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!