Category Archives: heart

Peter Cawdron —Retrograde

The scientific settlement on Mars receives word that nuclear war has broken out on Earth, then communications are cut. The community on Mars consists of four modules — U.S., Chinese, Russian, and Eurasians (from various countries). They start pointing fingers and blaming each other’s countries for starting the war. It appears that the module leaders are lying to each other. Then things begin to go wrong in the settlement. But Liz is determined to get everyone working together.

Cawdron paints a fantastic picture of Mars, both topside and in the tunnels where the scientists have built their settlement. His characters are believable, and their reactions to the disaster at home and the hardships imposed by the red planet are realistic.

For those who like hard science fiction, this is a good one. As stated by SpaceX engineer Dr. Andrew Rader in the Afterword of the novel, “…there are no scientific breakthroughs required for the human exploration of or settlement on Mars — only engineering effort and widespread dedication to the goal.” With a few exceptions, all of the technology and science in Retrograde is possible, if not now, in the near future.

Mars

Fiona Barton — The Child

During an excavation in London to upgrade an old neighborhood, the skeleton of a newborn baby is found. The police estimate the burial to be thirty to forty years ago. This grabs newspaper reporter Kate Waters’ attention, and she starts digging to find people who lived on the street at the time. She finds an old story about a baby stolen from the hospital, but as the date of the burial becomes clearer some things don’t match. The missing child was kidnapped a decade earlier and in a different neighborhood. Working the story, Kate finds more information and secrets, plus some unexpected surprises.

Trying to figure out what had happened, the book held my interest from the beginning, but it didn’t really grab me until the latter part of the story, keeping me up late the last night to finish it.

I guess the novel would be women’s fiction, mystery, maybe literary, maybe psychological thriller. I know that I say I’m not into women’s fiction, but there are some very talented writers in that genre. Author Barton kept me reading and kept me guessing. I would definitely read another of her novels.

Sage Walker — The Man in the Tree

This novel kept me reading until 4 AM. As I said in my last post, science fiction can be almost any type of story. This one is a murder mystery, a romance, a generation ship story, a psychological thriller, hard science fiction, and much more.

The seed ship Kybele is almost ready to leave Earth after years of building and preparation, when a man is found dead in a tree. Helt Borrensen, the ship’s incident analyst is assigned the job of special investigator to determine if the death is suicide or murder and if murder, who is the killer. The investigation is complicated by the discovery that several of the colonists have apparently received large sums of money from an organization that opposes the seed ship leaving Earth orbit. The love story in the novel involves Helt’s attraction for the chief murder suspect.

Sounds like a romance novel, doesn’t it? But this is only a part woven into a complicated plot that explores the birth of a new world, human behavior and interactions, politics, multiple sciences, the controversy of surveillance, new ways to govern, creativity…the list goes on.

Sage Walker is an excellent storyteller.

David Carlson — Let the Dead Bury the Dead

A Christopher Worthy and Father Fortis Mystery. The story feels a bit like a “cozy” mystery to me — amateur sleuth solving crime in a small town. Father Fortis, a Greek Orthodox monk, is the amateur sleuth who helps his friend, Police Lieutenant Christopher Worthy, solve the murder of a priest. The church community, even though in the city of Detroit, functions as a small town.

Worthy believes the killer is someone in the congregation. His nemesis on the police force, who continually interferes in the case, believes it‘s some punk from the projects close to the church—a robbery gone bad. Worthy and Father Fortis track down and interview several parishioners who appear to have motives for killing the priest. They are also searching for the priest’s journal, which they believe may hold clues.

At the same time, Worthy is trying to reestablish ties with his teenage daughter and attempting to understand his surly new police partner. The characters and interactions between them are interesting and add to the story.

The novel keeps a slower pace than many of the mysteries and thrillers in today’s market. But I enjoyed the story and kept reading.

Joanne Harris — Different Class

Something bad happened at St. Oswald’s boys’ school twenty-four years ago. What was it and who was responsible? Different Class is a British literary, psychological suspense story, which takes place in 1981 and 2005. This novel reveals many secrets slowly. More than once, you think you know what happened, only to find out you’re wrong.

Roy Straightly has been the school’s Latin master for thirty years. One of his least favorite students from 1981 returns to the school as headmaster to bring the old institution into the 21st century. Straightly resists in every possible way.

The point of view in 2005 is mostly Straightly’s, and we see the events of 1981 mainly through a journal of an unknown student. The novel started a bit slow, and I almost stopped reading. But the unanswered questions and suspense kept me reading, and the more I read, the more I enjoyed it. In addition to the twists and turns and suspense, Harris throws in dark humor, murder, and underlying themes about class differences, friendships,  revenge, and acceptance of others.

A very good read.

James Campbell — My Korean War Stories

In December 1948, James Campbell, age 15, joined the U.S. Army. June 25, 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea. Campbell, stationed in Japan, was among the first U.S. soldiers to join the conflict. The book is a collection of stories about a young soldier’s experience in the war.

His stories run the gamut of emotions—anger, heartbreak, apprehension, comradery, even humor. Campbell lets you see and feel the horrors of war through the eyes of a boy becoming a man.

This is not a book I would pick to read. I’m not into war stories. But I helped edit and format the book and of course had to read it. I thoroughly enjoyed it. James Campbell knows how to tell a story.

Michael Chabon — Moonglow

Moonglow is a very different book—a fictionalized memoir or autobiographical novel. We don’t know how much of the novel is true (or true as remembered) and how much is Michael’s imagination.

Michael visits his dying grandfather, a man who has never talked about his life. But whether because he is dying or the effects of medication, the grandfather pours out stories of love, war, prison, of working as an engineer in the space industry, and stories of Michael’s grandmother and mother. Mixed in with the stories told by the grandfather are Michael’s own memories and stories told by his mother. The events are in no particular order, but they weave a picture of a family.

I enjoyed the read and came to admire the grandfather, even though he was not always likeable. I recommend this book for someone who likes a book off the beaten path.

Anne Corlett — The Space Between the Stars

Humans have expanded throughout the galaxy before a virus wipes out nearly all the population on every planet. Jamie Allenby wakes up alone on a remote planet she escaped to when her marriage was failing and she wanted “some space.” Zero point zero zero zero one percent survival rate, she had heard before her planet fell to the virus. After three days alone she finds two other people. They are rescued by two others in a small spacecraft looking for fuel. Their little band of survivors gathers two more as they bounce from planet to planet toward Earth.

This is not hard science fiction. I would call it “literary” or maybe “psychological” — a study in human behavior. Jamie isn’t sure what she’s searching for, maybe home. The small group includes an ex-priest, a prostitute, an ex-scientist who believes God has caused the apocalypse in order to start over, a young man with autism, the spaceship captain, and his engineer.

Corlette, with her first novel, has written an intriguing story that covers many issues that are relevant today, in the past, or our future.

This one kept me awake until 3AM to finish it. I look forward to more from Anne Corlette.

Dennis Lehane — Since We Fell

I met Dennis Lehane once at a book signing in Boston and I’ve seen him on television a few times. He seems like an easygoing likeable person with a twinkle of humor in his eyes. But Lehane writes dark stories. His characters are twisted. He examines his characters minds good and bad—their delights, doubts, and demons. Great stuff!

The first part of Since We Fell follows Rachel Childs from a childhood with a dominating mother and no father, through a successful career as a journalist in Boston and an unsuccessful marriage, to a breakdown on camera in Haiti while covering the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. Her husband leaves her, she’s fired from her job, and she becomes a virtual shut-in.

Enter second husband, Brian Delacroix, who understands her (unlike first husband), treats her with loving kindness, and helps her overcome her phobias. Perfect husband…or is he?

The story is filled with questions, conspiracies, murder, and surprises. Is it a psychological thriller, a literary novel, crime novel, or something that doesn’t fall into any genre or category? It fits all three of my classifications of head, heart, and even some humor.

Charles River, Boston
Charles River, Boston

The setting is mostly in Boston, my favorite city in the world. It made me feel at home.

In my opinion, Dennis Lehane is one of the today’s best authors.

Stephen King — Duma Key

Duma Key is the first Stephen King novel I’ve read in many years. Even though he is an excellent writer, I’m not a fan of horror. You usually find his books classified as horror, but they could also fall into thriller, suspense, fantasy, psychological, supernatural, paranormal, ghost story, and mystery genres. Duma Key is all of these.

I’m not sure why I decided to read this book; maybe because the setting is in Southwest Florida where I live. I found the story intriguing from the beginning. Edgar Freemantle, builder and contractor, is almost killed in an accident that damages his right hip and leg, crushes his skull, and he loses his right arm. Due to his unpredictable behavior while recovering, his wife leaves him.

His shrink suggests Edgar should take up a hobby and go on sabbatical. He leases “Big Pink,” a house hanging over the water at the edge of the Gulf of Mexico on Duma Key. Here he begins to draw and then paint, learning at a furious pace. His ghost arm drives him.

Walking the beach, Edgar meets Wireman, and they become friends. Wireman is caretaker for an old woman, Elizabeth Eastlake, who floats in and out of dementia. Elizabeth owns the habitable part of Duma Key, including Big Pink, and she is an integral part of the story.

The story begins as psychological and/or supernatural thriller, moving on to become a ghost story. It doesn’t become a “horror story/monster movie” until about three-quarters of the way through. By that time it had me hooked, and I had to keep reading to see what would happen. Edgar, Wireman, and Jack (who was hired to help Edgar and became his friend) join forces to battle the monsters.

As I said at the beginning, Stephen King is an excellent writer.