Friday, July 23, 2010

Recommendations from Suzanne

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson
This is very British and very charming! Major Pettigrew seems like a stodgy relic of the British colonial empire when you are first introduced to him, but perhaps he’s not as bound to tradition as he seems. He even surprises himself.

Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of the Mona Lisa
by R.A. Scotti
I recommend this nonfiction book to everyone who likes to read. When the Mona Lisa, the Louvre Museum’s most famous painting, disappears, the Paris police run around in circles, looking very much like Inspector Clouseau. They bring in Picasso and the poet Apollinaire for questioning. This is a romp, plus I learned a lot about da Vinci’s art and about the period in the which the crime took place. When the painting eventually turns up, the identity of the person who took the painting is a total surprise. This is a book about art that manages to be informative and funny at the same time.

Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan
A man buys a shovel . . . and then the plot takes off and never loses its grip on you. This is one of the most original thrillers I’ve read. I literally did not know what was going to happen until the last page!

The Man from Beijing by Henning Mankell
What does the brutal massacre of 19 mostly elderly inhabitants of a small hamlet in Sweden have to do with Chinese laborers who built the U.S. transcontinental railroads in the 1800’s? What do these two plots have to do with greedy Chinese capitalists, political corruption, the legacy of European colonialism in Africa and the withering away of youthful idealism? Mankell masterfully weaves all of these elements together into a web of intrigue that manages to be both credible and suspenseful. Mankell has created a fascinating and highly original mashup of a thriller combined with historical fiction. These two plots, the investigation of the murders and the historical story, are layered with Mankell’s probing examination of contemporary Swedish society and its values.
Hemming Mankell's website.

Short Girls by Bich Minh Nguyen
We read Bich’s memoir Stealing Buddha’s Dinner for one of our potlucks. Short Girls is her first novel, and it’s a winner. It’s the story of two sisters finding their way in life and dealing with their Vietnamese immigrant family. The book is touching, realistically told and positive in outcome.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Recommendations from Julie

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson
This is one of the very best mystery series I've ever read! I'm so sorry that Larsson died so there are no more books to read. In this one, all of the creeps who have conspired to make Salander's life a living hell get their due. It is very satisfying.

Beneath the Bleeding by Val McDermid
Carol Jordan and Tony Hill are one of the mystery world's most interesting couples. In this one, Tony has been wounded by mad psychiatric patient and spends most of the book on his back in hospital. Nevertheless, with his computer he is able to uncover some truths leading to motives and means for the two crimes under investigation. If you haven't read the Tony Hill mysteries before you might want to start with an earlier title but if you already know the series, this one is a good one.

Hit and Run by Lawrence Block
This is #4 in Block's Keller series but it's the first Keller that I've read. In this one, Keller, a professional hit man, is set up for a murder he didn't commit. He escapes, travels around the country and finally settles in New Orleans where he starts a new life, with a new name. Oddly enough, you find yourself rooting for the hit man.

Waylaid by Ed Lin
This is the story of a 12 year old Chinese immigrant boy who lives with his parents at the rather sleazy hotel his parents own on the Jersey shore. This kid does well in school in spite of working practically full-time at the hotel. His life consists of school, hotel, skin magazines and other sexual paraphernalia left by customers in their room. He doesn't have a particularly close relationship to his family, and except for the one girl at school he hopes to nail, his only friends are long term hotel customers. There isn't much of a plot except that he wants to have sex before the year is out but it is a fascinating look into the lives of the working immigrant family.

The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag (audiobook)
by Alan Bradley
Flavia is in the middle of everything again. When Rupert Porson, a puppeteer, is murdered, Flavia figures out who did it long before the police who haven't seemed to discover anything in their investigations. Thank goodness Flavia's around to solve these cases! The best thing about listening to these books is the reader: Jane Entwistle does a tremendous job making the listening experience a pure pleasure.

Bangkok Tattoo by John Burdett
When a prostitute is found with a man who has been gutted and the tattoo on his back peeled off detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep must get to the bottom of the mystery. Solving a crime is very complex in Thailand where police, armies, everyone is corrupt. Though I didn't like this book as much as the first in the series, Bangkok 8, this did have a passage that I had to read aloud to friends it was just so funny!

The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville
This is Neville's first novel and it is tremendous! It is original and compelling. The characters are well-drawn and the ideas of responsibility and retribution are looked at from a totally different point of view. I'm eager to see if Neville can top this one!