Post Script: In the Matter of Michael Vogel – Drew Yanno

In the Matter of Michael Vogel

Drew Yanno

Pellegrino Press

ISBN: 9780615757582

Description:

It’s late summer 1966 in a small town in upstate New York when the body of eight year old Michael Vogel is found at the bottom of the deep end of the municipal swimming pool four hours after closing.

At first, the townspeople believe the initial reports that it was an accidental drowning, despite the fact that the boy’s body wasn’t discovered when the lifeguards searched the pool earlier in the day after his sister reported him missing. However, when an autopsy brings an unexpected result, it sets in motion a search for a killer, in a town unaccustomed to murder.

The story is told from the perspective of three members of the community. One is a twelve year old boy with a future he wants to avoid. Another is a sheriff with a past he wants to forget. The third is a forty year old bachelor with a secret he wants desperately to keep.

Their stories all come together in a startling and thrilling conclusion that leaves nearly as many questions as answers.

My View:

A solidly written and intriguing murder/mystery novel set in a small town upstate New York. Yanno writes a chilling story of conspiracy, murder, secrets and childhood. This book has the voice of innocence, of burgeoning adolescent dreams, of discoveries of self and of life. I loved this voyage into 60’s small town America – a time of innocence, a town where murder is not the norm, where families know their neighbours; kids ride bikes and swim at the local pool, play football, watch fireworks displays. Kids have adventures and everyone knows everyone – or do they?

This story is told from 3 perspectives and the voices tell the story well, give different point of views and provide useful background material. This is a story about murder but it is not about the detail of death, it is not about gore and blood splatter and forensic examination – it is a story about murder and people and the frailty of life.  It is not a story that will keep you awake at night in fear of the unknown, of what maybe be lurking; it is a thought provoking, considered journey into complex lives. It is playfully teasing; Yanno slowly revealing one layer after another of this complex plot in a flawless strip tease that ultimately reveals the truth about the murder of Michael Vogel.

This is a book about secrets and lies. It about masks – about the different faces we show the world; one for our friends and intimate companions, one for the community, one for our family. Which mask are you wearing now?

This was a pleasure to read.

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Post Script: Lie Still – Julia Heaberlin

Lie Still

A Novel

Julia Heaberlin

Random House Publishing Group – Bantam Dell

Bantam

ISBN: 9780345527042

 

Description:

In the tradition of Lisa Unger’s Beautiful Lies and Nancy Pickard’s The Scent of Rain and Lightning comes a twisting, riveting novel of shifting trust and shattered lives. Lie Still delves deep into the heart of an opulent Southern town, where gossip is currency and secrets kill.

When Emily Page and her husband move from Manhattan to the wealthy enclave of Clairmont, Texas, she hopes she can finally escape her haunted past—and outrun the nameless stalker who has been taunting her for years. Pregnant with her first child, Emily just wants to start over. But as she is drawn into a nest of secretive Texas women—and into the unnerving company of their queen, Caroline Warwick—Emily finds that acceptance is a very dangerous game.

It isn’t long before Caroline mysteriously disappears and Emily is facing a rash of anonymous threats. Are they linked to the missing Caroline? Or to Emily’s terrifying encounter in college, years earlier? As the dark truth about Caroline emerges, Emily realizes that some secrets are impossible to hide—and that whoever came for Caroline is now coming for her.

 My View:

This was an exciting, fast paced read that kept me guessing until the final reveal.  Heaberlin creates a strong, empathetic female protagonist and a cast of rich and entertaining minor female roles – the women of “The Club”.  Secrets, allegiances, trust, are all themes that lace and entwine throughout this book, some secrets are so huge that carrying them around is a death sentence.

I love that Heaberlin uses this book as a positive vehicle to discuss rape and in particular the date rape – a crime about power that involves so much guilt and stigma that many victims do not even report or discuss with anyone. Date rape IS a crime. We need more books, more discussions, more opportunities to support such victims and this book creates a voice that is accessible and will be heard because this is not a book of ranting and ravings and man hating rhetoric – this is a mystery/crime novel that tells a personal story of courage. This story stunned me by starting with these sentences “For me, the rape is a permanent fixture on the clock, like midnight. A point of reference. I was nineteen and four days old.” (p. 13)   What a bold and powerful and honest way to start this crime novel. A simple statement that had me hooked, it had me intrigued from the first words, in crime novels women are often the victims of crime but they are not often the protagonist  because of the crime – we do not often get an opportunity to feel their  emotional and psychological  pain ( yes we often get vivid pictures of physical pain and injuries and deaths in crime novels),  but we dont often see victims on their long journey to restoration,  this is a great way of turning the dynamic upside down, giving power back to Emily. An ultimately this is what Emily succeeds in doing – she stands up for herself. She is powerful. (There are no spoilers here.)

The reader is engaged in a very cinematic view of the town, the inhabitants, and the characters. The prologue is beautifully descriptive and chillingly eerie. I can see the mountain, I can see forest floor. The image of the dirty, discoloured and scratched plastic child’s ring is ominous.  It is an omen of decay and death; very visual, very engaging.  The realm of secrets, trusts, conspiracies and blackmail are pared open for all to see. The dynamics of relationships are laid bared. This is a very well constructed mystery /thriller; with engaging characters, a taught narrative combined with elements of humour that make this a most satisfying and thought provoking read.  I look forward to reading Heaberlin’s earlier book Playing Dead.

How Do You Choose Your Next Read?

This is a subject I have been pondering lately – especially since I have started requesting books  from NetGalley and The Reading Room and GoodReads. In the past I have tended to look for authors I have read before, who have proved their worth and lately with my venture into ebooks (how readily available and how cheap they can be compared to paper backs) have been inspired to look for series – so I can read book after book in the same series and really enjoy the character development and have some idea of the type of read I  am about to embark on next.

I searched websites for “best of 20xx” lists, looked at book bloggers reviews etc and soon had a list of authors I was interested in reading. However i quickly ran out of options… if work is slow (and the past 12 months or so it has been very slow) I have had a lot of time to read and found I was reading 8 or 9 book in  a week – I was quickly reading through my list of preferred reads and lists of series. Over Christmas I read the CJ Box 10 book series of the wildlife officer Joe Pickett thriller/crime novels (there is one more recently published), I read the John Connolly Charlie Parker series (11 books), the Jo Nesbo  Harry Hole series (a great read aside from the first which has just been translated- stay tuned for my review), the Tess Gerritsen Rizzoli and Isles series ( 10 books)…and a quite a few others including several new releases from authors I follow including  Karin Slaughter, Micheal Connelly etc that released books for the holiday season. I read and consume books with great enjoyment and vigor.

I then discovered the world of NetGalley and was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of new releases largely from authors I was not familiar with. So how do I choose what to read? Having spent some time thinking about this I have discovered just how important the cover of a book is to my sensibilities and tastes – I was surprised out how much impact a book cover has on my desire to learn more about the story and decision to read or not.

For some reason unknown to myself I am not remotely interested in books with covers that allude to them being written forty or fifty years ago – you know the sort of thing – the style is outdated (has an op shop tone), sometimes the colours are faded yellows (a deliberate choice)…I cant quite explain it….maybe an example is needed; the cover of this book has no appeal yet may be  a perfectly good read.

Yet I have read some recently re released books from the 80’s and they have been great reads eg False Witness Dorothy Uhnak – I cannot recall the cover but it must have been appealing,

I search by genre first ( mystery/thrillers/crime) then by the cover that appealed and then read the synopsis/description and finally make my decision.

I dont like romances (I think I read to many as a teenager and quickly out grew their predictability and formulaic structure) hence any book that remotely look “typical” of this  genre is out – see below.

I almost passed on the great read -Keep No Secrets – because of it’s cover reminding me of a romance style.

So how do you pick you next read?  As you can see I like crime/thrillers but I like almost any book that is well written and interesting. What are you reading and what do you recommend?

** The covers I have used here as references (aside from Keep No Secrets) I have not read and have no knowledge of. It is not my intention to rate these books or review them – they are merely examples of covers I personally don’t like – no offence is intended to the authors or the publishers.

Post Script: Nilsson The Life of a Singer-Songwriter- Alyn Shipton

Nilsson

The Life of a Singer-Songwriter

Alyn Shipton

Oxford University Press

ISBN: 9780199756575

Description:

Paul McCartney and John Lennon described him as the Beatles’ “favorite group,” he won Grammy awards, wrote and recorded hit songs, and yet no figure in popular music is as much of a paradox, or as underrated, as Harry Nilsson.

In this first ever full-length biography, Alyn Shipton traces Nilsson’s life from his Brooklyn childhood to his Los Angeles adolescence and his gradual emergence as a uniquely talented singer-songwriter. With interviews from friends, family, and associates, and material drawn from an unfinished autobiography, Shipton probes beneath the enigma to discover the real Harry Nilsson. A major celebrity at a time when huge concerts and festivals were becoming the norm, Nilsson shunned live performance. His venue was the studio, his stage the dubbing booth, his greatest triumphs masterful examples of studio craft. He was a gifted composer of songs for a wide variety of performers, including the Ronettes, the Yardbirds, and the Monkees, yet Nilsson’s own biggest hits were almost all written by other songwriters. He won two Grammy awards, in 1969 for “Everybody’s Talkin'” (the theme song for Midnight Cowboy), and in 1972 for “Without You,” had two top ten singles, numerous album successes, and wrote a number of songs — “Coconut” and “Jump into the Fire,” to name just two — that still sound remarkably fresh and original today.  He was once described by his producer Richard Perry as “the finest white male singer on the planet,” but near the end of his life, Nilsson’s career was marked by voice-damaging substance abuse and the infamous deaths of both Keith Moon and Mama Cass in his London flat.

Drawing on exclusive access to Nilsson’s papers, Alyn Shipton’s biography offers readers an intimate portrait of a man who has seemed both famous and unknowable — until now.

My View:

Let me preface my review with the statement – I am a big Harry Nilsson fan. And I thought I knew a lot about this musician, his music and his life. I have listened to and bought his music and have watched and enjoyed the documentary Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?) but in reality I knew nothing about this complex paradox of a man who inspired and was inspired by the world and what it had to offer. Nilsson produced so many more albums than I was aware of, he made movies, he acted, he wrote jingles for commercials, he wrote sound tracks for movies, he wrote musicals, he wrote kids books, he was a singer and a songwriter – he was prolific in output and somewhat manic in his behaviour. Nilsson worked hard and played even harder.

It took me a little while to get into this book – I was not aware of Harry’s childhood or upbringing, in fact I hardly knew Harry existed before “One ( Is the loneliest number)” or “Jump into the Fire” or “Without You”. There was so much more to Harry than I had glimpsed on the popular music charts. There a library of music out there that I must discover and Shipton has opened my eyes and ears to it! I was not aware of the influence and relationship Harry had with so many well known and respected artists – this is a side of Harry that was unknown to me.

Once I started reading about times and song material that I was familiar with I was mesmerised by this story of the good time boy who partied and partied and wanted work to be fun! (Dont we all wish that?) Harry wished it and Harry lived it- to excess. Even though I was very aware before I picked up this book that Harry Nilsson was dead I still felt saddened when his demise was revealed on these pages. Harry Nilsson was by all accounts a likable rogue, an entrepreneur, an intelligent artiste who could see and work “outside of the box” and when you look at the body of work that was his life time achievements, the depth of his talent cannot be ignored. He was a truly gifted narrator of the journey of life; his words and music moving, passionate or funny, ironic, sad, entertaining and his observations of life poignant. I very much enjoyed delving into the life and times of Harry Nilsson and I look forward to re discovering his talent from his beginnings to his classic hits.

And let me share with you my favourite Nilsson songs:

One..(is the loneliest number)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=haT8g7oKnns

Jump into the Fire  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QghwNqlCRE

Without You http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bQGRRolrg0

Everybody’s Talkin  http://www.last.fm/music/Harry+Nilsson/_/Everybody’s+Talkin’

A Few Days in Mandurah Western Australia

Last week we were tasked with dog/house sitting in Mandurah WA whilst my sister went East to watch her son participate in a national baking competition. The days were glorious – the nights – cold; typical autumn weather.

I really enjoyed the local walks around the numerous parks and the marina and in particular the wetland walks in the Len Howard Conservation Park.

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Local park  on a beautiful autumn day.

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Len Howard Conservation walk.