Monday, January 30, 2023

We All Loved Cowboys by Carol Bensimon


Cora and Julia have reunited in Brazil for a trip they talked about back when they were in high school.  They called it the unplanned trip and their thoughts were to just get in the car and drive through the country, visiting little towns that no one ever goes to.  Back then, the girls had an affair but both left Brazil to study abroad.  Cora has been in Paris studying design while Julia has been in Canada studying journalism.  

Both girls are bisexual.  Cora is mainly attracted to women although there have been a few men along the way.  She is not sure about Julia as she has had lengthy relationships with men and is supposed to be in one now with a man she left behind in Canada.  The girls parted on an unfriendly note as Cora didn't know that Julia had applied to a program out of the country and because she felt Julia was not committed to their relationship.  

As they drive around the country, they attempt to get back to their former close relationship.  Cora's father has married a woman only a few years older than Cora and she is about to get a baby brother.  She isn't sure how she feels about this.  Julia has an older brother and as they travel, she shares with Cora the family secret that shaped her life, relating to another brother no one talks about.  They eventually have sex and Cora has hopes but knows now that she doesn't dare make plans with Julia who is capable of making plans without her and then suddenly announcing them.

Carol Bensimon is a Brazilian author.  This book explores female relationships and the long time it sometimes take for young people to finally grow up and make their own way in life.  The girls are attracted to each other but it is unclear if they are willing to make a commitment to each other and if their lives can be melded when each is in a separate country.  This book is recommended to readers of literary fiction.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Taking The Stand by Alan Dershowitz


This autobiography, released in 2013, gives the reader insight into the life of Alan Dershowitz, one of America's most prominent attorneys.  He grew up in New York City in a very strict Jewish Orthodox family and from childhood, was determined to give his opinion on most things.  That didn't go over well in his religious school, and he graduated with very low grades.  But once he got to college, the traits that were disparaged in his youth were celebrated and he graduated at the top of his class.  He clerked for several judges, including at the Supreme Court and then went to teach at Harvard.  He has remained there since while also practicing law.

One of his early focuses was on freedom of speech and his first case at the Supreme Court was defending a movie considered pornography and the actors who were in it.  He also defended the right of Neo-Nazis to congregate a religious events and other freedom of speech issues.  

To most readers, the most interesting part of the book is where he discusses his criminal trials.  He takes many cases pro bono but has been involved in many cases where the defendant was famous.  These cases include O.J. Simpson, Claus Van Bulow, Jeffrey McDonald and Mike Tyson as well as others.  He discusses the cases of Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, that of Marlon Brando's son, and other famous cases.  Dershowitz sees many prosecutors and defense attorneys who go into cases unprepared and who don't research enough to find the truth in many cases.  He also is a big proponent of attorneys learning the latest forensic techniques used today such as DNA matches but many have only a glancing acquaintance with the science.  

Dershowitz now spends much of his time defending Israel, an extension of his work defending political prisoners worldwide.  He sees a rise in anti-Semitism both here and abroad and works to defray it.  He also writes extensively and still teaches one semester a year at Harvard.  The book gives personal stories from his life such as the brain tumor that his first born son had to overcome and his divorce from his first wife and finding his second wife.  He is truly one of the most prominent attorneys practicing today and readers will find his life fascinating.  This book is recommended for nonfiction readers interested in the law.   

Saturday, January 28, 2023

The Silent Wife by Karin Slaughter


Someone is killing women in Georgia in a particularly brutal fashion.  He kidnaps them, drugs them and takes them to the woods where he rapes them.  Then as the oral drug becomes less effective, he uses a weapon to stab the spinal cord, paralyzing them so he can continue to visit them and rape them before he makes his final visit where he beats and murders them.

The case falls to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation which means Will Trent and his partner Faith.  Sara Linton, Will's love, is involved as well as she is the pathologist for the GBI.  She is involved in a different way as well.  The cases started in Grant County where Sara grew up.  The first three cases were not recognized as the work of a serial killer and a local drug dealer and pedophile was convicted of the cases under the direction of Sara's first husband, Jeffrey, who was the chief of police there.  Now it appears he got that all wrong and the inmate has been serving time for crimes he didn't commit.  

But the cases went on after the inmate was sent to prison although they weren't recognized as such.  The cases after the Grant County ones were spread out over different counties and usually written off as accidents from hiking or camping.  By now there are almost twenty cases and another woman is missing.  Can the team find the killer before he strikes again?

This is the tenth novel in the Will Trent/Sara Linton series.  As usual, there is tension between Sara and Will as he can't believe that Sara actually loves him, especially since she loved Jeffrey so much.  The characters from other books in the series such as Amanda the GBI boss and Sara's family are continued in this book and the case is as twisty and depraved as many others the team has solved.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, January 27, 2023

The Stowaway by James Murray and Darren Wearmouth


Wyatt Butler sits in a courtroom, charged as a serial killer who terrorized and brutally killed eight children.  Maria Fontana is one of the unfortunate jury who has to listen to the grisly details and look at the horrendous photographs.  Butler is the opposite of remorseful.  Everyone expects a quick verdict from the jury but they are hung.  Eleven for guilty, one innocent.  The end result is that Butler is set free.

The press is determined to find out who the lone juror was who set Butler free.  After weeks of being hounded by the press, Maria holds a press conference and states that she was the innocent vote.  She is reviled in the press and in a book written about the case.  Victims hold her in disgust and blame her.  She was the head of the psychology department at Columbia University, but all the publicity leads the administration to make her take an unplanned year long sabbatical. 

At the end of her sabbatical, Maria goes on a cruise with her eleven year old twins and her fiancé.  They have fun at first but then strange things start to happen on the cruise.  A death is reported then a child goes overboard during the night.  Maria starts to suspect that Butler is on the cruise and as more and more deaths occur, even the ship's security force agrees.  He seems to be targeting Maria and her family.  Can he be found before he kills again?

This was a suspenseful novel.  Butler was an archetypical killer with the added horror of choosing child victims.  There are lots of twists and turns and surprises and the reader is compelled to continue to find out what will happen next and whether Maria can find the killer.  I listened to this novel and the narrator's voice was effective at building suspense.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

The History Of Love by Nicole Krauss


Once there was a pair of Polish teenagers in love, Leo and Alma.  With the rumblings of World War II and Hitler's steady advancements, Alma's parents scrapped together what they could and sent her to America to be safe.  Leo stayed behind and wrote a novel he called The History Of Love which he sent to her in letters although he got nothing back.  Later, when the German soldiers came to his village, he fled to the woods and then lived off the land for months until he also made it to America.

Now, years later, the book has more or less disappeared.  The man who Leo gave it to for safekeeping did get it published but only a few copies remain.  David Singer was one of its readers and it resonated with him.  He used it in his wooing of his own wife and they named their first born child Alma after the Alma of the book.  Now David is dead and his wife has been asked to translate the book from Spanish to English.  As she works on it, Alma, who is fifteen, has a fantasy that her mother's work will bring the person paying for the translation to her and they will fall in love.  That doesn't happen but Alma will learn about love and what it means from this journey of exploration.

This book was published in 2005 and was a finalist for the Orange Prize as well as the winner of numerous literary awards.  The novel reveals the story slowly, doubling back and forth between the two time periods.  The reader slowly learns the story of Alma and Leo's love, the perfidy of Leo's friend and the way Alma Singer comes to understand what happened and what love can be.  As one reads, one experiences a sense of discovery and wonder at a love that endures and what one book can mean to so many people.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

Monday, January 23, 2023

The Sorrows Of An American by Siri Hustvedt


Erik Davidsen finds himself in middle age with a need to put his life back together.  His wife has left him.  His father has recently died, as did the husband of his beloved sister, Inga.  He is a psychiatrist but questions if it has lost its appeal for him.  He has to console his mother and sister while going through his father's papers.  He and Inga find some cryptic notes in his father's papers that hint at a huge secret in his life and are determined to find out what it was.

They grew up in the rural area of Minnesota where many others with their Scandinavian background settled.  Most of the relatives and friends of their father are either dead or very ill but eventually they find a few people who remember the woman references in the notes.  What will they find out about their father?

Meanwhile, both brother and sister are facing other issues.  Erik has rented out his basement apartment to a young mother and her precocious daughter and finds himself attracted to the mother.  Inga discovers a huge secret about her deceased novelist husband that can tear her family apart.  This is a year of secrets and discovery and the two will end the year changed forever.

This is a novel about family relationships, the immigrant experience and secrets.  Both Erik and Inga find themselves in their middle ages needing to reinvent themselves for the future and to reconcile themselves with the past.  There are other stories told in the novel but the focus is on the two siblings.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction. 

Sunday, January 22, 2023

The Drop by Michael Connelly


Harry Bosch's long career as a police detective is winding down. He has just been informed that he's been granted a three year extension on his request to remain past retirement. He is working in the Cold Case division with a partner, Cho, for the last two years. Harry doesn't care. He just wants to work cases.

He and Cho are given a case that morning. An old murder has had a DNA hit. Blood has been found on the belongings of a murder victim from twenty-one years ago. When the two men look up the DNA's match, they find it belongs to a convicted rapist. Easy win. But then it turns out that the man only raped young boys. It also turns out that at the time of the murder he was only eight years old and thus unlikely to be their man.

On the same day, Harry is called upstairs. Irvin Irving was a policeman who was forced out. He then ran for city councilman and won. He has since spent his life making life miserable for the police department he now despises. But today he has requested Harry. Irving's only son has been found dead as the result of a fall from a hotel balcony. Was it suicide or was he pushed? Irving dislikes Bosch but he knows Bosch is about the best at what he does. He insists he wants to know the truth and Harry is assigned to discover it.

This is the seventeenth Harry Bosch novel. In this one, Harry struggles with the winding down of his career, the new responsibility of raising a teenage daughter by himself, and as always, with his relationships inside the department and in his personal life. Readers will be caught up in the police procedure and the workings of a master detective's mind. This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

The Seven Visitations Of Sidney Burgess by Andy Marino


Sydney Burgess had clawed her way out of poverty and degradation to a good life, she thought.  She had been a junkie, strung out and living with a drug dealer, when she had her son, Danny.  She managed to find the fortitude to leave that man and after a series of dead end jobs and lousy apartments, she had gotten a degree and a good professional job.  She met Matt, a good man and together they bought a house and built a good family life.  But that was before that day.

Sydney returns home early one day in time to walk in on a burglar.  Rather than fleeing, he attacks her but she manages to get away and lock herself in a bedroom.  When he starts breaking down that door with a knife in his hand, determined to kill her, she jumps out the window and runs to the neighbors.  But in the hospital, the sheriff doesn't remember the incident the way Sydney does.  He arrived at her house to find the invader dead, stabbed multiple times.  

Sydney has no memory of fighting the man, much less killing him.  But the sheriff is certain she has.  Then Danny who is now eleven, starts to shy away from her, telling her that her face doesn't look right.  Danny's father who she hasn't seen in eight years, now reappears.  Her in-laws are determined to break up her and Matt.  What is going on and why is her world starting to change so much?  Soon, she starts to suspect Matt of doing things behind her back and lying to her.  Is that valid?  Is everyone really against her?  Is she losing everything?

Andy Marino is known for his work in the horror genre.  He specializes in lives that start out as ordinary and then are changed forever through no fault of the individual and that is definitely true in this novel.  Sydney has spent so many years doing whatever she can to provide a good life for Danny and now sees it slipping away day by day.  The horror of watching her lose more and more is chilling as is the visitation of something she cannot explain or ignore.  This book is recommended for horror readers.  

Friday, January 20, 2023

The Ruby In Her Navel by Barry Unsworth


This novel is set in Italy in 1149.  Thurstan Beauchamp had been raised to be a knight, only to have his life plans crushed when his father became a monk and gave their lands and wealth to the Church.  He was taken up by Yusef Ibn Mannsur, an Muslim who was the Lord of the Diwan of Control at the royal palace in Palermo and Thurstan became his assistant.  The office paid all palace bills and arranged a thousand things from day to day.  Thurstan might one day be taking money to a vendor in another city and the next arranging jugglers to entertain the king.

He is sent on a trip to herons for the king's falcons to hunt.  While there, he is astonished to see riding a woman who had been his childhood sweetheart, Alicia.  He had been heartbroken when she was sent at fourteen to Jerusalem to marry a noble there.  They speak and the spark is still there.  Soon all that Thurstan can think of is Alicia and how to win her love again.

In the meantime, his work had led him to hire a dance troupe.  They were a sensation as it was the first instance of belly dancing that had been seen at the palace.  The main dancer was Nesrin, a beautiful woman who danced with a ruby in her navel.  Thurstan is attracted to her but sworn to attain Alicia, who can give him wealth and his dream of being a knight. 

This is the time of the Crusades and there is much political maneuvering between the two factions, Christian and Muslim.  Thurstan is caught between the two as his mentor is Muslim yet his upbringing is Christian.  One of his jobs is to take money to another town to hire an assassin; Thurstan has no idea who is to be killed but it is part of his work to take money to others for purposes he doesn't understand.  All of these factors lead to a stunning climax where Thurstan finally grows up and chooses his life path.

This book was nominated for a Booker Prize.  Unsworth is an author who had multiple Booker nominees and a winner in 1992.  This book is a novel of multiple cultures, of political intrigue and betrayals and of love in a medieval setting.  Thurstan as a young man has much growing up to do to become an adult and the reader will follow him on this path.  This book is recommended for readers of literary and historical fiction. 

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Exiles by Jane Harper


Federal Investigator Aaron Falk is headed off on vacation, something that doesn't happen often in his busy work life.  But this vacation is a promise; he has agreed to serve as the godfather of his friend, Greg's, new son.  The ceremony was supposed to happen a year ago but didn't due to a tragedy.  His friend's niece, Zara, had lost her mother back then and she hasn't yet been found.  Greg's brother, Charlie, hadn't been with Kim by then.  They had separated and Kim had married another man in the close-knit group, Rohan.  She had a new baby and the couple and their baby had driven down to attend the festival everyone in town went to.  But sometime that night, Kim disappeared.  She left her new baby in the stroller in the stroller area and was gone.  

A year later, the ceremony is back on but Kim's disappearance hasn't been forgotten.  There have been no sightings of her since that night and most people believe she committed suicide by slipping into the reservoir where her shoe was found.  Zara is determined to find out what happens and brings Aaron into her search.  Aaron thinks she is probably in for a disappointment but his investigative nature can't quite let things slide.  He starts to look into the case.  He also get reacquainted with a woman who lives in the town and whom he'd met a year or so earlier.  She makes him want to evaluate his life and see what is truly important.  Can Aaron find out what happened to Kim for his friend's family?

Aaron Falk has been featured in several of Jane Harper's novels in the Australian settings she uses.  He is an interesting character in and of himself and his inquisitive mind makes him the perfect person to be in law enforcement.  This novel fleshes out his character in a different way and gives the reader insight into Australian natures and how the typical rural life unfolds.  The mystery is tight and ends with a surprising revelation.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.  

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles


Set in the 1950's, this novel is the story of Emmett Watson and his brother Billy.   Emmett has just been released from a juvenile camp where he was sent after a fight had tragic consequences.  While he was away, his father died and Billy, who is eleven, is left alone.  Emmett comes home, determined to do right by Billy.  The two of them decide to move to California and start over, looking for the mother who left them when Billy was just a baby.  

But fate has other plans.  Two of the other camp inhabitants, Duchess and Woolly, had snuck in the warden's trunk and escaped.  They ask Emmett to take them to New York where they both have ties.  Woolly has a mind that works differently than other peoples'.  Although he came from a rich family, he just can't seem to settle into the world as it is.  Duchess came from poverty, his father an actor who lived from show to show, drinking when he wasn't acting.  Both men want to see their families again.

Along the way, there are many adventures and many other people are met.  But Emmett remains steadfast and determined, Billy retains his youthful spirit of adventure, Duchess is determined to make amends or extract retribution with those from his past and Woolly is along for the ride.  There is also Sally, the woman Emmett left behind and had planned to marry.  

I can't imagine Amor Towles writing a bad book.  This is another wonderful one with the love of the brothers setting the ground rock on which the novel is written.  It explores family, friendship and what one owes the past.  Each of the characters is memorable and the reader will have a hard time deciding which is their favorite.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

The Door-Man by Peter Wheelwright


Piedmont Kinsolver is a doorman at an apartment building in Manhattan across from Central Park.  He knows the lives of those who live in the building but they don't know his.  They would be shocked to find out that he lives in an apartment building much like theirs on the other side of the Park, in the penthouse suite.

Piedmont is part of an intertwined set of families that have connections to the town of Gilboa, New York.  It was a lost town, flooded under to make a reservoir that could supply water to New York City.  The families were local inhabitants, African American tradesmen and three sisters who loved various men.  The Goldring sisters were led by the oldest, Winifred, who was a paleontologist who came to the area to study fossils revealed by the water works.  All three sisters had children who often were farmed out to others to raise.  Piedmont, Winnie's grandson, didn't even know who his parents were until he was grown.  

The novel follows the various families and their connections in New York and Florida along with the original inhabitants of the area.  There are secrets and murders that cast long shadows down the decades.  Piedmont is determined to discover the truth behind the secrets and put to rest the rumors that have haunted his family for decades.  He is assisted by several of his cousins and fought by a senator who has ties to the area.  

This epic generational novel was listed among The Best Books of 2022 by the New Yorker.  It is based on true events and the reader will learn much about the natural history of upstate New York as well as about the fossils left behind in this area.  It is an engrossing read as one moves through the generations and works out the relationship between the characters.  There is much intrigue and twists as the secrets unfold as the large cast of characters live and love and conspire.  The author is a designer with work in MOMA as well as a naturalist and an educator.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.    

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Thistlefoot by GennaRose Nethercott


A strange notification comes to Ballatine Yaga.  She has an inheritance in common with her brother Issac that has come from their ancestral home in Russia.  What could it be?  She hasn't seen Issac in many years since he ran away from home when he was sixteen.  Can he even be located?  He hit the road, becoming a con artist and street performer.  His specialty is becoming other people and after he studies someone he can mimic them to perfection.  Ballatine is a woodworker and she has built a life around her craft, artists her friends.

When Ballentine shows up at the warehouse she was told to come to, Issac is there waiting.  They don't have much time for a reunion once they see their inheritance.  It is a house, a house that is obviously old.  But what wasn't obvious is that the house has two chicken legs and can walk.  Issac wants to sell it immediately but Ballentine is determined to restore it.

As the two start to work on the house, they begin to have flashbacks and dreams about the house and what it represented.  It has been passed down to them by their Baba Yaga, the only survivor of a pogrom against the Jewish village she lived in by Russian soldiers.  The pogrom is almost forgotten except for the descendants of Baba Yaga.  The fact that the story wasn't destroyed brings to America a shadowy figure known as the Longshadow Man.  He is determined to destroy the house and all remembrances of the horror it represents.  He is ready for a pitched battle unless Issac and Ballantine can put aside their differences, resolve their family issues and unite to defeat him.

This is a lovely book that I absolutely adored.  It is a retold family tale that hides under its charm the reality of a horrific event that occurred often in Russia and Europe against those of the Jewish faith.  It is also an exploration of sibling love and of friendships that can endure whatever is thrown at them.  Both Issac and Ballentine have magical powers that they don't really understand but must explore in order to have any hope of defeating the Longshadow Man.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers. 

Friday, January 13, 2023

Cleanness by Garth Greenwell


In this book of interconnected stories, a young man is in Sophia, Bulgaria where he is a teacher in a high school.  He has come from the United States as a transfer teacher to experience another culture and to expose his students to English.  His time in Bulgaria is coming to a close and he looks back on the relationships he has formed there.

The teacher is gay and many of his relationships are short term lovers.  In some, he is the submissive partner while in others he is dominant.  In two related stories, he talks about his most important relationship.  He falls in love with a graduate student who is also in Bulgaria although from Portugal.  They have a long-term relationship and hope to build a life together but in the end, the other man cannot find work in Bulgaria and the teacher isn't successful finding work in Portugal and the relationship falls apart.

This book isn't for everyone.  It won many prizes, including a New York Times Notable Book Award, a best book of the year award from NPR, the New Yorker, Time and the Washington Post as well as being longlisted for prizes such as the Joyce Carol Oates Prize and the Prix Sade.  The sex scenes between the man and his lovers are quite graphic and some readers might not appreciate that.  But it explores the loneliness of those who are trying to make a home away from what they have known and the different types of relationships that might exist for those looking for a love to sustain them.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Defense For The Devil by Kate Wilhelm


Mitch Arno has always meant trouble.  Although he came from a well-respected family, as a young man he left his wife, Margaret Fulsome, alone with two babies and no support.  Luckily, his family stepped in and Margaret has built a life with a bed and bath she bought with their help.  It's not much but it's enough to support her and her children.

Now Mitch is back in town and bad things are happening again.  He has shown up with a briefcase full of money and a fancy car.  When he is killed, Margaret goes to attorney Barbara Holloway for help.  Barbara is hesitant to take the case because it will interfere with her personal life and the man she loves who wants her to travel with him.  But she agrees.

Mitch's brother is charged with his death and Barbara is drawn deeper into danger.  Once she has secured the money for Margaret through a series of legal maneuvers, she is free to represent Ray Arno in his murder trial.  But as she does, she and her father, Frank, are drawn further and further into a world of deceit and murder and are in personal danger.  Will she risk her life to serve the law she loves?

This was my first Kate Wilhelm novel.  She has gained awards in both the mystery and science fiction genres and is a prolific author.  In this one, she lays out an intricate case that highlights both the difficulties of attorney work and the personal danger that can come to defense attorneys.  Her legal maneuvers will give the reader insights into legal work and her personal difficulties will make the reader be firmly on her side.  This book is recommended for mystery readers. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr


What an amazing novel!  A group of people, separated by centuries, are united through the story of Aethon, a fable in which a sheepherder is turned into a donkey, a fish and a crow, learning about life as he goes.  There is Anna, an orphan in a house of women who embroider for the church, who learns to read and who finds a book with the story.  She escapes the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and takes little besides the book.  Outside the walls, with the siege army determined to take the city, is Omeir.  He knows little about the war or its purpose.  He was conscripted to join the fighting force when it needed his oxen to pull about heavy implements of war.  

Fast forward five hundred years and we meet Zeno.  He met the love of his life while a prisoner of war in Korea and the story of the foolish sheepherder united the two men in their travails and gave Zeno's life a purpose.  Once he goes back to the United States, he spends his retirement in the town library, painstakingly translating Aethon's story from the original language from a rediscovered manuscript that is torn and tattered, stained and missing pages and words.  He shares the story with a group of fifth graders who soon learn to love the story and the man who shares it with them.  He saves their lives on the day that a misguided teen comes into the library with bombs, determined to destroy the establishment that has never had time for him or his mother.

Fast forward again and we meet Konstance.  She has grown up on a spaceship, one that fled the Earth's destruction from climate change and that is headed to a new planet.  That planet will not be reached during any of the crew's lifetimes so they are a wish and a prayer that their descendants can reach the new planet and give man another chance.  As she reads Aethon's story, she starts to put together her father's love of it with clues around her to discover a bigger truth than the ones she has grown up with.

My only regret is reading this marvelous novel so early in the year.  It is hard to imagine that I will read a better one this year.  The intricate stories of each character and the way their lives are intertwined over the centuries through love of a story is an amazing plotline and one that Doerr manages magnificently.  I can easily see this novel being my top read of 2023 and it would be a travesty if it doesn't win major literary awards.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers, historical fiction readers and anyone who enjoys a wonderful book.

Monday, January 9, 2023

Text Me When You Get Home by Kayleen Schaefer


In this nonfiction book, Kayleen Schaefer gives an overview and exploration of female friendships.  She starts out with the female friendships we grew up seeing from our mothers and how such friendships were viewed, often as secondhand relationships that took away from family time.  She discusses the negative viewpoints of female friendships with the erroneous assumption that all female friendships are competitive.

The 'mean girls' world of middle and high school is discussed as is the competition about male attention and the assumptions about how women will always desert their female friends when they have a man in their lives.  Then the author discusses the strong female friendships that she and her friends are now experiencing and how more women are now single than in the past, which leads to more and stronger female friendships.  

This is an interesting reminder to readers of the strength and support that can be found in their female relationships.  It is also a reminder that for many women these are the strongest relationships in their lives, lasting through decades and outliving many romantic relationships.  For some readers, this will be a revelation, for others a confirmation of what they already know.  This book is recommended for women readers and those interested in nonfiction.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

A World Of Curiosities by Louise Penny


Something is not right in the small village of Three Pines.  Chief Inspector Armand Gamache can feel it in the air but can't put his finger on it.  He feels that whatever it is has its roots in the past and reexamines his past cases, including the one in which he met and saw what no one else could in Jean-Guy Beauvoir.  They met over the case of a murdered woman and Beauvoir was well on his way to being fired at the start of his career.  Gamache saw through the resentment and rebellion of Beauvoir and assigned him to the team.

The case was a brutal one.  The woman had two children, a girl and a boy.  As the case progressed, it turned out that from an early age, the mother had prostituted her children to the men of the area and saw in them only the value that abuse and degradation could bring her.  Gamache saw through the veil and realized that the children were damaged for life and had committed the murder.  The girl, who was the older, was imprisoned for many years while the boy was put into the foster system.  Now, the girl turned woman's term is over, she has earned an engineering degree and Gamache has taken her under his wing, trying to make up for her childhood.  But can such abuse ever be healed?

Strange things start to happen.  A bricked up room, sealed for a century and a half, is found.  It contains a mockup of the famous art piece, the Paston Curiosities.  While that work catalogues the worldly goods and discoveries of a rich family, this one seems to contain clues about a coming disaster, and it seems to be targeted at Gamache and his family.  Who hates him that much?  Who has the patience and cunning to set up a plot that takes years to develop and can Gamache and his staff find the mind behind it in time to forestall disaster?

This is the eighteenth novel in the Three Pines series and it is the best one I've read.  Chief Inspector Gamache can sometimes come off as a too perfect character to me but in this one his inner thoughts and motivations are more fully explored.  It is a very suspenseful novel with a climatic ending and fans will be excited to see a series with so many novels newly showing another side to the characters they have come to love.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, January 6, 2023

Booksie's Shelves, January 6, 2023

Art by RF Skia & Culpeo S. Fox

A new year is upon us and I'm optimistic about it.  I don't do resolutions except for reading ones.  My main resolution is to read mostly from my shelves and my Netgalley queue and I think that will be easy to do.  I set my Goodreads Reading Challenge at 150 this year.  Of course, books have arrived to swell the stacks.  I always ask for books for gifts and when we visited my sons, he sent me home with books he was getting rid of.  Here's what's come through the door:

  1. Throne Of Glass, Sarah Maas, fantasy, gift from son
  2. Crown Of Midnight, Sarah Maas, fantasy, gift from son
  3. Heir Of Fire, Sarah Maas, fantasy, gift from son
  4. Queen Of Shadows, Sarah Maas, fantasy, gift from son
  5. The Assassin's Blade, Sarah Maas, fantasy, gift from son
  6. Rabbits, Terry Miles, fantasy, gift from son
  7. The Trees, Percival Everett, literary fiction, gift
  8. Nona The Ninth, Tamsyn Muir, fantasy, gift
  9. Revelator, Daryl Gregory, fantasy, gift
  10. The Woman Next Door, Yewande Omotoso, literary fiction, purchased
  11. Our Missing Hearts, Celeste Ng, literary fiction, gift
  12. The Vixen, Francine Prose, literary fiction, gift
  13. The Dragon Behind The Glass, Emily Voigt, nonfiction, purchased
  14. No Less The Devil, Stuart Macbride, mystery, purchased
Here are the ebooks I've purchased:
  1. Reap, Eric Rickstad, suspense
  2. The Ploughmen, Kim Zupan, literary fiction
  3. The Girls Are Gone, Michael Brodkorb, true crime
  4. Kaikeyi, Vaishnavi Patel, literary fiction
  5. Hide, Tracy Clark, mystery
  6. The Daughter Of Dr. Moreau, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, fantasy
  7. The Code Breaker, Walter Issacson, nonfiction
  8. The Seven Moons Of Maali Almeida, Shehan Karunatilaka, literary fiction
  9. The Justice Of Kings, Richard Swann, fantasy
  10. Mortal Memory, Thomas Cook, mystery
  11. Black Hills, Dan Simmons, horror
  12. Underworld, Don Delillo, literary fiction
  13. The Institute, Stephen King, horror
  14. Empire Of Exiles, Erin Evans, fantasy
  15. The City Of Dusk, Tara Sim, fantasy
  16. When The Lights Go Out, Mary Kubica, mystery
  17. Gold Fame Citrus, Claire Vaye Watkins, literary fiction
  18. The Age Of Dreaming, Nina Revoyr, literary fiction
  19. The Boy In The Woods, Carter Wilson, mystery
  20. Gilgamesh The King, Robert Silverberg, fantasy
  21. Tiamat's Wrath, James Corey, science fiction
  22. Leviathan Falls, James Corey, science fiction
  23. Pyramids, Terry Pratchett, fantasy
  24. The Child In Time, Ian McEwan, literary fiction
  25. Local Girl Missing, Lisa Reagan, mystery
  26. The Book Of The Most Precious Substance, Sara Gran, mystery
  27. The Sound And The Fury, William Faulknew, literary fiction
  28. The Waking Fire, Anthony Ryan, fantasy
  29. Insidious Intent, Val McDermid, mystery
  30. Prince Of Fools, Mark Lawrence, fantasy
  31. Travels With Charley In Search Of America, John Steinbeck, literary fiction
  32. South To America, Imani Perry, nonfiction
  33. The First Bad Man, Miranda July, mystery
  34. Amy & Lan, Sadie Jones, literary fiction
  35. The Other Husband, Kathryn Croft, mystery
  36. Who Guards A Prince, Reginald Hill, mystery
  37. Brown Dog, Jim Harrison, literary fiction
  38. The Alloy Of Law, Brandon Sanderson, fantasy
  39. The Bands Of Mourning, Brandon Sanderson, fantasy
  40. A Keeper, Graham Norton, literary fiction
  41. Bones Of Coral, James Hall, mystery
  42. Deadly Wands, Brent Reilly, fantasy
  43. Book Of Ruth, Jane Hamilton, literary fiction
  44. Central Park, Guillaume Musso, mystery
  45. The Next Girl, Carla Kovach, mystery
  46. Solito, Javier Zamora, memoir
  47. Family Of Liars, E. Lockhart, mystery
  48. A Sky Beyond The Storm, Sabaa Tahir, fantasy
  49. A Reaper At The Gates, Sabaa Tahir, fantasy
  50. An Ember In The Ashes, Sabaa Tahir, fantasy
  51. A Torch Against The Night, Sabaa Tahir, fantasy
  52. The Cabin At The End Of The World, Paul Trembley, horror
  53. Never Have I Ever, Joshily Jackson, women's fiction
  54. Cold Earth, Ann Cleeves, mystery
  55. Dead Water, Ann Cleeves, mystery
  56. The City Inside, Samit Basu, fantasy
  57. An Experiment In Love, Hilary Mantel, literary fiction
  58. Rats, Joe Klinger, thriller
  59. Foul Lady Fortune, Chloe Gong, fantasy
  60. The Enchanted April, Elisabeth Arnim Von, literary fiction
  61. The Death Of Vivek Oji, Akwaeke Emezi, literary fiction
  62. Of Mice And Men, John Steinback, literary fiction
  63. Memory Wall, Anthony Doerr, anthology
  64. What's Done In Darkness, Laura McHugh, mystery
  65. Clark And Division, Naomi Hirahara, mystery
  66. The Marriage Of Opposites, Alice Hoffman, literary fiction
  67. Wake Of Vultures, Lila Bowen, fantasy
  68. The Stranger, Harlan Coben, mystery
  69. The Unlikely Escape Of Uriah Heep, H.G. Parry, literary fiction
  70. A Good Man, Guy Vanderhaeghe, literary fiction
  71. To The Land Of Living, Robert Silverberg, fantasy
Here's what I'm reading:
  1. Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr, literary fiction, Kindle
  2. The Lincoln Highway, Amor Towles, literary fiction, hardback
  3. A World Of Curiosities, Louise Penny, mystery, hardback
  4. Cleanness, Garth Greenwell, literary fiction, Kindle
  5. Taking The Stand, Alan Dershowitz, nonfiction, Kindle
  6. The Colony, Audrey Magee, literary fiction, Kindle
  7. Defense For The Devil, Kate Wilheim, mystery, hardback
  8. Text Me When You Get Home, Kayleen Schaefer, nonfiction, hardback
  9. Rhoda, Ellen Gilchrist, anthology, paperback
Happy Reading!

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Field Of Blood by Denise Mina


This novel is the first in the Paddy Meehan series.  Paddy is a copygirl at the Scottish Daily News in Glasgow, hoping to make it as a journalist in the man-dominated field of journalism.  Paddy lives in a typical Catholic household with lots of siblings and a mother and father who are dedicated to the church and what the neighbors think.  She is engaged to a good Catholic boy whose family has been friends with hers for decades.

When a three year old boy is declared missing and later found dead, Glasgow is shocked.  This kind of crime doesn't happen there, or at least that's the impression they like to give.  Soon another shocker occurs when two young boys, preteens, are arrested and charged with the murder.  Paddy is especially shocked because one of the boys is the cousin of her fiancée.  When she confides this fact to one of the few other women at the paper, she is betrayed and the story hits the front page the next day.  Now her family is shunning her and her fiancée isn't talking to her.  What can she do except solve the murder herself?

As Paddy starts to look into the murder, using her familiarity with the environment and its people to make discoveries the police have overlooked, she starts to understand the feelings of the Scottish man she is named for, a man the police found guilty of a murder he didn't commit and who was imprisoned for years before being released and pardoned.  Paddy believes the police are just settling for the first answer they come across rather than getting to the truth and with the help of a reporter at the paper she uncovers corruption and betrayal and the true killer.  This book is recommended for mystery readers. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Code Breaker by Walter Issacson


A biological revolution is occurring right now, one expected to be as impactful as the digital revolution.  This book tells the story of that revolution and the players in it, especially Jennifer Doudna and her co-workers who discovered the breakthrough that allows CRISPR to exist and gives it the potential to fix defects in cells.

Doudna was determined to be a scientist from her teen years after reading James Watson's account of discovering and mapping human DNA.  After college and her doctorate, she became interested in RNA and with the help of others was able to use it to cut out defective strings in DNA and replace it with the correct sequence.  She and her French partner, another woman named Emmanuelle Charpentier won the Nobel Prize for this discovery and others in the field.

But all is not rosy in the CRISPR world.  Although science has made breakthroughs throughout history due to collaboration and shared research, the awarding or prizes and patents has made the scientific world more capitalistic.  Doudna beat out another team from Boston headed by Zheng Fang, by only a slight margin and tension between the two labs has continued for years.  

There are many benefits to this discovery.  Genetic diseases such as sickle cell anemia and Huntington's disease, which are caused by a single gene defect now have hopes of being cured.  The work can be used to increase plant production and farm productivity, making food security more of a reachable goal.  Cancer is another frontier that could benefit and only yesterday I read about CRISPR making breakthroughs in ALS, a degenerative nerve disease.

There are also ethical problems.  One of the biggest is the decision to either work on genes that exist in a living person, which benefits that individual or using CRISPR to change inheritable DNA, which changes the entire human genome forever more.  Is changing our genome something the human race is prepared to do without knowing all the repercussions it can cause?  This is the field for enhancements such as greater muscle strength, appearance, and perhaps intelligence.  Who would pay for this?  Would it stretch the gap between poor and rich even further as the rich choose to give their children advantages poorer parents could only dream of?  

Walter Issacson has been a journalist for many years, working on magazines such as Time.  In recent years, he has worked on biographies of scientists in breaking news fields such as Steve Jobs and Einstein and those involved in the digital revolution.  He also has written works on Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin and Henry Kissinger.  His work is detailed and he explains the science of the CRISPR world in a way that those not in the field can understand readily.  This book is recommended for nonfiction readers.