Sandra Weinhardt, Book Reviews Spring 2002

Sandra Weinhardt, Book Reviews Spring 2002

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Updated 17 January 2003.   URL is /books/02fall.html

Books I Read, Summer and Fall,  2002


Meyer, Keith A.…………………………….Stardust
Historic Preservation with a twist.  Something hit a nerve because I cried a bucket over this fine book.  Imagine yourself in Noblesville, Indiana restoring a house over 100 years old, but you start timeshifting.  Suspend your disbelief and enjoy one of the best books of the year.  The writer’s aunt and uncle live in my town, so I had a heads-up alert to check out the book.  This is my heads-up to you. Excellent!   In pb and hb, I found three copies on e-Bay or Ask at your library and bookstore.  I bought 3 copies, a keeper, a lender, and a gift.

Gould, Sandra Lee…………Faraday’s Popcorn Factory
Know ye well that I abhor the supernatural used as a deus ex machina in most books.   This enchanting novel uses it to best advantage.   Willow, walled-off from her emotions, finds herself working in a small popcorn factory/retail store  in Indiana.   Popcorn is very much a part of our Hoosier lives!  Willow is brought out of her shell by a mysterious handsome man who moves in across the street from where she boards. Reviewers say remarkable, lush, exuberant, enchanting, a gem, a meditation.  I learned a lot about life from Sandra Lee Gould. Unforgettable.

Indiana is a popcorn capital indeed, with Purdue grad Orville Reddenbocker’s kernels founded in  north-central Indiana  and Weaver Popcorn in Van Buren, Indiana, home of The Other Place.
The Other Placeis a tavern in Van Buren where they serve enormous baked potatoes with innumerable toppings.  It got its name by being across the street from the bar where everyone walked in and asked “Is this the place that serves those potatoes?”
St. Martin’s Press, 1998   ISBN 0-312-18578-2

Lovett, Sarah………………Acquired Motives
You’re penitentiary bound.  Lovett, author of Dangerous Attachments, worked as a reasearcher at the New Mexico State Penitentiary.  Her setting for Acquired Motives resounds with authentic detail. Her characters, plot, settings and dialog are first-rate. 

Dr. Silvia Strange, Forensic Psychiatrist and expert court witness, testifies in a case that results in the release of a guilty child molester. A vigilante serial killer(s?) tries for revenge.  Bloody, but you care about the characters.  A very promising writer!
This is not any kind of rip-off of the many forensic psych mystery series.   Lovett has a unique voice and vision.  Please welcome her to your bookshelf!   Her first novel was Dangerous Attachments, highly acclaimed by Tony Hillerman, Vincent Bugliosi and many publications.
Villard Books (Random House)  ISBN 0-679-43560-3  290 pp. HB  1996

Bell, Madison Smartt…………….All Souls’ Rising

How much do you know about the slave rebellion in Haiti in the 1790s?

Sure, we all studied it in school, but what can you remember now, besides perhaps Toussaint? This book is the perfect background for the best book Anne Rice ever wrote, All Souls’ Day. 500 pages of meticulous research, an extensive chronology, glossary, and a vocabulary that treats us as competent adults for a change. The suspense raises your blood pressure, and the violence will make you stop reading a few times, but you will go back. You will go back. Bell had written seven previous novels, but one blurb claims he will never write a better one than this. (I find that comment challenging.)

Elkins, Aaron…………..Dead Men’s Hearts

Another fine Gideon Oliver mystery, this one involving ruins in the Valley of the Nile. This anthropological mystery gives new meaning to the word skullduggery.

Smith, Mary-Ann Tirone…………….Masters of Illusion

Historical fiction about the huge circus tent fire in Hartford, Connecticut in 1944. This is an astounding read, fascinating and almost unbearably suspenseful. Smith has also written The Book of Phoebe. This book is as good as a Max Allen Collins. Look for it in your library or book store.

Coxe, George Harmon……………………………Uninvited Guest
Purdue University attendee  Coxe wrote this thriller in 1953.  It’s as readable today.  The setting is a yacht moored at Barbados.  Who is married to whom?   Who killed the troublemaker?   Everyone’s a suspect.  Lots of people are trying to solve this case, endangering themselves and others.  Uninvited Guest and the other Coxe books are a fine way to spend a day.

The great old mysteries are still fun reading. The most noticeable difference is how no-one could communicate without cell phones, voice mail, computers and CNN. 
You never know what you’ll get when you buy a dollar box of books at the end of an auction!

Smiley, Jane……………………….Moo
The New York Times loves this book.  Jane Smiley won a Pulitzer Prize.   Therefore it is entirely my fault that I couldn’t stay interested in the academic pecadillos of a midwestern agricultural college just like the one I graduated from.   Not the writer’s fault.  I think the print was just way too small.  I gave up on Moo half-way through. Note the the giant pig’s name is Earl Butz. Rave reviews from all the biggest reviewers. 

Marshall, James Vance…………………….Walkabout
You are thirteen; your brother is nine.  Both of you are the only survivors of a plane wreck in the desert Outback of Australia.  Your goose is cooked, right?   Not for these intrepid children who survive alone until they find an Aborigine lad on walkabout.  Loaded with details about flora and fauna, Walkabout tells a gripping tale perhaps not as politically correct as it would be had it been written later than 1959 (revised 1971.) Today it would be a Young Adult book, and it would be well read.  


King, Gary………………………….Blind Rage
I read it all, I forgot it all.  I think I am burning out on true crime.  Paging through it now, I see that the catch is that the victim’s relatives were the ones to pursue the killer, and they never, ever, ever gave up.  That alone makes it worth reading.  Well written, but it’s just a scuzzy crime to read about.


Goobie, Beth……………..Before Wings
One of trhe best Young Adult books I’ve ever read, Before Wings features a fifteen year-old Canadian girl who spends a summer at her Aunt’s summer camp, Lakeside.  At first I thought Adrien was a Wynona Ryder/Beetlejuice type. Then I thought it would be about smothering parents/rebellious child.  Not.  Adrien is living on the edge of life, in fear of dying any moment, because of the damage to her brain’s blood vessels from a major brain aneurism.  After two years of rehab, Adrien finds a host of friends and mentors at camp, as well as someone who is trying to kill her.  Sorry, this review doesn’t do Before Wings justice.  If this hasn’t won a major award, some committee has been asleep at the switch. 
Goobie’s vocabulary and syntax compliment the reader by not talking down.  You can read the book just for the excellent writing, or for the plot, or for the philosophy, or for the characters.  Just read it.
Get your library to buy this book. 
Orca Book Publishers, HB 203 pp.  ISBN 1-55143-161-0 (bound)  and 1-55143-163-7 (pbk)

Links out

Winter 2002 book reviews
Links to my book reviewsindex
Magna cum MurderHalloween conference for mystery writers and fans


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