Thursday, March 29, 2018

Worth Killing For

Worth Killing For by Jane Haseldine
Kensington: 3/27/18
eBook review copy; 352 pages
ISBN-13: 9781496710963
Julia Gooden Mystery #3

Worth Killing For by Jane Haseldine is a highly recommended suspenseful, tense mystery and the third book in the Julia Gooden series.

Detroit newspaper reporter Julia Gooden's editor assigns her to cover the bow-and-arrow murder of Angel Perez, a college student. Detective Raymond Navarro's partner informs Julia that there were similar crimes in the past and this may be indicative of a serial killing becoming active again. After leaving the scene, Julia is shocked when she sees her estranged father at a gas station and she immediately begins looking for him in hopes of discovering answers to explain her brother Ben's abduction that occurred three decades earlier when he was nine and she was only seven years old.  At that time her father, Duke Gooden, was a con man and her mother, Marjorie, was an alcoholic. Both parents left separately, Ben disappeared, and Julia and her older sister, Sarah, were thrown into the system.

Julia is sure that Duke's return means she will be able to find new clues to Ben's disappearance. But Duke is back to collect something valuable he's hidden in the area, and there are dangerous men who know he is back and are also looking for him. Now Julia is right in the line of fire for these nefarious characters who would kill her, or her sons, to punish Duke. Additionally, the investigation may jeopardize her burgeoning relationship with Navarro.

From the opening of this well-written, suspenseful novel, we know that Ben's disappearance has a connection to Angel's murder, but it is unclear if Duke's return can provide any information or just cause Julia even more pain and vulnerability. The mystery that unfolds is complex, twisty, and treacherous. Threats seem to be around every corner and the path to the truth is obscure and complicated, full of murder and revenge. Haseldine keeps the pace moving quickly along as more information and new leads are found, which will keep you engaged and invested in Julia's investigation and what she unearths.

Worth Killing For will hold your attention from beginning to end. While this is the third novel in a series, don't hesitate to read Worth Killing For. I haven't read the first two novels and felt like enough background information was provided so that I didn't feel like I was missing a piece of the story. 

TLC Tour Schedule

Disclosure: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from
Kensington and TLC Book Tours.  

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

How to Be Safe

How to Be Safe by Tom McAllister
Liveright Publishing Group: 4/3/18
eBook review copy; 240 pages
ISBN-13: 9781631494130

How to Be Safe by Tom McAllister is a recommended novel about a woman's response to the aftermath of a school shooting in a small town.

"His brain is just another brain. It’s connected to someone with a bad soul, but you can’t bottle that or study it. The slivers of his brain placed on slides under a microscope will not show the memories, won’t allow them to read the rejection and the emptiness and the abuse and the fear. The slides will not show the ways people can be ruined just by existing in the world."

A high school student planned and executed a mass shooting at the high school he was attending in Seldom Falls, PA., "America’s friendliest city." In the aftermath Anna Crawford, a suspended high school English teacher, is named a person of interest in the police investigation by overzealous broadcast media. "To be on the news, you just need to own a suit and be willing to guess about anything. You become someone who opines for a living. Opinions need to happen fast, or they don’t count." Anna's first-person narrative begins after the tragedy occurred, when the media broadcasted accusations about her and she was taken in for questioning while her home was searched by the FBI. Anna is not guilty, the actual lone killer is quickly identified, but she must be guilty of something, right?

Anna spends the novel trying to find a way to be safe, while talking about the sun no longer shining in the town and discussing the victims. She  drinks way-too-much. She goes through the stages of grief. She talks about the victims. She watches her town and friends disintegrate into factions. She seems like an unreliable narrator, but she also might just be suffering from depression and some other unidentified malady. The media is always present, looking for a new angle on the story.

McAllister is most effective when he allows Anna to contemplate her childhood and all manner of sexism, misogyny, and hypocrisy that exist today. It surprised me how accurately he captured the voice of a woman, a woman whose mental state is in a downward spiral. Her lists of how to be safe are eye-opening and devastating.

This is a thought provoking novel and, at times, darkly humorous. There are sections where the narrative veers off the mark, trying to embrace a political statement that it needn't belabor and it muddies Anna's mental turmoil and pondering of modern life, but there are other parts that are spot-on and presented with a razor sharpness. In many ways, Anna's mental state, which was happening before the shooting occurred, didn't need the addition of that tragic event to give her musings more power. It kind of felt like that was added to introduce some kind of opportune political weight to the novel, as Anna could have pondered any school shooting and not felt safe without her being considered a suspect. Her suspension from teaching would have been enough to set most tongues wagging about her guilt for something in a small town.

This is not We Need To Talk About Kevin. When reading it I kept thinking that the buzz over this is just because it has a school shooting in it, not because it is a perfect champion of gun control. When it gets political, it loses its power - and it almost lost me several times. I kept reading for other sentences that captured life today for women so much more precisely and with a brutal honesty.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Liveright Publishing Group.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Not That I Could Tell

Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser
St. Martin's Press: 3/27/18
eBook review copy; 336 pages
ISBN-13: 9781250107886

Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser is a highly recommended domestic mystery.

In the small town of Yellow Springs, Ohio, a group of neighborhood women spend a Saturday night drinking wine, baby monitors in hand, around a backyard fire pit. This is a rare night of kid-free adult interaction for most of the women and they all drink too much, share too much personal information, and regret it all the next morning. But, even more shocking than their hangovers and over-sharing, is that one of them is missing the next day. Kristin and her twins have disappeared overnight. It appears that a few things have been packed up, but her cell phone has been left behind, and the three have vanished.

Kristin was in the process of divorcing her husband, Paul, an ob/gyn doctor, who called the police after he discovered evidence that the three had left. As the police question the neighbors, the women's recollection of the evening is fuzzy and incomplete due to the amount of wine they consumed. Clara, Kristin's next door neighbor, thought she was close to her friend, but is shocked  when she learns things that her friend never shared with her. New neighbor, Izzy, didn't know Kristin well at all and is trying not to be judgmental. She is more worried about the private secret she shared with the women. 

As the investigation unfolds, suspicion is high on Paul, who appears in his public statement to be more interested in a potential monetary settlement from the divorce than actually cooperating with the police investigation. Kristin's last computer search seems to indicate she was concerned about spousal abuse. The news vans are circling the neighborhood, looking for a scoop. How well did the neighbors know Kristin - or Paul?

Chapters alternate between Clara and Izzy, with excerpts from a personal journal of an unnamed person opening chapters. You meet all the neighbors through Clara and Izzy's interactions with them. Clara is a wonderful character. She is deeply concerned about Kristin's disappearance as she experienced an incident years before that has scarred her and made her cautious and suspicious over Paul's statement and actions. Izzy, portrayed as way-too self-absorbed for me, really created her own drama and problems based on the big-hush-hush secret that she shared. It was a struggle to relate to her and what she felt was important.

The quality of the writing is good and the plot moves along evenly, not frantically, as more information is slowly revealed. There are no huge surprises here, but it is a well told story with a satisfying ending.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of St. Martin's Press.

The Other Mother

The Other Mother by Carol Goodman
HarperCollins: 3/27/18
eBook review copy; 352 pages
ISBN-13: 978006256264

The Other Mother by Carol Goodman is a highly recommended Gothic tale of motherhood and madness.

Daphne Marist meets her best friend, Laurel Hobbes, at a Westchester support group for new mothers with postpartum depression. The two women both have daughters named Chloe and both are married to controlling older men. They quickly become close friends and soon Daphne is going to Laurel's gym, visiting her hair stylist, and wearing similar clothes. While Laurel seems to suddenly be in a downward spiral, and her husband confides in Daphne that she is mentally ill, Daphne's husband, Peter, seems intent on still questioning her own mental stability and fitness as a parent.

Daphne takes her infant daughter, Chloe, and secretly leaves her husband and home. Assuming Laurel's identity and credentials, she accepts a job under Laurel's name as a live-in archivist for Schuyler Bennett, an author whose Catskills' mansion borders the grounds of a psychiatric institution where her father, Dr. Bennett, was once the director. Daphne tells no one her true identity and tries to involve herself in her job while piecing together what has been happening to her and uncovering secrets found in Bennett's papers.

The Other Mother is presented in three parts and includes excerpts from several different journals along with Daphne's first-person narrative. Daphne's thoughts clearly make her an unreliable narrator; you can't tell if she is having a mental break with reality or if there is some underhanded plot to make her think she is mentally ill and has lost touch with reality. Clearly, both husbands are controlling jerks, but is Daphne unwell?

Goodman presents a very twisty plot of domestic suspense brimming with unreliable narrators, tangled identities, and dark motives where secrets are slowly uncovered. Daphne's character is developed, but since she is also unreliable and suffering from postpartum OCD. She is full of doubt and confusion. The writing is quite good, but the big twist at the end left me shaking my head. And, no spoilers, but there is a certain point where I kept thinking a very simple blood test should have been done and would have answered a vital question. 3.5

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Alternate Side

Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen
Random House Publishing Group: 3/20/18
eBook review copy; 304 pages
ISBN-13: 9780812996067

Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen is a highly recommended sensitive novel of a marriage and a neighborhood in crisis.

Nora Nolan and her husband Charlie have been married for twenty five years. They have raised twins Rachel and Oliver, who are now in college, in their tight-knit New York City neighborhood of town homes on a dead end street on the Upper West Side. Nora is the director of a jewelry museum; Charlie is an investment banker. While outwardly they appear to have a stable marriage, there is no passion and really just a tolerance of each other born of a long association. Nora loves living in NYC, while Charlie has become tired of it and wants to sell their home and move out of the city. The two have a truce of sorts, and each stands clearly on their own side of the issue.

The novel opens with Charlie finally getting a coveted parking spot in the neighborhood outdoor lot. Achieving a spot in the lot is a major coup in this neighborhood of affluent home owners. Quindlen continues for the first third of the novel to establish the place and setting. The neighborhood has a village-like atmosphere, where the homeowners have set neighborhood celebrations. They are all able to overlook one another’s annoying behaviors, secrets, and setbacks until an act of violence tears the neighborhood apart and highlights class, economic, and racial tensions in the neighborhood and widens the gulf between Nora and Charlie.

This is an excellent, finely crafted character-driven novel about a relationship and an incident that revealed the hidden resentments and differences between spouses and neighbors. The open arguments and disagreements, especially between Nora and Charlie, expose their true feelings and desires. Nora is a well-developed complex character who is wonderfully depicted, as she explores her feelings, past and present, while working through her feelings over the incident that tears the neighborhood apart.

The title refers to the alternate side street parking rules present in NYC, as well as some other urban areas, and the alternate sides the neighbors, and Nora and Charlie, are on regarding the violent incident on the block. And the violent act is tied into the parking lot, and street parking in the city. Parking can bring out the worst in many areas. (Admittedly, even my own neighborhood can have it share of disgruntled homeowners over street parking.)

Quindlen does introduce a lot of characters in Alternate Side, almost too many, so you do need to pay attention at the beginning to who is who and their relationship to Nora.
I particularly liked one comment a friend made to Nora: "You stayed together for almost twenty-five years, and you had two great kids. Your marriage was a huge success. Don’t let anybody tell you different."

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Random House Publishing Group

The Wild Inside

The Wild Inside by Jamey Bradbury
HarperCollins Publishers: 3/20/18
eBook review copy; 304 pages
hardcover ISBN-13: 9780062741998

The Wild Inside by Jamey Bradbury is a so-so debut horror/rural noir novel set in Alaska.

Tracy Petrikoff, seventeen, has been raised hunting and trapping, as well as caring for the family's sled dogs, in Alaska. She runs wild in the wilderness and gets her strength from it. It has been nearly two years since her mother's death, and her father, Bill, is still recovering from her death. Now she has been expelled from school, her father is trying to load her up with chores and limit her time trapping and running through the woods. Tracy wants to enter her first adult Iditarod, but her father isn't listening to her. He was a champion musher, but has essentially retired now. 

When Tracy goes out to check her traps, a stranger attacks her and knocks her unconscious. She comes to with her bloody knife lying nearby. The next day a man emerges from the woods onto their property with a deadly knife wound. Did Tracy inflict the wound with the hunting knife she always carries? She can't remember, but he seems to be familiar. Tracy keeps all her thoughts to herself and doesn't tell her father what happened.

Positives about the novel were the beautiful descriptions of Alaska. This book evoked a rollercoaster of emotions for me, however many of them were not positive. There is one thing Tracy does, aside from her horrible grammar, which made the book almost a "did not finish," something I don't do lightly. Tracy's bad grammar will grate on many readers nerves after a while in this first-person narrator; it's just a fact. Tracy is feral in many ways. The one activity that Tracy does, which I won't describe, is disturbing. There is a description/revelation of it that happens early in the book, which really cemented my averse reaction to Tracy as a character. Sometimes something is simply too weird for some readers. Take note that there is no mention of any supernatural elements in the description, which would have steered me away from this book.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Gunners

The Gunners by Rebecca Kauffman
Counterpoint Press: 3/20/18
eBook review copy; 224 pages
ISBN-13: 9781619029897

The Gunners by Rebecca Kauffman is a very highly recommended story of a group of long-time friends and their connection to each other.

Mikey Callahan is a thirty-one year old man facing a future of blindness from early-onset macular degeneration. Mikey has always struggled with establishing connections with other people, except for the group of friends he met years ago, when he was five and they were all six. Sally, Alice, Sam, Lynn, Jimmy, and Mikey became friends as children when they were all living in a run-down area of Lackawanna, a suburb of Buffalo, N.Y. The group of kids hung out together in an abandoned house that had the name "Gunner" on the mailbox. The group took over the decrepit house as their clubhouse and the name Gunner for their group.

Sally was Mikey's first friend, and he, as well as the others, never knew why Sally, suddenly and inexplicably, stopped talking to all of them, cutting off her friendship and reducing the group to five. After high school the group spread out, with the exception of Mikey and Sally. Mikey still lived in the area, as did Sally, but the two never spoke. Mikey, however, has reconnected with the others, exchanging news mainly through email. Now, Sally has committed suicide and the group is going to attend her funeral and reunite.

Reminiscent of The Big Chill, the group comes together to say goodbye to Sally and reestablish the connects that they share. Obviously, The Gunners does head down that well-traveled literary and film tradition of old friends reuniting after years apart. Kauffman handles this premise with skill and insight into her individual characters, always presenting them as individuals. They also all have secrets they have harbored over the years that have been left unspoken from their teen years. They all have a secret that they believe was the root cause for Sally to stop speaking to the group. Mikey is clearly the most sympathetic and well-developed character of the group, but Alice, Lynn, Sam, and Jimmy are presented as distinct individuals with their own memories and secrets. The bond the group share, even though they have went their separate ways since high school, is obvious and clearly shown through flashbacks in the narrative.

This is an excellent novel, insightful, with admirable prose and a keen insight into emotions, friendship, and forgiveness. Kauffman explores interpersonal and family relationships, and the strain secrets can inflict on these relationships in this layered examination and coming-of-age story. While not a startling novel with a shocking reveal, this is a beautifully satisfying novel - rich in details and emotions - that reaches a more than satisfying conclusion. 

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Counterpoint Press.


Tangerine by Christine Mangan
HarperCollins: 3/27/18
eBook review copy; 320 pages
ISBN-13: 978006268666

Tangerine by Christine Mangan is a recommended historical fiction suspense novel set in Tangier, Morocco, in 1956.

Alice Shipley has moved to Tangier with her new husband, John McAllister, for his job. McAllister is an obnoxious, disagreeable man who married Alice for her money.  He loves Tangier and is always off doing something in the city, while Alice finds the city terrible and oppressive. She is not adjusting to life there at all. However, the last person she expected to show up in Tangier for a visit was Lucy Mason, whom she hasn't spoken to for over a year.

Alice and Lucy first met when they were freshman at Bennington in the early 1950s. The roommates became inseparable and were the best of friends - until an unnamed accident happened and the two did not part on good terms. Now, Lucy has traveled to Tangier specifically to see Alice. Alice is surprised to see her after whatever mysterious incident happened between the two. What is clear is that Lucy closely watches everything and always has, and that she is obsessed with Alice. The setting adds to the oppressive feeling, as Alice struggles with the heat and foreignness of Tangier.

The writing is wonderfully descriptive. The setting is meticulously detailed, creating an atmospheric setting. The story develops in chapters that alternate between the the two women's point of view, and describe events in the present and the past. It is the unnamed, mysterious accident/incident that happened between the two while they were in college, combined with Lucy's obsession with Alice that creates the feeling of tension. There is an almost Hitchcockian aura surrounding the plot and dialogue.

As I was reading Tangerine a feeling persisted that I had read this novel before, or had seen this film before - only the elusive-unnamed-original was better than this novel. The trouble is that the tension and drama is based on the big secret, which is so slow to be revealed that it actually offers no huge surprise. Astute readers will likely have felt the same as I did from the beginning and have an excellent idea where the plot is going long before it meanders that direction.  Additionally, even though the two women are described as being very different, sometimes it is hard to tell whose voice you are reading, which is disconcerting. What I do think is true is that this book will make a good movie - which is probably why the film rights have already been sold.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Price of the Haircut

The Price of the Haircut by Brock Clarke
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill: 3/13/18
eBook review copy: 240 pages
paperback ISBN-13: 9781616208172

The Price of the Haircut by Brock Clarke is a very highly recommended collection of eleven short stories.
These stories are bursting with social satire, wit, surreal situations, and peculiar plot twists. The writing is excellent and the stories were perfectly presented, the characters are humorous and flawed, but somehow relatable. The situations seem absurd, yet ordinary. I loved every single story in this collection.

Contents include:

The Price of the Haircut: The mayor of a town determines that a riot was due to a man who said a racist comment while giving an eight dollar haircut. Racial attitudes are examined through a group of men who have been getting expensive, but bad haircuts for years. The men wonder if it would be better to go to this barber and only pay eight dollars for their haircuts.

The Grand Canyon: A woman tells the story of her honeymoon at the Grand Canyon in one long run-on sentence.

What Is the Cure for Meanness?: A young man gives his mother gifts that subsequently die. The first gift that died was a lilac bush, which he gave to her after his Dad left his mom for another woman on her birthday. 

Concerning Lizzie Borden, Her Axe, My Wife:  A man is kicked out of the house by his wife and six days later invited to join her on a trip to the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast in Fall River, Massachusetts  - and take the official two-hour tour.

Good Night: A parent struggles to accept affection from a son without caustic commentary. 

Our Pointy Boots: Soldiers suffering from PTSD return home from war and tell reporters that, "The first thing we’re going to do when we get home is put on our pointy boots and parade around the Public Square." 

The Misunderstandings: A dysfunctional family has a horrible night of family discord turn into a misunderstanding that turns into more misunderstandings, all of them curiously beneficial. 

That Which We Will Not Give: A family has a shared story about the time their mom asked their dad for a divorce and he wouldn’t give it to her. The story could differ, "depending upon who was telling it and which part of the story they chose to emphasize."  

Cartoons: An ex-wife is taking a cartoon-drawing class at the community center. 

Children Who Divorce: Child actors from a well-known movie, who all married young, then divorced, and loved the star in the movie, are participating in a play/remake of the story. They have a doctor who listens to them to make sure they are mentally prepared for the show.

The Pity Palace: In Florence, Italy, Antonio Vieri believes his wife has left him for "the famous American author who wrote those best-selling novels about Italian gangsters in New York, and Antonio Vieri was feeling sorry for himself, so very sorry for himself that his friends warned him that if he did not stop feeling sorry for himself, he, Antonio Vieri, would become famous for it throughout Florence... " A tourist/entrepreneur begins selling tickets to tourists to meet the very sad, miserable Antonio Vieri. 

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.


SINdicate by J.T. Nicholas
Random House: 3/20/18
eBook review copy; 180 pages
paperback ISBN-13: 9781635730081
The New Lyons Sequence #2 

SINdicate by J.T. Nicholas is a highly recommended second book in the New Lyons Sequence.

This is definitely the second book in the series and is a continuation of the story started in the first book. Sometimes it doesn't matter if you read a series out of order or start in the middle. With the first two books of the New Lyons books, reading them in order matters a great deal. 

Until the truth was revealed, Walton Biogenics claimed the Synths were manufactured to look human, but were "artificial" humans. Jason Campbell, former New Lyons Detective, discovered the truth and now is fighting for their rights. "Nearly a month since we had ripped off the veil covering the ugly truth that synthetics were not unthinking, unfeeling things, but as much people as any of the naturally born. Nearly a month, and for synthetics, things had gotten worse. Much worse. It wasn’t unexpected. Silas had predicted the reaction from society at large when we shone a spotlight on the truth that everyone suspected but no one seemed willing to admit..... We’d given the world an ultimatum: give synthetics rights, or be prepared to have all the little secrets that they had gathered in their decades of near-invisible servitude released to the public." 

As  with SINthetic, the premise of SINdicate is engaging, well-written, and continues to hold your attention from beginning to end. Nicholas again has planned out his plot carefully to keep the action moving and hold your attention. Those who appreciate martial arts and fighting are again rewarded with some well crafted and intricately described fight scenes. It was great to see a couple characters from the first book back in the second. 

My criticisms of the first book continues with this one: at 180 pages the book is too short and the ending was rather abrupt. Early information had this second in the series as being almost twice as long as this, which makes me wonder if the series is being spread out over even more books or if it was edited down to this much shorter length. I have to admit that I am tiring of stories being spread out over several books for the sole purpose of creating a series. Again, there is something to be said in getting the whole story or a larger chunk of it quickly. 

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Random House.

Lacking Character

Lacking Character by Curtis White
Melville House Publishing: 3/13/18
eBook review copy; 208 pages
paperback ISBN-13: 978161219678

Lacking Character by Curtis White is a witty, puzzling, digressive, meandering fairy tale of sorts, set in N(ormal), Ill.

The queen of spells dispatches Percy, a masked courier to deliver a message to the marquis of N. The marquis spends much of his time playing Halo an inadvertently kills all of Percy's companions.  The request was for the marquis to care for Percy, an "animated doll" created by the queen. Percy lacks character, but has the skills to survive, which is good, because the marquis doesn't assist Percy. Marquis is  more concerned with grandson Jake either finding a job or money.  Percy ends up working for/with Fanni, Jake's promiscuous wife, performing "ritual abasement" in exchange for housing.

This philosophical novel is a mish-mash of narrators, styles, and low comedy. I really tried to engage with the novel and go with the flow of the presented novel, and managed to appreciate parts of it, but the totality of this one eluded me. There were several messages that could be parsed out of the divergent trails the prose traipses through, and the effort was worth some of these, but not all of them. Additionally sometimes I did always find the comedic episodes all that humorous. In the end Lacking Character is a so-so novel for me. Not bad, but not for me.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Melville House Publishing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Flicker of Old Dreams

The Flicker of Old Dreams by Susan Henderson
HarperCollins Publishers: 3/13/18
eBook review copy: 320 pages
paperback ISBN-13: 9780062686701

The Flicker of Old Dreams by Susan Henderson is a very highly recommended lyrical novel about small town outsiders, prejudices, and expectations.

Petroleum, Montana, population 182, is a very small, dying town. It has been in decline for twenty years, ever since the accident that took the life of a local high schooler and shut down the grain elevator, the town’s main source of employment. The younger brother of the victim was blamed for his death and sent to live with relatives.

Mary Crampton has lived in Petroleum for thirty years, her whole life, and during those years she has always been a social outcast. Perhaps it is because her father owns the mortuary, or because she grew up without a mother, but Mary has never belonged. Now that she is the embalmer for her father, she is even more set apart from the townspeople around her. She had dreamed of becoming an artist, but now she finds satisfaction in her job, trying to capture the essence of a subject’s life.

When Robert Golden, the brother who has been blamed for the town's demise for years, returns to care for his dying mother, old resentments and condemnations return and are all directed at him. In Robert, Mary finds an unexpected soulmate who is also an outsider. Neither Robert nor Mary conform to the expectations of the towns citizens, but Mary's burgeoning friendship and relationship with him shock and dismay the town, while Robert's presence evokes anger and acting out. 

The Flicker of Old Dreams is an exquisite, beautifully written, memorable novel. In fact, it is hard to comment on such a well-written novel that seems to capture the very heart and soul of two lonely people who have been considered pariahs by the town, yet are still expected to conform to the will and expectations set by the same people. These are finely detailed, well-developed, and wonderfully crafted characters. The town itself becomes a character, as the inhabitants seem to act as one.

Henderson has created an unforgettable character in Mary - heartbreaking and so tender, caring and loyal to her father and their dying town, even as it sucks the life right out of her.  Anyone who has ever lived as an outsider in a small narrow minded town or in a family of the same ilk will understand Mary's untenable position, where she can never be a part of the town and, really, must find the way to escape in order to truly live her life. Her father, and the town, expect so much from her, mostly to live up to their expectations, and yet give so little in return. The ending is perfect, presenting redemption and hope.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers.

The Feed

The Feed by Nick Clark Windo
HarperCollins Publishers: 3/13/18
eBook review copy; 336 pages
ISBN-13: 9780062651853

The Feed by Nick Clark Windo is a very highly recommended postapocalyptic dystopian debut thriller that begs the question: How would you live without technology?

Everyone is connected to the Feed. It is an implant, directly to the brain, that allows instantaneous access to... everything. Everyone is on, all the time, and able to follow all interaction, emotions, images, thoughts, and linked to all information and global events. There is no need to read - or even talk. It is "an internal global cityscape where everyone lives close by." Tom and Kate use the Feed, but Tom has resisted the addiction to it and insists that he and Kate live life slow sometimes, quiet, no Feed. It is a healthy thing to do - even though Tom's father is the one who invented it. When the Feed suddenly collapses, the collapse marks the end of modern civilization too. When the Feed stopped, most people died too, unable to function or help themselves. The end was facilitated further because something or someone was hacking people while they slept, and then had the taken-over people kill others.

Now, six years in the future, it is a dangerous world where you have to watch each other when sleeping to make sure that your mind is not taken over. People have to live by scavenging and trying to figure out how to survive and rebuild a world when they have no practical experience to accomplish this. They can look for books, which are rare, but can they read them? Tom and Kate have managed to survive in a small group, but when their daughter, Bea, is kidnapped they need to try and find her in a dangerous world without the help of technology.

Going from a world where your every thought and emotion can be shared instantaneously with millions of other people, to a society where you have to speak and explain yourself in order to be understood is captured by the reticence of his characters to say what they are thinking in this changed Feed-free world. The characters may seem to be under-developed, but I thought it was done purposefully to mirror the unconnected world, where you can't trust people to sleep without watching them. And then you have to kill them if they show signs of being taken over.

I enjoyed The Feed immensely. The writing is excellent and the tone is very apropos for the subject matter. The reluctance to share inner thoughts with others is well established at the beginning, when you didn't need to say anything, your thoughts were automatically known. These people are all still learning to express themselves. The pace is slow as the story begins to unfold and we learn what the new world is like. When Kate and Tom must travel along dangerous paths to try and find their daughter, the pace and tension increase. Then The Feed becomes the story of a quest, with a journey and lessons learned. They meet various characters along the way. They face dangers. They overcome adversity. They set a goal. There are a couple of startling developments in the narrative that blindsided me and are both game changers. 

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers.

To the Edges of the Earth

To the Edges of the Earth by Edward J. Larson
HarperCollins Publishers: 3/13/18
eBook review copy: 352 pages
ISBN-143: 9780062564474

To the Edges of the Earth: 1909, the Race for the Three Poles, and the Climax of the Age of Exploration by Edward J. Larson is an examination of the most adventurous year of all time.

1909 can be said to be the climactic year in the modern age of adventure-based exploration. The three poles to be conquered in 1909 were the North Pole, the South Pole, and the so-called Pole of Altitude in the Himalayas. (The South pole was sometimes divided into the geographic south and magnetic south poles.) The expeditions would face extraordinary difficulties, extremely harsh conditions, tremendous hardship, and death to claim the fame of being the first to plant their flags on these poles.

At the end of the year the explorers were celebrities. Americans Robert Peary and Matthew Henson were hailed as the discovers of the North Pole. Britain’s Ernest Shackleton set a new geographic "Furthest South" record. Shackleton's teammate, Australian Douglas Mawson, reached the Magnetic South Pole. "Italy’s Duke of the Abruzzi set an altitude record that would stand for a generation during his mountaineering expedition to the Himalaya's eastern Karakoram. The Duke attempted K2 and established the standard route up the most notorious mountain on the planet.

Larson points out in the preface: "This book especially benefited from my participation in the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program, which allowed me to go where the Antarctic explorers went, camp where they camped, and climb where they climbed. Always traveling with others, and frequently in the company of experts, through this program I saw much of what Shackleton, Mawson, and the other early visitors to the Ross Sea region saw, from the East Antarctic Ice Sheet and Ross Ice Shelf to the South Pole and summit of Mount Erebus. Extended stays at Shackleton’s Cape Royds and near Scott’s Hut Point and Cape Evans, where the explorers’ primitive winter quarters remain intact down to their unused crates of hardtack biscuits and long-frozen meat in the larder, gave insight into how the parties lived beyond what I could hope to glean from archival research."

The finished book contains notes, an index, photos, and maps. While I thought Larson did an admirable job following the three expeditions over the course of the book, my reading experience would have been greatly enhanced by the inclusion of photos and maps, which those who get the pleasure of reading the published editions will no doubt appreciate immensely.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers.

The Neighbors

The Neighbors by Hannah Mary McKinnon
MIRA Books: 3/13/18
eBook review copy; 384 pages
paperback ISBN-13: 9780778311003

The Neighbors by Hannah Mary McKinnon is an exploration of marital relationships and domestic drama.

Abby is responsible for the car crash in 1992 that killed her beloved brother, something for which she can't forgive herself (and neither can her mother). After the accident she rebuff the affection of Liam, her boyfriend and true love, and broke up with him because she knew he would soon hate her as much as she hated herself too. It is now twenty years later and Abby is married to Nate. Nate pulled her to safety the night of the accident, but was unable to save her brother before the car burst into flames.  It is their shared guilt that binds them together, as well as their daughter Sarah. It is clear that Nate is much more committed to their relationship than Abby.

Now a new couple has moved next door and much to Abby's shock it is Liam, his wife Nancy, and their son Zac. When Liam doesn't admit to knowing Abby, Abby follows suit. Their unrevealed past results in more complications. The attraction between the two is still evident, although Abby pretends to dislike their new neighbors. She also is desperate to keep Sarah and Zac apart. Adding to the complications is Nancy's flirting and secret agenda regarding Nate.

Get ready for a melodrama of daytime serial magnitude in The Neighbors. The narrative jumps back and forth in time and between the different voices of the characters which serves to showcase the background of the characters and their current thoughts. There is a plethora of entanglements and scheming. Expect an abundance of secrets, hidden history, and duplicitous plans going on behind the scenes. It all becomes a rather entangled mess.

The writing is good and moves the plot forward, albeit rather slowly at the beginning while the various complications and deceit between the characters is being set up. And there is a whole lot to set up...  While many reviewers seemed to enjoy The Neighbors, I had two looming problems with it: the sheer predictability of the plot and the uninspired ending. I knew what the twists would be almost immediately. I continued reading simply to see when they would be revealed - and if I was correct (I was). It took a long time to get there, though. The Neighbors is a good novel; however, it isn't quite to my preferred inclination in fiction.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of MIRA Books.

The Girl in the Moon

The Girl in the Moon by Terry Goodkind
Skyhorse Publishing: 3/20/18
eBook review copy; 488 pages
ISBN-13: 9781510736412

The Girl in the Moon by Terry Goodkind is a so-so violent thriller.

Angela Constantine considers herself to be a girl who was born broken. Her mother was an addict who would do anything to get a plethora of illegal drugs. While her grandparents were protective and loving when they were alive, she spent most of her time with her strung-out mother and the abusive scum that hung around their trailer. She escaped as soon as she could and Angela has made a private life for herself with a secret mission.

Angela has been born with the ability to recognize killers by looking into their eyes. Not only does she recognize their capacity for violence, she also knows who they killed and how they did it. She uses this secret ability to take revenge on men who victimize women, by killing them first.

The first thing any prospective reader needs to know immediately is that this is an over-the-top bloody, graphically violent novel that features multiple rape scenes. This was almost a Did Not Finish, a very rare event for me. I set it aside more than once, asking myself how much more violence and rape could I put up with in order to finish the story. Angela has no redeeming qualities. Okay, maybe just one, she loved her grandparents. The writing is uninspired and flat. The only reason I kept reading was I wanted to know how her ability to identify killers was going to be tied into fighting terrorism.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of the publisher/author.

Guardian Angels and Other Monsters

Guardian Angels and Other Monsters by Daniel H. Wilson
Penguin Random House; 3/6/18
eBook review copy; 304 pages
paperback ISBN-13: 9781101972014

Guardian Angels and Other Monsters by Daniel H. Wilson is a very highly recommended collection of fourteen short stories that examine how artificial intelligence both saves and destroys humanity. The writing is excellent and the stories are well-paced, thoughtful, and emotional. This compilation starts out and ends strong. Guardian Angels and Other Monsters is an outstanding selection for science fiction and short story fans. I was captivated by the majority of the stories with the exception of one story that I liked less than the others, which is a stunning recommendation for any short story collection.

Contents include:
Miss Gloria: Chiron is a robot whose life's work is to teach and protect Miss Gloria until she can take care of herself. Miss Gloria knows that Chiron is an excellent playmate and she loves him. In his own way, the machine also loves the girl.
The Blue Afternoon that Lasted Forever: After seeing images on the television that only a few people understand the implications of, an astrophysicists rushes home to his 3-year-old daughter.
Jack, the Determined: Jack, a most loyal and obedient student, is accompanying the Professor while he delivers a report on his most important scientific work.
The Executor: In order to protect his daughter, a man visits the Executor’s office in an attempt to get control of a family inheritance.
Helmet: The wordless huge, robotic Helmets appear and show the strength of the controlling Triumvirate by violently stopping uprisings.
Blood Memory: A mother is determination to do anything to help her daughter, the first and only human being born to teleportation.
Foul Weather: A meteorologist discovers the truth behind the adage: "Foul weather breeds foul deeds."
The Nostalgist: An old man tries to live in the past the only way he knows how.
Parasite: a Robopocalypse Story: A horrific war story of a battle against a thinking machine that calls itself Archos. (This is a Lark Iron Cloud story.)
God Mode: "In all of this forgetting, there is this one constant thing. Her name is Sarah. I will always remember that. She is holding my right hand with her left. Our fingers are interlaced, familiar. The two of us have held hands this way before. The memory of it is there, in our grasp. Her hand in mine. This is all that matters to me now. Here in the aftermath of the great forgetting."
Garden of Life: A taxonomist collects samples when he stumbles across something that he has never seen before.
All Kinds of Proof: A drunk is hired to train a mail-carrying robot that he names the Shine and considers him a friend. "[H]e doesn’t judge, doesn’t interrupt, and he goes with me everywhere. When he walks, it makes this nice wheezing sound. His narrow little feet are coated in a layer of tacky rubber and each step lands quiet and smooth. And he always keeps up. The two of us walk together..."
One for Sorrow: A Clockwork Dynasty Story set in England, 1756, and starring the childlike avtomat Elena Petrova.
Special Automatic: James is an abused and bullied teen who has a neurostimulator sunk into his brain behind his ear to prevent seizures. Although everyone thinks he is stupid, James is much more intelligent than they realize. The proof is found in the robot he built and named Special Automatic.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The City Where We Once Lived

The City Where We Once Lived by Eric Barnes
Arcade Publishing: 3/27/18
eBook review copy; 244 pages
ISBN-13: 9781628728835

The City Where We Once Lived by Eric Barnes is a highly recommended look at a dying city that is part dystopian and part premonition.

Our unnamed narrator is living in the North End of an unnamed city during an unnamed time. Many years ago the North End was abandoned and left to decay, while the population and resources went to the South End. There is a small population in the North End, a few thousand, spread out across many miles. They think that something in the ground is killing them because there are no mice or rats or cats or dogs or roaches. All the trees and plants are dead too. Extreme weather hits both North and South, but help is provided only for the South. Levees are breaking and flooding is increasing. The death of things is spreading.

The small population stays in the North End, for reasons of their own, amid the decay. Our narrator is staying in the city to escape his past. He is the writer for the local paper, the only writer, and he photographs and records the indicators of the ensuing decline that will eventually mark the end of the North End. He burns down abandoned houses at night to alleviate his inner pain. The city commission doesn't care about what happens to them and most want to force them out of the North End. The water and electricity have been left on (although they are constantly threatened to be turned off by the commission), which allows the small population to stay there with a degree of comfort. They have set up a community, of sorts, with garbage collection and corner shops, and live there quietly. Scavengers clear remaining buildings of raw materials.

There is also an increase of strangers coming to the North End. Some are simply trying to hide or escape the South and want to live quiet anonymous lives, but some are feckless teenagers, looking for trouble and violence. Soon, as it becomes clear that the people living in the North End must respond in some way to the strangers. The questions are: What is a community? What is your capacity for violence? What is your capacity for compassion? What is the right response?

The City Where We Once Lived is extremely well written and Barnes keeps the same heavy tone throughout the novel. It is a slow moving, relentlessly desolate, bleak novel that offers little impetus to keep following our unnamed narrator who seems captive to a existence full of depression and despondency. The second half of the book is better than the first, but the first sets the dreary, hopeless, aimless tone to the novel and captures the idea of living in a decaying no-man's-land with other unnamed survivors in a loosely organized community of sorts. The second half, although still much in keeping with the tone of the first part, does have a bit more plot to it and continues to reach a conclusion that offers a slight, meager sliver of something close to hope. It also gives us some insight into our unnamed narrator and why he felt the need to distance himself from society. (This was a hard one for me to rate. perhaps a 4.5 but...)

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Arcade Publishing.

The Children's Game

The Children's Game by Max Karpov
Arcade Publishing: 3/13/18
eBook review copy; 384 pages
ISBN-13: 9781510734814

The Children's Game by Max Karpov is a highly recommended geo-political thriller, both timely and insightful, involving a Russian cyberattack on America.

Intelligence has learned that a cyberattack is imminent - perhaps already started. The attack is code-named the "Children’s Game," which is a chess strategy that results in a checkmate in four moves. The attack itself has been in the making for a long time and was the plan of Andrei Turov, a Russian billionaire and former FBS officer. He recruited operative Ivan Delkoff to organize the "game." In it public opinion will be  manipulated by informants spreading misinformation and fake news about a breaking news event, which will be followed by hackers and a cyberattack. This propaganda attack, via Russian hacker "science farms," will allow the Kremlin to take advantage of the freedom our republic gives the media and citizens, and use it to twist the truth in an effort to destroy us while restoring Russia's greatness.

Success is not a forgone conclusion, because the USA has a team to counteract the attack. Christopher Niles is called back to work on the case immediately. Niles, a former CIA intelligence officer, is on vacation in Greece with Anna Carpenter, a US senator and his significant other, when he is called away to talk to an informant in London.  He ends up returning back to work from retirement  Niles joins forces with Jon, his journalist half-brother who is also a special forces operative, and Anna, who has her own inside connections in the intelligence community, in order to uncover Turov's plot.

This is a well-written, fast paced, and timely thriller that explores the relationship between the USA and Russia. I would point out to casual readers that The Children's Game is really for fans of geo-political espionage thrillers. Karpov (a pseudonym for James Lilliefors) spent years researching US-Russian relationships while writing this thriller, and the research and attention to details shines through. What is especially relevant and chillingly plausible is the whole concept of using a cyberattack to spread  misinformation and fake news. Hello... During this time as the media twists things to suit their agenda already, how carefully do people check facts before spreading misinformation? How often do you pass on a meme or quick blurb before checking the validity of the information? If you are honest, not much... not much at all. And how susceptible are we to a similar attack of fake news happening and running out of control. Frighteningly, alarmingly close.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Arcade Publishing.

They All Fall Down

They All Fall Down by Tammy Cohen
Pegasus Books: 3/6/2018
eBook review copy; 384 pages
ISBN-13: 9781681776477

They All Fall Down by Tammy Cohen is a highly recommended psychological thriller set in a high-risk psychiatric institute.

Hannah is currently receiving help at the Meadows, a private psychiatric clinic in the country. She has done something that results in her being admitted, but we don't know quite what. She is married, although her marriage is in trouble and was before her admittance. She was pregnant, and we know she lost her baby, Emily, although we don't know how. What we do know is that two patients have died since she's been admitted, including Charlie, one of her closest friends at the Meadows. While it is a high-risk unit, Hannah knows that Charlie would not have killed herself. She firmly believes that someone is killing patients and making their deaths look like suicides. But who is going to believe her?

Corinne, Hannah's mother, knows that her daughter needs help and wants to support her to help in her recovery. The question is how can she help her daughter get better? At first she is reluctant to believe Hannah's conviction that a killer is loose, but to alleviate her daughter's concerns Corinne begins to look into the background of the clinic's founder, Dr. Oliver Roberts. As she uncovers secrets and discrepancies from the doctor's past, she also begins to look into the woman with whom Hannah's husband had an affair. As she begins to find numerous irregularities that are disconcerting, Corinne's belief in Hannah increases.

This was an interesting, compelling thriller. The narrative alternates mainly between the voices of Hannah and Corinne, and occasionally with Laura (the art therapist). Placing Hannah in a psychiatric institute automatically means that she is an unreliable narrator and we can't necessarily trust her character. Could her beliefs be a manifestation of her illness? On the other hand, she is a great character and you get a sense that although she is fragile, she can be rational on some levels. Corinne is an equally great character, smart, insightful, and resourceful. She wants to support her daughter and does what she can to help her. The supporting characters are equally interesting.

The quality of the writing in They All Fall Down is quite good. Cohen does an exceptional job with the pacing and we get twisty little reveals of more information, along with additional suspects being added, as the novel progresses. The tension keeps increasing as the sense that something terrible is going to happen looms larger. Why Hannah was admitted is revealed before the ending, which gives an added dimension to the plot. This is a suspenseful story that should hold your attention throughout the whole novel.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Pegasus Books.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Coincidence Makers

The Coincidence Makers by Yoav Blum
St. Martin's Press: 3/6/18
eBook review copy; 304 pages
ISBN-13: 9781250146113

The Coincidence Makers by Yoav Blum is a highly recommended genre-bending novel that is part science fiction, part  fantasy, part love story, and part mystery. Read this novel and you will never believe in coincidences again.

Guy, Emily, and Eric are the coincidence makers in this novel. The three were recruited and trained together by the General to be a part of the secret organization devoted to creating and carrying out coincidences. Guy and Emily were promoted from the ranks of imaginary friends, to join the coincidence makers. See, nothing in the world is the result of a random occurrence, even imaginary friends.

The secret coincidence makers maneuver people and events to create or design the changes or realizations that will provide people with the inspiration or desire to change a worldview, create a work of art, or fall in love, or discover a remarkable breakthrough or write poetry. Nothing is left to chance. The coincidence makers are highly trained agents who carefully, skillfully plan and time events so they achieve the desired outcome, resulting in the completion of the plan and their mission and do so without generating the sense of an artificial encounter.

The Coincidence Makers has an original premise and, when the coincidence makers are working, the novel is fast paced. There are sections between the action that includes excerpts from the books and the lessons the three had to take in order to become a coincidence maker. These lessons, while interesting, slow down the pace of the novel. Other parts can be funny, witty, and quirky. It is probably better to not give away a lot of the story before you read it. This is also a novel that required a bit more leeway from me, at the beginning, to stick with it longer than I might have normally, but the ending was worth it.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of St. Martin's Press.

The Girlfriend

The Girlfriend by Sarah Naughton
Sourcebooks Landmark: 3/6/18
eBook review copy; 368 pages
ISBN-13: 9781492651246

The Girlfriend by Sarah Naughton is a highly recommended psychological thriller with a twisty plot. (It was published in the UK as Tattletale.)

When news reaches her of her brother's accident, Mags, a high powered lawyer living in Los Vegas, flies back to London. Abe fell from down the stairs from outside his apartment on the fourth floor of the converted church where he lives. He is now in a coma and his outlook is not good. Apparently the only witness was his neighbor and devoted girlfriend, Jody, who Mags meets at the hospital. Something about Jody is odd... off, and Mags doesn't believe that she is telling the truth or was the only witness in the building. She doesn't believe that Abe's fall was an accident or that he tried to commit suicide. Mags is sure that there is more going on than anyone is telling her and she's going to get to the bottom of it. She moves into Abe's apartment and starts investigating, beginning with his neighbors in the converted church.

Chapters alternate between characters, including Mags, Jodi, and Mira, a woman living next door to Abe who may know much more than she is willing to say. Chapters also switch to different time periods, but it is easy to follow what is happening and distinguish the past from the present. There are a lot more secrets being held than what happened to Abe, and Mags may need to uncover them while keeping her own secrets. But with all the secrets, is anyone telling the truth. More importantly, are any of these characters reliable?

It is a very well-written twisty novel of suspense and the tension increases incrementally with each new step in the plot. The Girlfriend is full of basically unreliable and, for the most part, unlikable characters, who are keeping secrets, but, after a slow start, it did hold my attention to the end. Even though during several scenes I knew where the plot was going long before Naughton headed that direction, the journey was still full of suspense.

There is an opening scene that will seem incongruous to the rest of the novel, but stick with it and it will make sense. (There are several jumps back and forth in time, although the others are placed in context more than the opening scene.) There are also a few other scenes where you may be shaking your head and mumbling something about these people being seriously messed up, and they are, but keep with it.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Sourcebooks Landmark.

If I Die Tonight

If I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin
HarperCollins: 3/6/18
eBook review copy; 384 pages
ISBN-13: 9780062641090

If I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin is a highly recommended novel of psychological suspense.

Late one night in the town of Havenkill, a washed up 80's pop star, Aimee En, stumbles into the police station claiming that she was the victim of a carjacking. She claims that a teenage boy stole her car and then ran over another teen boy who tried to help her. Liam Miller, the high school football star who tried to help, is hospitalized and fighting for his life. Wade Reed is a school outcast and the number one suspect. As Liam obtains cult-like status, the rumors about Wade increase.

Everything doesn't quite add up, however, and it might not be exactly what it seems to be. The police have some concerns about Aimee En's version of events. There are also questions about Liam and his friends, in spite of the fact that the teenage social-media-finger-pointing-and-shaming-storm is in full swing and after Wade. The story unfold between the viewpoints of multiple characters, including police officer Pearl Maze, Wade's mother Jackie, his younger brother Connor, and Aimee En.

If I Die Tonight opens with a Facebook message from Wade saying that he will be dead by the time people read the message. This sets the tone for the story, since you know that the end result will be this message. The overriding question is, though, is Wade guilty? He's not talking and not defending himself. He was out of the house, smoking, and wandering who knows where that night, but why were the other boys also out in the wee hours of the morning? Why would Aimee be driving around on a cold night with her car window open, and was that alcohol Officer Maze smelled on her breath?

The writing is great and the characters are well done in this character-driven drama. I especially liked the thoughtfulness and logic from Officer Pearl Maze. Jackie was fiercely protective of her boys and this was clearly well-established and depicted realistically. The fire-storm of teens on social media jumping to erroneous conclusions, overstating the facts, following the crowd, making a deity out of Liam, and in general being all emotions with little logic was perfectly captured. And it's not just teens who can be illogical and reactive in this small town.

The plot was relatively fast-paced after the initial set up. Gaylin carefully reveals more clues and information as the story continues and works its way through several contemporary problems and social issues. Astute readers might be able to guess where it is going, but the journey is worth reaching the final conclusion.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

A Wilder Time

A Wilder Time by William E. Glassley
Bellevue Literary Press: 2/13/18
paperback review copy; 224 pages
ISBN-13: 978194265834

A Wilder Time: Notes from a Geologist at the Edge of the Greenland Ice by William E. Glassley is a very highly recommended combination of nature writing at its finest with the recording of geological discoveries and observations.

"Geology is not generally considered an enterprise rich with drama." ( pg. 60)
While perhaps this observation is true, there was a richness and drama of a sort in this account of the time William E. Glassley and his Danish colleagues, Kai Sørensen and John Korstgård, spent on six expeditions to Greenland, a place that truly defines the word "wilderness." The geologists went there to sample, photograph, and measure any rock formations that would provide evidence of the terrain's history and the tectonic movements. They wanted to find out how deeply the rocks had been buried, how hot they had been, and when the deformation of them occurred; and they wanted to find the place where that marked the point of collision between two continents.

While Glassley does discuss some of the amazing geological discoveries and observations he and his colleagues made, he is also poetic in his descriptions and observations of Greenland, including the overwhelming silence and the natural environment there. The scientific focus may have been the geology, but Glassley also shares his keen observations of the nature around him - the huge bumblebees, the small arctic flowers, the lichen, the arctic foxes, ptarmigan, herring, an encounter with a falcon, and an almost magical mirage.

The narrative is divided into three parts, Fractionation, Consolidation, and Emergence, each of which describes the sensory experiences that shifted his perception. The first part, Fractionation, documents the way his expectations about Greenland had been altered. Consolidation marks his coming to terms with the reality that "ignorance is an integral part of being aware." The final section, Emergence, covers what he feels, based on epiphanies he had in Greenland, we can and cannot know of the world. The book contains a glossary for those unfamiliar with geological terms. (As a secret geology geek, I was transfixed by the scientific observations of the expedition that Glassley chose to share. I desperately wanted pictures.)

A Wilder Time is a celebration of wilderness, written in poetic prose that can be appreciated by anyone who enjoys good nature writing. It is also a call to save the wilderness areas we have left.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Bellevue Literary Press.