Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Truth by Terry Pratchett

In Ankh-Morpork, the city thrives on rumors.  Of course, no one really knows what's going on, but that's okay.  But William de Worde doesn't think so.  He has renounced his wealthy family and must scratch out his own living.  He does so by sending letters to various men of influence telling them what is going on.

William's life changes when he meets Gunilla Goodmountain and his fellow dwarfs.  They have come to Ankh-Morpork to make their living and have brought their printing press with them.  William is entranced with the rapidity that news can be distributed and before you know it, he has created the first newspaper, the Ankh-Morpork Times.  He hires Sacharissa Cripslock, a beautiful girl who is determined to make her way as a writer and who seems perfect for the business.  He also hires Otto as the photographer.  Otto is a vampire and every time he takes a flash picture, he crumbles into ashes and must be reconstituted.  Together, the group soon has a thriving business.

But all is not well.  Another newspaper, The Inquirer, starts up and it has a different business plan.  It's so hard to figure out what is going on so they just make up stories.  Not the truth but very popular with the readers.  One of their stories is about the top administrator, Lord Vetinari.  He has disappeared and the rumor is that he stole money before his disappearance.  William is sure Lord Vetinari is innocent and in fact, in danger, but few believe him.  The appearance of two of the most murderous villains, Mr. Pin and Mr. Tulip, tends to back up William, but can he survive long enough to bring the truth to his readers?

This is the twenty-fifth novel in Terry Pratchett's enormously successful series, Discworld.  It was published in 2009, but is prescient of the 'truth' or 'false news' controversies swirling around in today's world.  The humor is sly and omnipresent.  Fans of Pratchett's world will rejoice in this title, and those, like me, for whom this is an introduction, will wonder what took them so long to discover Pratchett's genius.  This book is recommended for fantasy fans.

Friday, February 16, 2018

A Plague Of Giants by Kevin Hearne

In this new epic fantasy, a disaster has come upon the lands.  Bone Giants have invaded and are determined to take whatever they want.  They can throw up a city in mere weeks, and their response when meeting with anyone from any of the surrounding countries is to kill everything they encounter.  In this world, every country is the site of a Keening, an extraordinary talent that is given to some of its inhabitants.  There are five known kennings.  In a country near the sea, the keening is to control water; another country controls rock and earth while another controls all plant life.  There is talk of seven kennings but only five have been discovered and used.  All the other countries band together to fight the invasion and the death and destruction the giants bring.

Dervan is an academic.  He grew up with the ruler of his country and many of the refugees from the giant's invasion have ended up in his country.  The ruler asks Dervan to do two things.  First, he must learn how to speak with a giant that has been captured and imprisoned in order to see what he can determine about their plans.  Then he is to work with and report on a bard who has come to town.

Fintan is the bard.  He is a shape shifter and uses his talent to take on the character and forms of those he tells tales about.  He gathers an ever-growing crowd each day to tell them about what is happening; how the giants have come, what they have already done and plan to do and what the various countries plan to counter them.  He talks of heroes and disasters, of tragedy and courage and disaster and hope.  The crowds grow every day to hear him and the rulers want to have someone there to be sure what Fintan is saying, as there is also suspicion that he is a spy.  Can the other countries pull together to defeat the greatest enemy any have encountered?  There is a rumor that the Sixth Keening has been discovered and perhaps it will provide the answer.

This is the first novel of a planned trilogy by one of the masters of fantasy.  Hearne's Iron Druid series is a masterpiece in the fantasy genre and this new series promises to be another one.  The world building is epic and his ability to juggle myriad characters while advancing the story is amazing.  The structure of having the bard tell the story in daily implements allows Herne to introduce all the characters in detail while filling in the story of how the giants are to be defeated.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster

This is a trio of novellas by the author Paul Auster.  The books are City Of Glass, Ghosts and The Locked Room.  In City Of Glass, Quinn, an author who writes detective stories, finds himself involved in solving a mystery that is stranger than anything he ever created.  In Ghosts, a man named Blue, trained by Brown, has been hired by White to watch and report on Black.  He devotes his life to this only to discover that Black is watching him also.

The final novella is the most finely developed.  In it, the best friend of a man named Fanshawe is contacted by Fanshawe's wife.  She reports that he has disappeared and she is sure that by now he is dead.  He has left an extensive library of his writing, and instructions that if anything were to happen to him, his friend was to be notified and become the literary executor of his writings.  The writings are, surprisingly, snapped up and soon recognized as works of genius and the man soon falls in love with Fanshaw's wife and becomes part of her life.

Auster's work is concerned with the difficulties of identity, how we define ourselves and whether our definition is truth or only what is easiest for us to believe.  The novellas show how easily humans are thrown off their routine lives and tipped into strange occurrences that leave them grasping for meaning.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Friday, January 26, 2018

The Cutting by James Hayman

Detective Mike McCabe left his career as a homicide detective in New York City.  He has bad memories there.  His brother was gunned down and killed there and his marriage fell apart.  The department had him under a cloud of suspicion after he ended up shooting the man who killed his brother.  With all of that baggage, moving to Portland, Maine should give him a new start. 

But Portland isn't as restful as he thought it would be.  A teenage soccer star went missing and is found a week later dead, mutilated with her heart missing.  When he checks, he suspects this isn't the first murder like this and another woman just went missing.  On top of that, his ex-wife after three years has decided it's time to re-enter his daughter's life.

McCabe and his partner, Maggie Savage investigate and soon have a suspect.  They start to believe that this is a pattern that has occurred many more times than they suspected and that it concerns a group rather than one individual.  When the conspiracy appears to have roots in Florida, New York, Boston and North Carolina, they realize that they are facing something no one has seen before.  Can they find the killer before more women are killed?

This is the first book in the McCabe/Savage series.  which has five novels at the time of this review.  This one is a promising start with fully drawn lead characters and a fast-paced plot that still gives the reader a view into police procedure.  Although the plot line has been done before, Hayman breathes fresh life into it and his characters and the tensions between them insure the reader's attention is retained until the end.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

It was summer in England and a group of twelve year olds had it to themselves.  Their parents worked and anyhow, who really watched kids in 1986?  They spent the days playing in the woods or on the playground, riding their bikes and trying to impress each other.   Each has his own issues.  Eddie's mother has just opened the first abortion clinic in town and their family is getting threats.  Fat Gov is the leader as he is the most confident; his parents run the local pub.  Hoppo's mother was the local cleaning woman.  Metal Mickey had an obnoxious older brother who loved to make the gang's life miserable.  Nicky was the only girl; her father was the preacher and he had a group that protested at the clinic every day.

The kids led a generally carefree life but that summer everything changed.  It started at the fair where they witnessed a horrific accident and Eddie helped save a life, making him a hero for a while.  The real hero was their teacher, Mr. Halloran.  That was the summer they got chalk and spent time leaving coded messages for each other.  That was also the year they found out about death.

Now it's thirty years later and Micky has come back to town, the most apparent success among them all.  Eddie is now a teacher himself but still lives in the same house where he rents a room to a young woman named Chloe.  Fat Gov now runs the pub his parents ran and Hoppo is still his best friend.  Micky left town and is a successful ad executive.  Nicky moved away after the events of that summer and the guys lost track of her long ago. 

Micky comes to see Ed (as he now thinks of himself) and Ed's not sure he's glad about it.  Micky wants to make money off the events of that summer thirty years ago and the gang who discovered the bodies.  He's back in town to try to get Ed to help with the writing of a book and has lined up media events.  But his return leads to the return of tensions and death.  Can Ed and his gang from that long ago summer find the truth once and for all?

C.J. Tudor has written a nostalgic yet suspenseful psychological thriller that readers will enjoy.  This is her debut novel but won't be her last as this one is getting great reviews.  Each character is fully developed and readers will remember their own young days and young friendships, taut with shared adventures and the first stirrings of danger and betrayals.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Victims by Jonathan Kellerman

No one is very surprised that Vita Berlin is a murder victim.  A thoroughly unpleasant woman who rarely left her apartment, she had nothing but venomous speech whenever she encountered anyone.  Her neighbors lived in fear of upsetting her.  But who did she upset enough to have her body left in the way it was?  Even seasoned policeman blanched.

The case is assigned to Milo Sturgis and he brings in his psychologist friend Alex Delaware as the killer has to be out of the ordinary.  When additional victims start to show up, that assumption becomes even more likely.  There is nothing to connect the victims; nothing but the fact that each is an unpleasant person.  Yet there is no doubt that the same killer is at work.  In addition to the gruesome bodies left, every crime scene had some paper with a large question mark prominently displayed.  Can Milo and Alex find the killer?

This is the twenty-seventh novel in the Alex Delaware series.  The series has been successful due to the interplay between the psychologist and the policeman.  One is all about the surface facts while the other delves deep into personality disorders.  Together they are a formidable team as the length and success of the series will attest.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Woman In Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

This is the big break Lo Blacklock has been waiting for.  She has been marking time at a small travel magazine, waiting on a promotion that is unlikely to happen at such a small enterprise.  But a marvelous opportunity has fallen in her lap.  Her boss falls ill and is unable to go on a maiden voyage cruise and chooses Lo to go in her place.  If she does a good job, she can either get that promotion or make enough buzz to move to another job.

This should be an easy assignment to find plenty to write about.  The cruise ship is small, just ten suites.  It is the latest brainchild of the fabulously wealthy Richard Bullmar, a young entrepreneur whose every idea turns to gold.  This inaugural trip of the Aurora will have Bullmer and his wife, some of his friends and various media representatives.  They will go from England to Norway, which is his wife's homeland.  The hope is that they will get to experience the Northern Lights in addition to utter luxury aboard.

But things don't go well.  The first night, Lo is in her bed.  Yes, she drank too much at the first dinner but she knows when she bolts upright out of a sound sleep that something is wrong.  She hears a scream, then a huge splash as if a body has hit the water.  Looking next door from her veranda, she sees that the door is streaked with blood.  Surely someone has fallen into the ocean.

She calls the chief steward but things don't go well.  He insists that there was no one in the adjoining cabin even when Lo insists that she met the woman there before the dinner.  When she describes the woman, he takes her around to meet all the staff and there is no one that matches the description.  Since it is a small ship, there is only a handful of staff.  Even worse, the steward suggests that Lo was mistaken; that she was either intoxicated or that she is paranoid and looking for attention.  But someone believes her and that someone is determined to stop Lo before she can get the ear of someone who matters.  Will that person succeed?

Ruth Ware has written an intriguing thriller that will keep readers guessing.  The suspense builds quickly and the updates from Lo's home as her family and boyfriend start to suspect something is wrong add to the mystery.  Ruth Ware has had a couple of best selling mysteries and she is a new star in the genre.  This book is recommended for suspense readers.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Dunbar by Edward St. Aubryn

Henry Dunbar should be a happy man.  He created a massive media empire over which he ruled for many years, a feared and influential man.  So how has he ended up in Meadowmeade, a sanatorium for the very wealthy but a prison nonetheless?  It's amazing how little it took to strip Henry of his empire.  Take two greedy daughters, Megan and Abby.  Once they recruited Henry's personal physician to give him drugs to disorient his mind, things escalated rapidly, ending in Henry's total loss of freedom and access to funds.  He has one more daughter, Florence, but Henry pushed her aside a while back when she refused to get caught up in the battles of the business, opting instead to move to a remote location and live with her husband and children.

But Henry has a plan.  He's been hiding his medicine for a while now instead of taking it and his mind is getting clearer.  Along with his best friend in the clinic, he plans to escape and then take back his empire.  The initial phase goes well and they escape, but the friend opts to return, leaving Henry to push onward into the fog and mountain passes of the rural England landscape.  Can a man in his condition survive?  Who will find him, his two older daughters or his younger one who has forgiven him everything?

Hogarth Publishing has undertaken having authors rewrite Shakespeare's plays in a more modern setting.  This title is the rewrite of King Lear and as that title was, is full of drama and tragedy.  It ponders the question of what is really important in life, titles and money and fulfilling work or family and love?  Henry is not a positive main character although there is much to admire in him.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Riverman by Alex Gray

When Duncan Forbe's body is pulled from the River Clyde in Glasgow, DCI William Latimer is called in to investigate.  Forbes had been at a going away party for another member of his accounting firm and everyone's first thought was that he had overindulged and fallen in.  But when drugs are found in his system, it becomes clear that this was no accident.

As Lorimer and his team interrogate the other members of the firm, they pick up an uneasiness and reluctance to talk.  When the man the party was given for is reported found dead in America where his new job was to be, suspicions rise higher.  When a flirtatious member of the HR Department is found dead in her apartment, it is crystal clear that the accounting firm has big secrets that are also dangerous.

Lorimer pulls in his psychologist friend, Solly, who is helpful in gauging personalities during interrogations and in looking at the case from a different perspective.  Solly has helped Lorimer on other cases and his insights are once again an impetus to Lorimer's thought processes.  Can the two men and the Glasgow Police discover what is going on before more lives are lost?

Alex Gray has written eleven novels in the DCI Lorimer series with another one coming in the spring of 2018.  Lorimer is not a flashy detective or one who ignores police procedure.  Instead, he uses the investigative tools available to him along with his own common sense to solve the murders that mar the Glasgow landscape.  His use of the psychologist as a consultant lends more interest to the cases but it is always clear who is in charge.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Delia's Shadow by Jaime Lee Moyer

It is 1906 and Delia Martin has returned home to San Francisco.   She is a wealthy young woman and the world should be her oyster.  Her best friend, more like a sister, is getting married and Delia is there to help plan the wedding.  But things are not as good as they seem.  San Francisco is being targeted by a serial killer; one who created havoc thirty years ago and who now is back at his killing ways.  This time, he may have Delia in his sights.

Her friend's fiance is a policeman and through him Delia meets Gabe.  Gabe is heading up the investigation into the killer.  Little does he know the help that Delia will be.  For Delia has always been able to see through the veil and sense spirits.  She has been accompanied for many months by a ghost that won't leave and is determined that Delia help her.  With the help of a medium, Delia realizes that this woman was a victim of the serial killer thirty years ago and she is determined to help bring the man to justice this time around.  Can Delia help Gabe finally put an end to him?

Jaime Lee Moyer has created an interesting historical mystery.  She has researched San Francisco after the great quake and provides a peak not only into that but into topics such as the Fair that followed it, wedding customs in the early part of the century and police methods.  The romance that builds between Delia and Gabe is expected and handled well.  This book is recommended for readers who enjoy historical mysteries.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Booksie's Shelves, January 2, 2018

It's a start of another new year and Booksie wishes all readers a happy, healthy prosperous year!  I'm doing a 2017 wrap up of my reading year along with a listing of what's come through the door lately and the books I'm in the midst of reading.  In 2017, I read a total of 117 books.  I met the following reading goals:

1.  I read more classics.  This year I read East Of Eden, Bleak House and Moby Dick.
2.  I read a lot more of my own books that are sitting on shelves and in piles. 
3.  I made progress in catching up in series by Mo Hayder, Michael Connelly, Jonathan Kellerman and John Sandford.

I rate my books on a scale of 1-5.  This year the fives included:

1.  The Diamond Age, Neal Stephenson
2.  Bleak House, Charles Dickens
3.  The Stress Of Her Regard, Tim Powers
4.  The Lies Of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch
5.  American Gods, Neil Gaiman
6.  Smoke, Dan Vyleta
7.  A Dark So Deadly, Stuart MacBride
8.  A Gentleman In Moscow, Amor Towles
9.  Shame, Salman Rushdie
10.  My Absolute Darling, Gabriel Tallent

Here's what's come through the doors lately:

1.  Morse's Greatest Mystery, Colin Dexter, mystery anthology, won at a party
2. Bone Music, Christopher Rice, mystery, sent for book tour
3.  The Undoing Project, Michael Lewis, nonfiction, won at a party
4.  Swing Time, Zadie Smith, fiction, purchased
5.  The Broken Girls, Simone St. James, suspense, won in a contest
6.  The Chalk Man, C.J. Tudor, mystery, sent for book tour
7.  Still Me, Jojo Moyes, literary fiction, sent by publisher
8.  The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin, fantasy, gift from my son
9.  The Obelisk Gate, N.K. Jemisin, fantasy, gift from my son
10.  The Stone Sky, N.K. Jemisin, fantasy, gift from my son
11.  The Mechanical, Ian Tregillis, sci fi, gift from my son
12.  The Rising, Ian Tregillis, sci fi, gift from my son
13.  The Liberation, Ian Tregillis, sci fi, gift from my son

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  Career Of Evil, Robert Galbraith, audio
2.  Strangler, Cory Mitchell, Kindle
3.  You, Caroline Kepnes, paper
4.  The Jury Returns, Louis Nizer, hardback
5.  The New York Trilogy, Paul Auster, paper
6.  The Riverman, Alex Gray, Kindle Fire

7.  A Book Of American Martyrs, Joyce Carol Oates, Kindle Fire
8.  Astonish Me, Maggie Shipstead, Kindle
9.  The Abomination, Jonathan Holt, Kindle Fire
10.  Delia's Shadow, Jamie Lee Moyer, hardback

11,  Victims, Jonathan Kellerman, paper

Happy Reading!


Friday, December 29, 2017

Lockdown by Laurie R. King

It's Career Day at Guadalupe Middle School and tensions are running high.  Things have happened that make the school less than a restful place.  Last year, a girl was shot outside of school but she was a student and the cousin of the boy who shot her goes to the school also.  That trial is now going on.  A new sixth-grader, the daughter of the local car dealer, disappeared and no word has been heard of her.  Was she killed somewhere or did she run away?

There is a new principal who is trying to turn the school around.  Linda comes from the Midwest, a strange match with her mainly Hispanic students, but seems to be making progress in helping the school.  Her husband Gordon is English and a bit of a mystery.  He helps out along with Tio, the janitor and Coach, a retired educator who has come back to help out.  Olivia is the local policewoman who watches over the town which means she is worried about the school as well.  Together they all try to help the students who have issues and keep things simmering under the surface instead of breaking out.

The students have shifting alliances and moods.  There is Brendan who is broodingly handsome and a basketball star but who is obviously troubled and seems to be ready to blow.  Sophia is the sister of the girl who was killed last year and is just starting to emerge from a cloud of grief.  Her best friend, Mina, has come to the area with her Iranian parents who are always worried about her security.  Nick was the missing girl's best friend and he has been lost without her and has started a viral campaign against her father.  All while these kids are supposed to be getting an education.  Will the school blow before Career Day is ended?

Laurie R. King has written many well-received mysteries.  Her series about Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell has been a major best seller.  She has four novels in a series featuring a female detective, Kate Martinelli.  This book is a stand alone but her ability to set a tense atmosphere and move the action along to a chilling climax is well demonstrated.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Now We Are Dead by Stuart MacBride

Detective Chief Inspector Roberta Steele, who has been the terror of the police force for years, has been demoted down to a Detective Sergeant.  This occurred when she planted evidence against Jack Wallace who she knew was guilty of rape but could not prove her case.  Now she has a new team and her caseload consists of bringing to justice shoplifters and other petty criminals.  Her main sidekick is Tufty, a young policeman who is interested in physics and finding a girlfriend.

But Steele has not given up putting Wallace away.  Right now he has the upper hand, filing complaints against her whenever she encounters him and the administration is on his side and has forbidden her to be anywhere near him.  But the rapes are continuing and she knows, just knows, that he is behind them all. 

Otherwise, her cases are varied.  An old lady is being terrorized by a loan shark after she borrowed money to get her pet dog to the vet.  A toddler is left for several days in an apartment when his mother overdoses on drugs.  Two other young children are found in a thieve's den where they are being trained to become thieves themselves.  It often seems that there is no way to stem the rising tide of crime but Steele is determined not to give up.  But can she make a difference before Wallace comes to take everything she holds dear?

Roberta Steele is one of the most memorable characters in crime fiction.  Although she is obnoxious and loud, a heart of gold beats underneath the rough exterior.  MacBride's ability to mix violent crime and a bit of humor that a policeman must have in order to survive is unparalleled and the reason his star shines so brightly in this genre.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Borne by Jeff Vandermeer

Rachel and Wick live in the City, although living is a very different proposition from what it was six years ago when the Company failed.  Now everyone must be considered an enemy and a residence must be hidden and provided with plenty of traps to catch would-be intruders.  There are no government services, no money and no civilization as most would consider it.  There are only power factions and a demand that everyone pick a side.  Rachel is a scavenger and brings home to Wick the food and technology she finds.  Wick is a scientist and can still create protein and items that help people survive, like medicine bugs or items that fight.

The Company was a biotech one, and when it got out of control, bad things happened.  They engineered bits of life and when those lives got too big to handle, they were released.  The biggest is Mord, a bear-like being that is stories high, huge yet able to fly.   He is psychotic from what was done to him and spends his days looking for anything to kill.  He is the defining element of this world.  There is also The Magician, a woman who knows enough secrets that she is sure she can defeat Mord and restore society, with her as ruler of course.

One day while scavenging, Rachel comes across Mord sleeping and crawls up on his fur.  Most scavengers would never have the courage to do that and Mord tends to have interesting things stuck in his fur.  That's the case this day as Rachel finds a small anemone-like item with beautiful colors.  She sticks it in her bag and takes it home.  For some reason she doesn't share it with Wick but keeps it.  As the days go by, it starts to grow and soon she is finding it in places she didn't leave it.  Finally, one day it speaks and she realises it is a sentient being.  As the days, weeks and months go by, Rachel thinks of Borne, which is the name she gives it, as her child and she nurtures and teaches him.  Wick is adamantly opposed as he believes Borne is a monster that Rachel hasn't seen the truth of.  Who is correct and what will happen if Rachel has brought in an entity that could destroy the world they tentatively inhabit?

Jeff Vandermeer is one of the shining stars of the sci fi/fantasy world and his novels tend to be dsytopian.  He writes of the fine line between the wonders of science and the horrors that can be released when humans err on their knowledge of the consequences they can unleash.  His Southern trilogy is considered a modern masterpiece, and this novel continues his themes and his readability.  This book is recommended for sci fi/fantasy readers.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift

Mothering Sunday is the third Sunday before Easter.  It was originally a day on which individuals visited their original or 'mother' church.  Over the years, it became a day on which domestic servants were freed from service to go visit their families or do whatever pleased them.

The year is 1924 and we follow the day of Jane Fairchild on Mothering Day.  She is twenty-two and a maid in the home of the Nivens.  They are kind to her, even encouraging her desire to read and educate herself.  On this Mothering Day, the Nivens are off to lunch with their friends whose son and daughter are to be married in two weeks.

But Jane has other plans.  She has been involved in an affair with the son who is about to be married and whose house is next to that of the Nivens for seven years.  Today all the families involved are off at lunch and the two have his house to themselves.  The novel opens in the moments when they are through with sex and lying naked in his bed.  But he has other plans; he must meet his fiance for their own lunch.  Will this be his last time with Jane?  They have taught each other everything about sex over the years.  Is that all to come to an end?

The novel is told from the viewpoint of Jane decades later when she is an established and celebrated author.  She looks back at her first lover and at her life in those days and sees how far she has come in life since then.  Graham Swift has written nine novels and has been a successful author, winning both the Guardian Fiction Prize and the Booker.  This novel is intricate and delves into the lifestyle common in England in the days surrounding World War I where great families have large homes and there is an entire class of people 'in service' to them.  Is Jane being exploited or is she taking charge of her own life?  The reader must determine this and other questions about Jane as her life is slowly unfolded for examination.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Forgotten Violets by Martin Niewood

Meadow Noone is eighteen and unsure of what is happening.  Along with two friends, she was imprisoned in a cellar where unspeakable horror was the daily ration.  When the three escape, their only thought is to get far away.  As they run, they are captured by soldiers and taken to the nearby town of Thornbridge, where they are charged with a crime they know nothing of.

Desperate to free herself and banish the criminal acts attributed to her, the three align themselves with the ruling class of the town and go on a mission to help the townspeople.  When they return, they enjoy a brief minute of acclaim but more things are brewing.  There is a war with a neighboring town, and an internal group of terrorists whose loyalty could go to either side.  Meadow allows herself to become addicted to a strange fruit and those whose help she relies on seem to know more about her life and strange powers than she does herself.  Can Meadow discover the secrets of her own life and find a way forward?

This is a first novel by this author.  The story needed more explanation and the book should probably be longer in order for the author to build the world out so that the reader understands the setting and the plot.  The action is confusing as it seems like a montage of scenes that flash by with little explanation.  It appears that this may be the first of a series and if so, perhaps more explanation and fuller developed characters will come in the next book.  This book was written for the young adult fantasy market and its readers will come from those genres.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Golden House by Salman Rushdie

In an established neighborhood in New York City, a new family moves into a fabulous mansion.  They are the Goldens who are immigrants from abroad, maybe India, maybe the Middle East, the residents are not quite sure.  The father, Nero, is an obviously successful and powerful man even if his story is shrouded in mystery.  He has moved here with his three sons.  Petya is a brilliant man who is crippled by his insecurities and is rarely seen outside the house.  Apu is an artist and quickly makes his mark in artistic circles, knowing and loving everyone and anyone.  D is the youngest son, a half-brother to Petya and Apu.  He is racked by doubts about his identity and what course his life should take.

Rene is a resident of the neighborhood.  He is a young would-be filmmaker who has grown up there.  He is fascinated by the Golden family and decides to make a movie about them.  When his own parents are killed in an accident, he is invited into the Golden house and soon learns many of their secrets.  When Nero meets and marries an enigmatic Russian immigrant, Vasilia, Rene is right there and sees the same things about her that worry the sons.  

As the years go by, more secrets and tragedies unfold, not only for the family but in the country.  Those who live in this Greenwich Village neighborhood are typically liberal and they bemoan the direction the country is taking after the administration of President Obama.  Some are blase about the election; others see the conservative candidate as a madman who has evil intentions.  The Golden family also starts to unwind as ill events happen to them and their innate inclinations lead them on to tragedy. 

Salman Rushdie is one of today's most prominent novelists and any new novel by him is a joy.  This parable documents the path America is taking as seen through the eyes of the New York intelligentsia.  There are references to Greek mythology and topics such as sexual identity, the autistic spectrum, the film industry, the tragedy of wealth and the ability to reinvent oneself are explored.  Some have called this novel a modern Bonfire Of The Vanities and it was an Amazon Best Book of September 2017.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

In The Woods by Tana French

Twenty years ago in a Dublin suburb a tragedy occurred.  Three children, aged twelve, went into the neighboring woods where they played daily and didn't return.  Two were boys, one a girl.  When the search reached the woods, one boy, Adam Ryan, was found, terrorized with shoes full of blood and unable to speak.  The two other children were never found and Adam never regained his memory of what happened that day.

Adam's parents reinvented his life.  He was sent off to boarding school and his name became Rob instead of Adam.  He never told any of his new acquaintances where he came from and his parents moved so that he never saw the neighborhood again.  After a while of drifting, he becomes a policeman and after a couple of years is promoted to the Murder Squad.  Most people think he is English as he has the accent from his years of living there and looks the part. 

Now disaster has struck the same neighborhood again.  A twelve year old girl's body has been found.  It was left on an archaeological dig as a group frantically tries to dig up and preserve the past before a motorway is laid down.  Katherine Devlin is the daughter of a man heading up a group protesting the motorway.  She is a dancer and good enough that she is about to leave to attend the prestigious dance school in London.  Her body is found on an old alter.  Who would kill such a young girl?

Rob Ryan and his partner Cassie Maddox have a multitude of possibilities.  Was she the victim of a sex crime?  Was it someone who wanted to cripple her father's fight against the motorway?  Was there family discord?  Was this an adolescent fight that got out of hand?  Was one of the money men behind the road involved?  The detectives talked to everyone but nothing seems to break.  Items that seemed like possibilities ended in dead ends.  Can they find the killer?

In The Woods was Tana French's debut novel, and it launched her career as one of the mystery genre's brightest stars.  The characters of the detectives are fully explored with their own insecurities and foibles ruthlessly exposed.  The mystery is complex and the killer, when found, is a chilling individual the reader will not soon forget.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

It's post-Arthurian Britain and things are not going well.  Britons and Saxtons are vying to rule the land and there is an uneasy truce between the two factions.  Travelers must beware if they go beyond the confines of their own village as it is not easy to tell which group another traveler is from and whether they mean harm.

Yet travel is what the elderly couple Axl and Beatrice are determined to do.  They are not valued in their own village; in fact they are singled out for poor treatment.  They are not allowed even a candle at night to light their way in the communal dwellings.  They decide to go visit their son.

They set out and believe they know the way.  Yet they, like everyone else, can't really remember things.  Things that happened only the other day are lost in mist.  Even important things are difficult if not impossible to hold on to.  They really don't know exactly where their son is or why they haven't seen him in so long or if they quarreled.

As they travel, they meet others.  Some are monks who still offer hospitality to travelers.  They meet an old knight in rusty armor who claims to be Sir Gawain, friend of King Arthur and part of the Round Table.  He has outlived all his fellow knights of that time but continues to roam the countryside to do the things he believes Arthur taxed him with.  They meet a warrior from another part of the country who seems to have a secret mission and about whom dreadful stories are told of his fighting prowess.  They also meet a young boy who travels with them and the warrior as his village has thrust him out of its protection.  Together all these individuals grope their way towards their destiny through the blackness of their missing memories.  Will they be able to realize their goals?

Ishiguro is a celebrated novelist.  He won the Booker Prize in 1989 for The Remains Of The Day and this year (2017) he won the Nobel Prize in Literature for his work.  He explores the effects of memory and forgetfulness as a major theme and how we relate to each other through our own understanding of the world we inhabit.   Readers will find these themes expressed in The Buried Giant and will finish the novel sure that they have been reading the work of a master.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Booksie's Shelves, December 1, 2017

How in the heck did it get to be December 1st?  This year has sped by and now we're in the busy holiday season.  Our Thanksgiving was nontraditional, to say the least.  We decided to skip the cooking this year and go to a big hotel buffet.  The only problem was that by the time we got there, a family member was sick and couldn't go inside.  So we cancelled and went back home.  Since I hadn't planned on cooking, there was nothing to cook so my husband made a frozen pizza for his lunch and later we had bacon and eggs for supper.  Hopefully, our Christmas will be a bit more traditional.  I did complete a reading goal this year.  I read Moby Dick and loved it!  Hopefully in the coming year I'll get to more of the classics and chunksters on my own shelves.  I've been transistioning to electronic ARC's this year so there are fewer books coming in the door but here's what's come lately:

1.  Home Field, Hannah Gersen, literary fiction, purchased
2.  Peregrine Island, Diane B. Saxton, literary fiction, sent by publisher
3.  The Italian Party, Christina Lynch, literary fiction, won in a contest
4.  The Bitch Is Back, Cathi Hanauer, essays, sent by publisher
5.  Forgotten Violets, Martin Niewood, fantasy, sent for book tour
6.  All The Birds In The Sky, Charlie Jane Anders, fantasy, purchased
7.  The Missing, C.L. Taylor, suspense, sent by publisher
8.  This Far Isn't Far Enough, Lynn Sloan, anthology, sent by publisher
9.  The Man In The Crooked Hat, Harry Dolan, mystery, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm reading:

1.  Career Of Evil, Robert Galbraith, audio
2.  The Buried Giant, Kazuo Ishiguro, paper
3.  You, Caroline Kepnes, paper
4.  The Jury Returns, Louis Nizer, hardback
5.  The Redeemer, Jo Nesbo, paper
6.  The Golden House, Salman Rushdie, Kindle Fire
7.  The Riverman, Alex Gray, Kindle Fire
8.  Astonish Me, Maggie Shipstead, Kindle
9.  The Abomination, Jonathan Holt, Kindle Fire
10.  Delia's Shadow, Jamie Lee Moyer, hardback

Happy Reading!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

One of my reading goals this year was to read more classics.  Back in the summer I read Bleak House by Dickens and enjoyed it immensely as I'm a big Dickens fan.  One day while scanning my shelves, Moby Dick seemed to jump out at me and I decided to give it a try.  I'd only heard negative things about it outside of English teachers who declared it a masterpiece but I decided this was the time.

What I never expected to find was how little of the book was about the epic battle between the whale and Captain Ahab.  In a book of around 550 pages, only the last 50 detailed that struggle although it was foreshadowed throughout.  The other thing I never expected was how much I enjoyed this novel.

If you ever wanted to know anything about whaling, this was your textbook.  The author spends pages detailing the types of whales, the skeletal features of whales, what whales ate, how they swam and their family lives.  He went into the same detail about the whaling industry, talking about what the sailors specifically did, what they ate, their relationships, their weapons, etc.  It is one of the most detailed looks at a topic I've ever seen examined.

Then there is the epic struggle.  No one who is a Type A can fail to relate to Captain Ahab.  That monomaniacal determination to win against all odds and no matter what the cost is what propels society forward and what leads to epic tragedies.  I didn't come away loving him, but boy did I relate to him. 

Bottom line is that it was definitely a wonderful reading experience.  This novel won't be for everyone but those who power through to the end will have a marvelous time.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction, those interested in the whaling industry and those struggling with control issues. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

American Wolf by Nate Blakeslee

In American Wolf, the reader is introduced to the wolf reestablishment program for wolves in Yellowstone Park.  Hunted almost to extinction, this program has been a success, bringing wolves back to their habitats throughout the Rockies in states such as Idaho, Wyoming and Montana.  While the program was a success with environmentalists who were heartened to see an ecosystem restored, it was greeted with anger and dismay by the ranchers who wanted the same land to graze their cattle and the hunters that felt that the wolves would threaten their livelihood of arranging elk hunts.

This controversy is illustrated through the life story of one particular wolf.  She was the alpha female of a pack and was known as O-Six for the year of her birth.  Park rangers and wolf-watchers followed her life from her infancy through her childhood to her mate selection and establishment of her own pack.  They watched as she hunted, fought off other wolves interested in her territory and as she successfully raised several litters of puppies.  She was a favorite of the watchers for her skill and grace and her intelligent creation of her pack.

But the book doesn't just talk about the individual wolves.  The author also explains the legal battles going on in court between those interested in saving the wolves and those who wanted to eradicate them.  He also explains the environmental benefits of the wolf introduction program.  While some say that it hurts the elk population, others talk of species that benefit.  For example, the beaver population exploded.  This happened because as the elk adjusted to the new predators and moved upward in the valleys, the willows they ate in the creeks had more chance of survival.  Since the willow is an important part of the beaver life, it helped more beaver to survive.  The coyote population was reduced to a more stable number as the wolves were the superior predators and as the coyote population lowered, that of small rodents who were their prey, rose. 

The author also talks about the humans involved.  He explores the work of specific park rangers, men who have dedicated their lives to rescuing and assisting wildlife.  He talks about the men and women who have made wolf-watching their life work, going out every day without fail to observe the wolves and make copious notes of their observations.  The arguments of hunters are examined along with an in-depth study of one specific hunter.  The reader will walk away from this book armed with an extensive knowledge of all sides of this compelling topic.  This book is recommended for readers of nature books and those interested in environmental topics.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

It all starts at a party in Los Angeles, California.  The Keatings are having a christening party for their younger daughter, Franny.  Everyone has come, a large contingent from the local Catholic church, tons of policemen who the dad, Fix Keating, works with, family members and even guys from the District Attorney's office.  It's a large party that spreads throughout the house and yard.  At the end of it, something has happened that will insure that things will never be the same.

Sometime during the party, Burt Cousins, a local D.A. meets Beverly Keating, the mother of the baby.  Sparks are apparent immediately and before the party is over, the two share a lingering kiss.  This kiss sparks a family tragedy as the two families are broken up.  Burt who has four children and Beverly, with her two girls, each divorce and they marry each other and move to Virginia.

There are now six children involved.  Over the years, they get to know each other and share summer vacations and irritation at their parents.  The novel follows each family over the decades.  Marriages come and go, there is a death that traumatizes everyone and the six children and their parents do a dance in which they come closer and then move farther apart, over and over.  When Franny is in her twenties she has an affair with a celebrated writer.  He takes the stories she has told him about her family and turns it into a successful novel that exposes all the family secrets and forms the basis of new relationships that are now built on truths long hidden.

Ann Patchett has a long history as a celebrated writer.  She has won both an Orange Prize for her novel Bel Canto and a PEN/Faulkner award.  Under her accomplished guidance, the reader learns about the Keating and Cousins families and how they are blended and torn asunder.  It is a paean to family and all the relationships that come from them.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

World-renowned mystery writer Alan Conway has finished his latest mystery.  That's the news that awakes book editor Susan Ryeland when she returns from a business trip.  She takes the manuscript home for the weekend and is soon thoroughly engrossed as she is a big fan of the series, although not necessarily the author himself.  She didn't hit it off to him so her partner has always handled him.  She gets to the end of the manuscript and realizes that the ending chapters are missing and there is no solution.  Ah well, some mistake must have happened and she'll get it straight on Monday.

Monday comes but there is no solution.  Instead, there is the shocking news that Conway has died in a fall at his home.  Susan's partner, Charles, gets a letter from Alan which is basically a suicide note and the police are ready to mark it down as one. 

But when Susan goes to Alan's house to look for the missing chapters, she starts to wonder if Alan has really killed himself or if someone else has done it.  The more she looks into his life, the more she realizes what a totally unpleasant person Alan is.  There are tons of suspects if its a murder; the boyfriend who was about to be pushed aside, the former wife and son who were shocked when Alan wanted a divorce to come out as gay, the neighbor who was involved in a dispute with Alan, the vicar who remembered him as a bully and the former student who claimed Alan stole his book idea.  With all the suspects, can it really be anything but murder?

Anthony Horowitz has written a stunningly good mystery novel.  The concept of writing a book within a book is unique and draws the reader in.  As Susan's investigation deepens, it soon appears that anyone who knew Alan had a reason to wish him gone.  The reader will turn the last pages satisfied to have resolved both the novel murder and the real-life one.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Flesh And Blood by Jonathan Kellerman

Dr. Alex Delaware remembers her.  She was one of his failures.  Lauren was a sullen teenager, forced into seeing him as a therapist by her parents.  She was totally uninterested in what he had to offer, coming late to appointments, leaving early and just quitting after a few sessions.  Underneath the attitude, Delaware sensed real issues that he'd have liked to help her explore but sometimes therapy is like that.

He saw Lauren one more time.  Having gone to a bachelor party, he was shocked to see her as part of the entertainment, dancing nearly nude for the jeering men greedily watching.  She showed up at his house a few days later, insisting on paying him in cash and bragging about how well she was doing.

Now Lauren has disappeared.  Her mother comes to Alex, asking him if he can help find her.  In the intervening years, Lauren seems to have matured.  She is going to college and working on a psychology degree.  Then one day she goes out the door, telling her roommate she would return shortly and never comes home.

As Alex and his friend on the police, Milo Sturgis, investigate, more questions than answers appear.  Lauren has significant investments and is paying for school herself.  Where did the money come from and does it have anything to do with her disappearance?  Is her disappearance linked to that of another beautiful blonde girl from the same university a year or so earlier?

This is the fifteenth Alex Delaware mystery.  Fans will be interested to read another of Alex's cases, although this one seems to have too many coincidences to hang together as well as others.  The interplay between Alex and Milo is always interesting; that between Alex and his long-time love, Robin, significantly less so.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Orfeo by Richard Powers

Peter Els has lived a life of music.  While he went to college to be a chemist, music was always large and came to be his major.  He is a composer and totally immersed in the musical world.  His friends are all musicians.  When he falls in love, it is with a musician.  Over the years, Peter has spent his time in bursts of creativity followed by fallow years when he fears the music has deserted him.  After his marriage fails and he loses his wife and daughter, he lives at times for years in isolation, emerging when his muse returns and he is in a creative cycle.

Now in his seventies, Els has a more serene life.  He spent his last working years as a music professor in a small liberal college and it was a content time for him.  He has taken back up his old interest in chemistry and created a home lab where he tickers with gene cells, wondering if their mathematical absolutism can be translated into music.  One day he opens his door to find police there.  With the rise of Homeland Security, his home lab had been noticed and when there is an outbreak of a disease no one can immediately diagnose, he comes under suspicion.

Alarmed by the visit and emotionally wrecked by the death of his longtime pet, Els is off-kilter and takes off, a move that again, makes him look more suspicious.  As he runs from the police, he retraces the steps and relationships of his past and the reader slowly learns what makes this man who lives in a world so far removed from what most of us experience, is all about.  His primeval need is to create and he sees music in everything around him.  He wants to use music to challenge, to push people past their normal barriers.

The twenty-four news cycle takes up the hunt for Els as he flees, having gained the nickname 'the biohazard Bach'.  Since he cares nothing for normal life and is used to solitude, he manages to evade the hunt as he moves from past icon to past relationship, always clarifying in his own mind the urge to create and share what he has learned.

Orfeo is a modern retelling of the myth of Orpheus.  It was a Man Booker nominee in 2014 as well as a National Book Award nominee.  It confirms the status of Richard Powers as one of our best modern novelists, one who is not afraid to take readers on a voyage of great thoughts and to challenge them.  In this work, the reader who is not musical gets a glimpse into what is so compelling about this world and about how creation is everything to those who inhabit it.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Living The Dream by Lauren Berry

Emma is a writer.  She knows she is; it is what feeds her soul.  But she spends her days as a 'creative' at a London marketing firm where they have high hopes for her talent and intuition but where she feels she is slowly dying.  Her boss is a joke whom she has to kowtow to on a daily basis and she only has one person there she considers a friend.  She has a blog with a small readership and she wants to take the next step but is paralyzed by the fear of striking out on her own.

Clementine has just returned to London from her college days in New York.  She got her degree in theatre and has a play that was well received by her professors.  She is working a dead end job in a bar while she shops her play around to various agents, hoping to make a breakthrough of all the piles of work they routinely get.  Best friends from their childhood, the two women support each other in matters of love, friendship and trying to carve out a career.

There are various men who come and go, are just passing encounters or desired relationships that never quite materialize.  There is the common friend who is about to get married so that the women get the full Bridezilla experience as she wends her way nearer her nuptials.  Above all, there is the deft touch of the author who makes these characters believable and ones that the reader is delighted to cheer on.

This is the author's first novel although not her first work.  She created a feminist 'zine Knockback and spends her time writing about the female experience.  Her work has been featured in English newspapers and magazines.  Readers will, at the end of this novel, hope that she will also continue to write novels as this first one is a delight.

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Hum And The Shiver by Alex Bledsoe

In a remote valley in rural Tennessee, a group of people live quietly, keeping to themselves and uninterested in contact with a bigger world.  Collectively, the group is known as the Tufa and rumors are spread about them.  All the Tufa have long, black, shiny hair, dark eyes that shine with light and are dark-complected.  The other thing known about them is that music plays an integral part in their lives and most of them are accomplished musicians.  Some say that when the first settlers made their way to the valley, the Tufa were already there in place.  Some say they have supernatural power.  But the Tufa don't say much at all. 

Things are stirred when one of their own is returned as a military hero.  Unlike most Tufa, Bronwyn Hyatt left and joined the army, serving in Iran.  When she is injured and rescued after killing ten of the enemy in an encounter, the nation wants to know more about her and how she did what she did.  She is returned with great fanfare, injured to the point where months of recuperation and rehabilitation will be necessary.  Or at least that's what conventional medicine would say.

The Hyatt family wants only to be left alone.  Chloe and Duncan have been married for many years, raising their children, Kell, Bronwyn and Aiden.  They don't want the fanfare surrounding Bronwyn's return.  They just want to return to their own ways.  Signs have been brewing that trouble is coming and they need their family to be intact and ready to face whatever is on the way.

Two outsiders come into the valley at the same time.  Don Swayback is a reporter, his career waning as he just hasn't been that interested in years.  He's heard family talk that he is related to the Tufa somewhere back in his history and that as well as Bronwyn's return sparks his interest.  Craig Chess is a total outsider.  He has been assigned to his first post after his ordination as a minister and he knows he has a tough road ahead trying to interest the Tufa in his religion.

As Bronwyn settles in with her family, trouble mounts.  Her wild boyfriend from before her military service is fresh out of prison and determined to get her back.  She is equally determined to resist him.  Is this the trouble that the omens are warning of?

Alex Bledsoe grew up in Tennessee so it is not unusual that he has chosen it as the locale of this fantasy series, currently at six novels with this one as the introduction to the Tufa clan.  The Hum And The Shiver was chosen as a Kirkus Best Novel in 2011, and the series continues to win praise.  This novel is recommended for readers of modern fantasy.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

Ceceila has it all.  A gorgeous husband, three healthy happy girls, a great house.  She is the head of the school parent organization, runs a home business that is thriving and is the queen of organizing.  Her house and life run on a right schedule and everyone envies her and how smooth her life proceeds.

Tess also has her own business.  She started an advertising firm with her husband and her best friend, who is her cousin.  Their talents were complementary and the business is producing quite a good income.  But Tess has just been handed a body blow.  Her husband and cousin have announced that they are so very sorry, they don't know how it happened, but they are in love and want to live together.

Rachel has no issues with relating to body blows.  Years ago her daughter was murdered on her sixteenth birthday.  The murderer has never been found, although Rachel has her suspicions about who might be the culprit.  She works as a secretary at the elementary school and has found solace in her son's new baby, a toddler who loves his grandmother. 

All these women are brought together when one of them opens a letter that should never have been opened.  It contains a secret that wasn't meant to be revealed until after the writer's death.  Now that it has come out in the open, it will affect each of these women and change their lives forever. 

Liane Moriarty has written a novel with three distinct plotlines that comes together in a complex fashion with everything resolved at the end.  Most female readers can relate to at least one of the women and most have known examples of each model.  It leads the reader to speculate on how they would handle such life-altering revelations and what strength they might have to face a crushing disclosure in their own lives.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Day I Died by Lori Rader-Day

Her name is Anna Winger.  Or at least that's her name in this town, one of a series of towns she has run to over the years.  Anna is hiding from her ex-husband, the man who beat her repeatedly and who she finally escaped from when she realized she was pregnant.  Now, thirteen years later, she has settled into a little town in Indiana with her teenage son, Joshua.  They are here for a while, all their belongings ready to pack up and flee at a moment's notice.

Anna makes her living on the computer.  She is a writing analyst and does work for large corporations vetting employees and for what she calls her 'lonelyhearts', women who want to know if the men they love are good and kind.  It is a profession that she fought to attain and one that allows her to support her family without personal entanglements.

But all that is about to change.  A two year old boy has disappeared in the small town Anna lives in.  Against her will, the police have her name from an FBI contact who steers corporate work her way, and they want to know what she can tell them from the note left behind.  Anna recognizes the writing of a woman who is also fleeing for her life and it draws her into the case against her best judgment.  Can she help find this child, or will looking for him cause her to lose her cover?  She is alternatively intrigued and repulsed by the sheriff heading up the investigation and senses that he might be the person that blows her cover forever.  Will she continue knowing the risks to herself?

Lori Rader-Day's writing has won several mystery awards, such as the Anthony Award for Best First Novel and the Mary Higgins Clark Award.  Her work has appeared in mystery magazines and she has written several other best selling mysteries.  In this novel, the reader is intrigued by the mystery in Anna's own background and is drawn into her life.  One can't help but hope for Anna to find more than she has managed to claw out of life so far and the novel is compelling for that reason.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.