January 2013 Reviews by Rowayton Library's Reader Advisor, Ruth Freeman
Cold winter nights... warm up with a good book!
'The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis is the story of Hattie and her twelve children in the period 1925 to 1980. Hattie is part of the great African American migration from the southern states; in her case the journey ends in Philadelphia. There are multiple narrators as each child takes a chapter. Too often this is a sad tale, but you are left with admiration for the strong human spirits that prevail under very difficult circumstances. This is a first novel from a real talent.
'The Black Box' by Michael Connelly has Harry Bosch on top of a cold case he won't let go. There is great background on the LA riots of 1992 and a murder that haunted Harry for decades. Given the chance to bring a killer to justice he thwarts the best efforts of his malicious chief to insist on only guaranteed solves. Nice twists keep your attention and the atmosphere is suitably tense. There is good interplay on the home front as Bosch figures out how to be a father to his precocious and independent daughter.
'The Life of Objects' by Susanna Moore is a beautifully written book about the travails of Beatrice Maeve ,a young Irish girl who goes to work for a wealthy German couple named Dorothea and Felix Metzenburg at the onset of WWII. The title refers to the gorgeous artworks that both surround them and bring them a measure of confidence in the face of growing catastrophe. Detailed descriptions and a strong sense of place make this an original. Most novels about WWII stop with the allied victory; this is one of the few that focuses on East Germany after the war.
'Me Before You' by Jojo Moyes is a diverting read. A quadriplegic and his caregiver forge a relationship, no easy feat for a small town girl and former hot shot financier. Somewhat predictable, but snappy dialogue and heartfelt emotions make it interesting and you really care about these characters. There are no surprises here but the novel is a love story in the best sense of the word.
'The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor' by Jake Tapper is the story of Command Outpost Keating, an American marine base established deep in a remote valley in Afghanistan in 2006. In 2009 it was the site of a bitterly fought battle against a numerically superior Taliban force, in the deadliest battle of that year for the Americans. This is a difficult book to read as it makes clear that the base did not have to be located in such inhospitable terrain. The author has written a book that enables us to get to know the soldiers and their families; he spent two years doing the research that led to this heartbreaking work. Anyone who wants to have an understanding of the day to day lives of the soldiers in this war should read this book.
'Black Fridays' by Michael Sears is a bona fide page turner. Jason Stafford, the main character, is just out of prison where he served two years for a trading fraud. At loose ends, he is approached by an investment bank that is being investigated by the SEC, ostensibly to help them sort out files. It's quickly clear that all kinds of nefarious doings are afoot and the race is on.
'Home Made Winter' by Yvette Van Boven, the brilliant cook who splits her time between Amsterdam and Paris, has created a seasonal cookbook filled with beautiful photographs. Reading this cookbook is like taking a tour of Europe. She is especially talented with recipes for preserves and chutneys , things you would not necessarily think of making yourself but in fact are particularly good homemade.
'Tart it Up! Sweet and Savory Tarts and Pies' by Eric Lanlard, is great fun. We were especially taken with the mouthwatering savory tart recipes and have already made the outstanding Mediterranean tart. Both sweet and savory come with a welcome section on "quick bakes" using store bought puff pastry. Bright photographs and enthusiastic commentary make this a welcome addition to anyone's cookbook collection.
'My Ideal Bookshelf', edited by Thessaly La Forge with whimsical art by Jane Mount, is a booklover's dream. This is an opportunity to spy on the bookshelves of noted authors, chefs, designers, and artists, who comment on their choices in humorous and thoughtful ways. It's neat to see where your choices overlap with the selections in this book, and the illustrations are really beautiful.
Ian Rankin never heard the end of it when he retired Inspector Rebus. 'Standing in Another Man's Grave' marks the very welcome return of Rebus, now employed as a civilian in a cold case unit. He starts investigating a string of possibly connected disappearances of young women and the pages start to turn at an accelerated pace. Check it out!