Thursday, May 26, 2016

Lost at Sea

Lost at Sea: The story of the USS Indianapolis by David Boyle
CreateSpace: 5/6/16
eBook review copy; 126 pages
paperback ISBN-13: 9781533131546

Lost at Sea: The story of the USS Indianapolis by David Boyle is a very highly recommended concise account of what happened the the Indianapolis.

Many people were first introduced to the story of the USS Indianapolis by the movie Jaws when Quint talks about being on the Indianapolis: "So, eleven hundred men went in the water, three hundred and sixteen men come out, the sharks took the rest, June the 29th 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb." In reality it was July 30, 1945, when the Indianapolis went down. It is true that the feeding frenzy on the survivors of the Indianapolis may have been the biggest shark attack of its kind in modern history.

"What makes the story of this American warship so compelling is that it was important in so many ways: it was the flagship of the fighting admiral Raymond Spruance, in 1943-44, during the crucial battles to control the central Pacific; it delivered the key components of the first atomic bomb dropped in anger, in this case on Hiroshima; it was the greatest single loss of life at sea in an American naval disaster at war; it goes down in history as the biggest attack by sharks on human beings ever recorded; and it also became a huge scandal as naval authorities tried to cover-up what had gone wrong, and why the crew had been inadvertently left to die." 

Boyle does an excellent job presenting all the information in this precise, informative guide. It is easy to read and provides the basic information and background needed to understand what happened. Boyle chooses to follow two very different men to tell the history: Captain of the USS Indianapolis Charles McVay and the man who sank the ship, Mochitsura Hashimoto. There is a bibliography if you want to read more, but Boyle's account is a good place to start for those who want the basic information. 

Survivor Harlan Twible is quoted as saying: "We returned to our loved ones, but we were never the same again. Most were markedly changed. Young boys had become mature older men, aged beyond their years. All because of those days in the sea." It is important to remember history and honor those who have fought and suffered for our country.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Endeavor Press for review purposes.

A World Between

A World Between by Robert Herzog
Story Plant: 5/24/16
eBook review copy; 324 pages
ISBN-13: 9781611882179

A World Between by Robert Herzog is a novel for physicists and philosophers - or anyone else who enjoys physics, philosophy, fractal geometry, quantum physics, and politics.

A World Between has a great opening hook that will pull you in immediately: "Parts of the world were disappearing; for a while nobody noticed." But, as the sections of missing world increase, people start to notice and report what they are seeing. The reports are taken by, say the police, but are not taken seriously. Once the right people, at the U.N., notice, then experts are pulled in to quietly figure out why the voids are happening. Susan, a U.N. relief worker who recently returned to the USA after observing the phenomena in Africa, is enlisted to interview physicists who might be able to study the problem and find an answer.

This seems like it would be an exciting science fiction novel. It isn't. If you are expecting a thrill a minute, nail biting sci-fi novel with a complicated plot as parts of the world are disappearing - you will be disappointed. I was expecting this and was disappointed. Once I let go of my preconceived expectations, there is a very subtle beauty in the exploration of consciousness, quantum mechanics, politics, energy, wave energy, etc. etc. There is also an in-depth descriptions of every little detail on activities, memories, and thoughts.

There are parts of A World Between that will likely be appreciated more by those who share the same interests as Herzog in all the above. This is highly recommended for you. Those of us who were anticipating a bit more sci-fi action will just have to be disappointed.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Story Plant for review purposes.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Last Ride to Graceland

Last Ride to Graceland by Kim Wright
Gallery Books: 5/24/16
eBook review copy; 352 pages
ISBN-13: 9781501100789

Last Ride to Graceland by Kim Wright is a very highly recommended road-trip novel of self-discovery. I loved it.

Cory Ainsworth thought she was just going to get her father's hip waders out of the fishing cabin, but she just had to look in the shed, especially after she was repeatedly told not to. What she finds wrapped in bubblewrap is Elvis Presley’s Stutz Blackhawk. While it is shocking, it's not unbelievable since her mother spent a year as a back-up singer for Elvis just before he died. The big question on her mind now is this: is Elvis Presley her father? The inside of the car is a time capsule, with receipts and food bags, which must show where her mother was and where she stopped on her way home.

Cory knows someone besides her dad is her biological father. After all, she was a 9 pound premature baby, arriving seven months after her parents were married. They were married immediately after her mother came home from her year with Elvis. She decides that she is going to drive the Stutz Blackhawk back to Graceland along the back roads, retracing the route her mother took when she left, based on what was left in the car from 1977. Cory learns that her mother, Laura Berry Ainsworth, was known as Honey Bear when she was a backup singer. Her road trip uncovers part of the truth about her mother's past, her one rebellious year that she hid from Cory.

This delightful, smart, touching, and humorous southern novel alternates narrative voices between Cory in the present day and Honey (her mother, Laura) in the past. As Cory uncovers some of her mother's story, or what she thinks is the story, we hear from her mother, back when she was 18, what was really happening during that time. The different voices of the two women and the story they are telling is compelling and engrossing, with sharp contrasts and parallels between the two. Seriously, Cory is a great character.

If you are an Elvis fan this would be a great choice, but I'm not a fan and I enjoyed every minute of Last Ride to Graceland. It is an ultimate novel of self-discovery all wrapped up in encounters with great, fully realized characters and settings. The trip will keep you interested, especially as Cory narrates it. It's also a novel about mothers and daughters - and what they leave behind or try to hide about their past. 

The writing is exceptional and Wright held my rapt attention from beginning to end. This is the perfect summer read!

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Gallery Books for review purposes.

Monday, May 23, 2016

A Game for All the Family

A Game for All the Family by Sophie Hannah
HarperCollins: 5/24/16
eBook review copy; 464 pages
ISBN-13: 9780062388292

A Game for All the Family by Sophie Hannah is a complex family drama where insanity is a close companion.

Justine Merrison has left London for Devon, along with her opera singer husband, Alex, and their 14 year-old daughter, Ellen. Justine, a former TV producer plans to do nothing at Speedwell House, their new estate. Trouble starts when she receives a weird, oddly threatening phone call from some woman who apparently thinks Justine should know her. After a second phone call, it becomes clear that whoever is calling has a lot of information about Justine while she still doesn't have a clue about the identity of the caller.

At the same time her daughter Ellen is writing a murder mystery story for school about the Ingrey family, who, from the story, may have lived at Speedwell House in the past. Justine is concerned about the events in the story and her daughter's frame of mind to be writing about such things. When she talks to Ellen, Ellen is more distraught that her best friend, George Donbavand, has been expelled from school for no good reason. When Justine asks about George at the school, she is told that no such student ever existed.

All the bizarre events meander down a twisted, convoluted trail with several implausible leaps of intuition to eventually interconnect in the end. While Hannah does an excellent job making you wonder about the reliability of Justine as a narrator, she also expects you to follow and accept Justine's implausible connections and impetuous behavior as normal perceptive actions. Many of them aren't. Additionally, there is a whole lot going on that you need to keep straight, including alternate chapters with the story Ellen is writing about the Ingrey family.

I'm in a quandary about this novel. While I basically enjoyed it, it also felt way too long, complicated, and entangled to be credible. No matter how how relaxed the school is, no head mistress of a school would give out any information about a family in the school. Additionally, most people would contact the police as soon as they received the first threatening phone call, and they would have been taken seriously until they had cause to doubt their veracity. In most cases the authorities would be called if a family was behaving like the Donbavands. 

There were more problematic leaps of credibility for me. While I did enjoy the novel, I'm not sure the ending was worth it. For that reason it's only recommended.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of HarperCollins for review purposes.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Beyond the Ice Limit

Beyond the Ice Limit by Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child
Grand Central: 5/17/16
eBook review copy; 384 pages
ISBN-13: 9781455525867
Gideon Crew Series #4

Beyond the Ice Limit by Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child is a skillful, intelligent stand-alone thriller. While it is a new Gideon Crew novel and completes the story started in The Ice Limit, this is a realized narrative that concludes any unfinished plot points found in The Ice Limit for those who have read the earlier novel, but it is immensely entertaining for anyone who hasn't read the previous adventure.

Five years ago Eli Glinn, the head of Effective Engineering Solutions, led a mission to retrieve a 25,000 ton meteorite from the Isla DesolaciĆ³n, located at the very tip of South America by billionaire Palmer Lloyd. The mission was a disaster resulting in the loss of the meteorite, which sank two miles down to the ocean floor, along with the ship, the Rolvaag, and the death of 108 crew members. Now Glinn believes that the meteorite was, in fact, an alien seed from deep space, and the previous mission to retrieve it, in fact, planted it right where it wanted to be. Now it is growing into some strange alien plant. Glinn recruits Gideon to destroy it using a nuclear weapon because he believes that if it continues to grow, it will destroy the planet.

This is another addictive, electrifying adventure that will satisfy both fans of Preston and Child and science fiction devotees. There is plenty of riveting action, suspense, and imminent peril at every turn. There are also some surprises along the way that have me dying to share an alternate title/quip that I simply can't say because it will ruin part of the suspense. This is a page turner and I enjoyed every part of it.

Preston and Child excel at writing intelligent novels with great character development and exciting, complex plots. Beyond the Ice Limit is a wonderful addition to their repertoire. I actual have The Ice Limit, but haven't read it yet, but that didn't hamper my enjoyment and pleasure at reading this sequel because it really does stand alone. I still plan to read The Ice Limit.  Beyond the Ice Limit is very highly recommended and would be a great summer vacation read.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Grand Central Publishing for review purposes.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

In the Clearing

In the Clearing by Robert Dugoni
Thomas & Mercer: 5/17/16
eBook review copy; 355 pages
ISBN-13: 9781503953574
Tracy Crosswhite series #3

In the Clearing by Robert Dugoni is another winning third book featuring Seattle homicide detective Tracy Crosswhite.

Tracy is asked by Klickitat County Sheriff Jenny Almond to look at a cold case - a cold case from 1976, 40 years ago, that was handled by her late father, Sheriff Buzz Almond. At that time Buzz was a deputy and it was the first case he handled. He was never satisfied with the investigation and kept the file at his home. Tracy agrees to look over the case and see what she can find.

One night in 1976 high school senior Kimi Kanasket was working at the diner. She called her parents to let them know she was walking home, as she normally did, but this time Kimi didn't come home. Her parents called the sheriff's and Buzz responded. There was something about the case and the final ruling that never sat well with Buzz. Tracy calls in some experts to help her see what Buzz saw, or what may have been overlooked in 1976.

In the present, Tracy and the team at the Seattle PD are looking into the murder of Tim Collins. It looks like his estranged wife shot him, and she is saying she did, but all the clues may not be adding up to her story. Things become more questionable when her son comes into the station and claims he shot his father. Tracy is involved with this case but leaves much of the work to the boys as she takes some time to look at the case of Kimi Kanasket.

Dugoni is an engaging writer who skillfully manages the plot development while keeping interest in both investigations. Tracy's character is well developed (after reading the previous two novels) in this police procedural. My Sister's Grave and Her Final Breath are the previous two books in the series. I enjoyed both of them immensely. But, that said, don't let the fact that this is the third book featuring Tracy Crosswhite stop you from reading In the Clearing. This can hold up as a stand-alone novel, although I would predict that you will want to read the first two, especially if you appreciate a strong female main character.

I will admit that the final verdict in both of the cases was not entirely surprising this time around. Also, since Tracy is more focused on the cold case from 1976, that case also seems to be the more interesting of the two cases. This is highly recommended.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Thomas & Mercer for review purposes.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Don't You Cry

Don't You Cry by Mary Kubica
Mira: 5/17/16
eBook review copy; 320 pages
ISBN-13: 9780778319054

Don't You Cry by Mary Kubica is a highly recommended psychological mystery.

In the opening Quinn wakes up to her roommate Esther's alarm in the apartment they share in Chicago. The problem is Esther is gone. Apparently she left via the fire escape and left her window open. Quinn becomes increasingly alarmed about Esther's disappearance and begins to wonder if something sinister was planned as she discovers more and more clues and makes many assumptions based on those clues.

Alternating chapter feature 18 year-old Alex. All his friends have left for college, but Alex is still working at the diner and taking care of his alcoholic father. He is intrigued by a mysterious new girl who has started coming to the diner. He nicknames her "Pearl" because she is wearing a pearl bracelet. Alex continues to watch, and sometimes follow Pearl.

Kubica continues to alternate between the two narratives with each chapter until things merge at the end. This tale is more psychological mystery and treatise on making assumptions rather than a fast-paced thriller, per se. It is not full of nail-biting suspense, but it is still compelling. Part of the appeal is Kubica's talent. The writing is excellent, descriptive and believable. She does an admirable job establishing the atmosphere, handling the two narrative threads in the plot, and developing her very different characters. It just seems to be taking the action along at a little slower pace.

In the end I enjoyed Don't You Cry quite a bit. It's a decent mystery and enjoyable entertainment. Fans will like it and it should be well received by readers new to Kubica. (Try The Good Girl too.)

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Mira for review purposes.