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Notable books

Notable Books | Four current novels reviewed by Susan Olasky

The Last Ember

This is one of those complicated conspiracy stories where the good guys and bad guys are racing to decipher ancient texts in order to acquire an artifact with huge historical/spiritual significance. In this case the artifact is the menorah from Herod's Temple, and the bad guy is a radical Muslim who wants to find and destroy it. He is intent on erasing all evidence of Judeo-Christian history in Jerusalem. The good guys are two young archeologists who risk their lives and careers to stop him. The novel moves between Rome and Jerusalem, from libraries to catacombs, with lots of murder and mayhem to keep it interesting.

That Old Cape Magic

At 57, Jack Griffin has achieved the kind of life he always wanted. He's got a good job and a good marriage. But a wedding on Cape Cod, the place where he and his parents used to vacation and where he hopes to sprinkle his father's ashes, rekindles memories of his parents' many discontents and fans the embers of regret in his own life. Russo writes pitch-perfect dialogue (with obscenities) and captures the way envy eats away at joy. Parts of the book are hilarious and other parts make you want to weep. Overall you're left with the sense of people longing for things just beyond reach and losing good things in the process.

Best Friends Forever

Weiner's protagonist, Addie Downs, is a shy, plump girl who grows up to become a shy, fat woman who lives in her childhood home after her parents die and paints beautiful small pictures for the fronts of greeting cards. Her childhood best friend grew up to be a beauty and long ago moved on-until the night of the high-school reunion, when she comes seeking Addie's help. Before long the two are on the lam, just ahead of a lonely, divorced cop. There are sexual references and the plot is over-the-top in places, but Weiner has few peers when it comes to describing the plight of the lonely misfit.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce is the nontraditional heroine of a new mystery series, and she is delightful. She recounts in the first person how she stumbled upon a dying man in the cucumber patch of her family's English estate. He breathed his last word, Vale, into her face. When the police treat her as a child, and after her father is arrested, Flavia sets out to solve the crime. Her amusing narration is filled with thoughts drawn from Gilbert and Sullivan, Shakespeare, Latin, her beloved chemistry, and the Book of Common Prayer. The book's charms include wonderful writing, a cast of great characters, and a well-imagined post-war English setting.

Spotlight

Books by Christians and books put out by Christian publishers are doing well on the various New York Times bestseller lists.

Among paperback nonfiction bestsellers are Tim Keller's The Reason for God, Don Piper's 90 Minutes in Heaven, and Ron Hall and Denver Moore's Same Kind of Different as Me.

The hardback advice list includes Dave Ramsey's The Total Money Makeover and Joe Gibbs' Game Plan for Life.

The paperback advice list includes Gary Chapman's The Five Love Languages and Stephen and Alex Kendrick's The Love Dare.

The only "Christian" novel making it to any of the lists is William P. Young's The Shack.

Conservative books are preeminent on the hardback nonfiction list. Among the high-ranked conservative books are Michelle Malkin's Culture of Corruption, Mark Levin's Liberty and Tyranny, and Dick Morris and Eileen McGann's Catastrophe.

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