Sunday, September 29, 2013

Book of the Week - Spirit of Steamboat by Craig Johnson

I'm not ready to think of Christmas yet but I have found a lovely gift for readers who like modern Westerns. This sweet novella starts with a young woman coming into the sheriff's office on Christmas eve with a garment bag and asks Walt Longmire, who is alone for the holiday,  to help her find the old sheriff. When they go to the assisted living facility where Lucien Connally, former sheriff, and one of the WWII pilots who participated in Dolittle's "bombs over Tokyo," we are treated to a tale from 1988, the early years of Walt's tenure as sheriff. With a terrible storm sweeping down from the Rockies, a little girl who will die if not immediately taken to a hospital in Denver, is stranded with her grandmother. The flight for life helicopter can't take off and an ambulance would not make it in time even if the roads weren't closed. Walt, Lucien, a doctor, and a young woman pilot decide to use a decommissioned WWII bomber to try to save her life.

Johnson captures the spirit of the west and adds in authentic detail, such as the checkerboard painted Purina dog food tower on I-25, making the setting come to life. The story of the bucking bronco emblem, distinctively present on Wyoming license plates, was fascinating and added to the understanding of the characters.

This is a great gift for the western guys in your life who may not think they have enough time to tackle a novel, but that this
may be the book that hooks them for the dark days of winter.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Book of the Week - The Cure by Douglas E. Richards

The Cure starts off as a high octane thriller when a loving American family is destroyed by a psychopath as evil and terrible as any I've ever read. Years later the sole survivor is a beautiful 20 something doctoral student who, making herself look plain, does research in a prison on psychopaths. Intricate twists and turns, good guys who are bad become bad boys who are good as the story thunders to a surprise twist where it adds a science fiction aspect to the crime thriller. Lots of good questions here as Erin Palmer and Kyle Hansen, both brilliant scientists, she in psychology and he in quantum computing have to make decisions that may either save or condemn our would. As Boyd Morrison who blurbed it said, it "recalls the best of Michael Crichton." I would have to agree.

I really like the combination of thriller and alien contact which is also seen in one of my favorite books  from 2011, Ultraviolet by R. J. Anderson. It also features horrific crime, questions of the psyche, and alien contact that may be apocalyptic or beneficial.

When Alison awakes in a mental hospital she discovers she has lost more than two weeks of time and memories of what really happened when she had an altercation with the town's golden girl after school one day. Anderson brings together so many themes that have been popular in YA fiction, mental institutions, missing teens, Synesthesia, and more but makes them fresh and different with a science fiction twist.  Because she refuses to admit to her synesthesia and open up she makes little progress in the hospital until a researcher from South Africa who is studying synesthesia appears on the scene. As Alison discovers her perception is not an illness she realizes that she can also taste lies and smell fears. 

It is very difficult to synopsize this extraordinary story but if you like out of the ordinary books you will want to read it. An interesting book to pair with it is Cecil Castellucci's  First Day on Earth.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Just Finished - Killing Custer by Margaret Coel

Things go wrong in a parade in Lander, Wyoming when a troop of historical reenactors costumed like the 7th Cavalry, led by a man looking amazingly like George Armstrong Custer are encircled by a band of Arapaho on horseback from the Wind River reservation. When the commotion dies down, Custer does not get up. He’s been shot. The Arapaho on the dare ride become instant suspects. The Custer impersonator, Edward Garrett has left behind a daughter who lives in the area and a wife who seems to believe she is really Libby Custer. Mrs. Garrett/Custer wants to be sure she gets the $500,000 Garrett had from selling his ranch so she hires Vicky. The thing is, though, the money is missing. Garrett had withdrawn it from the bank. Meanwhile Father John is doing what he can to protect a couple of young Arapaho men who he knows did not kill Garrett from being caught and and all but convicted by a sheriff who thinks he need look no further. The case of a missing lawyer and a young Arapaho woman also play into the story.
         I like mysteries set in the west. The late Tony Hillerman's Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee mysteries are my gold standard. I really enjoy Coel's Vicky Holden, an Arapaho, a lawyer, in the prime of life and Father John O'Malley, a Jesuit priest who has found a home among the people on the reservation.
       It was interesting to read two mysteries within two weeks dealing with Custer reenactors. The other was Death on the Greasy Grass by C. M. Wendelboe.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Just Finished - The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Jennifer Lynn Barnes is highly skilled at writing books that keep the reader turning pages. The Naturals is about a group of teens recruited by the FBI because of amazing crime solving skills they have. Seventeen-year-old Cassie is a natural profiler. Her mother had worked as a medium and Cassie had learned from her until the day five years earlier when her mother disappeared from a blood drenched dressing room. Now Cassie has been invited to live in a group home with other teens who are training to work with the FBI when they reach eighteen. The group home is quite bizarre with potraits of serial killers on the walls and a basement larger than the house that is set up as various crime scenes. The plan is to work on cold cases but Cassie realizes that the case her instructors are working on seem to have a lot in common with her mother's case. An entertaining quick read that will have readers eager for the next book.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Books of the Week - Rose Under Fire, Alien Hunter, Seduction in Silk, Death on the Greasy Grass

From my dearth of posts lately it may look like I've not been reading. I started a new job last week and while I'm still reading, my time for writing reviews and commenting on what I've read has been sparse.

Recent reads I hadn't written about yet include Rose Under Fire an outstanding WWII historical novel by Elizabeth Wein featuring an American woman pilot who ends up in a concentration camp. If you liked (I actually haven't heard of anybody who merely liked) Code Name Verity, one of the very best books of 2012, you will definitely want to read this. The good news is that it is in the stores now so you won't have to wait for this great adventure story.

I also finished Whitley Strieber's Alien Hunter, a thriller that reminded me a little of the 1990s tv show, The First Wave with a protagonist whose wife has disappeared who discovers a network of people who have lost loved ones or maybe themselves experienced things that don't make sense. It features well reasoned paranoia, alien abductions, and decent suspense.

As a fan of Regency era romances, I've enjoyed many of Jo Beverley's books in the past and really enjoyed Seduction in Silk, set in Georgian England a decade before the American Revolution and a generation before her Regencies. Beverley made the era real and vibrant with a low key but very satisfying love story. Its portrayal of life  reminded me somewhat of the  Poldark Saga by Winston Graham. Claris Mallow he daughter of a mad clergyman has moved into a decaying cottage with her grandmother and a servant following the death of her father. Perry Perriam, is willed the long contested family manor by the last in the line of a rival family faction, under the condition he marry Claris. Neither one really wants the marriage but they both want what the marriage will bring them, never suspecting they will fall in love.

While waiting to read Margaret Coel's Killing Custer I picked up C.M. Wendelboe's Death on the Greasy Grass set in the present and in the past. It involves a murder during a re-inactment of the battle called by some the Battle of Little Bighorn, or Custer's Last Stand. A journal kept by one of Custer's Crow scouts, due to be auctioned off seems to be an important clue and maybe even the motive for the first and subsequent murders. I always like books that I feel I have a real life connection to. In family legend, my great-great grandfather was one of the last people to visit the army encampment before the battle. He was a teamster who had a load of supplies for Custer's regiment. He had been warned by Indian friends to not hang around which is why eight years later he was still around to father my great-grandmother.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Passion for Romance

Today at noon Mountain Time. I' be speaking as part of this Booklist Webinar, talking trends in Romance fiction for libraries. I hope to see you there.  One of the cool things about the free Booklist webinars is if you register, even if you can't view it at the scheduled time, you will be able to view the archived file later.