Author du Jour: Mark Noce

Between-Two-Fires_Cover-smallBetween Two Fires
by Mark Noce
Thomas Dunne Books
($25.99, 327 pages)

This book will appeal to the fans of Game of Thrones. Here, the story of Between Two Firestakes place in 597 when Saxon Barbarians are about to destroy medieval Wales. So what? you may say. Just another fictionalized slice of history.  But the reason the book made it to Author du Jour page lies in the strength of its main character, Lady Branwen. We are miles away from giants with inflated biceps performing miraculous acts. Noce has drawn a fine character.  She is a young woman in a world of fierce warriors, reminding me very much of Boudica when she organized her uprising against the Romans. Branwen is courageous and determined, which always makes for captivating hero. Lady Branwen seeks unity to push back the enemy, but the trajectory get skewed when she falls for a man she cannot have, opening a good emotional dilemma. She sees herself forced to choose between her people, her nation, and the man she loves . . .

Author du Jour: Catherine Ryan Hyde

Leaving-Blythe-River-smallLeaving Blyhe River” by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Lake Union
($14.95, 314 pages)

You may not remember who C. R. Hyde is, but suffices to tell you that she is the author of “Pay it Forward,” which was adapted later into a film with Kevin Spacey, for you to say “of course.” This new story takes place in the Blythe River National Wilderness, which I discovered is located in California.

There, a young teenager, Ethan, goes looking for his missing father, after he disappeared from his cabin, and rangers decided to abandon their rescue mission to find him.  Totally unprepared, Ethan ventures nonetheless into the wilderness and quickly learn the roughness of nature: the punishing sun, the swirling rapids, and the strength and resilience derived from pushing oneself past one’s limits . . . but the story is not an exploration of one’s courage in the face of adversity, but rather a true confrontation regarding forgiveness, as Ethan must decide whether or not his father is worth to be saved at all. From from being a walk in the park, “Leaving Blythe River” meanders with splendor through nature’s brutality.

Author du Jour: Agnès Martin-Lugand

HappyPeople_cover-smallHappy People Read and Drink Coffee” by Agnès Martin-Lugand.

(Trans. Sandra Smith, Weinstein Books, p 242, $22.90)

Originally self-published in French, “Happy People Read and Drink Coffee” became a sensation in France before an international bestsellers, and deservedly. Though written in the current fashionable trend of story of awakening or recovery in the face of brutal personal drama, think Under the Tuscan Sun, Wild, and Eat Prey Love, tragedy, this book reads like a charm, in a clear and fast-pace prose.

Diane is a young woman, who has lost both her husband and daughter (I’ll spare you how). Despairing, she moves to Ireland to escape the crushing memories surrounding her. There, of course, life slowly creeps back in, and she develops a friendship with Edward, a local photographer. Ghosts however are powerful, especially when Diane and Edward’s relationship evolves. They stand in her way. I love how the book looks at compromises, not between the alive and the dead but in the narrow scope of the grey, which is the daily dance of compromise we face to deal with pain, sorrow and laughter.