Monday, April 30, 2007

The Wilde Women by Paula Wall

"After the debut success of The Rock Orchard, Wall has another winner. It's Christmas 1932, and smoldering Pearl Wilde returns to Five Points, TN, a town laid low by Prohibition, to open Five of Clubs, a swanky whorehouse. Added to the mix are the incendiary presences of Pearl's two-timing former fiancé, Bourne, and her beautiful, equally guilty sister, Kat. It's a wild romp as hopes and dreams are realized through a bawdy house, an illegal distillery, and a shirt factory. Wall must have been channeling Mae West when writing, for the novel is full of zingy one liners, e.g., "There wasn't enough starch left in the boys to hold up her stare." She takes what could have been stock characters and situations and gives them life and vigor through spicy narrative and snappy dialog."

~ Rebecca Kelm, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved

Friday, April 27, 2007

No! I Don't Want to Join a Book Club: Diary of a 60th Year
by Virginia Ironside

Virginia Ironside currently writes the “Dilemmas” weekly advice column for The Independent in London. This is the author’s first U.S. publication.

"Marie Sharp is about to turn 60, and unlike many of her peers, she has no interest in taking up paragliding or living for three months with a Masai tribe in Africa. She's intent on accepting this new phase of her life, which brings with it the freedom to do old things, such as getting a pension and free prescriptions and, as her neighbor helpfully points out, "tekkin' it eezee, man." Marie, in fact, has such an easygoing attitude toward aging that her friends are constantly inviting her out to dinner and on vacation. She's also excited about becoming a grandmother and babysitting for her grandchild, who has "the air of a very clean goblin" given to "laughing rather inappropriately." And though Marie has declared herself done with romantic entanglements, there's a very kind old friend, recently widowed, who has a crush on her. For Marie, old age is looking pretty wonderful. Ironside is pretty wonderful herself, offering a witty and, at times, poignant depiction of the challenges and freedoms that come with getting older."

~ Joanne WilkinsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Vanity Fair: "Manic energy, fanatical research, and a wicked sense of humor. Enthralling. A joyful, wild gallop through a joyful, wild time to be an American. "

Heyday by Kurt Andersen

"In this utterly engaging novel, the author of Turn of the Century brings 19th-century America vividly to life, but first he takes us to revolutionary Paris. There, as a bystander, young English gentleman Benjamin Knowles inadvertently causes the death of a policeman. The policeman's enraged older brother swears vengeance and follows Ben to England. But Ben has already given in to a childhood dream and headed to America, where he is charmed by the boisterous young republic. He's also charmed by Polly Lucking, an actress and prostitute he spots across a crowded room, and he meets her after he's fallen in with a radical, wise-cracking journalist named Skaggs. Polly's brother, Duff, is a troubled veteran of the campaign against Mexico—a good Catholic boy, he ended up fighting on the other side—and a stealthy arsonist. Ben and Polly fall in love, but after a misunderstanding Polly heads west with her protégé, Priscilla, and the three men track her down—all the way to Gold Rush California. Meanwhile, Ben's would-be assassin tiptoes behind. While this is a long book, it moves quickly, with historical detail that's involving but never a drag on the action; the characters are beautifully drawn."

~ Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

If You Lived Here: A Novel by Dana Sachs

"Shelley Marino married Martin right out of college, giving up her dreams of traveling the world. It didn't matter that he was 12 years older, divorced, and had two sons from a previous marriage—she was in love. Now, at 42 and after 20 years of marriage, she wants her own child. Unable to get pregnant, Shelley tries to adopt. Her first attempt falls through when the birth mother decides she wants a Slovakian family to adopt her little girl. Soon afterward, Shelley has a chance to adopt a two-month-old Vietnamese boy. Only, Martin doesn't really want to be a parent again. Shelley's friend Xuan Mai, a local Vietnamese woman who runs her own grocery store, sees her life in America as a way to forget her past. But when she learns of Martin's reluctance, she offers to accompany Shelley to Vietnam to help her get the baby. Sachs's debut novel is an interesting look at international adoption and the emotional toll it takes on people. "

~ from Library Journal Review

Friday, April 20, 2007

"The Double Bind may flirt with the classics, but it's not your father's stuffy old tome: it's the sort of book you want to read in one sitting, and it packs a twist at the end that will leave you speechless." Jodi Picoult

The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian

"Laurel Estabrook, a young social worker living in Vermont, becomes obsessed with a box of photographs that belonged to a deceased homeless man, Bobbie Crocker. An amateur photographer herself, Laurel wonders how someone as destitute as Crocker came to possess such high-quality photos, many of them featuring famous people and, bizarrely, Laurel's childhood town. As she devotes more and more time to researching Crocker's past, her friends and family become concerned for her mental well-being. Six years previously, Laurel was attacked by two men in the woods while riding her bike, and though she recovered enough to finish college and get a job, she remains fragile. Bohjalian, whose Midwives was an Oprah Book Club selection, adds original and creative elements to this tale by blending the story of The Great Gatsby with Laurel's story and including photographs by a real-life homeless man named Bob Campbell. Far from being simply a mystery story, this is a complex exploration of the human psyche and its efforts to heal and survive in whatever manner possible."

~Joy Humphrey, Pepperdine Law Lib., Malibu, CA for Library Journal Review

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Changing Light: A Novel by Nora Gallagher

"A painter takes a Czechoslovakian scientist into her home and then into her in Gallagher's sober and lyrical first work of fiction. (Her nonfiction includes Things Seen and Unseen and Practicing Resurrection.) Successful New York painter Eleanor Garrigue flees to the New Mexico desert to arouse her muse and escape from her cold marriage to her mentor. Leo Kavan, a Jewish physicist who escaped Europe in the nick of time, lands a spot as a researcher on the Manhattan Project. But after witnessing a colleague's death from radiation poisoning, a deeply distraught Leo goes AWOL from Los Alamos and turns up, delirious and fevered, near Eleanor's house. Eleanor, whose brother is a prisoner of war, finds Leo and nurses him back to health. As Leo recovers, the two find in one another reprieve from the war and their tormented pasts. Eleanor and Leo are marvelous characters-damaged but not prone to melodrama-and through them Gallagher touches on themes of loss, independence and intractable morality. Despite a sluggish start and some weak storytelling moments-Gallagher tends to pile on description, and some science-heavy passages could be better massaged-Gallagher's first foray into fiction distinguishes itself as an intriguing and spiritual tale. "

~ Publisher Weekly Review

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Art of Losing: A Novel by Keith Dixon

"Michael Jacobs is an independent filmmaker in New York City whose just-released third film flopped like the first two. With no money and no prospects, he agrees to help fair-weather friend Sebby Laslo fix horse races. Unsurprisingly, the plan fails in spectacular fashion, and Michael, Sebby and Thierry, the jockey they're in cahoots with, end up on the wrong side of some very bad dudes. Loans from Michael's father and Beck Trier, a successful indie director Michael wishes was his girlfriend, aren't enough to pay off mounting debts, and when the surefire score the trio cooks up to balance the books backfires, bookies and bagmen take off the kid gloves. Dixon, an editor at the New York Times, writes with convincing detail and lays on thick the bookmaking and horse-racing argot ("a clear field of three for win, place, and show, with Thierry on the sure-bet and Vato on the placer"), though Michael's actions at the climax are more a function of plot than character."

~ Publisher Weekly Review

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Did you know that flour dust is explosive?

Twinkie, Deconstructed by Steve Ettlinger

"Hostess-brand Twinkies® are an iconic American snack food. Who hasn't heard of these cream-filled snack cakes or seen them on grocery shelves? Perhaps it's because of their fame that so many rumors have grown around them. (Do Twinkies® really have an infinite shelf life? Are they really a concoction of chemicals and not actually food?) Ettlinger (The Hardware Cyclopedia) tackles these rumors, also explaining the tongue-twisting list of ingredients on a package of Twinkies®. Although he is not a food chemist, nutritionist, or any one of a number of people who may be interested in deconstructing Twinkies®, Ettlinger is a concerned father embarrassed at having been unable to answer his children when they asked, "What's Polysorbate 60?" and "Where does Polysorbate 60 come from?" Here he answers their questions while providing an insightful look into the processed food industry. Ettlinger didn't intend this book to discuss the issues surrounding the nutritional value of these constructed foodstuffs, however, so readers looking for support of their particular lifestyle should turn elsewhere."

~ by Rachel M. Minkin, Graduate Theological Union Library for Library Journal Review

Thursday, April 05, 2007

"For those of us who like our crime writing with a dose of dark humor, Vinnie's Head is the ticket, great characters, pace, style, and story. Marc Lecard has chops!" - Christopher Moore, New York Times Bestselling Author

Vinnie's Head by Marc Lecard

"Lecard, in his endlessly entertaining debut, shows great skill in pacing and characterization. Smalltime Long Island crook Johnnie LoDuco is on the lam after being unjustly fingered as the mastermind of a convenience store heist. While passing the time fishing, he pulls from the water the severed head of his best friend, Vinnie McCloskey-Schmidt, a computer-savvy con artist who had recently promised to bring LoDuco into his business. This grisly discovery leads to an engaging comedy of errors, as LoDuco struggles to stay one step ahead of crooked cops, an amiable serial killer, mobsters and mysterious figures who may be pulling the strings of an international financial conspiracy. The violence, though plentiful, is cartoonish, and Lecard's appealing antihero has a distinctive voice reminiscent of Kinky Friedman's detective alter ego. Sure to appeal to Elmore Leonard fans, this first novel augurs a long and successful career for its author. "

~ Publisher Weekly Review