Monday, May 31, 2010

Reading List...

Bailey just received three books for her summer reading pile.

Thirteen Plus One by Lauren Myracle - Winnie Perry is fourteen now, and the countdown to high school is shaping up to be as eventful as an entire year of middle school. Not only are things shaky with her boyfriend, Lars, but BFFs Dinah and Cinnamon have been acting weird, big sister Sandra is college-bound, little brother Ty has smuggled a stolen penguin home in his backpack, and new baby sister Maggie has everything turned upside down. It’s a lot for anyone to handle, and loyal Winnie is so busy worrying about everyone else that she hardly notices that she might just be struggling a little bit herself.

The Fashion Disaster That Saved My Life by Lauren Myracle - Alli longs to be popular, but fate just keeps conspiring to make her totally uncool. Who else would be humiliated by a piece of her mom's underwear stuck to her butt by static cling? Despite the fact that Alli is certain the universe is plotting against her, she does eventually break into the inner circle of seventh-grade cool. But nothing is as she expected, and there's ugliness lurking behind even the prettiest face. Alli bares it all to her journal as she figures out where she fits in and, most important of all, what it means to be a real friend.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart - Dozens of children respond to this peculiar ad in the newspaper and are then put through a series of mind-bending tests, which readers take along with them. Only four children-two boys and two girls-succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and inventive children could complete. To accomplish it they will have to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules. But what they'll find in the hidden underground tunnels of the school is more than your average school supplies. So, if you're gifted, creative, or happen to know Morse Code, they could probably use your help.

Just Started...

Mare just started The Dream Hunter by Sherrilyn Kenyon and reports, "Highly enjoyable romantic fantasy that brings in Greek mythos."

From the author's website (though I'm not sure if this description is about this one book, or the whole series—very complex stuff...):

In the ethereal world of dreams, there are champions who fight to protect the dreamer and there are demons who prey on them...

Arik is such a predator. Condemned by the gods to live eternity without emotions, Arik can only feel when hes in the dreams of others. For thousands of years, hes drifted through the human unconscious, searching for sensation. Now hes finally found a dreamer whose vivid mind can fill his emptiness.

Dr. Megeara Kafieri watched her father ruin himself and his reputation as he searched to prove Atlantis was real. Her deathbed promise to him to salvage his reputation has now brought her to Greece where she intends to prove once and for all that the fabled island is right where her father said it was. But frustration and bad luck dog her every step. Especially the day they find a stranger floating in the sea. His is a face shes seen many times.... in her dreams.

What she doesn't know is that Arik holds more than the ancient secrets that can help her find the mythical isle of Atlantis. He has made a pact with the god Hades: In exchange for two weeks as a mortal man, he must return to Olympus with a human soul. Megeara's soul.

With a secret society out to ruin her expedition, and mysterious accidents that keep threatening her life, Megeara refuses to quit. She knows shes getting closer to Atlantis and as she does, she stumbles onto the truth of what Arik really is.

For Arik his quest is no longer simple. No human can know of a Dream-Hunters existence. His dream of being mortal has quickly turned into his own nightmare and the only way to save himself will be to sacrifice the very thing he wanted to be human for. The only question is, will he?

Just Finished...

Mare just finished Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta and says, "This book is now added to my favorites!" It was first published in Australia in 2006 by Penguin Australia under the title On the Jellicoe Road, where it was awarded the 2008 West Australia Young Readers Book (WAYRB) Award for Older Readers. It was later published in the United States in 2008 under the abbreviated title Jellicoe Road and went on to win the 2009 Michael L. Printz Award from the American Library Association.

From the author's website:

Taylor Markham is not a popular choice. She is erratic, has no people skills and never turns up to meetings. Not to mention the incident when she ran off in search of her mother and only got halfway there. But she's lived at Jellicoe School most of her life and as leader of the boarders that's her greatest asset. Especially now the cadets, led by the infamous Jonah Griggs, have arrived. The territory wars between the boarders, townies and cadets are about to recommence.

But Taylor has other things on her mind: a prayer tree, the hermit who whispered in her ear, and a vaguely familiar drawing in the local police station. Taylor wants to understand the mystery of her own past. But Hannah, the woman who found her, has suddenly disappeared, leaving nothing but an unfinished manuscript about five kids whose lives entwined twenty years ago on the Jellicoe Road.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Reading List...

From a recent trip to the bookstore, several off of the staff recommendation shelves (alphabetical by author):

Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant - Sacred Hearts is set in a convent in Renaissance Italy where a defiant sixteen-year-old girl has just been confined against her will--for life. Santa Caterina's new novice sets in motion a chain of events that will shake the convent to its core.

Serafina, a willful, emotional & furious girl, has just been ripped from her proposed marriage and sent by her noble family to Santa Caterina. During her first night inside, such is her violent, incandescent rage that the dispensary mistress, Suora Zuana, is sent to her cell to calm her with a draft of herbs. Thus begins a complex relationship of trust and betrayal. And while outside the convent walls the forces of the Counter-Reformation push for ever more repressive changes, Serafina's rebellious spirit challenges not only Zuana but many other nuns who have made peace with the isolated life.

A rich, captivating, multifaceted love story, Sacred Hearts is a novel about power, creativity, passion -- both secular and spiritual -- and the indomitable spirit of women in an age when religious, political, and social forces were all stacked against them.

The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes - When young Joseph Banks stepped onto a Tahitian beach in 1769, he hoped to discover Paradise. Inspired by the scientific ferment sweeping through Britain, the botanist had sailed with Captain Cook on his first Endeavour voyage in search of new worlds. Other voyages of discovery—astronomical, chemical, poetical, philosophical—swiftly follow in Richard Holmes’s original evocation of what truly emerges as an Age of Wonder.

Brilliantly conceived as a relay of scientific stories, The Age of Wonder investigates the earliest ideas of deep time and space, and the explorers of “dynamic science,” of an infinite, mysterious Nature waiting to be discovered. Three lives dominate the book: William Herschel and his sister Caroline, whose dedication to the study of the stars forever changed the public conception of the solar system, the Milky Way, and the meaning of the universe; and
Humphry Davy, who, with only a grammar school education stunned the scientific community with his near-suicidal gas experiments that led to the invention of the miners’ lamp and established British chemistry as the leading professional science in Europe. This age of exploration extended to great writers and poets as well as scientists, all creators relishing in moments of high exhilaration, boundary-pushing and discovery.

Holmes’s extraordinary evocation of this age of wonder shows how great ideas and experiments—both successes and failures—were born of singular and often lonely dedication, and how religious faith and scientific truth collide. He has written a book breathtaking in its originality, its storytelling energy, and its intellectual significance.

Rhino Ranch by Larry McMurtry - In this poignant and striking final chapter in the Duane Moore story, which began in 1966 with The Last Picture Show, Pulitzer Prize- and Oscar-winning author Larry McMurtry takes readers on one last unforgettable journey to Thalia, Texas, a town that continues to change at a breakneck pace even as Duane feels himself slowing down.

Returning home to recover from a near-fatal heart attack, Duane discovers that he has a new neighbor: the statuesque K. K. Slater, a quirky billionairess who's come to Thalia to open the Rhino Ranch, dedicated to the preservation of the endangered black rhinoceros. Despite their obvious differences, Duane can't help but find himself charmed by K.K.'s stubborn toughness and lively spirit, and the two embark on a flirtation that rapidly veers toward the sexual -- but the return of Honor Carmichael complicates Duane's romantic intentions considerably. As Duane reflects on all that he and Thalia have been through, he feels adrift in a world where love and betrayal walk hand in hand and a stalwart Texas oil town can become home to a nature preserve.

Rhino Ranch is a fitting end to this iconic saga, an emotional, whimsical and bittersweet tribute to the lives of a man and a town that have inspired readers across decades.

The Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy Pickard - Seventeen years ago, the brutalized body of an unidentified young woman was discovered in the snow during a blizzard in the Flint Hills of Kansas. Deeply disturbed by this senseless death, the town rallied to give her a decent burial in the local cemetery. Since then, strange miracles have visited those who faithfully tend to her grave -- some even believe that her spirit can cure deadly illnesses. Slowly, the legend of the ill-fated girl -- the so-called Virgin of Small Plains -- has spread.

But with the reappearance of prodigal son Mitch Newquist, troubling questions arise. Why did Mich abandon his beloved girlfriend, Abby, and flee on the night of the murder? Can Abby unravel a tangled seventeen-year-old skein of lies? And why do the town's leading citizens, including Mitch and Abby's own families, seem determined to keep the truth buried?

Reading List...

I just finished Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand (see May 5th)—good beach read. She really has a sense of people. It's scary to me. Now I am reading Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas. Excellent. Reminds me of Mudbound by Hillary Jordan which every person should read. They are both great books—READ THEM!"

About
Tallgrass from the author's website:

During World War II, a family finds life turned upside-down when the government
opens a Japanese internment camp in their small Colorado town. After a young girl is murdered, all eyes turn to the newcomers. Rennie has just turned thirteen, and until this time, life has been predictable and fair. But the winds of change are coming and with them, a shift in her perspective and a discovery of secrets that can destroy even the most sacred things. Part thriller, part historical novel, Tallgrass is a riveting exploration of the darkest—and best—parts of the human heart.

CJ Says...

CJ just finished The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann and says, "I was not impressed. It has no comparison to The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey by Candice Millard (see February 10th) for Amazonian adventures. Interesting but boring."

From the author's website:

After stumbling upon a hidden trove of diaries, acclaimed New Yorker writer David Grann set out to solve “the greatest exploration mystery of the twentieth century”: What happened to the British explorer Percy Fawcett and his quest for the Lost City of Z?

In 1925, Fawcett ventured into the Amazon to find an ancient civilization, hoping to make one of the most important discoveries in history. For centuries Europeans believed the world’s largest jungle concealed the glittering kingdom of El Dorado. Thousands had died looking for it, leaving many scientists convinced that the Amazon was truly inimical to humankind. But Fawcett, whose daring expeditions helped inspire Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, had spent years building his scientific case. Captivating the imagination of millions around the globe, Fawcett embarked with his twenty-one-year-old son, determined to prove that this ancient civilization—which he dubbed “Z”—existed. Then he and his expedition vanished.

Fawcett’s fate—and the tantalizing clues he left behind about “Z”—became an obsession for hundreds who followed him into the uncharted wilderness. For decades scientists and adventurers have searched for evidence of Fawcett’s party and the lost City of Z. Countless have perished, been captured by tribes, or gone mad. As David Grann delved ever deeper into the mystery surrounding Fawcett’s quest, and the greater mystery of what lies within the Amazon, he found himself, like the generations who preceded him, drawn into the jungle’s “green hell.” His quest for the truth, and his stunning discoveries about Fawcett’s fate and “Z,” form the heart of this enthralling narrative.

Just Started...

At the urging of Cheryl, First on Bailey's summer reading list is Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, a time-honored classic. Bailey just finished To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (see March 25th) which she grudgingly read at my urging, and when she got to the end, she turned to her mother and said in surprise, "This was a good book!"

About Anne of Green Gables:

Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, brother and sister who live together at Green Gables, a farm in the village of Avonlea, on Prince Edward Island in Canada, decide to adopt a boy from an orphan asylum in Nova Scotia as a helper on their farm. Through a series of mishaps, the person who ends up under their roof is a precocious girl of eleven named Anne Shirley. Anne is bright and quick, eager to please and talkative, but dissatisfied with her name, her pale countenance dotted with freckles, and with her long braids of red hair. Although wishing she was named Cordelia, she insists that if you are to call her Anne, it must be spelt with an 'E', as it is "so much more distinguished." Being a child of imagination, however, Anne takes much joy in life, and adapts quickly, thriving in the environment of Prince Edward Island. She is something of a chatterbox, and drives the prim, duty-driven Marilla to distraction, although shy Matthew falls for her immediately.

The rest of the book recounts her continued education at school, where she excels in studies very quickly, her budding literary ambitions and her friendships with people such as Diana Barry (her best friend, "bosom friend" as Anne fondly calls her), Jane Andrews, Ruby Gillis, and her rivalry with Gilbert Blythe, who teases her about her red hair and for that earns her hatred, although he apologizes many times. Anne and Gilbert compete in class and Anne one day realizes she no longer hates Gilbert, but will not admit it; at the end of the book, they both become very good friends.

The book also follows her misadventures in quiet, old-fashioned Avonlea. These adventures include her games with her friends (Diana, Jane and Ruby), her rivalries with the Pye sisters (Gertie and Josie) and her domestic mistakes such as dyeing her hair green or accidentally getting Diana drunk (by giving her what she thinks is raspberry cordial but is actually red wine). Anne, along with Gilbert, Ruby, Josie, Jane and several other students, eventually go to the Queen's Academy and obtains a teaching license in one year, in addition to winning the Avery Prize in English, which allows her to pursue a B.A. at Redmond College.

The book ends with Matthew's death, caused by a heart attack after learning of the loss of all his and Marilla's money. Anne shows her devotion to Marilla and Green Gables by giving up the Avery Prize, deciding to stay at home and help Marilla, whose eyesight is diminishing, and teaching at the Carmody school, the nearest school available. To show his friendship, Gilbert Blythe gives up his teaching position in the Avonlea School to work at White Sands School instead, thus enabling Anne to teach at the Avonlea School and stay at Green Gables all through the week. After this kind act, Anne and Gilbert become friends, and Anne is proud of following the "bend in the road."

Just Started...

Jim is reading War by Sebastian Junger, the author of the The Perfect Storm. From the publisher's website:

They were collectively known as “The Rock.” For one year, in 2007–2008, Sebastian Junger accompanied 30 men—a single platoon—from the storied 2nd battalion of the U.S. Army as they fought their way through a remote valley in eastern Afghanistan.Over the course of five trips, Junger was in more firefights than he could count, as men he knew were killed or wounded and he himself was almost killed. His relationship with these soldiers grew so close that they considered him part of the platoon, and he enjoyed an access and a candidness that few, if any, journalists ever attain.

War is a narrative about combat: the fear of dying, the trauma of killing and the love between platoon-mates who would rather perish than let each other down. Gripping, honest and intense, War explores the neurological, psychological and social elements of combat, as well as the incredible bonds that form between these small groups of men. This is not a book about Afghanistan or the “War on Terror”; it is a book about all men, in all wars. Junger set out to answer what he thought of as the “hand-grenade question”: why would a man throw himself on a hand grenade to save other men he has known for probably only a few months? The answer is elusive but profound, going to the heart of what it means not just to be a soldier, but to be human.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Just Finished...

From a new contributor to our blog, Emma has found a new young adult romance author—Jenny Han—and the first book she has read is The Summer I Turned Pretty. Emma says its "great!"

From Goodreads.com:

Some summers are just destined to be pretty... Belly measures her life in summers. Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August. Winters are simply a time to count the weeks until the next summer, a place away from the beach house, away from Susannah, and most importantly, away from Jeremiah and Conrad. They are the boys that Belly has known since her very first summer—they have been her brother figures, her crushes, and everything in between. But one summer, one wonderful and terrible summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along.

Reading List...

From last summer, NPR did a story called Audience Picks: 100 Best Beach Books Ever. There are some GREAT summer readers on this list:

1. The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling

2. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
3. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
4. Bridget Jones's Diary, by Helen Fielding
5. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
6. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, by Rebecca
Wells
7. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
8. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
9. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, by Fannie Flagg

10. The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver

11. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
12. Life of Pi, by Yann Martel

13. The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan
14. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
15. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
16. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
17. Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett
18. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
19. Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides
20. Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen

21. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
22. The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver
23. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith
24. The World According to Garp, by John Irving
25. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

26. The Prince of Tides, by Pat Conroy
27. Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel

28. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
29. The Accidental Tourist, by Anne Tyler
30. Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer

31. A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole
32. East of Eden, by John Steinbeck
33. The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant
34. Beach Music, by Pat Conroy
35. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

36. Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier
37. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
38. Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry
39. The Thorn Birds, by Colleen McCullough
40. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon

41. Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett

42. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
43. Interview with the Vampire, by Anne Rice
44. Cold Mountain, by Charles Frazier
45. Empire Falls, by Richard Russo
46. Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes
47. The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas
48. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, by Tom Robbins
49. I Know This Much Is True, by Wally Lamb
50. Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie


51. Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott

52. The Stand, by Stephen King
53. She's Come Undone, by Wally Lamb
54. Dune, by Frank Herbert (one of my father's favorite books)
55. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
56. Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
57. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll

58. Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
59. The Godfather, by Mario Puzo
60. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith

61. Animal Dreams, by Barbara Kingsolver
62. Jaws, by Peter Benchley

63. Good in Bed, by Jennifer Weiner
64. Angle of Repose, by Wallace Stegner
65. Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson
66. The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway
67. The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand
68. Breakfast of Champions, by Kurt Vonnegut
69. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
70. The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler

71. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
72. The Hunt for Red October, by Tom Clancy

73. Cold Sassy Tree, by Olive Ann Burns
74. The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
74. Bonfire of the Vanities, by Tom Wolfe [tie]

76. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte
77. Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon
78. The Shell Seekers, by Rosamunde Pilcher (one of Cheryl's favorite authors)
79. Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver
80. Eye of the Needle, by Ken Follett


81. Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck
81. The Pilot's Wife, by Anita Shreve [tie]
83. All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy
84. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson
85. The Little Prince, by Antoine De Saint-Exupery
86. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
87. One for the Money, by Janet Evanovich
88. Shogun, by James Clavell (everybody read this in college)
89. Dracula, by Bram Stoker
90. The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera

91. Presumed Innocent, by Scott Turow
92. Franny and Zooey, by J.D. Salinger
93. The Secret History, by Donna Tartt
94. Dead Until Dark, by Charlaine Harris
95. Summer Sisters, by Judy Blume
96. The Shining, by Stephen King
97. How Stella Got Her Groove Back, by Terry McMillan
98. Lamb, by Christopher Moore (funny stuff...)
99. Sick Puppy, by Carl Hiaasen
100. Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson

Heard about a Book...

For you fans of the The Lighting Thief series (see March 29th, February 28th, and February 11th), Rick Riordan has a new series, this time about Egyptian gods—the first book was just released—The Red Pyramid! And someone's getting this book for his birthday...

From the author's website:

Since their mother’s death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.

One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a "research experiment" at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.

Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them—Set—has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe—a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family, and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Heard about a Book...

The last installment of the Stieg Larsson Millennium trilogy is out - The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest.

From Goodreads.com:

A young girl lies in a hospital room, her tattooed body very close to death—there is a bullet lodged in her brain. Several rooms away is the man who tried to kill her, his own body grievously wounded from axe blows inflicted by the girl he has tried to kill. She is Lisbeth Salander, computer hacker and investigator, and the man is her father, a murderous Russian gangster. If Salander recovers from her injuries, she is more than likely to be put on trial for three murders—the authorities regard her as a dangerous individual. But she won't see the inside of a courtroom if her father manages to kill her first.

This is the high-tension opening premise of the third book in Stieg Larsson’s phenomenally successful trilogy of crime novels which the late author (a crusading journalist) delivered to his publisher just before his death. But does it match up to its two electrifying predecessors, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl who Played with Fire? The success of Larsson’s remarkable sequence of books is, to some degree, unprecedented. Crime fiction in translation has, of course, made a mark before (notably with Peter Hoeg’s Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow, published, in fact, by Larsson's British publisher, Christopher MacLehose). But even the success of that book gave no hint of the juggernauts that the Salander books would be (the late author's secondary hero is the journalist Blomqvist—who bears more than a passing resemblance to Stieg Larsson himself).

There are two overriding reasons for the hold that this massive trilogy has attained on the public: machine-tooled plotting which juggles the various narrative elements with a master's touch and (above all) the vividly realised character of Lisbeth Salander herself. She is something of a unique creation in the field of crime and thriller fiction: emotionally damaged, vulnerable and sociopathic (all of this concealed behind a forbidding Goth appearance), but she is also the ultimate survivor, somehow managing to stay alive despite the machinations of some deeply unpleasant villains (and the new book has a slew of those) as well as the hostility of often stupid establishment figures, who want her out of the picture quite as passionately as the bad guys. She is, of course, aided by the protective journalist Blomqvist, despite the fact that she had dumped him as a lover. The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest brings together all the elements that have made the previous books of the sequence so successful. Its relentless pace may be a bit exhausting for some readers, but most will be happy to strap themselves in for the ride. It's just a shame that this will be the final book in the sequence (though conspiracy theorists are hinting that Larsson began another manuscript before his untimely death…)
~Barry Forshaw~

Friday, May 21, 2010

Reading List...

More from our last visit to the bookstore.

Eventide
by Kent Haruf - The sequel to Haruf's bestselling Plainsong (see February 9th) continues in its setting of hardscrabble Holt, Colorado. The McPheron brothers, who took in pregnant Victoria when she was 16, now watch her and her baby go off to college. In town, a social worker does everything she can to keep what's left of a family together, despite the parents' lack of intelligence and common sense and a violent uncle who threatens everything. A mother and her children struggle for survival when her husband doesn't return from Alaska. In a role reversal, a young boy must care for his alcoholic grandfather.

The characters in Eventide all deal with the harsh realities of their shared existence, but it's that sense of community and interpersonal connections that helps them through it. This novel has received glowing reviews for Kent Haruf's subtle and unassuming prose that paints all the nuances of these lives and landscape. The Christian Science Monitor says, "Eventide never swells with climactic tragedy or heartrending triumph. Haruf holds the pace of his narrative to the slow passage of winter on the plains, letting moments of salvation thaw between hard frosts
."

The Road by Cormac McCarthy - Some unnamed catastrophe has scourged the w
orld to a burnt-out cinder, inhabited by the last remnants of mankind and a very few surviving dogs and fungi. The sky is perpetually shrouded by dust and toxic particulates; the seasons are merely varied intensities of cold and dampness. Bands of cannibals roam the roads and inhabit what few dwellings remain intact in the woods.

Through this nightmarish residue of America a haggard father and his young son attempt to flee the oncoming Appalachian winter and head towards the southern coast along carefully chosen back roads. Mummified corpses are their only benign companions, sitting in doorways and automobiles, variously impaled or displayed on pikes and tables and in cake bells, or they rise in frozen poses of horror and agony out of congealed asphalt. The boy and his father hope to avoid the marauders, reach a milder climate, and perhaps locate some remnants of civilization still worthy of that name. They possess only what they can scavenge to eat, and the rags they wear and the heat of their own bodies are all the shelter they have. A pistol with only a few bullets is their only defense besides flight. Before them the father pushes a shopping cart filled with blankets, cans of food and a few other assets, like jars of lamp oil or gasoline siphoned from the tanks of abandoned vehicles—the cart is equipped with a bicycle mirror so that they will not be surprised from behind.

Through encounters with other survivors brutal, desperate or pathetic, the father and son are both hardened and sustained by their will, their hard-won survivalist savvy, and most of all by their love for each other. They struggle over mountains, navigate perilous roads and forests reduced to ash and cinders, endure killing cold and freezing rainfall. Passing through charred ghost towns and ransacking abandoned markets for meager provisions, the pair battle to remain hopeful. They seek the most rudimentary sort of salvation. However, in The Road, such redemption as might be permitted by their circumstances depends on the boy’s ability to sustain his own instincts for compassion and empathy in opposition to his father’s insistence upon their mutual self-interest and survival at all physical and moral costs. The Road was the winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Literature.

The Good Thief by Hanna Tinti - Twelve year-old Ren is missing his left hand. How it was lost is a mystery that Ren has been trying to solve for his entire life, as well as who his parents are, and why he was abandoned as an infant at Saint Anthony’s Orphanage for boys. He longs for a family to call his own and is terrified of the day he will be sent alone into the world. But then a young man named Benjamin Nab appears, claiming to be Ren’s long-lost brother, and his convincing tale of how Ren lost his hand and his parents persuades the monks at the orphanage to release the boy and to give Ren some hope. But is Benjamin really who he says he is?

Journeying through a New England of whaling towns and meadowed farmlands, Ren is introduced to a vibrant world of hardscrabble adventure filled with outrageous scam artists, grave robbers, and petty thieves. If he stays, Ren becomes one of them. If he goes, he’s lost once again. As Ren begins to find clues to his hidden parentage he comes to suspect that Benjamin not only holds the key to his future, but to his past as well.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Just Started...

Cheryl is reading a little romance—Between Sisters by Kristin Hannah. Cheryl likes this romance author in part because many of her stories (including this one) are set in Seattle and the northwest.

From the author's website:

Meghann Dontess is haunted by heartbreak. Twenty-seven years ago she was forced to make a terrible choice, one that cost her everything, including the love of her sister, Claire. Now, Meghann is a hotshot divorce attorney who doesn't believe in intimacy-until she meets the one man who can change her mind.

Claire Cavenaugh has fallen in love for the first time in her life. As her wedding day approaches, she prepares to face her harsh, judgmental older sister. It is the first time they have been together in more than two decades. Over the course of a hot Pacific Northwest summer, these two women who believe they have nothing in common will try to become what they never were: a family.

Just Started...

I just started South of Broad by Pat Conroy that was just released in paperback. So far, it's very good—very well written

From the author's website:

Against the sumptuous backdrop of Charleston, South Carolina, South of Broad gathers a unique cast of sinners and saints. Leopold Bloom King, our narrator, is the son of an amiable, loving father who teaches science at the local high school. His mother, an ex-nun, is the high school principal and a well-known Joyce scholar. After Leo's older brother commits suicide at the age of thirteen, the family struggles with the shattering effects of his death, and Leo, lonely and isolated, searches for something to sustain him. Eventually, he finds his answer when he becomes part of a tightly knit group of high school seniors that includes Sheba and Trevor Poe, glamorous twins with an alcoholic mother and a prison-escapee father; hardscrabble mountain runaways Niles and Starla Whitehead; socialite Molly Huger and her boyfriend, Chadworth Rutledge X; and an ever-widening circle whose liaisons will ripple across two decades — from 1960s counterculture through the dawn of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s.

The ties among them endure for years, surviving marriages happy and troubled, unrequited loves and unspoken longings, hard-won successes and devastating breakdowns, and Charleston's dark legacy of racism and class divisions. But the final test of friendship that brings them to San Francisco is something no one is prepared for.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Reading List...

We sent to a bookstore last weekend and I came away with several books that look like good reads (alphabetical by author):

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson - About the interwoven stories of two men—Hawley Crippen, a very unlikely murderer, and Guglielmo Marconi, the obsessive creator of a seemingly supernatural means of communication—whose lives intersect during one of the greatest criminal chases of all time.

Set in Edwardian London and on the stormy coasts of Cornwall, Cape Cod, and Nova Scotia, Thunderstruck evokes the dynamism of those years when great shipping companies competed to build the biggest, fastest ocean liners, scientific advances dazzled the public with visions of a world transformed, and the rich outdid one another with ostentatious displays of wealth. Against this background, Marconi races against incredible odds and relentless skepticism to perfect his invention: the wireless, a prime catalyst for the emergence of the world we know today. Meanwhile, Crippen, “the kindest of men,” nearly commits the perfect crime.

With his superb narrative skills, Erik Larson guides these parallel narratives toward a relentlessly suspenseful meeting on the waters of the North Atlantic. Along the way, he tells of a sad and tragic love affair that was described on the front pages of newspapers around the world, a chief inspector who found himself strangely sympathetic to the killer and his lover, and a driven and compelling inventor who transformed the way we communicate. Thunderstruck presents a vibrant portrait of an era of séances, science, and fog, inhabited by inventors, magicians, and Scotland Yard detectives, all presided over by the amiable and fun-loving Edward VII as the world slid inevitably toward the first great war of the twentieth century.

The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer - A grand love story set against the backdrop of Budapest and Paris, an epic tale of three brothers whose lives are ravaged by war, and the chronicle of one family’s struggle against the forces that threaten to annihilate it.

Paris,
1937. Andras Lévi, a Hungarian-Jewish architecture student, arrives from Budapest with a scholarship, a single suitcase, and a mysterious letter he has promised to deliver to C. Morgenstern on the rue de Sévigné. As he falls into a complicated relationship with the letter’s recipient, he becomes privy to a secret history that will alter the course of his own life. Meanwhile, as his elder brother takes up medical studies in Modena and their younger brother leaves school for the stage, Europe’s unfolding tragedy sends each of their lives into terrifying uncertainty. At the end of Andras’s second summer in Paris, all of Europe erupts in a cataclysm of war.

From the small Hungarian town of Konyár to the grand opera houses of Budapest and Paris, from the lonely chill of Andras’s room on the rue des Écoles to the deep and enduring connection he discovers on the rue de Sévigné, from the despair of Carpathian winter to an unimaginable life in forced labor camps and beyond,
The Invisible Bridge tells the story of a love tested by disaster, of brothers whose bonds cannot be broken, of a family shattered and remade in history’s darkest hour, and of the dangerous power of art in a time of war.

Lark & Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips - Set in the 1950s in West Virginia and Korea, it is a story of the power of loss and love, the echoing ramifications of war, family secrets, dreams and ghosts, and the unseen, almost magical bonds that unite and sustain us.

At its center: Lark and her brother, Termite, a child unable to walk and talk but full of radiance; their mother, Lola; their aunt, Nonie, who raises them; and Termite’s father, Corporal Robert Leavitt, who finds himself caught up in the chaotic early months of the Korean War. Told with enormous imagination and deep feeling, the novel invites us into the hearts and thoughts of each of the leading characters; even into Termite’s intricate, shuttered consciousness. We are with Leavitt, trapped by friendly fire. We see Lark’s hopes for herself and Termite, and how
she makes them happen. We learn of Lola’s love for her soldier husband and children, and unravel the mystery of her relationship with Nonie. We discover the lasting connections between past and future on the night the town experiences an overwhelming flood, and we follow Lark and Termite as their lives are changed forever.

Private Life by Jane Smiley - Margaret Mayfield is nearly an old maid at twenty-seven in post–Civil War Missouri when she marries Captain Andrew Jackson Jefferson Early. He’s the most famous man their small town has ever produced: a naval officer and a brilliant astronomer—a genius who, according to the local paper, has changed the universe. Margaret’s mother calls the match “a piece of luck.”

Margaret is a good girl who has been raised to marry, yet Andrew confounds her expectations from the moment their train leaves for his naval base in faraway California. Soon she comes to understand that his devotion to science leaves precious little room for anything, or anyone, else. When personal tragedies strike and when national crises envelop the country, Margaret stands by her husband. But as World War II approaches, Andrew’s obsessions take a different, darker turn, and Margaret is forced to reconsider the life she has so carefully constructed.

Heard about a Book...

THIS IS FUNNY STUFF! Check out Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern!

About the book:

After being dumped by his longtime girlfriend, twenty-eight-year-old Justin Halpern found himself living at home with his seventy-three-year-old dad. Sam Halpern, who is "like Socrates, but angrier, and with worse hair," has never minced words, and when Justin moved back home, he began to record all the ridiculous things his dad said to him.

More than a million people now follow Mr. Halpern's philosophical musings on Twitter, and in this book, his son weaves a brilliantly funny, touching coming-of-age memoir around the best of his quotes. An all-American story that unfolds on the Little League field, in Denny's, during excruciating family road trips, and, most frequently, in the Halperns' kitchen over bowls of Grape-Nuts, Sh*t My Dad Says is a chaotic, hilarious, true portrait of a father-son relationship from a major new comic voice.

Excerpts from the Sh*t My Dad Says Twitter feed:

"A parent's only as good as their dumbest kid. If one wins a Nobel Prize but the other gets robbed by a hooker, you failed."

"I didn't say you were ugly. I said your girlfriend is better looking than you, and standing next to her, you look ugly."

"Pressure? Get married when you want. Your wedding's just one more day in my life I can't wear sweat pants."

"We're out of Grape Nuts... No, what's left is for me. Sorry, I should have said "You're out of Grape Nuts."

“The whole world is fueled by bullshit… What? The kid asked me for advice on his science fair project so I’m giving it to him.”

Heard about a Book...

The NY Times Book Review says Innocent by Scott Turow is a "cunning, intricate legal thriller." This is the sequel to Turow's 1987 legal thriller Presumed Innocent.

From the author's website:

More than twenty years after Rusty Sabich and Tommy Molto went head-to-head in the shattering murder trial of
Presumed Innocent, the men are pitted against each other once again in a riveting psychological match. When Sabich, now over sixty years old and the chief judge of an appellate court, finds his wife, Barbara, dead under mysterious circumstances, Molto accuses him of murder for the second time, setting into motion a trial that is vintage Turow—the courtroom at its most taut and explosive.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Heard about a Book...

For you fans of The Lighting Thief series, here's come the next series by author Rich Riordan—he just published the first installment of The Kane Chronicles, a new series inspired by Egyptian mythology-The Red Pyramid, introduces brother-sister duo Carter and Sadie Kane—14 and 12 years old, respectively—who discover that they are related to the Egyptian gods.

From the author's website:

Since their mother’s death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.

One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a "research experiment" at the British Museum,where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.

Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them—Set—has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe—a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family, and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.

Just Started

Cheryl just started The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. It comes recommended by the NY Times. It's a ghost story, not Cheryl's normal fare...we'll keep you posted. This book is a 2008 finalist for The Man Booker Prize.

From the author's website:

In a dusty post-war summer in rural Warwickshire, a doctor is called to a patient at lonely Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for over two centuries, the Georgian house, once grand and handsome, is now in decline, its masonry crumbling, its gardens choked with weeds, the clock in its stable yard permanently fixed at twenty to nine. Its owners – mother, son and daughter – are struggling to keep pace with a changing society, as well as with conflicts of their own.

But are the Ayreses haunted by something more sinister than a dying way of life? Little does Dr Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become entwined with his.

Heard about a Book...

We saw a table of "summer reads" at the bookstore this weekend, and these two romance novels come recommended by the staff—The Beach House and Another Summer, both by Georgia Bockoven.

About
The Beach House:

The beach house is a peaceful haven, a place to escape everyday problems. Here, three families find their feelings intensified and their lives transformed each summer.

When thirty-year-old Julia, mourning the death of her husband, decides to sell the Santa Cruz beach house they owned together, she sets in motion a final summer that will change the lives of all the families who rent it year after year. Teenaged Chris discovers the bittersweet joy of first love. Maggie and Joe, married sixty-five years, courageously face a separation that even their devotion cannot prevent. The married woman Peter yearns for suddenly comes within his reach. And Julia ultimately finds the strength to rebuild her life—something she once thought impossible.

With equal measures of heartbreak and happiness, bestselling author Georgia Bockoven's unforgettable novel tells of the beauty of life and the power of love, and speaks to every woman who has ever clung to a child or loved a man.

About
Another Summer:

Weaving together love and laughter, heartache and hope, promise and passion, Another Summer returns to the world of The Beach House with new stories entwined in a powerful emotional journey.

A twentieth high school reunion reunites lovers who must learn to trust again. Teenagers from opposite worlds discover that having a chip on their shoulder only makes it harder to get through doors. An ambitious corporate attorney finds herself falling for the man she has vowed to destroy in the courtroom. A young family, reeling from a devastating loss, meets a mysterious older couple and a half-starved stray cat that will guide them back to each other.

None of these people will leave the beach house the same as they were before...

Just Finished...

I just finished The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay that was originally recommended to us by RobinB (see March 24th). This was a very good book...border on great—very well written.

About
The Power of One from the author's website:

First with your head and then with your heart...

So says Hoppie Groenewald, boxing champion, to a seven-year-old boy who dreams of being the welterweight champion of the world. For the young Peekay, it is a piece of advice he will carry with him throughout his life.

Born in a South Africa divided by racism and hatred, young Peekay will come to lead all the tribes of Africa. Through enduring friendships, he gains the strength he needs to win out. And in a final conflict with his childhood enemy, Peekay will fight to the death for justice...