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September 26, 2003

Reader's Forum at Newsletter Update

Posted to subscriber list on FEB 26, 2004.

Hello, readers!

This week I added another 15 reviews to

As per usual, I enjoyed putting these pages together. Not only is it fun to read the reviews, but I also enjoy the research that results in learning about each author. Of course, some are more surprising than others, but I'll let you make those discoveries.

This week's update turns out to be another interesting collection of books -- lots of mystery, suspense, thrillers, capers and historical fiction -- at first glance quite a bit different than our usual update. But once you start to read more, you'll see that we have found some real gems. No matter the genre or "bookshelf" we choose to visit, we still like our books to be well written, enjoyable and worth our time. And we get so excited when we find ones we want to recommend!

Reviewed by Mary Whipple

Think that a day in the life of a London museum director is cold, quiet, and austere? Think again. Giles Waterfield brings a combination of intellectual comedy and knockabout farce to the subject in this story of one long day in a museum full of scandals, screw-ups and more than a few scalawags. As Mary told me when she submitted the review, "this book is great fun!"

Reviewed by Mary Whipple

This is an outstanding novel. It is the fall of 1958 and all of Cuba is riveted by the World Series--Mickey Mantle's New York Yankees are playing the Milwaukee Braves and bets are coming in fast and furious. Thanks to his friends in the country's troubled dictatorship, the infamous Meyer Lansky's gambling empire is raking in millions, much to the envy of rival mafia boss Joe Bonanno. With a team of Cuba's boldest and most ingenious criminals, Bonanno plans to hijack the small fortune Lansky stands to gain from a Yankees win. The heist goes off brilliantly until Bonanno's point man is double-crossed and shot dead.

Reviewed by Kam Aures

Lawyer Jack Hammond is paying the bills with court appointed cases. Not the glory he experienced when he worked for one of Atlanta's most prestigious law firms. One bad decision changed that; and, worse he may have indirectly caused the death of someone he cared for. A heavy toll for his soul. When his friend -- a computer whiz and former addict who'd brought his life back from the brink -- is found dead in his apartment with a syringe stuck in his arm, Jack Hammond knows something is very wrong. Where the cops see just another overdose, Jack sees a murder. This book is lot of things, but not necessarily a legal thriller, nor a courtroom drama. It is very likely to be on my list of favorite books for this year and I suspect Kam's list as well.

THE CUTTING ROOM by Laurence Klavan
Reviewed by Mary Whipple

Like the hero in a classic Hitchcock thriller, the innocent movie buff at the center of this witty and suspenseful novel finds his ordinary life suddenly transformed when he's plunged into a harrowing game of intrigue, duplicity, and danger. Spurred into a frantic race from New York to Hollywood to Barcelona and back, the novel is full of hairpin twists, shocking surprises, white-knuckle tension, and sinister characters. The type of book that would make a good movie.

Reviewed by Jenny Dressel

Jenny is so excited about this novel,t she sent ME a copy of it when she finished with it. In this business, it's my job to get books out to the reviewers, after all, it is their only "payment." Obviously, Jenny wants to share this one with all of us. The subject matter of this book is -- the story of the mother whose son kills fellow students very much in the Columbine fashion -- is intriguing in itself. But what really attracted Jenny to this book is the risk that author takes in the way she tells this story. Putting the review together and reading the excerpt, I was tempted to set aside the update and pick up the book.

ALL THAT IS GONE by Prameodya Ananta Toer
Reviewed by Poornima Apte

These semiautobiographical stories deal with life's major themes: birth and death, sexual knowledge and love, compassion and revenge. Some stories are written from a child's point of view, others from that of an adult. But all are written in a style that quickly wraps the reader up in this master storyteller's narrative web. This is the first time Pramoedya's short fiction has been widely available to the English reading public.

AFTER MOSES by Karen Mockler
Reviewed by Cindy Lynn Speer

Set in a small, southern Ohio town, this novel interweaves the stories of three lonely siblings-Shoe, Johnny, and Ida, a painter and recluse who has never moved out of her parents' house. In Shoe's final will, she tries to cure that loneliness: a wife for Johnny, a son for Ida. This is another first novel published by MacAdam/Cage who has made it their mission to seek out new talent. I can't say that all of their books are perfect, some we've chosen not to review, but for the most part this publisher is giving some talented writers a break -- and us readers are lucky for that.

Reviewed by Kam Aures

The Annie Rush's mother's dying wish of is for Annie to seek out her brother, Hub Hart, who left home years ago and, Annie assumed, had never once contacted anyone in her family. Through a postcard sent to her mother, Annie discovers that Hub is in Oaxaco, Mexico. Annie feels a strong need to find with Hub - not just at the behest of her mother, but he's all that's left. Her twin sister died tragically at a young age, her father committed suicide not too long after that. So, Annie leaves her husband and two boys in Minnesota to seek out Hub in Mexico. She does eventually find Hub, but not without also learning a whole lot about herself. Though this is no where near as strong of a novel as THE WEIGHT OF ALL THINGS, the imagery will surely stay with you. Personally, I'm thinking of a vacation in Oaxaco next Christmas...

Reviewed by Chuck Barksdale

This is yet another welcome installation in the long running 87th precinct series, which started just before I was born. (THAT is long running.) In this 53rd book in this great and still fresh series, Steve Carella and Cotton Hawes are called to investigate the kidnapping of Tamar Valparaiso, a 20-year-old singer about to release her first album.

Reviewed by Cindy Lynn Speer

Speaking of veteran writers... many of us were caught by surprise when we first saw this book up for review... as crude as this remark is, I thought it was a posthumous publication. That is not at all the case, Mickey Spillane wrote this book at 84-years-old. This is not a Mike Hammar book, though I read somewhere it was once intended to be that, it is instead a stand-alone thriller featuring a retired CIA agent living in the Caribbean. And it is good. Be sure to check out the Crimetime interview under the Book Marks section.

Reviewed by Jenny Dressel

The setting is London; the year is 1755. Nathaniel Hopson is an apprentice to the famous cabinetmaker, Thomas Chippendale. Chippendale has ordered Hopson to go to the estate of his client, Lord Montfort, to supervise the construction of his library, as the original apprentice on the job has fallen ill. On the evening that the library is complete, Montfort has invited family and friends to a formal dinner to unveil his new masterpiece. A short while after dinner, there is a gunshot heard, and Lord Montfort is found dead in his newly remodeled library. It is Hopson, our narrator, who literally "stumbles upon" the body in the darkened room.

THE JUPITER MYTH by Lindsey Davis
Reviewed by Cindy Lynn Speer

When last we saw wise cracking Roman gumshoe Marcus Didius Falco, he'd just solved the mystery of the Body in the Bathhouse. Now he has to solve the murder of the body in the well. He and his family are staying with his uncle-in-law, the procurator of finance, which is why, when a centurion decides to send for a higher power to take a look at what has happened, Falco gets brought along. It's the fact that he knows who the victim is that gets him in trouble. I found it interesting that many of the readers are anxious for Falco to return to Rome; not so with our reviewer, Cindy has enjoyed "seeing" London in its very early days.

Reviewed by Cindy Lynn Speer

These are the first two novels in the CIVIL WAR AT SEA series, which starts out just before the attack on Fort Sumter when many Americans, both Northerners and Southerners question their loyalties. Lieutenant Ker Claiborne, aboard the sloop of war U.S.S. Owanee, is an Annapolis graduate who's seen action in the West Indies and the Africa Station. Claiborne is cool and competent in storm and battle, but he now faces an agonizing choice between the Navy he loves and his native Virginia. Whichever road he takes, he'll be called a traitor. Excellent naval adventure from a novelist whose fiction is required reading in the U.S. Naval Academy's "Literature of the Sea" course.

Reviewed by Cindy Lynn Speer

A Union general's senseless murder is swiftly cloaked in lies and the evidence points to Irish laborers struggling to find a place in their new homeland. But the turmoil of war hides layers of dangerous secrets, and a Welsh immigrant nursing wounds old and new must overcome ancient hatreds to honor justice. In this gripping novel, Washington intrigue and industrial corruption collide with hints of rural witchcraft and the sorrows of political exile. It's an historical novel infused with Gothic melodrama. 

Well that wraps it up for this update. Though this is message is getting old, I feel it is worth repeating since there are new people joining the newsletter each week. This is a reminder that all new reviews are being formatted using the new template. Thus moving about the site you will find a mix of the newly formatted pages with the old - please be patient as I make my way (slowly) through the site renovation.

Have a great weekend! Read lots. I hear spring is actually make its way to some parts of the country. Not here of course. But I was surprised that it was almost warm enough when I left work today that I could have walked home. Almost.

Judi Clark

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