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Lupica, Mike (author).
Sept. 2014. 304p. Philomel, hardcover, $17.99 (9780399256073). Grades 5-8.
First published September 1, 2014 (Booklist).
Usually a football book is about whether or not the kid makes the team—and the problems that follow. So it’s refreshing that those issues are only a part of 12-year-old Charlie Gains’ story. See, Charlie is known as the Brain, because he is a football stats genius. He understands which players should be playing where and why. This makes him great at fantasy football; then reality comes center stage. His best friend, Anna, is the granddaughter of Joe Warren, the man who has brought NFL football back to Los Angeles. But the team, the Bulldogs, haven’t done much, and Joe’s son, the GM, is being blamed. Enter Charlie, who loves the team and soon comes to love Joe Warren as the father and grandfather he never had. Charlie shares his massive football knowledge with Joe, and soon players are being recruited at Charlie’s suggestion. Couple this with the fact Anna has turned Charlie into something of a podcast celebrity, and suddenly Charlie is catnip for the media. That’s great until things start to go wrong. There’s a lot of football here: pro and fantasy teams and Charlie’s own Pop Warner career. Veteran sportswriter Lupica handles it all very well. However, it’s the heart and depth he adds to the story depicting Charlie’s relationships with a sterling cast of characters that make this unique. This Moneyball story with kids is on the money. Ilene Cooper
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Cotton Malone saves the United States, one for business and political philosophy, mid-century Seattle according to Jio, a century-spanning drama from Riley
The bard of blue-collar Boston crime
returns with a sleight-of-hand novel tinged with sin and redemption.
The latest from Lehane (Live by
Night, 2012, etc.) is a novel with an unusual genesis, and it’s
shorter and less intricate than usual. It began when he was asked to adapt one
of his short stories (“Animal Rescue”) for a movie. Though his novels have seen
success on the big screen, this was his screenwriting debut, and it preceded
the writing of this book, which might be dismissed, in lesser hands, as a
“novelization” of the film. It’s richer than a mere re-creation of a movie on
the page because the author gets inside the heads and thoughts of his
characters in a way that a movie generally can’t. And this particular
perspective is crucial when it comes to protagonist Bob, a keep-to-himself
bartender who works for Cousin Marv. Both men, like pretty much every man in
their neighborhood, have some sort of shady past, but the two have apparently
gone comparatively straight. Yet Cousin Marv’s bar remains used by the Chechen
mobsters who own it as a money drop for transferring funds. Such is the
backdrop for what appears to be the main plot, in which lonesome, loveless Bob
finds a beaten puppy in a trash can and is persuaded by a woman who witnesses
the incident (and who has her own questionable past) to take it home. Since
“all he wanted was to not be alone,” the connection with both the dog and the
woman proves so transforming that he “suspected they might have been brought
together by something other than chance.” But there’s another connection, a
crazy thug and rumored killer who claims that both the dog and the woman are
his. As the novel progresses, every character has secrets and
revelations—except maybe Rocco, the dog—as the plot pivots in some surprising
Even one of the novelist’s lesser
efforts has the signature style, edge and heart to delight fans.
An upstanding British civil
servant’s life is upended during the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels,
There is an extraordinary amount of
complexity and homage present in this rip-roaringly funny satire by Coe (The
Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim, 2011, etc.), so much so that even readers
with the most observant eyes for detail may miss a few marks. No matter,
because in placing an obscure character in the circus that was Expo 58, the
author manages to pull off the fascinating trick of portraying high comedy
while being absolutely faithful to its extraordinary setting. Coe’s Everyman
protagonist is Thomas Foley, who first appeared as a tangential character in
the earlier novel The Rain Before It Falls (2008). Here, Foley is an
upstanding civil servant and dedicated if somewhat distractible family man. His
superiors at the Ministry of Information are in a tizzy over the impending
World’s Fair, debating furiously whether a history of the British water closet
is appropriate fodder. Foley is tasked to repair to Brussels for six months to
oversee the Brittania, a modern-ish pub meant to be the jewel of England’s
pavilion. Drawing its tone from the broad comedy of the 1950s and its heart
from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1938 comic thriller The Lady Vanishes, the novel
captures with lighthearted glee that extraordinary moment when Great Britain is
caught between the stiff upper lip of postwar survivors and the swinging ’60s
that still lie ahead. Coe lays trap after trap in front of Foley, among them a
beautiful Flemish hostess and a very funny pair of bickering British spooks who
fall in the tradition of Thomson and Thomson from Herge’s The Adventures of
Tintin. For all the book's inherent humor (e.g. the American and Russian
pavilions are parked back to back for Europe’s amusement), Coe is
extraordinarily faithful to the time and place of his elegant farce, describing
the Atomium with an almost poetic sense of wonder and idealism.
A decidedly British comic adventure
that lovingly captures a long-lost age.
A ripping yarn torn from the pages
of many another adventure tale, this high-speed, low-quality mashup concerns an
ancient female sect and the present-day seekers of its secrets.
When brainy Jeremy Grady is slain in
his MIT computer lab, it’s soon clear that the murderer failed to reckon with
twin brother and doughty field anthropologist Jack. He has a support team
comprising a silent computer whiz and a wisecracking Asian who manage the
problems Jack can’t handle with his wits, his muscle or his uncanny
puzzle-solving skills. (And yet, he fails to notice that the word “seven” has
“eve” between the two global “n” and “s” poles!) As he works to unravel his
brother’s mind-boggling discovery about a connection between the Ancient and
Modern Seven Wonders of the World, Jack acquires a partner in stoic botanical
geneticist Sloane Costa. Her desire for tenure and her incredible discovery in
the lower depths of the Coliseum might further Jack’s pursuit of the
centuries-old Amazons and the Order of Eve and maybe the Tree of Life in Eden.
But can they stay one step ahead of the beautiful DNA-business billionaire
Jendari Saphra, who covets the secret of Mitochondrial Eve and has at her
disposal a fantastic wardrobe (Swarovski, Herve Leger, Versace) and a
centuries-old gang of trained killers with ivory javelins? What about the asps,
the giant crocodile, the 40,000 severed hands and the countless spiders? Mezrich
(Straight Flush, 2013,
etc.) rings up a debt to, among others, James Bond, Indiana Jones, the Nicholas
Cage National Treasure series
and the Brendan Fraser mummy movies that is incalculable. OK, it’s a genre rife
with borrowing but rarely on such a scale.
A comiclike outing rich in
repetition and clichés,
this typing exercise is at heart an intriguing story that deserved a writer who
could rise at least to the level of a Dan Brown, yet another Mezrich creditor.