Thursday, June 4, 2020

Booksie's Shelves, June 3, 2020

Another month of isolation at home, another month of reading as solace.  I read eighteen books in May but added many more.  As our country hides from the virus and tears itself apart over racial injustices, sometimes it seems more than one can stand.  Books are always solace and hope that things will improve.  We did loosen up our isolation a bit.  Our daughter came home for two weeks which was wonderful.  I've been to the dentist for a routine appointment and have two annual doctor's appointments in June.  I've been attending my three book clubs online and listening to author and publishers discussions.  In wonderful news, our son got engaged and we will have another daughter to add to our family.  But whatever else is going on, books are always the standby.  Here's the ebooks I bought in May:

1.  Saint X, Alexis Schaitkin, literary fiction
2.  Death Is In The Details, Heather Sunseri, mystery
3.  Motherless Brooklyn, Jonathan Letham, literary fiction
4.  Florida, Lauren Groff, anthology
5.  The Second Coming, Walker Percy, literary fiction
6.  The Turner House, Angela Fourney, historical fiction
7.  The Poison Path, Solomon Carter, mystery
8.  The Other Magic, Derrick Symthe, fantasy
9.  Night Moves, Jonathan Kellerman, mystery
10.  Pilgrim At Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard, nonfiction
11.  Neuromancer, William Gibson, sci fi
12.  Beloved, Toni Morrison, literary fiction
13.  The Pleasing Hour, Lily King, literary fiction
14.  The Tethered Mage, Melissa Caruso, fantasy
15.  Theory Of Bastards, Audrey Schulman, fantasy
16.  Angelmaker, Nick Harkaway, sci fi
17.  Ducks, Newburyport, Lucy Ellman, literary fiction
18.  Fires That Forge, R.J. Hanson, fantasy
19.  First Blood, Angela Marsons, mystery
20.  Department Of Speculation, Jenny Offill, literary ficiton
21.  American Elsewhere, Robert Jackson Bennett, fantasy
22.  Fake Like Me, Barbara Bouland, mystery
23.  And Their Children After Them, Nicolas Mathieu, literary fiction
24.  The Chimes, Anna Smaill, literary fiction
25.  The Year Of The Runaways, Sunjeev Sahota, literary fiction
26.  Into The Wildbarrens, Christian Sterling, fantasy
27.  Monkey Beach, Eden Robinson, literary fiction
28.  The Keeper Chronicles, J.A. Andrews, fantasy
29.  The Lonely Hearts Hotel, Heather O'Neill, literary fiction
30.  Three Things About Elsie, Joanna Cannon, literary fiction
31.  The Most Fun We Ever Had, Claire Lombardo, literary fiction
32.  Stay With Me, Ayobami Adebayo, literary fiction
33.  The Keepers Of The House, Shirley Ann Grau, literary fiction
34.  Get Lucky, Katherine Center, women's fiction
35.  Dead Reckoning, Caitlin Rother, nonfiction true crime
36.  The Fallen, David Baldacci, mystery
37.  The Fix, David Baldacci, mystery
38.  Redemption, David Baldacci, mystery
39.  Righteous, Joe Ide, mystery
40.  The Silence Of The Girls, Pat Barker, literary fiction
41.  Your Blue Is Not My Blue, Aspen Matis, memoir

I've been buying a lot of the Booker and Orange Prize nominees.  Here are the physical books that came through the door:

1.  Operation Wandering Soul, Richard Powers, literary fiction, purchased
2.  Communion Town, Sam Thompson, literary fiction, purchased
3.  The Teleportation Accident, Ned Beauman, literary fiction, purchased
4.  Six Wakes, Mur Lafferty, science fiction, purchased
5.  Satin Island, Tom McCarthy, literary fiction, purchased
6.  Philida, Andre Brink, literary fiction, purchased
7.  Fever Of The Bone, Val McDermid, mystery, purchased
8.  The Plague Of Doves, Louise Erdrich, literary fiction, purchased
9.  Is This Tomorrow, Caroline Leavitt, literary fiction, purchased
10.  The MacGuffin, Stanley Elkin, literary fiction, purchased
11.  The World Before Us, Aislinn Hunter, literary fiction, purchased
12.  Richard Dooling, White Man's Grave, literary fiction, purchased

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  Cloudstreet, Tim Winton, paperback
2.  Underland, Richard McFarland, audio
3.  Innocents And Others, Dana Spiotta, Kindle Fire
4.  The Table Of Less Valued Knights, Marie Phillips, paperback
5.  The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce, paperback
6.  The Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead, Kindle Fire
7.  Three Things About Elsie, Joanna Cannon, Kindle Fire
8.  The Happy Isles Of Oceania, Paul Theroux, paperback
9.  The Cold Cold Ground, Adrian McKinty, audio

Happy reading!

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Lord Of Chaos by Robert Jordan

This is book six in the Wheel Of Time series.  In this novel, more of the main characters are brought back together.  Perrin senses that Rand needs him and he and his wife travel to the city where Rand is currently located.  Min also reunites with Rand and is determined to make him see her as more than a friend.  Mat is already there and serving as a general much to his dismay.  Even Lolial, the ogre has reunited with Rand as he has been staying with Perrin and comes with him.

But not everyone is there.  Elayne and Nynaeve are off on a mission to find a plate that will control weather even though Rand is looking for Elayne to make her Queen in her homeland.  Egwene has the biggest change.  She has been in the village where the Aes Sedai have gathered who fled the White Tower, after studying with the Aiel Wise Ones.  She is shocked to be selected as the new Amyrlin Seat at her young age and experience.  Can she live up to the new responsibilities?

Rand is determined to fight Sammael, one of the Forsaken.  He is gathering an army and deciding on strategy.  Many believe that he had Morganse, Elayne's mother, killed and that causes some discontent.  In reality, she fled and is amassing an army of her own.  Rand is visited by delegations from both the White Tower and the new gathering of Aes Sedai.  He doesn't trust either and soon will learn that he is right to do so.  This book is recommended for readers of epic fantasy.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Day Of The Dead by Nicci French

For ten years, psychologist Frieda Klein has been in the shadow of a psychopath, Dean Reeve.   She originally was treating his twin brother for depression.  Dean killed him and began to impersonate him.  Frieda was the only person who recognized what was happening.  Since then, Dean has indiscriminately killed and killed again, anyone who got in his way or just random people if he wanted to leave a message.  But one message is clear; he is obsessed with Frieda and will kill anyone he thinks is bothering her or too close to her.  Perhaps he wants to kill her himself.

Lola is a young college student, spending her days larking about with her friends and attending classes.  When she needs a topic for her dissertation, she is steered onto the topic of Frieda by one of the lecturers in her college, a man who dislikes Frieda as she has shown his analysis of cases to be wrong several times.  Lola tries to contact Frieda but has little success so she starts to contact Frieda's friends and people she has worked with in the past.  Frieda is apparently in hiding, gone to be out of Reeve's sight and hopefully obsession.

As Lola wanders around trying to contact Frieda, she instead runs into Reeve.  When she does finally meet Frieda, Frieda sees a picture of Dean on Lola's phone and she knows Lola's life as she knows it is done.  She hustles Lola to her apartment and gives her ten minutes to grab anything she wants.  She throws away Lola's phone and cuts off her Internet access.  Lola and Frieda are on the run, moving from place to place one short step ahead of Reeve.  Frieda feels that things are coming to a head and soon either she or Reeve will be gone.  Which will it be?

The Frieda Klein series is one of the top series in the mystery genre.  Readers have followed Frieda for years, getting to know her and intimately feeling what being the focus of a psychopath would be like.  They have grieved with Frieda over the deaths Reeve creates and cheered as she solved mysteries sometimes with and sometimes without the police.  They have been consoled as Frieda pulls together a group of family and friends to sustain her.  Above all, they have worried about her as Dean's focus on her gets deadlier through the years.  The ending of this series is sad but gives resolution and this novel is recommended for readers of mystery.

Friday, May 29, 2020

In A Strange City by Laura Lippman

Private investigator Tess Monaghan didn't like this client from the start.  A small, roundish man, he reminded her of a pig.  Something about his story didn't ring true.  He claimed to have been scammed out of a priceless necklace, one that the wife of Napoleon's brother had owned.  He said that he knew who had it and how to get it back.

Every year, on Edgar Allen Poe's birthday, an anonymous figure leaves three roses and a half-full bottle of wine on his gravestone.  It was a Baltimore legend and no one had ever found out who it was.  But this man said he knew and knew the man was the one who stole his necklace.  He wants Tess to go there that night and follow the man home so he would know where he lived.

It just didn't sound right.  Add in the fact that Tess, like most natives of Baltimore, didn't really want for the anonymous figure to be identified and it was easy to turn the case down.  But it stirred her curiosity and that of her boyfriend and they decided to go that night and view the event.  It ends in tragedy when two figures instead of the expected one arrive and when one is shot and killed.

Now there are bigger questions, questions of murder.  As Tess works the case, she runs into unique characters in the antique business and another female PI who isn't afraid to get physical and who seems to have a real grudge against Tess.  There is also a reference librarian who helps her with information about Poe and a newspaper reporter who always gives her good ideas.  Along the way, Tess starts to get roses and threatening notes and she appears to be the killer's next target.  Can she solve the case?

This is the sixth novel in the Tess Monaghan series.  Tess is an interesting character; a former newspaper reporter whose nose for scandal and ability to see ahead led her to her new career as a private investigator.  The author's love for Baltimore shows through in these books and the reader will learn lots of interesting facts about the city and its inhabitants.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Heat And Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhablava

Heat And Dust tells the story of Colonial India under the control of England in the 1920's and in particular, the story of Olivia Rivers.  A young woman, Ann, has come to India.  She is there to explore and to track down the story of Olivia who was her grandfather's first wife.  Upon an estate being settled, the woman received a packet of  Olivia's letters back home and she is determined to walk in Olivia's shoes and find out the truth of a family scandal.

Olivia came to India as the wife of Douglas, an English official.  They are pretty much newlyweds.  Olivia is excited to be in an exotic land but soon discovers that it is pretty much boring old England transported to another locale.  She is expected to stay in her home and not go out without escort.  Her social life is to be with the other officer's wives, where she finds lots of social clique and hierarchy where she is decidedly on the bottom.  Soon Olivia is bored out of her mind and desperate for some excitement.  Douglas is out all day involved in his job responsibilities, about which he rarely talks.  She is left adrift with no friends.

The English colony is invited to a party at the palace of the Nawab, a minor prince.  He is handsome and charming and Olivia is taken with him.  The Nawab has an English firend, Harry, who lives with him.  Soon the Nawab and Harry begin to visit Olivia during the day and soon a car is being sent for her most days to go to the palace.  She become smitten with the Nawab and is dismayed to find that the opinion of him in her circles is that he is a minor player attempting to be a bigger one, a con man who is probably involved with the roving bands of bandits who make travel difficult.

As the weeks go on, Olivia begins an affair with the Nawab.   She finds herself pregnant with no idea if the child is that of Douglas or her Indian lover.  Her handling of this pregnancy and her subsequent decision to run off and live with the Nawab creates a scandal that Ann is interested to explore.

This novel won the Booker Prize in 1975.  It is an interesting juxtaposition of Colonial India and the more modern one of the 1970's.  Olivia knew only the upper echelons of society while Ann makes her home among the poorest and makes friendships with marginalized individuals.  It is a short novel that points out such themes as the pitfalls of colonizing countries, the effect of merging cultures and the expectations of women in different times.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Quichotte by Salman Rushdie

In this novel, Salman Rushdie takes on many aspects of our modern lives through the lens of the Don Quixote story.  In this version, Quichotte is an Indian pharmaceutical salesman who spends his life traveling the roads of America as he visits doctors and sells them the various medicines his extremely successful cousin, Dr. Smile, has created in his company.  When Smile decides that Quichotte has become too old and strange, he lays him off.  But Quichotte needs a mission and he soon settles on one.  He falls in love with Salma R, an Indian talk show host whose various life stumbles are part of her draw to the women who watch her show and try to emulate her.  He realizes that it will not be easy to win Salma's love and begins a slow courtship via letters.  He spends his time slowly driving from the West back to New York where she lives, using the trip to make himself a better person and try to understand the world around him.  He is accompanied by the son, Sancho, who Quichotte imagined into life.

The outer story of this story is that of novelist, Sam DuChamp, a former spy novelist who has created Quichotte to work out his own issues.  DuChamp needs to reconcile with his sister.  He fell out with her decades ago and now feels the need to reunite with her, only to find that she is losing a battle with cancer.  As he works through this trauma, he also uses the Quichotte story to work through other issues.

Rushdie takes on many issues in this novel.  There is the issue of opioid addiction, and Rushdie has a personal issue with this, having lost his youngest sister to it thirteen years ago.  There is the racism that Quichotte and Sancho encounter on their long journey across America.  There is the corruption of massive corporations.  There is the promise and danger of technology in our daily lives.  There is the danger of television and reality programming that promises truth while delivering a sculptured, manufactured lie.  Readers will find much to think and talk about as they read this novel and unwind its many layers.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez

The narrator of this book opens with a tragic event.  She is an author, living in New York in a small city apartment.  She is rocked by the news that her long time friend, another author, is dead.  A suicide.  She spends days trying to deal with this unexpected blow, wondering why and what could have been done.

Just as she is beginning to reconcile herself, she gets a communication from one of her friend's ex-wives; he had three of them.  She learns that one of her friend's last wishes is that she become the guardian of his beloved dog.  The problem?  This is a large Harlequin Great Dane, an animal that needs space and exercise.  She lives in a very small apartment, one which doesn't allow pets.

The author isn't the only one grieving.  The dog, Apollo, was found one night by the friend in Central Park, already an adult dog.  He was obviously trained and housebroken.  How had he come there?  Despite extensive searches, no prior owner could be found.  The friend decided to keep Apollo.  Now Apollo is heartbroken due to his master's death.  Who knows what prior tragedies this one recalls?

Although the author isn't interested in having a pet and despite the fact that her apartment owners start eviction notices, she decides that it would be too disorienting to find another owner for Apollo.  Over the days and weeks that follow, Apollo becomes less distraught and begins to accept the author.  She also becomes attached to Apollo.  Soon they make a bonded pair.  Together they learn to accept the death of their friend and move on to the future.

Sigrid Nunez has created an interesting novel based on the premise of what pet ownership means to humans.  Why do we want to attach another being to us?  What roles does an animal play in our lives?  What do we owe an animal we have brought into our homes?  The ruminations on these subjects and others on the animal-human spectrum will entertain and bring up topics of thought.  This book won the 2018 National Book Award for Fiction.  It is recommended for readers of literary fiction and animal lovers.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

Libby Jones has just turned twenty-five.  That's a milestone birthday for anyone but especially for her.  That's the day she reaches the age at which her trust about which she knows nothing is viable.  Along with not knowing anything about the trust, she doesn't know anything about her life before she was adopted at ten months by her parents.  She wonders if she will get all the answers she has been waiting for.

The first surprise is that she has inherited a mansion in one of the most expensive London neighborhoods.  The kind of property that is worth millions.  But that's where the good news stops.  Far from losing her parents in a car accident, she learns that they were suicide victims who left her in a crib while they died.  Apparently, she also has/had siblings about whom nothing is known since that day as they vanished and have never been found.  Were they killed?  There was also another man found dead with her parents and he was never identified.  There were rumors of other adults living in the house along with other children, all with no identity and all never heard from.  Libby has been handed a mystery.

The mystery continues as she attempts to reconcile the stories she has been told with the truth.  While in the house one day, she hears someone upstairs, yet the doors were all locked when she entered.  Is she imagining things?  The truth when she learns it, brings both horror and joy.

This is the second Lisa Jewell novel I've read.  This one was particularly interesting to me with many characters who were relatable.  The mystery unfolds slowly enough that the reader is drawn into the events, imagining how things must have been and slowly realizing the horror that the house was.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, May 22, 2020

A Necessary End by Peter Robinson

Even in the small town where Inspector Alan Banks lives, there is conflict.  This day is one of those days.  There is a demonstration against nuclear power and against allowing more American military in the area.  But something goes wrong and after the fighting between demonstrators and police stop, a policeman lies dead.

The policeman was not on of Bank's men but an officer brought in from a neighboring town who volunteered for the overtime.  But the police organization feels that the local force shouldn't be in charge of the investigation and sends a DCI from London to oversee it.  Banks is not happy with the choice, 'Dirty Dick' Burgess, a man he served with before and with whom he clashed.  Burgess is all about the quick solve and using any tactics to get a confession.

The obvious suspects are a group of people who have banded together to live a simple life on a farm.  The people there are craftsmen, furniture makers, pottery, art and other creative endeavors.  Most of them were at the demonstration along with local students who have formed a Marxist organization at the local college and a thirty-something protester who is dating a woman Banks considers a friend.  Burgess homes in immediately at one of the men at the farm as his suspect.  His interrogation tactics leave all the suspects even more suspicious of the police and Banks isn't sure that the truth will emerge.  Can Banks solve the crime before someone innocent is convicted?

This is the third novel in the Banks series.  Robinson portrays an unsophisticated country where farming and crafting are the norm.  Yet one thing I love is that when he goes into these country homes, the books he sees laying about are the classics such as Middlemarch.  Inspector Banks loves music, all kinds but especially blues and folk and it is a central trait of his to listen as he attempts to figure out the crimes he is faced with.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Office Of Mercy by Ariel Djanikian

America-Five is perfection.  Those living within have no wants unsupplied.  Their bodies are repaired if necessary and their lives are infinite.  Everyone has a job that supports the compound and lives are communal and structured.  No child is born until there is three times the resources that are needed to sustain it, and children are born in large cohorts that are raised by groups. As one ages, their job responsibilities and knowledge increases as well.

Surely it is the best of all worlds.  In fact, it is so perfect that the inhabitants have created an Office Of Mercy.  The purpose of the office is to constantly scan the environment outside the compound, where danger abounds.  Those humans who survived the great apocalypse which sent the America-Five citizens inside are pitied.  Their lives are barren and short.  Surely it is a mercy to end their suffering when they are detected.  Bands of humans are swept away by weapons that rain down fire on them and destroy them.

Natasha works in the Office of Mercy.  She is proud of her ability to successfully scan the Outside and proud to be on the teams that sweep away those who are out there suffering.  She is still young and rooms with someone.  Her best friends are her roommate, a man from her cohort who also works in the Office of Mercy and her boss, Jeffrey.

When a situation arises that will require Outside in person surveillance, Natasha is excited to be chosen as part of the team.  Most inhabitants of America-Five never go outside in their entire lives so it is quite an honor.  But things are very different than Natasha expects to find.  She gets lost and finds herself in close contact with a group of outsiders.  She is shocked to realize she can emphasize with them and that they are more like her than not.  Is the Mercy the blessing she has always be taught or is it genocide that cannot be defended?

Ariel Djanikian has written a debut novel that explores the interaction of humanity with technology and what changes might occur as we become more and more dependent on technology in our daily lives.  Her vision of the future is one that readers will have a hard time believing could ever be better than the freedom we expect in our daily lives.  Is freedom to fail more important than a leveled out society where all decisions are made for you?  This book is recommended for readers of science fiction.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Dealing With Dragons by Patricia Wrede

Princess Cimorene has a problem.  Her problem is that she doesn't like being a princess at all.  She wants to learn magic or fencing or advanced mathematics.  She doesn't want to learn to sew or make conversation with strangers or any of the usual princess things.  The main issue is that she has no desire to marry a prince and become a queen.  It seems totally boring to her.

When her parents take her on a visit to a neighboring kingdom, it turns out that it is a prenuptial visit and plans are in place for her to marry the kingdom's prince in three weeks.  The prince is nice enough but boring to Cimorene.  Unable to think of any way to stop the marriage, she runs away to look for a dragon.

Soon she finds the dragons' area and volunteers to become one of their servants.  Kazul, one of the most powerful dragons, takes her up on her offer.  Soon Cimorene is happily organizing the dragon's lair, learning about potions and cooking to her heart's content.  Her only problem is discouraging princes who show up periodically to offer to fight the dragon and free her.

When Cimorene, her friend Alianora and Kazul uncover a plot that threatens all the dragons, it taxes Cimorene's abilities.  Wizards are encroaching on the dragon's territory and it soon becomes apparent that they are up to no good.  Can the evil wizards be stopped in time?

This is a children's book about princesses and dragons.  That age group should enjoy this tale, especially young women.  It shows that one need not meet society's expectations in order to live a happy, fulfilled life.  There are others in this Patricia Wrede series if this one was appealing.  This book is recommended for young readers.

Monday, May 18, 2020

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Nathan Bright lives a life few would envy.  He ranches on a spread in the Australian Outback, a sparse, brutal environment where temperatures over one hundred are common and droughts are followed by floods that can cut him off from civilization for weeks.  Not that being cut off is much different for Nathan.  He has been ostracized by the surrounding farms and village for more than a decade, the result of a hasty decision that broke one of the prime rules of outback survival.

Now Nathan lives alone after the breakup of his marriage.  His son lives with his wife and her new husband and Nathan sees him occasionally on school breaks.  This is one of those as it is almost Christmas.  But it isn't a happy occasion.  Nathan has just gotten word that his brother Cameron, from the neighboring farm, has been found dead at a local landmark.  He meets his other brother, Bub, at the location.  Cameron has died of heat exhaustion and dehydration which is a long and terrible death.  His car is not at the site and no one seems to know how Cameron came to be there either.

As Nathan and his son Zander meet with the remaining family at the family ranch, tensions are high as everyone attempts to give meaning to the death.  Nathan starts to learn buried family secrets about Cameron.  Cam had married the woman who Nathan had started a relationship with after his marriage and they have two daughters.  They all live on the homestead along with Nathan's mother, Bub and a long time family friend, Harry.  At the moment two backpackers, a couple from England, also live there working on the land.  Are any of them responsible for Cameron's death?

This is the third Harper novel.  As with her others, The Dry and Force Of Nature.  As with those two, the Australian environment is a big part of the novel and it's bleakness and unforgiving nature matches the action in the story.  This is a family with lots of secrets going back decades and the slow revealing of them fuels understanding of how this death occurred.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

A Brief History Of Seven Killings by Marlon James

The year is 1975 and the location is Jamaica.  Bob Marley is back on the island of his birth, there to play at a freedom rally in order to elect men who would overthrow the last vestiges of foreign control of the island.  But two days before the rally, on December 3rd, seven men broke into his compound and rushed the house firing indiscriminately.  Miraculously, no one was killed but Marley, his wife and manager were wounded.

For most people, the story was all about Marley, his fame and his narrow escape from death.  But the seven killings referred to in this novel's title are the stories of the seven gunmen and their eventual deaths.  It is a novel about government corruption, about drugs and gangs and grinding poverty, about the men who control the slums of Kingston, about foreign governments and agencies like the CIA controlling other country's politics and laws, about women struggling to raise children in poverty and men whose only path upward is through violence and lawlessness.

The book is written from the viewpoint of many characters.  Some are the drug lords who rule the streets.  Some are foreign diplomats.  Some are journalists, some musicians.  Some are women who surround the men and fight to have anything for themselves and to make their own way in the world.  The novel spins dizzily between viewpoints and time points, in a myriad of busyness that requires the reader's entire attention.

This book was the winner of the 2015 Booker Prize and it is the first time I've read Marlon James.  It has left me eager to read anything else he has written and this book will definitely be in the top five of 2020 for me.  I loved the change in viewpoints, the history, the maneuvering behind the scenes.  It reminds the reader that as outraged as Americans are at the thought of other nations interfering in our affairs, we have a long history of doing just that to other countries and cultures.  This is not a novel for the fainthearted as it has graphic violence and language from the streets but the payoff is massive for those who read it.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and those interested in learning about the lives of other cultures. 

Thursday, May 14, 2020

This Is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf

The summer that she was fifteen, Eve Knox was found brutally murdered by her friend, Maggie and her sister, Nola.  That was twenty-five years ago and Eve's case was never solved.  Everyone else has moved on.  Maggie is now on the police force, following in her ex-chief father's footsteps.  Nola is a veterinarian.  Both have lives changed forever by their discovery of Eve that day.  Who would beat her and then strangle her? 

Unfortunately, the list is long.  Eve was dating the rich, handsome teenage son who everyone thought could do no wrong, but Maggie and Nola knew he was different in private and was physically abusing Eve.  There was the teacher who seemed to have a crush on her.  Nola was considered the town weirdo and had a propensity for dissecting animals, roadkill mostly but there were tales that if she couldn't find a dead animal, she would kill one.  Maggie's husband, Shaun, had been one of the last to see Eve that day and has never confided in Maggie about that.  There was the drifter who came through town most weeks and seemed to lurk around young girls.  Even Maggie and Eve had an argument that day as Eve had discovered Maggie's biggest secret and was threatening to tell someone.  Will Maggie find  the killer before they find her?

Heather Gudenkauf has written an interesting mystery.  She is a new author to me and I'm now interested in reading her other seven novels.  The book is written in a mixture of present day events and throwbacks to twenty-five years ago.  It is fascinating to watch Maggie reevaluate events that happened then with the eyes of an adult rather than those of the teenager she was then.  The only caveat I have is that in books and films, it is a miracle whenever someone has a routine pregnancy and this was not that miraculous book.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The Whisper Man by Alex North

Twenty years ago, a serial killer named Frank Carter kidnapped and killed seven young boys.  His nickname was The Whisper Man as he lured the boys outside by whispering outside their windows.  Detective Pete Willis caught Carter and was considered a hero by everyone except himself.  He has castigated himself and called himself a failure for twenty years because while he found the bodies of four of the boys, he never found the last victim although Carter confessed to the crime.

Tom Kennedy and his son, Jake, need a fresh start.  Jake's mother died recently and the two are grieving and trying to figure out how to live life together as a pair rather than a trio.  Tom is sure he is doing everything wrong; his own father walked out on his mother and he and he believes that only his wife was responsible for helping Jake grow up happily.  Jake is an introverted child who loves to draw and who has imaginary friends.  Tom worries about this and wants Jake to have lots of school friends instead of the ones he makes up to populate his life.

Determined to make a fresh start, Tom and Jake move to Featherbank to start over.  As soon as Jake saw the old house he was determined that nowhere else would do and Tom reluctantly purchases the house.  It is strange and older and he isn't sure it's the best place to start over.  But move in they do and things immediately start getting weird.  There are school worries as Jake doesn't get off to a good start and there are strange things happening around the house.  Most worrying, Jake is still busy with his imaginary friends and these friends now seem to be threatening rather than reassuring.  In the town itself, families are worried as another child has been abducted and when his body is found, the talk of Whisper Man starts up again.  Detective Willis is brought onto the case due to his expertise from twenty years ago but is sure he won't be able to help any more than he found the last boy then.  Can Pete and his partner Amanda find the Whisper Man before he takes another victim?

Alex North has written an engaging thriller.  It had one of the biggest surprises halfway through that I can remember in recent reading.  However, I couldn't help but wonder at Tom Kennedy and why he didn't get counseling for Jake and for himself after the traumatic loss of his wife.  The characters are compelling and the pace works for this type of mystery.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

The Closers by Michael Connelly

After three years of retirement, Harry Bosch has come back to the LAPD.  His former partner, Kiz Rider, has used her pull with the new police chief to recommend him and he and Kiz will be partners once again.  They are assigned to the new Open-Unsolved unit which has been formed to go back and close cases that weren't solved at the time of commission.  Technology advances now make these cases worth another look.  Not everyone is happy that Bosch is back though.  His former nemesis, Chief Irving, makes a point of finding Bosch on his first day back and telling him that Bosch is a retread sure to wash out and Irving will be waiting with glee for that to happen.

Bosch and Kiz get their first case.  Sixteen year old Rebecca Verloren was taken from her home and shot almost two decades ago.  No motive was ever found nor was there ever much of a suspect list developed.  But now things have changed.   The gun matched to the murder has had blood and skin cells found on it and now DNA can help find the person who left those behind.  The match comes back to a man who was basically a juvenile delinquent at the time and who has been a small time crook ever since.  Why would he want to kill a prep school girl and where would he even have crossed paths with her?

Bosch visits the parents only to discover that only the mother still lives in the house.  The marriage broke up and she doesn't know where Rebecca's father is now.  She doesn't recognize the name or photograph of the suspect but that doesn't surprise Bosch as most parents don't know everyone their children do.  She has kept Rebecca's room as a shrine which is also unsurprising.  Parents in these situations are caught in that day when they found out their world had ended.

The suspect was involved with a group of young thugs who were involved in the white nationalist movement although never more than on the fringe.  He seems to still have leanings that way as he is now living with another man in the movement.  Rebecca was biracial.  Was that the motive?  As Kiz and Bosch investigate they start to find reasons that the case was never solved and those reasons point to a whitewash inside the police department.  Can Rebecca's case now be solved?

This is the eleventh book in the Bosch series.  Fans who have recently discovered Bosch through the popular Amazon TV series will be surprised to see that Chief Irving is not the fan and partner of Bosch portrayed there but an enemy of many years standing.  The mystery is intriguing and the interaction between Bosch and Rider is interesting.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

The Fires Of Heaven by Robert Jordan

In this fifth novel of the series, the various characters have split into different groups, as they all work toward a common end.  Rand, the Dragon Reborn, has come into his own as a leader and now has an army who is devoted to him and will follow him unquestionably.  He takes them to fight the Shaido and recapture the city of Cairhien.  He also knows he must next take on and defeat The Forsaken, who have banded together to thwart his plans and deliver him to the Evil One.

Rand still has some of his original supporters with him.  Mat is around although he wants to leave but the memories he is experiencing which aren't his seem to be keeping him around.  He rises in military rank, much to his own surprise.  Egwene and Moraine are also in Rand's camp although he isn't often sure of what they are doing or their purposes.  In addition, Rand is forming a romantic relationship with Aviendah, his female bodyguard.

In Tor Valen, things are not well in the Crystal Tower.  The Amyrlin, Siuan, has been deposed by a group of Black Ajah sisters and has even been silenced, shorn of her ability to channel the Power.  Siuan, Leane who was her right-hand assistant and Min are on a journey to find and join a group of Aes Sedai who are determined to fight the Black Ajah faction who are currently in power.

Nynaeve and Elayne are also journeying.  They join a traveling circus to hide in from their enemies.  They are pursued by various groups, the religious group who is so sure they are right that they use their military might to subdue others, the Prophet who has come to power and 'knows' that he is the true voice of Rand's desires, and Elayne's brother who she feels is blind to the big picture and who causes havoc by following what he thinks is the right way.  Elayne's mother, the Queen of her country, has fallen under the spell of a man who is revealed to be one of the Forsaken.

The book ends with the battle to retake Cairhein and with a surprise twist involving a major character.  Readers will be taken aback and will hurriedly start the next novel in the series to resolve the questions raised in this one.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

The Paris Hours by Alex George

The year is 1927 and the location is Paris.  The lives of several individuals from differing backgrounds intersect in a fascinating exploration of how our lives impact those of other people and how fate and chance play a part in our lives in unanticipated ways.  Life has not always been kind to these characters but Paris remains as a location that can nurture dreams.

Guillaume is a struggling artist.  The love of his life was a short affair and he still remembers everything about it.  Lack of finances and crushing debt may force him to leave Paris and the artistic life but he still has hopes both to win professional respect and to reunite with his lost love.

John-Paul is a newspaperman.  He dreams of different lives, one where he is a novelist who can write whatever he wants instead of the next day's news and of living elsewhere.  But his past and the tragedy that shaped it keeps him in Paris and doing the same routines. 

Camille is a hotel owner with her husband.  But before that she was the housemaid and personal assistant to Marcel Proust.  When she discovers that her husband has sold her most prized possession which is a journal Proust asked her to burn, she is horrified and knows she must get it back at whatever cost. 

Souren is an Armenian, living in Paris after he immigrated there during an upheaval in his country where he and his entire village are forced out of their daily lives.  He spends his days using puppets to tell stories to Parisian children in the park and to work out the tragedies that still haunt his dreams. 

Each of these individuals will interact with the others in an eventful day that will bring joy to some and pain to others.  Along the way, they will encounter some of the more famous expatriates that call Paris their home in this period; Josephine Baker, Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway and others. 

The Paris Hours is a fascinating read and one that provides comfort and hope in these stressed times.  The intersection of the characters lives and the glimpses of more famous people keep the reader entrenched in the novel and the resolution of the different inner conflicts and blockages that keep the characters from their dreams is fascinating to watch unfold.  The research is extensive and well done and anyone who has visited or read about Paris will recognize scenes and locations.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Silent Source by James Marshall Smith

The Atlanta medical community is baffled.  There have been several cases of patients brought in complaining of feeling like they are burning up from the inside out.  They have rashes and soon it progresses to multiple organ failures and death before a cause can be determined.  When neither they or the police seem to be making any progress, Dr. Damon Keane is called in.

Keane is a technical consultant to the police.  His forte is unraveling complex cases that don't seem to have a solution.  In this case, he starts to realize that the symptoms match radiation poisoning, but the lab work shows no sign of any radioactive elements.  Keane flies to London to research radiation that shows no sign and the closest case is that of a Russian operative poisoned by his superiors back in Moscow.  This is a poison that hasn't been seen in the United States.

As Keane follows the clues, he starts to narrow the search to a former radiation tech in a hospital who was dismissed.  The victims all seem to have a connection to him.  Keane is helped by Jessie Wiley, a former helicopter pilot from the military in Afghanistan who is now trying to make a go of hiring out her own helicopter.  She serves as Keane's backup and he gets closer to the man trying to take out as many victims as possible before he dies.  Can the pair stop him in time?

Smith knows his subject well.  He was Chief of Radiation Studies for CEC in Atlanta for more than a decade and has worked for various international agencies sharing his expertise.  This is his debut novel and his knowledge of radiation and of the Atlanta area is demonstrated.  The action is fast and furious and the reader will feel compelled to turn the pages to see if Keane and Wiley are successful.  This book is recommended for thriller readers.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Booksie's Shelves, May 1, 2020

Another month gone of self-isolation and the days seem all the same.  I spend my time reading, watching series on streaming media, cleaning and cooking.  The restrictions have triggered my book buying along with various sales on books found online.  People often ask how I found myself living with over 10,000 books in my house.  This is how.  Usually I only account for physical books that are new to my house, but I've bought so many ebooks also that I'm going to include them.  Here are the ebooks I've bought:

1.  Cleanness, Garth Greenwell
2.  The Calculating Stars, Mary Robinette Kowal
3.  The Mother-in-law, Sally Hepworth
4.  The Dream Daughter, Diane Chamberlain
5.  Bridge Of Legends, The Complete Series, Sarah K.L. Wilson
6.  The City In The Middle Of The Night, Charlie Jane Anders
7.  How To Walk Away, Katherine Center
8.  Truly Madly Guilty, Liane Moriarty
9.  The Long Call, Ann Cleeves
10.  Wash, Margaret Wrinkle
11.  No. 4 Imperial Lane, John Weisman
12.  The Hearts Of Men, Nickolas Butler
13.  The Dream Of The Iron Dragon, Robert Kroese
14.  The Wedding, Lorna Dounaeva
15.  Cold Bath Lane, Lorna Dounaeva
16.  M For Murder, Keri Beevis
17.  The Italian Teacher, Tom Rachman
18.  Future Home Of The Living God, Louise Erdrich
19.  Witch World; High Hallack Cycle, Andre Norton
20.  The Man Who Played With Fire, Jan Stocklassa
21.  Soldier Of Fortune, Kathleen McClure
22.  The Dinosaur Feather, Sissel-Jo Gazan
23.  The Ninth Sorceress, Bonnie Wynne
24.  Cari Mora, Thomas Harris
25.  The Woman Who Couldn't Scream, Christina Dodd
26.  Best Served Cold, Joe Abercrombie
27.  A Time Of Dread, John Gynne
28.  The Wolf In The Whale, Jordanna Brodsky
29.  What We Forgot To Bury, Marin Montgomery
30.  The Lost Files Of Sherlock Holmes, Paul Gilbert
31.  Dead Of Night, Deborah Lucy
32.  Murder On The Levels, David Hodges
33.  The Beekeeper, Stewart Giles
34.  Squeezed, David Atkinson
35.  Before I Left, Daisy White
36.  Murder On The Marsh, Anne Penketh
37.  Deadly Lies, Chris Collette
38.  Dead Secret, Janice Frost
39.  Their Last Words, Steve Foster
40.  The Murderer's Son, Joy Ellis
41.  Murder On The Oxford Canal, Faith Martin

Here's the physical books that came through the door:

1,  Schroder, Amity Gaige, literary fiction, purchased
2.  Everything Under, Daisy Johnson, literary fiction, purchased
3.  Don't Let My Baby Do Rodeo, Boris Fishman, literary fiction, purchased
4.  The Shortest Way Home, Miriam Parker, literary fiction, purchased
5.  The Night Police, Chris Berg/Paul Smith, nonfiction, sent by publisher
6.  The Mirror & The Light, Hilary Mantel, literary fiction, purchased
7.  Confessions About Colton, Olivia Harvard, mystery, sent by publisher
8.  The City Of Tears, Kate Mosse, historical fiction, sent by publisher
9.  The Sopranos, Alan Warner, literary fiction, purchased
10.  The Stars In The Bright Sky, Alan Warner, literary fiction, purchased
11.  The Weight Of Blood, Laura McHugh, mystery, purchased
12.  A Measure Of Darkness, Jonathan/Jesse Kellerman, mystery, purchased
13.  Olive The Lionheart, Brad Ricca, historical fiction, sent by publisher
14.  Modern Lovers, Emma Straub, literary fiction, purchased
15.  Bruno's Dream, Iris Murdoch, literary fiction, purchased
16.  The Friend, Sigrid Nunez, literary fiction, purchased
17.  The Roanoke Girls, Amy Engel, literary fiction, purchased
18.  Death On The River, Diane Fanning, true crime, purchased
19.  Lies Lies Lies, Adele Parks, mystery, won from book event
20.  The Glass Hotel, Emily St. John Mandel, literary fiction, purchased
21.  Remembering Babylon, David Malouf, literary fiction, purchased
22.  Take A Hint, Dani Brown, Talia Hibbert, women's fiction, won from book event

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  The Fires Of Heaven, Robert Jordan, hardback
2.  The Paris Hours, Alex George, Kindle Fire
3.  Rattler, Fiona Cummings, Kindle Fire
4.  A Brief History Of Seven Killings, Marlon James, paperback
5.  Quichotte, Salman Rushdie, Kindle Fire
6.  The Whisper Man, Alex North, Kindle Fire
7.  Underland, Robert McFarland, audio
8.  In The Cold, Cold Ground, Adrian McKinty, audio
9.  The Closers, Michael Connelly, hardback

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Beginning With Cannonballs by Jill McCroskey Coupe

The year is 1951 and the place is Knoxville, Tennessee.  Gail and Hanna are best friends, eight years old and raised like sisters and even sharing a crib for months.  But will that friendship last?  Sophie, Hannah's mother, doubts it for a very good reason.  Gail is the daughter of her white employers, the Madisons Hanna is her daughter and an African American.  Although Sophie and Hanna live with the Madisons all week, there is a definite line drawn.  They live in the basement and it's clear who is in charge.

As the girls grow older, Gail still wants the friendship she has known, but after Sophie and Hanna move back home, Hanna starts to realize the very big differences in the girl's circumstances and futures.  The relationship gets strained and then when the girls are fifteen, Sophie and her family move to Philadelphia.  Gail is desperate to retain her friendship with Hanna but her mother, Bessie, sees this as the perfect opportunity to put an end to a relationship she has been uncomfortable with for years.  When Hanna writes to Gail, Bessie hides the letters until they slow to a trickle and then stop.

But Gail is determined.  Once she is out and in college, she finds a way to locate Hanna and try to rekindle things.  This becomes the pattern over the years.  No matter how many months or even years have gone by, Gail is determined to keep trying with Hanna and is there for all the big events in Hanna's life.   As the two age, they come to an understanding about the one friendship that has endured for all their lives.

Jill McCroskey Coupe has written a thoughtful novel about the meaning of friendship and about the awkwardness that characterized even the best of friendships that crossed the ethnic line in the 1950's and 1960's in this country.  The two women in the novel are about ten years older than me and I remember those times and the clear line that was drawn.  I grew up in a small Southern town and there were definitely two different experiences depending on your skin color.   This novel is recommended for readers of women's fiction and those interested in exploring what friendship means.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Echo Park by Michael Connelly

Some cases get under a detective's skin.  For Harry Bosch, one of those was the disappearance thirteen years ago of Marie Gesto.  All signs pointed to her being killed but her body has never been located so her parents and the case are left in limbo.  Harry believed that the culprit was the son of a local wealthy businessman but the lawyers representing him kept Bosch from getting a confession.  But he has never forgotten the case and still reviews it periodically, hoping to see something he missed.

But crime goes on.  The latest case making the news was the Echo Park Bagman.  This was a young man who was pulled over one night in his van, only to have the police find the remains of two women in bags in the back.  There's no doubt this is a serial killer and he is going away for good.  But Bosch is amazed when the word filters down that the man has confessed to the murder of Marie Gesto as well as other victims.

As part of a plea deal to avoid the death penalty, the man agrees to lead detectives to Marie's body.  Harry and his partner are in the accompanying team, along with forensic investigators, the DA and other policemen.  The man leads them to a location and all indications are that there is a body buried there.  But on the way back to custody, the man breaks free, killing two officers and wounding Bosch's partner.  Now he is on the loose and Bosch is having doubts about his confession.  Can he find the man before he kills again and can he finally find the truth about Marie's case?

This is the twelfth Harry Bosch novel.  In this one, Bosch's partner is Kiz Rider, a young woman who is partnering with Bosch in the Open/Unsolved Unit.  Readers of the series know how close Bosch is to his partners as they literally depend on each other to come home safely at night.  The mystery is satisfying and the machinations of Bosch's mind as he puts the clues together is fascinating.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

The Black Count by Tom Reiss

Most people have heard of Alexandre Dumas, the author of such classics as The Count Of Monte Cristo, The Man In The Iron Mask and The Three Musketeers.  What most people don't know is that his swashbuckling adventure novels were based on his own father, whose life was more unbelievable than the fictional characters we now find entertaining. 

Alex Dumas was born in what is now known as Haiti, the son of a disgraced French aristocrat and a native woman.  His life until he was in his late teens was on the island, with long years spent in hiding along with his father in the most remote areas.  When Dumas was seventeen, his father came into his title and returned to France to move into a castle and live the life of a wealthy man.  He sold Alex into slavery to pay for his passage, but then retrieved him.  Alex was given an amazing education but he really shone at the academy where nobles sent their sons to learn sword fighting and military maneuvers.  When he and his father fell out, Alex joined the French military.

He joined at the bottom of the ranks but his talent and striking physique made him stand out.  Soon he was in charge of other men and loved nothing more than going out on scouting maneuvers.  This was the time of the beginning of the French Revolution and Dumas was a full fledged enthusiast as the mottoes of freedom for all struck a chord with him.  Dumas' talent and bravery insured his rapid rise until he was named a General at a young age.

As General Dumas, he was given some of the most difficult military missions and was successful at all of them.  Along with his own skill in fighting, he was also a master tactician and strategist.  Another General was making his way up the ranks.  Napoleon was also fighting to rise to the top and when he was made head of the Army, he took Dumas along with the French army in a surprising move to capture Egypt and from there he hoped to win the Arabic nations and onward into India.

But the relationship between the two men was not a smooth one.  Napoleon was not fond of Dumas, who towered over him and who commanded his men through respect not fear.  Napoleon left Egypt, leaving his men behind to make their own way home.  Dumas and others made it only as far as Italy, where they were imprisoned for several years.  This imprisonment broke Dumas' health and when he returned it was to see the advances made by those of color being rolled back and his own military backpay and ability to serve in jeopardy.  He died at forty, a broken man except for his wife and two children.

Tom Reiss has written of an interesting and amazing man who most have never heard of.  Along with Dumas' story, the reader learns about the sugar trade of the French and the slavery that supported it, the French Revolution and those who played a part in it, the military maneuvers and battles that occurred during this time, and the rise of Napoleon.  This book won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 for biography and it is a fascinating character study of a man whose life illustrated the times he lived in.  This book is recommended for readers of history and those who grew up loving the swashbuckling adventure novels of Alexandre Dumas. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Bright Lines by Tanwi Nandini Islam

The Saleem family lives in Brooklyn.  Anwar is a pharmacist and his wife, Hashi, runs a wedding consultation business along with a beauty salon.  Hashi was Anwar's best friend's little sister when they met and married in Pakistan.  As the situation over the separation with India worsened, they emigrated to America.  When the brother and his wife were killed in the conflict, the Saleem's didn't think twice but brought over their niece, Ella, who was two at the time.  They raised Ella as their own daughter along with their other child, Charu.

Now years later, everything has changed.  The girls are pretty much grown.  Ella has just finished her first year at college while Charu is in her last year of high school, eagerly awaiting her turn at college.  Both girls face some of the issues women do as they give up their childhood years.  Ella isn't sure of her sexuality but is pretty sure she is only attracted to women, first her cousin, Charu, then Charu's best friend, Maya.  Charu is ready to give up her virginity but not sure if that should be with another Muslim or one of the other boys she finds so attractive.

Anwar and Hashi also have issues.  Anwar's brutish older brother has moved in on them when his wife kicked him out.  He is a constant negative presence, always carping and complaining at how the Saleem's household is run.  Both want him out but they aren't sure how to accomplish that.  The couple worry about the girls and how to raise them as good Muslim women.  Their marriage also has become humdrum and neither is sure how to fix that.  As the problems mount, the family decides to go back to visit family in Pakistan and work on the issues there.

This is a debut novel.  Islam has written a book that has hope as the family works through issues and they are resolved.  The book suffers a bit from first novel issues.  There are a multitude of things that happen, fires, sexual orientations and awakenings, deaths, dark family secrets, infidelity and family relationships.  Any one of these issues could have served as the basis for an interesting novel but instead too much happens and the impact of each revelation is muted by the next one coming right behind it.  It will be interesting to read later novels by this author as she finds her pacing a bit more.  This book is recommended for readers of family relationships and those interested in learning about other cultures.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Final Girls by Riley Sager

They call them Final Girls.  There's Lisa, the only survivor of ten sorority girls who died when a man broke into the house.  Samantha who survived a horrific attack at a hotel where she was on her first shift as a maid.  Quincy Carpenter who went with her friends on a weekend getaway to a cabin in the woods only to have it become a slaughter house when a man broke out of a nearby mental hospital.  The world and media was fascinated with their stories and wanted to know why, why, why were they the only ones to survive?

Years later, there are still consequences to surviving such horror.  Lisa, who is the oldest, finished her education and became a psychologist helping others.  Samantha went off the grid and no one has heard from her in years.  Quincy seems to be doing the best.  She has a lovely apartment in New York, a fiance who is supportive and loving and a baking blog which allows her to turn her therapeutic baking into a career. 

Then it happens.  Quincy gets a call from the policeman who saved her all those years ago and who has remained a constant force in her life.  Coop is the man who has always been there for her, always available by phone or text and coming for visits to make sure Quincy is okay.  He calls to give her the news.  Lisa is dead, a suicide.  As Quincy is struggling to deal with the news, she gets an even bigger shock.  Someone stops her outside her apartment and it is Samantha or Sam as she likes to be called.

Quincy invites her in.  Sam as she likes to be called, is rough around the edges.  She dresses to shock and it's clear she has been living off the radar.  She has heard the news and as the only person alive who really understands what Quincy's life is, she has come to join forces.  Quincy's fiance is skeptical and dismayed, sure Sam is there to try to get money from them or some other sketchy plan.  But when Quincy and Sam find out that Lisa's suicide is instead murder, nothing can make them separate.

As the days go by, Quincy finds that the roughness she sees in Sam is deeply ingrained.  Sam is defiant and reckless, tempting men to see her as a victim so that she can turn around and work out her anger on them.  Quincy is appalled and intrigued in equal measure.  But none of Sam's stories seem to check out and soon Quincy is scared of her and not sure how to disentangle herself or what Sam might do next.  Has she traded one nightmare for another?

This was a debut novel for Riley Sager, a former journalist and editor.  It burst onto the scene in 2017 and in 2018 was the winner of the International Thriller Award for Best Novel.  The story is written at a pace that moves the reader along with it, never quite sure what the next page will bring.  The truth is slowly revealed as the reader discovers it along with Quincy.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

The Mercy Seat by Rilla Askew

The Lodi brothers move from Kentucky to Oklahoma as pioneers.  Although they are brothers, they could not be more different.  John, the younger, is a skilled blacksmith and gun maker, quiet and focused on his work and family.  Fayette, or Fate, is a big talker, a man who always has a ton of ideas on how he can get rich regardless of the legality of the ideas.  The journey is not their desire.  Instead, the Lodi families are moving out ahead of the law after Fate convinced John to make some guns that violated patent law. 

The families start out together but become separated on the trail.  Each family has multiple children.  Mattie is John's oldest, a daughter who chooses to go by a man's name and whose only desire is to be as much like her father as she can be.  The mother is a frail woman who grieves everyday for her Kentucky home with its refinement.  Fate has no patience with her and makes fun of her constantly.  When she gets ill and can't go on, Fate moves his family onward without John's family.  John's wife dies on the trail, leaving five children to be raised.

When the two Lodi families are reunited in Oklahoma, it is not with joy.  John and the children come with scarlet fever, and Fate's wife, Jessie, resents them from the start, worrying about her own family coming down sick as well.  The families never become close.  John finds work as a blacksmith, much to Fate's dismay.  Fate has plenty of ideas of things John could do with him but John isn't interested.  Not in Fate's ideas nor it seems in his own children.  They are left to raise themselves and do so with varying success.  The tension between the brothers increases until it leads to a tragedy, an 1800's version of Cain and Abel.

Rilla Askew, an Oklahoman herself, has written a compelling history of this time and place.  The characters are unforgettable and the story is bleak as was the fates of those who moved westward to find a better life, but who often only found pain and misery.  Modern parents will not relate to the way that children were expected to be miniature adults from a young age and how little time or effort was expended on raising them to be happy and successful.  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

The Girl With The Louding Voice by Abi Dare

Life has not been kind to Adunni.  Her only dream is to be able to finish her schooling so that she can become a teacher herself.  But when her mother dies, although her father promised her mother that he wouldn't interfere with Adunni's education, promises are cheap.  He doesn't want to work but prefers to lay around drinking.  Soon, he has a plan to marry Adunni off at fourteen as the sixty year old man who wants her is willing to pay a good bride price for her.

Adunni is the third wife in the old man's compound and as such, her only role is to do what wives one and two tell her to and to spend nights in the old man's room where he does whatever he wants.  When tragedy strikes the household, Adunni runs off, begging help from anyone she knows.

But help is not available for a naive girl.  She is instead sold to a wealthy family in Nigeria where she works from dawn to late at night, cleaning and being a personal attendant to the older wealthy woman who runs the house.  The woman is married but her husband has a roving eye and hands.  The woman not only demands long hours and high standards from Adunni, she also beats her almost every day.

But there are a few good things even now in Adunni's life.  The cook finds a scholarship that is targeted for housemaids that could get Adunni out of her life of servitude.  There is a woman down the street who is struck by Adunni's cheerfulness in the midst of her bleak life and who does what she can to help.  Will these good people help Adunni escape her current life and find her voice?

Abi Dare has written a debut novel that is uplifting and interesting.  She manages to highlight the obstacles that many young women around the world are faced with and the difficulties they face in trying to pull themselves up from ignorance and poverty.  Adunni is a lovely character and the reader won't be able to stop cheering for her in the situations she finds herself in.  This book is recommended for readers of women's fiction.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

The Last Coyote by Michael Connelly

As this novel opens, Harry Bosch is out of work.  Two weeks ago, he had gotten into a scuffle with his supervisor, Lt. Pounds, and it ended with Harry putting him through a glass window.  Now Harry is on suspension and can't come back until he is cleared by a psychiatrist.  Harry is not pleased to be visiting Dr. Carmen Hinojos and he certainly isn't sure if he can trust her.  But he has to go and what else does he have to do?

Except Harry knows what else he has to do.  Now is the perfect time to investigate the case he has put off for years, the one case that matters to him more than any other.  When he was eleven, his mother, Marjorie, had been murdered, leaving Bosch to a series of foster homes and institutions until he was able to escape by joining the military.  Her case was never solved.  Maybe it's time for Harry to look into it.

When he gets the files, he is infuriated all over again.  It's clear the case was just kicked down the road and never really investigated at all.  His mother was a prostitute and apparently, the murder of a prostitute wasn't high on the list.  But, it's high on Harry's list and he is determined to get to the bottom of it all.

As he investigates, he starts to see some shadowy connections.  His mother appeared to have been connected to some influential men, men in the district attorney's office and wealthy men with lots of pull.  Is that why her case stalled out?  As Harry tracks down the policemen who handled the case, he gets more evidence and in a side note, meets a woman he feels instantly attracted to and has a real connection with, something that doesn't happen often for him.  Everyone tells him that he should let it go but he can't.  Can he find the truth after all these years?

This is the fourth book in the Harry Bosch series and it gives the reader a lot of the background that makes up Harry's outlook on life and what is important to him.  There are plenty of twists and turns and the reader feels closer to Harry as he delves into his personal history.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Ten Minutes And 38 Seconds In This Strange World by Elif Shafak

Tequila Leila is dead, murdered in her job as a prostitute in Istanbul.  But her brain doesn't die when her body does.  It stays alive for ten minutes and thirty-eight seconds, long enough for Layla to look back over her life for one last time.  Her life was shaped by the culture she grew up in and it's insistence on women as second class citizens.  She remembers her childhood and how happy it was until the dark family secret that ruined her life.  More than anything, she remembers her five friends and how they became her family instead.

There is Sinan, her childhood friend.  He was her only friend growing up and his joy was found in seeing her joy.  Once Leila ran away from home, he made it a point to also end up in Istanbul where he searched until he found her.  Nalan was the next friend she made.  When she first met Nalan, it was as a male but she later got to know him after he had changed and become a woman.  Nalan had to work the streets as the bordellos wouldn't accept transgender women.  Jameelah was an African immigrant, antoher prostitute who Leila met in the common sweeps of prostitutes.  Humeyra had also run away from a stifling family and was now a rock singer in the smoke filled bars and had even done a few pornography films to make a living without family.  Finally, Zaynab was a dwarf, a cleaner in the bordello who formed a fast friendship with Leila.

Together, these six outcasts formed a family that sustained them and provided love and friendship.  Now that Leila is dead, it will fall to them to make sure she rests in peace.  They plan to bury her beside her beloved D'Alia, a revolutionary who fell in love with Leila and with whom she shared a brief, joyous marriage. 

This book was a Booker nominee in 2019 and it is clear why.  The characters are colorful and clearly drawn.  The message is the oppression that the Muslim religion imposes on women and those who are different and the few choices available to those who are different.  Yet, with all the horrid things in her life, Leila manages to make a joyous life and be kind to those around her.  The style reminded me of  Salman Rushdie, one of my favorite authors.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction. 

Sunday, April 5, 2020

The Hidden Things by Jamie Mason

Returning home from school, Carly Liddell is followed by a man who pushes into her home as she enters.  Carly, who is just fourteen, reacts by instinct and her repulsion and beating of the man is captured on the home video.  The police are impressed and post the video and before you know it, it goes viral and Carly is everybody's heroine.

Everybody except her stepdad, that is.  John's biggest secret is also revealed in the video.  Four years ago, he tried to sell a picture.  Not any picture but a true Old Master, stolen years before from a museum and somehow acquired by his father.  John found it in his father's possessions when he died and knew just enough to know it was valuable.

But the sale went wrong and people died.  Now the video has shown the picture hanging in Carly's foyer and lots of people are interested.  The man who arranged the purchase for his employers and whose friends were killed.  The woman who was John's partner and who he left for dead and who has been living under the radar for four long years, not even able to let her family know she was alive.  The man who accidentally fired the gun and who will never let John alone.

Now all of these people know exactly where John is and where the picture is.  John's marriage of convenience can't shield him any more.  Can he manage to pull off the sale and escape for good this time?  Will the purchasers finally get their revenge?  Will Carly and her mother find out about John's background?

Jamie Mason has written a thrilling adventure that is full of twists and turns.  Her forte is writing characters that the reader can believe in and whose actions, though misguided, seem realistic as a choice.  As the story unfolds from these multiple viewpoints, the reader will find their sympathies changing from moment to moment and eagerly await the outcome.  This book is recommended for thriller and mystery readers.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter

When doctor Sara Linton goes to lunch that day, she never expected her life to change so dramatically.  When she goes into the restroom, she finds a victim; a local chemist who is blind has been raped and slashed and left for dead.  She is still alive but dies in Sara's arms as she tries to help. 

Chief of police Jeffrey Tolliver is faced with a sadistic killer.  He is also Sara's ex-husband and there is plenty of tension left between them.  Another conflict is that the victim is the twin sister of his top detective, Lena Adams.  Lena already has issues being the only female in the small Georgia town police force and she is determined to be on the case although everyone knows it shouldn't be allowed.

Clues are scarce and before Jeffrey makes much progress, the killer strikes again.  This time he kidnaps a student from the local college and when she is found, two things become apparent.  The killer is working through a religious framework and his main target is Sara.  Sara has a background that already has a criminal in it.  She was attacked in Atlanta years ago during her residency.  Is this the same man or is someone new?

This is the first novel in the Grant County series and an early book in the successful career of Karin Slaughter.  The violence is graphic and the reader needs to be prepared for it.  Along with the horrific crimes, there is tension between Sara and Jeffrey as they work on what their relationship should be post divorce.  There are plenty of twists and turns and the reader will finish with a real appreciation for why Karin Slaughter is such a powerful force in the mystery genre.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The Sisters Grimm by Menna van Praag

Not all gods are merciful.  Grimm is not.  He has thousands of children and amuses himself by pitting them against each other in an intricate game that ends in death.  The male children are soldiers and to stay alive must kill a female Grimm and take her essence.  The female children are shown a wonderful playworld called Everwhere.  There they start to learn about the powers given them.  But they are banned from visiting at age thirteen and must live here on Earth.  At age eighteen, they return to Everwhere for a battle in which it is kill or be killed and where they must make a decision to their father; good or evil.  The males are pretty much loners.  The females who share a birthday are sisters and meet each other in Everwhere.

The eighteenth birthday is coming up in a month for a set of  four Grimm sisters.  Each controls an element of the world, although their powers are not evident to them.  Goldie is on the earth but in her regular life she is a hotel maid trying to make enough money to support herself and her younger brother.  Bea is a creature of the air and the only sister who knows anything about the upcoming battle as her hated mother has told her all about it and makes it clear she is to choose evil.  Liyana's power is over water; in her earthly life she is a swimmer and wealthy although her aunt has just informed her that all their money has been lost.  Scarlet is a creature of fire.  She tries to keep her grandmother's bakery going and her grandmother happy as she battles a fading memory and depends on Scarlet for everything. 

As the thirty days go by, the sisters start to remember about their childhood visits to Everwhere.  They all find love relationships which in some cases strength them and in others lead to betrayals.  More importantly, they start to rediscover their powers and to find each other; first in dreams then in real life.  Can they ready themselves for the ultimate battle they must soon fight?

Meena van Pragg has created a modern day fairy tale that empowers female readers to reach for their dreams and for happiness.  Each of the four sisters is deftly captured and the reader is drawn into their lives and loves.  Different readers will relate more to different sisters and that is a reflection of the issues in their own lives and where they dare to be powerful.  This book is recommended for readers of fantasy.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Easy Prey by John Sandford

As soon as Lucas Davenport got the call, he knew this case was going to be trouble.  Alie'e Maison is one of the top ten models in the world.  When she is killed at a party after a photographic shoot the media went wild.  When another woman's body is discovered at the same crime scene stuffed in a closet, the tension and expectations on the police racket up even more.  As with all top crimes, Lucas and his team are called to head up the investigation.

None of the things they discover cool down the media storm.  There's the fact that Alie'e's body is full of drugs.  There is evidence that she has had sex shortly before her murder.  The fact that the party was full of rich, connected people just makes things even more difficult.

But the killings don't stop there.  As the days go by, others around Alie'e or connected to her are also killed.  The main suspect is an evangelical preacher who was in Alie'e's world but Lucas isn't convinced.  In fact, he isn't even convinced that Alie'e was the real target that started off the murders that keep spiraling outward.

In his personal life, Lucas is busy balancing women.  His college girlfriend has shown up after all these years, in a midlife crisis and wondering if she is still attractive to men.  Another model connected to the investigation has her sights on Lucas and he can't help looking back.  Then there is Weather.  He also married her but that blew up when she got in the sightline of one of his cases and was almost killed.  Now she seems to be recovered a bit and perhaps interested in seeing Lucas again.

This is the eleventh book in the Prey series centered around Lucas Davenport.  Fans know what they are getting when they open the book.  They will be reading a solid mystery with twists and turns, told from the viewpoint of a unique investigator.  Lucas has the ability to step back from the chaos of a murder investigation and see through all the extraneous material to the heart of the motive.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.