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Rona Brinlee, The BookMark

Recommendations from Rona Brinlee at The BookMark in Atlantic Beach, Fla.


Bad Things Happen

Bad Things Happen, by Harry Dolan, hardcover, 352 pages, Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, list price: $24.95

This is his first novel, but Dolan knows how to capture you early and keep your attention until the last page. To call Bad Things Happen a murder mystery is accurate, but it doesn't do justice to the other mysteries that haunt its pages, including uncovering the true identity of one of its main characters. All of this is wrapped in a story propelled by exquisitely written dialogue.

There's a large cast of characters, and everyone has a secret, some bigger than others. There are illicit relationships, misidentified bodies, wrongly suspected killers, people changing their names for various reasons, plenty of motives and even more accusations, people protecting other people (who may or may not actually be guilty), and a lot of people who aren't who they claim to be. This book is packed with lots of twists, lots of dead bodies and lots of "whoa" moments that promise a long sleepless night of page turning. (Read Dolan's depiction of a tense encounter in a parking lot.)


Going Away Shoes

Going Away Shoes: Stories, by Jill McCorkle, hardcover, 272 pages, Algonquin Books, list price: $19.95

Aptly titled, McCorkle's latest collection of short stories lets us roam around in other women's shoes and ponder questions about the men in their lives. The 11 different women in Going Away Shoes confront mostly themselves as they navigate through relationships good and bad and, in one case, imagined. These short stories provide intense and immediate insight into the lives of characters; McCorkle makes you feel you've known each one a lifetime even though you've spent less than a typical chapter's length of time with them.

Each of McCorkle's women has something to say that is worth hearing. And don't be fooled by the female point of view; men will find these stories equally intriguing, and maybe even a little more revealing. Good writing always trumps gender, and McCorkle's writing is concise yet poetic. (Read an excerpt from McCorkle's story about a woman tending to her dying mother.)



Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth, by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou. Art by Alecos Papadatos and Annie DiDonna, hardcover, 352 pages, Bloomsbury USA, list price: $22.95

Despite the title, Logicomix is more accurately a graphic novel, not an old-fashioned comic book. A journey with Nobel Literature Prize-winner Bertrand Russell during his lifelong quest to find logic in mathematics, the book's art is exquisitely rendered in full color. To compare it to a classic Archie and Veronica-style comic would be as unfair as comparing a Rembrandt to a child's refrigerator drawing (unless of course it's your child).

And the subject matter is complex enough that it really helps to have pictures tell part of the story. They allow the authors to rely primarily on words to explain the math and philosophy, and on pictures to help describe people and events. To provide a break from contemplating logic and mathematical theorems, the authors insert themselves as characters in the story, and the artists oblige with drawings that look very much like all four collaborators. (See the authors depict themselves grappling with Russell's response to World War II.)


This is Where I Leave You

This is Where I Leave You, by Jonathan Tropper, hardcover, 352 pages, Dutton Adult, list price: $25.95

There's nothing like a good crisis to bring a family together ... tear it apart ... and hopefully put it back together again. In Tropper's latest examination of families, mother and children are foisted upon each other for seven days of religiously dictated mourning. Like most families, the Foxmans have their share of problems, including broken marriages, failed pregnancy attempts and leftover childhood resentments. Tropper manages to combine great insights into characters and relationships with irreverent humor and a keen eye for the absurd.

Juxtaposing grief and the requisite self-analysis that follows, with repeatedly odd circumstances, Tropper treats readers to unending revelations and first-rate storytelling. While the Foxmans are a dysfunctional Jewish family, you can substitute any garden-variety neurotic family and recognize the same truths and misbehaving relatives. Be prepared to laugh, and cringe a little, at the same time. (Read how the Foxmans react to a death in the family.)


The Tree that Time Built

The Tree that Time Built: A Celebration of Nature, Science, and Imagination, selected by Mary Ann Hoberman and Linda Winston, illustrated by Barbara Fortin, hardcover, 224 pages, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, list price: $19.99

This poetry anthology considers various questions. For example: Why are there so many forms of life? What living things existed before us? How long have we been here? Published in the bicentennial of Charles Darwin's birth year, The Tree That Time Built takes its name from Darwin's concept of the tree of life, and its perspective from his theory of evolution.

Who better to accomplish this than the U.S. children's poet laureate and a trained anthropologist? Collaborators Hoberman (the poet laureate) and Winston (the anthropologist) show how the wondering of science is similar to the wonderment of poetry. Both fields use the power of observation to discover things about the world — one to increase our scientific knowledge, and the other to create works of art. And as scientists collect specimens, these two anthologists collect poems. This beautifully rendered book includes a CD with 44 poems, some read by the poets themselves. Older children and adults will understand how the poems in this volume relate to evolution; "children of all ages" will delight in listening to the poems being recited.

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