Guy Gunaratne’s In Our Mad and Furious City

“All that’s left now is to listen.”  And “listen” you must to this beautifully poetic and original novel.  In and around the Estate (think the projects), it is hot summer, and London simmers.  A “soldier boy” is killed.  Protests block streets.  Skinheads.  Young  Muslim enforcers.   “Britain first.” The mosque burns.  Riots.  Okay, current, topical, in the news, right?  Important, too, and ugly, right?    Oh, certainly, but it is the language and the individual voices telling this story that make all the difference here, all the difference.

The young men here are black, Pakistani, Muslim, Irish; they are street and cynical; and they all speak the same language.   A rich, rich broth that is both slang and dialect, sometimes verging on patois, and it made my heart sing – again and again.   There is the lilting voice of a gentleman from the Caribbean islands remembering the violence of the Teddy boys against black immigrants.    A hard, single mom from Dublin is another with a reminder of religious-based violence in Ireland.   The human spirit, the will, is in the voice.  So, listen, please.

Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided to me by Farrar, Straus and Giroux / MCD x FSG Originals via NetGalley. I would like to thank the publisher and the author for providing me this opportunity. All opinions expressed herein are my own.

Why To Kill a Mockingbird Matters: What Harper Lee’s Book and America’s Iconic Film Mean to Us Today

Don’t have to tell you what this book is about, now do I?   Does it satisfy us with its answers to those questions is what we want to know, I suppose.   From the accessibility of Harper Lee’s beautiful book to its timing in relation to the civil rights movement, from the perfect casting of the movie and its quiet intensity, we are encouraged and provoked by the literal and the figurative, delighted and horrified, and, of course, of course, we have never been the same.  Mr. Santopietro’s book is not only scholarly and thoughtful, but, an added bonus, it is a delightful read as well.

Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided to me by St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley. I would like to thank the publisher and the author for providing me this opportunity. All opinions expressed herein are my own.

A Torch Kept Lit: Great Lives of the Twentieth Century

Great lives eulogized by Mr. W.F.  Buckley, Jr., himself a true Renaissance man, and collected here for us by James Rosen.  These artful essays are shaped by Buckley’s unique intelligence and insights and, to quote Mr. Rosen, his “…oceanic view of the world…”.  With elegance, humor, irony and his hellacious vocabulary, Mr. Buckley shares with us the famous and infamous, friends and family, presidents and artists, the sanctified and the damned.   From those who changed the course of history to history’s footnotes, praise is given, puffery is punctured, evil is recognized….according to Mr. Buckley.

Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided to me by Crown Publishing / Crown Forum via NetGalley. I would like to thank the publisher and the author for providing me this opportunity. All opinions expressed herein are my own.

Tap Out: Poems by Edgar Kunz

Poetry as abrupt and jarring as broken bone.  Unless you can appreciate lives lived at the hard, ugly edges and find the brutal beauty in humanity that shows up drunk and loud, spitting and stealing, then stay away.  But here’s the thing.  This is humanity that won’t tap out, no matter what.  Hitting bookstores on March 5!

Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided to me by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt / Mariner Books via NetGalley. I would like to thank the publisher and the author for providing me this opportunity. All opinions expressed herein are my own.

Heather Gudenkauf’s Before She Was Found

Iowa.  Tiny little place.  Pitch, Iowa.  But, as we know, and as this smartly written thriller demonstrates, the internet and social media can destroy lives – even in Pitch.  An adept author tells a deviously crooked story in several voices: pre-teens seeking acceptance by those who have not outgrown childish cruelty, a struggling single mom, a grandparent loving a flawed grandchild, a doctor trying so hard to help and missing the mark.  This book has no pretensions, but If you enjoy being taken out of the everyday and into the thought-provoking dark, this is a good writer and a good story.  Release is currently scheduled for April 16.

Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided to me by HARLEQUIN – Trade Publishing (U.S. & Canada) / Park Row via NetGalley. I would like to thank the publisher and the author for providing me this opportunity. All opinions expressed herein are my own.

Mary Lynn Bracht’s White Chrysanthemum

Beginning in Korea during World War II, this beautiful work of fiction tells the story of two sisters born into the diving women of Jeju Island which has been under Japanese occupation since the early 1900’s.   The diving culture itself is harsh and fascinating, as is life as second class citizens under Japanese domination.   We know so little about Korean culture and history, and this good, good book is eye-opening, entertaining and well worth the read.

Full Disclosure:  A review copy of this book was provided to me by PENGUIN GROUP Putnam – G.P. Putnam’s Sons via NetGalley.  I would like to thank the publisher and the author for providing me this opportunity.  All opinions expressed herein are my own.

Tara Westover’s Educated: A Memoir

So much has been said and written about this wonderful memoir that I won’t even try to say more.  If you’ve missed it, you really should make a U-turn.

Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided to me by  -Random House Publishing – Random House via NetGalley. I would like to thank the publisher and the author for providing me this opportunity. All opinions expressed herein are my own.