RaveUSA Today\"Simmons takes this 19th-century tragedy and crafts an imaginative hybrid tale. It\'s a historical/horror novel … Because so little is known about how the crew died, Simmons lets his fertile imagination run rampant: hordes of rats, cannibalism, scurvy, poison, starvation, mutiny, murder, madness and magic. Think H.P. Lovecraft\'s Antarctic fear fest At the Mountains of Madness mixed with Herman Melville\'s Moby-Dick and a handful of Stephen King\'s spookiest goose bumps … The novel works most of all because of the complicated, ever-changing interaction between the men. Adversity brings out the best and the worst in human nature. The men reveal themselves as savage, brave, loyal, pusillanimous or barking mad amid the stark, unforgiving white landscape.\
PanUSA TodayEarly in his career, the British physicist bags the big one from the Swedish king. Then it's booty time 24/7. The resulting fame lets Beard drift away from science into a lush life of scholarly conferences, fat stipends and white-satin nights in four-star hotels. McEwan marries a sex farce starring academic nerds with the issue of global warming. The result is neither fun nor substantial — just jarring … Yes, McEwan writes great novels — but this solar-powered sex n' science mash-up isn't one.
RaveUSA TodayThink Carrie Bradshaw in Berlin. Yet rather than trivializing the subject, this decision makes Garden the kind of book that brings history alive to readers … Unlike her father, Martha at 24 was dazzled at first by the Nazis, the sense of national purpose, the glamour of Berlin and the thrill of meeting Hitler in person … The entertaining drama of Martha's personal life contrasts what what she witnessed before the family returned to the USA in 1937. Through this appealing but ordinary woman, we see the paranoia, hear the fevered rhetoric and witness attacks on Berlin's Jews. Most of all, Larson captures how Martha, most Germans and the rest of world couldn't believe what was happening until it was too late.
RaveUSA TodayAravind Adiga's The White Tiger is one of the most powerful books I've read in decades. No hyperbole. This debut novel from an Indian journalist living in Mumbai hit me like a kick to the head — the same effect Richard Wright's Native Son and Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man had. But Tiger isn't about race or caste in India. It's about the vast economic inequality between the poor and the wealthy elite … This is an amazing and angry novel about injustice and power.
PositiveUSA TodayThe novel is a mystery, and Banville solves it bit by bit … The Sea is eerily accurate in describing how children on the cusp of adolescence perceive the world and the adults who rule it. Banville doesn't offer us the happy Victorian fantasy that childhood is a realm of innocence and joy. Instead, the young narrator watches the grown-ups with the fanatic surveillance of a Cold War spy. Like Nabokov, Banville describes everything with the precision of a scientist and the language of a poet … The Sea offers an extraordinary meditation on mortality, grief, death, childhood and memory. It's not a comfortable novel, but it is undeniably brilliant.
PanUSA TodayIn the longest, dreariest 163 pages in recent memory, Sense of an Ending offers pretentious philosophical musings masquerading as a novel … A meditation on history and memory, the novel includes some beautiful sentences, and Barnes evokes 1960s England with its lingering class tensions. But the male characters are one-dimensional and the female ones even more feeble. It is never a good sign when the reader constantly blurts out, ‘What motivates these people?’
Stieg Larsson, Translated by Reg Keeland
MixedUSA TodayA bit of advice, though: Dampen down the sky-high expectations. Hornet's Nest lacks the narrative drive, energy and originality of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire. Those books, you inhaled. Reading this one feels like work. It's more like a first draft than a polished novel … Lisbeth, a super-smart, ultra-asocial computer hacker, is the reason for the series' popularity. Imagine Pippi Longstocking all grown up … Familiar faces and themes reappear. There is a strong feminist bent to Hornet, particularly in the subplot about Blomkvist's married lover Erika Berger… But instead of complaining about the third novel in the trilogy, let's end with a big thank you for the spellbinding first two.
Stieg Larsson, Translated by Reg Keeland
PositiveUSA TodayLike Thomas Hardy with his Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Larsson makes the reader love and worry about his heroine as though she were real. It's almost unnerving. You want to befriend her ... In Tattoo, the reader met Salander when she and the journalist Mikael Blomkvist solved a decades-old murder. In Fire, you come to understand her ... Fire is a more coherently plotted tale than Tattoo. Although a terrific read, Tattoo's ending hurriedly jumbled together serial killers and secret Nazis. But to fully enjoy Fire, you must read Tattoo first ... Larsson clearly loved his brave misfit Lisbeth. And so will you.
Stieg Larsson, Translated by Reg Keeland
RaveUSA TodaySometimes a mystery succeeds because of one indelible character. Consider Miss Marple. Now there is Lisbeth Salander, the star of Stieg Larsson's international sensation, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo ... Lisbeth teams up with the disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist. He has been hired by an aged Swedish magnate who wants Blomkvist to write a family history — and discover who murdered his 16-year-old niece 40 years earlier ... The Sweden Larsson describes is almost as compelling as his heroine and far darker than the IKEA paradise of sensible Volvos and egalitarian relationships most Americans envision ... Larsson's mesmerizing tale succeeds because, like P.D. James, he has written a why-dunit rather than whodunit. The solution to the mystery and the identity of the killer are pretty obvious.
RaveUSA TodayIn his probing of the 1893 Chicago World\'s Fair — the White City — Larson juxtaposes the positive and negative elements of the approaching 20th century. The devil is H.H. Holmes, the physician whom Larson considers America\'s first serial killer. Holmes may have killed as many as 200, although Larson puts the figure at several dozen … Larson skillfully balances the grisly details with the far-reaching implications of the World\'s Fair. The event would introduce America to a range of new sensations, from Cracker Jack to belly dancing to a growing appreciation of urban life.
MixedUSA TodayQueen has fascinating characters, a touch of witchcraft and plenty of sex. But there's a problem: Henry VIII's court was a soap opera with endless gossip and the occasional beheading to liven things up. Women mattered. Edward IV's court was a boys' club involving non-stop bloody battles. Every other nanosecond, Edward was off battling rivals and rebels. The upshot: Elizabeth spent most of her time waiting for her husband to show up while the real action took place elsewhere. Gregory's gift is her ability to write about women in the past, not battles. Can she turn her readers into mad devotees of Elizabeth Woodville, Plantagenet sexpot? Maybe. Maybe not. But the fault, dear Philippa, lies not in the writing but in the material.
PositiveUSA TodaySmith is such a talented writer that in choosing to pay tribute to E.M. Forster, she has shortchanged her own gifts ... On Beauty has the reader murmuring with admiration and delight at this tale of two families, two marriages, two sets of grown children. Smith's writing flows with intelligence, wit and emotional insight ... Smith's novel starts out beautifully, but by the end, the reader is left thinking that the plot has devolved into a mechanical melodrama overly influenced by the author's desire to honor Howards End. You feel a need to reread Forster not for the pleasure, but to figure out why Smith put her wonderfully drawn characters through increasingly strained plot machinations. On Beauty focuses on two well-off families who come into contact and eventual conflict.
MixedUSA Today[Jack’s] quirky, bright and, yes, happy voice is the book's best and most imaginative element. It's fascinating to see him process a universe limited to the tiny space he shares with his mother, a few books, their established routines and selected TV shows … The real problem with Room: After Ma and Jack leave the room, Jack's unique voice gets muted because Donoghue starts crafting melodramatic plot twists to illustrate the bad things in the world outside 'room.' Ma goes from being a character into a mouthpiece on societal issues like the many U.S. prisoners kept in solitary confinement.