Friday, April 25, 2014

Star Crossed Lovers, Mystery, Suspense, and Time Travel: Who Could Ask for Anything More? The Here and Now by Anna Brashares

The Here and Now

Twelve-year-old Prenna is an immigrant to New York.  She doesn't come from a foreign land, but rather from a foreign time - the future.  Her life is very restricted.  She is only supposed to interact with other travellers, those who travelled with her to the past.  She is not supposed to call attention to herself, and she is certainly not supposed to fall in love with someone from outside the community, but that is what happens.  Her love of Ethan could threaten her community, whose secret must remain hidden, but it could also threaten Ethan since she may have carried some of the ghastly viruses from the future back with her.

The Here and Now paints an abysmal picture of the future of a world where climate change goes unchecked, crops fail, and deadly plagues sweep the world.  Prenna may have the opportunity to change the future, but at what cost?

This is a page-turner.  Although written for young adults, I believe older readers will also love this book.  the novel is a nice combination of mystery, suspense, science fiction, and romance.  It should appeal to fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Thrill Ride: The Boy Who Stole from the Dead by Orest Stelmach

This is the sequel to The Boy from Reactor 4.  When I happened across that novel, last year, I was amazed that I had read no rave reviews.  It is a riveting story of mystery and suspense that would appeal to fans of The Da Vinci Code and other thrillers.  So, imagine my excitement when I saw that the sequel was available.  

In this book, Adama, now known as Bobby Kungenook is accused of murdering English businessman Jonathan Valentine.  Bobby walks directly from the scene of the stabbing to the police station and confesses to the murder. His guardian, Nadia Tesla, is convinced that Bobby is innocent.  Bobby refuses to discuss the murder with her or to defend himself in any way, so she is left to discover the truth behind the incident on her own.  She hires her friend, attorney Johnny Tanner, to not only defend Bobby but to try to get the truth out of him.  Johnny knows the truth about Bobby's past and suspects, as Nadia does, that his current troubles are related to his past in Chernobyl.

A tenacious sports reporter who travels to Alaska to try to find out the history of the mysterious high school hockey star, Bobby Kungenook, complicates matters even further.  Her actions involve persons that Nadia and Bobby had both hoped to never see again. Nadia's brother insistence on tagging along as she digs for the truth also makes things more difficult things for her.  

Nadia's investigation takes her to London and then back to Ukraine. Her searching takes to luxury hotels, a complex of underground caves, and ultimately, back to Chernobyl.  Along the way she solves some mysteries and discovers some new ones.  She also meets an enigmatic millionaire who may just be the man of her dreams.  The resolution of this mystery is satisfying and is not something the reader is likely to guess.

As a bonus, this book gives a great deal of detail about the social and political relationship between Russia and the Ukraine.  This information lends clarity to the events going on there now.

I would highly recommend this book, and I can barely wait for the next installment of the adventures of Nadia Tesla. 
The Travel Writer by Jeff Solloway

The Travel Writer

This work is a bit hard to review.  When I started it, I thought, "Wow!  This is going to be hysterical!"  That tone, however, only lasted for a few chapters.  The mystery itself is a good one, although the solution becomes evident to the reader long before it does to the characters.  The description of settings is beautifully done, and the characters are realistic and engaging.

It's the tone of this book that keeps it from being a hit.  Vascillating from humorous to suspenseful to melancholy to hard-boiled, it wears the reader out.  It's a shame that Solloway could not keep up the cheerful banter and the Malter Mittyish narration of the first few chapters.  This would have been a much better novel if he had.
Killer: An Alex Delaware Novel by Jonathan Kellerman

Back in the day, when Joantahan Kellerman and I were both much younger, I was an Alex Delaware addict.  I read every book Kellerman published as soon as it came out.  Something happened along the way, maybe my doctoral program, and I stopped reading Alex Delaware books.  So reading Killer was like coming back after many years abroad and finding friends to be much as I left them.

In this novel,  Alex is asked to make a recommendation in a child custody case.  As his court-related cases go, this one seems pretty simple.  That is, it does until people related to the case start turning up dead. Alex becomes part of the investigation into these murders, partly at the bequest of his friend, detective Milo Sturgis, and partly on his own accord.

The plot in this one seems a bit of a stretch.  The killer turns out to be someone only briefly mentioned earlier in the book.  Still, it is a satisfying read.  Who else but Kellerman could describe a character this way: "a skinny face and tired features gave him the look of a tired vulture."

I am going to go back and read the Kellerman novels I have missed over the past few years.  His characters and his style make up for any thin spots in plotting.
Front Cover

Fin and Lady by Cathleen Schine is one of those books that will stay with you for years after you finish reading it.  The characters come to life, and the setting becomes real.  Set in the 1960s, mostly in New York City, Fin at age 11 moves from the farm where he was raised to New York to live with his half-sister, Lady, when his mother dies. Lady is young and a free spirit.  Although he had met her once when he was a small boy, Fin doesn't really know Lady at all.  He grows to love her and to love life in New York City.  Together, they make their way in the world during a turbulent period which includes the war in Viet Nam, civil rights, women's rights, and the counterculture.  The Isle of Capri is featured again and again in the novel.  I will long remember the little house with the green door and the archway covered in large, brilliant lemons. I am sure that the little house must exist, and I hope I can see it some day!

Both Lady and Fin are independently wealthy, which allows them to find their way without worrying about a roof over their heads.  If the reader is willing to ignore this conceit, the novel is a wonderful view of the world during a pivotal period in time.