Friday, December 7, 2012

More bestsellers to curl up with on those cold snowy days

In Sunlight and in Shadow by Mark Helprin

Kirkus Reviews –

Elegant, elegiac novel of life in postwar America, at once realistic and aspirational, by the ever-accomplished Helprin (A Soldier of the Great War, 1991, etc.). Harry Copeland is a sturdy-looking man, so much so that a wise aunt likens him to a young Clark Gable, to which he replies, "For Chrissakes, Elaine, when he was young, without the mustache, Clark Gable looked like a mouse." There's nothing mousy about Harry, though he does share Gable's burden of tragedy. But that is far from his mind when he lays eyes on Catherine Thomas Hale on a New York ferry and is stopped in his tracks. He pursues her, and in time he wins her over, only to find that Catherine harbors many secrets--and that her family harbors more than a few hidden prejudices and is not at all happy when Harry comes a-courting in the place of Catherine's longtime beau. The lovers' story is appropriately tangled and star-crossed, for if Catherine has a wagonload of baggage, Harry, a former paratrooper, hasn't quite forgotten the horrors of the war in Europe. The story crosses continents and is suffused with the California dream, but Helprin is really most at home in New York, which he describes with the affection and beauty that Woody Allen invested in his film Manhattan. There are other celebrations--of love, of books and learning--and other regrets, as when Harry finds himself "plundered by alcohol" and on the verge of doing things he will rue. Helprin charges the story with beautiful passages: "More like gentle lamps than stars, their blinking was not cold and quick like the disinterested stars of winter, but slow and seductive, as if they were speaking in a code that all mankind understood perfectly well even if it did not know that such a language existed." A fine adult love story--not in the prurient sense, but in the sense of lovers elevated from smittenness to all the grown-up problems that a relationship can bring.

Paris: A Love Story by Kati Marton

Kirkus Reviews –

Paris provides a backdrop for this absorbing memoir of love and painful loss, played out on the larger stage of world politics. While walking the streets of Paris, former NPR and ABC News correspondent Marton (Enemies of the People: My Family's Journey to America, 2009, etc.) mourns her husband, Richard Holbrooke, who died suddenly in 2010. She writes about "experiencing the fluctuating rhythms of loss…grief crashing against a sudden zeal for life," as she remembers the times she and Holbrooke visited their favorite city. She reminisces about her first trip there as a student, at the age of 18, and her return a decade later as a foreign correspondent heading ABC's Bonn news bureau. Conducting a passionate though tortured relationship with news anchor Peter Jennings, she would rendezvous with him in Paris between covering events in European hotspots. Despite suffering from a traumatic separation from her parents (during their imprisonment by the Hungarian government), a painful divorce from Jennings and Holbrooke's death, the author writes of the moments when she is "filled with joy" at her good fortune in having been loved. The highlights of her story include her time in Bonn, during which she interviewed spies in Berlin, traveled to a Palestinian refugee camp, and covered political kidnappings by terrorists, and her later experience hosting notables during Holbrooke's stint as U.N. ambassador. On a first-name basis with the political movers and shakers on a global stage, Marton has observed world politics in the making and makes space for readers on her catbird seat.

Severe Clear (Stone Barrington Series #24) by Stuart Woods

Kirkus Reviews –

What chance does a cabal of bombers have against New York uber-lawyer Stone Barrington; his ex–NYPD partner, Lt. Dino Bacchetti; the CIA's Holly Barker; head of MI-6, Felicity Devonshire; CEO of Strategic Services, Michael Freeman; Woodman & Weld attorney, Herb Fisher; President Will Lee; and his wife, Katharine, Director of the CIA? Determined to avenge the killing of Osama bin Laden, an agent calling himself Algernon has recruited a Pakistani nuclear scientist gone freelance and a trio of lower-level experts to sneak a bomb into the new Los Angeles hotel where President Lee is to meet with his Mexican counterpart for some high-level talks. It's their bad luck that from a distant cellphone conversation in a foreign language, the NSA's computers pick up two English words: "The Arrington." The Arrington just happens to be the brand-new hotel memorializing the late actress Arrington Carter, co-owned by Stone, Strategic Services and Superlative Hotel Management, that's about to open by playing host to the two heads of state and incidentally, a rare concert by Hollywood musical star Immi Gotham. Algernon estimates 2-3 million fatalities from the blast, but that's only if he and his minions can embed themselves in trusted positions in the hotel, smuggle in the nuclear device's component parts, assemble, arm and detonate it, all without arousing enough suspicion to be unmasked. What are the odds? Since the possibility that Woods will kill off virtually his entire stable of regulars (Unnatural Acts, 2012, etc.) is too remote to generate much suspense, fans of this series are left to enjoy the sex, the bling and the reassurance that in Stone's world, "Sometimes everything goes right" with less effort, error and complexity than you could ever hope for in real life.

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