The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie

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Because for me McKenzie is a local author, there was considerable publicity about this title earlier in 2016, and the cover caught my eye (Brilliant, BTW)! So  I was eager to dive in to it, because it sounded like it had it all: quirky female protagonist, commentary on the whole Palo Alto-Silicon Valley-nouveau-riche scene, dysfunctional families on both sides (hers AND his), commentary on war, and humor.

I confess it took me a while to get into it…I started it and kept putting it down to go off and read something else (book club deadlines, etc., kept calling). And now, looking back, I realize that I was subconsciously saving it for a time when I needed a lift. Because I LOVE quirky female protagonists, and I love commentary on the social mores of the folks who have essentially taken over the South Bay and now are oozing into the Santa Cruz scene…and it makes my day when someone puts the fun in dysfunctional families! This book was just hugely entertaining, different, and just a fun read.

The heroine, Veblen, is a joy in so many ways. A friend disagreed, saying she found her to be a bit of a pain in the ass, but there was so much about her that resonated with me, maybe particularly as she works to try to make the disparate characters in different families and circumstances mesh. Aarrgghh!

Don’t want to ruin the fun, but I highly recommend this one. I am glad I kept it for a time when I needed something to drag me away from what felt like a looming slide into the black hole of depression…for that alone, I would give it four stars, and when you add in the outstanding writing and humor and amazing character development, FIVE stars! Thanks to NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.

Saving Jason by Michael Sears

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The first book in this series, Black Fridays, was released in 2012, and I have been recommending the author and the series ever since. The author and the protagonist, Jason Stafford, share the life experience of being Wall Street types, and the information about that whole complex way of life is interspersed throughout the series…but in a totally fitting way, not pedantic or overly technical…in other words, it just fits!

The other interesting aspect of the series is that Jason’s son is autistic. When I picked up the first one and read the cover blurbs I thought possibly that “Black Fridays” referred to Wall Street or financial events…but no, it refers to the fact that on certain days, the son (aka “”The Kid”) only wears certain colors. Lots of interesting stuff about autism, parenting a special needs child, etc. but again, just totally fits into the story.

So, right off, I love that there is learning going on, about finance and autism, while Sears totally entertains with his tight plotting, excellent pacing, and amazing character development. So, here we are, four years later, and he gives us the fourth in the series. Jason and The Kid are both here, and it is impossible to discuss plot much without spoiling things! If  you are like me, even when a reviewer announces “spoiler alert” there is that nearly impossible-to-resist urge to read ahead…I have no shame, I always sneaked a peek at gifts under the tree. So, sorry, no real plot reveal here…

In any case, this is a series, and there have been  some seriously significant events happen to main characters, so it may be best (or at least preferable) to begin with Black Fridays and read through the first three. But this one can definitely stand alone.

Michael Sears has real talent, and I am definitely a fan. I only gave this one four stars because I didn’t feel like I learned as much as from the prior ones, and there were some WTF? moments where I questioned the actions of a character, but if you like mysteries/thrillers with excellent character development, you will definitely want to add this one to your TBR list. Four stars, and thanks to NetGalley for an advance copy in return for my honest review.

Buzz Books 2016

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Love this !!! Not only does it feature titles that I would have been salivating over based on the author alone, it also includes some authors who are totally unknown to me. This will be extremely useful to anyone involved in library collection development, as well as anyone just looking for “the good stuff.”

Good work, Publishers Lunch! And thanks to NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for my honest review. Five stars. Love it!

 

Close Your Eyes by Michael Robotham

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OMG. OMG. OMG.

I just finished an AMAZING book! Now that I have that out of the way, let’s talk about Close Your Eyes by Michael Robotham (wish I knew how to pronounce his last name), which is the 8th in the Joe O’Loughlin series…but truly, if you haven’t read any in the series, you should still read this. It will all make sense, and you will love it, and you will be entertained for hours on end…and at the end, you might be going “WHAT?!?!?!?! NOOOOOOOO!” But it’s OK because Michael Robotham is going to be one of your new favorite authors.

First off, you will SEE his characters. For example, the man whose “tight curls are starting to gray, clinging to his scalp like iron filings on a magnet.” And put the characters in relationships: “…the best of marriages can become like a {Pinter play, with long pauses, or characters finishing each other’s sentences or having no dialogue at all.”

See what I mean? And although his stories are fictional, they sometimes feel like they are absolutely about today’s news and newsmakers: a media personality who “likes to pick on particular groups…immigrants, Muslims…proves that his prejudices run wide and deep, even if his listeners come from the shallowest of gene pools.” And he can describe setting vividly, as when he takes us to the “nursing home. It is the smell I can never get used to—a combination of a male urinal and an RSPCA shelter.” Or see “…the edge of the horizon, a container ship barely seems to be moving, as though pinned between the sea and the sky like a drop of moisture trapped between two panes of glass.”

OK, so we have established that he writes REALLY well and that I love his writing. And I mentioned this is a series…which, if you haven’t read any (and you SHOULD HAVE, but might not have, since he is Australian and for some reason possible related to that geographical quirk, hasn’t become wildly popular in the US). The protagonist, Joe, is a forensic psychologist who has Parkinson’s. Which is just a tangential fragment of what makes him who he is and what he does, especially in relationship to his estranged wife and daughters. In this story, Joe is brought in to advise on a murder…that becomes a series of attacks/murders. And he uses his skills to ferret out the personality of the evil person or persons (don’t want to give anything away – I am not a spoiler alert! Kind of person, I prefer to just tell you that you should trust me, if you like mysteries, or psychological themes, or thrillers, or best of all a mystery that is a psychological thriller, you HAVE TO read this. Then go get Robotham’s other books. He is that good. If you need more encouragement, if you enjoyed Gone Girl, Girl on a Train, I Let You Go, or The Lies We Tell, you will like this…but even more, because it is SO well done.

Many thanks to NetGalley for an advance copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.