A captivating but uneven tale that provokes thought about the uses and misuses of face reading and technology.

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FACES TELL ALL

The new science of facial-recognition technology meets the ancient Chinese art of face reading in this debut thriller.

New Yorker Harold Savitt, a 30-ish research editor, considers himself “a connoisseur of female beauty,” his tastes honed by a fascination with physiognomy and, in college, a system that rated women’s looks from 1 to 10. (His own features are ordinary, he believes.) So when, at his favorite watering hole, he sees Trish Donlon, a beautiful 30-something with a perfect nose, he can’t help staring. The encounter leads to further meetings with Trish and her associate Jennifer Santoramo (also in her 30s), who work in high-fashion consulting. Could physiognomy be marketable, perhaps in a smartphone app that matches face to fashion? Or could a dating app employ facial-recognition technology to connect people whose looks are compatible? The three agree to research the subject further; Harold recommends using Western ideas about beauty (such as the Greek golden ratio) as well as the ancient Chinese practice of face reading, which reveals character, health, and the future. The team hooks up with Ma-Chang-Kou, a Chinese national, to develop a software package. When Chinese intelligence, Chinatown gangsters, and the CIA get involved, things turn dangerous—as does the potential of this new technology to alter minds and even change history. In his novel, Wolfson—a dentist and medical advertising writer—brings together some intriguing and often chilling ideas. Harold gets a chance to live up to his strong chin, find his inner hero, and win the girl. But despite some action scenes, tense moments, and dire predictions, much of the book is taken up with meetings, phone calls, business travel, and explanations of project details. On the dicey question of ranking or assessing character from beauty, the story has little to offer the less gorgeous beyond “people could be counseled to like their faces,” a difficult prospect when “experts say we’re hard-wired to prefer symmetrical and proportional.” The author also glosses over the problematic history of physiognomy: It’s “dripping with racism, but don’t be put off by that.” 

A captivating but uneven tale that provokes thought about the uses and misuses of face reading and technology.

Pub Date: April 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9984829-9-6

Page Count: 306

Publisher: BLAST PRESS

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2019

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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