Saturday, October 10, 2015

Finders Keepers

When we last left retired detective Bill Hodges and his friends Jerome Robinson and Holly Gibney in Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes, they’d just put the wraps on murderous nutjob Brady Hartsfield (a.k.a., the Mercedes Killer), preventing him from detonating a bomb (and himself in the process) at a music concert. Despite suffering a heart attack during the final pages of Mr. Mercedes, Hodges recovers with a new outlook on life and opens his own private detective agency, which brings us to the second book in the Bill Hodges Trilogy, appropriately titled Finders Keepers. This one involves the thirty-year-old unsolved murder of famed (and reclusive) writer John Rothstein, author of the famous Runner trilogy, at the hands of his number-one fan, Morris Bellamy. That’s not a spoiler, by the way, as this crime takes place in the first chapter. No, it’s the long-reaching consequences of this crime that drive the plot of Finder Keepers.

See, Mr. Bellamy not only got away with murder (he was incarcerated for something else, mind you), he also got away with some very extremely valuable items filched from Rothstein’s house, items a collector would pay a fortune for. Unfortunately, decades after Bellamy stashed them near the house he grew up in, a good kid named Pete Saubers (now living in that same house) stumbles upon their hiding place and seizes an opportunity to help his struggling family out of a rough spot. But with Bellamy recently released from prison, it’s only a matter a time before the rabid old wolf comes sniffing around his hidey hole, and when he discovers his ill-gotten gains missing, he won’t stop until he finds them, no matter who he has to kill to reclaim them.

Unless Hodges can stop him first.

Just like Mr. Mercedes before it, Finders Keepers is the kind of wild ride only Stephen King can give you. I enjoyed this book immensely, and I loved the slapstick chemistry between Hodges, Jerome, and Holly as they worked together to stop Bellamy. My only criticism would be that it was sometimes frustrating waiting for Hodges and the gang to catch up with what’s already been revealed to the reader, but that aside, the story—particularly Bellamy’s backstory—makes for some serious page turning. And, King lays out a few unsettling hints (of the supernatural variety) about what to expect in book 3 of the Bill Hodges Trilogy. Next summer can’t get here soon enough. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

2015 Man Booker Prize for Fiction Shortlist

Among the many prestigious literary awards is the Man Book Prize for Fiction. The Man Booker Prize, formerly known as the Booker-McConnell Prize, began in 1968. The prize recognizes the best novel of the year, written in English, and published in the U.K. When it began, only Commonwealth, Irish, and Zimbabwean citizens were eligible to win the prize. In 2013, the eligibility changed to any book in the English language. Winners of the prize, even nominees, tend to rocket toward literary stardom. For this reason, it is a highly sought after literary prize. Some even think it is the most important for an authorial career.

On October 13th, the new Man Book Prize winner will be announced. This year’s nominees are powerhouses of literary ambition and talent, per usual. One of the best places to look for additions to your to-be-read pile is on the long and short lists of nominees for virtually any literary prize. For your reading pleasure, here is the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2015 Short List:

Marlon created a fictionalized account of an assassination attempt on Bob Marley in the midst of political turmoil in Jamaica. Described as “delightfully profane” and “a wild ride.”

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

A Little Life is a depiction of heartbreak, and a dark examination of the tyranny of memory and the limits of human endurance.

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

A Spool of Blue Thread tells a poignant yet unsentimental story in praise of family in all its emotional complexity. 

Satin Island by Tom McCarthy

An unnerving novel that promises to give us the first and last word on the world--modern, postmodern, whatever world you think you are living in.

The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma

Through the story of a family, Obioma creates a personal story that mirrors the larger social and political tensions in Africa

The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota

An unlikely family created from a group of 13 men in flight from India.

For more information about the Man Book Prize for Fiction, including the announcement of the winner on October 13th, please visit Happy reading!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

October's In The Queue

Great titles from October's In the Queue!

Christmas Bells: A Novel by Jennifer Chiaverini
This wondrous novel was inspired by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Poem,
"Christmas Bells." This is a resonant and heartfelt novel that reminds readers to have faith and look for the good especially during times of hardship. 

Host by Robin Cook
This is an explosive medical thriller. When Lynn Peirce's boyfriend dies after routine surgery, she investigates. She discovers the truth is far worse than medical malpractice.

City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg
Hallberg's  debut novel is an unforgettable about love, betrayal and forgiveness and reminds us what makes life worth living in the first place. This is  a compelling mystery and a literary masterpiece.

The Theory of Death by Faye Kellerman
Peter Decker's quiet new job in upstate New York takes a dangerous turn when a man's naked body is found in the woods. Peter joins forces with his former colleague turned law student, Tyler McAdams, to uncover the truth.

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R.R. Martin
Readers learn more about a poor knight named Duncan and a gallant squire called Egg, who will one day be known as King Aegon V the Unlikely, in three novellas that take place 90 years before Game of Thrones.

Fancy Dancer by Fern Michaels
A powerful and poignant story of love, redemption and family secrets.

The Lake House by Kate Morton
Alice Edevane's baby sister vanishes without a trace. Decades later, Detective Sadie Sparrow happens upon the crumbling estate. what she finds sets off a series of events and reveals shocking truths about the past.

Dark Corners by Ruth Rendell
A spectacular psychological thriller, a story of obsession, instability, blackmail, murder and one man's life unraveling as his choices lead to his demise.

New Books by Best Selling Authors
The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom
The Guilty by David Baldacci
The Crossing by Michael Connelly
Depraved Heart by  Patricia cornwell
Tricky Twenty-Two by Janet Evanovich
Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith
The Golem of Paris by Jonathan Kellerman
The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King
Dashing Through the Snow by Debbie Macomber
Cross Justice by James Patterson
Crimson Shore by Douglas Preston & Lincoln child
See Me by Nicholas Sparks
Precious Gifts by  Danielle Steel

Whoopi's Big Book of Relationships by Whoopi Goldberg
Whoopi speaks openly about why marriage isn't for everyone, and how what's most important is understanding who you are and what makes you happy.

Choosing Hope by Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis
A former first-grade teacher's heartfelt account of how she survived the Sand Hook Elementary School massacre and its aftermath.

The Witches-Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff
The Witches is Pulitzer Prize winning author, Stacy Schiff's account of the first great American mystery fully unveiled for the first time. This well documented narrative is extensive and looks at many new sides of the Salem witchcraft trials. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

2015 Dayton Literary Peace Prize Winners

The Dayton Literary Peace Prize (DLPP) began in 2006. The express mission of the award is to honor the advancement of peace through literature. The DLPP is the only annual literary award in the United States to take on this mission. Works of adult fiction and nonfiction promoting peace and humanity published within the past year are able to be nominated for cash prizes. It is a unique and prestigious award, and it is a Dayton original!

The 2015 winners of the DLPP offer an interesting range of subjects, which is not uncommon to the awards. Each year four books and one lifetime achievement winner are recognized.

Holbrooke Award Winner for Lifetime Achievement
This year Gloria Steinem was selected to receive the Richard C. Holbrooke Lifetime Achievement award for her work as a leader and spokesperson of worldwide feminism. Steinam has spent her life using words to achieve peaceful political action in many arenas. She has driven the women’s movement with her written and spoken word. Her newest book, My Life on the Road, is her memoir of travel, activism, and leadership.

Fiction Winner
Josh Weil’s debut novel, The Great Glass Sea, is a novel of political, philosophical and historical. Weil’s book blends genres, but ties it all together nicely with expert storytelling.  Weil has been named a National Book Award "Five Under Thirty-Five" author, he has received fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation, Columbia University, the MacDowell Colony, Bread Loaf, and Sewanee.

Nonfiction Winner
Bryan Stevenson, attorney and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, wrote Just Mercy to bring attention to the different inhumane elements that we allow to inform our sense of justice in the U.S. His book focuses on an unjust death penalty case, but also highlights the focus of work overall—giving a voice to the condemned, both just and unjust cases. Stevenson has been recognized numerous times for his work exhaustive work defending human rights. He is also a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

Fiction Runner-up
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Nonfiction Runner-up

To place holds on the books or view last year's winners, please check out our new Dayton Literary Peace Prize booklist.

For more information on the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, please go to

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Wesley Chu's Time Salvager

Time travel, like evil mustache mirror universes and megalomaniac robots, is a pretty common thing in science fiction. In pretty much a sci-fi franchise, they will eventually get around to a time travel episode. Cliché as it can be, a well done time-travel story can have some very interesting and powerful points in terms of history, culture, and societal perceptions. Wesley Chu's Time Salvager touches on all these factors and tells an excellent story.

Set in the resource strapped 26th century, we follow James Griffin-Mars, highly trained ChronoCom operative that is quickly approaching the projected life expectancy in his field, time travel. The future James is in has slowly been collapsing, Earth is polluted beyond recognition, they have forgotten many technological advances and while humanity has colonized many planets and stars in the solar system, they are constantly low on resources.  James is sent back in time to moments before disasters to retrieve resources; metals, technology, food, even trees. Yet, since his missions occur right before disasters, James is constantly witnessing people die and the justifications that they were already doomed are wearing thin on James’ stressed mind. Finally, on a very high-profile mission, James snaps and breaks the first law of ChronoCom and brings back Elise, a scientist from the 21st century. Now, he has is on the run from both ChronoCom and the corporation that bankrolled his mission.

Time Salvager takes a little on the set up and the very obvious set up for a sequel are slightly frustrating. But Chu’s vision of a declined humanity and pollution choked earth hits close to home. He also does a wonderful job with his main characters. James is highly skilled at what he does but is also a convicted criminal and a very flawed character with impulse control, a drinking problem, and exceptionally fuzzy ethics. But he acts as a wonderful foil to the unrelenting optimism of Elise and Chu does an amazing job of telling both sides of the story from each characters perspective. I will admit that I was annoyed to end the book with the realization I would have to wait until a sequel to completely resolve all plot points, I am certainly going to grab that sequel as soon as it comes out. 

On a side note: the cover design and artwork for Time Salvager is simply excellent and does a wonderful job of capturing the feel of the novel.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Debut Novels

Books by new authors are always exciting for me.  Before I read a debut novel, I wonder if this author will become the next best-selling author or if this book will lead to a fantastic series that I can't put down. Occasionally I come across a debut novel that does not live up to the hype surrounding it. The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips was one of those novels. I tried very hard to read it, but after the tenth time of hearing the 'Person with Bad Breath' repeated when Josephine talked to her boss I decided not to finish it. Actually it may have been the bathroom scene that was my breaking point. Normally I read the book from cover to cover good or bad, but this was one I just said, "No more!". I'm sure there is reasoning behind not giving the person a name or even a gender and choosing to just refer to them as the 'Person with Bad Breath', however this just left (pardon the expression) a bad taste in my mouth. The reviews were very good for this book, but I had to get past the first 20 pages, and quite frankly I have lots of books to read and this one was just not worth my time. 

Here are a few debut novels I read recently and enjoyed a great deal. 

The Courtesan: A Novel by Alexandra Curry
A timeless novel based on Sai Jinhua a woman who is a legend in Chinese history. This novel bridges the tumultuous gap between East and West. 

Bream Gives Me Hiccups: and Other Stories by Jesse Eisenberg  
This debut story collection is witty and laugh-out-loud funny. If you enjoy listening to comedians you will love this book.

The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young
A southern Gothic mystery novel that combines literary suspense, and romance with a mystical twist. This is a fast-paced suspenseful thriller. 

The Girl From the Garden by Parnaz Foroutan
This suspenseful novel of desire, obsession, power and vulnerability paints a powerful portrait of an extended family in Iran. 

Everybody Rise: A Novel by Stephanie Clifford
Bracing, hilarious and often poignant, this debut novel shows us what happens when money and class collide. 

Where the Moon Isn't by Nathan Filer
This is a debut novel you won't want to put down. While on vacation, Matthew Homes and his older brother sneak out in the middle of the night. Only Matthew returns home safely. This is Matthew's story and his attempt to make sense of what happened that night so long ago. Drama, intrigue and humanity fill this book with amazing authenticity. It is absolutely wonderful.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Mary Renault: Bringing Ancient Greece to Life

September 4th was the 110th birthday of historical novelist Mary Renault.  She was born in Forest Gate, England in 1905 and studied at Oxford.  J.R.R Tolkien was one of her tutors! She is best known for her novels of Ancient Greece.  Even her critics credit her with bringing Ancient Greece alive with vivid characters and thorough accuracy and historical detail.  She was enormously successful then and even more than forty years later she remains the standard by which all other novels of Alexander the Great are judged.  And another interesting fact:  President John F. Kennedy stated that she was his favorite author.

Try some of her great novels:

The Last of the Wine--the story of an Athenian during the Peloponnesian War, includes Socrates' death; a good place to begin the study of Plato.

The King Must Die--the adventures of Theseus of Athens, up to the death of the king, his father.

The Bull from the Sea--a sequel to The King Must Die, detailing the rest of Theseus' life and adventures.

The Mask of Apollo--a Greek actor narrates the story of Greek drama (including Plato, Dionysus the Younger, and Alexander).

Fire from Heaven--the boyhood through adolescence of Alexander the Great.

The Persian Boy--Alexander after he had conquered Persia, as seen through the eyes of his young eunuch.

The Praise Singer--a pseudo-autobiography of the lyric poet Simonides at a time when the oral tradition was being replaced by the written word.

Funeral Games--the in-fighting of Alexander's several successors after his death.

If you’ve already read all of Renault's books then try some of these other notable historical authors:

Gillian Bradshaw--Dark North (Roman Britain, 208 AD) and London in Chains (English Civil War).

Elizabeth Chadwick--The Greatest Knight (William Marshall) and Summer Queen (Eleanor of Aquitaine).

Dorothy Dunnett--Game of Kings (1st in Lymond Chronicles, 1547 Scotland) and Niccolo Rising (1st in House of Niccolo series, 1460 Bruges).

Diana Gabaldon--Outlander (1st in epic series set in 18th century Scotland).

Philippa Gregory--The Constant Princess (early life of Katherine of Aragon) and The White Queen (Elizabeth Woodville, wife of Edward IV in 15th century).

Cecelia Holland--The King's Witch (Richard the Lionheart and a mysterious healer).

David Malouf--Ransom (Achilles and Priam).

Steven Pressfield--The Afghan Kingdoms (invasions by Alexander the Great in 330 BC) and Last of the Amazons (epic story of the Amazons).

Judith Tarr--Pillar of Fire (Ancient Egypt through the eyes of a slave) and White Mare's Daughter (clash between tribes in Prehistoric Europe).