Sunday, December 15, 2013

'The Serialist'

Oh, how I love David Gordon's new novel!  He dances around the 'twists-and-turns' and isn't afraid to write exactly what's on his mind.  He has a way of keeping the story perking along while maintaining its brilliance without 'talking down' to his audience.

Sometimes, and I'm not embarrassed to say this, the pornographic element lends itself to the funniest, quirkiest scenes that I didn't see...ahem...coming.

That's 'The Serialist', in a nutshell.

It's a somewhat amusing (but not 'light' by any means) mystery, although there are elements of grave, dark disorder.  We are introduced to a serial killer, nicknamed 'The Photo Killer', on Death Row, his chain-smoking lawyer, and her beautiful, young assistant. We also meet Claire, a very young, very rich, very neglected girl who becomes Harry's voice of reason.  

And then there's the narrator, the struggling writer, Harry Bloch, who, by using various pseudonyms, has pumped out pulpy serial novels; vampire books to detective stories.  In the midst of financial desperation, the day arrives when his life is turned upside-down; he is offered the chance to ghostwrite the serial killer's biography...but at a price.

Harry has to visit some of the women who have written to Darian Clay, women who have expressed a certain...desire...for the serial killer.  By interviewing these women, Harry has to write little pornographic stories for the killer in exchange for the man's life story.

But Harry soon finds himself at the center of a new murder investigation and working alongside two FBI men:  One friendly, and the other not-so-friendly. Despite the fact that he is being watched, Harry sets out to find the murderer, and at the same time, trying to avoid becoming the next victim.

This wonderful novel also focuses on Harry's past regrets, has beautifully realized back stories, and characters that will stay with you for a long, long time.  But it's the inclusion of some chapters from Harry's serial novels that really added to the enjoyment.  When he has to make an appearance on behalf of his newest vampire book, I laughed my butt off.

The back blurb says, '...The Serialist is a love letter to books--from poetry to pornography--and proof that truth really can be stranger than fiction'.  Whoever wrote it wasn't kidding.  

It's original, it's fresh, and it's highly intelligent, but not to the point where you put it down in frustration.  It's the wittiness and the author's love of writing that makes this story come alive.

Thank you, David Gordon.  Your future is bright.


'The Serialist', published by Simon & Schuster, is available at your local library and independent bookstore.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Announcing 'Death of the Body'!

I love Young Adult fiction/fantasy, and I can't wait to read this new story from Rick Chiantaretto!  With such an intriguing title, who can resist?  So, this little Book Hog will be ordering 'Death of the Body'...and I hope you will, too!  Once I post my review, I hope that you will let me know how much you liked the first book in this exciting new series, Crossing Death!


Today is the release day of Death of the Body by Rick Chiantaretto!





Title:  Death of the Body (Crossing Death #1)

Author:  Rick Chiantaretto

Genre: New Adult Urban Fantasy

I grew up in a world of magic. By the time I was ten I understood nature, talked to the trees, and listened to the wind. When the kingdom of men conquered my town, I was murdered by one of my own—the betrayer of my kind. But I didn't stay dead.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

'Cage of Bones'

As cold weather pummels the Pacific Northwest (and the rest of the country), it's the best time to settle down and read....if your power isn't out, that is.  Of course, e-readers are great for blackouts, but when the battery dies out, what do you do?

I plop down on the couch, grab my print book, light a candle (or turn on my trusty flashlight), and dig into a good story.  In this case, it's a mystery.  A dark, dank, thrilling British mystery. 

And this one has two-count-'em-two 'Doctor Who' references.

'Cage of Bones', by Tania Carver, is a great thriller.  It's almost a quick read, but I sometimes had to put it down because certain passages were rather...brutal.  Lots of blood, lots of gore, and lots of 'people-who-aren't-who-you-think-they-are'.  But it was the claustrophobia passage that grabbed me and wouldn't let go.

A building in the English countryside is scheduled for demolition, but what is found inside it is horrible beyond words.  A cage made of bones...with a terrified, feral child lurking within.  Detective Phil Brennan and his partner in life, psychologist Marina Esposito, have disturbed a killer who has been operating undetected for over thirty years. And the killer wants the boy back...by any means necessary.  

The beauty of this well-written story isn't merely the fact that a killer is on the loose, but that various people are not who they appear to be, and that includes Detective Brennan, a man who suffers from horrible nightmares.  

Like I mentioned, it's a somewhat quick read, but it will having you turning the pages.  You might even stay up all night, cuddled under warm blankets, but chilled to the bones from the suspense that awaits you.

Carver is an author to watch, and I can't wait to see what she produces next time.  It would be nice to see a somewhat longer story, although she did a great job with the backstories in 'Cage of Bones'.  

So, bring it on, Tania!  Thrill this Book Hog, again.  

And don't forget 'The Doctor'.  I'll love you for it.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

'Doctor Sleep'

The minute I get a Stephen King book in my hands, I stop what I'm doing and begin to read...and read...and read.  It's been that way with almost every book 'Little Stevie King' has written (there are a few exceptions, but they were still good).

'11/22/63' was the second to the last King book I read, and it was thrilling, despite the fact that some of his characters tend to go on little...er...rants.  But that's okay. He has the right. He is 'The Master', and as long as he continues to publish his work, I'm with him all the way.

You see, it's a very rare writer who can grab my attention with such a commanding pull.

It was that way with one his early masterpieces, 'The Shining', one of the best ghost stories I've ever read, alongside Shirley Jackson's work.  That story scared the crap out of me, and there were many times when I went into the bathroom and checked behind the shower curtain before I did what I came in there to do.  It's crazy how a well-written work of paranormal fiction can jolt us out of our comfort zone, isn't it?

So, all these years later, King has written a follow-up to 'The Shining'.  And it is good. Really, really good.

It begins years after the incident at the Overlook Hotel, the place where little Danny Torrance and his mother were almost murdered by Jack Torrance, the alcoholic father and husband, a weak man gradually possessed by the hotel's malevolent spirits.

Dan is now nearing middle-age, and he has inherited his father's disease of alcoholism.  He is haunted by the spirits of the Overlook and blunts the memories with booze.  Drifting for decades, he finally lands in a small New Hampshire town, where he is accepted, given a job, and joins Alcoholics Anonymous.  Although it is still hard for him to avoid the 'siren song' of booze, he perseveres, thanks to the support of new-found friends. He gets a job at a hospice, where his 'shining' blooms anew, and he provides the crucial final comfort for those who are dying.  It is there that he earns the title 'Doctor Sleep'.

When he is contacted by a twelve year-old girl named Abra Stone, he learns that she has the brightest, strongest 'shining' talent he has ever encountered.  But the True Knot, a quasi-immortal band of RV travelers who live off the steam that children with the 'shining' produce when they are slowly tortured to death, discovers the talented Abra and are determined to find her.

They don't know about Dan.  But he knows more than enough about them.

'Doctor Sleep' is a totally satisfying read (and full of fantastic surprises), and while I was tempted to finish it in one sitting, I held back out of respect for the story. Chapter by chapter, page by page.  Slowly, but surely, I accompanied Dan and Abra until they finally met the epitome of evil:  Rose the Hat.  I get shivers down my back every time I see that name.  And so will you.

Thank you, Stephen, for a great sequel.  And if it is ever turned into a film, protect the story with all your might.  PLEASE have the right to choose the director.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

'The Harem Midwife'

Back in December 2011, I reviewed 'The Midwife of Venice', a book that I really enjoyed. Full of historical accuracy and great writing, I still think that reading groups will like it.

And I wanted a sequel.  I wanted to know what happened to Hannah and Isaac.

Now I know, and Roberta Rich's follow-up is just as good as her first book.

'The Harem Midwife' takes up where 'The Midwife of Venice' ends...  

Hannah and Isaac Levi have settled into a new life in Constantinople, where Isaac has a established a silk workshop, and Hannah is a midwife to the harem of Sultan Murat III. One night, Hannah is summoned to the palace, where she is confronted by the Sultan's newest 'acquisition'; a poor Jewish peasant girl.  Although the Sultan wants the girl for his next conquest, the girl wants to return home.  The Sultan's mother is determined that the girl take precedence over the Sultan's current favorite and produce the son they sorely need. Hannah finds herself thrust in the middle, wondering if she should risk her life to help the young girl...or lie to win the Sultan's favor.  And in the middle of it all, a beautiful woman knocks on Isaac and Hannah's door and turns their world upside-down.

Rich has really done her research, and it shows.  I learned so many things about the inner life of a harem, and many of the characters are historically accurate.  But it is Hannah and Levi who most interest me; will they survive the upheaval in their lives?  Will they lose their adopted son?

And will they ever have a child of their own?

Sensitively written, yet full of delicious tension and treachery, 'The Harem Midwife' was a thoroughly satisfying read.

But now, I'm anxious for the third....


'The Harem Midwife' will be published on February 25, 2014, by Gallery Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.  It will be available at your favorite independent bookstore and local library.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

'The Museum of Extraordinary Things'

I know, I know...

It's been a while since I last posted a book recommend, and for that, I'm sorry.  But my job now includes listing items on Ebay, and that's been taking up a lot of my time.  I've also had to deal with two sick kitties, and that's no picnic in Book Hog's world.  

One of the cats has recovered and is back to his crazy little self.  But my best furry friend, Molly, is still having a difficult time.  

So, when a wonderful box of advance reading copies arrived at my door, I tore it open, squealed with delight, grabbed Molly, and together we cuddled and started reading Alice Hoffman's newest book, 'The Museum of Extraordinary Things'.

I've been a Hoffman fan for many years, and was absolutely stunned by her last novel, 'The Dovekeepers'.  Brilliant, well-paced, and tragic.  Gorgeous story penned by an author who has magic in her fingertips.

And that magic has once again brought us another wonderful story.

1911, the year of two tragic fires: The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory and the Dreamland Amusement Park in Coney Island.  A year when anything was possible in the new century, even the proliferation of museums offering public viewings of 'freaks'.  Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the sinister impresario of 'The Museum of Extraordinary Things', and where she is a Mermaid in an exhibit, alongside performers like The Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl, and a one-hundred year-old turtle.  One night, after an evening swim in the Hudson River, Coralie stumbles upon Eddie Cohen, a handsome young man who is photographing moonlit trees in the nearby woods.  While one is a prisoner, the other chose freedom.  

Eddie has run away from his father's Lower East Side Orthodox community.  After taking on jobs of a criminal nature, he meets the man who will fire his love of photography. While photographing the devastation following the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he becomes involved in the mystery behind a young woman's disappearance.

It was not hard to get involved in a story that was at once horrific, yet hopeful.  And while I felt nothing but contempt for the callous villains (of which there were many), I felt heartbreak and remorse for the tragic situations of the innocents.  

The feel of the era was plump on every page.  Hoffman has an incredible power of observation and her research once again shines through.  It is an honest story and doesn't spare any details.  The story of Coralie and Eddie skip back and forth, each as hard-hitting as the next.

And, yes, there is magic of a sort.  The magic of love and tenderness in the midst of hard scrabble lives.  There is karma (oh, yes, there IS karma!).  There are second chances.  And there is a lot of heartbreak.

But it was Hoffman's attention to the so-called freaks that grabbed me.  She portrays them in a very real way; they had lives outside the exhibition cages.  They fell in love.  They exploited their differences in order to survive.  But, most of all, they were people.  I was prepared for all she wrote about these most impressive folks; I had seen the Todd Browning film, 'Freaks' long ago.  So while Coralie, a seemingly 'normal' girl, was a prisoner in her own home, the freaks left at the end of the season to lead the real lives they had kept on hiatus, despite the fact that most of them had to keep their appearances hidden to some extent.

Yes, there is magic in Alice Hoffman's fingertips.

I wouldn't expect anything less.  And neither would Molly.









'The Museum of Extraordinary Things' will be published in February 2014 by Scribner.  Book Hog gives this story a big 'thumbs up' for reading groups.




Sunday, October 13, 2013

'Inherit the Dead'

One positive thing about being sick is that I have to slow down.

No matter that I feel guilty about taking naps, when I should be doing laundry, or cooking dinner, or going to work.  I have to slow down.

So...it means I have to read.  Which is another positive thing about being sick.  I don't watch television during the day (unless I find a 'Doctor Who' marathon on BBC America), so it is within the cocoon of blessed quiet that I lose myself within the pages of a book.  But if my husband is at home, that means a constant diet of 'reality' shows about alligator hunters, the search for aliens, or gold miners.  Then I run to the bath tub, shut the door, and read read read.

This Sunday, while I lay on the couch, I was so absorbed in a new book that televised football didn't even phase me.  That book is 'Inherit the Dead'.

Twenty famous writers have contributed to this intriguing mystery, and although I thought that each chapter would be so different in style, I soon forgot it and enjoyed the seamless storytelling.  

Perry Christo is a private eye who was once an NYPD homicide cop; he lost his badge and his marriage in a notorious corruption scandal. Wealthy Upper East Side matron, Julia Drusilla, hires him to find her daughter, Angelina, who is about to become a wealthy heiress. But as Perry digs deeper, his finds that there's more to the story than he's been told. 'Angel's' father, her best friend, and her boyfriend each have their own agendas, and they are willing to lie, no matter what. 

I can see why each contributor is a master of their craft: the solid descriptions without the overblown use of adjectives; the intensity; the twists-and-turns.  But most of all, it made me follow the case, right alongside Perry Christo.  This is noir at it's best.

It's my idea of a great Sunday, sick or not.

And to be able to ignore football?  Double bonus.




'Inherit the Dead', the brainchild of mystery authors Linda Fairstein and Jonathan Santlofer, is published by Touchstone, a division of Simon & Schuster, and is available at independent bookstores and your local library. Part of the royalties from sales will be donated to Safe Horizon, a resource for victims of abuse and crime, their families, and their communities.

  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

'The Gravity of Birds'

Summer has blown away, and I hate cold temperatures, but I'm grateful that I have my books to keep me warm.  While cleaning the spare room (a.k.a. 'The Cat's Room'), where I have many bookcases and boxes of 'stuff', I found a stack of advance reading copies that my husband had left there when we did a hurried cleaning of the living room; we had guests coming over, and they hadn't given us much notice.  I sat on the floor and looked at each book, so happy that I had more material to read.  I had just finished Lisa Unger's new book, 'In the Blood', and I was desperate for something new.

And I found it.

Later that evening, I plopped down on the couch and started reading 'The Gravity of Birds'.  It grabbed me from the first sentence; the young girl, Alice, waiting the woods, hoping to catch a glimpse of their Summer neighbor, Thomas Bayber, a young up-and-coming painter.  A simple scene, but one that stays with you.  Author Tracy Guzeman has an elegant way of bringing the sights and smells into our consciousness; the scent of green, the cushion of moss, the snap of dried branches underfoot.  But it is the stillness of a young girl that grabs our interest, a young girl who not only harbors a love of birds, but also has a curiosity that will change the lives of everyone around her.

But it isn't just the descriptions that grab you.  It's the way each character moves across the chessboard; Natalie, the jealous, vindictive older sister, holding secrets and telling lies.  Sensitive Alice, living with a disease that is horribly ironic.  Thomas with his amazing talent, who loves one more than the other.  Pulled into the mix are an art historian and a young art authenticator.  

The story travels back-and-forth across the years, although it doesn't go back so far to confuse the reader.  It's within our time; we can make sense of the clothing and the whole world of art and the artists who bring us such delight or melancholy.  We experience deception and jealousy, joy and beauty.

But it's the search for two missing paintings which is at the heart of this beautifully written story.  It is 2007, and Thomas Bayber is a world-famous painter; his works hang in museums and private residences.  Now a recluse who hasn't painted in years, Thomas reveals the never-before-seen painting, 'Kessler Sisters' to  Dennis Finch, the art historian, and Stephen Jameson, the authenticator.  It is Bayber's plan that Finch and Jameson should be the ones to search for the lost paintings...and the women who meant so much to him when he was but a young man.

There's so much more to this novel, but I don't want to reveal any 'spoilers'.  It's elegant, it's interesting, it's 'sister centered', and so very, very full of surprises.  Guzeman is a master manipulator, and you won't see what's coming.  This is a huge recommend for reading groups.

I think I should clean the Cat's Room more often.



'The Gravity of Birds', published by Simon & Schuster, is available at your favorite independent bookstore and local library.  



Saturday, October 5, 2013

'In the Blood'

Lisa Unger has a way of getting under my skin.

And in my lungs.  Her work leaves me breathless.

I just finished reading her new book, 'In the Blood', and it left me stunned.

I've read several of her other books, and appreciate her way of leading me here and there, sometimes leaving me stranded and having to find my own way back.  And there she would be at the end of the path, laughing and taunting:  "You figured it out!  Bravo!"

She's a remarkable writer.  

'In the Blood' is a worthy addition to her 'Hollow' series.

Lana Granger doesn't know just who she really is, having lived a life of lies and secrets. Her life has been lived in therapy, and medications, and uncertainty.  About to graduate from college, and financially bereft, she takes a babysitting job for a young boy who is mentally unbalanced.  Luke is a brilliant, troubled young boy, who takes great pleasure in manipulating people, including Lana.  But when Lana's best friend goes missing, she is the main suspect.  Lana will do anything to keep her secrets, but someones knows just who she is.  

I cannot say enough about the ending of this story.  It was definitely worth the wait. Although the story was a bit confusing until I sorted everyone out, I could not put it down. And when I did, it stayed with me, haunting me, begging me to pick it up and race toward the stunning climax.

There is so much to this well-told tale; so many twists-and-turns.  There is also deception, bald-faced lies, and a reveal that was a total surprise.

Totally.



'In the Blood' will be released in January 2014 by Touchstone, a division of Simon & Schuster.  You'll soon find it at your library and local independent bookstore.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

'The Circle of Thirteen'

Women are amazing creatures.  Not only do they withstand the pain of childbirth, but most hold jobs, maintain a household, raise children, are domestic chauffeurs, house cleaners, personal shoppers, doctors, psychologists, teachers, sports coaches, financial analysts, chefs, and party planners.  Those jobs alone should earn them a college degree.

Most women I know want peace, and not just long enough for them to soak in a bath tub. They want it for the world.  After working so hard to bring a miracle of life into the world, they really don't want to see it destroyed.  They also don't enjoy having someone or something taking advantage of those who work very hard to maintain a balance in life; financially, emotionally, and physically.  

And that's why William Petrocelli's new book, 'The Circle of  Thirteen', hits so close to home.

In 2082, an explosion rocks the dedication ceremony of the New United Nations building in New York City, and Security Director Julia Moro is chasing after the shadowy leader of Patria, a terrorist organization linked to bombing attempts and attacks on women, including The Women for Peace, an organization headed by thirteen bold women who have risked their lives and sanity to restore worldwide peace.  Weaving back and forth in time, the story illuminates the strong bond between the women and those who follow years later.

Although the story was a bit confusing at times (it took a while for me to get used to the 'back-and-forth in time' bit), I was soon able to pinpoint the many characters so wonderfully portrayed and I grew anxious to learn the outcome.

The villain is at once scary and unrelenting, yet one cannot help but feel pity for such a shadowy figure.  

'The Circle of Thirteen' is remarkable and not like any other story I've read in recent times.  The female characters are strong and intelligent, certain of which road they must take.  It's very obvious that the author is an advocate for women's rights.

I was very glad to read a novel in which remarkable, brave women lead the way on a journey which we still follow today.


William Petrocelli is the co-owner, with his wife, Elaine, of the San Francisco Bay area Book Passage bookstores.  Bill is a former deputy attorney general for the state of California, and a poverty lawyer in Oakland.  'The Circle of Thirteen' is his first novel, and will be published in October 2013 by Turner Publishing.  

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

'Bellman and Black'

I have been very busy, lately.  Not only am I working extra hard at my job for a non-profit, but I am now doing our Ebay listings.  It's amazing what we've found, what treasures people have donated.  When I hold a sweet little teacup and saucer, I immediately think, "This one was in someone's collection.  Did someone's grandma die?"  I then wonder if that person's personality is imprinted on the object.  I know, I know...ooo-eee-ooo.

That brings me to Diane Setterfield's new book, 'Bellman and Black'.  I'm a huge, huge fan of her first novel, 'The Thirteenth Tale', an atmospheric story that is full of gothic undertones and dark secrets.  A novel I could not put down.  A story I've read at least six times.

So, I was more than excited to learn that she had a new novel coming out.  I requested an advance reader's copy, and lo and behold!  It arrived before I knew it!

I settled on the couch with a cozy blanket (even though it's Summer with the hottest temps we've experienced in  few years), a cup of tea, and numerous cats hanging out on my stomach.  I opened the book and started to read...

...and I continued into the night.  And the morning.

And I set it aside.  Horrors!  I had not done that with Diane's first book.  In fact, I read it in (almost) one sitting.

But I'm sorry to say that 'Bellman and Black' did not give me the payoff that I was expecting.  It's labelled a 'ghost story', and I wondered throughout, "Where is the ghost?  Is it the rook?  If it is, why is it not...ghostly?"

When he was but a boy, William Bellman kills a rook with his slingshot.  He and his friends are but a tad remorseful, but the act is soon forgotten, yet it holds terrible consequences.   When William is grown, and he has a wife and family, he soon finds that his act has caught up with him.  He loses almost everyone he holds dear, although his work life has progressed well beyond his dreams.  But when the last precious thing he has is threatened, he enters into a bargain that could be his undoing.  He soon has a partner in a rather macabre business, and that is when Bellman and Black is born.

Diane's characters are well represented and fully-fleshed, and her insights are quite remarkable, especially her insights into the human psyche.  But it was the ghost I was waiting for, the ghost that would ultimately lead to the pay-off.

But, I'm sad to say, it took forever to reach that point.  

True, it's atmospheric and rather creepy.  And, yes, I was worried about William's sleep patterns.  But I was waiting for more.  More Mr. Black.  

Dear, brilliant, Diane:  Please give me more next time.


'Bellman and Black' will be released on October 8, 2013 from Emily Bestler Books, an imprint of Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.  Find it at your library and local independent bookstore.  Then, tell Book Hog what you think!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

'Let Me Go'


"Dear Chelsea Cain:

Stunning.  Brilliant.  Crazy.  Exciting.  Intense.

Oh, what other adjectives can I use to describe your new book, 'Let Me Go'? Thrilling? Suspenseful?  Sex-filled  ('Fifty Shades of Gray' pales in comparison)?

Let's just say that although I could have read your story in one sitting, I chose to savor it, like the last piece of chocolate in the box, delighting in the elegant creepiness that is Gretchen Lowell, and standing stoic beside your conflicted detective, Archie Sheridan. Susan, who I've rather considered the 'comic relief' of the series, really came into her own in this newest addition, but she still makes me smile. She's brave, and it's a gimme that her inquisitive nature will get her into trouble, and in this one, it's big trouble.  Leo is back, and more mysterious than ever.  I just wonder how many strip clubs you had to visit to nail down the experience for curious readers.  

But it is the dynamic between Gretchen and Archie that kept me reading.  Sure, the story flowed like the Sandy River in Summer, and the characters are so fully realized.  But when Gretchen appeared in the strangest, most insidious way, I knew that things were about to get really intense.  

Thanks so much for keeping everything in Portland.  Thanks for enlightening this Portland girl about all-things-Lake Oswego.  Thanks for challenging your readers.  Thanks for writing such a brilliant, frightening mystery series that has a place of honor on my bookshelves.

But, most of all, thanks for championing independent bookstores.  You take the time to make the event a true experience.  You appreciate each and every one of your fans, and they, in turn, appreciate you.  

And I'm one of them, dear Chelsea.

Love, Book Hog"


'Let Me Go', Chelsea Cain's sixth book in the Gretchen Lowell & Archie Sheridan series, is now available at your library and local independent bookstore!  Published by Minotaur Books, a division of St. Martin's Press.  You can visit Chelsea at www.chelseacain.com



Wednesday, September 4, 2013

'Tamarack County'

Autumn is fast approaching, and with it comes a huge desire to dive into the season's best-and-brightest books.  It's almost time to snuggle on the sofa, covered by a handmade blanket, cup of tea nearby, with a clowder of cats vying for your attention.

So, it's important to read a story that totally takes you away from feline interruptions. For me, it was 'Tamarack County', the new novel in the Cork O'Connor series, and written by the always-wonderful William Kent Krueger.

During a harsh Winter in Tamarack County, Minnesota, Cork O'Connor, former sheriff and now a private investigator, is called in to help solve the mystery of a missing woman who is married to a retired judge. When the beloved pet dog of a friend is found brutally killed, Cork begins to see a pattern.  At the center is a murder from twenty years ago, for which an innocent man may have been convicted. Someone is spinning a deadly web in Tamarack County, and it seems no one is safe...not even Cork's family and friends.

The premise of this story is not unique, but the way Krueger presents it makes it special.  He has a real talent for creating a family unit that is at once close, yet full of secrets.  The reader cares about this family; Cork questions his relationship with a woman who has left to care for a member of her family.  Stephen, his son, is involved with a young local woman.  Jenny, his daughter, is a devoted mother, but it is Anne, the eldest child, who solicits the most interest.  She is questioning her religious calling, and comes back home to find some answers.  

'Tamarack County' is a quick read, but one that will stay with you.  The surprises are many, although I did manage to figure out one in particular. 

I, for one, can't wait for the next Cork O'Connor mystery as I try to keep the clowder off my books...

...and out of my tea cup.


'Tamarack County' can be found in independent bookstores and your local library.  Published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.



Sunday, August 25, 2013

'Shift Omnibus'

In November of 2012, I reviewed the incredible novel, 'Wool', written by the equally-incredible Hugh Howey.  I couldn't say enough about his story.  I recommended it to friends, family, and even our thrift shop customers.  And a few have come back to tell me how much they enjoyed it.

But the most asked question was, "Is he writing a sequel?"

Oh, yeah, he did.  And you're in for another long night of reading.  As for me, it took me days because I hated to reach the end.  That, dear reader, is the sign of a well-told story.  

'Shift Omnibus' does reveal how everything began, but it soon reaches the time frame of 'Wool'.

'Shift Omnibus' tells the story of a man named Troy who awakens in Silo 1.  It is his turn to oversee the comings-and-goings of the occupants...and to keep an eye out for unusual happenings.  But Troy begins to question everything around him, including the 'big boss', Thurlow, who is a master at keeping secrets and maintaining lies. When Troy starts digging, answers begin to pop up, and he finds he isn't the man he thought he was.  He learns just why and how he and countless others are forced to live underground.  As he remembers his past and the part he played in the deception, he grows ever more curious about the trust he holds for those who haven't earned it.

The chapters move from past to present, and back again. Major characters seem to live forever, while a beloved character from 'Wool' sets up the third book in this fascinating trilogy.

There is a bloody revolution in one of the silos, pitting friend against friend, mentor against student, and Mission, the major character in that scenario, is one of my favorites.  His past is heartbreaking which makes his rage well-earned.

But it is near the end, when we read about young Jimmy, that honest tears are truly shed. We suffer along with him; experience his loneliness, find hope in his love for a new companion, and sob when the years pass and we find that Jimmy has taken back his alias, Solo.  And then there is the end, when hope springs anew.

Major things are in store for the residents of the silos, and thanks to the fantastic writing of Mr. Howey, I'm sure you'll be up all night, biting your nails and unable to put down the book.

As for me, I'll be taking it slow with the final novel, 'Dust'.



'Shift Omnibus' is available at bookstores everywhere.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

'Forever, Interrupted'


"Have you ever heard of supernovas?  They shine brighter than anything else in the sky and then fade out really quickly, a short burst of extraordinary energy..."

Some book reviews are so easy to compose.  When I am come off reading a story that is so beautifully written, so well edited, it's everything I can do to keep myself from writing a review right then and there.  Instead, I sit and digest the story, remembering what passages affected me the most.

And then, along comes a book that affected me throughout the whole story.

"Forever, Interrupted" by Taylor Jenkins Reid is the story of Elsie and Ben, two single people who meet at a take-out pizza place on New Year's Day.  Their chemistry is immediate; so immediate, they fall in love, move in together, get married...and are separated by death, all in the space of five or six months.  One might think that 'love at first sight' does not exist, but it does (it has happened to me), and it's eloquently told in this heartbreaking story.

I'll admit it:  I cried just three pages into the story.  I cried when Elsie met her mother-in-law, Susan.  I cried when I read the various chapters pertaining to the courtship of Elsie and Ben because I knew what was coming.

But I didn't realize how deep the grief shared by both women would be.  And I almost thought that Elsie would never be able to swim to the surface and grab back her life.  

Ms. Reid has written a novel that is much more than mere 'Chick Lit'.  It is a story of grief, an emotion that almost all of us have encountered at some time or another.  It could be from the death of a family member, or a friend or coworker.  Even (and sometimes more heartbreaking) from the death of a beloved animal.  I could relate to the grief; every stage that Elsie encountered reverberated in my own life.  You might think that Ben is 'too good to be true', but he is a sincere, flawed man who finds true love and isn't afraid to go for it.

Being a huge book lover, I was pleased to find various mentions of books; Elsie is a librarian, Ben loved reading Young Adult books (not the sappy, 'real' ones.  He loved fantasy, but not the 'vampire' genre).  And near the end, when the story beautifully comes together, books are a huge catalyst for Elsie's new life.

This is a thoughtful story, and very well-written.  It's not light.  It has substance.

When I got to the end, when I read that last sentence, I cried anew.

And so will you.

So, now I must leave and go buy a new box of tissues.



Book Hog also suggests 'Goodbye for Now', by Laurie Frankel.  These two novels accompany 
each other very well.






















Wednesday, August 7, 2013

'Tampa'

When I viewed my news feed on Facebook today, I was absolutely delighted to see a 'thank you' from the Chet the Dog page for my review of Spencer Quinn's soon-to-be-released book, 'The Sound and the Furry'.  I thank you, Chet the Dog page (and Mr. Quinn); your story was an absolute delight to read and review.

So, my day started off to be a happy one.

But I've been saddled with a dilemma.  I just finished reading the new book, 'Tampa', by Alissa Nutting, and while I love her style and voice, I felt more than a bit uncomfortable with the whole premise.

I'll be frank:  It's about a female eighth grade English teacher who harbors a sexual obsession for fourteen-year-old boys.  

Celeste Price has it all:  Beauty, a rich husband, a great teaching career, and a red Corvette.  But her one weakness is fourteen-year-old boys, and she goes after them like a shark hunting prey.  She's meticulous and smart, and in a few weeks into the new school year, she's found her latest victim. Sweet, quiet Jack Patrick is in awe of his new teacher, while Celeste celebrates his naiveté.  When he finally learns that she wants him in the most sexual way, he agrees to keep quiet about their affair.  But despite the fact that Celeste is a swift thinker and an insatiable lover, something trips her up.  And it isn't good.

'Tampa' will most certainly become the latest controversial novel of this publishing season (think 'Lolita') due to it's uncomfortable subject matter.  And while I felt a great distaste for the character of Celeste, I loved Nutting's style. Good writing and truthiness (thanks, Stephen Colbert) should make a reader feel uncomfortable until we can relate to the subject matter, but this one...  Not for me.

I hope that Ms. Nutting goes on to write a story that won't leave such a bad taste in my mouth.  Teachers are supposed to be trusted, and when I read even a fictional account about a predatory instructor, I feel as if I have to wash out my eyes.

But I'll still be a fan, Alissa.  I just hope your next novel doesn't make me cringe.


'Tampa' by Alissa Nutting, is available at your local bookstore and library.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

'The Rosie Project'

If I'm not working that evening, you'll find me in front of my television on Thursdays, watching 'The Big Bang Theory'.  I don't care if it's a rerun; I'll watch it and laugh while tapping into my 'inner nerd'.  Sheldon Cooper (one of the major characters in the program and played by the brilliant Jim Parsons), on the other hand, is more of a geek.  Brilliant in most areas of science (and a trivia expert), he cannot cope in social situations, and suffers (although not in his opinion) from OCD. He knows everything and isn't afraid to let everyone know it.  

So, when the new novel, 'The Rosie Project' landed on my desk, I almost thought that Sheldon had written it.  Almost...

Brilliant, funny (oh, it's definitely funny!), and a nod to those who aren't afraid to change, Graeme Simsion's new novel is destined to hit the bestseller lists.  His story is one of the most romantic and hilarious books of the Fall publishing season.

Don Tillman is a professor of genetics, and although he has a brilliant scientific mind (with huge OCD tendencies), he finds social situations uncomfortable and confounding.  His luck with women ended at one date, so he embarks upon the Wife Project.  The Wife Project is a sixteen-page questionnaire which he sends to assorted women (thanks to the help of his best friend, Gene, who, although married, enjoys the 'company' of many, many women) in hopes of finding his perfect mate.

And in walks Rosie, the most illogical and beautiful woman he has ever met.  Brilliant in her own right, Rosie and Don establish a tentative friendship, and in doing so, embark upon yet another endeavor, The Father Project (Rosie wants to find out who her biological father really is).  Setting The Wife Project aside, Don reorganizes his life in order to help Rosie. But what he doesn't foresee is the path he will take to find himself...and love.

Of all the beautifully-realized characters in this book, I fell in love with Don. Fastidious, unintentionally funny, and stuck in his own little world, he projects a courage that I did not expect.  Watching his relationship with Rosie grow into 'something more' made my heart swell.

So, read 'The Rosie Project' before it becomes a movie.  Grasp Don's hand and give it a good shake before he can take it back.  

Sheldon would be horrified.



Wednesday, July 24, 2013

'The Ocean at the End of the Lane'

Have you ever read a book that made you feel like a little kid?  A book so powerful in its simplicity that you are left breathless?  A book that, at first, reads like an innocent fairy tale but soon reveals a surprising mythology?

A book you'll remember always.  A book written by a master, a title rightly earned.

It was almost impossible for me to set aside 'The Ocean at the End of the Lane'.  Neil Gaiman is on my Top 10 list of favorite authors ('Neverwhere' is my particular favorite of all his works), and I've never been steered wrong.  I read his newest story at night, while in bed, feeling every emotion experienced by the narrator, a middle-aged man remembering a trying, emotional, scary time when he was 7 years-old.

When he takes us back to his seventh year, it begins with his birthday party, a party that no one attended, except for his immediate family.  And then he receives, and falls in love with, a little black kitten he names 'Fluffy'.  He is a quiet boy, without friends, and recedes into the comfort of books.

But when an opal miner arrives to board in their home, the tale turns dark and it is then when our young narrator meets Lettie Hempstock, a young girl who lives in a farmhouse at the end of the lane.  She shares the home with her grandmother and mother, two warm, welcoming women.  Powerful women.  

Near their farmhouse is a pond, which Lettie claims is the ocean over which they sailed from the 'old country'.  As their friendship becomes stronger, Lettie vows to protect her young friend.  From what, he wonders, and that 'what' is strange and evil, and determined to take away everyone he holds dear, including his own life and the world around him.

It's a small book; almost 180 pages; but it stays with you.  It reads like a fairy tale, but adult situations abound.  Remember, this is the first adult novel Gaiman's written in a long time.  

It contains his usual theme of innocence gone dark, but with that darkness comes light...and this light is astounding.

Welcome back, Mr. Gaiman.  This one was worth waiting for.


'The Ocean at the End of the Lane' is now available at your local independent bookstore and library.


Monday, July 22, 2013

'The Sound and the Furry'

Summer continues in the most brilliant way here in the Pacific Northwest.  We haven't had rain for quite a while, and while I enjoy the sunny days, I consider this one a nuisance.  I have the flu, and no amount of air conditioning is going to make me feel better.

I have stayed in my pajamas all day while I consume massive quantities of ginger ale and toast.  Children's screams of joy and activity from the nearby swimming pool have been barely tolerated.  In fact, it's been keeping me from proper rest.  I could easily stand on my balcony and tell everyone to shut up, but that wouldn't be neighborly, would it?

So, I read.  Stacks of new advance reading copies sit on a table near the sofa, and while they all look wonderful, I have chosen the one that I've been eagerly waiting for.

Locked away from the outside world, I opened Spencer Quinn's new book, 'The Sound and the Furry' and immediately fell into Chet and Bernie's newest adventure.

Chet the dog is the narrator once again, and a better one you'll never find (I still swear that Mr. Quinn is part dog).  Full of love and friendship, with a dollop of worry, this continuation of the story of the two private eyes is a welcome addition to this hilarious series.

While out on a drive, Chet and Bernie come upon a prison work crew and find Frenchie Boutette, a man they helped send to jail.  Frenchie asks Bernie and Chet for help in finding his missing brother, Ralph, somewhere in New Orleans.  But before they can leave, they are attacked by a gang called the Quieros.  Although Bernie has been offered another job in Alaska (with a bigger payday), he decides to help Frenchie, instead.  The Boutette family has a long-running feud with the Robideau family, and at first, Bernie thinks the Robideau's had something to do with Ralph's disappearance due to a dispute over a missing load of shrimp.  But when Bernie discovers a hidden clue, the search takes a dangerous turn.  Soon, the duo is fighting Big Oil, black ops, the Quieros, and Iko the vicious alligator.

The 'Chet and Bernie' series is interesting, but it is Chet's narrative voice that drives this series well above others.  His voice, while pure canine, is full of devotion, love, pride, and furry excitement.  Chet is weak when food is involved; no matter how attentive to duty he tries to be, a Slim Jim can drive him to distraction.

So, if you're suffering from a cold or the flu during this incredible heat wave the whole U.S. seems to be experiencing, take a load off and begin reading this wonderful mystery series. You'll get some good laughs, you'll cry a few tears (the tear-inducing moment in this new story is especially tissue-worthy), and you'll celebrate the love and friendship shared by two very interesting private investigators.

As for me, it made me feel quite a bit better.

Laughter, it seems, is the best medicine.


'The Sound and the Furry' will be released in early September 2013 by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

'The Mouse-Proof Kitchen'

I have been working for a non-profit thrift store for over a year now, and it is one of the most satisfying and interesting jobs I've ever held.  Our non-profit offers programs to veterans, the elderly, at-risk youth, and those facing addictions.  I come into contact with many people from various walks of life; those who have money to spend from having jobs that pay them well, elderly folks, and disabled people.  It is a distinct pleasure to serve them.

It is the disabled people who have taught me patience and compassion.  When you look beyond the wheelchair and canes and (sometimes) vacant stares, you find a breathing human being inside, one who has a brilliant sense of humor.  I'm especially drawn to a young woman who practices sarcasm every day, and it is a joy to see her in our store.  Our exchanges are quiet and quick, and when she and her caregiver are waiting at the counter when a huffy, privileged person is complaining about some little thing, I can feel the sarcasm just waiting to burst out of the young woman's mouth.  So I wink at her and she smiles.  When the privileged woman looks behind her and sees the wheelchair-bound girl, she dares not give off a look of horror (which I know she would have done if I hadn't been standing there). She dramatically sweeps down and pats the girl's hand, as if she's done a service to all those who are disabled.  "You poor thing," she says.  It's everything I can do to keep my mouth shut.

'The Mouse-Proof Kitchen', written by Saira Shah, doesn't really address the same issue. The child, Freya, isn't treated with sad smiles and pats on the hand.  She is instantly accepted and cared for.  She is the catalyst of the story, and a more precious one could not be imagined.

Anna and Tobias, a young couple living in London, are expecting the birth of a perfect child, and then a move to a perfect life in Provence, France.  But life doesn't work out exactly the way they planned.  Freya, their daughter, is born physically disabled, and will require constant care for the rest of her life.  The family ends up buying a worn down, rodent-infested farmhouse, which is soon a magnet for their strange, lonely neighbors. Confronted by such ill luck, fortune, in many guises, teaches them compassion, love, and forgiveness.  

Of all the characters, I found Tobias to be the most selfish.  A brilliant musician relying on freelance jobs, he keeps himself away from his daughter, because if he gets too close, he'll fall in love with her.  He tells Anna to keep something back, because when they are no longer able to take care of Freya, their grief will be horrible.  That I can understand.  But when he finally makes a solid connection with their daughter, he's still selfish and inconsiderate.  

Anna, however, bonds with Freya immediately.  She is the one who takes care of her, although there are times when she just wants to run away.  But that bond brings her closer to her own mother, a woman who, in subtle nagging ways, wants to keep the bond alive.

Shah's characters are finely drawn, and their quirks and mannerisms bring a certain sparkle to the story.  But the character that really drew me in was the fragile Freya.  She reminded me of the many disabled people I help every day.

Humor, compassion and immediate acceptance give 'The Mouse-Proof Kitchen' its energy.

And, I have to admit, even the selfishness of some of the characters give it the intensity it requires.


'The Mouse-Proof Kitchen', published by Atria (a division of Simon & Schuster) is available at your local bookstore and library.  


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

'Shoot the Dog'

The Pacific Northwest has been experiencing the hottest Summer in years.  I've been taking short hikes, and sitting in parks, doing all the Summery things that people are wont to do.

Although it's considered more of an cold weather past time, I've been doing a lot of reading as I cool off in the shade of my favorite tree.  When I look around, I've noticed that other people are reading, too.  Some are using e-readers, but most have their noses in real books.  With the steady decline of independent bookstores in my region, I've lost a bit of faith in the continued production of print books.  But then reality hits me in the head and I know, I just know that real books will always be alive-and-well...and will be very collectible (as in 'worth money') in the near future.  Part of my job is listing things on ebay, and my jaw drops when I research the value of some vintage books.  Even newer books are climbing the collectible ladder.  Hope springs.

But I digress.  

I have just finished a good mystery novel, 'Shoot the Dog', written by Brad Smith, and the third book in his series about Virgil Caine, former baseball player and murder suspect.

When I first read that character's name, I thought of Joan Baez's famous song.  But that was quickly forgotten once I got into the story.  It's a quick read, but very memorable.  There is a strong sense of place in Smith's story.  A farmer living in upstate New York, Virgil is no 'country bumpkin'; he's sharp, quiet, and intelligent, a man with a history and a sense of who he is.  


Virgil Cain and his draft horses are busy pulling a hay wagon when two film scouts show up and offer him $500 a day for their use in a film.  Needing the money for taxes, Virgil reluctantly agrees, but finds the chaotic set of Frontier Woman a very uncomfortable place to be.  But when the body of the film's leading lady is found dead, Virgil steps in before the ten year-old co-star ends up the next victim.

The interesting characters with over-inflated egos are the comic relief of this story; Sam, the harried film producer, and Robb, her clueless director husband, and Ronnie Red Hawk, a Native American casino owner who not only has a financial interest in the film, but also in the new leading lady.

But you will remember Virgil Caine.  His quiet attitude, his happiness with the simple country life.  His knowledge of film, and his passion for Claire, a police detective.

A man this little Book Hog fell in love with.


'Shoot the Dog' by Brad Smith will be available on July 16, 2013 from Scribner.  It is the third in the 'Virgil Cain' series.  

  

Saturday, July 6, 2013

'Reconstructing Amelia'

I think one of the hardest things in life is losing your child.  And I'm not talking about breaks in the relationship, when you don't talk to each other for a long, long time.  In that case, you know your child is around, but there (hopefully) will come a day when you will reconcile.

When I mean losing a child, I mean death.  Heartbreaking, grief-filled, I-can't-breathe death.

It's beyond me.  And I don't want to even imagine it.

But Kimberly McCreight's brilliant debut novel, 'Reconstructing Amelia' will hit a little too close to home to anyone who has a teenager.  

Beautifully written, sensitive, and almost jaw-dropping, I found myself immersed in Kate Baron's sorrow.  If your child has ever wanted to belong to a peer group, you'll totally understand Kimberly's story.  

Although it is labelled a 'mystery', the story goes much deeper.  It goes beyond a search for the truth.  It delves into a mother's guilt and a daughter's trust in those who would do her harm.

Kate Baron is a partner in one of New York's most prestigious law firms, and although she is a single mother to a brilliant young girl, she feels guilty that her work life isn't giving her more time to spend with her daughter, Amelia.  But when she receives news that Amelia has committed suicide at her exclusive private school, Grace Hall, Kate does not believe that her daughter would do such a thing.  Consumed by grief and guilt, Kate dives into her daughter's text messages and Facebook posts, trying to find out why Amelia would end her life when it was filled with such promise.  When Kate receives the text message, 'Amelia didn't jump', she knows in her heart that Amelia did not commit suicide.  During her search, she discovers secrets that Amelia kept from her...and that leads to a startling discovery.

I could not put down Kimberly's amazing novel.  A real 'page turner', it will bring tears to your eyes, and perhaps, put you on the path to having a real conversation with your own child.

And, maybe, keeping them out of private school.


Help keep independent bookstores alive!  'Reconstructing Amelia' is available at your favorite store...and your local library!