Wednesday, October 3, 2012
*Tigers in Red Weather by Lisa Klaussmann is “an unforgettable debut novel from a writer of extraordinary insight and accomplishment." Nick and her cousin, Helena, have grown up summering on Martha's Vineyard in a family estate known as Tiger House. After WWII, the two women are on the cusp of their 'real lives' and the gilt begins to crack. Then, in the 1960s, Nick and Helena--with their children, Daisy and Ed--try to recapture that sense of possibility but the intrusion of violence causes everything to unravel and their prescribed lives change forever. Told from five points of view, the novel has excellent character and class development with suspenseful longing for something even better.
It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, one a democrat and the other arepublican expert on Congress, outline recommendations for ending obstructionist tactics and artificial barriers to compromise, suggesting specific institutional restructuring measures while calling on the public and media to work with government to correct problems rather than perpetuating acerbic campaign cycles.
The Absolutist by John Boyne Will is set in the fall of 1919 when World War I veteran Tristan Sadler travels from London to Norwich to deliver a package of letters to the sister of Will Bancroft, a soldier Tristan met while training for the war in 1916. Tristan bears the scars of war on his body, but the real scars come from the horrors of war—especially WWI superimposed on his love for Will, who becomes an absolutist after having to face the immorality of war.
Criminal by Karin Slaughter is
“an epic tale of love, loyalty, and murder that encompasses forty years, two
chillingly similar murder cases, and a good man’s deepest secrets.” Slaughter
uses parallel stories, separated by 40 years, to chronicle the challenges of
Atlanta’s emergence as a major metropolitan area while coping with racism,
sexism and too many murders.
Stay Close by Coben Harlan tracks three people living lives they never wanted, hiding secrets that even those closest to them would never suspect. As the consequences of long-ago events come together and threaten to ruin lives, a suburban housewife, a failing photographer and a grieving father each confronts the dark side of the American Dream. An engaging book, but not Harlan’s best.
The Innocent by David Baldacci is an engaging story of a government hit man with a heart.
After aborting an assignment rather than kill a child, he crosses paths with a fourteen-year-old runaway from a foster home. She is smart, streetwise and in danger because her parents were murdered, and her own life is on the line. Robie rescues her and finds he can't walk away-- until the culprits are captured/killed and a nefarious plot revealed.
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
The Leopard by Joe Nesbo and Don Bartlett is described as an “electrifying new addition to Nesbø’s internationally acclaimed series. Both will I must have missed something as I found it confusing, unbelievable and boring. Perhaps I am losing my ability to keep track of dozens Scandinavian names and places peopled by horrific crimes and bizarre plot twists. Through it all, iconic Henry Hole manages to see what everyone else misses and survive multiple calamities.
*The Lost Prince by Selden Edwards is a worthy sequel to his debut success, The Little Book. Recently returned from the experience of a lifetime in fin de siècle Vienna, Eleanor Burden settles into her expected place in society--except for one small difference. Eleanor possesses an unshakable belief that she has advance knowledge of major historical events to occur during her lifetime-- and incredible insights into investment opportunities-- “A ‘Back to the Future’ for intellectuals."
Talullia Rising by Glen Duncan, is a sequel to his the acclaimed The Last Werewolf. Talulla Demetriou is grieving for her werewolf lover, on the run from WOCOP and searching for a place to give birth to Jake’s child in secret and trying to protect her twins from a cabal of blood-drinking religious fanatics. Duncan is a gifted writer who harnesses “the same audacious imagination and dark humor, the same depths of horror and sympathy, the same full-tilt narrative energy (as)…his acclaimed The Last Werewolf, Glen Duncan now gives us a…the definitive twenty-first-century female of the species. “ Perhaps, but, for me, a little too much of a bad thing.
-69 Barrow Street by Lawrence Block has two distinctions: It is the first e-book I’ve been able to check out of the SB Public Library—and the worst book I’ve read in a long time. Block is a very productive, prolific writer who can (and usually does) much better than this embarrassment. It must be something he dashed of a long time ago, couldn’t get published until the advent of e-publishing and thought it might bring in a few shekels. What a shame to damage his brand in this manner.
Monday, August 6, 2012
A Dog’s Journey by W. Bruce Cameron is a sequel to bestselling A Dog's Purpose. In case you’ve forgotten, Buddy is a good dog. After searching for his purpose through several eventful lives in Purpose, Buddy is sure that he has found and fulfilled it. Yet, when Buddy is reborn, he realizes that he has a new destiny—to take care of Clarity, a vibrant but troubled teenager. “A charming and heartwarming story of hope, love, and unending devotion”, Journey asks if we really take care of our pets, or do they take care of us? … “a moving story of unwavering loyalty and a love.”
*The World in 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civilization's Northern Future by Laurence C. Smith points to four major engines of change: population growth; the increasing demand for natural resources; economic and cultural globalization; and climate change. Smith believes that the future is brightest for will be the northern rim of nations including the Northern United States, Canada, Russia and the Scandinavian countries. Here there are still plenteous stores of oil, natural gas, water and arable land. The melting of ice in the Arctic Ocean has opened that area up for mineral exploration and extraction and increased the number and reach of shipping lanes. In the end, Smith does not see humanity as merely a passive observer and victim of all these seismic shifts.
They Eat Puppies Don’t They by Christopher Buckley skewers our relationship with China, along with the corruption endemic to lobbying, weapons manufacturing, and media spin. Lobbyist, Walter "Bird" McIntyre, is asked to "whip up…anti-Chinese fervor" to win support for a new secret weapon. Hapless and endearing, Bird divides his time between a condo he calls the Military-Industrial Duplex and the country estate called “Upkeep”, home to his trophy equestrian wife, Alzheimer's-afflicted mother, and freeloading brother Bewks, a Civil War reenactor, while writing egregiously clichéd thrillers. Fights break out on Chris Matthews' Hardball, the Dalai Lama is in peril, and the reasonable president of China is having nightmares about the US and political enemies at home…pleasant to read but not great.
A Plague of Secrets by John Lecroart brings back Dismas Hardy and Abe Glitsky “in a compelling and timely legal thriller filled with blackmail, political intrigue, and multiple murders.” When Dylan Vogler, a charming ex-convict who manages the Bay Beans West coffee shop in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district is found murdered, his knapsack is filled with high-grade marijuana. Maya Townshend-the beautiful socialite niece of the city's mayor, and the absentee owner of the shop-know becomes the leading suspect and Dimas must be creative to help her avoid conviction. Not Lecroat’s best book, but still an engaging story with lots of surprises.
*A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron is the engaging story of a dog’s search for his purpose over the course of several lives. After a rough ‘first incarnation’ as a stray, Bailey is surprised to find himself reborn as a rambunctious golden-haired puppy after a tragically short life as a stray mutt, Bailey’s search for his life’s meaning leads him into 8-year-old Ethan. During their adventures Bailey joyously discovers how to be a good dog. But, there’s more for him to learn, and the ending is moving and well crafted. “Heartwarming, insightful, and often laugh-out-loud funny…this moving and beautifully crafted story teaches… that every creature is born with a purpose.”
Friday, March 30, 2012
**Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante is a literary thriller about a retired orthopedic surgeon suffering from dementia and suspected of killing her best friend, Amanda who was found dead with four fingers surgically removed. The prime suspect, Dr. White doesn’t know whether she did it. Told in White’s fractured and eloquent voice, a picture emerges of the surprisingly intimate, complex alliance between these proud, forceful life-long friends. As the investigation deepens, White’s relationships with her live-in caretaker and two grown children intensify and everyone wonders if White’s shattered memory is preventing her from revealing the truth or helping her hide it? “A startling portrait of a disintegrating mind clinging to reality through anger, frustration, shame, and unspeakable loss.”
The End of Marking Time by C. J. West is a dystopian novel about gifted housebreaker, Michael O'Connor, who awakens inside an ultramodern criminal justice system where the Supreme Court has declared long term incarceration to be cruel and unusual punishment. Felons now enter reeducation programs where they must satisfy an army of counselors and a black box that teaches them everything they failed to learn from kindergarten through adulthood. Michael slowly realizes everything he does is evaluated to determine whether he lives or dies.
*Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje recounts a 1950s voyage by an 11-year-old boy from Colombo to England. For meals, he is seated at the “cat’s table”—far from the Captain’s Table—with a ragtag group of “insignificant” adults and two other boys. As the ship moves across the Indian Ocean, the Suez Canal, and into the Mediterranean, the boys tumble from one adventure to another. One man talks with them about jazz and women, another opens the door to the world of literature. The narrator’s elusive, beautiful cousin Emily becomes his confidante, allowing him to see himself “with a distant eye” for the first time, and to feel the first stirring of desire. A well-written and reviewed ‘coming of age’ novel, but a little slow in places.
Lost Souls of Tennessee by Amy Franklin-Willis mines the fault lines in a Southern working-class family as forty-two-year-old Ezekiel Cooper and his mother, Lillian, journey from the 1940s to 1980s and Zeke moves from anointed son, to honorable sibling, to unhinged middle-aged man. After Zeke twin brother drowns and his wife divorces him, Zeke attempts to escape by leaving his two young daughters and his estranged mother and finds refuge with cousins in Virginia horse country. As severe weather, illness, and a new romance collide, Zeke has to decide the fate of his family. A good, but not great, southern voice makes a respectable debut.
The Night Train by Clyde Edgerton is set in 1963 when Dwayne Hallston discovers James Brown and wants to perform just like him and his black friend Larry aspires to play piano like Thelonius Monk. A dancing chicken and a mutual love of music help Dwayne and Larry as they try to achieve their dreams and maintain a friendship, even while the North Carolina culture makes it difficult. Not Edgerton's best, but it recalls our divided national history and how music sometimes helped bring us together.
Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right by Thomas Frank is described as “, a wonderfully insightful and sardonic look at why the worst economy since the 1930s has brought about the revival of conservatism.” Frank looks for the anger about the recent economic crisis but finds loud demands that the economic system be made even harsher on the recession's victims and that the winners should receive even grander prizes. Good documentation and humor but too repetitive and one-sided, even for someone who still wears an Obama baseball cap.
*The Drop by Michael Connelly is not a great book, but it is very well written and fun to read. Harry Bosch is dealing with a cold case and one that is very hot. DNA from a 1989 crime matches a 29-year-old convicted rapist. Was he an eight-year-old killer or are all of the lab's DNA cases questionable? Then Bosch's longtime nemesis, Councilman Irving demands that Harry handle the investigation of his son’s death. Bosch’s investigation discovers a killer operating unknown for decades and a political conspiracy that threatens the LA police department.