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Reader's Forum at Newsletter Update

Posted to subscriber list on July 25, 2004.

Hello, readers!

Seventeen new reviews were posted to in the last few days. Click on the book covers to read the reviews; click on reviewers name to learn more about the reviewer.

SKINNY DIP by Carl Hiaasen
Reviewed by Judi Clark

Chaz Perrone might be the only marine scientist in the world who doesn’t know which way the Gulf Stream runs. He might also be the only one who went into biology just to make a killing, and he’s found a way–doctoring water samples so that a ruthless agribusiness tycoon can continue illegally dumping fertilizer into the endangered Everglades. When Chaz suspects that his wife, Joey, has figured out his scam, he pushes her overboard from a cruise liner into the night-dark Atlantic. Unfortunately for Chaz, his wife doesn’t die in the fall. Laugh out loud craziness like only Hiassen can do.

THE MADMAN'S TALE by John Katzenbach
Reviewed by Mary Whipple

It’s been twenty years since Western State Hospital was closed down and the last of its inmates reintegrated into society. Francis Petrel was barely out of his teens when his family committed him to the asylum. Now middle-aged, he leads an aimless, solitary life housed in a cheap apartment, periodically tended to by his sisters, and perpetually medicated to quiet the chorus of voices in his head. But a reunion on the grounds of the shuttered institution stirs something deep in Francis’s troubled mind: dark memories he thought he had laid to rest, about the grisly events that led to Western State Hospital’s demise. An unnusual murder mystery.

Reviewed by Sebastian Fernandez

An historical epic that tells an unusual love story between "Franco" the dictator of Paraguay and a beautiful Irishwoman, Ella Lynch. Tuck offers a kaleidoscopic portrait of nineteenth-century Paraguay, a largely untouched wilderness where Europeans and North Americans intermingle with both the old Spanish aristocracy and native Guaraní Indians. Beautifully rendered, historically accurate.

Reviewed by Sebastian Fernandez

The first book in an innovative new series featuring the sex therapy clinic, The Butterfield Institute. M.J. Rose's novels consistently receive high reviews from her readers -- she is the "pin-up" novelist for self-published authors having suceeded at using the Internet to get attention to her books and thus being picked up by an established publishing company. You have to figure that she must be good because no one has that many friends.

Reviewed by Josh Aterovis

The delicious debut of a hilarious new voice in fiction.
Unemployed, middle-aged, bipolar, gay, bitingly witty, erudite, unattractive, and lonely, B. K. Troop, the narrator of Christopher, isn’t exactly looking forward to a life of exciting prospects—until he meets his new neighbor. Christopher Ireland is a twenty-five-year-old idealist and aspiring novelist still reeling from a bitter divorce. Even though B.K. knows full well that Christopher is hopelessly heterosexual, he wants nothing more than to seduce him, so he sets about his self-appointed mission with all the cunning and zeal of the Big Bad Wolf.

Be sure to read the Black Sheep Productions article under Book Marks for fascinating write up on the author.

DAY OF THE DEAD by J. A. Jance
Reviewed by Cindy Lynn Speer

Jance's third suspense thriller to feature ex-sheriff Brandon Walker and his family deftly mixes Native American mythology with a harrowing plot. An old Tohono O'odham woman, Emma Orozco, asks Walker for help in solving the brutal murder of her daughter, Roseanne, who was slain in 1970. Walker is able to take on the challenge because of his membership in TLC, The Last Chance, a privately funded agency that looks into old, unsolved crimes.

THE SHUNRA AND THE Schmetterling by Yoel Hoffman
Reviewed by Mary Whipple

Shunra is Aramaic for "cat." Schmetterling is German for "butterfly." These and numerous other creatures, cultures, and languages meet in a magical shimmering hymn to childhood. Hoffmann traces his hero's developing consciousness of the ways-and-wonders of the world as though he were peering through a tremendous kaleidoscope: all that was perceived, all that is remembered, is rendered in fluid fragments of color and light. Here is a book to read for the joy of its writing.

Reviewed by Chuck Barksdale

It's been a banner year for McCone Investigations until trainee P.I. Julia Rafael is handcuffed and jailed for credit-card fraud. This is the 23rd novel in the long running series; and, it proves to be another rewarding entry according to our avid Sharon McCone fan.

by James Kelman
Reviewed by Mary Whipple

Personally, I'd read this book for the title alone. Not without controversy, Kelman won the Booker Prize for his novel How Late it Was, How Late in which he writes in a Scotish colloquial style, mixing monologues and run on sentences. Kelman does it again with this character driven humorous novel in which he paints an engaging portrait of an immigrant's America.

by Zakes Mda
Reviewed by Wenkai Tay

Camugu, recently returned to Johannesburg and disillusioned by the new democracy, moves to the remote Eastern Cape. There in the nineteenth century a teenage prophetess commanded the Xhosa people to kill their cattle and burn their crops, promising that the spirits of their ancestors would rise and drive the English into the ocean. The failed prophecy split the people in two, with devastating consequences. One hundred and fifty years later, the two groups’ decendants are at odds over plans to build a vast casino and tourist resort, and Camugu is soon drawn into their heritage and their future—and into a bizarre love triangle as well.

GOING TO BEND by Diane Hammond
Reviewed by Kam Aures

Petie Coolbaugh and Rose Bundy have been best friends since childhood. Now in their early thirties, they are grappling with coming-of-age and station; meanwhile, they work together in Petie's kitchen preparing gallons of soup each day for Souperior's, a new upscale café in town. As the story draws lovers, employers, friends, and family into a mesh of interwoven events and revelations, each woman finds possibilities for love and even grace that she had never imagined. An evocative portrait of life in a small town and of two women testing their own limits. A remarkable debut.

AN HOUR TO KILL by Karin Yapalater
Reviewed by Cindy Lynn Speer

An unforgettable psychosexual thriller set in the dark heart of New York City. When a series of brutal murders takes place in the desolate wintry landscape of Central Park, a pair of unlikely colleagues, New York City detectives James Gurson and Didi Kane, are sent to investigate. The assignment turns personal, however, when they discover the victims' deaths resonate within their own lives. The first victim, Charlene Leone -- found burned beyond recognition -- is a fellow officer, and Kane's ex-lover. The other, Orrin Gretz, is a prominent New York psychiatrist whose grisly death in a '57 Mercedes Gullwing with a .25 automatic at his side mirrors the suicide of Gurson's father.

Reviewed by Shannon Bloomstran

“Geezers with children.” That’s how author Judith Newman describes herself and her husband who become first time parents at age 40 and 66, respectively. After seven years, tons of technology, and tens of thousands of dollars, Judith gave birth to twin boys in September 2001. She chronicles her pregnancy and the first years of the boys’ lives in her humorous new memoir.

BAD MEN by John Connolly
Reviewed by Sebastian Fernandez

Three hundred years ago, the settlers on the island of Sanctuary were betrayed by one of their own and slaughtered. Now a band of killers has returned to seek revenge on a young woman and her son. The only people who stand in their way are a rookie officer and the island's resident policeman. Connolly masterfully intertwines mystery, emotion, violence and the supernatural.

SHOOT THE MOON by Billie Letts
Reviewed by Judi Clark

The residents of DeClare, Oklahoma have been living with a mystery since 1972; the year a 19-year-old mother, Gaylene Harjo was violently murdered and her baby's body, though never found, was also assumed to have been murdered. Now, twenty-seven years later Mark Albright comes into town seeking his biological mother after discovering he was adopted on two weeks earlier.

Reviewed by Poornima Apte

Tired of their working life, Ann Vanderhoof and her partner Steve put together a five-year-plan to sail away to the Carribean from Toronto. This is an account of their travels. Poornima finds some fault in her point of view, but does say it redeems itself as a good cookbook. But read the review for yourself....

THE LAST DAY OF THE WAR by Judith Claire Mitchell
Reviewed by Mary Whipple

This exciting debut novel is the love story of a Jewish girl and an Armenian-American soldier who together enter a maze of underground politics at the conclusion of the First World War. A beautiful love story, it is also a tragicomic farce about the workings of history and a testament to the moral fortitude of men and women swept up in the tide of their extraordinary times.

Note: this review was posted earlier this month but after the last newsletter in order to enable The Armenian Weekly to link to it.


One of the dangers in having others help me write reviews for is that reading becomes a vicarous experience. After awhile I feel like a fraud. This was made clear to me earlier this summer when I met up with friends I hadn't seen since before starting up Naturally when someone mentioned this site during the gathering, the discussion turned to books. One friend asked if I had read THE DA VINCI CODE by Dan Brown yet. The question was asked for two reasons, first my friend truly enjoyed reading the book and wanted to share the experience with a fellow reader and second the author is a New Hampshire writer and we live in NH. My contribution ended up being a superficial, comment about other people's experience with the book (even my high school age nephew loved it) and yes I have a review of it on the site, but no I hadn't exactly read it myself, yet.

How stupid is that to spend all my spare time updating a book site but not having read a book that everyone seems to be reading? So I bought a copy. I was amazed that despite everything said about this book -- that I somehow missed the significance that this book is a modern day "Holy Grail" search. Absolutely fun read. I think Poornima's review is right on target; though I think I got over the fact that he had only fifteen minutes to leave all those clues in the museum because I allowed that maybe he pre-planted a few of them since he had had to plan so carefully in how to best protect the secret. It would have been nice to have the author confirm this theory... Anyhow, the book is fairly well discounted at -- so you don't have to wait for the paperback if you want a good vacation read -- and you too have only read about the book.

Hope your summer continues along pleasantly and that you take enough time out to do some extra reading!

Judi Clark

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