Books & Blog: March 9, 2017

Books

 

  • The Fourth Monkey, J.D. Barker
  • The Book Jumper, Mechthilde Glaser
  • Spook, Mary Roach
  • Into the Fire, Jeaniene Frost

 

J.D. Barker is an interesting young man. I met him at a convention, and he told me how lucky he was to be attracting the attention with this book that every author hopes for. I wasn’t initially too excited about the premise — serial killer books seem to be a dime a dozen — but he sent me an ARC, and I read it out of curiosity. The serial killer in this case is called The Four Monkey Killer, and Detective Sam Porter is elated when he believes the killer has been hit by a bus, with the proof of his crime still on him. However (of course there’s going to be a ‘however’) the diary found on the body gives Porter pause. Is the dead man really the killer? Is his final victim still alive? The diary alone is worth picking up the book, incidentally. This book will be on the shelves JUNE 27, 2017.

 

The Book Jumper certainly didn’t go the way I thought it would, and that’s always interesting. Amy Lennox and her mother leave Germany for her mother’s ancestral home on an island off Scotland. Amy’s mother isn’t acting like herself, and Amy doesn’t understand what her overbearing grandmother wants from her. When she meets the other teenagers on the island, she finds they can lose themselves in books . . . and she can, too. She can literally vanish into a book, and become part of its narrative. There are rules governing what ‘jumpers’ can and cannot do; but Amy has broken all of them before she even knows they’re in place. This novel is (by turns) imaginative, happy, and sad.

 

I’ve read several of Mary Roach’s books: Bonk and Stiff, about the science of sex and the science of the disintegration of the body after death, respectively. In Spook, Roach investigates the scientific evidence of spirit life. The results are sometimes hilarious, and always interesting.

 

I’m fond of Jeaniene Frost both as a writer and as a person, and when I get a new book of hers it’s a holiday. It has been a long time, due to personal issues, since Jeaniene had a new book. Into the Fire is worth the wait. If you’ve followed her work, Fire is part of the series about Leila, former circus performer, and Vlad Tepesh, a six hundred year old uber-vampire. Hideously powerful magicians are trying to lure Vlad out into the open by keeping his brother Mircea a captive. Because of a spell, every pain they demonstrate on Mircea is also felt by Leila, and some of this torture is hideous indeed. I have always been a little doubtful about Leila’s sister, and I continued to feel that way after her life changes dramatically in this book.

 

 

Blog

 

This is the time of year when I can leave my office door open for a while each day. The dogs can come in and out as they please (so can bugs, which is why this is a short phase every year). I love to feel the wind come in, and I love to hear the distant noises of yard work and construction. A house is going up down the street, just far enough away not to be a pain, and I can hear the beep beep beep as the big machinery backs up.

 

Some times the noises are not so distant. When we came to live in our current home, my husband retired. He is happily pottering around and playing bridge. I had always done quite a bit of our yard work because he has asthma, but that had gotten old after all these years – and my knees no longer cooperate. When we moved, I decided to give myself an extravagant treat. A yard crew comes every Friday to mow. They also show up when it’s time to trim branches, gather leaves, spread mulch, remove dead plants . . . everything necessary to keep the house looking neat and trim.

 

And I just love that. I can hear the mower, I can hear the saws, I can hear the men talking to one another. It’s almost hypnotic, listening to all this activity taking place nearby. I’ve noticed that I have a heightened tendency to watch other people at work, as well as listen to them. When the city workers were decorating the Christmas trees on the town square, I was sorely tempted to sit in my car and watch them for an hour. Apparently, I like to observe physical work now, rather than attempt it myself.

 

You know, when you drive by roadwork, how there are almost always five or six men standing in a circle looking down in a hole? There’s probably someone in there doing the actual work, and all these other yahoos are observing. It never fails. It’s like they’re contributing something to the job by watching the other man work.

 

Now, I’m one of those yahoos. And I finally understand the attraction. It’s like working at one remove. Six degrees of Work, instead of six degrees of Kevin Bacon. Maybe I should feel guilty, but I don’t. Does this have any appeal for you, too? Or are you one of those people who charges outside at the first sign of spring, ready to feed the lawn and put in flowers?

 

Charlaine Harris