Thursday, July 23, 2015

Spin Move by David Lender


  • ISBN-10: 1477827277  Paperback  $15.95
  • Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (January 20, 2015), 268 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley.

The blurb:
Fugitive financier John Rudiger has lived a lush life in Antigua for eleven years, but now the local officials are demanding ever more exorbitant payouts to maintain his cover. And since his ex-girlfriend Katie Dolan swindled him out of his last $30 million, Rudiger is on thin ice. Meanwhile, Katie is holed up with her ailing father in Cape Verde, an African paradise conveniently lacking an extradition treaty with the U.S., an idea she took right out of Rudiger’s playbook. Despite the double cross, Rudiger is still hot for Katie, and he knows just where to find her when he decides it’s time to leave Antigua. But with U.S. Attorney Charlie Holden set on catching them both, they’ll have to tread carefully. To make matters worse, Katie’s been sucked in by a dashing, disreputable Swiss banker and has deposited the $30 million right into his hands. Can they get it back and make their escape before it’s too late?

Review:

Looking for a light, action filled white collar/finance thriller?  As long as you're willing to suspend disbelief for a fun read with likable characters that you can cheer for, Spin Move is a good summer read.  It's short though, so you might end up like me,  feeling like you could read another hundred pages about John Rudiger and Katie Dolan.  Instead of complaining, I'm looking forward to the next David Lender novel and hoping that it'll provide a few days of escape. 

About the Author:

David Lender is a former investment banker who spent twenty-five years on Wall Street. After earning his MBA at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, he worked in mergers and acquisitions for Merrill Lynch, Rothschild, and Bank of America. His first three novels—Trojan HorseThe Gravy Train, and Bull Street—turned Lender into a bestselling e-book sensation. He lives in northern New Jersey with his family and a pitbull named Styles. Spin Move is his seventh novel.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Radiant Angel by Nelson DeMille


ISBN-10: 0446580856 - Hardcover $28.00
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; 1St Edition edition (May 26, 2015), 320 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley.

The blurb:
After a showdown with the notorious Yemeni terrorist known as The Panther, John Corey has left the Anti-Terrorist Task Force and returned home to New York City, taking a job with the Diplomatic Surveillance Group. Although Corey's new assignment with the DSG-surveilling Russian diplomats working at the U.N. Mission-is thought to be "a quiet end," he is more than happy to be out from under the thumb of the FBI and free from the bureaucracy of office life.

But Corey realizes something the U.S. government doesn't: The all-too-real threat of a newly resurgent Russia.

When Vasily Petrov, a colonel in the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service posing as a diplomat with the Russian U.N. Mission, mysteriously disappears from a Russian oligarch's party in Southampton, it's up to Corey to track him down. What are the Russians up to and why? Will Corey find Petrov and put a stop to whatever he has planned before it's too late? Or will Corey finally be outrun and outsmarted, with America facing the prospect of a crippling attack unlike anything it's ever seen before?

Prescient and chilling. DeMille's new novel takes us into the heart of a new Cold War with a clock-ticking plot that has Manhattan in its crosshairs.

Review:

Radiant Angel, Nelson DeMille's latest John Corey novel is shorter than the novels that came before it.  We encounter John Corey after he's working in New York keeping watch over UN Diplomats and their staff with the intent to prevent terrorism.  Corey  follows the Russian contingent, which he compares to his previous assignments following Middle Eastern diplomats.  His current charges are more fond of drinking and partying, but he's convinced that they're dangerous especially with the fiery rhetoric under Putin.   

Corey follows Petrov to the home of a Russian billionaire oil magnate to a raucous party, but he can't point to any specific thing that raises his suspicions.  There's no red flags, just that Petrov has brought someone unusual with him.  Corey convinces his colleague to go undercover - relying on his instincts - and they observe their quarry as the party goes on around them.   There are beautiful women skinny dipping, cases of vodka consumed and quiet conversations.  When Petrov and hi
s companions take off on a boat with beautiful young women, Corey is convinced that they've something beyond partying on their agenda.  Corey leverages his relationships with local police to instigate a manhunt - hoping to stop an attack on New York.  


Though Radiant Angel is shorter than the usual Nelson DeMille thriller, it delivers a complicated, engrossing and complete story.  I was thoroughly drawn in from the start.  A satisfying read!

About the Author:

Nelson DeMille is a former U.S. Army lieutenant who served in Vietnam and is the author of eighteen acclaimed novels, including the #1 New York Times bestsellers Night Fall, Plum Island, The Gate House, The Lion, and The Panther. His other New York Times bestsellers include The Charm School, Word of Honor, The Gold Coast, Spencerville, The Lion's Game, Up Country, Wild Fire, and The General's Daughter, the last of which was a major motion picture. For more information, you can visit NelsonDeMille.net.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

BabyLit books: The Secret Garden & Don Quixote



This BabyLit version of The Secret Garden doesn't tell the story of Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden. But it is a beautifully illustrated board book that looks sturdy enough to survive the sort of wear and tear that comes from being a child's favorite book. There are colorful and stylized drawings of flowers that seem to be in the order that they bloom. There's the crocus, a lovely snowdrop and butterfly, a daffodil with a snail, a columbine, a snapdragon, poppy, lily, iris, canterbury bells, and a rose. I'm looking forward to sharing this with my niece and nephew.  Although, I'm tempted to keep a copy for myself.





  • ISBN-10: 1423638751 - Board Book $9.99
  • Publisher: Gibbs Smith; Brdbk Blg edition (April 1, 2015), 22 pages.
    Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

This BabyLit version of Don Quixote doesn't tell the story of Cervantes' Don Quixote. It's a board book for toddlers that is written in English and Spanish with beautiful, captivating illustrations that draw the eye and teach vocabulary.

The main words are: man/el hombre, books/los libros, armor/la armadura, horse/el caballos, lady/la dama (Dulcinea), windmills/los molinos de viento, friend/el amigo (Sancho Panza), castle/el castillo, goat/la cabra, and bed/la cama.

Through the pictures, the book conveys the main characters from Don Quixote. It's a beautifully made board book for toddlers written in both Spanish and English.

About the Author & Illustrator:
Jennifer Adams is the author of more than two dozen books, including the board books in the bestselling BabyLit series, which introduce small children to the world of classic literature..

Alison Oliver runs Sugar design studio. Alison’s portfolio reflects her love of drawing, pattern and color and includes everything from illustration to logos and packaging design. She lives in New York City.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Letter for the King by Tonke Dragt


  • ISBN-10: 0545819784 - Hardcover $18.99
  • Publisher: David Fickling Books (August 25, 2015), 528 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher and the Amazon Vine Reviewers program.

The blurb:
Sixteen-year-old Tiuri must spend hours locked in a chapel in silent contemplation if he is to be knighted the next day.  But as he waits by the light of a flickering candle, he hears a knock at the door and a voice desperately asking for help.

A secret letter must be delivered to King Unauwen across the Great Mountains -- a letter upon which the fate of the entire kingdom depends.  Tiuri has a vital role to play, one that might cost him his knighthood.

Tiuri's journey will take him through dark, menacing forests, across treacherous rivers, to sinister castles and strange cities.  He will encounter evil enemies who would kill to get the letter, but also the best of friends in the most unexpected places.

He must trust no one. 

He must keep his true identity secret.


Above all, he must never reveal what is in the letter. . . 


Review:
The Letter for the King was first published in 1962. I began the book wondering whether the story's voice and pace would seem slow in comparison to the books of today, but Tonke Dragt's work works so well. The young squire must keep guard all night in order to win his knighthood. But when Tiuri hears frantic knocking and calls for help at the door, Tiuri responds. He's asked to deliver an urgent message in the middle of the night, and although he knows that this may cost him his knighthood, he undertakes the task.

His task doesn't end at delivering the message - things get more dangerous. As Tiuri finds that he's the one person around who can help, he goes forward. It's a story of an ordinary boy caught up in extraordinary events and what he gives up to follow his code.

I was drawn in and found myself wondering what else might happen to Tiuri. Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has many tests and surprises for Tiuri and the reader and she delivers a satisfying ending.


About the Author:
Tonke Dragt was born in Jakarta in 1930 and spent most of her childhood in Indonesia.  When she was twelve, she was interned in a camp run by the Japanese occupiers, where she wrote (with a friend) her very first book using begged and borrowed paper.  Her family moved to the Netherlands after the war, where she studied at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague and eventually became an art teacher.  She published her first book in 1961, followed a year later by The Letter for the King, which has won numerous awards and has been translated into sixteen languages.  Dragt was awarded the Dutch State Prize for Youth Literature in 1976 and was knighted in 2001.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin & the New York Public Library's Outdoor Reading Room (5th Ave & 40th St)



The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
  • ISBN-10: 1616204516 - Paperback $14.95
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books (December 2, 2014), 288 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of Netgalley and the publisher AND the NYPL's Outdoor Reading Room. 

The blurb:
On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto "No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World." A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island—from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, but large in weight. It’s that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.’s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming. As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikryis an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.

Review:
I spent much of yesterday afternoon reading The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry on a lounge chair in front of the NY Public Library in the new Summer Outdoor Reading Room.  Weather permitting, the Outdoor Reading Room is open daily (except Sundays) from 10 am - 7 pm.  The NYPL's Outdoor Reading Room  by the lions at the Stephen Schwartzman research library on 5th Avenue, is a quiet oasis in Midtown.  Most people were reading.  #ireadeverywhere 
I do remember hearing a young girl bargaining with her mother - she was willing to leave after two more books and if they could come back the next day. 

Now is as good time as any to spread the word that thanks to an anonymous donor, donations to the NYPL will be matched dollar for dollar  from today until July 10 all donations to the NYPL will be matched by an anonymous donor.  

     

Back to The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.  It's a book that I'd wanted to read for some time.  The young sales agent of a fictional publishing house visits A.J. Fikry's bookstore, a small account on an island in New England.  The first meeting doesn't go well.  Fikry's gruff and rude,  upset at the news that the previous sales agent had died.  Amelia's warm recommendation of a memoir written by an elderly widower is pushed aside.    Though Fikry later regrets his rudeness, it takes some time before he warms to the young Amelia and before he revisits the book.   Fikry noticed that she was both attractive and not particularly stylish - think 90s style - and regrets his rudeness.  

Fikry's small bookshop barely breaks even but he does have a valuable and rare Edgar Allen Poe first edition which is stolen.  Fikry stops locking his store door after the rare edition disappears. One day soon after he finds an infant left in his care.  The mother leaves a note explaining her decision and asking him to care for young Mia.  

Against all odds, Fikry finds that caring for Mia suits him.  The love and close friendship between Fikry and Mia is made the book stand out for me.  Mia grows up in the bookstore, loving books, developing her way of analyzing them even before she can read.  Mia lives and breathes books, not surprisingly she starts writing as well.  Mia's presence proves a gift in more ways than one.  Fikry becomes less isolated - the neighbors come into his shop to see Mia and they often chat and leave with a book or two.  Slowly, Fikry and Mia work their magic and build a community around the bookshop.  I found myself wishing I could drop by their bookshop and, failing that, wanting to become a regular at my neighborhood bookstore. 

Overall, The Storied Life of A.J.Fikry is a tribute to books and reading, a story of love and hope and friendship.  I read the entire book while at the Outdoor Reading Room and the experience reminded me of the many things that I love about NYC.

About the Author:
Gabrielle Zevin is the author of eight novels, including Elsewhere and most recently,The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, which is a New York Times Best Seller.

Saint Mazie by Jamie Attenberg


  • ISBN-10: 1455599891 - Hardcover $25
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (June 2, 2015), 336 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the publisher and the Amazon Vine Reviewers program.

The blurb:
Meet Mazie Phillips: big-hearted and bawdy, she's the truth-telling proprietress of The Venice, the famed New York City movie theater. It's the Jazz Age, with romance and booze aplenty--even when Prohibition kicks in--and Mazie never turns down a night on the town. But her high spirits mask a childhood rooted in poverty, and her diary, always close at hand, holds her dearest secrets.

When the Great Depression hits, Mazie's life is on the brink of transformation. Addicts and bums roam the Bowery; homelessness is rampant. If Mazie won't help them, then who? When she opens the doors of The Venice to those in need, this ticket taking, fun-time girl becomes the beating heart of the Lower East Side, and in defining one neighborhood helps define the city.

Then, more than ninety years after Mazie began her diary, it's discovered by a documentarian in search of a good story. Who was Mazie Phillips, really? A chorus of voices from the past and present fill in some of the mysterious blanks of her adventurous life.

Inspired by the life of a woman who was profiled in Joseph Mitchell's classic Up in the Old Hotel, SAINT MAZIE is infused with Jami Attenberg's signature wit, bravery, and heart. Mazie's rise to "sainthood"--and her irrepressible spirit--is unforgettable.

Review:
Set in the Lower East Side of New York City during the early 1900s, Saint Mazie tells the story of a young Mazie Phillips as she navigates the changes around her. Fearless, big-hearted, beautiful and loyal, Mazie changes from the good time girl to the hard worker that keeps the family together through heartache, death, war, and the Great Depression.

Through Mazie's diary entries and the thoughts of those around her, we get a strong sense of Mazie's sense of humor, her commitment to fairness, and her openness and care for the many, diverse people that populate the Lower East Side. Warning: some of Mazie's diary entries about her love affair with the Captain are sexually graphic.

Though Saint Mazie started slow, I grew to appreciate Mazie's aggressiveness and her straightforward response to all kinds of life shattering events.  The book clearly is a reader's favorite and was chosen as an Amazon book of the month for the month of June.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Devil's Bridge: An Alexandra Cooper thriller by Linda Fairstein



Series: Alexandra Cooper
ISBN-10: 0525953892 - Hardcover $28
  • Publisher: Dutton (August 11, 2015), 384 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley.

The blurb:
The Manhattan waterfront is one of New York City’s most magnificent vistas, boasting both the majestic Statue of Liberty and the George Washington Bridge, the world’s busiest span for motor vehicles.  But inDevil’s Bridge, Detective Mike Chapman will discover the peril that lurks along this seemingly benign expanse as he takes on his most personal case yet:  the disappearance of Alex Cooper.

Coop’s sudden disappearance is fraught with terrifying complications:  scores of enemies she has made after a decade of putting criminals behind bars; a recent security breach with dangerous repercussions; and a new intimacy in her relationship with Mike, causing the Police Commissioner himself to be wary of the methods Mike will use to get Coop back... if he can. 

Once again, Linda Fairstein proves why she is “one of the best crime fiction writers in America today” with her most intense Alexandra Cooper novel yet. 


Review:
I'd discovered Linda Fairstein's Alexandra Cooper series during BEA 2014 with her thriller Terminal City which was set at Grand Central Station.  I soon read as many of her earlier novels as I could get my hands on.  

Alexandra Cooper is a Deputy District Attorney of New York who specializes in sex crimes or what appears on television as SVU.  Cooper and Homicide Detective Mike Chapman have a long standing professional relationship.  They bicker, they support each other, they face down politicians, dangerous criminals and terrifying situations together.  

In Devil's Bridge,  Coop and Chapman are getting used to their new romance.  Excited to be with each other,  unwilling to impose rules or demands,  there's a lot that is new to these old friends.  So, when after an awful day at work, Mike doesn't hear from Coop, he gives her some space.  It takes some time before he realizes that she might be in danger.

This time Fairstein tells the story from Mike Chapman's point of view as he desperately tries to piece together what happened the night that Coop disappears.  His investigation takes him back to the early years of Hell's Kitchen as well as to the murky waters of City Hall. We learn more about Alex Cooper through Mike Chapman's eyes and about Mike's past, it's easier to understand why Coop keeps him a priority in her life. 

Some of Fairstein's characters are remind us of the famous, political and notorious in present day New York City.  We encounter references to the mayor's wife's chief of staff whose anti-police stance and relationship with a convicted murderer interferes with a murder investigation, to a corrupt reverend that squeezes himself into volatile situations to push his political agenda,  and to  a self--aggrandizing politician whose policies have caused friction with the NYPD and may have resulted in the increase in crime in NYC.  Fairstein's jabs at this fictional mayor resonate with readers disappointed in the current NYC mayor and those looking forward to a change of administration.  

Devil's Bridge kept me riveted throughout two long flights and the cab ride back to Brooklyn. I'm looking forward to the next in the Alexandra Cooper series. 

About the Author:
Linda Fairstein was chief of the Sex Crimes Unit of the district attorney's office in Manhattan for more than two decades and is America's foremost legal expert on sexual assault and domestic violence. Her Alexandra Cooper novels are international bestsellers and have been translated into more than a dozen languages. She lives in Manhattan and on Martha's Vineyard.