Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Obedience by Will Lavender

 

It's the strangest class Mary has had at Winchester University.  Logic and Reasoning 204 is a six week class and Mary hopes its an easy A.  There are rumors about the professor, Leonard Williams.  Some say he has a scandal in his past, others say that this class was more than they could handle.  

When Professor Williams comes in, he tells the students there is no syllabus.  They have one assignment.  A girl is missing and if they can't find her before the end of the class, she will be killed. The students will receive clues every week and the class time will be devoted to figuring out what they have done and discovered from the clues. The first clue is that the girl's name is Polly and she disappeared recently from their town.

The class is agog.  Is this real?  Is there really a girl out there who needs their help?  Why hasn't the professor gone to the police?  Mary and two male students, Dennis and Brian, start to work together to see what they can discover.  They are soon caught up in a mire of misdirection and suspicious circumstances.  It appears that a girl has gone missing, or is it two girls?  What are their connections with Professor Williams?  Is he part of the crime?

This is an interesting book.  There are more twists and turns than one can imagine and all the time there is a clock ticking.  Is this girl real?  What is her connection to the professor?  Who are the good guys and who is dangerous?  Readers will be drawn into the mystery as it changes from one moment to the next.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.


Monday, October 30, 2023

Mercy by Jodi Picoult

 


Cameron McDonald didn't expect his life to change much from this point on.  He was the clan chief of a group of immigrated McDonalds and although it was mostly an honorary title, it still bore responsibility.  He was also the small town's police chief so he was a leader in every aspect of his life.  He was married to Allie and while his marriage wasn't that exciting, it was stable and met his needs.  

But change is around the corner.  One morning a truck pulls up outside the police station.  Inside is Jamie McDonald, a cousin.  He has come to confess to killing his wife Maggie.  Maggie had terminal cancer and had begged Jamie to put her out of her pain.  He had finally consented.  But mercy killing has no place in the law and Jamie is quickly arrested.  Soon the town is split in two, those who support Jamie's actions and those who support the law.

Another change is coming.  Allie hires a new assistant, Mia.  When Cameron meets her, he is instantly struck with longing and a feeling that she is the one he was meant for.  Soon the two are having an affair and Cameron questions his life.  Can he leave Allie and his job and travel with Mia?  Can he have a life of no responsibility?

Jodi Picoult is known for novels that pose moral questions.  This one is about assisted suicide and whether it is a moral choice.  It is also about whether we all deserve the life we dreamed of or whether the everyday responsibilities that life gives us are more important than what we wanted.  The characters are interesting and readers will have differing views of Cameron, Mia, Jamie and Allie.  This book is recommended for readers of literary and women's fiction.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Nightmares & Dreamscapes by Stephen King

 

In this anthology of twenty-one stories, Stephen King once again shows the world why he is considered the master of the horror genre.  Horrors revealed include a town where visitors are treated to the best rock show of their lives, only to find that they have signed up for a lifetime gig as an audience.  In another story, a finger emerges from the bathtub drain, scratching and scratching.

My favorite story wasn't a horror story at all.  The last story in the book was the retelling of the year that King's son, Owen who is now a novelist on his own, was on a Little League team that won the Maine championship title.  His love for his son, the game and his son's teammates and coaches shines through the description of several games that led to the title.  It gives a view into the everyday life of King as a father and family man.  

Fans of King's writing will enjoy these stories.  This book is recommended for horror fans.

Saturday, October 28, 2023

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich

 

The year is 1953, the place North Dakota.  Thomas Wazhask is worried.  A senator in Washington has introduced a bill that would terminate the Chippewa tribe and the support they receive from the government.  Thomas knows that even if they call it emancipation, it is a ploy to take away what land the tribe members still have.  The tribe is poor and when support is taken away, will soon have to sell what little they have which is the land.  The tribe members will be taken to cities and tribe unity, culture and traditions will be destroyed.

Thomas is the night watchman at a factory that he and others managed to get located near the reservation.  Most of the workers are women as they tested higher on the manual dexterity tests.  Patrice is one of those workers.  She has recently graduated from high school and she is the only person working in her house.  Her wages support her mother, brother, grandmother and sometimes her drunken father.  She wants more out of life but isn't sure how to go about it.  Her sister, Vera, went to the city and the family hasn't heard from her and is worried.  Patrice goes to try to find her but finds the same trickery and attempts to prostitute her that Indian women often find.  She is helped by Wood Mountain, a young man who boxes and thinks he is maybe ready to settle down.

This book is based on the life of Erdrich's own grandfather and his fight against the termination of his tribe.  He was successful.  This book won the Pulitzer Prize in 2021 and is another in the bountiful array of works that Louise Erdrich has written that give others a view into the lives of Native Americans and the issues that they face.  It is stirring, heartrending and comedic at times.  Readers will learn about the Native American history and some of the issues they fight to this day.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Lone Women by Victor LaValle

 


They came on their own to Montana.  In Montana, a woman could get a homestead although in most places it was unthinkable for a woman to own land by herself.  If she could stick it out for three years and improve the land, it was hers.  Adelaide Henry is one such woman.  She left her dead parents behind and came out West with a hundred dollars and a large steamer trunk.  Once she gets there, she wonders how she ever thought she would be able to handle this.

But Adelaide has a secret in that big steamer trunk.  Something that lives.  Something that kills.  Something that will protect her from the villains she meets.  There is the woman she shared a cart with on the last leg of her journey and her four blind sons.  They seem harmless but are in reality conmen who travel the land stealing and killing.  There are men who come by sure that Adelaide would welcome male company and are determined to make her enjoy it.  There are the townsfolk who are easily led by a group of vigilantes.

But Adelaide finds friends as well.  Her closest neighbor, another lone woman with a young son.  The only other black woman in the territory who makes and sells liquor.  The Chinese woman who does the town's laundry while searching for the grave of her father so she can honor his bones in their country's traditions.  These strong women welcome Adelaide into their midst and together this group is as dangerous as any men could ever be.

Victor LaValle has exploded onto the writing scene.  He works the territory between horror and fairy tales and this novel does that successfully, giving the reader chills along with the history of the Montana territories and a view of the West they won't soon forget.  Adelaide is strong when she arrives but by the novel's end she learns that strength is doubled and tripled when matched with other women's strength.  She also learns that family is everything and that family is who you choose for it to be.  This book is recommended for fantasy and horror readers.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

The Lowland by Jhumpi Lahiri

 

Two brothers, Subhash and Udayan, grow up in a poorer section of Mumbai.  Subhash is the older but Udayan is the leader, taking them on adventures on the lowland past the ponds and having them sneak into the private club located there.  As the boys grow, they start to move apart.  Subhash is determined to go to America to get his education while Udayan become embroiled in one of the groups who are pushing for revolution in India.

Subhash ends up in Rhode Island.  He is happy there and wonders if he will ever return to India until he gets the message; Udayan is dead.  He rushes home to find that Udayan was killed by the government as a terrorist and his wife is left behind, pregnant and scorned by his parents with whom she lives.  He marries Udayan's former wife and takes her to America.  But the marriage never works although Subhash desperately loves the child they have.

The novel follows the lives of these three, Subhash, his wife and their daughter.  There is love between him and the daughter but the wife seems to care little about either of them and eventually leaves to make her own life.  

This book was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and a finalist for the National Book Award.  Lahiri is of Indian background although she was born in London and raised in Rhode Island.  She has written several novels and anthologies of the Indian experience, both in that country and as immigrants to others.  This book explores the relationship between siblings as well as that between husband and wife and parent and child.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

A Flicker In The Dark by Stacy Willingham

 

Chloe Davis has been running from her childhood her whole life.  When she was twelve, there was a series of teenage girls who went missing and were never found.  Chloe was the person who found their jewelry tucked away in a box in her parents' closet and gave it to the police.  Her dad confessed and has been in prison for the last twenty years.

Chloe had a horrific six years after his imprisonment with her mother becoming so depressed that she ignored the children and people in town determined to take out revenge on someone in the family.  Her daily life was taunts, smears and sometimes physical violence from those who lost a sister, daughter or friend.  She got out as soon as she could like her brother Cooper did, went to LSU and got a degree that lets her now practice as a psychologist.  Recently, she has become engaged to Daniel and she thinks she has finally put the past behind her.

But the past isn't done with Chloe.  Twenty years later, girls start missing in Baton Rouge where Chloe now lives and the missing girls have connections to Chloe.  One is a patient and another a girl she had met while shopping.  Who could be doing this?  Who is copying her father?  A New York Times reporter comes to town to do an article on her father after twenty years but stays to report on this new, more exciting story.  He asks Chloe to help him and reluctantly she agrees.  Can they find the killer?

Stacy Willingham has created an interesting look at what happens to the families of killers.  The killer is often locked away, safe from victims' families revenge but the killer's family is left to deal with what the killer has done.  They feel guilty, persecuted, unable to believe they were blind to what was going on and unable to believe any good memories they might have.  As Chloe stumbles from one theory to another, the tension increases until all is revealed.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Monday, October 23, 2023

The One That Got Away by JD Kirk

 


Detective Inspector Heather Filson's life isn't great at the moment.  She was recently demoted from DCI to DI and now reports to a man who doesn't have a clue how to solve crimes.  Her father is living with her as he is in the early stages of dementia and she doesn't know what to do about that yet.  Then there is the murders.  Two girls have been kidnapped and one has been found murdered.  All the clues match up with crimes that happened when Heather was a child, although it was thought that crime had been solved.  That killer had kidnapped Heather when she was five but she managed to get away and survived although with serious physical and psychological damage.

The latest girl who has disappeared is the granddaughter of the city's most ruthless crime boss.  That adds more complexity to Heather's life as she has to convince him that the police will take care of this and that having his men maul suspects to try to get answers is just slowing down the process.  Will Heather find the killer before more girls go missing?

This is the first novel in the Heather Filson series.  JD Kirk is a Scottish writer and his DCI Logan series and his Robert Hoon series are both bestsellers.  Heather is a believable character with understandable flaws and issues.  As she works through the crime, it brings back memories from her own past which she is now adult enough to understand and process and which help her solve the crimes.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Nettle And Bone by T. Kingfisher

 

Everyone thinks that Marra's life should be wonderful since she is a princess.  But Marra doesn't want to be a princess.  She doesn't want to be married off to a prince she doesn't know and she doesn't want to have children just to secure a kingdom.  Her oldest sister had been married to Prince Vorling of the North Kingdom to secure their kingdom's harbor and safety.  When she died, Marra's middle sister was sent to marry him.  Marra knows that if anything happens, she would be next.

When she finds out that Votling is a tyrant and a wife-beater, she decides that she has to rescue her sister.  The only way she can see to do it is to kill the prince, but she knows she would need help.  She travels to the home of the Dust-wife, who can talk to the dead.  In order to get started, Marra must make a cloak of nettles, a dog of bones and capture moonlight in a jar.  When she completes these tasks, she and the Dust-Wife start their journey.  They rescue a knight, Fenris, from the Goblin Market and pick up Agnes, Marra's godmother.  Then off they go to save Marra's sister, kill a king and secure a kingdom.

This is my first T. Kingfisher fantasy novel but it won't be my last.  There is plenty of adventure but there is also comedy and warmhearted stories.  Marra starts as a shy girl who is afraid of everything and ends as a strong independent woman who can do anything she sets her mind to.  The characters are wonderful and the world building is terrific.  This book got lots of buzz and it deserves everything it got.  This book is highly recommended for fantasy readers. 

Saturday, October 21, 2023

The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett

 

Sabine's life changed forever that night when Parsifal, a magician, called her up from the audience to be his assistant.  She never looked back and for twenty years accompanied him all over the world.  She was madly in love with him and Parsifal loved her after a manner, but he was gay and the love of his life was Phan, a Vietnamese man who was wealthy from a software invention.  When the two men became ill with AIDS, Sabine moved in to take care of them both and after Phan died, Sabine and Parsifal married.

But it was a short marriage, less than a year.  After Parsifal's death, Sabine was left with a huge house, money and no idea what she would do for the rest of her life.  Parsifal had no family or so he had always said.  But when the will was read, Sabine was shocked to find that he had a mother and two sisters living in Nebraska.

Even more surprising was that the family wanted to meet her.  The mother and one sister came out to California.  Sabine took them around to various places she and Parsifal had frequented and she found out that Parsifal's family had loved him exceedingly even if he had left at seventeen and never returned.  After they left, Sabine agreed to come to Nebraska for one of the sister's wedding.  There she met the other sister and Parsifal's two nephews.  She learned the dark secrets of his life and began to figure out how she would move forward with her own.

This was Patchett's third novel.  It is full of the touchstones of her writing; human relationships that didn't go to plan but were what the individual had to work with.  Her characters are striving to learn what they need to have a happy life and loving someone is often the way forward.  Sabine has given her life to others but maybe it's time she got something for herself as well.  This book is recommended for readers of literary and women's fiction.


Friday, October 20, 2023

Morgue by Dr. Vincent Di Maio and Ron Franscell

 


This is the story of Dr. Vincent Di Maio, a forensic pathologist, his career and the cases that stuck with him the most.  It begins with the case of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman which electrified the nation when Zimmerman shot Martin, killing him.  There were two opposing stories.  In one, Martin was just a young teenager out for a walk in his father's neighborhood when Zimmerman chased him down and shot him for no reason.  In the other, Martin attacked Zimmerman and in the struggle, the gun went off and Martin was killed.  People were adamant in whichever version they believed but Dr. Di Maio testified that the forensic evidence supported Zimmerman's version.

Other cases that stuck with him were an immigrant in Montana who served several years in prison when his wife was found dead.  He was convicted of murder but Di Maio proved the death was a suicide.  He worked on several cases where women killed babies.  Genene Jones was a nurse who killed other people's babies while the other case was a woman who killed her own babies.  Di Maio worked on and discusses a second autopsy on Lee Harvey Oswald and the case of the Memphis Three where lurid rumors sent three teenagers to prison for half their lives for the murder of three young boys which they probably didn't commit.

Ron Franscell is a well known true crime and mystery writer and he tells the story of Dr. Di Maio.  Di Maio makes a point of discussing how few forensic pathologists there are and how many more are needed.  There are around five hundred certified forensic pathologists in the United States and many deaths are probably mistakenly given causes of death that aren't accurate.  This book is recommended for true crime readers.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

When You Trap A Tiger by Tae Heller

 

Lily Bean and her big sister Sam are not happy with their mother at all.  She has picked them up and moved them to another town without asking them.  It's where their grandmother lives and they love her but they miss their school and friends.  

But soon they realize why they have moved.  Their grandmother, their wonderful eccentric grandmother who tells them stories from their Korean culture, is sick.  In fact, she is maybe dying.  How can this be?

Lily is sure there is something she can do.  When she sees a huge tiger, she knows it is the one from all the stories her grandmother tells.  She asks the tiger to help but the tiger could care less.  Finally, the tiger agrees to help if Lily can find all the stories that her grandmother stole from the tigers and return them.  Lily sets out on her mission with the help of friends she has made in the new town but can she be successful?

This book is a Newberry Award winner.  It helps children deal with several childhood issues many will encounter.  The first is dealing with a family change like moving to a new house or town.  It helps them realize that each culture has legends and stories that are unique and that define those belonging to that culture.  Finally, it helps them realize that sometimes, no matter how much you love someone, they cannot stay but must move on to the next step in their journey.  Children often encounter the deaths of grandparents so this issue is quite important.  This book is recommended for young adult readers or parents trying to help children deal with change.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

True Detectives by Jonathan Kellerman

 

Aaron Fox and Moses Reed are brothers but couldn't be more different, sharing little more than the same mother.  Aaron is black, Moses is white.  Their fathers were both cops, partners and friends.  When Aaron's father was killed in the line of duty, Reed's father took over looking after the family and then married the mother and they had Moses.  Both followed in their father's footsteps and became police detectives.  Moses is still an LAPD homicide detective but Aaron went private several years ago.

Now the brothers must work together.  A woman named Caitlin Frostig disappeared several months ago.  It's Moses's cold case and now Aaron has been assigned the case by his most wealthy private client, because Caitlin's father works for him.  The two aren't sure what happened and up to now have made little progress on the case.  But surely working together, if they can, will open up new avenues of investigation.

Soon the two realize that the case is bigger than Caitlin.  Another woman and her baby also disappeared and Caitlin was the baby's babysitter sometimes.  The case falls into the territories of drug dealing, prostitution and Hollywood actors and rich sons that walk on the dark side of Hollywood and sometimes find more than they expected.  Can Caitlin's murder be solved?

Jonathan Kellerman is best known for his detectives Milo Sturgis and psychologist Alex Delaware.  Both of those characters turn up in this book but in a tangential way.  Milo is Moses's mentor and his idol, the policeman he hopes to be like one day.  The two consult Dr. Delaware about the personalities of those they encounter as they work the case.  There are twists and turns and the final twist is one the reader won't expect.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Monday, October 16, 2023

Desolation Canyon by P. J. Tracy

 


The Children Of God religious group has chosen to make their retreat in the desert.  Death Valley.  Many say that the group has helped them with their issues, drug or alcohol addiction, lack of meaning in their life, grief over the death of a loved one.  But there's a dark side to the Children Of God.  Their leader, Father Paul, is really an ex-con, a man who only looks to make a profit however he can.  His group is into many crimes that the average person never has a clue about.

Detective Margaret Nolan and her partner are busy back in Los Angeles on a murder case.  Margaret and a date had actually found the body of a successful lawyer in the lake of a luxury hotel while strolling through the grounds.  As they investigate the killing, they learn that he has a connection to the Children Of God.  That upsets Margaret as her mother is currently there working through her grief over the loss of her son.  Is her mother in the hands of a cult?

P.J. Tracy was originally the pseudonym of a mother/daughter writing duo.  After her mother's recent death, Traci Lambrecht, the daughter, created the Margaret Nolan mysteries.  This one is the second in the series and there are now three.  There are lots of threads in this mystery.  There is an ex-army man trying to put his life back together, drug running, child trafficking and a mother and her small daughter trying to escape from the cult.  The author is able to pull all the threads together and create enough interest in her characters that the reader is interested in reading more of the series to find out what happens to them next.  This book is recommended for mystery readers. 

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Stone Blind by Natalie Haynes

 

This is the story of Medusa, one of the Gorgon sisters.  But it is told not from the viewpoint of Perseus, who kills her, but from that of Medusa.  Medusa is half human.  When she is raped by Poseidon in Athena's temple, Athena is outraged.  Unsure if she wants to get in a battle with Poseidon, instead she punishes Medusa by replacing her hair with snakes and by changing her eyes so that any living thing that meets her eyes is turned to stone.

Perseus is not seen as a hero but as a bumbling fool who would have had no chance of success if he had not been helped by the gods.  He was given Hermes's sandals to help him run and Hades's hat to make him invisible.  He was given the quest of bringing a king a gorgon's head to save his mother from being married to the king against her will.  As he returns from his quest, he saves Andromeda, who is set as a sacrifice for her mother's hubris.  

Natalie Haynes is an English author who is considered one of the world's foremost experts on mythology.  She gives lectures on the subject and has written several novels on the subject.  The novel reads easily, in short chapters and approachable text.  It is not the dry mythology many expect when reading on the subject.  Readers will be interested in this feminist approach to mythology rather than the male-centric viewpoint that was traditional.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and those interested in mythology.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

The Mistress Of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

 

Tilo is the mistress of spices.  She has lived many lives in many places.  She has been a young woman in a family in India, a pirate queen, an acolyte on the Island of Spices.  Now she lives in Oakland, California, where she has come to provide the wisdom of spices to those who believe who are living there.  She inhabits the body of an old, gnarled woman and is forbidden to leave the store where she sells her spices and makes her potions.

But Tilo finds herself pushing on the limits she is given.  Although it is forbidden, she finds herself getting close to certain ones of her customers, trying to improve their lives through her advice along with her spices.  She even leaves the shop to try to help certain customers.

Then Raven appears.  He is an American but has come to her shop.  He flirts with her, an old woman, and says he sees through her skin to her heart.  Tilo cannot help but wonder what it would be like to experience love with a man although she knows she cannot do that and continue as the mistress of spices.  What will she choose?

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni was born in India but came to the United States to continue her education.  She has written numerous novels.  This book was nominated for the Woman's Prize in Fiction and was made into a movie.  Tilo is an example of the immigrant experience, wondering if she should continue in her old ways or adopt new ones in the new country she has come to.  Should she take a chance on love or is that forbidden to her?  This book is recommended for readers of diverse cultures and for literary fiction readers.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Booksie's Shelves, October 11, 2023

 

Art by RF Skia and Culpeo S. Fox

It's autumn, favorite season of many book readers and definitely me.  I'm not a fan of summer at all so cooler temperatures and colorful scenes make me happy.  I've been reading up a storm and I've read two hundred and twenty books so far this year.  So many authors have great new books coming out.  Two I've loved lately are Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff and The Fraud by Zadie Smith.  Here's what's come through the door lately:

  1. Exordia, Seth Dickinson, science fiction, won in contest
  2. The Year Of The French, Thomas Flanagan, historical fiction, purchased
  3. The Bear Comes Home, Rafi Zabor, literary fiction, purchased
  4. All The Birds, Singing, Evie Wyld, literary fiction, purchased
  5. A True Account, Katherine Howe, historical fiction, sent by publisher
  6. Like A Sword Wound, Ahmet Altan, literary fiction, purchased
  7. The Arrest, Jonathan Lethem, literary fiction, purchased
  8. The Outlander, Gil Adamson, historical fiction, purchased
  9. The Things We Didn't Know, Elba Iris Perez, literary fiction, sent by publisher
  10. The Lighthouse, Alison Moore, literary fiction, purchased
  11. What Feasts At Night, T. Kingfisher, horror, sent by publisher
  12. Annie Dunne, Sebastian Barry, literary fiction, purchased
  13. Mao II, Don Delillo, literary fiction, purchased
  14. A Long Long Way, Sebastian Barry, literary fiction, purchased
  15. The Night Swimmers, Peter Rock, literary fiction, purchased
  16. Philadelphia Fire, John Edgar Wideman, literary fiction, purchased
  17. Harvest, Jim Crace, literary fiction, purchased
  18. A Disaffection, James Kelman, literary fiction, purchased
  19. How Late It Was, How Late, James Kelman, literary fiction, purchased
  20. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, Roddy Doyle, literary fiction, purchased
  21. The Wall, John Lanchester, literary fiction, purchased
  22. The Devil's Feather, Minette Walters, mystery, purchased
  23. Fox Evil, Minette Walters, mystery, purchased
  24. The Echo, Minette Walters, mystery, purchased
  25. Lazy Bones, Mark Billingham, mystery, purchased
  26. The Barracks Thief, Tobias Wolff, purchased
Here are the ebooks I've purchased:
  1. The Shape Of Snakes, Minette Walters, mystery
  2. Gringos, Charles Portis, mystery
  3. An Unkindness Of Ravens, European Douglas, mystery
  4. The Unforgiving Stone, Alex Dunlevy, mystery
  5. Dancing With The Viper, Amy Beatty, fantasy
  6. The Virtu, Katherine Addison, fantasy
  7. Corambis, Katherine Addison, fantasy
  8. Demolition Angels, Robert Crais, mystery
  9. When We Were Sisters, Fatimah Asghar, women's fiction
  10. The Last Flight, Julie Clark, mystery
  11. The Elevator, Claire Cooper, mystery
  12. These Still Black Waters, Christina McDonald, mystery
  13. The Last Chance Lawyer, William Bernhardt, legal thriller
  14. The Temporary Gentleman, Sebastian Barry, literary fiction
  15. Angel, Elizabeth Taylor, literary fiction
  16. All Systems Red, Martha Well, science fiction
  17. The Dentist, Tim Cross, thriller
  18. The Mark, Matt Brolly, mystery
  19. Blood On The Shore, Simon McCleave, mystery
  20. Red Dirt Road, S. R. White, mystery
  21. Rabbit Cake, Annie Hartnett, literary fiction
  22. Conviction, Michael Cordell, mystery
  23. Of Love And Shadows, Isabel Allende, literary fiction
  24. The Stargazy, Martha Grimes, mystery
  25. Darwin's Blade, Dan Simmons, thriller
  26. The Need, Helen Phillips, mystery
  27. A Special Kind Of Evil, Blaine Pardoe, true crime
  28. Prayers The Devil Answers, Sharon McCrumb, mystery
  29. The Plague Stones, James Brogden, horror
  30. The Map Of Time, Felix Palma, fantasy
  31. The Mine, Antti Tuomainen, mystery
  32. Lightning Rods, Helen DeWitt, literary fiction
  33. Out Of The Mouths Of Serial Killers, Mary Brett, true crime
  34. After He Died, Michael Malone, literary fiction
  35. Jungle Of Steel And Stone, George Chesbro, mystery
  36. Born Guilty, Reginald Hill, mystery
  37. Singing The Sadness, Reginald Hill, mystery
  38. The Fifth Suspect, Robert McNeil, mystery
  39. The Shepherd's Crown, Terry Prachett, fantasy
  40. Small World, Jonathan Evison, literary fiction
  41. Let Me Be Frank With You, Richard Ford, literary fiction
  42. The Poison Tree, Alan Pendergrast, true crime
  43. The Angel's Game, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, thriller
  44. A Good Marriage, Kimberly McCreight, thriller
  45. After You'd Gone, Maggie O'Farrell, literary fiction
  46. Don't Look Away, Rachel Abbott, thriller
  47. 12 Bytes, Jeanette Winterson, literary fiction
  48. A Calculated Risk, Katherine Neville, women's fiction
  49. The Green Man, Kingsley Amis, literary fiction
  50. Magnitized, Carlos Busqued, true crime
  51. The Haunting Of Maddy Clare, Simone St James, thriller
  52. Candles And Roses, Alex Walters, mystery
  53. Death Parts Us, Alex Walters, mystery
  54. Their Final Act, Alex Walters, mystery
  55. Bullet Train, Kotaro Isaka, mystery
  56. Do Not Disturb, Freida McFadden, thriller
  57. Silver Sparrow, Tayari Jones, literary fiction
  58. Next Victim, Helen Durrant, mystery
  59. The Eighth Life, Nino Haratischvili, literary fiction
  60. Little Siberia, Antti Tuomainen, mystery
  61. An Orc On The Wild Side, Tom Holt, fantasy
  62. The Stolen Boys, Joy Ellis, mystery
  63. The Salt Roads, Nalo Hopkinson, literary fiction
  64. Bryant & May And The Burning Man, Christopher Fowler, mystery
  65. A Killer's Game, Isabella Maldondo, mystery
  66. Plagues And People, William McNeil, nonfiction
  67. The Praxis, Walter Jon Williams, fantasy
  68. The Accidental War, Walter Jon Wiliams, fantasy
  69. Skylight, Jose Saramago, literary fiction
  70. The Chaneysville Incident, David Bradley, historical fiction
  71. The Female Persuasion, Meg Woltizer, literary fiction
  72. Upheaval, Jared Diamond, nonfiction
  73. My Daughter's Killer, Jacquline Grima, mystery
  74. The Midcoast, Adam White, literary fiction
  75. The Veiled One, Ruth Rendell, mystery
  76. A Killer In The Wind, Andrew Klaven, mystery
  77. Blood Stained, CJ Lyons, mystery
  78. Kill Zone, CJ Lyons, mystery
  79. Love In The Days Of Rebellion, Ahmet Altan, historical fiction
  80. Asta's Book, Ruth Rendell, mystery
  81. The Perfume Killer, Linda Hagen, mystery
  82. A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry, literary fiction
  83. The Day Of The Scorpion, Paul Scott, historical fiction
  84. These Shallow Graves, Jennifer Donnelly, mystery
  85. Thunderstruck, Erik Larsen, nonfiction
  86. What Remains, Wendy Walker, mystery
  87. Once Upon A Lie, Rebecca Taylor, literary fiction
  88. The Emissary, Yoko Tawada, literary fiction
  89. Wolfskin, W.R. Gingell, fantasy
  90. The Djinn In The Nightingale's Eye, A. S. Byatt, anthology
  91. Accused, Amber Hunt, true crime
  92. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman, literary fiction
  93. The Golden Key, Marian Womack, fantasy
  94. Such Kindness, Andre Dubus III, literary fiction
  95. The Family Game, Catherine Steadman, mystery
  96. The Days Of Abandonment, Elena Ferrante, literary fiction
  97. A Particular Eye For Villany, Ann Granger, mystery
  98. The Murderer's Apprentice, Ann Granger, mystery
  99. A Better Quality Of Murder, Ann Granger, mystery
  100. The Dead Woman Of Deptford, Ann Granger, mystery
  101. Rack, Ruin And Murder, Ann Granger, mystery
  102. The Atonement Murders, Jennifer Ruff, mystery
  103. Gone, Mo Hayder, mystery
  104. Outback, Patricia Wolf, mystery
  105. They Met In A Tavern, Elijah Menchaca, fantasy
  106. Lapvona, Ottessa Moshfegh, literary fiction
  107. The Ladies Of The Secret Circus, Constance Sayers, fantasy
  108. We Have Always Been Here, Lena Nguyen, literary fiction
  109. Spellslinger, Sebastian de Castell, fantasy
  110. The Zone Of Interest, Martin Amis, literary fiction
  111. The Path Of Thorns, A. G. Slatter, fantasy
  112. Of Wolves And Men, Barry Lopez, literary fiction
  113. The Bonnie Dead, Andrew Raymond, mystery
  114. Cadillac Jack, Larry McMurtry, literary fiction
  115. The Family Jewels, Caimh McDonnell, mystery
  116. A Bend In The River, V.S. Naipaul, literary fiction
  117. The Man In The Wooden Hat, Jane Gardam, literary fiction
  118. The Last Of The Firedrakes, Farah Oomerbhoy, fantasy
  119. The Icehouse, JJ Richards, mystery
  120. The Stolen Hours, Allen Eskens, mystery
  121. Battlemage, Stephen Aryan, fantasy
  122. The Quarantine Station, Michelle Montebello, literary fiction
  123. The Case Of The Baker Street Irregulars, Anthony Boucher, mystery
  124. Stolen In The Night, Patricia Macdonald, thriller
  125. Death Message, Mark Billingham, mystery
  126. Buried, Mark Billingham, mystery
  127. Clean Hands, Patrick Hoffman, literary fiction
  128. The Collected Works, Vol I, Neil Cross, mystery
  129. The Collected Works, Vol II, Neil Cross, mystery
  130. The Flood, G.N. Smith, mystery
  131. A Big Ship At The Edge Of The Universe, Alex White, science fiction
  132. Neverworld Wake, Marisha Pessl, literary fiction
  133. The Spy Coast, Tess Gerritsen, mystery
  134. All The Little Raindrops, Mia Sheridan, mystery
  135. The Wickwire Watch, Jacqulyn Hagan, fantasy
  136. Dragon Thief, Blake and Raven Penn, fantasy
  137. Gilchrist, Christian Galacar, horror
  138. The Girl In Cell 49B, Dorian Box, thriller
  139. The Hiding Girl, Dorian Box, thriller
  140. The City Stained Red, Sam Sykes, fantasy
  141. Waiting For Sunrise, William Boyd, literary fiction
  142. The Six, Anni Taylor, thriller
  143. More Than I Love My Life, David Grossman, literary fiction
  144. Sea Of Tranquility, Emily St. John Mandel, fantasy
  145. Under My Skin, Lisa Unger, mystery
  146. A Killing Of Innocents, Deborah Crombie, mystery
  147. Guardian Angel, Sara Paretsky, mystery
  148. Men We Reaped, Jesmyn Ward, memoir
  149. The Red House, Roz Hoskins, thriller
  150. Ghost Song, Sarah Rayne, mystery
  151. The Dragon's Dagger, R.A. Salvatore, fantasy
  152. Melusine, Katherine Addison, fantasy
  153. The Mirador, Katherine Addison, fantasy
  154. A Sport And A Pasttime, James Salter, literary fiction
  155. Three Days Missing, Kimberly Belle, mystery
  156. The Book Of Skulls, Robert Silverberg, mystery
  157. Thrice The Brindled Cat Hath Mewl'd, Alan Bradley, mystery
  158. The Rise Of Oshbob, Kevin Sinclair, fantasy
  159. Daros, Dave Dobson, science fiction
  160. The Vanishing Act Of Esme Lennox, Maggie O'Farrell, literary fiction
  161. Folklorn, Angela Hur, fantasy
  162. The Quality Of Life Report, Megan Daum, literary fiction
  163. Queen Of Deception, various, fantasy
  164. Outpost, F.T. McKinstry, fantasy
  165. Between Sisters, Kristin Hannah, literary fiction
  166. The Vanishing Velasquez, Laura Cumming, nonfiction
  167. They Will Be Coming For Us, Kim Catanzarite, fantasy
  168. Call The Canaries Home, Laura Barrow, women's fiction
  169. Gardens Of The Moon, Steven Erikson, fantasy
  170. Termination Shock, Neal Stephenson, fantasy
  171. The Betrayed, Jeff Wheeler, fantasy
  172. The Druid, Jeff Wheeler, fantasy
  173. The Hunted, Jeff Wheeler, fantasy
  174. The Therapist. B.A. Paris, mystery
  175. Silk Road, Colin Falconer, historical fiction
  176. In The Shadow Of Lightning, Brian McClellan, fantasy
  177. Glacier's Edge, R.A. Salvatore, fantasy
  178. The 7th Canon, Robert Dugoni, thriller
  179. Count The Ways, Joyce Maynard, women's fiction
  180. The Perfect Ending, Rob Kaufman, thriller
  181. The Knowledge, Martha Grimes, mystery
  182. Snap, Belinda Bauer, mystery
  183. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver, literary fiction
  184. Memorial Drive, Natasha Trethewey, memoir
Here's what I'm reading:
  1. Desolation Canyon, P.J. Tracey, audio
  2. Nightmares And Dreamscapes, Stephen King, paperback
  3. The Mistress Of Spices, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, paperback
  4. True Detectives, Jonathan Kellerman, hardback
  5. When You Trap A Tiger, Tae Keller, Kindle
  6. Hamnet, Maggie O'Farrell, Kindle
  7. Stone Blind, Natalie Haynes, hardback
Happy Reading!



Tuesday, October 10, 2023

The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff

 

She has had many names.  Lamentations given to her by those who wanted to shame her for being found on the streets, probably the daughter of a whore.  Zed by her mistress from age four who wanted to minimize and erase her.  Hurtful names by men who wanted her and defamed her when she wouldn't agree to their desires.  

Her job in her mistress's home was to dance and sing to entertain her many visitors and to watch the baby, Bess, who was born simple.  The mistress became widowed and fell in love and remarried to a man who wanted to go to the New World where he thought he would get rich.  Where the mistress went, so did the girl and Bess so they endured a long sea voyage and finally were delivered to a fort.

But the New World is not what they thought.  The fort is full of gruff men and illness.  As a plague rages, starvation becomes an everyday reality.  After Bess dies, the girl packs up a few things, a hatchet, some covers, a bag to hold food and sneaks off.  She knows she will be followed and runs and runs and runs.

The girl just keeps moving.  She had once seen a map and thought if she went north, she would eventually get to the land of the French which she spoke.  Perhaps her life would be better there.  But soon the reality of the wilderness is evident.  She walks and runs until her feet are ruined.  Food is almost impossible to find and she is often reduced to eating insects and moss.  She is always cold, always hungry, always exhausted.  Yet still she goes forward, hoping for a better life.

Lauren Groff is one of the shining stars of American literature and I read everything she writes.  This book is the reality of the early settlers of our country where many came to pursue a dream and found a nightmare.  She touches on the dangers to women who were, many thought, only born to serve men and the relations between the settlers and the Native Americans.  The writing is compelling as all of Groff's writing is and the reader will be entranced by the vision she lays out.  This book is recommended for readers of literary and historical fiction.

Monday, October 9, 2023

Final Vows by Karen Kingsbury

 


Carol Montecalvo only saw the best in people.  She met Dan through a prison outreach program.  She wrote weekly to him and then went to visit him.  Soon the two were in love and despite the objections of friends and family, Carol married Dan.  Dan had joined self improvement programs in prison, was now sober and had found religion.  

But once Dan was out, things weren't as rosy.  He found employment challenging as most employers weren't as forgiving as Carol and soon was back to gambling, drinking and seeing other women.  Carol never complained either to Dan or about him to others.  Instead she tried to make things work as best she could.

The two were about to go on a Hawaiian vacation Carol had won at work.  They went on a neighborhood walk and when they got home, Carol went in first.  Soon, Dan was calling 911, reporting Carol had surprised a burglar and that both of them had been shot.  Dan survived, Carol did not.  But when the police discovered Dan's background and that he had insured Carol's life for more than half a million dollars, he was suspected and arrested.

Karen Kingsbury has written the true crime story of the Montecalvos.  Most readers will find Carol a bit na├»ve and wonder what she ever saw in Dan and why she believed that he could change and that they could have a successful marriage.  She paid for those beliefs with her life.  The book follows the case through the trial.  This book is recommended for true crime readers.

Sunday, October 8, 2023

The Fraud by Zadie Smith

 

England is agog at the trial of the man claiming to be Sir Roger Tichbourne.  Is he really the lost heir to extensive lands and a title or is he an Australian butcher who read the messages offering a reward for news of the heir after his ship was wrecked at sea?  The man on trial is overweight and knows none of the history and languages Sir Roger did.  His speech is common and so are his manners and dress.  But Sir Roger's mother declared he was her son before she died.  A former slave, Andrew Bogle, who grew up on the Tichbourne estates, both in England and Jamaica, also insists this is Sir Roger.  Who is right?

The household of the novelist, William Ainsworth is one that is following the trial raptly.  He was once more popular than Charles Dickens but his work lately has not been well received.  His second wife, his former maid, is a rabid believer in the claimant, loving him for all the common traits that tell against him as she was raised with men like him.  The household is run by Eliza Touchet, a widow who is Andrew's cousin.  She manages the house but also used to manage Andrew's career.  Over the years, she has had affairs with both Andrew and his first wife but these days has given up love.  She in entranced with Andrew Bogle and feels that he is the key to the trial.  

This novel is Zadie Smith's venture into historical fiction but it is much more.  She examines the veracity of what has occurred and the difficulty of pinning down the truth in many situations.  The novel also examines the fraud of declaring slavery unlawful and that those enslaved are free.  How can they be free when they are left with nothing?  When they are not accepted by society or those who had enslaved them?  Then there is the fraud existent in many relationships.  Is Eliza being kind or cruel when she hides the truth about his career from Andrew?  Is it fraud when she hides the sexual relationships she has had within the family?  Readers will read this for the history but find themselves pondering the hidden depths within the novel.  This book is recommended for readers of historical and literary fiction.

Saturday, October 7, 2023

The Maid by Nita Prose

 

Twenty-five year old Molly is a bit at loose ends.  When Gran was alive, she knew exactly what to do all the time.  But since Gran died a few months ago, she feels adrift.  She knows what to do at her job at a five star hotel where she is a maid but after work she has no company and although the apartment is still a haven, she is falling behind on the rent.  Molly lives by rules and does everything with excessive detail. She sees the world very literally and is often considered strange or robotic by others.   She is perfect as a maid but has no real friends.

Then the day.  She enters the suite of the Blacks, who are often at the hotel.  She finds Mr. Black lying dead on the bed.  Mrs, Black, Giselle, had shown Molly some kindnesses and Molly believes they are friends.  She sees pills like the ones Giselle takes near the body and knows that Giselle was unhappy with her husband, who cheated on her and sometimes beat her.  When Molly reports the death, she is careful not to say anything to the police about her friend Giselle.

She has a couple of other people at the hotel she interacts with.  The doorman was an old friend of Gran's and he looks out for Molly as best he can.  She has a crush on the bartender and has befriended one of the dishwashers.  She finds an empty room each night for the dishwasher as a favor for the bartender.  When the police decide Molly is the perfect suspect, some of these individuals help her and others use her as a dupe.

This book garnered a ton of buzz.  It was a finalist for the Edgar Award and was recommended or chosen as a best book by various media outlets.  Molly is someone apparently on the spectrum and seeing the world through her eyes and how easily she is fooled is revelatory.  She assumes the best of everyone and is easily fooled due to her assumptions that everyone lives by the same morality and rules as she does.  Readers will worry about her and delight in the book's ending.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, October 6, 2023

Prose And Cons by Wendy Corsi Staub

 


Lily Dale, New York, is a unique small town.  It is home to the largest concentration of medium and psychics in the country and visitors flock there to get a reading or to communicate with someone they have lost.  Bella Jordan and her son Max have recently moved to Lily Dale after her husband's death.  She runs the Valley Vista guesthouse, which she bought from an English medium, Pandora.

But now Pandora has an urgent request.  Her long lost aunt, her only living relative, is coming to visit her in Lily Dale.  Pandora has never told her about her contentious divorce or that she lost the inn and she wants Bella to help her keep her secret.  Pandora will move back in during the visit.  Oh and by the way, she expects Bella to put Eudora and her companion Nigel up for free as they think they are staying with family.

Bella reluctantly agrees and regrets it when she meets her visitors.  There is something off about the pair and she finds it hard to believe that these people are related to Pandora who is one of her favorites.  Then things start to make it even more uncomfortable.  Bella can tell that someone is searching every room of the house, including her and Max's rooms.  Then there is the vet who is interested in her but is it too soon after her bereavement?  

This is the fourth novel in the Lily Dale series.  This is a cozy mystery with little violence and lots of cooking and relationship troubles.  Readers who haven't heard of Lily Dale will be interested to hear about its history and continuing draw as a supernatural town.  Wendy Corsi Staub has written over ninety novels and is best known for her psychological suspense novels.  This book is recommended for mystery readers who prefer the cozy genre. 

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Stranger Child by Rachel Abbott

 

Emma and David met after both had suffered tragedies.  Emma's longtime fiance had suddenly broken up with her and several months later, committed suicide.  David's story was worse.  His family was in a car accident one night.  His wife was killed and his seven year old daughter was never seen again.  Had she wandered off and died?  Had someone taken her that night?  Both stunned by life, they met and fell in love and now have a small child, Ollie.

But life isn't through with them yet.  One day Emma comes into the kitchen to find a teenage girl standing there.  It is Natasha, David's lost child.  Emma and David are shocked and rush to hug the girl but she pushes them away.  She won't tell them anything about where she has been or what she has been doing.  She holes up in her old bedroom with the door locked and refuses to speak.

DI Tom Douglas is brought into the case.  Tasha refuses to speak to the police either but Douglas is determined to find out the truth.  He soon realizes that Tasha has been caught up with the local crime lords and that they apparently have been using children to help in their drug deliveries and other crimes.  There is a big job planned and apparently Tasha may be involved.  That is confirmed when Tasha takes Ollie for a walk and returns to the house without him.  Now the same cruel men who have had her for years have Emma and David's toddler.  

This is the fourth novel in the Tom Douglas series.  Rachel Abbott does a good job of threading together disparate timelines and cases to a stunning climax.  There are lots of twists and turns and the reader will be on the edge of their seat, hoping against hope that Ollie can be returned to his parents. In the first five years of the Kindle in the UK, Abbott was the top selling independent author and this book shows why readers love her work.   This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

The Deadhouse by Linda Fairstein

 

Lola Dakota, an esteemed professor in New York City, has died.  In fact, she died twice.  The first time was a sham, a ruse set up by the police to catch her husband in a murder-for-hire plot.  It went perfectly and her violent ex-husband is arrested and charged.  But later that same day, Lola's body is found, this time really dead, at the bottom of an elevator shaft in her apartment building, which she had just returned to after weeks of staying with a friend.

This time, the crime occurs in assistant DA Alexandra Cooper's jurisdiction.  She had tried to help Lola before the ruse but Lola had dropped charges several times.  Now she is dead and it is up to Alexandra along with NYPD detective Mike Chapman, to find the murderer and bring him or her to justice.

There are plenty of candidates.  There is, of course, her ex-husband, Ivan.  He was safely in jail when the murder occurred but someone as obsessed and rich as he was could have hired someone.  There is the professor who lives in Lola's apartment house who is under suspension at the university, suspected of fraud and unsure who turned him in.  There is Lola's work at the archeological and social digs of the ruins on an island where those sick of various diseases were kept; the nicknamed structure The Deadhouse.  Lola had been found with a note with those words on her body.  She was involved in the dig with several other professors and there's talk of dissension on the site.  Who killed Lola Dakota?

This is the fourth novel in the Alexandra Cooper series.  She is a woman obsessed with her work and career, dedicated to helping other women escape the violence of men.  Her work obsession leaves little time for romance although she has a man very interested in her.  Alex is suspicious of getting close to anyone and romance has never been her forte.  Her joking relationship with Mike Chapman is about as much as she really wants and there are restrained sparks between those two.  The novel has lots of murder suspects and most readers will be surprised to learn the identity of the person who committed the crime.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Monday, October 2, 2023

The Angel Maker by Alex North

 


When Katie was a teenager, a tragedy happened in her family.  Her brother, walking home, was attacked by a stranger who was caught cutting him severely, leaving him with lifetime scars.  Katie felt responsible as she was supposed to walk home with him, but had sent him off by himself while she spent time with her boyfriend.

Years later, Katie married that boyfriend and now has a baby with him.  Her brother, Chris, hadn't been so lucky.  Scarred physically and emotionally, he ended up turning to drugs to blot out the world and has wasted years in drug addiction.  

Now someone is killing in their town and Katie feels her family being pulled in.  The police believe the killings are somehow related to a serial killer caught in the vicinity years ago known as The Angel Maker as he killed young children, sending them to Heaven.  The latest victim of this killer was an older man who was also Chris' employer now that he has been sober for a while.  But it seems that this killer's next target may be Chris or even Katie or her child.  Can the police and Katie unravel the mystery before another murder occurs?

Alex North has become a dependable name in the suspense genre.  His plots often seem like disparate threads to begin with but slowly weave together, racketing up the terror as they come together.  The roots of Katie's problems go back decades and explores the question of what we owe our original families as we grow up and form new families.  This book is recommended for mystery and suspense readers.