BEAUTIFUL RUINS by Jess Walter

After looking up various images of the 1963 movie Cleopatra, the film that critically bombed but was lit up by the scandal of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, I saw a coastline of Italy that looked exactly like the cover of this book. It is a most felicitous cover that captures the mood and time that this novel begins, in 1962. A parochial innkeeper, Pasquali Tursi, lives in a rocky coastline village called Porto Vergogna (Port of Shame), a place the size of a thumb between two mountains, and referred to as “the whore’s crack.”

March 16, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: 2013 Favorites, Contemporary, Facing History, italy, Literary, US Northwest, World Lit

CARTHAGE by Joyce Carol Oates

CARTHAGE is quintessential Oates. It is stylistically similar to many of her other books with the utilization of parentheses, repetitions and italics to make the reader take note of what is important and remind us of what has transpired previously. The book is good but it is not Oates’ best.

February 28, 2014 · Judi Clark · Comments Closed
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Family Matters, Mystery/Suspense, NE & New York

BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK by Ben Fountain

Billy Lynn – the eponymous hero of this book – is a genuine American hero. He and his fellow Bravo Squad members decimated an insurgency – caught on film by an embedded Fox News crew — and became overnight sensations in a nation starved for good news about Iraq. They are brought home for a media-intensive “Victory Tour” – in cities that happen to lie in an electoral swing state — to reinvigorate support for the war. We meet them at the end of that tour, on a rainy Thanksgiving, hosted by America’s Team, The Dallas Cowboys.

February 27, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Drift-of-Life, Humorous, National Book Award Finalist, National Book Critic Circle (NBCC), Texas, Unique Narrative, United States, y Award Winning Author

RADIANCE OF TOMORROW by Ishmael Beah

Mama Kadie cautiously enters the central path of her village, not sure what to expect, pondering on what has remained and who is still there or has come back like she does now. After the traumas, losses and devastation of the war she experiences profound emotions as she walks barefoot on the local soil, smells the scents of the land and watches and listens for every sound in the bushes. What will life have in store for her? The opening pages of Ishmael Beah’s debut novel, Radiance of Tomorrow, are achingly beautiful; his voice gentle and affecting, his deep emotional connection palpable with what he describes so colourfully. Having experienced international acclaim with his memoir, A Long Way Gone, which recounts the story of a child soldier in Sierra Leone, with his new book he returns to his homeland, sharing with his readers the demanding and difficult path that the local people have to follow in their recovery from the brutal war and its many losses in life and livelihood.

February 12, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Africa, Reading Guide, World Lit

THIRTY GIRLS by Susan Minot

THIRTY GIRLS by Susan Minot is a powerful novel that is based on a true story. It takes place in Kenya, Uganda and Sudan and is the story of the abduction of over one hundred girls from a convent school in Uganda. A nun by the name of Giulia travels to the site of the abductors, who call themselves the LRA, and negotiates for the release of all but thirty of the girls. Thus, the title of the book.

February 11, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Africa, Facing History, World Lit

THE BIRD SKINNER by Alice Greenway

For any reader who revels in confident, lyrical prose – rich in detail with meticulously chosen words – Alice Greenway’s book will enchant.

The storyline focuses on the elderly and irascible ornithologist Jim Kennoway, who, at the end of his career, retreats to a Maine island after his leg is amputated. There, tortured by past memories and fortified by alcohol and solitude, he eschews the company of others. Yet early on, he receives an unwanted visitor: Cadillac, the daughter of Tosca, who teamed with him as a scout to spy on the Japanese army in the Solomon Islands.

January 31, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Character Driven, Contemporary, NE & New York