Wednesday, February 27, 2019

American Hippo by Sarah Gailey

Imagine a world in which the United States decided to have a massive hippopotamus breeding program to provide food and transport.  Soon, hippos are the main way for people to travel and a whole industry is built on the backs of hippo farms, hippo trading, etc.  Over the years, some hippos escape and soon there are pods of feral hippos, one of the most dangerous animals on earth when they are on the warpath.  It may be hard for you to imagine, but Sarah Gailey has done it for you.  Along with the hippos, she has a group of interesting characters; a rogue group who fights hippos and also steals a bit.

There is Adelia, one of the most proficient assassins known to man.  She is also hugely pregnant when we first meet her.  Winslow Houndstooth is the leader of the gang, a man reminiscent of Brent Maverick, charming and well-dressed.  In the first adventure we read, he has been contracted to blow the Harriet Dam so that the pods of feral hippos clotted above it will escape and the Mississippi can be used again for trade and travel.  The best demolition expert in the world is Hero, who is also a master poisoner.  Finally, Archie is a large woman whose expertise is with a huge hammer which shatters skulls.  She is in love with a straight-laced Marshall, which has its own issues.

This book is composed of two novellas, River Of Teeth and Taste Of Marrow, along with two stories, Nine And A Half and Worth Her Weight In Gold.  The reader will be amazed at Gailey's world building and the book falls solidly in the fantasy genre of alt history.  She uses diverse characters with interesting gender roles, sexual identities and one character who identifies as two entities, as does everyone else.  The writing is breezy and graphic at times, but this is a rollicking adventure it would be a shame to miss.  This book is recommended for readers of science fiction/fantasy. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Blind River by Ben Follows

FBI Agent Curtis Mackley never expected to be back in Blind River.  After the disappearance of his older brother and his own role in putting the local kingpin into prison, he had left and had little contact with his remaining family.  His father had been the sheriff and his sister works for the police department there still.

When he is informed that the police department has requested FBI assistance in a series of teenage girl disappearances, he tries to get his boss to send someone else.  But his boss is determined that Curtis' local knowledge might be helpful so Curtis and his partner, Frankie Lassiter, are soon are their way.

They arrive to find a town in panic mode.  Four teenage girls have disappeared in a few weeks time and there has been no trace of them since.  Curtis uses his connections to get an interview with the man he put in prison, a man who claims to know exactly who is taking the girls and a man still filled with hatred for Curtis.  He refuses to give Curtis any knowledge and Curtis is forced back on his local knowledge as he searches for the girls.  Can he find the culprit before more girls disappear?

This is a debut novel for Follows but it has received a lot of reader attention.  The story is full of twists and turns and even veteran detective story readers will be surprised a time or two.  There are some unbelievable elements such as this much crime in what is little more than a small town but overall it is an interesting look at a man's dilemma as he seeks to put his background behind him.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Where It Hurts by Reed Farrel Coleman

Gus Murphy is settled into his new normal.  He'll never have the old normal back, wife, kids, a house in the suburbs and a job he liked and was good at.  All that went away when his teenage son left the house one morning and died before Gus saw him again.  After that, things fell away.  The weight of mourning killed his marriage.  Along with the end of that went the house.  The job followed soon after, his grief expressing itself in drinking and lack of caring.

Gus's new normal is simple.  He works for a hotel where he also lives.  He is the shuttle driver, taking folks to and from the airport and he also serves as a security consultant.  He doesn't get to know people and his job requires nothing of him.  That he can handle.

Until the day Gus gets a visitor.  Tommy Delcamino is an ex-con, one that Gus put away in the past.  Tommy comes to ask Gus a favor.  Tommy's son was murdered three weeks ago and he is sure that the police are not trying that hard to solve the murder.  Gus turns him down but reconsiders when Tommy is also killed soon after coming to Gus.  Can Gus find it within himself to be able to solve these murders?  More importantly, does he even want to?

Reed Farrell Coleman is a solid mystery writer.  His brand of mystery features noir characters and is more hard-boiled than some.  He has been nominated three times for the Edgar award and has won the Shamus award for Best PI Novel three times, along with other awards and prizes.  He has also been contracted to continue the Spenser novels in the series started by Robert Parker.  This novel is the first in his new series featuring Gus Murphy.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Booksie's Shelves, February 14, 2019

It's halfway through February and winter is slowly losing its grip here in the South.  We had several days of temperatures in the seventies and my daffodils are about to bloom.  There are flowering trees on the sides of the roads and spring is about to explode.  I've been reading and catching up on TV series.  I'm working on healing the beginning stages of plantar fasciastis so I'm only rowing and doing the weight machines at the gym, which makes for a much shorter time there.  But things are going well and I hope to restart my regular routine in two weeks after a trip I've got planned.  Here's what's come through the door lately:

1.  Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng, literary fiction, purchased
2.  Make Me A City, Jonathan Carr, literary fiction, sent by publisher
3.  Judgment, Joseph Finder, thriller, sent by publisher
4.  Everything Here Is Beautiful, Mira T. Lee, literary fiction, sent by publisher
5.  The Merry Spinster, Mallory Ortberg, anthology, sent by publisher
6.  The Lieutenant, Kate Grenville, historical fiction, purchased
7.  The Cassandra, Sharm Shields, literary fiction, sent by publisher
8.  Three Eves, Sylvia Day, fantasy, sent by publisher
9.  FKA USA, Reed King, literary fiction, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  Rembrandt's Eyes, Simon Schama, hardcover
2.  Autonomous, Annalee Newitz, Kindle Fire
3.  A Serpent's Tooth, Craig Johnson, hardcover
4.  Lethal White, Robert Galbraith, audio
5.  The Children's Crusade, Ann Packer, hardcover

6.  There But For The, Ali Smith, paperback
7.  Flannery O'Connor The Collected Stories, paperback

8.  The Technologists, Matthew Pearl, paperback
9.  The Lower River, Paul Theroux, paperback
10.  American Hippo, Sarah Gailey, Kindle Fire
11.  Blind River, Ben Follows, Kindle Fire

Happy Reading!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Real World by Natsuo Kirino

It's a normal morning in Tokoyo for Ninna Hori.  It's very hot and she's hurrying, as usual, to make it in time to her cram school which she attends during school vacations to make sure she can get into college.  She thinks she hears something crash in the house next door but doesn't do anything about it.  Although they are her neighbors, there's no neighborly feeling between the two families.  There is the married couple who seem to put on airs and their teenage son, whom Ninna has nicknamed The Worm.  She sees him periodically but he's never said a word to her.  He is supposed to be brilliant, or at least that's the story his mother tells everyone.

As Ninna heads to the subway station, she sees Worm, and he even speaks to her.  She asks him about the crash but he says all is well.  Ninna heads on to school and as the day goes on, discovers her phone is missing.  She assumes she left it at home in her hurry.  When she gets back to the train station, though, her bike is also missing.

She gets a call and then realizes that Worm has stolen both items from her.  More than that, he has a huge secret; before leaving home he killed his mother.  Ninna calls her three close friends and tells them all about it but soon Worm is calling each of them as well.  The friends seem intrigued and soon they are helping Worm in his escape.  There is Yuzan, who is struggling with the fact that she is gay and wondering how to come out to her family and friends.  Kirarin is the happy go lucky member of the group, but internally she feels excluded by the secrets she hides about going clubbing and hooking up with strangers.  Terauchi is the brains of the group but feels remote from the rest of her friends and her family due to a family situation she can't resolve.  As Worm attempts to hide out and escape, the alienation and angst that each of the girls also fights becomes a microcosm of teenage years.

Natsuo Kirino is a popular mystery novelist in Japan.  She has won six of the country's most prestigious literary awards and as her work has been translated into nineteen languages, she has garnered other awards, such as an Edgar nomination.  She provides a light into the alienation and worry that faces those in Japanese society and the reaching for connection that often seems to go unanswered.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton

It was a shocking tragedy.  Two young boys, seven and five, were waiting in a car when somehow, they knocked it into gear and it went over the cliffs, taking them to their death.  It's the kind of thing you never get over.

Catrin Quinn has never gotten over it.  Three years ago, those were her sons and their deaths took her life along with it.  Afterward, everything else went.  Her marriage was one of the casualties as you can't be married to a ghost.  She was pregnant and her child was stillborn from the shock.  Her best friend was no help; she was in charge of the children and let them be killed during her inattention.

Although three years are past, it is like yesterday for Catrin.  She spends her days and nights plotting how she can ruin Rachel's life, her former best friend as she ruined Catrin's.  Now children are starting to disappear on the island where they live, boys who all look like Catrin's lost sons.  Soon the fingers of suspicions are pointing at her. 

This was a new author for me and I turned the last page with a raging desire to go out and buy everything she ever wrote.  Everything was perfect about this book.  The tension was indescribable and I'd have to put the book down occasionally and come back to my humdrum life for a few minutes.  It was set in a place I didn't know much about, the Falkland Islands, and I enjoyed getting to know more about this locale.  The characters were finely drawn and I felt as if I knew them all.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

Ralph Truitt is a wealthy man, the wealthiest man in his Minnesota town in the early 1900's.  Now, as he enters his older years, he is ready to change his solitary status and has placed an advertisement near and far in the newspapers asking for a 'reliable wife'.  He chooses Catherine Land, whose reply shows a picture of a plain woman who states she is simple and honest.

But the lies start immediately.  Ralph doesn't want a wife to share his life; he is looking for a woman who can help him retrieve his estranged son.  Catherine isn't the plain woman of the picture she sent; she is an amazingly beautiful woman who knew her looks would scare off anyone who felt the need to advertise for a wife.

Somehow, these two strike a bargain.  Ralph tells her his life story, how he had married abroad to a young Italian wife and how that wife had betrayed him, leaving him without a marriage or children.  Catherine tells him just enough of her background, weaving a lie of missionary upbringing with the reality of her life before as a prostitute.  She is here now only to fleece a rich husband, willing to do whatever it takes to end up a wealthy woman.  But neither had planned what happened; a life where they fell in love and became everything to each other.

Robert Goolrick has written a groundbreaking novel that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat.  The story winds through plush environments of wealth, contrasted with the bleak, bitter winter of snow and ice.  Through all the difficulties, love insists on breaking through and providing a life to two people who never expected it.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

In A House Of Lies by Ian Rankin

Six years ago private investigator Stuart Bloom went missing.  Despite an intensive search and investigation no clues emerged to his disappearance.  The police took a public relations hit as the case was a newsworthy one.  Bloom was involved in a dispute between two prominent wealthy men and there were those who suspected the men were pulling strings to cripple the investigation.  Bloom was gay and his partner's father was a murder investigator in another district and that brought its own publicity and calls of favoritism. 

Now, a car has been discovered in a forest and Bloom's body has been found in the trunk with the ankles handcuffed together.  The forest had belonged to one of the wealthy men, a filmmaker, and now belonged to the other who had bought it as the first man's influence waned and he had to sell assets.  Had it been there all along and the police just missed it?

Now the entire former police investigation is under scrutiny.  Most of the men involved are now retired but that doesn't stop the inquiry.  Inspector John Rebus was one of the men involved in the original investigation and he finds ways to insert himself into this one.  One of his mentees, Siobhan Clarke, is one the investigation and feeds him information.  Malcolm Fox, part of the unit who investigates police inquiries from the inside, is also forwarded over to the investigation.  Will the crime be solved and will careers be damaged due to the first investigation?

Ian Rankin is one of the foremost crime novelists working in Scotland today.  His books are models of police procedurals with strong characters who the reader learns to respect in various cases.  He has a knack for outlining the way that human nature will always insert itself between the police rules and regulations; there are always people who are looking to get ahead, those willing to use a case to pay back a slight or to curry favor with those who can do them good; those investigators who aren't giving their job their all due to personal situations or laziness or just incompetence.  He portrays the give and take of an investigation and the myriad levels of obligations and favors that the best policemen know how to manipulate to solve a crime.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.