New in Domestic Literary Fiction
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
The idyllic lives of civic-minded environmentalists Patty and Walter Berglund come into question when their son moves in with aggressive Republican neighbors, green lawyer Walter takes a job in the coal industry, and go-getter Patty becomes increasingly unstable and enraged.
The three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine
A modern tale inspired by "Sense and Sensibility" finds financially strapped literary sisters Miranda and Annie moving in with divorcee Betty in a run-down Connecticut beach cottage, where they find love among the suburban aristocracy.
Shadow tag by Louise Erdrich
After she discovers that her husband has been reading her diary, Irene America turns it into a manipulative farce, while secretly keeping a second diary that includes her true thoughts about her shaky marriage, its affect on her children, and her struggles with alcohol.
Synopses from Novelist.
Fall of Giants
By Ken Follett
Thirteen-year-old Billy Williams enters a man's world in the Welsh mining pits...Gus Dewar, an American law student rejected in love, finds a surprising new career in Woodrow Wilson's White House...two orphaned Russian brothers, Grigori and Lev Peshkov, embark on radically different paths half a world apart when their plan to emigrate to America falls afoul of war, conscription, and revolution...Billy's sister, Ethel, a housekeeper for the aristocratic Fitzherberts, takes a fateful step above her station, while Lady Maud Fitzherbert herself crosses deep into forbidden territory when she falls in love with Walter von Ulrich, a spy at the German embassy in London...
These characters and many others find their lives inextricably entangled as, in a saga of unfolding drama and intriguing complexity, Fall of Giants moves seamlessly from Washington to St. Petersburg, from the dirt and danger of a coal mine to the glittering chandeliers of a palace, from the corridors of power to the bedrooms of the mighty. As always with Ken Follett, the historical background is brilliantly researched and rendered, the action fast-moving, the characters rich in nuance and emotion. It is destined to be a new classic. (Modified Product Description taken from Amazon)
Wedding bells ring
Detective Alex Cross and Bree's wedding plans are put on hold when Alex is called to the scene of the perfectly executed assassination of two of Washington D.C.'s most corrupt: a dirty congressmen and an underhanded lobbyist. Next, the elusive gunman begins picking off other crooked politicians, sparking a blaze of theories--is the marksman a hero or a vigilante?
A murderer returns
The case explodes, and the FBI assigns agent Max Siegel to the investigation. As Alex and Siegel battle over jurisdiction, the murders continue. It becomes clear that they are the work of a professional who has detailed knowledge of his victims' movements--information that only a Washington insider could possess.
Caught in a lethal cross fire
As Alex contends with the sniper, Siegel, and the wedding, he receives a call from his deadliest adversary, Kyle Craig. The Mastermind is in D.C. and will not relent until he has eliminated Cross and his family for good. With a supercharged blend of action, deception, and suspense, Cross Fire is James Patterson's most visceral and exciting Alex Cross novel ever. (Product Description)
Indulgence in Death
By J. D. Robb
NYPD lieutenant Eve Dallas might have been on holiday, but as she knows all too well, murder never takes a vacation. No sooner does Eve return from Ireland with her husband, Roarke, than she is back on the job looking into the death of a limousine driver who has been shot with a crossbow. The very next day, a high-priced licensed companion is stabbed to death in an amusement park horror house. The only connection between the two killings is the choice of weapons: the second involved an antique bayonet. As Eve and her team scramble to find more clues, Eve begins to think she is on the track of a thrill killer. When it comes to finding a killer, the smart money is always on Eve Dallas. The latest addictive addition to Robb’s long-running series features spiky humor; a cleverly constructed, adrenaline-raising plot; and the requisite amount of sexy passion between Eve and her soulmate, Roarke. (From Booklist)
By Sara Paretsky
Paretsky's superb 14th novel featuring PI V.I. Warshawski (after Hardball) delves into Chicago's avant-garde art scene. At the trendy Club Gouge, where Warshawski is keeping an eye on Petra, a young cousin who caused trouble in the previous book, performance artist Karen Buckley (aka the Body Artist) invites members of the audience to step on stage to paint her nude body. The intricate design that one woman paints on Karen's back provokes a violent outburst from Chad Vishneski, a troubled Iraqi war veteran. When two nights later, someone shoots the woman who upset Chad outside the club, Chad is the logical murder suspect. Hired by Chad's estranged parents to clear his name, Warshawski straddles a minefield that reaches from the Windy City's neighborhoods to the Gulf War battlefields. Scenes with her aging neighbor and a new love interest give a much needed balance to the serious plot. This strong outing shows why the tough, fiercely independent, dog-loving private detective continues to survive. (from Publisher's Weekly)
Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
Summary: On the sixtieth anniversary of the 1942 roundup of Jews by the French police in the Vel d'Hiv section of Paris, American journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article on this dark episode during World War II and embarks on investigation that leads her to long-hidden family secrets and to the ordeal of Sarah, a young girl caught up in the raid. NoveList
Here's what the Publishers Weekly review had to say:
/* Starred Review */ De Rosnay’s U.S. debut fictionalizes the 1942 Paris roundups and deportations, in which thousands of Jewish families were arrested, held at the Vélodrome d’Hiver outside the city, then transported to Auschwitz. Forty-five-year-old Julia Jarmond, American by birth, moved to Paris when she was 20 and is married to the arrogant, unfaithful Bertrand Tézac, with whom she has an 11-year-old daughter. Julia writes for an American magazine and her editor assigns her to cover the 60th anniversary of the Vél’ d’Hiv’ roundups. Julia soon learns that the apartment she and Bertrand plan to move into was acquired by Bertrand’s family when its Jewish occupants were dispossessed and deported 60 years before. She resolves to find out what happened to the former occupants: Wladyslaw and Rywka Starzynski, parents of 10-year-old Sarah and four-year-old Michel. The more Julia discovers—especially about Sarah, the only member of the Starzynski family to survive—the more she uncovers about Bertrand’s family, about France and, finally, herself. Already translated into 15 languages, the novel is De Rosnay’s 10th (but her first written in English, her first language). It beautifully conveys Julia’s conflicting loyalties, and makes Sarah’s trials so riveting, her innocence so absorbing, that the book is hard to put down.
Watch for an upcoming blog post called:
If you like Sarah's Key, try these books
One of the Most Enjoyable Books I've Read this Year
Girl in Translation
By Jean Kwok
When eleven year old Kimberly Chang and her mother emigrate from Hong Kong to America, they speak little English and own nothing but debt. They arrive in New York hopeful for a better life, but find instead a squalid Brooklyn apartment lacking heat and real furniture and a life of backbreaking labor in a Chinatown sweatshop. Unable to accept this as her future, Kim decides to use her “talent for school” to earn a place for herself and her mother in their adopted country. Disguising the most difficult truths of her life—her staggering poverty, the weight of her family’s expectations, and the true depths of her culture confusion—she embarks on a double life: an exceptional student by day, and a sweatshop worker by evening and weekend. In time, Kim learns to translate not just her language but herself back and forth between the two worlds she straddles. (Book Description)
This book moved me. I was totally enthralled with Kim’s struggles for survival and completely awed by her strength, perseverance and single minded determination for something better. The writing was so raw and vivid that I couldn’t help but wonder just how much of the story was based upon the author’s own life experiences immigrating to America from China.
I went through broad rage of emotions while taking my journey with Kim. Many times I was completely indignant and fuming because of the unfairness and the conditions she had to endure. I also felt very sorry for her, having no choice but to navigate the intricacies of being a teenager trying so desperately to fit in with her peers in a new country to boot. She was also forced to take on the role of an adult, filling out tax forms at the age of 13, working inhumane hours at a sweatshop to make ends meet and translating everything for her mother who mainly spoke Chinese. I felt very frustrated for Kim in her dealings with her mother and her retched excuse for an aunt trying to balance between the cultural expectations of her birthplace, and the ideologies of her new home. But whatever I was feeling, one thing remained constant: I couldn’t help but root for our protagonist every step of the way. Kimberly Chang will haunt me for some time to come.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone but especially to those who knows someone who’s immigrated, has undergone immigration themselves or is the child of a parent who has come to North America. And I challenge those of you who believe that this “couldn’t possibly happen in North America” to pick up “Girl in Translation” and read it with an open mind. It may be a book labeled “fiction” but I can guarantee you it’s anything but.
Top Ten Westerns, part one
Through the years, I've read the occasional western, with Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove being one of my top reads of 1986.
Follow this link to see the article in Booklist online called
Top Ten Westerns.
This list covers the best westerns of the decade 2001-2010:
Beecher Island. By Tim Champlin. 2010.
(watch for this book to be coming soon to a library near you)
Kansas, 1868. Matt Talbot is one of three scouts attacked by a band of renegade Cherokees. He is the only survivor, and as he makes his way from the now-hostile territory, he realizes that putting his near-death experience behind him won’t be easy. An engaging western with plenty of psychological insight.
* * * * *
Blue-Eyed Devil. By Robert B. Parker. 2010.
Those mourning Parker’s recent death spoke mostly of his Spenser series, but it’s also a shame that this fourth Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch western is apparently his last. The saga of these two sweet-talking, wrong-undoing cowboys had the makings of something very special.
The previous books in the series:
* * * * *
The Book of Murdock. By Loren B. Estleman. 2010.
Page Murdock is a Montana lawman who impersonates a priest to infiltrate an outlaw gang. On the way to corralling the bad guys, he realizes he’s a damn good preacher. In any genre, Estleman can be counted on to tell a story filled with humor, irony, and melancholy.
* * * * *
A Cold Place in Hell. By William Blinn. 2009.
Blinn, who wrote TV westerns for Rawhide and Bonanza, knows the genre inside out, as he proves in this thoughtful and compassionate tale about two friends and what happens when one must shoulder the other’s load.
* * * * *
Custer’s Brother’s Horse. By Edwin Shrake. 2007.
At the end of the Civil War, three unlikely companions flee a detachment of Union troops led by the less-famous but equally imposing Custer brother. Shrake delivers a smart, lusty, and captivating high adventure that mixes history, humor, and derring-do.
* * * * *
Book descriptions from the article: Top Ten Westerns by Bill Ott. This feature article was first published in August, 2010 in Booklist).
**** Watch for Top Ten Westerns, part two, coming soon ****
The Attack by Yasmina Khadra
What would you do if you suddenly discovered that the person closest to you was someone you didn't really know after all? That is the situation faced by Dr. Amin Jaafari, a surgeon working in a hospital in Tel Aviv, in The attack, a disturbing and affecting novel. Amin, an Arab-Israeli citizen, is highly respected by his community and colleagues. He has integrated into Israeli society, and lives a priveleged life with his wife Sihem, quite removed from the violent clashes that often erupt around him. So he is shocked to discover that his wife is a casualty in a suicide bomb attack in the city. But his entire life is put into question when he must face the fact that his wife was the bomber. How could he have missed the signs? What made his wife so unhappy that she would even consider such an act? What could he have done to ease her unhappiness? His search for answers takes him into dangerous territory where young men and women are prepared to sacrifice their own lives. As one militant leader tells him, "I wanted you to understand why we've taken up arms...why our teenagers throw themselves on tanks as though they were candy boxes, why our cemeteries are filled to overflowing, why I want to die with my weapons in my hand...There's no worse cataclysm than humiliation." Amin can never trade his wish to preserve life for the
martyr's imperative. Nor can he ultimately accept how his beautiful, loving and faithful wife could have turned away from their life together.
This is not a novel about redemption. Rather, it casts a glaring light on the nature of conflict and the irrevocable loss of spirit it entails.
Yasmina Khadra is the pseudonym of former Algerian army officer Mohammed Moulessehoul. He is the author of The swallows of Kabul.
Review: The Lamb White Days
The Lamb White Days by Kenneth D. Reimer
Summary: The revolutionaries, inspired by the teachings of the prophet, Samuel J. Harris, have taken Ottawa, and Vancouver has been set ablaze. Only Regina, the birthplace of their prophet, has been left untouched. Desperate to find his missing fiancee, Jacob Harrison journeys to the last free city, but after weeks of searching, his hope gives way to despair. Now, time is running out. The New Christian Army has reached the outskirts of Regina, and the violence darkens the city streets. Jacob must battle his inner turmoil, search for truth, and the fight for his life in the lamb of white days.
May's Review: One of my colleagues who knew I read sci-fi/fantasy books, asked me to review this first time novel by local writer, Kenneth Reimer. When I read the summary, I was definitely more than a little intrigued by the premise of Regina as the last free standing city! Before I continue my review, I should point out that this book is definitely NOT science fiction and as a result, it is classified by the wonderful library folks in cataloging as a a work of general fiction. That being said, I really wish I could tell you something positive about this book other than it had an interesting premise.
Part of the problem lies in the author's description of Regina's current situation as the last free standing city. Instead of a dirty, broken-down, crime-rife city, the reader gets a relatively sanitary and civilized urban center where one can go to the Free House, drink coffee and to listen to poetry while an invading army is camped outside. This is coupled with the fact that the author does not spend enough time developing the character's background to explain his motives and actions. Flashbacks reveal what the hero was like when he tried to fight back and ran to Regina but I never got a sense of what he was like before all of the chaos began. He is simply portrayed as an intellectual whose work has been misinterpreted and now he has to run for his life. Hard to care whether the character survives the ongoing invasion or not. I am not saying that this book was awful. It's certainly better than Pride and Prejudice and Zombies but the book could have used better editing and better character development to make the tough slog more palatable.
In honour of daughters everywhere...
It has slowly dawned on me that there have been a lot of fiction books published in the past couple of years about daughters. I have become suspicious that there might be a certain “riding-on-coat-tails” phenomenon in action. But surely I’m being cynical.
You be the judge. Here’s a partial list, organized roughly by caterories.
Daughters By-The-Number: (A category with innumerable possibilities...)
First daughter by Eric Lustbader
Seventh daughter by Frewin Jones
Ninth daughter by Barbara Hamilton
Famous People’s Daughters
The king’s daughter by Barbara Kyle (The daughter in question is Mary, Queen of Scots)
Cleopatra’s daughter by Michelle Moran
Jane Eyre’s daughter by Elizabeth Newark (I don't remember a daughter. Must be an eyre...)
Lady Macbeth’s daughter by Lisa M. Klein (Alternate title: The sleepwalker’s daughter…?)
The tsarina’s daughter by Carolly Erickson (Murdered with the rest of her family in 1918. Could have been a short story.)
Daughters with dubious parentage:
The concubine’s daughter by Pai Kit Fai
The heretic's daughter by Kathleen Kent (Set in Salem at time of witch trials.)
Death’s daughter by Amber Benson
The serpent’s daughter by Suzanne Middendorf Arruda (An American in 1920s Tangier. Third in the Jade del Cameron mystery series.)
Deception’s daughter by Cordelia Frances Biddle
The Virgin Queen’s daughter by Ella March Chase (Did the Tudor bloodline end with Elizabeth I? Is this an oxymoron?)
Daughters with cool parents:
The magician’s daughter by S. C. Butler
The calligrapher’s daughter by Eugenia Kim (A young Korean girl defies the wishes of her father.)
The apothecary’s daughter by Julie Klassen (Women are not allowed to be apothecaries, but when her father takes ill, what's a girl to do?)
The mage’s daughter by Lynn Kurland
The tree shepherd’s daughter by Gillian Summers (Involves elves in Colorada. How cool is that!!??)
Valmiki’s daughter by Shani Mootoo. (Winner of the Cool Name For A Parent award.)
And finally, my personal favourite:
Somebody else’s daughter by Elizabeth Brundage.(Alternate title: Daughter of De Nile)
The Lost Symbol
By Dan Brown
As the story opens, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned unexpectedly to deliver an evening lecture in the U.S. Capitol Building. Within minutes of his arrival, however, the night takes a bizarre turn. A disturbing object —artfully encoded with five symbols—is discovered in the Capitol Building. Langdon recognizes the object as an ancient invitation . . . one meant to usher its recipient into a long-lost world of esoteric wisdom.
When Langdon's beloved mentor, Peter Solomon—a prominent Mason and philanthropist —is brutally kidnapped, Langdon realizes his only hope of saving Peter is to accept this mystical invitation and follow wherever it leads him. Langdon is instantly plunged into a clandestine world of Masonic secrets, hidden history, and never-before-seen locations—all of which seem to be dragging him toward a single, inconceivable truth. (Description taken from the Publishers)
Her Fearful Symmetry
By Audrey Niffenegger
Following her breakout bestseller, The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger returns with Her Fearful Symmetry, a haunting tale about the complications of love, identity, and sibling rivalry. The novel opens with the death of Elspeth Noblin, who bequeaths her London flat and its contents to the twin daughters of her estranged twin sister back in Chicago. These 20-year-old dilettantes, Julie and Valentina, move to London, eager to try on a new experience like one of their obsessively matched outfits. Historic Highgate Cemetery, which borders Elspeth's home, serves as an inspired setting as the twins become entwined in the lives of their neighbors: Elspeth's former lover, Robert; Martin, an agoraphobic crossword-puzzle creator; and the ethereal Elspeth herself, struggling to adjust to the afterlife. Niffenegger brings these quirky, troubled characters to marvelous life, but readers may need their own supernatural suspension of disbelief as the story winds to its twisty conclusion. (Amazon Book Review)
In Big Trouble
By Laura Lippman
When Baltimore PI Tess Monaghan receives an envelope postmarked Boerne, Tex., containing a photo of Crow, her former musician boyfriend, and a scrap of newspaper headline reading "in big trouble," a day's outing to visit Crow's parents in Charlottesville, Tex., turns into a road trip to unknown territory. Tough and street savvy in her hometown, the former reporter feels lost in the land of the Alamo. Crow seems to have disappeared with a mysterious blonde singer, and as Tess searches for them, she encounters a wall of family secrets behind which may lie the reason for the body count rising around her. (From Publisher's Weekly)
Plum Pudding Murder
By Joanne Fluke
The Cookie Jar's busiest time of the year also happens to be the most wonderful time...for Christmas cookies, Hannah's own special plum pudding - and romance! Holiday orders are high, and Hannah's slated to provide dessert at the Reverend Knudsen's upcoming nuptials. She's busy as can be and loving it. She also gets a kick out of 'Lunatic Larry Jaeger's Crazy Elf Christmas Tree Lot', a kitschy carnival taking place smack-dab in the middle of the village green. Larry thinks he's crazy like a fox with his wild business schemes, but this time, the entrepreneur may have bitten off more than he can chew. Rumour has it that Larry's in the red - an idea that takes a sinister turn when Hannah discovers the man himself dead as a doornail in his own office...It seems quite a few people would have liked to fill Larry's stocking with coal and then bash him with it - including his bitter ex-wife, his ex-partner's daughter, a woman he was wooing, and the Crazy Elf Tree lot's extremely exasperated investors...Now, with so many suspects to investigate and the twelve days of Christmas ticking away, Hannah's running out of time to nab a murderous Scrooge who doesn't want her to see the New Year. (Product Description taken from Amazon)
Necessary as Blood
By Deborah Crombie
On a beautiful Sunday afternoon in mid May, a young mother, Sandra Gilles, leaves her daughter with a friend at the Columbia Road Flower Market and disappears. Shortly thereafter, her husband, a Pakistani lawyer, is killed. Scotland Yard detective Gemma James happens upon the scene in time to witness the investigator making a mistake.
When Duncan and his trusted sergeant, Doug Cullen, see Gemma's name in the report, they decide to take the case. Working together again, Gemma, Duncan, Doug, and Melody Talbot must solve it before the murderer can get his hands on the real prize, Naz and Sandra's daughter.
But just as the case grows more dangerous, a personal issue threatens to throw Gemma and Duncan off the trail. In the end, it is up to them to stop a vicious killer and protect the child whose fate hangs in the balance. (Product Description)
If you enjoy Marilynne Robinson and Anita Brookner...
Dancing backwards by Salley Vickers
Violet Hetherington, recently widowed, is sailing across the Atlantic from England to New York, where she will visit Edwin, an old friend from the 60s. During the six day crossing, she meets a variety of people, and manages to shed some of her natural reserve. Most significantly, she meets Dino, a young man who teaches dancing. While making the crossing, Violet recalls her rich friendship with Edwin, and her rather tempestuous relationship with Bruno. With Dino’s help, and the unwitting aid of the passengers who share her transatlantic voyage, she achieves some insights into her past. Vickers writes with wit, wisdom and generosity for her characters. She lives in London, England, and is the author of four other novels, including Mr. Golightly's holiday and Instances of the number 3.
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