Monday, June 30, 2014

The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis

Baruch Kotler is a high-flying disgraced Israeli politician looking to divert the spotlight by escaping to the Crimean seaside resort of Yalta with his mistress. Little does he realize that coincidentally, he will run into Chaim Tankilevich, the very person who ratted him out as a KGB operative, years ago. So it is that while these two friends’ arcs have followed wildly divergent paths, things have now come full circle. Bezmozgis occasionally imparts his life lessons in a heavy-handed fashion, yet there are some sobering universal truths tucked into this slim novel. Besides, who can resist a vacation to Yalta?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

California by Edan Lepucki

The natural world might appear to be the same as it always was, but things are a tad askew in post-apocalyptic California. Here Calvin and Frida are getting by, trying to understand what the introduction of their baby would mean under these radically different circumstances. As the couple stumble upon other inhabitants and navigate the boundaries and rules of this dystopia, you realize that the slow crawl up your spine is from the realization that what’s scary in this new world is not the new, but the old. Old grievances, old weaknesses and old compromises.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Goddess of Small Victories by Yannick Grannec

Kurt Gödel was one of the most brilliant mathematicians of the twentieth century, his wife, Adele, an under-educated cabaret dancer who lived in his Vienna neighborhood. What glue held their marriage together having it endure for more than fifty years? This is a moving portrait of a complex relationship, of a great mind slowly unraveling, of life’s infinite compromises thrown up over and over again, and of a woman daring to dream beyond her station. “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle,” Gloria Steinem once said. Adele’s life proves that theory to be, well, complicated.

Monday, June 16, 2014

I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

What does a brutal crime in a neglected apartment in New York City have to do with events unfolding in the Middle East? Turns out they share one set of metaphorical fingerprints - that lead to the Saracen, a deadly terrorist. The only person who can prevent a deadly dose of smallpox virus being released in the United States, is The Pilgrim. Screenwriter Terry Hayes delivers a high-voltage, globetrotting thriller that will keep you turning the pages. Slather on the sunscreen, make a fresh batch of margaritas, this tome is an ideal beach read that will deliver a dizzying adrenaline rush.

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

What is life but a cataloging of small events that add up to a miraculous whole? In this moving yet overly spare novella, Jenny Offill dispatches brief missives about the story of a marriage -- the initial happiness, the stresses, the disappointments piled richly on top of each other, all eventually pointing to a clear path to survival. The insights here are often filled with pathos and humor and real human frailties but in an attempt to focus on economy, Offill cuts too close to the bone. One can’t help but wishing for a little more meat on these bones.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Shadows in the Vineyard: The True Story of a Plot to Poison the World's Greatest Wine by Maximillian Potter

You can’t leave a story this good bottled up for long: La Domaine de la Romanee Conti, the best of the best vineyards in the world, and its esteemed owner Monsieur Aubert de Villaine, were once the target of extortion. Exactly who would drill the prized grape vines with a view to poison them? And why? Despite occasional overwrought writing, this lively account traces the rich history of Burgundy’s famous vineyard and unearths a detective story that affirms the old adage: fact can be a lot stranger than fiction. The result goes down as smoothly as the best grand cru.

A longer review of this book will be published in a July edition of The BookBrowse Review. Thanks to the publishers for a galley.