Sue A.

Not on Fire, But Burning

Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Greg Hrbek
Not on Fire, But Burning

Often you finish a book and are pleased or displeased with the experience and move on.  But sometimes you finish a book and keep thinking about it. Not on Fire, But Burning is such a book. It is not perfect, but is no less compelling because of it. A bit of a thriller, a bit dystopian, a bit science fiction, and a bit speculative fiction – for sure. But it is also a family drama, a social commentary and cautionary tale.

On 8/11/2030 the city of San Francisco is hit by an undetermined attack that results in the collapse of the Golden Gate Bridge and the release of a mushroom cloud of radiation over the city. Skyler Wakefield is a young college student working as a babysitter near the epicenter of the attack.  As she tries to get her young charge to a place of safety, all she can think about is her own 3 yr. old brother Dorian and the rest of her family and hope that their home outside the city is far enough away to be outside the contamination zone.

Eight years later, 12 year old Dorian, his parents, and brother are living on the other side of the country, which has been re-configured into provinces and territories following the attack. While no responsibility for the perpetration of the attack was ever proven, Islamic terrorists were widely blamed and all foreign-born Muslims have been rounded up and moved to containment camps in the western territories.  Meanwhile, Dorian has recurring dreams of a sister he doesn’t remember, and who his parents insist never existed.  He and his friends live in suspicion and mistrust of the Muslims remaining in the community. When a Muslim orphan from the camps is adopted by an elderly neighbor and brought to live in the neighborhood, a chain of events begins that has devastating consequences for all of them.

Mix all of that in with some alternative reality past, present, and future possibilities and you have a thought provoking read on the ripple effect of every seemingly singular choice we make.

“What we have presented here is a fraction of the whole, no more representative of the total narrative than a single cell is representative of the living body of a person, just as every person described herein is, in like manner, a fraction of a whole of greater selves.” Check the catalog

Sue A., Reference

Murder at the Brightwell

Wednesday, December 2, 2015
Ashley Weaver
Murder at the Brightwell

The Brightwell is a luxury resort hotel on the coast of Britain. It’s 1932 and Amory Ames is a wealthy young woman having serious doubts about her marriage to her notoriously charming playboy husband, Milo. Feeling at a crossroads and looking for a change, Amory agrees to help her former fiancé Gil Trent, prevent his sister’s impending marriage to a man much like Milo. She agrees to accompany Gil to the Brightwell Hotel where the engaged couple and a small group of friends are going for a holiday. The holiday by the sea quickly turns grim when the playboy fiancé is found dead and Gil is arrested for the murder. Amory sets out to find the real killer and prove her friend’s innocence. Matters become more complicated when Milo shows up on the scene, and Amory must sort out her own feelings for Milo and Gil, as well as solve the crime – before the murderer strikes again. I really enjoyed the characters, the setting, and the time period in this first book of a new mystery series. If you’ve enjoyed the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear, you’ll like the Amory Ames mysteries as well. Check our catalog.

Sue A., Reference

Villa America

Wednesday, October 7, 2015
Lisa Klaussmann
Villa America

Villa America, a work of historical fiction, is the story of Sara and Gerald Murphy, an expat American couple who were the real-life inspirations for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night. The Murphy’s built a house to escape to on the French Riviera called Villa America where they entertained their friends Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemmingway, John Dos Passos, Archibald MacLeish, Dorothy Parker as well as Pablo Picasso and Cole Porter, Gerald’s Yale roommate. These were the golden days of the 1920’s and life for this group of expats was filled with fabulous parties, champagne, and caviar. But underneath the glittering layers were people with real lives and real secrets whose idyllic world in Cap d’Antibes would ultimately end in tragedy and heartbreak. This is a great read, and I highly recommend it, particularly to anyone who enjoyed Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife.  

Check the catalog.

Sue A., Reference

The Bone Tree

Thursday, June 18, 2015
Greg Iles
The Bone Tree

In the second book of a trilogy, the action picks up precisely where it left off in Natchez Burning. Natchez mayor Penn Cage and his fiancée have narrowly escaped certain death after being attacked by the powerful business man Brody Royal and his associates from the Double Eagles, a KKK sect rumored to be responsible for several rapes and murders going back to the civil rights era. However, as Penn learns, Royal was not the true leader of the group, and the danger heading their way from Forrest Knox, the chief of the state police Criminal Investigation bureau is even more terrifying. While Penn is trying to find a way to clear his on-the-run father of a murder charge, journalist Caitlin uncovers information that could finally lead to the downfall of the Double Eagles – if she can only find the secret killing ground known as the Bone Tree.

I have to say, it took me a little longer to get into the Bone Tree than Natchez Burning, not really sure why. At 804 pages, it’s a hefty read, so it’s not a book to pick up if you’re pressed for time. In the end, I was glad that I stuck it out. Just when I thought I knew which way the plot would turn – it threw me a curve. Can’t wait to see what happens in the next one. Check the catalog.

Sue A., Reference

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

Thursday, April 23, 2015
Erik Larson
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

As World War I entered its tenth month, transatlantic shipping was becoming a dangerous business. The German submarine fleet was doing its best to disrupt British naval traffic as well as any boats thought to be concealing troops and munitions bound for the war effort. Up to this point, civilian passenger ships and those from neutral countries were generally considered off limits, but Germany was determined to change the rules of the game. On May 1, 1915 the luxury liner Lusitania sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool with a record number of women and children aboard. It was considered the fastest ship on the seas and it was generally thought that it would be able to outrun any U-boat attack.

In Dead Wake, Erik Larson brings to life the story of the forces that lead to the ultimate demise of the Lusitania. The cast of characters ranges from captains of both the Lusitania and the German U-boat, to some of the colorful passengers, to President Woodrow Wilson as he tries to maintain American neutrality but is eventually led to declare war.  This was a very intriguing read about a subject that I remember as being touched on only briefly in history class as a trigger to U.S. involvement in the war. I highly recommend it. Check the catalog.

Sue A., Reference

The Iris Fan: A Novel of Feudal Japan

Sunday, January 25, 2015
Laura Joh Rowland
The Iris Fan

The 18th and final Sano Ichiru novel takes place in the year 1709. Sano has been demoted from the position of chamberlain to that of lowly patrol detective. To the detriment of his marriage to Reiko and the relationship with his children, he is obsessed with finding the proof he needs to prove that his enemy, Lord Ienobu, is guilty of killing the shogun’s heir.

In a bizarre turn of events, someone creeps into the shogun’s sleeping chamber and stabs him with a painted silk fan with dagger-like iron ribs. The critically wounded shogun restores Sano to the position of chief investigator and he is duty-bound to find the perpetrator before the shogun dies and his true heir can be determined.  Sano finds himself in the midst of the most serious and dangerous investigation of his career. The safety of his own family is at risk, and his success or failure will have grave consequences for the future of Japan. As warring factions prepare for battle and time is running out, Sano must find the answers that will save both.

If you like historical novels and good mysteries, the Sano Ichiru series delivers on both counts. The sense of time and place is excellent, the mysteries are well-plotted, and the characters are engaging. I’m sad to see the series come to a close, but it ends on just the right note.

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Sue A., Reference

The Job (Fox and O'Hare #3)

Friday, December 5, 2014
Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg
The Job

Fox and O’Hare are at it again! When Special Agent Kate O’Hare finally captured charming con man Nick Fox she thought he’d be locked up for good. But her bosses at the FBI decided to turn the tables and team them up to bring down the world’s most notorious felons. In their third caper, they are on the trail of a dangerous drug lord who has completely changed his appearance through plastic surgery and assumed a new identity. When they finally track him down, they assemble their oddball crew of assistants to pull off the grand con that will reel him in.   I really enjoy this series – the action is combined with humor, and the chemistry and banter between Kate and Nick is great – but without the excessive wackiness that seems to plague the Stephanie Plum series lately. If you’ve grown tired of Steph and the gang, give this series a try – Evanovich and Goldberg make a good team! Check our catalog.

Sue A., Referemce

The Arsenal of Democracy: FDR, Detroit, and an epic quest to arm an America at war

Tuesday, August 12, 2014
A.J. Baime
The Arsenal of Democracy

In the tense build up to World War II, it becomes increasingly clear to President Franklin Roosevelt and his advisors that America’s ability to fight the type of military machine being built by Hitler’s Germany is seriously inadequate. For the solution he looks to Detroit, the auto industry and its leaders.

This story of Detroit’s effort to create FDR’s Arsenal of Democracy centers mainly on the Ford Motor Company and the shift from building cars to making good on its promise to produce 50,0000 airplanes. The entire process of building the Willow Run factory, learning to build airplanes on an assembly line, and training enough workers in such an urgently short amount of time was really quite  amazing.  But just as interesting to me, was the struggle between Edsel Ford and his aging father Henry Ford. Edsel was the driving force behind Ford Motor Company’s war effort – Henry was reluctant at best. Eventually Edsel would win his father over - but at great cost to their personal relationship and to Edsel’s own physical well-being.

Aside from being a well-documented account of the military build-up during World War II in general, this book is especially interesting for anyone born and raised in southeast Michigan as the people and places are all instantly familiar. My favorite non-fiction read of the year! Check the catalog.

Sue A., Reference

The Innocent Sleep

Saturday, April 19, 2014
Karen Perry
The Innocent Sleep

Artists Harry and Robin were drawn to the languorous, city of Tangiers where they both found inspiration for their work in the hazy, golden light. However, all illusions are shattered in one awful moment as an earthquake takes the life of their 3 year old son Dillon.

Five years later, Harry and Robin are living in their native Dublin, having returned in an attempt to put their lives back together. On a crowded street, during a political demonstration, Harry suddenly spots a young boy holding a woman’s hand. Certain it is his son Dillon, a stunned Harry attempts to catch up to them, but they manage to get into a car and drive away. Could Dillon possibly have survived the earthquake? Or is he a figment of Harry’s guilt-ridden imagination?

In alternating chapters, Harry and Robin reveal their own twisted versions of events, filled with deception and betrayal, and leading to tragedy all over again.

This book has often been compared to Gone Girl, and while it hasn't’t received quite that level of acclaim, it’s definitely a psychological thriller worth putting on your list. One of my favorite reads so far in 2014. Check the catalog.

Sue A., Reference

Let Him Go

Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Larry Watson
Let Him Go

“That’s what life is. Loss, fast or slow.”  It’s 1951 and winter is fast approaching in Dalton, North Dakota when Margaret Blackledge convinces her husband George to set out with her on an ill-fated trip to Montana. Margaret wants to rescue their only grandson who she feels is being mistreated by their former daughter-in-law and her new ne’er-do-well husband. The death of their son James in a freak riding accident had been a crushing blow, but now that Lorna has taken Jimmy away, Margaret is determined to find them and convince her to give the boy up and let them take him back home to Dalton. By all accounts, the Weboy clan that Lorna has married into is nothing but trouble and certainly not to be reckoned with lightly. But Margaret is determined and George, knowing that she will go with or without him, agrees reluctantly to accompany her. From the beginning it is obvious that things are not going to go well, and though the suspense builds slowly, the outcome is no less shocking.

Larry Watson’s writing is simple and yet richly detailed, as he sets the scene in both time and place. All of his characters are compelling in their own ways as they struggle with their personal inabilities to ‘let go’ and the resulting aftermath. Highly recommended. Check the catalog.

Sue A., Reference

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