Fiction Book Reviews

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In America , by Susan Sontag (Farrar, Straus & Giroux; 0-374-17540-3; hardcover; Fiction) A glorious, sweeping new novel from the bestselling author of The Volcano Lover . In America is a big, juicy, surprising book about a woman's search for self-transformation, about the fate of idealism, and about the world of the theater.


Afterburn , by Colin Harrison (Farrar, Straus & Giroux; 0374102058; hardcover; Fiction) A high-voltage thriller at once smart, sexy, and graphically violent, Afterburn spans the mean streets of New York's underworld and Hong Kong's corridors of high finance.


The Lost Daughter of Happiness : A Novel , by Geling Yan (Hyperion East; 0-7868-6654-3; $22.95; hardcover; 4/18/01; Fiction) This powerful novel tells a story of a love affair between an enigmatic Chinese prostitute and the Caucasian boy who worships her. It is set in the aftermath of the Gold Rush era, when San Francisco was known as Gold Mountain to the millions who came seeking fortune. The book describes, in sometimes brutal detail, the anti-Chinese violence that plagued the city during this time, and portrays a seedy underworld of Chinatown brothels, gambling halls, and opium dens. Although the story is fictional, Fusang, the prostitute, is a real historical character.


Knick Knack Paddy Whack , by Ardal O'Hanlon (Henry Holt; 0805063307; Hardcover; Fiction) Not since Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye has literature seen a young man with as much contempt for hypocrisy and phoniness as Patrick Scully, the narrator of this brilliantly observed tale of a nineteen-year-old's frustrations and reams.


Foreign Brides : Stories by Elena Lappin (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 0374157588; hardcover; Fiction). Funny, irreverent, dark, and tender -- a startling and sexy debut collection. Women (and men) cope with foreign marriages in Elena Lappin's shrewd domestic comedies of the absurd, set in London, New York, and a constellation of European and Israeli cities. Transplanted across oceans and ensconced in strange houses where appliances malfunction and husbands are not what they seem, women like Noa, Vera, and Paula settle into lives of persistently unfamiliar routine, stirred up from time to time with a very crooked stick.


Shy Girl , by Elizabeth Stark (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 0374263523; Fiction). A fresh, delightful, affecting first novel about a young body piercer's crush on the girl next door. There was a girl in Alta's bed when the phone rang, a girl all red-haired and fair-skinned and fleshy, which is to say, nothing like Shy. And that's just the way Alta wanted it. She was tired of trying to turn a vague resemblance into desire. They say things get easier in time and people forget. Everything had changed, and for the better, but she remembered it all. Alta Corral is a somewhat unique character in contemporary fiction -- a young woman confident, even nonchalant, about her sexual conquests of other women. She works at a full-service parlor, rides a motorcycle, and has slept with every girl in San Francisco who is so inclined. But none can replace Sasha "Shy" Mallon. As teenagers, Shy and Alta discovered themselves together; then Shy fled for Seattle and a relationship with a man. Now she has returned, pregnant, to be at her dying mother's bedside. Alta joins her there; and soon they are tending toward intimacy again, in a way that shakes up their notions of who they are, as well as opening up the secrets of their mothers' lives. Elizabeth Stark writes about the lesbian culture of San Francisco in a wry, winning fashion; in Shy Girl she plumbs the ambiguities of relationships in ways that speak to all of us.


To Swim Across the World : A Novel , by Frances Park and Ginger Park (Talk Miramax Books; 0-7868-6733-7; $21.95; hardcover; 6/13/01; Fiction) A novel based on the true story of the authors' parents. The captivating story of a man and a woman from opposite sides of the Korean border who endure occupation, a war, and a dramatic escape to a new life. Korea, 1941. The Japanese occupy the country, and two young Koreans grow up in very different worlds. For Sei-Young Shin, a young man born into a poor family in the rural south, it is a time of oppression. For Heisook Pang, the daughter of a prominent minister in northern Korea, life is easier. But the onset of World War II changes everything: Heisook's privileges are suddenly stripped away, and she is forced to make a daring escape, across the border into the south, where her destiny crosses that of Sei-Young in an encounter that changes their lives forever.


The Ring of Five Dragons , by Eric Van Lustbader (Tor; 0-312-87235-6; $27.95; hardcover; 5/21/01; Fantasy / Science Fiction) A towering multi-volume fantasy, The Pearl, is launched by Eric Van Lustbader in The Ring of Five Dragons. Lustbader, one of the most famous and popular writers of the last three decades, returns to the fantasy genre with his most ambitious work yet. The Kundalan people have suffered for a century under the viciously oppressive, technologically-superior V'ornn invaders, and they can't understand why their goddess Miina hasn't saved them. In the resulting crisis of faith, Kundalan religion falls under the control of evil forces from within who pretend to have no magic of their own and forbid the teaching of traditional sorcery. The V'ornn's mysterious leaders, the Gyrgon, search for the lost Ring of Five Dragons, the key to the door of the fabled Kundalan Storehouse, and perhaps to Kundalan sorcery as well.


Our Twisted Hero : A Novel , by Yi Munyol (Hyperion; 0-7868-6670-5; $21.95; hardcover; 2/28/01; Fiction) When the twelve-year-old narrator of Our Twisted Hero moves from Seoul to a small provincial town and enrolls in the local elementary school, he's confident that his big city sophistication will establish him as a natural leader among his peers. So he is shocked to find his new classmates and teacher under the mysterious spell of the charismatic class monitor, who uses fear and violence to keep the class in line and to assure his dominance in the schools social hierarchy. The teacher, happy to have such a well-behaved class, turns a blind eye to the monitor's abuse of power. As the narrator sets out to overthrow the bully, he is ostracized, threatened, teased and finally broken. A brilliant portrait of a conformist society crippled by fear and a powerful statement about individual liberty, Our Twisted Hero is an important contribution to world literature.


Turning on the Girls , by Cheryl Benard (Farrar, Straus & Giroux; 0-374-28178-5; $23.00; hardcover; 3/14/01; Fiction) Ten years ago, women took over, and now they are busily changing everything, from schools and language to women's and men's thinking. Meanwhile, not all men are pleased with this kinder, gentler world. Harmony, an underground men's movement, is planning a violent uprising to put women back in their place.


Density Of Souls , by Chris Rice (Hyperion; 0-7868-6646-2; hardcover; Fiction) A book about four young friends in New Orleans whose lives are pulled in drastically different directions when they enter high school.


Iced , by Jenny Siler
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Link to our book review ...
(Henry Holt; 0-8050-6438-9; $24.00; hardcover; 1/11/01; Fiction) On Missoula's coldest day of the year, the police pull Clay Bennett's corpse from the weeds. For the cops, Bennett's death is an open and shut case, the result of a drunken brawl gone out of control. For repo woman Meg Gardner, who'd been looking to snag his Jeep, his death is an opportunity: without Bennett around to make life difficult, the job should be a breeze. But rumors about a mysterious missing military plane -- and about her own father's other family -- leave Meg feeling decidedly uneasy about the cops' casual assumptions. Only one year out of prison, romantically involved, and working the first legitimate job she's ever had, Meg has a lot to lose. So when Bennett's jeep is stolen from outside her house, instinct and experience demand she walk away. Driven by haunting suspicions and ghosts from her past, however, Meg plunges full speed ahead -- and finds herself implicated in a dangerous web of infidelity, greed, and murder.


Fixer Chao : A Novel , by Han Ong (Farrar, Straus & Giroux; 0-374-15575-5; $25.00; hardcover; 4/26/01; Fiction) When William Narciso Paulinha, a Filipino street hustler, meets Shem C, a disreputable and social-climbing writer embittered by his lack of success, the Feng Shui scam of the century is born. Under Shem C's guidance, Paulinha assumes the persona of Master Chao, a revered Feng Shui practitioner from Hong Kong. Distorting the Eastern concept of Feng Shui -- the mystical Chinese art of creating a harmonious environment, promising its adherents peace and prosperity -- to accommodate Western demands, they peddle their peculiar brand of this holistic philosophy among New York City's elite.


Timbuktu : A Novel , by Paul Auster (Henry Holt; 0805054073; hardcover; Fiction) Meet Mr. Bones, the canine hero of Paul Auster's remarkable new novel, Timbuktu. Mr. Bones is the sidekick and confidant of Willy G. Christmas, the brilliant, troubled, and altogether original poet-saint from Brooklyn. Like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza before them, they sally forth on a last great adventure, heading for Baltimore, Maryland in search of Willy's high school teacher, Bea Swanson. Years have passed since Willy last saw his beloved mentor, who knew him in his previous incarnation as William Gurevitch, the son of Polish war refugees. But is Mrs. Swanson still alive? And if she isn't, what will prevent Willy from vanishing into that other world known as Timbuktu?

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Best American Mystery Stories of the Century , by Tony Hillerman & Otto Penzler (Houghton Mifflin; 0-618-01267-2; hardcover; Fiction / Mystery) Part of the Best American Writing series -- an eclectic grouping that is actively supported and promoted by its authors and editors.


The Last Days of Disco , by Whit Stillman (Farrar Straus & Giroux; 0-374-18339-2; hardcover; Fiction) Novel based on the movie of the same name set in the last months of the disco era of the '80s. An ironic affectionate portrait of an era - and a subgroup of not-quite innocents from Manhattan.


The Metaphysical Touch , by Sylvia Brownrigg (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 0374199655; hardcover; Fiction). A moving and original love story about two lost people who find each other on the Internet. In 1991 Emily Piper, a graduate student at Berkeley, has nearly finished her dissertation on metaphysics when her life is changed by the great Berkeley-Oakland fire that destroyed over 3,000 homes. Pi loses all of her belongings: her books and writings, all the things that reminded her of herself. Though others throw themselves into the task of rebuilding their lives, Pi can't. Instead, she escapes to the small coastal town of Mendocino. On the other coast is J.D., a man with an ambition to go: permanently, absolutely. But before making his departure, J.D. decides to write a record of his jokes and neuroses; of his reflections on his wandering father, Joe; and of his urban, unemployed despair-and post it on the Internet. When J.D. and Pi encounter each other's words on the Net, the sparks start to fly. With The Metaphysical Touch, Sylvia Brownrigg has written a fabulously rich novel full of humor, tenderness, and truth.


Pop! Goes The Weasel : A Novel , by James Patterson (Little Brown & Company; 0316693286; hardcover; Fiction) Pop! Goes the Weasel is James Patterson at the peak of his power. It's his most dynamic and powerful psychological thriller to date. Here is a villain no reader will forget, a love story of great tenderness, and a plot of relentless suspense and heart-pounding pace.


The Years with Laura Diaz : A Novel , by Carlos Fuentes (Farrar, Straus & Giroux; 0-374-29341-4; $26.00; hardcover; 10/11/2000; Fiction) The Years With Laura Diaz is Carlos Fuentes's most important novel in several decades. Like his masterpiece The Death of Artemio Cruz , the action begins in the state of Veracruz and moves to Mexico City -- tracing a migration during the revolution and its aftermath that was a feature of Mexico's demographical history and is a significant element in Fuentes's fictional world.


Personal Injuries , by Scott Turow (Farrar, Straus & Giroux; 0-374-28194-7; hardcover; Fiction) A gripping, suspenseful, deeply satisfying novel about corruption, deceit, and love. Scott Turow takes us into the world of greed and human failing he has made immortal in Presumed Innocent , The Burden of Proof , Pleading Guilty , and The Laws of Our Fathers . Personal Injuries is Turow's most reverberant, most moving novel -- a powerful drama of individuals trying to escape their characters.


Fight Club , by Chuck Palahniuk (Owl Books / Henry Holt & Company; 0-8050-6297-1; paperback; Fiction). An underground classic since its first publication in 1996, Fight Club is now recognized as one of the most original and provocative novels published in this decade. Tells the story of a godforsaken young man who discovers that his rage at living in a world filled with failure and lies cannot be pacified by an empty consumer culture.


Beneath The Skin , by Nicci French (Warner Books; 0-892-96726-9; Fiction / Mystery) A brilliant psychological thriller by the author of Killing Me Softly , this book is Nicci French's most uncompromising and terrifying novel to date.


Gathering Blue : A Novel , by Lois Lowry (Houghton Mifflin; 0-618-05581-9; $15.00; hardcover; 9/25/00; Fiction) In perhaps her strongest work to date, Lois Lowry once again creates a mysterious but plausible future world. It is a society ruled by savagery and deceit and that shuns and discards the weak. Left orphaned and physically flawed, young Kira faces a frightening, uncertain future. Blessed with an almost magical talent that keeps her alive, she struggles with ever broadening responsibilities in her quest for truth, discovering things that will change her life forever.


When My Sister Was Cleopatra Moon : A Novel , by Frances Park (Talk Miramax Books; 0-7868-8645-5; $12.95; paperback; 6/13/01; Fiction) When My Sister Was Cleopatra Moon conveys the struggles of growing up amid the cultural divides that can form in first generation American families. And it tells the universal story of two sisters caught up in the bonds of rivalry and love.


Becoming Madame Mao , by Anchee Min (Houghton Mifflin; 0-618-00407-6; hardcover; Fiction) Novel based on the life and loves of Madame Mao. In a sweeping story that moves gracefully from the intimately personal to the great stage of world history, Anchee Min renders a powerful tale of passion, betrayal, and survival and creates a finely nuanced and always ambiguous portrait of one of the most fascinating women of the twentieth century. Madame Mao is almost universally known as the "white-boned demon" -- ambitious, vindictive, and cruel -- whose bid to succeed her husband led to the death of millions.


O Is For Outlaw , by Sue Grafton (Henry Holt; 0805059555; hardcover; Mystery / Fiction). Sue Grafton's latest mystery.


Ahab's Wife , by Sena Jeter Naslund (William Morrow; 0-688-17187-7; hardcover; Fiction). An epic-scale, brilliant, and compelling saga, inspired by a brief passage in Moby Dick . Ahab's Wife is a breathtaking, magnificent, and uplifting story of one woman's spiritual journey, informed by the spirit of the greatest American novel, but taking it beyond tragedy to redemptive triumph.


Loving Pedro Infante : A Novel , by Denise Chavez (Farrar, Straus & Giroux; 0-374-19411-4; $24.00; hardcover; 4/15/01; Fiction) An exuberant novel about a lovelorn woman obsessed with the Mexican film star Pedro Infante. Teresina (Tere) Avila is a divorced, thirty-something Chicana working in the hinterlands of life in Cabritoville, New Mexico, a small dusty town near El Paso, Texas. The love of her life is Lucio, a smooth-talking ne'er-do-well who will never leave his wife and ties Tere's heart in knots with a string of empty promises. Her diversions are few but intense, and center around her best friend, Irma, and her membership in the Pedro Infante Fan Club #256.


Wild Decembers , by Edna O'Brien (Houghton Mifflin; 0-618-04567-8; hardcover; Fiction) Story of a brother and sister living alone together on their family farm, and of the newcomer who threatens their land and life.


The Putt at the End of the World , by Lee K. Abbott, Dave Barry, et. al. (Warner Books; 0-446-52600-2; hardcover; Fiction / Golf) This is a serialized novel with golf in its center featuring such acclaimed authors as Dave Barry, Tim O'Brien, Tami Hoag, Ridley Pearson and more.


Traveling Light , by Katrina Kittle (Warner Books; 0-446-52480-8; hardcover; Fiction) A deeply moving novel that teaches the ultimate lessons of true love -- that it transcends illness, time, and even the sexes.


The Tear Of Jubilo , by Howard Bahr (Henry Holt; 0-8050-5972-5; hardcover; Fiction) A novel about a Confederate soldier returning home to find that life and love will never be the same.

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