Wednesday, June 29, 2022

History Of A Drowning Boy by Dennis Nilsen


In the 1970's, Dennis Nilsen was convicted of killing twelve young men, but his true number of murders is probably sixteen or more.  For that, he was convicted and given a life sentence and served thirty-four years before his own death.  This is Nilsen's autobiography.

He was born in Scotland and lived with his mother, siblings and grandparents.  Some of his earliest memories were of his grandfather molesting him, an act that extended across years.  When he was old enough, Nilsen joined the army and was well thought of but left due to the impossibility of being openly gay.  He was a policeman for a short time and then started his murderous acts.  He would invite the men home with him from a bar, drug them, strangle them, then use their bodies in his fantasy ritual.

While this was an interesting look into his mind, in the end it was a basically self-serving exercise.  The majority of the book was of his life in prison which is inevitably a very limited viewpoint as not much occurs differently from day to day.  Even after years, he admits to having fantasies about various men he sees and thinks about how he would kill them.  Would his life have been different if he hadn't had a history of early molestation and if the laws about homosexuality had been different as he grew up?  Perhaps but the reality is we each most live with the situation we find ourselves in and most do not use others in such a way to satisfy their own needs.  This book is recommended for true crime readers.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Watchman by Ian Rankin


Miles Flint is a British spy.  He has been for years and he has let his job take over his life, even to the detriment of his marriage.  These days he is mostly a 'watchman', spending his nights on stakeouts watching those whom the government suspects of being terrorists.  

His most recent assignment didn't go well.  Miles made an amateur mistake and it resulted in the death of a foreign agent from Israel.  Then he compounded it by getting caught in the garden of one of his assignments ending up in prison.  There's a real sense that perhaps Miles is past his time, that he is at his end of usefulness.  When he is sent to Ireland on an obscure assignment that quickly becomes deadly, Miles knows that his only salvation will be to investigate his own agency and determine if their is treachery and treason going on. 

Ian Rankin is best known for his Rebus series.  This is an early novel before that series became so popular.  The reader will be lost at times and that is a purposeful choice as it echoes the ambiguity of the agencies that work undercover to insure the nation's safety.  Flint is a man whom the agency has given up on, as has his wife and even Miles himself.  But when threatened, his early skills come to the fore and he manages to discover things hidden from those he works with and that threaten the agency itself as well as the nation he has sworn to protect.  This book is recommended for readers who enjoy espionage.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl


Four of Boston's leading intellectuals are working on the first English translation of Dante's The Divine Comedy.  They are Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes and J. T. Fields.  Lowell and Holmes are both teaching at the university while Fields will be the publisher of the work when it is finished.  There are those who oppose their work; the head of finances at the university wants it stopped as he thinks Dante is immoral and is doing what he can to insure it never sees the light of day.

The four men think that is their only barrier but not so.  Murders start to occur and each mimics one of the horrible torments of hell that Dante writes about.  When the men realize that the murderer is taking Dante as his inspiration, they are determined to find and stop him before he kills again.  They are assisted by the first black policeman in Boston who brings the normal police procedures and resources to the investigation while the other men bring their knowledge and inspiration.  Can they discover the killer and stop him?

Matthew Pearl has degrees from Harvard and Yale Law School.  His works tend to have literary themes, usually with a mystery imbedded and feature literary figures who take up detection as a sideline.  This book was a bestseller and he followed it up fifteen years later with The Dante Chamber.  Readers will learn about the history of Harvard as well as more about famous literary figures.  This book is recommended for both mystery and literary fiction readers.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Ragnarok by A. S. Byatt


Ragnarok is the battle where all the gods die.  In this retelling, A. S. Byatt uses the structure of a 'thin child', whom most believe to be herself, to tell the stories of the Norse gods.  The child who is alone much of the time during World War II out in the countryside, reads and rereads the stories of the gods as she attempts to create a framework for her own world view.  

Here are the stories of such gods as Thor, Odin, Loki, Asgard, Frigg and Baldur.  These gods are petty in their emotions, warring with each other to gain attention and prestige.  There is love for their children and then desire for retribution when those children are killed by others.  Finally, there is the epic battle in which they destroy each other forever, a metaphor for the death and destruction the child sees all around herself as the bombs rain down on England.

A. S. Byatt is an English dame who has won the Booker Prize for her novel Possession and who is considered one of England's foremost authors.  In this novel, which is autobiographical, she struggles to understand war and the belief of gods to try to rationalize and explain the world.  The child, and Byatt, decide that these stories and those of the Christian faith, are all just that, stories and not to be used as a foundation for one's life.  The writing is dense and poetic, full of description that sweeps the reader along.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Wildwood Whispers by Willa Reece


Mel Smith learned two things growing up in foster care.  Don't get close to anyone and always be ready to leave.  She lets down her guard and forms a friendship with Sarah but life takes Sarah early.  Mel wants to leave the city where they were living but there's one thing she still has to do.  She needs to take Sarah home to her family.

Morgan Gap is a small town in the Appalachian Mountains.  Mel is surprised how attractive she finds the town and the people.  Sarah's family welcomes her immediately, especially Granny.  They have lived here for generations and the women are known for their ability to heal using the folk remedies and the gifts of the forest.  Mel is taken in and soon Granny has given her the use of a cabin.  Mel starts to think maybe she will stay a while.  There is a forest ranger who seems to be interested and she doesn't know what she thinks about that but otherwise the area gives peace and solace to her battered soul.

But all is not peace and love.  There is a cult in the area, ruled by men with hard faces who think women are only good for making babies and obeying every command.  They are opposed to the healing women and do whatever they can to make life difficult.  Mel starts to suspect that maybe they do more than that and that they bring violence with them.  Sarah's mother was killed years ago and the crime was never solved.  Is there a showdown coming?

This is a debut novel full of magic and healing.  The author's writing is full of lush descriptions and her characters are interesting enough to draw the reader in.  I listened to this novel and the narrator's ability to use the cadence and accent of the Appalachian Mountains was spot on.  This book is recommended for women's fiction readers.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Serpentine by Jonathan Kellerman


Milo Sturgis is at the top of his profession as a homicide investigator in Los Angeles.  As such, he is surprised and offended to be handed a loser case from top administration.  A woman was killed over thirty years ago.  Her car was found crashed and over a cliff, burnt with a body inside.  But it was no accident.  The woman inside had a bullet in her head.  Over the years, several detectives had been assigned the case but with no witnesses or forensics, made little headway.

Sturgis calls his friend, Alex Delaware, a psychologist who helps him with his harder or stranger cases and this one qualifies.  The case was assigned because someone with money and influence got to the right people in the department.  Milo and Alex go to meet the woman and find that she is in her thirties and a millionaire after selling her sports clothing line.  Ellie only knows that her mother deserted her and her stepfather when she was young, three or four.  After that she never saw her again and her stepfather raised her until he was killed in a hiking accident.

The two men start to investigate.  They soon find that another woman, around the same age as Ellie, is involved.  When Ellie's mother left her stepfather, she ended up in L.A. living at the house with Vera's father.  Vera's mother had died when she was ten and her father went a bit crazy afterwards.  Although she was only ten, he soon had a harem of scantily clad blondes rotating through the house, staying for days or weeks.  Ellie's mother was one of these women.

The pair discover that other women in the harem had disappeared over the years.  Some became respectable matrons, marrying men of influence while others just disappeared, probably drifting on somewhere else.  But there were too many deaths and coincidences to be natural.  Can Milo and Alex solve the case after so many years?

This is the thirty-sixth novel in this series.  Jonathan Kellerman hit on a winning formula when he created Milo and Alex and readers will not be disappointed in this latest one.  The crime is fresh and the writing intriguing.  As the case unfolds, it is in turns amazing yet logical that one fact leads to the next and the next until the mystery is unraveled.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Jackie & Me by Louis Bayard


This is the story of Jackie Bouvier and Jack Kennedy's courtship as related through the eyes of Jack's best friend, Lem.  Jack and Lem went to boarding school together and formed a lifelong friendship; Lem being more or less adopted by the entire Kennedy clan.  Jackie was working as an on the street photographer and columnist.  Jack was known for his war record and as an up and coming politician.

Jackie and Jack met at the start of his Senate campaign.  Knowing that his time would be totally consumed by that, Jack asks Lem to be Jackie's friend so that she didn't drift away and meet someone else.  Lem was glad to do that as he and Jackie had hit it off immediately.  They went to museums, discussed books, and Lem interpreted Jack and his mixed signals to Jackie.  Jack even had Lem explain how a marriage to him would be; he expected to retain his ability to see other women as he wanted.  Jack was basically marrying because his father thought it was necessary to do so in order to be electable.  Jackie was marrying for love and because it was the next thing in life a woman did.  It was a tragedy waiting to happen.

This is such a charming book.  Readers will fall in love with Lem and find it totally believable that he won the heart of both Jackie and all the Kennedy clan.  Lem is loyal and delightful, always willing to step in and do what is needed.  Jackie is shown as such an interesting woman, full of plans for her future but caught in a love that didn't show much sign of being one that would nurture her.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and anyone who needs a book to warm their heart.  

Monday, June 20, 2022

The Bear by Claire Cameron


Anna, five, and Alex, almost three, have gone camping with their parents.  They are in the tent while their parents are just outside sitting around the end of the campfire.  Anna is about to drift off when she smells a horrible smell and something, a big black dog?, snuffles around the tent.  

Of course, it isn't a dog but a bear.  Somehow her dad gets the children inside the huge Coleman container that will save them.  When daylight comes and the children emerge from the Coleman, they don't see their dad at all.  They find their mother in the bushes, bleeding,  She tells Anna to get Alex to the canoe and paddle from the island they are on to the mainland.

This is the story of how Anna and Alex manage to get away.  It is told entirely through the eyes of Anna so from a young child's perspective who doesn't really understand what has happened or why she has to do these things when she just wants her parents.  She doesn't know how to find food or water or what direction to take them in.  She just moves them on as best she can.

Claire Cameron is a Canadian author and this novel was a national bestseller in Canada as well as being longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction.  Her ability to see the world through the innocent eyes of a young child in the midst of tragedy is compelling.  The reader will follow the children's journey almost afraid of what the next page might bring.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Athena's Champion by David Hair and Cath Mayo


As the novel opens, Prince Odysseus of Ithaca has come to go through an event that will mark him as the true heir of his country.  Instead, family secrets are revealed that have him outcast and chased by those who would kill him.  Odysseus is short of stature but is known for his logical thinking.  He is saved from one who would kill him by the goddess Athena and agrees to become her theios or champion.  That gives him more strength, faster healing and faster moves but comes with obligations to serve her as she asks.

This is the early story of Odysseus' life.  He is brought into the war that is raging between the gods as Zeus tries to become the sole ruler.  He meets other heroes such as Theseus who he dislikes and forms a rivalry with.  The novel details the kidnapping of Persephone and the journey to Hades to retrieve her where Odysseus' skill in negotiating is a key factor.  

This is the first novel in the Olympus Trilogy.  It is not a straight retelling of the Illiad and the Odyssey but rather a reinterpretation of how the events of Odysseus' life make him into the hero he is known throughout history as.  The gods are presented as having many mortal traits such as jealousy and rivalry and they desire a relationship with humans to further their goals.  I listened to this novel and the narrator was perfect for this type of story.  This book is recommended for readers of myth.  

Friday, June 17, 2022

The Cave Dwellers by Christina McDowell

 They are the Washington elite, politicians, businessmen and diplomats.  Some are old money while others are new to the upper monied class.  Their children attend elite private schools and are guaranteed places at the Ivy League universities their parents are alumni of.  They have the perfect life or do they?  When one of the families experiences a break-in, murder and their house burned to the ground, the other families start to question their lives.

We see this world through the lives of several of the families and their children.  There is Bunny, only child of one of the richest families, a family that made their billions on the backs of their workers and who are about to be embroiled in multiple wrongful death lawsuits for the illnesses their chemical plants have caused.  Bunny is bored with her life and suspicious that she doesn't deserve it.  After the murder, she visits the man arrested in prison and tries to bridge the gap between them.  She is dating Billy, whose father has just been nominated for Secretary of Defense.  His father could care less that Billy is a talented musician; he is determined that Billy will continue the family tradition of military service.  Mackensie's father is a new Senator who champions women's rights in public and has affairs in private.  She is dating Marty, the only African American in their group and whose parents are both lawyers.  Then there is the son of the Russian ambassador who the rest of the group call Putin.

All of these families are poised on the brink of disaster and some of them will tip over.  Along the way, their social climbing, lack of interest in others and determination to have their own way in life is exposed.  This is a debut novel and the author is a bit heavy-handed.  Every character in this social circle is totally corrupt and unlikeable.  The point she is making, that wealth and privilege is often based on corruption is valid but would be more compelling if her characters were more well rounded.  Very few people are totally one way or the other; most of us have good and bad characteristics and we are judged by which ones we allow to rule our lives.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Mickey 7 by Edward Ashton


Mickey has a problem.  He got over his head gambling and now his bookie is sending around enforcers to collect what Mickey doesn't have.  He really needs to get away, out of town or off the planet if possible.  The expedition off to seek a new world is just the ticket and his best friend is already on the crew.  But Mickey studied history in university instead of engineering and the only job he's qualified for is that of Expendable.

The name pretty much explains the position.  Mickey's genes are cloned and ready to be brought into action.  He is given all the most dangerous jobs such as facing monsters, repairing engines that are spewing radiation or exploring unknown terrain.  At this point, Mickey is Mickey 7, and has died six times.  But his mind is uploaded so he feels like he is pretty much the same person.

The expedition is exploring a planet that shows some promise as a new home.  Mickey is out roaming to map out more of it when he falls into a crevice.  His friend is circling but says he can't rescue him and flies off.  Mickey is resigning himself to death when the monster arrives.  It's appendages and maw come closer and closer and then it picks up Mickey, takes him back to the ship and sets him down.

Now there's a real problem.  Mickey's friend, not wanting to admit he left him, has reported him dead.  When Mickey gets back to his room, Mickey 8 has already been generated.  What to do now?  Should Mickey have to go in the destroyer just because he didn't die?  Should the new Mickey be killed?  Can they both survive?

Edward Ashton has written an engaging science fiction with a memorable character.  Mickey has been handed some rotten cards in life but goes about making the best of it.  I've already gotten the next in the series and I'm looking forward to going on more adventures with Mickey.  This book is recommended for science fiction readers.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw


Modern day Shanghai is the epitome of change.  If you stop for a month, you've lost your place and must start over.  It is the land of opportunity where you can be a pauper one day and a billionaire the next.  All it takes is hard work, luck, a good idea and financial backing.

Tash Aw follows several immigrants whose stories tell the larger story of Shanghai.  There is Justin, the older son of a huge property development family who comes to the city to tie down the purchase of a property and then promptly has a breakdown.  Phoebe is in Shanghai illegally.  She is determined to make her way and spends her leisure time devouring self-help books.  Willing to do whatever it takes, she also casts her net on social media to find a man to finance her.  Gary is a pop singer whose time in the limelight is done after he has a public meltdown one day.  Yinghui loved poetry and the arts in her youth.  She was engaged to Justin's brother but after their breakup, she moved to Shanghai and reinvented herself as a businesswoman and is now very successful.  

Then in the background is the shadowy figure of Walter Cho.  He interacts with many of the other characters.  He has social relationships with both Phoebe and Yinghui although neither is sure if he is really romantically interested in him.  He writes the self-help books that Phoebe devours and through them we see his early childhood that shaped him.  He is the man who scoops the property that Justin's family desired, bringing about their bankruptcy.  He convinces Yinghui to partner with him in a mysterious project.

Tash Aw is Malaysian and grew up in Kuala Lumpar as a child before moving to England as a teen.  He studied law and worked as a lawyer for several years before deciding to write instead.  His writing won the Whitbread Award and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and was longlisted for the Booker.  In this novel, he explores the meaning of modern commerce as well as the basic human longing for connection that drives the characters even when they think they don't need anyone else.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

The Law Of Innocence by Michael Connelly


When Mickey Haller leaves the bar that night, his only thought was of the case he just won which had been the cause of celebration.  When the police lights come on behind him, his first instinct was irritation.  When the policeman says his license plate is missing, Haller finds it hard to believe and is starting to think that the policeman had pulled him because he knew Haller was a defense attorney.  The policeman inquires about whether Mickey had been drinking, but he had been on the wagon for several years.  Yet the policeman asks him to get out of the car and then says he needs to open the trunk.  By now, Haller is pretty sure he is being targeted by someone he has made angry.  He refuses to open the trunk but then the policeman sees something dripping and insists.  Haller is as shocked as the policeman when the open trunk reveals a body.

Now Mickey is in prison and trying to put together his defense on a murder charge.  The victim is a former client who Mickey had represented several times until the client stopped paying his bills.  He is facing years in prison and a prosecutor who is absolutely convinced that Mickey is a murderer.  Can he win his most important case?

This is the sixth novel in the Lincoln Lawyer series.  Characters from the other novels appear here also: Haller's ex-wife, Maggie, his other ex-wife and secretary, Lorna, Cisco his investigator and his daughter Haley.  Readers will get an inside look at the defense side of a trial and the legal maneuvers that Haller performs in order to prepare and present his case.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Island Of Wings by Karin Altenberg


Neil McKenzie makes the decision to devote his life to God after a childhood accident in which a playmate is killed.  He spends his university education preparing and is ordained a minister.  He volunteers to take the most remote parish the Church has and is assigned St. Kilda, a small island off the Scottish coast which is so small and insignificant that it isn't on the map. 

Before he goes, he marries Lizzie.  Lizzie is nineteen and has no idea what marriage or the remoteness of life with no companions will be like.  The natives live in hovels and they don't speak English but a form of Gaelic which Neil also speaks.  They survive on the many birds that migrate there and on whatever they can get fishing.  Their animals live in the hovels with them and their manure is used as fertilizer for the minimal farming they do.  It is a life of poverty where sixty percent of all the babies born die within eight days.

Lizzie is pregnant with their first child but loses it after a miscarriage.  She loses other children as well but eventually the couple do have a family with children.  The native women don't fare as well, some having many children without any surviving and eventually they come to resent Lizzie and her children.  Neil is determined to improve the natives' lives both through his sermons and in practical terms with newer dwellings and a plan for farming.  

Over the years, Neil and Lizzie draw further and further apart.  Neil, like most men, is afraid to show his emotions and Lizzie is left isolated.  Eventually, her life is all about her children while Neil becomes more and more estranged from his family and other individuals.

This book is based on the true story of the couple who spent time on St. Kilda.  The reason for the babies' deaths was eventually discovered but too late to keep the inhabitants of the island going.  Altenberg has written an interesting novel about the trials of those who went to try to help native populations and it is of note that these men and women off the Scottish coast were just as poverty-stricken as any tribe on a Caribbean island or deep in the jungles of South America or Africa.  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction.

Friday, June 10, 2022

Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris


When Jack asked Grace to marry him, it was a dream come true.  She couldn't believe her luck when he had spoken to her in the park and then they had developed a relationship.  He's everything a woman could want.  Handsome, attentive, rich and totally devoted.  He also meets Grace's main requirement.  She has a sister, Millie, who is mentally challenged.  Grace is determined to provide a home for Millie when she turns eighteen and graduates from the residential program she is in.

Jack buys a house for them to live in after their marriage although Grace hasn't seen it yet as he wants to surprise her.  But it has a huge room for Millie and he assures her everything else they had listed as must-haves in a house.  Grace's parents love Jack.  They are about to emigrate to New Zealand and are happy that their girls will have this man in their lives.

The wedding day comes.  It is marred for Grace by Millie having a fall at the wedding and having to miss the ceremony when she is taken to the hospital.  But the ceremony is lovely and soon Grace and Jack are man and wife.  It is the last happy moment Grace will have.

Immediately after the wedding, Jack shows his true nature.  He is a monster who has married Grace only to get to Millie.  He tells Grace he plans to torture Millie mentally until she is totally broken for he is a master of fear and wants nothing more than to make those around him terrified.  Then he plans to kill Millie.  Grace spends her honeymoon in Indonesia locked out on the balcony of their hotel room for hours while Jack disappears.  He uses various techniques to convince Grace that she has no escape and to make others see her as a neurotic woman prone to delusions.

Things are no better when they return to England.  Grace spends her days locked in a barren room.  Sometimes Jack feeds her, sometimes not.  He watches every interaction she is allowed to have with others.  He spends his time with her torturing her with recounting his plans for Millie.  Can Grace escape this nightmare?

This is a debut novel and B.A. Paris exploded onto the literary scene with it.  The reader is transported into Grace's nightmare world and is as terrified as she.  The ultimate nightmare Jack is preparing is believable and terrifying and the reader can easily envision it.  The love between Grace and her sister is admirable and relatable and the trap it enables is believable.  This book is recommended for thriller readers.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Dodge City by Tom Clavin


Tom Clavin has written an informative and interesting history of Dodge City during the 1880's when the city had the reputation of being 'the wickedest town in the American West'.  This was the decade of the big cattle drives and when the cowboys made it to their destination, they were ready to cut loose and drink, gamble and seek female companionship.  The job of sheriff or deputy was low paid although there was an extra amount given for each arrest and there were plenty of those.  The job was also dangerous as alcohol and guns were a deadly match and tempers were often short.

The book focuses on three men in particular.  Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson and Doc Holliday were all known for their fast draw and gun shot accuracy.  Clavin gives the men's backgrounds and then follows them through their time in Dodge City.  Both Earp and Masterson had several brothers and these relatives floated in and out of the story.  Holliday was a dentist by trade but in reality a gambler and alcoholic who mainly backed up his friend, Bat Masterson.  He and Earp didn't get along that well but Earp put up with him due to his friendship with Masterson.

Clavin also covered the fight in the OK Corral.  It was a short fight as opposed to the reputation and fame the battle gained.  He also covers the various battles against train robbers, stagecoach drivers and trail bosses with their cowboys.  Other interesting topics were Boot Hill, Billy the Kid and various other famous outlaws of the time.

There was a lot to learn in the book.  The first was the relative shortness of the time period that Dodge City was so wild and wooly.  It was mainly one decade, the 1880's.  Another was the relative shortness of the time that the men were lawmen.  It was a young man's game and both Masterson and Earp were pretty much done by the time they were out of their twenties.  Masterson ended up in New York as a newspaper writer and Earp in California.  Earp was married four times and his last wife was the longest relationship and was with him at the end.  Masterson also had multiple marriages and his last wife started as a bigamous marriage but they remained together for many years.  This book is recommended for nonfiction readers and especially those interested in the Western expansion and settlement.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

The Pariah by Anthony Ryan


Alwyn is born to a prostitute, his father unknown.  Cared for by no one, he runs away and joins a group of outlaws in the forest who teach him to fight and provide him with a sort of family.  He proves to have exceptional talent as a warrior.  But things rarely stay the same in a war torn country.  When his band of outlaws is betrayed and most killed, he ends up sent to the mines as a slave.

After working several years there, his intelligence is noted and he is brought into the house of the noble running the mines.  He is taught to read and write and is thereafter known as Alwyn Scribe.  He is given the task of writing the story and message of Lady Evadine Courtain, who believes that they are all cursed and will be facing the end of the world.  Alwyn and his friend escape and live on their own for a while but as the wars progress, they end up back in the king's army.  As he fights the battles, he wonders if this will forever be his lot.  When Courtain is in danger, he can leave her to die or risk everything trying to save her.  Which will he do?

Anthony Ryan is known as one of those in the top league of epic fantasy writers.  His career was in the British Civil Service which he gave up once his first novel in the series Raven's Shadow was published to great success.  This novel is the start of another series.  Ryan is adept at creating characters the reader cares about.  Alwyn Scribe is brusque and rude but contains a core of loyalty towards the few people he lets inside his circle.  I listened to this novel and the narrator was exceptional for this type of novel.  This book is recommended for epic fantasy readers.

Monday, June 6, 2022

The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian


Although they are both pilots, Chip Linton is no Sully Sullenberger.  When his plane developed issues, Sullenberger somehow managed to land it in the Hudson River with no loss of life.  When Chip's plane ran into a flight of geese, he tried to land in a nearby lake but the plane split in half and thirty-nine people died. Although Chip is still a young man, he will never fly again.

The family decides to move from their home in Pennsylvania and make a fresh start.  They choose a small village in New England.  Chip's wife, Emily, is a lawyer and they have twin girls, Hallie and Garnet, who are ten.  Chip is struggling to recover mentally after the wreck, his guilt debilitating.  They buy an old house and set to updating and restoring it.  

The village seems a bit standoffish but there are people who reach out.  Many of the women have an interest in horticulture and greenhouses are common.  The herbalists seem to have their own circle and that is the circle that reaches out to include the Linton family.  The women all seem intrigued and entranced by the twins and start to teach them how to grow plants and the uses that plants can have.  Meantime, Chip is starting to see hallucinations and soon doesn't trust himself to be around Emily and the girls.  Was this move a mistake?

Chris Bohjalian is an author who typically centers his novels around a social issue.  This novel is a departure and is more of a gothic novel with a creepy house, apparitions and a creepy circle of people whose intent is not clear.  There are supernatural elements and I'm not sure I liked that although it is well done.  This book is recommended for horror readers.

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Nadia Knows Best by Jill Mansell


Nadia's family isn't quite the norm.  Her mother, Leonie, left Nadia and Clare, her sister with their dad, James, when they were quite small.  The three moved in with James's mother, Miriam, and have lived with her ever since even though the girls are in their twenties now.  Along the way, Leonie had another daughter and brought her to live with James, Miriam, Nadia and Clare also.  Tilly is thirteen and figuring out all the teen issues.

Nadia is a landscape designer.  She has just landed a marvelous job with a property developer.  While his construction workers fix the inside, Nadia turns the outside into proper gardens.  Clare is an artist trying to get noticed.  She is dating an entitled rich guy who treats her terribly.  Nadia's long time boyfriend left her when he became a model and an actor and she sees him in the gossip columns.  But her new boss might just be the ticket to get over Laurie.

James hasn't dated anyone since Leonie as that was quite enough chaos, thank you very much.  But Tilly introduces him to Annie and they start to do out.  Meanwhile, Miriam has been in a relationship with Laurie's father, Edward, for years.  Edward wants to marry her but Miriam steadfastly refuses.

Things are going along when out of the blue, after a year and a half, Laurie shows back up.  He wants to get back with Nadia but she isn't sure if he is serious plus there's the new relationship with Jay to consider.  Then out of the blue, Leonie decides Tilly should leave the only home she's known and move in with Leonie, her new boyfriend and his teenage daughter.  How will things work out?

If you are feeling sad, there is always a way to perk up and Jill Mansell is high on the list.  Her breezy novels introduce the readers to characters they feel they could be friends with and puts them in situations where it seems unlikely they will emerge unscathed.  But somehow things always work out and the last page is turned with satisfaction and pleasure.  This book is recommended for women's fiction readers.

Saturday, June 4, 2022

My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite


Korede gets the call she had fervently prayed she would never get again.  Her sister, Ayoola, needs help and only Korede will do.  When she gets to the apartment, she finds Ayoola's newest lover dead on the floor, stabbed through the heart.  Korede is a nurse so she knows a lot about cleaning and sanitation.  She helps Ayoola clean the apartment and dispose of the body.  This is the third time this scenario has played out.

Ayoola takes it as her due.  She has always been the little sister who is the beautiful one, the favored one at home.  She expects attention and help as her due. Men fall all over themselves to be with her and she always has a man in tow. Korede has been tasked since a child as watching out for Ayoola and so she feels that some of the blame for Ayoola's actions belongs to her also.  

At work, Korede is known as the diligent one, the nurse who goes above and beyond her required duties.  She works closely with a doctor that secretly, she hopes may come to have feelings for her.  But that hope is destroyed when Ayoola stops by at lunchtime one day and the doctor sees her.  Soon, he is sending Ayoola flowers, buying her jewelry and taking her on extravagant dates.  Korede doesn't know what to do.  Her heart is broken and she is worried that the doctor may meet the same fate as Ayoola's other men.  What can she do?

This debut novel exploded onto the scene.  It was nominated for the Booker Prize and was a finalist for the Women's Prize For Fiction as well as other honors.  The novel is short and moves with the speed of a hurricane bearing down on shore.  Ayoola is a beautiful monster and Korede is caught up in her destruction, fighting her instinct to find a way to stop her sister and shielding her again and again.  This book is recommended for thriller readers.

Friday, June 3, 2022

The Gilly Salt Sisters by Tiffany Baker


They are two of the town's oldest families and there is bad blood between them.  The Turners are rich and powerful and don't mind letting anyone know it.  The Gillys are farmers of the salt that is plentiful in this New England coastal town.  The Gilly salt is bound into the town's traditions and most people believe it brings them luck although they wouldn't say so.

These days the Turners are represented by Whit, the last of the Turners.  There are two Gilly sisters, Jo, the oldest and the one who knows the salt best and Claire who only wants to escape the hard work and poverty of the salt farm.  Whit first loved Jo but when she refused him he settled for Claire.  Claire is the beautiful one but her heart has never been Whit's either.  She is in love with Ethan but he went away and became a priest so she settled for position and wealth only to learn that neither can bring happiness.  The two sisters are estranged and haven't spoken in years until a crisis in Claire and Whit's marriage brings Claire home.

Whit is determined to acquire the salt farm to go along with all his other property.  His mother, Ida, who ruled the town while she was alive, told him that the salt farm would keep their wealth and position safe.  Jo refuses to sell although she is about to lose the farm to the bank from a loan her mother took out before her death.  How far will Whit go to get his way?

Tiffany Baker has created characters that the reader will remember for a long time.  Jo is strong and always does what she believes is right even at great personal cost.  Claire's chance at happiness flew away at eighteen and she has been desperately chasing it every since. It is also interesting to learn about the trade of salt farming and what it entails.  This book is recommended for readers of women's fiction.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Booksie's Shelves June 2, 2022


June 2nd and regardless of what the calendar insists, summer is here in North Carolina.  I mean sticky, humid, ninety degree days summer.  My background is Scandinavian and I'm not a fan of summer.  But every cloud has a silver lining and staying indoors just means more reading time.  I'm still working on reading all the anthologies I have and just finished a great one by Laurie Notaro.  It was my first read by her and that's one of the joys of reading; discovering another author you love.  I also went on a James Ellroy buying spree this month.  Here's what's come through the door:

  1. There Are No Happy Loves, Sergio Olguin, mystery, sent by publisher
  2. The Bone Flower, Charles Lambert, mystery, sent by publisher
  3. This Is The Country, William Wall, literary fiction, purchased
  4. Metropolis, B.A. Shapiro, literary fiction, sent for blog tour by publisher
  5. Smells Like Tween Spirit, Laurie Gelman, humor, sent by publisher
  6. The Sewing Girl's Tale, John Wood Sweet, historical fiction, sent by publisher
  7. The Way The Crow Flies, Ann-Marie MacDonald, literary fiction, purchased
  8. The Dante Club, Matthew Pearl, mystery, purchased
  9. Cora's Kitchen, Kemberly Garrett Brown, literary fiction, sent by publisher
  10. None Without Sin, Michael Bradley, mystery, sent for blog tour by publisher
  11. Summertime, J. M. Coetzee, literary fiction, purchased
  12. The Boatman's Daughter, Andy Davidson, horror, purchased
  13. St. Urbain's Horseman, Mordecai Richler, literary fiction, purchased
  14. Nightingale Point, Luan Goldie, literary fiction, purchased
  15. My Dark Places, James Ellroy, memoir, purchased
  16. Blood's A Rover, James Ellroy, literary fiction, purchased
  17. This Storm, James Ellroy, literary fiction, purchased
Here's the ebooks I've bought:
  1. The Folding Knife, K.J. Parker, fantasy
  2. Orlando, Virginia Wolff, literary fiction
  3. A Death Most Monumental, JD Kirk, mystery
  4. The Big Nowhere, James Ellroy, literary fiction
  5. L.A. Confidential, James Ellroy, literary fiction
  6. Mistborn Trilogy, Brandon Sanderson, fantasy
  7. Hounded, Kevin Hearne, fantasy
  8. A Line To Kill, Anthony Horowitz, mystery
  9. Utopia Avenue, David Mitchell, literary fiction
  10. Or Else, Joe Hart, mystery
  11. The Book Of Accidents, Chuck Wendig, horror
  12. The Good Doctor, Damon Galgut, literary fiction
  13. L.A. Requiem, Robert Crais, mystery
  14. Dream Girl, Laura Lippman, mystery
  15. Engines Of Empire, R. S. Ford, fantasy
  16. The Heroes, Joe Abercrombie, fantasy
  17. The Harlech Beach Killings, Simon McCleave, mystery
  18. True North, Jim Harrison, literary fiction
  19. Strip, Thomas Perry, mystery
  20. A Small Hotel, Robert Olen Butler, literary fiction
  21. Broken Verses, Kamila Shamsie, literary fiction
  22. Forty Thieves, Thomas Perry, mystery
  23. The Fifth Heart, Dan Simmons, horror
  24. The Sentence, Louise Erdrich, literary fiction
  25. Indigo Slam, Robert Crais, mystery
  26. Slow Horses, Mick Herron, espionage
  27. The Vanished Triangle, Claire McGowen, true crime
  28. The Hand That First Held Mine, Maggie O'Farrell, literary fiction
  29. What The Storm Means, Brandon Sanderson/Robert Jordan, fantasy
  30. Never See Them Again, M. William Phelps, true crime
  31. Voodoo River, Robert Crais, mystery
  32. Kiss Of The She-Devil, M. William Phelps, true crime
  33. If Looks Could Kill, M. William Phelps, true crime
  34. Dead Simple, Peter James, mystery
  35. Sharp Ends, Joe Abercrombie, anthology
  36. The Little Friend, Donna Tartt, literary fiction
  37. The Hidden Soldier, Eoin Dempsey, literary fiction
  38. December Park, Ronald Malfi, horror
  39. The Bomb Maker, Thomas Perry, mystery
  40. The Tiger And The Wolf, Adrian Tchaikovsky, fantasy
  41. Count Zero, William Gibson, science fictioni
  42. Poison Flower, Thomas Perry, mystery
  43. Revelator, Daryl Gregory, horror
  44. The Ascendant Trilogy, K. Arsenault Rivera, fantasy
  45. Version Zero, David Yoon, science fiction
  46. The WVU Co-Ed Murders, Geoffrey Fuller, true crime
  47. The Bread The Devil Knead, Lisa Allen-Agostini, literary fiction
  48. Salt Lick, Lulu Allison, literary fiction
  49. The Crossing Places, Elly Griffiths, mystery
  50. Guards, Guards!, Terry Prachett, fantasy
  51. Sandman Slim, Richard Kadrey, fantasy
  52. The Girl Who Was Taken, Charlie Donlea, mystery
  53. Little Eyes, Samantha Schweblin, literary fiction
  54. What Are You Going Through, Sigrid Nunez, literary fiction
  55. The Dark Horse, Craig Johnson, mystery
  56. Ship Of Magic, Robin Hobb, fantasy
  57. God On The Rocks, Jane Gardam, mystery
  58. The Treatment, Mo Hayder, mystery
  59. The Murder Game, Julie Apple, mystery
  60. Under Her Care, Lucinda Berry, mystery
  61. In A Strange Room, Damon Galgut, literary fiction
  62. Lone Wolf, Jodi Picoult, literary fiction
  63. Free Love, Tessa Hadley, literary fiction
  64. Arms And The Women, Reginald Hill, mystery
  65. A Tip For The Hangman, Allison Epstein, mystery
  66. Smoke, Joe Ide, mystery
  67. Death's Mistress, Terry Goodkind, fantasy
  68. To Kill A Fae, Jamie Waters, fantasy
  69. The Collector's Apprentice, B.A. Shapiro, literary fiction
  70. The Bad Girl, Mario Vargas Luca, literary fiction
  71. The Leprechaun Wars, Wes Snowden, fantasy
  72. Half The World, Joe Abercrombie, fantasy
  73. The Vacation, T.M. Logan, mystery
  74. Land Of The Wolves, Craig Johnson, mystery
  75. A Beginning At The End, Mike Chen, fantasy
  76. The Risen Shard, D.K. Holmberg, fantasy
  77. The Volunteer, Salvatore Scibona, literary fiction
  78. The Goodbye Coast, Joe Ide, mystery
  79. Katabasis, Joseph Brassey, fantasy
  80. Siege Perilous, E.D. deBirmingham, fantasy
  81. The Famished Road, Ben Okri, literary fiction
  82. Unbonded, D.K. Holmberg, fantasy
  83. A Dark Room In Glitter Ball City, David Domine, true crime
  84. The Papers Of Tony Veitch, William McIlvanney, mystery
  85. Careless, Kirsty Capes, literary fiction
  86. Going Wrong, Ruth Rendell, mystery
  87. The Mongoliad, Greg Bear, fantasy
  88. The Mongoliad 2, Neal Stephenson, fantasy
  89. Death Of A Dormouse, Reginald Hill, mystery
  90. Dangerous Ground, M. William Phelps, true crime
  91. The Immortal Words, Jeff Wheeler, fantasy
  92. Storm Glass, Jeff Wheeler, fantasy
  93. Mirror Gate, Jeff Wheeler, fantasy
  94. Iron Garland, Jeff Wheeler, fantasy
  95. Prism Cloud, Jeff Wheeler, fantasy
  96. Broken Veil, Jeff Wheeler, fantasy
  97. A Spark Of Light, Jodi Picoult, literary fiction
  98. No One Is Talking About This, Patricia Lockwood, literary fiction
Here's what I'm reading:
  1. The Gilly Salt Sisters, Tiffany Baker, Kindle
  2. Nadia Knows Best, Jill Mansell, paperback
  3. The Night Strangers, Chris Bohjalien, hardback
  4. The Pariah, Anthony Ryan, audible
  5. Ragnarok, A.S. Byatt, audible
  6. Fire And Blood, George R. R. Martin, hardback
  7. Metropolis, B.A. Shapiro, paperback
Happy Reading!

I Love Everybody by Laurie Notaro


In this anthology, Laurie Notaro shares her life as only she can.  I'm not usually a laugh out loud person but this book got me giggling and laughing until I was gasping for breath.  She has recurring characters such as the meth head handyman who has decided Laurie is his best friend and personal ATM.  In the title piece, she goes to Costco determined to show her sweeter side but ends up frustrated by the store traffic and the competition for the food samples and ends up yelling at an elderly woman with an oxygen machine so decides maybe she doesn't love everybody after all.  The reader learns about her job frustrations and her marriage.  I defy anyone to read about how Laurie's favorite corduroy overalls simply exploded while she was putting them on after years of wear.  This book is hilarious and recommended for readers who need a lift to their day.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Pay Dirt Road by Samantha Jayne Allen


Annie McIntyre is treading water.  She graduated from college and is now back home, figuring out what's next.  Home is Garrett, Texas, a small town she thought she was leaving behind.  She didn't think she would be back and working as a waitress at the town's cafe.  She also didn't think she would still be attracted and torn between two men she dated in high school.

The McIntyre family is well known.  Annie's grandfather was the police chief and everyone knows him.  Her father was a policeman as well for a while.  They live in town now but still have the old homestead farm.

Annie's life becomes even more complicated when a tragedy occurs.  Another waitress at the diner, Victoria, has been murdered.  Annie saw her the night she disappeared at a party she went to.  Victoria was drunk and flirting with some men from outside town; workers of a pipe construction company that wants to buy the land Victoria just inherited from her grandmother.  Annie looked for Victoria before she left but couldn't find her.  The next thing she heard was that Victoria's body had been found.  Could Annie have saved her if she had looked for her harder?  Can she find the murderer now?

This is a debut novel from Samantha Jayne Allen.  She gets the small town relationships and sense of boredom and frustration right.  Annie is a sympathetic character, searching for the next chapter in her life and caring for those around her.  The book has interesting subordinate characters such as Annie's private investigator grandfather and his woman partner and various women and men Annie grew up with but realizes she doesn't really know.  This book won the Tony Hillerman Prize for Best First Mystery set in the Southwest and is recommended for mystery readers.