Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Great Believers

Rebecca Makkai opens her tremendous new novel with a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald: "We were the great believers. I have never cared for any men as much as for those who felt the first springs when I did, and saw death ahead, and were reprieved--and who now walk the long stormy summer." The "great believers" of Makkai's novel are the multitudes of gay men who were caught up in the first months of the AIDS crisis in the mid 1980s. She focuses her lens on Chicago and introduces us to a group of male friends who are seeing their friends dying one by one. Because many of them have been rejected by their families for being gay in the first place, they have formed their own sorts of families and moral support. It's hard to remember now how much shame was forced upon and carried by gay men and women back then. Testing for the virus was relatively new, and even raising the courage to approach a doctor and take the test was a momentous decision. You could be fired from your job, harassed by strangers, evicted from your home, beaten up, or killed if your "secret" came out to the world. The book follows two alternating narratives, one in the mid 1980s where we see the world through the eyes of Yale, a young gay man working for an art gallery, and one in 2015, where we follow Fiona, whose brother Nic was one of Yale's friends and was one of the earliest AIDS deaths among their group. We see how the men's deaths impacted their friends and families, and continues to affect them 30 years later. A remarkable, sensitive, and personal look at a heartbreaking period in our country's history. Highly recommended.

~ Kelly Currie

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

After a climate apocalypse that causes the ocean levels to rise quickly, most of the world is destroyed. In the Southwest United States, Dinétah, a former Navajo reservation, remains standing thanks to the help of mythological gods who have returned to Earth. The residents of Dinétah are scared, distrustful, and plagued by monsters that were unleashed when the waters rose. Maggie Hoskie is not your typical hero; she is a monster hunter with great and volatile clan powers and a difficult past. Her grandmother was killed by monsters when she was a teen, and now Neizghání, an immortal prince to whom she was apprenticed, has abandoned her. Adrift and heartbroken, Maggie sets off on her own on a job from the trickster god, Coyote. She’s not alone for long, though, as she grudgingly accepts the help of Kai, a medicine man with his own mysterious past. As Maggie and Kai set off on their mission, they discover that dark forces are gathering to oppose them and Coyote’s task is not nearly be as straightforward as he said it would be.

Trail of Lightning is Rebecca Roanhorse’s debut novel, and the first book in The Sixth World series. Her short story ‘‘Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience’’ (Apex, 2017) recently won the 2018 Hugo and Nebula awards. I have a feeling we will be seeing a lot more of her in the future, and I can’t wait.


Monday, August 20, 2018

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier.

Business executive Georgina Shaw is arrested and charged with being an accessory to murder after the remains of a missing teenager are discovered buried in a wooded area near her childhood home. Calvin James, a man that Shaw was romantically involved with many years ago, was also arrested and charged with murder.

The victim: Angela Wong, a vivacious and popular teenager who went missing fourteen years earlier after an evening of drinking with best friend Georgina and Georgina's boyfriend, Calvin James.

After receiving a five-year sentence for her role in covering up the murder of Angela, Georgina is sent to a women's correctional facility where she suffers the daily humiliations of life in lock-down. Calvin James, now dubbed as the Sweet-bay Strangler, is also tried and convicted of murder.

Released from prison after serving her time, Georgia attempts to slip undetected into her hometown and live quietly with her father, but the situation soon becomes complicated. Bodies begin turning up and the manner in which they've been killed is eerily familiar. Much like Angela Wong.

Cathy Kesterson

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Her Fear, by Shelley Shepard Gray

The fifth book of The Amish of Hart County Series.

Sadie Detweiler of Ohio finds herself pregnant and unmarried when her boyfriend claims the baby wasn't his. Forced to leave her parents' home, she goes to Kentucky to live with relatives she doesn't know. A bit strange, they are, due to a dark illegal secret.

When her elderly aunt become mysteriously ill, 911 is called, and Sadie meets, Noah, an Amish EMT. Noah can't understand how a sweet girl like Sadie ended up sleeping on a cot in the kitchen.
Sadie seems terrified of something. Concerned, he decides to check up on her, and they become friends. When her aunt later dies at the hospital, and two more mysterious deaths follow, Noah's boss asks him to dig around the Amish community for clues. He agrees, for Sadie's sake. Many secrets begin to pop out of the walls at the home in which Sadie is staying, plus a few others.

I enjoyed the characters and the roles they played. Always a happy ending. Looking forward to the next book in this series. 

Monday, August 13, 2018

A Most Noble Heir by Susan Anne Mason

Meet Nolan Price, a stable hand who is employed by the overbearing Earl of Stainsby. Nolan, a hard-working man, has a deep loyalty to the aunt who raised him. With the money he earns, Nolan plans to purchase a farm, marry the love of his life (kitchen maid Hannah Burnham), and proceed to live happily ever after.

When Nolan's aunt falls sick and is on her death bed, she reveals to Nolan the identity of his mother and father. He is shocked to discover that his employer, the Earl of Stainsby, is also his father. Of course, it is forbidden to marry beneath his station, so Nolan is left shaken and uncertain about his future.

This story is about the struggles Nolan faces with family and while trying to stay true to himself and the people he loves.  A Most Noble Heir provides a bit of mystery and intrigue. If you like Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, you will enjoy this read.

Will gaining the world cost him everything he holds most dear?
~A Most Noble Heir

Dani Green

Breakout by Kate Messner

Kate Messner's book Breakout is a middle-grade-appropriate (5th - 8th grade) book about a prison breakout. It is written in the texts, newspaper articles, letters, and time capsule project artifacts from the point of view of three girls in town -- Nora, the daughter of the superintendent of the prison; Lizzie, her BFF; and Elidee, who just moved to town and whose brother is in the prison. Elidee has just discovered poetry and is practicing writing poetry in the style of other poets she admires like Lin Manuel Miranda, Jacqueline Woodson, Nikki Grimes, Nikki Giovanni, and William Carlos Williams. 

Elidee writes about being new to town in a place where there are few African Americans, moving at the end of the school year, and how the move has changed her home life. Elidee is homesick for New York City after moving to Wolf Creek in upstate New York. Nora writes news stories about the breakout and changes in town traditions due to added security. Nora's little brother writes comics about how he's going to catch the escaped prisoners to help himself feel safe, and to feel better about his campout birthday party that had to be moved indoors. Lizzie writes about how the breakout is affecting her family and creates parody comedy pieces about the news coverage as national news outlets are in town covering the story. All three girls are also preparing for a mile race at the end of the school year where the winner gets to hit the principal with water balloons.  

Kirkus calls it, "A sensitive coming-of-age tale about waking up to injustice and where that knowledge can lead." The different formats of the story made the book a fast read, and I enjoyed hearing the girls' distinct voices as the town dealt with the added stress of the search on the community. 

Friday, August 03, 2018

From a Low and Quiet Sea

Irish novelist Donal Ryan's latest work is a quietly moving story told in three separate narratives. First we meet Farouk, a physician, who has just immigrated from war-torn Syria to Ireland and become separated from his wife during the dangerous sea crossing. He is morose and finding it difficult to adjust to life in a new and foreign place. The second man we meet, Lampy, is a grouchy young man who seems unlucky in life. He lives with his mother and grandfather, drives a bus for a nursing home, and has suffered a lot of rejection. The last narrator, James, has led a shifty, dishonest life as an accountant, and now appears to be trying to come to terms with his faults and crimes and to seek comfort and forgiveness. Each of the narratives is compelling and thoughtful, but seemingly unconnected. Ryan brings them together with a smash at the end. Highly recommended for those who enjoy literary fiction with complicated characters.

Kelly Currie

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Salt Lane

Although Alexandra Cupidi appears in another of William Shaw's crime novels, she is the main detective in "Salt Lane." She has been transferred from the London Metropolitan police to the wild Kentish countryside after ending an affair with a married coworker. She and her teen daughter have moved into a small house on the coast. Alexandra worries about her daughter who seems to be depressed and who spends hours on the marshes, coming home later and later. The marshes lie very close to Salt Lane.
She is not very popular at the Kent station. She is quick to criticize and slow to praise her underlings. Jill Ferriter is the young constable assigned to her, and she is smart and ready to make her mark. Their first assignment together is to find who murdered the homeless woman in Salt Lane. Found in water, she did not drown, and cause of death appears unknown. When they inform her son of her death, they discover she spent the night at his house, leaving early in the morning. Salt Lane is many miles from London, so how did she get there?
The investigation becomes more complicated as they dig deeper and find it involves illegal immigrants working on farms throughout the countryside. Of course, more murders occur, and Alexandra foolishly goes off on her own to investigate. I felt this was a big flaw in the novel. She is not familiar with the surroundings, and when she worked in London, she surely would not go off on her own. The book shows an interesting aspect about immigration--the farm workers who will work for lower wages and bring in the crops. After Brexit, the number of these farm workers will be greatly reduced.