however, she discovers that the urn doesn't contain human remains.  Then a mysterious stranger shows up and he is also looking for Carl.  They decide to join forces and as they search, Gloria learns things about Carl she would never have suspected.  But will her new knowledge help her find him?

This is the debut novel for Jesse Kellerman.  He comes from a writing family; his father and mother, Jonathan and Faye Kellerman, are both writers in the mystery genre.  Prior to this novel, Jesse Kellerman has written plays and found success in that field.  Readers will be interested to read his first entry into the mystery genre.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Monster In The Box by Ruth Rendell

Walking around town one day, Chief Inspector Wexford sees someone he never expected to see again.  Thirty years before, he was a raw policeman, new to everything.  When he attended his first murder, a woman who was strangled, he saw a man on the street who gazed at him with a challenge in his eyes.  That man was Eric Targo.  When Wexford was assigned to get his statement, Targo was smug and condescending and somehow Wexford knew he had done the murder.  He reported his suspicions but there was no motive or proof tying Targo to the crime and he was never charged.

Afterward Targo moved to another town but Wexford kept an eye on him over the years.  Targo didn't seem to like people very much but he loved animals and always had a dog.  He ran kennels and was involved in dog breeding.  He went through women fairly quickly.  There were several other unexplained and uncharged murders in the towns Targo lived in but no one seemed to find him a suspect.  Wexford, however, continued to think of him as the monster who got away.

Now Targo is back in his town and is again his responsibility,  When there is a new murder surrounding him, Wexford is sure Targo is back to his old crimes.    Can Wexford bring him to justice at the end of his career to come full circle from the beginning of his career? 

This is the 22nd Inspector Wexford novel.  Ruth Rendell is a master of suspense and Wexford is her most successful character.  He is a policeman who has risen through the ranks, not gifted with superpowers but an insight into human behavior and a reliance on police procedure.  He sees things in behavior that often escapes others and his deductions often prove to be true when no one else can see what he sees.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.