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. 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.


'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.