This is a review I recently submitted to Library Journal. One advantage of listening to books is to hear the author’s name pronounced. It’s Michael SH...moreThis is a review I recently submitted to Library Journal. One advantage of listening to books is to hear the author’s name pronounced. It’s Michael SHA-bn, not Michael Cha-BONE, as I’d mistakenly guessed.
Things are falling apart for Meyer Landsman, a drunken cop in the imaginary noir Jewish settlement of Sitka, Alaska. The wife who recently divorced him has just become his boss. An addict chess prodigy from his hotel has been found murdered, and Landsman’s been told to forget about investigating it. His jurisdiction ends, soon, anyway, as the control of Sitka is about to revert to the state, leaving the Jews there (‘the frozen Chosen") homeless again, and mostly unwelcome.
Michael Chabon’s insanely ambitious story takes off from there, incorporating Orthodox gangsters, chess problems, and a possible Messiah, punctuated by the litany, "It’s a strange time to be a Jew." Peter Riegert’s world-weary reading perfectly captures Chabon’s Chandleresque characters. Chabon can dazzle you with his dialogue, his characters, his prose, or the details of his world-building. An engaging and enlightening interview with the author follows the novel. This is an easy call–an excellent performance of a good (maybe great) writer at the top of his game. Get it. --John
I do love putting out books on our ICPL Staff Picks display in the library, but after a while I start to see a pattern in the things I grab. One of th...moreI do love putting out books on our ICPL Staff Picks display in the library, but after a while I start to see a pattern in the things I grab. One of the regulars this past year has been Nicole Krauss’s latest novel The History of Love.
This felt like such a huge book for being so short in page length. I guess ambitious is actually a better term. Krauss weaves together at least three separate story arcs with many fully fleshed out and interesting characters. I was truly interested in each section and character. Incorporated into this is the story of a novel that captivates all who read it. This last part was a gutsy move by Krauss, to openly claim to readers that there is this mystical novel and then to include selections of the writing…and then have those selections actually be believable? Bravo.
There are also some fantastic snippets of magical realism that are classy and meaningful. This is a novel I find myself thinking about even after moving on to others. --Jason
Brian and I both work at the Fiction Desk. If you’ve been in this summer and asked for a recommendation from one of us chances are we shoved this mass...moreBrian and I both work at the Fiction Desk. If you’ve been in this summer and asked for a recommendation from one of us chances are we shoved this massive fantasy novel in your hands and apologized for the awful cover art. For those of you who are too shy to ask directly I’ll try to ‘sell’ this electronically…but you’re missing out on my crazy hand gestures and emphatic facial expressions.
First let me say you do not necessarily have to like the fantasy genre at all to enjoy this. The series is mostly a vast and complicated character-driven historical fiction saga…with a dragon or three. Wait, haters stay with me here! OK, so there are dragons and a race of human-like beings that kill and create an army of undead ‘wights’, but most of the story (and there are over 3,000 pages – so far) is focused on an intricate plot design and many fascinating characters. You’re thrown into a medieval world of common folk, knights, lords and their King. And bad blood between the royal families make holding that throne oh so difficult.
Each chapter is written from the point of view of a different character and usually ends with a cliffhanger. Characters are presented as obvious heroes and villains but as you progress through the series things become much less black and white. 800-odd pages have never gone by so quickly! Oh and HBO is making the pilot, so there is huge potential for this series to blow up. --Jason
Hands down one of the best "superhero" comic I've ever read! The superhero is tiny little Lee Wagstaff from Charon, Mississippi, and Bayou is her gian...moreHands down one of the best "superhero" comic I've ever read! The superhero is tiny little Lee Wagstaff from Charon, Mississippi, and Bayou is her giant hulking sidekick. Here's why I love Lee:
"Look at you! You a big ol' monster with arms like tree trunks! You can whup just about anything in the whole wide world! Whatchoo got to be scared of some bossman fo'? If I was big as you, I'd be the bossman! We find your bossman and we find Lily and you can just march right up to that ol' fool and tell him to give him your chilluns or you goin' pound him good!"
Sigh, and the artwork is AWESOME ~ dark, haunting, drenched in rich watercolors... with really cute bugs and animals. --Rachel(less)
Well. Howard Zinn was preaching to the choir, and I loved every second. This audio book is co-narrated by Matt Damon and Howard Zinn (who were neighbo...moreWell. Howard Zinn was preaching to the choir, and I loved every second. This audio book is co-narrated by Matt Damon and Howard Zinn (who were neighbors in Boston when Damon was growing up), and both are great readers.
I got a little choked up when Zinn spoke about the women's lib movement in the 60s and 70s. It was this emotional, empowered reaction: "wow, he's a historian, and he's telling the history of my people!" I'm sure the rest of the "untold histories" that he finally tells in this book have a similar effect on other people, too.
Zinn cares not for war, power or money, but for people. He's extremely idealistic, but I believe that we need visionaries like Zinn to help us imagine what might be possible~ --Rachel(less)
What a sad, difficult, terrible book. Anna struggles to make sense of who she is by shattering herself and then piecing herself back together into a s...moreWhat a sad, difficult, terrible book. Anna struggles to make sense of who she is by shattering herself and then piecing herself back together into a simpler story she can understand. She needs to listen to the mysteries of her own heart, but she doesn't have the courage -- she's too terrified of what she will find. --Rachel(less)
I feel kind of weird giving one of those special five-star ratings to a book about, well, cats , but this was a pretty special book. Squeamish cat-lo...moreI feel kind of weird giving one of those special five-star ratings to a book about, well, cats , but this was a pretty special book. Squeamish cat-lovers beware ~ Doris Lessing starts out telling of her girlhood growing up on a farm in South Africa, shooting baby kittens with her father because they simply could not manage to keep them all. I actually love her for refusing to be sentimental. Yet somehow there is an acute tenderness in her writing about her cats, especially as she grows older, despite wry tales of guns & whiskey & too many kittens, etc.
This was one of those especially good ones that I had to read really slow at the last chapter because I didn't want it to end. --Rachel(less)
Meandering, irreverent, and populated by a rag-tag team of alcoholic poets on a wild goose chase through Mexico City, Barcelona, Israel and Liberia, "...moreMeandering, irreverent, and populated by a rag-tag team of alcoholic poets on a wild goose chase through Mexico City, Barcelona, Israel and Liberia, "The Savage Detectives" is one of the weirdest books I have ever laid eyes on. It's also one of the most beautiful. It is rootless, restless, playful, but also full of dread. The story is told from the perspective of at least 50 characters, each with his or her own distinctive and intimate voice. I think my favorite vignette might be the tale of the heiress who leaves her fortune to scientists so they can clone new copies of herself and her lover every five years from now until the end of time, or maybe the revolutionary poet who gets stuck in the girls' bathroom during a political coup at her university and thus chronicles the event on toilet tissue. --Rachel(less)