Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Set at the end of the Vietnam war, The Sympathizer is told from the point of view of a communist spy placed in the South Vietnamese military.  After the war, he immigrates to the US and continues his double life.  This is a book about duplicity—most obviously, that of the main character, who lies to everyone, but it is also about the duplicity of governments and the dishonesty between friends.  It is a challenging and sometimes disturbing book.  The Sympathizer won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, as well as a number of other awards. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Rusted Sun by Michael Zimmer

New to our western section is Michael Zimmer's The Rusted Sun. The book takes on the subject of range wars in the American West, particular with this book, New Mexico. With Zimmer, however, it isn't just a tale of ranchers shooting ranchers over a piece or two of ground. The Rusted Sun deals with many interwoven tales, all headed toward a common conclusion.
Zimmer is excellent at working through the mechanizations of many themes, and then getting them to meet before you turn the final page. He doesn't write to deceive his audience, but at the same time, he keeps secrets under wraps until the end. There are plenty of clues along the way that have you guessing one way or another how the story might end; however, it isn't until the final pages that you have the picture painted, and with Zimmer, I have yet to be unhappy with his conclusions.
I also enjoy how Zimmer develops characters. With The Rusted Sun, he creates a "bad guy" so distasteful, you want to read ahead to make sure that he gets shot before the story ends. I'd say that's pretty good when you are wanting to off the baddy as much as the lead character does.
The Rusted Sun is a page-turner and zips along at an action-filled pace. Set aside a good amount of time to read it because you will want to keep going to the end.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

In a split second, an auto accident changes Jenna Gray's life forever.  She keeps replaying the incident over and over in her head, and decides that the only way to heal is to leave the city behind and take refuge on the coast of Wales.  Meanwhile, a pair of police investigators are chasing down leads.

Just when it appears that things might be changing for the better, the past catches up with Jenna, with dire consequences.

This book had a twist that I absolutely did not see coming!  I always appreciate a book that pulls that off.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Journey That Saved Curious George by Louise Borden

     It was so interesting to read about the history of H.A. and Margret Rey. I was surprised that their name change occurred while they were living in Brazil and not due to the fact that they were of Jewish origin in a developing Nazi regime. Then later they decide to go to Europe for a honeymoon trip and end up living in Paris.
     The part of their story that was most fascinating to me was the part where you begin to worry about the encroaching army. To leave your home because you fear for your life (an activity unknown to most modern-day Americans, like me) takes courage. What a harrowing experience!
     At one point, before they leave Paris on bikes, Hans was working hard on his projects, because "in wartime, children needed good books and songs more than ever". I feel Hans and Margret really did work hard to create, for children, fun and playful stories. They managed to experience a lot of wonderful times, interrupted on occasion by men's horrific wars, and still ended up giving to the world on of our most loved book characters; Curious George.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston

One world-famous author.  A team of archeologists and explorers.  The impenetrable Honduran jungle.  Combine those with modern LIDAR technology, which allows explorers to see minute surface terrain changes, even through dense undergrowth. This is the recipe for a real-life Indiana Jones story; archeologists in search of a legendary city of treasure buried deep within the Honduran jungle.  The natives of the area supposedly used it as a last point of refuge against Spanish invaders, but warned that anyone who looked upon the city would die.  LIDAR showed that the city might be real, but the only way to know for sure was for Preston and company to venture deep into a deadly, uncharted rainforest.  Did they find the immense wealth that was spoken of in the legend?  Or did they instead find the death that was whispered about? Sometimes, a curse can be more than just  a mere saying...

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Faithful by Alice Hoffman

Shelby and Helene are high school best friends, ready to go to college and seem to have a bright future until one wintry evening when they skid off the road in their car.  Helene remains in a coma and Shelby eventually recovers but carries emotional scars and survivor guilt that spiral out of control.  Forget about college, living day to day becomes a challenge, not only for Shelby but her family as well.  The first third of the book is really dark where Hoffman explores abuse in psychiatric wards, self-mutilation and alienation, but Hoffman's magic touch is at work.  This is an engaging read about friendship, guardian angels, the displaced, and how one sometimes falls into a bottomless pit in order to resurface.