Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham – Book

John Grisham has been a favorite of mine over the years. He
tells a good story and he always exposes something about the legal system. He has
touched on injustices and outright crimes perpetrated by law firms, lawyers,
public defenders, public prosecutors, judges and juries; bad behavior that is
rampant throughout our legal system. When he fights a particular flaw in our
legal system, as he does in almost every one of the novels he has written, we
are not at all surprised by the revelations he offers. We know that the system
can be fair and that it can be corrupt, and we suspect that it is corrupt more
often than it is fair. John Grisham also likes lawyers who are loners, who work
on the fringes of the system in small offices and shopping malls. His main
character is often a principled lawyer who fights the system when corruption
has taken over and made it difficult for folks to get justice.
In his newest book, Rogue
, we meet Sebastian Rudd, a street lawyer. He does not have a
stationary office. His office is in the back of a tricked out van. He defends
people who no one else wants to defend because of their obvious guilt or because
s/he has been declared guilty by a system that is often only too glad to jump
to conclusions. The first client we meet in the book is Gardy, probably an
innocent man who the system has already decided, with almost no evidence, is
guilty. Sebastian (Grisham) wants Gardy to have a fair trial but in the very
small town where the crime was committed a fair trial will be almost
impossible. Sebastian, because feelings are running high, stays in different
motel rooms at some distance from the town changing motels as often as
Mr. Rudd says, “The truth is, if I had the money, the time,
and the personnel, I would bribe
and/or intimidate every juror. When the State, with its limitless resources,
commences a fraudulent case and cheats at every turn, then cheating is
legitimized. There is no level playing field. There is no fairness. The only
honorable alternative for a lawyer fighting to save an innocent client is to
cheat defense.
However, if a defense lawyer is caught cheating, he or she
gets nailed with sanctions by the court, reprimanded by the state bar
association, maybe even indicted. If a prosecutor gets caught cheating, he
either gets reelected or elevated to the bench. Our system never holds a bad
prosecutor accountable.”
And this is not the only claim Sebastian Rudd, our rogue
lawyer, levels against the system. We follow him and his
partner/bodyguard/driver cleverly named Partner as he tackles several
interesting cases each an example of ways that people in positions of power
have found to use and abuse their position to the detriment of our entire legal
system. In one of his cases we have the Renfro’s, victims of a commando style
police raid on the wrong house, who face jail time because the police will
never admit that they were wrong in their intelligence and that their arrest
procedures were drastically over-the-top. In another case he was the lawyer for
a ganged up guy named Link who is on death row when he manages to escape using
his guys on the outside and who now wants his lawyer, Sebastian Rudd, to pay
him back all the fees he paid to the lawyer because he was not successful in
his defense of Link.
We have an ex-wife who is always trying to terminate Rudd’s
brief visitations with his son (his job is quite dangerous). We have the MMA
fighter who goes from being under Rudd’s patronage to being his client in a
self-destructive moment. And although this book is short and has a lot of white
space it still manages to get us involved in Sebastian Rudd’s life and to
remind us of how easy it is for our legal system to go off the rails. Except
for these lone fighters that John Grisham presents us with, we are given few
clues about how to reform the system. Still I leave each of Grisham’s novels
full of righteous anger about how the law is being twisted into something far
less that the ideals the system was set up to offer.
By Nancy Brisson

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff – Book

In Fates and Furies,
a novel by Lauren Groff, we have a continuation of a couple of recent trends in
fiction. First we have a plot that unfolds its secrets a few at a time, doles
them out like those pennies my parents used to give me to spend at the candy
store. Slowly the sweets in our bag add up, into a person and a life. In the
first part of this bipartite book we have the Fates.
“In Greek mythology, the Moirai—often
known in English as the Fates—were the white-robed incarnations of destiny.
Their number became fixed at three: Clotho (spinner), Lachesis
(allotter) and Atropos (unturnable). They controlled the metaphorical
thread of life of every mortal from birth to death. “
The Fates brought success and failure
although they often seemed to resort to favoritism in their choice of
recipients who met with success. Part I centers on Lotto, larger than life and
fated for some fine accomplishment from the time he was born. Lancelot Satterwhite’s
mom is Antoinette, an ex-mermaid at Weeki Wachee in Florida and his dad was
Gawain who made a fortune by bottling spring water. The names of Ms. Groff’s
characters certainly play into the whole fate scenario.
Although Lotto’s mother, once widowed, wanted
to smother him and keep him for herself, she sent him away after he fell in
with a wild crowd and Lotto never saw her again, although she secretly pulled
strings in his life as if she were one of the Fates. Lotto is
banished from sunny, hot Florida to the strictness and chill of a New England
prep school. He attends Vassar, by then a coed school and, fortunately, he does
not meet Mathilde until he is ready to graduate. It is love at first sight,
there is a quickie marriage for love and lust, and next thing the happy couple
knows they are disinherited by the very wealthy widow, Lotto’s mom Antoinette.
What is Lotto’s fate? His marriage to Mathilde seems to be a
good one although there is a sort of constant foreboding that all will not be
well. I cannot hand out all the secrets. I cannot fill up that candy bag. There
is also a dog, a silly fluffy dog, which Lotto names God by accident and who
was reminiscent for me of the dog Sorrow in Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving.
However, especially as the novel began, I was struck by the
contrast between my expectations for this book and the reality of it. I
expected some urbane European pedigrees and an angry couple each recounting
his/her side of a marital story. But Lotto’s history, despite his somewhat
classical schooling is oh so American giving him a pedigree that is actually a
rather crass mix of Disney and Warren Buffet. Lotto is hopelessly unaware of
his white male privilege but he is loyal and charismatic and talented. Mathilde
seems his complement in every way.
In Part II we get to the Furies. Furies were also from Greek
mythology and were thought to be the embodiment of curses and of the ghosts of
the murdered. Vengeance comes to mind when the Furies are invoked. This part of
Groff’s novel focuses on Mathilde, self-proclaimed orphan, who turns out to
have a much darker history than we might have guessed. She goes along with a
second trend in recent novels for writing female characters who are nuanced,
intelligent, and not necessarily “good” girls as in Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn) and The
Girl on a Train
(Paula Hawkins), and Hausfrau
(Jill Alexander Essbaum), the wife in At
the Water’s Edge
(Sara Gruen), the daughter in The Paying Guests (Sarah Waters), and the enigmatic secretary in The Other Typist (Suzanne Rindell).  These women all have secret qualities that
shock us or challenge traditional portrayals of females as beings in need of
protection, as perhaps victims. What Mathilde reveals will have you arguing
with your own self and then wondering if anything in Fates and Furies really happened at all. I will be thinking about
this one and its dichotomies for a while and I really like that in a book,
especially one as well-written as this one. Thank you, Lauren Groff.
By Nancy Brisson

The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante – Book

In Book 4 of the Neapolitan Novels, The Story of the Lost Child we find Elena back in the old
neighborhood in Naples living upstairs from Lila and her partner Enzo who run a
business teaching Basic computer language. Elena finds living near Lila
stimulating enough that she begins writing again. Sometimes it almost seems
that without Lila Elena might not have been so successful. Lila is passionate
about the Naples neighborhood and the people they have known since childhood.
For a while the cultural changes, the revolution of ideas
around the role of the worker and the role of women in Italy and, indeed, the
world had excited Elena and kept her busy writing, but as the movements calmed
down and the excitement died down Elena had been flailing for new subject
matter and her finances were dwindling. Back in Naples, she was inspired to
write about the things Lila talked to her about. She betrayed a promise she had
made to her friend that she would not write about her. Did this lead to the
things that happened to the two friends? You will have to judge for yourself.
Lila has a certain mental illness that attacks her from time to time that I
have not previously mentioned. She still manages to command some power in the
neighborhood, but one wonders how much her failures and her successes are
affected by her periodic mental imbalances?
Here is Lila talking about the Solaras brothers who consider
the neighborhood their person crime fiefdom and who have their fingers in every
business, legal and illegal. Now that Elena has exposed them she is nervous
about retribution.
“She [Lila] cited the experience of the earthquake,
for more than two years she had done nothing except complain of how the city
had deteriorated. She said that since then she had been careful never to forget
that we are very crowded beings, full of physics, astrophysics, biology,
religion, soul, bourgeoisie, proletariat, capital work, profit, politics, many
nervous phrases, many unharmonious, the chaos inside and the chaos outside. So
calm down she said laughing, what do you expect the Solaras to be. Your novel
is done. You wrote it, you rewrote it, being there was evidently useful to you,
to make it true, but now it’s out and you can’t take it back. The Solaras are
angry? So what. Michele threatens you? Who gives a damn. There could be another
earthquake at any moment, even stronger. Or the whole universe could collapse.
And then what is Michele? Nothing. And Marcello is nothing. The two of them are
merely flesh that spouts out threats and demands for money.”
Later we hear Elena’s disillusionment (although she claims it
is Lila’s) with human societies, social change and human nature:
“To be born in that city. I
went so far as to write once, thinking not of myself but of Lila’s pessimism,
is to be useful for only one thing: to have always known, almost instinctively,
what today, with endless fine distinctions everyone is beginning to claim: that
the dream of unlimited progress is in reality a nightmare of savagery and
The things Elena has observed from Naples and from Italy have
led her to basically discard socialism, communism, and capitalism at least
exclusively and individually as models for an economy that will not bring out
the worst in people.
But while Elena is convinced of the brutality and filth of
human interactions, Lila, who with her insider knowledge of that human filth
and chaos that surrounds her in Naples, with the bitterness of a woman who lost
a chance to study and perhaps rise above, as a mom who has lost her child, Lila
is reading and writing on her own to remove the human tarnish from the
beautiful landmarks of Naples and is showing us the beauty that people also
I cannot tell you about the lost child, but I have spent
quite a while in and near Naples and, while I can’t say that I always enjoyed
it, it has been “real”, a true gift to the reader of a generation of life in a
poor corner of Naples. Don’t even pretend if you read Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Books that these things only
happen in Naples.
By Nancy Brisson

October, 2015 Book List

Publisher’s Weekly – most up-to-date list of new publications
but I did not get all my Tip Sheets this month or perhaps I deleted some by
A Song
for Ella Grey
by David Almond

by Lynn Cullen
Calf by
Andrea Kleine
by Eka Kurniawan
Ways of Looking
by Colum McCann (Connected stories)
by Gavin McCrea
Find me
unafraid: Love, loss, and hope in an African Slum
Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner  (NF)
MARtians by
Blythe Woolston
The Arab
of the Future: A Graphic Memoir
by Riad Sattouf  (Memoir)
Emperor of Any Place
by Tim Wynne-Jones
Independent Booksellers- these picks tell what readers
are buying at the Independent bookshops who are members of the ABA. Sometimes
older books are mixed in on these list because they are still selling.

by Jojo Moyes
Heart Goes Last
by Margaret Atwood
Years Eight Months and Twenty-eight Nights
by Salman Rushdie
X by Sue
Aeronaut’s Windlass
by Jim Butcher
A Sudden
by Garth Stein
by Alice Munro
Room by Emma
Eve by
William Paul Young
Occupation Trilogy
by Patrick Modiano
Rain or Come Shine
by Jan Karon
by Christopher Moore
by Karin Slaughter
Visiting Privilege
by Joy Williams
Fame Citrus
by Claire Vaye Watkins
Armada by
Ernest Cline
Who Do
You Love
by Jennifer Weiner
by William Boyd
This is
Your Life, Harriet Chance!
By Jonathan Evison
The Blue
by John Banville
Patriot by Ted
the Waterfall
by Ron Rash
Fear of
by Erica Jong
Aftermath by
Chuck Wendig
Company She Kept
by Archer Mayor
So You
Don’t Get Lost in the Neighborhood
by Patrick Modiano
A Window
by Elisabeth Egan
Amazon – Amazon performs a service for readers (and for
itself) by giving us lists of new books each month, divided by genre. I’m sure Barnes and Noble does
the same. Which service you use depends on which electronic reader you have –
Kindle is Amazon; Barnes and Nobles is Nook. So unless you read paper books
still or own both a Kindle and a Nook you have perhaps voted for a bookstore
chain when you purchased your reader. I hope we don’t lose either of the big
two that remain.
Girls: A Novel
by Karin Slaughter
*City on
Fire: A Novel
by Garth Risk Halberg (highly rec. by all)(70’s
NYC mystery and more)
Six of
by Leigh Bardugo
in the Somewhat United States
by Sarah Vowell
Engels: A Novel
by Gavin McCrea
Secret Chord: A Novel by Geraldine Brooks
(King David)
*The Heart Goes Last
by Margaret Atwood
*A Strangeness in My
Mind: A Novel
by Orhan Pamuk, Ekin Oklap
A Gap of
Times: A Novel
by Jeanette Winterson
Death by
by Kenzaburo Oe
by Rupert Thomson
Mysteries and Thriller
The Survivor by Vince Flynn
by John Grisham
Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith
by Karen Slaughter

by John Sanford, Ctein
Affairs (Stone Barrington)
by Stuart Woods
Fear of
the Dark: A Bishop/SCU Novel
by Kay Hooper
Icarus by Deon
The Dead
by John Katzenbach
Tears of Dark Water
by Corban Addison
Biographies and Memoirs
M Train by
Patti Smith
The Hidden Kennedy Daughter
by Kate Clifford Larson
by Elvis Costello
Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes that Saved My Life
by Ruth Reichl
In Order
to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom
Yeonmi Park
of Self – A Life of Gore Vidal
by Jay Parini
Find a

by Diana Nyad
Outsider: My Life in Intrigue
by Frederick Forsyth
Nicole: the Transformation of an American Family
by Amy
Ellis Nutt
of Mark Twain, Vol. 3
by Mark Twain and Harriet E Smith
Science Fiction and Fantasy 
Violence and Fancy Suits: A Novel
by David Wong
Compiled by Nancy Brisson

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante – Book

It was clear from the beginning of Book 1 of the Neapolitan
Novels – My Brilliant Friend – that
Elena (Lenù) Greco, our storyteller (perhaps our author) was smitten with Lila
(Lina) Cerrullo in the way that children admire another child who seems to be a
leader. Elena felt not quite as quick-witted or smart or creative as Lila and
although she surpassed Lila in some ways, she never really believed her success.
As the story progresses we see that Lila never appreciates a secondary role.
While she may sometimes be laid low in her life, she, with her native
intelligence and ambition finds her way back into life decisions that bring her
back into Elena’s view, sometimes peripherally and sometimes face to face.
To understand this almost toxic tango between these two
friends we only need focus on the person of Nino Sarratore. Elena loved Nino
since childhood. He is a thin, tall figure with long hair and he is, perhaps,
even more intelligent than either Elena or Lila. But one summer when Lina’s new
husband Stefano rents a house at the beach, when Lina convinces Lenù to go with
her, Lila/Lina begins a passionate affair with Nino, even though she swore she
did not find him attractive and despite the fact that she knows that Lenù loves
him (from afar). Lila, in fact, leaves her husband and the lovely apartment he
furnished for her, and a rising prosperity and moves back into a far cheaper
and poorer place to live with Nino. After a while the affair burns out and
Lila, without Stefano’s support must take a soul-sucking job in a sausage
Later Elena, now married to a college professor who is rather
stodgy and controlling but is part of a wealthy influential academic family,
meets Nino again and begins her own affair with this man she has loved since
childhood. Nino is a womanizer and probably will not be Elena’s soulmate for
long but by the end of Book 3 Elena is with Nino and Lila, who got in at the
beginning of IBM (long story) is back in Naples working for one of the Solara
boys, who use mafia-style tactics to rule the old neighborhood, and who she has
always purposely stayed away from because she believed them to be quite
The young adult lives of Elena and Lila straddle the tectonic
divide which opened up worldwide in the late 1960’s and seemed to take a hiatus
sometime in the 1980’s. Everything Elena had on her list of priorities for her
adult life, an academic life, a comfortable life, a cultured husband and his
family, children and to continue writing belonged to a far less revolutionary
life than people were living on campuses, in factories, and in the culture of
not just Italy, but the world. There is no talk of hippies here. There are no
anti-Vietnam War rallies because Italians were not involved in that war. The
things around which revolt coalesced in Italy had to do with social class and
fluidity, with worker’s rights and women’s rights.
Young offspring of professors found themselves aligned with
young Communists to change working conditions by getting workers to strike, to
protect themselves, and to demand their rights. There was violent backlash from
Fascist elements that remained in the aftermath of WWII. This same
discombobulation of the class structure was going on everywhere. It is not
strange that Elena and  to a lesser
degree Lila, with their roots in the poorest parts of Naples, with Elena’s
fairly recent climb up the social ladder through her intellectual achievements,
would be pulled between the two worlds.
Even Elena’s very gender and the way females had been treated,
cosseted, and yet imprisoned gave her reason to break from a traditional
marriage, which had been less a partnership of intellectual equals or a
passionate sexual union, and more a matter of assuming typical male/female
roles. Her role became defined as housewife, mother, and helpmate to her
husband’s not very brilliant career and required her to push her own
aspirations aside. She experiences the same drive to be liberated which was so
prevalent at the time and which is still reverberating now in the 21st
century. She even expresses to the open-minded reader a new way to look at
male/female relationships, which we knew but have perhaps never explored as we
should have, which says that women keep allowing men to create them.
Taken together these books are a real tour de force and they
are certainly as detailed as the critics claim. No time being wasted here and
no way to explain the totality of these books, which I am happy to wander
around in for however long it takes to finish. This volume is called Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by
Elena Ferrante. On to Book 4 in the Neapolitan Novels and, alas, the end of the
By Nancy Brisson

The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante – Book

Book 2 of The
Neapolitan Novels
has us still following the lives of Elena (Lenù) and Lila
(Lina), two childhood friends, but these two are adults now and their lives
diverge more and more. This segment of their story is concerned with love, and
finding love, and losing love, but it is even more concerned with class, social
class and upbringing. Elena graduated from high school, a true accomplishment
in her neighborhood where almost no one stayed in school after the elementary
level. Studying separates her more and more from most of the neighborhood
children she grew up with. Elena sees that by continuing her schooling she will
lose a connection with everything she has known in life and everyone, even her
family. She will never fit in here again and it is hard to give up this sense
of belonging to something.
Lila, now called Lina, has glued herself to the neighborhood
by becoming a wife and a mother, but she is unhappy with her husband. He is too
coarse for her; he beats her. Lina has been praised for her intelligence. She
knows she is quick and creative. She thinks she can use her natural abilities
to succeed even without an education. But poverty is a terrible weight and a
trap. Without her husband she has no income and must give up any thought of
moving up in the world, even give up the times when she tries to return to her
studies on her own. She has a child that must be supported so she tries to pin
her hopes to him and give him a start in life that will lift him out of the
poorest class in the city.
Elena learns that it is not so easy to enter a new social
sphere. The people who grew up in that milieu have the confidence that comes of
the traditions of a lifetime spent in that social group. Language gives you
away as not belonging, accent gives you away. In her neighborhood people speak
a dialect of Italian that is almost incomprehensible to people who do not live
there. It operates like a thumbtack holding the inhabitants of the neighborhood
in place. Educated people speak several different levels of Italian just as we
have language that varies from functional to intellectual. Your contemporaries
can place you by the way you speak and the words you use. They can place you by
your manners and by the way you dress. Moving up in the world means changing
some very essential things about yourself and these changes separate you more
and more from childhood family and friends.
Elena experiences moments of great doubt about whether she
can succeed in rarer circles, or indeed, about whether she wants to be so
lonely and cut off from the comforts of her old neighborhood life in order to
be successful. Lots of people experience this sort of culture shock when they
leave home and go away to college. When college is finished we almost all go
home for a while to get our bearings and find our new path. Perhaps we all feel
that estrangement from our childhood and our families when we go home. Perhaps
not everyone does. However, when the change is as exponential as Elena’s the
pressures and doubts are great and the transformation must be apparent to all
of her old chums and to her best friend Lila especially. Although Elena sees
little of Lina during these years her friend has kept notebooks which she
entrusts to Elena. These writings and the news she hears of Lina from friends
and her infrequent visits allow her to follow the thread of Lina’s life.
This second book, entitled The Story of a New Name made me want to see what Elena Ferrante
will have to tell us in the last two volumes. So far I see much more of what is
universal in these books than what is specific to Italy, as should be true in
good fiction. If we lived in a time when books were not routinely translated
that would limit us in ways that would make us more fearful of other cultures
than we are (and we still harbor some powerful xenophobia). These novels, so
far, do not just translate from one language to another, but from one culture
to another.
By Nancy Brisson

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante – Book

This novel does not fit easily into a genre although critics
have called it a bildungsroman or
coming of age novel, but that genre only fits Book 1 of the Neapolitan Novels
and there is much more to even this first novel than that. (Or perhaps it just
seems that way because we get more coming of age novels about boys than we do
about girls). This book is classified as a fiction book but is written by Elena
(the character and probably the author) as a memoir of sorts. The tale is
translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein and is written by Elena Ferrante.
The story is told in four volumes and this first volume is titled My Brilliant Friend. These novels have
appeared with some regularity on recent best seller lists.
Elena and her best friend Lila are born in a small, poor
neighborhood near Naples, Italy sometime after World War II. Elena is
fascinated by Lila because she is not like anyone else in the neighborhood. She
is as poor as any of them, skinny with dark circles under her eyes (although
she grows up to be quite thin and beautiful). But Lila is also smart and full
of energy and curiosity and she is creative, a born leader who Elena is happy
to compete with, emulate, and get in trouble with. In fact it is fairly clear
that Elena thinks that she would not have amounted to much without Lila.
The children they know have families who earn tenuous livings
in a variety of ways. One family runs a fruit and vegetable truck, another
(Lila’s) a shoe repair shop, another family runs a small grocery and still
another runs a pastry shop. Elena’s father is a porter. All of the children go
to school until the end of elementary school but only a few children go on to
middle school. Since Elena and Lila are such good students, who love to read
and whose thinking is more sophisticated than that of the other children,
teachers befriend them, loan them books, and try to help set them on a track
for middle school. Elena’s parents say no at first but are eventually
persuaded. Lila’s family will not allow her to go.
These two girls, both bright stars, with Lila the brighter of
the two, see that their futures will diverge. What will become of Lila? What
will become of their friendship? That is what we find out in the second half of
this book and in the other three books.
This story resonates with me on a very personal level. I
don’t usually write about parallels with my own life and a novel, although most
novels do resonate with our lives at some level. But this story kind of is my
life, except lived in Italy. My family was very poor with many children. My
older sister and I were both considered smart and creative by our teachers. My
sister had a calm, obedient, pleasant demeanor and great social skills. I was
more like a sparkler, sending out energy in every direction, bossy and without
that social touch my sister had. I followed her everywhere. And like Elena and
Lila there was a person on the staff at our school who offered to take us on
and make sure that we had some cultural experiences. I went for it, my sister
did not. I went to college and so did she, but I went away to a four year
college and she stayed home and went to community college. Our lives diverged
after that, just as the lives of Elena and Lila did. My sister took a
secretarial job and got married. I became a teacher. I will never get to write
four volumes about me and my sister as she was killed in a car accident when
she was only twenty-nine. There is a sort of parallel here too as Elena wrote
these books after her friend, Lila, disappeared at the age of 66.
We learn quite a bit about the neighborhood people who
surround Elena and Lila. There are plenty of animosities and most of them are
explained once we learn the politics of the fathers or that some families
earned what money they have in rather unsavory ways. It is an amazing novel
full of political, sociological, social, and economic details by which our
author, Elena Ferrante, creates an entire town and also brings to life the
people and relationships in that town. But the two friends and their stormy
association with each other are at the heart of this story. Elena’s first novel
in this series is unique and fascinating and I have already moved on to the
second which already has me under its spell.
By Nancy Brisson

September 2015 Book List

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Independent Booksellers

Moriarty by
Anthony Horowitz

The Girl
in the Spider’s Web
by David Lagercrantz

Purity by
Jonathan Franzen

X by Sue

Little Paris Bookshop
by Nina George

Waits with Gun
by Amy Stewart

Taming of the Queen
by Philippa Gregory

Did You
Ever Have a Family
by Bill Clegg

Aftermath by
Chuck Wendig


by Stephanie Clifford

A Manual
for Cleaning Women
by Lucia Berlin

A Window
by Elisabeth Egan

by Adam Johnson

by Don Winslow

Eileen by
Ottessa Moshfegh

We Never
Asked for Wings
by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

the Ten Thousand Things
by Julia Pierpon

State We’re In
by Anne Beattie


and Furies: A Novel
by Lauren Groff

Story of the Lost Child
by Elena Ferrente, trans. By Ann Goldstein

The Art
of Memoire
by Mary Karr (NF)

A Novel
by Jonathan Franzen

Did You
Ever Have a Family
by Bill Clegg

A Window
Opens: A Novel
by Elisabeth Egan

You Too
Can Have a Body Like Mine: A Novel
by Alexandra Kleeman

Give Me Hiccups
by Jesse Eisenberg (short stories)

Major Domo Minor: A Novel
by Patrick deWitt

Dragon Mountain: A Novel
by Elsa Hart

by William Boyd

Hundred-Year Flood
by Matthew Salesses

Amazon Mystery and Thrillers

The Girl
on the Spider’s Web
by David Lagercrantz

Make Me by Lee

X by Sue

One Year
After: A Novel
by William R Forstchen

Waits with Gun
by Amy Stewart

by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse

Dragon Mountain: A Novel
by Elsa Hart

Gates of Evangeline
by Hester Young

Final Breath
by Robert Dugoni

So You
Don’t Get Lost in the Neighborhood
by Patrick Modian and Evan

The Zig
Zag Girl
(Magic Men Mystery) by Elly Griffiths

Scribe: A Novel
by Matthew Guinn

The Killing
Lessons: A Novel
by Saul Black

Poisonous Plot
by Susanna Gregory

Those We
Left Behind
by Stuart Neville

Amazon Science Fiction and Fantasy

Sleeper and the Spindle
by Neil Gaimen and Chris Riddell

to the Crown
by Zen Cho

Lightless by C.
A. Higgins

Traitor Baru Cormorant
by Seth Dickenson

Supersymmetry by
David Walton

Publisher’s Weekly

Liar of
(A Diviners Novel, Sequel to The Diviners) by Libba Bray

The Last
Love Song: A Biography of Joan Didion
by Tracy Daugherty (NF)

Best Boy by Eli
Gottlieb (“autism, fast read, captivating plot”)

You Too
Can Have a Body Like Mine
by Alexandra Kleeman

The Wolf
by Katherine Rundell (YA)


by Erin Bowman (Wild West adventure of a female, Kate Thompson)

Did You
Ever Have a Family
by Bill Clegg

Story of the Lost Child
by Elena Ferrante, trans. From Ital. by Ann
Goldstein (4)

          Bk. 1 – My Brilliant Friend

          Bk. 2 – The Story of a New Name

          Bk. 3 – Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay

Purity by
Jonathan Franzen

Dryland by Sara
Joffe (YA)

in Between
by Carolyn Mackler (YA)

Waits with Gun
by Amy Stewart

McQueen: Blood Beneath the Skin
by Andrew Wilson (NF)

The Last
by Ninade Gramont

Point of Vanishing: A Memoir of Two Years in Solitude
by Howard

by Gavin McCrea

by Lisa Sandlin

Story of My Teeth
by Valeria Luiselli, trans. By Christina

Calf by
Andrea Kleine (“dread stalks every page”)

Sister Death
by William Gray

by Hugo Wilcken

Serpentine by
Cindy Pon (new fantasy series inspired by ancient China)

is a Wound
by Eka Kurniawan, trans. By Annie Tucker

by Eka Kurniawan

by Rupert Thomson

and Sorrow Beneath the Heavens: Reportage
by Lázló Krasznahorkai,
trans. by Ottilie Mulzet (offers a travel memoir of China at the dawn of the
new millennium and the precipice of its emergence as a global power)(NF) (2015
Man Booker International Prize)

9/14 – Best Book Day of 2015

Suicide of Claire Bishop: A Novel
by Carmiel Banasky

The Blue
by John Banville

House of
by Charles Belfoure (Gilded Age Novel)

One by Sarah Crossan (YA) (conjoined twins)

by Patrick de Witt

and Furies
by Lauren Groff

by Matthew Guinn

Entrophy of Bones
by Ayize Jama-Everett (fantasy)

Story of My Teeth
by Valeria Luiselli trans from Span. by
Christina McSweeney

Dumplin’ by
Julie Murphy (YA)

by Brian Selznik (1st 500 pages – pencil art,
last 200 – prose)

Double Life of Liliane
by Lily Tuck (history, biography and
fiction) (metanarrative)

Redemption: An Inspector Chen Novel
by Qui Xiaolong 
Compiled by Nancy Brisson
Books, September 2015 Book List




The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman – Book

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Alice Hoffman does not usually write about people who were
real, nor does she use the style of “magical realism but her newest book The Marriage of Opposites is set in the
perfect environment to show off her mystical talents which drew me to her in
her earliest book Illumination Night.
I kept thinking that Isabel Allende, who is just about the Queen of Magical
Realism, wrote this book and this story of the woman who became the mother of
the artist Camille Pissarro and of the island of St. Thomas. But this time it
was Alice Hoffman who mastered this style which thrives best in the tropics,
and the setting on that sparsely settled island of St. Thomas in the 1800’s allows
her to cook the magic right into the people, the history, and eventually into
the paintings Pissarro produced.

How a Jewish community ended up in the tropics is a tale of
the old world and the new. Religious persecution in France led Jews to look for
safety. When the Danes, who owned St. Thomas, promised to allow Jewish people
safety and freedom to worship as they pleased, some Jewish people settled
there. Here is the first “marriage of opposites” in Hoffman’s book. The very
climate of St. Thomas, the heat, the flowers, the winds from Africa, the
molasses and the rum were at sensual war with the socially uptight European
culture and the religious strictures that the Jews from Europe brought with
them. Young people, on a small island with few inhabitants were expected to
live according to strict 19th century codes while as children they
had been allowed the freedom to play with non-European children and to roam the
island. Once mature they were expected, indeed commanded, to live by the rules,
girls especially. Rachel Pomié was spoiled by her father who educated her in
several languages including the language of mathematics and accounting. She,
even in the face of her mother’s disapproval, roamed St.Thomas with the cook
Adelle’s daughter Jestine.

Rachel writes down some of the tales of the island which tell
us of stairs constructed to confound werewolves and leaves that fall in
people’s hair, leaves which are the souls of the dead people we knew and loved.
Rachel marries, as all 19th century daughters must. She marries
Issac, a man who had eight children and lost his first wife. She does not love
him but a psychic has promised her that another man will come along who will be
her love. Rachel and Jestine dream of going to live in Paris. The man,
Frederick, who will be Camille Pissarro’s father arrives in St. Thomas on a
ship from that French city one day after Rachel has been widowed. He sees
Rachel and immediately, but not conveniently, falls in love with her. They
dream together of the green rain when they sleep at night.

This book has plenty of both magic and realism. You will be
immersed in a world of color – red, haint blue, lavender, pink, green, grey,
and an entire palette of opposites – the strong colors of tropical splendor
and the cooler colors of a temperate climate with a Parisian ambience. Alice
Hoffman your book was enchanting.


By Nancy Brisson


book, The Marriage of Opposites, Alice Hoffman, novel

The Bourbon Kings by J R Ward – Book

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The Bourbon Kings by J R Ward is soap opera in prose.
But it is obviously very good soap opera. When I got the drift of the genre of
this novel I intended to put it down, to just let it go. I do have trouble
letting a book go once I have it in my possession, but the fact is that this
book was so compulsively readable (although not very carefully edited) that the
next thing I knew I was at the end.

Blackwine family lives what looks like a wealthy and privileged life. Their
estate is enormous. William Blackwine married into the Bradford family. They
make and sell one of the best loved bourbons in the country and that is where
the fortune comes from. They also race horses and are very involved in
sponsoring a brunch before a race that sounds suspiciously like the Kentucky
Derby. (almost exactly like the Kentucky Derby).

Lane has
been disgusted by his father since his treatment of Edward, Lane, Max and Gin
in their childhood years and his father’s behavior has not improved with age. Lane
has been crashing on a friend’s sofa in NYC for two years (good friend) but
when he gets the news that Miss Aurora is ill he quickly packs a bag and
returns home even though he will have to deal with his wife and his
ex-girlfriend once he gets there. After Lane’s mother took to her bed when the
children were young, and then rarely left her own rooms, Miss Aurora raised the
children and they all loved her very much.

But Lizzie,
the ex-girlfriend, is hardly happy that Lane is coming home either. She thought
that they had been in love and then he married someone more closely aligned
with the family’s social level. Lizzie is a horticulturist and is in charge of
the gardens and all the floral arrangements for the entire estate. She’s in the
middle of preparations for the Derby Brunch but all she really wants to do is
get out of town before Lane arrives. Fortunately she has a strong sense of

It’s not
great literature, but it is a good family saga and romance. J R Ward is
actually Jessica Rowley Pell Bird, a 46 year old with a list of successful
books to her credit. As I read along in The
Bourbon Kings
I kept thinking that the book had been written by a woman so
I was happy to learn that I got it right. This book is already on several
reputable reading lists suggesting Ward has a good fan base for her work. I did
enjoy the story and I am looking forward to the next book in this series. I
will classify this one as a guilty pleasure.

By Nancy