Those unfamiliar with football will be heartened to learn that the game’s moves, strategy, and terminology are explained...

THE LEGEND OF JESSE SMOKE

This sports-hero entertainment conjures up a woman who can play professional football in a book that isn’t overly serious about such social issues.

While vacationing on a Belize beach, Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Skip Granger spots Jesse Smoke throwing a football better than most NFL quarterbacks. She’s 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighs about 180, with a lithe boyish build and freckles that Skip, the book’s semismitten narrator, will mention frequently, along with her blue eyes, curly hair, and sweet smile. Impressed but initially only mulling a practical joke at a Redskins tryout camp, Skip gets serious about signing Jesse as a quarterback after seeing her in a women’s pro game. Then Jesse also reveals that she can kick field goals with 100 percent accuracy from 50 yards. As she begins to set the team on course for the Super Bowl, the genre demands major obstacles, which here include: transgender rumors; the reappearance of a bad mom; weird nosebleeds; a missing birth certificate; and legal action by the players’ union, hoping to oust the lady and preserve the game’s integrity (no laughing, please). Bausch may be best known for the novel that became the movie Bruce Almighty. He’s also the twin brother of another fiction writer, Richard Bausch. In his eighth novel, Robert frames the narrative as a book written by Skip years after the events. This allows the coach to expose his weakness for sledgehammer foreshadowing at the end of some chapters, for instance: “And thus began the brief, heartbreaking career that became the legend of Jesse Smoke.” Bausch clearly is having fun—awkwardly so at times—with what is largely a teen genre aside from exceptions like Malamud’s brilliant The Natural. He even tosses in a Shroud of Turin reference (Jesse = Jesus?). There’s more football here than a nonfan might enjoy, but Jesse is impressive, the play-by-play is well-done, and the plot twists are less ham-handed than they seem at first.

Those unfamiliar with football will be heartened to learn that the game’s moves, strategy, and terminology are explained well enough that they'll be able to appreciate just how thoroughly la femme here kicks male derrière.

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63286-397-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Relentlessly suspenseful and unexpectedly timely: just the thing for Dick Cheney’s bedside reading wherever he’s keeping...

WITHOUT FAIL

From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 6

When the newly elected Vice President’s life is threatened, the Secret Service runs to nomadic soldier-of-fortune Jack Reacher (Echo Burning, 2001, etc.) in this razor-sharp update of The Day of the Jackal and In the Line of Fire that’s begging to be filmed.

Why Reacher? Because M.E. Froelich, head of the VP’s protection team, was once a colleague and lover of his late brother Joe, who’d impressed her with tales of Jack’s derring-do as an Army MP. Now Froelich and her Brooks Brothers–tailored boss Stuyvesant have been receiving a series of anonymous messages threatening the life of North Dakota Senator/Vice President–elect Brook Armstrong. Since the threats may be coming from within the Secret Service’s own ranks—if they aren’t, it’s hard to see how they’ve been getting delivered—they can’t afford an internal investigation. Hence the call to Reacher, who wastes no time in hooking up with his old friend Frances Neagley, another Army vet turned private eye, first to see whether he can figure out a way to assassinate Armstrong, then to head off whoever else is trying. It’s Reacher’s matter-of-fact gift to think of everything, from the most likely position a sniper would assume at Armstrong’s Thanksgiving visit to a homeless shelter to the telltale punctuation of one of the threats, and to pluck helpers from the tiny cast who can fill the remaining gaps because they aren’t idiots or stooges. And it’s Child’s gift to keep tightening the screws, even when nothing’s happening except the arrival of a series of unsigned letters, and to convey a sense of the blank impossibility of guarding any public figure from danger day after highly exposed day, and the dedication and heroism of the agents who take on this daunting job.

Relentlessly suspenseful and unexpectedly timely: just the thing for Dick Cheney’s bedside reading wherever he’s keeping himself these days.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14861-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2002

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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