Saturday, November 5, 2016

September-October Books

*Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance “is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis that of white working-class Americans.” Vance writes like an insider who escaped Appalachia  and understands the panic that comes from deprivation and fear, but sees his past through the lens of a law degree from Yale. “An unusually timely and deeply affecting view of a social class whose health and economic problems are making headlines in this election year.”

Surrender New York by Caleb Carr, does not meet the standard of his earlier The Alienist. Criminal psychologist Trajan Jones is living in exile on an upstate New York dairy farm after being fired from the NYPD, when he  is asked to investigate the suspicious death of several abandoned kids who nobody seems to miss. The pace is slow, the style is ponderous, the premise hard to believe, but it is still engaging and well-reviewed.

*Commonwealth by Ann Pachent covers five decades and explores how a chance encounter and a stolen kiss reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. The almost “blended Keating and Cousins children spend summers together and forge a bond based on a shared disillusionment with their parents. There are moments of insight and humor but   is a bit disjointed.

First Comes Love by Emily Griffin got better reviews for this story of two sisters than I thought it deserved.   Meredith grows uncertain about her life with a seemingly perfect husband and daughter while  her once-happily single sister  frantically dates and considers her options to achieve her dream of having a baby. There’s lots of angst but a happy ending that was a bit too predictable.

*Lab Girl by Hope Jahrenm , an acclaimed scientist has built three laboratories in which she's studied trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Although she tells us a little more about trees than I wanted to know (my bad) she also shares her inspiring life story, in prose that comes from a world class scientist “with the soul of a poet.”

*The Mandibles: a family, 2029-2047 by Lionel Shriver is “a frightening, fascinating, scabrously funny glimpse into the decline that may await the U.S.”  In 2029, the Mandible clan has been counting on a sizable fortune when their 97-year-old patriarch dies. Yet the soaring national debt is so enormous that it is under siege from an upstart international currency, and the dollar is in meltdown. A bloodless world war wipes out the savings of millions of American families and each of the Mandibles must cope with the decline in their own fortunes.  Insightful, clever, thoughtful and just a bit overdone (for me).

Black Widow by Daniel Silva is the continuing saga of Gabriel Allon, art restorer, spy, and assassin, who is about to become the chief of Israel's secret spy service. But a shockingly familiar attack in Paris lures Allon back in the field to eliminate the man responsible before he can strike again. He and his team succeed but not before a massive attach in Washington is largely successful.  Not Silva’s best book, but it is fun reading, better than most and introduces the agent who is likely to be the focal point of future best sellers.

Stuck Up Suit by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward wasn’t as good as the blurb promised, but it was a funny and sexy “bodice buster.”  Struggling career girl is attached to a handsome, rude guy on the train and picks up his phone when he leaves. When she returns it to his dazzling office, she includes some erotic selfies, he gets in touch and, despite the usual challenges of opposites in a relationship, love prevails.

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