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The Old Man by Thomas Perry (2017)

For thirty-five years, Dan Chase has lived quietly in Vermont, raising a daughter and happily married until his wife died ten years ago. Chase has kept himself mentally and physically sharp waiting for the day when someone discovers who he really is and comes to kill him. That day is now. All those years ago, Chase delivered $20 million for the CIA to a man named Faris Hamzah, who was supposed to give the money to Libyan insurgents. Instead, Hamzah kept the money for himself. Chase stole it back, and when he tried to get in touch with his superiors, they cut him off completely. Chase had no choice but to disappear. Now on the run, trying to outwit and overpower those who are coming after him, it's a cat and mouse game to see who comes out on top. Thomas Perry’s The Old Man is an extremely satisfying fast-paced thriller perfect for a cold winter's day.

The Crossing by Michael Connelly (2015)

crossingMichael Connelly lets his two popular characters – Detective Harry Bosch and his half-brother Mickey Haller (The Lincoln Lawyer) – cross paths and work together in The Crossing. Thus the reader is treated to the tactics and viewpoints of both defense and police as the investigation proceeds. But Harry is not at all comfortable working with the defense even though he has been forced into retirement by the police. He can’t help feeling like a traitor crossing over to the enemy and can only justify helping a defense lawyer by saying he is searching for the true killer. Other baffling crossings occur among the killers, victims, and the police who cross to the dark side.

Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan (2013)

goldenboyHabo is an albino growing up in Tanzania. He is shunned by his community and even his own family, but the horrors do not begin until Habo and his family move from their rural village to Mwanza. He then finds he needs to stay on the run to avoid hunters who wish to kill him for a bounty because of his condition. The most unbelievable part of this story is that this barbarism exists in Tanzania today. In Golden Boy, Tara Sullivan allows readers to feel Habo's pain and go along on his quest for freedom from the superstitious cruelty of Tanzanian albino hunters.
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Cemetery Girl by David Bell (2011)

cemeterygirlTom and Abby Stuart had a wonderful life—until their 12-year-old daughter Caitlin disappeared without a trace. Four years later, the police find their daughter alive. She refuses to discuss anything that happened to her during the time she was gone. Of course, she is a stranger to her parents, who are hanging onto their marriage by a thread.

Cemetery Girl is a good psychological thriller, told from Caitlin’s father’s point of view. When the villain is finally revealed, he is especially repulsive. I will definitely try more novels by David Bell.

Spotlight: Rick Riordan

swordofsummerWhile author Rick Riordan’s focus is currently aimed at children/teenagers, that doesn’t mean they’re off limits for adults. If you’re a fan of action/adventure and different types of mythology, you’re in for a treat! The characters are well developed and have great senses of humor despite the trying circumstances.

If you love Greek or Roman mythology, start with the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series (first book: The Lightning Thief). For Egyptian, give the Kane Chronicles a shot (first book: The Red Pyramid). Have a fix for Norse? Riordan has recently started on that with Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer!

The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds by Alexander McCall Smith (2012)

cloudsA short novel with a good ending but one that makes the reader wonder who actually stole the valuable painting from the wall of the Scottish country gentleman. Isabel is a philosopher and maybe an amateur detective with almost a compulsion to help others with their ethical and love life problems. She has lots of ideas and is always ready to listen attentively but with great care not to offend those seeking her help. At home she has little Charley, husband Jamie, and a sometimes troublesome housekeeper. With all this, it’s hard to see how she has time to edit the philosophy journal she owns or to help out at her niece’s restaurant. Isabel is a good friend to have as she seems to relish clouds passing by. If you enjoy The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds, there is a series of books by Alexander McCall Smith featuring Isabel Dalhousie.

The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly (2016)

wrongsideAs a private investigator, Harry Bosch has been secretly hired by wealthy Whitney Vance to find out before he dies if he has an heir. While in college in 1950, Vance was told by his girlfriend that she was pregnant, but after telling his father about the situation, the girlfriend disappeared and Vance never saw her again. Vance would like his vast fortune to go to his descendants rather than have it in the hands of his company’s board of directors. Bosch is also part of the San Fernando Police Department reserve unit and is partnered with Bella Lourdes to try and discover a serial rapist in the area that they have nicknamed "Screen Cutter." With these two cases, the reader accompanies Bosch as he uses his investigative techniques to find the answers he needs. The Wrong Side of Goodbye is a very satisfying entry in Michael Connelly’s long-running series.

Cold Wind by C. J. Box (2011)

coldwindC. J. Box does allegories as well as any author; in Cold Wind, we have consistent characters portraying Vengeance, justice, evil conniving, integrity, family loyalty, weakness, and corruption. See if you can tell who they are as you read this gripping tale of game warden Joe Pickett’s family living through troubling times of murder, accusation, and the temptations of wealth. His mother-in-law is accused and often appears pitiful in the proceedings, but Joe is not misled as he tries to do the right thing. Also, you’ll get a view of how government support may make wind energy a principal source in our environmentally focused economy and whether this is the right path.

Transatlantic by Colum McCann (2013)

transatlanticI appreciate good historical fiction, especially those stories that connect people and events across time. Colum McCann has done his research and given us some great historical framework before the reader figures out that Transatlantic is really about three generations of women who have left their mark on history, in particular that of Ireland. Great insights into women who carry many personal burdens, yet persevere. Great insights into human nature in general.

Forty Signs of Rain by Kim Stanley Robinson (2004)

40signsCharley Quibler works part-time as a Senate environmental aid, which gives him plenty of time to bond with toddler son Joe, and wife Anne continues her career as a department head at the NSF.

When Anne meets the newly arrived envoy from the island nation of Khembalung (in the Bay of Bengal), she invites them to dinner to talk to Charley about flooding problems on their island. Charley arranges a meeting with a senator to discuss their concerns about the rising sea levels but to no avail. Soon the rains do come, underscoring all the Khembalung’s concerns with problems close to the Quiblers and all the Washingtonians.

Kim Stanley Robinson’s Forty Signs of Rain treats us to an enjoyable visit with the engaging Quibler family and raises questions of how our nation may deal with some of the very wet problems of climate change. Check out other books in the series.

Leave Me by Gayle Forman (2016)

leavemeWhen 44-year-old New Yorker Maribeth Klein has a heart attack, she realizes she needs to slow down—but with working full-time and being the mother to preschool-aged twins, she is finding it hard to do. Her husband, Jason, and mother, Evelyn, seem unable to take over most of the tasks of running a household so Maribeth can rest and get better. Fed up, Maribeth, leaves her family and moves to Pittsburgh to recover. Pittsburgh is also the city she was born in, and Maribeth, an adoptee, would like to find her birth mother. Will living there anonymously help her find her way home?

Leave Me is very enjoyable novel full of heart and memorable characters. Gayle Forman’s book is a perfect read-alike for readers of Katherine Center and Mouse-Proof Kitchen by Saira Shah. O Magazine compared the book to Anne Tyler...a good match.

The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds (2015)

boyblacksuitThey always say, "don't judge a book by its cover," but it's hard not to do so sometimes. My eyes were first drawn to The Boy in the Black Suit because of the crinkled look that reminded me of a photo that had been passed around often without protection. All I wanted to do was smooth it out. I was warned that it was kind of a sad book, but I loved it.

I think many of us can relate to Matt who quietly faces the struggle of losing a loved one—that feeling of loneliness when nobody can relate, and they're not sure how to act around you. He ends up working as a pallbearer at the local funeral home. Most people turn to work to keep their mind off the grief, but Matt slowly finds comfort from his job, which allows him to sneak into funerals and listen to people who he can relate to in loss.

The novel also explores his imperfect budding romantic relationship with Lovey, plus his interactions with his boss Mr. Ray and his best friend Chris.

Jason Reynolds did a great job of making Matt a relatable character—he didn't have special powers, he wasn't super attractive or talented, he was just a regular kid living in real life. That's what this book was about: real life with all the ups, downs, and those little moments that make it all worth it.
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Death and Mr. Pickwick by Stephen Jarvis (2015)

deathmrpickwickSome reviewers were suffocated by Stephen Jarvis’ 800+ novel aiming to show it was the illustrator, Richard Seymour, not Dickens who had the original ideas for The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. Although I had to renew the book, I enjoyed following Mr. Indelicate and Inscriptino (Scripty), the present day investigators, as they searched 19th century evidence for Mr. Pickwick’s origins.

Death and Mr. Pickwick provides many amusing stories and interesting facts about 19th century publishing. I was amazed at the reported great popularity of The Pickwick Papers as originally published in serial form and then as a novel. As I followed the investigation to the very end, I continued to hope Mr. Dickens and the publishers would show more kindness towards Seymour. After all, Mr. Dickens was no stranger to generosity as seen in his later works e.g. A Christmas Carol and A Tale of Two Cities.

Check out reviews in The New York Times and The Atlantic.

The Couple Next Door by Sheri Lapeña (2016)

couplenextdoorAnne and Marco Conti leave their newborn baby at home alone and go to a party at the neighbor’s house. Despite them checking on the baby every half hour, the baby is missing when they get home.

Sheri Lapeña’s The Couple Next Door is a gripping, can’t-put-down tale of deception, betrayal, and unfaithfulness that will keep you in suspense until the final twist.

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan (2016)

cornerbookshopWhen librarian Nina is made redundant, she decides to follow her dream of owning a bookstore. With a gift for connecting people to the right book, she buys a van, which she christens "Little Shop of Happy-Ever-After." However, making her business work is not an easy task. With limited resources, she moves from where she lives in Birmingham to northern Scotland, because it seems that the people there have a real need for a bookstore and her mobile one is even a better idea, because she can travel to lots of small towns. Soon, she finds herself becoming part of a community--and maybe even finding love.

Jenny Colgan’s The Bookshop on the Corner is a charming novel filled with quirky characters, friendship, and romance.