Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Taken at the Flood / Agatha Christie

From Publishers Weekly

Hercule Poirot, the celebrated Belgian sleuth visits the sleepy English village of Warmsley Vale to check into the background of Gordon Cloade, supposedly a victim of the London Blitz. He had wed an attractive young widow, the former Mrs. Underhay, now the sole possessor of the Cloade family fortune. The deceased's sister-in-law told Poirot that "spirits" informed her that the widow's first husband is still among the living, raising suspicions about Cloade's demise. Fraser's tone at once reassures listeners that, just as on television, they are in capable hands. He does a fine job creating a variety of character voices, distinguishing one from another with clarity but without excessive flamboyance.

Death Comes as the End / Agatha Christie


"Startlingly new! my already insensate admiration for her leaps even higher." Observer "More realistic than many a thriller-writer's idea of London." Evening Standard "A fascinating problem! baffling the most perspicacious reader." Scotsman "A decided novelty -- startling in all directions." Weekly Book Review "As ingenious and baffling as ever." Daily Sketch "Besides giving us a mystery story quite up to her own high standards, Agatha Christie has succeeded admirably in picturing the people of ancient Egypt as living persons and not as resurrected mummies." New York Times

The Lost Symbol / Dan Brown

From Amazon.com review

The Lost Symbol begins with an ancient ritual, a shadowy enclave, and of course, a secret. Readers know they are in Dan Brown territory when, by the end of the first chapter, a secret within a secret is revealed. To tell too much would ruin the fun of reading this delicious thriller, so you will find no spoilers here. Suffice it to say that as with many series featuring a recurring character, there is a bit of a formula at work (one that fans will love). Again, brilliant Harvard professor Robert Langdon finds himself in a predicament that requires his vast knowledge of symbology and superior problem-solving skills to save the day. The setting, unlike other Robert Langdon novels, is stateside, and in Brown's hands Washington D.C. is as fascinating as Paris or Vatican City (note to the D.C. tourism board: get your "Lost Symbol" tour in order). And, as with other Dan Brown books, the pace is relentless, the revelations many, and there is an endless parade of intriguing factoids that will make you feel like you are spending the afternoon with Robert Langdon and the guys from Mythbusters.
--Daphne Durham

Monday, May 9, 2011

In the Courts of the Sun / Brian D'Amato

From Booklist

According to the ancient Maya, December 21, 2012, could be the day the world ends. In this ambitious novel, a modern-day descendant of the Maya, Jed DeLanda, goes back in time to save mankind. Well, he doesn’t go back physically; that’s not possible in D’Amato’s world, but it is possible to send back the consciousness of a person and to place it inside the mind of someone living in the past. The plan was to put Jed’s mind inside the body of a Mayan king in the year 664 CE, but, instead, he winds up inside the head of a man about to be killed by ritual sacrifice. Can Jed keep his host alive long enough to save the world? This is the sort of novel that Robert Silverberg might write (and, in fact, it feels a bit like Silverberg’s classic Up the Line)—a richly detailed, intellectually stimulating adventure through time. Unfortunately, it takes too long for the adventure to begin. While it’s fine to describe the future world in which Jed lives and even to establish his credentials for being chosen as humanity’s savior, we shouldn’t be made to wait 200-odd pages before Jed is flung back into the past. Still, he is an engaging narrator, telling his story in an easy, often humorous style.
--David Pitt

Crime and Punishment / Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Product Description

Much more than just a tale of homicide, Crime and Punishment is a stunning philosophical novel about the nature of guilt and redemption. An impoverished ex-student, Raskolnikov, kills an old pawnbroker and her sister. But money alone is not his motive—and eventually Raskolnikov is compelled to face the forces both inside and out that have led him to murder. His struggle with himself and those around him symbolizes the battle of the individual against society, radicalism against tradition, and ultimately the will of man against the mysteries of divine providence. Compelling, rewarding, and richly layered, Crime and Punishment has invited analysis and controversy for nearly a century and a half. It was a sensation in its day, and its themes, methods and characterisation have left an indelible stamp on world literature.

Middlesex / Jeffrey Eugenides

From Publishers Weekly

As the Age of the Genome begins to dawn, we will, perhaps, expect our fictional protagonists to know as much about the chemical details of their ancestry as Victorian heroes knew about their estates. If so, Eugenides (The Virgin Suicides) is ahead of the game. His beautifully written novel begins: "Specialized readers may have come across me in Dr. Peter Luce's study, 'Gender Identity in 5-Alpha-Reductase Pseudohermaphrodites.' " The "me" of that sentence, "Cal" Stephanides, narrates his story of sexual shifts with exemplary tact, beginning with his immigrant grandparents, Desdemona and Lefty. Eugenides spends the book's first half recreating, with a fine-grained density, the Detroit of the 1920s and '30s where the immigrants settled: Ford car factories and the tiny, incipient sect of Black Muslims. Then comes Cal's story, which is necessarily interwoven with his parents' upward social trajectory. Milton, his father, takes an insurance windfall and parlays it into a fast-food hotdog empire. Meanwhile, Tessie, his wife, gives birth to a son and then a daughter-or at least, what seems to be a female baby. Genetics meets medical incompetence meets history. Perhaps the most wonderful thing about this book is Eugenides's ability to feel his way into the girl, Callie, and the man, Cal. It's difficult to imagine any serious male writer of earlier eras so effortlessly transcending the stereotypes of gender. This is one determinedly literary novel that should also appeal to a large, general audience.

Can You Keep a Secret? / Sophie Kinsella

From Booklist

The author of the Shopaholic trilogy offers up a delightful new novel, filled with her trademark wit and humor. When her plane en route from Glasgow to London experiences horrible turbulence, Emma Corrigan is convinced she is going to die. She babbles all of her most intimate thoughts and secrets to the handsome American man sitting next to her. But the plane lands safely, and Emma bids him an awkward good-bye. When she enters the office on Monday and learns the CEO of the company, Jack Harper, is in for a visit, Emma is horrified to learn Jack is actually the man in whom she confided on the flight. He knows everything, including that she hates her job and that she is not quite sure she loves her boyfriend. But Jack does not fire her on the spot; instead, he quietly replaces the office coffeemaker she hates and gives her advice about her personal life, which she finds infuriating. So why can't she stop thinking about him? Kinsella has another irresistible hit on her hands.
--Kristine Huntley