I am reviewing 3 books that couldn't be more different. The first is Gossip by Beth Gutcheon. This is Beth's 9th book. I have a history with Beth (it's not what you think). She is married to the headmaster of the school, Hillbrook, that all 3 of my kids attended. One of her books, Saying Grace, centers on a private school very similar to Hillbrook. In fact, there is an incident in the book that closely approximates the experience that my youngest, Lauren, went through as a child. Lauren stuck her finger in the armhole of a Ken (of Barbie and Ken fame) doll, and nothing we did could extricate it. Finally, and I'm not kidding here, we had to call the fire department who came and, after much discussion and effort, cut the doll from around her finger. It sounds crazy, but it actually happened. Imagine how much fun it was to read Beth's book and know (or at least suspect) that it was patterned after what happened to Lauren.
But enough of my asides. Gossip tells the story of Lovie French who owns a dress shop in Manhattan that caters to the high end of society. Lovie's story starts in boarding school where she becomes lifelong friends with Dinah and Avis. A lot of different stories branch off from the main characters, including their children and everybody's respective careers. Mix in some affairs, extra-marital and otherwise, and it covers a lot of ground.
This book reminded me of Meg Waite Clayton's The Four Ms. Bradwells. They both chronicle the friendships of women who meet at a young age and then stay friends long into adulthood. Besides that similarity, both authors can really write. Their books resemble literature which, as many of you know, I try to avoid (my mind being a bit too simple to appreciate good writing!). Beth has a great vocabulary which she uses in such a way that it does not distract from the story. That's not an easy thing to do. We've all read books in which the author loses his/her way because of a dependence on "big words." Beth uses her big words naturally. They enhance the story, not the other way around. I recommend this book to all of those people who don't need shoot-'em-ups in order to enjoy a book (and you know who you are). As for you men out there, if you have at least a trace of metrosexual-ness, then you will enjoy it too.
The 2nd book is James Grippando's Need You Now. This is his 18th adult novel (he's written 1 young adult book), and I have read them all. He is a solid "B" lister. I have liked all of his books and will continue to read every adult book he writes. Need You Now is the story of a Bernie Madoff-like Ponzi scheme and how it endangers the lives of a young male Wall Street advisor and the young female banker that he is tied to. There are, of course, dangerous investors and crooked government officials. While not necessarily super original, it's a good story and kept me engaged throughout. It had the added feature of an appearance by FBI agent, Andie Henning, who has appeared now in 8 of Grippando's books. It's always fun to have her in the story.
My 3rd review will be short. The book is September Snow by Robert Balmanno. I came across Robert at Barnes & Noble in The Pruneyard. As you know, I always buy a book from an author that I come across in a bookstore. In every case prior to this one, I have enjoyed the book at least somewhat and, in some cases, quite a lot. Not so much this one. The story takes place in 2051 in a very dystopian (one of the all-time great words!) society. Everything is manipulated including the weather. Those who are unfortunate enough to live outside the protective shield of the domes are ravaged by sun poisoning. Sounds pretty interesting, eh? I got to page 60 and had to stop reading. I simply couldn't go another page. I probably average 1 unfinished book every 5 years. I have read a bunch of stuff that I didn't like, but I was still able to get through the book. No could do this time.
Here's the clincher - Tim Gray, whoever he is, compared it to Dune, Brave New World, and Nineteen Eighty Four. I'm not sure what Mr. Gray was smoking at the time he gave this quote, but I assure you it was something hallucinogenic.
PROGRAM NOTE (huh?): Fiction for the Non-Fiction Reader, Volume IV, is coming in the next week and a half. After that, I will start posting blogs from the author interviews. I have added 2 more local authors since I gave you the list last week - Sheldon Siegel and Michael David Lukas. There could be more.