THE MEMORIST
by M.J. Rose |

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People PICK

REVIEWED BY SUE CORBETT

NOVEL
Jeremy Logan, a Vienna-based antiquities dealer, specializes in recovering hidden or stolen Judaica—he's the "Jewish Indiana Jones." But when he comes across an 18th-century box linked to Beethoven, the most startling aspect is its familiarity: He's seen the box's intricate, carved motifs drawn repeatedly by his American daughter Meer as she tried to exorcise terrible images that haunted her throughout childhood. Though Meer, now 31, has never shared Jeremy's belief in reincarnation, she can't resist flying to Vienna and is at once caught up in a deadly competition over the box, which holds secrets about a lost flute whose music reputedly helps people recall their past lives.

This companion to The Reincarnationist, Rose's '07 bestseller, has a sprawling cast, as the narrative focus shifts among a grieving Israeli journalist, international security experts, FBI agents, Austrian police, various thieves and terrorists, even the principal oboist for the Vienna Philharmonic. The novel nearly collapses from the strain of its many subplots, but Rose raises the stakes for her ensemble until events come to an excruciatingly tense crescendo at a glittering performance of Beethoven's Eroica. Exhausting, but entertaining, too.

by Irene M. Pepperberg

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REVIEWED BY CAROLINE LEAVITT

MEMOIR
Hoping to replicate chimp language studies with birds, scientist Pepperberg chose African gray parrot Alex as her subject in 1977. Here, in loving detail, she recalls their journey. Alex's brain was the size of a walnut, but he won fame for his ability—comparable to a 5-year-old's—to know and say colors and numbers. A fascinating look at animal intelligence, Pepperberg's tale is also a love story between beings who sometimes "squabbled like an old married couple" but whose bond broke only with Alex's death at 31 in '07. Irresistible.

NONFICTION FOR ELECTION SEASON

WHATEVER IT TAKES by Paul Tough
Talk about change: the story of Harlem antipoverty crusader Geoffrey Canada's inspiring successes.

TOO CLOSE TO THE SUN by Curtis Roosevelt
FDR's grandson on the perks and pitfalls of having a President in the family.

SPEAKING FOR MYSELF by Cherie Blair
"I fancied him rotten," Cherie says of ex-prime minister Tony. That and more great dish from a political wife.

• Who do Mary Kate and Ashley admire? The 20 people they interviewed for their book Influence, for starters. "They share a common belief," Ashley writes, "that the world should never be a boring place."

• In A Is for Atticus, Lorilee Craker—coauthor of Lynne Spears' memoir Through the Storm—turns to books for stand-out baby names.

WHERE DID YOU GET THIS IDEA?
After I wrote A Is for Adam: Biblical Baby Names in 2000, I realized people were also using their favorite books for ideas.

EXAMPLES?
One friend used Keats; I used Phoebe from The Catcher in the Rye for my daughter. I love that Brad Paisley and Kimberly Williams-Paisley named their son Huck.

DID JAMIE LYNN SPEARS CONSULT YOUR BOOK?
She liked it, but she ended up going with a name she'd thought of before.

ANY OTHER CELEB NAMERS YOU ADMIRE?
Isla Fisher and Sacha Cohen went with Olive—it takes someone gutsy and creative to reintroduce that. Angelina Jolie is a turbo namer. She knows no fear—we all stand in awe.