mostlyfiction.com book reviews


Hello, MostlyFiction.com readers!

20 new reviews were posted to MostlyFiction.com this week. Click on the book cover to read the review; click on reviewer's name to learn more about the reviewer.

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WAR TRASH
by Ha Jin
Reviewed by Mary Whipple

The "war trash" of this hypnotic novel are Chinese soldiers who were taken prisoner by U.N. forces -- mainly American -- during the Korean War. Written in the modest, uninflected prose of a soldier's letter home, Ha Jin's story, a mixture of authentic historical detail and realistic invention, is a powerful work of the imagination whose psychic territory is not the hunger and humiliation of the prison camp but the haunted past that was the old, lost China and the mysterious future that is in the process of becoming Mao Zedong's chimerical new China. Recently announced winner of the 2005 PEN/Faulkner Award.

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APRIL FOOL'S DAY
by Josip Novakovich
Reviewed by Mary Whipple

Ivan Dolinar is a man caught in the crosscurrents of senseless wars, ridiculous dictators, and the usual and unusual difficulties of just trying to get by in the Balkans. From the tavern to the ivory tower to the battlefields, as Ivan's fortunes rise and fall faster than one can say "Yugoslavia," a tender novel emerges. Told with the bitingly dark humor ofttimes used to keep despair at bay, April Fool's Day is both a devastating political satire and a razor-sharp parody of war.

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EXTREEMLY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE
by Jonathan Safran Foer
Reviewed by Poornima Apte

Meet Oskar Schell, an inventor, Francophile, tambourine player, Shakespearean actor, jeweler, pacifist, correspondent with Stephen Hawking and Ringo Starr. He is nine years old. And he is on an urgent, secret search through the five boroughs of New York. His mission is to find the lock that fits a mysterious key belonging to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11.

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HOW TO BE LOST
by Amanda Eyre Ward
Reviewed by Jana Kraus

A novel of love and secrets. To their neighbors in suburban New York, the Winters family has it all: a grand home, a trio of radiant daughters, and a sense that they are safe in their affluent corner of America. But when five-year-old Ellie disappears, the fault lines within the Winters family are exposed. Fifteen years later, Caroline, now a New Orleans cocktail waitress, sees a photograph of a woman in a magazine . Convinced that it is Ellie, Caroline embarks on a search for her missing sister, armed with Xerox copies of the photograph, an amateur detective guide, and a cooler of Dixie beer.

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DEATH IN DANZIG
by Stefan Chwin
Reviewed by Mary Whipple

Germans flee the besieged city of Danzig in 1945. Poles move into the homes hastily abandoned by their previous inhabitants. In an area of the city graced with beech trees and a stately cathedral, the stories of old and new residents intertwine. Through his brilliantly defined characters, stunning evocation of place, and memorable descriptions of a world that was German but survives in Polish households, Chwin has created a reality that is beyond destruction.

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SATURDAY
by Ian McEwan
Reviewed by Mary Whipple

In the middle of the night, Henry Perowne, a 48-year-old neurosurgeon awakens for no apparent reason. Looking out the window, he sees what he thinks, at first, is the Hale-Bopp meteor, but the object brightens, moves faster, and comes streaking through the skies at low altitude—not a meteor, but a plane on fire, apparently crashing on its approach to Heathrow. A masterful novel set within a single day in February 2003.

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NIGHT FALL
by Nelson DeMille
Reviewed by Jana Kraus

On a Long Island beach at dusk, Bob Mitchell and Janet Whitney conduct their illicit love affair in front of a video camera, set to record each steamy moment. Suddenly a terrible explosion lights up the sky. Grabbing the camera, the couple flees as approaching police cars speed toward the scene. Five years later, the crash of Flight 800 has been attributed to a mechanical mal-function. But for John Corey and Kate Mayfield, both members of the Elite Anti-terrorist Task Force, the case is not closed. Suspecting a cover-up at the highest levels and disobeying orders, they set out to find the one piece of evidence that will prove the truth about what really happened to Flight 800.

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HEART OF THE HUNTER
by Deon Meyer
Reviewed by Sebastian Fernandez

A hulking black motorcycle-shop janitor named Tiny is the unlikely hero of this frantic, intelligent thriller by a South African crime writer. Tiny is a former KGB-trained assassin who plied his trade in service of the struggle against apartheid. He is now a peace-loving family man, but when a plea for help comes from the daughter of an old friend, he is forced to race across the country on a motorcycle to deliver a coveted disk.

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PRINCE OF FIRE
by Daniel Silva
Reviewed by Mary Whipple

Gabriel Allon is back in Venice, when a terrible explosion in Rome leads to a disturbing personal revelation: the existence of a dossier in the hands of terrorists that strips away his secrets, lays bare his history. Hastily recalled home to Israel, drawn once more into the heart of a service he had once forsaken, Gabriel Allon finds himself stalking an elusive master terrorist across a landscape drenched in generations of blood, along a trail that keeps turning in upon itself, until, finally, he can no longer be certain who is stalking whom.

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DRAMA CITY
by George Pelecanos
Reviewed by Jana Kraus

Lorenzo Brown just wants to stay straight. After eight years in prison on a drug charge, he's come "uptown"-back to the Washington, DC neighborhood where he grew up, where his old cohorts still work their corners and their angles, trying to get ahead and stay alive. But Lorenzo's had enough of the life: Now he has a job as a Humane Society officer, reporting to Parole Officer Rachel Lopez, who is fighting with her own troubled past. Until one violent act changes everything and now Lorenzo finds himself caught between sides of the street.

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BLOODLINES
by Jan Burke
Reviewed by Jana Kraus

The year is 1958. O'Connor, a young reporter with the Las Piernas News Express, is desperate to discover who has perpetrated a savage attack on his mentor, Jack Corrigan. In and out of consciousness, Corrigan claims to have witnessed the burial of a bloodstained car on a farm, but his reputation as a heavy drinker calls his strange story into question. Irene Kelly unexpectedly bumps into the case 20 years later as a novice reporter. First new Irene Kelly novel in six years.

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WAXWINGS
by Jonathan Raban
Reviewed by Carisa Richner

An unsettling, tender, and always surprising novel set in Seattle at the turn of the millennium, when the high-tech Gold Rush threatens to overwhelm the actual world with its myriad virtual alternatives. Waxwings masterfully depicts the social realities of a boomtown in flux, as well as the illusions that distract its inhabitants from the most basic human impulse: to create a place we can call home.

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THE STAGGERFORD MURDERS
by Jon Hassler
Reviewed by Mary Whipple

Hassler, best known as the bard of the northern Minnesota town of Staggerford and its endearingly wacky inhabitants, returns to his home turf in the first of these two novellas. In the second, unrelated novella, Hassler slows down, telling the story of W.D. Nestor, an elderly, lonely turkey farmer who has endured a long life filled with love for his wife, some small pleasures and much grief and pain.

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BLUE HORSE DREAMING
by Melanie Wallace
Reviewed by Jana Kraus

The riveting story of Abigail Buwell who is kidnapped by a Native American tribe and later redeemed by U.S. military troops. Through the eyes of Marjor Robert Cutter, the man into whose hands she is delivered, we see a vivid portrayal of a military outpost in the aftermath of the Civil War.

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THE BEND IN THE RIVER
by Susan Gibbs
Reviewed by Judi Clark

Orphaned by the sudden deaths of her parents in 1877, seventeen year-old Emma Jorden has to abandon her Kansas home. Lost on the featureless prairie and near death, she is rescued by Shea Hawkshadow, a half-breed Cheyenne warrior. Following an impulsive love affair, Emma and Shea marry. When the consequences of their unconventional marriage spark ridicule then quickly escalate to attempted murder, they risk a journey across the western frontier. An absorbing historical romance set in the wild west.

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METRO GIRL
by Janet Evanovich
Reviewed by Hagen Baye

Step aside Stephanie Plum, for a while anyway, for Janet Evanovich has a new series character, whom she introduces in Metro Girl. She is Alexandra “Barney” Barnaby, a former grease jockey and racecar driver from Baltimore, a 30-year-old blue eye, platinum blonde (via some bottle) who likes to dress in pink.

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ALL THE FLOWERS ARE DYING
by Lawrence Block
Reviewed by Hagen Baye

Scudder, a complex character who has grown and aged in real time, confronts the implacable challenge of mortality. But he must also tackle a determined, relentless, and icily inhuman adversary, perhaps the most unforgettable villain Block has ever created. The sixteenth Matthew Scudder novel.

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HONEYMOON
by James Patterson & Howard Roughan
Reviewed by Kam Aures

Patterson's new thriller introduces a bride who is beautiful, talented, devoted--and deadly. When a young investment banker dies of baffling causes, FBI agent John O'Hara immediately suspects the only witness, the banker's alluring and mysterious fiancé. Nora Sinclair is a beautiful decorator who expects the best, and will do anything to get it. Agent O'Hara keeps closing in, but the stronger his case, the less he knows whether he's pursuing justice or his own fatal obsession.

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A KILLING RAIN
by P.J. Parrish
Reviewed by Judi Clark

Florida detective Louis Kincaid has just begun to connect romantically with defense attorney Susan Outlaw when her estranged husband, Austin, a globe-trotting businessman of shady ways and means, arrives at her doorstep, wanting time with son Ben. Father and son head off for ice cream, but don't return. Louis follows their trail, which leads back to Austin's office, where police have just discovered the brutally murdered bodies of Austin's partner and secretary.

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FRENCH WOMEN DON'T GET FAT
by Mireille Guiliano
Reviewed by Jana Kraus

Most diets don't work. Why? Because the people who follow the diets are dieting. We deprive ourselves of the food we love until we reach a goal. That could take years! "The French Paradox," the ability to eat good food, drink fine wine, (or beer), and remain slim is apparently a matter of attitude, with a smidgeon of wisdom and a pinch of common sense thrown in for good measure.

Happy reading!

Judi Clark
MostlyFiction.com