By Rosamund Lupton

Review by Gretchen Chamberlin

This debut novel by British author, Rosamund Lupton, is a mystery which builds incrementally, relentlessly and brilliantly to its well plotted and harrowing conclusion!

At the opening of the book, I was slightly disoriented as Lupton plunges the reader headlong into the story. But, in short order, you come to understand that Bee’s younger sister, Tess, has gone missing and is later found dead. Was it a suicide as the police surmise, or was it a murder? Bee flies from New York to London and tries to uncover what happened. Continue reading

Red Leather Diary

red-leather-diaryThe Red Leather Diary

by Lily Koppel

Review by Robin

This paperback found its way into my hands in a manner somewhat reminiscent of the way Florence Wolfsan’s diary was discovered by New York Times journalist, Lily Koppel. Mine was a last minute addition from a pile of “buy two get one free” books and Florence’s diary was retrieved from a dumpster in Manhattan. Bought as a kind of throw-away read, this book was a pleasant surprise. I enjoyed several days gaining real life, personal insight into what it must have been like to come of age in New York City between 1929 and 1934. Continue reading

Silent Land

the-silent-landThe Silent Land

by Graham Joyce

Review by Gretchen Chamberlin

At just under 300 pages, The Silent Land is the book to pick up if you want something you can finish in an evening, on a plane ride or on a day at the beach. It is definitely for you if you were addicted to the TV show, Lost.

The story takes you to the high peaks of the French Pyrenees on a breathtakingly beautiful early morning. Jake and Zoe have the pristine snowy slopes to themselves as they push off on their skis. In the blink of an eye, light hearted sport turns into a terrifying race against the crushing waves of a tumultuous avalanche.  Continue reading

When the Killing’s Done

When the Killing's DoneWhen the Killing’s Done by T.C. Boyle

Review by Gretchen Chamberlin

Serendipitously perfect for summer, the locale of T. C. Boyle’s book is the Channel Islands off the coast of California–a very real place that has been the site of countless assaults over time on the islands’ unique animal and plant populations. Ranching, farming, rogue species hitching rides on seafaring ships, which landed on the islands, all wreaked havoc on  the ecology of these isolated bits of land. In 1980, the islands became a national park. These are the facts.
Boyle’s contemporary novel pits Dave LaJoy, a fiery and fanatical animal rights champion against the cool minded academic, Alma Takesue, PhD, a National Park Service spokesperson and protector of the islands’ indigenous species. Her agenda includes killing the invasive species, including rats and feral pigs, which are threatening the ecosystem. And, this is where the fun begins.  Continue reading

A Visit from the Goon Squad

A Visit from the Goon Squad

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Review by Kassel Coover

A Visit from the Goon Squad begins by introducing us to Sasha, an intriguing character, in the first chapter, who is a kleptomaniac. Then in Chapter 2, we are introduced to Bennie, who is Sasha’s boss at a record company. As you wend your way through the story, you discover that each chapter is a story loosely connected to the person before it. By the time you reach the last chapter, you’ve come full circle.

Goon Squad is well written. Egan has done a masterful job at weaving together the lives of different characters from different points of view at different time periods in their lives. The PowerPoint chapter likely put Egan in the winner’s circle for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize. It’s an innovative telling of an entire story in PowerPoint. Continue reading

The Last Werewolf

Last WerewolfThe Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan

Review by Emma

It’s clear how self-aware Glen Duncan was of the tradition he attempts to navigate in The Last Werewolf, focused on the final months of the moribund race of lycanthropes. He negotiates a genre of horror we’ve become accustomed to, a vogue of monstrosity that’s returned from the depths of our imaginations after several decades of hibernation in which werewolves were merely fodder for satire, a campy terror that no longer haunted the nightmares of our subconscious. Not unlike Anne Rice’s Vampire series, Duncan invites the readership to reexamine lycanthropes, both to understand aspects of their humanity—or rather the crisis of being physically ripped from it each full moon—and view them within a narrative that’s persisted in folklore for hundreds of years. Jacob Marlowe’s narration is possessed of a certain eloquence, his speech fragmented with astute literary allusions, so off-handedly quipped that we come to understand him as a man very much in love with words and the importance of recognizing those storytellers that matter, just as Duncan does not presume to ignore the multitude of literary renderings the werewolf has undergone. Marlowe’s tendency to wax poetic is construed as his medium to wrestle with notions of morality while so Cursed. Duncan parses lyrical sentences with oblique references to Blake or Tennyson to give the reader a sense of the vital importance words have for Marlowe, a meta-commentary on his own risk to reimagine lycanthropy. However, this eloquence breaks down further into the narrative as the tempo increases. Continue reading

Chronicles of the Black Company

Chronicles of the Black CompanyChronicles of the Black Company by Glen Cook

Review by Joe Sherwood

You ever want to spend some time with an old friend or visit a place you’ve been before? That’s the way I felt a week ago or so, and I picked up Glen Cook’s, Chronicles (Annals) of the Black Company (the first 3 books in one volume) and sat down to have a rollicking good time. It’s a classic sword and sorcery epic tale with love and hate, politics, and maybe just a little romance…

It’s a straightforward quick read, but yet, I keep coming back every few years and reading it again and enjoying it every time. Continue reading

The Wake of Forgiveness

The Wake of Forgiveness book coverThe Wake of Forgiveness by Bruce Machart

Review anonymously submitted

You might look at the cover image, think Western, and pass this one by and, most times, I would be right there with you.  (Forgive me if Westerns are a favorite genre).  What gave me pause were the words of high praise from Tim O’Brien on the back cover of the book. And,  at the time the book cover caught my eye, I was looking for something out of my comfort zone.  I was intrigued with the idea of reading a masculine book, a book about men and the relationship between fathers and sons.

Set at the turn of the century, this is a harsh story that matches the hardscrabble landscape of a Texas farm owned by an embittered, and, at times, cruel farmer, Vaclev Skala, who drives his sons hard, to the point of harnessing them to the yoke to plow his fields.  Valclev is land hungry and, at heart, a gambler and he therefore accepts a challenge from a wealthy Mexican landowner, Guillermo Villasenor, also avaricious for more land.  Villasenor offers his three daughters in marriage to three of Vaclev’s sons, should his horse win, thus laying claim to Valclev’s landholdings or ceding over his own considerable land holdings should he be the loser.
The outcome of this race, ridden by Vaclev’s youngest son, Karel, causes a powerful rift between him and his three brothers, from whom he is already alienated and which endures for years until a near tragedy creates the circumstances for forgiveness and a chance to overcome the past.
The language is perfectly matched to the landscape and the characters are complex and sympathetic. Though completely out of my reading bailiwick, I loved this book.  I was completely transported to another time and place and my heart ached for these men and the circumstances of their lives.  In the words of Tim O’Brien, “The prose is polished and evocative, the physicality of rural Texas in the year 1910 shimmers with loving exactitude, and the story of Karel Skala is a gripping American drama of misplaced guilt, familial struggle, and a search for identity.  What a fine, rich, absorbing book.”

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