Jason Desson is a professor at a small college who could have been a brilliant professor if he hadn’t gotten sidetracked by his life with his wife and son. Jason does not regret his choices in life, as he deeply loves his family. Yet, when a colleague wins a prestigious science award, Jason feels the bite of jealousy. When he is kidnapped and drugged, Jason wakes up to find his life altered. Somehow, he has become the the brilliant, award-winning professor with all the fame and glory that goes with it. But his wife is not his wife. And his son was never born. How did this happen? Does Jason now accept this new life, or does he try to reclaim his old one?
“Dark Matter” is a rare book that crosses many genres. It is a mystery, it’s a thriller, it’s science fiction, and perhaps most importantly, it’s a romance. Jason finds himself in quite a pickle, and it turns out that his worst enemy is himself. This is a fast-paced book, but it is also deeply thoughtful as we get insights into Jason’s life and his choices. Blake Crouch’s previous books include the “Wayward Pine” series. One of the best books I read in recent months
Tila and Taema are born with one heart–conjoined twins living in a cult which bans technology after 1969. Tila, the bold one. Taema, the meek one. Both are very, very clever. When the twins discover the medical miracles of the outside world, they plot their escape. Once free, they are separated, able to live apart due to their new, mechanical hearts. Ten uneventful years pass as they enjoy life in a peaceful, technically advanced society. Then, Tila arrives at Taema’s apartment covered in blood. Accused of murder, Tila is arrested, and it is up to Taema to clear her name. Pulled into the investigation by the police, Taema poses as her sister to uncover the secrets of the city’s underground. And the secrets she finds lead back to her past, and to the cult she came from. Set in a futuristic city, this is a story of love, obsession, drugs, greed, and murder. Taema must find her courage so she can clear her sister’s name. Past and future converge as the clues Taema discovers lead her closer to the truth.
This is unusual book. Park sci-fi, part mystery, the author weaves a complex tale. Not only do you get to know Tila and Taema well, but you also see both of their worlds: the world of the cult from their past, and the modern world in their present. Laura Lam’s novel is gripping and fresh. I look forward to seeing what she writes next.
Isaiah Quintabe and older brother Marcus are African-American youths living in a rough neighborhood in LA. Marcus is the bread winner for the family, and things are going well for the brothers when Marcus is killed in a tragic hit-and-run. The accident happens in front of Isaiah, but in spite of his presence as a witness, he doesn’t see anything of value that helps police track down his brother’s killer. Now, without his brother’s income, Isaiah is desperate for a roommate to help pay his rent. Enter Dodson–an idea man who likes to spend money. Dodson is helpful with paying the bills, at first, and then cash becomes harder to find. While Isaiah and Dodson struggle with their cash flow problem, Isaiah struggles with his inability to find his brother’s killer. He devotes himself to learning to make meaningful observations with the thought that somehow, he still might find out who killed his brother. Isaiah’s observations help solve some of their financial woes, and new type of Sherlock Holmes is born.
When an attempt is made on the life of a big name rapper, Dodson has the right connection to put Isaiah on the case. If Isaiah can figure out who is behind the murder attempt, both Dodson and Isaiah stand to score some big bucks. The case is an odd one, though, and might be difficult to solve. Who attempts to murder someone by using an attack dog as a weapon?
IQ tells two stories at the same time as it alternates between events in Isaiah’s past and events in present day. Isaiah is a fresh, engaging character. He’s smart, and yet makes some interesting life choices due to his circumstances. I also liked Dodson, who always has thoughts on his next big cash score. The way the story unfolds, and way each character has his or her own quirks and character really reminded me of an Elmore Leonard. The dialogue in the book is superb, again reminding me of Mr. Leonard’s work. Joe Ide is of Japanese-American descent, and grew up in LA himself. His novel reflects his knowledge of the area, and adds some wonderful depth to the work.
Lo Blacklock is looking forward to her next writing assignment as a travel journalist: She is to be a guest aboard the Aurora, a luxury ship with only room for a few select passengers. But before she can leave on her trip, her life is threatened by a home invasion and she has a huge fight with her boyfriend. By the time she boards the ship, she’s off-kilter and trying to make the best of the situation. The guests all seem to have secret agendas or secrets of their own. Lo tries to get serious about her assignment, but one evening, she hears a splash and sees someone or something fall into the ocean from the cabin next door. Yet, no one seems to know anything about a woman in that cabin when Lo raises the alarm. Lo’s tension turns to fear as she tries to investigate the event on her own.
I enjoyed Ruth Ware’s previous title, “In a Dark, Dark Woods.” This book has a similar feel to it, trapping the reader in a closed door, character driven mystery. Fans of Agatha Christie will particularly enjoy this book as while the mystery is twisty, it is not graphic nor gory. The setting–the cruise ship–was fresh and fun, though I do admit I liked the creepy forest setting from the first book just a wee bit better.
One day, during a terrible snow storm, a family car gets stuck along the side of the road. Nicholas and Flora’s mother leaves them in the car to go find help, and when she doesn’t come back, Nicholas and Flora leave the car to try and find shelter. Max, an Irish Wolfhound, finds them in the snow, half frozen. He leads them to a cabin, and soon the children are snug as bugs. It is in this cabin that the two children learn a valuable truth–that the words of dogs can be understood by children and poets. And in the cabin with the two children, Max learns that love is not something you lose, but something that you gain and gain.
“The Poet’s Dog” is a beautiful tale, told in an elegant, simple style. Patricia MacLachlan, best known for “Sarah Plain and Tall,” returns with a slim tale with hidden depths, one sprinkled with the best bits of wisdom for spice. This is a book for dog lovers, certainly, but this delightful story will be enjoyed by both young and old alike.
It is 1975 and Raymie Clarke is determined to learn to twirl a baton so she can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition. If she does, she is sure she will get her picture in the newspaper, where her father will see it. And if he sees it, he will surely come back home to live with Raymie and her mom. Raymie meets Louisiana Elefante and Beverly Tapinski, both of whom have reasons to want to be Little Miss Central Florida Tire. The three girls could have been rivals, but instead, they become friends. Together they find a lost library book, look for a missing cat, and mourn for a elderly friend who has died. While each girl clearly has problems in their personal lives, they do not let those problems define them. Instead, they love, laugh, and enjoy life, and you see the strength of their characters shine though.
This book does not offer easy answers to any of the problems the girls must face. Instead, “Raymie Nighingale” celebrates the power of friendship and the joy of every day things. I very much enjoyed this one, though I do wish that Ms. DiCamillo had given the relationship between Raymie and her father a little more depth. That way, the loss of that relationship would have had more meaning to me.
One fateful day, a ship is caught in a hurricane and sinks, but not
before five boxes are thrown free to float away. Four of the boxes
meet an untimely end on the rocky shores of a distant island. The
fifth box makes it to shore before it breaks open. The island otters
search the box and push a button. Out pops Roz, a shiny new robot, now
activated and awake. Roz does not know how robots are supposed to act,
but she does her best. All Roz knows is she feels lonely and wants to
make friends. All the animals are afraid of Roz, and Roz has to learn
to be wild in order to gain their trust. When Roz tries to care for a
orphaned gosling, Roz realizes she needs even more help to ensure he
“The Wild Robot” is a lovely book, and one that begs to be read aloud.
Peter Brown is a picture book author and illustrator, having won a
Caldecott Honor for Creepy Carrots! Readers will relate to Roz as she
tries to not only survive, but thrive on the island. Roz is the
ultimate outsider, and if she can make friends with otters, beavers,
dear, and squirrels, then the children who are reading the book
certainly can. Marvelous.
Urban legends exist about a man, a Nowhere Man, who will help those who have no other help. He doesn’t ask for money, rather, he provides his help with only one condition: that you pass along his phone number to one other person in need. Except this Nowhere Man is no urban legend. Taken off the streets as a child, Evan Smoak has been trained in a government black ops program given the code name Orphan. Evan is Orphan X. He has mad skills, and uses them for good by killing bad people. But when he helps a young woman named Katrin, somehow he himself ends up in the cross-hairs. The attention means that his secure, hidden life as an unknown agent is threatened. His heart, also secure and hidden, is threatened by his neighbor Mia and her adorable son Peter. Can Evan save Katrin, save Mia and Peter, and save himself? Plot twists and turns keep the pages turning. The body count mounts and the action is fast and furious as Evan battles to outwit his clever adversaries. This is a book that might keep you up all night; you have been warned!
First book of what looks to be a promising series, “Orphan X” will appeal to those who like Jason Bourne, James Bond, and Jason Statham movies. Already this book looks to be heading to the big screen. An excellent read.
Alice Whitley has loved “Pitched,” a book by reclusive writer M. M. Banning, for years. The book is the author’s singular and much lauded title, a modern classic in the same way “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a classic. Alice, who works for M. M. (Mimi) Banning’s agent, is sent to help the author as she works on a new book–the first one she’s written in years. When Alice arrives, she is immediately put in charge of Frank, Mimi’s son. Frank is nine years old, but inside, he’s an old soul who loves old movies, dresses in old movie fashions, and is smarter than almost everyone else. What Frank can’t do is get along in public schools, handle his reactions when people don’t follow his rules, and understand normal, everyday situations. As Alice begins to understand more about Frank, she begins to wonder about Frank’s father, and she also begins to wonder if Mimi, who types like a fanatic every day in her room, is actually writing a novel. When a handsome, mysterious man named Xander arrives in the household, Alice becomes more deeply involved with the family. Can Alice help Frank adjust to school, figure out how Xander fits into the picture, and help Mimi finish her book, all before Mimi’s finances run out? She is certainly determined to try, at the same time, she hopes to satisfy her insatiable curiosity about the secrets of Mimi and Frank’s life.
This is a marvelous book. At first, it seems like a breezy, light tale, full of comedic antics, mostly performed by Frank. But the story has hidden depth as we come to understand Frank and Mimi, and fully realize the dynamics of their relationship. This story is less about Alice’s growth as a character, and more about her learning to appreciate the personalities and needs of others. And if you don’t fall in love with Frank while you read this book, there is something seriously wrong with you. “Be Frank With Me” is a funny, charming tale, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Stillwater, by Melissa Lenhardt
Jack McBride, formerly an FBI agent, has taken the Chief of Police job in Stillwater, Texas. He arrives in town with his teenaged son, Ethan, buys the house of a local woman named Ellie Martin, and wonders about how his predecessor, Buck Pollard, left office in such a hurried fashion. Buck Pollard, he is told, ran a tight ship and crime was at an all time low in town while he was on the job. Jack is left little time to wonder about this curious matter, as his first day on the job he is called to investigate the violent death of a local couple. What looks to be a murder-suicide soon becomes a straight up murder, and Jack has few clues to follow to find the killer. Buck Pollard’s presence becomes a factor in the investigation, as Buck seems to have the continued loyalty of Jack’s officers. The plot thickens as Buck’s machinations start to affect Ethan at school. Jack begins to wonder if he made the right decision in coming to Stillwater after all.
This is an excellent mystery, full of small town gossip and small town situations. The crimes are serious ones, and it is clear that Jack will handle them as the professional he is, in spite of how things were handed by Buck Pollard before him. I loved the people living in the town of Stillwater, I loved the fact that Jack McBride’s family plays a role in the story, and I loved Ellie Martin, a love interest for Jack. This is not a romance book, and not a cozy mystery involving knitting, recipes, or tea drinking sleuths. This is a well-crafted mystery, full of vibrant characters, interesting storylines, and subtle subplots that will certainly play a part of future Jack McBride mysteries.
“Stillwater” is the first book in the Jack McBride series. Book 2, “The Fisher King,” comes out in November of 2016.