The Last Nude by Ellis Avery

I selected this book because I like returning again and again to Paris in the 1920s. Possibly it is an obsession not unlike Woody Allen's peek into this time in his recent movie Midnight in Paris. Another reason I was drawn to this book is that I enjoy books that follow the lives of artists. In The Last Nude the author Ellis Avery paints a picture of the fabulous life of Russian-born Art Deco artist Tamara de Lempicka. We see de Lempica mainly  through the eyes of one of her models, the sensuous Rafaela Fano who was the subject of de Lempicka's most famous painting entitled La Belle Rafaela. Major players of the Lost Generation in Paris appear; e.g., Sylvia Beach of Shakespeare & Company, Cocteau, James Joyce, and Gertrude Stein. However, this book focuses on the salacious (at that time), one-sided love affair of de Lempica and Fano. You will have to read the book to understand what I am saying.

I recommend this book because of the excellent story that is well written. The only thing weak is the final section that covers de Lempica at the end of her life when she looks back on her life and  relationships especially her fling with Fano that results in her greatest painting.


American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer

American Prometheus is the well-researched and thorough biography of the enigmatic J. Robert Oppenheimer. Before reading this book I already knew a lot about this famous scientist, and was skeptical that I would learn a lot more about Oppie. I was wrong. This book has given me an excellent picture of a genius who had to live in a world of people who are almost like ants (low intelligence) to him. The authors, Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, did an excellent job showing that Oppie was one of the most intelligent physicists that ever lived, but, at the same time, his super-active mind did not allow him to develop his ground-breaking physics discoveries. He left that to his brilliant graduate students at Cal Tech and Berkeley. Bird and Sherwin also showed that scientists are not just one-sided, knowing and caring only about science and mathematics. Oppie could hold his own in most fields, especially literature, with Nobel laureates. Finally, they do an excellent job of showing the tightrope that geniuses have to traverse--genius and mental illness are closely linked. I recommend this excellent biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer.


The Living Blood

The Living Blood by Tananarive Due is an exceptional supernatural thriller with multiple plot lines that are carefully interwoven. Initially we follow Dr. Lucas Shepard who discovers that a clinic in Africa has a treatment that cures severe illnesses such as leukemia, the disease that is killing his only son. In one plot line we follow this rogue doctor to Africa in his quest to obtain the cure. In other plot lines we follow Jessica, Dawit, and Fana who are an immortal family. Jessica and her sister run the clinic that Dr. Shepard seeks, and Fana is the daughter of Jessica and Dawit. Fana is a very special three-year old immortal. In this well constructed book we see the forces of good and evil go against each other as well as a division between humans and a group of immortals called the Life Brothers, the group that Dawit is a member. I do not want to say more about the plot, but I recommend that you try this book if you enjoy a well written supernatural thriller.


The Last Theorem

The Last Theorem was a collaboration of Arthur C. Clarke (90 years old) and Frederick Pohl (89 years old), two greats from the world of science fiction. Unfortunately, The Last Theorem was not great and not even that good. It is a story in the near future that follows the mathematician Ranjit Subramanian who supposedly proposed a simplistic proof of Pierre de Fermat's last theorem. Within the story of the life of Subramanian, a resident of Sri Lanka, he is captured by pirates and encounters space aliens who come to earth. In this book you will see many of Clarke's interests including a space elevator, solar sailing, omnipotent aliens, AI and computerized immortality, and the achievement of world peace. If you read this book knowing that it is not up to the level of most of Clarke's previous books, you will better enjoy this fantastic tale.


11/22/63: A Novel by Stephen King

There is a reason why Stephen King's latest novel 11/22/63 has been chosen by Amazon as one of the Best Books of 2011 and it was voted the best Audible book for 2011. The reason is simple. Stephen King has written a masterpiece that will be hard to surpass by modern American authors. I have always thought of King as one of the greatest writers of our times, but now I know that my thought was correct. Stephen King is a master writer and storyteller, but most importantly he is one of our greatest creative thinkers among authors today. He has put all of this together and created 11/22/63.

In this book, we follow Jake Epping, an English teacher from Maine. What a surprise? For those of you who do not know, Stephen King was an English teacher from Maine. Jake receives an enigmatic call from the owner, Al, of a greasy spoon where he sometimes eats. Upon seeing Al, Jake is amazed that he has aged and is in extremely poor health. What follows sets in motion what comprises the plot line of 11/22/63. Al has found a portal in his restaurant that leads to 1958. Al convinces Jake, since he is dying, that he should not only travel back to 1958 but Jake should continue Al's quest to stop Lee Harvey Oswald before he can kill JFK.

Thus, this almost 1000-page book follows Jake through the years 1958 to 1963. It is a great adventure. Actually you will find that the heart of this sci fi thriller is a love a story. As always you will see children are part of the plot, but in minor roles compared to many Stephen King books. I can tell you that you will be happy that you read this time-travel book.