Friday, December 23, 2011
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
The Art of Fielding (I Love Baseball). Chad Harbach tells a powerful story that is about far more than baseball.
The Leftovers (What If?) - What an irresistible scenario Perrotta creates - life after The Rapture.
The City and The City (Double Vision) - A detective story and a sci-fi novel rolled into one - the cleverest book I read all year.
Friday, December 2, 2011
Friday, November 11, 2011
Sunday, November 6, 2011
Ann Patchett’s latest novel, "State of Wonder" opens in a small town in Minnesota in the dead of winter. But it quickly takes the reader to the depths of the Amazon jungle. Marina Singh is a pharmacologist working for a major drug company. Marina learns that her lab partner and dear friend, Anders Eckman, has died of a sudden fever in the Amazon Jungle. Anders was sent by their employer, Vogel Pharmaceutical Company, to Brazil to bring back information about the progress another employee, Dr. Annick Swenson, was making on a miracle fertility drug.
Marina’s boss and lover, “Mr. Fox”, convinces Marina she has to go to Brazil to find Dr. Swenson and bring the miracle drug to Vogel. Ander’s wife believes Marina can find out what happened to her husband.
So begins Marina’s journey to the depths of the jungle where she confronts her past and finds answers she never imagined. She becomes part of Dr. Swenson’s world among the wonderful Lakashi Tribe. She sees and learns things that her scientific mind cannot grasp and she learns to trust the jungle and its inhabitants, strange as they are. But ultimately Ann Patchett is presenting the question of medical and moral ethics that surround the need to preserve natural resources and the habitats of the native people who live and thrive on these resources, which can be and (more often than not) are, more important than scientific discovery.
Ann Patchett has written a scientific thriller with an ending that is as unexpected as it is touching and sad.
Friday, October 28, 2011
Friday, October 21, 2011
Friday, October 14, 2011
Friday, September 30, 2011
Even when a storyline seems headed down a predictable path, as when rebellious younger daughter Torrie is severely injured in an accident, Thompson turns the narrative in a fresh, unexpected direction. Throughout the book some characters spin far from Iowa, others stay close, but the pull towards home is strong, and Thompson paints an honest, sometimes funny, often poignant portrait of an American family.
Friday, September 16, 2011
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Friday, September 2, 2011
Sunday, August 21, 2011
The Prologue to the novel is narrated by a middle aged woman who is at an art gallery with her husband viewing photographs taken of people in New York City in the 1930’s. She recognizes the subject of two contrasting photos and is taken back three decades in her memory.
The story begins on a snowy New Year’s Eve night in 1937. The narrator is Katey (Katya) Kontent. She and her roommate, Eve (Evelyn) Ross, from a boarding house for young women, are headed to a Greenwich Village jazz bar with three dollars between them to ring in the New Year. Enters, Tinker (Theodore) Grey. (Everyone has a nickname.) His eyes are royal blue, he is dressed in a tuxedo with a cashmere coat over his arm. The girls are intrigued. He buys them drinks and leaves, to instantly return, with a bottle of champagne. The three make New Year’s resolutions and plans to see each other before the week is over. But by the end of the first week of 1938 a tragic accident occurs and the lives of the three new friends are changed forever.
Our narrator/protagonist, Katey, enters the fast lane of the late 1930’s with glitzy New York and Long Island parties and a new glamorous job. Eve and Tinker are on their own glamorous, disastrous journey. Their journeys take us through the best of New York City in the late 1930’s. It is almost as if the city itself is a character.
We watch as these three characters evolve, disintegrate and reinvent themselves. And what we see is not always what really is. Why does the charming, rich, successful Tinker carry a worn, underlined copy of George Washington’s “100 Rules of Civility”? Why does Eve rebuke all offers of financial help from her well meaning father? Why does Katey try not to talk about her parents?
Amor Towles has written a wonderful period piece with relatable characters and a strong, witty and reliable narrator who relates an intriguing, dramatic story.
Friday, August 19, 2011
Friday, August 12, 2011
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Hadley and Ernest meet in Chicago in October of 1920. She was a twenty eight year old “spinster” living with her sister and her husband in St. Louis. He was a twenty one year old dashing, war hero who wanted to write a great novel.
He proposed, they married. After one wonderful evening with Sherwood Anderson (the author of “Winesburg, Ohio) Ernest is convinced that everyone and everything interesting in the world of writing is in Paris. And so begins the story of Ernest and Hadley in Paris, where Hadley attempts to be the perfect wife to the talented, moody, complex Ernest.
This novel falls into the category of historical fiction as the author will admit that she mined Hemingway’s posthumously published memoir, “A Moveable Feast”, about his life in Paris. But in “The Paris Wife” the narrator is Hadley. The story tells of the intricate relationships that Ernest had with John Dos Passos, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Gerald and Sara Murphy, and other people who made Paris in the 1920’s the exciting, hard drinking, self indulgent haven for American expatriates. The group made wild trips to Pamplona, Spain to see violent bullfights, where Ernest set his famous novel, “The Sun Also Rises”. Their life was a maze of drinking, traveling around Europe and finding the right setting for Ernest to write.
I found Hadley to be a strong, interesting character who tries to remain dignified when her world begins to fall apart. Perhaps she took on more than she could handle but she, most likely, had no choice once she became part of Hemingway’s world. “The Paris Wife” is a great story about a special time in the history of American literature through the eyes of a woman who tried to hold her own as she was carried away by a strong, uncontrollable force-----Ernest Hemingway.
Saturday, July 30, 2011
Friday, July 22, 2011
Monday, July 11, 2011
Friday, July 8, 2011
Friday, July 1, 2011
Friday, June 24, 2011
The book's thirteen chapters, divided into Part A and Part B like sides on an LP (showing my age with that reference), follow characters from the punk rock scene of San Francisco in the 70s, through the New York suburbs of the 90s, to a post-modern Manhattan, with side trips to Africa and Naples. In each chapter the tone, the voice and the point of view change, as the stories move forward and backward in time in a discontinuous but not confusing flow. Music, both the creative and business side, is an element in many of the stories, and I can easily imagine that someone could create a CD with a track for each chapter. Characters appear as their young and older selves, overlapping with each other in unexpected ways.
Occasionally I thought that Egan tried to be a little too clever, but overall I was fascinated by the the complicated, interwoven lives of her characters.
Note to e-readers: There is a wonderful chapter created by a teenage girl as a Power Point slide show which you will need a magnifying glass to read. But it's worth it.
Monday, June 20, 2011
Monday, June 13, 2011
Sunday, June 12, 2011
“There is just something about New Jersey that breeds a certain type of life and by extension, a certain type of person.” This is the opening line of Kristen Buckley’s coming of age memoir, “Tramps Like Us”. Kristen Buckley is a musician, a screen writer and a novelist. She has written a very funny, rather quirky memoir about how she got from the suburbs of New Jersey to the streets of Los Angelus, via New York City.
Kristen Buckley begins the story with the tragic-comedy event of her physician father announcing to his six year old daughter, “Now that that you’re six you don’t need a dad anymore.” Kristen promptly went home to her surviving parent and climbed into bed with her mother and her Korean brother and sister who had been adopted two months earlier.
And so began the odyssey of surviving in New Jersey in “70’s Divorce Hell”. From the exploding septic tank on the sprawling front lawn to the long lost Korean sibling who is rescued by Kristen’s mother, but whose knowledge of English is limited to profane four letter words.
For readers growing up in the seventies and eighties this story will have a certain resonance. But for those of us who didn’t grow up in that era or in New Jersey, this story is just plain fun. Buckley has a wry sense of humor, not to mention what a precocious, wise child she was. It is fun to laugh and commiserate with her and this crazy family as that make their way through a difficult time with a great sense of humor and determination.
By the end of this charming, laugh out loud story you are really routing for a girl who really didn’t care what anybody else thought as she tried to make sense of her wacky life. I love the section where she lists (the) 66 famous people who are from New Jersey. With this story, and Kristen Buckley’s accomplishments, there are now 67!
Friday, June 10, 2011
Friday, June 3, 2011
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Young Mary Panton is recovering from the death of her husband a year earlier. Friends who own a villa outside of Florence, Italy, have offered her the use of the place to recover her spirit and decide the direction her life will take. Maugham’s descriptions of the Tuscan countryside, the air, the gardens, the furnishings of the villa are so vivid. It is easy to imagine why Tuscany continues to draw travelers in and to hold them there.
Mary has a suitor who has proposed marriage. When he is called away from Florence for a few days on business, Mary promises to give him her answer upon his return. During those few days, events take several unexpected turns and other men enter the drama: brash, rich, ne’er-do-well Rowley and Karl, an impoverished refugee of war from Austria. It should come as no surprise: If one carries a gun, one should expect that it will go off.
The final line of the book sums it up nicely: “Darling, that’s what life’s for – to take risks.” You’ll have to read the book yourself to find out who is speaking and why.
The paperback copy that I read was published in 2000 by Vintage International. The cover is a beautiful rendition of a painting by Maxfield Frederick Parrish, The Villa Scassi, Genoa from 1904. By comparison the cover of the current edition is so atrocious that I couldn’t bring myself to add it to our blog. I used a copy of the painting itself instead.