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One of those nearly perfect novels, like Atonement or Dog Stars, that grab you in the first few pages and sweep you along, becoming more entranced chapter after chapter, smiling, sighing and brushing a few tears aside in order to keep reading to the end, which you hope will not come too soon. It's a moving story with characters that are unforgettable and deeply emotional scenes that will still bring you pleasure long after you have passed your copy on to some fortunate friend.
It took me 60+ years of reading to pick up a copy of Middlemarch. I'd read and reread Jane Austen, and thought that Eliot couldn't possibly be as engaging, witty and delightful. In fact, Eliot is to Austin as Barbara Kingsolver is to many contemporary authors who give us good, entertaining books but without the depth that makes Lacuna or Poisonwood Bible a full-bodied experience. How could George Eliot have had such insight, not only into society and relationships, but science, medicine, agriculture and economics? No matter, just read it and enjoy.
Of course you all know by now that Galbraith is really J.K. Rowling, but what you probably don’t know, if you haven’t read this murder mystery yet, is that the writing is in Ms. Rowling’s classic style. This time, however, it’s clearly for adults, peppered with many four-letter expletives throughout. Her descriptions of her characters and the places they inhabit fit right into the Muggle neighborhoods, with her precise descriptions of lampposts, train stations, stairwells, bars. The story itself is complicated and contains interesting characters who make it totally worth reading or listening to on audio, which is what we are doing. The reader isn't Jim Dale but he’s terrific.
It's a book I wanted to never end. Ah, if only one could climb into the pages of this amazing novel to live awhile with these very real fictional characters. If you figure out how to do this, let me know, but take care to avoid arriving during the Wyoming winter.
The first part of this memoir is curious--a history of sorts mixed with imaginary scenes involving a pioneer balloonist and the legendary French actress Sarah Bernhardt. It felt like the script for a docu-drama on the History Channel--which I probably would have abandoned if the writing wasn't so exceptional. Then in a moment, it became something thoroughly engaging--engrossing, something altogether different--in the present and real, yet connected intricately to the earlier story. The reader has been set up, caught with his defenses down and swept away by a tsunami of feelings. That's all I'm saying.
This novel, by the great mystery writer P.D. James, is set seven years after the end of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth and Darcy are now married and living at Pemberley, Darcy's hereditary estate. The writing is remarkably good, the characters are true to Austen's vision and, for any Jane Austen fan, reading it is a non-stop pleasure.
She squints, being too vain to wear glasses to her first tryst. She's left the kids at her mother-in-law's, and while her sweet, boring husband is at work, she slips on her not-for-walking dress boots and painfully picks her way up the hillside. But she never reaches the cabin where the guy she can't get out of her head awaits, because she sees something in a stand of trees on the hill -- what exactly, without her glasses, she can't say, but it's so unworldy and unsettling that it turns her life around. So begins Kingsolver's deeply moving and often hilarious novel whose characters will stay with you long after the last delicious page.
The unforgettable characters in Ms. Roy's novel span three generations. Like planets, asteroids and comets, they move on separate paths which, in time, inevitably cross, pulled to the center by the force of love of family, of truth, of beauty and, ultimately, by the force of romantic love. We read this aloud to each other in the car, hardly able to wait for our next ride together while at the same time wishing the story would never end.
This novel is a treat — especially for those who enjoy writers whose craft and ability allow them to create a cast of characters whose stories initially seem to be totally distinct and unrelated to each other, but by the end have been brilliantly and perfectly integrated. Writing with humor, compassion, intelligence and charm, Jess Walter has given us a unique and memorable gift of a novel.
Imagine someone drags you into a museum to show you a great portrait. You go, reluctantly, thinking, "a portrait, really, sigh," and it turns out to be a Vermeer or Van Gogh that leaves you weak in the knees. That's how you feel, over and over, reading this remarkable novel. After the first few chapters you know what's probably going to happen, but when it does, you find yourself laughing or crying or issuing a breathy "wow," and then, once again a few pages later. Finally, at the end, you shake your head, smile and sigh in total awe.
In moments of crisis, some people choke, others panic. There's a big difference and the author gives fascinating examples of how this effects our lives. In another of his chapters based on 22 brilliant recently published articles, Gladwell asks what an employer can learn about job candidates during an interview. Not much, research shows, unless you're willing to throw out everything you think you know about judging the character of a person you've just met. Filled with great personal stories and entertaining interviews, this book is the perfect gift for anybody, including you. —Bob
Two friends growing up in the vast Wyoming landscape fall in love the same girl, who, without warning—after some twenty years of marriage to one and friendship with the other—leaves them both. This sets the two men off on a journey across the Rocky Mountain West trailing remnants of their former lives and picking up pieces of a possible future along the way. With witty dialogue, vivid settings and a memorable cast of supporting characters, The Fruit of Stone is a deeply moving novel destined for major awards.
This is the moving story of a magazine artist’s son, who might be creating great works of art, but settles for commercial jobs. He sees himself repeating his father's patterns. Is it a case of "be careful what you wish for" when he is given the opportunity to paint a true master piece for one million dollars? Every page seems lit from within like a Vermeer painting, or a Velázquez. It’s a great novel, packed with unpredictable twists through the world of fine art, and through time itself. —Bob
This excellent work of fiction has three overlapping story lines, two of which share the tone of a well written adventure novel and the other, the mother's tale, takes the reader into the realm of truly great storytelling. The rave review I had read in the New York Times was right on the mark—The Good Son is well crafted, tightly edited, and tough to put down. -Bob
Why would anyone want to read a novel about poetry? Or about a teacher of poetry who can't bring himself to write an intro to an anthology of collected poems for a tidy fee despite having lost his teaching position and needing the income badly? Well, those few, those happy few ardent Nicholson Baker fans who have so deeply enjoyed his previous works will not be disappointed with The Anthologist. In Baker's new novel we share the musings of this thoroughly imperfect man who, despite his shortcomings, offers us many brilliant, fascinating and often laugh-out-loud observations on the world of words. I could only stop reading when the book fell from my hands in the late hours of the night. David Orr, who writes the On Poetry column for the New York Times Book Review, called Nicholson Baker's Anthologist a "tremendous success." —Bob
The Farmer's Daughter is Jim Harrison at his finest. He tells Sarah's coming of age tale with wit, compasson and a pure storytelling genius that writers hardly ever achieve and readers can't ever get enough of. What a treat! —Bob
Anne, a wife and mother, is living the Beverly Hills good life. She leads book groups for directors, screenwriters, producers, and actors. It’s not that she planned to do this, it just happened because she’s so well read, so brilliant, so delightfully British. But from the opening scene in which we see her highly connected, Hollywood deal-maker husband packing to leave, she must use her literary brilliance to maintain her equilibrium and to fight ferociously for the life she knows that she deserves. Anne ultimately confronts one of the thorniest issues of our time in this finely crafted and deeply moving novel. —Bob
Redemption is what you seek when you have lost something that is very important—like trust or respect or friendship or the love of a good woman. You can work for redemption, but you can't earn it—some luck is involved. But luck alone won’t get you there. The work is essential. The work is necessary but not always sufficient. So you work and wait and never give up hope. Ron Carlson has written a beautiful story illustrating these very qualities of redemption. It is one of those novels that when you’ve read the last page, you shake your head in wonder how the author has put into words a truth that you know but could never have expressed so precisely or so elegantly. With The Signal Ron Carlson joins Mark Spragg and Kent Haruf in the circle of great western writers.
I read this book on the bus and at rest stops on the trail up and down “A” mountain. And each night I read it in bed until it slipped from my hands as I dozed off. It is now weeks since I finished it, and its power remains undiminished. It is a tale written by a madman, about madmen and common folk in a time of terror, in a place of fear—and about those who resist their oppressors because in such situations someone must. Based on a true story, this bestseller from the '40s has, to our good fortune, resurfaced to take its rightful place beside The Reader and All is Quiet on the Western Front as yet another great anti-war novel by a brilliant German author.