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Book Reviews
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2002  
  The Complete Works of Isaac Babel by Isaac Babel
  Death in the Canyon by Michael Ghiglieri and Thomas Myers
  In Babylon by Marcel Moring and translated by Stacy Knecht
  Kushiel's Chosen by Jacqueline Carey
  The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett
  The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich
  The Road Within edited by Sean O'Reilly
  The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway
  Backpack by Emily Barr
  The Immortal Class: Bike Messengers and the Cult of Human Power by Travis Hugh Culley
  Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire

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The Complete Works of Isaac Babel by Isaac Babel

This months' official book selection is one from Keith, who is currently reading "The Complete Works of Isaac Babel," who is considered to be one of the greatest writers of the 20th Century. Harper's Magazine quotes him as "the Russian Hemingway." Babel was a man of acute contradictions and his characters often had a comic portrayal, all the while living through the terrifying swings of Alexander II and the Russian Revolution, defining the Soviet Union and the Russian landscape between the two World Wars. Babel's style is vivid, lacerating, and utterly hypnotic, and Keith has been thoroughly enjoying this book and highly recommends it.

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Death in the Canyon by Michael Ghiglieri and Thomas Myers

This months' official book selection is one from Sue, who picked this book out at the Kolb Studio bookstore, which overlooks the south Grand Canyon rim. After hiking 6.5 hours down to the Colorado River and then the next day hiking 8 hours up, "Death in the Canyon" by Michael Ghiglieri and Thomas Myers seemed an appropriate selection. Ghiglieri, a biologist who leads river trips in the Grand Canyon and abroad, and Myers, a medical doctor who has treated hundreds of Canyon injuries, have compiled a fascinating chronicle of deaths and dangers in Grand Canyon National Park. The book is arranged by category falls, dehydration, floods, the Colorado River, air crashes, freak accidents, suicides, and murder, and at the end of each chapter is a chronological list with names, descriptions, and causes of accidents. The authors show that most of the deaths, whether of tourists, prospectors, or experienced adventurers, occurred when people failed to pay attention to warning signs or did not use common sense; others are attributed to high testosterone levels.

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In Babylon by Marcel Moring and translated by Stacy Knecht

This month's official book selection is one from Bill Galligan, whose pick is called "In Babylon" by Marcel Moring and translated by Stacy Knecht. This is a review by Brian Kenney: "The setting of this novel is absolutely beguiling. Sixty-year-old Nathan Hollander, accompanied by his niece Nina, sets out to visit the family's deserted country house, only to get caught in one of the Netherlands' worst snowstorms. They barely reach the house, and when they do, they are immediately snowbound. Over the next few days, they live off the mysteriously well-stocked larder and wine cellar, take an axe to the antiques for firewood, and tell tales by candlelight. Nathan, an expert storyteller, recounts scenes comic, ribald, and poignant from the history of their family, itinerant Jewish clockmakers who migrated over generations from Eastern to Western Europe, then on to America. But for Nathan, history is not remote. He is soon joined by his chums Chiam and Magnus, two family ghosts from the seventeenth century who help puzzle out their collective past. As much fun as the magical and mythical can be, Moring wisely keeps returning us to the tense reality of uncle and niece and the questions their situation poses: Who prepared the house for their arrival? Will they survive? Will their growing sexual tension find resolution? Miraculously, as the past and the present begin to converge, Moring succeeds in keeping this unwieldy fictional package tied together. And if it does at times becomes a bit undone, that's all right. It's worth it to be reminded that fiction can be both emotionally moving and artistically inventive.

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Kushiel's Chosen by Jacqueline Carey

Local author and friend Jacqueline Carey's long awaited second novel is out, "Kushiel's Chosen" (Tor Books, April 2002) and has been released in hardcover. A starred Booklist review says, "Carey's second extravagantly sensuous novel fulfills every promise made by 'Kushiel's Dart.'" There is seemingly something for everyone here: a great love story, intense spirituality, high eroticism, and lots of adventure, intrigue, and swordplay. It is a fasinating continuation to her first book "Kushiel's Dart" which made the Amazon.com Fantasy Editor's and Barnes & Noble's Fantasy & Science Fiction - Best of 2001 Top 10 lists, and was recently #3 in a list of recommended recent titles in fantasy and science fiction in a poll of independent booksellers.

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The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett

Sue's pick of the month is "The Magician's Assistant" by Ann Patchett, who has a proven penchant for crafting colorful characters and marrying the ordinary with the fantastic. Per the book's jacket: "Welcome to the magic show, where love defies magic, family are the people you never met, and commitments last more than a lifetime." It's a definite page turner and Sue absolutly loves this book.

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The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich

Sue's pick of the month is The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich. For more than a half century, Father Damien Modeste has served his beloved people, the Ojibwa, on the remote reservation of Little No Horse. Nearing the end of his life, the Father dreads the discovery of his physical identity, for he is a woman who has lived as a man. This book is a moving meditation infused with mystery and wonder.

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The Road Within edited by Sean O'Reilly

Keith's pick for September is a spiritual guide for one's soul. While taking a brief respite last month at a friend's cottage (thanks for the wonderful hospitality S & P), he picked up a book on the nightstand titled "The Road Within" edited by Sean O'Reilly, and it's from the "Travelers' Tales Guides" series. This book is an invaluable read for the thoughtful traveler, with short true stories of transformation, and anthologies that venture into the hidden territory of the human spirit, of lessons learned, maps drawn and burned, and blessings bestowed by that great and hard teacher: Travel. This book is a different kind of travel guide, and it will give you an insatiable wanderlust of which you won't be able to get enough.

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The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway

Keith's pick of the month is "The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway." It's a great summer book for those who want to read a short story by a master and contemplate a style of English prose that defined 20th-century writing. It's enjoyable to engross yourself in short declarative sentences, with such classics as "The Snows of Kilimajaro," "Up in Michigan," and "Indian Camp." For Hemingway fans, it's an invaluable treasure.

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Backpack by Emily Barr

Sue's pick of the month is Backpack by Emily Barr. The book jacket pretty much sums it up: "Can a twentysomething modern woman find true love, inner peace, and clean linen on a journey through Asia?" It's a sparkling comedy that follows the trial and tribulations of Tansy, a Londoner who leaves boyfriend, coffee clutch friends, and hotshot job to search for herself a world away. It's brimming with romance and humor and is a great new voice in women's contemporary fiction.

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The Immortal Class: Bike Messengers and the Cult of Human Power by Travis Hugh Culley

Bill's pick of the month is "The Immortal Class: Bike Messengers and the Cult of Human Power," by Travis Hugh Culley. When unpublished playwright and director Culley found it difficult to earn a living in the creative arts, he took a job as a bike messenger. This is the story of his adventures on the streets of Chicago. The author's descriptions are so vivid and apt that it is easy for the reader to imagine himself pedaling at breakneck speeds through crowded intersections and along sidewalks. Travis has a wonderful way of taking his experiences--physical, mental, spiritual, etc... and transferring them from page to reader. His power of observation into human behavior/spirit is outstanding. This book is a great start into the winter season.

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Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire

Sue's pick of the month is "Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister" by Gregory Maguire. This book beautifully plays on the beloved tale of Cinderella, a story of universal appeal. In this remarkable version, the always inventive Maguire sweeps readers to Amsterdam, where he weaves the poignant portrait of two impoverished sisters and their widowed mother taken in by a Flemish painter, and the startling events that follow. Exquisitely written with evocative language and artistic metaphors, this novel offers an enchanting, thoughtful meditation on the true meaning of beauty. What makes this fairy-tale based myth so readable and absorbing is its' ease of prose, its' absolutely believable characters, its' wonderful historical content, and its' very clever pitting of good against evil, beauty against ugliness, strength against weakness, desire against duty, true art for arts' sake against survival, and love against hate.

 

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