Tuesday 30 September 2014


Finished September 30
Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of Its Enemies by Iam Buruma and Avishai Margalit

This book's purpose is not to demonize the enemies of the west or assist in the "war on terrorism", but to understand what drives Occidentalism, and to show that the suicide bombers of today have their roots in history that includes the west itself. Understanding doesn't provide excuses, but just additional knowledge in dealing with those who demonize the west.
The book looks at occidentalism from a variety of viewpoints. One is the idea of war against the west, one is the idea of the city as an occidental evil that with an urban reality destroys the local culture. Another looks at the idea of the hero versus the merchant, where the pursuit of economic wellbeing works against the true way things should be. Yet another looks at the philosophy of the mental model of the west as seen by its enemies and how they interpret the west's intent. We then get to religion and the various ways the west is seen as idolatrous, including the way that women are treated. The last is the seeds that bring revolution, looking at various examples and showing how some current situations mirror these historical ones, and theorizing what that means for the world going forward.
Well-researched and insightful, this analysis goes back more than two centuries to trace the roots of anti-Western ideas and sentiments, and places modern terrorists within this historical continuum.

A Fraction of the Whole

Finished September 29
A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz

This debut novel got tons of great reviews and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. I had bought it some years ago, and finally grabbed it to meet a challenge as well as provide a nice thick book for a plane trip. The novel is set mostly in New South Wales, Australia.
As the book begins, Jasper Dean is in an unspecified jail, that seems to have a bad inmate control issue. We know that his father is dead, but are not sure of the specifics. Jasper then goes back to the beginning of his life to let us know how he got here, but really he has to go back even further, to the beginning of his father's life, Martin Dean. The book is told in both Jasper's and his father's voice, and draws from information that Jasper either heard from his father, heard from someone else who knew the situation, or from his own experience or research through written records.
As we learn of the difficult health issues of Martin's childhood, the arrival of his brother Terry, and Terry's terrible slide into a life of crime and notoriety, I found myself unable to connect with the characters. I was able to connect better with Jasper once he got into the story of his own life, and how he was influenced by both his father and the reputation of his uncle.
Well a good narrative, I wasn't really captured by this novel and thus it took me more than the long plane ride to get through it, and I almost gave up a couple of times. Perhaps if I had read it more slowly over  a longer period of time, it would have worked for me better.

Saturday 27 September 2014

Summertime, All the Cats are Bored

Finished September 27
Summertime, All the Cats are Bored by Philippe Georget, translated by Steven Rendall

This first novel won the SNCF Crime Fiction Prize and the City of Lens First Crime Novel Prize.
The setting is in and around Perpignan on the French Mediterranean coast. Tourists are abundant and small crimes are the normal police cases at this time. Sebag and Molino are partners in the local police force. Sebag's children are just going off on vacations with groups or friends, and his wife Claire, who is a teacher has the whole summer off. She is going on a cruise with some friends while he continues to work.
When a Dutch woman is found murdered on a nearby beach, closely followed by the disappearance of another young Dutch woman, the media jumps on the two as connected.
The kidnapper, when he makes contact, seems to have chosen Sebag as his preferred contact, the Sebag finds himself obsessed by the case, something he has seldom felt lately in his police work.
There are a variety of police here, all after the solution to the case, but not necessarily working with the same assumptions. Sebag's focus seems to be a longshot, but as the facts keep falling into line with his proposed theory, the rest of the force begins to be convinced.
The personal side, where we see Sebag's struggles with his marriage and his own issues, make him come alive. This is a great addition to the crime oevre, and I already have my order in for the next book in the series. Which is pretty nice, seeing I picked this book up mostly for the title.


Finished September 26
Archipelago by Monique Roffey

This novel begins a year after Gavin's home was hit by a destructive wave of water during a storm, damaging the home badly and dealing a debilitating blow to his family. As the rainy season begins again, Gavin's six-year-old daughter Océan begins having nightmares about the events that changed her life, and Gavin finds himself still stuck in the depression that has been with him since that day. He makes a spontaneous decision to take his old sailbook Romany and head west from his home in Trinidad with Océan and his dog Suzy. He has no real destination at first, just moving away from the source of his and Océan's sadness, but his old dreams of sailing to the Galapagos Islands begin to surface.
Gavin regains his old comfort with sailing gradually, and for one difficult stretch advertises for someone to help, bringing a young Swedish woman, Phoebe, into their lives, and breaking into their protective aloofness. Océan's comfort with the sea increases as the trip progresses, and the two find that the sea encourages them to ponder their sadness, which has followed them, and interests them in their lives once more.
The trip takes them from Trinidad first to the Venezuelan Margarita Island, on to Los Roques, and from there to the ABC islands of Bonaire, Curacao, and Aruba. Then a long open sea stretch over to Cartagena, on to the San Blas Archipelago, through the Panama Canal and on to the Galapagos Islands.
It also exposes them to fascinating creatures on land and sea, to a wide variety of people and ways of living, and to more sadness and loss and to joy. This is the story of a father and his daughter healing together, discovering together, growing closer, and finding a way to move on. Roffey's writing is easy and flowing, bringing the world around these travellers to life, along with their feelings.
The only criticism I found was towards the end, where I felt the plot manipulated to bring about the ending.

The Book of Life

Finished September 26
The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

This is the third book in the trilogy that began with A Discovery of Witches and continued with Shadow of Night and it does not disappoint. As it begins, Diana and Matthew are just arriving at Sept Tours to join the rest of the family and friends who have taken refuge there from the Congregation under the protection of the Knights of Lazarus. The reunion brings both job and sadness and Matthew and Diana begin to share their learning and discover what has happened in their absence. Further demands from the Congregation mean that all creatures other than vampires must disperse from the premises, Matthew and Diana choose to go back to Diana's home in the United States. There, they find ways to further Matthew's research into the DNA of creatures and specifically the genetic origin of the illness that plagues him and his vampire children. It is one of these children that has gone rogue and created havoc across Europe and North America, causing tragedy for the family and many others. Diana is also learning more about her powers and how to use them, gradually learning to rely on instinct as she figures out how to develop her own spells. Both Diana and Matthew are surprised to find a loved one from the past has also followed them to the future and struggle with what this means for them, and how to move forward to protect their family as it grows.
Taking us from France to North America, back to England and France, and to the Congregation's meetings in Venice, this novel reveals the true nature of creatures and their relationships to each other, as the Book of Life or Ashmole 782 is finally released from hiding and brought to life itself.
This series has shown a great deal of research and the story is a complex one that has the characters grow as they learn more about themselves and each other. I really enjoyed it, and found that the ending here leaves a door open for further adventures.

Monday 22 September 2014

No Safe House

Finished September 20
No Safe House by Linwood Barclay

We first met Cynthia and Terry Archer in Barclay's novel, No Time to Say Goodbye. It is seven years later, and they are having issues. Cynthia's overprotectiveness of their daughter, Grace, hasn't lessened, but Grace, at fourteen, is rebelling against this oversight, and taking some chances of her own. Cynthia, knowing her actions aren't helping, has moved out temporarily, to take some time to figure out how to change her behaviour. Terry is trying to support both his wife and daughter, and keep his family from falling apart. A recent unsolved murder of an older couple has the town on edge as well.
So when Grace, supposed out at the movies with a friend, but really out with a boy her father definitely wouldn't approve of, is late coming home, Terry tries to remain calm. But when Grace calls him in a state of panic asking for his help, he comes for her, trying not to let on to Cynthia that Grace is in trouble. However, once he grasps just what kind of trouble Grace is in, Terry is out of his depth, and Cynthia soon gets filled in on the situation. As the three of them turn to old friends to try to figure out what is going on, they find themselves at the center of a very dangerous situation that threatens their lives more than their family togetherness.
This is a fast moving story of ordinary people getting caught up in a crazily dangerous situation, a hallmark of Barclay's thrillers, and one that makes them even more gripping. A wonderful read.

Choosing Change

Finished September 19
Choosing Change: How Leaders and Organizations Drive Results One Person at a Time by Walter McFarland and Susan Goldsworthy

This book has two parts. Part I is The Change Focused Leader and Part II is The Change Focused Organization. Both have the base relationship of the 5 Ds: Disruption, Desire, Discipline, Determination, and Development.
For the individual, Disruption is the event or experience that triggers a conscious choice to change.
For the organization the Disruption is more threatening and the natural reaction can be more of a entrenchment as the disruption is usually a revolutionary change that has come about due to external forces.
The Desire is what the person or organization wants to achieve, how much it believes in the possibility, and how serious it is about making the change happen.
Discipline is applying those small, consistent and frequent steps that are required to build the momentum that delivers sustainable change. Discipline is necessary to manage the many demands and still keep the pressure on the process of change.
Determination is having the resilience to focus on and deliver change, even when faced with setbacks.
Lastly, Development covers the continuous improvement, reexamination, and learning that is needed.
There were many things that were aha moments for me here, and I found this book really useful in giving clarity to the process of change. Here are some of my ahas on the individual side:
* "We are not afraid of the unknown, because, how can we be afraid of something we have no idea about? Instead, we are afraid of letting go of the known."
* the 5 attributes of the learning person: self-knowledge, self-acceptance, self-respect, autonomy, and seeking of both solitude and company.
* the opposite of play is depression
Here are some of the ahas on the organizational side:
* make organizational change a formal part of organizational strategy, learning is correlated with performance
* integrate change into the business so that change becomes a routine part of doing business
* develop people continuously, ensuring organization-wide learning as well
* model collaboration in everything
* develop a change leadership competency and integrate it into the overall leadership model
* take time to reflect: you learn more from reflecting on your experiences than you do from the actual experiences themselves
This book gives the reader much to think about and a guide to how to make change a part of your life and a part of your organization.

Thursday 18 September 2014

The Rat and The Slug

Finished September 17
The Rat by Elise Gravel
The Slug by Elise Gravel

These two books are both from the series Disgusting Critters. They are picture books for kids teaching them some facts about these creatures in a fun way. Since many kids like things that are sometimes disgusting, this series is a good idea to convey factual information. The facts contained in each book are varied and general in nature.
In The Rat we are told about the two most common rats, brown and black, including the Latin name of the black rat. We are given some information on size, at least in relation to a mouse, and one page is dedicated to the tail and how it is used. For the tail, the book shows and talks about the rat picking its nose with it, obviously humour to adults, but perhaps confusing to the child reader. We learn about the athletic abilities of the rat, and about its teeth, including how the teeth stay sharp.We are told that they eat most things and can transmit diseases, but are very smart, are sometimes used in labs, and some people have them as pets.There is also one deliberate misspelling of a word for no obvious reasons, not necessarily a great idea for young learners.
In The Slug, we are told about 3 different types of slugs and then focused on land slugs. We learn they are mollusks, but don't have shells. We learn about their two sets of tentacles and what the tentacles are used for. We find out how they breathe, and how they move, and what other parts of their body are called that may be surprising. We find out about mucus and how the snail uses the mucus to move and to protect itself. It also talks about how it procreates and abouts its dual gender nature, but perhaps a little too generally to be helpful. We find out what they eat, and their important role in the environment. It might have been fun to also include information on the varied sizes and colours for interest (or maybe I just find giant slugs fascinating in a way others don't)
All in all, these books are a fun way to have kids learn about creatures they may not be all that familiar with. It's cool that these are by a Canadian author/illustrator and that they were originally written in French.

Saturday 13 September 2014


Finished September 13
Petrified by Barbara Nadel

This is the 6th book in the series featuring Inspector Çetin Ỉkmen of Istanbul, but the first I've read. Ỉkmen is in his mid-fifties and his mother, an Albanian, was known as the witch of Uskudar. Ỉkmen is said to have inherited her abilities. Here, Ỉkmen is investigating what appears to be a kidnapping. The two young children of controversial artist Melih Akdeniz have gone missing. The artist creates works on controversial themes, like a series of carpets woven with human hair and depicting sexual organs. He has spurned most other artists in the area as uninspired and lacking talent and thus has made himself many professional enemies.Ỉkmen feels something is not right about Akdeniz and his wife's story despite their obvious love for their children.  Ỉkmen's deputy, Ayşe Farsakoğlu, has been in her position only six months, but had worked as a uniformed officer on some of his cases before that. She is a single woman in her early thirties with a modern outlook, and is a good foil for Ỉkmen.
One of Ỉkmen's fellow Inspector's sergeants, Ỉsak Çöktin, is investigating another case. An elderly woman, Rosita Keyder, has been found dead in her home, seemingly of natural causes. However, another body is found in the home as well, a young man dressed in clothes from Argentina, and it soon becomes apparent that he has died some time previously and his body has been preserved. But who is her, why is he there, and when did he die.
Çöktin works for Inspector Mehmet Suleyman, who is busy trying to find information on Rostov, a Russian gangster who seems to be growing his territory and influence in the city. Suleyman has been approached by a prostitute, Masha, who seems eager to provide information, and to know Suleyman's weaknesses.
The three cases come together in interesting ways and I enjoyed the inventiveness of the plotline. I also found the home lives of the various characters interesting and enjoyed the way that each had its own effect on the plot
This novel's also brings in the complexities of religion. Rosita Keyder is Catholic. The pathologist Arto Sarkissian is Orthodox Christian. Çöktin is Yezidi, the native Kurdish religion. Ỉkmen's daughter Hulya , a Muslim is in love with a young Jewish man, Berekiah Cohen, son of a former colleague of Ỉkmen. As the novel is set post 9/11 but before the Iraq war on Saddam Hussein has begun, this aspect of religious war also comes into the plot.
All-in-all a very enjoyable mystery, and a series I'd like to read more of.

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Little Bastards in Springtime

Finished September 9
Little Bastards in Springtime by Katja Rudolph

This novel takes us from 1992 through 1998 in the world of Jevrem Andric. In the spring of 1992, Jevrem is eleven years old and living in Sarajevo with his parents, older brother Dusan, and younger twin sisters Aisha and Berina. His father is a journalist and his mother is a concert pianist. His father is Serbian and his mother is Croatian. His maternal grandmother, Baka, loves to tell him stories of her life as a partisan fighter in World War II and her subsequent years rebuilding the country. His maternal uncle, Ujak Luka, is a fun-loving man that leaves Sarajevo for North America soon after the book's beginning.
As the tensions between ethnicities and religions heat up and fighting begins, Jevrem and his siblings are confined to the apartment building they live in more and more. Dusan is frustrated and wants to be involved in what is going on, and his age, sixteen, means that he has more freedom than Jevrem or the girls, who are only six. Jevrem overhears the adult conversations around him, and worries about what is happening.
Then things get worse. Sarajevo is cut off, Jevrem's father and brother join the fighting, and food becomes scarce. Bombs hit nearby and people Jevrem knows are hurt or even killed. As he struggles to make sense of things and support his family as best he can, Jevrem is changed in ways he isn't even aware of.
The book then moves to 1997 in Toronot, where the remaining members of Jevrem's family have settled. Jevrem's mother has stopped playing the piano, sunk into depression. Jevrem struggles in school, playing truant or absent mentally from his classes despite his intellect. His Baka is lost in her past more and more. Jevrem falls into a gang of other Jugoslavian refugees around his age, breaking the law even as his Baka urges him to do something good. And then something else changes for him and he decides to start doing good. It is only as he descends further into sadness and uncertainty that he finds a way to remember what he has been through and begin to heal.
This is an amazing book, and Jevrem's struggles were very real to me as a reader. I highly recommend it.

Sunday 7 September 2014

The Paper Moon

Finished September 6
The Paper Moon by Andrea Camilleri

This is another in the series featuring Inspector Salvatore Montalbano. Here Montalbano has a woman worried about her brother come to the office looking for help. He agrees to go to her brother's home to see if her can find anything to indicate what may have happened. When he encounters the body of the brother, Montalbano finds the sister emotional and eager to accuse the brother's lover. Elena, the lover, is a woman sure of herself and quick of intellect and she is always one step ahead of Montalbano as he works through the clues to what has been happening.
Meanwhile the office has been pressured to find the drug dealer responsible for providing some high profile people with poisoned drugs, and Montalbano offers Mimi Augello some thoughtful advice on how to deal with such a sensitive case.
As usual, the personalities of the both the various police and of the characters involved in the situation are interesting and have depth. The two women in the murder case are particularly well drawn.
There is the usual good food mentioned in detail as Montalbano eats at home and at restaurants.
Enjoyable and with a good plot.

The Childhood of Jesus

Finished September 5
The Childhood of Jesus by J.M. Coetzee

This novel is set in an unnamed land at an unknown time. After a voyage across an ocean, Simon and David arrive in a new land where Spanish is the language used. As part of the decision to travel to a new land and start a new life, all arrivals are given new names, and their memories of the past are erased. The two have come together on the ship when 5-year-old David loses the papers giving the identity of his mother. Simon has taken on the role of guardian to the boy and, yet is determined to find the mother of the child, despite his lack of knowledge about her.
As the two find a home and Simon finds work in this new land, both have difficulty adjusting. Simon finds everyone too amenable, and yet unhelpful in answering the questions he has. He struggles with the lack of drama in his new life, and the expectations of acceptance that are laid before him.
David continually asks why everything is, why things happen, why he must do what he is told.
When Simon identified a woman, Ynes, he feels to be David's mother and she agrees to take on this role, he struggles to find a new role in David's life, where he can still have some influence on the boy. As David's rebellious nature leads to difficulties when he begins school, and the authorities wish to remove him to a boarding school for difficult children, Ynes is determined that this not happen and want to flee with the boy to another new life. Simon finds himself drawn into this plan.
This is another novel where my lack of feeling for the characters made it hard for me to like the book. I found the ending abrupt and unsatisfying. However the novel raises many philosophical questions about society and how we behave towards each other and those that are different, as well as the difficulties faced by immigrants to a new land. So a book that has intellectual weight and challenges, but did not reach my emotions or heart.


Finished September 5
Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld

This novel takes place in St. Louis, Missouri and the plot varies between a narrative by Kate in the near present and her life growing up. Kate is a twin, and she and her sister were very close when they were young. Kate's real given name is Daisy and her twin is Violet. They always had a difficult relationship with their mother Rita, but things became more so when they were eleven and came home one day to find her locked in the bedroom. The two girls began to cover for her, but their home life created more isolation from other children. Both girls also had some psychic ability, and Kate tried at one point to use this to further her social life, an experience that backfired badly.
In the present, Kate is married with two young children, Rosie and Owen, and Violet is leaning towards a homosexual identity, and makes her living from her psychic abilities. When Violet predicts an earthquake for the near future, both women's lives are focused around the prediction and its implications for them and those they care for. Kate has always felt herself to be the responsible one, but as we see her story unfold, it would seem that this isn't necessarily so. Kate has buried her psychic abilities to a large extent, but they exist despite this.
As we see the sometimes difficult relationship between the two sisters, their interactions with others from their present and their past, we learn that things are not always as we perceive them, and that sometimes circumstances force one to face up to the reality of our behaviour.

Jeeves and the Wedding Bells

Finished August 29
Jeeves and the Wedding Bells by Sebastian Faulks

This book states on its cover that it a homage to P.G. Wodehouse, and Faulks includes a Foreword with more details on how and why he came to write this book, stating that it is a tribute for all the pleasure he's given. In my opinion, Faulks did a fantastic job of this novel, continuing the story of Bertie Wooster and Jeeves to a lovely conclusion.
As the story opens Bertie and Jeeves are vacationing on the Cote d'Azur, when Bertie literally runs into the young woman Georgiana Meadowes, who is on a sort of working vacation. Georgiana works as an editor for a London publisher and has taken this time away from the office to continue her work and think about her future. Her uncle, Sir Henry Hackwood, of Melbury Hall, Kingston St.-Giles, Dorsetshire, is financially stressed and hoping for a good (read financially successful) marriage for either his own daughter Amelia or Georgiana. Georgiana is engaged to a suitable young man, but doesn't have the appropriate feelings for him that would make her happy. As Bertie subsequently discovers once he returns home, Amelia is engaged to his good friend Woody Beeching, who, unfortunately, is not possessed of a fortune. Amelia has realized Georgiana's situation and feels compelled to reject Woody despite her feelings in an act of support for Georgiana. Woody has come to Bertie and Jeeves for advice and assistance.
Once the two men settle themselves at Seaview Cottage in Dorsetshire, things become more complicated as Bertie's plans go awry, and Jeeves is forced to impersonate an aristocrat. As Bertie is also forced to take on a role unlike his own, they become involved with the visitors to Melbury Hall. These include the author Venables, Georgiana's fiance, and his parents, among others. Sir Henry asks Woody to do what he can to make up a decent cricket team for a match with the village team that Sir Henry has a great deal riding on, and things become more amusing.  As preparations are made for the upcoming summer fete, Bertie is again put upon to play a role, that causes things to move forward in an interesting direction.
There is much expected humour, done nicely to a Wodehouse style, and a plethora of interesting and eccentric characters. A homage indeed, and a worthy one.

Saturday 6 September 2014

The Wishing Thread

Finished August 27
The Wishing Thread by Lisa Van Allen

This book is a romance with a theme of paranormal. The story takes place in Tarrytown, New York and centres around three sisters of the Van Ripper family. The sisters grew up in an old house with a wool shop called The Stitchery contained within. The house was owned by their eccentric aunt Mariah, and the girls were all trained in the art of knitting spells. The spells were knitted to order, and the one who requested each knitted item had to offer something they valued in return. Aubrey, the middle sister has stayed on with Mariah and taken on the inheritance of the store and its services. Bitty married young and has two children, Vanessa and Carson. Meggie took off a few years ago on her own quest. As the book begins, Mariah has passed away suddenly, and the sisters all come back together at The Stitchery to mourn her and find that Mariah has left her own task for them in her will.
Tarrytown is also undergoing a fight. The area of town around Tappan Square, where The Stitchery is located, is planned for redevelopment, a plan that would mean the end of The Stitchery, but also the end of a neighbourhood that has fallen into hard times and yet still has community spirit. Mariah had been fighting against this development and Aubrey tries to overcome her shyness to continue the fight, and perhaps reach out to the man she has a crush on.
Each sister is struggling with her own issues and they haven't shared with each other until now. As Bitty and Meggie reveal their own struggles they help Aubrey, and regain the closeness they had lost.
The knitting projects in the book are shared on the author's website for this novel.

The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion

Finished August 24
The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg

This is a light, fun novel that also includes some interesting history. The title only refers to a small portion of the book though.
There are two storylines here that the book moves back and forth between, and that gradually come together. The historical story follows the life of Stanislaw Jurdabralinski as he emigrates to the United States from Poland in 1909, and ends up starting a family in Pulaski, Wisconsin. Here he is one of the first owners of a Phillips 66 filling station, begun in 1928, that he and his family take great pride in. They easily get a plaque for their clean washrooms, and Stanislaw's son Wencent (Wink) is a draw for lady drivers.
When the US enters World War II, Wink is off to war, and his sisters take over the running of the station, hence the title. The girls are an adventurous sort and Fritzi, the oldest is particularly risk-loving, signing on with a stunt pilot, Billy Bevins, in the pre-war years. There are four sisters: Fritzi, twins Gertrude May and Tula Jane, and the youngest, Sophie Marie.
As the war continues, the door is opened for women pilots to play a role and Fritzi signs up right off the bat to be a WASP. This portion of the book is particularly interesting as it highlights a portion of history seldom talked about, and shows the reality of the life these women led.
The modern storyline follows Sarah Jane (Sookie) Poole, wife of Earle Poole Jr, who has in 2005 just married off the last of her three daughters. Sookie lives in Point Clear, Alabama and is a very nice, eager to please woman. Her oldest daughter DeeDee has married the same man twice, and Sookie isn't sure that she's made good choices. LeLe and CeCe are twins and CeCe has been the latest to marry, having a unique wedding that involved the couple's pets. Sookie also has a domineering mother, Lenore Simmons Krakenberry, who is always criticizing Sookie and trying to run her life. Sookie's best friend Marvaleen is a woman always eager to try the next new age trend and her neighbour Netta helps Sookie out when called on. Sookie has had a long-standing worry about becoming mentally unstable, based on the experience of her mother's siblings Aunt Lily and Uncle Baby who are now both institutionalized. She is also concerned about the welfare of the small birds that she tries to feed as the blue jays keep chasing them off and taking all the food.
Sookie's life grows more complex when she gets information in the mail that changes her perception of who she is in a big way. Earle is very supportive and encourages her to both stand up for herself against her mother, and to investigate the information she has come into.
There are lots of fun characters here, and a great story that comes to life gradually for Sookie as she delves deeper into her own past. Highly enjoyable.

The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress

Finished August 23
The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress by Beryl Bainbridge

I picked up this novel for its cover appeal. The book is set in 1968 and Rose has travelled from England to Baltimore to meet up with an American man she met briefly in England, Harold. Harold wants desperately to find Dr. Wheeler, a man he blames for certain events that affected him. Rose knew Dr. Wheeler years before when she was a child and teen and wants to see him again for her own reasons. She isn't aware of Harold's motives. Dr. Wheeler is always a step ahead of the two and they soon realize that he is travelling along with Robert Kennedy in his run for president. The two drive across the country, following the trail, and meeting others that know Dr. Wheeler, have some association with Harold, need assistance from the pair, or offer them assistance in their quest.
Rose is an odd woman with her own secrets, and both she and Harold are using each other in their own way. I didn't really warm up to any of the characters in the novel and that lessened my enjoyment of the novel.
Their travels take them to Washington, D.C., upstate New York, Chicago, and Yellowstone Park before their reach San Francisco. The ending is not what I expected, but also not that surprising given the oddness of this novel and its characters.

The Enemy

Finished August 23
The Enemy by Lee Child

This Jack Reacher novel is set back when he was still in the army. The action begins in the first few minutes of 1990. Jack has been very recently reassigned to Fort Bird, a base in North Carolina from his previous stint in Panama. Jack hasn't questioned why the transfer took place, and because of the absence of other senior officers, Jack is essentially in command at the base.
When a call comes in that a soldier has been found dead in a nearby motel, Jack at first redirects the call to headquarters, but when he is then made aware that the soldier is a two star general he goes to check out the situation. There are a few things about the situation that strike him as odd, and he checks in with his superior in Washington for further instructions. He learns that his instincts to keep this quiet are good, and that the general is married and he must go and break the news to the widow in Green Valley, Virginia. He chooses a female officer at the base, Lieutenant Summer, to accompany him. Summer is a young black officer with an application in for Reacher's special unit, and he finds her a good partner in the ongoing investigation.
The General, Kramer, was based with a armor division in Germany and was on his way to a conference on the west coast. But the details of the conference are hard to come by, and Reacher finds that there is someone very high up who has pulled some strings to place officers like himself in particular places. As his investigation grows, it takes him both to the German base and to the base on the west coast that the conference was to be at. And it nearly costs him his life.
In his personal life, we find him and his brother Joe called to Paris to be with their mother Jacqueline as she deals with health issues. It was interesting to see this side of Reacher, and see how he interacted with his family.
A good addition to the Reacher series as it gives the reader insight into both the personal side of the man, and the case that first had Reacher questioning the army and its motives.