Saturday, December 31, 2022

Looking Back And Looking Forward


It's the last day of 2022 and tomorrow we'll be starting a brand new year.  It's a good time to look back at my reading for the past year and set some goals for 2023.  This year was one of additions.  Our newest grandchild was born in June and she is a joy to behold.  Kylan Ella brings happiness and excitement to all her family.  We also added a new pet to the mix.  Lily Bean is a tawny cat who rules the roost and loves to attack toes under covers, run through the house at cyclone speed and climb to the crows nest of her climbing stand.

In 2022, I read 235 books, two of them rereads.  That's 84,626 pages. I've been working on two goals.  One is reading more of my own books and moving them out the door after I've read them or, reading and streeting.  The other is catching up on books in my Netgalley queue.   Of the books I read this year, my favorites in no particular order were:

  1. Geographies Of The Heart by Caitlin Hamilton Summie
  2. The Children's Book by A. S. Byatt
  3. Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
  4. Knife Of Dreams by Robert Jordan
  5. The Death Of Santini by Pat Conroy
  6. Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead
  7. The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
  8. My Sister The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
  9. The Pariah by Anthony Ryan
  10. Jackie & Me by Louis Bayard
  11. The Appeal by Janice Hallett
  12. Swimming Home by Deborah Levy
  13. Strange Angels by Jonis Agee
  14. Tower Of Midnight by Jordan/Sanderson
  15. Unmasked by Paul Holes
  16. The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O'Farrell
  17. Last Night In Twisted River by John Irving
  18. This Is How It Always Is by Lauren Frankel
  19. The Passenger by Cormac McCarthy
  20. A Memory Of Light by Jordan/Sanderson
  21. The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna
As far as my goals for 2022, I've done pretty well.  My main goal was that of reading from my shelves and I've done that.  I finished the Wheel Of Time series and I read most of the Karin Slaughter series except the stand alones.  I've continued to read anthologies and I read fifteen nonfiction books.  My goals for 2023 are:

  1. Read 150 books.
  2. Read The Magic Mountain and Crime And Punishment for my classic reads.
  3. Read all my Stephen Donaldson books
  4. Read the Robert Jackson Bennett Foundryside series
  5. Read a Joe Abercrombie series
  6. Read the Elvis Cole/Joe Pike series
  7. Continue reading from my shelves and downsizing my physical collection
Happy Reading!

Emma In The Night by Wendy Walker


When Mrs. Martin opened the door, she couldn't believe her eyes.  There stood Cass Tanner, her daughter who had disappeared three years before.  Cass' older sister, Emma, had also disappeared that night and neither had been heard from since.  Cass had been fifteen and Emma seventeen.  Had they run away?  Been kidnapped?  Murdered?  The case had caught national attention and was in the headlines for weeks as reporters and talking heads tore apart their lives. 

The girls lived most of the time with their mother, Judy Martin and her second husband along with his son from his first marriage, Hunter.  Their preference would have been to live with their father and their half brother Witt, but their mother was in control of everyone and easily defeated their father's wishes.  Now Cass is back and she has a story to tell.

Cass says the two girls ran away because Emma was pregnant.  They were helped by an older couple who took them to an island and sheltered them until Emma gave birth.  Then things started to change and the couple took the baby from Emma and kept the sisters on the island where they all had hidden as prisoners.  Cass had found a way to escape and wants nothing more than for Emma and the baby to be found.  But is she telling the whole truth?

There is an obvious motive behind Cass's story and she has reasons for keeping some things to herself.  Their mother, Mrs. Martin, never mom or mother, was a narcissist who had made the girls' lives miserable as she tried to garner every male's attention in her orbit and who controlled the girls' every movement.  Was she the reason Emma got pregnant?  Was there still more of the story to tell?

This was one of the best psychological thrillers I've read.  It was suspenseful and surprising with each chapter having another twist or turn and another secret revealed.  There is a shocking ending that explains everything and that has sent this author to the top of my psychological thriller genre list.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, December 30, 2022

The Rock Star In Seat 3A by Jill Kargman


Hazel has a perfect life.  She has the career she wants as the head of publicity and events at an exciting video game business.  She lives with Wylie, a gorgeous chef who loves her madly and has even just proposed.  So why did she avoid the proposal thinking she just wasn't ready to be married?

When she has to go to California to set up an event to launch the release of a new game, she can't believe her eyes.  Sitting next to her on the plane is Finn, the rock star who has been her crush since her teenage years.  Can she even get up the nerve to speak to him?  Before that can be decided, the plane goes through turbulence that spins it all around and Hazel ends up throwing up practically on Finn.  What a start!

But Finn seems to be interested in Hazel and a spark lights its fire.  Soon the two of them are cracking jokes and making plans to see each other when they land.  Surely a rock star like Finn couldn't be interested in her romantically.  Plus what about Wylie?  Hazel broods over her choices but ultimately can't resist Finn and starts a torrid affair with him.  She even goes on his tour of Europe?  Is this the new life she wants?

Although this romance ends as one might expect, I had a hard time with the novel.  I didn't particularly care for Hazel and definitely didn't care for her offhand treatment of Wylie who was nothing but committed and true to her.  Others may have a different reaction but I couldn't cheer for Hazel to cheat on Wylie as she did.  This book is recommended for romance readers who love a happy ending no matter how hazardous the path to it becomes.  

The Breaker by Minette Walters


When two young brothers discover the nude body of a woman washed up on the shore, it is shocking. It was even more shocking when Kate Sumner's three year old daughter was found wandering the streets by herself twenty miles away.  Who killed Kate and left her child to wander alone?  DCI Gilbraith and DC Ingram start the investigation.

There are two main suspects.  The husband had come to marriage late but was swept off his feet when he met Kate at their work.  He did whatever she wanted, moving to a seaside town that gave him a time consuming commute and let her buy whatever caught her fancy.  When it was discovered that their daughter, Hannah, was not the husband's biological child but the result of an affair by Kate, suspicions rose higher.  

The other suspect was the man who was on the scene the day of the discovery right after the boys who discovered the body.  Steven Harding was a young man, an actor who loved sailing and was often in the area on weekends with his boat.  He lied to the police about knowing Kate and it soon became apparent that the rumors were that he was having an affair with her.  Others claimed he despised her.  Either way, he might have had a motive.  But which man was it?

This is an interesting mystery by Minette Walters.  I've loved all her mysteries although she seems to have moved on to the historical genre lately.  This novel was more of a police procedural than some of her other mysteries which depend on psychological suspense and outrĂ© motives.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Last Seen Alone by Laura Griffin


At first Austin homicide detective Brandon Reynolds wasn't sure why he'd been called out of a warm bed.  An abandoned car stood on the side of a rural road but that's not necessarily out of the ordinary.  But when blood was found on the car and a larger pool of blood right off the road, he knew something wasn't right.  Vanessa Adams is the car's owner and no one in her family or any of her friends knows where she is.  There is only one other clue in the car; a business card for a local attorney, Leigh Larson.

Brandon has never met Leigh and when he does he is immediately put off.  She is not willing to discuss Vanessa at all or even confirm if she is a client.  Instead Leigh is determined to find Vanessa by herself which also puts her at odds with Brandon.  Leigh specializes in stalking cases and cases of revenge porn and there is a good possibility that Vanessa is caught up in one or the other.  As the case gets more grim with each discovery, Leigh and Brandon are thrown together more and more and the sparks start to fly.  Will their attraction come to anything or are they fated by their jobs to always be at odds?

This is my first book by Laura Griffin but I'll be reading more.  The case was interesting and the slow unveiling of the mystery and those behind it was done extremely well.  I listened to this title and the narrator was perfect for this book.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

The Lonely Witness by William Boyle


Amy is drifting through life.  She moved to Brooklyn with her lover, Allesandra, and stayed there out of inertia when Allesandra moved on to Los Angeles.  These days she lives by herself in a basement apartment and takes Communion to house bound residents.  She arrives at the home of one of her regulars to find her upset because her usual home help had not been but her son had shown up saying his mother was sick.  The elderly woman didn't trust the son and suspected him of stealing things.  Amy stays and meets the man, Vincent, and sends him on his way.

Suspicious now, Amy starts to follow Vincent to see what he is up to.  She gets more than she bargains for when she witnesses Vincent's murder.  She doesn't go to the police and tell them she is a witness but decides to investigate for herself.  As she does she finds herself drawn further and further into a criminal plot and is soon unsure how to extract herself.

This novel was nominated for several prizes, the Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere and the Hammett.  Boyle was raised in Brooklyn and this familiarity with the borough is evident in the novel.  Amy is a character who the reader will emphasize with and cheer for, her basic goodness shining through the routine she finds herself in these days.  No matter what life throws at her, she finds a way to be there for others and to do what is right.  This book is recommended for literary fiction and mystery readers.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna


Duro lives in a small village in Croatia.  He was born and grew up there where everyone knows everyone else.  He lives alone with his two dogs and spends most of his time by himself.  When an English family buys the house nearest him, he goes over and offers his skills to help them renovate the house which has stood empty for many years.  Laura is the mother, there without her husband who has stayed behind in London to work while she brings the teenage children, Grace and Matthew, to Croatia to vacation in the house he bought almost sight unseen.

As Duro helps the family by fixing the roof, clearing the land, trimming trees, and other tasks, the house starts to come back to life.  Duro knew the family there before.  His first love lived there with her husband who became Duro's best friend.  But the couple was there no more and now another family has come to stay.  

There is something below the surface in the village.  Duro goes there and sits in the bar, reminding others he is still there.  There are hints that the village contains a secret, something hidden and disturbing.  It is clear that Duro is part of the secret but the new family doesn't pick up on the tensions the villagers exist in.  Soon the tension in the village starts to spill over to the family and their fairy tale existence starts to crumble.  Will they discover what has gone on?

This is a haunting tale of what happens to the survivors of war afterwards.  Can families on opposite sides of a conflict pick back up after atrocities have been committed?  Duro holds the secrets and stays to remind those who committed the acts during the war what was done.  The secrets are teased throughout the novel and slowly revealed.  This thought provoking novel has characters who will be remembered long after the novel is finished.  Literary fiction readers will find this book especially well done.  

Friday, December 23, 2022

Questions Of Travel by Michelle de Kretser


Laura's father left her mother when Laura was a child.  When her mother died and she inherited some money, she left Australia after deciding to travel.  She roamed the world going wherever whim took her, meeting friends and moving on after a time.  After her money ran out, she took jobs like waitressing and house sitting but she ended up working for travel magazines, back on the road but now writing about her experiences.  Her nomadic life and disastrous choice in men left her without a stable life with a house, marriage or children.

Ravi's travels are much less of a whim but are forced upon him.  He is Sri Lankian.  He and his family are caught up in the political battles of his country and when his family gets involved in a terrorist attack he is forced to flee for his safety. He ends up in Australia as well, but as a refugee.  After doing whatever manual work he can find, a friend helps him get on at a travel magazine since he has training as a web designer.  There he meets Laura.

Michelle de Kretser drew on her own life for this novel.  She was born in Sri Lanka but moved to Australia with her family at fourteen.  She also worked as an editor for a travel guide as both her characters did.  Her work has won multiple prizes, including the Miles Franklin, which she has won three times.  Other awards include the Commonwealth Writer's Prize, the Prime Minister's Literary Award and the ALS Gold Medal.  In this novel, she writes about the yearning to see what is unfamiliar but also raises the question of where one belongs and the constant search for wherever that might be.  Life seems to happen to these characters rather than them planning and directing their lives yet might they be as happy as those who live their lives to a plan?  This novel is recommended for literary fiction readers.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

The Mare by Mary Gaitskill


The program had great intentions.  It took city kids who didn't have much in the way of material goods or role models and sent them to stay with families in the country so that they could see what living a different way was.  Velvet is an eleven year old Dominican girl who lives with her mother and brother in Brooklyn.  She has never known her father and her mother works hard to support them all but money is tight and Velvet's school and community isn't the best.  Ginger and Paul are the host family  Paul is a professor and Ginger is an artist who is a recovering alcoholic.  She wants a family but Paul is hesitant.  They join the program to see what having a child around would be like.

The couple live across from a horse barn where riding lessons are given.  Velvet makes an immediate connection with the horses and soon she is riding.  Ginger arranges for Velvet to stay the entire summer rather than the two weeks she was signed up for.  Velvet's mother agrees but isn't really comfortable with Ginger's interest in her child.  She may berate Velvet and even beat her but she doesn't want any other woman to take her place in Velvet's life.  Ginger becomes more and more attached to Velvet until everyone around her can see that she has become obsessed with this girl.

The relationship continues over the years.  Ginger tries to help Velvet with school, but in reality, Velvet has little interest and does the minimum.  Velvet discovers boys early and that is another bone of contention between her mother and her.  Velvet does love riding and especially one horse who everyone is afraid of but who develops a bond with Velvet.  Soon Velvet is recognized as a natural talent but how can she develop it when she spends most of her time back home in an environment that seems determined to drag her down?

This novel was nominated for the Woman's Fiction Prize in 2017.  It shows the power of the connection that many girls develop for horses and how love for an animal can change one's self-image.  It also shows the difficulty of changing one's life when old habits provide short term pleasures and to change requires a long term commitment.  It also shows the folly of white liberalism that insists their way is best, ignoring the family traditions of those in poorer environments and of different backgrounds.  The characters are finely drawn and the story draws in the reader.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Monday, December 19, 2022

A Gingerbread House by Catriona McPherson


Four women are linked in a mystery.  The first three, Ivy, Martine and Laura have all been tricked into a kidnapping and are imprisoned in a basement, slowly getting closer to death every day they are there.  Ivy thought she was finding her long-lost sister while Martine hoped to meet her father who was never in the picture.  Laura thought she was coming to a dance where she would meet a man who was looking for marriage.  They were all tricked by the same middle-aged women who now keep them prisoners.  They share the fact that there were all independent businesswomen who worked from home and who didn't have support systems ready to make their cases in the newspapers and media and push the police to keep investigating their disappearances.

Tash Dodd is a different story.  She works at her family's business, a transport business.  When she finds out that things are going on that aren't legal and that everyone in the family knows except her, she leaves while she works out what to do.  While she is gone, she stumbles on the story of the missing women and starts to work out how they are all related.

This is my first Catriona McPherson novel, but it won't be my last.  I listened to it and the Scottish accent of the narrator made it seem more settled in that location.  It was a story most women can relate to, especially any woman living by herself.  Do any of us have enough people to keep us safe from harm or to refuse to let a disappearance die from lack of attention?  The true story of what was happening to these women is a nightmare although their strength of character and the friendship that grows between them is their strongest tool.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.


Saturday, December 17, 2022

A Crack In Creation by Jennifer Doudna


Jennifer Doudna headed up the team that brought the CRISPR gene editing technique to the attention of the scientific community.  It is a significant achievement for several reasons.  First, it is a better gene editing tool.  Second, it is much simpler to manipulate and has a high success rate for many varied uses.  Third, it is many times less expensive than the methods being used before.

There are a plethora of possibilities this opens.  There are many one-pair diseases such as Tay-Sachs and some cystic fibrosis that could be healed in those who have been born.  It holds out the possibility of making breakthroughs in diseases such as cancer and diabetes.  It can work on food security by manipulating the genes in plants to produce hardier, more productive crops.  

But there are also a downside.  There are two types of gene editing.  One is the one that occurs after a person is born which only affects that person.  But there is also the possibility of editing a cell's DNA before birth which would change the whole human type going forward.  This is a possibility that could lead to a bad effect that would then be passed down through generations.  It also opens the idea of designer humans who are enhanced for things like more muscle strength or beauty or intelligence.  This is the area Doudna would like to see the scientific community and governments unite to prevent until much more is known about the effects.

This is an interesting book about an interesting woman.  The thing I saw throughout the book was her quest to push human knowledge further and to improve life.  I was very impressed with how much credit she gave her coworkers throughout this country and others and her determination to make sure that this discovery is used for good and not evil.  This book is recommended to science readers.

Friday, December 16, 2022

Cross And Burn by Val McDermid


The worst has happened.  A psychopath killed DCI Carol Jordan's brother and sister to bring her misery.  Her unit has been dissolved, its members reassigned to other locations after she resigned.  No one has heard from Carol and that includes her closest friend, Tony Hill.  She blames the forensic psychologist for not foreseeing what could happen and somehow preventing it.

But crime does not stop.  Women are being kidnapped off the street and found days later, beaten beyond recognition.  The chilling thing is that they all resemble Carol who is out in the country, renovating her brother's residence.  Paula McIntryre, a member of Carol's former unit, has moved to the precinct in charge of the murders and promoted to sergeant.  Her new boss is nothing like Carol who encouraged brainstorming and teamwork.  The new boss is determined to micromanage everyone and her word is law.  

Prone to quick assumptions, the new DCI finds a great suspect, Tony Hill.  There is some forensic evidence that ties him to the crimes and she jumps the gun to charge him, eager to impress her superiors.  Paula is determined not to let Tony be railroaded and tracks down Carol.  Carol is still furious at Tony but can't let him go to prison for something he could never do.  Together along with some of the former team, they work behind the scenes to free Tony and find the real killer.  Can Tony distance himself from the situation to do what he does best and get into the head of the killer?

This is the eighth novel in this series.  It is one of my favorite series as both Tony Hill and Carol Jordan are interesting characters and their relationship is intriguing as well.  The other characters are well drawn and the mystery is mind turning.  The reader will try to solve the mystery while pondering the question of whether Carol can ever forgive Tony and whether he can forgive himself.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

The Promise by Damon Galgut


As this novel opens, a family has gathered after the death of the mother on a farm in South Africa.  Anton Swart is the oldest child and is a soldier in the Army.  Astrid, the middle child, is consumed with thoughts of her beauty and its effect on men while Amor, the youngest girl is living at boarding school.  She has always been the quiet one in the family, the one who disappears onto the land for hours at a time.  She is friends with the son of Salome, the family's maid and the woman who has helped raise her.  The last time she was home she heard her mother extract a promise from her father that he would give Salome the deed to the house she lives in on the farm.  

But that promise is not kept.  The country is in turmoil and Manie, the father, believes that giving his servant property will only make things more uncertain.  Those who came in and took the land from the natives are now uneasy, unsure what the future will hold and if those same natives will now take the land back from them.  Amor can't believe that her father would renege on the promise he made to her mother on her deathbed.

Over the coming years, the family slowly dies off.  At each death, Amor reminds those surviving of the promise but the house is never deeded over to Salome.  This has the effect of removing Amor further and further from those she grew up with.  She becomes a nurse in an HIV ward and spends her life serving others. 

This book won the Booker Prize in 2021.  It is a tale of white privilege and the interaction of what are seen as interlopers and those who were native to the land.  This was the time of apartheid in South Aftica and Galgut as a South African native is uniquely situated to explore this theme.  The family drifts apart over the years as each carves out a life that they think is best for them while the land endures and exists as always.  Amor is a character whose selflessness the reader will remember long after the book is done.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Mister Monkey by Francine Prose


This novel uses as its base a children's musical written about a chimpanzee whose parents are killed by poachers and who is then adopted by the American family of the doctor studying his clan.  It is written in chapters telling the story of those who have some relationship with the play.  There is the author of the play along with various actors and actresses involved in it.  There is the story of the waiter who often gets free tickets from the author.  Another story is that of a kindergarten teacher who has an online date with an entitled man who takes her to the restaurant where the author is dining.  A grandfather takes his young grandson to the play and then worries about whether he liked it.  The costume designer is also writing a play and we hear about her life.  The teenager who plays the chimp is having mental issues and becomes an overbearing bully who tries to sexually interact with the actresses.

This is an interesting concept for a novel.  Each of the interacting stories tells about the life and hopes of a disparate set of people who have a touchpoint in the play.  Some are just starting in their acting career while others are coming to the end of theirs.  We see characters who are negotiating the shores of love and how they interact with those they desire.  Readers will be interested to see in each chapter how it relates to a children's play which no one would ever call great theatre.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

Monday, December 12, 2022

Tragic by Robert Tanenbaum


Shots ring out and union leader Vince Carlotta lies dead on the street.  But is it a robbery gone wrong as the witnesses report?  NYC District Attorney Butch Karp doesn't think so.  Vince had been fighting the old style leadership, specifically Charlie Vitelli and the two had met with some other leaders at a restaurant to talk over their differences and see if Vitelli was willing to step down.  Word on the street was that this was a hit.

The killers were small time thugs and were quickly apprehended.  The gunman was a Russian hitman, hoping to make his name.  He recruited two friends neither of whom had ever been involved in a violent crime.  The getaway driver confessed and agreed to testify at the trial of the other two.  Both were convicted and imprisoned.

But Karp wants the real villain, the man who ordered the hit.  That is Charlie Vitelli and he killed to keep his power and the money he and his top associates had been siphoning from the pension fund for years.  When the chief financial officer flips, Karp has a chance to put Vitelli away.  Will he be successful?

This is the twenty-fifth novel in the Butch Karp series.  Readers will get behind the scenes looks at how a trial is prepared and played out.  There are mystery witnesses, attempted coercion of other witnesses and plans to kill those who dare stand up to Vitelli.  Karp's wife, Marlene, is not as prominent in this novel as in others in the series but does appear.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

The Corpse Flower by Anne Mette Hancock


Heloise Kaldan is a journalist in Denmark.  One of her recent stories contained some bad information so she could really use a big scoop, but she's not sure she wants the one that has landed in her lap.  Several years ago the son of a wealthy industrialist was murdered, the killer a young woman named Anna Kiel.  Afterwards Anna escaped the country and has yet to be found.  But she has started sending cryptic letters to Heloise and Heloise isn't sure if this is a big story or a chance to be killed herself.

As Heloise works on the story, she finds a partner in the police.  Homicide detective Erik Schafer isn't sure if Heloise is working to find the killer or to help her in her plot.  More murders occur and suspicion falls even more heavily on the journalist.  It doesn't help when it is discovered that her father is in prison in France and she has lied about knowing who he is.  Heloise has written her father out of her life after he was found guilty of child pornography but it seems that he is the connection between her and Anna.  She is forced to finally break her vow and go visit him and afterwards, she finds out the story of Anna's life and understands what drives her to kill.

This is the first novel in this series.  Heloise is an interesting character, driven by her job but willing to work with the police and share information she has gathered with them.  Detective Schafer is less finely drawn but further novels can flesh out this character as well.  The plot is interesting and the killer Anna is a character the reader would like to see in further novels again.  This book is recommended for mystery readers. 

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Midwinter by Fiona Melrose


Landyn Midwinter and his son Vale live on the family farm in Suffolk, England.  Times are hard to be a farmer and Landyn hasn't been that successful.  When Vale was a boy, the family moved to Africa where the government was trading free land and loans for farming expertise.  That trip ended in a disaster when Landyn's wife, Vale's mother, was killed by a group of local men one night.

Now the two men live together, warily circling each other on a daily basis.  Vale still blames his father for his mother's death.  Landyn does also plus he worries constantly about Vale and what his twenty something son will do with his life.  When Vale and his best friend are involved in an accident that cripples the best friend, another barrier is constructed between the two.

But there is also hope.  Landyn loves his son and would do anything to make things better and easier between them.  Vale is struggling but the reader feels that he will eventually be all right and will make a life that suits him.  Landyn's love of the animals and nature rings through and his ability to say the right words to everyone except Vale will be his salvation.  

This book was a finalist for the Baily's Prize for Fiction.  It is a debut novel for Melrose and I'm interested in following her career.  Like the characters in the story, she has split her life between Africa and Suffolk and knows the farming life.  The writing in this novel is haunting, the imagery true to life and compelling.  Her ability to delve into the relationship between these two introverted men is interesting.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Fast Friends by Jill Mansell


Three girls share a room at a fancy boarding school in England.  Camilla is the perfect schoolgirl, obedient and friendly.  Loulou is the popular girl while Roz, the newcomer, is a rebel through and through.  Fast forward ten years and things haven't changed much.  Camilla is married and two children and a husband who cheats on her.  Loulou has been married a couple of times and is still madly in love with Mac, her second husband, while running an exclusive restaurant.  Roz is a television presenter, top of her game but with no attachments.  She has tons of men but none she wants exclusively.  That includes Camilla's husband with whom she is having a fling.

When Camilla finds out about the affair, she moves out and starts a divorce.  Living with Loulou, she needs to find a job and becomes a housekeeper for Nico, a rock star who is one of Loulou's oldest friends.  Over the years, the three women fall in and out of love, marriages happen and end, and they all search for happiness.  Will they find it?

Jill Mansell is the perfect romance writer.  Her characters are fun and people one would love to get to know.  The men are handsome and attentive and everyone has tons of money and friends.  The characters jump through tons of hoops to finally find happiness and half the fun is seeing how Mansell gets them from point A to point B.  This book is recommended for women's fiction readers.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

She Who Became The Sun by Shelley


China lies under harsh Mongol rule.  The villagers barely eke out a living and are always only one attack away from death.  When her village is attacked and she loses her family, one girl finds a way to survive.  She takes her brother's name, Zhu Chongba, and enters a monastery. Zhu had been predicted to achieve greatness and she now feels that she has inherited not only his name but his destiny.  She is not sure how this will happen but she knows it will.

In the nation, things are stirring.  There is a rebel force of the natives who want to overthrow the Mongols and take their country back.  They are called the Red Lanterns.  The Mongol forces have a fearsome general, General Ouyang. As a boy, his entire family had been killed by the Mongols after being declared traitors.  Ouyang survived this massacre but only by becoming an eunuch and being given as a slave to the son of one of the top ministers.  Over the years, these two boys grew to be men and soldiers and best friends.

This is a book of secrets and betrayals.  Zhu rises to the top general of the Red Lanterns after his monastery is burned and he is thrown out to make his way in the world.  He joins the army and finds a way to defeat the Mongol forces in several battles and earns the top spot.  Zhu and Ouyang know they will face each other on the field and each knows that their existence depends on their successes.  Who will be triumphant?

This book has gotten a ton of praise.  It was the winner of the British Fantasy Award and a finalist for such awards as the Hugo, Locus and Lambda Literary award.  The author transports the reader to the courts and battlefields of the dying days of the Mongol rule of China and the beginning of the Ming dynasty.  There are battles, love scenes, betrayals and political maneuvering.  This is a debut novel and the reader can expect great things from this author as she continues her writing career.  This book is recommended for fantasy and literary fiction readers. 

Monday, December 5, 2022

The Last Chairlift by John Irving


Adam Brewster grows up in an unconventional family.  His mother, Little Ray, is a ski instructor and isn't home for ski season.  Adam is raised by his grandparents, a mother who loves the novel Moby Dick and a grandfather with early onset dementia.  He comes to realize that his mother is gay and in love with Molly, another woman who works the ski resorts.  No one knows who his father is but as Adam is old enough for middle school his mother marries the English teacher, a man who is even shorter than she is and who becomes the father Adam never had.  His cousin Nora is also gay with a lover, Em, who doesn't speak out of choice.  

Over the years, this family lives in situations that allow them to live with whom they love while maintaining outward conventionality as much as possible.  Adam eventually discovers who his father is and manages to meet him and his family before his death.  Adam is a novelist who eventually marries and has a son and ends up living in Canada.  His out of the ordinary family teaches him that family matters above all and that love is the most important thing to have.

John Irving is eighty now and this may be the last novel we see from him.  It has the quirky characters and offbeat occurrences that are a trademark of his writing.  The novel is almost nine hundred pages and it could have used some editing as there is a lot of repetition of scenes and themes.  Irving is a national treasure and his novels have explored the lives of those who choose to live differently and to champion love.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

The Girl At My Door by Rebecca Griffiths


Queenie has a great life.  She's the belle of the ball at the Moonlight Club, singing as the front for the band.  Men are crazy about her and each one gives her better gifts than the last, hoping to win her over.  She's just been offered a contract to leave London and go sing on Broadway in New York.  Her best friends are Terry, the piano player at the club and Joy who waits tables there.

But one mistake one night with one man changes everything.  Queenie finds herself in the same situation as many other unwed mothers, desperate to find a way to have the baby go away.  Terry asks around and finds her a name.  John Reginald Christie was rumored to have trained as a doctor before the war and supposedly has helped many girls.  Of course the truth is that this is the Christie who killed girls when they walked into his apartment house.  Will Goldie fall into his trap?

Rebecca Griffiths grew up in Wales and received an Honors First Class degree in English Literature.  After living in London for a while she has returned to Wales where she lives with her artist husband.  She writes in the suspense genre and does a terrific job.  This book was based on the real life serial killer, John Reginald Christie, who killed at least eight women after promising to help them get rid of an unwanted pregnancy.  He was known for his mild mannered appearance and the contrast between his appearance and his acts has kept him famous.  As he stalks Goldie and Joy through the streets of London, the reader's tension rises and rises.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, December 2, 2022

Alligator Candy by David Kushner


October 28, 1973 was the last time David Kushner saw his brother Jonathan.  Jonathan was eleven and David was four.  Jonathan was going to ride his bike to the nearby 7-11 and David asked him to bring back his favorite candy, a Pez like device shaped like an alligator.  Jonathan made it to the store and made his purchases but he never made it home.  Two men who decided to hunt for a child and torture whoever they found to death captured Jonathan as he headed back home.  They hit him on the head and knocked him out, choked and gagged him and threw him in the trunk of their car.  To their dismay, they discovered that he was already dead when they stopped to torture him.  They mutilated his body and buried him in a shallow grave.

One week later, Jonathan's body was discovered.  David and his oldest brother Andy would never have the joy of Jonathan's company again.  His parents, a professor and a Lamaze instructor, would know the worst pain a parent can, that of losing a child.  The men were caught fairly quickly as one confessed to his wife and she turned him in to the police.  Johnny Paul Witt was seen as the ringleader and was sentenced to death, a sentence that was carried out fairly quickly.  Gary Tillman was sentenced to life in prison as he had a history of schizophrenia and it was felt if not offered a deal he could end up in a mental hospital and released later.  

Kushner writes about how his brother's death changed his family forever and the city of Tampa as well.  This was the time when the disappearance and death of children was being highlighted.  Etan Patz was snatched from the streets of New York the first time his parents allowed him to walk to school.  Adam Walsh was taken from a Sears store while his mother browsed a few aisles away.  The Atlanta Child Murders happened soon after.  Suddenly the national consciousness changed from letting children range freely to more oversight and in some cases helicopter parents.

David didn't know the details of his brother's death until he was grown.  A loophole in the law allowed Tillman to be considered for parole and he and Andy learned everything about the case to go speak against letting Tillman out.  He talks about how his family was changed forever that day, how those affected learn to get past the raw grief as time goes on and how hard it is now as a parent himself to walk the line between letting his children grow up with joy and wanting to protect them from everything.

David Kushner is a journalist and author.  He has written several well received nonfiction books and his articles have been featured in many magazines.  He is a writing professor at Princeton University.  His writing ability allows him to articulate the horror and pain that this event brought to his family and how life changed forever that day in 1973.  This book is recommended for nonfiction and true crime readers. 

Thursday, December 1, 2022

A Scourge Of Vipers by Bruce DeSilva


Liam Mulligan is an investigative reporter but he's wondering if he needs a new occupation.  With all the troubles that print journalism is encountering, it's not a very stable job these days plus it means that the marketing executives get to say if his stories are going to offend an advertiser and pull it if it does.  It's a far cry from what he started out doing when he first got the job.  He's got options.  Both a private investigator and the local bookmaker want to give Liam a job but he loves what he does writing.

Rhode Island is having problems also.  The woman governor, fondly known as Attila The Nun, wants to legalize sports gambling for the added revenue that can save the state's budget.  Liam is a childhood friend of the governor and can always count on her for an inside scoop.  

The idea of legalized sports gambling brings in outside money, plenty of it.  There are those opposed to the idea and then there is the Mob and other criminal elements that are all for it, as long as they can scoop the pot.  The money brings in two issues.  First there are accusations of legislators being bribed, including the governor.  Then there's the matter of Mob guys from outside being killed in Rhode Island.  As the deaths mount, the Mob gets more and more invested in coming in and finding out who is killing their friends.

Bruce DeSilva is a well-known name in the noir genre of crime novels.  His work has won both the Edgar and Macavity Awards as well as being nominated for others.  He worked as a journalist for forty years so the story rings true and he won a Pulitzer for that work.  Readers will get a look at the gritty side of cities and their administrations and the real scoop of what working as a journalist means these days.  This book is recommended for mystery fans.