Current Picks: Book Reviews

Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo

Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo (2007)
This is a travel book and an enlightenment book with very funny moments. The two diametrically opposed personalities encounter forced togetherness on a road trip from the East Coast to a family Midwest farm. The author carves out two distinct men, one who is patient about the differences in people and one who is not tolerant of different people. Fast, laugh-out-loud read which provokes reflection on one's own personality traits.

Eva Moves the Furniture by Margot Livesey

Eva Moves the Furniture by Margot Livesey (2001)
Different in tone from her alarming psychological tales (Homework, The Missing World), this novel is a deceptively simple coming-of-age story set in Scotland in the early 1900s. Eva’s mother dies giving birth to her and she is raised by her father and her practical Aunt Lily. Eva is a woman whose life is accompanied by invisible "companions" whose “guidance” is both helpful and harmful. Eva’s relationship with them is colored by both humor and melancholy. This isn't a ghost story, but rather a love story of the best kind.

The Calling by Inger Ash Wolfe

The Calling by Inger Ash Wolfe (2008)
This novel is a “first in a series” serial mystery that takes place in rural Ontario. Detective Inspector Hazel Micallef, flawed, middle-aged, divorced, is herself a walking trauma unit. What hasn’t happened to her yet is just a matter of time.

Our killer creatively dispatches his victims with a tad too much gore for my taste, but I often skim the gut wrenching details. However, overlooking that point, the plot gathers momentum until the final scene reaches a pretty exciting ending.

Through the story, we empathize with Hazel because she is “us.” We want her to survive almost as much as we want to stop the killer. The contrast between the rural police force and the urban police force is just another bonus along the way.

Before you get the book from the library, read an excerpt.

The Broken Window by Jeffery Deaver

The Broken Window by Jeffery Deaver (2008)
This book is vintage Lincoln Rhyme. In this thriller, Deaver graphically portrays murder(s) via computers. The concept really blows the reader away. We are all vulnerable in cyberspace. As the plot twists and turns, the romantic team of Lincoln and Amelia face the ultimate amoral mastermind. This reader was breathless and involved until the last word of the last page.

Visit the author's website for an excerpt and interview. Watch a video on Amazon.com.

Audition by Barbara Walters

Audition by Barbara Walters (2008)
Barbara Walters "tells all" in this biography/memoir and doesn't come across as being exemplary in her personal life with her parents, sibling, daughter and husbands. But oh, what a life she has lead! Her retelling of her travels and the multitude of interviews she has done is mesmerizing. This woman has lived a full life and has taken us on her journey through the pages of this book. It was a great read.

On ABC's website, read an article about the book and view her photo album, which details various stages of her life. Read the New York Times review or listen to the NPR interview.

America (The Book) by Jon Stewart

America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction by Jon Stewart (2004)
Jon Stewart, of The Daily Show fame, has written a very funny book that might also teach you something about the way our government works. However, some readers may be offended by some of the crude language used throughout the book.

You can read an excerptlisten to segments on NPR, or go to Amazon.com to read an interview and watch a video message.

Are you there, Vodka? by Chelsea Handler

Are you there, Vodka? It’s me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler (2008)
Comedian and talk show host Chelsea Handler tells funny stories about her life. Topics include getting pulled over one week after her 21st birthday, taking a trip to Costa Rica with her father, and her love for vodka. A quick, enjoyable read.


Check out the author's fansite and read an excerpt from the book.

The Painter from Shanghai by Jennifer Epstein


The Painter from Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein (2008)
Reminiscent of Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha, this novel is a re-imagining of the life of Pan Yuliang and how she went from prostitute to post-Impressionist artist. Pan Yuliang was actually one of the most talented and provocative Chinese artists of the twentieth century. The background of historical events make The Painter from Shanghai an irresistible story.

Visit the author's website, read an interview with the author, and check out the reviews.

The Forest Lover by Susan Vreeland


The Forest Lover by Susan Vreeland (2004)
Turn of the century historical novel about the life and paintings of Emily Carr. Emily Carr has been compared to Georgia O'Keefe and other female painters who have a distinguished artistic style. Emily Carr's subjects are the primitive British Columbia native tribal cultures, which her paintings preserved as the cultures disappeared. Emily lived until 1945: long enough to know her bold, huge, impressionist paintings were hung in Canadian museums and recognized as works equal to the male impressionists of the same period. The author creates interesting characters which are the backdrop for Emily Carr's history. The first third of the story starts out slowly, but becomes interesting so that the last two thirds make the book an interesting, educational, good ending read.

 



Preview this book and check out the reading guide and author's interview.

 

Caravaggio by Christopher Peachment


Caravaggio by Christopher Peachment (2002) Caravaggio was an audacious painter of the Renaissance. He was a rage-filled man who self-destructed. The blunt prose describes historical violence with candor. Peachment provides an adventure into the mind of a creative genius. But, be warned, painters can be scary people.

You can read an excerpt or go to Amazon.com to read reviews.

Small Miracles by Yitta Halberstam Mandelbaum


Small Miracles by Yitta Halberstam Mandelbaum (1997)
With its moving, heartwarming, and inspirational stories of serendipity and coincidence, this book leaves you with the feeling that just maybe someone is looking over our lives and “making things happen.” There is a second edition, which I also enjoyed: Small Miracles II.

Read an excerpt from another title in the "Small Miracles" series (Small Miracles of Love and Friendship).  Discover more about the author in a New York Times article.

The Serpent's Tale by Ariana Franklin

The Serpent’s Tale by Ariana Franklin (2008)
Adelia, the heroine of Ariana Franklin's bestseller, Mistress of the Art of Death, finds herself again in the service of King Henry II, who wants to know who murdered his mistress, Rosamund Clifford. Rosamund was poisoned in the tower in which she lived. Just as in her previous novel, Franklin's story is great fun. Adelia is part CSI investigator and part medieval detective. The story moves forward in this second book of the Adelia Aguilar series. Adelia has given birth to Allie whose father is Rowley Picot, king Henry's staunch supporter.

Read an excerpt, visit the author's website, and read reviews.

Buckingham Palace Gardens by Anne Perry

Buckingham Palace Gardens by Anne Perry (2008)
Anne Perry researches the Victorian era thoroughly so her stories are historically accurate. The real bonus in this mystery is the plot that encircles the Prince of Wales. It’s a cliff hanger. Perry also introduces a new character, Gracie into the series. Gracie infiltrates the servants’ staff of the Prince and is a source of vital information for special investigator Thomas Pitt. Perry revitalizes the historical mystery.

Visit the author's website, read reviews and an excerpt from the book.

Pearl Harbor by Carl Smith

Pearl Harbor: The Day of Infamy by Carl Smith (1999)
This is Campaign Book 62 in Osprey’s superb series of combat histories. It is an extremely detailed yet concise (just 96 pages including appendices and index) telling of the events leading to and including an almost minute by minute account of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor which brought the US into the Second World War. It includes thumbnail biographies of US commanders Kimmel, Short, Stark, Marshall, Secretary of State Hull and President Roosevelt, and Japanese commanders Yamamoto, Fuchida, Genda, Nagumo and Ambassador Nomura.

Preview this book and read reviews from Amazon.

Any Human Heart by William Boyd

Any Human Heart by William Boyd (2002)
Following a character through his or her life can be very absorbing. That is what this novel, written in the form of an "intimate journal," does and it includes most of the major events of the 20th century. It is fiction skillfully interwoven with history.

Any Human Heart tells the story of Logan Mountstuart through his diaries, and his experiences. Born male, rich, good looking and arrogant at the beginning of the century, he dies a modest, kinder and wiser man. Logan's life might seem preposterous but it is certainly engaging.

Find reviews, information about the author and an interview with the author at Book Browse. Read additional reviews at ReviewsOfBooks.com.