Thursday, November 5, 2015

September-October Books

Memory Man by David Baldacci introduces Amos Decker, a former football star with perfect memory who can’t solve his own family's murder. He leaves the police force, loses his home, and winds up on the street, taking PI jobs as they come. After a school massacre, Decker becomes a consultant for the local police and the FBI where he amazes everyone with his keen observation and insight while connecting his own loss with the school shooting. 

The Murderer’s Daughter, by Jonathan Kellerman, “master of the psychological thriller,” introduces Grace Blade to his loyal readers.  Master psychologist by day, seductive adrenaline junkie by night, Grace has a very dark past that unfolds, along plenty of weird characters, violent action, and amazing coincidences in a well-written, but predictable, manner.

Sit! Stay! Speak! by Annie England Noblin is reminiscent of books by Mary Alice Monroe, Allie Larkin, and Holly Robinson. This debut novel tells the modestly interesting story of a Chicago refugee and the rescue dog that helps an outsider in the Ozarks make peace with the past. Quaint southern colloquialisms, a couple of good recipes and a competently written plot make for a pleasant airplane read.

The Killing Lessons by Saul Black was described as having “shockingly good writing.”  I couldn’t disagree more…maybe the worst book I’ve read this year.  Two violent serial killers had (very) bad childhoods and a self-destructive detective who is obsessed with the case, along with victims, past and present, have endless deep, dark internal soliloquies that pass for psychological insight.  Black is a pseudonym for British writer, Glen Duncan, who has every reason to be ashamed to put his real name on this disaster.  How did he get so many writers to give it wonderful reviews?

*Fear of Dying by Erica Jong is a “delightful look at what it really takes to be human and female in the 21st century.” Jong deals with the “afternoon of life” by taking readers through a romp with online hookups, female friendships, children grappling with adulthood and parents negotiating with death. Not on a par with “Flying” but still shows the talent of a major writer.

*Finale: A Novel of the Reagan Years by Thomas Mallon captures the crusading ideologies, blunders, and glamour of the still-hotly-debated Reagan years.  Moving from the political gridiron of Washington, the wealthiest enclaves of Southern California, and Iceland, where the U.S. president engages in two almost apocalyptic days of negotiation with Mikhail Gorbachev. Neither Republicans nor Democrats are spared Mallon’s acerbic, insightful fictional conversations that seem utterly in character with the key political players of the era. 

Between You and Me: Confession of a Comma Queen” by Mary Norris, long-time copy editor for the New Yorker is a clever, chatty review of basic (and arcane) grammar. She addresses those vexing problems in spelling, punctuation, and usage―comma faults, danglers, "who" vs. "whom," "that" vs. "which," compound words, gender-neutral language. Norris concludes, "The dictionary is a wonderful thing, but you can't let it push you around." 

 The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History by Boris Johnson takes on the myths and misconceptions along with the out-sized reality of the man Johnson believes was Great Britain’s greatest leader.  The current mayor of London portrays  with wit, passion, and a bit of hero worship “a man of contagious bravery, breathtaking eloquence, matchless strategizing, and deep humanity.”

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