When a suspicious gas leak blows up his favorite doughnut shop, a retired American expat bumbles into a mystery in Mexico.
Robert Evans doesn’t love the nickname he’s earned in his adopted hometown of Oaxaca, but he can’t shake Santo Gordo, the crime-fighting alter ego who inevitably finds himself entangled in suspicious events the corrupt authorities prefer to ignore. Also, his sizable girth nets him a special steel-reinforced chair at his favorite bakery. In this, Evans’ second outing, the pink pastelería explodes minutes after he leaves with his sugary breakfast. His friend Efraím, head of the powerful local cabbies union and driver himself of an ancient, immaculate taxi, asks Evans to investigate (the bakery belonged to Efraím’s uncle). Evans also agrees to handle a sensitive inquiry for his estranged daughter, Randy, a commandingly efficient do-gooder who suspects that a nonprofit she represents is actually a front for a two-bit fraudster. The father and daughter begin to repair their relationship, even as Evans’ slow unraveling of his other case threatens to undermine it, revealing the bakery was targeted by an American company wanting to do for fair-trade chocolate what Starbucks did for coffee. Randy thinks the company will improve life in Mexico, while Evans worries its corporate version of “doing good” will flatten Oaxaca’s citizens, since its motivations and effects are likely apiece with the American-style malls on the city’s outskirts that “threatened to siphon off everyone local and turn the downtown zócalo into a tourist Disney-Mex attraction.” The conspiracy never stretches beyond the demolished bakery, making for a plot that, like Oaxaca’s cinnamon-laced, water-based hot chocolate, is spicy but thin. Still, Evans’ love for the city feels real, grounded in details like the taste of chicken mole, the opening hours of the English-language library and the rococo infant Jesus in his landlady’s Christmas Nativity. Kerns (Santo Gordo: A Killing in Oaxaca, 2012) describes a slow-moving town where the walled compounds cannot forever shut out the winds of globalization.
The city of Oaxaca, lively, dark and under threat, plays a starring role in this satisfying mystery.
In this debut YA novel, the Bard of Avon’s words become commonplace when a 12-year-old boy can’t stop speaking them.
Emma Malcolm narrates the tale of how her best friend and fellow nerd, Peter Marlowe, was hit on the head with a copy of The Riverside Shakespeare and suffered a minor concussion along with other, much stranger symptoms. Once in the ambulance with Emma, he greets the EMTs with the comment, “For this relief, much thanks,” followed by, “Alack, what noise is this?” From then on, he responds to everything with relevant quotes from all of Shakespeare’s works. He doesn’t understand why this has happened to him; he doesn’t even know anything about Shakespeare. Only in his English class, where he and Emma are preparing to perform scenes from Romeo and Juliet, are his quotes appreciated. His English teacher has been encouraging the students to become more familiar with Shakespearean language, also known as Early Modern English, so that they can relate to the universal and very contemporary themes and plots. But most people, particularly his peers, are not impressed, and they now find Peter even odder than they already did. Fortunately, he’s able to text in conventional English, so Emma becomes his translator and constant companion. Conveniently, she’s to play Juliet to his Romeo in the class production. Concerned and frustrated by his inability to communicate, Peter and his parents schedule appointments with various specialists, but once the media gets wind of Peter’s affliction, he becomes newsworthy, culminating in an appearance with Matt Lauer and Al Roker on The Today Show. The story reaches a happy conclusion that features an unconvincing middle school romance. The book serves as an effective portal for early teens to become comfortable with the archaic, Shakespearean language, and the author pulls off a clever ploy by placing all quotes in context—“ ‘Are you ready for some English?’ Ms. Hastings sang (in the same way they used to start Monday Night Football).” As such, readers should have no problem understanding unfamiliar words and phrases. In the endnotes, all the quotes are identified and cited, making the entire book a useful teaching tool.
An engaging, fanciful tale of a boy who inadvertently brings the beauty and majesty of Shakespeare into everyone’s lives.
Couched as an us-vs.-them guide for corporations in the realm of technology innovation, this perceptive book shows how big companies can defeat the nimble upstarts through the strategic use of resources, the implementation of three principles and the following of eight rules.
Mui (co-author Unleashing the Killer App, 2000) and former Wall Street Journal reporter and editor Carroll’s (co-author Billion Dollar Lessons, 2008) latest joint work builds on the idea that, to beat startups, large companies must leverage their greater assets (e.g., people, resources, branding, supply chains, distribution networks, customer relations, and market and customer data) in the context of six key technological innovations: mobile devices, cameras, sensors, social media, the cloud and “emergent knowledge.” Three principles guide the approach: first, “Think Big,” the initial phase in redesigning a business, which calls for starting fresh, embracing the context of the business environmentand considering potential worst-case scenarios; second, “Start Small,” as in make sure everyone in the company is on the same page, and don’t rush to let financial projections limit or run the company, since those numbers can be inaccurate; and third, “Learn Fast” regarding rules about the value of showing versus telling and welcoming a devil’s advocate into strategy planning. The clear, engaging prose is highlighted by plenty of anecdotes and four case studies. Additionally, many readers will find the afterword—“Moving from Innovation to Invention”—well worth their time, especially if they wish to create their own technological earthquakes instead of merely using disruptive technologies to their advantage. The partisan pro–big-business stance shouldn’t prevent the other side—e.g., startups, entrepreneurs, small-business owners—from taking advantage of these insights to see what their savvy, outsize competitors will soon be up to. The sagacious, well-rounded guide will also appeal to investors, teachers, students, journalists and historians, all of whom might have a vested interest in the future of the tech industry and the next big thing.
An erudite anthem for large companies reshaping themselves to innovate and compete with agile startups.
The heir to a gondola empire rejects his birthright but comes full circle in this fascinating glimpse into late-Renaissance Venice by art historian–turned-novelist Morelli (Made in Italy, 2008).
Twenty-two-year-old Luca Vianello believes his left-handedness to be his greatest curse, until the death of his beloved mother right after she gives birth. Luca’s rage at seeing his father—whom he blames for his mother’s frequent, ill-fated pregnancies—at work so soon after her death results in a tragic fire at his family’s squero (a gondola boatyard). Fleeing his home, his betrothed and his trade, Luca ends up on the streets of Venice. Unable to fully escape his heritage, he finds a position as a gondolier. Eventually, in a life-altering move, he becomes private boatman to Trevisan, a successful artist. Luca is introduced—first in a painting, then in the flesh—to the beautiful Giuliana Zanchi, with whom he becomes infatuated. She hires him to perform side jobs for her, and the two eventually become friends. While restoring an old gondola of Trevisan’s that was made in his family’s squero, Luca, and eventually Trevisan, recognizes that he is in his own right a craftsman, a true artist. But when Luca becomes aware that Giuliana is in danger, he risks everything to save her. Vulnerable, honorable Luca will tug at readers’ heartstrings, while author Morelli’s evocative descriptions of late-16th-century Venice and its inhabitants alternately captivate and nauseate, with accurate depictions of personal and public hygiene. The paucity of dialogue does little to slow the novel’s pace, and long paragraphs of Luca’s self-reflection can be surprisingly interesting. Under Morelli’s deft pen, the gondola- and oar-making trades are elevated to the historic art forms they really were.
Adeptly explores the consequences of pride and respect for women against the backdrop of Renaissance Italy.
Against a backdrop of the American Revolution, Waters’ debut history explores the lives of expatriate colonial painters John Singleton Copley and Benjamin West as they move from friendship to bitter rivalry in George III’s London.
Both Copley and West were sons of Irish immigrants born in 1738; Copley in Boston, West near Philadelphia. Both began their careers painting portraits in America, and both left the Colonies as the American Revolution was brewing. West arrived in England before Copley and, through a series of introductions and coincidences, gained a royal patronage from King George, also born in 1738. West arrived with no political baggage, however, and had an easier time than Copley, whose painting of Samuel Adams made him suspicious to British eyes. In 1774, when Copley first met West in London, their relations were cordial, and West even tried to help his fellow artist. But time and again, Copley’s artistry was recognized as superior, and West came to view him as a threat and attempted to thwart Copley clandestinely and, in the end, quite openly. This slim but information-packed volume reads like an enjoyable high school text filled with enticing factual tidbits that bring the story to life. For instance, Copley’s Tory father-in-law, Richard Clarke, was responsible for the security of the tea that was dumped into Boston Harbor. Copley, who was town warden but apolitical, tried to mediate “a solution acceptable to both parties.” However, “[i]n the face of serious threats from a mob that smashed windows in the Clarke residence,” he fled to Salem.This small tome includes an introduction, chronology, notes, list of abbreviations, bibliography, and museums and galleries where the paintings can be viewed. Waters makes no bones about taking sides: He’s clearly in Copley’s corner, even taking editorial snipes at West and making disparaging conjecture beyond the known facts. Galt, whom West tasks with writing his biography, “wrote the apotheosis West wanted, that is, to be remembered almost in a divine light as a great artist. West’s puffing was outrageous.”
A well-written, fact-filled history of two American artists; a must for fans of history and art.
Russell Taylor’s (Will Dolores Come to Tea?, 2010, etc.) latest collection of short stories explores mourning, love, loss and the struggle for meaningful connection.
Prolific writer Russell Taylor provides a careful, articulate study of intimate, desolate and occasionally terrifying human experiences. “The Contract” retells, in prose, Pushkin’s classic Russian poem “Eugene Onegin” from the perspectives of Onegin’s spurned lover, Tatiana, and her eventual husband, Prince Nicolaevich. The central characters in “Les Amants,” “Charlotte” and “Belated” are widows anguished by grief and anxious to rekindle a human bond, with very different results. Depression and madness related to the struggle to comprehend existence feature vividly in “The Meaning,” “Supporting Roles” and “The Inquest,” among others, with outcomes similarly varied and often unexpected. The desire for connection is explored in “Carter,” in which a woman endeavors to bond with her autistic son. A glimmer of hope can be seen in “The Life She Chose,” in which a young woman suddenly finds herself with personal and financial freedom. Equally auspiciously, the married couple in “Passed Over in Silence” finds an extremely unconventional yet mutually rewarding solution to their sexless relationship. Nature is a powerful presence in many of the stories, which are often imbued with a sense of spirituality and healing. Themes are revisited, though in these elegiac stories, there’s no feeling of repetition. Many readers will be mesmerized by the haunting, poetic writing. However, some may find themselves dispirited due to the few respites from melancholy, or they may struggle with Russell Taylor’s inclusion of different languages, as in “Belated,” where significant passages are in French. However, careful readers will savor this exceptional collection of tales, and those who’ve never read Russell Taylor might next seek out the rest of her considerable body of work.
Pensive and luminous despite its dolor, a resonant collection that deftly contemplates the existential.