Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Nevermore: High School, Physics, Waking Lions, Laurie Frankel, Flower Moon, and Chimney Sweep

Reported by Ambrea

Nevermore started out with a look at Lindsey Lee Johnson’s debut novel, The Most Dangerous Place on Earth.  Johnson’s novel is a “kaleidoscopic narrative [which] exposes at every turn the real human beings beneath the high school stereotypes,” according to the book jacket.  The Most Dangerous Place on Earth tells the story of Abigail Cress, an Ivy League bound student who has an inappropriate relationship with her teacher; Dave Chu, a decent student being crushed by his parents’ expectations; Emma Fleed, a gifted dancer who parties as rigorously as she practices; Damon Flintov, a student just back from rehab who has something to prove; Calista Broderick, a popular student who shaped herself into a “hippie outcast”; and Molly Nicoll, an English teacher who struggles to connect with her richer, more privileged students.  Our reader said she found Johnson’s novel eye opening.  She thought it might be slightly exaggerated, given the obscene wealth of the characters; however, she considered it a very honest presentation of high school life and adolescent relationships.

Next, Nevermore switched to nonfiction with Storm in a Teacup:  The Physics of Everyday Life by Helen Czerski.  Czerski, a physicist who specializes in bubbles, offers a unique and unexpected perspective on daily phenomena, like how trees manage to “drink” water and why milk looks like it does when added to tea and why raisins cause carbonated lemonade to bubble.  Our reader thought Czerski’s book was very interesting.  He thought it was fascinating how the author was able to link complex concepts of the physical universe to the simple, almost humdrum daily routine most people lead.  He liked the simple discovers and, as a special treat, he showed his fellow readers how he was able to turn a glass upside down without spilling a single drop of water.  Using surface tension and a simple piece of cardboard, our reader was able to turn the fully filled water glass upside down and hold it, never spilling a drop.  Needless to say, we were all very impressed.

Nevermore also looked at Laurie Frankel’s latest novel, This is How It Always is.  Rosie and Penn have five children—all boys, all rambunctious—but, as time goes on, they discover that Claude, their youngest son, has dreams of being someone different.  He wants to be a girl.  Rosie and Penn are supportive of Claude, because they want him to be whoever he wants to be; however, they’re just not sure if they’re ready to share his secret with the world—and then, one day, it’s no longer a secret.  Our reader liked Frankel’s novel.  She wondered if this novel was slightly autobiographical, as the author also has a transgender child; however, she thought it was an interesting novel regardless.  She said it would make an excellent book club recommendation, because it would be so easy to find different perspectives on such a charged subject.

Next, Nevemore visited Ayelet Gundar-Goshen’s latest novel, Waking Lions.  A gripping story from beginning to end, Waking Lions tells the story of neurosurgeon Eitan Green and a deadly mistake that may cost him his family, his reputation, and, quite possibly, his life.  While speeding along a dusty, moonlit road after an exhausting day, Eitan hits someone, an African migrant, and then he leaves the scene.  The next day, the victim’s widow shows up on his doorstep with his forgotten wallet.  She doesn’t want money—she wants help, and she’ll have his if no other.  Although she hadn’t finished reading Waking Lions, our reader said it was an interesting novel.  It’s complex and it’s jarring; however, she did note that she’s “had it up to ‘here’ with all the guilt and angst.”

Nevermore revisited Killers of the Flower Moon:  The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann.  During the 1920s, the richest people in the world were the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma after they received an unforeseen windfall from the oil discovered beneath their land.  But, one by one, the wealthy Osage were being picked off and investigators were murdered, before J. Edgar Hoover and a fledgling FBI became involved.  Our reader, like many others before her, thought Killers of the Flower Moon was interesting and unexpectedly captivating.  Written well and researched just as thoroughly, Grann’s book was an immediate hit with our current reader.  She said she was particularly entranced by the formation of the FBI.  She found it fascinating to see how more modern, according to the time, investigative techniques were used and how forensics—and Texas Ranger Tom White—influenced the floundering Bureau.

Last, Nevermore picked up Death of a Chimney Sweep, a Hamish Macbeth mystery by M.C. Beaton.  Set in isolated villages in northern Scotland, Death of a Chimney Sweep features Constable Hamish Macbeth investigating another mystery—this one the mysterious murder of Pete Ray, the affable, itinerant chimney sweep of the Scottish highlands.  Our reader loves Hamish Macbeth mysteries, and she was glad she had a chance to dive back into Beaton’s novels.  She said the story was “so light, so fast” and re-reading it was a “wonderful refresher.”  She highly recommended Death of a Chimney Sweep—or any other Hamish Macbeth mystery by M.C. Beaton—to her fellow mystery readers, especially if they were looking for an enjoyable, light mystery that borders on not-too-grisly.

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