Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Long Run by Leo Furey

"In his debut novel, longtime Canadian English teacher Furey spins bleak material—orphans abused by sadistic priests—into a moving and uplifting story. Furey's tale takes place in a Newfoundland orphanage in the early 1960s. While the school is grim and the corporal punishment the students receive is brutal, the boys band together to create the families they all lack. The book is filled with vivid characters, like Oberstein, a bright Jewish kid who continually peppers priests with hypotheticals about church dogma, including whether spit could have baptismal uses. Hope is in short supply at the orphanage, and many of the boys fall victim to "the spells," dark periods of dread and depression. To create something to look forward to, a group of students decides secretly to train to run a marathon and they sneak out at night for training runs. The event creates a sense of drama and propels the story, but it also allows the boys to bond over a common cause. Inspirational without being mawkish, Furey's debut is a shoo-in for book clubs." ~ Publisher Weekly Review
Zoia's Gold by Philip Sington

"In this gorgeously written novel of suspense, which shifts between contemporary Sweden, czarist Russia and 1920s Paris, Sington uses the life of actual Russian-born painter Zoia Korvin-Krukovsky (1903–1999) as a puzzle—and fractured mirror—for the fictional Marcus Elliot, a British art dealer living in Sweden whose career is scuttled by his role in a scam importing undervalued icons. Commissioned to write a catalogue for an exhibition of Zoia's luminous paintings (gold leaf over gesso), Elliot becomes seduced across time by his subject, believing Zoia holds the key to the suicide of his Swedish-born mother. Sington beautifully captures the raw Baltic winter as Elliot delves into Zoia's correspondence, trying to determine whether her "Crimean" paintings are lost, destroyed or his own fevered fantasy. Elliot is unsure whether his work for another art dealer is part of a legitimate retrospective of Zoia's oeuvre or preparation for an illegal auction that will violate the old woman's will." ~ Publisher Weekly Review
A Day of Small Beginnings by Lisa Pearl Rosenbaum

"Rosenbaum's debut sets The Lovely Bones to strains of Fiddler on the Roof. In rural Zokof, Poland, in 1906, young Itzik Leiber protects three small Jewish boys from a beating, resulting in the accidental death of a menacing Polish peasant. Itzik hides in a Jewish cemetery where he unknowingly draws the soul of Friedl Alterman—who died the previous year at 83. Friedl, childless in life, protects Itzik as he flees Zokof for Warsaw, then America. Fast forward 86 years as Itzik's son, Nathan Linden (name change), a scholar of international law, is a guest of the Polish government. He is drawn to his father's hometown (via a still-protective Friedl), and there he comes upon Rafael Bergson, "the last Jew in Zokof," who forces Nathan to confront his ambiguous feelings about religion and begs him to help restore Friedl's spirit through prayer and ritual. But it may be up to Ellen, Nathan's free-spirited choreographer daughter, to come to Poland to liberate Friedl's soul. Friedl's voice retreats after the early chapters, and Rosenbaum handles the shifts in voice, time and place smoothly. She packs a lot of Jewish history, recent and otherwise, into this luminous tale, as well as joy in the arts and in prayer." ~ from Publisher's Weekly
The Deception of the Emerald Ring by Lauren Willig

A sequel for fans of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation and The Masque of the Black Tulip

"Harvard Ph.D. candidate Eloise Kelly continues her research of early 19th-century spies in the smart third book of the Pink Carnation series, following the well-received The Secret History of the Pink Carnation and The Masque of the Black Tulip. This installment focuses on 19-year-old Letty Alsworthy, who, after a comedy of errors, quickly weds Lord Geoffrey Pinchingdale-Snipe, her older sister's intended. Geoffrey, an officer in the League of the Purple Gentian, flees to Ireland the night of his elopement. Unbeknownst to Letty, his plan isn't to abandon her; it's to quash the impending Irish Rebellion. When Letty tracks down her prodigal husband in Dublin, not only does she learn of his secret life as a spy, she's sucked into it with hilarious results. Willig—like Eloise, a Ph.D. candidate in history—draws on her knowledge of the period, filling the fast-paced narrative with mistaken identities, double agents and high stakes espionage. Every few chapters, the reader is brought back to contemporary London, where Eloise gets out of the archives long enough to nurse her continuing crush on Colin Selwick." ~ From Publisher Weekly Review

Monday, November 20, 2006

Second chance at love?

Spring and Fall by Nicholas Delbanco

"A story of love interrupted by the mundane realities, bittersweet victories and disappointments of life, Delbanco's 24th book juxtaposes young infatuation with mature romance. Lawrence and Hermia meet as college students in the heady environment of 1962 Cambridge and begin a passionate love affair marked by the idealism and excitement of youth. Soon, however, they drift apart, he toward travel and a career in architecture, and she toward life as a political activist, then an heiress. Throughout their lives they think of one another often, and when they meet on a cruise ship in 2004, it seems like a second chance. Now in their 60s, the couple haltingly takes up where they left off, understanding that they might finally be getting a chance for the happiness that has eluded them thus far. Delbanco maintains a hopeful outlook on the surprises life brings. "

~ from Publisher Weekly Review

Monday, November 06, 2006

Dark Angels by Karleen Koen

"Raised in the exiled court of Charles II, later maid of honor to his queen and then to his sister, Alice Verney has known no other home than the palaces of Whitehall, St. Germain, and St. Cloud; no other family than the courtiers surrounding the French and English monarchs. She herself is the ultimate courtier—wily, ambitious, and fully alive to the subtle nuances of power, the shifting loyalties, the plots and cabals, and the danger and possibility behind every look, every gesture, and every conversation. At the same time, she is courageous, energetic, and fiercely loyal to her friends. In this prequel to her best-selling Through a Glass Darkly, Koen paints a fascinating and richly atmospheric picture of the court of the Merry Monarch as seen through the eyes of a sophisticated young woman whose frailties are all too human and whose worldly ambition ultimately underestimates her heart." ~ from Library Journal Review

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Expected One by Kathleen McGowan

"Thanks to the movie adaptation of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, Mary Magdalene and her relationship to Jesus is a hot topic in the fast-growing biblical/ancient mystery/thriller genre. In what is sure to be a big summer hit, journalist McGowan's page-turning debut introduces readers to Maureen Pascal, a journalist unprepared for the visions that haunt her as she researches her new book on misunderstood heroines of the past. In France, Maureen uncovers a family secret and a document that many have died to protect (both linked to Mary Magdalene) and becomes entwined with two secret societies whose rivalry has extended over centuries. McGowan's ability to create dimensional characters while sustaining multiple, fast-paced story lines is sure to win her many readers. This work, based on 20 years of research, may prove to be more controversial than Brown's book, as it addresses not only the possibility that Jesus and Mary Magdalene produced offspring but also that other biblical relationships may have differed from what the Catholic Church had ordained to be true. " ~ from Library Journal Review

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

All Mortal Flesh by Julia Spencer-Fleming

Book No. 5 in the
Clare Ferguson / Russ Van Alstyne mystery series

"When Millers Kill, NY, police chief Russ Van Alstyne tells his wife that he is in love with Clare Fergusson, the Episcopal priest for St. Albans Church, she throws him out. A few weeks later, her mutilated body is found in her kitchen, and suspicion falls upon Russ and Clare. What begins as a cut-and-dried murder mystery turns into something more complex. While Russ becomes too emotional to handle the investigation properly, Clare grows stronger in adversity, displaying remarkable resilience. In her fifth book in the series (after To Darkness and Death), the award-winning Spencer-Fleming is at the top of her game." ~ from Library Journal Review
Death's Witness by Paul Batista

"The verdict on Batista's debut legal thriller: guilty of delivering not only sharp courtroom drama but steamy romantic escapism as well. Vincent Sorrentino, a crackerjack Manhattan DA (not unlike Batista, a commentator on Court TV), is leading the legal team for 14 defendants accused of bribing Congressman Daniel Fonseca, including Selig "Sy" Klein, owner of a shady trucking empire personally represented by Sorrentino's colleague and friend, Tom Perini, a former Heisman Trophy winner. Tom's murder while running in Central Park shatters his wife and toddler's world and almost lands Fonseca a mistrial. Grieving Julie Perini suffers more shocks as she learns about her husband's secret underworld association connected to the ongoing trial. Batista provides a gripping, if sometimes confusing, insider look into the seamy side of justice and the politics behind criminal shenanigans." ~ from Publisher Weekly Review

The Uses of Enchantment by Heidi Julavits

On November 7, 1985, Mary Veal, 16, a not especially distinguished upper-middle-class girl, disappears from New England's Semmering Academy. A month later she reappears at Semmering, claiming amnesia, but hinting at abduction and ravishment. The events in Believer editor Julavits's third, beautifully executed novel take place on three levels: one, dedicated to "what might have happened," is the story of the supposedly blank interval; another is dedicated to the inevitable therapeutic aftermath, as Mary's therapist, Dr. Hammer, tries to discover whether Mary is lying, either about the abduction or the amnesia; and the present of the novel, which revolves around the funeral of Mary's mother, Paula, in 1999. There, Mary feels not only the hostility of her sisters, Regina (an unsuccessful poet) and Gaby (a disheveled lesbian) but Paula's posthumous hostility. Or is that an illusion? This structure delicately balances between gothic and comic, allowing Julavits to play variations on Mary's life and on the '80s moral panic of repressed memory syndromes and wild fears of child abuse. ~from Publisher Weekly Review