The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Kirkus Reviews –
Cleverly combining tender and tough, Diffenbaugh's highly anticipated debut creates a place in the world for a social misfit with floral insight.
After more than 32 homes, 18-year-old Victoria Jones, abandoned as a baby, has given up on the idea of love or family. Scarred, suspicious and defiant, she has nothing: no friends, no money, just an attitude, an instinct for flowers and an education in their meaning from Elizabeth, the one kind foster parent who persevered with her. Now graduating out of state care,
must make her own way and starts out by sleeping rough in a local Victoria park. But a florist gives her casual work and then, at a flower market, she meets Grant, San Francisco 's nephew, another awkward soul who speaks the language of flowers. Diffenbaugh narrates Victoria and Grant's present-day involvement, over which the cloud of the past hangs heavy, in parallel with the history of Elizabeth 's foster care, which we know ended badly. After a strong, self-destructive start, Elizabeth 's long road to redemption takes some dips including an unconvincing, drawn-out subplot involving Victoria 's sister, arson and postnatal depression. While true to the logic of its perverse psychology, the story can be exasperating before finally swerving toward the light. Elizabeth
An unusual, overextended romance, fairy tale in parts but with a sprinkling of grit.
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
Kirkus Reviews -
Towles' buzzed-about first novel is an affectionate return to the post–Jazz Age years, and the literary style that grew out of it (though seasoned with expletives).
Brooklyn girl Katey Kontent and her boardinghouse mate, Midwestern beauty Eve Ross, are expert flirts who become an instant, inseparable threesome with mysterious young banker Tinker Grey. With him, they hit all the hot nightspots and consume much alcohol. After a milk truck mauls his roadster with the women in it, permanently scarring Eve, the guilt-ridden Tinker devotes himself to her, though he and she both know he has stronger feelings for Katey. Strong-willed Katey works her way up the career ladder, from secretarial job on Wall Street to publisher's assistant at Condé Nast, forging friendships with society types and not allowing social niceties to stand in her way. Eve and Tinker grow apart, and then Kate, belatedly seeing Tinker for what he is, sadly gives up on him. Named after George Washington's book of moral and social codes,this novel documents with breezy intelligence and impeccable reserve the machinations of wealth and power at an historical moment that in some ways seems not so different from the current one. Tinker, echoing Gatsby, is permanently adrift. The novel is a bit light on plot, relying perhaps too much on description. But the characters are beautifully drawn, the dialogue is sharp and Towles avoids the period nostalgia and sentimentality to which a lesser writer might succumb.
An elegant, pithy performance by a first-time novelist who couldn't seem more familiar with his characters or territory.
Sex on the Moon: The Amazing Story Behind the Most Audacious Heist in History by Ben Mezrich
A promising NASA recruit throws everything away for a girl, illustrating the fascinating consequences when science, ambition, and starry-eyed love collide. In bestselling author Mezrich's telling, Thad Roberts, while at the
, became determined to be an astronaut and threw himself into science courses. He left his wife behind when he was accepted to the elite Johnson Space Center Cooperative Program in University of Utah , the training ground for NASA scientists. Despite his lack of an engineering background, Roberts excelled in the life sciences department. While cataloguing samples, he noticed the moon rocks NASA categorized as "trash"—samples returned after experiments. Then Roberts met and fell in love with a new recruit, Rebecca, and planned to give her the moon, or at least its profits, by stealing the "used" moon rocks. Roberts devised the heist and arranged an online sale with a mineral collector in Houston . The suspicious buyer alerted the FBI, which set up a sting, and Roberts was sentenced to eight years in federal prison. Mezrich (The Accidental Billionaires, from which The Social Network was adapted) has perfected his intensely readable brand of nonfiction: talented, often unscrupulous, young people skyrocketing to the top only to tumble back to earth. Belgium
A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny
Schadenfreude descends on the Quebecois village of Three Pines.
Clara Morrow's solo exhibition at the Musee d'Art Contemporain in
has been a long time coming. And although some seem pleased for her success in middle age, others, including a school friend turned vitriolic art critic, a gallery owner and even her husband Peter, an artist himself, wrestle with their envy. The day after the showing, back in Clara's garden in Three Pines, Lillian Dyson, former critic, current A.A. participant and Clara's vituperative ex-friend, lies dead of a broken neck. Armand Gamache, heading up the Sureté's homicide division, and his second-in-command Jean Guy Beauvoir (Bury Your Dead,2010, etc.), are called on to investigate. They soon realize the case pits sobriety against drunkenness, appearance against reality and good changes against bad. Moreover, Gamache and Beauvoir have their own demons to exorcize, stemming from a catastrophic police raid, physical and emotional rehab and a marriage that never should have happened. With suspects and old slights vying to be uncovered, it becomes difficult indeed to find "some measure of peace in the small village." Montreal
Penny, elevating herself to the pantheon that houses P.D. James, Ruth Rendell and Minette Walters, demonstrates an exquisite touch with characterization, plotting and artistic sensitivity. And there could be no better explanation of A.A. than you will find here.