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Brian's Book Recommendations

Great Circle: A novel Cover Image
$28.95
ISBN: 9780525656975
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Knopf - May 4th, 2021

This is a big, meaty, fast-paced, whirlwind of a historical novel that spans the 20th century through the stories of two women: the modern actress Hadley Baxter and the aviatrix Marian Graves. The largest part of the story is Marian’s and begins with her rescue, with her twin brother Jamie, by their father, the captain of a luxury liner that is torpedoed by the Germans in 1914. Not willing to rely on the kindness of strangers on a lifeboat, Captain Graves abandons ship with his twins in his arms and subsequently goes to prison. Adopted by an artist uncle in Montana, who has a severe drinking problem, Marian becomes obsessed with flying. Most of the novel follows her from a Prohibition treetop flyer to a WWII member of the RAF flying new airplanes to bases, and subsequently to her circumnavigating the world over the poles. As much as it is a historical novel, this is a first-rate adventure novel as well, and it is hard not to fall in love with Marian and her plucky nature. 
 


In Search of a Kingdom: Francis Drake, Elizabeth I, and the Perilous Birth of the British Empire Cover Image
$29.99
ISBN: 9780062875358
Availability: NOT IN STOCK - Usually arrives in 7 - 14 business days
Published: Custom House - March 16th, 2021

Growing up, as I did, with parents who were more into Movies for a Sunday Afternoon than football, my image of Sir Francis Drake will always be Errol Flynn. So, in reading this new historical look at the relationship between Elizabeth and Drake, I was somewhat taken aback that the real Drake was built more like a fireplug than a thin, debonair bon vivant. Ah well, mythical images are built on airy stuff. Still, this realistic image depicted in Laurence Bergreen’s new book is more to my liking. Far from the usual courtiers who flounced about Elizabeth, sidling up to her for attention, Drake is seen as a man of action: defeator of the Spanish Armada, circumnavigator of the globe, and privateer. And as a privateer, with secret approval from a queen he dearly loved, he helped fund through the gold and silver heisted from the Spanish, a burgeoning British Empire. As much adventure on the high seas as it is a history book, this is a thoroughly entertaining book and a much needed look at the relationship between two fascinating historical characters.


The Searcher: A Novel Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780735224650
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Viking - October 6th, 2020

Cal Hooper, former Chicago police detective, moves to Ireland to rebuild his life after a messy divorce. A hands-on kind of guy, he moves to a rural village, and buys a house that desperately needs a facelift, perfect for a man in early retirement. He leaves behind an adult daughter who he misses terribly, but who he needs to rebuild a relationship with. Her proxy is a local teen who cajoles him into investigating the case of a missing brother. Having a certain set of skills as a former detective, he reluctantly investigates the disappearance and uncovers a dark side to the village. Though humorous at times, what really comes through is Cal’s melancholy and his desire to become a better man. 


That Old Country Music: Stories Cover Image
$23.95
ISBN: 9780385540339
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Doubleday - January 12th, 2021

It has been a while since I read a collection of short stories by a single author, but I was so impressed by Kevin Barry's last novel, Night Boat to Tangier, that I knew I needed to give his new book a go. Don't let the title throw you, That Old Country Music is not about Nashville or Texas. Put the emphasis instead on "old country" and you'll have it. The old country is Ireland, and each of these gems could be its own long black veil of an Irish folk tune. Though the terrain is familiar, the themes of love and death never go out of style, and here, in the hands of a master storyteller, are wonderful. 


Trio: A novel Cover Image
$27.95
ISBN: 9780593318232
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Knopf - January 19th, 2021

Set against the Swinging Sixties in Britain, that post-war era when baby booming Brits finally came into their own in art, fashion, and a hedonistic attitude that was reflected as much in the ascendancy of the Rolling Stones and the Who as in the decline of the good boys of British rock, the Beatles, William Boyd’s new novel, Trio, is simply fab.

The trio of the novel’s title are Talbot Kydd, Elfrida Wing, and Anny Viklund, and each has something to hide. The magnet that has drawn these three together is a movie being made in Brighton in the summer of 1968, absurdly titled (but so accurate in its reflection of the times) Emily Bracegirdle’s Extremely Useful Ladder to the Moon. Talbot is one of the producers of the film, with all the headaches that this job entails. Elfrida, an American, is the wife of the director of the movie and a successful author humorously gathering information for a novel on Virginia Woolf’s last day alive. Anny, the star of the movie and another American, is being stalked by her ex-husband who is on the run from the CIA and FBI because of his anti-establishment terrorist activities back in the States.

If you have read Boyd before, especially Any Human Heart, his birth to earth character study of Logan Mounstuart, or even his more recent Love is Blind, you know that the author can do stories that sweep across decades and countries. Here, in Trio, it is a delight to see him focus on a certain time and a certain place and nail it so entertainingly, with liberal doses of wry humor and heart. If you’ve not read Boyd before you are in for a groovy ride, baby.