Thursday, August 16, 2012

Heard about a Book...

Just listened to and interview on Talk of the Nation Oksana Marafioti, the author of American Gypsy: A Memoir.  It really sounds like a fascinating book. Check it out.


Fifteen-year-old Oksana Marafioti is a Gypsy. This means touring with the family band from the Mongolian deserts to the Siberian tundra. It means getting your hair cut in “the Lioness.” It also means enduring sneering racism from every segment of Soviet society. Her father is determined that his girls lead a better, freer life. In America! Also, he wants to play guitar with B. B. King. And cure cancer with his personal magnetism. All of this he confides to the woman at the American embassy, who inexplicably allows the family entry. Soon they are living on the sketchier side of Hollywood.

What little Oksana and her sister, Roxy, know of the United States they’ve learned from MTV, subcategory George Michael. It doesn’t quite prepare them for the challenges of immigration. Why are the glamorous Kraft Singles individually wrapped? Are the little soaps in the motels really free? How do you protect your nice new boyfriend from your opinionated father, who wants you to marry decently, within the clan?

In this affecting, hilarious memoir, Marafioti cracks open the secretive world of the Roma and brings the absurdities, miscommunications, and unpredictable victories of the immigrant experience to life. With unsentimentally perfect pitch, American Gypsy reveals how Marafioti adjusted to her new life in America, one slice of processed cheese at a time.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Just Finished...


Cheryl just finished The O'Briens by Peter Behrens and said, "I liked it." He is a Canadian author, and The O'Briens is a sequel to his first book, The Law of Dreams. Check it out.

From Goodreads.com: 

The O'Briens follows the family from The Law of Dreams two generations later: Joe O'Brien is coming of age in a new century in remote Pontiac County, Quebec, with his two brothers and two sisters by his side. Their father has abandoned the family and died in the South African war; their frail mother has remarried the abusive and lecherous Mick Heaney. Joe and his siblings escape the poverty and violence of the Pontiac, but as Joe travels the continent, building a business and a bright young family with his wife, Iseult, he is never quite able to leave his past behind.

Told from the perspectives of Joe, Iseult, and their children and spanning the construction of the Canadian railroad as well as both world wars, this is a majestic novel that mirrors the scope and sweep of what Wilfrid Laurier calls "Canada's Century." Tragic, romantic, and as vivid as the novel that preceded it, The O'Briens is an epic of great heart, imagination, and narrative force.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Just Started...

Zach has started reading Calico Joe by John Grisham—yes, the writer of legal thrillers.


It began quietly enough with a pulled hamstring. The first baseman for the Cubs AAA affiliate in Wichita went down as he rounded third and headed for home. The next day, Jim Hickman, the first baseman for the Cubs, injured his back. The team suddenly needed someone to play first, so they reached down to their AA club in Midland, Texas, and called up a twenty-one-year-old named Joe Castle. He was the hottest player in AA and creating a buzz.

In the summer of 1973 Joe Castle was the boy wonder of baseball, the greatest rookie anyone had ever seen.  The kid from Calico Rock, Arkansas dazzled Cub fans as he hit home run after home run, politely tipping his hat to the crowd as he shattered all rookie records.

Calico Joe quickly became the idol of every baseball fan in America, including Paul Tracey, the young son of a hard-partying and hard-throwing Mets pitcher. On the day that Warren Tracey finally faced Calico Joe, Paul was in the stands, rooting for his idol but also for his Dad. Then Warren threw a fastball that would change their lives forever…

Monday, July 2, 2012

Heard about a Book...

From Robert Goolrick, the author of one of our favorite books, The Reliable Wife (see 2/16/2010), is a new novel called Heading Out to Wonderful. I am looking forward to trying it.

From Goodreads.com:

An attractive and enigmatic stranger -- Charlie Beale, a loner recently home from the war in Europe -- wanders into the town of Brownsburg, a sleepy village of only a few hundred people nestled in the Valley of Virginia. He brings with him two suitcases: one contains all his worldly possessions, including a set of butcher knives; the other is full of money.

Charlie quickly finds a job at the local butcher shop and through his work there meets all the townspeople, most notably Sam Haislett, the five-year-old son of the shop's owner, and Sylvan Glass, the beautiful, eccentric teenage bride of the town's richest man. What no one anticipates is how the interaction of these three people will alter the town forever, and how the passion that flares between Charlie and Sylvan will mark young Sam for life.

Told through the eyes of Sam, now an older man looking back on that time, this much-anticipated second novel from Robert Goolrick is an exciting, erotically charged, and altogether unforgettable story of love gone terrible wrong in a place where once upon a time such things could happen.

Just Started...

For Father's Day, Jim received Cronkite by Douglas Brinkley, the new biography about Walter Cronkite, one of America's most renown television journalists.

About
Cronkite:

Douglas Brinkley presents the definitive, revealing biography of an American legend: renowned news anchor Walter Cronkite. An acclaimed author and historian, Brinkley has drawn upon recently disclosed letters, diaries, and other artifacts at the recently opened Cronkite Archive to bring detail and depth to this deeply personal portrait. He also interviewed nearly two hundred of Cronkite’s closest friends and colleagues, including Andy Rooney, Leslie Stahl, Barbara Walters, Dan Rather, Brian Williams, Les Moonves, Christiane Amanpour, Katie Couric, Bob Schieffer, Ted Turner, Jimmy Buffett, and Morley Safer, using their voices to instill dignity and humanity in this study of one of America’s most beloved and trusted public figures.

Just Started...

Cheryl has started the latest paperback from one of her favorite romance authors, The Ideal Man by Julie Garwood. I didn't even know she was writing a book about me...

From Goodreads.com:

Dr. Ellie Sullivan has just completed her residency at a large urban hospital. While jogging in a park nearby, she witnesses the shooting of an FBI agent in pursuit of wanted criminals, a couple identified as the Landrys. The only person to see the shooter's face, Ellie is suddenly at the center of a criminal investigation.

Agent Max Daniels takes over the Landry case. A no-nonsense lawman, he's definitely not the ideal man that Ellie has always imagined, yet she's attracted to him in a way she can't explain.

Ellie heads home to Winston Falls, South Carolina, to attend her sister's wedding. Shortly after she arrives, though, she receives a surprise visitor: Max Daniels. The Landrys have been captured, and she'll be called to testify. But they've been captured before, and each time the witnesses are scared into silence-or disappear before they can take the stand. Max vows to be Ellie's shadow until the trial, and it isn't long before sparks fly.

Heard about a Book...

Canada by Richard Ford is getting lots of good reviews including the NY Times Sunday Book Review, The Guardian, and NPR.

About
Canada:

"First, I’ll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then the murders, which happened later.”

So begins Canada, the unforgettable story of Dell Parsons, a young man forced by catastrophic circumstances to reconcile himself to a world rendered unrecognizable. Spirited across the Montana border into Saskatchewan and taken in by Arthur Remlinger, an enigmatic man whose own past exists on the other side of the border, Dell struggles to understand what his future can be even as he comes to understand the violence simmering below the surface in his new life.

In this brilliant novel, set largely in Saskatchewan, Richard Ford has created a masterwork. Haunting and spectacular in vision, Canada is a novel rich with emotional clarity and lyrical precision, and an acute sense of the grandeur of living. It is a classic-in-the-making from one of our time’s greatest writers.

Just Started...

Let's try this again... The Art of Fielding by Chad Harback is getting a lot of attention. I've read the first chapter and he writes very well.

From Goodreads.com:

At Westish College, a small school on the shore of Lake Michigan, baseball star Henry Skrimshander seems destined for big league stardom. But when a routine throw goes disastrously off course, the fates of five people are upended.

Henry's fight against self-doubt threatens to ruin his future. College president Guert Affenlight, a longtime bachelor, has fallen unexpectedly and helplessly in love. Owen Dunne, Henry's gay roommate and teammate, becomes caught up in a dangerous affair. Mike Schwartz, the Harpooners' team captain and Henry's best friend, realizes he has guided Henry's career at the expense of his own. And Pella Affenlight, Guert's daughter, returns to Westish after escaping an ill-fated marriage, determined to start a new life.

As the season counts down to its climactic final game, these five are forced to confront their deepest hopes, anxieties, and secrets. In the process they forge new bonds, and help one another find their true paths. Written with boundless intelligence and filled with the tenderness of youth, The Art of Fielding is an expansive, warmhearted novel about ambition and its limits, about family and friendship and love, and about commitment—to oneself and to others
.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Heard about a Book...

I heard Karl Marlantes, the author of Matterhorn (see May 7th), interviewed on NPR about his new memoir What It Is Like to Go to War, based on his own experiences in Vietnam.

From Goodreads.com:

From the author of the New York Times Bestseller Matterhorn, this is a powerful nonfiction book about the experience of combat and how inadequately we prepare our young men and women for war.

War is as old as humankind, but in the past, warriors were prepared for battle by ritual, religion and literature—which also helped bring them home. In a compelling narrative, Marlantes weaves riveting accounts of his combat experiences with thoughtful analysis, self-examination and his readings—from Homer to the Mahabharata to Jung. He talks frankly about how he is haunted by the face of the young North Vietnamese soldier he killed at close quarters and how he finally finds a way to make peace with his past. Marlantes discusses the daily contradictions that warriors face in the grind of war, where each battle requires them to take life or spare life, and where they enter a state he likens to the fervor of religious ecstasy.

Just as Matterhorn is already being acclaimed as a classic of war literature, What It Is Like To Go To War is set to become required reading for anyone—soldier or civilian—interested in this visceral and all too essential part of the human experience.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Favorite Bookstores...

Cheryl is in Seattle and stopped by Elliott Bay Book Company.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Heard about a Book...

I have seen this on the new book shelves at several bookstores—The Blind Contessa's New Machine by Carey Wallace.

From Goodreads.com:

In the early 1800s, a young Italian contessa, Carolina Fantoni, realizes she is going blind shortly before she marries the town's most sought-after bachelor. Her parents don't believe her, nor does her fiancé. The only one who understands is the eccentric local inventor and her longtime companion, Turri. When her eyesight dims forever, Carolina can no longer see her beloved lake or the rich hues of her own dresses. But as darkness erases her world, she discovers one place she can still see-in her dreams. Carolina creates a vivid dreaming life, in which she can not only see, but also fly, exploring lands she had never known.

Desperate to communicate with Carolina, Turri invents a peculiar machine for her: the world's first typewriter. His gift ignites a passionate love affair that will change both of their lives forever.

Based on the true story of a nineteenth-century inventor and his innovative contraption, The Blind Contessa's New Machine is an enchanting confection of love and the triumph of the imagination.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Favorite Bookstores...

Stopped into the Dusty Bookshelf in Lawrence yesterday.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Heard about a Book...

On Here & Now today, I listened to an interview with Wes Moore, the author of The Other Wes Moore that is turning out to be the freshman read this fall on many college campuses. He was very interesting and his book sounds very powerful.

From the author's website:

Two kids with the same name, living in the same city. One grew up to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated combat veteran, White House Fellow, and business leader. The other is serving a life sentence in prison for felony murder. Here is the story of two boys and the journey of a generation.

In December 2000, the Baltimore Sun ran a small piece about Wes Moore, a local student who had just received a Rhodes Scholarship. The same paper also ran a series of articles about four young men who had allegedly killed a police officer in a spectacularly botched armed robbery. The police were still hunting for two of the suspects who had gone on the lam, a pair of brothers. One was named Wes Moore.

Wes just couldn’t shake off the unsettling coincidence, or the inkling that the two shared much more than space in the same newspaper. After following the story of the robbery, the manhunt, and the trial to its conclusion, he wrote a letter to the other Wes, now a convicted murderer serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. His letter tentatively asked the questions that had been haunting him: Who are you? How did this happen?

That letter led to a correspondence and relationship that has lasted for several years. Over dozens of letters and prison visits, Wes discovered that the other Wes had a life not unlike his own: Both had grown up in similar neighborhoods and had difficult childhoods, both were fatherless; they’d hung out on similar corners with similar crews, and both had run into trouble with the police. At each stage of their young lives they had come across similar moments of decision, yet their choices and the people in their lives would lead them to astonishingly different destinies.

Told in alternating dramatic narratives that take readers from heart-wrenching losses to moments of surprising redemption, The Other Wes Moore tells the story of a generation of boys trying to find their way in a challenging and at times, hostile world.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Heard about a Book...

I heard an interview on NPR with Alexandra Fuller about her new memoir Cocktail Hour under the Tree of Forgetfulness. She was very interesting and the passages she read were well written.

From the author's website:

In Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness Alexandra Fuller braids a multi-layered narrative around the perfectly lit, Happy Valley-era Africa of her mother's childhood; the emotionally frozen landscape of her father's English childhood; and the darker, civil war- torn Africa of her own childhood. At its heart, this is the story of Fuller's mother, Nicola. Born on the Scottish Isle of Skye and raised in Kenya, Nicola holds dear the kinds of values most likely to get you hurt or killed in Africa: loyalty to blood, passion for land, and a holy belief in the restorative power of all animals. A story of survival and madness, love and war, loyalty and forgiveness, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is an intimate exploration of the author's family.

Just Started...

I've started the first book of the Outlander series, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.

From the author's website:

In 1946, after WWII, a young Englishwoman named Claire Beauchamp Randall goes to the Scottish Highlands with her husband, Frank. She’s an ex-combat nurse, he’s been in the army as well, they’ve been separated for the last six years, and this is a second honeymoon; they’re getting re-acquainted with each other, thinking of starting a family. But one day Claire goes out walking by herself, and comes across a circle of standing stones–such circles are in fact common all over northern Britain. She walks through a cleft stone in the circle….and disappears. Back into 1743, where the first person she meets is a gentleman in an 18th-century army officer’s uniform. This gentleman, Jack Randall, looks just like her husband Frank–and proves to be Frank’s six-times-great-grandfather. Unfortunately, he also proves to be a sadistic bisexual pervert, and while trying to escape from him, Claire falls into the hands of a gang of Highland Scots, who are also trying to get away from Black Jack Randall–though for other reasons.

In order to avoid being handed over to Captain Randall, Claire is obliged to marry one of the young clansmen. So she finds herself trying to escape from Castle Leoch and her Scottish captors, trying to get back to her husband Frank, trying to avoid being recaptured by Captain Randall–and falling in love with Jamie Fraser, the young man she’s been forced to marry.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Just Started...

For Cheryl's birthday, I gave her a novel recommended by Rainy Day Books, Beginner's Greek by James Collins.

From Goodreads.com:

Is love at first sight possible or just an old-fashioned romantic idea? And what if, to further complicate things, you meet the love of your life and then lose her phone number? Then what if, after the impossible happens and you find her again, she's now about to marry a roguish lothario who is also your best friend? The complications don't end there for Peter Russell, the winning hero of James Collins' charming, generous, and romantic first novel. Part modern-day Jane Austen, part Tom Wolfe, Beginner's Greek is a romantic comedy of the highest order, with characters who are perfectly, charmingly real as they swerve and stumble from fairy tale to social satire and back again.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Just Started...

Cheryl just checkout Rescue by Anita Shreve. Cheryl says its good so far, a quick read.

From Goodreads.com:

A rookie paramedic pulls a young woman alive from her totaled car, a first rescue that begins a lifelong tangle of love and wreckage. Sheila Arsenault is a gorgeous enigma--streetwise and tough-talking, with haunted eyes, fierce desires, and a never-look-back determination. Peter Webster, as straight an arrow as they come, falls for her instantly and entirely. Soon Sheila and Peter are embroiled in an intense love affair, married, and parents to a baby daughter. Like the crash that brought them together, it all happened so fast.

Can you ever really save another person? Eighteen years later, Sheila is long gone and Peter is raising their daughter, Rowan, alone. But Rowan is veering dangerously off track, and for the first time in their ordered existence together, Webster fears for her future. His work shows him daily every danger the world contains, how wrong everything can go in a second. All the love a father can give a daughter is suddenly not enough.

Sheila's sudden return may be a godsend--or it may be exactly the wrong moment for a lifetime of questions and anger and longing to surface anew. What tore a young family apart? Is there even worse damage ahead? The questions lifted up in Anita Shreve's utterly enthralling new novel are deep and lasting, and this is a novel that could only have been written by a master of the human heart.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Just Started...

From our favorite beach bookstore, Sundog Books, Cheryl bought Staying at Daisy's by Jill Mansell, one of the romance author's she follows.

From Goodreads.com:

If you're looking for a hotel where anything can happen, try staying at Daisy's...

Daisy MacLean runs the country house hotel owned by her flamboyant father, Hector. When she hears who's about to get married there, she isn't worried at all - her friend Tara absolutely promises there won't be any trouble between her and ex-boyfriend Dominic, whom she hasn't seen for years. But Daisy should be worried. Dominic has other ideas. And seeing Tara again sets in motion a chaotic train of events with far-reaching consequences for all concerned.

While Daisy spends the ensuing months doing battle with Dev Tyzack (Dominic's so-called best man), Tara battles with her conscience. Meanwhile, Hector's getting up to all sorts with...well, that's the village's best kept secret. And then Barney turns up, with a little something belonging to the husband Daisy's been doing her best to forget. That's the thing about hotels, you never know who you're going to meet. Or whether they're going to stay...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Favorite Bookstores...

Hello old friend... Sundog Books, Seaside, Florida.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Just Finished...

Jim just finished Just One Look by Harlan Coben, a "quick thriller."

From the author's website:

An ordinary snapshot causes a suburban mother’s world to unravel in an instant. When Grace Lawson picks up a newly developed set of family photographs, there is a picture that doesn’t belong—a photo from at least twenty years ago. In the photo are five people, four Grace can’t recognize and one that looks strikingly like her husband, Jack.

When Jack sees the photo, he denies he’s the man in it. But later that night, while Grace lies in bed waiting, he drives away in the family's minivan without an explanation, taking the photograph with him.

Not knowing where he went or why he left, Grace struggles alone to shield her children from Jack’s absence in the days that follow. Each passing day brings only doubts about herself and her marriage and yet more unanswered questions about Jack, along with the realization that there are others looking for Jack and the photograph—including one fierce, silent killer who will not be stopped from finding his quarry, no matter who or what stands in his way.

When the police won’t help her, and neighbors and friends alike seem to have agendas of their own, she must confront the dark corners of her own tragic past to keep her children safe and learn the truth that might bring her husband home.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Heard about a Book...

Heard a radio caller say this was a great audio book—The Last Days of Ptolemy by Walter Mosley.

From the author's website:

At ninety-one years old, Ptolemy Grey is one of the world’s forgotten: by his family, by his friends, by even himself. Marooned in a cluttered Los Angeles apartment overflowing with mementos from his past, Ptolemy sinks deeper into lonely dementia and into a past that’s best left buried. He’s determined to pass the rest of his days with only his memories for company. Until, at his grandnephew’s funeral, he meets Robyn and experiences a seismic shift, in his head, his heart, and his life.

Seventeen and without a family of her own, Robyn is unlike anyone Ptolemy has ever known. She and Ptolemy form an unexpected bond that reinvigorates his world. Robyn will not tolerate the way he has allowed himself to live, skulking in and out of awareness barely long enough to cash his small pension checks, living in fear of his neighbors and the memories that threaten to swallow him. With Robyn’s help, Ptolemy moves from isolation back into the brightness of friendship and desire. But Robyn’s challenges also push Ptolemy to make a life-changing decision that will affect both of them: to recapture the clarity and vigor of his fading mind and unlock the secrets he has carried for decades.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Heard about a Book...

I read several good reviews (Guardian News, The Independent, Seattle Post) about Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson.

From Goodreads.com:

'As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I'm still a child. Thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me ...' Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love - all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story. Welcome to Christine's life.

Heard about a Book...

For you WWII buffs, A Measureless Peril by Richard Snow looks very interesting.

About the book:

Author Richard Snow tackles the longest battle of WWII, the Battle of the Atlantic, which ran from 1939 through 1945. The story of this aspect of the war gets short shrift in most WWII histories and documentaries despite being the one area where Germany came the closest to actually winning the war. Snow takes the reader from the difficult early days of the war when the Allies struggled to deal with the U-Boat menace that was sinking a shocking amount of tonnage meant for Great Britain and later the Soviet Union which the members of the Kriegsmarine called "The Happy Time" through the painful evolution in tactics, technology & broken German codes that finally allowed the Allies to end the threat posed by the U-Boats. Snow introduces us to the brave men of the Merchant Marine and those who sailed on the newly introduced Destroyer Escort (DE) class specifically built to take on the U-Boats as they escorted Allied convoys across the Atlantic. As noted, author Snow's father was one of those who served on a DE during the war and his personal story along with those of many others bring the needed human element to the narrative of this battle. These stories bring home just how hostile the Atlantic was for the men on both sides of the fight as the ocean didn't play favorites. This work wasn't intended as a serious, in-depth study of tactics and strategy but Snow does provide a good overview to put these personal stories in context of the times these battles were fought. Those who desire to better understand the human toll taken by this battle would be hard pressed to find a better book from where to start as Snow's writing is readily accessible without the prerequisite need for extensive knowledge of this theater.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Heard about a Book...

I'm hearing good things about The Hypnotist by Swedish writer Lars Kepler (The Independent, The Daily Beast). Might be the next Stieg Larsson...

About The Hypnotist:

A triple homicide has Sweden on edge, and with the killer still at large, Detective Inspector Joona Linna’s only lead is one of the intended victims—the boy who saw his family killed before his eyes. But severely wounded and in a state of shock, he’s in no condition to be questioned.

Desperate for information, Linna enlists Dr. Erik Maria Bark to hypnotize the boy, hoping for some insight on the killer. It’s the sort of work that Bark had sworn he would never do again—ethically dubious and psychically scarring—and when he breaks his vow and hypnotizes the boy, a terrifying chain of events begins to unfurl…

Heard about a Book...

I follow several book and grammer twitterers (is that how you say people who twitter?), and Mignon Fogarty, A.k.A. @GrammarGirl, has a new grammar guide, 101 Misused Words You'll Never Confuse Again.

From Goodreads.com:

Millions of fans around the world write and communicate better thanks to Mignon Fogarty, aka Grammar Girl, whose weekly grammar podcast has been downloaded more than 30 million times. Since her first book, Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, hit the New York Times bestseller list, her grammar empire has expanded to boast more than 40,000 newsletter subscribers, over 75,000 Twitter followers, and thousands of loyal “devotees” worldwide. Now she’s focusing her attention on improving our vocabulary with a series of 101 Words books designed to appeal to the masses.

The series kicks off with Grammar Girl’s 101 Misused Words You’ll Never Confuse Again, an immensely usable guide that tackles those words that confound and confuse even the smartest of people. Nearly everyone has trouble remembering the difference between “affect” and “effect,” whether it’s “supposedly” or “supposably,” or which form of “hear” you use in “Hear, hear!” (Or is it “Here, here!”?)

Each word pair entry contains a straightforward explanation—complete with examples—to ensure (or is it “insure”?) readers will be confidently choosing “who” over “whom” or “uninterested” over “disinterested” with ease. Alongside these usage notes will be fun tidbits including famous quotes, sample crossword entries, and the memory tricks Grammar Girl is known for.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Just Started...

Upon Paul's recommendation, Jim is reading The Last Stand by Nathaniel Philbrick, an account of the battle of Little Bighorn.

From the author's website:

Little Bighorn and Custer are names synonymous in the American imagination with unmatched bravery and spectacular defeat. Mythologized as Custer’s Last Stand, the June 1876 battle has been equated with other famous last stands, from the Spartans’ defeat at Thermopylae to Davy Crockett at the Alamo.

In his tightly structured narrative, Nathaniel Philbrick brilliantly sketches the two larger-than-life antagonists: Sitting Bull, whose charisma and political savvy earned him the position of leader of the Plains Indians, and George Armstrong Custer, one of the Union’s greatest cavalry officers and a man with a reputation for fearless and often reckless courage. Philbrick reminds readers that the Battle of the Little Bighorn was also, even in victory, the last stand for the Sioux and Cheyenne Indian nations. Increasingly outraged by the government’s Indian policies, the Plains tribes allied themselves and held their ground in southern Montana. Within a few years of Little Bighorn, however, all the major tribal leaders would be confined to Indian reservations.

Throughout, Philbrick beautifully evokes the history and geography of the Great Plains with his characteristic grace and sense of drama. The Last Stand is a mesmerizing account of the archetypal story of the American West, one that continues to haunt our collective imagination.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Classic...

Today is the 75th anniversary of the publication of Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell. It sold over one million copies in the first six months of publication and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1937. There is an excellent retrospective by NPR's Susan Stamberg on Morning Edition today.

About Gone With The Wind:

It is the spring of 1861. Scarlett O’Hara, a pretty Southern belle, lives on Tara, a large plantation in Georgia. She concerns herself only with her numerous suitors and her desire to marry Ashley Wilkes. One day she hears that Ashley is engaged to Melanie Hamilton, his frail, plain cousin from Atlanta. At a barbecue at the Wilkes plantation the next day, Scarlett confesses her feelings to Ashley. He tells her that he does love her but that he is marrying Melanie because she is similar to him, whereas he and Scarlett are very different. Scarlett slaps Ashley and he leaves the room. Suddenly Scarlett realizes that she is not alone. Rhett Butler, a scandalous but dashing adventurer, has been watching the whole scene, and he compliments Scarlett on being unladylike.

The Civil War begins. Charles Hamilton, Melanie’s timid, dull brother, proposes to Scarlett. She spitefully agrees to marry him, hoping to hurt Ashley. Over the course of two months, Scarlett and Charles marry, Charles joins the army and dies of the measles, and Scarlett learns that she is pregnant. After Scarlett gives birth to a son, Wade, she becomes bored and unhappy. She makes a long trip to Atlanta to stay with Melanie and Melanie’s aunt, Pittypat. The busy city agrees with Scarlett’s temperament, and she begins to see a great deal of Rhett. Rhett infuriates Scarlett with his bluntness and mockery, but he also encourages her to flout the severely restrictive social requirements for mourning Southern widows. As the war progresses, food and clothing run scarce in Atlanta. Scarlett and Melanie fear for Ashley’s safety. After the bloody battle of Gettysburg, Ashley is captured and sent to prison, and the Yankee army begins bearing down on Atlanta. Scarlett desperately wants to return home to Tara, but she has promised Ashley she will stay with the pregnant Melanie, who could give birth at any time.

On the night the Yankees capture Atlanta and set it afire, Melanie gives birth to her son, Beau. Rhett helps Scarlett and Melanie escape the Yankees, escorting them through the burning streets of the city, but he abandons them outside Atlanta so he can join the Confederate Army. Scarlett drives the cart all night and day through a dangerous forest full of deserters and soldiers, at last reaching Tara. She arrives to find that her mother, Ellen, is dead; her father, Gerald, has lost his mind; and the Yankee army has looted the plantation, leaving no food or cotton. Scavenging for subsistence, a furious Scarlett vows never to go hungry again.

Scarlett takes charge of rebuilding Tara. She murders a Yankee thief and puts out a fire set by a spiteful Yankee soldier. At last the war ends, word comes that Ashley is free and on his way home, and a stream of returning soldiers begins pouring through Tara. One such soldier, a one-legged homeless Confederate named Will Benteen, stays on and helps Scarlett with the plantation. One day, Will brings terrible news: Jonas Wilkerson, a former employee at Tara and current government official, has raised the taxes on Tara, hoping to drive the O’Haras out so that he might buy the plantation. Distraught, Scarlett hurries to Atlanta to seduce Rhett Butler so that he will give her the three hundred dollars she needs for taxes. Rhett has emerged from the war a fabulously wealthy man, dripping with earnings from his blockade-running operation and from food speculation. However, Rhett is in a Yankee jail and cannot help Scarlett. Scarlett sees her sister’s beau, Frank Kennedy, who now owns a general store, and forges a plan. Determined to save Tara, she betrays her sister and marries Frank, pays the taxes on Tara, and devotes herself to making Frank’s business more profitable.

After Rhett blackmails his way out of prison, he lends Scarlett enough money to buy a sawmill. To the displeasure of Atlanta society, Scarlett becomes a shrewd businesswoman. Gerald dies, and Scarlett returns to Tara for the funeral. There, she persuades Ashley and Melanie to move to Atlanta and accept a share in her lumber business. Shortly thereafter, Scarlett gives birth to Frank’s child, Ella Lorena.

A free black man and his white male companion attack Scarlett on her way home from the sawmill one day. That night, the Ku Klux Klan avenges the attack on Scarlett, and Frank ends up dead. Rhett proposes to Scarlett and she quickly accepts. After a long, luxurious honeymoon in New Orleans, Scarlett and Rhett return to Atlanta, where Scarlett builds a garish mansion and socializes with wealthy Yankees. Scarlett becomes pregnant again and has another child, Bonnie Blue Butler. Rhett dotes on the girl and begins a successful campaign to win back the good graces of the prominent Atlanta citizens in order to keep Bonnie from being an outcast like Scarlett.

Scarlett and Rhett’s marriage begins happily, but Rhett becomes increasingly bitter and indifferent toward her. Scarlett’s feelings for Ashley have diminished into a warm, sympathetic friendship, but Ashley’s jealous sister, India, finds them in a friendly embrace and spreads the rumor that they are having an affair. To Scarlett’s surprise, Melanie takes Scarlett’s side and refuses to believe the rumors.

After Bonnie is killed in a horse-riding accident, Rhett nearly loses his mind, and his marriage with Scarlett worsens. Not long after the funeral, Melanie has a miscarriage and falls very ill. Distraught, Scarlett hurries to see her. Melanie makes Scarlett promise to look after Ashley and Beau. Scarlett realizes that she loves and depends on Melanie and that Ashley has been only a fantasy for her. She concludes that she truly loves Rhett. After Melanie dies, Scarlett hurries to tell Rhett of her revelation. Rhett, however, says that he has lost his love for Scarlett, and he leaves her. Grief-stricken and alone, Scarlett makes up her mind to go back to Tara to recover her strength in the comforting arms of her childhood nurse and slave, Mammy, and to think of a way to win Rhett back.

Just Started...

Cheryl picked up a pile of new releases at the library. I started The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse last night, and it's very good so far. Check it out.

From the author's website:

In the winter of 1928, still seeking some kind of resolution to the horrors of World War I, Freddie is traveling through the beautiful but forbidding French Pyrenees. During a snowstorm, his car spins off the mountain road. Dazed, he stumbles through the woods, emerging in a tiny village, where he finds an inn to wait out the blizzard. There he meets Fabrissa, a lovely young woman also mourning a lost generation.

Over the course of one night, Fabrissa and Freddie share their stories. By the time dawn breaks, Freddie will have unearthed a tragic, centuries-old mystery, and discovered his own role in the life of this remote town.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Heard about a Book...

I've read several good reviews about A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion by Ron Hanson (The NY Times, NPR, Oprah).

From Goodreads.com:

Based on a real case whose lurid details scandalized Americans in 1927 and sold millions of newspapers, acclaimed novelist Ron Hansen’s latest work is a tour de force of erotic tension and looming violence. Trapped in a loveless marriage, Ruth Snyder is a voluptuous, reckless, and altogether irresistible woman who wishes not only to escape her husband but that he die—and the sooner the better. No less miserable in his own tedious marriage is Judd Gray, a dapper corset-and-brassiere salesman who travels the Northeast peddling his wares. He meets Ruth in a Manhattan diner, and soon they are conducting a white-hot affair involving hotel rooms, secret letters, clandestine travels, and above all, Ruth’s increasing insistence that Judd kill her husband. Could he do it? Would he? What follows is a thrilling exposition of a murder plan, a police investigation, the lovers’ attempt to escape prosecution, and a final reckoning for both of them that lays bare the horror and sorrow of what they have done. Dazzlingly well-written and artfully constructed, this impossible-to-put-down story marks the return of an American master known for his elegant and vivid novels that cut cleanly to the essence of the human heart, always and at once mysterious and filled with desire.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Heard about a Book...

I heard about a new young adult trilogy—The Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth. The first story was released in May, Divergent. It might be the next Hunger Games...

From the publisher's website:

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Just Started...

Upon recommendation by Rainy Day Books and Pat & Steve, I have just started People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. So far, so good (see July 19th).

Friday, June 17, 2011

Heard about a Book...

Another summer read mentioned on Talk of the Nation is the classic Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum, originally published in 1899.

About the book:

In 1895, Slocum set sail in his sloop, the Spray, on a voyage that was to take 3 years & earn him a place in history as the first man to navigate the globe singlehandedly. Here is Slocum's own story, told with the salt resilience of an old sailor.

From the Joshua Slocum Society International:

Nova Scotia born, with family roots in New England, Captain Slocum commanded some of the finest tall ships that ever sailed the seas. On April 24, 1895, at the age of 51, he departed Boston in his tiny sloop Spray and sailed around the world single-handed, a passage of 46,000 miles, returning to Newport, Rhode Island on June 27, 1898. This historic achievement made him the patron saint of small-boat voyagers, navigators and adventurers all over the world.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Heard about a Book...

Talk of the Nation today had a call-in segment on summer reads. The guest book critic Laura Miller agreed with a caller that Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran was a great mystery novel. AND according to the the publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, its the first book of a future series. Check it out.

About the novel:

Claire DeWitt is not your average private investigator. She has brilliant deductive skills and is an ace at discovering evidence. But Claire also uses her dreams, omens, and mind-expanding herbs to help her solve mysteries, and relies on Détection — the only book published by the late, great, and mysterious French detective Jacques Silette.

The tattooed, pot-smoking Claire has just arrived in post-Katrina New Orleans, the city she’s avoided since her mentor, Silette’s student Constance Darling, was murdered there. Claire is investigating the disappearance of Vic Willing, a prosecutor known for winning convictions in a homicide- plagued city. Has an angry criminal enacted revenge on Vic? Or did he use the storm as a means to disappear? Claire follows the clues, finding old friends and making new enemies — foremost among them Andray Fairview, a young gang member who just might hold the key to the mystery.

Littered with memories of Claire’s years as a girl detective in 1980s Brooklyn,
Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead is a knockout start to a bracingly original new series.

Heard about a Book...

For music lovers, Out of the Vinyl Deeps, a collection of articles by Ellen Willis, edited by Nona Willis Aronowitz, looks very interesting. Willis was the pop music critic for The New Yorker in the late 60s and 70s. According to The New York Times Sunday Book Review, "...this selection of 59 articles, primarily from the late ’60s to mid-’70s, offers a fresh look at that era’s well-documented music."

From Goodreads.com:

In 1968, the New Yorker hired Ellen Willis as its first popular music critic. Her column, Rock, Etc., ran for seven years and established Willis as a leader in cultural commentary and a pioneer in the nascent and otherwise male-dominated field of rock criticism. As a writer for a magazine with a circulation of nearly half a million, Willis was also the country’s most widely read rock critic. With a voice at once sharp, thoughtful, and ecstatic, she covered a wide range of artists—Bob Dylan, The Who, Van Morrison, Elvis Presley, David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Joni Mitchell, the Velvet Underground, Sam and Dave, Bruce Springsteen, and Stevie Wonder—assessing their albums and performances not only on their originality, musicianship, and cultural impact but also in terms of how they made her feel.

Because Willis stopped writing about music in the early 1980s—when, she felt, rock ’n’ roll had lost its political edge—her significant contribution to the history and reception of rock music has been overshadowed by contemporary music critics like Robert Christgau, Lester Bangs, and Dave Marsh. Out of the Vinyl Deeps collects for the first time Willis’s Rock, Etc. columns and her other writings about popular music from this period (including liner notes for works by Lou Reed and Janis Joplin) and reasserts her rightful place in rock music criticism.

More than simply setting the record straight, Out of the Vinyl Deeps reintroduces Willis’s singular approach and style—her use of music to comment on broader social and political issues, critical acuity, vivid prose, against-the-grain opinions, and distinctly female (and feminist) perspective—to a new generation of readers. Featuring essays by the New Yorker’s current popular music critic, Sasha Frere-Jones, and cultural critics Daphne Carr and Evie Nagy, this volume also provides a lively and still relevant account of rock music during, arguably, its most innovative period.

Heard about a Book...

I heard an interview on NPR with Jamil Ahmad, the author of Wandering Falcon, a collection of stories about the tribal regions of Pakistan. I'm not sure it's my cup of tea, but he was a compelling interview.

About Wandering Falcon:

The boy known as Tor Baz—the black falcon —wanders between tribes. He meets men who fight under different flags, and women who risk everything if they break their society’s code of honour. Where has he come from, and where will destiny take him?

Set in the decades before the rise of the Taliban, Jamil Ahmad’s stunning debut takes us to the essence of human life in the forbidden areas where the borders of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan meet. Today the ‘tribal areas’ are often spoken about as a remote region, a hotbed of conspiracies, drone attacks and conflict. In The Wandering Falcon, this highly traditional, honour-bound culture is revealed from the inside for the first time.

With rare tenderness and perception, Jamil Ahmad describes a world of custom and cruelty, of love and gentleness, of hardship and survival; a fragile, unforgiving world that is changing as modern forces make themselves known. With the fate-defying story of Tor Baz, he has written an unforgettable novel of insight, compassion and timeless wisdom.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Heard about a Book...

Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan was just positively reviewed in The New York Times Sunday Book Review and looks like it might be a good summer read. Check it out.

From the author's website:

For the Kellehers, Maine is a place where children run in packs, showers are taken outdoors, and old Irish songs are sung around a piano at night. Their beachfront property, won on a barroom bet after the war, sits on three acres of sand and pine nestled between stretches of rocky coast, with one tree bearing the initials “A.H.” At the cottage, built by Kelleher hands, cocktail hour follows morning mass, nosy grandchildren snoop in drawers, and decades-old grudges simmer beneath the surface.

As three generations of Kelleher women descend on the property one summer, each brings her own hopes and fears. Maggie is thirty-two and pregnant, waiting for the perfect moment to tell her imperfect boyfriend the news; Ann Marie, a Kelleher by marriage, is channeling her domestic frustration into a dollhouse obsession and an ill-advised crush; Kathleen, the black sheep, never wanted to set foot in the cottage again; and Alice, the matriarch at the center of it all, would trade every floorboard for a chance to undo the events of one night, long ago.

By turns wickedly funny and achingly sad, Maine unveils the sibling rivalry, alcoholism, social climbing, and Catholic guilt at the center of one family, along with the abiding, often irrational love that keeps them coming back, every summer, to Maine and to each other.

Heard about a Book...

PatB highly recommends a poet I have never read, Billy Collins. Pat has read several collections of his poems including Ballistics and Nine Horses. Collins is the author of eight collections of poetry. A distinguished professor of English at Lehman College of the City University of New York, he was Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003 and Poet Laureate of New York State from 2004 to 2006. Here is a sample of his work:

I Ask You

What scene would I want to be enveloped in
more than this one,
an ordinary night at the kitchen table,
floral wallpaper pressing in,
white cabinets full of glass,
the telephone silent,
a pen tilted back in my hand?

It gives me time to think
about all that is going on outside—
leaves gathering in corners,
lichen greening the high grey rocks,
while over the dunes the world sails on,
huge, ocean-going, history bubbling in its wake.

But beyond this table
there is nothing that I need,
not even a job that would allow me to row to work,
or a coffee-colored Aston Martin DB4
with cracked green leather seats.

No, it's all here,
the clear ovals of a glass of water,
a small crate of oranges, a book on Stalin,
not to mention the odd snarling fish
in a frame on the wall,
and the way these three candles—
each a different height—
are singing in perfect harmony.

So forgive me
if I lower my head now and listen
to the short bass candle as he takes a solo
while my heart
thrums under my shirt—
frog at the edge of a pond—
and my thoughts fly off to a province
made of one enormous sky
and about a million empty branches.