Don Noble's Book Reviews

Mondays at 7:45 a.m and 4:44 p.m.

Recently retired as English professor at The University of Alabama, Dr. Noble's  specialties are Southern and American literature.  He also hosts Bookmark on Alabama Public Television.

Don Noble's reviews can be heard most Mondays at 7:45am and 4:44pm.  and have been made possible in part through grants from the Alabama State Council for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

To listen to the audio version of Dr. Noble's reviews, just click on the book title to be taken to the full page.  Audio is found either at the very beginning of the transcript or at the bottom of the page.

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Credit Alabama State Council on the Arts

Dr. Noble's Book Reviews are made possible in part with a grant from The Alabama State Council on the Arts, with the support of The University of Alabama, and from the generous support from our listeners.  Thank you!

“The Reading Circle”

Author: Ashton Lee

Publisher: Kensington Books

Pages: 234

Price: $15.00 (Trade paperback)

In a recent comic novel, “Love’s Winning Plays,” in which he dared to satirize SEC football, Inman Majors also made fun of book discussion groups. He has his lonely hero, Raymond Love, join one in order to meet women. It sort of works; book club membership is overwhelmingly female.

“The Woman in the Photograph” 

Author: Dana Gynther

Publisher: Gallery Books

Pages: 352

Price: $16.00 (Paper)

Dana Gynther made her debut as a novelist in 2012 with “Crossing on the Paris,” a novel set aboard a transatlantic liner on her maiden voyage from Le Havre to New York. As the ship sails west, three women, one from first class, one from second and one from steerage, strangers until then, meet and exchange their life stories with rich flashbacks to their very different experiences in Paris

“Raising Aphrodite: A Novel”

Author: Kirk Curnutt

Publisher: River City Publishing

Pages: 413

$26.95 (Hardcover)

In Rogers and Hammerstein’s musical “Carousel,” Billy Bigelow, the erstwhile carousel barker, now married to Julie Jordan, is overjoyed when he learns he is to be a father. In the song “Soliloquy” he sings of his boy Bill. He’ll “teach him to wrestle and dive through a wave.” Bill might be a boxer or president.

“The Redeemers: A Quinn Colson Novel”

Author: Ace Atkins

Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons

Pages: 370 pp.

Price: $26.95 (Hardcover)

Ace Atkins is generating a shelf of novels at an astonishing pace. “Redeemers” is his seventeenth.

After graduation from Auburn where he played football, Ace—his real name—worked as a reporter in Florida, mainly crime. He has several standalone crime novels—historically based like “Wicked City,” set in Phenix City, and investigative/biographically based such as “Infamous,” about Fatty Arbuckle .

“Go Set a Watchman: A Novel”

Author: Harper Lee

Publisher: HarperCollins

Pages: 288

Price: $27.99

This is a book review, a description and evaluation of Harper Lee’s novel “Go Set a Watchman,” read on a Kindle.

With an important book like this I would normally be reading an ARC—Advance Readers Copy—or a review copy, but these were not distributed. This novel had all the publicity it needed and the publishers obviously felt there was nothing to be gained and perhaps something to lose by letting reviewers see it.

“German Rocketeers in the Heart of Dixie: Making Sense of the Nazi Past During the Civil Rights Era”

Author: Monique Laney

Publisher: Yale University Press

Pages: 320

Price: $35.00 (Hardcover)

“Southern Made Fresh: Vibrant Dishes Rooted in Homegrown Flavor”

Author: Tasia Malakasis

Publisher: Oxmoor House

Pages: 297

Price: $26.00 (Hardcover)

“Two Legs, Bad: Dog Town Tales”   

Author: Pat Mayer

Publisher: The Livingston Press, The University of West Alabama

Pages: 166

Price: $17.95 (Paper)

As many will recognize, the title “Two Legs Bad” comes from George Orwell’s “Animal Farm.” In that parable of revolution, when the livestock take over, they adopt this slogan, referring to their previous masters: humans.

The humans in Pat Mayer’s three books of fiction are not all “bad” but many are incomplete or damaged.

“Bad English: A History of Linguistic Aggravation”

Author: Ammon Shea

Publisher: Penguin Group: A Perigee Book

Pages: 247

Price: $16.00 (Paperback)

"Angels at the Gate"

Jun 26, 2015

“Angels at the Gate”

Author: T. K. Thorne

Publisher: Cappuccino Books

Pages: 359

Price: $22.50 (Hardcover)

Birmingham author T. K. Thorne, a retired police captain, is writing hard. Her “Last Chance for Justice,” an extended commentary on the trials that finally brought the 16th St. Baptist Church bombers Bobby Frank Cherry and Thomas Blanton to account in 2001 and 2002, was informed by her intimate knowledge of Birmingham and 22 years in law enforcement.

“Wild Sweet Orange Ride: Journeys Home”

Author: Julia Gregg

Publisher: Vineyard Stories

Pages: 101

Price: $19.95 (Hardcover)

Julia Hightower Gregg has been a columnist for the “Evansville Courier and Press” in Indiana for 25 years but before becoming a Hoosier, if indeed one can ever become a Hoosier, Gregg grew up in Montgomery, Alabama, took a BS from Auburn University, then took an MS from Vanderbilt Peabody College and an MFA from Murray State University in Kentucky .

“A Little Bit of Spectacular”

Author: Gin Phillips

Publisher: Penguin, Dial Books for Young Readers

Pages: 160

Price: $16.99 (Paperback)

I have from time to time reviewed Young Adult novels and even a children’s book or two but this is my first foray into the Middle Grade, Young Readers category. Young Readers are ages 10 and up, grades 5 and up.

“Bone to Be Wild: A Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery”

Author: Carolyn Haines

Publisher: St. Martin’s (Minotaur Books)

Pages: 354

Price: $25.99 (Hardcover)

When I was a kid, on Saturday afternoons I caught the latest installment of Lash LaRue or Commander Don Winslow of the US Coast Guard, weekly series often ending in a literal cliff-hanger—to be continued next week. Like those matinees, Carolyn Haines’ “Bones” books have moved now from a mystery series to a mystery serial.

“Reflections of the Civil War in Southern Humor”

Author: Wade H. Hall

Publisher: NewSouth Books

Pages: 89

Price: $12.95 (Paper)

“The Shortest Book in the World” is a venerable genre.

“Career Management” by Charlie Sheen.

“Secrets to a Successful Marriage” by Tiger Woods

At 89 pages, Wade Hall’s study of Southern Civil War humor is definitely in this category. Considering that the war was a four-year bloodbath with, sometimes, tens of thousands dying on the same day, it may even be an oxymoron. It wasn’t a naturally funny subject.

“South, America: A Jack Prine Novel”

Author: Rod Davis

Publisher: NewSouth Books

Pages: 248

Price: $24.95 (Paper)

Before seven on a Sunday morning, in the year 2000, Jack Prine is walking from his apartment to get some coffee and finds a “body … splayed out face down across a busted-up curb in the Faubourg Marigny, downriver of the quarter but not quite in the Bywater.”

Title:  Wrapped in Rainbows:  The Life of Zora Neale Hurston
Author:  Valerie Boyd
Publisher: Scribner
Pages: 438
Price: $20.00 (Paperback)

On June 8th, Zora Neale Hurston will be one of twelve writers taken into the newly established Alabama Writers Hall of Fame.

Shadows in the Fire

Apr 27, 2015

Title:  Shadows in the Fire
Author: Gray Basnight
Publisher: Five Star: A Part of Gale, Cengage Learning
2015
Price: $25.95 ( Hardcover )
Pages: 364 pp.

The Hotel Monte Sano

Apr 20, 2015

Title: The Hotel Monte Sano
Author: Charles Farley

Publisher: The Ardent Writer Press

Pages: 237
Price: $17.95 (Paper)

Journey to the Wilderness

Apr 13, 2015

Title:  Journey to the Wilderness
Author:  Frye Gaillard  
Foreword by Steven Trout
Publisher: NewSouth Books
Price: $23.95 (Hardcover)
Pages: 160

Frye Gaillard is now recognized as one of Alabama’s most prolific and most important nonfiction writers with books on Southern literature, civil rights, NASCAR, country music, Jimmy Carter and, generally, all things Southern.

Pasture Art

Mar 30, 2015

    

Title:  Pasture Art
Author:  Marlin Barton
“Pasture Art: Stories”
Author: Marlin Barton
Publisher: Hub City Press
Pages: 152
Price: $16.95 (Paper)

“Pasture Art” is Marlin Barton’s fifth volume of fiction—there have been two novels and two collections of stories—but this book stands a good chance to be his break-out book. The stories are more insightful, more psychologically complex than any of his previous work. As a story writer, he has arrived.

Fox is Framed

Mar 23, 2015

Title:  Fox is Framed
Author:  Lachlan Smith
Publisher: Grove Atlantic, The Mysterious Press, 2015
Pages: 244
Price: $24.00 (Hardcover)

What Stands in a Storm

Mar 16, 2015

Title:  What Stands in a Storm
Author:  Kim Cross
Foreword by Rick Bragg Publisher: Atria Books
Pages: 285
Price: $25.00 (Hardcover)

After taking the BA and the MA in journalism at the U of A, Kim Cross honed her skills working as editor-at-large at “Southern Living” and writing articles for outdoor and sport magazines such as “Bicycling” and “Runner’s World” and several newspapers, including “USA Today.” “What Stands in a Storm” is her first book, released March 10th, and it has every chance of being a best seller.

Lost Capitals of Alabama

Mar 9, 2015

Title: Lost Capitals of Alabama
Author: Herbert James Lewis
Publisher: The History Press
Pages: 158
Price: $19.99 (Paper)

Montgomery, chosen over competing bids from Tuscaloosa, Wetumpka, Mobile, Marion, Statesville, Selma and Huntsville, has been the state capital since 1846, indeed was the capital of the Confederacy for three months in 1861 before that was moved to Richmond, but it was not always so. Montgomery is our fifth capital; the other four “lost” capitals are the subject of Lewis’ brief, informative book.

Title: Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League
Author: Jonathan Odell
Publisher: Maiden Lane Press
Pages: 462
Price: $16.00 (Paperback)

This is Jonathan Odell’s first and third novel.

In 2012 Odell published “The Healing,” a novel of black and white, master and slave, set on a Mississippi plantation in 1847. The heroine, Polly Shine, is an herbalist, feared as a witch, and powerful enough to organize the slaves and lead a quiet but devastating insurrection against Master Ben Satterfield and the Big House.

Title: Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama
Author: Hester Bass
Illustrator:  E. B. Lewis
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Pages: 28
Price: $16.99 (Hardcover)

Title:  The Cat's Pajamas
Author & Illustrator:  Daniel Wallace
Publisher: Inkshares: Crowdfunded Publishing
Pages: 28
Price: $18.00 (Hardcover)

West of Sunset

Feb 16, 2015

Title: West of Sunset
Author: Stewart O'Nan
Publisher: Viking Pages: 289
Price: $27.95 (Cloth)

What hath Woody wrought?

Diamonds in the Rough

Feb 10, 2015

Title: Diamonds in the Rough
Author: James Sanders Day
Publisher: The University of Alabama Press
Pages: 300
Price: $49.95 (Cloth)

    

Title:  Better Than Them:  The Unmaking of an Alabama Racist
Author: S. McEachin Otts
Forward by Gaillard Frye
Publisher: NewSouth Books Pages: 158
Price: $23.95 (Paper)

Driving the King

Jan 26, 2015

    

Title: Driving the King
Author: Ravi Howard
Publisher: Harper/Collins Pages: 336 pp.
Price: $25.99 (Hardcover)

Title:  The Meaning of Human Existence"
Author:  E.O. Wilson

Transcript to be added soon.

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