September 2019 Book List

My September booklist is a bit late this month. No apologies because I am into reading Frederick Douglas: Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight and, although it is not at all difficult to read, it is long and I have not had as much time to read (because I subscribed to Netflix, very naughty). I have been tempted away from print media for a while. But I will be back and I already have other books clamoring for my attention. Salman Rushdie has a new book and it is calling to me along with all the new fiction on the Amazon list this month. The New York Times Book Review has changed it’s format and I will have to get used to the new setup, so I did not include those books on this month’s list. I will have to get with the new program.

Amazon

Literature and Fiction

Dominicana: A Novel by Angie Cruz *

Quichotte by Salman Rushdie *

The Secrets We Kept: A Novel by Lara Prescott *

Gun Island: A Novel by Amitov Ghosh *

The World That We Knew: A Novel by Alice Hoffman *

The Water Dancer: A Novel by Ta-Nehisi Coates *

The Grammarians: A Novel by Cathleen Schine *

The Dutch House: A Novel by Ann Patchett *

Red at the Bone: A Novel by Jacqueline Woodson *

Opioid, Indiana: A Novel by Brian Allen Carr *

Mysteries and Thrillers

The Nanny: A Novel by Gilly Macmillan

The Institute by Stephen King

A Better Man (a Chief Inspector Gamache Novel) by Louise Penny

Land of Wolves (Walt Longmire Mystery) by Craig Johnson

The Secrets We Kept: A Novel by Lara Prescott

Mycroft and Sherlock: The Empty Birdcage by Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Anna Waterhouse

The Glass Woman: A Novel by Caroline Lea

Cold Storage: A Novel by David Koepp

The Chestnut Man: A Novel by Sören Sviestrup

The Girl Who Lived Twice by David Lagercrantz

Biographies and Memoirs

Make it Scream, Make it Burn (Essays) by Leslie Jamison

Over the Top: A Raw Journey of Self Love by Jonathan Van Ness

The Soul of Care: The Moral Education of a Husband and a Doctor by Arthur Kleinman

High School by Sara Quin, Tegan Quin

The Ride of a Lifetime: Lesson Learned from 15 Years as CEO of Walt Disney Company by Robert Iger

Year of the Monkey by Patti Smith

Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead by Jim Mattis, Bing West

Permanent Record by Edward Snowden

Sontag: Her Life and Work by Benjamin Moser

Prisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control by Stephanie Kinzer

Nonfiction

We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast by Jonathan Safran Foer

Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell

She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story that Helped Ignite a Movement by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey

How to Raise a Reader by Pamela Paul and Maria Russo

How to: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems by Randall Munroe

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? Big Questions from Tiny Mortals About Death by Caitlin Doughty, Dianné Ruz

Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life by Nir Eyal

The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garett M. Graff

Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime by Sean Carroll

Super Pumped: The Battle of Uber by Mike Isaac

Science Fiction and Fantasy

Last Ones Left Alive: A Novel by Sarah Davis-Goff

The Testaments: The Sequel to the Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

A Little Hatred (The Age of Madness) by Joe Abercrombie

A Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker

The Nightjar by Deborah Hewitt

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

Publisher’s Weekly

Aug. 5th

Without a Prayer: The Death of Lucas Leonard and How One Church Became a Cult by Susan Ashline – NF

King of the Court by Travis Dandro – Memoir

Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law by Haben Girma – Memoir

The Wolf Wants In by Laura McHugh – Thriller

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silva Moreno-Garcia – F

City of Windows by Robert Pobi – Thriller

The Right Swipe (Modern Love #1 by Alicia Rei  – F

Say You Still Love Me by K A Tucker – F

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware – Thriller

The Remainder by Alia Trabucco Zerán trans. From Sp. By Sophie Hughes

Aug. 12

Rule of Capture by Christopher Brown – Science Fiction Thriller

The Last Ocean: A Journey through Memory and Forgetting by Nicci Gerrard (dementia) NF *

Gods with a Little g by Tupelo Hassman – F *

Unbreak Me by Michelle Hazen – F – Romance

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee – YA *

Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America by Christopher Leonard – NF *

The Perfect Son by Lauren North – F

Inland by Téa Obreht

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa trans. from Japanese by Stephen Snyder – F

Texas Flood: The Inside Story of Stevie Ray Vaughan by Alan Paul and Andy Aledort – NF

The Plateau by Maggie Paxson NF

The Retreat by Sherri Smith – Thriller

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk trans. from the Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones – F

Catfish Lullaby by A C Wise – Horror novella

Aug. 19

The Cruel Stars by John Birmingham – Science Fiction

The Second Biggest Nothing by Colin Cotterill – F

Coventry: Essays by Rachel Cusk – Essays

A Good Provider is One Who Leaves: One Family and Migration in the 21stCentury by Jason De Parle – NF or based on a true story

Going Dutch by James Gregor – F

Tidelands by Phillippa Gregory – F

The Warehouse by Rob Hart – F

Meet Me in the Future by Kameron Hurley – Short Stories

The Whisper Man by Alex North – Thriller

The World Doesn’t Require You by Rion Amilcar Scott – Short Stories

Machine by Susan Steinberg – Thriller

This Poison Will Remain by Fred Vargas trans. from Frenchy by Siân Reynolds – Mystery

Aug. 23

Everything Inside by Edwidge Danticat – Short Stores

From the Shadows by Juan José Millas trans. from Sp. By Thomas Bunstead and Daniel Hahn – F

A Better Man by Louise Penny – Mystery

The Ventriloquists by E R Ramzipoor – F

Gender and Our Brains: How New Neuroscience Explodes the Myths of Male and Female Minds by Gina Rippon – NF

Aug. 30

Unbreakable: The Woman Who Defied the Nazis in the World’s Most Dangerous Horse Race by Richard Askwith – NF

We the Survivors by Tash Aw – F

Women War Photographers from Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus by Anne-Marie Beckmann and Felicity Korn – NF

Dominicana by Angie Cruz – F *

Quichotte by Salman Rushdie – F *

The Art of Statistics: How to Learn From Data By David Spiegelhalter – NF

The Bone Fire by S D Sykes – Whodunit

Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes by Dana Thomas – NF

The Sweetest Fruits by Monique Truong

 

 

 

Fall by Neal Stephenson – Book

When Neal Stephenson takes on a subject he does not fool around, or he does but with purpose. In Fall, Neal Stephenson takes on the small topics of our times like how to fix the internet, immortality, artificial intelligence, and the Singularity. He even gets in a prolonged jab at modern American culture when he takes us with Sophia to Ameristan for a quick and terrifying visit (hint: the border is made up of WalMarts).

Who is Sophia? She’s Dodge’s great niece. Dodge, also known as Richard Forthrast, is the key character in this sprawling novel. One of Dodge’s last acts before entering a clinic for a simple procedure (which proves fatal) is to be distracted by a red leaf that he catches on the palm of his hand before it hits the pavement (Fall). He asks “if we lived on as spirits or were reconstituted as digital simulations” would things still have “quale” (for example) the subjective experience of redness.

Dodge, although his demise is premature, has made legal arrangements to have his brain frozen (a legal dilemma since the cryonics company has folded, but also not a dilemma because Forthrast is a very wealthy man with relatives who love him). So his brain is separated from his body until those at the forefront of using computers to scan brains and preserve them in digital form can progress. Once this is accomplished Dodge awakens in an empty digital simulation, a digital afterlife. But Dodge earned his fortune as the inventor of a popular world-building game called T’Rain. He begins to build a world to give the afterlife form. Back on earth living people can watch Dodge’s simulation unfold (he remembers his name as Egdod)

Dodge’s cohorts and rivals are Corvallis Kawasaki (cohort) and Elmo Shepherd (rival) and, of course his niece Zula, mother of Sophia (loyal family). A fake nuclear incident which leaves many people believing that the town of Moab, Utah was attacked points out some of shortcomings of the internet. “The Internet – what Dodge used to call the Miasma – had just gone completely wrong. Down to the molecular level it was still a hippie grad school project. Like a geodesic dome that a bunch of flower children had assembled from scrap lumber on ground infested with termites and carpenter ants. So rotten that rot was the only thing that was holding it together.”

Our intrepid computer wizards and coders invent a new way to protect an individual’s identity by using their actual “lifeprint”, called a PURDAH (Personal Unseverable Designation for Anonymous Holography). The internet needs to keep expanding to keep Dodge and all the new souls being scanned into the afterlife alive. Then Dodge, creator of the land mass of the afterlife from his Palace to the Knot, decides to see if he can bring forth new souls in the Landform Visualization Utility (LVU). When he is ultimately successful his old rival El (Elmo) Shepherd feels the entire design has been taken in the wrong direction. He decides to end his own life (he has a fatal disease anyway) and get scanned into Dodge’s creation. He ousts Dodge and takes over.

Eventually, of course, all the friends and enemies of Dodge die (or are murdered) (bots are no better than their owners). The population of Earth is declining. Who will be left to make sure the afterlife is supplied with enough energy to continue to exist? How do we get to the Singularity?

It’s a long strange trip (from the Grateful Dead song ‘Truckin’). Neal Stephenson is always amazing and Fall might just be the quintessential gamer fantasy novel/or you might think it is just past weird. As for me, although it lagged in a few parts, it worked. That does seem like one way we could get to the Singularity and leave the Earth to its own devices to recover from humans. On the other hand, I have not signed up for any tech leading to a digital afterlife, and as far as I know, no such tech exists. I don’t think the afterlife looked all that appealing unless you were a member of the ‘Pantheon’. We may find out if books copy life, or if life copies books. Keep your ears open.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – The Verge

August 2019 Book List

 

Here is my list of books published in July, available in August. Lots of fiction, not as much nonfiction. If you are someone who loves crime books or thrillers and these kinds of books top your summer reading list then you are all set. There is also quite a bit of interesting science fiction and fantasy for you if that is your taste. And there are several good biographies and memoirs that were published recently. The ones that struck me when I read the summaries are starred. If you Google a book you will get a very short summary of what it’s about. Go to Amazon or your library for a longer description if you’re not sure what to pick. Don’t worry, you can’t keep up. Just dive in and carve out a little niche for yourself. Happy reading.

Amazon

Best Books of August

Literature and Fiction

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

American Saint by Sean Gandert *

Chances Are…by Richard Russo *

Tidelands by Philippa Gregory *

Inland by Téa Obreht *

The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christi Lefteri *

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokaczuk, Antonia Lloyd-Jones *

Summerlings by Lisa Howorth *

Gods with a little g by Tupelo Hassman

Mysteries and Thrillers

The Escape Room by Megan Goldin *

The Bitterroots by CJ Box

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

The Whisper Man by Alex North

The Last Widow (Will Trent) by Karin Slaughter

The Whisperer (13) (Inspector Sejer Mysteries) by Karin Fossum, Kari Dickson

True Believer (2) (Terminal List) by Jack Carr

The Perfect Wife by JP Delaney

A Keeper by Graham Norton

Don’t Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokaczuk, Antonia Lloyd-Jones

Biographies and Memoirs

Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law by Haben Girma

Idiot Wind: A Memoir by Peter Kaldheim

Alexander the Great: His Life and His Mysterious Death by Anthony Everitt

Barnum: An American Life by Robert Wilson

Natural Rivals: John Muir, Gifford Pinchot, and the Creation of America’s Public Lands by JohnClayton

Texas Flood: The Inside Story of Stevie Ray Vaughan by Alan Paul, Andy Aledort

Nights in White Castle: A Memoir by Steve Rushin

The Sober Diaries: How One Woman Stopped Drinking and Started Living by Clare Pooley

Nobody’s Victim: Fighting Psychos, Stalkers Pervs and Trolls by Carrie Goldberg

Into the Planet: My Life as a Cave Diver by Jill Heinerth

Nonfiction

Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties by Tom O’Neill, Dan Piepenbring

Ludicrous: The Unvarnished Story of Tesla Motors by Edward Niedermeyer

Strange Harvests: The Hidden Histories of Seven Natural Objects by Edward Posnett

The Deep History of Ourselves: The Four-Billion-Year Story of How We Got Conscious Brains by Joseph Le Doux *

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi

The Mosquito: A Human History of our Deadliest Predator by Timothy Wineqard

The Intelligence Trap: Why Smart People Make Dumb Mistakes by David Robson *

The Ghosts of Eden Park: The Bootleg King, the Woman Who Pursued Him, and the Murder that Shocked Jazz-Age America by Karen Abbott

The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier by Ian Urbina

Science Fiction and Fantasy

The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday by Saad Z. Hossain

Do You Dream of Terra-Two? By Temi Oh

Blood of an Exile (Dragon of Terra by Brian Haslund)

Shrouded Loyalties by Reese Hogan

The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War) by R F Kuang

Cry Pilot by Joel Dane

Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buston

Turning Darkness into Light by Marie Brennan

The Gossamer Mage by Julie E Gernada

The New York Times Book Review

July 5

Crime

Conviction by Denise Mina *

More News Tomorrow by Susan Richards Shreve *

The Island by Ragnar Jonasson

Finding Mrs. Ford by Deborah Goodrich Royce

Fiction

Last Day by Domenica Ruta *

Fall; or, Dodge in Hell by Neal Stephenson *

The Body in Question by Jill Ciment *

Nonfiction

The Guarded Gate by Daniel Okrent *

The Way We Eat by Bee Wilson *

Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero by Tyler Cowen

A Thousand Small Sanities by Adam Gopnik (defense of liberalism) *

The Buried by Peter Hessler

The Shortlist (books on mental illness)

The Edge of Every Day: Sketches of Schizophrenia by Marin Sardy

Mind Fixers: Psychiatry’s Troubled Search for the Biology of Mental Illness by Anne Harrington

Tyrannical Minds: Psychological Profiling, Narcissism, and Dictatorship by Dean Haycock *

Podcast 50 Best Memoirs – https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/05/books/review/50-best-memoirs-past-50-years

July 12

Great Summer Reads

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner

Summer of ’69 by Elin Hilderbrand

The Guest Book by Sarah Blake

The Lager Queen of Minnesota by Pamela Dorman

The Islanders by Meg Mitchell Moore

The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess

The Travelers by Regina Porter

Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kivok

Fiction

Clyde Fans: A Picture Book by Seth *

Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn

Nonfiction

A Good American Family by David Maraniss

Vasily Grossman and the Soviet Century by Alexandra Popoff

Running to the Edge by Matthew Futterman

The Making of a Justice by Justice John Paul Stevens

The Land of Flickering Lights by Michael Bennet

The Thirty-Year Genocide by Benny Morris and Dror Ze’evi

July 19

Fiction

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead *

Crime

Knife by Jo Nesbo

The Shameless by Ace Atkins

The Body in the Wake (Faith Fairchild) by Katherine Hall Page

The Hard Stuff by David Gordon

Fiction

Mostly Dead Things by Kristin Arnett

A Philosophy of Ruin by Nicholas Mancussi

Lanny by Max Porter

The Shortlist (Story Collections)

Rain by Mia Couto

The Sun on My Head by Giovani Martins

Arid Dreams by Duanwad Pimwana

Nonfiction

My Parents/This Does Not Belong to You by Aleksandar Hemon (Memoir)

Appeasement by Tim Bouverie (Neville Chamberlain)

The Crowded Hour by Clay Risen

July 26th

Recursion by Blake Crouch (alternate reality thriller)

Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman

The Need by Helen Phillips

The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal

Whisper Network by Chandler Baker

Empty Hearts by Juli Zeh

The Escape Room by Megan Goldin *

Publishers Weekly

July 5

The Substitution Order by Martin Clark (F) (legal thriller)

Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem by Daniel R Day (memoir)

Stay and Fight by Madeline Ffitch – (F)

Hungry: Eating, Road-Tripping, and Risking it all with the Greatest Chef in the World by Jeff Gordinier – (NF)

Ash Kickers (Smoke Eaters #2) by Sean Grigsby (F) (Science Fiction/Fantasy)

The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez (F) (Rom-Com+)

The Chain by Adrian McKinty (F) (thriller) *

The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America by Margaret O’Mara (NF)

The Need by Helen Phillips (F) (crossover, thriller, sci-fi, literary)

The Toll by Cherie Priest (F) (‘Gothic tale’)

Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss by Margaret Renki (NF)

George Marshall: Defender of the Republic by David L Roll (NF)

Say Say Say by Lila Savage (F) *

Supper Club by Lara Williams (F) *

July 12

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone (F)*

Native Tongue by Suzetter Haden Elgin  (F) *

Red Metal by Mark Greany and H Ripley Rawlings IV (F)

Greasy Bend by Kris Lackey (F) (2 investigations that connect)

Stubborn Archivist by Yara Rodrigues Fowler (F)

Four Men Shaking: Searching for Sanity with Samuel Beckett, Norman Mailer, and My Perfect Zen Teacher by Lawrence Shainberg (Memoir)

They Call Us Enemy by George Takei, et al (NF) (World War II Internment)

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (F) *

The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter (F)  (The Burning #1) (Fantasy)

July 19

Rocket to the Morgue by Anthony Boucher (F)

Desdemona and the Deep by CSE Cooney (F) (Fantasy/Sci Fi)

The Gomorrah Gambit by Tom Chatfield (F) (high tech thriller)

Jade War by Fonda Lee (F) (Fantasy)

Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman (F) (Crime novel)

Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCullock (NF)

Gravity is the Thing by Jaclyn Moriarty (F)

Crisis in the Red Zone: The Story of the Deadliest Ebola Outbreak in History and of the Outbreaks to Come by Richard Preston (NF)

Good Girl, Bad Girl by Michael Robotham (F) (Crime) (forensic psychologist)

Glory and It Litany of Horrors by Fernanda Torres (F)

The Last Astronaut by David Wellington (F) (Space thriller)

July 26

Can Two Women Ever Be – Too Close by Natalie Daniels (F)

A Capitol Death by Lindsey Davis (F) (a Flavia Alba novel)

Smokescreen by Iris Johansen (F) (thriller)

God Land: A Story of Faith, Loss and Renewal in Middle America by Lyz Lenz (NF)

The Hound of Justice (The Janet Watson Chronicles) (F)

The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen (F) (Fantasy)

 

 

 

The New Girl by Daniel Silva – Book

Having read all of Daniel Silva’s spy novels that feature Gabriel Allon and his team of talented Israeli intelligence specialized spies, I could not resist getting to The New Girl as soon as possible. None of the other books (there are 18 of them) deals with a global situation that is quite as recent as the one we find here. Silva always uses his spy Allon, now the head of the Israeli Intelligence Service to make sure that bad actors pay for the mayhem they cause and that the activities of the bad actors cease and desist. Often evil doers must die to insure that they will not eventually practice their crimes and terrors at some other point in the future.

This time Daniel Silva wants to remind us of how important journalists and journalism are to maintaining the freedoms that people treasure. We are reminded that one of the first things dictators often do is shut down the free press and support a press that is merely a mouthpiece for the leader. The most shocking recent example involved the murder and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi by a Saudi assassination team sent into a Turkish embassy, perhaps by Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) the heir to the throne in Saudi Arabia, although he denies it. In a way this novel attempts to do the same thing that Quentin Tarantino did in his most recent movie Once Upon a Time in Hollywoodby righting a wrong, although in both cases we know that a fictional revision of history cannot really right a past wrong. However revenge fiction can offer some personal satisfaction.

The names have been changed of course, MBS becomes Khalid bin Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. who is buying a painting in NYC from our old friend Sarah Bancroft, occasionally part of Gabriel’s team, when his daughter  at a exclusive private school in kidnapped. She is only twelve. Who would know where she was? Who would abduct her? The reasons are not as mysterious. There could be many reasons why Khalid might attract violence. Stealing a child is a low-life way to get the attention of someone this powerful and it is probable that it involves a hope to get Khalid out in the open in order to kill him.

Omar Nawwaf is the name of the fictional character who faces the same fate as Khashoggi and whose murder disgusts people around the world and causes us to stop noticing that MBS is handsome and to just remember that he is ruthless. The world reacts similarly to the killing of Omar Nawwaf in Silva’s book but people who know about the kidnapping of his daughter (very few people) do not believe in punishing the child for the sins of the father. Omar was trying to give Kahlid information about a plot against him by his uncle when he was assassinated. Omar’s wife, Hanifa Khoury, eventually shares what Omar learned with Gabriel, but only to help save the child.

How does it all end? Well, as usual, bummer, I can’t tell you. All the other Gabriel Allon books deal with history that is further in the past. You may feel that this particular piece of global terror is too fresh to qualify for Silva’s fictional treatment of it. People’s reactions will probably be personal and varied. Although many of my favorite characters appear and there is the beginning of a romance that readers should like (but Gabriel does not think will work), I can’t help but feel that it may have been too soon to approach this subject.

Photo Credit: from a Google Image Search – Houstonia

Find me also at Goodreads.com as Nancy Brisson

https://nbrissionbookblog.com/

Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone – Book

Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone – Book

A space opera of world building, world destroying, planet eaters, strange goddesses who stride across space, like the Suicide Sisters, and a “ragtag” group, united by a mission – Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone is a mashup of Star Wars and a complex video game, all brought to life with words rather than actual graphics.

Viv knows only Earth. She is a businesswoman. She has not been truly ruthless, but she has been heedless of other’s feelings as she climbed her way to the top of the business world. Just as she is in an enormous server room about to finish uploading a program which could give her dominion over her world, the Empress of Forever, very green and powerful in ways Viv has never even imagined reaches in and grabs ahold of Viv’s heart and zaps her into a place in space called High Cacereal. How is Viv still alive? How will Viv get home? How will she get back to Magda to make sure she is safe? How will she find out what happened when she sent out her virus before it was completely loaded?

Well the answers to those questions will not be quick in coming. Viv first saves the Empress’s enemy Zanj, a feisty space pirate who has been imprisoned for 3,000 years, one of the once-famous Suicide Sisters. Zanj, never one to sit still can use the Cloud to travel through space. The first of the group hunting the Empress that Zanj and Viv meet is the loveable Hong, a monk with lots of courage and common sense. Then Xiara of the piloting Ornclan is added, and Gray of the Grayframes. Of course our band of Empress-haters must travel to every corner of Max Gladstone’s  and Zanj’s world to see the damage the Empress has wrought.

Since Viv arrives in this world from the world of business she brings with her the wisdom success in business has taught her. This blend of How-to-Succeed-in-Business book lore, self-help psychological teachings, warcraft, and science fiction is kind of dazzling. How do people think up this stuff? It’s Linked in, Instagram, and World of Warcraft all rolled into one.

Despite this odd marriage of disciplines, Max brings his fantasy-built world richly alive for us. The novel is fun to read and as Viv learns the lesson that would have sealed her success as a businesswoman or made winning irrelevant, so do we. There is no I in team, but having the support of a truly connected team allows you to realize the very best version of yourself. Empress of Forever introduced me to a whole other kind of fantasy/science fiction novel for the computer age, perhaps intended for younger readers. Still, I found it fascinating to see how the genre is being transformed, and I made some new fictional friends.

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner – Book

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner is a sort of a “cover” of the classic book Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. This time there are only two girls in the Kaufman family who live in a little “Dick and Jane” house on Alhambra Street. They are named Jo (Josette) and Beth (Bethie) – the mom is Sarah and the dad is Ken.

My initial negative reactions to Mrs. Everything were decidedly generational. In Alcott’s book Jo and Beth didn’t have sex. Jo had ambitions that were not considered feminine, and she was aware that she would find it difficult to fulfill those ambitions, but she did not seem to struggle with her sexual identity, hardly an acceptable topic when Alcott wrote her novel.

However I got over myself. After all I am a child of the sixties. I did not find Bethie’s “rebirth” odd. I heard more than a few primal screams in my time. What bothered me more was the stereotypical presentation of the two sisters differing prepubescent personalities. Not every girl who likes sports and doesn’t care to play with dolls or wear dresses is a lesbian or has a sexual identity anywhere on the LGBTQ spectrum. The only saving grace for the lack of research into the subject can be found in the fact that the characters were intended to parallel the character differences between Alcott’s Jo and Beth.

Modern Jo knew that she was attracted to girls when she was in high school and she had quite a long relationship with her best friend. Her heart was broken for the first time when her first love got married to her high school sweetheart, a boy. Jo could never have pleased her mother by being as feminine as her mother wished her to be, and once her mother learned of Jo’s true sexual orientation, Sarah’s constant disapproval insured that Jo would be happy to leave for college.

Bethie (Beth) was every bit as feminine as her mother would wish her to be. She got lots of positive reinforcement. However, the lives these sisters actually lived most likely will not match the trajectory you think they are on.  They were born in a decade of change. Trite but true, life happens.

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner is about identity and reality, bravery and duty, social pressure, love, and broken hearts. It did not push the button in me that said “eureka, this is a great book”, but perhaps the way readers experience the quality of this book will turn out to be generational.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Chicago Tribune

Look for me on nbrissonbookblog.com and Goodreads.com as Nancy Brisson

Normal People by Sally Rooney – Book

Normal People, by Sally Rooney

Two people, two Irish people, one male, one female, one from a wealthy family, one from a working class family, child of an unmarried mom are the focus of Sally Rooney’s novel Normal People. Marianne’s and Connell’s worlds would not naturally connect, but in this case Connell’s mom cleans the house that Marianne’s family lives in. Connell’s mother is supportive and loving, doing all she can to provide for her son and to let him feel that he can talk to her and rely on her. Marianne’s father was abusive towards his daughter and his wife. Even with her father gone, Marianne’s family provides no haven of security. Her brother continues the abusive pattern of the father through a campaign of constant criticism and actual bullying which the mother refuses to intervene in. The absence of loving parents leaves Marianne alone to contend with her brother, although it is obvious she has no strategies to help her succeed against him.

Connell is a success in high school, despite his absent father. He is a football player and he’s an excellent student. Marianne uses awkwardness to keep everyone at bay in high school because she has no faith in her appearance or in her social skills. She does not try to look attractive or to make friends, but her isolation adds to her lack of self-esteem. She and Connell begin a secret and, at first, sexual relationship, but as they also talk to and confide in each other the relationship deepens and they begin to become more than friends but not an actual couple.

Connell’s academic skills and his relationship with Marianne give him the confidence to imagine escaping his working class roots and he goes off to the same upper class Trinity University that Marianne will attend, instead of going to Galway where his accent would not set him apart, instantly telling his schoolmates his background. He is a sort of fish out of water at Trinity, however.

Marianne is in her element at Trinity and she begins to fit in. The abuse she was subjected to in her family still has her choosing partnerships where she submits to cruel men. In fact as Marianne seeks out men who will treat her badly, she physically becomes thinner and thinner, frailer and frailer. (I did not like the idea that as she became more invisible, almost disappearing, she also, according to the author, became more and more beautiful. This equation which says the thinner you get the more beautiful you become is not necessarily either true or healthy.)

Connell and Marianne come together and part. They try to have relationships with other people but their unfinished business with each other keeps bringing them back into each other’s orbit, while their personality challenges keep driving them apart. It is a dance that is less about love and more about therapy. Can people repair childhood damages in each other? Can they do this without forming a lifelong commitment to each other? Maybe. Is this a bit frustrating to a reader who always wants characters this addicted to each other to find a happy ending? Of course.

Since this is a character-driven novel, do the characters ring true? Almost. They are just a bit too two dimensional for us to really care about them. This is not Anna Karenina. But of course modern Ireland, once quite as tragic as a Russia in transition, now has problems similar to those of any modern nation. These characters could come alive in a movie, but they are not quite that absorbing in Rooney’s book, Normal People. I did enjoy the rare occasions when Connell’s “Sligo” dialect was reflected in the text and I wished that we heard it more often. It is probably impossible to write a perfect book and although some authors come close it is always possible to find flaws, so despite my complaints this was still a novel that I enjoyed reading from cover to cover.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – NPR

The Paris Diversion by Chris Pavone – Book

The Paris Diversion by Chris Pavone – Book

The Paris Diversion by Chris Pavone follows Kate Moore and her husband Dexter from a stay in Luxembourg in his first novel The Expats, where things started out calmly and went pretty badly off the rails. Kate works for the US government in intelligence but, of course, it’s a secret. Dexter got lured into a scheme to hack a fortune in dirty money and his law-abiding wife finds out. She finds a way to keep Dexter out of prison but at the end of Chris Pavone’s first book, The Expats, the Moore’s marriage is a bit stormy – a very quiet storm because they are barely speaking.

After Luxembourg they travel around Europe for a while with their two children and then they settle in Paris minus the other expat couple they befriended in Luxembourg, a couple Kate hopes is out of their lives forever. Kate’s two children are now school age and she wishes she could enjoy being a full time mom, but life with the agency is just too exciting. What else would she do all day while her children are in school? And now she has been given her own little agency office to run in Paris.

Dexter works at home. He has decided to become a day trader. But it turns out that everyone, except Kate who is busy with her motherhood guilt, has revenge on their minds, and it all leads to one spectacularly messy day in Paris. If this day didn’t involve the deaths of two single fathers, a terrorist attack that immerses Paris in chaos, and threatens to nuke the Louvre it would most resemble one of those French hotel comedy/murder mysteries where everyone is sneaking in and out of everyone else’s room, sometimes with hanky-panky on their minds, and luggage is getting mixed up while people wander around in extravagant outfits and identities get confused. Perhaps to update the genre a bit this is a sort of thriller version of that Barbara Streisand movie “What’s Up Doc?”. Sadly the actual events in Paris seem a bit inappropriate to what is basically a romp, but such are the paradoxes here in the 21 st century and after all it is a thriller/romp.

The author’s chapters focus in turn on the characters, each telling his/her part of the story in small glimpses. You know that the facts will eventually give you the whole picture. You start to see or think you see through this plot – the author has left too many clues, the affair is too easy to unravel, but don’t become overconfident. There are plenty of surprises.

The Paris Diversion is not at all like a true thriller, but it is a true diversion that uses realities that have become far too normal to us. Throughout this whole crazy day the adults are having, the Moore children are safe in a good French school behind a high wall and at the end of the day will suspect nothing. How bad can things get in the space of someone’s slightly elongated school day? You won’t believe it.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search. – Parnassus Musing

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris – Book

The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Sometimes fiction based on a true story is a difficult beast for an author to tangle with. It can be a struggle to make the elements of fiction (plot, setting, characters) hold the spark that turns a story into literature. The Tattooist of Auschwitzbasically retells a true story told to the author Heather Morris by the man who we know as Lale Sokolov. The author, as a beginner tells the story well, but, for me the story lacks the depth and poignancy that might have come from the pen of someone more experienced in ways to use prose to embellish and flesh out the facts. However, perhaps the unadorned story is more useful for historical purposes.

This novel deals with the prisoners in the concentration camps who did jobs that put them in closer touch with German officers, tasks that carried perks like more food, better quarters, access to favors as long as the prisoner groveled properly when required. Although these prisoners often had no choice about taking on these “lighter” duties, they were seen by other prisoners as collaborators and their few rewards understandably were resented.

Lale, our tattooist was a young man on his way up. He worked in a department store until all the Jews were fired. He was and is a great admirer of women, although he doesn’t seem overbearing about it. He seems to possess some personal charm. When told to report to the train for transport he puts on a suit and tie. His mother makes him pack some books, which won’t matter because he will never see any of his personal items ever again. Not long after he arrives in the concentration camp he becomes assistant to the current tattooist and soon takes the lead tattooist’s place. In the camps people often just disappear, never for a good reason. Lale, as the tattooist, gets extra food and a room of his own. He does not have to labor with a shovel from sun up to sun down. He makes sure to pass some of his extra food along to his old bunkmates.

Once he sees Gita in the nearby women’s camp he falls in love and she returns his affection. Gita works in an office keeping records and lives in a barracks with girls who have named the building where they work Canada because that sounds like a safe place. They sort through and categorize the possessions the Germans take from prisoners. Lale eventually finds a way to take some of the jewelry slipped to him by Gita’s friends and exchange it for food, mainly sausages and chocolate, which he shares to supplement the starvation fare in the camp. The love that grows between Lale and Gita fuels their will to survive.

Every day he steadily tattooes numbers on the arms of more prisoners at Auschwitz and Birkenau, a flood of dispossessed people doomed by one man’s madness. Lale describes the building of the furnaces and the human ashes that drift down over all and have to be ignored for reasons of sanity and survival. But emotional content is missing and it just seems a bit superficial given the horrific circumstances and the daily dread – more news report than work of fiction. Maybe the way Lale survives is exactly is how some people survive by convincing themselves that they are able to use those who have imprisoned them. When so many were shot on the spot for the slightest infraction Lale’s good fortunes seem unlikely. The story could be true but it could be what one man told himself to get by.

The Tattoist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris does bring up the often examined issue of whether people like Lale were collaborators or just survivors. If it is true, this represents a rare alternative view inside the concentration camps. I don’t recall reading another book about collaborators within the camps, although there are many books about collaborators in occupied territories and much speculation about what makes someone a collaborator and even about degrees of collaboration. Although I am not enamored of the art of the book it raises interesting issues and takes us back to that question of what we would have been capable of in similar circumstances. So many brave survivors came out of the camps that I’m not sure Lale’s story seems similarly heroic, but perhaps it should.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – American Jewish University

June 2019 Book List

June 2019 Book List

Summer months often see publishers offering readers plenty of treasures, perhaps to attract readers who have more time to read in the summer. Lots of good books on this June Book List. I tend to try to be reasonable about the number of books I add asterisks to, because I cannot possibly read everything. Books with asterisks are not my recommendations for everyone. They are my picks for me. Sometimes I wish I could be cloned and one version of me could happily spend all her time reading while the other version of me could do laundry, clean bathrooms, mop floors, cook meals, do dishes, and socialize. Alas another part of me hopes we never learn how to clone ourselves and accepts that I have to read when I can. I share my reviews on goodreads.com. (as Nancy Brisson) I also have a book blog https://nbrissonsbookblog.com

Please stop by.

Amazon

Literature and Fiction

The Stationery Shop: A Novel by Marjan Kamali

The Travelers: A Novel by Regina Porter

Patsy: A Novel by Nicole Dennis-Benn

Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory by Raphael Bob-Waksberg

Ask Again, Yes: A Novel by Mary Beth Kane

The History of Living Forever: A Novel by Jake Wolff

On Earth We Were Briefly Gorgeous: A Novel by Ocean Vuong

Mrs. Everything: A Novel by Jennifer Weiner *

The Porpoise: A Novel by Mark Haddon

City of Girls: A Novel by Elizabeth Gilbert *

Mystery and Thriller

Joe Country (Slough House) by Mick Herron

The Sentence is Death: A Novel by Anthony Horowitz

Recursion: A Novel by Blake Crouch

Keep You Close: A Novel by Karen Cleveland

Murder in Bel-Air (An Aimeé Leduc Investigation) by Cara Black

One Night at the Lake: A Novel by Sarah Galley

The Darwin Affair: A Novel by Tim Mason

This Storm: A Novel by James Ellroy

Rogue Strike (A Jake Keller Thriller) by David Ricciardi

The Summer We Lost Her by Tish Cohen

Biographies and Memoirs

Smokin’ Joe: The Life of Joe Frazier by Mark Kram Jr.

We Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson by Bruce Conforth, Gayle Dean Wardlow

The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un by Anna Fifield

And Then It Fell Apart by Moby

Naturally Tan: A Memoir by Tan France

The Beautiful No: Tales of Trials, Transcendence and Transformation by Sheri Salata

Grinnell: America’s Environmental Pioneer and His Restless Drive to Save the West by John Faliaferro

My Parents: A Introduction/This Does Not Belong to You by Aleksandar Hermon

On Being Human: A Memoir of Waking Up, Living Real and Listening Hard by Jennifer Pastiloff, Lydia Yuknavitch

Formation: A Woman’s Memoir of Stepping Out of Line by Ryan Leigh Dostie

Nonfiction

Outrages: Sex, Censorship and the Criminalization of Love by Naomi Wolf

The Ice at the End of the World: A Epic Journey into Greenland’s Buried Past and Our Perilous Future by Jon Gertner

William S. Burroughs and the Cult of Rock ‘n’ Roll by Casey Rae

Eyes in the Eye: The Secret Rise of Gorgon Stare and Now it Will Watch Us All by Arthur Holland Michel

Underland: A Deep Journey by Robert Macfarlane

The Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell’s 1984 by Dorian Lynskey

Norco ’80: The True Story of the Most Spectacular Bank Robbery in American History by Peter Houlahan

More Fun in the New World, The Unmaking and Legacy of La Punk by John Doe, Tom DeSavia

VC: An American History by Tom Nicholes (Venture Capital)

The Last Pirate of New York: A Ghose Ship, a Killer and the Birth of a Gangster Nation by Rich Cohen

Science Fiction and Fantasy

The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg

Fall, or Dodge in Hell: A Novel by Neal Stephenson *

War (House War) by Michelle West

The Girl in Red by Christina Henry *

Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone *

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

The Lesson: A Novel by Cadwell Turnbull *

Magic for Liars: A Novel by Sarah Galley

The Outside by Ada Hoffmann

The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t With Her Mind by Jackson Ford

The New York Times Book Review

May 3

Fiction

The Flight Portfolio: A Novel by Julie Orringer

Henry, Himself by Stewart O’Nan

Oksena Behave by Maria Zuznetsova

Lights All Night Long by Lydia Fitzpatrick

The Spectators by Jennifer duBois

The Other Americans by Laila Lalami

Homeland by Fernando Aramburu

Nonfiction

Firefighting by Ben S. Bernanki, Timothy F. Geithner and Henry M. Paulson Jr.

How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell

The Unwanted by Michael Dobbs

So Much Longing in So Little Space: The Art of Edvard Munch by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Martin Buber: A Life of Faith and Dissent by Paul Mendes-Flohr (Bio)

The Lost Gutenberg by Margaret Davis

Democracy and Dictatorship in Europe by Sheri Berman *

Crime

The Paris Diversion by Chris Pavone *

Black Mountain by Laird Barron

The Unquiet Heart by Kaite Welsh

The Woman in the Blue Cloak by Deon Meyer

May 10

Nonfiction

Our Man (Bio of Richard Holbrooke) by George Packer *

Maybe You Should Talk To Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb *

Leap of Faith by Michael J. Mazarr (Why Iraq War)

Fall and Rise by Mitchell Zuckoff (9/11) *

Beeline by Shalini Shankar

The Death and Life of Aida Hernandez by Aaron Bobrow-Strain

The Second Mountain by David Brooks *

The Shortlist

Blueprint by Nicholas Christakis

Humanimal by Adam Rutherford

Genesis by E.O. Wilson

Fiction

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton

Revolutionaries by Joshua Furst (60’s)

The Dragonfly Sea by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor

The Binding by Bridget Collins

May 17

Nonfiction

Furious Hours by Casey Cep

Who Brooklyn was Queer by Hugh Ryan

The Body Papers by Grace Taluson

Mother is a Verb by Sarah Knott

Sea People by Christina Thompson (Polynesia)

Endeavor by Peter Moore (Polynesia)

The Golden Age by Ian Kershaw

The Heartland by Kristine L. Hoganson

Nanaville by Anna Quindlen (True Short Stories)

Fiction

Not by Bryan Washington (Short stories)

The Parisian by Isabella Hammad *

Rabbits for Food by Binnie Kirshenbaum

The Ash Family by Molly Dektar

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Optic Nerve by Maria Gainza (from Argentina)

May 24

Nonfiction

The British are Coming by Rick Atkinson *

Sissy by Jacob Tobia

Real Queer America by Samantha Allen

The Player’s Ball by David Kushner

A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell

The Impeachers by Brenda Wineapple

Upheaval by Jared Diamond

The Last Job by Dan Bilefsky

Ghosts of Gold Mountain by Gordon H. Chang

Fiction

Red Birds by Mohammed Hanif *

Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg

The Farm by Joanne Ramos *

Shortlist (new French fiction)

The Cook by Maylis de Kerangal

Waiting for Bojangles by Olivier Bourdeaut

Hold Fast Your Crown by Yannick Haenel

May 31

Fiction

The Poison Bed by Elizabeth Fremantle

Dream Sequence by Adam Fould

Prince of Monkeys by Nnamdi Ehirim

The Fox and Dr. Shimamura by Christine Wunnicke

Westside by W. M. Akers

Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips

Throw Me to the Wolves by Patrick McGuinness

Dawson’s Fall by Roxana Robinson

How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper

Thomas and Beal in the Midi by Christopher Tilghman

The Unpassing by Chia-Chia Lin

Nonfiction

Mr. Know-it-All: The Tarnished Wisdom of a Filth Elder by John Waters

How to Become a Federal Criminal by Mike Chase (reviewer says ‘very funny’)

How to Build a Boat by Jonathan Gornall

Boom by Michael Shnayerson

Becoming Dr. Seuss by Brian Jay Jones

K by Tyler Kepner

Best. Movie. Year. Ever: How 1999 Blew Up the Big Screen by Brian Raftery

The Regency Years by Robert Morrison *

Bitcoin Billionaires by Ben Mezrich (‘the Winklevii)

Hotbox by Matt and Ted Lee

Cult of Dead Cow by Joseph Menn (hacking)

Funny Man by Patrick McGilligan (Mel Brooks)

Land of the Ozarks by Bill Geist

The Lady from the Black Lagoon by Mallory O’Meara

Hot, Cold, Heavy, Light by Peter Schjodahl

The Drama of Celebrity by Sharon Marcus

The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books by Edward Wilson-Lee

Ladysitting: My Year with Nana at the End of Her Century by Lorene Cary *

How to Forget by Kate Mulgrew *

Broadway, Balanchine and Beyond by Bettijane Sills

Dancing with Merce Cunningham by Marianne Preger-Simon

Out of the Shadows by Walt Odets

Underland by Robert Macfarlane

Publisher’s Weekly

May 3

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo (F) (YA)

The Assassin of Verona by Benet Brandreth (F)

Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang (Science Fiction) (Short stories) *

The Law of the Skies by Gregoire Courtois, trans. from French by Rhonda Mullens (F)

The Archive of Alternate Endings: A Novel by Lindsey Drager (F)

The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna (F) *

The Buried: An Archeology of the Egyptian Revolution by Peter Hessler (NF)

Calm Seas and Prosperous Voyage by Bette Howland (Short Stories)

China Dream by Ma Jian, trans. from Chinese by Flora Drew (F)

The Flight Portfolio: A Novel by Julie Orringer (F)

Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and The End of the American Century by George Packer (NF) *

Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Loneliest Horse Race by Lara Prior-Paler (NF)

May 10

The British are Coming: The War for America: Lexington to Princeton Volume One of the Revolution Trilogy by Rick Atkinson *

The Never Game by Jeffrey Deaver (F)

Dream Sequence by Adam Foulds (F)

A Thousand Small Sanities: The Moral Adventure of Liberalism by Adam Gopnik (NF) *

Once More We Saw Stars: A Memoir by Jason Greene (Memoir)

Red Birds by Mohammed Hanif (F) *

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren (F)

Dream Within a Dream by Patricia MacLachlan (YA)

The Satapur Moonstone: A Mystery of 1920’s India by Sujata Massey (F)

The Obsoletes by Simeon Mills (F)

Lanny by Max Porter (F)

No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us by Rachel Louise Snyder (NF)

Message from the Shadows by Antonio Tabucchi, trans. from Italian by Anne Milano (Short Stories)

May 17

Gather the Fortunes by Bryan Camp (Fantasy)

Riots I Have Known by Ryan Chapman (F)

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins (F)

Hot Comb by Ebony Flowers (Short Stories)

The Island by Ragnar Jónasson (Thriller)

Deception Cove by Owen Laukkanen (F)

Necessary People by Anna Pitonisk (F)

The Organs of Sense by Adam Ehrlich Sachs (F)

The Vinyl Frontier: The Story of the Voyager Golden Record by Jonathan Scott (NF)

Einstein’s War: How Relativity Triumphed Amid the Vicious Nationalism of World War I by Matthew Stanley (NF)

The Perfect Predator: A Scientist’s Race to Save Her Husband from a Deadly Superbug by Steffanie A Strathdee, Thomas Patterson (NF)

May 24

Supernavigators: The Astounding New Science of How Animals Find Their Way by David Barrie (NF)

Time is the Thing a Body Moves Through: An Essay by T. Fleischmann (Essay)

The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz (Mystery)

Passion on Park Avenue by Lauren Layne (Romance) *

Dark Site by Patrick Lee (F)

Austentatious: The Evolving World of Jane Austen Fans by Holly Luetkenhaus and Zoe Weinstein (NF)

May 31

A History of the Bible: The Story of the World’s Most Influential Book by John Barton (NF)

Exposed by Jean-Phillippe Blondel (F) *

This Storm by James Ellroy (F)

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert (F) *

Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin (on Pride and Prejudice) (F)

Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane (NF)

Out of the Shadows: Reimaging Gay Men’s Lives by Walt Odets (Memoir)

Dual Citizens by Alix Ohlin (F)

Aug. 9 – Fog by Kathryn Scanlan (F) *

Grinnell: America’s Environmental Pioneer and his Restless Drive to Save the West by John Taliaferro (NF)

Love They Neighbor: A Muslim Doctor’s Struggle for Home in Rural America by Ayaz Virji with Alan Eisenstock (NF)

In West Mills by De ‘Shawn Charles Winslow (F)