It's a book that I'd wanted to read for some time. The young sales agent of a fictional publishing house visits A.J. Fikry's bookstore, a small accounIt's a book that I'd wanted to read for some time. The young sales agent of a fictional publishing house visits A.J. Fikry's bookstore, a small account on an island in New England. The first meeting doesn't go well. Fikry's gruff and rude, upset at the news that the previous sales agent had died. Amelia's warm recommendation of a memoir written by an elderly widower is pushed aside. Though Fikry later regrets his rudeness, it takes some time before he warms to the young Amelia and before he revisits the book. Fikry noticed that she was both attractive and not particularly stylish - think 90s style - and regrets his rudeness.
Fikry's small bookshop barely breaks even but he does have a valuable and rare Edgar Allen Poe first edition which is stolen. Fikry stops locking his store door after the rare edition disappears. One day soon after he finds an infant left in his care. The mother leaves a note explaining her decision and asking him to care for young Mia.
Against all odds, Fikry finds that caring for Mia suits him. The love and close friendship between Fikry and Mia is made the book stand out for me. Mia grows up in the bookstore, loving books, developing her way of analyzing them even before she can read. Mia lives and breathes books, not surprisingly she starts writing as well. Mia's presence proves a gift in more ways than one. Fikry becomes less isolated - the neighbors come into his shop to see Mia and they often chat and leave with a book or two. Slowly, Fikry and Mia work their magic and build a community around the bookshop. I found myself wishing I could drop by their bookshop and, failing that, wanting to become a regular at my neighborhood bookstore.
Overall, The Storied Life of A.J.Fikry is a tribute to books and reading, a story of love and hope and friendship. I read the entire book while at the Outdoor Reading Room and the experience reminded me of the many things that I love about NYC. ...more
I'd discovered Linda Fairstein's Alexandra Cooper series during BEA 2014 with her thriller Terminal City which was set at Grand Central Station. I sooI'd discovered Linda Fairstein's Alexandra Cooper series during BEA 2014 with her thriller Terminal City which was set at Grand Central Station. I soon read as many of her earlier novels as I could get my hands on.
Alexandra Cooper is a Deputy District Attorney of New York who specializes in sex crimes or what appears on television as SVU. Cooper and Homicide Detective Mike Chapman have a long standing professional relationship. They bicker, they support each other, they face down politicians, dangerous criminals and terrifying situations together.
In Devil's Bridge, Coop and Chapman are getting used to their new romance. Excited to be with each other, unwilling to impose rules or demands, there's a lot that is new to these old friends. So, when after an awful day at work, Mike doesn't hear from Coop, he gives her some space. It takes some time before he realizes that she might be in danger.
This time Fairstein tells the story from Mike Chapman's point of view as he desperately tries to piece together what happened the night that Coop disappears. His investigation takes him back to the early years of Hell's Kitchen as well as to the murky waters of City Hall. We learn more about Alex Cooper through Mike Chapman's eyes and about Mike's past, it's easier to understand why Coop keeps him a priority in her life.
Some of Fairstein's characters are remind us of the famous, political and notorious in present day New York City. We encounter references to the mayor's wife's chief of staff whose anti-police stance and relationship with a convicted murderer interferes with a murder investigation, to a corrupt reverend that squeezes himself into volatile situations to push his political agenda, and to a self--aggrandizing politician whose policies have caused friction with the NYPD and may have resulted in the increase in crime in NYC. Fairstein's jabs at this fictional mayor resonate with readers disappointed in the current NYC mayor and those looking forward to a change of administration.
Devil's Bridge kept me riveted throughout two long flights and the cab ride back to Brooklyn. I'm looking forward to the next in the Alexandra Cooper series. ...more
We may be likened to two scorpions in a bottle, each capable of killing the other, but only at the risk of his own life. -J. Robert Oppenheimer, the S We may be likened to two scorpions in a bottle, each capable of killing the other, but only at the risk of his own life. -J. Robert Oppenheimer, the Scientific Director of the Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bomb The quote above marks the beginning of The Scorpion Rules and is the inspiration for its title.
The idea of holding children hostage to their parents' good behavior in order to prevent war or revolution is not new -- Erin Bow has created a world where the different nations have grown accustomed to the idea that a princess or prince can be sacrificed. The Children of Peace are raised and educated together in the Preceptures where they learn to farm and live off of what they're able to produce from the land. The old national, political and geographic boundaries have been replaced with new ones, even the Earth's surface has changed dramatically. We decipher the changes from the hostages that we encounter:
Gregori Kalvelis ("Grego"), son of the one of the grand dukes of the Baltic Alliance; Greta Gustafsen Stuart, Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan Polar Confederacy, a 7th generation hostage and future ruler of a superpower; Li Da-Xia, Daughter of the Heavenly Throne, the Beloved of the Mountains, the Pure Soul of Snow, a goddess in the Mountain Glacial States and most of Central Asia; Thandi, heir to one of the great thrones of Africa; Sidney, son of the governor of Mississippi Delta Confederacy; and the more mysterious Children of the Peace Han and Atta.
The world is fascinated by these princes and princesses, but it's only those who are familiar with the Preceptures who know how the children are taught to work together, work hard and to sacrifice. Their teachers are carefully selected to be neutral and free from biases or corruption - they're different forms of Artificial Intelligence. The Abbot who is in charge of the Precepture and the Children's eduction had been human once and more than the others he is able to sympathize and give the children balance in their lives. They follow the Utterances, which is a book of quotations from the AI which has been assembled like a holy text; as a Child of Peace, it's critically important to know the Utterances.
While the Children form close friendships and alliances, they never forget the reason for their being held at the Precepture. Certainly, the many robots that listen and punish for dangerous behavior and talk are quick to remind them of their lack of power and of their obligations as Children of Peace.
Greta and her cohorts take instruction well and they prove strong despite the pressures that they face. It's Greta's stoicism (and her fondness for Marcus Aurelius) that stand out. She's willing to accept that the growing political disputes for water make her country a likely target and put her life at risk, but she responds with calm and by keeping the Precepture running efficiently. Though she's not one of the more vocal Children, she's the center of the group. Her friendship with Li Da-Xia is more than a bond of princesses who have shared the same space for years, they have their own shortcuts to remind themselves and each other of the roles that they must play and their friendship gives you hope that with leaders who see each other like sisters there can be little chance of war. "A hostage, yes. But a princess, a duchess. The daughter of a queen." The ties that the children can make one hope that in this fictional future war will be displaced, but The Scorpion Rules isn't so idealistic that one forgets that war comes from conflicting interests which can override the strength of diplomacy and friendship. Overall, an imaginative and deeply satisfying read. ...more
I read The Shattered Court and loved it so much that I searched for M.J. Scott's other books.
M.J. Scott has created a world where the throne is passeI read The Shattered Court and loved it so much that I searched for M.J. Scott's other books.
M.J. Scott has created a world where the throne is passed on to women in the royal line whose magic is strong enough to keep the country bountiful and healthy. The country's tradition and religion has established rites such that women of royal blood who manifest magical powers are directed to marry and undergo a religious rite that binds their magical power to their spouses. The country's court and culture is much like that of Elizabethan England with its strict mores and social structure. Our heroine is a lady-in-waiting with a distant tie to the throne but with magical powers that will prove near legendary.
The emergence of magical powers comes at on one's 21st birthday. Lady Sophia Kendall was far from the throne, only 32nd in line. But an attack on the Court forces her to hide with Lt. Cameron Mackenzie and she comes of into her powers unexpectedly and without the traditional rites or protections. Not only does Lady Sophia prove to be exceptional in her abilities and the strength of her magic, she is linked to Cameron and unable to be bound to another.
Sophia is seen as a uncertain power and a potential threat to the status quo. While the Queen holds affection for her royal cousin, powers behind the throne prefer to remove Sophia's powers and the threat that she poses. The Queen and her court are reminiscent of Queen Elizabeth of England - powerful, jealous, and a critically important ruler for the small nation trying to rule as best she can.
The young Sophia seeks to serve her Queen and her family but is largely unprepared for the maneuvering and ruthlessness that come with ruling a nation state. She must learn to balance her principles with political reality and must do so as she fights for her life.
I found Sophia a winning protagonist - loyal with a deep sense of honor but thrust into an impossible situation. She tries to remain loyal to her Queen but is uncomfortably aware that while she has the Queen's affection, she is not certain of her trust. As Sophia struggles to prove her loyalty to Queen and state, she must learn to face deadly threats and keep her head. The love story between Sophia and Cameron adds another layer of uncertainty and fun to a wonderful, engrossing read. I can't wait to read what happens next!...more
I confess that one reason why I requested and particularly enjoyed the F train is my own familiarity with the book's setting. Not only do I usually taI confess that one reason why I requested and particularly enjoyed the F train is my own familiarity with the book's setting. Not only do I usually take the F train to get to Manhattan but I pass Farrell's and use the 15th Street/Prospect Park stop.
The novel begins with a horrible crime on the F train and it's a retired FBI agent that keeps the loss of life from spreading. As NYPD detective Flo Ott learns more about the victims, digs beyond the apparent relationships to find a web of relationships. Possible extramarital affairs, Chinese gangs, Eastern European mafia, corrupt cops, and terrorists - Ott's investigation takes her to New York's diverse neighborhoods and it's uncertain whether she'll survive long enough to expose the perpetrators of the crime.
I enjoyed F Train and Weber's characterization of the neighborhoods of NY. Not surprisingly, much of the action occurs outside of Manhattan, giving the reader a glimpse into the gentrifying streets of Brooklyn. NYPD Homicide Detective Florence Ott (Flo Ott) is a sympathetic and gifted detective. So, if you're looking for a very NY mystery, pick up the F Train. ...more
Headstrong introduces us to 52 women scientists from a range of fields expertise, nationalities, backgrounds, and periods in history. While the profilHeadstrong introduces us to 52 women scientists from a range of fields expertise, nationalities, backgrounds, and periods in history. While the profiles are limited to a few pages, the entries give us a strong sense of what obstacles they faced, their professional and personal successes, and the role that they've played in moving science forward.
I wasn't sure what to expect because the write-ups are brief, but Rachel Swaby does the women justice. The book is just a starting point, it encourages us to learn more about these outstanding, persistent, gifted women, about science, and about pushing forward. ...more
Memory Man by David Baldacci ISBN-10: 1455559822 - Hardcover $28 Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; First Edition / First Printing edition (April 21,Memory Man by David Baldacci ISBN-10: 1455559822 - Hardcover $28 Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; First Edition / First Printing edition (April 21, 2015), 416 pages. Series: Amos Decker series Review copy courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley.
Review posted on my blog Starting Fresh
While I've enjoyed David Baldacci's thrillers, this first novel in the Amos Decker series is my favorite. It's partly because we're introduced to a former detective that's been damaged by the world. The alcoholic, haunted detective is a familiar character, but in Amos Decker we have a man whose dreams of playing professional sports was battered out of him. He dies twice on the field and the blunt force trauma has affected his brain. It's left him able to recall everything that he comes across, the information is available for him to access should he realize where to look. The tradeoff is that he's lost much of his brain's emotional skills, such as the ability to empathize, pick up social cues, and put up with bullshit.
Amos Decker picked himself up from the loss of his old self and life and worked to become a police officer and detective. He proved to be exceptional as a detective until the night that his wife and daughter were brutally murdered. This was the tragedy that he couldn't recover from. His particular abilities left him with the inability to escape the horrors of their deaths - the brutal details would not fade from his mind. His grief and loss led him to lose everything - his home, his old job, his life. He slowly moves back to self-sufficiency just as there's a break in the investigation in his family's murders.
As Amos Decker maneuvers a way to meet the possible killer, there is a burst of crime in his small town. He's invited to help the police - and though he's lost much, he discovers that his abilities can be called back. Soon, he dives into the investigation, spotting clues and coincidences that others do not. His skills and his pain make him an exceptional detective and Memory Man a gripping read....more
I'd known about the writing team of Preston & Child years before I'd read their series with FBI agent Aloysius Pendergast. But you don't have to hI'd known about the writing team of Preston & Child years before I'd read their series with FBI agent Aloysius Pendergast. But you don't have to have read the earlier books to dive into White Fire. The book opens in London 1889 with a young Dr Arthur Conan Doyle joining Oscar Wilde and wealthy US publisher Joe Stoddart for dinner at the Langham Hotel. Wilde and Conan Doyle don't just begin a friendship; Wilde relates a true story that he heard in the US, this story leaves Conan Doyle deeply disturbed.
Years later, Conan Doyle's diary entry for that night directs Corrie Swanson, a young student of criminal studies, to a topic for her junior thesis and brings her to the former mining town turned playground of the rich Roaring Fork to examine the remains of 6 miners who had reportedly been attacked and eaten by a grizzly bear.
Corrie's research leads her to other mysteries and possible foul play during the early years of Roaring Fork. As she delves further into the past, she catches the attention of powerful leaders in Roaring Fork. Roaring Fork also faces a deadly arsonist who has begun to target prominent families and destroy homes in the town.
FBI agent Pendergast joins Corrie in Roaring Fork to help extricate her from town politics and the growing danger.
Arthur Conan Doyle, a long lost Sherlock Holmes story, and the unusual history of Roaring Fork combine to give White Fire an unusual and gripping story. As a new reader of the Pendergast series, I'm hooked....more
It's a parallel universe during the Victorian Era, the time of the Industrial Revolution, with Steampunk animals that combine aspects and physical chaIt's a parallel universe during the Victorian Era, the time of the Industrial Revolution, with Steampunk animals that combine aspects and physical characteristics of machines. The Wildenstern family has its hand in many businesses but captures, tames, trains and harnesses the powers of these dangerous creatures. The Wildensterns have amassed one of the largest fortunes in the world. But beyond their reputation for almost limitless wealth and good fortune, the Wildensterns have a reputation for exceptional physical strength and endurance - the power to survive that which would kill ordinary men. The family is known for its ability to survive mortal attacks and dangerous situations. Like some of the other powerful and wealthy clans, they are gifted with the ability to heal faster and better by physical contact with gold. Unlike most other powerful families, the males in their line are allowed to murder or assassinate family members if it brings them closer to the line of succession. Oisin McGann has created a fascinating world with clear complex rules of behavior, hierarchy and class. There's family drama, a dashing young male lead, spirited young women eager to find their place in the world, vast wealth and power, treacherous and jealous relations - a wonderful, gripping read with much humor. I'm looking forward to the next books in the series. ...more
Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures begins with Career Day and an incident with unicorns. It turns out that Pip is the one person who can communPip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures begins with Career Day and an incident with unicorns. It turns out that Pip is the one person who can communicate with magical creatures. After the unicorn incident, nine-year old Pip is sent to assist her veterinarian aunt in her practice of magical creatures and her unique ability results in all sorts of complications and misadventures.
We follow Pip as she makes friends with an allergy prone boy her age and charms all sorts of magical creatures. While there Pip doesn't go on a quest or big adventure, she brings fun to an otherwise quiet suburban town. Fun read!...more
Dark Triumph continues the series begun with Grave Mercy and introduces us to a new assassin, Sybella. Sybella comes from an aristocratic family but heDark Triumph continues the series begun with Grave Mercy and introduces us to a new assassin, Sybella. Sybella comes from an aristocratic family but her father is dangerous, unstable, and one of the most powerful men in the Kingdom. He's also just as likely to harm her as to help her.
The convent has given her the skills to work against him and his men, but it has also required her to return to the lion's den, supposedly to serve the god of Death. She's given little assistance as she takes on one of the most dangerous assignments possible. She digs deep into herself and must find a way to make alliances, perhaps draw strength and help from her old friends in the convent. Her goal is to save the innocent, even if she sacrifices herself in the process.
Fortunately, Sybella remembers her own strength and doesn't sacrifice herself unnecessarily. Her wit and strength make her one of the more likeable heroines in a long time - and I'm looking forward to finding her in subsequent books by Robin LaFevers....more
Nightbird starts off as the story of Teresa, nicknamed Twig, who believes herself to be as inconsequential and forgettable as a twig. She's got a liveNightbird starts off as the story of Teresa, nicknamed Twig, who believes herself to be as inconsequential and forgettable as a twig. She's got a lively imagination, a big heart, and pluck. But she's been told to keep her light hidden, not to make friends, to stay apart from the other children. Her mother doesn't let her socialise and doesn't allow any of the neighbours to visit. It's largely because of a curse that was put on their family hundreds of years ago by the Sidwell witch. This curse and avoiding further damage has ruled the lives of Twig and her family members.
When a young family moves in next door, Twig finally finds a friend of her own. It changes everything for her but she's terrified of disappointing her mother and impact of the curse. She tries to avoid her new friend and it's heartbreaking to read her loneliness - the new friendship brings so much to the story.
There's strange graffiti, a possible curse and witch, a possible monster all mixed in with the young folks in a small town in the Berkshires. Friendship, finding one's way, and growing into one's self are all key themes in this delightful book. ...more