Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Travel to distant locations with these great titles.


Out of Oz by Gregory Maguire

Publishers Weekly –

The final volume of Maguire’s Wicked Years series finds Oz torn by war, and Shell Thropp, Elphaba’s brother, as emperor. Munchkinland has seceded, and the Emerald City invades with the Ozian army to get it back. Glinda, former Throne Minister, is held under house arrest by General Cherrystone, who takes an interest in Rain, Glinda’s broom girl, teaching her to read. He doesn’t know that Rain is actually Liir’s daughter and Elphaba’s granddaughter, and the only one who can understand the infamous Grimmerie, supposedly a volume of magical lore, coveted by Oz. A troupe of traveling players arrive and secretly give the Grimmerie to Glinda, who distracts the soldiers long enough to send Rain off with Brrr (aka the Cowardly Lion). So begins a quest for Rain to discover her true identity and unravel the layers of political and personal secrets that have caused strife and division in Oz. Maguire’s take on the trouble-prone Dorothy Gale is refreshing, and his Oz far darker, sadder, harsher, more complex, and convoluted than Baum’s (which will make this hard to follow for readers unfamiliar with the series). The language and imagery are rich, and the sense of love, loss, and regret palpable. For fans, this will be a revealing and satisfying end to the layered tale begun in Wicked.




Pirate King by Laurie R. King

Publishers Weekly - 

In a foreword, King, to her credit, acknowledges the implausibility of her 11th Mary Russell novel (after The God of the Hive) by having her heroine declare, "I fear that the credulity of many readers will be stretched to the breaking point by the case's intricate and, shall we say, colourful complexity of events." If anything, this is an understatement. In the fall of 1924, Sherlock Holmes, Mary's husband, uses the threat of an impending visit from his brother, Mycroft, with whom she's at odds, to persuade Mary to travel to Lisbon, where she's ostensibly to serve as a production assistant for "a film about a film about The Pirates of Penzance." In fact, she's on covert assignment for the British government to investigate the studio behind the new film, whose releases appear to coincide with an upsurge in criminal activity. Sherlockians must wait more than half the book for Holmes to put in a cameo in this action-heavy, deduction-light installment.




The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

Kirkus Reviews -


A man’s closest-held beliefs about a friend, former lover and himself are undone in a subtly devastating novella from Barnes.
The author’s slim 11th novel (and fourth to be shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize) shouldn’t be mistaken for a frivolous one: It’s an intense exploration of how we write our own histories and how our actions in moments of anger can have consequences that stretch across decades. The novel’s narrator, Anthony, is in late middle age, and recalling friendships from adolescence and early adulthood. He’s focused on two people in particular: Adrian, a brilliant but gloomy schoolmate who routinely questioned the certainties of his history teachers, and Veronica, a harridan with whom he has a brief and tempestuous affair. After the breakup, Adrian and Veronica begin their own relationship. Anthony dashes off a bitter letter to Adrian, and when Adrian kills himself soon after, Anthony is willing to credit it to depression. But a letter he receives years later complicates the story. The novel has a love-triangle structure—one of its mysteries has to do with where Veronica’s affections resided. But its focus is more intellectual, as Anthony considers how much of his past history he’s failed to face up to, how willing he is to confront his mistakes and to what degree his own moral failings affected others. Decades after their breakup, Anthony and Veronica are forced to reconnect due to some legal tussling over Adrian’s diary, and their parrying at times becomes painfully intense. The brutality of those exchanges, coolly presented, speaks to Barnes’ skill at balancing emotional tensions and philosophical quandaries.
A knockout. What at first seems like a polite meditation on childhood and memory leaves the reader asking difficult questions about how often we strive to paint ourselves in the best possible light.


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