Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Heard about a Book...

I seen several reviews recommending The Paris Wife by Paula McLain about the love affair between Ernest Hemingway and wife Hadley Richardson.

About the book:

A deeply evocative story of ambition and betrayal,
The Paris Wife captures a remarkable period of time and a love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley.

Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway and her life changes forever. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill prepared for the hard-drinking and fast-living life of Jazz Age Paris, which hardly values traditional notions of family and monogamy. Surrounded by beautiful women and competing egos, Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history, pouring all the richness and intensity of his life with Hadley and their circle of friends into the novel that will become The Sun Also Rises. Hadley, meanwhile, strives to hold on to her sense of self as the demands of life with Ernest grow costly and her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Despite their extraordinary bond, they eventually find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage—a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they’ve fought so hard for.

A heartbreaking portrayal of love and torn loyalty,
The Paris Wife is all the more poignant because we know that, in the end, Hemingway wrote that he would rather have died than fallen in love with anyone but Hadley.

Heard about a Book...

I read a good review by Scott Ditzler in The Kansas City Star about a collection of "riveting" short stories—You Think That's Bad by Jim Shepard. "These 11 stories...each one shares the dark heart of the human condition at its core...Shepard reminds us that the short story is an art form unto itself, one that he has mastered in his own elegant and expansive way."

From the publisher's website:

Following Like You’d Understand, Anyway—awarded the Story Prize and a finalist for the National Book Award—Jim Shepard returns with an even more wildly diverse collection of astonishingly observant stories. Like an expert curator, he populates the vastness of human experience—from its bizarre fringes and lonely, breathtaking pinnacles to the hopelessly mediocre and desperately below average—with brilliant scientists, reluctant soldiers, workaholic artists, female explorers, depraved murderers, and deluded losers, all wholly convincing and utterly fascinating.

A “black world” operative at Los Alamos isn’t allowed to tell his wife anything about his daily activities, but he can’t resist sharing her intimate confidences with his work buddy. A young Alpine researcher falls in love with the girlfriend of his brother, who was killed in an avalanche he believes he caused. An unlucky farm boy becomes the manservant of a French nobleman who’s as proud of his military service with Joan of Arc as he’s aroused by the slaughter of children. A free-spirited autodidact, grieving her lost sister, traces the ancient steps of a ruthless Middle Eastern sect and becomes the first Western woman to travel the Arabian deserts. From the inventor of the Godzilla epics to a miserable G.I. in New Guinea, each comes to realize that knowing better is never enough.

Enthralling and unfailingly compassionate, You Think That’s Bad traverses centuries, continents, and social strata, but the joy and struggle that Shepard depicts with such devastating sensitivity—all the heartbreak, alienation, intimacy, and accomplishment—has a universal resonance.

Just Started...

Cheryl has started a book just out in paperback that we noted last year (see May 5th), The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard. She says it's good and "suspenseful".

From the author's website:

Rose, Kansas, is a quiet town poised between the orderly and the unpredictable, where a terrible secret lies long dormant. . .until it vengefully stirs to life one fateful day. Young English teacher Jody Linder wakes up one morning to find her three intimidating rancher uncles on her doorstep. They bring shocking news: Billy Crosby, the man convicted of murdering her father—and presumably her mother’s killer as well—is being released from prison and coming back to Rose with his son, Collin, an attorney. Convinced of his father’s innocence, Collin provokes Jody to face the stunning mystery behind her tragic past. Enthralling, surprising, and beautifully textured, The Scent of Rain and Lightning blurs the boundaries between suspense and literary fiction.

Out in Paperback...

Out in paperback and featured last year in this blog:

The Man From Beijing by Henning Mankell (see February 18th)
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (see March 13th)
Solar by Ian McEwan (see April 2nd)
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell (see July 3rd)
Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls (see March 22nd)

Just Started...

Cheryl bought me what is turning out to be a good book, Blind Your Ponies by Stanley Gordon West. It feels like Plainsong by Kent Haruf (see February 9th).


The small town of Willow Creek, Montana's high school basketball team has an abysmal streak of 0 wins and 93 losses. Their distant and haunted coach Sam Pickett dreads another season, but the arrival of two new students fills him - and the struggling town—with a surge of hope. Can Sam still inspire his team and resurrect his town?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Heard about a Book...

On Fresh Air today, they interviewed Donovan Hohn, the author of Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea. It's a story about a container load of bath toys that were lost at sea and what happened to them. It was really a fascinating interview.

From the author's website:

When the writer Donovan Hohn heard of the mysterious loss of thousands of bath toys at sea, he figured he would interview a few oceanographers, talk to a few beachcombers, and read up on Arctic science and geography. But questions can be like ocean currents: wade in too far, and they carry you away. Hohn’s accidental odyssey pulls him into the secretive world of shipping conglomerates, the daring work of Arctic researchers, the lunatic risks of maverick sailors, and the shadowy world of Chinese toy factories. Moby-Duck is a journey into the heart of the sea and an adventure through science, myth, the global economy, and some of the worst weather imaginable.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Heard about a Book...

Ian Rankin is famous for his series of 20 Inspector Rebus novels. Now Rankin has a new character to follow, Malcom Fox who works in the Conduct Department of the Edinburgh police, introduced in his new novel The Complaints.

From the author's website:

Nobody likes The Complaints - they're the cops who investigate other cops. Complaints and Conduct Department, to give them their full title, but known colloquially as 'The Dark Side', or simply 'The Complaints'. It's where Malcolm Fox works. He's just had a result, and should be feeling good about himself. But he's a man with problems of his own. He has an increasingly frail father in a care home and a sister who persists in an abusive relationship - something which Malcolm cannot seem to do anything about.

But, in the midst of an aggressive Edinburgh winter, the reluctant Fox is given a new task. There's a cop called Jamie Breck, and he's dirty. The problem is, no one can prove it. But as Fox takes on the job, he learns that there's more to Breck than anyone thinks. This knowledge will prove dangerous, especially when a vicious murder intervenes far too close to home for Fox's liking.

Just Started...

After reading a couple of good reviews, I have started The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht. So far, so good.

From the author's website:

In a Balkan country mending from years of conflict, Natalia, a young doctor, arrives on a mission of mercy at an orphanage by the sea. By the time she and her lifelong friend Zóra begin to inoculate the children there, she feels age-old superstitions and secrets gathering everywhere around her. Secrets her outwardly cheerful hosts have chosen not to tell her. Secrets involving the strange family digging for something in the surrounding vineyards. Secrets hidden in the landscape itself.

But Natalia is also confronting a private, hurtful mystery of her own: the inexplicable circumstances surrounding her beloved grandfather’s recent death. After telling her grandmother that he was on his way to meet Natalia, he instead set off for a ramshackle settlement none of their family had ever heard of and died there alone. A famed physician, her grandfather must have known that he was too ill to travel. Why he left home becomes a riddle Natalia is compelled to unravel.

Grief struck and searching for clues to her grandfather’s final state of mind, she turns to the stories he told her when she was a child. On their weekly trips to the zoo he would read to her from a worn copy of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, which he carried with him everywhere; later, he told her stories of his own encounters over many years with “the deathless man,” a vagabond who claimed to be immortal and appeared never to age. But the most extraordinary story of all is the one her grandfather never told her, the one Natalia must discover for herself. One winter during the Second World War, his childhood village was snowbound, cut off even from the encroaching German invaders but haunted by another, fierce presence: a tiger who comes ever closer under cover of darkness. “These stories,” Natalia comes to understand, “run like secret rivers through all the other stories” of her grandfather’s life. And it is ultimately within these rich, luminous narratives that she will find the answer she is looking for.

Heard about a Book...

On Here & Now today, Robin Young interviewed Zack Hample, a collector of baseballs and the author of The Baseball: Stunts, Scandals, and Secrets Beneath The Stitches. It sounds like a pretty fun book!

About the book:

One of the simple joys of going to a baseball game is trying to snag a home run or a foul ball. But back in the day, fans had to give those balls back. You could even be arrested if you tried to keep one. That’s just one of the fascinating tidbits in the new book by baseball fanatic Zack Hample. It’s called The Baseball: Stunts, Scandals, and Secrets Beneath The Stitches. You might say he’s obsessed with this subject. He’s collected more than 4,000 baseballs from dozens of major league parks.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Heard about a Book...

I heard about an interesting interview on Here and Now with Paula Szuchman, one of the authors of Spousonomics: Using Economics to Master Love, Marriage, and Dirty Dishes—Jenny Anderson is the other author. It sounded like it might just have some sensible advice to making a successful marriage. Check it out.

From the Spousonomics website:

Have you ever gone to the “dark place” after a fight about who does the dishes more often? Do you worry that your job is destroying your marriage? Have you ever sat up at night, remembering how much more fun married life used to be?

Enter Spousonomics, a book that offers a brilliant, fresh twist to standard relationship advice by showing how economics—yes, economics—is the key to a happy marriage.

Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson, journalists from The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, present a radical new idea: Every marriage is its own little economy, a business of two with a finite number of resources that need to be allocated efficiently. With great wit, insight, and compelling stories from real-life couples, Szuchman and Anderson apply bedrock economic principles to some of the most common conflicts in domestic life. Some examples include:

Monday, March 14, 2011

Just Started...

Cheryl picked up The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton at the library—it's pretty good so far.

About the novel:

On a farm in western Missouri during the first half of the twentieth century, Matthew and Callie Soames create a life for themselves and raise four headstrong daughters. Jessica will break their hearts. Leonie will fall in love with the wrong man. Mary Jo will escape to New York. And wild child Mathy's fate will be the family's greatest tragedy. Over the decades they will love, deceive, comfort, forgive—and, ultimately, they will come to cherish all the more fiercely the bonds of love that hold the family together.

Friday, March 11, 2011

CJ Says...

It is with great sadness that I report that my mother-in-law, CJ, has passed away. Among many of the accolades I could list about her, she was a great reader. Next to my friend Tom, she was one of the best-read people I've ever known. She was a member of several book clubs and read several books a month. She always had a recommendation, and even if she hadn't read a book, she often knew something about it, something about the author, or someone who had read it. Here contributions to this blog will be greatly missed...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Heard about a Book...

I've seen The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein everywhere—bookstores, racks at Sam's end caps at Target—though it looks like it might be heart-wrenching. Check it out.

From the author's website:

Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver. Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn't simply about going fast. Using the techniques needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life's ordeals.

On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through: the sacrifices Denny has made to succeed professionally; the unexpected loss of Eve, Denny's wife; the three-year battle over their daughter, Zoë, whose maternal grandparents pulled every string to gain custody. In the end, despite what he sees as his own limitations, Enzo comes through heroically to preserve the Swift family, holding in his heart the dream that Denny will become a racing champion with Zoë at his side.

A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human only a dog could tell it.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Heard about a Book...

I saw this at a book store and it looked interesting—The Year of the Hare by Arto Paasilinna— found a some positive coverage. The novel was originally published in 1975 in Finland (Jäniksen vuosi).

About the story:

Vatanen, the journalist is feeling burned out and sick of the city. One summer evening while on assignment his car hits a young hare on a country road. Vatanen leaves the car to save the injured creature. This small incident becomes a turning point in Vatanen's life as he decides to break free from the world's constraints. He quits his job, leaves his wife, sells his possessions to travel the Finnish wilds with his new found friend. Their adventures take in forest fires, pagan sacrifices, military war games, killer bears and much more.