book reviews: mystery, fiction,non-fiction, fantasy
Link Exchange with Bruce's Booklist
Update List & Comments
Music and Art
Fates and Furies by Laura Groff.
No One Ever Told Us That: Money and Life Lessons for Young Adults by John D. Spooner.
Sviatoslav Richter, Pianist by Karl Aage Rasmussen.
Léon Blum : Prime Minister,
Palace of Treason by Jason Matthews.
The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty
by Vendela Vida.
The Wright Brothers
by David McCullough.
Berenson A Life in the Picture Trade
by Rachel Cohen.
Humanistic Judaism by Sherwin T. Wine.
Jabotinsky: A Life by Hillel Halkin.
Ben Gurion, Father of Modern Israel by Anita Shapira.
Find Me by Laura Van Den Berg.
Living The Secular Life by Phil Zuckerman.
The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution by Jonathan Eig.
This is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids by Dannielle Owens-Reid and Kristin Russo.
Rainbow in the Cloud: Wisdom and Spirit of Maya Angelou.
Inside Madeline by Paula Bomer.
The Quotable Musician From Bach To Tupac by Sheila E. Anderson.
The Leonard Bernstein Letters edited by Nigel Simeone.
Daughter of the King Growing Up in Gangland by Sandra Lansky and William Stadiem.
Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues by MartinJ Blaser MD.
Visible City by Tovah Mirvis.
A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthough Ideas by Warren Berger.
The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison.
The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman..
Scent of Butterflies by Dora Levy Mossanen.
Alena by Rachel Pastan.
Stranger in My Own Country: A Jewish Family in Modern Germary. by Yascha Mounnk.
The Rise of Abraham Cahan by Seth Lipsky.
by Mark Haskell Smith.
The Silver Star
by Jeanette Walls.
The Great Dissent: How Oliver Wendell Holmes Changed his Mind
and changed the history of Free Speech in America..
by Thomas Healy.
The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells. by Andrew Sean Greer.
Treacherous Paradise by Henning Mankell
All That Is by Phillip Salter.
The Great Agnostic
Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought by Susan Jacoby.
The Hour of Peril by Daniel Stashhower.
Ghost Man by Roger Hobbs.
Power Systems by Noam Chomsky.
Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan.
Winter of the World Book Two of the Century Trilogy by Ken Follett.
In Praise of Messy Lives by Katie Roiphe.
Chasing Venus The Race To Measure the Heavens By Andrea Wulf.
Free Will By Sam Harris.
The Orphan Master by Jean Zimmerman.
Unorthodox:The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman.
When General Grant Expelled the Jews by Jonathan D. Sarna.
Bringing up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman.
The Inquisitor by Mark Allen Smith.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain.
Bad Boy of Music by George Antheil.
Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of the Most Beautiful Woman in the World by Richard Rhodes.
Mudbound by Hillary Jordan.
Jews On Broadway An Historical survey of Performers, Playwrights, Composers, Lyricists, and Producers. By Stewart Lane.
When She Woke by Hillary Jordan.
The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta.
Player One by Ernest Cline.
Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay.
La Seduction by by Elaine Sciolino.
The Greater Journey Americans in Paris by David McCullough.
The Forgotten Founding Father:Noah Webster's Obsessions and the Creation of an American Culture by Joshua Kendall.
Palace of Treason by Jason Matthews. Simon
and Schuster 2015. Dominika, the main character of the author's
highly acclaimed novel, "Red Sparrow," is working as a double agent for
the CIA. As a graduate of "Sparrow" School,
she is accomplished in using sex and complex martial arts as tools of
espionage. Fully implanted in the Russian Intelligence agency, the SVR,
Dominika is attempting to foil Iranian Nuclear weapon development. She
is romantically involved with a CIA agent, Nate, and works covertly to
execute their plan. Intrigue and rivalry are rife within the
SVR. Zyuganov, a sadistic SVR torturer, envisions his rise to the top ranks
of the SVR- where Dominika's status is a stumbling block. She
singlehandedly makes espionage coups ( aided by CIA information) which
put her in the limelight of the agency, diminishing Zyuganov's prospects
of eventually rising to the top ranks. Meanwhile, the SVR is
aware of an unknown American mole ( Dominika) who Zyuganov suspects and attempts to
uncover. Major intrigue ensues- Zyuganov's pursuit of Dominika
as she steals Russian state secrets. This is a highly intense, vivid suspense novel,
laced with sex and violence. Highly recommended to readers of suspense
novels. The author's first book, "Red Sparrow" was reviewed as a
"first-rate novel as noteworthy for its superior style as for its
gripping depiction of a secretive world" by the
Washington Post critic Art Taylor The
author is a retired officer from the CIA's Operations Directorate and
engaged in covert national security intelligence, with a specialization
in denied-areas. Interviews and more author info on his Simon
and Schuster web site.
- Ghost Man by Roger Hobbs. Random House :2013. Jack Delton( he no longer uses this alias) is an esoteric member of an armed robbery team: the Ghostman, a fixer upper/cleanup person of shifting invisible identities whose capabilities are integral to a carrying out a successful crime. He/she has constant a change of voice, age, facial features, location, and other markers which enable the Ghost Man to disappear easily. "Jack" is hired by Marcus, a "Jug Marker", ( an individual who orchestrates robberies) to "cleanup" an unsuccessful botched casino robbery involving Federal money which will explode within a short time. Although Jack was not a part of the robbery, he needs to find both the surviving gunman in the robbery and the missing Federal money. One of Marcus' rivals, Harry, also seeks the money, and is trying to locate Jack, whose life is constantly endangered by Harry's violent henchmen. The reader is led into the (fictional?) "behind the scenes" working of high-level armed robbery. This is a sterling debut crime thriller, replete with on-the-edge storytelling. The author graduated from Reed College in 2011. This novel will be published in 16 languages. His web site is www.rogerhobbs.com
- The Orphan Master by Jean Zimmerman. Penguin Group : 2012. Blandine Van Couvering is concerned about the disappearance of orphans in the Dutch Colony of New Amsterdam. Blandine, a successful young trader, is an orphan who grew up under the care of Aet Visser, the orphan master. There is a rumor that orphan children have been abducted by a cannibal demon, the witika. Blandine is an atheist, a feminist, and very suspicious about the disappearance of the orphans. Englishman Edward Drummond is secretly in New Amsterdam to report the whereabouts of the regicides of the English King, Charles I. He becomes attracted to Blandine, and together they attempt to solve the disappearance and murders of the missing orphans. Their lives become increasingly endangered during this time of the looming English invasion. New Amsterdam is a thrilling historical setting for this chilling crime novel. Highly recommended to the general mystery readership. The author's non-fiction books are Love, Fiercely: A Gilden Age Romance, and The Women of the House: How a Colonial She-Merchant built a Mansion, A Fortune, and a Dynasty.
Her web site is jeanzimmerman.com
- The Inquisitor by Mark Allen Smith.Henry Holt and Company New York: 2012.
The Inquisitor, a.k.a "Geiger," is a professional torturer who is contracted by governmental and
"commercial" clients. He uses a sober, rational approach with his victims, who he never kills- although their post-interrogation state is not his concern. A new "commercial" case involving a stolen artwork, goes awry. The interrogatee victim is a kidnapped child, which is against the Inquisitor's modus operandi. Geiger's life becomes endangered and he eventually must hide from his "competitors" who contracted him for the case. This is a creepy, sinuous, and chilling debut. Suspense readers will be awed by the intense complexity of this novel, including Geiger's psychological undercurrents. The author has worked for many years in the movies and TV as a screenwriter, investigative producer, and on documentary films.
- The Third Rail by Michael Harvey. Random House New York: 2010.
Two women are shot by a sniper in Chicago Transit train incidents. On the same day, a church is targeted by a chemical attack.
Private investigator Michael Kelly, a former cop, is present at the scene of one of the murders.
Kelly investigates the case with a hardened tenacity, aided by the Chicago Police and an assistant.
The FBI is also monitoring the case, overshadowing his investigation. Kelly's leads bring him on sinuous chase,
an ex-cop looming as a possible suspect. The murders open a Pandora's box hinting towards another related crime. This book is a masterful page turner, and the tense unraveling of the crimes keep the reader constantly questioning about potential perps. The author has written The Chicago Way and The Fifth Floor. He is also a documentary producer and a journalist, winning multiple Emmy Awards, two Primetime Emmy Awards, and an Academy Award Nomination. His web site is www.michaelharveybooks.com
- Crime Stories by Ferdinand Von Schirach.
Alfred A. Knopf New York:2011. Translated by Carol Brown Janeway. A fascinating array of contemporary
German crime stories. The author, a criminal defense lawyer,
spins a motley web of characters into his unsettling tales: immigrants, prominent citizens, and ordinary middle class criminals set the stage for a piercing psychological voyage into the lives of the accused. Former clients of the author, include Gunter Schabowski, the former East German spy Norbert Juretzko, and underworld figures.
- The Inner Circle by Mari Jungstedt. Translation from Swedish by Tina Nunnally. St. Martin's Minotaur, New York: 2008. An international group of young archaeology students excavate a thousand year old Viking harbor on the historic island of Gotland, Sweden.
One of the students is brutally murdered in a ritual fashion. The bodyless heads of recently slaughtered dead horses are also discovered on the island. Inspector Anders Knutas investigates the possible link between the dead horses and the murder. He painstakingly uncovers clues pointing to a serial killer. This is a riveting, dark mystery, cast against the tempo of Scandinavian life on the island. The author has worked as a radio and television journalist. This is her third Inspector Anders mystery set on the island of Gotland.
- Unspoken by Mari Jungstedt. Translated from Swedish by Tiina Nunnally. St. Martin's Minotaur New York: 2007. An alcoholic, ex-newspaper photographer has been found murdered shortly after winning a grand prize at the racetrack. Foul play is suspected by his former drinking companions. A parallel story emerges of a young teenage girl who lives with her alcoholic mother and works at a local racing stable. The two threads are brought together as Detective Anders Knutas tries to pin a suspect for the murder. A thrilling denouement ensues in which an unsuspected perp is finally brought to light. The author has worked as a radio and television journalist. This is her second book in the Detective Anders series based in Gotland, an island off the coast of Sweden.
- The Good Thief's Guide To Amsterdam by Chris Ewan. St. Martin's Minotaur New York: 2008.
Charlie Howard is a novelist who writes a suspense series about a burglar named Faulks. To supplement his income, Charlie surreptitiously takes on the same line of work as his fictional alter ego. During a visit to Amsterdam, he is mysteriously approached by an American about stealing two important monkey figurines which match the one the prospective client already owns. After stealing the two figurines, Charlie finds himself investigated by the Amsterdam Police for the murder of the American. Other thieves are also searching for the three monkey figurines: a dangerous situation ensues, and Charlie must elude both the police and the thieves on his tail while attempting to solve the mystery of the American's now missing figurine. The story wraps up by the novel's main characters revealing the perp. The author won the Long Barn First Novel Competition in the UK.
- Go With Me by Castle Freeman Jr. Steerforth Press Hanover, N.H.:2008. Lillian, an outspoken outsider in a small Vermont town, is harassed by a local criminal, Blackway. She seeks recourse with the Sheriff, who can't arrest Blackway without evidence, and instead advises her to find help at the local town mill. Two mill workers, Nate the Great, a laconic strongman, and Lester, a retired logger, join Lillian to confront Blackway. A slow building story climaxes into a hair raising conclusion. The author is the award-winning author of two previous novels, a story collection, and a collection of essays. He is a regular essayist for The Old Farmer's Alamanc
- The Grift by Debra Ginsberg. Shaye Areheart Books( Random House), New York: 2008. As a young girl, Marina discovers that she has the "gift"- the ability to read fortunes. Despite her upbringing by a scheming, drug addicted mother, who uses her as a source of income, Marina continues her craft as an adult in her native Florida. She decides to
leave Florida and establishes a following in California, where her moneyed clients include a trophy wife of a jewelry magnate and a gay man involved with a wealthy closeted psychiatrist. Marina has a growing number of clients and becomes romantically involved with a man linked to her past. Her powers of the "gift" continue to expand as she can now visualize clearly into the future. Marina eventually becomes a suspect in a crime which she foresees. The novel runs at a furious pace towards the resolution of the crime and her renewed life perspective. The author has written a novel Blind Submission, and three memoirs: Waiting, Raising Blaze,/i>>\> and About My Sisters.
- The Risk of Infidelity Index by Christopher G. Moore. Grove Atlantic Press New York: 2008. Vincent Calvino is a disbarred New York attorney now living in Bangkok and working as a private investigator. He is hired by a well connected American lawyer for surveillance of a drug piracy operation. Calvino's client unexpectedly dies of a heart attack- leaving him unpaid and desperate for work. Three expat wives- whose husbands work for the same law firm as Calvino's late client- hire him to investigate their husband's infidelities in Bangkok- a city rife with prostitution. This new investigation brings Calvino closer to the truth surrounding the drug piracy operation- and to the heart of a major crime operation. Calvino shows his true colors: a tough, resilient PI, unwavering in the face of danger. This is the the ninth novel in the Vincent Calvino series and the English debut. The novel captures the mystique of Bangkok as seen through the eyes of a street wise ex-New Yorker and seasoned investigator. The author was the Winner of 2004 German Critics Award for International Crime Fiction (Deutsche Krimi Preis) and Winner of the 2007 Premier Special Director Award Semana Negra (Spain)
for Stunde Null in Phnom Penh (Zero Hour in Phnom Penh. The author's website is CGMoore.com.
- The Prone Gunman by Jean Patrick Manchette.
Translated from the French by James Brook. City Lights Books , San Francisco: 2002. Originally published in 1981 by Editions Gallimard for La Position du Tireur Couché A French Noir tale about a young professional assassin who tries to "come in from the cold". Martin Terrier finds that the bosses of his "company"
don't want him to retire. He encounters many violent attempts on his life as he goes into hiding, and the novel settles into a bizarre undetected denouement. The author, who died in 1995, restored the French Noir genre from the stodgy police procedural style. Mr. Manchette was also a Jazz saxaphonist, political activist, and screen writer. Three to Kill is also published by City Lights Books Noir.
- The Silence of the Rain by Luiz Alfredo Garcia Roza. Henry Holt and Company, New York:2002. Translated by Henry Moser. An introverted, bookish cop, Inspector Espinosa, investigates the murder of a rich executive in Rio De Janiero. The murder weapon is not found, and the possible suspects do not have clear motives for killing the victim. Eventually, there are other murders related to the original crime and the life of the Inspector is endangered. At a whirlwind pace, Inspector Espinosa tries to solve the case and apprehend the elusive murderer. The Brazilian setting, enhanced by a solitary cop whose main hobby is collecting books, makes an enjoyable read. The author is a distinguished academic and best selling novelist who lives in Rio De Janiero. Henry Holt and Company will publish the other books in his crime trilogy, Lost and Found and Southwesterly Winds.
- Jamaica Blue by Don Bruns. St. Martin's Minotaur, New York: 2002. Derrick Lyman, the leader of a Jamaican Reggae and Hip-hop group, Derrick Lyman and The Laments, is hailed as the new Bob Marley. A veteran rock journalist, Mick Sever, is invited by the group's manager to write about their rising fame and emergence as superstars. However, two women have been found murdered after their concerts. This arouses curiosity in Sever, who begins to ask questions about the murders. The trail leads to another murder after the band's appearance in Florida, and a dangerous investigation by the rock journalist-sleuth ensues. This is a solid debut by Mr. Bruns, who intricately weaves suspense within the backdrop of a music superstar culture. The author is a musician, songwriter, and advertising executive. Visit the Mr.Brun's website at don-bruns.com.
- Blood Trail by Gary J. Cook. Dennis McMillan Publications Tucson, Arizona:2006.
Ben Tails was raised by his grandfather in West Montana, and served as a Marine sniper in Vietnam. His ties to Asia bring Mr. Slide, Ben's nom de guerre in Vietnam, to Japan where he works for a clandestine organization, Raven. Ex-Marines from his Vietnam days are also involved in this venture in which the lines of special interests are murkily drawn. Ben narrowly escapes death after an attempted takeover of Raven ensues, and is forced to leave Japan. He returns to Montana, where he must confront both his violent past and a new attempt to overtake Raven. This is a powerfully intense high-action novel, with vivid imagery: West Montana country, the Vietnam war, and contemporary Japan. The author is a Montana native, a Marine combat veteran, and a former Sheriff's deputy in Western Montana. His previous novel is Graveyard Rules.
- The Wheat Field by Steve Thayer. G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York: 2002. A small town Wisconsin Deputy investigates the horrendous murder of a local married couple who is found murdered by shotgun blasts in a local wheat field. As the former World War II Army sniper begins to close in on the case, he finds that both the Sheriff and powerful townspeople turn against him. Relentlessly pursuing all possible leads, he discovers that the murders are related to a much more significant motive: national politics. Swift and sinuous, this novel heats up to a cliff-hanging climax. Mr. Thayer is the author of The Weatherman, a New York Times bestseller. Read an excerpt.
- Echo Park by Michael Connelly. Little, Brown, and Company, New York: 2006. Detective Harry Bosch works in the Open Unsolved Unit of the LAPD. A call from the DA reveals that a convicted murderer has confessed to one of the unit's unsolved crimes dating back 13 years. A group of police, including Bosch, is led by the suspect to the alleged burial site of the victim. A surprising turn of events occurs, and consequently, the identity of the murderer remains uncertain. This is the latest novel in the Harry Bosch series, and a masterful work of suspense fiction. Be sure to visit the author's website at www.michaelconnelly.com.
- The Closers by Michael Connelly. Little, Brown, and Company, New York: 2005.
Detective Harry Bosch has returned to the LAPD to work on "cold" cases. A recent DNA match has linked a suspect to a gun used in an unsolved murder dating from 1988. Bosch relentlessly pursues leads and rallies against resistance from within the police force to solve this case. This spellbinder is the latest thriller by Mr. Connelly, a former journalist and the author of the Harry Bosch novels, as well as Chasing the Dime, Void Moon, Blood Work, and The Poet. He is a recipient of The Edgar Award and has received awards for his novels. His website is michaelconnelly.com.
- Chasing the Dime by Michael Connelly. Little, Brown and Company: 2002. The latest novel by the author of The Poet, and City Of Bones. A scientist
is about to patent his cutting edge battery pack which will play an invaluable role in the future of body diagnostics. In the midst of this,
he has separated from his girlfriend and moved into a new apartment. He finds that his new telephone number was formerly the telephone number of a female escort. Tired of receiving her messages, he tries to locate her. Playing the role of an amateur sleuth, he investigates her disappearance and becomes entangled with sex trade criminals. The plot becomes exceptionally intricate as the scientist himself becomes a suspect in her possible murder. This is the author's best novel- a departure from the Harry Bosch series and even
more intense than The Poet. For more information about Michael Connelly, visit his website: michaelconnelly.com
- City of Bones by Michael Connelly. Little Brown and Company: 2002. A dog uncovers a bone in the hills of L.A. which leads to the discovery of a buried body of a boy who had disappeared twenty years previously. A detailed investigation of the murder by L.A.P.D. Detective Harry Bosch reveals the victim's skate board as the main key to solving the crime. A list of only a few possible suspects evolves, resulting in a crime which is threatened to remain unsolved due to time constraints and a lower priority assigned to the case.
Bosch's dogged persistence solves the case in this latest page turner by the former journalist and noted author. Although not as riveting and sinuous as The Poet, this is an excellent read.
- The Ice Harvest by Scott Phillips. Ballantine Books, New York: 2000. A noir novel set in contemporary Kansas. Charlie, a successful lawyer, is bidding goodbye to Wichita on Christmas Eve. We learn that he is leaving with a half a million dollars, money skimmed from shady business operations. Charlie pays his last visit to a strip club, where he witnesses a ruthless beating; his ex wife's home where he is greeted by an eerie silent disapproval: throughout the night he encounters bizarre characters who dwell in an alcoholic netherworld. "Ice Harvest" generates a persistent air of surrealism- right to the unexpected ironic denouement. This is the first novel by the author.
- Silent Joe by T. Jefferson Parker. Hyperion, New York: 2001. A young Deputy, Joe Trona, witnesses the murder of his father Will, as they attempt to rescue a kidnapped girl. Joe is a polite, taciturn, and gifted detective, who slowly pieces together a murder which has links to a Televangelist, a Vietnamese gang, and the county highway department. Suspense driven and tightly wound, this is my favorite novel by the author of Red Light, and The Blue Hour.
- Red Light by T. Jefferson Parker. Hyperion, New York: 2000.
Another outstanding offering in the Merci Rayborn series. Detective Rayborn, a tough female investigator for the L.A.P.D. and daughter of a retired cop, is assigned to close an unsolved murder case of a prostitute in 1969. Recently, a L.A call-girl has been murdered and her assailant unknown. Merci senses a connection betweeen the two cases, which leads to an unravelling of dirty secrets kept by senior members of the police force. Detective Rayborn is relentless, tough, and pursues this investigation despite the consequences within the L.A.P.D. The author is a master of intense fast-moving dialog, and a plot line which turns unexpectedly before the reader.
- The Bomber by Liza Marklund. Translated from Swedish by Kajsa Von Hofsten. New York : Pocket Books, c2001. The novel is set in contemporary Sweden. An explosion occurs at the site of the Olympic Games and the director of the Olympics, Christina Furhage is killed. The newly appointed crime editor for a leading Swedish newspaper, Annika Bengtzon investigates the crime. It is nearly Christmas, and the tensions are high after a second bombing occurs, killing a workman at the site. Annika undercovers the details of Christina's life, and no credible motives are brought to light. As the investigation unravels, Annika's life is endangered and an unsuspected murderer emerges.The novel develops to a high-pitched climax as Annika seeks to avoid the fate of the other two victims. This is the first novel by the print and television journalist and is an international best seller.
- 4 Phase Man by Richard Steinberg. Doubleday, New York: 2000. Only a few select individuals have been chosen as a"4 Phase Man" and trained by the U.S government in high level covert activity. One of these individuals, "Xenos", who was raised Jewish in New York City, is living in Corsica and sponsors an orphanage for children injured in wars. He is asked by a prominent member of the Corsican"brotherhood" to investigate the disappearance of a nephew. Reluctantly, Xenos travels to New York and discovers an international plot to infiltrate and overpower the U.S. government. This conspiracy is directed by one of his former colleagues- another 4 Phase Man. Violent, cunning, and almost superhuman, Xenos fights a treacherous battle with his equal. A novel of high suspense and action by the author of The Gemini Man.
- The Long Firm by Jake Arnott. First published in Great Britain by Hodder and Stoughton. Published in the United States by Soho Press Inc., New York:1999. A compelling account of a Jewish homosexual gangster in post-war London. Known as "The Torture Gang Boss", Harry Starks has an insidious way of ensnaring individuals into his business affairs. His story is told by a variety of "associates": a former lover, a passeÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â´actress, a dissolute high-level politican, a hard luck criminal, and a sociologist . Harry is always the master of the situation, yet those who are enmeshed in his web of crime are rewarded with both favor and ruin. A fascinating read and one of the year's best novels.
- A Clue for the Puzzle Lady by Parnell Hall New York: Bantam Books, 1999. A nationally syndicated columnist, "The Puzzle Lady", and her niece relocate from New York to a rural New England town. Within months of their move, a young woman is found murdered in the town cemetery. The Police Chief initially pursues a lead found on the body which may be a crossword puzzle question. He enlists the aid of The Puzzle Lady who consults with her niece on the case. The Puzzle Lady is an adorable eccentric lush who is always one step ahead in the investigation. This book is a hysterical read. I look forward to the sequel in January 2000.
- The Tattoo Murder Case by Akimitsu Takagi.
Translated by Deborah Boliver Boehm 1998. Soho Press International, New York. Originally published in 1948 under the title Shisei Satujin Jiken and received the mystery club writers award of Japan in 1949. This is a classic mystery novel embroiled with mesmerizing plot twists relentlessly leading the reader to dead-end conclusions until the case is solved and explicated thoroughly at the end of the book. A young medical student becomes entranced with a full-bodied tattoed woman who he meets at a tattoo society contest. His future lover fears for her life and sends him important photographs which he must hide. Eventually, her mutilated corpse is discovered and the students brother, a prominent investigator for the Tokyo Police becomes involved in the case. Within the backdrop of post-war Japan we are thrust into a difficult murder case enmeshed within the esoteric world of Japanese tattoo art. A must-read classic mystery.
- Honeymoon to Nowhere by Akimitsu Takagi. Soho Press, New York 1999. Translated by Sadako Mizuguchi. Originally published in Japanese as Zero No Mitsugetsu. Copyright 1965. First published in English translation in Australia by the Anthos Publishing Company. A prominent lawyers daughter becomes romantically involved with an obscure university professor whose family was involved in right-wing political activities during World War Two. Despite her fathers objections, she marries this man, who is mysteriously murdered the night of their honeymoon. The history of her late husband and his personal finances are slowly revealed and bring suspicion upon a number of individuals who were linked to the victim. The case is investigated by a state prosecutor who is also the husband of the bride's close friend. A constant unwinding array of facts eventually leads to the disclosure of the murderer who is outdone in the final pages of the book. A traditional crime novel, devoid of the todays heinous criminals, is both refreshing and difficult to solve.
- Bloody Waters by Carolina Garcia-Aguilera. A Cuban-American private detective investigates an illegal adoption where the birth mother must be found for a medical emergency transplant. Lupe Solano is spicy, beautiful, and very resourceful. This is the first book in the Lupe Solano series, and we are introduced to a entertaining lead character who is willing to risk great danger to achieve her investigative goals.
- Blood Work by Michael Connelly Little Brown Boston:1998. A retired FBI agent recovering from a recent heart transplant discovers that his donor is a recent murder victim. The victims' sister enlists the aid of the agent in finding the murderer. After pursuing a number of dead-end leads, and encountering friction from the local police,the FBI agent stumbles across a previously overlooked clue which shifts the story into high gear. This is one of Connelly's best and his most original plot.
- Archangel by Robert Harris Random House, New York,1999. A history professor attending a seminar in contemporary Moscow is informed by former bodyguard of Joseph Stalin's that he is in possession of the dictator's secret papers. A search ensues, the professor following a hazardous path in which he is pursued by former high ranking Communists and Russian law enforcement officials. The novel retains its suspenseful intensity to the very last sentence: this is the authors best writing to date.
- The Unlikely Spy by Daniel Silva. Villard Books, New York 1996. One of the best spy novels I have read. A plot full of surprise whose conclusion is totally unexpected. Based on historical fact and set during World War Two, an American engineer works with the British developing artificial harbors for the Normandy invasion. A former professor also works on the project and tries to the prevent the Germans from discovering the Allies plans. A totally enveloping book.
- The Mark of the Assassin by Daniel Silva. New York, Villard Books, 1998. Although the style of the authors most recent novel is less intense than his previous book, The Unlikely Spy, it offers a compelling plot. An American airliner is shot down by a Palestinian terrorist . A CIA officer who has retired from "the field" (undercover) investigates the crime which leads to a hunt for a notorious assassin. It appears that the assassin is intertwined with international leaders including individuals close to the President of the United States. A cliff hanger right to the end.
- The Genesis Code by John Case Fawcett Columbine: New York, 1997. A child and his mother are mysteriously murdered by an arsonist. The woman's brother, a high level private detective, investigates the murder and discovers that the arsonist has a connection to a powerful Cardinal in the Catholic Church. Supported by an intriguing and sinuous plot line, this book is a page-turner embellished with solid style.
- The Luneberg Variation by Paulo Mausenrig. Translated from Italian by Jon Rothschild. Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux New York 1997. Originally published in Italian by Adelphi editizioni s.p.a. Milan 1993. A gripping tale revolving around an unorthodox chess variation, "The Luneberg Variation". Taking place in present day Germany, the book at first focuses upon the recent untimely death of a former chessmaster and esteemed figure in the European chess world. Recalling the last days of his life, the chessmaster is playing a game against his traveling companion in which he decides to use "The Luneberg Variation", a chess strategy which he had criticized in the chess magazine of which he is the editor. A young man enters their train compartment and offers suggestions on how the chessmaster should proceed in the game. The story of the young man's life unfolds and a connection between the chessmaster and the young man evolves into a chilling and sinuous tale of an unrequitable chess rivalry.
- The Killing Floor by Lee Child. G.P. Putnam and Sons New York 1997. Absolutely riveting from the first page. A drifter is accused of murder in a small southern town in Georgia. As the plot unravels, the drifter is exonerated and turns sleuth in a case which involves the United States Government. The drifter, a macho ex-military policeman, terrorizes his assailers in a very intense and violent effort to solve a crime which has international importance.
- Dead Men Do Tell Tales by William R.Maples, Ph.D and Michael Browning. Doubleday New York 1997. This non-fiction book is a must read for crime novel enthusiasts. We are lead into the world of an important forensic anthropologist, who examines the remains of crime victims. In this fascinating account, we learn how the bone structure of a crime victim can reveal the murder method, and disallow previous assumptions about the crime. Dr. Maples has also examined the skeletal remains of individuals such as The Elephant Man, the serial murderer Ted Bundy, Czar Nicholas, the last Tsar of Russia, and his family and servants. Not advisable reading for those with weak stomachs!
- A Firing Offense by David Ignatius. Random House: New York 1997. This is the best suspense novel I have read this year. Intriguing from the first page, the reader is lead into a world dangerously awash with journalism and espionage. The novel is centered on the career of a rising young journalist whose uncovering of a foreign government scandal threatens to jeopardize his own career. A must read for suspense addicts.
- The Cezanne Chase by Thomas Swan. New Market Press New York 1997. A vicious plot to destroy most of the world's Cezanne self portraits is masterminded by a Norwegian ex-pharmacist with a dubious and violent past. Scotland Yard is brought into the case, which becomes a whirlwhirl chase through America, England and France to apprehend the vicious artwork destroyer. Well written, with thorough descriptions of art restoration.
- The Shadow Man by John Katzenbach. Ballantine Books 1995.An elderly Jewish enclave of Holocaust survivors in Miami is threatened by the reappearance of "The Shadow Man", a fellow Jew who turned in Jews to the Nazis in Berlin. Compelling and intriguing to the last page. Nominated for the Edgar Award best novel of 1995.
- Pest Control by Bill Fitzhugh. Avon Books: New York 1997. A zany and comical suspense novel about a professional bug exterminator who is mistaken for international assassin. Living in New York and temporarily unemployed, this "exterminator" is foolishly given a "contract"- and his unwitting success makes him the subsequent target of an international manhunt. Totally off... a first novel by the author.
- Dog Days by Daniel Lyons Simon and Schuster, New York 1998. An irreverent and hilarious story about two computer nerds living in '80s Boston. As successful employees of a software company, they live a typical life of the young and well paid: long work hours, high credit card balances, low cash flow, and frequent restauranting. As outsiders in the predominantly Italian North End, they are treated as interlopers: the main character's BMW is deliberately trashed several times. They eventually seek revenge by stealing the pet dog of a local crime figure who had ordered the BMW assault. A crazy chase ensues, as the two main characters and a girlfriend flee. Lots of contemporary humor within a free wheeling contemporary style by the Boston based journalist.
- The Ultimate Rush by Joe Quirk. Rob Weisbach Books William Morrow and Company Inc. New York: 1998. The roller-blading hero of this very 90's fast -paced suspense novel finds himself embroiled in a securities fraud scheme, in which he becomes a dangerous and expendable link. As a dark-side computer hacker, he uses his skills and the aid of his blue-haired girl friend to save himself and expose the security fraud perpetrators. The setting is contemporary San Francisco, and we are given an intimate into the urban subculture of music, skateboarding, rollerblading, and computer hacking. The authors first novel progresses in continuous irreverence for mainstream society. Funny and very candid.
- Easy Money by Jenny Siler.H. Holt and Co, New York 1999. In this debut suspense novel, a young female "driver" based in Florida's Key West receives a dangerous "pickup"- a floppy disk containing sensitive information. She narrowly escapes after receiving the disk- her contact is murdered shortly after the delivery. While on the run, the main character tries to discover why the information on the disk is so valuable- and more importantly- who wants the information to remain secret. The author writes in a highly colorful style infused with sharp turns in the plot. This novel is an excellent debut, hopefully followed by books of the same calibre.
- Tight Shot by Kevin Allman. A Hollywood mystery St.Martins Press 1995. A flamboyant mystery,with a disheveled movie columnist as sleuth, based on the "suicide" of a prominent Hollywood producer.
- The Death and Life of Bobby Z by Don Winslow. Alfred Knopf New York 1997. Tim Kearney, an ex con, and veteran of the Persian Gulf War, is sent across the Mexican border to impersonate a well known drug dealer. The setup gets boggled, resulting in his pursuit by a vindictive Mexican drug lord, law enforcement officials, and motorcycle outlaws. A fast page turner with short chapters in which "Bobby Z" constantly outwits his pursuers. One of the summers best reads.
- Bodies Electric by Colin Harrison,Crown Publishers,1993. A young fast track executive becomes involved with an indigent Hispanic woman on the run from her abusive husband. Intense and fast paced.
- The Man Who Understood Cats by Michael Allen Dymmoch. St Martin's Press 1993. A psychiatrist's patient is found dead in his apartment- an apparent suicide. His psychiatrist,however, takes on the role of both suspect and sleuth in this engaging mystery novel. Thomas Dunne, the detective in charge of the case,works with the psychiatrist to solve the murder,and at the same time suspects him of the crime. A real "who-dun-it?" with a surprise ending. The authors first novel.
- Elvis,Jesus,and Coca Cola by Kinky Friedman Simon and Schuster 1993. Written by the irreverent leader of The Texas Jewboys,the novel is a continous series of one-liners, with a New York backdrop. Kinky and his illustrious Village Irregulars try to solve how a missing film of a recently deceased friend ties in with the murder of one of Kinky's former girlfriends. If you can't handle ethnic and religious humour, pass on this one.Visit the Kinky Friedman Site for more info on this author. Have a good laugh-read some of My Favorite Kinky Friedman Quotes.
- When the Cats Away by Kinky Friedman Beech Tree Books William Morrow 1988. In this hilarious novel with intriguing subplots,Kinky intially gets a call from a friend with a request to find her lost cat. The plot thickens,and Kinky finds his life threatened and has a run-in with the Columbian cocaine cartel...
- Greenwich Killing Time by Kinky Friedman. Beech Tree Books 1986. Kinky's good friend Mcgovern is charged with murder and goes into hiding when the murder weapon is found in his apartment. A cast of suspects from the bisexual underworld keeps Kinky on a hunt for the real criminal.
- The Love Song of J. Edgar Hoover by Kinky Friedman. Simon and Schuster 1996. In his latest novel,Kinky gets a call from a distraught woman to find her missing husband. Meanwhile, Kinky's , Mcgovern, seems to be suffering from illusions of men following him. Are the two connected?
- Unorthodox Practices by Marissa Piesman. Simon and Schuster 1989. A Nina Fischman Mystery. Two old friends of Nina's mother, Ida, have died prematurely. Both lived in cooperative apartment buildings in which the real estate value has greatly appreciated. Is there something odd about the lack of cockroaches in both of the old ladies apartments-especially when they are located in the heart of New York? Liberal Nina gets romantically involved with an Orthodox Jewish lawyer to help solve this case in the first book of this very funny mystery series.
- Survival Instincts by Marissa Piesman. Delacorte Press New York,1997. A hilarious mystery novel set in New York. Nina Fischman has broken-up with her Los Angeles boyfriend and comes back to New York to resettle, temporarily living with her mother. The two of them make a great Jewish mother-daughter comedy team and together are sleuths for solving a murder involving a former male friend.
- The Poet by Michael Connelly. Little and Brown Company 1996. The authors best work to date- a stylistically coherent and intriguing novel that keeps the reader confounded to the end of the book. The main character, a newpaper reporter, investigates the alleged suicide of his policeman twin brother. This leads him down a wild investigative path full of inconclusiveness. One of the best mysteries I have read.
- Trunk Music by Michael Connelly. Little Brown and Company 1997. The latest of the Harry Bosch series. A dead body discovered in a Rolls Royce in Los Angeles brings Bosch to suspect a Mafia hit. The detective follows his leads to Las Vegas, where he reinvolves himself with a former girlfriend who has links to the case. An intense convoluted plot-one of the best in this excellent series.
- The Hollow-eyed Angel by Janwillem van de Wetering. New York Soho, 1996. A truly Zen mystery. A Dutch police chief comes to New York to investigate the murder of a Dutch national who was the uncle of an auxiliary policeman on his staff. Stream of conciousness writing-unlike any mystery I have read. A mystery to the last sentence.
- The Girl with Botticelli Eyes by Herbert Lieberman. St.Martin's Press 1996. A disguised madman slashes two obscure Botticelli masterpieces and causes irreparable damage to one of the canvases. Despite the threat of future destruction of Botticelli's works,The New York's Metropolitan Museum Of Art is launching a Botticelli exhibition showing not only the collected works of Botticelli, but previously unexhibited art works by the great master. The curator of the show becomes involved with tracking down the art criminal,who turns out to be the leader of the neo-fascist movement in Italy and a descendant of one of Italy's prominent families. Lieberman's style is engaging and full of colorful description. Caveat: there are detailed descriptions of the art criminals "museum pieces" which can be exceptionally shocking to a civilized mind.
- Death is Now My Neighbor by Collin Dexter. Crown Publishers New York, 1996. The latest Inspector Morse mystery novel. Aside from being an excellent vocabulary builder, the novels intricate plot make it an enjoyable page-turner. The funny and witty Inspector Morse stands in humorous contrast to his underling Lewis. Lots of good references to classical music.
- Song of Stone by Iain Banks. Simon and Schuster:1998. New York. A futuristic war novel by one of Britain's finest novelists. Civil war has broken out in Britain(?), although the author has not specifically named the country in which the novel is set. The main character, descended from the aristocracy, is fleeing his castle with his lover. They are caught at a roadblock and forced back to the castle with a group of soldiers led by a female Lieutenant. The psychological interplay between the Lieutenant, the main character and his lover; his own inner reflections regarding his past and present lives are the basis of the story. The novel is written in gripping detail, in a highly polished literary style. Mr. Banks is truly one of the finest authors of our time.
- Complicity by Iain Banks Nan A. Talese Doubleday Books 1993. A coke-snorting, chain smoking newspaper reporter becomes involved in tracking down a murderer whose victims have high profiles in politics and industry. A very violent novel, by one of Britains leading novelists.There are excellent
interviews with the author on Spike , a British Cyberzine.
- The Fencing Master by Arturo Perez-Reverte. Harcourt, Brace and Company. New York, San Diego, and London: 1999. An aging fencing master is living in mid-nineteeth century Spain amid revolutionary ferment. Although he is a symbol of a bygone era, he comports himself with dignity and continues to cling to a unflinching code of honor.The Fencing Master takes on a new student-a ravishingly beautiful woman with whom he falls in love. His mysterious student abruptly stops her fencing lessons and is no longer part of the master's life. Events unfold as revolutionary tides arise and the Fencing Master's life becomes affected by both the history that surrounds him and the mysterious disapearance of his former fencing student. My favorite of his novels at this date.
- The Flanders Panel by Arturo Perez-Reverte Harcourt and Brace 1990.Originally written in Spanish and a best seller in both France and Spain. A sophisticated well written murder mystery-novel centered around a Medieval painting. A young art restorer uncovers a secret message beneath the surface of the painting: "who killed the knight?" The subjects in the painting are playing chess, and a chess master is called in to analyze the chess position of the painting in order to discover the knight's murderer. The art restorer and her friends are threatened by a secret assassin who communicates by chess moves. The novel's characters travel within Madrid's artistic subculture. An urbane European style and a worthwhile read.
- Dog Eat Dog by Edward Bunker St. Martin's Press 1996. This crime novel is written by a rarer breed of novelist-an ex criminal who experienced a life of crime firsthand . The book focuses on the life of a career criminal from an upper middle class background who has just been "raised" from prison. He is greatly revered by two other former inmates, who he joins on the "outside" to commit the "ultimate crime" and escape to a life of leisure. The author gives us glimpses into the criminal mind, and the underworld criminal network. A compelling plot holds us throughout the book. Edward Bunker was the screenwriter for the films, Straight Time , starring Dustin Hoffman, which is based on his book, No Beast So Fierce , and Runaway Train. .
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline Crown Books, Random House New York: 2011. A magical mystery tour to the year 2044. The world has been devastated by dire economic conditions, and much of daily life is spent within the virtual reality of OASIS. The late creator of this world, James Halliday, has designed the ultimate game challenge within OASIS in which a series of puzzles will unlock an inenvitable prize of a massive fortune. High schooler Wayne Watts spends most of his real-life existence logged in as an avatar on OASIS. As he begins to unlock Halliday's puzzles, powerful forces also seeking the fortune will conspire against him. This novel is a wondrous possessing read which will appeal to gamers and a broad spectrum of fantasy readers. The author is a spoken-word artist and a screenwriter whose 2009 Fanboys was a cult hit. His web site is ernestcline.com.
- Angel Fire East by Terry Brooks.
There is an ongoing war between the Word and the Void. The Void, whose agents are Demons and other evil characters, have sworn to destroy the world. The Knights of the Word fight the demons, fending off worldly destruction. In this novel, John Ross, a Knight of the Word, is suspected of temporarily possessing a gyspy morph, which has magical powers that could be used by both the Knights and the Void. In an effort to find the gypsy morph, an evil demon, Findo Gask, seeks out Ross in the home town of another knight Nest Freemark. In unseen battles, the Knights and the Demons wage a war over the destiny of the world. Wonderous and intriguing, the novel is set within a New England Christmas backdrop. A page-turner by the author of Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace based on George Lucas' screenplay.
- Vurt by Jeff Noon. This is the first book by Jeff Noon-all three are crazy and mesmerizing. Noon is interviewed on the British literary cyberzine, Spike.
The Manchester based author and musician writes about a "future" Manchester where mammals have inbreeded amongst themselves and the dead. Life exists between two kingdoms-this world and "Vurt" which was originally created by the imagination of humans. Trips to Vurt are via "feathers", which come in different varieties and create varied experiences.The plot in Vurt is about a brother who loses his sister to Vurt-and tries to bring her back into this world.
- Pollen by Jeff Noon. My favorite Jeff Noon fantasy novel, in which Persephone comes back from Vurt in order to breed the plant kingdom with the mammal world. A lot of coughing(..) in Manchester,when Persephone's appearance raises the pollen count. Totally bizarre-with psychedelic overtones-as in all of Noon's books.
- Automated Alice In Jeff Noons latest novel, which is a stylistic departure from the latter two, Alice goes to an automated version of Wonderland. The social humour is hilarious in the third of Noon's books.
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. Riverhead Books 2015. Lotto, a Florida mama's boy who is heir to a magnificient inheritance is immeadiately taken with Mathilde, a fellow student attending his college. Much to the surprise of his friends, Lotto and Mathilde marry soon after graduation. He was one of the most popular men on campus, known for his sexual adventures and affable personality. Mathilde was more aloof with few friends, and attractive in an unusual way. They move to New York, where Lotto struggles to find work as an actor, and Mathilde works as his main financial support. Although their core friend group visits them, Mathilde remains somewhat apart and does not share Lotto's intimate history with with them. Mathilde eventually discovers one of Lotto's plays, and monitors his path to becoming a successful playwright.
The plot is subsidiary to the real pith of the novel: character development and relationships. The author is a ingenious puppeteer: we subtly learn about the characters background and how they deftly hide their pasts from each other. The characters develop in a slow, unassuming fashion: the reader will uncover unexpected twists about their lives. The novel was chosen by Amazon.com as the #1 book of 2015. It was one of the Library Journal's top ten books of the year, and a National Book Award Finalist in 2015. The author has written The Monsters of Templeton, which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for new writers, Delicate Edible Birds, a collection of short stores, and Arcadia, which was awarded the Medici Book Prize in 2013. Her web site is http://laurengroff.com/
The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty by Vendela
Collins: 2015. A newly divorced woman from Florida travels alone to
Morocco. Unexpectedly, the backpack containing her valuables and
passport is stolen shortly after at her hotel during check-in. Having no passport or other identification will lead her to a
bizarre path of adventure as a person with multiple identities, including a
part as a stand-in for a celebrity actress in a movie. As the whirlwind
of her adventures progresses, the story of her entangled past slowly
unfolds. She assumes new identities while escaping further from the past of her
former life. The reader will be immersed in this highly
original novel. The author has written four books, including The
Lovers and Let The Northern Lights Erase Your Name,
which was awarded a Sundance Institute/Mahindra Global Filmmaking Award
when developed into script. She is a founding editor of Believer Magazine.
Find Me by Laura Van Den Berg. Farrar,Straus, and
Giroux : 2015. Joy is immune to the "sickness" raging in the U.S. and has volunteered to live in a hospital researching its cure. No one leaves the hospital- it is a sci-fi environment where the staff wear hazmat suits and patients are clothed in hospital scrubs. The U.S. is in a state
of near anarchy. Joy, who was abandoned as an infant, seeks to escape the hospital and
find her birth mother, who is a famous scientist. The novel focuses on the
bizarre state of affairs in the U.S.- the economic system has decayed-
there is constant news of the sickness abating and then raging again as an epidemic. This
is a haunting futuristic novel depicting an eerie future scenario.
The reader will be drawn to
the author's storytelling gift. Her first collection of stories, What the World Will Look Like When All
The Water Leaves Us, was a Barnes
& Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, and a finalist
O'Connor Short Story Award . Her second collection of stories, The Isle of Youth, was an NPR
Best Book in 2013. Find Me is
first novel. Her web site is
- Alena by Rachel Pastan. This novel is a restaging of Daphne du Maurier's "Rebecca". The unnamed narrator of the novel, a young assisant curator from the Mid-West, meets the founder of a Cape Cod avant-garde museum, Bernard, at the Venice Bienalle. She is offered a job as the chief curator, and abruptly departs to Cape Cod to begin her new position. The Nauk museum is remote, and the presence of its late curator, Alena, has cast a pall over the museum. Alena, a boyhood friend of Bernard, was a wild, free-sprit in both her lifestyle and artistic choices. She recently disappeared while swimming and is presumed dead. There is an air of secrecy surrounding the museum- as if Alena's presence is necessary for continuing its spirit and direction. The narrator is viewed as an interloper and is not warmly accepted by the staff and associates of the museum.
It is only towards the end of the novel that the truth about Alena's dissapearance is revealed. Readers who enjoy the backdrop of remote Cape Cod will especially enjoy this novel. The author has written two previous novels and awarded prizes for her fiction. She is on the faculty of Bennington Writing Seminars and an editor-at-large for the
Institute of Contemporary Art in Philidelphia. Her web site is rachelpastan.com
- Scent of Butterflies An unusual setting for a contemporary Jewish novel- contemporary Iran.
Soraya and her family lived well under the reign of the Shahs, for whom her grandmother
worked as the jeweler setting the diamonds in the crowns of both Shah Pahlavi and his son, Mohammad Reza. The opening of the novel begins in Los Angeles, where Soraya
is now living in an exquisite mansion with her family servants, while her husband and extended family remain in Iran.
The story goes back and forth from tales about her close-knit Jewish family life in Teheran to her alienated self-imposed exile in L.A. We learn eventually of the treachery by an intimate in Soraya's life and her struggle to resolve it. Highly recommended for readers interested in Iranian- Jewish culture. The author was born in Israel, moved to Iran, and with the onset of the revolution, settled in LA. She has written the best-selling novels, Harem, Courtesan, and The Last Romanov. The author is a recipient of the San Diego Editor's choice award. She blogs for the Huffington Post Huffington Post and the Jewish Journal.Her web site is doralevymossanen.com/
- The Museum of Extraordinary Things.by Alice Hoffman.
Simon and Schuster: 2014. We are cast into the world of turn of the century New York, a city which struggled to retain its natural wonders amidst a booming immigrant population. Coralie is the daughter of an entrepreneur who owns a freak show, The Museum of Extraordinary Things. Her father is sinister: abusing his employees, exhibiting his own daughter as a "mermaid," and conducting Frankensteinian experiments in his laboratory. Coralie is forced by her father to
swim the Hudson River at night in search for a legendary monster. During one of her swims, she collides with a drowned swimmer who she brings to the shore. Her father takes the swimmer's body back to museum and experiments with it in his laboratory in order to exhibit the body as the discovered monster. Eddie, who was raised as an Orthodox Jew and now is a professional photographer, also frequents the area of the river where the body is found. The identity of the swimmer becomes intertwined with the lives of Eddie and Coralie. The world of turn of the century New York is vibrantly alive in this enchanting and historically rich novel. The author has written twenty-eight fiction works, including the most recent "The Dovekeepers". Her web site is alicehoffman.com
- Visible City by Tovah Mirvis. Houghton Mufflin Harcourt : 2014. Life in a affluent New York neighborhood is usually perceived as anonymous. Nina, an attorney who is currently a stay-at-home Mom, spends part of her day as a voyeur- viewing the intimate world of an apartment across the street. Eventually, she befriends the people living in the apartment and is privy to the more intimate details of their lives. There is a shared sense of longing and loneliness shared by Nina and her new friends. The author deftly exposes the anxiety of her characters who possess a hidden emotional alienation not revealed to their intimates. This is highly recommended to readers who enjoy intense psycological fiction. The author's previous two books are"The Outside World" and "The Ladies Auxiliary." She has written for The New York Times, Good House Keeping, and Poets and Writers. She has a been a visiting scholar at the Brandeis University Women's Research Center. Her web site is tovismirvis.com
- The Silver Star by Jeanette Walls. Simon and Schuster A coming-of-age story about two half-sisters in the wake of the turbulent 1960's.
Bean and her older sister Liz, live in California with their artsy, often unemployed mom, who may disappear for days at a time.
Their circumstances are modest and Charlotte is constantly looking for new acting opportunities which will provide them with a better lifestyle.
Eventually, Bean and Liz run away from their unstable mother to Charlotte's home town in Virginia. They find Uncle Tinsley Halliday, an eccentric hermit, who is their mother's brother and move into the family home.
Bean and Liz enjoy their new small town rural life-except for racial tensions. The girls surreptiously find a job with Mr. Maddox- a local wheeler dealer who is also the foreman of the mill which
the Hallidays formerly owned. A difficult situation which develops with Maddox has serious repercussions - its aftermath brings the family together- including Charlotte, who has returned to her hometown to come to Liz
's aid. The reader will be immersed into a historical window of small town southern life in the early civil rights era. The author's memoir, The Glass Castle, has been on the N.Y. Times bestseller list for six years. Her novel, Half Broke Horses was named one of the ten best books by the N.Y. Times Book Review.
- The Impossible lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer.Ecco ( division of Harper Collins) :2013.
Greta, living in New York City in 1986, encounters great emotional difficulties: she has broken up with a long time lover, Nathan; her brother recently died of AIDS.
Greta undergoes shock treatment to alleviate her depression. However, after each treatment she time travels to 1918, 1941, and subsequently returns to 1986. Greta is in the same apartment in NYC, yet
assumes different identities: in 1918 and 1941 she is the wife of Nathan under different historical circumstances. In 1918, Felix, her late brother, is engaged to a Senator's daughter, while secretly involved in relationships with men.
In 1941, Felix is her young son. Her aunt Ruth appears as a confidante in all three eras. As Greta time travels, her attempts to address the issues of her 1986 life will eventually
lead her to make a most unusual choice. Wonderfully gripping. The author wrote the best-selling "The Story of Marriage" and "The Confessions of Max Tivol". His web page is andrewgreer.com
- Inside Madeline by Paula Bomer. Soho Press
: 2014. A collection of riveting short stories wielding raw sexuality as a tool of self-destruction. Each main character is indelibly scarred by her sexual experiences. They are young contemporary American women- all lacking a direction in their lives. The narration and the sexual descriptions in these stories are unsettling and brazen. There is a drifting hopelessness to the stories which are not relieved by denouement. Recommended for readers of contemporary alternative fiction. The author has a written a novel, Nine Months and a story collection, Baby, Baby. She is the publisher of Sententia Books,
and a contributor to the literary blog- The Big Other.
by Mark Haskell Smith. Grove Atlantic: 2013. Sepp is an overnight sensation on the reality show Sex Crib. He is devastated by his failed relationship with Roxy, who appeared with him on the show, and he is experiencing erectile dysfunction due to the breakup. Curtis, a talented writer whose books are not well-known, is hired to ghostwrite a book about Sepp. The book is a hit, and is surprisingly critiqued as as important literature. Curtis' identity is kept secret, and the public assumes that the book was written by the reality show star. Harriet, a well-known literary blogger, suspects that the book is ghostwritten, and she follows Sepp on his book tour to uncover the truth. A steamy turn of events ensues.
This is a funny sexually charged novel with a contemporary tone which paints the vanity and sad truths of reality shows.
Highly recommended to a wide readership. In addition to four other novels, the author has written Award Winning Screenplays and some television shows.
The author's web site is markhaskellsmith.com
- All That Is
by James Salter. Random House Phillip Bowman survives naval battles off of Okinawa and returns to the United States, finding work in a small publishing firm. Bowman is well educated and urbane. This romantically tantalizing novel follows Bowman through his failed marriage and fleeting romantic relationships. Although he is well adjusted emotionally, he is often attracted to adventurous, independent women who do not remain permanently in stable relationships with him. There are fascinating depictions of the many characters in this novel, who weave themselves in and out of Bowman's life. He is not a victim- rather a man who does not totally connect with those around him. A rapturous read and highly recommended to fiction lovers. The author won the Pen/Faulkner Award
for Dusk and Other Stories in 1989. He has also written Solo Faces, Light Years, A Sport and a Pastime ,The Arm of Flesh (revised as Cassada), and The Hunters; the memoirs Gods of Tin and Burning the Days.
- When She Woke by Hillary Jordan.
Algonquin Books New York: 2011. In the not-too distant-future, Hannah Payne is raised in a strict evangelical family in Texas. She becomes pregnant after an affair with an well-known married man and has an illegal abortion. After the procedure, she is arrested by the police, and sentenced to "melachroming"- her skin is dyed completely red by an injection for an easy identification of her crime. Hannah's whereabouts are monitored by a tracking system, and life as a societal pariah subsequently estranges her from her family and friends. This futuristic novel is a modern "Scarlet Letter" which boldly confronts the sexual ambiguities of contemporary society by projecting them into a future time-line. The author's first novel, Mudbound, was awarded the 2006 Bellwether Prize for fiction, and an Alex Award from the American Library Association
- Mudbound by Hillary Jordan. Algonquin Books Chapel Hill: 2008. Henry McAllan moves his city-bred wife, Laura and their children to live on a farm in the Mississippi Delta after World War 11. He is a traditional Southerner who is emotionally tied to the region where he grew up. Henry's younger brother, Jamie, returns from the Air Force and lives with them on the farm. Conflicts arise due to Jamie's hard drinking, free-wheeling life style and his friendship with a local black World War II veteran, Ronsel. The reader witnesses a struggle between traditional Southern culture and newer values which evolve after the War. Sharecropper blacks were treated as second class citizens, and both Laura and Jamie challenge Henry's acute racism. This debut novel, winner of the 2006 Bellwether Prize, introduces the work of a talented American novelist.
- The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta. St. Martin's Press New York: 2011 The Sudden Departure- the vanishing of people world-wide, has a life-changing impact on the small town of Mapleton. Kevin, the newly elected mayor, must come to terms with his wife leaving for the Guilty Remnant, a post SD cult whose adherents live a Spartan existence and take vows of silence.
Kevin becomes involved with Nora, who lost her entire family in the SD, and confronts the emotional issues of his teen-aged daughter, Jill. His son Tom, has dropped out of college and is a follower of a new false prophet, Holy Wayne.
This is a bizarre, convoluted story, which will absorb the reader with its absurd tenuous connections to reality. The author has written six books of fiction, including "Wishbones" and "Joe College". His web site is tomperrotta.net
- Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay. St. Martin's Griffin New York: 2007.(Paperback). American journalist Julia Jarmond is living in Paris and currently writing an article about the little-known arrest and deportation of thousands of Parisian French Jews during the Nazi occupation. The French Gendarmes willingly rounded up Parisian Jews on July 16th, 1942, and detained them at the Velodrome d'Hiver, an indoor cycling track. The conditions were horrific, especially for the abandoned children who were separated from their parents. As Julia investigates the Vel d'Hiv, her reporting begins to focus on a 10 year old survivor, Sarah, whose life is revealed to be inextricably bound with her own French family. The book flashes between the war and the present time until the historical repercussions of this tragedy have a profound effect on Julia's personal life. This unforgettable story reminds us of how the entanglement of history can transform and redeem our daily lives. The paperback version includes an interview with the author, book group questions, historical perspectives, and an excerpt from her new book, A Secret Kept.
The author is Parisian, and has written 10 novels. She was named one of the top three European fiction authors in 2010. Her web site is tatianaderosnay.com/
- Sunset Park by Paul Auster.
Henry Holt and Company New York: 2010. Miles Heller is estranged from his family in New York, and currently employed as a trash-out worker of abandoned homes in southern Florida. He is a Columbia University drop-out, the son of a well-known art house publisher, Morris Heller, and a famous stage actress, Mary-Lee Swann. Miles is contacted by a former high school friend, Bing Nathan, with an offer to squat in an abandoned house in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. He is forced to leave Florida suddenly, and moves into the house in Sunset Park with Bing and two female housemates. A kaleidoscope of characters collides with Mile's life as he struggles to redeem himself from his tortured past. This is possibly the author's finest novel: lucidity and bizarreness thread the story. The author has written The New York Trilogy, Leviathan, Invisible, and other important novels. He received the Independent Spirit Award for the screenplay, Smoke, and the Prix Medicis Etranger for Leviathan. Additionally, the author has a book of collected poems, illustrated books, and edited The Random House Book of 20th Century French Poetry.
- Starting Out in the Eveningby Brian Morton. Crown Publishers New York: 1998.
Heather, a doctoral candidate at Brown University, is writing her thesis on Leonard Schiller, a forgotten writer of the 1960's. Schiller is her hero, and his novels inspired her personal liberation during high school. Heather arranges to meet Schiller, now in his 80's, at his favorite restaurant in New York. He politely refuses offering her interviews for her thesis. He eventually relents, and Heather begins unraveling the life of the author- his successful novels were followed by an unsuccessful tepid output. Why did a young promising author lose his vitality and write mediocre novels which compared unfavorably to his earlier books? This is a rich character study, and an inviting read which will poses questions about the evolution of artistic identity. The book is an excellent film, which received nominations for film awards.
The author teaches at Sarah Lawrence College Bennington College Writing Seminars, and New York University.
- Stealing Fatima by Frank Gaspar.
Counterpoint Press Berkeley, CA: 2009. Manny Furtado is the priest of a small Portuguese-American fishing town in Massachusetts where he grew up. Shortly before serving in Vietnam, Manny and a friend, Sarafino, steal a beloved statue of Our Lady Of Fatima from their church and bury it in the woods. The statue has not been recovered. Father Manny is currently suffering from substance and medication abuse dating from an injury incurred during military service. After a number of years, Sarafino, stricken with AIDS, shows up at the church unexpectedly, and asks for refuge from the law. Sarafino is hidden quietly in the church under the watchful care of Manny. This delicate enveloping novel grapples with the mysteries of faith and the challenges of doubt which accompany it. The quietude of this peaceful New England town is in reality a baptism of fire for Manny and the people who surround him. The author grew up in Provincetown, MA, a Portuguese American community. He has won numerous awards for his writing, including the
Morse Prize for Poetry, and a a National Endowment Fellowship in Literature. His web site is
- Comedy in a Minor Key by Hans Keilson; translated from the German by Damion Searls. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux New York: 2010. The book was originally published in 1947 and translated to celebrate the author's 100th birthday. Kim and Marie are hiding a Jewish fugitive from the Nazis in wartime Holland. They are ordinary citizens with little knowledge of Jews. The experience of hiding Nico, a perfume salesman before the war- pierces their existence. He dies of pneumonia while in hiding. Their marriage and mundanity are challenged by the possibility of becoming hunted by the authorities. The lives of Kim and Marie are no longer commonplace as result of their immersion in the horrors of war. The author published his first novel in 1933 and was in the Dutch resistance during World War ll. He pioneered the treatment of war trauma in children as a psychologist. This is the first English translation of the book which was published in 1947. The author has also written The Death of an Adversary.
- Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan. Nan A. Talese( Random House) New York :2012. An intriguing novel by the acclaimed British author. Serena Frome, the beautiful daughter of an Anglican Bishop, becomes romantically involved with an older man who influences her to pursue a career in M15- British intelligence. At first Serena is a mere secretary, and eventually is groomed for a field assignment. She co-opts a struggling author Tom Haley, who appears anti-communist. It is the early 1970's and M15 bankrolls authors whose influence will help to foster pro-western sentiment. Serena and Tom become romantically involved as he experiences a meteoric rise to prominence courtesy of M15. Difficulties ensue with their relationship as Serena cannot confess her true identity.
An entangled tale, and gripping in its intensity until the novel's end. The author has written fourteen books, and has been awarded a number of prestigious prizes including the Man-Booker for Amsterdam, and The Child in Time which won the Whitbread Award. The author's web site is ianmcewan.com
- Fall of the Giants( The Century Triology) by Ken Follett. Dutton Publishers(Penguin USA) New York: 2010. A historical saga of class division, war and romance in the World War I era. Billy Williams is a young coal miner in a small town in Wales. His family is strongly socialist, and his father is a leader of the workers. The coal mine is owned by the local aristocrat, Earl Fitzherbert, who also employs Billy's sister, Ethel, as a maid in his household. "Fitz" and Ethel become romantically involved, and Ethel, an upcoming presence in the household, is forced to move to London. World war is threatening, and Fitz participates in higher echelon discussions regarding Britain's entry into the war. At the same time, Grigori and Lev Peshkov, are living in Czarist Russia and are trying to emigrate to the United States. In the prelude before the war, there are great tensions between the Russian monarchy and the people. The lives of the brothers exemplify this conflict. The characters of the novel find themselves entangled together in the web of history and some of their lives briefly touch. This is a well-researched novel, and the tenor of this epoch rings clearly to the reader. The popular author has written many novels including Pillars of the Earth, World Without End, and On Wings of Eagles.
- Winter of the World by Ken Follett. Dutton( Penguin Group USA) New York: 2012. Book two of this historical trilogy continues in Britain, the USA, and Russia, with the rise of the Nazi party to the post-war period in the late forties.
The main characters of the first book have aged, and the plot evolves around the lives of their children.
Ethel Williams is now in Parliament, and her son Lloyd soldiers in both the Spanish revolution and World War ll.
Lev Peskov's daughter Daisy, struggles with her insecure social status in Buffalo, being shunned by the upper class elite. Her social fortunes will take a curious turn... Lev's son by his mistress Marga becomes an important character- a well educated rogue who will serve in the State Department. Lev's brother in Russia becomes prominent in the new Soviet dictatorship. His son, Volodya, is a clandestine player in Russian-American diplomatic circles. This is an historically scintillating page turner. The author's work both entertains and provides incisive historical insights for the reader. First chapters and a detailed explanation of the book are found on his web site kenfollett.com The author has also written the best-selling novels: The Pillars of the Earth, Eye of the Needle, World Without End, and Fall of the Giants, the first book in the trilogy.
- The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Amy Einhorn Books ( Penguin.com) New York: 2009. The novel is set in the early 1960's during the emerging civil rights movement. Skeeter Phelan, a gangly young white woman who lives on a cotton farm in Jackson, Mississippi, contacts the Ladies Home Journal in New York about a possible editing position. A dismissive reply from the editor suggests for her to gain more experience by writing about personally engaging subjects. Skeeter begins a journey secretly writing and editing a book about the lives of black domestics working in affluent white households in Jackson.
The largely uncivil intensity of the color line comes to full light in the book. The life perspective of both Skeeter and the black domestics who relate their stories are irrevocably changed in the aftermath of the book's publication.
This modern American classic will enlighten readers of all ages and cultural backgrounds. The author was raised in Jackson, Mississippi. She worked in magazine publishing and marketing in New York. This is her first novel. Her web site is kathrynstockett.com
- What is Left The Daughter by Howard Norman. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt New York: 2010. Seventeen-year-old Canadian Wyatt Hillyer is orphaned after both his parents commit suicide within hours of each other in Halifax, Nova Scotia during the World War ll era. He moves in with his aunt and uncle in rural Middle Economy, Nova Scotia, and is apprenticed by his uncle as a toboggan maker. Tilda, who was adopted by them at the age of two, is also living in the household. Wyatt falls deeply in love with Tilda, who is dating Hans, a German exchange student. Wyatt's uncle is resentful of Han's German background. There is tension in the household which leads to tragic consequences and a depressing aftermath. The reader is privy to the intimacies of Nova Scotian small town life during this era. This is an exquisitely moving novel, despite the tragedies and conflicts which absorb it. The author was nominated for the National Book Award for The Northern Lights in 1987, and The Bird Artist in 1994. His other novels are The Museum Guard, The Haunting of L, and Devotion. He teaches at the University of Maryland.
- The Gin Closet by Leslie Jamison. Simon & Schuster New York : 2010.
An extraordinary debut novel by one of America's most gifted young writers.
Stella is living in New York and working
at a thankless job as an assistant to an inspirational author. She also travels to Connecticut to care for her aging grandmother, Lucy, who falls ill and dies during the Christmas holidays.
As Lucy is dying, she confesses about her daughter who is no longer in contact with the family. After her grandmother's death, Stella travels to Nevada to locate her Aunt, who is living in a trailer park in Nevada and has a personal history of prostitution and alcoholism. Stella moves with Tilly to San Francisco to help her recover from alcoholism and start a new life with her son, Abe. A story of individual struggle ensues, accompanied by an undertone of intense interplay between the female characters. Although men are on the periphery in this novel, this book will be especially poignant to male readers, who are often socially excluded from the dynamics of female relationships.
The author has been published in Best New American Voices 2008, A Public Space and The Black Warrior Review. She is a graduate of Harvard University, and the Iowa Writer's Workshop. Her web site is lesliejamison.com.
- Symphony in White by Adriana Lisboa. Translated from the Portuguese by Sarah Green. Texas Tech University Press Lubbock, Texas: 2010. Clarice, an alcoholic sculptress, and Tomas, an artist, and a former lover of Clarice's sister Maria Inês, are living on the remains of her father's property in rural Brazil. Clarice and Tomas struggle with the failure of their lives as Maria Inês leads a seemingly carefree affluent life in urban Brazil. The brittle sadness of Clarice and Maria Inês' upbringing and eventual maturity captivate the reader throughout the novel and find closure by unveiling a dark family secret. The author has written nine books, including four novels and a collection of short stories. She received the Jose Saramago prize for this book (Simfonia em branco) in 2003.
- Appassionata by Eva Hoffman. Other Press: 2009.
Isabel Merton is an Argentinian born concert pianist, whose life is centered in her music. The tempo of her life becomes disrupted when she has an affair with a Chechen political radical, Anzor, who disarms her inner protective shell. Anzor is her antithesis- outwardly passionate, recklessly emotional, and ambigiously directed towards his revolutionary cause. Eventually, her relationship with Anzor threatens her raison d'être, bringing her core of being to a halt.
The struggles of this emotionally conflicted artist will resonate with readers who are classical musicians. The has worked as a senior editor at New York Times, where she was also a literary critic. Her books include: Lost in Translation, Exit into History, Shtetl, The Secret, and After Such Knowledge.
- The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow.
Algonquin Books: 2010.
Rachel, the daughter of a African-American GI father and a Danish mother, survives
a family suicide attempt when her mother jumps off a city roof with her two siblings.
She goes to live in Portland, Oregon after recovering, and is raised by her paternal grandmother. We become entrenched
in Rachel's life and the web of characters encircling her. She is forced to confront the cultural stigma of her biracial parentage and learns to live
in an African-American world in which she is not fully integrated. This is a stellar debut novel, and is the winner of the 2008 Bellwether Prize. The author is a graduate of
of Standford University, Columbia University's Graduate School Journalism, and Yale Law School. She has been published in the Alaska Quarterly Review, The Literary Review, and other publications. The author's web page is heidiwdurrow.com.
- Pandora in the Congo by Albert Sanchez Piñol. Translated from the Catalan by Mara Faye Lethem. Cannongate Books Edinburgh, London, New York, Melbourne: 2009. Originally published in Spain in 2005 as Pandora Al Congo by Edicions La Campana. Marcus Garvey is in jail awaiting trial for the murders of two sons of a British Duke during an expedition in the African Congo prior to World War I. Garvey escaped the Congo alone, and afterwards, in
a drunken state, confessed to the murders. His attorney hires Thomas Thomson, a young ghost writer, to write a story about Garvey which will help to exonerate the defendant, who claims to be innocent. We are swept into tall tales of the jungle and into a realistically subterranean world deep within Africa. This is a tightly wound, magnetic story which ends with an ironic twist. The author is an anthropologist and a writer. His first novel is Cold Skin. It was awarded the Ojo Critico Narrativa prize on its original publication in Catalan in 2003.
- City of Strangers by Ian Mackenzie.
Penguin Books New York: 2009. First published in Great Britain by Harvill Secker Paul and Ben Metzger's father, a former leader in the American Nazi party, is on his deathbed. An unresolved conflict with their father's past creates a stronger bond between them. Paul's life is further complicated when he experiences a chance violent encounter outside his apartment; one of the attackers is wounded by him. The threat of retaliation by the unwounded attacker eventually leads to an entanglement which will irreversibly change the lives of the two brothers.
This is an enveloping first novel. A sense of tragedy and modern urban futility grip the story. Masterfully written- an excellent contribution to contemporary New York fiction.
- LowBoy by John Wray. Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux New York: 2009. At the beginning of this kaleidoscopic novel, sixteen year old Will Heller, a paranoid schizophrenic who has escaped from his court ordered confinement, is riding on a New York subway train. Will's hospitalization
occurred after he pushed his former girlfriend Emily onto a subway track as a subway car was speeding towards their station. Miraculously, Emily was saved.
Violet, Will's Austrian born, emotionally removed mother, is helping Ali Lateef of the NYPD search for Will. The roller coaster world of a psychologically damaged and sexually charged teenager intensifies as we led into the netherworld of Will's psyche and his surrounding milieu. In the course of the novel, his disturbed mother uncovers her own inner psyche and helps to destabilize the insecure personal world of the police officer who frantically hunts for her son. This is a novel where insanity is translucent and erases its borders with normalcy. The highly talented author has written two acclaimed novels: Right Hand of Sleep, and Cannan's Tongue. He was named one of Granta Magazine's best of young American novelists in 2007.
- The Train to Lo Wu. by Jess Row Dial Press- Random House New York: 2005.
Contemporary Hong Kong is an elusive city where an individual can be trapped by its frenetic rhythm. The characters in the stories are artfully drawn- each has a struggle with an unresolvable conflict intensified under the weight of the city. Most of the characters are Chinese, and some have lived in the United States- all are interminably locked in by the gravitational force of Hong Kong. The author deftly draws a delicate picture in each story, where the painting of each character eventually resolves itself in a unique denouement. There is an ongoing intensity from the story to story- and the final selection is a crowning portrayal of
the leif motif running throughout the book: the difficulty of personal resolution in an Asian urban behemoth. This is a very special collection of short stories by a exceptionally talented writer. The author taught English at the University of Hong Kong. His stories have appeared in the The Best American Short Stories 2001, 2003, and the Pushcart Prize XXVI./i>>>>> He received a Whiting Writers Award in 2003, and a fellowship in fiction from the National Endowment for the Arts. His web site is Jessrow.com.
- Doghead by Morten Ramsland. St. Martins Press New York: 2009. Translated from Danish by Tina Nunnally. A Norwegian family has its own special tale of disfunctionality. The whimsical alcoholic Asklid is a survivor of a concentration camp. Although he is considered a "war hero," there is a hidden undisclosed murkiness to his past. His wife Bjork, a daughter of a prosperous ship owner, marries Asklid at the end of the war. Their topsy turvy marriage produces offspring with their own peculiar problems of disfunction. This neurotically captivating novel is the author's first book to be published in English. The novel was a best seller in Denmark where it won four major literary awards including the prestigious Golden Laurel Prize. It also won the Premio Berto and The Premio Edoardo Kihlgren second prize in Italy.
- The Bad Girl by Mario Vargas Llosa. Farrar, Straus and Giroux New York:2007. Peruvian born Ricardo Somocurcio has kept the flame alive for his first teenage love, Lily. After leaving Peru, Ricardo works as a translator in Paris where he again meets Lily , now a budding revolutionary by the name of "Arlette". She goes off to Cuba promising Ricardo to return, and instead remains while having an affair with a high ranking Cuban Commandante. Throughout their lives they will reconnect in France, England, Japan, and Spain, as the same pattern reemerges: Lily reappears with a new identity and their rekindled relationship abruptly ends with a tragic twist. The reader will be captivated by the eroticism and the mysterious grace of this novel. A review of this book is on the New York Times web site. The author was born in Peru. His well known novels are The Time of the Hero, Conversation in the Cathedral, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, In Praise of the Stepmother, and Feast of the Goat. Making Waves, a non-fiction book, was winner of National Book Critics Circle Award. His other non-fiction books are Perpetual Orgy, a study of Flaubert, and an autobiography, A Fish in Water.
- The Glimmer Palace By Beatrice Colin. Riverhead Books ( Penguin Books, USA) New York: 2008. In the backdrop of Germany at the turn of the 20th century, Lilly Nelly Aphrodite, the daughter of an unwed cabaret dancer, is orphaned as an infant. "Tiny Lil", as she is known, spends her childhood at a Catholic orphanage, where her acting talents are first revealed. The novel follows the rags to riches story of "Lidi," who will become a famous German silent film actress. The reader is transported into the unstable world of a poor orphaned girl who rises to great success despite the historical difficulties surrounding her. The author has worked as a freelance journalist for The Guardian and has written plays for The BBC.
- Trauma by Patrick McGrath. Alfred A. Knopf New York: 2008. Charlie Weir, a New York psychiatrist, is involved in an affair with Agnes, his remarried ex-wife. His marriage with Agnes ends after her brother Danny, Charlie's patient, commits suicide. Charlie also begins another relationship with Nora, who eventually becomes his mistress. The two affairs are complicated by unresolved conflicts with his indifferent mother and a father who abandoned him as a young boy. Eventually, Charlie's haunted psyche reemerges to a point where his own emotional stability is endangered. A surprising resolution appears in the final pages of this gripping psychological drama. The author has written two novels, Asylum, and Spider, and two collections of stories.
- Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill. Norton & Company New York: 2007.
Aminata Diallo, an old woman living in London, tells the story of her enslavement as child in Africa in the 1700's. She is an important witness to the London abolitionist movement, and recounts the horrors which befell her during her lifetime. Aminata survives disease, madness, and an uprising during her slave ship voyage to America. She is sold to a cruel plantation owner in South Carolina, where she works in the indigo fields and as a midwife. After the birth of her first child, who is sold to another master, Aminata is sold to a British indigo inspector in Charles Town, who teaches her to read and write, a skill which will benefit her in the future. Conflicts arise in their relationship, and Aminata escapes to New York. After the American Revolution, she escapes again to Nova Scotia, where survival for blacks is difficult and prone to attack by white settlers. Eventually, Aminata returns to Africa to live in a new British colony of blacks in Sierra Leone. This novel flows with rich historical detail. The author has written Any Known Blood, Some Great Thing,and The Deserter's Tale with Joshua Key. His website is www.lawrencehill.com.
- Chasing Windmills by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Flying Dolphin Press Random House New York: 2008. Sebastian and Maria meet
fortuitously one night on a New York
subway train. They do not speak, but there is an instant connection between them. Sebastian
attempts to find Maria again on the subway, and their eventual meeting will develop into a clandestine relationship.
The father of Maria's two children is abusive to her. Sebastian is home-schooled and bounded in his apartment by his controlling father. They both need to escape their repressive lives and begin a new life far from New York City. Although they do escape their confining lives, their well-earned renewal will take a poignant turn in this wonderfully captivating novel. The author is an acclaimed novelist and award winning short story writer. Her novels include Love in the Present Time, Walter's Purple Heart, Funerals for Horses, Electric God, and Pay it Forward, which was an ALA Young Adult Book of the Year in 2001.
- Size of the World by Joan Silber. W.W.& Norton Company New York: 2008. A rich encompassing novel about the lives of individuals who leave their families to live abroad. The stories appear unconnected: an army engineer who troubleshoots airplanes in the Vietnam War; a single mother from Miami who adventures with her daughter into Mexico; a Floridian tin prospector and his sister living in pre World War ll Siam; a New Jersey woman who defies her Sicilian born parents by following her Muslim huband to live in Thailand. These sinuous tales have a common thread: the main characters in the book are subtly linked. The reader will be transported into an exotic fictional landscape. The author has been a finalist for the 2004 National Book Award, and the Story Prize for her previous novel, Ideas of Heaven. Her stories have appeared in The New Yorker, and Ploughshares. She teaches at Sarah Lawrence University.
- Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky. Translated by Sandra Smith. Alfred A. Knopf New York: 2006. In the early 1940's, Ukrainian born Irène Néemirovsky, a highly successful Parisian author, began working on what would become Suite Française. The Jewish-born author would perish in Auschwitz at the age of thirty-nine. In a vain attempt to evade the Nazis, the author and her family fled Paris two years earlier, and lived in the countryside in central France. After her capture, her daughters took the manuscript into hiding: sixty-four years later we are reading her chef d'oeuvre. The novel depicts the poignant 1940 exodus from Paris in which urban dwellers were thrown together to survive in challenging circumstances. In the second part of the novel, the setting is in an occupied provincial village, where tense conflict arises between the villagers and the occupying German soldiers. This is an important masterpiece which offers the reader a special window into the verities of wartime France. The author was born in Kiev to a wealthy banking family and emigrated to France during the revolution. She wrote the highly successful novel, David Golder, followed by The Ball, The Flies of Autumn, Dogs and Wolves, and The Courilof Affair.
She died in 1942. Sandra Smith's translation of Suite Française was short listed for the 2007 Oxford-Weidenfeld Prize.
- Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. Algonquin Books Chapel Hill, North Carolina:2006. In the depths of the Great Depression, Jacob Jankowski loses his parents in an automobile accident and is unable to finish his last year at Cornell as a veterinary student. After hopping a train, he is thrust into another milieu where his life will drastically change: the world of the traveling circus. The story is narrated by Jacob, who is now 93 and resides in an retirement home. His narration is marked by his tales of survival in the circus and his love affair with a circus performer, Malena. The circus itself is metaphor for the Great Depression which colors the mood of the novel. The author has written the best seller, Riding Lessons, and Flying Changes.
- Other Lives by Andre Brink. Sourcebooks Landmark Naperville, Illinois: 2008.
A bizarre and socially penetrating book about contemporary South Africa. Three related stories focus on the lives of an artist, an architect, and a classical pianist.
David, a teacher in a stable, childless marriage, finds that the regrets in his life are erased as he undergoes a sci-fi transformation in which he is now an artist married to a woman of color and lives with their children in a cottage. Steve, a successful wealthy architect, looks in the mirror after a shower and discovers that he has become a black man and suddenly burdened with different social parameters. Derek, a professional pianist and accompanist, is in love with a dangerous, bewitching opera singer who refuses to have sex with him. The lives of the main characters underpin the enormity of the new racial paradigm of contemporary South Africa. The author masterfully paints a surreal portrait of a post apartheid society struggling to come to terms with itself. He has been nominated thrice for the Nobel Prize in Literature, and twice for the Booker Prize. The author has written over 20 books, and has been an academic for over 40 years. He has also a translator of works into Afrikaans.
- The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steve Galloway.Riverhead Books New York: 2008. A powerful novel about the lives of four people during the siege of Sarejevo. A local cellist witnesses the murder of twenty-two innocent people attempting to buy bread at a market during the siege. Despite the threat of sniper attacks, he performs outside for twenty-two days to commemorate their loss. His story is interwoven with "Arrow" a young female sniper assigned to protect him; Dragan, an older man, who is aimlessly walking to eat at the bakery where he works; Kenan, a family man, who is perilously making the journey to get drinking water at a local brewery. The intensity of the war has brought their lives to a surreal point: in defending their lives from death, they have lost their grip on life. The main characters all eventually come to the same resolution: they will not let the war rob them of their humanity. The author teaches creative writing at The University of British Columbia.
- Hatred For Tulips by Richard Lourie. St. Martin's Press New York: 2007. A coming of age story about a Dutch boy's survival in Nazi occupied Holland. Joop's long lost brother, now living in America, unexpectantly appears for a visit to his home in modern day Amsterdam. His narrative tale begins as we are ushered into wartime Holland: food shortages, winters without fuel, Nazi sympathizers, and Jewish deportation are interwoven in this bracing story. Joop's survival is eventually connected to a well known Dutch girl, resolving with an odd, bittersweet ending. The author is critically acclaimed for fiction and non-fiction writing. He has written the The Autobiography of Joseph Stalin, and Sakharov: A Biography, and served as Mikhail Gorbachev's translator for the New York Times. The author has been a journalist for the New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, and The Nation. He is currently a correspondent for The Moscow Times.
- Treacherous Paradise by Henning Mankell. Random House :2013. Hannah Renstrom grew up impoverished in turn of the 20th century Sweden. Eventually, her position as a maid in a wealthy man's house leads to an opportunity to work on a ship bound for Australia. However, a sudden turn during the voyage leads her to Portuguese East Africa. She marries and ends up owning a bordello.
Although Hannah is wealthy, her life in Africa dispels no illusions. The native black population is impoverished and abused by the ruling white class. This is coming-of-age story is
staged in colonial Africa. Hannah's innate sense of humanity is challenged in a social climate that is regulated by racial divide. An entertaining, reflective read. The author is the first recipient of the Ripper Award, and he has received the Glass Key and the Golden Dagger Awards. The author is best known for his Kurt Wallander Detective series.
- The Eye of Leopard by Henning Mankell. The New Press New York: 2008. Copyrighted 1990 by the author, translated from Swedish by Steven T. Murray. Hans Olofson leaves Sweden as a young man in 1969 and departs for a new life in Zambia. He leaves behind an alcoholic father in a remote Swedish village and a failed attempt at studying law at a university. Africa immediately presents a culture shock: the white landowners wield power through intimidation and bribery of local officials; the native African sense of time is radically different. Hans eventually becomes the foreman of an egg farm. He is overcome by a moral obligation for social justice and attempts to deal with the natives differently than his white peers. Riddled by threats from the natives and disease, he must come to grips with his own value system and the reality of his precarious life on the farm. Hans struggles to resolve his past as the novel flashes back and forth from his upbringing in Sweden to issues with his contemporary life. The author has written the Kurt Wallendar mystery series, and has received the German Tolerance Prize, the Macallan Golden Dagger and has been a three time finalist for the Los Angeles Times Mystery/Thriller Prize. Steven T. Murray has translated three of the author's books, and is a former editor-in-chief of Fjord Press.
- Consequences by Penelope Lively.Viking New York: 2007. Matt, an art student raised in a small Welsh market town, and Lorna, who grew up in upper class Kensington Gardens, meet fortuitously in a London park before World War 11. They fall in love, marry quickly, and settle in a farmer's cottage where Matt continues his work and their daughter Molly is born. Matt serves in the British army during the War, and eventually is killed in action. A new chapter evolves in Lorna's life when she marries Matt's best friend Lucas, which leads to a familial tale spanning 60 years. The reader will be intrigued as the novel unwinds into many unexpected turns. The prize winning author has written thirteen previous novels, including Booker Prize winner Moon Tiger, and the widely acclaimed The Photograph.
- Inheritance Olivia Bonocchio, American born daughter of an Italian immigrant, discovers a mysterious deed to a house in her father's native town in Italy shortly after his death. She travels to Italy, meets her father's family in Urbino and begins to unravel hidden secrets about his life during World War ll. The novel depicts the struggles of Olivia's father both in wartime Italy and as an immigrant in America. His disturbing past eventually leads to a comforting resolution. This is an excellent debut novel and highly recommended to a general readership. The author is coeditor of Best New American Voices series. Her work has appeared in Salon.com,,The LA Times, and The Chicago-Sun Times..
- Posh by Lucy Jackson.St. Martin's Press New York: 2007. The cast of characters from an exclusive New York prep school, including the headmistress, students, and their parents, play out an unusual entangled drama of everyday life. This novel will appeal to a broad readership- the author gives a compelling twist to teenage angst and parental concern . Lucy Jackson is a pseudonym for a well known novelist and short story writer. Her last novel was a New York Times notable book. Her stories have appeared in the New Yorker, Best American Short Stories, and many magazines.
- Imperium A Novel of Ancient Rome by Robert Harris.Simon & Schuster New York: 2006. Tiro, the slave and secretary to the Roman statesman Cicero, chronicles the political life of one of the greatest figures in ancient Rome. The book, a recreation of Tiro's lost biography of Cicero, narrates the rise of a political genius competing in a world with the most powerful figures of his time: Pompey, Caesar, and Crassus, among others. The author reveals the treacherous world of Roman politics in which a clever, compassionate, and masterful orator eventually rises to the leading position in Rome to attain the Supreme Imperium of the Roman Consulship. Mr. Harris is the author of the well know novels Fatherland, Enigma, and Pompeii. He has also been a correspondent for the BBC, The London Sunday Times, and The Daily Telegraph.
- The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber.
Harper Collins Publishers,
A mesmerizing art thriller about the search for a missing manuscript of William Shakespeare.
Jake Mishkin, a wealthy New York intellectual property lawyer, opens the tale by informing the reader that he is awaiting his fate at the hands of unknown killers in a remote location- resulting from his professional involvement in the search for a valuable literary treasure. Family, friends, lovers, and involved associates are interwoven into this intricate story as suspects. This hypnotic tale is enriched with details about Shakespearean England, antiquarian books, bookbinding, and the art of ciphering. The author has a fascinating Curriculum Vitae: college educated in English and Biology, Rock Group Roadie, County Manager, and Speech Writer. He has written fifteen Butch Karp and Marlene books under the author Robert K. Tannenbaum's name. He has authored TROPIC OF NIGHT, VALLEY OF BONES, and NIGHT OF THE JAGUAR, as well as a children's book THE WITCH'S BOY under his own name. The author's website is michaelgruberbooks.com
- Consumption by Kevin Patterson.Nan A. Talese, New York:2007.
Survival has been traditionally difficult for the native Inuit in Rankin Inlet, a small town near the Arctic Ocean. Life radically changed with the influence of the Kablunauks-the "southerners"( whites) who brought mining and western culture to this Northern town, making the caribou and seals more scarce. The novel centers around Victoria Robertson, who as a young girl was afflicted with tuberculosis( consumption) and is sent away to Winnipeg to be treated. Victoria reluctantly returns to Rankin Inlet after she is cured and eventually marries a British expatriate working in town. She leads a conflicted life- exposed to "southern" culture but forced to live within the traditional setting of Rankin Inlet.
Her husband oversees a diamond mine built in the town, which threatens the established ways of the Inuit by providing a new avenue of survival. This novel vividly depicts the culture of the North and the life perspective of the Inuit. There is a special treatment of the tundra- its vast cold expanse which defines the existence of the Inuit. The reader is lead on a special journey- one into the heart and mind of a people whose lives are threatened by the encroachment of another civilization. The author has written a memoir The Water in Between, which was a New York Times Notable Book. Country of Cold, a short fiction collection, won the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and the inaugural City of Victoria Butler Book Prize.
- The Meaning of Night A Confession by Mi
chael Cox.W.W. Norton & Company New York:2006. Edward Glyver, murderer, booklover, and scholar, seeks to uncover the truth about his paternity in order to claim a rich inheritance and a noble title. A childhood friend turned nemesis stands in his way. This well researched novel is set in Victorian England and is abound with references to that time period and the world of antiquarian books. The author began work on the novel thirty years ago. This is highly recommended to readers of historical fiction. Mr. Cox is the author of the biography of the scholar and ghost story writer M.R. James. He is the editor of The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories, and The Oxford Book of Victorian Detective Stories.
- Blood Fugues by Edgardo Vega Yunqué.Harper Collins Publishers New York: 2005. A family's history is deftly unwound in this gracefully compelling novel. Kenny Romero is a New York City high school student and the eldest son of an Irish-American mother and a Puerto Rican-American father. While working on a farm in upstate New York during the summer, Kenny is injured when he attempts to save a stray cow, and falls into a deathly coma. Familial relationships come to light as the entire family copes with Kenny's illness: Kenny's father Tommy and Uncle Jerry were dismissed from the New York City Police Force and work in illicit activities; his mother Fran's devout Catholicism; his maternal grandmother Mary's checkered past; his girlfriend Claudia bonding with his family; the mystery of the farm's owner Henri Brunet and his son Gabriel. These relationships are cast together in a calming conclusive light at the end of the novel. Edgardo Vega Yunqué is the prize winning author of three novels and two collections of short stories. He was born in Puerto Rico and lives in Brooklyn.
- On Kingdom Mountain by Howard Frank Mosher.Houghton Mifflin Books Boston, MA:2007. Jane Hubbell Kinneson is the last remaining resident of Kingdom Mountain, which was inhabited by her family for generations. She is a respected eccentric: a retired school teacher, town book shop owner, and an annual contestant in a bird carving contest. Jane's life on the mountain is threatened by a proposed highway which would be built on her property and connect the US and Canadian border. Her life changes when Henry Satterfield, a Southern based air show pilot, crashes his plane on Kingdom Mountain. Henry is seeking to find gold hidden by Confederate Soldiers on Jane's property during the Civil War. He recovers in Jane's house, and joins her fight to prevent the highway from being built on the mountain. This is an enchanting read, with descriptive accounts of small town life in 1930's Vermont. The author has written ten books, including Waiting for Teddy Williams, The True Account, and A Stranger in the Kingdom which was co-recipient of the New England Book Award along with Disappearances.
- The Texicans by Nina Vida.Soho Press New York: 2006. The two central characters of this historical novel are Joseph Kimmel, a immigrant Jewish schoolmaster living in Missouri, and Aurelia Ruiz, a young Mexican woman endowed with special powers of healing, casting spells, and attracting men. Joseph learns about his brother's death in Texas, and ventures alone to San Antonio to set up a business with his brother's former business partner. In the midst of his travels, Joseph is robbed by a runaway slave named Luck, and is left alone in the wilderness. He is rescued by Henri Castor, a Parisian Jew, who invites Kimmel to settle with his French Alsatian pioneers in his new town, Castorville( now a town in modern day Texas). Joseph marries an Alsatian immigrant, Katrin, and eventually meets Aurelia, for whom he develops a strong attraction, and brings Aurelia and her daughter to farm in the Guadeloupe River Valley. They are joined by Luck, who was captured by a Texas Ranger and freed when Joseph claims to be the slave's owner. Despite his path to success being challenged by dangerous attacks by Commanches and problems with renegade Texas Rangers, Joseph becomes a wealthy landowner and rancher. This novel will appeal to a broad spectrum of readers and especially those who are interested in the history of the Texas Hill country in the 1840's and 1850's. The author has written six previous novels:Scam; Return from Darkness; Maximilian's Garden; Goodbye, Saigon; Between Sisters;
and The End of Marriage.
- Pound for Pound by F.X. Toole. Foreword by James Ellroy. Harper Collins New York:2006. A posthumous novel by the author of Million Dollar Baby( originally published as the short story Rope Burns.)) The book's central character is Dan Cooley, a former boxer and cut man based in Los Angeles. Cooley experiences a number of family tragedies, and falls on hard times as an alcoholic. The other main character in the novel is Chicky Garza, a young fighter from the San Antonio circuit, who seeks to broaden his fortune in ring by traveling to Los Angeles, where he eventually trains with Cooley. Their bond ultimately brings the redemption needed to uplift the lives of both men. This masterful novel, originally a nine hundred page manuscript, was finished by literary agent Nat Sobel and freelance editor, James Wade. James Ellroy is a best selling crime writer and essayist. The author was born in 1930, and worked as a bullfighter, cut man, taxi driver, and saloon keeper. His short story, "Million Dollar Baby," became an Academy Award Winner after the author's death in 2002.
- Wolf Point by Edward Falco. Unbridled Books Denver, CO:2005. Tom "T" Walker, a divorced businessman, picks up two hitchhikers and finds himself in dangerous straits when they hold him hostage in a remote cabin. As the story evolves, we learn about the common threads connecting their troubled lives. This fast paced story burrows further to an unsuspected realm, edging into a powerful resolution. The author teaches at Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, Virginia, and is the prize winning author of Sabbath Night in the Church of the Piranha.
- Divided Kingdom by Rupert Thomson. Alfred A. Knopf, New York:2005. A bizarre, futuristic tale about a world divided into kingdoms representing different personality types. At the center of the novel is Thomas Parry, who is taken from his parents as a young boy during the "rearrangement" and moves into the Red quarter, which is populated by people with "sanguine" dispositions. Parry lives with a new family, and as a young adult eventually obtains a post in the civil service as an intelligence officer. During a conference in the Blue "phlegmatic" Quarter, he experiences a transformation which will lead to harrowing journeys in the Blue,Yellow "choleric" and Green "melancholic" quarters. This is a novel about the discovery of the self- beyond the imposed defined limits of society. The quarters have unsettling resemblances to our own societies, and this novel challenges the notion of a perfect social environment. The author has written six novels- most recently, The Book of Revelation.
- A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines by Janna Levin. A.A. Knopf, New York: 2006.
Two of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century, Kurt Gödel and Alan Turing, were both highly original in their work and eccentric in their personal lives. Turing, who would eventually break the Enigma Code in World War II, was a homosexual who grew up as the target of bullies in a British public school; Gödel was paranoid and delusional, and overprotected by his wife. This book examines the fascinating intersection of mathematics and personality. The author, who is also the narrator of the book, is a professor of physics and astronomy at Barnard College of Columbia University in New York. She is the author of How the Universe Got Its Spots.
- Rules for Old Men Waiting by Peter Pouncey. Random House, New York: 2005. Robert MacIver, a Scottish born historian, has retired to his summer residence in Wellfleet, Cape Cod, with his dying wife. Soon after the death of his wife, MacIver discovers that he, too, is seriously ill and dying. As he sequesters himself in his former summer refuge, MacIver, who has written about gassed victims in World War I, struggles to write a novel about a platoon of British soldiers in the Great War. The historian ruminates about his own life- growing up in Scotland, his marriage, and his experiences in World War II, which have strong parallels to the lives of the characters in his novel. This is a remarkable and engrossing first novel, deserving of accolades and excellent reviews. Mr. Pouncey, a classicist, is a former Dean of Columbia College, and is a President Emeritus of Amherst College.
- The Secret Purposes by David Baddiel. William Morrow, Harper Collins, New York: 2005. Originally published in Great Britain in 2004 by Little Brown, a division of Time Warner Group UK. Isaac Fabian, a professed Communist and son of a Rabbi, flees Nazi Germany to find safe haven in Great Britain with his gentile wife, Lulu, and their infant daughter, Rebecca. Life is difficult for the Fabians, who take great care not to show their German origins and eke out a subsistence living. After an interview by a national tribunal, Isaac is deported to the Isle of Man, where he is interned with mostly German Jewish Refugees.
The painful truth about the murders European Jews is being suppressed by the British government. A government interpreter, June Murray, has access to information about the atrocities, and goes to the Isle of Man to interview detainees regarding their experiences with the Nazis. Isaac is one of the interviewee's, and eventually becomes romantically involved with June. This is compelling story has a historical basis. The author's grandfather was an internee in Britain during World War II. David Baddiel is an acclaimed novelist and a well-known television personality in Britain.
- The Frozen Rabbi by Steve Stern
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill New York: 2010. Rabbi Eliezer Ben Zephyr, a revered holy man, is discovered in frozen in ice outside his village in 1899. He is not buried- but kept in his frozen state in the village ice house and guarded by the ice house proprietor. His body is entrusted to the proprietor's descendants, and is eventually transported to Memphis, Tennessee, where the frozen Rabbi defrosts and wakes up from his 100 year state of suspended animation. Bernie Karp, the overweight and socially awkward son of the guardian family, discovers the newly awoken Rabbi. The Rabbi quickly adapts to his modern world. Instead of continuing as an ascetic sage, he becomes a businessman, and peddles his religious learning at a spiritual center where he is a mystical guru of a devoted cult of both Jewish and non-Jewish followers. Bernie, however, takes the Rabbi's former spiritual path by delving into the Kabbalah and traveling to other realms in out of body experiences. This meshuggah novel will enrapture many readers. It is outlandishly entertaining while subtly addressing the conflict of materialism and religion. The author is the winner of the National Jewish Book Award and has written several novels and novellas. He is a teacher at Skidmore College.
- The Angel of Forgetfulness by Steve Stern. Viking, The Penguin Group, New York: 2005. Three narratives are magically interwoven in this novel which is richly colored by the setting of the old New York Lower East Side. Saul, a young Jewish man from Memphis, moves to New York in the 1960s and becomes involved with his distant relative, "Aunt" Keni. On her death bed, Keni bequeaths Saul a Yiddish manuscript written by her lover, Nathan. Saul's future intertwines with the stories of both Nathan and Mocky, the fallen angel of his unfinished manuscript. The three narratives mold together into a masterful denoument. Steve Stern has written several acclaimed story collections including The Wedding Jester, Issac and Undertakers's Daughter, and Lazer Malkin Enters Heaven. He is also the author of three novels and two books for children. The author teaches creative writing at Skidmore College.
- The Plot Against America by Phillip Roth.Houghton Mifflin Company New York, Boston: 2004. A disturbing book about a fictional America during the World War II era. Aviation hero Charles A. Lindbergh is elected President after defeating Franklin Roosevelt. Lindbergh is an isolationist, and enters into a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany: America does not fight in the war. The story is narrated by a young Jewish boy living in Newark, New Jersey. Lindbergh's presidency has strong consequences for American Jewry, with threats of pogroms and a loss of basic rights which were formerly guaranteed by the United States government. There is an excellent appendix with background on the historical figures in the book. Mr. Roth received the Pulitzer Prize for American Pastoral. He has received the National Medal of Arts, and received the Gold Medal in fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences previously awarded to John Dos Passos, William Faulkner, Saul Bellow and other eminent American writers. This novel is historical fiction, but carries a deeper message about the contemporary dangers of a right wing militaristic government.
- Roads of the Heart by Christopher Tilghman. Random House, New York: 2004. Frank Alwin, a disgraced Southern politician has suffered a stroke.
During a visit by his son Eric, an advertising executive living in the North, Frank requests a journey by car through the deep South. The trip evolves into a voyage of intense familial discovery and resolution. This masterfully told story will resonate a familiar empathy to its readers. The author is a tenured professor and teaches at the University of Virginia. Mr. Tilghman has also written, Mason's Retreat, In a Father's Place, and The Way People Run. He is a recipient of the Whiting Writer's Award, and the Ingram Merrill Foundation Award.
- A Likeness by Sonia Overall. Fourth Estate, a division of HarperCollinsUK, London:2004. Rob, a young artist and recent widower from Thetford, ventures forth to Elizabethan London to pursue a career as a portrait painter. He makes an unlikely alliance with Kat, a courtesan at the Royal Court. Her amorous connections with Royalty eventually bring him painting commissions. This is the time of the Plague, and the vicissitudes of Rob's career are dependent on both the seasons and Kat's fickle relationships with Royalty, who themselves are in and out of favor with the Queen. Vivid and colorful accounts of this important era in history draw the reader into an enchanting and colorful story cast with characters who appear in a Dickensian manner. A Likeness will have a broad appeal, especially to those interested in British historical fiction. This is the author's first novel. Ms. Overall grew up in Ely and Canterbury where she studied Literature and Philosophy.
- A Black Englishman by Carolyn Slaughter. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, New York:2004. Set in the aftermath of World War I, a young Englishwoman, Isabel, marries a soldier stationed in India, and leaves with him to escape postwar Britain. Isabel is soon left to her own devices when her husband departs for an extended tour of duty. After being stricken with a near fatal bout of malaria, she is nursed back to health by Sam, a local Oxford educated Indian physician. A torrid secretive love affair ensues: their interracial relationship is strictly taboo in British dominated India. The reader is drawn throughout the book into the cultural vibrancy and looming political conflicts within postwar India. The novel is based loosely on the life of the author's maternal grandmother, who went to India after the Great War. Carolyn Slaughter was born in New Delhi, India, and spent most of her childhood in the Kalahari Desert of what is now Botswana. She is the author of eight other novels and the memoir Before the Knife. An excellent book group choice for readers with a bent towards romantic historical fiction.
- The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. Translated from Spanish by Lucia Graves. The Penguin Press, New York: 2004. Daniel, the young son of a bookseller, discovers the only known copy of a book written by an expatriate Spanish author, Julian Carax, who presumably had died in Paris shortly before World War II. Intrigued by the mysterious background of the author, Daniel sleuths for more information regarding Carax. A spellbinding tale of romance, deception, and tragedy unfolds in this novel set in the backdrop of postwar Barcelona. The Shadow of the Wind was on the best seller list in Spain for over a year. The author is a native of Barcelona. Lucia Graves is the author and translator of many works and has contributed to the Spanish language editions of the poetry of her father, Robert Graves.
- Grace by Linn Ullmann. Translated from the Norwegian by Babara Haveland. Alfred A. Knopf New York: 2005. Originally published as Nåde by Forlaget Oktober S,Oslo:2002. An absorbing tragi-comedic tale set in Norway about a man's reflection on his life as he is dying. Johan has led a lackluster life, amiss with a bad marriage, an estranged son, and a scandalous dismissal from from an undistinguished job as a journalist. His second wife, a physician, is both lovingly attentive and detached from his plight as he endures his final days. A poignant message arises from the subtle conclusion of the novel set in Norway. The author is a prominent literary critic and writes a column for Norway's leading morning newspaper. Her previous books are Stella Descending, and Before You Sleep.
- The Courage Consort by Michael Faber. Harcourt Books, New York, San Diego:2004.
Three distinct novellas about characters who are psychologically trapped within their surroundings. In "The Courage Consort," a suicidal singer in a British a capella troupe struggles psychologically while on tour in Belgium. In " The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps," a handicapped woman on an archeological dig helps to solve a centuries-old murder whose mystery is hidden in a bottle. " The Fahrenheit Twins" has an eerie science fiction tone in which two twins living isolated in the Arctic with their parents find that their confrontation with Nature leads to uncovering truths about their origins. These novellas unfold in a bizarre, enveloping style.The author has written The Crimson Petal and The White, and Under the Skin.
- The Circus in Winter by Cathy Day. Harcourt:2004. The legacy of the Great Porter Circus in Lima, Indiana comes alive in a series of stories about its founder, troupe, and descendants. The stories move seamlessly between different eras: the circus continues to have a aura in Lima 60 years after it was sold. This is a sterling debut. The author grew up in Peru, Indiana, once the home of the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus. Her great uncle was an elephant trainer; another claimed to be the world's fastest ticket taker. Ms. Day was a 1999 Bush Artist Fellow in literature. She teaches at College of New Jersey.
- The Village Bride by Karita Daswani. G.P. Putnam's Sons, Penguin Group New York:2004. Priya, a recently married Hindu bride, arrives in Los Angeles from India to live with husband, Ranjay. By tradition, she is expected to be obedient to both her husband and her in-laws, who live with them. Priya is responsible for the cooking and cleaning in the household, and they supervise her lifestyle, including the clothing she wears. Eventually, she is permitted to take a job as a receptionist at the office of a popular Hollywood movie magazine. This job unexpectedly propels her into a life-changing whirlwind experience. This book is refreshingly light fare, especially in a genre which is dominated by more serious psychological fiction. This novel has excellent movie script potential. The author has been a fashion reporter for CNN International, CNBC Asia, and Women's Wear Daily. She has also written for the The Los Angeles Times, and the International Herald Tribune.
She is a native of Bombay and lives in Los Angeles.
- Adventures of the Artificial Woman by Thomas Berger. Simon and Schuster, New York: 2004. A hilarious and insightful novel about the adventures of an artificial robotic woman. Ellery Pierce, an "animatronics" technician, creates a robot who is the "woman" of his dreams. Phyllis is indistinguishable from her human counterparts, and quickly develops a will of her own. She leaves Ellery in pursuit of a show business career and eventually runs for the presidency of the United States. This fast moving story is a subtle comic commentary on both American society and the human condition. Mr. Berger has written 23 novels, including Best Friends, Meeting Evil, Little Big Man, and The Feud, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
- Happy Days by Laurent Graff. Translated from French by Linda Coverdale. Caroll and Graf, New York: 2004. A refreshing short book about a young French man who abandons everyday existence to live in a retirement home. Although his circumstances are unusual, he is accepted by the other residents, and becomes a special friend to an Alzheimer patient and a dying woman. This funny small book illustrates the important lessons of life. It is the author's first novel, and was awarded the French Prix Millepages in 2002.
- Departures by Lorna J. Cook. St. Martin' Press, New York: 2004. A coming of age story for two teenagers in a contemporary Midwestern family. The VanderZees live in a small college town where Malcom, the father, is an English professor and the mother, Esme, a former artist, is resigned to the domesticity of motherhood. The main focus of the story is on the two older children, Suzen and Evan. Suzen is a dreamer, and often daydreams about being in the landscape of a classic British novel. She works for the local nursery, owned by a gay woman, and begins to question her own sexuality when she find that she is attracted to her employer. Evan has little experience with girls until he meets the rebellious Soci, who turns his life into an unsettling adventure. Both teenagers question the relationship of their parents with it hidden tensions: their father's undisclosed past, and Esme's possible affair. The story of the VanderZees is an honest and evocative tale, and an excellent debut novel. An appealing book group choice.
- Deafening by Frances Itani. Atlantic Monthly Press :2003. A bracing debut novel set on the eve the Great War. Grania O'Neill, the daughter of Irish hoteliers in small town Ontario, is deaf due to a childhood bout with Scarlet Fever. Eventually, she is sent to the Ontario School for the Deaf where she is instructed in sign language and speech. After graduation, Grania works at the school where she meets her husband Jim Lloyd, a hearing man. Shortly after their marriage, he enlists in the Canadian Army as a stretcher-bearer and serves in Flanders. There are two strands of character development in the novel. One focuses on Grania's inner silence and her relationship with the hearing world; the other is a recounting of Jim's observations of the horror of war. Their separate lives meld together into a coping and loving relationship. This is a solid debut, an engaging read which appeals to a broad spectrum of readers and book groups. Frances Itani is a two-time winner of the Tilden ( CBC/Saturday Night) Literary Award, and a recipient of the Canadian Fiction Magazine's Best Short Story Award. The author has written four short story collections and has written stories, poetry, drama, and features for CBC Radio.
- The Master Butcher's Singing Club by Louise Erdrich. HarperCollins Publishers , New York:2003. A young German butcher, who was a former sniper for the German army in World War I, emigrates to the United States and settles in North Dakota. Fidelis Waldvogel builds a successful business in the small town of Argus, and eventually brings his wife, sister, and son to North Dakota. A local woman, Delphine, who is the daughter of the town drunk, works for Fidelis and becomes best friends with his wife, Eva. Eventually, the lives of Fidelis and Delphine are woven closely together by family matters, town events, and World War II. This is a masterful tale written by the National Book Award finalist (The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse) and National Book Critics Circle Award winner (Love Medicine). The author has also won the The National Magazine Award and her work is included in the O. Henry and Best American short story collections. An excellent book group choice appealing to a wide range of readers.
- The True Life of Hansel and Gretel by Louise Murphy. A haunting recounting of the classic fairy tale set in Poland during the Nazi occupation. Two Jewish children flee the Nazis and assume the names of Hansel and Gretel to hide their Jewish identity. They are hidden by a "witch" named Magda, who lives in a hut outside a small village. This is a riveting tale of heroism, survival, and kindness in the worst of times. Excellent book group choice. Ms. Murphy is the author of The Sea Within, and a children's book, My Garden. She is the recipient of a Witers Digest Award for poetry. Her poetry has been published in Soujourners, Commonweal and Bitter Oleander.
- The Life of Piby Yann Martel. HarcourtBooks New York: 2001. The absorbing tale of a young Indian boy who is the sole human survivor of a ship accident on the Pacific. Piscine is twelve, and has embarked towards Canada with his family along with his father's zoo onboard. There is an explosion and both Piscine's family and the crew are killed as the ship sinks. Piscine miraculously survives with a few animals, including a Hyena and a Bengal tiger, on the lifeboat. Much of the story focuses on Piscine's attempts to survive both the sea and his ferocious animal copassengers. This is an piquant tale of survival, and the striking contrasts of animal and human behaviors. The author received the Man Booker Prize for this superb novel.
- Willem's Field by Melinda Haynes. Free Press,( Simon and Schuster) New York: 2003. Willem, who has been struggling with a panic disorder for most of his adult life, journeys back to his childhood home in Mississippi, now hidden in a field on land owned by the Till family. Other subplots emerge at the time of Willem's visit. The marriage of Bruno, the eldest Till son, is foundering. Sonny, the younger son of the Till family, is obese, lazy, and is currently involved in a get-rich-quick scheme. The Till family dynamics meld with Willem's visit to create a rich work of fiction by the gifted author of Mother of Pearl, an Oprah Book Club selection.
- Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff. Harper Collins Publishers Jane Charlotte is recruited by the "Bad Monkeys," an organization which clandestinely removes "irredeemable" persons from society.
She discovers that her brother Phil is involved in a leadership position in The Troop, Bad Monkey's nemesis. Jane attempts to locate Phil, in order to convince him to leave the Troop.
This stunning, crazed plot reads like a high action sci-fi movie and climaxes into an unsuspected twist. The reader will most likely agree with the suggestion on the front cover:"Buy it, read it, memorize it, then destroy it..." Matt Ruff is the author of The Fool on the Hill and Set This House In Order. which won the James Tiptree Jr. Award, The Washington State Book Award and was nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. The author is also a recipient of a National Endowment of the Arts Literature Fellowship.
- Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood.Nan A. Talese Doubleday, New York:2003. A provocative futuristic novel about the destruction of human civilization. The book's central figure is Snowman, who may be the last surviving person in the human race, which has left behind only remnants of its highly developed civilization. The story goes back and forth from the early life of "Jimmy", a.k.a. Snowman to the bleak present. We learn of events which lead to this end of days scenario. Crake moves into Jimmy's restricted "module" community populated by elite scientists and their families. They live in a world of bizarre genetically crossed bred animals and new technologies.
- The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. Viking Penguin, New York: 2002. Set in the Civil Rights era of 1964, this stunning debut novel is the eloquent story of a white farm girl who runs away from her abusive father and finds refuge with a family of three black women. The book centers around Lily's unfulfilled relationship with her dead mother, who she may have killed accidentally at the age of three when her mother was attempting to leave her father. Lily wrestles with the possibility that her mother may have not wanted her, and she seeks maternal comfort and guidance with August, a beekeeper, who trains Lily in her profession. As tensions of the era encompass her, Lily comes to terms with both the loss of her mother and her estranged father. Rich in detail and tense dialog, The Secret Life of Bees is an excellent choice for bookgroups. Ms. Kidd has written the highly acclaimed memoirs, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, and When the Heart Waits. The author has won a Poets&Writers award for the story that began this novel, as well as a Katherine Ann Porter award and a Bread Loaf scholarship. An excerpt from The Secret Life of Bees was selected as a notable story in Best American Stories. The author resides in South Carolina. Visit her website at Suemonkkidd.com Trading Up by Candace Bushnell. Hyperion Books New York:2003. The best selling author of 4 Blondes and Sex and The City has written a spicy novel about a Victoria's Secret model struggling to rise in New York "Society." Janey Wilcox is a stunning blond who recently has become the top model for Victoria's Secret. She has greater ambitions, and tries to pursue a career as a movie producer. Along the way, she chooses the "right" husband, and associates with well-known New York celebrities. Her dubious past and insinuating manner eventually threaten both her career and her reputation. This is an entertaining and insightful book- told by a knowledgeable insider who has been a columnist for The New York Observer and a contributing editor for Vogue Magazine.
- A Father's Affair by Karel Van Loon. Canongate Books, Edinburgh. New York: 2003. Translated from the Dutch by Sam Garrett. Armin Minderhout, the father of a 13 year old son, discovers that he has been infertile his entire life. His son's mother is now dead, and he begins a relentless quest to find the true of father of his son, Bo. On this path, he seeks to resolve ambiguous questions about the nature of true love. A surprising ending makes for a refreshing and thoughtful read. The author has written two best selling novels and a collection of stories which were short listed for the ECI Prize. Mr. Van Loon is a free-lance journalist and a television program maker. Sam Garrett is a journalist and a free-lance translator. He recently translated The Cave by Tim KrabbÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©, and Silent Extras by Arnon Grunberg. /A >>
- Forever by Pete Hamill. Little,Brown and Company, Boston, New York, London: 2003. The latest novel by the author. In 1740, Cormac O'Connor leaves his native Ireland seeking to avenge the deaths of his parents. He is in the midst of the tensions that exist between the Irish, the English, and the Blacks. Cormac is eventually wounded trying to aid an African Shaman. In return, the Shaman heals him and gives him the gift of immortality, on the condition that he never leaves Manhattan. Cormac continues to live through the decades, fighting in the Revolutionary War and working as a newspaper reporter in New York City. He witnesses the rise of the Metropolis, and the dawn of the new millenium. Only a mysterious dark lady will be able to help him break the curse and blessing of his eternal life. Forever, my favorite of the author's novels, is a passionate and colorful tale, woven into the history of New York. Mr. Hamill has written for the New York Times, the New York Daily News, the New York Post, the New Yorker, and Newsday. He is the author of A Drinking Life, and most recently, Snow in August.
- The Coffee Trader by David Liss. Random House, New York:2003. A historical novel set in mid 17th century Amsterdam. The fortunes of investment traders rise and fall in this burgeoning city, where two Jewish Portuguese brothers have sought refuge from the inquisition. Miguel Lienzo has recently lost a fortune in the sugar markets. He is humiliated and currently supported by the charity of his younger brother. A Dutch woman secretly offers him an opportunity to invest in a new market- coffee. Investment relationships between Jews and Gentiles are forbidden by the Ma'amad, which supervises the activities of the Jewish community in Amsterdam. Miguel could face banishment from the Jewish community if his new business relationship is revealed. He attempts to salvage his business reputation by gaining control of the coffee market in Europe. In order to accomplish this, Miguel must overcome devious traders who threaten his goal. This well researched book provides the reader with a glimpse into the Jewish life of 18th century Amsterdam, and the commercial climate within the city. The Coffee Trader is the second novel of the Edgar Award winning author of A Conspiracy of Paper. His website is www.davidliss.com.
- The Interpreter by Suki Kim. Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, New York:2003. A Korean-American interpreter working in New York discovers startling facts about her family history during a routine deposition. She seeks to uncover the mystery surrounding her parent's murder by contacting their former employees, her estranged sister, the police, and shadowy figures in the Korean criminal underground. In the course of this harrowing search, we learn about her conflicted upbringing, her parent's checkered past, and her life as a mistress. This gripping debut novel is stylistically akin to Native Speaker by Chang Rae Lee. Ms. Kim immigrated to the United States at the age of thirteen. The author is a graduate of Barnard College and studied at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.
- The Monk Downstairs by Tim Farrington. HarperSanFrancisco:2002. A monk leaves a monastery after twenty years and rents an apartment downstairs from a divorced mother with a young child. A romance ensues- one hampered by emotional baggage. The landlady, Rebecca, has ongoing issues with her ex-husband, a pot smoking surfer; Michael is struggling with his inner spiritual turmoil and tries to adjust to both his decision to leave the monastery and to the reality of his new relationship with Rebecca. This absorbing novel is woven in fluent prose; the relationships of its characters will strike a familiar note to many readers. One of the best novels of the year- and a refreshing reading experience.
- The Last Promise by Richard Paul Evans. Dutton, New York: 2002. A refreshing romantic novel about two ex-patriot Americans in Italy. Eliana lives on a beautiful and spacious villa near Florence. She is unhappily married to her Italian husband, Maurizio, who is unfaithful and absent from the villa for weeks at a time. A new tenant, Ross, who is a museum guide for the Uffizi Gallery, rents a room on the villa property. A love affair ensues, Eliana eventually torn by the possibility of having to leave her seriously asthmatic son or losing the love of her life. Mr. Evans writes a heart warming and eloquently insightful tale about true love. He is the best selling author of The Christmas Box. His website is www.RichardPaulEvans.com.
- CoastLiners by Joanne Harris. William Morrow, HarperCollins Publishers New York: 2002. An endearing tale about unresolved father-daughter issues, by the gifted author of Chocolat. A French woman, Madeleine, returns to the island where she grew up, Le Devin, after living in Paris. Her ailing father lives in the Les Salants village of the island, whose inhabitants eke out a bare existence. There is a mutual animosity between the residents of Les Salants and the inhabitants of the other more prosperous island village, La HoussiniÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©re. The beach of Les Salants has washed away. Madeleine, however, collaborates with Flynn, an Irish ex-patriot living on Les Salants, to save the village's beach. Their efforts succeed, however, with a negative impact on La HoussiniÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©re and resulting in significant life style changes for Les Salants. The author has written Five Quarters of the Orange, and Blackberry Wine. Chocolat was nominated for the Whitbread Award. She is half French and half British and resides in England.
- My Only Story by Monica Wood. Chronicle Books, San Francisco: 2000. A refreshing story about a small town hairdresser's attempts to reunite her fiance with his young niece. Rita, a tarot reader and an owner of a small salon in her house, fortuitously meets Roger soon after she dreams about him. They become lovers and eventually engaged. Both Roger and Rita have difficult pasts which will influence the outcome of Roger's relationship to his niece. Set in New England, the author weaves a heart-warming story with surprising connections between characters. Monica Wood is a winner of the 1999 Pushcart prize for "Ernie's Ark", which was published in Glimmer Train.
- Sweet and Vicious by David Schickler. The Dial Press, ( Random House) New York:2004. Grace McGlone, a small town Wisconsin woman who is currently employed at a carwash, fatefully meets the love of her life- Henry Dante, who is on the run from his boss, Honey Pobrinkis, a Chicago mob chieftain. Henry's has possession of "The Planets", which are legendary Spanish diamonds worth 40 million and were recently purchased by his boss. Grace and Henry embark together on a whirlwind adventure as Henry flees from Honey's clutches. This is rapturous fiction by the author of Kissing in Manhattan. David Schickler has also written for The New Yorker, Tin House, Zoetrope Travel and Leisure. The author's website is www.davidschickler.com
- Kissing in Manhattan by David Schickler. Dial Press, New York:2001. An ebulliently eccentric novel about love and romance in contemporary New York. Initially, the novel appears to be a collection of short stories about lovers who live in the same apartment building. In the middle of the novel, an intense, bizarre story about a wealthy man and his sexual exploitations builds momentum into a plot. The disparate characters become interrelated and a rising tension erupts in the story. This is a wonderfully crafted first novel, one that takes the reader by surprise- both stylistically and in the story line. Mr. Schickler's stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Tin House, and in Zoetrope.
- Blue Diary by Alice Hoffman. G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York:2001.The novel opens by depicting the idyllic life of a small Massachusetts town. It is June, and the pace of life in this relaxed, New England town seems to be in harmony with the enduring bounty of nature which encompasses it. There is the ordinary, almost blissful life of a local carpenter and town firefighter hero, who is blessed with a beautiful loving wife and adoring son. As the story unfolds, it is revealed that the carpenter has an unknown tainted past. Family, friends, and townspeople are forced to reckon with the truth about a man who they once considered a model citizen and hero. In powerful fluid prose laced with detailed descriptions of nature, the author lays out a story in which its characters must confront an a new perception of their lives- permanantly altered by the revelation of a hidden secret. The author has written fourteen acclaimed books, most recently The River King, and Local Girls.
- Erased Faces by Graciela Limon. Arte Publico Press, Houston: 2001. An American Latina photojournalist travels to Mexico and documents the insurgent Zapatista cause in Chiapas. The novel depicts the lives of the native peoples, who are oppressed by both the government and plantation owners. There is a focus on the plight of Indian women, whose suffering is overcome by their emergence as revolutionary leaders. The story mirrors the Chiapas rebellion and weaves a mystical history into its revolutionary cause. The author received an American Book Award for In Search of Bernabe (1993) and is a Professor Emeritus at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles where she was a professor of U.S. Latina Literature.
- The Royal Physician's Visit by Per Olov Enquist. The Overlook Press, Peter Mayer Publishers Inc. Woodstock and New York: 2001.Translated from Swedish by Tiina Nunnally. A fictional account of the Danish revolution in the late 18th century. The forces of the Enlightment are brought to the unlikely kingdom of Denmark, a financial backwater and militarily weakened Northern European country. Under the guidance of his German-born physician, the King becomes a figurehead who decrees new powers of freedom to his subjects. The Queen also shares these enlightened beliefs with the Physician, with whom she has an affair. The Royal Court is enraged by both this adulterous liaison and the new liberal laws of the kingdom. Scandal ensues and threatens civil unrest. The author deftly paints his character's inner traits and their roles in the history of Denmark. Mr. Enquist won both the August Prize, Swedens most important literary award, and France's Prix Du Meilleur Livre Etranger (Best Foreign Book) for this wonderfully absorbing novel.
- The Elementary Particles by Michel Houellebecq. Translated from the French by Frank Wynne. Alfred A. Knopf , New York; 2000. A best seller and literary sensation from France. The novel chronicles the lives of two half brothers; one a sexually obsessed teacher and the other an introverted scientist. Both men are related through their mother, who abandoned them for an alternative life style of the Sixties. Each brother has a radically different outlook on life: the scientist observes all life in purely scientific terms, and the teacher perceives life as it relates to sexual activity. The novel elaborates in great detail about their separate childhoods; their eventual reuniting; the dissimilar paths of their adult lives. This is a masterful work of fiction, very European in its tone and reflection. The author received the Prix novembre award for this novel.
- The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. HoughtonMifflin New York Boston:2003. This absorbing novel chronicles the lives of a Bengali Indian couple who move to the United States. Ashima Ganguli and her husband Ashoke move to Massachusetts where he is a Ph.D candidate at MIT and eventually settle in a town outside Boston, where he is a professor of electrical engineering at a small university. It is very difficult for them to leave their family in Calcutta; both Ashima and Ashoke have conflicted feelings about their lives in America- unlike their American born son Gogol ( nicknamed for the Russian author, Nikolai Gogol) and their daughter, Sonia. The family story is told over the span of thirty years and details the changes in their lives as the parents and their children adapt their Bengali culture to America. This is the first novel of the exceptional author and the Pulitzer Prize Winner of The Interpreter of Maladies.
- Interpreter of Maladies By Jhumpa Lahiri. Houghlin Mifflin, New York: 1999. Pen/Hemingway Award Winner and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for the year 2000. This is a wonderfully engaging collection of short stories about contemporary Indians. Most of the stories are set in New England; the main characters are recent emigres. The rest of the stories take place within India itself. The most fascinating character relationships are drawn from the stories of Indian couples who are American-born. These characters suffer from an ambivalence about the traditional Indian vs. the American outlook. There is no resolution in these short stories; no moral viewpoint- the author compels her characters to choose according to the situation given: their choices leave the reader with a sense of poignant irresolution. The author has made a significant contribution to the short-story genre.
- Swagbelly by David Levien. Plume (Penguin Group USA), New York:2003. Eliot Grubman is a self-made Jewish man who earned his fortune as a porn publisher. He is recently divorced, and is currently in a relationship with a young "model." Money has been the omnipotent force in Grubmans's life- although his sexual impotence, his tense relationship with his son- who is about to become a Bar Mitzvah- seriously test his life philosophy. DJ Levien is the author of the novel, Wormwood, and he co-wrote the feature film, Rounders. His website is djlevien.com. Fabulous Small Jews, is recommended to be read for contrasting characters.
- Blooms of Darkness by Aharon Appelfeld. Schocken Books New York: 2010. Eleven year old Hugo is entrusted to the care of his mother's childhood friend, Mariana, a prostitute, in the depths of World War II. Hugo is hidden in a closet in her brothel in order to evade the Nazis who are hunting for escaped Jews. He lives in a dream-like state which juxtaposes his reality with visions of departed loved ones. Thrust from caring affluent surroundings, he is surviving both the onslaught of the war and the irrevocable changes which will confront him. The novel itself flows like the consciousness of the main character: dreams and reality intersect and often cannot be separated. The author has written more than forty books, and has received numerous awards and honors including the National Jewish Book Award and
the Prix MÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©dicis ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©tranger
- Foiglman by Aharon Megged. Translated from Hebrew by Margarnit Weinberger-Rotman. TheToby Press New London, CT; London: 2003. A Parisian Yiddish poet, Holocaust survivor Shumel Foiglman, writes to Israeli historian Zvi Arbel regarding the latter's work on the Chmielnicki's massacres in 1648-1649, and sends Arbel a volume of his poetry. Foiglman visits the historian in Israel and an entangled friendship ensues. Eventually, Arbel devotes his time and resources to publishing Foiglman's poetry in Hebrew. Unfortunately, this has severe consequences for his marriage to Nora, a scientist. The book offers insight into the Israeli psyche, which the author deftly contrasts with the Jewish Diaspora frame of mind, as represented by Foiglman. This engrossing novel is an excellent choice for Jewish book groups. The author has been an important figure in Israeli literature since the 1950s. He was the president of the Israel Pen Center from 1980 to 1987. Mr. Megged is a long-standing of the Hebrew Academy, and has received the Brenner Award, the Agnon Award and the Israel Prize for Literature in 2003.
- Seven Blessings by Ruchama King. St.Martins Press New York:2003. Two Orthodox Jewish Matchmakers living in Jerusalem have a central mission in life: arranging Jewish marriages. One of the matchmakers is Tsippi, a survivor of the Holocaust, who vowed after being liberated from Treblinka to champion the birth of new Jews by setting up new marriages. The other matchmaker, Judy, moved to Israel from America and seeks to arrange marriages for the men and women who sit at her Sabbath table. The central matchmaking focus of the novel is on Akiva and Beth. Akiva, 41, is a house painter who is afflicted with a rare nervous disorder, and has embraced Orthodox Judaism later in life. Beth 39, is American and was raised Orthodox. This enticing novel revolves around their courtship as it evolves in their lives as Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem. Excellent book choice for Jewish readers and those interested in Jewish culture. A reading guide is available. The author lived, studied, and taught in Jerusalem for 10 years. This is her first novel.
- Barney Ross by Douglas Century. Nextbook. Schocken: New York, 2006. The first biography of one of the great boxers of the 20th century. Prior to World War ll, boxing was an enormously popular sport, and a number of Jews rose to its top ranks- most famously, Benny Leonard and Barney Ross. In the tradition of Daniel "The Light of Israel" Mendoza , sixteenth champion of the London Prize Ring in 1792, Jewish champion Barney Ross would capture the lightweight, junior welterweight, and welterweight titles in the course of ten years. Overcoming the poverty of a tough Chicago neighborhood, Barney Ross was a national Jewish hero, and eventually earned a Silver Star for his service in the Battle of Guadalcanal. This first biography is from the publisher's Jewish Encounter Series. Douglas Century has written Street Kingdom, and Takedown with Rick Cowan. He is a frequent contributor to The New York Times among other publications.
- My Father's Paradise A Sons' Search for his Jewish Past to Kurdish Iraq. by Ariel Sabar. Algonquin Books New York: 2008. The Kurdish Jews of Zakho were among the oldest Jewish cultures in the Diaspora prior to their immigration to Israel in the 1950's. The author offers a fascinating picture of his father's upbringing in Kurdistan and brings to life a once vibrant outpost of the Jewish diapora- storytellers, mystics, craftsmen, and traders who lived in harmony with their Muslim and Christian neighbors.
The Jews in Kurdistan spoke Aramaic, the language of the Talmud, and the author's father, an esteemed professor at UCLA, is an important link to both the language and the land in which it thrived. Growing up in Los Angeles, the author distanced himself from his father's past and recaptures his heritage on trips to Zakho as an adult. The author is a journalist and has written for The Baltimore Sun, The Providence Journal, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and Mother Jone's magazine. His web site is www.arielsabar.com
- Fabulous Small Jews by Joseph Epstein. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston: 2003. A engaging group of contemporary short stories about secular Chicagoan Jews. The characters are diverse: university professors, artists, commodity brokers, salesmen, and mistresses. There is a common thread among them: each character has a unique way of surviving and relating to difficult personal situations. The author not only illustrates a vast array of portraits: he concludes each story with special twist. Mr Epstein is the best selling author of Snobbery, the American Version. He is the author of many previous books, and his work has been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Monthly Harper's Magazine, and Commentary. Mr. Epstein is currently working on a book about friendship in the contemporary world.
- Old Men At Midnight by Chaim Potok. Alfred A. Knopf, New York: 2001. The lives of three men unfold as their life stories are revealed to the same woman at different stages of her life. In the first novella, in post-war New York, Davita is a tutoring a holocaust survivor who has recently immigrated to America. Avram, who is the only Jewish survivor from his Polish town, begins to draw on his lesson pad during his English lessons. The drawings lead to his telling the story of his wartime past that he has painfully repressed. In the second novella, Davita is a teaching assistant at Columbia University and is an escort to a lecturer, Leon Shertov, who recently defected from post-Stalinist Soviet Union, where he was a high ranking officer in the KGB. Shertov is from a Jewish background, and he eventually sends her stories about his life. He also uncovers a past which is tormented by a hidden memory. In the third novella, Davita appears as I.D. Chandal, a famous author now in her forties. She is the new neighbor of an emminent historian, Benjamin Walter. Walter becomes infatuated with her, and slowly recounts his life story. He also has ghosts to reconcile- his trope teacher, who taught him Torah cantillation, emerges as a central character in his story. His resolution is tense and full of agonizing perceptions. This is the most powerful of the novellas and suitably is the final stroke of mastery by a very gifted author. Mr. Potok is an ordained Rabbi and the author of "The Chosen". Read an obituary (The New York Times) of this acclaimed author and acclaimed scholar.
- The Samurai's Garden by Gail Tsukiyama. St. Martin's Press, New York:1995. A Chinese boy goes to his family's summer home in Japan to recover from tuberculosis prior on the eve of World War II. His mother and sister remain in Hong Kong while his father runs a business in Kobe. The boy is supervised by a taciturn caretaker, who unveils himself throughout the novel and teaches the boy important life lessons. A refreshing novel which captivates the heart of the reader. The author's first novel was the best selling Women of Silk.
- The Right hand of Sleep by John Wray. Alfred Knopf, New York:2001. A masterfully intense first novel. A World War I deserter returns from Russia to his native Austria. It is the mid 1930's prior to the Anschluss. The main character remains in his hometown and works as a fishwarden on land owned by a Jewish landlord. He has a love affair with a local woman whose cousin is an important figure in the SS. Riddled with ambivalences, the main character revisits his past during the War and in Russia. His ideology conflicts with the mood of the locals, who brand him as a deserter. Stark, intense, and highly reflective, this novel stands out as one of the best written in the last ten years.
- The Nature of Water and Air by Regina McBride. Simon and Schuster, New York:2001. A wonderfully haunting novel set in post-war Ireland. Clodagh is the only surviving twin daughter of a Tinker mother (Irish caravan traveler) and a well-to-do father who dies before their birth. Her unresolved mother-daughter relationship is ever present in an upbringing torn by conflicts. Although Clodagh is brought up in a "settled" environment, she yearns secretly for the Tinker life. The novel is cast in the backdrop of the Irish Coast, with the sea as a metaphor for the girl's emotional turbulence. The author is a recipient of fellowships from The National Endowment for the Arts, and The New York Foundation for the Arts. Her book of poetry, Yarrow Field won an American Book Series Award. This is her first novel. A book group reading guide is included.
- Jumping the Green by Leslie Schwartz. Simon and Schuster, New York:1999. Louise Goldblum, a young San Franciso based artist is hauntingly obsessed by the recent death of her sister. Her life is burdened by alcoholism and a troubled family background. Louise becomes involved with Zeke, a professional art photographer who draws her into a sadomasochistic sexual relationship which leaves her both mentally and physically scarred. The author explores the main character in a polished flowing prose while maintaining a constant intensity. Ms. Schwartz's book is a winner of the James Jones Literary Society award for a first novel.
- Boone's Lick by Larry McMurty. Simon and Schuster, New York:2000. A family is struggling to survive in post civil-war Missouri. The resilient matriarch of the family decides to take her family on a wagon trip to find her husband, who is hauling lumber in the West. Their trip is full of adventure-challenges by the weather and encounters with Native Americans and the U.S. Cavalry. The novel is narrated by a fifteen year old son, who weaves a rich story with insight into the character's relationships. The author of Lonesome Dove has given us yet another rich tale of the old American West.
- Johnnie, the Story of John Dillinger. Tom Doherty Associates, New York: 2000. A fictional account of America's former Public Enemy Number One. Each character narrates in a unique style: Dillinger, his relatives, lovers, gang members, law enforcement officials, and bystanders tell his story from differing perspectives. Famous gangsters like Harry Pierpont and Babyface Nelson weave their tales with rich anecdotes and fast moving dialog- each involving other narrators in the book. The author captures this era with fresh accounts which sustain the reader's interest throughout the book. He is a professor in the College of Professional Studies at the University of San Francisco.
- Eva's Story by Linda D.Cirino. Princeton, NJ : Ontario Review Press, New York. Distributed by W.W. Norton & Co:1999. A tender love story of a German farm wife and a Jewish student she hides during World War Two.The novel is narrated by the farm wife, whose life is transformed by her relationship with the student. A heartwarming tale rendered in a flowingly poignant style.
- The Big Blow by Joe R. Lansdale. Subterranean Press, Burton, MI: 2000. Set in Galveston, Texas, as the great hurricane of 1900 is stirring. A poor black man, L'il Arthur Johnson, is preparing to box a white contender for the heavyweight crown, John McBride. Johnson, who will eventually be known as Jack Johnson, the world heavyweight champion, has recently become the local champion in a match against a white opponent. In order to wrest the local title from Johnson, wealthy backers from the boxing club have hired McBride, who hails from Chicago. McBride is a scurrilous character, who is prone to violence in and out of the ring. The hurricane looms against this intense story line, enmeshing local characters, whose lives are suddenly extirpated by the oncoming storm. This is a page-turner, enveloping the reader in several story lines. The Big Blow first appeared in Revelations published in 1997 by HarperCollins and edited by Douglas Winter.
- The Hours by Michael Cunningham Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York 1998. The life and work of Virgina Woolf are interwoven with characters living in contemporary New York and 1950's Los Angeles. The main characters, like Virginia Woolfe, are dissatisfied with lives, feeling as though they are impersonators hiding within their true selves and struggle to justify their own existence. The novel eventually spans into the present time, where the forces of the past powerfully impact. Masterfully written by the winner of the 1995 Whiting Writer's Award.
- A Body Spoken by Janice Deaner. Dutton published by the Penguin Group New York: 1999. A cinematic depiction of a train ride where two strangers become intimate. The story is focused on a young female character who recently had "lived as a man". We gradually learn about her bizarre life story in the conversation between her and her new male companion who is passionately attracted to her and emotionally awakened by their relationship. The tone of novel is surrealistic and could be adapted for film. A bizarre book- an enveloping read.
- The Honey Thief by Elizabeth Graver. New York. Hyperion:1999. A troubled girl and her mother seek escape from New York City and begin life anew in a rural town.The girl has a history of compulsive shoplifiting, which she developed after her father's tragic death.She befriends a beekeeper living nearby who teaches her the art of beekeeping. Both are suffering from unresolved emotional conflicts which have parallels. This novel does not have the intensity of "Unravelling", although both books have a serious musing quality which enthralls the reader.
- Unravelling by Elizabeth Graver Hyperion, New York:1997. An engrossing story about the struggles of pubescence and womanhood as narrated by a New Hampshire farm girl in the pre-civil war era. The main character, Aimee, is torn by pubescent sexual conflicts and by an ambiguous relationship with her mother. She seeks to escape the confines of farm life, and eventually goes to Lowell, Massachusetts to work as a mill laborer. Aimee encounters subsequent trouble and returns to the farm where conflicts with her mother ensue. A wonderfully poignant novel based on New England farm life in this era. The author is a professor at Boston College.
- The House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus lll. W.W. Norton and Company, New York London:1999. A former Iranian Colonel who fled Iran during the revolution subsists as a California Highway sanitation worker while posing as an person of means and status. In order to escape his situation, the Colonel buys a house at a San Mateo county auction and seeks to resell the property at a profit. Unfortunately, the sale of the house by the county was an administrative error and the former owner of house attempts to regain possession. She is befriended by a Highway Patrolman, who originally assisted in her eviction and eventually becomes her lover. The novel constantly shifts to the differing perspectives of the characters: first person narrations of their past and present lives. The tone of the novel is one of tense change- the denouement finally winding to a tragic conclusion. This novel is complicated, and at times it is difficult to follow the character studies; otherwise it is an excellent intense depiction of a modern tragedy.
- Locas by Yxta Maya Murray. Grove Press, New York:1997. A debut novel about the harshurban gang life of East Los Angeles. The novel centers on two women: the sister and girlfriend of a gang leader. Although their lives intertwine at the beginning of the novel, their paths diverge as they each develop different perspectives about themselves and the relentless environment that surrounds them. The sister eventually finds solace in Catholicism and the girlfriend becomes a gang leader. A stark portrayal of people caught in the trappings of urban gang life.
- Longing by Maria Espinosa. Arte Publico Press, Houston:1995. This is one of the finest pyschological novels I have read. It is a highly complex story of the relationship between a young Jewish woman and her abusive Chilean husband.The author masterfully develops the novels principle characters and slowly unravels their distinct pyscho/sexual makeups. One may find this book disturbing: fans of Paul Auster's novels will enjoy its throughly bizarre tone.
- The Villa Marini by Gloria Montero. The Ecco Press, Hopewell, New Jersey: 1997. The novelist, a native of Australia and descended from Spanish immigrants, depicts the life of an aggressive Cuban immigrant girl in turn of the century Australia who is destined to inherit her father's sugar's cane farm. As the story unfolds, the young girl grows into a indomitable force in the industry, overcoming both the financial and social constraints that surround her. We discover an early 20th century Australia, lagging behind the developments of modern Western civilization. Within the story of this new country's growth is a wonderfully poignant tale of a young woman's struggle with both nature and society.
- Perdido by Rick Collingnon. MacMurray & Beck: Denver/Aspen 1997. An entrancing novel about an Anglo carpenter living in a predominantly Mexican-American town in contemporary New Mexico. The undercurrents of daily life in this town are illuminated by the interaction of the carpenter and his neighbors. Life changes, though, when he innocently probes into a suicide of a young anglo woman who had lived in a nearby commune in the late 1960's. His probing brings out hidden animosities towards him and he becomes a town pariah. This is a novel of wonderful character studies, giving us a glimpse into the rural life of a largely unfamiliar culture.
- The Journal of Antonio Montoya by Rick Collignon. MacMurray and Beck: Denver/Aspen. 1996. An enchanting tale about a contemporary New Mexican family. A young boy is entrusted to the care of his aunt- an unmarried reclusive artist. Her dead relatives appear in her house as living beings and teach her the history of the town and her family, preparing her for guardianship of the child. The story becomes entwined with the diary of a deceased relative, whose past emerges with significance. A delightful tale, which gives us a glimpse into the culture of New Mexicans of Spanish descent. I recommend reading this novel before "Perdido" in order to get a history of the town which is the central focus of both novels.
- Snow In August by Pete Hamill. Little, Brown and Company: New York 1997. A heartwarming tale of how two people from totally different cultural backgrounds unite in friendship to solve life-threatening problems. An Irish-Catholic boy and an immigrant Rabbi forge a strong friendship in post-war Brooklyn. Their bonding strengthens as the boy teaches the Rabbi about baseball, and boy learns Yiddish from the Rabbi. Yet looming in the background is a violent crime which the boy has witnessed. The boy is physically threatened by the perpetrators of the crime and seeks a solution to avoid their wrath. The solution may be found in the Jewish past...
- The Puttermesser Papers by Cynthia Ozick. New York : Alfred Knopf, 1997. A bizarre but eloquently written account of the life of a New York Jewish female bureaucrat. This book unfolds the story of an erudite and peculiar woman- her past, present, and future; in the most notable episode, she creates a golem, ( a Jewish mythical creature) and temporarily reforms New York City. This is an encompassing novel, replete with diverse twists and turns-a book of constant surprise and amazement. Not for the light-hearted.
- Women with Men by Richard Ford. Alfred A. Knopf: New York 1997. This is very complicated work- a book of three long stories, focusing upon the conflictual relationship of men and women. Two of the stories are set in Paris, and intertwine the central character's struggles in the Parisian environment with his female relationships. The central male character in each story has multiple personality layers, and the reader may develop a sense of uncertainty about the characters outlook within the story framework. This book may not appeal to certain women readers-they may find both the underdevelopment and the one-sided nature of the female characters offensive. Nevertheless, this is an excellent literary work and well worth rereading in the future.
- Lying on the Couch by Irvin Yalom, Basic Books 1996. An intriguing fictional(?) account about the world of Psychiatrists. Set in the Bay area of California, the novel intertwines the professional and personal lives of Pyschiatrists and their patients. The author has also written important pyschological texts.
- Final Arrangements by Miles Keaton Andrew. Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martins Press, New York: 2002. Casey Kight begins work at Morton-Albright, a family owned funeral home in a small town in Florida. This is the fulfillment of his life long dream of becoming a mortician. His co-workers soon find out that Casey has the "gift" for embalming. He feels welcomed by the family and falls in love with Natalie, the daughter of the funeral home director. Unfortunately, a national funeral home conglomerate may buy Morton-Albright. Casey's future is in jeopardy and he works with Natalie to find a way to keep Morton-Albright in the family. This is a wildly irreverent and funny book, which gives the reader an insider's view of the funeral home business. The author has worked in the funeral trade for over ten years. This is his first novel.
- The Family Markowitz by Allegra Goodman. Farrar, Straus and Giroux New York 1996. If you like stories about contemporary Jewish families- put this novel on your list. The author has a gift for fast-paced dialogue, which can both poignant and comical. A wonderful novel.
- I Want to Buy a Vowel by John Welter. Alogonquin Books of Chapel Hill 1996. An odd ball, hilarious book about an illegal alien in Texas who is accused of leading a satanic cult. The immigrants only English phrase is "I want to buy a vowel", which he learned from watching "Wheel of Fortune" in his native Guatemala. Two young girls, daughters of a liberal local minister, come to his aid. The novel is an amusing commentary on American socio-religious thought.
- The Tattoed Soldier by Hector Tobar. Delphenium Books: Harrison, New York and Encino California (distributed by HarperCollins) 1998. A distinguished debut novel by the Los Angeles journalist. A homeless Los Angeles Guatemalian is haunted by his past in which his wife and infant son were murdered by a military executioner. He discovers that the soldier who executed his family is living and working in Los Angeles. Confronted with his unresolved past, he seeks to avenge the murder. The novel explores the lives of both the homeless man- a former university literature student, and the soldier, who was forced into the Guatemalian military when he was a young peasant. The author brings us an insiders view of the Latino commmunity in Los Angeles. This excellent debut novel is indeed worthy of greater attention by reviewers.
- The Cutter by Virgil Suarez. Available Press/Ballantine Books New York 1991. An involved tale of a Cuban's hopeful escape from his homeland. The main character is a young ex-soldier whose parents have already fled the island, leaving him to care for his ailing Grandmother. Once he applies for immigration, he is harassed and forced to "volunteer" for cutting sugar cane. The novel, with its short incisive chapters, focuses on "the cutter's" daily struggle in which he dodges the authorities in order to realize his dream. A fast read, with a continuous tension that releases itself only at the novel's end.
- The Lady Matador's Hotel by Christina Garcia.
Scribner (Simon & Schuster), New York:2010. The novel revolves around the lives of six men and women
in the capital of an unnamed Central American city who are in close proximity at the same hotel.
The central character is a Japanese Mexican-American Matadora who is in the city for a bull fight. Suki is exotic and desired by the male characters in the novel. She is a former medical student with a strong sexual appetite coupled with a passion for challenging death. Won Kim is a notorious Korean factory owner who is living in the hotel with his pregnant teenage mistress and awaits the delivery of his new child.
Aura, a former revolutionary, works quietly in the hotel cafe and is occasionally visited by the apparition of her dead brother, who incites her to kill a Colonel Abel, another hotel guest. Martin, a Cuban poet, has come to the capital to adopt a local baby. The adoptions are overseen by Gertrudis, a high powered attorney confronted with a looming scandal. The inter linking of the characters lives engulfs the reader: the author has a definitive talent for this kind of writing in her novels. There is a grand cohesion to this style- a signature combination of storytelling and character analysis. The author has written four other novels. Dreaming in Cuban was a National Book Award finalist. She has also written children's books, anthologies, and poetry. Her web site is cristinagarcianovelist.com
- Monkey Hunting by Cristina Garcia. Alfred A. Knopf, New York:2003. The most recent novel of the gifted Cuban-American author. A young Chinese man is deceived into leaving his homeland for Cuba and is forced into slavery. Chen Pan eventually escapes the sugar plantation where he is enslaved and begins a new life when he opens a successful antique shop in Havana. His story is interwoven with lives of his descendants in China, Cuba and the United States. This is a bracing and colorful tale, enriched with historical detail. Ms. Garcia was born in Havana and grew up in New York City. Her novel Dreaming In Cuban was nominated for a National Book Award. She has been a Guggenheim Fellow, a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University, and a recipient of a Whiting Writers Award.
- Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia. Alfred A. Knopf New York 1992. A brilliant first novel capturing the history of a Cuban family from decades before the revolution until 1980. The central figure is a grandmother of the family, portrayed in a complex relationship with other family members. The author displays a gift for articulate character portraits and a masterful hand with plot development. One of the best novels of the decade. Nominated for the National Book Award.
- The Aguero Sisters by Cristina Garcia. Alfred A. Knopf New York 1997. The second novel by the Cuban-American author, is more focused than Dreaming in Cuban. This book is a history of two sisters, one living in Cuba and the other in Miami. The story is intertwined with the narratives of their father, who studied and recorded animal wildlife in pre-revolutionary Cuba. At first, I thought that the novel was less passionate than Dreaming in Cuba , with its constant outbursts of plot turns. Later in the book I began to realize that the relationship of all the characters in the book was becoming very clear to me, and the novel concludes leaving the reader with firm sense of character resolution, unlike in many other fiction novels. Ms. Garcia's style is lyrical and intensely descriptive, confirming to me that she is a leading contemporary fiction writer. I suggest reading Dreaming in Cuban first.
- A Simple Havana Melody (from when the world was good) by Oscar Hijuelos, the Pulitzer Prize author of The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. The main character of this novel is a famous Cuban musician, Israel Levis, a pianist and internationally renowned composer. He is a devout Catholic, torn between his devotion to his mother and his secret love for Rita Valladares, a mulatta singer who premiered his signature song, "Rosas Puras" or "Pretty Roses". Although Rita loves him in turn, the two never openly express their feelings towards each other. "Pretty Rosas" is a leitmotif, a unifying recurring theme throughout the book, which signifies their lost love. At the beginning of the novel, Israel has returned to Cuba, now sickly and emaciated, having been a prisoner in Buchenwald, a Nazi concentration camp. The novel depicts his life before his internment and marks his imprisonment as a line of demarcation- separating two lifestyles: one of pre-war religious devotion and high living; and post-war- a life viewed with nihilistic apathy. This is my favorite of the author's novels. I recommend reading Mambo Kings first in order to follow this gifted author's development.
- Empress of the Splendid Season by Oscar Hijuelos. HarperFlamingo(HarperCollins) New York,1999. Another captivating account of Cuban-American life a from the author of The Mambo KIngs Play Songs of Love. The central character in this novel is an once flamboyant and beautiful Cuban immigrant living in New York and working as a cleaning woman. Nevertheless, Lydia, the central character, perceives herself in light of her upbringing as the daughter of a wealthy landowner in pre-communist Cuba. Her values and self perceptions are imparted to her family, creating an atmosphere beholden to tradition yet intensified with conflict. Mr. Hijuelos masterfully relates another evocative tale of Cuban-American life for us in his newest novel.
- The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijeulos. Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1989. The author was awarded a Pulitzer for this steamy rendering of the life of a Cuban Mambo star. Hijeulos, a Cuban-American, who was raised in New York City, reveals the intimate, exotic, and somewhat tragic life of this fictional musician through the eyes of his nephew, the narrator of the story. We are led into the lives of Cubans who emigrated before Castro, and into the heated Mambo music scene of the1950's. An exhilirating, unforgettable literary experience.
- Mr.Ives Christmas by Oscar Hijeulos. HarperCollins Publishers, 1995. Not as passionate as The Mambo Kings, Mr.Ives Christmas is a more sobering story about a devout Catholic New Yorker who tries to come to terms with the early death of his murdered son, who was preparing for the priesthood. The novel reflects on Ive's Catholicism as a dominant force in his pysche both before and after the death of his son.
- Native Speaker by Chang rae Lee. Riverhead Books 1995. The winner of the Pen Hemingway award (prize for a first novel) examines the lives of a Korean- American and his upper class Protestant American wife. Written in an intense, flowing style, the author illustrates the choices that the main character, a professional corporate saboteur, must make as he continues to live behind a veil of secrecy.
- The Sacrifice of Issac by Neil Gordon. Random House 1995. This is a mystery novel, but it is too sophisticated to be classified in this genre. An intense story about two Israeli-born brothers,the youngest being the central character in the plot and the eldest appearing mostly as a reference. Their famous military father dies and bequeaths his fortune to the sons. The story is based on the search of the youngest brother for the eldest who he suspects may want to murder him to gain the entire inheritance. The novel takes place mostly in Europe and has a continental tone. A highly charged and compelling novel.
- St. Burl's Obituary by Daniel Akst. MacMurray & BeckAspen, Colo, 1996. A very obese man who centers much of life around food is a witness to a mob shooting in his family restaurant. The main character flees his home and profession (he is an obituary writer) and experiences a complete metamorphosis. A bit long-winded at times, but certainly a fascinating read about a complete character overhaul.
- Terminal Velocity by Blanche McCrary Boyd. Alfred Knopf New York, 1997. The central character, Ellen, leaves her life as an editor and wife and joins a radical womens commune in Northern California during the 1960's. Her inner turmoil eventually leads her on a dangerous emotional rollercoaster resulting in drug abuse and mental illness. Issues of sexuality and feminism uncommonly depicted in mainstream literature are brought to light in this intense novel tinged with social humor.
- Life Without Water by Nancy Peacock Longstreet Press Atlanta, Georgia 1996. A young girl narrates the story of her childhood living with her mother and sister in a hippie commune in North Carolina. It is an interesting setting for the 1960's, because most of the counter culture activity was centered on both the East and West Coast, and not in the conservative South.The authors first novel, ends poignantly.
- America, America by Ethan Canin Random House New York: 2008. The editor of a small town newspaper narrates the story of his upbringing during the Nixon years. Corey Sifter is the only son of a working class family. An influential local land owner, Liam Metarie, hires him as a yard boy on his estate. Liam is quite impresssed with Corey's work ethic, and paves the way for his scholarship to an elite private school. Corey eventually becomes an aide to Henry Bonwiller, a powerful liberal New York Senator who is running for the Presidency, and strongly supported by Liam Metarie. Corey witnesses the dealings of the rich and powerful firsthand- life lessons are drawn from his experiences as an observer of this political veil of duplicity. The core values of his mother and father, however, sustain him during these vast changes in his life.
The author is a physician and has written six books of fiction, including story collections, Emperor of the Air, The Palace Thief, and the novels For Kings and Planets, and Carry Me Across the Water. He is on the faculty of the Iowa Writers Workshop.
- The Palace Thief by Ethan Canin Random House 1994. Written by one of the best of America's new generation of short story writers, The Palace Thief and other stories in this collection flow in narrative detail-yet are all touched with a sense of unresolved malaise.