Karen B.

I live north of Harbor Springs with two cats, Henry and Sarah, and two dogs, Bailey and Lucille. I read everything, but I especially enjoy mysteries, such as Anne Perry's Charlotte and Thomas Pitt novels and science fiction, such as Terry Pratchett's Discworld books, seasoned with a little bit of Stephen King, and a dash of Robert Crais, with just a pinch of John Connolly. I also enjoy nonfiction, especially when it is about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.

 

Staff Pick Badge
Shoot for the Moon: The Space Race and the Extraordinary Voyage of Apollo 11 Cover Image
$30.00
ISBN: 9780316341783
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Little, Brown and Company - March 12th, 2019

Where were you on July 20, 1969?  Well, I was home, sitting on the floor with all of my family around me watching TV.  I saw Neil Armstrong step onto the moon almost 240,000 miles away.  It is still the most amazing thing I have ever seen.  On the upcoming July 20th, it will have been 50 years ago.  For those of us who were there that day, this book reminds us of everything it cost to get there.  And it wasn’t just money—it was commitment, it was time, and it was lives.  For all the people who weren’t yet alive that day, Mr. Donovan’s book comprehensively covers that period in the history of the world.  Not just the U. S. A., but also the Russian space program that jumpstarted our own during the height of the Cold War.  There is much about the Russian program that we never knew until years later.  He also tells more of the backstory of the technicians and planners that made the journey possible.  There were three people that went to the moon on Apollo 11.  There were about 420,000 people working directly or indirectly for NASA to get them there and back alive.  And, yes, it was bandied about that just getting them there was enough.  People often wonder if the trip was worth it.  The Apollo Space Program changed the world in uncountable ways, both large and small, that we don’t even think about.  Shoot for the Moon reminds us that exploration into the unknown is always worth it.


Staff Pick Badge
The Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780374113346
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - October 2nd, 2018

The Ravenmaster is one part memoir, one part history, and one part ornithological treatise.  All of which are wonderful.  When Christopher Skaife (rhymes with waif) was in school he was what we in the U. S. would call a “goof-off”.  He admits that he was headed for trouble, more interested in skipping school than learning.  But an encounter with an army recruiter gave him an opportunity to change.  He joined the army at sixteen with his mother’s permission.  He served in Her Majesty’s Army for twenty-four years becoming a machine gunner posted all over the world, including in Northern Ireland during the height of the “troubles."  After the army, he applied for the post of Yeoman Warder, or Beefeater, at the Tower of London.  The Tower has a long history, begun by William the Conqueror in 1078, as a fortress protecting London and the surrounding countryside.  It is best known as a place of execution and a prison for royalty and other disgraced peerage.  Mr. Skaife eloquently recounts much of that history throughout the book.  After all, he tells it hundreds of times a year to visitors.  Not long after joining the Beefeaters, he was asked by the then Ravenmaster to be his assistant.  His employment application consisted of being placed in a room with a raven or two to see if they could get along.  He passed handily.  Then he fell in love with the ravens of the Tower.  I didn’t know anything about ravens before reading this book.  I know much more now.  I always thought that I would want to go to the Tower of London to view the crown jewels.  Now, I want to go and see the ravens (and the crown jewels).  At its very basic level, this is a book by a man who wants to let you know that he has the very best job in the whole wide world.


Staff Pick Badge
Chain of Command Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781481482974
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Baen - October 3rd, 2017

Lieutenant Sam Bitka, a Navy Reserve Officer, is called back to active duty to serve aboard a deep space destroyer, the USS Puebla.  He is serving as the ship's tactical officer and just wants to serve his time and get back to the real world.  The Puebla is sent to the planet K'tok when tensions escalate between humans and Varoki colonists on the planet, which is rich in resources that both species need.  The USS Puebla is part of a squadron of ships transported through space by the carrier USS Hornet.  When the Varoki suddenly attack the squadron, the USS Hornet is badly damaged and the captain of the Puebla is killed.  The Hornet retreats for repairs, leaving the squadron effectively abandoned and the only defense for the humans on K'tok.  And it appears that the Varoki are sending an entire battlegroup to the area.  Sam is forced to take command of the Puebla when the ship's executive officer, who would normally take over at the death of the captain, crumbles under the pressure of attack and declares himself unfit for duty.  Fortunately, as it turns out, Sam is pretty good at tactics.


Staff Pick Badge
Valiant Dust: Breaker of Empires, Book 1 Cover Image
$25.99
ISBN: 9780765390721
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Tor Books - November 7th, 2017

Lieutenant Sikander Singh North is newly commissioned in the Aquila Commonwealth Navy.  Just out of the academy, he has been billeted to the CSS Hector, a warship.  But life on the warship will not start out easily for him because Lt. North is not your typical Navy officer.  He is not Aquilan, he is from Kashmir, a planet rich in resources but poor in military strength and spaceship technology.  And, he's super rich, with a valet/bodyguard (in fact, his family purchased his admission to the Naval Academy).  Oh, and he's really handsome.  His crewmates immediately hate his guts.  But Sikander is very smart, very driven, and very lucky.  When the USS Hector is tasked with helping to quell a planetary uprising he is given a chance to prove himself to one and all.  This is the first book in a new series-Breaker of Empires


Staff Pick Badge
The Widows of Malabar Hill (A Perveen Mistry Novel #1) Cover Image
$26.95
ISBN: 9781616957780
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Soho Crime - January 9th, 2018

In Bombay, India, in 1921 there is only one female lawyer.  Her name is Perveen Mistry.  She works with her father at his law office at her family's ancestral home, Mistry House.  Although she is not permitted to argue in front of the court, she can work on contracts, property issues, and wills.  It is this last one that leads to trouble.  One of her father's wealthy clients, a prominent Muslim businessman named Omar Farid, has passed away leaving three widows.  He had appointed a Mr. Faisal Mukri as family agent to look after his wives, since they live in purdah.  For some reason, the widows have signed a paper saying that they wish to donate all of their assets to the family charity, leaving them practically destitute.  Looking over the paperwork, Perveen becomes suspicious, some of the signatures look to be made by the same hand. 
As the only female solicitor in Bombay, she is in the unique position of being able to speak face to face with the widows-something no man can do.  While meeting with each of them, she discusses details of the will and Mr. Farid's estate that they were not aware of.  As a result, a murder occurs. 
Perveen is bright, energetic and ambitious to succeed.  She is also determined to champion the rights of women within the society.  This is because of the disastrous result of her own first love affair.   
The Widows of Malabar Hill is well written, very entertaining and Perveen is a wonderful character.  This is the first in a series of mysteries that will feature Perveen, her very smart father, her English friend from Oxford, Alice Hobson-Jones, and the life and culture of India in the 1920s while Britain still ruled. 


Staff Pick Badge
The Winter Station Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780316385343
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Little, Brown and Company - January 30th, 2018

I did not know that there was an outbreak of plague in Manchuria during the winter of 1910-1911.  It occurred around the town of Kharbin, a center of rail travel through northern Asia and Russia.  This beautifully written novel centers on the Baron Rozher Alexandrovich von Budberg who is the Chief Medical Examiner for the Russian Army.  He first came to Manchuria during the Russian-Chinese conflict of 1898 and stayed with the occupying Russian Army.  Over the years the Baron becomes fascinated with Chinese culture, even marrying a young Chinese orphan, Li Ju.   
This book moves back and forth from the Baron's fascination with the Chinese culture of respect for all things (even down to the details of a single brush stroke in calligraphy) to the resulting lack of respect for everything that the plague ushers in.  At one moment you are reading how the Baron's wife dresses in traditional Chinese attire for an evening at the theatre and the next moment you are shocked by a graphic description of the death of a patient from this terrible disease. 
As can be expected, the differing cultures of the area clash over treatment, containment and disposal of the victims.  The Russians claim it only attacks the heathen Chinese; the Chinese are convinced it is the Russians stealing their bodies for medical experiments.  The result of mistrust and politics is just more death. 
The writing in this book is lovely.  I truly enjoyed the more leisurely pacing of the novel as it gave the story more depth and detail.  The descriptions of the Chinese tea ceremony are so well written, that you become ashamed of the American habit of dunking a tea bag in a cup of hot water.


Staff Pick Badge
The Mansion: A Novel Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9781501165504
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Atria/Emily Bestler Books - December 4th, 2018

Part techno-thriller, part ghost story, "The Mansion" delves into the eternal triangle: one young woman, two young men, with a very modern twist.  As we move forward with smart houses and digital personal assistants towards true artificial intelligence, this book reminds us that we are but poor humans, not gods of creation.  All that we make and all that we are is a reflection of our own past and life experiences.
Billy and Shawn are programmers, coders, and engineers.  Just out of college, they move into a run-down cabin on Shawn’s property where his family’s dilapidated estate looms over them.  They are trying to create a new computer operating system, not true artificial intelligence, but something more than just the binary coding of simple if/then responses.  But, then one Halloween night, Emily enters their lives.  One of them will go on to become a multibillionaire with a product that rivals Apple, Microsoft, and Google.  The other gets the girl.  And the breakthrough operating system will just have to wait, hibernating in that old mansion where terrible things lie hidden within the crumbling walls.  Years later, Billy and Shawn come back together to finish what they started.  The mansion has been remodeled to modern standards and their fledgling creation is now installed there, able to operate quite independently.


Staff Pick Badge
Once a Liar Cover Image
$15.99
ISBN: 9780778369974
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Park Row - January 29th, 2019

A. F. Brady’s psychological thriller invites the reader to root for a terrible person.  Her anti-protagonist is everything that people can’t stand.  Yet, somewhere in there is a chance at redemption and the possibility of a new beginning.  The book moves from the present to the past giving us the chance to understand what makes the man.
Peter Caine is a liar.  He’s also a sociopath and a liar.  He is a high paid defense attorney who will work to get his clients off any way he can and a liar.  He doesn’t appear to have any redeeming qualities whatsoever, because he’s a liar.  The only place where he is brutally honest is as the narrator of his own story.  In A. F. Brady’s newest novel, he admits to everything.  Yes, he fabricated his entire past, including his name in order to get into Northwestern and Cornell Law School.  He believes he attached himself to the most powerful defense attorney he could find to further his own career.  Then he married the man’s daughter, mostly to cement his place in the firm.  He fathered a son because it was expected and made him look the complete family man.  He has affairs purely for the sexual gratification they give him.  However, he is not guilty of murder.  But, for obvious reasons, most people think he is and the evidence is piling up against him.  Yet, he did not kill his mistress.  The question is whether he can convince anyone of his innocence, because, after all, he’s a liar.


Staff Pick Badge
The Fallen Architect Cover Image
$25.99
ISBN: 9781492662716
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Sourcebooks Landmark - October 9th, 2018

Set in England at the turn of the last century, Mr. Belfoure’s latest novel featuring an architect is focused on the birth of musical variety theater.  Once considered little better than criminals, charlatans, or worse; actors, singers, dancers, and the like are just starting to gain respect as artists.  The “dance hall” is becoming “the theater.”  Automobiles are starting to appear in the streets of London and one of the featured acts in the new opulent and extravagant play houses are short snippets of moving pictures.
In 1900, Douglas Layton was one of the busiest architects in England—respected by his colleagues, married to the daughter of a peer, the father of a young son.  Life was good for the younger son of a brick mason.  Now, he is one of the most hated men in the country, christened “The Butcher of the West End” by the press, responsible for the death of fourteen people and the maiming of more than a dozen others.
Five years later as he leaves prison, Layton is almost convinced that he was guilty of the disaster at the Britannia Theatre; that the collapse of the balcony that resulted in all this sorrow was because his design was flawed and he was criminally negligent.
His only option for the future is to reinvent himself with a new name and career.  In a strange twist of fate, he becomes a scene painter for musical variety theater.  Here he meets a whole cast of characters both quirky and charismatic.  It is in one of the regional theaters of England that he discovers something that makes him think that the Britannia disaster was not an accident or negligence, it was flat out murder.  With new and old friends, he delves deeper into the world of the theater and begins to hope that he can clear his name and return to his old life.


Staff Pick Badge
Frederica Cover Image
$15.99
ISBN: 9781492677642
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Sourcebooks Casablanca - September 4th, 2018

Although originally published in 1965, the years have done nothing to diminish the charm of Georgette Heyer’s writing.  Her Regency novels are more comedy than romance; in the vernacular of the time, they are a mad romp through the high society of 19th century England.  All of her Regency novels, as well as her mysteries are being reprinted and nothing makes me happier than to see her back on a bookstore shelf.
Frederica Merriville is the de facto guardian of her younger sister, Charis and her two youngest brothers, Jessamy and Felix.  Although the Merrivilles are a fine old family, they have fallen on financial hard times.  Everything that is left of the estate will go to the oldest son, Harry, who is more than happy to leave the rest of the family in Frederica’s care.  Thankfully, she has a good head on her shoulders and knows just what to do.  She will find a well-to-do husband for Charis.  It shouldn’t be too hard, because Charis is gorgeous.  Frederica knows that if she can just give her a season in London, Charis will contract a brilliant marriage and Frederica will be able to settle down in a small cottage and finish raising the two younger boys.  All she has to do is convince the Marquis of Alverstoke, a very distant family connection, to sponsor Charis into the London social scene.  Fortunately, the Marquis is bored and mad at his sister.  On a whim, he agrees to help Frederica and her family.  Well, little does he know what he’s getting himself into.  Suffice it to say that Frederica and her family are definitely not boring.


Staff Pick Badge
Paper Ghosts: A Novel of Suspense Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780804178020
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Ballantine Books - May 15th, 2018

What if you thought you knew the identity of the person who killed someone you loved?  How far would you go to learn the truth?  In this psychological thriller, the heroine is willing to go as far as it takes.

Grace is "the other sister."  Not so pretty, not so charismatic, not so brave.  But when her 19 year old sister disappears, she becomes "the survivor."  Grace is 12 when Rachel vanishes.  She spends the next ten years preparing herself to find Rachel’s abductor.  She’s pretty sure she knows who it is—Carl Feldman, a photographer who was tried for the murder of one woman, but was acquitted.  Now he suffers from dementia, but Grace doesn’t buy it.  Instead, she pretends to be his daughter and decides to take him on a field trip to all the places young girls such as Rachel have disappeared, hoping to shake something loose from his jumbled memories.  But during their travels through the small towns of Texas, the relationship begins to mirror Grace’s lies.  In another time or place, she could be his devoted daughter, and he could just be a gifted artist and photographer.


Staff Pick Badge
King of Ashes: Book One of The Firemane Saga (Firemane Saga, The #1) Cover Image
$29.99
ISBN: 9780061468452
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper Voyager - May 8th, 2018

Raymond E. Feist created his first fantasy world 30 years ago with Magician: Apprentice, the first book in the Riftwar Saga.  This is the first new fantasy world he has created since then.  He can still pull you in and keep you there.

This book begins with a huge bloody betrayal.  The five Great Kingdoms of Garn have just become four.  And Baron Dumarch immediately regrets his participation in the defeat and murder of a friend, even though he felt forced by circumstance to do it.  As he watches the murder of a king and his family, he can see a dismal future approaching.  Fate will give him one tiny chance to change that.  But he will have to survive himself for the next 17 years in order to see it through.  Baron Dumarch passes off a newborn baby to a gang of assassins and thieves who promise to raise him as their own and then send him back to the baron when he is grown.

Hatushaly knows that he was not born into the Kingdom of Night, but it is the only home he has.  Over the years he has trained in all the ways that one born into the kingdom would learn—how to steal, how to observe, how to fight, how to kill.  But he doesn’t know why or to what end.

This book has all of Feist’s great characterization and deep plotting.  In this first book, we will follow Hatushaly and his friends to the day he is sent back to the Baron Dumarch.


Staff Pick Badge
The Lord of Opium Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9781442482548
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Atheneum Books for Young Readers - September 3rd, 2013

 The House of Scorpion raised so many questions about what it means to be human, not just with regard to the ethics of cloning, but also in terms of what rights all humans deserve and what qualifies someone to be given those rights.
In this sequel to that book, these questions play a central part. El Patron is dead and Matt, his clone, now rules Opium - if he can convince everyone around him that is he is the new Patron. At fourteen, Matt has to make decisions that are far beyond his life experience. His desire to enjoy the riches of Opium are counterbalanced by his memories of what it was like to be classified as non-human, stripped of all rights to life and liberty. Just as anyone might, Matt enjoys the prestige and deference that everyone shows to him. Yet the ugly truth that the subservience he receives comes not from admiration, but from artificial origins cannot be hidden from him. He knows more than anyone that the people around him are not exercising free will. As the new El Patron, Matt finds himself in control of the future of not only Opium and all who live there, but the Dope Confederacy as well. And not everyone around him is happy about that. Matt has the chance to change everything, but does he have the character to do so?
Nancy Farmer has created an entirely believable and frighteningly possible future, where the power of the drug lords makes all nations tremble. Matt's story takes place within a social-economic-political structure that gives this book such a rich and compelling background that the reader needs to pause frequently to consider what it means to be human.


Staff Pick Badge
The Yard (Scotland Yard's Murder Squad #1) Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780425261279
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: G.P. Putnam's Sons - April 2nd, 2013

It's 1889 and Jack the Ripper's horrifying murders appear to be over. No is really sure though, since the Metropolitan Police failed to capture him. As a result, Scotland Yard has formed "The Murder Squad." These twelve detectives are expected to solve not just all the murders within London, but also all serious crimes such as assault, armed robbery, and rape. Thousands of these crimes occur in the city every month. The squad faces contempt from every corner. The uniformed police rarely cooperate with them, the press makes jokes about them, and their commander doesn't even notice that one of them hasn't shown up to work for months.

The newest member of the squad, Detective Inspector Walter Day, has no idea why he has been assigned the squad.  Imagine his surprise when he learns that he was personally chosen to join his comrades by Inspector Adrian March, the man who led the hunt for the Ripper and who was forced to leave Scotland Yard in shame when he failed to solve that case.  Day is about to find out if he has what it takes to be a detective. 

One of the members of the Murder Squad has himself been murdered and gruesomely trussed up in a trunk. Walter Day is assigned the case, since he was not personally acquainted with the victim. He receives help from unexpected people around him, including Dr. Bernard Kingsley, the Yard's pathologist who is pioneering the science of forensics.

Although this is his first written novel, (he is the author of the graphic novel series, Proof) Mr. Grecian captures the feel of Victorian London very well. His characters are genuine and engaging.   Hopefully, Detective Inspector Day, Dr. Kingsley, Constable Hammersmith, and all the others will be back again.


 

Signed Editions

 
 
Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.