Wednesday, July 29, 2015

#31: A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott

Clark Gable and Carole Lombard's blossoming relationship plays out in the foreground as the making of "Gone with the Wind" goes on in the background, all quietly observed by Carole's (fictitious) assistant in Kate Alcott's A Touch of Stardust.

Alcott is actually Patricia O'Brien and is married into the Mankiewicz family, whose members include Hollywood legends Herman and Joseph.  It seems reasonable to assume that she had some inside track in the writing of this rather light, charming read.  And if hearing those names excites you, this is definitely a recommended read.

But fans of Golden Age Hollywood stories in general, and all its players, will find plenty to like in this novel.

I listened to a very good audiobook version on loan from the Morrisson-Reeves Public Library.

Friday, July 24, 2015

#30: Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

In bad old Detroit, an outsider artist turns to serial killing to improve his art in Lauren Beukes creepy, genre-bending thriller Broken Monsters.

Broken Monsters features a dedicated police detective who is also a single mom, her teen daughter (caught up in a dangerous online game with a child predator), a washed-up journalist trying to make a second career as a blogger, and a troubled homeless man, whose paths cross and re-cross with the killer.  Beukes almost makes Detroit into another character in the novel, which adds interest.

The chilling denouement slides--almost oozes--into a horror story in the last quarter of the novel, which caught me by surprise as I thought the book was more of a straight thriller.  But the storytelling had me turning pages quickly to the end, and Beukes' writing is hip and kinetic.

Unsettling but rewarding for readers who are interested in something more offbeat.

I checked this out from the Morrisson-Reeves Library in Richmond Indiana and read it quickly.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

#29: When the Doves Disappeared by Sofi Oksanen

During World War II, Estonia is passed back and forth between Nazi and Soviet rule, leaving their citizens with constantly shifting allegiances in a bleak landscape; against this backdrop are two cousins, one a hardline Estonian patriot and the other a slippery sycophant, whose fates are tied together by the women they love in Sofi Oksanen's When the Doves Disappeared.

Oksanen's novel is a large-scale historical drama with insights into a part of the world and a culture I was unfamiliar with.  Oksanen writes that Estonia is "like a nameless corpse on the battlefield" in the greater world war and does a good job of making Estonia almost another character in the work.

Otherwise Oksanen hits a lot of genre beats as one cousin becomes a partisan, the other a sympathizer, and they both become involved with internment camps; alternating chapters set in the 60s in the midst of Cold War paranoia shows a less familiar slice of history.

Oksanen ties the threads up in a rather fatalistic ending, but features good storytelling throughout from a different voice.

I checked this out from the Morrisson-Reeves Library in Richmond, Indiana.  Recommended.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

#28: Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell

Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell is a sweeping, literate western centered around the disparate group of lawmen and outlaws--and men who were both--that swirled around a battle that went down in history as the Gunfight at the OK Corral.

Where Russell's novel gives a fresh perspective is through the thoughts and actions of the wives, lovers, and other women associated with Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and the others who loomed large in the tale of the gunfight.

But plenty of time is spent on the more well-known figures, including some tertiary ones, as the actual gunfight does not occur until several hundred pages into the telling.  A briefer, and more melancholy, section tells about the aftermath, and what happened to most of the main players.

A really good contemporary western not only for fans of the genre but for readers interested in history.  Recommended.

I checked this out from the Morrison-Reeves Library in Richmond, Indiana.