Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Throw Me to the Wolves

Chapleton. After every chapter of Patrick McGuinness’ novel titled, Throw Me to the Wolves, I found myself liking it more, thanks to the many ways in which the author succeeds. At the core, this is a crime novel: a dead body, a suspect, two detectives. That only provides the structure in which McGuinness struts his stuff. His prose is finely written, and he allows his characters to surprise readers with humor, psychological insight, and reflections about memory and childhood. The suspect in the murder is a neighbor of the victim, a retired public school teacher. One of the detectives went to that school, Chapleton, and knew the suspect as a teacher. McGuinness exposes the impact of tabloids in contemporary society, and the ways in which anyone who seems different can be held suspect. The action alternates between the present and thirty years earlier at Chapleton. Fans of literary fiction will be delighted by the prose. Readers who love complex characters will revel in this cast. Those who love crime fiction will find a satisfying investigation and engaging mystery. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase Throw Me to the Wolves from amazon.com.

The Falconer

Lucy. How does a coming of age debut novel stand out from the many others available to read? Write well and develop interesting and complex characters. That’s exactly what Dana Czapnik has done in her novel titled, The Falconer. Set during a senior year in high school in New York City in 1993, we get to meet Lucy, a talented basketball player who is falling in love with her friend, Percy. Czapnik taps into all the questions and concerns that a seventeen-year-old girl faces, especially one whose talent in sports can alienate from her male and female peers. Readers should never underestimate the interior lives of others, and Czapnik reveals much insight about our human condition as she develops the character of Lucy for us. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Falconer from amazon.com.

The Department of Sensitive Crimes

Wolf. Prolific novelist Alexander McCall Smith kicks off a new series with a novel titled, The Department of Sensitive Crimes. Protagonist Ulf Varg (translated: Wolf Wolf) leads a team of detectives in Malmö, Sweden, whose focus is as the title indicates. Instead of what readers usually experience in Scandinavian crime fiction, with Smith at the helm, readers will laugh and bask in the good parts of human nature. As always, the characters are complex humans and engaging for readers. Before you know it, Smith has gotten you to think deeply about something, once you stop laughing. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Department of Sensitive Crimes from amazon.com.

Where Reasons End

Words. Where does a writer go to grieve? After Yiyun Li’s 16-year-old son committed suicide, the writer turned to words. In her novel titled, Where Reasons End, Li imagines conversations between a mother and her dead son. The novel captures grief with all its confusion, sadness and attempts to find a way to stay in touch with a lost loved one. The intensity that Li captures in her writing will resonate for any reader who has experienced deep grief. Every odd conversation is a way of reaching for a connection that can never be made again. The prose is finely written and readers open to falling into the grieving process are those most likely to appreciate this novel. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Where Reasons End from amazon.com.

Big Sky

Trafficking. Fans of the Jackson Brodie series by Kate Atkinson will be delighted with the fifth installment, a novel titled, Big Sky. Patient readers will watch Atkinson meander in what seem like unconnected ways and then observe as she loosens some threads and connects others. At the center of the novel there’s crime: a human trafficking ring at work. While the novel can stand alone, readers of the earlier Brodie novels will enjoy the reprised characters, the increased complexity of their development, and the changes in their life situations and behavior, especially protagonist Brodie. Atkinson respects the intelligence of her readers, and feeds us with her humor, insight and clever references. It’s been almost a decade since the last installment, so enjoy the feast now that it’s finally arrived. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase Big Sky from amazon.com.

Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward

Optimistic. Valerie Jarrett’s memoir titled, Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward, offers a story of her life that’s so conversational that many readers will feel like they are sharing a meal with the author. Jarrett is both confident and self-aware, so she tells us about her life in ways that will connect to a reader’s own life experiences. Her extraordinary accomplishments in public service and friendship with the Obamas come across as relatable to our own friendships and our accomplishments, no matter what those are. The tone throughout the memoir is optimistic, and it’s clear by the end that anyone who can claim Valerie Jarrett as a friend has lived an enriched life because of her presence. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Finding My Voice from amazon.com.

Kushner, Inc.: Greed. Ambition. Corruption. The Extraordinary Story of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump

Character. Most observers of the Kushner and Trump families will acknowledge that the pursuit of self-interest is the first priority or overriding value of the members of these families. In her book titled, Kushner, Inc.: Greed. Ambition. Corruption. The Extraordinary Story of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, journalist Vicky Ward describes the formative experiences of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump and chronicles the ways in which they enrich themselves and their families as they attain positions of great influence in the Trump Administration. Ward presents their actions for readers to come to our own assessment of personal character. While sources are not disclosed, most readers will conclude that Ward talked to lots of people who confirmed her account of their actions. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Kushner Inc from amazon.com.