Tuesday, July 31, 2012

"Tigers in Red Weather" by Liza Klaussmann.

Tigers in Red Weather:  A beach read that, if you finish it, 
you can leave behind at the cottage.

Author Liza Klaussmann mines mid-20th century Martha's Vineyard society in Tigers in Red Weather, which follows the lives of two young women, Nick and her cousin Helena.  When the book begins, World War II is ending.  Nick is off to Florida to meet her husband, Hugh, who is returning from overseas service.  Helena's husband died in the war.  She is going to Los Angeles to get remarried.

Separated by geography and financial wherewithal (Nick and Hugh have money, Helena and her husband do not), the cousins stay connected in part because of the family home, Tiger House, in Martha's Vineyard.  The remainder of the novel, which takes place from the late 1940s to the end of the 1960s, concerns the women's marriages, children, money or the lack thereof, tennis, parties, bad behavior and a murder.  For me, all these plot ideas didn't add up to very much and, measured on a scale of one to ten, Tigers in Red Weather comes in at about a five.

Why only a five?  Tigers in Red Weather never quite clicked into a solid, story-telling groove, in my opinion.  The story is told from the perspective of  five different characters in succeeding sections.  This can be a wonderful technique (Olive Kitteridge, for example).  Here, however, the changes in perspective simply reinforced my ambivalence about the plot overall.  It seems a bit like 'chick lit' - without the sense of humor found in that genre - which aspires to be a novel of manners.

Yet even with strong feelings of ambivalence, I continued reading.  On the positive side, this book has interesting ambiance, lots of surprises, and it is unique.  I wanted to know what happened.  And in sum, that makes Tigers in Red Weather just fine for reading at the beach.

That's my opinion.  If you've read Tigers in Red Weather, please share your views about it in the comments section.


Monday, July 23, 2012

New Book by Martin Walker: "The Crowded Grave."

Martin Walker has written a series of books set in the Dordogne region of France and featuring Police Chief Bruno Courreges.  These are such enjoyable books, which is why I was very pleased to see in Marilyn Stasio's NYT column that a new Bruno book is available.  It's called The Crowded Grave.  Check out Ms. Stasio's column here.  And if you enjoy reading mysteries, try Martin Walker's books.

More from author Martin Walker:

The Dark Vineyard

Black Diamond

Monday, July 16, 2012

Music We Like: "Radio Music Society" by Esperanza Spalding.

Although being knee-deep in summer activities is shortening time for reading, I am making time to listen over and over to Esperanza Spalding's terrific jazz album, Radio Music Society.  Spalding is a bassist, composer, vocalist, and the winner of the 2011 Grammy for Best New Artist, the first time a jazz artist received this award.  Radio Music Society is her latest disc, a collection of accessible, contemporary pop.  Since it's hot outside, why not pour yourself a gin and tonic, cue up Radio Music Society, and cool down with Ms. Spalding's breezy, jazzy stylings.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Chill Out With a Great Read: "Ice Cap: A Mystery" by Chris Knopf.

Here is a perfect book to read while lounging around at home or at the beach:  Ice Cap, a mystery by Chris Knopf.  Why is it perfect? Because Chris Knopf writes terrific mysteries, with snappy dialogue, interesting characters, and entertaining plots with just the right touch of suspense.

In Ice Cap it is winter in the Hamptons and the locals are getting hit hard with record-breaking snowfall.  In the middle of a snowy blast, criminal defense attorney Jackie Swaitkowski gets a call from one of her clients. The client is Franklin (Franco) Delano Raffini, a former investment banker who'd served time for killing his girlfriend's husband with a rotisserie skewer before the husband could kill Franco with a steak knife.

Franco has found his boss, Tad Buczek - who also happens to be Jackie's late husband's uncle - dead in the snow on Buczek's large estate.   If you are thinking 'heart attack in the snow', you're wrong:  When Jackie gets to the estate she sees that Buczek's skull has been crushed into a red-and-gray mash.  Who killed Tad, and why, is what Jackie investigates in Ice Cap's multi-layered plot.

Ice Cap is a good story and Jackie Swaitkowski is a great character:  smart, funny, and joyfully obsessed with her work.  This is another very good book from Chris Knopf and is highly recommended reading.  


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Author of "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" Interviewed on NPR

Right now I'm reading Ben Fountain's novel Billy Lynn.  Fountain was recently interviewed on NPR; here is the link to the story.  At the link there is also a brief excerpt from the book.