Monday, May 6, 2013

April Books

**Kind of Kin by Arilla Askey deserves the enthusiastic NYT review (  When Oklahoma passes a tough "illegals" law, Robert John Brown is sent to prison for hiding migrant workers.  Brown's daughter Sweet Georgia is left to manage a family (including a troublesome son and an orphaned nephew) that is coming apart at the seams as her marriage collapses under the stress. Askew’s treatment of poverty, politics religion, immigration and family (dis)functionality is masterful, heart-breaking and laugh-out-loud funny at the same time.

*The Art Forger by Barbara A. Shapiro’ s razor-sharp writing and plot twists makes this an absorbing literary thriller that also gives us  three centuries of forgers, art thieves, and obsessive collectors. Claire makes her living reproducing famous paintings   for an online retailer.  To improve her situation, she is lured into a Faustian bargain a powerful gallery owner and agrees to forge a painting—one of the Degas masterpieces stolen from the Gardner Museum—in exchange for a one-woman show in his renowned gallery. Of course, there are a few wrinkles in the well-researched and written novel.

The Black Box by Michael Connelly has LAPD detective, Harry Bosch trying to solve a 20 year old cold case. Bosh links the bullet from a recent crime to 1992 the killing of a young female photographer during the L.A. riots.  The new ballistics match indicate that her death was not random violence, but something connected to a deeper intrigue. Like an investigator combing through the wreckage after a plane crash, Bosch searches for the "black box," the one piece of evidence that will pull the case together. Not Connelly’s best, but still an engaging, quick read.

A Land More Kind than Home by Wiley Cash is a southern coming of age debut novel about life in an unassuming mountain town that believes in protecting its own secrets.  Jess Hall is plunged into an adulthood for which he is not prepared when his autistic older brother sneaks a look at something he isn't supposed to with catastrophic repercussions for his family, the charismatic, snake-handling minister and the strange sect that follows him 
*Mortality by Christopher Hitchens is accurately described as a "courageous, insightful and candid thoughts on malady and mortality from one of our most celebrated writers". Hitchens maintains his skepticism about religion and life after death while chronicling his losing battle with esophageal cancer while writing columns for Vanity Fair on politics and culture and also describing his personal  and philosophical view of life and death.

*The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change by Al Gore is an important, impressive  jumble of a book. Gore surveys our planet’s clouded horizon and offers a sober, learned, and moderately hopeful forecast “in the visionary tradition of Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock.”  The book reflects great breath of knowledge and research with genuine passion and commitment, but like the former VP himself, it tends to go on a bit and needed a firmer editorial hand.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn is an engaging mystery but not as well-crafted as her later book, Gone Girl. For a price, Libby Day will reconnect with the people involved in the murder of her mother and two sisters in "The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas."  At seven, she testified that her brother Ben was the murderer.   Now 32 and down on her luck, she is not so sure as the unimaginable and almost unbelievable truth emerges. The book shows signs of the talent that emerges in her next novel.

Brown’s Guide to the Good Life Without Tears, Fears or Boredom by David Brown is pretty well summarized in the title. The former editor of Cosmopolitan, husband of a subsequent editor (Helen Gurley Brown) producer and author  is wise, witty, and irreverent as reflects on a life well-lived from his tenth decade. "Helpful, humorous bits of advice and sage pithy truisms.”

The Carriage House by Louisa Hall is a “breakthrough debut novel” by the talented daughter of our neighbors.  For three generations, a carriage house has stood on the Adair property, a symbol of their family’s place in the world. Now, the house is crumbling, as is the family.  After a stroke reduces the patriarch, daughters Diana, Elizabeth, and Isabelle take on the battle for the carriage house and a more functional family dynamic. Ultimately they overcome deep and painful misunderstandings and betrayals to find forgiveness and hope.

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