The Relaxation Station
The Easy Radio Book Club

"The Collector of Dying Breaths" is the latest in the series by M.J. Rose about past lives, perfume, and history. Fully developed characters, highly descriptive scents, tastes, and sounds, and historical detail are trademarks of M. J. Rose.  M.J. herself describes the books as having a velvet feel, which is a perfect way to describe the style and feel of her stories. 1550's Paris, and current day finds a fascination with capturing the last breath of individuals in order to find a way to bring them back.  Or at least their soul. A novel of suspense, "Dying Breaths" is rich, colorful, and steeped in history.

Meg Wolitzer received almost universal critical acclaim in 2013 for The Interestings, and now that the book is being released as a trade paperback, no doubt the applause will be renewed. This is a simple story; six teenagers meet at summer camp and we watch them grow up. That's about it. However, the characters in The Interestings are so vivid, so perfectly pitched, it's not hard to be drawn into their sometimes funny, sometimes tragic lives. There really isn't a mystery involved, but as readers we are drawn into the changing times, changing lives, and ever present friendships. A truly outstanding reading experience. (sr 3/14)

Game Warden Joe Pickett is back, getting into business he has been warned to avoid. A seemingly all benevolent member of a small community may be involved in things less than benevolent. Joe Pickett has been asked by the Governor to poke around and see what he can learn. Joe Pickett is a man who sticks by his principles, and doesn't much like being pushed around. It's cold in the mountains of Wyoming, and there's more than a little bit of trouble waiting for Joe. Always a good solid read. (sr 3/14)

"The Hour of Peril" by Daniel Stashower is the story of the secret plot to murder Lincoln on his trip to Washington before being sworn in as President. It is the story of Allen Pinkerton, Lincoln, his closest advisors, and the unsavory characters in Baltimore who aim to destroy the nation by the assassination of Lincoln. The Hour of Peril reads like a modern day mystery thriller, but is in fact the true story not often heard or recounted of Lincoln's train trip through the United States on his way to Washington, DC. Though we know how this initial chapter of Lincoln's life ends, we're drawn to the time, place, and history of a country soon to be divided. Amazingly rendered. (sr 1/14)

Lisa Gardner has become one of my favorite mystery writers. She doesn't spend time on kicks to the stomach or chops to the head. Instead, she creates meticulously researched mysteries that have an intense, forward thrusting energy. Gripping is always a good word for her work, and "Fear Nothing" is the best of her efforts. Sisters, one in prison since she was 14 for murder, the other a respected therapist who suffers from a rare condition where she is unable to feel physical pain, are both daughters of a notorious mass murderer. D.D. Warren, Boston PD is on the scene of a horrific murder when she suffers a painful injury. And all of this ties back to a 30 year old murder. Wow.

Doris Kearns Goodwin has crafted another outstanding book of time, place, and personality. Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the era of journalism that marks the beginning of the supportive relationship between press and politician. Colorful, expansive, and full of fascinating American history, "The Bully Pulpit" is a non fiction book of the year. Don't do the download. Read the big thick book for the full impact. (sr 12/13)

Favorites from 2013...

Liane Moriarty has written a stunningly powerful book about secrets and their unintended impact. Set in Sydney and Melbourne, busy, focused, and organized housewife Cecelia finds a letter from her husband to be opened in the event of his death. Unfortunately, he hasn't died and the letter contains a secret that disrupts numerous families in ways unimagined. While the heart of the story is dark, the book retains a sense of lightness and hope, not without a bit of redemption. Exceptional writing and characters make this a highly recommend read. (sr 12/13)

"Stella Bain" is the name of a woman suffering from Amnesia (shell shock) during World War One, searching for a memory of more than the past four months. At times this is a novel both dark and gritty, full of the horrors and unimaginable sufferings of a terrible time in history. Yet Anita Shreve has crafted a story with hope and love. She is a fine writer, fully immersed in the time and war torn atmosphere of France, England, and America. Eventually Stella does find her true identity, a person with a troubled past. Thoroughly engaging and evocative, "Stella Bain" is a gem.

"Critical Mass" by Sara Paretskyis the latest in the V.I. Warshawski series, and it just keeps getting better and better. This time, V.I. is caught up in a missing persons case involving the grandson of a WWII Survivor with a possible connection to a Noble Prize winning scientist. Switching between 1930's Germany and present day, this complicated and propelling mystery is engaging, enlightening, and well written.