The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi

Quite good.  

I recommend the book, especially if you have an interest in the lives of women in India

Escaping from an abusive marriage, seventeen-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone to the vibrant 1950s pink city of Jaipur.

There she becomes the most highly requested henna artist—and confidante—to the wealthy women of the upper class. But trusted with the secrets of the wealthy, she can never reveal her own…

Known for her original designs and sage advice, Lakshmi must tread carefully to avoid the jealous gossips who could ruin her reputation and her livelihood. As she pursues her dream of an independent life, she is startled one day when she is confronted by her husband, who has tracked her down these many years later with a high-spirited young girl in tow—a sister Lakshmi never knew she had.

Suddenly the caution that she has carefully cultivated as protection is threatened. Still she perseveres, applying her talents and lifting up those that surround her as she does.

Henna art can get quite complex.

Alka Joshi was born in the desert state of Rajasthan in India. In 1967, her family immigrated to America. She earned a BA from Stanford University and an MFA from California College of Arts in San Francisco.

Prior to writing The Henna Artist, Alka ran an advertising and marketing agency for 30 years. She has spent time in France and Italy and currently lives with her husband on the Northern California Coast.

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

One film that stuck with me over all these decades is The Shining. (1980)

Whatever happened to Jack’s wife and son?

The Shining (1977) was King’s 3rd book and first best seller.

Doctor Sleep is a 2013 horror novel by Stephen King and the sequel

Following the events of The Shining, after receiving a settlement from the owners of the Overlook Hotel, Danny Torrance remains psychologically traumatized as his mother Wendy slowly recovers from her injuries. …

In this book, Doctor Sleep is the son, age-30, of Jack Nicholson in the original movie.

We finally learn how Shining works. 

Like most King books, this one is long and detailed.  Though I don’t like horror, I enjoyed this book thoroughly.

I’ll probably watch the movie (2019), as well.




Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel

Last Night in Montreal (2009) was Mandel’s first book.

Great writer.  I’m now reading all her books after having quite enjoyed two others:

Montreal, like those other two, employ a time-jumping narrative.  Mandel does that well.

Montreal is weirdly compelling.

The life story of young woman who was kidnapped by her father at a young age.  All she knows is leaving.  Staying on the move.

When Lilia was a child, her father appeared on the doorstep of her mother’s house and took her away.

Now, haunted by an inability to remember much about her early childhood, Lilia moves restlessly from city to city, abandoning lovers and eluding the private detective who has dedicated a career to following close behind.

Then comes Eli. When Lilia goes out for a paper and fails to return to their Brooklyn apartment, he follows her to Montreal, not knowing whether he wants to disappear, too, or help her find her way home. But what he discovers is a deeper mystery …

Actually, I was even more interested in the story of the second major character, Michaela. A student and circus acrobat often abandoned by her parents.


Camino Winds by John Grisham

This is a sequel to Camino Island (2017), which I loved.

This one is almost as good.

“In American icon John Grisham’s new novel, Camino Winds, an odd assortment of mystery and crime authors, some of them felons themselves, discover one of their colleagues has been murdered during the fury of a massive hurricane—the perfect crime scene.

Since officials are preoccupied with the aftermath of the storm, the authors set out to solve the mystery themselves, in the type of wild but smart caper that Grisham’s readers love.”




So Cold the River by Michael Koryta

Many consider this one of Koryta’s best.

Read it.

This book builds like a summer storm. Beautiful to watch until it shakes the house and knocks out the lights, leaving you alone in the dark. Another masterful work from Michael Koryta, SO COLD THE RIVER is guaranteed to put the cold finger down your spine.

– Michael Connelly

As a gift for her husband, Alyssa Bradford approaches Eric Shaw to make a documentary about her father-in-law, Campbell Bradford, a 95-year-old billionaire whose past is wrapped in mystery. Eric grabs the job even though there are few clues to the man’s past–just the name of his hometown and an antique water bottle he’s kept his entire life.

In Bradford’s hometown, Eric discovers an extraordinary history–a glorious domed hotel where movie stars, presidents, athletes, and mobsters once mingled, and hot springs whose miraculous mineral water cured everything from insomnia to malaria. Neglected for years, the resort has been restored to its former grandeur just in time for Eric’s stay. …

The Woman in the Window by A. J Finn

The Woman in the Window (2018) is a thriller by the controversial Dan Mallory writing under the pen name “A. J. Finn”.

Great book.  It will keep you guessing. 

“Astounding. Thrilling. Amazing.” —Gillian Flynn

“Unputdownable.” —Stephen King

“Absolutely gripping.” —Louise Penny

Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her days drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.

It’s going to be a great film starring Amy AdamsGary OldmanAnthony Mackie, Fred Hechinger, Wyatt RussellBrian Tyree HenryJennifer Jason Leigh, and Julianne Moore.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Patriot Games (1987) by Tom Clancy

Famously popular at the time, I found Patriot Games in 2020 too jingoistic. Also slow paced.

It didn’t help that the audio book is read by Scott Brick, too emotional for my liking.

The origin of character Jack Ryan is interesting. A civilian history professor at the United States Naval Academy (USNA).

He’s the son of a Baltimore police detective and a nurse.

While in London with his family, Ryan stumbles upon a kidnapping attempt on the Prince of Wales and his family, which is orchestrated by Irish terrorist group …

He foils the attack by killing one gunman while injuring another and gets wounded in the process. …

Ryan is later knighted by Queen Elizabeth II …

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

American Dirt is a 2020 novel by American author Jeanine Cummins, about the ordeal of a Mexican woman who had to leave behind her life and escape as an undocumented immigrant to the United States with her son.

Lydia and her eight-year-old son Luca are the only survivors of the backyard barbecue massacre of her family by a drug cartel.

Her husband had been a journalist who was reporting the crimes.

Mother and son become two of the countless undocumented immigrants from Latin America who undertake the dangerous journey to the United States.

American Dirt debuted on New York Times best sellers list as the #1 on the list for the week of February 9, 2020.

The novel has been optioned for a film adaptation.

Oprah loved the book.  I’d agree.

But many, especially Mexican writers, accused the author (American, born in Spain) of exploitation and inaccuracy in her portrayals of both Mexico and the migrant experience.  A planned book tour was cancelled.

Personally, the book was insightful for me.  It’s the closest I’ve ever come to appreciating the experience of a migrant trying to cross the Mexican border illegally.

It’s fiction.  Not reality.  I understand that.





Rather Be the Devil by Ian Rankin

Rather Be the Devil (2016) is the 21st instalment in the Inspector Rebus series of crime novels.

I recall thinking that Exit Music (2007) was intended to be the Rebus exit.  Seemed Siobhan Clarke would be the successor.

In this book — as good as any of the previous ‘Big Ger’ Cafferty makes a comeback.

It’s almost believable how Rankin put together a plot to have Fox and Clarke and Rebus working together again.  Even though Rebus is sick and has to often run home to take care of his mutt.

It’s difficult for Rankin to permanently retire Rebus. They’re both from Cardenden, both live in the south side, both love vinyl, both drink in the Oxford Bar.

Big Ger Cafferty was living in Rankin’s current residence in Merchiston.

To write Rankin isolates himself in a remote peninsula called Black Isle.  No TV.  No phone network. 





The Cypress House by Michael Koryta

Arlen Wagner can tell when people face imminent death.  He’s a is a World War I veteran trying to get by during the Great Depression by working for one of the government coservation projects.

He’s traveling with 19-year-old Paul Brickhill, an interesting character.

They get unexpectedly stranded at the Cypress House–an isolated Gulf Coast boarding house run by the beautiful Rebecca Cady–directly in the path of an approaching hurricane.

I wouldn’t say this is Koryta’s best.  And it’s quite different.

Still, I enjoyed it. Koryta is one of the best writers working today.