Saturday, January 29, 2022

The Unheard by Nicci French


Tess feels like she is finally finding her way.  It's been a rough year since she and Jason split but she can't regret the partnership that gave her Poppy, her three year old.  Jason moved on quickly and has already married someone else.  Tess just met a man but its much too early to know if anything there will work out.  She likes their new house, has a job she likes and lots of great friends.  Things are looking up.

But then Poppy comes home from a weekend at Jason's house clingy and out of sorts.  She can't say if anything is wrong but brings home a picture all in black of someone falling from a great height.  Poppy starts wetting the bed again and to Tess's surprise, starts cursing, oaths far beyond a mild damn or hell.  What has happened?  Tess is sure something happened at Jason's house.

But no one else seems concerned.  She takes her concern to her friends, to a psychologist and finally to the police.  By now Tess is sure that Poppy witnessed a crime that she isn't old enough to describe.  Jason's new wife has a depressed brother who has moved in and Tess surely doesn't think he is someone she wants around Poppy.  Then she starts to find out more and more about Jason during their time together, things all her friends seemed to know but didn't tell her.  Can she find out what's going on before Poppy is hurt?

Nicci French is best known for the Frieda Klein series.  This novel is a standalone which will strike a chord with anyone forced to share custody with an ex-partner they have fallen out of love with.  Are concerns valid or just a reflection of the distaste left behind from a breakup?  Is there anything a parent isn't willing to do for their child?  This book is recommended for thriller readers.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Written In Bone by Sue Black


The author, Dame Sue Black, is a forensic anthropologist who works in Scotland.  In this nonfiction book, Black takes the reader through her work and reveals what the bones can tell about a person and the manner of their death.  She starts at the top with the skull and goes down the body, using real-life cases to illustrate ways that specific bones were used to unravel mysteries.

Black has worked on cases all over the world.  She details her work on an Italian serial killer case, The Monster Of Terrazzo.  This case has an interesting side story.  Dame Black was asked to take the two heads of the victims back to her laboratory for additional work.  She carried the heads on a commercial flight in her hand luggage and her dry retelling of going through customs with this case and what the inspector's reaction would have been to a search is priceless.  She also worked on a case involving a serial killer from Thailand and identified victims of Scottish killer Dennis Nilsen.

She has also worked extensively in war crimes, identifying victims and providing evidence to bring perpetrators to justice.  She was awarded an OBE for her work in Kosovo in 2001.  She worked in Thailand after the tsunami in 2004.  She also worked proving torture in victims arrested for political crimes after the Arab Spring uprising.

Another major interest of Black is child sexual abuse.  She works on finding ways to identify the predators and bring them to justice.  Using pictures captured in pedophile cases, she is able to identify other abusers.  Her work with others in this project has resulted in 30 life sentences and over 400 years of prison time for those convicted.  This book details one of the roots of her interest in this area; the fact that she herself was a victim of childhood sexual abuse.

Readers interested in forensic anthropology and true crime cases will find this book fascinating. It combines the scientific facts with interesting examples from the author's personal work.   I listened to it and the author was also the narrator and did a wonderful job explaining her work and outlining all the cases she has worked on.  Dame Sue Black has more awards from both law enforcement and the Scottish government as well as academia than I have time to list.  She is an accomplished woman who has made her interest into an astonishing career.  This book is recommended for nonfiction readers.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Infinite by Brian Freeman


Dylan Moran's life couldn't be much worse than it is at the moment.  His wife, Karly, was recently killed in a car accident while Dylan was driving, drowned in their trapped car that Dylan barely escaped.  He had met her after another accident, one in which his best friend had died.  That's a lot of trauma to handle.  Dylan is desperate to find a way to process all that has happened, especially the part he hasn't told anyone.  After the accident, he saw something unreal; he saw himself in the crowd of bystanders.  Not someone who looked like him, him in the flesh.

Dylan goes to see a therapist.  She introduces himself to the concept of alternate worlds and suggests that the man he saw may have come from such a place.  Dylan is skeptical but agrees to try the therapy.  He is transported to another world and realizes that there is an alternate world created by each decision he makes.  There are multiple alternative worlds and multiple versions of himself.  Most of them he isn't interested in; they are boring men just plodding through their existences.  But there is the man he saw after the accident and he knows this man he must engage.  The other Dylan is a killer and his only desire is to kill more people and pin the crimes on Dylan in his world.  

As Dylan fights to find and put a stop to his alternate, he finds pieces of the traumatic world he has left.  He finds out the secrets behind Karly's distance before the accident, the reason his friend was killed, and his own possible life choices that would result in very different lives.  He is slowly healing but as he pursues his doppelganger, it is clear that it will be a kill or be killed scenario. Which Dylan will survive?

This is a novel that requires the reader to have a strong ability to suspend disbelief.  The idea of alternative worlds with alternates created by every decision is a new concept to many and may not be believable to them.   Dylan is also a character it is difficult to have empathy for, his life a series of selfish decisions that bring him an unfulfilled life.  Yet the author finds a way to end the book in a manner that provides hope going forward.  This book is recommended for thriller readers.

Monday, January 24, 2022

The Book Of Form And Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki


This book is told from the viewpoints of two narrators.  Benny is a young teenage boy.  His is in deep grief as his world was torn apart two years ago when his father died.  Kanji was a jazz musician and spent hours each day with Benny who idolized him.  When Kanji is killed in the alley outside their home, run over as he lay in a drugged stupor, everything changes.  Benny becomes estranged from the world, unconnected from a place that brings nothing but pain and fear.

The other narrator is the book that tells the story of Benny's life.  Along with Benny's story, it tells the story of books themselves, what they think, their hopes and fears and dreams.  Benny now lives with his mother Annabelle.  She has a marginal job tracking news stories for various clients.  Her employer requires her to achieve the sources so their house is crammed full of bags and boxes of old newspapers and magazines.  Add that to Annabelle's penchant for saving everything and a hoarding situation has developed.

Benny's life continues to deteriorate.  He is an outcast at school.  Soon he starts to hear voices, not voices of people but those of  objects.  He hides this new development as best as he can but it is clear he is struggling and he ends up in a pediatric psychiatric ward.  There he meets a teenage girl who he is fascinated with but who has many issues of her own.  Can all these damaged people find a way to exist without pain?

Ruth Ozeki writes literary novels that explore the corners of normality.  She has studied Buddhism for many years and that belief system infuses these pages.  The reader will be drawn into Benny's world and yearn for a world in which he and Annabelle learn to thrive rather than barely survive.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Sick Puppy by Carol Hiaasen


Twilly Spree has a goal in life.  Florida born and bred, he has devoted his life and wealth to saving the environment from the developers like his father who want to pave over every inch of land, especially if it is oceanfront and make the entire state a conclave of gated golf communities.  

Palmer Stoat has the opposite goal.  He is a lobbyist and as such, is always on the side of wealthy developers.  He has an in with the governor and when one of his buddies, a former drug dealer turned developer, wants to turn a pristine uninhabited island into a golf community, Palmer is the man to intercede with the governor and legislature.  In order for the island to be developed, it's rickety bridge to the mainland needs to be replaced with a big concrete monstrosity and that's Palmer's forte.

Twilly and Palmer are never going to be best friends, but events conspire to turn them into enemies.  Twilly sees Palmer carelessly littering from his car and it makes him livid.  He follows him, learns all about him and finally breaks into his home and abducts his labrador dog.  While negotiating for its return, Twilly also takes Palmer's wife, who is about done with Palmer and very interested in Twilly.  Palmer has influential friends but Twilly is about to get an ally in Skink, who used to be governor and now lives wild and free in the brush.  Who will win this battle?

Carl Hiaasen is a native Floridian himself and the ecological message scattered throughout the humorous narrative is his personal belief.  He is a journalist and has written seven Skink novels.  Readers will enjoy the skewering of the rich and powerful and the humor scattered throughout the book.  This book is recommended for thriller readers who also want a good laugh.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Sleepless by Romy Hausmann


Nadja grew up as the neglected child of a prostitute.  When her mother is found murdered, Nadja doesn't really understand what is going on as the police question her and before she knows it she is picked out as the scapegoat for her mother's death.  That protects all the influential men in the town who were customers.  Nadja is sent to prison for several years as a child offender.

But those days are behind her.  Now she is out and living her life as normal people do.  She has a job and likes her boss who is kind to her.  She has a few friends and a life where she can go where she wants and do anything that appeals to her.  Nadja is fairly content until the day Laura comes to her.

Laura was Nadja's first friend when she came to her job.  That continued until Laura caught the eye of the boss and soon married him and left the workforce.  Now Laura is distraught and begs Nadja to help her.  Nadja agrees of course.  But when Laura takes her to her house, Nadja finds the dead body of Laura's lover on the floor.  Laura begs Nadja to help her hide the body.

Nadja agrees and the two women take the body to a lodge deep in the forest.  But Nadja discovers that her past has come back to haunt her and that she is being set up as the victim to take the blame again for a crime she did not commit.  Will this be the same as all those years ago?

Romy Hausmann is a German author whose debut novel, Dear Child, became a runaway bestseller.  This is her second novel.  The reader will sympathize with Nadja.  The plot contains many twists and turns and it goes back and forth in time, some of which can confuse the reader.  There is a separate thread about another woman who is found dead in the forest also and it takes quite a while to reconcile the two plotlines.  This book is recommended for thriller readers.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Before The Poison by Peter Robinson


Chris Lowndes has moved back home to Yorkshire.  Chris has been in the United States for over thirty years and made his career writing the music for movies, a very successful career.  After the death of his beloved wife, he feels that he needs a change and buys a home in a remote Yorkshire village without viewing it.

After he takes possession, he has a chance to explore the house he has bought.  There is a huge family portrait hanging in the foyer, a man, his wife and their young son.  Chris learns that this was the family who lived there before him, a doctor named Earnest Arthur Fox, his wife Grace and their son.  What he hadn't expected to learn, Grace was convicted of Fox's murder by poison and hanged, one of the last individuals to undergo capital punishment in that location.

The more Chris learns about the family, the more drawn he feels to Grace.  She was also a musician and has left her grand piano behind in the house.  She was known as a nurse, a gracious lady who was kind to all.  What brought about her murder trial?  It turns out that Grace had an affair with a young man, years younger and the affair said the prosecution was her motive.  The conservative jury was ready to believe that and she was convicted.

Chris isn't that sure.  He starts to poke around, looking for those who were around thirty years before when the murder and trail occurred.  He manages to locate the young artist with whom Grace had the affair, and relatives of Grace's son.  He is soon obsessed with the case.  Was Grace innocent of the crime?

Most readers know Peter Robinson for his Inspector Alan Banks series.  This mystery does not fit in that series but is a stand alone.  Readers will be drawn into Chris' investigation and surprised to hear his backstory.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood


This anthology, released in 2014, contains nine stories by Margaret Atwood.  I've never read anything by this author that was less than stellar and these stories continue that trend.  The first three stories in the collection are linked; the story of an author who started a fantasy land to support her poet boyfriend.  The couple split up and the author went on to become a famous author on the scale of George R. R. Martin and his Games Of Throne.  The second story in this series is about the poet who let the author go through his misogynic personality and his life thereafter and the third follows the life of his last wife.

The title story tells the story of a woman who has killed her first four husbands.  She is currently on an Artic cruise when she discovers one of her shipmates is the boy, now man, who humiliated her in high school and she starts to plan his murder as well.  This story was written by Atwood while she was actually on such a cruise to entertain her fellow passengers.

One of my favorite stories was The Dead Hand Loves You.  It is about a famous author who made a contract as a young student that has ruled his life.  He was destitute, sharing a house with three other students.  He couldn't come up with his share of the rent but agreed to a contract that the four would share as equal partners in the money from the book he is writing.  Much to all their surprise, the book is a major hit that has spun off other money making ventures such as films and tv series and the author and his partners all end up wealthy.  The author can't help but regret the contract as the others profit from his work.  All of the stories are first rate and this anthology is highly recommended for short story readers.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Geographies Of The Heart by Caitlin Hamilton Summie


Sarah Macmillian is the anchor of her family.  She is the one who always has time for each member, giving everyone time and attention.  She is married to Al, a religion professor at the local college. They have a daughter whom both adore. Sarah has a sister, Glennie, whose career as a doctor is all consuming.  Her parents live close by and so do her grandparents.  Sarah is the caretaker for everyone, the person who gives time and attention to each person's needs.  But who takes care of Sarah?

This novel explores the foundation of our lives, the families that nurture and sustain us but also can serve as the biggest frustration in our lives.  Sarah always thought she and Glennie could never be separated, but time and careers and outside obligations have pushed them apart and soon Sarah's main thought when she thinks about Glennie is anger that Glennie doesn't spend the same amount of time with the family that she does.  Al is a genial man but as time goes on, life starts to grind him down; his touchstone is Sarah for whom his love is steadfast. As time moves on, the family has to change as the grandparents continue their aging process until they take the next step, death.  Sarah must redefine herself to accommodate the changing family dynamics.

This is one of the best novels I've read.  The author gets it all, love, resentment, family loyalty, connections, marriages and the work they take, sibling and parental relationships.  I was captured from the first pages and could barely tear myself away from the story of Sarah's family.  The story feels warm and loving but authentic, showing the weaknesses that can tear at family relationships when the load is unevenly distributed.  I read the author's first book, an anthology.  Several of those stories find their way into this novel but here the voice is so much stronger, the lessons and power of the family story so much more clearly defined.  I hope this book gets the recognition it deserves as it is definitely one of my favorite novels I've read recently.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and those who want to understand more about the family relationships that sustain us and tear us apart. 

Monday, January 17, 2022

Gideon The Ninth by Tamsyn Muir


The call has come out from the Emperor.  He has called to the ruling bone witch of each of the other eight houses to gather at his capital to compete in a battle to the death.  Each world is ruled by a bone witch who is a necromancer and the Ninth House is ruled by Harrowhark Nonagesimus.  She is just a teenager in age but one of the most skilled necromancers anywhere and a leading contender to win the competition.

There is one other caveat.  Each house and bone witch must be accompanied by their cavalier, a swordsman or swordswoman extraordinaire.  Gideon is such a cavalier, her swordwork almost unbelievable.  She has been raised as a captive in the Ninth House and longs only to escape and join the military.  She and Harrowhark have been enemies for their entire lives but Harrowhark needs Gideon now to accompany her.  Gideon agrees to go, thinking she will find a way to escape while there.

As all the necromancers and cavaliers assemble at the Emperor's castle, the rules are laid out.  There can be only one winner and that winner will become immortal as is the Emperor.  But the competition is full of politics and betrayal with death around every corner.  Gideon and Harrowhark must find a way to work together in order to come out alive on the other end. 

This is the first novel in the Locked Tomb series.  It was a finalist for the 2020 Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy awards and won the 2020 Locus and Crawford Awards.  It was named a Best Book of 2019 by such organizations as NPR, Amazon, Shelf Awareness and the New York Public Library.  The novel has complex worldbuilding and even the secondary characters are fully developed.  The central theme is the enmity between Gideon and Harrowhark and how these sworn enemies learn to work together towards a common goal.  It is full of sorcery, swordfights and mystery as well as developing characters who fight the common stereotypes of gender, race and sexuality.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers. 

Thursday, January 13, 2022

The Family Plot by Cherie Priest


Chuck Dutton can't believe his ears when the woman walks into his office at Music City Salvage.  It's a family business but times have been hard lately.  The woman is offering Chuck the rights to salvage anything he wants from her family mansion before it is razed to the ground in two weeks.  There are architectural details like tiled fireplaces and stained glass windows, hardwoods, cooper roofs and even furniture.  There are two outbuildings that have been locked up and untouched for decades.  He quickly writes her a check before she can change her mind.

Chuck needs to stay behind to run the business so his daughter, Dahlia, heads up the salvage team.  There's her brother Bobby and his son, Gabe plus a new hire named Brad.  The team plans to camp out in the old house as they strip everything and Chuck will come up on the last day to help drive everything back to the yard.

But there's something the owner left out.  Actually several somethings.  There are ghosts which the team starts seeing the first day.  There's a World War I soldier.  A young boy is in the attic.  There's a Southern lady who hangs out in her bedroom which is always locked except in the middle of the night.  And there's an evil spirit, an angry woman who wants them gone and will do anything she can to make that wish come true.

As the days pass, the attacks from the spirits intensify, both in frequency and attack strength.  Dahlia does what she can to find out the history of the family and soon has an idea of what is causing the anger and violence.  But can the team finish before they are finished off by the spirits?

Cherie Priest is an established author in the horror genre.  The reader will be drawn in by the unfolding of the family history and by the current relationships in the Dutton family.  The suspense builds unrelentingly and ends with a bone-chilling attack.  This book is recommended for horror readers.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

True Crime Story by Joseph Knox


Seven years ago, Zoe Nolan disappeared.  She walked out of her dorm suite during a party after publicly fighting with her boyfriend.  Since that night nothing has been heard of her and the case has gone cold.  But now someone is taking notice.  Eve Mitchell has heard about the case and is making it the centerpiece of her new book.  She has been interviewing the police involved as well as family and friends.  She sends her book in chapters as she finishes them to her mentor and friend, Joseph.  He gives her advice which she blithely ignores as she writes the book her way.

Zoe was eighteen and had been at university for only a couple of months.  She was a singer and her family had always considered her destined for fame and fortune.  Her twin sister, Kim, always felt left out of the family and does whatever she can to distinguish herself from Zoe.  She is appalled when Zoe decides to come to the university Kim has picked for herself to get away, and even more appalled when her father arranges for the girls to share a dorm suite.  

The story of Zoe's disappearance is told in bits and pieces from various sources.  There is the boyfriend, a rich kid who wasn't really that interested in Zoe.  There is the Muslim boy who is victimized for his differences.  There is the over helpful guy who is always there whether anyone wanted him there or not.  There is the Oriental roommate who loves drama and finds Zoe to be a rich source of it.  There is the professor who may or may not have been in Zoe's life as more than a professor.  There is her overbearing father and mousy mother.  Each has a piece of the story and as Eve puts it together, danger seems to be coming for her.  Can she solve the mystery?

This is a fascinating novel that breaks the rules.  It is told from multiple viewpoints, a book within a book and it is up to the reader to decide what is true and what is false.  There are discoveries and there are unreliable narrators.  Through it all, the reader starts to glimpse what may have happened that night to Zoe.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Monday, January 10, 2022

A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum


Three generations of Palestinian women's experiences within their families make up this novel.  Isra was living her life in Palestine when she was betrothed by her family to Adam and within weeks, sent to the United States to make her life with him and his family.  Adam is the oldest son and works all day in the stores the family owns.  Isra is left to work in the house; making the basement apartment they have in his parent's house clean and inviting, cooking, cleaning and doing whatever her mother-in-law, Fareeda, asks and as the children come, being a mother.  Isra has four children, all girls.  The culture is to blame the woman for the sex of the child with no weight being given to the scientific knowledge that the father determines a child's gender.

Fareeda is never content.  She immigrated to the United States with her husband, fleeing the Palestinian refugee camp they were forced into when their family lost their home and fortune during one of the wars with Israel.  She has given her husband three sons, all who live with them with their wives and children and one daughter, Sarah.  Fareeda is determined that since her life was hard, she will pass that down to her daughter and daughters-in-law.  Her sharp tongue and constant recital of how each woman has disappointed them all fills their days and quashes their dreams.

Deya is about to graduate high school.  She is Isra and Adam's oldest daughter although she barely remembers them.  All she knows is that they both died when she was little, leaving her and her three sisters to be raised by Fareeda.  Fareeda is determined to force Deya into an early marriage as all the other women have done but Deya is determined to go to college.  She does not want the life of her mother and grandmother, aunts and cousins whose lives consist of cooking, cleaning, raising children and being beaten by their husbands as their outlet for disappointments.

This book received a lot of awards.  It was a New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice book as well as a USA Today Best Book Of The Week.  It was named a finalist by the Goodreads Choice Awards both as Best Fiction and Best Debut.  It is a difficult book to read, the claustrophobic lives of the women hard for most women to imagine.  The presentation of domestic abuse in many Muslim households has been fraught with controversy.  But this is an important book to read for those interested in diversity, for learning about lives that are normal in other cultures yet so far from the reader's everyday experience.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman


One of the most interesting activities at the Coopers Chase Retirement Village is the Thursday Murder Club.  Other residents may enjoy their knitting clubs or military history clubs, but this one involves studying and trying to solve various cold cases the police were never able to close.  It was started by a retired police officer, Penny, and her best friend, Elizabeth who had been a spy for the government.  Penny is now in a coma but the club goes on.  In addition to Elizabeth, there is Ibrahim who was a psychiatrist, Ron who was a famous labor leader and Joyce a retired nurse.

But now the stakes have been raised.  The owner of Coopers Chase is planning to expand the village to a new section.  To do so, everyone expects that he will be using the same contractor he used for the original village but the owner cuts him out in favor of cheaper labor.  When the contractor is found murdered later the same day, the police are sure it relates to the falling out and the Murder Club is sure they can solve the case.  As more murders occur, can they safely find the solution before they come into the killer's focus?

This is the first book in a massively successful series.  I hesitated to read it for a while as it was getting so much buzz but I'm so glad I did.  I fell in love with the characters and the tone of the writing in the first chapter and loved them all until the end.  There are lots of twists and turns and many enjoyable characters, both in the police force, other residents, and peripheral characters who become more important as the book progresses.  This novel is a joy to read and I'll definitely be moving on to the next one soon.  This book is recommended for cozy mystery readers.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Beyond Reach by Karin Slaughter


Detective Lena Adams uses her day off to drive back to her hometown.  She has received a call from a childhood friend telling her she needs to check on her uncle.  Lena's uncle raised her and her sister because there was no one else but he was an addict and Lena doesn't have fond memories of it.  He got clean years ago but when Lena gets there, she finds that he has relapsed and is near death.

Police Chief Jeffrey Tolliver gets a call the next morning telling him that his detective has been arrested.  No more information is forthcoming so he decides he needs to drive the hundred miles there to find out what is going on.  His wife, Sarah, goes with him.  Sarah is a doctor, the town pediatrician and is currently embroiled in a lawsuit over a young boy who died of leukemia.

When the two get there, they find almost no information except that Lena is in the hospital.  Apparently she was arrested at the scene of a death and it is unclear if she is involved.  Lena escapes from the hospital while Sarah is in her room and thus the couple feels they must stay and find out what is going on.  The local police chief is a very young man and Jeffrey doesn't feel that he knows enough to figure out what is going on.

It soon emerges that the town is awash with drugs and white power groups.  Did Lena get too close to the truth?  Are the local police involved?  As more bodies show up, Jeffrey and Sarah realize they are racing against time.  Can they solve the mystery and get Lena back home?

This is the sixth and final novel in the Grant County series.  Jeffrey and Sarah are remarried and now realize that each is the only one for the other.  Characters from the previous novels in the series show up in this one and it is best to read the series in order.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Monsters: A Love Story by Liz Kay


Stacy Lane is in a hard place in her life.  Her husband has been killed in a car accident recently, and although he left her and her two young sons financially independent, money doesn't make the grieving go away.  Stacy had moved to Nebraska with her husband's job and is now living there without him and finds that her feminist, poet personality doesn't always jibe with those of her neighbors.  Her sister lives there and is her main social outlet.  Mainly, she endures life, making sure she does what she can to ease her son's grief and maintaining their lives.

Then something amazing happens.  Her agent calls and says an option for a movie has been put on her most recent book of poetry.  Stacy is astonished and even more when she finds out that it has been optioned by Tommy DeMarco.  A perennial favorite on the Most Sexy Man Alive lists, she had never thought of Tommy DeMarco as someone who would be a fan of her poetry.  He is mostly known for dating copious amounts of women, never sticking with one for more than a few weeks.  But optioned the book has been and the company wants her to fly out to get the process of turning her poems into a movie started.

Thus starts two years of making a movie, through fights about the movie's directions, meeting the producer, fighting with the rewrite man, making friendships with the cast.  Then there's Tommy.  Stacy starts sleeping with him early on, but they both agree it is nothing more than the sex which is only on the occasional trips Stacy takes to work on the film.  Tommy is still out there with other women all the time while Stacy starts to date a doctor and think about her future.  Yet, Stacy forms a close relationship with Tommy's daughter and he does the same with her two sons.  Each calls the other whenever they need to talk about something in their lives.  The attraction and chemistry are overwhelming.  Can it ever go anywhere?

Liz Kay has written a book that many won't like.  Stacy is sarcastic and full of profanity.  Tommy is charming but not someone you wouldn't ever expect loyalty from.  Their constant stops and starts along with their behavior towards each other and those around them is often appalling.  Yet somewhere along the way, the reader realizes that they are pulling for this relationship to thrive and survive.  This book is recommended for readers of women's fiction. 

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Nottingham by Nathan Makaryk


The year is 1191, the time of the Crusades.  King Richard is half the world away, leaving his country with a dearth of leadership and impoverished by the massive funds needed to support the overseas campaigns.  Robin and Will, battleground friends, come home to Nottingham to try to find out what has become of a shipment of arms sorely needed overseas.  What they find will change their lives forever.

As the king calls for more money, that demand falls on the nobles, They in turn try to raise the money from their serfs and servants, causing hunger and misery.  These individuals on the bottom of the heap are starting to think about fighting back.  Some have run away and gathered in Sherwood Forest where they have become highwaymen to support themselves.  These are the folks who have stolen the arms shipments.

When Robin and Will meet up with the forest folk, a skirmish ensues and Robin is wounded.  Will escapes back to Nottingham while Robin remains behind in the forest and soon becomes the leader.  Now the two former friends are pitted against each other.  Each pursues their goals, being forced into actions they never thought they would do.  Along with them, others aligned with them suffer.  Arable is a servant girl who had been Will's lover before he joined the army while Marion was a lady who had been in love with Robin.  Both will play a part in the struggles to come.  Guy is the leader of the guard that protects Nottingham which makes him an enemy of the folk in the forest.  Along with Robin, these include Will Scarlet and his woman, Elena, along with John Little and the Friar.  Which of the two groups will succeed?

This is a debut novel which is difficult to believe.  It is an epic retelling of the Robin Hood story most are familiar with but it is a retelling that changes the viewpoints of the reader.  There is a second book in this series, Lionhearts, that readers will want to check into after finishing this one.  Nathan Makaryk is a writer and playwright and the novels are based on his plays about the Robin Hood legend.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers as well as those interested in the Crusades period.  

Sunday, January 2, 2022

The Furies by Katie Lowe


Violet's life changes forever when she is fifteen when her father and little sister are killed in a car accident.  Although her mother is still there, she has checked out of life and spends her days drinking and watching tv until she passes out.  Violet takes herself out of the public school she has been attending.  When the insurance settlement comes through, all of a sudden there is money.  Violet will now be going to the local private school which is considered a sign of prosperity and a doorway to upper class privilege.

Although bright, Violet doesn't fit in with the other girls, most of whom have known each other since birth.  So Violet is thrilled when Robin, a girl with flaming red hair, makes friendship overtures.  Soon Violet is in the clique that includes Robin, Alex and Grace.  The fact that they are all considered outside the pale doesn't seem to matter.

The girls are picked out by their art teacher for special classes and they come to believe in the ancient Greek myths with their monsters and penchant for revenge.  The girls feel that they know people who deserve a comeuppance and start to perform rituals to bring down revenge on them.  When a boy who they targeted in their rituals has a car accident, they are sure they have brought The Furies to life and that they hold others in the palm of their hands.  

Another girl had been in the clique but gone missing and is presumed dead.  The girls are determined to find out what happened to her and to avenge her death.  Can they be successful or will the evil they are playing with turn around and bite them?

This is a young adult debut novel.  I don't read much young adult and this novel hardened that resolve.  The tone of the book is one of teenage angst and can often seem whiny.  Why does no one get counseling for a girl who has lost most of her family?  Why can't teachers and parents notice that their teenage girls are coming home drunk or drugged, that they are rarely attending classes?  I couldn't suspend my disbelief long enough to enjoy the storyline but those interested in young adult novels may find this one to be right in their comfort zone.