Tag Archives: authors

Candice Fox — Gathering Dark

Another good read from Candice Fox, but I prefer her books set in Australia. I read plenty of crime fiction books with LA as a backdrop. I’d much rather read the unknown to me settings in Australia where my imagination can take flight.

As they are in Fox’s other books, the characters are strong but quirky; many are mean and nasty. There are so many “bad guys” in this story it’s sometimes difficult to keep track of who’s who. All the cops are shady and twisted, some even criminal. Even Jessica Sanchez, the protagonist, pulls some very bad stunts in revenge on her partner after he fails to back her up on a call. Blair Harbour, the other main character, is only a year out of prison for killing her neighbor. She tries to be good but doesn’t always succeed. Blair’s friend “Tweat” (Blair is trying to help her find her daughter) is a thief and a liar.

I’m not sure if some of the outrageous and improbably situations the characters found themselves in were meant to be humorous, but they made me laugh.

Ray Bradbury — Dandelion Wine

One of my favorite books of all time.

Dandelion Wine draws you in with all your senses—the smell of cut grass and the sound of the lawnmower, the heat of an August day, the pattern of green leaves against blue sky, the feel of running barefoot and the comfort of new sneakers, the dark earthy aroma of a ravine, the taste of Grandmother’s abundant meals, and on and on… Add the excitement of learning you’re alive and the sadness of the loss of friends and relatives, plus so much more to wrap your mind and feelings around. Bradbury’s elegant prose makes me feel young and alive.

I pulled this book off a back shelf recently to re-read for the fourth or fifth time—the first time I read it as a teen sixty-something years ago. It’s one of very few books I like to re-read. It’s filled with life and death, inquiry and imagination, the delights and sorrows of youth. But what sticks with me over the years is the JOY of being alive.

Scott Carson — The Chill

“Sacrifice is about salvation, not vengeance.” A quote from a neighbor in the book. But this story is all about sacrifice for revenge.

A supernatural horror story, thriller, fantasy, ghost story, mixed with information (sometimes too much) about dams, reservoirs, the NYC water supply system, and the practice of drowning towns for the purpose of storing water for cities. I’m not a particular fan of fantasy and horror, but the story was well-written and kept my attention to the end.

Lisa Gardner — Before She Disappeared

I’m a fan of Lisa Gardner, and Before She Disappeared is another well-written, character-driven mystery. I wouldn’t call it a thriller as advertised. Also, it’s called a “stand alone” novel, but my instincts tell me we will see more of protagonist Frankie Elkin.

Frankie is a white, middle-aged, recovering alcoholic, skinny wisp of a woman, who inserts herself into a Haitian neighborhood in Boston to find a missing teen girl. She stands out like a spot of bleach on dark cloth. She travels around working as a bartender, but her purpose in life is finding missing persons. She has found fourteen people but all after they died. Her passion is to bring one home alive.

Gardner defines her characters in detail and gives us insights to even minor players. I found Frankie courageous, tenacious, sometimes very likeable, sometimes totally irritating. Others in the story—Frankie’s boss, her Boston police connection, her AA friend, the missing girl’s family, the villains, and more—were all interesting personalities. Even the feral cat, Frankie’s roommate, has a personality and brings a touch of humor to a dark story.

The plot held my interest with twists and turns, but was somewhat slow in the beginning. Having lived in and around Boston most of my adult life, I loved the setting even though I’m not that familiar with Mattapan. Even though the neighborhood in the book is poor and sometimes violent, Gardner builds a feeling of community togetherness.

A very good story. Only my irritation with Frankie’s reckless actions and her obsessions with her past kept me from giving it five stars.

V.E. Schwab — The Invisible Life of Addie Larue

“Ideas are wilder than memories.”

Ideas—art, creativity, invention—can breed and grow and outlast memories and lives. Addie Larue makes a deal with Luc (short for Lucifer) and trades her soul for freedom. In 1714 she fights against forced marriage, against a life spent in her village as wife and mother tied to the will of others. She wants to see and experience the world. But in exchange for freedom she not only promises Luc her soul when she becomes tired of life, she’s cursed with not being able to leave a mark or to be remembered. She can’t speak her name. If she takes pen to paper, the mark disappears; if she builds a pile of stones, the stones move back from where she took them; when people leave a room and return, they don’t remember her. She is immortal, does not injure or become ill, remains forever young. But through the years she learns to implant ideas, and the idea of her lives on through music and art.

The story timeline jumps between NYC in 2014 and Addie’s past. She is a bright light experiencing joy and pain, discovery and loss, beauty and horror. The only consistent individual in her life is Luc, until 2014, when she meets Henry who remembers her and her name.

I’m not usually a fan of fantasy. Monsters and magic don’t intrigue me. But this is a book about the meaning of life. There are interesting characters, history, romance, mystery… I found it fascinating. I recommend it to all, fantasy lovers or not.

Rebecca Serle — In Five Years

I’ve read some reviews by people who are disappointed that this is not a “love story.” But it is a different kind of love story, not a romance novel, not sexual love, but the story of the love between two very different women who are lifelong friends. Dannie, a lawyer, is organization personified, planning every moment of her life in advance. Bella, an artist, is a free spirit, living and enjoying life as it happens.

The plot is unique (at least to me). Dannie has a realistic dream, a premonition, where she wakes up five years into her future in a different apartment with a different boyfriend—a different life. She spends the next five years determined to make her planned future happen, not the one in her dream. The story ends with a twist, which I like.

This novel is full of love, laughter, anger, heartbreak, and tears.

Walter Mosley — Blood Grove

Mosley is a descriptive writer—settings, characters, actions—all are vividly detailed. You can see them in your mind’s eye. His characters are never one-dimensional. He digs deep and finds good and bad in heroes and villains alike. He describes LA of 1969 so well that you feel as if you’re living there.

In this story, Easy Rawlins is almost accidentally drawn into uncovering a complex plot of theft and murder when he sets out to find a missing girl for a PTSD veteran. Even after the young vet is murdered, Rawlins can’t let it go. He wants to finish the job, and if he doesn’t untangle the mystery, he could end up dead like his client.

The only thing that kept the novel from being five stars for me was too many characters to follow, even though each one felt distinctive.

Joseph Wambaugh — Hollywood Hills

Most of this novel is filled with tales of the motley crew of Hollywood Hills cops taking police calls—a mixture of hilarious, sad, heartbreaking, and violent stories. But mixed in with the incidents is a crime plot with many weird twists and turns. Wambaugh writes with such finesse and detailed characterization that you understand all the players’ (good an bad) motivations.

The book keeps you reading to see what crazy action will happen next.

Lori Rader-Day — The Lucky One

The novel is the story of two young women searching for the same man for totally different reasons. Alice is looking for her “kidnapper,” and Merrily is looking for her “stepfather.” They cross paths via a couple of wild characters, members the Doe Network, an online organization of volunteers trying to match missing and unidentified persons.

Alice and Merrily have different backgrounds and personalities, and yet they are in some ways alike. Both raised by single parents, Alice’s rich and powerful father controls and protects her, and Merrily is controlled and protected by her working class mother. Neither reaches out to uncover the mysteries of their childhoods until they are adults.

The plot is filled with twists and turns, deceits and lies. It kept me guessing, but sometimes my guesses were right on. The characters are well-written and interesting. The book kept my attention to the end. Lori Rader-Day is new to me and a good storyteller. I will look for more of her work.

Kim Stanley Robinson — The Ministry for the Future

The book is not really a novel.

I’m a huge fan of Kim Stanley Robinson, but I almost quit reading a third of the way through. To me it felt like a mind dump of facts, ideas, speculations, possibilities, etc., with a thin plot woven in between. Maybe the author was trying to get all his thoughts about how to deal with global warming down in one place. It was filled with vignettes about the environment, economy, banking, politics, history, terrorism, immigration refugees, and more. But a chapter from the point-of-view of a carbon atom? Come on!

Something that bothers me as an editor is the switching back and forth in style of writing. An example: the use (or lack thereof) of quotation marks in conversation. It takes me a while to tune into a story where the author chooses not to use quotes. It hit me over the head when KSR threw in some chapters where he used them in a book that was mostly written without. One chapter even switched in the middle.

Needless to say, since I finished the book, KSR captured my attention. I learned a lot and was intrigued by his ideas (real or imagined) about how to deal with the world’s environmental, social, and economic problems.