man v natureMan V. Nature: Storiesby Diane Cook is a fascinating book of short stories – the kind that keep you thinking long after you finish reading. The stories present impossible situations — truly impossible situations that you can’t imagine happening in real life. In “The Not-Needed Forest, a 10 year old boy is told he is “not needed” and is sent off for incineration. Huh? What parents would allow this? Why is it only 10 year old boys who are deemed “not needed”? Why not girls or 12 year old boys? It’s a completely improbable situation, but he waits on the front lawn for the bus and off he goes – how could that possibly happen? The way the characters navigate these strange circumstances makes for really intriguing reading.

In “Moving On” my first thought was that this was an impossible situation that some people might really be drawn to. Our main character is a recent widow, and after a very brief period of mourning, she is sent off to a sort of boot camp for widows and widowers. (Her home and all the belongings she shared with her husband are sold and the proceeds become part of her dowry.) She gets counseling to help her get over the loss of her husband as quickly as possible. She is encouraged to get in shape, learn new hobbies, make new friends, all with an eye towards attracting a new spouse. Her spouse will choose her (and her dowry) from among a batch of profiles and she gets no choice in the matter.

In another favorite, “Somebody’s Baby,” a woman comes home from the hospital with her new baby to find a man lurking in the yard — a man who plans to steal the baby. This is a perfectly normal occurrence; some families lose two, even three babies before the man moves on to other families, but when the new mother suggests protecting their children and fighting back, she is ridiculed and shunned by her neighbors.

I find myself thinking about these stories, even as time passes. What would I do if clothes and trinkets began turning up in my washing machine? Why would a woman become fixated on a perfectly ordinary weatherman? What mother wouldn’t want to retrieve her stolen children? I think  that’s really the measure of a book like this — how long do the stories stay with you? How often do you find yourself thinking about them? What new insights have come, weeks down the road? If a book can keep me thinking and questioning, I will definitely be recommending it to my friends, and I will certainly be recommending this one.

My copy of Man V. Nature: Stories was an advanced reader copy, provided free of charge.

New on the Shelves…

digg del.icio.us TRACK TOP
By Lisa | Filed in New Books | One comment

What a great way to start the new year – more new books than I can read! But I will try and make time for them all. Today, it’s The Swimmer by Joakim Zander:

the swimmer

A deep-cover CIA agent races across Europe to save the daughter he never knew in this electrifying debut thriller—an international sensation billed as “Homeland meets Stieg Larsson” that heralds the arrival of a new master sure to follow in the footsteps of Stieg Larsson, John Le Carré, and Graham Greene.

In the end, you cannot hide who you are.

Klara Walldéen was raised by her grandparents on a remote archipelago in the Baltic Sea, learning to fish and hunt and sail a boat through a storm. Now, as an EU Parliament aide in Brussels, she is learning how to navigate the treacherous currents of international politics: the lines between friend and enemy, truth and lies.

But Klara has accidentally seen something she shouldn’t have: a laptop containing information so sensitive that someone will kill to keep hidden. Suddenly, she is thrown into a terrifying chase across Europe, with no idea who is hunting her or why.

Meanwhile, in Virginia, an old spy hides from his past. Once, he was a man of action, an operative so dedicated that he abandoned his infant daughter to keep his cover. Now, he is the only man who can save Klara . . . and she is the only woman who can allow him to lay old ghosts to rest.

Quotables

digg del.icio.us TRACK TOP
By Lisa | Filed in Quotables | No comments yet.

This is particularly true in this day and age, when you can take your books with you on a pad, on a CD, on your phone, etc.

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”

– Stephen King, one of the most prolific American horror writers of all time

Hot Guys with Books

digg del.icio.us TRACK TOP
By Lisa | Filed in Hot Guys with Books | No comments yet.

Or, in this case, with newspapers. For those of us shivering in the frozen wastelands, this looks impossibly warm:

 

newspaper

New on the Shelves…

digg del.icio.us TRACK TOP
By Lisa | Filed in New Books | One comment

This looks like a great historical mystery: The Body Snatchers Affair: A Carpenter and Quincannon Mystery by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini

 

snatchersThe Body Snatchers Affair: The latest in the Carpenter and Quincannon historical mystery series from Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini.

Two missing bodies and two separate investigations take Carpenter and Quincannon from the heights above San Francisco Bay to the depths of Chinatown’s opium dens. 

For John Quincannon, this is a first: searching a Chinatown opium den for his client’s husband, missing in the middle of a brewing tong war set to ignite over the stolen corpse of Bing Ah Kee.

Meanwhile, his partner, Sabina Carpenter, unsure of the dark secrets her suitor might be concealing, searches for the corpse of a millionaire, stolen from a sealed family crypt and currently being held for ransom. 

With the threat of a tong war hanging over the city (a war perhaps being spurred on by corrupt officials), Carpenter and Quincannon have no time to lose in solving their cases. Is there a connection between the two body snatchers? Or is simple greed the answer to this one?

And why is the enigmatic Englishman who calls himself Sherlock Holmes watching so carefully from the shadows?

New on the Shelves…

digg del.icio.us TRACK TOP
By Lisa | Filed in New Books | No comments yet.

Oh, I loved the last two Douglas Nicholas novels I read – you should check out my review of Something RedThe newest is Throne of Darkness:

thronePerfect for fans of Game of Thrones, this novel from acclaimed author Douglas Nicholas continues the gripping dark fantasy series that Kirkus Reviews describes as “a more profound Harry Potter for adults.”

It’s 1215 in northwest England—the eve of the signing of the Magna Carta—and mystical Irish queen Maeve and her unlikely band of warriors must protect the region from a chilling fate. Word of a threat reaches the Northern barons: King John has plotted to import an African sorcerer and his sinister clan of blacksmiths, whose unearthly powers may spell destruction for the entire kingdom. Along with her lover, Jack, her gifted niece, Nemain, and Nemain’s newlywed husband, Hob (whose hidden talents will soon be revealed), Maeve must overcome a supernatural threat unlike any she’s seen before.

With his characteristic blend of historical adventure and intoxicating mythological elements, Nicholas once again “goes for the throat…with brilliant writing and whip-smart plotting” (New York Timesbestselling author Jonathan Maberry). This is a richly woven tale that will leave you hungry for more.

New on the Shelves…

digg del.icio.us TRACK TOP
By Lisa | Filed in New Books | One comment

the deepI’m out of town this week and won’t have much access to the site, so I’ve got some new books for you! First, one I’m taking on the plane with me, The Deep by Nick Cutter:

A strange plague called the ’Gets is decimating humanity on a global scale. It causes people to forget—small things at first, like where they left their keys…then the not-so-small things like how to drive, or the letters of the alphabet. Then their bodies forget how to function involuntarily…and there is no cure. But now, far below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, deep in the Marianas Trench, an heretofore unknown substance hailed as “ambrosia” has been discovered—a universal healer, from initial reports. It may just be the key to a universal cure. In order to study this phenomenon, a special research lab, the Trieste, has been built eight miles under the sea’s surface. But now the station is incommunicado, and it’s up to a brave few to descend through the lightless fathoms in hopes of unraveling the mysteries lurking at those crushing depths…and perhaps to encounter an evil blacker than anything one could possibly imagine.

Part horror, part psychological nightmare, The Deep is a novel that fans of Stephen King and Clive Barker won’t want to miss—especially if you’re afraid of the dark.

 

 

Quotables

digg del.icio.us TRACK TOP
By Lisa | Filed in Quotables | No comments yet.

“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.”

– Mason Cooley

Welcome to 2015!

digg del.icio.us TRACK TOP
By Lisa | Filed in Commentary | One comment

Free-Happy-new-year-2015-3d-wallpaper

New on the Shelves…

digg del.icio.us TRACK TOP
By Lisa | Filed in New Books | No comments yet.

This looks to be an interesting series: The Magician’s Daughter: A Valentine Hill Mystery by Judith Janeway

magician

Magician Valentine Hill always introduces her act by announcing “Reality is an illusion. Illusion is reality, and nothing is what it seems.” When Valentine is reunited with her grifter mother, “nothing is what it seems” becomes true in real life. A wealthy socialite turns out to be a ruthless criminal, a car mechanic a psycho killer, and a cab driver a seductive gangster. When an FBI agent who’d befriended her is killed, Valentine takes on the hated role of a con artist to get evidence to put the criminals away. Will her skills as a magician prove enough to help her maintain the illusion?