Book Review: Roll with the Punches by Amy Gettinger


Author: Amy Gettinger
TitleRoll with the Punches
Publication Info: Raucous Eucalyptus Press (2015)
Summary/Review:

I read this book as an attempt to read something I wouldn’t usually read after seeing it in a Kindle deals email and thinking “I’ve never read a romance novel based around roller derby.”  Turns out that this novel is actually about an aspiring author, Rhonda, who has discovered that her novel was stolen and published by a popular novelist and she is now being accused of plagiarism.  Also, her mother is in the hospital and she has to take care of her father who is suffering from dementia.  And there are two men in her life with whom she has romantic feelings: James, a handsome young tech geek from her writers’ group, and Dal, a former student of her fathers.  Also, Dal is Native American so there are a lot of uncomfortable Indian joke.  And there is a roller derby plot squished in there although it doesn’t seem to fit in with everything going especially since the roller derby team also doubles as another writer’s support group.  Whew!  I was curious about the mystery of who stole the manuscript so I read to the end, but ultimately was disappointed by the increasingly ludicrous situations, the two-dimensional nature of most of the supporting characters, and the unlikely way all these different things overlapped in Rhonda’s life.

Recommended booksFurther Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin
Rating: **

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Book Review: Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders


AuthorGeorge Saunders
TitleLincoln in the Bardo 
Narrator: Cast of Thousands
Publication Info: Random House Audio (2017)
Summary/Review:

This is a curious, experimental novel that is built upon the true story of President Abraham Lincoln making several visits to a crypt to hold the body of his recently deceased son Willie.  The “bardo” is a Tibetan Buddhist concept that of an intermediate state where a person doesn’t know if they’r alive or dead. The author gives voice to dozens of deceased people who comment Lincoln & Willie but also tell their own stories and interact with one another.  A third element to this novel are sections which are merely collages of writing, newspapers clippings, and historical works about Lincoln and his times. The novel is an oddly abstract attempt at understanding grief and coming terms to death, both on Lincoln’s personal level and the large scale trauma of the Civil War.  The audiobook is particularly interesting since each character is read by a different actor, several of them quite famous, lending it the quality of an audio play.

Recommended booksThe Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust  and Severance: Stories by Robert Olen Butler

Rating: ***

Book Review: We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler


Author: Daniel Handler
TitleWe Are Pirates
Publication Info: New York : Bloomsbury, 2015.
Summary/Review:

This is an “adult” novel written under Handler’s real name instead of his more famous pseudonym, Lemony Snicket.  Set in contemporary San Francisco, the story details the lives of a dysfunctional family living beyond their means in an Embarcadero condo.  The storylines alternate between Phil Needle, a radio producer looking to exploit the legacy of an African American blues musician, and his 14 y.o. daughter Gwen, who has grown disaffected by the upper middle class life and eventually puts together a crew to steal a boat and run amok on the San Francisco Bay (the “pirates” of the title).  Snicket-like touches are there such as the unreliable and mysterious narrator who begins as a guest at the Needles’ party but then locks themselves in the bathroom to begin telling the story of their hosts.  And the story of Gwen and her youthful companions (plus her grandfather with Alzheimer’s) is far more engaging that Phil’s story. Ultimately, this novel felt a bit drab and I ended up finishing reading it more out of courtesy than interest.

Favorite Passages:

Phil Needle wasn’t a good person, in a what-a-good-person-you-are sort of way, but he was good, somehow, surely. He was merciful. He stepped on wounded bees. He did good, and when he did bad it wasn’t his fault. It was a mistake. He was so sorry, behind the bumper sticker, for whatever and everything it was he had done.

Rating: **

Book Review: Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson


Author: Jacqueline Woodson 
TitleAnother Brooklyn 
Narrator: Robin Miles
Publication Info:  HarperCollins Publishers and Blackstone Audio, 2016
Summary/Review:

This short novel is the reminiscences of the narrator August reflecting on her childhood in 1970s Brooklyn.  It’s a period piece that recreates a place and time so different from the Brooklyn of today, and very specifically the challenges of joys of being an African-American girl in that place and time.  It’s also a meditation on friendship, as August recalls the tight relationships with her friends Gigi, Angela, and Sylvia, friendships that at the time seemed permanent but have long since faded away.  The book is permeated with a nostalgic sense of loss, and is a poetic rumination of the more complex themes underlying everyday childhood.

Recommended booksSula by Toni Morrison and The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead


Author: Colson Whitehead
TitleThe Underground Railroad
Narrator: Bahni Turpin
Publication Info:  New York : Random House Audio, [2016]
Read by the Same AuthorApex Hides the Hurt
Summary/Review:

This novel is fiction, but it peels back the wounds of slavery in the United States.  In this universe, the Underground Railroad is a literal train carrying escaped trains north to a tenuous freedom.  Cora escapes the cruelty of life on a Georgia plantation to the railroad making several stops along the way.  South Carolina appears to be a haven where African Americans live in a company town, but as Cora ends up working as a living exhibit in an anthropology museum, she learns that the whole town is a front for eugenics experiments.  North Carolina is a place where slavery is ended by attempting genocide, and Cora has to hide in a sympathetic white man’s attic where she witnesses the regular pageants accompanying the lynching of blacks and white helpers. A slave catcher brings Cora to a wild west version of Tennessee, and she escapes again to a community of freed blacks in Indiana.  Even here she can’t find any peace.

The magical and mythical elements frame a novel that contains the full brutality of slavery and racism in the United States.  It’s a brilliant construct that brings home the reality of America’s grim secrets.

Recommended booksIncidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Beloved by Toni Morrison, and Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Rating: ****

Book Review: Find Me by Laura van den Berg


Author:Laura van den Berg
TitleFind Me
Publication Info: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015.
Summary/Review:
This novel is the story of a young woman named Joy, an orphan raised in various foster homes, who becomes a test subject in a remote hospital when she is found to be immune to a deadly disease sweeping the United States.  The disease has the effect of causing people to lose their memories and the book uses the disease to symbolically explore memory and identity.  Joy’s first person narrative switches between flashbacks to her life as a foster child and the increasing despair of living in the prison-like hospital with people dying around her.  About 2/3’s of the way of the novel Joy escapes and ventures out to try to find her birth mother (this is written on the dust jacket so it’s not really a spoiler). From this point on it feels like a lot of the characters are there just to serve a symbolic role in Joy’s life rather than seeming like realistic characters.  I’ll say this is an interesting premise and mostly engrossing book with an unsatisfying ending.
Recommended books: Flu by Gina Kolata
Rating: ***

Book Review: The Iowa Baseball Confederacy by W. P. Kinsella


Author: W. P. Kinsella
TitleThe Iowa Baseball Confederacy
Narrator: Tom Parker
Publication Info: [Ashland, Or.] : Blackstone Audio, Inc., [2014]
Summary/Review:

I’d been meaning to reread this book, one that became one of my favorites of all time when I first read it in a high school, and with the recent death of W.P. Kinsella, this seemed like an opportune time to do so.  The story is one that blends baseball, Americana, time travel, magic, and just plain weirdness.  The narrator inherits from his father the knowledge that his rural town in Iowa was once home to a team in a local baseball league known as the Iowa Baseball Confederacy before the town was destroyed in a flood.  No one else is able to remember anything prior to 1909 .  While Gideon Clarke is mocked for obsession, he eventually finds a way to travel back in time with his friend Stan, a minor league baseball player, to observe and join in the Iowa Baseball Confederacy All-Star Team’s epic game against the visiting Chicago Cubs in 1908. The game lasts 40 days in a rainfall with a stone angel playing outfield and visits by President Theodore Roosevelt and Leonardo da Vinci.  He finds love with a woman named Sarah but also finds that reality is being manipulated by an Indian named Drifting Away and that none of this can last.

So does this book hold up to my fond memories?  I say yes!  It may not be a brilliant work of literature, but it is a fine book which works on different levels of story and metaphor.
Favorite Passages:

“Baseball is the one single thing the white man has done right.” – Drifting Away

Recommended books: The Universal Baseball Association by Robert Coover, The Curious Case of Sidd Finch by George Plimpton, and The Veracruz Blues by Mark Winegardner
Rating: ****

Book Review: The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker


Author: Helene Wecker
TitleThe Golem and the Jinni
Narrator: George Guidall
Publication Info: Blackstone Audiobooks (2014)
Summary/Review:

This engaging novel is set in the immigrant communities of lower Manhattan circa 1900. A woman made of clay – a golem named Chava – finds herself stranded alone in the Lower East Side after the man who would’ve been her master dies on the passage across the Atlantic.  A jinni named Ahmad is freed from a metal flask after 1000 years of captivity to fin himself at a tinsmith in Little Syria.  Both Chava and Ahmad have to find ways to fit in with their human society, but it’s interesting that Chava, created to be a slave, has trouble adjusting to having free will, while Ahmad, once a powerful king, has to adjust to his more humble circumstances.  That they meet and befriend one another is no surprise, and it’s a relationship that proves mutually beneficial.  In many ways this is an immigrant tale within a magical realism setting.  Eventually, an old antagonist arrives, and the golem and the jinni need to fight to save themselves, which I understand is necessary to create conflict and resolution, but ultimately I enjoy the earlier parts of the novel where they are establishing themselves and finding their place better. There is a host of endearing supporting characters including Rabbi Meyer who recognizes Chava as a golem and takes her under his wing and Boutros Arbeely who forms a partnership with Ahmad in tinsmithing.  Guidall does some incredible voicework bringing all the characters to life in the audiobook.

Recommended booksThe Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon and The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

Rating: ****

Book Review: Bel Canto by Ann Patchet


Author: Ann Patchet
TitleBel Canto
Narrator: Anna Fields
Publication Info: Blackstone Audiobooks, 2001.
Summary/Review:

This novel is set in an unnamed Latin American nation that lures a powerful Japanese business man to a birthday party in his honor with an intimate performance by his favorite operatic soprano.  A group of revolutionaries attacks the mansion and takes everyone hostage and settle into a hostage situation that carries on for months.  Patchet is great at narrating the interior lives of various characters – hostages and captors alike – and the relationships that grow among them until rather surreally they settle into patterns where the lines between the two groups are blurred and daily life becomes something of a prosperous summer camp.  Patchet is great with the character work – the Japanese businessman and the opera singer are joined by the gracious host of the Vice President, a shy girl among the terrorists, the indispensable translator, and the Swiss Red Cross negotiator among others.  The plot grows increasingly absurd and stretching credulity in the latter parts of the novel, but nevertheless an entertaining with even doses humor and underlying tension.

Rating: ***

Book Review: We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge


Author: Kaitlyn Greenidge
TitleWe Love You, Charlie Freeman
Publication Info: Chapel Hill, North Carolina : Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2016
Summary/Review:

This book is difficult to describe in a few sentences.  The Freeman family moves from Dorchester to a rural town in Western Massachusetts where they will live in an apartment at the Toneybee Research Institute with a chimpanzee named Charlie.  They are part of an experiment to teach a chimpanzee to communicate and were chosen because the children know how to use sign language.  There are some immediate racial overtones as the Freemans are an African American family constantly being observed by the white research staff at the institute and it is located in a predominately white town adjacent to a predominantly black town.  The book is told from multiple points of view, although the key narrative voice belongs to Charlotte, the older daughter who is the first to feel unease at the institute and at her high school.  There are also flashbacks to 1929 where the story of a woman named Nymphadora, a school teacher and member of a secretive society of African American women, reveals the dark origins of the Toneybee Institute.  This is a distressing book because it documents the unraveling of the Freeman family set against continuing racial prejudice.  It’s upsetting since no character really intends to cause harm by under the circumstances their actions lead to sadness and suffering.

Recommended booksSong of Solomon by Toni Morrison, Bailey’s Cafe by Gloria Naylor, and In Love & Trouble by Alice Walker
Rating: ****

Book Review: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee


Author: Harper Lee
TitleGo Set a Watchman
Publication Info: New York, NY : Harper, An Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, [2015]
Books By the Same Author: To Kill A Mockingbird
Summary/Review:

This book is controversial for two reasons.  First, it’s questionable whether Lee ever wanted it published and possible she was exploited in her infirmity and old age.  Second, it presents Atticus Finch, one of the noble heroes of American literature, as an unrepentant racist.

Of course, this Atticus is not the same Atticus as in To Kill A Mockingbird, as Go Set A Watchman is not a sequel but an early draft of that novel that was heavily re-written and edited.  Still this Atticus is a valuable character for a couple of reasons.  First, it shows that white people who may have been considered equitable when Jim Crow was firmly in place became reactionary once the Civil Rights Movement started, and found ways to justify it to themselves.  Second, it seems like each book has the Atticus that the readers of its time need.  In the 1960s, the Atticus who was a model of a white person advocating for equality and justice.  In the “colorblind”  2000s, we have white people who admire Atticus Finch but with no self-awareness will say things like “I’m not racist but…” or “all lives matter.”  A major plot point is that Atticus thinks Jean Louise needs to stop looking up to him for the answers and make up her own mind and that’s probably a good lesson for the reader as well.

The novel starts with Jean Louise (aka Scout) Finch returning to visit Maycomb, Alabama from New York.  There are some humorous bits as the unrepentant tomboy Jean Louise ponders just how much she doesn’t fit in to the community she fled.  There are also interesting and humorous flashbacks to her younger days (which an editor considered the best parts of the book, thus inspiring Lee to rewrite the book from the perspective of Scout as a child).

Then Jean Louise discovers that Atticus and her fiance Hank are attending the local Citizens Council meeting and she is shocked and disillusioned. Frankly, at this point the novel goes south as Jean Louise engages in unnatural conversations with several characters each a didactic representation of a Segregationist or States Rights point of view, while Jean Louise represents the Northern Liberal perspective (and frankly, Jean Louise is very weak as a proponent of equality and integration, although she may have seemed more radical in the 1950s).

This book is good for a couple of things.  For one, it helps understand the writing process, giving a peek at an early draft of a great novel.  Second, it’s a snapshot of opinions of white Southerners on racial issues in the late 1950s.  Sadly, what it is not is a good or well-written novel.

Favorite Passages:

She was a person who, when confronted with an easy way out, always took the hard way.


It had never fully occurred to Jean Louise that she was a girl: her life had been one of reckless, pummeling activity; fighting, football, climbing, keeping up with Jem, and besting anyone her own age in any contest requiring physical prowess. When she was calm enough to listen, she considered that a cruel practical joke had been played upon her: she must now go into a world of femininity, a world she despised, could not comprehend nor defend herself against, a world that did not want her.


There was a time, long ago, when the only peaceful moments of her existence were those from the time she opened her eyes in the morning until she attained full consciousness, a matter of seconds until when finally roused she entered the day’s wakeful nightmare


You are fascinated with yourself. You will say anything that occurs to you, but what I can’t understand are the things that do occur to you. I should like to take your head apart, put a fact in it, and watch it go its way through the runnels of your brain until it comes out of your mouth. We were both born here, we went to the same schools, we were taught the same things. I wonder what you saw and heard.


Blind, that’s what I am. I never opened my eyes. I never thought to look into people’s hearts, I looked only in their faces. Stone blind . . . Mr. Stone. Mr. Stone set a watchman in church yesterday. He should have provided me with one. I need a watchman to lead me around and declare what he seeth every hour on the hour. I need a watchman to tell me this is what a man says but this is what he means, to draw a line down the middle and say here is this justice and there is that justice and make me understand the difference. I need a watchman to go forth and proclaim to them all that twenty-six years is too long to play a joke on anybody, no matter how funny it is.


I’ll come down to you. I believed in you. I looked up to you, Atticus, like I never looked up to anybody in my life and never will again. If you had only given me some hint, if you had only broken your word with me a couple of times, if you had been bad-tempered or impatient with me—if you had been a lesser man, maybe I could have taken what I saw you doing. If once or twice you’d let me catch you doing something vile, then I would have understood yesterday. Then I’d have said that’s just His Way, that’s My Old Man, because I’d have been prepared for it somewhere along the line.

Rating: **

Book Review: Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill


Author: Jenny Offill
TitleDept. of Speculation
Narrator: Jenny Offill
Publication Info: Holland, OH : Dreamscape Media, LLC, [2014]
Summary/Review:

This work is an experimental novel about a writer in Brooklyn, her marriage, and parenthood.  It’s written in a series of short chapters and vignettes.  Sometimes it feels like the narrator is going on about little things, but then sometimes there is a sentence or two that pithily captures a truth about the human condition.  No one in the story has a name – just the wife, the husband, and the daughter.  The child grows and changes, the husband commits adultery, they move to the country.  Everything is kept at a distance only to be periodically punctured by pain and regret.  I appreciate what Offill is trying to do, but on the other hand this book didn’t really resonate with me.

Recommended booksA Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan,  Monkeys by Susan Minot, and Severance: Stories by Robert Olen Butler.

Rating: ***

Book Review: Gretel and the Dark by Eliza Granville


Author: Eliza Granville
TitleGretel and the Dark
Narrators: Cassandra Campbell, Stefan Rudnicki
Publication Info: Blackstone Audio, Inc. (2014)
Summary/Review:

Deeply rooted in Grimm’s fairy tales, this novel tells two stories. One set in 1899 Vienna is about a woman given the name “Lillie” who claims to be a robot and is brought to psychologist Dr Josef Breuer (a real life figure who rather creepily keeps Lillie in his home and falls in love with her). The other story is from the point of view of a girl named Krysta who is gradually revealed to be daughter ofthe doctor at a concentration camp in the 1940s. The two stories are connected but I was surprised by how they are connected but also wondered why as it is rather bizarre. The latter parts of the book are most interesting and I like the idea of the power of storytelling but found this story to be rather mediocre beyond setting a creepy, gothic mood. 

Recommended booksThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Little Book by Selden Edwards and Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel
Rating: **1/2

Book Review: Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving


Author: John Irving
TitleLast Night in Twisted River
Narrator: Arthur Morey
Publication Info: Random House Audio (2009)
Summary/Review:
Previously read by the same author:

Another sprawling, epic novel by John Irving.  I haven’t read one in a long time.  This one tells the story of Dominic, the cook at a logging camp, and his son Daniel, who grows up to be an author.  Irving frequently refers to them as the Cook and the Writer.  After an accidental murder at the camp, the father and son are forced to flee and the novel follows them throughout their lives from Boston’s North End to Iowa City to Brattleboro, VT and finally to Toronto.  All through this time they keep in touch with the gruff logger Ketchum, who looks out for their pursuer. Along the way there are common Irving themes of coming of age, sexuality, unhappy relationships, and unpleasant people. Daniel’s life as an author strongly parallels Irvings, and Irving seems to be trolling his readers to make one think that this is autobiographical.  But there’s also a lot of insight into creativity and the writing process as well.  Despite being the putative central character, Daniel isn’t particularly interesting or well-defined (perhaps purposefully).  Dominic and Ketchum and various minor characters  provide a number of entertaining scenes and tangents.  Overall this is an enjoyable novel, but like many of Irving’s works could deal with some heavy pruning and more of a sense of purpose.
Rating: ***

Book Review: The Cold Song by Linn Ullmann


Around the World for a Good Book Selection for Norway
Author: Linn Ullmann
Title:The Cold Song
Translator: Barbara Haveland
Publication Info: New York : Other Press, c2011
Summary/Review:

This novel is a story about a family at seaside summer home and the young woman Milla who comes to work as their nanny, but goes missing and is later found murdered.  This is not a spoiler as Milla’s remains are discovered in the first pages of the book, but the manner of Milla’s demise is revealed over the extended flashback that makes up the bulk of the novel.  The rest of the cast includes Siri, the A-type restaurateur who hires Milla; Siri’s philandering husband Jon, a novelist struggling with writer’s block; their non-conforming 12-year-old daughter Alma; and Jenny, Siri’s 75-year-old mother who resents the massive birthday party that Siri forces upon her.  There’s a lot of tension in this novel as the characters navigate around one another, and while not a crime novel, the imminent crimes against Milla hang there over the whole story.

Favorite Passages:

Besides: Jon would never have used the expression “sell like hotcakes”—not only was it a cliché, it was also inaccurate. Hotcakes no longer sold like hotcakes. He had no statistics to back this up, but he was pretty sure that hotcakes fared poorly compared to smartphones or drafty houses in overpriced areas (like his own, for example) or antiaging creams.

Recommended booksMaine by J. Courtney Sullivan, The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, and Saturday by Ian McEwan
Rating: **1/2

Book Reviews: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys


Author: Ruta Sepetys
TitleBetween Shades of Gray
Narrator:Emily Klein
Publication Info: Penguin Audio (2011)
Summary/Review:

This novel set in the World War II-era depicts the oppression of Lithuanian partisans through the eyes of 15-year-old Lina.  A promising young artists, Lina and her mother and brother are rounded up by the NKVD with other women, children, the elderly, and disabled and transported to a labor camp in Siberia.  The narrative depicts the hardscrabble life as Lina and her community in the labor camp as they struggle to survive.  But there are also moments of joy and unexpected solace.  It’s a decent novel and an introduction to the Stalinist persecution of Lithuania.

Recommended booksStalemate by Icchokas Meras, The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years by Chingiz Aitmatov, and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Rating: **1/2

Book Review: Airman by Eoin Colfer


AuthorEoin Colfer
TitleAirman
Narrator: John Keating
Publication Info: [New York] : Listening Library, 2007.
Books I’ve Previously Read by the Same Author:

Summary/Review:

Irish author Eoin Colfer, creator of the Artemis Fowl series, spins a classic adventure story set in the fin de siècle era on the Saltee Islands off the coast of Ireland.  In this story, the Saltees are home to a fictional sovereign kingdom which bases its economy on diamond mining.  The protagonist of the story is Conor Broekhart who is friend of the daughter of the island’s progressive, American-born king.  Conor shows an early proclivity towards science and engineering and when he is 14 he is framed for the murder of the king and sent to prison/mining colony.  It’s up to young Conor to escape from prison and save the kingdom through his knowledge of flying machines.  The outcome is never in doubt but Colfer spins an entertaining yarn with a lot of action and many memorable characters.  John Keating does a magnificent job of narrating this escapist story.

Recommended books: The Land That Isn’t There, An Irish Adventure by Leonard Wibberley, The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois
Rating: ****

Book Review: The Happiest People in the World by Brock Clarke


Author: Brock Clarke
TitleThe Happiest People in the World
Publication Info: Chapel Hill, North Carolina : Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2014.
ISBN: 9781616201111
Books previously read by same author: An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England by Brock Clarke
Summary/Review:

A Danish cartoonist, at risk for drawing cartons offensive to Muslims, is moved by the CIA to a small town in rural New York, given a position as a guidance councilor, and finds himself in the middle of the family drama of the high school principal and his wife the bartender of the local tavern.  To further complicate things, the CIA agent who assigned him to this town is the former mistress of the principal.  And to further make things wacky, pretty much everyone in the city is involved in the CIA or a secret agent of some time.  I suppose this book is supposed to be a farce and a satire, but I found it a chore to read.  I probably would not have finished it if I hadn’t been an award from the Library Things Early Reviewer program.  There are some funny bits, but after a while it’s just one reticent character avoiding communicating with another character who hates them over and over.

Recommended books: The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner

Rating: **

Book Review: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan


Author: Robin Sloan
TitleMr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
Narrator: Ari Fliakos
Publication Info: Macmillan Audio (2012)

Summary/Review:

A young man named Clay is out-of-work in San Francisco and ends up taking a job at a bizarre book store with an eccentric owner.  It turns out to be a front of a shadowy organization and Clay’s favorite fantasy book series is a key to its mysteries..  With the help of a girlfriend who works at Google, and a nerdy childhood friend who’s become wealthy as a game developer, Clay is able to advance well into the organization.  I found this book moderately interesting, with a bit of mystery, some book lore, and a lot of product placement for Google.

Favorite Passages:

“The suburban mind cannot comprehend the emergent complexity of a New York sidewalk.”

Recommended booksThe Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Rating: **1/2

Book Review: Jerusalem by Gonçalo Tavares


Around the World for a Good Book Selection for Portugal
Author: Gonçalo Tavares
Title:Jerusalem
Translator: Anna Kushner
Publication Info: Champaign [Ill.] : Dalkey Archive Press, c2009
ISBN: 9781564785558
Summary/Review:

This novel brings together several characters in one place for one event and then jumps back to show vignettes of each character’s life, building up to what all brought them there.  It is a well-written and structured work, but also very complex, and I admit that I don’t totally “get” it.  Themes of troubled relationships, mental illness, and the nature of evil.  If you’re interested in provocative fiction, you may like this.

Recommended booksThe Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder.
Rating: ***