Sunday, July 31, 2022

The Nix by Nathan Hill


This novel is a coming of age exploration of Samuel Andresen-Anderson.  He is plagued throughout his life by what the Scandinavian's in his background called the Nix; someone who love who leaves, breaking your heart.  Samuel's Nix is his mother, Faye.  She walks out when he is just entering his teenage years and he doesn't hear from her again in his adolescence. Faye becomes known though as a radical whom the police and government agencies are on the lookout for.  Samuel doesn't understand why whatever Faye is fighting for is more important to her than he and his dad.

He becomes friends with a pair of twins in his town.  Bishop is his best friend and is obsessed with the military.  He also knows how to stand up against authority yet takes up for those bullied.  His sister, Bethany, plays the violin at a professional level.  She is Samuel's first love although he is too shy to tell her so.  Yet the Nix strikes once again and his friends are moved away at the end of the year and he loses touch with them also.

Now Samuel is grown and stalled.  He is teaching English to unappreciative students and fighting a huge case of writer's block.  He is discontented but doesn't know what to do next until his mother shows up again in headlines.  She came out of hiding and threw rocks at a candidate, a governor with hopes of being President.  Now the FBI is after her as well as a vengeful policeman who blames Faye for all his life's troubles.  Can Samuel find his mother and help her before she is captured?

This novel won the L.A. Times Book Prize For First Fiction.  It was also named one of the year's (2016) best books by NPR, Amazon, The New York Times, The Washington Post and others.  The reader is drawn into Samuel's life and can't help pulling for him as he encounters disappointment after disappointment.  As he finally moves towards making positive moves in his life, he gives the reader a sense that it's never too late to grow up or to stop letting the world define one's personality and fate.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Blurred Fates by Anastasia Zadeik


Kate Whittier has a life she could only dream about as a child.  She has a loving husband, two healthy and happy kids and a gorgeous home in Southern California.  Money isn't an issue as her husband, Jacob, not only comes from money but is incredibly successful in his career.  Growing up, Kate's mother died as she was entering her teenage years.  Her father promptly disappeared into a bottle and she was sexually abused by her brother and his friends for years, a fact she has never told anyone.

Then Kate's life encounters issues that change it in a second.  Jacob confesses to a drunken encounter with a woman.  Trust is the biggest requirement in Kate's life so she is immediately sickened and sure that the marriage is over.  Soon Kate and Jacob are separated and the children are moving back and forth between houses.  Kate's father is about to die and her brother has found her again and is making threatening phone calls.  Luckily, Kate still has Ryan, who is the couple's best friend.  Ryan was Jacob's best friend growing up and when he met Kate, he included her in their circle of friends.  He spoils their kids between assignments as a photographer all over the world.  Ryan is the only person Kate can talk to outside of her therapist.  He is willing to listen to both of the estranged couple and act as a go between.  But is life through throwing obstacles and challenges at Kate?

Blurred Fates is a debut novel and the author, Anastasia Zadeik, is off to a fantastic start.  Her ability to create characters the reader can instantly relate to propels the action in the novel.  Kate is so damaged by her childhood that she will never be fully whole until she comes to terms with her abuse.  She has been betrayed by everyone in her life and she must find ways to rebuild trust and learn to forgive small wrongs without cutting individuals from her life.  Jacob is a fundamentally good man, incredulous how quickly he lost everything he cared about.  Ryan is an intriguing character, a world traveler who still finds time to support the friendships he has built over the years.  The author explores the issues of the longevity of the aftermath of sexual abuse, how important trust is to build and how quickly it can be destroyed and how we all need someone to support us in life.  I look forward to seeing Zadeik's next novel.  This book is recommended to readers of women's fiction.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir


Ryland Grace wakes up and doesn't remember anything.  Not his name, not where he is or how he got there.  He takes inventory.  He's nude and in what appears to be a hospital bed.  He has tubes going everywhere.  What in the world has happened to him?

He manages to get out of bed and then realizes he isn't alone.  There are two other beds but both of those occupants is dead, long dead.  He starts to realize; he isn't in a hospital but on a space ship and is awakening from an induced coma.  Slowly, in the hours following, he starts to retrieve more memories.  He is on a mission.  Alien bacteria are eating the sun's energy, cooling Earth at a catastrophic rate. That cooling is happening everywhere in the observed solar system.  He has been sent on a mission to a far away star where the bacteria don't seem to be destroying the planet in an attempt to find a solution.

But he's just one man now.  Then the impossible happens.  Suddenly, there is another ship.  Another ship?  Aliens! Eventually Grace meets the alien, a spiderlike creature he names Rocky.  Rocky is on the same mission, trying to find something that will defeat the bacteria.  Slowly, over weeks, the two research the problem and build a relationship.  Can they be successful?

This is a book that will appeal to a wide range of readers.  Want hard science and math?  It's in there.  Want a heartwarming story of character relationships and intergalactic cooperation?  It's in there.  Want a thill a minute adventure story?  Weir has you covered.  The reader will finish the book excited to have been taken along on such an amazing journey.  This book is recommended for science fiction readers.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

The Crime Of Julian Wells by Thomas H. Cook


Philip Anders and Julian Wells were best of friends.  One of Philip's main regrets in life is that the two have drifted apart and that Julian changed from the optimistic confident youth he knew to a more pessimistic man who spent his career writing true crime books of the worst mass murderers in the world.  Julian spent his time on the road researching his books and became more or less a recluse.  So Philip is saddened but not really surprised when he finds out that Julian committed suicide at his family home.

Philip is determined to discover what caused Julian's suicide.  Was it the trip they took together as young men to Argentina, during the bad times and during which their female guide, Maria, disappeared as many others did?  Did her disappearance affect Julian so much that it refocused his attention and life towards the evil in the world?

Accompanied by Julian's sister, Philip takes off to find out what he can. He travels to Europe, to London, to Russia and back to Argentina.  Along the way, he finds out some of the mysteries surrounding Julian and discovers that the answers may also involve his own family.  

Thomas H. Cook is one of my favorite mystery authors.  He has been nominated for seven different Edgar Mystery Awards in five different categories and won the Edgar for his novel, The Chatham School Affair.  His writing always has a feeling of remote malice and that the world is not the safe place most of us believe it to be.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

The Perfect Ruin by Shanora Williams


Ivy's life changed forever the night of the accident.  Both of her parents were killed in a car accident and the police don't seem to be that interested in investigating it.  Ivy is just a teenager and grows up without her parents' love and guidance.  She has a psychologist she goes to but that's not really a substitute.

When Ivy is in her twenties, her doctor gives her additional information about the accident.  The woman who was driving the other car and caused the accident was Lola Maxwell.  Everyone knows who Lola is.  She is super rich and a trend setter with fashion stores and tons of money.  She lives in a massive estate in Miami with her plastic surgeon husband, Cory and is featured in magazines and television shows.  She has a charity to support mothers.

Ivy is determined to pay back Lola for ruining her life.  She starts by moving to Miami.  Her next step is to have plastic surgery with Cory as her doctor.  Then Ivy finds a way to get next to Lola by volunteering at the charity.  Soon she is best friends with Lola and living the good life herself.  She replaces Lola's former best friend, Kiki.  Everything is going great.  The only person who suspects anything is the housekeeper, Georgia.  Will Ivy go through with her plan to ruin Lola's golden life?

This novel received lots of positive press from places like Book Riot, Publishers Marketplace and Bookbub.  There are plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader's attention and their loyalty will switch from one participant to another as situations change.  Ivy thinks she is ready to ruin Lola but will she end up as the ruined one instead?  This fast-paced novel is recommended for mystery readers.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Savage Her Reply by Deirdre Sullivan


In the old days of Ireland, three little girls, sisters, were sent to the court of Bodhbh The Red to prove their parents loyalty.  Aebh was the oldest and most beautiful.  Aibhe was the youngest and determined to become a warrior.  That left Aife, stuck in the middle and feeling left out most of the time.

The sisters grew to adulthood in the court with only each other as family.  When they were grown, Bodhbh allowed Lir, a powerful chieftain, to come to his court and choose a wife from the sisters.  He chose Aebh.  Soon she had twins, a boy and a girl, and soon again, she was pregnant and had a second set of twins who were both boys.  Having four children in such a short time was too much for her body and Aebh passed away.  Lir demanded a new wife and this time took Aife.

At first Aife was happy in her role as wife.  But as her husband started to neglect her and look elsewhere, she became bitter and vicious.  She took her anger out on the servants and on the children of her sister.  Finally, Aife determined to strike a blow Lir would never forget.  She loaded the children in a coach and then stopped along the way at a lake.  There she turned the children into swans and cursed them to remain so for nine hundred years.  In return, Bodhbh turned Aife into a sky demon and cursed her forever.  

This retelling of an old Irish folktale is sad but beautiful.  The writing is lyrical and the reader is swept away into the tale of revenge and eventual redemption.  Each chapter starts with a calligram which is a poem laid out in shapes and a tradition of Irish writing.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Thunderstruck by Elizabeth McCracken


This anthology of nine stories by Elizabeth McCracken will take the reader to strange places.  Places where a mother who has lost her daughter never leaves the house again.  A summer rental that is so filthy that the tenant spends his time cleaning and restoring it instead of finishing his novel.  In the title story, a family moves their family to Paris for the summer in an attempt to bring their elder daughter back into the family as she is starting to stray in her teenage years.  The ploy seems to work and she becomes part of the family again, walking with them and laughing and telling stories as they all did in past times.  But she is still the teenager who wants to be free and sneaks out at night, finally coming to grief in a fall that leaves her in a coma.

Elizabeth McCracken is an author who is a must read for me.  She has written three novels, The Giant's House, Niagara Falls All Over Again and Bowlaway.  She has also written a memoir and three books of short stories.  Her work has been acclaimed with several being longlisted or finalists for the National Book Award.  Her short stories have been chosen for inclusion in 'best of' anthologies.  She writes of characters who are going about their lives when heartache occurs and how they handle life altering occurrences.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

Monday, July 18, 2022

None Without Sin by Michael Bradley


Candice Miller has never seen anything like this before.  An Episcopalian minister, she has been called to the home of a parishioner to comfort the family.  The husband of the family, realtor, Robbie Reynolds, has been murdered.  There is blood and curiously, a round loaf of bread on his back.  Candice is there to help the police get the family out of the house.  She talks with the victim's wife and his small daughter and manages to get them outside.

Outside, there is a crowd.  Journalists are there, including Brian Wilder.  He had been a Pultizer Prize winner journalist, traveling the world.  Now he is in this small town running a newspaper that prints only a few days a week.  Also in the crowd is Candice's friend, Andrew Blake, the Catholic priest who drove her there.  They had been playing chess when the call came.

There were always rumors surrounding Reynolds.  He was a playboy, having multiple affairs.  There were also financial rumors, that he was gambling and losing.  He had come to Candice to get a recommendation for a counselor and Candice had recommended her friend. Now he lies murdered, the word CHEATER scrawled on his forehead.

Candice can't put the scene out of her head. Something about the loaf of bread seems familiar.  After searching the Internet, she remembers something from her religious studies, the practice of the sin eater.  The sin eater was called in to eat bread after a death, taking the dead person's sins upon themselves.  Was that the reason the bread was left?

The town tries to get back to normal, but it's not to be.  Reynold's death is not the last.  Other murders occur, each with a victim with a message left on their bodies along with the bread.  There are many affected.  Samantha, Candice's counselor, is connected to all the victims as they are all in her practice. Alex Bennett, a college professor and his wife are involved as he is a religious professor. Brian Wilder is around each murder, trying for a scoop and realizing that he misses investigative reporting.  There's an older lady, Agatha, who is known for her charity but seems troubled by the past.  Can the murders be solved before more people are killed?

Michael Bradley worked in radio before moving to a career in information technology.  His mysteries have won awards such as Indie Book Of The Year and Notable Indie.  The pace was comfortable and his characters seem to be related to each other in believable ways.  The two main characters, Candice and Brian, both have issues to be resolved and are working on them.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Celine by Peter Heller


When Gabriela approaches private eye Celine, Celine isn't sure she wants to take the case.  Gabriela's father disappeared twenty years ago out in the wilderness of the West, thought to have been killed by a bear although his body was never recovered.  Celine is in her sixties and not sure she is physically up to what it will take to handle the case.  But Celine also lost family members as a young girl and her practice has been centered on reuniting families torn apart so she agrees to find out what happened all those years before.  

Celine and her husband, Pete, take off into the wilds of the park system in a camper.  Both are from the north, Yankees through and through.  Celine comes from an aristocratic family and she is elegant even through her age.  Pete is quiet and totally devoted to his wife.  Each comes at a problem from different angles and make an interesting combination of approaches.  There is some ambiguity in the man's disappearance.  He was a famous wildlife photographer and may have taken pictures of something someone didn't want to be documented.  Gabriela has her own son now and wants to put the mystery of her father's disappearance to bed before it's too late.  Can  this pair of older detectives find out what happened all those years ago?

Peter Heller is a must read for me.  His books has action but it is the characters I fall in love with.  Each is finely drawn and the reader can visualize them clearly, feeling as if they are someone well known sharing their story.  The importance of family is emphasized along with the difficulty of moving forward when there is a mystery about what happened to those you loved first and most.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

Friday, July 15, 2022

If You Lived Here You'd Be Famous By Now by Via Bleidner


This is a coming of age memoir by someone who went from a sheltered religious school to a high school in wealthy Hollywood.  It was a school where classmates were famous actors or actor's children, where the performing arts program had a 7000 seat auditorium and where the normal pressures of being a teenager were added on.  The author talks about growing up in the Internet age where everything you do is online, where cheating is rampant and almost impossible for teachers to catch and where your friends are everything. 

My takeaway from this book is how lonely the author was and how glad I was my own teenage years weren't spent in that environment.  She didn't seem to have many family connections, regarding her parents as just obstacles to getting through her day.  The only person she had a connection with was her younger sister.  That left only friends to support her and as with most teenage circles, that was an ever shifting  set of alliances.  Someone who had been a good friend one day took up with someone else the next.  Friends grew apart or were made but none seemed lasting or serious.  I was left with the impression that the author floated through her life, touching almost no one and desperately looking for a place where she made a difference.  This book is recommended for readers interested in the Hollywood life and coming of age stories.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

The Book Of Hope by Jane Goodall and Douglas Adams


This nonfiction book is a series of interviews between Jane Goodall and Douglas Adams on the topic of hope.  Jane Goodall, of course, is known as the woman who lived with the chimps and discovered much of what we now know about the primates.  She is currently a lecturer, traveling worldwide to educate about the climate crisis and what we each can do about it.      

Goodall first defines what hope is.  It is not just a wishy washy desire that things turn out okay but a concrete plan for what steps one might take to accomplish a given goal.  The book then moves on to the four reasons that Goodall believes there is hope in the world.

The first is the amazing human intellect.  Goodall believes that our intellect and the ability to have language are the factors that allow us to distinguish ourselves from other primates and rise to a elevated status.  That intellectual power can be turned to the problem at hand to discover solutions that will avert the crisis.  The next reason is the resilience of nature.  All over the world, animals and birds on the brink of extinction have been brought back and we see nature returning after every natural disaster such as fire or flood.  Goodall's third reason is the power of young people.  She sees a huge strength in the young people who are looking for a way to make a difference and the ability to nurture this desire into united efforts that are meaningful.  Finally, she believes in the indomitable human spirit.  She defines this as the ability to take on what seems like an impossible task and to continue with it when it seems inevitable that defeat will occur.  She uses as examples men like Martin Luther King and Winston Churchill, like Desmond Tutu and Ghandi, but she believes that any of us can have this ability and can make a difference.  

This book is recommended for those looking for hope in a world that seems to be hopeless and for those looking for concrete ways to help turn the tide on the climate crisis.

Monday, July 11, 2022

The Dhow House by Jean McNeil


Rebecca Laurelson has been working as a trauma surgeon in a field hospital in east Africa, a wartorn area.  When she becomes exhausted and takes a month's leave, she goes to her aunt Julia's house on the coast of the Indian Ocean.  A bigger contrast could not be imagined.  From a fearful, food and medicine deprived area where terrorists could strike at any moment, Rebecca goes to a house of wealth and parties where anything one desired could be had at a moment's notice.

Rebecca and her mother had never been close so she has never met her aunt Julia and the family.  Regardless, they open their house and welcome her.  Julia is a bit scary with her parties and jewelry and sense of entitlement.  Bill, her uncle, seems affable yet everyone is afraid of him.  Her cousin Lucy doesn't have much time for Rebecca, off with her own friends on a daily round of shopping and fun.  Storm, her other cousin, is a male with his own friends and pursuits such as surfing and fishing.  

Yet the break is good for Rebecca.  She has left the hospital exhausted.  She has secrets of her own and needs time alone to integrate her past experiences.  As time goes on and she is ready to reach out, she forms a relationship with Storm and unfortunately, it turns into an affair.  But worse than that is happening.  The terrorists are moving towards this rich enclave and the upcoming elections may bring more change than the white community is prepared for.  When an attack happens, the secrets everyone are hiding emerge with their fallout.

This is the second book I've read by Jean McNeil.  She describes the most horrifying scenarios matter of factly, only slowing revealing the secrets and horrors underneath a calm exterior.  The characters are murky at first and only when Rebecca returns to the country two years later are all the secrets revealed.  McNeil's writing is descriptive and the reader can picture the events vividly.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

A Mother's Secret by Tess Stimson


Most people would think Maddie has the perfect life.  She has a strong marriage to Lucas, something she never thought she would find after her first husband died.  She has three lovely children, a daughter from her first marriage, a toddler son and now a newborn baby.  Maddie has another love.  She runs a horse sanctuary and it is a refuge for her as well as the horses, giving her an outlet and a place to go when she needs to have peace.

But there are issues underneath the picture.  Maddie has been having blackouts.  She will be cooking supper and then find herself in the car driving the kids to school or day care with no memory of getting into the car.  They are getting more frequent but she doesn't want to tell Lucas or her doctor about them.  She had postpartum depression after her first son's birth and she fears that if she tells she could be institutionalized.  

Then the worst happens.  Maddie wakes up one morning realizing she has slept through the night.  Usually the baby keeps her up, as he has colic and cries for hours.  When she goes to check on him, she finds him in the crib cold.  How could this be?  Worse, the doctors and police believe that his death is not just a crib death but that he has been injured.  They suspect Maddie as Lucas had been out of town on a business trip.  Maddie knows she would never hurt her children but if not her, who?  Did the daycare workers shake him one day?  Was it Lucas' sister Candance who had stopped by and gone into the baby's room to see him?  Or her worst fear, was it her during a blackout?

Tess Stimson has written a psychological novel that explores the secrets all of us keep from others.  Maddie has issues that as she explores her background, go back all the way to her birth, secrets that were kept from her.  She wonders who she can trust and if anything she believed was true.  This book is recommended for psychological suspense readers.

Saturday, July 9, 2022

The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman


The Thursday Murder Club are back and this time they are dealing with spies.  Elizabeth's ex-husband, whom she hasn't seen in twenty years, is back and has stolen twenty million pounds worth of diamonds from a go-between for drug cartels and the Mafia and other villains.  He suspects that he is in the bullseye and hides the diamonds, expecting Elizabeth to find them.

Joyce, as always, is Elizabeth's sidekick, going with her on expeditions.  Ron and handyman Bogdan are there to provide protection or muscle, whatever is needed.  Ibrahim is mugged and hospitalized and the Club makes sure his attacker is paid back in full.  

Everyone wants the diamonds.  The local drug queen is sure she should have them.  MI-5 is after them as well with Sue and Lance working with (and against when it suits them) Elizabeth who is a legend in the service.  Can the Club find the diamonds before the others?

There is nothing quite like a Richard Osman book or the Thursday Murder Club.  Each character is cleverly written to support each other and use their working talents in their retirement to make sure all is right in the world.  They are the best of friends and it is cheering to read such an optimistic book where things generally end well.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, July 8, 2022

Buried Mistakes by Michael Kaplan


Things had been good at first for John and Candy Short.  She had been thrilled when, as a teenager, John had picked her out as his girlfriend and after a short time of dating, his wife.  But life with John wasn't what Candy had expected.  He had a horrid temper and soon Candy was showing up with bruises.  They had a baby but John didn't stay home and help.  Instead, he was out most nights, drinking at the adult entertainment bars and having tawdry affairs.

Then one night Candy didn't come home.  John and Candy's father went looking for her.  John said Candy had gone shopping at a local mall and although it was dark as tar, he drove right to where Candy's car sat lonely in the parking lot.  Candy's father would be haunted the rest of his life by the discovery of Candy's bloody body, stabbed and strangled and left wrapped in a blanket.

The police suspected John but Candy's parents insisted they were wrong.  They stuck up for John and even let him live with them for several months.  But slowly, as he continued his carousing and surly ways, they started to rethink their position and soon believed that John was the killer.  The police made no headway and the case went cold.  John found another woman and moved away.

Six years later, a former policeman joined the prosecutor's office as an investigator.  George Brejack had been known as the 'psychic cop' due to his high clearance rate although it was of course the result of his dogged work and refusal to give up on cases.  Brejack had been out of law enforcement for several years and now had to convince everyone that he hadn't lost his touch.  He took on the case of Candy Short's murder, now six years cold.  After months of investigation and an obsession with the case he managed to find enough evidence to arrest John who was later convicted at trial.  This book is recommended for true crime readers.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones


It is 1912 and Emerald Torrington is turning twenty.  For her party, she has invited as house guests an old friend Patience and her mother.  Emerald lives in Sterne, a large country house her father had bought when he was flush.  But his finances changed and he got ill and passed away.  Now Emerald lives there with her mother and stepfather, her brother Clovis and her little sister who everyone calls Smudge.  Her stepfather won't be there as he has gone to London to try to borrow enough money that the family can keep the house as Emerald's father had gone deeply into debt before his death.

But things don't turn out as planned.  First, Patience's mother becomes ill and can't come so Patience's brother Ernest comes instead.  All the Torringtons remember him as a strange boy who poked around looking for bugs and who was a pest.  Then the neighbor John comes by and has to be invited to the party.  John has his eye on the house having already bought some of the land and he also has his eye on Emerald, thinking she might be the wife he has been looking for.

Then a disaster happens.  A train wrecks nearby and the survivors are sent to Sterne until they can be retrieved and sent on their way.  There is no room for them, no plans to feed twenty-five people.  How can they be accommodated?  Along with them comes one man who seems to be in the upper part of society and it turns out he knows Emerald's mother.  Clovis is entranced by him but neither Emerald nor Patience care for him at all.  How will this unintended house party end?

Sadie Jones is a novelist who lives in London where she was raised.  Her work has been listed for the Orange Prize (now the Woman's Prize for Fiction) several times and she won the Costa First Novel award.  She has the prized ability to have each of her novels seem quite different from the others unlike other authors whose work seems to follow a set routine.  Her characters are finely drawn and the surprises that underpin the novel are unanticipated.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

The Heron's Cry by Ann Cleeves


DI Matthew Venn and his sergeant Jen are called early one morning.  They arrive at an artist's commune to find a murdered victim.  Dr. Nigel Yeo had approached Jen the night before at a party, asking if he could talk to her later about something that was bothering him.  But that talk will never happen now as he is lying in his daughter's glassblowing studio, a shard of broken glass in his neck.

As Matt and Jen investigate, they find tension at the commune.  There is one family with two children and another on the way who farm the land the commune is on.  There is at least one more full-time artist who lives there besides Dr. Yeo's daughter, Eve, as well as other who come and go.  Why would any of them want to harm Nigel?

The police learn that Nigel had been looking into the case of a local teen who had committed suicide.  There was talk that the hospital had mishandled the teen's case and perhaps someone wanted to stop Dr. Yeo from his investigation.  But there is also a website for depressed teens that has a subset of users who call themselves The Suicide Club.  The teen had been part of that and maybe the fault lies there but who is behind it?

This is the second book in the Two Rivers series set in North Devon.  Matthew grew up in the area in a very strict religious church and had left when he renounced the church and its members after he came out as gay and was called a sinner.  Now he is back with his husband and has to fight his memories as he fights to solve crimes.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

The Missing Ones by Patricia Gibney


A woman's body is discovered in a cathedral.  Susan Sullivan worked in the county planning office.  The case is given to Detective Lottie Parker, who is in her early forties, overworked with three teenagers at home.  When the police go to the home of another employee of the planning office, they find him hanging from a tree.  

As the investigation moves on, two possible routes for solving it emerge.  Both victims had the same unusual tattoo on their bodies.  It turns out that both were residents as children of St. Angela's, a children's home now closed but with dark rumors swirling around it.  Does the case have to do with the home?

But St. Angela's is about to undergo a major transformation into a resort with a golf course, luxury housing and amenities.  Is there something going on at the planning office that caused the two employees death?

Lottie works the case with her second, Mark Boyd.  The two have history but Lottie is trying to put that behind her.  There are several suspects.  The head of the planning committee doesn't want to talk.  A priest at the cathedral is a bit too helpful.  The developer who is in charge of the St. Angela's renovation has some shady connections.  When two teenage boys go missing, the case becomes even more urgent.  Can Lottie solve it in time to save the boys?

This is the first book in the Lottie Parker series.  Lottie is a hard individual to care about as she veers between overworking her job with little care for her co-workers and ignoring her teenagers who are still grieving the loss of their father.  It turns out that Lottie's family also has a connection to St. Angela's and that may excuse some of Lottie's wild thrashing abouts.  This series is popular and recommended for mystery readers.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Booksie's Shelves, July 5, 2022


June was a pretty busy month for us.  We went on a short trip down to the coast last week.  NC residents are lucky that we have both mountains and coast in our state.  We live in the middle more or less so three or four hours and we can be at either.  We went on a historical tour of New Bern, NC, rode a ferry, had homemade ice cream and took a two hour cruise.  It was a well deserved break.  In huge news, our newest granddaughter was born on June 30th.  I can't wait to see and hold this already loved little one.  

In book news, I read twenty four books in June.  I'm working away on reading and streeting books I've had here for years and making some progress.  I'm about 2/3 of the way through all the Karin Slaughter books and working away at all my anthologies.  I only have two more books in The Wheel Of Time.  Unfortunately, for clearing out shelves, I went on a Claire North binge a few weeks ago so I need to find time to read all of those.  Here's what's come through the doors:

  1. The Gameshouse, Claire North, literary fiction, purchased
  2. Elizabeth Is Missing, Emma Healey, psychological thriller, purchased
  3. Island Queen, Vanessa Riley, historical fiction, purchased for book club
  4. River Of Smoke, Amitav Ghosh, historical fiction, purchased
  5. The End Of The Day, Claire North, literary fiction, purchased
  6. Touch, Claire North, psychological thriller, purchased
  7. The Sudden Appearance Of Hope, Claire North, literary fiction, purchased
  8. Guilt, Jussi Adler-Olsen, mystery, purchased
  9. A God In Every Stone, Kamila Shamsie, literary fiction, purchased
  10. To Cook A Bear, Mikael Niemi, mystery, purchased
  11. Little Eve, Catriona Ward, horror, sent by publisher
  12. Declare, Tim Powers, thriller, purchased
  13. Belinda, Mark Zvonkovic, thriller, sent by publisher
  14. Calling For A Blanket Dance, Oscar Hokeah, literary fiction, sent by publisher
  15. Depraved Indifference, Gary Indiana, crime fiction, purchased
  16. Death Sentence, Jerry Bledsoe, true crime, purchased
Here are the ebooks I've purchased:

  1. The Bladed Faith, David Dahglish, fantasy
  2. The Secret Witness, Victor Methos, mystery
  3. Ragnarok, A. S. Byatt, literary fiction
  4. Next To Last Stand, Craig Johnson, mystery
  5. The Monkey's Raincoat, Robert Crais, mystery
  6. Here Lies Alice, J.A. Baker, mystery
  7. The Missing Ones, Patricia Gibney, mystery
  8. The Stolen Girls, Patricia Gibney, mystery
  9. A Mother's Secret, Tess Stimson, mystery
  10. The Bird House, Eric Deacon, thriller
  11. French Exit, Patrick DeWitt, literary fiction
  12. The Book Of Lost And Found, Lucy Foley, mystery
  13. The First Rule, Robert Crais, mystery
  14. Sorrow And Bliss, Meg Mason, literary fiction
  15. Coldwater Revenge, James Ross, mystery
  16. Trick Of The Night, Joy Ellis, mystery
  17. The Executioner's Right, D.K. Holmberg, fantasy
  18. The Retreat, Mark Edwards, mystery
  19. A Complicated Kindness, Miriam Toews, literary fiction
  20. Troy, Stephen Frey, literary fiction
  21. Dead In The Water, Penny Farmer, true crime
  22. The Bones Beneath, Mark Billingham, mystery
  23. The Old Success, Martha Grimes, mystery
  24. The Best American Short Stories 2021, anthology
  25. Purge, Sofi Oksanen, historical fiction
  26. Enlightenment Now, Stephen Pinker, nonfiction
  27. The Memory Wood, Sam Lloyd, thriller
  28. Hurting Distance, Sophie Hannah, mystery
  29. The Violin Conspiracy, Brendan Slocum, mystery
  30. Oona Out Of Order, Margarita Montimore, literary fiction
  31. She's Up To No Good, Sara Confino, mystery
  32. The Last Lie Told, Debra Webb, mystery
  33. Time Of Death, Mark Billingham, mystery
Here's what I'm currently reading:

  1. The Heron's Cry, Ann Cleeves, mystery audio
  2. The Dhow House, Jean McNeil, literary fiction, audio
  3. Thunderstruck, Elizabeth McCracken, anthology, hardback
  4. The Nix, Nathan Hill, literary fiction, hardback
  5. The Kills, Richard House, literary fiction, paperback
  6. The Man Who Died Twice, Richard Osman, mystery, hardback
  7. The Submission, Amy Waldman, literary fiction, Kindle
  8. Her Final Breath, Robert Dugoni, mystery, Kindle
Happy Reading!

Fire & Blood by George R. R. Martin


This novel is related to the popular series A Game Of Thrones.  It takes place three hundred years before that series and relates the history of House Targaryen.  At that time, the Targaryens ruled Westeros and it was easy to understand why.  They had dragons and there were very few ways to stand up to dragons streaming fire and setting entire navies or cities alight.  

The Targaryens believed in marrying brother to sister to keep their bloodline strong.  That meant that when there was a power struggle it was brother against sister or nephew against uncle.  That made the bloody arguments even more bloodthirsty.  The first ruler to take control was Aegon I.  He was a wise and powerful ruler who united all of Westros and ruled with compassion and concern for those he ruled. When he died, his cruel brother took over and was eventually defeated by the young Jaehaerys.  Jaehaerys and his sister wife ruled for many decades since he took the throne at age sixteen and lived to be an old man.  

After his rule, however, there was conflict over the next ruler and a war broke out between two branches of the Targaryen family.  All of Westros was drawn into the war with brother fighting brother and death taking many of the family.  Many of the alliances and marriages made during this epic battle set the stage for the later series when the Targaryens had lost their power and other Houses ruled Westeros.

George R. R. Martin cannot write a bad book.  This one was intriguing and filled in another important part of his Westros world.  Fans of the series and the show will find much to enjoy in this book.  There is a companion book which is a tabletop illustrated copy showing all the characters in full color.  The new HBO series, House Of Dragons, is based on this book as well.  This novel is recommended for fantasy readers.

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Metropolis by B. A. Shapiro


Metropolis is a large storage building in Boston.  Zach is the building's young owner and bought the building when he was leaving his drug dealing business and trying to get into a legitimate source of money.  He is addicted to adrenaline and spends his time traveling and doing sports like mountain climbing and skydiving.  He hires Rose to run the office in his absence.  Rose is grateful for the job which pays her more than her limited education would typically receive.  She has a husband about to go out on disability and a son who is starting to stay out all night and whom Rose suspects is doing drugs and flirting with a life of crime.  Since she is basically the only person in charge, she has been making money behind Zach's back by letting tenants live in the building and pay her.

Jason is a lawyer who has his office in the building.  He was a young hotshot lawyer in a huge firm but after he discovered some illegalities in a client and turned them over to the law, he was no longer welcome.  He now helps clients with small cases such as an older woman whose neighborhood is gentrifying leaving her to fear being forced out.  Marta is a doctoral student.  She is an immigrant from Venezuela but due to a paperwork issue has been declared in violation of her student visa and ICE is looking for her.  She is living in the building and working on her dissertation, hoping that once she finishes it she can stay here as a citizen.  Liddy is a socialite.  Her husband, Garrett, has sent their children to school overseas and she has stored all their belongings in her storage unit.  She goes and visits their belongings as a way of feeling closer to them.  When her wealthy husband becomes even more controlling and starts to abuse her physically, she rents another unit from Rose and moves in, hoping that she can escape Garrett.  Serge is a homeless man who has found refuge in the building.  He is a photographer and spends his days wandering the streets taking pictures.

When a horrific accident happens in the building, all of these lives will change.  There is a defect in the elevator and it turns out that Rose forgot to get it inspected.  When someone falls down the shaft, all the characters' lives explode. 

B. A. Shapiro's background is in sociology and information technology.  She has worked as a professor, a statistician and head of research projects at various organizations.  She is now a full time author and has written several bestselling novels. Personally, she is one of the authors whose work I try to always read as I've never been disappointed in her work. Often her novels revolve around the art world.  Shapiro has a deft touch drawing characters the reader will relate with and an ability to translate worlds they haven't experienced personally so that they will understand them.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Friday, July 1, 2022

Snow by John Banville


Detective Inspector St. John Strafford has been called to Ballyglass House in Ireland.  The year is 1957 and the country is still heavily Catholic.  The family who lives in Ballyglass House, the Osbornes, are Protestant as is Strafford.  Ballyglass House is the house of title and prestige in the village, the place where hunts are done.  The man of the house is a former Army man.  His wife is his second wife and is one of those vapid, nervous women who seem to find life too, too difficult.  There are two children, both almost grown.  Dominic is at university to start his journey to a medical degree and Lettie is out of control, doing what she wants, including drinking and having sex with anyone she wants.

A murder is the cause of DI Strafford's call.  The town parish priest, Tom, had stayed over the night before due to the snow.  It is snowing everywhere in Ireland with blizzard conditions.  Sometime during the night, someone jabbed the priest in the neck and watched him stagger down the stairs and make his way to the library.  There he was castrated and finally died.

Who would do such a thing?  Father Tom Lawless seemed popular with his congregation.  His father had been an IRA higher up during the Troubles and Tom seemed to be making up for his father's sins.  But Strafford soon finds there were enemies.  Lady Osborne has a scandalous brother, who is forbidden the house and desperately wants Father Tom's thoroughbred horse.  The local doctor calls on Mrs. Osbourne daily and seems to resent Tom's presence.  Tom was assigned to the juvenile delinquent house of correction and one of his former charges may have come to call.  Plus the deeper Strafford digs into the past, the more he starts to hear rumors about Father Tom's relationships with young boys.  Can the D.I. solve the murder?

John Banville is an Irish writer who was born and grew up in this part of Ireland.  One of his earlier novels, The Book Of Evidence, was longlisted for the Booker Prize.  This novel was shortlisted for the CWA Historical Dagger Award and was a New York Times Editor's Choice Pick.  The character of D. I. Strafford is an interesting one and readers would be glad to read more about his cases.  The atmosphere of the claustrophobia causes both by the snowy blizzard and the social mores of the times is done to perfection.  This book is recommended for mystery writers.