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This week brings reviews of three novels: A retelling of The Great Gatsby set in North Carolina; Hannah Tinti's second novel following the success of The Good Thief; and The Midnight Watch which views the sinking of the Titanic from the perspective of the crew aboard the S.S. Californian - the ship that was close enough to go to the Titanic's aid but did not.

Then we go beyond the book to explore complications of the mechanical watch variety, how the Titanic tragedy changed maritime law and the background to our latest Wordplay, "save it for a rainy day", seguing momentarily into medieval bugbears.

Your Editor, Davina   
manderleyFirst Impressions: Members Recommend

Each month we give away books to U.S. resident members to read and review (or discuss). Members who choose to participate receive a free book about every three months. Here are their opinions on one recent release.
 
 No One Is Coming to Save Us
 by Stephanie Powell Watts


 Publisher: Ecco
 Publication Date: Apr 2017
 Novels,368 pages

 Number of reader reviews: 10
 Readers' consensus: 4.0/5.0 





Members Say
"Using The Great Gatsby as her model for telling the story of black Americans in the mythical rural town of Pinewood, N.C., Watts has created a fascinating tale. Her sense of place is superb and you can almost smell the trees and see the house where Ava, one of the protagonists, lives. The characters come alive too and for me it was Sylvia, Ava's mother and the matriarch of the family, who stands out for her wonderful idiosyncrasies. Certainly a book that deserves to be read." - Karna B. (Long Beach, CA)

"I was sorry to reach the end of this book as I had become so involved in the lives of the characters. No One Is Coming To Save Us is, in my opinion, a book that will be read and studied for years to come." - Diane H. (Leawood, KS)

"This book! I had so many things to do but I didn't want to stop reading... I am looking forward to Stephanie Powell Watts next book!" - Marci G. (Sicklerville, NJ)

More about this book | Read all the reviews    Buy at Amazon | B&N | Indie 
twelveEditor's Choice

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley
by Hannah Tinti

Hardcover (Mar 2017), 400 pages.
Publisher: Dial Press.
BookBrowse Rating: 5/5, Critics' Consensus:  4.6/5
Buy at Amazon |  B&N |  Indie

Review and article by Gary Presley


Hannah Tinti follows her spectacular 2008 debut, The Good Thief, with a novel of uncommon imagination: a coming-of-age story, but one interwoven with a remarkable thriller and a likable but corrupt anti-hero, a taker named Samuel Hawley who adheres to a hard moral code of his own making.

With his long-time partner, Jove, Hawley works outside the law, mostly for people who also live beyond the borders of legality. His clients want something, and the method of retrieval is irrelevant to them. Perhaps it's an object a thief has purloined. Perhaps the thing desired has changed hands through chicanery. Pay a fee, and Hawley and Jove will find it and bring it to you...

Tinti's secondary characters both expand and deepen the story. Jove is the perfect good-hearted sidekick; he boosts Hawley's confidence, and is more outgoing and carefree. Mabel constantly seeks ways to help young Loo but is frustrated by the girl's deep, protective love for her father. Mary Titus is a hippie earth mother waitress-environmental activist who takes out her hatred of the sea by petitioning government agencies for the termination of cod fishing, which is the town's primary economic engine. Mary is also the mother of Loo's first serious boyfriend, a hit-and-miss romance complicated by self-consciousness, overreaching, and parents.

Tinti is a writer gifted beyond her years, both literary in her perceptions - "the sailboat passed a cargo ship the length of an aircraft carrier, stretching across the surface like a giant guarding the edge of the world" - and possessing a thoroughgoing comprehension of the human condition, our sometimes desperate search for love and family, the rage we often feel as we stumble through our ignorance and past our fear to confront our mortality.

Far more violent than Paper Moon, far kinder than The Road to Perdition, Tinti's The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley stands as a singular literary achievement. ... continued


Full access to our reviews & beyond the book articles are for members only. But there are always four free Editor's Choice reviews and beyond the book articles available.
beyondBeyond the Book: Watch Complications

Every time we review a book we also explore a related topic. Here is the "beyond the book" article for The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti

In Hannah Tinti's novel, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley, Hawley and Jove are sent to recover an antique watch with many complications, the term used for any mechanical watch function other than telling time...

Vacheron Constantin Reference 57260Although many modern mechanical watches have incredible complications, it is their antique counterparts that reap significant amounts when at auction. Eighty years ago, New York-based American businessman Henry Graves Jr. charged Patek Philippe to make the world's most complicated watch - that is to say the watch with the most complications. It took the Swiss company eight years to design and construct the device with a total of 24 complications including chimes, a perpetual calendar and a celestial map of New York as seen from Graves' New York apartment - and it held the record for the watch with the most complications for 50 years. ... continued

Read in full | More about this book  
midnightEditor's Choice

The Midnight Watch by David Dyer

Paperback (Apr 2017), 336 pages.
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin.
BookBrowse Rating: 5/5, Critics' Consensus:  4.5/5
Buy at Amazon |  B&N |  Indie
 
 
The sinking of the Titanic still strikes a chord with readers as reflected in the overwhelmingly positive ratings BookBrowse's First Impression reviewers gave to The Midnight Watch. 

The novel is grounded in sound research
The Midnight Watch tells the story of the SS Californian, the ship that watched the Titanic sinking and did nothing (Carole P). The novel is thoroughly researched as the author was allowed access to court documents from the official inquiry. I found the book to be fascinating and tragic - even though I knew how the story ended, I kept hoping the Californian would come to the aid of the Titanic. The book kept me engaged through the very last line (Amy W). I was fascinated by the idea that such a very small sliver of time could be the subject of a full-length novel. But Dyer fabulously investigates and portrays the facts around the failure of the closest ship to the Titanic to rush to her aid (Erica M).

The recreation of the era is spot on
Dyer delivers a solid characterization of the time period. The sensational journalism, the unsinkable shipping industry, the emerging Suffragettes and the British and American inquiries conducted about the sinking of the Titanic are rich and fascinating. Dyer delivers a great read (Tracy N).

Overall The Midnight Watch generated strong positive reactions
This is an insightful, provocative and well-written novel (Erica M). I recommend it to a broad audience, more than just those interested in the Titanic (Jeff M). ... continued


Full access to our reviews & beyond the book articles are for members only. But there are always four free Editor's Choice reviews and beyond the book articles available.   
missedBeyond the Book: Missed Signals
 
Every time we review a book we also explore a related topic. Here is the "beyond the book" article for The Midnight Watch by David Dyer

The SS CalifornianCould the tragedy of the RMS Titanic that unfolded on 15 April 1912, have been prevented or the casualty toll severely decreased? This is the question that anchors The Midnight Watch.

One of the points of contention here is that the Titanic launched distress signals but that the Californian did nothing and stood by as close to 1,500 perished in the ice-cold waters. While the truth of what went down is open to interpretation, experts insist that the personnel on board the Titanic did not follow the code of international maritime distress signals ... Equally at issue was the fact that the Californian turned off all radio communications for the night while hunkering down and therefore missed radio distress signals relayed by the Titanic.

These mishaps lead to legislation: The Radio Act of 1912 expressly called for radio communications on passenger ships to be operational 24 hours a day, with a secondary power supply, so as not to miss distress calls. The law also called for all ships to be in radio contact with vessels in their vicinity as well as with bases on shore. Although Mayday radio signals are more commonly used these days, sending out distress rockets is still a procedure for ships in trouble, although according to the commonly agreed upon International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, only red rockets are to be used in such instances.
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wordplayWordplay

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The answer to last Week's Wordplay: S F A R Day

"Save For A Rainy Day"

Meaning: Save it for a time of need

This expression can be traced back to the mid 16th century in Britain. Its first known use is in a play, The Bugbears, first performed in or around 1561:

"Wold he haue me kepe nothing against a raynye day?"
(would he have me keep nothing for a rainy day?)

It appears that The Bugbears was translated from Antonio Francesco Grazzini's La Spirita by a now unknown author, and only one manuscript of the play exists.

But what, you might ask, is a bugbear?

Today a bugbear is a pet peeve - something that a particular individual finds especially annoying. But in medieval England, a bugbear was a sort of hobgoblin, depicted as a sinister bear that lurked deep in the woods to scare children. Sources differ on the derivation of bug but it is likely from one or more of bugge (a Middle English word for a frightening thing) and bogill (old Scots for goblin). Presumably, bogeyman and bugaboo share the same roots.
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