Thursday, May 25, 2017

Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki


It seems like a normal encounter played out over and over.  Lady Daniels is an aspiring writer, living in Southern California.  She wants to hire a nanny to watch her two year old son while she writes.  She is newly separated from her husband and determined to have success in this new arena.  S is a recently graduated college student who is looking for a live-in nanny job for a while until she decides what to do.  They quickly come to an agreement and S moves into the guest house.

But below the normal surface, each woman has secrets to hide.  Lady has never resolved her feelings about her older son.  Seth is eighteen and is mute.  He spoke one word as a toddler then never again tried and over the years lost the ability to do so.  He is now an angry teen, still attached to his stepfather who has moved out at Lady's request and trying to define his own life.  Lady is also trying to find her first love, Seth's father.  She tells herself it is to find him closure but it is unsure if that is the truth.

S also has her own secrets.  She has come to Los Angeles after a disastrous art project left her scorned in her prior city.  Her real name is Esther but she is determined to cast off all ties to her past and reinvent herself.  She comes to Lady's house in the midst of another art plan; she has deliberately made herself unattractive as she slips into an alternate persona.  She is intrigued with Seth and they are drawn together.  But even more, she is drawn to Lady when she realizes that Lady is one of a group of women made famous by the art of Kit Daniels.  Lady hides the evidence of her former self as she feels taken advantage of by Kit, who has ended up being her sister-in-law.

As the summer progresses, the two women are drawn to each other and soon have a friendship that brings them ever closer.  But a friendship cannot survive on deceit and lies and that is what each is feeding the other.  The summer starts to spiral out of control to a climatic end that will change everything in everyone's lives going forward.

Edan Lepucki shot to prominence in the literary world with the publication of her debut novel, California.  Her work has appeared in various magazines and she is an instructor in the UCLA Extension program.   This is her second novel and it explores the worlds of friendship and of duplicity and the corrosive effect of secrets on relationships.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Booksie's Shelves, May 24, 2017


It's hard to believe it's already the end of May.  Graduations are happening all over.  In our house, it's a week of recuperation.  My daughter had all four wisdom teeth out yesterday.  This will be a quiet week with lots of reading time.  She just finished a very successful freshman year at college so I'm really proud of her.  Like my son, she is also a reader.  So glad to have two readers to carry on the tradition!  Here's what's come through the door recently:

1.  The Glorious Heresies, Lisa McInerney, literary fiction, purchased
2.  Before We Visit The Goddess, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, literary fiction, sent by publisher
3.  Hum If You Don't Know The Words, Bianca Marais, literary fiction, sent by publisher
4.  Agrathias, Conor Nicholl, fantasy, sent by author
5.  At Hawthorne Time, Melissa Harrison, literary fiction, purchased
6.  Reunion, Carl Brookins, mystery, sent by publisher
7.  Deadmen Walking, Sherrilyn Kenyon, fantasy, sent by publisher
8.  A Canticle For Leibowitz, Walter Miller, fantasy, purchased
9.  The Prey Of Gods, Nicky Drayden, fantasy, sent by publisher
10.  White Fur, Jardine Libaire, literary fiction, sent for book tour
11,  The Last Train, Michael Pronko, mystery, sent by author
12.  The Separatists, Lis Wiehl, thriller, sent by publisher
13.  Touch, Courtney Maum, literary fiction, sent by publisher
14.  The Scribe Of Siena, Melodie Winawer, historical fiction, sent by publisher
15.  Mad, Chloe Esposito, literary fiction, sent by publisher
16.  Sleeping Giants, Sylvain Neuvel, sci/fi/fantasy, sent by Curled Up With A Good Book
17.  Everybody's Fool, Richard Russo, literary fiction, sent by Curled Up With A Good Book
18.  Mothering Sunday, Graham Swift, literary fiction, sent by Curled Up With A Good Book
19.  In The Name Of The Family, Sarah Dunant, historical fiction, sent by Curled Up
20.  Waking Gods, Sylvain Neuvel, sci/fi/fantasy, sent by Curled Up With A Good Book
21.  The Old Man, Thomas Perry, mystery, sent by Curled Up With A Good Book


Here's what I'm reading:

1.  World Chase Me Down, Andrew Hillerman, paperback

2.  Dissident Gardens, Jonathan Lethem, Kindle
3.  
Mr. Splitfoot, Samantha Hunt,  Kindle Fire

4. The Lesser Bohemians, Eimear McBride, paperback
5.  Perfect Prey, Laura Salters, Kindle Fire
6.  Gone Without A Trace, Mary Torjussen, Kindle Fire
7.  The Narrows, Michael Connelly, hardback
8.  Woman No. 17, Eden Luposki, hardback
9.  A Dark So Deadly, Stuart MacBride, Kindle Fire
10.  Wolf Hall, Hillary Mantel, hardback
11.  Smoke, Dan Vyleta,  Kindle Fire

Happy Reading!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Killing Room by Richard Montanari


Detectives Jessica Balzano and Kevin Byrne have a good partnership in the Philadelphia Police Department despite their differences.  Outside of the obvious gender difference, Byrne is a veteran, old of the oldest detectives still working, while Jessica is much younger.  Jessica is happily married with kids, while Byrne lives alone, his daughter already grown and gone.  Yet the respect they have for each other makes them a good pair to investigate the grisly crimes they encounter.

Jessica gets the call.  A voice she doesn't recognize predicts deaths; one for each of seven churches.  She is tempted to ignore the call as a crank call when the report comes in.  A man has been found in the basement of a deserted church.  His death is gruesome and has ritual aspects.  As she and Byrne investigate, more deaths occur.  Each murder is committed in the basement of a deserted, abandoned church and each victim has a criminal record.  As the deaths pile up, can the detectives uncover the killer before the plan is complete?

Richard Montanri has written several criminal series.  This is the sixth novel in the Balzano/Byrne series.  The connection between two widely disparate individuals who have found a way to work effectively as partners is compelling.  The reader is taken inside the world of investigations and watches the race against time as the crime is investigated.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Conspiracy Club by Jonathan Kellerman


When Dr. Jeremy Carrier is befriended by Dr. Arthur Chess, it seems a normal course of events.  Both are doctors at the same hospital.  Jeremy is a psychologist and Chess is a pathologist.  They share a love of reading and soon start to have discussions about life and philosophy.  Carrier is reeling from the kidnapping and murder of his girlfriend a few months before and isn't really letting anyone into his circle, but he is intrigued by Dr. Chess.

That intrigue deepens when Chess invites him out to dinner one night.  They go to an exquisite dining club where all the other participants at the dinner are older people who have been very successful in their lives.  The talk once again turns to philosophy; specifically, the origin of evil and how it should be handled.

Soon afterward, Dr. Chess leaves on an extended vacation.  Jeremy starts to get postcards from him from all over the world.  At the same time, he gets strange interoffice mail.  These mailing start to lead him in the direction of a series of murders, always women and always murdered with surgical precision.  The final mailing outlines the case of a murderer who was caught decades ago but whose crimes seem to be related.  Can Jeremy solve the case before his new girlfriend is affected?

Fans of Jonathan Kellerman will be interested to read this stand-alone novel that does not focus on his main protagonist, Alex Delaware.  Both main characters are in the medical field and use their experience and skills in psychology to delve into the motivations of criminals.  The mystery unfolds at a slow pace and there is an unexpected twist at the end.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Buried Book by D.M. Pulley


When nine-year old Jasper Leary's mom tells him to pack up as they are going to visit his uncle Leo on his farm, Jasper is excited.  He likes his cousin Wayne and all the animals on the farm.  His excitement turns to worry when his mother leaves, telling him to be good and that she'll see him soon.

As days and then weeks go by, no one wants to talk about his mom.  He helps out on the farm and enjoys visits with his dad on the weekends but wants to know what is happening, where his mother is, and when he will return to Detroit and his life.  He starts to learn things about his mother as she was growing up.  She is the black sheep of the family and brought them disgrace and misery with her running around and her bad reputation.  Apparently she even burned down the family home.  Desperate to learn more about her, Jasper explores the ruins of the house and finds a book.  He is excited to discover that it is his mother's diary.

He starts to read it and soon finds that she was mixed up in bad things.  Jasper is determined to find the answers for himself and soon his journey takes him deep in the world of crime, bootlegging, drugs and a nearby Indian reservation.  Along the way he realizes that there are few, if any, grownups he can trust, and he becomes more and more determined to find out where his mother is and if she is ever coming back.  Can Jasper find his answers before evil finds him?

D.M. Pulley has written an interesting mystery about rural life in the 1950's.  Jasper is more naive than a child today would be.  His unquestioning acceptance of the adults in his life and his determination to find the answers that are being kept from him make him a memorable character.  The gradual revealing of the mystery and the realistic ending make this a satisfying read.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Overlook by Michael Connelly


The call comes in one evening.  A body has been found at The Overlook, a place where tourists can stop and look out at the lights of the city.  When Detective Harry Bosch gets to the scene he finds that the victim is Stanley Kent, a doctor and that he has been shot in the back of the head, execution style.  When they go to his house, further terror is discovered.  His wife is found in the bedroom, naked and tied up.

She tells a story of two intruders breaking in and forcing her to strip, tying her up, then taking pictures.  When the detectives hear that, they check and find that the pictures were sent to her husband along with instructions to meet them at the overlook.  But what did they want?  There wasn't a demand for money.  Instead the criminals wanted something far more dangerous.  For Dr. Kent worked with nuclear medicine and was around radioactive substances daily.  They want him to bring cesium and from that a dirty bomb can be created.

The case has suddenly gotten much bigger.  The FBI is called in and they try to take control and push the LAPD to the side.  Harry has another issue.  His former lover, FBI Agent Rachel Walling, is also assigned to the case and she hasn't forgiven Harry for their breakup.  Harry isn't about to be pushed aside.  While the FBI considers the terrorist threat the most critical, Harry is determined to solve the murder that took the life of Dr. Kent.  Can he solve the case while fighting off the federal agency?

This is the thirteenth novel in the Harry Bosch series.  Harry is not a cuddly detective.  He is a hard man, unafraid of anyone and adamant about solving the cases he is assigned.  His personal creed is that everyone matters and no case is more important than another, a bedrock tenet that came from his mother's murder when he was a child.  Readers familiar with Bosch will be interested to read another case and those new to him will be intrigued by his personality and the look into police procedure.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Reserved For The Cat by Mercedes Lackey


Ninette Dupond is a ballerina with the Paris Opera Ballet.  Not a headliner yet, but she is steadily working her way up the ranks.  That is, until she gets a review that puts the star ballerina's nose out of joint.  The star insists that Ninette be fired and the administration does what the star wants.  Ninette finds herself alone with no job and no money.

She casts about for work but finds none.  There seems to be no recourse except to become a woman who lives off men.  But then the stray cat who showed up a while back begins talking to Ninette.  At first she is sure she is crazy but the cat insists he has a way out of her predicament.  Soon she is on a train to a destination she knows nothing of with a ticket the cat has stolen.  Next is a channel crossing and she ends up in Blackpool, England.

The cat has plans.  He is in fact an Elemental Spirit who has taken on the task of protecting Ninette.  He knows that there is a music hall in Blackpool that is run by an Elemental Master and he feels that Ninette would be a success working there and safe with that much power around her.  He comes up with the idea of Ninette impersonating a fairly well-known Russian ballerina named Nina Tchereslavsky.  Since no one in Blackpool is that interested in Russian ballet, it seems logical that Ninette is Nina.  When the owner sees Ninette dance, he sees how good she is and decides she is just the person to help him move forward with a new form of entertainment he has been planning.  Things go well, with Ninette becoming a star attraction.  Then trouble starts to occur.  The real Nina Tchereslavsky finds out about her imposter and is determined to put things straight.  Even worse, it turns out that she is also an Elemental and an evil one.  Now Ninette is her sworn enemy and she is determined to destroy her.

This is the fifth novel in Mercedes Lackey's Elemental Masters series.  Each novel retells a familiar fairy tale, in this case it is that of the cat that manages to outwit all of his enemies.  Lackey is well known in the fantasy world, having written over one hundred and fifty novels.  This was my first read of a book by her, and I was interested to see what her writing was like.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Under Cover Of The Night by Diane Fanning


Jocelyn and Wesley Earnest seemed like a typical couple.  Both were professionals, athletic and well-liked by those around them.  Jocelyn was a manager at a finance company and Wesley was a school administrator.  They loved to go fishing and camping and hang out with friends.  From the outside, they seemed to have a good life.  But trouble was brewing under the surface and in the early 2000's, they separated and later filed for divorce.  Jocelyn stayed in the family home in Forest, Virginia, while Wesley got possession of the million dollar home they were building on Smith Mountain Lake, although he actually was living at the Virginia coast near the high school he worked at.

Then in December of 2007, tragedy struck.  Jocelyn was looking forward to leaving town and spending the holidays with her family.  When her friends and work couldn't contact her, one of her friends went to her house and made a horrific discovery.  Jocelyn was lying on the floor dead, the victim of a gunshot wound.  When the police arrived, they noted a suicide note.  But the investigation quickly showed that this was not a suicide but a murder.  The prime suspect and the person arrested was Wesley Earnest.

The book follows Earnest's trial.  It ended in a mistrial through a mistake made in the juror room.  The prosecutors in Bedford County, Virginia, retried.  The evidence showed that Wesley was a self-centered man, determined to have his own way.  He resented the fact that Jocelyn was moving on and that she was in much better financial shape than he was.  He had a new relationship but couldn't get past the fact that Jocelyn had moved on.  The evidence hinged on things like a fingerprint on the false suicide note, lies that Wesley had told everyone around him, a suspicious borrowing of a friend's vehicle, and the manipulations of those around him that he continued even from the jail.  Wesley was convicted and given life without parole.  He is currently serving that sentence.

Diane Fanning is considered one of the premier true crime authors currently working.  She has covered cases like that of Tommy Lynn Sells, a serial killer who killed across the country for more than two decades and who was brought to justice by the testimony of a ten-year old girl who survived an attack.  She and her work has been featured on such shows as 48 Hours, Deadly Women, 20/20, Court TV and the Discovery Channel along with various network news shows.  She is also the author of several fiction series, including one that focuses on the work of the women of Oak Ridge, Tennessee during WWII.   This book is recommended for readers of true crime.

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Autograph Man by Zadie Smith


Alex-Li Tandem is a bundle of contradictions.  He is a Chinese man on his father's side and Jewish on his mother's.  He lives in London and makes his living finding and selling autographs.  His best friends are all guys he met at a ball game the last day of his father's life, when he was twelve.  Mark grew up to be a rabbi and he feels it is his mission to bring Alex into the fold.  Joseph was the person who first collected autographs and shared his love with Alex, then went into the insurance field when he was grown.  Adam lives for religion; he doesn't work but spends his days smoking dope and interacting with philosophy and religion.  His sister, Esther, is Alex's girlfriend and has been for a decade.  Alex lives in London as do all his friends.

Alex's obsession is the actress Kitty Alexander, an almost forgotten star of the forties.  She has been a recluse for years and Alex has tried to get her autograph for most of his life, writing her almost every week since he was thirteen.  She is his Moby Dick, his obsession.  He knows it is unlikely that he will ever find her autograph but hope springs eternal.

At a huge autograph show in New York, things start to happen.  He is on the outs with Esther, having cheated on her with a woman from the autograph world.  At the show, he meets and hangs out with a beautiful woman famous for her time in porn movies.  He broods over the fact that Adam and Mark both expect him to have a Kaddish ceremony for his father on the thirteenth anniversary of his death, coming up in the next week.  Unbelievably, right before he leaves London he receives an autograph in the mail from Kitty Alexander and when he realizes she is right there in New York, he vows to find a way to meet her.  Can Alex straighten out his tangled relationships and obligations?

The Autograph Man is Zadie Smith's second novel, written after the success of her first, White Teeth.  It explores the concepts of friendship, of familial obligations and the difficulty of finding one's life work and dedicating the time and energy to make it a success.  Readers will find themselves drawn to Alex as he bumbles through life as his kindness and desire to make the world better for all the people he knows shines through.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Bitter Lemons by Lawrence Durrell


Bitter Lemons is Lawrence Durrell's account of his time on Cyprus between 1953 and 1956.  Durrell is best known for his literary success The Alexandria Quartet, but he was also a man about town, a government representative and someone who loved to get to the heart of a country.  He wanted to know the average citizens of the places he lived and met these simple folks with an understanding that made him popular and loved wherever he went.

The first half of the book covers Durrell's purchase and renovation of a villa in the Cyprus hills.  Readers will delight in the recounting of how a purchase is made and all the characters involved in the sale of a property.  The character descriptions of the various people he meets in the village and of those who came to do the work needed to make his house habitable are intriguing.  His love for the people of Cyprus shines through as well as his love of the island himself.  The descriptions of the gorgeous views and all the plant life available are stunning and the reader feels as if they were there also looking at hills covered with flowers, smelling the scents of lemons and wild flowers.

The second half of the book is more serious.  Durrell becomes the press advisor for the government when it becomes apparent that he will need more money to stay on the island.  This was the critical time in which the British were starting to realize that they would probably be helping Cyprus become a free nation.  The issue at hand, however, was the fact that the island was inhabited by large contingents of Greek and Turkish citizens and each wanted different things in a free Cyprus.  Durrell covers the failing efforts of the British administration to resolve things.  As government negotiations failed, armed resistance started up.  Soon family was fighting against family, young men were leaving school to fight as freedom fighters, and people started to die as bombs and assassinations occurred.  Durrell knew it was time to move on when one of his oldest friends there, a teacher, was killed one evening.

The Durrell family is undergoing a renaissance with the recent PBS adaption of their lives.  Gerald, the biologist, has a series of books about the animals he loved so dearly and most of those have been reissued.  Many were aware of Lawrence's master series which has been called the best exploration of modern love and an intriguing portrait of the Egyptian and Middle East cultures.  Readers of those volumes will enjoy this look at another portion of Durrell's life, and those new to him will enjoy getting to know him and being exposed to his luminous, marvelous prose.  This book is recommended to memoir readers and those interested in Durrell's life and adventures.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Losing The Light by Andrea Dunlop


Brooke Thompson is an ordinary girl from an ordinary small city in California.  She longs for something more, something better.  College is her first taste of getting away but she doesn't really fit in.  She watches the other girls in envy, especially the tall, blonde, athletic girls that are always in the midst of every social occasion and who seem to know how to fit in effortlessly.  She knows she won't be part of their circles.  Brooke drifts through her year but when she gets involved in a scandal, the college offers her a year abroad in France.

She goes to France, determined to remake herself and become the person who gets the kind of life she's imagined.  She is surprised to find one of the other students is a girl from her college, Sophie, who was always one of the golden girls.  Sophie is bright and beautiful and popular and Brooke can't believe it when she is singled out by Sophie to be her best friend in France.  But the friendship seems real and soon the two girls are totally entwined.  They are determined to become as French as they can and ignore all the other American students in their program, spending their time together and plotting a future where they leave their pasts and live forever in France.

They meet a French friend, Veronique, through the program and soon they are part of her circle.  She is an actress and is surrounded with other friends in the arts.  There are artists, writers, sculptors and the girls feel that they can fit right in.  They meet Veronique's cousin and are fascinated by Alex who is a successful photographer.  Soon the two become three as they spend more and more time with Alex at his grandmother's house and then at his villa at the beach.  Alex has everything they ever wanted and he seems willing to share it all with them.  Can two ever truly become three?  As the two girls are drawn deeper into Alex's life, it all rushes to a tragedy that will tear their lives apart.

Andrea Dunlop has written a novel that will touch the memories and hearts of readers.  We each remember that first friendship that seemed would never change, one in which two people trust each other without reserve and share everything.  We all remember the first obsessive love we have, where every minute is consumed with the wonder of that person wanting us in return and the heady stuff of sexual obsession.  For most of us, these are pleasant memories but for a few, they are disastrous.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Beach House Cookbook by Mary Kay Andrews


Summer is coming and most are ready for vacation days and breezy, family meals.  Mary Kay Andrews, beloved author of southern charm novels, has created a cookbook for just such scenarios.  As a resident of Atlanta, Georgia, Andrews knows a thing or two about the topic and has created a book that is gorgeous to look at and full of recipes that feature fresh ingredients.

The book is organized by time of year with chapters such as Summer Solstice Dinner, Lazy Weekend Brunch, After A Day At The Beach and Souper Supper.  Each chapter contains recipes for a full meal.  For example, the Summer Solstice Dinner has recipes for James T's Secret Iced Tea, Zucchini Vichyssoise, Beyond The Grave Chicken Salad, Tomato Pie, Ritualistic Pimento Cheese and Trailer Trash Dessert.  Each recipe has a short blurb from Andrews explaining how she uses the dish or cooking tricks she uses preparing it.  One of the first dishes I'll be trying is Corn And Crab Chowder.   This one looks delicious.

Very few of the soups I make hew closely to a written recipe—especially when we’re at the beach, where I might not have all the ingredients my recipe calls for on hand. This corn and crab chowder is a good example. Sometimes I leave the potatoes out if I don’t have any. Sometimes I substitute cream or whole milk for the half-and-half, and sometimes I use frozen corn—I like the kind that comes frozen in a tube—but in the summer, I prefer to use fresh corn. I do always use crab; usually claw meat, since in a soup you really can’t distinguish lump from claw. And I love the deep flavor the shot of sherry adds at the end. If you like a thicker chowder, whisk 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour with 2 tablespoons half-and-half and stir it into the soup at the end, before adding the sherry. Simmer for 5 minutes to thicken.
1 Tbsp. olive oil, plus extra as needed
2 slices bacon
2 large shallots, minced
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
6 small red potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 cups fresh corn kernels (about 8 ears)
1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half
1 lb. crabmeat, picked over
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 tsp. sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Chopped chives for garnish
1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat, add the bacon, and cook for 8 minutes, or until crisp. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain, and reserve the drippings in the pot. Chop the bacon.
2. Sauté the shallots and bell pepper in the bacon drippings for 3 minutes, or until tender, adding more oil if there aren’t enough drippings. Add the potatoes and sauté for 5 minutes.
3. Stir in the corn, broth, and half-and-half and simmer over medium-low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender. Stir in the crabmeat and cook 5 minutes longer. Remove from the heat, stir in the sherry and salt and season with the pepper to taste. Garnish with the bacon and chives. Serve.

With Mother's Day coming up, this would be a great selection for the cook on your list.  Any cook would be excited to read and use these recipes by one of the South's greatest treasures.  

Saturday, April 29, 2017

American Gods by Neil Gaiman


Shadow sits in prison waiting on the day he can go back home to his wife and his life.  His time is about up but he is released early when his wife and his best friend are killed in a car accident.  Broken and disbelieving, he returns home only to find out that they have betrayed him and had been having an affair.  With the only thing that sustained him gone, Shadow hits the road, adrift and wounded.

He isn't sure where he will go but soon he meets a man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday.  Mr. Wednesday is a con man, a rogue, and he seems to know much more about Shadow and his life that anyone should.  He offers Shadow a job as his helper, chauffeur, bodyguard, whatever he needs someone to do.  Shadow sees no reason not to accept  and the two men hit the road.

They go on a massive road trip, visiting all Mr. Wednesday's friends.  As the trip progresses, it becomes apparent that Mr. Wednesday and his friends aren't normal people.  In fact, they aren't people at all, but the old gods from every culture.  Mr. Wednesday is their leader and he is rounding them up to battle.  A war is brewing with the new gods of technology and government intervention, a war for the soul of America.

Neil Gaiman wrote American Gods ten years ago and it became an instant classic.  It won the Hugo and Nebula awards that year and catapulted Gaiman into the stratosphere of the science fiction/fantasy genre.  It is about to be released as a series on Starz and expected to be a huge hit.  It is the kind of book that once one is finished, one wonders why they hadn't already read it.  The themes of mythology, good against evil and what is wrong with modern culture strike a note that creates a receptive audience.  It is, simply, a masterpiece of fantasy and is recommended not only for fantasy/science fiction readers but for every reader.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Gone Without A Trace by Mary Torjussen


Hannah Monroe is riding high.  She has just been to a very successful conference at which her supervisors have made it clear to her that she is on the road to promotions and further success at her company.  She can't wait to get home and share the news with her boyfriend, Matt.  She is so excited she stops to get some champagne to celebrate but when she pulls into her driveway, the house is dark.  Disappointed that she has beaten Matt home, she opens the door and all normalcy goes out as she goes in.

Inside, something is wrong.  The first thing she notices is that the big pictures that hung in the entryway are missing.  As she goes further in, she sees that the big-screen tv which was Matt's pride and joy is missing as well, although oddly, the old tv it replaced is back there.  As she looks around, she sees other things missing and she starts to realise that only Matt's things are gone.  Unable to understand at first, she looks further and further and finally the truth sinks in.  Matt is gone.  He has left her without a word of explanation.  Frantically, she looks through her phone only to see that all her pictures of Matt and her messages to him are gone.  The same is true on her computer.  No pictures, no emails.  He has wiped himself from her life.

Hannah's world falls apart.  She tells her best friend, Katie, but Katie is absorbed in her own life with her own boyfriend and career.   Hannah doesn't tell her family at first as her parents have a troubled marriage and she tries to avoid saying anything personal around them.  She tries to find Matt.  As she does so, the realization that this was a fully planned operation becomes apparent.  He has quit his job.  Even his mother has moved away with no forwarding address.

Soon Hannah's days become chaotic as she determines to find Matt, no matter what.  She is sure that if she can only talk to him, she can figure out how to get him back.  Her work begins to suffer as she spends her days worried less about her accounts and more about chasing down any clue she has.  Her health and appearance suffer as she skips most meals and drinks herself to sleep on the nights she even does sleep.  Soon her whole life is in jeopardy.  Will she give up the search or find a way to rescue Matt from wherever he has disappeared to?

Mary Torjussen has written a suspense novel that will ring true to Type A personalities and to those who have gone through the heartbreak of someone loved who decides unexpectedly to break things off.  There is the realization, the slow acceptance that nothing will ever be the same again.  For most people that is followed by a rebuilding of one's life, but for Hannah and those like her, it becomes an obsession that they can't let go.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Booksie's Shelves, April 26, 2017

It's almost the end of April.  My college freshman will be home this weekend for the summer, one year of college already completed.  We have a busy summer planned and I'm sure it will fly by the same way.  I

I've also been caught up in the throes of prescription hell.  My insurance company contracted with a new company this year to handle prescriptions.  It's called CVS Caremark and apparently their modus operendi is to deny drugs whenever they can.  Like many people, I have dry eyes and mine are severe.  I depend on Restatsis and expensive compounded eyedrops to be able to function.  Last week I was able to run out so called in a refill (I still had five refills).  The pharmacy told me the insurance wouldn't approve the payment without a doctor reauthorization.  No problem.  I called the doctor's office to be sure they were on top of the situation and they had already sent in the paperwork.  A few days go by and nothing.  They sent it again.  Nothing.  Caremark insists they have received nothing.  I get to a resolution specialist and they call the doctor.  The doctor sends everything a third time and tries to call in person but had to give up after being on hold for thirty minutes.  So today I'll be back on the phone but I'm going to start calling state agencies and seeing what can be done.  Try to avoid Caremark in your life if possible.

It's also rained for three days which makes for good reading weather.  Here's what's come through the doors:

1. Official And Doubtful, Ajay Close, literary fiction, purchased
2.  'Round Midnight, Laura McBride, literary fiction, won online
3.  Tornado Weather, Deborah E. Kennedy, suspense, won online
4.  Woman No. 17, Edan Lepucki, suspense, sent for book tour
5.  Rich People Problems, Kevin Kwan, literary fiction, won online
6.  Crossing The Street, Molly D. Campbell, literary fiction, sent by publisher
7.  The Improbability Of Love, Hannah Rothschild, literary fiction, purchased
8.  The Sinking Of The Angie Piper, Chris Riley, literary fiction, sent by author
9.  The Fallen, Eric Van Lustbader, thriller, sent by publisher
10.  Marlena, Julie Buntin, literary fiction, sent by publisher
11.  Bernie And The Wizards, Steve LeBel, fantasy, sent by author
12.  The Resurrection Of Joan Ashby, Cherise Wolas, literary fiction, won online
13.  Grief Cottage, Gail Godwin, literary fiction, sent by publisher
14.  The Beach House Cookbook, Mary Kay Andrews, nonfiction, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  American Gods, Neil Gaiman, paperback
2.  Dissident Gardens, Jonathan Lethem, Kindle
3.  
Mr. Splitfoot, Samantha Hunt,  Kindle Fire

4. The Lesser Bohemians, Eimear McBride, paperback
5.  Perfect Prey, Laura Salters, Kindle Fire
6.  Gone Without A Trace, Mary Torjussen, Kindle Fire
7.  The Buried Book, D.M. Pulley, audio
8.  Under Cover Of The Night, Diane Fanning, paperback
9.  Bitter Lemons, Lawrence Durrell, paperback
10.  Wolf Hall, Hillary Mantel, hardback

11.  Smoke, Dan Vyleta,  Kindle Fire

Happy Reading
!


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Secrets Of Death by Stephen Booth


The Peak District in rural England is recognized as one of the most beautiful places on Earth to contemplate nature.  That means that summer is tourist season there, with all the hassles that come with an enormous influx of people in a place that is fairly quiet the rest of the year.  It's always a busy time for the Derbyshire Police Department and DI Ben Cooper and his team.  But this year something is new and it isn't natural at all.

There has been been a significant uptick in suicides with the individuals going to tourist areas for their last moments.  There doesn't seem to be anything connecting the individuals.  They don't seem to have known each other.   The methods used differ, an asphyxiation by gas, a jump, slit wrists, gunshot and an overdose but the proximity of their deaths means that they get noticed and considered as a group.  Most are men with one woman so even gender is not a connecting factor.  Yet Cooper and his team and more importantly, his superiors, feel that the deaths are connected somehow.  There is major concern that the trend, if not stopped, will impact the region's tourist trade and thus its entire economic reality.

Meanwhile, in the nearest large city Nottingham, Cooper's former partner, Diane Fry, has issues of her own.  She left Derbyshire, desperate to get to the city and more bustle and less personal contact.  While Ben has made DI, Diane's abrasive personality and impulsive disregard for police protocols has kept her at the sergeant level.  She is involved in a long-term investigation of a man suspected of a series of murders of young women.  When he becomes one of the suicide cases Ben's team is investigating, the two investigations merge and the former partners are thrown back together.  The tensions that drove them apart still exist, although each respects the instincts that make a good investigator.

This is the sixteenth novel in the Cooper and Fry series.  The tension comes from the relationship between the two individuals and the difference in their investigating styles.  There is much in their relationship and lives that is referenced in this novel, but it also reads well as a stand-alone for those who are new to the series.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams


When Arthur Dent is whisked off the planet mere seconds before it is destroyed forever, he couldn't help but think this was the strangest thing that would ever happen to him.  Little did he know, it was just the beginning of a journey that would constantly amaze him and turn every concept of life he thought he was sure of upside down.  He is accompanied by his friend, Ford Perfect, an out-of-work actor.  Or at least Arthur always knew Ford as such.  It turns out he has been on Earth for fifteen years as a researcher for the publication A Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, and isn't even human as we know humans.

Soon Arthur meets other inhabitants of the new, strange world he has been thrust into.  There is the two-headed rapscallion Zaphod Beeblebrox, who by the way, happens to be president of the galaxy.  His girlfriend, Trillian, turns out to be a girl Arthur had met at a party and hoped to pick up before Zaphod had shown up and whisked her away.  There is the ancient man who builds worlds and is especially fond of his fjords.  Then there is Marvin, an advanced robot who is cognizant enough to be constantly depressed and glum.  Together they set out to find the answers to those questions men are apt to spend hours debating, Why are we here?  What is the point of existence?  Why, why, why?

This is one of iconic books of science fiction.  Adams created an entire industry when the characters in this universe occurred to him and he wove them into a novel.  It is light and funny while also tackling the eternal questions philosophers have been debating since the dawn of time.  The characters are endearing and readers will recognize lines that have endured and made their way into everyday conversation.  This book is recommended for readers of science fiction.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Pitch Black by Alex Grey


Returning from vacation, Chief Inspector Lorimer walks right back into a murder investigation.  The new midfielder on the local football club, brought in to facilitate the club's return to the Premier League, is found stabbed to death in his home.  His wife is arrested and most people feel that's that.  A sad story but nothing more.  Lorimer is not so sure after meeting the woman but all the evidence is there so he puts his misgivings aside.

Then the newest addition to the club, a flashy player whose penchant for off-pitch shenanigans make him a press favorite, is also murdered.  Is this just bad luck for Kelvin Football Club?  When a referee is gunned down in his driveway after a game with unpopular calls, the press goes wild with speculation about a serial killer with a fixation on the Kelvin club.  As Lorimer investigates, he uncovers an organization in the midst of chaos, with an owner who is unlikeable and perhaps criminal and players who are now worried about doing the thing they love most, playing football.

Grey's Chief Inspector Lorimer is an interesting protagonist.  He and his wife Maggie have a strong marriage and he understands how she is his refuge and anchor.  He spends time not only solving the crimes he is assigned, but helping the men under him progress in their own careers.  He works with a supervisor that he despises and one who got the promotion everyone expected to be his.  All in all, he is a full-featured man rather than a cardboard cutout as the police in mysteries are often portrayed.  The mystery is satisfactory and the reader finishes the book ready to seek out another in the series.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Beauty Of The End by Debbie Howells


Noah is alone when he gets the call.  That's not surprising; Noah is usually alone.  He gave up his career as a lawyer and now lives in a remote cottage where he writes books about the criminal mind.  He doesn't have friends where he lives and really has no interest in anyone from his former days.

The call is from Will, his best friend growing up.  They fell out years ago over a woman and Noah hasn't talked with him since.   They both loved April, the mysterious girl who came to their school when they were all teenagers and who Noah never gave up on.  He found her again after she left the village where they all grew up  April and Noah were to be married but she left him right before the wedding.  The next time he heard from her, she was engaged to Will.

Now Will is a famous doctor and he is calling from the hospital.  April has just been brought in.  She is in a coma after an overdose and worse, she is a suspect in a murder.  The victim is her stepfather, the man who abused her growing up.  Noah knows he has to go and see what he can do to help.  Was April the person the police believed her to be or a victim who had spent her life running from her past?  As he delves into April's recent life, he starts to discover things he never knew.  Can Noah discover the truth about what happened?

Debbie Howells has written a brooding mystery that slowly reveals the truth about the three adults who started their journey together as teenagers.  Noah peels back layer upon layer of deceit and he realises that he never knew April at all.  The reader is encouraged to examine their own life and relationships and attempt to see if new eyes can explain things in the past that never made sense.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Booksie's Shelves, April 7, 2017


April is here and spring is in full flower.  I love seeing all the dogwoods and azaelas blooming and the skies turning bright and Carolina Blue.  Speaking of Carolina, we just won the national championship and of course, I've watched and cheered on the team all the way.  This year was particularly interesting as the Gamecocks (from USC where my daughter is attending) made it to the Final Four as well as the Tarheels (where my son went).  I was glad not to have the two face off for the championship.  This is also a birthday month in our house with both my daughter and me having our days this month.  That means lots of lots of books coming in, as both of our favorite gifts are books.  All in all, it's been a great month.  Here's what's come through the door lately:

1.  Age Of Myth, Michael J. Sullivan, fantasy, purchased
2.  The Futures, Anna Pitoniak, literary fiction, sent by publisher
3.  Secrets Of Death, Stephen Booth, mystery, sent for book tour
4.  The Breakdown, B.A. Paris, suspense, won online
5.  The Day I Died, Lori Rader-Day, mystery, sent by publisher
6.  American Gods, Neil Gaiman, fantasy, sent by publisher
7.  Marion Hatley, Beth Castrodale, literary fiction, sent by author
8.  Girl At War, Sara Novic, literary fiction, purchased
9.  Reserved For The Cat, Mercedes Lackey, fantasy, purchased
10.  The Mare, Mary Gaitskill, literary fiction, purchased
11.  Shadow Man, Alan Drew, mystery, sent by publisher
12.  The Librarians And The Mother Goose Chase, Greg Cox, fantasy, sent by publisher
13.  No One But You, Brenda Novak, romance, sent by publisher


Here's what I'm reading:

1.  Pitch Black, Alex Gray, Kindle Fire

2.  Dissident Gardens, Jonathan Lethem, Kindle
3.  
Mr. Splitfoot, Samantha Hunt,  Kindle Fire

4. The Lesser Bohemians, Eimear McBride, paperback
5.  Perfect Prey, Laura Salters, Kindle Fire
6.  Wolf In White Van, John Darnielle, paperback
7.  The Buried Book, D.M. Pulley, audio
8.  Under Cover Of The Night, Diane Fanning, paperback
9.  Bitter Lemons, Lawrence Durrell, paperback
10.  Wolf Hall, Hillary Mantel, hardback

11.  Smoke, Dan Vyleta,  Kindle Fire

Happy Reading
!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Barkskins by Annie Proulx


In 1693 two Frenchmen, faced with lives of poverty and hopelessness in France, come to the new territory of America as indentured servants.  Their names are Rene Sel and Charles Duquet and their destinies and that of their descendants will be linked for centuries.  They are put to work as 'barkskins' or loggers.  The forest is omnipresent and the forces of civilization want the land for farming.  The work is brutal and their master is a cruel one.  They soon regret their choice.  Sel stays and over time is released and marries a Mi'kmaw woman.  Duquet runs away and becomes a fur trapper.  After some success, he decides that that trade has limited opportunities and he becomes a timber salesman.

Duquet is an instinctive businessman and his company thrives.  He goes overseas, on the long trip to China several times to trade timber for their goods and to Europe.  While in Europe, he seeks out others in the timber trade and after consideration, marries into a wealthy Dutch timber family.  He changes his name to Duke and over the years the Duke Timber company becomes successful and its founding family immensely wealthy.  They move operations from the East Coast to Chicago but constantly seek out new timber resources, in the Pacific Northwest, in New Zealand and South America.

Sel's descendants do not do as well.  Shunned by both cultures, they live in a shadowy space between.  The Indian culture is dying out as their land is appropriated by the colonists and the forests on which they depend are harvested.  Forests are considered to be resources that can't disappear but over the years that proves to be untrue.  The forests are tamed and disappear.  Most of the wood isn't even used as settlers just burn off massive acreage to start their farms.  Once cut, the forests cannot be quickly rejuvenated, even when the timber industry starts to see their folly.  The work is challenging and dangerous and those who call themselves barkskins often lead short, brutal lives.

Annie Proulx is a master author.  She has won the Pultizer Prize for Fiction.  Barkskins has been chosen as a Bailey's Prize for Women's Literature longlist, a New York Times Notable Book and a finalist for the Kirkus Prize for Best Novel.  Her multigenerational story of the Duke and Sel families and how the two interact over the years catches the reader's interest while educating about the depletion of our timber and the many uses timber can provide besides their use in construction.  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Duplicity by Jane Haseldine


Julia Gooden is a journalist on the newspaper in Detroit.  She is also a wife and mother to two sons.  Her life is a balancing act like that of most working moms but hers is perhaps a bit more challenging.  Her husband, David, is an assistant D. A. and the line between being partners and that of maintaining a professional distance is a fine one.  Add on the fact that Julia and David are recently back together after a separation and it's easy to see that her marriage is a potential source of discord as they try to define borders while rebuilding trust.

David is in one of the biggest cases of his career.  He is prosecuting Nick Rossi, a local gangster who controls much of the drug traffic along with other criminal enterprises.  It is a high profile case and one that is potentially dangerous for David and the whole family as retaliation against law enforcement is not out of the question for the Rossi crime syndicate.  Julia is covering the case for her newspaper, an assignment she had to fight for due to the inherent potential for accusations of favoritism.

As she goes to the court one day, Julia is distracted.  Her elder son, six, is on his way there on a school field trip, and she is trying to coordinate covering the trial with meeting his class during the lunch break to help shepherd them through the courthouse.  The court is tense that day as David reveals in the trial that he has a new witness, one of Rossi's former associates who will blow the case wide open.  Julia is in the foyer waiting on her son's bus when a bomb goes off in an apparent attempt to assassinate the witness.  Her son hasn't yet arrived but David is not that lucky.  He is caught in the blast along with the judge and both are rushed to the hospital along with the other victims.

Julia is determined to find out who planted the bomb and to find the evidence that will put Rossi away for good.   As she delves into his empire, she starts to discover that nothing she thought she knew was right and that the very foundation of her own life is unstable.  She works in partnership with two local policemen she has known for years and their efforts take them further and further into the mysteries that underlie Nick Rossi's life.

Jane Haseldine's second Julia Gooden mystery is a fast-paced and interesting read.  Julia is impetuous and haunted by a childhood that she is determined to put in the past.  Her balancing act between being a mother, wife and professional will ring true to many women.  Her struggle to find a way to trust others after her past is compelling.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz


It's an annual ritual.  Anxious high-school seniors, their dreams of their future lives and careers on the line, start the grueling process of admission to the college of their choice.  From the time they are in elementary school, the importance of this moment and what it takes to be successful are pounded into kids.  You must have great grades.  AP classes are not a choice but a necessity and you better do well in those.  Your SAT and ACT scores will determine your future.  You need glowing recommendations from educators who insist you are the best student they've ever encountered.  Oh, and you better have tons of extracurricular activities, a driving passion for some subject, proof that you will shine.

Once all the grades and accolades have been collected, it's time to actually fill out the admission form.  Your essay is the most important paper you will ever write.  Because here's the truth.  For every spot in great colleges, there are scores if not hundreds of students who also want that seat.  Can you outshine the girl who has won her state's poetry contest?  The guy who has lettered in three sports while also doing groundbreaking scientific research?  The applicant whose parents and grandparents all went to this university?  Better apply to four or five colleges to be sure of getting in somewhere next year.

As familiar as this story is for most families, the one that Jean Hanff Korelitz tells the reader in Admission  is one they probably haven't heard.  Korelitz tells the story of Portia Nathan, an admissions representative at Princeton University.  Portia is consumed with a stressful career, the recruiting visits, the anxious questions wherever she goes, the reading and scoring of applications, the genteel wars conducted in the admissions committees as each admission representative fights for their favorites.  Outside of her work, Portia has lived a settled couple existence with Mark, an English professor at the university.  They are a quiet couple, no kids but work they love and a social live composed of other university couples.

Then everything changes.  Mark falls in love with a new professor and Portia's home life is threatened.  She meets a man on a recruiting trip who she is attracted to and who shares in that attraction.  She also meets a fascinating student at an alternative school whose paperwork and grades are unlikely to win him a place at Princeton, but a student who will shine and who will contribute to the university as he has a unique, brilliant mind.  Unsettled by her personal life, Portia is determined to push this student's application through regardless of all the shining applicants who will be pushed aside if she succeeds.

Readers will be intrigued to read this alternate view of the admission process.  It is such an all-consuming process for families that most have never stopped to consider the people who are actually making the critical decisions that influence the rest of their child's life.  Portia's quiet, settled life and her willingness to shake it up after years of contentment is interesting and the reader wants to get to know her better and understand her motivations.  This book is recommended for readers or literary fiction or anyone with a child who will be undergoing the admission process.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Outsider by Anthony Franze


Grayson Hernadez has come a long way but not as far as he dreams of.  Born in a poor neighborhood, he has fought his way out and become a lawyer.  Not an Ivy League lawyer, but a graduate of a city university with no prestige.  Instead of job offers at big-name law firms, the best job he could find was as a messenger in the Supreme Court.  Gray is thrilled to be there as he always idolized everything about the Court, but it hurts to be in a menial position while others his same age are chosen to work as clerks to the justices.  They are smarter or harder working, but they have the background and education expected of high flyers.

One day after work Gray steps in and stops a mugging in the Court's parking garage.  After the intruder escapes, he goes to help the victim and realizes it is the Court's Chief Justice.  The Justice takes notice of Gray and promotes him to clerk.  Gray is overjoyed and is determined to work so hard that the fact of his unorthodox entry won't matter.  The other clerks are less than happy to have him join the team but Gray is used to not fitting in and settles down to work.  Then the police who investigated the mugging ask for a meeting.

There have been several incidents and there are signs linking the crimes to the Supreme Court.  The police want Gray to be their eyes and ears inside the Court and report back anything suspicious he might see.  Gray is not happy with this plan but feels compelled to help.  There have been several murders each of which have occurred on the fifth of a month.  The next date is coming up and the police are determined to close the case before that date rolls around.  Can Gray help or will he get entangled in the murderer's plans and be executed himself?

Franze has written a thriller that educates the reader to the back scene procedures of the Supreme Court while unfolding a mystery.  Gray is a likeable protagonist although naive and too easily led by those around him.  As the mystery unfolds, he reconnects with his past and finds a way to merge his background and his future plans.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Death Of A River Guide by Richard Flanagan


Aljaz Cosini, a Tasmanian, has signed on as lead guide on a rafting trip down the Franklin River in Tasmania.  Cosini has been away from his homeland for a decade and is not in the best of shape for such a grueling job, but he's broke and needs a job.  His co-guide, Cockroach, is young and strong but doesn't know the river at all.  Still, it's a week and they need the money.  They collect their group who are a typical group of tourists and set out.  But the river is in the mood for blood.  The weather turns and steady rain causes the river to rise precipitously  When one of the tourists makes a foolhardy move, Aljaz jumps into the river to save him.  Instead, he finds himself head down stuck between two rocks, slowly drowning.

As his last minutes tick away, Aljaz finds himself having a series of visions.  He sees his life rush past, with jobs from footballer to sailor to handyman.  His marriage to the only woman he has ever really loved flashes past with the reason it failed in the biggest tragedy of his life.  He not only sees his own life, but that of his ancestors.  That includes his parents.   Harry marries an Eastern European woman he finds and falls in love with in Italy in a misbegotten attempt to become a sewing machine salesman.  They return instead to Tasmania where they live out their lives, their closest friend the midwife who assists at Aljaz's birth.  But Aljaz sees even further back to ancestors such as Ned Quade, who comes to Tasmania as the result of transportation for a crime he doesn't even remember.  He also has visions of the Aboriginal woman whose place in his genetic background is never talked about.

Richard Flanagan is acknowledged as one of Australia's premier authors.  He won the 2014 Man Booker Prize for his novel, The Narrow Road To The Deep North, an exploration of the Australian experience during the second World War and the Japanese POW camps.  This was Richard Flanagan's second novel.  As always, he explores the history and lush environment of the land he lives in and loves.  He captures the beauty and the despair that is the characteristic of the people who live there.  He explores the exploitation of both Tasmania's natural resources and the native people who are supplanted there by those who come and conquer the land.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Widow's House by Carol Goodman


When Clare married Jess Martin, they had big plans.  Both graduates of the writing program at their university, they expected to have stellar writing careers.  Jess was first out of the gate with a novel that got a big advance and some praise, although their writing professor and mentor dammed it with faint praise.  Then their plans got stuck.  Jess's second novel just didn't seem to materialize.  Clare basically gave up her own writing to support them, working in the industry as a copy editor instead.

The couple decide to get out of the city and move to the country where it is cheaper to live and both can start their writing careers anew.  They are quickly dismayed when they realise their down payment won't buy anything they would want to live in.  Finally, the real estate agent shows them a cottage on a local mansion.  The owner needs a couple to move in and be caretakers on the property.  It sounds ideal until they hear the owner's name.  This is River House and it is the family home of their old college professor, Alden Montague, the man Jess believes killed his career.  Clare has other misgivings as River House is in her old hometown and she isn't ready to move back and reestablish a life in a place she couldn't wait to leave as a young girl.

But they overcome their misgivings in favor of a fresh start.  Monty, as he is known to all, seems delighted to see them both again and is quite encouraging of their efforts to rekindle their creative fires.  He has other creative artists in residence, a puppeteer and a sculptor.  Jess and Clare seem to fit right in.  Clare is caught by the interior of the house and a picture that reminds her of the story she wrote in college that first caught Monty's eye.  It was a story with gothic overtones of the Apple Queen, a local beauty queen who comes to a horrific end.  Clare, with Monty's support, starts to expand this work.  Jess's writing also seems to be off to a great start.

But things aren't that good.  As Clare delves deeper into the legend, she learns that it is based on a real tragedy, a tragedy that involved Monty's family.  His father had a torrid affair with a local girl but when she got pregnant, bought off the family with a farm and instead married a society girl, who also got pregnant right away.  Having two women living a mile apart, both pregnant by the same man and fighting for his attention, led nowhere good.  It ended in one baby stillborn, one woman drowned, the other hospitalized in a mental institution for life after killing the man who caused the tragedy.  Now Clare is so involved in the story that it seems to come to life for her.  She begins to see the ghost of the Apple Queen and comes to find that she may be related and more involved in the story than she had even imagined.  The marriage starts to feel the strain as Jess seems to become jealous of Clare's work, although he passes it off as concern.  Is Clare headed for a breakdown?

Carol Goodman specializes in novels featuring middle-class educated women who find themselves in situations that seem unlikely and border on the supernatural.  She is a master at plotting and building tension and the reader is surprised at the denouement and how it all works out.  This book is recommended for readers of psychological suspense.  It can be purchased at Harper Collins or Amazon.  I received this novel from TLC Book Tours.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Follow Me Down by Sherri Smith


Growing up, Mia Haas couldn't wait to get away from her small farming community in North Dakota.  Raised by a narcissistic, alcoholic mother and with few friends at school, the only bright spot in her life was her twin brother, Lucas.   He was the town's golden boy, handsome and a hockey star.   Once she graduated, she ran as fast as she could to college and then to a city life as a pharmacist.  Her brother had a harder time settling down as he always thought he'd play professional hockey, but after realizing that wouldn't happen, he eventually returned to their town where he seemed to be happy teaching English at the local high school and coaching the soccer team.  Their mother, who had never recovered from a car accident in the kid's senior year, still lived there in assisted living, but might or might not recognize them from day to day.

Mia's life is better, although she is starting to get bored with her job.  Then she gets the call.  Her brother is missing.  Mia drops everything and heads to North Dakota.  When she gets there, it is a nightmare.  Lucas is not just missing.  He is the prime suspect in the murder of a beautiful high school girl, the daughter of the richest and most influential family in town. Even worse he is suspected of having a relationship with the girl who seemed to have a crush on him.  Mia can't believe any of that and she is determined to stay until she can find her brother and help him refute the charges.  Mia is the only person who seems to worry that something might have also happened to Lucas.

There doesn't seem to be much hard evidence, but the rumors and gossip that drove Mia away are in full force.  Could any of it be true?  Lucas had always been the one the town loved, his good looks and athletic ability making him a hometown hero, but now everyone seems to be against him.  Mia starts to look for other suspects.  Joanna wasn't the perfect girl everyone had thought her.  She had a boyfriend who was the local drug dealer.  She was in constant conflict with her mother, who was living her own dreams of becoming a dancer through Joanna.  But there are plenty of people ready to believe anything about Lucas.  The local sheriff has disliked him since their mother's accident, when Lucas was adamant that law enforcement wasn't getting the true story of what caused their mother to crash.  His former best friend married Lucas' old girlfriend, the girlfriend that couldn't believe it when Lucas and she broke up and who stalked him for months.  The press, sensing a juicy story, are out in full force, printing any rumor they can find.  These people are all too ready to believe the worst about him.  Mia is frantic to find him as she thinks Lucas could be in danger somewhere or murdered along with Joanna.  Can she find him when the police and the whole town seem to be against her?

Sherri Smith has written a taut, fascinating look at small-town life and how the roles never seem to change.  Those with money and good looks lead a charmed life at the expense of those around them.  People are assigned a value and place in society early on and it is almost impossible to change the community's assignment.  As Mia faces down the prejudice and smugness of a town ready for Lucas to get his comeuppance, she remembers why she couldn't wait to leave.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Booksie's Shelves, March 19, 2017


It's mid-March already!  Time for St. Patrick's day and March Madness.  My Tarheels are in the tournament and I hope will have a great run.  After weeks of warm weather, it's now cool and damp and very unencouraging as far as venturing out.  I think I'll spend this week getting my taxes ready and reading.  Here's what's come through the door lately:

1.  A Shattered Circle, Kevin Egan, mystery, sent by publisher
2.  The Velveteen Daughter, Laurel Davis Huber, biography, sent by publisher
3.  To Lay To Rest Our Ghosts, Caitlin Hamilton Summie, anthology, sent by publisher
4.  The Curse Of La Fontaine, M.L. Longworth, mystery, sent by publisher
5.  Beauty And The Beast, Penguin Classics, anthology, sent by publisher
6.  The Widow's House, Carol Goodman, suspense, sent for book tour
7.  Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman, anthology, purchased
8.  Gateway To Everywhere, Ernest Frankel, historical fiction, sent by publisher
9.  The Lost Book Of The Grail, Charlie Lovett, thriller, sent by publisher
10.  Mongrels, Stephen Graham Jones, literary fiction, sent by publisher
11.  Duplicity, Jane Haseldine, mystery, sent for book tour
12.  The Book Of Polly, Kathy Hepinstall, literary fiction, sent by publisher
13.  The Skill Of Our Hands, Steven Brust/Skyler White, fantasy, sent by publisher
14.  Follow Me Down, Sherri Smith, suspense, sent for book tour
15.  Hide Me Among The Graves, Tim Powers, fantasy, purchased
16.  The Familiar, Vol I, Mark Danielewski, literary fiction, purchased
17.  Chemistry, Weike Wang, literary fiction, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  What Comes Next, John Katzenbach, paperback

2.  Dissident Gardens, Jonathan Lethem, Kindle
3.  
Mr. Splitfoot, Samantha Hunt,  Kindle Fire

4. The Lesser Bohemians, Eimear McBride, paperback
5.  Perfect Prey, Laura Salters, Kindle Fire
6.  Death Of A River Guide, Richard Flanagan, Kindle Fire
7.  The Buried Book, D.M. Pulley, audio
8.  Barkskins, Annie Proulx, hardback
9.  Bitter Lemons, Lawrence Durrell, paperback
10.  Wolf Hall, Hillary Mantel, hardback

11.  Smoke, Dan Vyleta,  Kindle Fire

Happy Reading
!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

What Comes Next by John Katzenbach


Jennifer is running away from home.  The sixteen year old can't endure another day of her mother living with her horrible step-father or the school where she has no friends.  As she strides towards the bus station, her world is abruptly ended when a van stops and she is yanked off the street.  Her captors are a couple, young people whose minds are in total sync.  Michael is a computer whiz who thinks of himself as a star in the online world.  Linda is a business woman who thinks act is fine but only if there's money to be made.  Together they make a murderous, sociopathic pair.

When Jennifer's absence is noticed, Terri, the detective who catches the call, isn't sure what to think.  She has been to Jennifer's house two other times when the teenager ran away.  Isn't this just one more attempt, perhaps a successful one this time?  When a retired psychology professor comes forward and says he saw the abduction, she starts to believe it could be true.  But her police routines and procedures show no clue as to what as happened to Jennifer.

Jennifer is now know as #4.  She is confined in a basement with her every move captured on a camera and broadcast on the Internet.  Her captors sell subscriptions on the darkest parts of the Internet to those who are fascinated by the thought of a helpless girl confined and condemned to endure whatever her captors want to do to her.  The subscription is interactive so that the viewers can post suggestions or bet on when various acts might occur.  As the number implies, Jennifer is not the couple's first victim and the first three are all dead.

Jennifer's only chance is a strange trio of people.  Professor Adrian Thomas is recently retired, a former psychology professor who spent his life experimenting and observing the far reaches of the mind.  He has, however, just gotten the news that he has a neurological condition that will quickly take his mind and reasoning from him.  Detective Terri Cross is willing to help but burdened with too many cases and too little time.  Finally, there is the man who is a sexual offender himself but who the professor convinces to be his guide through the hidden, forbidden parts of the Internet.  Can this unlikely trio get to Jennifer before her time is up?

John Katzenbach has long been recognized as one of the masters of psychological suspense working today.   This novel is one of his best efforts.  The action moves inevitably to a gruesome end with the tension tightening and tightening until the reader both dreads and is compelled to continue reading to see what occurs.  This book is recommended for mystery and suspense readers.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Lies Of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch


All Locke remembers is the street.  First he was part of a ragtag group of kids who were street urchins, pickpockets and thieves for the Thieftaker.  When he proved too intractable for the Thieftaker to handle, he was sold to Father Chains, also known as The Eyeless Father.  By day, Chains sat in front of his temple, chained and begging.  But as soon as night fell, he threw off his chains and eye bandages and showed his true colors, as the leader of a group of misfits known as The Gentlemen Bastards.  Chains raised this group of boys to be smart thieves, fearless in guile and fighting.  There are the twins, Locke and Jean.  They were taught to be thieves, yes, but they were also given an education and taught languages, how to cook and appreciate fine things and how to appear as gentlemen.  Most of all they were taught to be brothers forever, to look out for each other first and always.

Fast forward a decade or so.  Locke is now grown and the head of the group.  He is not the biggest, in fact he is fairly scrawny.  But he is brilliant and fearless.  Jean has grown to be the most feared warrior of the group, unbeatable in battle.  The twins are inseparable and loyal.  A fifth Bastard has been added.  Bug is the group's newest apprentice, learning everything he can about how to steal and prosper.

Locke is involved in a massive scam.  He is posing as a gentleman and scamming one of Camorr's finest noble families out of their fortune.   In the midst of this, he gets caught up in a battle royale between the current head of the city's underground society and a newcomer determined to take control.  Both expect Locke's loyalty and help.  Then there is the small matter of the head of the city's justice having Locke square in her sights as well.  Can Locke and the Gentlemen Bastards maneuver between all these enemies to gain their fortune and live another day?

This is one of the best books I've read in the fantasy genre.  Whenever I think about the fact that this is a debut novel, it is almost unbelievable.  Lynch has created a wonderful world, reminiscent of old Renaissance crime-ridden cities mixed with Dickensian-like characters and intricate plotting.  The reader cannot help but love Locke and the other Gentlemen Bastards, even though they are not of the side or truth and light.  Under their criminal veneer, their basic goodness and unending loyalty to each other is intriguing.  This is the first in a trilogy of adventures, and readers will close the last page ready to buy and read the next.  This book is recommended for readers of fantasy.