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People Top 5
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- August 24, 2009
- Vol. 72
- No. 8
Picks and Pans: Books
Corsets and Corpses
by Philippa Gregory |
REVIEWED BY JOANNA POWELL
After six juicy bestsellers about royal intrigue in Tudor England (including The Other Boleyn Girl, The Virgin's Lover), Gregory is back in the sidesaddle with this saga of an earlier, bloodier era: the Wars of the Roses. This first in a planned trilogy about the period is told from the perspective of Plantagenet queen Elizabeth Woodville, a widowed beauty who catches the eye of young King Edward of York, marries him in secret and rises to become an ambitious and formidable ruling mate. Elizabeth and Edward IV's lifelong ardor works in romantic counterpoint to the gory battles between the Houses of York and Lancaster, which ravaged England in the 1400s. Like the Tudor heroines who would follow her, Woodville proves a complex and indomitable force. Ultimately her sons would become the two princes who disappeared while imprisoned in the Tower of London, a mystery that confounds scholars to this day. Gregory's exhaustive research, lush detail and deft storytelling are all in top form here, making The White Queen both mesmerizing and historically rich.
by Oscar Casares |
REVIEWED BY BETH PERRY
Don Fidencio Rosales once had so many mistresses, he could catalog them in a notebook. Now, age 91, he is in a nursing home, barely in control of his body and angry about it. He and his estranged younger brother Don Celestino haven't spoken in a decade, but a mutual horror of old age draws them back together, and their reunion helps to solve a long-debated family mystery. While occasional stilted dialogue slows the pace, Amigoland's poignant imagery and wisecracking leads make it hard to put down. Casares is at his best when describing the downfall of the fiercely independent Don Fidencio. "My time should have come years ago," he says. "Sometimes I think God forgot about me." Debatable, but readers will remember this well-drawn crank even after this witty, affecting novel's final page.
by Tim Thornton |
REVIEWED BY KYLE SMITH
This hilarious first novel tracks the obsession of a Brit music geek who finds his washed-up idol Lance Webster living down the street, runs afoul of the rocker's security goons and yet befriends him while posing as someone else. Clive, the smitten fan who at 18 had "not a lot to worry about except how much indie the human body can physically absorb" is, at 33, "frustrated, no job, next to zero money, my weakness for alcohol now well into its senility." Despite that, Clive grows increasingly endearing as his scheme becomes more jumbled than a mosh pit.
by Susan Shapiro |
REVIEWED BY AILEEN WONG
Abandoned in short order by her husband, her best friend and her psychologist, self-help author Julia Goodman needs help. Despite having written a book on beating food addiction, this self-described "therapy junkie" seeks solace in cupcakes and on the couches of eight different shrinks in eight days. Shapiro's high-calorie, high-anxiety heroine is an appealing confection who—not surprisingly in this light, humorous tale—ultimately solves her own problems, bypassing bakeries and psychiatrists' offices on her way to true self-help.
by Nick McDonell |
REVIEWED BY ANDREW ABRAHAMS
A literary wunderkind at age 17 with his 2002 debut novel, Twelve, about rich, druggy Manhattan teens, McDonell continues his streak with a suspenseful, Graham Greene-inspired third effort. The thriller's action spans from Somalia—where Hatashil, a rebel leader and purported humanitarian, is accused of instigating a bloody massacre—to Harvard University, where ambitious professor Susan Lowell extols Hatashil in a Pulitzer Prize-winning book. A well-traveled Harvard grad, McDonell knows Cambridge's ivy walls well but also does a convincing job navigating Africa's murky political alliances. Despite some over-frenetic bouncing between scenes, it's clear this young writer has only begun to show where his prodigious storytelling will take us.
by Rafael Yglesias |
REVIEWED BY MICHELLE GREEN
Inspired by his own marriage, which ended with his wife Margaret's death five years ago, Yglesias' novel is a stunner. By turns wrenching, amusing and exasperating, it focuses on Enrique Sabas, a self-involved novelist; his awkward early days with the incandescent woman he will wed (also called Margaret); their clashes and her death from cancer. The book's strength lies in its depiction of marriage as a journey marked by love and hate, romance and tedium. Even as the strong-willed Margaret slips away, Enrique "long[s] to penetrate the mystery of how they had managed to live a life together while they were so different...." In the end he realizes that only one thing matters: "despite all the obstacles nature and the human world had put in their way ... her love and his love had survived."
>THRILLING MYSTERIES FOR THE ROAD
A RULE AGAINST MURDER by Louise Penny Old secrets surface at an idyllic lakeside lodge when a murder enquiry disrupts a family gathering.
THE MURDER AT THE VICARAGE by Agatha Christie Narrow down the suspects in this Miss Marple classic, read by British theater veteran James Saxon.
THE LOVERS by John Connolly Actor Jay O. Sanders builds suspense as retired P.I. Charlie Parker investigates his own family history: the death of his father.
>• Clive's story is full of musical references. Helpfully, each chapter starts with "suggested listening." Among Thornton's picks:
1. JESUS JONES, "LIQUIDIZER." Clive plots to meet his neighbor.
2. JANE'S ADDICTION, "RITUAL DE LO HABITUAL." Posing as a veterinary assistant, he meets Lance.
3. NIRVANA, "INCESTICIDE." Clive contemplates unemployment: "a full-time job in itself."
4. POP WILL EAT ITSELF, "THIS IS THE DAY, THIS IS THE HOUR, THIS IS THIS." Clive deals with the fallout of his ruse.
>In Italian for Beginners by Kristin Harmel, an ordinarily cautious woman dashes off to Rome on a whim to reconnect with an ex, but finds more in Italy than just romance.
• Unlikely hit Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has led to a mania for Jane Austen-monster mash-ups. Here, a sampling of lines Miss Austen would be surprised to read:
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains."
MR. DARCY, VAMPYRE "A deep fissure opened between Darcy and Elizabeth ... until they were separated by a sea of molten lava."
SENSE AND SENSIBILITY AND SEA MONSTERS "'Willoughby!' cried Marianne in terror of the advancing wedge of warlike crustaceans.... The lobsters screeched louder ..."
VAMPIRE DARCY'S DESIRE "The moment the blood touched his lips, something inside him changed ... His eyes closed as if savouring a fine wine."
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