Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Normal by Warren Ellis

Normal by Warren Ellis

Thinking about the future, and what a scary place it can be, can be enough to drive you crazy.  Really certifiably crazy. These people are all housed together at Normal Head, an asylum set up by the employers of the strategic forecasters and foresight strategists in hopes that their brains will start to work for them again. Adam Dearden has just been admitted to Normal. But normal is not what he finds there…

A slim (only 148 pages) book this novella will stay with you long after you close the last page. It’s an odd one, one that makes you think, and makes you ponder some of the futures on its pages. If you suffer from even miniscule amounts of paranoia about what the future may hold, do not read this book. Adam’s paranoia is contagious, and let’s face it, it’s not paranoia if they are really out to get you.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers

The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers

Placidia marries Major Hockaday after making his acquaintance only hours before. Both are smitten but after being married for less than forty-eight hours the major is called back to his division and goes to continue his fight in the War Between the States. Placidia, only a teenager, finds herself alone on a southern farm with a few slaves and a newly adopted three year old son. She does her best under the circumstances and continually pines for her major. Small disasters and large strike Placidia and the farm. Rumor has it that she carried a child and murdered it months before the major returns from a Union prison camp; and he hasn’t seen Placidia in two years. He brings her up on charges yet she refuses to speak to defend herself; she will only say the baby lived and she had no hand in the death of the innocent child. Who fathered the child? And is death by hanging a better end than living with the truth revealed?

This story is told entirely in letters, inquest documents and diary entries which worked really well because you didn’t know exactly what happened until about three-quarters of the way through the book when you were able to read certain diary entries. It made sense to keep the reader in suspense in this way, especially since one, or both, correspondents telling the story through their letters didn’t know what had happened all those years before either. It’s hard to imagine without reading the book but trust me that this is a bittersweet love story between two souls broken by the war that eventually find solace with each other.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Snowblind by Ragnar Jonasson

Snowblind by Ragnar Jonasson

When the snow started falling last Thursday I knew I had to drop whatever I was reading and start this great mystery by a new Icelandic author. We didn’t get nearly as much snow as Siglufjörður, the beautiful fishing village on a northern Icelandic fjord where the book takes places, we didn’t even get what they normally get in one snowfall, but it made the perfect atmosphere to lose myself in the book. 

Ari Thor is getting ready to graduate from the police academy while his girlfriend works towards her medical degree. They just moved in together to a Reykjavik apartment. Ari is a bit concerned about getting a job after graduation, especially with rumors that the country is facing an economic collapse, so when he is offered a job at Siglufjörður he jumps at the opportunity. His girlfriend is upset (to say the least) that he’ll be moving across the country but Ari feels that he has to do this. When Ari arrives he instantly begins having second thoughts. Siglufjörður is isolated and nothing ever seems to happen there -- until a suspicious death is closely followed by the discovery of a badly beaten woman unconscious in the snow.

Those who have been reading this blog for a bit know that I love all things Icelandic and this book was no exception. But this is one that any mystery lover will enjoy. The author translated a number of Agatha Christie’s works into Icelandic and the master’s skill with plotting comes through. I sometimes feel that an author is trying too hard to set up a murder in a small town but I didn’t get that feeling at all. Having an inexperienced police officer, one very unfamiliar with the area and far from perfect, helped me empathize with him and learn through his eyes as well. This is the first book in the Dark Iceland series, and while four have already been written, this is the only one available so far in the United States. I can’t wait to travel back to this isolated fjords with this author.

Friday, February 10, 2017

My Beloved World: A Memoir by Sonia Sotomayor

My Beloved World: A Memoir by Sonia Sotomayor

When young Sonia Sotomayor was growing up in the Bronx she saw who she wanted to be on the television.  While she watched episodes of Perry Mason she didn’t want to be Perry Mason or any of the other lawyers, she set her sights on becoming a judge.  This is the story of how a girl from the projects followed her dream and became a judge, and as we all know went on from there to become a Justice of the Supreme Court.

It was inspiring to see how hard work, drive and dedication can pay off.  Sotomayor overcame many personal hardships like juvenile diabetes, an absentee mother and an alcoholic father to find the need to succeed within herself.  She had a strong and large family as a support system keeping her safe and reinforcing her Puerto Rican roots with frequent trips back to the island.  You can see how her childhood influenced her later in life at Princeton, then Harvard Law School and finally as she started her career in law in New York City.  My only complaint about the book was how inadequate my life seems compared to all she has accomplished!  I wish she would write a book detailing how she managed to fit so much into her day to day life and still have time for friends and family; her time management skills are astounding.  A great memoir about a very interesting, successful and likable person.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

When All the Girls Have Gone by Jayne Ann Krentz

When All the Girls Have Gone by Jayne Ann Krentz

Charlotte is really upset. Her step-sister Jocelyn’s best friend, Louise, is found dead of an overdose in her condo and Charlotte can’t tell her step-sister because Jocelyn is away at a technology free retreat in the Caribbean. Charlotte becomes more upset when she finds out that Louise’s cousin hired a private investigator to look into Louise’s death because he knows that despite a rough patch years ago she would never touch drugs again. As things around Louise’s death become odder and odder Charlotte becomes worried about her step-sister. That’s when the investigator discovers that Jocelyn checked into the retreat but left shortly after. Is Jocelyn on the run? Why? Is she safe? What is going on that is causing the members of Jocelyn’s investment club to disappear?

Fair warning that this is romantic suspense -- and if you’re familiar with the author you already know that! Charlotte and Max, the private investigator, start working together closely and sparks fly. There are a lot of red herrings and dead end avenues in the investigation but that just adds to the suspense. And the relationship that builds between homebody Charlotte and Max, another homebody at heart, is refreshing. I enjoyed it, but I think I would have liked it more if I read it. This is one of those rare occasions where I didn’t love the audiobook.  

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Dry by Jane Harper

The Dry by Jane Harper

Federal Agent Aaron Falk returns to his drought stricken hometown in the outback to attend the funeral of his childhood mate Luke, his wife and son. Luke’s father begs Aaron to investigate the deaths, positive that his son would have never taken his own life, or the lives of his wife and child. Aaron agrees that Luke wasn’t capable of such a crime, and he also thinks that if a man was determined to murder his whole family he would have killed all of them including his infant daughter. Besides wanting to think the best of his childhood friend Aaron has another reason to investigate. Luke’s father brought up the death of Ellie, a friend of Luke and Aaron’s whose body was found in the river when the boys were teenagers. Luke and Aaron were each other’s alibis, but Luke’s father knows the boys weren’t together that day. Did Luke commit the crimes against his family? And if he didn’t, who else has a motive? Will we ever find out what happened to Ellie all those years ago?

This book turned into more of a police procedural than the thriller I expected, and I’m okay with that. Aaron teams up with the local police (a man who had the misfortunate to start the job days before the triple homicide) to piece together what really happened that day. Of course they uncover inconsistencies that make them question if Luke was the killer.  Aaron also has to deal with returning home and all the animosity many in the town feel towards him since many think he holds some responsibility for Ellie’s death.

I’m very happy I was reading this while the rain poured down outside. I felt parched just reading about this town suffering through a two year drought. Tension, and tempers, are high as crops and livestock suffer and die and the fortunes of the town die with them. A well-constructed mystery that leaves you guessing just a bit, not too much, at the end.

The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian

The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian

Lianna’s mom is missing and Lianna feels a strong sense of guilt. She should have been watching over her mother that night, but it had been years since her last sleepwalking episode. Now her mother is simply gone and Lianna is on a quest to find her mother. Was this another one of her nighttime wanderings? Did her mom end up dying because of bad decisions she made in her sleep? Or could she have met someone, someone who harmed her, while she was out walking?

This is one of those books that when you answer one question, another pops up in its place. There are people and circumstances that always leave you feeling a little off kilter. I did figure out where the story was leading before Lianna did, but that didn’t detract from the story one bit. (I blame the long list of thrillers I have read, not the author.) The characters are well drawn as is the ailment of sleepwalking which has the potential to be much scarier and primal than I had known.

I’ve been a huge Bohjalian fan since I saw him speak while promoting The Double Bind; he’s just a really nice guy, so I’m happy when one of his books gets the type of positive buzz this one has been receiving. Made me even more anxious to read it. And I’m really glad I read it right away and didn’t wait. A book that made me so happy that I don’t sleepwalk...