Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Short Takes 1/15/2018

The Library of Michigan has now announced the Michigan Notable Books for 2018. This article appeared in yesterday's Detroit Free Press. This year’s 20 books were chosen from a list of nearly 300 published in 2017.

I was in a bookstore the other day and although I don't need another book to read, I picked up Turtles All the Way Down by John Green.

There's a new title coming from Kate Atkinson in September 2018. "Transcriptiona bravura novel of extraordinary power and substancewill be published in Doubleday hardcover in September 2018. It tells the story of Juliet Armstrong, who is recruited as a young woman by an obscure wartime department of the secret service. In the aftermath of war she joins the BBC, where her life begins to unravel, and she finally has to come to terms with the consequences of idealism."

23 of the Biggest Mystery Books of 2017 posted at the Book Bub Blog if you need suggestions for mysteries that will keep you up late.

Monday, January 15, 2018

WATCH ME DISAPPEAR (2017) by Janelle Brown

Watch Me DisappearWatch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For the New Year I am trying to catch up on Net Galley titles from 2017 that I was given access to but never read. Watch Me Disappear started slowly and I wasn't sure where it was going, but once I committed, I had a hard time putting it down.

FIRST SENTENCE: "It's a good day, or maybe even a great one, although it will be impossible to know for sure later."

THE STORY: A year ago Billie Flanagan went hiking alone and never came home. Her family has not been able to move on since all that was ever found was a boot. Husband Jonathan is writing a memoir about his years with Billie, an charismatic woman, admired by many. But 'missing presumed dead' is taking its toll on the family. Jonathan needs Billie to be pronounced dead so he can access their money. Teenage daughter Olive suddenly starts having visions of her mother urging her to come find her. What does that mean? Will it lead to closure?

Jonathan has always been jealous of Olive's relationship with her mother. But both their stories about perfect Billie reveal troubling aspects. "Who you want people to be makes you blind to who they really are."

WHAT I THOUGHT: Alternating with what's going on with Olive and Jonathan, is the text of a memoir being written by Jonathan, Where the Mountain Meets the Sky: My Life with Billie Flanagan. Using this technique offers the reader layer after layer from different points of view. Things that didn't draw attention suddenly seem to have different meanings. Solving the mystery becomes fascinating as well as watching the problems caused between father and daughter and the missing Billie.

None of the characters were particularly likeable but that makes it more difficult to decide who and what to believe.

Eventually I started thinking I was near the end (it's harder to tell on an E-Reader), turned the page, and the story went on. I started skipping paragraphs to keep things moving wanting to know the final answer. With lots of twists and turns, the story comes to an unexpected ending.

BOTTOM LINE: If you liked Gone Girl, you will find this a compelling read. RECOMMENDED,

Disclaimer: An electronic copy of this book was provided to me by NetGalley/Spiegel & Grau for a fair review.

Janelle Brown is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Watch Me Disappear, All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, and This Is Where We Live. A native of San Francisco and graduate of UC Berkeley, she has since defected to Los Angeles, where she lives with her husband Greg, their two children, and a geriatric lab mix named Guster.  (from her website)

Sunday, January 7, 2018

HEAD WOUNDS (2018) by Dennis Palumbo

Head WoundsHead Wounds by Dennis Palumbo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Talk about a roller coaster ride! This is a stressful thriller full of terrible acts. If you're a fan of shows like Criminal Minds, you'll devour this 5th entry in the Dr. Daniel Rinaldi series. As a psychologist, he often consults with the Pittsburgh police working with victims of violent crimes. This time around the stakes have been ratcheted up to unbearable.

FIRST SENTENCE: "Miles Davis saved my life."

THE STORY: A dying man directs Dr. Daniel Rinaldi to a dossier with information on his wife's death. Twelve years earlier Rinaldi and his wife Barbara were mugged down at the Point. Both were shot but Barbara died. "All my forty-plus years condensed into a stack of documents, copied records, data printed off the Internet. The gains and losses, both professionally and personally, that made up my life."

With an explosive start, the reader is caught in the same web that ensnares Rinaldi and his friends. The scary part is that they are "Engaged in a duel to the death of which everyone around us was unaware. With an enemy about whom no one knew."

The reader is warned that things are going to turn to horror and they do. The dread builds and results in horrific situations. There doesn't seem to be a way out alive.

WHAT I THOUGHT: Suspension of disbelieve is required. There is language, some sex, and painful violence. The stakes are the highest yet in the series. The story can be read without knowledge of earlier books, but if you are familiar with the series, the situations are even more disturbing. Interesting off-beat characters add to the story which is well-plotted and well-written. I'll have to admit that this was a disturbing read for me, but then I have been known to turn off crime shows or at least walk out of the room.

You don't have to know Pittsburgh, but the descriptions of wonderful places like the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh and the view from Mount Washington will make you want to visit.

BOTTOM LINE: Dennis Palumbo's mysteries are page turners and highly readable. It's not necessary, but I would still recommend reading the series in order. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED if you're not squeamish.
Genre: Psychological thriller, Suspense
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press (February 6, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1464208166
ISBN-13: 978-1464208164

Disclaimer: An electronic copy of this book was provided to me by NetGalley/Poisoned Pen Press for a fair review.

Dennis Palumbo, formerly a Hollywood screenwriter, is now a licensed psychotherapist in private practice. He's the author of a mystery collection, From Crime to Crime, and his short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, The Strand, and elsewhere. Head Wounds is the fifth in the Daniel Rinaldi series. His first Daniel Rinaldi mystery, Mirror Image was published in 2010, followed by Fever Dream in 2011, Night Terrors in 2013, and Phantom Limb (2014) He was formerly a Hollywood screenwriter and his credits include the feature film My Favorite Year. He also wrote for Welcome Back, Kotter.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

LIE WITH ME (2018) by Sabine Durrant

Lie With MeLie With Me by Sabine Durrant
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It took me two days to devour LIE WITH ME and I stayed up late to finish it. The narrator, Paul Morris, immediately brought to mind Patricia Highsmith's invention "The Talented Mr. Ripley".

Originally published in Great Britain in 2016, LIE WITH ME has garnered rave reviews around the world being compared to GONE GIRL and THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, both of which I read and loved.

FIRST SENTENCE: "It struck me in the night that it might have started earlier."

THE STORY: The opening, on a wet day in London, sets the dismal tone. Some twenty years earlier, Paul Morris wrote a much acclaimed book, but has never been able to build on that success. Instead he manipulates the world around him through his charm and small lies. Now at the age of 42 he finds himself broke and having to contemplate moving in with his mother. Then an unexpected opportunity to spend a fortnight in Greece presents itself.

WHAT I THOUGHT: Although Paul lies casually to those around him, he seems to let the reader in on the truth of his life. He rationalizes his behavior, "Plenty of friendships, I am sure, are based on lies."

I was fascinated with the structure the author used to tell this story celebrating all the small triumphs of a rather selfish person. Beautifully written, the language describing Greece is painterly. Although this is a character driven psychological thriller, it is also a page turner.

Don't read any more reviews so you can discover LIE WITH ME with no preconceptions.

BOTTOM LINE: I'm guessing this will be a widely read psychological thriller in 2018. You don't want to miss the experience. Highly Recommended.

Genre: Psychological thriller
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Mulholland (January 11, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1473608333
ISBN-13: 978-1473608337

Disclaimer: An electronic copy of this book was provided to me by NetGalley/Mullholand for a fair review.

Sabine Durrant's first psychological suspense novel, UNDER YOUR SKIN, was published by Hodder in the UK and Simon & Schuster in the US in 2014. Her second, REMEMBER ME THIS WAY, was also published by Hodder in the UK and Simon & Schuster in the US in 2015. Both novels have been translated into more than 15 languages. Her third novel, LIE WITH ME, will be pucblished in the US on January 11, 2018. Sabine has written for the Guardian, Observer, Sunday Times and Sunday Telegraph. She lives in south London with her partner, the writer Giles Smith, and their three children.

Friday, December 29, 2017

SUE GRAFTON (April 24, 1940 - December 28, 2017)

Sue Taylor Grafton was an American author of detective novels. She is best known as the author of the 'alphabet series' featuring private investigator Kinsey Millhone in the fictional city of Santa Teresa, California.

A message from her daughter:

Hello Dear Readers. This is Sue's daughter, Jamie. I am sorry to tell you all that Sue passed away last night after a two year battle with cancer. She was surrounded by family, including her devoted and adoring husband Steve. Although we knew this was coming, it was unexpected and fast. She had been fine up until just a few days ago, and then things moved quickly. Sue always said that she would continue writing as long as she had the juice. Many of you also know that she was adamant that her books would never be turned into movies or TV shows, and in that same vein, she would never allow a ghost writer to write in her name. Because of all of those things, and out of the deep abiding love and respect for our dear sweet Sue, as far as we in the family are concerned, the alphabet now ends at Y.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

GRIEF COTTAGE (2017) by Gail Godwin

Grief CottageGrief Cottage by Gail Godwin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Publishers Weekly chose Grief Cottage as one of its best books for 2017. I'll second that, but if you check the reviews at Good Reads, they are mixed.

FIRST SENTENCE: "Once there was a boy who lost his mother."

The first sentence makes it clear to me that this remembered coming-of-age story, dealing with grief and loss, is part fairy tale and part ghost story .

THE STORY: When his mother dies suddenly, eleven year old Marcus is sent to live with a reclusive elderly relative on an island off South Carolina. Aunt Charlotte is an artist and points out a derelict house she has painted for years. 50 years earlier a family living there was lost during a hurricane. Marcus becomes fascinated with the family and their son since he cannot find their names in any of the accounts of the storm. His other fascination is with the turtles the community is guarding as they prepare for their birth and trek to the sea. These are his memories of the people and that summer.

WHAT I THOUGHT: I think my recent problem with lack of interest in reading may have more to do with the books I chose than reading itself. Godwin's writing fulfills all my requirements. I want to learn something new and I want the story to be told with great craft and skill. Godwin is a master. It's been many years since I read Finishing School, but I still recall being entranced. One reviewer on Good Reads mentioned the slowness of the story but isn't that the point? Every story has its rhythm.

When I was eleven (or so), I walked home from school rather than take the bus so I could explore a mansion that was in the processing of being torn down. I can still remember the fascination of exploring the many rooms and wondering about the lives of the people who had lived there.

In college I wrote a paper about Henry James' The Turn of the Screw. Godwin even mentions this work in her note to the reader. For me, it's better not to be sure. When my father died, I ended up sleeping in his bed after attending the funeral. In that twilight before falling completely asleep, I felt a comforting hand adjust my blanket. I have always been sure that my father was saying a final good-bye.

There are so many ways that this book triggered memories for me. Even the characters suggested adults I knew growing up.

FAVORITE QUOTE: "I went back and tried to track the whole thing from the beginning, as you would trace on a map a route taken."

"Didn't something have to be one thing or the other, either real or imagined? Or could it be that the two things weren't mutually exclusive?"

"When we don't realize how remarkable someone is while they're still with us. Then after they're gone we wish we had told them, but when they were around we didn't know yet."

BOTTOM LINE: This was an amazingly satisfying read full of stories and interesting characters that are themselves mysteries. There's a languid pace to the book, which doesn't stop it from being totally compelling. By the end Godwin has carefully tied up all the threads of the stories, even those the reader might not have been expecting. Highly Recommended.

Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; First Edition (June 6, 2017)
ISBN-10: 1632867044
ISBN-13: 978-1632867049

Disclaimer: An electronic copy of this book was provided to me by NetGalley/Bloomsbury USA for a fair review.

Gail Godwin is a three-time National Book Award finalist and the bestselling author of twelve critically acclaimed novels, including Unfinished Desires, A Mother and Two Daughters, Violet Clay, Father Melancholy's Daughter, Evensong, The Good Husband, and Evenings at Five. She is also the author of The Making of a Writer: Journals, 1961--1963, the first of two volumes, edited by Rob Neufeld. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts grants for both fiction and libretto writing, and the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She has written libretti for ten musical works with the composer Robert Starer. She lives in Woodstock, New York (from Amazon).  

Friday, December 22, 2017

Inspired by Austin Kleon

At the end of November, Austin Kleon pointed out in his newsletter that there was still enough time to complete a 30 Day Challenge in 2017.  I chose to read a minimum of 15 minutes a day and have pretty much done just that. I didn't decide on a reward because just reading is its own reward.

It's actually working. I am half-way through Gail Godwin's GRIEF COTTAGE, which went on sale June 6, 2017. My Kindle copy came from Net Galley and I am way behind in my pledge to read and review it.

The Challenge was to get me started. Then today I followed another link on Austin Kleon's web site and found 33 THOUGHTS ON READING so I want to share that as well.