A crime book recommendation: Razor Girl: A novel by Carl Hiaasen

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2dJjSW5.
Carl Hiaasen’s irresistible “Razor Girl” meets his usual sky-high standards for elegance, craziness and mike-drop humor. But this election-year novel is exceptionally timely, too.
Book description from Google Books:
“When Lane Coolman’s car is bashed from behind on the road to the Florida Keys, what appears to be an innocent accident is anything but (this is Hiaasen!). Behind the wheel of the offending car is Merry Mansfield–the eponymous Razor Girl–so named for her unique, eye-popping addition to what might be an otherwise unexciting scam. But, of course–this is Hiaasen!–the scam is only the very beginning of a situation that’s going to spiral crazily out of control while gathering in some of the wildest characters Hiaasen has ever set loose on the page. There’s the owner of Sedimental Journey–the company that steals sand from one beach to restore erosion on another…Dominick “Big Noogie” Aeola, the NYC mafia capo with a taste for the pinkest of sands…Zeto, the small-time hustler who gets electrocuted trying to charge a Tesla…Nance Buck, native Wisconsinite who’s nonetheless the star of the red neck reality TV show, “Bayou Brethren.”..a psycho who goes by the name of Blister and who’s more Nance Buck than Buck could ever be…the multimillionaire product liability lawyer who’s getting dangerously–and deformingly–hooked on the very product he’s litigating against…and Andrew Yancy–formerly Detective Yancy, busted to Key West roach patrol after he beat up his then-lover’s husband with a Dustbuster–who’s convinced that if he can just solve one more murder on his own, he’ll get his detective badge back. That the Razor Girl may be the key to his success in this deeply ill-considered endeavor will be as surprising to him as anything else he encounters along the way–including the nine-pound Gambian pouched rats getting very used to the good life in the Keys… “–
The book is rated 3.83/5 at goodreads.com, from 9305 ratings. See 1379 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2eDUnDz.
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A history book recommendation: The Man Who Ate the Zoo: Frank Buckland, forgotten hero of natural history by Richard Girling

A critic review (source The Economist) can be read at: http://econ.st/2mK1X7w.
Today he does not even merit a mention in the “Encyclopaedia Britannica”. This brilliantly entertaining biography argues persuasively why his memory, too, is worthy of conservation.
Book description from Google Books:
Frank Buckland was an extraordinary man – a surgeon, a natural historian, a sell-out lecturer, a bestselling writer, a museum curator… and a conservationist, before the concept even existed. Eccentric, revolutionary, popular, prolific, he was one of the nineteenth century’s authentic geniuses. He was obsessed by food security and finding ways to feed the hungry (the book recounts his many unusual experiments), and by protecting our fisheries (he can be credited with saving British fish from commercial extinction). He was one of the most original, far-sighted and influential natural scientists of his time, held as high in public esteem as Charles Darwin. The Man Who Ate the Zoo is no conventional biography, but rather a journey back into Buckland’s life, a hunt for this forgotten man. It sets Buckland’s thinking and achievements in a rounded historical context, but views this Victorian adventurer from a modern viewpoint. It is both a rollicking yarn – engaging, funny and provocative – and a celebration of the great age of natural science, one man’s genius and what, even now, can be learned from him.
The book is rated 4.20/5 at goodreads.com, from 5 ratings. See 1 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2mVkKcL.
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An action book recommendation: The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2fpw0xN.
“The Girl Who Drank the Moon” is as exciting and layered as classics like “Peter Pan” or “The Wizard of Oz.” It too is about what it means to grow up and find where we belong. The young reader who devours it now just for fun will remember its lessons for years to come.
Book description from Google Books:
Winner of the 2017 Newbery Medal The New York Times Bestseller An Entertainment Weekly Best Middle Grade Book of 2016 A New York Public Library Best Book of 2016 A Chicago Public Library Best Book of 2016 An Amazon Top 20 Best Book of 2016 A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2016 A School Library Journal Best Book of 2016 Named to KirkusReviews’ Best Books of 2016 2017 Booklist Youth Editors’ Choice Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the Forest, Xan, is kind. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon. Xan rescues the children and delivers them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey. One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. As Luna’s thirteenth birthday approaches, her magic begins to emerge–with dangerous consequences. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Deadly birds with uncertain intentions flock nearby. A volcano, quiet for centuries, rumbles just beneath the earth’s surface. And the woman with the Tiger’s heart is on the prowl . . . The Newbery Medal winner from the author of the highly acclaimed novel The Witch’s Boy.
The book is rated 4.20/5 at goodreads.com, from 9740 ratings. See 2312 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2dW0ORx.
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A western book recommendation: West of Eden: An American Place by Jean Stein

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/1TJafXh.
In a book that’s a study of the fleeting nature of worldly power, Stein, now 82, has grabbed for herself the only kind that lasts: She’s the one left standing, who gets to tell the story.
Book description from Google Books:
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • An epic, mesmerizing oral history of Hollywood and Los Angeles from the author of the contemporary classic EdieJean Stein transformed the art of oral history in her groundbreaking book Edie: American Girl, an indelible portrait of Andy Warhol “superstar” Edie Sedgwick, which was edited with George Plimpton. Now, in West of Eden, she turns to Los Angeles, the city of her childhood. Stein vividly captures a mythic cast of characters: their ambitions and triumphs as well as their desolation and grief. These stories illuminate the bold aspirations of five larger-than-life individuals and their families. West of Eden is a work of history both grand in scale and intimate in detail. At the center of each family is a dreamer who finds fortune and strife in Southern California: Edward Doheny, the Wisconsin-born oil tycoon whose corruption destroyed the reputation of a U.S. president and led to his own son’s violent death; Jack Warner, the son of Polish-Jewish immigrants, who together with his brothers founded one of the world’s most iconic film studios; Jane Garland, the troubled daughter of an aspiring actress who could never escape her mother’s schemes; Jennifer Jones, an actress from Oklahoma who won the Academy Award at twenty-five but struggled with despair amid her fame and glamour. Finally, Stein chronicles the ascent of her own father, Jules Stein, an eye doctor born in Indiana who transformed Hollywood with the creation of an unrivaled agency and studio. In each chapter, Stein paints a portrait of an outsider who pins his or her hopes on the nascent power and promise of Los Angeles. Each individual’s unyielding intensity pushes loved ones, especially children, toward a perilous threshold. West of Eden depicts the city that has projected its own image of America onto the world, in all its idealism and paradox. As she did in Edie, Jean Stein weaves together the personal recollections of an array of individuals to create an astonishing tapestry of a place like no other.Praise for West of Eden“Compulsively readable, capturing not just a vibrant part of the history of Los Angeles—that uniquely ‘American Place’ Stein refers to in her subtitle—but also the real drama of this town . . . It’s like being at an insider’s cocktail party where the most delicious gossip about the rich and powerful is being dished by smart people, such as Gore Vidal, Joan Didion, Arthur Miller and Dennis Hopper. . . . Mesmerizing.”—Los Angeles Times“Perhaps the most surprising thing that emerges from this riveting book is a glimpse of what seems like deep truth. It’s possible that oral history as Stein practices it . . . is as close as we’re going to come to the real story of anything.”—The New York Times Book Review “Enthralling . . . brings some of [L.A.’s] biggest personalities to life . . . As she did for Edie Sedgwick in Edie: American Girl, [Stein] harnesses a gossipy chorus of voices.”—Vogue “Even if you’re a connoisseur of Hollywood tales, you’ve probably never heard these. . . . As ever, gaudy, debauched, merciless Hollywood has the power to enthrall its audience.”—The Wall Street Journal “The tales of jaw-dropping excess, cruelty, and betrayal are the stuff of movies, and the pleasures are immense.”—Vanity Fair“This riveting oral history chronicles the development of Los Angeles, from oil boomtown to Tinseltown.”—Entertainment Weekly (“Must List”)From the Hardcover edition.
The book is rated 3.25/5 at goodreads.com, from 747 ratings. See 143 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/1MiOrdf.
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A technology book recommendation: The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia’s Digital Dictators and the New Online Revolutionaries by Andrei Soldatov

A critic review (source Guardian) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2cCJLql.
Soldatov and Borogan are Russia’s foremost experts on Putin’s security services and the founders of the website Agentura.ru. At a time when investigative journalism is practically extinct in Russia they have courageously kept going.
Book description from Google Books:
Half of Russia’s email traffic passes through an ordinary-looking building in an otherwise residential district of South West Moscow. On the eighth floor, in here a room occupied by the FSB, the successor organization to the KGB, is a box the size of a VHS player, marked SORM. SORM once intercepted just phone calls. Now it monitors emails, internet usage, Skype, and all social networks. It is the world’s most intrusive listening device, and it is the Russian Government’s front line for the battle of the future of the internet.Drawn from scores of interviews personally conducted with numerous prominent officials in in the ministry of communications and web-savvy activists challenging the state, Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan’s fearless investigative reporting inThe Red Web is both harrowing and alarming. They explain the long and storied history of Russian advanced surveillance systems, from research laboratories in Soviet era labor camps to the legalization of government monitoring of all telephone and internet communications in 1995.But for every hacker subcontracted by the FSB to interfere with Russia’s antagonists abroadsuch as those who in a massive Denial of Service attack overwhelmed the entire internet in neighboring Estoniathere is a radical or an opportunist who is using the web to chip away at the power of the state at home. Empowered by communication enabled by social media, a community of activists, editors, programmers and others are finding ways to challenge abusive state powers online. Alexei Navalny used his LiveJournal to expose political corruption in Russian, and gained a viral following after attacking Putin’s party of crooks and thieves.” Grigory Melkonyants, deputy director of the nation’s only independent election watchdog organization, developed a visual that tracked and mapped voter fraud across the country. And on December 10th, 2011 50,000 people crowded Bolotnaya Square to protest United Russia and its lawless practices. Twenty-four-year-old Ilya Klishin had used Facebook to spark the largest organized demonstration in Moscow since the dying days of the Soviet Union.The internet in Russia is either the most efficient totalitarian tool or the very device by which totalitarianism will be overthrown. Perhaps both. The Red Web exposes how easily a free global exchange can be splintered coerced into becoming a tool of geopolitical warfare. Without much-needed activism or regulation, the Internet will no longer be a safe and egalitarian public forumbut instead a site Balkanized and policed to suit the interests and agendas of the world’s most hostile governments.
The book is rated 3.89/5 at goodreads.com, from 179 ratings. See 26 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/1NgIwch.
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A health book recommendation: First Dads: Parenting and Politics from George Washington to Barack Obama by Joshua Kendall

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2cLDMQ5.
More than anything, “First Dads” provides a valuable reminder that while an American president may have the clout to launch spaceships and end world wars, that doesn’t mean he can get his children to behave, be happy or even return his calls.
Book description from Google Books:
Every president has had some experience as a parent. Of the 43 men who have served in the nation’s highest office, 38 have fathered biological children and the other five adopted children. Each president’s parenting style reveals much about his beliefs as well as his psychological make-up. James Garfield enjoyed jumping on the bed with his kids. FDR’s children, on the other hand, had to make appointments to talk to him. In a lively narrative, based on research in archives around the country, Kendall shows presidential character in action. Readers will learn which type of parent might be best suited to leading the American people and, finally, how the fathering experiences of our presidents have forever changed the course of American history.
The book is rated 3.41/5 at goodreads.com, from 98 ratings. See 30 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2cLDoRo.
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A children book recommendation: Falling: A Daughter, a Father, and a Journey Back by Elisha Cooper

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2akrnRS.
It is at moments like this when Cooper’s prose evokes the sharpness — and the melancholy — of his watercolor paintings for his children’s books…There is a matter-of-­factness to Cooper’s art (“Who is this girl?”) that helps “Falling” avoid the pitfalls of mawkishness and sentimentality.
Book description from Google Books:
The award-winning children’s book author confronts a new world when faced with his daughter’s illness in this frank, moving, and beautiful memoir. Elisha Cooper spends his mornings writing and illustrating children’s books, his afternoons playing with his two daughters. The phrase he hates most is “throw like a girl,” so he teaches them to climb trees and play ball. But when he discovers a lump in five-year-old Zoë’s midsection as she sits on his lap at a Chicago Cubs game, everything changes. Surgery, sleepless nights, treatments, a drumbeat of worry. Even as the family moves to New York and Zoë starts kindergarten, they must navigate a new normal: school and soccer games and hot chocolates in cafés regularly interrupted by anxious visits to the hospital. And Elisha is forced to balance his desire to be a protective parent–even as he encourages his girls to take risks–against the increasing helplessness he feels for his child’s well-being, and his own. With the observant eye of an artist and remarkable humor, Elisha writes about what it took for him and his wife to preserve a sense of normalcy and joy in their daughters’ lives; how the family emerged from this experience profoundly changed, but healed and whole; how we are all transformed by the fear and hope we feel for those we love. From the Hardcover edition.
The book is rated 3.74/5 at goodreads.com, from 134 ratings. See 28 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2ajzivp.
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A cooking book recommendation: Darjeeling: The Colorful History and Precarious Fate of the World’s Greatest Tea by Jeff Koehler

A critic review (source Guardian) can be read at: http://bit.ly/1UqpijM.
This is such a richly digressive book. Mystical experiences, language and literature…history, local atmosphere by the potful and even, at the end, recipes for local delicacies…
Book description from Google Books:
Darjeeling’s tea bushes run across a mythical landscape steeped with the religious, the sacred, and the picturesque. Planted at high elevation in the heart of the Eastern Himalayas, in an area of northern India bound by Nepal to the west, Bhutan to the east, and Sikkim to the north, the linear rows of brilliant green, waist-high shrubs that coat the steep slopes and valleys around this Victorian “hill town” produce only a fraction of the world’s tea, and less than one percent of India’s total. Yet the tea from that limited crop, with its characteristic bright, amber-colored brew and muscatel flavors–delicate and flowery, hinting of apricots and peaches–is generally considered the best in the world.This is the story of how Darjeeling tea began, was key to the largest tea industry on the globe under Imperial British rule, and came to produce the highest-quality tea leaves anywhere in the world. It is a story rich in history, intrigue and empire, full of adventurers and unlikely successes in culture, mythology and religions, ecology and terroir, all set with a backdrop of the looming Himalayas and drenching monsoons. The story is ripe with the imprint of the Raj as well as the contemporary clout of “voodoo farmers” getting world record prices for their fine teas–and all of it beginning with one of the most audacious acts of corporate smuggling in history. But it is also the story of how the industry spiraled into decline by the end of the twentieth century, and how this edenic spot in the high Himalayas seethes with union unrest and a violent independence struggle. It is also a front-line fight against the devastating effects of climate change and decades of harming farming practices, a fight that is being fought in some tea gardens–and, astonishingly, won–using radical methods. Jeff Koehler has written a fascinating chronicle of India and its most sought-after tea. Blending history, politics, and reportage together, along with a collection of recipes that tea-drinkers will love, Darjeeling is an indispensable volume for fans of micro-history and tea fanatics.
The book is rated 3.90/5 at goodreads.com, from 135 ratings. See 33 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/1Og0uyC.
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A war book recommendation: The Rest I Will Kill: William Tillman and the Unforgettable Story of How a Free Black Man Refused to Become a Slave by Brian McGinty

A critic review (source Star Tribune) can be read at: http://strib.mn/2dBSqtk.
Brian McGinty is in full stride here. What results is an outstanding book powered by a compelling story as rendered by a talented author.
Book description from Google Books:
Independence Day, 1861. The schooner S. J. Waring sets sail from New York on a routine voyage to South America. Seventeen days later, it limps back into New York’s frenzied harbor with the ship’s black steward, William Tillman, at the helm. While the story of that ill-fated voyage is one of the most harrowing tales of captivity and survival on the high seas, it has, almost unbelievably, been lost to history.Now reclaiming Tillman as the real American hero he was, historian Brian McGinty dramatically returns readers to that riotous, explosive summer of 1861, when the country was tearing apart at the seams and the Union army was in near shambles following a humiliating defeat at the First Battle of Bull Run. Desperate for good news, the North was soon riveted by reports of an incident that occurred a few hundred miles off the coast of New York, where the Waring had been overtaken by a marauding crew of Confederate privateers. While the white sailors became chummy with their Southern captors, free black man William Tillman was perfectly aware of the fate that awaited him in the ruthless, slave-filled ports south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Stealthily biding his time until a moonlit night nine days after the capture, Tillman single-handedly killed three officers of the privateer crew, then took the wheel and pointed it home. Yet, with no experience as a navigator, only one other helper, and a war-torn Atlantic seaboard to contend with, his struggle had just begun.It took five perilous days at sea–all thrillingly recounted here–before the Waring returned to New York Harbor, where the story of Tillman’s shipboard courage became such a tabloid sensation that he was not only put on the bill of Barnum’s American Museum but also proclaimed to be the “first hero” of the Civil War. As McGinty evocatively shows, however, in the horrors of the war then engulfing the nation, memories of his heroism–even of his identity–were all but lost to history.As such, The Rest I Will Kill becomes a thrilling and historically significant work, as well as an extraordinary journey that recounts how a free black man was able to defy efforts to make him a slave and become an unlikely glimmer of hope for a disheartened Union army in the war-battered North.
The book is rated 3.36/5 at goodreads.com, from 55 ratings. See 21 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2dBQbXe.
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An action book recommendation: The Gloaming by Melanie Finn

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2dJgYRl.
In sorting through their motives, “The Gloaming” delivers a searing taxonomy of loss, and shows the way it leads to a cycle of violence. By the novel’s surprising end, Finn even sheds light on the motives of sadistic rebels…
Book description from Google Books:
“Deeply satisfying. Finn is a remarkably confident and supple storyteller. [The Gloaming] deserves major attention.” –John Williams,New York Times “In this richly textured, intricately plotted novel, [Finn] assures us that heartbreak has the same shape everywhere.The Gloaming is chillingly cinematic in contrasting East Africa’s exquisite landscape with the region’s human needs. Yet even in a malevolent setting, Finn shows us acts of selflessness and redemption. Her fascination with the duality of Africa — “the most honest place on earth” — shines fiercely.” –Lisa Zeidner,New York Times Book Review, Editors’ Choice “A propulsive literary thriller. Finn, who writes with a psychological acuity that rivals Patricia Highsmith’s, switches between Europe and Africa in tense alternating chapters, rewarding close attention. The book is terrific… subtle and thrilling. Remarkably well-paced and well-written… Don’t expect to be able to set this book down or forget its haunted characters.” –Kirkus Reviews, starred “Intense, impressive.” –The Guardian “I rarely get as invested in the outcome of a novel as I did readingThe Gloaming, but the empathies that Finn evokes in this powerful and unpredictable book are not casual; these traumas could be our own. [Finn’s] prose is hypnotic and knife-precise and at times so beautiful it’s unnerving. I didn’t read this book so much as Iexperiencedit and it will haunt me for a very, very long time.” –Jill Alexander Essbaum,New York Times-bestselling author ofHausfrau Pilgrim’s husband left her for another woman, stranding her in a Swiss town where she is involved in an accident that leaves three children dead. Cleared of responsibility though overcome with guilt, she absconds to Africa, befriending a series of locals each with their own tragic past. Mysteriously, the remains of an albino appear, spooking everyone–sign of a curse placed by a witch doctor–though its intended recipient is uncertain. Pilgrim volunteers to rid the town of the box and its contents, though wherever she goes, she can’t shake the feeling that she’s being followed. Melanie Finnwas born and raised in Kenya until age eleven, when she moved with her family to Connecticut. She is the author of the novelAway From You and wrote DisneyNature’s beautiful, haunting flamingo epicThe Crimson Wing, which was directed by her husband, filmmaker Matt Aeberhard. During the filming, Melanie established The Natron Healthcare Project, and now lives in Vermont with Matt and their twin daughters.
The book is rated 3.82/5 at goodreads.com, from 628 ratings. See 131 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2eDNRg1.
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