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A great literary mystery, Banville’s deeply nuanced protagonist ranks right up there with those of Louise Penny, P. D. James and Donna Leon. It’s the kind of novel that’s hard to put down, but even when I was forced to, I couldn’t wait to get back to it. Of course, when reading it or listening to the audio version, which I did, you’ll want to find out “who done it,“ but you’ll also feel so attached to the characters that, like me, you won’t want it to end.
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There are books that are a pleasure to read because they make you laugh or cry or just nod and say, "Yes, that's so true." In Doyle's book two Irishmen in their late 50s, who haven't been in contact much over the last 30 years, spend an evening in a pub or 2 or 3, remembering their youth and sharing intimate details of their life stories, often reluctantly and only when pushed by the other. There's a plot and an arc the guys traverse as they struggle to understand themselves and their world. The ending is good, too, but there was never any rush to get there because the pleasure on every page made me wish the book would just go on and on.
Reading a novel based on actual events can be quite informative but rarely rises to the level of great emotional impact or literary excellence. Perhaps authors feel constrained to the actual timeline of events when telling the story. Thus, by the time the reader is halfway through, the seminal events which informed the characters’ thoughts and actions are in the somewhat distant past. Moreover, when the reader was initially introduced to those seminal events, their ultimate impact was not evident and so their presentation had little impact on the reader. Colum McCann has avoided that trap, presenting us with a brilliantly told tale in which scenes from the past are expertly interwoven with the current flow in a way that continuously elevates our feelings for the characters and expands our understanding of the world in which they live.
An 84-yr old Irish farmer sits alone at a bar offering up toasts to the people who have been most important to him over the years. In the course of his elegant and deeply moving ramblings, he shares his loves, losses, lessons learned, successes and regrets--his whole life story. It’s a powerful but easy read which left me feeling that the people in the story were so real that the moment I closed the book and set it down, I was already missing them and their world. But mostly, I missed the old farmer himself. I’d love to sit down at the bar beside him and buy the next round.
I love this book. The main characters, a sister and brother, are unlike anybody I’ve ever known but are definitely people I wish I had. Every time life intervened and required me to stop reading the Dutch House, I ached to get back to it. And not because it’s a thriller, which it’s not. But because I missed them, the sister and brother, their family and all the other residents of the Dutch house. Like so many of the very best novels, it’s a beautifully written story about people getting through life while trying to figure out what it all means.
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THE LATE SHOW, when it came out two years ago, was Connelly's 30th novel and his first featuring a female detective. Renee Ballard was a loner with no close companions except her dog, Lola. She faced danger nightly on the streets of LA and blatant sexism in the police department. I was anxious to read THE NIGHT FIRE, which also features Ballard, but not expecting it to be as good as the novel in which she is first introduced, as sequels rarely are. But Connelly pulled it off by teaming Ballard with Harry Bosch, hero of 21 of his previous novels. The pair of them are a dynamic duo, both uncompromising fighters and compassionate human beings who become good buddies. For me, this was a non-stop read.
This could be a classic 'beach read' or a great mystery for a staycation. It's the perfect summer book—great writing, complex characters, a mystery, and an interesting look at the immigrant experience in NYC and in the Netherlands. I loved Kwok's earlier novel, Girl in Translation, too, as she has a great sense of how immigration affects the psyche and enables us to live in someone else's shoes for the duration of the novel and for a long time afterward.
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This novel struck many chords with me. It's a story about four sisters and I am the oldest of five sisters. It's about adoption and its impact on both parents and children and we adopted our son. It's about several generations of one family and how the children thought about their parent's relationship and how they struck out on their own paths. It resonated in a huge way with me. Great writing and the beginning of a great writing career for Claire Lombardo, I hope.
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I loved Myla Goldberg's latest, Feast Your Eyes (Remember her great novel, Bee Season?) It's a novel told in letters, journal entries, and exhibition notes about a photographer trying to balance single motherhood, dedication to her art, and the outside world's accusations of obscenity. It's really a mother-daughter story, as the daughter is the one who writes the exhibition notes and shares with us the pain of growing up in poverty with an obsessed artist for a mother, but who also grew up knowing that with obsession can also come incredible creativity and the breaking of molds.
Elizabeth Strout brings Olive Kitteridge back in her dotage in Olive, Again. Olive is old but not weak, and she finds a new love and reconnects with old students and friends—characters I've often thought about over the years. She’s still feisty, cranky, and definitely a curmudgeon, but I was so grateful to find her back in my life again, like an old friend returned and embraced.
The narrator and main character of the book is the wife of Jesus. The author points out in a postscript that the Bible never states whether Jesus was married or not and since almost all Jewish men of his age in those days were, it’s not unreasonable to imagine that he might well have been. The characters, some invented and others we’re all familiar with, are brilliantly drawn. The conversations are well written, which is something I prize in a novel. It’s clear that a lot of excellent research and creativity went into the writing of this book, which I highly recommend.
Anne Frank’s famous quote “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart,” sums up the author’s message. But how could he maintain that in opposition to Machiavelli, Hobbes, Freud, Pinker, et al? To do so he must confront and refute them and, among others, William Golding (Lord of the Flies), Jarad Diamond, Thor Heyerdahl, and psychologists Philip Zimbardo, Muzafer Sherif, and Stanley Milgram. He even faces up to giving us an understanding of the architects of Auschwitz and why people treat others so terribly. But he does all this, elegantly, with deep research over half-a-decade and moving stories so well told as to be occasional tear-producing, at least for me, the ever optimist seeking substantiation for my upbeat view of this curious existence.
I listened to the audiobook version, "Hemingway Stories: A New Audio Collection," which I had downloaded from Libro.fm. I've read Hemingway's novels over the years but this is the first time for his short stories since high school. Many of these stories left me breathless and all were brilliant examples of writing that conveys emotions without embellishment -- simple, direct and unadorned. This man has the ability to write the truth. When you read his words, you say to yourself "Yes, that's exactly the way it is!"
This is a creative SciFi adventure that starts with a group of young girls who, although imprisoned 24/7 in a windowless factory, feel no sense of loss, having never known any other existence. When an explosion rips open a production room wall, one of them catches a glimpse of what's outside. With her entire concept of reality upended, she must now face up to the challenges that come with her new knowledge, the opportunities it presents and the fear that comes with stepping off into the unknown. It's a tale told with humor and compassion which feels thoroughly completed by the last page but turns out to be the first in a new series.
The Parisian is a novel with a gripping story, filled with an amazing cast of characters and topped off with a brilliant and totally satisfying ending. At the core of this tale is a vivid, immersive love story. The author's familiarity with the culture, the history and the language of both France the Palestinian Arabs is as impressive as it is informative. Isabella Hammad has written a superb work of fiction--one of the best I've read in years.
This would make a great gift for anyone interested in math or physics or just very readable, good non-fiction writing that gets into the personalities of these men and women whose work has changed the way we perceive our existence on this small planet in a large cosmos.
Aristotle and Newton had very different concepts on the nature of time. Then along came Einstein who poked very large holes in both their theories. Rovelli explains in understandable terms the impact of recent scientific discoveries on the actual relationship between what we perceive and "true" reality. His prose is simple, clear and filled with tales of philosophers and scientists that are moving and amusing.The audiobook version is read by Benedict Cumberbatch with his rich voice in a precise but unhurried manner like a brilliant but gentle teacher. The audio came from Libro.fm, the indie alternative to Audible/Amazon. Ask any staff member how you can download audiobooks from Libro.fm.
I picked up a used copy of another of Scalzi’s novels while on vacation. Loved it and noticing that he won the Hugo for Redshirts, I ordered a copy and opened it with great anticipation. It starts with a well worn storyline—a young graduate from the Academy is posted to a starship with a quirky crew of idealistic officers and a cynical veteran crew on a mission like that of the Enterprise. My 12-year-old self would’ve lapped it up but there had to be more to a Hugo winner—and there was. Soon I was laughing so hard and so often that my partner made me read it in another room. Although it both spoofs and pays homage to many earlier works, it does it so in such clever and creative ways that you will be both amused and amazed!
Imagine if Jane Austen wrote a WWII novel set in England before, during and after the Blitz. Surrounding Lisa, a 13-yr-old refugee newly arrived on a Kindertransport train, are half a dozen "supporting" cast whose characters are so well developed that you come to know each of them and love most of them. Beautifully told with some surprising and wonderful plot twists, this is a deeply moving story. When I reached the last page, I didn't want it to end, didn't want to leave these people who feel so dear to me.
Although Circe is born an immortal goddess with little status or power, she succeeds in becoming the first witch in western literature. Why does she use her new powers to turn men into pigs? And what motivates her to be one of the most benevolent deities Odysseus meets on his epic journey? This beautifully written creative retelling of a classic myth drew me instantly into a world of vast powers and deep love. I listened to the audiobook version from Libro.fm, the indie bookstore alternative to Amazon's audible.com. When I had to stop listening I ached to get back to this amazing, twisting, laughter and tear evoking tale.
It's been a couple of years since I read this book but the story and characters have not faded. If you've read All Quiet on the Western Front, you know it's a WWI tale told by young German soldier. War & Turpentine is the same tale but told by a young Belgian soldier fighting in the trenches against the Germans. That's the core of the store but it's magic lies in the soldiers other life as a artist, the son of a master class fresco painter. Brilliantly written and selected as a one of the New York Times Top 10 Best of the Year, it's a book that's built to last.
I listened to this with my 9-year-old grandson as an audiobook from Libro.fm. Movingly narrated by a professional cast, this is the tale of a boy who journeys across the country with his dog in pursuit of his dream. He's determined to launch a homemade rocket into space bearing a recording he is making which describes life on earth. In pursuit of this quest, he discovers a lost sibling and learns some important lessons about his life on earth. My grandson was enthralled. So was I.
Ask any staff member how you can download audiobooks from Libro.fm, the indie bookstore alternative to Audible/Amazon.
This collection of five stories was finished shortly before Johnson's death in 2017. Like several of his other works of fiction, it's likely to add to his list of awards including Pulitzer Prize finalist and the National Book Award. The author spent much of his life in Arizona, saying “I am convinced that I could stay in Phoenix my whole life without leaving and never be at a loss for anything to write about. There is a lot that goes by that we don’t pay attention to because it doesn’t affect us directly. Things that if they happened to us would be ... very important events. Those things fascinate me.” They will fascinate you, too, and there's no point in my telling you what these stories are about because they speak so eloquently for themselves.
In the audiobook version each story is read by a different brilliant reader--Nick Offerman, Michael Shannon, Will Patton, Dermot Mulroney and Liev Schreiber. Ask any staff member or visit our website to learn about listening to audiobooks from Libro.fm, the indie bookstore alternative to Amazon's Audible.
Lin, a Newberry Honor winner and National Book Award finalist, has taken themes from traditional Chinese folktales and worked them into a story (and to stories within the story) that kids and adults will find heartwarming, magical and thoroughly engaging. The young male and female protagonists face hardships which are not easily dealt with. Despite the journey they must take to overcome their struggles, they never lose their compassion for others they meet along the way who are also facing difficulties. We read this with our 9-yr old who absolutely loved it.
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I’ve loved Erdrich’s novels ever since Love Medicine came out in 1984. Future Home is no exception. Set in a not to distant time in an America dominated by an authoritarian government based on religious fundamentalism, it touches on many of the issues of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Orwell’s 1984. The protagonist and narrator is part Ojibwe and the action shifts back and forth between the city where she was raised by her white adoptive parents and the reservation where she goes to find her birth mom. Humorous, suspenseful and touching, it’s a captivating tale that kept me totally engrossed throughout.
I listened to the author read this as a Libro.fm audiobook. Libro.fm is the indie bookstore's alternative to Amazon's Audible. Ask any staff member or visit our website to learn about listening to digital audio from Libro.fm.
One of BBC's "10 Books You Should Read" & New Yorker's "Books We Loved in 2016." -- This novel plunges the reader headlong into the tangled web of an Indian family whose members rely on each other first to subsist and then to protect their newfound (possibly ill-gotten) wealth. Vivid and compelling descriptions of the hierarchical interplay between men and women and men as each tried to find a stable foothold in a shifting society. A quick, powerful, entertaining read that left me wanting more from this author.
In this 2nd sequel to Stieg Larsson's Millennium Series, Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist are once more at the center of well crafted fast-moving tale that is totally faithful to Larsson's original characters. Ultimately about revenge, it moves between nail-biter and tear-jerker with short excursions into financial market analysis and biogenetic research. Except for a scattering of sex and humor, there's never a pause in the action. It's also available in an audio version from Libro.fm, the independent choice for audiobooks.
Everyone I knew read this excellent novel in the 80s. Except me. But after hearing Margaret Atwood interviewed last week, I knew it was time--devoured it in 3 days, non-stop. Atwood just wrote a new intro for it in 2017 in which she relates what we're experiencing "in the wake of the recent American election" to the conditions that led up to the dystopia she depicts so brilliantly in The Handmaid's Tale. To see what she envisioned now playing itself out in our lives is both scary and essential if we are to resist and derail such a future while there's still time. As one reviewer advised, "Read it while it's still allowed." PS--the intro contains spoilers. Save it for last.
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The hard-working and brilliant Senator and former comedian finally releases his humorous self from the cage he’s had it locked within during his first 8 years in congress. This moving and witty memoir was hidden from his staff until just before its release so they wouldn’t talk him out of publishing it.
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A well-researched, very readable book about the 30’s and 40’s when fascism was on the rise. Although they came from opposite ends of the political and economic spectrum, together they were leading voices of anti-fascism in those years. I learned that Churchill, although a key factor in overcoming the Nazi war machine and a personage to whom we are deeply indebted for our freedom, had some serious defects in his personality.
Published in '83, this delightful book, found on vacation at a used bookstore, is much more than a travel book. While in Sri Lanka the author first began to think of visiting this remote Himalayan Buddhist country after conversations with an elderly German painter who had become a Buddhist monk. Writing skill and brilliant insights enhance this chronicle of his search for the nature and wisdom of the people of Ladakh. It includes many often hilarious vignettes of his fellow pilgrims and this advice from an aging Rinpoche: "If you truly love all things, you will want to become perfect, so that you can be of help to them. You should meditate on this. It is the beginning."
This is Stephen King's time travel story of a high-school English teacher who finds himself persuaded to go back to the late 50s in order to prevent the assassination of President JFK. I was 20 years old on that day in '63 and the trauma, though faded, still occasionally evokes tears. So I picked up a copy of the novel one day and finished the first chapter on a break. Never having read King before, I was impressed with his skill at story telling. Actually, I was totally hooked and loving it after 900 more pages.
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This is one of his best. As a crime reporter for the LA Times, Connolly has extensive knowledge of LAPD procedures and of the tensions cops experience. The hero, Renee Ballard, stays true to her values, jeopardizing her career by refusing to be sidelined, believing only she can bring a certain pair of violent perpetrators to justice. Her love for her Hawaiian grandmother and her faithful dog, humanize this delightfully flawed heroine. Couldn't put it down and I'm hoping he writes more Ballard mysteries.
I listened to this as an audiobook from Libro.fm, the indie bookstore's alternative to Amazon's Audible. Ask any staff member or visit our website to learn about listening to digital audio from Libro.fm.
It's a time when Catholic churches in Mexico are burned, crosses banned and disobedience means death. All the priests have renounced or fled except for one "Whiskey Priest" who has many failings but emerges as a person willing to sacrifice himself to serve others. Hunted relentlessly by a police lieutenant, the priest is often hidden by the poor at great peril to themselves. TIME magazine's pick as one of the 100 best in the English language since 1923, this novel shows a richer way to think about faith, one which I find more accessible than the romantic narratives about belief.
I listened to this as an audiobook from Libro.fm, the indie alternative to Audible/Amazon. The narrator, Bernard Mayes, was excellent. Ask any staff member how you can download audiobooks from Libro.fm.
The audiobook version is narrated by Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, George Saunders, Carrie Brownstein, Miranda July, Lena Dunham and others. Abe and Mary Todd Lincoln are grieving the death of their 11-yr-old son, Willie. Most of the characters are ghosts in the cemetery where he was recently interred. They're trapped, unable to move on to a "better place" because of unresolved personal issues. Willie chooses to stay because of his father's loving and intensely moving visits to his grave. Ultimately, all the ghosts are deeply touched by those visits. Their interactions with Willie and each other propel this amazing story to its brilliant conclusion.
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One of the most enduring stories of all time is retold, not by a troubled young prince, but by a fetus in his mother's womb. This requires, of course, a willing suspension of disbelief on the reader's part, as did the butterflies in 1000 Years of Solitude or the witches in Macbeth. Having made this concession, the reader is richly rewarded by a tale both humorous and touching, topped off by an exciting and deeply moving final chapter.