Thursday, January 27, 2011

Heard about a Book...

Lisa Genova, the author of the popular book Still Alice (see June 8th), has a new book titled Left Neglected. Check it out.

From Goodreads.com:

Sarah Nickerson is like any other career-driven supermom in Welmont, the affluent Boston suburb where she leads a hectic but charmed life with her husband Bob, faithful nanny, and three children—Lucy, Charlie, and nine-month-old Linus.

Between recruiting the best and brightest minds as the vice president of human resources at Berkley Consulting; shuttling the kids to soccer, day care, and piano lessons; convincing her son’s teacher that he may not, in fact, have ADD; and making it home in time for dinner, it’s a wonder this over-scheduled, over-achieving Harvard graduate has time to breathe.

A self-confessed balloon about to burst, Sarah miraculously manages every minute of her life like an air traffic controller. Until one fateful day, while driving to work and trying to make a phone call, she looks away from the road for one second too long. In the blink of an eye, all the rapidly moving parts of her jam-packed life come to a screeching halt.

A traumatic brain injury completely erases the left side of her world, and for once, Sarah relinquishes control to those around her, including her formerly absent mother. Without the ability to even floss her own teeth, she struggles to find answers about her past and her uncertain future.

Now, as she wills herself to regain her independence and heal, Sarah must learn that her real destiny—her new, true life—may in fact lie far from the world of conference calls and spreadsheets. And that a happiness and peace greater than all the success in the world is close within reach, if only she slows down long enough to notice.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Heard about a Book...

A well-reviewed book about to come out in paperback, The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow.

From Goodreads.com:

This debut novel tells the story of Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I. who becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy. With her strict African American grandmother as her new guardian, Rachel moves to a mostly black community, where her light brown skin, blue eyes, and beauty bring mixed attention her way. Growing up in the 1980s, she learns to swallow her overwhelming grief and confronts her identity as a biracial young woman in a world that wants to see her as either black or white. In the tradition of Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John and Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye, here is a portrait of a young girl - and society's ideas of race, class, and beauty.

Heard about a Book...

I am seeing good reviews for The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok. Check it out.

From Goodreads.com:

“People have abandoned their loved ones for much less than you’ve been through,” Mira Bartók is told at her mother’s memorial service. It is a poignant observation about the relationship between Mira, her sister, and their mentally ill mother. Before she was struck with schizophrenia at the age of nineteen, beautiful piano protégé Norma Herr had been the most vibrant personality in the room. She loved her daughters and did her best to raise them well, but as her mental state deteriorated, Norma spoke less about Chopin and more about Nazis and her fear that her daughters would be kidnapped, murdered, or raped.

When the girls left for college, the harassment escalated—Norma called them obsessively, appeared at their apartments or jobs, threatened to kill herself if they did not return home. After a traumatic encounter, Mira and her sister were left with no choice but to change their names and sever all contact with Norma in order to stay safe. But while Mira pursued her career as an artist—exploring the ancient romance of Florence, the eerie mysticism of northern Norway, and the raw desert of Israel—the haunting memories of her mother were never far away.

Then one day, Mira’s life changed forever after a debilitating car accident. As she struggled to recover from a traumatic brain injury, she was confronted with a need to recontextualize her life—she had to relearn how to paint, read, and interact with the outside world. In her search for a way back to her lost self, Mira reached out to the homeless shelter where she believed her mother was living and discovered that Norma was dying.

Mira and her sister traveled to Cleveland, where they shared an extraordinary reconciliation with their mother that none of them had thought possible. At the hospital, Mira discovered a set of keys that opened a storage unit Norma had been keeping for seventeen years. Filled with family photos, childhood toys, and ephemera from Norma’s life, the storage unit brought back a flood of previous memories that Mira had thought were lost to her forever.

The Memory Palace is a breathtaking literary memoir about the complex meaning of love, truth, and the capacity for forgiveness among family. Through stunning prose and original art created by the author in tandem with the text, The Memory Palace explores the connections between mother and daughter that cannot be broken no matter how much exists—or is lost—between them.

Great Book!

The recent success of the movie True Grit based on successful western novel (see January 11th), reminds me of one of Cheryl's and my favorite books, Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry.

About the book:

Lonesome Dove follows two long-time friends and former Texas Rangers, Woodrow Call and Augustus McCrae at the end of the 1800's. Their lives as cattle ranchers along the Rio Grande have lost the excitement of their younger lawman days. They set off on a long and difficult cattle drive to Montana along with an outlaw named Jake Spoon, who suggests the journey, a dancehall girl, Lorena Wood, Call's son Newt, and numerous ranch hands.

Along the way to Montana, Lorena is kidnapped by a fierce Indian warrior named Blue Duck but is rescued by McCrae. Jake eventually abandons the trail as he takes up with several prior criminal acquaintances who then proceed to steal horses and murder “sod busters”. Jake is caught and hanged by his old friends Gus and Woodrow. Sheriff July Johnson is traveling from Arkansas trying to track down his runaway wife. They encounter a desperate and starving tribe of Indians. Call reunites with his old flame Clara and leaves Newt with her. The cattle and horses make it to Montana at last although the same cannot be said for many of the original riders who set out from Texas, as several of the cattle drive riders (including one very shockingly prominent character) die along the way by water moccasins, Indian attacks, gunshot wounds, etc.

Heard about a Book...

From Kim Edwards, the author of the very popular The Memory Keeper's Daughter comes her latest novel, The Lake of Dreams.

From Goodreads.com:

At a crossroads in her life, Lucy Jarrett returns home from Japan, only to find herself haunted by her father's unresolved death a decade ago. Old longings stirred up by Keegan Fall, a local glass artist who was once her passionate first love, lead her into the unexpected. Late one night, as she paces the hallways of her family's rambling lakeside house, she discovers, locked in a window seat, a collection of objects that first appear to be useless curiosities, but soon reveal a deeper and more complex family past. As Lucy discovers and explores the traces of her lineage00from an heirloom tapestry and dusty political tracts to a web of allusions depicted in stained-glass windows throughout upstate New York-the family story she has always known is shattered, Lucy's quest for the truth reconfigures her family's history, links her to a unique slice of the suffragette movement, and yields dramatic insights that embolden her to live freely.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Reading List...

More 2010 lists...this time the National Book Critics Circle finalists for NON-FICTION awards:

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick
Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American by S.C. Gwynne
Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet by Jennifer Homans
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee (see November 18th)
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration Isabel Wilkerson (see September 26th)

About Em
pire of the Summer Moon:

S. C. Gwynne's Empire of the Summer Moon spans two astonishing stories. The first traces the rise and fall of the Comanches, the most powerful Indian tribe in American history. The second entails one of the most remarkable narratives ever to come out of the Old West: the epic saga of the pioneer woman Cynthia Ann Parker and her mixed-blood son Quanah, who became the last and greatest chief of the Comanches.

Although readers may be more familiar with the tribal names Apache and Sioux, it was in fact the legendary fighting ability of the Comanches that determined just how and when the American West opened up. Comanche boys became adept bareback riders by age six; full Comanche braves were considered the best horsemen who ever rode. They were so masterful at war and so skillful with their arrows and lances that they stopped the northern drive of colonial Spain from Mexico and halted the French expansion westward from Louisiana. White settlers arriving in Texas from the eastern United States were surprised to find the frontier being rolled backward by Comanches incensed by the invasion of their tribal lands. So effective were the Comanches that they forced the creation of the Texas Rangers and account for the advent of the new weapon specifically designed to fight them: the six-gun.

The war with the Comanches lasted four decades, in effect holding up the development of the new American nation. Gwynne's exhilarating account delivers a sweeping narrative that encompasses Spanish colonialism, the Civil War, the destruction of the buffalo herds, and the arrival of the railroads—a historical feast for anyone interested in how the United States came into being.

Against this backdrop Gwynne presents the compelling drama of Cynthia Ann Parker, a lovely nine-year-old girl with cornflower-blue eyes who was kidnapped by Comanches from the far Texas frontier in 1836. She grew to love her captors and became infamous as the "White Squaw" who refused to return until her tragic capture by Texas Rangers in 1860. More famous still was her son Quanah, a warrior who was never defeated and whose guerrilla wars in the Texas Panhandle made him a legend.

S. C. Gwynne's account of these events is meticulously researched, intellectually provocative, and, above all, thrillingly told. Empire of the Summer Moon announces him as a major new writer of American history.

Reading List...

More 2010 lists...this time the National Book Critics Circle finalists for FICTION awards:

A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (see July 14th)
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (see August 31st)
To The End Of The Land by David Grossman (see October 26th)
Comedy In A Minor Key by Hans Keilson
Skippy Dies by Paul Murray

About
Comedy In A Minor Key:

A penetrating study of ordinary people resisting the Nazi occupation—and, true to its title, a dark comedy of wartime manners—
Comedy in a Minor Key tells the story of Wim and Marie, a Dutch couple who first hide a Jew they know as Nico, then must dispose of his body when he dies of pneumonia. This novella, first published in 1947 and now translated into English for the first time, shows Hans Keilson at his best: deeply ironic, penetrating, sympathetic, and brilliantly modern, an heir to Joseph Roth and Franz Kafka. In 2008, when Keilson received Germany’s prestigious Welt Literature Prize, the citation praised his work for exploring “the destructive impulse at work in the twentieth century, down to its deepest psychological and spiritual ramifications.”

About Skipp
y Dies:

Ruprecht Van Doren is an overweight genius whose hobbies include very difficult maths and the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. Daniel 'Skippy' Juster is his roommate. In the grand old Dublin institution that is Seabrook College for Boys, nobody pays either of them much attention. But when Skippy falls for Lori, the Frisbee-playing Siren from the girls' school next door, suddenly all kinds of people take an interest—including Carl, part-time drug-dealer and official school psychopath.

While his teachers battle over modernisation, and Ruprecht attempts to open a portal into a parallel universe, Skippy, in the name of love, is heading for a showdown – in the form of a fatal doughnut-eating race that only one person will survive. This unlikely tragedy will explode Seabrook's century-old complacency and bring all kinds of secrets into the light, until teachers and pupils alike discover that the fragile lines dividing past from present, love from betrayal—and even life from death—have become almost impossible to read...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Just Started...

Cheryl just started a book I brought back from my trip to Wales for the Ryder Cup, The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley, and she says its "very good so far."

From the author's website:

History has all but forgotten the spring of 1708, when an invasion fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown.

Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors, and starts to write.

But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory...making her the only living person who can know the truth of what did happen all those years ago - a tale of love and loyalty...and ultimate betrayal.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Heard about a Book...

On NPR's Fresh Air today, I heard a very interesting author talk about her book—You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon.

From Goodreads.com:

In Fort Hood housing, like all army housing, you get used to hearing through the walls... You learn too much. And you learn to move quietly through your own small domain. You also know when the men are gone. No more boots stomping above, no more football games turned up too high, and, best of all, no more front doors slamming before dawn as they trudge out for their early formation, sneakers on metal stairs, cars starting, shouts to the windows above to throw them down their gloves on cold desert mornings. Babies still cry, telephones ring, Saturday morning cartoons screech, but without the men, there is a sense of muted silence, a sense of muted life.

There is an army of women waiting for their men to return in Fort Hood, Texas. Through a series of loosely interconnected stories, Siobhan Fallon takes readers onto the base, inside the homes, into the marriages and families-intimate places not seen in newspaper articles or politicians' speeches.

Heard about a Book...

The 2011 Caldecott Medal winner is A Sick Day for Amos McGee, illustrated by Erin E. Stead, written by Philip C. Stead.

About the book:

In this tender tale of reciprocity and friendship, zookeeper Amos McGee gets the sniffles and receives a surprise visit from his caring animal friends. Erin Stead’s delicate woodblock prints and fine pencil work complement Philip Stead’s understated, spare and humorous text to create a well-paced, gentle and satisfying book, perfect for sharing with friends.

Heard about a Book...

The 2011 Newbery Medal for books targeted at 9-12 year olds was just awarded to Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool.

From Goodreads.com:

Abilene Tucker feels abandoned. Her father has put her on a train, sending her off to live with an old friend for the summer while he works a railroad job. Armed only with a few possessions and her list of universals, Abilene jumps off the train in Manifest, Kansas, aiming to learn about the boy her father once was.

Having heard stories about Manifest, Abilene is disappointed to find that it’s just a dried-up, worn-out old town. But her disappointment quickly turns to excitement when she discovers a hidden cigar box full of mementos, including some old letters that mention a spy known as the Rattler. These mysterious letters send Abilene and her new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, on an honest-to-goodness spy hunt, even though they are warned to “Leave Well Enough Alone.”

Abilene throws all caution aside when she heads down the mysterious Path to Perdition to pay a debt to the reclusive Miss Sadie, a diviner who only tells stories from the past. It seems that Manifest’s history is full of colorful and shadowy characters—and long-held secrets. The more Abilene hears, the more determined she is to learn just what role her father played in that history. And as Manifest’s secrets are laid bare one by one, Abilene begins to weave her own story into the fabric of the town.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Favorite Bookstores...



Prospero's Books, Kansas City, Missouri.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Just Finished...

As reported earlier (see August 17th), Cheryl has found a new romance author (new to her, that is), and she has finished another book by Jill Mansell, Take a Chance on Me, and enjoyed it.

From the author's website:

Cleo Quinn doesn't have the greatest track record when it comes to men, but now Will's come along she has every reason to be optimistic. Handsome, attentive and an absolute gentleman when it comes to her questionable cooking skills, he could be her Mr Right. Things are definitely looking up for Cleo... apart from one small problem with a rather large ego. Johnny LaVenture, sculptor extraordinaire and her personal childhood nemesis, is back in Channing's Hill and tormenting her as if he'd never been away.

Meanwhile Cleo's sister Abbie has a problem of her own - husband Tom has become distant and withdrawn, and she's determined to find out why. But will the shocking truth mean the end of their idyllically happy marriage? The sisters are about to discover that the past can come back to haunt you, and that love can flourish in the unlikeliest of places...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Heard about a Book...

In the wake of the movie remake of True Grit, I am reminded that this story was first a very good novel by Charles Portis.

About
True Grit:

Charles Portis has been acclaimed as one of America's foremost comic writers.
True Grit is his most famous novel. First published in 1968, and the basis for the movie of the same name starring John Wayne (for which he won his only Academy Award), it tells the story of Mattie Ross, a fourteen-year-old girl from Dardanelle, Arkansas, who sets out in the winter of eighteen seventy-something to avenge the murder of her father.

Since not even Mattie (who is no self-doubter) would ride into Indian Territory alone, she "convinces" one-eyed "Rooster" Cogburn, the meanest available U.S. Marshall, to tag along with her. As Mattie outdickers and outmaneuvers the hard-bitten types in her path, as her performance under fire makes them eat their words, her indestructible vitality and harsh innocence by turns amuse, horrify, and touch the reader. What happens—to Mattie, to the gang of outlaws unfortunate enough to tangle with her—rings with the dramatic rightness of legend and the marvelous overtones, the continual surprises, of personality.

True Grit is eccentric, cool, straight and unflinching, like Mattie herself, who tells the story a half-century later in a voice that sounds strong and sure enough to outlast us all.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Heard about a Book...

This looks interesting...Poser - My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer.

From the author's website:

Ten years ago, Claire Dederer put her back out while breastfeeding her baby daughter. Told to try yoga by everyone from the woman behind the counter at the co-op to the homeless guy on the corner, she signed up for her first class. She fell madly in love.

Over the next decade, she would tackle triangle, wheel, and the dreaded crow, becoming fast friends with some poses and developing long-standing feuds with others. At the same time, she found herself confronting the forces that shaped her generation. Daughters of women who ran away to find themselves and made a few messes along the way, Dederer and her peers grew up determined to be good, good, good—even if this meant feeling hemmed in by the smugness of their organic-buying, attachment-parenting, anxiously conscientious little world. Yoga seemed to fit right into this virtuous program, but to her surprise, Dederer found that the deeper she went into the poses, the more they tested her most basic ideas of what makes a good mother, daughter, friend, wife—and the more they made her want something a little less tidy, a little more improvisational. Less goodness, more joy.

Poser is unlike any other book about yoga you will read—because it is actually a book about life. Witty and heartfelt, sharp and irreverent, Poser is for anyone who has ever tried to stand on their head while keeping both feet on the ground.

Heard about a Book...

Just out in paperback is this 2010 The New York Times Notable Book and debut novel, The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli.

From the author's website:

Set amid the twin infernos of Cambodia and Vietnam in the early 1970's, draws the reader into a haunting world of war, betrayal, courage, obsession, and love. Tatjana Soli's spare, lucid prose infuses this novel with a dramatic clarity that makes us eyewitnesses to the collapse of two civilizations. More than that,
The Lotus EatersThe Lotus Eaters helps us to see and hear and feel the terrible human costs of that conflagration."

Just Finished...

Wow... Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese is the best book I've read in several years. When I finished this morning, I sat there emotionally exhausted with that reader's feeling, "Shit, what do I read next that could top this?..." You've got to read this book...

From the author's website:

The story is a riveting saga of twin brothers, Marion and Shiva Stone, born of a tragic union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa. Orphaned by their mother's death in childbirth and their father's disappearance, and bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution. But it's love, not politics—their passion for the same woman—that will tear them apart and force Marion to flee his homeland and make his way to America, finding refuge in his work at an underfunded, overcrowded New York City hospital. When the past catches up to him, wreaking havoc and destruction, Marion has to entrust his life to the two men he has trusted least in the world: the surgeon father who abandoned him and the brother who betrayed him.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Heard about a Book...

I read an interesting review in The New York Times Sunday Book Review for Wait For Me! by Deborah Mitford—Deborah Vivien Freeman-Mitford Cavendish, known as Debo, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, the youngest (and last surviving) of the Mitford sisters, the six daughters of the eccentric Lord and Lady Redesdale. The NY times review was very interesting, so I downloaded a sample into my iPhone reader, and so far its holding my interest!

About the book:

Deborah Devonshire is a natural writer with a knack for the telling phrase and for hitting the nail on the head. She tells the story of her upbringing, lovingly and wittily describing her parents (so memorably fictionalised by her sister Nancy); she talks candidly about her brother and sisters, and their politics (while not being at all political herself), finally setting the record straight. Throughout the book she writes brilliantly about the country and her deep attachment to it and those who live and work in it. As Duchess of Devonshire, Debo played an active role in restoring and overseeing the day-to-day running of the family houses and gardens, and in developing commercial enterprises at Chatsworth. She tells poignantly of the deaths of three of her children, as well as her husband's battle with alcohol addiction.
Wait For Me! is enthralling and a total joy, full of the author's sympathetic wit (which she is not afraid to use on herself).