Sunday, December 31, 2023

The Doomsday Mother by John Glatt


Some people should never meet.  Two of those include Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell.  Lori was an attractive woman who was on her fourth marriage.  She had three children, a son and daughter by her third husband and an adopted son with her fourth husband, a millionaire named Charles Vallow.  Charles also had two biological sons from a prior marriage who spent summers and holidays with the couple.  Chad Daybell had made a name for himself as an author and publisher specializing in Mormon literature.  He held conferences where he was the keynote speaker and had a following for his teachings and prophecies about the end times that he saw coming.  He had married his childhood sweetheart, Tammy, and they had five children.

Both Chad and Lori were members of the Church of Latter Day Saints.  Both were interested in radical prophecies.  And once they met each other, each was interested in the other and saw themselves as slated to be together.  Before they managed to make that vision come true with their marriage, death surrounded them.  Both Lori's husband and Chad's wife were murdered as was her two children, Tylee from her fourth marriage and JJ, the son that she and Charles had adopted.  Lori's brother was also dead from natural causes and he was suspected of doing most of the murders to protect his sister.  He had gone to jail for tasering her third husband who Lori had accused of being a pedophile.  He shot Charles Vallow and claimed self-defense and is suspected of killing both of Lori's children.

The trials of this couple are still ongoing.  Lori has already been convicted of conspiracy in the deaths of her children and sentenced to life in prison without parole.  Chad's trial is upcoming for six charges of murder conspiracy.  Many are convinced that Lori fell under Chad's spell and would never had done the crimes she did without being convinced that the end of the world was coming and that her children were possessed and could only be cleansed by killing them.  Regardless of whether that is true, what is true is that if this couple had never met, at least four people would probably be alive.  

John Glatt was born in London and moved to the United States after working on newspapers there.  He is known for his books about true crime and his five biographies.  In addition to this book, he has written about the murders of Alex Murdaugh in South Carolina and Chris Watts, a family annihilator.  This work clearly lays out the early lives of both of the couple and establishes a timeline of the crimes that are so hard to believe.  I listened to this book and the narrator read in a direct, no nonsense, lay out the facts tone.  This book is recommended for true crime readers.

The Ink Black Heart by Robert Galbraith


Strike and Robin are given another challenging case.  Edie Ledwell and her partner Josh created an online cartoon, An Ink Black Heart, that has become a major success.  There is talk about Netflix turning it into a series and some fans are upset that the cartoon is becoming commercialized.  One group, who have created an online game to go along with the cartoon, are particularly outrages.  Edie has come to Robin because she is being stalked online by a group of fans from the game, especially the leader, Anomie.  

Before Robin and Strike can get started on the case, Edie and Josh are tasered and then knifed in Highgate Cemetery where the cartoon is set.  Edie is killed and Josh is paralyzed.  The police are handling that case but the agency is hired to identify Anomie and put a stop to him.  

The agency is overloaded but they take the case.  Strike has also taken the case of finding out something on Jago Ross, the man who married his long time lover Charlotte so that the couple's divorce won't drag him into publicity he doesn't want.  There is a case of a son stealing from his parents and the usual infidelity cases.  All in all, the agency is stretched and the Anomie case turns into a long slough, difficult to make headway on as most of the action is online.  Robin goes undercover and becomes a player in the game and they make some progress.  Then more people are killed and Strike and Robin learn that the game has become a meeting place for some right-wing militants.  Can they solve the case?

This is the sixth book in the Strike series and it is a long one.  Robin and Strike are still trying to deny their attraction to each other and each is using other partners to hide the truth from themselves.  There are plenty of suspects; the militants, the members of an art cooperative, various members of the anime world and those hoping to make their fortune from the cartoon or game.  This case seems more dangerous than past ones and fans will be glad to settle back into this world that Galbraith has created.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Final Account by Peter Robinson


DCI Alan Banks has just gotten a bad one.  A man, coming home from his anniversary dinner with his wife, returns to find his daughter tied up in their kitchen.  The two men who did that tie up his wife as well then take the man to the garage and use a shotgun to his head to kill him.  The man was a financial advisor.  Who would want him dead?

As the investigation proceeds, Banks and his team discover that the murdered man is caught up in some shady financial transactions.  Did that lead to his death?  He was also leading a double life, boring family man at home, womanizer and fun loving guy under a different identity.  He had another identity, another apartment and several other women.  Did his double life cause his death?

This is the seventh book in the Alan Banks series.  In this one, Banks realizes that he shares some characteristics with the dead man.  His own marriage is in trouble of failing as he and his wife lead increasingly independent lives.  He is losing a member of his team to transfer and a former member has returned.  Banks is himself tempted to consider infidelity although he doesn't succumb to the temptation.  The murder has twists and turns and is a very strong entry in the series.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid


Saeed and Nadia meet and fall in love in a war torn city.  Every day it becomes more dangerous to be there as the militants and the government fight over territory.  Nadia is fiercely independent while Saeed is more traditional and a gentle man.  As things get worse, Saeed invites Nadia to come and stay with him and his parents in their apartment and eventually she does.  As buildings crumble around them and air strikes become a daily event, hope appears.  There are doors that will allow people to flee to other countries.

Saeed and Nadia go through one of the doors that popped up to flee elsewhere.  Their first stop is on a Greek island.  Later they go to London where immigrants are fenced into a section of the city and live under a fear that those native to the land will attack.  Every day more and more immigrants use the doors to go elsewhere, fleeing westward ever westward.  Eventually the couple ends up in California on the coast where they live for many years.  

This book is an analogy for the immigration happening worldwide.  Many countries such as Germany, France, the United States, Canada, India and England find themselves as destinations for those fleeing to safety.  How to handle a massive influx of newcomers?  How will they be fed, provided medical care?  Are there jobs?  Will the countries that are full of strife and terror ever return to their old ways and will those who fled return?  There is also magic realism as Hamid uses the concept of black doors that take those fleeing thousands of miles away in a moment.  Do the doors represent welcome in new environments or something that can be as easily slammed shut as remain open?  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Such Kindness by Andre Dubus III


Tom Lowe, raised in poverty, worked his way up to a good life for his wife and son.  Tom was a contractor and built their house himself.  He had to take out a loan to finish the work and that was his first mistake.  He signed papers for an adjustable mortgage, not understanding what it was and too proud to ask for an explanation.  Then the accident happened.  Tom was working alone, something he would have yelled at his employees for doing.  He was on a roof when he fell, shattering bones and incurring months of hospitals, physical therapy, being bed bound and finally getting addicted to the painkillers he was prescribed. 

Then the consequences arrived.  When the mortgage adjusted upward, Tom and his family lost their house.  His wife found someone else and divorced Tom.  Tom was left in Section 8 housing, living in constant pain after he weaned himself off the drugs.  He drank to dull that pain and blamed the world for his new life.  His car got impounded and he couldn't afford to get it back.  When he tried to sell his tools, his last link to his old life, a neighbor stole them.  Tom was left with nothing and no way to improve his situation.

But then, at rock bottom, he started to see a way.  Instead of counting all his bad luck, he started to look at the world and count the kindnesses.  The hair stylist who let Tom use her phone.  The old lady who invited him in and gave him homemade bread.  A chance to reunite with his son and have some kind of relationship.  Maybe although life would never be the same, it could be bearable.

Andre Dubus III's work is known to many.  His novel, House of Sand and Fog, was a National Book Award finalist and made into a movie.  His own life mirrors that of Tom Lowe.  His father, a professor of literature, left Tom, his mother and three siblings for one of his students.  After that, the family struggled as his mother tried to raise four children on her own.  His father also went through the kind of pain Tom does as he was massively injured when he stopped to help someone on the road and a car plowed into them all.  Dubus lost one leg, lost the use of the other and was in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.  

This book is not easy to read.  No matter what Tom tries to do, life continues to come at him hard and fast.  The first half of the book is depressing as more and more things happen to Tom.  Eventually, though, things start to turn around as Tom tries to change the way he relates to the world and to stop blaming others for what he comes to understand where his own mistakes.  He resolves to do the best with what he has been left with and to reach out to others and do what he can to make their lives better.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

The Forgetting Flower by Karen Hugg


Renia Baranczka has come to Paris, fleeing an estrangement from her sister back in Poland.  The two had visited a plant breeder and he had given Renia's sister a unique plant that he had created by crossbreeding several others.  Although it is unique, it is also dangerous as those who smell it forget whatever has happened.  

When the sister falls in with a thuggish boyfriend who abuses her, she starts to use the plant to forget about her pains.  Renia can't convince her to leave the boyfriend so she steals the plant and moves to Paris with it.  There she works in a flower shop and hides the plant away from everyone.  

But the boyfriend shows up in Paris and wants to start dealing the flowers to his criminal associates.  Renia resists at first but when she is hit with financial trouble she gives in.  Just once she thinks but soon it is more and more frequent.  In the meantime, she also contacts a professor of botany who is fascinated by the plant and hopes to identify it and use it to create new pharmaceutical drugs to help those suffering.  Which of the two men will sway Renia and gain the plant?

Karen Hugg spent twenty years as a professional gardener.  That expertise shows through as she writes about plants, nurseries and flower shops.  Renia is not as finely drawn as it is unclear whether she will be swayed by her better nature or by her desire for money.  She is torn between pushing away the man who abused her sister or partnering with him to get the money she needs to survive.  This book is recommended for mystery readers who are looking for something a little different.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

A Taste For Death by P.D. James


Commander Adam Dalgliesh has just gotten a new case.  A Cabinet Minister has been found dead in a church vestry, his throat slashed.  Another man, a known alcoholic homeless man, had been found with him, also killed by the same instrument, a straightedge razor.  Sir Paul Berowne had been a baronet and Dalgliesh had known him slightly.  Berowne had received a letter insinuating that he had been involved in several women's deaths and he wanted Dalgliesh to track down the writer.  Now he is dead and Dalgleish is in charge of finding out who killed him.

There are lots of suspects.  He married his brother's fiance after his brother's death and that of his own wife.  There was no love lost between the two and she was involved in an affair with her cousin.  Berowne also had a mistress.  He has a mother who is determined that the Berowne family name will go on and a daughter from whom he is estranged and who is dabbling with a group of left wing terrorists.  Berowne's brother-in-law despised him although he didn't mind living off him.  Then there are the women who died, one by suicide and one by drowning.  Had Berowne been involved in either?

This is the seventh Adam Dalgliesh mystery.  He is a cerebral detective and recently chosen to head up a major crimes unit that will deal with unusual crimes.  His staff is composed of men he has worked with for years and a new member, a woman who comes with a good reputation for taking charge and intelligence.  The mystery is slowly revealed and each character has their own reason to want Berowne dead, including the victim himself who had pondered suicide.  P.D. James spent thirty years in various governmental roles, including that of the police and criminal law departments as well as serving as a magistrate.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.  

Sunday, December 24, 2023

A Darkness Of The Heart by Gail Bowen

 This is the eighteenth Joanna Kilbourne mystery so fans will know the backstory.  Joanna is now sixty and still married to Zack, who is a lawyer.  But getting older doesn't mean no more surprises are left.  Joanna finds out that her father was not her biological father.  That was his best friend who was also the father of her best friend, Sally.  Joanna had adopted Sally's daughter, Taylor, when Sally died suddenly when Taylor was four.  

The story of Sally was being made into a movie as Sally had been a famous artist.  Taylor becomes friends with the actress who plays her mother and the producers want to make a series featuring both Sally and Joanna and their childhoods.  Joanna is thrilled except for having to work with a man named Gabe, who is the executive producer and who makes her feel uneasy.

The lighting director on the movie is another friend of the family.  He has a teenage daughter who, after an accident, has the brain of a five year old.  This girl is kidnapped and found later walking down the street crying with fifty dollars in her hands and evidence of sexual molestation.  Who would do such a thing and to such a helpless victim?  Days later, it is revealed that Gabe was the perpetrator and that he had been molesting Taylor's friend the same way.  When he plummets to his death from his penthouse balcony, suspicion falls on those Joanne loves.  Can she find the murderer?

Gail Bowen has written a series reminiscent of that of Elizabeth George in that the reader becomes invested in the lives of Joanna and her family and follow them from book to book.  The book discusses the seamy world of pedophilia and those who suffer from their exposure for years afterward.  The revelations that Joanne is given explains much of her own childhood and the reasons her parents always seemed distant and gives her insight into her life.  I listened to this book and the narrator did an excellent job and has narrated several of the other books in the series.   This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, December 23, 2023

All Good People Here by Ashley Flowers


Margot Davies left her small town of Wakarusa, Indiana, as soon as she could.  She is now a journalist, the job she always wanted.  One of the main reasons she wanted to leave was what happened to her childhood best friend, January.  When she and January were six, January went missing one night and her body was found a few days later.  It was one of those cases that went nationwide and everyone knew about the case but  no one was ever arrested.  The small town gossip was that January's mother had killed her and the family was ostracized.

But Margot has had to return.  Her uncle has early dementia although he is in his early fifties.  Margot had considered Luke her real father so she has come back to take care of him.  But it is soon apparent that his illness may be more than she can handle.  

Something else has happened in Wakarusa.  Another little girl has gone missing.  Margot is sure that it is connected to January's murder all those years ago and so is most of the town.  But Margot's editor is not sure and tells Margot to report on the disappearance but to forget about a tie to January.  When Margot ignores this directive, she is fired.  Now she is determined to find the killer and justice for January but is she right?  Are the cases connected along with other missing girls Margot has uncovered?  Margot teams up with the woman who was January's mother's partner and with a local policeman to track down the killer she is sure is out there.

This is a debut novel.  Ashley Flowers is the host of the true crime podcase, Crime Junkie, which has been widely popular and considered the #1 true crime podcast by many.  This book has a compelling heroine in Margot and lots of dark secrets to be uncovered.  There are a few loose ends but the novel will propel Ashley Flowers into the ranks of thriller writers who are must reads.  This book is recommended for mystery readers. 

Monday, December 18, 2023

Tides by Sara Freeman


After the death of her child, Mara flees her home.  She cannot abide being around her family, especially her brother and sister-in-law who have just had a baby.  She pushes her husband away until he leaves her and then she hits the road with a bit of money and just a bag of clothes.  She works odd jobs and drinks too much and finally winds up in a coastal town.

There she finds a job in a wine and sandwich shop.  The owner, Simon, gives her a job and is friendly with her.  He doesn't know that she sneaks upstairs at night and sleeps in the storage room as she doesn't have enough money for an apartment or hotel.  Slowly, Mara relaxes a bit.  She gets to know a few people and eventually finds love again with Simon.  But Simon is married and when his wife returns, Mara knows it is time to move on.  Will she ever find happiness again?

This is Sara Freeman's debut novel and her haunting, lyrical story and writing will make her an author to watch in the future.  Some readers find it hard to relate to Mara but I have walked in her shoes and understand the total grief and tragedy she experiences.  I listened to this title and the narrator's voice was perfect for Mara's story, her loneliness, her grief and regrets and her smart shoots of hope as time went on.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Unaccustomed Stories by Octavia Butler


This is a set of two novellas by Octavia E. Butler.  In the first, A Necessary Being, leaders of two opposing tribes face each other.  One has been captured by the other and the ritual would have him crippled so he cannot flee and kept there to produce the next leader.  But the two leaders have an attraction to each other and find a way to overcome tradition and find a solution for moving forward.  In the second, a woman, the Childfinder, finds children who show signs of being psychically gifted.  The childfinder is black and has broken away from the white organization that had started the process.  She now finds and trains only black children, and any white children she finds she uses her powers to negate theirs.  When the original organization shows up, she goes with them, although she knows she will be killed so that her proteges can survive and thrive.

Octavia Butler is one of the masters of the science fiction genre.  Her novels and stories are often set in a black world where the goal is to survive in a world hostile to them.  Readers will be transported to different worlds in which different ways of living are revealed.  The author won the Hugo or Nebula awards as well as receiving a MacArthur genius grant.  This book is recommended for readers of science fiction and dystopian literature.

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Shrines Of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson


Nellie Coker is the queen of the 1920's club scene.  She has four or five clubs, each one managed by one of her children.  Nellie has just gotten out of prison and is ready to take back the reins.  But there is trouble brewing.  The police are closing in with a new Superintendent determined to bring Nellie and the rest of the Cokers down for good this time.  Two other men prominent in the underground life of London want all that Nellie has built up and they sense she might be weak at the moment.

Into this swirl of events steps Gwendolyn Kelling.  Gwen was a nurse during the first world war and is at loose ends now that it has ended.  She was working as a librarian but when she found that she had inherited money she decided to move to London.  Two local girls had run off there and Gwen promised the families she would look for the girls.  But she is pulled into the nightclub scene.  The new Superintendent wants her to spy on the Cokers.  The eldest Coker son is entranced with Gwen and is courting her and Nell has offered her a club to run.  Will Gwen betray the family?  Will she find the girls?

Most readers know Kate Atkinson from her Jackson Brodie detective series.  But she has written other novels that explore feminine power and this one is a great example.  Both Nell and Gwen are independent women full of plans and goals and determined to do whatever it takes to fulfill them.  There are lots of subplots and many fascinating characters and the reader wonders how she will ever resolve everything.  But Atkinson always has a satisfactory ending and this novel is no different.  Everything is wrapped up with knowledge of what happens with all the many characters and plots.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Friday, December 15, 2023

Booksie's Shelves, December 14, 2023


Art by RF Skia & Culpeo S. Fox

It's almost Christmas and the end of 2023!  I'm about ready for Christmas and I'm looking forward to seeing all my children and grandchildren along with tons of friends.  I've made a new reading friend recently and it's always great to have someone else around that understands someone who can't imagine a day without reading.  Soon I'll be doing the end of year wrapup for 2023 and starting on goals and thoughts for 2024.  Here's what's come through the door recently:

  1. Quicksand, Malin Persson Giolito, thriller, purchased
  2. The Swimmers, Julie Otsuka, literary fiction, purchased
  3. Green Dot, Madeleine Gray, literary fiction, sent by publisher
  4. Blood Sisters, Jane Corry, thriller, purchased
  5. The Dead Cat Tail Assassins, P. Djeli Clark, fantasy, sent by publisher
  6. The Wishing Bridge, Viola Shipman, women's fiction, sent by publisher
  7. No More Empty Spaces, D.J. Green, literary fiction, sent by publisher
  8. The Lover Of No Fixed Abode, Carlo Fruttero & Franco Lucentini, mystery, sent by publisher
  9. Prima Facie, Suzie Miller, legal thriller, sent by publisher
  10. The Innocents, Bridget Walsh, mystery, sent by publisher
  11. The Night Of The Storm, Nishita Parekh, mystery, sent by publisher
  12. John Crow's Devil, Marlon James, literary fiction, purchased
  13. A Theatre For Dreamers, Polly Samson, literary fiction, purchased
  14. The Absolute Book, Elizabeth Knox, fantasy, purchased
  15. The Dickens Boy, Thomas Keneally, literary fiction, purchased
  16. Dust Off The Bones, Paul Howarth, mystery, purchased
  17. Spring, Ali Smith, literary fiction, purchased
  18. The Great Offshore Grounds, Vanessa Veselka, literary fiction, purchased
  19. The Good Father, Noah Hawley, thriller, purchased
  20. The Sound Of Things Falling, Juan Gabriel Vasquez, literary fiction, purchased
  21. The Night Always Comes, Willy Vlautin, literary fiction, purchased
  22. Murder For Christmas, Thomas Godfrey, anthology, gift
  23. The Good Lord Bird, James McBride, literary fiction, gift
  24. A Passage North, Anuk Arudpragasam, literary fiction, purchased
  25. The Unfolding, A.M. Homes, literary fiction, purchased
  26. The Fourth Rule, Jeff Lindsay, mystery, purchased
  27. The Slowworm's Song, Andrew Miller, literary fiction, purchased
  28. A Short Walk Through A Wide World, Douglas Westerbeke, literary fiction, sent by publisher
  29. Staying On, Paul Scott, literary fiction, purchased
  30. Among Others, Jo Walton, fantasy, purchased
  31. No Good Asking, Fran Kimmel, literary fiction, purchased
  32. The Sea Gate, Jane Johnson, women's fiction, purchased
  33. Age Of Vice, Deepti Kapoor, mystery, purchased
  34. Run Time, Catherine Ryan Howard, mystery, purchased
  35. Trio, William Boyd, literary fiction, purchased
  36. The Latecomer, Jean Hanff Korelitz, literary fiction, purchased
Here are the ebooks I've bought since the last Booksie's Shelves in October:
  1. The Fifth Night, Jenny Knight, mystery
  2. The Museum Of Abandoned Secrets, Oksana Zabuzhko, literary fiction
  3. Labyrinth Lost, Zoraida Cordova, fantasy
  4. Pictures Of You, Caroline Leavitt, literary fiction
  5. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou, literary ficiton
  6. A Certain Hunger, Chelsea Summers, literary fiction
  7. The Black Elfstone, Terry Brooks, fantasy
  8. Snow Crash, Neal Stevenson, science fiction
  9. Hex, Thomas Olde Heuvelt, horror
  10. Readme, Neal Stephenson, science fiction
  11. Chlorine, Jade Song, horror
  12. The River Is Dark, Joe Hart, mystery
  13. Dalva, Jim Harrison, literary fiction
  14. Garnethill, Denise Mina, mystery
  15. The Fall Of Light, Niall Williams, literary fiction
  16. The Last September, Nina de Gramont, literary fiction
  17. The Towers Of Silence, Paul Scott, historical fiction
  18. A Division Of Spoils, Paul Scott, historical fiction
  19. A Lover's Discourse, Xiaolu Guo, literary fiction
  20. You Can't See Me, Eva Aegisdottir, mystery
  21. The Whistler's Omen, Iain Henn, mystery
  22. The Drift, C.J. Tudor, mystery
  23. Final Arrangements, Rich Curtin, mystery
  24. Ordinary Girls, Jaquira Diaz, literary fiction
  25. Friends Like These, Kimberly McCreight, mystery
  26. Detective Sebastian Clifford Books 1-3, Sally Rigby, mystery
  27. Dopesick, Beth Macy, nonfiction
  28. Killer On The Moors, Priscilla Masters, mystery
  29. Hype, Gabrille Bluestone, nonfiction
  30. Almost, Elizabeth Benedict, suspense
  31. The Change, Kristin Miller, literary fiction
  32. October; The Story Of The Russian Revolution, China Mieville, nonfiction
  33. Waking The Moon, Elizabeth Hand, science fiction
  34. Damage Control, Robert Dugoni, mystery
  35. Hard Freeze, Dan Simmons, mystery
  36. The Burn, Kathleen Kent, mystery
  37. The Way Life Should Be, Christina Baker Kline, literary fiction
  38. The Fury Of Kings, R.S. Moule, fantasy
  39. The Hunger Of Empires, R.S. Moule, fantasy
  40. Who Cares If They Die, Wendy Dranfield, mystery
  41. Werewolves In Their Youth, Michael Chabon, anthology
  42. Jasper Jones, Craig Silvey, young adult
  43. A Thousand Ships, Natalie Haynes, mythology
  44. Taken Girls, Carolyn Arnold, mystery
  45. The Darkest Corners, Kara Arnold, mystery
  46. House Of Eclipses, Casey Bond, fantasy
  47. Death Of A Lesser God, Vaseem Khan,mystery
  48. The Seventh Bride, T. Kingfisher, fantasy
  49. Don't Tell A Soul, D.K. Hood, mystery
  50. The Folly Of The World, Jesse Bullington, fantasy
  51. The Sad Tale Of The Brothers Grossbart, Jesse Bullington, fantasy
  52. The Enterprise Of Death, Jesse Bullington, fantasy
  53. Spider's Truth, Christa Yelich-Koth, mystery
  54. Jackdaw, Daniel Cole, thriller
  55. A Death In Tokyo, Keigo Higashino, mystery
  56. Pictures Of Perfection, Reginald Hill, mystery
  57. False Accusations, Alan Jacobson, thriller
  58. Goodbye Tsugumi, Banana Yoshimoto, literary fiction
  59. Veniss Underground, Jeff Vandemeer, fantasy
  60. Half The Way Home, Adam Hochschild, memoir
  61. Doors Open, Ian Rankin, mystery
  62. The Near Witch, V.E. Schwab, fantasy
  63. The Jasad Heir, Sara Hashem, fantasy
  64. Scars On The Face Of God, Chris Bauer, horror
  65. The CBS Murders, Richard Hammer, true crime
  66. The House Witch, Delemhach, fantasy
  67. The Elephant Of Belfast, S. Kirk Walsh, historical fiction
  68. Necroscope, Brian Lumley, horror
  69. The Rabbit Factor, Antti Tuomainen, literary fiction
  70. Windhaven, George R. R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle, fantasy
  71. Study For Obedience, Sarah Bernstein, literary fiction
  72. River Woman, River Demon, Jennifer Givhan, fantasy
  73. The Good Guy, Dean Koontz, mystery
  74. The Wickedest Of Things, Russel Barrie, thriller
  75. Gods Of The Wyrdwood, RJ Barker, fantasy
  76. Aloha From Hell, Richard Kadrey, thriller
  77. A Test Of Wills, Charles Todd, mystery
  78. The Big Seven, Jim Harrison, mystery
  79. Three Sisters In Black, Norman Zierold, true crime
  80. Catch Her Death, Wendy Dranfield, mystery
  81. The Devil In Silver, Victor LaVelle, horror
  82. A Good Girl's Guide To Murder, Holly Jackson, mystery
  83. The Killer Inside Me, Jim Thompson, noir
  84. Songs In Ursa Major, Emma Brodie, literary fiction
  85. Black Light, Elizabeth Hand, science fiction
  86. Henrietta Who?, Catherine Aird, mystery
  87. The Wolves Came At Night, J.T. Ellison, thriller
  88. Hammer Of Fate, G.N. Gudgion, fantasy
  89. And Then I Woke Up, Malcolm Devlin, fantasy
  90. The Betrayed Wife, Kevin O'Brien, thriller
  91. Young Jane Young, Gabrielle Zevin, literary fiction
  92. Conspiracy, AC Cobble, fantasy
  93. Open House, Jill Mansell, women's fiction
  94. Tell Me How This Ends, Jo Leevers, mystery
  95. We Are The Dead, Mike Shackle, fantasy
  96. Bone Deep, Charles Bosworth & Joel Schwartz, true crime
  97. The House Guest, Mark Edwards, thriller
  98. Back To Blood, Tom Wolfe, literary fiction
  99. The Beginning Of Spring, Penelope Fitzgerald, literary fiction
  100. The Written, Ben Galley, fantasy
  101. Pale Kings, Ben Galley, fantasy
  102. Dead Stars, Ben Galley, fantasy
  103. Chasing Graves, Ben Galley, fantasy
  104. Grim Solace, Ben Galley, fantasy
  105. Breaking Chaos, Ben Galley, fantasy
  106. Heavy Lies The Crown, Ben Galley, fantasy
  107. Devil Smoke, CJ Lyons, thriller
  108. Bitter Truth, CJ Lyons, thriller
  109. Warlock, Jim Harrison, literary fiction
  110. Silent Tide, Alex Scarrow, mystery
  111. Please Tell Me, Mike Omar, mystery
  112. Irma Voth, Miriam Toews, literary fiction
  113. The Golden Horn, Poul Anderson, science fiction
  114. The Road Of The Sea Horse, Poul Anderson, science fiction
  115. The Scandalous Letters Of V And J, Felicia Davin, historical fiction
  116. Shaman, Kim Stanley Robinson, fantasy
  117. Her Every Fear, Peter Swanson, thriller
  118. The Lucky Ones, Mark Edwards, thriller
  119. The Blind Man Of Seville, Robert Wilson, mystery
  120. Mrs. Eckdorf In O'Neill's Hotel, William Trevor, literary fiction
  121. The Killer's Home, AJ Carter, thriller
  122. Old Fashioned, J.A. Konrath, mystery
  123. The Bookbinder, Pip Williams, historical fiction
  124. Blood Sentence, Keith Nixon, thriller
  125. Fireblood, Jeff Wheeler, fantasy
  126. The Three Deaths Of Willa Stannard, Kate Robards, thriller
  127. Dying To Sin, Stephen Booth, mystery
  128. The World Turned Upside Down, Jisheng Yang, nonfiction
  129. The Liar, Stephen Fry, literary fiction
  130. Killing The Beasts, Chris Sims, mystery
  131. The Killing Doll, Ruth Rendell, mystery
  132. The Marriage Portrait, Maggie O'Farrell, literary fiction
  133. Decline And Fall, Evelyn Waugh, literary fiction
  134. Screwed, Eoin Colfer, thriller
  135. Those Who Leave And Those Who Stay, Elena Ferrante, literary fiction
  136. The Body Below, Daniel Hecht, thriller
  137. The Diviners, Libba Bray, literary fiction
  138. On Harrow Hill, John Verdon, mystery
  139. I Know Everything, Matthew Farrell, mystery
  140. Moshi Moshi, Banana Yoshimoro, literary fiction
  141. Damage, Josephine Hart, literary fiction
  142. The Quasimodo Killings, John Broughton, mystery
  143. The Sixth Lie, Sarah Ward, mystery
  144. The Birthday Girl, Sarah Ward, mystery
  145. The Turn Of Midnight, Minette Walters, historical fiction
  146. When Darkness Falls, L.T. Vargas, Tim McBain, mystery
  147. Girl With Curious Hair, David Foster Wallace, literary ficiton
  148. The King's Justice, E.M. Powell, mystery
  149. The Monastery Murders, E.M. Powell, mystery
  150. The Bone Witch, Ivy Asher, fantasy
  151. The Bound Witch, Ivy Asher, fantasy
  152. The Blood Witch, Ivy Asher, fantasy
  153. Order Of Scorpions, Ivy Asher, fantasy
  154. Shards Of Earth, Adrian Tchaikovsky, fantasy
  155. Life Among Giants, Bill Roorbach, literary fiction
  156. Resurrection Men, Ian Rankin, mystery
  157. The Two Of Swords, K.J. Parker, fantasy
  158. Scenes From My Life, Michael Williams, memoir
  159. Secessia, Kent Wascom, historical fiction
  160. The Blood Of Heaven, Kent Wascom, historical fiction
  161. The New Inheritors, Kent Wascom, historical fiction
  162. A Woman In Jerusalem, A. B. Yehoshua, literary fiction
  163. The Distant Hours, Kate Morton, historical fiction
  164. Returning To Earth, Jim Harrison, literary fiction
  165. Our Daughter's Bones, Ruhi Choudhary, mystery
  166. Spearwielder's Tale, R. A. Salvatore, fantasy
  167. The Inmate, Freida McFadden, thriller
  168. One By One, Freida McFadden, thriller
  169. The Ghostwriter, Alessandra Torre, mystery
  170. Heroes, Stephen Fry, mythology
  171. Come With Me, Erin Flanagan, thriller
  172. Best Contemporary Women's Fiction, various, literary fiction
  173. Death In Her Hands, Ottessa Moshfegh, thriller
  174. The Wolf And The Woodsman, Ava Reid, fantasy
  175. Cross Her Heart, Sarah Pinbourogh, mystery
  176. The Book Of Salt, Monique Truong, literary fiction
  177. The Bones Of The Story, Carol Goodman, mystery
  178. Green Sun, Kent Anderson, mystery
  179. The Pied Piper, Ridley Pearson, thriller
  180. The Intrusions, Stav Sherez, mystery
  181. The Dutch House, Anne Patchett, literary fiction
  182. The Night Birds, Thomas Maltman, horror
  183. A Killing In November, Simon Mason, mystery
  184. An Occupied Grave, AG Barrett, mystery
  185. Becoming Madame Mao, Anchee Min, historical fiction
  186. Spring, Summer, Autumn, Us, Fiona Collins, literary fiction
  187. Thief With No Shadow, Emily Gee, fantasy
  188. The Meaning Of Treason, Rebecca West, legal thriller
  189. Dead Reckoning, Caitlin Rother, true crime
  190. The Last Thing I Told You, Emily Arsenault, mystery
  191. Growing Things And Other Stories, Paul Trembley, anthology
  192. Such A Loving Couple, Haley Smith, thriller
  193. Edgedancer, Brandon Sanderson, fantasy
  194. Wilderness, B.E. Jones, thriller
  195. Daughter Of The Empire, Raymond Feist, fantasy
  196. Killing Women, Rod Sadler, true crime
  197. East Of Alice, Annie Seaton, mystery
  198. Tell Me, Anne Frasier, mystery
  199. Innocent, Scott Turow, legal thriller
  200. We Own This City, Justin Fenton, true crime
  201. Love Me To Death, Steve Jackson, true crime
  202. Empire Of Lies, Andrew Klaven, thriller
  203. The Identity Man, Andrew Klaven, thriller
  204. The Bourbon Thief, Tiffany Reisz, historical fiction
  205. The Mirror At Midnight, Adam Hochschild, nonfiction
  206. An Inconvenient Woman, Stephanie Buelens, mystery
  207. The Last Good Day, Peter Blauner, mystery
  208. The English Teacher, Lily King, literary fiction
  209. Some Kind Of Black, Diran Adebayo, literary fiction
  210. Master Of The Delta, Thomas Cook, suspense
  211. Geronimo Rex, Barry Hannah, literary fiction
  212. The Good Father, Diane Chamberlain, women's fiction
  213. Dead Woman Crossing, Jeneva Rose, mystery
  214. Murder On Black Swan Lane, Andrea Penrose, mystery
  215. Knight's Ransom, Jeff Wheeler, fantasy
  216. Warrior's Ransom, Jeff Wheeler, fantasy
  217. Fate's Ransom, Jeff Wheeler, fantasy
  218. An Unreliable Truth, Victor Methos, mystery
  219. Nothing To Lose, J.A. Jance, mystery
  220. Come Hell Or High Water, JD Kirk, mystery
  221. City Of Scars, JD Kirk, mystery
  222. Here Lie The Dead, JD Kirk, mystery
  223. One For The Ages, JD Kirk, mystery
  224. Thicker Than Water, JD Kirk, mystery
  225. The Killing Code, JD Kirk, mystery
  226. Blood And Treachery, JD Kirk, mystery
  227. The Last Bloody Straw, JD Kirk, mystery
  228. A Whisper Of Sorrows, JD Kirk, mystery
  229. The Big Man Upstairs, JD Kirk, mystery
  230. A Snowball's Chance In Hell, JD Kirk, mystery
  231. Ahead Of The Game, JD Kirk, mystery
  232. An Isolated Incident, JD Kirk, mystery
  233. Colder Than The Grave, JD Kirk, mystery
  234. Southpaw, JD Kirk, mystery
  235. Westward, JD Kirk, mystery
  236. Eastgate, JD Kirk, mystery
  237. The Last American Man, Elizabeth Gilbert, literary fiction
  238. Deadly Fate, Angela Marsons, mystery
  239. Crying In H Mart, Michelle Zauner, literary fiction
  240. Still Life, Louise Penny, mystery
  241. The Family Across The Street, Nicole Troupe, mystery
  242. The Girl Who Lived Twice, David Lagercrantz, thriller
  243. The Passenger, Cormac McCarthy, literary fiction
  244. The Other Emily, Dean Koontz, thriller
  245. Our Wives Under The Sea, Julia Armfield, fantasy
  246. On Our Best Behavior, Elise Loehnen, nonfiction
  247. The Last Runaway, Tracy Chevalier, historical fiction
  248. The Bag Of Secrets, Joy Ellis, mystery
  249. The Punch, Noah Hawley, thriller
  250. To Cook A Bear, Mikael Niemi, mystery
  251. The Fortune Men, Nadifa Mohamad, literary fiction
  252. How To Build A Boat, Elaine Feeney, literary fiction
  253. The Removal Man, R.J. Parker, thriller
  254. The Real-Life Murder Clubs, Nicola Stow, true crime
  255. Vanished, Elizabeth Heiter, mystery
  256. Nearly Mine, Molly Black, mystery
  257. Gone Dark, CJ Lyons, mystery
  258. Murder At Mullings, Dorothy Cannell, mystery
  259. Missing In The Dark, Bernadette Calonego, mystery
  260. The Year Of The Death Of Ricardo Reis, Jose Saramago, literary fiction
  261. Braised Pork, An Yu, literary fiction
  262. The Cyber Attack Survival Manual, Nick Selby, nonfiction
  263. Black Cherry Blues, James Lee Burke, mystery
  264. Counterfeit, Kirstin Chen, literary fiction
  265. The Farm, Joanne Ramos, literary fiction
  266. Fate Of The Argosi, Sebastian de Castell, fantasy
  267. Forest Park, Valerie Davisson, mystery
  268. The Night She Lied, Lucy Dawson, thriller
  269. The Face Of Fear, Dean Koontz, thriller
  270. The Royal Baths Murder, J.R. Ellis, mystery
  271. Rabbit, Patricia Williams, memoir
  272. Nasty Cutter, Tim O'Mara, mystery
  273. The Names Of Dead Girls, Eric Rickstad, mystery
  274. The Cleaner, Mark Dawson, mystery
  275. Lesser Known Monsters Of The 21st Century, Kim Fu, anthology
  276. The Throne Of The Five Winds, S.C. Emmett, fantasy
  277. The Lights Of Prague, Nicole Jarvis, literary fiction
  278. Country Dark, Chris Offutt, thriller
  279. Next Life Might Be Kinder, Howard Norman, literary fiction
  280. The Book Of Souls, James Oswald, mystery
  281. A Quiet Belief In Angels, R.J. Ellory, thriller
  282. Gunshot Road, Adrian Hyland, mystery
  283. Cancer, I'll Give You One Year, Jennifer Spiegel, nonfiction, memoir
  284. The Killing Pit, Wes Markin, mystery
  285. Shadow Angels, D.K. Hood, mystery
  286. Quichotte, Salman Rushdie, literary fiction
  287. The Keeper Of Stories, Sally Page, women's fiction
  288. Sex And Punishment, Eric Berkowitz, nonficiton
  289. Deerskin, Robin McKinley, young adult
  290. Live Flesh, Ruth Rendell, mystery
  291. Under The Cold Bright Lights, Garry Disher, mystery
  292. A Clockwork Murder, Steve Jackson, true crime
  293. Henry And June, Anais Nin, literary fiction
  294. The Push, Ashley Audrain, literary fiction
  295. The View From Penthouse B, Elinor Lipman, literary fiction
  296. Bloody January, Alan Parks, mystery
  297. Artic Summer, Dalmon Galgut, literary fiction
  298. Blood Red, Wendy Corsi Straub, mystery
  299. Cemetary Girl, David Bell, mystery
  300. The Sword Defiant, Gareth Hanrahan, fantasy
  301. How Lucky, Will Litch, literary fiction
  302. Furious, T.R. Ragan, mystery
  303. Thief's Magic, Trudi Canavan, fantasy
  304. The Eon Series, Greg Bear, science fiction
  305. The Sanitarium, Sara Pearse, thriller
  306. If It Bleeds, Stephen King, anthology
  307. The Warrior Prophet, R. Scott Bakker, fantasy
  308. The Crocodile Bird, Ruth Rendell, mystery
  309. The Empirium Trilogy, Claire Legrand, fantasy
  310. Medicine Walk, Richard Wagamese, literary fiction
  311. Behold The Monster, Jillian Lauren, true crime
  312. My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante, literary fiction
  313. How Will I Know You, Jessica Treadway, mystery
  314. The Ocean And The Stars, Mark Helprin, literary fiction
  315. Gallow Court, Martin Edwards, mystery
  316. The Poet's House, Jean Thompson, literary fiction
  317. As The Wicked Watch, Tamron Hall, mystery
  318. The Art Merchant, J.K. Flynn, mystery
  319. Sidetracked, Henning Mankell, mystery
  320. Bury The Chains, Adam Hochschild, nonfiction
  321. No Stone Unturned, Steve Jackson, true crime
  322. City Of Saints And Madmen, Jeff VanderMeer, fantasy
  323. Cursed, various, anthology
  324. Hell Town, Casey Sherman, true crime
  325. Hotel Honolulu, Paul Theroux, literary fiction
  326. Indian Horse, Richard Wagamese, literary fiction
  327. Deep South, Paul Theroux, travel
  328. I Follow You, Peter James, mystery
  329. Last Friends, Jane Gardam, literary fiction
  330. Everfair, Nisi Shawl, fantasy
  331. The Blind Man's Garden, Nadeem Aslam, literary fiction
  332. Harvesting The Heart, Jodi Picoult, literary fiction
  333. The House On Vesper Sands, Paraic O'Donnell, mystery
  334. Cassandra In Reverse, Holly Smale, women's fiction
  335. Dial A For Aunties, Jesse Q. Sutanto, women's fiction
  336. The Amish Wife, Gregg Olsen, true crime
  337. On Turpentine Lane, Elinor Lipman, literary fiction
  338. Nuclear Family, Joseph Han, literary fiction
  339. The Dark Tide, Simon McCleave, mystery
  340. Lost Creed, Alex Kava, thriller
  341. Field Of Bones, J.A. Jance, mystery
  342. 10 Minutes 38 Seconds In This Strange World, Elif Sharak, literary fiction
  343. Before She Knew Him, Peter Swanson, thriller
  344. The Returned, Jason Mott, literary fiction
  345. For You, Mike McCrary, mystery
  346. Fred And Rose, Howard Sounes, true crime
  347. The Signal And The Noise, Nate Silver, nonfiction
Here's what I'm reading:
  1. Shrines Of Gaiety, Kate Atkinson, Kindle
  2. A Taste For Death, P.D. James, paperback
  3. Sonny Liston Was A Friend Of Mine, Thom Jones, paperback
  4. The Ink-Black Heart, Robert Galbraith, Kindle
  5. Exit West, Mohsin Hamid, paperback
  6. Such Kindness, Andre Dubus III, hardback
Happy Reading!

Broken by Jenny Lawson

Jenny Lawson is known to thousands in the online world as The Bloggess.  She writes about her life and her struggles with mental health.  Lawson is one of the funniest women around.  Her book had me laughing out loud, trying to stifle my laughter so those around me wouldn't think I was nuts.  She writes about her family also.  Victor is her husband of several decades and they have a daughter.  

Lawson has serious struggles with mental illnesses and with various chronic immune diseases that sometimes have her in a wheelchair.  She falls into depressions and the medicines that save her life also have side effects.  She is willing to do whatever it takes to fight for her health and that is admirable.  She writes about what works for her and that is useful information for those who struggle with the same things.

But most people will remember the funniness.  One of the best was a recounting of dumb things people have said in conversation with strangers that make them want to fall through the earth and disappear.  Most can relate to this as they have done the same thing.  Another hilarious chapter was the one where she was trying to tell Victor why his shop vacuum was no longer useable or why there were tiny male genitalia all over her minivan that she needed his help removing.  

This was my first Jenny Lawson book and it left me with the feeling that I wanted to rush out and buy her entire backlist.  She is funny and engaging and an introvert that makes other introverts feel at home.  She is also honest about her illnesses and how she fights them everyday and that is an uplifting message for those in the same situation.  Readers will feel seen and it would be a rare person who couldn't relate to this book which is recommended for everyone struggling with illness and just everyday life.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Wednesday's Child by Peter Robinson


A seven year old girl is missing.  The mother, living with a petty criminal, had opened her door to find a well-dressed couple on the threshold.  They announced that they were from social services and had come to do an inspection.  After they viewed the house, they announced that they needed to take Gemma with them overnight for more testing.  The mother, feeling guilty, allowed them to take her daughter with them.  When they didn't return the next day, she contacted the police.  Alan Banks is given the case but his superior decided to take it on himself.  He had been involved in the Moors Murder and anything involving a kidnapped child hit home with him.

Alan has other work to do.  A man has been found murdered.  He was fresh out of prison and probably involved in the most recent robbery the police were investigating, that of a truckload of electronic equipment.  As Alan and his team investigate, the two cases seem to be converging in some strange way.  Can they solve both cases in time to save Gemma?

This is the sixth box in the Inspector Banks series.  In this one, the sergeant who was transferred to the coast to make room to promote a younger man, comes back to help and tells Alan he wants to return to Eastdale.  The new female inspector has settled in better and the Superintendent is thinking about retirement.  The cases are interesting and the way they are resolved satisfactory.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Midnight At Maidenstone Hall by Alison Clare


Marsden Fisher has come to Maidenstone Hall under false pretenses.  He has been hired to tutor the nineteen year old daughter of the Earl and Countess of Scarborough but in reality he has come to find out the truth about the whereabouts of his lover, Simon.  Simon was reported to have been killed in action, but Marsden knows that Simon had never returned to the unit where they both served after a visit home.  Had the Earl used his influence to spirit him away somewhere when the war casualties got so high?  Was Simon hiding on the estate?  

But Marsden finds nothing but confusion and secrets at the Hall.  His charge, Alice, also has a twin sister, Beatrice.  Alice is shy and retiring, Beatrice is outgoing and flirty.  The servants scurry around scared of something.  The Countess is an alcoholic while the Earl is the pompous overbearing man Marsden expected.  Can Marsden find the truth?

This is a debut novel.  Alison Clare was born in Australia and lived around the world before settling in the United States.  The setting is the end of World War I which is one of my favorite time periods.  Marsden is an admirable character and the reader sees the prejudice against gay couples at the time and in fact, homosexuality was against the law.  The plot of twin sisters is given an interesting twist here with Alice and Beatrice enemies of each other.  The secrets of Maidenstone Hall are slowly revealed and no one is whom they seem.  This book is recommended for readers of mysteries.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Distant Sons by Tim Johnston


Sean Courtland wasn't planning to stop in the small town but that's where his truck decided to break down.  With a truck repair he wasn't planning on, he is glad to hear about a man who needs a job done as Sean is a handyman who can do about anything.  He makes his living on the road, traveling from town to town and picking up work where he can.  The job is to build an extension onto an old house for a laundry room and move the ancient machines the man who lives there is using from the basement to the new room.  The man is old and is finding it difficult to get up and down the stairs to do laundry.

Before he can start, Sean finds trouble.  He is minding his own business in a bar when he hears a man talking trash to and about a waitress.  He tells him to stop and the man comes up swinging at him.  In the fight that ensues, he manages to stop the man but also hits the waitress.  He is taken downtown to the police station but when his story matches that of the waitress he is allowed to leave.  He later starts dating the waitress.

He also finds a friend.  He meets Dan over breakfast and hires him to help on the job.  Dan knows plumbing better than Sean and he can use the help.  Dan is also on the road but seems to have a secret.  Because of that, Sean doesn't tell him about the secret surrounding the old man who is hiring them.  The town had three boys disappear forty years ago, one each year and the rumor is that the old man was the one responsible but no evidence had ever been found.  

Like his protagonist, Tim Johnston made his living for more than twenty years as a carpenter.  That expertise shows in his description of the work Sean does.  But this story is about mistakes made, guilt felt for surviving when others didn't and the reconciliation of those who feel guilt with their families.  Both Sean and Dan are wandering, uneasy until they can put the problems in their pasts behind them once and for all.  This book is recommended for mystery readers and those interested in redemption.

Monday, December 11, 2023

Starling House by Alix Harrow


The town talks about Starling House.  It is a large mansion, stuck way back in the woods and its sole occupant is a mystery who is rarely seen.  The house was built by a woman who married two brothers, both of whom stole her money and were found dead after establishing the town's major industry, the mining of ore beneath the land.  Now Arthur Starling hides in the house and talks to no one.

Opal lives in the town but is not a leading citizen.  She lives in a motel along with her brother, Jasper.  She took over being Jasper's guardian when their mother was killed in a car wreck.  Opal isn't popular; the town looks down on her poverty and willingness to do whatever it takes to protect Jasper.  She ekes out a living at a local farm supply store as a cashier but Opal has been dreaming about Starling House.

One night, walking home, she stops at the gates of Starling House.  She is shocked when the gates open but goes into the grounds where she runs into Arthur.  She is terrified but when he offers her a job as a housekeeper making twice what she was making as a cashier, she agrees.  She only hopes she doesn't have to see this strange, odd man very often.

As time goes on, Opal starts to feel something for Arthur and apparently, he does for her as well.  But Opal is being blackmailed by a group to send them pictures of the house and its layout.  They suspect there are things they want hidden there.  There are also rumors of beasts that occasionally appear but seem to disappear.   Is Arthur involved in their appearance and disappearance?

This is a lovely gothic mystery that will warm the reader's heart.  The blossoming love story between Arthur and Opal, both outcasts but will huge protective sides to their characters, is fascinating.  The old legends of the town, some true, some not and the discoveries about her own family that Opal slowly learns racket up the tension until a climatic revelation.  This book is recommended for fantasy and horror readers.

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Last Resort by Andrew Lipstein


Caleb knows he should be an author.  He is so sure that he quits a good job in New York and moves to Florida to write.  While there, he meets a woman and becomes engaged.  But after a year, he decides that he won't get his writing done in Florida and breaks his engagement and rents a room in Oregon.  On his way across country, he stops overnight with a former classmate from college, Avi.  After spilling his sad story about his broken engagement, Avi tells him his own story.  He had gone to a Greek island for a short vacation, gotten stranded on another island with a woman he had met the night before and another couple.  That night the four engaged in an orgy and afterwards, he never saw any of them again.

Caleb gets to Oregon and starts writing.  He isn't sure what he wants to write about and as an exercise, he starts to write Avi's story.  Soon he is entranced with what he is writing and the words pour forth.  He finishes the book, sends it out to agents and goes back to New York and another job.  Caleb is stunned when the book is taken immediately and even more when he hears the amount of money being offered.  But Avi is also in New York and finds that his story is the basis of Caleb's book.  He threatens to sue and the book ends up being published with Avi as author and Caleb getting all the money.  

This is a debut book and received much praise from publications such as Slate, the New York Times, Vulture and the New Yorker.  For me, the first half of the book was a definite win.  The story of Caleb and Avi and how the book came to be was fascinating.  The rest of the book was less successful.  Caleb starts to roam from one life to another.  He forces the publicity of being the real author, then starts teaching in a small college.  He breaks up with the woman he thought he loved and soon is dating another at the college.  He gets back together with Sandra and then meets the woman from the book and hares off to Australia to be with her.  Caleb drifts from vocation to vocation and from woman to woman and this part of the book diluted the interest from the first part.  I listened to this book and the narrator did an excellent job displaying the back and forths of the main character, Caleb.  I'll be interested to see what the author's second book, The Vegan, is like and plan to read it.  This novel is recommended for readers of literary fiction. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Past Reason Hated by Peter Robinson


Right before Christmas, a woman comes home and finds her lover, a young beautiful woman, stabbed to death and laying nude on the living room rug.  DCI Alan Banks and his newly promoted detective, Susan, get the case.  Working a case around a holiday adds complications.  People are traveling, busy and just want to concentrate on having fun with friends and family.

Banks looks for the reason someone would have killed Caroline Hartly.  Was it the ex-husband of her lover who has not recovered from her leaving him, especially for a woman?  Was it something from the years she had run away to London where she had a child?  Was it someone in the play Caroline was about to act in?  Was it someone who thought gay relationships were a sin?

This is the fifth book in the Alan Banks series.  It feels a bit dated since gay relationships are much more accepted today than in the world Robinson writes of.  There is also a ring of break-ins happening in the village which is the new detective's first case.  The other thing that makes this novel feel a bit dated is the constant talk about Banks's smoking.  Acceptance of smoking is not common these days as opposed to the two decades since the book's publication.   Outside of that, however, the mystery is intriguing and the reader will be interested in more insight into Band's own marriage.  This book is recommended for mystery readers. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Love Slave by Jennifer Spiegel


Sybil Weatherfield came to New York to live the kind of life she felt she deserved.  Now, she is thirty and what she thought would happen hasn't.  She is temping for a living, writing a column on an alternative newspaper and she and her friend Madeline live for hitting the clubs at night and doing the things tourists never find out about.  She has a boyfriend she does not love and has just met a guy she wants to be friends with.

Rob is the lead singer in the band she and Madeline follow.  He has been a widower for seven years as his young wife died of a brain tumor a year after they married.  He is known as a player but that's because he cannot move on and the thought of another relationship is more than he can bear.  He is glad to be Sybil's friend and they start to hang out together, each denying the sparks that fly between them.  Will Sybil ever find the life she wants?

This is Jennifer Spiegel's debut novel and I loved it.  She has the characters spot on and her writing about a health scare Sybil goes through rings so true I had to stop for a minute as I've been there and she captured all the feelings that accompany that event.  Sybil wants to be swept off her feet and can't accept that love might be a decision one makes.  Readers will become totally immersed in Sybil and Rob's lives and cheer for them to realize that they are meant to be together.  This book is recommended for readers of women's fiction.

Monday, December 4, 2023

Blind To The Bones by Stephen Booth


Things have changed for Ben Cooper.  He has moved out of the family home and farm and now lives on his own.  He has a new boss, Diane Fry, who got the promotion he thought would be his and with whom he has a fraught relationship.  But some things never change when you're a policeman.  Crime is always there to be solved.

A young man, Neil Granger, has been found murdered.  He is part of a large family in a tiny village where those who built the tunnel system for the railway once lived.  The family is blamed for all the petty crime that occurs and for some reason are not being cooperative with the police investigation.  Fry's time is being taken up on a cold case.  Emma Renshaw disappeared two years ago and is considered dead by everyone except her parents.  Her cell phone has just turned up and has brought the case back into focus.  Then there is the crime ring that is stealing antiques, probably to sell overseas.  In the midst of this, Ben discovers a deep secret about Diane that will affect her whole life going forward.

This is the fourth book in this series.  Ben Cooper is the ultimate good guy, unassuming, easy to get along with and cunningly smart enough to solve whatever crimes he encounters.  Diane Fry is a more complex character, her unhappy childhood leaving her unwilling to trust anyone or have friends.  The tension between the two provides as much of the book's structure as do the crimes they solve.  This book is recommended for mystery readers who enjoy a long series.  

Sunday, December 3, 2023

The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd


Jessie ran away from her home on Egret Island as soon as she could.  She left behind her mother who had changed after her father died in a fishing boat accident when Jessie was young.  For the past two decades she has lived with her husband Hugh and her daughter who has just left for college.  With spare time, Jessie starts to realize that she isn't as happy with her life as she had thought.  She has been a wife and a mother but what about being Jessie and doing what makes her happy?

When she receives a call from her mother's best friend telling her that her mother needs her, Jessie doesn't want to go.  But her mother has cut off her finger and obviously isn't well.  Jessie goes back to Egret Island and its sad memories.  Her mother has been the cook for a group of monks who live on the island.  Jessie finds her mother on the monk's property, burying her finger.  Slowly, having Jessie there and the care of her friends seems to make her mother better.

But Jessie isn't better.  Her desire for independence and the ability to recover her painting talent grows.  She tells Hugh that she needs to stay on the island for a while for her mother which is true but not the whole truth.  Jessie has also become attracted to Brother Thomas, a monk about to take his final vows.  Would having an affair with him help her reclaim herself?

This book interested me because I live on the East Coast and I'm familiar with the geography in which the book is set.  The themes of what do we owe our aging parents and the how do we remain ourselves while giving to others are ones that many readers struggle with.  I'm not sure I was that sympathetic with Jessie's affair but perhaps it served a purpose.  This book is recommended for women's fiction readers.

Saturday, December 2, 2023

Grand Union by Zadie Smith


This anthology, published in 2019, contains nineteen stories by Zadie Smith.  My favorite was For The King, in which Smith meets an old friend in Paris and they walk and eat and stop for drinks for hours.  They discuss the state of the world, the young, sex and other topics as they catch up with each other.  Escape from New York tells the story of three friends as they rush to escape some untold disaster that has befallen the city.  The Lazy River tells the story of two families on vacation and how the lazy river feature typifies their approach to life that week.

This is Smith's first anthology.  Her novels have won numerous awards, being nominated for the Booker several times and the Women's Prize for Fiction.  The stories are short but her personality is revealed.  This is a women who is independent and tired of living to the world's expectations.  If one is judging her, be aware that the favor is returned.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Friday, December 1, 2023

Chasing History by Carl Bernstein


Carl Bernstein was born and raised in Washington, D.C., and he knew from a small boy what he wanted to do with his life.  He wanted to be a newspaper reporter and at age sixteen, he managed to get a job on the Washington Star as a copy boy.  Carl was the kind of kid who overachieved and he was always there at the newspaper, always ready to do anything he was asked to do.  He's go anywhere and talk to anyone.  As time went on, he began to have short pieces in the paper and by the time he was nineteen, he was writing stories on almost a daily basis.

This is the memoir of those early days.  It was the time of change.  John F. Kennedy was running for President and Bernstein was able to report on his appearances locally.  He went to car wrecks and fires and an airplane crash where there were no survivors.  Bernstein came from a liberal family, with his mother refusing to testify in front of Joseph McCarthy's Senate committee, and his biggest interest was in civil rights.  He got to know many of the leaders of the movement and reported on the atrocities happening in the South as well as the slow progress of the Civil Rights Act through Congress.  He was there for the worst story of his times, the Kennedy assassination and the subsequent killing of Lee Harvey Oswald.  

What most comes through in this book is the friendliness and energy of Carl Bernstein.  He was friends with anyone, even those diametrically opposed in their viewpoints.  He kept up this networking throughout his life, loyal to those he knew in his youth.  Carl didn't finish college; he barely graduated high school because he would not attend for days on end, days that he instead spent in the newsroom.  He was present for some of the most momentous events of the time and of course, in his next job at the Washington Post, ended up bringing down Richard Nixon's administration in the Watergate scandal which he and Bob Woodward reported on.  This book is recommended for those interested in memoirs and historical events.