Saturday, August 10, 2019

Beachcombers by Nancy Thayer

BeachcombersBeachcombers by Nancy Thayer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Beachcombers is a fun book to read while sitting by the pool or on the beach.

It is set on Nantucket Island and is the story of three sisters and a woman who is renting a small cottage on their property. All of these women are starting relationships with men they believe have the potential to make them happy. There are some other aspects to the women's lives, separate from their need to have the right life partner, but I do wish there were more. Lily, the youngest sister, is a bit immature and selfish, but seems to do the best job of setting personal priorities. Emily, the middle sister, makes some choices that are not well thought through. Abbie, the oldest sister, with a history of sacrificing for her siblings, struggles to treat herself better. Meanwhile, Marina, the woman renting their cottage, is finding her way to deal with betrayals she's experienced with the help of Jim, the father of the three sisters. The plot seems like a soap-opera, but in an interesting way. I like the writing and enjoy most books set in resort areas.

I recommend this book for people who like light romances.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul, White Horse Regressions, Hopatcong Vision Quest, Under a Warped Cross, and Living in a Star's Light

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Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Hopscotch by Steve Cushman

HopscotchHopscotch by Steve Cushman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hopscotch is a novel about people whose lives are centered around a hospital in a small city. These people include patients as well as their families and friends and also nurses, doctors, maintenance workers, management executives, and even a local news reporter, among others.

Hospitals are place that impact the lives of almost everyone and generally the impact ranges from unpleasant to tragic. At this hospital, however, something different occurs when someone draws a chalk hopscotch board on the sidewalk outside the entrance. This simple, childhood game causes people to respond in unusual and beautiful ways. People who wouldn't normally speak to each other, reach out. Others, who are suffering with difficult injuries or diseases, find moments to smile.

Hopscotch isn't a tearjerker or a story of unrealistic miracles. Instead it is a story of people finding peace and hope in something small. Reading Cushman's novel is an uplifting experience, one I can recommend wholeheartedly.

Steve Lindahl author of Motherless Soul, White Horse Regressions, Hopatcong Vision Quest, Under a Warped Cross, and Living in a Star's Light

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Thursday, July 11, 2019

One Good Dog by Susan Wilson

One Good DogOne Good Dog by Susan  Wilson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the novel One Good Dog, a man and a dog lift each other out of their desperate situations. Things were pretty bad for both of them.

The dog, Chance, is a pitbull, raised to fight. He's a champion, excellent at killing his opponents. He spent most of his younger days in training or locked in a cage in a dark basement.

The man, Adam, lost his mother then was put in foster care by his father. Now, as an adult, he has made his way up the corporate ladder by acting ruthless and cruel. He works for a cosmetic company where he defends experiments conducted on animals. He makes no friends at work and is only interested in wealth and status. One day his self centered attitude and memories of a tragedy from his past come together to push him toward a violent reaction. The result for Adam is serious legal problems and the loss of everything he values. This is where the book really gets going. Both Chance and Adam have hit bottom and need help.

All books where dogs are personified require some suspension of disbelief, but this one requires more than most. The readers have to accept that Chance thinks like a human. That's to be expected. In this novel, however, both Chance and Adam have to overcome their violent pasts. That is rare for both dogs and humans. But this is their story and I was pulling for them both.

I recommend this book for anyone who likes stories of redemption.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul, White Horse Regressions, Hopatcong Vision Quest, and Under a Warped Cross

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Saturday, July 6, 2019

Heartsick by Chelsea Cain

Heartsick (Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell, #1)Heartsick by Chelsea Cain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Heartsick is the first book in Chelsea Cain's Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell series. Archie is a Portland Oregon detective and Gretchen is the serial killer from his first case. Gretchen captured Archie and tortured him for ten days before turning herself in and turning him over to the authorities when he was near death.

I was expecting the woman who had tortured Archie to help with his current case, but she did very little of that. She was more of an addiction, like the pills were, the ones she offered him after she inflicted pain. Their relationship was a type of Stockholm Syndrome, like Patty Hearst, only worse, since she was kidnapped and possibly raped, but not brutalized the way Archie was.

So this novel had two stories going on, Archie dealing (or not dealing) with his issues and the current case he was trying to solve. This new mystery involved the murders of a series of high school girls. The two plots were connected in a few ways, mostly through a young reporter, Susan Ward, who was writing about Archie's issues while following his new case.

I liked the way Heartsick grabbed me and kept me reading. There were a few too many coincidences for me to give it five stars, but it's a good read for thriller fans who don't mind graphic violence.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul, White Horse Regressions, Hopatcong Vision Quest, and Under a Warped Cross

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Monday, June 17, 2019

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

The Wind-Up Bird ChronicleThe Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The first pages of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle are filled with quotes from critics: “Mesmerizing,” “Compelling,” “Bold and generous,” the list goes on and on like posters at the box office of a Broadway play. I'm not sure I would have finished this novel if I hadn't known the level of critical acclaim it has received. Haruki Murakami breaks so many rules, it feels as if halfway through a football game the team owners decided to drop all controls and allow the players to have a street brawl. Yet once I made the effort it takes to read this novel, I found the accolades were justified. It's not a book to get lost in. It's a book to learn from, to appreciate for its unique qualities and for the way these qualities might influence other writers.

This is the story of Toru Okada, a young Japanese husband who loses both his cat and his wife. He seems to have a similar response to both those losses, going out in search of the cat while also maintaining a concern for his missing wife. This is the first taste of an aspect of this story that is unusual. People care about each other, but not with a great deal of emotion. Throughout the novel we pull for Okada to find his wife and reconcile with her, but it is more about reestablishing order than it is about love. A Newsday critic said this book presents “A vision no American novelist could have invented...” As a reader, I also have a very American perspective, which may be why I find this a bit strange.

Okada's wife, Kumiko, has a brother, Noburu Wataya, who is a prominent politician and someone involved with Kumiko's disappearance. He is an excellent speaker and very popular, but also quite corrupt. He is Toru's nemesis throughout the story. Noburu Wataya is also the name of the cat, which is an attempt at irony on the part of Kumiko and Toru.

Another interesting character is May Kasahara, a young, school age girl, whom Toru meets while searching for his cat. She calls him “Mr. Wind-Up Bird,” because she has trouble remembering his real name. The name comes from a story he tells her about a bird whose call sounds like the winding of a giant spring. May tells Toru things like, “You might think you made a new world or a new self, but your old self is always gonna be there, just below the surface and if something happens, it'll stick its head out and say. 'Hi.'” May is a foil for Toru's odd thoughts.

Two other important characters are the sisters, Malta and Creta Kano. Malta is the first of the two to contact Okada, who has been told in a phone conversation with Kumiko that he needs to speak with her. They meet and have a very odd conversation where he learns about Creta. Later he has an erotic dream with Creta in it and when he meets her she knows of the dream and says, “I am a prostitute. I used to be a prostitute of the flesh, but now I am a prostitute of the mind. Things pass through me.” The book is filled with strange, seemingly disconnected events and people, who come together in odd ways.

In the latter part of the novel, the story branches off to tell about the Japanese control over Manchuria beginning in 1931 and the joint Mongolian-Soviet resistance. These are some of the most violent, but authentic parts of the book. These sections lack the dreamlike qualities of the rest of the novel, but they include people and incidents that are interconnected with the rest of the story.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul, White Horse Regressions, Hopatcong Vision Quest, and Under a Warped Cross.

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Saturday, June 8, 2019

The Huntress by Kate Quinn

The HuntressThe Huntress by Kate Quinn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Huntress is an interesting, but flawed novel. It is the story of a band of Nazi hunters who get caught up in chasing a woman who is also a war criminal. She is important to them for personal reasons as well as the normal reason of seeking justice that has motivated all their past searches. The novel switches back and forth between the perspective of this group and the point of view of Jordan, a young American woman whose mother died when she was seven. Jordan's father has chosen an Austrian woman to be his second wife, but Jordan has mixed feelings about her stepmother to be.

The story of the Nazi hunters starts out powerfully with a description of the crimes committed by the woman they are chasing, while Jordan's story takes a little while longer to get going. Although the book could have been tightened more in editing, once the American scenes get going it reads well.

One of the Nazi hunters is a Russian woman from the shores of Lake Baikal in Siberia. She's a tough individual who has led a rough life with an alcoholic and abusive father. Her story is fascinating and fun to read. She makes a nice balance with Jordan, who is leading a typical life in post World War II America, but also has an inner strength motivated by her dream to be a professional photographer. These two characters make the book special.

The main problem I had with the novel was its ending. I won't spoil the book by telling specifics, but I will say there were some scenes I found unrealistic.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul, White Horse Regressions, Hopatcong Vision Quest, and Under a Warped Cross.

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Monday, June 3, 2019

The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott

The Ninth HourThe Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Ninth Hour, the title of Alice McDermott's novel, refers to 3:00 PM. During biblical times 6:00 AM was considered the beginning of the day, therefore 3:00 PM was nine hours into the day. This is the time when Jesus died as stated in Matthew 27. In the novel it is a time of prayer for the nuns and a time of indiscretion for one of the main characters. The depth behind the choice of this title is a good example of McDermott's careful writing style. This is what I like the most about her books, her attention to detail.

The novel is a portrait of Irish Catholic immigrant lives during the early twentieth century, especially the lives of the nuns. In this case, the order of nuns we see (The Little Nursing Sisters of the Sick Poor) are running a home for people in need, as well as going into other homes to care for the sick. The picture we get of these nuns shows both their heroic nature and their human flaws. They lead lives filled with changing diapers, replacing wound dressings, and dealing with depressed people who have been cheated by life. I can't say it is a pleasant read, but it is an excellent chance to get into the hearts and minds of people worth remembering.

Here is a quote that captures the feel of this well written novel:

“Sister St. Saviour did, of course. But the woman, childless, stubborn, coming to the close of her life, had a mad heart. Mad for mercy, perhaps, mad for her own authority in all things—a trait Annie had come to love and admire—but mad nonetheless. Riding home from the cemetery, Sister St. Saviour had said, “It would be a different Church if I were running it.”

Steve Lindahl author of Motherless Soul, White Horse Regressions, Hopatcong Vision Quest, and Under a Warped Cross.

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