Wednesday, April 2, 2014

March Books

**The Invention of Wings Sue Monk Kidd (The Secret Life of Bees) follows Hetty "Handful" Grimke and Sarah, the daughter of a wealthy Charleston family. The story begins on Sarah's eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership over Handful, who is to be her handmaid. The novel follows the next thirty-five years of their lives and is Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, a feminist, suffragist and abolitionist).  Kidd does  excellent historical research  and  goes beyond the record to flesh out the inner lives of all the characters with  eloquent prose and imagery.

The Broken Places by Ace Atkins is a boring  jumble of a book about a murderer who is released from prison and returns to Jericho, Mississippi preaching redemption. Sheriff Quinn Colson is forced to confront the man's former partners in crime while the situation is further complicated by a dangerous tornado, an evil politician and various personal complications. 

Dead Aim by Robert Harris is a Santa Barbara mystery by an author I used to love.  His Jane Whitefield novels were excellent, but this is the most contrived novel I’ve read all year. Basically, the tale an ordinary man who tries to help a young woman and finds himself drawn into a lethal struggle with a series of unbelievable, deadly adversaries. Don’t bother!

*The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell by William Klaber is the fictionalized story , set in 1855  when Lucy cut her hair, changed clothes, and went off to live her life as a man. By the time she died,  she was notorious with a lengthy obituary in the New York Times. The book explores some of the hardscrabble challenges of living in the pre-Civil War era---especially while struggling with sexual identify and social mores of the day.

All the Dead Yale Men by Craig Nova explores the entanglements of fathers and sons — in the story of novae-riche father Pop Mackinnon, who used his wealth to manipulate his son Chip into the ‘right’ kind of marriage. Chip gave up the love of his life and married ‘wisely.’  The novel shows the impact over four generations by telling the story of Frank Mackinnon, son of Chip, a Boston prosecutor with a happy marriage and a daughter set to follow his footsteps into law school.

Doing Harm by Kelly Parsons is a debut novel by an  excellent physician who describes medical challenges and politics with aplomb but resorts to overly contrived dialogue and situations.   Chief resident Steve Mitchell is the quintessential surgeon: ambitious, intelligent, confident. In line for a coveted job. Steve’s future is bright until  a patient mysteriously dies, and it quickly becomes clear that a killer is on the loose in his hospital.

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