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books

Aug 31 2013

Dancer Daughter Traitor Spy

author: 
Kiem, Elizabeth

What a disappointment this book is. Great title, great elements--a clairvoyant teenage dancer from the USSR relocated to Brighton Beach--and there's not enough dance, the psychic moments are easy to miss, you don't care about the characters, and the whole spy/traitor thing--whatever. The one good part of the story is 1982-83 Brighton Beach. Also the cover is attractive.

reviewdate: 
Aug 31 2013
isn: 
978-1-61695-263-1
Aug 31 2013

One Flight Up

author: 
Fales-Hill, Susan

Even though this tale of four women in their late thirties is strictly an extra sexed-up romance novel that's not particularly compelling and has some weird quasi-feminist politics, I stuck with it because I like stories about people who are different from me. One of the characters is Jewish, but of the other three, two are Black and one is Colombian, but what makes their lives even more noticeably different than mine is that they're all filthy rich.

Quotations: 

Six years later, she no longer dated snakes; she accessorized with them. She had a brilliant career, her dignity, and a closet full of reptile purses--the spoils of her victory over herself.

reviewdate: 
Aug 28 2013
isn: 
978-1-4391-2490-1
Aug 26 2013

Blue Nights

author: 
Didion, Joan

Joan Didion's writing is always elegant, haunting and clever, which is true, as ever in Blue Nights. Even so, this memoir about her daughter's death is no Year of Magical Thinking (Didion's memoir about losing her husband, around the same time).

reviewdate: 
Aug 24 2013
isn: 
978-0-307-26767-2
Aug 26 2013

Sisterland

author: 
Sittenfeld, Curtis

It's a testament to good writing when I enjoy a book despite not caring for its main characters. Identical twins Kate and Violet are an anxious stay-at-home-mom and a thoughtless free spirit, respectively. In addition to looking alike, they also share what they call "senses" or ESP. Married sister Kate has renounced hers, but Violet has gone pro with her gift and publicly predicts an earthquake will hit St. Louis (where they live).

reviewdate: 
Aug 21 2013
isn: 
978-1-4000-6831-9
Aug 17 2013

Lost Synagogues of Manhattan, Including Shuls from Staten Island and Governors Island, the

author: 
Levitt, Ellen

The third in Ms. Levitt's series of "lost" synagogues of New York's five boroughs focuses quite a bit on buildings in my neighborhood that formerly housed Jewish congregations. I've lived in three Manhattan zip codes (and one in Brooklyn, if you're curious, 11222). My current 10002 has 22, the one I lived in the longest, 10009 has 14, and the other, 10003 has 4. Levitt covers 32 others, as well, but to me, the book is primarily a Lower East Side party. Most of the buildings she describes in my neighborhoods are familiar, though I wouldn't have guessed that many of them had once been shuls.

reviewdate: 
Aug 16 2013
isn: 
978-0-9836975-2-7
Aug 16 2013

Among Others

author: 
Walton, Jo

Though it starts off a little slowly, I eventually became entranced in this story of adolescence. There's magic and a love of literature, especially science fiction, but mostly what compels is the lonely, isolated, grief-stricken narrator. Mori has recently lost her twin sister in some sort of battle with their witchy mother.

reviewdate: 
Aug 13 2013
isn: 
978-0-7653-2153-4
Aug 11 2013

Life of Objects, the

author: 
Moore, Susanna

A young Irish woman takes an opportunity to get out of her dead-end life and parents she doesn't feel supported by. Trouble is that opportunity takes her to 1939 Germany, where the plan is for her to make lace for a wealthy couple, one of whom may be of Jewish ancestry.

reviewdate: 
Aug 11 2013
isn: 
978-0-307-96103-7
Aug 11 2013

Wench

author: 
Perkins-Valdez, Dolen

White masters bring their slaves to an Ohio resort for the summer. The story is mostly about Lizzie a house slave who is even more deeply enslaved to her owner because she loves him and has two children with/for him. Lizzie's story is deep and complex, as is that of her friends.

reviewdate: 
Aug 8 2013
isn: 
078-0-06-196635-4
Aug 04 2013

Diverse Energies

author: 
Bucknell, Tobias S.
Monti, Joe

Bucknell and Monti collect mixed-race themed science fiction/dystopic stories, some of which also feature queer characters. Sounds good, right?

reviewdate: 
Aug 2 2013
isn: 
978-1-60060-887-2
Aug 04 2013

Glass Houses

author: 
Caine, Rachel

Somehow I didn't realize at first that this book has two novels in one volume. I was relieved when I got to the end of Glass Houses halfway through the thick book. As far as teen paranormal fiction goes, GH is less compelling and believable (you know what I mean, that the unbelievable has a logic to it that makes sense) than some others of its genre. It's also different from many others of its ilk in that the vampires are all for-real bad guys.

reviewdate: 
Jul 30 2013
isn: 
978-0-451-23054-6