Tag Archives: Ulmer & Berne

A Gambler’s Anatomy – by Jonathan Lethem

What is a face? Is it a mass behind which we create an identity? Or is it our actual identity? What happens when the face is radically changed? In “A Gambler’s Anatomy”, Alexander Bruno is a professional backgammon player, telepathic, debonair and mysterious, expertly relieving the wealthy and egotistical- frequently one and the same-of their … Continue Reading

The Comet Seekers – by Helen Sedgwick

The Comet Seekers is a first novel about trying to live in the present while struggling to understand the past. The book starts and ends in the year 2017 in Antartica where Roisin, age 58, is studying Antarctica and comets. She chose to go to Antarctica with the British Antarctic Survey to get  far away … Continue Reading

A Gentleman in Moscow – by Amor Towles

Amor Towles’ “A Gentlemen in Moscow” describes a big life in a seemingly small world and paints a vibrant picture of Soviet history from 1922 through 1954. In this beautifully written and captivating story, Amor Towles tells a tale of the triumph of goodness over cruelty and hopefulness over despair. This second novel is as … Continue Reading

The Noise of Time – by Julian Barnes

Dmitri Dmitriyevich (Shostakovich) was a Soviet composer and pianist and a prominent figure of 20th century music. Julian Barne’s “Noise of Time” is a chilling fictionalized history of Shostakovich’s life, focusing on the impact of Soviet politics on Shostakovich’s life and music from the time of his birth (1906) to the time of his death … Continue Reading

Commonwealth – by Ann Patchett

Ann Patchett hits the trifecta with “Commonwealth”–great writing, great story telling and great insight–all told in a matter of fact style with a touch of humor. “Commonwealth” is about family–which means it’s about love and hate, betrayal and forgiveness, expectations and disappointment, life and death. The story begins when deputy District Attorney Albert (Bert) Cousins … Continue Reading

The Vegetarian – by Han Kang

“Her life was no more than a ghostly pageant of exhausted endurance, no more than a television drama. Death, who now stood by her side, was as familiar to her as a family member, missing for a long time but now returned.” This quote sums up the misery that is Han Kang’s “The Vegetarian”, inexplicable … Continue Reading

Heat & Light – by Jennifer Haigh

“Heat and Light” is a story about small town life in Pennsylvania, the impact of fracking and other energy extraction activities and the hypocrisy and opportunism on both sides of the energy debate. Rich Devlin has spent his entire life in Bakerton, Pennsylvania and works as a prison guard and sometime bartender at his father’s … Continue Reading

The Little Red Chairs – by Edna O’Brien

Edna O’Brien’s “The Little Red Chairs” is a disturbing yet compelling account of the direct and peripheral impact of a charismatic genocidist. Beautifully written, the book takes its title from the 11,541 red chairs laid out in rows in Sarajevo on April 6, 2012, to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the siege of Sarajevo by … Continue Reading

Nobody’s Fool – by Richard Russo

Richard Russo’s most recent novel, “Everybody’s Fool,” was just released. It is a sequel to a book he published in 1993 called “Nobody’s Fool”. I thought I should read Nobody’s Fool before I read Everybody’s Fool and so this is my review of Nobody’s Fool. In Nobody’s Fool, the main character, Donald Sullivan (Sully) is … Continue Reading

A Strangeness In My Mind – by Orhan Pamuk

To say that Orhan Pamuk’s “A Strangeness In My Mind” is one of the best written and enjoyable books I have read all year is overshadowed by my embarrassment that it is the first of the Nobel Prize winner’s novels that I have read. Believe me I will be going back and devouring all of … Continue Reading

My Vacation

Guess what readers? I am going on vacation! “What” you might say? “Why are you telling us this and why do we care? We’re not going on vacation and we don’t really want to hear about you having fun in the sun”–or something like that. I am telling you because I will be gone for … Continue Reading

The American Lover – by Rose Tremain

“The American Lover” is a collection of 13 short stories with certain common themes and moods. There are no happy stories in the collection and the commonality includes stories depicting parent child relationships, parental expectations and disappointments, misguided and disloyal love, the cruelty of nature, World War II and wasted and beleaguered lives. Yet despite … Continue Reading

LaRose – by Louise Erdich

“We are chased by things done to us in this life…We are chased by what we do to others and then in turn what they do to us. We’re always looking behind us, or worried about what comes next. We only have this teeny moment. Oops, it’s gone.” LaRose, by Louise Erdrich, is a story … Continue Reading

The Man Without A Shadow – by Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates, a prolific writer, has a very distinctive style and her books address societal issues in a consistent and often disturbing manner. Her story lines usually address issues of gender inequality, include some sort of sexual impropriety and the lead character frequently devolves into mental illness. These are the JCO constants which revolve … Continue Reading

The Sympathizer – by Viet Thanh Nguyen

It seems as though there have been a lot of first novels lately; maybe there always have been and I have just been oblivious. Viet Thanh Nguyen’s “The Sympathizer”, winner of the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Award for Excellence in Fiction, is a good one, so long as you do not mind vivid descriptions of deception, murder and … Continue Reading

The Mark and the Void – by Paul Murray

Every so often you read a book that is just a puzzler. It was good; it was bad; it was everything in between. I just cannot make up my mind. That is how I feel about Paul Murray’s “The Mark and the Void.” Ireland’s fictional approximation of The Big Short, it has elements of reality and surreality, … Continue Reading

Mrs. Engels – by Gavin McCrea

“Mrs. Engels”, a first novel by Gavin McCrea, is a fictional account of a three year period (1870-1873)(as well as some flashbacks) in the lives of the authors of the Communist Manifesto (Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels), told from the perspective of Friedrich Engels’ wife, Lizzie Burns.  Lizzie and her sister, Mary, Irish by birth, are … Continue Reading

Everyone Brave Is Forgiven – by Chris Cleave

Every year it seems there are innumerable new novels that take place in London during the blitz of World War II. And of course while I cannot claim to have read all of them, I always wonder how any single one can have anything new or fresh to say. Chris Cleave’s “Everyone Brave is Forgiven,” which takes … Continue Reading

Miller’s Valley – by Anna Quindlen

Anna Quindlen’s “Miller’s Valley” is Mimi Miller’s reminiscence of the more than 10 year period in her life when the federal government was planning to move a dam and flood her home town of Miller’s Valley. The story relays the expected emotional opposition to loss of home and place, but along the way it touches … Continue Reading

A Little Life – by Hanya Yanagihara

“[H]e was worried because to be alive was to worry. Life was scary; it was unknowable… They all…sought comfort, something that was theirs alone, someone to hold off the terrifying largeness, the impossibility, of the world, of the relentlessness of its minutes, its hours, its days.” This is Hanya Yanagihara’s “A Little Life”. “A Little Life” … Continue Reading

Wind/Pinball – by Haruki Murakami

“Wind/Pinball” is the 2015 translation and American publication of Haruki Murakami’s first two novels, written in the late 1970s. Both novels are very short and the book is preceded by a wonderful author’s note about how he became a writer. If you are a Murakami fan, you will recognize the magical realism, existential, and spiritual tones found in … Continue Reading

Best Boy – by Eli Gottlieb

Have you ever wondered how the mind of someone different from you works and what the person might be thinking and feeling? That is exactly the insight that Eli Gottlieb provides when he gives you a glimpse into the mind of an autistic man, Todd Aaron, in “Best Boy.” We first meet Todd when he is … Continue Reading

Did You Ever Have A Family – by Bill Clegg

I just finished reading Bill Clegg’s “Did You Ever Have A Family”,  a novel about loss, grief, regret and sorrow. It revolves around June Reid and the death of four people in a house explosion and the subsequent impact on the lives of their surviving families and the people they touched. It does not have a happy moment in … Continue Reading