To begin, there are two books that I missed last week and wanted to include them with this week's books:
The year is 1900 and India Selwyn Jones has just graduated from The London School of Medicine for Women. India's professors suggest she think of setting up a practice on popular Harley Street but she chooses instead to work in the East End, serving the poor and desperate. It is while practicing in this dangerous part of the city that India saves the life of Sid Malone, London's most notorious gangster. Soon, despite having a fiancé that is quickly gaining prestige in the House of Commons, India finds herself drawn to Sid Malone and his dangerous and hidden past. The rest of the book follows the lives of India and Sid and the destruction and danger their love brings about. I am very much looking forward to picking this book up, an interview has been scheduled with Jennifer Donnelly to appear on Loaded Questions, stay tuned.
Beginner's Greek by James Collins
Beginner's Greek, James Collins' debut novel, follows Peter Russell, a man who finally falls madly in love with a woman named Holly, on a flight from New York to LA. Much to Peter's delight Holly writes her number on a piece of paper and hands it to him. The story doesn't end there as, later that night, Peter discovers that he has lost the number. Years pass and suddenly Peter finds Holly again but this time she's married to his best friend Jonathan. What follows is a very comical and entertaining book in which the reader can expect to encounter an "evil boss, the desirable temptress, fiendish behaviors, letters gone astray" and ultimately and ending in which every gets what they deserve. I was first approached about this book a few months ago and got my copy a few weeks ago in the mail. The story may seem formulaic with Holly ending up the best friend's wife but I must say that this novel is so much more than that. It is, as I have said, entertaining, unexpected, and well written. It was featured this week on Entertainment Weekly's Must List. I look forward to sharing a full review with my readers and and my upcoming interview with author James Collins.
The Expeditions by Karl Iagnemma
This is the story of an estranged father, William Stone, and his estranged son, Elisha, who have not seen each other in three long years. The year is 1844 and Elisha, who has at this point been hiding out in the frontier town of Detroit, has signed up for a dangerous and risky expedition into the uncharted and unknown territory of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Just before the expedition, lead by an ex-solider and an odd professor eager to prove his theories about the origins of humanity, leaves, Elisha writes a letter to his invalid mother in Massachusetts. The letter marks his first communication with his family in three years. Elisha's mother, however, doesn't open the letter as she has passed away months before, unknown to her son. The letter is instead opened by the boy's father Reverend William Edward Stone. For the first time William has some idea where his son might be and, armed with this information, he sets out to find Elisha. The remainder of the novel speaks to the bond between father and son, the cruelty of the wilderness, the world beyond Reverend William's cloistered study, and love between the opposite sexes. I haven't yet gotten my hands on a copy of this book but I am very much looking forward to sitting down to read it. Critics who have read the book comment that the arrival of Expeditions marks the discover of a true and extraordinary talent in author Karl Iagnemma.
Lady of the Snakes by Rachel Pastan
Lady of the Snakes follows the life of Jane Levitsky, a successful scholar of 19th century Russian literature. Jane is also married to husband Billy and mother to a somewhat demanding daughter, Maise. Everything changes, though, after Jane makes an important discovery in the life of an important Russian author and his wife, Jane is catapulted into the role of an academic superstar. Everything comes with a consequence and Jane soon finds her relationship with her husband chaffing as she is unable to meet the needs of her family due to the success of her career. There are professional foes as well, the brilliant yet angry Otto Sigelman who has made a career of studying the same material of Jane and whom she was hired to replace, who will stop at nothing to impede upon Jane's success. This novel, one reviewer wrote, will be painfully familiar to women who have attempted to have it all and that may very well be true. However, Lady of Snakes represents a more intelligent and academic sort of literature for women that should appeal to those looking for a more realistic and representative heroine.
Beverly Hills Dead by Stuart Woods
Now I have to admit to never having read a book by Stuart Woods, however, it is clear from the sales and high rankings of his books that somebody sure is. Woods' newest novel, a sequel to The Prince of Beverly Hills takes place during the "Red Scare" of 1940's Hollywood in which everyone and anyone could be accused of being a Communist. The book follows former cop turned head of productions at Centurion Pictures, Rick Barron. Things start to heat up with Barron's good friend Sidney Brooks, a successful screenwriter, is sent a subpoena from the House Un-American Activities Committee. Quite frankly, nobody, including Barron, is surprised as the number of people suspected of being sympathizers increases every day and the activities of the House Un-American Activities Committee begin more and more to look like those of a zealous witch-hunt. In writing the blurb for this novel I must say that I am tempted to pick it up.
I'm Looking Through You: Growing Up Haunted: A Memoir
by Jennifer Finney Boylan
This memoir by the author of She's Not There, is about the life of Jennifer Finney Boylan and her childhood in Pennsylvania during the 1970's. Boylan writes of frightening daily encounters, stairs that make creepy noises, images in mirrors, and the sound of faint whispers. Jennifer, growing up in the mansion referred to as "Coffin House", had her own ghosts to battle. Born James, the promo for this book writes that the author lived in "a haunted body" and lived with a father and sister who became ghosts to her as well. Boylan begins an earnest investigation into the spirits that haunted her family's home with the help of highly spirited and yet entirely doubtful ghostbusters at her side.