J - K - L
listed by Elizabeth Brunner
Other Book List Pages: ABC
|Jacobs, A.J. The Know-It-All: One
Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World,
2004. Commentary of reading all 44 million words of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica.
Quite funny with strange highlights sorted in alphabetical order, juxtaposed
with reflection on the author's attempt to weave the obscure trivia into
|James, Henry. The Sacred Fount,
1901. Considered one of the author's least accessible works and the only
novel with a first-person narrator. Explores how personalities change within
a relationship, but mighty tedious.
|James, P.D. A Taste for Death,
1986. Surprisingly, this was my first finished read of the acclaimed British
mystery writer, inspired by the fact that Elizabeth George has been praised
by comparisons with Ms. James. The plot begins with the throat-slit
corpses of a prominent politician and a homeless man, found in a church
vestry. Cover Her Face, 1962,
was Ms. James' first novel and the debut of poet-detective Adam Dalgliesh.
Interesting to see how the writer began learning her craft through this
conventional and low-action mystery set in a country hourse and involving
the strangulation of a teasing young woman. Devices
& Desires, 1989, involves a nuclear power plant, anti-nuclear
activists, and the murder of a cruel woman who swims topless each night.
in Holy Orders, 2001, brings detective Dalgliesh to a remote
theological college after a ordinand is found smothered under a cliff of
|Jenkins, Emily. Mister Posterior
and the Genius Child, 2002. Eight year old girl copes with
her mother's 1970s experimentation, grade school politics, her own flamboyant
imagination, and the naked rear end flashed repeatedly near her window.
|Jewell, Lisa. One-Hit
Wonder, 2001. Great fun despite the essentially tragic story
of a pop star whose fame only lasted for a single album. Set in London,
the book shows the nightclub life in the 80s while deconstructing life
choices and family relationships. The blossoming of the gawky sister Ana
felt very real.
|Johansen, Iris. No One To Trust,
2002. An author known for romantic suspense enters the realm of thrillers.
A trained female assassin is trying to escape from the drug dealer who
threatens her young son. Fast paced.
|Judson, Daniel. The Poisoned Rose,
2002. Surprised that I finished this mystery full of fist fights and hard-boiled
men. Politics, drugs, power, and some ladies-in-distress.
|Juska, Jane. A Round-Heeled Woman:
My Late-Life Adventures in Sex and Romance. 2003. Great
fun. True story of a 66-year-old English teacher who places a personal
ad for a sexual partner in The New York Review of Books. Both funny
and poignant encounters with the men who respond.
|Kagan, Elaine. Losing Mr. North,
2002. After the disappearance of a twice-loved man, both his wife and his
long-time mistress cope with the waiting for news. Language could be more
polished, with emotional validity kept me reading.
|Karon, Jan. The Mitford Series.
I gobbled up all five current books in this series about small town life
and then waited eagerly for the newest one to be published. The main character
is a pastor but the scripture references are handled discretely and the
life-affirming message can easily be appreciated by non-Churchgoers. These
books make you vow to lead your life in a more generous way and certainly
inspired me to consider relocating to a smaller community. The newest one,
This Mountain, 2002, is less compelling, perhaps because
the lead character Father Tim battles with depression, which inherently
results in a more somber, less whimsical, tone. The scripture references
seemed heavy-handed and the writing less witty. Shepherds
Abiding, 2003. Back to Mitford where Father Tim restores
a nativity scene for his wife while preparing for the holidays.
|Karr, Mary. The Liars' Club,
1995. Memoirs of a rough upbringing with a distant father, dying grandmother,
and unbalanced mother. But written with tenderness and humor.
|Katz, Jon. The Father's Club, 1996.
I had heard plenty of praise for this Suburban Detective series, so quite
disappointing to find dull language and a plodding plot. When a fraudulant
housing developer and his ex-wife are murdered, the detective goes undercover
in a fathers' support group to solve the crime. Death
Row, 1998, is a bit stronger -- quick and light reading
about suspicious activity at a nursing home that is owned by a powerful
|Kay, Terry. To Dance with the White
Dog, 1990. Moving tale of an elderly widower who depends
on a ghostly white dog for companionship after his wife dies. Slow-paced
but poignant. Made into film with Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy.
|Kellerman, Jonathan. Survival of
the Fittest, 1997. A respected child psychologist writes
this series of mysteries about a psychologist and his policeman friend.
I've read every book in the series and eagerly await a new volume. In this
book, the team tracks a killing conspiracy that targets developmentally
and physically disabled youth, with intervention from the Israeli consulate.
Death, 2000, involves the murder of a publicity-grabbing
euthenasia doctor (similar to Doctor Kevorkian) and two siblings who were
traumatized when their mother chose voluntary death. Flesh
and Blood, 2001. The psychologist investigates the death
of a prostitute who he treated during her troubled adolescence, which leads
him into the worlds of academic behaviorial experiments and the sex industry.
Murder Book, 2002, involves one of Detective Milo's first
unsolved cases as a rookie cop, with the chance to catch the culprits who
twenty years later even though suspects now move among the Los Angeles
power elite. A Cold Heart, 2003,
involves a stalker of artists and has the usual credible characters, but
disappointing that the lead psychologist-detective has broken up with his
lady love from the other books. Therapy,
2004, begins with the death of brain-injured young man and encompasses
a conspiracy of psychologists. The Conspiracy
Club, 2003, introduces a new character, a young hospital
psychologist, who lost his girlfriend to violent crime and is mentored
by members of a mysterious club to find the culprit. Interesting research
work but the clues and contrived.
|Kerley, Jack. The Hundredth Man,
2004. Police chase a serial killer in Mobile, Alabama. Too ambitious with
multiple plot lines thrown together, but an author worth watching.
|Kidd, Sue Monk. The Secret Life
of Bees, 2002. Beautiful tale of a neglected white girl
who runs away with her housekeeper to join a group of black female beekeepers
in South Carolina. Explores the nature of love, self-acceptance, racial
harmony, and female divinity. Highly recommended.
|Kilcommons, Brian (with Sarah Wilson). Good
Owners, Great Dogs: A Training Manual for Humans and their Canine Companions,
1992. Emphasizes patience, praise, and clarity. Still looking for tips
on handling my beloved old hound-dog.
|Kimmel, Haven. The Solace of Leaving
Early, 2002. Loved this book. Vivid complicated characters.
A solitary scholar comes out of her shell when forced to supervise two
orphans. Something Rising (Light and Swift),
2004. Young girl must protect her dysfunctional family while supporting
herself as a professional pool shark. Great characters and happy ending.
Girl Named Zippy, 2001: Love this book and this author.
Small town life seen through an unusual and slightly naughty girl's eyes.
Funny, heartwarming, and a fine portrait of a realistic loving family.
|Kingsbury, Noel. Designing Borders,
2003. Examples of how prominent European landscape designers put together
garden borders based on particular natural conditions or themes.
|King, Stephen. Bag of Bones,
1998. Strong character development and reflections on writing in the first
half, but then disintegrates into overdone horror conventions by the end.
A novelist faces writer's block after the death of his wife, retreats to
his lake property, becomes involved in a custody dispute between a beautiful
young woman and her rich father-in-law, and then suspects his cabin is
haunted. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon,
1999, follows a nine-year-old girl, lost in the wilderness of the Appalachian
Trail and surviving through thoughts of her favorite baseball player.
|King, Tabitha. One on One,
1993. Unexpected romance between a high school Basketball superstar on
the boy's team and a gothic-misfit female player, against backdrop of family
violence and the championship series. Complex characters and dark enrvironment.
|Kline, Christina Baker. Desire Lines,
1999. Story of a woman without direction who returns to her hometown, attends
her class reunion, and investigates the mysterious disappearance of a high
school classmate on graduation night ten years before. The novel focuses
more on identity and life choices than on the detection plot.
|Knapp, Caroline. Pack of Two: The
Intricate Bond Between People and Dogs, 1998. Splendid nonfiction
about the relationship between single childless women and their dogs. Rang
emotionally true throughout for me as a new dog owner. Extremely talented
|Koertge, Ron. Margaux with an X,
2004. Definitely a talented writer of adolescent fiction, but the jaded
sarcasm of a pretty teenage girl just doesn't ring true. The animal-rights
boyfriend is far more realistic and interesting.
|Konigsburg, E. L. The Outcasts of
19 Schuyler Place, 2004. Two-time Newbery Medal winner.
Delightful tale of an adolescent girl, who escapes from summer camp and
saves the outsider-art towers built by her eccentric uncles. From
the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, 2002. Newbery
Medal winner. Loved this book as a child. Two runaways hide in the Metropolitan
Museum of Art while investigating the mystery of an angel statue that might
be an early work by Michelangelo. Silent to
the Bone, 2002: A teenager visits in friend at the juvenile
detention facility while trying to prove him innocent of putting his baby
sister into a coma. Important commentary on the impact of second marriages
on children. The View from Saturday,
1996, uses an academic competition as the framing device for multiple sixth
graders and their teacher to tell a transformational story. Remarkable
narrative style, true and engaging. Jennifer,
Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth, 1967
-- delightful tale of friendship between two isolated girls, which begins
with a game of witchcraft. Up From Jericho
Tel, 1986, is less effective because of fantasy elements
of invisibility and the familiar theme of two offbeat kids becoming friends.
|Kotzwinkle, William. Swimmer in
the Secret Sea, first published in 1975 in Redbook.
Gentle novella that follows a couple through the birth process to the burial
of their newborn. Sad themes, but written from a life-affirming and love-affirming
|Kozol, Jonathan. Ordinary Resurrections:
Children in the Years of Hope, 2000. Powerful non-fiction
observations of young children, growing up in poverty in the South Bronz
and assisted by a local church and a few outstanding teachers.
|Krist, Gary. Bad Chemistry,
1997. Interesting suspense plot, but minimal character development and
too predictably like an action film in the conclusion. When her husband
disappears and his business partner is murdered, a former cop discovers
an underground drug research firm that circumvents FDA guidelines to make
|Langton, Jane. Emily Dickinson is
Dead, 1984. Mystery that begins with a gathering of scholars
in Amherst to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the author's death.
Amusing but accurate characterizations of literary scholars, clever plot
twists, an unexpected romance, and an interesting debate over a controversial
portrait that might be of Emily Dickinson. Professor Owen Kraznik is precisely
the type of man I would love to find in real life -- but, alas, fiction
created by a female author.
|Lansdale, Joe R. A Fine Dark Line.
2003. Adventurous boy in 1950s Texas investigates an old murder mystery
after finding a stash of letters and diary entries. Nice profile of family
|Lanza, Patricia. Lasagna Gardening
for Small Spaces, 2002. Practical advice for a less exhausting
form of soil preparation.
|Le Carre, John. The Constant Gardener,
2001. The acclaimed spy novelist portrays the corruption of pharmaceutical
companies that peddle unsafe drugs in the third world. After a woman is
murdered because of her activism to protect African women from a dangerous
tuberculosis drug, her husband seeks the culprits inside the drug company,
political corruption, and humanitarian relief agencies. Eye-opening, with
a realistic and sobering ending. The Tailor
of Panama, 1996: as Panama prepares to take control of the
canal, a gossip-minded tailor to the wealthy and powerful is manipulated
into spying on his customers. His fabricated information leads to a satire
on the spy industry.
|Lefcourt, Peter. Eleven Karens,
2003. Great fun. Narrator reflects on the diverse chain of women named
Karen who were temporarily the loves-of-his-life. The author has Hollywood
screenwriting credentials, which show in the humor and vivid character
|Lehrer, Jim. White Widow,
1996. Novel by the PBS news anchor about a Trailways bus driver who becomes
obsessed with a beautiful passenger and ruins his perfect driving record
as a result. Interesting portrait of the world of buses, but ending is
|Leib, Franklin Allen. The House
of Pain, 1999. One of the best portrayals that I've every
read of the impact that post-traumatic stress has on Vietnam Veterans.
The courtroom drama explores a veteran's responsibility for violence committed
while rescuing a presumed kidnapping victim. Very talented writer who rises
far above the legal thriller genre.
|L'Engle, Madeleine. A Live Coal
in the Sea, 1996. I expected far more from the author of
the beloved children's book A Wrinkle in Time. An astronomy professor
re-visits family secrets when her granddaughter asks for the truth about
her parentage. The religious content becomes more didactic with each chapter.
|Leon, Donna. The Anonymous Venetian,
1994. Mystery series set in Venice, Italy, which has been hugely popular
in Europe. More about contemplation, dialog, and relationships than physical
action. In this episode, a cross-dressed man is found murdered near a butcher
factory, leading to a banking and charitable organization expose. Doctored
Evidence, 2004, involves a mean-spirited elderly woman who
may have been murdered by a Romanian caregiven although suspicious bank
transfers point toward other suspects. Uniform
Justice, 2003, involves an elite military academy and political
favors related to military procurement. Death
at La Fenice, 1992, is the first novel in the series, opening
with the cyanide death of a difficult conductor. Acqua
Alta, 1996, revisits the opera diva and her archaeologist
girlfriend, now threatened by an art fraud conspiracy. The
Death of Faith, 1997, begins with a nun's accusation of
supicious deaths at a nursing home and expands to broad corruption within
the Catholic church. Friends in High Places,
2001, opens with a bureaucratic housing inspector with a fear of heights.
Sea of Troubles, 2002, involves the murder of two clam fishermen
in a secretive seaside village. A Noble Radiance,
1998, involves a cold kidnapping case that haunts a controversial noble
family. Fatal Remedies, 1999.
Connections between a travel agency that markets third-world sex tours
and a pharmaceutical company. Interesting to learn more about the detective's
wife and their relationship. A Venetian Reckoning,
1995, begins with the author's most dramatic opening scene of a truck accident
and concludes with a complicated international crime ring. Death
in a Strange Country, 1993, involves an American military
base and environmental hazards.
|Lethem, Jonathan. Motherless Brooklyn,
1999. Dark saga of a detective with Tourette's syndrome and his buddies
in the criminal underworld of Booklyn. The plot is more violent than I
like, but the portrait of a man coping with tics and uncontrolled vocalizations
makes the book worthwhile.
|Letts, Billie. Where The Heart Is,
1995. Another Oprah selection. Teenager gives birth in a Wal-Mart store
and then finds a surprising community in Oklahoma that treats her with
warmth. Both funny and sentimental.
|Lipman, Elinor. The Pursuit of Alice
Thrift, 2003. Very funny with a lead character who will
ring true for anyone who has brains but social awkwardness. A female doctor
with extreme emotional detachment handles courtship by a carnival fudge-salesman,
while slowly building a circle of friends. The
Dearly Departed, 2001, involves a young woman returning
to her hometown after the sudden death of her mother, which leads to confrontations
with enemies from high schools days, the discovery of a half-brother, and
unexpected romance. The Inn at Lake Devine,1998,
begins with the anti-Semitism of a family-owned Vermont resort and ends
with romance that crosses religious lines. The author brilliantly combines
humor and sentiment. Then She Found Me,
1990, begins when a flamboyant television host contacts the daughter she
gave up at birth. The author's trademark skills at unexpected romance between
awkward characters shines here as a Latin teacher slowly recognizes the
simple charms of a librarian. The Ladies' Man,
1991, is great fun -- a smooth-talking and chronically-unfaithful man attempts
an apology to the middle-aged woman that he jilted thirty years before.
Isabel's Bed, 1995, involves an aspiring novelist who receives beach mansion
lodging in exchange for ghostwriting the memoirs of a scandalous woman.
Strays farther into parody than the other works, so less appealing.
|Lodge, David. Changing Places,
1992. Fun parody of academic life as a professor from England and a professor
from California swap positions. Set in 1969, the novel satirizes sex, marriage,
scholarly obscurity, and campus politics.
|Loh, Sandra Tsing. Depth Takes a
Holiday: Essays from Lesser Los Angeles, 1996. Funny collection
of essays about the life of a thirty-something in Southern California.
Topics include IKEA furniture, multicultural art grants, media relations
for the wacky, aspiring screenwriters, underemployment, postmodern dating,
and open-mike poetry readings.
|Lovelace, Maud Hart. Betsy-Tacy,
1940. Charming tale of two friends from a series that I loved and re-read
constantly as a girl. Set in a simpler age when neighborhoods were safe
and young children could explore unsupervised.
Vault, 1999. Always a delight to discover
a new mystery series, this one written by the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement
award from the British Crime Writers Association. In this case, witty Detective
Superintendent Peter Diamond connects skeletal remains found in a vault
undernearth the famous Roman Baths in Bath, England with illustrations
for Mary Shelley's
Frankenstein, a talented puppeteer, and the missing
wife of an American literary scholar.
1996, involves rhyming riddles that warn of forthcriming crimes, a club
of mystery lovers, and a classic locked-room murder scene. The
Last Detective, 1991, is the first
in the Detective Diamond series with a plot incorporating the murder of
a former soap opera star, a letter signed by novelist Jane Austen, and
an adolescent rescued from drowning. The
Reaper, 2000, involves a con-man church
rector who embezzles funds and eliminates anyone in the way, until he meets
a soul mate who has done her own eliminating. Told with ghoulish humor.
Dust, 2002, begins with the murder
of Inspector Diamond's wife, causing great anguish as the investigation
unfolds. Upon a Dark Night, 1997, is wonderful -- three plots intertwine,
involving a woman with amnesia, the suicide of an elderly farmer, and a
German tourist who falls off a building. The
Summons, 1995: Detective Diamond has
a chance to rejoin the force by rescuing the kidnapped daughter of another
officer, but must first determine whether an escaped, convicted murderer
is in fact guilty.
|Lowell, Elizabeth. Moving Target,
2001. A weaver and a medieval manuscript expert join forces to find the
illuminated Book of the Learned, only to find a supernatural connection
with long-dead lovers and a dangerous pattern of death-by-fire. Skillfully
handled, with interesting insight into the rare book market, despite moments
of purple prose. Pearl Cove,
1999, hero Archer Donovan of the international export family that the series
chronicles, falls in love while tracking the murderer who stole a necklace
of priceless black rainbow pearls. Jade Island,
1998, matches technical genius Kyle Donovan with the illegitimate daughter
of a powerful Hong Kong trader, in the quest for a stolen jade burial shroud.
|Ludlum, Robert. The Prometheus Deception,
2000. My first time reading the famous author of spy thrillers. Too violent
and male-dominated for my tastes, but certainly full of plot twists. A
retired operative must determine whether his former employer, a secret
intelligence group, is actually the force behind terrorism attacks. The
Janson Directive, 2002, begins with the kidnapping of an
international philanthropist. When a rescue attempted by operative Paul
Janson and his crack extraction team fails, Paul becomes marked for death
and chased by a covert agent. Complex, fast-paced, and intriguing.
|Lurie, Alison. Only Children,
1988. Two families vacation in the Catskills in 1935, while the children
observe the parents' jealousy and flirtations. Funny and literary.