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What I’ve Just Read And What I’m Reading

At the suggestion of Agatha Christie fan and guru Madeline Prince, I bought and read “The Naturals Book 1″ by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. Ms. Barnes is an individual whose resumé makes me feel like a lazy tree sloth. “The Naturals” is Young Adult fiction about Cassie, a precocious young woman recruited by the FBI as a profiler extraordinaire. All of the five young women and men in the FBI program have dark secrets from their childhoods, secrets the FBI leverages to solve cold cases. I must admit, I never saw the surprise ending coming. Good premise, good, if somewhat weird, characters.

Tana French’s book, “The Likeness,” posed an intriguing premise: An undercover police officer with an uncanny likeness to a murdered woman, enters the close-knit “family” of the victim to discover the killer’s identity. The ruse is that the young woman survived her knife wound. French requires her readers to adopt a degree of credulousness in order to accept the story’s thesis. There’s an element of Stockholm Syndrome in the undercover agent’s emotional connection to the members of the “family” which threatens the success of the mission. It was my week for protagonists named Cassandra: Casssandra “Cassie” Hobbes in “The Naturals” and Cassandra “Cassie” Maddox in “The Likeness.”

I’m currently reading and thoroughly enjoying “The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin. My thanks to great friend Jim Bennett for recommending this irrestibly appealing story of a grieving curmudgeon whose life changes forever when another grieving and desperate individual presents Fikry with an unexpected gift. No, I’m not going to say anything more. You will have to read this book to understand. Added bonus: As prelude to each chapter, Ms. Zevin writes a synopsis of books by exceptional authors: J.D. Salinger, Flannery O’Connor, Grace Paley, Irwin Shaw, Mark Twain, Bret Harte, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Roald Dahl, to name a few and whet your literary appetite. Extra added bonus: Gabrielle Zevin sprinkles the story with inside stuff on the publishing world. Like this argument between a publishing housesales representative, and Fikry, owner of a bookstore: the sales rep affirms that David Fosgter Wallace’s novel, “Infinite Jest,” is a masterpiece. A.J.Fikry responds, “Infinite Jest is an endurance contest. You manage to get through it and you have no choice but to say you like it. Otherwise, you have to deal with the fact that you just wasted weeks of your life.” Although I haven’t finished reading “The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry,” I’m certain it will be among the top two or three of my favorite books. Yeah, it’s that good.

On a personal publishing note, two of my previously published ebooks “What the Barvber Knew” and “Pack of Scoundrels” are under reconstruction as softcover (paperback) versions. To continue with the construction metaphor, we’re just pouring the footers on “What the Barber Knew” while “Pack of Scoundrels” is under roof. The publishing timeline for “The Girl in the Orange Maillot is fast approaching cover design and formatting stages. You, dear readers, will get to vote on your preferred choice of a cover!

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