After some fifty years of reading and reviewing, I am always searching for the book that offers a new look at an interesting topic. Such is the case of Death Becomes Them by Alix Strauss ($14.99. Harper Paperback Original) that will not officially debut until mid-September. It is a contemplation and report on why so many famous folk in the modern era committed suicide. Of particular interest to bibliophiles are the poets and authors such as Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and Ernest Hemingway. Others include musician Curt Cobain, monologist Spalding Gray, and gonzo journalist, Hunter Thompson. There are others, but the common thread seems to be depression, which is to say serious mental illnesses, addictions, and the belief that life was just too unbearable. Ms. Strauss organizes her information quite well and brings the impassionate eye of a true reporter to each of the people in this fascinating book. As to suicide itself, she notes that each year in the United States, more than 32,000 people succeed in killing themselves. That's 86 Americans every day, one death every 16 to 18 minutes. Worldwide, about two thousand people kill themselves every day. She succeeds in going well beyond the numbers into the lives of those who enjoyed great success, but who also experienced great sadness and despair.
Another unique new book is The New York Times Book of New York ($27.95, Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers), a look at the last 150 years of the city’s heartbeat, its people, from the notable to the largely unknown. It is composed of 549 stories of its people and events. Edited by James Barron and Mitchel Levitas, two reporters on the metropolitan beat, this book will have special appeal to people who make the city their home or anyone who has grown up there and perhaps moved elsewhere. It is organized into sections that capture various aspects of the Big Apple, whether it be food, sports, neighborhoods, crime, Broadway or City Hall. It is filled with wonderful reading and would make a great gift for any New Yorker.
In these hard times, it is natural to go in search of the kind of advice that can help sort out one’s problems and provide some guidance on how to carry on. Two such books have recently been published and will no doubt provide some help. The Secrets of the Bulletproof Spirit: How to Bounce Back from Life’s Hardest Hits ($28.00, Ballantine Books) by Azim Khamisa and Jillian Quinn examine thirty essential keys to emotional and spiritual resiliency, offering simple strategies and advice that will open one’s mind to new ways of thinking that will help you take control of your life and avoid negative thoughts that will keep you trapped. Life after Loss: A Practical guide to Renewing Your Life After Experiencing Major Loss by Bob Deits ($15.95, Da Capo Press, softcover) is now in its fifth edition and it discusses how to gain control over the grieving processes and begin to lead a fulfilling life after a major loss such as the death of a loved one, divorce, a traumatic injury, job loss, et cetera. It is a practical, user-friendly guide. Coming in November is Starting Over: 25 Rules When You’ve Bottomed Out by Mary Lee Gannon ($14.95, New Horizon Press, softcover) that addresses unemployment. The author, in fact, did lose everything after living a comfortable middle class life as a homemaker when she was divorced, then homeless, without a car, and on welfare. People around the nation are experiencing job loss and the trauma that incurs. This book is filled with insightful strategies and step-by-step methods and clever tips to get your life on track from someone who has been through that experience.
I love really big books, the ones often referred to as “coffee table” because of their size. The Indiana University Press has recently published two such books and, although the titles may initially seem offbeat, the fact remains they are a wonderful piece of history captured in photos with intelligent texts. What they reveal is just how dynamic our manufacturing and transportation sector once was in an age that preceded our superpower status. Steel Giants by Stephen G. McShane and Gary S. Wilk ($39.95) features historical images from the Calumet Regional Archives when a legion of workers descended on the northwest Indiana dunes to forge a world-class steel industry for the nation. Mills constructed by companies such as U.S. Steel and Inland Steel led to prosperous towns, making the Calumet region one of the most heavily population and ethnically diverse areas of the nation. From 1906 into the 1960s, the U.S. enjoyed a golden age of steel production. Iowa’s Railroads by H. Roger Grant and Don L. Hofsommer ($29.95) reflects the essential role of railroading in the success of the nation. At one time, no place in Iowa was more than a few miles from an active line of rail track and that meant Iowa’s great wheat and corn crops, plus its hogs and other livestock could thrive. It also led to urban development connecting Iowa City and Cedar Rapids to other cities nationwide. Filled with 461 black and white photos, this is a wonderful trip back in time when most of America’s goods and people traveled on the nation’s extensive rail systems.
I confess that years of reviewing have made most cookbooks look alike to me. There are always exceptions, however, and The Bear and Fish Family Cookbook by Yabin Yu and Jialin Tian ($33.95, Jacya, Inc., Yorktown, VA, large format softcover) is certainly one. The popularity of Asian cuisine is well established in America and the authors have put together 130 of their family’s favorite recipes, illustrated by 130 mouth-watering full color photos, to teach readers how to prepare classic Chinese dishes that include appetizers, soup, salads, eggs, poultry, meat, seafood, vegetables, rice and noodles, desserts and pastries. Every page is an invitation to try something delicious. My late Mother who wrote cookbooks and taught haute cuisine would have loved this cookbook and been eager to try its recipes. You can learn more about it when you visit www.bearandfishcookbook.com. From far-off Beijing and Tianjin China, the authors, both of whom have advanced degrees in engineering, demonstrate that it is the love of food that connects the whole human family.
Each year 150,000 students take the SAT exams in hopes of qualifying for college and many of them have had to deal with leaning difficulties. Until now, no study guide to help these students has existed, but Paul Osborne, who has dyslexia himself and has been teaching SAT preparation has remedied that. LD SAT ($24.95, Alpha Books/Penguin, large format softcover) is a study guide filled with preparation and strategies specifically for students with learning disabilities. If you have a family member or know someone who would benefit from such a guide, this book is packed with all kinds of useful information and there’s even a companion website that enables them to take a pre-test as well as several practice tests, getting their scores immediately so they can spot those areas that need extra work.
As you might imagine, I see quite a few books concerning religion. They are mostly about the Christian tradition as is to be expected in a largely Christian nation, but occasionally a book arrives that addresses the spiritual and cultural traditions of Judaism. Such a book is The New Jew: An Unexpected Conversion by Sally Srok Friedes ($19.95, O-Books, softcover). It is an intensely personal story of a Catholic girl from Wisconsin who, upon coming to Manhattan falls madly in love with a handsome, wealthy Jewish lad and is slowly incorporated into “the tribe”, embraced by her mother-in-law and initiated into the traditions of the faith. It is a journey of discovery and ultimately of great solace and joy as the author tells why she chose to become a Jew as the mysteries of the religion fell away as it bedrock philosophy revealed itself to her. I am not sure for whom this book was written except of course the author herself, but it will surely speak to anyone who has thought to themselves that being Jewish would endow their life with a meaning and purpose not found in other spiritual havens. For anyone considering conversion to Judaism, this book will prove useful.
Here’s to Your Health
Have you noticed how some people find threats to health in everything? This is particularly true of those who subscribe to the environmentalist view of the world and if you want to know how everything will kill you, pick up a copy of The Body Toxic: How the Hazardous Chemistry of Everyday Things Threatens Our Health and Well-Being by Nena Baker ($15.00, North Point Press, a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, softcover.) By the time you’re through reading this pile of paranoia you will fear flame retardants in furniture, microwave popcorn, anything made of plastic, and the list just goes on and on. I am reminded of Rachel Carson’s famed “Silent Spring” that led to the ban on DDT and the needless deaths of millions from the malaria transmitted by mosquitoes. This book is not really about hazardous chemicals. It’s about an attitude that can make your life a daily horror instead of a daily joy. Health care “reform” is very much in the news these days and over the years I have read any number of books about this subject. Coming next month is A Return to Healing: Radical Health Care Reform and the Future of Medicine by Dr. Len Saputo, MD with Byron Belitsos ($21.95, Origin Press) and the operative word is “radical” because the author advocates “natural healing” as the future of medicine, universal insurance coverage that includes reimbursement for “alternative” medical treatments, and the right to choose one’s treatments without “coercion by government-backed monopolies”, and much more along the same lines. To put it another way, if you want acupuncture as opposed to a more science-based treatment, it’s your right to die from the wrong choice. It’s not that the author doesn’t have good credentials; he’s board certified in internal medicine. There is no question that the present medical system costs too much and doesn’t put enough emphasis on preventative measures. That said, the less government is involved in our medical system the better. Socialized medicine as practiced in other nations is too often a nightmare of delay and rationed treatment that ends up killing people. This book needs a “Proceed with Caution” label on its cover.
All my life I have been fortunate enough to be spared headaches and those I have had went away swiftly with a couple of aspirin. Others have not been so fortunate and for them there’s The Migraine Brain by Dr. Carolyn Bernstein, MD, ($16.00, Free Press) that is now in a softcover edition. Migraines are a complex, neurological disease affecting more than 30 million Americans, most of them women. It is more than just a headache and, as a neurologist on the faculty of the Harvard Medical School, the author is an expert on the topic. For anyone who suffers migraines this is the book to read because it is packed with excellent information about the three types of drugs that are available to treat migraines, wellness plans, steps to take to prevent and reduce migraine, how to create a living space that is migraine free, and much more. Another ailment that afflicts as many as fifteen million women, some five percent of the adult female population, is fibromyalgia. The Fibromyalgia Controversy by Dr. M. Clement Hall, MD, takes an in-depth look at why the medical community is divided over the reality of the condition with one side arguing that patients are masquerading, pretending to have a malady and the other side believing it is very real and that patients are not receiving the support they need. The book ($18.98, Prometheus Books) presents six fictional, though fact-based, case studies of typical patients and describes the varying investigations, diagnosis, and treatments they have undergone. Here again, if you or someone you know has been diagnosed or is suspected to suffer from fibromyalgia, this is a useful, informative book to read.
Birth Day: A Pediatrician Explores the Science, the History, and the Wonder of Childbirth by Dr. Mark Sloan, MD ($25.00, Ballantine Books) will prove an enjoyable examination of this miracle of life. As the author who has helped deliver 3,000 babies says, “I was struck by the seemingly simple question asked by her exhausted husband: why is this so hard?” And he didn’t have an answer. Birth is hard and yet, over the centuries, he has occurred everywhere from the caves of early humans to the operating rooms of modern hospitals in the same way. The book discusses how the fetus transforms itself into a fully developed baby, why childbirth can sometimes go wrong and how to save the baby when it does. It is a guided tour to the newborn’s remarkable body.
The Subject is Science
I suspect that science is a mystery for most people who are not directly involved in its various aspects, but it is science, the process by which one arrives at a truth about how everything works, from the human body to the universe, that has given us modern wonders which we take for granted.
There are a number of books that can help anyone understand various aspects of science and Prometheus Books has three excellent new ones available. Weather’s Greatest Mysteries Solved! by Randy Cerveny ($26.98) is a potpourri of questions related to weather such as why the Mayan civilization disappeared or how the ancient Israelis cross the Red Sea as the Bible tells us? This is a tour of questions that climatologists explore and tried to answer. Weather, however, is what is happened now and climate is something that is examined in terms of hundreds and thousands of years. The book is entertaining, but hardly the final word on anything. The Universe—Order Without Design by Carlos I. Calle ($27.98) asks whether the universe was designed to produce life? Physicists have discovered that many seemingly unconnected phenomena which took place millions of years apart, played a crucial role in the development of life on Earth. NASA senior research scientist, Calle, takes a close look at this and in the process makes the complex comprehensible. The essential laws of physics hold true, but the universe remains in many ways a mystery that tantalizes the minds of scientists. Lastly, David F. Prindle has written Stephen Jay Gould and the Politics of Evolution ($26.98). Gould was, until his death in 2002, America’s best known natural scientist. His essays in Natural History magazine were widely read by both scientists and laymen. This is the first book to explore his science and his politics as a consistent whole, noting that his mind worked along both tracks simultaneously. Gould drove a big truck through the popular theory of evolution credited to Charles Darwin. As more research as revealed, he was probably right.
For those interested in evolutionary theories, I will repeat my recommendation of Robert W. Felix’s remarkable book, Magnetic Reversals and Evolutionary Leaps ($15.95, Sugarhouse Publishing, Bellevue, WA, softcover. It is available at www.iceagenow. The author demonstrates, often noting Stephen Gould’s hypothesis, that evolution was not a slow process, but tended to match up with Earth’s magnetic reversals, making many creatures extinct while producing entire new or radically changed species in the process. For the stargazers out there, Christopher Cokinos has written The Fallen Sky: An Intimate History of Shooting Stars ($27.95, Tarcher/Penguin), taking readers on a hunt through time and space as he profiles maverick scientists, mad dreamers, and starry-eyed profiteers who chased meteorites and turned their study into a legitimate science. His own journeys followed the footsteps of these explorers from Greenland to Kansas, Australia to the South Pole. August is a month for the Perseids when shooting stars can best be seen in the Northeast after midnight on the 11th and 12th. Coming in October, the Draconids on October 7 and 8, and the Orionids on the 21st. The dust of meteors is everywhere, having pounded into the Earth for eons. Finally, Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw have written, Why Does E=mc2 (And Why Should We Care?) ($24.00, Da Capo Press). This equation is widely known, but few really understand what it means. The authors take the mystery out of it and dispel common misconceptions about relativity, starting with the notion that it is incomprehensible. The authors provide a definition that anyone can understand and then apply it to some exciting science taking place right now such as in the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva with its ability to recreate conditions immediately following the Big Bang. Read this book and I guarantee that it will make you the smartest person in the room!
People, People, People
One of the great things about reading biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs is that it gives one insights into the lives of people, famous and unknown. As such, the books reveal something about ourselves, about human nature, about resiliency in the face of the difficulties life puts in our path, and, as often as not, about some of the less pleasant truths as well.
The death of Michael Jackson revealed his impact on the lives of his fans, on the music he created and performed, and about his personal demons and failures. As he rose to fame, so did one of the most famous girl groups from the same Motown that launched so many talented folk. The story of The Supremes: A Saga of Motown Dreams, Success, and Betrayal is told by Mark Ribowsky ($26.00, Da Capo Press) and it is a classic one of being lifted out of the “projects” of Detroit. The Supremes were four girls who loved to sing and whose talent made them the most successful female singing groups of all time; the first to make it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The seeds of their breakup were sown at the very beginning as Diana Ross demanded top billing. The movie, “Dream Girls”, captured the behind-the-scenes turmoil, but the real story as captured in this book is every bit as dramatic and more. Blind ambition and unmitigated deception ultimately split the Supremes and anyone who loves the popular music scene will want to read this book. Another singer is the subject of Bjork, the Icelandic singer-songwriter Bjork Guomundsdottir ($22.95, Indiana University Press, softcover) by Nicola Dibben. This is a book that will primarily appeal to music aficionados interested in her collaborative working relationship with various artists, musicians, and sound engineers, resulting in twelve Grammy Award nominations, two Golden Globe wards, and an Academy Award among others. The author is a senior lecturer and head of graduate studies in the Department of Music at the University of Sheffield.
It’s baseball season and books about the game, its history and its players are showing up as might be expected. Coming in September is Willie’s Boys by John Klima, a look at the 1948 Birmingham Black Barons, the last Negro League World Series, and the making of a baseball legend. Back then William Howard Mays, Jr. was just a 16-year-old at the beginning of a career of a baseball superstar at the time the Negro Leagues were in their twilight years. After Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, Willie Mays would debut for the New York Giants. This is a very pleasurable read for anyone who loves the game. It Was Never About the Babe by Jerry M. Gutlon ($24.95, Skyhorse Publishing) tells the story of the Red Sox who were told that their team was cursed because the Sox had sold Babe Ruth to the hated Yankees. As Gutlon tells it, there was much more drama to Red Sox history than any mythical curse. The truth is more shocking than any fable. With the zeal of a lifelong Sox fan and skill of a seasoned journalist, Gutlon reveals that ownership too often chose managers and players not based on their talent, but on whom they drank with. Before and after baseball integrated, personal and institutional racism affected their decision-making and the result were teams that lacked the talent, leadership, chemistry, and luck needed to win championships. This is the real nitty-gritty about a team that has finally shaken the mythical curse and demonstrated what can happen when it shakes free of its past.
Lovers of literature (and that surely includes visitors to this website) will enjoy Public Poet, Private man: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow at 200 by Christoph Irmscher ($24.95, University of Massachusetts Press, softcover). I suspect that Longfellow is among one of the best known American poets by name, yet unknown because generations since his heyday in the 1800s no longer read his work except as perhaps a class assignment. He was a celebrity in his era, one that revered poetry and literature. This book combines both excellent scholarship and a valuable look at the whole man in terms of his family, his friends, and his life in the spotlight. So Long as Men Can Breath: The Untold Story of Shakespeare’s Sonnets by Clinton Heylin ($24.00, Da Capo Press) takes a look at the 154 of what many regard as the world’s greatest love poems and asks what if they had never been published? That very nearly was the case because Shakespeare only circulated them among his friends, never intending to publish them because they would not earn anything. The book is “the untold story of Shakespeare’s sonnets” and like everything else about this genius, it is a very interesting story. The sonnets were published by a printer, George Eld and a certain Thomas Thorpe, a self-described ‘adventurer’ trying to make a name for himself in the London publishing scene. The question arises whether the 1609 edition was published without Shakespeare’s permission? And, of course, the sonnets soon spawned their own controversies as to whether Shakespeare was their real author, to whom were they written, and the more. Rather ironically, Heylin is also the author of The Da Capo Book of Rock and Roll!
Another famous name from that era was Sir Isaac Newton and a lesser known aspect of his life was that, in 1695, he left his Cambridge home of 35 years to take a government position in London as Warden of His Majesty’s Mint, a sinecure with the responsibility for overseeing the gold and silver coinage of the kingdom. Newton and the Counterfeiter by Thomas Levenson reveals how the inventor of calculus, the discoverer of the laws of motion and gravity, devoted all his talents and experience in pursuit of one of the most dangerous men of his day. It is a real page-turner, an account of a bloodthirsty rivalry and an interesting look the revolutionary scientist’s later life.
For a change of pace there’s Up for Renewal: What magazines taught me about love, sex, and starting over by Cathy Alter ($15.00, Atria Books, softcover) in which the author deliberately decided to live according to the advice in magazines such as Elle, Marie Claire, Self, Real Simple, and Cosmopolitan on just about every aspect of life. For twelve months she determined to learn how to make men desire her, how to throw fabulous parties, and be a standout among coworkers. With equal parts of honesty and hilarity she tells of how such dealt with a rotten job, a dear friend with a serious illness, her complex relationship with her mother, and her fears of rejection and loneliness. Did I mention this is a book that women will read, but men will not? Find out if all that advice in the magazines works.
If you like road trip books, you will enjoy The Patron Saint of Used Cars and Second Changes by Mark Millhone ($22.99, Rodale) in which the author tells of a year in which his life was filled with troubles. He’d almost lost a son to birth complications, his father was diagnosed with cancer, and his mother died. His marriage began to come apart. When he logged onto eBayMotors, he discovered the car of his dreams, a 1994 BMW that was virtually mint new. Traveling from New York to Texas , he is joined by his father and the story will cheer you. The 1960s and 70s may have been two of the worst decades for their impact on later ones. Still, they fascinate because of their excesses. Stories Done: Writing on the 1960s and its Discontents by Mikal Gilmore ($16.00, Free Press, softcover) takes a look at the era’s cultural icons, from George Harrison, Ken Kesey, Allen Ginsberg, and Jim Morrison to Jerry Garcia, Bob Dylan, Hunter S. Thompson, and Leonard Cohen. This is a celebration of Rock and Roll in the Woodstock era. Gilmore has written for Rolling Stone since the 1970s so he knows this turf well and the years have given him a perspective on the era.
Kid Stuff: Books for Younger Readers
Starting with the very young and moving up through the age groups, here are a number of books from pre-school, pre-teens, and the older young person not yet out of their teens.
Countdown to Fall by Frank Hawk and beautifully illustrated by Sherry Neidigh ($6.95, Sylvan Dell Publishing) arrives in time to entertain and education those age 4 through 8. It explains the phenomenon we take for granted such as the changing color of the leaves and why different trees have different leaves. It illustrates, too, how various animals are affected by the change in the weather. The illustrations are superb and a great way to get younger folk interested in books. For parents who want to give their kids a head start on learning, a visit to www.SylvanDellPublishing.com is a good place to begin. For an older component, ages 7 to 10, If America Were a Village: A Book about the People of the United States written by David J. Smith and illustrated by Shelagh Armstrong, provides a quick, easy overview of the more than 300 million people living in the U.S. It is chockablock with statistics on all aspects of life in America, but in a way that will prove interesting and probably surprising for younger readers ($18.95, Kids Can Press) and its large format combining wonderful artwork and brief text is perfect for this age group. For those age 6 to 12, there’s another fun way of learning in Famous Figures of Ancient Times ($19.95 @ www.figuresinmotion.com) Printed on strong card stock paper, it presents 20 historical figures, kings, philosophers, religious leaders, scholars, military leaders and one elephant in both pre-colored and color-them-in versions that can be cut out and assembled into moveable action figures. A brief biographical note is provided for each figure in the book. With crayons, colored pencils or paint, scissors, a 1/8 inch punch, and fasteners, easy to follow instructions will ensure hours of fun.
For the older set, teenagers, sometimes referred to as “young adults”, there are any number of novels written expressly for them and, since I love history) an instant favorite of mine is Hannibal’s Elephant Girl by Ariion Kathleen Brindley ($9.95 @ http://www.ariionkathleenbrindley.com). In 218 BCE Hannibal took his army, along with 37 elephants, in an epic journey over the Alps to attack the Romans. This story begins eleven years earlier when one of his elephants pulled a drowning firl from a river near Carthage in North Africa. Thus begins her bond with an elephant named Obolus. The author knows how to spin a tale and there are her other books to be found at her website. Me, Just Different by Stephanie Morrill is a fresh voice for teen girls with her debut novel featuring Skylar Hoyt, a high school senior whose exotic Hawaiian looks have propelled her to the height of the ‘in’ crowd, but she is no longer sure where she fits in. New friends, old friends, and a family crisis ensue as she tries to keep it together and figure out who she really wants to be. Issues of popularity, friendship, sexuality, and more are addressed with grace and style. Spooky stuff always appeals to the imagination of some teens and Tombstone Tea by Joanne Dahme ($16.95, Running Press) is official due off the press next month with a story about a young girl who, trying to be accepted by the ‘in crowd’ accepts a dare to spend a night at a local cemetery. Once there, she meets a handsome boy who works as a caretaker who tells her about Tombstone Tea which is a performance in which actors impersonate the people buried there. Amy discovers they are actually ghosts of the deceased and she possesses the ability to communicate with them. Will she be able to settle an ancient dispute that creates danger and dispute within the cemetery walls?
Novels, Novels, Novels!
Summer time and the reading is easy
Hyperion is happy it discovered Maryann McFadden. Her debut novel, The Richest Season ($14.99) is now available in softcover and was a big hit among women readers. She’s back with So Happy Together ($23.99) in hardcover, just off the press in July. The two novels have in common women who devoted their lives to others. In the first novel, a lonely corporate wife runs away to Pawleys Island to consider her life and decide what best to do. She is forced to make a decision between a new relationship and her former life. In the new novel McFadden introduces us to Claire Nobel, a woman who gave up her dreams long ago, but is about to recapture the magic of living life for herself. She raised a daughter alone, has cared for her father who has Parkinson’s disease, but now it is her turn after being accepted to a prestigious summer photography program on Cape Cod. Everything is going great, but then her estranged daughter returns home and is pregnant. This is a damaged family in many respect and how Claire copes, dealing with the mother-daughter bond, with secrets imparted by her parents, is the kind of thing her many readers will recognize and will read through to the end to find out how Claire endures.
A bounty of softcover novels will provide hours of reading pleasure. Here are some recommendations from among the stacks of books received in recent weeks.
Benny & Shrimp by Katarina Mazetti has been translated in 19 languages ($14.00, Penguin) as it asks why is it so hard to get a relationship to work between two middle-aged misfits? The answer is found in the story of Shrimp, a young, widowed librarian with a sharp intellect and a home so tiday that her jam jars are in alphabetical order. Benny is a gentle, overworked dairy farmer who fears becoming the villages Old Bachelor. This is an unlikely love story that should not be as complicated as it seems. The Divorce Party by Laura Dave ($14.00, Penguin) is her second novel and her main character, Gwyn Huntington knows how to throw a party at her Victorian home in Montauk at the easternmost tip of Long Island. On the morning of her and her beloved husvand Thomas’ 35th wedding anniversary, she is putting the finishing toughes on the last party they will host there, their divorce party. This novel is full of humor, candor, and a powerful message of how to commit to someone over the course of a lifetime. Summer would not be complete without a Jane Green novel and this one is The Beach House ($15.00, Plume). All three of these novels are clearly intended for women readers and Green has established herself as a leading novelist for this genre. Nan Power is a free-spirited, 65-year-old widow who’s not above skinny-dipping in her neighbor’s pools when they are away. She loves her Nantucket home, but she discovers that the money she thought would last forever is dwindling, she realizes she must make a drastic change to save her home, but renting out rooms. As people move in, they fill the house with noise, laughter and tears. As the house comes alive, Nan finds her family and friends expanding. Every chapter brings a surprise.
The Pajama Girls of Lambert Square by Rosina Lippi ($14.00, Berkley Books, softcover) is by an author with two previous successful and award-winning novels to her credit. She demonstrates why with the story of Julia Darrow who, after her life in Chicago fell apart, moved to small-town South Carolina and opened a shop, Cacoon, specializing in luxury linens. Five years later she’s satisfied with the life she’s made for herself. When John Dodge comes into her life, he is fixing up Scriveners, a small shop on the Square. He takes an interest in her and after that all of Lambert Square is watching the for the fireworks. Far away in Michigan, another story is playing out in Inherit All Things, a novel by J. Ryan Fenzel ($13.95, Ironcroft Publishing, Hartland, MI). In 2006 I had good things to say about Descending from Duty, a novel from this publisher and I can say the same for this story, a kind of treasure hunt steeps in Great Lakes History as it plays out along Michigan’s West Coast, across the inland seas, and amongst a handful of Great Lakes lighthouses. Maritime salvager, Jack Sheridan, embarks on a white-knuckle venture to find a hidden trove of gold coins and each step draws him deeper into conflict with a ruthless man also seeking the treasure. You won’t want to put this one down until you get to the finish.
The Irish war for independence is the background for The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey ($26.99, Center House, a division of Hachette Book Co.) It delves into the passion and politics of North Ireland at the beginning of the 20th century. Eileen O’Neill’s family is torn apart by religious intolerance and secrets from the past. Determined to reclaim her ancestral home and reunite her family, Eileen begins working at the local mill, saving her money and holding to her dream. As war is declared on a local and global scale, she find herself torn between two men, a political activist determined to win Irish independence from Great Britain and another, a wealthy and handsome black sheep of a pacifist family who owns the mill. Her decision will change all their lives. This is a very evocative novel, but particularly so for those of Irish heritage. We finish with a very unique mystery novel, Androgynous Murder House Party by Steven Rigolosi ($14.95, Ransom Note Press, Ridgewood, NJ, softcover), an author with two previous novels to his credit. Library Journal has hailed him as “a completely fresh voice in the mystery genre” and he demonstrates why with a story narrated by Robin Anders, the director of new talent at The Good Foundation in New York City’s bohemian Greenwich Village. A series of unexpected deaths begin to occur among Robin’s circle of six longtime friends and as you follow the androgynous Robin, an independently wealthy snob, around the city, you both begin to piece the truth together, while wondering if Robin is a male intellectual or a female seductress? Are his/her friends, Alex, Chris, Terry, and Lee male or female, straight or gay? Suffice it to say, this is a very different novel!
Every summer provides an opportunity to read for pleasure and enlightenment. Bookmark Bookviews so you can come back in a month and learn about the many great new books debuting in September. Don't forget to tell your friends about Bookviews' new home as a blog!