Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Author Reading - Elaine McClusky April 1st

Dartmouth author Elaine McCluskey will be reading at the Keshen Goodman Public Library on Wednesday April 1st @ 7:00 pm.

Please drop by for an entertaining reading and for your chance to talk to Elaine.  All are welcome.  

Book Review: Love Junkie by Rachel Resnick

Love Junkie initially caught my eye because of the title. 
I’m not a huge non-fiction reader, but it is a memoir and, after flipping through a few of the pages, found the language easy to read, with a flow that allowed for quick reading.

What is Love Junkie about? Here’s the summary on the book jacket:
Rachel Resnick hits her forties single, broke, depressed, childless – a trainwreck. After an ex-boyfriend breaks into her home and vandalizes it, Resnick takes the time to look back over her romantic and sexual history and ask the question: What is wrong with me? Her addiction to sex and love has cost her in damaging ways throughout the course of her life. At the root of her issues: a Dickensian childhood and a haunting experience she must finally confront.

I was not impressed. More to the point, I was disappointed. The book jacket summary sounded intriguing, allowing a glimpse into a damaged but interesting life that I have no first-hand knowledge of. However, what I found was a memoir written by a selfish, irresponsible woman who doesn’t want to take responsibility for the part she has played in her damaging behavior. Even at the end of the book she has not sought therapy for her troubles, but is attending a self-help group – women only. She overcomes the need for a man by starting a relationship with one of the female members of this group. (Prior to the women only group, she was in a group where she contemplated having a relationship with a male member). At no time does she seek medical or psychological help. I also found that at the end, she congratulates herself on the ability to write this book as a form of healing. Perhaps, but I am not convinced.

As far as the writing style, it is indeed a quick read. You can skim through much of what she says without reading it in detail. Ms. Resnick’s writing style is somewhat erratic. Throughout the book, she jumps from present to the past – associating her destructive behavior with a childhood memory. While many writers do this to create a deeper understanding of the story, I found, after a point, that it was unnecessary and a bit tiresome.

When I finished the book, I felt robbed. I did not feel sorry for Ms. Resnick, I felt angry. Perhaps this is a sign of a successful book? It certainly evoked strong emotions – disgust and anger being the two strongest. These emotions most certainly have impacted my view of her writing style, as it is tied so completely together with her story (and the feel of her personality in this memoir). However, I think that the glimpse into the life of a sex addict was interesting. Like any addiction, it’s enlightening to see inside the minds of those who suffer from it, especially when it is unfamiliar. This was definitely a glimpse into an unknown world.

I don’t regret that I read this memoir. What I’m left with is a sense of disbelief that Ms. Resnick seems unable to accept blame for her destructive behavior. Perhaps that is what I disliked most about this book?

But, that brings us to another question: What makes a successful book? Is it the emotions, good or bad, that it evokes? Or is it something else?

Monday, March 30, 2009

New Books You Might Have Missed - Non-fiction

 and contemporary photographs, brochures and artifacts evocative of time and place ... tells the story of the city that was the most popular exotic destination for Americans during the forty years between World War I and Castro’s revolution.” (book jacket)

Beyond Uncertainty: Heisenberg, Quantum Physics, and The Bomb by David C. Cassidy: Biography of the German scientist who won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1932, but was arrested post World War II for his role in helping the Nazi’s try to acquire atomic weapons.

Mick: The Real Michael Collins by Peter Hart. Biography of a man who has become an almost mythical figure in the movement for Irish independence: “a fascinating, flesh-and-blood portrait of one of the most legendary leaders of the twentieth century”. (book jacket) The author is Canadian and currently holds the Canada Research Chair in Irish Studies at Memorial University.

They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky: The True Story of Three Lost Boys from Sudan by Alephonsion Deng, Benson Deng, Benjamin Ajak: Memoir of three young men who were forced into combat as boys in the Sudan. This would make good companion reading for those who have read Ishamel Beah’s memoir Long Way Gone (about child soldiers in Sierra Leone) or the novel Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala which gives a fictionalized account of similar events.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

I need more Stephanie Plum and less reality in my life

I have never been a girl with big hair. Or a girl that a swipe of mascara could make or break the day. Ahhh.... Stephanie Plum how I long to be you.

5 Random things about me pretending to be Stephanie Plum.

1. I usually gain 5 lbs just reading about all the food.

2. I am a Morelli girl all the way.

3. I have easily worked into my day to day vernacular– “I need a(insert food here- ex. Bucket of chicken, eclair, Rolo McFlurry) to settle my stomach. “

4. I like my Peanut Butter and Potato Chip sandwich better then her Peanut Butter and Olive sandwich. (Yes I tried it)

5. While my grandmother never shot a chicken at the dinner table, she did once beat up a girl on her hockey team for pulling out a compact on the ice. (True story!)

While there can only be one Stephanie Plum there are many equally amusing heroines.

Lisa Lutz, , Susan Andersen, Donna Andrews, Maggie Barbieri, Nancy Bartholomew, Jennifer Crusie, Selma Eichler, Carole Epstein, Sparkle Hayter, Lauren Henderson, Susan Isaacs, Marne Davis Kellogg, Harley Jane Kozak, Marissa Piesman, Chris Rogers, Sarah Shankman, Sarah Strohmeyer

Top earning authors

Back in October, Forbes magazine published an article entitled "The World's Best Paid Authors", based on calculations of author's earnings between June 2007 and 2008. Don't feel guilty about borrowing one of their titles from the library instead of buying it - these guys are doing okay.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Book Review: Night After Night by Kathryn Smith

I’m just finishing up the most recent book in the Brotherhood of Blood series. Just released, this next installment in the vampire series by Kathryn Smith explores the story of Temple, one of original vampires who drank from the cup of Lilith. For those of you interested in vampires or familiar with this series, you’ll remember that Temple was one of the knights set about to safeguard the Holy Grail. However, he and his friends made a mistake. Rather than finding the Holy Grail, they found the Blood Grail. After taking a drink (which held the blood of Lilith), they became vampires.

Flash forward several hundred years…Temple has melted down the Blood Grail and sent it to his friends. Always seen as the leader of this specific group of vampires, his friends flock to his aid when they learn he’s in trouble: trouble in love as well as in danger. Temple, against his wishes, has fallen in love with his captor, a direct descendent of Lilith. In the face of all of this, a power hungry group of mortals are determined to resurrect Lilith, and destroy the vampires.

While written in the usual fast-paced yet formulaic style (where good triumphs over evil and the vampire gets the girl) this book definitely holds its own against the rest of the series. Although not my favorite of the series, I don’t think fans of vampire romance, or of this series, will be disappointed. However, I do find, unlike some of the other books, that there is a certain lack of depth to the characters.

But, if you’re looking for something light to read and enjoy vampire romance, this might be the book for you. If you’re new to the series, however, I suggest starting with the first book, Be Mine Tonight because each book builds on the last, incorporating new characters and building on old as the series goes on.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Read Your Lunch * next Tuesday @noon

If you live or work in downtown Halifax and you're looking for an interesting way to spend your lunch hour, stop by the library on Tuesday March 31st at noon for our Read Your Lunch program. It's a casual place to meet other readers and talk about upcoming book releases, favourite authors, long forgotten classics or anything else that suits your fancy.

Moderated by librarian Kristina Parlee and Frog Hollow Books owner Heidi Hallett, we've been hosting these monthly book chats for about a year now, and those who've attended report it as a great way to find out about new or new-to-them authors and expand their reading lists.

Here's a few of the books we've talked about at past meetings: 
Ava Comes Home by Lesley Crewe: local novel about a Hollywood actress
who returns home to Cape Breton and a life she thought she'd left behind.
Humorous and touching.
The Murder Stone by Lousie Penny: cosy mystery set in Quebec summer resort. Fourth in a series by an author who has been compared to Agatha Christie.
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout: linked stories about a retired school teacher and her disappointment for the changes in the world around her.
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski: first novel set in midwest US that was causing a stir even before Oprah picked it for her bookclub
Town House by Tish Cohen: humorous story about a quirky family and their struggles to save the family home.
Welcome to the Departure Lounge by Meg Federico: darkly comic, 
heartwarming memoir of the authors experiences taking care of her parents as they battle dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Bring your lunch, tea and coffee will be served. There will be a draw for a book prize courtesy of Frog Hollow Books. For more information call the library at 490-5700.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Books you read again and again

I don’t tend to read a book more than once. Mostly because I have so many books that I want to read that I don’t feel I have time to go back and read one again (even if I adored it the first time). But rereading books often gives a whole new impression of them and it’s something that I lament that I don’t do.

Two books that I have reread in recent times (when I was a kid I reread books repeatedly. Anyone need an off the cuff synopsis of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or A Dog Called Kitty? I’m your gal)  are The Great Gatsby and Anna Karenina and in both cases I really valued the experience. 

It was interesting to approach the book already knowing the outcome and the characters and I discovered different things in the action and plot development. A member of my book club once
 commented that she tries to read the Great Gatsby every year, and I’d like to try that.

With my interest in this topic, I polled a few friends and co-workers to see if they have books they read again and again. I got some interesting responses.

More than one person commented that they like to reread a title because it’s comfortable, familiar and is an easy way to relax. Different books surfaced in this category but one that came 
up twice is Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: a compelling, historical romance that I’m sure they aren’t the only ones to have read more than once. A co-worker mentioned Trinity by Leon Uris (another compelling historical novel) as one that she has read repeatedly on summer beach trips.

Other people commented that they reread books that strongly resonated with them at the first time they read them and that as time passes they find it interesting to see the changes in their attitudes toward the characters and plot. Two of my co-workers mentioned The Diviners by Margaret Laurence and Quinn by Sally Mandel for these reasons.

Is there a book that you revisit again and again? Tell us about it and why you keep coming back...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My Hometown

Hometown is a concept that invokes strong emotions. It's delightful to pick up a book that captures your hometown well. We like to talk about books with a strong sense of place, but really, it's a very personal experience. None knows your hometown like you do. So, I've asked around. And here is what folks have said.

The Garneau Block, by Todd Babiak is set in the neighbourhood in Edmonton where I grew up. The characters may seem quirky and over the top, but I can close my eyes and see them fitting in well.

I pretty much consider Halifax my hometown, and in terms of that I think Homing by Stephanie Domet is the closest thing I've come to seeing my hometown reflected in the pages of a novel, both in its physical setting and in the lifestyles of the characters in the book.

I lived for a short time in the Garnet Hill area of Glasgow, Scotland, and read the book Garnet Hill by Denise Mina precisely for that reason. I'm glad to report I got along quite a bit better than the main character in that book, which is a dark, crime novel, although I really had a good picture of her apartment in my head while I was reading.

Return of the Native, by Jonathan Butler is set in St. John's. The story itself if preposterous and more than irritating. The main character Udo Nome is a walker, as I was. As he walks he names the streets in old St. John's. It's almost ritualistic. He followed the same paths I did. I can almost see the cracks in the sidewalk and feel myself getting winded as I go up Barter's Hill.

I did like Michael Ondaatje's In the Skin of a Lion because it was set in places that I used to bike to and wander around photographing the area, skipping stones on the lake and listening to the buzz of the big city. (Toronto)

David Fennario's Balconville play really captures one of the last summers I experienced in Montreal.

Any other suggestions?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Readalikes - The Sweetness At the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

The Sweetness At the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley is causing a bit of a sensation in the Canadian publishing world. At age 70, this BC writer finds himself the recipient of the Debut Dagger Award and of a multi-book publishing deal.

At the center of all this hubbub is Flavie de Luce, an 11 year old sleuth living in 1950's rural England. Flavie discovers a dead body in her father's cucumber patch, and aided by her trusty bicycle, attempts to solve the mystery.

Sweetness is set in a more innocent time and reflects village life in England with its clear social layers, its stately homes and quirky characters. This book has been described by a Debut Dagger judge as "Enid Blyton for Adults."

This is a toughie to come up with potential reads while you are waiting for this one. I suspect that if you enjoyed Harriet the Spy as a child, you would likely enjoy this book. I came across The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets, by Eva Rice which has also been described as "Enid Blyton for Adults". It is also set in post war England, centred around a daring young woman and her friends. While not mysteries, perhaps H.E. Bates' Darling Buds of May and the other Pop Larkin Chronicles might be a choice as well.

Other authors who won the Debut Dagger Competition (judging is based on the opening 3000 words of an unpublished book) were: Ilona van Mil, Edward Wright, Simon Levack and Caroline Carver.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

New Arrivals You Might Have Missed - Nonfiction

Grass Beyond the Mountains by Richmond P. Hobson Jr. - originally published in 1951, but reprinted in 2007, this book was the inspiration for the CBC TV series “Nothing Too Good For a Cowboy”. A memoir of Canadian frontier life in the 1930s.

Nellie McClung by Charlotte Gray - new in the Extraordinary Canadians series from Penguin Books, a biography of the important activist for women’s writes by a current and well respected historian.

Rain/Drizzle/Fog: Film and Television in Atlantic Canada edited by Darrell Varga - collection of essays on historical and contemporary film and tv production in Atlantic Canada

Searching for Schindler by Thomas Keneally - memoir by the author of Schindler’s List about how he came to write the Man Booker Prize winning novel and the his experiences with the Oscar winning film adaptation.

Gluttony by Francine Prose - Oxford University Press and the New York Public Library’s cleverSeven Deadly Sins series sees popular and prominent writers penning their thoughts on Pride, Envy, Lust, Sloth, Anger, Gluttony, and Greed. Thought-provoking, often witty and never very long.

What do cataloguers read?

We all know they exist – those quiet, bookish librarians and staff who catalogue our books, but who are they? Do they enjoy reading as well as applying Dewey numbers to all those items in our library? Yes - they do! And I think you'll really be surprised by the variety of books chosen.

I’ve asked our cataloguers (I’m one of them) at Halifax Public Libraries what their favorite book is and why. Most had a hard time narrowing a favorite down to one. In fact, one cataloguer just couldn’t choose, so she gave us several of her favorites.

Bite of the mango by Mariatu Kamara
It's an autobiography memoir story of a young girl from Sierra Leone, who during the civil war conflict there in the 1990's early 2000's was kidnapped, tortured and had her hands cut off. A story of a very determined, courageous young girl who now attends university in Toronto and lectures all over.”

One of my favorite books is the Canadian novel Caprice by George Bowering. While best categorized as a "western", Caprice actually defies the typical restraints of that genre. The hero is a six-foot, red-haired woman whose chosen weapon is a bullwhip. Caprice is a poet whose boyfriend is a baseball player. The characters are smart and are given to random philosophical debate. Imagine a cross between Larry McMurtry and Tom Robbins. Caprice is a delightful, tough and thoroughly original Canadian heroine.”

My favorite book was Waiting For Time by Bernice Morgan. Perhaps because my family was from NFLD and it's about the history of NFLD.”

Okay...this is one of the most difficult things I've had to decide for a LONG time...My favorite BOOK (singular)...I have a few... Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels. The reading experience of this book at the time of my life when I read it was so intense emotionally for me that I'll never forget it. I remember weeping, big heaving, body-wrenching sobs in the bathtub as I finished this book. The language is also so poetic and beautiful and the story moving beyond the words so expertly expressed. I think it can best be summed up by a line from the book that I jotted down in my little book that I keep of passages from books that really move/affect me:

Athos, how big is the actual heart?’ I once asked him when I was still a child. He replied ‘Imagine the size and heaviness of a handful of earth’.

If I had to pick my favorite Canadian classic, I'd have to pick The Mountain and the Valley by Ernest Buckler--not because it was the BEST, most interesting or well-written Canadian book I ever read (and I've read a LOT of Canadian fiction) but because it's main character, David, is a blossoming writer and some of the descriptive passages (although somewhat difficult to read I'll admit) shaped my own desire to create with words. I also really appreciated that the author didn't publish this book 'til he was in his sixties (it was his first novel) and truly created a great piece of timeless Nova Scotian and Canadian fiction.

[My] favorite Canadian contemporary book (and favorite short story collection of all time): The Lost Salt Gift of Blood by Alistair MacLeod. This collection of short stories is so beautifully written I could read them over and over and never get tired of them. It's also a truly Nova Scotian book that expresses the lifestyle of Cape Breton and its people magnificently with each story holding more poignancy and meaning than most novels I've read.”

The four agreements: a practical guide to personal freedom by Miquel Ruiz.
" ...reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless suffering

How can you pick just one? I really have over a hundred favorites, but one that stands out in my memory is Tree of hands by Ruth Rendell. Psychological suspense at its best, this award winning novel features a character driven plot with motherhood, madness, obsession and deception as themes running throughout.”

I think my absolute favorite book is Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne Du Maurier. Not only was this the first book of adult fiction I ever read, but it was the book that got me hooked on reading. This is the story of a woman who leaves her husband in London and takes residence in a manor in Cornwall. She’s unsatisfied with what her life has become, questioning her choices, her role as a mother and her future. In Cornwall, she finds more than she’s expecting. A French pirate has been taking refuge in her home, her button-mouthed butler is not what he seems and the neighbors are barely tolerable. But, in the midst of it all, she starts to find herself. I’ve read this book over and over.”

I've been pondering this question. My first gut reaction was to say either A tree grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith or To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee but I figured they could probably both be on anyone's favorite list. So, I chose a book that as I finished reading it I remember quite clearly thinking (and knowing me probably saying out loud) ‘Wow, I can't believe he wrote this book!’ Anyone who is a suspense, adventure, thriller lover will at some point have read anything by David Baldacci (if you know someone who enjoys that type of genre and they haven't read him I highly recommend him), but his book Wish You Well was so totally NOT that type of genre. It was the story of two children whose father suddenly dies and they and their invalid mother have to move to the rugged mountains of southwestern Virginia to live with their great grandmother. Local events happen which lead to a courtroom battle for possession of their great grandmother’s property. I couldn't put the book down until I finished it. I immediately wanted to email the author and say WELL DONE! (I didn't though). The book was amazing.”

"My favorite book is Time was soft there: a Paris sojourn at Shakespeare & Co., by Jeremy Mercer. The book is set in a Parisian bookstore, what more could you ask for. Having actually been there myself makes the story even more memorable. Mercer manages to relive a chapter of his life much like I wish I could have."

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Six Degrees of the Library Collection: Joseph Boyden to TC Boyle

In the spirit of the theory of six degrees of separation - that any two people in the world can be connected to one another through six relationships - we bring you what will become a semi-regular feature called “Six Degrees of the Library Collection”. You might be surprised how your favourite book can connect you to a wide world of reading.

Canadian author Joseph Boyden has recently 
released a new book called Through Black Spruce. It is Boyden’s second novel and was awarded the Giller Prize last fall. Joseph Boyden is married to another author: Amanda Boyden.

Amanda Boyden also published a new novel in 2008: Babylon Rolling is set in New Orleans (where she and her husband live) prior to Hurricane Katrina and has been praised as a gripping, realistic portrayal of a city in turmoil and of the city of New Orleans itself.

A different vision of New Orleans is portrayed in John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces. Written in the 1960s, this has long been the standard for New Orleans novels - the city here is quirky and hot, there is danger and poverty but it is presented through the lens of humour. Kennedy Toole died in 1969, the book was published in 1980 and won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1981.

A Confederacy of Dunces is not the only book to win the Pulitzer Prize posthumously: James Agee’s novel A Death in the Family won the Pulitzer in 1958: Agee died in 1955. Prior to writing A Death in the Familiy, Agee was involved in a famous historical project with American photographer Walker Evans.  

Agee and Evans spent a summer in 1936 on three farms in Alabama. Together they produced a book of photographs and text called Let Us Now Praise Famous Men that was celebrated for revealing to mainstream America the dire living conditions of poor Americans at the end of the Great Depression.

Another American author famous for his depiction of the Great Depression is John Steinbeck: his novel The Grapes of Wrath is often considered the best fictional depiction of the fate of poor farmers during the depression.

A more modern take on the themes presented in the Grape of Wrath can be found in a book by another American author: T.C. Boyle. His 1995 book of migrant workers from Mexico arriving illegally in California, The Tortilla Curtain, shares themes with Steinbeck and has been said to owe much to the earlier novel.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Readalikes - Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult

Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult is a heartwrenching story of a family with a severely disabled daughter. The family is stretched to its limits financially and emotionally. In order to be able to continue to care for this child, they sue for wrongful life. In doing this they must state that had they been made aware of their daughter's medical condition they would have opted for abortion.

Her next book will be released in 2010 and will be called House Rules. It is about Asperger's Syndrome.

While you are waiting for Handle With Care, you might like to try something by one of these authors who also do not fear to tackle the hard issues:

Elizabeth Berg
Chis Bohjalian
Alice Hoffman
Anna Quindlen
Jacquelyn Mitchard
Sue Miller

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Book News: Week of March 16th - 21st

The biennial Man Booker International Prize - which honours lifetime achievement of a living fiction writer - has announced this year's finalists. One Canadian has made the list: short story writer Alice Munro. Other finalists are:

Peter Carey (Australia) V S Naipaul (UK)
Evan S Connell (USA) Joyce Carol Oates (USA)
Mahasweta Devi (Bangladesh)
Ludmila Ulitskaya (Russia) Arnost Lustig (Czech Republic)

An interesting story from the British newspaper the Guardian this week reported that sales of Wuthering Heights have jumped in France. The reason? Repeated references to the novel in Eclipse the third volume of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. Eclipse (or Hésitation as the French edition is titled) was released in late 2007. Sales of Wuthering Heights grew all through 2008.

The National Book Critics Circle Award winners were announced on March 12th. The annual awards recognize excellence in 6 catagories of books that have been published in english in the US in the previous year. This year’s winners:

Fiction: 2666 by Roberto Bolaño
Poetry (two winners): Sleeping it Off in Rapid City by August Kleinzahler and Half of the World in Light by Juan Felipe Herrera
Criticism: Children's Literature: A Reader's History by Seth Lerer
Biography: The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V.S. Naipaul by Patrick French
Autobiography: My Father's Paradise: A Son's Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq by Ariel Sabar
General Nonfiction: The Forever War by Dexter Filkins

If you like Diane Mott Davidson…

Who is Diane Mott Davidson? She’s a mystery writer who specializes in culinary mysteries. Culinary mysteries feature stories where food is a major ingredient. The sleuth is usually a non-professional crime fighter who works as a caterer or restaurateur. These mysteries often feature quaint or exotic settings.

Ms. Davidson’s books always include descriptions of food that appeals to the senses – which makes great reading for a mystery-loving foodie. If you’re already a fan of Ms. Davidson you might also like to try reading some of the following books. If you’re not a fan but you love mysteries (and food!), check these out:

Crime Brulee by Nancy Fairbanks
(also known as "Three-course murder")

Death by Darjeeling by Laura Childs.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke

The Body in the Belfry by Katherine Hall Page

Too Many Crooks Spoil the Broth by Tamar Myers

Cooking up Murder by Miranda Bliss

A Peach of a Murder by L.J. Washburn

A Catered Murder by Isis Crawford

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Shakespeare retold

Shakespeare Retold Fan of Shakespeare? Or not?

Although the language is old fashioned, the storylines are made up of the same romance, intrigue and betrayal you’d find on a modern soap opera or in tabloid news.

Novels borrow from Shakespeare too - check out one of these thoroughly modern books which owe a debt to the bard:

Julie and Romeo by Jeanne Ray: If Romeo and Juliet was set in 20th Century Boston and the star-crossed lovers were rival florists, this is what it would look like. Witty and romantic.

Dead Father’s Club by Matt Haig.
Hilariously Hamlet: encouraged by his father’s ghost, 11 year old Philip Nobel must avenge his dad’s murder at the hands of his evil uncle who has stepped in to take over the family pub.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle - by David Wroblewski. Latest pick of Oprah’s Book Club and a book that has been heralded as a new American classic. This is Hamlet, but set in rural Wisconsin with dogs.

A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley: Pulizter Prize winning novel of contemporary American Life. A father leaves his farm to his three daughters, but one is not interested: there’s more than a passing resemblance to King Lear.

Two Guys from Verona by James Kaplan: on the verge of their 25th high school reunion, Verona, New Jersey residents Will and Joel struggle through the complicated world of love and friendship in a thoroughly modern twist on the comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

First Novels - Irish Mystery Fiction

Saint Patrick's Day is a time to celebrate Irish culture.

So often we only focus on the better known writers of Irish fiction, such as James Joyce and Maeve Binchy.

To discover some new voices in Irish fiction, including one example of Irish-American fiction, consider one of these recent debut mystery novels:

Borderlands, by Brian McGilloway. 2008

In the Woods, by Tana French. 2007

The Chicago Way, by Michael Harvey. 2007

Christine Falls, by Benjamin Black. 2006

Monday, March 16, 2009

Hey batter batter, swing, batter!

I’m a baseball fan, always have been. But, I have to admit, reading about baseball hasn’t really appealed to me. Maybe it’s because I’m a girl but, I don’t want to read about baseball players, batting statistics or how to pitch properly. Really, if I’m going to read about baseball, I want something with a bit of history, or perhaps something more in story form. So, I began to dig around our library and boy, do we have some interesting books on baseball!

The first book I found is Playing America’s game: baseball, Latinos, and the color line. This definitely sounds interesting. This book explores the Latino side of baseball. While there has always been a significant presence of Latinos in baseball from the beginning, their history has been largely ignored. The author, Adrian Burgos Jr. “tells a compelling story of the men who negotiated the color line at every turn – passing as ‘Spanish’ in the major leagues or seeking respect and acceptance in the Negro leagues”. (Quote taken from back cover)

Another relatively new publication that really caught my attention is Haunted baseball: ghosts, curses, legends and eerie events. How interesting does that sound? Published in 2007, Mickey Bradley and Dan Gordon have collected haunting stories from baseball players, stadium personnel, umpires, front-office folks and fans. Learn, among other things, about Roberto Clemente’s premonition of his own death in a plane crash and of the hidden passageways within the depths of Dodger Stadium.

Finally, I found Six good innings: how one small town became a little league giant. Written by Mark Kreidler, this true story explores the small town of Toms River and the dedicated coach who inspires young athletes while attempting to strike a balance between healthy competition and bloodless ambition.