Thursday, June 25, 2009

RA 101 - 4 Disparate Titles

OK, so it wasn't the US Open that kept me from blogging this weekend - though I did catch plenty of golf. It was the fantastic treat from Barbara Hoffert that arrived at the library for me Friday afternoon - Richard Russo's new book That Old Cape Magic. As you can imagine, Russo being one of my all-time faves, I was flying around the library to think that she trusted me to review this one. I read it in two days but had a heck of a time with the review - 1st draft sitting in the computer. It is SO much harder to review a book you love. Watch LJ for the results.

I've been all over the genre board lately with what I've been listening to and reading. For those of you who read this blog for readers' advisory I'll give you a down and dirty blow by blow of the latest titles. First up, I just finished The Commoner by John Burnham Schwartz. Since this was the book I read during our rather paltry lunch break, I confess it look me a long time to get through it. Not the fault of the book, I don't think, more that it's hard to concentrate in the community lunch room and almost just as difficult when I dine al fresco by the dumpster!

The cover art intrigued me right away, not to mention that it was a starred review in Booklist. Literary fiction as well as historical fiction for those of you who are looking for categories, this book is about what happens when the crown prince of Japan falls for a "commoner," (one who had the audacity to beat him in a tennis match), marries her against the wishes of the royal family, and brings her into the severe confinement and stricture of the Chrysanthemum court.

The novel is based on a true story and Schwartz received much praise for his in-depth research since the Imperial Court of Japan is still shrouded in much secrecy. Book groups would find lots to discuss here; the loss of identity for a woman even in modern Japan once she becomes the potential bearer of the next crown prince, the pressure put upon her to renounce family and the outside world as well as her education and opinions. Talk could focus on choices we make in life, whether informed or not, and how we choose to live with them. And then there's love, is it enough? A very sad book indeed.

Espionage has always thrilled me. I think I'm a conspiracy theorist at heart. I've read most of John le Carre's work and was going to by-pass the latest until Nancy Pearl's glowing review forced me to listen to A Most Wanted Man. This is an extremely timely look at the "war on terror" and how governments interfere in the lives of innocent people, trying to make connections where none exist in an attempt to beat each other out in a great big contrived numbers game. The plot seemed just a tad unbelievable but I kept allowing myself to go with it cause, after all, what do I know about the terror war?

Still, why would a mother and son in Hamburg, Germany, take in a stranger off the street who appears to be deranged or dangerous, only to find that he's a Chechen Muslim who escaped torture and imprisonment to come to Germany to claim an inheritence from his Russian father who sired him out of wedlock? At the risk of being deported, this mother and son hook Issa, the stranger, up with a lawyer who represents immigrants in danger of being deported. The atty. Anabelle, hooks Issa up with a British banker, Tommy Brue, who holds the key to the money that will give Issa the freedom to study medicine and help the downtrodden Muslims of Chechnya. In my naivete, I wanted to believe that Tommy and Anabelle were truly good people caught up in something beyond their abilities. By the end of the book, as they were manipulated by German, British and U.S. forces, I wasn't so sure.

To be continued....I have to mow the lawn and the post is getting too long! Thanks for reading...

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