Thursday, July 20, 2017

Modern Gods

Sisters. After reading Nick Laird’s novel titled, Modern Gods, I am impressed by his fine writing and with how much he achieved in a little more than 300 pages. Laird interweaves the similarities and differences between different pairs. Sisters Liz and Alison are one of the pairs. Another is Ulster, Northern Ireland and New Ulster, New Guinea. Laird explores the nature of belief and the impact of history on the present. The rituals of community life are under Laird’s microscope as are the reactions of people to their neighbors, to suffering and to grief. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Modern Gods from amazon.com.

The Marsh King's Daughter

Helena. Helena is the narrator and protagonist of Karen Dionne’s novel titled, The Marsh King’s Daughter. She was raised in isolation in remote Upper Michigan where her father had kidnapped her mother, kept her in captivity, and conceived Helena. Alternating chapters in the past and present balance the exposition and allow Dionne to develop the characters deeply and build psychological tension. Readers who like fast-paced thrillers are those most likely to enjoy this novel. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Marsh King’s Daughter from amazon.com.

The Templars' Last Secret

Terrorists. The twelfth crime novel in the Bruno Chief of Police series by Martin Walker is titled, The Templars’ Last Secret. Fans will be pleased to be back in St. Denis and the Dordogne as Walker continues to describe the beauty of the area, its long history and its archeological treasures. The large and familiar cast of characters from the previous novels is back, and no big leaps in relationships or character development happen in this novel. The surprise is that terrorists have come to this bucolic area to wreak havoc, and Bruno and friends are in the middle of everything. Fans of the series are those readers most likely to enjoy reading this novel. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Templars’ Last Secret from amazon.com.

Do Not Become Alarmed

Perils. Don’t read Maile Meloy’s novel titled, Do Not Become Alarmed, while on vacation with children. A normal anxiety level about what could happen to children can become extreme while reading about the perils faced by the children in this novel who have been enjoying a cruise to Central America with their parents. A land excursion during a port stop turns perilous and the unraveling of the children and their parents absorbs every remaining page of the novel. Meloy’s prose is finely written, and her insight into human behavior will please many readers. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Do Not Become Alarmed from amazon.com.

Trumpet of Death

Mushrooms. The thirteenth novel by Cynthia Riggs set on Martha’s Vineyard is titled, Trumpet of Death. Fans of the series will enjoy the latest sleuthing by 92-year-old protagonist Victoria Turnbull, and the loads of suspects in the murders on the island. The plant featured in this installment and the title is a mushroom and there is some confusion among characters as to whether it’s a delicacy or a poison. It’s the mushrooming suspects that move the plot along, and Victoria’s clear thinking as a beacon for the cluelessness surrounding her. This is light vacation reading that’s quick to read and easy to forget. Rating: Three-star (It’s ok) Click here to purchase Trumpet of Death from amazon.com.

Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do about It

Ouch. All parents want what is best for our children, and we will do everything we can to help them on their journey to become who they want to be. Among several themes in his book titled, Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do about It, Brookings senior fellow Richard V. Reeves explores the ways in which the top 20% of earners are securing advantages for us and their progeny. Ouch. If you thought economic inequality is because of the earnings of the top small fraction of 1%, Reeves wants you to look in the mirror. Reeves forces upper middle class readers to think about class in the United States, and the consequences of ongoing inequality as the upper middle class solidifies its position across generations. He punches holes in the myth of a meritocracy because of the advantages that come with birth into an upper middle class family. Agree or disagree, this book is worth reading by anyone interested in public policy. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Dream Hoarders from amazon.com.

The One Eyed Man

Relativity. I find that satire can often disappoint me because over the course of a novel, the prose can become uneven. I was completely engaged while reading Ron Currie, Jr.’s novel titled, The One Eyed Man. Protagonist K becomes both misfit and perfect fit for a society in which everything is relative. Following the death of his wife, K speaks to everyone he encounters with a literalness that disarms and usually offends. His life is presented as alternative highs and lows that revolve around grief, belief, and the meaning of relativity. In the blind world of contemporary life, K is the one who shines a light on everything and everyone. Currie offers humor and psychological insight while never flinching from the satire he delivers with precision. This is an unusual novel with an unconventional protagonist, which is perfect for reading right now and reflecting on what is relative and what is not. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase The One Eyed Man from amazon.com.