Thursday, August 31, 2023

Booksie's Shelves, August 31, 2023


Art by R.F. Skia & Culpeo S. Fox

It's the last day of August and summer is hopefully winding down.  It's my least favorite season and I look forward to cooler days.  In the meantime, I've been reading and buying backlists of some authors I've enjoyed lately.  My husband and I went to see our family in Georgia over the weekend and I got to spend my son's birthday with him for the first time in many years.  All of our grandkids are thriving and I have one avid reader!  Here's what's come through the door lately:

  1. The Madman's Tale, John Katzenbach, mystery, purchased
  2. Next Of Kin, John Boyne, literary fiction, purchased
  3. A Traveler At The Gates Of Wisdom, John Boyne, literary fiction, purchased
  4. Crippen, John Boyne, mystery, purchased
  5. This House Is Haunted, John Boyne, mystery, purchased
  6. Lamb, Bonnie Nadzam, literary fiction, purchased
  7. Lost, Sharon Bolton, mystery, purchased
  8. The Wild Places, Robert Macfarlane, nonfiction travel, purchased
  9. In The Heat Of The Summer, John Katzenbach, mystery, purchased
  10. State Of Mind, John Katzenbach, mystery, purchased
  11. The Pleasure Seekers, Tishani Doshi, literary fiction, purchased
  12. This Mournable Body, Tsitsi Dangarembga, literary fiction, purchased
  13. The Shadow King, Maaza Mengiste, literary fiction, purchased
  14. The Shadow Man, John Katzenbach, mystery, purchased
  15. The Wrong Man, John Katzenbach, mystery, purchased
  16. Day Of Reckoning, John Katzenbach, mystery, purchased
  17. Who They Was, Gabriel Krauze, literary fiction, purchased
Here's the ebooks I've bought lately:

  1. This Much Is True, Miriam Margolyes, memoir
  2. Promise Me, Jill Mansell, women's fiction
  3. Fatal Charm, Carlton Smith, true crime
  4. Hell's Kitchen, Jeffrey Deaver, mystery
  5. Once Gone, Blake Pierce, mystery
  6. The Collected Enchantments, Theodora Goss, anthology
  7. Grimm Up North, David Gatwood, mystery
  8. The Great And Secret Show, Clive Barker, horror
  9. The Valley Of Lost Children, David Barbur, mystery
  10. The Seventh Victim, Michael Wood, mystery
  11. Gone Tomorrow, P.F. Kluge, mystery
  12. The Woods Out Back, R.A. Salvatore, fantasy
  13. The Last Confession Of Thomas Hawkins, Antonia Hodgson, mystery
  14. A Death At Fountain's Abby, Antonia Hodgson, mystery
  15. The Long Kill, Reginald Hill, mystery
  16. Little Girl Missing, J.G. Roberts, mystery
  17. One Last Step, Sarah Sutton, mystery
  18. Lyrics Alley, Leila Aboulela, literary fiction
  19. The Muralist, B.A. Shapiro, literary fiction
  20. Shadow Falls, Wendy Dranfield, mystery
  21. Into The Narrowdark, Tad Williams, fantasy
  22. A Declaration Of The Rights Of Magicians, H.G. Parry, fantasy
  23. My Mother, A Serial Killer, Hazel Baron, true crime
  24. Where Lost Girls Go, B.R. Spangler, mystery
  25. Sentinals Awake, Helen Garraway, fantasy
  26. The Last Of The Stanfields, Marc Levy, literary fiction
  27. The Eldritch Tome, Stephen Blumberg, fantasy
  28. Dinner At Deviant's Place, Tim Powers, fantasy
  29. The Confessions Of Franny Langton, Sara Collins, literary fiction
  30. Bring Me Flowers, D.K. Hood, mystery
  31. The Northminster Mysteries, Harriet Smart, mystery
  32. The Changliing, Victor Levalle, horror
  33. Nobody Walks, Mick Herror, thriller
  34. Unsolved No More, Kenneth Mains, true crime
  35. The Blue Blazes, Chuck Wendig, fantasy
  36. Banished, Michael Wisehart, fantasy
  37. Imperfect Magic, C.N. Rowan, fantasy
  38. Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi, literary fiction
  39. The Dark, Sharon Bolton, literary fiction
  40. The Whereabouts Of Eneas McNulty, Sebastian Barry, literary fiction
  41. The Roof Walkers, Keith Henderson, literary fiction
  42. The Madness Of Crowds, Louise Penny, mystery
  43. Last Respects, Catherine Aird, mystery
  44. The Water Knife, Paolo Bacigalupi, fantasy
  45. How To Catch A Killer, Katherine Ramsland, true crime
  46. Medusa's Ankles, A.S. Byatt, anthology
  47. A Murder Of Crows, Tom Lowe, mystery
  48. A False Dawn, Tom Lowe, mystery
  49. The Serial Killer's Wife, Robert Swartwood, mystery
  50. My Lover's Love, Maggie O'Farrell, literary fiction
  51. Dragon Mage, ML Spenser, fantasy
  52. Quicksilver, Neal Stephenson, fantasy
  53. Farmer, Jim Harrison, literary fiction
  54. The Marrying Of Chani Kaufman, Eve Harris, literary fiction
  55. Buzz Cut, James W. Hall, mystery
  56. Nevernight, Jay Kristoff, fantasy
  57. A Darker Shade Of Magic, V.E. Schwab, fantasy
  58. A Gathering Of Shadows, V.E. Schwab, fantasy
  59. A Conjuring Of Light, V.E. Schwab, fantasy
  60. Off To The Side, Jim Harrison, memoir
  61. The Bridesmaid, Ruth Rendell, mystery
  62. The House Of Stairs, Ruth Rendell, mystery
  63. The Silence, Kendra Elliot, mystery
  64. In The Pines, Kendra Elliot, mystery
  65. On Java Road, Lawrence Osborne, literary fiction
  66. Wither Thorn, Joy Lewis, fantasy
  67. The Inheritance, Samantha Hayes, mystery
  68. The DCI Bone Collection, TG Reid, mystery
  69. The Echo Chamber, John Boyne, literary fiction
  70. His Majesty's Dragon, Naomi Novik, fantasy
  71. The Other Side Of Silence, Bill Pronzini, mystery
  72. Floating Staircase, Ronald Malfi, horror
  73. Pearl, Sian Hughes, literary fiction
  74. Dead Beat, Val McDermid, mystery
  75. Kick Back, Val McDermid, mystery
  76. And So It Begins, Rachel Abbott, mystery
  77. The Girls On Chalk Hill, Alison Belsham, mystery
  78. The Piper's Children, Iain Henn, mystery
  79. The Bone Ship's Wake, RJ Barker, fantasy
  80. Call Of The Bone Ships, RJ Barker, fantasy
  81. The Birds Fall Down, Rebecca West, mystery
  82. Sundog, Jim Harrison, literary fiction
  83. Wolf, Jim Harrison, literary fiction
  84. Sisters Of Shiloh, Kathy and Becky Hepinstall, literary fiction
  85. The Kingless Crown, Sarah Cradit, fantasy
  86. Amongst Our Weapons, Ben Aaronovitch, fantasy
  87. Field Of Blood, Denise Mina, mystery
  88. The Dead Hours, Denise Mina, mystery
  89. Scrublands, Chris Hammer, mystery
  90. A Good Day To Die, Jim Harrison, literary fiction
  91. Kieron Smith, Boy, James Kelman, literary fiction
  92. Genome, Matt Ridley, nonfiction science
  93. Say You're Sorry, Michael Robotham, mystery
  94. The White-Luck Warrior, R. Scott Bakker, fantasy
  95. The First Day Of Spring, Nancy Tucker, literary fiction
  96. The Mermaid, The Witch and The Sea, Maggie Tokuda-Hall, fantasy
  97. Divided House, J M Dalgliesh, mystery
  98. Whispered Bones, N.C. Lewis, mystery
  99. The Sinister Booksellers Of Bath, Garth Nix, fantasy
  100. The Cut, Chris Brookmyre, thriller
  101. Immortal Sins, Maurice Winterborn, fantasy
  102. The Three Dahlias, Katy Watson, women's fiction
  103. Believing The Lie, Elizabeth George, mystery
  104. Heir To The Crown, Paul Bennett, fantasy
  105. The Good Girl, Mary Kubica, mystery
  106. The Other Wife, Michael Robotham, mystery
  107. Bleed For Me, Michael Robotham, mystery
  108. The Vanishing Point, Val McDermid, mystery
  109. The Serpent Stairs, Dan Michaelson & DK Holmberg, fantasy
  110. A Persistent Echo, Brian Kaufman, literary fiction
  111. Hunted, Elizabeth Heiter, mystery
  112. Hidden Norfolk, JM Dalgliesh, mystery
  113. The Delphi Murders, Nic Edwards & Brian Whitney, true crime
  114. The Heatwave, Kate Riordan, mystery
  115. Blood Of Cain, Tom Lowe, mystery
Here's what I'm reading:
  1. The Whereabouts Of Eneas McNulty, Sebastian Barry, Kindle
  2. The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead, Kindle
  3. The Italian Party, Christina Lynch, paperback
  4. The Suspicions Of Mr. Whitcher, Kate Summerscale, paperback
  5. Disorderly Minds, Minette Walters, paperback
  6. The Kingless Crown, Sara Cradit, Kindle
  7. The Fourth Turning Is Now, Neil Howe, hardback
  8. The Night Watchman, Louise Erdrich, hardback
  9. March, Geraldine Brooks, Kindle
Happy Reading!

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

The National Road by Tom Zoellner


From the time Tom Zoellner got his driver's license as a teenager, he loved to hit the road and drive.  He didn't like the interstates as much as the little known roads, the small monuments most people never visited, the small towns most had never heard of.  In this book, he shares his travels and tells of his life as a journalist.  It is a collection of essays about various things he has seen or been involved with.

He starts by telling of his visits to Mormon shrines and in the telling, talks about the religion.  Those not familiar with the history of the Mormons will find much of interest here as he roams as they did, as they were forced out of various towns and pushed westward until they settled in Salt Lake City.  He talks about the best places to sleep outside or in one's car.  He talks about the porn industry, the state of journalism and how it could have avoided the dwindling down of its industry.  

Other essays talk about visiting every state's capitol or the highest peak in the state.  He talks about the divisions in the country and how they seem to be increasing.  A poignant essay talks about the destruction of his family home where they had lived since before the state was a state and how it was bought to be torn down to build a Macmansion.  

Tom Zoellner has written quite a few nonfiction books on various topics.  This one is not only a travelogue but a view into his own life and his time as a journalist on various newspapers.  One of his books on the end of slavery in Britain won the National Book Critic's Circle Award for the best nonfiction book of 2020.  This one is softer and readers will enjoy getting to know the authors as well as the places he visits.  This book is recommended for nonfiction readers. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Crazy Horse And Custer by Stephen Ambrose


When you mention Crazy Horse or George Armstrong Custer, what most people think of is the battle of Little Bighorn where Custer and all his troops were massacred.  But Stephen Ambrose has, in this book, concentrated on these two leaders' lives leading up to that meeting.

Custer was brave and impetuous.  He often went against orders if he thought he had a better plan and that characteristic had taken him far in his military career, both in the Civil War and in the Indian Wars against the Sioux.  He was vain and desirous of fame but one of the best soldiers the Army had as he could train his troops to a high level, view a field of battle and make successful adjustments on the fly and his stamina was noteworthy.  He had gone to West Point and made many contacts there.  The love of his life was his wife Libbie.

Crazy Horse was his exact opposite.  He was a quiet man, reserved and went into battles not with a full headdress but with one feather in his hair.  He wasn't a chief but was a battle leader and his words were taken with seriousness.  He and his peers were fighting for the survival of their way of life.  

On the day the two finally met, Custer made another of his quick decisions but this one was fatal.  He had split his forces into three parts and his section had around two hundred and fifty men.  One of the other sections did not attack as ordered and the other was too late.  Custer tried to get to the top of a hill where he could defend successfully until reinforcements arrived, but Crazy Horse and his fifteen hundred men got there first and swept down, massacring every man.

Stephen Ambrose has made his reputation writing historical books.  He was a historian by trade, a history professor.  He wrote over thirty books, many of which were bestsellers and adapted for movies and tv series.  In this book, as he contrasts the two men throughout their lives, showing how each lived as a child, a young man, a beginning leader and then a respected leader, he shows the strengths and fatal flaws of each man.  This book is recommended for nonfiction readers.

Monday, August 28, 2023

A Solitude Of Wolverines by Alice Henderson


When Alex Carter took a job in Montana to study wolverines and if they were existent in that part of the country, she thought it was a perfect job.  She had been in Boston for quite a while and missed being out in the wild country.  The work was interesting and although most people would hesitate before living alone in a deserted ski resort, Alex thrived on solitude and feeling like she was contributing to the environment.

But although Alex saw her work as worthwhile, it didn't seem the population around did.  Whenever she went into town for supplies, she was stared at.  Someone tried to run her off the road.  One of her camera traps was destroyed and she found evidence of both poaching and cattle grazing on the reserve's land.  

As the weeks went on, she found evidence of wolverines but the trouble continued and grew.  She started to feel stalked when she was out checking the land and found an injured man who then disappeared.  Was someone determined to run her off and could they succeed?

This is the first book in a series about the adventures of Alex Carter.  Alex is one of the most resourceful women I've ever read about, well prepared to spend months on her own in a hostile environment and able to quickly use whatever resources were around to get her way out of trouble when necessary.  The author is herself similar to Alex in that she studied in the same fields and also does wildlife surveys and is committed to saving local habitats for animals.  This book is recommended for thriller readers.

Friday, August 25, 2023

The Kingmaking by Helen Hollick


Everyone knows the legend of King Arthur.  But what most people know is the later legend, once Arthur is king and has his knights of the Round Table.  In this first book of a trilogy about his life, Helen Hollick gives the reader what came before that time.  It follows Arthur from the time he was fifteen until he eventually becomes king.

Arthur is the unacknowledged son of Uthr Pendragon, treated as the child of an unmarried maid.  This was done to protect him but it left him feeling less than those around him and unworthy.  When Uthr dies in battle, the secret comes out and Arthur becomes Pendragon but is not ready to rule.  He has met Gwenhwyfar as a child when they played together all one summer and pledged themselves to marry.  But reality and politics intrude.  Arthur makes a political match, marrying the current king's daughter, Winifred, although he detests her.

As Arthur grows older and stronger, he starts to make moves towards becoming king of all England.  He has never forgotten Gwenhwyfar and returns to her home after a battle injury, spending a summer with her and taking her as his wife by the old customs.  But there is still the king and Winifred, who both scheme and fight against him.  

Helen Hollick is known as a historical author specializing in English history.  This first book sets the stage for the later ones, establishing the love between Arthur and Gwenhwyfar and the political and military environments.  Hollick says in an afterward that there is no historical proof that any of these people existed but the legend of Arthur is one of the most enduring in English history.  This book is recommended for historical fiction readers.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Uprooted by Naomi Novik


Every ten years he comes.  The Dragon is a wizard who lives near the village, there to hold back the Wood.  The Wood that is home to strange and frightening things like Walkers that are seven feet tall and will steal children.  Anyone caught overnight in the Wood emerges changed forever, corrupted into something different and deadly.  So the village allows the Dragon to choose a servant girl every ten years, a girl that will never come home to the village after her decade of servitude.

Everyone is sure that this year Kasia will be the Dragon's choice.  She is smart, kind and beautiful.  But instead he chooses her best friend, Agnieszka when he senses that she has magic in her.  Agnieszka and everyone else is shocked.  She was the last one anyone would have suspected would be chosen.  She is messy and scatterbrained but she is his choice.

At first the Dragon is not sure if he made the right choice.  Agnieszka burns his meals, goes around in peasant clothes instead of the fine wardrobe he provides and worse, doesn't seem to be able to do the simplest spells.  Worse, she dares to speak her mind and talk back to him.  But slowly, Agnieszka starts to find her own magic, a more organic magic that can't always be found in books but must be sensed. 

When Kasia's mother comes to the tower with the news that the Walkers have taken Kasia, Agnieszka begs the Dragon to help her rescue her.  He doesn't believe it is possible but agrees and they manage to retrieve Kasia from the heart tree she has been captured in.  But it has left its mark on her and the rule is to kill anyone with a Wood mark.  But Agnieszka spends weeks fighting the Wood's corruption and she and the Dragon finally managed to free Kasia of the corruption.

That brings more trouble.  Twenty years ago the Queen was captured  Now the Prince and court want the Dragon to free her.  Once he and Agnieszka do that, it's expected that they remove the corruption.  Can that be done?  

This was my first book by Naomi Novik and I've discovered another great fantasy writer.  This is a retelling of Polish fairy tales and is at times romantic and others so tense the reader will grit their teeth while reading.  It won a Nebula Award and was a Hugo Award finalist.  Agnieszka is a spunky girl who discovers her strength and the fact that she can have the things she has dreamed of.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Kala by Colin Walsh


The six of them were an entire world and they didn't need anyone else.  The girls were Kala, Helen and Aoife.  Kala and Aoife have been friends since kindergarten.  Helen moves to town as they are all fifteen and slowly the other girls take her into their tight friendship.  The guys are Joe, Mush and Aidan.  Joe is the golden boy, top of his class and sports teams, good-looking.  Aidan is the wise guy with relatives who are on the shady side.  Mush is everyone's best friend, a chill guy who likes everyone.  Together they are invincible and take on the world, adventuring every day.  Kala and Joe are a couple but the rest are just friends.

But teenage friendships tend to fall away when adult lives intervene.  Joe became a rock star and has been living abroad in Hollywood.  He is also an alcoholic but that's a secret.  Aoife grew up, married and moved away.  Helen is living in Canada working as a free-lance journalist.  Aidan is no longer alive.  Mush was injured in an accident that left his face disfigured and these days just runs the cafe with his mom.  And Kala.  Kala disappeared at the end of that magic summer when they were all fifteen and no one knows what happened.

But now the gang is back together.  Helen's father is marrying Mush's aunt and Joe is also back in town.  They tentatively reunite but there's news no one expected.  Human remains have been found and soon they are identified as Kala's.  She was murdered.  Who would have done that and is the killer now looking for one of them?

This is a debut novel and Colin Walsh gets it right.  His recreation of teenage years when one is just finding their way and friends are everything is spot on.  The tension builds until I had to put the book down periodically and walk around a bit before reading more.  This is a debut novel from an Irish author noted as one of the best rising authors of his country.  The revelation about what really happened is a page-turner and the reader will remember the characters long after the book is finished.  This book is recommended for thriller readers. 

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Swashbucklers by Dan Hanks


Back when Cisco was a teenager, he and his friends saved his town, and the world, from disaster by closing a Hell Mouth opened by an evil  pirate and killing him.  Of course, no one knew except them and that suited them just fine.  They grew up, got jobs, married and had children.  Now Cisco has returned to town, divorced and with a five year old son.  He has noticed things are starting to appear again and there have been several suspicious deaths.  It looks like the pirate wasn't really killed and is strong enough after all this time to make another attempt to destroy the world.

But not everyone is ready to save the world.  Cisco's friends now have jobs and responsibilities.  It's not easy to fit in world saving around child care, meetings at work and spouses who aren't on board.  Even worse, for some reason his friends don't even remember saving the world but as Cisco tells them about it and things start to happen around them, they slowly start to remember and agree to help him kill the pirate once and for all. 

With their help plus the help of a talking fox and other magical beings such as fairies and gnomes, Cisco goes for to face the pirate for a final showdown.  He is helped by a girl he met back then who was trapped on the other side of the portal and who has the sword that the pirate has been looking for all this time.  Can they defeat the pirate and once again save the world?

Dan Hanks is an English author and an archaeologist whose work is in the fantasy genre.  He captures the spirit of the eighties in this novel and the longing of adults to return to their younger days with no responsibility.  It takes another worldwide disaster for Cisco to realize what is most important in his life; his son and his friends.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne

 This is the story of Cyril Avery from Ireland.  It follows his life from childhood to old age and that of the people he loves.  It is also an indictment of prejudice and a reinforcement that kindness and love are always in place.

Cyril is adopted as his parents often tell him.  His father is a rich bank executive and his mother a novelist.  When Cyril is seven, he meets his best friend, Julian, although he doesn't see him again for several years when they end up at the same school and roommates.  Cyril has a secret that is unimaginable to tell anyone in religion soaked Ireland.  He is gay which the priests are quick to tell everyone is a sin.

Cyril's life moves from Ireland to Amsterdam to New York and finally back to Dublin.  Along the way, he learns to accept his sexuality.  He meets a doctor in Amsterdam who becomes the love of his life and together they take in a street kid who becomes their son.  The two move to New York so that his mate can work in the AIDS epidemic and stay there until a tragedy occurs that takes Cyril back to Ireland to reunite with the only woman he ever loved, Julian's sister, Alice.  After much apology as he left her soon after their wedding, the two become friends again.  

John Boyne is an Irish author best known for his work, The Boy In The Striped Pajamas.  This novel is stunning in its wisdom and the ability to draw in the reader.  It puts Ireland on display for its prejudice and inability to welcome anyone different and the reliance on religion to determine one's life and the total power given to the priests there for so many years.  Cyril is a wonderful character who will live on in my memory for a long time.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Friday, August 18, 2023

The Book Of Cold Cases by Simone St. James


Shea lives a buttoned down life.  She was traumatized as a child by an attempted abduction which she managed to escape.  The man involved went on to commit a murder and has been in jail for nineteen years.  But he's now up for parole which sends Shea into a dark place.  She works as a receptionist in a doctor's office and is divorced after a short marriage.  She leaves as little a footprint on the world as she can. 

At night Shea comes alive.  She runs a website called The Book of Cold Cases which is a true crime website about all the murders that didn't get solved.  Shea investigates cases, writes articles and communicates with the other participants.  It's the one place she comes alive.  The case that still intrigues her happened in her own town, The Lady Killer murders.  Two men where shot and left by the side of the road with notes.  When the bullets from those murders matches an older crime that had been written off as a foiled burglary, suspicion falls on Beth Taylor, the daughter of the man shot in his kitchen.

Beth is nineteen, a rich, sultry heiress.  She refuses to act scared or cowed by the police or the press.  She is immediately labeled as a coldhearted woman capable of anything.  Beth is arrested and brought to trial after a witness says he saw her near the scene of the last murder but is acquitted.  Ever since then she has lived by herself in the mansion that is squarely in the town's wealthy section.  

Shea is shocked when Beth comes into the practice one day.  She follows her when she leaves and asks her for an interview.  To her surprise, Beth agrees.  Shea interviews her, the policeman involved who never believed Beth was guilty and Beth's lawyer.  While Shea starts to believe Beth was innocent, she is appalled by the state of her house and the mysterious events that happen there.  This could be her biggest case ever.

Simone St. James has carved out an interesting niche in the psychological thriller genre so popular today.  Her books are thrilling mysteries but also all have some supernatural events going on so that the solution comes from both logic and intuition.  Shea and Beth are both women whose early life has dictated their unwillingness to participate fully in life but has instead left them wary of others and the sudden events that can change a life.  This book is recommended for mystery readers. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave


This novel is set in London and Malta in the World War II years of 1939-1942.  It covers the life of several characters and describes their wartime lives.  Mary North is the daughter of wealthy, society parents and has never wanted for anything.  When war is declared she leaves her finishing school and volunteers at the War Office where she is assigned to be a teacher.  Tom and Alistair are best friends.  Tom works for the Education Office while Alastair is an art restorer and works at the Tate.  Alastair volunteers for the service and is quickly sent abroad while Tom stays behind to handle the educational needs of the children of London.

Mary has no background in teaching but quickly falls in love with the job and especially one student, Zachary, who is a black child.  He and the others are sent to the country but the prejudice there returns him to London.  Mary teaches him and other children not sent away such as those with disabilities and seems to be making progress.  She and Tom have fallen in love and are talking about marriage.  London is under the reality of daily bombings from the Germans and more and more people are affected.

When Tom and Mary meet with Alastair on leave from France before he is sent to Malta, Mary brings her best friend, Hilda, hoping she and Alastair will hit it off.  That is before she meets Alastair who when they meet, she falls in love with and he with her although each knows it is impossible because of their love for Tom.  Alastair goes away to Malta which was one of the worst postings in the war.  It was strafed and bombed daily for months and the soldiers were soon living in a fort on starvation rations.  

I generally stay away from World War II novels as I think the genre is overdone but I took a chance on this one as Chris Cleave is such a good author.  It was a marvelous book with sympathetic characters and scenes that brought home the reality of war better than most novels of its kind.  Mary starts as a spoiled child who quickly grows up and realizes that the world is changing around her.  Tom and Alastair are examples of the brave English men who just got on with it without complaint even when outnumbered and outsupplied.  The descriptions bring home the reality of war more than any book I've read of this time period and the sacrifices made by every characters makes one realize how lucky the United States has been not to have war fought on its land with the exception of the Civil War.  Being in the midst of war is much different from sending soldiers away and the gritty reality of bombings, loss of houses and relatives and friends and the daily sacrifices of everyone involved is breathtaking.  This book is recommended for readers of historical and literary fiction.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Now You See Me by Sharon Bolton


Lacey Flint is a young police constable in London.  She had a tough childhood and even lived on the streets for a while.  When she applied to join the force, the police thought her background might be useful in reaching out to the homeless population and she has spent much time with that group and with young girls trying to avoid the drugs and gangs around them. 

One night as she is leaving a girl's flat after reaching out to her, Lacey comes upon a middle aged woman who has just been attacked.  She has been stabbed brutally and dies before help can arrive.  Lacey is taken into the headquarters where the crime is to be investigated and then a note arrives implying that it is the work of a Jack the Ripper copycat.  Lacey knows a lot about that case as she had studied it as a girl and soon finds herself part of the team.  She likes the young DCI in charge, another woman.  Then there is Joesbury, a man who seems to suspect Lacey of being involved.  

The killings continue, all middle-aged women, each more brutal than the last and done on an anniversary of one of the Ripper's crimes.  Lacey gets drawn further and further into the case as she seems to be the target of the criminal and the police want her close, both for her expertise and to protect her.  Lacey, however, starts to think the crimes are not really a Ripper reenactment but tied to her own past and the secrets she hides there.  Will the killer get Lacey before the police can get him?

This is the first novel in the Lacey Flint series.  Lacey is a prickly character, full of secrets and unable to get close to people due to her childhood.  She has a knack for police work and investigation but seems drawn to danger and conflict.  Sharon Bolton is a British writer whose work burst on the scene and continues to be top-notch.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

City Of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett


This is the last novel in the Divine Cities trilogy.  As this one begins, the former prime minister Shara Komayd has been assassinated.  No one is taking credit but her friends think they know who is behind the heinous deed.  Her oldest friend, Sigrud je Harkvaldsson comes to the city where Shara was killed.  He finds a message she left behind asking him to watch after her adopted daughter.

Sigrud is known for his physical prowess.  He is good with any weapon and strong beyond most men.  For some reason, although he finds all his old friends aged, he has not aged.  Perhaps it is related to the scar on his left hand where he was tortured and made to hold a miracle sword until he bled and it branded him.

He starts on his mission but before he can leave the city he finds another mystery.  There are children who seem to have miraculous powers but all the gods have been killed and their miracles along with them.  One child tries to kill him while another saves him.  When he meets Shara's daughter, he finds she looks just like the girl who saved him.  What is going on?

It turns out that these are the children of gods and have powers.  One has turned into a power hungry tyrant and is seeking out his brethen and killing them to take their powers to add to his own.  He is the Night and rules over everything dark.  Can Sigrud and his accomplices defeat Night and save the children?

Robert Jackson Bennett is one of the best fantasy writers currently working.  This was his first trilogy and it was a Goodreads Reader Choice, British Fantasy and World Fantasy nominee.  The plot is intricate and the characters memorable.   Important characters lose their lives as one would expect in such epic battles.  The odds against the protagonists seem so daunting that the reader expects that all will end in defeat but there is always some hope.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers.

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Harsh Times by Mario Vargas Llosa


This novel is a fictional retelling of the political environment and events of life in Guatemala in the 1950's.  Jacobo Arbenz was the elected president of the country with a progressive agenda, especially land reform as foreign interests such as United Fruit held much of the best land leaving the native Indian population in poverty.  This agenda did not suit the business interests, which were focused mainly in the United States and asked for help from the government.  The CIA and President Eisenhower got involved, spreading lies that Arbenz was a Communist and that he was the beginning of communism taking over all of South America.  This led to a CIA backed coup that unseated Arbenz and installed Carlo Castillo Armas instead.

The story is told through the lives of various participants.  Notable among them was a woman known as Miss Guatemala who was the mistress of several of the men at the top and later a political journalist.  While serving as mistress to the President, she was also working with the CIA providing gossip and intelligence.  When events heated up, the CIA helped her escape to another South American country and eventually to the United States.  We also hear the story of the head of the security forces who was falsely accused of the murder and lost everything as he served time in prison.  Other players were forced into exile, roaming the earth in search of new lives but never finding them.

Mario Vargas Llosa is known for his books about the political events in South America as well as biographical novels about various writers and artists.  He was born in Peru but spent much time overseas during the turbulent times of the 1950's and 1960's.  His work is celebrated as exposing much of the background behind the events taking place and how foreign manipulation put the South American countries behind in their quest for independence.  I listened to this novel and the narrator was perfect; his accent and pronunciation of names added to the experience.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers as well as those interested in political events.

Friday, August 11, 2023

Field Of Graves by J. T. Ellison


Someone is targeting young girls.  The first body is found posed, nude, at the tourist attraction in Nashville called The Parthenon.  The second is found in the river.  Taylor Jackson and her team are called to the murders and soon realize that both girls are connected to Vanderbilt University so this will be a high profile murder.

Jackson is recently back at work after being involved in an internal situation where she ended up killing another detective.  She was cleared of any wrongdoing but her dreams haven't cleared her yet and most nights are consumed with nightmares.  

Dr. John Baldwin is an FBI profiler.  But he hasn't worked in months, not since one of his suggestions about a murderer led to three other FBI members being killed as they tried to arrest the culprit.  Baldwin feels guilty and can't believe he isn't the cause of three of his co-workers losing their lives.  He has come home to Nashville, taking a leave of absence from the bureau, although in his mind he has quit.  He is in a deep depression but agrees to help out Jackson's team when his former boss calls and asks him to.

More bodies turn up and they all have a connection to Vanderbilt.  Taylor and Baldwin work the case and soon sparks are flying between the two of them.  Both these wounded detectives could find a way out of their issues as they work to solve the case before more victims can be targeted.  There seems to be a connection to the classics and hopefully that will propel the case forward.

Although this is not the first book published about Taylor Jackson and her team, it is the first one in terms of backstory and introducing the characters.  There is Sam, the forensic pathologist who is Taylor's best friend.  Her team members' background and expertise are all explored.  Readers who are interested in police procedurals will find this a good introduction to a series that has been successful.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Crocodile Soup by Julia Darling


Gert Hardcastle does not have an ideal childhood.  She lives with her mother, Jean, who refuses to even speak to her, father George who despairs of marriage with Jean and sails off never to return and her twin brother Frank, a genius.  Gert is exiled to the attic bedroom which she believes is haunted.  At school, she is considered strange and has no friends.  

But she survives and becomes an adult.  Gert has a job at the local museum where she is a curator.  She is in love with Eva who works in the cafeteria.  Gert knew early that she didn't want men but preferred women.  Now that she is grown, Jean who left years ago is writing and asking for money or a home but years of apathy and dislike leave Gert unlikely to provide either.

This book was nominated for the Orange Prize in 1999.  This is Julia Darling's debut novel and is a bit uneven.  She writes in short bursts, giving episodes and incidents from Gert's childhood intermixed with adult events.  This time shifting is a bit confusing.  Readers will emphasize with Gert and wish her well on her journey from childhood to adulthood.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

The Late Americans by Brandon Taylor


This novel is about a group of grad students in an Iowa university, all in the creative arts.  Some are dancers, some are poets but all are attempting to make something new and unique in the arts and all are unsure if they are succeeding and if, in fact, it is even something worth doing.  We learn of each character's background and what brought them to this place and their inner thoughts.  Almost all of the characters are male with the exception of one female dancer.  The characters fall together and apart, some for an afternoon while others have longer relationships.

Brandon Taylor's first book, Real Life, was nominated for the Booker Prize.  Unfortunately, this one seems like a repeat in many ways of that one.  Both have the academic setting, the varied cast of characters who fall together and then apart and the apathy and depression he assigns to everyone.  These are an identifiable type of person, but not the reality of everyone.  There are optimistic people in the world, those who set out upon a goal and feel only pride and success when reaching it.  There are also those who fall in love and have a long and strong relationship but it seems that this author doesn't know any of those people.  Readers who are triggered by graphic sexual relationships should be aware that that occurs in this work and again, often the sex is brutal and unloving.  The writing itself is crisp and engaging and the reader is brought into the lives of the characters.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Monday, August 7, 2023

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht


Natalia is traveling with her friend, both doctors, to a small village in the Balkans to deliver vaccinations for the children there and provide some medications to the clinic as well as expertise for a few days.  On the way, she finds that her beloved grandfather has died, not at home as she would have expected, but only an hour or so from her destination.  

As she tries to process his death, she thins about the stories he told her growing up.  One was of the 'deathless man', a man who never dies but knows when others will.  She has also heard the story of the tiger's wife and it reminds her of the times when she and her grandfather would visit the zoo to see the tigers there.  

Natalia is crushed but determined to make her time count.  She helps a group of migrant workers who are digging in her host's vineyard.  She wants to treat a child of theirs who is sick but the father refuses.  The workers are digging for a relative the father had buried there years before and he insists that the body of this relative is making his family sick and nothing can be done until it is recovered and given a proper burial.  

This is a debut novel and garnered much praise.  It was a National Book Award finalist as well as being honored by various publications such The Library Journal and The New York Times.  Readers who have lost someone will sympathize with Natalia and her quest to make meaning of her grandfather's death.  Others will enjoy the look into a region of the world and its folktales that they didn't know.  Obreht was born in Yugoslavia and lived there until the age of twelve which gives realism to her work.  This book is recommended to literary fiction readers.

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Hart's War by John Katzenbach


The men at Stalag Luft 13 in Bavaria are captured soldiers in World War II, most of them aviators.  They are hunkered down, determined to survive and go home to the lives they left behind.  Most are grateful to have survived being shot down and just exist from day to day, eating from Red Cross packages to supplement their food rations and following the rules of the German guards.  But some are determined to escape.

Although all are in the same boat, there is always someone who gets an edge.  In Stalag Luft 13, that someone is Vincent Bedford, a Mississippi bomber who trades and can get you almost anything you want.  When a black airman, Lincoln Scott, arrives, he is ostracized and baited unmercifully by Bedford.  When Bedford is found murdered, Scott is immediately arrested for his murder.

The trial will be a military one carried out by the Americans under their judicial rules although if the decision is guilt, the Germans will carry out the firing squad sentence.  Their are three judges on the panel who will determine his guilt.  The prosecutor is a man who was a district attorney in Virginia while the defense is Tommy Hart, a man who plans to be a lawyer but was only starting law school when he joined the service.  He has spent his imprisonment reading law books and debating law with two men in the Allied camp, a British solicitor and a Canadian policeman.  Now he is starting his first trial in a murder case with a defendant heartily despised by many.

Hart and his team don't believe that Scott is guilty.  They think the prosecution's view of the case is wrong, in how it was done and the reason behind it.  Bedford was heartily disliked by most.  He could get you what you wanted but it always cost more than you wanted to pay.  Was the murder personal?  Was he just in the wrong spot that night?

John Katzenbach is known for his intricate novels of suspense and this novel falls in that genre.  It was later made into a movie.  The plot deftly combines the day to day life of a POW's internment with that of a murder, German overseers who have their own secrets and power plays and an escape attempt that would be the biggest ever.  This book is recommended for thriller readers. 

Saturday, August 5, 2023

Old God's Time by Sebastian Barry


Tom Kettle is a recently retired policeman.  His wife has died and his son and daughter are grown and gone so he has moved close to the sea, living in a small apartment next to his landlord and a woman with a small son.  He doesn't interact with anyone, spending his time walking and remembering his life.  

But that is about to change.  One night two policeman from his station show up at his door.  They tell him that the chief wonders if he would come in and help them out with a cold case, that his expertise and memories of the crime might be of use in finally closing the book on this one.  

Tom isn't sure about this as he thought his policing days were behind him.  But when his friend, the chief, also comes and asks, he agrees.  A few days later he goes and finds out that the case is one of a murdered priest.  Tom remembers the case as he and his partner were the investigating officers and he gives the new investigators what help he can.

But this has opened up Tom's memory.  Slowly, layer by layer, we start to uncover Tom's own secrets, the lies he has told himself in order to live.  We start to see that Tom's memory is not what it should be, that he is missing time, sometimes entire days and nights.  Will the true story of Tom's life ever be discovered?

Barry is one of my favorite authors, each work of his a gem in itself.  Although many of his novels are set in the past, this one is more recent.  It pits a man facing terrors in his own life and terrors at work against his memory.  How much can he bear to remember?  What is truth and what is fantasy?  This novel has been nominated for the Booker Prize and is another memorable work by an author at the height of his powers.  It is recommended for literary fiction readers.

Friday, August 4, 2023

Booksie's Shelves, August 4, 2023


Art by RF Skia & Culpeo S. Fox

It's the dog days of summer and what better to do than stay in and read?  Goodreads tells me that I've read 170 books and that's pretty close but I have a few I haven't gotten around to reviewing yet.  We were supposed to go visit our grandkids a few weeks ago but a case of covid in their house prevented it.  I'm reading there is a 'bump' of covid cases recently and I know I'm seeing a lot of friends on social media who have come down sick.  The Booker List was released this week.  I read one, Sebastian Barry's Old God's Time and have six of the others.  I also read and reviewed a lovely Booker nominee from 2014 the other day, History Of The Rain by Niall Williams.  Here's what's come through my door where I've been buying up series this month to finish where I've read the first book or decided I couldn't live without reading the series.

  1. Beholder, Ryan La Sala, horror, sent by publisher
  2. Where The Line Bleeds, Jesmyn Ward, literary fiction, purchased
  3. The Heart's Invisible Furies, John Boyne, literary fiction, purchased
  4. Life Class, Pat Barker,  historical fiction, purchased
  5. Infidel, Kameron Hurley, fantasy, purchased
  6. Rapture, Kameron Hurley, fantasy, purchased
  7. Killing Mister Watson, Peter Matthiessen, literary fiction, purchased
  8. Lost Man's River, Peter Matthiessen, literary fiction, purchased
  9. Bone By Bone, Peter Matthiessen, literary fiction, purchased
  10. Fever Dream, Samanta Schweblin, literary fiction, purchased
  11. Maidens Of The Cave, Lloyd Devereux Richards, mystery, sent by publisher
  12. The Peach Seed, Anita Gail Jones, Southern fiction, sent by publisher
  13. Death Valley, Melissa Broder, literary fiction, sent by publisher
  14. The Exiles, Christina Baker Kline, historical fiction, purchased
  15. The Cartographer's Secret, Tea Cooper, historical fiction, purchased
  16. Starling House, Alix E. Harrow, fantasy, sent by publisher
Here are my ebook purchases:
  1. Ember And Stone, Megan O'Russell, fantasy
  2. The House Of The Spirits, Isabel Allende, literary fiction
  3. Lost, Michael Robotham, mystery
  4. Ashes Of The Sun, Django Wexler, fantasy
  5. The Contessa Of Mostul Ubar, L. James Rice, fantasy
  6. If You Could See Me Now, Peter Straub, thriller
  7. Bone, George Chesbro, mystery
  8. Properties Of Thirst, Marianne Wiggins, literary fiction
  9. Justice, Larry Watson, anthology
  10. Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie, fantasy
  11. Tess Of The Road, Rachel Hartman, fantasy
  12. The Gap, Ninie Hammon, thriller
  13. Memphis, Tara Stringfellow, literary fiction
  14. The Sixth Wicked Child, J.D. Barker, thriller
  15. The Blood Doctor, Barbara Vine, mystery
  16. The Wall Of Storms, Ken Liu, fantasy
  17. The Punishment She Deserves, Elizabeth George, mystery
  18. The Secret History, Donna Tartt, literary fiction
  19. Betrayal Of Trust, J.A. Jance. mystery
  20. Sophie's Choice, William Styron, literary fiction
  21. The Second Death Of Goodluck Tinubu, Michael Stanley, mystery
  22. The Bleeding, Johana Gustawsson, thriller
  23. Many Rivers To Cross, Peter Robinson, mystery
  24. Caleb's Crossing, Geraldine Brooks, literary fiction
  25. The Kingdoms Of Savannah, George Dawes Green, mystery
  26. Bad Art Murders, George Cleaver, mystery
  27. The Lost Girls Of Camp Forevermore, Kim Fu, thriller
  28. The Buddha In The Attic, Julie Otsuka, historical fiction
  29. The Summer Of The Bear, Bella Pollen, literary fiction
  30. Exit, Belinda Bauer, mystery
  31. Feed, Mira Grant, horror
  32. A Place Of Hiding, Elizabeth George, mystery
  33. Shardik, Richard Adams, fantasy
  34. The Enemy At Home, Kevin O'Brien, historical fiction
  35. The Evening Star, Larry McMurtry, literary fiction
  36. A Morning For Flamingos, James Lee Burke, mystery
  37. Cherry, Nico Walker, literary fiction
  38. Honeycomb, Joanne Harris, fantasy
  39. Rotherweird, Andrew Caldecott, fantasy
  40. Tidepool, Nicole Willson, horror
  41. The Book Of Hidden Things, Francesco Dimitri, fantasy
  42. The Brass Queen, Elizabeth Chatworth, historical fiction
  43. Soul Remains, Sam Hooker, fantasy
  44. Peril In The Old Country, Sam Hooker, fantasy
  45. The Damage Done, Michael Landweber, literary fiction
  46. A Cast Of Falcons, Sarah Yarwood-Lovett, mystery
  47. The Impossible Dead, Ian Rankin, mystery
  48. Longing For Sin, Kennedy Layne, mystery
  49. Thirst For Sin, Kennedy Layne, mystery
  50. Dead Of Winter, Tom Threadgill, mystery
  51. Coming Of Winter, Tom Threadgill, mystery
  52. Winter's Fury, Tom Threadgill, mystery
  53. The Englishman's Boy, Guy Vanderhaeghe, literary fiction
  54. The Last Crossing, Guy Vanderhaeghe, literary fiction
  55. What Never Happened, Rachel Howzell Hall, mystery
  56. The Hanging City, Charlie Holmberg, fantasy
  57. Attribution, Linda Moore, literary fiction
  58. American Midnight, Adam Hochschild, nonfiction
  59. All's Well, Mona Awad, literary fiction
  60. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck, literary fiction
  61. Court Of Assassins, Philip Quaintrell, fantasy
  62. The Forever King, Ben Galley, fantasy
  63. The Bright Side Of Disaster, Katherine Center, women's fiction
  64. We Are The Brennans, Tracey Lange, literary fiction
  65. Difficult Women, Roxane Gay, anthology
  66. Commonwealth, Ann Pratchett, literary fiction
  67. The River Why, David James Duncan, literary fiction
  68. Swimming Lessons, Claire Fuller, literary fiction
  69. The Great Believers, Rebecca Makkai, literary fiction
  70. Late City, Robert Olen Butler, literary fiction
  71. The Bean Trees, Barbara Kingsolver, literary fiction
  72. Gunmetal Gods, Zamil Akhtar, fantasy
  73. Conqueror's Blood, Zamil Akhtar, fantasy
  74. The Library Of The Dead, Tendai Huchu, fantasy
  75. Luna, Ian MacDonald, science fiction
  76. Isolate, L.E. Modesitt, fantasy
  77. Obsidian, Sarah Daley, fantasy
  78. Silver Under Nightfall, Rin Chupeco, fantasy
  79. When The Devil Drives, Christopher Brookmyre, mystery
  80. A Wasteland Of Strangers, Bill Pronzini, mystery
  81. Empire Of The Senseless, Kathy Acker, literary fiction
  82. Blood Hunt, Ian Rankin, mystery
  83. Yumi And The Nightmare Painter, Brandon Sanderson, fantasy
  84. Blade And Bone, D.K. Holmberg, fantasy
  85. City Of Fog And Ruin, D.K. Holmberg, fantasy
  86. This Is Happiness, Niall Williams, literary fiction
  87. The Lost War, Justin Lee Anderson, fantasy
  88. The Anarchy, William Dalrymple, nonfiction
  89. The Road Home, Jim Harrison, literary fiction
  90. Don't Know Tough, Eli Cantor, thriller
  91. All He Ever Wanted, Anita Shreve, literary fiction
  92. Android Karenina, Ben Winters, fantasy
  93. The Assembler Of Parts, Raoul Wientzen, literary fiction
  94. The Girl Who Survived, Lisa Jackson, mystery
  95. At Night All Blood Is Black, David Diop, literary fiction
  96. Dirty Laundry, Disha Bose, mystery
  97. Memorial, Bryan Washington, literary fiction
  98. The Lost Man Of Bombay, Vaseem Khan, mystery
  99. Maverick Gambit, Marjorie King, science fiction
  100. Rogue Invasion, Marjorie King, science fiction
  101. Prodigal Schemes, Marjorie King, science fiction
  102. The Book Of Essie, Meghan Weir, literary fiction
  103. In A Summer Season, Elizabeth Taylor, literary fiction
  104. The Dead Tell Lies, J.F. Kirwan, mystery
  105. Homegrown, Jeffrey Toobin, nonfiction
  106. Little Birds, Anais Nin, literary fiction
  107. The Secret Intensity Of Everyday Life, William Nicholson, literary fiction
  108. Five Sparrows, Dan Alatorre, mystery
  109. American Black Widow, Greg Olsen, true crime
  110. Undercurrents, Maria Frankland, mystery
  111. Early Grave, Paul Levine, mystery
  112. One Last Prayer, Wes Markin, mystery
  113. Search, Michelle Huneven, literary fiction
  114. The Island At The Center Of The World, Russell Shorto, literary fiction
  115. Rattlesnake Wind, Lilith Saintcrow, mystery
  116. Underland, Maxime Durand, fantasy
  117. The Murder Loop, Ben Barnes, mystery
  118. Route 666, J.D. Toepher, horror
  119. Widespread Panic, James Ellroy, literary fiction
  120. Chronicle Of A Death Foretold, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, literary fiction
  121. Rimrider, L.A. Kelley, science fiction
  122. Berserker Of Gambria, pdmac, fantasy
  123. 48 Hours To Kill, Andrew Bourelle, mystery
  124. Into The Minds Of Madmen, Don Denevi, true crime
  125. Last Call, Elon Green, true crime
  126. Beyond The Bone, Reginald Hill, mystery
  127. October Light, John Gardner, literary fiction
  128. The Son Of Seven Mothers, Benjamin Risha, nonfiction
  129. Altdorf, J.K. Swift, fantasy
  130. Verge Of Darkness, Ollie Odebunmi, fantasy
  131. The King's Banquet, Ollie Odebunmi, fantasy
  132. A Chill Wind Blows, Ollie Odebunmi, fantasy
  133. Siege, Ollie Odebunmi, fantasy
  134. The Outsider, Stephen King, horror
  135. Promise Of The Witch-King, R.A. Salvatore, fantasy
  136. The Rise Of Light, Olivia Hawker, literary fiction
  137. The Killing Moon, N.K. Jemisin, fantasy
  138. Small Animals Caught In Traps, C.B. Bernard, literary fiction
  139. In Service Of Death, JD Kirk, mystery
  140. Good Neighbors, Sarah Langen, literary fiction
  141. You'll Get Yours, Gerald Hansen, mystery
  142. The Tower Of Fools, Andrej Sapkowski, fantasy
  143. Asymmetry, Lisa Halliday, literary fiction
  144. A Room Away From The Wolves, Nova Suma, horror
  145. Valient Gentlemen, Sabrina Murray, literary fiction
  146. A Carnivore's Inquiry, Sabrina Murray, thriller
  147. The Invisible Library, Genevieve Cogman, fantasy
  148. Really Good, Actually, Monica Heisey, literary fiction
  149. The Wise Women, Gina Sorrell, literary fiction
  150. American Gods, Neil Gaimen, fantasy
  151. Lark And Termite, Jayne Anne Phillips, literary fiction
  152. One Of Us Is Lying, Karen McManus, thriller
  153. Dragon Forged, D.K. Holmberg, fantasy
  154. The Couple At The Table, Sophie Hannah, mystery
  155. You Betrayed Me, Lisa Jackson, thriller
  156. Red Hood, Elana Arnold, horror
  157. The Art Of Fielding, Chad Harbach, literary fiction
  158. The Southern Book Club's Guide To Hunting Vampires, Grady Hendrix, thriller
  159. A Hat Full Of Sky, Terry Prachett, fantasy
  160. Stories From The Tenets Downstairs, Sidik Fofana, literary fiction
  161. Belgravia, Julian Fellowes, literary fiction
  162. Redemption, Deborah Ledford, mystery
  163. Cloud Girls, Lisa Harding, literary fiction
  164. Disappearance At Devil's Rock, Paul Trembley, mystery
  165. Collected Essays, Joan Didion, nonfiction
  166. Fellowship Point, Alice Elliot Dark
Here's what I'm reading:
  1. The Heart's Invisible Furies, John Boynes, hardback
  2. City Of Miracles, Robert Jackson Bennett, paperback
  3. March, Geraldine Brooks, Kindle
  4. Everyone Brave Is Forgiven, Chris Cleave, Kindle
  5. The Violin Conspiracy, Brendan Slocumb, Kindle
  6. The Tiger's Wife, Tea Obreht, paperback
  7. Crocodile Soup, Julia Darling, hardback
  8. Crazy Horse And Custer, Stephen Ambrose, paperback
Happy Reading!

The Last Painting Of Sara De Vos by Dominic Smith


Amsterdam, 1631.  New York, 1957.  Sydney, 2000.  At first glance, there is nothing to tie such disparate locations and dates together.  But Dominic Smith ties them together gloriously with the story of a painting.  Sara De Vos is an artist in Amsterdam, one of the few female artists, who are normally restricted to painting still lives of fruit and flowers.  But when her daughter, seven, dies in one of the fevers that periodically sweep the land, she branches out and paints a picture that is set outside in winter and that expresses her grief and sorrow.

In New York, Ellie Shipley is finishing up her doctorate, although it isn't going well.  She had thought she would be a restoration artist but decided that the academic side of art was more to her liking.  She is approached by a man who occasionally uses Ellie for restoration work.  He has come by Sara De Vos' painting which has been in the same family for hundreds of years and wants Ellie to make a reproduction.  She does so and then falls in love with Jake, who is in actually Marty who was the owner of the work and who has tracked her down.

Years later in Sydney, Ellie is about to retire.  She has been a professor for years, her work based on her expertise on the work of Sara De Vos and other Dutch women artists.  The museum that partners with her university is doing an exhibition of these women artists and Ellie is prominent in the event.  When two paintings done by Sara De Vos and both of the same scene are loaned to the exhibition, Ellie knows that she is about to be exposed as Marty is bringing one of the paintings.  

This is a gorgeous book.  I've had it for several years and remember all the praise it garnered when it was released.  Usually, a book with so many characters spread across so many years and locations is difficult to follow but this one seems organic in its ability to draw the reader in as we go from place to place.  Dominic Smith is an Australian by birth and this novel was a New York Times Editor's Choice.  The suspense and the beauty portrayed in the picture, the grief and secrecy that always surrounded it, all work together to propel the work forward.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers. 

Thursday, August 3, 2023

The History Of Rain by Niall Williams


Ruth Swain lies in her bed in her attic room on the family's farm in Ireland.  She has a mysterious ailment that no doctors can diagnose but that made it impossible for her to stay in university or to leave her room.  She spends her time reading and fending off romantic gestures from her childhood friend who has always been in love with her.

Her mission in life is to figure out her father, Virgil.  He had come to the village after fleeing the disapproving house and his stern minister father that he had grown up with.  In between, he spent years on ships traveling the world.  When he came to the village, no one could believe that he won the heart of the village beauty, Ann, but he did and they married.  After years of trying and finally giving up the couple had twins, Ruth and her brother.

Ruth has decided that the way to discover her father is to read the over three thousand books he has left her.  She does that and reminisces about him, her mother, their courtship and love over the years and his poetry, for outside of farming and reading, he was a poet although no one was ever allowed to see his poems.  

This novel was written in 2014 and nominated for the Booker Prize in that year.  It is an exploration of character and family relationships, of love and others' expectations.  Ruth is most like her father and finding the secrets of his character is her life's mission.  Although she seems to have buried herself in her room, the reader is left with the hope that she finds a way forward, to accept love and a way to have a life while honoring the memory of her parents. Her memories are lyrical and hopeful and make this novel a joy to read.   This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.