Saturday, November 30, 2019

Moon by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Someone is killing in New Orleans.  That's nothing new but the method of this killer is.  Two small punctures are made on the wrist and the victim is totally drained of blood.  Male or female, doesn't seem to matter.  There's a vampire serial killer at large and someone needs to find and stop it.

Detective Parks is the man assigned to the case.  He is willing to work it with all the resources at his command, but it's soon clear as the victims continue to mount that this is no ordinary killer.  It will take unordinary measures to capture it.  Marie Levant is an ER doctor but also the great-great-granddaughter of the Voodoo Queen Marie Leaveau.  She is drawn to the case and realizes that this is no human.  It is a spirit which has returned from the past to haunt New Orleans again as it did before.  Each kill gives the spirit more strength and a more solid presence. 

As the two partner together one more thing becomes clear.  The spirit vampire is not here by mistake.  It is here and drawn to Marie due to her ties to the past.  Her relative was the woman who sent it away before and now it is back to take revenge.  Can the two destroy it before it destroys Marie?

This is the second book in a trilogy that Rhodes has written about her heritage and the heritage of New Orleans.  It is full of the spooky, witchy feeling that New Orleans is known for.  As the killings and tension mount, the reader not only is drawn into the investigation but into the history of that city.  This book is recommended to readers interested in black literature, historical literature or thrillers.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The Last Of Her Kind by Sigrid Nunez

They were assigned as roommates at Barnard College in the late 60's.  No one would have expected them to become friends.  Georgette George never even expected to go to college since no one in her family ever had.  Her family was poor and dysfunctional; that year while she went to college on a full scholarship her younger sister hit the road and disappeared.  Ann Drayton was her exact opposite.  She was the child of wealth, the only child of two highly successful parents and who rejected everything about her background and upbringing.  Ann lived her life totally in opposition to everything around her; everything she saw as unfair.  She was there for the anti-war, anti-society movements such as the SDS, the Black Panthers, etc.  Ann was determined to see justice and equality in the world no matter what it cost and Georgette was the example of everything Ann wanted to make right.

Their lives diverted after college.  Each of them left before graduating.  Ann ended up living with an older man, an African American schoolteacher who made her happy.  Georgette ended up marrying twice and having two children and later in life, going back, graduating and becoming an author.  Ann's life was very different.  She ended up in prison for life, her sentence the result of killing a policeman who shot her boyfriend in a traffic stop incident.  The two women lost touch and lived separate lives yet the memories of their college days were strong in each of them as their later lives unfolded.

Sigrid Nunez has written an interesting portrayal of the late 60's, early 70's when the youth of our country rebelled.  They rebelled against the Vietnam War, against the racial prejudice that permeated our nation, against the inequality that was the way of life.  Inevitably, some learned to accommodate their lives to the society and work to change it from within.  Some were lost forever in their determined approach to change everything around them by whatever means, even violent ones.  This novel was named as a Best Book by the San Francisco Chronicle and the Christian Science Monitor.  It is recommended for readers of literary fiction. 

Monday, November 25, 2019

The News From Paraguay by Lily Tuck

They met in Paris in 1854.  Ella Lynch is a courtesan who has been with several men but is at loose ends and looking for support.  Francisco Solano is a young brash man, rich and exploring Europe.  He is instantly smitten with Ella and soon she is his; the deal sealed with the purchase of her beloved horse, Mathilde.  Francisco loves being in Europe where he can have anything he likes and is admired by everyone but his father is the President of Paraguay and when he insists on Francisco's return, he must obey.  He decides to take Ella with him.

She packs up and goes, thinking she will probably stay for only a while.  Instead, she stays with Francisco through his rise to become the dictator of Paraguay.  They never marry due to his family's disapproval of Ella but they remain lovers and have a large family.  She is his closest confidante and the only person he trusts consistently over the years.  He falls out with most people, condemning his enemies to torture and death, even members of his own family.

As the years go by, Francisco becomes steadily more determined to control everything around him.  This leads him to enter a deadly war with the neighboring countries and to refuse to see that the war is going badly and he needs to talk terms.  Finally, his time is done and so is his love affair with Ella, who returns with her surviving children to France.

This is an interesting historical fiction about a time and place most people are not that familiar with.  The characters are roughly drawn and it is difficult to understand what turns Francisco into the monster he becomes from the debonair young man who won Ella's heart.  It is a bleak view of human relationships and a eye-opening view of the difficulty of everyday life in many countries at this time period.  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction.

Friday, November 22, 2019

All The Paths Of Shadow by Frank Tuttle

Meralda has quite a task before her.  She is the new Mage of her kingdom, Tirlin.  She is young and there are those who don't believe she is up to the task.  Especially since she is the first woman to ever hold the title.  King Yvin appointed her as she was the brightest student to come through the academy in history and she had the backing of the former occupants of her office, but she hasn't really solidified his support.

Tirlin is facing a momentous occasion.  All the countries around, including the mysterious country of Hang, have arrived in the capital to sign peace accords.  It is the biggest event in anyone's memory and King Yvin is determined that everything will be perfect.  He calls Meralda to him and gives her the task.  She is to move the shadow of the Tower from where he will be giving his speech after the accord is signed.  Surely she can do a little thing like move a shadow, right?

As Meralda thinks of how she can accomplish this, she visits the Tower.  The Tower is the biggest structure in the kingdom and it throws a huge shadow.  More importantly, it is rumored to be haunted and those who dare to enter are never seen in the same shape again.  As Meralda explores the Tower with the help of her bodyguards, she learns a secret that can destroy the country.  Add in those who are working against her and the accords and her job seems impossible.  Can Meralda save her country?

This is the first book in a trilogy about Meralda.  This series is more of a young adult science fiction.  The magic Meralda uses is based in solid mathematics and her struggles as the first woman in her position ring true.  It is not very violent and the romance in it is quite tame.  Readers of the appropriate age will enjoy reading about Meralda and her abilities and challenges.  This book is recommended for young adult science fiction readers.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Booksie's Shelves, November 18, 2019

It's almost Thanksgiving which is one of my favorite holidays.  There is food and family, football and lazy day indulgence.  This year my husband and I are driving down three hours to Columbia where my daughter is in her senior year of college and my son and his girlfriend are driving up from Atlanta to meet us there.  We're all going to meet for a meal and fellowship and I'm looking forward to it.  The local museum is having a Van Gogh exhibit that we can see while there and all in all, it should be a great day.  About two weeks ago I went to a great event at Bookmarks, a fantastic bookstore in Winston-Salem.  There were three speakers.  One was a publisher's representative who talked about upcoming books of note, another was a friend of mine who heads up the National Women's Reading group to present her list of best reads for this year and talk about successful strategies for book clubs and third was the author Therese Ann Fowler to talk about her latest novel, A Good Neighborhood.  As we left, we each got a book bag full of ARCs and it was one of the most satisfying events I've attended.  Here's what's come through the door lately:

1.  A Good Neighborhood, Therese Anne Fowler, literary fiction, gift
2.  Just Watch Me, Jeff Lindsay, thriller, sent by publisher
3.  The Rabbit Hunter, Lars Kepler, mystery, sent by publisher
4.  Our Better Angels, Jonathan Reckford, nonfiction, sent by publisher
5.  FKA USA, Reed King, literary fiction, gift
6.  The Idiot, Elif Batuman, literary fiction, purchased
7.  Cilka's Journey, Heather Morris, literary fiction, gift
8.  Renia's Diary, Renia Spiegel, memoir, gift
9.  A Rip In Heaven, Jeanine Cummins, memoir, purchased
10.  Greenwood, Michael Christie, literary fiction, won in contest
11.  The Wildlands, Abby Geni, literary fiction, purchased

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  All The Paths Of Shadow, Frank Tuttle, Kindle Fire
2.  Moon, Jewell Parker Rhodes, paperback
3.  The Last Of Her Kind, Sigrid Nunez, hardback
4.  The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone, Felicity McLean, audio
5.  The News From Paraguay, Lily Tuck, paperback
6.  The Shadow Rising, Robert Jordan, paperback
7.  Comanche Empire, Pekka Hamalainen, paperback

Happy Reading!

Friday, November 15, 2019

4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster

This is a coming of age novel of Archie Ferguson, set in New Jersey in the 1950's and 1960's.  That could be interesting although rather commonplace but what sets this novel apart is that the author has created four different life stories for Archie.   Our lives are a series of decisions, and what we choose at various points changes the paths our lives will go down and make us a very different person that other choices might have resulted in.

We look in at the four Archies at various stages, young child, around ten, teen years, college years, etc.  There are similarities; all have the same parents, Rose and Stanley Ferguson, all love baseball, all are interested in writing, all fall in love with the same girl.  But the paths vary and sometimes the parents stay together, sometimes they divorce.  Sometimes Archie gets the girl and sometimes he doesn't.  He has various successes with his writing.  How he reacts to the large events of his time; the Vietnam War, the ending of segregation, the student uprisings at universities like Columbia, vary. 

This novel is a tour-de-force for Auster.  It was shortlisted for the 2017 Booker Prize and a Best Book of the Year by such publications as the New York Times Book Review, NPR, Kirkus Reviews, the Spectator UK and the Huffington Post.   It is approachable and a joy to read, unlike some of Auster's other works which are quite experimental.  The reader is caught up in each rendition of Archie's story and as the years go by, the life granted to him becomes clearer.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Monday, November 11, 2019

The Gods Of Guilt by Michael Connelly

When Mickey Haller hears that a prisoner has asked to speak to him and hire him as his lawyer in a murder case, his first reaction is relief.  Things haven't been going well at the law firm.  After Haller gets a client off on drunk driving charges and that client later kills a mother and daughter in another drunk driving incident, Haller's name is mud in the local press.  His daughter knew the victims and she isn't speaking to him and his caseload went into a spiral.  Things aren't going well for Mickey.

When he meets with the prisoner, he finds out that the murder victim was someone he knew.  Gloria was a call girl and after helping her several times, Mickey had given her a stake so that she could move to Hawaii and leave the life.  Except he now finds that she didn't leave the life or even leave Los Angeles.  She's been there all along, on the same old game and now she is dead.  Her pimp, who ran her website, is the accused and Haller's newest client.

The more Haller talks to Andre the more he starts to believe he is actually innocent.  But if Andre didn't kill Gloria, who did?  After investigation Mickey thinks he knows that but how can he prove it in court and gain Andre's freedom?  There is danger whichever strategy he chooses but he needs to make things right with his memory of Gloria.

This is the fifth book in the Mickey Haller series.  Mickey has an entire group of people depending on him and his law practice, unlike his half brother, Bosch, who can be more of a lone wolf.  Haller has his ex-wife working for him and her new husband is his investigator.  He is training a new lawyer and spends lots of time with his mentor who is now in a nursing home.  Readers who are fans of Michael Connelly will enjoy this novel and the unfolding of another Mickey Haller case.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Girl Jacked by Christopher Greyson

When Jack Stratton returns home after his wartime service, he is at loose ends.  He decides to become a policeman which is the closest occupation to the skills he learned in the military.  He is doing well and taking all the training he can get but he is low man on the totem pole and most of the crimes he investigates are traffic related or breaking up fights in bars or at homes.  Underneath the calm exterior though, Jack is a mess.  He joined the service with his best friend, Chandler who he considered a brother after sharing a foster home for several years.  Chandler did not make it home and Jack blames himself.  He bounces from woman to woman, drinks too much and has not made it over to see Aunt Hattie,  Michelle and Replacement, the woman who raised him and Chandler and his sisters.

So Jack is shocked when Replacement shows up at his apartment one morning.  She informs him that Michelle is missing and they need Jack's help to find her.  Apparently, according to the police, Michelle left her promising college career to suddenly transfer to the West Coast and a university there.  Jack is hesitant to look for Michelle, knowing that this will bring him face to face with the abandonment he has committed with her family.  But as he remembers his childhood, he finally agrees to take it on.

Replacement is determined to help although she has no police experience.  She does have computer skills which Jack lacks and has found out that the West Coast university has no record of Michelle actually getting there and attending classes.  It's not possible that Michelle has just dropped out since her education was a hard fought opportunity she would never give up.  Can Jack and Replacement find Michelle?

This is the first in a series of detective novels featuring Jack and his sidekick, his former foster sister.  Jack is a troubled soul, the son of a prostitute who abandoned him one day when he was seven after telling him he didn't know jack.  His time with Aunt Hattie and his foster brother and sisters helped him join society and although he was later adopted, he knows he has a huge debt to pay to that first foster family.  Replacement was the bratty kid sister back then but has grown up into a woman who knows her own mind and has an ambiguous relationship with Jack.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson

Trond Sander has moved to a cabin to live out his retirement years.  It needs a lot of work but that is fine as he has nothing but time to fill.  He lives there with his dog and one neighbor, a man that he realizes is the younger brother of one of his childhood friends.  For Trond has moved back to the area where he spent his summers with his father as he became a young man.

As he looks back, the summer when he was fifteen is the one he thinks about most.  That was the summer he and his friend spent hours together, stealing rides from the neighbor's horses, fishing, swimming and getting into mischief.  It is the summer he is man enough to help his father cut a stand of timber and send it downriver to sell.  It is the summer he becomes aware of women and his response to them.  And it is the summer that he starts to realize that his father has many secrets, most of them related to World War II and his part in that conflict.

Per Petterson is a Norwegian novelist who writes of the lives there and the pain found in life.  He himself lost his family (mother, father, younger brother and niece) in a tragedy and this has shaped his writing.  This novel won the two most prestigious Norwegian literary awards and when translated to English it won the International Dublin Literary Award and was in the top 10 best books selected by the New York Times Book Review.  His look back at what events form us as individuals and the slow unfolding of the story make this book an instant classic and it is recommended for readers of literary fiction.