Isabel Allende captures a complex variety of societal topics in her new novel The Japanese Lover. Allende weaves desperate themes in a story line encompassing aging, a burning love affair which transcends racial lines, the Japanese internment during WWII, human trafficking, child pornography and homosexuality.


Allende hardly misses a social issue while telling a story surrounding the life of a well to do San Francisco woman from a prominent Jewish family who beginning in her childhood falls in love with a Japanese boy, the son of the gardener at their seaside estate. The story continues over hills and valleys Till death do us part.

It is always pleasurable to read Allende’s writing. Her novels touch reality  and the characters provoke thought and deliver insight but absent a lecture.  I also commend to you Allende’s Island Beneath The Sea and Daughter of Fortune. Search here at gordonsgoodreads for further details on these novels.


With high advance praise from historians David McCullough, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Michael  Beschloss one need not say much more in recommending this masterful work by  Jon Meacham.

imgres-2 Destiny and Power,The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush captures the man brilliantly and fairly and secures him a permanent place in American Presidential history.  George Herbert Walker Bush may indeed be  A last of his kind, and Meacham relates clearly and concisely  the depth of that appellation.  More than a biography, Meacham details a period in American and world history through the portal of the Bush Oval Office. The research is impeccable and the access provided Meacham by a very private president and his family is remarkable.

A must read, now even more meaningful with another Bush running for President.

I also recommend  Meacham’s Franklin and Winston an Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship. Search gordonsgoodreads for details.

Snow Falling On Cedars/A Timely Classic from 1994

The prose is magnificent and the story ironically timely in these divisive days of 2015.  Twenty-one-years after its original publication in 1994 the story line is as prescient as then. Snow Falling On Cedars by David Guterson is an award-winning novel, the themes of which resonate today.


The writing captivates the reader from the very first pages. Outside the wind blew steadily from the north, driving snow against the courthouse. By noon three inches had settled on the town, a snow so ethereal it could hardly be said to have settled at all, instead it swirled like some icy fog.

As the story unfolds, a young Japanese man is accused of murder surrounded by the prejudice against all Japanese following the Second World War. A love affair between a young newspaperman and a Japanese woman, a trial, a community split apart and a  verdict.

Prescient?  Look into my face, interrupted Hatsue. Look at my eyes Ishmael. My face is the face of the people who did it–don’t you see what I mean? My face, it’s how the Japanese look. My family is in bad trouble now. Do you see what I mean?

No further spoiling of the story. It would be a travesty for me to do so. You will thank me for telling  you of my belated discovery of  Snow Falling On Cedars.  The novel was made into a movie directed by John Hicks and released in 1995.



Honor Among Thieves/ Step Back In Time/ Revisit Jeffrey Archer

Saddam seeks revenge after the first Gulf War.  He plots to steal the original Declaration  of Independence, bring it to Baghdad and burn it for the world to see on the Fourth of  July.  Jeffrey Archer’s Hon0r Among Thieves  weaves the story which is filled with familiar historical characters.



Archer expands the plot in a wonderful read that turns the pages through a labyrinth like a maze in a cornfield.  Published in 1993, this is one of Archer’s novels that I missed. It cried out to me from the library shelf.  Archer’sKane and Able should also beckon you if you have not read this other great work of fiction.  It is always worthwhile to double-check what you may have missed from authors you have enjoyed.


I had overlooked John Grisham’s The Racketeer until I spotted it at the library fiction shelf. “Missed that one,” I said to myself.  Glad I found it.


Released in 2013, The Racketeer easily stands the test of Grisham excellence. He spins a complex story in his classic page turning fashion. A young lawyer, wrongfully imprisoned by the Feds, carefully plots and executes his revenge upon the system.  The tale travels through Virginia, West Virginia, Florida, Jamaica  and Antigua. Of course there is a beautiful woman at the center of the twisting plot along with an intriguing cast of characters.

Grisham’s  latest book is Gray Mountain, released last October, it followed Sycamore Row.  I have placed it on my summer reading list.  Due from Grisham on October 20 of this year is his latest book, Rogue Lawyer. Search gordonsgoodreads for other Grisham offerings.




President Jack Ryan is back  in Mark Greaney’s  new novel Tom Clancy Full Force and Effect.  Greaney hits his stride in his second book in the Clancy legacy following Tom Clancy’s death in October, 2013. His first was Tom Clancy Support and Defend. ( Search  here at Gordon’s Good Reads.)


Tom Clancy fans, myself included, will not be disappointed as familiar characters return in the page turning action to which readers have become accustomed in Greaney’s writing.  Few, if any, wasted paragraphs.

The timely plot is of course North Korea. The new Supreme Leader Choi-Ji-hoon is more malevolent and even less stable than his deceased father. Driven to build a nuclear ICBM delivery system, Choi-Ji-hoon drives his subservient ghouls into a fiendish plot to source the   cash to fund the project, through the discovery of valuable heavy metals in the mountains of the north.

Profiteers join with America’s natural enemies in an unholy alliance with the North Koreans to carry out the complicated task of mining, marketing and converting into cash this new exploitable resource.

Enter ” The Campus” and  POTUS in an alliance to stop the madness. Mark Greaney’s research and storytelling  approach cable news reality!  Tom Clancy fans will enjoy every page, satisfied that there will be still more of this great series.




In her new book, The Kings Curse, Philippa Gregory adds multiple chapters to the madness of the Tudor Court of King Henry VIII.  If you enjoyed her best-selling novel The Other Boleyn  Girl, you will be very much at home with The Kings Curse. The story comes through the voice of a new narrator, Margaret Pole of the Yorks, part of the Plantagenets, and considered a rival to the Tudor Throne.


All of the great characters of the period are interwoven throughout the book.  The demise of Katherine of Aragon, the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn, Mary Boleyn, Cromwell, Cardinal Wolsey and of course Henry VIII himself. Throughout the novel the crafty and devious Margaret Pole masks her disdain for the Tudors in an effort of save the lives of her sons and Henry and Katherine’s only living child,  Mary, the legitimate heir.  It is indeed the King’s curse, that he has no  legitimate son to continue the Tudor Dynasty.

Gregory’s research and attention to detail is impeccable and her literary style is fast paced. There is never a long wait at the starting line.

Other novels of this era you may enjoy are Katherine by Anya Seton and the entire C.J. Sansom series set during this period.  You can search these titles and The Other Boleyn Girl here at



Richard Russo’s 2007 novel Bridge of Sighs, published six years after his Pulitzer Prize winning Empire Falls, captures the rhythms of small town life in Russo’s own inimitable style. In Bridge of Sighs Russo transports the reader to upstate New York where he delivers many of life’s complexities and social issues through a wide cast of characters whose lives are interconnected through intricate webs of relationships.


The menu of contemporary issues is complete: Racism, mental illness, bullying, teenage sex, tyrannical fathers, loyalty without love, love without loyalty, divorce, reconciliation, industrial pollution, Cancer, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters.

From this churning pot of small town contradictions emerges in Venice , a world renown artist, made famous by placing on canvas  mental images of the provincial place of his boyhood. A local legend says that lovers will be granted eternal love and bliss if they kiss on a gondolagat sunset under Venice’s Bridge of Sighs. Will unrequited love appear?  Without question a good read from a great American novelist.

Also by Richard Russo: Mohawk, The Risk Pool, Nobody’s Fool, Straight Man, The Whore’s Child


Thomas Power’s The Killing of Crazy Horse is most deserving of the praise offered  by fellow authors Larry McMurtry and Evan Thomas. Power’s work of non-fiction ventures miles beyond the compelling story of Crazy Horse to encompass a rich journey into the final years of the Sioux and the demise of their culture upon the great northern plains.


Power’s  detail into the relationships of members of the Sioux families together with their interface with the white trappers, adventurers , soldiers, translators and scouts tells the story of what actually occurred to bring about the destruction of this once proud Indian Nation. Power’s research is so outstanding that he seems to have personally absorbed the Sioux culture, language, relationships, spirituality, pride and passions and then realistically tells the tale in a captivating style. The context is so strong it seems that Powers was present in the teepee, on the battlefield, smoking the pipe, on the Powder River, at the Sun Dance and at The Killing of Crazy Horse.

Unique in its approach, Powers relates the story through the voices of the Indians, the families of Sitting Bull , Crazy Horse , Red Cloud, and the half breeds who served both the Indians and the military often in duplicitous and self dealing fashion. General Crook’s role as the major facilitator in the demise of Crazy Horse  delves into the personality and motives of the man who so influenced the fate of Crazy Horse and  the northern tribes.

The story of the Oglala Sioux and Crazy Horse can not be told without Custer and the Little Big Horn. I have read much of this historic event but never before have I seen this epic through the eyes of Crazy Horse and the Sioux themselves, present on the Little Big Horn Battlefield that day.

Every word counts in the very best of non-fiction writing and The Killing of Crazy Horse meets this standard on each page. Crazy Horse: ” I am no white man! They are the only people who make rules for other people who say, if you stay on one side of this line it’s peace, but if you go on the other side I will kill you. I don’t hold with deadlines. There is plenty of room, camp where you please.”

In his Afterword, Powers perfectly captures this reader’s reaction to his work: ” My effort here has been to tell the story in a way that helps readers to experience its weight and quality-the feel of it.”  Powers words ” the feel of it ”  become abundantly apparent.

The Killing of Crazy Horse eclipses all expectations of  ” the feel of it,” learning from the people, places, triumphs and tragedies  of the Oglala Sioux.

Thomas Powers is a Pulitzer Prize winning writer. He has also written Intelligence Wars : American Secret History from Hitler to al-Qaeda; Heisenberg’s War: The Secret History of the German Bomb; and The Man Who Kept the Secrets: Richard Helms and the CIA.


When I read Jeannette Walls’ memoir The Glass Castle I believed that I had read the ultimate survival story of an adolescent growing up in a completely dysfunctional family.  Survival is the word that continues to come to mind when reflecting on Walls’ wonderful book that since its publication in 2005, continues to be a best seller. See

That preamble leads me to the discovery in my library of a volume which must have been left over from one of my children’s required reading lists, Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life.


First published in 1989, this memoir is another detailed account of a youngster’s struggle to survive under the most bazaar family circumstances. Toby’s mother, just like Jeannette Walls’, is a nomad, seeking a better life and fortune , always where the grass may be greener.  Unlike Walls’ , Toby’s mother leaves his father and moves from man to man finally ending up in rural Washington living with a despicable and violent drunk.  Each chapter will make the reader into a believer of the survival tactics that children adopt to conquer  insurmountable obstacles.

If this memoir has escaped your reading list, don’t delay. After you  have read the book you may wish to Netflix the highly acclaimed 1993 movie This Boy’s Life starring a very young Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro. 

Tobias’ brother Geoffrey who stayed his father in Connecticut, had a very different upbringing from Toby ( Choate/Princeton). He is an important character in This Boy’s Life . He also became an author having written among other novels Duke of Deception in 1979 and The Age of Consent in 1995.

This Boy’s Life ends with Toby leaving ,or better said in the context of the memoir, escaping for the war in Vietnam.  His experiences are detailed in his second memoir Pharaoh’s Army, Memoirs of the Lost War.