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September 2013

Book Review: NEVER GO BACK by Lee Child

This review appeared last week in Shelf Awareness for Readers, and is reprinted here with permission.

never go backAfter trying for several books to get to Virginia, Jack Reacher finally makes it there in Lee Child’s Never Go Back, the 18th installment in the popular series. Reacher had long conversations with Major Susan Turner back in 61 Hours, and, liking her voice, decided to hitch his way to the DC area to meet her. Major Turner now runs the army’s 110th MP, a position he once held.

When he gets there, however, Turner is missing, with a shifty colonel in her place. The colonel gives Reacher a surprising order, along with news about two serious charges against him that could get Reacher arrested. The cases involve people supposedly from his military past but Reacher can’t remember them. Someone powerful is out to get him, but who, why, and what does Turner have to do with it?

But does the plot really matter if Jack Reacher is in it? Child is a reliable storyteller, and Reacher’s latest adventure contains the elements fans like best: the bone-crushing fights; Reacher going up against corrupt, powerful people; and the hot, smart female protagonist who’s very good at her job.

There’s a small downside to being reliable, though. One subplot suggests Reacher’s life might change drastically, but longtime fans will probably guess the outcome. And the coincidence of that subplot is too farfetched. But this is the beloved tough guy doing what he does best, and fans will probably go anywhere with him.

Nerd verdict: Go there

Amazon | IndieBound

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Book Review: THE GIRL YOU LEFT BEHIND by Jojo Moyes

This review appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers last week, and is reprinted here with permission.

girl you left behindJojo Moyes follows her word-of-mouth hit Me Before You (one of my top three 2012 reads) with The Girl You Left Behind, a story that unfolds in two times and places.

The novel opens in 1916 in a small French town, where German soldiers commandeer Sophie and her sister Helene’s hotel for dinner every night, forcing the sisters to cook and serve meals like servants.

A portrait of Sophie, painted by Edouard, her husband, catches the Kommandant’s eye, and he begins showing her kindnesses not extended to anyone else. Sophie risks her honor by asking the Kommandant to help free Edouard from a prison camp, for which the German wants something in return.

In 2006, Liv is still mourning her husband, David, four years after his sudden death. Her most prized possession is a painting David gave her on their honeymoon. Then a man comes to claim it as restitution for the painter’s descendants, saying the piece was stolen from Edouard Lefevre’s family during World War I. Liv fights to keep the painting at the risk of losing everything, including a new chance at love.

Moyes’s prose is very accessible, easily taking readers inside Sophie’s and Liv’s psyches. The dual timelines, though, aren’t entirely successful, since fans of historical novels might prefer the 1916 sections, while those who like contemporary fiction might wish to remain in the present. But both parts have strong lead characters, and the novel asks readers to explore what’s right and wrong, and the gray area in between.

Nerd verdict: Well-painted Girl

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Nerdy Special List September 2013

nerdyspecialfinalSeptember is finally here, which makes me happy, because fall is one of my favorite seasons, though it’s been ridiculously hot, so I may have to wish winter would hurry.

It didn’t help at all that our A/C broke over the long weekend, and I walked around here like a sweaty zombie, too heatstroked to form cohesive thoughts or sentences.

But I did manage to read a little, and am finally able to function well enough to post this month’s Nerdy Special List. Here’s what my fellow book bloggers and I recommend this month.

From Jen at Jen’s Book Thoughts:

The American Way of Poverty: How the Other Half Still Lives by Sasha Abramsky (Nation Books, Sept. 10)

american way of povertyThis powerful nonfiction look at poverty in the United States should be required reading for every American citizen. We’ve created a culture that blames the poor for their situations, when in fact many, if not most, have been powerless to battle the forces that pushed them below the poverty line. Working one’s way back up and out of poverty is becoming more and more impossible in this country.

Sasha Abramsky looks at those forces, the systems we have in place that are failing miserably, the myths about poverty that many of us have been conditioned to believe as truths, and he also looks at how we can work to change the devastating momentum. The first and most important step is educating people about the truths of poverty. This book is a good first step. Abramsky’s passion for this subject will not only open readers’ eyes, it will motivate them to work for change.

Amazon | IndieBound

From Julie at Girls Just Reading:

Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford (Ballantine, Sept. 10)

songs willow frostI’ve been waiting for this book since I finished Hotel on the Corner of Bitter & Sweet, and let me tell you, it doesn’t disappoint. Mr. Ford has a way of painting the setting so vividly that you feel transported to that time and place. It envelops you.

William is a character you cheer for from the beginning, along with his best friend, Charlotte. You want them to succeed on their adventure and to find answers. This isn’t a book that will leave you feeling happy, but it is a book that makes you believe in forgiveness and hope. Fans of historical fiction will want to read it.

Amazon | IndieBound

From Rory at Fourth Street Review:

The Thicket by Joe R. Lansdale (Mulholland Books, Sept. 10)

the thicket“I didn’t suspect the day Grandfather came out and got me and my sister, Lula, and hauled us off toward the ferry, that I’d soon end up with worse things happening than had already come upon us, or that I’d take up with a gun-shooting dwarf, the son of a slave, and a big angry hog, let alone find true love and kill someone, but that’s exactly how it was.”

I imagine it’s rare that a story can be summed up by its opening line, but Joe R. Lansdale does just that in his darkly comic new novel. The Thicket is a wonderful, bizarre story with East Texas roots, and enough humor to take the edge off his typical darkness. There are gun fights, torture scenes, whorehouses, and humor. In this part Western, part coming-of-age story, none of the characters remain unscathed, but the battle might produce a loyal hero or two. This book is bloody, funny, and, at times, brilliant.

Amazon | IndieBound

From PCN:

never go backI wanted to feature a smaller book, something you may not have heard of, but I found several September releases underwhelming, so I’ll just cheat and point you toward the latest Jack Reacher adventure, Never Go Back by Lee Child, which Delacorte Press released yesterday, Sept. 3.

Reacher finally makes it to Virginia to meet up with Major Susan Turner, the woman with the alluring voice with whom he had long conversations back in 61 Hours. I don’t have to tell you much about it, because Reacher fans will snap it up anyway, right? Did I tell you I’m suffering from heatstroke, which I’m using as an excuse for not writing a more detailed blurb? It’s Jack Reacher. Enough said.

Amazon | IndieBound

Hope you find one of these titles enticing. What are you looking forward to reading this month? (Check out past Nerdy Special Lists here.)

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