Category Archives: heart

Ridley Pearson — White Bone

What a delight! I was transported back to East Africa—the sights, smells, sounds, the dry air, some of the same plants and animals. In my mind, I was there. Even though my two years were in Asmara, Ethiopia (now Eritrea) and surrounding area, and this novel takes place in Kenya, it all felt very familiar. Granted, the atmosphere and politics of Ethiopia in the early 1960s was much different than those of current Kenya. Asmara at the time of my two-year stay was fairly clean, peaceful, and civilized. The present day Nairobi, as described in Pearson’s book, is dirty, poor, corrupt, and violent. I could still feel the similarities.

Getting to the story, Grace Chu is sent to Kenya to find out what happened at a client’s clinic where a vaccine is making people sick, even killing children. She discovers connections between poachers of elephants and rhinos, the illegal ivory trade to China and elsewhere, the theft of a vaccine for cattle, and missing ivory from the Kenyan treasury. She hasn’t been heard from for two days, and her partner John Knox goes to find her.

The characters in the book are varied. Pearson takes you into the heads and hearts two main characters, Grace and John. Both have unique, strong personalities. I was especially fascinated by Grace and her ability to survive the bush of Kenya. The author also gives us insight into others’ motivations, including the leader of a band of poachers and a man who hunts poachers and kills them to protect the animals he loves.

White Bone is the latest in a series about Knox and Chu. I will definitely read some of the earlier novels. If you’ve ever wanted to visit the area, read this international thriller and let your imagination run wild.

Elizabeth Nunez — Even in Paradise

The Even in Paradise plot is loosely based on Shakespeare’s King Lear.  Duckworth, a rich man from Trinidad, moves to his “castle” in Barbados, which to him is Paradise. He decides to give his land to his three daughters before he dies to save strife upon his death. Like Lear, he is fooled by the praise of the two oldest daughters and disappointed that his youngest, his favorite, won’t give him lavish praise. She also won’t obey him in all that he asks.

I enjoyed the settings in the Caribbean—Trinidad, Barbados, Jamaica. Not the laid-back island time atmosphere I’ve mentioned in a previous review, Nunez writes of politics, racism, greed, family turmoil, and the problems with the conflict between tourism and locals on the islands.

The characters are alive and real, from differing social and cultural backgrounds. The person telling the story sometimes appears to be a background character, watching the drama unfold.

This may be a spoiler, but the story doesn’t end with all the violence and death of King Lear, even though most of the characters manage to get what they deserve—good and bad.

I enjoyed a good read of a well-written novel.

Benjamin Wood — The Ecliptic

The setting for most of this novel is an artist’s colony on a remote island off the coast of Turkey where artists who have lost their muse have come to recapture their creative brilliance. No one knows the other residents actual names or backgrounds. There is no contact with the outside world. There are no clocks to keep track of time.

The protagonist, Knell, is a painter who has been living on the island for years. Her friends, other longtime residents, are a playwright, an architect, and a novelist. The story begins when a young disturbed man arrives at the colony and upsets the routine.

The novel explores the twisted mental state of Knell’s mind and her creativity. The second section of the book takes us back to her previous life in the London art world of the 1960s and what brought her to the island.

This is a well written literary novel. The characters are captivating, the settings are beautifully painted, and the twisted plot keeps you reading. But a warning—you may be disappointed with the ending. I’m not sure if I was or not.

e·clip·tic

/əˈkliptik/
noun     ASTRONOMY
  1. 1.
    a great circle on the celestial sphere representing the sun’s apparent path during the year, so called because lunar and solar eclipses can occur only when the moon crosses it.

Barry Eisler — Livia Lone

Barry Eisler writes assassins as protagonists. I’ve read several of his John Rain, assassin, novels. Now he has created a new assassin or vigilante, Livia Lone. She is a Seattle police detective dedicated to bringing predators to justice. But at times when the system doesn’t do the job, she executes her own form of justice.

The story tells how Livia became what she is, both detective and killer. She was sold by her parents at age thirteen along with her eleven-year-old sister and was shipped from Thailand to the States with a group of people in a container. The men who controlled them abused Livia and she allowed it to protect her sister. After she attacked one of her captors, they took her sister, who was then returned to the container in a near catatonic state. Livia was separated from her sister in Portland, Oregon, and was “rescued” by a powerful man who adopted her and abused her. Her driving goal throughout her life was to find her sister.

Probably classified as thriller/mystery, this is truly a horror story—not in the horror genre, but the horror of human trafficking, the horror of the abuse that drives Livia to become what she is, and the horror of what she does to the predators. You need a strong stomach to read this, but it kept my attention and I was rooting for Livia.

Jessica Chiarella — And Again

What would you do with a new perfect body? Four terminally ill people are part of a trial program for FDA approval. They are given new genetically perfect clones of themselves—no disease, baby smooth skin, perfect vision, no wrinkles or even freckles.

This sounds like science fiction, but I wouldn’t classify it as such. It’s the story of four people and how they adapt (or don’t adapt) to their new chance at life. How much of your identity lies in your physical body?

Talented artist Hannah’s new body lacks the ability to paint. Politician David fights bad habits from his old life. Beautiful actor Connie tries to reenter the business after five years away. Connie, completely paralyzed for ten years, tries to find her role in a family unit that doesn’t include her.

An excellent first novel.

Robert Crais — Suspect

I! Love! This! Book!

I don’t usually read two books in a row by the same author, but after reading The Promise, I went looking for Suspect. I wanted to read more about LAPD K-9 cop, Scott James, and his German shepard partner, Maggie.

Scott and Maggie are both suffering from PTSD. Five hooded men shot Scott and killed his partner and two civilians almost ten months earlier. He refused to take medical leave and opted to join the canine corp. He finds Maggie cowering in a crate. Scott’s sergeant, Dominic Leland, has scheduled her to be sent home due to problems adjusting to training. Scott and Maggie connect. The sergeant reluctantly lets him take the dog home, giving them (man and dog) two weeks before another evaluation. Leland doesn’t believe either will make the grade.

New detectives assigned to the case where Scott was injured invite him to help. Frustration and anger keep leading him into trouble.

The best part of this book is the growing relationship between Scott and Maggie—how they help each other recover. Excellent writing. Possibly Crais’ best novel.

Irene “Susie” Smith — Angel of Tears

Angel of Tears
This story of a young girl, Summer, growing up in Detroit is a rewrite of an earlier novel. There are some added details and an epilogue. I enjoyed every minute of it, especially Summer’s connection with her neighbor, an old albino woman.

Irene’s characters are believable and likeable (except those who are not so nice). Her story flows and keeps you reading to the end. Her descriptions of Detroit in the fifties takes you back to another time.

The author writes from the heart. She makes me laugh, she makes me cry.

Steven Rowley — Lily and the Octopus

If you like quirky stories and love dogs, you will enjoy this book. It is silly and sad, touches your heart, and makes you laugh.

Lilly is Ted Flask’s aging dachshund—his closest friend. He holds conversations with her. One day he sees an “octopus” on her head. Not facing reality, he tries to find ways to rid Lily of the octopus. He even talks to the creature attached to his dog’s head. At one point in the book, Ted goes off on a fantasy trip with Lily. They take a ship out into the ocean to defeat the enemy in his own territory.

This is Rowley’s first novel, and I hope not his last. He captures the emotions of his protagonist (and the reader).

Alexander McCall Smith — The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine

bots-MMAP-md

The author has a unique voice and style of writing. The pace is pleasant and meandering through the heat of Botswana in southern Africa. This is the latest in the series about The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency.

His main character, Precious Ramotswe, owner of the detective agency, wanders through the story with her mind drifting to related and totally unrelated subjects from whatever problem she is trying to solve. She is a big, warm-hearted woman who is always concerned with doing the right thing for her clients, her friends, her employees, her husband, and most anyone she meets.

In this novel, Mma Ramotswe has been persuaded to take her first vacation since she started her business. She is leaving the agency in the hands of her partner, Mma Makutsi. She is concerned about how the office will be run while she is away and not enjoying her vacation. She encounters a young boy on the streets of Gaborone and feels obliged to help him. Then Mr. Polopetsi, a school teacher who works part-time for her agency, asks her for help with a new client. She doesn’t want to interfere with her partner and how she is running the business, but ends up helping. She may not be going into the office, but she is not on vacation.

The setting is wonderful. I can feel the dry heat of the land, can almost smell the cattle when Precious goes into the country. The author captures the culture of Botswana. I can visualize the people in the streets of Gaborone.

The point-of-view is different. It is mostly third-person subjective from Precious’ viewpoint. But when she is in conversation with other characters we are sometimes privy to their thoughts as well.

Alexander McCall Smith’s writing is slow-paced, scattered, and delightful at the same time. I normally read books that are fast-paced thrillers. His writing is a pleasing change of pace.

Antonia Hayes — Relativity

Ethan is a gifted 12-year-old in Sydney, Australia, who thinks in physics and sees it in the world around him. He sees waves in sound and light. Naturally he is abused and bullied in school for being different. But when the boys insult his mother, he fights back and injures the boy who was his best friend until recently.

After the fight, Ethan runs from a meeting with the principal and parents, where the injured boy’s mother is insulting Ethan’s mom. He is so upset he has a seizure and ends up in the hospital. Here he learns that he had a brain injury as a four-month-old baby. The doctor thinks that to compensate for the damage, Ethan’s brain has rewired in some unique way.

Claire is Ethan’s overprotective mother. She has never told her son about the injury, not wanting to hurt him. She is a former ballet dancer and everything in her life is very precise and controlled.

Mark, Ethan’s father, was accused of “shaken baby syndrome” and sentenced to jail after Ethan’s brain injury. He is a physicist who never finished his doctorate—interrupted when imprisoned. He now lives on the other side of Australia working at a mundane job in the labs of a mining company. He claims he did not injure his son. He returns to Sydney to visit his dying father. He hasn’t seen his father, ex-wife, or son for 12 years.

The story is told from three points of view—Ethan, Claire, and Mark. We see the interaction between Mark and Claire, who still care for each other but blame each other (and themselves) for the disruption in their lives when baby Ethan was injured.

Ethan is now learning about his father, his brain injury, his life, the realization that his mother has been lying to him or at least hiding things from him. He connects with Mark (without Claire’s knowledge) who understands the way he thinks.

Hayes first novel is unique and completely captured my attention.

 

maxresdefault