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How Are You Going to Save Yourself by JM Holmes, Little, Brown and Co., US $26.00, Pp 248, August 2018, ISBN 978-0316514880

Promised Land by Martin Fletcher, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, US $28.99, Pp 416, September 2018, ISBN 978-1250118820

The Fall of Gondolin by J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (Editor), Alan Lee (Illustrator), Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, US $30.00, Pp 304, August 2018, ISBN 978-1328613042

 Trust me by Hank Phillippi Ryan,  Forge Books/Tor Books, US $25.99, Pp 400, August 2018,  ISBN 978-0765393074

Set in the post-industrial working-class enclave of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, How Are You Going to Save Yourself is the story of four young black men’s struggle to liberate themselves from the legacy of being black in racist America. Their struggle is to break out of the perception the society – and, of course, themselves — has imposed on them. They may be different in temperament but they all are sensitive to their being men of color. If they are bound by the shared experience of being the children of black slaves, their changing fortunes set them apart from one another. Gio is the only one who has been able to move out of the working class enclave of Pawtucket. Each of these four black men — Gio, Dub, Rolls, and Rye — is struggling with the complex history of his family. Gio is a mixed-race son of a professional football player died while working for the NFL. Gio has made money in part because of a settlement with the NFL over his father’s premature death. But now he is wasting that money on drugs in New York City. Other three are still struggling to break the shackles they were born with. Dub is one of Gio’s childhood friends who wanted to play professional football but he was not good at playing football. Rye was a lot better than Dub but Rye was more interested in dealing drugs and fighting fires. Rolls is hard-mannered, inquisitive and romantic. He is absorbed in photography. In How Are You Going to Save Yourself, JM Holmes explores love, longing, and failed aspirations among the marginalized men of color. This is a subject that is largely absent in American fiction. How Are You Going to Save Yourself is candid, provocative, and heart-breaking with an unforgettable cast of characters. These stories show the ugly side of life in America. JM Holmes is a welcome new voice in fiction.

M. Holmes was born in Denver and raised in Rhode Island. He won the Burnett Howe Prize for fiction at Amherst College and received fellowships to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference. He has worked in educational outreach in Iowa, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. He lives in Milwaukee and How Are You Going to Save Yourself is his debut novel.

*****

Promised Land is set in Germany, America, and Israel in the mid-20th century. As the Nazis in Germany rise and intensify the persecution of the Jew, the family sends fourteen-year-old Peter to America to escape Nazi atrocities. But, before the rest of the family can also escape Nazi Germany, they are caught by the German secret agencies and sent to concentration camps. The entire family dies in the Holocaust except for the younger brother Arie who later succeeds in escaping to Israel where he starts his own business and become one of the richest men in the country. Peter earns a Silver Star with the US Army during World War II and was drafted by OSS (Office of Strategic Services – the predecessor to CIA). After the war, Peter also moves to Israel where the two brothers reunite. Peter joins Mossad as one of the top officials. Peter is soon assigned to head some of Israel’s most important espionage operations. Some of them are targeting the former Nazi war criminals. It so happens that the two brothers fall in love with the same woman, Tamara, who is a Jewish refugee from Cairo. Tamara has a brief but serious affair with Peter first but, later, dumps him and marries Arie. After a while, Peter meets Diana, a British journalist, whom he recruits as an operative for Reuven Shiloah, the first director of Mossad. Peter and Diana fall in love and marry. But, Peter is unable to forget Tamara. As Arie does not treat Tamara nicely, their relationship deteriorates with the passage of time. As the distance between Tamara and Arie grows, Tamara is haunted by the memory of Peter. Jealousies and intrigues drive them apart over the next two decades. As a former Tel Aviv bureau chief for NBC, Fletcher knows the Middle Eastern history. It is the first novel in a planned trilogy but some people may find it a continuation of Fletcher’s The List (2011), about the lingering effects of WWII on London Jews. Promised Land is at once the story of a jealousy-ridden family and an epic about a new nation and a persecuted people. Written in beautiful English, Promised Land depicts life in Nazi Germany and the newly-founded Jewish state of Israel. Promised Land is a mesmerizing and enjoyable read.

Martin Fletcher worked as the NBC News Bureau Chief in Tel Aviv for many years and has won numerous awards including the National Jewish Book Award, a Columbia University DuPont Award, several Overseas Press Club Awards, and five Emmys. Martin is the author of numerous fiction and nonfiction books, including The War Reporter, Jacob’s Oath, and Walking Israel. He divides his time between Israel and New York.

*****

In The Fall of Gondolin, Christopher Tolkien edits his father’s work, but with the addition of the story of the beautiful and secret city of Gondolin, in what is the final book in a trilogy of Middle-earth stories his father, J.R.R. Tolkien, did not live to complete and publish. In the Middle-earth stories, there are two great powers in the imaginary world. Morgoth rules over a vast military power from his fortress of Angband. Although not playing any role in this volume, Morgoth is the evilest power. Ulmo is the enemy of Morgoth and in military might is next to Manwë who is the chief of the Valar and is known as the Lord of Waters — all seas, lakes, and rivers. Manwë works in Middle-earth secretly where he cannot be seen. The city of Gondolin is the biggest cause of the wars among the gods in the imaginary Middle-earth. The city of Gondolin was built and peopled by Noldorin Elves who, when they lived in Valinor — the land of the gods — rebelled against their rule and fled to Middle-earth. Turgon King of Gondolin is hated and feared by Morgoth, who has been trying to discover the hidden city. The gods in Valinor refuse to intervene in support of Ulmo. Tuor is the cousin of Túrin and an instrument of Ulmo. Tuor leaves the land of his birth on the instructions of Ulmo and heads towards Gondolin. It is a dangerous journey. God of Waters Manwë rises out of the stormy ocean. In Gondolin, Tuor weds Idril, Turgon’s daughter. Gondolin finally falls and Túrin and Idril escape while their child Eärendel looks back at the burning city from a cleft in the mountains as his parents flee. Here starts a new story, the Tale of Eärendel, which Tolkien never wrote, but is sketched out by Christopher Tolkien who is such an excellent editor. Christopher Tolkien has also added a full glossary, additional notes, a family tree, and a list of names with descriptions so that readers can keep track of who is who. The Fall of Gondolin is an extraordinarily mesmerizing story about an imaginary world. It is an unputdownable fantasy novel.

J.R.R. Tolkien (1892–1973) is the creator of Middle-earth and author of such classic and extraordinary works of fiction as The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. His books have been translated into more than fifty languages and have sold many millions of copies worldwide.

*****

Journalist Mercer Hennessey’s husband and their 3-year-old daughter Sophie died in a car crash about a year ago. She has not been able to overcome her grief even after a year. She is in deep depression and hasn’t resumed going to the office. One morning, she receives an unexpected call from her former editor Katherine Craft who asks her if she is interested in covering on the “Baby Boston” trial and then writing a book on the trial. This is a very interesting case in which the line between guilt and innocence is blurred. This is the reason she understands that it is not going to be easy. But, it is the hottest topic in the city. In normal circumstances, she would have been thrilled and accepted the offer without wasting any time but she is unable to make up her mind. This is despite the fact that the proposed book is sure to be a bestseller. She finally accepts the offer to write the book after a lot of goading from Katherine. Covering this trial for the newspaper and then writing a book is going to be emotionally stressful for Mercer because the case will continuously remind her of her own daughter’s loss. In this case, Ashlyn Bryant is accused of murdering her own 2-year daughter Tasha Nicole whose body was washed up in a plastic bag in Boston Harbor. From the very beginning, it is clear that Mercer doesn’t like Ashlyn and believes she is the murderer of her daughter although there is no evidence for that. When the verdict is announced, it surprises everyone and changes everything for Mercer. Mercer does write the book but quite a different one, and with Ashlyn’s help. Trust me is a fast-paced thriller with an extraordinary plot that will captivate and entertain you until the end. Hank Phillippi Ryan is a gifted storyteller when it comes to thrillers.

Hank Phillippi Ryan is the bestselling author of ten award-winning novels of suspense. Her first four mysteries, beginning with the Agatha Award-winning Prime Time, feature Charlotte McNally, a Boston television reporter. Face Time was a BookSense Notable Book, and Air Time and Drive Time were both Anthony and Agatha Award nominees for best novel of 2009 and 2010. Hank is also an award-winning investigative reporter at Boston’s WHDH-TV. In addition to 34 Emmys and 14 Edward R. Murrow awards, Hank’s won dozens of other honors. Hank is a founding teacher at Mystery Writers of America University and served as 2013 president of national Sisters in Crime.

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