CAPSULE REVIEWS OF NEW RELEASESby Larry Cox on Apr. 16, 2009, under Calendar Plus
‘No Such Creature’
By Giles Blunt (Henry Holt & Company, $25)
Mangus “Max” Maxwell and his 18-year-old adopted nephew, Owen, team up to tour the country in a tricked out Winnebago. Their plan is to swindle the rich, but things take a deadly turn in Las Vegas when they come in contact with the “Subtractors,” a gang of crooks who target fellow thieves and “subtract” body parts one by one until they surrender their loot. There is so much to admire in this fascinating novel, a brilliant concept, interesting characters and unexpected plot twists, all guaranteed to keep readers engaged until the very last page.
By Christian Moerk (Henry Holt & Company, $25)
In this masterfully written suspense thriller, two sisters and their aunt are found dead in their home just outside of Dublin. A third sister is missing. The plot thickens when Niall, a young mailman, finds a mysterious diary in the post office’s dead-letter bin that provides information about a mysterious itinerant storyteller at the very heart of the murders. Set against the bucolic backdrop of the Irish countryside, this is an enthralling tale of love, jealousy, deep family feuds, resentment, sexual obsession, envy and murder.
‘The Faraway War’
By Enrique Clio (Thomas Dunne Books, $24.95)
Nineteen-year-old Henry Reese leaves Brooklyn for Cuba in 1853 to join Cuban insurgents who are fighting the Spanish Army. Captured during his first battle, he is lined up before a firing squad and shot. He survives his wounds, is rescued and rejoins the fight, eventually becoming a brigadier general in the Liberation Army. Based on the life of a real character, this engaging novel is lively, entertaining and a page-turner of the highest sort.
By Colin MacKinnon (St. Martin’s Press, $24.95)
Rick Behringer uses his small telecom company located near Washington, D.C., as the perfect cover for his second, more secretive job as a spy for the CIA. When he learns that a mysterious Pakistani Islamist is attempting to acquire highly enriched uranium, his colleagues at the CIA encourage him to track down the elusive man and find out more. As, perhaps, the only man who can stop “an Islamic bomb” from bringing disaster to America, he has his work cut out for him in this fast moving, nail-biting thriller.
By Brendan McNally (Simon & Schuster, $26)
In this remarkable debut novel, the Flying Magical Loerber Brothers, once the biggest stars on the German cabaret circuit, find themselves in danger during the final days of World War II. Determined to defeat the Nazis from within, two of the four become spies for the Allies, using their positions to supply the British and Russians with much needed intelligence. A third brother joins the German navy and the final member of the team is presumed dead but in reality has joined the radical group The Blood of Israel. Thrilling and laced with dark humor, “Germania” is unpredictable and highly entertaining.
By Prue Leith (St. Martin’s Press, $25.95)
This crisply written story pivots around three women who meet when they join a choir. One widowed, one divorced and one never married, they form a tight bond. In this delightful story of friendship and discovery, three women share their disappointments, hopes and dreams while in the process discovering the possibility of love – if they dare to open themselves up to it.
By Xu Xiaobin and translated by John Howard-Gibbon and Joanne Wang (Atria, $25)
This Chinese novel, first published in 1998, was a literary breakthrough, selling a record number of copies in Chinese women’s literature. Powerful, lyrical and haunting, the central story spans a century, from 1890 to the 1990s, following five generations of women from one family. Xu Xiaobin, born in Beijing in 1953, and one of China’s most celebrated writers, has written a passionate story that is a deft blend of women’s fiction, mysticism and socio-political literature that is both rich and insightful.
‘The Talent Code’
By Daniel Coyle (Bantam, $25)
Coyle, an Alaskan-based writer and frequent contributor to Outside magazine, focuses on nine of the world’s most prolific hotbeds of talent to uncover the key to unlocking human potential. Along the way he discovers why one impoverished Russian tennis club is able to field more Top 20 women players than any other country, how all three Brontë sisters became literary all-stars and the methods used by a music school in a mall in Texas that enables it to produce a string of pop stars including Jessica Simpson and Demi Lovato. The secret, according to the author, boils down to three elements: the right kinds of practice, coaching and motivation. Combining vivid examples with expert analysis, this book is geared to help you reach your full potential.
‘All My Patients Have Tales: Favorite Stories from a Vet’s Practice’
By Jeff Wells, DVM (St. Martin’s Press, $24.95)
Wells grew up in Iowa, surrounded by pets that ranged from cats and dogs to cows and pigs. His dad, who made a living teaching agriculture at the local high school, was the reason why the author’s home was much like a petting zoo and why he eventually became a veterinarian. His new book documents his first job in the farmlands of South Dakota and follows his career as he relocates to the foothills of Colorado where he establishes a successful practice. As he points out, vets need not only animal skills but people skills as well. This touching, poignant look at the daily life of a busy, dedicated veterinarian is witty, inspirational and an absolute treat.
‘Warren Oates: A Wild Life’
By Susan Compo (University Press of Kentucky, $34.95)
Even though Warren Oates never reached leading actor status, his work, especially during the 1970s, made him one of the more interesting and talented supporting actors in the business. In the first published biography of Oates, the author serves up a lively and studious look at this extraordinary man, chronicling his early life in Kentucky as well as his later achievements and misadventures. Drawing on interviews and new materials, Compo builds a convincing case that Oates was a talented rebel often haunted by long periods of hard drinking, drug abuse and infidelities.
‘Real Solutions for Busy Moms’
By Kathy Ireland (Howard, $23.99)
Ireland, chief designer and CEO of Kathy Ireland Worldwide, is convinced that no job is more rewarding, fulfilling or empowering than that of a mom. Sometimes that job can be difficult, demanding and overwhelming. Ireland believes that moms can do it all – just not all at once. This supermodel, entrepreneur and mom of three provides a road map for dealing with tough times. She addresses such tough issues as managing money, establishing a happy home environment, developing a healthy lifestyle, keeping children safe and balancing tasks and responsibilities. With compassion, encouragement and empathy, she offers both tools and solutions to cope.
‘Let Me Eat Cake: A Celebration of Flour, Sugar, Butter, Eggs, Vanilla, Baking Powder, and a Pinch of Salt’
By Leslie Miller (Simon & Schuster, $25)
Miller, A Baltimore-based writer, graphic designer and photographer, is a self-confessed cake addict. Her new book is a lively, loving testament to cake that explores its long history and legends, its celebratory significance, its quirky practitioners and even Miller’s own successes and failures in baking the perfect pastry. One of the more intriguing episodes in her book is when she insinuates her way into what she calls the underbelly of cake, namely the lives and bakeries of Baltimore’s bakers, including celebrity baker Duff Goldman, the darling of the Food Network.
‘How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the End of the War on Terror’
By Reza Aslan (Random House, $26)
Reza Aslan is a Senior Fellow at the Orfalae Center for Global and International Studies at U.C. Santa Barbara and a frequent commentator on CNN, CBS and NPR. In his new book, he provides both an in-depth study of the ideology behind al-Qaida, the Taliban and like-minded militants throughout the Muslim world, and the tradition of religious violence found in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Surveying the global scene from Israel to Iraq, and from New York to the Netherlands, he concludes that the only way to win a cosmic or religious war is by, first, addressing earthy grievances. This will, he writes, remove the appeal of Jihadism as a social movement. He believes the next steps are to change the narrative between Islam and the West, support the democratic aspirations of Islamist parties in places such as Indonesia, Morocco, Palestine and Turkey, and – perhaps more importantly – recognize that our present War on Terror cannot be won militarily.
‘The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today’
By Andrew J. Cherlin (Knopf, $25.95)
Cherlin, one of the nation’s leading experts on the American family, concluded after more than three decades of study that marriage in the United States is different than in other Western countries and in a way that no one was writing about. He points out that marriage in the United States is seen as a cultural ideal and our government spends a great deal of money to promote its continuation. He adds that Americans have come to embrace two contradictory models of personal and family life: marriage, a formal commitment to share one’s life with another; and individualism, which emphasizes personal growth and development. Each model is culturally reinforced by two basic, powerful institutions: religion and law.
‘The Body Broken: A Memoir’
By Lynne Greenberg (Random House, $25)
When she was 19, Greenberg narrowly survived a terrible car crash. Her fractured neck eventually healed, or so she thought, and she resumed an active life that included a devoted husband, two wonderful children and a fulfilling career as an English professor in New York City. Twenty-two years later, the crippling pain returned. After two years of doctors, specialists and tests, it was determined that her neck had not healed as originally thought. Her heartbreakingly, honest memoir is how she had to learn to cope with chronic pain while finding the strength to return to a productive yet irrevocably changed life.
‘When I Married my Mother’
By Jo Maeder (Da Capo, $25)
Maeder was a DJ on New York’s WKTU when she realized that her estranged mother could no longer live alone. Against the advice of her colleagues and friends, she left the bright lights of the Big Apple, bought a house in Greensboro, N.C., and moved her mother in so they could live together. This book highlights the growing trend of intergenerational households in America, a 57 percent increase since 2000. This insightful, true-to-the-bone account documents one woman’s decision to leave her glamorous career in New York City to become an informal caregiver for her mother in the Bible Belt.
‘Stone Me: The Wit and Wisdom of Keith Richards’
Compiled by Mark Blake (New American Library, $12.95)
This little book is apparently as thin as Richards’ intellect. For example, one of his more colorful observations compares The Beatles to an enema, adding that their impact made the Rolling Stones a great toilet bowl. While you’re mulling that one over, there’s more. He claims you are never alone with a Smith and Wesson, that Mick, when drunk, is a sight to behold, and that occasionally you want to strangle even the closest of your friends.
‘The 7th Infantry Regiment: Combat in the Age of Terror, the Korean War Through the Present’
By John C. McManus (Tor/Forge, $15.95)
Acclaimed military historian McManus provides readers with a compelling glimpse of the history of the 7th Infantry Regiment. This collection of unremarkable, ordinary soldiers who through their struggle, anguish, fear, sacrifice, triumph and pride, have established themselves as the very soul of the U.S. Army. This is required reading for anyone interested in the true and gritty stories that have made this special unit so extraordinary.
‘Summer in Tuscany’
By Elizabeth Adler (St. Martin’s Griffin, $14.95)
Gemma Jericho is an overworked New York doctor. When her mother, Nonna, learns of a mysterious inheritance in Tuscany, she talks Gemma and her teenage granddaughter into accompanying her to Italy to claim it. When the three women get to Tuscany, they find a divided village and Ben Raphael, an unnervingly handsome American, occupying their villa.
‘Who Do You Think You Are?’
By Alyse Myers (Touchstone, $15)
Raised in a housing project in Queens, Myers, the oldest of three girls, spent most of her childhood witnessing the disintegration of her parents’ marriage and her father’s constant vanishing acts. She came to the conclusion that she didn’t care much for her mother and suspected she felt the same about her. When her mother dies, she becomes obsessed by a locked wooden box. Could the contents shed some light on her stormy history with her mother and, perhaps, even her parents’ troubled relationship? More importantly, does she have the courage to open the box? This heart-wrenching and ultimately uplifting memoir of a mother and daughter is powerful and unforgettable.
‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’
By Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith (Quirk, $12.95)
“Pride and Prejudice” is one of the most beloved novels ever written. It has been adapted into several Hollywood films, a Broadway musical, a BBC miniseries, and is even the basis for Bridget Jones’s Diary. Who could have imagined that in 2009 it would be given the zombie treatment? The real shock in this book is how well it works. This book features most of the original 1813 text with zombie narratives neatly inserted. Featuring 20 illustrations and a reader’s discussion guide, this is perfect summer reading. Can a heart-pounding edition of “David Copperfield: London Vampire” be far behind?
CAPSULE REVIEWS OF NEW RELEASES