Monthly Archives: November 2014

Five, by Ursula Archer

Five, by Ursula Archer

Five, by Ursula Archer

A woman’s body is discovered in a meadow, with numbers and letters tattooed on the bottoms of her feet. Detective Inspector Beatrice Kaspary from the local homicide squad determines that the tattoo actually gives map coordinates. Still, police are baffled…what does it mean? Kaspary and her team realize that the coordinates are meant to locate a geocache–a sort of treasure hidden for hobbyists to find. The treasure they find at the tattoo coordinates turns to be a man’s severed hand. Now, the hunt becomes much more serious…the team may now be tracking a serial murderer. More geocache coordinates “clues” are found, revealing more body part treasures at each of the sites. Somewhere during the hunt, the killer takes note of Beatrice, and suddenly the quest to find the person responsible takes on a much more ominous tone.

This book was set in Austria. Some of the Scandinavian mysteries I’ve read are a little off-putting to me due to how they dwell on local culture or political issues, to which I cannot relate. With this title, I did not have that problem. I genuinely liked this book; it is a clever, skillful debut, complete with a likable heroine. I thought the geocaching spin was fresh and inventive. I look forward to more of the author’s work.

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Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel

On the day that a terrible plague ends civilization as we know it, an actor dies onstage during a performance of King Lear. The actor, Arthur Leander, dies of a heart-attack, never knowing that his death day is also the death day of the world. Yet, Arthur Leander is at the heart of this tale. As the Georgia flu ravages the earth, we follow the lives of five characters, all connected to Arthur in some way. By seeing their lives before the Georgia flu, and comparing them to their lives after, we gain an appreciation of what is really important. Miranda Coles starts her seminal work, a two book comic book series titled “Station Eleven,” years before the flu stricks. Miranda, one of Arthur Leanders three wives, never gained any fame or fortune from her work while she was alive. But after the coming of the Georgia flu, her work becomes a vital literary work in the new world. Kirsten, who as a child, watched Arther Leander die onstage, joins the Traveling Symphony after the flu outbreak. The Traveling Symphony brings Shakespeare and music to the communities it visits, and Kirsten finds a new family. The stories of Miranda, Kirsten, and others who knew Arthur Leander weave together to become something greater than the sum of the parts.

Station Eleven is not a hard-hitting, action-packed dsytopian adventure. Rather, is a leisurely exploration of our world, civilization, and the human heart. A nominee for the National Book Award, this was an enjoyable read.

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The Ploughmen, by Kim Zupan

The Ploughmen, by Kim Zupan

The Ploughmen, by Kim Zupan

Every once-in-awhile, I discover a book that I think is one thing, and it turns out to be quite another. Oftentimes, this is a source of great disappointment to me, and I usually do not finish the book. With “The Ploughmen,” by Kim Zupan, I thought I was going to get a Western, or a Western mystery.  And yet, in this case, I got a story that refused to fit any category, and yet one with lit up my brain with joy as I read it.

The story is set in Montana, and involves a hardened career murder and a morally upright deputy. John Gload, when we first meet him, is hard at work killing people. Gload is a master of disposing bodies so they will likely never be found, and if found, rarely identified. It is clear as the story unfolds that he has been killing people for a very long time. Some of the people in the story he kills for monetary gain. But the vast majority of the people he kills just because he doesn’t like them, or perhas just because he can.

One day, John Gload’s luck runs out, and authorities tie him to a murder. Police arrest him and he sits in the jail, awaiting trial. Enter Valentine Millimaki, a troubled deputy who is unable to comprehend how his marriage is in the process of ending. His job is to sit, during the long Montana nights, in the jail with John Gload and make sure he and the other prisoners in the cell block have a safe and restful night. John Gload, however, suffers from chronic insomnia, and before long, he and Valentine have started talking. Through their conversations, we get a glimpse of the complicated inner lives of both men. And when John Gload decides he has had enough of prison, we get to see the true natures of the two men as they deal with the cards they’ve been dealt.

I can categorize this book more by what it’s not than what it is. It’s not a Western, it’s not a mystery, and it’s not a thriller. It *is* a beautifully told book, one that will bring the Montana wilderness come to life in your mind’s eye, a tale that will explore the depths of the human heart. Mr. Zupan’s bio says he’s worked as a carpenter for 25 years while working on his writing. I would say that his work was quite excellently done.

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The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion

Do you like Sheldon on “The Big Bang Theory?” I love Sheldon, with his arrogant sureness that he is always right, with his regimented way of doing things, and with his casual put downs of his friends and enemies alike. But you know, if you read that list of characteristics and didn’t know who I was talking about, you might wonder if I was crazy for liking Sheldon at all. He sounds like a regular killjoy. How can anyone enjoy such a person? And yet, with Sheldon, to know him is to love him. His antics bring me great joy.

Don Tillman is like Sheldon, without physics and string theory and comic books. Instead, Don has genetics and cooking and a black belt in Aikido. Don also has Apserpers, but has no idea that he does. (The ironic humor of this strange gap in Don’s knowledge is a funny thread running throughout the book.) Don has had trouble finding a proper girlfriend. So many women start out to be promising, but then fail in one critical category. You see, Don has a list of requirements. The perfect girl will be punctual, logical, will not smoke, drink, or be a barmaid, among other things. Don develops a questionnaire, and he is going to find a proper girl to become his wife by screening those girls he dates. This looks like the perfect plan until Don meets Rosie Jarman. Rosie asks Don to help her locate her biological father by using his genetics knowledge. Rosie, who smokes, drinks, is a barmaid, and is never on time, is clearly not wife material, but Don  is intrigued by her family quest. And soon, Don finds himself attracted to this unsuitable woman, thrown out of his comfort zone again and again and again by her unpredictable antics. Whatever is he to do? He is clearly stepping into the realm of madness, and can’t seem to stop, no matter how hard he tries.

This is a romantic comedy book, yet a very clever one. Don and Rosie are exact opposites, and yet together they become something more. Don shows himself to be one of the most romantic men on the planet as he struggles with how to deal with this enigma of a woman. Rosie is one lucky girl, and thankfully, she seems to know it. From the outside, Don might look like Sheldon…a regimented killjoy. This book shows his soft, gooey center, so that you can know and love him as Rosie comes to love him. Warm-hearted, funny, and very, very smartly written, this is a very enjoyable book, and soon to be followed by a second book titled “The Rosie Effect.”

 

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Filed under romance, women's fiction