Friday, March 9, 2018

The Kremlin's Candidate

Recipes. Russian interference in the United States has become a regular headline story. In the finale of the Red Sparrow Trilogy, a novel titled, The Kremlin's Candidate, author Jason Matthews focuses on that interference. Putin orders the murder of the CIA chief to set the stage for his replacement with a Russian mole. Reprised characters Dominika Egorova, the Russian spy secretly working for the US, and her lover, CIA agent Nate Nash, are placed in peril to prevent the mole from becoming the head of the CIA. Fans of spy thrillers are those readers most likely to enjoy this novel. I especially enjoyed all the references to food throughout the book, and the special reward: recipes for many of the dishes eaten. Bon app├ętit. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Kremlin's Candidate from

How Democracies Die

Norms. Two Harvard professors, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, have studied democracies around the world. In their book titled, How Democracies Die, they present a clinical assessment of the ways in which countries can lose democracy slowly following a number of different events and actions. I expected to read a Chicken Little diatribe about the crisis presented to the United States by President Trump. Instead, the book presents a dispassionate assessment of where we stand in relation to what has happened elsewhere. Any reader who dismisses the importance of norms should read this book and reconsider how important unwritten standards are to the maintenance of a free and democratic society. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase How Democracies Die from

Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic

Echo. After I finished reading David Frum's book titled, Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic, I started to wonder who else was reading it. I admit that I knew I would like the book because I was confident that Frum would provide a cogent and incisive case against President Trump. As a conservative and Republican, I wonder if Frum still maintains a receptive audience among those readers. I wonder how many Trump supporters will read this book. As we become comfortable in our respective partisan alliances, I wonder if there's a chance for the messages in one echo chamber to break into another. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Trumpocracy from


Plans. Crime fiction impresario Laura Lippman gives readers a memorable protagonist and a complex plot in her novel titled, Sunburn. My insight and understanding about Polly changed about every fifty pages. Like most of us, Polly looks out for number one, but the ways in which her planning and long-term patience accomplishes her goals were astounding. Lippman throws a wrench into Polly's plans when she meets Adam in a bar. One thing leads to another and twists and revelations abound. Fans of crime fiction are those readers most likely to enjoy this entertaining novel and will close the book feeling pretty good that someone like Polly has not been part of our life, so far. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Sunburn from

Fire Sermon

Fidelity. Clear out a book club evening to discuss Jamie Quatro's debut novel titled, Fire Sermon. Protagonist Maggie is struggling with being faithful to her husband, Thomas, as she desires to deepen her relationship with a colleague, James. If Maggie's growing desire for James were the dominant theme, this novel would have been unmemorable. Quatro adds Maggie's spirituality to the mix and places her behavior with James on a collision course with her desire to do what God wants her to do. Quatro maintains tension between Maggie's head and heart and conveys her deep longing. Falling in love turns life upside down, and Quatro spins readers with finely written prose as she presents interesting and complex characters struggling with making the right choices. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Fire Sermon from

Where the Past Begins: A Writer's Memoir

Memory. Amy Tan's memoir titled, Where the Past Begins: A Writer's Memoir, was all I expected and more. Tan shares memories of her life and focuses particular attention on writing. Readers are Tan's companions as she draws us into the process by which she uncovers deeply buried memories and uses her fine writing skills to describe those recollections in prose that is engaging and with the insight of a long life well-lived. I found the exchanges with her editor were an added delight in this book. Fans of Tan and readers who enjoy well-written memoirs are those most likely to appreciate this book. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Where the Past Begins from


Lear. The Hogarth Shakespeare series selected Edward St. Aubyn to offer readers a contemporary take on King Lear, which he does with great success in a novel titled, Dunbar. All the rage and family dynamics of the play are on display and power and money are given a modern and realistic focus, with the Lear figure, Dunbar, being the wealthy head of a global media conglomerate on the verge of being pushed out of his leadership role by the avarice of two of his daughters. I was well entertained by this novel and I will now reread the Shakespeare play as a treat. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Dunbar from