Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mrs. Queen Takes the Train, William Kuhn, Fiction.  A jolly good read, indeed.  Kuhn takes the liberty to explore what may happen if the clinically depressed Queen was to take off for the day, undetected by those who surround her, but taken care of by the people who know her the best.  Queen Elizabeth has been feeling down in the dumps and one of the only things that makes her smile is visiting one of the country's top horse betting websites, but she can't get up the gumption to place even a small bet.  She longs for happier times, and thinks fondly of the family's now decommissioned royal yacht grounded in Scotland.  So, she takes off to visit it on her own, quickly followed by concerned staff members and trusted confidantes.  Kuhn’s fully drawn characters care about the Queen and each other, and in the process of finding their charge, forge relationships across class and traditional lines that will last a lifetime.  From horses to cheese, public transportation to yoga, the Queen, through Kuhn's whimsy, explores them all.

Low Pressure, Sandra Brown, Fiction.  An engaging who-done-it which takes us back 18 years as a best-selling author tries to remember the murder that she has based her "non-fiction" book upon.  The main characters in the book are furious about the publicity the book brings back to the botched murder investigation.  As Bellamy sifts through the memories of the time of the murder, she comes to realize that she may have witnessed the the crime.  The characters who pop up in these flashes of memory come back to haunt her in present day as well.  Dent, her sister’s boyfriend and main suspect in the murder, shows back up in her life as the pilot who flies her dying father to the hospital in the city, and due to the popularity of the new novel, is furious at her for dragging up his past, and confronts her.  His passion relates to the rest of his life and Bellamy soon realizes this as he pursues her and ultimately protects her from the other people who have come out of the woodwork to keep their pasts as quiet as they have for the past 18 years.  
Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel, Fiction, Historical.  When Anne Boleyn falls out of favor with the King of England, she is desperate to keep her position in the monarchy, but at what cost?  Mantel takes the perspective of Thomas Cromwell, King Henry's most trusted advisor, and through his eyes reports on the doings of the court and who he must manipulate and interview to make the King happy and clear his path to his new wife, Jane Seymour.  The story plods on at times but the fault is the knowledge of the story, not Mantel's writing.  It always amazes me to realize that King Henry was bending the rules at his whimsy and people were there to support him and his choices above all else, even common sense.  Cromwell's role of unwavering support is questionable but understandable, and a worthwhile story to read. Mantel's ability to write about this oft-repeated tale and make it feel fresh impresses.

Friday, February 1, 2013

One Last Thing Before I Go, Jonathan Tropper, Fiction. This charming book, the latest from Tropper, will keep you wondering until the end - is this life worth living?  What would change your mind?  Who could change your mind?  Would you need a good punch in the nose to see how good you can make it? With Silver, Tropper has created another sad sack of a man, one who has let his life go and hasn't looked back to see where he dropped all of the good things he had.  Then he hears from the doctor Rich, who will be marrying Silver's ex-wife, that he will die within weeks if he does not have a life-saving operation.  Silver decides his life just isn't worth living, and announces he will not be having the surgery, and we are introduced to a cast of characters who try their hardest, in their own ways, to convince him otherwise.  Reconnecting with his estranged daughter and trying to get his wife to fall for him again are only two events that Tropper writes about with tenderness, humor, and truth.  As Silver negotiates the Jewish life celebrations that his father (a Rabbi) forces him to attend, Silver stares his mortality in the face and just doesn't like what he sees.  The easy, quick and witty familiarity Tropper uses to write about Silver's male friendships fall easily to the beats that Silver can make when he is drumming in his top form.  Tropper's writing rings true to anyone who has loved - as a parent, a partner, an ex, or a friend.