Friday, December 31, 2021

Booksie's 2021 Year In Review


Another year is gone.  For some reason, 2021 just didn't make much of a mark on my memory; it seemed to fly by without much going on.  For much of it, we stayed at home due to the pandemic but we did venture out a bit.  We went to Sanibel Island in April, and have gotten to visit our son, DIL and grandkids a couple of times this year.  That was especially welcome as we didn't see them for eighteen months prior.  I'm in three bookclubs and while they were mostly online, we have started to meet in person for one of them and another occasionally.  I've still been reading quite a lot.  I finished 195 books this year.  Reading goals I've met or making progress on:

1.  Reading from my own shelves.  Pretty much except for book club choices, I've read from my shelves and I'm slowly but surely whittling my collection down.

2.  Reading anthologies.  I always have one going and will for many more months.  I think I've found around another dozen on my shelves so this will be another goal for 2022.

3.  Working on the Wheel Of Time series.  I'm on book eleven now so hopefully will finish this year.

4.  Listening to more audiobooks.  I listened to 36 audiobooks this year.

5.  Reading more nonfiction.  I read 19 nonfiction books this year.

Here are the books I read that I liked the best:

  1. Underland by Robert MacFarland
  2. I Am Pilgrim, Terry Hayes
  3. All The King's Men, Robert Penn Warren
  4. Girl, Woman, Other, Bernadine Evaristo
  5. Winter's Heart, Robert Jordan
  6. The Coffin Maker's Garden, Stuart MacBride
  7. The Quiet Boy, Ben Winters
  8. The Blacktongue Thief, Christopher Buehlman
  9. The Window Seat, Aminatta Forna
  10. The Golfinch, Donna Tartt
  11. The Painter, Peter Heller
  12. Nottingham, Nathan Makaryk
My goals for 2022:
  1. Continue to read from my own shelves and donate what I've read
  2. Finish the Wheel Of Time series by Robert Jordan
  3. Always have an anthology going
  4. Read all of Karin Slaughter's books in order
  5. Read at least four classics
Happy Reading for 2022!

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Dark Roads by Chevy Stevens


In British Colombia, there is a highway named the Cold Creek Highway.  Along it's length, girls and women have disappeared for years with no closure.  Sometimes their bodies are found, sometimes not.  Some were hitchhikers, some were women who accepted a ride with the wrong person.  To those in the area, it seems that law enforcement has just thrown up their hands and quit trying to find out what is happening.

Hailey McBride could be one of those missing women.  A year ago, she lived with her dad but after his death in a road accident, she has gone to live with her aunt.  Unfortunately, her aunt is married to a local law officer and he has made it his life mission to manage every moment of Hailey's life.  He wants to pick her friends, decide when she can leave the house, be into her social media accounts, listen to all her phone calls.  At first he is irritating but when she discovers that his obsession has tipped over into taking pictures of her unawares, pictures in her bedroom and bathroom, she knows she needs to get away.  With the help of her friend, Johnny, she runs away and holes up in a hunter's cabin that is remote from the town.  Everyone in town assumes that the Cold Creek killer has claimed another victim. 

But the deaths keep coming.  Hailey finds the body of Amber, who was her friend and maybe more.  All she can do is call the discovery of the body in, fearing that her uncle is behind Amber's death.  Now, Amber's sister, Beth, has come to town determined to find the answers that law enforcement can't or won't.  Is Beth now in danger as well?

Chevy Stevens has written a taut, engaging tale.  The Cold Creek Highway exists and the tale of missing and murdered women, mostly indigenous is true.  The story is told through the voices of Hailey and Beth and once the two young women meet, events rush towards a surprising denouement. I listened to this novel and the narrator, Brittany Pressley, has narrated over a hundred books.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

2014 The Best American Mystery Stories edited by Laura Lippman


This anthology of mystery stories offers the best from 2014, as edited by Laura Lippman.  The authors include those familiar to most mystery readers as well as lesser-known individuals.  Authors include Megan Abbott, Daniel Alarcon, Jim Allyn, Jodi Angel, Russell Banks, James Lee Burke, Patricia Engel, Ernest Finney, Roxane Gay, Michelle Butler Hallett, Charlaine Harris, Joseph Heller, David Ingram, Ed Kurtz, Matthew Neill Null, Annie Proulx, Scott Loring Sanders, Nancy Pauline Simpson, Dennis Tafoya and Laura Van Den Berg.

My favorite story was Antarctica by Van Den Berg.  A woman has gone to Antarctica after receiving notification that her brother, a scientist, has been involved in an accident there and is presumed dead.  Due to the remoteness of the location, she stays at a neighboring scientific station and talks to those who knew her brother.  As she reflects on his death, she is reminded of the guilty secret she carried for years, the knowledge of a crime against his wife in her childhood that played a part in her disappearance years later as an adult.  

After all the stories, there was a nice feature.  Each author talked about the genesis of the story and why they loved it.  It was quite interesting to read about how authors get their ideas and how those ideas evolve into stories where the author can rearrange facts to make the situation make sense to them.  This book is part of an annual series and anthology readers should seek these out.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Intimacies by Katie Kitamura


An interpreter has come to work at the Hague International Court.  She seems adrift in all ways.  A native of New York, after her father's death, her mother returned to Singapore, where the interpreter felt no ties.  She is pleasant with her co-workers but not close to any of them.  She has made one friend, Jana, who is in charge of an art museum.  While at a galley opening, she meets Adriaan and becomes his lover although he is married and separated; there is no telling if the marriage will end or if the partners will reconcile.  At work, she has been assigned to interpret for a case of war crimes against a former African President who is accused of genocide.  The man seems to pick her out and want some sort of relationship although she doesn't know what.

As time goes on, she meets another woman through Jana, an art professor.  This woman has a brother who was assaulted on the street in front of Jana's building and beaten severely.  Without meaning to, the interpreter learns a secret about this man and wonders if she should reveal it to his family.  

This novel has garnered much praise.  It was nominated as a New York Times Top 10 Book of 2021 and longlisted for the 2021 National Book Award in Fiction.  My biggest question was the title.  The main character seems as far from intimacy in all aspects of her life as any character I've encountered.  All the relationships seem tenuous and as likely to end as to endure.  Readers will be interested to read about the inner workings of the International Court and to figure out along with the interpreter where her life will lead next.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Talking To Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell


In this book, Malcolm Gladwell discusses the research into how we discern truthfulness or falsehood when talking to others.  He has gathered the research into this topic into an easily readable discussion, incorporating interesting examples.  Some of those include how easily the national intelligence agencies are fooled for years by double agents and how Hitler's nature and intentions were misread by national leaders.  He discusses crime cases where truth is of utmost importance but we find it difficult to distinguish truth from lies.  Some of these cases include campus sexual assaults, the Amanda Knox trial, the pedophile scandal of Penn State and the death of Sandra Bland after a traffic stop.  

One of the issues Gladwell discusses is the insistence of truth.  When in doubt about whether someone is telling us the truth, the normal act is to default to the idea that the person is telling the truth.  We believe that we can read truthfulness from facial expressions yet in studies both judges and law enforcement officers fail miserably at telling the truth about people from those clues.  We don't take into account the idea of coupling; that truth is tied to a specific situation and may be different in other ones.  

This is an interesting book on an intriguing topic.  Gladwell has a knack for gathering research and then presenting material in an easily digested format.  His books are readable and while not scientifically exhaustive, they introduce topics to those interested and give them a base from which to pursue further and deeper studies on topics that they are interested in.  This book is recommended for nonfiction readers who are interested in communication.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Dark Mirror by Barry Maitland


It's a typical day in the sedate Reading Room of the London Library.  But the calm is shattered when a young graduate student, Marion Summers, experiences a seizure and dies.  What could have caused a young healthy woman to die so dramatically?  The medical examiner is able to provide the answer; arsenic poisoning.

Marion was working on a thesis about the art world and the use of poisons in the paints and in the lives of the artists and their wives and lovers.  The academic who is supervising her work disagrees with her ideas and they are in conflict.  Can he be the one who poisoned her?  Marion comes from a poor background but lives in a luxurious apartment.  How did she finance that?  Her stepfather is also a suspect as he has a record of violence.  

Detective Inspector Kathy Kolla has been recently promoted and wants to successfully solve this case.  But when one of the suspects with connections reports her for harassing behavior, the case is given to her supervisor, DCI David Brock.  Kathy continues to run down leads in the case, sure that she is getting close to the answer.  As more women start to die from the same arsenic poisoning, can she or Brock get the answers before the killer strikes again?

This is the tenth novel in the Kolla and Brock series.  Long-time readers of the series will be interested in this latest case and in Kolla's professional rise.  Readers will learn about the pre-Raphaelite period of art and all the scandals in that sector, as well as gaining knowledge about poisoning cases.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy


Inty Flynn has arrived in a remote Scottish village with a team of scientists.  The group is there to work on reintroducing wolves back into the environment.  Inty has worked on similar projects in Alaska and Yellowstone and is a wolf expert.  She expects resentment and fear from the people living there, most of whom are sheep farmers and she is not disappointed.  The people are adamantly against bringing wolves into their lives.  Intry tells them about the ways that wolves improve the wild.  Predators are necessary to keep the animals that graze down, so that they don't eat all the young growth of trees and so that the weak and old are taken from the herds.  But the populace just expects that the wolves will kill their livestock and present a danger to humans, even though Inty has explained that wolves are shy creatures, afraid and leery of humans.

Along with her knowledge, Inty has brought her twin sister, Aggie.  Aggie doesn't go out, her mind shattered by a marriage when her husband regarded her as his property and enforced that belief with his fists.  The women have fled from him and Aggie's greatest fear is that he will track them down and force his way back into their lives.  She only trusts Inty as she and Inty have always lived together and been there for each other.  Most people don't even know that Inty has a sister.

As time goes on, Inty starts a relationship with the local police chief, Duncan.  Duncan also has a history with violence but Inty slowly starts to believe that she might have a future with him.  At least, until Stuart is killed.  He is a local farmer, vocal against the wolf project and furious with Inty as she has outed him as a wifebeater.  When he is killed, Inty knows that the town will think the wolves were responsible and she is right.  Can Inty protect those she loves, Aggies and the wolves?

I listened to this book and it was a great choice.  The prose is slow and haunting and the narrator reflected that.  I had time to settle in and imagine myself in the remote Scottish highlands, to feel the love Inty had for her sister and the wolves and to feel the fear that Inty feels as she comes to believe that everything she loves will be taken from her.  Along the way, I learned quite a bit about wolves and their place in the ecology of a forest.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Booksie's Shelves, December 23, 2021


Two days until Christmas!  A week left in 2021 as we race towards 2022.  We've had a warm winter here in North Carolina so far.  DH and I took a trip to Georgia last weekend to visit our son, DIL and the grandkids for Christmas.  The actual day will be a quiet one with us plus our daughter.  I'll be up early making the sausage balls that are one of our Christmas traditions then lots of present opening.  I've already received some books for Christmas from my reading son so I'm ahead of the game.  I'll be posting a year-end wrapup of my 2021 reading in a few days.  In the meantime, here's what has come through the door lately:

  1. The Removed, Brandon Hobson, diverse voices, purchased
  2. Simon The Fiddler, Paulette Jiles, literary fiction, gift
  3. Talking To Strangers, Malcolm Gladwell, nonfiction, gift
  4. I Am Not Who You Think I Am, Eric Rickstad, thriller, gift
  5. The Water Cure, Sophie Mackintosh, literary fiction, purchased
  6. The Long Take, Robin Robertson, literary fiction, purchased
  7. Geographics Of The Heart, Caitlin Hamilton Summie, literary fiction, sent by author
  8. Believing The Lie, Elizabeth George, mystery, purchased
  9. Resurrection Men, Ian Rankin, mystery, purchased
  10. Space Opera, Catherynne Valente, science fiction, purchased
  11. Exit West, Mohsin Hamid, literary fiction, purchased
  12. Sundial, Catriona Ward, thriller, sent by publisher
  13. The Resting Place, Camilla Sten, mystery, sent by publisher
I bought these ebooks:

  1. Empire Of Black And Gold, Adrian Tchaikovsky, science fiction
  2. Dangerous To Know, K.T. Davis, fantasy
  3. Empire Of Wild, Cherie Dimaline, fantasy
  4. Mongrels, Stephen Graham Jones, horror
  5. The Doors Of Eden, Adrian Tchaikovsky, science fiction
  6. Bitter Orange, Claire Fuller, literary fiction
  7. Bright Girls, Clare Chambers, women's fiction
  8. Still Lives, Maria Hummel, mystery
  9. The Stand, Stephen King, horror
  10. The Cold Nowhere, Brian Freeman, mystery
  11. Magpie Lane, Lucy Atkins, mystery
  12. Tyrant's Throne, Sebastian de Castell, fantasy
  13. Truth Or Dare, M. J. Arlidge, mystery
  14. The Children Of Jocasta, Natalie Haynes, literary fiction
  15. 56 Days, Catherine Ryan Howard, mystery
  16. New Spring, Robert Jordan, fantasy
  17. The Galaxy, And The Ground Within, Becky Chambers, science fiction
  18. The Story Of The Lost Child, Elena Ferrante, literary fiction
  19. I: The Creation Of A Serial Killer, Jack Olsen, true crime
  20. Spine Of The Dragon, Kevin Anderson, fantasy
  21. Spoken Bones, N. C. Lewis, mystery
  22. Murder At Teal's Pond, David Bushman, mystery
  23. The Spires, Kate Moretti, mystery
  24. The Whitstable Pearl Mystery, Julie Wassmer, mystery
  25. Bleeders, Anthony Bruno, mystery
  26. The Body Scout, Lincoln Michel, science fiction
  27. The Sun Casts No Shadow, Mark Richardson, science fiction
  28. Where The Truth Lies, M J Lee, mystery
  29. An Ignorant Witch, E M Graham, fantasy
  30. Hurricane Season, Fernanda Melchor, literary fiction
  31. The Unbroken, C.L. Clark, fantasy
  32. For The Wolf, Hannah Witten, fantasy
  33. The Seven Visitations Of Sydney Burgess, Andy Marino, horror
  34. Sistersong, Lucy Holland, fantasy
  35. Grave Peril, Jim Butcher, science fiction
  36. No Gods, No Monsters, Cadwell Turnbull, fantasy
  37. The Darkest Evening, Ann Cleeves, mystery
  38. Knightmare Arcanist, Shami Stovall, fantasy
  39. A Small Town, Thomas Perry, mystery
  40. Tell Me The Truth, Matthew Ferrell, mystery
  41. The Recent East, Thomas Gratten, literary fiction
  42. Girl Missing, Kate Gable, mystery
  43. Girl Lost, Kate Gable, mystery
  44. American Sherlock, Kate Dawson, nonfiction
  45. Palace Of The Drowned, Christine Mangan, literary fiction
  46. Queen Of Shadows, Sarah Maas, fantasy
  47. Empire Of Storms, Sarah Maas, fantasy
Here's what I'm reading:
  1. Talking To Strangers, Malcolm Gladwell, nonfiction
  2. The Night Swim, Megan Goldin, mystery
  3. True Crime Story, Joseph Knox, true crime
  4. Best Mystery 2014, various, anthology
  5. A Woman Is No Man, Etaf Rum, literary fiction
  6. Nottingham, Nathan Makaryk, literary fiction
Happy Reading!

Thursday, December 23, 2021

When A Killer Calls by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker


May 31, 1985 and Shari Smith had it all.  It was two days before her high school graduation near Columbia, South Carolina and she was to sing the national anthem before the ceremony.  Her high school class was going on a trip to a tropical island after graduation.  She was planning to live in Charlotte for the summer and with her sister, Dawn, perform at Carowinds.  Shari had a boyfriend and a loving family.

But none of those plans came to fruition.  On her way home, Shari stopped at the bottom of the driveway to get the family's mail.  That's where her father found the car minutes later, door open, engine running.  There were footprints leading to the mailbox but none returning.  

Despite the police being called immediately there was no sign of Shari.  But then the calls started.  The man on the other end admitted to having Shari and instructed her family to expect a letter.  When the letter arrived the next day, it was titled Last Will And Testament and Shari had written it as a love letter to her family.  She knew she was about to be murdered and wanted to reassure her family and urge them to move past her death.  Lawmen had never seen such a thing.  The FBI was called in to assist in finding the man who took Shari.

John Douglas was the head of the FBI profiling unit.  He and a co-worker had invented the system of criminal profiling by spending time going from prison to prison interviewing killers.  He had worked on the cases of the Atlanta child murders, the Green River Killer and many other well known cases.  He flew to South Carolina and worked on a profile with the local law establishment.  His profile gave the police a way to narrow down their search.  In the meantime, the man who kidnapped Shari continued to call, asking to speak to either Shari's mother or her sister, Dawn.  He seemed to revel in the pain and anguish these calls produced.

After a week, Shari's body was found where the killer had directed Dawn to tell the police it would be.  Then another tragedy.  Nine year old Debra May Helmick was kidnapped from her front yard with her little brother watching.  A week later her body was also found.  Soon afterward, forensic evidence helped the police narrow their search and arrest the killer, Larry Gene Bell.

I read everything John Douglas and Mark Olshaker write.  There can be no more authoritative voice in the world of finding killers than John Douglas.  His books portray the process by which such killers are found as well as the effect such a hunt has on the men and women we have charged with doing so.  This book follows through Bell's trails and gives updates on the various people in the book.  It is recommended for readers of true crime.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney


Adam and Amelia Wright are celebrating their wedding anniversary.  If they ever needed to celebrate, it's this year.  They have been slowly drifting apart until they are like two people stranded on separate ice floes that are moving further away from each other day by day.  Adam is a scriptwriter, rewriting other people's works for the movies.  He has had ambitions to write his own novels but can't really find the time with all the work he takes on.  He also has the condition of face blindness where he can't recognize anyone by their face, even his wife.  Amelia works at a dog rescue where she can share the love she can't give a child as they haven't been able to have children.

When Amelia gets an email saying that she has won a weekend away in a giveaway, they decide this is the perfect opportunity to get away and rediscover each other.  The location is a remote repurposed church up in the Scottish highlands.  They are glad to get away but when they arrive they start to wonder.  The church is fairly dilapidated and it is very remote with no other houses or towns around.  Inside it is dusty and cold and there is little sign they are expected.  They eventually find a note saying there are frozen meals and a cellar full of wine and they decide to make do.  However, they aren't prepared for the power to go out while they are down in the cellar, making it difficult to find their way back upstairs.  Worse, they seem to be catching glimpses of someone outside and their dog barks periodically as if he is aware of a stranger as well.  What is the story?

Alice Feeney has written a taut tale of love gone astray, betrayals both professionally and personally and a quest for revenge that has taken years to plan.  The secrets are revealed in turn, each one totally reframing the story and what the reader believes about the couple.  Alice Feeney is an author and journalist with books that are optioned for tv series.  She knows exactly how much to reveal and when to raise the tension and surprise the reader at every turn.  This book is recommended for thriller readers.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

The Husbands by Chandler Baker


Most women would envy Nora Spangler.  She is a successful attorney with a loving husband, a software designer.  The couple have a young daughter and Nora is pregnant with their second child.  They are looking for a new house as their family expands.  

But Nora doesn't necessarily feel like someone who others should envy.  She has all that but it seems like she is always running a hundred miles an hour to keep all the parts of her life going.  She works long hours but still there is a suggestion at her law firm that she should be able to drop everything and work late or on weekends whenever the firm finds it necessary, which is often.  Her daughter loves her school but school means monitoring projects, packing lunches, making sure there is a new cute outfit ready each day.  The house still has to be cleaned, laundry has to be done, cooking the meals and cleaning up is a daily chore and then there are the other items such as grocery shopping, doctors' visits, dentist, playdates, birthday parties, school trips and parties.  The list goes on and on.  Dylan would say he helps and he does but the responsibility falls mainly on Nora.

The couple finds a great house in a subdivision called Dynasty Ranch.  The house is great but Nora is even more impressed with the women she meets from the neighborhood.  They are all highly successful, doctors, CEOs, and other professionals.  Yet they seem calm and happy and they all have highly supportive husbands who take on an equal share of the second shit work if not the majority of it.  Nora wonders how did they come to this arrangement?  As she gets to know the women better, she realizes that this lifestyle is the one she wants.  Or is it?  

Chandler Baker has written a story that reverses the well known book, The Stepford Wives.  The tension in the book builds slowly, from Nora meeting the other women to envying them to finally fearing them.  Baker taps into the resentment that most married women with families feel; that they are shouldering the majority of the household work while men come home to relax, and that something needs to change in their lives.  Many readers will be surprised at the book's ending and final twists.  This book is recommended for thriller readers.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

The Darlings by Cristina Alger


Carter Darling is a billionaire financier, head of his own hedge fund.  As he moves closer to retirement, he is pleased with his life and what he has accomplished and done for his two daughters, Merrill and Lily.  Both of his son-in-laws are employed at his firm.  Paul, married to Merrill, has just come on two months ago as corporate general attorney when his former firm went under.

But things are about to change drastically.  One of Carter's best friends, Morty, who ran one of Carter's funds, is suddenly in the news.  Apparently his great investment success is due not to Morty's acumen but to a Ponzi scheme.  As friends, Carter has not been as diligent in overseeing Morty as he should have been.  Morty's car was found on a bridge with the doors open and no sign of Morty, a presumed suicide.  Since Morty is not around to pay for his sins, the SEC will be looking for a scapegoat.  Carter may be the best one for the job.

But Carter won't go down without a fight.  He rallies his family around him and hires a PR firm who specialize in cutting deals behind the scene.  He demands family loyalty but is he willing to give it back?  How far will he go to save himself?

This is Cristina Alger's debut novel and she writes about a world she knows.  She is both an attorney and a former analyst at Goldman, Sachs.  Alger portrays a cutthroat world where betrayals are the coin of the realm and where family and power is all.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Man Of War by Charlie Schroeder


Charlie Schroeder, a writer, pubic radio producer and actor, had an idea.  He wondered what made people, mostly men, want to reenact battles from various wars?  Charlie is a progressive and he expected that most of the people he would meet would be conservative if not far rightwing.  But he set out to find out what drives the whole genre of reenactment.

Over the year he spent doing this, he flew over thirty thousand miles and drove over five thousand.  He found groups in all areas of the country and they reenacted battles from many wars.  Charlie participated in ten reenactments.  There were the Romans, Civil War, Revolutionary War, Nazis, the French and Indian War, Vikings, rowers in bateaus and Vietnam.  To end his time, Charlie even devised and carried out his own reenactment in California; that of the monk who founded the majority of the Spanish missions back in the 1700's.

What he found were people who had a reverence for history, for learning how their ancestors lived and worked and what they found compelling enough to fight for.  He found that most were very generous with their time and knowledge but that there were some racists as well as historians.  Overall, he found it a fascinating experience that he was glad to have experienced.  This book is recommended for nonfiction readers.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

A Woman Of Intelligence by Karin Tanabe


In post WWII New York, Katharina Edgeworth seems to have it all.  She is married to Tom Edgeworth who is a pediatric surgeon and the heir to a shipping fortune.  She lives in a large apartment right off Central Park.  She has two healthy boys that she is raising.  But she is bored, bored, bored.

Rina, as she is known, was a United Nations translator before her marriage.  She is fluent in multiple languages and her life was full of busy work in the days and tons of parties and affairs with men from all over the world at night.  Now her biggest intellectual challenge is deciding if today will be a zoo day or a museum day.  Her boys are holy terrors but she rarely if ever disciplines them.  Tom is gone most days until the family is asleep.  Rina is rarely if ever away from the boys since Tom doesn't believe in babysitters or nannies.

Rina feels her mind atrophying and her sense of self disappearing.  So when she is approached by an agent of the FBI, she is willing to listen.  The government is interested in the Communist party and its members in New York.  The head of the group is a former classmate and lover of Rina's and the FBI would like her to reestablish the friendship and get inside the group.  Desperate for stimulation, Rina agrees.

Not only does she now have to find ways to hide her mission from her family, Rina faces other challenges.  The main one is falling in love with her handler, one of the few African American men in the FBI.  Soon her routine work of transporting documents is transformed when a woman she gets close to in the party is found dead.  Can Rina continue to balance her two lives?

While the time period is interesting, I never connected to this novel.  Rina seems whiny, constantly bemoaning her fate yet doing nothing to try to improve it.  She doesn't discipline her children yet seems aghast that they are out of control.  She reminisces about her pre-marriage affairs and seems all too willing to break her marriage vows the minute another man enters her orbit but her husband seems devoted to her.  She is supposed to be an independent woman yet lets life and circumstances define her rather than her defining her own life.  The spy story seems secondary with not much sense of how it fits into the bigger issue of the government against the Communist party.  Yet the novel does outline the issues of women and their careers, the need for intellectual stimulation after marriage and the emerging issue of race relations post WW II.  This book is recommended for readers of women's fiction.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Whatever You Love by Louise Doughty


Laura's life was perfect. She had married the love of her life, David.  She had two glorious children, Betty and Rees.  She had a job she liked.  But perfect doesn't last.  David has an affair and then leaves her for the other woman with whom he has another child.  Laura goes a bit crazy but is finally starting to get her momentum back when the doorbell rings.  There stand two police who have come to tell her that her world and life are over.

On her first day walking home from school with a friend, Betty has been hit by a car.  The other girl is in intensive care but Betty died at the scene.  Laura doesn't remember much about the next few weeks.  She stumbles from task to task, not caring about anything.  How could her baby be gone?  She reaches out to David for help and comfort which he provides since only the two of them can understand each other's pain.  That brings out his new wife's insecurities and pettiness.  

As the days go by, Laura finds a purpose.  She will find the man who was driving the car and watch him until she finds the things he loves most.  Then she will take them away so that he can start to realize what he has cost her.  As her plans become more concrete, she wonders at the person she has become.  Will life ever return to normal?

This book is labeled as a thriller but I found it to be instead a retelling of a parent's grief at losing the person they brought into the world.  Unfortunately, I have several friends who have lived this horror so it hit home in many ways.  Laura is lost and desperate to find her way back to some sort of normality while slowly coming to realize that normal will always have a new meaning now.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers and those interested in family dynamics.

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Light From A Distant Star by Mary McGarry Morris


Nellie Peck's thirteenth summer is not what she had hoped.  She is gangly and awkward, desperate to know if she will ever be lovely like her mother and big sister.  The family is in financial trouble, the hardware store that has been in her father's family for decades on the verge of closing.  Her big sister Ruth is determined to find 'her real father', the man who got her mother pregnant as a teenager then moved to Australia with his family.  There's the whole issue of boys and how to attract them and what to do if you did.  

Her mom is working long hours and the family needs to rent out the apartment attached to their house.  Their long term tenant has moved out and the new applicant is named Dolly.  Dolly dances at the local strip joint and in different times her application would be an automatic no but now any tenant is better than no tenant.  Another new face has joined Nellie's world as well.  Her grandfather runs the local junkyard.  One day when she goes to visit she finds a man there.  Max is a drifter and her grandfather is letting him live at the junkyard in exchange for doing the work that he is no longer able to do.  Nellie is fascinated by Max who rarely talks at all and loves his dog.

Then tragedy strikes.  Dolly, who has had a string of lovers, is found murdered in her apartment, discovered by Nellie and Max who is replacing a water heater at the house.  Max is arrested and Nellie will be the star witness at the trial.  Nellie just knows Max is innocent but everyone else seems to be convinced of his guilt.  Can she save the day?

Mary McGarry Morris has written an interesting coming-of-age novel.  Nellie is a mass of contradictions who charms her way into the reader's heart.  All the family issues that are Nellie's whole world resolve satisfactorily and she learns that what she wants to happen is not always going to happen nor will it always be the best solution.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Friday, December 3, 2021

The View From The Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman


In this anthology, author Neil Gaiman gives us an oblique view of his life.  It is not a direct retelling of life events, born on this date, attended this school, etc.  Rather it is a sharing of his life through books.  He starts by sharing how he felt as a young man when he discovered science fiction and fantasy, how he felt that finally there was someone else who felt as he did and that shared his worldview.  He talks about the books that influenced him and the authors who wrote them.  As the book progresses, he moves on to talk about his own works, what he was doing at that time in his life, how each work fits into his research and enthusiasms.  He talks about his friends who are other authors and visual designers and about all the mediums that people use to create art.

The book is full of short pieces that were speeches he gave as keynote speaker at various conventions, graduations or book launches.  There are pieces that are introductions to other people's books.  There are pieces that talk about events happening in the world such as the Syrian refugee crisis.  There are pieces that talk a bit about his children or his wife.

One thing that was so evident and that made me like the author even more was his innate generosity. When discussing another author's book or movie, he talks about the wonder that they instill and how their unique view of the world is a magical transport for readers.  There is not a mean-spirited piece in this long collection and the reader will finish admiring Neil Gaiman not only as an author but as a human being.  This book is recommended for nonficiton and fantasy readers.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

The Painter by Peter Heller


Jim Stegner's work as an artist is coming into its own.  He paints scenes from the West and his works are highly anticipated even with his past.  Jim had shot a man in a bar fight when he was younger and served time for it.  Once he was out, he has spent his life fly fishing and trying to control his temper.  Life has not always been kind.  His daughter, the light of his life, was killed and his marriage collapsed in the aftermath of guilt and recrimination.

But things have started to look up.  He is doing a new series of paintings and found a new model who brings out his best work and is becoming more than a model to him.  Jim thinks he has finally turned a corner.  But when he is driving home and sees a man beating a horse on the side of the road, he explodes.  He beats the man to make him stop and then takes the horse to a friend's ranch.

Just like that, Jim is back where he was.  He has started a vendetta with a family of men who are hunting guides and poachers, known for their violence and determination to have their own way in all things.  As the situation spirals out of control, Jim wonders what will it take before he finds the peaceful life he wants.

This is a stunning book.  Heller has spent his life as an outdoorsman, surfing and kayaking around the world and his intimate connection with nature is evident throughout the novel.  He delves into the mind of Jim Stegner and questions what makes a man and what part violence plays in a man's life.  Is it wrong to use violence to correct a situation where those unable to protect themselves are being victimized?  If a man uses violence what does he need to do for reparations?  Jim Stegner is a character readers will think about long after the book is done.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby


Ike Randolph has a good life these days.  His prison days are fifteen years behind him and he owns his own landscaping business which is doing well.  When he hears that his son, Isiah, has been killed along with his husband, Ike is devastated.  All his revenge and violence rises to the top but Isiah has left a small daughter behind that Ike and his wife will now be raising.  As a black man, Ike never accepted his son as a gay man, nor did he have any relationship with his white husband, Derek.  Now both are gone along with any chance to heal the relationship.

Buddy Lee, Derek's father, has the same issues.  Disbelief that this tragedy could have happened and lifelong regret that he allowed Derek's sexual identity to rob them of a relationship.  Buddy Lee's time in prison is much more recent and he hasn't thrived once released.  He still has connections to the outlaw world and is determined to revenge Derek.

The first time Buddy Lee approaches Ike, Ike turns him down flat.  His need to be there to raise his granddaughter has to be his first consideration.  But when he is pushed too far, he goes back to Buddy Lee and the two agree to work together to avenge their sons.  Their investigation puts them afoul of a local motorcycle gang and the influential men who are connected to the gang.  Can they find peace by bringing the killers to justice?

This novel is fast-paced and full of violence.  But there are positive aspects also.  The love of these men for their sons who they never could accept is searing.  Their growing acceptance that they were at fault and it can never be put right is redemptive.  Their friendship as they fight together, forgetting their racial differences, is hopeful.  This book has won high praise and I'd add my voice to that chorus.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and thrillers.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Death On The River by Diane Fanning


Vince Viafore loved to kayak.  On April 19, 2015, he set out for a day of fun on the Hudson River with his fiance, Angelika.  The couple kayaked to a private island, Bannerman where they explored and took pictures as Angelika was a volunteer there and had access.  As they started to return home, the water had gotten much rougher due to wind conditions.  Angelika ended up calling 9-1-1 for assistance.

When help arrived, the crews were in time to see Angelika's kayak capsize and she was quickly pulled from the water with no issues.  But Vince was nowhere in sight nor was his kayak.  The kayak was later located but there was no sign of Vince.  It was almost a month before his body was later recovered.

Was this just a case of bad luck and unforeseen weather conditions?  Within days, family, friends and the police did not think so.  Angelika seemed unconcerned, posting cheerfully on Facebook about the search for Vince and never showing any grief or sadness.   It turned out that while Angelika had a safety vest, Vince did not although he was a stickler for proper equipment.  Then there was the life insurance policy for $250,000 that she was the beneficiary of.  Police brought her in for questioning.

As the questioning progressed, Angelika started to portray a relationship on the verge of collapse.  They were to have married while on a visit to Europe, but Vince had delayed the marriage.  Angelika portrayed Vince as controlling and possessive, saying she felt trapped.  Soon she was admitting that she had taken the plug from Vince's kayak and then pulled his oars away.  She was charged with murder.

Fans of true crime will enjoy this book.  Fanning lays out the facts, including dialogue from Angelika's police interrogation.  She also researched both Vince and Angelika's background and what family and friends thought about the relationship.  She also covers the trial extensively.  This book is recommended for true crime readers.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Coloring Books


Recently I was lucky enough to receive two gorgeous adult coloring books to review.  The first is Kaleidomorphia by Kerby Rosanes wno is the author of the bestselling Morphia series.  The images in this book are very finely detailed and many extend across two pages.  This is one image from the artist.

The other book is Coloring The Zodiac by Christina Haberkern.  It contains fifty pages to color and each one is detailed and fresh.

The Widow by Fiona Barton


As this novel opens, a man has just been killed; hit by a bus and gone in an instant.  Glen Taylor isn't mourned by many however.  He had been the main suspect in the disappearance of two year old Bella, the toddler whose story had captured the attention of the nation.  Glen had been identified as a person of interest, taken to trial but found not guilty.  He and his wife had been vilified in the press, losing jobs and friends.

We are now given the story of Glen's death and Bella's abduction as seen through the eyes of three people; Jean Taylor, Glen's wife, Bob Sykes, the police inspector who still firmly believes in Glen's guilt and Kate Waters, the reporter who is determined to get Jean's story.  Along the way, we are taken back and follow the police investigation from start to finish.  We track the Taylor's marriage, how Jean fell in love with Glen because he was confident but later found that confidence and the controlling that came with it confining.  We learn about the conflicts a reporter faces as they have to decide how far they will go to get a story.  Finally, we learn the truth about Bella.

This is the first in the Kate Waters series, which has three books.  The switching between viewpoints allows the story to be told in a way that hints at secrets and slowly reveals them.  The reader will change their minds several times about what really happened and who was to blame.  This was a debut novel and Barton has become successful since writing other stories in this same genre.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Dead Scared by S. J. Bolton


D.C. Lacey Flint has recently returned to work after a case that went awry and almost took her life.  But things never stand still in the police force.  Cambridge University has had a recent string of student suicides.  Almost all are women and almost all are suicides by violent means that women rarely use.  Although the victims almost all had psychological issues, the police are not convinced that the women were not bullied into their actions or maybe even lured into situations where someone else forced their deaths.

D.I. Mark Joesbury is in charge of the investigation.  He comes up with the idea of sending Lacey in as a new student who projects fragility and vulnerability.  Lacey is up for the assignment although she matches the profile all too well due to her recent disastrous assignment and her upbringing.  The plan seems to be working.  Almost as soon as she is installed in the university in the former room of the latest victim, things begin to happen.  She is targeted for a horrendous hazing incident where she is kidnapped, tied to a tree and drenched with ice cold water as other students watch.  She starts to hear noises at night and feels like she is being watched.  Can she and Joesbury uncover the plot before someone else dies?

S.J. Bolton who also writes as Sharon Bolton is one of my favorite mystery authors.  She is not as well known here in the United States as in her native England and that is a shame.  This novel is the second in the Lacey Flint series and she also writes standalones that are suspenseful and taut.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt


When Theo Decker is thirteen, his life changes forever.  He and his mother are on their way to his school where a possible suspension will be discussed.  They stop at a museum and Theo sees a girl who fascinates him, there with what appears to be her grandfather.  Moments later, an explosion rocks the museum.  Theo can't find his mother who had left to go to the museum shop but he does find the man he thought was the girl's grandfather.  He stays with the man as he dies.  Before he passes, the man gives Theo a ring and a small picture.  The picture is the museum's and is of a goldfinch.  

The man isn't the only victim of the bomb.  Theo's mother is killed also.  His father took off months ago so Theo ends up at the house of a former school friend, a wealthy Park Avenue family.  Grieving and lost, Theo eventually makes his way to the grandfather's house where he discovers Pippa is recuperating under the care of Hobie, the grandfather's partner.  The two ran an antique store with Hobie doing the restoration and the other man running the business.  Hobie is a soothing man who takes Theo under his wing and gives him a space to grieve and start to heal. 

But things soon change again.  Theo's father blows into town to collect him.  He has been living in Las Vegas where he supports himself gambling.  Theo goes to live with him and his girlfriend but the two are mostly gone, leaving Theo to his own devices.  He meets a friend, Boris.  Boris is Ukrainian, his father a mining engineer who stays at the site and leave Boris to his own devices as well.  As is common with unsupervised teenagers, the two become more and more delinquent.  Through it all, Theo keeps the painting hidden; he now knows it is a masterpiece and the police and the art world are searching for it.

The reader then watches the course of Theo's life.  He eventually winds up back in New York where he lives with Hobie and becomes his business partner when he is an adult.  Theo drifts from day to day, relationship to relationship, his own life forever marked by the explosion.  

This novel won the Pulitzer Prize For Fiction.  It is a masterwork.  Theo isn't a saint but he enters the reader's heart and takes up residence.  The reader cannot help but wonder how Theo's life would have turned out if he and his mother had gone straight to his school that day.  Tartt is an author whose infrequent novels are all books the reader will never forget.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Dead By Dark by Paul Doiron


Mike Bowditch has been an investigator for the Forestry Department for years.  He's exactly like one would expect; curious, insightful and introverted.  He lives alone with a wolf for a companion.  The wolf had come to him injured and he nursed it back to health but to his surprise, once healed the wolf had chosen to stick around.  Mike doesn't consider it a pet but he must admit he enjoys having him around.

A new case has just come in.  A wealthy professor died on the river several months ago.  The case was ruled an accident but his family doesn't think that is so.  The man's daughter-in-law is a South African who came to this country as a young woman and regarded the professor as her own father.  Yet he left his fortune to her daughter, his granddaughter.  The older woman is sure that the death was a murder rather than an accident and she wants Mike to investigate the death again.  Mike finally agrees to ask around about it.  He talks to some of the local families who don't have anything new to add to the investigation.  

Before Mike can make up his mind, he encounters tragedy.  Driving home in the dark, his vehicle is booby-trapped and before he can react Mike is thrown out into the river, trapped under the ice.  He manages to fight free of the ice and get out but now he is caught in a race against whoever wants him dead.  They are still out in the night, with a working vehicle and a gun they are quick to shoot at him.  Exhausted and injured, it will take everything Mike has to survive...if he can.

This is the twelfth novel in the Mike Bowditch series.  The story is told in chunks between two time periods; the now where Mike is fighting desperately for his life and the past where the reader learns more about Mike and about the case and people he has talked with.  The action is fast and suspenseful and the reader will be caught up in Mike's fight for survival.  Henry Leyva is the narrator and does an admirable job; his voice bringing a vision of the quiet ranger who won't be deterred from the truth.  This book is recommended for mystery readers. 

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Those Across The River by Christopher Buehlman


Stealing another professor's wife is not the best way to make it to the top in the academic world.  Blackballed at every campus where he applies, Frank Nichols finally decides that he will have to make a living doing something other than teaching.  Taking Dora with him, Frank leaves the North for a foreign environment to them both--deep in the Old South.  For Frank has a secret.  His great grandfather was the notorious Lucian Savoyard, known for his savagery towards his slaves before and after the Civil War.  The stories of his cruelty are still whispered.  Frank plans to write a book about Lucian and if it is successful, move Dora out of the hot, humid place he has brought her to.

Dora gets a job teaching and the couple are welcomed into the community.  The townspeople are good folk, focused on working, family and God.  But there are hints that there is something else under the smiles.  The way that people turn away when Lucian's name is mentioned.  The fact that hogs are set loose in a monthly ceremony that no one wants to talk about.

When Frank tries to explore and find the ruins of the old plantation house, he finds unsettling sights.  The atmosphere once he gets over the river is tense and foreboding.  He encounters a naked boy whose gaze and malevolence is disturbing and that hastens his departure.  Townspeople start to have unsettling encounters and then random violence starts.  What has Frank's arrival set loose?

This is one of the scariest novels I've ever read.  Buehlman is a master writer, setting the environment of small town, sleepy Georgia town successfully.  The horror starts as a series of slightly unsettling occurrences and then roars to life with can't put down horror writing.  Readers will turn the last page sure that they won't forget this book anytime soon.  This book is recommended for horror readers.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Tell The Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt


June Elbus is fourteen and life is not going well.  She is not like the other kids at school and is considered strange.  Her favorite person in the world was her uncle Finn but he unfortunately died of AIDS recently, in an era when that is considered scandalous.  Finn was a famous artist and one of the things he left behind was a portrait of June and her sister Greta.  The portrait would be worth thousands if the family sold but it is a gift to the girls and cherished.

Besides June there is one other person who misses Finn.  Toby was Finn's partner and lived with him for nine years although his existence was hidden from the sisters by their parents who were ashamed of Finn's lifestyle.  They also blame Toby for Finn's illness and portray him to the girls as the worst person imaginable.  Imagine June's surprise when Toby reaches out to her and when after much inner angst, she develops a friendship with Toby.  What will happen if her parents find out?

Carol Rifka Brunt has written a touching coming of age novel that readers won't be able to put down.  Besides losing Finn, June is dealing with a strained relationship with her sister with whom she was once extremely close.  There's a boy at school who might be interested in June and maybe she is interested back.  Readers will be cheering for June and won't be able to stop until they know how everything turns out for her.  The novel is a debut novel and the author hasn't published another in the years since.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.  

Thursday, November 18, 2021

The Forger's Forgery by Clay Small


Henry Lindon is a university professor.  He has just taken a semester off from his institution in Dallas to take a job lecturing in Amsterdam.  Henry leaves for his new job; his wife Mary Lou is to follow.  He finds his university supplied apartment with the help of his official liaison and upstairs neighbor, Bernadette, an art professor at the same university.

When Mary Lou arrives, it is with bad news.  A figure from their past, Wheeless Kessler, is back.  Kessler who ran an investment trust was jailed after allegations of sexual harassment and worse from multiple women.  He is even suspected of murder in the case of his niece and police officer Esmerelda Ortiz is still working that case.  The Lindons have reason to despise Kessler as he was instrumental in importing dangerous toys that Mary Lou sold unknowingly through her business.  When the danger of the toys was revealed, she lost her business as she tracked down and bought back the toys from as many customers as she could find.  Mary Lou also has a personal reason to hate Kessler dating back to her high school days.  She had been okay while Kessler was in prison but he has somehow found a way to make his victims retract their stories and get released.  Now she is back living in fear.

The couple, with the help of Bernadette and Henry's brother Marvin, decide that they need to take care of Kessler once and for all.  Henry comes up with an audacious plan, brought to him by the presence of Bernadette with her art background and a new book about a master forger.  Will the plan do as Henry suspects and put Kessler out of business once and for all?  Will Ortiz find the evidence to tie him to the murder?

This is the second book in the Henry Lindon series.  The main story is interesting and the plot is full of twists and turns.  The only quibble is that the story moves back and forth in time and location between Amsterdam and Texas which can be confusing for some readers.  I listened to this novel and the narrator was perfect and logical without being overly dramatic just as Henry's personality was logical.  This book is recommended for mystery readers. 

Go Go Gato by Max Everhart


Eli Sharpe was a professional baseball player for a short time.  He was talented but when his career didn't take off, he started drinking and doing drugs and ended his career in spectacular fashion, driving a truck into the bull statue at the Durham minor league ballpark.  Now Eli lives in Ashville, NC.  He is a private investigator, specializing in marital infidelity cases and cases related to baseball such as running background checks on potential signees before teams offered them a contract.

When Veronica Sharpe walks into his office, Eli is ready to do whatever she wants.  Veronica is a tall, leggy blonde who is both a lawyer and a personal manager.  Her latest protege, Go Go Gato, playing for Ashville's minor league team, has disappeared and she wants to hire Eli to find him before his pro team finds out.  Eli takes the job, figuring Gato is just off on a bender.

But as he investigates the young player, Eli can't help but feel sympathy for him.  Gato was signed to a multimillion dollar contract when he was eighteen.  His first act was to arrange for his parents and twin sister to get to the United States, taking a boat from Cuba.  Unfortunately, the boat capsized and only his sister survived.  Now she is also living in Ashville with Gato in a condo that he titled in her name.  That's not the only thing that shows Gato's heart.  He has been thinking about marrying a woman with a young child who is down on her luck to help her out, although he has a rich girlfriend already.  Can Eli find Gato before he throws his chance at a professional career away?

This was a debut novel of the author.  It is noir in feel with Eli as a hero who doesn't want to be.  There are plenty of suspects in Gato's eventual murder and twists and turns on the trip to find the murderer.  Since I'm from North Carolina, it was fun to read a mystery set in Ashville where I've visited many times and recognize landmarks in the book.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Monday, November 15, 2021

The Invention Of Nature by Andrea Wulf


The Invention Of Nature narrates the life and times of Alexander von Humboldt.  He was born in Germany in 1769 to a wealthy family.  He was trained as a mining engineer but felt stifled by his surroundings.  From the time he was a young boy he longed to travel to other countries and see things not found in his environment.  When his mother died in his twenties and he came into his inheritance, he had his chance.  

Humboldt went on expedition to South America.  He reveled in the new vistas, the plants, animals and even insects never seen before.  He climbed mountains, navigated rivers and crossed the endless plains.  His expedition lasted five years and more than just exploring, he began to sense a connection that tied all the earth together and was new to thoughts of the world and our relationship to it.

When he returned to Europe, his new ideas took hold everywhere.  He was revered as the most important scientist of his time and extremely influential.  Humboldt lived into his eighties and his work influenced other scientists such as Darwin, John Muir and Thoreau as well as poets and authors such as  Goethe and Wordsworth.  Although he is almost forgotten today in common knowledge, he is still considered one of the most forward thinkers of his time and his theory of the earth's interconnectedness fuels the environmental movement.

This book has won many prizes.  It was a Best Book of the Year by such publications as The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Economist, Publishers Weekly, The Telegraph, The Spectator and many others.  The author, Andrea Wulf, is a German-British writer who focuses on scientific works.  She is interested in nature and how it is perceived and plants.  Her work focuses on the influence Humboldt had on thoughts about the earth during his time and how his work is still felt today in the environmental movement.  This book is recommended for nonfiction readers interested in science.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

The Icepick Surgeon by Sam Kean


The premise of this book is the harm scientists can do as they go about acquiring knowledge.   Each chapter discusses a different example of scientific practices that were ultimately knowledge producing yet harmful.  Kean starts with the case of William Dampier a naturalist who traveled the world collecting samples but whose temper resulted in him losing all his worldly goods as well as ending up imprisoned for beating up a naval officer on one of the ships he traveled on.

Other examples abound.  There were the anatomy doctors whose thirst for corpses to dissect led to the crimes of men such as Burke and Harte who supplied bodies by digging them up from the graveyard.  Those who did the first work on electricity such as Tesla and Edison also experimented on animals, electrocuting dogs and even elephants as entertainment for paying customers.  The paleontologists gave us knowledge about the dinosaurs and that epoch in the Earth's development but their knowledge was rife with territorial battles.  

Doctors have done many horrific things in the name of knowledge.  There were the experiments of the Nazi doctors in the death camps.  Less well known but also destructive were the doctors who worked on venereal diseases and gave these horrific diseases to patients so they could study the disease's progression.  The book's title refers to the lobotomies that were forced on mental patients and which left them damaged for life.  Psychologists and psychiatrists have used their knowledge to test how to break down a patient's defenses, which was done to the man who later became the Unabomber.  This field also has much to answer for when dealing with characteristics such as homosexuality or gender issues, which the field first called diseases and tried to 'cure' by horrific methods. 

Scientists err in other ways also.  There are the scientists who sold information to foreign intelligence agencies, both scientific knowledge and military information when they worked on projects for the government.  Some were involved in helping with torture, naming dissidents as mentally disturbed or overseeing such patients' care in asylums.  Scientists in crime labs who scrimp on their work or misreport the conclusions evidence points to are responsible for false imprisonment or conversely, for guilty prisoners going free because all the trials in which they testified are now tainted.

Same Kean has concentrated his career on writing books about various scientific topics.  This book is an interesting collection although personally I had heard of almost all the cases prior to reading this.  I listened to this book and the narrator was very good.  The two men have collaborated on several of Kean's books.  This book is recommended for nonfiction readers who are interested in science and for those who wonder how to balance ethics with the need to discover new knowledge.  

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Booksie's Shelves, November 11, 2021


It's almost Thanksgiving in what has seemed like the shortest year in my memory.  It's still warm in North Carolina with daytime temperatures in the 60's and 70's.  Things are moving along nicely in our family.  DH has taken up golf and heads out to the links twice a week.  Our daughter is working her first professional job and doing well, working remotely and living with us to save money for a while.  Our son recently started a new job and moved into a new house with his fiancee and kids.  I'm making progress in my goal of reading books from my own shelves and downsizing the outrageous number of books we share our home with.  But that's not to say I don't get new books now and then.  Here's what's come through the door:

  1. The Best American Mystery Stories of 2014, edited by Laura Lippman, anthology, purchased
  2. By The Time You Read This, Giles Blunt, mystery, purchased
  3. Bottled Goods, Sophie van Llewyn, literary fiction, purchased
  4. Touch And Go, Thad Nodine, literary fiction, purchased
  5. Love Slave, Jennifer Spiegel, literary fiction, purchased
  6. The Halloween Moon, Joseph Fink, fantasy, sent by publisher
  7. Hyde, Daniel Levine, suspense, purchased
  8. God's War, Kameron Hurley, fantasy, purchased
  9. The Inquisitor's Wife, Jeanne Kalogridis, historical fiction, purchased
  10. Vladimir, Julia May Jonas, literary fiction, sent by publisher
  11. The Secret Of Snow, Viola Shipman, women's fiction, sent by publisher
Here are the ebooks I've bought:

  1. The I-5 Killer, Ann Rule, true crime
  2. Breakdown, Sara Paretsky, mystery
  3. Deadly Secrets, M. William Phelps, true crime
  4. Night Watch, Terry Prachett, fantasy
  5. Bewilderment, Richard Powers, literary fiction
  6. Every Move You Make, M. William Phelps, true crime
  7. Lore, Alexandra Bracken, lore
  8. A Dying Fall, Elly Griffiths, mystery
  9. Five Little Pigs, Agatha Christie, mystery
  10. A Double Life, Flynn Berry, mystery
  11. Mayo Clinic Guide To Arthritis, Lynn Peterson, nonfiction
  12. The Snowdonia Killings, Simon McCleave, mystery
  13. Forty Words For Sorrow, Giles Blunt, thriller
  14. The Twilight City, Gregory Mattix, fantasy
  15. The Black Coast, Mike Brooks, fantasy
  16. The Information, James Gleick, nonfiction
  17. Star Mother, Charlie Holmberg, fantasy
  18. Her Perfect Family, Teresa Driscoll, mystery
  19. A Head Full Of Ghosts, Paul Trembley, thriller
  20. The Boy, Tami Hoag, mystery
  21. Go-Go Gato, Max Everhart, mystery
  22. Her Last Breath, Hilary Davidson, literary fiction
  23. Desire Lines, Christina Baker Kline, literary fiction
  24. Sleepyhead, Mark Billingham, mystery
  25. Jackaby, William Ritter, fantasy
  26. Blow, Demelza Carlton, fantasy
  27. Firewall, Henning Mankell, mystery
  28. Into The Sound, Cara Reinard, thriller
  29. Hogfather, Terry Prachett, fantasy
  30. The Saracen's Mark, S.W. Perry, mystery
  31. The Sound And The Fury, William Faulkner, literary fiction
  32. Absalom, Absalom, William Faulkner, literary fiction
  33. As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner, literary fiction
  34. Cry Baby, Mark Billingham, mystery
  35. The Burning Girl, Mark Billingham, mystery
  36. The Demands, Mark Billingham, mystery
  37. Bloodline, Mark Billingham, mystery
  38. The Good Turn, Dervla McTiernan, mystery
  39. Duel Of Fire, Jordan Rivet, fantasy
  40. The Binding, Bridget Collins, fantasy
Here's what I'm reading:

  1. The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt, literary fiction, paperback
  2. The View From The Cheap Seats, Neil Gaiman, nonfiction, hardback
  3. The Painter, Peter Heller, literary fiction, paperback
  4. The Widow, Fiona Barton, mystery, Kindle
  5. Go-Go Gato, Max Everhart, mystery, Kindle
  6. Tell The Wolves I'm Home, Carol Rifka Brunt, literary fiction, hardcover
  7. Those Across The River, Christopher Buehlman, horror, paperback
  8. The Night Swim, Megan Goldin, thriller, Kindle
Happy Reading!

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

The Fallen by Eric Van Lustbader


The Fallen are the angels who were expelled from Heaven with Lucifer.  When Lucifer and the Fallen come to power, humankind will be destroyed.  Mankind has dreaded and done whatever is possible to avoid this for over two thousand years.  Has the time come for Lucifer to succeed?

Bravo Shaw is the head of the Gnostic Observatine sect whose purpose is to defeat Lucifer and his legions.  He is warned by his closest friend who is an immortal monk, Fra Leoni, that the battle has been joined with the discovery of a manuscript buried deep in a remote cave.  Bravo has enemies everywhere who want to defeat his quest to find and destroy the manuscript.  His sister and a mysterious woman work with him to follow the clues.  Will they be in time?

This is the second novel in the Testament trilogy.  The action is fast and furious.  There are plenty of betrayals, mysteries, blood, sex and heartstopping battles.  Readers who loved The Da Vinci Code will find this novel interesting and in the same genre.  It is not a book for the fainthearted.  This book is recommended for readers of mysterious religious tales.  

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Lesson In Red by Marie Hummel


Maggie Richter is the copy editor/publicist for the Roque Museum in Los Angeles  although her dream is to be a fulltime journalist.  She has tons of contacts throughout the LA art world so she seems the perfect choice when her mentor, Janis Roque, has a problem that she needs solved but in a discreet fashion.

Brenae Brasil was an up and coming art student at LAAC, the Los Angeles Art College, which is tightly aligned with the Roque Museum.  Brasil's art was cutting edge and tended to make people uncomfortable as she told the truth as she saw it.  But her potential is cut off prematurely when she kills herself.  Before she died, she created her most controversial art work.  It is a video work that shows Brasil having sex with an unnamed man; a man she insists pressured her into the sex and who had the influence to end her budding career.  

Janis wants to know if the allegations are true as the video was not discovered at the time of Brenae's death.  Was someone on the museum staff guilty of this crime?  Was Brenae's death really a suicide or was someone getting rid of a career-ending allegation?  Janis wants Maggie to go undercover at the museum and LAAC, talk to the students who knew Brenae and determine which staff might have been involved.  Maggie will have Ray, a detective she had been involved with in the past to help.  Can Maggie and Ray find the answers and validate Brenae's work?

This is the second novel in the Maggie Richter series.  Ray is a character from the first novel as well.  This narrative is told from Maggie's viewpoint and is confused since she is slowly unraveling the secrets of the museum and college.  She only has incomplete information and is filling in the pieces but readers used to third person narratives may find the story vague.  There are also many characters, administrators, students and police personnel that are a bit difficult to keep straight.  This book is recommended for mystery readers, especially those who read the first Maggie Richter novel.