A Curable Romantic by Joseph Skibell
From the arresting first line of A Curable Romantic, Mr. Skibell’s prose flows smoothly from one unexpected twist to the next. The story, which begins in Austria in the late 1800s, follows Dr. Sammelsohn as he stumbles upon psychoanalysis and the international language Esperanto, and grapples with his own faith and relationships with father figures, while searching for a woman whose ardor matches his own. Scene descriptions – in particular, that of infinitely reflecting mirrors when he first meets Dr. Freud – are almost cinematic, and transitions are seamless, though the Esperanto section is perhaps a little
longer than desirable. You will enjoy this book if you are drawn to the masterful, fantastical storytelling of authors like Kafka but wish for less
darkness, more doses of humor, and shorter sentences.
Chris – Volunteer @ JHL
In his old age, Thomas Walker recalls the week of his life.
At age twelve, he leaves his home in New York with his father to sell the new Colt repeating pistol in the West (“West” being Pennsylvania at the time). His father, a former spectacle salesman who’s never fired a gun in his life, is murdered and robbed of his Colts, and the killers are now on the trail of the only witness–young Tom. The twelve-year-old is alone with only a wooden sample pistol and his horse Jude Brown. He soon finds aid, though, in the form of trader and former ranger Henry Stands, a larger-than-life myth of a man, who, not for lack of trying to get out of it, eventually tasks himself with seeing Tom home.
Aside from its obvious, large debt to Charles Portis’ True Grit (one of the all-time great western novels), this literate western does what it does extremely well, with a page-turning plot and thoughtful, distinctive voice. (Interesting side note: Lautner is British. Curious to see what he does next.)
Valerie Martin (Mary Reilly) returns to historical fiction with this engrossing tale of lives related through the mysterious true-life ghost ship Mary Celeste, which appeared adrift off the coast of Spain in 1872 with its cargo intact and its crew missing. There’s the family lost on the ship–its captain, his wife and their daughter, and the wife’s surviving sister Hannah, who, under the name Violet Petra has made a living for herself via patronage as a Spiritualist medium. She has come to doubt the truth of her ability to the point of disavowing it to a reporter out to debunk her. (But author Martin won’t let us off the hook so easily on that one.)
Then there’s Arthur Conan Doyle, who, as a young, unknown author, pens a wildly fictitious account of the Mary Celeste that infuriates the surviving family. Later, as a celebrated writer and well-known pursuer of Spiritualist phenomena, his and Petra’s paths will cross with extraordinary, unexpected results.
A thoughtful shipboard adventure story akin to Andrea Barrett’s Ship Fever and Voyage of the Narwhal, as well as a metaphysical adventure that delves into 19th Century Spiritualism like M.J. Rose’s Seduction. The Ghost of the Mary Celeste is an eerie tale, well told.
John Boyne is the author of multiple adult and juvenile novels, most notably The Boy in the Striped Pajamas which was made into a movie. This House Is Haunted is a classic ghost story written in the style of a Dickens novel and set in 1867 England. In true Boyne style, the threads of the story that he weaves come together for a most unexpected and chilling conclusion. It really is a page-turner.
Rose Under Fire is the teen (ages 13 to 19) category winner of the 2014 Schneider Family Book Award for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience.
If you find inspiration in the daily bravery and determination of those who experienced the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis during World War II, you will enjoy Rose’s story, told in diary and letter style. Wein’s writing seamlessly connects this novel with its 2012 companion, Code Name Verity, and masterfully looks at Rose’s situation from various characters’ and time period viewpoints.
Richard Powers is back with a transcendent novel of dazzling scope.
Seventy-year-old musician Peter Els came of age as a composer during the experimental John Cage era. Melody, harmony, all the musical traditions, seemed exhausted. What could “new” turn out to be in the face of such a self-annihilating ethos?
Eventually, Els moves beyond avant garde composition, aimed at a tiny elitist audience, to inevitable silence. “That’s the curse of a life spent looking for transcendence: nothing real will ever suffice, nothing that you won’t want to tweak.”
Els then rediscovers his early interest in biology. With the esoteric intention of merging his music with the science of DNA, he pieces together a home laboratory and begins a refined form of amateur “tweaking.” It’s only a matter of time before his new creativity comes to the attention of Homeland Security, and Els finds himself on the run, dodging the GPS police state and being dubbed the “Bioterrorist Bach.”
It’s hard to imagine what could be more difficult to write about than music, and Powers challenges himself and the reader to full immersion into the mind of a composer. Reminiscent at times of such works as Lawrence Norfolk’s John Saturnall’s Feast and Patrick Suskind’s Perfume, this rapturously detailed sensory delight never ceases to amaze, tantalize and dare.
For anyone who has ever felt as if they must be invisible to the people around them, Calling Invisible Women is a special treat. Imaginative and funny, poignant and relatable, you get the feeling that Ray read the diaries of every middle-aged wife and mom she ever met as she created these characters. There ARE invisible women, they have a support group, and they can meet when and where they want! This big hearted book gets you thinking about things. Like how one person’s curse is another’s super power, and if we were really invisible, wouldn’t the people around us be so much easier to see? I love the message that good things can come from misfortune if we can just get over ourselves.
This book is actually a heavenly mash-up of love stories, which taken by themselves could seem pretty common place. Yet told in this highly imaginative, creative and poignant way, the stories reveal things about our human condition–what we value and how to hold on to it when the chips are down. It’s about miracles, forgiveness and the power of love. An added bonus is the changing POV between the engaging characters. Treat yourself to one for the keeper shelf!
I really enjoyed this book. Maynard always makes the characters and the setting come alive for readers on the first page. Her novel, Labor Day, was recently made into a film, and it would be easy to see this one done as a film as well. After Her is the story of a detective’s family in Marin County during the hunt for a serial killer who is killing women right on the mountain in back of the family’s home. Rachel, the oldest daughter, tells the story. Now in her 40′s, she looks back to 1979 when she and her sister, Patty, were growing up, playing, and enjoying the outdoors. Play is what they did best together because after their parents divorced they dealt with their mom’s depression. We meet Rachel as a lively, imaginative 13 year-old who is bound for trouble. Patty, the younger sister, idolizes Rachel and is fearless like some children can be. It is a book of suspense, coming of age, love, murder and loss. I was sad to leave the characters behind when the book was finished.
I absolutely love this book! I wish I could give it more than five stars, because it is perfection with a heart. Evison hits the mark with a story that is quirky, heartwrenching and hilariously funny. I decided to read it because I am a huge fan of road trips and road trip fiction. I was also curious about how the author would deal with traveling with a person who has disabilities–no small feat. It turns out that basically all of the characters in this novel have a disability of some sort or another, not the kind that get diagnosed but the hidden ones from wounds that never heal or from basic ineptitude at this thing called life. For who CAN be prepared? As protagonist Ben Benjamin instructs the reader, “Be ready not to be ready. Be ready to be brought to your knees and beaten to dust.” Despite the tragedies of life, Evison breathes humor and optimism into the strange situations that occur during the adult coming-of-age road trip that Ben and Trev take together. I guess the choice is simple: We can eat waffles every morning and spend our days watching the weather channel. Or we can defy the odds and go forth with joie de vivre anyway!