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The Same River Twice by Ted Mooney

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The Same River Twice, a new novel by Ted Mooney, got a rave review from New York Times’s reviewer Danielle Trussoni, who called it “mesmerizing”. The Boston Globe review calls it “a philosophical entertainment doubling as a riveting, unconventional thriller.”
The Same River Twice is a novel that reads like an arthouse film, complete with dream sequences, deja vu, and lots of Parisian night scenes. At first, I thought the main character, Odile — a street-smart young Frenchwoman who starts the action by smuggling culturally significant ceremonial flags out of the former Soviet union for money — would be a good follow-up to Lisbeth Salander, the petite computer hacker from the Millennium trilogy. But then, the moral compass of Ted Mooney’s characters began to spin so wildly that I’m not sure Stieg Larsson readers will want to make the leap from that author’s highly developed social conscience to this author’s elevation of art over all else.
In an online interview, Ted Mooney says: “What I really wanted to get at, in this book, is how people who see themselves as morally upright, and regular citizens, at the same time, blind themselves to the larger part of what’s going on around them all the time.” He successfully gives readers of his novel the experience of seeing with an artist’s eye, detached as if behind camera or easel, missing nothing.
As when confronted with new works of art, readers may wonder if The Same River Twice is a great novel or a pastiche. It’s a compelling book about borders — physical and otherwise — and the cutthroat nature of the international art world, but unexplained mystical scenes (e.g. foreshadowing dreams, deja vu, and the preternatural ability of minor character, a painter, to see into Odile’s inner being) seemed strained, and the cinematic view of the characters made me feel, as a reader, too detached to care what happens to them. My verdict: a good novel (worth reading) that should get made into a great movie.

Check for availability in the Old Colony Library Network catalog.

The King’s Rose by Alisa M. Libby

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What might it have been like for a 15-year-old girl to be chosen by King Henry VIII as his fifth wife? In The King’s Rose by Alisa M. Libby, young Catherine Howard tells us the story of her dizzyingly abrupt rise to the throne. With court intrigue, gossip, and suspicions, the second young adult novel by this  Massachusetts author will be enjoyed by historical fiction readers, fans of the Showtime series The Tudors, and readers of Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series for young adults about the Dark Court of the faery world.
A beautiful girl, Catherine Howard caught the eye of the king. Or, more accurately, she was successfully thrust before the king’s eyes through the efforts of the Howards, seeking power for the clan. Not quite as innocent in truth as she was made out to be (the aged king calls her his “rose without a thorn”), Catherine nervously pushes out of her mind the fate of Henry’s fourth wife — Catherine’s cousin Anne Boleyn — as she struggles to keep youthful dalliances from being revealed to King Henry before she presents him with an all-important heir to the throne.
Based on historical records, The King’s Rose may make you wonder whether Catherine Howard really was as carefree and empty-headed as history makes her out to be.
Click here for an author interview with Alisa M. Libby at the Teens Read Too site.
Click here to check availability of The King’s Rose in the Old Colony Library Network catalog.

The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst

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The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst is about grief, guilt, and family estrangement, but also a novel about writing…about using lives as material, leading to thoughts about responsibility to the reader, duty to family, and the ethics of art. The Nobodies Album — the author’s third novel, after The Dogs of Babel (2003) and Lost and Found (2006) — takes on these weighty themes with a light touch. There is a murder, and even some amateur sleuthing, but it’s mostly about the relationship between a novelist, the bitterly ironic Octavia Frost, and her adult son Milo, who has become a famous rock star. Mutual survivors of a family tragedy, they’ve been estranged for years before events compel Octavia to attempt reconciliation.
Carolyn Parkhurst writes very well about family minefields, and is also funny. Check out the book tour tips on her Web site, where she has also created a whole section by her fictional novelist, Octavia Frost.
This novel had mixed reviews, with two different New York Times reviewers, one who was a little disappointed and one who liked it. If you read The Nobodies Album and decide for yourself, let us know what you think.
Click through from here to check for availability in the Old Colony Library Network catalog.

Apologize, Apologize! by Elizabeth Kelly

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I’ve waited a long time to post about Apologize, Apologize!, the tragicomic first novel by Canadian author Elizabeth Kelly, because it’s hard to describe and it’s the kind of book that you should read without hearing too much about it first. Also, the readers I’ve suggested it to at the library so far didn’t love it as I did. But online paperback sales are good, so it must be finding its readers. It’s a good book to take on vacation, if you’ve built in some time for reading on the deck.
The Flanagan family of Martha’s Vineyard is dysfunctional, but so comically, wittily, and outrageously so, that you have to laugh. You will probably feel sorry for straight-laced Collie, the narrator, whose mother constantly compares him unfavorably to his younger brother Bing, who is charming, handsome, athletic, impulsive — everything that Collie is not. Here’s Collie early on in the book:

“What did my parents see in each other? In Ma’s case, I think it was a simple matter of aesthetics and disorder. Pop was a good-looking anarchist who appeared to believe in everything and nothing at the same time all the time.
Of course, I might be overthinking the matter.
‘It’s good to have a man around,’ she said, ‘In case the sewage pipe ruptures.'”

Fair warning: The novel is dark comedy, not a light-hearted laugh-a-minute, and the theme is redemption. But it’s a really good book and you should read it. (Even if you decide not to take it on vacation.)
Read The New Yorker review of Apologize, Apologize!.
Apparently, it is going to be made into a movie, too.
Check the Old Colony Library Network for availability.

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