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Louis N. Gruber "Author of Jay" RSS Feed (Lexington, SC United States)
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Panic in a Suitcase: A Novel
Panic in a Suitcase: A Novel
by Yelena Akhtiorskaya
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.11
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3.0 out of 5 stars Rambling, Confusing Family Saga, December 27, 2014
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The Nasmertov family of Odessa, Ukraine, now live in Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, except for Uncle Pasha, the eccentric poet, who still lives in Odessa, but flirts with the idea of relocating to America. The family lives in a state of low-grade chaos in both countries, eternally ruminating about this and that but unable to make decisions. That is the plot, as far as I can tell. Reading this book was like taking a prolonged vacation with this family, as though one had mysteriously found oneself living with them, trying to figure out who they were and how they were related. It wasn't easy.

The story, such as it is, takes place in different time frames and different countries. Some of the characters became differentiated from the perpetual confusion--like Frida, the surly daughter and reluctant medical student. Or Pasha who enjoys a certain level of literary fame, but is almost unable to function in practical matters. Some of the characters become a bit more likeable, at least familiar, as the story progresses, but the reader will have little desire to know them any better.

Author Yelena Akhtiorskaya writes in a rambling, disjointed style, with long, confusing sentences, odd turns of phrase, and unusual metaphors. At times she shows flashes of wit, vivid depictions of family interactions, striking descriptions of nondescript, oddly dressed characters, poignant moments of failed communication. If you like that sort of writing you might enjoy Panic In A Suitcase. For this reviewer, the book was almost unreadable. I did manage to finish it with some effort. I'd give it a weak recommendation. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber.


The Last Illusion: A Novel
The Last Illusion: A Novel
by Porochista Khakpour
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.45
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Story-Telling, Highly Recommended., December 12, 2014
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Zal was rejected by his mother and raised in a cage with birds, without human contact. Later he is adopted by the eccentric Hendricks, treated by the psychologist Rhodes, involved with the impresario of illusions, Silber, and struggles to become human. He learns human language and simple social skills, but like other feral children remains horribly damaged. He forms a doomed relationship with Asiya, damaged in her own way. Trying to save each other they are drawn inexorably to a disaster which somehow involves the events of 9-11-2001. More than that I can't tell you. The plot is complex, with many levels, and leaves much to the reader's imagination.

The writing is spectacular, engaging, beautiful and captivating. Author Porochista Khakpour is incredibly imaginative, and keeps the reader engaged even as the story becomes more and more unbelievable. Not an easy feat. The characters are vividly realized. I cared for these people and related to their emotions. I felt personally connected to Zal, doomed to live life as a freak, never quite human. What finally happens to Zal and Asiya I can't explain. You'll have to read it yourself.

If you like speculative fiction with a very different view of reality you will love The Last Illusion. I recommend it highly. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber.


The Book of Jonah: A Novel
The Book of Jonah: A Novel
by Joshua Max Feldman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.71
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark Epiphanies, Highly Recommended, November 23, 2014
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Jonah Daniel Jacobstein is a thirty-something corporate lawyer, driven to succeed no matter who gets hurt. He is also incapable of a committed relationship. His life begins spinning out of control after a series of visionary experiences. With his life and career in shambles he begins a rambling search for meaning that takes him from Manhattan to Amsterdam and finally to Las Vegas. Judith Bulbrook is a driven young woman, raised in an intellectual hot-house by professor parents, groomed for admission to Yale and spectacular achievements. Her life disintegrates into meaninglessness when her parents are killed in the attacks of 9-11. She also turns up in Las Vegas, using her talents in the service of an egomaniacal, ruthless developer. Are Judith and Jonah meant to be together? Will their paths even cross? What is the meaning of all that has happened to them?

Of course, I won't tell you, so you'll have to read the novel for yourself. I promise, you'll love it. Author Joshua Mark Feldman writes rich, exquisite prose, creating a series of unforgettable characters and their misadventures. Such a delightful assortment of fascinating, troubled, talented, needy and somehow charming individuals. What ties all these characters and events together is the metaphor of Jonah, the reluctant prophet, sent on a mission he didn't understand or believe in.

The book is easy to read and hard to put down. I kept wanting to tell Jonah, "Don't do it," at some critical juncture, but of course he never listened to me. You'll enjoy meeting him too, although he won't listen to you either. I recommend this book most highly. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber.


Murder on Edisto: The Edisto Island Mysteries (Volume 1)
Murder on Edisto: The Edisto Island Mysteries (Volume 1)
by C. Hope Clark
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.36
13 used & new from $12.32

5.0 out of 5 stars Fast Paced Mystery Thriller, November 10, 2014
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Callie Morgan is a Boston police detective, and a good one, but after she tangles with the Russian mafia and they kill her husband, her life begins to fall apart. Hoping to retreat and regroup, she moves with her teen-aged son, Jeb, to Edisto Beach, South Carolina. A place where she can feel safe, right? Wrong, of course. On the very first day, her neighbor and old friend, Henry Beechum, is murdered. And that's just the beginning. Every day brings new horrors. Someone is breaking into homes on her street, making it clear that no one is safe. But who is it? And what do they want?

Callie has family ties in the area, but still feels like an outsider. Is there anyone she can trust? The police? The quirky new-age neighbor? The local handyman? The wealthy businessman who hosts extravagant parties? Certainly not her elderly mother--their relationship has always been strained. The situation becomes ever more fluid and complex. Good guys turn into bad and bad into good, none are as they seemed. Will Callie figure out--in time--who the real villain is? Will she be able to convince the local police? Will she be able to save herself and her son? You'll have to read the book to find out. You will love it.

Author C. Hope Clark writes in a fast-paced, relentless style, pulling the reader into the tangled community where Callie is fighting for her life. The book is easy to read and totally enjoyable, with richly developed characters in complex relationships, and the charming background of the South Carolina coast. Fans of author Clark have come to expect great reading from her and they won't be disappointed by Murder On Edisto. I recommend it highly. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber.


The Last Man Standing
The Last Man Standing
by Davide Longo
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.50
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5.0 out of 5 stars Journey Into Darkness. Recommended., October 27, 2014
This review is from: The Last Man Standing (Hardcover)
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Leonardo was once a noted writer and University professor, but then an affair with a student destroyed his career and his marriage. Now, a few years later, society itself is collapsing. We are not told exactly what happened, but one by one the props of modern civilization are disappearing--banks, postal service, radio, gasoline, law enforcement. As the nation descends into barbarism, Leonardo finds himself in charge of two young children and a puppy, responsibilities he is ill-equipped to handle. Things go from bad to worse. The fantasy of keeping a low profile and living quietly in his village becomes unsustainable. People flee from their villages hoping to find refuge in France or Switzerland, but those options are also untenable. Gangs of drug-crazed youth roam the countryside pillaging what little is left of civilization. Leonardo suffers unspeakable losses and humiliations.

Will he survive? Will anyone survive? Will Leonardo be able to save his children? Will some seedlings of civilization sprout again in this dystopian landscape? Will Leonardo find anything within to sustain him? Is there any possibility of redemption for him? You'll have to read the book to find out.

Author Davide Longo writes in beautiful, simple prose, describing the systematic breakdown of a comfortable world order into absolute chaos. He constructs and deconstructs his world skillfully, making everything that happens believable. It is a long, sad, horrifying journey, but well worth reading. If you are a fan of dystopian future fiction you will love this, but be warned: some of it is really ugly, disgusting, and horriffic, as of course it would be. I recommend this one highly. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber.


Adultery: A novel
Adultery: A novel
by Paulo Coelho
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.97
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3.0 out of 5 stars Absurd Erotic Adventure, October 17, 2014
This review is from: Adultery: A novel (Hardcover)
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Linda is a woman in her thirties, a respected journalist, with a loving husband and two wonderful children. She lives a more than comfortable lifestyle in the comfortable Swiss city of Geneva and has everything she could possibly want. She is also bored out of her mind. Everything changes when a chance encounter leads to a riotous but meaningless affair with a man she knew as an adolescent. As the affair plays out Linda takes unbelievably stupid risks with her life and marriage, makes some terrible decisions, and finally...but you'll have to read it yourself to find out what happens.

The novel is well-written, but not up to the author's usual standard. The characters are cardboard figures, the plot is hard to believe, and the ending, though enjoyable, is absurd. Much of the book consists of philosophical digressions about the meaning of life and love, and the need to take risks. Still, if you're a fan of Paulo Coelho, it might be worth reading. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber.


All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid
All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid
by Matt Bai
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.82
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Truth Is Not All It Seems To Be, September 23, 2014
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In 1987 Gary Hart, good-looking, brilliant, and a visionary political thinker, seemed likely to capture the Democratic nomination for the presidency, and quite possibly the presidency. Then in little over a week his candidacy imploded and his career was reduced to a one-liner. People still remember Hart, not for his political skills or his visionary ideas, but for an ill-fated excursion with a gorgeous young woman on a boat called Monkey Business. What really happened on that boat? What was Hart thinking? And why was his fall so catastrophic and permanent?

Author Matt Bai takes us through the episode, the times, the characters, and the changing political landscape to try to understand what happened. He doesn't actually reveal anything new about the incident. The players, those who are still alive, are sticking to their stories. More importantly he discusses what has changed in the political process as it merges with entertainment: inaccessible candidates who try to say as little as possible, while the press hounds them for missteps, gaffes, or personal failings (everyone has some), under he rubric of "character." Does this lead to better candidates and better office-holders? Probably not. The book is a fascinating account of this societal transition to what he calls tabloid politics.

Matt Bai writes a gripping account of the Hart meltdown and the changes that have followed. He has access to many of the key players and documents, and what he writes is both believable and profoundly disturbing. He writes in a clear, direct style which is easy to read. He left this reviewer both intrigued and saddened. The quality of political discourse in America has been changed in a fundamental and very destructive way. You may or may not agree with Author Bai's conclusions but he will hold your attention. If you are at all interested in American politics, you should read this book. I recommend it highly. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber.


Place of the Heart
Place of the Heart
by Steinunn Sigurdardottir
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.99
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4.0 out of 5 stars Long, Hard Journey, September 20, 2014
This review is from: Place of the Heart (Paperback)
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A difficult novel to describe or summarize. A road trip. A quest. Self-discovery. Harpa Eir and her best friend Heidur set out in a pick-up truck with Edda, Harpa's daughter who has gone badly off the rails. Heading east into remote Icelandic countryside, their plan was to get Edda away from the two-bit gangsters she's been associating with and take her to a place of refuge with Harpa's family. It might just work, but Harpa has another agenda--to find out who she is, really. She has always looked different from other Icelanders, and is convinced that her father can't be her real father. Only one person knows the answer to this riddle--her Aunt Dyrfinna who lives at the end of their journey to the East.

Will Edda be redeemed from drugs and gangsters? Will Harpa learn who is her real father? Will she ever find love? You'll have to read the book to find out. It's an interesting journey, but not for everyone.

Author Steinunn Sigurdadottir writes in dense, literary style, meandering through lush descriptions of Iceland, the scenery, the weather, lengthy passages of dialogue (without quotation marks), interior monologue, effusions of poetry, and conversations between Harpa and her deceased mother. There were times when I thought the novel would never end. Some passages are exquisitely beautiful, others almost unbearably tedious. If you're looking for a quick, upbeat read, this is not for you. I recommend it but with some reservations. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber.


The Education of a Value Investor: My Transformative Quest for Wealth, Wisdom, and Enlightenment
The Education of a Value Investor: My Transformative Quest for Wealth, Wisdom, and Enlightenment
by Guy Spier
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $12.51
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wisdom For Life And Investing. Enjoyble., September 7, 2014
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Guy Spier was a child of privilege, attended Oxford and Harvard Business School, took a high-powered job that left him deeply dissatisfied, forced to do unethical and possibly illegal things, quit his job, wandered in the wilderness for a while, and gradually developed a new slant on life, value investing, as practiced by men like Warren Buffett. The author discusses the ups and downs of his career in high finance, lessons learned, insights gained, and mistakes recognized. Some of the lessons can apply to any of us, while others are peculiar to the investment world.

This book is hard to classify. Part autobiography, part self-help book, part investment wisdom, part life wisdom. Author Spier races along, in cheerful, conversational style, describing people he has met, great men who have influenced his thinking, and encounters that led to great insights. He has a lot of these, and is constantly discovering new laws for investment and for life in general. His enthusiasm in infectious. While the book contains a lot of repetition and a little too much name-dropping (he's on a first name basis with Warren Buffett), it remains entertaining and enjoyable reading.

Whether you have a deep interest in value investing or would just like to hang out with an interesting character for 194 pages, the book is worth reading, and I recommend it. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber.


The Angel of Losses: A Novel
The Angel of Losses: A Novel
by Stephanie Feldman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.92
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could Have Been Better, August 29, 2014
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Marjorie Burke, the protagonist of the novel, is a young woman struggling to make sense of her family history, and to reconcile with her estranged sister Holly. Her ancestry includes a long line of miracle working rabbis in little villages in eastern Europe, as well as some kind of generational curse. Her grandfather's notebooks contain profound secrets of life and death, if they can be found. Holly's newborn son hovers between life and death. I won't be telling you more about the plot because I can't.

The book is an unlikely jumble of family dysfunction, Fiddler On The Roof cliches, struggles between light and darkness, mystical entities like the Angel of Losses (never really explained) and the White Rebbes (never really explained). There are numerous references to "the old man," not clear if it's always the same person.

Author Stephanie Feldman creates vivid scenes, evokes the emotional crises of her characters, and shares great bits of heated dialogue. She does not pull her material together to make a coherent story. Her writing is disjointed, repetitious, riddled with cliches. The fictional world she has created is not believable. If you like mystical tales steeped in Jewish legendry, you might like this one, but I find it hard to recommend. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber.


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