Monday, April 30, 2012

Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard

Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard

Millard, who is the best-selling author of "The River of Doubt" about Theodore Roosevelt, turns her attention to President James Garfield, who was the third victim of the bidecennial presidential curse that began in 1840.
Destiny of the Republic, which takes its title from a line in a speech Garfield gave at the 1880 Republican convention, is a bittersweet study of an unlikely president and the tragedy that befell him.  Although a deranged megalomaniac named Charles Guiteau shot Garfield on July 2, 1881, the wound was not fatal.  Instead, Garfield died two months later from massive infection caused by the unsanitary treatment he received from his doctors.  This engrossing narrative weaves together several stories, including those of Joseph Lister, whose practice of antiseptic surgery had been dismissed by American doctors, and Alexander Graham Bell, whose invention of the "induction balance" was used unsuccessfully to locate the bullet.  The story is a microcosm of progress in America in the 19th century and proof that something good can come from tragedy.


Readalikes:  The Devil in the White City by Eric Larson

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Stay Close by Harlan Coben

Cover imageExhausting is the best way to describe Coben's latest novel, Stay Close. There are so many characters, settings, twists and turns that reading just tires you out! This is the story of a washed-up photographer, a determined detective, and the secrets and lies that come out of a seedy nightclub. Throw in eighteen missing men, a suburban mom that once danced at the club, two deranged killers nicknamed Barbie and Ken, and finally police corruption, and that's just part of it. Taking place near Atlantic City's boardwalk, the mood is dark and just plain wrong. Fans of novels where you have absolutely no idea what's going on should really get into this!


Possible read-alike author: Tom Savage

Sunday, April 15, 2012

In Search of the Rose Notes by Emily Arsenault

Cover imageIn Search of the Rose Notes begins simply: two sixth-grade friends, Nora & Charlotte, a set of Time-Life books, Mysterious Lands and Peoples, and one very-much admired 16-year-old babysitter, Rose. Just typical stuff until one night, after walking Nora home, Rose disappears. And is never seen again.

Now, jump ahead sixteen years. Nora has moved from her childhood home and is married and happy. Out of the blue, she receives a call from Charlotte, whom she has not spoken to since Rose's disappearance. Charlotte tells her that Rose's remains have been found. Nora reluctantly makes the trip back to Waverly because, after all, she was the last person to see Rose alive...

Shuffling back and forth between past and present, this novel is slow yet powerful and keeps you guessing until the end.


Possible read-alike author: Laura Lippman

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

One Amazing Thing by Chitra Divakaruni

The latest book by this award-winning storyteller is a modern-day Canterbury Tales. 
Cover image"One Amazing Thing" is the theme of each of the stories told by the characters in this ensemble tale.  The nine pilgrims to India are trapped by an earthquake in a visa office and bare their souls to each other as they await rescue.  Graduate student Uma is the main storyteller, as the stories are channeled through her.  Although the reader may not like all the characters, their stories are compelling, and the reader can't help but ponder what story he would tell in a similiar situation.

If you like this book, you may want to read the following books:
"The Life of Pi" by Yann Martel
"The Namesake" by Jhumpa Lahiri


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Fall from Grace by Richard North Patterson

Adam Blaine is called home to Martha’s Vineyard when his father, famous author Benjamin Blaine, has died. Benjamin tumbled off a cliff, but no one believes he would have killed himself. When Adam arrives home after being away for a decade, he discovers that his father has written a new will: one that cuts out Adam’s mother and brother. Adam is the executor of the will, which means he must carry out his father’s last wishes, even though it’s the last thing he wants to do. Adam spends the next two weeks trying to figure out if his father was murdered, who did it, and how he can pull off not following through on his father’s will.
I enjoyed this book. It was full of twists and turns., and it keeps you guessing until the very end. Adam Blaine is a very complex character, and his reasons for leaving the Vineyard aren’t apparent until the very end of the book. He isn’t the only complex character in the book. Each and every character has their secrets, which adds to the mystery and intrigue. I’ve been reading Richard North Patterson’s books for a long time, and he doesn’t disappoint with Fall from Grace. After I finished the book, I wanted to start reading it again.

Readlikes for Fall from Grace: The Testament by John Grisham


Monday, April 9, 2012

Raylan by Elmore Leonard

Cover imageElmore Leonard’s Raylan is a fast paced, violent but often humorous novel about U.S. Deputy Marshal Raylan Givens. The novel has three somewhat separate plots. I was initially disoriented when the first part of the book, Raylan’s pursuit of a group who removes kidneys and then sells them back to their original owners, ended and switched to him guarding a not-well-liked coal company public relations representative. However, I later liked this shift in the story and wondered if Leonard was trying to give the book a day-to-day feel of what a marshal deals with. (Or it could be that he’s such a successful writer that he can get away with this sort of thing.) The book’s third part has Raylan pursuing a group of college girls on a wild bank robbing spree. This part of the novel in particular brings back characters from earlier in the book and at least partially ties things together.

Raylan is also the main character in the FX series Justified. The first episode of that series is based on Leonard’s short story “Fire in the Hole” from the collection When the Women Come Out to Dance:Stories.


Monday, April 2, 2012

Into the Darkness by V. C. Andrews

Cover imageThis is a difficult book to talk about, since it is pretty obvious from the start what is really going on. Still, it was done well enough that I wanted to see how it all plays out. Into the Darkness is the story of Amber Taylor, a shy, independent, and beautiful girl that is a bit of an outsider in her small town. The other high school kids just can't quite figure her out, and Amber has no desire to get close to any of them. She is quite content to work in her parent's jewelry store and hang out at home alone reading. That is, until, a new family moves in next door and Brayden Matthews shows up at her door. He is deep and mysterious and obviously a recluse like herself. His reasons are quite different from Amber's as he has some major family issues that keep him from getting close to people. Amber is convinced that she can help him while allowing herself to feel "normal" for once in her life. But, of course, things aren't always as they seem... (especially in a V. C. Andrews novel!)


Possible read-alikes: any other book by V. C. Andrews