Monday, July 12, 2010

Review : No Such Creature

No Such Creature: A Novel by Giles Blunt. Henry Holt & Co. 2009.

No Such Creature features Max & Owen Maxwell, an uncle-nephew heist team. Max & Owen rely on their wits and Max's theatrical training to pull off grand heists without the need for violence. Unfortunately for them, their most recent success draws the attention of another criminal who is no stranger to violence. Throw in the daughter of an old family friend who also has criminal tendencies and mayhem abounds. Though the main thrust of the novel is overlapping games of cat and mouse, it also has a rather sweet thread of what it means to be a family running throughout the narrative. No Such Creature is a comic and captivating caper that will tug at your heartstrings.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Review : The Bellini Madonna

The Bellini Madonna by Elizabeth Lowry. Farrar, Strauss and Giroux. 2009.

The Bellini Madonna is the mysterious tale of a lost painting and the sad story of a lost man. It is told from the viewpoint of Thomas Lynch, a recently fired art history professor. His quest to find the lost Bellini takes him on a psychologically manipulative journey that leaves him broken.

What prevented me from fully engaging in this book was the language. It felt overly intellectual and slightly pompous at times and, as a result, unnatural. It fits Thomas Lynch's arrogant art historian character, which kept me reading, but it felt overdone to me. A few turns of phrase to illustrate my point...

" unexpected tertium quid..."

"...the violent bifurcation of my perception."

"...the temptation to depart from strict verisimilitude and to force the pattern of my confession..."

Despite this, Lowry succeeds in translating the psychological and physical weaknesses of Lynch and the characters he encounters beautifully. She deftly moves the reader between the present and the past as she communicates the history of the painting and the family that owns it. If you can focus on these triumphs and move past the affected, pretentious language, I believe The Bellini Madonna is worth reading.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Thanks to ALA exhibitors...

Though there don't seem to be as many free books to be had at ALA anymore, I managed to pick up a few goodies. Here's a list of the books that sounded interesting enough for me to lug home.

Out now...
Hermes, Myrlin A. The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet: A Novel. Harper Perennial, 2010.
I enjoy literary fiction so this sounded interesting. This is the story of Horatio, a scholar who meets Shakespeare's Hamlet before tragedy ensues. This prequel also introduces Shakespeare as a character in the "real-life" Hamlet's story.

Coming soon...
Grimes, Tom. Mentor: A Memoir. Tin House Books. Release Date: August 1, 2010.
Tom Grimes reflects on his life as a writer and his own frustrated ambitions while telling the story of his relationship with his literary mentor, Frank Conroy. Conroy was the director of the famed Iowa Writer's Workshop, which Grimes attended, and author of his own memoir, Stop-Time (1967).

Kring, Tim and Dale Peck. Shift: A Novel. Random House. Release Date: August 10, 2010.
I was attracted to the cover of this ARC, which actually read "Did LSD kill JFK?" rather than the rather plain title of "Shift." I'm a sucker for historical fiction and don't mind a little conspiracy theory just for fun, so this looks like a fun read. Only now do I realize it is the first in a planned trilogy called Gate of Orpheus and that one of the authors is the creator of that little TV show called Heroes.

McCormack, Win. The Rajneesh Chronicles: The True Story of the Cult That Sought to Kill Two Thirds of the Human Race. Tin House Books. Release Date: September 1, 2010.
The Rajneesh Chronicles is a collection of articles originally published in Oregon Magazine covering the cult's rise and fall from 1981 to 1985. Originally published in 1987, this new edition brings the story up to date.

Hale, Benjamin. The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore. Twelve. Release Date: February 2, 2011.
This one I picked up because I couldn't quite figure out what it was about from the cover blurbs. Now I know it's about a chimpanzee who apparently blurs the line between primate and human. Could be iffy, but I'll give it a whirl.

Teasers...or, a chapter or two to get you interested
Hutoo, Richard Jay. A Peculiar Tribe of People: Murder and Madness in the Heart of Georgia. Lyons Press. October 19, 2010.
A true crime story set in 1960s Georgia. Chester Burge is charged with the murder of his wife, and the ensuing trial stuns the town and reveals long-hidden secrets.

Sabar, Ariel. Heart of the City: Nine Stories of Love and Serendipity on the Streets of New York. Da Capo Press. Release Date: January 11, 2011.
This collection of short stories examines chance encounters and unexpected love in the city of New York.

Look forward to reviews in the coming weeks!

Hot town, summer in the city...

Wow, was it ever hot in Washington, DC! Like a steam sauna. Anyway, I had a nice time despite the heat and managed to see all the sites I was hoping to see.

The Paper Engineering: Fold, Pull, Pop and Turn exhibit at the National Museum of American History was fun, but small. I guess movable book art isn't something the average NMAH goer is that interested in. This Smithsonian Institution Libraries' exhibit had some wonderful examples of movable, pop-up, folding and multiple-construction books dating from 1540 to the present. There are photos of many of the books on the exhibit blog.

If you happen to be in DC, it's worth stopping in to see this exhibit. However, the small size makes a special trip impractical.