Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Heard about a Book...

A summer read for young adults—looks like a good "chick book"—The Summer of Skinny Dipping by Amanda Howells.

From Goodreads.com:

"Sometimes I still wake up shivering in the early hours of the morning, drowning in dreams of being out there in the ocean that summer, of looking up at the moon and feeling as invisible and free as a fish. But I'm jumping ahead, and to tell the story right I have to go back to the very beginning. To a place called Indigo Beach. To a boy with pale skin that glowed against the dark waves. To the start of something neither of us could have predicted, and which would mark us forever, making everything that came after and before seem like it belonged to another life.
My name is Mia Gordon: I was sixteen years old, and I remember everything...."

After getting dumped by her boyfriend, Mia is looking forward to spending a relaxing summer in the Hamptons with her glamorous cousins. But when she arrives she find her cousins distant, moody, and caught up with a fast crowd. Mia finds herself lonelier than ever, until she meets her next-door-neighbor, Simon Ross. And from the very first time he encourages her to go skinny dipping, she's caught in a current impossible to resist.

Reading List...

Some more books mentioned in The New York Time Book Review. All look enticing (alphabetical by author):

A Fierce Radiance by Lauren Belfer - New York City is awash with a sense of purpose in 1941, in the days following the U.S.'s involvement in WWII. Emotions are heightened, and everyone wants to do something meaningful. Claire Shipley stumbles upon the greatest story of her career when she is assigned to take pictures of the scientists at the Rockefeller Institute who are working against time to develop life-saving antibiotics. Little does she know that the assignment will involve blackmail, espionage, and murder. A Fierce Radiance is at once a thriller, a love story, a family saga, and a window into American history, evoking the pure essence of war-time New York. It portrays the tumultuous early days of World War II, when many feared that America would lose the war, when even children were caught up in the sacrifices demanded by the nation's mobilization, and when individuals clung fiercely to their loved ones, because no one could predict what tomorrow would bring.

The Particu
lar Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender - On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein, a girl at the periphery of schoolyard games and her distracted parents’ attention, bites into her mother’s homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the cake. She discovers this gift to her horror, for her mother—her cheerful, good-with-crafts, can-do mother—tastes of despair and desperation. Suddenly, and for the rest of her life, food becomes a peril and a threat to Rose. The curse her gift has bestowed is the secret knowledge all families keep hidden—her mother’s life outside the home, her father’s detachment, her brother’s clash with the world. Yet as Rose grows up she learns to harness her gift and becomes aware that there are secrets even her taste buds cannot discern.

I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti: A Memoir of Good Food and Bad Boyfriends by Giulia Melucci. The New York Times book reviewer Elsa Dixler describes it best: "Melucci belongs to that New York tribe of smart, funny women with cool jobs, great friends and dead-end boyfriends. What makes her account less familiar is that Melucci loves to cook, and her charming tale of love gone wrong is studded with recipes for dishes like Morning After Pumpkin Bread and Calming Coq au Vin."

Monday, June 28, 2010

Reading List...

From The Atlantic, The New York Times Book Review and NPR, several books that look like good summer reads (alphabetical by author):

The Pregna
nt Widow By Martin Amis - It was summer 1970—a long, hot summer. In a castle in Italy, half a dozen young lives are afloat on the sea of change, trapped inside the history of the sexual revolution. The girls are acting like boys, and the boys are going on acting like boys, and Keith Nearing - twenty years old, a literature student all clogged up with the English novel - is struggling to twist feminism and the rise of women towards his own ends. The sexual revolution may have been a velvet revolution (in at least two senses), but it wasn't bloodless - and now, in the twenty-first century, the year 1970 finally catches up with Keith Nearing. The Pregnant Widow is a comedy of manners and a nightmare, brilliant, haunting and gloriously risque.

Last Night In Twisted River by John Irving - In 1954, in the cookhouse of a logging and sawmill settlement in northern New Hampshire, a twelve-year-old boy mistakes the local constable’s girlfriend for a bear. Both the twelve-year-old and his father become fugitives, pursued by the constable. Their lone protector is a fiercely libertarian logger, once a river driver, who befriends them. In a story spanning five decades, Last Night in Twisted River—John Irving’s twelfth novel—depicts the recent half-century in the United States as a world “where lethal hatreds were generally permitted to run their course.” From the novel’s taut opening sentence—“The young Canadian, who could not have been more than fifteen, had hesitated too long.”—to its elegiac final chapter, what distinguishes Last Night in Twisted River is the author’s unmistakable voice, the inimitable voice of an accomplished storyteller.

Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay - Under Heaven takes place in a world inspired by the glory and power of Tang Dynasty China in the 8th century, a world in which history and the fantastic meld into something both memorable and emotionally compelling. In the novel, Shen Tai is the son of a general who led the forces of imperial Kitai in the empire's last great war against its western enemies, twenty years before. Forty thousand men, on both sides, were slain by a remote mountain lake. General Shen Gao himself has died recently, having spoken to his son in later years about his sadness in the matter of this terrible battle. To honour his father's memory, Tai spends two years in official mourning alone at the battle site by the blue waters of Kuala Nor. Each day he digs graves in hard ground to bury the bones of the dead. The dead by the lake are equally Kitan and their Taguran foes; there is no way to tell the bones apart, and he buries them all with honour. Many have taken note of his vigil. The White Jade Princess Cheng-wan, 17th daughter of the Emperor of Kitai, presents him with two hundred and fifty Sardian horses. They are being given in royal recognition of his courage and piety, and the honour he has done the dead. You gave a man one of the famed Sardian horses to reward him greatly. You gave him four or five to exalt him above his fellows, propel him towards rank, and earn him jealousy, possibly mortal jealousy. Two hundred and fifty is an unthinkable gift, a gift to overwhelm an emperor.

Just Started...

I just started a book recommended by The Atlantic and The New York Times, Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead. Interesting so far—snap shop of the narrator's teens in the early 80s.

From Goodreads.com:

The year is 1985. Benji Cooper is one of the only black students at an elite prep school in Manhattan. He spends his falls and winters going to roller-disco bar mitzvahs, playing too much Dungeons and Dragons, and trying to catch glimpses of nudity on late-night cable TV. After a tragic mishap on his first day of high school—when Benji reveals his deep enthusiasm for the horror movie magazine Fangoria—his social doom is sealed for the next four years.

But every summer, Benji escapes to the Hamptons, to Sag Harbor, where a small community of African American professionals have built a world of their own. Because their parents come out only on weekends, he and his friends are left to their own devices for three glorious months. And although he’s just as confused about this all-black refuge as he is about the white world he negotiates the rest of the year, he thinks that maybe this summer things will be different. If all goes according to plan, that is.

There will be trials and tribulations, of course. There will be complicated new handshakes to fumble through, and state-of-the-art profanity to master. He will be tested by contests big and small, by his misshapen haircut (which seems to have a will of its own), by the New Coke Tragedy of ’85, and by his secret Lite FM addiction. But maybe, with a little luck, things will turn out differently this summer.

In this deeply affectionate and fiercely funny coming-of-age novel, Whitehead—using the perpetual mortification of teenage existence and the desperate quest for reinvention—lithely probes the elusive nature of identity, both personal and communal.

Just Started...

RobinB reports she is reading Innocent by Scott Turow (see May 19th), and waiting in the wings is The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest by Stieg Larsson (see May 28th).

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Just Finished...

What a great book...Beach Music by Pat Conroy (see June 8th). A must read.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Heard about a Book...

I've seen this book mentioned several times in reviews and in blogs and heard the author interviewed on NPRThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

From the author's website:

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the effects of the atom bomb; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.

Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.

Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells; from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia—a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo—to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live, and struggle with the legacy of her cells.

Henrietta’s family did not learn of her “immortality” until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists investigating HeLa began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. And though the cells had launched a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials, her family never saw any of the profits. As Rebecca Skloot so brilliantly shows, the story of the Lacks family—past and present—is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tom's Corner...

An update on reading from Tom.

"Lovecraft continues (see February 11th), with "The Horror in the Museum," "Through the Gates of the Silver Key," "Winged Death," "Out of the Aeons," "The Thing on the Doorstep," "The Evil Clergyman," "The Horror in the Burying-Ground," "The Hoard of the Wizard-Beast," "The Slaying of the Monster," "The Book," "The Tree on the Hill," "The Battle that Ended the Century," and now on the novelette "The Shadow Out of Time." I
have at least this many stories to go, so have taken a brief break to read the following.

The Wendigo by Algernon Blackwood, written in 1910. A hunting party in the remote Canadian woods runs up against a monster and madness out where help cannot arrive.

Now reading two books: On Kindle for iPhone, Decoding 'The Language of God: C
an a Scientist Be a Believer? by George C Cunningham. Cunningham dissects a recent popular book, The Language of God by Francis Collins, who lead the National Institute of Health's Human Genome Project and who now leads the National Institutes of Health. Collins is a well intentioned man who with his book tried to show a "rational" argument for God—and specifically Jesus—to be incorporated in Scientific thinking. Cunningham, an equally well respected scientist, eviscerates Collins point by point. Like Thomas Paine's The Age of Reason, a great read for anyone who, like me, grants anyone the right to believe anything supernatural they want, as long as it stays separate from public policy, education and science.

Second book now reading in hardback: For Father's Day, Cynthia and the kids got me "Scout, Atticus & Boo," a 50th anniversary commemorative look at "To
Kill a Mockingbird," Harper Lee, and their importance today. GREAT read, highly recommend and very quick read.

For Cynthia's early birthday, she wanted a Kindle so we got her the big deluxe version and she loves it. She is currently reading The Girl Who Played with Fire
by Stieg Larson, having already read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (first of three in series - see June 3rd). She has enjoyed both of them and plans to read the third.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Heard about a Book...

From one of America's most heralded authors, a final collection of short stories by John Updike has just been released in paperback, My Father's Tears and other stories.

From the publisher's website:

John Updike’s first collection of new short fiction since the year 2000, My Father’s Tears finds the author in a valedictory mood as he mingles narratives of his native Pennsylvania with stories of New England suburbia and of foreign travel.

“Personal Archaeology” considers life as a sequence of half-buried layers, and “The Full Glass” distills a lifetime’s happiness into one brimming moment of an old man’s bedtime routine. High-school class reunions, in “The Walk with Elizanne” and “The Road Home,” restore their hero to youth’s commonwealth where, as the narrator of the title story confides, “the self I value is stored, however infrequently I check on its condition.” Exotic locales encountered in the journeys of adulthood include Morocco, Florida, Spain, Italy, and India. The territory of childhood, with its fundamental, formative mysteries, is explored in “The Guardians,” “The Laughter of the Gods,” and “Kinderszenen.” Love’s fumblings among the bourgeoisie yield the tart comedy of “Free,” “Delicate Wives,” “The Apparition,” and “Outage.”

In sum, American experience from the Depression to the aftermath of 9/11 finds reflection in these glittering pieces of observation, remembrance, and imagination.

Just Started...

Rumor has it Bailey has talked her mom RobinM into reading Bailey's favorite book, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. I probably don't need to say much about this paranormal romance, the biggest book phenomenon since Harry Potter. And if you didn't know, it was a book before it was a made into a movie!

From the Goodreads.com:

Isabella Swan's move to Forks, a small, perpetually rainy town in Washington, could have been the most boring move she ever made. But once she meets the mysterious and alluring Edward Cullen, Bella's life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. Up until now, Edward has managed to keep his vampire identity a secret in the small community he lives in, but now nobody is safe, especially Bella, the person Edward holds most dear. The lovers find themselves balanced precariously on the point of a knife—between desire and danger. Deeply romantic and extraordinarily suspenseful, Twilight captures the struggle between defying our instincts and satisfying our desires. This is a love story with bite.

Heard about a Book...

I listen to a fascinating NPR interview yesterday with the Beth Raymer , the author of a the book Lay the Favorite: A Memoir of Gambling. Check it out - sounds like a pretty wild book.

From the publisher's website:

Beth Raymer arrived in Las Vegas in 2001, hoping to land a job as a cocktail waitress at one of the big casinos. In the meantime, she lived in a $17-a-night motel with her dog, Otis, and waited tables at a low-rent Thai restaurant. One day, one of her regular customers told her about a job she thought Beth would be perfect for and sent her to see Dink, of Dink Inc. Dink was a professional sports gambler—one of the biggest in Vegas. He was looking for a right-hand man—someone who would show up on time, who had a head for numbers, and who didn’t steal. She got the job.

Lay the Favorite is the story of Beth Raymer’s years in the high-stakes, high-anxiety world of sports betting—a period that saw the fall of the local bookie and the rise of the freewheeling, unregulated offshore sports book, and with it the elevation of sports betting in popular culture. As the business explodes, Beth rises—from assistant to expert, trusted and seasoned enough to open an offshore booking office in the Caribbean with a few associates, men who leave their families up north to make a quick killing, while donning new tropical personas fueled by abundant drugs and local girlfriends, and who one by one succumb to their vices. They lie, cheat, steal, and run, until Beth is the last man standing.

Beth Raymer is a natural storyteller: funny, charming, and fully awake to the ironies around her. But she is also a keen and compassionate observer of the adrenaline-addicted, rougish types who become her mentors, her enemies, her family. Raymer brings to life a world that teems with pathos and ecstasy in this wild picaresque that also tells the story of a young woman’s crazy, sexy, most unlikely coming-of-age.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Heard about a Book...

For Father's Day, we gave Jim The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet by Reif Larsen. It looked very interesting—waiting to hear if he likes it...

From The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet:

When twelve-year-old genius cartographer T.S. Spivet receives an unexpected phone call from the Smithsonian announcing he has won the prestigious Baird Award, life as normal-if you consider mapping family dinner table conversation normal-is interrupted and a wild cross-country adventure begins, taking T.S. from his family ranch just north of Divide, Montana, to the museum's hallowed halls.

T.S. sets out alone, leaving before dawn with a plan to hop a freight train and hobo east. Once aboard, his adventures step into high gear
and he meticulously maps, charts, and illustrates his exploits, documenting mythical wormholes in the Midwest, the urban phenomenon of "rims," and the pleasures of McDonald's, among other things. We come to see the world through T.S.'s eyes and in his thorough investigation of the outside world he also reveals himself.

As he travels away from the ranch and his family we learn how the journey also brings him closer to home. A secret family history found within his luggage tells the story of T.S.'s ancestors and their long-ago passage west, offering profound insight into the family he left behind and his role within it. As T.S. reads he discovers the sometimes shadowy boundary between fact and fiction and realizes that, for all his analytical rigor, the world around him is a mystery.

All that he has learned is tested when he arrives at the capital to claim his prize and is welcomed into science's inner circle. For all its shine, fame seems more highly valued than ideas in this new world and friends are hard to find.

T.S.'s trip begins at the Copper Top Ranch and the last known place he stands is Washington, D.C., but his journey's movement is far harder to track: How do you map the delicate lessons learned about family and self? How do you depict how it feels to first venture out on your own? Is there a definitive way to communicate the ebbs and tides of heartbreak, loss, loneliness, love? These are the questions that strike at the core of this very special debut.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Heard about a Book...

For you fans of Sex In The City, I'm sure you know it was a book before it became the famous HBO series or motion picture. The author Candace Bushnell has written a prequel called The Carrie Diaries. Check it out.

From Goodreads.com:

Before Carrie Bradshaw hit the big time in the City, she was a regular girl growing up in the suburbs of Connecticut. How did she turn into one of the most-read social observers of our generation?

The Carrie Diaries opens up in Carrie's senior year of high school. She and her best friends—Walt, Lali, Maggie, and the Mouse—are inseparable, amid the sea of Jens, Jocks and Jets. And then Sebastian Kydd comes into the picture. Sebastian is a bad boy-older, intriguing, and unpredictable. Carrie falls into the relationship that she was always supposed to have in high school-until a friend's betrayal makes her question everything. With her high school days coming to a close, Carrie will realize it's finally time to go after everything she ever wanted.

Rabid fans of
Sex and the City will love seeing Carrie Bradshaw evolve from a regular girl into a sharp, insightful writer. They'll learn about her family background—how she found her writing voice, and the indelible impression her early friendships and relationships left on her. We'll see what brings Carrie to her beloved New York City, where the next Carrie Diaries book will take place.

Heard about a Book

I have read high praise for Amongst Women by John McGahern (NPR and The New York Review of Books)—"Amongst Women...is that rarest of things in contemporary fiction in English, an achieved and almost perfect work."

About
Amongst Women:

Desperate to pull their dying father back from the brink, the Moran sisters decide to recreate Monaghan day, the day of his annual reunion with his old colleague McQuaid, the day when he always seemed at his best. An IRA veteran, so disenchanted that he now welcomes his Protestant neighbours, Moran has long exerted a powerful influence over his daughters, continually drawing them back to the family home despite their departures to Dublin and London and the beginnings of their own families. Not so their elder brother Luke who remains resolutely outside the family circle while their younger brother Michael struggles to free himself. This turbulent family is gently restrained by the presence of Rose, Moran’s second wife whose quiet forbearance has become a mainstay of the sisters’ lives. Written in spare, unadorned yet sometimes lyrical prose, John McGahern’s novel depicts a family bound tightly and painfully to a tyrannical patriarch.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Heard about a Book...

Another summer read reviewed by Alan Cheuse on NPR is Spies of the Balkans by Alan Furst, what the author calls a "historical espionage" novel. Cheuse says, "Spy writer Alan Furst is working at the top of his powers. Spies of the Balkans takes us to Salonika in 1940—just as Mussolini has decided to invade Greece—and carries us along with convincing historical details and heart-pounding plot-making. This fine mix gives the brutal military and social history of Europe in World War II a feeling perspective."

From the author's website:

Greece 1940. Not sunny vacation Greece: northern Greece, Macedonian Greece, Balkan Greece, the city of Salonika . In that ancient port, with its wharves and brothels, dark alleys and Turkish mansions, a tense political drama is being played out. On the northern border, the Greek army has blocked Mussolini's invasion, pushing his divisions back to Albania -the first defeat for an ally of the Nazis, who have conquered most of Europe . But Adolf Hitler cannot tolerate such defiance: a German invasion is coming, and the people of Salonika can only watch and wait.

At the center of this drama is Constantine "Costa" Zannis, a senior police official, head of an office that handles special "political" cases. As war approaches, the spies begin to circle, from the Turkish legation, from the German secret service, a travel writer sent by the British, and others—from Bulgaria ? From Italy ? Nobody knows.

But Costa Zannis must deal with them all. And he is soon in the game, securing an escape route-from Berlin to Salonika , and then to a tenuous safety in Turkey , a route protected by German lawyers, Balkan detectives, and Hungarian gangsters. And hunted by the Gestapo.

Meanwhile, as war threatens, the erotic life of the city grows passionate. For Zannis, that means a British expatriate who owns the local ballet academy, a woman from the dark side of Salonika society, and the wife of a local shipping magnate.

Declared "an incomparable expert at his game" by The New York Times, Alan Furst outdoes even his own finest novels in this thrilling new book. With extraordinary authenticity, a superb cast of characters, and heart-stopping tension as it moves from Salonika to Paris to Berlin and back, Spies of the Balkans is a stunning novel about a man who risks everything to fight back against the world's evil.

Heard about a Book...

Another summer read mentioned on NPR this week is a collection of short stories simply titled Stories, edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio. It sounds like it contains many good reads.

From the publisher's website:

This astonishing collection of all-new tales by some of the most acclaimed writers at work today is called, simply,
Stories. Edited by Neil Gaiman (Sandman, The Graveyard Book, Anansi Boys, Coraline) and Al Sarrantonio (award-winning author of forty books and editor of numerous collections), Stories presents never before published short works from a veritable Who’s Who of contemporary literature—breathtaking inventions from the likes of Lawrence Block, Roddy Doyle, Joanne Harris, Joe Hill, Walter Mosley, Joyce Carol Oates, Stewart O’Nan, Chuck Palahniuk, Carolyn Parkhurst, Jodi Picoult, Peter Straub…and, of course, the inimitable Neil Gaiman himself.

Heard about a Book...

Yesterday I heard an NPR All Things Considered review of summer books by their resident critic Alan Cheuse. There were some good recommendations including a novella called Walks With Men by Ann Beattie who's short stories I've been reading since the 80s.

About
Walks With Men from the publisher's website:

Ann Beattie arrived in New York young, observant and celebrated (as The New Yorker’s young fiction star) in one of the most compelling and creative eras of recent times. So does the protagonist of her intense new novella,
Walks with Men.

It is 1980 in New York City, and Jane, a valedictorian fresh out of Harvard, strikes a deal with Neil, an intoxicating writer twenty years her senior. The two quickly become lovers, living together in a Chelsea brownstone, and Neil reveals the rules for a life well lived: If you take food home from a restaurant, don’t say it’s because you want leftovers for "the dog." Say that you want the bones for "a friend who does autopsies." If you can’t stand on your head (which is best), learn to do cartwheels. Have sex in airplane bathrooms. Wear only raincoats made in England. Neil’s certainties, Jane discovers, mask his deceptions. Her true education begins.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Just Started...

Zach is reading the classic One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey.

From Goodreads.com:

In the early 1960s, fresh out of Stanford's creative writing program, Ken Kesey supported himself by working as an attendant at a psychiatric hospital. It was there that he wrote what became his first novel,
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which Viking released on February 1, 1962.

Boisterous, ribald, and ultimately shattering, this is the unforgettable story of a mental ward and its inhabitants, especially the tyrannical Big Nurse Ratched and Randle Patrick McMurphy, the brawling, fun-loving new inmate who resolves to oppose her. We see the struggle through the eyes of Chief Bromden, the seemingly mute half-Indian patient who witnesses and understands McMurphy's heroic attempt to do battle with the awesome power of the Combine. Hailed upon its publication as "a glittering parable of good and evil" (The New York Times Book Review) and "a roar of protest against middlebrow society's Rules and the invisible Rulers who enforce them" (Time), this powerful book is as bracing and insightful today as it was in the 1960s.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Heard about a Book...

I listened to a NPR/Fresh Air interview with Linda Greenlaw, a swordfishing captain and author of new book Seaworthy. It was a fascinating interview as she described "longline offshore fishing" and sounds like a good book.

From the author's website:

Linda Greenlaw hadn't been bluewater fishing for ten years- not since the events chronicled in the books The Perfect Storm and The Hungry Ocean-but when her lobster traps aren't paying off, her truck is on its last gasp, and the bills are piling up, she decides to take a friend up on his offer and captain a boat for a season of swordfishing. A decade older, and with family responsibilities, she's a different person heading out to sea, but any reluctance is quickly tempered by the magnetic lure of adventure. And the adventures begin almost immediately: The ship turns out to be rusty and ancient, and even with a crew of four Greenlaw is faced with technical challenges. There are the expected complexities of longline fishing and the nuances of reading the weather. Her greatest challenge, however, comes when the boat's lines inadvertently drift into Canadian waters and Greenlaw is thrown in jail.

Capturing the moment-by-moment details of her journey, Greenlaw tells a story about human nature and the nature around us, about learning what can be controlled and when to let fate step in. Seaworthy is a compelling narrative about a person setting her own terms and finding her true self between land and water.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Just Finished...

Miss Sally reports several books read this Spring. "In April I read How To Know God by Deepak Chopra which is one of those "self help" books that you have to be in the mood to read. I really liked it and it is book that can be re-read and should stay on your book shelf. It is probably a good idea to be reading another book at the same time—you can only take in so much at one time if the concepts are new to you.

"According to Chopra the brain is hard wired to know God. There are seven levels of awareness. These levels are not shaped by any one religion but by the brain,s need to take an infinite, chaotic universe and find meaning in it."

"The seven stages of God are: Protector, Almighty, Peace, Redeemer, Creator, Miracles, Pure Being. The challenge is to figure out which stage of God makes the most sense to you.

"In May I read
Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden. This is the sequel to Three Day Road. I liked it better—it is a must read. Although a Canadian author I think you should be able to find it in your book stores. Joseph Boyden is part Indian and spent his summers with relatives on reservations. His books are about Aboriginal people and their struggle to maintain their heritage and at the same time fit into the present world. He is a professor at a college in New Orleans.

"The story
is about Will Bird a push pilot lying in a coma in a hospital and his niece who has returned to sit by his side. Broken in different ways, the two communicate in unspoken kinship about the hardships they have endured. His story takes place in the wilderness of James Bay and hers on the streets of Toronto, Montreal and New York.

"My next book to tackle is Ulysses by James Joyce. I've heard it is a must read. Hopefully it won't take me all summer to do it. If anyone in the reading circle has read it I would like to know what they thought of it."

More about Through Black Spruce:

Will Bird is a legendary Cree bush pilot, now lying in a coma in a hospital in his hometown of Moose Factory, Ontario. His niece Annie Bird, beautiful and self-reliant, has returned from her own perilous journey to sit beside his bed. Broken in different ways, the two take silent communion in their unspoken kinship, and the story that unfolds is rife with heartbreak, fierce love, ancient blood feuds, mysterious disappearances, fires, plane crashes, murders, and the bonds that hold a family, and a people, together. As Will and Annie reveal their secrets—the tragic betrayal that cost Will his family, Annie’s desperate search for her missing sister, the famous model Suzanne—a remarkable saga of resilience and destiny takes shape. From the dangerous bush country of upper Canada to the drug-fueled glamour of the Manhattan club scene, Joseph Boyden tracks his characters with a keen eye for the telling detail and a rare empathy for the empty places concealed within the heart.

"My next book to tackle is "Ulysses" by James Joyce. I've heard it is a must read. Hopefully it won't take me all summer to do it. If anyone in the reading circle has read it I would like to know what they thought of it."

Just Finished...

Karen says she has read several books this spring, many recommended here on the blog - Shanghai Girls by Lisa See (see April 8th), The Help by Kathryn Stockett (see March 22nd), Still Alice by Lisa Genova (on several of our reading lists), and The Other Boelyn Girl by Philippa Gregory (also recommended to us by Pat & Steve).

About
Still Alice from the author's website:

Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children and a house on the Cape, is a
celebrated Harvard professor at the height of her career when she notices a forgetfulness creeping into her life. As confusion starts to cloud her thinking and her memory begins to fail her, she receives a devastating diagnosis: early onset Alzheimer's disease. Fiercely independent, Alice struggles to maintain her lifestyle and live in the moment, even as her sense of self is being stripped away. In turns heartbreaking, inspiring and terrifying, Still Alice captures in remarkable detail what's it's like to literally lose your mind...

About
The Other Boelyn Girl from the author's website:

Mary Boleyn catches the eye of Henry VIII when she comes to court as a girl of fourteen.

Dazzled by t
he golden prince, Mary’s joy is cut short when she discovers that she is a pawn in the dynastic plots of her family. When the capricious king’s interest wanes, Mary is ordered to pass on her knowledge of how to please him to her friend and rival: her sister Anne.

Anne soon
becomes irresistible to Henry, and Mary can do nothing but watch her sister’s rise. Anne stops at nothing to achieve her own ambition. From now on, Mary will be no more than the other Boleyn girl.

But beyond the court is a man who dares to challenge the power of her family to offer Mary a life of freedom and passion. If only she has the courage to break away – before the Boleyn enemies turn on the Boleyn girls…

Just Started...

Cheryl has just started a new romance author (new to her)—The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club by Gil McNeil. She likes it so far.

From Goodreads.com:

For every woman who has ever dreamed of starting over, or being a better mother, or just knitting a really nice scarf..

When her husband dies in a car crash—not long after announcing he wants a divorce—Jo Mackenzie packs up her two rowdy boys and moves from London to a dilapidated villa in her seaside hometown. There, she takes over her beloved Gran's knitting shop—a quaint but out-of-date store in desperate need of a facelift. After a rough beginning, Jo soon finds comfort in a "Stitch and Bitch" group; a collection of quirky, lively women who share their stories, and their addiction to cake, with warmth and humor.

As Jo starts to get the hang of single-parent life in a small town, she relies on her knitting group for support. The women meet every week at the shop on Beach Street and trade gossip and advice as freely as they do a new stitch. But when a new man enters Jo's life, and an A-list actress moves into the local mansion, the knitting club has even more trouble confining the conversation to knit one, purl two.

Reading List

I just found an old Rainy Day Books newsletter that I had picked up several months ago at the store and had scratched down several recommendations in the margins (though The Eight by Katherine Neville also comes highly recommended to us by Miss Sally). Check them out (alphabetical by author):

The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry - A man as a young woman, Roseanne McNulty was one of the most beautiful and beguiling girls in County Sligo, Ireland. Now, as her hundredth year draws near, she is a patient at Roscommon Regional Mental Hospital, and she decides to record the events of her life. As Roseanne revisits her past, hiding the manuscript beneath the floorboards in her bedroom, she learns that Roscommon Hospital will be closed in a few months and that her caregiver, Dr. Grene, has been asked to evaluate the patients and decide if they can return to society. Roseanne is of particular interest to Dr. Grene, and as he researches her case he discovers a document written by a local priest that tells a very different story of Roseanne’s life than what she recalls. As doctor and patient attempt to understand each other, they begin to uncover long-buried secrets about themselves.

Set against an Ireland besieged by conflict,
The Secret Scripture is an epic story of love, betrayal, and unavoidable tragedy, and a vivid reminder of the stranglehold that the Catholic Church had on individual lives for much of the twentieth century. (A Man Booker Prize finalist in 2008.)

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff - A charming record of bibliophilia, cultural difference, and imaginative sympathy. For 20 years, an outspoken New York writer and a rather more restrained London bookseller carried on an increasingly touching correspondence. In her first letter to Marks & Co., Helene Hanff encloses a wish list, but warns, "The phrase 'antiquarian booksellers' scares me somewhat, as I equate 'antique' with expensive." Twenty days later, on October 25, 1949, a correspondent identified only as FPD let Hanff know that works by Hazlitt and Robert Louis Stevenson would be coming under separate cover. When they arrive, Hanff is ecstatic—but unsure she'll ever conquer "bilingual arithmetic." By early December 1949, Hanff is suddenly worried that the six-pound ham she's sent off to augment British rations will arrive in a kosher office. But only when FPD turns out to have an actual name, Frank Doel, does the real fun begin.

Two years later, Hanff is outraged that Marks & Co. has dared to send an abridged Pepys diary. "I enclose two limp singles, I will make do with this thing till you find me a real Pepys. THEN I will rip up this ersatz book, page by page, AND WRAP THINGS IN IT." Nonetheless, her postscript asks whether they want fresh or powdered eggs for Christmas. Soon they're sharing news of Frank's family and Hanff's career. No doubt their letters would have continued, but in 1969, the firm's secretary informed her that Frank Doel had died. In the collection's penultimate entry, Helene Hanff urges a tourist friend, "If you happen to pass by 84, Charing Cross Road, kiss it for me. I owe it so much."

The Eight by Katherine Neville - New York City, 1972—A dabbler in mathematics and chess, Catherine Velis is also a computer expert for a Big Eight accounting firm. Before heading off to a new assignment in Algeria, Cat has her palm read by a fortune-teller. The woman warns Cat of danger. Then an antiques dealer approaches Cat with a mysterious offer: He has an anonymous client who is trying to collect the pieces of an ancient chess service, purported to be in Algeria. If Cat can bring the pieces back, there will be a generous reward.

The South of France, 1790—Mireille de Remy and her cousin Valentine are young novices at the fortresslike Montglane Abbey. With France aflame in revolution, the two girls burn to rebel against constricted convent life—and their means of escape is at hand. Buried deep within the abbey are pieces of the Montglane Chess Service, once owned by Charlemagne. Whoever reassembles the pieces can play a game of unlimited power. But to keep the Game a secret from those who would abuse it, the two young women must scatter the pieces throughout the world...

Just Started...

I so enjoyed Pat Conroy's South of Broad (see May 20th) that I am reading Beach Music again. Cheryl and I both remember really enjoying this book, be we read it in the late 90s, and I couldn't remember the plot—we couldn't even find our copy...

From the author's website:

Jack McCall is an American living in Rome with his young daughter, trying to find peace after the recent trauma of his wife's suicide. But his solitude is disturbed by the appearance of his sister-in-law, who begs him to return home, and of two school friends asking for his help in tracking down another classmate who went underground as a Vietnam protester and never resurfaced. These requests launch Jack on a journey that encompasses the past and the present in both Europe and the American South, and that leads him to shocking—and ultimately liberating—truths. In Beach Music, Conroy tells of the dark memories that haunt generations, in a story that spans South Carolina and Rome and reaches back into the unutterable terrors of the Holocaust.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Heard about a Book...

The new Justin Cronin novel, The Passage, is released tomorrow. He has written two of my favorite novels in recent years—The Summer Guest (see February 10th) and Mary and O'Neil (see March 5th), but this novel appears to be a dramatic departure from these novels. He's a great writer, but this novel may be a little out there...

From Goodreads.com:

First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear—of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.

As civilization swiftly crumbles into a primal landscape of predators and prey, two people flee in search of sanctuary. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is a good man haunted by what he’s done in the line of duty. Six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte is a refugee from the doomed scientific project that has triggered apocalypse. He is determined to protect her from the horror set loose by her captors. But for Amy, escaping the bloody fallout is only the beginning of a much longer odyssey—spanning miles and decades—towards the time and place where she must finish what should never have begun.

With The Passage, award-winning author Justin Cronin has written both a relentlessly suspenseful adventure and an epic chronicle of human endurance in the face of unprecedented catastrophe and unimaginable danger. Its inventive storytelling, masterful prose, and depth of human insight mark it as a crucial and transcendent work of modern fiction.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Heard about a Book...

Last week I mentioned The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest, (see May 28th) the third and final book in Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy was just released. I thought The NY Times Book Review's summary of the the three books was very good:

If you’re a latecomer to the Stieg Larsson phenomenon, here, briefly, is the deal: Larsson was a Swedish journalist who edited a magazine called Expo, which was devoted to exposing racist and extremist organizations in his nativeland. In his spare time, he worked on a trilogy of crime thrillers, delivering them to his Swedish publisher in 2004. In November of that year, a few months before the first of these novels came out, he died of a heart attack. He was only 50, and he never got to see his books become enormous best sellers — first in Sweden and then, in translation, all over the globe.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is the third installment of the ­trilogy; its predecessors, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire, have already sold a million copies combined in the United States and many times that abroad. All three books are centered on two ­principal characters: a fearless middle-aged journalist named Mikael Blomkvist, who publishes an Expo-like magazine called Millennium, and a slight, sullen, socially maladjusted, tech-savvy young goth named Lisbeth Salander, the “girl” of the books’ titles, who, in addition to her dragon tattoo, possesses extraordinary hacking abilities and a twisted, complicated past. Together, Blomkvist and Salander use their wiles and skills to take on corporate corruptos, government sleazes and sex criminals, not to mention these miscreants’ attendant hired goons.

Tom's Corner...

Tom reports, "Cynthia just started The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson.

"I'm still on
H. P. Lovecraft: The Ultimate Collection: 101 Stories, 45 Poems (Kindle Edition) (see February 11th). I just finished "The Horror in the Museum" about a waxworks with some strangely realistic demonic figures; "Through the Gates of the Silver Key," an additional chapter in the dream adventures of one of Lovecraft's continuing characters; "Winged Death," a weird murder mystery involving poisonous African flies, and now on "Out of the Aeons," about a museum of antiquities with a hideous mummy presumably up to no good.

"Since I'm reading Lovecraft on a Kindle for iPhone, I have no idea how many pages I've read so far since beginning in October 2009, and granted I read when I can (not often enough, and mostly The Atlantic and New Yorker). I expect this book to take another month. I am surprised more of these haven't been made into horror movies."

About The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo from the author's website:

Disgraced journalist Mikael Blomqvist is hired by Henrik Vanger to investigate the disappearance of Vanger’s great-niece Harriet. Henrik suspects that someone in his family, the powerful Vanger clan, murdered Harriet over forty years ago.

Starting his investigation, Mikael realizes that Harriet’s disappearance is not a single event, but rather linked to series of gruesome murders in the past. He now crosses paths with Lisbeth Salander, a young computer hacker, an asocial punk and most importantly, a young woman driven by her vindictiveness.

Together they form an unlikely couple as they dive deeper into the violent past of the secretive Vanger family.