Monday, January 26, 2009

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker

"Baker's bangup debut mixes the exuberant eccentricities of John Irving's Garp, Anne Tyler's relationship savvy and the plangent voice of Margaret Atwood. In an upstate New York backwater, Truly, massive from birth, has a bleak existence with her depressed father and her china-doll–like sister, Serena Jane. Truly grows at an astonishing rate—her girth the result of a pituitary gland problem—and after her father dies when Truly is 12, Truly is sloughed off to the Dyersons, a hapless farming family. Her outsize kindness surfaces as she befriends the Dyersons' outcast daughter, Amelia, and later leaves her beloved Dyerson farm to take care of Serena Jane's husband and son after Serena Jane leaves them. Haunting the margins of Truly's story is that of Tabitha Dyerson, a rumored witch whose secrets afford a breathtaking role reversal for Truly. It's got all the earmarks of a hit—infectious and lovable narrator, a dash of magic, an impressive sweep and a heartrending but not treacly family drama."

~ Publishers Weekly Starred Review

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

SHELTER ME by Juliette Fay

"After Janie LaMarche's husband, Robby, dies in a motorcycle accident, the 38-year-old Pelham, Mass., widow embarks on a year of transformations in Fay's wise and inspirational debut. Going through the bewildering and painful cycle of grief and anger while trying to hold it together for her children—preschooler Dylan and toddler Carly—is no walk in the park. Enter Tug Malinowski, an attractive contractor Robby had hired to build a screened-in porch to surprise Janie. Tug is divorced, childless and attracted to Janie while she's tempted by Fr. Jake Sweeney, who has a secret life of misery and fears casting aside his vow of celibacy. Fay's mingling of Janie's pithy journal excerpts with crisp traditional plotting adds a nice depth to Janie's journey to emotional healing. The concerns of single motherhood after sudden tragedy come vividly to life, and as Janie learns to appreciate everyday miracles, readers will be charmed."

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

Sunday, January 11, 2009

LARK & TERMITE by Jayne Anne Phillips

"In her latest novel, Phillips (Machine Dreams; Motherkind) works with favorite themes in a tale of secrets, family bonds, and the power of love related through multiple perspectives and set during the 1950s. Central to the narrative are a remarkable pair of siblings orphaned by the Korean War. Born the day his soldier father perished in the notorious No Gun Ri massacre, the young boy called Termite possesses unusual perception unnoticed by most observers because of his severe disabilities. His prospects in tiny Winfield, WV, seem dismal, but teenage sister Lark, who adores her little brother, won't give up. She schemes to gain a happy mutual future even while she is pursued romantically by a much older man, threatened with Termite's removal by the state, and endangered by approaching floodwaters. These suspenseful plot elements (including more than a hint of the supernatural) are supported by sensitively rendered characters and finely drawn Appalachian and Asian locales that create a poignant story with broad reader appeal."

~ Starr E. Smith, Fairfax Cty. P.L., VA Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb

“Lamb does an extraordinary job narrating some of the most terrifying tragedies of the past 10 epic journey.
Grade: A.”--Rocky Mountain News

"When forty-seven-year-old high school teacher Caelum Quirk and his younger wife, Maureen, a school nurse, move to Littleton, Colorado, they both get jobs at Columbine High School. In April 1999, Caelum returns home to Three Rivers, Connecticut, to be with his aunt who has just had a stroke. But Maureen finds herself in the school library at Columbine, cowering in a cabinet and expecting to be killed, as two vengeful students go on a carefully premeditated, murderous rampage. Miraculously she survives, but at a cost; she is unable to recover from the trauma. Caelum and Maureen flee Colorado and return to an illusion of safety at the Quirk family farm in Three Rivers. But the effects of chaos are not so easily put right, and further tragedy ensues." "While Maureen fights to regain her sanity, Caelum discovers a cache of old diaries, letters, and newspaper clippings in an upstairs bedroom of his family's house. The colorful and intriguing story they recount spans five generations of Quirk family ancestors, from the Civil War era to Caelum's own troubled childhood. Piece by piece, Caelum reconstructs the lives of the women and men whose legacy he bears. Unimaginable secrets emerge; long-buried fear, anger, guilt, and grief rise to the surface." "As Caelum grapples with unexpected and confounding revelations from the past, he also struggles to fashion a future out of the ashes of tragedy. His personal quest for meaning and faith becomes a mythic journey that is at the same time quintessentially contemporary - and American."


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Fidel's Last Days: A Novel by Roland Merullo

"After two light comedies with spiritual overtones, American Savior (2008) and Breakfast with Buddha (2007), Merullo mines far darker material to construct a powerful tale of modern-day, devastated Cuba and its all but indestructible dictator, Fidel Castro. Ex-CIA agent Carolina Anzar Perez, niece of Roberto Anzar, one of Miami's Cuban-born, anti-Castro expatriates, works for the White Orchid, a secret organization that has masterminded a complex assassination plot aimed at the ever-canny Fidel. In Cuba, Carlos Gutierrez, the minister of health, disaffected from his government, has become a major conspirator in the upcoming attempt. Guarding Fidel is the evil Col. Felix Olochon Marlos (aka the Dentist), head of the dreaded D-7 secret police. The suspense is as thick as an authentic café cubano, and the labyrinthine plot appears to point to a successful conclusion, until Merullo jams the knife in one last time and gives this timely thriller a final, chilling twist."

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

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Knit Two by Kate Jacobs

"Continuing the warm-and-fuzzy saga begun in her popular The Friday Night Knitting Club, Jacobs stitches together another winning tale of the New York City knitting circle, more a sisterhood than a hobby group (the irascible Darwin Chiu can't even really knit). In this installment-and it does feel like an installment-readers catch up five years after the unexpected, book-capping death of club leader (and knitting shop owner Georgia Walker. Georgia's 18-year-old Dakota is at NYU, discovering her first love, while her father James and Georgia's best friend Catherine are still coming to terms. The rest of the cast runs a wide gamut of ages and experience, but is easier to follow this time around, as Jacobs is more comfortable giving them more space and backstory. Pregnant, whip-smart professor Darwin and her husband, Dan, are welcoming twins; video director and single mom Lucie is coping with a hyperactive 5-year-old and a failing parent; Georgia's old mentor, the wise Anita, begins questioning her own motives; and everyone's stories cross paths in satisfying, organic ways. A trip to Italy provides some forward motion, and pays off in a charming denouementthat nevertheless pushes a familiar it's-the-journey-not-the-destination message; still, this sequel is as comforting, enveloping and warm as a well-crafted afghan."

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