Wednesday, June 24, 2020
The Motion of the Body Through Space, while she places the topics of marriage and aging under her perceptive microscope. Sixty-year-old Serenata has exercised daily for decades and has been procrastinating scheduling knee surgery. Her husband, Remington, has led a sedentary life, but when he finds himself in early involuntary retirement, he decides to run a marathon. When a personal trainer spots hapless Remington, she sees a goldmine for her business. If she can get him to finish MettleMan, a hyper-triathlon, she’ll get all the clients she can handle. Shriver captures with precision and grace the vulnerabilities we face as we age, and the peaks and valleys in long term marital relationships. Readers who enjoy finely written prose, whether fitness buffs or couch potatoes, are those most likely to appreciate this novel. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase The Motion of the Body Through Space from amazon.com.
The Jerusalem Assassin. Unknown terrorists are meeting with success in targeting key players, so when President Clarke announces a new Mideast peace plan and wants to go to Jerusalem, Ryker is engaged to try to keep the President and others safe. The tension remains taut throughout this thriller, and the terrorists are worthy adversaries, usually keeping a step ahead of Ryker and others. As always, a reader feels the plot comes straight from recent headlines, and Rosenberg situates the issues among different countries in the region with great skill. Now that my heart rate has come back down, I can say I was thoroughly entertained by this novel. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Jerusalem Assassin from amazon.com.
Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family. Don and Mimi Galvin had twelve children starting in the mid-1940s and ending in the mid-1960s. Six of the children developed schizophrenia. Through extensive interviews with family members, scientists and others, Kolker offers life stories that describe situations that will make most readers uncomfortable. Once a reader opens the door to come inside, it will be hard to leave the Galvin family dynamics. While telling a personal story, Kolker also describes the development of science over the same time period and how the Galvin family influenced research and treatment for this disease. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase Hidden Valley Road from amazon.com.
Barn 8, Deb Olin Unferth introduces readers to a group of activists who plan to rescue a million chickens from the barns on a factory farm. What could possibly go wrong? Unferth’s writing leads us to care about the cast of characters and to love the chickens, while allowing the madcap action to unfold. I like a funny story that has an important message and this book had me laughing and thinking. There’s really no limit to the things we’ll do for love. Fans of imaginative and well-written fiction are those readers most likely to enjoy this novel. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Barn 8 from amazon.com.
Chosen Ones. Set in a slightly altered Chicago with a parallel darker Chicago attached, this imaginative novel keeps a fast-paced plot moving along while we get to enjoy the development of interesting and complex, nuanced characters. Protagonist Sloane heads toward a nemesis, the Dark One, and feels the heavy weight of responsibility to prevent chaos. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Chosen Ones from amazon.com.
All Adults Here, most readers will feel an extra spark of love for our own parents, siblings, children and grandchildren. Most of us will be more thankful for our relations and their issues when compared to the cast of characters in this novel. Sixty-eight-year-old matriarch Astrid Strick leads the ensemble, and her teenage granddaughter, Cecilia, may be the most mature member of the family. Straub packs a host of contemporary issues into this family and the small town in which Astrid lives. I loved the sibling dynamics in the novel, and the insight that as parents we may do our best but know there are things we’ve done that require an apology to our children. Wisdom comes from not guessing what those things are, because they may not be the events or actions we recall. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase All Adults Here from amazon.com.
Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe, to think about thinking. He aims to provide clarity, and I now have more questions than when I started, which is perfect. As he explores a variety of theories and points us to the cosmos, he also directs us inward on a search for meaning. Greene distills lots of big notions on these pages, any one of which lead a reader into decades of further study. He has a way of making connections that will encourage readers to continue thinking after we finish reading this book. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Until the End of Time from amazon.com.
Valentine, never flinch as they describe their lives in Odessa, Texas during the 1970s oil boom. After an opening scene involving the brutal rape of a young Mexican by a violent oil worker, the pace never stops as Wetmore lets these women tell us of their struggle for survival in a culture that stacks the deck against them at every turn in life. Wetmore develops complex characters and leads readers to hear their stories with compassion and feel their struggle with empathy. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Valentine from amazon.com.
A Children’s Bible, have abdicated responsibility so a group of twelve children of various ages fend for themselves after storms devastate the summer house where the extended group has been staying. The children leave their hedonistic parents in the damaged house and head into chaos. If your appetite is for dark humor in troubled times, you’re likely to love reading this novel. Nature, man, animals and their relationships are fodder for Millet’s fine writing and observations about the state of our lives and our world. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase A Children’s Bible from amazon.com.
Kent State, Deborah Wiles allows multiple voices to relate different perspectives using free verse. We hear from white and black students, National Guard troops, and residents of Kent. As is the case with many books written for younger audiences, this book removes what’s unessential to the narrative. The result is a mining of multiple memories of the past that provide another context for discussing contemporary protests and violent responses to peaceful as well as disruptive activities. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase Kent State from amazon.com.
Wednesday, June 10, 2020
One Long River of Song: Notes on Wonder, readers can gorge on his fine prose, and his acute and alert observations about life. Whether musing on basketball, his children or nature, Doyle has a way of opening our eyes and our minds to the wonders around us. Treat yourself to the finely written essays in this collection and view your life and the world around you with more clarity, humility and understanding. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase One Long River of Song from amazon.com.
Lot. We get impressions in these stories, sometimes fragments, of Houston life. Some of the stories are connected. Many involve losses, and the struggle for survival. All the stories are finely written and will appeal to any reader who appreciates literary fiction. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Lot from amazon.com.
As Long As We Both Shall Live. Matt tells park rangers that his wife, Marie, fell off a cliff. Detectives suspect Matt of murder. And we’re off. Just when we think we’re sure that Matt killed Marie, we think there might be something else going on. Chaney keeps us thinking and reading as she never lets up. What is it about marriage that leads people to the very edge? Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase As Long As We Both Shall Live from amazon.com.
Friday Black. These are sharp, finely written stories that show off the author’s creativity and are likely to delight most readers. There’s an emotional range on display in this collection that packs a punch. There’s dark humor, human failings and issues galore. His writing surprised me often, always had my full attention, and gave me great reading pleasure. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Friday Black from amazon.com.
Lose Well. It’s a funny book, as one would expect from Gethard, but also contains a serious message about the value of resilience, and all that we can learn when our dreams are thwarted. All of us have suffered rejection of one form or another throughout our lives. Gethard encourages us to embrace the rejection and use it for what we do next. We’re told to stop worrying about failure, believe in ourselves, get up and try again. Candor about his own setbacks allows his voice to be heard, whether a reader finds it funny or not. Read the book and give your dream another shot. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Lose Well from amazon.com.
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiography. You’ll smile a lot (Smilealot?) by the hilarious memories that Idle offers in this book and be amazed at the charmed life he’s led. He’s rubbed shoulders with lots of interesting people, and he gives a funny inside look at lots of them in this book. Just thinking about what I read about Spamalot brings a smile to my face as I write this. Any reader who needs a good laugh should consider reading this memoir. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Always Look on the Bright Side of Life from amazon.com.
The Truants. Protagonist Jess Walker can’t wait to be on her East Anglia university campus and experience the skills of a charismatic teacher, Dr. Lorna Clay, an expert on Agatha Christie. Weinberg develops a cast of fascinating characters and structures the novel in ways that Christie would recognize. Jess becomes part of a small fun-loving group and Lorna Clay becomes the major influence on how Jess thinks and lives. We’re treated to love triangles, significant coming of age moments, murder, pages of clever writing and just the right amount of plot twisting tension. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase The Truants from amazon.com.
Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race, Williams uses the backdrop of his own identity and the strains of black and white and how he is perceived as a way to ditch some categories as he applies principles that make sense. This book should lead most readers to rethink our notions of race. Some readers may find his book controversial. I didn’t. I listened to the struggle of a son and a father trying to unlearn the categories relating to race. Williams writes of big things in a light way, inviting readers to join him in moving ahead. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Self-Portrait in Black and White from amazon.com.
Doing Justice: A Prosecutor's Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law. As a reader would expect from a well-organized attorney, the book is structured coherently in four sections: inquiry, accusation, judgment and punishment. Through clear writing and interesting case stories, issues in criminal justice come to life on these pages as does love and respect for the rule of law. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Doing Justice from amazon.com.
Blood Echo. If you’ve not read the first novel, go ahead and start there. In this book, Burning Girl Charlotte Rowe is back with her superpower and on a mission that brings trouble to her hometown. Rice starts this novel with a rapidly paced plot and maintains momentum that will keep readers turning the pages for longer than one planned. Just when we’re invested in one plot line, things turn and get very interesting. Fans of fast-paced thrillers and this series are those most likely to enjoy this installment and look forward to the next. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Blood Echo from amazon.com.
Tuesday, June 2, 2020
Crisis in the Red Zone: The Story of the Deadliest Ebola Outbreak in History, and of the Outbreaks to Come
Crisis in the Red Zone: The Story of the Deadliest Ebola Outbreak in History, and of the Outbreaks to Come. The book reads like a thriller, packed with an interesting cast of characters. In addition to the focus on the 2013-2014 Ebola pandemic, he brings readers back to earlier Ebola outbreaks in Africa. Readers become caught up with the stories of the victims of the virus, the caregivers and the scientists. There’s a heightened sensitivity to the issues Preston raises in this book especially about mutations, the uncertainty of treatments and vulnerability during the Covid-19 pandemic. I’m still thinking about the difficult choices about limited resources, drugs and making decisions about who receives treatment. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Crisis in the Red Zone from amazon.com.
Celtic Empire. Pitt father and son are both back along with their familiar cohorts in a predictable adventurous romp around the world. We’re grounded in something from history, in this case three-thousand-year-old Egyptian version, and tension comes when an evildoer is up to no good, and the Pitts come to the rescue. No plot spoilers there, that’s the successful formula, and in this installment, I was predictably entertained. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Celtic Empire from amazon.com.
Knife. Crime fiction fans will enjoy almost five hundred pages of plot twists and Harry’s ups and downs. The only woman Harry has ever loved, Rakel, has been murdered with a knife, and Harry is a suspect. His excessive drinking hurts him again, as he can’t remember much about the night Rakel died. Nesbø pulls readers into the story, complicates matters superbly, and leads us toward a surprising and satisfying conclusion. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Knife from amazon.com.
Writers & Lovers, feels all the confusion and vulnerability of being adrift. Casey’s mother died suddenly. A romantic relationship fell apart. The novel she’s been working on for six years still isn’t finished. She lives in a hovel. At age thirty-one she works as a waitress to survive. Thanks to King’s fine writing, readers care deeply about Casey, and root for her as she forges ahead. She falls in love with Oscar and Silas at the same time, both writers and very different personalities. Will she choose one or the other? Can she continue to pursue her dream of writing? Will she ever get out from under her debt? Fans of literary fiction are those readers most likely to enjoy this finely written novel. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase Writers & Lovers from amazon.com.
How Much of These Hills Is Gold, describes the struggles of two Chinese American orphans, Lucy and Sam, in the American West during the 19th century. Zhang’s prose is finely written, and she creates appealing characters that will lead readers to care what happens to them. Memory, family and finding the place where one belongs in the world are all themes that are explored with great skill. Fans of historical fiction and good writing are those most likely to enjoy this novel. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase How Much of These Hills Is Gold from amazon.com.
If It Bleeds, will appeal to all readers who enjoy his imaginative storytelling. I especially enjoyed the return of Holly Gibney from the Bill Hodges trilogy in the title story. I found each novella satisfying and read them too quickly, as I usually do with King’s work. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase If It Bleeds from amazon.com.
The City We Became. Anyone who has lived in a great city knows that the place seems alive and has a certain set personality. I don’t read a lot of fantasy fiction, but there are times we need to escape our world and Jemison offers that with her writing skills. In the novel, she reveals avatars for New York’s five boroughs and pits them against an alien from the multiverse. Each borough’s personality shines in these characters. Avatars for São Paulo and Hong Kong show up to help New York out. For a great escape that also captures contemporary life, consider reading this novel and the others in the series when they are released. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The City We Became from amazon.com.
The Cactus League. Nemens gives us an overview of all kinds of people drawn to spring training including an aging batting coach and his wife, a star player, a rookie player, an agent, and a woman looking for a fling. The observations about each character entertained me and Nemens reveals human behavior in all its quirky wonder. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Cactus League from amazon.com.
Mr. Nobody. A man is found on a beach in Norfolk and neither he nor anyone else remembers who he is. Neuropsychiatrist Emma Lewis has been asked to examine the man, since his condition seems to line up perfectly with her expertise. Despite her professional interest in the case, Emma is reluctant to return to Norfolk because something happened there years ago that caused her and her family to leave and change their identities. Steadman leaves readers waiting a long time to find out about Emma’s past, and to reveal what’s up with the man found on the beach. Readers who enjoy psychological suspense novels are those most likely to appreciate this book. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Mr Nobody from amazon.com.
The Book of Longings, Sue Monk Kidd introduces readers to a strong female protagonist named Ana who led a remarkable life in the middle east during the Roman occupation. Also, Ana’s husband was Jesus who was crucified by the Romans. The novel helps readers reimagine a familiar story in the context of how a woman navigated a society in which all women are undervalued. Some readers will enjoy the “what if” element of the plot, while others may be uncomfortable with the notion that Jesus had a wife. I found the story compelling, saw Ana as a fascinating and complex character, and came away from the novel with all my beliefs intact. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Book of Longings from amazon.com.