THE TRAVELLER by Garrett Addison

travellerThe Man in the Gray Flannel Suit meets The Devil Wears Prada.

A management consultant who constantly travels to the detriment of his marriage and family life, who is terribly afraid of his b*tch of a boss because he is afraid of losing his job, one day wakes up in a city where he is to do his consulting thing to discover he is a whole new him, confident, brilliant, just a superman of consultants.  It totally turns his life around, at least for a while, because, as you know, nothing last forever.

Honestly, I really don’t have much to say about this book.  I enjoyed it while I was reading it, but now I am finished, I couldn’t for the life of me tell you why.  He lives a boring, fearful life,  then undergoes a sea change, and everything is wonderful until suddenly it isn’t, then he wakes up, has some Epiphanic insights, resigns,  goes through the motions with the next company, but goes off message and gives the struggling company hope.

You will totally love the ending.  While sitting in the company’s board room  which has one of those glass walls, his boss is trying to demolish him in front of all the company people, and pushes her rolling chair back from the conference table, thinking there was an obstacle behind her, so pushes it really forcefully, but there was no obstacle and kazam there she goes in that heavy metal chrome chair toward the window wall, and as everyone is frozen in astonishment, crashes through, all seemingly in slow motion.

You don’t hardly get rid of unpleasant people all that easily in real life, so savor the moment.

 

INN KEEPING WITH MURDER by Lynn Bohart

inn-keepingA cozy mystery set on an island near Seattle, Washington, although I am not so sure just how cozy it could be to have someone drop dead  right into your peach cobbler that you just made.  Turns out she was poisoned.  Dang.  Was it your cobbler or the fudge you made up?

Getting side tracked here, but have you ever known anyone who was poisoned, other than by Aunt Louise’s shrimp salad that she left on the outdoors buffet table too long?  Me, neither.  But if you read enough mysteries, especially those written in the earlier half of the twentieth century,  a lot of victims in those books died of poisoning.  But not so much in modern murder mysteries.  Do you think it is because it is harder to obtain poison these days, or because it is just easier to shoot their nasty a$$es?

Well, this was written in 2013, so poisoning must be still a viable (you’ll pardon the pun) option for murderers.

This was a pretty good tale, revolving around a group of ladies of a certain age, (and all of them with enough money to not be sweating the next mortgage payment), who live on this island near Seattle.  The principle character owns an inn, and is divorced.  Her ex, a politician, traded her in for a newer model. He is currently governor of the state.  Her friends are all single ladies, with a couple of exceptions.  One of those exceptions drove off a cliff and thereby successfully killed herself.  But no one knows why.  Then there was Martha, of the peach cobbler face plant.  And then the old guy who refinished furniture so our main character could sell it as a side means of earning money. He was whacked.

It all ties in with the women’s shelter where several of the group volunteered.  I am not telling you how, but it was interesting.  There was enough action to keep you turning pages, and I had an inkling about three quarters through the book as to the perpetrator/s.  OK, OK, so it was just a wild guess, so sue me.  But I was right.  Aha!

Oh, golly! I almost forgot to tell you about the ghosts.  Mind like a sieve.  Yeah, so, the inn has ghosts.  There is the adult Charlotte,  maybe that’s not her name, but she moves things and helps out in times of danger.  And a little girl who does mischievous things.   And the inn owner’s dead mother.  She is the best.  She died several months ago, and our gal has the ashes in an urn in her garage, intending to take them back to Ohio in accordance with her mother’s wishes.  As the story progresses and things start getting hairy, her mother starts to call her on her (the mother’s) cell phone, in which the batteries are dead.  As dead as mom, actually.  Our gal answers the phone and dang if it isn’t really mom!  So mom and the phone figure fairly prominently throughout the rest of the book, helping out with the whole mystery.  It was really fun, unapologetic paranormal in an otherwise straight forward mystery.

This is I think the first of a three book series, The Old Maids of Mercer Island.  I might try to acquire the others, because I have only about 3,000 titles on my TBR list, so what’s a few more, right?

Oh, and another track leading to the side….. There is another book titled Innkeeping with Murder, by Tim Myers, although he spells it with one word.  So I guess Inn Keeping is a pun on ‘in keeping with’,  while Innkeeping is the actual word ‘innkeeping’.   That one seems to be about a light house and is a free download so of course I downloaded it because see above statement about my TBR list.   And if you want to try Mr. Myers’ book, here is the link to the free download, because, yes, I am a river to my people.

So, dear Gentle Readers, stay away from peach cobbler,  fudge of uncertain origins, seafood that has sat out in the sun too long, and try to stay alive until next we meet.  I, meanwhile, am going to start a list of those I would like to hear from who have already gone to the Big Cyber Cafe in the Sky.  Gee, I hope they have my new cell phone number.

 

A WHISPER OF SMOKE by Angela Hoke

whisper-of-smokeChic lit, known in the higher class circles as women’s fiction.   This is a three hanky melodrama but I, being the hardened case that I am, only used 1 tissue.  And anyway, the ending was telegraphed from about the third page, and anyway No. 2, the book cover says “A beautiful, heart-wrenching story”,  so that gave me time to prepare.

It is the winner of the 2015 National Indie Excellence Book Award for Women’s Fiction, the 2015 Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal for Women’s Fiction, the 2014 GRW Maggie Award for Excellence and the 2014 Heart of Denver Aspen Gold Award, and Finalist for the 2015 International Book Award.  Not too shabby.

It is classified as women’s fiction, but for me, it seemed more YA, or even oh what is that other category … medium adult?… no, that’s not it.  Almost adult?  No.  Oh, well, maybe you know the category I mean.   I say this because it features Susanna, whom we meet at age 12, her three siblings, her very dysfunctional, drinking parents, and their neighbors, nice people with another big passel of kids.  It is set in the Viet Nam era, and her best friend is the neighbor’s kid, Calvin.   They grow up together with the usual teenage stuff, young love, young fights, different love interests.  And then Calvin in order to avoid having to work the rest of his life on the farm, signs up for military service right out of high school.

See where I am going?  See the need for the hankies?  Yeah, I thought you might.

The story also revolves around Uncle George, the family perv, and the knowledge that mom left home at 15 and married their dad then.  So all in all, it was an ok story, nothing too special but beautifully written, with characters you can sympathize with, but if you are of a certain age, that age being over 50, you have read this story maybe 30 times…. maybe more.

So final verdict?   Not bad, and for younger persons, I can see why it got all those awards.  For me?  I am old and jaded so it takes more than this gentle story to fry my onions.

 

THE TIGER’S WIFE by Téa Obreht

tigers-wifeThis 2011 debut novel sure was an interesting read.  It is set in an unnamed Balkan country, which seems to be near the Turkish border, so maybe Bulgaria?   Well, not important.   The time is the present, told in first person narrative by a young woman doctor, on her way with her friend to give inoculations and other health care to children in a remote city, across the border that separates what was once their single country.

She receives a call from her grandmother who has learned that her husband (the grandfather) has died in some also remote area.   This sets off a long episodic reminiscence by the young woman of her girlhood with her grandfather.  These memories include tales told to her by her grandfather of his boyhood in a far village, which revolve around a tiger escaped from a bombed out zoo who managed to get to this area searching for food and shelter, and a deaf mute girl, the abused young wife of the local butcher, who befriends the tiger by secretly providing meat she has taken from the butcher’s hanging shed.    The villagers eventually become very wary of this girl, and begin to call her the tiger’s wife. Being uneducated villagers, they start to come up with tales that claim that she turns into a tiger at night, or that the tiger visits her in the house every night.  You know, the kind of stuff that got women labeled as witches and burned at the stake in days of yore.

The other story he tells is of the deathless man, the man who cannot die, who can predict a person’s demise in a tea cup, and whom the grandfather meets  three times.

The young doctor’s memories are constantly interspersed with her journey and the happenings in the little village she goes to, where some foreign family is digging digging digging in the orchard of the family of the local priest.  It turns out that during the war, the older digger had to leave his dead brother in that area, being forced to flee.   He buries the brother, intending to come back for his remains so that the proper rituals can be conducted so that the deceased man can go to the crossroads and his soul taken up to heaven.

Her childhood activities included weekly visits to the local zoo with her grandfather, to see the tiger.   The tiger figures prominently throughout the book, acting as some kind of metaphor for something.  No Sparknotes, so how am I to know what to think?

It is something of a coming of age book, but not much, something of historical fiction, but not overwhelming, and a lot about relationships — the grandparents’ relationship, the relationship of the grandparents to the narrator, the relationship of the grandfather as a young boy with the elusive tiger in the village environs, and with the mute girl bride.  There are secrets, deaths, apparent murders, the relating of old old customs and rituals connected with death and dying, and just a soupçon of paranormal, just enough to leaven a fairly dense loaf.

Some call it a YA book, but for me, it did not feel like that at all.  It felt all grown up, complete with the unsolved mysteries that plague all our lives.   It might be thought of as chick lit, because of the female narrator, but not really,  (maybe because the grandfather and his life figures so prominently), and perhaps with not enough gravitas to be fully considered literary fiction, what with the deathless man who could not die.  I don’t know.  Good thing I am not in charge of declaring genres for books.  I would be in a constant dither.

I really liked this book.  Well worth reading

THE RINGS OF SATURN by W. G. Sebald

ringsYou might think, by the title, that this is a sci fi novel. But you would be wrong.   After reading a few pages, you might think this is a non-fiction account of the author’s walking trip through Suffolk, England.  Again, you would be wrong.

W. G. Sebald is a German author, and this is a translation of his novel Die Ringe des Saturn: Eine englische Wallfahrt,  and no, Wallfahrt is not ….well, you know.  It is pilgrimage in English.

A narrator whom we assume is the author sets off on a walking journey through Suffolk.  As he (and why do we assume it is a he?  Probably because women ain’t got time for that sh*t)  comes to various locations, they are described, which leads him on to muse on other topics which they bring to mind.   At first, the reader … OK, me ….. thinks, hmmm just a teensy smidge boring.  But really, it is somewhat hypnotic, and you say, OK, just a couple more pages, and on and on you go, all caught up in the journey and the thoughts.

He discusses people he has met, the silk industry,  the region where Joseph Conrad lived as a young immigrant prodded him to discuss at some length the real life horrors of the Belgium Congo colony that was the basis for Heart of Darkness, talks of the situation in Ireland, both now (well, in 1995 when the book was written), and its history, and discusses the involvement of Roger Casement, an Irish-born civil servant who worked for the British Foreign Office as a diplomat, and later became a humanitarian activist, Irish nationalist, and poet. Described as the “father of twentieth-century human rights investigations”, he was honoured in 1905 for the Casement Report on the Congo and knighted in 1911 for his important investigations of human rights abuses in Peru. He then made efforts during World War I to gain German military aid for the 1916 Easter Rising that sought to gain Irish independence.  Casement was finally to be hanged for treason.  Long story and sad.

The narrative circles back several times to the issue of slavery of one kind or another, and there is a long meditation on the large estates of England and how they came into being.  There is quite a bit on Sir Thomas Browne, whom the author admires a great deal, and a sizeable chunk of Chinese history.

It really is a tour de force, as they say,  one that doesn’t quite hit you until after you have finished it and it sticks with you and rattles around in your head for a while.

Do read it.  It has a style and rhythm to it that is just so soothing.

MY PLANET by Mary Roach

my-planetI love Mary Roach.  I am totally a Mary Roach fan.  I have already read three other books by her,  Six Feet Over  – Adventures in the AfterlifeStiff, about bodies and dead people, and Packing for Mars – The Curious Science of Life in the Void.

My Planet is not a one topic book.  It is actually a collection of her articles from Reader’s Digest over the years, and yeah, it is funny as all get out.  I was reading it in my horizontal office (that would be my bed where I also check email and Facebook on my laptop),  with the Kindle perched on my stomach, and had difficulties keeping it in focus as my innards went up and down as I literally LOL’d.

As the intro tells us,

What you can expect from Roach is a curious curation and condensation of life’s little mishaps — all of which are filigreed with her humor.  She details first dates, rants about marital differences, and dissects the stellar process that is getting older (or, as Roach puts it, entering “the Age of Skirted Swimwear”).

I usually am disappointed in varying degrees of disappointment with books purporting to be humorous.  Generally, I find they try too hard,   especially the ones touted as Laugh Out Loud Funny!.  I almost never laugh out loud when I read them.  But I do laugh out loud with Roach’s books.  Must be she has a sense of humor which taps my funny bone.

Want a couple of examples?  I’m glad you asked.

I bought Ed [her husband] earplugs and a black satin sleep mask. “It’s dashing,”  I said of the mask. “You look like Antonio Banderas in Zorro.”  This was a lie.  He looked like Arlene Francis in “What’s My Line?”

And about automated commercial answering services:

Thank you for calling VeriCom Customer Care.  Your call is important to us, though not as important as it is to you.  If you are calling from a touch-tone phone, press or say 1.  If you are calling from a rotary-dial phone, please stay on the line while a customer care representative makes mocking, derisive faces.  Para assistencia en español, go to South American and try your call again.

On men competing for fastest arrival time:

“You know if you take Clipper Street,” Dan is saying, “you can shave six minutes off the drive”.  These minutes go into a special account, where they can be redeemed for chest hair, leather gloves with holes cut out of the back, and other bonus masculinity awards.

Lots of fun.

I still have Bonk – The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex Gulp – Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, and Spook in my queue.  (Don’t you just love the word ‘queue’?  Sounds so much classier than ‘Books I Hope To Get Around To Reading Before I Die List.’

 

 

WHOSE BODY? by Dorothy L. Sayers

whosebodyIt’s 1923, and Mz. Sayers introduces the world to Lord Peter Wimsey.  You know, it is only in 1923 mysteries that a person can discover an unknown person dead in their bathtub,naked except for pince nez on his nose, and be like, “Oh, drat.  Now where will I take my bath?  Oh, bother.”

The police are inept, as they must always be when we have an amateur sleuth, (and incidentally,  they are only sleuths in first-quarter-of-the-20th-century mysteries.  Later they morph into P.I.s, or else dithering females in cozy mysteries).

Well, the hunt is on to find out who whacked the guy on the back of the head, then carried him across the roof tops to enter through the bathroom window and deposit the guy in the tub.

On another front, a financier is reported missing.  He was seen returning home, and his clothes were left in his room, but when his man came to wake him, he was absent.  Could the two be one and the same?  Thanks be to Hercule Poirot, they were not, or else it would have been an awfully short book.

I must say that I thought Lord Peter was a lot more fun before he met that Vane woman and got married in the later  volumes.

Sayer is a funny, clever writer, and if you like early 20th century mysteries, you will naturally love her.

death_of_socrates_painting