Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Book Review: Changing Spaces

Changing Spaces
Title: Changing Spaces
Author: Nancy King
Genre: Women's Fiction
Price: Paperback $15.95

New Mexico author Nancy King will be in Las Vegas on Saturday, Feb. 15 at 3 p.m. at Tome on the Range to sign and talk about her new book “Changing Spaces,” a novel set in Santa Fe.

“Changing Spaces” follows Laura Feldman, a woman whose placid life goes from predictable to upheaval when her nice safe marriage to handsome and successful Zack, falls apart before her eyes. The most outrageous aspect of this book, and perhaps one of the telling characteristics of Zack, is his mistaken belief that she should be willing to reasonably discuss their separation, after all he is going to make sure she is provided for. The man just doesn’t get it that Laura has for years played his game, and buried her personality under his expectations.

Laura, after 40 years of trying to be that wife Zack has shaped her to be, finds herself making decisions and choices without consideration of his wants, wishes and desires. It is freeing and frightening for Laura.

On a trip to Albuquerque to attend a symposium, she discovers she is indeed still attractive to men, but also realizes the last thing she wants is to have a one-night stand. She doesn’t exactly run away to Santa Fe so much as drifts into a new life because she’s pretty much shed of the old one. Along the way she trades her sedate and conservative nature and clothing for a new and more flamboyant persona. Encouraged by Santa Fe women she encounters who are independent free thinkers, she begins to rediscover her true nature, hidden for years under the guise of pleasant propriety.

“Changing Spaces” tells a story of the ways subtle abuse occurs in what may on the surface appear to be a perfect marriage. To Zack’s way of thinking he is a loving husband. He doesn’t recognize his manipulative and controlling actions, which have over time eroded Laura’s confidence. When she does disappear he begins to question everything about his own life.

In the women who come to Laura's aide, King has created refreshing and diverse characters who feel familiar, because they are. You can see them as business owners, healers, poets, artists and creative spirits on any day in Santa Fe.

King has written  several other novels and nonfiction books. She is a prolific writer who also weaves and finds inspiration hiking in the mountains. She is also a contributing writer at Your Life is a Trip. King makes her home in Santa Fe.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Review: Burning Man

Book: Burning Man
Author: Alan Russell
Genre: Mystery and Suspense
Price: Paperback $14.95

Author Alan Russell continues to reap critical acclaim for his mystery novels. After reading “Burning Man” I can understand why. The story grabs you from the first moment and carries you straight through to a conclusion that leaves you wanting more, which is what any good storyteller aims for. In “Burning Man,” Russell goes to the heart of moral dilemmas that have life-altering consequences.

Michael Gideon is the burning man, burning for justice and burning up with memories and dreams.

Gideon is a man who has lost much but finds solace in his work. Despite troubling uncertainty about his own life and tragic loss, this veteran LAPD cop is unprepared for what will happen when he and his four-legged partner, Sirius, encounter a serial killer in the midst of a raging wildfire. The events leading to the two of them becoming front-page news, and the bad guy ending up in prison, will haunt Gideon during his and his partner’s recovery from severe burns, and stay with him as he battles his way back onto the force.

Instead of getting his choice job of working in homicide, Michael is dragooned into heading up the newly formed Special Cases Unit. The unusual and often bizarre cases require skill sets well suited to Gideon’s independent and resourceful way of thinking. Sirius is right with him every step of the way.

The dialog is crisp, the relationship between Gideon and Sirius is rich, and Gideon’s journey is satisfying to the reader. Who he is in the beginning – a nice enough fellow with hide-bound ideas about what constitutes justice – evolves throughout the story. He is conducting parallel but unrelated investigations, one complicated by his personal history and the other an amalgamation of half-truths and out right lies. His life is further complicated by the convicted serial killer who – even from prison – seems to have a long reach.

Russell is deft at plotting and masterful at character development. I recommend “Burning Man” because it’s plain good reading, a story with heart and hope, about a man who perhaps wonders at times if he has either

This is the first book by Russell I’ve read, but it won’t be the last. Publisher’s Weekly calls him, “One of the best writers in the mystery field today.” Russell’s 10 novels include whodunits, comedic capers and stories of suspense. His works have been nominated for many major awards in crime fiction. He has won a Critics’ Choice Award, The Lefty (awarded to the best humorous mystery of the year), and two San Diego Book Awards. He is a native and long-time resident of California, where he lives with his wife and three children. 

Review: Doing Harm

Doing Harm” by Kelly Parsons will make you nervous all over again about going under the knife, but it turns out that in this case, that’s the least of your worries.

Parsons has done a fine job of creating a character caught up in his own success, too sure of his abilities, determined to a fault, ambitious and yet genuinely good at what he does. When disaster starts to rain down all around him, partly because of his smug over confidence, but equally because of circumstances beyond his control, he finds his life and the lives of his family targeted by a masterful Machiavelli.

Dr. Steve Mitchell is a star at the teaching hospital where he is a respected surgical resident. His prospects are better than good, they’re stellar, and then his life starts to fall apart. Overconfidence in the operating room causes him to make a life-altering choice for his patient, while another of his patients is declining and no one can figure out why. These two events run a parallel course as one disaster after another makes Mitchell begin to doubt the security of his future and his marriage.

Those who once regarded him as the golden boy will hardly speak to him. His wife becomes suspicious of changes in his behavior and his absences from home. He is banned from doing the work he loves, and he’s lost a bit of his swagger and a lot of his confidence. The fiercest blow comes from a betrayal that leads him to discover horrific facts about a colleague that leaves him dazed and helpless.

Mitchell’s downward spiral slows when he digs deep and finds the core strengths that made him want to be a surgeon in the first place. With his knowledge of computers and help from an unexpected source he begins to make his way back, but the way ahead is rocky because he is dealing with an adversary pathologically bent on ruining his life while trying to justify murderous acts.

Parsons writes vividly even when describing medical and technical details. You are in the action right along with Mitchell.

“Do Harm” isn’t for the faint of heart. The doc talk can be pretty grim, but the overall story is compelling, a complex tale of human frailty, unexpected compassion and professional duplicity. A great medical thriller from a talented writer. I recommend the book to anyone who likes a good story well told.

This is Parsons’ debut novel. His knowledge of hospital and operating procedure are obvious and based on his personal experience as a board-certified urologist with degrees from Stanford University, University of Pennsylvania, and Johns Hopkins. He is on the faculty at the University of California San Diego.