Monday, October 31, 2022

The Attention Merchants by Tim Wu


In this book, Tim Wu does a survey of advertising down through the ages.  Starting with the traveling medicine shows, then print, followed by radio and tv, then finally the Internet, marketing executives have done anything they could to garner the consumers' attention and make sales.  It details the discoveries those in the advertising industry made that allowed them to get the maximum amount of attention.  It also details the propaganda industry and how key it was in World War II and how it will be used in the future.

Tim Wu has been focused on this issue for most of his career.  He is known for coining the phrase 'net neutrality' and working on this issue.  He has a law degree and clerked for the Supreme Court but has devoted his life instead to working on issues having to do with information and how it is disseminated.  I felt that this book had the chance to do much more with this issue than was done.  I already knew most of the information that was contained here and had hoped for more substantive coverage of the Internet and social media and how their rise is influencing us all, especially the younger part of our society.  This book is recommended for nonfiction readers and those just starting to learn about the information society and its repercussions.    

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Cage Of Bones by Tania Carver


The old rundown house is slated for demolition.  But when the contractor comes to assess the job, he immediately calls the police.  When they arrive, they find something in the basement that even they can't believe they are seeing.  In that silent, wrecked place they find symbols carved on the walls and a cage made entirely of bones.  Worse, in that cage is a small boy, almost feral.  He is malnourished and can't speak looking at them with pleading eyes.

The boy is removed and sent to the hospital and the case is given to DI Phil Brennan.  On his team is his life partner, psychologist Marina Esposito.  With Brennan's team, they try to discover who would have done this to this child and in the process they uncover a serial killer who may have been killing for decades undetected.  Worse, the case affects Phil in ways he can't understand but as the case goes on it becomes clear that it has roots in his own background, the background he never knew as an adopted child.  Can they find the killer before he strikes again?

This was my first read by this author and it was a good one.  The sense of horror is eminent and the reader can only bear to transport themselves into the environment for short periods.  The relationship between Phil and Marina is interesting and supportive and the secrets uncovered in Phil's background have echoes down through the years.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Gondar by Nicholas Luard


This book is about war and struggles in the African area known as the Mountains Of The Moon, also as the Abyssinian government.  It follows four people through a decade or so of their lives.

Toomi and Mankinga are twins and the children of the ruler of Malinda, an area next to that of Gondar.  While out exploring one day they are captured and taken by slavers.  They spend the remainder of their childhood and teenage years separated, each as slaves to various people.  Rachel is the princess of Gondar, in a direct line from the Queen Of Sheba.  Her family is overthrown by the head of a religion in the country and she barely escapes with her life.  She is determined to go back and recapture her heritage and destiny.  Jamie is a Scotsman.  When his family is killed in an undeclared war with the landowners there, he is the sole survivor.  He makes a promise that he will honor his family and later becomes committed to finding the source of the Nile River and ends up in Africa as well.

As these four individuals form a partnership to take back Gondar, other characters are also in their joint effort.  There is a tribe of pygmies who are ready to do whatever it takes to help.  Jamie has brought along with him a Scottish laird and a Socialist friend of Karl Marxx and both are committed.  A Muslim bandit with military experience is their general and as the team moves into the land of Gondar, the population stands up and declares their loyalty to Rachel and to Mankinga and Toomi.  The army is outnumbered and it is unlikely they can win but perhaps?

This epic novel is an older one, released in 1988 but a book well worth reading if it is available.  Readers will learn much about Africa, about the ancient cultures there, about slavery and its horrors, about fighting for a goal.  There is hardship, romance, friendships that can stand anything and the desolation of war.  This book is recommended for historical fiction readers.

Monday, October 24, 2022

The Inquisitor's Wife by Jeanne Kalogridis


The year is 1481 and the location is Seville, Spain.  Marisol lives with her parents.  Her father is what is called an Old Christian; his family having converted from Judiasm decades ago and lived as Christians since.  Her mother is known as a converso, a Jewish person who has recently converted and is suspected of not truly having adopted the Christian faith.

The family has been safe but times are changing.  Queen Isabella married a converso herself, King Ferdinand and had the two had protected the Jews of Spain.  But now the Inquisition has come to Seville and it appears that Queen Isabella needs gold more than she needs to protect the Jews in her lands.  All Jewish families are given three days to vacate Seville.  This is a harsh punishment but perhaps easier than those left behind to face the torturers of the Inquisition.

Marisol's mother walks into the river and drowns herself to protect her family.  Her father a week later, marries Marisol off to Gabriel, a neighbor who works for the Inquisition and whose brother is a highly placed official there.  He disowns Marisol, all a ruse to try to save her as he knows he is a likely target.  Marisol has no love for Gabriel and is soon reunited with her childhood love, Antonio.  Can the two of them escape from the horror that has overtaken Seville?

Jeanne Kalogridis has made a name for herself in the historical fiction genre.  This book details the quick escalation of the Inquisition and how it was based as much on greed as any religious doctrine.  The research the author did is extensive and sensitive readers may want to skim over the passages detailing the tortures prisoners were dealt.  The reader will learn much about religious persecution and one of the worst periods in Spanish history.  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction. 

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Booksie's Shelves, October 23, 2022


It was August and hot when I last updated Booksie's Shelves.  Now it is late October and finally the gorgeous days of autumn are here.  Carolina blue skies and temperatures in the seventies.  Goodreads tells me I've read 189 books so far this year so I'm hoping to make that over two hundred by the end of the year.  I've been reading the Booker nominees and I'm not sure if Trust or Glory were my favorite so far but I just started Colony and it is wonderful as well. I'm also reading and streeting from my own extensive library and have a binful to give away at my gym. Of these older books, my favorite has been Last Night At Twisted River by John Irving but when did he ever write a book I didn't love?   Here's what's come through the door lately:

  1. The Color Storm, Damian Dibben, literary fiction, sent by publisher
  2. Gone Like Yesterday, Janelle Williams, multicultural fiction, sent by publisher
  3. The Blinds, Adam Sternbergh, mystery, purchased
  4. Chatterton, Peter Ackroyd, literary fiction, purchased
  5. Volunteers, Jerad Alexander, memoir, sent by publisher
  6. My Last Innocent Year, Daisy Alpert Florin, literary fiction, sent by publisher
  7. Carry The Dog, Stephanie Gangi, literary fiction, sent by publisher
  8. The Terraformers, Annalee Newitz, science fiction, sent by publisher
  9. A Beautiful Crime, Christopher Bollen, mystery, purchased
  10. Night Of Demons And Saints, Menna van Praag, fantasy, sent by publisher
  11. Gorsky, Vesna Goldsworthy, literary fiction, purchased
  12. The Green Road, Anne Enright, literary fiction, purchased
  13. Whispers Through A Megaphone, Rachel Elliott, literary fiction, purchased
  14. The Book Of Memory, Petina Gappah, literary fiction, purchased
  15. Case Study, Graeme Macrae Burnet, literary fiction, purchased
  16. Old Baggage, Lissa Evans, literary fiction, purchased
  17. The Dog, Joseph O'Neill, literary fiction, purchased
  18. I Meant To Tell You, Fran Hawthorne, literary fiction, sent by publisher
  19. Glacier's Edge, R.A. Salvatore, fantasy, sent by publisher
Here are the e-books I've bought lately:
  1. Aspects, John Ford, fantasy
  2. The Glass Room, Ann Cleaves, mystery
  3. Us Against You, Fredrik Backman, literary fiction
  4. A Guide For Murdered Children, Sarah Sparrow, mystery
  5. The Heretic's Daughter, Kathleen Kent, historical fiction
  6. 14, J.T. Ellison, mystery
  7. Beware, Beware, Steph Cha, mystery
  8. Kill For Me. M. William Phelps, true crime
  9. Inmate 1557, Alan Jacobson, mystery
  10. No Way Out, Alan Jacobson, mystery
  11. She Who Become The Sun, Shelley Parker-Chan, fantasy
  12. Where The Dead Sit Talking, Brandon Hobson, mystery
  13. To Love And To Kill, M. William Phelps, true crime
  14. A Winter Haunting, Dan Simmons, horror
  15. Slow Bear, Anthony Neil Smith, noir mystery
  16. The Fountain Overflows, Rebecca West, historical fiction
  17. This Real Night, Rebecca West, historical ficion
  18. Cousin Rosamund, Rebecca West, historical fiction
  19. Pacific, Tom Drury, literary fiction
  20. The Calling Of The Grave, Simon Beckett, mystery
  21. Little Girls, Sleeping, Jennifer Chase, mystery
  22. The Girl From Silent Lake, Leslie Wolfe, mystery
  23. The Liar's Girl, Catherine Ryan Howard, mystery
  24. The Spider, Lou Carew, fantasy
  25. The Wolf, Lou Carew, fantasy
  26. Tokyo Vice, Jake Adelstein, memoir
  27. Rubicon, Tom Holland, historical fiction
  28. Curious Toys, Elizabeth Hand, mystery
  29. Peeler, Kevin McCarthy, mystery
  30. The Lie, Helen Dunmore, literary fiction
  31. The Crimson Shadow series, R.A. Salvatore, fantasy
  32. Watch Her Disappear, Lisa Regan, mystery
  33. Forcing Amaryllis, Louise Ure, mystery
  34. Ted Bundy's Murderous Mysteries, Kevin Sullivan, true crime
  35. The Burn Farm, Michael Benson, true crime
  36. First Degree Rage, Paula May, true crime
  37. True Colors, Kristin Hannah, literary fiction
  38. Buried Angels, Patricia Gibney, mystery
  39. The River Wife, Jonis Agee, literary fiction
  40. The Memory Of Love, Aminatta Forna, literary fiction
  41. Dance With The Devil, David Bagby, true crime
  42. Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel, literary fiction
  43. America's First Female Serial Killer, Mary Kay McBrayer, true crime
  44. Witchmark, C.L. Polk, fantasy
  45. The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie, literary fiction
  46. The Love Songs Of W.E.B. Du Bois, Honoree Jeffers, multicultural fiction
  47. City Dark, Roger Canaff, mystery
  48. Porky, Deborah Moggach, literary fiction
  49. Comfort Me With Apples, Peter De Vries, literary fiction
  50. Shadows Of Self, Brandon Sanderson, fantasy
  51. A Separation, Katie Kitamura, literary fiction
  52. The Sandman, Neil Gaiman, fantasy
  53. Stone Of Tears, Terry Goodkind, fantasy
  54. Blood Of The Fold, Terry Goodkind, fantasy
  55. In My Dreams I Hold A Knife, Ashley Winstead, mystery
  56. Witches Abroad, Terry Prachett, fantasy
  57. Tropical Freeze, James Hall, mystery
  58. Written In Bone, Simon Beckett, mystery
  59. The Chemistry Of Death, Simon Beckett, mystery
  60. Northanger Abbey, Val McDermid, mystery
  61. The Face Of Clara Morgan, J.A. Baker, mystery
  62. The Cleansing, J.A. Baker, mystery
  63. Killing The Lawyers, Reginald Hill, mystery
  64. The Jury Master, Robert Dugoni, legal thriller
  65. Authority, Jeff VanderMeer, science fiction
  66. Live To Tell, Lisa Gardner, mystery
  67. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami, literary fiction
  68. The Angels Of Resistance, David Mammina, fantasy
  69. Little, Big, John Crowley, literary fiction
  70. Beasts Of A Little Land, Juhea Kim, literary fiction
  71. A Great Reckoning, Louise Penney, mystery
  72. The Last House On The Street, Diane Chamberlain, women's fiction
  73. Early Graves, Thomas H. Cook, mystery
  74. Sacrificial Ground, Thomas H. Cook, mystery
  75. The Dark Ability, D.K. Holmberg, fantasy
  76. Innocent Victims, Scott Whisnant, true crime
  77. The Quaker, Liam McIlvanney, mystery
  78. Lucky Turtle, Bill Roorbach, literary fiction
  79. The Wisdom Of Crowds, Joe Abercrombie, fantasy
  80. The Trouble With Peace, Joe Abercrombie, fantasy
  81. We That Are Left, Clare Clark, literary fiction
  82. Companion Piece, Ali Smith, literary fiction
  83. Death In Holy Orders, P.D. James, mystery
  84. Death Masks, Jim Butcher, fantasy
  85. Bogeyman, Steve Johnson, true crime
  86. The Stolen Child, Keith Donohue, fantasy
  87. A Suitable Vengence, Elizabeth George, mystery
  88. The Lies Of Lock Lamora, Scott Lynch, fantasy
  89. The Harbor, Katrine Engberg, mystery
  90. The Position, Meg Woltizer, literary fiction
  91. Sunset Express, Robert Crais, mystery
  92. An Echo Of Things To Come, James Islington, fantasy
  93. Severance, Ling Ma, literary fiction
  94. The Break, Katie Sise, mystery
  95. The Doctor's Wife, Brain Moore, literary fiction
  96. Inside The Mind Of BTK, John Douglas and Johnny Dodd, true crime
  97. Lyre Of Orpheus, Robertson Davies, literary fiction
  98. The Rebel Angels, Robertson Davies, literary fiction
  99. What's Bred In The Bone, Robertson Davies, literary fiction
  100. Death's End, Cixin Liu, science fiction
  101. Freak, Jennifer Hillier, mystery
  102. The Listeners, Jordan Tannehill, literary fiction
  103. Under The Midnight Sun, Keigo Higashino, mystery
  104. Dope, Sarah Gran, mystery
  105. Chronicles Of The Black Company, Glen Cook, fantasy
  106. Elric Of Melniborne, Michael Moorcock, fantasy
  107. Rooms, Lauren Oliver, literary fiction
  108. The Enigma Of Ted Bundy, Kevin Sullivan, true crime
  109. The Orchardist, Amanda Coplin, literary fiction
Here's what I'm reading:
  1. The Colony, Audrey Magee, literary fiction, Kindle
  2. Cage Of Bones, Tania Carver, mystery, Kindle
  3. Elmet, Fiona Mozley, literary fiction, Kindle
  4. The Inquisitor's Wife, Jeanne Kalogridis, historical fiction, paperback
  5. The Attention Merchants, Tim Wu, nonfiction, hardback
  6. Fast Friends, Jill Mansell, women's fiction, paperback
  7. Her Final Breath, Robert Dugoni, mystery
  8. The Vanished Man, Jeffery Deaver, mystery
  9. Gondar, Nicholas Luard, historical fiction
Happy Reading!

Saturday, October 22, 2022

This Is How It Always Is by Lauren Frankel


Rosie and Penn have created a lovely family.  Rosie is a doctor and Penn is a novelist although he is unpublished.  They have five boys.  Roo is the oldest, then Ben, then a pair of twin boys and then Claude.  They live in Michigan and life is good.  

When Claude is five, they ask him one day what he wants to be when he grows up.  Claude says he wants to be a girl.  Soon he is wearing dresses almost exclusively at home.  If he had his way, he would wear them to school as well but he has been discouraged from doing so.  His daily routine is to get up, put on girl clothes through breakfast, change into pants and tee shirt for school, then change back into a dress as soon as he gets home.  But he changes from a happy child to a sad one and Rosie and Penn make the big decision to move the family from Michigan to Seattle where they think the atmosphere would be more supportive to Claude, or Poppy as she wants to be known as.

The family moves.  Now Roo is the one who changes as he goes from Mr. Popular back home to someone trying to make his way with all new friends and routines as he finishes high school.  But Poppy is ecstatic. The whole family keeps her secret and no one here has ever known her as anyone but Poppy.  She has three best girlfriends and her life is wonderful.  Until one day the secret leaks out and the family's life explodes.

This is a wonderful book.  Rosie and Penn are some of the best parents I've ever seen portrayed and the love and support they give their children is amazing.  Most readers will feel that they might have come up short in the parenting department when they read about this family.  It explores secrets and how deadly they prove to be and the relationships and connections families have as they try to grow up and connect with the outside world.  It also explores the hot topic of transgender children and the high suicide rate this group is burdened with.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.    

Friday, October 21, 2022

The Death Of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling


When spinster Jane Lawrence's guardians decide to move abroad, she is left with a choice to make.  Should she accompany them?  She decides instead that she will get married.  Not a conventical marriage but one where she and the man she marries will respect each other but live as separate entities.  She meets and approves of a local doctor, Augustine Lawrence.  Her demand is to be able to work and keep the books of his practice; his only demand is that she will never go to his ancestral home.  They marry and the first days pass easily.

But an unforeseen event leads Jane to Augustine's home and she starts to learn that he isn't exactly the man she thought she had married.  He is keeping secrets and she slowly starts to learn them.  She also realizes that she is actually in love with him and he with her.  But can she live with a man who has hidden a first marriage from her as well as the fact that his wife died during an operation he performed?

Jane meets with a group of Augustine's college friends and they introduce her to beliefs in magic and the practice of it.  When Augustine disappears, Jane tries to locate and save him with the black magic Augustine was adamantly against.  Will she be successful?

This novel was an NPR Best Book of 2021.  It reads like a Victorian novel but seems to be set some time later.  Jane is an independent women who is determined to make her own way and have a marriage that works for both of them.  She changes when magic enters her life to become more dependent on others and becomes full of misgivings and fear.  It felt like the novel could have been edited to be shorter and pack more punch but was still an interesting read. I listened to this novel and the narrator 's English accent really added realism and interest.   This book is recommended for horror readers. 

The Fold by Peter Clines

 Mike Erikson has been hiding his light under a bushel basket.  He was blessed with a extremely high IQ and a memory that has total recall of everything he sees, hears or reads.  But instead of using his intelligence in a top scientific job, he is happy to teach high school English and fly under the radar.

Then his best friend shows up.  He is in charge of top secret government projects and he says he needs someone he can trust to help him out.  A project out in New Mexico has the potential to change the world and the scientists there report groundbreaking successes.  But Mike's friend hears what's under their reports and feels like something is going on.  Mike would be the perfect person and is about to start summer vacation.

When Mike arrives he finds that the project is transportation and the scientists working on it have definitely made a breakthrough.  But Mike soon realizes that things are being hidden from him and there is indeed something else going on there.  Transportation of people and objects would indeed change the world but what is the secret being kept?

This is a new author for me.  Peter Clines hits the right balance giving both those with extensive scientific knowledge and those with just general knowledge interesting premises and understandable explanations of complex scientific concepts.  The main character, Mike, is an interesting one and the reader learns why he considers his memory and intelligence just as much of a burden as a gift.  This book is recommended for science fiction readers. 

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Anatomy Of Fear by Jonathan Santlofer


A serial killer is stalking the streets of New York.  He leaves his victims posed, a sketch of their murder left on the bodies.  Detective Terri Russo is the lead detective on the case and she knows she needs help.  This killer is different from the usual gang killings and domestic violence cases she gets where the killer is fairly easy to find.  She recruits someone from within the department she thinks can help.

Nate Rodriguez is the police sketch artist.  His portraits, done not by the computer but freehand by him as he interviews the victim, are so lifelike that it they are like arrows pointing directly to the criminals.  Nate isn't sure exactly how it works but as he talks to the victims, his mind is able to visualize what they are saying and he is able to draw a face more accurate than the victim can describe.  He has an art degree along with a criminal psychology one.  He went through the police academy but the street didn't suit him and he has been a sketch artist for most of his police career.  Can he and Terri stop this killer?

The author of this novel, Jonathan Santlofer, is also a talented artist.  Along with the text, he has illustrated the action with his sketches of what the killer and Nate both would draw.  These images help the reader see how Nate's work could be of value to the police effort.  This book won the Nero Wolfe Award for best novel and Santlofer's art is displayed in museums such as the Metropolitan Museum Of Art and The Art Institute Of Chicago.  The interplay of text and images give added dimension to the story as does the relationship that grows between Nate and Terri.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Knocked Out By My Nunga-Nungas by Louise Rennison


Georgia Nicholson has a problem.  Yes, she has finally captured Robbie The Sex God and has had some major makeout sessions with him.  Yes, she is acknowledged to have the best set of nunga-nungas in her class.  But it's spring break and her parents are forcing her to go away with the family.  Plus Robbie The Sex God is in a band and it's starting to take off so he is always practicing or doing gigs somewhere else.  

Plus there's the added fact that there are tons of gorgeous guys out there.  Dave the Laugh was her last boyfriend and is now dating her friend but there's still a spark between Dave and Georgia.  There's a new sexy teacher at school.  What's a girl to do?

This is the third book in the Georgia Nicholson series.  Georgia is irrepressible and her daily life is enough to keep the reader laughing.  As she deals with the common issues of girls hitting puberty and beyond into the scary world of guys and dating, she takes the reader along for what is sure to be a joyride.  This book is recommended for young adult readers and older readers fondly looking back on their own younger days. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

The Devil Aspect by Craig Russell


The year is 1935, the place Prague.  The world is unsettled with Hitler and his minions steadily taking power in Germany and propagating their racial theories wherever they could.  Dr. Viktor Kosarek, a newly established psychiatrist, has just taken a new job.

On the border between Czechoslovakia and Germany stands an old castle fortress named the Hrad Orlu Asylum for the Criminally Insane.  It is the location of Dr. Kosarek's new job.  The castle has stood for centuries and for centuries it has had the reputation of evil.  Now it is used to house only six patients.  Those six are the most heinous murderers of the region and are called The Devil's Six.  They are the patients Dr. Kosarek believes he can help.

Dr. Kosarek believes there is a deeply hidden part of each insane person's personality that he calls The Devil Aspect.  Similar to multiple personalities, it is formed when a youngster encounters such a horrific event that he or she cannot handle seeing it and represses even the memory.  That memory over the years becomes the evil part of the personality and does whatever it wants.  Dr. Kosarek believes that with drugs and hypnosis he can reach this evil and lance it, restoring the patient.

But as he treats each of the six, he finds something he doesn't expect.  He finds that each of them share a common delusion and an evil persona that insists it has survived for centuries and will survive forever.  Can he reach this evil before it is unleashed again?

This is a new author to me.  Russell is a highly regarded author in the horror/suspense genre.  He is the only person to ever win the McIlvanney Prize given to the best book of the year in the genre.  His work slowly builds tension and fear and the conclusion is a surprising one that the reader will not expect.  This book is recommended for readers of horror and suspense. 

A Gate At The Stairs by Lorrie Moore


Tassie Keltjin is a college freshman.  Like most freshmen, she is finding her way to being an adult and discovering what she wants in life.  She grew up in a small town, her father being a farmer of heritage vegetables that are all the rage in farm to table restaurants.  But Tassie doesn't want to end up in the farm life.

She answers an ad for a job in the college town where she is living.  The couple is a middle-aged couple who are trying to adopt and will need a nanny.  The husband is a lawyer and the wife owns and runs a restaurant.  When they adopt a two year old biracial child, Tassie learns about having someone depend on her.  Emmie is a bright child and a joy to be around.

Tassie also falls in love for the first time.  In one of her classes she sits next to a man who she thinks if Brazilian, Reynaldo.  As they study the Muslim religion in the class, she starts to realize that he is also a Muslim and not from Brazil at all.  It is Tassie's first experience with sex and she is obsessed with Reynaldo, bringing Emmie with her during the day to visit him.

But there are problems brewing.  All of Tassie's worlds blow up almost simultaneously.  There is a family tragedy, issues with her nanny job and a breakup with Reynaldo.  Tassie learns that everything cannot be taken at face value and that it is possible to move on after disappointments.

This book was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for books authored by women.  Moore is known for her short stories but this novel shows that she is also comfortable with the longer format of a novel.  Everyone in the novel has secrets and one of the book's takeaways is that one should not necessarily take everyone met at face value.  It is a coming-of-age story that will leave the reader deeply sympathetic with Tassie and her issues.  This book is recommended for readers of women's fiction.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Great House by Nicole Krauss


These interconnected stories center around a Chilean poet, Daniel Varsky and his desk.  He has been in New York but is returning home and offers his furniture to a young novelist whose relationship has just broken up and who is in need of furnishings.  The desk is huge and stately, full of drawers and cubbyholes.  The novelist is intimidated by it at first but soon can't imagine working anywhere else.  Years later, a young woman contacts her and asks for the desk back, stating that she is the poet's daughter.

The desk moves from New York to London to Jerusalem through people related or connected to Daniel.  Daniel himself is one of the disappeared of Chile, his opposition to the government his death warrant.  Along the way, the reader learns the secrets of those who house the desk for a while as it passes from person to person.  

This book was a National Book Award finalist.  Krauss has a deft hand at character building and the connections between those portrayed are interesting.  As the secrets are revealed the reader is pulled into many different stories and locales.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

The House At Belle Fontaine: Stories by Lily Tuck


In this anthology, Lily Tuck explores relationships between men and women.  There is Helen whose ex has just died in a car accident.  Alison and Mark take in his niece Leslie and Alison finds out years later that her husband slept multiple times with Leslie.  Claire and James are stationed in Thailand and worry about the effect the military is having on their best friend.  Anne leaves her husband and goes to Paris where she learns that she is just as well off at home.  A woman muses about the impact music has had on her life.  A couple go on an Artic cruise hoping to repair their marriage.  Chingis, a riding instructor and descendant of Genghis Khan, falls in love with one of his pupils, Lena.  Jeanne follows the family for which she is a nanny to Peru. 

In the title story, a young woman has come to France after her divorce.  She is renting a cottage from an elderly man who has both a name recognized in society and a fortune he made in business.  He lives next door in a mansion he had built but this is the house he grew up in and lived in with his wife.  He invites the woman to dinner and she goes where she learns about the history of the house and his life.  

These stories demonstrate the difficulty of finding and maintaining a relationship.  These couples are either in the throes of ending a relationship or have done so.  Sometimes the end is dramatic, sometimes boredom sets in and kills the love that existed.  There are affairs and deceit but through it all Tuck writes the truth as she sees it.  Her writing style is spare yet eloquent and readers will be intrigued by these differing views of doomed relationships.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers. 

Saturday, October 15, 2022

The Last Girl by Jane Casey


DC Maeve Kerrigan and her supervisor, DI Josh Derwent, have caught a bad case.  Philip Kennford is a defense attorney and a good one.  He lives in an expensive house with his wife, Vita and their teenage twin girls, Laura and Lydia.  But money doesn't ward off tragedy.  Someone has brutally murdered Vita and Laura in their living room with a knife.  

Kennford is admired for his legal expertise but that's about all.  He is a serial adulterer and has caused havoc in many lives because of it.  He doesn't seem that overwhelmed with grief and he is definitely keeping secrets.  But when Maeve and Derwent delve a bit deeper, that seems to be a pattern in this family.  Vita and Laura had their set of secrets and so does Lydia who is traumatized and refusing to share what she knows.

Then there are all the other things clamoring for attention.  There's a gangland war going on and their supervisor is getting lots of pressure to get that one solved.  Maeve's boyfriend, Rob, left their group and transferred when he and Maeve went public with their relationship.  Now he is not sleeping and staring out the windows at night but not sharing what's wrong.  Even worse, Maeve's stalker is back and threatening both Maeve and Rob's lives.  

This is the third book in the Maeve Kerrigan series and the first novel I've read by this author.  It is a good police procedural with the power structure and daily tensions and balancing acts necessary written and explained well.  Maeve is deeply independent, a trait that serves her well in her work and less well in her personal life.  I'll definitely be reading more by this author in this series.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, October 14, 2022

Woman, Eating by Claire Kohda


Lydia is a young woman making her way in London as an art intern in a galley.  She is half human, half vampire.  Her father who she idolized was human, her mother vampire. Lydia had been born sickly and her mother turned her in the pediatric ICU in order to save her life.  Her mother is still alive, currently residing in an assisted living facility.  She is self-despising and has raised Lydia to be the same.  But Lydia questions if she should hate herself.

It's hard to be a vampire if you don't want to kill humans.  Lydia subsists on a diet of dried pig blood or fresh when she can find a butcher who has it.  But lately as she adjusts to living on her own, she wonders if that is the only thing she can have.  What about other animals?  What about, dare she think it, humans?  Lydia has an encounter with another artist, Ben, and the closeness of sex makes her wonder about expanding her diet to include humans.  

This is an interesting novel.  The author is English and this is her debut novel.  It explores the relationship of humans to food, the fact that we must eat in order to live but is it moral to eat other beings in order for us to survive?  Is it another form of exploitation that humans feel safe to make, assuming their lives are superior?  It also explores the difficulty of being other in our society.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Devil House by John Darnielle


Gage Chandler is a true crime writer.  His method, which has been very successful, is to totally immerse himself in the world of the crime, doing extensive research and getting information not available to most people.  His latest project is that of the murders of a real estate agent and a prospective buyer in the 1980's.  

The case was briefly famous because of the condition of the building where it occurred and the satanic craze sweeping the nation.  The building had most recently been a porn store and when the owner quit the business, he left everything there.  His teenage assistant still had keys and started spending time there along with his friends.  They decorated the house with satanic themed rooms from their favorite horror movies.  When the murders occurred those decorations fed into a narrative of teenage satanic cults.  But the town didn't want the notoriety so when the case wasn't quickly solved it was swept under the rug.  

Gage buys the building which has been turned into a house ready to participate in a neighborhood that is about to come up in the world.  As he delves deeper and deeper into the crime, he realizes that no one really knows what happened although he has his ideas.  Is he right?

John Darnielle is an interesting author.  His prior book Wolf In White Van was a study of a child predator.  He explores the darker side of human nature and finds the human touchstones that even those involved in evil still retain.  In this novel he gets the teenage alienation that leads to random destruction.  This book is recommended for mystery readers. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Take Your Breath Away by Linwood Barclay


Six years ago, the unimaginable happened to Andrew Mason.  He was up at his lake cabin with his best friend and partner for a fishing weekend.  He called his wife Brie Saturday night and Facetimed with her.  But when he got home Sunday, Brie was nowhere to be found.  No note, her purse and keys still in the house, no clothes missing.  Andrew called the police after he called around to her friends.

The case was never solved.  Andrew was the police's main suspect as he could conceivably driven home, killed Brie, then driven back before his friend woke up.  Brie's family was convinced Andrew was the culprit, especially Brie's sister, who started a campaign of trying to force the police to arrest him and telling anyone who would listen that Andrew was a murderer.  

Six years later, Andrew has moved on as best he can.  He sold the house and moved to a nearby town.  He has recently met Jayne and she has moved in and they are happy.  Then he gets a phone call.  His old neighbor had seen a woman next door that looked like Brie.  There is footage from a security camera and it does indeed look like her.  Soon the woman is spotted by others, including her family.  Could it really be Brie?  Where has she been?  Andrew had always thought she was probably dead but maybe she just ran away and is now back.  Where does that leave him?

This is an interesting thriller.  It highlights the limbo the families of the missing go through, never sure if their loved one is dead or alive or where they are and if alive, why they disappeared.  Can those left behind move on with their lives or will anything they build once again be destroyed if their missing person returns?  This was my first Barclay novel but I'll be reading more as I enjoyed the plotting and character creation in this one.  This book is recommended for mystery readers. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Even Dogs In The Wild by Ian Rankin


Glasgow crime never stops.  The newest case is a big one.  Lord David Minton is a senior government prosecutor and has been found dead in his home, shot.  Is it a failed robbery?  Or is something else afoot?  A note is found near the body that says: I'M GOING TO KILL YOU FOR WHAT YOU DID.

DI Siobhan Clarke has been given the case and is feeling the pressure.  Government prosecutors are to be protected not killed.  Two other detectives are feeling pressure also.  Malcolm Fox has left the Complaints Office but his fellow detectives can't get past the fact that he spent his career hunting dirty police.  He is given grunt work watching a local crime family, the Caffertys.  An outside crime family is in town and the police don't want a turf war.  John Rebus has retired and he is bored out of his skull.  When Siobhan asks for his help, he is more than happy to give it.

But things are puzzling.  Rebus gets a call from the local crime gang leader, Ger Cafferty.  Someone has taken a shot at him in his home, firing through the window.  The only policeman he trusts is Rebus although Rebus spent a large part of his career trying to put Cafferty behind bars.  The kicker is that Cafferty has gotten a note also and it has the exact same message on it that Minton's did.  What could a crime boss and a prosecutor have in common?

This is a great Ian Rankin novel.  In it he brings his three main characters, Clarke, Rebus and Fox together to solve two cases.  The interplay between the three is a joy to read and the case is sufficiently intricate to keep the reader's attention and is satisfactorily resolved.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Monday, October 10, 2022

The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead


This is a novel about a family and what a family it was.  Sam was the father.  He was a scientist and had a government job.  Henny was his second wife having married her after the death of his first wife.  The couple had seven children and no way to provide for them.  Henny had come from money and Sam just assumed that her father would give her money whenever she needed it and gave her very little to run the household on.  She had bills everywhere with grocers and clothing stores as she attempted to provide for the children.

Sam would do things like take off for almost a year on a trip for his work, leaving Henny behind to handle everything.  He was sure he was the best of fathers and constantly told the children how wonderful he was.  Both he and Henny constantly belittled the children, especially the older, Louise, who was Henny's stepdaughter.  They would tease and insult the targeted child until he or she cried, then made fun of them for crying.

Sam lost his job and moved the family to a ramshackle house near the Chesapeake Bay.  When Henny's rich father died, it turned out that he wasn't really rich and the money Sam had always assumed Henny would get didn't materialize.  Yet Sam had no interest in getting a job.  The children were dirty, wearing ragged clothes to school.  There was nothing in the house of value yet Sam insisted on telling them everyday how wonderfully he was raising them.  He and Henny opened hated each other, having raging fights in front of the children.  A horrible family indeed.

Christina Stead is an Australian author.  She lived from 1902 to 1983, living in Australia and London.  The novel was set at the end of the Great Depression.  One of the issues I had with the novel was why the author set it in the United States, since she had no experience living there.  Overall, she did an adequate job with the locale but there were little things that constantly cropped up that gave away that the author wasn't native.  The main issue I had with this novel was its length.  It was almost six hundred pages and I felt that it could have easily been edited to a shorter novel without losing any of the descriptions and events detailed.  Many of the fights and the horrible treatment of the children were repetitive and could have been deleted.  This book is considered a classic and is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw


A set of friends has gone on a trip to Japan.  The group loves bizarre events and locations and the group's leader has arranged for them to have access to an old castle in Japan with stories attached to it.  Supposedly a dead bride haunts the castle along with the women who were sacrificed to live in death with her.  Two of the group are getting married and have decided that this would be the perfect location.

But one plays with the dead at a cost.  There is already tension within the group.  Many of them have had past relationships with others in the group and that has left scars.  The two women, Cat and Talia, despise each other, Talia believing that Cat wants her fiancee for herself.  When a Yokai, an otherworldly figure, appears and Talia disappears, the group turns inward on itself and fights about how to get Talia back and defeat the Yokai.  It all ends horribly with the group now bound with a secret they must share forever.

This book generated a lot of buzz, being a finalist for awards such as the World Fantasy, the Bram Stoker and the Shirley Jackson horror awards.  The author writes with lush and lyrical descriptions which creates an otherworldly feel and readers will be exposed to Japanese horror history and characters.  The author is a game designer and writer and that background is obvious in the writing and action.  I listened to this novel and the narrator was accurate in evoking the feel of coming horror.  This book is recommended for horror readers.

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Last Night In Twisted River by John Irving


In this novel, the reader meets Dominic Baciagalupo, a chef and his son, Daniel along with Donimic's best friend Ketchum.  They meet and grow close at a logging camp where Ketchum is a logger and Dominic the cook who feeds all those who work there.  One night a tragedy occurs that puts Dominic and Daniel on the run, fleeing from a vengeful deputy who is determined to kill Dominic.

The two spend the next forty years running.  They move to Boston, to Ohio, to Vermont and to Toronto.  Along the way, the reader meets wonderful characters from the Italian chefs in Boston who take Dominic under their wing, to various women who inhabit the lives of the two men over the years to the birth of Daniel's son Joe.  Daniel grows up to be a successful author although he has to write under a pen name.  The two men share a love and relationship that is not commonly found in the world's hustle bustle but underneath it all is the thrumming of tragedy, both those in the past and those yet to come.

I loved this novel as I've loved everything John Irving has ever written.  The characters are wonderful and the storyline is complex yet satisfactorily resolved.  Readers will learn about the logging industry, about a culture where hunting and guns are a part of life and about how love finds one wherever one goes.  The love between this father and son and then grandson is compelling and the focal point of the story.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Defending Britta Stein by Ronald Balson


Catherine Lockhart has a challenging case to defend.  Her client is an elderly Danish woman who is being sued for slander.  She painted on the alleged victim's restaurant words like 'Traitor' and 'Collaborator'.  The man who owns the restaurant is being feted as a hero of the Danish resistance to Nazi Germany during World War II.  Britta, the accused, admits she painted the words but claims there is no crime because what she wrote is true.  

Catherine takes on the case but knows that the only way she will win Britta's case is if, indeed, she can prove that Olga, the restaurant owner, was not a hero but a collaborator who far from helping Danish Jewish families, turned them in to the Gestapo.  Catherine's husband, Liam, is an investigator and he goes to Denmark to try to substantiate Britta's claims.  In the meantime, Britta has been hospitalized and the case is in jeopardy on another front as she may not live to have her day in court.

This is the sixth novel in the Catherine Lockhart and Liam Taggert series.  Readers will discover much information about how Denmark was treated by Germany during World War II.  When the Gestapo decided to round up the entire Jewish population and send them to a concentration camp, the Danish population rallied around their Jewish friends and helped them escape to Sweden and other countries that offered asylum.  More than ninety-five percent of the Jewish population were able to escape before they were rounded up.  This is also an interesting legal thriller and is recommended to both readers of World War II novels and those interested in legal cases.

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine


Mahit Dzmare is young but has been chosen as the new ambassador from Lsel to the empire capital, Teixcalaan.  The current ambassador stopped communicating with Lsel several months ago and Mahit's first job is to determine why.  When she arrives she discovers immediately that he is dead, perhaps murdered.  

This is a dangerous time to have arrived on Teixcalaan.  The Emperor is aging and it is clear he is not healthy.  What will happen to the Empire when he passes on?  There is a group of advisors and a ninety percent clone who will rule then but the clone is only ten and the advisors are all maneuvering already to have the most power.

Soon Mahit finds herself drawn into the politics of her new assignment.  She is given an aide, Three Seaglass, to explain what is occurring and help her.  But Mahit is the victim of sabotage and soon finds herself caught up in a revolution, imprisonment and people trying their best to manipulate her.  Her space station has developed technology that the Teixcalaans desire for themselves and then there is the horde of aliens threatening the entire empire. Can such a young ambassador find her way to a resolution?

This is a debut novel that was an amazing success.  Along with other accolades, it won the 2020 Hugo Award For Best Novel and is the first in the Teixcalaan series.  The novel is full of apt characterizations, political intrigue, a hint of romance and layers upon layers of deceit and spying.  This book is recommended for science fiction readers.

Monday, October 3, 2022

Man Tiger by Eka Kurniawan


This novel starts with a grisley murder in a small village on the Indonesian coast.  It is the story of two interlocked families and what happens between them to create the situation where the murder occurs.  There is poverty, spousal abuse, adultery and domestic violence.  There is also kindness, love between young people, love between older couples and some hope.  The tiger is a cultural story where tigers come to inhabit those they choose and provide them protection.  This book is recommended for those interested in other culture novels.

Sunday, October 2, 2022

God's Country by Percival Everett


When Curt Marder rides up to his homestead he is just too late to save everything.  A gang of desperados has burned his cabin, shot his dog and taken his wife.  Curt vows to track them down and get his wife back but he knows he'll need help.

He goes to the nearest town where he's told the best tracker around is a black man named Bubba.  Everyone in town knows Curt has no money or prospects of getting any so won't loan him money.  He promises Bubba half his farm if he will help him.

But this is no cowboy buddy story.  Everett writes the truth about how African Americans were treated in the Old West.  There is lots of prejudice and name calling.  Whenever there's a crime, that population is always the first to be suspected and often lynched.  But Bubba agrees and off the two go.

Along the way, the two will encounter lots of other individuals of the West, an Indian tribe, General Custer, saloon singers/prostitutes and various ruffians.  They also take a child under their wing as its parents have also been killed by the same gang.  

I read this novel after Everett's Trees was longlisted for the Booker Prize.  My library didn't have that title yet so I wanted to read Everett as he is a new author for me.  I enjoyed this novel.  It is told in the first person by Curt, who is a despicable person out for himself and no one else.  It portrays the Old West in a more realistic manner than the typical Westerns many grew up on do; it was a place of violence and prejudice and often every man for himself.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Her Perfect Life by Hank Phillippi Ryan


Lily Atwood has the perfect life, a seven year old daughter Rowan, a career as a television reporter, lots of money and fame.  Her hashtag is #PerfectLily.  But what the fans don't know about are the secrets in Lily's past.

One secret is the father of her daughter.  Lily has been able to avoid talking about it so far by claiming privacy is necessary for the safety of her daughter.  But she knows the time is coming when her daughter's questions about her father will become more insistent and she will have to share the truth.

The biggest secret though is that of her sister Cassie.  Cassie disappeared twenty years ago when she was a freshman at college and Lily was just a small child.  A huge investigation discovered nothing.  Cassie just was there one day and the next completely off the face of the earth.  Had she been kidnapped?  Had she run away?  Was she alive somewhere or dead within a few days of the disappearance?  Lily had lived with those questions as long as she could remember but even with all her journalistic resources had never come any closer to answers.

But that may be about to change.  Someone is sending Lily flowers without a signature.  She is getting phone calls from a man who insists he knows everything about Cassie's disappearance and is ready to talk about it.  Is he real or a stalker who wants to get close to Lily?  Is he the man who stole Cassie and now ready to take Rowan's mother away from her also?

This thriller was fast paced and intriguing.  The story is told through interlocking chapters of the past and the present and in the voices of Lily, Cassie and Lily's producer, Greer.  The mysteries of the long ago crimes are fully revealed with surprises for the reader along the way.  I listened to this novel and the narrator was perfect.  This book is recommended for thriller readers.