Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan

This is the third book in the Wheel Of Time series.  As it begins, the group of individuals have split on different missions.  Rand has gone off by himself, not sure if he is really the Dragon but if so, he wants to protect those around him if he should go mad.  The three Aes Sedai in training, Egwene, Nynaeve and Elayne, have returned to their training and punishment for leaving.  Mat is recovering from the near death he encountered by holding onto the knife of evil.  Perrin and Lolial are with Moiraine and Lan along with Min. 

As the action picks up, Rand decides he must know once and for all if he is truly the Dragon.  Lore tells him that only the true Dragon will be able to grasp and use the Sword of Callandor, secured in the Heart Of Stone tower in Tear.  He decides he must go there and find out his fate.  The three young Aes Sedai are given a mission by the head of the group.  Thirteen Aes Sedai have gone over to the Dark Lord and as the Black Ajah, are working for his good and Rand's destruction.  As they realise that these Black Ajah have gone to Tear, they understand that they must follow them there to defeat them.  Moraine has her own reasons for heading to Tear as she needs to do what she can to safeguard Rand.  Mat heads there when after learning that the man courting Elayne's Queen mother is planning to assassinate Elayne. 

All head for Tear where they will unite as Rand makes his climatic stand that will set his path going forward.  A new character, Faile, joins the group as she tries to find the Horn, unaware that it has already been found.  Faile will become the love interest of Perrin although it is unclear what part she will play in the story going forward.  All in all, this novel has lots of additional world building and ends with a battle between good and evil that will set the rest of the books in motion.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Booksie's Shelves, October 28, 2019

It's getting late in October and I have a real treat coming this evening.  I was lucky enough to get a ticket to go hear Ann Patchett speak.  I love this author and have read most if not all of her books so I'm really looking forward to this.  You can read my review of her latest, The Dutch House, if you scroll down.  I'm moving along on my promise to my son.  His favorite series is the Wheel Of Time series by Robert Jordan.  I started it years ago but got sidetracked and I promised him this would be the year.  Since each novel in the series is 600 pages or more, it's a big time commitment but it's going well this time.  I just finished the third book yesterday and I'm off to the library for book four in a bit.  I've read some great books lately such as Lincoln In The Bardo and Kate Atkinson's Big Sky and I'm in the midst of other great ones such as Paul Auster's 4 3 2 1.  Here's what's come through the door lately:

1.  If You Tell, Gregg Olsen, true crime, sent by publisher
2.  The God Game, Danny Tobey, thriller, sent by publisher
3.  The Nanny, Gilly Macmillan, psychological suspense, sent by publisher
4.  The Cask Of Cranglimmering, Dawn Vogel, fantasy, sent by publisher
5.  Golden In Death, J. D. Robb, mystery, won in contest
6.  Body Leaping Backward, Maureen Stanton, memoir, sent for blog tour
7.  Elevator Pitch, Linwood Barclay, thriller, sent by publisher
8.  Unforsaken, John Swaine McKenna, western, sent by publisher
9.  Wolf Season, Helen Benedict, literary fiction, purchased
10.  Scatter, Adapt, And Remember, Annalee Newitz, nonfiction, purchased
11.  A Bond Undone, Jin Yong, sci fi/fantasy, won in contest
12.  The Middle Sister, Jesse Miles, mystery, sent by publisher
13.  The Forgetting Flower, Karen Hugg, mystery, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm reading:

1. 4 3 2 1, Paul Auster, paperback
2.  The Gods Of Guilt, Michael Connelly, audio
3.  The Shadow Rises, Robert Jordan, paperback
4.  Out Stealing Horses, Per Petterson, hardback
5.  Fates And Furies, Lauren Groff, paperback
6.  Girl, Jacked, Christopher Grayson, Kindle Fire
7.  Storm Prey, John Sandford, hardback

Happy Reading!

Sunday, October 27, 2019

The Big Picture by Douglas Kennedy

Most men would be glad to have Ben Bradford's life.  He has a wife and two little boys.  He has a great job as an estate lawyer, one that allows the family to live in an upscale Connecticut suburb from which Ben rides the train every day into Manhattan. 

But this wasn't the life he had envisioned and under the surface it wasn't nearly as bright as it appeared to others.  His great job was tedious and it surely wasn't the one of being a photojournalist that he had expected to have.  He periodically catches glimpses of his college girlfriend on television as she managed to get her dream job and is now a foreign correspondent on television.  He makes a lot of money but they spend it all on various things that don't bring satisfaction for long.  His marriage has gone cold after the birth of his second son and he comes to realize that his wife, Beth, has found her own release in the form of a torrid affair with a local guy who pretends he is on the verge of a discovery as a photographer. 

Ben is thrown for a loop by his discovery of the affair and it makes him reexamine his entire life.  What does it add up to?  When a tragedy happens that could send him to prison it becomes easy for him to set up the appearance of his death and flee his life to try to start again.  He ends up in Montana and there he finds the success he never expected to find.  Can his new life really be the one he was meant to live?

Douglas Kennedy has written a story of adult disappointments and how our lives seldom turn out to be what we had fantasized they would be.  It showcases how difficult it is to make love last and how living for someone else can only ever bring heartbreak.  Whether or not we have the strength to grab our lives and make them fit what we wanted is the main question we all face.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Lincoln In The Bardo by George Saunders

The time is 1862.  The United States is one year into the massive Civil War that tears its fabric apart, pitting families against each other and bringing death and destruction to so many.  The President is Abraham Lincoln and he questions whether what he has started was the right step and where his decisions will lead the nation.  In the midst of this, his beloved son Willie, sickens and dies.

Lincoln In The Bardo is George Saunder's imaginative retelling of the time right after Willie's death, when Abraham Lincoln is caught up in grief that will not let him surrender his son to the inevitable separation that death brings.  The Bardo is the limbo between death and the final destination of the soul, whether hell or heaven.  Lincoln visits his son's body at the cemetery where he has been taken and wonders how he will ever manage to let his son go.  The inhabitants of the cemetery, souls who have not yet left the Earth for their final trip, are caught up in the grief of the parent and the task of convincing him of the inevitability of death and the necessity of acknowledging it and moving beyond to acceptance.

There is a large cast of characters with all the souls waiting there.  Three men stand out as the main ones, a man whose inability to reconcile himself to the life that being gay would entail, a man who was not able to make his marriage work and a reverend who fears that he will never make it to heaven despite leading what he thought was a moral life.  There are many others who flit in and out of the story, a set of African-American souls who are working off the lifelong sorrows of slavery, those who spent their lives in poverty and acrimony, those who were snatched from life before they really lived it as they expected.  All are disappointed at their deaths and all must reconcile their earthly longings before they can move one.  In the meantime, Saunders also gives a feel for what the historical context of this moment in our nation's history was like.

Lincoln In The Bardo comes highly recommended.  It won the Booker Prize in 2017 and the Audie Award in 2018.  It is a highly imaginative and creative effort that stands out as a new form of literature.  It is also very divisive.  I read this with my book club and people either loved it or hated it.  I was on the side that loved it as it caught the reader up and transported one to a place where every decision is a weighty one that has decisive consequences.  I was shocked at the historical snippets that showed the vituperation that Lincoln underwent in the press and historical writings of the time.  We revere him as one of our greatest individuals but he was not loved in his own time; rather he was hated and mocked and his every decision questioned.  It gives a new way to process the divisive times of political turmoil our country is in at the present.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Big Sky by Kate Atkinson

In this fifth Jackson Brodie novel, Jackson has moved up north and lives in a small fishing village.  His days as a policeman are over and he makes his living as a private detective these days, finding proof of cheating spouses his mainstay.  He isn't quite alone as his teenage son lives with him part-time as does the dog that comes with him.  Jackson didn't know about Nathan for several years as his partner, Julia, decided she wanted to keep him to herself for his baby years and its a challenge to raise someone of the new generation whose desires and expectations are so different from when Jackson was a boy.  Still, he loves Nathan and since he's on the outs with his daughter, it's his only chance at fatherhood.

As Jackson goes through his days, he encounters a new woman.  Crystal is drop dead gorgeous and has used her looks and intelligence to claw her way up from a horrid childhood full of abuse.  She's married to Tommy, whose first wife died in an accident.  Crystal has an adored little girl and a stepson, Harry, who she can't help but love.  Tommy is another matter.  He seems to have lots of secret business calls and trips and she isn't really sure what he does.  Tommy is part of a group of men who have solidified their friendship by going into business.  Steve is the boss, a lawyer who knows everyone and what is legal and what's not.   Andy is a charming man who can make anyone feel comfortable.  Vince is the odd man out; an ex-soldier with IT skills but going through a divorce in which he will lose everything.  Then Vince's soon to be ex wife is found murdered and things start to come apart.

It seems that there is a human trafficking circle in the area and all the men except Vince are involved.  In fact, that's the source of the money that keeps their willingly blind wives in luxury.  Jackson brushes up against the edges of the group as he goes about his investigations and soon becomes an ally of Crystal's. 

Kate Atkinson has created an endearing character in Jackson.  He has a clear moral compass, although it might not keep him on the legal side of the ledger at times.  He is determined to protect those around him but they often see him as failing at this job.  Yet Brodie manages to come through time after time, handing out justice and help evenhandedly.  This book is recommended for readers of  mysteries.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro

Ryder is a famous concert pianist.  He has come to an unnamed Eastern European city to give a concert.  It's unclear why he has come and he travels so much that he rarely even knows where he is or what his schedule is on any given day.  He checks into a hotel and everyone there is excited to see him and it's clear there is an enormous amount of hope being put into this concert.  As the days before his performance go by, Ryder finds he is caught up in other people's dramas to the detriment of his own work.  But they all seem to have a claim on him.

There is the famous conductor who has been mired in alcoholism for years but seems to have managed to dry out for this performance which he hopes will reestablish his career.  There is the woman who has waited years for him and is not sure if she should continue to hope that there can be a life for them.  There is the beginning concert pianist who isn't sure if his talent is really big enough to take him out of his hometown.  His parents are simultaneously his biggest fans and critics and their marriage which is disintegrating plays a part in how they perceive him.

As Ryder visits and explores he starts to realize that he has been here before and in fact, might even have lived here.  The main porter at the hotel may be his father in law, and he may still have a wife and son here who wonder why he has been gone so long.  Old friends want slices of his time to talk over old times and grievances and several factions in the city think that only Ryder can solve their problems.  Adding another level, his parents are to come to the performance and he hasn't seen them for many years.  As the performance approaches, Ryder gets further and further behind in his professional obligations as the personal ones he has ignored for so long push to the fore.

Kazuo Ishiguro has written a sly commentary on success and on the need for connection.  The writing is nonsensical at times and the reader can feel lost in all the dramas Ryder encounters.  But through everything, it is clear that only connection to others can save us and make our lives worth living.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller

When the cities disappeared, those people who managed to survive all had to migrate to continue to exist.  They fled the destruction, the violence that decimated tribes and families.  Eventually, they ended up in the enclaves and cities that still existed; cities like Qaanaaq, an arctic city built around an oil rig.  Everyone lives in one of the eight arms; the arms vary in their space and amenities.  As is the case worldwide those with money inhabit the nicest arm and those with less are pushed further and further down the scale into arms ridden with crime and disease.

But something is happening.  The shareholders who rule the city due to their wealth and possession of the controlling software that runs the city are more and more remote from the rest of the people and know little of their lives and problems.  A new disease has arisen.  The breaks, as it is called, is sexually transmitted and those infected are swarmed with the memories and thoughts of those they contracted it from and those who that person got it from, a chain of memories and thoughts that eventually drive the victims mad.  The breaks is no respecter of place or money; it destroys everyone it contacts indiscriminately.

Then something even more unexpected happens.  A woman appears in the Northern Sea, riding an orca and accompanied by a polar bear.  Who is she?  Why has she come?  What will she do?  She is violent and is determined to meet her goals although those are not immediately clear.  She inserts herself into the emerging chaos of the battle between the shareholders and the criminal overloads and gathers a family around her.  Who will emerge victorious?

This novel was nominated as a Nebula Best Novel in 2018.  It is an original, highly entertaining and thought-provoking novel, one that the reader will remember long after the last page is turned.  The world building is superb, with a cold, uncaring world that seems likely after a worldwide destruction yet the people who survive still search for meaning and connection.  The last ten percent of the novel are as stunning a resolution as I can remember reading.  This book is recommended for science fiction readers.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Knife by Jo Nesbo

Things are not going well for Harry Hole.  He's back drinking again.  Rakel, the love of his life, has kicked him out and without her and Oleg, their son, there's just not much he cares about, least of all taking care of himself.  He's working on cold cases for the police department as the only thing Harry is good at is detective work.  A serial rapist and maybe murderer who Harry put away is back on the streets after being released and Harry is sure that this man cannot change his ways.  He wants to find the man and convict him of new crimes so that he cannot hurt more women.

But bad can go to worse and that's often the case for Harry.  He wakes up from a drunken stupor to a nightmare he could never ever imagine.  Someone he loves has been taken from him and he knows that the last thing he will ever do is find the culprit who committed the crime.  After he does, he doesn't care what happens to him if he ever did. 

This is the twelfth Harry Hole mystery.  Fans will rush to pick up this newest story in Harry's career but be careful.  If you love Harry, this novel will rip out your heart.  There are few detective series that I believe have to be read in order, but this is one.  This latest installment in Harry's life is one that no one would expect and it can be hard reading.  But it is satisfying and after lots of twists and turns, the answers will be comforting.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Blood Work by Michael Connelly

Terry McCaleb knows he's a lucky man.  A former FBI agent, he had to give up that work when his heart developed issues.  He waited two years for a transplant and it was iffy whether one would come in time as he had a rare blood type that made a match almost impossible.  But with weeks to go, Terry got his new heart and now he must make a new life post transplant. 

Terry is restoring the boat left to him by his father, transferring the painstaking detail work of restoration for the detailed investigation and analysis his job required as he tracked down the worst of the worst, the serial killers.  His health regimen takes an enormous part of his day, taking meds, tracking his temperature, going on doctor follow up visits.  It's a different life but Terry is thankful for it.

Then Graciella Rivers appears one day.  She tells Terry about her sister, Gloria, and the murder that took her life.  It's a murder that hasn't been solved and a murder that is tied forever to Terry.  Gloria was the person whose heart was transplanted into Terry.  Without her death, Terry would not be living.  When Graciella asks him to look into Gloria's murder, there is an obligation he feels that won't let him put her off.

As Terry starts to look into things, he immediately encounters resistance form the Los Angles police who regard him as nothing more than another civilian.  He does have some contacts, such as Jay, a female officer whose career was jumpstarted by an investigation Terry helped her with when he was FBI.  She, at least, is willing to listen to him.  As the days go by, Terry and Jay are able to tie Gloria's murder to at least two others and they realize that another serial killer is on the loose.  Can Terry find a way to uncover this killer?

This is the first book featuring Terry McCaleb and Connelly has created an interesting character as always.  Terry is torn in many directions, his former skills making his ability to turn his back on the case impossible but his health demanding all his attention.  The killer is shadowy and the book focuses much more on the investigation and the emotions of those touched by murder.  This book won several awards such as the McCavity Award for Best Mystery and the Anthony Award for Best Novel.  It is recommended for mystery readers.

Monday, October 7, 2019

The Chain by Adrian McKinty

Rachel O'Neill thought she had already had her ration of bad luck.  She had just gone through cancer treatment and her immature husband who she had put through school had divorced her.  That thought was before the call.

Rachel gets a call telling her that she is now part of The Chain.  Her daughter, Kylie, has been kidnapped and will be killed unless Rachel completes her tasks.  First she must pay ransom.  That's the easy part.  Than she must kidnap another family's child and only when that child is successfully in the chain will her daughter be released. 

How can she do this?  She is broke so how will she get the money?  Of course, she is told not to call the police or anyone else because Kylie will also be killed if Rachel breaks the confidentiality of the Chain.  Even if she gets the money, can she really bring herself to kidnap another child?  Threaten that child's parents that she will kill the child if instructions are not followed?  Be convincing?  How can she?  How can she not?

Adrian McKinty has written an original thriller that every parent can just imagine happening to them.  Although the ending has an impossibility that took away from the book, the premise and the execution of the plot is first rate.  McKinty has made his name writing detective series and this novel breaks from that and puts the spotlight on the victim instead.  This book is recommended for mystery/thriller readers.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Tangerine by Christine Mangan

They are the best of friends, Alice Morgan and Lucy Shipley.  They are close as only two roommates in college can get, both strangers but finding friendship and a feeling of family with each other.  Alice comes from money but is a fragile child whose parents died in an accident and who has been raised by a brusque aunt who never wanted children.  Lucy has fought hard to escape her childhood poverty and make a better life for herself than any of her relatives had.  Soon they are inseparable and make plans to build lives together after college and to never be apart.

But those are childish plans.  When Alice meets a man who woos her, she is torn away and starts to build a life on her own.  Lucy can't believe it and is furious.  She starts to treat Alice horribly, making her doubt her memories and attempting to make her feel guilty enough that she will leave the man and come back to her solitary friendship with Lucy.  She isn't making much headway with Alice until the accident that changes Alice's life again.

Now Alice is making yet another life.  She has hastily met and married a man who has taken her away to Tangier.  He is in his element there, scheming and partying with the other expatriates but Alice is lost and lonely.  But she isn't lonely enough that she is anything but shocked when she opens her door and finds Lucy on the doorstep.  How did she track Alice down?  What does she want?  What will she do to get her way?

Mangan has written a study on feminine friendships and the ways that jealousy and single mindedness can wreck a relationship.  Many readers will remember a time when they were involved in the same kind of close knit relationship.  But for most of us, that time is early adolescence and the friendship either matures and grows or is discarded along the way.  Mangan explores what happens when one party will do anything to keep the other in a strangling hold through emotional blackmail.  The atmosphere is one of the book's strengths and this debut novel makes Mangan an author to be watched.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and mysteries.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Booksie's Shelves, October 1, 2019

It's October although apparently this year North Carolina didn't get the message about cooler fall temperatures.  It's supposed to be a hot, muggy 95 or 96 the rest of the week.  Fleeing the hot temperatures, DH and I went north a few weeks ago and visited northern New York.  Neither of us had seen Niagara Falls and it was just an awesome sight, so much better than I had expected.  I've been visiting the library quite a bit this past month and then I found the prior year lists of the Women's National Book Association and I've been on a bit of a buying spree.  Here's what's come through the door lately:

1.  Big Lies In A Small Town, Diane Chamberlain, literary fiction, won in contest
2.  The Hearts Of Men, Nickolas Butler, literary fiction, purchased
3.  Cost, Roxana Robinson, literary fiction, purchased
4.  Appassionata, Eva Hoffman, literary fiction, purchased
5.  While I'm Falling, Laura Moriarty, literary fiction, purchased
6.  The Secret Diaries Of Charlotte Bronte, Syrie James, literary fiction, purchased
7.  The Giver Of Star, Jojo Moyes, literary fiction, sent by publisher
8.  The House On Fortune Street, Margot Livesey, literary fiction, purchased
9.  Savage Appetites, Rachel Monroe, true crime, sent by publisher
10.  What You See, Hank Phillippi Ryan, mystery, won in contest
11.  At Death's Door, Sherrilyn Kenyon, fantasy, sent by publisher
12.  Kill Zone, Kevin Anderson/Doug Beason, thriller, sent by publisher
13.  The Last Book Party, Karen Dukess, literary fiction, sent by publisher
14.  Mink River, Brian Doyle, literary fiction, purchased
15.  Just Watch Me, Jeff Lindsay, mystery, won in contest
16.  The Secret Guests, Benjamin Black, literary fiction, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  The Unconsoled, Kazuo Ishiguro, hardback
2.  The Chain, Adrian McKinty, hardback
3.  Blood Work, Michael Connelley, audio
4.  Tangerine, Christine Mangan, Kindle Fire
5.  Blackfish City, Sam Miller, Kindle Fire
6.  Quichotte, Salman Rushdie, Kindle Fire

Happy Reading!